Our guest this week was former State Senator, Heath Mello, candidate for Mayor for the City of Omaha. Mr. Mello stated that he is running for Mayor because he believes Omaha can do better and to build the city of the future. Mr. Mello advised that he grew up in South Omaha and his family moved to Gretna where he attended high school. He went on to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He described his childhood as middle class and his parents teaching him to treat everyone with respect, to dream big and never stop believing that tomorrow could be better. He believes that someone in the Mayor’s Office should be working on big issues like equal wages, public education (Early childhood and Post-Secondary), providing resources for public safety and rebuilding the infrastructure. As Mayor he wants to unify the city to make Omaha more welcoming and more connected.
The second reason he is running is to leave a better city for his children and the children of our community. The question he asked is what type of city are we going to leave our children. Mello stated he has been going door to door throughout the community talking to people about the future of our city. He believes there are three critical issues.
The first issue he addressed was how the city has a tendency to operate in an "if it ain’t broke don’t fix it" attitude. He believes that services have declined and property taxes have gone up. Mello believes that the Mayor should be more accountable for service levels. Mello stated he would be more proactive in addressing issues and be more data driven and more measurement of results would take place as he looks at the issues. He would also look to encourage civic engagement in problem solving and also getting input on major decisions.
Mello described the second major issue as our crumbling infrastructure. He cited an article in the New York Times listing Omaha as having the 7th worst streets in the country. He advocated for public/private partnerships in addressing this issue as well as an infrastructure bank. He would take a 10 year view of the horizon to modernize our infrastructure, transportation system and suburban sprawl. He believes the current process has left us with two choices; cut back or raise taxes. His approach would be to build inside the I-680 loop, modernize transportation especially mass transit, add bike lanes and utilize new technology. He specifically cited his work in the legislature to make Uber and Lyft available in Nebraska.
The third issue he believes to be important is addressing violent crime. Mello stated that violent crime is up in Omaha and that we need to increase the capacity of public safety to address it. He specifically mentioned a 5th police precinct and more staffing for police and fire. He also stated we can’t just treat the symptoms of crime but must address the root causes. He advocated for creating more living wage jobs, more behavioral health services, city wide solutions and addressing inter-generational poverty.
Mello’s website is heathmello.com