Omaha World-Herald. May 20, 2021.

Editorial: Return of Standing Bear’s tomahawk can have important symbolic meaning

Standing Bear, the revered leader of the Ponca tribe, placed enormous value on one of his possessions — his ceremonial pipe tomahawk. In 1879, he gave that beloved item to Omaha attorney John Lee Webster in gratitude for successfully defending him in the chief’s landmark trial in Omaha.

In that court case, Judge Elmer Dundy ruled, for the first time in U.S. law, that Native Americans are people under the U.S. Constitution and are entitled to the rights it guarantees. Dundy’s ruling — that Standing Bear, under habeas corpus protections, could appeal his imprisonment for returning to Nebraska after his tribe’s forced removal — directly influenced major changes in federal policy regarding Native Americans.

It’s fitting, indeed, that Standing Bear is one of the two statues now representing Nebraska in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Nebraska’s state motto, after all, is “Equality Before the Law.”

Standing Bear’s tomahawk is now at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, and State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has introduced a resolution calling on the museum to return the tomahawk to the Ponca. The proposal deserves senators’ strong approval. It’s encouraging that the museum is indicating its cooperation with the Ponca on the matter.

Just as the tomahawk itself held great symbolic meaning for Standing Bear, so its return to his people can be a gesture of broad symbolic meaning in our era. An event celebrating its return can provide an occasion for Nebraska to honor its Native peoples and point to the enduring principle of justice for all.


Lincoln Journal Star. May 20, 2021.

Editorial: Stubbornness on medicinal marijuana will pave way to law

At 62 pages, a bill proposed by Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln would create what one of her colleagues in the Nebraska Legislature called the most restrictive medical cannabis plan in the country.

The lengthy legislation was the latest good-faith effort to garner support for the years-long effort to pass a tightly regulated program to ensure use and possession would be limited to intended individuals with chronic health conditions.

Opponents’ latest filibuster thwarted a bipartisan effort that will turn the increasingly narrow efforts – and increasingly longer, more detailed bills – into another ballot initiative that can’t run afoul of the single-subject rule in the state’s Constitution.

If medical marijuana comes to pass in Nebraska, it will be in spite of state lawmakers, not because of them.

Recall that more than 190,000 Nebraskans signed the petitions before a lawsuit filed by Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner – the funding for which remains unknown – and that Nebraska remains one of just three states, alongside Kansas and Idaho, without any medical marijuana program.

In Nebraska, though, voters are uniquely positioned to counteract legislative inaction through the petition process as the second house of state government. That second house is increasingly flexing its muscles to directly approve items, such as Medicaid expansion and legalizing casino gambling, that lawmakers are loath to legalize.

Rather than waiting on the 33 votes that seemingly will never come, proponents of the measure are wise to cast a wide net for the betterment of Nebraskans in need.

Their petition seeks to provide just one more option for treatment of chronic conditions – cancer, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few of the more frequently cited – severe illnesses that always could strike again after lingering dormant beneath the surface for ages.

And opponents continue to overlook one tiny detail about any medical marijuana law: Nobody is forcing them – or any other – Nebraskans to use cannabis.

For all the painstaking work of attempting to craft pages upon pages of legalese that met the concerns expressed by opponents at every step of the way, there’s a bit of irony in the simplicity in the proposed language for a constitutional amendment:

“Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes.”

That new petition? All of one short, simple sentence, as currently written. Not pages upon pages of finely-tuned specifications, as the proposed law was.

For those frustrated by the much more permissive language that’s on the ballot, don’t blame Wishart and medical marijuana supporters. Instead, the finger should be pointed at the senators who refused to yield an inch for years on end and left the petition as the only way for this needed reform to take effect.


Grand Island Independent. May 19, 2021.

Editorial: Meatpacking workers are essential; protect them

The Nebraska Legislature sent a terrible message Tuesday to the thousands of people who work at meatpacking plants in the state, rejecting a bill that would have required coronavirus protections to be continued for another year.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, narrowly advanced through the first vote, but it already was evident at that time that there wouldn’t be enough support to overcome a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

An estimated 7,382 Nebraska meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. A total of 256 have been hospitalized and 28 have died.

