The Day They Shut Down Dodge

They shut down Dodge Street today over $20. Sorta. Let me explain…

A while ago, the mayor of Omaha, rightfully called an “ideologue” by a friend of mine and appropriately called “Mean Jean” by those who have suffered through civic interactions with her, wanted to cut property taxes. Not in a meaningful or important way. Not in response to some inappropriately levied assessments or because the populace was eyeing locally brewed craft beer like Bostonian tea during British rule. She wanted to do so because she wanted to say she did it. If your home is valued at $200,000, you saved $20. Huzzah! She did it! Whee! “Awesome! Wow!”

But, see, a funny thing happens when you are a draconian penny pincher who is more concerned with appearances than the actual services your local government provides. You cut corners. You worry more about bottom lines than about your citizens. For the third time this winter, snowplows were not out in advance of a storm we knew was coming. Every local weatherperson promised heaven’s cocaine would be powdering our streets in the morning, to the tune of inches. Not a dusting, but measurable snowfall. As of the afternoon, Dodge hadn’t been cleared. Nor had it been treated ahead of time. The result? A parking lot formed on the city’s main traffic vein, and the police shut it down.

Some people found this to be an irritation. Commutes that should take 15 minutes on a good day were stretching over an hour. That’s not great. But, you see, when you play with motor vehicles (which, until recently, killed more Americans than anything), people get hurt. The Mayor decided to gamble with your lives today. That’s not an overstatement. Not too long ago, a caravan I was traveling with was involved in an accident caused by less snow than we got today. A man died in that accident. This isn’t hyperbole here. Traffic accidents caused by bad weather can be deadly. So when Jean Stothert decides to hope that the snow isn’t that bad and that the totals stay on the small side of estimates, she is gambling that the weather won’t kill anyone. That is inarguable.

This isn’t funny. This isn’t about inconvenience, although let’s talk about that for a minute. For those less fortunate in Omaha, those living paycheck to paycheck with jobs on hourly wages, missing work matters. Being late matters. Getting into a minor car accident that costs you money in repairs matters. One of the essential functions of the Omaha government is to ensure the safety of its citizens and to facilitate commerce and employment through its infrastructure. Today, for the third time this winter, Jean Stothert said “Let’s roll the dice.”

And she’s on quite the roll too, isn’t she? This embarrassment is hot on the heels of a year in which this city had 50 homicides. That’s staggering. I mean, I only know this because the Omaha World Herald reported it. Because, and this is rather unusual and quite a coincidence, the Omaha Police Department website sorta kinda just stopped putting stats up

I mean, how uncharacteristic of a person whose first act as Mayor was to institute a gag order. Why would her administration possibly oversee the police department’s sudden and inexplicable failure to make crime data readily available to the public as it was before. Every other year is broken down month by month, but for some reason, last summer (right when the homicide rate was spiking in August), it just stopped. It’s January. I’d love to hear why the last 5 months of crime stats aren’t there. Oops, I guess?

I ask you this: What is this person going to run for reelection on? The pensions are still a mess. She’s spending $10 million to tear down a historic building but won’t spring for snowplows when the city needs it. She presided over a horrific homicide rate. What in God’s name is she going to point to when it comes time for her to make her case for reelection?!

Oh. Right. She “cut property taxes.” Enjoy your $20 West Omaha residents.

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82 thoughts on “The Day They Shut Down Dodge

    • I was going to just not approve this comment, but you really deserve the shame.

      1.) I am not “and idiot.” I may be “an idiot,” but I’m 100% most certainly not “and idiot.”
      2.) You have laid out some very strong arguments here. My favorite being…um…all caps?
      3.) This isn’t my line of work. This is a blog. On the internet. Where I share my personal thoughts. You can feel free to not read them. That’s assuming, of course, your level of literacy transcends the post you decided to shout at me and that reading is an option.
      4.) Thank you for including “seriously” at the end. Until that point, I was quite convinced this was a joke. I would have preferred the juvenile “for serious,” but this will do.

      I want to thank you, because until such time as I receive a screeching, batshit insane, content-free, grammatically messy bit of word barf, I’m not sure my political posts have truly hit their mark. I will sleep well tonight.

    • On what points do you disagree? Inquiring minds want to know. Feel free to reply like an adult once you remove the “mayor’s” boot from your tongue.

