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Archive for December 1st, 2010

1
Dec

“Flash mob” of singers to hit Westfield-Gateway mall

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen videos of random food courts and subway stations where people suddenly start singing, and before they’re done the whole food court is singing a Christmas carol.
(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you plan to be at the mall Dec. 18 and want to be surprised.)
Lincoln shoppers are going to be treated to just such a “flash mob” — except those who read this won’t be surprised, I guess. According to this web site, “spontaneous harmonious praise to God” will break out on Saturday, Dec. 18 at Westfield-Gateway Mall shortly after noon in the food court. They’ll be singing “Angels we have heard on high” and practices have already begun.
The Lincolnites were inspired by this “flash mob.”

1
Dec

Five Willows fitness center shuttered

People heading to Five Willows got a shock Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning: A sign on the door said the fitness center closed as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The phone just rang unanswered and the web site has been disabled.
No explanation was given, although attendance at the huge, modern fitness center seemed a bit anemic. I had been doing a 15-day trial membership, and noticed the cafe/bar and spa didn’t seem to be doing much business. And when I recently stopped by the salon to see if I could squeeze in an appointment, the woman at the front desk had her head on the desk, literally napping.
The Jazzercise classes — held by a separate group renting from Five Willows — were much better attended, with a huge workout room often filled to capacity with jazzercisers. Meanwhile, nearby fitness and pilates and yoga classes often attracted just a handful of people.

The note on the door said Jazzercise classes will continue. (Enter through the west doors.)
Here’s hoping someone takes over the place — I like the idea of a women’s fitness center, and this is a very nice one. Perhaps its central location (at 48th and Pioneers) was a weakness — but not everything has to be built in south Lincoln to succeed, does it?

1
Dec

Mayor’s office won’t say who paid for recent tour of arenas

Somebody paid for the mayor and others to jet around the country looking at other arenas in late October. We’re not sure who it was, because the mayor’s office isn’t saying.
How’s that for more transparency and accountability from the man who promised it would be “unprecedented” on this, the most expensive public works project in Lincoln’s history?
I remember the press conference well. After months of stonewalling about details of the arena project, Mayor Chris Beutler finally invited reporters to ask any question they wanted, to look at any document they wanted. Of course, that lasted approximately one week — when I did something that pissed them off and they temporarily banned city employees from talking to me.
That was business as usual, covering the Beutler regime.
And it continues. On the mayor’s public schedule, Oct. 25-26, it said he was touring arenas in Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla. and Wichita, Kan.
I was a little puzzled as to why he’d be touring arenas now — when arena designs are supposed to be 20 to 30 percent complete. In fact, arena supporters and city officials already went on an arena tour a few years ago. What was the point of this one? Perhaps we’ll never know.
And how much did it cost? I don’t know. Mayor’s office hasn’t responded to that question, and neither has arena coordinator Dan Marvin, who also went on the Tour de Arenas.
Marvin did, however, tell me a little bit about the junket. He said the attendees were Beutler, Stan Meradith and Greg Garlock of DLR (the architects), Tom Lorenz (who manages Pershing Center), Marc Boehm (Husker athletics guy), Ben Wrigley of CSL (the company that will market the arena) and Jim Martin of Benham (the Oklahoma company that is program manager for the arena project) and 2015 Visioner Dan Mulheisen.
Marvin said the flight was “privately paid for” but the other expenses “our own responsibility.” Marvin would not say who paid for the trip.
Whenever a mayor and two city contractors and other city vendors get free flights anywhere, it’s a matter of public interest. Was it paid for by one of the companies that has won arena bids? Before or after they won the bid? Was it paid for by DLR? Vision 2015?
All relevant questions — and I would expect answers from a mayor who promised “unprecedented accountability and transparency.”
The head of the state Accountability & Disclosure Commission, Frank Daley, says the flight would be considered a gift, and be reported on Beutler’s annual statement of financial interest. But those aren’t due until April. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait that long to find out.

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