High-Road Political Ad Is Welcome,
Even When It Goes Too Far

Let’s start today with praise for a trip on the political campaign high road.

We are more accustomed to lower-road campaigning and vague promises of tax reduction and “greater efficiency” and, in a recent local example, a candidate’s refusal to identify supporters who were financing, anonymously, political low-road attacks on the candidate’s opponent.

The “high road” example was a mailing financed by supporters of Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle, who lost to challenger Jean Stothert.

The card mailed to Omaha homes carried the headline:  “Best,” then listed a number of non-Omaha-originated evaluations of the city, including:  “10 BEST PLACES TO LIVE,” “BEST CITY TO RAISE YOUR KIDS,” “BEST PLACE TO SURVIVE THE RECESSION” AND “BEST 10 CITIES FOR FINDING A JOB.”

A Welcome Reminder Of Omaha’s National Reputation

Then followed a brief pitch from Dr. Barry Munyon, which, I would have to say, drops off the political high road to give Mayor Jim Suttle credit for the national rankings.  Simply listing the national rankings and asking voters to give Jim Suttle the opportunity to continue to work to earn and maintain such national rankings would have been enough.

But it was important that even in the middle of a contentious(?) political campaign we live in a city that ranks very high nationally.

In the pile of mailings on their way to the wastebasket, I encountered three more particularly worthy of criticism:

–An eleventh-hour National Rifle Association mailing urging a vote for Jean Stothert because of what I would agree was totally unrealistic local-gun-control proposal endorsed by Suttle.  Suttle’s proposal had absolutely no chance of adoption and didn’t justify the NRA poking its nose into Omaha’s mayoral election.

–An absolutely irresponsible mailing by the Douglas County Republican Party listing every Republican running as a candidate in the elections for mayor, city council and school board, with the unspoken but not so subtle suggestion that Omaha Republicans vote for Republicans in the supposedly non-partisan elections.

–On the Democratic Party side, another reason why it was unfortunate that Marian Fey was re-elected to the Omaha School Board.  Fey authorized an eleventh-hour mailing by the Nebraska Democratic Party endorsing her re-election.

Injecting party politics into the school board election is another reason why Fey should be replaced as president of the school board.

* * *

Heineman’s Understandable Focus On Governorship
Starts Some Far-Out Senate Candidate Speculation

Still on the subject of politics, starting with a critique of another of those headlines that don’t accurately reflect the story that follows.

The headline:  “More hats in ring as governor says no.”  (The “no” referred to Governor Heineman’s decision not to seek a seat in the United States Senate.)

There were no hats in ring at the time the story was published.  The story simply listed a number of possible senatorial candidates, not a one of whom had tossed his or her political hat into the ring by announcing as a candidate, the commonly-accepted “hat in the ring” usage.

Instead of “hats in the ring,” the story listed a number of what the news story described as “possible candidates.”  Some were quite obvious:

Fortenberry, Ricketts Understandably Stand Out

On the Republican side, First Congressional District Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln, who some time ago announced his interest in possibly seeking the Senate seat, and Omaha attorney Pete Ricketts, National Republican Committeeman from Nebraska and an unsuccessful candidate against the formidable Democrat Ben Nelson in 2006.

Others listed as “possible” candidates—former State Treasurer Shane Osborn, Midland University President Ben Sasse, Attorney General Jon Bruning and former State Treasurer Don Stenberg—are, as I see it, not likely to run and, if they run, very unlikely to win the nomination if candidates like Fortenberry and Ricketts are seeking the Republican nomination.

On the Democratic side, The World-Herald listed four possibilities, starting, quite logically, with former University of Nebraska Board of Regents member Chuck Hassebrook, director of the Center for Rural Affairs.  Hassebrook filed for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2012 but did not pursue a campaign when former Senator Bob Kerrey made is eleventh-hour decision to run.

Hassebrook Would Be Formidable Candidate

Hassebrook would be a formidable Democratic nominee, although the odds would appear to be against him in a state with so many more voters registered as Republicans than as Democrats.

Also mentioned as a Democratic possibility was Kim Robak, former lieutenant governor and former vice president of the University of Nebraska system.

I think highly of Kim Robak but I believe she is happily established as attorney and lobbyist and her most likely political opportunities are behind her.

Brad Ashford Predictably Considers Run

Then there is the always available State Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha, who has at various times been a Democrat or a Republican has now registered as a political independent.

