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Environmental Sustainability News

June Issue Cafes explore housing, organizing, power generation

June 7th, 2019

Upcoming Issue Cafes:

  • Environmental Sustainability: OPPD’s Programs and Policies on June 27, 6:45-8 pm
    • Learn about Omaha Public Power District’s work on developing community solar projects and other policies working to make Omaha a greener community.

Insights to Community Organizing with Paul Turner

Influenced by the investigative process in Robert Caro’s article “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives,” (Link to online article: click here.) Paul Turner led a captivating discussion about different strategies for community organizing. 50 members of our community gathered to learn methods that will positively benefit our community in the future. Turner identified persistent curiosity as an imperative method to thoroughly research and seek truth. People must ask deeper questions such as “Why are things the way they are?” and “Who is benefiting from this?” From here, people can listen and organize people to take the needed action. Turner analyzed the etymology of the term “self interest” as “to be among and between.” Here, interests are natural and important. Often, however, these interests can be competing, but a community can align the individual interests into one common interest. A community can also utilize local knowledge to understand everyone’s needs more than others can, such as expert knowledge. This emphasis on community can help us come together as brothers and sisters to listen, research, and take action towards a common goal. We believe Sarah Tooley, a sophomore Creighton student, said it best when she stated that these “community practices can be translated into different scenarios in my life now and in the future.” These strategies cannot only be used for organizing work within the community, but aspects of one’s everyday life as well. It has proven to be beneficial time and time again, especially throughout the history of OTOC. We look forward to the next Summer Training Seminar July 8th where we will learn more about community organizing.

What’s in the Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance?

The Housing Issue Cafe provided an overview of the housing coalition’s long and hard work for housing advocacy. The new mandatory housing registration and inspections ordinance was explained, but there was a huge focus on what we as a community need to do next. The ordinance is only one step of many to create better affordable housing for Omaha. One huge emphasis was the need to create a plan for what to do when the tenants’ homes are not following up to code and tenants are displaced. What agencies are responsible? Where can the tenants be relocated? What does this mean about options for affordable housing? With five different speakers and about 45 people present, the Urban Abbey was filled with motivated and empowered people with the same good: provide affordable and decent housing for the Omaha community.

Next Steps you can take for healthy, safe housing in Omaha:

Read More . . .

Environmental Sustainability Efforts This Spring with City Council

April 24th, 2019

During this week’s City Council Meeting on June 4, they discussed both the Ban the Bag ordinance and the mayor’s Garbage Contract Proposal. City Councilman Festersen began by acknowledging the major sustainable strides in Omaha. Wohlners Neighborhood Grocery created measures to not use plastic bag and offers a 5% discount for reusable bags. City Councilman Rich Pahls, pointed out how it was interesting to see the younger people really making an effort from kindergarten to graduate level classes. He encouraged the high school Students for Sustainability to “meet with the business world” to organize with all of the players to have a more comprehensive approach. He argued that a one size does not fit all and that he wants everyone to find their own solutions. City Councilman Harding, also agreed that all stakeholders must work together instead of focusing only on one component. The Students for Sustainability, however, have been organizing together, even collecting over 10,000 signatures for support of this ban the bag. They meet every two weeks during school year and once a week during the summer. In conclusion, the override of the mayor’s veto was unsuccessful with one vote short from a majority: four to three. City Councilman Harding, however, revealed that he is currently working on a resolution for plastic waste to not just plastic bag. He hopes to have it out soon. City Councilman Jerram suggested that the students use those 10,000 signatures to fuel another campaign to petition this issue to be on the 2020 ballot. City Councilman Palermo concluded stating this issue is not going anywhere.

On the other hand, Mayor Jean Stothert testified with new additions to the garbage proposal, explaining that she is listening to the concerns of her constituents. Her compromise is a $22.7 million, 10-year contract with FCC Environmental, that has an added Saturday collection for all of yard waste, with six weeks in spring and six weeks in fall to allow unlimited yard waste pick up, and a sticker program year-round. Larger households could also request three carts, instead of two, after 90 days at no additional charge. City Councilman Harding simply did not think it would be reasonable to have Saturday pickups for yard waste. City Councilman Jerram regarded this Saturday collection as “a sad reflection of the compost system in Omaha” and that he must recognize his constituents concerns for a contract that recognizes how separating yard waste is an environmental benefit. On the other hand, Council member Rich Pahls wants to pursue a contract with West Central Sanitation, a Minnesota company that proposed a less-expensive proposal to Omaha. Pahls recounts this company as “something unique.” In conclusion, the City Council members denied the proposal 6-1, which means the Omaha Public Works Department must create a new proposal and present to the city council before the current bids expire at the end of July.

OWH Failed Veto Override

OWH Garbage Contract

How we got here:

Read More . . .

OTOC meets with 9 area senators in anticipation of 2019 Unicameral session

December 19th, 2018

OTOC leaders are meeting with Omaha-area Unicameral senators. In October, we hosted a Candidate Accountability Session for candidates from districts 6, 8, 12, and 20. (Click here to learn more). Those candidates committed to meeting with OTOC leaders to follow up on their commitment to action.

Leaders are now following up with the victors from those districts, plus other area senators about priorities in the upcoming session.

Senators meeting with OTOC:

Read More . . .

