Latest Blog Posts

Nothing Like a Good High School Protest

February 29, 2008 at 2:40pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Ahh, high school protests. Is there anything like the atmosphere you get when you combine a save-the-world attitude with the opportunity to cut class for a good (or “good”) cause? A couple hundred Lincoln High students protested the removal of some trees yesterday by walking out. But best of all:

They formed a raucous circle in front of the school and sang “Kumbaya” and “Lean On Me.”

Awesome. No high school protest is complete without a round or two of Kumbaya.

Now, I know it sounds like I’m mocking these students. I am. Teenagers express themselves in goofy ways, and this, to me, is one example. But darn it, the high school protest is a right of passage. It’s practically a requirement to graduate.

I just wish they could have picked a problem with public education that’s a bit more, I don’t know, substantial.

Grand Old Fed

February 29, 2008 at 2:31pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I can’t say I’m crazy about the new name, but it’s good to see that Old Fed is getting some love from a new owner. Monte Froelich purchased the building and named it Grand Manse; you may have noticed the new exterior signage by now.

The previous owners talked a good game when they purchased the building, but Old Fed never really took on the new luster they promised. Other than Blue Orchid—a huge success—very little about the building was worth talking about. Lincolnites had been told to expect a vibrant building we would all want to visit; we got dark, maze-like hallways and locked doors.

It’ll be interesting to see what Mr. Froelich can do with the building. He talks about creating space that would be more usable to the public—a ballroom, another restaurant—which is closer to the vision we were shown a few years back. I won’t hold my breath, but I’m hopeful the building becomes a place to talk about.

To Whom Would You Give Your Tax Rebate?

February 28, 2008 at 2:26pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Let’s say you take advice from these folks and decide to give your upcoming tax rebate check to charity. And let’s further say that you decide to give the money locally. To whom would you hand over your check, and why?

Something is Wrong with Mother Nature

February 28, 2008 at 2:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Something is wrong with Mother Nature. It’s Girls State Basketball Tournament weekend and, though we’re expecting a little wintry precipitation today, there isn’t an ice storm or blizzard to be found in the forecast. Girls State BBall weekend has, over the years, become a pretty darn good indicator that foul weather is on the way to Lincoln. And yet tomorrow’s high is predicted to be 48 degrees, and Saturday’s a whopping 59!

Research Corridor Meetings Tomorrow

February 27, 2008 at 2:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Lincoln’s favorite Portland, Oregon planning firm Crandall Arambula will present its Antelope Valley Research Corridor proposals tomorrow at 7:00pm in the Lancaster Room at the Cornhusker Marriott.

Whether or not you plan to go, you will want to study up on the proposals.

Interesting Conflicts

February 27, 2008 at 2:10pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

If you were to be presented a ballot today with the following question, how would you vote?

“No holder of public office shall simultaneously have a business contract with the City, neither as an individual nor as whole or partial owner of a business.”

Would you vote for or against that sort of addition to the City Charter?

I think it’s easy to want to vote in favor of anything that helps avoid ethical quagmires such as situations in which a public office holder could make decisions that (directly or indirectly) affect his business operations. It helps avoid not only actual problems, but also the appearance of improprieties. I suspect this sort of addition to the City Charter would be supported by a large majority of the public.

And yet I can’t shake my feelings of uncertainty. It’s odd that I’m not completely gung-ho about any sort of proposal to clean up government. But local government is a funny thing. Local decision-makers are inherently much more closely involved with the parts of the community their decisions affect. That makes it more likely that a public official’s decision will directly benefit him, yes, but it also makes it more likely that such a situation is difficult to avoid. If we cast too wide a net, we prevent qualified individuals from holding public office; if we do nothing, we risk another Ray’s Lawn & Home Care fiasco.

How would you phrase an amendment to the City Charter to help prevent these sorts of ethics troubles? Would you lean strongly toward zero tolerance, or the status quo? Or would you strike a balance between the two, and if so, how?

Down with Blight

February 26, 2008 at 2:49pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m getting pretty tired of all the blight abuse going on in Lincoln. In the latest situation, the City Council blighted a single block in Near South so that a single owner can tear down his apartment buildings and put up townhomes. Regardless of the proposal’s appropriateness for the area, the Council is wielding the power of blight inappropriately.

