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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

October 8, 2018

Omaha World Herald. October 5, 2018

Candidates’ dedication, balanced views among key factor for our endorsements

The men and women elected to serve in public office can have a tremendous impact on the future. Members of a school board, the Nebraska Legislature, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Congress — all possess much clout at the federal, state or local level, to name just a few examples.

As part of our ongoing commentary on public issues, The World-Herald gives its editorial view on candidates at election time. This tradition goes back to our paper’s early decades in the late 1800s. Our endorsements present our take on key considerations in the individual contests.

We soon will begin publishing our endorsements for the Nov. 6 ballot. We take a moment today to describe some of the general considerations that guide our decisions.

When we interview first-time candidates, we don’t expect them to have as detailed an understanding of the office they’re running for as an incumbent will. We do find it disappointing, though, if a first-time candidate has made little or no effort to educate himself or herself about the job and has given little thought to the job’s specific requirements. We’re impressed by first-time candidates who show initiative by educating themselves on these points and speak knowledgeably about specifics. We’ve seen positive and negative examples on this score this election season.

Similarly, we don’t expect first-time candidates to have an encyclopedic knowledge of issues. But we do expect them to have done a reasonable degree of homework so they can offer some measure of analysis. It’s encouraging when a candidate, regardless of party or philosophy, confidently addresses issues important to his or her contest. It’s disappointing when we ask about a key issue and the candidate has nothing to say. We’ve had both those experiences this year.

A voter will vote for a candidate but reserve the right to disagree with the candidate, if elected, on specific issues in the future. That’s the view we take on our election endorsements: They are a judgment on a particular candidate matchup, but after the election, it’s important to weigh each situation as it arises.

Our country and region have been helped over the generations by Americans from across the philosophical spectrum — conservatives, liberals, moderates. As we look at candidates at election time, we look for competence and dedication. We place importance on balanced views and a willingness to seek reasonable compromise.

We regard moderation, prudence and pragmatism to be of enduring importance in public life. It’s frustrating to see the two political parties move away from the political center and toward the extremes. We have been disappointed with conservatives who exaggerate the extent to which lawmakers can shrink government, just as we find liberals unrealistic if they tout a message of “spend, spend, spend,” with little or no realistic regard for fiscal limits.

Our country, and our state, should strive for common ground. We applaud candidates who stress cooperation across lines of party and ideology and promote a sense of solidarity among all Nebraskans. Society is ill served by candidates and campaigns that encourage division and polarization.

These are central considerations for us as we’ve developed our endorsements.

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Kearney Hub. October 4, 2018

Power lines add danger during harvest

Harvest is well underway, but it’s never too late for a safety message. This week, Nebraska Public Power District is reminding farm operators to “look up and look out” for power lines. The reminder is especially significant because, as harvest equipment continues to grow in size, it increases the potential for electrocution accidents if these new tall and wide machines become tangled in electrical lines.

Portable augers no longer are the only equipment that can contact power lines.

According to NPPD, alert equipment operators are the foundation of a good safety strategy. They are aware of surroundings. Whenever power lines are nearby, alert operators know to maintain a safe distance. Art Wiese, NPPD’s transmission and distribution manager, said equipment doesn’t need to be tangled with power lines for an electrical accident to occur. Wiese said coming too close actually can cause electricity to arc from the power line to the harvest equipment.

NPPD shared advice for farmers and harvest workers who accidentally contact live wires.

If contact happens, NPPD advises operators to be patient and stay inside their vehicle until help can be summoned.

“If a line is not de-energized by a public power utility crew, stepping out of the vehicle could cause your body to become the path and electrocution could occur,” Wiese said. “Even if the power line is resting on the ground nearby, that surrounding area could potentially be energized.”

If an operator is forced to exit the vehicle, the safe way is to jump — not step — with both feet landing on the ground at the same time.

