Mayoral 2021 Candidates: Meet Jasmine L Harris

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Elle Love
SENIOR ONLINE REPORTER

Harris’ campaign and potential mayoral position will focus on helping the community fight COVID-19, promoting public safety, and restoring sustainable city services. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Omaha Native and public health professional Jasmine L. Harris wants to make Omaha an inclusive place that works for and benefits everyone regardless of zip code. She feels for too long, our elected officials are not understanding the issues citizens are facing and how it impacts them.

“Not only because I have spent my career working on these issues but because I’ve lived and persevere through many of them in my own life,” Harris said

Harris said the top three priorities she will focus on as mayor is recovering the Omaha community against COVID-19, promoting public safety, and restoring sustainable city services.

As mayor, she wants to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and lead an educational campaign to help inform many citizens, including the black community to make their own informed and educational decisions in contrast to the distrust from the historical trauma from medical and healthcare systems. She also ensures rental and food assistance and ensuring for small businesses to also receive CARES funding to continue operating.

“We’re going to have a long road trying to bring our economy back because so many businesses had to shut down and let so many people, so we need to ensure that resources are getting into these businesses as well,” Harris said.

To address the issue of public safety, Harris believes that it’s important for everyone to feel safe in the community, law enforcement, protestors, and community members alike.

“We all want the same thing: safe neighborhood, jobs with living wages, and the assurance that the people in the government are listening to it,” Harris said. “What that looks like to me is creating a community policing model where we’re addressing underlying issues versus ‘a crime and punishment first, ask questions later’ approach,”

Harris believes that the Omaha Police Behavioral Health and Wellness unit should be well-funded and function as its own department to address issues of mental health and substance abuse before contacting law enforcement to ensure access to resources and services available in the area. She added that public safety is also addressing safe and affordable housing where she utilizes the ‘social determinants of health’ model to address the needs in the community.

“There are programs like Together, who are working with people around housing and preventing homelessness, so I want to guarantee that these experts are at the table are leading us in these efforts instead of the top-down approach,” Harris said.

“We have to start creating pipelines into those industries in our city that don’t have the capacity to fill all the jobs. I talked about the IT industry a lot not because there are so many jobs that go unfulfilled because we don’t have the talent pool here in Omaha,” Harris said

To address issues with transportation in Omaha, Harris wants to focus on not only fixing the potholes in the streets but to promote a multimodal approach to how citizens can utilize transportation.

“In the work that I do with people coming home after incarceration, we struggle with getting people from where they’re staying to their employment based on the public transportation system because it’ll take two hours for someone to get from Point A to Point B,” Harris said. “And if they have a schedule where they’re working until the second shift at 11 p.m. at night, there’s no bus that circulates this way then they have to come up with another way to get back home.”

Harris plans to work with the Metro Bus Transit system Orbit to prioritize blighted areas that needed public transportation the most. She wants to concentrate on the effectiveness of city services after hearing many issues ranging from trash and recycling to snow removal and street maintenance.

“We have a $200 million dollar bond for street maintenance so that we don’t continue to have these potholes, but the underlying question is what materials are we using and are we using them in best practice, especially in places like St. Paul and Minneapolis who have harsher winters than we are,” Harris said. “North and South Omaha shouldn’t be the last on the list to get repairs so we are doing the best we can from an equitable standpoint when it comes to that.”

Harris encourages more students to see the importance of local elections, especially when it comes to voting for a leader with our best interests and how it can impact living.

“I want to be a pro-active leader that is going to help Omaha move forward and the only way we can move forward is together,” Harris said.

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