Latest Blog Posts

Meatloaf (the Meal, Not the Fat Guy)

November 30, 2005 at 8:36pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Where’s the best place in town to get good meatloaf? Bob’s Gridiron Grill had pretty decent meatloaf when it first opened, but the quality dropped over time, and Bob’s is closed now anyway. Eighth Street Iron Works had awesome meatloaf, but it’s gone, too. That leaves me with just Granite City and my mom’s kitchen on my list of places to get a decent meatloaf. Of any place in town I would bet that Stauffer’s might have good meatloaf, but I haven’t been there yet, so I can’t say for sure. Any suggestions?

Promote Thyself: Term Limits Piece

November 30, 2005 at 8:31pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’ve posted a piece on term limits over in the Articles section.

Deena Winter Helps Bash Wal-Mart

November 29, 2005 at 4:28pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m awfully disappointed in Deena Winter after reading her article on the City Council’s discussion of a new Wal-Mart near 84th and Adams. This paragraph is what bothers me:

A series of Wal-Mart opponents testified against allowing another Wal-Mart into Lincoln, going through a litany of beefs about the world’s largest company and its well-publicized business practices: the number of its employees on government assistance and health care programs and the effect the company has on independent businesses and wages.

In that paragraph Ms. Winter has managed to imply negative things about Wal-Mart’s so-called “well-publicized business practices” without actually stating them. It’s a classic case of allowing the reader’s imagination to conjure up images that are worse than reality. She doesn’t state “the number of [Wal-Mart’s] employees on government assistance and health care programs” (Is it 1%? 50%? 100%?), nor does she cite “the effect the company has on independent businesses and wages”. It is, quite simply, lazy and biased.

In all fairness to Ms. Winter, it’s not like she was writing a story about the virtues and vices of Wal-Mart. The article was about a City Council meeting, and she reported what she heard. It’s not her fault the public’s comments were not accompanied by silly things like “facts” and “data”. Still, a little context would have been nice. Many people take these sorts of things at face value, and Ms. Winter needs to recognize that. The activist public feeds off of these sorts of articles because they fuel existing biases with pseudo-data, while the passive public only remembers the catchy baseless claims (Wal-Mart “will create excessive traffic, crime, litter and light and noise pollution”), pleas to emotion, and non
sequiturs (“A man ... said he has seen the impact Wal-Mart has had on floral shops, optical stores, paint stores, garden centers, grocery stores, shoe stores and clothing stores in small towns. He said the owners and employees of those stores contributed to their towns for years, until Wal-Mart came to town”).

The discussion in this situation ought to focus on only one thing: is a regional shopping center, including a large discount retailer, appropriate for the intersection of 84th and Adams? That, in and of itself, is an interesting question, but it is one that has more or less already been answered in the affirmative. The current discussion is rooted not in a rational analysis of the situation, but an emotional, ideological, and elitist drive to stifle consumer choice in favor of inconvenience and higher costs. In other words, it’s a discussion best held around the water cooler, on blogs like this, and on the opinion page, not in a local news story.

[Note: Do you hate Wal-Mart, and the proposed 84th & Adams Wal-Mart in particular? Write up a solid, well reasoned article and I’ll post it in the Opinion section. Send it to me at MrWilson at Lincolnite dot com.]

No More Lincoln Lights

November 29, 2005 at 3:19pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Cornhusker Council of the Boy Scouts of America won’t be hosting Lincoln Lights this year. The annual holiday lights display at Mahoney Park was cancelled due to declining interest and rising costs.

It’s sad to see Lincoln Lights go, but I can’t say I’m all that surprised. The cost per vehicle was fairly high, and the displays were too sparse throughout the park. A holiday lights display needs to be “dense” to be exciting enough to draw crowds year after year.

How long will it be before we see the predictable letters to the editor in the Journal Star blaming the demise of the display on those dang “atheists” and “gay-lovers” who hate the Boy Scouts? I’ve got my money on Thursday.

They’re HOW Old?!

November 23, 2005 at 3:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Three morons have been arrested for a BB shooting spree that caused over $100,000 damage earlier this month. Wait, let me correct that: three adult morons have been arrested. Chad Renker, Zachary Collier, and Eric Chambers, ages 21, 19, and 19, were picked up at their homes on Monday.

The trio is suspected of involvement in as many as 205 individual vandalism incidents in a single weekend. What’s an appropriate punishment for damage on that scale? I think a $100 fine for each offense and six months in jail is appropriate. Or better yet, if they’re found guilty in all 205 incidents, how about one day per incident? What would you suggest?

Hiccups

November 22, 2005 at 8:53pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

My apologies to those of you who subscribe to Lincolnite’s RSS and Atom feeds. The server’s PHP software was upgraded recently, and that caused a couple minor incompatibilities with a few plugins I use. All the problems should have been fixed by now, but if you run across any strange hiccups, let me know by leaving a comment.

