Tuesday, October 13, 2015

On Standard and Poor ratings and Voodoo Gahanomics.

Thinking that most people are familiar with the A to F scale from their school days, Jeff Gahan for Mayor of New Albany is bragging about an A+ rating from Standard and Poor. But that's not how Standard and Poor ratings work.

They include both AA and AAA ratings, distinctions that are common for municipalities owing to tax base stability. New Albany could be AA , AA+, or AAA. Other financial institutions place the A+ rating in the medium to upper-medium range. It's just another case of a misleading presentation.

-- text by Jeff Gillenwater; illustrations by JG (bottom) and RB (top)

For my GOP followers: "One-Way to Kill Your Downtown Retail."

Occasionally when I'm explaining the numerous positive outcomes of two-way streets, someone will say, "But Roger, if one-way streets are bad for the downtown business district, how does it explain the success of revitalization downtown?"

The way I see it is this:

How much further along toward revitalization would we be if one-way streets weren't working against our efforts, 24/7/365?

ONE-WAY TO KILL YOUR DOWNTOWN RETAIL, by Jason Schaeffer (Strong Towns)

We talk a lot at Strong Towns about how a street designed around automobiles with little regard for people has an assortment of negative consequences. One of them is economic vitality. Particularly for store fronts in downtowns with a stroad running past them.

Something for the Bored of Works to nap on: "Nine foot travel lanes in practice."

Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now

As we've noted oft times before, speed kills in densely populated urban areas, and if a city is serious about reducing traffic speeds and increasing safety for all users of its streets, its streets will be reconverted to two-way traffic with narrower lane widths.

Speed traps are not the answer. They're Band-Aids at best. If one wishes to address fundamentals and not just prattle about them, then basics begin with basics -- not propaganda.

This essay is geeky, but highly relevant to the ongoing situation in New Albany, as Jeff Gahan continues to delay the implementation of safety for political expedience. We're highlighting four passages.

Nine foot travel lanes in practice, by Baron Haussmann (Walkable West Palm Beach)

When it comes to lane width, less is more.

This post explores a state highway section with 9 foot travel lanes, and will demonstrate that in spite of transportation agency misgivings about narrow lanes, Forest Hill Boulevard performs better on crash statistics than FDOT guidance for similar roadways, while offering advantages in the form of reduced construction costs, less negative impacts to adjacent properties, and decreased stormwater runoff, among other positive benefits.

The argument for narrower lanes is summarized.

Livable streets advocates often recommend the use of 9′ to 10′ wide travel lanes instead of wider 11′ to 12′ lanes for several reasons, including:

  • Lower construction costs
  • Less right of way acquisition required
  • Decreased stormwater runoff
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Lower travel speeds and less injurious crashes
  • Smaller footprint which can allow limited right of way to be reallocated to other uses such as on-street parking, bike lanes, or landscaping.

The author returns to Jeff Speck's article from October, 2014, which should be waiting on the night stand to slap Gahan in the face each each time he rises to resume building his cult of personality at the expense of public safety.

Jeff Speck’s article, “Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now“, provides a strong case for why reduced free-flow speeds are desirous and how narrower lanes help to achieve lower speeds and safer streets:
When lanes are built too wide, pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit…

The article closes with a reminder to fiscal conservatives of both political parties: What we're talking about here embraces both sides of the aisle.

If you’re interested in changing things, Strong Towns is an organization working hard to get us back on a path of a fiscally sound development pattern and sustainable transportation funding. Here’s a great place to start the conversation.

"Why Today’s GOP Crackup Is the Final Unraveling of Nixon’s 'Southern Strategy.’"

The reason why I cannot be a Republican: Neither country-club elites nor social-issue hard liners serve Kool-Aid to my taste.

At the same time, I'm cognizant of what unprincipled one-party dominance is doing to erode New Albany's future prospects -- and they're Democrats, not Republicans.

I suppose one must continue his search for a third way: Non-partisan localism, fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

In the interim, don't expect me to mourn the national GOP's travails.

Why Today’s GOP Crackup Is the Final Unraveling of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’: Tea Party rebels are exposing the deep rifts between country-club elites and social-issue hard-liners, by William Greider (The Nation)

Fresh chatter among Washington insiders is not about whether the Republican Party will win in 2016 but whether it will survive. Donald Trump—the fear that he might actually become the GOP nominee—is the ultimate nightmare. Some gleeful Democrats are rooting (sotto voce) for the Donald, though many expect he will self-destruct.

