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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

June 11, 2018

Omaha World Herald. June 8, 2018

It’s great to see this variety of community events across Nebraska this summer

The spring and summer provide opportunities for fun across Nebraska, in communities of all sizes. The list of special events shows an impressive variety of options throughout the warm-weather months. County fairs, concerts, rodeos, community festivals of all kinds — the possibilities are many.

Consider just a few of the events this weekend. Gretna will host Toast Nebraska, a two-day festival at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch featuring more than 150 wines from 20 Nebraska wineries plus food, music and more. Milligan, in Fillmore County, will host its 31st Annual June Jubilee Celebration featuring food, music, a road rally, activities and sports tournaments.

This weekend, the community of Wayne hosts a free Chautauqua festival titled “World War I: Legacies of a Forgotten War,” looking at the war’s wide-ranging effects. Sidney, Nebraska, will host the Chautauqua event June 14-17. Humanities Nebraska is the sponsor.

On Saturday, Broken Bow will host the first of four concerts as part of the Good Living Tour 2018. The concerts feature Nebraska musical performers and, this year, the addition of skateboarding exhibits and instruction. The other concerts in the 2018 series: Imperial, June 23; Red Cloud, July 7; and Norfolk, July 20. The performers will vary for the different concerts and will run the musical gamut, from roots music to classic rock to Americana to hip-hop.

This year’s Czech Days festival in Wilber, set for Aug 3-5, will be especially energetic, since the event will celebrate the centennial of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918. That festival’s grand marshal will be Hynek Kmonícek, the Czech ambassador to the United States.

Here are just a few other events across the state through the summer:

— The Brownville Village Theatre will host numerous performances of the play “Steel Magnolias” from June through early August.

— North Platte hosts NEBRASKAland DAYS 2018 during June 13-24. Highlights include a four nights of rodeo, a micro-brew festival, a classic car show, children’s events and country music performances.

— The Bellevue RiverFest is set for July 6-7, with a whirl of activities including musical performances, a 5K fun run/walk, a beer garden, a car showcase and children’s activities.

— Scottsbluff-Gering hosts the annual Oregon Trail Days during July 12-15, complete with a hill climb, parades, quilt show, chili cook-off, wine tasting and more.

— The Wayne Chicken Show will serve up family fun during this July 13-15 event. Festivities will include a chicken imitation competition, the world’s largest chicken dance, a hot wing eating contest, a teen dance and a variety of food and beverage options.

— On July 14, Tekamah will host the Warrior Dash, an athletic competition involving obstacles and feats of strength and endurance.

— Norfolk hosts the Riverpoint ’Fork Fest on July 20, with a classic car show cruise, beer garden, musical performances and more in “celebrating all the amazing things that make Norfolk unique.”

— Nebraska will be home to numerous rodeos this year, and Burwell’s grand annual event, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, going strong since 1921, is set for July 25-28.

It’s great to see how fun is alive and kicking across Nebraska.

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The Grand Island Independent. June 7, 2018.

We can help Habitat do more good

Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity is doing something it has never done before as a solution to its recent difficulties finding individual lots on which to build houses.

The local Habitat affiliate has always built one house at a time and the 93 homes it has built since 1992 are scattered throughout Grand Island, as well as in neighboring communities.

But recently, it broke ground on a Capital Avenue housing development that will ultimately be home to 22 new Habitat for Humanity homes. Habitat bought the 3.5-acre parcel, which is adjacent to 1027 E. Capital Ave., in 2017 and asked the city of Grand Island to change its zoning regulations so homes can be built there on smaller lots. That action by the City Council increased the number of homes the development will include from 17 to 22.

“This will help Habitat empower more people in our community through home ownership,” said Dana Jelinek, the local Habitat executive director.

In order to move forward with the housing project and get all 22 homes built within five years, a capital campaign has been started to raise money for infrastructure for the site. Electrical lines, streets, water and sewer must be added to the development before any home construction can begin.

It’s estimated that the entire development will cost $750,000 and Habitat is not seeking tax increment financing. A total of $182,000 has already been raised through grants and pledges by Habitat supporters, but that’s only the beginning.

