I Have a Vision

By: Mr. Wilson on January 31, 2007
Mr. T and I attended last night's 2015 Vision community meeting at Lincoln East High School. I didn't count, but I bet attendance was in the 200-250 range. I have all sorts of reactions, but let me begin with the most important one: I am incredibly glad I went and I strongly encourage you to go to one of the remaining meetings:
  • Tonight: Lincoln North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd St.
  • Wednesday, February 7: Scott Middle School, 2200 Pine Lake Road.
The meetings are structured like so:
  • 5:00-5:30 -- Registration and mingling among images of the proposals
  • 5:30-6:00 -- Introduction and presentation
  • 6:15-7:15 -- Small group discussions
  • 7:30-8:30 -- Panel Q&A
Valentino's pizza and water are available. Big eaters (like me) might want to bring along an additional snack. I was afraid last night's big turnout would consist primarily of complainers. It didn't. Most of the people were there to learn, to ask questions, and to discuss. It was great. Sure, there were a few people who only know how to complain for complaining's sake. But they didn't run the show. The opening presentation by Kent Seacrest was informative and hopeful. It nicely set the tone for the rest of the evening, both answering and generating questions. It was highly visual, giving the attendees a good mental picture of how the pieces fit together. Seacrest really tried to sell the idea that the Vision Group honestly cares about Lincolnites' opinions about what should be a priority, and what can sit on the back burner. As the night went on, it became obvious that Lincolnites are very skeptical of that claim. I think the Vision Group will find that the public's inability to vote on the Antelope Valley Project has left a little bitterness and skepticism behind, and the Group will have to overcome that resentment. We broke into small groups for relatively open-ended discussions. I was in group #11. We represented a mix of ages (infant to high school to retired), incomes, and interests. We had: Quiet Lady; Talkative Skeptical Guy; Small Business Owner Guy; the Media Duo; and others. Curiously, our group never once discussed the financial aspect of the Vision. At the end, our moderator told us that pretty much every group the previous night had focused primarily on money. Frankly, I'm glad we avoided the topic. It helped us focus on what Lincoln can do, rather than what we can't. We discussed a few topics in our hour together. One gentleman was annoyed at the Vision's Downtown emphasis. He argued that Lincoln is much bigger than Downtown's one square mile. Other group members pointed out that a strong core makes for a more robust city overall, but he was unsold. He has a point; even if one agrees that a strong Downtown helps make a city great, the almost singular focus is probably a mistake. Most of our group's members were OK with moving State Fair Park out to 84th Street, but there was a strong desire to explore a transition plan during which UNL shares facilities (new, old, or renovated) with the Fair. The perception that the plan to move the Fair is "all or nothing" didn't go over well. The proposed "research corridor" along UNL's eastern edge (and along the Antelope Valley) was very popular. No, it was extremely popular. Several of our group's members would go out with shovels right now if it would help get the process started. No ifs, ands, or buts: our group wants UNL and the city to aggressively pursue public and private research opportunities in the corridor. Now. Sure, the Antelope Valley Project isn't finished. But plans should be ready to kick into gear the day the land is available. Lastly, our group was unanimous that trying to build an arena to compete directly with Omaha's Qwest Center is wrong. We do not want to butt heads with Omaha, and Kansas City, and Council Bluffs, and Des Moines, and Wichita. (Funny story with a good lesson attached: one of our group's members told about how he had recently been in Wichita. He was in a high-rise, when the man he was with said "Look over there. See those railroad tracks? That's where we're going to put our arena. Well, where we hope to anyway. And next to it we hope to find somebody to build a convention center and hotel. You see, there's this vision...") Our group agreed that Pershing is a piece of junk and should be replaced, rather than remodeled. We were fine with the proposed location of the arena, and we were fine with many of the ideas about how it should fit into Lincoln and the Haymarket. But nobody wanted an 18,000 seat arena. Everybody wanted a smaller, kick-ass, 12,000 seat arena. We were fine with not getting the biggest events; our group wanted to dominate the mid-sized events. The final panel Q&A wasn't especially helpful or informative, mainly because the questions asked generally were not short and to the point. Still, it was nice to hear the panel's take on several issues. On the topic of money, the panel was non-committal. It's obvious they are afraid to quote a figure that will end in the word "billion" for fear of freaking out Lincolnites. But the alternative is freaking out Lincolnites by not giving them a number they can hold onto like a security blanket. The Vision Group can't win on the topic of money. The panel was also nice in that it "humanized" the members of the Vision Group. They are just regular ol' (rich and powerful) Lincolnites who want to get things done rather than sitting and waiting for government to do everything. Good for them. Unfortunately, since they are human, they probably don't have superpowers. Superpowers sure would come in handy for these projects. A couple notes to the event organizers, if any happen to be reading this. First, teach panelists how to properly use a microphone. I was in the second row and I could barely hear a couple of the responses. Second, make the question-askers ask a question (rather than editorializing) and sit down. I would love to hear more Lincolnites' opinions, but not in the middle of the Q&A. Third, you aren't going to learn anything useful from your questionnaire. Mr. T and I, for example, interpreted the instructions in different ways. I think you'll find that you end up with a whole bunch of numbers that don't mean anything. If you want to find out, for example, how Lincolnites prioritize the ten pillars and why they prioritize them that way, your current method will fall flat. I have some suggestions, or contact methodology pros at the University for assistance. I will say it one last time: the event as a whole was incredibly valuable. If you have questions (or answers) about the Vision Group's proposals, get to one of the meetings. You will be glad you did.

