Monday, April 5, 2010

The Panhandle's Biggest Flea Market?

I was asked by a reader to post a notice about Western Nebraska's Treasure Trek, scheduled for June 11-12. I don't know much about it, but you can find out more by clicking here: Treasure Trek.

From what I gather, it's a block party/garage sale that just happens to extend over half the state. Some highlights from the above link:

The next committee meeting will be at 1 p.m. April 11 at the Alliance Chamber of Commerce, 111 W. Third St. The public is welcome to attend and offer suggestions.

And here's the pitch:

Reasons to hold Treasure Trek

◦Sell antiques, collectibles, crafts
◦Promote local business
◦Promote profit for Western Nebraska
◦Promote community involvement
◦Promote tourism

Reasons to attend Treasure Trek

◦Discover treasures at garage sales and flea markets
◦Enjoy Western Nebraska´s sites, such as Chimney Rock, Fort Robinson, Carhenge
◦Learn about the area's historical buildings, parks, museums

If you have taken part in past Treasure Treks and have anything to share, please post what you know under comments. Better yet, send me photos.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

UPDATED: Rebekah Davis on the Issues

I've been meaning to get back to my conversation with congressional candidate Rebekah Davis. Life got in the way. A visit from Davis this afternoon prompted me to pull out the tapes again. As eloquent as she is, I've decided to let her speak for herself. I'm going to have to do this a bit piecemeal. We'll take it one issue at a time. I'll keep adding as I work my way through our three-hour interview. I hope you'll keep reading. I also hope Rep. Adrian Smith is up to the challenge of a debate with Davis. 

ON ABORTION: "I don't understand how the quote-unquote 'pro-life' politician [in the Republican Party] can say we need to do all we can to protect the unborn, and yet, once that child is in fact born, the same politician will vote against funding for Head Start, will vote against funding for things like Children's Health Insurance, will vote against things to increase adoptions from our foster-care system. That drives me out. And some might say, well, why is it, when those are the things that matter to you, you're going with the pro-life label? Why aren't you going with the other label? And I say to myself: because I think that is a question of life. That is a question of quality of life." 

ON BEING A WOMAN IN NEBRASKA POLITICS: "I do think it helps tremendously that [Republican Rep.] Virginia Smith was in office for almost 20 years -- that, at least, the novelty is gone. ... And the other thing that I point to is that, as a state, we were the first state to have two women face each other in the governor's race [Republican Kay Orr vs. Democrat Helen Boosalis in 1986, when Davis was 4]. ... It still remains that women are a majority of voters in the state, women are very aware of the fact that we are nowhere near parity in gender in terms of either our state offices or our federal offices. And I will be intrigued to see what the final tallies are in terms of where -- especially Republican and independent -- women fall on who they vote for on Nov. 2."

ON APPLYING A GLOBAL VIEW TO LOCAL CONCERNS: "I reject the idea that [Nebraska's] 3rd District is not deeply interconnected with the wider world. I actually think we are; it's just not immediately apparent. When you think of the places our agricultural products go, they cover the world. And I think now, at this moment in time, there is huge opportunity for someone who knows the world, who has traveled the world, to be able to look at what we do best as the 3rd District and to match our agricultural outlook with parts of the world that could use it. And this is one reason why I think it is a huge asset that I have been to over 60 countries, that I speak multiple languages -- because if I have some type of congressional delegation to, let's say, West Africa, one region of the world where we could do a lot more partnering in terms of grain exports, you bet I'll take the opportunity to talk with the prime minister of Senegal or whoever I'm with and say: 'We should develop a stronger relationship.' ... We need to look past the fact that we are a rural district and more to the fact that we are so connected to the wider world; we could do a lot more." 

