- Associated Press - Monday, April 23, 2018

Omaha World Herald. April 19, 2018

Nebraska lawmakers are right to set requirements for payday lenders

Nebraska lawmakers had notable unanimity by voting 49-0 to approve sensible requirements for payday lenders, under Legislative Bill 194 by State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha. Lenders will, among other things, need to provide written notice to a borrower about the total fees imposed on the transaction, both as a dollar amount and an annual percentage rate.


Scottsbluff Star Herald. April 20, 2018.

Blame belongs with us

An original anchor store at Scottsbluff’s Monument Mall will be closing its doors. The closing will leave the south end of the mall dark and western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming with one less brick-and-mortar store.

With the announcement Tuesday of Bon-Ton Stores Inc.’s failure to secure a bidder who would keep their fleet of stores open, Herberger’s will be closing.

Scottsbluff will not be the only community in Nebraska impacted. You will find employees, shoppers and city officials very concerned in Norfolk, Hastings, Kearney and North Platte as well.

Besides Herberger’s, Bon-Ton also will be closing their Younkers stores in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Sioux City.

The losses will hurt us locally and have a ripple effect across all of Nebraska. The draw to online and Cheyenne, Rapid City or the Front Range becomes even greater.

Increased online shopping or traveling away from Scottsbluff will impact other local businesses. Shoppers from Kimball, Bridgeport, Crawford and other surrounding towns would have spent money eating in town, filling their bellies and their gas tanks. Now that money will go elsewhere.

Who is to blame?

The largest amount of blame belongs on you and I, the shoppers.

Instead of shopping at our local brick-and-mortar stores, such as Herberger’s, Western Trail Sports, the corner bookstore or local music store, with a few clicks we can buy the same thing online. Bypass the checkout lines, the hassle of finding a parking place, sales tax and other shoppers ,we can shop from home in our pajamas, from our desk at work while the boss thinks we’re working or online as we watch our kids play in the park.

We forget that every online purchase comes with hidden costs to our kids, our neighbors, ourselves and our communities.

Unlike the online store, the local brick-and-mortar store, even if it is not locally owned, hires local employees. Even the lower paying jobs are revenue creating. That job could be a full-time job, a second job, a seasonal job and sometimes a young person’s first job.

Your online purchase could cost your neighbor their job, eliminate a future job for your kid and it robs money from your community in the form of lost sales tax.

Local sales tax dollars go toward street repairs, stop lights, law enforcement, firefighters, our parks and so many other amenities we take for granted until they are in disrepair or gone.

The dollar you don’t spend in the local brick-and-mortar store is a dollar you take out of local circulation. Instead of the dollar you used to purchase a new tie or pair of shoes being passed on to an employee who then buys something from a local hardware store or coffeehouse, your dollar leaves your community.

Unless you work at Herberger’s, know someone who does or shop there regularly, the store’s closing may mean very little, but it should. Every time we lose another brick-and-mortar store it is another blow to our local economy, another hit to a local employer, another lost job, another street left snow packed after the storm, another firefighter without the latest equipment impacting you, whether you notice it or not.

So when Herberger’s closes its doors, your neighbor loses their job and your street doesn’t get repaired in a timely fashion, don’t get upset at Bon-Ton - instead, take a look at your computer, laptop, tablet or phone screen. If you are about to purchase something that could be bought at a local brick-and-mortar business, you share in the blame.


Lincoln Journal Star. April 20, 2018

ESCO revisions represent major improvement

When the initial plan for energy-service company contracts, or ESCOs, came before the Lincoln City Council, the body wisely tabled the measure for six weeks to address several concerning provisions.

The revised version of the proposal has taken several major steps forward since it was first championed by Mayor Chris Beutler. Particularly in the areas of transparency and fiscal responsibility, the council has dramatically improved the approval process for these environmental contracts.

Allowing the City Council to give the final green light to these deals is a significant win for open, accountable government.

Rather than allowing the mayor’s office to grant approval - which could have skipped the council and public meetings altogether - as was originally proposed, an amendment authored by Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm ensures Lincolnites can see and weigh in on these contracts as they would for any such expenditure.

The first iteration elicited concerns that the entire process could perhaps bypass the Purchasing Department’s public rules that aim to ensure officials’ family and friends aren’t being enriched at the expense of Lincoln residents.

While on that note, Councilwoman Jane Raybould’s words of warning to potential bidders were also encouraging. At Monday’s meeting, she insisted the council would examine the entirety of project proposals and could decide to decouple elements from bundled plans.

Retaining that authority gives the council the needed flexibility to pump the brakes on a portion that may be deemed either too expensive or unnecessary. The seven members of the City Council reserved their ability to serve as an important check in this regard.

That being said, the Journal Star editorial board stands behind the desired outcome of Beutler’s plan.

The concept of an ESCO is a bit obtuse. At a 30,000-foot view, it’s designed to benefit both the environment and the city’s bottom line.

By determining how to improve energy efficiency, the company aims to save the city money, which can then be invested in larger projects. The cost and energy savings are guaranteed as part of the contract, meaning that if they don’t materialize, the ESCO foots the bill - a key component that reduces the city’s risk on these deals.

Harnessing the resultant savings - such as those anticipated over several years through the first proposed project, converting Lincoln’s nearly 27,000 streetlights entirely to LED bulbs - reduces the city’s environmental footprint and further solidifies the city’s position as Nebraska’s greenest community.

The editorial board has long commended City Hall for its pursuit of sustainability measures. But the means must justify the end - and this greatly improved plan certainly does so far more responsibly than its predecessor.


McCook Daily Gazette. April 19, 2018

Drive high, kiss your license goodbye

With Colorado, California and Washington legalizing recreational marijuana and medical marijuana legal in many other states, an important issue is rarely raised.

Impaired driving.

Alcohol is the traditional problem when it comes to driving, but drug-caused motor vehicle accidents will climb as marijuana is more widely used.

The McCook Police Department is joining in a three-day, six-state drugged-driving enforcement campaign designed to make the point: “Drive High, Kiss your License Goodbye.”

McCook Police Chief Ike Brown said, “Drug-impaired driving is a serious issue for drivers and law enforcement in McCook. By intensifying enforcement of drug-impaired driving laws, we hope people will think twice before driving while impaired by any drug.”

Brown said the focused enforcement starts on Friday, April 20. He said statistics indicate that drug-impaired driving increases on April 20 - “4/20” is a code-term in the drug culture for the consumption of marijuana, the annual celebration for all things cannabis.

Brown said “driving high” affects a driver’s behavior and performance. “It has been proven that THC - the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects - slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane,” he said.

Brown and his officers encourage any driver taking any drug - prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal - at any time of the year to make plans for a sober driver. “Find a designated driver or call a cab if you are impaired on any substance,” Brown said.

“Don’t become a statistic,” the police chief said, “by being killed or killing others in a drugged driving crash, or by being arrested and lodged in jail, and by losing your license. No one should spend time in jail or in a morgue.”


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