Hy-Vee: The Undead

By: Mr. Wilson on January 31, 2007
The proposed Hy-Vee at 50th and O just won't die. Council member and candidate for Mayor Ken Svoboda is pushing a reconsideration of the project by trying to get area property owners to sign off on a cheaper version of the 50th Street extension. One of the reasons area property owners balked was that they perceived that the street project contained too many "extras", thus dramatically raising its price. If Svoboda can swing this, it will make a nice feather in his cap that certainly won't hurt his election chances.

UNL Child Care is No More

By: Mr. Wilson on January 31, 2007
After years of trying to find a permanent location for it, the UNL Child Care Center is getting booted from its temporary location at the YWCA. The Center has to be out by May 31, but UNL is closing it April 27. Chancellor Perlman addressed the issue in a letter to the UNL community:

Read more…

Williamson “Left Holding the Bag”?

By: Mr. Wilson on January 30, 2007
Jim Williamson says he was left holding the bag when the City couldn't come up with $2 million to finish off a hoped-for property sale. It sounds like another story illustrating Lincoln's ability to make life difficult for businesses. That's how the commenters on the LJS website seem to interpret it. Williamson is even pondering a lawsuit. I see it differently. The City fulfilled its obligations in regard to the property it did purchase from Williamson. Though the City indicated interest in purchasing additional property, no contracts were signed. When the necessary $2 million failed to materialize, nobody was any worse off than if the City had never expressed interest at all. So what's the problem? With no contracts in hand, it sounds like Mr. Williamson's complaining is baseless. If he wanted assurances, he should have gotten them in writing.

For the Last Time: Chuck Hagel is Not a Liberal!

By: Mr. Wilson on January 30, 2007
I'm getting tired of this, I really am. A good chunk of Nebraska seems to think that Chuck Hagel is a liberal. Maggie Seeman is the latest:
Senator Betrayer (formerly Hagel) should register as a Democrat; he is a regular liberal. The terrorists really love liberals. During World War II, his kind was held for treason.
Maggie -- and everybody else out there who thinks that Chuck Hagel is a liberal -- you're a fool. Even if we accept the extremely dubious proposition that being against a war is an inherently liberal thing to do, one issue does not a liberal make. To wit:
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 0% by NARAL
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 87% by the US COC
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 36% by the NEA
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 0% by the LCV
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 100% by the Christian Coalition
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 92% by CATO
  • Chuck Hagel is rated A by the NRA
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 12% by APHA
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 0% by SANE
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 8% by the AFL-CIO
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 22% by the ARA
  • Chuck Hagel is rated 78% by the NTU
  • And last but not least, Chuck Hagel votes with President Bush 95% of the time
Senator Chuck Hagel is most certainly not a liberal.

Two is Better Than One

By: Mr. Wilson on January 30, 2007
A 230,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter is too big for 84th and Adams, but two 175,000 square foot big box stores (yet to be named), plus another 150,000 square feet worth of smaller stores, are A-OK. Is Lincoln really so much better off this way that it was worth all the hassle to the developer to get this thing approved?

How Long Should We Talk?

By: Mr. Wilson on January 30, 2007
At what point should Lincoln say: Enough talk; let's vote and start doing something. I'm referring, of course, to the public aspect of the plans envisioned by the 2015 Vision Group. The Group can (and should) do whatever it wants to do with its own resources. But many of the Group's ideas will require assistance from the City -- which means you and I have a say. And boy do Lincolnites have a lot to say. If you were in charge, would you set a date by which we have to make a decision? Or would you let the conversation continue until a consensus emerges?

