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FRANCIS GARDLER, JOURNAL STAR 

The USA's Jordan Burroughs celebrates Sunday after pinning Azerbaijan's Gasjimurad Omarov at 163 pounds during the gold-medal match of the United World Wrestling Freestyle World Cup in Iowa City, Iowa.


Govt-and-politics
editor's pick
City of Lincoln would get expert advice on treatment chemicals under emerald ash borer plan

The city of Lincoln would remove almost all of its 14,000 public ash trees over a 15-year period as part of the $22.8 million proposed emerald ash borer plan City Council members will consider in May.

But during those 15 years, the city would treat some ash trees to slow down the death curve, reducing the number of trees dying each year, spreading out the cost of removing and replacing dead trees, and reducing the danger of having many dead, standing trees.

The Community Forestry Advisory Board is recommending the city consult with experts when deciding what chemicals to use in response to warnings from several residents during a public hearing last month about the potential danger of some chemicals used to treat ash trees.

The city Parks and Recreation Department would not use neonicotinoid insecticides, which residents said can be harmful to beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, lady bugs and others.

The department would consult with the Nebraska Forest Service and Nebraska Extension before selecting the chemicals and would use criteria geared toward minimizing the risks to beneficial insects and pollinators, and to people and pets, according to the revised guidelines approved recently by the advisory board. 

The emerald ash borer, an insect that bores under bark to lay its eggs and eats leaves, kills ash trees quickly. Within the first eight or nine years after the insects reach a community, 75 percent of its ash trees are generally dead.

The emerald ash borer has been sighted in Greenwood, about 15 miles from Lincoln's city limits, and city forestry staff believe the insect may be in Lincoln already.

The forestry advisory board continues to recommend the city eventually remove all public ash trees rather than keep a number of trees alive through treatment for a long period of time, as recommended by a representative of a company that sells treatment chemicals, who spoke during the March public hearing.

“While there is certainly merit in recognizing the value of public trees, we must take into consideration the fiscal realities of a constrained city budget,” says the revised language dealing with long-term treatment of ash trees.

A long-term treatment strategy delays the inevitable removal of ash trees and results in higher costs because of inflation of treatment costs and higher costs of cutting down older, larger trees, according to the proposed plan language.

The Emerald Ash Borer Response and Recovery Plan suggests removing about 1,000 ash trees each year and replacing them using diverse tree species. Ash currently comprise about 12 percent of the public tree canopy along streets and in city parks and golf courses.

The plan recommends city staff remove smaller trees — the more than 10,000 trees that are 18 inches in diameter or less. The city will contract with private companies to remove larger trees.

The plan also recommends creating an adopt-an-ash program, where citizens can pay the treatment cost of selected public trees. Those adopted trees would have to be in good condition and meet specific criteria, including a diameter breast height of greater than 14 inches and no overhead wires present.

The plan also has recommendations related to the 40,000 to 50,000 trees on private property. 

The city would educate private landowners to avoid using any treatment option other than injection into the tree.

The soil-drench method of applying insecticide to the soil around the base of a tree has inherent risks to beneficial insects, pollinators and to people and pets, according to the revised guidelines.

In order to try to prevent price gouging, the city will publish the names and contact information of licensed tree service companies with demonstrated knowledge of the emerald ash borer.

The city will also be exploring avenues to assist low-income property owners with the cost of tree removal.

The city plan is expected to cost between $1.1 million to $3.7 million each year, with the cost rising as the city begins treating some trees. 


Local
editor's pick topical
Retired astronaut Clayton Anderson shares stories from space in new children's book

SEWARD — In space, Clayton Anderson would write journal entries chronicling his every move.

Now, with his feet on the ground, the retired astronaut is writing books.

Anderson returned to his native Nebraska this weekend, signing copies of his second book, "'A' is for Astronaut," and answering questions from starry-eyed children on what it's like to live and work in space.

"How do you go to bathroom in space?" a child asked during an event Saturday at the Seward Memorial Library.

"We saw that one coming," Anderson said with a laugh.

"'A' is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet" is a children's book packed with illustrations and poems discussing NASA missions, famous astronauts and their special equipment.

It's Anderson's second book, following his memoir "The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut."

Writing wasn't Anderson's first idea for a career after he retired from NASA in January 2013, he said.

It was a push from one of his favorite authors, mystery novelist Nevada Barr, that led him in the literary direction, Anderson said.

