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City Hall: Pandemic policy touches everyone, including Lincoln mayor's family
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City Hall: Pandemic policy touches everyone, including Lincoln mayor's family

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Leirion Gaylor Baird Election Night, 5.7

Daughters Avalena and Clio hug their mom, Lincoln Mayor-Elect Leirion Gaylor Baird, during her victory speech in May 2019.

Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

Psychologists discuss the uphill battle of COVID-19 fatigue and how officials and individuals can overcome the mental challenges of the second wave.

Leirion Gaylor Baird entered the mayor's office in 2019 as the first parent of school-age children elected to the position in 20 years. 

In the early weeks, the new mayor talked publicly of how she relished the end of the campaign for her three children, who would get to see her a little more.

But the pandemic has put city policymaking under a microscope — touching every resident, youth and old — and during her news briefings, the 49-year-old mayor has talked about her own family as she stressed the sacrifices necessary to control the virus. 

The latest example came last week as Gaylor Baird and Health Director Pat Lopez discussed the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department's unpopular decision to temporarily suspend youth sports.

The rampant coronavirus spread and growing hospitalization numbers left local public health officials few options but to target gatherings, the mayor said in explaining the plan to shut down youth sports for three weeks. 

Gaylor Baird said she and her family can relate to the frustration associated with no games, no practices.

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The abrupt end to in-school learning last spring meant no traditional senior year memories for her oldest child, and a yearbook without any signatures sits in her house and serves as a reminder of that, she said.

"I’m living this too, and I feel the losses, and I share your grief," Gaylor Baird said.

The last Lincoln mayor who parented school-age children while in office was Don Wesely. Both Chris Beutler and Coleen Seng had grown children when they led the city.

There was no pandemic-level crisis during Wesely's four years as mayor, from 1999-2003. 

But he would often be consulted by school officials before any snow day decision, and once his children figured that out, they began lobbying him, he said.

Actively parenting while deciding matters related to schools and other policies impacting children brings those issues closer to home.

"It affects you," Wesely said. 

Out in the cold

Monday night's two-hour petition signing event held outside of City Hall was a little brisk for those seeking to remove the mayor and four Lincoln City Council members.

Samuel Lyon, one of the LNK Recall organizers, told the City Council about 300 people showed up. 

"Many of them were not happy that the city notified us this morning that (the council's) constituents were not allowed to sign the petitions inside in the warm," Lyon said during the council's public comment session. 

Effort to recall Lincoln mayor, council members underway; opponents implore residents to decline to sign

Lincoln Police Officer Brian Hoefer, who serves as the council's sergeant at arms, sent the LNK Recall group an email Monday morning informing the group of a resolution that prohibits signature gathering inside the County-City Building.

Resolution 114, passed by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Public Building Commission in 2008, also prohibits picketing, leafleting and soliciting charitable donations inside the common areas of any building maintained by the commission.

None of the current council members served on the commission in 2008.

However, petition circulators often camp out in front of the steps to the Hall of Justice and gather signatures.

This summer they also sought to capitalize on the socially distanced lines extending across the parking lot of the county's Department of Motor Vehicles office at 625 N. 46th St.

LNK Recall organizers have said they plan to host signing events at supportive businesses, and as of Tuesday afternoon, that list included only Madsen's Bowling & Billiards, according to the group's website.

Their petitions come due Dec. 23.

Moratorium extended

City Council members Monday extended the city's freeze on new applications for transitional living facilities, but only through January.

Earlier this month, the council passed new regulations for the facilities, rules that have been criticized by some residents for lacking necessary oversight and safeguards. 

In considering a moratorium extension into next summer, Councilman Bennie Shobe successfully convinced his peers to hold off applications only through the end of January. 

City Hall: Lincoln's recall effort rare locally, part of pandemic trend

He believes the delay will allow state lawmakers to take up action to address concerns but not so much time as to downplay the urgency, he said. 

"We should know by the end of January whether (the Legislature) plans to seriously address these issues or not," Shobe said.

Fast takes 

* Election Systems and Software — The Omaha-based company that supplies the ballot-tabulating machines used in Lancaster County elections, according to Election Commissioner Dave Shively, in case the 2020 presidential election made you curious.

* Ron Caldi — Lincoln Transportation and Utilities' new assistant director of transportation. He fills the vacancy created when Lonnie Burklund left the department for the JEO Consulting Group. Caldi, a civil engineer, comes to Lincoln from Florida, where he has worked in state and local government, as well as in the private sector.

* Thankful — For the nurses gowning up and working uncomfortably and selflessly during this pandemic. Your sacrifices personally and professionally may not always be seen, but history will remember your dedicated service. Florence Nightingale would be proud.

City Hall: Online list of Lincoln businesses not requiring masks creates confusion


Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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