Correction: This episode of “KZUM News” contains an error, which we would like to correct. We stated that Jana Hughes and Patrick Hotovy ran for the Legislative District 26 seat. Hughes and Hotovy actually ran for the Legislative District 24 seat, with Hughes winning. George C. Dungan III and Russ Barger ran for the Legislative District 26 seat, with Dungan winning. We apologize for the error and thank you for your understanding.

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.

The 2022 General Election is officially over. And we have the unofficial results for the county, state, and congressional offices that were retrieved from the Lancaster County Commissioner’s Office.

Today, we will be going through those results. We’ll have a couple of call-ins and we’ll hear from some of our newly elected officials. And then we have a whole bunch of news to cover. We probably won’t get to all of it. But we’re going to try and that’s what counts.

So, I guess the best way to do this is to start at the top of the ballot and work our way down.

But first, we’re going to talk about the United States Senate. Nebraska didn’t have any Senate seats up for election this year. In fact, we are one of sixteen states without any senate seats on the ballot during this year’s general election. But 34 other states are voting on their senate offices.

Even though Nebraska isn’t participating, it is important for everyone to stay informed on those midterm results.

Now, unfortunately, we are still waiting on official results from Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia. We are expecting to receive results from those first three states submitted by the end of next week. However, Georgia’s race is so close it has triggered a runoff election.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept, that’s alright. But a runoff election is when neither candidate gains the majority of the votes necessary to win, triggering a secondary election. Georgia is one of only two U.S. States that holds runoff elections for both primary and general elections. Needless to say, neither the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock nor challenger Herschel Walker of the Republican party have reached the 50% threshold necessary to outright win the seat. As a result, Georgia will be holding their runoff election on December 6 to determine who will be the next Georgia State Senator.

Until that runoff election is complete, we won’t know who takes the majority for the U.S. Senate.

We are also waiting on the final results from several states regarding their congressional seats. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Maine – while having confirmed most of their congressional winners – still have only tentative projections for their remaining seats. 393 seats of 435 have been confirmed, leaving 42 undecided.

And while we’re talking about congressional offices… this year, all three congressional district seats were up for re-election in Nebraska. Lincoln – which falls in the 1st Congressional District – voted in Republican Candidate Mike Flood during the June 28 special election to finish out Representative Fortenberry’s latest term after he was convicted of a felony and resigned from the position. Congressman Flood reran for the office, once again facing off against Democratic Candidate Patty Pansing Brooks. His victory was announced on the evening of November 8 after he took the lead by 35, 941 votes.

While we understand that Lincoln falls within the First Congressional District, it is important to know who represents our state at all levels. That’s why we are also covering the results for the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Don Bacon faced off against Democratic candidate Tony Vargas. Congressman Bacon has won reelection with 106,963 votes, outpacing Vargas by 9,017 votes.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Congressional District has reelected Republican incumbent Adrian Smith. Congressman Smith had 78.32% of the district’s votes putting him ahead of his opponents – democratic candidate David J. Else and Legal Marijuana Now party candidate Mark Elworth Jr.

In keeping their offices, Representatives Flood, Bacon, and Smith will each serve another 2-year term representing Nebraska in the United States Congress.

Next up is the state-level offices.

As we all know Governor Pete Ricketts has reached his term limit for serving as the Nebraska State governor. We had three candidates – most of who sat down with our program earlier this month – running to replace him. Republican candidate Jim Pillen – and his Lieutenant Governor candidate Joe Kelly – have won the race against Democratic candidate Carol Blood and Libertarian candidate Scott Zimmerman. Mr. Pillen received 60.47% of the statewide votes.

Bob Evnen, the current Secretary of State, ran unopposed and has been reelected to serve another 4-year term in the office.

We also had elections for the State Treasurer, State Attorney General, and the State Auditor of Public Accounts offices.

Republican incumbent John Murante and libertarian candidate Katrina Tomsen faced off for the State Treasurer position. Murante beat out Tomsen after receiving 72.72% of the statewide votes. His re-election means he will serve another four years in the office.

Meanwhile, the State Attorney General race was composed entirely of new candidates. Republican nominee Mike Hilgers beat his opponent, Larry Bolinger of the Legalize Marijuana Now party, for the position after earning 70.40% of the statewide votes. Current Attorney General, Doug Peterson, will relinquish his seat to Hilgers this upcoming January.

