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30
Sep

Dems say governor went to Husker games, ribbon-cuttings, rather than address HHS audit

State Dems continue to beat up on Gov. Dave Heineman in the wake of the scathing state audit of his administration’s handling of child welfare reform.

Today, the Dems put out this press release, detailing All the Things the Governor did Rather Than Address the Audit:

After Governor Dave Heineman was caught lying about his office not receiving an early copy of the recent child welfare services audit, further research gives a better idea of what he was doing during that time.

Here are just a few of the items Governor Heineman thought were more important than reading about how his administration wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in overpayments.

1. PHOTO OPS: He attend five ribbon cutting ceremonies during the first week he had the report.
2. FOOTBALL: He attend two Nebraska Cornhusker Football games during the time he had the report.
3. TOOK IT EASY: He had three days with no public schedule during the week of August 1st.
4. ART: He gave remarks at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Calendar Art Contest Award Ceremony on August 9.
5. MORE PHOTO OPS: He spoke to a couple of Rotary Clubs and participated in another ribbon cutting during the week of August 22.
6. ANOTHER PHOTO OP: Found time to give remarks to four different groups during the week of August 29 – and found time for yet another ribbon cutting ceremony.
7. KICKING BACK: Had at least nine weekdays during the stretch with nothing on his public calendar.
8. PETRIFIED: He gave remarks to the Petrified Wood Gallery Facility Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in Ogallala on July 29.
9. PLAYING POLITICS: He did a Radio call-in show at KFOR 1240 AM on August 9th, but made no mention of the enormous problems exposed in the audit.
10. GOT A FREE MEAL: Had a nice dinner aboard the Ak-Sar-Ben Express Union Pacific Train at the Durham Museum on August 12.

Email correspondence shows that Kerry Winterer, the Governor’s appointed CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services, received an advanced copy of the report on the evening of July 25 and shared that with members of the Governor’s Office, including Chief of Staff Larry Bare, the following morning. The Governor had previously said his office did not receive the advanced report.

“Between the 25 ceremonial events he attended, he had ample time to either read the report or get a briefing from his staff,” said Jim Rogers, Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. “He spent another week of deafening silence after the audit was made public, all so he could do what he should have been doing all along – reading the report.”

When the Governor’s lies were exposed in the Omaha World Herald, his spokesperson, Jen Rae Hein declined to say whether the Governor had read the draft report or what his response was to the findings. Instead of answering the question, she just said those asking the questions were playing “politics.”

Yet, the Governor has found all kinds of time to play politics himself recently, pushing for a change in how Nebraska allocates electoral votes. The Governor wants to change the system to winner-take-all because he believes that system would benefit his political party.

“While the Governor was saying that we were being political, he found the time to talk about moving Nebraska to winner take all,” Rogers said. “It begs the question, who is being political now? It sounds to me like he is trying to divert attention from the disaster he created at Health and Human Services.”

30
Sep

TransCanada contractor running pipeline hearings

A reader alerted me to reports that a contractor to TransCanada is running the so-called State Department hearings on the proposed 2,000-mile pipeline that would ship Canadian tar sand oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

Thanks to the Los Angeles Times, we already know the TransCanada consultant Cardno Entrix helped the State Department do two environmental impact statements on the controversial pipeline. No surprise, then, that the State Department concluded the pipeline would have minimal environmental impact as long as it’s done according to regulations.

I’ve spent much of this month working on an oil story that makes it clear to me that all the regulations in the world don’t matter if they are not followed and enforced. Often, in oil country, they are not.

I’m not seeing this reported in the mainstream press — other than by one South Dakota radio station — but on pro-environment web sites Thinkprogress.org and truthout.org (same story), but Bold Nebraska spokeswoman Jane Kleeb says they are right, the hearings were run by Cardno Entrix, and were, in her view, “a mess.” Here’s why, in her words:

From the beginning, all of our groups asked the State Dept to hold
meetings in our communities to comment on the Final Environmental
Impact Statement.

Originally they were not going to hold a round of meetings on the
final EIS.

Once they announced them, our groups weighed in on where they should
be held (originally State was only going to hold one in Lincoln).

Our next request and suggestion was to have the meetings organized
very clealry so as many people could comment as possible.

The national groups expressed various options, things like have people
register ahead of time so they know their speaking slot time AND so
the State Dept knew how long they needed to meetings.

In Nebraska, we could have easily had 3 days of hearings versus other
states had 2 hours left in their meetings where they just then had
“open mic.”

In Lincoln, you had union folks from out of state pushing our folks
and then when our side pushed back the union folks called out for the
police.

In Lincoln and in Atkinson you had union folks signing in for people
like Mike Friend, head of AFP so he did not have to wait in line, so
those folks would wait in line, sign in TransCanada/Union/Allied Group
leaders and then just give them their number tag (people who signed in
to speak were then assign a sticker with a number). We knew he did
this in Lincoln but actually caught him red-handed in Atkinson which
he was not too happy about.

This was told to us by the State Dept that it would NOT be allowed.
Because we wanted to sign in for some ranchers who had morning chores,
we were told we could not that the person who was speaking had to sign
in.

John did talk with the union folks in Atkinson and they did agree to
have each side have equal time for the first 50 speakers. I was not
there for that decision, but I respect John and knew because the way
they had the lines set up outside in Atkinson that maybe that was the
safest way to do it so people didnt push eachother.

But the big problem is Entrix did not think through what happens when
we hit 50, how will the now divided line of pro vs con get signed
in…so then that became a mess to try and “merge” the lines after we
demanded they did so.

When we saw all this happening we told the State Dept to stop signing
people in and asked that they make some corrections, like have folks
show their id. State Dept staff said Entrix is doing the meeting,
Entrix staff said the local police chnaged the sign in process…so as
with many aspects of this issue finger pointing happened while people
were trying to sign in with the process that was outlined by the State
Dept.

The bottom line…

The rules were “first come, first serve” and you had to sign yourself
in.

We followed those rules, the other folks did not.

We had 80% of the crowd but only 50% of the speaking slots because of
the way they signed people in at both meetings.

The State Dept will say “we stayed late to hear everyone” but the
reality is so many folks wanted to speak and when they got there and
saw they would be #250 or so in Lincoln and #180 or so in Atkinson
they figured there was no way they would be called up and some left or
some just watched then.

30
Sep

Pipeline supporters polling Nebraskans

Got a call last night from a pollster wanting my opinion on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

After a short description of all the great things the pipeline would do for our little ol’ state — like generate $150 million in property taxes and untold jobs — the computer-woman asked whether I:

• Support building the pipeline
• Do not support building the pipeline
• Am undecided

It should be noted, building the pipeline in a different location was not an option.

The poll was paid for by Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence, which apparently is located in Boys Town.