2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Omaha Public School Board, District 9

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Tracy Casady (D):
Occupation: Human Resource Specialist
Current Public Office, dates held: Omaha Public Schools Board of Education, Subdistrict 9
Education: Master of Arts, Communication – University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2012; Bachelor of Arts, Journalism/Public Relations, Creighton University 1997
Volunteer Experience: Relay for Life of Greater Omaha, volunteer Girls on the Run, Run Buddy

Erik Servellon (D): No response received.

Kay Wainwright (R): No response received.

Candidate Responses

How can schools use technology to foster better equity and educational outcomes?

Tracy Casady: Technology is key in our schools for so many reasons and is an area that is constantly changing. Having the right technology and continuing to keep the technology up-to-date is critical. Our schools use technology each day to teach students and prepare them for the future and any career they may choose – technology is everywhere. Technology is for everyone, it has no bias and it does not discriminate. Technology is key to providing ALL students the best possible educational outcome.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Tracy Casady: Safety has become an issue that is much larger than it once was with regard to our schools. Now, we face safety concerns in every facet of our schools, from the front door to our playgrounds. Many positive steps have been taken to increase the safety of our students and staff. Ensuring that our budgets allow for funding for new technology that supports safety, such as video security devices for our entrances, SRO’s in our most vulnerable schools and building security personnel, to name a few.

What role, if any, should charter schools have in the Nebraska educational system?

Tracy Casady: I am in favor of school choice and parents making the best choice for their family. Charter schools are a viable choice for many, but they are at a cost. Public schools are free, they are available to all and are a wonderful education choice! I believe that state and local taxes must continue to support our state’s public schools. Our public schools are vital and necessary for so many who would otherwise not be able to afford an education. Public schools need continued financial support.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Public Service Commission, District 2

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Tim Davis (R):

Website: http://timjdavis.comm
Occupation: Candidate
Education: Two diplomas in Construction and Entrepreneurship.  These were received from Southeast Community College and Western Iowa Tech.
Volunteer experience: Volunteered on the Don Bacon Campaign in 2018 One of the Douglas County Republican Volunteer of the Year in 2019.

Krystal Gabel (R):

Website: www.krystalgabel.com
Occupation: Cybersecurity Technical Writer and Business Analyst
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Writing, magna cum laude, Briar Cliff University, 2002
Volunteer experience: I am a grassroots volunteer who co-owns the Peace Garden of South Omaha at 33rd Ave & R St, a community garden that grows and gives away free vegetables and herbs to anyone who stops by Free Food Saturdays from June-October.

Crystal Rhoades (D): 

Website: www.crystalrhoades.com
Current Public Office, dates held: Commissioner Nebraska Public Service Commission 2015 – present.
Past Public Office, dates held: Metropolitan Community College Board 2006-2014.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, University of Nebraska, Omaha.
Military experience: None.
Volunteer experience: Chairwoman Douglas County Democratic Party 2016 – Present,  National Association of Regulatory Commissioners, Vice Chair of Telecommunications Committee and the Rural Broadband Expansion Task Force.

Candidate Responses

Why are you the best candidate for this position?  

Tim Davis:  When I get elected, I will work to get the most up to date broadband service to the voters ahead of schedule. I will make sure the life-saving 911 system is in place allowing for fast response times.  I will work to make sure we have the best rates available for all ride sharing options on the market.

Krystal Gabel: I am the up-and-coming conservative candidate who can win the General Election against the incumbent. I am dedicated to becoming a public servant who is transparent and accessible to all Nebraskans. I advocate for limited government and increased freedom from taxation, regulation, and oppressive laws. I believe in protecting all individuals, their natural rights and liberties, and their private properties from irrational establishment authority.

Crystal Rhoades:  This position requires a detailed knowledge of telecommunications infrastructure, consumer protection law, transportation law, and the ability to understand complex technical topics.  I have a proven track record of working with state and federal law and policy makers to produce results for constituents. During my tenure I’ve worked with the legislature to pass laws that legalized ride sharing, legislation to reduce robocalls, and improved accountability for companies receiving public grants. I

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Tim Davis:  I plan to sit down and discuss with the various cellular providers in the market to discuss what issues they are having when it comes to implementing the updated broadband services.  I will also look into the Next Gen 911 system to make sure we are getting the best services possible.

