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Life on the other side of the microphone

So I had my first-ever press conference yesterday. I mean the first press conference in which I’m the one behind the microphone.
During my career as a journalist, I went to more press conferences than I could count. But this time, I didn’t get to stand there and take notes and then think of the right questions to ask.

So, it was weird.

I was very nervous in the days leading up to it, and by Thursday morning my shoulders were in knots from the stress. I’m used to being read, not heard, and do not consider myself a public speaker. My husband, coincidentally, is. He’s an awesome teacher who gets asked to teach young journalists from Texas to South Carolina.

But me? Not so much.

However, I think I did OK. I had the press conference at Rudge Park — which is a park in my neighborhood that has a big pond with no water. It used to be a fishing hole in the summer and ice skating rink in the winter. When I first learned that, I got excited and wanted to spearhead a drive to fill it with water again because I love the idea of kids and families gathering there again. But then the city tore down the old warming house — I guess it was becoming a target for vandals — and when I brought up the idea to my councilman, Jonathan Cook, and the parks director, neither seemed too interested.

Parks Director Lynn Johnson said the city stopped filling the pond with water every year because it cost about $1,000 and some winters it didn’t get cold enough to freeze. He said the city worked with the Irvingdale neighborhood to come up with a plan to take out the stone curbing around the pond and convert the big hole into a big lawn area — but also doesn’t have the money to do that yet.

That frustrates me, and now that I’m no longer a reporter, I have the freedom to do something about it. If the neighborhood wants a big green space, that’s fine, but to me the big empty pond is a sad symbol of the budget problems facing Lincoln.

I don’t understand how the city can afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on projects like Antelope Valley and the arena, but can’t afford to put water in a neighborhood pond or keep water flowing in the city’s water fountains on Centennial Mall and near Sunken Gardens.

That empty pond is part of the reason I decided to get involved on a new level, and run for the City Council. It’s great to be bold and embark on ambitious projects like the arena — if we’re willing to pay for them with new taxes — but we’ve also got to figure out how to get back to basics — by properly maintaining streets, fixing bridges and sidewalks and mowing parks. And yes, filling ponds and water fountains with water.

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