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Nancy Hicks: Yes, Virginia, there will be a food truck ordinance
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Nancy Hicks: Yes, Virginia, there will be a food truck ordinance

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Earlier this year, the city administration appeared to be dragging its feet on creating a mechanism so food trucks could sell in downtown.

Not any more.

The Beutler administration is drafting an ordinance that will allow food trucks downtown and hopes to run it by the folks affected in December or January and take it to the City Council in early spring so  trucks can open shop as the weather warms.

The idea is to reserve a handful of spots downtown for food truck vendors, who will pay the city a fee and apply for the spots.

Honoring the wishes of the dying

Councilman Jon Camp has suggested the administration honor Adam Hornung’s request to appoint Republican Mark Whitehead as his successor on the council.

After all, didn’t the administration allow Councilwoman Jayne Snyder to pick her replacement?

Snyder wanted DiAnna Schimek, a Democrat with a progressive point of view like herself. Schimek got the job after a well-orchestrated replacement process.

However, the situations are not the same. Hornung resigned from office because he took a better-paying job in the private sector and no longer had time for council duties.

Snyder was dying of pancreatic cancer when she resigned. Her friends and fellow Democrats honored her wishes.

Appointing a person handpicked by the resigning officeholder is rare.

When Terry Carpenter resigned his legislative seat in 1974, he asked that Chuck Davey be appointed and he was.

Former Gov. Mike Johanns appointed Vickie McDonald in 2001 at the request of her husband, Rick McDonald, who died of cancer while in office.

Now Whitehead has made the whole argument mute. He has not applied for the vacant position, which likely will be filled by someone who will not run for election in the spring primary. Whitehead wants to run for a full four-year term. 

Partisanship of nonpartisan appointment

The City Council likely will replace Hornung with a lame-duck Republican, someone who promises not to run for election in the spring.

Early on, council Chairman Carl Eskridge said he felt the most honorable thing to do would be to replace Hornung with a like-minded person -- a Republican, no strings attached.

However, he reconsidered when reminded by colleagues that Gov. Dave Heineman would not fill a state senator’s seat with a Democrat. And the Legislature, like the council, is a nonpartisan body in that people run for election without party affiliation noted on the ballot.

And there are partisan issues at play with this council appointment.

Mayor Chris Beutler, a Democrat, has an easier time getting things approved by a council with a Democratic majority. That’s partially because people who register as Democrats generally have similar philosophies. In addition, Democrats want other Democrats to succeed politically.

To keep a majority on the council, Beutler needs at least one Democrat to win in the spring election, when three at-large seats will be on the ballot. Two Democrats winning would be better.

The current partisan count on the council is 5-1. Of seven council seats, four are elected by district and three at-large. Three of the four district seats are held by Democrats -- Jonathan Cook, Doug Emery and Eskridge -- and one by Republican Jon Camp.

Democrats Gene Carroll and DiAnna Schimek hold two of the at-large seats and likely will run for re-election. Hornung, a Republican, held an at-large seat.

So the mayor and other Democrats are not going to want to give a Republican council candidate an edge in the spring election. Being a council member, even for just five months, is an edge.

Appointing someone who will not run for that seat in the spring would allow Democrats on the council to be gracious and appoint a Republican.

Two auditoriums face curtain call

Lincoln and Omaha will close old city auditoriums in 2014.

Civic Auditorium in Omaha will close at mid-year, and city leaders there are searching for developers interested in tearing it down and redeveloping the property.

Lincoln’s Pershing Center is set to close in fall 2014, and Beutler is looking for someone interested in a quality redevelopment of the property on Centennial Mall.

The mayor’s staff is looking for ways to make it more attractive for redevelopment.

They have talked with the federal government about its nearby parking garage, including creating first-floor retail and allowing the city to manage the parking.

So far, this is all talk and no agreement.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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