Bringing a Passion to Health Care (Bonus)

Don’t lock ‘em up, heal them up…

Jim Cavanaugh is a county commissioner in Douglas County, Nebraska. Out in Omaha his passion project is making sure people who need mental health assistance aren’t just tossed in jail. He says not only does it not get them the care they need, but it simply costs more. So listen to his solutions and where to get a good steak in Nebraska.


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Jim Cavanaugh: Lead! Follow her! Get out of the way! This is going to happen whether you want it to or not. This is inevitable if we’re going to live on this planet. We’re going to have to control the CO2 content of our atmosphere. So if you don’t believe that, I’m sorry. If you don’t believe in gravity, I’m sorry. But don’t jump off any buildings, okay?

So I think that we need to educate our young people more. I think we have to have a more robust, public discussion, and we have to have people that are involved in the process. Government at the local level really needs to be engaged with people. It’s important to have, heroes in the in the realm of public service.

This info is important to know enough about public service to be able to say that person did a great job, and that person didn’t, because they’re not all equal.

David Martin: Welcome to a good government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. On this episode, we’re traveling to Douglas County, and that’s Omaha, Nebraska, and talking with county Commissioner James Cavanaugh, long an advocate for mental health care, as a county commissioner, this is an issue Commissioner Cavanaugh continues to champion. And as you’ll hear, he gets quite passionate about it. I talked about the National Association of Counties Washington conference, and my interview room was a table in the exhibit hall.

And, my table was not in any way soundproof. So when you hear some loud noises, that’s Jim making a point and pounding on my table. He’s passionate about working on mental health care. Just listen. So join me in Douglas County, Nebraska, Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh, as we discuss mental health, incarceration, alternatives and climate change. And that’s coming up right after this.

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So welcome to the Good Government show. Our guest is James Cavanaugh. you are a commissioner from, Douglas County, Nebraska. First person I’ve talked to you from Nebraska. Douglas County. Tell me about Douglas County. Where is it? David?

Jim Cavanaugh: Thanks for having me on. Douglas County, is on the banks of the Missouri River. the county seat is Omaha, Nebraska. Part of it. And, my district is an urban district in the heart of Omaha, Nebraska. Largest city in Nebraska.

David Martin: That is the largest city in Nebraska.

Jim Cavanaugh: Population roughly about 600,000.

David Martin: I live in Brooklyn. It’s about. It’s my neighborhood. There you go. All right. What’s going on in Omaha? What’s going on in Douglas County?

Jim Cavanaugh: You know, Omaha. I guess you New Yorkers would call a big little city. we’re a transportation hub. Union Pacific Railroad runs east and west from, you know, New York to California, comes to Omaha, Nebraska. So we move a lot of, things coast to coast. We’re also, a financial hub, Berkshire Hathaway’s, headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

Right. And,

David Martin: The Oracle of Omaha, they call Warren Buffett.

Jim Cavanaugh: There you go. Warren Buffett, a neighbor of mine.

David Martin: Okay.

Jim Cavanaugh: And a constituent. All right.

David Martin: So you live in a good neighborhood.

Jim Cavanaugh: Decent neighborhood, decent neighborhood. All right. We invite you to come out. Thank you. enjoy one of our, homegrown steaks. And,

David Martin: Actually, I have been a rascal. I came in, I was in, South Dakota. I went across the border, had a steak and went back. That’s my. That’s my Nebraska.

Jim Cavanaugh: There you go. There you go. All right, well, you did the right thing.

David Martin: Okay.

Jim Cavanaugh: So, a lot of insurance, banking. it, post-secondary education. And, Omaha is a good place, to raise a family. It has a very decent. By that, I mean, clean and competitive, standard of living, low crime, affordable housing and, four very distinct seasons.

David Martin: Very distinct.

Jim Cavanaugh: Yes. We have a very summery summer, a very wintery winter. And there’s brief. Let’s spectacular springs and falls.

David Martin: Is there snow on the ground now?

Jim Cavanaugh: it’s just talking.

David Martin: We’re talking. In February.

