OPINION: Omaha is entering a new era; our leadership should reflect that


Hailey Stessman

Our future mayor needs to be dedicated to supporting every community in Omaha and providing creative outlets for young people. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

In just a few months, Omaha will be holding a general election for mayor on May 11. The position has been filled by Mayor Jean Stothert since 2013 when she was sworn in as the first female mayor in the city’s history.  For seven years, Omaha’s infrastructure and policies have been guided under her leadership, and since November of 2020, she’s determined to continue her influence for the city’s future through a re-election.

But I’m not sure that Omaha wants or needs her influence anymore.

In tandem with the rest of the country, Omaha is entering a new era. More awareness is being shed on the racial injustices rooted in the foundation of the city, disparities amongst communities including a lack of fresh and healthy resources and discrimination in academic and work environments. During the chaos and grief of the previous year, we have realized how much needs to be done for this city to improve in various facets.

Nebraska’s slogan “honestly, it’s not for everyone” perfectly summarizes a shared perception of the state I’ve noticed in the younger generation. You’re right; it truly isn’t for everyone, specifically for those entering their post-undergraduate life. But the people who are trying to make it a better place for everyone isn’t the individual politically representing our city; it is the countless art centers and nonprofits hosting virtual forums, fundraisers, and educational opportunities for the entire community.

The Culxr House, a “creative hub that focuses on providing artists and creatives a safe space to grow their talent and obtain access to resources necessary to grow to turn their art into economic opportunities” based in Omaha, is the perfect embodiment of a group of people who strive to bring a diverse voice to the streets of the city. On Sat. Jan. 23, the organization hosted a virtual forum where six mayoral candidates met to discuss topics such as the city budget, police reforms, and housing. The event was shared on multiple social media platforms and included brief descriptions of the candidates’ policies and goals if they were to be elected. The execution of this event ensured that people of all ages and levels of political knowledge could understand and digest the information that was presented.

Our next mayor should reflect the sentiments and considerations shared by the Culxr House along with their concern for reaching out to a diverse audience. Thankfully, the individuals who are stepping up to run are promising just that. Candidates such as Jasmine Harris and Dawaune Hayes are only a few of the individuals who are focused on bringing attention to the well-being of younger and marginalized communities by exposing racial inequities and public health crises.

The time has come for drastic change in Omaha. Although there has been an increase in the number of cultural and arts-based nonprofits and centers established in the city, there needs to be support on a political level. If we want to cultivate a flourishing community where the priorities and needs of everyone are taken care of, then we as voters need to pay attention to those who are willing to listen and enact change.