Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ken Svoboda's Stupidity Reveals Republicans Don't Give a Damn About Rural Nebraska

by Kyle Michaelis
I don't like making brash declarations and relying on the politics of us vs. them, but, if the following story does not piss you off, you are either not a true Nebraskan or you are simply a damn fool.

From the front page of the Nebraska Republican Party's website:
Svoboda unveils Lincoln roads plan

Believing that an adequate and serviceable road system is vital for the city’s future economic development, mayoral candidate Ken Svoboda has advanced a forward-looking road and street construction plan for Lincoln.

Road improvement dollars have not been allocated as broadly or effectively as they might have been in recent years, Svoboda said....

“In 2003 the residents of Lancaster County, 90 percent of whom are Lincoln residents, paid over $88 million in road construction dollars to the state and received only $24 million dollars in return,” Svoboda said. “That just 29 cents on the dollar.”

As Lincoln’s next mayor, Svoboda pledges to work with the Lincoln delegation to the Nebraska Legislature to negotiate a better deal for Lincoln taxpayers.

“We’re state residents, and we don’t mind subsidizing road construction in the western two-thirds of the state to a certain degree,” he said. “But there’s more economic development benefit in having roads built in the eastern third of the state than in the western two thirds.”

During his chairmanship of the I-80 Commission, Svoboda proposed a seven-year moratorium on new, non-Interstate-related road construction in the western two-thirds of Nebraska. During that time, more dollars would go to the eastern one-third of the state, especially Lincoln and Omaha.

“The state would get a much better return through economic development and jobs created,” Svoboda said. “At the end of the moratorium, you could probably return to the western part of the state twice what they gave up during the seven years.”
The Lincoln Journal-Star adds of Svoboda's proposed moratorium:
Mayoral candidate Ken Svoboda called for a seven-year moratorium on new road construction in the western two-thirds of Nebraska, except for on the interstate.

If more state road construction dollars flowed into eastern Nebraska, namely Lincoln and Omaha, those two economic engines would be able to produce even more revenue for the rest of the state, he reasoned.

Svoboda said he first proposed the admittedly “politically incorrect” idea as chairman of the I-80 Commission....

[Mayoral candidate Chris Beutler] said he agrees that more road dollars should go to Lincoln, but said Svoboda’s call for a moratorium would just alienate western lawmakers.
The plan put forward by Svoboda and the Republican Party should not just "alientate western lawmakers." Rather, this plan should be denounced and apology demanded by every political leader, every agricultural worker, and every community activist in the state.

Honestly, I don't know who Svoboda thinks he's fooling. There's nothing "politically incorrect" about this selfish, stupid and short-sighted political insanity.

This all calls to mind the editorial pictured at right from last month's Scottsbluff Star-Herald lamenting their realization of Gov. Dave Heineman and Congressman Adrian Smith's empty promises on the 2006 campaign trail.

Read it. Seriously.

What you see are just the latest examples of a pattern of betrayal and a history of neglect by Republican politicians who have abandoned Western Nebraska at its most desperate hour.

Now, not only Republican politicians but also the Nebraska Republican Party itself have proven just how hollow their concern for rural and Western Nebraska truly is by advancing Svoboda's ludicrous and insulting proposal on their own website.

This is an outrage. To help a single failing campaign, the Nebraska Republican Party has shown its willingness to sacrifice the future and the economic well-being of 2/3rds of our state. Any and every Nebraskan - living in Norfolk or McCook; Chadron or Omaha - should take offense and take the offensive against such crass and destructive political posturing.

The backbone of our state's economy - not to mention its heart and its soul - rests in the fields and pastures of rural Nebraska. By pushing this moratorium on highway construction, Svoboda and the Nebraska Republican Party risk condemning those Nebraskans who are already struggling the most to what would essentially be life in an economic Stone Age.

Through Heineman, they have already shown complete disregard to the need for new technological infrastructure (i.e. public broadband). With rural Nebraska's road infrasture now being targeted for disrepair and destruction, those most in need of our investment would see even the possibility of renewed development and economic progress vanish right before their very eyes.

We can not allow that to happen. That it should be suggested - even by a foolish and desperate candidate searching vainly for a message - is utterly appalling and an absolute insult to Nebraska's people and their shared heritage.

I can't imagine what proof voters could ask for that would better demonstrate just how little Republican politicians and the Republican Party really care about rural Nebraska. For decades, they have offered nothing but lip service - delivering on none of it while an entire way of life dwindled and whole counties fell into despair.

This is the Nebraska Republican Party's legacy. Of course, voters bear some responsibility because, rather than staying true to the independence for which they pride themselves, they have allowed petty partisanship and scare tactics to blind them to their own self-interest and self-worth. It's a game that's gone on long enough - maybe so long that the damage has become permanent.

But, it's never too late to change. It's never too late to hope and to fight for your family, your community, and your fellow Nebraskans.

Today, we can see the enemy. Not just Ken Svoboda. Not just Heineman or Smith. No, the blame begins with the cakewalk campaigns, the controlled media and the voters' complacency that have made possible the Republican Party's endless litany of failed promises.

Regardles of where you live in Nebraska, I hope this story drives home that even the race for Lincoln's mayor does affect you. In this state, with the odds we are up against, we really are all in this together. For now, that means writing a letter to the editor, challenging rural Republicans with evidence of their own Party's betrayal and - yes - making a contribution to progressive visionary Chris Beutler's Mayoral campaign.

Then, after May 1st, all bets are off, and our battle for the future of the entire state of Nebraska begins anew.

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Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

Kyle, great post. The GOP hasn't done anything to hold up their supposed commitment to rural America, and it's high time someone held their feet to the fire.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time for all the western sentors to move the state fair to Grand Island, the state basketball tournaments to Hastings, a greater share of university funding to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and why not move the state capital to Stockville. The state highway there is a gravel road.

Anonymous Larry the Cable Guy said...

Is it unfair to divert resources to places that are growing rather than spend money on new infrastructure for places that are losing population?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Maintaining roads is not "new infrastructure." And, if there's anything that will cause even greater losses in population at an even faster rate, it's abandoning Western Nebraska as Svoboda and the Republican Party have proposed.

Anonymous Jon Rehm said...

I'm a Lincoln resident and I expect the Mayor of Lincoln to act in the city's self-interest. Getting back $.25-$.30 for every dollar we pay in road construction dollars sucks. A moratorium on rural road maintenance is short-sighted and counter-productive. I also doubt Svoboda's trickle down theory that urban road development will pay for rural road development after the moratorium.

However Svoboda recognizes the right problem, he's just offering the wrong solution. Lincoln is getting a raw deal under the current system. To his credit, Beutler recognizes the problem to and would probably be more effective in solving the problem with his legislative experience.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone should call up the folks at the Center for Rural Affairs and ask them what they think about this.


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