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Down South

October 28, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Hickman has unveiled a nifty plan for what they’re billing as a regional recreation and event complex. It’s a fun, ambitious plan that includes sports fields, a golf course, and even ... a drive-in movie theater? There’s a throwback for you.

If you aren’t familiar with Hickman, located about 15 minutes south of Lincoln on 68th Street, you may at least remember its most famous (former) resident, a horse named Peter Rabbit. Currently it’s a small town approaching 2,000 residents, but with Lincoln’s continued growth to the south, Hickman has been growing as well. The proposed complex is clearly intended to be a proactive move to give Hickman an advantage over other Lancaster County towns like Waverly.

Speaking of proactivity, I’ve long been curious why Cortland hasn’t more actively promoted itself similar to this. Cortland sits about halfway between Lincoln and Beatrice on Highway 77, a very convenient location on a nice, well-maintained highway. Hickman is much less convenient, relatively speaking. I suppose something similar could be said for Ceresco up north of town.

In any event, it’s nice to see that at least one area town isn’t going to just sit back and watch Lincoln take over. I hope this project turns out well.

It’s Like a New College View

October 27, 2010 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

South 48th Street through College View opened up this week. The project isn’t entirely finished, but at least traffic can now flow through the area. The street and streetscape have been significantly improved. There are left turn lanes and a center turn lane! They’ve been a long time coming. I’m a little disappointed that the city didn’t gamble and install back-in angled parking, instead opting for traditional angled parking. I think it could have been a fun—and potentially accident-preventing—experiment. On the other hand, Lincolnites have trouble with traffic experiments so perhaps that would have ended in disaster.

College View probably won’t look completely refurbished until next year when the grass comes in, but for now at least many traffic problems have been addressed.

Mayor Beutler to Propose Indoor Amusement Park

October 26, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I don’t know what Adam Hornung is smoking. Why oh why would he vote against the purchase of the Experian building? He complains that the ridiculously large space—a mere 15 times what the City was shopping for—is wasteful. Perhaps, but only in the eyes of somebody who lacks foresight. Mr. Hornung needs to think big.

Mayor Beutler thinks big. That’s how we know he’s not just going to use the Experian building for City offices. Oh no! He has more in mind than that. Consider all the things that will fit into the leftover space:

  • Bowling alley
  • Roller rink
  • Ice rink
  • Skate park
  • Miniature golf course
  • Go-kart track
  • Paintball arena
  • Climbing wall
  • Futsal fields
  • Basketball/volleyball courts
  • Racquetball courts
  • Playground

...and there will still be room left over! Can you imagine how awesome this place is going to be? And yet Mr. Hornung wants to halt the building purchase in order to maintain “the integrity of the [bidding] process”. Bah!

*sigh*

Bah indeed. The Experian building does seem like a “good” deal, but is it the best deal? We will never know since nobody else had a fair chance to offer up an alternative. The lesson going forward seems to be “Who cares what the City asks for, just throw everything at them and see what sticks”. That can hardly be expected to be good for anybody.

I wonder if this is a good chance to stop wasting a certain nice old building as simple storage space and instead put it to good use, perhaps on the private market, with its contents going to the Experian location.

Where in Lincoln is this?

October 25, 2010 at 10:43pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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Growing Like a Weed

October 25, 2010 at 1:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It’s Comprehensive Plan time again—didn’t we just do this?!—as Lincoln and Lancaster County plot their future to 2040. The public will have plenty of opportunities to chime in, but for now the general question is which of three growth patterns we prefer. There’s the Every-which-way Plan; the Go East, Young Man! Plan; and the Pack It In Plan.

Not that we’re stuck with whichever growth pattern we choose, of course. That’s why it seems like every major project announcement in Lincoln is accompanied by a catch such as “the Comprehensive Plan will need to be modified to accommodate this project”. And far more often than not it is, especially if the money is good.

One thing I would like to see in this round of the Comprehensive Plan is a thorough examination of how intra-town travel will be improved. Specifically, I would like to see plans for solid north-south and east-west “throughways”. Driving across town is difficult, as we all know, and traffic isn’t exactly going to decrease if we add 100,000 people over the next couple decades. Having a couple prioritized routes in both dimensions across the city would be hugely helpful, if unpopular with folks along the routes.

What are your goals with this round of comprehensive planning?

Anybody For a Pickle?

