Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

June 10, 2019

Omaha World Herald. June 9, 2019

State pursues new ideas to promote college savings plans, educational progress

Nebraska needs all its children, from every background, to maximize their opportunities for educational achievement and career success. New college savings policies just put into state law aim to promote that important goal.

Academic studies indicate that such college savings approaches are effective in boosting a student’s educational performance and likelihood of graduation. The benefit is especially significant for children from low-income families. A growing number of states are adopting such approaches, including Oklahoma, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

“It’s a very low-cost way of changing educational outcomes,” says Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante, who worked with a wide-ranging group of state senators on college savings proposals that were approved this session. Low-income families often aren’t aware of college savings programs, and once they have even a modest amount in such a plan, it generally spurs students and parents to focus on educational success and considerations of college and careers.

“It’s been shown to be significant in altering people’s attitudes and decision-making” for the better, Murante says.

Three policies, approved as a set this spring by the Legislature on a 48-0 vote and signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, would:

“ Create an account for each newborn. The accounts, called Meadowlark Scholarships, would be set up for each Nebraska resident born on or after Jan. 1, 2020, using monies from a cash fund created through philanthropic donations and any funds appropriated or transferred to the fund by the Legislature. No monies from the state government’s general fund would be used. The State Treasurer’s Office would oversee the fund, evenly distributing the fund’s investment income from the previous year to accounts opened in the previous year.

“ Match contributions from low-income households. If a household’s income is 200% or less of the federal poverty level, the state would draw on the cash fund to allocate $2 for each $1 contributed by the household. Matches would be limited to $1,000 per beneficiary per year. The treasurer may approve up to $250,000 in matching scholarships each year.

“ Incentivize employers to offer matching contributions to employees’ college savings plan. Beginning in 2022, an employer whose application is approved will receive an incentive payment from the state equal to 25% of the matching contributions made during the preceding year, up to $2,000 per employee per year. The state incentives, drawn from the cash fund, would be limited to $250,000 annually.

The projected annual expenditures from the cash fund for all these purposes is $300,000 by fiscal 2025, according to the Legislature Fiscal Office.

A group of Nebraska lawmakers, across party and philosophical lines, worked with Murante in developing college savings legislation this session: State Sens. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, Lou Ann Linehan of the Elkhorn area, Anna Wishart of Lincoln, Andrew La Grone of Gretna and Justin Wayne of Omaha.

These new policies can encourage positive habits for students and families and broaden educational opportunity. State leaders are right to promote them, and philanthropists are right to support them financially.


McCook Gazette. June 6, 2019

Will D-Day lessons be lost to history?

“She can’t take much more of this, captain!”

It turns out the traditional Scots engineer transported to the 23rd century for the original Star Trek series could take quite a lot, himself.

Seventy-five years ago today, future “Scottie” James Doohan stormed Juno beach with the Royal Canadian Artillery, taking out two snipers before being wounded with six bullets from a German machine gun. He lost part of a finger, but a silver cigarette case in his pocket stopped a bullet from piercing his heart.

David Niven was a lieutenant colonel in the British Commandos, helping keep commanders informed, Yogi Berra manned a naval support craft, firing rockets at enemy positions on Omaha Beach, future civil rights activist Medgar Evers served in a segregated black unit delivering supplies to the beachhead, author J.S. Salinger stormed Utah Beach on D-Day, director John Ford lead a team of Coast Guard cameramen filming a documentary for the Navy, but the footage has disappeared because of the number of Allied casualties it showed.

Nebraskan Henry Fonda was a quartermaster on the USS Satterlee destroyer and Obi-Wan Kenobi actor Alec Guinness was an officer on a landing craft transporting British soldiers to Normandy.

But the vast majority of the 100,000 Allied fighting men who survived the invasion went on to live ordinary lives, happy to have the chance at a mundane existence, suppressing guilt for having survived while so many of their companions did not.

The brochure, “Normandy, 6 June-24 July 1944,” prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military History by William M. Hammond, described this day, 75 years ago, like this:

“A great invasion force stood off the Normandy coast of France as dawn broke on 6 June 1944: 9 battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers, and 71 large landing craft of various descriptions as well as troop transports, mine sweepers, and merchantmen-in all, nearly 5,000 ships of every type, the largest armada ever assembled. The naval bombardment that began at 0550 that morning detonated large minefields along the shoreline and destroyed a number of the enemy’s defensive positions. To one correspondent, reporting from the deck of the cruiser HMS Hillary, it sounded like ‘the rhythmic beating of a gigantic drum’ all along the coast. In the hours following the bombardment, more than 100,000 fighting men swept ashore to begin one of the epic assaults of history, a ‘mighty endeavor,’ as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it to the American people, ‘to preserve our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.’

“The attack had been long in coming. From the moment British forces had been forced to withdraw from France in 1940 in the face of an overwhelming German onslaught, planners had plotted a return to the Continent. Only in that way would the Allies be able to confront the enemy’s power on the ground, liberate northwestern Europe, and put an end to the Nazi regime.”

Perhaps you grew up hearing World War II stories from your father or grandfather, or perhaps they left the tales of loss and sacrifice to their wives and sisters.

Sadly, the opportunities to hear those stories are rapidly disappearing, with fewer than half a million World War II?veterans still alive.

We can only hope and pray the lessons learned on the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago, as well as leading up to and following the invasion, are not lost to the present and future generations.


Lincoln Journal Star. June 9, 2019

Stadium alcohol sales must be for all fans - or none

Nebraska Athletics officials have again stirred the Sea of Red by suggesting alcohol in Memorial Stadium, but the most recent idea comes with a major catch.

Athletic Director Bill Moos recently said he’s considering allowing alcohol to be sold during football games - but just in suite areas. Such a plan prevents the vast majority of Husker fans from drinking in the stadium while bestowing a perk only to those who can afford the priciest seats in the house.

There should be no middle ground on this topic. In the interest of fairness, alcohol sales must be an all-or-nothing proposition.

The inequity of this latest thought is abundantly clear and sends a message that some fans matter more than others. Either allow everyone of age within the stadium access to purchase alcohol, or continue the current practice of banning it for everyone.

More than 55 Football Bowl Subdivision schools - more than 40% - allow some form of alcohol sales at their stadiums, according to Sports Illustrated. But that number will grow with the Southeastern Conference’s vote to end blanket prohibition on sales.

One of the schools that will restrict alcohol sales to only large donors is the University of Georgia. The club level, from which beer and wine will be sold, is accessible to the select few who have donated $100,000 or more to the university’s athletic association - a decision the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted angered many donors.

Permitting alcohol sales for all patrons of the legal drinking age has improved the fan experience at peer institutions - but not in the way one might imagine.

The same SI report noted that schools serving alcohol stadium-wide saw marked decreases in alcohol-related incidents - including a 65% decline at Ohio State University - attributed to less binge drinking before kickoff. Though this may appear paradoxical, the availability of alcohol encourages reasonable pacing.

Because no booze is available for purchase within the stadium, Husker fans may choose to down a couple more drinks before entering the line, smuggle small bottles of liquor past security or run out to the parking lot to pound a beverage or two during halftime.

All of those encourage consumption of large quantities of alcohol within a short period of time, which is counterintuitive to the message of safe drinking that should be promoted on a college campus. After all, a majority of undergraduates are younger than 21. For that reason alone, keeping Memorial Stadium dry also makes sense.

Whichever path the university chooses on alcohol sales, though, it must be the same for all ticketholders. Whether in bleachers or suites, Husker fans deserve equal ability to celebrate victories or soothe defeats with a drink.