Omaha’s Future: the Importance of Transportation, Education, and Community Engagement.

I am now officially hip. I have the podcast episode to prove it. Check me out (yes, me!) on “Inside Omaha,” a podcast hosted by Victor Cassone, talking about education, workforce development, transportation and our community. Victor is a young professional who develops software here in Omaha. He is a fan of what he describes as “long-form conversational-style podcasts” and a big believer that local news, local commentary and local media are important to the local community. If you are also a fan of long-form conversational podcasts, you can listen here to our entire one-hour, five-minute and 45-second conversation. If you are more a fan of “short-form soundbites,” see below for some of my favorite quotes from our talk:

On talent:

“Every city across the country and even globally now… is at war for talent, either to attract or to retain talent.”

On education:

“We have to really think about how our educational systems connect and how we prepare students to get a job… and a job here in Nebraska where they become taxpayers and productive citizens.”

On apprenticeships:

“[An apprenticeship] gives students an early career experience to see if it’s the right job for them, and it gives them a connection to an employer based here, which increases the likelihood that they will take a job and stay here.”

On community colleges:

“In the last 4–5 years, you are really seeing the re-emergence of the community college as a viable, meaningful option for students… that will result in really good, high-quality jobs.”

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: UNO Success Academy Peer Mentors, Omaha Riverfront Development, University of Nebraska Foundation Code Crush

On college degrees for low-income students:

“Low-income students… don’t have the luxury of going to a four-year school just to develop their mind. They need a clear line of sight to a job that will allow them to pay off the debt they accumulated to get the degree, and enable them to change the trajectory or circumstances of their family.”

On achievement and attainment gaps:

“The difference in our high school graduation rates between white students and students of color or the difference in test scores… or college-going rates… or college completion rates are significant, and those are the portions of our population [students of color] that are growing the fastest.”

On disparities:

“When you connect the dots between our fastest-growing populations, which are our populations that have the worst educational, economic and health outcomes, and you look at what that means for us 10 or 20 years from now… Unless we address these gaps and ensure everyone is successful, we will have some significant problems.”

On transportation:

“There is no version of the Omaha of the future that doesn’t involve significant improvements in world-class transportation…We all are using multiple forms of transportation every day… We are going to have to, one way or another, put more resources into transportation if we are going to advance as a city.”

On active commuting:

“While we start with roads… we need to have mass transit for people who don’t own a car because they don’t want one or can’t afford one… We need to invest in better walkability and bikeability. It makes us more attractive as a community, it’s healthier, it’s better for air quality… And every person who gets on a bus or on a bike is one less person in a car. So even if you don’t use transit or get on a bike, transit improves your commute as a driver. We also have way too many people in single-occupancy vehicles… We need to make a significant investment.”

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Rapid Transit Omaha – BRT, MCC Career and Academic Skills Center, No More Empty Pots Nutrition Education – Youth Programming

On community problem-solving:

“The ability for local elected officials, business leaders, philanthropic leaders and neighborhood groups to come together and talk about issues is still there… We can still get things done at the local level.”

On ambitious big bets:

“The Riverfront is such a great example of the community stepping forward to make a big bet on the future of the region… and you had a variety of philanthropists and the city… stepping forward… To build that is a huge example of us being willing to take a risk on something visionary and big that will significantly move us toward being the city we want to be 50 years from now.”

On community involvement:

“People are so willing to volunteer their time and put money toward issues they believe in… We need to build that up from an individual level to a neighborhood level or to an issue level… We need more people organizing themselves around issues or around the future of the city they want and they want their kids to grow up in.”

On Omaha:

“One of the best things about Omaha that I’ve really loved in moving here with my family is that can-do spirit and that desire for everyone to be successful. So I would encourage everyone to stay laser-focused on that and get out in the community, be active, volunteer and make sure our city advances in ways that help everybody.”

 

I hope these soundbites pique your interest and lead you to listen to the full episode. The issues we discussed are ones worth discussing…by all of us.