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Drunker Later

August 31, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The City Council went ahead and approved a 2 a.m. bar closing time, to nobody’s surprise. The change goes into effect on September 17. It’s a substantial change that will take all the involved parties a little while to get used to. Look for “aftermath” -type stories in local media in the weeks and months that follow.

In an ideal world there would be no closing times. There’s no good fundamental reason for bars to ever have to close. But over time our culture has decided it’s a good idea to push every limit with alcohol. Drink more! Drink longer! Behave like a douchenozzle! It’s no wonder city councils everywhere feel a need to step into this realm where reasonable adults really ought to be able to take care of themselves.

Instead, we get paternalistic—if not authoritarian—proclamations like this gem from Doug Emery: “This is a privilege, this is not a right. It can be taken away.” Thank you for your graciousness, oh wise and benevolent City Council! Ugh. Yet as repugnant as I find the attitude underlying his statement, I can hardly blame Emery for taking the tone of a father warily extending curfew. Lincoln’s Downtown bar owners and patrons aren’t exactly golden children.

I hope the folks involved here demonstrate a modicum of responsibility so that adults in this town can be treated like adults. It would be a shame if, shortly after the change goes into effect, we find ourselves watching the news and muttering “This is why we can’t have nice things”.

Where in Lincoln is this?

August 30, 2010 at 1:31pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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Remember That Other Big Project Downtown?

August 30, 2010 at 12:55pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Matt Olberding’s post about Chipotle moving one block east brings up the topic of Catalyst One. Remember that one? You’re forgiven if you had forgotten. It has been over four years since a “huge” project at 14th and Q was first announced.

Chipotle’s pending move is—I hope—a good sign. It signals a bit of faith from the folks at Chipotle that their building will actually be torn down. That, or they’re just tired of the uncertainty surrounding their current building and they want to go someplace more stable. Let’s hope it’s the former.

I’m having a bit of a hard time picturing exactly how the building that will house Chipotle is going to be set up. I hope it includes an outdoor seating area of some sort. I’m sure it will. Outdoor dining space is pretty well standard these days in Downtown.

Fairly Good Time

August 27, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Just out of curiosity, how many of you Lincolnites plan to attend the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island this year? Naturally there is no right or wrong answer. Folks will have all kinds of different reasons for going or not going to the Fair’s first opening outside of Lincoln.

As for the Wilsons, consider us firmly planted in the “not going” category. Our reasons aren’t ideological by any stretch of the imagination. We just don’t think the experience is worth an hour-and-a-half drive plus entrance fees. The drive wouldn’t be quite so off-putting if it weren’t for the fact that we would have to do it with three boys sandwiched in our backseat. As for the entrance fees, well, I happen to prefer the Lancaster County Fair’s fee structure ($0.00). I do plan to go to the State Fair some day. We have family in the Grand Island area so there’s an opportunity for a multi-purpose trip. And frankly, I’m curious about what kind of show a brand-spankin’-new fairgrounds can put on.

If you go, please let us know what you think of the new fair experience. And if you don’t go—particularly if you normally did go while it was in Lincoln—what’s keeping you home?

Mismatched Headlines

August 26, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Here are two headlines that don’t belong together:

Nebraska lawmakers eye massive HHS department for cuts
Senators take a look at child welfare reform in Nebraska

Nebraska wants to cut $235 million from HHS. Meanwhile, child welfare reform is imploding in large part due to lack of funds. Talk about a pickle.

$50 Million Breathing Room

August 25, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

That went better than expected. The first arena bond sale resulted in a lower-than-expected interested rate, providing a $50 million savings over the lifetime of the bond. That’s not a bad way to start. Now if we can just get construction and operation estimates to come in about 20% below expectations, and revenue to be about 10% above expectations…

Budget Math

August 24, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Mayor Chris Beutler and the City Council want Lincoln to move to a biennial budget, and they’ll ask voters to approve the plan on November 2. One of their justifications is that City staff have to spend a huge amount of time every year prepping the budget. Spreading that process over two years will ultimately save time and money. That makes sense, of course. But one of the Mayor’s numbers threw me for a loop.

According to Mayor Beutler, he and his staff spend “an estimated 18,000 hours per year on the budget”. That’s a ridiculous amount of time. If you break it down you will find it is equivalent to 450 work weeks, or 9 full-time employees working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year just on the budget. Does Lincoln really have 9 FTEs working solely on the budget all day, every day? That seems high. There are four FTEs in the Budget Office (PDF), according to the proposed 2010-2011 budget, though one of those FTEs is devoted to grants. Is there enough work for five or six more FTEs elsewhere in City Hall?

To be clear, I’m not ruling out the possibility that it really does require 9 FTEs to put together a budget for a city Lincoln’s size. To this budget-ignorant observer it just seems a tad excessive.

The Wilsons Have Faces for Radio

August 24, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Wilsons are showing up all over town. Our son Robert has appeared in a television advertisement for Harris Music Studios and a giant photograph at Applebee’s for the Lincoln Children’s Museum. Soon you will hear The Missus and me on the radio. Now we just need to work on a newspaper ad, a billboard, and a bus wrap.

