Fred Astaire Avenue

On May 11, 2019, the day after what would’ve been dancing and acting legend Fred Astaire’s 120th birthday, Omaha honored its native son with his own street. The Fred Astaire Avenue sign is visible on 10th Street at Martha Street, less than a block from the house where Astaire was born. The family moved from Omaha to New York City in 1905.

Let street names show our diversity

Recently I was on a extended trip and noticed how many cities celebrate their diversity. Many have specially designated areas that recognize their ethnic or religious neighborhoods. The designations are usually based on the historic bigotry that allowed restrictive covenants on housing choices.

I noticed how many streets are named after unique individuals from the area and beyond who have made a difference in the lives of so many. I thought, in Omaha we don’t celebrate diversity and accomplishments the same way. I’m not sure how or why streets, parks and buildings are named after so many politicians or administrators in Omaha.

We have major streets named after business and political figures who for better or worse have made some kind of economic or political difference in the area, yet do we recognize those who have really achieved greatness.

Do we have a “major“ street named after Bob Gibson, the greatest pitcher of all time? We have war heroes, teachers, football players, authors, actors, civil rights activists, scientists and titans of business who are passed over for some political feel-good recognition. It is interesting how few things are named after women and minorities in this city and state.

We have a rich diverse history. The public square should recognize the diversity and celebrate it.

Ron Rubin, Omaha

Smoke-free should include e-cigs

Through catchy marketing and enticing flavors, our youth are being hooked to a lifetime of nicotine addiction through e-cigarettes. Many become daily smokers between ages 18 and 21. Unfortunately, youth e-cigarette use has skyrocketed 135% in the past two years.

In the recent weeks, there have been attempts to prohibit the sale of popular e-cigarette flavors and raise the age of sale to 21 on the federal level.

However, these federal actions are not enough to protect Nebraskans. As an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network volunteer in Nebraska, I encourage our legislators to strengthen our state response and stand up to Big Tobacco.

Nebraska needs to include e-cigarettes in its statewide smoke-free law. Give all Nebraskans their right to breathe smoke-free air. Make a new normal where kids understand these products are just as harmful as “regular” cigarettes.

Updating the smoke-free law would uphold the intent of the law, protect the health of Nebraskans and make it easier for businesses to enforce.

Sheena Helgenberger, Omaha

Vulnerable immigrant women

I appreciate the Jan. 7 article by Martha Stoddard on human trafficking awareness and the work of the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force.

I would also like to bring attention to another form of human trafficking: that of special immigrant and refugee women who accompany their husbands but have been brought here to be used as servants. These vulnerable women are frightened, do not speak English, do not understand the culture, have few or no friends/family and often live in isolation.

Obviously, most refugees are truly seeking safety and a better life for their family. However, some of these men do not seem to accept the fact that all people are created equal and that women are also undoubtedly deserving of basic human rights. These particular men are abusing, intimidating and re-victimizing the women who cook, clean and care for their children.

The Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force has made great progress in raising awareness concerning human trafficking — a “modern form of slavery.” It is my hope that as part of this proclamation to make January a month of Human Trafficking Awareness, the group will expand its scope, protect these nearly invisible refugee women and prosecute the abusive, manipulative men who perpetrate these crimes.

Andrea Dirks, Omaha

Lamenting apostrophe misuse

Thank you for your front-page article on the use and misuse of the apostrophe (Dec. 30 World-Herald). This time of year, it’s like nails on a chalkboard getting cards from “The Smith’s”. The plural of Smith is Smiths, and the plural of Jones is Joneses. We learned this in sixth grade.

Dave Peck, Bellevue

Electoral College is antiquated

In attempting to argue for preservation of the Electoral College, Jeff Miller has made the principal case against it (Jan. 2 Public Pulse). If, as he says, we want every vote to count, then we should abolish the Electoral College and elect presidents based on the popular vote.