Krystal Gabel:  My priorities are to make the office of PSC work entirely for The People, including our right to freely participate and succeed in commerce. I will encourage a reducton in overbearing regulations and focus on making Nebraska’s regulatory bodies more efficient with taxpayer dollars. I promise to find gaps in how PSC and our taxes are managed and push to streamline to reduce taxpayer burden. I am one of many who is saying NO to new taxes and overbearing regulations.

Crystal Rhoades:  I’ll continue to improve oversight of government funds such as 911 and universal service to ensure customers are getting high quality services at the lowest cost.  When I started at the Commission the audits for 911 were running 3-5 years behind. I advocated to get those completed so taxpayers would have confidence their money was being spent appropriately. I’ve also been an advocate at the state and local level to expand access to high speed internet for low income customers and will continue t

What are the three most important issues your community/county is facing and how would you address them?

Tim Davis:  District 2 has a number of issues they deal with.  First of which is the 911 response time.  There have been a number of instances where services took longer than it should have.  When I get elected I will review what is needed to make sure Next Gen 911 is up and running to minimize future response time.  I will work closely with the telcom providers in the state to make sure that the voters are getting the most up to date broadband services at the best possible prices.

Krystal Gabel:  1) Nebraska is facing a mismanagement of taxpayer money. 2) We are passing bonds to make ends meet in education, infrastructure, and public services, yet lawmakers are still asking for money without any sustainable solutions. This must stop. I don’t expect our residents to continue paying for everything. 3) We must be resourceful and forward-thinking in how we earn revenue and create jobs, including privatizing utilities as a solution to public sector budgetary problems and taxpayer burden.

Crystal Rhoades:  1. Funding and improving 911 call center reliability is critical in Douglas County. Currently our community has the highest call volume and contributes more to the 911 fund than any other county but we receive a fraction of the funding back to support our call center. I will work with other stakeholders to find a more equitable distribution of funding that is based on call volume and population. 2. There are frequent telephone outages in Douglas County resulting from failure to invest in our inf

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Douglas County Commissioner, District 3

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Asit Goswami (D):

Website: www.votegoswami.com
Occupation: Hospitalist Physician (Family Medicine trained)
Education: Family Medicine residency training at Creighton. MD from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. BS in Biological Physics from Washington and Jefferson University in Washington, PA. BA in Religious Studies from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL
Volunteer Experience: Gifford Park Neighborhood Association liaison to Gifford Park Elementary School. Vice President Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association. OTOC Housing Action Team. Heartland Workers Center. Nebraska Academy of Family Physician Scientific Affairs Comm.

Chris Rodgers (D):
Occupation: Director of Community and Goverment Relations at Creighton University, Commissioner – Douglas County, Nebraska
Current Public Office, dates held: Douglas County Commissioner (2005 – Present)
Past Public Office, dates held: Member of Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors (1999 – 2004)
Education: Creighton University BA 92; MBA 99 and University of Nebraska at Omaha MPA 2002
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Salem Baptist Church, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

Candidate Responses

What element of the county’s government is most effective, and why?

Asit Goswami: All stakeholders must have a voice in wise planning for Douglas County residents. The voter approved 2016 Public Safety Bond issue is a terrific example The County board met for months, listened to the public, and put the issue to a vote of the people, which passed with overwhelming support. The project retrofitted an existing County building, upgraded the 911 Center to a state-of-the-art facility, consolidated County offices, saved money on leases, and created an energy efficient campus.

Chris Rodgers: The Health Department is one of our most effective elements. I think we see it now through our response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

What are some ways to provide property tax relief? Are there any services you think should be cut, and if so, why?

Asit Goswami: The County Board can lower the levy instead of raising it when property values go up. Even though the County has enjoyed a budget surplus for several years, they decided to raise the levy in 2019. Adjustments in the Homestead Exemption will provide disabled citizens and their caregivers property tax relief. With fresh eyes reviewing the budget, we will find efficiencies within existing departments. With a smart Master Plan incorporating zero based budgeting, services will have enhanced value.

Chris Rodgers: County Government runs very lean. Ending unfunded mandates from the state can help reduce property taxes.

What do you see as the three most compelling problems facing your office?

