Posted by: jeffbabl | April 14, 2011

Column 4 Rough Draft – Undercounted

When the 2010 census was released a lot of cities were disappointed with the results, everywhere from big cities like New York City and Detroit to rural areas in the heart of Texas.  Locally the two cities with the biggest gripes would be Omaha and Grand Island.

For Omaha the Census revealed a shocking total of just 408,958 that came in 11 percent below the 2009 estimate of 454,000. Estimations have historically been overestimated. Even with the annexation of Elkhorn in the middle of the last decade Omaha is left feeling undercounted. The city has two options; either challenge the results or start annexing surrounding neighborhoods that aren’t in city limits.  The Omaha metro is just fine growing to a population of 865,350 but the city needs more residents.  Omaha did little annexation during the last ten years because it would cost more money than city officials thought the urge to grow was.  That is why many high debt areas were passed over.  About 85,000 people live within one mile of Omaha city limits but weren’t counted as Omaha citizens in the 2010 census.

Omaha needs to compete nationally against other metropolitans areas for companies, concerts, sports teams, and other federal funding. They need the population numbers to compete, but when places are resistant to annexation, all they do is hold Omaha back.  Omaha’s second option is to challenge the results of the census as long as they can prove errors.  City leaders have two years to file a challenge beginning June 1st to claim some more residents.

Grand Island faces the exact situation hour’s west on I-80.  Grand Island for years have had a campaign called “Grand Island – Be Counted” in hopes of reaching the 50,000 plateau. The federal government hands out money for things such as schools and public safety based on the count. Millions of dollars in federal and state aid were at stake for GI and the distinction of becoming the state’s third metropolitan area. Omissions can be costly. Grand Island officials wanted to count all people, even illegal immigrants. Grand Island was exactly 1480 people short of the goal.  The language barrier between census workers and many legal and illegal citizens are likely the reason for coming up short.

 Grand Island can follow Omaha by either challenging the results of the census or begin the annexation of surrounding lands. It will be 50,000 or more people if subdivisions south of town such as Alda are added by annexation.  50,000 people within the municipal limits of Grand Island would qualify the community for grants automatically, without having to apply and compete with other communities.  Grand Island would be eligible for more than $55 million in federal funding for infrastructure such as roads, bridges and wastewater treatment plants, as well as services in hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, housing and fire and rescue.  My friend always says the Olive Garden won’t build a restaurant unless Grand Island hits 50,000, meaning many new businesses are just waiting on the last 1480 citizens to show up in Grand Island.

Both Omaha and Grand Island felt punched in the stomach by the results of the 2010 census.  The cities need to file a challenge after June 1st, after they gather all the numbers, to gain the residents and money they deserve.  After the results are then hopefully awarded, both Grand Island and Omaha need to be more aggressive in annexation to help boost the cities’ population wise and economically.

Posted by: jeffbabl | April 12, 2011

Presidential Platform – Part 6

Outreach, Transparency, & Accountability

One key element of the campaign is increased outreach and interaction between students and student government.  The plan is to utilize the executive cabinet to attend the meetings of student organizations with 40+ members and have a monthly forum for all other student organizations to report to the students what student government is doing, especially what they are doing for that specific student organization.   Also a “Student Senate Forum” will be implemented to inform students of each college of any issues or concerns that may arise in a particular college.  A new more accessible student government website will be updated after every student government meeting with notes on what were discussed, issues that have occurred, accomplishments, and approved rules, laws, bills, and resolutions. Hoping to increase responsiveness the president hopes to utilize the TV’s in the union, creating student-action committees, solicit online surveys and polls, placing ads and articles in the Antelope and unk.edu.  Expanding current programming like the student organization fair, recycled rides, the CAB program, and having updated calendars of campus events in residence and academic halls.