Miller is wrong when he says the founders established the Electoral College so that all votes would count. The Electoral College was part of a compromise to induce Southern states to ratify the Constitution. Also, part of this compromise was the infamous decision to count each slave as three-fifths of a person in determining the number of electors and congressional representatives slave states would be allocated.

The drafters of the Constitution assumed any disputed election would be settled in the House of Representatives. Yet in practice five presidents who did not receive a popular vote majority have been elected to office through an electoral vote majority.

The founders also did not foresee the rise of political parties. The insertion of parties into national politics resulted in electors voting almost completely along party lines throughout U.S. history.

In modern times, the Electoral College has become a major mechanism for a party of the minority — Republicans — to maintain its governing dominance over the majority. Its other means are congressional gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Why should the U.S. not have a one-person, one-vote system? I call for abolition of the Electoral College by constitutional amendment.

Patrick H. Brennan, Omaha

Trump has achieved much

Regarding Mary M. Roeser’s comments (“Trump is a moral failure,” Jan. 5 Public Pulse): What is truly sad is her hateful rhetoric against our president.

I was a Democrat, as were my parents, until the last election. Do I think Donald Trump is perfect? No. No politician is. But this president has done more for our country than Obama ever dreamed of. My two sons are both in good-paying jobs and both own their own homes. They paid off their student loans themselves because there was no “free” education.

The president’s agenda is to keep America safe and not to bribe terrorists with pallets of cash. I am grateful that President Trump is not afraid to stand up to terrorists.

As for Judge Kavanaugh, that was another Democratic sham. If you are for Trump, the Dems will try to tarnish your reputation.

President Trump is for law and order and the military, which keeps us safe every day. He’s trying to keep drugs from entering the country, the economy is booming and the unemployment rate has achieved a remarkable low. These are facts and not hate-filled, regurgitated lies.

Judy Schall, Gretna

Improper vehicle tags

It is a new year in the Unicameral, with renewed talk about property taxes. Personnel property taxes on vehicles and licensing of the vehicles need to be addressed. There are way too many vehicles on the streets that are not properly licensed — expired tags, expired in-transits, no plates at all or fake dealer advertising plates making it look like the vehicle was just purchased.

Enough is enough. Either end the personal property tax on the vehicles, or up the fines and charge the offenders with tax evasion as well. Omaha is losing massive wheel tax revenue over this. Law enforcement doesn’t have enough resources to catch all these offenders.

Riley Leary, Omaha

A kindness carried forward

On the morning of Dec. 19, I was putting groceries in my car at the Hy-Vee store at 51st and Center Streets when a lady came up to me and handed me a gift card for Hy-Vee. She said this was an act of kindness carried forward.

What a thoughtful thing to do for a stranger. I didn’t get her name, but wanted to thank her again.

Lonnie and Lucy Younie, Omaha

Move beyond polarization

Our country is in a sorry state of affairs. Polarization is what describes us across all corners of “America the Beautiful.” And it didn’t begin and surely won’t end with the impeachment hearings. We’ve lost the capacity to talk to each other.

A mentor of mine, Joan Chittister, reminded me that Frank A. Clark, a Southern lawyer and politician of the late 1800s, is credited with saying, “We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don’t.” When did that profound truth go out of style?

Regardless of party, it seems all we do, see and hear is the demonizing, insulting and mocking of the other side; there’s little evidence of any capacity to learn and grow from those who see things differently than we do.

Again, it’s not just in Washington and it’s not just our politicians. It’s all of us! It used to be that the rule of thumb for civil discourse was not to talk about religion. In today’s toxic environment, it’s religion and politics.

What we’ve lost is respect: a respect for persons, a respect for diversity, a respect and openness to the ideas of others. It’s only such respect that can lead us beyond ideology to a renewed commitment to nonpartisanship.

Are we too far gone, too fractured, to hope and pray for such a thing? Is there a path that can bring and hold us together? Is there a leader who can lead our nation and not just rule?

Bill Kubat, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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