ON TECHNOLOGY: "One thing that I think would be an immediate and huge shift in terms of the job atmosphere in the district is broadband [Internet] access. I am baffled by any argument rejecting the need for broadband access. However, this was a part of a bill that [incumbent Rep.] Adrian Smith voted against. Did anyone call him out on it? Besides me? I didn't see it. I didn't see the local papers say, 'Why did you vote against something that would so greatly increase our economic opportunity in this state?' ... Broadband is new; there are still people who doubt its relevancy. But I think we're kidding ourselves if we don't realize that, as a country, if we don't invest in this throughout our country, there will be huge and growing forms of disparity. If you have students at a school in New York who have access to it but students in Hemingford don't, it puts them at an unfair advantage. And it's not the teacher's fault, it's not the students' fault -- it's just that technology changes and we need to make sure we have an even playing field in terms of the base that our students are starting from."

*ON GREEN ENERGY: "We cannot abdicate this to China. Both in terms of actual construction of mechanisms for windmills, but also implementation of it. We have seen too many things slip through our grasp as a country, in terms of things that China is now the leader of. ... Specific to Nebraska, we have the third highest capacity in terms of generation of wind potential. However, we are 22nd in terms of current capacity. There's a lot of room for growth there. It would be good for our country, and it would be good for our state. ... I think if we look at what it would take for a new type of national energy grid, Nebraska is in a prime location to be part of that, both in terms of transmission lines but also given terms of actual energy generation. ... Now, I don't think wind is going to solve all of our problems. I do think we have to be realistic that right now we are a very carbon-heavy economy. ... In some ways, maybe it's a good thing that this transition would take as long as it will, because if we think now about starting a program at Chadron [State College] or [Western Nebraska Community College] where maybe it's a tech job for not only constructing a windmill but being able to maintain it, for that person five years from now who graduates from the program, that would be a viable job for them. By the time we actually have a green economy up and running -- that would be vibrant and different from what it is now -- the reality is, that person right now who is feeding his family in Wyoming [as an employee of the coal industry] is probably going to be looking to retirement. ... I am extremely empathetic right now to the idea of job loss. ... I do realize so many jobs are on the line and that there will be changes. The people who now work for companies that are very coal-dependent or very oil-dependent will not necessarily exist, but I would say to that this: Did we lose sleep over typewriting companies going by the wayside when we transitioned to computers like we think of them now? Change happens. We shouldn't slow the pace just because it's different and it means some jobs changing."

**ON THE FUTURE OF RAILROADS: "The railroads will always be part of our country, and I think Warren Buffett's recent purchase of BNSF cements that in the national psyche. Right now, the Panama Canal is being widened so that the largest supertankers in the world will soon be able to pass through it. However, at the present, it is actually faster for a ship from China to unload in L.A. and traverse the country using rail to get to the Eastern Seaboard.... There are a myriad number of ways that railroads will always be important to us, regardless of what the status is of coal being drawn out of Wyoming."

**ON AGRIBUSINESS: "I don't think our current ag policy is working. I think we have a system in place that almost rewards a farmer or ranch the larger it gets -- to the point of driving out the small and middle-sized farmer-rancher. It's something that could be political suicide [for Davis' campaign to challenge], but there are some definitive things that I think we could focus on: One would be a ban on packer feeding -- that's a system in place where some of the huge conglomerates, the packing plants, are able to mitigate changes in beef prices by importing, in sealed trucks, cattle from Mexico or Canada at times when prices have fluctuated above what they want to pay.... Cattle producers here don't benefit, people at the supermarket don't benefit, but, again, the conglomerate packing houses definitely benefit. ... In terms of realizing that our food security in many ways is also a national-security issue, I think it would behoove us to realize that it's not just senators and reps from Middle America who should be concerned about this. ... Two groups that I greatly respect, actually three, come to think of it -- I like their pragmatic approach to some incremental changes, again, that wouldn't be a shock to the system but that would allow for positive changes to take place over a duration of time -- are the Independent Cattlemen's association, the Farmers Union and the Center for Rural Affairs. I really like what they have to say. I think a lot of what they point to are things that most people would probably agree with -- reforming our system without causing a shock to it."     

