- Associated Press - Monday, December 4, 2017

Omaha World Herald. November 30, 2017

Let kids pay off library fines creatively; keep readers

Reading is the most important building block to a child’s ability to learn and prosper in the modern world.

That’s why the Omaha Public Library Board is doing the right thing by considering creative ways to help young library card holders square up their accounts if they owe $10 or more in fines for late returns. Nearly 10,000 card holders 19 or younger can’t check out materials because of unpaid fines.

This isn’t to say readers with late fees should be able to avoid consequences for their actions. Learning to return borrowed books on time or else face a penalty helps teach children responsibility.



Creative options could boost library access and still hold people accountable. These include letting children read their way out of their fines, as library board member Mike Kennedy suggested, or letting them pay fines by donating food to charity, as the library has tried. Some young readers have been allowed to work off library fines by volunteering.

All those ideas have the benefit of encouraging readers. Library Director Laura Marlane says even small library fines keep some people from coming back. Among the families most affected are those in difficult economic circumstances, often those whose children are most in need of access to a public library.

The Omaha Public Library Board is right to consider reassessing its rules for young readers. A better balance appears to be possible for handling delinquent accounts.

Whatever method the Library Board chooses should reflect the most important goal: building and encouraging young readers.

Let’s keep library doors open for children who want and need to read.

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McCook Daily Gazette. November 28, 2017.

Nebraska in middle of pack for charity

There is an endless supply of worthy causes out there that are worth supporting.

America has more homelessness and hunger than it should, but we’re all wealthy compared to most of the world’s citizens.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to marshal the resources of national and local governments to deal with truly pressing, worthy problems.

Other tax-supported programs are instituted for reasons that are more political than altruistic.

It’s one thing to say “somebody should do something” about a problem; another to put your money where your mouth is.

McCook stepped up to the plate during its recent, second annual Big Give, 652 donors contributing $130,078.05 during the 24-hour drive. The same can be said for Ann Trail’s Adopt-a-Chaplain project, which just sent 350 “care packages” to military personnel via seven chaplains.

Nebraska as a whole is in the middle of the pack, No. 20, according to 14 key indicators prepared by WalletHub for release on today’s #GivingTuesday.

A third of all annual giving takes place in December, for whatever reason, taxes or holiday spirit.

Comparing things like volunteer rate, share of income donated and share of sheltered homeless, WalletHub found Utah in first place, followed by Maryland, Minnesota, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Utah had the highest volunteer rate, most volunteer hours per capita, highest share of aggregate income donated to charity, and highest share of the population claiming to have donated time.

Maryland has the highest share of taxpayers who donated money to charity.

Hawaii was No. 50 in total charitable activities, and Kentucky had the fewest volunteer hours and lowest amount of donated time. West Virginia was at the bottom in aggregate income donated to charity, and in the number of taxpayers who donated money to charity.

Southwest Nebraskans can be proud of their willingness to contribute to worthy causes, but there is definite room for improvement.

Numerous charities are using the #GivingTuesday hashtag to make contributions easy.

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Lincoln Journal Star. December 1, 2017

Lincoln wise to look ahead at driverless vehicles

Given that Lincoln played host to one of the first road tests of an driverless car 60 years ago, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the city is making the strong, visionary play to again be a leader in such technology.

Lincoln is better served by being prepared for this wave of the future, as it appears to be doing, than allowing itself to be overwhelmed.

The city didn’t win a $50 million Smart Cities grant last year, one that would have created a citywide shuttle service. Undeterred, Lincoln officials have spoken of teaming up with other agencies and recently signed a nearly $100,000 contract with a private company to study technology and potential law changes; craft a potential pilot program; and examine possible business partnerships.

This is the kind of forward-thinking maneuver governments need to take to adapt to fast-approaching development. Technology moves far more quickly than the legislative process, so a proactive approach is critical.

Just within the last month, for instance, an offshoot of Google’s parent company announced it had begun testing driverless cars without a human safety driver at the wheel. Major automakers - including Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota, and General Motors - unveiled autonomous vehicles. Back in March, Forbes estimated 10 million self-driving cars would be on the road by 2020.

Nebraska is never going to be California, the epicenter of the driverless car movement. The Silicon Prairie isn’t Silicon Valley, where the companies pioneering various iterations of this technology are based. But it can be ready for when these vehicles hit the road beyond the Golden State.

For one, Nebraska can certainly contend with other Midwestern states. Three cities with fellow Big Ten Conference universities - Iowa City, Iowa; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Madison, Wisconsin - are among the 10 autonomous vehicle testing grounds approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

And Lincoln is positioning itself well to be Nebraska’s leader. An interim study resolution before the Legislature would examine the feasibility of driverless shuttle in the downtown area of a primary-class city, of which Lincoln is Nebraska’s only one.

Lincoln’s foresight has already placed it among the world’s leaders on such technology - seriously.

The Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, a partnership between Bloomberg and the Aspen Institute, has identified 69 cities worldwide that are either piloting (47) or preparing (22) for such cars. Lincoln falls into the latter group - alongside such high-tech hubs as Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle - and represents the smallest U.S. metropolitan area on either list.

Driverless cars have come miles since RCA used wire coils to guide a 1957 down U.S. 77 west of Lincoln. Sixty years later, Lincoln’s wise efforts to play the long game have again placed it near the forefront of this booming trend.

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The Grand Island Independent. December 2, 2017

‘Tis the season of giving

As the saying goes, charity begins at home.

In this holiday season the needs are abundant. Grand Island has the highest poverty rate among Nebraska’s first class cities; however, the community is recognized as the state’s most generous as measured by the level of per capita giving. Still, it is impossible to meet the growing list of local needs.

Nonetheless, each day of the year Grand Island lives up to its claim as “The City of Kindness.” It’s safe to say the same holds true for the Central Nebraska region.

A great number of religious and charitable institutions, businesses, organizations and private citizens generously support a multitude of causes that directly or indirectly benefit many thousands of people. In fact, we are all beneficiaries in some way of this expression of human kindness, whether in the form of monetary support, provision of basic needs, medicine and medical and dental services, spiritual fulfillment, through the contribution of time or other treasure, or simply by the positive effect that goes with the act of giving.

Many area residents also participate in mission outreach in poor areas of the U.S. and locations around the globe.  

Charitable donations across the nation have risen to a new high of $390 billion, according to the Giving USA Foundation. Giving to all nine major types of charitable organizations increased last year. The nine categories are religion; education; human services; giving to foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture and humanities; international affairs; the environment; and animals.

Notably, giving by individuals in 2016 totaled an estimated $281.86 billion, up 3.9 percent over 2015.

A prominent Nebraskan has also made an astounding, lasting impact on charitable giving. In 2010 Bill Gates and Warren Buffett partnered in a campaign, the Giving Pledge, that challenged their billionaire peers to pledge to give away half their wealth. Last year Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates donated $5 billion out of the $8.6 billion total for the top 10 donors. More than 168 billionaires have now signed the pledge, representing 21 countries. Total pledges to date are in excess of $370 billion.

Many seasonal fund drives are fully underway locally, including the Salvation Army, Christmas Cheer, Toys for Tots, Adopt A Family, St. Leo’s Coat Drive, and others aimed at supplying food and other basic needs. The Heartland United Way annual campaign is also in full swing, but pledges and donations are lagging behind.

A quote from “Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations” by David Viscott fits the spirit of the season: “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”

When help is needed, the generosity of the greater community will rise to the challenge. We wish for our readers the blessings of this holiday season.

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