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The Public Pulse: Legislature has major pluses; City Council lacks backbone; Tax burden

The Public Pulse: Legislature has major pluses; City Council lacks backbone; Tax burden

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Legislature’s pluses

A recent opinion contributor opined (More Commentary, May 30) that Nebraska’s Unicameral does not serve the state as well as the two-house arrangements found in other states. I respectfully disagree. After seven legislative sessions, I have come to fully appreciate the great benefits of Nebraska’s unique one-house nonpartisan legislature.

Based on my attendance and experience at national meetings of state legislators, I can attest to the fact that representatives and senators from other states are envious of our unusual legislative system. Absent the traditional party caucus structure in other states, Nebraska senators are freer to exercise independent judgment and avoid pressure from one-sided political parties. Moreover, with only 49 nonpartisan members in the Nebraska Legislature, stronger individual relationships are created that can help bridge the usual partisan rancor which inevitably occurs during the legislative process.

With every bill receiving a hearing and our open meeting law requirements, neutral watchdog groups give the Unicameral high marks among all states for transparency and accountability. Generally but not always, the Unicameral avoids the toxic environment that we see so often in other states and particularly in our national government. Those critics who are unhappy with the Nebraska Unicameral system apparently want to replicate the poisonous partisan, two-house legislative systems found elsewhere.

John S. McCollister, Omaha

state senator, District 20

The real problems

Chris Chappelear argues in his May 30 Midlands Voices opinion essay that a two-house legislature is the solution to a variety of ills he says are demonstrated in our single-house legislature.

There may be problems in the Unicameral, but Mr. Chappelear’s blame is misplaced.

The Legislature has been controlled for decades by a single political party — his. That party is now controlled by a single family whose political spending allows it to choose state representatives across the state. Those who owe their seat to the Ricketts family do as they are told.

As to the control by lobbyists of the Unicam, he should look to term limits for the blame. Term limits hamper development of experienced leadership with loyalty to constituents and the institution and deprive voters of valuable public servants.

Let’s look to what we know — single-party rule, the corrosive influence of money in politics and turnover in the Unicam have hurt responsible policy making in Nebraska. We do not need to compound our trouble by changing from 49 legislators to 130!

Patricia Zieg, Omaha

Tax burden

After reading letters from Pat Welch and Edward Tusa in Sunday’s World-Herald Public Pulse page, we felt the need to vent a little ourselves.

From 2012 through 2015, our home’s property valuation was $123,900. In 2016 the valuation was $132,600. From 2017 through 2020, the valuation was $138,300. In 2021, our most recent valuation is now a whopping $232,800.

No, that is not a typo. In the last year our property has increased by $94,500 in value.

We live a block west of 90th and Fort Streets. This is not a blooming, growing area with a lot of building and business expansion going on. Since moving here in 2016, the area has lost a Gordman’s and a Shopko. In their place we have a showplace for classic cars and a storage facility, which are definitely better than empty buildings but not really bringing in commerce.

As Mr. Welch stated, those of us on fixed incomes are grateful for the state’s exemption in income tax for military pensions and the phasing in of an exemption for Social Security. But like him and Mr. Tusa, we find that the county cancels out those tax breaks and, in fact, adds to the tax burden.

We will protest to the Board of Equalization but fear it will be a lost cause. Since we budget for tax costs monthly, we now have only six months to come up with the extra funds we will need for next year’s taxes. Belts will be tightened.

Pat and Darrell Wineinger, Omaha

Nebraska’s plate problem

I just had the pleasure of going to the Dakota County Courthouse to register my new car. It’s not a wonder that I waited 10 years to buy a new car; the registration cost is staggering. That raises lot of questions about our state’s direction about business and what laws we want to enforce.

I just bought the new car, so I am back to huge annual renewal fees for about the next 10 years again. I am forced to do this, or, when you live in a border town (South Dakota and Iowa), you can cheat and register the car in another state. And worse than that, in my county, the number of cars I see that either have no plates, paper plates that are expired, or out of state plates is huge. I see Iowa, Texas, Arizona, South Dakota, Oregon plates parked in garages and driveways everywhere.

The police simply do not enforce our regulations, and that makes the rest of us pay more to license our vehicles because they have not. I think it is a valid reason to stop a car that is not registered or out of date. Take the address and send them a notice to register locally.

I am not saying arrest the offender. I am saying impound the vehicle and make that owner pay a fine and bring it up to date.

Verne Climer,

South Sioux City, Neb.

Unsafe aircraft

Regarding “Offutt squadron retires the last ‘old and irritable’ Open Skies jet” (June 4 World-Herald article):

Thirteen years ago, I made a protected disclosure to both Congress and the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General regarding aircraft maintenance deficiencies within the 55th Wing. The last paragraph on the cover page of my disclosure read, “A public release of the following information could have international consequences, especially to the Foreign Nationals who fly on, and trust that the two Open Skies aircraft are airworthy.”

In January 2016, Col. George “Marty” Reynolds conducted an electronic Commanders Call via the website Reddit. The last question presented to Col. Reynolds concerned maintenance problems with the OC-135 while operating oversees: “... What’s your take on the current status of the OC-135 aircraft. I know acquisition is a big air force question, but is there anything that can be done at the wing level to get these two tails to a state where we can fly a mission without a near catastrophic failure or getting stranded in some backwater airfield with no support?”

Some aviation experts suggest that the maintenance problems of the 55th Wing exist because of the aircraft’s age. I disagree. I concede that age is a factor, but I strongly argue that the main culprit is faulty maintenance practices coupled with inadequate training — and managers who encourage low standards in exchange for “on time” delivery of aircraft that are far from airworthy.

Good riddance to the OC-135s. Thankfully, no one died.

MSGT George Sarris, Council Bluffs, USAF, retired

Failed the children

“He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.” A famous quote that makes any Nebraskan who cares about his fellow man feel proud. In comparison, how should we feel, knowing that we, as individuals who have enough money to pay federal and state taxes, take a foster child’s Social Security benefit to decrease our taxes? It makes me feel like I failed in taking care of innocent, vulnerable children who will need to make their own way as adults someday. Shame on us!

Margie Chartrand, Omaha

Inflation surge

The labor force participation rate actually dropped last month in the middle of an economic recovery. This is unprecedented. The effect of the federal government giving away money in the combination of stimulus checks, child tax credits and bonus unemployment on top of state unemployment has had two results.

It has sent more money into the economy while at the same time reducing the amount of goods and services being produced because people are not going back to work.

More money chasing fewer goods and services is the very definition of inflation. Those not old enough to have been in the workforce when the inflation rate hit almost 15% under Jimmy Carter do not know how devastating that was for retirees and lower-income families as they saw the purchasing power of their lower incomes and retirement savings drop by 15% in one year.

Anyone who has taken an Economics 101 course could see this coming. Yet President Biden proposes legislation for another $4 trillion in spending on top of an already bloated budget proposal of $6 trillion that will send inflation through the roof! If that budget proposal and those two legislative bills pass, it will be a disaster for our nation.

Randall Bradley, Papillion

No backbone

After reading Chris Wagner’s essay regarding the Good Life bar and our City Council’s action, I can only say our City Council has no backbone, nor is the light on!

Tom Dahulick, Omaha

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