October 21, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Apparently Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe [warning: Flash website + obnoxious autoplaying music] is open at Centennial Mall and O in the corner location that has been empty for ages. I know nothing about Pickleman’s beyond what’s on the website—they’re open until 2am, they serve sandwiches and pizza, and they’re originally from Columbia, Missouri. If you happen to stop by, let us know what you think!

How ‘Bout Those Patriots?

October 20, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Yesterday I received a new card in the mail for one of my credit card accounts. As usual it required calling in to activate the card. The activation process is, of course, partially about security and partially about trying to get me to sign up for additional services or card features.

When I called last night I ended up on the line with a particularly friendly young man who did a nice job making his script seem less, well, scripted. Near the end he tried to sell me on a card upgrade. (A Visa “Signature” card, ooooh!) At that point he apparently had a lot of freedom to deviate from the script. Unfortunately for him it didn’t go so well. You see, apparently his elementary school teachers didn’t spend much time on the American geography portion of the curriculum. While trying to hype the card upgrade, he suddenly asked, “So how is New England today?”

“Uhh, what?” I awkwardly responded.

“I see you are from New England. How is the weather there today?” At that point it dawned on me what he was talking about. On his computer screen it said I was from NE. That’s New England, one of the fourteen original colonies. From then on I let him keep asking me about the state of New England, while all my answers were about Nebraska. It made for a bizarre conversation and I had a heck of a time not laughing. Boy, did he sure try hard to relate to me in the great state of New England.

In the end I had to break the news to him that I had no interest in the fancy new card he tried to sell me. He was disappointed—I think he thought I was a sure check on his quota sheet—but friendly to the end. At least now he knows that New England is a damn fine place to live. Perhaps one day he’ll come to visit.

It’s Our Problem Now

October 19, 2010 at 12:40pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Technically the JPA could still say no, but for all intents and purposes the Haymarket land that will one day host an arena is now in our hands. Any environmental problems in the area are now ours.

Cross your fingers.

Where in Lincoln is this?

October 18, 2010 at 1:10pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved.

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Buried in Saturday’s News

October 18, 2010 at 1:05pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

While most of Nebraska was distracted by a football game, HHS dropped a bombshell on Friday when it announced that the role of 450 children and family service specialists would be handed over to the state’s private foster care contractors by January 1. This is shocking, and potentially horrific, news.

I’ll start by saying that I’m not opposed to privatizing many or even most foster care services. The general concept is sound. Furthermore, one of the things holding back the privatization movement in Nebraska is that the contracting agencies have little power but many responsibilities. The result so far has been a tremendous amount of task duplication, and a lot of waiting around for HHS to act while the agencies (and everybody on down the line) have to sit and twiddle their thumbs. From that perspective, decreasing redundancy and increasing contractor power (with sufficient oversight, of course) seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Not so fast. The reality is that Nebraska is ill-prepared to make such a substantial move. HHS is still trying to figure out how to manage private contractors rather than doing the job itself. The contractors are still trying to figure out what their job is. Nobody has enough resources to do what they need to do. There’s no leadership, no communication, and extreme confusion. I don’t use this language very often here on Lincolnite, but if anything needs to be described as a gigantic clusterfuck, this is it.

The cynic in me wonders if the private contractors are deliberately being set up to fail. All but two already have. And yet the State wants to accelerate the rate of change? HHS will take its share of abuse for any negative outcomes, but the contractors will really get thrashed. The employees with whom I have interacted at KVC are good folks, yet they are drowning because the institution for which they work can’t keep up with the demands placed upon it. That’s not because [insert private contractor of your choice] “sucks” or because they’re corrupt, as many anonymous online commenters would like to believe. It’s because they’re taking on too much, too fast. Shame on them for not telling the State no, and shame on the State for failing to recognize chaos when it’s so apparent.

If I’m really being honest, I have to acknowledge that many cases won’t be drastically affected by this change no matter how ill-advised it may be. Simple, run-of-the-mill cases are easy enough for any reasonably-prepared organization to handle. But anybody with any experience with foster care knows that “simple” describes only a fraction of cases. Take the case of the two boys currently living with us. I obviously can’t give details, but this change will be positively catastrophic for our case. The case will lose a tremendous amount of institutional memory and critical, irreplaceable personal relationships. Our situation is not unique.

The Unicameral must step in. Governor Dave Heineman has shown zero leadership on foster care. (He hasn’t shown much leadership elsewhere either, but I digress.) HHS is making too many critical decisions too quickly and with too little input from stakeholders and the public. The best possible realistic scenario is that we get lucky and after some months of confusion, uncertainty, and stress we find that nobody has been screwed over too badly, aside from delays in many cases due to the changeover. In reality, we should expect to do real harm to children, families, and foster parents. Nothing in Nebraska’s history with foster care suggests anything different is likely.

