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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

December 31, 2018

Omaha World Herald. December 28, 2018

Racing Commission overreached its authority with this wagering decision

One of the most important principles for a free society is that a government agency or commission must operate within the limits of its legal authority. That is a lesson the members of the Nebraska Racing Commission need to acknowledge and respect. The commission isn’t a law unto itself.

Specifically, the commission voted unanimously to allow Fonner Park in Grand Island to install historical horse racing terminals produced by a Maryland company.

But there’s a big problem with the commission’s action — deciding whether to allow betting on past horse races is outside the commission’s legal authority. That power rests, instead, with the Nebraska Legislature and governor, or with the people of Nebraska through a ballot measure. Indeed, as the commission members surely know well, state senators have struggled with the issue repeatedly over the years.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office was right to cry foul at the commission’s action, pointing out that historical horse racing is illegal in Nebraska under current law, and the commission’s claim that it’s legal doesn’t make it so.

Supporters of the commission’s action point to the betting allowed in other states on past horse races, and that’s true. No one can deny the challenges for Nebraska’s racing industry. But the issue is a matter of law. It’s about whether a regulatory commission can assert legal powers that state statutes don’t provide, and the clear answer is no.

Supporters of historical horse race wagering have every right to lobby the Legislature again to legalize this type of betting or to mount a petition drive. But what they can’t do is try to that achieve that goal by making an end run around state law.

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Lincoln Journal Star. December 28, 2018

Strive for more transparency on ESCO bids

The Lincoln City Council ensured local businesses will be notified about potential work that involves handling energy saving projects for the city under the open-bid system - a change for the better.

In light of that improvement, we urge City Hall to be as transparent as possible as it can going forward with energy saving companies, or ESCOs.

This recent development, passed by the council last week, is a welcome change. The first projects completed by ESCOs entirely bypassed the city’s bid process to hire subcontractors and buy equipment. Though the cost of the work - and, in some cases, energy savings - were guaranteed by the companies, minimal information was available to the public before the plan’s approval.

In essence, the council’s decision extended the public bid procedures to the beginning of energy savings projects by mandating the city notify local businesses and allow them to submit bids. Our hope is that openness expands much deeper into the selection process than it currently does.

Under the current policy, for instance, City Hall can’t release the names of subcontractors chosen for library and park projects - which approved long before last week’s resolution was passed - until the contracts are signed.

Going forward, the Journal Star editorial board encourages Lincoln officials to be as transparent about ESCOs as they can.

Government is designed to conduct its business dealings in public to ensure greater scrutiny and accountability. Bid-letting processes were made transparent to ensure projects were bid competitively to provide the greatest value for taxpayers, rather than enriching family, friends or campaign donors.

To be clear, we aren’t insinuating anything sketchy is happening through the ESCO process, one of several city sustainability measures we support in principle.

Improving energy efficiency and aiming to keep costs low? Sign us up.

But we want to ensure that Lincolnites get the most bang for their buck, too. Inviting local businesses to bid on projects is certainly a start, and increased transparency for ESCOs would add another level of review to that end.

Lincoln has continued improved the transparency of ESCOs throughout 2018. We’re optimistic even more can be done next year.

The initial proposal would have allowed the mayor’s office to approve contracts without going before the council in a manner that could have bypassed Purchasing Department rules. That proposal was tabled in March and enhanced in the interim before later getting a green light from the City Council without the open-bid requirement - proving there’s still room to improve.

Erring on the side of transparency to ensure taxpayers are getting a fair deal is never a bad deal. The Lincoln City Council has done well in bettering the ESCO process - and can do so further in the coming weeks and months.

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Kearney Hub. December 26, 2018

Cures worse than the illnesses

Lately we’ve heard a lot of folks hacking and sneezing and blowing their runny noses, even after they visited the pharmacy for the best comfort modern medicine can provide. Alas, there is no cure for the common cold, but that hasn’t stopped medical research from trying.

Luckily for us, many ailments of the past now have modern remedies. It was not always that way. Medicine on the Nebraska frontier often was a hit-or-miss proposition steeped in superstition and not much science, according to Nebraska newspaperman Jack Lowe. The Sidney publisher’s book, “Sixty Years of the American Dream — With an Occasional Nightmare,” tells us the old-fashioned treatments were so undesirable that people decided it was better to stay healthy than experience the awfulness of the cures.

“The illnesses were bad, but the cures were worse and they could kill you,” Lowe wrote. “A sure cure for a head cold in the old days was to take nine whiffs from a dirty sock. If you developed asthma with your cold you brewed up some tea by boiling a hornets’ nest. Kids with the croup got rubbed with skunk oil, and then took a dose of another kind of oil for good measure.”

In the early 1980s, when Lowe published his column about frontier cures, he had spoken with so many old-timers about their memories of frontier medicine that he may have been an expert on the topic.

Got a goiter? Pass the hand of a dead person over your throat.

Headache? Take a shot of hot water mixed with wood ashes. “This probably caused stomach cramps, but you could get rid of them by carrying a chestnut or potato in your pocket,” wrote Lowe.

Toothache? Trim your nails closely on Fridays.

Warts? Rub them with a stolen dish rag and hide the dish rag in a tree stump. “When mom missed the dish rag she probably applied blisters where the warts used to be, but that was the cure and it was guaranteed,” according to Lowe.

Chills? Try walking across a creek backward. Rheumatism? Rub the affected area with the blood of a freshly killed rattlesnake. “There was always a chance that the snake would get you before you got him, but that was a risk you were willing to take,” Lowe said. Stammering child? For a quick cure, slap the youngster across the face with a slice of fresh liver.

Based on Lowe’s account, frontier medicine was pretty hard on the patients.

“Somewhere along the line, someone got a little more practical. Many ailments, including cholera, fever and others, called for large and frequent doses of whiskey or gin. It probably brought no permanent cures, but it went down easier than the hornets’ nest tea,” he said.

Nebraska’s pioneers were rugged. They survived the disease and the cure. At least some of them did.

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