Democracy is not a
spectator sport


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 . . .

TPS Bus visits Omaha!

September 10th, 2018

Leaders from across the city welcomed the TPS Journey for Justice Caravan on September 4th and 5th. OTOC and the Institute for Public Leadership, along with Tri-Faith Initiative, the Columban Fathers, and the Schlegal Center for Service and Justice sponsored several events to let the Omaha community know what TPS is and invite them to act with us.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal immigration status for people in the US who fled environmental disasters such as hurricanes or civil unrest in their home countries.  Over 300,000 individuals have TPS which has been in place for decades with no serious legal problems.  The Department of Homeland Security has effectively ended TPS for almost all of these tax-paying law-abiding persons, including 1,500 Salvadorans living in Nebraska.  Their status will end in 2019 unless Congress acts.

We invite YOU to take action for the TPS holders in our community and across the country by calling your representatives today! Click here for a script.

Read More . . .

OTOC leaders Ask City Council to Invest in Improving Housing in Older Neighborhoods

August 3rd, 2018


On Tuesday, July 31st, twenty OTOC Leaders attended the City Council Budget Hearing. Six leaders testified before the Council, emphasizing 6 priorities surrounding the issue of housing and revitalization of Omaha neighborhoods. Below is a list of these priorities.  

OTOC Slides and Testimony from Budget Hearing

1) Puts $1.1 million in the budget for demolition of dangerous structures, putting the six year total at $6.2 Million invested in demolition of 

2) Finalize an Inter Local Agreement with the Omaha Land Bank by the end of August so that it can give the City $500,000 to provide for demolition of 30 additional homes in 2018-19.

3)  Foreclose on all Demolition Liens as quickly as the law allows so that the abandoned properties end up in the hands of the Land Bank, who has a proven record of better maintaining properties.

4) Clarify when the City Garbage Collector can refuse to pick up trash for weeks as they did at 4201 Maple.

5) Ensure that all 9 of the Housing Code Inspectors in the proposed budget get hired. The Planning Department has a history of putting more code inspector positions in the budget than it actually hires.

6) End the Demolitions Pipeline and work with OTOC to learn about adopting a Proactive Rental Property Registration and Inspection Ordinance which would require that all rental property be registered and periodically inspected to assure that it meets basic health and safe codes. Council Bluffs, LaVista and Carter Lake have already taken this step.

 From WOWT Broadcast

“Churches who work with Omaha Together One Community stood up to present to the council the need for getting rid of the demolition pipeline. What OTOC wants is for the city to be able to absorb demolished property through an interlocal agreement with the Omaha Municipal Land Bank to reuse the land.

OTOC also wants the city to better use what money they have in the budget to hire more code inspectors.

“What we’re interested in is that they actually hire fully the inspectors that exist in the budget. The money is there if they would simply hire people rather than leaving the money on the table and saying, ‘We have a surplus in our department,’” Dennis Walsh said, who spoke on behalf of OTOC.”

 Since the hearing on Tuesday, the testimonies of OTOC Leaders have been cited in articles from the Omaha World Herald, KETV and WOWT

From here, OTOC Leaders hope that these testimonies will result in a more proactive approach  from the City Council in addressing the issue of deteriorating and aging property in Omaha.

On Tuesday, leaders took the first positive step in that direction. 

Stand with Immigrants

July 12th, 2018


Beyond the Migrant Crisis Headlines Issue Cafe: 

Thursday July 12 at Urban Abbey 90 individuals crammed into Urban Abbey to hear speakers from OLLAS at UNO, Immigrant Legal Center, and Nebraska Appleseed discuss the root causes, laws, and lasting solutions surrounding immigration.  Cristián Doña-Reveco from OLLAS at UNO began the presentation with a detailed analysis of immigration in Central America, and reality behind immigration statistics, including that we should not think of the current situation as a crisis; the more we treat it like a crisis, the more drastic measures get taken. To view his presentation click here. 

This presentation was followed by the speaker from Immigrant Legal Center, Jeremy Roose who summarized the legal side of issues surrounding refugees and immigrants seeking asylum. For a detailed powerpoint, click here. 

Then, Nebraska Appleseed’s Omaid Zabih focused on what Nebraskans can do in their communities surrounding issues of immigration. He also noted the importance of remaining optimistic about the support that immigrants and refugees have in Nebraska and the importance of individuals raising positive awareness for immigrants. This can begin by talking to people about values, problems, solutions, and actions in their communities. Mr. Zabih also reminded everyone to continue calling their elected officials to advocate for immigrants on policy decisions. To view the Appleseed calling script to use with your elected officials about several different immigration issues, click here.

Finally, the presentation concluded with a call to action with OTOC’s Greta Carlson, who spoke about the work OTOC is doing and how people can get involved, see below for action opportunities. To watch the Facebook live video of this issue cafe click here.


Read More . . .

Fall House Meetings Happening Now!

June 12th, 2018

House Meeting Materials for Fall 2018

What_is_House_meeting_2018 A


House Mtg Script for Leaders Fall 2018

HM sign in sheet 2018

House Meeting report form


OTOC Action Teams August 2018

Contact OTOC at 402-344-4401 or to get assistance planning your house meeting campaign in your congregation.

Read More . . .

