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Heineman Plays Politics with Education

The New Nebraska Network has a thoughtful take on this issue…

By his handling of the near-simulatenous, controversial decisions to dissolve "elementary-only" school districts in rural Nebraska and to merge various metro-area school districts into Omaha Public Schools, Governor Dave Heineman has proven himself completely undeserving of the office that he holds.

At every turn, Heineman has used people's fear and passion to boost his meager chances at election in 2006 rather than leading this state into the 21st Century. He has chosen to play regional and economic divides to his favor rather than healing these still-developing rifts. His actions have been shameful, his positioning irresponsible, and his leadership non-existent.

How sad that a man who seems to have dedicated so much of his life to public service should forsake his integrity at the first taste of power. Even more than Mike Johanns' incompetence and our Congressmen's blind partisanship, Heineman's ambitious manipulation may well be the ultimate example of the Nebraska Republican Party's failure to protect this state's future.

In his Sunday column, the Omaha World-Herald's Harold W. Andersen wrote:

Continuing the sequence of unusual aspects of the Heineman candidacy was his injecting the Governor's Office into a local controversy, i.e., the Omaha school district's "one city, one school district" proposal. The OPS plan has engendered fierce opposition among residents of suburban school districts -- districts with heavily Republican voter majorities among whom Heineman is now something of a political hero, an image enhanced by his appearances at anti-Omaha school district rallies.

One aspect of Heineman's involvement in the school redistricting controversy would be almost laughable if the subject matter were not so serious. I refer to the fact that after indicating very clearly that he is taking the side of the suburban districts, he offered himself in the role of peacemaker, asking both sides to come together for negotiations under his sponsorship.

It seems to me that it's rather hard to offer yourself in the role of an honest broker when you already have announced that you favor one side over the other in the negotiations that you say you would like to sponsor.

Meanwhile, an article in Monday's World-Herald included:

Voters will get a chance next year to decide whether to repeal a law forcing elementary-only schools to merge into larger
districts.

But the vote outcome may not matter unless a judge first decides to suspend the law. That's because the mergers will take effect five months before the vote will take place….

Gov. Dave Heineman, who vetoed the bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year and signed the petition, supports suspending the law until the vote.

"That would be applying a little Nebraska common sense," he said during a news conference call in which he was asked about the issue….

The law angered small-school advocates, who said it was unnecessary because many elementary-only, or Class I schools, are closing on their own, primarily because of a lack of students. But backers of the law said it was needed primarily to ensure equity in education and financial resources in districts across the state.

I feel for the parents and communities that are trying to keep their schools open and/or independent. But, Heineman's pandering for votes in one instance to let small schools die a slow death (at great student/tax-payer expense) and in the other to protect a privileged class violating every principle on which public education is founded is outrageous and despicable.

Heineman, for all his bluster, is flat-out wrong on both these issues. There is nothing populist or principled in protecting waste and privilege. Where compromise may have been possible, Heineman's fool-hardy, line-in-the-sand approach has emboldened short-sighted idiocy in public policy. In so doing, he has actually hurt those with whom he so cynically stands, whose well-meaning causes must now be defeated entirely if we are to maintain any degree of responsible governance.

Heineman deserves a similar fate for the very same reason.

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Kearney Grassroots Academy

This weekend was met with another of our Grassroots Academies. We met at UNK with people from Buffalo, Phelps, Kearney, and Dawson Counties.

Our staff at the Nebraska Democratic Party spoke to the crowd about different ways to get involved in the party. Amanda gave a session on how to write a good letter to the editor. Heath talked about our 93 county strategy and how we can best build a Democratic community in Nebraska. Ian gave an intro to running for office and also spoke about how to best reach out to voters. I gave a talk about volunteering and an impromptu session on phone-banking.

Overall, the training was a great success and our question/answer period proved the great interest level of the attendees. It's always exciting to meet people who have a strong will to help out and give of themselves.

Following the training, we joined the Buffalo County Democrats for their Fall Fundraiser. Jeanne Butler did an amazing job coordinating the events and had a wonderful meal prepared. We even had a visit from candidates Scott Kleeb and Larry Harvey.

To help the NDP provide FREE Grassroots Academies, you can contribute here.

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Obama Gets Standing "O" in Omaha

Senator Barack Obama lit up the Qwest Center in Omaha this morning as 1,500 people listened attentively to his remarks ranging from empowering girls to the federal deficit.
I was there with a large group of Democratic Divas that turned out to support Girls Inc. and listen to the popular Democrat.

The Senator talked about his two young girls and what it takes to be a good parent before delving into empowering all young women to exceed expectations and become leaders. He told the girls in the audience never to be satisfied with yourself just because you have satisfied someone else. Obama said often times, expectations for girls are lower then they should be. He told them to set high goals for themselves and only be satisfied when they achieve them.

Sen. Obama told the adults that women's issues need more attention beyond abortion and reproductive rights. Women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. He said society should not expect less from women than it does from men.

The Senator also took questions from some of the young women who participate in Girls Inc. One young lady asked if the deficit is real and what it will mean to her generation. Sen. Obama said that while Democrats need to be more realistic about some spending (i.e. entitlements), Republicans flat out lie about taxes. He told us that the Republicans are now asking for a tax cut to provide economic growth after the heavy cost of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Obama said the tax cuts would make absolutely no sense.