Jim Cavanaugh: We had a white Christmas. We had a Siberian in January. And that snow, which was, I don’t know, the better part of a foot and a half, is just going away now. Probably to return before we usually have sunshine by Saint Patrick’s Day. Gotcha.

David Martin: Okay. We’ve talked a little bit before we turn the microphones on and I hope this isn’t the wrong word, but you seem to be on a bit of a crusade to really change the face of mental health care in Douglas County, in Omaha. Is that fair? And what are you working on?

Jim Cavanaugh: you know, I’m concerned about the state of our mental health care services, in Omaha. And I don’t think this is limited. I think this is probably a national phenomenon, health care services in the United States. So it’s a problem that I think we all grapple with, but particularly mental health care services, because we don’t treat mental disabilities the same, by and large, as we treat physical disabilities.

And so, for instance, Douglas County, we, have a health center that provides long term, physical disability care for people who are suffering from physical disabilities and need assisted living and may never recover if we do not provide the same types of services for people who are suffering from debilitating mental disabilities and need assisted living, and may never recover.

Consequently, those people by and large, have a more difficult time, just surviving on a day to day basis. Many of them decompensated, and you’ll find them, being homeless. You will find them being, in, in, assisted living, you know, very short term.

David Martin: Or not getting the care they need with their families.

Jim Cavanaugh: Not getting the care that they need and not able to provide for themselves, and a disproportionate number of them end up incarcerated in our correctional center. They don’t get the adequate mental health that they care that they need because it’s long term. And as a county jail, you’re not there long term. It’s not like the state pen. You’re there until your cases dispose of.

If it’s a misdemeanor case, you’re there for about a year. And if it’s a felony case, you’re there until that is disposed of. And if you’re incarcerated beyond you go to the state penitentiary. So we put them up for a limited period of time. And they don’t have limited disabilities. These are long term disabilities.

David Martin: And they’re not getting better in the county jail.

Jim Cavanaugh: No, they are not. It’s not suited for health services. It’s suited for incarceration.

David Martin: Is this in some ways, a way to, counter the high incarceration rates or do you, do you come at it from that? Did you come at it from that perspective, or did you come at it from a perspective of how can we help the people who need more help in our community?

Jim Cavanaugh: I had a background as a lawyer in disability law.

David Martin: Okay.

Jim Cavanaugh: Specifically social Security disability law. So I’ve dealt with a lot of people with long term physical and mental disabilities. And I was struck by the fact when I got in the county government that we take care of many hundreds of people with long term physical disabilities. We give them a home, a lot of them for the rest of their lives.

Right. and we don’t do the same service for people who present with specifically a mental disability. And so it kind of struck me as a two tiered system, depending on the type of disability you have, if you’re physically disabled, someone says if you’re mentally disabled and not so much, and those people, they don’t just disappear from our community.

Those people go out on the street, or those people go to the correction center and the correction center, as we talked, is not equipped to provide health services, certainly not long term health services, because the population is in there long term and it’s expensive. So how’s people in the corrections Center? And so that per diem cost for people who are going to probably come back again and again, we find the recidivism rate among mentally ill inmates very high, right?

60, 70% come back. what.

David Martin: Percentage of the if you would care to guess what percentage of the people in the county jail are there with an underlying mental disability problem?

Jim Cavanaugh: Over half.

David Martin: Over half?

Jim Cavanaugh: Yeah. And that.

David Martin: Includes. So if you could take let’s just call it 60%, to pick a number, if you could find a way to get them out of the jail, does that reduce costs for the county overall? Less less money spent in, jails and prisons, which would free up more money for the for the people who need the care.

Jim Cavanaugh: I’m asking yes and yes. And here’s.

David Martin: Why. Okay. It sounds like good government. Go ahead.

Jim Cavanaugh: If you are incarcerated, a good.

David Martin: Government idea.