A blight designation is a powerful thing. It opens the door to tax increment financing (TIF), which can help encourage (re)development in areas that need it. That’s all well and good. But blight also opens the doors to other government tools. Tools like eminent domain, for example, which has a long history of abuse.

The City Council has used blight designations as a way to support individual developers for quite some time. In some cases, the support is probably warranted. Developers who otherwise could not have afforded to complete a project were able to add value to a part of the city that really needed it. In other cases, however, the Council has wielded the power of blight inappropriately, subsidizing developers at our expense. Consider how the City nearly wiped out a handful of businesses at 17th and Q to support John Q. Hammons, or how the block that now houses Embassy Suites was cleared, only to sit idle as a parking lot for years.

In most cases, it seems that what the City Council really wants is a way to hand out taxpayer support to select developers or projects. Personally, if they’re going to subsidize these projects, I would prefer they do it without the full weight of a blight designation. Using my money to support specific projects is one thing; using my money to support those projects and having the ability to pry property from its owners without their consent is too much for me.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that property can be taken from its owner and given to somebody else if the government determines that the new owner’s use will be “better” for the community. Thus, regardless of the City’s past and present use of eminent domain, Lincoln can, at any time, legally declare a property blighted, acquire it via eminent domain, and hand it over to a person of their choosing. They can rob from the poor and give to the rich, so to speak. And it’s all Constitutional, according to the folks in powdered wigs. Although Lincoln rarely pursues the “nuclear option” of eminent domain, I prefer to remove the temptation except in those cases where the possibility of its use is truly appropriate.

What we need is a “blight light”, an option to target properties or areas for redevelopment without hanging the (often inappropriate) blight label around their necks. Developers can still get their handouts (yay!) but area property owners don’t have to worry about being kicked out. Does such a thing exist? If so, why isn’t it used more frequently? If not, presumably such a mechanism would require an act of the Unicameral, so I don’t see a change coming any time soon.

What are your thoughts on the frequent use of blight in Lincoln, and the potential ramifications of the label?

The Dark Side of the NU Volleyball Program

February 25, 2008 at 4:56pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

One of the downsides of being a premiere player in a premiere college athletic program is that little things like honesty and forthrightness don’t always go over so well. In (former) NU volleyball player Sarah Pavan’s case, it got her booted from the team. Pavan was a senior last season, so her playing career had already wrapped up. Her relationship with the team, however, had not. Until now.

The kerfuffle originated with a Red Week article in which Pavan expressed feelings not normally associated with the NU volleyball team. Whereas most of the Big Red “roof roof roofers” see the team as a merry band of perky lasses, the article portrayed a much darker reality, at least as far as Sarah Pavan is concerned. We shouldn’t be surprised; not everyone deals with successes and failures the same way, and teammates aren’t always going to get along like best friends.

Coach John Cook’s reaction in the wake of this news is astonishing for its childishness. The DN article contains this bit:

Cook, who has won two national championships at Nebraska and sports a seven-year record of 217-15, strongly discouraged any more reporting on the issue.

“If you don’t stop doing it,” Cook said, “I’m going to call over to the journalism college and get this straightened out.”

Are you serious, Coach Cook? If they don’t stop doing their job, you’re going to tattle? Give me a break. To whom will he tattle to when the Journal Star posts their story?

I’ll be interested to see how this story develops. In particular, I’m very curious what AD Tom Osborne has to say about it. Does he really want it to be known that, after years of loyal service, a dose of honesty is enough for a coach to boot a player from the program? If those are the values TO is bringing to the Athletic Department, then it’s clear we’re not much better off than we were six months ago.


A person posting as “Wendy Cook” has posted a comment on the Daily Nebraskan’s website. Coach John Cook’s wife’s name is Wendy, but there is no way to know for sure if the comment was actually made by her. If it is “the” Wendy Cook, I’m surprised she would respond outside of the Athletic Department’s usual channels. But just in case it is her, and in case her comment is removed from the DN’s site, I am posting it here:

