Category Archives: Uncategorized

Strategic Language at OPPD

If you live in the OPPD service area here’s a simple but important action we really all should take.

From now until May 16 the OPPD Board is soliciting public comments on adding language to its Strategic Directive 7. The strategic directives are guidelines directing the functions and operations of the utility such as achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The added language is this one sentence: “The OPPD Board of Directors recognizes the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from human activity contribute to climate change impacts.”

You wouldn’t think that recognizing scientific consensus would be controversial but it seems like everything is these days. So kudos to the OPPD Board for seeking public input and providing a forum for both “de-carbers” and de-niers”. Indeed it’s almost more entertaining to read the latter, up to a point anyway as they tend to be verbose. Unlike a lot of the national polls and petitions and click-activism that is so prevalent, this is close quarters representation involving both sides of the issue and so it’s important to make our voices heard.

To get to the Community Connects page at OPPD go here. You can browse the area and other comments without obligation but to leave a comment there is a simple name and password registration.

For a little more background Nancy Gaarder had a recent story about this in the Omaha World-Hearld last Monday (4/19).

Re-alignment Politics

For many of us in the Green Party it can be easy to become insular and isolated from the larger political landscape. The antidote for this, of course, is to stay better aware of that landscape and our relative position within it.

Finding a reliable or objective overview can be difficult (to say the least!) in a subject devoted to competing opinions. A recent essay, published by the organization Waging Nonviolence, does seem useful for this purpose so I thought I would pass it along.

The essays theme is about political party “re-alignments” – the efforts of factions working to steer the direction of a party.  It notes 3rd parties occasionally but is mainly about intra-party politics like the efforts of the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats or the Democratic Socialists to push a more progressive agenda than mainstream Dems are comfortable with. It also provides some historical context and examples from both sides of the political spectrum. As an example of how these movements can affect our party remember the influx of Bernie supporters to the Greens when he was passed over for Hillary in 2016.

The essay seems reasonable even-handed and non-judgmental and Waging Non-Violence has a good site and newsletter as well.

A Kernel Of Prevention vs A Bushel Of Cure

Not many environmental bills get passed by the Nebraska Legislature or even make it past the Natural Resources Committee to get debated on the floor. Efforts to upgrade net metering policy or address the effects of climate change are routinely proposed and routinely “IPP”d (Indefinitely Postponed).

An exception this year is LB 507 which would ban the use of seed corn treated with insecticides for use in making ethanol. This is in response to the one facility that does that (using seed it gets for free because it didn’t get sold and is surplus), the AltEn plant near Mead, just west of Omaha. The plant has been the subject of complaints by people living in the vicinity since it opened in 2015 and was recently sued by the state government for badly maintained waste lagoons and not disposing of piles of decaying byproduct on its premises.

Then on February 12 a frozen pipe ruptured at the plant releasing pesticide-laden waste to the area. A nearby University research facility found high levels of neonicotinoids (the chemicals responsible for a lot of the population crashes of bees and other insect pollinators) in the escaped wastewater. The ethanol plant is currently shut down and the state will likely be doing investigations into the release. In fact this is not far from a state remediation plant that is cleaning up groundwater from an old armaments factory from WW2. It probably will not surprise anyone if AltEn declares bankruptcy around the time a cleanup plan is announced .

LB507, which was actually introduced (Bostelman, Dist.23) before things came off the tracks at AltEn this winter, is now a Natural Resources priority bill and folded into a committee omnibus bill which also addresses water appropriations and elk hunting on private land. So that means that at a minimum it will get attention and has a very likely chance at being enacted.

