Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

North Platte Telegraph. May 18, 2024.

Editorial: Mail ‘efficiency’? Rural America deserves better

We’ll give one cheer for this week’s news that North Platte’s mail sorting won’t move to Denver until at least the first of next year.

It’s a reprieve. That’s all.

It will mean nothing unless Congress, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy or both admit that truly reliable and prompt mail service remains a prime responsibility of our federal government.

It’s more likely DeJoy is retreating into a hole so he can execute this insane plan once the presidential election — with its expected millions of mail-in ballots — and Christmas 2024 are safely in the public’s rearview mirror.

He announced Monday that the U.S. Postal Service will suspend further action on its doublespeak “Delivering for America” consolidations until at least Jan. 1, 2025.

But the delay isn’t solely about North Platte. It took a joint letter from one-fourth of the U.S. Senate, citing nationwide mail delivery disasters due to this plan, to make DeJoy pause.

North Platte press outlets learned of our regional processing center’s fate from a press release headlined “USPS to Improve Mail Operations at North Platte Processing Facility.” We kid you not.

It said the Postal Service will “invest” $4.4 million in the regional center it opened here in May 1993. (Our 691 ZIP code neighbors lost same-day, in-town delivery back then, lest we forget.)

About half of those funds will pay for deferred maintenance. And they’ll put in a new sorting machine that clearly isn’t going to enable mail sent from western Nebraska and intended to stay in Nebraska to remain in Nebraska.

Gary Person, president and CEO of the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp., nailed it when he said the Postal Service’s “level of hypocrisy was on full display” at its March 28 public forum in North Platte.

“Everyone knows the (delivery) standards they talked about will never be met,” he added. Yup.

Rural America has observed modern mail “efficiency” since a Democratic Congress and a Republican president (Richard Nixon) spun off the Cabinet-level Post Office Department in 1971 into the quasi-public Postal Service.

Stamp prices, mail rates and delivery times have gone up constantly for 53 years. And Congress and the White House are safely shielded from Americans’ direct wrath over it all.

We know we can’t go back to the cross-country train mail cars or the airmail planes that made North Platte a regular stop a century ago (and helped establish America’s first lighted airfield at Lee Bird Field in the process).

One thing about them, though: Mail got across Nebraska faster than this. Not to mention across town.

If the Postal Service won’t recognize that, Washington must repossess it and take back direct control.

Or DeJoy and his governing board can admit that sending local mail hundreds of miles one way and back again is the opposite of efficiency in rural areas.

Yeah, we’re not hopeful, either.


Lincoln Journal-Star. May 18, 2024.

Editorial: Despite low turnout, voters send a message

Nebraska voters didn’t turn out in droves for Tuesday’s primary election. But those who voted, mostly on the Republican ballot, sent messages to party officials and the GOP’s presumed presidential nominee.

Tuesday’s statewide voter turnout was 27%, with 330,000 out of 1.2 million registered casting ballots. That turnout fell below Secretary of State Bob Evnen’s prediction of a 35% turnout, probably because of a lack of contested high-profile races for presidential and congressional nominations.

The small turnout, which was in the same range as the 2012 and 2016 primaries, in a way, prevented Tuesday’s primary from being much of a test case for voting under the state’s newly implemented voter ID law.

Few problems were reported across the state, and Evnen said he doesn’t believe that the voter ID requirement suppressed turnout.

But, when, as in Lancaster County, about half of the ballots were cast early, a 14% election day turnout made Voter ID problems unlikely — those who chose to vote were engaged and knew they had to bring ID to their polling places. It remains to be seen whether the problem-free voting will reoccur in November.

As for the messages, GOP presidential nomination results put Nebraska in line with nearly every state that has conducted a primary since March 6.

Despite having dropped out of the race after Super Tuesday, Nikki Haley got 18% of the vote against Donald Trump, continuing a pattern of about 20% of GOP primary voters, even in bright red states like Nebraska, casting anti-Trump votes. That should trouble the Trump campaign as it enters the fall in a tight contest with President Joe Biden.

The other message, sent when the state’s entire congressional delegation was easily renominated by GOP voters, should be received by the Nebraska Republican Party, which did not endorse any of the incumbents in favor of MAGA-aligned challengers.

The fact that, of the challengers, only Dan Frei, running against Rep. Don Bacon in the Omaha-dominated 2nd Congressional District, got more than 20% of the vote should tell the leadership that took over the party two years ago that it doesn’t, at least in the case of the elected officials, reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Nebraska Republicans.

On the other side of the partisan ledger, the disgruntling primary development happened Wednesday, when Dan Osborn, an independent hopeful for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Deb Fischer who had the support of Democrats, who did not mount a candidate in the race, announced he would not accept any party endorsement.

Osborn’s endorsement refusal is likely to affect the general election — in Fischer’s favor — if Democrats, as some have conjectured, create a write-in campaign for another candidate.

That, however, can’t be known until November, when the presidential and congressional contests should engage voters and truly test the voter ID law by pushing the turnout above 50%.


McCook Gazette. May 14, 2024.

Editorial: AI can protect kids, but law-abiding must also be protected

In today’s world, where the safety of our children is a paramount concern, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance security measures in schools is not just a prudent choice but a necessary one. The recent legislative moves in Kansas, Missouri, and other states to allocate funds for AI-powered surveillance systems like those offered by ZeroEyes are commendable steps toward bolstering school safety.

The tragic events of school shootings have left a lasting scar on our nation’s psyche. In response, it’s imperative that we explore innovative solutions to prevent such atrocities from occurring in the future. AI technology, with its ability to swiftly and accurately detect firearms, presents a promising avenue for early threat identification and intervention.

ZeroEyes, founded by military veterans in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, illustrates the potential of AI to safeguard our communities. Their system utilizes advanced algorithms to analyze surveillance footage in real-time, promptly alerting authorities to the presence of firearms on school premises. This proactive approach can mean the difference between life and death in critical situations.

However, as we embrace AI-driven security solutions, it’s crucial to strike a balance between safety and privacy. The proposed legislation rightly emphasizes stringent criteria for qualifying AI technologies, ensuring that only proven and reputable systems are deployed in our schools. By mandating adherence to industry standards and patent requirements, lawmakers are taking proactive measures to safeguard against potential abuses of surveillance capabilities.

Moreover, it’s heartening to see that these initiatives prioritize transparency and accountability. ZeroEyes’ commitment to stringent vetting processes and round-the-clock monitoring centers staffed by experienced professionals underscores a dedication to ethical deployment and responsible use of AI technology.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to acknowledge the concerns raised by some stakeholders regarding the allocation of resources and the broader focus on school safety. While AI-driven firearms detection is undoubtedly valuable, it should be viewed as part of a comprehensive approach to security that includes measures like enhanced communication systems, security personnel training, and infrastructure upgrades.

The push to integrate AI into school security protocols represents a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to protect our children and educators. By supporting initiatives like the one proposed in Kansas, we can harness the potential of technology to create safer learning environments while upholding the fundamental right to privacy for law-abiding citizens. Let us embrace innovation responsibly, ensuring that our schools remain sanctuaries of learning and safety for generations to come.