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Lasting Impacts

April 7, 2006 at 5:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, impact fees are here to stay.

Off to the Races with LB500

April 7, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Will LB500 (PDF) send Lincoln off to the races to plan and construct a new arena and convention center in the Haymarket?

That’s the question raised in a Journal Star article today. LB500 gives communities two years after the bill’s passage to take advantage of the bill’s provisions, and three years after that to build and open the facility. 2011 sounds like it’s still a long ways off, and it is, but if Lincoln wants to hit that deadline, it’ll need to get moving.

I like that LB500 may push Lincoln to make some decisions about a Pershing Center replacement. At some point we need to stop fantasizing and start doing. But that’s where my enthusiasm for LB500 ends. First and foremost LB500 encourages Lincoln to assume that an arena and convention center is the best way to address Lincoln’s needs. That’s an assumption that many Lincolnites have been making for years, and I think it’s a bad assumption to hold. There are alternatives to building a carbon copy of Qwest Center Omaha, but those alternatives have been absent from public discussion. It is easy to think that Qwest2 is Lincoln’s best bet when it is presented as our only option.

That single-mindedness is supported by LB500’s tight timelines. The bill’s 2+3 year schedule doesn’t allow enough time to think about all of the other ways Lincoln could support local economic development and attract investment and visitors. Nor does it allow for sufficient time for the community to have other serious and necessary conversations, on questions like: Should this be a public, public/private, or private project? and What taxes are the best for funding this sort of project, or should taxes be used at all? and How much are we, as a community, willing to pay for this thing over the years?

Lincoln came through pretty well on the Haymarket Park deal, so there is reason to think that the City can make this project work. On the other hand, the Antelope Valley Project, although moving along, has been marred by hiccups and funding woes (and ballooning cost estimates), and the city-supported project that ultimately became The Grand was mostly a pipe dream.

Whatever happens, my main concern is that Lincolnites participate in the upcoming discussions, both formally (at public meetings) and informally (at the water cooler). The scope of the discussion so far seems to have been “Pershing sucks. A new place sure would be cool. But taxes suck.” It hasn’t been an especially broad or deep conversation, in other words. Surely we can do better on such an important topic.

Local Philanthropy

April 5, 2006 at 5:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

When I first saw the story that three of Lincoln’s lottery winners donated some of their winnings to folks at the People’s City Mission ($2,000 from each of the winners), the first thing I thought was, “Gee, how long until the ‘Is that all?!’ crowd shows up?” Sure enough, the second comment on the Journal Star’s website didn’t disappoint:

I think there [sic] pretty pathetic they have millions of dollars and they each give out 2 grand.

*sigh* So predictable. First it was all “Congratulations!” and “Good for them!” and “Way to go, blue collar people!”. Now it’s “How dare they spend their money that way!”. It’s a shame the winners have to hear that since not one among us has the moral authority to criticize them.

For the record, the winners have already collectively given some $50 million to folks begging for handouts. I’d say that was pretty darn generous, and I thank them for it.

One Day at a Time

April 5, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Looks like Mr. T exposed himself this morning in the letters to the editor section of the Lincoln Journal Star (last letter):

...A note to my fellow Lincolnites: Beware of the city criminalizing you through obscure parking laws in order to obtain revenue. I just fell victim to this when my car was ticketed twice for violating a 24-hour parking law I had never heard of while I was out of town on vacation.

Upon returning, the city attorney’s office informed me this law was “common knowledge” and, despite my need to use on-street parking at my apartment, the city’s law required me to move my car from one side of the street to the other or around the corner ever 24 hours.

Of all the ludicrous laws! How is an honest, law-abiding citizen to keep up with them all? I hope sharing my $20 tough-luck lesson will help others avoid breaking the law unwittingly and being taken in by Lincoln’s underhanded means of procuring revenue.

Christa Kinsley, Lincoln

Hmph. You might’ve thought Mr. T’s name would have started with, y’know, a T. Oh well, this sounds so much like Mr. T it has to be him.

Anyway, in

Mr. T’s

Miss Kinsley’s defense, the 24-hour law is pretty harsh. As hard as it is for the auto-dependent among us to believe, some people actually don’t need their cars for days or weeks at a time. Forcing those folks to move their cars every day seems awfully silly.

On the other hand, the city needs some way to identify abandoned or trouble cars, and the city’s streets shouldn’t be used for long-term storage. So how can we approach a win-win on this? I have two top-of-the-head ideas. First (and most obviously) we need to extend the length of time vehicles can be parked on-street. I think I can make a solid argument for anywhere from 36 to 72 hours. The police won’t like the longer time span because it will complicate their job a bit, but the law should be designed not for the enforcers, but for those it is enforced upon. Areas for which the 24-hour restriction still makes sense can and should remain 24 hours, but there will need to be a clear and obvious reason for that limit to remain in effect, and the shorter time limit should be made clear with signage.

My second idea is some sort of “I live in this neighborhood and I need a car but I don’t drive every day so quit harassing me” permit. For an annual fee, persons who can prove their residence in an area would be given a sticker (a window decal, most likely) that would permit them to park on the street for longer than usual. The fee should cover only the cost of the program; it should not be a revenue-generator. Vehicles would have to be parked within two linear blocks of the residence to which they belong. I’m not crazy about creating more red tape but, well, it’s just an idea.

Anybody have any other ideas? Or is anybody brave enough to face Mr. T’s wrath and defend the status quo?

BYOB, But Leave the Noisemakers at Home

April 4, 2006 at 12:24pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The City Council got a little feisty with “party houses” yesterday, upping minimum fines and increasing the likelihood that some property owners could see jail time for maintaining a “disorderly” house. I support the move in principle, but we’ll have to see how the new ordinance is applied before I can say for certain that it is a good way to improve Lincoln’s notorious party neighborhoods. For example, will the LPD feel empowered (or pressured) to throw $250 tickets at home owners after a simple noise complaint without first issuing a warning, all in the name of cleaning up neighborhoods but at the expense of common sense? Will the fines be disproportionately directed at particular citizens (college students) while others are let off the hook?

Folks ought to be able to do just about anything they like in their homes, but not at the expense of their neighbors’ sanity. I hope that’s the message that goes along with enforcement of this ordinance, not something more draconian like “no having fun after 10:00 p.m.” The purpose of this, and any, ordinance should be to improve the quality of life in Lincoln, not to make more people criminals.

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