Habitat’s low-income homebuyers repay the organization only the cost to build their homes through no-interest loans over a 20- to 30-year period. It would be a less affordable option for them if development costs were included in their mortgage payments.

The homes are built by volunteers under the direction of a contractor, also keeping the cost to a minimum. Each family chosen to become a homeowner also must put in 500 hours of work on their own and other Habitat projects. They also participate in programs that train them to be responsible homeowners.

The campaign, “Empowering People, Developing Community,” will be seeking donations so that Habitat can quickly move forward with putting in the infrastructure. Then families can be chosen and home construction can begin.

Habitat for Humanity has done so much good in our community, helping close to 100 families become homeowners, many of them having lived in substandard housing or rental homes that were too small for their growing families.

And our community has always been supportive of the nonprofit, donating money and pitching in to help with building projects, and then welcoming families into their new homes. Now we’re being asked to pitch in some more so that 22 more families can have the thrill and step up to the responsibility of owning their own homes.

To donate to the “Empowering People, Developing Community” capital campaign or for more information, visit www.gihabitat.org.

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Scottsbluff Star-Herald. June 7, 2018

Gering named among ‘The Best Small Towns to Visit in 2018’

For locals, it is easy to overlook the big rock west of Gering or the rock that looks like a chimney south of Bayard. We can remember something about a great migration of people along the North Platte River on their way to Oregon and California, but it’s everyday stuff for us. As a result, it’s no big deal — but it is a very big deal.

That big rock, the trail, our museums and so much more just made Gering one of “The Best Small Towns to Visit in 2018,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. The magazine has a reach of about 4 million readers across the world.

The story lists 20 small towns in America that readers should visit this year; Gering is sixth on the list.

Gering, they say, “offers its own reason for making the trip to this hub of the Old West.”

The story mentions Scotts Bluff National Monument, Oregon Trail Days, the Gering Bakery and Legacy of the Plains Museum. They point out Monument Shadows Golf Course, Robidoux Trading Post, the Wildcat Hills and much more.

There is even more the story doesn’t mention.

Gering is truly the “hub of the Old West” or at least the hub of the Oregon Trail. From Gering, one can visit five different sites mentioned more often in the diaries of early pioneers than anywhere else. From a campsite or hotel in Gering, you can take a day trip to Courthouse and Jail Rock along with Chimney Rock, east of Gering, Register Cliff just south of Guernsey, Wyoming, and Scotts Bluff National Monument just west of town.

If you venture off the Oregon Trail, you can travel to Fort Robinson south of Crawford, take in the fun of Lake Minatare northeast of Scottsbluff, visit the Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff, or fish Box Butte Reservoir near Hemingford, just to name a few of the many activities nearby.

Choosing Gering was a good call by Smithsonian Magazine.

The Gering Visitors Bureau and Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau, Karla Neiden-Streeks and Brenda Leisy, along with a host of other people, deserve a huge thank you and pat on the back for their hard work over the years. They have helped promote tourism long before tourism was popular as an important local industry.

Thanks to their efforts and the fact we live in a beautiful part of the country, we already see visitors from around the country and the world. They come in, enjoy the sites, brag about how nice we west Nebraskans are and leave behind a nice chunk of cash.

Making the Smithsonian’s list will only boost our visitors in 2018 and beyond.

Their list started with Corning, New York, followed by Hanapepe, Hawaii; Dublin, Georgia; Pendleton, Oregon; North Conway, New Hampshire; then Gering. Following us were Laurel, Mississippi; Easton, Maryland; Kodiak, Alaska; Mystic, Connecticut; Perham, Minnesota; Showhegan, Maine; Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Salida, Colorado; Luray, Virginia; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Trinidad, California; Ketchum, Idaho; Ocracoke, North Carolina and last but not least, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

If you are a traveler, you might want to see how many of these great small towns you can visit in 2018. Make sure you start with the one in your backyard — Gering.

Looking around we might not see the beauty in our own area, but it is there. Gering used to be one of the best kept secrets in the country, but thanks to the efforts of the Gering Visitors Bureau and Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau, and now Smithsonian Magazine, the secret is out.

So dust off your nice attitude, take a fresh look at the sites we take for granted and get ready for tourists visiting one of the best small towns in America.

