It's a bad policy, but we're going to keep it around anyway.
That's the word from the Lincoln City Council regarding Lincoln's ban on movie theaters outside Downtown with more than six screens. By all accounts Lincolnites oppose the ban. That's a surprise to Councilmembers:
Councilwoman Robin Eschliman said she long has supported Lincoln’s theater policy but was shocked by the public’s opposition to the policy and Douglas Theatre Co.’s domination of the movie market. The Grand and all of Lincoln’s first-run theaters are owned by Douglas.
"Lincolnites have had 20 years to get used to this policy, and they still do not support it," Eschliman said.
That's right, Ms. Eschliman. They don't support it because it's bad policy. A policy doesn't magically earn support merely by virtue of its age. Apparently, though, 23 years is too old for a policy. "Eschliman favors changing the policy in a few years." Well, sure. Three years make all the difference. Or maybe seven, says Jon Camp. Ken Svoboda thinks five to seven years sounds good. Or "down the road," according to Patte Newman's wishes. Or even "perhaps at a certain date or based on economic criteria downtown," says Annette McRoy.
"To do nothing is to somewhat endorse a single (theater) operator," Eschliman said. "I believe we need to be a welcoming community, not a community that turns its back on those who want to invest in us."
Wait wait wait. Wait. To do nothing is to endorse a monopoly. We need to allow businesses to invest in our community. And therefore we are going to do nothing, continue endorsing a monopoly, and prevent businesses from investing in our community?
Councilman Dan Marvin makes the valid point that "it wouldn’t be fair to Doug
las to change the rules now" because "we've asked Douglas to play by certain rules [and] they've played by them." Normally I would scoff at that sort of statement, but the City of Lincoln really has jerked Douglas around. The City played hardball in getting Douglas to build The Grand. Although Douglas is a willing recipient of the perks associated with having a monopoly in town, the City is the one that has provided that monopoly.
Had the Council flat-out supported the theater policy, I would have been disappointed. But at least they would have showed conviction. As it stands now, however, the Councilmembers have, yet again, proven to have the backbones of jellyfish. They admit the policy is flawed, yet they will neither overturn it nor commit to its revocation according to specific and predictable criteria. We are truly governed by boobs.