October 2014

Passenger Rail System Option for Nebraska’s Highly Dense Metro Region

By Victoria Nelson

Passenger rail has been a valuable option in Nebraska. In the 1800s and well into the 1970s electric streetcars and passenger trains were part of public transportation for Nebraskans. Since electric streetcars were discontinued in the 1950s and commuter rail service was abandoned in the 1970s, there has been talk about whether to bring them back. The electric streetcar system helped grow our two major metro areas into monocentric cities, defined as having a single central business district, usually the downtown area (Moore, Thorsne, Appleyard, 2007). Examples of Lincoln and Omaha monocentric patterns can be seen in figures one and two.

Keeping Talented Youth in Nebraska

By ACLU of Nebraska, Heartland Workers Center, and Nebraska Appleseed

In 2012 the president announced an important new policy to “defer action” on youth who grew up in this country since childhood but do not have a way to apply for immigration status until Congress fixes our outdated immigration laws. Called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program allows dynamic young immigrants who meet certain qualifications to remain in the country for a renewable two-year period, temporarily defers their deportation, and provides a temporary work permit.

Lincoln Proud

By Jeff Cole

This is Lincoln’s moment. Construction sites dot downtown, concerts pack the new arena, and edge growth continues unabated, seemingly oblivious to national economic doldrums. The energy running through the city is reflected in Lincoln’s consistently high rankings in magazine articles and online surveys proclaiming another top “best cities for” ranking.

Today’s energy and rankings have not always been the case. When we moved here in 1999, my family immediately took to our new city. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but even back then Lincoln felt “nice” and “right”—whatever those vague marketing taglines mean. Yet, at that time, Lincoln was not making much noise in the national rankings games currently playing out in every conceivable publication.

Book Review: The Architecture of Saskatchewan: A Visual Journey by Bernard Flaman

Review by Kari A. Ronning

Title: The Architecture of Saskatchewan: A Visual Journey
Author: Bernard Flaman
Publisher: CPRC Press

Ordinarily we think of the landscape of the Great Plains as the natural landscape—the rolling plains, the streams, the grass, and the cottonwoods. But for those who live in towns, large and small, the built landscape is the one we actually are most familiar with because we live in it. Bernard Flaman, the author of the winner of this year’s Great Plains Book Prize, The Architecture of Saskatchewan, makes the familiar built landscape of the Great Plains seem unfamiliar by giving it the deeper dimension of history and context.

Book Review: Long Mile Home: Boston under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell

Review by Laura Kapustka

Title: Long Mile Home: Boston under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice
Authors: Scott Helman and Jenna Russell (reporters for The Boston Globe)
Publisher: Dutton

I first ran the Boston Marathon in 2007. My husband, three children and my father were coming along as my support crew. Although it would be the ninth marathon that I had run, it would be my first Boston Marathon and the first one in which my dad would see me run. As a runner, participating in the Boston Marathon is a pinnacle—a crowning jewel in your collection of medals. Because of the marathon’s qualifying time requirement, it’s not easy to get a race bib. A runner either has to have the speed to qualify or the connections to raise thousands of dollars to run in support of a charity.

Secrets of the Very Long Dead: Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

By Paul A. Johnsgard

Excavations are ongoing at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Park. (Paul A. Johnsgard)

By Paul A. Johnsgard

One day in the summer of 1971, University of Nebraska’s paleontologist Mike Voorhies and his wife, Jane, were walking along a streambed tributary of Verdigre Creek, in Antelope County, gathering data for a planned geological map. Mike knew the area well, having grown up in the small town of Orchard, only eight miles away. Walking along the streambed ravine, he noticed an exposed layer of ash about a foot in thickness partway up the face of a steep ravine.

Prodigal Oaks

By Jack Phillips

Nature reveals unsought secrets and answers unasked questions to those who walk slowly in a spirit of openness and to those who delight equally in the common and the rare. The nineteenth-century English writer Richard Jefferies and his American contemporary Henry David Thoreau apparently believed this. The concept of prodigality in nature proposed by Jefferies and the sauntering prescribed by Thoreau speak to the unsought, the unasked, and the impractical experience of nature. The lavish abundance of nature (prodigality) seems frivolous in the eyes of human economy; mysterious beauty is found beyond human use or comprehension. The intentionally aimless walking (sauntering) of a prodigal naturalist seems frivolous as well. For all our frivolity, my sauntering colleagues and I have found practicality in prodigality. By walking in wild places for no particular reason, we have made important discoveries.

Habitat for Humanity Partners with Presbyterian Congregations to Build Affordable Housing

By Stephanie Novacek

Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity is part of a global, nonprofit housing organization, dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing homes, by advocating for fair and just housing policies, and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. The homes are built affordably because of the volunteer labor that is used. Homes are sold to partner families for the construction costs of the home. Mortgage payments are made to a no-interest mortgage loan with Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity and are recycled to provide funding for future Habitat homes. Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity offers dignity and hope to families by working collaboratively to provide simple, decent, and affordable homes.

Sonny's Corner: The Impact of Dogs on Omaha’s Turner Park

By Robert Klein Engler

“A stench rising from downtown streets in San Diego is drumming up a controversy…Reviews speak of … the large number of dogs that reside in that particular building. ‘The streets reek all the time of dog urine and excrement,’ says Laura H. Still.”

If Laura lived near Turner Park in Omaha, Nebraska, would she have the same complaint? And if she did have a complaint, who would listen to her? To raise the issue of dogs as a source of urban pollution is to buck the trend that sees a dog as man’s best friend. Laura and others have an uphill struggle to have limits placed on dogs in the urban environment.

Immigration in Nebraska

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