LB 641: An Unlikely Mission Accomplishedby Ryan Anderson
At the start of this legislative session I outlined my significant doubts that a Unicameral this inexperienced could successfully tackle an issue as laden with tripwires and land mines as the Omaha schools boundary dispute. I'm happy to admit I was wrong.
LB 641 confronts the two most urgent issues at hand -money and race- with courage, common sense and innovation. Inevitably, with so many different chefs seeking to put their individual stamp on this effort, the result is imperfect and a little messy. But the legislature kept their eye on the prize and managed a compromise that contained the best ideas of all proposals. I am especially fond of the "focus schools" concept (weird as it seems) - your best chance of combating institutionalized attitudes of ignorance and bias are the construction of communities small enough and cooperative enough to forge a new identity, an identity not tied to race or geography but to common need and interest.
There are many people to thank for this effort (which, while unproven, offers real promise and a rare opportunity for large-scale change), but give credit especially to Senator Chambers for forcing everyone back to the drawing board. I have been especially critical of his proposal to divide OPS along racial lines, but considering his strategic willingness to embrace compromise and surrender earlier demands of racial division, I have to wonder if this isn't exactly the result he intended all along.
What's that you say? Far-fetched? Inconceivable? Sure, but if any legislator invites such "cloak-and-dagger" fantasies it's the parliamentary giant from North O. I may not agree with Chambers' vision of what race relations in this nation could be or should be, but I have to admit his uncannily accurate sense of what they are. He understands this powder keg better than just about anyone, and at times he can be downright brilliant in the use of its explosive power for productive purposes.
After all, demolition is often the first step in construction.
So, my hats off to Chambers and the rest of the legislature for a job well done. And thanks also to the Governor and those Senators who supported LB 1024 for playing the necessary but unenviable role of "the stooge". Without your petty opportunism, this would have never been possible.