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Nebraska Governor’s 2011 in review PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 06 January 2012 20:53

Dear Fellow Nebraskans

By Gov. Dave Heineman

 

The new year presents the opportunity to reflect upon the important issues that have been addressed during the past year.

In 2011, Nebraska has been able to build upon the momentum we were experiencing regarding job creation, education, public safety and growing Nebraska’s innovation economy.

We are fortunate in Nebraska to be in much better shape than the rest of the country because we don’t spend money we don’t have. Whether it’s the family budget or the business budget, this is a principle that we adhere to.

Additionally, we balanced the state budget without raising taxes, our unemployment rate is 4.1 percent and we are recognized nationally as a top ten business friendly state.

As Governor, I also focused on international trade, direct investment and the creation of new export opportunities. That was the focus of Nebraska’s second Reverse Trade Mission that was held last September.

As a result, several international companies have committed to investing millions of dollars in new and expanding businesses in Nebraska.

These companies could have located anywhere in the world, but they are choosing to come to Nebraska. They continue to cite the relationships we build, our work ethic and our competitive tax incentive programs as just a few of the many reasons that Nebraska is an ideal place to locate and expand business.

In the 2011 Legislative session, I signed into law the Talent and Innovation Initiative to advance business innovation and workforce recruitment efforts in Nebraska and to attract new, advanced companies to Nebraska.

Part of this initiative is the Nebraska Internship Program, which is off to a great start. A total $1,416,000 of the original $1.5 million appropriation has already been allocated for this program.

As part of our continued efforts to build Nebraska’s innovation economy, we have made a one-time investment of $25 million to accelerate the initial development of the University of Nebraska’s Innovation Campus, which is a critical component to our economic future.

With the move to the Big Ten, the University of Nebraska has an outstanding opportunity to significantly increase student enrollment, expand its rapidly growing research base and develop public-private partnerships at Innovation Campus that will increase job opportunities for Nebraskans.

The Nebraska Student Information System recently implemented by the state colleges and University of Nebraska is an example of our focus on greater efficiency in government.

This system is used by all seven university and state college campuses with the opportunity to ensure personalization by campus, allowing each institution to “brand” their own system.

The projects were first proposed as two separate systems with the costs estimated at more than $42.5 million dollars. The joint project was completed at a cost of $20.4 million dollars, saving our taxpayers approximately $20 million dollars.

To help ensure highway safety, travelers on Nebraska roads have a service available which provides real-time road and weather conditions using tools to monitor highway conditions and communicate road closings to travelers.

Whether accessed via hotline or website, the 511 system is a resource that continues to be very useful in the midst of road construction, severe weather conditions and road closure conditions.

This is vitally important when winter weather strikes and I encourage Nebraskans to utilize this resource and travel safely.

We’ve made great progress this year, but we have more work to do.

I am committed to making strategic decisions that provide our sons and daughters with a bright future. Together, we continue to make Nebraska the best place to live, to work and to raise a family.

 

Happy New Year.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 January 2012 20:56
 
WP among schools commended for high graduation rate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 22:08

The United States has adopted a uniform system of measuring high school graduation rates, referred to as the “Cohort Four-Year Graduation Rate.” A cohort is a group of students that share the same expected graduation year. This date is assigned to a student upon entering the ninth grade for the first time and doesn’t change for a student once assigned.

Beginning this year, citizens all across America will be able to compare their state’s cohort four-year graduation rate with other states. This will be the first time the entire country will be using the same calculation for measuring high school graduation rates.

Nebraska has always had one of the best high school graduation rates in America. Currently, our statewide cohort four-year graduation rate is 85.77 percent.

Nebraska’s P-16 Initiative (preschool through college) has a goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate for every high school in the state.

A 90 percent graduation rate is attainable because of our excellent public school system. Many high schools already exceed the 90 percent goal.