Jim Cavanaugh: At least with any disability. Yeah. That normally Social Security would cover and normally Medicaid work cover. You are prohibited from receiving Social Security disability or Medicaid while you’re incarcerated. If we turn those inmates into patients, they become eligible for federal help. So our health center. Yeah. Which houses, as I indicated, hundreds of people with long term physical disabilities is probably 80% funded by the federal government’s Medicare, Medicaid, disability payments, 80%, not our property taxes.

Our correction center is funded by pretty much 100% local property taxes. So if you just want to take it from a whose money is being spent here, if you want to give the residents of your county some property tax relief, try turning inmates with health issues into patients who would be treated for those health issues and qualify them for federal disability, Medicare and Medicaid payments.

David Martin: We’re all taxpayers. We’re all citizens. We pay our local, we pay our state. We pay our federal. Isn’t it just, you know, really arranging deckchairs on the Titanic? Almost, you know, instead of coming out of the local budget, comes out of the federal budget. So is that an argument that could be made?

Jim Cavanaugh: Well, yes or no. We have designed programs on the national level to deal with national problems. Health care is a national problem, okay. A local problem. It’s not just an Omaha problem. It’s not just a New York problem. Right? It’s a national problem. So if you go to any other large industrial democratic country on earth, you find national health care solutions, not local health care solutions.

Okay, go to Canada. You’re going to find national health care rather than local health.

David Martin: You’re going to compare us to other countries. That’s a different show, my friend.

Jim Cavanaugh: I’m just saying, yeah, we can look around the world and try to find things that work for us. Yeah. The reason we have secret ballots in the United States is because Australia had secret ballots. We borrowed the Australian ballot from Australia. Before that, you had to stand up in public and tell everybody who you were going to vote for.

So we’ve been doing this forever. We borrowed our entire Constitution from different forms of government that the Founding Fathers studied all over the world and all over history. Okay, so it’s not anything bad to look at what works someplace else. Not at all. It’s a smart.

David Martin: Thing. Yep. This is not always a popular topic. What’s the brush back you got?

Jim Cavanaugh: So first of all, the corrections complex is like the military industrial complex. It has a synergy of its own. So in local government, you’re usually going to find the two big expenses like in the federal government are corrections, incarceration like the Defense Department say on the federal level, and human services, health care like HHS and Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

So, like they have, you know, a disproportionate influence, I guess you would say maybe on the federal budget, they have a disproportionate influence on the local budget as well. And so you find these complexes that, you know, just as a nature of any bureaucracy build and grow and, that’s an expensive thing. What we’re trying to do is look at this and say, okay, there are some people that we have to take out of society.

Some people that need to be incarcerated, violent criminals, but sick people who may have transgressed and committed a misdemeanor or a nonviolent crime or whatever, sick people who may have a drug or alcohol problem underlying their behavior might be better treated in a health care system than in a correction system, because if you just lock them up and then you release them, they’re going to do.

David Martin: Go back to what they were doing.

Jim Cavanaugh: Exactly. And so you’re going to pay over and over again if you break that cycle, even for some percentage of these people, you’re going to save everybody money and you’re going to make those people better.

David Martin: So what are you doing about this? What what what have you been what have you been able to accomplish?

Jim Cavanaugh: We have been able to establish a discussion of what we’re going to do with large amounts of federal money, that we’ve received as a result of the Covid relief efforts of Congress. So, the American Rescue Plan Act called Arpa, has distributed billions of dollars to local governments, direct to local governments, as you heard from President Biden here this morning, to do all kinds of projects to improve infrastructure and services and health care, particularly mental health care.

at the local level, particularly if they were impacted by Covid and Covid has had a broad societal impact over just about every walk of life that you can think of, from restaurants to housing to grocery stores to education.

David Martin: To downtown business.

Jim Cavanaugh: Centers. Exactly. Yeah. So what we’re saying is this mental health problem that we’re dealing with was exacerbated by, Covid. One example would be there’s been a huge spike in suicides since Covid. and you could say that that might have some connection to the pandemic that we all went through. and that’s just one of the many, many mental health conditions that people are seeing now are up since the onset of Covid.

