Update: This transcript has been updated to reflect the AP Stylebook guidelines.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
November 8 is a little less than a month away. And we want to help make sure that you are as prepared as you can be when stepping into that voting stall.
Last week, we sat down with Senator Carol Blood, the Nebraska gubernatorial candidate representing the Democratic party. During that hour, we discussed Senator Blood’s plans to address Nebraska’s high property taxes by legislating limits on unfunded or underfunded mandates, her ideas for economic growth through the expansion of education and housing opportunities, and more.
We also talked about Jim Pillen. Mr. Pillen is the republican gubernatorial candidate. Now I would like to restate that Mr. Pillen has declined to interview with us. However, we did provide an overview of his platform last week which we will do again later today.
But our main focus for today is going to be sitting down with Scott Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman is the libertarian gubernatorial candidate for Nebraska this year.
But first! We can’t forget the relatively breaking news.
The Lancaster County Election Commissioner, David Shively, announced that his office has begun to mail early voting ballots. Voters who have requested that their ballot be mailed to them will begin to receive their ballots this week.
Shively would like to remind the public that state law permits any registered voter to vote by early ballot. However, voters must request that ballot in writing. An early ballot request form is available on the Election Commissioner’s web site – which will be linked in today’s transcript – and applications must be received by his office no later than 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 28.
Shively would also like to remind the public that the voter registration deadlines are quickly approaching. Any Nebraska resident who is or will be 18 before November 8 and wants to register or anyone who wants to make changes to their voter registration, may do so online, by mail, or in person. Your last day to register online or by mail is October 21 by midnight. If you wish to register in person, you must do so by October 28. Online or mail-in registration forms can be found at lancaster.ne.gov. Or you register to vote in person at 601 N. 46th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.
While there are no current upcoming registration events, we will let you know if any are announced before that October 28 deadline.
Lastly, I want to remind you that our survey in preparation for our media literacy series is still up! We are trying to gather more information about how individuals – like yourself – perceive local and national newsrooms. There are a couple of questions about bias, misinformation, and a place to include questions. These questions will then be presented to our panel of professionals and educators, who will explain why newsrooms operate the way they do. If you have a moment, please, check that survey out. The more people who participate, the better our data and the better our conversations will be during our Media Literacy Series. You can find a post with the survey links under the “KZUM News” tab at kzum.org. You can also find the link in today’s transcript or the QR code on our social media pages. Please check it out and, of course, thank you to everyone who already participated.
And that’s all we have for our relatively breaking news today.
Before Mr. Zimmerman joins us, I did want to include an overview of Mr. Pillen’s platform. As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Pillen is the republican gubernatorial candidate for this upcoming election. Mr. Pillen announced in August that he would not be participating in debates and, subsequently, he has declined to join us in the studio. But in the interest of equal and fair representation, I think it’s important to include links to his campaign website and provide everyone with a summary of his platform.
One of his website’s first listed issues states that Mr. Pillen is committed to K-12 education in Nebraska. Under this pillar, he has outlined his opposition to the teaching of critical race theory, the 1619 project, and the LB768 bill, which asks for the adoption of health-education standards for the Nebraska education system.
Next on the issues docket, his website notes that Mr. Pillen is pro-life and that he plans to ‘advance a culture of life and protect the unborn.’ He expands on this thought by stating that he opposes taxpayer money funding organizations that commit abortions and supports adoption options for families in crisis.
Mr. Pillen also has infrastructure and property taxes listed as some of his top priorities, according to his campaign website. While we won’t get a look at his plan to address these subjects before the general election, he does simply say that he wants to expand broadband access to every corner of our state and that he plans to lower property taxes.
Lastly, Mr. Pillen is a strong supporter of the second amendment and opposes ‘red-flag laws.’
While Mr. Pillen does have other issues listed on his website, they tend to be sentiments of what he believes in and the website does not share any details on how he plans to address those subjects. For that reason, I’m not going to go through them. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Pillen’s mouth. And, perhaps, in the future, he will sit down with us and clarify his plans himself.
With that summary wrapped up, it’s time to welcome Scott Zimmerman to our studios. Mr. Zimmerman, as I’ve already mentioned, is the libertarian gubernatorial candidate for this upcoming November 8 general election.
