LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) Krystal Gabel, a freelance editor and travel writer, announced she was running for Lincoln Mayor in October saying, "Lincoln needs fresh, nonpartisan leadership to build a smarter, greener economy that directly benefits the community and Nebraska’s future."
Gabel, an Independent, unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Pete Ricketts in the Republican primary in 2018. She also fell short in an attempt to run for Omaha City Council in 2017.
A strong advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana, Gabel said she wants to take a green approach toward making Lincoln more efficient and enjoyable for residents.
Her platform includes starting a free citywide bus service, creating a zero waste program and encouraging e-commerce companies to "expand and thrive" in Lincoln. Gabel also said she wants to fully decriminalize marijuana in the Capital City so as to reprioritize police to patrol and enforce other matters.
"I'm running for mayor because I believe there is a group of people who aren't represented well by officials in general in our state, and here in Lincoln , I think that we've had a mayor who's been in office for too long and candidates who are very specialized in their agendas. It's for we the people, not the establishment, and that's why I'm running."
What was your reaction to snow removal efforts in Lincoln this winter and would you do anything differently?
"I drive a smaller car because I choose to be more fuel efficient and I would drive an electric vehicle if I could, but I a lot of times couldn't even move my car around the city. It was stuck in one situation, as well. And the potholes are bad, I can't drive without having to avoid a pothole. So, overall as a citizen, it just makes it really difficult and it's unsatisfactory to live here when I travel elsewhere and they don't have problems with the roads in Colorado, they don't have problems with the roads in California, in Las Vegas; I'm just surprised to see such bad roads when I know people are paying their taxes. I don't have as big of a tax burden as some people do, but I know those people who are paying their taxes pay them regularly and on time, so why isn't anything happening."
We received many complaints from 10/11 viewers about potholes and poor road conditions around Lincoln. What is your reaction to the condition of city roads and would you do anything differently?
"Our mayor has been in there for 12 years. This is something that just isn't new every year. It gets worse and worse. I really believe that our city has mismanaged and misused our taxpayer funds and that there are better ways to approach fixing potholes. We're putting Band-Aids on potholes right now. We're putting Band-Aids on all of our issues across town. We can use better materials as a city from the concrete we use, there's conductive concrete that a UNL professor created that warms up because of the steel and carbon in it; we use it at our intersections that are busy. We introduce piping that goes underneath our streets, when we tear up our streets, and make it a street that automatically heated from wastewater from our power plant. These are things that build for our future. That's what I would do differently as mayor as I think about, not just the next four years and the donors, like I think our current mayor thought about is the donors, and instead think about the people and what their kids want and what their grandkids need in order to get around efficiently in Lincoln."
Where do you stand on the quarter-cent sales tax increase question that will appear on the April 9th ballot?
"I do not agree with that, because property taxes have increased... their values have increased, we're collecting more because of the mill levy and there are so many layers of taxes already on there. Where did that money all go to? We have a huge rainy day fund that the current mayor is spending like crazy. Why didn't that money get used to do all of these roads before now. There's just a big mismanagement of money, and we don't need more money. We need someone to go in there and, literally, look at the books. That's how we fix the snow removal problem, that's how we fix the employee problem, that's how we fix the roads.. it's an overhaul altogether of our community."
A concern among Lincoln homeowners is the rise in property taxes. What do you say to residents who have concerns?
"How do we address this? We lower our mill levy. We just lower it. We don't say 'We need this much more money because we made your property value go up this much.' We just say, 'Enough is enough,' we do what we have to. We do not need more money. What are we doing with the current money we're collecting? I don't think our current lawmakers are proving that they're spending effectively and appropriately."
Affordable housing remains a concern for some Lincoln residents. Would you do anything to address that?
"With the flood victims, a lot of people are coming in to find housing, even if it's just temporary, but even before that, rents were going up because of property values, it's harder to get a mortgage now than it was just ten years ago, people have student loan debts, there's just a ton of things that are contributing to why people can't afford a house. As a government, what we do right away, is we start making housing more achievable to people who have less money, and that means tiny house regulations. Allowing people to build 500 square-foot, or smaller, houses and even making a small house, 500, 600 square foot, more affordable. We have empty lots all throughout this town and instead of annexing more and more and more, because that makes housing less and less affordable, we start building inward and thinking urban, and that means urban tiny houses, more urban mobile homes, more apartments; I know that the current mayor denied some apartments being built because a resident didn't like that it was going to block their view. That is wrong. We need housing, and tenants have rights too and I don't feel like we protect their rights very well in this state and that will make housing more affordable too."
Lincoln continues to expand in all directions. How would you manage and stay ahead of city growth if you became mayor?
"We build inward. We bring companies in to occupy vacant spaces that are in our city. We manage growth by bringing jobs here, because the more people we have spending in our economy and actively working and making a paycheck they can live on, that's how you manage growth, because otherwise people would move to the skirts of town and then go get a job elsewhere. They'll move to near Ashland and go get a job in Omaha. That's now how you keep people here. If there's nothing in the city for them to be here, then why are they here? So, I'm talking green industry and commerce. We as a city need to think, what do we do with our resources and our people that we aren't using. That's how you manage growth. You put those people to work and those resources to work.
Joining Gabel in the race for mayor are city council members Leirion Gaylor Baird and Cyndi Lamm. Other announced candidates include city attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick and Rene Solc, a concrete contractor.