I like the idea of attending the meeting of the student organizations because this will make the executive and legislative branches more in-tune with student matters and far more accountable by facing students monthly instead of many times zero times a year.  The student forums will be interesting to see because of the issues that face certain colleges instead of just the university as a whole.  The new and updated website will be very useful to actually have documentation of what is going on instead of just word of mouth information. The TV’s and surveys will be useful because almost all students’ utilize the union and UNK email daily. The extended programming is also going to be nice, because most of the current programming is very well organized and very informational.

Posted by: jeffbabl | April 10, 2011

Spring Break Column – Final

Friday, March 18th was the official start for Spring Break for me.  In addition to Spring Break it was my 21st birthday.  The birthday was full of presents and packing and ended like most 21st birthdays do, at the bars.  The next day I drove home to O’Neill, NE for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  After an Irish filled weekend the rest of the week consisted of homework, cleaning, NCAA basketball, and gambling in South Dakota.

Although many students headed back to Kearney for school after Spring Break, I headed back to fly for part two of my Spring Break, San Diego.  The first part of my break was such an amazing time I thought having an extra week could possibly burn me out, but I was completely wrong.  San Diego was the highlight of my break for reason you might not expect.  Most think the beautiful weather and beaches as the reason why such a trip was great, but for me it was the friendships I made with the fellow group of ten students that went west with me.

We left Tuesday, March 29th for the AAHPERD National Conference.  We left Kearney, with its snow covered grounds and flew to Las Vegas before switching planes and heading over to California. The first evening in San Diego was very warm and had a perfect breeze.  We headed to the Gas Lamp district near our hotel to see the nightlife.  On Tuesday we headed to the Conference and attended numerous informational sessions applicable to our majors and future careers.  After that we got a tour of Petco Park, home of the Padres baseball team.  After that we headed to Ocean Beach in the Old Town district were I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  Our first true night, Wednesday, in San Diego sent us clubbing into some upscale areas where you couldn’t get it with shorts and were required to have dress shoes on to get in.  So we moved on to an 18+ club so the minors in the group could go out with us.  On Thursday we went to the conference to see keynote speaker Drew Brees speak about getting active in life.  A

fter Brees spoke we headed to the most breathtaking beach ever, Coronado Beach.  We spent hours soaking up rays and swimming in the Pacific Ocean.  That night we headed to Old Town again to eat some authentic Mexican food at La Piñata restaurant; this was the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. Friday morning a group of us headed to the world famous San Diego Zoo.  On our last night in San Diego we headed to a Piano Bar, where the 21 year old and ups had so much fun listening to classical sing along songs like Elton John and Journey.  We even requested the Nebraska fight song, only to be out bid by undergrads from Wisconsin and Michigan.    We left San Diego Saturday afternoon and landed in Vegas to switch flights, and after a few delays we landed in Omaha just past midnight Sunday morning and arrived in Kearney at 4:30 AM.

Overall I had an amazing time over my two week spring break.  The highlights were my 21st birthday, the O’Neill St. Pat’s Celebration, and San Diego. During the San Diego trip I made ten new friends and created countless memories with them from the world famous San Diego Zoo and beaches to my first flight and first sight of the Pacific Ocean.

Posted by: jeffbabl | April 9, 2011

Presidential Platform – Part 5

LOPER Nightlife is a proposal the elected officials hope to implement.  It will provide UNK students free entertainment, activities, and food on weekends especially.  The hope by having more events on weekends that students will stay on the weekend and promote a more unified campus.  The president says the UNK is a “suitcase” campus, meaning a lot of students leave school for home on the weekends.  Everything from concerts to Wii tournaments are the activities they hope to implement to accomplish LOPER Nightlife.  Current programs on campus like fine art performances and RHA events will also be included.  How will students know what is going on the weekends?  Gonzales tells me the student government site will carry a universal activities calender.  The same calender will be available on lopermail and paper from in residence halls.  In addition to weekends, they hope to revamp blue and gold welcome week and implement student peers.

