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UNMC, Nebraska Medicine in early planning stages for campus expansion that could cost $2 billion

University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine officials said Thursday that they’re in the early stages of developing plans that would propel clinical care and research to the next level with the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility.

The project could consist of several buildings to be constructed on the northwest corner of the medical center campus, the leaders said at a press conference. Those buildings could include one or more new towers for research and inpatient care.

Early estimates project costs between $1 billion and $2 billion.

But UNMC Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold, who briefed the NU Board of Regents on Thursday, stressed that the plans are in very preliminary stages. No final planning has been completed.

“We are just setting the stage at this time,” he said.

The facilities would be intended not only to expand the medical center’s capacity to care for patients, educate the next generation of health care providers and conduct research but also to replace older facilities — some up to 70 years old — and transform the delivery of care, Gold said.

In recent years, the medical center has worked with the federal government on biocontainment efforts, including caring for patients with Ebola and training first responders.

Over that same time, Gold said, governments at all levels have become increasingly aware of a variety of potential hazards they face from natural and human-caused disasters.

The medical center could be a partner in an all-hazards center that would be a destination for patients caught up in local, regional and national disasters.

The medical center’s history of public-private partnerships, including with the federal government, Gold said, has “produced a unique opportunity for us.”

In an interview, he said creating such a center could repurpose some beds for disaster victims but would not decrease the capacity of the Nebraska Medical Center or UNMC to deliver care to the community.

Architectural renderings and program specifics for the project are not yet available.

Dr. James Linder, Nebraska Medicine’s CEO, said the health system doesn’t believe that its current facilities are large enough to provide the care Nebraskans need, particularly as the population ages.

New facilities would also allow the health system to take full advantage of new technologies such as telehealth, which stand to improve outreach across the state while lowering operating costs.

Stanford University, for instance, just opened a new hospital with new technology that reimagines care for patients, and other such facilities are also being designed or built.

Linder noted that the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center was built through a public-private partnership and created a model that combines cancer care and research in one building.

“Our ability to do that should not be limited to cancer care,” he said.

Linder said the medical center will have about seven acres, plus some additional ground, available once the Munroe-Meyer Institute relocates to Aksarben Village.

That would allow the partners to proceed with construction without interfering with patient care in its existing hospital towers, he said. It would take until early 2021 to access that land.

The medical center has also acquired land — about 28 acres — on the west side of Saddle Creek Road that could host ancillary services such as parking, hotels and light retail.

When asked where the $1 billion to $2 billion to finance such a project would come from, Linder said that would depend on how partnerships materialize over time.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said UNMC “is recognized as a leader in essential patient care, health education and medical research.”

“UNMC’s growth has created exceptional employment and development in midtown,” she said. “The city is proud and excited to support continued campus growth and the opportunity to expand UNMC’s role in the treatment of infectious diseases and other biological hazards.”

UNMC and Nebraska Medicine have had an increasing role as a collaborator with federal agencies.

UNMC has already begun training federal workers in a new training, simulation and quarantine center on campus. The National Center for Health Security and Biopreparedness, in the new $121.8 million Davis Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning, was funded in part by a $19.8 million federal grant.

In 2018, Nebraska Medicine was one of two health centers nationwide to receive a $3 million federal grant for a pilot project demonstrating how a regional response system could work in a disaster large enough to overwhelm local hospitals. The other was Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and partner Harvard Medical School.

17 rare and unusual health stories out of Omaha

State_and_regional
As impeachment proceedings advance, Midland lawmakers' support generally splits down party lines

WASHINGTON — The advancing impeachment process represents potentially fraught political territory for Democrats in Nebraska and Iowa.

President Donald Trump still has his share of supporters in the region, after all, and even some who aren’t his biggest fans would prefer Congress to focus instead on policy matters.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb issued a brief statement Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that articles of impeachment will be drafted.

“As impeachment papers are written to hold President Trump accountable for corrupt behavior that puts our national security at risk, we look to our members of Congress to put aside their partisan loyalty for the good of the Republic,” Kleeb wrote.

Leading House Democrats say they had no choice but to proceed with impeachment given the president’s actions, saying he withheld U.S. military assistance in an effort to pressure Ukraine into besmirching a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The White House and Republican defenders on Capitol Hill have characterized the Democrats’ evidence as circumstantial or have simply said the president’s moves were a justified effort to root out corruption.

Thus far, Nebraska’s all-GOP House delegation has stood behind with Trump in resisting impeachment.

Rep. Don Bacon has repeatedly said that while the president acted unwisely, his conduct does not rise to the level of impeachment. The Omaha-area congressman reiterated that Thursday.

“I don’t think a law was broken,” he said. “I don’t think it was impeachable.”

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Kara Eastman and Ann Ashford are among the Democrats vying to face Bacon on the ballot next year, along with Morgann Freeman and Gladys Harrison.

