Recent editorials published in nebraska newspapers _ tri-city herald

Omaha World-Herald. Nov. 13, 2015

UNO eyes the future.

When the University of Nebraska moves forward, so does the state as a whole.

Chancellor John Christensen this week highlighted important ways in which the University of Nebraska at Omaha is experiencing impressive momentum. A sampling:

UNO’s Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center is gaining national prominence. Over the past year, 291 community-based organizations

have used space at the center and almost 7,000 people attended events there. Through the center, UNO has worked with 250 local organizations providing more than 400,000 hours of service.

The chancellor noted the success of the new Baxter Arena and UNO’s ongoing development of its Pacific Street Campus.

There’s progress, too, on the enrollment front. This fall, UNO enrolled 15,526 students, with the freshman class up 8.6 percent from a year earlier. “Currently,” Christensen said, “25 percent of our student body is racially and ethnically diverse” and “44 percent are first-generation” students.

UNO’s recruitment efforts are aided by partnerships with Metropolitan Community College and local organizations such as Avenue Scholars, College Possible and the Aksarben Foundation.

The Military Times has again ranked UNO as the No. 1 military-friendly campus in the country. Veterans and their dependents account for more than 10 percent of UNO’s enrollment.

UNO has stepped into the ranks of doctoralgranting research universities, and its graduate enrollment is up by 10 percent from a year ago.

The school’s research funding currently is at $20 million, with the cutting-edge biomechanics center among the standouts.

The “Know the O” campaign has been positive in boosting awareness of UNO’s accomplishments and ambition, Christensen said.

No wonder. There’s a lot of good news to share.


Lincoln Journal Star. Nov. 13, 2015

Gov. Ricketts’ travel not excessive.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has nothing to apologize for when it comes to out-of-state travel.

The controversy that blew up recently had more to do with a misunderstanding that exaggerated former Gov. Dave Heineman’s travel record than with any substantive issue. Heineman has nothing to apologize for either.

Nebraskans not only should expect and accept out-of-state travel by their governors, they should support it.

Ricketts has left the state 14 times since he took office in January, including trade missions to Italy, Belgium, Denmark and Japan.

Such trade missions may involve a tedious amount of glad-handing and protocol, but they do help cultivate trade relationships that pay off in the long term. There’s little doubt that missions led by a governor are more likely to engage high-level potential trade partners.

Last year Nebraska’s exports to European countries totaled about $900 million. About half of that was agricultural goods. Other exports included machinery, pharmaceuticals and medicines.

Japan is a particularly important economic partner. Over 20 percent of Nebraska’s beef exports and over 50 percent of the state’s pork exports go to Japan, for a combined total worth of $511 million.

In addition to supporting trips by governors to promote the state, Nebraskans also should not begrudge out-of-state travel by governors for personal reasons.

In those cases governors pay for their flights and lodging.

Admittedly there is a cost to taxpayers because of state policy requiring the State Patrol to provide security for the governor. The patrol’s executive protection unit has logged 2,000 hours of overtime so far this year.

Security expenses for Ricketts pale in comparison to those racked up by some other governors.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s security detail cost $1.1 million for his first two years in office, according to NBC News. When a security unit accompanied Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the Pacific island of Palau, it cost taxpayers more than $48,000, according to the Houston Chronicle. Security expenses skyrocket when a governor has presidential ambitions. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s security costs were about $3.3 million for the past fiscal year, according to the Associated Press.

Whether all those security precautions are absolutely necessary may be debatable, but Nebraska policy is more or less standard across the country. (One notable exception is North Dakota, which provides no travel security for its governor.)

Out-of-state travel by governors could become excessive, of course. But in the 21st century, Nebraskans should want their governor to be a marketing ambassador and to represent the state at national forums and events. Ricketts’ travel record is well within reasonable expectations.

McCook Gazette. Nov. 12, 2015.

Don’t be this winter’s first casualty?

