The candidates for Mayor of Omaha: Mark Gudgel

KFAB reporter Jeff Turner delves deep into the candidates running in Omaha’s mayor race in this ongoing series. This first episode is a profile of Mark Gudgel, a teacher at the Nebraska Public School.

With the end of the 2020 presidential race, Omaha still has big elections in the future. The primary code for Omaha’s Mayor Race is in April, and the candidates have already announced their intention to compete.

One such candidate is Mark Gudgel, an educator and nonprofit director in Nebraska. Gudgel announced his candidacy in September this year and has a teaching background in Lincoln and Omaha. He has lived in Omaha’s Field Club neighborhood in Midtown for six years. Gudgel is a co-founder of the Educator’s Institute for Human Rights – a non-profit organization that “provides content and strategies for teaching genocide prevention and sustainable peace”.

“One of the things that young people often tell me is that they leave Omaha or not come back because they lack opportunities,” said Gudgel. Gudgel is also concerned about the city’s business: “In the last five years we’ve lost two Fortune 500 companies and of course those companies take away tons of well-paying jobs and taxes that might be used to fix the craters in ours Streets. “

Omaha lost Conagra in October 2015. As of 2020, Conagra ranks 334th on the Fortune 500. The Omaha World Herald reported in 2016 that Conagra urged the Illinois governor to offer additional tax incentives – which Illinois officials obligated and in spite of offered incentives to the company the moratorium imposed by the governor due to the budget crisis at the time. This came after an offer by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts to create additional incentives beyond what the state was already providing at the time.

Omaha is also about to lose TD Ameritrade – TD Ameritrade ranks 486th on the Fortune 500 rankings. Following the purchase by Charles Schwab, the company’s new owners expressed their intention to eventually relocate TD Ameritrade’s headquarters to Dallas, Texas. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab announced in October 2020 that they would be laying off around 1,000 employees between the two companies.

On these departures, Gudgel said, “I’m not talking about getting TDA and ConAgra to return. Unfortunately, this ship has sailed.” He suggests going to places where the cost of living and doing business are high to attract businesses to Omaha.

“There’s a lot to love about Omaha, both a personal and a business perspective, but we need to help the people on the coasts realize whether to uproot their businesses and their lives in order to add to our college basketball economy training, and recruiting was part of my job. I went to games and tournaments most evenings of the week, spent hours on the phone, mailed letters, met with parents and coaches, did research on grades and aptitude, and eventually some of the athletes would, too whom I went to agree to play for our program, “said Gudgel.

He adds that he wants to offer direct communication between every CEO in town and City Hall.

Gudgel listed a variety of topics along with engaging young people and businesses, including tackling climate change, improving Omaha’s public transit system, and easing tuition fees for colleges and business schools.

Mayor Stothert has proven to be a formidable opponent. She beat former Mayor Jim Suttle by double digits in 2013, followed by a five-point win over former Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello in 2017. While her current approval rating was not reported, she has had high numbers throughout her first term – The Omaha World-Herald reported an approval rating of 61% in 2014 and an internal survey conducted in June 2016 found a positive approval rating of 60%. How these approval numbers were changed by the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear.

He has a lot that he wants to try as mayor. “I once asked a former Omaha mayor what is preventing the city’s top executive from recruiting business – literally flying to New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other places where big corporations are currently dealing with the pandemic struggle and just say, “Hey, I can cut your operating costs by about 70%. Do you want to talk about the American Midwest? “And do you know what his answer was?” Ambition. “

However, Gudgel said he wanted to avoid criticizing Mayor Stothert as much as possible. “I think people have had enough ugliness in politics and partly because I want this campaign to be about my ideas, not their mistakes.”

One of Gudgel’s marquee problems is investing in public transport. “This city is expanding so that it is almost impossible to live here without a car – but it doesn’t have to be.” He says the ORBT program is a good start, but he wants to go further. “We have to drive ORBT to the airport so that businesses and tourists can get into the city without renting a car. We also have to operate it in as many places as possible from north to south and really connect this city.”