Nevertheless, Republicans face a larger problem. The GOP finds itself trapped in a marriage that has not only gone bad but is coming apart in full public view. After five decades of shrewd strategy, the Republican coalition Richard Nixon put together in 1968—welcoming the segregationist white South into the Party of Lincoln—is now devouring itself in ugly, spiteful recriminations.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fire station bidding questions, Part Three: A $1.5 million sale to enable a $2.75 million spending orgy.

Part One
Part Two

In 2014, against a backdrop of negotiations with Kroger largely hidden from public view, and in concert with the $9 million TIF-funded water park located nearby, City Hall elected to sell a youthful fire station for demolition and build a new one. Public discussion was non-existent.

Kroger paid $1.5 million for the 22-year-old station, and the new station cost $2.2 million. As the Courier-Journal explained, these moves were part of a larger deal.

New Albany officials said previously they intend to use a $5 million bank note to pay for the firehouse construction and improvements to two other firehouses. They’ll use proceeds from the Kroger transaction, as well as EDIT, or economic development income taxes, and TIF, tax-increment financing, revenues to repay the loan ...

Looking at Redevelopment Commission minutes 2012 and 2013, we find that minutes from the latter half of 2013 are entirely missing from the city's web site. What isn't mentioned in those minutes which are available for viewing is the bidding process for the fire station rebuild and accompanying upgrades. Rather, there is a reference to a contract with Axis Architecture and Interiors for $4,275,000.

In short, we sold an asset for $1.5 million, and immediately embarked upon a $2.75 million spending free.

My question: Why did the city sell itself short on the Kroger negotiations?

Not only was very little of this process transparent and the fire station swap an uneven transaction for the city, but we might have played this hand far better, leveraging Kroger's expansion needs with the Plaza's owner and addressing sore points -- the derelict Hardee's building that causes insomnia for Banker Blair, and notoriously bad traffic conditions at the State Street entrance that lacks a stop light.

Why did Jeff Gahan's economic "development" minions consistently undervalue the city's stake in these backroom deals?

Probably because for David Duggins, any negotiating position not specifically constructed to dispense corporate welfare largess at th city's expense threatens to be a deal-breaker.

Ready for a change?

Fire station bidding questions, Part Two: I see the $4.25 million contract, but where are the bids?

Part One
Part Three

There are no minutes on the city's web site for Redevelopment Commission meetings during the last five months of 2013 (after 2 August 2013, and until the first meeting in January of 2014). Two other meetings appear to be missing, too.

However, there are a few relevant passages. First, from April 9, with notification that a special meeting of the RC would be required to discuss details of the new fire station.

Then, April 29, which has less to do with the issue at hand than an admission of future water park access problems owing to the city's inability to bridge a creek that's been flowing there for centuries prior to the advent of TIF bonding.

Finally, June 11. Apparently the special meeting has come and gone, because the $4.25 million contract with Axis is up for unanimous approval.

Rumors have circulated ever since of Jeff Gahan's minions bragging about their "loophole" to avoid the bidding process. If you know anything that might help us understand this, please write to me. Confidentiality is assured.

Fire station bidding questions, Part One: Missing Redevelopment Commission minutes, Kroger corporate welfare and fire stations.

Part Two
Part Three

I've been looking at Redevelopment Commission minutes for 2012 and 2013. Interestingly (ominously?), minutes from the last half of 2013 are entirely missing from the city's web site.

I'm seeing discussions about the Kroger "corporate welfare" land deals (to which Banker Blair remains closely attached; see * below), the Green Valley Road firehouse's demolition, and the rapid fire station rebuild on Daisy Lane.

What I'm not seeing is any reference to a bidding process for the fire station rebuild and accompanying upgrades -- just a contract with Axis Architecture and Interiors for $4,275,000.

Are details of the bidding process missing from the minutes?

As a first step to seeing how Jeff Gahan's minions consistently undervalued the city's stake in these backroom deals, here is Courier-Journal coverage from May, 2014.

Daisy Lane construction: Firehouse, then pool, by Grace Schneider

Gradually the pieces of a redevelopment deal are coming together for New Albany to open a new firehouse on West Daisy Lane and for Kroger Co. to get its New Albany Plaza expansion rolling.

City redevelopment director David Duggins told the redevelopment commission Tuesday that the city’s new firehouse on Daisy will open to the public June 9. Because the new $2.2 million station is substantially completed, firefighters already have begun moving in equipment and gear.