225 OTOC leaders meet with Unicameral Candidates from 4 Districts

October 23rd, 2018

Over 225 OTOC and community leaders from 25 congregations and community organizations met with 7 candidates for the Nebraska Unicameral on Monday, October 22.  OTOC leaders told compelling stories about five issues which they are working on through OTOC Action Teams. They asked candidates for specific commitments on:

  • Adopting a state law requiring rental property registration & inspection if the City of Omaha is unable to adopt adequate protections;
  • Fully funding the  state portion of expanded Medicaid when  Initiative 427 passes;
  • Improving mental health care in our state prisons and in the community;
  • Adopt state strategies to battle climate change;
  • Continue reforming Payday lending. 

Scorecard of candidate responses

Click for a copy of the questions OTOC leaders asked: Final Questions for October 22 Session with Unicameral candidates

Twenty different OTOC and community leaders told stories, asked questions or served as chairs OTOC Agenda with speakers for Oct 22 2018

Read More . . .

375 leaders get commitments from Congress & OPPD Candidates on September 18

September 21st, 2018

Photo by Omaha World Herald

The Omaha World Herald reporter opened his story about the evening by observing:

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Democrat Kara Eastman faced questions Monday on immigration, health care and a changing climate in front of a standing room-only crowd of more than 350 people.  In fact, nearly 400 people signed into the 2018  OTOC Accountability Session with candidates for US Congress and OPPD at St. Leo Catholic Church.

The packed crowd of OTOC and community leaders sought commitments from OPPD Board members on four topics:

  1. Taking leadership in the community to increase charging stations for electric vehicles by 100 over next 3 years
  2. Directing Staff to be work with community groups and investors who want to establish “community solar projects”
  3. Reducing or reversing the 2015 increase of the basic service charge from $10.25 per month to $30 per month
  4. Supporting the newly proposed SD 7 setting a goal to reduce carbon emissions to a level 20% below 2010 levels by 2030.

Click here to see Completed OPPD Score Card

The Accountability Session with Candidates for US Congress followed and OTOC leaders asked for commitments on the follow topics from Rep. Don Bacon and Candidate Kara Eastman:

  1. Naming their top three priorities for reforming our broken immigration system
  2. Taking a leading role in sponsoring and adopting legislation to grant permanent status to those individuals with Temporary Protected Status(TPS)
  3. Committing to continue the structure and funding for the federal share of Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act
  4. Committing to continue the protections under the ACA for mental health parity and pre-existing conditions.
  5. Naming their top 2 strategies to reverse the effects of climate

Click here to see candidate responses: Completed Report Card for Congressional Candidates

Read More . . .

Organizer Joe Higgs presents at Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series at Metro Community College

April 25th, 2018

Lead Organizer Joe Higgs and Project Intern Greta Carlson spoke as part of the Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series (SLPS) at Metro Community College about how to use organizing for environmental sustainability. Over 100 faculty, staff, and students watched the webinar in universities across the state of Nebraska. The presentation taught about how leaders can use the cycle of organizing and organizing practices to organize their communities and enhance their sustainability efforts by growing power through their community. Joe Higgs used the example of OTOC formed their environmental Sustainability Action Team to work on local environmental issues in Omaha. OTOC leaders first kept hearing that people were concerned about environmental issues after a great flood in 2011. Then, at an issues conference, enough people were interested and willing to take leadership, that an action team has formed and is now working on issues like the city’s new waste contract and potential ban on plastic bags. These issues use power to talk to and influence city council members as they create policies that affect the environmental sustainability of Omaha.

To view the presentation online, follow this link.

To learn more about Metro’s SLPS program, follow this link.

Urban Abbey events in February encourage Leaders to get politically active

March 5th, 2018

 

 

 

Urban Abbey hosted three different Issue Cafes in the Month of February for OTOC Leaders and community members learn more about relevant issues happening in Omaha.

Michael O’Hara from the Sierra Club (pictured left) spoke about the logistics of the city’s upcoming solid waste policy. Why do we need to care about the trash system? 1. It really affects the environment- methane outputs from landfills, trash trucks driving around, etc. 2. How many trash bins fit in your garage- we would like choices about what size and how many bins each household needs. The OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team urges citizens to contact their city council members to ask for community involvement in the planning process and for the council to be engaged and aware when reviewing and choosing a proposal. For talking points about how to contact your city council members, click here

Read More . . .

OTOC officially endorses the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan in response to climate change

September 14th, 2017

ESTAT Logo

OTOC’s Environmental Sustainability Action Team (ESAT) is committed to educating and promoting solutions to climate change. At the September 11, 2017 OTOC Steering Committee Meeting, ESAT presented the Citizens’ Climate Lobby plan for reducing CO2 emissions. It is a plan for federal legislation termed Carbon Fee and Dividend.  The Steering Committee came to a consensus to endorse the plan as a way to reduce CO2 emissions and their harmful effect on the climate.

As a method of transitioning consumers away from carbon fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy sources, the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan puts a fee on fossil fuels at their source, i.e., mine, well or port. The fees will then be passed on to the consumers of products that fossil fuels affect.  The collected fees will be divided equally and a monthly dividend will be sent to each household in the country. Thus, households that have spent less on fossil fuel products will receive the same dividend as those households that have spent more on these fossil fuels.  Household members may spend the dividend in any manner. This is a market based approach to move our economy away from a reliance on carbon based fossil fuels and towards renewable and cleaner energies.

ESAT wants to help educate our community and has training materials prepared, so if your church or institution would like to learn more about the Carbon Fee and Dividend Plan, contact Mary Ruth Stegman at maryruth@cox.net.

Also visit the Citizens Climate Lobby website to learn more about their campaign.

carbonfeeanddividend edit

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