City Government Keeps Lincoln Moving Forward
by Diane Gonzolas
5 CITY-TV & 10 Health TV
(government access cable channels 5 & 10)
Since the city opened the new Pinnacle Bank Arena in August 2013, tens of thousands of residents and visitors have enjoyed concerts by some of the top performers in the world, including Sir Paul McCartney. Fans have cheered on the Huskers in the “Best Arena for College Basketball,” according to Athletic Business. The Arena was nominated for Best New Major Concert Venue in the world by Pollstar Magazine and received
a Prime Site Award from Facilities and Event Management.
The community’s decision to invest $340 million in the Arena and related West Haymarket project continues to drive growth across the city, with at least $750 million in new economic development projects since Mayor Chris Beutler was first elected in 2007.
With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, Lincoln is thriving. The city has been in the top eight on Forbes list of Best Places for Business and Careers for six years. Gallup’s Well-Being Index has ranked Lincoln in the top ten for three years. Lincoln ranks fourth on 24/7 Wall Street’s list of Best Run Cities.
Mayor Beutler, re-elected to a second term in May 2011, 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’s 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 older adults 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. 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 discrimination 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 provides open access to all forms of information to enrich people’s lives. The system includes eight libraries throughout the city and the Lied Bookmobile, which also serves towns in Lancaster County. At lincolnlibraries.org, you’ll find books for e-readers, resources on topics such as genealogy and car repair, tutoring services and the library catalog. Unique highlights include a collection of works by Nebraska authors, the Polley Music Library and free community meeting rooms.
Parks and Recreation operates and maintains more than 127 parks, public gardens and open spaces; about 85 playgrounds; 128 miles of trails; more than 125,000 public trees along streets and in parks; six recreation centers; five golf courses; nine outdoor swimming pools; 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.