Asit Goswami: Coronavirus has disrupted our County, and we will need a transparent plan for a sustainable recovery for our entire community. We need tools like emergency push notifications from Douglas County Health Department. The board meets at inconvenient times for the working public, proposed twice to close public comment and makes community decisions behind closed doors. We demand transparency. Let’s reverse the trend of privatizing County government which decreases accountability for public services.

Chris Rodgers: Mentally Ill in adult corrections, reforming juvenile justice and preparing public health for its future in Douglas County.

What should the county do to address climate change issues?

Asit Goswami: Climate change begins with retrofitting buildings vs. demolishing and building anew. Building a new downtown jail for our youth with promise without a vote of the people for the largest real estate deal in the history of Douglas County that will increase property taxes is not a priority for our community. To decrease our Carbon footprint, let’s renovate the Douglas County Youth Center rather than build a downtown jail. Just like the 2016 Safety Bond which put climate change at the forefront.

Chris Rodgers: We should take opportunities to use renewable energy. I think this is the most immediate manner we can address climate change.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Douglas County Commissioner, District 5

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Maureen Boyle (D):

Website: www.MaureenBoyleMD.com
Occupation: OB-GYN physician
Current Public Office, dates held: none
Past Public Office, dates held: none
Education: Marian High School; University of Nebraska at Omaha, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, major in finance; University of Nebraska Medical Center, Medical Doctor
Military Experience: none

Joe DiCostanzo (D):

Website: www.joedicostanzo.com
Occupation: High School Assistant Principal
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: University of Nebraska- Lincoln, B.S. Harvard Graduate School of Education, M.Ed.
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Benson Neighborhood Association, NLC Omaha, Benson Theatre Board of Directors

Josh Henningsen (D): 

Website: www.JoshHenningsen.com
Occupation: Legal Counsel, Nebraska Legislature
Education: University of Iowa College of Law, University of Kansas
Volunteer Experience: Metcalfe-Harrison Neighborhood Association, St. Pius St. Leo Education Committee, youth basketball coach

Michael Young (D):

Website: www.michaelyoung2020.com
Occupation: Technology Management Consultant & Business Owner | Technology Consulting Solutions.
Current Public Office, dates held: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 2 (2016-Present), Transit Authority of Omaha Board of Directors Chairman (2010 – Present)
Education: Metropolitan Community College University of Nebraska at Omaha
Volunteer Experience: 100 Black Men of Omaha (Member), Association of Community College Trustees – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Member (representing MCC), Carole’s House of Hope (Board President), Partnership 4 Kids (Book/Goal Buddy)

Candidate Responses

What element of the county’s government is most effective, and why?

Maureen Boyle: As a physician, I’m a fan of prevention first, then treatment. It is prudent to spend a few dollars today to save dollars later. The Douglas County Health Department’s WIC program is an example of this. Nutrition and education are provided to pregnant women, infants, and children. The early years are critical in child development. By stimulating growth and learning while young, we set kids up for success. This is not just cost-effective; it is the right thing to do.

Joe DiCostanzo: I feel the emergency management agency has been one of the most effective elements of county government. Government tends to work best with multi-agency coordination, and that is at the heart of the EMA. Activities like public alerts and siren notifications can seem very simple, yet there is much planning that needs to be done. As a high school administrator, I know how to effectively prepare and have prepared large groups of people for many different emergency scenarios.

Josh Henningsen: Douglas County employees are a hardworking and committed workforce. Unfortunately, the county departments they work for are often hampered by the county board’s unwillingness to give them the resources they need to be as effective as possible.

Michael Young: The most efficient system within our county government is our revenue collection system and dissemination of funds for our educational systems. We have much room for improvement though, and it’s time that we take a hard look at what we do well and what we don’t, bringing in a 3rd party to help us evaluate if needed. The issue of Lincoln not taking serious budget constraints to counties and our districts is also a game we can no longer play as we seek to improve our revenue collection efficiency.

What are some ways to provide property tax relief? Are there any services you think should be cut, and if so, why?

Maureen Boyle: First, look at spending. For example, in HR, it is cost effective to minimize turnover for valuable front-line employees like CNAs, nurses, and corrections officers. It’s more economical to keep these workers happy than to replace them. We should have a robust retention program. Second, we could look at more economies of scale between city and county services. Third, due to COVID-19, the county has expanded availability of services online. This can be a new way to do business.