Among Class A Schools, Bellevue West, Lincoln Southwest, Millard North, Millard South, Millard West, Papillion-LaVista, and Papillion-LaVista South are already above 90 percent.

In Class B, Adams Central, Aurora, Bennington, Elkhorn High School, Grand Island Northwest, Gretna, Holdrege, Norris, Plattsmouth, Seward, Sidney and Waverly are above 90 percent.

The Class C-1 schools with a graduation rate above 90 percent are Ainsworth, Arlington, Ashland-Greenwood, Battle Creek, Boone Central, Broken Bow, Centennial, Centura, Cozad, David City, Fairbury, Fillmore Central, Gibbon, Gothenburg, Kimball, Milford, North Bend, O’Neill, Ord, Pierce, Platteview, Raymond Central, Sandy Creek, St. Paul, Syracuse, Tekamah-Herman, Valentine, Wahoo and Wayne.

In Class C-2, high schools exceeding the 90 percent graduation rate goal are Bayard, Blue Hill, Cambridge, Chase County, Crofton, Cross County, Doniphan-Trumbull, Dundy County, Elmwood-Murdock, Hershey, Homer, Humboldt-Table Rock, Laurel-Concord, Louisville, Malcolm, Neligh-Oakdale, Oakland-Craig, Palmyra, Perkins County, Plainview, Sutherland, Sutton, Tri County, Twin River, Weeping Water, Wilber-Clatonia, Wisner-Pilger, Wood River and Yutan.

There are 59 smaller schools that have 90 percent graduation rates — Alma, Amherst, Ansley, Arapahoe, Axtell, Bancroft-Rosalie, Bertrand, Bloomfield, Brady, Bruning-Davenport, Burwell, Callaway, Cedar Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Chambers, Clarkson, Cody-Kilgore, Crawford, Creek Valley, Creighton, Deshler, Diller-Odell, East Butler, Elgin, Elm Creek, Elwood, Emerson-Hubbard, Eustis-Farnam, Exeter-Milligan, Freeman, Friend, Fullerton, Garden County, Harvard, Heartland Community, High Plains Community, Hitchcock County, Johnson-Brock, Leigh, Lewiston, Loomis, Loup City, Maxwll, McCool Junction, Mead, Meridian, Mullen, Newcastle, Osceola, Osmond, Palmer, Pawnee City, Rock County, Scribner-Snyder, Shelton, Sterling, Stuart, Wauneta-Palisade, and Wilcox-Hildreth.

(For privacy concerns, federal law does not allow graduation data to be reported publicly if a high school graduation class has 10 or less students.)

I am very pleased that so many Nebraska high schools are already exceeding the goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate and next year I expect many more will achieve the 90 percent graduation rate goal.

If you would like to know your high school’s graduation rate, go to our website at www.governor.nebraska.gov and click on the “column” icon.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 December 2011 22:08
 
Local news best when handled locally PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 22:07

People who follow the news and public policy-making got a big surprise this week with the announcement that Omaha’s most famous businessman, Warren Buffett, was buying the Omaha World-Herald.

It was a move widely praised because it keeps Nebraska’s largest newspaper in Nebraska ownership.

Less widely heralded — perhaps unheralded outside the journalism college — was an employment notice that the Gannett Company, one of the nation’s biggest media empires, plans to hire more than 30 people in Des Moines to consolidate page design for 21 Gannett newspapers.

Hmmm.

Full disclosure: I used to work for both companies, spending 10 years from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s as a reporter in the World-Herald’s Washington Bureau, followed by five years as a regional correspondent for seven small Gannett newspapers in the Midwest.

So I took in this week’s news with special interest. And I think it gives people who care about news and public policy issues much to ponder.

Does it matter if the people who design the front page of my newspaper live three states away and have never laid eyes on my hometown?

Does it matter if the largest daily newspaper in my state is owned by someone who has roots in the community and the financial wherewithal to keep it healthy?