Hello, Mr. Zimmerman. How are you doing this morning?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Hi Amantha. I’m fantastic. How are you?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: I’m doing wonderful, thank you. And you live in Omaha, correct?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: That is correct, yep.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, you had about an hour’s drive down here?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: I did. Busy morning to get on the road on time, but we made it so.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, I’m glad that you could join us, especially since we have a lot to talk about with your platform.
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: For sure.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: We are closing in on November 8 very quickly. In fact, by the time that this is done, it will be exactly a month away. Are you nervous?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: I’m not. Not even a little bit.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, that’s good to hear. So why don’t we start off… tell me a little bit about why you’re running for the governor position and what experience you are bringing to the office.
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah. You know, for the last several years, I’ve had this sense of frustration surrounding the political atmosphere. The political climate of, not only here in Nebraska, but just as a nation as a whole. We’ve become so politically divided and so entrenched in political positioning that I felt like our representatives were not doing what they were supposed to do, which is represent the people. And it got to a point where you can only complain about something so much before you realize, “You know what, I can’t sit on my hands any longer. I have to do something.”
And I felt that the move to declare and run for a nomination with a third party here in our state was the best opportunity I had to make a great impact on letting the voters and the residents of Nebraska know that there are regular people out here that are focused and that are intentional about getting into a leadership role where they can effectively represent everyone and not just those political elite that align with them. For me, it was time for us to do something. I felt like the air and the climate today, as far as the back and forth, this was a huge opportunity for somebody kind of middle-of-the-road to come through and spread the word and let people know that there are alternatives to just the right versus left duopoly.
And here’s a chance for us to do something completely different here in Nebraska.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, absolutely.
And then Carol and I had this discussion a little bit when she was in here earlier, where you’ll probably be working with a legislature that is either primarily one party or split party. How do you plan to work with that moving forward should you be elected?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Sure. You know, when you look at Nebraska’s legislature and the unicameral, we have a really unique opportunity here. We are a nonpartisan unicameral. We’re a nonpartisan legislature. And what we’ve seen over the last decades is the partisanship playing a major factor in the decision-making and the voting records of our elected officials. They are beholden to their political party rather than their constituents, and that frustrates a lot of people. So, for me, my focus will be on building coalitions and focusing on those areas, which I would say are the majority of the concerns of Nebraska is that we can accomplish things and we can move forward rather than politically entrenching ourselves on opposite sides of the aisle and never accomplishing anything.
So, I will focus on building relationships and building trust among the members of our legislatures and encouraging them to strongly work together to find a common ground, a way to agree. We may not agree a hundred percent on an issue, but maybe we can agree on 85% of that issue and come to a reasonable and realistic conclusion that would better serve the people of Nebraska instead of being stuck in a rut and not moving [in] any direction.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: For sure. And then, of course, you have your issues listed out very nicely on your website when I was taking a peek at them earlier. But of those issues, what is going to be your number one priority?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: You know, and it’s not even listed on my website, my top priority as governor of the state of Nebraska would be to ensure that the state of Nebraska, the business that our state conducts is done efficiently and effectively and equitably for everyone involved in the process, ensuring that we are doing what is right at all times for the individuals, the residents here in our state, and ensuring that party politics is not driving policies.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, of course, of those issues that you have listed on your website, one of the top ones is going to be those property taxes.
Now you have one of your long-term goals listed as getting rid of income taxes and ensuring that property taxes have a locked rate and a sunset date. Can you tell me more about that long-term plan for taxes?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah, I sure can. You know, it starts with analyzing and evaluating the tax burdens that are dependent upon the property tax structure.
Right now, I feel like us, as a state, we need to be doing a better job at some of the bigger investments that we’re making, including the judicial system and education system here in our state. While we do have quality educators in our state doing a great job, they are not provided with the resources they need to do the job we’re asking them to do. And then, when we talk about the judicial system and the overcrowding of our prison systems, it’s just a huge expenditure. That, to me, is an unnecessary use of our resources.
Once we can analyze and cut costs, cut the budget down to a reasonable level, then we can start to look at evaluating some of the tax relief options that are available to us. The income tax that would need to be supplemented by another type of tax that I envision: a voluntary tax system or what I would call a recreational tax for activities and, and things that are not necessarily considered a necessity in our state, but that people could still partake in by choice. It becomes a voluntary system.
With the property tax system, we are at the mercy of valuations. I buy a house for $100,000 and in two years it’s worth $280,000 and my taxes just spike to the top. To me, from my understanding, that is that property tax is the only tax that’s dependent upon what the perception of a marketplace is. So, at any moment in time that market could go up, it could go down.