“Do not touch the vehicle and ground at the same time, and begin shuffling your feet on the ground to safety. Never simply step out of the vehicle. The person must jump clear of the equipment,” Wiese said.

Harvest safety can be enhanced with a daily huddle in which all members of the team review plans for the day, including work that will take place around power lines. Avoiding power lines begins by knowing where they are. Always steer clear of them, and be careful about elevating augers, ladders and poles. Never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path.

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Lincoln Journal Star. October 5, 2018

Jails aren’t for holding mentally ill

A lack of available beds at the Lincoln Regional Center, which serves Nebraskans with mental illnesses, is being felt across the state.

Under state law, inmates on court orders to be restored to sanity or others committed by the mental health board must be treated at the Lincoln facility. But there’s high demand - and wait times - for the limited supply of spots.

At the already crowded Lancaster County Jail, the average stay for inmates awaiting a transfer to the Regional Center was 73 days - nearly two-and-a-half months - in May. In some smaller counties, which have fewer resources at their jails, the wait has stretched to as long as four months.

Jails are not repositories for the mentally ill, yet they now occupy, by default, a role for which they are not equipped. Some entity needs to ensure the safety of these individuals and those around them; unfortunately, that’s fallen to jails.

This was on display at an interim hearing last month by the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, which is studying the lack of mental health services available within the criminal justice system.

By no means is this limited to the county jails, either. Last October, the ACLU of Nebraska released a report that estimated 50 percent of female inmates and 25 percent of male inmates behind bars at state prisons suffer from some form of mental illness.

Jails are not repositories for the mentally ill, yet they now occupy, by default, a role for which they are not equipped. Some entity needs to ensure the safety of these individuals and those around them; unfortunately, that’s fallen to jails.

This was on display at an interim hearing last month by the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, which is studying the lack of mental health services available within the criminal justice system.

By no means is this limited to the county jails, either. Last October, the ACLU of Nebraska released a report that estimated 50 percent of female inmates and 25 percent of male inmates behind bars at state prisons suffer from some form of mental illness.

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McCook Daily Gazette. October 2, 2018.

Creating useful products still key to U.S. economy

Agriculture is Nebraska’s major industry, and it’s a profound activity, once someone gives it some thought.

Using things as simple as light, water, soil, seed and fertilizer, farmers create valuable products like corn, soybeans and wheat in unbelievable quantities.

The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t lump agriculture with manufacturing, although perhaps it should since both activities turn raw materials into marketable commodities.

That doesn’t mean our state and our community don’t hold their own when it comes to traditional manufacturing, however, an activity celebrated this week and culminating with the seventh annual Manufacturing Day on Friday, Oct. 5.

Drive east along McCook’s South Street, and you’ll first pass Parker Hannifin, a major employer and hose manufacturer. Farther along, you’ll reach the modern Valmont plant, manufacturing irrigation systems in support of agriculture around the world.

Turn left, and you’ll soon be crossing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks, carrying products destined for everywhere in America and around the world.

It’s true that manufacturing isn’t what it once was in the United States, much of it having moved overseas to Asia, but it’s still the fifth largest employer in America, behind Healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, administrative and support and waste management and remediation services.

You’ll make nearly twice as much in management, but the average annual payroll for a manufacturing job is $57,766, above the average annual payroll for all sectors of $50,769, according to the Census Bureau.

About 6 percent of Nebraska jobs are in traditional manufacturing.

Nationwide, some 1.4 million workers are involved manufacturing transportation equipment, nearly that many in food, 1.33 million in fabricated metal products, .99 million in machinery and .77 million in computer and electronic product manufacturing.

Manufacturing is key to U.S. exports, nearly six out of 10 dollars coming from manufacturers.

Manufacturing has changed radically over the past few decades, technology causing the number of people required to plummet while the productivity of each worker climbs.

While cheap labor has drawn American manufacturing jobs to other countries, we’ve kept our edge through innovation, a process that must continue.

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