Joe DiCostanzo: The continued increase of property taxes is a complex issue, and if it was an easy fix, our property taxes would be lower. The best way to cap property taxes from the county level would be to have a strong strategic plan that include property tax freezes and seeks for ways to better coordinate resources provided to county citizens. Once the strategic plan is being conducted, then there will be savings that should be passed on through property tax relief.

Josh Henningsen: High property taxes are most often caused by unfunded mandates from the state and federal government. To provide property tax relief, the county board must develop strong relationships with state and federal representatives to advocate for sufficient funding for all new state and federal programs and requirements. The county board can also engage in a more robust strategic planning process to allow more thoughtful investment to maintain infrastructure and provide services more efficiently.

Michael Young: The best way to increase revenue while providing property tax relief in Douglas County is to decrease our inherent cost of operating and be more thoughtful of how to expand margin. One of my 5 Pillars is economic development based on transitoriented design. As Chair of the Transit Authority, I helped execute the 2012 alternative analysis, allowing us to find efficient ways of operating to get better services instead of spending more or cutting essential services. Douglas County can do the same.

What do you see as the three most compelling problems facing your office?

Maureen Boyle: 1. The budget. The board exists as a mandate from the state; so are some county services. Managing the budget can be a challenge when assigned projects you have to pay for. 2. Mental health. Needs are intensifying. Treatment options are scarce. The county is the “provider of last resort” and obligated to meet those needs. 3. Criminal justice. We are not consistently meeting the needs of those “in the system”. Prevention is more efficient than treatment. The question is how do we go about it?

Joe DiCostanzo: Public safety is a top priority. This includes juvenile and adult detention, protecting the public, while ensuring offenders are set up for success after detention. Protecting tax payers by coordinating services to ensure maximum services are being delivered for each dollar being spent by the county. Ensuring Douglas County government is accessible, transparent, and accountable. All county meetings should be moved to the evening and all county business should be accessible online.

Josh Henningsen: The courthouse no longer has sufficient space to accommodate the courtrooms, attorneys, and other court personnel necessary to operate efficiently and provide access to justice. The jail is on the verge of serious overcrowding and understaffing issues. The juvenile justice system is poorly coordinated and provides inadequate community-based services. All three of these problems are symptoms of a larger failure over recent decades to develop and implement plans to address future needs.

Michael Young: The top three issues I see from the County perspective are: economic development, transparency and, most importantly, communication. It is high time our leaders stop restricting the line of communication – from decisions made in executive sessions to bringing in a Communications Director. An example is the lack of cohesive messaging on the COVID-19 response. A Communications Director can take on a role within the County to talk us through both crises and everyday issues we face as a community.

What should the county do to address climate change issues?

Maureen Boyle: Everything possible. We should transition to electric vehicles for the county fleet. Convening with OPPD board members to brainstorm joint projects can be considered. When bidding on projects, preference should be given to contractors proficient in renewable energy. This is a big deal.

Joe DiCostanzo: It is essential to take actionable steps now to create a long-term solution to climate change. A plan should be created to set a target of transitioning to a carbon neutral footprint by all county buildings and operations. An example would be transitioning the county transportation to zero-emission vehicles. The county should also lead in creating a cross-sector alliance, in which entities (public and private) would sign on with goals to reduce their carbon footprint in all their business.

Josh Henningsen: As a member of the Metro Area Planning Agency, the county has an important role in addressing climate change issues. The county can do more to provide more environmentally sound options for recycling and solid waste disposal. The county can also do more to push for a more efficient regional transportation system. The county also needs to be more prepared to handle increasingly likely emergencies like severe weather events and flooding.

Michael Young: Dealing with climate change is a double-edged sword, requiring a double-edged response. We must take a hard look at what are we going to do to ensure the best services possible while also taking responsibility for our planet. We can be efficient with services and still employ better, more eco-friendly practices. On the Transit Authority I helped bring buses running on compressed natural gas to Omaha. This reduced our emissions by almost 1,800 tons of carbon dioxide per year and reduced cost.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska State Board of Education, District 4

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Jacquelyn Morrison (D):
Website: www.morrisonfor4.com
Occupation: Attorney
Current Public Office, dates held: NA
Past Public Office, dates held: NA
Education: BBA (Accountancy)-The George Washington University, Juris Doctor – Georgetown University
Military Experience: NA
Volunteer Experience: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) Volunteer, St. Cecilia’s Cathedral Soccer Coach, Member of the Office of Violence Prevention Advisory Board, Former Mentor with Girls Inc Bold Futures Program

