Omaha World Herald. August 29, 2018

Legislature should take a new look at tax delinquency law, given growing number of elderly

Nebraska's population of those ages 65 and older is projected to increase by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, the state Department of Health and Human Services says. During that period, the number of seniors will rise from 240,000 residents to 400,000. That's 3 percent growth annually.

By 2050, Nebraskans ages 65 and up will account for 21 percent of the state's population, up from 13.8 percent in 2012, according to an annual Kids Count Nebraska report.

Our society needs to prepare for the multiple issues that will arise as our elderly population increases and, in many cases, eventually faces major physical and mental challenges. A recent court case before the Nebraska Supreme Court provided an important example.

Tax payments were left unpaid for a 480-acre property owned by Gladys Pearl Wisner, a 94-year-old Nebraska widow living in a retirement home in North Platte. An investment company paid $50,000 in back taxes and interest, thereby acquiring the land — valued at $1.1 million.

The majority on the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of the company, Vandelay Investments, saying it followed the law in how it conducted itself.

Wisner's son learned about the transfer from a tenant who farmed the property, and he quickly offered to pay the taxes, plus interest, to Vandelay. But the company refused, and the matter went to court. A district court judge ruled in favor of the investment company. The Nebraska Court of Appeals last year reversed the decision. Vandelay appealed to the Supreme Court.

Wisner's mental capacity was a major factor in the case. Each side made arguments as to whether the senior had the ability to handle the matter properly. Wisner's son said his mother lacked the ability to understand notices she had received. The Supreme Court majority, pointing to court testimony, held that Wisner did possess mental ability, "within the normal range of a person for her age," adequate to meet the requirements under the law.

Judge William Cassel dissented, disagreeing with the court majority's conclusion about Wisner's mental capacity. The court case's result, Cassel wrote, was "a windfall that borders on the obscene."

The case also involved an examination of the notification process in such matters. Wisner's son, who lives in Iowa, testified he thought that the bank was paying the property taxes out of his mother's trust funds, which were adequate to cover the taxes. But a bank officer testified that she never received any tax notices to pay.

In the wake of this case, the Nebraska Legislature can serve the public interest by examining the details of state law to see if adjustments can help avoid major miscommunications and misfortunes for families in such matters.

No one should expect changes in the law to magically solve all problems. Property tax delinquency can stem from a variety of factors, and it is a longstanding situation that county governments nationwide routinely face.

But the Wisner matter rightly gives pause. Lawmakers should examine the options for possible improvement. Such vigilance by the state makes sense as Nebraska's population ages and families increasingly deal with the challenges that result.

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Kearney Hub. August 28, 2018

Slim margin in Kansas race shows votes count

The 2018 election now is just a little more than two months away, and pollsters are telling us that some Americans — most of them are Democrats — are chomping at the bit. They're ready to go to the polls and vote because they're aching to win back congressional seats they lost in 2018.

In addition to telling us Democrats are excited about the approaching election, pollsters say a surprising percentage of Republicans don't feel as motivated. Maybe they've read that, historically, office holders in the same party as the first-term president tend to lose ground in midterm elections.

We believe that in Nebraska and elsewhere, incumbent Republicans stand a good chance of retaining their offices because Americans frequently vote with their wallets. The U.S. economy is strong, people are taking home more of their pay thanks to tax cuts, and there are glimmers of hope that the president's tariffs might be winning back some manufacturers who moved offshore in recent years.

Regardless of which party Americans are aligned, we urge them to get registered now so they're able to vote on Nov. 6.

It is important to our democracy that U.S. citizens live up to their responsibilities, and that means voting in local, state and federal elections.

For anyone who believes it isn't worth the trouble to vote, we offer evidence that, yes, every vote does, indeed, count.

The primary election that concluded a few weeks ago in neighboring Kansas proves that every vote counts.

When the smoke cleared after Election Day, only 121 votes separated incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer and his challenger, Kris Kobach, who is the secretary of state in Kansas.

A total of 311,000 votes were cast in the primary, but only 121 votes decided the election in favor of Kobach.

One hundred and twenty-one votes.

