Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Omaha World-Herald. July 16, 2021.

Editorial: We welcome Trev Alberts’ hiring with realistic expectations

Here we are at another moment of Husker hope, with a figure from Nebraska football’s best years ascending to a top position in University of Nebraska athletics.

In this case, Trev Alberts, a Husker Blackshirt in the early ’90s who until Wednesday was the University of Nebraska at Omaha athletic director, is the new A.D. at NU’s flagship in Lincoln.

It is heartening to again have an athletic director who so thoroughly understands what it means to be a Husker and what the Huskers, in all sports, mean to Nebraskans.

But we must temper our hopes.

The Trev Alberts of 1993 won’t be on the field chasing down the Justin Fields of 2020 — a new athletic director won’t magically bring back the glory days. Tom Osborne couldn’t do it in the A.D. role. Scott Frost hasn’t done it as football coach.

But if we ground our expectations in reality, we can assess the hire for its potential to elevate Husker sports over time and Alberts’ ability to run a sound ship and execute a clear vision. Vision and execution are the foundations of greatness.

His 12 years leading UNO’s athletic department show a willingness to make tough decisions, when he cut football and wrestling, in service of a vision. Alberts’ was to take UNO to Division I, where it has seen great success in hockey, improvement in other sports and strong facility upgrades. That speaks well to Alberts’ ability to execute a plan and develop several sports and the overall health of a department.

As administrator of UNL’s Athletic Department, which grossed more than $130 million in annual revenue pre-pandemic, Alberts must ensure a smart and tight operation off the fields and courts.

It’s a new era in college sports, with student-athletes newly able to earn money from endorsements, appearances and products, and major college athletic departments will need to adapt in ways that can’t yet be fully known.

As he did at UNO, Alberts certainly will need to make difficult and sometimes-unpopular decisions. Leaders must do that — institutions cannot be preserved in amber as the world around them changes.

Is he up to it?

World-Herald sportswriter Dirk Chatelain, who has watched Alberts’ career, offered this assessment: “He’s extraordinarily bright and he’s gained enough world experience — good and bad — to recognize what matters and what doesn’t. ... The lights of Memorial Stadium won’t be too bright.”

An emotional Alberts said this: “I love this place. Everything I have today is a result of the opportunity to be a student at the University of Nebraska.”

At the same time, he offers only realistic expectations.

Success “has to be earned. I think (with) that perspective, we’ll go to work. We’ve got great people. We can do this. But it isn’t going to be overnight, and it isn’t going to be easy, but we’re really going to focus on the fundamentals and mechanics of how we operate. Attention to detail. Work habits.”

That’s very much a Nebraskan approach. (Even if Alberts is a native Iowan, we’ll claim him.)

And Husker fans can know this: When the teams struggle, no one will feel it more acutely than the new athletic director. When they succeed, no one will be more gratified. He bleeds Big Red.

We can’t ask for more than a capable administrator who feels our pain and shares our hopes.

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Lincoln Journal Star. July 18, 2021.

Editorial: Voter ID aims to address a problem that doesn’t exist

For as much prattling occurs about the need to “restore election integrity” in Nebraska, supporters of this measure seem to overlook one problematic fact.

Nebraska hasn’t had a single documented case of voter irregularities since 2016 – oh, and the systems in place now caught it.

Bearing that in mind, it’s hard to see a pragmatic reason to ask voters to institute such a measure by constitutional amendment outside of purely partisan motivation.

Republican-controlled Legislatures in several states have passed a variety of voting restrictions following the November election – the most draconian in traditionally red states that flipped to blue by slim margins. In many of the states, lawmakers, rather than secretaries of states, tried to become the ultimate arbiters of elections. In most cases, they’re fueled by anger over unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

We’re thankful such efforts have yet to gain any steam in Nebraska. However, a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show government-issued identification remains a broken record, despite the new means of a petition.

We editorialize often on important bills that get stuck in the Legislature because they fail to clear a certain committee or the 33-vote threshold to break the filibuster. However, those same hurdles are just as often vital roadblocks to bad legislation – such as voter ID measures that have been introduced and failed 10 of the last 11 years.

