Money Runs Short at 48th and O

By: Mr. Wilson on September 15, 2005
Expected federal funding for the 48th & 'O' redevelopment didn't pan out. 48th & 'O' is incredibly valuable property (blighted designation aside). Why are tax dollars needed to support the project anyway?

On the Record: Theater Policy Must Go

By: Mr. Wilson on September 15, 2005
It excites me that the City Council is considering dumping the city's ridiculous movie theater policy, which prohibits theaters with more than six screens outside the Downtown area. I don't think the Council will actually change the policy, mind you. Good public policy will once again take a back seat to emotion and hysteria. Besides, the Council has to somehow justify that great boondoggle known as The Grand Theater. I'm not anti-Downtown. On the contrary, those who know me -- and those who have read my thoughts here on Lincolnite over time -- know that I love Downtown. I am one of Downtown Lincoln's biggest supporters. But it is not in the city's interests to use artificial props to support Downtown at the expense of greater opportunities for economic development elsewhere. Downtown Lincoln can support itself. It's thriving. People want to live, shop, and work Downtown. That's what we've been told, anyway. By Mayor Seng. By the City Council. By Polly McMullen and the Downtown Lincoln Association. If that is true -- if it's not just a mass delusion among city leaders -- then any policy that restricts growth outside of Downtown is a willful and deliberate fraud, implicitly (if not explicitly) designed to unreasonably restrict Lincoln's economic growth. If it is not true that Downtown Lincoln is booming, then Lincolnites are being lied to and led to lend the power of government to various activities based on false pretenses. The reality of the situation is much more complicated than that simple dichotomy can portray, but its hyperbole doesn't render it useless. It marks the beginning of some good thinking exercises. If Downtown Lincoln is doing so well, why not let the market do its thing? If it is not d oing well, why are Lincolnites being told otherwise? And if it's not doing well, isn't that instructive of Lincolnites' willingness to support certain types of development in certain parts of town over others? Consider: Lincolnites have been told for several years that the housing market in Downtown Lincoln is booming. My impression is that it is healthy, but I wonder just how booming it really is. If there is so much demand Downtown, why did the developers of The Option decrease the number of units in their project by over 65%, as announced today in the Journal Star? Don't developers in a booming marketplace usually increase the size of their projects? Lincoln's theater policy also effectively supports a monopoly on behalf of the Douglas Theater Company. For the most part, Douglas does a good job in Lincoln. But they could be better, and they would be if they were forced to by market pressures. Or perhaps Douglas would run a multiplex built on the city's fringes. If that happens, it will show just how little faith Douglas has in The Grand, the theater they promised so much of only a year ago. Lincoln's Downtown theater policy is restricting real economic growth opportunities for the city as a whole on behalf of a small portion of the city that isn't living up to its hype. It's time to remove the economic growth restrictions placed upon Lincoln by the theater policy, and to stop providing government-enforced monopoly status for Douglas Theaters.

Judge: No Pledging Allegiance in Schools

By: Mr. Wilson on September 15, 2005
I can't wait to see, hear, and read the conservative reaction to yet another judge declaring the Pledge of Allegiance in schools unconstitutional, all because some Congressmembers doped up on anti-commie fever decided in 1954 to slap "under God" between "one nation" and "indivisible". Let the thrashing and wailing about "activist judges" and "America-hating liberals" begin. Or they could just excise the controversial phrase and put this stupid issue to rest. Nah.

“We’ve pared it down pretty good”

By: Mr. Wilson on September 14, 2005
Trent Lott is hilarious:
Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."
Too bad there's no impeachment procedure for delusions. Fortunately, not every Congressmember is on crack:
"This is hardly a well-oiled machine," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."
Whole thing here.

Date Night

By: Mr. Wilson on September 14, 2005
Each Wednesday evening The Missus and I have a "date night." Typically we just go somewhere to eat and then go home and watch a movie, play a couple rounds of Scrabble, or take Daisy for a walk. Occasionally we get more adventurous, but the real point is that we don't schedule anything that would conflict with date night. I bet we've only missed date night five times over the past couple years. Some of our best conversations have come on date night. Heck, I think we even made the big decision on date night. The Missus and I have a habit of being a bit indecisive when it comes to choosing a place to eat on date night. So today I'm going to give you all a say. Where should The Missus and I eat tonight? Should we enjoy the fine service at Lazlo's? (Downtown or South?) Is Olive Garden featuring a special we ought to try? How 'bout a little lamb at The Parthenon? Maybe a cheese frenchee and chocolate shake at Don & Millie's? Or crab cakes at Beacon Hills? Fire away with your suggestions!