So what we’re saying is, all right, we’re dealing with a lot more homeless people. For instance, those homeless people present with large percentages of homeless, mentally disabled people. Could we possibly take them rather than to the Correction Center for being homeless or shoplifting or, you know, acting out and take them to a health center where they could get some long term medical assist for their disability rather than just locking them up, keeping them for a short period of time, releasing them, finding them homeless again, transgressing some minor system error, and doing it all over.

David Martin: So with, with the influx of dollars that you’ve received, have you been able to enact any new legislation, local legislation or local?

Jim Cavanaugh: Yes. So we have a deal, you know, with the emergency onset of, of, Covid in a very direct way, first of all, people needed places to live. And so we had to enact housing assistance, you know, right. Right away we had an act, Food Security Assistance right away. We had to enact utilities assistance right away because people needed just the basic things to get through.

From that, we went to a robust discussion of, okay, what are the more long term things that we’re seeing off of that list? Is this mental health spike that we’re seeing? Yeah. And I think part of what we will do with the remaining Arpa funds will be how do we best deal with the same things that everybody else needs?

And everybody needs housing. Everybody needs food. Everybody needs, you know, lights and heat and water and all of that. In addition, these people have particular acute medical needs. How do we best deal with that? So that’s where we are right now. We haven’t dedicate it yet. There are different proposals to do it in a health center setting and in a correctional center setting.

I mean, there are proposals to expand the jail to incarcerate mentally ill people.

David Martin: Well, I have a feeling if you’re going to, you’re going to keep a close eye on this. And the other county commissioners are going to, are certainly going to take notice of what you’re trying to accomplish. What else is going on? Give me some good government projects. What else is happening out there?

Jim Cavanaugh: So I think the the big 21st century thing that we’re all going to be faced with, and certainly the next generation, even more so, is climate change and renewable energy. So I think there’s a pretty clear connection between how energy is produced currently and the CO2 levels in our atmosphere that are dealing, you know, dealing US fits with climate change.

We are in the process of transform our entire economy from basically carbon based energy forms, which produce a CO2 problem, to renewable energy forms wind, solar, geothermal and others that do not produce the same, side effects. So we are looking in our particular jurisdiction at a publicly owned power grid, elected by the people. And it’s a little bit unique in the country that has, I think, a better ability to react quicker to transforming all of the power that we get from coal, frack gas, carbon based, energy generation to cleaner wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of generation that will provide jobs for a whole generation of young Americans because they’re going to

have to be manufactured, transported, installed, maintained, and decommissioned forever.

David Martin: There is, a large section of the voting population who’s not necessarily on board with that thinking. What’s your response to that lead?

Jim Cavanaugh: Follow or get out of the way. This is going to happen whether you want it to or not. This is inevitable. If we’re going to live on this planet, we’re going to have to control the CO2 content of our atmosphere. So if you don’t believe that, I’m sorry. If you don’t believe in gravity, I’m sorry. But don’t jump off any buildings, okay?

David Martin: there are people who will say that the, you know, wind and solar power isn’t isn’t, steady doesn’t provide as much power is as coal. They don’t want, you know, decimate the coal industry and the oil industry for an industry that’s not, you know, and I’m talking about alternative fuel sources that aren’t able to keep up with the demand.

What’s your counterargument to that?

Jim Cavanaugh: That’s not entirely correct. What’s going to happen is not an overnight transition. This is going to take, you know, years, but the sooner the better, because we’ve run out of time to stop the rise of CO2. and not have the massive climate consequences that we’re already seeing and pick up the, you know, news today and see what’s happening in California or in New York or, you know, in Germany, wherever.

You can’t turn on the television without saying something that’s climate change related.

David Martin: Have you had problems? I mean, I know you said that there’s two parts of Nebraska the year, two urban centers, and but there’s a lot of farmland. Are they are there farmers feeling the effects?

Jim Cavanaugh: Yes. drought is going to be the big leveler, where we live. And tornadoes, which are kind of unique to our part of the country, are on the rise as well. drought, for instance, would impact, all of the irrigation crops, the corn, the soybeans that form the basis of the community. And it also impacts raising, cattle, because cattle graze on crops that need precipitation.

