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Posts from the ‘Lincoln Life’ Category


Omaha area going arena-crazy

With the city of Ralston voting on whether to build a $32 million ice and events arena and the University of Nebraska at Omaha interested in building a new ice arena just three miles away, the World-Herald wonders how many arenas is too many for their metro area.

They report that Council Bluffs’ 9-year-old Mid America Center is posting annual losses of about $1 million.

I found this paragraph most interesting:

Ralston, which brought in consultants to study the arena’s feasibility and its finances, projects that the facility will generate a profit from year one. Groesser also predicts the arena will perform so well that Ralston’s property taxes will drop and that it will boost commercial development in a community hungry for economic activity.

Sound familiar? It’s easy to hire consultants who will tell you the arena is feasible and will generate a profit. (Sometimes those same consultants even get a piece of arena work later, as happened in Lincoln with Convention, Sports & Leisure, despite the conflict of interest) Consider this graf about the Mid America Center:

Outside the Mid-America Center, for instance, the largely-empty retail shops — originally intended to enliven the arena area — went into foreclosure and were sold at auction in February. Aside from a Famous Dave’s restaurant, the only tenants are a chiropractor, a Social Security office and a military recruiting center.

As the mayor of Council Bluffs is says in the story, ““When we started, we had the same projections as everybody else — life was going to be rosy.”

Now they’re looking at using the arena for other uses.

Good reporting by the World-Herald. I know how difficult it can be to try to present a fair picture of pros and cons and what’s at stake, when all the city’s bigwigs seem to be behind a project.


Tracking Your Stimulus Dollars: Bike Racks For Buses?

Good question asked by 1011 News reporter Keller Russell: What economic benefit does the city get from the $140,000 in federal stimulus dollars that were used to buy bike racks for Lincoln’s city buses?
Watch it or read it here: Tracking Your Stimulus Dollars: Bike Racks For Buses?.


And now, a word from Suh

Thanks, Jack!


That Big Red House on O Street


You probably didn’t notice the big white house with a tree growing through the porch as you whizzed by on O Street. But you make take notice now.

The once-dilapidated house (apartments, actually) has been transformed into what my readers kept referring to as “that big red house” on O Street — just a few blocks east of 27th Street. They saw renovations going on, hoped the house wasn’t going to be demolished, and were relieved to see it preserved.

The home is now a two-level store called Good Things — with gifts, flowers, jewelry, food items, kitchen gadgets, and home decor — a little like Aunt Patty’s, but with more than decor. There is a full Stonewall kitchen, for example, with utensils, gadgets and upper-end food items.

The store is owned by Karolyn and Mike Howard, who also sell items wholesale and owned a similar store in Beatrice before expanding to Lincoln. The store opened on March 3 and its hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Anytime we can save an historic building from the chopping block, I call it a good thing, indeed.


Simulation of Superior multi-lane roundabout


Roundabouts aren’t foolproof


I just thought this scene yesterday was interesting considering all the debate lately over the pros and cons of roundabouts.

One of the clear benefits of roundabouts is that they’re nearly foolproof — in other words, it’s pretty hard to get into a crash in one of them, unless you don’t understand the rules of the game. As one traffic engineer once explained to me, there are two rules: Don’t go if someone’s already in the circle, and signal when you’re about to exit the circle.

But some people don’t play by the rules, and can find a way to bump into each other anyway, as was the case yesterday afternoon at this roundabout at 33rd and Sheridan Boulevard.


Welcome to politics — and rot in hell?

Life on the campaign trail

Being in the journalism business for so long, I’m used to occasionally being called names, yelled at and abused by online commenters.

And I’m used to being disliked by some people.

I have a pretty thick epidermis, which I figured I’d need when I decided to run for the City Council. I was right.

Right out the chute, one person wrote on the Lincoln Journal Star comment section that I should “ROT IN HELL” for a story I wrote several years ago about the challenges facing a central Lincoln neighborhood. She lived in that neighborhood, and didn’t appreciate my interviewing a prostitute there, because she felt the stories put the neighborhood in a bad light.

Not long after my series came out, Mayor Chris Beutler started his “Stronger, Safer Neighborhoods” program and declared “There will be no slums on my watch!” and hired Jon Carlson to run the program. The city stepped up its work in the neighborhood, and hopefully they’ve seen an improvement. I know I see far fewer “for rent” and “for sale” signs now than I did back then. That’s good.

And then there was a commenter who claimed to have seen me at an arena meeting and heard me snap at someone who offered pro-arena comment, since I was only looking for arena opponents. Never happened. I probably should have ignored the comment, but couldn’t resist setting the record straight — which ignited another debate.

And then a particularly angry man commented on my campaign website, ending his diatribe by saying, “My advise (sic): Take a few dozen business and journalism classes and then lower your sites on city government service.” I’m not sure what that sentence means! Guess I need some more English courses, too.

I emailed the man to see what he was so mad about, and to my surprise an actual person responded (often, the meanest commenters don’t respond, most likely because they set up a fake email address for the sole purpose of posting nasty comments). A quick Internet search indicated he lives in Atlanta, Ga. I’m not sure why someone in Atlanta would be so angry at me, and when I asked for specific examples of stories he took issue with, he never responded. Hmmm….

If you pay attention to the tweeters and anonymous commenters and emailers, you can get down pretty quickly. Real people rarely have the guts to say such things in public — but it’s much easier to tap out on a typewriter — safely ensconced in anonymity.

However, I’ve found the perfect antidote: Rather than read rants online, talk to real people. Every time I go out and knock on doors (to gather signatures for my petition) I’m amazed at how very nice the real people are. They’re just plain nice. Nebraska nice.

My favorite comment on the campaign trail so far: “I’ll sign your petition, but I’m voting for Jonathan. I sing with his mom in the church choir.” Hey, I understand!

They remind me that most people are good people – they are not spending their spare time lighting up the Web with venom. Perhaps we would all do well to remember that.


Four businesses demolished on downtown block to make way for parking garage, condos


Have you been downtown lately? The old brick building that once housed Chipotle, Cold Stone Creamery, Valentino’s and Quizno’s has been demolished, as construction continues on a $27 million redevelopment project called Urban 38. The city is building a parking garage on the bottom and developers WRK of Lincoln and Woodbury Corp. of Utah are building condos above. Retail is supposed to return to the ground floor eventually.

Meanwhile, Chipotle has reopened in a new location two doors north of Noodles, on 14th Street.


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.


What’s this I hear about Deena having a press conference tomorrow?

For the first time in my life, I wrote a press release yesterday.
I’ve been on the receiving end of press releases for the better part of 20 years, during my journalism career.
The release just said I’m having a press conference on Thursday. And so began my life on the other side of the press release.
It was interesting because within minutes of hitting “send” on the e-mail, I got a call from Coby Mach, host of KLIN’s Drive Time Lincoln. He wanted to know what the press conference will be about. And he didn’t take my “no comment” for an answer; he pressed me further — like a good reporter should. Perhaps that explains why he was my best competition when I was a city government reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star.
So, yes, I’m having a “presser” tomorrow. And you, dear readers, will be the first to know why. On the record.

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