**ON HEALTH CARE: "I do not understand the argument for allowing millions of people in a country as wealthy as ours to not have access to health care. ... People want health care; people deserve health care. And so, in my heart of hearts, I think if we can have a system that actually works for people -- I don't think we're going to have single-payer ever in our lifetime in this country, but if we at the very least recognize that the reforms that have already passed no different in the Senate and the House would benefit our country -- if we can actually do that last little step to make sure that this becomes signed into law, that would be, to me, a wonderful thing. The reality is, Social Security and Medicare were both opposed by Republicans when they were first floated as ideas. Now who paints themselves as the defenders of Medicare and Social Security? Republicans. ... I think health reform would be the same exact thing 20 years from now if we can just get it passed. I think people will recognize the benefit it brings to our country. It will bring fluidity to the job market, because right now most people would not leave a job with a large corporation to start their own business, to become an entrepreneur, if it meant losing health care. I don't think the system we have in place, of tying our health care to our employment, works. I think we should reward small-business owners in being able to create innovation, create demand and supply for products that we don't already have, and it shouldn't be a burden to them to have to compete with large corporations in terms of health care."

**ON WHY SHE'S RUNNING: "There are a lot of other things I could do in life that would be far less tumultuous than this, but I can't think of anything else that would mean as much to me as being able to represent this state -- with all the ups and downs that go with holding public office. That doesn't frighten me. What frightens me is when people do not believe facts, do not believe truths, and instead follow sensationalism and don't look at the reality of what things are. I think one of the growing things that we've seen in the political climate is people being motivated by fear. That, to me, is such an oxymoron. You can't be motivated by fear; you can only be cowed by fear."

*added Thursday, March 11, 2010
**added Monday, March 15, 2010

NOTE: All these quotes come from the same Jan. 31, 2010, interview. Many have been abridged (as indicated by ellipses), but none altered.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There's No Place Like Nebraska, and No Magazine Like Nebraska Life

If you aren't reading Nebraska Life, you should be. I keep finding old copies around the house and getting sucked in. Anyone who thinks nothing ever happens in Nebraska will have a hard time clinging to that notion after just one issue.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Running as a Democrat in Nebraska's 3rd District

Rebekah Davis is a 28-year-old Alliance native who is running against incumbent Rep. Adrian Smith for Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District. Newshound caught up with Davis at a local fast-food establishment to talk politics over the weekend. Here's the first installment of highlights from that conversation.

NEWSHOUND: You are young, you are a woman, you are a Democrat; this is [Nebraska's historically conservative] 3rd District. For each of those, tell me: Why is that a strength? Why is it a weakness?

DAVIS: Well, let's start with the easy one -- the being a Democrat. Sarcasm aside, it's true: The last time a Democrat held this seat was 1960. His name was Lawrence Brock. The term was '58 to '60. And I am aware of that day in, day out. But I think now, much like then, people were looking for a different option, they were looking for a change from things as usual. And when I look to this race, I recognize that a lot of us, not just in Alliance but across Nebraska, come from mixed families.

NEWSHOUND: As far as politically?

DAVIS: Right. I think if you were to, in the privacy of someone's home, if you were to ask them, "Do you know and love a person of the opposite party?" -- most people would say yes. And yet, when we're speaking in general platitudes about the other party, we somehow forget that these are our parents, our siblings, sometimes our spouses, let alone our children at times. And I wonder, why is it that that chasm on one hand is so narrow, in terms of our families, and yet so large in terms of our outlooks? ... That's why I think there's hope for a Democrat to win this seat; it's that, when a person realizes that, me as a candidate, when I'm standing up there speaking, I'm speaking first of all as a daughter of Nebraska. For me, that trumps party affiliation in many important ways. I see this as representing the people of Nebraska, not just the Democrats of Nebraska. And the reason why that's important to me is that I am a big enough person to recognize that there have been great achievements of the Republican Party and that, in my heart of hearts, I think Washington works best when both parties are actually looking toward the same goals. We are always going to disagree about how to get there, but if we can keep in mind that so many of these objectives are not Republican or Democratic goals, they're American goals.