So drought is a big, big problem and it’s a growing problem. And water distribution is as well.

David Martin: So the Nebraska Cornhuskers have a new coach. Are you feeling optimistic?

Jim Cavanaugh: Yes I am go big Red. you know we have an okay season this year but it’s you know, a building year as they say. but the Huskers will be back. And, I also want to point out that we have robust basketball programs this year, both at the University of Nebraska and at my alma mater, Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, which I believe is ranked 16th or something in the nation right now.

Okay. And a more than robust women’s volleyball program at, the university of Nebraska, which has been knocking on the door of a national championship. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see that very, very soon.

David Martin: So you think they’ll be a national championship for the football team?

Jim Cavanaugh: Well, you know, six and one, half a dozen. The other thing, all I’m saying is they’re both very good as well as the soccer teams. Creighton has been a very, very, competitive soccer program for the last ten years. All right. And so we’re really excited about sports in Nebraska. What we would like to see is a national championship in any or all of those as soon as possible.

David Martin: You do host the College Baseball World Series.

Jim Cavanaugh: The College World Series has been going on since the year I was born, and I have been to every single one. Have you began? Yes, my father took me as a child, and baseball is a big thing in our family.

David Martin: I have to ask, why did Omaha become the college baseball championship capital?

Jim Cavanaugh: I think because of the transportation thing. We were the hub of the coast to coast train transportation for, you know, a hundred years. And so it was easy to get to Omaha from north, south, east and west. And so know that was a great place. Plus it’s, you know, we’re we’re a baseball town. We love baseball.

David Martin: Okay. Is there a Triple-A or minor league team there?

Jim Cavanaugh: There is. currently we are a Kansas City farm team. Okay. and storm chasers. And, when I was growing up, we were a Saint Louis farm team. All right, but we got in from Chicago, so we heard a lot of Cubs games. and, I went to school in Denver, and so I got to be a little bit of a Rockies fan.

All right. but, you know, we are ready for a pro first franchise in, in some sports. And I guess hockey is looking at Omaha right now.

David Martin: All right, well, listen, if Las Vegas could have a hockey team, why not Omaha? Exactly, exactly.

Jim Cavanaugh: Listen, can I just say I really like your program, and I think what you are doing on the Good Government show.

David Martin: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. You can say whatever you want. Go ahead.

Jim Cavanaugh: Okay. What you’re doing on the Good Government show is really essential to good government in our country. In the last, I don’t know, 10 or 20 years coverage of what goes on in government and public discussion of what goes on in government has really kind of shriveled. And it’s not just the newspapers that have gone out of business.

It’s the local coverage of your city council or your county.

David Martin: Board or your school boards.

Jim Cavanaugh: And anybody who stands up and does what you do, add to that public discussion. It’s essential. It is the air supply of an informed citizenry. So thank you very much for what you’re doing.

David Martin: Thank you very much. We try. Yes, I’ve sat as a local newspaper reporter and, you know, town hall meetings and, you got to have it. You get it. You know, people need to know what’s going on. And, they have to know, that we have an informed citizenry who can actually, you know, vote intelligently. All right.

Now, you said you’ve been a county commissioner. This is your third term. I believe you said. That’s correct. Third term. do you have any other offices before that?

Jim Cavanaugh: No, I’d been in government before that. Okay. And, my father was a county commissioner.

David Martin: Oh, so you saw this growing up?

Jim Cavanaugh: I did, and it was funny because, when he decided to retire, I was in my 20s, and he came to me and he goes, you know, Jim, you should think about running for my seat on the board. And I go, dad, why was that? He said, well, two reasons. first, everybody think you’re me and you’re with them.

I said, well, that’s gratifying. What’s the, second reason? He goes, Jim, you’re not really doing anything with your life, and you should make a contribution to society. And so, wow, with that.

David Martin: Backstab.

Jim Cavanaugh: That pat on the back, I kind of gave it a pass at that time, but I never forgot about it. And, I’m glad I did it, because at the county level.

David Martin: You see, you get elected.

Jim Cavanaugh: Yeah, I do okay.

