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Joshua Gear

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Senate Race


            “Simply put, it's time to move on.”

            Ben Nelson's simple statement, signaling the end of his decade's long political career in Nebraska. Facing a rough reelection against strong potential Republican opponents, Nelson decided to return to the private sector. His retirement leaves Nebraska Democrats asking only one question:

            Where do we go from here?

            “The Democrats have an almost impossible task,” Bloomberg News Executive Director Al Hunt says, “They're going from an even bet in Nebraska to a probable loss”

            Politicos say the race holds considerable national importance. Republicans competing for the nomination include Attorney General Jon Burning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg, and State Senator Deb Fischer. Of the Democrats, only film producer Steve Lustgarten has announced.

            Up til recently, many speculated about the possibility of former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey entering the race. Were he to have entered, many speculated another familiar Nebraskan to enter the race.

           “Just for fun in the election season, I hope Bob Kerrey runs, and I hope Governor Heineman runs against him! It could be a really important and fun race.” said former World-Herald staffwriter Jim Fogarty.

However, it was not to be. Two days after his victory in the 2010 Governors race, Heineman announced he would not run for the U.S. Senate, word he has since stuck by. Kerrey flirted with running for the Senate through the beginning of 2012, but decided against it Tuesday.

            His choice not to run, which was by his own admission a long shot, forces Nebraska Democrats into a difficult position, Fogarty noted.

            “The Democrats are gonna' have to find a Bob Kerrey, and that's not easy to do.”

Josh Gear

A new bill presented in the legislature could potentially limit the city’s ability to spur urban renewal.

The process, tax increment financing or TIF, allows Nebraska towns to declare an area “blighted and substandard,” which means that if contractors improve that area, they collect the tax funds normally taken for that location.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle says, “There’s so much to gain with coming out of the recession with expanding the TIF issue.”

In recent years, TIF rules have been applied to spur development on the construction of First National Tower, ConAgra’s Riverfront Campus, Aksarben Village, and Midtown Crossing.
“We (the city) have probably approved around $3  million in 2010.  This year, we’ll close out with around $13 million in TIF loaned dollars,” says City Economic Development Planner Bridget Hadley.

The city says the system works, but it’s not without critics. Due to the proposed Crossroads Mall redevelopment project, the Westside School District is looking to have an enormous share of its district land base being declared blighted, including parts of Omaha’s Fairacres neighborhood, which worries some residents that their tax dollars not going to help the school district.

Mayor Suttle says it’s a win-win for everyone, noting, “I’ve made a commitment to the district to be engaged in the process. We get the crossroads moving, you will see tremendous development all along 72nd, and all along Dodge. They will be the beneficiaries of normal upfront property tax increases.”

Developers say they hope to have the University Village at Crossroads Project finished by November of 2013.

Joshua Gear
Bus Ridership On The Rise


            Gas prices have been steadily on the rise, and now, some experts are predicting $5-per-gallon gas by Memorial Day. Rising fuel costs are causing many to readjust their driving.

            Bill Hart keeps his driving to a near minimum:“Back and forth to work, laundromat, grocery store, and then back to the gas station.”

            It's forced many people to look for alternatives. Metro Bus says it’s seen a 13% increase in passengers from this time last year. A large portion of these new riders are hoping to beat paying at the pump.

            For some, like Demostin Mbaujoun, it's a way to conserve costs.

            “I don't have much money to spend, mostly because I'm about to buy a car,” Mbaujoun says, “so I have to save some money by riding the bus.”

            Others, like longtime bus rider Christopher Crowe, say it's just more convenient.

            “It's easy for me in the morning to go to work; it's just kind of there and back.”

            Metro Bus believes ridership will continue to grow, as long as fuel prices continue to rise. Riders we talked to say that they're happy with the savings that riding the bus brings, and that even if gas prices were to drop, they'll continue to use public transit.

            “It's affordable,” Crowe concludes, “With a car you have insurance, your tags, all that stuff. The bus, I mean, for $1.25, it'll take you anywhere in town. You can't beat that.”

Father Flanagan

                In the Catholic Church, the topic of sainthood is not taken lightly. So when Archbishop George Lucas announced that he would begin the process of canonization of Boystown founder,  Father Edward Flanagan, it was a responsibility he took up with love and care.|

"We have the opportunity to live up the example of one of our outstanding archdiocese priests who has done something beautiful for God and for the community, whose good work bears fruit in many places in the world," Lucas said after the announcement.

The Archbishop posted the formal announcement at St. Cecilia's Church on Monday to a crowd of onlookers. Guests for the event included students of Boystown and St. Cecilia's schools, interested church and community members, those who knew Flanagan personally like Monsignor Peter Dunn, and those who have followed in his footsteps like former Boystown Executive Director Father Val Peter.
Flanagan founded Boystown in 1917 on a farm that was 10 miles west of Omaha. Under his leadership, it has become one of the country's finest communities for the care and education of young people.
"Of course, we all see the great mission that Boystown continues to have today; not just in this community, but in many places around the world," Lucas told the press.
Organizers, researchers, and church leaders all agree that canonization of Father Flanagan would only help to share just how special Father Flanagan and his spiritual calling was.
Father Flanagan League President Steve Wolfe noted that he thinks "this is going to help people appreciate the great work that's being done at Boystown." Executive Vice President for Youth Care at Boystown Dan Daly added that Flanagan's work continues because "it's God's work."
Archbishop Lucas signaled his intentions to open the cause of canonization on March 17th at the site of Flanagan's tomb at Boystown. There, they would call for witnesses to come forward and say why they feel Flanagan should or should not be a saint.

Blair Marina

BLAIR, Neb. -- Like many places along the Missouri River, Blair's Cottonwood Marina is changed forever by the flood. Last summer, the water there was waist deep; now, only trash and debris are left.

“Huge trees,” Washington County Long-Term Recovery Committee member Carol Ahmann says, “it's just a humongous pile of trees that's gotta get moved and out of here.”
Now, they're trying to clean the slate. Homeowners say that's desperately what they need in order to rebuild.

“My wife and I loved this place,” says resident Robert French, “for the last six months, we've been cleaning and cleaning it and tearing it down.”

This past Sunday, the Washington County Flood Relief recruited volunteers to cut down  and move trees, allowing residents to, in a sense, start over. Homeowners here say there's no words to describe how much work means for them.

“We're so pleased and blessed,” says resident Lois Gnuse, “we appreciate the help. You konw, whatever they can do is much appreciated.”

And now, it means they finally get a chance to go home.

Rivers Edge

Council Bluffs, IOWA -- Acres of green grass will soon cover some of the damage left behind by last year's flooding along the Missouri River. While Riverside Park currently looks like a desolate pile of dirt, big changes are in store.

"When we had consultants that looked at this, they thought it was just great," Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan noted, "nobody has ever done this."

The project, appropriately called River's Edge, aims to build a public park alongside the Missouri River in Council Bluffs. In just under a year's time, you'll be able to enjoy the park's 95 acres of grass and trees. According to the Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Department, River's Edge will run down to Harrah's Casino.

Park visitor Thomas Finn noted, "It's exciting to see how they're building this area up so it will be a nice venue, a nice area." Along with plenty of space to play and enjoy the view of the Omaha skyline, the park will also include an open air amphitheater, able to comfortably hold 5,000-6,000 spectators.

The park is projected to be finished by next spring, and is funded by the City of Council Bluffs, as well as a grant from the Iowa West Foundation.