Adrian Petrescu (NP):
Website: www.Adrian4NE.com
Occupation:  Professor and Teacher, Legislative Adviser, Diplomat
Current Public Office, dates held: N/A
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A
Education: Doctor of Philosophy, Public Policy (hon), Economics of Science & Technology for Innovation, Univ of Pittsburgh, 2003 Juris Doctor, Creighton Univ, Omaha NE, 2016 Master of Science, Engineering, UPBucharest, Romania, 1989 M.A., Int’l Rel’s, NSPSA, Ro
Military Experience: Yes.
Volunteer Experience: Midtown Neighborhood Alliance (MNA), Omaha NE 2015- Yates Future, #SaveYatesForOmaha, ensuring continuance of Refugee & Immigrants educational programming by OPS, & building repurpose, Nov 2019- Gifford Park Neighborhood OPS & GPNA, EdSpec Comm-2017

Candidate Responses

Do you see this board as being an elected or appointed body? Please explain your reasoning.

Jacquelyn Morrison: The State Board of Education is an elected body per the Nebraska State Constitution. I believe that the board should remain an elected body as it allows each district to vote for the candidate that best represents their district.

Adrian Petrescu: Nebraska State Board of Education is elected. It is very important for Nebraska Dept. of Education to respond to the citizens through representation by an elected board. Democracy is ensured, & the vision of the Nebraska Department of Education, “to lead and support the preparation of all Nebraskans for learning, earning, and living,” can be fulfilled truthfully with equity towards _all_ Nebraskans. Democracy often under-hears those who whisper–e.g. girls in STEM. This board must hear everyone.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Jacquelyn Morrison: I believe that safety is an extremely important issue. Within schools we can improve safety by addressing our growing need for behavioral and mental health services. If we are able to address these needs of students, teachers and students will be less exposed to danger. We also have to guard against outside threats to our schools. I think we do this by securing our schools and creating strategic partnerships with local officials and law enforcement.

Adrian Petrescu: Parents must take responsibility to nurture discipline & respect from early on in life of children, & ongoing. Role modes. This way school children will behave better as they had & continue to have a good upbringing in partnership children-schoolsfamilies-communities. Early childhood structured learning opportunities help w/ early socializing among children before they come to school. Attention to diversity & inclusion as in Gifford Park. Training for teachers. Strong gun background checks.

How can the continuing education of teachers be supported?

Jacquelyn Morrison: The continuing education of teachers can be supported through funds specifically dedicated to professional development. As a regular practice, we should continuously survey the needs of teachers, and work with educators to develop course offerings that address those areas of need. Finally, I believe that we have to reward teachers (through raises and promotions) for their efforts so that they know that their efforts are recognized.

Adrian Petrescu: Training & professional development for teachers made available. Lecture/speakers series. Sharing of best practices. NED support for furthering educational opportunities–we did it with establishing partnerships between school district(s) and educational institutions (community colleges and universities and graduate programs), in SE Michigan, in S Texas, in Philadelphia. Peer system of support internally inside ESUs/Schools/Grade/Subject. Support from NSEA and OEA for continuing education. CECs?

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Unicameral, District 5

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Mike McDonnell (D):
Website: www.votemcdonnell.com
Occupation:  President of the Omaha Federation of Labor AFL-CIO
Current Public Office, dates held: Nebraska State Senator Legislative Dist. 5 January 2017-Present
Past Public Office, dates held: Nebraska State Senator Legislative Dist. 5, January 2017-Present
Education: Masters in Public Administration Bachelors in Criminal Justice Associate Degree in Fire Protection Technology
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Knights of Columbus Council 10184 Saint Thomas More Festival Committee

Gilbert Ayala (R):  No response received.

Candidate Responses

Does Nebraska need to change its method of redistricting? Why or why not?

Mike McDonnell: Yes! I would like to adopt a more nonpartisan approach similar to what the State of Iowa has done. We could use a nonpartisan state agency and an outside advisory commission to draw the districts.

How should the problem of prison overcrowding be handled?