Ashford, who finished fourth in this year’s competition for two spots on the May ballot for mayor of Omaha, told a reporter he is thinking of running as a registered Independent.  Ashford said that in a deeply-divided Senate, an Independent could gain significant power in short order, which would be good for Nebraska.

Nebraska has not been represented in the Senate by an independent since 1942 when a much-honored Independent, George W. Norris of McCook, at age 81 went to the political well once too often.   In the primary election that year, Norris lost out to a popular Omaha TV personality, Democrat Foster May, who won the nomination and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate against Republican Kenneth Wherry of Pawnee City.

I think it can safely be said that good advice for the likeable Ashford would be that there are no signs that Nebraskans are ready to elect an Independent to the Senate 72 years after George Norris was defeated.

* * *

Governor Makes Good Call On Major
Budget Items But Nitpicks On Others

While I understand Governor Dave Heineman’s decision to work hard at being governor through the entire record-breaking ten years in office, and also understand that a run for the Senate would require a great deal of his time during his final months in office, I am puzzled by his negative (nitpicking?) attention to some very small budget items as he considers a $7.8 billion appropriation to fund state government for the next two years.

Heineman has made good decisions on a number of very major items—including funds for the University of Nebraska to allow the university to freeze tuition rates for the next two years.  But on some smaller items he comes across something like Ebenezer Scrooge in vetoing $7.8 million in spending increases appropriated by the Legislature for the following purposes:

A new building for the School of Nursing in Lincoln, part of the funding for remodeling the Nebraska State Historical Society Museum, increases in support for affordable housing, mass transit in cities, homeless shelters and a program that links volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children.

All seemingly worthy purposes deserving a relatively tiny place in a $7.8 billion state budget.

* * * 

Smorgasbord Anyone?
Ironically, Filibuster Blocks The Passage
Of Chambers’ Bill Ending Death Penalty


This week’s serving of smorgasbord, as always, put on the menu with the hope that you find an item of interest or, even better, you find all items to be of interest:

–It perhaps was inevitable that the return to the Legislature of State Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, master of the filibuster to block bills that otherwise would pass, has helped encourage other senators to adopt the Chambers tactic, resulting in the non-passage of bills which have majority support but not the 33 votes necessary to break a filibuster.

The World-Herald Tuesday reported on two successful filibusters that blocked the will of the legislative majority.  The news story said:

“Conservatives used filibusters in recent weeks to block the expansion of Medicaid, the healthcare program for the needy, and to prevent the repeal of the death penalty.”

And repeal of the death penalty has long been a legislative goal of Senator Chambers (a goal which I share with him).

The irony of Chambers being defeated by his favorite weapon—the filibuster—on the death penalty issue is certainly not lost on—and perhaps enjoyed by—those who have long felt that Chambers has overused the filibuster in an effort to force his will on the Legislature.

–I don’t think a proposal to increase Omaha’s municipal sales tax by ½ cent would have any chance of success if put to a vote of the people.

But I certainly disapprove of legislative action to block the possibility of such a vote by the citizens of Omaha while leaving intact in state law the ½-cent-increase popular vote option available to every other city in the state.

I agree with Senator Chambers in his stance on the issue of a ½-cent sales tax increase.  The sales tax is a regressive tax; i.e., it falls most heavily on persons of lower income.

But Senator Chambers’ views—and mine and others with a similar viewpoint—should not help determine whether our fellow Omaha citizens should be deprived of a right which will continue to exist for the residents of every other city in the state.

–“Omaha Gives,” the much-heralded and applauded 24-hour of efforts to increase philanthropic giving in Omaha, was, as I see it, not worth the effort.

Some worthy causes funded by philanthropic contributions simply used the highly-promoted 24-hour effort to get matching funds for gifts their supporters would have given this year without the matching fund incentive.

So the “Omaha Gives” 24-hour blitz could be—and was—used by savvy fund-raisers to attract matching funds for contributions which would otherwise have gone directly to the same worthy cause.

In short, the pursuit of matching funds should not be interpreted as a 24-hour effort that significantly increased the total philanthropic performance of the Omaha community.

* * *

Marian Hangs Onto Hope For Cubs

Sports  junkie that she is, in the mass of game results that she follows every day, Marian most often comes up with at least one result that leaves her upbeat and hoping for better things for her favorites.

So it was on Memorial Day, when the Chicago Cubs beat the Chicago White Sox 11-0.

The Cubs are well below .500 but “results like that 11-0 win give me a glimmer of hope,” Marian said as she assessed the Memorial Day results—baseball, basketball, tennis, whatever.

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