As far as LOPER Nightlife goes I tend to like the idea just because on weekends campus seems like a ghost town.  Events like Jim Wand are the events that can keep students here on weekends.

The month leading up to Spring Break I was the busiest I have ever been in my life, spending every waking second either working on Division II National Wrestling or my ten page law research paper.  To finally get to spring break this year was so much of a needed break from both work and school.  After class Thursday March 17th I headed to the lab in the Mitchell Center to finish up an assignment that would be due in two weeks when I would be gone from school.  The assignment took every minute I had that afternoon and night but when it was done I knew I was home free.

Friday, March 18th was the official start for Spring Break for me.  I took off work for two reasons: I had to move out of my dorm by 5:00 PM and needed to run some errands and the second reason, it was my 21st birthday.  I was all moved out at exactly 5:01 and headed over to my girlfriends to finish up an assignment due at midnight on blackboard.  After finishing up my assignment we headed to Cinema 8 to catch Limitless.  Right before departing though I received some heartbreaking news, one of my good friends from High School passed away from Crone’s Disease.  Trying to take my mind off of this I headed to my 21st bar crawl after the movie.  We started at the Coop for dinner, keno, and the NCAA basketball tournament.  After that we headed to Cunningham’s and Fanatics.

The next day I drove home to O’Neill, NE for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  At high noon we watched the Irish Dancers dance on the World’s Largest Shamrock, the same spot I danced on growing up.  The Grand Parade followed shortly after at 1:00PM and at 5:00PM the O’Neill Lions Club took on the Nebraska Cornhusker Football Seniors in an exhibition match at O’Neill High.  After the game wrapped up the bar crawl in O’Neill commenced, which was essentially a giant High School Reunion, seeing some people I cared about and some others not.  After many green beers and more basketball I headed home for the evening.  Sunday and Monday consisted of reading ahead and completing all of my makeup homework that I would have to do for missing an extra week of class.  Tuesday was a day full of Spring Cleaning and organizing my room and house.  Wednesday and Thursday were probably two of my favorite day’s because it was a day and half of watching Seasons 1 and 2 of How I Met Your Mother, one of my favorite shows.  Thursday night was less fun as my favorite team Duke was eliminated from the NCAA tournament.  Friday was another day of homework, the last day of which I would do on break.  Saturday the 26th brought a road trip to the Fort Randall Casino “the hill” in Pickstown, South Dakota, home of the Yankton-Sioux Indian tribe.  Here I went with my mother and uncle to a place where they would frequently go when I was a kid.  I spent hours at the blackjack tables playing pretty conservative and eventually only losing around ten bucks.  After gambling we headed to the show The Indian and the White Girl.  After the show we headed home so I could pack and come back to Kearney.  All of Sunday was spent traveling back and unpacking things only to repack them again on Monday for Part two of my Spring Break, San Diego.