And, last but not least, the Auditor of Public Accounts Office had several candidates in the running this year. Republican nominee Mike Foley beat out his opponents, Libertarian nominee Gene Siadek, and Legalize Marijuana Now party nominee L. Leroy Lopez. It will be Foley’s first time serving in the position after finishing his term as Lieutenant Governor and his third term serving in the position overall.

Next up, Lincoln had a variety of Legislature seats up for election this year. We’re going to just go through the list real quick and then we’ll talk about some ballot initiatives.

Robert Clements maintains his seat in District 2 instead of handing it over to Sarah Slattery. For Legislature District 26, Jana Hughes beat out Patrick Hotovy by 1,397 votes (see correction at top of the transcript.) Jane Raybould takes the District 28 seat after pulling ahead of her opponent, Roy A. Christensen, by 3,555 votes. Myron Dorn keeps his seat in District 30 and Tom Brandt keeps his District 32 seat after each of them ran unopposed. And, lastly, Danielle Conrad takes the District 46 seat. She beat out James Michael Bowers by 144 votes.

Before we discuss those county seats, I thought we’d go over those ballot amendments and initiatives.

Proposed Amendment Number 1 passed, with 79% of voters in favor. The amendment will authorize any city, county, or other political subdivision owning or operating an airport to expend its revenues for the public purpose of developing or encouraging the development of new or expanded regularly scheduled commercial passenger air service at such airport.

Proposed by Senator Eliot Bostar of Legislative District 29 and supported by Representative Mike Flood and Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Legislative District 39, they form the Grow Nebraska Committee which represented the bipartisan effort to pass Amendment 1.

Here is Senator Bostar speaking at the Grow Nebraska Press Tour, to tell us more about the amendment.

Eliot Bostar, Senator of Legislative District 29: Good morning and thank you all for coming.

So, I’m gonna speak briefly about why we’re here today and why there is a amendment currently on the ballots for voters to consider. Actually, right now, while early voting’s happening.

So a little over a year ago I was approached by officials from the Lincoln Airport and then members of airport authorities and governing bodies of airports from across the state who told me about a challenge currently facing Nebraska. And that is that right now Nebraska, as it competes to attract commercial air service, is doing so at a competitive disadvantage. We do not have access to the same tools that states across the country currently are utilizing to grow the network and the access of flights and routes that commercial air service is currently providing to them.

And that stems from a constitutional provision that we have that has been interpreted through an [Attorney General] AG opinion, in 2020, to say that we are unable to utilize these types of public/private partnerships to incentivize and work with and negotiate with airlines to attract their service and bring them into Nebraska.

And that’s particularly troubling right now.

Coming out of the pandemic, we have a significant pilot shortage facing the United States. And that is putting a great deal of strain on airlines to be very, very selective about where they’re investing, about where they’re committing to serve, and whether or not they’re growing in a community or they’re leaving a community.

And right now, as we’ve all seen, we’ve been losing air service across the state. And, so, with the constraints on the airline industry, combined with our limitation on the tools and resources we have available to us to compete with our neighbors, to attract that air service, we’re seeing the consequences of this. And, so, I introduced a resolution to place Amendment One on the ballot this year. And I’m very pleased that it was supported and passed unanimously by the legislature.

And, you know, for those that follow Nebraska politics, things don’t pass unanimously very often. So, I’m very thankful to my colleagues for their support for this issue and in their recognition that this is critically important for our state. And we need to make sure that we have the tools to compete. We need to level the playing field for Nebraska and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to grow our state, attract the investments in our economy, and make sure that Nebraska’s a place that people wanna move to and people wanna live.

The Nebraska legislature can only put things on the ballot. We can’t change the state constitution on our own. So, we are here, we’ve been traveling the state for the last couple of days and talking to folks in the communities about why this is important, what this means, and why it should be supported. Because, at the end of the day, we need the public at large… We need Nebraska voters to support this, to vote for amendment one. Otherwise, this change won’t happen.

