There's an election today, and Omahans have important choices to make.
There are the choices between candidates. Voters will choose a mayor, all seven City Council members and all nine members of a new Omaha Public Schools board.
But there's an even bigger choice: Do you take a few minutes out of your day and vote? Or do you leave critical decisions about the future of our city and our children to somebody else?
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps is forecasting that 35 percent of Omahans will vote. That's 101,687 out of the 290,535 registered and eligible to cast ballots. So nearly two of three Omahans will think it's just fine to leave decision-making to somebody else — to that neighbor or co-worker who does take the time to learn about the issues and the candidates, who does go to the polls.
Make no mistake, today's elections are important.
Voters are replacing the entire Omaha school board after the Legislature decided that was the best way to solve the many problems that plagued the old, 12-member board. The nine members elected will make decisions affecting 50,000 students, be responsible for a general fund budget of $484 million and work with a newly hired superintendent to improve student performance and close the achievement gap between white and minority kids. The success or failure of Nebraska's largest school district will have an enormous impact on the metro area's future.
The next mayor and City Council will guide the city in efforts to grow Omaha's economy, create jobs and tackle problems ranging from gun violence to pension shortfalls to a $2 billion-plus sewer project.
Maybe you are pleased with the way things are going and think those in charge should stick around. Maybe you don't like the way things have been going and think things need to change. Either way, today's the day to do something about it.
Not voting isn't a statement of principle. It doesn't send a message to politicians. All it does is leave the decision-making to someone else.
You have the power. You have the opportunity. You have Election Day. You just have to vote.