Mike McDonnell: Reducing recidivism will reduce overcrowding. I introduced 2 bills this year that will help accomplish this. LB

1096 will be a private public partnership to teach skilled trade classes, to people within 18 months of being released from prison. LB 1097 will double the size of the current young adult court, which is a problem solving court. This court works with people age 18-26 to help with employment and addressing other issues to keep them out of the Nebraska prison system.

Do you feel there is a need for voter ID, if so why and how should it be implemented?

Mike McDonnell: No!

Should there be increased restrictions on money in politics? Why or why not and what specific restrictions would you support?

Mike McDonnell: Yes! I believe there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns. Based on not letting an individual or organization have more political influence.

Does Nebraska need a paid family medical leave program? Why or why not?

Mike McDonnell: Yes! I believe Nebraska workers should receive paid leave to deal with their own serious health conditions, and mothers should receive paid maternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha, Subdivision 4

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Tim Cavanaugh (R):
Occupation: Chief Deputy Treasurer/Retired Omaha Police Captain (25+ years)
Current Public Office, dates held: MUD Board of Directors, 1999-now. Three-time Chairman.
Past Public Office, dates held: above
Education: Ryan High School UNO, C.J/Business Administration Creighton Law School, 1979-80 University of Nebraska Graduate School, MS, C.J./Public Admin Graduate, FBI National Academy
Military Experience: Regretfully, none.
Volunteer Experience: Rotary Club of Omaha, 17 years, past president and Rotary Foundation Board. Paul Harris Fellow, 3 times.

Tom Wurtz (NP):
Occupation: Retired past President MUD
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: BA UNL 1971. Juris Doctorate UNL 1974.
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Knights of Columbus St. Wenceslaus Church. Challenger Alumni Softball (coach) President’s Advisory Council UNL. Catholic Charities Board of Directors. Urban League Board of Directors. Governor’s Water Policy Council. State Energy Policy Council.

Candidate Responses

What factors would you consider when determining rates and rate changes?

Tim Cavanaugh: Number 1 is the abilty for our ratepayer-owners to afford our services. Safety is a major concern, as well as the delivery of clean water and safe gas transmission.

Tom Wurtz: The first duty of a board member is to ensure the district has sufficient revenues to deliver water and natural gas safely to our customers with reasonable rates. I would consider all customer classifications (residential, commercial and manufacturing) to determine if all are treated fairly. We need to retain competent managers and employees, who have an understanding of the complexities involved in the delivery of gas and water to the public. I would also consider the level of customer service.

What are the opportunities to improve efficiency for MUD?

Tim Cavanaugh: I challenged the staff to work toward a two-hour appointment window for service when we implemented GPS on service trucks which allowed for more efficient deployment of service trucks. Also, I pressed for the implementation of online payments. I am very proud of our high bond rating and the high level of funding of the employee’s pension fund.

Tom Wurtz: The most important opportunity for efficiency is to ensure that the district remains a public utility with local control and ownership by our customers. Privatization would result in an immediate 25% increase in rates. More of our construction and field service personnel should report directly to job sites rather than district facilities in order to increase efficiency. Also the district should conduct a study to search for duplication of functions and continue discounted natural gas purchases.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Tim Cavanaugh: Ramp up the progress toward water infrastructure replacement within an affordable rate structure.

Tom Wurtz: I will make all committee meetings open to the public. I will solve the water pressure problems in west Omaha, particularly in sub district 4. We need to provide better customer service for our customer owners. We need a comprehensive study of our rate structure to make sure we have an appropriate balance between monthly service charges and commodity costs. We need to conduct a comprehensive study of safety and security programs with emphasis on cyber security.

What effort would you make to meet the goal of increasing the use of renewable energy?

Tim Cavanaugh: MUD delivers natural gas and water. The exploration of methane gas sources (garbage dumpsites) may be worthwhile.

