Friday Five

By: Mr. Wilson on January 26, 2007
As I watch the sun rise on another beautiful day in Lincoln, I've begun to think about 2007 and all the things that might happen this year. And so that forms the background for today's Friday Five. Here are five questions about the remainder of 2007. What are your answers?
  1. The Star Ship 9 has fallen. Is there enough developer interest to give us the much-hyped 25-story high-rise? Or will we get something less?
  2. Lincolnites love to complain about the weather. Will the groundhog see his shadow next week?
  3. Who will be the next mayor of Lincoln?
  4. Over at the Capitol, a statewide smoking ban is being debated. Will Senators pass the ban before the session ends?
  5. How 'bout them Huskers? Where will the Husker basketball, baseball, softball, football, and volleyball teams end up this year?

Fighting Bird Flu in Lincoln

By: Mr. Wilson on January 26, 2007
Sure would be nice if Lincoln could play a role in the bird flu fight. It would make an excellent advertisement for the value that the University of Nebraska Technology Park brings to town, and it certainly won't hurt UNL's efforts to build a research corridor near the Beadle Center once the Antelope Valley Project wraps up.

38 and Counting

By: Mr. Wilson on January 26, 2007
Wow, 38 comments. That's a record. Sure, it's mostly the same few people going back and forth, but at least there's an exchange going on. To the participants: thanks for keeping it (mostly) civil. I'm glad to see that folks with *ahem* vastly different opinions make Lincolnite a destination.

More on the Smoking Ban

By: Mr. Wilson on January 24, 2007
The Omaha World-Herald has a good piece online about the financial impact of Lincoln's smoking ban. I also found an online version of the report (PDF) by UNL's Bureau of Business Research. I want to add a couple thoughts to my earlier post. Most importantly, I can't think of any good reason why the Journal Star would have left out of its article the fact that according to the analysis Lincoln "lost" over 600 jobs as a result of the smoking ban. 600 jobs is a lot of jobs. I put "lost" in quotation marks because it's not that our employment numbers went down, but that they did not rise as quickly as they "should" have, statistically speaking. You will have to read the report for yourself to decide if you agree with the methodology that arrived at that conclusion. Incidentally, Tobacco Free Lincoln regards the loss of 600 jobs as "modest". They have an odd definition of modest. The resulting financial impact of 600 fewer jobs is in the millions of dollars. I tried to calculate the effect, but the report doesn't define what a "job" is. For illustration purposes though, if a "job" is a full-time (2,000 hours annually) position paying $7.00/hour, the loss of 600 such incomes comes to $8.4 million. Extrapolate from there as you will.

A New Skyline

By: Mr. Wilson on January 24, 2007
Today's feature in the Journal Star talks a bit about the proposed high-rise for the former Star Ship location on Q Street. I'm skeptical about the likelihood of the project ending up as grand (pun intended) as the city's vision, but dang, wouldn't that be awesome? A new 25-story high-rise would be a huge boon to Downtown, and to Lincolnites' faith in the city's economic development efforts. Wash any skepticism from your mind for a second and think about it...

A Bad Nebraskan

By: Mr. Wilson on January 24, 2007
Am I a bad Nebraskan for not being giddy about President Bush's call in his State of the Union Address for substantially more biofuels? Nebraskans are supposed to be singing a happy song because ethanol is great for the state. But I'm just not sold on ethanol, or at least not corn-based ethanol. Ethanol is more expensive per mile, and producing it takes a ton of water. Plus, diverting so much acreage to energy instead of food (or from other crops to corn) will raise food prices on countless products. I want to be pro-ethanol. It's the Cornhusker-y thing to do. But somebody is going to have to convince me. Now, if President Bush had said "We need to make substantial investments in nuclear power to ensure low-cost, safe, environmentally-friendly energy for decades to come" I would have fainted. Then I would have applauded like mad.

The Smoking Ban’s Costs

By: Mr. Wilson on January 24, 2007
In news that really oughtn't come as a surprise, a local study found that Lincoln's smoking ban caused a drop in income for many local businesses -- bars, in particular. The study's findings give lie to the claim by some of the ban's supporters that there would be no such drop. The ban's supporters will argue that the improved quality of life was worth every penny. And they are right, for their definition of "quality of life". Me, I include an individual's fundamental right to do what he chooses to his body under my definition of "quality of life", so I would argue that the costs far outweighed the benefits. If I had my druthers, the "ban" wouldn't have been a governmental ban, but one driven by consumers. The current rush by businesses to ditch trans fats is a good example of a consumer-driven ban that's working extraordinarily well. (Let's not get into the matter of whether it's a good idea to drop trans fats in favor of that scorn of the 90's, saturated fats.) I still believe a coordinated drive by consumers could have forced most local businesses to halt smoking on their premises within a matter of months. We were very near the tipping point at the time the ban was passed. Alas, we'll never know for sure.

Paying for the Arena

By: Mr. Wilson on January 23, 2007
Consider the following two facts about Lincoln's proposed arena:
  1. The entire arena could be paid for with a .5% increase in the local sales tax.
  2. The entire arena could be paid for with approximately $1,000 from every single Lincolnite.

Hy-Vee in the Tank?

By: Mr. Wilson on January 23, 2007
The Hy-Vee deal near 48th and O Street might be in the tank after the City Council nixed additional funding for extending 50th Street. The street extension was seen as critical to the deal. No word yet from Hy-Vee on their next move. If Hy-Vee does bail out, anybody got any great ideas for what should take its place?

