Omaha World-Herald. Dec. 6, 2020

Let’s work to maximize the benefits from Omaha’s recycling program

Omaha’s launch of new trash and recycling carts opens up a promising new possibility — an opportunity to greatly boost the volume of material we recycle. Let’s make the most of this chance for progress for our community.

Raleigh, North Carolina — a city of Omaha’s same general size — increased its recycling volume by 56% over four years after making a similar switch, The World-Herald reported. The increase achieved in Sarasota, Florida: some 70%.

Omaha surely can join such cities in lifting its recycling efforts to a higher level. With the new bins and collection contract, our city ought to be able to save nearly 10,000 tons of materials for recycling instead of sending, the nonprofit Recycling Partnership estimates. That’s a worthy goal for our community.

Some Omahans are taking things a step further. They’ve found that they can divert a surprisingly high volume of plastic items — candy wrappers, potato chip bags, grocery bags, Styrofoam coffee cups — by using special orange Hefty Energy bags.

The Omaha metro area is one of the few in the country where residents can discard those hard-to-recycle plastics in their curbside recycling by using orange Hefty Energy bags.

FCC, the new contractor, has obligations to make the collection system work, as do Omaha households. FCC missed around 7,500 collections in its first three days last week, and the contractor is making changes to provide appropriate service.

At the same time, Omahans must do their part to help out. Space the carts at least 3 feet from one another. Don’t contaminate the recyclables with trash. Don’t pack the bins so tightly the material can’t be quickly emptied.

Through a strong public effort, Omahans can strengthen environmental sustainability and boost community pride. Let’s seize the moment.

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Lincoln Journal Star. Dec. 6, 2020

Worries about police advisory board unwarranted

It shouldn’t have been this complicated.

The City Council ended up voting 5-2 Monday to expand the city’s Citizen Police Advisory Board. The issue became contentious when opponents made unfounded claims that adding two members to the seven-member board was some kind of “coup” by Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. They argued that Gaylor Baird will be naming five members to the board, creating an “adversary” board rather than advisory one.

In fact, Gaylor Baird has said she will reappoint the three members whose terms just expired and would use the two new appointments to expand the diversity of the board, perhaps by appointing a second attorney.

Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister told the council that he and his officers believe the board works well considering members receive no compensation and that he did not oppose the proposal to expand it.

It is beyond unlikely that the board, which meets quarterly to oversee police policies, performance and investigate complaints about officer interactions, will become adversarial. Board members tell the Journal Star that their work with police is open, cooperative and respectful, whether it is reviewing complaints filed by individual citizens or examining the Lincoln Police Department use-of-force policy changes that arose after the protests triggered by Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Tellingly, critics largely ignored the most important part of the ordinance -- a change that would make it easier for people to file complaints with the board by allowing the complaints to be filed online and extending the complaint window by 15 days, allowing two months for people to make a report of an officer-related incident.

That provision directly addresses the widespread community concerns by providing greater opportunity for people to address their complaints about police and increasing police accountability.

The council split along party lines with Republicans Roy Christensen and Richard Meginnis opposing the measure. Christensen cited 250 emails opposing the ordinance compared to only four supporting it and said “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Councilwoman Sandra Washington noted increased “accessibility and transparency” in explaining her support for the ordinance.

This change takes something that’s working – as Christensen noted – but it makes it work better. We’re all for that.

Making the board more inclusive and the process easier to navigate directly addresses issues that can create rifts between the community and the people sworn to protect them.

In doing so, the ordinance changes will support rather than undermine LPD by ensuring and demonstrating that the department operates responsibly and effectively for the entire community.

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The Grand Island Independent. Dec. 6, 2020

War against coronavirus will be won if we join in fight

It has been great to see during the past week that Grand Island’s businesses are posting signs reminding customers that face masks are mandatory, following the City Council’s adoption of a policy requiring masks to be worn in public places.

People are largely obeying the law, although there still are some people who try to get around it.

Grand Island’s mask mandate comes at a crucial time, when the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths each day has started to increase again after the Thanksgiving holiday. On Wednesday, the state reported an additional 2,336 new coronavirus cases. With another 845 new cases on Thursday, the state has had a total of 134,710 cases and 1,159 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the state’s online virus tracker.

We got great news this week as CHI Health officials said that they expect to start receiving doses of a vaccine by mid-December. The first doses will be given to health care workers and first responders, as they are the ones putting their lives at risk daily as they care for people who have been infected with the coronavirus.

It’s also encouraging to know that CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island has an ultra-low-temperature freezer that can store the vaccine and it will be sent to Grand Island as soon as it is available.

Both vaccines that are up for emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration have proven to be highly effective in preventing the virus. But it will be months before the general public is able to start getting the shots.

So we must remain vigilant, especially during this holiday season when we yearn to be able to celebrate as we do every year.

Our country largely ignored warnings that they shouldn’t travel and gather in large groups for Thanksgiving, as travel on Thanksgiving Day peaked at only about 5% less than past years, according to StreetLight Data.

But then nationwide virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs a week later. There were 3,157 U.S. COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, about 500 more than the previous high set on April 15.

The number of people in hospitals across the country also set a record on Thursday at 100,667, twice as many as the total a month earlier.

So we must fight the temptation to ignore health care officials’ warnings again as Christmas approaches. Hospitalizations in Nebraska have been going down during the past couple of weeks, but they could start increasing again following the late-November holiday travel and Christmas travel could make the situation even worse.

Wearing a mask in public, staying at least 6 feet away from others and frequent hand washing are three simple steps we must take to make a significant difference in the war on the coronavirus. Don’t look at this as our government infringing on our rights. This is our joining the fight against a virus that is trying to take away our rights — and lives — permanently.

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