ORBT is currently driving from Downtown to Westroads and runs through Downtown, Midtown Crossing, Nebraska Medicine, Dundee, Crossroads, the University of Nebraska on the Omaha Campus, the Children’s and Methodist Hospital – and ends at the Westroads Transit Center.

A robust public transportation system will work for all Nebraskans, according to Gudgel. “More people using buses are reducing the number of cars on the streets, which in turn reduces wear and tear and the number of tire-eating potholes in this city. Public transport can also help us reduce our carbon footprint and become part of a car his much bigger plan to become a more climate-friendly city for the future. “

“Omaha is not doing anything to combat climate change right now, but we could be. Lincoln is, and frankly we should be embarrassed about that,” Gudgel said of climate change.

Gudgel says he’s working with consultants to develop a long-term plan for Omaha to tackle climate change and become carbon neutral in the future. “We can’t recycle most of the recyclable goods in Omaha, and when the city council banned plastic bags a few years ago, this mayor vetoed this bill. I’ve worked in Rwanda and this whole nation has successfully banned plastic bags. It is none.” It’s about skills, visions, the environment and the will to do the right thing. “

Mayor Stothert’s latest move in terms of environmental protection is the transition to a new garbage service. During the first 4 to 6 weeks of 2021 there will be a period when all garden waste collected will contribute to the production of Oma-Gro, a compost made from garden waste. The garden waste is sent to a landfill for the remaining weeks of the year. The service aims to make recycling at recycling locations more accessible without increasing your taxes.

Gudgel’s background is teaching, and education is a big part of his platform. “I am committed to creating a tuition scholarship program that will ensure that all young people in Omaha have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education such as plumber, cook, teacher, electrician, hairdresser.” or a nurse, and graduate out of debt. “

On the subject of student debt, Gudgel said, “As a township mayor, I am unable to provide student loans. This is a federal question, although I’ll say I have my share of student loans and have won. I don’t mind if anywhere on the way to be forgiven. “

He is right to say that any student loan forgiveness is a federal problem. Marketplace reports that 92% of the loans are held by the Department of Education. The report adds that it is difficult to determine what impact a given student debt relief would have on the economy.

Gudgel would like to work with philanthropic groups and existing programs to provide tuition reimbursement opportunities. “We can probably even involve employers like HyVee and others who offer some form of tuition reimbursement for their employees. We’re bringing everyone to the table and creating a clearer way to get an education without taking out loans. But here it is Way there. ” brave: that alone is still not enough. So how can we fill in the gaps to ensure that every student in Omaha who graduates high school can get a post-secondary education and have a career that they want? comes to my office as mayor. “
Gudgel wants institutions starting locally to offer pennies on the dollar for tuition “if we buy it a million hours at a time,” he said. “This program – we currently call it tuition grants – will help fight brain drain and combat urban sprawl.”

Gudgel continued, “This is an entirely new program. To simplify, step one as local government will be the organization: bring stakeholders to the table and evaluate our assets. We organize first and see how many children can get their lessons on these Way fully funded, and how many get halfway there. Step two is to make up the difference, and that’s where the tuition grants come in. If a child can get half their tuition for great accomplishments, we will Step in to cover the other half so they can close out of debt. Of course, they still have to pay rent, but this is not a new burden for local children who may be able to live at home. What I plan to do is that removing insurmountable barrier to ensuring that bright children like the ones I teach have well paid careers not just jobs. This will help end generation poverty which in turn will lower crime and all because we took care of our residents as a city. There is no disadvantage a and almost no upper limit. “

Gudgel said this program will not be available to children in Gretna, Bellevue, or Papillion to encourage families to stay in Omaha. “This is especially good for young people, but it is also good for the long-term health and prosperity of the city of Omaha,” said Gudgel, saying that his campaign is refining the program and an official launch is coming soon.

You can check out Mark Gudgel on his website.

The Omaha Mayoral primary, in which all candidates, Republicans, Democrats and Independents will participate, will take place on April 6th.

(Photo by WOWT 6 News)

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