    • Clearly the snow on the streets and public sidewalks in Omaha have
      Been noticably neglected since the mayor took office. I am a senior citizen and had attended events downtown the streets and public side walks are skating rinks in area where patron need to walk to get to
      their cars.
      I live down the street from a school and was very aware of the snow plow coming by through the years.
      Now beside the fact they might not come past our house at all, the city trucks are now small subcontracted
      pick-up trucks not city plows, they are not capable of doing the job correctly. This mayor is the leader of the city. She could be responsible for getting people killed by pinching penney’s. Any families of people killed or injured or lost pay due to her negligence should sue the mayor. That the snow removal process is not being handled like it has been during the previous administrations is a fact. She should fix this problem as it is her responsiblity to make sure the people of Omaha can safely travel the streets.
      FYI – my house taxes went up!

  1. Great thoughts. Shared it on my FB.

    My only qualm about what you’ve said here is your repeated use of the word “woman” in the last few paragraphs when I don’t think her gender is relevant. You probably didn’t intend it, but read in a certain way, it sounds like a subtle linking to women as incompetent in positions of authority. Maybe, “I mean, how uncharacteristic of a person whose first act as Mayor was to institute a gag order,” and “What is this so-called ‘leader’ going to run for reelection on?”

    • I certainly didn’t intend it! And I like it when smart people comment smart things! So thank you! The absolute last thing I’d want to do is imply any association between womanhood and leadership issues, and as such, I have changed “woman” to “person!” Very good point!

      • Excellent and thanks for reflecting on that.

        (Unrelated to this article: It really is hard to be blue in a red state. I’m hoping that maybe Bernie will get his shot because I could maybe see some Nebraskans voting for him over Trump who is looking to win the GOP nom.)

  2. You’re just misinformed.

    I do get a bit of entertainment value out of her PR meltdowns every snow day but you’re right, this is ridiculous.

  3. Dodge is US highway 6.cleared by the NDOR (the Nebraska department of roads) and not by the city of Omaha. Stothert has no control whatsoever over the NDOR…

      • Bahahaha! Thanks? I’m 100% sure you’re wrong. That’s only because I know people who have worked with previous mayoral administrations who confirmed it. Oh, and because the the city maintenance engineer confirmed it to KETV. Oh, and because Stothert confirmed it. So, you know what, I didn’t just try, I DID IT!

    • I don’t doubt that those trucks do the work. They do so at the behest and direction of the mayor. And considering that she herself said that, I think we can let it go? I’ll put you down as “plus one heart for Mean Jean.” So, duly noted!

      • Haha. Thanks for the little heart. Wasn’t expecting such a joyous earmark for just pointing out who does what. I’m from Counciltucky, so I couldn’t vote in that one.

        The NDOR – run by the state of Nebraska – has their own operations center where they monitor the weather and road conditions, and their own supervisors that give the drivers their instructions. The city maintenance engineer doesn’t work there. Both he and the mayor work for the city of Omaha.. “They” would refer to Omaha public works. The city of Omaha could go completely bankrupt, and the NDOR would still show up to clear Interstates, US and state highways. They are funded and governed 100% by the state of Nebraska.

        Better do an article for Pete?

      • I’m 99% sure jurisdictions overlap in situations like this since US-6 is within the city limits of Omaha. Besides, it was Omaha Police that shut down Dodge, not Nebraska State (or FBI/CIA for that matter).

        Wasn’t expecting snow plows to segway into a discussion regarding federalism.

        Either way, Dodge Street should have been made a high-priority route for both the City of Omaha and State of Nebraska plow resources regardless as to which organizations are contracted to do the work. Someone F-ed up… bottom line.

  4. Love this. I could not believe the roads this morning. I have never in my two decades of driving seen Omaha shut down this way with one to three inches of snow!!! And to not plow the main artery through town until it came to the point that police officers were pushing cars up the hill?!?! Wow. http://www.enchantinglyemily.com

  5. Regarding who plows what, this is direct from the city’s website. So even though parts of Dodge are plowed by the state, not the part that was shut down. “The attached map titled “Major Snow Routes” shows these main streets. The State of Nebraska plows the interstate, the West Dodge Expressway, the North Freeway, and the Kennedy Freeway. The City of Omaha plows all other streets.” http://www.cityofomaha.org/pw/images/images/major-snow-routes.png

  6. I absolutely love this article and your first reply!! I had to work today so didn’t think of the blog but did make sure I wrote a harshly worded letter on my fb to the City of Omaha who also takes all the calls for city limits road crews… When will people learn? Change is not always good… She had a personal agenda from the beginning and simply forgot to do the rest of her duties… A simple mistake! 🙂

    • I was totes gonna trash this, but you will help illustrate a point I wanna make. This is absolute bullshit. You have no possible way of knowing if people were on time but present it like an established fact. Did you poll the metro one by one? Did you go door to door and ask how long it took people to get to work? No, you just say shit like saying it makes it true. The GOP can do that and get away with it because most journalists don’t do their job anymore, but this is my personal blog! That means when you spout garbage opinions and pass them off as facts, I get to point at you and say “No! Bad! Stop that!” That’s not how facts work, Sally! Also, always a good look to address a blog that includes the mention of a death due to road conditions with a mocking “whine” sound. You’re an inspiration to compassionate Omahans everywhere! HIGH FIVE!