And how do you budget for that? Individuals that are trying to make their way through this universe, they’re simply just trying to get by. Every year you get a new tax bill. It’s a different amount than what you’ve anticipated for. It becomes frustrating. So, under my program, we would look at locking in a rate based on your purchase price of your home. It wouldn’t go up. It wouldn’t go down. It would just exist. And then, long term, I would see a property tax system that expires for individuals that have paid for the property free and clear, free of liens, and that are 65 years or older. If you’re retired and you are enjoying the golden years of your life, you should not have a burden of being beholden to a government that holds the ownership of your property when in reality you own that property. You’ve paid for it. Free and clear.
When you talk about properties-for-profit – rentals farming, manufacturing properties – those would have to be evaluated on a different basis, based on revenue stream and economic impact on their communities to make sure that they’re contributing their fair and equitable amount as well.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you’ve mentioned a couple of times limiting the federal government’s influence on state politics and I know you’ve also had that listed in a couple of your other issues.
Can you tell me a little bit about your stance on this subject and any plans you have moving forward to decrease federal involvement with state politics?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah. That actually, to me, that starts with the governor and being able to stand his or her ground in that process and understand that the 10th amendment of our constitution clearly states that if the power is not covered in the Constitution, it defaults to the states. The state should be free and clear to run their state business and their state policies in a manner that best serves the residents of that state.
So, at any opportunity, and I would even scale it down a little bit further, even in the state of Nebraska, by decentralizing as much of the power and control within the government that we can and restore it back to the local communities and the local townships and allow them the opportunity to make the choices that they need to make, to allow their residents to thrive in their communities and to retain those individuals within their communities. And I think that that is a big area of opportunity for many Nebraska communities, “Is how do we keep people here?”
So when you look at my life as a whole, I’ve been a voter now for 30 years and every time we get a new representative, a new leader in office, we seem to see increases of taxes on the working class, we see infringements on personal freedoms, and then there’s restraints on our financial independence.
It seems like the government is forcing us into an era of dependency upon them and we need to step back away from that because individualism is the key to happiness. Individual freedom and personal responsibility. Those are things that I think people need in order to feel they are contributing members of society.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you mentioned that economic opportunities and growth is really big part of your platform, especially when it comes to population retention and attraction. Can you tell me a little bit about your plan for that economic growth and how it pertains to population retention and attraction?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah. We have to start by focusing on the youth. We are failing to meet them where they are at this point in time. A lot of my focus will be on bringing specialized training to Nebraska in private post-secondary education atmosphere. Let’s open up the lane of opportunity for these organizations to come here, set up shop, and provide specialized training for education, plumbing, electrical, [and] manufacturing.
Let’s bring those education facilities here so that employers and industries will be attracted to and drawn to their source of their potential income, their potential workforce. And then, ultimately, we have to get access to high-speed internet and data to every resident in our state.
The current marketplace… The current job force is shifting dramatically towards a remote workforce, which allows individuals to live anywhere they want and continue to work for an employer. By not having access to those resources we are limiting individuals in our state to take advantage of those financial opportunities.
If they wanna live in western Nebraska, work from home in western Nebraska, but their employers in Omaha, they should be able to do that effectively and efficiently so that they can continue to stimulate the economy in their own communities by spending money with the local shops and local area businesses.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And one of the things you just mentioned was increasing the trades education opportunities. Does that include increasing funding for those trade school opportunities as well?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: So that’s why I would really focus on privatizing at every turn of it because, again, as with most everything I’ve encountered, government involvement just muddies the water.
So, if we can step back and allow these private industry educators to come in and do what they do best without impeding their progress, we can step back and allow them to do that. We could look at incentives. We could look at tax breaks for land purchase. We could look at those types of things, for them, to incentivize them and invite them to Nebraska.
But, ultimately, I would want to keep the Nebraska revenue stream, the taxpayer dollars, out of that investment as much as possible because every dollar the taxpayer… the government gives us has a string attached to it and runs the risk of being impacted by corruption or cronyism.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, as you just mentioned, Nebraska is currently experiencing record-low unemployment rates and so we are looking at a lot of jobs without people to fill them.
What kind of answers are you considering in response to that?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: So the unfortunate circumstance is we have a lot of jobs in some parts of the state, but not a lot everywhere. So, for me, I would look at seeking a balance between rural and urban Nebraska and providing opportunities for individuals to seek out employment beyond their own region.