Tom Wurtz: Although natural gas is not technically a renewable fuel source, it is 98% clean burning and better for the environment than other fuels. I will continue to encourage the utilization of natural gas and CNG in cars and trucks. This will reduce our carbon footprint. As past president of MUD, I instituted a program to convert the electrical power source for our regulator stations to solar energy. I would explore the possibilities of converting as much of the electrical usage to solar power.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Douglas County Commissioner, District 1

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Mike Boyle (D):
Website: www.mikeboyle.org
Occupation: Lawyer.
Current Public Office, dates held: County Commissioner
Past Public Office, dates held: Mayor of Omaha
Education: St. Cecilia’s Cathedral High School U.N.O.1963 -1964 Creighton University 1962 – 1973 Creighton University Law School 1974 – 1977
Military Experience: Sole Surviving Son, Gold Star Brother
Volunteer Experience: American Red Cross, Combined Health Agency Drive, Urban League 1963,Holy Name Housing Board 1980 – 2006, Citizens for Educational Freedom, Co-Founder, Omaha 100

Roger Garcia (D):

Website: www.garcia2020.com
Occupation: Nonprofit Executive Director
Current Public Office, dates held: Metro Community College, Board of Governors, 2 terms, 2013 – 2016 and 2017 – 2020
Education: Bachelors in Psychology and Latino/Latin American Studies at UNO – Masters in Public Administration at Bellevue University – Masters in Theological Studies at Iliff School of Theology – Doctorate in Ministry at Willamette University (in Progress)
Volunteer Experience: Co-coordinator for the Nonprofit Executive Institute – Former board member of the Immigrant Legal Center – Former board member of the Women’s Center for Advancement – Former Big Brother/Big Sisters mentor (5 years) – Open Door Mission dinner server

Tonya Ward (D): No response received.

Candidate Responses

What element of the county’s government is most effective, and why?

Mike Boyle: There are many effective operations of County Government. The Douglas County Health Department under the leadership of Adi Pour,Ph.d stands out.. She and her staff are performing, so well. They are disseminating solid, accurate information and coordinating their work with all branches of our Government. Elected Officials, and Department leaders are serving us well, Our dedicated employees make us proud, We serve the Citizens of Douglas County. We are proud to serve.

Roger Garcia:  The Treasurer’s office in recent years has been operating within their budget, has added online and additional payment options for local residents, and successfully passed a bond through a public vote.  Specifically, a few years back, the Treasurer’s office did not accept debit or credit cards and now they do.  This is an example of a County office listening to local residents and adding options that made things easier for taxpayers. County Treasurer John Ewing has been transparent & accessible.

What are some ways to provide property tax relief? Are there any services you think should be cut, and if so, why?

Mike Boyle: No smoke and mirrors to this answer. WE NEED GAMBLING! Let’s start with Sports Gaming. I heard Iowa pulled in $76,000,000,000,00 the first month of Sports Betting. Gambling is legal in almost every State near Nebraska. I serve as co-chair of the Budget Committee with Commissioner P.J. Morgan, Douglas County Finance Director, Joe Lorenz, helps us look for spending cuts wherever possible. But, County Government is an arm of the State. We need to add GAMBLING REVENUE so we can cut property taxes

Roger Garcia: The County Board can stop raising our taxes like they did in 2019.  Considering property valuations have gone up substantially within the last several years, the County is already receiving more tax revenue from those increased tax valuations. As a Commissioner I would cut the new effort to build an approximately 30 million juvenile justice center that is being paid for by bonds that were not approved by voters and none of these funds go toward prevention nor mental health services for youth.

What do you see as the three most compelling problems facing your office?

Mike Boyle: Prison crowding, Mental Health treatment and saving our young people from lives of crime are several important problems facing us. (High property taxes are a BIG PROBLEM, too). We need to enact fair bail relief so persons charged with misdemeanors can get back to work and back to their families. Mental Health care needs to be available to so many suffering neighbors and friends. The terrible crimes our young people are committing is alarming! We must let young people know they matter.

Roger Garcia: We need to engage all stakeholders in juvenile justice and build a strong consensus toward providing evidence-based prevention, intervention, and mental health services for our youth instead of building a new youth detention center that does not allocate funding toward youth programming.  Best practices tell us to focus on the front-end of juvenile justice not the latter end of detention. We also need to address the adult County Jail overcrowding & have a better functioning County Board.

What should the county do to address climate change issues?

Mike Boyle: Our Director of Environmental Services is a leader in his Field. Douglas County has adopted a Model, Low Impact Development Plan that conserves water and is cost effective. It calls for an end for dams that DO NOT stop flooding. DAMS FAIL. OPPD is offering options such as solar and wind generation. These renewable sources are needed. Thank you, OPPD Directors! I represented Douglas County in a Resilient Counties program sponsored by the National Association of Counties. Important lessions.