So, the legislature’s been able to take it this far and now we’re counting on our neighbors and our communities and our friends and our families to make sure that this can get across the finish line and we can make Nebraska strategically competitive and help grow our state.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Senator Eliot Bostar telling us more about Amendment 1, which seeks to grow Nebraska’s commercial air service, grow state economy, and connect Nebraska to the rest of the country. The Legislature unanimously passed this measure during the 2022 session and it was passed after the recent election with 79% of voters in favor of the amendment.

There were also two ballot initiatives up for the vote.

The first of those ballot initiatives – Initiative 432 – proposed that the Nebraskas constitution be amended to require that, before casting a ballot in any election, a qualified voter must present valid photographic identification in a manner specified by the Nebraska Legislature. Initiative 432 also passed, with 66% of voters in favor.

And, lastly, was ballot initiative 433, which stated that the Nebraska statute establishing a minimum wage for employees be amended to increase the state minimum wage from 9.00 per hour to 10.50 per hour on January 1, 2023, with gradual annual increases until it the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2026, which is then to be adjusted annually thereafter to account for increases in [the] cost of living.

Last week we spoke with both proponents and opponents of initiative 433. Since then, 58% of Nebraska voters cast their ballots and passed the initiative. Calling in to speak with us today is Kate Wolfe, one of the primary proponents to discuss her work in passing initiative 433.

Hello, Kate.

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: Hi there.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Hi. How are you?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: I am doing very well.

Amantha Dickman, news Director: Thank you for taking your time out of your vacation to meet with me. I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you were out of state.

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: I… No, no, no, no.

I actually had scheduled this before I even took on the campaign and sort of knew. I’m just really glad that none of my races are like kind of within recount territory. That would’ve made it a little less enjoyable, but I don’t mind an interview here or there.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, I still thank you for meeting with me while you are in the midst of traveling.

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: Oh yeah. Not a problem.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you work with Raise the Wage. Can you tell me a little bit about the organization and what it is that you were advocating for before this recent election?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: Yes. I’m the campaign manager for Raise the Wage, Nebraska, which is a group of over 25 organizations and individuals who put together a petition initiative a little over a year ago to put an increase in the minimum wage on the ballot in Nebraska. And the language and the signatures that they pulled together would increase the wage to $15 an hour by 2026.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then of course there were several public hearings about it and several very vocal opponents as well to this initiative. How are you feeling now that the election’s over that it’s passed?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: I feel very good and I felt that the support for the initiative from the very beginning of collecting signatures was very strong.

We collected more than twice the amount of needed signatures. We were able to collect signatures in all 93 Nebraska counties. And, at the three public hearings, there was always far more people appearing in support than in opposition. And I think that we see that in the results of 58% of Nebraskan’s voting to give hardworking friends, neighbors, family members across the state a much-needed and much-deserved raise.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Were you disappointed that only 55% of Nebraska voters voted in favor of Initiative 433?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: No, not at all. Actually, I think that those were very good numbers. I think those are numbers that, you know, we oftentimes see on ballot initiatives in Nebraska. So I thought it was a very positive and encouraging figure.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, obviously, there’s going to be changes happening to the state statute here coming up. Are, are you… is Raise the Wage Nebraska looking to make any additional changes to the minimum wage requirements?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: No. You know, everything is self-enacting where, you know, January 1, it’ll increase by a $1.50 from $9 an hour to $10.50.

And thereafter it’ll just be increased, you know, a $1.50 – just a little step – up each year. And then, after 2026, when we finally reach $15 an hour, the minimum wage will be increased according to the cost of living, which I think is a very important part of our bill. To make sure that, you know, wages are keeping up with the cost of living in Nebraska.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then for anyone out there who might still have lingering concerns, can you tell them why this is a good thing in your opinion?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: Yeah.

You know, I understand and I hear those concerns. And we just have to look back to the last time Nebraska voters chose to raise the minimum wage in 2014. And once that was fully implemented, that was an incremental change, again to $9 an hour in 2016.

When we look back at the data, the data shows that there was a positive outcome. We had a drop in the unemployment rate and we had net gains and a total number of people employed, total number of new business starts and total number of business establishments. Those trends, those numbers held strong a year later. And we also saw similar effects in states like Missouri and Arkansas after they raised their wage.