Sure, we’ve got a ton of open jobs in Omaha. But we also have a ton of unemployed people out in the western part of our state, so we need to figure out how to balance that out a little bit. So for me, the focus would be on the creation of industries throughout the state, opening up lines of opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Basically let’s pull back some of the government barriers, the implemented barriers that have been put in place, that prevent people that want to maybe cut hair or braid hair from doing that in their own communities and make it so that these individuals can have access to those career opportunities as well.
The jobs that are available.
We also need to encourage employers to take a good hard look at their business models. Society has changed it. Doing business the way we used to do it 40 years ago is not gonna cut it. In today’s marketplace, the current workforce needs something better. They need a better work environment. They need an environment that’s not toxic. They need an environment where they are free to be an individual and contribute to a team rather than being treated like low-skilled workers. We need to give them an opportunity to be successful. I hear a lot of talk about minimum wage, and I don’t know if that’s one of the questions you’re gonna throw at me is minimum wage or not, but I would see a vision…
I think the challenge we have with the minimum wages is it really does put a price value on a person. Is $15 an hour, is that your number? Is that your dollar value?
I would propose looking at a common wage instead of a minimum wage in our state, which basically establishes a common wage value for specific industries, whether it’s fast food, retail, whether it’s manufacturing, which then would allow employers more flexibility that, if an individual has a lower skill set but they’re willing to train them and invest in them, now they can invest in them at a lower cost. And when that individual gets their training wheels off and they’re able to operate and be a full functioning member of the team, then they would advance up to that common wage, which we would have to establish that within the industries.
What is the common wage for a fast food worker is not necessarily the same common wage for a retail worker. We need to be able to give the industry some autonomy there. But we also have to make sure that we’re not running into a risk where employers are putting people on the payroll and only paying them $3 an hour for the rest of their lives.
That just is not something that can be allowed to happen. People can’t afford to live on minimum wage now as it is. Which drives them to dependency on this state once again, to be supplementing their food sources and their fuel sources and their rent and their utilities. We need to shift away from that dependency.
And, in order to do that, I think the best thing is to step back a little bit and allow industries to drive the bus a little bit and give them some more oversight and control over their investment in their people.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, that concept of common wage is really interesting and I’ve never heard of that before. So that’s really fascinating to hear more about your plan for replacing the minimum wage with a common wage.
And then, as you mentioned earlier, we do have a prison overcrowding issue going on. Our prisons are currently at 152% capacity according to the last quarterly report. And how do you plan to address this prison overcrowding problem that we’re experiencing all across Nebraska?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: For sure. I’m an educator, right? And I teach math every day and I struggle with saying that this box right here that we have is at 152% capacity. Last I checked 100% was 100%. So what are we doing? Where are we putting them? In broom closets? Are we putting them in the corners? Are we lining them up in cots in the cafeteria?
The reality is we have an incarceration problem in our state. In my view, incarceration in our state prison system must be a last resort and reserved for only violent offenders that are a true threat to the security and safety of the residents of our state. I would look at reevaluating our judicial system and I would look at eliminating and reducing punishment and time for individuals that are maybe caught up in a situation where they were not in a nonviolent crime. They are not a direct threat to individuals outside and focus on investing in, rather than in a new box to put them in or a new prison, I would invest in rehabilitation and mental health programs to help them reform themselves in transition to become contributing members of our society. Caging them doesn’t accomplish anything rather than costing us money.
And if we can put them back out into society, we can give them a new skill, teach them a trade, and put them as part of our workforce, then they become investing members of our communities and contributing members of our society.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, I was also just thinking about this last question. We were talking about bringing more people to the state and one of the conversations that I’ve been hearing whispers about around town is all the natural disasters that are happening and how with Ian, the hurricane currently that’s happening, we are helping move these people into new sanctuary states. Would you ever consider beginning the process of making Nebraska a sanctuary state?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Well, absolutely we have. We have the space, we have the capacity to do so. One of the challenges we encounter though is access to resources in the rural parts of our state. They’re just not able to build apartment complexes and housing to meet the needs of these people. So we would need to evaluate that system.
I would absolutely be interested in opening up Nebraska to those that need to relocate out of Florida or Louisiana or New York or anywhere where they’re experiencing these natural disasters.