We left Tuesday, March 29th for the AAHPERD National Conference.  We left Kearney, with it’s snow covered grounds and flew to Las Vegas before switching planes and heading over to California.  During the layover, my friend Keith and I went to every corner of the airport in search of pictures of the Vegas strip.  Once that was over we headed to the “casino” to play video poker until it was time to leave.  The first evening in San Diego was very warm and had a perfect breeze.  We headed to the Gas Lamp district near our hotel to see the nightlife and ended up eating at Dick’s Last Resort Restaurant, where the waiters are frankly not nice.  On Tuesday we headed to the Conference and attended numerous informational sessions applicable to our majors and future careers.  After that we got a tour of Petco Park, home of the Padres baseball team.  After that we headed to Ocean Beach in the Old Town district were I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  We then headed to the public transportation bus/trains we relied on to get us around all week to head back to the hotel.  Our first true night, Wednesday,  in San Diego sent us clubbing into some upscale areas where you couldn’t were shorts and were required to have dress shoes on to get in.  So we moved on to an 18+ club so the minors in the group could go out with us.  On Thursday we went to the conference to see keynote Drew Brees speak about getting active in life.  After Brees spoke we headed to the most breathtaking beach ever, Coronado Beach.  We spent hours soaking up rays and swimming in the salt water, I realized this after a mouthful.  That night we headed to Old Town again to eat some authentic Mexican food at La Piñata restaurant; this was the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.  We then went to the hotel and stayed up all night talking and watching some movies.   Friday we headed to the conventional exhibit hall and got tons of free stuff and some more sessions.  Later that morning a group of us headed to the world famous San Diego Zoo.  The highlight of the Zoo would have to be the mating session between two African turtles (see in pictures).  On our last night in San Diego we headed to a Piano Bar, where the 21 year old an ups had so much fun listening to classical sing along songs like Elton John and Journey.  We even requested the Nebraska fight song, only to be out bid by undergrads form Wisconsin and Michigan.    We left San Diego Saturday afternoon and landed in Vegas to switch flights, where more video poker commenced, not quite hitting the strip up (that comes in July).  We landed in Omaha just past midnight Sunday morning and arrived in Kearney at 4:30 AM. Sunday consisted of unpacking and Season 3 of How I Met Your Mother.

Overall I had an amazing time over my two week spring break.  I felt it was a needed break from the stresses of work and school.  The highlights were my 21st birthday, San Diego, and the O’Neill St. Pat’s Celebration.

Posted by: jeffbabl | April 6, 2011

Presidential Platform – Part 4

Expanding the Executive Cabinet is the next idea for Gonzales and Mena-Werth so they can increase the representation of students by creating two extensions: 1. Executive Council for Student Affairs (ECSA) and 2. Executive International Council (EIC).  The first is for student affairs.  According to the president elect many student groups have little to no representation in student government, the most glaring of which are Campus Ministries, Athletics, International students, and Multicultural affairs.  The ECSA would meet weekly and can offer any proposals that would benefit student groups or student life on campus.  The EIC will consist of liaisons from every country represented here at UNK.  The EIC will be similar to the ECSA but meeting on a biweekly basis.

I like the fact the elected officials are looking to reach out to groups that are not very involved here on campus.  If successful this will help empower the diverse student populations out there and give them a voice in government.  The only problem I see is getting these groups to partake.  If they were uninvolved before and if they truly wanted involved they would be able to find a way to get involved.  Overall I think it is a nice idea, if able to be implemented successfully, because it will increase the relationship between the groups and the student body president and other university administration.

Posted by: jeffbabl | March 29, 2011

Review of The Hangover

Hilarious! “The Hangover” has you laughing from the very first line of the movie all the way till the very end.  The highest grossing rated R comedy ever was a movie that wasn’t built to a blockbuster with a relatively unknown cast but turned out to be a Golden Globe winning film for best comedy. 

The movie really did well in the telling of the plot. The audience is kept in suspense as the mystery unravels essentially in real-time. The shared state of confusion between the audience and the characters only serves to heighten the humor.  Not to be lost in all the jokes is the mystery of what happens to Doug the lost groom to be after a crazy night in Vegas that the three other guys in the party don’t recall.

Stu and Phil have great chemistry as best friend type characters that really added to the humor and forks in the plot they encountered.  Alan is the brother of the bride to be and is the misfit “lone wolf” of the group.  His shaggy appearance and clueless attitude lends itself perfectly to the laugh fest.

The three begin the journey first be finding a tiger, a chicken, a crying baby, a missing tooth, and a police car.  The fact finding scavenger hunt leads them to a mean Chinese mobster, a sweet hooker, and an interview with an emergency room doctor. Mike Tyson makes a cameo appearance that made the theaters roar when we find out the tiger is actually his and wants it returned to his house by dark.

The Vegas setting was the perfect touch to the movie, usually real casinos that made you feel like you were right alongside the guys in their quest, finding Doug after a clue from on the roof of the hotel.

