Lincoln mayor candidate profile: Suzanne Geist

10/11 NOW sits down to discuss issues with mayoral candidate Suzanne Geist
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 10:50 AM CDT|Updated: May. 1, 2023 at 9:21 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Former state senator and small business owner Suzanne Geist, a registered Republican, is running for Lincoln mayor. She’s running against the incumbent, Democrat Leirion Gaylor Baird.

Geist resigned from her District 25 seat in the state legislature shortly after the Lincoln primary election to go “all in” on her campaign for mayor.

Geist has the backing of Gov. Jim Pillen, Sen. Deb Fischer, the Lincoln Police Union and the Lancaster County Republican Party.

10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and did not edit responses. Read Geist’s replies below and view other candidate profiles here.

Public Service History: Member of the Nebraska Legislature since 2017, current chair of Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. As a State Senator, I have served on the following committees: Judiciary, Transportation & Telecommunications, Natural Resources, Referencing, Executive Board, Performance Audit, Redistricting, Information Technology Commission, Corrections Oversight Committee and Child Welfare Contract Special Investigative and Oversight.

Briefly explain why you’re running for the office of Lincoln Mayor. I have watched our city government lose its purpose of serving the community over the past few years. The citizens of Lincoln are looking for a leader in city hall who will prioritize looking out for their interests and their safety, each and every day. Living in Lincoln for the past 40 years, raising our three children here, and now our nine grandchildren, I believe we deserve a safer, more affordable Lincoln.

What would you identify as the three biggest challenges facing Lincoln residents? Why, and how would you make improvements?

1. Taxes – because of the market, property valuations are increasing yet city government continues to take more and more of your hard-earned money. My administration will be focused on managing our resources to allow the taxpayers to keep more of their money.

2. Public Safety – our police and fire departments are severely understaffed. My administration will work directly with both departments to determine a recruiting and retention strategy to bring the best and the brightest to these departments to keep our community safe.

3. Roads – our streets are always an issue in Lincoln. The way we improve street repair is to make it a top priority and allocate the budget resources that it needs. People want better streets; we will allocate the necessary funds to make our streets better to drive on.

What, if anything, should the city do to improve the process of repairing streets? General fund dollars need to be reprioritized to repair our streets. I will also take the casino funds and allocate those additional dollars to improving our roads, until our street issues are improved. My experience serving on the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and working with the Department of Transportation in the Legislature will be valuable as we develop and implement a comprehensive plan to get better roads for Lincoln.

What can be done to improve housing affordability? Housing affordability is rising because of several factors. Not only are material costs increasing, but so are government regulations and taxes. The combination creates an unaffordable housing market. We have to improve our processes and culture at City Hall, and we must begin to be a partner again with the building and development community. I will work with these businesses to find solutions to generate homes that Lincolnites can afford across all price points and areas of our city. I will establish a culture of efficiency and collaboration between the city and the development community.

Do you think Lincoln is a safe place to live? Provide your detailed plan to handle crime and manage public safety, while addressing funding for both Lincoln Police and Lincoln Fire and Rescue. Over the past year, we have seen more violent crimes and shootings in Lincoln, which is frightening to the people of Lincoln. There are several issues in addressing public safety. Staffing in both the police and fire departments is a big issue. My administration will make it a priority to work with the men and women of LPD and LFR to find ways to recruit new officers, firefighters, paramedics, first responders, and civilian staff. I will assist in the work of recruiting officers and firefighters. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in good times and bad. We must support public safety and those who provide it. Adding money to the budget without taking strategic action is not enough. I am also prioritizing legislation that incentivizes recruiting and retaining our first responders in this current legislative session. (LB447)

How should Lincoln work to attract new business and support and increase the number of small businesses? Primarily, government needs to get out of the way of business with regulations and obstacles. We need to streamline the business licensing and permitting processes to make it easier for existing and new businesses. My administration will be working with businesses of all sizes and industries to be a resource for their success. We will help them recruit talent, find the resources they need to succeed, and have open dialogue on improving the business community, which is not currently happening. I plan to engage city relationships with all of our businesses in Lincoln, large and small. I will allow all voices to the table in order to cast a broad vision of growth and unity. I will also prioritize collaboration with businesses to help establish a seed capital program for new and growing businesses, to encourage partnership and vision in our community.

We also need to invest in infrastructure like improving our roads, improving access to broadband, high-speed internet, and other amenities that are important to businesses to help attract more businesses to Lincoln.

Another area we need to look at is tourism. Tourism can be a significant economic diver for Lincoln. We need to do a better job of promoting our cultural and recreational offerings to attract visitors, which would help boost local businesses that cater to them.

Explain any changes you would make to current snow removal procedures. The city needs to be prepared for every possible snow threat. Being over-prepared will take precedence. The city must be ready for each storm. If the storm doesn’t come, we are prepared to respond. We can always improve coordination, communication, and community involvement. Each of these will enhance the execution of snow removal. The citizens need to continually hear from the city the expectations during a winter storm, for instance, when plowing will begin, where to park cars, and when sidewalks should be cleared. I would also investigate using a large volunteer crew to help those who are unable to tend to their sidewalks and driveways.

When should Lincoln’s COVID-19 health emergency expire? The emergency should have expired already. There is no reason for the city to currently be under a state of emergency. The COVID-19 emergency has expired in states and cities all over the country, including in Nebraska. It needs to be ended immediately. I do believe the emergency powers are important. But they should be used rarely and return to “business as usual” as soon as possible.

Should implementing Directed Health Measures remain the authority of the Lincoln-Lancaster County health director? Directed Health Measures should be implemented only as advised by the very best medical information available, and as other counties in the state, under the direction of the Governor. The Lincoln business community suffered greatly by the extended health measures when other counties’ measures were allowed to expire. Businesses should not be deputized, penalized, and targeted like they were during Covid. Masking, under a mandate, should be the responsibility of the citizen, not of the business owner.

Do you support any changes to current local firearm regulations? I have a strong record of supporting the 2nd Amendment. I believe in the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. I also believe there is a need to balance the safety of law enforcement while also respecting the rights of the citizenry. Striking that balance is difficult. I will continue to strive to do that as Mayor, as I have as a Senator.

Would you support an LGBTQ fairness ordinance ballot initiative? There have been multiple versions of this ballot initiative over the years and this issue has become incredibly divisive. My administration will welcome freedom of thought on all sides of this debate and welcome all to our city. Forced thought and forced adherence to any ideology only serve to divide. Unity, with diversity, makes a city strong.

A handful of Nebraska municipalities have outlawed abortion by local ordinance. Would you support a such a move in Lincoln? Abortion is not a local issue, in my opinion, and will not become an issue of my campaign. This matter is being addressed at the state level.

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