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THE PUBLIC PULSE

THE PUBLIC PULSE

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Unpaved streets an embarrassment

We live on the 900 block of South 86th Street in Omaha. After several requests for pothole repairs, we have been told by the city that the next step for our street is to grind the surface, similar to that of 113th Street ("This 'misery lane' will get some city help," Feb. 22 World-Herald).

Streets in this condition are an embarrassment to our fine city. I disagree with those who say it is not fair that all residents in the city have to pay for our repairs.

Why not? No one from the city is barred from using our streets. In fact, parishioners at Christ the King church and shoppers at Countryside Village all use our streets, as do residents who live in the area north of Pacific. What about garbage trucks, construction vehicles, the diverted traffic when 84th Street is closed for repairs?

When the city's sewer system was found to need a $2 billion overhaul, everyone was told "you have to pay." The contractors who built our homes took shortcuts, and the city allowed them to get away with it. Many of the homes on these dirt roads are no longer owned by the original owners. We had no input in the infrastructure for our neighborhood. Errors were made, and corrective action is required by the city.

By the way, can we put up a gate and toll booth on my street or close it to only residents?

Terry Hexum, Omaha

Bring back asphalt and potholes

We live next to a stretch of Bancroft Street that the city decided to grind up and make into a dirt road to save money. When it was paved with asphalt, it had potholes but it was still in pretty good shape. The city changed that in May 2014 without warning.

Now it's dirt, and when it rains or the snow melts, it becomes a mud hole. When it's dry and the wind blows, we can't open our windows due to the dust.

I recently had to rake three inches of dirt off our lawn and back into the street so that it didn't kill the grass. We now have people driving on our lawn and through our driveway in order to avoid what used to be a paved road.

I have seen more city trucks grading, adding debris to the road and removing the debris from the street further down the hill since the paving was removed than ever before. If this was done in order to cut costs, it must have backfired.

The policy that caused this should be changed. Complaints to the city are silenced with the warning that any improvements must be paid for by those living next to the street. We did not ask for the paving to be removed. Just put it back!

Robert Heller, Omaha

Why should we pay?

When a developer builds a subdivision, the improvements include sewers, water, gas, power and concrete pavement (normally). Those costs are then assessed against each lot and are included in the cost when a person buys the lot. So the homeowner is paying his share of the improvements — they are not included in general taxes. As a home is sold through the years to new buyers, the new owners in effect are paying for all past improvements.

Regarding the unimproved streets throughout Omaha — why should the city foot the bill for any type of street improvement? I believe the existing abutting property owners should pay for the new street — they are the ones benefiting from it.

Clark Squires, Omaha

A right to clean water

The Nebraska Legislature is currently considering Legislative Resolution 378CA, a proposed constitutional amendment that states that "the Legislature shall pass no law which abridges the right of citizens and lawful residents of Nebraska to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest."

That sounds reasonable enough. Except that "compelling state interest" is a very specific legal phrase that holds laws to a very high legal standard that could jeopardize a wide variety of laws put in place to protect our water, soil, air and workers.

All across rural America, farmers, ag groups and corporations are worried about regulation. They don't want outsiders dictating their use of GMOs and chemicals or how they treat their animals. If a "right to farm" is protected in the way LR 378CA intends, it will be much easier to challenge and likely avoid government regulation. At the same time, the impact farmers have on the environment can place burdens on our most basic necessity: water. The City of Des Moines is suing three Iowa counties because Des Moines has been forced to remove excessive nitrates from its drinking water. The nitrates came from farm runoff somewhere upstream, allegedly in the counties being sued.

So should states pass "Right to Drink" amendments that guarantee the right to clean drinking water? Sounds silly, but what if a "Right to Farm" state had the issues Des Moines is having? Would my right to farm trump your right to drink?

Alex McKiernan, Martell, Neb.

Cities shouldn't micromanage libraries

It's surprising that some believe that City Hall management of our libraries would bring better results ("Proposal shifts power over library to the city," Feb. 2 World-Herald). City governments have a tough enough time handling street maintenance, snow removal, filling pot holes, and a long list of other duties. They don't need to add libraries to that list.

The proposed legislation, Legislative Bill 969, would shift more authority of the library from the library board to the city. But it's not like city officials don't have a say in library spending and policy. The Omaha Public Library's Board of Directors creates a budget with the library director's help. The budget is then brought to City Hall and examined by the mayor and City Council, who either approve it or make adjustments.

When I was president of the library board, we worked closely with the mayor and council members regarding library needs, such as building a new South Omaha library to replace a tiny one that could not adequately serve its patrons.

I suggest we leave a good system in place and discard the Legislature's bill handing control of Nebraska's libraries to public officials who have too many other problems to handle.

Edward J. Trandahl, Omaha former president, Omaha Library Board

Reining in outrageous loan rates

Lincoln state Sen. Kathy Campbell's Legislative Bill 1036, which would cap the effective annual interest rate on a payday loan at 36 percent, down from 460 percent, should be a no-brainer. Of course, the owner of payday loan operations are against this since they can now legally charge massive loan rates.

Legislators should have a heart and pass this bill. It is a way to show we care about the poor, and it won't cost the State of Nebraska any money. In fact, it could strengthen the economy by helping those trapped in payday loan cycles avoid bankruptcy.

I am certain these payday loan operators will find a way to make a profit charging customers a 36 percent interest rate.

Linda McCauley, Fremont, Neb.

Ensuring we keep the Good Life

Feb. 15 Public Pulse writer Pat Kelly asked how Gambling with the Good Life is making our lives good. This organization, which is fighting the push to legalize casino gambling in Nebraska, has saved many people from bankruptcy, divorce, losing everything they own and even suicide.

Many people have seen family members struggle with a gambling addiction. Gambling with the Good Life is one of the most worthwhile organizations in the state. Why else would former Cornhusker football coach Tom Osborne, Gov. Pete Ricketts and University of Nebraska Regent Hal Daub be involved with it?

Gambling is one thing Nebraska does not need.

Carol Koenig, Beatrice, Neb.

Let riders be pro-choice

Concerning Bill Cary's Feb. 24 Public Pulse letter, "Before taking off that helmet . . ." I ride a motorcycle and I can agree with his requirements for riding helmet-less.

Riders should have a choice. I wish everyone who doesn't ride could know how we really think. And, no, I don't make all poor choices.

Bob Jackson, Omaha

Ourmoney, their priorities

A modest, unknown author has figured out that: "The reason for higher taxes is to keep folks from spending their money foolishly on things they want so the government can spend it foolishly on things other folks want."

A thought worth considering in an election year.

Ruth Lienemann, Papillion

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