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In my earlier entry Which Office Would You Choose?, I asked which public post you would want to hold if you could be guaranteed election or appointment to that post. I said I would choose Mayor. Plain Patriot then challenged me:
So Mr. Wilson….if you were Mayor today. Give me your top 5 priorities.
Well, I’m not Mayor today, nor do I plan to run for Mayor any time soon. Still, I think it is perfectly fair of Plain Patriot to put me on the spot. A guy who says he would like to be Mayor needs to be ready for those sorts of questions, right?
I’m all in favor of a new arena and convention center. Pershing Center is old, outdated, and, frankly, a bit embarassing. Let’s call in the developers to build us something we can be proud of.
But the latest arena talk freaks me out.
For one thing, the arena is quickly becoming Lincoln’s own Patrick Deuel in that it keeps growing larger and larger, with no end in sight. Originally planned at 8,000 to 12,000 seats, the arena’s size jumped to 15,000, and then up to 16,000. There’s no reason to think it’ll stop there; Stan Meradith, principal architect with the group that designed the parking garage-like Qwest Center in Omaha, said “If it’s big enough, it’ll be successful. I would contend that we need to think bigger, rather than smaller.” Spoken like somebody with a lot to gain. And check out that logic: “If it’s big enough, it’ll be successful.” Well hell, Stan, why don’t you just whip us up a 100,000 seat arena and we’ll have the most successful darned arena in the world!
It’s also exactly the baloney the public is fed time and time again when these projects are discussed. It’s always “bigger is better” and “build it and they will come”. And yet somehow taxpayers always end up being forced to pony up far more money than they originally agreed to, and the promoters’ projections always end up being off. Funny how that works. Anybody remember the Archway? The project that eventually turned into The Grand?
I counter Mr. Meradith’s contention and instead contend that, to paraphrase him, we need to think smarter, rather than bigger. In the competitive marketplace for huge arenas, Lincoln has a lot of ground to make up. Considering all of the competing arenas in the area—including Kansas City’s new arena that has Omaha’s Qwest Center concerned—how can we honestly think that Lincoln can win merely by cramming more seats under the roof? The Qwest Center is in a panic and is begging for taxpayer bailouts. What makes us so confident that Lincoln’s arena won’t face the same difficulties?
Thinking smarter is difficult because it requires creativity rather than simple one-upmanship. Let’s strive for an arena we can be proud of, not one we merely describe as “big”.
In the mean time, here are some reasons Mayor Seng might veto the plan…
It’s pothole season, ladies and gents. Be sure to let our friendly pothole hunters from Public Works know where to find them so they can fill ‘em up.
Back when the Sunken Gardens was built it must have seemed like a crazy idea:
Person 1: We’ve got this big hole at 27th and Capital Parkway. What should we do with it?
Person 2: Let’s turn it into a garden.
Person 1: Huh?
Person 2: Plant a bunch of flowers, throw in a fountain and some pools. It’ll be great!
Person 1: But it’s just a big hole on the side of the road…
Person 2: People will want to get married there. It’ll be so romantic!
Person 1: Dude, are you feeling ok?
And yet that crazy use for the big hole in the ground has turned into a heck of a community asset. Which makes me wonder: what crazy—but possible—idea do you have for Lincoln?
I have lots of crazy ideas, so it’s hard to pick just one to mention here. A current one I’ve been thinking about is converting what’s now known as Highway 2 into an aesthetically-pleasing boulevard after Highway 2 is re-routed around town via the South Beltway. There are all sorts of possibilities for beautifying the road and its environs and making it more friendly to its neighbors, especially since there is so much green space along its length through the city.
The Constitution ensures for us the rights to free expression and due process. We shouldn’t abridge these rights just because the snow might melt before we can do something about it.
One “Allen T”, in comments on the Lincoln Journal Star website, retorts:
Not all speech receives the same level of protection under the Constitution. ... Lewd snow sculptures were likely against an ordinance against public display, in plain view of children, of obscene or offensive speech.
That is all true, but it is also beside the point. The important part of Mr. Cornelius’s contention, as I understand it, was not that giant penis sculptures are unregulatable protected speech, but that the destruction of those sculptures without any concern for the “artists’” or property owners’ due process rights was improper. Mr. Cornelius never said “We should all be able to have giant snow penises in our yards”. Instead, his point is that if Joe Blow chooses to put a giant snow penis in his yard, Joe Blow is entitled to let the courts decide if that snow penis is protected speech before it is destroyed by the government.
From a practical standpoint the officers chose a reasonable course of action. But from a rights point of view, the officers acted improperly. The destruction of property located on private property is illegal, and the act is especially obnoxious when it is conducted by officers sworn to uphold rights, not violate them. The officers had legal tools available to them (persuading the “artists” to destroy or alter their work and/or ticketing the “artists”). And if the “artists” wanted to dispute the labeling of their work as obscene? Well, that’s what the courts are for. Rights are rights, and Lincoln’s police officers need to respect them, even when dealing with the maturity-challenged.
The Lincoln Board of Education has voted to phase in all-day kindergarten over the next few years. The move was in part a reaction to the increasing likelihood that the State will soon pass legislation requiring all-day kindergarten.
