Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Omaha World-Herald. June 4, 2021.

Editorial: Nebraska, let’s nurture a sense of solidarity and economic advancement for all

Words are important, but so is action. A year after the murder of George Floyd spurred a national discussion on how to achieve genuine racial progress, it’s appropriate to check whether Omaha has moved forward in providing employment opportunity for minorities.

In terms of messaging, Omaha’s business and political leadership have sent positive signals. Omaha corporate leaders state emphatically that they intend to go beyond mere words and provide real opportunity and change. The Nebraska state chamber underscores the same message.

Over the past year, says Willie Barney, president of the Empowerment Network, Omaha corporations are making “larger commitments and talking more specifically about equity, diversity and inclusion.”

The Omaha City Council unanimously approved a resolution from Mayor Jean Stothert that condemned discrimination and hate, and pledged that Omaha and its leaders are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Omaha city government has joined the Greater Omaha Chamber’s CODE initiative, in which more than 150 local CEOs have pledged to eradicate racism and promote employment training and diversity training.

These are the right, needed messages. But if Omaha and Nebraska are to make serious progress, concrete action is needed — successful recruitment, a welcoming corporate culture, opportunities for advancement, diversity in top corporate leadership. (Whites accounted for 88% of board members for 38 local organizations, according to a University of Nebraska study for the Omaha-area chamber.)

Recent World-Herald reporting pointed to an encouraging example. The Empowerment Network and 20 Omaha corporations are partnering in a career advancement and leadership institute specifically for Black professionals. Before Floyd’s murder, the program had two classes of about 25 people each. For the next class, which began in July 2020, the number of participants grew to nearly 50. After completing the program, 60% to 70% of the participants have been promoted.

Omaha needs many more such examples of specific outreach and progress. Several vehicles are in place to pursue such strategies. Dozens of Omaha CEOs are meeting quarterly to discuss strategies for progress, through the CODE initiative. Stothert named Keith Station as deputy chief of staff for diversity, equity and inclusion, a first for the city. Station is pursuing a variety of efforts to strengthen diversity within Omaha city government.

Pursuing outreach to minorities is not only the right thing for society — it makes practical business sense. With the second-lowest unemployment rate currently of any state, Nebraska had better make sure it sends the message, “Everyone is welcome here.” After all, our state, and Omaha in particular, have long stood out for their broad demographic mosaic, going back to Nebraska’s earliest years. A message of welcome to all isn’t a break from Nebraska’s past — it’s a continuation of it, and should be enthusiastically trumpeted.

Omaha’s population is increasingly diverse. In Omaha Public Schools, 36.8% of the K-12 population speaks English as a second language. Altogether, 108 different languages are spoken in the homes of more than 20,000 OPS students. These young people are a crucial part of Omaha’s future. Our businesses and civic leaders should do all they can to build a spirit of welcome and support for all, to retain those young people and give them maximum opportunity to benefit themselves and the greater community.

Next year, Nebraska has a gubernatorial election. Our state needs a positive politics, one that builds a common spirit among Nebraskans to join together for progress. Whoever becomes our next governor should take up that message, nurturing a sense of fellowship and common purpose, promoting economic advancement for the full breadth of Nebraskans.

The current moment provides a historic opportunity for Omaha and Nebraska. Let’s build a sense of solidarity with all Nebraskans and expand economic opportunity for all.

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Lincoln Journal Star. June 4, 2021.

Editorial: Some, but not all, failed bills in Legislature are chances missed

Editor’s note: This is second in a two-part look at the Nebraska Legislature in 2021. The first part ran Thursday (June3).

What the Nebraska Legislature fails to do often has greater impact on the state than any action it takes during a session.

Such is the case in 2021, which saw key measures fail to move out of committee, get tied up with filibusters or simply not get enough votes to become law.

The most potentially impactful measure that left this year’s debate was Albion Sen. Tom Briese’s LB408 that would have placed a 3% annual limit on local property tax increases. The measure, which would have strangled Lincoln and Omaha public schools and city and county governments, was tied up in a filibuster.

The idea of some kind of lid on property taxes is likely to return next year in the biennium’s short session. We hope for a more comprehensive tax reform package that will equitably shift the tax burden in the state between sales, income and property taxes.