Eastman said Trump needs to go.

“This is a solemn day,” Eastman said in a statement Thursday. “There should be no celebration for the need to impeach the President. I have always said that I respect the office of the President. The problem America faces now is that Donald Trump does not respect the office.”

Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine amount to bribery and extortion, she said.

“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?” Eastman said.

Ashford, on the other hand, said that drafting articles of impeachment makes sense but that she wants to read the fine print before deciding whether she would vote for them.

“Like every Nebraskan I talk to, we’re watching this, and I think we want to move forward and move past this,” she said. “I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t find this incredibly sad, that we are in this place. But we all want to move forward, we want to get to a resolution and we want to get back to the business of the country.”

Ashford described that position as a “measured” approach.

“I don’t think this is a time for hysterics or knee-jerk reactions,” she said. “I think that’s what gets us into trouble every single time. I don’t think it’s a time for partisanship.”

Rep. Cindy Axne represents southwest Iowa, including Council Bluffs, and is among the Democrats who flipped a swing district in 2018 and helped deliver the House to her party.

Those members are in the spotlight now when it comes to impeachment.

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, released a statement Thursday casting impeachment as an attempt by Democrats to undo the 2016 presidential election results.

“Instead of working for their constituents, they are kowtowing to Nancy Pelosi and her blatantly partisan attempt to kick our duly-elected president out of office,” he said.

Axne did not respond to a World-Herald request for comment. She did issue a press release Thursday that did not address impeachment but instead called on her party’s leaders to take action on a new North American trade agreement.

Democrat Chris Janicek is running for his party’s nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Ben Sasse in 2020.

While Sasse has criticized Trump’s conduct in regard to Ukraine, the senator has also referred to the House’s impeachment inquiry as a “partisan clown show.”

Janicek welcomed Pelosi’s announcement and highlighted her talk about guarding against “king-presidents.”

Janicek said the situation is not about particular policy preferences but rather upholding the rule of law.

“While Trump’s popularity is good in Nebraska, his presidency can NOT be allowed to continue under the cloud of a man who operates beyond and outside the best interests of our country,” Janicek said.


Education
Regents confirm 'excited and humbled' Ted Carter as NU system's next president

LINCOLN — A 100-minute closed session preceded what everyone expected — Walter “Ted” Carter won confirmation Thursday from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents as NU’s next president.

The duration of the closed-door meeting over Carter’s contract and the fact that Regent Elizabeth O’Connor of Omaha voted against it came as surprises. And neither Carter nor the board has signed the contract while “nonmaterial” matters get worked out, the regents said.

Carter agreed in a phone interview that there were no major items to resolve and said he is eager to start work on Dec. 16. “First of all, I’m excited and humbled,” he said. His confirmation is “powerful stuff,” said Carter, 60. He called it “a mandate through the board to come and do the job.”

Carter, who currently lives on the East Coast, said he listened to the open portion of the meeting by computer.

The regents have expressed deep admiration for Carter, the former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, from the beginning of the selection process. Carter was the sole finalist, and the ultimate decision was predictable.

O’Connor, an attorney, called Carter “wonderful” but said the $934,600 base pay was extravagant during tenuous financial times for the university.

She said the NU system has had budgetary challenges, relies on too many adjunct professors and has plenty of students who struggle financially.

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“It was just the salary,” she said of her reservations after the meeting.

Carter will have a five-year contract and the chance to make up to $140,190 more in the first year if he hits undetermined performance goals.

The bonus pay can reach 15% of the base salary each year.

Regents Chairman Tim Clare said the board has great expectations of Carter.

“His character and integrity are second to none,” Clare said during the meeting.

He said the NU system wants to compete with the best public universities.

Workforce concerns stare the state in the face, he said. “This is a critical moment in the history of the University of Nebraska and for our state.”

Kevin Hanrahan, president of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Faculty Senate, said the compensation would place Carter near the top of chief executives in the NU system’s peer universities. Meanwhile, he said, UNL faculty members’ average salary of $104,033 is well below the average in peer schools.

Hanrahan said he was arguing neither for nor against Carter’s compensation but requested a 7.5% raise for UNL faculty members.

Carter is expected to begin a 16-day transition on Dec. 16, during which time Susan Fritz will continue as interim president.

He will take over as president Jan. 1.

His pay will be by far the highest compensation awarded to an NU president, who is the top executive of a system that includes institutions in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Curtis.

He will live with wife Lynda in the official NU president’s house, will have access to a country club membership (or more than one club) and will also receive deferred compensation of 11.5% of his base salary annually after he serves for three years.

After he was named the sole finalist for the job, he used much of a 30-day public review period to address Nebraskans in communities across the state. Carter, who speaks without notes, recently said the almost nonstop speech tour was harder than marathons he has run.

