Latest Blog Posts

North Forty Redevelopment

June 30, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The North Forty golf course is disappearing, and developers want to built it up with homes and stores, including a large grocery store. Which is great, except the land is currently zoned agricultural. The developers probably don’t face too many hurdles getting the residential portion of their plan built, but the commercial side could be tough. The two east corners of the intersection of 84th and Adams are already zoned for commercial use, and the city’s land use plan would have to be modified. Mayor Seng already infamously shot down another project across the street; will she have any desire to do the same here?

Some property owners are complaining that they paid a premium to live near a golf course, and that their property values will drop if the course disappears. Boo hoo. I don’t mean that to sound snarky and uncaring, so let me clarify. The premium they chose to pay is above and beyond what their property is actually worth. I have no desire to involve government in protecting that sort of “luxury tax”. It’s a bonus, not a given. If developers were planning to put in a toxic waste dump on the corner, then I would feel the adjacent property owners’ pain. Such a plan would drop their property values substantially below the “real” value, and that could be seen as unfair. I view the present case as little different from the good neighbors moving out, and annoying neighbors moving in, pink flamingos in the yard and all.

Friday Five

June 30, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Now that the City of Lincoln has State Fair Park within its grasp, it made me think: if Lincoln were to have the opportunity to do whatever it wanted to State Fair Park, what could it do? Five suggestions:

  1. Build a NASCAR track, home of the Cornhusker 400. Scoff if you will, NASCAR-haters, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a track were both more sustainable and more profitable than an events center.
  2. Hand it over to developers for a planned, mixed-use development.
  3. Six Flags!
  4. Give it back to nature. Bulldoze the entire park, add a few ponds and wetlands, and turn it into the world’s largest urban prairie park. Don’t forget the prairie dogs.
  5. Turn it into a business park, complete with hotels, a golf course, and other business-friendly amenities. Devote a portion of the space to incubating new businesses. Build a business/economics-focused magnet high school. Partner with local colleges and universities to develop an apprenticeship program in coordination with the businesses housed in the park.

There Oughtta Be a Law

June 30, 2006 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

After spending time in the Boston area, I have a proposal for a new traffic law in Lincoln:

The Law

Certain crosswalks should be designated as “priority” crosswalks. At priority crosswalks, vehicles must yield to any and all waiting pedestrians. Emergency vehicles on a call are exempt. Priority crosswalks may be designated in one of two ways: (1) by white lines or similar markings on the pavement, designating the crosswalk path; or (2) by bright yellow pedestrian crossing signs, accompanied underneath by a sign with the text “Yield to Pedestrians”. Crosswalks accompanied by traffic signals do not apply.

In limited cases vehicles should also yield to bicyclists. These include situations where a designated bike path crosses a street, but where there is not an accompanying traffic signal. In those cases, the priority crosswalk must be identified with a sign showing a pedestrian and a bicyclist, and the accompanying text should read “Yield to Peds and Bikes”.

The Rationale

Pedestrians rule in Massachusetts, and it was incredible to see how drivers humbled themselves to their walking superiors. You might think traffic would be excessively hindered by this sort of situation; in my experience, you would be wrong. Lincoln has long been perceived as a city hostile to pedestrians. I believe strongly that we need to change that situation.

Downtown Living Questionnaire

June 29, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Downtown Lincoln Association would like you to take a survey about condo living Downtown. Head on over to take the survey.

Ouch!

June 29, 2006 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Commenter “GBT” has some harsh words about Mayor Colleen Seng in the comments section of the Journal Star website:

She’s old, senile and I’m sure very paranoid.

Ouch! Seems GBT thinks Lincoln is being led by a real-life Howard Buss.

Petition Pandemonium

June 28, 2006 at 5:23pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

There sure is a lot of hubbub over petitions these days in Nebraska. Apparently petitioners are being annoying, and petition-blockers are getting feisty. Ahh, the joys of civil society. Why must people act like such children in matters political? Sorry, that question is too rhetorical. Here’s one I really wonder: why are people so afraid of petition circulators?