It is very unfortunate that people take so much liberty in making assumptions about others without knowing all of the facts involved. As I am aware of the facts as they transpired, I take great offense to those that say that the team and /or coaches have been disrespectful in any way to Sarah. In my opinion, the reporting, or lack thereof, has been the most disrespectful to Sarah and created conflict where there was none. Sarah has not been kicked off the team. If Sarah has conflicting emotions about her teammates, then it is up to her, with the coaches volunteering their help, if she desires, to work to resolve those conflicts. The rest of the team had no conflicts with Sarah prior to the article being printed. Furthermore, the University and coaches have been very supportive of her academics and rescheduled practice times to accomodate her biochem schedule. Of course, they supported her in her academic endeavors as they support all of the young women but the article claims otherwise. In addition, the team and coaches have congratulated her numerous times on her awards but perhaps because she was uncomfortable in getting those awards she did not recognize their congratulations….. Her feelings about her awards and not fitting in or feeling isolated are not because her coaches/teammates did not try to help her fit in. It has more to do with that is just Sarah’s personality and that is OK. The team accepted that about Sarah and still supported her and to say anything different is very unfair to the team and coaches. I don’t think Sarah could have earned those awards without the support of her teammates so to say anything otherwise is absurd.

When the article was published without any forewarning to the girls and without Sarah being able to talk to them firsthand about her feelings, it came as a shock to all involved. Sarah had not talked about these feelings to anyone on the coaching staff or team except for her best friend Rachel Holloway possibly. She had ample opporunity to talk to the coaches/team as there is always an open door policy. The article has done a great disservice to not only Sarah but to others as well. At no point in any of this garbage reporting, does the reporter refer to the current players as to how they felt or past players that played with Sarah and helped out with the team this past year. No, the reporter chose to ignore their comments because they did not fit in with what the reporter wanted to put forward as he/she saw it. Unfortunately, there were others that submitted interview information that clearly attests to the current team and how supportive they all were of Sarah including the coaches. Does that discount Sarah’s feelings? No, but perhaps a better arena for Sarah to discuss her feelings would be to sit down with her team and do just that . In my opinion, this article highlights one persons insecurities as though everyone else should fix those insecurities. In the real world, we all have to put forth a little effort to get along with others and if I have a problem with you or my feelings are hurt, then I should step up to the plate and address that with you without being defensive or making false accusations.

The coaches and University have nothing to do with this “PR nightmare” as someone said. The nightmare and hurt that it has caused Sarah and the team lies solely with the organizations that choose to report and print stories without all of the appropriate facts. The university tried to explain how these articles would put a damper on Sarah’s legacy to no avail. If anyone owes anyone an apology, it is the reporters in these instances who misrepresented the facts and put a shameful light on some really great, hard working, extremely caring, fun-loving, team promoting individuals, coaches included!

Please stick to the facts in the future!

What Does it Take to Sell Baked Goods?

February 25, 2008 at 3:05pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

What does it take to sell baked goods out of the home in Nebraska?

The Missus is an excellent baker. She has pondered selling some of her products for things like baby and bridal showers, graduation parties, and that sort of thing. We’re not talking big business here. We could probably get away with her selling her products without any sort of licensing; I know of several people who do just that. But we’d rather not go that route.

Unfortunately, my search for information online hasn’t borne much fruit. I’ve come across some basics—don’t spit in the food, don’t prepare food in the bathroom—but I haven’t found any sort of handy “So you want to sell food products out of your home?” guide. Does anybody know if such a thing exists? If not, who should we call first? There are a bunch of possibilities—Health Department, County Extension, UNL Food Processing Center, Department of Agriculture, etc.—but it’s not obvious who should be first on our list.

Or maybe selling baked goods out of the home isn’t even legal. If that’s the case, my family has purchased a lot of illegal baked goods over the years.

Fixing 10th and Van Dorn

February 25, 2008 at 2:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m intrigued by the City’s approach to improving safety at 9th/10th and Van Dorn, especially in regard to northbound trucks turning left onto Van Dorn. It’s not your standard left turn lane (PDF) by any stretch of the imagination. But oftentimes that’s good. Non-standard traffic features—assuming they are well-designed—can actually be quite a bit safer, in part because the fact they are different makes people pay better attention.

The project comes with some potential problems, though. First and foremost, there will have to be some very good signage indicating that the left turn lane starts quite a ways back from the intersection. I’m not so worried about truckers as I am about out-of-town drivers. (And, to be honest, in-town drivers, too.) Likewise, will left turns at the old location now be banned? That’ll require some good signage as well. I’m sure plenty of signage is in the plan—probably even big, green, completely unmissable freeway-style signage. Sadly, that’s probably not enough.

