Omaha City Council Approves North Omaha Business Improvement District

June 4, 2020, 5 p.m. ·

(Photo by Ryan Robertson, NET News)

The Omaha City Council approved taxing for the North 24th Street Business Improvement District this week. The program will soon begin collecting funds for various neighborhood improvement projects.

LaVonya Goodwin, president of the BID, said the vote came after five hours of testimony from community members on ordinances responding to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by four police officers and days of Black Lives Matter protests across the city.

"That city council meeting was one of the longest city council meetings that have ever been in," Goodwin recalled. "We couldn't have planned that, [on the] same day ordinances were put in place where hate speech would be considered a crime."

She said the move is critical to reviving North Omaha, a historically Black section of the city, after decades of systemic underinvestment and racist redlining practices that disenfranchised generations of residents. The North 24th Street BID would be the second largest in the city.

“I see it as an instrument of empowerment...I thought, how incredible, how wonderful, how powerful," she added. "We are the city of Omaha's first partner on North 24th street when it comes to infrastructure.”

For Goodwin, the timing feels “prophetic”. On June 24th, it will be 51 years since Vivian Strong, a black teenager, was killed on North 24th Street by a police officer. The shooting led to days of race riots, which Goodwin says caused infrastructure damages that have impacted the community for generations. The shooter was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

But those events were a "breaking point", Goodwin says. The neighborhood's resource issues began years before with economically disenfranchising policies like redlining.

“So what you have is a direct parallel, now there's a mechanism in place to help revive the area,” she added.

Goodwin says the approval is a starting point, and only covers a certain stretch of the area.

"And yet I want to hold every person who lives in an area accountable for how they can personally spark positive change...and it looks different for everyone."

Among other uses, tax funds for the BID can go toward litter removal, sidewalk repairs, historic signage, landscaping for the area, and festivals on a stretch of the historic street.

Editor's note: A line has been updated to correct how long ago Vivian Strong was killed. The killing occurred nearly 51 years ago, not 50.