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Mary Ann Shotkoski clutches an Honor and Remember Flag given in honor of her brother, Joseph S. Waszak, inside the Omaha South High School auditorium on Tuesday. Waszak was killed July 30, 1944, in England after a buzz bomb struck him just after leaving a Sunday Mass.

Spread the kindness

I read the story regarding Mary Ann Waszak (now Shotkoski) as a 9-year-old reading the news of her brother’s death during World War II in a telegram. She read the telegram because her mother did not speak English (“Sister of Omaha soldier killed by ‘buzz bomb’ during WWII is given memorial flag to honor him,” Nov. 27 World-Herald).

What a brave little girl, who had to become an adult too soon in her life. The family can be very proud of her brother’s sacrifice and service to his country.

This Thanksgiving and holiday season, take time for the “little people” in your life. Share in the joy of their wonder as they enjoy the splendor of the season. Take them to the woods and let them see firsthand the wonders of Mother Nature. Read them books, snuggle with them and let them know how much they are loved.

When you are out and about this season, smile at strangers, pay something forward, let somebody ahead of you in the checkout line and be more courteous as a driver. Slow down, be nice and help the world be a better place for the children of tomorrow.

Layne Yahnke, Omaha

Stop subsidizing candy, soda

Many good elected officials in Nebraska do not understand the basics of economics and taxation.

Nebraska could pay for Medicare expansion and a new prison, provide better property tax relief and lower the state’s sales tax if the tax laws and regulations were reformed.

People might be upset about sales tax if they buy a $100 microwave oven and pay $7 of sales tax, but it will be years before they have to buy a new one, so the objection fades. However, when it comes to candy and soda, people buy these items daily, yet these items are not taxed, in spite of the fact they are cheap.

Next to no one is going to complain about 35 cents of tax on a $5 purchase of candy or 7 cents on a 99-cent large soda. Yet the Legislature keeps exempting candy and soda.

The candy industry and soda industry will object to changes, but I consume their products on a weekly basis without paying for it — many people and organizations give candy away for free because candy is cheap. This is my proof of the candy industry being too subsidized by Nebraska’s exemption of its products.

To make matters worse, candy and soda contribute to Type II diabetes and obesity. This should be motivation for the state to do something, particularly because voters approved of Medicaid expansion.

The exemption of candy and soda from the sales tax is just plain unfair.

Andrew L. Sullivan, Omaha

School rankings biased

The Nebraska Department of Education annually ranks schools as excellent, great, good or needs improvement. This is done using a formula called AQuESTT (Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow.)

Three schools are designated as priority schools and receive help from highly paid, outside consultants.

The AQuESTT ranking system is a complicated mathematical formula, requiring 28 pages to explain. It also involves some statistical methods that seem questionable. Such a formula is certain to smear some very good schools.

The key factors are almost entirely weighted to test results, which are strongly biased against high poverty schools. Most of the other factors used in the grading react to poverty in the same way as test results. As a result, AQuESTT is biased against schools with high levels of poverty.

This is obvious in the 2019 AQuESTT ranking for the 283 elementary schools in the largest 27 school districts, which include over 70% of all of Nebraska’s public school students:

Affluent schools with lower than 30% poverty represent 87% of the excellent schools and none of the needs improvement schools.

High-poverty schools with over 70% poverty represent none of the excellent rankings and 85% of the needs improvement rankings.

This grading of schools is blatantly biased against high-poverty schools. Our federal government demands this ranking, despite decades of research that tells us schools and teachers have minimal impact on the achievement gap.

The Nebraska Department of Education must do more to mitigate the damage this ranking does.

Bert Peterson, Hastings, Neb.

Watch your visibility at night

I am not in the practice of driving after dark unless it is absolutely necessary. Our doctor’s appointments, shopping and restaurant visits are done during daylight.

Nighttime driving makes me wary. Being vulnerable to robbers, carjackings and mechanical breakdowns are concerns of mine.

