Published Monday, July 29, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:46 pm
The Public Pulse, July 29

Firefighters union ignores fiscal realities

The lawsuit brought by the firefighters union against the City of Omaha, the mayor and fire chief is fiscally reckless and unfair to local residents.

Omaha families are already struggling, with an uncertain economy and unsustainable government spending weighing them down. Nebraska's largest city owes more than $1 billion in municipal debt, burdening local residents with high property and sales taxes. Does the fire union really want to unload more spending on the backs of Omaha's hardworking taxpayers?

Mayor Jean Stothert made the responsible move to find cost savings in the Fire Department — a department that has run over budget by millions of dollars in the past. Apparently, the fire union would rather continue down that path than help solve Omaha's financial problems.

We Nebraskans love our firefighters for their heroic efforts when the unthinkable happens. We also understand that public safety should be a budgetary priority during these trying times. That said, the Omaha fire union should not get a free pass from the fiscal realities that thousands of the city's residents face every day.

Matt Litt, Lincoln

Deputy state director,

Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska

Try sensible approach to immigration

After years of trying to understand the depths of the illegal immigration dilemma and not abandon the dictates of my conscience, I have formulated my own personal solution:

>> Any and all immigrants to the USA must immediately assume the responsibilities of citizens, such as paying taxes and obeying all laws that apply to citizens.

>> All efforts of law enforcement should be directed at employers instead of immigrants. If they hire and pay these immigrants “under the table,” they should be shut down and put out of business.

>> All the benefits and privileges for immigrants, such as voting, should be withheld for a period of time to be determined and until they are able to pass the required citizenship tests, in English.

It becomes the duty and responsibility of all current U.S. citizens to welcome immigrants lovingly and without prejudice and to help them to achieve their goals. It's important to remember that U.S. citizens, too, commit crimes and deal in drugs.

Although throughout history we have admitted criminals and undesirables unwittingly, on the whole our immigrants have helped America grow strong. Let's get back to basics.

Mary Cormier, Omaha

Heinous crime demands death penalty

The horrendous attack on 93-year-old Omahan Louise Sollowin, resulting in her death, is yet another reason to enforce the death penalty. The hurt and pain of her children and those of us who cared deeply for her will never go away, ever.

Mary Jane Ferraguti, Omaha

Dump that filibuster rule for good

Nebraska freshman Republican Sen. Deb Fischer says the filibuster rule is needed in the U.S. Senate to protect the minority party from being overrun by the majority.

That's what all senators say when their party is in the minority in the Senate. But I am sorry, I don't buy it. And I want change. Meaning, I want to get rid of the rule altogether.

This Democrat was disappointed in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's so-called threat of the nuclear option to end filibusters for President Barack Obama's nominees to the Cabinet. Yes, Reid's threat did finally bring Republicans to the table, but the deal they reached was only a band-aid approach. After Obama's nominees to the National Labor and Relations Board are finally approved, we will go back to the old approach where 60 votes will be required to cut off debate. Which, in this vicious, polarized climate, means little else will get done.

Had there been no filibuster rule, former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel would have breezed to confirmation to be secretary of defense. Instead, it took several weeks and two votes, due to a nasty filibuster that was supported by Fischer. The Toomey-Manchin gun background check bill also would have passed the Senate without a filibuster.

Finally, to Democrats worried about a GOP takeover of the Senate in the future as a reason for not wanting to change the rule, I have a question for all senators, regardless of party: Do you want this to be a functional, working institution that gets things done?

Herb Vermaas, Omaha

Sexual assault systemic in U.S. military

In recent months, light has been shining on the tragic, unsavory record of sexual assault in the military. But to address the problem, more than light is needed. Victims must believe they can report sexual assaults without fear of repercussion.

That's why New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill is so important. This legislation would move the decision about whether to prosecute such crimes outside the military chain of command and place it in the hands of independent military prosecutors. The bill has gained bipartisan co-sponsors from the political left and right, including Nebraska's own Sen. Mike Johanns.