Carter spent five years leading the Naval Academy. He left that post in the middle of the year. Before heading the Naval Academy, Carter spent a year at the helm of the Naval War College in Rhode Island.

He is a graduate of the Naval Academy and among other things was a naval aviator. He has what amounts to a master’s degree in the Navy’s nuclear power program. He finished his naval career as a vice admiral.

He replaces Hank Bounds, who was NU’s president for 4½ years before stepping down in August. Bounds is now on the faculty of the University of South Alabama. Bounds said the NU system’s presidency had worn on him, and he and his family wanted to return to the Deep South.

Any speculation that he left because of a conflict with the Board of Regents was squashed this fall, when the regents hired him as a consultant. Bounds is expected to help raise money for the planned $155 million sports complex at UNL. He will be paid $250,000 a year.

Bounds was paid $540,000 a year as president.

Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice said he was “honored, proud and thrilled to have him (Carter) on board as our next president.”

Schafer said compensation is relative, particularly when considering that some college sports coaches make far more than a million dollars a year. He said Carter would be worth it.

“We wanted the best,” Schafer said, “and we’ve gone out and found the best.”

Photos: Walter E. 'Ted' Carter

Plus
COMMENTARY
Shatel: From Alvin to Shereef, the Mitchells' local hoops legacy continues at Creighton

Did you hear the one about the north Omaha kid who loved to shoot?

Alvin Mitchell Sr. was that kid. This was back in the early 1960s at Horace Mann Junior High. Mitchell was in a seventh-grade game, and the other team was playing zone.

That’s just daring a kid to shoot. The zone sagged a bit. So Mitchell shot from long range. And made it. So why was his coach mad?

Because he had a teammate under the basket, open for a layup.

“Mitchell, just because you have a shot doesn’t mean there isn’t a better shot,” the coach said.

Yes, sir.

Later in the game, it happened again. Zone backs off. Mitchell fires it up again. This time, clang. Next timeout, look out.

“Coach said, ‘Did you have a shot?’ ” Mitchell said. “Yes, sir. ‘Did you make that shot?’ No, sir.”

“So he took his whistle and started like this (hitting the kid with the whistle),” Mitchell said, laughing.

Or did you hear the one about Alvin Mitchell Jr.? The sixth-grader hanging down at Rocket Park with his older brothers and a few of the fellas. Andre Woolridge. Terrance Badgett. Curtis Marshall.

Mitchell was trying to impress the crowd. So he’s going to dunk. He grabs a trash can from the side, turns it upside down and puts it under the basket.

Then he stands on top of the can and jumps for a dunk. Oops.

Mitchell fell short and hit the concrete. Broke his arm.

Shereef Mitchell has heard these tales a million times. But he was raised well. He’s respectful. He always listens. But sometimes a kid can’t help it.

“He’ll roll his eyes,” Alvin Jr. said.

* * *

CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Now, Alvin Sr. and Jr. sit at Creighton games, watching their legacy grow. “That’s a big part of why I came to Creighton, to play in front of my family,” Shereef said.

Kids don’t want to hear their parents’ old stories. They want to go out and create their own lore.

Shereef is doing that as a freshman at Creighton. The future is wide open. But Shereef has local hoops blue blood in his veins, and the past is a big part of his story. His grandfather’s story. His dad’s story.

“I know a lot of people around the city and the state tell me how good of players they were,” Shereef said. “I’ve learned a lot from them.”

What he learned was a fierce competitive spirit and a passion for the game. After Creighton’s victory over Oral Roberts on Tuesday night, Shereef did a quick radio interview on press row, then hit the court to work on his game.

That’s the Mitchell way. It started as soon as the elder Mitchell found a basketball. But in the mid-60s, that took a while. Alvin Sr. grew up on baseball.

“We used to play with our dads against other grown men,” Alvin Sr. said. “If we won, the kids got ice cream and the dads got beer.

“The kids were like, wait a minute. You get beer and we don’t?”

Alvin Sr. eventually found basketball at the YMCA on 22nd Street. Soon, he found himself sneaking out of the house to shoot at a local park.

“I was over there shooting basketball at midnight,” Alvin Sr. said. “You could see the nets because they were made out of chains and the moonlight would reflect off them. That’s how you saw. My parents didn’t even know I was doing it.”

Eventually, Alvin Sr.’s dad put up a hoop over their garage, and that became the neighborhood court. Mitchell was known as one of the best shooters in the city. He played three years at Central (1965 to ’67) and was the starting point guard when the Eagles lost to Lincoln Northeast in the 1967 Class A state championship game.

“I still remember we were ranked No. 1 all year,” Mitchell said. “We lost to Boys Town and they still didn’t drop us; that’s how good we were. We had Dwaine Dillard, who went on to play with the Globetrotters.”

