OTOC’s Action Teams have had a busy few months. Please share this report with people who might be interested in their ongoing efforts to make Omaha and Nebraska a community that works for all families.


OTOC leaders prepare to meet with Governor Ricketts on Mar 31

Immigration Action Team: OTOC leaders were greatly cheered that the Nebraska Unicameral was able to clear last minute efforts to filibuster LB 623 which grants Dreamers who have been granted a temporary federal status the opportunity to apply for a Driver’s license in Nebraska.  According to Kathleen Grant, OTOC Immigration Action Team Chair, “It is high time that the State of Nebraska afford these young people the opportunity to legally drive to their work, school and home. They are part of the bright future of our state and by not allowing them to drive in our state, we are driving them away from our state.”

Grant, Gaspar Gaspar and other leaders of the OTOC Action Team  asked 9 candidates for the Unicameral to support this change in law at an OTOC  Acountability Session attended by 300 people back on October, 6, 2014.  OTOC leaders testified in support of the bill in February and then met with Governor Ricketts  on March 31 to ask that he support this change in state law. To learn more about ongoing work of the Immigration Action Team, contact Jeanne Schuler at [email protected]

Mental Health Action Team: Leaders working on the OTOC Mental Health Action team had a full afternoon of meetings on May 14. In the early afternoon five leaders from OTOC and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) met with the executive director and program director of the Kim Foundation. The conversation helped the OTOC and NAMI leaders understand better the role that the Kim Foundation plays in fostering collaboration between agencies dedicated to providing mental health care to those who are in need. OTOC and NAMI agreed they would look for ways to participate in Kim Foundation events in the future.


OTOC, NAMI and League of Women Voters after meeting with Community Alliance

Later in the afternoon, 10 leaders from OTOC, NAMI and the League of Women Voters had a meeting with Carol Boye, Executive Director of Community Alliance, and Aileen Brady, the Chief Operating Officer. The leaders engaged in an informative and wide ranging discussion about the gaps which exist in the services provided to  people with mental illness and their families. Through this research action, the group identified a several strategies to improve access to mental health care and supportive services that they will continue to research over the next several months. Contact the Mental Health Action Team chair, Sarita Penka  at  [email protected] or come to the next action team meeting.

Environmental Sustainability Action Team:   The team supported passage of LB 469 which authorized creation of a State Implementation (SIP) by the Department of Environmental Quality to reduced carbon dioxide by 26% as required by EPA rules. This bill also authorizes an “Assessment” of the impact of this rule on the state, especially the economic impact of moving away from relying so heavily on coal. OTOC sought to have the assessment include the health benefits but this was rejected by Legislators. Finally, the bill authorizes preparation of a comprehensive, long term energy plan to guide energy policy. OTOC suggested that the bill require a public hearing process but this did not make it into the bill. This whole process will require ongoing vigilance.


OTOC asked Unicameral candidates to support Environmental Sustainability at Oct 2014 Accountability Session

OTOC also supported LB 423 which would provide a production tax credit for Community Based Energy Development (C-BED) projects. The bill was filibustered at the last minute and no further action will be taken on it this session. Passage of LB 423 has the potential to lead to the development of many community renewable energy projects in Nebraska. There are several community and wind and solar projects that are waiting to see if an incentive will be put in place before deciding whether to proceed with development. LB 423 represents a positive use of tax policy to incentivize activities that are beneficial to Nebraska and its people. OTOC leaders will continue to support this bill in the 2016 Session.

Housing Action Team: Leaders of the Housing Action Team are continuing to meet with local housing experts to develop new strategies to improve housing in Omaha. In recent months, OTOC leaders have met with a local developer who is a member of the Land Bank Board, a leading fair housing attorney, and the long time director of a large affordable housing non-profit. OTOC leaders have also recently testified at an April City Council meeting about the need for City of Omaha to increase the housing inspectors since the actual number of inspectors has dropped from 9 to 8 after the City’s settlement of a law suit by the Metro Omaha Property Owners’ Association. Contact Gloria Austerberry at [email protected] for more info.


Refugee Women discuss how to resolve conflict in families

Death & Taxes Team: Despite OTOC leaders’ ongoing efforts to pass LB 472, Medicaid Redesign, the bill will have no further action until the 2016 session. OTOC has been approached to see if leaders would be interested in bringing people to a rally at the State Capitol on Saturday June 6th at 11 a.m. to demonstrate ongoing support for Medicaid Redesign. Contact Mark Hoeger at [email protected]

Refugee Women Leadership Academy Beginning in March, 2015, OTOC’s affiliate, Institute for Public Leadership (IPL) began a Refugee Women Leadership Academy to focus on specific issues raised by women refugees. The initial sessions have focused on Women’s Health Issues and How to deal with conflict. Thirteen refugee women have participated so far in these bi-weekly sessions which include dinner and interactive discussion with a female who is expert in the topic of the evening.