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A street car makes its way down Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri.

Tourists and transit

The World-Herald reported that Omaha is attracting increasing numbers of tourists — 13 million who spent $1.3 billion while they were here in 2018 — and that Eppley Airfield will soon have 8 million passengers a year. Pretty amazing numbers.

So, where is the discussion and planning for a “people mover” to get these visitors where they want to go: from the airport to downtown hotels, restaurants, the Old Market, the College World Series, events at the downtown arena, the newer Capitol District amenities, Film Streams, the Joslyn, the Durham, Lauritzen Gardens, the zoo?

You don’t have to call it a “streetcar,” but a planned transportation system seems more urgent than ever. The new airport expansion should include plans for a “people mover” station.

What if the transit system were built from the airport to 10th Street, all the way to the zoo, and from 10th Street up Farnam Street through Midtown and the Blackstone District, to the University of Nebraska Medical School campus, then to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, ending at 72nd and Dodge Streets. There, the Crossroads Mall could become a transportation hub for buses, the “people mover,” and parking for workers and visitors alike who would rather ride than drive downtown.

Marilyn Hoegemeyer, Omaha

Who pays the bill?

Will the “Medicare for All” plan be for all U.S. citizens, or for all the people living inside the American borders? If the latter, illegal immigration will become an even bigger problem.

Will Medicare for All be like the Medicare plan that has been in effect for decades? People who turn 65 receive only Plan A (hospitalization) for free, and there are deductibles and copays. Seniors must pay for Plan B to receive benefits for doctor visits and tests. Again there are deductibles and copays.

For prescription drug coverage, Plan D must be purchased through private insurers. Other plans are available for purchase to cover the deductibles and copays through private companies. By the time you pay for this alphabet soup, Medicare is certainly not free.

How will Medicare for All be paid for? I have heard a “wealth tax” proposed. Supposedly billionaires would pay a large proportion. There are currently 607 billionaires in the United States. If you tax them at 95%, it won’t put a dent in the trillions of dollars needed to pay for universal health care for more than 350 million people.

If paid for by a large increase in income taxes, will those over 65 who still work have to pay? We have paid Medicare taxes and for private health insurance our entire working lives. Will we have to pay for what we have already paid for?

Medicare for All will be a disaster and destroy the high level of health care we now receive.

Jeff Miller, Omaha

Predatory lending

John Cavanaugh wrote about payday lending (“Capping loan rates,” Oct. 20 Public Pulse).

I understand business and economics, and I also understand that charging anyone up to 400% interest is predatory and unethical and should be illegal.

I have seen firsthand how these payday loan places take advantage of people experiencing financial difficulty. I did loan several people money so they could get out from under the thumb of these sharks.

To get a loan in the first place, they must have a job and must sign their life away. The loan places don’t expect most customers to pay the money back on time. Then they can extend the loan and grab more interest.

They are nothing more than legalized loan sharks and should be exterminated. Incidentally, 36% (the proposed cap) is substantially higher than other regulated lending institutions are allowed to charge. If the payday loans can’t make a profit at this rate, then they should either be more selective in loaning money or close up shop.

David Nelson, Omaha

Ending gun violence

We face an epidemic of gun violence in this country. From mass shootings in schools, shopping centers and places of work to daily gun violence in communities across the country, we see 40,000 gun deaths a year. And the only way we’re going to see meaningful change is if our leaders are willing to offer bold solutions.

As a veteran of the global war on terror who grew up in a rural community, I’ve always believed in the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership. But when we live in a country where students are being gunned down in their classrooms, where families’ lives are being taken when they’re shopping for school supplies or where cities are seeing dozens of gun deaths in the span of two or three days, the time for timid solutions and small thinking is over.

I applaud Beto O’Rourke for his leadership in working to end the gun violence epidemic. His bold calls for removing weapons of war from our streets and his commitment to traveling across the country meeting with survivors and victims of gun violence throughout his campaign are ensuring that this country doesn’t just “move on” from this issue.

To actually move the needle, we need leaders who are unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom and force us to have the conversation, especially when people’s lives hang in the balance.

Dustin Jennings, Omaha

The gun isn’t the problem

Ever since Americans have been marching off to war they have been returning home with a love and respect for the implement that was in many cases the reason for their safe return, their rifle.

Today’s veterans are most familiar with the Armalite AR15 style of rifle. Called the M16 during our war in Vietnam and now dubbed the M4, it is the longest serving service rifle platform in American history. The civilian version is called the Modern Sporting Rifle or MSR. It is the most popular rifle platform in America. MSRs have a growing list of chambering, suitable for everything from jack rabbits to moose. An MSR is a hunting rifle, a target rifle, not an assault rifle.

Those of us who own an MSR are just as horrified as anyone else when a senseless shooting takes place and doubly horrified when some people want to blame the rifle instead of the mentally ill sociopath who committed the crime. They seem to think that had the MSR not been available, these murders would not have happened.

I don’t think it works that way. Killers will find a way, whether it’s a pressure cooker loaded with explosives, a propane tank, a Molotov cocktail or a car driven down a crowded sidewalk.

Until society learns how to address the desire to kill, these senseless killings will continue. Banning the rifle that millions of citizens use for hunting and target practice is not going to help.

Bruce Sprain, Glenwood, Iowa

Vietnam vets reunite in Omaha

About 100 members of 114th Aviation Company, along with their families and neighbors, came to Omaha from across the country for their reunion in September. Some came in vans with wheelchairs accompanied with their families, taking three days to get to Omaha. Some brought a neighbor veteran to be with his Army friends. Some came to assist their parents so they could enjoy themselves.

Some came for the first time, after years of trying to forget the horrors of their experiences in Vietnam. Some came to renew friendships. Some came to share their own experiences at Vinh Long, Vietnam, in the 1960s and ’70s.

We toured Freedom Park, where Dennis Briers showed us the USS Hazard and much more. We stopped at Memorial Park and Pioneer Courage Park.

Next was the River City Star, with special entertainment by the Dancing Grannies and a cruise down the Mighty Mo under the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

We visited the SAC museum. They all thought the exhibits were great, especially the pilots. We visited Boys Town and learned about the history of Boys Town.

At the Durham Museum, the visitors were surprised with all the exhibits, especially the entrance and the train.

To end their four-day visit they saw Omaha from 22 floors up at the Omaha Press Club. The guest speaker was Bill Williams, co-founder of Patriotic Productions. Many said they would be back with their families as there was more to see of Omaha.

Ken and Janet Emken, Omaha

Seeking help for caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month. If you know someone in this position, please take time to acknowledge them. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 16 million Americans are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, providing an estimated 18.5 billion hours of unpaid assistance in 2018.

My mother, an administrator with a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007. I stopped working and became her full time caregiver until just recently, when she moved into a memory care facility.

I have professional experience as a caregiver, but I had to learn it all over again because every situation is different. Slowly I built up a network of support and increased my knowledge about dementia from various sources, including the Alzheimer’s Association.

I discovered how important it is to have legislators on the side of family caregivers. We are invisible citizens due to the demands of our situations. We need laws that support us in our work and provide aid to our loved ones.

I am joining the Alzheimer’s Association in asking Sen. Ben Sasse to cosponsor the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act (S.880/H.R. 1873). One outcome would be increased access to care planning resources available through Medicare.

I struggled to find and then pay for counseling and caregiver support. Care planning reduces hospital visits and improves patient outcomes by educating the caregiver and providing the tools to prevent crises at home.

Patrick Bartmess, Omaha

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