David Martin: He saw your dad, so you got elected.

Jim Cavanaugh: Okay. but but, you know, the funny thing is, I, I found that at the county level, I can actually do things that I wouldn’t be able to do as a congressman or a senator or even as a governor.

David Martin: All right, so we have our questionnaire, which gets to the heart of your philosophy of what government is all about. three terms as a as a county commissioner, watching your dad, you know, fill the role, define good government.

Jim Cavanaugh: of the people, for the people and by the people.

David Martin: That’s been said.

Jim Cavanaugh: And nobody could say it better.

David Martin: And how does that work?

Jim Cavanaugh: You know, like we were talking about. They have to be informed. Folks need to know what’s going on, and you help do that. But, our schools need to help do that. I don’t think we do a great job currently teaching civics to young people.

David Martin: Yeah.

Jim Cavanaugh: I saw Richard Dreyfus on, newscast or something recently, and he’s kind of taking this as his cause. but we need to inform people that this is a unique form of government. But as, as, Benjamin Franklin pointed out, it doesn’t last unless you make it last. You got to work on it. so I think that we need to educate our young people more.

I think we have to have a more robust, public discussion, and we have to have people that are involved in the process.

David Martin: Obviously, you are, elected or reelected, and that’s one way. But how do you on a Friday afternoon, looking back at your week, how do you judge your success?

Jim Cavanaugh: You know, it’s funny, we were talking about, you know, corrections on and health care and these things. And I had this discussion with a young colleague of mine and I said, you know, two metrics that we can look at down the line, which I would think would be an indication of, of success or not, would be the number of people that we lock up, up or down and, the number of people that we provide hospital beds for up or down.

I think that what we do in terms of those human services that help people with particularly severe health problems are the best things that we do. And those things that we do with, incarcerating people, you know, the the kind of like, an onerous necessity. I mean, some of it needs to be done as little as possible.

And so when we’re dealing with the questions that we’re talking about, how to divert people that are curable or treatable from simple incarceration, there’s a real good metric of how are you do it because, you know, locking people up, locking everybody up is simply not a best and highest use of our resources. Right. But giving sick people the care that they need really.

David Martin: Is there’s a move I know nationwide, you know, it’s I don’t like this term because it’s not accurate. defund the police. one of the things people are talking about when they talk about defund the police is not having police show up at every incident that sometimes you, your social worker, you don’t need a copy of your social worker is your local, sheriff doing anything like that?

Jim Cavanaugh: Yes. I mean, we have, expanded our diversion programs, pretty robustly over the last few years. We have a new sheriff who’s just elected last year, who I think is interested in doing some, creative, and progressive things. Okay. Yeah. I don’t think that that term, though, is, is helpful in the discussion. I think it was widely misused and I agree, really simplistic.

I don’t think it serves any purpose. and I, I refuse to use it myself. I think.

David Martin: Reform the.

Jim Cavanaugh: Police, perhaps, and. Well, I don’t know that it’s even the police problem. It’s like, how can we have a better society? You heard this morning, from the president about, you know, crime levels are really gone down as a.

David Martin: Matter across the nation.

Jim Cavanaugh: They’re very much less than they were when I was young. And when you were young. Yep. If you actually look at the metrics, take the time to actually look at the numbers. And yet we have incarceration levels that are way, way up. So can we do something to possibly take some of these people who have chemical dependency problems and may have been picked up on a drunk driving, and treat the underlying problem?

Yes, we can, and if we do that, we might do a better job as a society.

David Martin: How should people hold you accountable other than the ballot box?

Jim Cavanaugh: I’m pretty open. So, I will have on my cards. I think you have one. I do, my, fax number, my cell phone number, my my fax number, my email number. And if you call me, I’ll call you back. I have town halls, and I go to town halls and neighborhood association meetings and church festivals, and, people know me and I know them.

Government at the local level really needs to be engaged with people. And I think.

David Martin: Do you find it hard to go to the grocery store?

Jim Cavanaugh: No, not at all. I, I enjoy talking to people about this. That’s what they pay me for. I consider it part of my job.