Obama also answered a question about how hard it is to work with Republicans and lobby groups. He admitted that it is tough because extremist lobbyists and operatives like Karl Rove feed on fears, and their efforts have worked on the America public. It is more difficult to inspire hope, Obama said. However, he feels it is possible to be firm, and respond to criticism quickly and effectively without stooping to the levels of people like Rove. Obama quoted Martin Luther King saying, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Obama presented a vision of hope and inspiration to those who attended the event, so it is unfortunate that the press stories I have seen so far focus on Girls Inc. and conservative backlash towards the group because it supports abortion rights. While it is a controversial subject matter, few organizations are so dedicated to improving the lives of girls and educating them so that they will hopefully never be in a situation where that kind of choice has to be made.

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What's He Smiling About?

I wonder what Tom DeLay thinks is so great? Sure, I didn't expect him to look sullen, but come on, he looks like he is posing for one of those tourist photos at Walt Disney World.

Maybe he is in denial about the state of the national GOP. Check out these talking points I have posted in the Communications Center for all the details on the not-so-happy week for the Republicans. With all the investigations and arraignments, it's hard to believe things are going to get much, much worse for them next week when the Fitzgerald investigation results in high-level indictments. (Okay, so it's not so hard for us to imagine, but I'm sure it's a nightmare for the President. Halloween could come a few days early for Mr. Bush.)

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Nebraska Democrat Puts Jeff Fortenberry on the Spot

Jamie Bachmann -- Nebraska Democrat -- puts Fortenberry on the
spot about his dirty money

"I had a little encounter with Mr. Fortenberry at a Medicare
Prescription Drug Presentation, aka. photo opt. The little ditty below describes how things panned out:

That's exactly how we take this state back: getting out of our chairs, hitting the road and asking questions of the people who need to give Nebraska answers.

You can read Jamie's complete recap here And remember, you can always freshen up on the latest issues at our Communications Center

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Tom DeLay Wanted for Arrest

A Texas court issued a warrant for Tom DeLay's arrest yesterday. That means DeLay is headed for a Texas police station today where he will likely be fingerprinted and have an official mug shot taken. (I bet he's loving the thought of that!) It looks like his first court appearance will be Friday morning.

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Open Thread

Check out this first post about a run-in with Rep. Fortenberry…

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You're Invited to Kearney!

I'm writing to invite you to join Democrats from across central Nebraska for a grassroots politics training on Saturday, October 22nd.

This free training is brought to you by the Nebraska Democratic Party and the local Buffalo County Democrats. It's geared toward Democratic Party activists, volunteers, and local candidates, and will cover the basics of building a local party infrastructure, political communications, and community organizing.

Join your neighbors and community leaders and sign up today.

The training will be held at the UNK Student Union, Oak Room,
1013 West 27th Street, in Kearney. It begins at 1:00 p.m. and will last for about four hours.

This event will be followed by the Buffalo County Democrats Fall Dinner. For more information on the dinner, click here.

I hope to see you in Kearney at the training and the dinner.

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Democrats Make Progress While Republicans Are Busy Cutting Ribbons

Our energy press conference yesterday received some great coverage in today's papers. The Lincoln Journal Star had a very comprehensive article on their front page. It's shocking to see that Governor Heineman cited his example of supporting renewable energy by showing up for a ribbon cutting at a wind farm. I suppose he doesn't know any better since he's pretty much been cutting ribbons his entire elected career. If any politician has been pushing for Nebraska to harvest wind energy, it is State Senator Don Preister. Over the last 10 years, he has repeatedly offered legislation that would require renewable resources to be used for electricity.

Nebraska Democrats are committed to the renewable energy industry and doing everything we can to attract more producers and grow our economy. The same goes for alternative energy sources like ethanol and biodiesel. Our Republican leadership seems to think they can show up for dedication ceremonies or support one ethanol initiative and that means they are committed to a stronger future for energy in Nebraska. They are wrong and it will cost Nebraskans in the future.

Democrats have real proposals to bring to the table that address a broad array of energy issues. You can check them out in yesterday's press release.

You can also ready more about the press conference in the Omaha World Herald.

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Nebraska Democrats Take a Stand on Energy Crises

This morning, the NDP held a well-attended news conference outlining a positive new vision for a more energy independent Nebraska. Nebraskans have been burdened this fall by high gas prices and await the looming threat of high heating bills as our temperatures drop. Nebraska's Republican leadership shows no interest in making the changes necessary to protect Nebraskans from these rising costs. In fact, our state's Republican leadership would rather sit around and watch as other states run laps around us in their attempts to cultivate new energy technologies. Nebraska Democrats are taking a stand on energy -- and propose new policies that will economic development to rural Nebraska, while making us a national leader in the production of alternative energies.

NDP Chairman Steve Achelpohl outlined a series of energy proposals that should be considered by state leaders. They include easing Nebraska's requirements for its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the creation of a price gouging standard, new incentives for the ethanol industry, a 10% ethanol mandate, and the development of biodiesel and wind as alternative energy sources.

State Senators Matt Connealy and Gwen Howard also shared their commitment to making Nebraska more energy independent. Senator Connealy is a strong advocate for the ethanol industry and is proposing the 10% ethanol mandate in the legislature.

Congressional Candidates Jim Esch and Scott Kleeb also shared their ideas for energy. Esch spoke about the need to be committed to alternative energy because the cost of oil will continue to rise in the future. Kleeb spoke about how the US needs to become more energy independent because the price of a tank of gas is too dependent on what is happening in other parts of the world.

To check out the press release for today's event, visit the Communications Center.

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