The move follows an agreement struck more than a year ago for Kroger to pay $1.5 million to the city for its 22-year-old firehouse and adjoining property on Green Valley Road, adjacent to its store to make way for a large renovation and expansion.

The parties are scheduled to close on the property May 29, later than expected because construction crews working on the new fire station were slowed by 25 days of bad weather, Duggins said.

New Albany officials said previously they intend to use a $5 million bank note to pay for the firehouse construction and improvements to two other firehouses. They’ll use proceeds from the Kroger transaction, as well as EDIT, or economic development income taxes, and TIF, tax-increment financing, revenues to repay the loan ...

 ... As for Kroger’s plans, the company hasn’t submitted design documents yet for the expansion, but officials have told New Albany they expect to build a new “lifestyle center,” similar to large marketplace stores opened in Ohio and South Carolina, with food products and other merchandise.

* As explained in these articles.

 CM Blair's bank, the State Street exurb, commercial dereliction, corporate welfare and non-transparency.

Let's go Krogering?: Does CM Blair's fixation with a boarded-up Hardee's have to do with gas pumps and corporate welfare?

Council meeting recap 1: State's a trashy chain-ridden asphalt nightmare, and this sole derelict Hardee's must go!

Commentary worth repeating: Gahan's "balanced budget" claims are bogus.

(By Jeff Gillenwater)

Jeff Gahan says he's balanced the budget but the truth is he's significantly increased the budget, nearly doubling it. He says he's gotten us out of debt because former Mayor England's sewer rate increases - rate increases Gahan argued against - have paid off some sewer bonds but he doesn't mention his own borrowing, which has left us with increased not decreased debt levels.

Worth noting is that much of that debt is going toward paying off multimillion dollar projects that were awarded sans public bidding processes and, at least in some cases, have led to campaign kickbacks.

Now that we've taken on 20 years of debt to pay for them, Gahan says parks are a priority for quality of life but did not mention them at all when running for office. We're also now finding out about his administration taking options on Uptown area real estate and pursuing eminent domain actions on riverfront property but he's again not mentioning any of it in his campaign-- just like he didn't mention spending a million dollars on the golf course to the redevelopment commission or city council before he did it.

If anyone points these facts out too often, they're banished from campaign and party social media spaces. If people value transparency and honesty at all, they can't support this. If they do support it, they've really no right to complain in future about any political deceit. They will have chosen to tie their own blindfolds.

The really telling part is that, as Gahan and Floyd County Democrats block social media access to more and more people, they never actually deny what those people have said.

They can't.

They just don't want people to know about it. The truth makes them look bad so secrecy and lies begets more secrecy and lies. If incumbent and new Democratic council candidates won't speak up against such misleading tactics now, there's no reason to think they will if elected.

It's damning for the whole party.

Walkability = economic boost. Time to get walking, isn' it?

If walkability positively impacts knowledge-based businesses, and we continue to drag our feet in doing what's necessary to make downtown walkable, then city government is hampering economic development, not helping it.

Couple this with an absence of attention to communications capability (read: fiber optic), and you'll see two more reasons why there needs to be a change at the top.

How treating pedestrians better will boost the economy, Matt Wade (Sydney Morning Herald)

Retail is only one reason for making CBDs (central business districts) more pedestrian-friendly. Economic change, especially the growing importance of knowledge-based firms, has made the walkability of business centres all the more important. The exchange of ideas and information is crucial for the productivity of knowledge industries. That's one reason why knowledge-intensive businesses – like finance, insurance, IT and professional services – tend to cluster together in CBDs. Much of the sharing of ideas and knowledge takes place face-to-face. And those face-to-face encounters are very often the result of a walking trip. It might sound old school but walking is vital to our premier business hubs.

Campaign Diary, Chapter 9: Because it's the mayor of NEW ALBANY, not the mayor of HARVEST HOMECOMING.

Harvest Homecoming (Version 2015) has ended, and probably will be remembered for an unfortunate though apparently random gunshot more than this more important fact worth noting: While as yet imperfect, the festival's efforts in recent years to incorporate "here all year" businesses seem to be bearing fruit.

Matters are not ideal, but they're surely better. Good weather always helps. Let's recognize incremental progress and hope the momentum continues. There's always a element of "Kremlin watching" at play here, but Harvest Homecoming as an institution apparently understands there'll be a new variable in coming years, namely a larger and expanding cohort of downtown residents. It will be interesting to see how the festival reacts to these challenges, and evolves into its next phase.

It's the sort of process an activist mayor can help steward, seeing as his or her mandate is to consider the interests of the city as a whole, year-round.

