July 23, 2014

Mayor insists controversial float doesn’t represent Norfolk

Norfolk Mayor Sue Fuchtman says she’s disappointed a float in the city’s Independence Day parade disparaged President Barack Obama.

On the float, a mannequin in overalls stands just outside an outhouse with the words “Obama Presidential Library” on the outside.

While some at the Odd Fellow’s 4th of July parade thought it was funny, Fuchtman does not.

“We are disappointed that the occasion of this family-friendly celebration of America’s birth was used in a way that disparaged the office of the president,” Fuchtman says. “As an open and inclusive city, we do have a responsibility to foster an environment of free exchange, but certainly also one of civility, courtesy, and decency.”

The city does not sponsor the 4th of July parade, the Odd Fellows do. Representatives of the Odd Fellows defend the float as political satire. They reject notions that the float is racist.

Observers at the parade say many laughed and applauded the float. Some, though, say it went well beyond acceptable political speech.

Fuchtman hopes to distance the city from the float.

“This incident and the controversy it caused does not reflect the character, nor the spirit of our city or our state,” according to Fuchtman. “And certainly we hope to demonstrate that to all who are open to giving us that opportunity.”

Paul Hughes, WJAG, contributed to this article.

Norfolk parade organizers defend controversial float as political satire

Photo by Darin Epperly/Norfolk Daily News

Photo by Darin Epperly/Norfolk Daily News

A float in the Norfolk Odd Fellows 4th of July Parade has sparked a heated debate about freedom of speech and respect for the office of the presidency.

The float carried on top of a flat-bed pick-up depicted a man in overalls standing in front of an outhouse with the words “Obama Presidential Library” on the outside.

Odd Fellow organization member Wally Sonnenschein says the individual who entered the float registered it as “political satire,” and insisted the character does not represent the President Barack Obama.

“It appears to be a working man, a farmer or someone of that nature, who is fed up with the way things have gone,” Sonnenschein tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WJAG. “The individual is simply expressing his freedom of speech.”

Sonnenschein says the person responsible, who he won’t name, entered the float as political satire. Sonnenschein rejects the Nebraska Democratic Party insistence that the float was “racist.”

“That was one of the first things that we asked the man who made the float,” says Sonnenschein. “And he absolutely assured us that there was no intent to be racist, that the figure that is on the float is even white or tan colored. It is not black. It is not depicting anyone of the black race.”

Paul Hughes, WJAG, contributed to this article.

Obama parade float in Norfolk sparks controversy

A float in the Norfolk 4th of July Parade depicted a black man in overalls with a walker outside an outhouse, which was labeled as the “Obama Presidential Library.”

Some people say the float was offensive while others were amused, laughed and clapped as it passed. A release from the Nebraska Democratic Party calls the parade entry racist and “beyond disappointing.”

Parade organizers with the Norfolk Odd Fellows say the float was entered as a “political satire” and say no rules were broken, but they may change the rules for future parades.

Full text of the news release from the Nebraska Democratic Party: 

LINCOLN- The Nebraska Democratic Party joins all other Nebraskans in being extremely disappointed in the town of Norfolk allowing a float, clearly aimed to blatantly disrespect President Barack Obama during their annual 4th of July parade. The float, which was paraded down the streets of Norfolk, was one of the worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the Presidency that Nebraska has ever seen.

Executive Director of the NDP, Dan Marvin said, “We have seen many times when Nebraskans disapproved of the President, but this clearly crosses the line.” Marvin continued saying, “There is a level of respect for the office of the Presidency which should not be crossed. It’s beyond disappointing the City of Norfolk, it’s officials, and citizens would allow such a thing.”


Voters likely to decide minimum wage hike (AUDIO)

Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson reaches for a box of signatures/Photo courtesy of Secretary of State's office

Deputy Secretary of State Neal Erickson reaches for a box of signatures/Photo courtesy of Secretary of State’s office

Organizers of a campaign to place a proposed increase in the state minimum wage before voters in November say they have more than enough signatures for success.

“Today, I’m proud to announce that thanks to the help of hundreds of citizens who donated thousands of volunteer hours, we will be submitting 134,899 signatures,” State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist was drowned out by cheers from supporters gathered for a late afternoon news conference Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda.

Supporters will need roughly 83,000 signatures from registered voters from enough Nebraska counties to make the November ballot. If successful, the issue will be the first initiative petition to make it to the voters since 2008.

Nebraskans for Better Wages piled box upon box of signatures in the Secretary of State’s office. An initiative must collect signatures from at least seven percent of the state’s registered voters, which must include at least five percent from 38 of the 93 counties.

Nordquist said it is past time to raise the minimum wage.

“We know that too many Nebraska working families across this state and across this country are struggling to afford the basics, like paying for a doctor’s visit or even a tank of gas,” Nordquist stated. “When that happens, the entire economy stalls. Wages are so low that thousands of full-time working Nebraskans are living below the poverty line.”

If the measure reaches the ballot, voters will be asked to raise the state minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $8 next year, then to $9 an hour in 2016. The last increase to the minimum wage came in 2009.

Nordquist complained that the current minimum wage is just too low.

“Nebraskans are working hard, but that hard work just isn’t paying.”

The Secretary of State’s office says the signatures will be sent to the appropriate county election authorities to verify the names. County election authorities have 40 days to complete the verification process. During that process, the Attorney General’s office will begin drafting ballot language for the initiative.

AUDIO:  State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha announces result of minimum wage petition drive. [:15]

Domina celebrates 26th Amendment as he woos young voters (AUDIO)

Democrat Dave Domina speaks with Frank LaMere, brother of Anthony LaMere

Democrat Dave Domina speaks with Frank LaMere, brother of Anthony LaMere

Democrat Dave Domina celebrates the 26th Amendment as he courts support from young voters in his United States Senate campaign.

Domina honored Anthony LaMere of South Sioux City, killed in the line of duty in Viet Nam on the day the 26th Amendment to the United States was ratified, July 1st of 1971 during a rally at the state Capitol.

“And that Nebraskan would have been old enough to vote if he had lived to sunset on the day that duty claimed him for our country. He died before he learned of the ratification of the right of 18 year old citizens to vote,” Domina stated.

LaMere was 20. He was a member of the Winnebago Tribe.

Domina rallied with a few young voters at the Capitol. He said the youth vote could become a factor in his race against Republican Ben Sasse and independent Jim Jenkins.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]