I am also worried about drivers being smart enough to stop in the right places so that they don’t get in the way of turning traffic. Let’s face it, Lincoln’s drivers love to stop in crosswalks or beyond “Stop at Line” signs. In this case I suppose I shouldn’t worry; we should just give truck drivers the green light to push those cars out of the way. It seems a suitable solution to me.

What do you think about the proposed intersection?

Tina’s Mexican Food

February 23, 2008 at 3:39pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It looks like a new establishment will be opening where the old King Taco was once housed on Highway 2, a few blocks south of Van Dorn. Driving by this morning I noticed a “Tina’s Mexican Food” sign on the window, but no signs of activity.

Lincoln Arts Awards

February 21, 2008 at 2:42pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Nominations are due tomorrow for the following awards:

  • The Arts Organization Award recognizes an arts group that has made significant contributions to Lincoln’s arts community over a period of years.
  • The Artistic Achievement Award - Visual Arts recognizes excellence and accomplishment in any of the visual arts.
  • The Artistic Achievement Award - Youth recognizes excellence and accomplishment in any arts discipline by a young person age 18 or younger.
  • The Artistic Achievement Award - Performing Arts recognizes excellence and accomplishment in any of the performing arts.
  • The Gladys Lux Education Award recognizes special initiatives or dedication to arts education.
  • The Heart of the Arts Award recognizes an individual or organization for outstanding volunteer dedication to the arts or for making a major overall impact on the arts in Lincoln.
  • The Outstanding Event Award will now be presented every other year. It will rotate with the Cultural Celebration Award, which recognizes artistic work that has fostered an appreciation of a specific culture or cultures through the arts. (The award judges will decide which award is presented.)
  • The Halcyon Allsman Benefactor of the Arts Award honors an individual, family, organization or business making significant financial contributions to the arts in Lincoln.
  • The Oliva “Arts for Kids” Award honors an individual from outside of the arts professions whose leadership has enhanced arts activities and experiences for children.
  • The Literary Heritage Award recognizes a writer or individual who promotes excellence in writing and literature in Nebraska.
  • The Larry Enersen Award recognizes outstanding urban design in Lincoln.

Nothing LIke the Smell of Sweaty Co-Workers in the Morning

February 21, 2008 at 2:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m jealous of the employees at Duncan Aviation, where they have their own on-site fitness center. My employer’s fitness amenities are pretty crappy. I’m going to talk to my boss!

::mutters under his breath::

My boss says I’m lazy, and that if I wanted to stay in shape, I shouldn’t have eaten all of that ice cream and all those Doritos—mmm, Poppin’ Jalapeno Doritos—last night. He has a point.

How common are the sorts of health incentives Duncan offers at employers around town? Do you have the opportunity to get buff at work?

Lincoln, Meet Kevin

February 20, 2008 at 2:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Police Chief Tom Casady would like to introduce you to Kevin. Kevin is on pace to break a rather astonishing record.

The 8 Fair Alternatives

February 20, 2008 at 2:10pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Mayor Chris Beutler has proposed 8 alternative sites for the State Fair. Fair Board member Tam Allan isn’t impressed.

Allan seems to have two major concerns. The first is that, in some cases, the land isn’t even for sale. The second is much more substantial: each of the sites is little more than an empty patch of ground. There are no buildings or services on the sites, or, in some cases, even nearby. Although a blank slate is a great way to reinvent the Fair, it also drastically increases the costs of the move.

Contrast Lincoln’s 8 proposed locations with those in Grand Island, where amenities already exist. In terms of the attractiveness of relocation sites, Lincoln is way behind.

Lincoln’s one strength at this point seems to be that we are closer to the largest population centers in the state. I may be wrong, but I have a very, very difficult time believing that a Grand Island State Fair would draw, over the long run, the same number of visitors as a Lincoln State Fair. It just doesn’t seem likely.

But I digress. Ignoring for a moment the question of whether we should move the Fair at all, what do you think about Mayor Beutler’s 8 proposed relocation sites? Do any of them strike you as seeming better or worse than the others? My least favorite is the 84th and Yankee Hill location, for accessibility reasons. I don’t think I have a favorite at this point.

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