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Archive for December 2010

31
Dec

It’s finally here: the Arena website

The West Haymarket arena project finally has its own website — aside from the one the city had been maintaining. Click here to see it.
You’re paying for it, so what do you think? The board that is handling financing and construction of the arena bought it — along with this Facebook page — for $24,000. They were created by the Thought District, a Lincoln company.
I teased them a bit for budgeting like $1,500 just for the Facebook page, but I guess somebody has to keep that baby updated, so that’s probably not so bad.
I think it looks nice and professional (as opposed to the old site) but it really doesn’t have much more than the Lincoln Journal Star already had on its site (much of which I gave them to put there). The LJS had pretty much all of those same documents and maps and so on in the months leading up to the spring election.
But they should be there. However, even though they say the website’s purpose is to ensure the project’s transparency, clearly it’s a marketing tool — the latest rendition of the YES campaign’s work. They even used the same green YES campaign style.
Then again, what sense would there be in the city spending money to foment more debate over whether to build the arena? That ship has sailed.
As an aside, even though the arena won’t open until 2013, the concert industry is slipping now, according to this Wall Street Journal article.

31
Dec

What was Heineman thinking?

Four inaugural events in four cities, spread across two days?
Gov. Dave Heineman is normally considered pretty politically savvy, but he really whiffed this time. What is he thinking, having not one, not two, not three but FOUR inaugural events? I can understand being excited about being elected governor — THE FIRST TIME around. I might even wear a dress.

Gov. Dave Heineman

But this is his second time at the ball, and the nation is still trying to break out of the Great Recession, Nebraska is grappling with a huge budget gap, and so even if you get all your buddies to pay for the hoopla (and I’ve yet to see a cost estimate), symbolically, it sends the wrong message.
I understand the desire to spread the joy around — after all, capital cities often get to have all the fun and what could be more fun than going to an inaugural event? Well, lots of things, but maybe not if you live in Champion, for example.
But on the eve of what will be a(n) historic budget-slashing session, Heineman needs to forgo the ridiculous pomp and circumstance and let his colleagues in state government know he’s willing to tighten his own belt — or cumberbund. Instead, he’s refusing to say how much this grand party will cost and who will pay for it. Not smart, gov. Even if the law doesn’t require it, you ought to do it.
Kudos to the Omaha World-Herald for first writing about this about three weeks ago, and for some reason the Lincoln Journal Star followed suit with pretty much the same story today (but still put it on the front page, even though it’s old news).
Look for an editorial to follow.

30
Dec

Taylor Martinez story smells of scandal

Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez is in the news, and this time, there’s a major whiff of scandal in the air. T.O. is saying it’s all kosher, but watch this Los Angeles Times story explode.

Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez. Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

30
Dec

Sally Gordon makes the Today Show

The Nebraska Legislature’s 101-year-old, elegant sergeant-at-arms made this morning’s Today Show. See it here.

30
Dec

Lincoln’s Person of the Year: A bookstore owner who dared to enter the arena


The first time I met Scott Wendt, I went down to his bookstore when it was in its old location south of the Creamery in the Haymarket. He was up to his eyeballs in books, as they were just about to move to their current location a few blocks away on Ninth Street.
Up-and-coming developers at WRK had bought the building, and Bluestem Books had to find a new home. I’d go on to do a lot of talking to WRK owners Robert and Will Scott and Scott Wendt over the next few years, as they were crucial players in the debate over whether to build a $340 million arena project right next to Bluestem’s old home.
Good people, all around. I would have nominated the Scott twin brothers for Person of the Year, too, but I couldn’t just pick one and I know how twins hate to be considered one person, so I left them off the list.
Wendt was a quiet, studious bookstore owner who became increasingly involved in the arena debate. First, he showed up as commenter “scottw” on journalstar.com arena stories, sometimes mentioning that he was a Haymarket business owner, which always caught people’s interest. They, like me, had wrongly assumed most Haymarket owners would be ecstatic at the prospect of the city investing $340 million right next door to them.
Then Wendt began attending meetings of an opposition group that eventually called itself No2Arena. He became one of their spokespersons.
When I interviewed him in this new role — in his new bookstore — I was amazed at the amount of research he was doing. I thought I had immersed myself in all the reports and committee meetings and minutes I could find, but this guy sometimes found things I hadn’t seen. I guess we should expect that from a book learnin’ fellow.
He wasn’t always right — he’d clearly never been interviewed by TV, radio and newspaper reporters weekly and sometimes he stumbled over the facts. But overall, he was an impressive, grassroots spokesman for the “other side” — even if he was largely drowned out by a quarter-million-dollar pro-arena advertising campaign.
Of course, the No2Arena group was more than just Wendt, but he emerged as a thoughtful, reasonable, quiet but determined voice of opposition. He put himself out there in the public eye, and took his punches for it. He risked losing customers in the process.
Perhaps this is why Wendt trounced all other nominations for Person of the Year in Lincoln, with two and a half times as many votes from Winterized readers as Mayor Chris Beutler garnered, six times as many as UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, and nearly 20 times as many as the honorable Bo Pelini.
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