So, the data is there that disproves that when people have more money in their pockets and in their paychecks, they spend more money in Main Street business.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: The other thing I’m interested in is seeing the impact on our economy. Several of the proponents of initiative 4 33 have talked about how this is a good opportunity to reinvest our money locally. Do you have projections on what the economic impact might be?

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: I agree. You know, I think this is something that really puts Nebraska on the map and can really help contribute to any out-migration that our state faces and really can start to attract more people coming to Nebraska to work here, which you and I both know is a great place to live.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, thank you so much for meeting with us, especially since, once again, you are traveling and taking time out of your vacation to speak with us.

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: You are so welcome. Thank you for calling.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Have a good afternoon, Kate.

Kate Wolfe, Campaign Manager for Raise the Wage: You too. Bye-bye.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Kate Wolfe, with Raise the Wage, to discuss her work with initiative 433 in efforts to raise the minimum wage and its recent passing after the November 8 general election.

We’ve covered quite a bit of the general election today; from congressional and senate results to state offices and ballot initiatives. But we aren’t quite done with our election content. That’s why we are going to take a break. We have some messages from our sponsors and some music, so take a moment to enjoy and I will be back to tell you more in a minute.

[“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. This break included the song “The Sea” from the Machinarium Soundtrack.]

Amantha Dickman, News Director: As I mentioned, we are throwing in a couple of songs to break up our conversation about election results today. I don’t want to overwhelm and lose anybody just because politics, particularly elections, can be information overload sometimes.

So that was “The Sea” from the Machinarium soundtrack. If you’re a fan of video game music, I suggest checking out our program “Press Start to Listen” with DiscoCola on Monday nights at midnight. He was nice enough to provide us with this song from his collection.

But, the song is over and we are back.

Before the break, we did an overview of the projected results for the Senate seats. We followed up with an overview of the Nebraska congressional district winners, state office winners, the newly elected legislative senators, and the ballot initiatives that passed.

Now, as promised, we are going to review those county offices that were up for election.

Depending on where you are located in Lincoln, influenced which County Commissioner District you were voting for on November 8. Districts 1, 3, and 5 were all on the ballot.

In district 1 we had republican candidate Cameron Hall running against Democratic incumbent Sean Flowerday. Flowerday has been serving in the position since 2019 and has been reelected to serve another four years.

In District 3, Republican candidate Matt Schulte won the seat after running unopposed. He will replace Deb Schorr who has been serving in the position since 2002.

And, lastly, Democratic incumbent Rick Vest has held on to his seat in District 5. His opponent, Republican candidate Jason Krueger, trailed him by 1,013 votes.

Moving over to the County Clerk race, we had new blood running for the office. The current county clerk, Dan Nolte, opted to run for the county assessor position this election. This left republican candidate Kris Beckenback and democratic candidate Matt Hansen to a tight race for the seat. Mr. Hansen did win, pulling ahead by 1,101 votes. He will replace Mr. Nolte in January.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nolte won his race for the County Assessor’s Office against his opponent Rob Ogden. Mr. Ogden currently serves in the position but found himself trailing Mr. Nolte by a couple of hundred votes when it came time to announce the results.

We also had several hotly contested races where county offices were concerned this year. One of those seats was the county sheriff position. Our current Sheriff, Terry Wagner, was initially elected in 1994 and has been re-elected unopposed six times since then. This year, Democratic candidate Jay Pitts and libertarian candidate Conan Thomas threw their hat in the ring. The number of votes looked very close until those final results were announced. Sheriff Wagner managed to pull ahead of his opposition by 11,320 votes, meaning he will keep his position for another four years.

We have Sheriff Wagner on the phone today to discuss his re-election.

Morning Sheriff Wagner. How are you?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: I’m good. How are you?

Amantha Dickman, News Director: I’m wonderful. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me this morning.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Yep.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And like I mentioned yesterday, we’ll do just a couple minutes to follow up with you about that election. So, to start us off, congratulations.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Thank you very much.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Now, you have been serving as our sheriff since 1994, correct?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: That’s correct. 28 years.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. So you are one of, if not the longest-serving sheriff that Lincoln has ever had.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: That’s correct.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Then I’m sure that you’re very excited to be staying in the Sheriff’s Office and continuing your work with them.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Well, yeah. I appreciate the confidence of the voters. That, you know, it’s very humble and heartwarming and makes me really strive to do the best job that we can to keep people safe.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. Now, we didn’t get a chance to talk before the election due to our unfortunate technology issues. But, just to follow up, now that you have won reelection, what is your first priority moving forward?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Well, our first priority is just to maintain the high level of service that we are known for.

