Race for Omaha City Council District 1: Festersen vs. Johnson

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) – After 12 years at City Hall, Omaha City Councilor Pete Festersen says his experience working with others and his deep knowledge of urban issues should give his constituents the confidence to bring him back for a fourth term.

“Having the experience to tackle these complex issues like affordable housing, mental health and public transportation … these are things that require partnerships, not just the city. Someone who listens to people and works well with others, that has been my track record, ”said Festersen.

Festersen, who works in hospital administration when not in town hall, touts his work in Benson, Dundee and the Florence business improvement districts as reasons why he is the right candidate.

“Ten years ago we had big problems in Benson,” said Festersen. “Now we have a busy area, one of the coolest places in town … almost every storefront is full. It’s really exciting to see and I want to continue that success in the future.”

But he has competition.

“I would like to do this all day. I’m already on the city council most Tuesdays testifying, ”said Sarah Johnson, former owner of the Omaha Bicycle Company.

Johnson, an independent, is already an active member of the community and is now challenging the Democrat Festersen on his left.

“There is so much to do that it is difficult to even have a priority. It’s just that everything needs new eyes and new energy, ”said Johnson.

If elected, Johnson wants to dive into the details – update the apartment plan and make sure the city code defines terms like affordable housing and sidewalks.

“It may not be a big, all-encompassing, sexy initiative … it’s a lot of little things that result in changing perspective and priorities and actually working towards change,” said Johnson.

Both want to expand public transport, with Festersen pointing to the new ORBT buses as a good start.

“It’s not just any thing, but the ORBT was a big step forward in my opinion. We are looking for the potential to expand this in a number of ways. I think there has been an increase in better bus routes for our citizens, ”said Festersen.

Johnson wants to be a little more aggressive and has already identified a north-south street that ORBT should go next.

“I really think 24th Street has to be looked at. North Omaha to South Omaha. It’s a great connection that I would really stand up for, ”said Johnson.

One area they agree on is adding protected bike lanes, similar to the one the city has just created on Harney Street.

“It’s a pilot project, but I think it’s time to make it permanent. I will make this commitment and I would like to see the city expanded to other places, ”said Festersen.

“We have to seriously consider a secure and connected protected network. It’s not about a track on a road, that’s not enough, ”said Johnson.

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