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Council to look at mobility study results

The Hastings City Council is scheduled to approve the Hastings Universal Mobility Study Final Report when it meets Monday.

As the 97-page report from engineering firm Olsson states, the city of Hastings desires to improve mobility for the safety of all residents. Mobility includes both, ability to move from one place to another, as well as ability to access critical facilities and public places.

This study will help identify existing barriers to universal mobility and determine priorities to improve mobility and access for Hastings.

This Universal Mobility Study serves as a starting point for additional analysis to assess several newly documented challenges within Hastings.

Each of these challenges provides an opportunity for the betterment of the mobility network and overall character of the community.

The report also included a narrative from Andy Leighty, who was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2018. He has helped advocate for greater wheelchair access and helped identify existing barriers to universal mobility in Hastings.

A public hearing was conducted in December 2019 in which the preliminary report was discussed by Olsson with members of the public who attended. Based on the feedback from the hearing, the final report was prepared and now is ready for approval.

The implementation plan calls for focus efforts within a quarter-mile of community facilities including public offices, the Hastings Public Library, parks, schools and grocery stores.

Building inspector Mark Evans presented the report during the Hastings Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday.

Olsson took an inventory of all the sidewalks and pedestrian facilities in the community and mapped that data.

“I think that’s going to be the heart and the meat that we get out of this, is good maps that identify deficiencies and identify areas we can improve,” Evans said.

Olsson staff walked all of the sidewalks and observed all the deficiencies in December.

Of roads in Hastings, just 61.4% have sidewalks.

According to the report, among existing sidewalks in Hastings — 37.6% are considered in good condition, 39.4% are considered in fair condition, and 23% are in poor condition.

During the Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Willis Hunt expressed a concern that this “very excellent study” would not be put to use.

“The thing is if it’s only a report and it’s put on a shelf nothing ever happens,” he said. “The sidewalks in Hastings today are hardly any better than they were in 1970.”

Evans and Planning Commission Chairman Marshall Gaines said the Universal Mobility Study final report would be part of the city’s next comprehensive plan.

“There are some things, myself, that I have some concerns about, too,” Gaines said. “So long after I’m not the chair anymore I can take it and see some of those things come to fruition.”


Nashville songwriter visits AC

Hailey Steele wants Adams Central High School students to know that just because they come from a small town, they can still dream big.

The singer/songwriter from Madison, South Dakota, spent Friday at the high school to share her experience working in the music industry with students at Adams Central.

Steele appeared on the second season of NBC’s “The Voice,” as part of a duo group called the Line. Steele has performed at The Grand Ole Opry and has co-written songs like ‘Boyfriend,’ sung by RaeLynn, and “Small Town Soul,” released by Gwen Sebastian.

Along with performing and writing songs, Steele visits schools to encourage student involvement in music and teach older students about the music industry.

Steele tries to convey a positive message to students about working hard and accomplishing goals, she said. She performed a concert and presentation for the school Friday afternoon, after working with students in band and choir classes.

“I think in the long run, the kids got a good message out of it, of being kind to people ... just go after those goals and don’t give up,” said Denise Schuck, AC student council adviser.

At age 19, Steele left Madison and moved to Nashville to further her music career. But her expectations were very different from what she experienced, she told students.

“Adulthood and living your dream is a lot different than what you expect sitting in high school,” Steele said.

Steele also answered students’ questions about entering and working in the music industry. She said performing on The Voice helped introduce her to other artists, opening opportunities to develop her career.

AC music teacher Linda Johnson said success for an artist like Steele, whose hometown of Madison has around 7,500 residents, demonstrates to students that growing up in what some would consider a small town does not limit their career opportunities.

“These kids are talented and need to know that they can pursue their dreams,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter where they come from.”

Steele has opened for Kelsea Ballerini at several shows and is a member of the South Dakota Country Music Hall of Fame. Steele graduated from Belmont University with degrees in public relations and music and has been in Nashville for over 12 years.


News
VanCura to retire as St. Cecilia principal

Hastings Catholic Schools is searching for a sixth- through 12th-grade principal at St. Cecilia Middle/High School for the 2020-21 academic year.

Sandy VanCura, current principal, is retiring after 40 years with Hastings Catholic Schools. VanCura’s first teaching position out of college was at St. Cecilia. She also served as the assistant middle school principal and the assistant principal at the high school. She has been in her current position for five years.

The Rev. Thomas Brouillette, Hastings Catholic Schools chief administrative officer, said VanCura has been a supportive part of Hastings Catholic Schools and St. Cecilia with her organizational ability and work ethic.

“One of Sandy’s great attributes is her loyalty: to the school as an educator and witness to our Catholic Christian faith, and to our families by her commitment and dedication to HCS and St. Cecilia,” Brouillette said.

Hastings Catholic Schools is in the midst of the search for a new principal. Candidates will be interviewed by a selection committee, then will make recommendations to the administration.

Brouillette said the school’s Unity Board, local pastors, faculty, the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln and the selection committee will be involved in the process.