The movie was the most quotable movie I can remember, with such classics as: “You probably get this a lot. This isn’t the real Caesar’s Palace is it?  What do you mean? Did, umm… did Caesar live here?” and “Either way, you gotta be super smart to count cards, buddy, okay? Oh, really? It’s not easy. Okay, well, maybe we should tell that to Rain Man, because he practically bankrupt a casino, and he was a retard.”  The water cooler talk about the memorable quotes sent people in droves for the DVD release and as a result a much anticipated sequel, The Hangover: Part II.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Posted by: jeffbabl | March 28, 2011

Driving Tests for Elderly

Saw a poll in the USA Today this morning, of a polled 1018 adults asked about states possibly requiring road tests for drivers 65 and older.  Results were divided into age groups:

18-29: 84% believed they need to take a road test

30-44: 76%

45-59: 62%

60 and older: 48%

Textbook returns and a 24 hour computer lab/study lounge are the next two topics on the presidential platform blog series.  To start, textbook returns are currently set up where students can receive a full 100% refund on their book return as long as it is before the end of the first week of classes.  The proposed change is moving this to the end of the second week of classes.  The elected team claim this is because many students wait two, not just one week to determine if they wish to remain enrolled in a certain class.  The 24 hour study lounge would be located in the current Student Union computer lab on the first floor.  The vice president says this is an ideal location because the lab has a separate set of entry doors which would allow the lounge to remain open while the rest of the union is closed.

I like the idea of extending the bookstore returns policy based off the reasons stated above, but also because of a situation that occurred this year.  The first two days of the spring semester were snowed out and many teachers cancelled class or had a “syllabus day” the rest of the week and so nothing about the class was covered.  Many students were unsure if they needed textbooks or not but were stiffed by the bookstore because of the one week rule.  As far as the 24 hour computer lab is concerned this makes complete sense.  Putting it in the union makes for a central locale for students to go to, and making it 24 hours is the best feature.  For me I love to study my brains out at the library because it is so quite compared to my noisy dorm.  But at midnight I have to ship out and go back to loud music and video games.  If my roommate is asleep I cannot use the lights in my room and my desk lamp just makes me sleepy.  This new lab would be tremendously helpful so I could have a quite place to read and study.  For those students who pull all-nighters this is a place to do so with resources like computers available to them.

To my hardcore followers, I will be taking an extended break from blogging to travel to San Diego, California this upcoming week.  I will be attending a conference so blogging may be tough to keep up with.  I will blog on my return about not only my trip to California but my entire spring break.  It was a blast and a must read.  I will also dive into the final part of the Presidential Platform series with more juicers topics like parking and campus dining. I know Dr. Hanson that parking is a no blog about topic but it is on the platform. See you all in April.

The next installment of the Presidential Platform blog is Green UNK (GUNK).  The plan is to upgrade the recycling program currently on campus.  Right now the only thing you can see are the blue receptacles around campus.  GUNK will place more receptacles around campus, especially in academic classrooms, department offices, and residential halls.  In addition to receptacles the president elect plans for recycling competitions between residence halls or other campus organizations hoping to encourage positive  habits toward recycling by awarding a grand prize to the winner.  A big issue GUNK will address is the purchasing “green” washers and dryers and making them accessible using coins or Loper Dollars with the student ID card similar to some vending machines and meal transfers.

GUNK seems like a great item for the next president and vice president to address.  By going green the campus will be better aesthetically and more resourceful.  Scholarships have been awarded to other schools in the past who have adopted similar strategies on the campuses.  I especially like the idea about “green” washer and dryers because by keeping the older machines it takes more water and electricity to do the same load that the newer systems can do more efficiently.  Short term it might be a bit of an investment but after awhile the machines will pay for themselves.  The only problem with GUNK is the recycling contests.  Students today seem lazier and lazier and will have no motivation to participate in a recycling contest.  Americans as a whole should adopt a universal recycling system to make it more natural and one day we can eliminate trash and landfills.

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