Over the course of the last few weeks, the political ads for the Republican nomination for governor have been airing in full force. I take offense to the negative ads, filled with half-truths and misleading statements, that are being funded by candidate Pete Ricketts.
Although these ads hide behind some “action committee,” they are most certainly being funded by Mr. Ricketts and the very deep pockets of his family. I’m a firm believer that the candidate with the best ideas and most integrity should rise to the top in any election and not the candidate with the MOST MONEY TO SPEND. I understand and realize the power of the almighty dollar and what constant, high profile ads can do to sway elections. That is why I’m taking a stand and writing this letter.
I’ve known Jon Bruning my entire adult life. Although he’s not a perfect human being (last time I checked, none of us are), he is a man of integrity and one who holds Nebraska’s best interest at heart. Of the two candidates, he most certainly relates to what Nebraskans (both from the tiniest of towns and the largest of cities) face during the daily grind of life.
In today’s political climate, the more people of integrity we can put in office, the better our government can be. That is why I’m supporting Jon Bruning for governor.
Matt Boerkircher Aurora
While no one is looking
In Nebraska we take pride in governing ourselves differently than most other states have always done. We have a nonpartisan one-house legislature. No other state does. We have public power systems supplying electricity efficiently at a cost that’s beneficial to everyone. And we have placed the state’s most valuable resource, our water, in the hands of local Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) to be controlled by the residents of each watershed in the state. These boundaries don’t follow the boundaries of counties, of legislative districts, or of political parties, they follow the watershed boundaries created by nature .
Other states, like California, have allowed powerful special interest groups to gain control of important water supplies, which has led to unfortunate examples of corruption and abuse when one group diverts that water to further their own economic interests without accountability to the citizens.
In Nebraska we believe good government means keeping those who govern close to the issues they are allowed to decide. That requires having issues decided at the most local level possible by members of those communities. The NRDs have a four decade history of dealing with the difficult issues of protecting, conserving and managing the competing claims for water usage. This system is now under attack as never before.
Senator Lathrop has introduced LB 1074 as his priority bill, summarized vaguely as a bill “to change provisions relating to over appropriation designations” and “to harmonize provisions.” That doesn’t tell us much, does it? A better summary would be this: a bill relating to the transfer of all authority for determining water rights in Nebraska. With 72 pages in the bill and its amendment, it takes a great deal of reading and examination to see this bill’s real intent.
If passed, it would have disastrous effects both on this state’s agriculture and on the tax base of many local governmental bodies. This amendment is also its third one. They keep getting refused in committee, but new amendments with the same bad intent keep taking their place.
Two parallel systems of water rights have evolved over the years -- surface water rights and groundwater rights. As with many systems of rights and ownership, the historical fact is that the two sets of rights are sometimes contradictory, and often, more rights for water usage were granted than nature ‘s limited abundance is able to meet. NRDs have worked hard to balance and manage fairly the contradictions and trade-offs between the two systems of water rights.
The language in the bill and its amendment clearly intends to make all groundwater rights less important than surface water rights. The bill itself is not very transparent, as you might expect of any legislative attempt to create a great transfer of power over our state’s most valuable resource. The bill gives the Department of Natural Resources the task of creating an integrated management plan for every river basin and leaves the NRDs to make certain that all but the groundwater users have their full claims on water met. It specifically mentions bringing together for “consultation and collaboration” all “irrigation districts, reclamation districts, public power and irrigation districts, mutual irrigation companies, canal companies, and municipalities” to create agreements to share the water. These are all descriptions of mainly surface water users. The thousands of current holders of groundwater rights are written out of the picture. This is not how we should “harmonize provisions” for water usage! We have to ask ourselves, is this omission of all the groundwater irrigators just an accidental omission, or is it really the main purpose for this bill?
So the bill does this -- it sets up a way of saying that when any users of surface water can’t fulfill their entire claim to water, it is the groundwater users who must lose. But when irrigated ground becomes dryland, that ground loses about half its value. Rather than making one type of water user become the sure loser among competing claims, NRDs have the knowledge and expertise to work with those competing claims through conservation, technology, monitoring and incentives to find acceptable ways of managing that limited supply for everyone 's benefit. A distant state agency does not.
Here is the bottom line. Do you trust a moderate number of local NRDs to handle the competing claims of water usage within their own watersheds and be answerable to their neighbors and communities for the decisions they make? Or do you trust a single state agency, in this case the Department of Natural Resources, having to act under the usual pressure of the governor pushing his own political agenda and under the demands of those who put him in office? Are you comfortable with moving the control of Nebraska's valuable water to one big state agency where it is vulnerable to intensive lobbying by well-funded special interest groups eyeing the potentially high payoff of a huge shift in statewide water ownership? Clearly, local control has been the Nebraska choice for decision-making and has proven its worth. Other states have dealt with water differently and sometimes with tenible results. Our reaction to this bill, like water itself, will touch everything we do in the future.