And then you know, it’s the advances in technology that we really need to stay on top of just to be able to conduct our investigations thoroughly. Recruiting and hiring, you know, continues to be a challenge. And, so, we’re going to continue to, to work on that and get ourselves back up to full strength.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. You mentioned that recruiting has been a real problem the last year. I imagine it has been particularly so for your sheriff’s department if it is everywhere else. What is your plan for that moving forward?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Well, we have done… we’ve employed a number of different strategies to marketing to recruiting people who are already certified law enforcement officers.

And I’m thrilled to let you know that we have just made offers of employment to four young people and that will put us at full strength. It’ll start in December and start their academy experience, and that will put us at full strength when they’re done with their training.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: How many deputies are currently in your office? What does full strength look like?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Yeah. 86 deputy sheriffs, and then about 25 support staff.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, wonderful. Perfect. And then, of course, you mentioned some technology upgrades that you need to keep up on. What kind of technology upgrades would that look like?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Well, you know, every patrol car is a rolling office.

It has in-car computer now we have printers in our, in our vehicles. So, citations are e-citations now. They’re not hard copies. Accident crash reporting is done on the computer and online, so there’s no hard copies there. So, it’s streamlining the process somewhat and, you know, keeping up with technology on the investigating side of the world, you know, every case that we work the people have a quite a bit of information on their smartphones or on their personal devices that in many cases really contains a lot of evidence that we need to obtain.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, you have some very smart cars from what I understand.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Yeah. They are very complex between in-car cameras, mobile radio units for traffic enforcement, in-car computers. That’s where our dispatching comes from and instant messaging between deputies and then that in-car printers now to print off documents they need to print off for motorists. And so, yeah, it’s pretty complex.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Some of our listeners might not entirely get this reference, but did you ever watch the Knight Rider series? Kit?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Well, I sure did. You bet.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Kind of sounds like you’ve got a couple of Kit’s in your office, with your cars.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Well, they’re not… they don’t drive themselves. But they certainly are packed with technology.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Well then, in that case, we do want to congratulate you again. We look forward to another… It’s four years of service for each of your terms, correct?

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: That’s correct.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, then we look forward to another four years of your service.

Thank you so much, Sheriff Wagner. We appreciate you sitting down with us.

Terry Wagner, Lancaster County Sheriff: Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Sheriff Wagner, calling in to discuss his re-election and his immediate plans for the Sheriff’s Office moving forward.

As I mentioned earlier, this was not the only hotly contested office on the ballot. The position of County Attorney also had a tight race this year. Incumbent Pat Condon faced off with democratic nominee Adam Morfeld. We spoke with both of them a few weekends ago and learned more about their campaign priorities. Morfeld, whose campaign had gained local interest, held a slim lead on Condon during the early evening of November 8. Condon took the lead at 11:15 p.m. Even though there are still 7,350 ballots left to count, the Lancaster County Commissioners Office has predicted that Condon will maintain this lead. They have declared him the winner and he will continue to serve as the Lancaster County Attorney.

We also spoke with the County Treasurer candidates about their race, last month. Republican candidate Tracy L. Refior and Democratic incumbent Rachel Garver also had an initially tight race. But Garver pulled ahead and won the election with 7,951 votes more than her opponent.

Kristi Egger, the current public defender, also held on to her seat. Her opponent, Trevin Preble, had an incredible turnout for day-of voting but didn’t get quite the response Egger had with early voting ballots. Egger will be joining us next week to talk more about her office so we are going to move along.

And, finally, the last of the county offices up for election was the Clerk of District Court. We met with democratic candidate Lin Quenzer last month to discuss the administrative aspects of the position. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet with republican incumbent Troy Hawk at the time. But we hope to hear back from him since he won re-election so that we can learn more about his priorities with this new term.