      • Just for reference: I am a manager. I manage a team of 9. I was 30 minutes late to work today due to my normal commute being 3 times as long. Of my 9 employees, 6 were late. The 3 that were on time? Their shifts start before the heavy snow hit.

        In my department, there are roughly 100 employees. Well over half were late. I know this is just one company example, but I believe it’s a fair representation of what happened this morning.

      • Haha so true Ryan!! I hate when people just say shit like it makes it true. Your article is the best, and thanks for bringing more critical thinking to the table. 🙂

      • 1 hr 40 min commute here from Elkhorn to the 72nd and Pacific area. Left at 7 and arrived after 8:30. Can confirm it was a nightmare morning drive. Probably the worst in my recent memory.

      • It took me 2 hours to get from my home near 144th and Maple to my work at UNMC. Everyone else I worked with was late as well. Sally must live next door to her job.

    • So you somehow anticipated your commute to triple in time over a couple inches of snow? Or you just had nowhere to be? Maybe you’re physic? I knew it was going to snow and planned accordingly also but never would have expected my top speed (ya know, in the event I was even moving) to be 20 mph. Don’t be a jerk.

    • Because they left early! We expect the mess after what happened the past two times it snowed, but we shouldn’t have to expect it!

    • This is what you got from this blog? I believe perhaps you should read it again. Oh, and for the record (although the point was proven), several individuals in my office were not only late, but didn’t show up at all.

    • None of my kids got to school on time. Plus, they reported how terrible traffic and the bus ride were The buses were slipping, sliding and bumping into curbs. I am happy the buses did not hit any kids that were walking on the sidewalks. Other children reported this as well. If kids were late to school I’m sure plenty of adults had problems as well.

  7. As you brought up the homicide rate under the mayor, I must mention her work at the unicameral. She’s trying to make it easier to buy and carry guns around town. And she’s trying to take away power that the people of omaha, the city council, and the mayor currently has to try and lower to homicide rate.

    LB289 is the bill.

    Does she work for the nra or the people of omaha? Hard to tell.

  8. Fantastic read, will share with many. I’m so glad to see you continue to flourish as a writer.
    Your old buddy (and editor at Weekly Reader!),
    Michelle

  9. Sorry Sally. I live in West Omaha and my normal 30-45 minute commute to get to work by 9 AM took me almost two hours. I got to work a little after 10 AM. Most of the people I talked to at work today said they came in late due to the roads even after giving themselves extra time for the snow. I’ve NEVER taken this long to get to work. The only people who said they were only “slightly” late were those who worked at 6 AM.

  10. This is the best thing I’ve read in a very long time. Hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty of posting it on her Facebook page.

  11. Well said. The constant fixation on property taxes in Omaha has always perplexed me. We recently moved from Omaha to the Chicago area and I’d kill for the same property tax rate we had there. We pay nearly 10% of the value of our home here, whereas we paid 2% there. I recognize it may be far different for those with large farms or other sorts of properties, but for the typical homeowner in Omaha, are property taxes really the thing they’re worrying about? I’d put the crime rate, social services, public infrastructure, and a few dozen other things above that…but I guess when you’re Queen Jean you can ignore what matters.

  12. This is by far the best thing I’ve read today. I appreciate this so much! All day I wondered if her neighborhood had been plowed early today and multiple times throughout the day. Not that it matters that much, but it’s almost safe to assume…

    Thanks again for this! It was everything I was thinking today.

  13. Everything I read was spot on but one item. Taxes. Mine went up $40k last year. She may have dropped the levy but raised the valuation so much it more than made up for it. There is no way I could sell my house for the valuation. I will fight it next year. But most will not. Highest taxes ever, most crime, snow, potholes, road construction that takes forever. Yeah not feeling like I’m getting my $$$ worth.
    10pm. My street is still not plowed.