You know, it’s a slippery slope. If we start saying, “No, we’re not going to allow these people to come here.” It is also a dangerous game for us to say, “Yes, we’re going to invest in helping these people come here.” But I think that, between the two, the scale tips a little bit in favor of, “Okay, let’s invest into programs that allow these people to transition to Nebraska, to assimilate to our culture and become members of our economy and our communities.”
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. And I think this is a really interesting discussion to be had. Especially because we already have a fairly complex and well-functioning system for acclimating refugee and immigrant individuals here in Lincoln and the surrounding communities.
Now, even though we are deep in this conversation, this seems like the best place to pause. We’re going to take a quick break to refresh. Afterward, we’ll be continuing our conversation about your plans for Nebraska should you win the gubernatorial election on November 8, Mr. Zimmerman.
[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg, fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public services announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome back to today’s episode of “KZUM News”
We are sitting here with the libertarian gubernatorial candidate, Scott Zimmerman.
Before the break, we were discussing the fact that you are open to potentially becoming a sanctuary state for individuals who have experienced natural disasters. I mentioned that it seems like a nature next step considering Lincoln already has several programs in place to help refugees and immigrants relocate to Nebraska.
Building off of that, I have another question. Are you an avid supporter of reforming our current immigration process as well?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: I am.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Can you tell me a little more about that?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Once again, much like many government programs, it’s an antiquated system that is failing to meet the needs of our current culture.
Immigrants are here. We are a nation of immigrants. We have millions of people that have come to our country for one reason or another. The vast majority, I believe, are here for good intentions to provide for their families and, and, and prosper. That is the dream of being an American is that opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We provide those things.
Criminalizing an individual based on where their feet are planted is a challenge that we have to overcome. We can’t incarcerate. We can’t deport. We need to provide them with resources, instead of saying, “Okay, you’re here now, you’re in trouble.” We need to say, “Okay, you’re here now. Let’s help you become a recognized and legal resident of our state.”
I would like to see employers being the driving force for that. Not as far as citizenship is concerned, but being able to enforce the process; “Okay, here you want a job. Great. Now, part of this job process is to become a legal resident of our state. These are the steps you take.” And put the onus on them to do that.
Both sides of that coin, you hear individuals talk about, “Well, employers won’t do that. Blah, blah, blah.” You have to… Accountability is a factor, right? So if they’re not participating in that process, then we need to hold them accountable and there needs to be some form of repercussion, basically.
Illegal immigrants that I’ve talked to in this state, people that are here, they’re scared. They don’t know where to start. They don’t know who to go to and they’re afraid that, if they step forward, they’re gonna get arrested. They’re gonna get deported, they’re gonna be separated from their family. And that is a terrible position to be in. As far as I’m concerned, we should be able to allow them to step forward with confidence and in understanding that we will support them and help them through the immigration process in order to help them become contributing members of Nebraska.
Ellis Island – my ancestors came through Ellis Island, so many of our ancestors came from Ellis Island – and it was a funnel. And at that time it was easy. We don’t have that gate any longer. We don’t have that. So we need to be able to make it so that these individuals can show up in America and say, “Hey, I’m here. I want to be part of your team. How do I do it?” And not be afraid of repercussions or being penalized or fined, or, worst case, deported or even shot on site.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And would part of that process, if you were elected, look like limiting I.C.E’s power to operate within our state borders?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Perfect example again, of federal overreach within our state.
Federal government should not be mandating what occurs in our state, in determining our needs. What California needs is not the same as what Colorado needs is not the same as what Montana needs or Nebraska. Or I could go east. I don’t wanna leave the East Coast out but I’m just focusing on where we hear the challenges of immigration. I look at what Arizona does and New Mexico has done as well. Different programs to allow assimilation into society. It’s there, it exists. But these individuals need to be able to step forward with the confidence that they will not be criminalized for doing the right thing.
So yes, I would absolutely eliminate the power and control that is held by I.C.E. And I would include several other federal agencies including the D.E.A., as well.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then we’ve got a couple of our more hot-button issues here for the last couple of questions, that have been hugely on the mind of Nebraskans the last couple of years. Now, as I’m sure you are aware, the Dobbs v. Jackson case opinion was leaked and they did overturn Roe v. Wade, which has sparked a huge conversation about medical autonomy that’s already been going on the last couple of years with the mask mandates of Covid-19.
Now, can you tell me a little bit about your stance on medical autonomy and what that will look like moving forward for Nebraskans, since these are such huge topic points?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Absolutely. For me, everyone deserves medical autonomy. A highly personal decision should be made between a physician and a patient to establish what is the best care available to them.
