Jim Vokal, a former Omaha city councilman and the Platte Institute’s current chief executive officer, recently said something bearing wider attention from Nebraskans on the brink of Election Day.
In a weekly email letter, Vokal reminded his readers that their job as citizens doesn’t end with casting ballots — and that Nebraskans have inherited a unique heritage when it comes to governing ourselves.
“We are not helpless because of the outcome of an election,” he wrote. “We not only have the right to vote. We have the right to engage our government and take a role in how policy is made.”
Even if you lament the election’s outcome, “there is still something you can do,” Vokal added. “A lot of good can come from sincerely working with the people who are in office, when you can agree.”
Then, drawing upon Nebraska’s nearly 85-year-old nonpartisan tradition typified by the Nebraska Unicameral, he added:
“I still believe we are very far away from exhausting all that Nebraskans have in common, regardless of political affiliation.
“Here, party bosses are not supposed to control what legislation is heard and voted on, nor do they get to decide what the people petition (via initiative or referendum) to vote on themselves.”
The late Keith Blackledge, this newspaper’s longtime editor, followed and deeply believed in this philosophy.
It remains ours today at The Telegraph, in and out of election season, regardless of whatever else you might hear or read in the fevered world of social media.
Political parties, no matter their ideological bent, equally share this dangerous flaw: They’re at their worst when they forget —as both major parties have for years now — that it isn’t all about this election or the next or all the ones to come.
There are lives to be lived. There are always imperative decisions to be made. And we need all of us and our best ideas to make them — for as Vokal also said, “Candidates you vote against can also surprise you sometimes.”
When the election is over, there’s governing to be done in this nation that long has championed government “of the people, by the people (and) for the people.”
It starts with voting, of course. If you haven’t cast an early ballot and if you’re a duly registered voter, we urge you to go to your in-person polling place (safely, in light of COVID-19) and vote on Tuesday.
We recommend you back the candidates who you believe are more likely to put the people’s interests ahead of their own (or of their party) and bring all of us together to make the best possible decisions for our community, state and nation.
We leave those individual choices to you. But we’ve exercised our own citizenship here this past month by weighing in on Tuesday’s local and state ballot questions — those that call upon us Nebraskans, as the “second house,” to be the lawmakers.
To briefly recap our views on those matters:
» North Platte’s Quality Growth Fund, the pool of city sales-tax money we’ve set aside since 2001 to help our local economy, should be renewed for 10 more years. We urge “YES” votes on both QGF questions.
» We recommend “YES” votes on both constitutional amendments offered by the Legislature. Amendment 1 removes an exception to Nebraska’s slavery prohibition that lets prisoners be “rented out” like property. Amendment 2 allows developers in “extremely blighted” areas (which don’t include North Platte but might one day) more time to recover some of their project costs through tax increment financing.
» Initiative 428 would cap the annual interest rates on “payday loans” at 36%, compared with rates averaging more than 400% today. It deserves a “YES” vote.
» Finally, we strongly urge “NO” votes on all three casino-gambling questions (Initiatives 429, 430 and 431). Like similar past efforts, they ask Nebraskans to accept ridiculously low casino tax rates — this time on would-be horse-track “racinos” — while leaving Nebraskans to cope with the inevitable spread and social costs of gambling addiction beyond towns now bordering casino-friendly states.