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Omaha City Council leader will push for climate action plan funding | Politics & Government | #citycouncil

Frustrated by the city’s lack of progress in developing a climate action plan, the president of Omaha’s City Council said he intends to introduce a proposal aimed at speeding up the process. 

Other U.S. cities already have climate action plans, and City Council President Pete Festersen hopes that his proposal to secure funding for such a plan will help Omaha catch up. 

Calls for an action plan have gained urgency since city officials in November 2021 announced their intent to develop a metro-wide plan to address climate change. 

At the time, council members were told a request for proposal (RFP), which outlines a consultant’s scope of work, would be created and issued within a couple months. It would be among the first steps needed to move the planning process forward. 

Now nearing September, that RFP still hasn’t been issued.

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“It’s 10 months later, and nothing has been issued,” Festersen said Friday. “I’m frustrated by the lack of progress and that there was no mention of (a climate plan) in the 2023 budget.”

Metro Smart Cities, a regional initiative that uses technology to solve transportation problems, was tasked with drafting the RFP and selecting a consultant. The consultant would create the plan, with Metro Smart Cities providing oversight of the process.

Mayor Jean Stothert’s office told The World-Herald Friday that a draft RFP is finished. It now needs approval from the Smart Cities Advisory Group, which will consider it at the group’s next meeting, likely in mid-September. 

Once the consultant is hired, it will require months of additional work before a report is finalized.

Originally, funding was planned to come from a mix of public and private dollars, a fundraising effort that would also be supported by Metro Smart Cities.

Through Festersen’s resolution, which is planned to go before council during its Sept. 13 meeting, funding would instead come from the city’s 2022 budget, cutting down on the time needed to move the plan forward. 

The exact cost of developing the plan hasn’t yet been determined, but Festersen said he’s heard estimates between $200,000 and $300,000 — a cost that could be covered by a surplus in the 2022 budget. 

Neither Omaha nor the State of Nebraska have developed plans for addressing climate change. Lincoln has developed an action plan.

At the state level, funding has been approved for a study that would develop recommendations for dealing with climate change.

At a public hearing on the proposed city budget earlier this month, council members heard multiple requests to include funding in the budget for a climate plan.

Festersen said similar calls have been made in the past. 

“This is the right thing to do for the environment, and young professionals want to live in places that are actively working on this and demonstrate it as a core value,” he said., 402-444-1067

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