As an aside: The costly petition campaign is increasingly how the Capitol’s gridlock is broken on controversial legislation, and the people are being called upon too frequently to bypass our 49 state senators. Under Nebraska’s unicameral setup, yes, voters carry more weight as the Second House, but the rise of the petition process lately indicates a frustration we share with the legislative branch.

In this case, though, lawmakers were wise to reject a plan that disproportionately targets the elderly, the poor, immigrants and Nebraskans of color – people least likely to have a government ID. The only way to fairly institute such a measure would be to guarantee all Nebraskans had access to a free ID.

Such a plan, however, would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, at minimum, if not into the millions. That money would be better serve addressing actual concerns in this state.

Case in point: When Nebraska’s election results were certified, both Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen praised the state’s election officials for handling record turnout during a pandemic, all with zero allegations of fraud made to Evnen’s office.

Therefore, we ask: If ain’t broke, why fix it?

Nebraska elections are running perfectly as they are, according to those who oversee them. Without cause for a change, the proposed constitutional amendment is truly a solution in search of a problem.

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Grand Island Independent. July 11, 2021.

Editorial: Grand Island Public Schools needs help to stay maskless

It’s early July and we’re already making plans for our kids to go back to school in mid-August.

After the way the coronavirus affected our schools during the past two years, it is encouraging to hear that Grand Island Public Schools, which educates about 10,000 students, believes it will be ready in August to making masks optional for staff members, students and visitors.

This past week the school district issued its preliminary Safe Return to School Plan, which says masks will be optional and visitors will be allowed in GIPS buildings.

Of course, there must be conditions on these changes from the past year when masks were required and no visitors were allowed. The changes will be made provided that “Substantial Transmission,” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doesn’t occur in Hall County.

That means that this loosening of restrictions could be retracted if there is large-scale community transmission of the virus in the county. It was announced last week that the number of new COVID-19 cases in Nebraska increased by 80% to 456 cases for the week ending July 1. This is expected to be largely due to the presence of the delta variant of the virus in our state, as that strain is more contagious.

The numbers must be put into perspective as the increase was such a high percentage because the state had such a low number of new cases earlier in June.

Also, the district already loosened protocols for summer school and, according to a GIPS statement, no summer school students are known to have tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent Tawana Grover emphasized that what was released last week is preliminary and community input will have a significant effect on the final Safe Return to School Plan.

That is a wise approach as the district wants to respect the concerns of its students and their parents.

“Community input is very valuable to this process,” she said. “We want to make sure people are comfortable with the plan,” Grover said.

A survey is available to complete on the GIPS website, gips.org, until next Thursday. A final plan for the upcoming school year is expected to be released Aug. 1.

The current draft of the back-to-school plan was put together under advisement by a board crisis team, area medical professionals and the Central District Health Department. The core group in developing the plan, however, was the same 21-member GIPS pandemic team assembled to help develop protocols for the last school year.

This team is made up of GIPS staff members from throughout the district who have relied heavily on research and gathering ideas from other schools, Grover said.

The school district did a lot during the past year to make it possible to have in-person education for a large percentage of its students, including its new Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization air purification system, hand sanitizing stations and use of CDC-approved cleaning supplies. These will continue to be used.

Grover said the availability of coronavirus vaccines is being kept in mind throughout the plan’s conception, including taking into consideration there is no vaccination currently available to children under the age of 12.

This underscores the importance of children older than 12 and adults getting vaccinated. The pace of vaccination has slowed greatly in our area to the point that mass vaccination clinics are not being held at the Community Fieldhouse any longer. But those who aren’t vaccinated still can get the vaccine at the CDHD office at 1137 S. Locust St., as well as at area pharmacies.

CDHD Health Director Teresa Anderson emphasized again recently that getting vaccinated “is the single best action you can take to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19.”

Vaccinations are available at CDHD between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours on Thursday when they are available until 8 p.m.

Minors under age 19 need parental or guardian consent to receive their vaccinations. For more information, call 308-385-5175 or visit the CDHD website at cdhd.ne.gov.

So get vaccinated if you haven’t already and provide your input to GIPS on its preliminary back-to-school plan.

Let’s all come together to see that our children can safely begin the new school year without masks starting in August.

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