Early in the pandemic, several Nebraska meatpacking towns, including Grand Island, were considered coronavirus hotspots. When it became clear that the meatpacking plants were in danger of having to temporarily close, the owners instituted some protections that helped them stay in operation, such as masks, gloves, staggered shifts and dividers between workers.

The bill had been watered down, as a 6-foot separation requirement for line workers and tougher ventilation requirements were removed from it.

Plant officials had argued that the 6-foot requirement was impractical and the ventilation requirements were too costly for some plants.

But isn’t the health of a company’s workers important enough to take every step possible to protect them?

Our meatpacking companies are important to our state’s ag economy. They also are great community supporters, as Grand Island has seen with all the financial donations JBS has made to community projects during the past year.

But the protections that Vargas’ bill tried to ensure for workers are not too much to ask. And arguments that the plants already are providing these protections and the pandemic is coming to an end don’t hold up. Meatpacking plants are vunerable when it comes to illness spreading from worker to worker and whether it’s the novel coronavirus or flu or the next new disease, the workers should be confident that they can safely do their jobs and not take diseases from work home to their families.

State Sen. Ray Aguilar of Grand Island said during legislative debate on the bill that he has spoken with workers who are still concerned about health risks at work and want the protections to remain in place.

Our state’s meatpacking workers do a job that most of us would be unwilling to do. Because they are working at JBS and the other plants in the state, our grocery stores have a selection of quality meat for us to purchase. Also, our livestock producers are able to support their families by selling their animals to meatpacking companies.

The thousands who work at meatpacking plants are essential workers to our state’s economy and their concerns about the risks they take in going to work should be taken seriously.

The Legislature didn’t follow through on mandating protections, but we call on JBS, specifically, and the companies with plants throughout Nebraska to not end the protections they already are providing their workers, even once the pandemic is over officially.


McCook Gazette. May 20, 2021.

Editorial: Pandemic provides valuable lessons for business, life

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Richmond Golf Club in Surrey, UK, that had special rules in effect while the German Luftwaffe was doing its best to break the will of the English people

More than 1,000 bombs were dropped on the community between Oct. 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941, but British golfers saw no reason to forgo an occasional day on the links.

The following were only a few of the concessions the club’s rules committee made to Hitler’s best efforts to subdue their island nation:

“Players are asked to collect Bomb and Shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the Mowing Machines.

“In Competitions during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play

“The positions of known delayed-action bombs are market by red flags at reasonable but not guaranteed safe distance therefrom

“A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without a penalty

“A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may replay another ball from the same place. Penalty one stroke.”

Like the golfers who couldn’t wait to crawl out of a London bomb shelter to get back to the course, we’re all cautiously getting back to as near “normal” as possible, hopeful our vaccinations can prevent another COVID-19 outbreak.

Like the masks hanging from our turn signal levers or tucked in the windbreaker we’ve just retrieved from the closet, we have reminders of lessons learned while adapting to the challenges the pandemic presented.

-- Remote work can work; employees can be responsible enough to take it seriously and companies can consider it as an option.

-- The same goes for education, provided teachers, parents and students are committed and onboard.

-- Besides work, our personal lives need to be taken seriously to provide the proper work-life balance and maintain physical and mental health.

-- We are more creative and resourceful than we realized. We’ve adopted new attitudes and adopted new technologies to keep things running at home and work.

-- Effective communication and teamwork that were vital during the pandemic will continue to be valuable as “normalcy” returns. Going the extra mile for friends, family and coworkers will reap benefits for years to come.

-- Don’t be afraid to adapt to new ways. Yes, we all learned to despise Zoom meetings, but they’ll continue to provide a means to improve communication and cooperation.

Like golfers in World War II, we all need to acknowledge the challenges we face while keeping our eye on the ball.