The headlines about the Buffett purchase all said he bought the newspaper, not a media company, although to be sure, the World-Herald is just that. But if you just think about those words — newspaper and media company — you’ll get very different messages.

Media company, of course, tends to refer to those businesses that publish newspapers, web sites, magazines or other niche publications and may also own various broadcast outlets or movie and television production companies.

But notice that the term focuses on the method of delivery — the “platform,” as people call it when they want to appear sophisticated.

Newspaper, on the other hand, tells you about its content, as well as the form in which it is delivered. And ultimately, it’s the content that matters, not whether you read it on a piece of paper or a computer screen or some hand-held device with tiny images you can’t see without putting on your reading glasses.

Maybe you don’t need reading glasses and maybe you like your mobile device. But if you care about what happens in your community, you’ll also care about getting the news.

No one but the journalists at your local news outlet — whether it’s published on paper or on a screen — will tell you what the school board did this week. Or what the candidates for city council or county board of commissioners say they want to change about local government. Or whether local law enforcement officers are taking bribes. Or whether the village board is holding meetings in secret.

Spend all the time you want surfing the Web for national and international news, but don’t count on the New York Times or MSNBC to tell you what’s happening at the statehouse or the county courthouse or report the fate of the high school speech team’s competition or the American Legion ball players’ season.

For that you need fellow Nebraskans — and those who have adopted Nebraska — who care about their state and their communities and want to make them better, by offering news and information you need to be an informed citizen.

What you need is people who think of themselves as performing an essential public service, not as part of a consolidated design team or a media company, but as part of a newspaper.

 

MARY KAY QUINLAN is the Bureau Chief with the Nebraska News Service. She can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 December 2011 22:08
 
Lunar eclipse will prove elusive for southwest Nebraska PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 22:06

The big astronomical news this week is the total lunar eclipse which will occur on Saturday, Dec. 10.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when Earth’s shadow crosses the face of the moon. Such events only happen when the moon is full.

That is the good news, now for the bad news — we won’t be able to see much of it from here in southwest Nebraska.

From our point of view the total portion of the eclipse starts at about 6 a.m. MT. That is when the moon will enter the darkest part of Earth’s shadow called the umbra.

At that point a noticeable shadow will start to cross the lunar face. From that point it usually takes about an hour for the shadow to completely cover the moon. That point is called totality. The bad part for us is, that’s when the moon will set — just as totality begins.

So, you early risers find yourself a good, clear, uncluttered view of the western horizon, grab a cup of coffee, or other suitable warm beverage of choice, and watch as the shadow covers the face of the moon then disappears below the horizon.

Now, more good news. For readers who live in Alaska or Hawaii you will be able to watch all of the eclipse, from the beginning of totality to the end.

From Alaska, totality will begin at about 4 a.m. local time and end a couple of hours later. From Hawaii be out looking at about 3 a.m. local time.

As for our planetary parade, Venus is that bright thing you have been seeing in the west after sunset these evenings. Keep an eye on Venus for the next several months into June of next year. Our sister planet will have several conjunctions with the moon and a couple of other planets. There will be a great conjunction of a very slender crescent moon and Venus on Monday, Dec. 26.

Jupiter is coming on strong as an evening object. It is that bright thing you have been wondering about in the eastern skies just after sunset.

Mars is making a return to our skies. It rises in the east at about 12:30 a.m. local time and is due south at about 5:30 a.m. Mars is another object to keep an eye on for the next few months.

Saturn is another morning object. It is visible almost due south about an hour before sunrise located close to the bright star Spica.

Finally, tiny Mercury has returned to the morning skies visible about a half-hour before sunrise.

Mercury never gets too far above whatever horizon it is over west or east so some kind of optical aid, binoculars or a telescope is often helpful. Look in the southeast.

The fleet-footed planetary speedster will rise higher each day until Dec. 16 when it will head back for the horizon.