February Bond Issue is a Bad Idea

November 22, 2005 at 3:14pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Lincoln Board of Education wants voters to decide in February whether to fund the construction of four new school buildings and the renovation of many others. I disagree. A February special election is a bad idea.

The Board’s decision is based, primarily, on financial concerns. The sooner the bond issue passes, the sooner construction can begin and, ultimately, the cheaper the project will be. I appreciate that the Board wants to proceed as inexpensively as possible, and I trust that they believe this move is in the best interests of the school district and its students.

But.

The special election is too soon. The Board is rushing, and the public will pick up on that. Public support for LPS is fairly strong right now, but that support should not be taken for granted. Remember how a mere decade ago public confidence in the School Board was so low? How several bond issues failed because the voters were unhappy with the Board? There is no free money for schools from this electorate. If the voters are scared, or uncertain, or if they feel the least bit unfairly pressured, they will revolt. They will vote no.

I agree with the items the Board wants to fund. I am inclined to support more funding for school infrastructure improvements rather than less, and I’m no fan of greater government spending. I think Lincolnites, as a whole, recognize the need to spruce up our school buildings. But that recognition isn’t enough.

You know who votes at February special elections? Old people. Retirees. People who don’t have school-age kids. People who tend to vote against government spending, not for it. People who resent their tax dollars funding a single-issue special election in February. Parents of school-age children don’t vote in special elections b

ecause it’s not worth the hassle. It’s too difficult to break out of the routine to go to the voting booth, fill in one little bubble, and then try to resume the daily routine. If the School Board goes through with this, they’d better pray for snow and ice to keep the old folks away from the polls.

The School Board’s argument that it’s more financially responsible to rush the vote than to wait for the May primary is off target. That’s not to say the bond issue is doomed to fail. My crystal ball is still foggy on that point. But public opinion is mixed on this topic. Unless the Board is able to put together one heckuva marketing campaign in the short time between now and February, I think the undecideds will remain undecided at the time of the vote. That may work out well for the Board, since few of the undecideds will bother to go to the polls at all. But among those who do, a no vote is more likely than a yes vote.

Sellouts

November 17, 2005 at 3:21pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The State Fair is truly a lost cause:

The Nebraska State Fair is selling naming rights for buildings and events at State Fair Park as a way to raise more money.

Even bathrooms are up for grabs:

For $5,000, you can name a public restroom after yourself at the Nebraska State Fair. But naming the toilets after someone else as a joke won’t be allowed, said the fair’s executive director, Rick Bjorklund.

I don’t know about you, but I really hope that Sheldon and Kathy Crapo have a spare five grand sitting around.

(Thanks to the Official Alltel Telephone Directory for the help!)

Google Analytics

November 16, 2005 at 3:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I installed Google Analytics on Lincolnite a couple days ago. The system hiccupped and gagged for a while, but it’s finally returning some data. Lots and lots of data.

I’m in data heaven.

I’ve long believed that the web statistics software I have been using has been giving me less-than-perfect results. The data from Google Analytics appear not only much more accurate, but also much more precise. These data will help me tremendously as I continue to build Lincolnite because I will be able to see in incredible detail which features are working, and which are flopping. The level of analysis Google is making available used to cost hundreds of dollars. Now, it’s free.

It will take a week or so for there to be enough data for me to really evaluate the system, but for now: wow.

New Group Homes Denied

November 15, 2005 at 8:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The City Council yesterday voted to deny a request by Developmental Services of Nebraska (DSN) to add a fourth resident to each of three homes, making the homes “group homes” for the purposes of Lincoln ordinance and thus subject to regulation by the city. As Cindy Lange-Kubick notes, it’s easy to not get too fired up since few of us have a positive emotional connection with “those people” who live in group homes, and most of us don’t live in the immediate vicinity of the proposed group homes.

The group homes’ supporters aren’t helping their case with their faulty logic:

People who work with the developmentally disabled said the comments by neighbors are hurtful and discriminatory. James Masten, a DSN executive assistant, said if you insert the word “black” for “developmentally disabled” and then make those kinds of comments, it would clearly be discriminatory.

Mr. Masten’s comparison to racism is awfully weak. You could substitute a lot of words and phrases for “developmentally disabled” and the comments would still evoke some hefty emotions. Mr. Masten’s plea strikes me as little more than an invocation of Gilliard’s Corollary To Goodwin’s Law.

According to the article, Roxanne Copp noted that “a lot of people would rather live next to a home full of extraterrestrials than a group home.” Well sure, but extraterrestrials are not stereotyped as violent pedophiles. Group home residents, unfortunately, are.

The article includes this bit at the end:

Councilman Jonathan Cook got personal, asking if it’s true DSN provides LeFevre with a Cadillac. LeFevre defended his Caddy, recalling his company’s beginnings when he was its entire staff and he earned nothing during its first year of operation “because I had to pay my staff.”

“I have put my life, my heart and my soul into DSN,” LeFevre said. “And I don’t believe I have to take a vow of poverty. I feel I’ve earned everything that I have.”