NEWSHOUND: Your own stances don't match up with your party's platform. You identify as a fiscal conservative, you are pro-life, and I know you supported the surge [of U.S. troops in Iraq] -- these are all going to be very positive for you with the Republican Party. So that makes me wonder what it is that makes you, what very strong issue is it that keeps you identifying as a Democrat? Because you could go either way, I think. If you just, on paper, look at your stances, you land, in my eyes, more independent.

DAVIS: At the end of the day, the thing that makes me a Democrat is that I feel it is the party that wants to make sure America continues to have a middle class. It is the party that wants to make sure that the fairness of individual rights trumps those of large corporations. And, even though you're right, I don't fall lockstep with some of the platforms, and some might say key platforms, of the Democratic Party, to me it is the spirit of the Democratic Party that matters a lot more than the fact that I do fall in a different place on certain issues.
   When I look to even the needs of the state, I think it's the Democratic Party that actually represents Nebraska best, even though it's not the party in power right now. I look around at my neighbors, my friends, and I see that most people are in the same boat as me and my family -- that we are not the top 2 percent of people who would have benefited from tax cuts under former President Bush. We are not typically, people in Nebraska, who benefit from what I see as some of the larger goals of the Republican Party. And, sure, I have my disagreements within the Democratic Party, but I also think in terms of its reason for being -- there's a reason why the Democratic Party labels itself as a "Big Tent"; that, within the Democratic Party, there is room for dissent. ...
   Early on, there were some who said to me, "You know, you almost might have a better time running as an independent than as a Democrat." And, the way I see this, to me, this is about a lot more than just me, Rebekah Davis, running for Congress. This is about my larger goals of wanting to make sure that our 3rd District doesn't die. And what I mean by that is, there's a very good possibility after the next Census that if our population does not increase, if we're not doing more to bring jobs here, we could go down to two congressional districts. We have already lost congressional districts. We used to have five. And for that to happen would be a travesty.
   So, I would rather work within a party -- maybe even bring change to that party -- because, I think if you were to ask most Democrats -- again, in the privacy of their own homes, not necessarily wanting this broadcast to everyone -- I think most Democrats probably have their own individual things that maybe they're not lockstep with the party. But that is why I believe in the Democratic Party, is that there is room for dissent. There is room to be on a different page but still working toward common goals.

NEWSHOUND: And you feel that that's lacking in the Republican Party?

DAVIS: I do. ... I do not perceive there to be room for dissent within the Republican Party -- or, at least, you don't necessarily feel welcome. And the reason I say that, too, is because there are a number of people in my family who started out life as Republicans and have since switched. I joke about this all the time at Democratic meetings, that we have room as a party to reach out to Nebraskans who might not be completely satisfied with either being an independent or a Republican. But it should be a goal of the Democratic Party to make that more known, that there is room for dissent, there is room for having a different opinion on certain issues. My mom, for example, she was a registered Republican up until, I think, April.

NEWSHOUND: Oh, really?



DAVIS: I see this within my own family, that, more and more, people realize that it is not as important to maintain a generational attachment to a party as it is to find, as an individual, where do they fall within the current realities of the Republican Party, of the Democratic Party? Not past realities that might have been true in the '70s, might have been true in the '80s, but are no longer true. And, so, that's why I'm running as a Democrat, not an independent, because the larger goals of the Democratic Party remain the same as my own, even if I differ on certain platforms of the party.

NEWSHOUND: Now, theoretically, there is room for dissent, but do you not think that you'll lose some votes because of some of your stances?

DAVIS: I think you are absolutely right that there are certain votes I'll lose.

NEWSHOUND: But, then, you're more likely to win over some of the independent or Republican people who may identify with your other issues and say, "This is also something I feel strongly about -- she has the guts to stand up, to go against her party's line, to take a stance that's not going to be popular but I agree with." So maybe it's a wash, or maybe you get more votes -- it's hard to say.

DAVIS: And I won't know until the end.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Hard Look at Nebraska's Immigration Issues

The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating immigration story out of Grand Island here. It's not a comfortable read, but an important one.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kathy Lybarger's 7th Street Dance Studio

There's a place on 7th Street where nothing matters quite so much as
and good humor.