And, when we start regulating and eliminating medical procedures that could be life-saving, we then impede a physician’s ability to do their job to their fullest extent. Personally, I am 100% pro-life. That is me. I’m a pro-life individual. I can never imagine being in that situation, that I would have to make that type of life or death decision.
Under my leadership, as a state, I would advocate for open access to abortion and medical procedures in case of life-threatening situations, including rape and incest as well. For us, as a state, I think we are best served investing our dollars in programs that would encourage expected mothers to consider alternatives beyond abortion – investing in our foster care and adoption systems – creating education and awareness programs that basically show there is a light at the tunnel.
I would like to see the end of abortions for profit. I don’t think that it should be a profitable endeavor to perform abortions. I would seek to connect them specifically with a hospital or a hospital affiliate so there is some type of oversight but I see both sides of that coin.
I understand wanting to protect the onboard, but I also understand the value of medical autonomy. And, if we start regulating one medical procedure, from a government legislation what prevents us from outlawing this one and that one and the next one over? Where does it stop? Where does it end? Then we establish a dangerous precedent.
So at the end of the day, what it comes down to, is that all individuals, women specifically, deserve complete control over their own bodies and should be allowed to make decisions without being fearful of being criminalized or incarcerated because they have to make a life or death decision on the spot. Or, worst case scenario, feel like they have to go to a black market or cross state lines to do something that could potentially save their lives in the long term. They shouldn’t have to feel abandoned or trapped.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. And then another one of these hot-button questions we’ve got here for you is that Lincoln is currently in the process of putting the Fairness Ordinance up to vote on this current upcoming ballot.
If you are not familiar with it, it is a revision of our City Code’s language regarding LGBT+ and Veteran protections here at a local level. Now, we’ve had a lot of people who have supported it, who have not supported it, so on. However, I suppose my question is, what kind of protections are you looking at at a state level for individuals who are LGBT+ or veterans to protect them from discrimination?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: For sure. You know, our state motto is equality before the law. Always has been and will probably continue to be for the foreseeable future. And that includes everyone, not just people you agree with or people that you side with. It’s everyone. And members of our LGBTQ+ community are part of our society.
They are here and they have every right to live their lives to their fullest extent, free of discrimination, free of bigotry. They have that right to exist, to live, work, and play in the state of Nebraska. I’m gonna put the veterans over here [be]cause I find that’s an interesting crossover. I’m gonna put the veterans over here for now.
But, ultimately, what it comes down to is we need to ensure that individuals – regardless of their sexual orientation, their identity orientation – we need to make sure, just as it is with race or religion or age, we need to make sure those individuals have access and are protected under the rights that are bestowed upon all. I call them unalienable rights that are provided by the creator. Just the verbiage of our constitution that is there for all of us as individuals.
And when we start the government involvement and regulating and picking and choosing sides, now we are just alienating groups. Like huge swaths of individuals. They are here. And I would tell you, as governor, individuals that are part of the LGBTQ+ community, I want you to know that I see you and I hear you and I know that you can be welcome in our state. I have faith in the people of Nebraska. They are not all judging you. They want you here too. So just know I’m here for you.
With regards to veterans, we as a country have done a miserable job of taking care of veterans. We’ve made promises, we’ve written checks that will never clear, basically. That’s a metaphor.
But we have made commitments to them and we have failed miserably. There should not be a homeless veteran. There should not be a veteran that has to wait 7 – 9 months for medical care. And our mental health crisis in our state, in our country has got to be addressed. We need to help these individuals.
They go off, They’ve been off for the last 20, 25 years in a foreign land seeing things that I can’t even imagine. And to come back here and be expected just to plop right back into our society? That’s a big ask for anyone. That’s a big ask for anyone.
So we have to put focus on making sure they are cared and provided for because they provided the ultimate service for us. They went and they fought for the freedom of the United States, and for our citizens, and we need to bring them home and value them at a higher level than what we’ve been able to do. It seems that the government management of Veteran Affairs has been an afterthought and is just there, rather than making sure that it is the best care in the nation.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then this last question is about the Second Amendment. Of course, we are a state that has a lot of hunting revenue. It’s a big part of our economy, and you are pro-second Amendment correct?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: That is correct.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: What kind of… or do you even consider having reasonable limitations on gun access? Or what is your stance on that?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: For sure. Yeah.