Your Chance to Participate

By: Mr. Wilson on January 30, 2007
Did you go to last night's 2015 Vision community meeting? If so, be sure to share your thoughts in the forum. I am going to tonight's meeting at Lincoln East. Look me up if you're there; I'll be the bald guy in khakis and a shortsleeve red shirt. And in case you've forgotten:
  • Today: Lincoln East High School, 1000 S. 70th St.
  • Wednesday: Lincoln North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd St.
  • Wednesday, February 7: Scott Middle School, 2200 Pine Lake Road.

The New Omaha.com is a Disappointment

By: Mr. Wilson on January 29, 2007
Omaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald's website, has finally gone live with its new look. (journalstar.com went live with its makeover a couple months ago.) On the plus side, it appears they dumped the stupid registration requirement, so now anybody can access their articles. (Bypassing the registration process was always easy, but still annoying, with BugMeNot.) Oops, an error message Then there are the negatives. None of the in-page advertisements load for me, so there are a half-dozen "The connection has timed out" messages across the screen. Not that I would see the ads anyway, thanks to Firefox's Adblock Plus extension. I did fire up the site in Internet Explorer 7, only to be attacked by not one but two popups. Are web developers seriously still using popups? Give me a break. And now I'm seeing an error message when I try to load the site. Darn first day gremlins. I have just given the new site a quick glance, but so far I'm not impressed. From a usability standpoint, the designers made it difficult to see a whole bunch of articles at once. Instead, the user has to click or scroll to get a feel for his options. Contrast that with JournalStar.com, where the user can, at a glance, see many headlines and features. Additionally, portions of Omaha.com are inaccessible to many special needs users. Some features require JavaScript (e.g. search), and many features require a visual browser (e.g. the primary navigation). Those are big no-nos for the website of a major newspaper. Your thoughts?


By: Mr. Wilson on January 29, 2007
Speak up about Lincoln's future:
  • Today: Lincoln High School, 2229 J St.
  • Tomorrow: Lincoln East High School, 1000 S. 70th St.
  • Wednesday: Lincoln North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd St.
  • Wednesday, February 7: Scott Middle School, 2200 Pine Lake Road.
Doors open at 5:00, presentations begin at 5:30, and you'll be out by 8:30. Afterwards, share your thoughts in the forum. FYI, Mr. T and I will be attending tomorrow's meeting at East.

Seven Days a Week

By: Mr. Wilson on January 29, 2007
I ended up working all weekend, right up until 11:30pm last night. I even missed out on dinner at my parents' house last night. I don't particularly enjoy missing out on the family time that locking oneself in one's office requires, but I do love pushing myself away from the keyboard at the end and saying "I'm finished, and it's good." This weekend's project involved developing some website member management solutions for a client in Canada. (One of two clients from Canada, actually. Apparently the "Eh Team" from up north has a thing for Nebraskans.) The project was nice in that it was difficult but doable, and I learned from it some lessons that I can apply to future projects. As it turns out I underbid the project (by about 30%), but with just a little work I should be able to repackage some of the elements into a sellable product to more than make up the difference. I'm not crazy about working seven days a week, but it's going to take that kind of effort for a while if I want my web development stuff to go anywhere. And I do. I really, really do. I would love to be able to do this stuff full-time...

Just Living The Dream…

By: Mr. T on January 27, 2007
Was listening to one of the great podcasts out there this morning: filmspotting - and they mentioned seeing a movie at the ongoing Sundance Festival: The Good Life - which apparently takes place in good ole Lincoln. The filmspotting review, by the way, is not very favorable.

Healthy Fair Food, All Year ‘Round

By: Mr. Wilson on January 27, 2007
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about The Midway Sweets & Treats, a new restaurant opening just north of O Street on 48th Street. They advertise hot dogs, cotton candy, shaved ice, caramel apples, and more. If they have fried Twinkies, I'm soooo there.

A Girl Like Me

By: Mr. Wilson on January 26, 2007
This video, "A Girl Like Me", is making the rounds right now. It's a short (7 minutes) documentary by Kiri Davis, a high school student. There are a lot of things I still don't "get" about race and racial identity in the United States. I can't wrap my head around some of the girls' comments in the film, for example. But several parts of the film are intriguing, and I can't help but think about how it all relates to Robert.


By: Mr. Wilson on January 26, 2007
TriAd is a simple game: I give you three adjectives, you tell me what I'm describing. All of the answers have something to do with Lincoln.
  1. Pink. Cheap. Gone.
  2. Left. Middle. Right.
  3. Straight. Alphabetical. Wider.
  4. Little. Stinky. Award-winning.
  5. Red. Kinetic. Steel.
  6. Artificial. Two-toned. Hallowed.
  7. Colorful. Garage. Office.
  8. Country. Hoarse? Green?
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