- Associated Press - Monday, March 29, 2021

Omaha World-Herald. March 28, 2021.

Editorial: Legislature should stand up to the governor, move forward with OPS initiative

Cooperation and goodwill are essential elements to achieve progress in Nebraska. That positive spirit has enabled sensible steps in recent years to help the Omaha Public Schools to begin addressing the huge challenges it faces in meeting its unfunded liabilities for OPS employee pensions.

An unexpected effort last week by Gov. Pete Ricketts to kill a current proposal involving the OPS pension fund violates that constructive spirit and needlessly threatens continued progress. The administration is raising a false claim - that Nebraskans statewide will be at risk of taking on the OPS financial liabilities if management of the OPS fund is transferred to the state.

Such a misleading claim is contradicted by the entire history of this issue. For years, every time the State of Nebraska has taken any action in regard to the OPS pension system, lawmakers in committee and in floor debate have been unanimous in stating, clearly and emphatically, that Nebraskans statewide must not take on any of the OPS pension liabilities. That is a crucial, common-sense stance the Legislature has rightly adopted throughout the past five years.

State senators emphasized that point in 2016 when the Legislature voted overwhelmingly to transfer investment authority from the OPS pension board to the state investment council. The governor signed the measure into state law.

In 2019, State Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, chairman of the Legislature’s Retirement Systems Committee, worked with stakeholders to consider a follow-up. The state gave the go-ahead for a study (paid for by OPS, a $140,000 cost) to examine the feasibility of transferring management of the OPS pension fund to the state. The projected long-term cost savings would be about $250,000 a year.

Such a transfer would end all of OPS’s management duties in regard to the pension system. The district would then have one remaining, all-important obligation: bearing the full burden of meeting the system’s financial liabilities. State law, in fact, now requires OPS to meet its actuarily required annual payment for long-term pension stability, and the district has been exceeding that amount the past several years.

The Legislature voted 47-0 in 2019 for the study to be done, and the governor signed the legislation. Since then, a wide variety of stakeholders have cooperated for the management transfer to occur. OPS agreed from the get-go to cover the upfront costs of around $4 million for new computer technology to enable the management change.

It’s baffling, then, that after so much complicated work and cooperation, the Ricketts administration would indulge in an eleventh-hour effort to sabotage the initiative.

Undermining an effort involving OPS might be good politics in the view of some, but it would be terrible public policy. The Legislature should move forward with this initiative and, if necessary, override a gubernatorial veto. The public interest, and not scaremongering by the governor, must prevail on this issue.


Lincoln Journal Star. Marc 28, 2021.

Editorial: Native mascots should be dropped immediately

Maybe the tipping point has finally arrived — that moment when the pleas by Natives to end the use of their names and likenesses to promote athletic teams and other consumer products are at last being heard.

For years, this editorial board has been calling on high schools, universities and professional sports franchises to move away from using Native terms as mascots.

And there finally appears to be some traction in making this happen.

The National Football League franchise in Washington, D.C., has dropped its mascot. The Major League Baseball team in Cleveland is in the process of doing so. And one of the most iconic automobiles — the Jeep Cherokee — announced last month it will undergo a name change.

Now it’s time for Nebraska to follow suit.

A state civil rights board recommended last week that Nebraska schools phase out Native mascots used by non-Native schools and punish those that don’t by denying them participation in postseason tournaments.

Native-themed mascots such as Braves, Warriors, Indians and Chiefs perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and beliefs and are “emotionally harmful” to Native students, according to a 22-page report by the Nebraska Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

“While removing mascots alone is insufficient to address underlying concerns of racism and systemic discrimination, panelists (on the committee) described it as an important first step,” the report concluded.

Amazingly, there are too many Americans these days willing to chalk all of this up to the “cancel culture” merely claiming another.

However, long before there was ever such a term, this was an issue. It’s dishonest and a deflection by too many Twitter trolls to try to compare this to recent stories of Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss — issues that went viral because of their sheer idiocy.

We have no doubt that when the 20 Nebraska high schools with such mascots chose them, most did so as a way of proudly honoring the tribes they chose to represent. However, other than the three such schools on located on reservations, the names weren’t theirs to take and, in doing so, they robbed the Natives of some of their heritage.

In addition, by taking on the name of Native tribes and their honored titles, these teams subjected their namesakes to ridicule and ostracization by athletic opponents. In the name of a rivalry or a big game, they have said hurtful things and taken part in harmful acts that have crossed the lines of good taste, while also blatantly demonstrating acts of racism.

Those acts — and those hateful words by others — should be all the schools in question need to realize that the Natives have a point in their request for change.

Words matter. They have the power to inspire and the magic to educate. Sadly, they also carry the capacity to elicit hatred, while causing serious and lasting harm.

This should have been recognized long ago.


Kearney Hub. March 24, 2021.

Editorial: Prevention best strategy against fire

As we ponder whether we could have prevented five recent house fire fatalities, we can conclude only one thing: The best way to prevent the loss of life is to prevent fires. The recent string of deadly blazes occurred during the period when most house fires occur - in the fall, winter and early spring. That’s when people spend most of their time indoors and potentially grow complacent about fire risks.

We cook more indoors so we might leave our range dirty, greasy and primed for trouble. Our homes consume a lot of energy during cold months. When all that power surges in an electrical system, it increases the potential for electrical faults that can cause fires.

Experts with the Electrical Safety Foundation International tell us that 62% of house fires are caused by cooking. That’s a noteworthy statistic, especially considering how much we cook in the cold months and how some of us might panic if a cooking fire were to break out.

Do we know how to use an extinguisher, or do we know we could make matters worse by splashing water onto a grease fire? Will we panic if a fire starts in our kitchen?

Many factors contribute to the danger of kitchen fires, including ignorance. What should you do if one suddenly breaks out? As we said, prevention is the best strategy. Keep a clean microwave, range and oven. Be attentive while cooking, and never do it when you’re drinking. After you’ve finished cooking, double check that all burners are switched off.

Did you know that 22% of house fires are electrical? Fire can be caused by wiring inside walls. When an electrical fault occurs the wiring heats so much that fires can start.

Electrical codes require wiring to have circuit breakers. If a fault occurs, the system is designed to shut off power before overheating wires ignite fires. If you’re uncertain how to check your electrical system, you will sleep easier calling in a professional electrician to have a look.

It’s best when we can prevent fires, but we need to acknowledge that occasionally even our best efforts are not enough. When fire breaks out, smoke detectors will alert us and give us the time to escape. Traditionally, the time to replace batteries is the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time. If you forgot, switch your batteries this week. Another good idea is to check the pressure on your fire extinguishers and then view a video on how to effectively operate your extinguisher.

Finally, draw up a family escape plan and rehearse it so everyone knows how to safely escape and where to gather after you’ve left your home. Pick a spot that’s a safe distance in case the fire might spread from your home to a neighbor’s.

Finally, commit yourself in advance to call 911 immediately and evacuate the house. Firefighters train continually to do their jobs. They’re good at what they do, and we thank them.


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