David Martin: If people feel like they’re not getting what they want from the county commission, from the government, what should they do?

Jim Cavanaugh: They can do a couple things. First of all, they can come to a county board meeting, which is held every Tuesday morning and talk about it to us at Tuesday morning.

David Martin: I gotta go to work. I don’t have time.

Jim Cavanaugh: I hear you. So we zoom them now so you can do that from any place. And I would be very surprised if you haven’t done a zoom in the last.

David Martin: Back at you.

Jim Cavanaugh: Okay, okay. So, you know, it’s as easy as we can make it, but it is a question of 9:00 in the morning. And so what we do and what I’ve done is hold town halls that are at 6:00, 7:00 at night or on a Saturday or on a Sunday, that we go out into the community and engage in these kinds of conversations at neighborhood associations or at church festivals, wherever you can engage.

And I think it’s an appropriate and actually a healthy thing to have that civil dialog, between elected officials and the people who elect us. We work for you.

David Martin: Right. That’s so engage either via zoom, via live in a meeting, or just flighted out of the county fair.

Jim Cavanaugh: Absolutely. And make it easy.

David Martin: Okay. You have three terms as a county commissioner. What would you like people to know about government, about how it works?

Jim Cavanaugh: I like them to know that they own it, and they can make it as good or as bad as they want it to be, but if they disengage with it, it will not improve. It will not stay the same, it will get worse. And, you know, this is part of the education thing that we talked about. Our form of government has been tried before over history, and it’s never lasted as long as it’s lasted here.

Right. The only reason it’s lasted here, I think, is because we educate young people about how it works, and then we engage them once they become adults in actively becoming involved. For instance, if you don’t vote, as far as I’m concerned, you don’t count if you don’t vote. As far as I’m concerned, you’re not a responsible citizen. If you don’t vote, you’re not exercising your right.

David Martin: You can’t complain.

Jim Cavanaugh: Ignoring your right exactly.

David Martin: Yeah. Who’s your political hero?

Jim Cavanaugh: Robert F Kennedy, senior.

David Martin: Sitting at junior. Senior.

Jim Cavanaugh: Robert F Kennedy senior.

David Martin: Okay, what what about him inspired you?

Jim Cavanaugh: He and his brother, President Kennedy, I think inspired a whole generation more. Yeah. to, be involved in making the world better. I think, President Kennedy actually said, in this world, God’s work is truly our own.

David Martin: You know, you said your dad was a county commissioner. Was that something you aspire to, to take his spot one day, or did you want to be president? United States? Did you want to be the next, attorney general? I like your hero.

Jim Cavanaugh: You know, I think we all, when we’re young, have heroes. My father was a hero to me. And good. Robert Kennedy and President Kennedy were heroes to me. Yeah. At some point, you know, now.

David Martin: You’re not that old. You were not watching the news that really day. stop Omaha World Journal in 1962.

Jim Cavanaugh: All I’m saying is that the and their example, has inspired me. Okay. And, you know, you have different heroes. I have sports heroes, and you have, cultural heroes. Music heroes. Okay. And I think in our society, it’s important to have, heroes in the in the realm of public service, this is important to know enough about public service to be able to say that person did a great job, and that person didn’t, because they’re not all equal.

David Martin: I’ve been to Nebraska once. it was in the western north part of the state on the South Dakota border. I slept in, went to a steakhouse. A friend of mine recommended that I got out of town. That’s why Nebraska was it.

Jim Cavanaugh: Was it in Valentine? Yes. Was it the Peppermill?

David Martin: Probably.

Jim Cavanaugh: Okay.

David Martin: How’d I do?

Jim Cavanaugh: That’s a good.

David Martin: One. All right. It was great. It was great. But I’m coming to Omaha. What do we have it? We’re. You’re taking me out. Where are we going? What are we doing? We are going. What a. What’s the Omaha dish? I have to try.

Jim Cavanaugh: We have probably going, to a steakhouse. All right. And we’re probably going to have some Wagyu beef that is.

David Martin: Japanese beef in Nebraska.