And that is it for the county offices. There are plenty of other board-elected positions that were on the November 8 ballot. But most of them are location-specific and not in Lincoln. For that reason, we are not going to go through each and every one of those races. However, we will include a link to all of the election results in today’s transcript (which will be up in the next week).

We have another break scheduled. So, I’m going to grab a quick drink of water because today has been a LOT of talking for me. And, then, we are going to learn more about the upcoming Lincoln Youth Complex project. So, stick around.

[“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. This break included the song “Boogieman Sam” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.]

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome back to today’s episode of “KZUM News”

As promised we have wrapped up another song today to give us a break from all the election information I just threw at you. This one was provided to us by Lucas. It is “Boogieman Sam” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. If you thought it was a bop, you can catch more music – like Boogieman Sam – on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. during Lucas’s show “Cosmic Jive.”

Before the break, we went through just about everything that was on our state general election ballot. We also took a look at where we are currently standing in regard to the United States Senatorial elections. Unfortunately, there are no concrete answers right now since Georgia will not finish their runoff elections until December 6. But we will keep you updated as we get new information.

Either way, we are wrapping up our election coverage and moving on.

During October, while we were otherwise busy, we accumulated plenty of news that we didn’t have time to cover. So, we have some information to backlog if you will.

And the first item on the agenda is the Lincoln Youth Complex project.

On September 28, Lincoln officials announced that they would begin construction of the Lincoln Youth Complex which would be capable of hosting games and tournaments for baseball and softball players of all backgrounds and abilities.

At a lunch hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln officials invited Jeff Maul, executive director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Darin Erstad, former Husker athlete, and head baseball coach to further discuss the recently announced complex.

We managed to grab each of them for a moment, to learn a little more. So first up is Jeff Maul, executive director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, to tell us more about the Lincoln Youth Complex.

So we are currently sitting here at the Lincoln Country Club where you just gave a presentation on the Lincoln Youth Complex. It is slated to start construction in spring of 2023. And you are starting to schedule roughly for fall of 2024, correct?

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: Yeah. I mean, this facility is gonna be located at 1st and Cornhusker Street. We’re gonna come out of the ground with it in the spring of 2023. As you mentioned, we anticipate probably about a year and a half build out for the project with us all fully opening in the fall of 2024. And just a magical situation for the youth of Lincoln to be able to play on one of the top facilities in the country.

Hey Darren, what, do you have time for one more interview?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Yeah, I can talk.

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: Okay. I’ll wrap up here and it’s all yours. Probably be about 15 minutes, but I gotta go.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: We’ll make it quick.

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: All right.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So… and then obviously this is a baseball and softball complex primarily. Can you tell me a little bit about the features that it will have and why it is beneficial for us to have this complex here in Lincoln?

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: Well, the complex itself is beneficial to the community, not only from an economic impact standpoint, but it’s about doing what’s right for the youth of Lincoln.

We do not have any complexes in Lincoln currently right now that will be 100% artificially turfed. We have eight competition fields available and it’s gonna be able to give us the opportunity to bring in tournaments from the outside, but also provide programming for disadvantaged youth. Youth that, otherwise, wouldn’t have the opportunity to pay and play in leagues and clubs and different things that we’re seeing taking over this country and this world.

We have to provide opportunities for youth during the summer, Mondays through Thursdays. We want them to pick up a ball and a glove for the very first time and learn the game as though it was intended to be learned.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then two follow-up questions there. So for listeners, can you start us off by clarifying what an artificial turf is if they’re not familiar with that?

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: So, artificial turf is Astroturf. I think if you grew up, you remember the football fields that didn’t have a blade of grass or any kind of dirt. This is artificial turf. It is called field grass, Field Turf, similar to Memorial Stadium or other turfed complexes at Den Hartog here in Lincoln. The beauty of that is the playability.

It can rain. As long as it clears off and the water’s off the surface. We just have a much deeper playing season as a result.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you mentioned that your programs are meant to serve underserved communities.

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: Yep. And children.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Are you a non-profit? Will this complex be a non-profit run?

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: It is a non-profit complex.

Every dime that we get into this facility goes right back into the operations and the programming that we to provide youth. The opportunity for us to provide opportunities for kids free of charge, provide transportation, is something we’re working really hard with our afterschool programs.