28
Dec

Libertarians fired up over Lincoln crossbow incident

You may remember some local news coverage of a guy allegedly shooting a crossbow in his yard who got into an altercation with police outside of his mobile home.
After the incident, 32-year-old Gary Grana was arrested for third degree assault on an officer, refusing to comply, resisting arrest and unlawful discharge of a weapon in city limits. (Disregard the headline on the Youtube video; their words, not mine.)
The LA County Libertarian Examiner (whatever that is; it looks to me like examiner.com of LA allows independent reporters on its site) jumped on the story Dec. 23. They reported on the incident, including a 20-minute video allegedly filmed by the suspect’s wife, which they said began with “footage of her front porch with officers piled on top of her husband.”
The video was going viral — until it was yanked from youtube and replaced by the words “this video has been removed by the user. Sorry about that.” But not before it was discussed on the DailyPaul.com website and FreedomPhoenix.com, a high traffic website promoting libertarianism and exposing government corruption, reddit and FreeTalkLive. The video was featured on WhatReallyHappened.com on the 24th.
One of my readers has asked me to look into this. I’ll put in a request with the police chief, but I don’t know if he’ll respond. Anyway, read all about the coverage here.

27
Dec

Is the DSC as great as the city says it is?

Earlier this month, the city of Lincoln put out a press release showing the results of a survey of 89 builders, architects and contractors to see how they think the city’s new Development Services Center is working.
The DSC, you may remember, is a sort of one-stop permit shop Mayor Chris Beutler got built on the second floor of city hall for a couple million bucks.
Basically, rather than having various planning and permitting offices spread out all over the place, they were consolidated into one place with the goal of making life easier on everyone from developers to people looking at put additions on their mobile homes. The DSC officially opened in March.
Beutler’s office says the users who took the survey gave it high marks — no surprise there; they don’t usually send out press releases to say things aren’t working.
The survey showed:
• 89 percent said permit application documents are understandable.
• 82 percent said permit intake staff provide good customer service.
• 75 percent said intake staff provide prompt service.
• 73 percent said intake staff communication effectively.
But most of the respondents want the city to let them do more of the work online, from applying to monitoring projects to paying fees. Of course, this could just be more justification for a new computer system the Beutler administration will probably install.
Survey takers also said they’d like to see more availability of review team members; clear, concise, timely written comments and more consistent application of codes, standards and requirements.
“The next steps for the DSC include expanding our Process Improvement Teams that we call PIT Crews,” said DSC Manager Fred Hoke. “We also plan to expand our pre-application meetings, launch our DSC website, finalize our risk management and business continuity plans and incorporate more technology into our systems.”
If any of you have been to the DSC or used it, let me know what you thought of it. Are the new digs worth the money? Has anything changed? Are things running more smoothly are is the DSC just window dressing?

27
Dec

27th Street work falling farther behind schedule


Work on one of Lincoln’s main thoroughfares — 27th Street — has fallen far behind schedule, detouring traffic around the Country Club Neighborhood longer than expected.
Lincoln Electric System has been working in the area since mid-July to bury power lines from South Street to Calvert Street, detouring 27th Street traffic from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Originally, work was to be done by Thanksgiving, then mid-December. Now, it could be 2011 before work wraps up.
LES Construction Supervisor Dave Brozak said workers ran into problems in the Van Dorn intersection. Earlier on, they also had difficulty finding accurate infrastructure records in the historic area.
The City Council directs LES to spend about a million dollars per year burying power lines — which cuts down on downed power lines during storms and visual clutter.
Other cable, gas and phone lines are also being buried on 27th Street, and so sometimes the workers out there are not LES’s.
LES will also be upgrading from wood poles to steel poles fed by underground wires on 27th Street from South Street to Calvert Street.

25
Dec

Merry Christmas, from the Winters

23
Dec

The poll has closed: Lincoln has a Person of the Year

TIME Magazine names one, why can’t we? I’ll take nominations for one week, and then we’ll name our person of the year:

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