‘I’m ready to talk to anyone’
OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) – Mayor Jean Stothert says she has vivid memories of Friday night when protests erupted in the city of Omaha.
“That night, I remember as if it had happened this morning,” the mayor said.
She remembers the constant updates from the Chief of Police and how as the protests moved downtown, she worried about business owners, the police and the protesters themselves.
“It was scary, I’ll tell you for me, figuring out what was going on in the city because I wanted people to be safe,” Stothert said.
Once the dust settled, she began working with Chief Todd Schmaderer, implementing new policies such as requiring officers to intervene.
Stothert also said the ministry was already doing the things the protesters wanted.
This includes a strangulation ban and a usage system that flags potentially problematic agents.
“This Minnesota officer wouldn’t have been an officer in Omaha, Nebraska,” Stothert said.
She said the overall message of the 2020 protests in Omaha was productive and that she really heard what they were saying.
“What was our approach: we listened, we learned, we don’t want to repeat our past mistakes, and we tried to develop a community-based plan for the future,” Stothert said.
During and after the protests, she says she tried to engage with some of the activists, including a meeting sitting in her office with one of the leaders.
She also met protesters outside the town hall amid the summer protests.
“I thought I’m going to go over there and listen to them, and talk to them, I’m going to do it myself. And I just got up and grabbed hold and said, ‘We’re going to go,’ ”Stothert said.
And it didn’t turn out the way she hoped.
“I was insulted, insulted, spat out. I was called all kinds of vulgar and profane names and I was there to listen, ”Stothert said.
She also remembers when she handed the budget over to city council and stated in no uncertain terms that she would not reject the police, which angered many at the meeting.
“I’ve been interrupted no less than 15 times by people shouting profane, vulgar language at me as I tried to present the budget to city council, it doesn’t help communication at all,” Stothert said. .
She says dialogue on difficult issues like police reform must be civilian.
“I’m willing to tell anyone about it, but the conversation has to be at least respectful, it has to go both ways,” Stothert said.
This year, Stothert easily won another term as mayor, one of his campaigning tenets being an inclusive city.
In mid-May, Omaha City Council unanimously passed its resolution condemning hatred in all its forms.
She also hired a deputy chief of staff, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion last year.
She says the man she hired, Keith Station, will continue to work to show that while city government can be inclusive, so can the rest of Omaha’s business community.
“Everything from our hiring practices to our tests that we do to our recruiting classes, we want to be an example for all businesses in Omaha,” Stothert said.
With another four-year term on the horizon for Stothert, she says she will continue to be open to dialogue, all to make the city a better place.
“If you want to be better you have to work together, it’s not just one-sided. It can never be one-sided, ”Stothert said.
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