It's where Kathy Lybarger has stood before generations of Alliance youngsters and taught them to feel the music, know their capabilities and to dance. It's a place where, even on the bleakest of winter days, there's always sunshine: two small arms arched overhead and occupying little dancers as their teacher slyly transitions to the next lesson.

Anyone who has attended 7th Street Dance Studio's annual spring dance recitals at the high school auditorium can't help but be impressed by Lybarger's choreography. But it is in orchestrating her classes, with even the tiniest dancers, that her talents are most apparent.

Her tuition prices are eye-popping for anyone who has ever enrolled in similar classes in a metropolitan area. She charges a mere $40 per month for a weekly class, $45 monthly for two classes per week, $48 for three classes, or $50 for four. And each student benefits from the years she has poured into this passion project that took shape in an old grocery market at the intersection of 7th and Grand. Lybarger is both owner and instructor. She is the essence of 7th Street Dance Studio, but she lets her students be the heart and soul.

There are no "difficult" students in Lybarger's studio, only children who trip her "fun meter." Any missteps or silliness are met first with laughter as light as air and then with a gentle but firm refocusing.

Lybarger conveys ease, confidence and humility that together provide the foundation for everything else she teaches: from classical ballet and tap for tots to lyrical ballet, pointe, tap and jazz dancing for her older students. Even the dancers who don't have their moves down pat come away with this understanding: One step at a time, give it your best shot and don't take yourself too seriously.

7th Street Dance Studio
Owner/Instructor: Kathy Lybarger
636 East 7th Street
(308) 762-8211

Friday, January 1, 2010

Little America Transports the Weary Traveler

Next time you plan on being in Cheyenne, Wyo., whether daytripping or passing through on the way to or from someplace else, set aside an hour or two to visit Little America. That might sound like a lot of time to spend at a roadside restaurant, but this is the type of place you'll want to savor. And with this history -- emblematic of the grit and generosity that define this part of the country -- how could you resist?

The place is not easy to find (don't let all the billboards fool you), but consider it an adventure scouting it out. It's nestled away near the intersection of Interstates 25 and 80, and you have to know what you are looking for.

Once you enter the resort, drive past the gas station and continue on toward the stately building at the top of the hill. Park near the flagpole and head for the grand (though not ostentatious) entrance. You will be greeted, to your left, by a museum-quality taxidermied penguin and, to your right, a grizzled-looking Native American mannequin sporting a full headdress and tribal garb. None of this is as kitschy as it sounds. On the contrary, my 7-year-old son was sure we'd made some mistake and walked into a museum.

That theme continues in the gift shop, which you will encounter near the entrance. There are no cheap trinkets and tchotkes here. You will find enticing exhibits of artwork, jewelry, clothing -- all of it capturing some essence of the American West.

The real attraction, though, is Hathaways.

If you are like my family, you don't travel in your Sunday best. That might make you hesitate when you turn the corner toward the restaurant and find a finely suited maitre d'. Don't worry. Little America takes all comers. It also has menu prices similar to an Applebee's, a Chili's or a T.G.I. Friday's, but the experience is incomparable.

My family of five was seated at a plush table-booth combo that had the elegant sweep of a throne or royal daybed. Above us hung a large chandelier that could only be described as both ornate and understated. It brought out our most regal manners -- for the most part, anyway.

The kids ordered off the children's menu: two hotdog takers, one fish and chips. My husband and I, marking our return to Nebraska living after more than 10 years away, ordered Reuben sandwiches, to which our home state claims the bragging rights (though some in New York quibble). The fish and chips were to come with what was described as "mixed vegetables" (which always makes me picture a mushy melange of cubed carrots, peas, lima beans and corn). The accompaniment turned out to be exquisitely roasted asparagus spears and baby carrots. We ordered a second helping.

The food was homey, fresh and delicious. The ambiance transported us to a time when men regularly wore fedoras and fine suits and women wore tailored dresses and cloche hats. The kids finished their dinners with hand-scooped ice cream served in glass goblets (included in the meal price). And the final tab: $35, plus a $7 tip.

It's good to be home.