One has to wonder though how this plant got approval to operate in the first place. Was there a plan to dispose of this toxic byproduct that wasn’t followed or was there just no plan required or submitted? It’s another lesson that a little care and planning ahead can prevent a lot more trouble down the road. And that is how our state senators should be looking at the climate bills before them, as a small investment in prevention or minimally, in awareness of the evolving situation. LB576 (Bostar) would provide $50K to update the 2014 UNL Climate Assessment and LB483 (Cavanaugh) would direct $250K from the Petroleum Release Remedial Collection Fund (which currently has 11.9 million dollars) to UNL to create a state climate action plan. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting use for that particular fund. These are not yet on anyone’s priority list in the Legislature but they should be on ours as Greens. A letter to someone: the editor, your senator or the committee, would certainly be helpful (576 is in Appropriations, 483 in Natural Resources); since hearings are over go to these bill pages to leave comments online.

Nebraska Unicam: Voting and Elections Bills

If there was ever a bill that ought to rally Greens ( and other “3rd” parties ) it is LB 125, introduced into the current Unicameral session by Omaha senator John McCollister. It’s scheduled for a public hearing before the Government, Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee on Thursday, February 18th at 9:30 am in Room 1507 at the state capital.

LB 125 would institute Ranked Choice Voting ( we used to also call it Instant Runoff Voting) for elections for Governor, Legislature, U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator. If you’re unfamiliar with it, RCV allows the voter to rank candidates by order of preference and counting proceeds in rounds until one candidate achieves a majority of 1st and 2nd (or 3rd etc.) choice votes. This eliminates the excuse thrown at Greens of being “spoilers”.  We could vote our consciences as Greens but still ally with non Green candidates to defeat regressive forces. Plus, no one is elected without a majority vote which is a great argument by itself. Nebraska Democrats have historically been concerned about our Green votes diluting their political power in local and federal elections. RCV would mean all of us could better afford to vote our conscience, while also voting for additional preferences if our first choice doesn’t win a majority. Especially in a conservative state like Nebraska progressives should do what they can to present a united front and minimize our differences. This bill, albeit a long shot, would go a long way toward helping with that.

Like it has so many other things, the Covid pandemic has also changed some procedures regarding public input on bills and testifying. The public hearing process is still open for live testimony and to drop off written testimony that day ( be sure to indicate you support the bill near the top of written post) . If you are quarantining or just being cautious or working you have two other options: 1. you can leave a public comment (available for legislators, their aides and the public to read) at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=43491 or 2. you can email the GMV committee at mailto:govpl@leg.ne.gov by noon the day before (Wed. 2/17) with written testimony that will be included in the public record of the committee hearing.

If you have time ….. the day before all this, Wednesday the 17th, conservative senator Julie Slama (Dist. 1, Peru) has hearings on measures to require photo voter ID, LR3CA, (which would require a vote, being a constitutional amendment) and LB 76 which would revert Nebraska to the winner-take-all apportionment of Electoral College votes and preventing District 2 from peeling off like it did last election for Biden. Same committee, same hearing room; LB76 is at 9:30am and LR3CA is at 1:30pm).

And if you really have time .. A worthy bill doing some basic reforms on redistricting, LB107 (senator McCollister again,) is heard before the Executive Board, Room 1527 also on Wednesday the 18th at 12 noon. While it doesn’t try for an independent commission like his bill last session did, this one still spells out objective criteria to use in laying out new congressional and legislative and other state districts to prevent gerrymandering. R’s outnumber D’s 2-1 on the Exec Bd so we’ll have to see if it even gets out of committee for floor debate. Currently the Exec Board picks legislators for a select committee although the whole legislature votes on the end result.

 

Silent Partners

When the (indicted) Attorney General of Texas brought his last ditch suit to the Supreme Court recently, in a baseless effort to overturn the certified results of clear and legal elections in the battleground states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, he was joined in an amicus brief by the AG from Nebraska, Doug Peterson along with several other AGs from Republican states. It seems to appear to them that the time to raise concerns about election rules and safeguards is after the election didn’t go their way.

Whether you consider this a principled stand or just more Trump boot licking, Peterson did issue a news release saying he was doing it and (despite a conspicuous lack of evidence) why.

