Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Night Beer: Did the Ballpark Battle Effectively End Fahey's Political Career?

Tomorrow morning, Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey will finally announce whether he's running for re-election as mayor or not. Right now, most people expect Fahey to bow out. One only has to look at all the turmoil over the last 14 months as the downtown stadium debate to see why Fahey wouldn't run, or might even lose, should he choose to run.

Which would be a shame in my book.

The Wall Street Journal today profiled Omaha and the success story being written down at City Hall:

Omaha ended the last century as one of the most disadvantaged cities in the U.S. Its downtown was crumbling, as businesses closed and residents fled to the suburbs. And there wasn't much else in the area to latch onto: To the east, the city is pinned against a shallow, commerce-free river, and in the other directions it faces a prairie with a dwindling population.

Yet today Omaha is thriving, thanks to an ambitious renewal strategy -- and an especially generous populace.

This city of 433,715 has grown outward by gobbling surrounding suburbs and inward by clearing out big, rusting chunks of its downtown and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into arts and entertainment. Lots of cities have tried similar strategies, but Omaha had a singular advantage: strong civic leadership.

In a few years, the furor over Elkhorn and the stadium will die down, and everybody will realize how much better the city is with the new downtown stadium and expanded zoo. It may take a few years; heck, I still hear a few people refer to the Qwest Center as a "white elephant" for some reason. But eventually, Fahey and yes, Hal Daub too, will get the credit for revitalizing Omaha.

It doesn't mean it was done perfectly by all means, but in the end, Omaha is going to end up better off with these new additions to our community.

The Journal goes on to talk about Omaha's controversial annexation system:

Other U.S. cities grow by acquisition, notably Albuquerque, N.M., and Oklahoma City, and Omaha's leaders are unapologetic about the tactic. The alternative, they say, is to face the fate of St. Louis or Kansas City -- places that have steadily lost population since the 1950s, in some cases to less than half their historic peaks. Omaha, with 433,715 residents, would have fewer than 250,000 if it were confined to its 1960 limits.

The strategy brings a number of advantages, Omaha officials say. Not only can the absorbed towns lower costs by sharing public services with the city, there's no need for them to compete for commercial development.
Note the comment about "competing" with the suburbs. That lack of competition between government entities is a good thing for taxpayers, because that means the metro area is not bidding against itself for development opportunities.

Which, unfortunately, seems to be the case as Sarpy County considers bidding to bring the Omaha Royals to Chalco. Nobody has stated the economic advantage to the metro area for a second baseball stadium; it likely dilutes the pot for all government entities. Nevertheless, it appears that some people down in Sarpy County are hell-bent on moving the Royals, no matter the cost. We'll see how the economics of this plays out, but from my perspective, moving the Royals to Chalco is a lose-lose proposition for this community.

Speaking of the Royals, Alan Stein mentioned a few other alternatives they are exploring: namely dropping their AAA affiliation with the woeful Kansas City Royals and going to Single-A or independent league (thus joining Sioux City, Lincoln, and Kansas City). That may sound like heresey, but the Royals claim that minor league baseball isn't about the game. It's about the wacky promotions and stunts. They claim that fans don't even care about the final score.

Maybe, maybe not. Of course, if they decide to cut their ties with Kansas City, perhaps they could engineer a swap with Des Moines and get the AAA affiliation with the Chicago Cubs. That might revitalize the Omaha franchise, and might be a possibility if the Ricketts family succeeds with their bid for the Cubs. That's pure speculation (and wishful thinking) on my part, by the way.

Last Friday, only about 132 Husker fans took part in Football 202, a more in-depth look inside the football program in Lincoln. I really wanted to go, but decided I couldn't spare the vacation time. Hopefully, they'll offer this again in a year or two. Johnny Boehler and Tom Shatel certainly had a good time.

Personally, I'm not surprised Roy Helu is now the co-#1 I-back at Nebraska. From what I've seen so far, Helu is a more complete back than Marlon Lucky. Don't get me wrong; Lucky is a great outside runner and receiver, but he's struggled with running between the tackles. I'm hoping this is a sign that we'll see Helu see more time at I-back and allow Lucky's speed to be exploited elsewhere on the field. I really want to see both of these guys on the field this fall at the same time.

1 comment:

Husker_Engineer said...

Good post.

I could not agree more with the WSJ. I know some people from Elkhorn. To a man they are still mad about being annexed. While I understand their feelings, I want Omaha to be able to grow and prosper.

I think those few people who still do not see the benefit of the Qwest Center are the same people who cry, "There is nothing to do in Omaha." I went to see both the Police and Dave Matthews this summer at the Qwest -- plus a few home shows in the spring. I love the place. I sincerely hope the stadium ends up with more than just the CWS. It appears that it will be such a nice stadium.

Great blog. Long time reader....first time