The bill may come to a vote before the August recess. Whenever that vote occurs, I'm hopeful it gains overwhelming support, including from Deb Fischer — the first Nebraska woman elected to a full term in the Senate and a member of the Armed Services Committee.

This vote can be both symbolic and substantive in addressing a systemic problem in America's military.

Victoria Kohout, Omaha

Our driving behaviors need adjusting

The loss of the 17-year-old Amish youth is compounded by the local community's acknowledgement that they feared this exact tragedy: a motor vehicle-buggy collision. Is that because we all remember careless, distracted driving practices of our own?

Why not use this fear and knowledge (yellow street signs for a buggy, etc.) to adjust our driving behaviors? Roads and streets are rights-of-way for people to travel on, be it by foot, animal, bicycle or motor vehicle. The large difference in speed is a major cause of injury in vehicular accidents.

Instead of fear, anger or rage over slower vehicles, let's slow down and enjoy the ride. (It's not a race.) Drive with awareness, increased minimum passing distance and decreased speed differential.

Dale Rabideau, Omaha

Pipeline opposition lacks rationality

Groups against the Keystone XL pipeline like to showcase farmers on whose land the pipeline would be built. Some of those farmers do much more environmental damage with the thousands of gallons of pesticides and herbicides they pump into our environment and waterways every year, while they burn countless gallons of carbon fuel to run irrigation pumps to grow their crops.

According to environmental studies, the Missouri River has very high levels of farm chemicals in it. Some well-drillers are concerned with the future safety of shallow wells in the state because of the massive use of farm chemicals.

These opposing groups talk about the few jobs that would be created by the pipeline. There would be several crews of pipeline workers all the way from Canada to Texas, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. That's a lot of employment with good-paying jobs to boot. Never mind the jobs that would be indirectly created to support the pipeline. Never mind the additional tax revenue for government bodies that would be needed.

Do I support the pollution of our environment? No. I support rational thought and rational solutions.

William Steiner, Omaha

Be wary of giving up more of our rights

Politicians and pundits claim that the government needs to continue to chisel away at our rights, especially privacy, in the name of defending this country. As a former member of that bandwagon, I have begun to wonder, “When we do say, enough? Will it be too late?”

In Congress, there was a vote on Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash's amendment to defund the NSA's phone metadata collection program. The vote was much closer than expected.

Of course, all three of our Nebraska representatives in the House voted against the amendment. That is such a disappointment. I have been a member of the Republican Party for almost 10 years, and I am starting to get nervous. How far are they going to use “in the name of national security” when making their votes?

I highly doubt that once we have lost all semblance of our rights under the Constitution, we will sit at home and say, “Well, at least we are safe.”

Nathan McHugh, Murdock, Neb.

State judiciary takes step backward

In a 1999 research paper, “How Judicial Conduct Commissions Work,” the American Judicature Society listed Nebraska as one of 34 states that make judicial complaints public when formal charges are filed. The Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications recently filed complaints against two Douglas County judges, but both complaints were sealed by the State Supreme Court.

In a new interpretation of when confidentiality ceases, the court decided that formal charges are now confidential until the public hearing. I say “new interpretation” because for years Nebraska made formal charges public so that citizens were informed well in advance of the hearings when the charges were filed.

Voters demand transparency from their state officials, and the Nebraska judiciary just took a giant step backward.

Stacy Ryan, Omaha

Hassebrook looking good for governor

I was honored to host the kickoff of meet-and-greet events for Chuck Hassebrook, Democratic candidate for governor. It was an interesting evening highlighted by Chuck's comments on his vision for One Nebraska.

I urge others to investigate Chuck's ideas for moving our great state forward. He will have my vote.

Susan Tafini, Springfield, Neb.

Teach children right from wrong at home

My hat goes off to Claire Flatowicz (July 24 Pulse). She was really right — learning problems begin at home.

Don't blame the teachers. Blame the parents. Children should be taught right from wrong. Children have to love you before they respect you.

Phyllis L. Costanzo, Omaha

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