Meanwhile, permit me to recap a weekend conversation. I wrote this on Saturday morning at Facebook.

In so many ways both great and small, Harvest Homecoming is a mass community exercise in selective collective memory. This isn't a pejorative, merely an observation, and having noted such -- so, how was the Swill Walk yesterday?

I was blithely confident that even casual observers would know that by including the words "this isn't a pejorative," my intent would be obvious: Not directed against Harvest Homecoming as an entity, since we all know the institution doesn't sanction the debauchery attached to it, but aimed at wretched beer in general.

As noted later on the same day, I detest bad beer of the sort that immerses and envelops Harvest Homecoming -- not every now and then, but every day. It neatly (and ironically) reverses my campaign staple of "every day, not every now and then."

But reader DL wasn't having any of it.

Why does this man want to be mayor? Does he realize that the Harvest Homecoming does not support or endorse an official beer walk, or "swill walk" as he chooses to refer to it? Does he realize that his consistent disdain for the city's largest and most popular festival only makes him look like an ass? With everything I've read, heard, and now seen for myself, I don't understand why this man wants to be mayor.

I'll answer DL's questions in turn.

He wants to be mayor to run the city more efficiently and introduce modernity to the decision-making process.

He knows Harvest Homecoming does not support the non-family-friendly aspects of the festival, and has spent much time ruminating on the legal framework, both state and local, in which the attendant "swill walk" culture thrives in spite of Harvest Homecoming's misgivings. A municipal open container ordinance, anyone?

He is willing to be perceived as an ass if his advocacy contributes to progress in helping Harvest Homecoming become aware of the "here all year" businesses inconvenienced by its temporary footprint, and is happy to report (see above) that this situation is improving. Kudos to any and all responsible for furthering an atmosphere of reform.

He gently suggests that what you've read, heard and seen probably emanate from sources with bones to pick, but having said this, he wouldn't think of restricting comments or freedom to exchange ideas. In fact, he believes it's important for a mayoral candidate to be completely open and transparent, and is happy to reprint subsequent messages (with DL's explicit permission).

Roger: Sorry, can't reply publicly (on your Fb page) owing to settings, but I will privately when there is time.

Roger: First, you can feel free to comment anywhere on my social media. Unlike Team Gahan, I don't censor. Second, I know quite well that the swill walk isn't HH's idea. I'm in the craft beer business, and it's swill I hate, not HH. Finally, I've been working with HH on worthwhile projects, summarized below. Cheers.

DL: Thanks for your concern over my sharing, however none of this answers my question. Also, I'm aware of how you deal with HH because I have family that is very active with the festival, my mind has been made on that issue. If you can honestly answer why you want to be mayor without attacking the incumbent, or large groups of NA voters, I'd be happy to adjust my settings so you could respond directly on my post.

Roger: When the incumbent runs on his record, it is fair game to critique the record. This I have done, and also added quite a lot of points of my own to it, most recently at the link below. As for my critiques of HH, the fact that the fest has begun to change the nature of its presence downtown in response to "here all year" businesses is proof of the accuracy of these critiques, and also indication that HH can be engaged -- which I've thanked it for. Pragmatism and compromise are good things. No need to change your settings if your mind is made up. I'd merely point out that when I was younger, my mind was made up about many things ... until it was unmade, which happens often when one's mind is open to other points of view. Cheers.

DL: "When the incumbent runs on his record, it is fair game to critique the record." You have a record of nit-picking everything the HH festival does. You offer nothing new from what I've read from what you have provided. It's nothing that the average New Albany voter will care about. You ran a great business and I appreciate and support that business as I consider myself a beer-snob as well, mostly from your beer, by the way. However, you or your supporters have given me any hope of a more positive, friendlier New Albany. Has the Gahan administration done everything I agree with? No. But I know that they absolutely have everyone in this city's best interests at their central focus and from everything you've provided me, I cannot say that about your candidacy. Cheers as well.

Roger: Fair enough, and that's why we have elections; let's just not confuse city government with HH. Both are about politics, but different politics, and over a period of almost 50 years. Politics is about power: Who has it, how it is used, who benefits, and so on. HH's recent reforms, like adjusting booths to provide alignment with year-round businesses downtown, seem to be having good outcomes. Far fewer of the "here all year" businesses are unhappy, as opposed to three years ago. HH has communicated better, and there has been improvement. That's why I said almost nothing this year save for the Fb comment you picked up on -- and that was about bad beer at root, not HH.