"She suggested I write a murder mystery in space," Anderson said. "And I said, 'Well, you know, I don't know if I have that in me.'"

It wasn't until he went through the journal entries that he composed during his time training and flying that he decided he could turn them into his first book in 2015.

It was on that book tour, at the Barnes & Noble at Oak View Mall in Omaha, that the store manager suggested he write a children's book.

Anderson didn't initially have much interest, but bored one day, he searched online for the publisher the bookstore's manager had suggested.

"I searched at home for Sleeping Bear Press and found out what she meant," Anderson said.

They had all kinds of alphabet books explaining different careers to children, but there wasn't a book about astronauts.

He quickly got to writing.

"I wrote down the entire alphabet and picked the words, and then it took me less than a week to write the poems," Anderson said.

After two weeks, he sent off the manuscript to Sleeping Bear.

Nine months later they let him know of plans to publish it.

On Sunday, at a book signing at Indigo Bridge Books in Lincoln, around 20 kids showed up with their parents and grandparents, as well as a couple of Anderson's friends and family.

He read a few pages from "'A' is for Astronaut" and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, like he did. He told them the four key things to remember are to dream, to persevere, to work hard and to be proud of who they are.

That's how he got to live out his dream, after all.

"Being in space was the coolest thing I ever did in my whole life," he said. "Who would have thought that a kid from Ashland, Nebraska, would ever have that opportunity?"

Anderson has a third book, “It's a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut's Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions,” coming out this summer.

It’s inspired by the questions he gets from his fans online — similar to the bathroom-related ones he fielded in Seward on Saturday.

Anderson tries to get back to Nebraska once a year for speaking events, to see family and — if the weather cooperates — to play golf, he said.

Retirement hasn’t slowed him down.

He teaches aerospace engineering part-time at Iowa State University and does consulting work for Royal Caribbean Cruises and Budweiser.

And, on Monday, Anderson will be back at the Barnes & Noble in Omaha.

“I'm going to be able to tell everyone the story and how (the manager) had the vision for me to write this book,” he said.


GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star 

Ballot boxes for polling places at the Lancaster County Election Commissioner's Office. 


Ragged_right
Primary Voter's Guide is online now

Early voting begins today for Nebraska's May 15 primary election.

Do you know your pick for Lower Platte South Natural Resources District?

The answer is, probably not.

While candidates for some marquee races are household names, and many voters in those races have already made up their minds, the Journal Star's primary Voter's Guide is here to help those who are still uncertain which candidates to back — be it for governor of Nebraska or for Southeast Community College Board of Governors.

Check JournalStar.com/Elections for an early copy of the Voter's Guide. (Some candidates are tardy with their responses: We will add them as we receive them.)

The print version of the guide will publish in our Wednesday, May 2, newspaper.


Legislature
editor's pick topical
Legislative tax reform negotiations collapse

It was in the end a legislative bridge too far.

After two lengthy negotiating sessions summoned by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk, state senators who have been leaders in promoting competing tax reform plans announced Sunday night that they could not reach agreement on a consensus plan.

And so the Legislature on Monday will take what may be a brief farewell look at three competing proposals, none of which appears to be able to command the 33 votes that would be required to clear a filibuster by its opponents.

In a statement released by the seven senators who participated in the closed negotiations, they said they could not resolve differences over "whether to raise new dollars (or) reduce expenditures" in meeting their goals, or agree on the best pathway to economic growth.

"We recognized that education costs and traditional sources of education funding create burdens on taxpayers" throughout the state's school districts, they stated. Local schools are primarily funded through local property taxes with a wide disparity in state aid. 

"In looking to correct the problem, we need accountability for state funding of education both financially and for educational outcomes," they said.  "The difference came as to how to fix the problem."

Collapse of the last-ditch bid for consensus during the waning days of the legislative session leaves the field wide open for a billion-dollar property tax relief initiative that is almost certain to appear on the November general election ballot.

A statewide petition drive is currently underway to place that issue on the ballot with property tax relief provided through refundable state income tax credits equal to 50 percent of local school property taxes paid.

Participating in the last-ditch effort to reach some consensus were Scheer and Sens. Jim Smith of Papillion, Tom Briese of Albion, Mike Groene of North Platte, Burke Harr of Omaha, Curt Friesen of Henderson and Steve Erdman of Bayard. 

"We want to thank Speaker Scheer for showing leadership and bringing all parties together to attempt to find a solution," they said.