SKY WATCH: Full moon and total lunar eclipse Dec. 10. Geminid meteor shower Dec. 13. Usually a good shower to watch, but this year the close proximity of the just-past full moon will spoil any viewing.

NEXT WEEK: Astronomical gift suggestions and more astronomical blathering.

 

Vernon Whetstone of Benkelman is the “stargeezer” who compiles “What’s Up.” He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 December 2011 22:07
 
Deer hunting season a half century ago PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:12

By Dr. Paul Kengor

Grove City College

 

This fall hunters across America storm the woods loaded for deer. For yet another indication of how times have changed, consider this account of Deer Season a half century ago:

My mothe0r’s family lived in Emporium, Penn., as did dozens of their relatives.

Emporium is a tiny town nestled in the mountains near the north/central part of the state. Back in the 1940s, when my mother was born, my grandmother had worked as a Rosie Riveter at the Sylvania plant. Some reading this article will remember owning a huge, heavy Sylvania TV — back when you got only three channels.

Sylvania employed half the town. Farming was another means of employment, which my grandfather and his parents and nine siblings had done down the road in Rich Valley.

Still, neither Sylvania nor farming nor anything else did much to populate tiny Emporium.

Once a year, however, the place was flooded with people. That time of year was Deer Season, when out-of-town hunters arrived like an incoming Army, loaded with rifles and bullets. “Army” is a good metaphor, given that a large portion of the hunters were World War II vets. They came from the mills and mines of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. They came to shoot a deer.

During that special week, Emporium’s streets were bustling, the bars were jammed, and churches had more people than usual, including St. Mark’s, where hunters sought out the priest for a blessing before heading into the woods.

The lone hotel was full, leaving hunters looking for lodging. Some packed into makeshift hunting camps. Some slept in their cars. Sleeping in a car was no big deal to guys who had fought in Germany, France, the Battle of the Bulge. Nonetheless, they searched for a place with a roof, heat, a bathroom — which brings me to my main focus:

My grandmother always took in boarders during Deer Season. In fact, the whole town did.

Up and down every street, hunters knocked on doors asking if the home was taking boarders. Bear in mind, these were complete strangers carrying guns and lots of ammunition. And yet, there was never any fear that they were a threat to a household.

“I never heard of any problems anywhere,” recalls my mother, who was a little girl when the hunters stayed at her house. “There was never any concern about the safety of anyone, including the kids. Today you can’t trust anyone. It was different then.”

It was very different. There was also a general trust of hunters, a trust I believe is still merited and shared in those areas. My Uncle Carl, my mom’s brother, says, “I still think that hunters are a special breed and even though they kill animals most are very caring, trustworthy, and law abiding.”

My uncle remembers my grandparents taking in so many people that he lost track. “During hunting season our house was a zoo,” he says.

For a few dollars per person, my grandparents hosted two or three hunters per night, giving them a bedroom and maybe the backroom. The hunters marched inside with all their gear.

As evening fell, early in the winter, my grandmother made dinner for everyone. They all shared a meal. The hunters talked and played and joked with the kids.

After dinner, they got their equipment in order and went to bed — snoring loudly through the night. Around 5 a.m., my grandmother made breakfast for the hunters, typically bacon and ham and eggs.

The meals were special. “I enjoyed the stories at night and breakfast in the morning as much as the hunting,” says my uncle.

Then they were off to the woods. If they shot a deer early, some headed straight back to Pittsburgh, hoisting the gutted carcass atop the Oldsmobile. Others, if they got a deer late, might return to the house, where my grandmother cooked up some venison.

If they had no luck, they stayed another night or two.

This scene was repeated in house after house in Emporium.

My Aunt Della, who lived across the railroad tracks and river, took in boarders in an apartment above her garage. She tended to get the same guys year to year. I’m sure her Rigatoni and meatballs were a factor.

Can you imagine this today? Any of this?

Yes, the culture has really changed. America has changed.

 

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:13
 
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