Roger Garcia:  The County needs to ensure that all new buildings and renovations implement the latest and best practices in environmental sustainability, such as natural and solar lighting. At MCC I sponsored a board policy that made it a priority for all of our buildings and practices to take environmental sustainability into mind and ensure that there is coordination across all of our buildings to ensure system wide efforts in this area. The County should ensure the same across all of its many buildings.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 3

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Cameron J. Gales (R):  No response received.

Gerald Mike Kuhn (D):
Occupation: Assistant Director of Human Rights and Relations for the City of Omaha
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: Master’s Degree in Social Justice 2014 Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice 2005
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: 100 Black Men-Mentor for 2 years Volunteer Speaker for at-risk youth through: UNO & UNL, Detroit Metro YMCA, Boys&Girls Club Basketball Coach for at risk youth: Salvation Army & Hope Center Track coach North O Bengals

Dave Pantos (D):

Website: www.davepantosformetro.com
Occupation: Attorney and Adjunct Professor
Current Public Office, dates held: Vice Chairperson, Metropolitan Community College, January 2020-present; Board Member, Metropolitan Community College, 2017Present Past Public Office, dates held: Metropolitan Community College, Secretary, January 2019-January 2020
Education: JD – Indiana University Maurer School of Law (Bloomington, IN) MSES – O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (Bloomington, IN) BA – Rutgers College
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Omaha Northwest Rotary Nonprofit Association of the Midlands Nebraska Supreme Court Commission on Children Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Commission

Candidate Responses

How should community colleges differentiate themselves from four-year universities?

Gerald Mike Kuhn: -Community Colleges (CC) should continue to brand themselves as a skills, trades and technical institution of higher learning. This would allow the community colleges to actively search for partnerships with cooperation’s, to be a conduit for students to enter the workforce post-graduation. -CC’s need to collaborate with local school districts to develop dual enrollments tracks for eligible students. -Finally, CC should collaborate with 4-year universities for students that need 2-year college

Dave Pantos: Community Colleges need to provide high quality education to a diverse set of learners. The traditional community college student is by definition “non-traditional.” Therefore, community colleges need to ensure that there are no barriers to entry. In a world plagued by student debt, Community College should aim to be low or no tuition. Community colleges should continue to expand dual enrollment at high schools. The relationship between 2 and 4 year schools should be a partnership.

What should be the qualifications of instructors at Metro?

Gerald Mike Kuhn: Instructors should have adequate knowledge of the discipline they are instructing by either academia at least a bachelor’s level and years of experience and/or master’s level of academia. I feel that experience in certain disciplines can serve students better that an academic professor in some situations.

Dave Pantos: In addition to being excellent instructors/professors, Metro’s college professors must be prepared to meet students where they are. Many Metro students are first generation students. Many are food-insecure. Also, for those professors/instructors who are teaching in the trade or certificate programs, they must be up-to-date in terms of the business/economic needs of the community to ensure their instruction provides a quick gateway to high-paying jobs.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Gerald Mike Kuhn: During my first year, I will build relationships with fellow board members and press issues such as developing a school to work pipeline through skilled labor and trades. Transportation to all three campuses and dual enrollment for students and stipend pay for HS teachers that teach dual enrollment courses will also be a priority during the first year.

Dave Pantos: I will prioritize the following: expansion of Pell grants to all students; keeping no tuition increases as much as possible; expanding education options in Washington County and in West Omaha; and keeping the tax levy flat for our district’s taxpayers.

Nebraska Statewide 2020 Primary Voters’ Guide Now Available

The statewide primary voters’ guide is now available here: LWVNE Statewide 2020 Primary Voters’ Guide. This guide includes responses from candidates running in all races across the state, with the exception of Douglas County only races, which are available in our LWVGO Douglas County 2020 Primary Voters’ Guide.

Please feel free to read this guide on your computer, and/or to print it out on your own.

Personalized ballot information is also available on Vote411.org. On this site, you can enter your address to receive the candidates’ survey responses specifically for the candidates who will appear on your ballot.

Thanks to those candidates running for public office who took the time to reply to the voters’ guide questions so voters could make informed choices. If you have any questions about how to access the nonpartisan voters’ guide information, contact us.