Robert is On the Move

By: Mr. Wilson on January 22, 2007
Kids really do grow up fast. Robert has two teeth now, both on the bottom. He hasn't really figured out what they're to be used for, but in the absence of upper teeth that's not a big surprise. It's going to be weird seeing him with teeth after so many months of toothless grins. And no more letting him gnaw on my fingers. I'm not raising a cannibal. Robert is also really figuring out how to utilize his mobility. First it was "Ooh, look! The dog's food and water!" The dog was not amused. Now, fortunately, he gets around to a number of different destinations. He even (sort of) comes when you call him. I plan to enjoy that as much as possible in this short window when he actually thinks that "go to dad when called" is a fun game. I figure that'll wear off any day now. Robert is sleeping all night pretty much routinely these days. The ol' Ferber method -- rather, our interpretation of it -- seemed to work pretty well. Too bad we didn't start it earlier. I don't think I mentioned yet that we have our finalization court date. February 13th is the big day, exactly 8 months after we first met him (and he pooped all over me) in Boston. Mom and dad are very excited. Robert has, of course, been "ours" since day 1, but it will be nice to make it official. I can't imagine what it must be like for people who spend this much time (or more) with a child, only to have the adoption fail for some reason. Makes me shudder. Here are some relatively recent Robbie photos: Robert getting ready to open a gift Robert hanging out on the floor Robert in his carseat, wearing his giant snowsuit Robert at the coffee table

Some Restaurant Updates

By: Mr. Wilson on January 22, 2007
The Missus and I tried to meet some friends at Doughboyz on Saturday night, but a sign on the door says it is closed indefinitely. Anybody out there have the details on this one? I noticed a job posting for a new Fireworks location in southeast Lincoln. (The Wal-Mart area, perhaps?) Now Fireworks and The Oven will both have locations outside the Haymarket. Hmm... Ate with my parents at Paul's BBQ (48th and Pioneers) recently. I really enjoy that place. Famous Dave's it ain't, and I like it that way. It has an almost small town charm to it. It's simple, it's clean, and the food is tasty. It's a success story for a local entrepreneur, and the restaurant is a great addition to the College View neighborhood.

Backup Plan

By: Mr. Wilson on January 22, 2007
I had every intention of letting Snowgate drop, but yesterday the Journal Star printed a letter from Roger Figard, the embattled and embarrassed man formerly in charge of the city's snow-removal duties. It took a lot of guts for Mr. Figard to write the letter, and not just because it is always tough to say "I screwed up". The letter also fills in "the rest of the story". In short, Mr. Figard was distracted by his daughter's health issues and he had to be out of town. Fair enough. I'm certainly not going to criticize Mr. Figard for putting family first. However one does wonder how many other major city functions could fall prey to the same case of bad timing. What happens if the head of payroll, or StarTran, or sewage services finds himself or herself in a similar position? The public needs to be able to have confidence that all major services will continue uninterrupted and at full quality even in the absence of the person in charge. Snowgate puts a dent in that confidence. Likewise, heads of those major services need to be able to vanish from the workplace at a moment's notice in order to take care of pressing family concerns, and they need to know that the services will continue at 100% even in their absence. Managers around the city should take a look at their situation and ask: what would happen if I disappeared for a week? Are you confident the people and services you manage would continue to receive a passing grade? Edited to add: And now that I think about it, doesn't this put more of the blame for Snowgate on Karl Fredrickson? Isn't it his responsibility to ensure that a backup plan exists for when one of his managers is absent?

Friday Five

By: Mr. Wilson on January 19, 2007
For today's Friday Five, here are five topics (among many) I would like to ask Lincoln's mayoral candidates about:
  1. What is Lincoln's greatest asset, and how will you take advantage of that asset if you are elected?
  2. What is your favorite local business? Why? What lessons can other local businesses learn from that business?
  3. Which Lincolnite do you admire most, and why?
  4. Tell me about the Antelope Valley Project: what has been completed, what is currently being worked on, and what comes next. What will you do to manage the Project if you are elected?
  5. You are mayor and Lincoln faces some sort of catastrophe. Who do you turn to for advice, and why?

Dare I Say It? I Agree with Ernie

By: Mr. Wilson on January 19, 2007
I love Ernie Chambers for the role he plays in the Unicameral, but I don't often agree with his legislative priorities. This session, though, two of his bills sound like winners to me. The first would provide the public with more information about disciplinary action against public employees. The second would, in certain situations, restrict information available to the public about a person's arrest record. The devil is in the details and when Senator Chambers is involved anything can happen, but I like the general ideas in Chambers' bills. I'll be keeping an eye on these two.

No Kidding

By: Mr. Wilson on January 19, 2007
I completely understand why the members of No Kidding would want a social group comprised of people who don't have kids. Before I was a parent, I noticed that parents' conversations always tend to drift toward the topic of their children. Now that I'm a parent, I've noticed that, yep, my conversations do just that. I probably annoy the beans out of many of my non-parent friends with my yammering about "Robbie did this" or "Robbie did that". It must be difficult at times being intentionally childless in a community that generally doesn't "get" why somebody would do such a thing. I'm sure intentionally childless couples have to come up with some of the same sorts of lines to respond to annoying "Why don't you want kids?" questions that The Missus and I have come up with in regard to Robbie's adoption. Are any of you in an intentionally childless relationship? Do you find that folks around here don't "get" your decision?
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