by Diane Gonzolas
Lincoln City government continues to emphasize public-private partnerships to keep the City growing, and the results are unprecedented: more than $1 billion in new investment, the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and a growing reputation for technology and innovation. Bloomberg Business featured several local companies in its fall 2015 article on how communities in the Midwest “Silicon Prairie” are attracting young talent with great jobs, high salaries, a low cost of living and great quality of life. That trend is epitomized by Hudl, which provides video editing software for sports teams. It’s building its new corporate headquarters in the booming new West Haymarket Arena anchored by the successful Pinnacle Bank Arena, which opened in 2013.
National rankings also confirm Lincoln’s success. NerdWallet.com ranks Lincoln second on its list of cities with the highest quality of life and third on its list of best cities for young entrepreneurs. Wallethub.com ranks Lincoln the eighth best city for first-time home buyers and fourth on its list of best cities for families. Forbes continues to rank Lincoln as one of the best places for business and careers.
Mayor Chris Beutler was re-elected to an unprecedented third term in May 2015. The Mayor is the chief executive officer and administrative head of City government. Voters also elect a seven-member City Council and a five-member Lancaster County Commission.
City Government Departments
Several local government offices operate as divisions of the Mayor Office. The Citizen Information Center is the communications link between City government and the public. Aging Partners, an area agency on aging, provides information and referral services and much more to adults age 60 and up and their families in an eight-county area in southeast Nebraska. The Mayor’s staff includes an Economic Development Coordinator and an Ombudsman, who works to address constituent concerns and investigates discrimination complaints against departments of City government. Special initiatives of the Mayor’s Office include Cleaner Greener Lincoln and Stronger Safer Neighborhoods.
The Development Services Center (DSC) is a one-stop shop for the review, permitting and inspection of projects. The DSC is a collaboration of five departments: Building and Safety, Health, Planning, Public Works and Utilities and Urban Development.
Three City departments operate jointly with Lancaster County. The Health Department provides leadership in protecting and promoting environmental and personal health. Human Resources is responsible for the recruitment, testing and selection of job applicants as well as training, employee and labor relations, compensation and benefits, workers’ comp, risk, safety, liability and administering the Police and Fire Pension plan. The Planning Department reviews land development proposals and prepares plans for land use, transportation, utilities and other community facilities to meet future growth needs.
Other City departments:
- Building and Safety inspects new construction and existing buildings to make sure they meet regulations concerning the health, fire and safety needs of the public.
- The City Attorney’s Office provides legal advice to the Mayor, City Council and City boards and departments; initiates and defends legal actions; and prosecutes misdemeanor offenses and code violations. The office includes the Director of Equity and Diversity (who also reports directly to the Mayor) and the Human Rights Commission. Both handle complaints alleging housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination within the City of Lincoln and conduct outreach programs.
- Finance handles City funds and investments, prepares City bond issues and helps develop the City’s annual budget. The Department includes Accounting, the City Clerk and the City Treasurer as well as two divisions that also serve Lancaster County – Information Services and Purchasing.
- Lincoln Fire and Rescue is nationally accredited and provides emergency response to fires, vehicle crashes and medical emergencies and emergency ambulance transportation; delivers fire safety education; promotes fire prevention to local residents and businesses; and participates in the FEMA national disaster response system for Urban Search and Rescue.
- Lincoln City Libraries is the community center for education, promoting literature, literacy and learning. The system includes eight libraries throughout the City and the Lied Bookmobile, which also serves towns in Lancaster County. The library also offers free community meeting rooms and the Polley Music Library, a collection of works by Nebraska authors. At lincolnlibraries.org you’ll find audio and eBooks to download and music and movies to stream as well as access to electronic resources on a wide variety of topics.
- Parks and Recreation operates and maintains more than 127 parks, public gardens and open spaces; about 85 playgrounds; 131 miles of trails; more than 125,000 public trees along streets and in parks; six recreation centers and an indoor play center; five golf courses; eight outdoor swimming pools, an aquatic center and two spraygrounds; a nature center; an observatory; and many athletic facilities.
- The Lincoln Police Department is nationally accredited and uses community-based team policing, forming partnerships with neighborhoods to handle crime, disorder, social problems and other issues.
- Public Works and Utilities provides drinking water, wastewater treatment, landfills, recycling operations, snow removal, street improvements, traffic operations, storm sewers and watershed management and operates StarTran, the City bus system.
- Urban Development works to revitalize and maintain low-income areas by coordinating existing resources, providing housing rehabilitation services, developing leadership and creating economic and employment opportunities.