  14. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    My family has moved here from Chicago and I am stunned by how poor these roads have been this winter. Unbelievably dangerous and bad.

  15. The downside of her tenure as mayor is she just won an interstate award as a Mentor Mayor. She’s been praised by both Iowa’s and California’s governors as a symbol of improving police standards and graduating more rookie cops to the Omaha PD. She’s received an award from the Secretary of Transportation in the White House.

    So getting rid of her via a recall probably won’t happen. We’ll just have to work hard to not let her get re-elected. I dislike this mayor immensely.

    Oh, and I live in West Omaha, so lay off the insults about it being largely our fault. A great of folks downtown and at Regal Place voted for this lady, as well. I could care less about a $20 rebate.

  16. Your blog post and reply to Katherine absolutely made my day. I so appreciate articulate, witty, skilled writing. Is there any way I could convince you to let me use your “feeling blue in a red state” graphic for my FB cover photo? (I know it’s a long shot…but I had to ask.)

  17. My neighborhood roads were so bad we had no mail delivery yesterday. My daughter set off for work, she works downtown, we live off 117th Old Maple Rd and when she realized it had taken her over an hour to get to 72nd & Dodge St she turned around and came back home. The only reason I made it to work yesterday is because I work from home!

  18. just part of a wider trend among crony-capitalists (like our dear governor) to privatize services while handing out gifts to fellow wealthy interests (how many millions in tif tax dollars have now been given away by this mayor to a handful of private developers of hotels and expensive apartments in highly desirable markets?) and investing in sprawl via annexation.
    to quote a higher power : President Obama said the water crisis in Flint, Mich., “is a reminder of why you can’t shortchange basic services that we provide to our people.”

    • Yes, I no longer see any official city plows on our Residental streets, they all seem to be Sub-contacted 4-wheels trucks with blades. Maybe it is the same routes set up in 08 but the small trucks cannot handle the job in the time frame the city plows used to do.
      Just as stated, some favored contractor takes a major cute and the drivers are happy to get paid what they are paid.
      Also if it was the county or state that was supposed to take care of Dodge Street This Mayor would have made sure and thrown them under the Proverbial Snow Plow!

      • yep, that’s the way it goes we send people to the federal government to cut spending so less trickles down to the state level, send people to the unicameral to cut spending so less trickles down to the cities, the cities go to war against organized labor (is Omaha still true blue in support of police officers when it comes to their contracts/pensions?) to deprive workers of benefits and depress wages, and we get the sorts of bare-bones on the cheap services that this all adds up to, all the while as I said above millions of our tax dollars go to making the rich 1% richer (and helping them to exploit now disenfranchised workers, like those often striking downtown outside of newly built hotels) and workers/citizens have less security and less money to buy the things they need and our economy depends on, the old race to the bottom is gaining new momentum, is it time yet for new leadership who has a grasp on this century?

  19. The fact that this city (public works, plows) can’t handle 3 damn inches of snow is absolutely ridiculous! Maybe the mayor needs to talk to people in Minneapolis, Chicago, Buffalo, or even broke Detroit, or any other city that gets LOTS of snow, and ask for help on how they do it. Cuz she sure isn’t figuring it out here! Maybe we should send her to DC to see if she can learn anything from them in the next few days!

  20. Pingback: Mayor Deflects Blame In Snow Removal Fiasco – Omaha Police Officers Association

  21. Hi Ryan,

    The assumption you are making is that the Mayor is committing a tradeoff between property tax relief and snow removal. This is incorrect. In fact, per the World Herald, the city’s snow removal budget has grown from $4.6 million in 2014 to $6.8 million this year.

    • Alright, I’ve gotten this like a dozen times, so let’s address it. No, that’s not the assumption I’m making. If you skim the article, you’d get that impression. I use the example of property taxes to suggest that she is an ideologue. She is more beholden to ideology and principle than to execution. So my assertion is that, in general, she doesn’t like to spend money. She’s a conservative who believes in small government and ran on a fiscal policy of “no soup for you.” So what the article states is that she’s championing an insignificant property tax cut and that her decisions on the snow removal reflect an ideology that holds “saving money is better than executing quality services for the city.” At no point did I mention a budget decrease or suggest that she paid for the property tax cut with snow removal funds. I stated, rather clearly, that she is a person who doesn’t want to spend money and doesn’t prioritize services like snow removal. I’m approving this ONE comment to address this. But for the love people, if I wanted to say that she used the snow budget to cut taxes, I would have said that. I’m not exactly shy about my accusations.

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