Secretary of State John Gale has the perfect solution, even though it’s not clear there is a problem: more regulations! He wants to require of petition circulators:

  • Fluency in English.
    English is not the official language. What Mr. Gale really wants to require is that petition circulators be able to accurately explain the petition to potential signers. That may happen in English or any other language, dependent upon the language needs of the signer. The circulator needs to be able to communicate to signers, not necessarily speak English to them.
  • At least 17 years old.
    Why? This sounds like a solution without a problem. If a fifth grader can do the job, why not let him participate in the process?
  • No felony record.
    Again, why? Another solution without a problem. One’s criminal background has little to do with one’s ability to circulate a petition. Besides, no self-respecting cause wants a bunch of cons circulating its petitions anyway.
  • Registration.
    A classic bureaucrat’s solution. If we can make the paperwork as onerous as possible, the problem will fade away…

Locally, Lincoln is being sued because one group’s circulator was barred from entering the Celebrate Lincoln festival Downtown earlier this month. The City’s argument is that since the area was leased to a private group, that group can bar circulators if they want to. The group says huh-uh, it’s public property, we should have access. Any of you legal types know the latest caselaw on that topic?

Blogger Noise

June 28, 2006 at 5:03pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Blogger Tim Tyrrell Sr. stirred up a City Council meeting this week by packing a loaded handgun in plain sight. His point? A concealed carry ban is pointless, since citizens are still able to carry unconcealed weapons. Whether or not you agree with him, his message is certainly valid. He also wants to spread the bigger message that criminals are unlikely to give a hoot about a concealed carry ban at all, since they are, after all, criminals. But we’ve all heard that debate before; there’s no need to rehash it here.

Mr. Tyrrell’s actions raise an issue that strikes closer to home. Namely, that it is not currently illegal to carry a loaded gun into the Council’s chambers. In fact, there are a whole bunch of public facilities and offices at which carrying a loaded gun is perfectly legal. The question Lincolnites need to ask themselves is: are we OK with that? I am OK with it, for practical reasons as much as anything. A law won’t stop the people who would use a gun illegally anyway, and I refuse to submit to a TSA-style fondling every time I want to enter the Pioneers Park Nature Center, or any other public building. Certain government facilities are more likely to stir up harsh emotions, of course, and I am not inherently opposed to taking preventative measures to protect people within those facilities. But in the end, I’m just not all that worried about a nut with a gun. He’s going to be a nut with a gun whether it’s illegal or not. I choose to worry about other things.

But let’s face it, what I choose to worry about has little correlation to what the City Council and other government agents choose to worry about. Don’t be surprised if we start seeing bans pop up here and there.

Vice Cops Get Their Gal

June 28, 2006 at 5:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Lincoln is a much safer place, now that Lincoln’s finest got their gal. Melissa Harrington, Lincoln’s own “Melissa Midwest”, faces as much as 8 months in jail or a $500 fine. Thousands of tax dollars spent fighting over the presence or absence of a thin layer of pink paint. Fantastic.

Stormy Weather

June 27, 2006 at 9:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I know I may regret asking this, but have there been fewer tornado watches and warnings than normal around southeast Nebraska this spring, or is it just me? I’m not complaining, mind you, but as a severe weather junkie, it seems like I haven’t had as many adrenaline-pumping moments as usual. Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been distracted by becoming a father.

“Why make taxpayers pay for it?”

June 27, 2006 at 3:12pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

“Why make taxpayers pay for it?” That’s a reasonable question, Councilman Camp. He must have a reasonable response for it, too, because Jon Camp voted to spend $2 million of your tax dollars to build a new Hy-Vee at 50th and O Streets.