We avoided the serious blizzard that was predicted, but we’re grateful the National Weather Service delivered the warnings that could have saved lives had the dire forecasts proved accurate.

The American Heart Association is chiming in, but there’s little chance that organization’s predictions will be overblown.

That’s because officials know the first heavy snow will bring a spike in heart attacks, the leading cause of death in the United States.

Colder temperatures and the physical exertion of clearing snow increase the heart’s workload, increasing the chance of a heart attack.

The association warns that people who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion such as lifting a heavy shovel packed with snow. Even just walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain the heart because most people are not conditioned to the physical stress of simple activities when temperatures drop.

Take your time before venturing into the cold, dressing in layers and wear a hat or head scarf, gloves or mittens, thick socks, and be sure to change wet clothing as soon as possible.

Failure to do so can lead to hypothermia, a potentially deadly problem that means the body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees. It occurs when your body cannot produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough.

Children and the elderly are at special risk in winter weather as well as people with a history of heart-related problems.

The American Heart Association offers tips for heart-safe snow shoveling and outdoor activities:

— Give yourself a break. Take frequent breaks indoors to avoid overstressing your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.

— Do not eat a big meal before or immediately after. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.

— Do not drink alcohol before or immediately after. Alcohol can increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause you to underestimate the extra strain your body is under in the cold.

— Use a small shovel or a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts. When possible, simply push the snow.

— Consult a doctor ahead of time. If you have a medical condition, do not exercise on a regular basis or are middle-aged or older, contact your doctor before you start activities like shoveling.

Signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

— Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

— Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

— Shortness of breath. With or without chest discomfort, shortness of breath can be an indicator of a heart attack, especially if it occurs while doing a non-strenuous activity.

Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If signs are present, call 911. Local emergency medical services have expert technicians with equipment designed to save lives. An ambulance is safer than a car ride, and faster treatment means a faster recovery.


The Kearney Hub. Nov. 12, 2015.

How can we do better job funding our schools?

The serious business of overhauling Nebraska’s public school funding took center stage in Lincoln today as the Legislature’s Education Committee conducted an all-day hearing to establish some momentum in this daunting task. It has been more than a challenge to find solutions because so many factors are involved in the way state aid to schools is allocated, and more importantly, how the money is derived.

Nebraskans provide $1.79 billion in property tax support for their public schools, or about 56 percent of the total revenue. Only 32 percent comes from the state, ranking Nebraska 49th in that category, according to OpenSky Institute and the national Center for Educational Statistics.

The high reliance on local taxes is key to the overhaul discussions for at least two reasons. First, farmers, business operators and even homeowners are beginning to feel crushed by property taxes, and many believe most of that heavy burden is traced to school taxes. Second, the number of property tax dollars devoted to schools is important because providing relief will hinge on lawmakers’ ability to shift the load to other revenue sources.

Here, the creative juices have been flowing, and the result is a mix of good and not-so-good ideas. One suggestion would place more of a burden on revenue derived from tourism, but it’s impractical to tax hotel guests for the sake of schools. Looking at other states, some have robbed schools of much needed support. The result has been painful cuts in athletic and extracurricular programs and reductions in teaching staffs. In Colorado, some teachers are ordered to take unpaid days off to reduce payroll expenses.

Dropping sports and other extracurricular activities, cutting teaching positions and furloughing those who remain hardly seems fair. Nebraskans dislike high property taxes, but we have traditionally been strong supporters of education.

If there is to be relief from high school taxes, then the best places to achieve it would be shifting some of the tax burden elsewhere and looking for creative expense reductions. It won’t be easy, but Nebraskans are going about the challenging school finance overhaul in a measured, reasonable manner.

We are proud of our good schools, but we’ve reached a point when it is time to change. Whatever direction change takes us, we hope the result is a system that’s fair, provides relief to taxpayers and is predictable for schools. Foremost, the system should afford students everywhere equal access to quality public education.