Mayor Jean Stothert and challenger Heath Mello faced of in a heated debate Friday morning at the NewsRadio 1110 KFAB studios.
The two squared off over issues facing the city of Omaha such as infrastructure, roads, economic growth and the hot topic of a streetcar.
The candidates opened by addressing whether Omaha is a sanctuary city. Stothert says Mello's claims that Omaha is a sanctuary city are false and that Omaha Police do not act as immigration agents, but do assist ICE in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. Mello fired back that Omaha is a sanctuary city exactly because police officers do not pull people over and look into a person's immigration status.
On the topic of the proposed streetcar Stothert blasted Mello over his commercials that claim she has plans in motion for the streetcar and that any studies done have not been funded by tax payer dollars. Mello swung back at Stothert referencing a project summary from the city that supports a plan of a $30 million obligation bond for the streetcar, to which Stothert replied that there is nothing set in stone and no tax payer dollars would go towards the project without a vote by taxpayers.
Roads maintenance was another hot topic that put Mello and Stothert's differing views on display. Mello said that the city should do a study, similar to one the state legislature uses, to evaluate exactly how much it would cost to improve all streets that need it. Stothert shot back claiming the city is 50 years behind where they should be, that she already knows how much repairs to crumbling roads would cost and that there is already $320 million in place for improvements. . In response Mello said that he would focus on fixing potholes, which is a major concern among citizens, instead of widening or working on unimproved roads.
The candidates were asked about how to improve the riverfront after failed ventures by Rick's Boatyard and the Storz Trophy Room to draw people to the area. Mello said he would want to engage people from across the city to see what citizens would like to see happen on the riverfront and posed the idea of a shared green space. Stothert said she has been looking at a number of options to revitalize not just the riverfront, but as far west as the Gene Leahy Mall. One option she suggested was to create a San Antonio-like river walk.
WATCH THE ENTIRE DEBATE BELOW