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City Hall: 21 questions for 2021 in Lincoln
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City Hall: 21 questions for 2021 in Lincoln

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

As the new year approaches and we prepare to turn the page on one of the most difficult years in modern history, let's look to 2021 and how Lincoln might change.

Here are 21 questions about our city that have me curious entering the new year. 

* The vaccine has arrived in Lancaster County. But how will its distribution affect the local directed health measures, including restrictions on gathering sizes and masks in 2021? Will Lancaster County continue to hold on to some of the strictest pandemic rules in the state?

* Pandemic restrictions turned people against each other in debates about masks, lockdowns and gathering rules. When restrictions lift and normalcy returns, will neighbors and friends divided during the pandemic recover their relationships?

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* How much will trains on the tracks along Nebraska 2 disrupt drivers and rattle sleeping families in south Lincoln? And will their renewed presence on the rails be enough to trigger millions of dollars of public investment in establishing a quiet zone?

* Lancaster County Assessor Rob Ogden projected 2021 to be a residential revaluation year. How much will property values increase? And how will taxing authorities respond to that in setting their property tax rates following a year when they held rates steady due to the pandemic's financial burden on families?

* Will the lingering pandemic make it more difficult for new candidates for the Lincoln City Council to win votes in the spring elections? And will Republicans running for council fare any better than they did in 2019 when they lost the mayoral race and won only one of the four seats up for election?

* How will small businesses and their workers fare in the new year as many struggled to hang on through the first nine months of the pandemic?

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* The onset of the pandemic in 2020 endangered some city quality-of-life services like library hours and parks funding, which city officials ultimately spared from cuts. How will city finances shake out in 2021? And will Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the City Council be able to stave off cuts to popular programs? Will they face further calls to cut police funding like Black Lives Matter activists made last summer?

* With housing affordability remaining a key issue in the city, what new measures will the city and its private industry partners launch to expand the quantity of new housing and increase the quality of existing housing to residents? 

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* What draw will the National High School Finals Rodeo have in July at the Lancaster Event Center? And how much closer to normal will Lincoln's downtown look and feel when the economic engine that is Husker football returns for the 2021 season? 

* Can Lincoln lure any major companies to relocate to the city as teleworking has reduced the need for office space and Lincoln continues as an affordable alternative to large U.S. metros?

* A holdover question from 2020: When will the identity of the company behind the Agate Project, a data center at the 56th Street exit on Interstate 80, be revealed, and will it be Google?

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* Can the state's largest-ever road construction project, the Lincoln South Beltway, remain on schedule?

* What policies and projects will emerge in 2021 to work toward meeting the mayor's goal of achieving an 80% reduction in local greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? Will planned changes by county commissioners to promote wind farms in Lancaster County spur development?

* A request: Send me the questions about Lincoln and Lancaster County that have you curious entering 2021. I'll try and examine them in the weekly City Hall column as the new year unfolds.

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Fast takes

* 299 — The number of days since the coronavirus pandemic officially reached Nebraska.

* Quotable: "Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” ― Oprah Winfrey

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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