Proponents of all-day kindergarten talk up a number of purported benefits, such as improved educational performance, increased social interaction opportunities, and so on. On the first point, substantial educational performance improvements seem unlikely for most students since LPS is not updating any curricula in response to this change. Opponents of the new situation cite a wide range of reasons for their opposition, ranging from the practical (it’ll be awfully expensive) to the paranoid (the state is trying to inject even more of their propoganda into our children’s young minds).
I am mostly unswayed by many of the proponents’ arguments. I would rather have my children spend more time with me and The Missus, grandma and grandpa, or even a good daycare provider. The expected return on the taxpayers’ extra investment in my child’s education is way too small. On the other hand, the expected return from the investment on kids whose parents are either incompetent or unable to provide a solid educational foundation for their children is huge. The opponents’ arguments don’t do much for me either. With the exception of the economic costs involved, the down sides just don’t feel all that bad.
In other words, from a purely selfish point of view I consider all-day kindergarten to be a waste of time and resources, and I view the likely net effect on my children as near zero. (I’m assuming, for simplicity’s sake, that my children will not need extra services that the schools are better suited than I to provide.) From a broader point of view I think the net effect on the community’s children ranges from very slightly negative (just a handful of kids) to extremely positive (a sizeable minority of kids, with a heavy representation of low-income, first- and second-generation immigrant, and racial/ethnic minority kids). In the end I’m not certain how all of the costs and benefits shake out, but my gut instinct is that there is enough of a net benefit to the community to make all-day kindergarten worthwhile.
What really surprises me is how little public discussion has taken place on the topic. Coverage by the Lincoln Journal Star has been virtually nill (that I can recall), and the topic hasn’t generated much buzz in casual conversations. Are Lincolnites tired of talking about schools after the bond issue? Or did they just assume that all-day kindergarten was a fact, since it was an implicit part of the bond issue?
If you were guaranteed election or appointment to any position in Lincoln’s city government, which would you choose? Why?
Me, I’d go for mayor, but not for another five years or so. I’m still pretty young and I need some more time to learn the things a guy needs to know to be a good mayor. I’m still a little rusty on Lincoln’s who’s who list, for example. As for my major reasons for choosing that office, there are three:
1) A mayor should help initiate community discussions and help find solutions to community problems. I love starting and engaging in discussions of complex topics, and I enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” in pursuing (and finding) answers.
2) A mayor should be a strong leader who is able to communicate effectively with those around him. I enjoy being a leader and, historically, others have seemed to enjoy having me as their leader. I thrive on the challenge of finding ways to communicate with diverse audiences with disparate needs.
3) A few people whose opinions I value have told me I should run for mayor some day. Knowing that I’m not the only one crazy enough to think that I could be a good mayor makes the idea seem more attainable.
Also happening this weekend in Lincoln, the First African-American Family Empowerment Summit. On Sunday there will be a free health fair at the Malone Center with exhibits and services ranging from - I’m told - cholesterol screenings to outreach services for Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the Lincoln area.
Somehow this escaped my notice until today. The Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium (CPSWS) is this Saturday, April 1, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Lincoln Southwest High School. This year’s theme is “We Can’t Prevent Severe Weather But We Can Be Better Prepared”. If you’re a severe weather fan like I am, or if you’re just looking for something interesting to do on Saturday, think about stopping by. I’m bummed I won’t be able to make it this year because I have a full plate of soccer reffing and baseball umping that day.
A lot of Lincolnites complain about the “parking situation” in Downtown Lincoln: there isn’t enough parking, the parking isn’t cheap enough, the available parking isn’t in the right places, and so on. There are plenty of reasonable arguments to be made along those lines. But then somebody like William R. Stone, Jr. comes along and makes the parking whiners really look silly:
The next to the last time I was downtown (about five years ago), I picked up a ticket and ended up paying a fine for my trouble. I vowed at the time not to go back until there was parking downtown like there is at every retail outlet and office in every other part of Lincoln.
Unfortunately, I had to go downtown recently. I plugged the meter for 90 minutes, got back in about two hours and picked up another ticket. So I’m returning to my original plan, but I suppose five years from now I’ll probably get stuck again.
I almost had to go back just last week when I couldn’t get some sheet music I needed from The Violin Shop on 17th Street, and the owner said Dietze had it downtown, but fortunately he also gave me the name of a store in Omaha that could send it, and postage is less than $10 so …
See you all in five or 10 years. You really know how to make a guy feel welcome.
Let me summarize: Mr. Stone knowingly violated city ordinance on two separate occasions. Mr. Stone was punished for those violations. Mr. Stone whines, arguing that his shortcomings—namely, his inability to choose a parking spot that will keep $10 in his wallet—are somehow the city’s fault, not his own. Whatever, Mr. Stone.
For everybody else, what one or two things would you do to improve parking Downtown?