As little as that is,  it’s more than you can say for Nebraska congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith who also joined the amicus brief with no notice or explanation to their constituents. Apparently overturning a (small d) democratic election in favor of their own choice isn’t noteworthy?

Of course it’s still 2020 so even a terse Supreme Court dismissal doesn’t mean we’re done here. No surprises are expected when the electors meet Monday (12/14) to officially cast their votes in the Electoral College. But, on January 6, as constitutionally mandated, the, yup, House of Representatives has to meet and tally the Electoral College votes and declare the winner. According to a New York Times story on Dec 13  Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) and a “group of allies in the House” are planning a challenge to the electoral votes in 5 battleground states. Again this is without any certified evidence of illegal voting or fraud (especially not in their own districts!).

So… are Reps. Fortenberry and Smith going to agree with this charade as well? Will they even tell us or will we have to find out after the fact? They are so ensconced in their safe districts that it’s likely their only concern is that they will be challenged or run out by members of the Trump Party.

We’re likely to find out faster through a Trump twitter rant naming his defectors but if you are social distancing from that sort of viral outbreak, well I guess there’s always CSPAN. Is there still CSPAN? Hope so. Curious to see how VP Pence announces the results.

M J Berry

Sadly but fondly we are remembering and saying farewell to one of our longest serving founders, volunteers and friends, Mary Berry “Mj” who left this earth last Sunday. We will surely miss her but we will continue to be inspired by her example and her vision of a peaceful and just society.

The following is her obituary written by Steve Larrick, another longstanding Green and close friend to Mary.

Mary Jo “MJ” Berry was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on December 12, 1947 to Lucille (Schmutte) and Travis Berry. She shined her light on this world into the wee hours of November 15, 2020.

When a serious auto accident almost took her life in 1979, doctors said she would not likely walk again. But reaching out to what she experienced as a Higher Power, MJ regained her ability to walk and began a long and active spiritual and political life in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A lover of music and participatory democracy, she always supported Lincoln’s KZUM community radio station and served as a leader in the Nebraska Green Party, Nebraskans Against the Death, and other peace, social justice, and environmental groups. When the internet emerged, MJ started her own “Mostly Good News” online service, collecting links to positive news stories from a wide range of sources and passing them along to a growing list of readers in more than 1,100 installments over 20 years. She earned the Peacemaker of the Year Award from the local Alternatives to the Military group.

MJ advocated for medical marijuana to deal with the pain she lived with since 1979. She came to believe that our collective human consciousness can evolve to a greater harmony with nature, to world peace, and to a collective healing with social and economic justice for all. Always the optimist, she believed, as the poet Pablo Neruda wrote, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

It is MJ’s wish that any memorial gifts be donated in her name to Lincoln’s KZUM radio station at kzum.org and/or to: Nebraska Green Party; P.O. Box 85442; Lincoln, NE 68501. A memorial service will be planned for in 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic threat has passed. MJ will be interred next to her mother in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.

Black Lives Matter

The Green Party from its beginnings has been about social justice as well as environmental issues. We see them as inextricably linked. Pollution and climate change affect not just some of us but all of us. So too, when fairness and equality are denied to our brothers and sisters of color it should aggrieve all of us. As a recent protest poster put it “No one is free when others are oppressed!”

A number of people have drawn analogies between the persistent racism in our country and the current Covid 19 pandemic. Analogies are rarely perfect and we should recognize in this one that the effects of racism are, by definition, targeted at and borne by only some of us. One aspect of the analogy that seems valid though is that treatment of both diseases will require some fundamental and systemic changes, in our government and in our culture. And they will require ongoing vigilance to keep in check. We need a new “normal”.

It’s a tragedy that it has taken so many needless deaths, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray and countless others, to bring this to the level of attention and outrage it deserves. It’s been heartening to see the huge and sustained response in the streets, both here in Nebraska and across the country and around the globe.

