Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Omaha World-Herald. May 8, 2022.

Editorial: Tuesday is the Nebraska primary. Don’t forget to vote.

Citizens of Nebraska, it’s time to vote.

The state’s primary election is Tuesday, May 10. Don’t miss this opportunity to help choose local and state officials whose decisions may well affect the taxes you pay, the laws that you’ll have to follow and the services that you will receive.

In many cases, you’ll just be narrowing the field of candidates down to the finalists who will compete in the November general election. In some cases, your vote on Tuesday will effectively choose the winner.

Either way, it’s important — for your own interests and for the larger community.

Besides voting for candidates, Omaha voters will decide whether the city can issue $260 million in general obligation bonds for street improvements and other capital projects. That includes $120 million to continue Omaha’s program of extra street work that voters authorized in 2020.

The $260 million, which is divided among six separate ballot questions, would not require property tax rate increases beyond what voters have already authorized in past votes. We’ve supported such bond issues in the past as a prudent way of maintaining and improving city streets, public facilities and other capital projects.

Don’t think your vote matters? Seemingly every year, there’s a race decided by a razor-thin margin. Two years ago, two candidates in a Douglas County Board primary were separated by three votes.

For this election, we’ve made endorsements in two high profile races.

In the Republican primary race for governor, we believe State Sen. Brett Lindstrom is the best candidate because of his experience with Nebraska issues, his track record of working to build consensus and his positive tone in the campaign.

In the Democratic primary race for the 2nd Congressional District, State Sen. Tony Vargas has demonstrated an ability to work with other lawmakers and has useful legislative experience. We believe he should advance from the primary to face incumbent Republican congressman Don Bacon in the general election.

But no matter who you support, you should exercise your right to vote.

If you already have your ballot, be sure to get it in on time. If you intend to vote Tuesday at the polls, make your plans to get there.

Vote.

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North Platte Telegraph. May 7, 2022.

Editorial: Our success is built on telling your stories

Our newspaper did very well in its annual statewide contest, as you may have noticed in Tuesday’s Telegraph.

Certainly it’s uplifting for all of us who bring you this daily slice of west central Nebraska life when our peers in the Nebraska Press Association say we’ve excelled in many different ways in bringing it to you.

We’ve also got to say, however, that it’s easier to win awards when the people we serve give us great material to write about.

Of course, the people of The Telegraph have to do the writing, editing, photo-taking and now video recording. And get it all to you. And do it all well.

But it’s your stories we’re telling — and will keep telling as long as you enable us to do so through your ads and subscriptions.

That’s how community journalism works.

Consider some of the topics our news and advertising staffers presented in 2021 that were honored at last weekend’s NPA contest:

» We start with ads for businesses or nonprofits: Prairie Friends and Flowers, Community Connections, Gateway Realty, Heartland Animal Center, Great Plains Health, A Moment Photography.

Those are just the ads that won awards. They hardly exhaust all the businesses that The Telegraph supports or hopes to support (and vice versa).

But think about this: When we dig into our archives to bring you stories about North Platte’s past, we don’t just look for old news stories. We draw on old ads, too.

Every page, and now every byte of data on nptelegraph.com, doesn’t speak only about North Platte and western Nebraska today. They tell future readers and viewers who we are (and were) and what we do (and did).

» Now let’s look at topics behind some of our other awards: Women of Achievement. State football playoffs. Mixed martial arts competitors. American burying beetles. Lessons learned from COVID-19.

Subjects good and bad. Happy and tragic. Sometimes infuriating. Or just interesting.

The stuff humans say and do, that is.

If you were to look at The Telegraph’s first issue of April 14, 1881 (which you can do on the North Platte Genealogical Society’s database of historic papers), you’d find the same general range of human activities.

It’s all there for you to use in your daily life — even the national and international stories that seem to exercise many more people today simply by their being there.

We’ve always figured it this way: If people are saying and doing things other people don’t like, do we serve our readers best by ignoring them? Or by carrying them on our pages so readers can decide what to do about them?

Do with stories like that what you will. That’s also part of community journalism. Especially in a nation where we govern ourselves.

» Sometimes a photographer catches the right photo at the right time. Or a reporter does a great job with an unusual event. Two of our first-place awards — for a photo during a police standoff and a story on an aggressive Cody Park deer — came about just that way.

» Finally, we come to the two major North Platte economic development stories of 2021 for which we received the NPA’s Community Service and Service to Agriculture awards.

They’re the two highest awards for community journalism that a nonmetro Nebraska paper can receive in its class. To win both in one year is thrilling and humbling.

It’s also the ultimate proof of what we said about our community giving us great material.

Rarely does a “greater Nebraska” town get not one but two golden opportunities to build up its economy and job base at the same time. That’s what happened with the proposals to establish Sustainable Beef LLC and revive and reinvent North Platte’s now 50-year-old mall.

Long story short, we won for our efforts — in both cases — to tell you what each project’s leaders had in mind; to review and analyze the issues (including history, in the mall’s case); and to report what leaders and residents said while deciding whether the city should assist both.

Which they did. We didn’t make those decisions, though. All of you did.

So as we thank our own employees for their tireless work every day, we also thank you for being what community journalists most need: a special city and region to write about.

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Lincoln Journal Star. May 5, 2022.

Editorial: AltEn permit needs more, urgent work

This month, roughly 9 million gallons of treated wastewater from the now shuttered AltEn plant, where seed coated in pesticides was processed into ethanol, have been applied to 300 acres of Saunders County farm ground.

That initial step in cleaning up the environmental disaster created by the plant was taken under a soon-to-expire 2017 state permit that allowed AltEn to move treated wastewater off-site to state-approved land.

Last week, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy heard public comments on a proposed renewal of AltEn’s permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System that would extend the right to move the treated wastewater through 2027.

The permit would prohibit any direct discharge of the more than 100 million gallons of wastewater still held in an open lagoon on site, require state approval of any discharge location and regular groundwater monitoring at four sites near the plant that’s one mile south of Mead.

There is, however, a troubling omission in the proposed extension.

The permit would authorize AltEn to discharge the water, when, in current operation, the company is no longer responsible for the work.

Responsibility has been taken over by the six seed industry giants – known as the AltEn Facility Response Group – who have pledged to clean up the disaster that was created when their pesticide treated products were processed at the plant a mile south of Mead.

If renewed, the state says, the permit “could continue to be used by third parties continuing remediation at the site.”

But without the Facility Response Group being added as a responsible party, there is no guarantee that the permit will continue to be properly utilized or the cleanup adequately funded or that any entity could be held responsible for violations.

AltEn, which is being sued in federal court by the seed companies, appears to lack the financial resources to pay for the cleanup. The response group does have those resources. And it is functioning as the responsible operator of the plant and cleanup effort.

So, to safeguard the environment and Nebraska taxpayers, the permit should be revised to include the monitoring group before it is approved.

Additional valid issues with the wastewater discharge were raised at the hearing, including the fact that the permit doesn’t prohibit application of specific chemicals above manufacturers’ recommendations.

Those issues and the need for further research on the extent of the pollution and the interaction between the chemicals and their degradation products with each other, the environment, plants, animals and humans can be addressed after the permit is renewed, a necessity that would allow the treated wastewater portion of the AltEn cleanup to continue without interruption.

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