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Quad-City Times. June 10,2018

Be honest, senators, Trump favors coal over ethanol

U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst just can’t stop giving President Donald Trump a pass for his administration’s continued attacks on Iowa’s interests. Nor will they anytime soon.

Environmental Protection Agency czar and aspiring used mattress-sleeper Scott Pruitt has become a regular target for Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators.

Ernst this past week tossed some right-minded shade at Pruitt, a would-be Chick-fil-A franchisee who uses federal employees like his personal servants. Pruitt is “about as swampy as you get,” Ernst said after reports surfaced that he tried to use his office to land a chicken franchise for his wife. Trump should look at his own cabinet if he’s truly interested in cleaning up Washington, Ernst continued.

No argument there. Pruitt’s corruption is well documented and his lack of shame is shocking.

But Ernst’s jab wasn’t the watershed moment the national punditry class made it out to be. Like Grassley this past month, Ernst heaped the blame for attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — the real propellant for her displeasure — on Pruitt’s lap.

“Mr. Pruitt is breaking our president’s promises to farmers,” she said, after the EPA again proposed sweeping rule changes that would have reduced the demand for ethanol.

So, according to Ernst and Grassley, Pruitt’s continued end-runs on Iowa’s ethanol cash cow are merely the actions a rogue cabinet member and, in no way, reflect on the president or his administration.

Bull.

In fact, Trump lauded Pruitt’s job performance on Friday and, predictably, blamed the media for reporting all his misdeeds.

“Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA,” Trump said.

Grassley and Ernst have created a fiction, one concocted to sheepishly avoid the ire of a president who expects nothing short of total and complete loyalty from Republicans.

The Trump White House isn’t an arena for sweeping intellectual debates and heady disagreements. Just ask Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster and any number of former Trump staffers shown the door because they sometimes formed educated opinions that dissented with Trump’s gut-based reactionary policy edicts.

Pruitt’s continued federal employment is evidence that the EPA’s approach to RFS, which does clash with Trump’s many campaign promises, is, in fact, Trump’s policy position. And that remains true even after Trump, this past week, sent the draft EPA rules back to the drawing board. The administration has made no bones about showering gas refineries with exemptions that damage Iowa’s ethanol industry.

Trump made a slew of promises throughout his campaign, many of which in direct conflict with others, intended to please his audience in a particular moment. In Iowa, Trump loved the RFS. In Oklahoma, he would do anything to prop up oil and gas. In West Virginia, coal-fired power plants would spew carbon dioxide and smog into the atmosphere until every street was paved with soot.

These are competing energy interests. Trump’s statements taken as a whole were, by the nature of the energy market, nonsensical from the outset. And, as we and numerous other editorial boards pointed out in 2017, Pruitt’s nomination was Trump’s declaration of allegiance, which sat solely in the corner of Big Oil and coal. And yet, good soldiers Grassley and Ernst supported Pruitt’s nomination and wrote columns blasting anyone who questioned their sanity.

Donald Trump does not support the RFS. He doesn’t back wind, either, another massive industry in Iowa, which competes directly with coal. In fact, recent reports say the administration is mulling rules that could force utilities to buy more power from coal plants.

About that free market thing?

Scapegoating Pruitt for the Trump administration’s anti-Iowa energy policy smacks of timidity. Pruitt is but a swamp rat swimming in Trump’s algae-infested pond.

Iowans deserve honest analysis from their most influential representatives in Washington. Yet Grassley and Ernst won’t aim their ire at the president who, through his inaction, has endorsed EPA’s energy policy and the unabashed grift of the man atop the agency.

But Iowans shouldn’t expect a bold stand from its senators. Their honesty would enrage a president who demands fealty from his fellow Republicans. It would weaken their already questionable influence within the West Wing. It could make them targets for Trump’s morning Twitter tirades and foist a Sophie’s Choice on Iowa GOP Chairman and born-again Trump disciple Jeff Kaufmann.

Speaking candidly about the roots of the Trump administration’s energy policy — not to mention trade policy — would make waves, which Grassley and Ernst would rather avoid. Instead, taking pot shots at Trump’s underlings keeps them squarely off the president’s radar.

After all, applying legitimate pressure to where it belongs would require Grassley and Ernst, and their party, to admit the extent to which they’ve sold Iowa out.

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