Director’s Letter: The Power of We

As we begin to think about spring, I’ve been reflecting on the first quarter of this year. There is a lot of activity in Omaha right now. As your resident “Neighborhood Lady,” I’ve been showing up to learn about what’s happening in our community. The issues in the meetings I attend range from resident concerns regarding eminent domain within their neighborhoods to concerned business owners organizing around city ordinances and policies.

I’ve been impressed with the organizing ability of these groups. After all, that’s what we are as neighborhood leaders – community organizers! These groups have done the work by setting their short and long-term goals, evaluating organizational considerations, identifying their constituents and allies, and determining where to place their focus. Organizing is a process, and it’s evident that many of our residents understand its power.

The need for organizing speaks to the community’s desire for engagement. As residents, we want and need to know what’s happening in our neighborhoods. This is why I have such a strong focus on neighborhood organizing. Many people know my history with the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance. SONA is where I learned the importance of creating space for information exchange. It’s where I learned that intentional community outreach starts with neighborhoods. It was a place I could go and know what was coming down the pipeline in my own neighborhood.

Last year, I testified before the city council about the downtown library. I told them, “The only type of surprise people like comes in a box with a bow on it.” I got a lot of laughs, but there was meaning in that message. 

This year, I aim for One Omaha to continue supporting this great city by working with neighborhood alliances to build their capacity. I’ve reached out to our alliance leaders and elected officials who represent any neighborhood in Omaha, NE. When our decision-makers are connected to alliances, it opens pathways for better communication. I’m also working on creating a One Omaha Advisory Board and a One Omaha Youth Advisory Board. It’s important to bring young people into neighborhood planning, as well.

Most importantly, I’m open to input. I readily admit that I don’t know everything! I would love to hear from the community about what you want to see in your neighborhoods. My wants are simple. I want to help people understand local government and begin building intentional relationships with their neighbors and decision-makers. I want to help people cultivate their assets and inspire a collaborative environment where everyone can grow together, building a strong and meaningful sense of community ownership.

When we do these things, we lead our neighborhoods to the positive change that we all want.

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