Jim Cavanaugh: Yes. Okay. Is is grass and water fed? with no growth hormones or antibiotics. Okay. Will be the best steak on Earth. Let me repeat on Earth.

David Martin: I’m sorry. Say that again. The best steak on Earth.

Jim Cavanaugh: On earth.

David Martin: All right. There’s a guy from Texas walking by. You sure you want to say that again?

Jim Cavanaugh: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. He should come out to Nebraska. I’ll take him to the Morgan Ranch. Yeah, in Burwell, Nebraska. And I’ll show him the best steak cattle on Earth.

David Martin: And what do you have with your steak?

Jim Cavanaugh: Steak? Potato.

David Martin: Okay. All right. Steak in Nebraska, you can’t go wrong there. well, like we are the good government show. We always talk about good government. We’d like to bring it back to good government. Give me an example of a good government project with that’s happening right now that you’re excited about.

Jim Cavanaugh: I think the, Inflation Reduction Act that is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in this transformation of our energy grid from a polluting, carbon based, energy generation model to a clean, renewable energy generation model that will provide, jobs and a better climate for generations to come, is really exciting. And it’s existential. I mean, it’s not like it’s just a good thing.

It has to happen if our children and grandchildren are going to have a decent life on this planet and things like The Good Government Show, I’m really excited about them coming out to things like the National Association of County Officials, annual legislative conference and talking to people. I didn’t join in this. I think, hopefully people out there listening to this might get some ideas that maybe I should do.

What Jim’s dad said and make a contribution.

David Martin: So the good government shows an example of good government. Thank you. Know, it said that ever yet. I certainly appreciate that.

Jim Cavanaugh: you are the fourth estate.

David Martin: Yes. Yes we are. Yes we are. Jim Cavanaugh, a county commissioner from Douglas County, Omaha, Nebraska. It is a pleasure to meet you and have you on the show. Thank you so much.

Jim Cavanaugh: Thank you. David.

David Martin: Thank you.

Jim Cavanaugh: Stay well.

David Martin: What is it the county government does? That’s the question county commissioners get asked the most. And the simple answer is everything on the good government show. We’re so lucky to have talked with so many county commissioners and other county officials that have shown us how effective county government is. County government dates back to get this 634, making it one of the oldest forms of government in the United States.

Think about it. Roads. Highways. Hospitals. Schools. Recycling, law enforcement. Water, sewers, and most of the county. Those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. The National Association of Counties represents all 3069 counties across the USA. Naco helps county government work better together through things like sharing best practices. When county government works well, well, that’s just good government.

Leave follower get out of the way. That’s Jim Cavanaugh’s answer to anyone who’s not working now on mitigating climate change. It’s the future and it’s coming. And we need to start today to make our environment better. As an Irish American, he continues to be inspired by the examples of President John F Kennedy and his brother Bobby Kennedy. Good role models.

And I do like the idea of grass fed Wagyu steak in Nebraska. So that’s our show. Hey, thanks for listening. Please like us and share with your friends and review us right here where you’re listening, and check out our website. Good Government for extras. Join us again for another episode of The Good Government Show. But if you like what we’re doing here at the Good Government Show, check out our friends over at How to Really Run a City, their podcast.

It’s hosted by a couple of smart, hilarious and outspoken former two term mayors, Atlanta’s Cassie Reed and Philadelphia’s mayor Michael Nutter. Each episode features a different A-list guest sharing their secrets about how to really get stuff done in this urban laboratory we call cities. Check out How to Really Run a City, brought to you by the nonprofit Philadelphia Citizen and co-hosted by award winning journalist and author Larry Platt.

And that’s wherever you get your podcasts. And at the Philadelphia Well, thanks for listening. I’m Dave Martin and this is the Good Government show.

The Good Government Show is a Valley Park production gym model, Dave Martin, that’s me and David Snyder are the executive producers. Our show is edited and produced by Jason Stershic. Please subscribe then share us and like us and reviews. That’s the best way to make sure we’re able to keep telling these stories of our government working for all of us.

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**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.