Mitchell didn’t play college ball, instead joining the Air Force. He served in the Vietnam War and was part of a unit that guarded a tower at a B-52 base in Thailand.

When he returned to Omaha, he worked for OPPD and then became a minister. Almost 50 years later, he’s still the pastor at Judah Kingdom Center.

And somewhere along the line, he became a hoops dad. The guy who once shot baskets at midnight got creative. He tied a basketball hoop to a light pole outside his house.

That’s where sons Eric, Chon and Alvin Jr. learned to play. Then, it was on to Rocket Park, near 48th Street and Kansas Avenue.

“For me, it was always with my brothers,” Alvin Jr. said. “They would go to the park and I would tag along, but they would never let me play.

“That was fourth grade. By sixth grade, I got to play. But there were so many good players. Terrence Badgett, Andre Woolridge, Curtis Marshall. The list keeps going. It was not easy for me to get on the court.”

* * *

Friday night was church night. Alvin Sr. insisted that all his sons attend.

“I would always leave the house because I didn’t want to go to church,” Alvin Jr. said. “He would always know where to find me. He and my mom would come by the basketball court and honk the horn.

“I probably played every single day. If it snowed, I would go down to Rocket Park and shovel half the court off.”

Just like his dad, Alvin Jr. could fill it up. He became one of the best players in the city — at Burke. His older brothers played at Creighton Prep, but Alvin wanted his own identity.

But in 1995, some 30 years after his dad played at Central, there was no escaping that name.

“I would go to the barbershop the morning after a game,” Alvin Jr. said. “I could have a good game, it would be in the paper right there, and the guys at the barbershop would say, ‘You still won’t be as good as your dad.’ ”

Alvin Jr. graduated from Burke in 1995. Creighton assistant Kevin McKenna called. But Dana Altman’s program was just getting started. Alvin Jr. said, “I’m better than that.” He went to Nebraska, joining Woolridge and Badgett.

That lasted two years.

LAURA INNS/THE WORLD-HERALD 

After starring at Omaha Burke, Alvin Mitchell played for Nebraska, Indian Hills Community College, Cincinnati and finally, the hometown Mavs.

Coach Danny Nee wouldn’t play him. Alvin Jr. remembers telling his good friend, Tyronn Lue, that he was going to leave. Lue told him that he was going to the NBA soon.

Alvin Jr. went to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, where he helped win a national junior college championship in 1998. At the tournament, he was courted by Bob Huggins (Cincinnati), Rick Majeras (Utah) and Bob Knight (Indiana).

He hit it off with Huggins, who told him that even though he was an ace shooter, he wouldn’t play unless he could defend. He liked hearing that.

“What I learned from Huggins is a lot of what I taught Shereef,” he said. “If I hadn’t played at Cincinnati, I probably would have told Shereef it’s all about scoring.

“But because I went to Cincinnati, I started learning you can’t get on the court unless you can play defense. And that became (Shereef’s) strength.”

* * *

BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD 

Shereef Mitchell admittedly had a few nerves before his Creighton debut this season. "It’s a kid from Omaha playing his first game as a Creighton Bluejay," Jays coach Greg McDermott said. 

Alvin Jr. left Cincinnati and played one year for McKenna at UNO. Then, like his father, Alvin Jr. found his passion: leading Team Nebraska Express, a select basketball organization that has sent several grads to college basketball.

One of them was a kid named Shereef, who was All-Nebraska at Burke — like his dad. And like his grandfather and dad, Shereef could shoot. He averaged 24.6 points a game his senior year.

But while a lot of kids now want to shoot 3s and be Steph Curry, Shereef embraced defense. It’s his identity at Creighton, which has plenty of shooters.

“It was real emotional for me to see him out there, hear his name get called out,” Alvin Jr. said. “He’s totally different from us.

“We all had toughness, but our toughness was more about scoring on guys. He loves defense. He loves playing full-court, chest-up physical defense.”

Another thing: Shereef is ultracompetitive. Alvin Jr. said that when Shereef would lose, he would cry. When father and son played one-on-one, Alvin wouldn’t let the son win. Shereef would get hot, and would foul his dad just so he couldn’t score.

But as he got to high school, Shereef didn’t need help. He beat his dad. That was about the age that Alvin Jr. finally beat his own dad one-on-one.

“I never told anybody, but I wanted him to beat me,” Alvin Sr. said. “If he beat me, he was going to be great.”

Shereef has the look, too. The baton has been passed. Now, Alvin Sr. and Jr. sit at Creighton games, watching their legacy grow.

“That’s a big part of why I came to Creighton, to play in front of my family,” Shereef said. “That means the world to me.

“Now I just want to be better than them. I want to be the best.”

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Creighton-Nebraska men's basketball series since 2004

Creighton-Nebraska men's basketball series since 2004