You know, I think individuals that are of age should have the right to access and possess firearms. As an individual, one of the greatest freedoms of being an American is our ability to protect ourselves and our property and those around us.
Unless the individual is deemed mentally incompetent, unless they are a direct threat to our society, unless they should be incarcerated rather than out in the public… these individuals should not have access to those resources.
I don’t believe that we should be able to purchase firearms on credit. I don’t think we should be able to take out a loan and buy a firearm. We should be able to purchase it cash to cash or direct funds transfer the purchase of firearms. Currently in our state, it seems that I’ve never had an issue obtaining a firearm.
Most of the biggest hassle comes from local mandates and local ordinances, which are reasonable and some, maybe, are a little excessive. But, ultimately, I see the perception of it being for the greater good.
For me, what I would see a better solution than criminalizing an individual for being in possession of a firearm is to invest heavily in education of firearms and training for self-defense and using those arms for good. Being able to demystify the process of a firearm will open up the doors for more individuals. With the reform of the judicial system – the criminal justice system – being able to free up the resources within the state patrol and local law enforcement officers, they can then free themselves up to participate in their communities that they’re assigned to and provide that training and resources for all individuals that are interested in possessing and carrying firearms.
Again, it comes down to an access to the resources rather than, “Oh, I know I can go buy a gun, I’m going to go buy one.”
Perfect example. During the pandemic cycle and when all this stuff was happening, all the riots and stuff were happening. I have a couple of friends that were involved in concealed carry training – and they were facilitating these – and they literally had women that would show up that have never touched a gun before, trying to go through this training in order to get a concealed carry permit. And, basically, they were coming in with this concept of, “Okay, I have a gun. Now what?” rather than “I’m trained, now it’s time to go purchase a firearm.”
So, I think that we need to shift our perception a little bit. I hesitate to advocate for further government regulation because every law that goes into effect, again, that regulates gun ownership, just criminalizes more and more innocent people. There are more good people with guns than there are bad people with guns. And I believe that wholeheartedly.
At the same time, we need to make sure that access to the training and the capacity to be good… I think most people that own a firearm want to be good with that firearm. So, and then I’ll cycle back again to my point about the mental health crisis in our state.
We have to do a better job. We have to provide those access to resources. Mental health matters.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then we have one more question and it’s about that Legalize Marijuana Now party. They are currently trying to get legalizing marijuana on the ballot. They have been for a couple years now. I do not believe they succeeded for this upcoming November election, however, I know they are already planning for the next one after that. What is your take on the marijuana legalization process?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: I’ll tell you. Cannabis criminalization is rooted in societal government controls. The laws were put into place to control a poorer population. And, in our current world today, we are still victim to government propaganda programs that were misinforming individuals and creating an environment that we are scared of something.
Cannabis is a plant. It’s natural. Okay. And you look at states like Colorado; 380 million in tax revenue.; Illinois a hundred, almost 200 million in tax revenue. Michigan; 135 million in tax revenue. I feel like Nebraska’s missing a huge opportunity here by not going all in on cannabis production, manufacturer and sales.
To me that is a move that we, if we don’t make it soon, it becomes harder and harder for us to do that. We’re losing revenue to Colorado. We’re losing revenue to Illinois. We’re losing revenue to California when people should be able to stay here in Nebraska and enjoy everything Mother Nature has to office. We have some of the best recreational areas in in the country. I’ve been to almost all of them. I love this state. It’s beautiful country, but ultimately, why would you stop in Nebraska when you can just drive six more hours to Colorado and enjoy everything nature has to offer you?
Colorado obviously has the advantage of already established a tourism marketplace. But here in Nebraska we are farm country. You look at the corn crop this year, it’s miserable. If these farmers were allowed to supplement their income with a cannabis crop, we wouldn’t be panicking about how they’re gonna pay their mortgage. We’re not gonna panic on how they’re gonna pay their bills to cover their combine and feed storage. And all of these things that they’re investing in, we now open it up.
So, I would look to deregulate cannabis completely in our state and then allow a marketplace to establish itself based on the needs of our residents, of our state, and our communities.