And we’re working with nonprofit community organizations to make sure those kids have that.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you had a couple of statistics for general projected economic income for that first year and then from every year on. Can you remind me what those were?

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: We anticipate 100,000 new visitors into the community in year one.

That number will double in year three. We anticipate a $9 million economic impact in year one and the life of the project after we get going into this and we get 10, 20, and 30 years down the road, we’re looking at about a $200 million economic impact on this community.

Youth sports tourism is alive and well and we’re just happy to be a part of that.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Perfect.

And I know you’re running short on time, so thank you so much.

Jeff Maul, Executive Director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: Yeah, you bet.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: I will get you untangled… Can I  have you say your name, spell it so that we can check your audio levels? And then we’ll go into the interview.

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: D-a-r-i-n. Erstad, E-r-s-t-a-d.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Perfect. And how did you get involved with the Lincoln Youth Complex?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Oh, Jeff Maul reached out to me five or six years ago, I suppose. In knowing that It’s been going on for a long, lot longer than that.

And just, you know, he invited me to come to some of their meetings and one thing led to the another, and here we are.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And he mentioned that it’s been in the works for about 16 years, correct?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Yep. Yep.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Perfect. And then you… you are one of the developers of the complex. You are working on getting it currently up and running for construction. How long do you estimate it will take until you can start scheduling out events?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Well, there’s a lot of people, a lot smarter than me that do all the engineering and design and all that stuff.

I’m more on the fundraising side. But you know, we’re, we’re looking at the, the spring of [20]23 for getting project started as far as, you know, breaking ground. Following [20] 24 to get some stuff up and running. And then the spring, you know, [20]25 would be when you get a full schedule going.

So you’re gonna probably, probably need to be 12 to 18 months ahead of that as far as starting to get scheduling stuff done. And that’ll be the big challenge of, of, you know, who gets what time and all that stuff. And that’s why we’ll hire somebody that’s very qualified to do that. And I’m glad I don’t have that job cause it’s gonna be a tough one.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then you mentioned that you are more involved with the fundraising side. And this is a non-profit complex, correct?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Right.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So you mentioned in your speech that you just gave that you are about five, you are still in need of about 500 million.

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: No, 5 million.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: 5 million. Oh, thank you for the correction. Yeah. 5 million to help complete the project, correct?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Well, yeah. I mean, we’re, we’re good to go.

Right now, we have enough raise from the city and the county and with, with our private stuff. We just wanna make sure that we are debt free by when we start again. We’re not looking to go into debt for any reason. And, obviously inflation’s hit and there’s, you know, construction costs, the labor costs go up and the numbers change over the course of five or six years.

So, you know, that’s something that we’re okay. We’re, excited. We’re good to go. And we will just keep working to get that, but yeah, we’ll be fine.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. Then can you tell me a little bit about the features that this complex will have and what sets this complex apart from other arenas here in Lincoln?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Well, I just think the field turfs the biggest, the biggest deal. So, I mean, you… once in a while you get, you know, some fields of grass and dirt and then you have maybe one or two field turf fields. But this is an all-field turf facility.

So doesn’t matter what the weather is. It could rain five inches. And you know, that wipes out tournaments. You know, we have, there’s big tournaments across the country that you have teens from all over the place come and they get one or two games because it rains. Well, you know what? When the rain stops, boom, we’re on the field. You can play. That’s a great thing to have in the wintertime. You get a nice warm day, boom, snow melts. Well, you, most of the time after winter, you gotta wait till the permafrost comes up and the dirt doesn’t muddy and the grass is okay to play on and all that stuff that goes with those fields. Well, we don’t have those issues, you know. Your field’s ready to go. So that’s, that’s a big deal breaker as far as that goes.

So I would say that that’s probably from a facility standpoint, that part, and then the ability to play from 8 youth to 14 youth, whether it’s softball or baseball. I think softball is more standard with their fences. But as far as for baseball, you know, if you’re playing 300-foot fences, which are the 14 youth fields. Well, if you play an 8 youth game on a 300-foot fence, once it gets by the infielder, it’s gonna roll into the fence. It’s just gonna be a, you know, a merry-go-round with all the inside-the-park home runs.

So, it’s very important that we developed a system that will bring in a portable fence that doesn’t look like a portable fence that will be for each different age group of what they’re playing at.

