AP NEWS

Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

October 14, 2019 GMT

Omaha World Herald. October 11, 2019

Heartland of America Park transformation will provide needed link to the river

The planned transformation of Heartland of America Park looks to give Omaha an important civic amenity it has sorely lacked: an accessible, attractive public connection to the riverfront, along with ample adjoining green space.

Omaha’s moves toward revival along the Missouri River at the turn of the current century provided improvements at Lewis and Clark Landing, and Conagra Brands’ Heartland of America Park, which opened in 1990, has picturesque elements. But the public still lacked direct, easy access to the riverfront from downtown.

Plans by Omaha city government and private donors to transform Heartland of America Park are set to remedy that. The planned connection, a walkway eastward from Eighth Street, will be both practical and picturesque. Omahans and visitors will be able to stroll along the walkway and, if they like, enjoy adjacent green space for picnicking and other activities. New open spaces will provide space for festivals and concerts. A ribbon-shaped rink will provide seasonal in-line skating and ice skating, The World-Herald’s Aaron Sanderford reported this week.

The park will also have an improved connection to Lewis and Clark Landing once the existing pedestrian bridge over rail lines is revamped.

Because crews are raising Gene Leahy Mall to street level, people will be able to walk from the W. Dale Clark Library eastward to the river’s edge. That impressively long, straight walkway will open up a new, visually striking east-west vista.

This project, with completion set for 2024, will complement the $500 million transformation now beginning for 23 acres on the Conagra site downtown, involving residential, commercial, office, hotel and entertainment uses.

The end result should offer impressive new opportunities for Omaha. It’s a civic vision worthy of a forward-looking, ambitious city.

___

The Grand island Independent. October 8, 2019

Volunteers needed in fight against human trafficking

Human trafficking is a problem right here in Nebraska. Nebraskans may not want to admit it, but it’s there.

Law enforcement says the Interstate 80 corridor is where much of it occurs. Women, many of whom may have been runaways, are trafficked for sex.

Their traffickers keep a close eye on them and force them to have sex with strangers, and the traffickers make money off of them. Many of these women are held against their will.

Unfortunately, many of these sexual encounters occur at motels along I-80 and elsewhere.

That is why it is important that Grand Island join other communities in the state in fighting human and sex trafficking.

To do that, the Grand Island Area Coalition on Trafficking is starting a program to train hotel and motel staff to look for signs of human trafficking. The training will teach the staff “how to realize, recognize and respond to human trafficking,” said Valerie Roth, who is chair of the coalition.

This is an important program. Law enforcement can’t be everywhere at all times. Community members need to be aware and watchful for signs of crime and report them to authorities.

Human traffickers operate in the shadows, trying to hide what they do. However, there are signs to watch for that someone is being held against their will.

This training will teach the motel staff — desk clerks, housekeepers, management and others — what to watch for in visitors’ behavior. But it also will go beyond just watching. It will also show them how they should respond if they suspect something.

Certainly, motel staff aren’t being asked to endanger themselves. Rather they will be told how to report something to authorities.

In catching suspected human traffickers, timing is important as they are often moving from place to place. So the reporting by motel staff is a crucial early component of responding to human trafficking.

The motel program is designed to put the squeeze on human traffickers. If they know they are being watched and that there are no safe havens for them, it discourage trafficking. Those seeking the sexual encounters peddled by traffickers will also be discouraged.

The Grand Island Area Coalition on Trafficking, the Grand Island YWCA and the Heartland United Way are doing a great community service in taking the lead on the motel program. However, they need the community’s help.

They are seeking volunteers to go and provide the training to motel staff. The training for the volunteers will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14, at the YWCA. Lunch will be provided.

To volunteer, go to www.heartlandunitedway.org or call the YWCA at (308) 384-9922.

These volunteers will be helping to make Grand Island and Nebraska a safer place and help put an end to human trafficking.

___

Lincoln Journal Star. October 11, 2019

Family farms vital for state and country, Secretary Perdue

To hear the words spoken by a government official - any official - would be troubling enough.

But to have them come out of mouth of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, of all people, while discussing the future of small farms simply dumbfounds us.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Sonny Perdue told farmers in Wisconsin last week.

Astounding.

The man most responsible for implementing and setting our nation’s farm policy has all but thrown his hands in the air as America’s family farmers struggle to stay afloat amid a maelstrom of existential worries including low commodity prices, consolidation, declining income, trade uncertainty and rising bankruptcies.

Nebraska - and the United States as a whole - needs small farmers. But those farmers need better leadership than they’re receiving from federal officials at this time.

Not all of the market forces hindering the farm economy are controlled by the federal government. But many have been created in Washington, with disastrous trade policy front and center. Political meddling in markets has made it harder, not easier, to do business.

Yes, trade pacts, like the one the U.S. signed recently with Japan, are great. But prolonged bouts over tariffs have cost Nebraska’s ag industry roughly $1 billion each of the last two years, according to the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Meanwhile, the lion’s share of direct aid payments - $28 billion to cut losses from self-inflicted harm - has been directed to the largest farms.

Despite this, Nebraska has fared better than most Midwestern states. Much of this stems from voters’ approval in 1982 of a constitutional amendment prohibiting corporations from owning farms. It remained in force until 2006, when a federal appeals court declared it unconstitutional. But it slowed the consolidation wave.

Size of Nebraska farms has steadily increased at a time when the number of farm operations decreased. According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, the average Nebraska operation grew from 841 to 971 acres (15.6 between 1997 and 2017. Over that same period, the state experienced a drop from 54,539 to 46,332 farms and ranches (15.1%).

Notice how similar these percentages are. That’s no coincidence.

As one fifth-generation farmer told the Wisconsin State Journal following Perdue’s appearance, “What I heard today from the secretary of agriculture is there’s no place for me.”

Perdue’s comments bring to mind similar remarks by then-U.S. Sen. David Karnes. During a 1988 debate at the Nebraska State Fair, the incumbent noted Nebraska had “too many farmers.” Damaged by that blunder, Karnes’ reelection bid failed.

Three decades later, the ag economy still powers Nebraska. Family farms remain integral to that success.

But those small operations must have the support from the top that continues to elude them — a point Perdue’s words hammered home.

___