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Make Omaha even better

I believe we have competent elected officials and competent leadership in important city departments.

I am troubled when I hear that “we cannot afford to do that.”

I recently learned that Washington, D.C., had installed a very sophisticated surveillance system, and this made a major impact on crime. I know that our numbers are quite favorable, but what does it take to improve our statistics even more? This is just one example of what we might do to take that next step.

I would like to see a Citizen’s Committee formed to identify a “wish list” for Omaha. Let’s find out the true cost of our wishes.

Interest rates are at all-time lows. I would like to see a bond issue to have a major Omaha street rebuilding. I just paid $1,000 to repair my car because I hit a pothole. I know I am not the only one with that experience.

Omaha has a great arrangement with public/private partnerships.

I would certainly volunteer to serve on such a committee.

Let’s take that next step.

Robert I. Kully, Omaha

Kully Financial Services

Student debt an ever deeper hole

What’s the old saying — if you find yourself in a hole, then stop digging? Well, that’s especially true with student loan debt, mainly because it can’t be wiped out through bankruptcy like virtually any other debt.

If the colleges’ market for students were truly competitive, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, wouldn’t determine how much the students and their families can pay. The question would be, how low can the schools take the cost of our product or service in the marketplace and still stay in business?

Total student debt now stands at around $1.4 trillion, and the hole keeps getting deeper. Now, tell me what the motivation is for colleges to reduce the costs of their product. There isn’t one.

For college costs to start coming down, government guarantees of students’ loans has to cease immediately.

This all leads to one additional question. If colleges believe that the degrees from their institutions are so valuable, then why don’t they put their large endowments to work by offering incoming students loans out of those endowments?

Klaus P. Lindner, La Vista

ZIP code and life expectancy

The column by Matthew Hansen regarding Dejun Su’s life expectancy calculation software was, as usual, very interesting and well-written, but it makes one fundamental mistake.

It treats your ZIP code as if it is some external factor beyond your control, when in fact, your ZIP code is the culmination of a lifetime of individual decisions. You couldn’t pick up everyone from one ZIP code, say 68132, and swap them with another ZIP code, say 68111, and think that life expectancy in each area would remain the same.

The stats would follow the people, not the ZIP code. It would take a while to settle out, but if the people were forced to live in their new ZIP code, that area would eventually take on the characteristics of their old ZIP code.

People are responsible for their own destiny, and that destiny, of which life expectancy is just one aspect, is determined by every decision that you make, from the minor goals that you set for yourself every day to the major decisions of your life.

Take positive control of your life’s decisions, and you will control your destiny and you will be around a few years longer to enjoy the fruits of those decisions.

Dan Anderson, Gretna

Move Guard to higher ground

Is it just me or does the ideal of spending $62.3 million to rebuild Nebraska National Guard structures on 7-foot stilts seem unreasonable?

The Guard responds to emergencies, like floods, and under the proposed plan would find it necessary to access its control center on stilts via a boat. Plus, the Guard’s vehicles would likely be inaccessible as they would be submerged in water. Has anyone considered relocation to higher ground?

Merv Riepe, Ralston

former state senator

Governing over politicking

For decades, uncontrolled immigration into the United States has been a problem. Neither presidents nor Congresses, neither Democrats nor Republicans, came up with solutions although many reasonable steps were proposed by nonpoliticians.

Now the news is about Social Security and Medicare funding — also a problem that has been predicted for decades. Neither presidents nor Congresses, neither Democrats nor Republicans, have addressed the issue for decades although many reasonable adjustments have been suggested to moderate the problems that are on the horizon.

Winning seems to be the only concern of the people we have elected and reelected. When they are candidates, they sometimes promise action, but problem-solving and compromise are alien ideas that might threaten their reelection. Voters are also politicized, ignoring actual governance for winning.

Congresses pass tax cuts that America cannot afford, yet we happily take the few dollars in cuts and ignore the deficits that are already out of control.

I urge all voters to educate themselves on the issues and then listen to what the candidates are saying in the next election. Vote for people who promise to solve the real problems of our country, and then hound those elected until they start governing instead of constant politicking.

Patricia Ohlmann, Seward, Neb.

Students celebrate science

Outstanding performance and many thanks to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its many partners in the huge success of the Nebraska Science Festival.

The festival allowed both children and adults the opportunity to learn and have hands-on experiences working with the various wonders of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) in a fun, family environment.

Most impressive are the festival’s outreach and engagement, which span all of Nebraska. There were science events for everyone and every age. While the students enjoy making volcanoes at the Lil’ Scientist Day at the Omaha Children’s Museum, whole families explored our galaxy and wonders of the night sky through various telescopes at the Branched Oak Observatory near Lincoln and learning more about Earth’s water cycle from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At the Durham Museum, everyone was able to participate in countless engaging hands-on learning and educational opportunities — all based on STEAM.

The Nebraska Science Festival is a critical and invaluable statewide event that builds enthusiasm for a journey in science for our young people’s careers — let their quest begin with STEAM to power their future dreams and goals.

John Witzel, Papillion

president, State Board of Education

Juvenile justice and adult court

Regarding juvenile justice reform efforts in Nebraska:

Nebraska is one of many states implementing many changes toward reform in the juvenile justice system. However, there is one area in which we fall short. In almost every state, a juvenile is allowed to be transferred to adult criminal court and tried as an adult. There are several ways in which a juvenile can be transferred to adult criminal court, but no matter how, it brings up one major problem.

The adult criminal justice system focuses heavily on harsh punitive punishment. Many attribute this to the deterrence theory: that implementing harsher punishments will deter or prevent crime. However, research shows that this theory does not hold to be true. How can we be sending our juveniles into a system that is already failing our adults?

If Nebraska is to continue efforts in juvenile justice reform, I urge legislators to take a critical look at juvenile transfer laws.

Natalie Lundak, Omaha

Washington ignores serious issues

When will it end?

We elected these clowns in Washington to take care of the country’s business. They are ignoring very serious problems and fighting over nothing.

Social Security and Medicare are going to be insolvent, the national debt is huge and growing every year, and they worry about President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

How can they possibly give any other country money that we borrowed? Then they turn around and propose all kinds of new programs — “Medicare for All” and paying off student loans and many others. That reminds me of a person who is in over their head in debt and going out to buy a new car. Why worry about tomorrow, live for today and let someone else pay for it.

Our grandchildren are going to resent what we have left for them to pay for. We could very well end up being a Third World country without stopping illegal immigration and spending more than we take in. Stop the giveaways and make it so everyone has some skin in the game — even Medicaid recipients should pay a copay or premium.

Make a balanced budget mandatory before Congress gets paid. Get the lawyers out of Washington and replace them with middle-income working people who know how to budget and can’t just go to their boss and tell them they need a raise because they spent too much.

Max Hopkins, Omaha

Synagogue violence is against us all

Something hit me when I heard the singing of “God Bless America” in the California synagogue that was just terrorized.

Remember that we are one country, woven together by people from different backgrounds and cultures. America is our common denominator. An act against one of us is an act against all of us.

Bruce Muskin, Omaha

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