That’s a big deal.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, just to clarify, for listeners who maybe are not as familiar, it’s… it’s like an adjustable size on the field, Correct?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Correct. We’ll, we’ll fit it to the age that you’re playing.

What with softball, you don’t have a pitcher’s mound. You have just a mound. Well, the mounds they make are so great. Now you can you, for baseball, you could have a portable mound and you bring a forklift in and you lift it up and move it off the field, and bam, it’s ready for a different age. It’s ready for softball, bring that thing in. Doesn’t matter.

Every age group has a different mound where the bases are at a different distance and the mounds at a different distance where we have the ability to just put plugs and bam, bam, move everything around and you can retro-fitted to whatever age group you’re with.

So, it makes it very dynamic in being able to do that. And a lot of times you see a facility where you’ll see a couple of smaller fields, but then the bigger kids can’t play in them because they’re too small, you know?

So, it’s like this way we have those fields are, are usable for so many different ages and, and again, based and very focused on the youth part of it.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: That’s very interesting. I did not know that field size adjusted between range ages like that. And then you mentioned that you have eight fields in this complex, correct?

Darin Erstad, Head Coach for the Lincoln Youth Complex: Correct.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Perfect then. Then you are free to go. I won’t take up any more of your time.

That was Jeff Maul, the executive director for the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Darin Erstad, head baseball coach discussing the upcoming Lincoln Youth Complex.

And, we have one last thing we want to talk about today. I haven’t recently had the time to remind you to take our Perception of the News survey. So I want to talk about it a bit since we are still collecting information!

One of the first conversations I had with our staff when we began “KZUM News” was about our priorities as a newsroom. Our general manager, Kerry, and I talked a lot about maintaining the transparency of newsroom operations. Especially because we’ve noticed a lot of confusion when it comes to journalism ethics and standards.

Our staff has had several discussions trying to target what we feel are some of the top issues in journalism. Of course, those potential issues are incredibly varied. They range from ‘does the average person know the difference between misinformation and disinformation and are they capable of properly identifying instances of either of those things to ‘are news consumers capable of identifying bias in reporting”. Do they even understand what bias is?

These questions might sound a little silly. But we think there are… important discussions to be had about the present and future of how journalism is structured. Particularly because media – notably the news – has been under a lot of scrutiny over the last few years. So we decided that we wanted to open the conversation up.

I proposed that we commit to doing a media literacy series. If all goes well, I’m hoping to host a series every couple of years. But, right now, we are in the process of organizing the first one. This will be a four-part series that airs in January. And, in preparation, we are asking our community to help us out by taking the survey.

The purpose of the survey is to gather more information about how individuals – like yourself – perceive local and national newsrooms. There are a couple of questions about bias, misinformation, disinformation, and there is a place to include questions. These questions will then be presented to our panel of media professionals and educators, who will engage in conversations about 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 dedicated post with more information and the survey links under the “KZUM News” tab at kzum.org. You can also find the QR code on our social media pages. Or, if you give me a bit of time to catch up on our archives, it will ​​be in the archive transcript for today’s show as well.

So, please, go take our survey. And, of course, thank you to everyone who has already taken it.

We appreciate your help.

We are fast approaching the end of the hour, so here are your reminders for today:

The KZUM newsroom is always open to hearing about any questions, concerns, suggestions, or even any story ideas that you want to share with us. All you have to do is give us a call at (402) 474 – 5086, extension line six. If you give us a call and we aren’t available, don’t forget to leave a voicemail. Or, if you aren’t much of a phone person, you can also find our social media handles and more newsroom information at kzum.org under that ‘About’ tab.

Speaking of our website, if you happen to miss a show, you can always head to the “KZUM News” tab where we archive all of our shows and include a transcript with links to that day’s content.

And, lastly, I just want to give a shout-out to Jack Rodenburg of the Rodenburg music experience. He put together all of the amazing original music that our news program uses. So, once again, thank you, Jack.

That wraps up our reminders for now. As you head out into the world, I hope you have a lovely day. Thank you for listening and we hope you’ll join us next time.

[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]

You just finished listening to “KZUM News,” an original production of KZUM radio that airs every Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Coming up next is “Beta Radio,” so stay tuned.