Boozer, Bob with Bob Rodgers at Near North YMCA 1967.jpg (copy)

Chicago Bulls pro basketball Bob Boozer (left) with Near North YMCA director Bob Rodgers in 1967. Boozer practically lived at the Near North YMCA playing basketball as a teenager. Omaha World-Herald File Photo Ran Oct. 15, 1967

Near North YMCA

Dirk Chatelain’s “24th & Glory” (June 20 World-Herald) is an incredible history of famed professional basketball player Bob Boozer and several other African American sports greats — rising to greatness and refusing to allow discrimination and racial bigotry to stand in the way of their competitive hunger to succeed.

Boozer, an Olympic gold medalist and NBA champion, considered the Near North YMCA as his second home. According to Adam Sasse (north Omaha history), in 1945, north Omaha had various YMCA programs and facilities that included athletic complexes. However, none was as important as the Near North YMCA branch, which responded to the needs of neighborhood youths that included nightly dances, basketball/baseball clinics and a youth employment program.

Bob Gibson, Bob Boozer, Gale Sayers, Ron Boone, Marlin Briscoe and Johnny Rodgers all participated in YMCA-sponsored sports programs — to include the Near North YMCA. Later, many of these professional athletes returned to coach, train, motivate and volunteer at the Near North YMCA.

For over 150 years, the Omaha area YMCAs have been that bright and shining center of our communities where our young people grow and dream in a friendly, safe environment.

As Omaha City Council member Ben Gray stated, “There is nothing greater to do than serving others. We need the YMCA more than ever.”

The legacy and history of the Near North YMCA has taught us all the remarkable drive and courage of those members who endured racism and social injustice to become true American heroes and legends — it all started at the YMCA.

John Witzel, Papillion

president, Sarpy Community

YMCA Board

Wind energy draws investment

Facebook’s new data center near Papillion was recently unveiled. All in all, this is a $1 billion investment in our state that will employ at least 200 people. Facebook could have gone anywhere to build this data center, but it chose Nebraska. Why? Because it could purchase wind energy here to power the facility. If it hadn’t been for the wind electricity power agreement with a northeast Nebraska wind farm, this deal may not have happened.

We would be wise to embrace the fact that Nebraska is the fourth-windiest state in the nation; our energy-producing natural resources can now help us recruit major investments throughout our communities.

This not only supports job creation in rural Nebraska, on our wind farms, but in urban Nebraska as well. This is a great opportunity to support economic growth for years to come.

Natasha Gonzalez, Columbus, Neb.

Who gave that freedom?

The June 25 Public Pulse letter “Military’s propaganda war” irked me due to having so many of my family members fight for people’s right to say what they want to say.

Everyone forgets that it’s not a conservative or liberal matter when it comes to freedom, it’s a “we/us” matter. I don’t care if you don’t agree with the politics and wars that the United States has been involved in, but many critics haven’t watched their family go off to war or heard of people close to men and women who have lost their lives.

They haven’t had to go through holidays and birthdays and other special occasions without family there. These special men and women who step up for the call of duty don’t do it to be recognized, but for all people to have all the freedoms they need and want.

They are fighting for the freedom to say whatever people want to say, even if that includes people tearing down them and what they did for others. So to me, yes, the sound of freedom comes in all different ways. Including the flights of military aircraft in the skies.

You never know who is on that plane. It could be someone coming home from war or someone who lost it all. Think before you speak. You never know who around you gave you that freedom of speech.

Ashley Shanks, Omaha

Then and now

In 1969, I got out of the Army. I never received a “thank you” from anyone until last week. A man about, my age, saw my “Army Veteran” baseball hat and said: “Thank you for your service.” It took 50 years, but finally.… It got me thinking about today and 50 years ago.

The Vietnam War was tearing the country apart. Students were “sitting in” on campuses, men were burning their draft cards and the National Guard was being used to keep the peace. According to poets, the world was on “the eve of destruction,” and the Beatles were singing about a revolution and saying they were more popular than Jesus.

There was the news about the My Lai massacre. Ho Chi Minh died. We were nose-to-nose with Russia in a Cold War, and many were sure it would end badly.

We had a controversial president who was constantly criticized by the press. We watched a rain-soaked smoke-out at Woodstock. Teddy Kennedy had his Chappaquiddick problems. We were struggling to accept the recent assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The top tax rate was 70% and GDP was at an all-time high. America put a man on the moon.

Many older than 30 were saying the world couldn’t last another decade because the youth of 1969 were spoiled and lazy, with no moral values.

Many younger than 30 were saying the world couldn’t last another decade because an exploding population would cause food shortages.

Except for being thanked for my service, things haven’t changed much.

Michael McLaughlin, Omaha

Battle against PTSD

Jeff Johnson was a proud and dedicated soldier who served our country in the U.S. Army. Jeff selflessly and honorably served our country in war as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he experienced firsthand the realities of combat. While Jeff returned home from war free of the burden from having lost life or limb, he returned with psychological wounds later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that would prove every bit as malignant as any physical injury.

In September 2014, this father, son, brother, husband, nephew, cousin, friend — and soldier — lost his battle. For the past five years, Jeff’s family and friends have sponsored a golf tournament in his honor. This effort, led by Julie Johnson and Brian Fox, has raised thousands of dollars to help veterans, active duty military and their families struggling with PTSD. Monies raised by the golf tournament have graciously been donated to At Ease USA.

On behalf of At Ease USA and those who have received services, we deeply appreciate the contributions and the work done by Julie and Brian and their family and friends to remember Jeff. He lost his battle, but his legacy lives on to help us win the war against PTSD.

Jim Dale, Bellevue

At Ease USA board member

Carbon tax claims mislead

Several letters have addressed the House Resolution 763, known as the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act” and how it would end our floods and stop climate change while putting money in our pockets. Make no mistake -– it would do none of this. It is a new tax, period. Its promise of distributing monies to all is false and misleading.

Yes, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is technically bipartisan. But of the 50 co-sponsors, only one is a Republican; the others are Democrat, and nearly half of them are from California. The act would tax our gasoline and diesel fuels, our steel products and concrete industry, and imported cars and oil. How will you build your new wind towers without steel and concrete?

The act provides directives to tax anything that emits carbon. But it specifically excludes farming. Obviously, such an exclusion is politically expedient (especially in California), but hardly effective. Any law that specifically exempts a large portion of the tax base should be questioned and rewritten to be inclusive, rather than exclusive.

If you want to solve climate change, then listen to the hundreds of climate scientists, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who urge the deployment of safe, reliable nuclear energy. Water is Nebraska’s most critical resource. Without it, Nebraska’s land would be worthless, and its economy only slightly better than that of a Third World nation.

Without energy, we cannot move the water to where it is needed or treat it to make it potable. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would serve only to make our energy supplies more expensive, more intermittent and less reliable. It must not be passed.

Barry Butterfield, Omaha

Constitutional apportionment

We should abolish the 16th Amendment to the Constitution (allowing for federal taxation of individual citizens — the income tax). Instead the nation should revert back to what is in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers…”

What this meant was the federal government taxed the states based upon a count of the citizens of each state. Then the state would determine how best to obtain the billed amount from the citizens of said state.

In this way, I would only owe taxes to Nebraska, along with the county and city in which I live. I’d owe no money to the federal government directly. As a state we’d be better prepared to fight the fiscal excesses of the federal government.

And while discussing the “apportioned” part of the article, this refers to the census and is only to determine the count of citizens, with the Congress only authorized to make a law to determine the means of making the count. Not to add a couple of dozen other questions having nothing to do with obtaining a raw count of citizens.

Steven Wiseman, Bellevue

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