Latest Blog Posts

My Top 5 Priorities

March 31, 2006 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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?

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Arena Talk Freaks Me Out

March 31, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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 Pershing Center is old, outdated, and, frankly, a bit embarassing.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”.

Super Target Goes South

March 31, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Super Target wants to build at 40th and Yankee Hill Road. Will Mayor Seng have problems with this proposal like she did with the 84th and Adams Wal-Mart? Lincoln awaits.

In the mean time, here are some reasons Mayor Seng might veto the plan…

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April Fool’s Day

March 31, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Does anybody have any great tricks up their sleeve for the big day tomorrow? I’m a little torked that it falls on a Saturday since I have a bunch of ideas for things I could do at work. I would feel bad doing anything to The Missus at home since I already give her a hard enough time on a daily basis. Maybe my April Fool’s Day prank on her should be not doing anything, a la the M*A*S*H episode where the joke on Hawkeye is that there was no joke.

Or maybe I’m just being intentionally misleading because I know she’ll read this post…

It’s Pothole Season!

March 30, 2006 at 6:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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.

Crazy Ideas for Lincoln

March 30, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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.

Snow Penises and Other Abominations

March 29, 2006 at 11:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Michael Cornelius wrote a letter to the editor today expressing disagreement with LPD officers’ decisions to destroy a few lewd snow sculptures. Mr. Cornelius wraps up:

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.

Educational Opportunity or City-Funded Daycare?

March 29, 2006 at 6:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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?

Which Office Would You Choose?

March 29, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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.

Family Empowerment Summit

March 29, 2006 at 12:54am By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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.

Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium

March 28, 2006 at 11:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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.

Final Four

March 28, 2006 at 7:27pm By: D.M.B. Posted in D.M.B. Sports Report

The last four teams in the NCAA basketball tournament are set.  And what a 4 it is. 

Let’s just say that an alligator, the Wizard of Westwood, cinderella, and shaq are all connected in some way.

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Parking Whine

March 28, 2006 at 1:28pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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.

There are many ways that parking Downtown could be made more friendly and accessible to various interest groups, and there are lots of good alternatives worthy of a community discussion. But folks like Mr. Stone—and there are bunches of them—do nothing to improve the situation. In fact, Mr. Stone has done little more than make himself appear mathematically incompetent. I’m certain that wasn’t his intent. But what was? Presumably he wants to improve the situation, but he does nothing to make his case. Mr. Stone, if you’re out there, I’d like to hear your ideas. I’ll even give you as much space as you need. Drop me .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we’ll chat. (And assuming that I never hear from Mr. Stone, anybody else who wants to write up their ideas is free to contact me as well.)

For everybody else, what one or two things would you do to improve parking Downtown?

Spring Break at Wal-Mart

March 27, 2006 at 6:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The other day the Journal Star featured an editorial praising college students who opted to use their Spring Break for volunteerism, rather than heading south for beaches, boobs, and bacchanalia. Skyler Bartels, a student at Drake University from Harvard, Nebraska, spent his Spring Break at a much more mundane location: Wal-Mart.

By George, the dream is alive!

March 26, 2006 at 10:11pm By: D.M.B. Posted in D.M.B. Sports Report

George Mason, the #11 seed in the Washington D.C. bracket, has qualified for the Final 4. George Mason, out of the Colonial Athletic Association, defeated top seededUConn 86-84 in overtime. Where is George Mason you ask? Just southwest of Washington D.C. the campus was opened in 1957 and boasts a enrollment of 29,000. You can learn more about George Mason here.

George Mason has tied for the highest seeded team ever to qualify for the final 4. Since the field expanded to 64 in 1985 only two teams have qualified for the final 4 as a double digit seed.  LSU in 1986 as an 11 seed and now George Mason.  The highest seeded team to ever win a national title was Villanova in 1985 as an #8 seed.

George Mason will face the winner of the Villanova/Florida game on April 1st.

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