My reasons for not driving at night have broadened after making a 7 p.m. trip to a pharmacy recently.

I first encountered a black bicycle being pedaled by a rider dressed in black-hooded clothes. No reflectors or lights were displayed.

The seven or eight minutes my wife spent gathering and purchasing items allowed me to observe a significant number of people dressed mostly in black or dark-blue winter clothing.

The foot traffic included people walking their dog or just taking a shortcut through the dimly illuminated parking lot.

I can envision all kinds of tragedies occurring. Why are people so oblivious to the perils of making themselves stealthlike during nocturnal conditions?

Ken Lane, Council Bluffs

Violent youth offenders

Regarding the Nov. 25 article “Teen allegedly shot at police; case moved to juvenile court”:

I was dumbfounded and disheartened to learn that Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk once again sent a violent offender’s case to juvenile court.

The first case was two years ago, when a 17-year-old shot at two deputies, striking one. This time, a 16-year-old has been charged with eight felonies after he fired at two detectives and an intern after a motor vehicle chase.

This individual, a known gang member, also has pending charges for robbery and assault on a corrections officer. How do we expect law enforcement officers and prosecutors to protect the people using the legal system, only to have a judge send dangerous criminals back into our streets to potentially reoffend or take the life of a member of our law enforcement community?

Fortunately the judge is up for a retention vote next year, and the citizens of Douglas County owe it to our community to vote to remove him, making way for a judge who will dispense justice according to the crimes committed, regardless of age. See you at the polls.

Mike Flair, Bennington

Bike lane ordinance

I don’t believe the city ordinance prohibiting parking in bike lanes is productive for the majority of Omaha. Many people will be affected, including residents who park on the streets in front of their homes, businesses that rely on on-street parking (like those on Leavenworth Street), churches that rely on on-street parking (such as Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church) and even those who use city parks (Turner Park, for example).

It seems the City Council put the cart before the horse in this case by painting bike lanes on streets before considering such an ordinance, especially in north, south and midtown Omaha.

It also seems that this ordinance considers a small group of Omaha bicyclists before a large majority of Omaha residents who rely on on-street parking every day.

Theresa Ellrott, Omaha

Respectful, resourceful, responsible

It’s difficult to read Public Pulse letters to The World-Herald and not want to scream.

“If only Congress would do their job.” “If only movies and video games were less violent.” “If only colleges had more available therapists for kids.”

Rarely do we look in the mirror and take full responsibility for all of these things. We elected members of Congress. We have the power to turn off TVs and game consoles.

We can read resources such as columnist John Rosemond, who has been writing for years about how to raise respectful, resourceful and responsible (mentally resilient) children.

It is unfortunate that we adults don’t seem to possess these three key ingredients — being respectful, resourceful and responsible — that are necessary for a strong, functional society.

Jon Bakehouse, Hastings, Iowa

Sense of right and wrong

On Thursday, two teenagers walked into a bakery. One grabbed the tip jar from the counter and ran. The owner ran after his 14-year-old friend and tackled him, holding him until police arrived.

Dominique Smith, the boy’s mother, “wants the bakery owner who held down her son over stolen tip jar to be charged.” The boy’s mother filed a misdemeanor assault charge against the baker for tackling her son while he tried to run away. Referring to the baker’s pursuit and capture of her son, Smith said, “I think she went way above the law” and added that she thought race might be a factor because her son is black, and the baker is white.

Did this happen on some other planet with some alternate sense of right and wrong?

This is just outrageous to be excusing and minimizing her son’s actions. This should be a wake-up call to the boy’s mother that her son needs some serious intervention, but that is unlikely to happen. She minimizes the crime saying it was “all over a tip jar.”

Mark Vondrasek, who is running for the Nebraska Legislature in District 9, is also criticizing the baker for catching the teen. Apparently, he has never worked for tips and had his hard-earned tip money stolen.

Dan Anderson, Gretna

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