If you believe that your vote doesn't matter, remember the Kansas race. Anytime you hear a friend or relative suggest that elections are a waste of time, remember the Kansas race. Anytime you doubt that performing your civic duty isn't necessary, remember the number 121.

It was a winning number for Kobach, but for Colyer, those 10 dozen votes will cost him his office.

Every vote makes a difference. Register, and then cast your ballot on Nov. 6.

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McCook Daily Gazette. August 28, 2018

McCook in good position to help lift single moms out of poverty

Fighting poverty is a complex process, involving family structure, economic development, education, support systems and many other factors.

As home to a community college, McCook has a chance to play a part in this important cause, according to a new report.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research found that according to the latest data available, 2016, only 13 percent of single mothers who have a bachelor's degree live in poverty.

That compares to 41 percent with only a high school diploma or 32 percent of single mothers with some college experience.

If they obtained an advanced degree, the number of single mothers living in poverty declined to 8 percent.

Single mothers have their work cut out for them; 24 percent of them age 25 or older have an associate or bachelor's degree, compared to 27 percent without children and 37 percent of married mothers.

Race plays a part as well, with only 15 percent of Hispanic, 20 percent of Native American and Black single mothers holding undergraduate degrees, compared to 35 percent of Asian and 30 percent of white single mothers.

Single moms make more than 11 percent of college students now, up from 7.8 percent in 1999, but since 1974, single mothers have been six times more likely to live in poverty than married couple families.

Motherhood is a tough job, but couple that with trying to raise a child on your own while holding down a job (or two) while attending college, and it's easy to see why more such women don't achieve a college degree.

Online and physical institutions like McCook Community College, coupled with a local economy offering flexible employment opportunities, plus friends, family, churches and other organizations providing support systems, can help lift single mothers out of the daily grind of poverty.

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Lincoln Journal Star. August 31, 2018.

School groups' stand laudable to reverse tide of harassment

A coalition of eight education groups in Nebraska made headlines last week by teaming up to fight back against discriminatory and harassing statements directed at students.

The show of unity and cause itself are both noteworthy. The need for such action, however, is regrettable.

Reports of racially tinged harassment at school sporting events in Nebraska are on the rise. That increase mirrors marked growth in the number of hate crimes in recent years. And no place is better for such inexcusable behavior to be nipped in the bud than Nebraska schools.

The next generation of Nebraskans needs to see equality in action as the proper response to the intolerance against those who are different than us. School groups' pledge to promote human dignity by combating harassment and discrimination of any kind models the proper behavior not just for students, but for all Nebraskans.

This isn't the first promise of this nature, but it's the most far-reaching, as evidenced by the number and scope of the groups involved. Now, more than ever, is such an intervention needed, as the poisoned chalice of political rhetoric is increasingly - and sadly - visible in the classrooms and athletic fields across the state.

Perhaps the most visible example of such behavior is described by schools such as Lexington and Schuyler. They have large Latino populations and have reported everything from a rash of people wearing Border Patrol shirts and "Americana nights" scheduled when they're in town to getting spat on and insulted with chants of "Trump!" or "Build the wall!"

Nebraskans are better than that. No matter their country of birth, these students are Nebraskans, too. We all stand beneath a flag bearing our state's motto: "Equality before the law."

When sports become a vehicle for racism, the positive aspects of athletic competition are overshadowed. Tolerance knows no political party or group.

Schuyler athletic director Jim Kasik detailed the harassment faced by Warrior athletes in a column that appeared in the Journal Star last year. Once again, his perspective on this bears sharing on a larger platform.

"I don't think a piece of paper will change people's views," he said. "However, if that piece of paper gets people to talk about issues and what other people are experiencing, that's a step in the right direction."

And the crackdown on such behavior - which is most visible at but not exclusive to sporting events - announced by this broad union of school groups deserves praise for doing that. Bigoted beliefs are often held out of ignorance, and a challenge from an authority figure can help open people's minds.

Schools are obviously a place for learning. By living up to the ideals promoted within this pledge, Nebraska's community of educators and administrators will do a stellar job of teaching by example.

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