June Issue Cafes at Urban Abbey

May 30th, 2018

A few months a year, the Urban Abbey, a coffe shop/bookstore/Methodist Congregation partners with OTOC as community partners. As community partners in June, OTOC receives 10% of the coffee bar sales in the month as well as hosts learning opportunities at the Abbey. This June was OTOC’s second Urban Abbey month of the year, and OTOC action teams hosted four great Issue Cafes to learn more about some issues they are working on.

How we can change the Narrative for Substandard Rental Housing on June 5


Read More . . .

Now it’s up to You- Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska

May 21st, 2018

Summer intern from Creighton, Paul Romero, collection a signature for the ballot petition

Initiative 427 has been approved to be on the November ballot! Thanks to all the OTOC volunteers that gathered over 3,500 signatures in the summer during the ballot initiative. The work isn’t over yet! We still need your help for voter turnout and voter support for initiative 427 that would expand Medicaid in Nebraska.


OTOC Medicaid Info Sheet

ITGL Talking Points – 427

ITGL Info Postcard

Calling and Canvassing opportunities: 

Mon thru Fri: 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Sat. & Sun.: 10 AM – 6 PM

5115 Leavenworth Street, Omaha

Can you contribute two hours to:

  • Make phone calls to encourage sympathetic voters to return their early ballot, put out a yard sign and invite them to volunteer. If you would prefer to call from your home, the ITGL office staff will help you be able to do that.
  • Canvass a neighborhood to visit homes of sympathetic voters, alone or with a buddy, encouraging a vote FOR Initiative 427, Medicaid Expansion. If you want to  walk your neighborhood, we can help you with a list of your neighbors who are registered to vote.

OTOC’s goal is to have fifty (50) OTOC leaders volunteer for this effort  during the month of October. Let us know how you want to help by emailing us at

Stop in when you can for however long you can to help! Training, scripts, maps, names, street addresses and call lists are supplied

Read More . . .

OTOC leaders speak up about silence from Nebraska Senators and Representatives

May 18th, 2018

Lirio Funes, 20, holds onto her daughter Melissa Funes, 2, just after being detained by local officials after crossing the U.S. — Mexico border on March 15, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.

OTOC Immigration and Refugee Action Team leaders Kathleen Grant and Jeanne Schuler have published an op-ed in the Omaha World Herald calling on Nebraska’s senators and congressional representatives to take action for mothers and children who are facing poor treatment and separation. To read their article in the Omaha World Herald, click here.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security admit that the US is separating children from their parents at the border to deter immigrants.  The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has acknowledged there were “approximately 700” children separated from adults at the U.S. border since October, 2017.  Further it states that over 100 of these are less than 4 years old!  Mr. Sessions repeated again on Monday (5.7.2018) that this will continue.

The Department of Homeland Security has ended Temporary Protected Status for almost 60,000 Hondurans. They are now forced to relocate to a country whose murder rate is among the highest in the world.

The Trump Administration has repeatedly vilified the Central American women and their children who are fleeing violence to seek asylum in the U.S.  Surely 200 women and children fleeing violence do not pose a threat to a country of almost 300 million. 

Please consider making calls to our Senators and Congressmen in honor of all mothers this Mother’s Day season:

Senator Deb Fischer  202-224-6551 and 402-391-3411

Senator Ben Sasse 202-224-4224 and  402-550-8040

Representative Jeff Fortenberry 202-225-4806 and 402-727-0888 (some parts of Sarpy County)

Representative Don Bacon 202-225-4155 and 402-938-0300 (Douglas and parts of Sarpy Co)

Ask that Senators Fischer and Sasse and Congressman Bacon and Fortenberry call on the Department of Homeland Security to:

  1. Immediately stop separating children from their parents – and reunite children with family members now!
  2. Treat all asylum seekers according to the United Nations Refugee Accord and U.S. law.

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.

Pay Day Lending Reform has small victory this Legislative Session

April 25th, 2018

The OTOC Predatory Pay Day Lending Action Team has worked on reforming predatory lending in the last year by informing community members about the

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

debt trap that often happens when people take out predatory loans, and by promoting LB 194, Senator Tony Vargas’s pay day lending reform bill that was introduced to the Nebraska Unicameral in 2017 and didn’t make it out of committee until 2018. Through several house meetings and community education events, OTOC leaders explained why there needs to be limits on pay day loans- that people get stuck in a dept trap paying fees and never getting to pay off the principle. The community members who attend these events were encouraged to contact their state senators, especially those on the banking and finance committee, and encourage the elected officials to get LB 194 out of committee. LB 194 originally set limits on the amount of interest that could be incurred and would allow borrows to pay back the loans in partial payments rather than requiring the full value of the loan for repayment.

An amended version of LB194 was passed this unicameral session. This final version did not include a cap on fees and is just a small step in the right direction, but it is a step. More transparency is now required before someone agrees to the loan so they see a clear total on what they will be paying. There is also an option for borrowers to request an extended payment plan once every twelve months that would allow them to make smaller payments rather than pay the full cost at one time. The bill that passed also requires more reporting by lenders to the state Director of Banking and Finance. To read more about what the final version of LB194 does, click here.

Thank you to all leaders who attended house meetings or learned about the issue and contacted their senators.

Newsletter Sign Up