Osborne: No New Taxes

By: Mr. Wilson on September 14, 2005
Gubernatorial candidate Tom Osborne has come out in favor of tax cuts as a way to boost Nebraska's economy. In particular, he is no fan of a 7.2% increase in state spending this year. A tax cut sounds great, but I will need to see more details before I can say that Osborne isn't just blowing smoke. Among Osborne's priority projects are outmigration, education in entrepreneurship, increased venture capital financing, economic development tax credits, development of bioscience, distance learning, tourism development, and hunting promotion, all of which will likely require increases in state spending to address. To what is Osborne willing to give the budget axe? The short Journal Star article does not address two important facts about the state's 7.2% spending increase. First, some state expenses can't be touched. Medicare and Medicaid, for example, are (nearly) untouchable, and the expenses associated with each are climbing rapidly. Second, the 7.2% increase came after several very lean budget years. One could argue -- I'm not making the argument, I'm just presenting it -- that the increase was a one-time "catch-up" increase that does not reflect a trend in state spending habits. How would Osborne respond to that argument? What, specifically, would he have done to prevent such a large spending increase? I look forward to learning more about all the candidates' plans for Nebraska. But I hope we get some specifics as the campaign moves along.

Good News! No Refugees!

By: Mr. Wilson on September 14, 2005
Rows and rows of cots at St. Mark's United Methodist ChurchLincoln has officially received a stand down order; we won't be seeing any large influxes of Katrina refugees. That's great news. Not for Lincoln, but for the refugees themselves. Can you imagine having to live and sleep in cramped, miserable conditions like those you see in the picture? And to think the refugees were supposed to be thankful for the privilege of sleeping in close quarters with 100 strangers. The best thing that can happen to Katrina's victims is that they be allowed to go home as soon as possible and rebuild their lives. Had they had to come to Nebraska to live for an indeterminate amount of time, their recovery -- and indeed their suffering -- would only have been drawn out even longer.

Almost Perfect

By: Mr. Wilson on September 13, 2005
Thanks to Chris Pederick the indispensible Web Developer Toolbar has been updated to version 0.9.4 which is compatible with Firefox 1.5 Beta 1. Also this morning I upgraded to Adblock Plus That leaves me with only a couple minor extensions that don't work with Firefox 1.5 Beta 1, and I can live without each one of them. Minus a couple very annoying print preview bugs, I am now quite content with the browser formerly known as Deer Park.

Salary Survey Shenanigans

By: Mr. Wilson on September 13, 2005
I haven't been following the salary survey debacle very closely, but fortunately LIBA is keeping Lincoln accountable. I'm not sure why LIBA is demanding that the City Council conduct an investigation, though. An independent investigation seems more appropriate. The background, if you aren't familiar with the situation, is this: The city's personnel department conducted a study that was eventually used to justify substantial pay raises for 139 of Lincoln's highest paid city workers. It turns out, however, that a personnel department staffer misrepresented some of the data used in the study. It has not been made clear if this "misrepresentation" was intentional. Nor has it been made clear how much that misrepresentation affected the outcome of the study. (A good newspaper already would have conducted its own investigation and uncovered that information. The Journal Star, however, is not an especially good newspaper.) Oddly enough, I have a hard time being too cynical about all of this. (And this from a guy who has been really cynical of late!) Assuming the snafu really can be traced back to a single employee, there are two simple outcomes: if he intentionally misrepresented the data, he should be fired; if he misrepresented the data by virtue of incompetence, he should be fired. I suppose there's the third possibility that he made an honest-to-goodness mistake. In that case, his work should be carefully scrutinized and he should "pay" some sort of reparations, perhaps in the form of attending some sort of training. I hesitate to include this possibility because it can far too easily be used as a crutch to avoid firing an incompetent bureaucrat. But it would be unfair of me not to. One can argue that there needs to be tighter o versight over each city employee's work, but that will only lead to more red tape, not greater competence. Certainly the checks and balances in place to prevent these sort of mistakes need to be reevaluated and modified, but an all-out overhaul would be unnecessary. Again, my conclusions rely on the assumption that the goof in this situation was made by a single individual. If that assumption turns out to be false, I will rethink my position. For now, though, cynicism toward the entire personnel department -- or the city government as a whole -- is unwarranted. On this matter, anyway.

The Woodlands

By: Mr. Wilson on September 13, 2005
Another humorously named subdivision has been proposed in Southeast Lincoln. The Woodlands will feature "about 1,000 homes and 450 apartments on about 360 acres on the south side of Yankee Hill Road between 70th and 84th streets." (Question for the LJS: Are apartments not homes?) The subdivision will also feature 600,000 square feet of retail and office space, described by developer Rick Krueger as "mostly neighborhood uses," by which he means no big box retailers. It would be nice to see a development actually integrate the retail and office space into the neighborhood, but I suspect that space will be relegated to the periphery, as is the norm in suburbia.
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