The future principal may oversee some facility renovations, according to an early version of the job listing on the Hastings Catholic Schools website.

Brouillette said Hastings Catholic Schools is conducting a strategic planning process that will end in May. The process includes conducting a feasibility study for a campaign for a facilities project, an endowed fund for teacher compensation, and raises for the future.

Brouillette said school leaders are waiting on the feasibility study before any actions are taken.


House managers: Oust Trump or he'll betray again

WASHINGTON — Closing out their case, House Democrats warned Friday in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that the president will persist in abusing his power and endangering American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020 election.

They then implored Republican senators to allow new testimony before rendering a final verdict.

“Give America a fair trial,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democratic impeachment manager. “She’s worth it.”

Schiff delivered Democrats’ final remarks in the Senate trial after three days of methodical and impassioned arguments detailing charges that Trump abused power by asking Ukraine for politically motivated probes of political rivals, then obstructed Congress’ investigation into the matter. The president’s lawyers get their first chance to defend him Saturday, and are expected to argue he acted appropriately.

The opening arguments appear to have done nothing to shake Republicans’ support for Trump or persuade enough centrist GOP lawmakers to call for new witnesses, including Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton. In his final appeal to lawmakers and a divided nation, Schiff argued that a guilty verdict in the Senate is the only remedy left to curb what he called the “‘imminent threat” posed to the nation by Trump’s unconstitutional impulses.

“He is who he is,” Schiff declared. “You know it’s not going to stop. ... It’s not going to stop unless the Congress does something about it.”

The moment of history was apparent, only the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president, as were the partisan views of the Trump presidency and the effort to end it.

When Schiff cited a news story with someone close to Trump saying any Republican voting with Democrats would have their “head on a pike,” GOP senators in the chamber began murmuring, “That’s not true.”

The House impeached Trump last month, accusing him of abusing his office by asking Ukraine for politically motivated probes of Biden and other matters while withholding military aid from a U.S. ally that was at war with bordering Russia. A second article of impeachment accuses him of obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House ensuing probe.

Said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, “We’re going to rebut and refute, and we’re going to put on an affirmative case tomorrow.”

Republicans are defending Trump’s actions as appropriate and are casting the impeachment trial as a politically motivated effort to weaken him in his reelection campaign. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and eventual acquittal is considered likely.

Before that, senators will make a critical decision next week on Democratic demands to hear testimony from top Trump aides, including Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who refused to appear before the House. It would take four Republican senators to join the Democratic minority to seek witnesses, and so far the numbers appear lacking.

“This needs to end,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump confidant.

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, Friday’s session opened with an overarching case from Democrats that Trump’s actions with Ukraine were not unique but part of a pattern of “destructive behavior” now threatening the core foundations of American democracy.

Schiff told the senators that Trump has shown repeatedly that he is willing to put his personal political interests above those of the country he is sworn to protect.

The evidence shows, he said, that Trump bucked the advice of his own national security apparatus to chase “kooky” theories about Ukraine pushed by lawyer Rudy Giuliani, resulting in “one hell of a Russian intelligence coup” that benefited Vladimir Putin at U.S. expense.

This was not simply a foreign policy dispute, Schiff argued, but a breach of long-held American values for Trump to leverage an ally — in this case Ukraine, a struggling democracy facing down Russian troops — for the investigations he wanted ahead of 2020.

When the House started investigating his actions, Democrats said, Trump blatantly obstructed the probe. Even then-President Richard Nixon, they argued, better understood the need to comply with Congress in some of its oversight requests.

Drawing on historical figures, from the Founding Fathers to the late GOP Sen. John McCain and the fictional Atticus Finch, Schiff made his arguments emphatically personal.

“The next time, it just may be you,” he said, pointing at one senator after another. “Do you think for a moment that if he felt it was in his interest, he wouldn’t ask you to be investigated?”

The impeachment trial is set against the backdrop of the 2020 election, as voters assess Trump’s presidency and his run for a second term. Four senators who are Democratic presidential candidates are off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable percentage, 14%, said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion.

One issue with wide agreement: Trump should allow top aides to appear as witnesses at the trial. About 7 in 10 respondents said so, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, according to the poll.

No president has ever been removed by the Senate, neither Andrew Johnson in 1868 nor Bill Clinton in 1999. Nixon left office before a House vote that was likely to impeach him.

The House mounted its Trump case after a government whistleblower complained about his July 2019 call with Ukraine. The House relied on testimony from current and former national security officials and diplomats, many who defied White House instructions not to appear.

Evidence presented in the House probe has shown that Trump, with Giuliani, pursued investigations of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on a Ukrainian gas company’s board, and sought a probe of a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

It’s a story line many in the president’s camp are still pushing. Giuliani, in an appearance Friday on “Fox & Friends,” insisted he would present evidence on his new podcast.

At close, Schiff predicted the Trump team will try to distract senators from the case, in part by lodging personal attacks against all the House prosecutors. He reminded senators what is at stake and read the articles of impeachment one more time.

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AP writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.