Nebraska Greens stand with Black Lives Matters activists everywhere. We advocate non-violence as a fundamental and are glad to see that the protests have been as peaceful as they have. We’re also glad to see that they’ve been disruptive, as that is obviously the point when years go by and nothing changes (or gets worse as in the last 4 years).

Also unlike the Covid-19, the treatment here seems to include reducing social distance, even if not always physically. If you are wondering where to start, the Nebraska ACLU has compiled a pretty good list of supporting organizations led by people of color that you can access here

Voting the May 12 Primary

(without catching a disease)

Starting this week election officials are supposed to start mailing out applications for early voting or vote-by-mail. With many counties facing shortages of poll workers and the voting public understandably cautious about physical proximity it only makes sense to vote by mail this time around.

Vote by mail has been shown to increase voter participation and increased voter participation tends to work against Republicans. Thus you get situations like Wisconsin where the Democratic governor tried to go to a postponed vote by mail system like many other states have done. Hours after he signed the order Republican legislators went to the state supreme court which, on a party line vote, quashed the order. Their primary goes on as usual, actually as unusual, April 7.

Hard to say where the epidemic will be in a month when it’s Nebraska’s turn. Even though the governor has not yet endorsed an all mail in system for this election at least everyone will get the opportunity to do just that. It’s up to us to get the applications returned on time, they’re due May 1. The ballots themselves are due at your county election office by the time the polls close on primary day which is May 12th.

Nebraska is an open primary state so if you are a non partisan you can request a nonpartisan, Democratic, Republican or Libertarian ballot . Greens won’t appear because we are not currently recognized by the state and have too few volunteers to get the petition signatures required for ballot status, if that was even possible with the social distancing protocols so necessary right now.

Be safe and Vote safely !

Water and Energy Events

Two events to relay this week, the first being a seminar on water quality entitled “What’s In Your Water?”. This symposium will be held this Thursday from 6:30 – 8:00 pm in the Hardin Hall Auditorium on the UNL East Campus, 3310 Holdrege Street.

Speakers will include Dr. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, UNL Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Dick Ehrman, Lower South Platte NRD; Amanda Gangwash, Conservation Nebraska; and Nate Belcher, Green Acres Cover Crops. In addition to the discussion of water quality issues in Lincoln and Nebraska generally, people are invited to bring water samples with them for testing or pick up free water testing kits available at the event.

The second event is in Omaha this Saturday afternoon. “The Future of Clean Energy in Omaha” will feature Eric Williams and Janece Mollhoff from the OPPD Board of Directors, David Corbin with Nebraskans for Solar, Lu Nelson from the Center For Rural Affairs and Amanda Gangwash for Conservation Nebraska. With recent elections producing a progressive and forward-thinking majority on the public power board how fast can we expect a transition to renewables? How far can we take it? What obstacles remain? What can we as citizens do? Join the discussion this Saturday, Feb. 29 from 2-5 pm at the UNO College of Public Affairs Bldg. 6320 Maverick Plaza Room 101.

Update on Unicam Budget & Tax Issues

What’s new with property taxes? What’s the progress on Medicaid expansion in Nebraska? Will the Legislature pass another business tax giveaway incentive? Here is an excellent opportunity to get up to speed on these and other policy issues.

OpenSky Policy Institute will provide an update about the state tax and budget debate at a fiscal policy forum on Friday, Feb. 14 at The Living Room in the Mastercraft Building at 1111 N. 13th St., in Omaha. The forum — which is sponsored by the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands — will run from 9 a.m. to 10:30 am and is open to the public. The forum also will be streamed live on NAM’s Facebook page.

At the forum, OpenSky will discuss what is happening in our state fiscal debate, including the most up-to-date discussions around the state tax and budget debate, implementation of Medicaid Expansion and more. OpenSky will help attendees understand what the tax and budget debate means for our state and for Nebraska’s nonprofits.

Register for the forum here.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT RSVPS: If you are not a NAM member, please register as a guest