Last night The Missus and I recorded some bits for a radio advertisement that will soon air on My Bridge Radio (95.1FM in Lincoln; other frequencies across Nebraska). The piece will help promote foster parenting through Christian Heritage. Christian Heritage wants to dramatically increase its foster parent numbers to help ease the burden on current foster parents and to help provide solid homes for kids who might otherwise slip through the cracks. There is a tremendous demand for good homes for these kids, but not much supply. Hopefully hearing The Missus and me will convince a few individuals and families to sign up.

Not Christian? Don’t tune out just yet. This push is sponsored by Christian organizations but there are plenty of non-religious ways to participate in foster parenting. Just ask and I’ll help you get started.

The most surprising thing about last night’s recording session was discovering just how invested I am in foster care. I got a little choked up more than once, and depending on which clips they use you may hear it on the radio. There’s a saying that if you don’t know what decision to make, just flip a coin; you’ll know the right answer because once the coin is in the air you will realize which outcome you’re hoping for. Something similar can be said of promoting a thing. Once you start trying to sell others on a product or idea, you learn just how much you believe in it. I believe in foster care.

Call 402-421-KIDS or 1-866-381-KIDS to get started or to learn more about the opportunities available.

Where in Lincoln is this?

August 23, 2010 at 1:34pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved.

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Red Light Means Stop ... For No One

August 23, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’ve heard quite a bit of grumbling this summer about all of the road construction going on around town. To the whiners I simply say: get over it. Lincoln is way behind on addressing needs with its streets. We should all be thankful, not cranky, that some of those needs are finally being addressed. Those “Road Closed” barriers? They’re beautiful signs of progress and repair.

But not all is beautiful in road construction land. Let’s talk about traffic lights. I’ve ranted before about how some of Lincoln’s traffic lights are timed more appropriately for lining the pockets of local gas station owners than for promoting traffic efficiency. The traffic light situation near construction zones is even worse. Many of you are already nodding your heads because you know what I’m about to say.

Have you found yourself driving around Lincoln, only to be held up by a traffic light that’s going about its regular routine despite the fact that traffic patterns have been substantially altered by nearby road construction? If you haven’t, you’re extraordinarily lucky. Just a few of the intersections at which I’ve experienced nonsensical traffic light patterns this summer include:

  • 48th and Pioneers
  • 48th and Calvert
  • 27th and Sheridan
  • 27th and Capitol Parkway
  • 40th Street, South to Highway 2 (because of additional load from 27th and 48th Streets)

It’s as though the folks responsible for road construction planning and the folks responsible for traffic signals never communicate with one another. Furthermore, it’s as though the folks responsible for traffic signals never get out and drive around town to see how their signals are performing. Both situations are ridiculous and unacceptable.

Some unpleasant traffic situations can’t be helped. When portions of both South 27th Street and South 48th Street are closed, South 40th will naturally take some abuse. That’s to be expected. But what about annoyances like at 48th and Calvert right now. It has become a three-way T intersection with Calvert as the primary street, yet the light is still set up as though it’s a 4-way intersection with 48th Street as the main traffic-bearer. The simplest solution would be to turn off the traffic light altogether and put up some stop signs. A three-way stop would be vastly more efficient than what’s there now. Similar hiccups with similarly simple solutions are going on all across town.

In the big scheme of things these traffic signal quirks are minor annoyances. Yet minor annoyances build up and they do get to people. The situations I’ve described can be improved at little or no cost. Isn’t it worth a try to fix some of these?

My First Trip to the Trago Park Sprayground

August 20, 2010 at 2:05pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I made my first trip to the Trago Park sprayground last night with the family. They all had been there before so I knew the basics of what to expect. Still, seeing is believing.

Robbie at Trago Park

We were at the park with Lincoln Berean‘s Adoptive Families Support Group, which The Missus helps lead. It’s a pretty diverse group—international adoptions, domestic adoptions, foster adoptions, foster kids—so if you’re interested in that sort of thing give us a holler. The group is associated with a church so there is a religious component, but there is not a particularly heavy religious emphasis. If you’re interested in an adoption group but you’re not the religious type, I think it’s still worth giving the group a shot.

Trago Park Sprayground

As for the park, it’s pretty nifty. It’s basically a simple playground on the outside. In the middle are a bunch of water features—misters, bubblers, sprinklers, and that sort of thing. Kids really seem to dig it and it’s easy to see why. It’s perfect for hot summer days.

Unfortunately, although I took dozens of photographs last night I just realized that I can’t post the vast majority of them. Most include our foster kids and I don’t think I’m supposed to be sticking their little faces all over the web. Maybe one of these days I’ll have permission to do that. For now you’ll just have to imagine them and the playground equipment they were playing on.

Anyway, my point is that the Trago Park sprayground is pretty impressive. I suspect Lincoln could support a couple more throughout town. If we have the cash for it, of course.