The situation is this: the City of Lincoln has declared a good chunk of the area around 48th and O blighted. As part of the redevelopment, Hy-Vee wants to build a large store to replace its 70th and O location. (A curious business decision in my mind, but hey, they didn’t ask me.) Since the area is blighted, the project is eligible for public dollars. In the Hy-Vee project’s case, that amounts to around $2.1 million, roughly $750,000 of which would go into Hy-Vee’s pockets. The rest would go toward infrastructure improvements that would indirectly support the store. The store is expected to return about $120,000 in annual tax revenue. It’s not clear if that $120,000 is above and beyond what the 70th and O store already returns, or if it is merely a replacement for whatever the 70th and O store currently contributes to the public coffers.

Given that information, Councilman Camp has obviously decided that the project is worth making taxpayers pay for. But why? Councilman Camp, I would like you to answer your own question: Why make taxpayers pay for it?

Prime Real Estate

June 27, 2006 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I read recently that the City plans to sell the vacant lot on the northeast corner of 27th Street and Old Cheney Road. The lot was originally reserved for a library, but the library was eventually built on South 14th Street instead. The plan, as I understand it, is to sell the lot to the owners of adjacent apartment buildings, further expanding the availability of apartment living around the area. It isn’t a bad use for the space, all things considered. But I have to admit I’m a little disappointed. In my head I long ago decided that the corner would make a great location for some sort of Sunken Gardens II. In fact, I had decided that there should be several “Sunken Gardens” here and there along 27th Street. Oh well, more apartments isn’t so bad, all things considered. Not as pretty, no, but certainly more practical.

Mayoral Campaigning Has Begun

June 26, 2006 at 11:48pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Now that Mayor Seng’s budget proposal is on the table, the predictable is happening: it is being used as a tool for hopefuls in next year’s Mayor’s race. The signs are relatively subtle at this point, but they are unmissable. For example, Mayor Seng warned against “the personal ambitions of some” getting in the way of approving her budget. “Some”, of course, are her potential opponents, including Councilmen Jon Camp and Ken Svoboda. Camp is playing the consistency card (always a classic), while Svoboda made a bit of a misstep by backtracking on earlier comments about his willingness to use the new cash made available by the recent property valuation update.

It’s never too early for a war of words in the world of politics. Question is, will anybody actually propose anything of substance and quality?

Tangles on Highway 2

June 26, 2006 at 2:43pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Highway 2 is getting a facelift this summer. The project includes improvements like new curbs, extended turn lanes, and road resurfacing. It’s the latter item I don’t really understand. The road surface doesn’t strike me as all that bad, especially east of, oh, 20th Street or so. I would much rather drive on a slightly bumpy road for a couple more years and have the Department of Roads spend their bucks on a tiny little project to the south that would get almost all truck traffic off Highway 2 for good. But that’s just me.

What’s Your Druthers?

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

The search for a location for the proposed Lincoln arena has been narrowed to three locations:

  1. At the current site of the downtown post office near Seventh and R streets
  2. Directly west of Lincoln Station, using the building as a sort of historic entrance
  3. On the south side of the Harris Overpass, near Seventh and N streets

Looking at those options, I actually prefer #3. I like the idea of keeping the arena—which could be very disruptive to normal Haymarket operations—on the south side of O Street. That location comes with some baggage, of course, but so do the others. I would like to see some sketches of that location (including proposed access roads, site layout, and so on) before I decide if I’m officially rooting for #3. In reality, though, I think all of the locations are fine. Which is your favorite?

By the way, let’s ignore for a moment the fact that we are broke and don’t have any way to pay for the arena. Let’s also ignore the issue of whether or not a giant arena is a good idea. Those are just tiny little details.

Annexing State Fair Park

June 22, 2006 at 3:06pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Being out of town for so long is really screwing up my ability to follow local events. Case in point: what’s this I hear that Lincoln plans to annex State Fair Park? I won’t comment too much on the idea since I know very little about it. But I will say that it feels a little shallow to annex State Fair Park just to earn an extra hundred grand each year. Are we really that hard up for cash?

Don’t answer that.

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