I leave open the possibility that this will all go better than expected. History and common sense suggest otherwise.

Also, The Sun Still Comes Up Each Morning

October 18, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

LPD: Drivers still texting three months after law

The Rodent vs. the Renaissance Man

October 15, 2010 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Through a bit of a fluke, I ended up going to both Champions Fun Center (affiliated with daVinci’s) and Chuck E. Cheese this week for two different birthday celebrations. I won’t give each a full-scale review, but here’s a brief blurf on each along with my quick-and-dirty opinion of which I prefer.

We went to Champions on Wednesday for our oldest foster kid’s birthday. We ate pizza, played games, and went bowling. The pizza is labeled as daVinci’s, but it was definitely not up to the quality I would expect to find in a daVinci’s restaurant. It was boring. The game selection is OK, but there is a high proportion of gambling-style “games”, the sole purpose of which is to suck up tokens while youngsters give futile attempts to win the jackpot. Most games cost one token, but many cost more than that. My favorite game was a pirate-themed shoot-em-up that I played with Robbie. Bowling was fine, but the alley needed some TLC. Some of the prices are scary. $6.50 for go-karts? Yeesh, that’ll add up quickly.

Last night we went to Chuck E. Cheese for a friend’s birthday party. More pizza, more games. The pizza was roughly the same quality as the pizza at Champions. Compared to the crappiness of the pizza at Chuck’s (and Showbiz) in my memory, that’s impressive. The salad bar was well-maintained and relatively well-stocked, as if the restaurant is tacitly apologizing to adults for the pizza. The game and “ride” selection was a bit more varied than at Champions. But here’s the biggie: every game costs one token. That’s a huge plus. My favorite game of the night was Deal or No Deal simply because I won the jackpot—50 tickets, woohoo!—on my first and only play.

Overall, I’ve got to hand the win to the rodent. Chuck E. Cheese was significantly cheaper (especially if you use coupons, which you should). It was clean, it was quieter, and it was definitely aiming for a target audience that includes all three of my boys (ages 8, 4, 3). Champions obviously caters to an older crowd, which is fine, and to a certain extent I’m comparing apples to oranges. Still, we’ll be going with Chuck for the foreseeable future. Then again, considering how rarely we go to these sorts of places (knock on wood) it’s not much of an issue.

Drugs on the Corner

October 15, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Have you been paying attention to the plan to put in a CVS at 27th and Old Cheney? It’s an interesting proposal for a number of reasons.

The proposal is notable to me because I consider that corner to be on the edge of my old neighborhood. I grew up not far from there so I know the area well. Currently there’s a unique, white office building on the corner, along with a fair amount of green space and trees. Replacing all that with a CVS will be a significant change, to say the least.

You may recall that a couple years ago residents just a block up the road pitched a fit about a proposed nursing home that they felt would dirty up their neighborhood. Most of their claims were downright silly and fortunately the facility was eventually built. Today it’s an inoffensive, well-maintained property.

This situation is different. The difference between a boring office building and a CVS is stark. If I were one of those neighbors, this is where I would put my energy. The odds of stopping the project are slim but hey, it’s worth a shot. Maybe neighbors could get a few extra trees built into the plan. Or if they really throw a fit, maybe they could even get the developer to chip in some cash to do something tasteful with the empty lot across the street. It’s worth a shot.

I don’t have anything against CVS, and I have to admit that 27th and Old Cheney is a decent location for that sort of thing. I just happen to like the current building, and if I were a neighbor I’d be annoyed with the significant change of use. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a fuss.

Meet the Candidates

October 14, 2010 at 12:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I haven’t been very political here on Lincolnite so far this fall. That’s not unusual. I do tend to rally for or against certain ideas or issues, but I typically don’t get too rah-rah over candidates.

That being said, there’s an election coming up in November and you most certainly want to be educated when you go to the polls. I encourage you to check out the Journal Star’s Voter’s Guide for basic information on the candidates and issues. Note that there are two constitutional amendments (one, two) and two City matters on the ballot. I’ll have more thoughts on those issues—and maybe even a candidate or two—at a later date.

The Big Crimes

October 13, 2010 at 12:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

If you haven’t already been following it, be sure to check out Police Chief Tom Casady’s ongoing list of the most significant crimes in Lincoln’s history (in his opinion). He’s up to number 7 right now.

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