That way Omaha and Lincoln, if they want to do full recreational and they wanna open up dispensaries right here, they can do that. Or if Scottsbluff isn’t interested, then they can just stay out of it. And that’s their missed opportunity. Again, criminalizing individuals for nonviolent offenses is a challenge in our state and why we are holding so many prisoners in our state prison system. And then the drain on our state patrol and our local law enforcement officers for enforcing these antiquated drug laws, that we have learned over the last 20 years that this plant isn’t going to kill your children. This plant has actually been very beneficial medicinally for many. It’s been beneficial psychologically for many.
And I think instead of treating addiction as a criminal act, we need to treat addiction as a mental health issue and focus on individuals being able to control themselves and to be contributing members of society rather than just locking ’em up and throwing ’em in a cage or giving them excessive fines that they’ll never be able to pay and then locking ’em in the cage cuz they can’t pay.
So, yes. I am 100% supportive of medicinal cannabis without an issue. And then when it comes to full on recreational access, I support that as well. I think that is an easy investment for the state of Nebraska and a huge opportunity to put ourselves on the map and end this flyover state mentality that people have about our state and create a destination.
I mean, by golly, we’re gonna build a huge recreational area between Omaha and Lincoln. Why not capitalize that? That’s right off of Exit 420. Why not put a big dispensary out there, right? Let’s give people what they want.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, another part of the facet of the legalizing marijuana conversation, is using hemp to supplement our climate change reformations that we are using to make Nebraska more environmentally friendly. Is that something you would consider investing in as well?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Yes, a hundred percent. The move that we made on hemp was a move in the right direction. It did not go far enough, much like many industries in the state of Nebraska, including local breweries, home brew beers, and independent brewing meat production.
And then cannabis. It all funnels through one funnel, one choke point, and then gets disseminated out. And a brewer in Scottsbluff, Nebraska cannot sell to the bar across the street. It has to funnel through Nebraska’s approved distribution center. So, when you look at hemp production, it’s the same concept.
Let’s open it up. Let’s give the farmers their freedom back. Let’s let them manage their own land and produce and conduct business transactions with all that they want. We shouldn’t have to control that. A normal corn production, you get one crop a year. Hemp production, you can do up to four, sometimes five, a year.
And you don’t have to invest in pesticides, you don’t have to invest in fertilizers. You don’t. It just grows. It’s a weed. It just grows naturally. So, these farmers now can produce a crop and a product that only not only benefits us on a paper level, they can manufacture concrete out of ’em. They can create food products out of it. I mean, there’s so many things that we don’t even know is an option because of the regulation preventing some of our best scientists in our state from even touching it and looking at it and analyzing it to determine what resources are really available. I’ve seen pieces out there about how it stops growth in cancer cells. And I’ve seen stuff out there that it prevented Covid-19 from taking hold. But we don’t really know because we’re not allowed to jump in.
And again, another example of disconnecting from the federal government level and saying, “Look, I understand you got this law on the books. You got this classification on the books but, here in Nebraska, we’re gonna deregulate. And we’re gonna lead the industry and make history in Nebraska with what we can do.”
Like if we get government out of the way, you’d be amazed what an industrious person is able to accomplish.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then I am out of questions, however, is there anything that you feel we haven’t discussed today that you really want to touch on before we head out for the day?
Scott Zimmerman, Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate: Yeah. I do want to touch a little bit on my, my primary focus, which is the education industry. Public education. As a state, we have a constitutional obligation to provide access to public education for individuals age 7 to twenty-one – I think is how it’s listed in the Constitution – and we have done a miserable job. The way children learn and develop has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. It’s changed exponentially.
So, my first step would be to look to disconnect from the Federal Department of Education and allow Nebraska the freedom and flexibility to make changes, to create a fiscally responsible education model that gives parents more control and oversight over their children’s education and work to reduce standardization of education in our state and put the focus on individualization of education in our state. Because access to technology and resources has changed the way these kids view the world. And we are still teaching them in a model that I learned forty some years ago. So, we have to do a better job.
So, my focus, day one in office, will be to look at what we’re doing with education and start moving forward to make the changes we need in order to educate our children, which ultimately will lead to retention of individuals in our state. Because not only will they be empowered, they will be intelligent and they will be contributing members of our society here in Nebraska.
Hashtag back the beard. I’m Scott Zimmerman. I endorsed this message. Vote zimmerman.com.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us today, Mr. Zimmerman. We appreciate it.
And of course, for all of those of you listening, don’t forget that the general election is coming up quickly on November 8. We are in the middle of our election coverage. So next week we will be sitting down with our 1st Congressional District candidates to discuss the differences and similarities in their platforms.
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