Cook said he wasn’t persuaded DSN needed the waivers, particularly when the company threatens to “put people out on the street” while “buying expensive cars for their” CEO. Only Councilman Ken Svoboda and Councilwoman Robin Eschliman voted to grant the waivers.

Does Mr. LeFevre need or deserve a Cadillac? I don’t have any idea. I only care to the extent that my tax dollars paid for any part of that car. I don’t know anything about the funding structure of Mr. LeFevre’s organization, so I will reserve judgement for now. If I paid for his chrome wheels, I’m pissed. Otherwise, I don’t give a hoot. His funders, and only his funders, should be concerned with how he uses their money.

But more importantly, did you see what Mr. Cook did here? He gave his political opponents some tremendous ammunition. Councilman Cook has said, in essence, that any non-essential use of funding is irresponsible and morally wrong. I wonder how much splurging of the taxpayer’s dime Mr. Cook has been responsible for in his career, and how much he will be responsible for in the future. Couldn’t he have had the hamburger, rather than the steak? Couldn’t that project have been completed more cheaply by making it simpler? A savvy political opponent would be wise to keep track of these things. Mr. Cook, it is very dangerous to allow yourself to be portrayed as a hypocrite. Speak carefully, sir.

Lincolnite Roadmap

November 14, 2005 at 3:48am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

On Friday I wrote a little blurb describing the general purpose and direction of Lincolnite. Today I put together a roadmap that will be updated as I work toward the official launch of Lincolnite. Keep an eye on my progress—and kick me in the butt if I fall behind—by checking on the roadmap now and then.

Lincolnite: Where We’re At, Where We’re Going

November 12, 2005 at 1:27am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

What is Lincolnite? When will it be finished? What will it look like when it’s complete? I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few.

Read more...

Good News at 48th and O

November 11, 2005 at 3:32pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Finally some good news at 48th & O: the city has helped to broker a deal that will put a Walgreens, West Gate Bank, Braeda, and Runza on the southeast corner of the troubled intersection. The city will pay $4.5 million to buy the property from Julius Misle, then sell it to the developers for around $4 million. The $500,000 difference is accounted for by a strip of land retained by the city that will act as a buffer between the development and abutting houses.

On the one hand this development is a trifle disappointing. This new development will just help 48th & O to look like every other commercial development built in Lincoln in the past five years. In that regard this news is newsworthy only for its utter blandness.

The fact remains, however, that the intersection of 48th & O is—or was—going nowhere. I may find it annoying that every strip mall in Lincoln looks the same and includes the same businesses, but that’s no justification for considering this news as anything short of a success for the city. I’m sure neighboring Lincolnites will appreciate the convenience of new places to bank, buy convenience items and drugs, and eat. And surely we all agree that fresh development at the corner is better for the city than the stark, crumbling, empty parking lots currently found there.

I wonder: who from the city was responsible for helping to assemble this deal? The article linked above doesn’t say. Nor does the printed version of the story (which is slightly different). Was it Mayor Colleen Seng? Her photo accompanies the online article, but the only mention of her involvement is that “Mayor Coleen Seng said the $10 million project will bring life back to the area, which has deteriorated into vacant, crumbling expanses peppered with light poles.” Does that mean that she was directly involved in t

he deal, or was she on the sidelines? It is important that Lincolnites know what our mayor is up to. If Mayor Seng did play a critical role in the deal, we need to know so that we can praise her. And if she wasn’t, why the heck not?

Addendum: One thing about Mayor Seng’s role is certain: she has made 48th & O a priority. She has sicced Urban Development and others upon the intersection. She deserves kudos for pushing the issue. I would just like to know how much her involvement went beyond that. I think there’s an important difference between a mayor who pushes an issue indirectly (“You guys go fix this and report back to me when you’re done”), versus one who leads the charge directly. My impression of Mayor Seng is that she more often uses the former technique than the latter. In my opinion she is passive to a fault. I’m curious, however, if she was more active in this particular situation. If so, I would like to give her the credit she is due.

Should Mayor Seng Run Again?

November 9, 2005 at 9:13pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Will Mayor Colleen Seng run for a second term? Should she? It may be early, but I’ve looked into my crystal ball and made a case.

True Crime

November 9, 2005 at 8:37pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Good news! Lincoln is now virtually crime-free! All of the murderers, rapists, burglars, robbers, and public urinators have been taken care of, so Police Chief Tom Casady wants to go after the next most severe threat to public safety: improperly registered vehicles parked on private property. Casady’s proposal isn’t exactly the end of civil liberties as we know them, but it does raise the question of how Casady knows that a given vehicle has actually been driven while improperly registered. My vehicle, for example, is parked in my driveway with improper license plates. (They expired in October; the new plates are sitting in the house, waiting ever-so-patiently to take their place on my car.) But my vehicle hasn’t been driven since October. In other words, I haven’t broken the law, nor do I plan to. Would Casady ticket me anyway, then place the burden of proof on me if I want to get the ticket rescinded in court, rather than keeping the burden of proof on the government, where it belongs?

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