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OTOC supports Vacant Property Ordinance which passes and asks Mayor and Council to deal with Zombie Mortgages

November 19th, 2015

Nov 17 Press ConferenceOTOC leaders held a press conference on November 17 at a long abandoned house on Belvedere Blvd to express their support for the City of Omaha Vacant Property Registration Ordinance and to call for continued work by OTOC, the  Mayor and City Council and Registrar of Deeds to identify whether Omaha has a “Zombie Mortgage” problem in Omaha.  OTOC chose to meet at this house because Deutsche Bank holds a “Zombie Mortgage”, meaning the bank has chosen not to  foreclose on it for over 5 years and refused the owner’s effort to give the deed back to the bank in 2012. All the while this once fine home has deteriorated to the point it may have to be demolished.

Later in the day, the City Council passed the Vacant Property Registration Ordinance unanimously with ten OTOC leaders there to witness the discussion. OTOC first called for such an ordinance in an Issue paper presented to the Council and Mayor in August, 2013. OTOC leaders have been renewing their call each year at the annual budget hearing, reminding City Council that in addition to allocating sufficient funding for demolition of condemned buildings, Omaha needs to shut down the “deterioration pipeline” that includes over 4,000 houses with ongoing, serious code violations. OTOC Housing Action Team Co-Chair Gloria Austerberry said, “we should all celebrate this new ordinance because it is another important tool to help the City deal with deteriorating buildings abandoned by irresponsible owners.”

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OTOC leaders ask OPPD to not to move forward on rate restructuring

November 7th, 2015

For a link to OTOC’s one page summary and analysis of OPPD’s proposed restructuring:

OTOC summary of OPPD proposed rate restructuring Nov 13

To contact OPPD Senior Staff and Board members, copy and paste the link below:

Four Page Article explaining Rate Restructuring


Five OTOC leaders testified at the Nov 12 meeting of the OPPD. Mary Spurgeon  and Tim Fickenscher of First Methodist, Mary Bamesbuger of the Environmental Action Team, Mark Loscutoff of First Unitarian and Mary Ruth Stegman of St. John Creighton represented OTOC in challenging OPPD to reconsider their plan to increase their fixed charges from $10.15 to $35 and at the same time they reduce their rates by 28%.

Speakers at Nov 12 Board Meeting

OTOC leaders waiting to testify to OPPD Board. Five OTOC leaders made OTOC’s concerns known to the Board.

According to Mary Spurgeon, the 1/3 of OPPD households which use relatively little electricity each month (200 to 700 kwh/mo) would spend about$50 to $225 more each year for their electricity. These 108,000 households would pay an extra $12 Million per year for the same amount of electricity. The 40% of OPPD households using a lot more electricity (1000 to 2000 kwh/mo) would spend $50 to $345 less each year. These 130,000 households would pay $19 Million less each year for using the same amount of electricity.

Mary Ruth Stegman called this proposed restructuring  a “ radical proposal. It is a radical change in the sense that you are attempting to make a fundamental, deep rooted and long lasting change in how we pay for electricity. ” Mary Ruth challenged OPPD to have more community meetings to explain and justify such a change before taking action.

Mary Bamesbuger testified how she has struggled since her retirement to reduce her electric usage from about 800 kwh/mo in August, 2012 to 400kwh/mo  in August, 2015. She made many changes to reduce electric usage and purchased energy efficient appliances in order to live on  her fixed income from Social Security. Mary’s bill would increase by $155 per year for the same energy use under the proposed plan.Read More . . .

Ask Mayor and Council to support revised Vacant Prop. Ord on Tues. Nov 17

September 25th, 2015

Gloria AusterberryContact your City Council member to let them know you support the  revised proposed Vacant Property Registration Ordinance at the November 17 City Council Meeting. The ordinance requires certain property owners to register their vacant and abandoned properties.

Join OTOC leaders that day to show support.  To see the contact info for your City Council member and Mayor and OTOC issue briefings,  click on links below:

City Council and Mayor Contact Info

OTOC Briefing on Vacant Property Ordinance

OTOC Testimony for Oct 6 City Council hearing

OTOC Housing Paper for Aug 13 2013

The revised ordinance does NOT require financial institutions holding mortgages to register unless the institution has re-gained full title to the property through foreclosure or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. This means that some financial institutions will continue to hold “Zombie Mortgages” where they refuse to foreclose because they don’t want the property back.

On Tuesday, OTOC leaders will call on the Nebraska Bankers Association to assure our community that none of their members engage in Zombie Mortgages, as they asserted at the Oct 6 City Council meeting. OTOC leaders are investigating other means to assure that national and international banks are not allowed to delay on foreclosure indefinitely, while the abandoned property deteriorates and is a blight to all neighbors.Read More . . .

40 OTOC and community leaders meet to improve behavioral health care

September 21st, 2015

Meeting wth Christine Johnson

OTOC Chair Sarita Penka asks a question of Christine Johnson.

Over 40 OTOC and Community leaders met with Christine Johnson of the Behavioral Health Foundation on October 29. The lively meeting gave Christine the opportunity to report on the work of 9 Committees of behavioral health professionals who are examining how to “fill the gaps” in 9 different areas that were identified in a comprehensive report. OTOC and community leaders asked Ms. Johnson many questions and shared their stories about their experience of these gaps.

Leaders of organizations serving refugees shared stories of the many challenges that refugees face when they move to Omaha and develop mental health issues. These leaders indicated they would like to work with existing providers to develop more alternatives for people who don’t speak English to receive quality behavioral health care.Read More . . .

OTOC with First UMC and others gathered for inspiring Prayer for the Planet Sat Sept 19

September 20th, 2015

large group with church in background

150 People from many faith traditions participated in “Prayers for the Planet” to pray and organize for more sustainable climate

Muslims, and Catholics and Unitarians, Oh, my. Those faiths, and United Methodists, UCCs, Buddhists, Lutherans, Jewish, some with no faith tradition, and more came together on a beautiful fall Saturday morning to “Pray for the Planet,” an interfaith service.

Clergy, women religious and lay people read prayers and positions that their denominations and religions have taken to express the need for action to care for the world’s environment. Many leaders mentioned Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on climate change and poverty, Laudato Si’.


Fr. Vitalis

Rev. Frank Rivas, Sr. Celeste Wobeter, ND, and Fr. Dennis Hamm, SJ listen while Fr. Vitalis Anyanike, of Holy Name Catholic quoted Pope Francis and told of the growing deserts he has seen when he flies into East Africa


The front lawn of First United Methodist Church served as a grounding place for people of all faith traditions, to gather, connect, and pray for the upcoming Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December. (COP21/CMP11). You can read more at

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