One of These Calls is Not Like the Others

By: Mr. Wilson on March 10, 2014

"Here's a long drive. " It's gonna be, I believe " the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" - Russ Hodges, 1951 "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!" - Howard Cosell, 1973 "Looks, uncorks a deep one toward the end zone, Phelan is down there (Oh he got it!) did he get it (he got it!) Yes! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown Boston College! He did it! He did it! Flutie did it!" - Dan Davis, 1984 "He's all the way home! Holy Moly, man, woman and child did that put them in the aisles! Johnny the Jet Rodgers just tore ‘em loose from their shoes!" - Lyell Bremser, 1971 "It's time to twerk! Let's go dancin'!" - Kent Pavelka, last night

Where in Lincoln is this?

By: Mr. T on February 17, 2014
wil22014 Sorry folks, it has been quite a long time since we have had a Where in Lincoln is this entry. I was out of town for a good chunk of the winter, and then got hit with several major technology challenges and various projects. In any case, here is the first entry for 2014. Welcome spring! EDIT: Solved!

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Thumbs-Up For Schools

By: Mr. Wilson on February 12, 2014
Voters gave LPS a thumbs-up yesterday when they approved a $153 million bond issue by a 2-to-1 margin. The bond issue covers a variety of improvements around the district: a new elementary school; a new middle school; a new "career center" in partnership with Southeast Community College; and a slew of smaller projects at schools around town. Folks who opposed complained on various fronts, but they didn't have much to be sour about. The bond issue doesn't change the property tax rate, so no tax increase is involved. And contrary to opponent complaints about how the timing of the vote would suppress turnout, the 36% response rate by voters was a full 50% higher than turnout for the last LPS special election in 2006. Of those who did vote, 64% favored the bond issue. Although this bond issue went relatively smoothly for LPS, it's not all sunshine and unicorns for the district. Buildings will always continue to age; technology issues will continue to increase; and battles over academic outcomes, teacher performance, and related factors will continue to present challenges. And whether we like to think about it or not, Lincoln's growth suggests that a new high school -- or expansion of existing schools -- isn't too far away. In other words, after a short round of celebrations, folks at LPS don't exactly get to rest. They've got to work hard to earn their next victory with voters.

Taking Lincoln’s Pulse

By: Mr. Wilson on January 24, 2014
A coalition of many of Lincoln's charitable organizations has released a new report called Vital Signs. It contains data about the City in seven key areas: Community Profile, Economy and Workforce, Basic Needs, Education, Health, Safety, and Community Involvement and Culture. The report was created to provide Lincolnites with key information that helps illustrate how Lincoln is doing well -- and how it isn't. Understanding where Lincoln and Lincolnites are slipping is critical. We often hear about the latest Top 10 list that features Lincoln, and that's great. But we're a community of over a quarter million people, and many of us aren't doing so hot. As GI Joe told us, knowing about these things is half the battle. I encourage you to browse through the report. Which facts surprise you? Did the report get anything wrong? Hat tip: Nikkidemas

Bunners is Done

By: Mr. Wilson on January 22, 2014
Zach sent me an email to let me know that Bunners has closed. It was too-briefly located in the former El Sitio location on Van Dorn Street. (Coincidentally, El Sitio also recently closed its new location at 48th and Pioneers.) I never did get a chance to give Bunners a try. It sounded like the sort of place that might pick up a neighborhood following. I guess not. This is where we wonder what's coming next for that building at 17th and Van Dorn. It's an unusual spot. It has "neighborhood gem" written all over it, and indeed that's the role El Sitio filled for years. But gaining traction in a relatively low-traffic environment like that is going to be tough for any restaurant short of a Chick-fil-a. Unless ... There's a rumor floating around that The Normandy, currently located in the Railyard Market, is interested in other locations. I'm not sure if that means an additional location or moving the whole operation. I suspect either one could work. Regardless, they might find themselves a nice little niche nestled quietly near the Country Club neighborhood. They of course would have to consider the different traffic patterns, lunch vs. dinner crowds, and so on. It's an interesting possibility. What else would be a good fit in Bunners' former home?


By: Mr. Wilson on January 21, 2014
Over the weekend, Robbie coined the word "sunflakes" to describe the flecks of dust you can see floating in a sunbeam. I had never heard the word before and I really like it, so I figured I'd share it with you all. I plan to use the word from now on. It's better than thinking about all the stuff that dust is made out of.

That’ll Happen

By: Mr. Wilson on January 16, 2014
Skeeter Barnes is no more. Not only has the restaurant closed (boo!) but the building has been bulldozed as well. I'm going to miss that place. But enough mourning. The rumor mill says a Chick-fil-a is going into that spot. Apparently that's super exciting. The whole CFA experience is a bit underwhelming to me, but to each their own. But that's just a rumor anyway, so don't get your hopes up. Speaking of rumors, maybe they'll put a Costco in there. It's a nice, in-town location that's much easier to get to than the Sam's on 87th. Lincolnites would go nuts for a Costco. Or maybe a Cheesecake Factory or PF Chang's. I could see either one of those going over well. Lincoln's average BMI would shoot up a full point within a year. Or heck, as long as we're dreaming, maybe the City Council will end its decades of anti-competitive policies and we'll wind up with a nice 24 screen theater. If there's anything Lincoln needs, it's more places to buy $6 Junior Mints. It could happen.