Warm Up Your Husker Power

August 20, 2010 at 2:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Cornhusker Marching Band‘s annual post-Band Camp exhibition is tonight. The free performance starts at 7:00pm at Memorial Stadium. Normally a couple entrances on the west side are open, but if you can’t figure out where to go just follow the crowd. If you really want to get the full experience, though, I recommend showing up outside Kimball Hall (behind Lied Center) by 6:30pm. There the band typically goes through its warm-up routine, followed by a march to the stadium.

Take the kids, take the grandparents, take your friends. It’s simple entertainment for an end-of-summer Friday night.

I wish I could go but alas it isn’t going to happen this year. One of our foster kids is receiving his yellow belt in taekwondo tonight, so we have a good excuse. Speaking of which: congratulations, kiddo!

Rockin’ Red Robin

August 19, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

This blog often turns up its nose at national chain restaurants. In my case I do that not because I see myself as too cool for chains, but because I frequently prefer local restaurants for their food, service or atmosphere, or because all else being equal I prefer to support local outfits over regional or national ones. That doesn’t mean I rule out chains altogether. Not even close. Some chains are quite excellent. (And as Fletch always reminds us, many so-called “chain” businesses are in fact locally owned and operated!) This morning I want to give a shout-out to one particular chain restaurant that lately has served The Wilsons well.

As per our tradition on Wednesday evenings, last night we went out to eat. We chose Red Robin (27th and Pine Lake) in large part because two of our kids happened to see it earlier in the day. Red Robin works out well for us for several reasons: our kids don’t have to be pin-drop quiet; there’s a decent selection of kids’ items with several reasonably healthy sides; there are a couple video games for emergency kid distraction; service is kid-friendly; and they do the kids’ menu / crayons / balloon trifecta. (Translation: if you aren’t kid-tolerant, stay away.)

One thing last night really made me pleased. Two of our kids have small appetites. We knew getting each one a meal would be a waste. Therefore we ordered a single kids’ meal for the both of them. The normal routine at restaurants is to receive the food on a single plate; ask for a separate plate; then try to divide up the food evenly so everybody’s share is fair. Last night, however, Red Robin scored a winner. They brought out two of everything, already pre-split into exact halves. As far as the kids knew they had each received their very own meal. No muss, no fuss. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet those who have ordered shared items at restaurants know most restaurants don’t handle such requests with grace. As a bonus, it just so happened that the meal they ordered (macaroni and cheese) was “bottomless”. That’s right, even though it was a split meal they still got to ask for seconds if they wanted to. Very cool.

So cheers to you, Red Robin. Here’s hoping more restaurants steal some of your ideas. In Red Robin’s honor I present this nifty mashup:

Ch-ch-changes

August 18, 2010 at 1:40pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It’s a big day for the Wilsons today. We sent our first child off to school today. Granted, he’s in second grade so it’s nothing new to him. But for The Missus and me it’s a first. Here’s to a successful school year!

Another child is notable for what he’s not doing today. He no longer has to go to a daycare that didn’t seem to suit him. Instead he’ll stay home with Robbie and The Missus. And by “stay home” I don’t actually mean stay home. They’ll have all sorts of adventures around town, though they will also do some preschool work here at the house.

As for Robbie, the biggest change for him will be having a new playmate around nearly all the time. He will love that. He may not love having to share mom’s attention. We’ll need to prepare ourselves for any side effects that may have. To Robbie’s credit, he has adapted to his two new “siblings” just fine so far. If anything he spoils them too much.

And The Missus and me? We’re just trying to keep our heads screwed on straight. Going so abruptly from one kid to three kids has been a challenge—oh how I wish I could tell about all the challenges!—but overall we’re getting along nicely. Perhaps most important is that our relationship is as strong as ever. That’s not always true in families that change size quickly and I can understand why. We wish we knew more about what the future holds, but then again who doesn’t?

Breakfast time; my hard boiled eggs are calling me.

Who’s Counting?

August 17, 2010 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m glad to see the Lancaster County Fair reached 140,000 visitors this year. That’s a pretty impressive number, even if it’s not the 50% increase over last year’s 107,000 that organizers had hoped for.

I just have one teeny, tiny little question: Who was counting? I would love to know the methodology used to come up with the “140,000” figure. Was it based on the number of tickets collected? If so they missed us and everybody we know. Was it based on the number of tickets distributed? If so they counted families I know who got tickets but didn’t attend. Was it based on the number of vehicles? If so that’s impressive considering none of the parking personnel seemed to carry a counter. Was it based on revenue generated? If so I’m curious what kind of math they used to make their estimate.

My point is not to criticize the fair or it’s organizers. I’m genuinely curious how they came up with their numbers. Based on my very limited experience at the fair I’d say it was a success regardless of the attendance figures, although I’ll repeat my assertion that I think 10 days is too long for a good, “dense” fair experience. I’m curious what kinds of improvements they’ll make for next year. Improving the fair while keeping it free is going to be a constant challenge.

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