Omaha World Herald. Nov. 29, 2020

Local quality of life puts Offutt in contention for Space Command

Nebraskans can take pride that Offutt Air Force base is among the six military sites under consideration to host the re-established U.S. Space Command. And there’s an additional reason the situation is encouraging: It tells us what outsiders find most valuable when considering investing here.

Rep. Don Bacon, a former commander of the Air Force’s 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, last week asked the board in charge of the selection what factors most impressed it about Offutt. The board, in response, readily cited what it considered the No. 1 advantage:

The Offutt area’s quality of life.

“Our schools, affordable housing, access to medical care, a nearby airport and universities nearby were all part of the calculus,” Bacon told The World-Herald. “Also, they knew the local population is very supportive of the military and veterans. They stressed to me that the public schools were high quality.”

This situation shows the broad benefits when communities, leaders and the public make wise investments and work together constructively. Offutt is in the running because, in addition to its military capabilities, local leaders and the public have promoted strong schools, medical professionals have created capable health facilities, higher-education institutions are meeting military-related needs, and the organized civilian support effort for Offutt works with such dedication.

“In my 16 assignments and as a five-time commander,” Bacon said, “I can say with total confidence that the people and businesses around Offutt are the most welcoming and supportive I’ve ever seen. I loved being the base commander, and one of the key reasons was the great community I got to partner with.”

Offutt is already one of Nebraska’s largest employers, and if this new command is secured, the benefits will grow even greater. At present, Offutt has around 8,000 military and civilian personnel, with nearly 32,000 military, civilians, contractors, dependents and retirees in the area. The base’s annual overall economic impact approaches $2.7 billion.

Placement of the Space Command here would mean adding 1,400 people, with an investment of some $1 billion to $2 billion for base construction, giving a major shot in the arm to the local economy.

The Space Command will have crucial duties for our country’s national security. One doesn’t have to be a defense policy expert to understand how both our military and our civilian sector depend greatly on continued, effective service by satellites for communication, navigation and intelligence collection. In a war, disrupting those satellites — either through jamming, spoofing or direct anti-satellite assault — would be one of the first goals of an enemy. The Space Commend must develop innovative tactics and technologies to defend our space-based assets, and work efficiently with other U.S. commands.

Competition to secure the Space Command is fierce, but regardless of whether Offutt is selected, our area has learned an important lesson about sound community investment.


McCook Daily Gazette. Nov. 27, 2020

Mask mandates shouldn’t be needed, but may be necessary

While the governor has resisted the call for statewide mandates, more and more local governments have acted on their own.

Ricketts says imposing a mask mandate may make things worse by creating resentment and resistance, and with this year’s political climate, he may be right.

True, breathing through a piece of cloth is no guarantee you won’t contract or transmit the coronavirus, just as wearing a motorcycle helmet or fastening a seatbelt is no guarantee you won’t be killed or severely injured in a crash.

Your odds are better if you do, however, and lawmakers have been convinced to the point that wearing helmets and seat belts are the law of the land in Nebraska.

Get in a car or motorcycle accident and you’ll soon find out how good your health insurance coverage is. A major medical bill is likely to be a life-changing event, easily leading to thousands of dollars of debt at best and bankruptcy at the worst.

Regardless of the cost, however, you’ll receive the medical care it takes to keep you alive.

That may not be possible in the case of COVID-19.

There have been 117,582 cases in Nebraska as of Thanksgiving Day and hospitalizations are at their highest level of the pandemic; averaging 968 patients per day. More than 750 Nebraskans have died of COVID-19.

Buckle your seat belts, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride over the coming weeks. Despite urgings to the contrary, many of us got together with out-of-town family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, with small gatherings currently the most common setting for transmission of the coronavirus.

If cases increase as many health expect, there won’t be enough hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients who need them. Worse, there won’t be enough staff to care for those who need the beds, and healthcare providers will be in the horrible position of deciding who they are able to save and who they cannot.

Norfolk, York, La Vista, Columbus, Hastings and Grand Island have recently enacted mask mandates, while Papillion, Fremont, Blair and South Sioux City are considering them.

McCook City Manager Nate Schneider said he has looked into the legalities of the issue, but no such proposal was on the table. Masks are encouraged here, however, as they are in North Platte, Scottsbluff, Gearing and Alliance, which also have no mandates.

Local schools have done a good job controlling the spread of the virus, to the point students are probably safer going to school than staying at home where fewer restrictions are in force.

We don’t know whether local governments will eventually impose a mask mandate, but if they do, we hope residents will support that decision willingly, knowing it was a difficult choice to make.

Regardless of official rules, we urge residents to do what we can, such as wearing face coverings in public, staying home when possible and avoiding the three Cs: crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.


Fremont Tribune. Nov. 25, 2020

Fremont Strong we need you again

Like a superhero, Fremont Strong heroically arrived where you were needed in the spring of 2019. Fremont Strong was present all around Fremont, sometimes with shovels propped over a shoulder, as trucks and flatbeds lined up ready and willing to haul sandbags and other times forming a line to stack sandbags. All because sandbags needed to be made and then used to make temporary levees to keep the rising waters away from many homes and businesses.

Fremont Strong made sure emergency shelters and distribution locations were well staffed so those affected by the historic flooding could get the food and supplies they needed.

Fremont Strong, we are calling on you once again to help strangers, neighbors, and coworkers.

In Tuesday’s Tribune, COVID-19 was listed in three obituaries as the cause of death. One of those deaths was Roberta “Bobbie” J. Miller, a 92-year-old who grew up in Valley and was a former member of the Fremont Airboat Club and Fremont Eagles Club.

Bobbie’s last wish? Remind people to please just wear a mask.

Will Fremont Strong make an appearance once again?

Experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have pleaded with people to wear masks to avoid putting more stress on an already overworked health care system.

In a statement to the Tribune, Brett Richmond, president and CEO of Methodist Fremont Health, said the hospital supports mask use. “Masks work. That has been proven,” he said. “We support a mask mandate as a means to help slow the spread of this virus and to help decrease the strain on our health care systems. … Please show your support by wearing a mask, not attending large gatherings, and washing your hands.”

Fremont’s newly elected Mayor, Joey Spellerberg, said he believes people will do the right thing.

“I think, when it comes down to it, we want to protect each other,” he recently told the Tribune. “We’re Nebraskans and we understand the seriousness of this and we’re going to do everything we can.”

Fremont Strong is an extraordinary example of a community coming together to help strangers, neighbors and coworkers in need. A potential mask mandate shouldn’t matter. The same Fremont Strong that showed up during the flood should show up again, this time wearing a mask for grandmothers like Bonnie and their families, health care and essential workers, teachers, and students.