Every weekend morning I walk my dog along Beal Slough near my house. The creek and the native grasses along its banks can be surprisingly beautiful and calming, even with trucks rumbling along Highway 2 just a hundred yards away. Unfortunately, there is a lot of trash along the creek and nobody seems to do anything about it. So I figured, what the heck, I’ll do something about it. I decided that some Sunday morning this spring I’m going to put on some gloves, grab some trash bags, and go clean up the area along Beal Slough between 40th and 48th Streets.
Then I figured, heck, why not see if anybody else wants to join in. So here is my invitation to you: Join me and Clean Your Corner of Lincoln the weekend of April 22 and 23. You are welcome to join me along Beal Slough, but I encourage you to pick a public place that means something to you. It may be the Holmes Lake dog run, Wilderness Park (calling beerorkid!), a bike trail, Downtown, or a neighborhood school. There are no rules, no organization, and no prizes. Just do it because it’s a nice thing to do. Give an hour, a morning, a day, or even the whole weekend. Or even just bend over to pick up that Mountain Dew bottle sitting in the sand at the playground. I plan to give the morning of Sunday, April 23rd to the cause. I figure a pretty decent clean-up of the area I’ve selected should take 4-6 hours.
I hope at least a few of you decide to chip in your time and energy. Think about it, and let me know which corner of Lincoln you plan to clean.
The Missus, The Mother-in-Law, and I went to Blue Orchid last night. (Read my Blue Orchid review.) It was the first time I had been back since my bad experience back in early February. I’m happy to report that most of the restaurant’s service hiccups seem to have been addressed. The servers were well trained and prepared, and they looked nice in their all-black outfits. The only glaring mark against them: the servers at a nice restaurant should not call a table of customers “guys”, especially when 2/3 of them aren’t. Leave the “guys” lingo to Applebee’s.
The food was, as always, outstanding. The Missus went with her favorite, yellow curry, The Mother-in-Law opted for pad thai, and I tried the green peppercorn entree. My meal was incredible, and the women had nothing but praise for their dishes. I have eaten five different entrees in four trips to Blue Orchid and I have adored every single one. No other restaurant has ever hit five-for-five for me.
My only major complaint about last night’s experience was the temperature. We were seated near the big windows on the south end of the restaurant and the temperature was very chilly. A couple customers wore their coats throughout their meals. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with the windows, with the insulation, with the air handling, or something else, but it really should be addressed.
Overall I was very pleased with Blue Orchid’s continual growth and maturation. Assuming they keep gradually improving, I fully expect Blue Orchid to settle at or near the top of most Lincolnites’ list of great restaurants.
Heaven on earth may exist….on the outskirts of downtown Lincoln. The newly-opened Jerusalem’s Bakery on 19th and “M” St. does robust business in various Mexican and Central American pastries. Actually they are not “newly-opened” but have relocated from a few blocks away to this new location. But this family operation does have a new, small, take-out only food service with various Middle Eastern style-fare (kubbe, falafel) as well as tamales, .75 cent flautas, and other Latino foods. The $1 fried empanadas are very tasty. They are homemade and filled with potatoes and other vegetables and a little beef. Four of these slices of heaven, with some hot dipping sauce, a complimentary side salad and a small horchata rice drink for another buck makes for a nice $5 comfort-food break/meal anytime of day.
I should note that, Jerusalem’s is NOT a “restaurant.” There is no sit down space, the kitchen is tiny and lacks a lot of industrial restaurant equipment, and most of the staff members work in the bakery. The owners are very friendly as well. Its a small Mom and Pop place and you can expect a somewhat long wait if you are coming for the take-out service at the wrong time. But the wait is worth it for those tasty empanadas.
I just got back from a trip to Doughboyz Bistro with The Missus and The Mother-in-Law. (Read my Doughboyz Bistro review.) It was my third visit to Doughboyz, and for the first time it was packed, noisy, and definitely happening. For one thing the pre-teen-girl-to-everybody-else ratio was extremely high. (A Girl Scout outing, perhaps?) The staff were harried, but they did a good job trying to keep up.
We started with a garlic loaf ($3.85) and marinara sauce ($.89) for an appetizer. The bread was buttery (but not soggy), cheesey, and very flavorful. I really enjoyed the marinara sauce, which had just a bit of a zing and was pleasantly different from the usual. The Missus and The Mother-in-Law ordered side salads ($2.49). They expected boring, but instead they each received a nicely presented plate of mixed greens (no iceberg here!).
For our appetizer we went with a medium Chipotle Orange Shrimp Xperience pizza ($20.25). It was topped with—are you ready for all of this?—orange chipotle sauce, shallots, mandarin oranges, basic, oregano chiffonade, garlic, pepper, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese, and parmesan. Whew! Both The Mother-in-Law and I summed up our first impressions thusly: it was…different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tasty pizza. I would definitely add a slice to my plate if it were an option on a buffet. But for a whole meal it just wasn’t for me. I can certainly see some folks falling madly in love with this incredibly original pie, though, so I encourage you to give it a try. (For the rest of you, I recommend the DBQ Chicken pizza. Mmm.)
If you haven’t already picked up on the theme, Doughboyz Bistro is unlike any other restaurant in Lincoln. “Original” is a word that gets thrown around too often, but I think Doughboyz has earned the title. Stop by and let me know if you agree.
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