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October 23, 2008
If allowing a state to split up its presidential electoral votes is a good idea, why haven’t more states than Nebraska and Maine adopted it?
For reasons inexplicable to me, the Nebraska Legislature in 1991 went along with a proposal by State Senator DiAnna Schimek, former Democratic national committee member, to provide that if a presidential candidate wins a majority of the votes in one of the state’s three congressional districts, one of the state’s five electoral votes goes to that candidate.
Democrat Schimek’s motivation was certainly clear. Less clear was why the Legislature, whose membership traditionally includes a majority of Republicans, went along with a Democratic Party plan to make Nebraska one of only two states in which the minority party could pick up a Presidential electoral vote.
It was a long time in coming, but the success of that Democratic Party ploy in the 1991 legislative session has resulted in 15—that’s right—15 paid Obama campaign workers busily trying to attract Second Congressional District votes—including in North Omaha where most Omaha blacks live.
A totally undeserving beneficiary of this policy, incidentally, may be the Democratic candidate for Congress, Jim Esch, who is contesting with Republican incumbent Rep. Lee Terry for the Second District seat. I say undeserving beneficiary because Esch, to my knowledge, has no really sound reason why Terry should be unseated except the fact that he’s a Republican and Esch is a Democrat.
But the Obama concentration on the Second Congressional District has helped put the Second District House seat in play, at least in the judgment of Democratic leaders in Washington who are providing hundreds of thousands of dollars for a major late surge of television advertising for Esch.
What about the basic principles involved here? Is it appropriate, fair, logical that if the entire electorate of a state gives a majority of its votes to one presidential candidate or the other, a minority of voters in one of the Congressional Districts should be given the privilege of naming one of the state’s Electoral College delegates?
There comes to mind the 1990 gubernatorial election, in which Democrat Ben Nelson upset Republican incumbent Kay Orr by 4,030 votes, a victory margin of 7/100s of 1%.
Republican Orr carried 60 counties, while Democrat Nelson carried 33. Nelson’s 6,352 vote deficit in the rest of the state was overcome by Orr’s 10,382 vote margin in Lancaster County.
Nelson’s margin of victory came from a minority of the state’s voters—those in Lancaster County. But overall, thin as the margin was, Nelson got the majority of the votes and won the governorship, not 50.007th of it. The majority rules.
It seems to me that the same majority-rule reasoning should be applied to the way Nebraska’s electoral votes are awarded.
* * *
Whether mental health should receive insurance coverage equal to that for physical illnesses is a legitimate issue for Congress to address.
But not address in a way that is so typical of Congressional performance, slipping an issue through Congress by attaching it to a measure which has broad support and high priority for passage.
Those who have worked for bringing mental health insurance up to parity with physical health insurance are delighted, of course, that the requirement was written into the multi-billion-dollar economic bailout legislation which was rushed through Congress. But for my money, they should be ashamed that they used the economic emergency as an opportunity to win Congressional approval of a proposal which they had not been able to sell to Congress as a stand-alone issue.
A New York Times story said some mental health insurance advocates are ecstatic. The story said that the new law will make it easier for people to obtain treatment for a wide range of conditions, including depression, autism, schizophrenia, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.
So people who can’t control their drinking and eating habits or their abuse of drugs without health insurance-financed treatment are now to become eligible for insurance coverage comparable to that offered to, say, cancer victims.
An issue for Congress to decide on its merits, not slipped through as an eleventh-hour “earmark” as enticement for a small group of “parity” advocates to vote for the economic bailout legislation.
* * *
How many times have you heard or read Democratic presidential candidate Barrack Obama or one of his liberal supporters charge that Republicans support tax breaks for “Big Oil” while oil companies are generating record profits and drivers are paying record-high prices at the gas pump?
While such charges receive a good deal of exposure through news coverage and political advertising, another side of the story gets this kind of attention: A seven-paragraph story tucked among the advertisements below the fold on an inside page of a recent newspaper edition. That story was headlined:
“Oil industry pumps up exploration.” The subhead read:
“The search for oil reached $309 billion last year, while the industry’s net income totaled just $246 billion.”
The Bloomberg News report said that a study by IHS Herold Inc. and Harrison Lovegrin & Company showed that spending on exploration and development by oil companies was up 20% in 2007 while net income earned by crude oil producers like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Show rose 2%.
Net income per barrel remained unchanged at $12.98, and the profit margin per barrel fell for a third consecutive year, the report said.
* * *
Add aspects of the news which seem to me are not getting adequate attention:
No one, so far as I know, has publicly addressed the question of whether the Kansas City Royals would continue to supply players to a Triple-A franchise if the franchise is moved out of the Omaha area and put down in, for example, Vancouver, British Columbia or Sugarland, Texas.
These two locations have been mentioned repeatedly in news stories about what might happen if the owners of the Royal franchise can’t find a satisfactory new home in the Omaha area when Rosenblatt Stadium is demolished.
It seems to me to be a pretty far stretch to suggest that the Kansas City Royals would be pleased with a “farm club” in Canada or in a suburb of Houston, where there is, after all, a major league franchise.
We have, finally, an answer to another obvious question which hung over the where-will-the-Royals-wind-up discussions:
A spokesman for those interested in providing a new, smaller ballpark for the Omaha Royals in the Papillion-LaVista area has publicly confirmed that the project would require financial support from the Omaha business community.
I would say there is a question whether the Omaha business community, already committed to something like $40 million or more of support for the construction of a new downtown Omaha ballpark as a home for the College World Series, would be willing to help finance the construction of a ballpark in Sarpy County.
I would think that before plans for a Papillion/LaVista ballpark go much further, the sponsors should be talking to representatives of Omaha private sector funding sources. Perhaps such discussions are going on. And perhaps the news media should be asking whether this is the case.
* * *
Speaking of Sarpy County, it seems to me that at least as high a priority as an Omaha Royals ballpark should be efforts to see that Sarpy County does right by Omaha Steaks International in the matter of the 123,000-square-foot Omaha Steaks distribution center, construction permits for which were approved by Sarpy County officials.
The record seems clear that Omaha Steaks went ahead with assurance from Sarpy County officials that the firm’s plans for the new structure county zoning requirements at the time.
Now comes a surprising State Supreme Court decision declining to even review a Nebraska Court of Appeals ruling that found the building was erected in violation of Sarpy County’s architectural rules.
(I might say in passing that the current interest—sometimes rising to the level of obsession—in requiring new buildings to use fancier architecture, signs and landscaping can be carried too far. The most important thing is what goes on inside the building—how many jobs are involved, for example.)
The news story reporting the Supreme Court ruling quoted Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov as saying it’s possible that the county could be involved in a financial settlement which would help provide funds for moving the building towards the new architectural and landscaping standards.
County Attorney Polikov said that such a financial settlement has been done before, “where we’ve made a mistake.” But, he added, not a mistake of “this size.”
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