This Project is Near Golds

By: Mr. Wilson on January 14, 2014
I don't know if anybody else is as excited as I am about the housing and retail project going into the block bounded by 10th, 11th, M, and N Streets. It was approved yesterday. Hopefully that means this time, unlike seven years ago, the project actually moves forward. I'm a big proponent of development in that part of Downtown. The northern edge is always going to be active thanks to its proximity to UNL. The west is the Haymarket, which is obviously doing just fine. On the east side you've got Antelope Valley which, although it isn't exactly booming with new activity, has received a nice facelift and has a couple projects in the works. But the area around this project isn't particularly lively or attractive. Fixing up an entire block at once will do wonders for the area. Who knows, maybe this project will spur other activity in the area. And maybe, if we're lucky, some heavy machinery will "accidentally" destroy the fugly 233 Building (aka the former police station) during construction.

The Case for Cameras

By: Mr. Wilson on January 9, 2014

I don't know who's right or who's wrong in this case -- a man, a double amputee, is suing LPD for stuff he alleges happened during a traffic stop -- though I do have my suspicions. The fact is I wouldn't have to have suspicions at all if the police officers on scene had been outfitted with cameras. Heck, in this situation even audio would be a huge help. There's no good reason why every police interaction -- and certainly those involving pursuit or drawn weapons -- shouldn't be recorded. Recordings protect officers and the public in the very definition of a win-win situation. I'm not sure just how much video recording LPD does at this point. Public Safety Director Tom Casady has discussed public place cameras on occasion, and he understands the value of video in police work. But to my knowledge LPD doesn't record most interactions with suspects. Several police departments around the country have fitted officers with various types of cameras. In one California city, putting cameras on officers led to an 88% drop in complaints against officers over 12 months, and officers wearing cameras were half as likely to use force during an arrest. Clearly cameras make an impact. Don't mistake my desire for cameras on every cop with a larger desire for an expansion of the surveillance state. Quite the opposite, in fact. The need for recordings of police interactions is about balancing power in a very specific component of the relationship between police and those they serve. Much could be written about that, but let's keep it simple: minimizing he-said-she-said lawsuits like this is a good thing for everybody. I wonder what the general public's opinion of this sort of thing is. My guess is that they more or less support the idea right up until they're asked to pay for it. That's a lot of cameras, not to mention all of the secondary costs associated with data retention. The dollars add up pretty quickly. Fortunately LPD seems to be relatively tech savvy so hopefully they have a good foundation for managing an influx of video. I wonder what you all think. Should LPD go all Robocop and record all or certain types of interactions?

Monkeys and Bananas

By: Mr. Wilson on January 8, 2014
Many many years ago when I was in elementary school, my teacher decided to test the class by sending us home with a math problem that was far above our heads. It was a just-for-fun challenge that we knew we probably wouldn't be able to solve. In retrospect, I think it was just a ruse to occupy us with busywork at home that night. It worked. I stared at that stupid problem for hours but I didn't make much progress. It required algebra, see, and I had never heard of such a thing. I did make some progress inventing an extremely primitive sort of algebra on my own, but it wasn't getting me very far. Finally I showed the problem to my father and he sat down to work. He wrote out some equations, did some sort of voodoo, and before I knew it he had an answer. It took him a while to convince me that it was the correct answer, but eventually I understood that all those numbers, letters, and symbols proved his point. I want to share the problem with you. Can you figure it out? Here it is: A rope over the top of a fence has the same length on each side, and weighs one-third of a pound per foot. On one end hangs a monkey holding a banana, and on the other end a weight equal to the weight of the monkey. The banana weighs 2 ounces per inch. The length of the rope in feet is the same as the age of the monkey, and the weight of the monkey in ounces is as much as the age of the monkey's mother. The combined ages of the monkey and its mother are 30 years. One-half the weight of the monkey, plus the weight of the banana is one-fourth the sum of the weights of the rope and the weight. The monkey's mother is one-half as old as the monkey will be when it is three times as old as its mother was when she was one-half as old as the monkey will be when it is as old as its mother will be when she is four times as old as the monkey was when it was twice as old as its mother was when she was one-third as old as the monkey was when it was as old as its mother was when she was three times as old as the monkey was when it was one-fourth as old as it is now. How long is the banana?

As LPS Goes, We Go

By: Mr. Wilson on January 6, 2014
My family interacts with several businesses and organizations that have outsourced their decision to keep their doors open to Lincoln Public Schools. If LPS closes for foul weather, the businesses and organizations close too. It's a simple approach that saves them the headache of having to make an often difficult decision. Fair enough. The thing is, though, that folks at many of these organizations spend a whole lot of time bitching about their policy once it goes into effect. Today is no exception. LPS cancelled classes because of the bitter cold. As a result, two businesses we were going to interact with today have been "forced" by their own policies to close as well. Both of them resent it. And they should! They've inconvenienced themselves and their customers for no good reason. Cold weather has no impact whatsoever on either of these businesses' operations or their customers' ability to arrive safely and on schedule. This isn't a snowstorm, it's an excuse to say "Sure is cold out there today!" to everyone you see today. That's hardly worth locking doors. This isn't the first time this has happened, either. It happens every single year, sometimes multiple times depending on the type of winter we have. I wish fewer businesses would implement the "as LPS goes, we go" policy. It's relevant for some, of course, but not for most. Critical business decisions like when you open your doors should be based on what's good for your business, not what's good for a public school system. In most cases the two have very little in common. As I typed this, one of the businesses we work with called. They're going to open today after all. Make of that what you will.
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