The City of Omaha and Omaha Performing Arts announced a plan to expand the arts center with $10M in redevelopment bonds. The community normally supports public/private partnerships, but the proposal used the funds for the acquisition and demolition of three historic buildings to install a parking garage. This plan excluded citizen input and engagement, resulting in a protest movement to save the buildings.
To complement the efforts of an architectural preservation organization, I created a personal campaign. My goal was to pressure the City and OPA to open the process to public input. I engaged multiple audiences via Twitter, Facebook, Medium, online petition, public speaking, and direct communication to encourage citizen engagement by contacting City Council, the Mayor, and Omaha Performing Arts. I also communicated with newspaper columnists to focus on the process of public engagement, instead of architectural integrity. My efforts resulted in phone calls and emails to public officials, public comments by community leaders at City Council meetings, 710 online petition signatures, and television press coverage.
The campaign ran from October through February, during which many of my tweets received 20-50 times my normal average views. In mid-February, Omaha Performing Arts announced the abandonment of the project, citing “controversy and divisiveness.” I am proud that my sustained effort inspired people to act during a period when citizen engagement is low in my community.