Kearney Hub. Jan. 10, 2015.
Governor tells us he's all about business
If brevity is the soul of a great speech, then the first major address by Nebraska's new governor was brilliant. Pete Ricketts finished his inaugural address on Thursday in only nine minutes, but in that short span he made it clear that under his leadership Nebraska is going to be pro-growth for business. His number one goal is job creation.
Ricketts, the former chief operating officer of TD Ameritrade, said he intends to improve the climate for business by fighting federal red tape, educating young people about employment opportunities in manufacturing and the trades, strengthening Nebraska's career and vocational training, and, most importantly, by achieving property tax relief.
"Whether you're a homeowner, rancher, farmer or small business owner, everyone feels the burden of high taxes," Ricketts said.
Written between the lines was an invitation to lawmakers and Nebraskans to pull together to strengthen the state's economy and a pledge to listen to legislators and make government accountable.
Ricketts' speech was upbeat and inclusive. He said Nebraskans need to embrace the greatness of their state and be a part of the governing process. He acknowledged that we expect a lot of our government.
"We have a great state, a beautiful state, filled with opportunity from the Missouri River to the Sandhills to the Pine Ridge," Ricketts said. "Nebraska is what America is supposed to be."
As inaugural speeches go, Ricketts' address pressed the right buttons. He called for collaboration. He laid out his priorities. He avoided bogging down in the gritty details and administrative challenges he's certain to face. And he was upbeat and positive about Nebraska's future.
We like that. Nebraskans have much for which to be proud, but they need to work hard together to preserve what's good about their state. By improving the business climate, Nebraska will create the jobs to lure others here, perhaps even our sons and daughters who've sought opportunities in other states.
In a couple of weeks during the State of the State speech we'll hear in greater detail how our 40th governor intends to achieve his goals. Ricketts also will say more about how he'll rectify problems with the departments of Corrections and Health and Human Services. He's cast a net nationwide to land new executives for those key positions.
We're encouraged that Ricketts is employing his business knowledge to strengthen the state and fix some of its problems. The business approach can't be applied in every situation, but that's the prism through which our new governor perceives his mission, and he intends to employ his strengths in the statehouse.
Lincoln Journal Star. Jan. 9, 2015.
NU not looking shrewd
University of Nebraska officials made themselves look silly with their decision to pay $750,000 for a house for the NU president to live in, and then sell it 13 months later.
Taxpayers probably would be yowling, but the fact that the purchase was made with private funds has helped to quell reaction.
The episode, however, does raise questions about the quality of decision-making by the NU Board of Regents and the NU Foundation.
From the sounds of it, the foundation might lose money on the deal.
The house at 2810 S. 27th is now appraised by the Lancaster County Assessor's Office at $653,900.
At the time the purchase was made, with the help of what officials said was a major gift from a donor, the house was listed to sell for $789,000. Foundation officials said an appraisal showed the house, owned by Runza Restaurants President Don Everett and his wife, Jill, was worth $850,000. "The foundation made the determination this was a good deal," Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln said at the time.
About a month after the purchase, then-president J.B. Milliken announced he was leaving NU to become president of City University in New York, where he receives $18,000 a month for a rental on the Upper East Side.
As NU officials said at the time the house was purchased, it's common for universities to provide housing for their presidents. The editorial board last year referred to the purchase as a "routine cost."
The NU regents voted in September 2012 to provide a home for the president
Last year the foundation and the regents thought the 7,000-square-foot house would be just the ticket as a venue for the president to host university events and guests.
Now "it has been determined that a different residence would better meet the future needs of the university," the foundation said in a release.
The sudden change of heart, combined with the foundation's typical reticence on its dealings, has spurred speculation that maybe someone, somewhere gained a tax advantage because of the transaction.
That interpretation of events at least allows for the possibility that NU officials were a bit smarter than it seems on the surface.
There's little doubt, however, that Nebraskans will examine the deal more closely the next time the foundation buys a home for the president. The foundation might be using private funds, but it still should handle its money wisely. Its recent adventure in the Lincoln home real estate market does not inspire confidence.
The Grand Island Independent. Jan. 8, 2015.
New faces in Congress hold promise
The new Congress took office Tuesday. Most of the attention was rightly focused on the Republicans taking complete control of Congress for the first time in eight years. In last year's election, the GOP took a majority in the Senate and strengthened its hold on the House.
For Nebraskans, however, the focus was clearly on the state's two new representatives — Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Brad Ashford.
Sasse has received a lot of national media attention as a potential rising star in the GOP. He has appeared on a number of national news shows and cable shows.
Sasse is not only young, 42, he has served in Washington before in President George W. Bush's administration. So he is young but experienced in Washington's ways.
In interviews, Sasse has sounded a moderate and reasonable tone. He has said he's not a flame thrower, looking to ignite issues. Instead he has sounded like a senator who will look for solutions.
That's what Congress needs. Sasse is being wise in not being so strident that it alienates other senators. He is showing a willingness to listen, work with others and be creative in addressing problems.
He has been named to the Agriculture, Homeland Security and Banking committees. These are three influential panels, with the Agriculture Committee being especially important to Nebraska. There may be some disappointment that he wasn't named to the Health Committee, as that has been an area of expertise for him. But he will still be able to give input and offer legislation on health care, even though he's not on that panel.
Eyes are on Ashford not only because he is replacing eight-term Congressman Lee Terry but also because he is the lone Democrat in Nebraska's delegation.
Ashford, though, too is a moderate. Many of his positions are likely to surprise his fellow Democrats in the House. For example, he said Tuesday he would vote to override a presidential veto of a bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline.
How Ashford will operate as a Democrat from a predominantly Republican state will be interesting. He certainly won't be the first. Ben Nelson, Bob Kerrey, James Exon were all Democrats who represented Nebraska in the Senate. It can be done successfully.
Sasse and Ashford are off to good starts in Congress. It will be interesting to see both the style and substance that comes from both of them.
McCook Daily Gazette. Jan. 9, 2015.
Leap second coming, will we be ready?
Three years ago, Qantas' reservation system broke down, leaving passengers stranded for hours and the planes that never crash lined up on the tarmac.
Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp and LinkedIn all bogged down, as did systems using Java and Linux — the operating system underlying all of those Android phones and tablets.
The problem was the folks who keep track of such things — the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service — know that the Earth's spin slows down about two thousandths of a second per day, but atomic clocks are constant.
Over time, the difference builds up to a full second, and the clocks need to be reset to keep the two in sync.
Computers, meanwhile, expect to have 86,400 seconds in a day, and don't know what to do when the network server adds a second.
That's just what's going to happen on June 30, when a second will be added.
That wasn't such a big deal in 1972, when an electronic calculator costs hundreds of dollars, sat on a desk and performed four functions.
Today, we all carry computers in our pockets and depend on complex binary code to text love notes, check our schedules and find out what's for supper.
As the 2012 leap second approached, Google announced a "leap smear," which would add a little bit of time every time its servers were updated.
Have Google, and other Internet companies, large and small, learned their lesson?
We'll know on the first of July