A more radical tax measure, Sen. Steve Erdrman’s LR11CA, which would have asked voters to replace the state’s current tax system with a consumption tax, rightfully failed to advance.

A consumption tax is, by definition, regressive. Given that the majority of the state’s population now resides in Omaha, Lincoln and Sarpy County, a Nebraska consumption tax would shift the burden of paying for rural schools to the urban areas -- a plan that never needs to return.

Among the measures thwarted by filibusters that deserved passage were Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart’s LB474 that would have legalized medical marijuana and Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh’s LB376 that would shorten the waiting list for developmental disability services, keeping people at home rather than putting them into care centers.

The failure of LB474, which would have established some of the nation’s strictest regulations, has triggered a sure-to-succeed petition drive to put one of the loosest medical marijuana measures on the 2022 ballot -- where it is likely to be approved by voters.

Cavanaugh intends to bring her bill back in next year’s session. So, we hope, will Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas continue to push his LB241 or something like it to provide health and safety protections for meatpacking workers, the largely immigrant workforce that helps fuel Nebraska’s economy while feeding the state, the country and the world.

Finally, and thankfully, a pair of election-released measures from Peru Sen. Julie Slama failed to get traction in what former Gov. J.J. Exon called the “nonpartisan Republican Legislature.”

One, triggered by President Joe Biden’s 2nd Congressional District win last year, would have returned Nebraska to a winner-take-all system of awarding Electoral College votes. The other, a constitutional amendment, would have required voters to bring a photo ID to the polls, part of a national GOP effort at voter suppression disguised as combating nonexistent voter fraud.

As we said earlier, not all failed legislation is a bad thing.

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Kearney Hub. June 2, 2021.

Editorial: Conflict can ruin family farm binds

Ask counselors about some of the main causes of marriage breakups is stress. It has a damaging influence on marriages and can explode into all out conflict. The same factors that stresses marriages also can stress families that farm together.

Farming is not only one of the most dangerous occupations, but it also is one of the most stressful. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of stress is that, after it’s weakened trust and teamwork, family farmers find they’re unable to cope, and the situation could explode at any moment.

Help is on the way.

Nebraska Extension’s Women in Agriculture Program announced this week that conflict dynamics training is available in a three-part Zoom course on June 15, 22 and 29. Class times are 3:30-5 p.m. and an internet connection is required. If you sign up, it’s recommended that you attend all three sessions.

Participants will take a conflict dynamics profile assessment to measure their personal conflict behaviors and understand how they respond to conflict, what triggers can escalate conflict and how to manage conflict more effectively. Farm family coach Elaine Froese will guide participants through a discussion on how to deal with conflict and tension on the family farm or ranch.

The course fee is $35 per participant and the class size is limited to 20 people. Registration closes June 11. For privacy, the course will not be recorded. When they’ve finished the three classes, participants will have been exposed to skills and resources to overcome the conflicts that may be hampering their family and business relationships.

Registration is open at wia.unl.edu/conflict-dynamics

Stop 30 X 30 plan

We’re anticipating a large turnout on Monday in Broken Bow, where Gov. Pete Ricketts will stage one in a series of town hall meetings in which he’ll encourage Nebraska landowners to take a stand against President Joe Biden’s “30 X 30” plan.

The idea — to set aside 30% of U.S. lands, fresh water and ocean areas to combat climate change and preserve natural biodiversity — is immensely popular among most Americans, but not so in rural areas, including Nebraska.

Much of the uneasiness is Biden’s fault because he has failed to provide land owners solid details about how the 30 X 30 plan would work. The information vacuum has made rural Nebraskans worried that their land might be turned into part of the 30% set aside for conservation purposes.

It would be helpful if Biden’s administration would step up its PR campaign. The concept of the 30 X 30 plan sounds good to most Americans, but by failing to provide the details, Biden leaves fearful private landowners to fill in the blanks. Rickett’s session in Broken Bow will be 1-2 p.m. Monday at the One Box Convention Center, 2750 S. 27th St. Other town halls will be in Clay Center, Norfolk and Wahoo.

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