It’s easy to understand the hard feelings in Grand Island after the city lost out in a competition to host the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home.
After more than 125 years, the loss of that institution and hundreds of jobs hurts.
But the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee is making the right choice in keeping Legislative Bill 935 from advancing to the full Legislature.
The outcome of one competition among Nebraska cities — the state’s decision to build the future $121 million veterans home in Kearney — is no reason to change what has generally been a sound, statewide approach in picking locations for new state facilities.
LB 935, by State Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, proposed to strip away the governor’s authority to relocate state facilities and shift approval to the Legislature — an unnecessary change in policy.
It’s hard to imagine how substituting the judgment of 49 members of the Legislature, elected from every corner of the state, would provide a less-political process than one handled by Nebraska governors and the professionals they assign to the task.
It would substitute decades of administrative experience and rules designed to diminish the role of politics in site selection, replacing it with an outright brawl among 49 politicians jockeying for a slice of state investments.
Governors need the flexibility to put a new prison or HHS office where officials with statewide perspective think Nebraskans would best be served. Look at how Grand Island benefited when the National Guard needed a maintenance facility and the state a new fairgrounds.
Years from now, other governors elected by the entire state will continue to consider the interests of the entire state. They will still represent all Nebraskans, not just some.
Rural lawmakers should be wary, too, of making the Legislature the decider in this process. Nebraska is a state where urban populations — and the number of urban state senators — likely will continue to grow. Senators from Grand Island and points west might want to be cautious about giving the Legislature too much say. It could result in increased emphasis east of U.S. Highway 77.
There will still be disappointment and hard feelings. But other Nebraska communities might have liked a second crack at the Nebraska State Fair, too, which has proven to be such a jewel in Nebraska’s midsection.
A key endorsement for the veterans home move came recently from the 19,000-member Nebraska chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. They’re the people most likely to use the Kearney home. They and others warn correctly that in-state bickering unnecessarily complicates the pursuit of $74 million in needed-but-scarce federal funds.
Might some parts of the bidding process seem unfair after such a loss? Of course. That is true of any competition. People often complain later about the referees.
LB 935 would have moved the Legislature a step too far in refereeing such competitions.
Politics, real or imagined, wouldn’t be lessened by handing the decision to 49 politicians.