Linda Luebbe, director Upper Big Blue NRD
Why move veterans home?
Who to blame? That seems to be the question when it comes to considering why the Grand Island Veterans Home was put up for bids by our governor and state director of Veterans Affairs, John Hilgert. When Hilgert publicly states that a new home would be built in Grand Island were his words deliberately misleading? Why have people from 61 different communities signed a petition disagreeing with Mr. Hilgert in his decision to move the Veterans Home?
Many questions have been asked numerous times as to the process used in the scoring criteria with no legitimate answers from Hilgert or the selection committee. Why did an architectural company from Kearney attend the summer conference of State Veterans Home Administrators the summer of 2013? Were any other architectural firms invited, or in attendance? Why did this same firm have the cost for attendance billed through the eastern Nebraska Veterans Home in August of 2013? And finally, isn't it interesting that this is the company that won the bid to build the new home.
The Governor of Nebraska says that the funding for a new home may be jeopardized if Central Nebraska continues to question the moving of the veteran's home from its current location. The choice to move the home was not made by the veterans, current members of the home, employees or citizens of Central Nebraska; it was decided by the governor and a handpicked group of three. Why shouldn't the people of Central Nebraska have a right to voice their concerns to the leadership in Washington D.C.? That seems to be the only way their voices may be heard and understood. The reasons for keeping the Grand Island Veterans Home at its current location have been well stated many times.
There are a few individuals who want everyone to believe that the veteran's organizations are in support of building a new veterans home in another community. If that is the case, where is a resolution of supporting the move from each of the various state veterans' organizations? When was the support to move the home voted on at any of their state conventions? I asked this question of Mr. Hilgert and received a response from attorney Susan Knabe of the DHHS stating they have no resolutions from the state veteran's organizations. Have the state commanders and members from each of the state veteran's organizations been left out of this process?
There has been an alternate proposal submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and to the Nebraska State Legislative members, clearly demonstrating a cost savings of between $40 and 50 million to keep the veterans home in Grand Island. This is a valid proposal that deserves serious consideration and does provide for new construction and yet preserves the existing landscape and use of some of the existing structures, while maintaining historical preservation. If we are serious about saving money then everyone needs to realize that moving the Grand Island Veterans Home to any other community is not a wise decision.
What to do now? I have been asked that question each week. If you believe that Grand Island Nebraska is the proper location for our veteran's home for Central Nebraska, then you should communicate those thoughts to the following;
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, attention: Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, 810 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20420. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will consider the priority listing for 2015 for construction costs sometime between April and December of this year. To stop the federal funding for the relocation of the Grand Island Veterans Home now is the time to write your letters. That is the only hope of correcting the injustice that was caused by a decision of the governor and State Director John Hilgert. Let's have the voices of Central Nebraska be heard and let those voices be loud and clear.
Donald Shuda Veterans Service Officer Hall/Howard/Nance /Sherman County
Cemetery a key issue in GI debate
There is one thing that bothers me very much about moving the Grand Island Veterans Home from Grand Island to Kearney. I’m unsure whether the Veterans Cemetery in Grand Island is to remain in Grand Island, when the living veterans are transferred to Kearney.
My knowledge about men in combat is that they vow never to leave another soldier behind, whether living or dead. So the question I have is this. How do the veterans now living in Grand Island feel about being moved to Kearney and leaving their Brothers in Arms behind in the Veterans Cemetery in Grand Island?
Have they been asked?
Geraldine L. Sader Aurora
Change needed in courthouse
Dear Editor: Hamilton County voters I’ve been thinking about a couple years ago when Larry Fox, Tim Bergen and Doug Anderson sent some papers to the state auditor on Duane Katt. The state auditor went over them and came up with a few charges that Duane had overcharged the county. They were never proven (Editor’s note: Nor were they disproven) and these three guys wrote letters and said all kinds of things about Duane that weren’t true. The bid Duane Katt submitted to the county on March 17, 2014 for paving, design, and specifications for road improvements was less than half of any other bid. So I really don’t think that Duane ever had any intentions of overcharging the county. I am glad that Larry Fox is out of office and the other two need to be voted out. I think these three guys should apologize to Duane Katt. A vote for Ivan Hongsermeier, Becky Richter and Wally Driewer would be greatly appreciated. If Doug Anderson would worry more about the ambulance department instead of the gravel trailers then maybe we wouldn’t have to call other towns to have our family members transported to Lincoln in other ambulances. Why are we short of paramedics in Hamilton County? We have more than one ambulance but they are not staffed, so they are not able to transport to Lincoln, so then we Life Flight to Lincoln. Most people cannot afford Life Flight and if they are being transported for some reason they should not have to worry about how they are going to pay a Life Flight bill. Get more paramedics. Roy Kliewer Stockham