Most of us have good intentions. It doesn't mean that what we're doing doesn't have another whole set of options attached to it, and whether it's an election or HH, those who see it differently must have the opportunity to join the process in a pluralistic society. This I've done, and will continue to do. Thanks for chatting and exchanging views. BTW, do you mind if I blog your post and this conversation? I support transparency and openness, even when someone disagrees. I'd use only your initials. Thanks.

DL: I don't mind because I would like to do the same.

Roger: Excellent, and full reciprocity. Thanks.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"People have a remarkable ability to explain away evidence rather than change their cherished beliefs."

I never knew Rose Colored Delusion was a Kool-Aid flavor. Sells well here in New Albany, though. This article begins with the most relevant historical reference, and proceeds through ways that cult-think occurs outside the election cycle.

Cultish Thinking in Everyday Life, by Derek Beres (Big Think)

 ... The practitioners of mind control are not restricted to cult leaders and religious sects. Instead, they walk among us on a daily basis.

1968 Olympics: The white man in the photo "was rather proud to be a part of it."

Photo credit: The Nation article covering similar ground.

I always wondered, too.

The White Man in That Photo, by Riccardo Gazzaniga (griotmag.com via Films for Action)

Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, and it certainly deceived me for a long time.

I always saw the photo as a powerful image of two barefoot black men, with their heads bowed, their black-gloved fists in the air while the US National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played. It was a strong symbolic gesture – taking a stand for African American civil rights in a year of tragedies that included the death of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

It’s a historic photo of two men of color. For this reason I never really paid attention to the other man, white, like me, motionless on the second step of the medal podium. I considered him as a random presence, an extra in Carlos and Smith’s moment, or a kind of intruder. Actually, I even thought that that guy – who seemed to be just a simpering Englishman – represented, in his icy immobility, the will to resist the change that Smith and Carlos were invoking in their silent protest. But I was wrong.

"It’s time for Pence to lead ... full civil rights protections based on sexual orientation."

Inelegantly written, but hey -- it's a business publication.

And no, I have NOT forgotten the role of Ron Grooms in this debacle.

EDITORIAL: Governor must back full LGBT rights (Indianapolis Business Journal)

Gov. Mike Pence owes the state leadership on LGBT issues that have damaged our reputation nationally while creating an ugly chasm among Hoosiers.

Pence helped to create the problem earlier this year when he pushed the General Assembly to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that was a poor solution in search of a largely non-existent problem ...

 ... It’s time for Pence to lead—and there’s only one place to go: Full civil rights protections based on sexual orientation.

The move may not put him in good stead with social conservatives, but Indiana needs to make the public statement—a national statement—that it’s the warm and welcoming place that we all enjoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Eminent domain? Is an Ohio River marina yet another Gahan expenditure on the down low?

The Green Mouse has received this note via the rumorama.

What's with this guy and water? Is it Freudian? First a bricks and mortar water park, then unaddressed storm water flooding taking the place of neighborhood splash pads, and now a marina.

The city has filed an eminent domain lawsuit against the owner of riverfront property near the 10th Street terminus. The city wants the riverfront property on the water side of the flood wall for the new "city marina."

What new city marina?

John Rosenbarger and David Duggins told him they'd already filed 25 such suits, and won them all. "We're very good at this," they threatened.

Bragging about stealing 25 properties from citizens? And what about crippling future property taxes through all the TIF bonds?

Is there a council person reading who'd like to do his or her job and verify these eminent domain lawsuits, as well as plans for a marina?

Because we KNOW you're reading.

Mailer Wars '15: KZ plays it safe and sticks to the platitudes.

Kevin Zurschmiede's opening statement is very safe. It's the small talk with the father of your date while you're waiting for her to come downstairs.

In large measure, the mayoral campaign to date has consisted of the two major party candidates repeating basic mantras.

Jeff Gahan: Look at these photos of the nice gifts I bought for you with YOUR credit card.

Kevin Zurschmiede: I'm not him ... I'm not him ... I'm not him.

Meanwhile, I've tried my hardest to offer substance: On neighborhoods , and localism, and health and safety, and human rights and free speech -- and yes, also on calmed and completed two-way streets.

Consequently, Kevin's challenge is moving beyond the character references and delving into specifics.

For instance, the mayor has had absolutely nothing to say about economic development or jobs during his reign. This is easy to explain: What development the local economy has undertaken has been in spite of Gahan, not because of him -- and jobs comprise a category defined primarily by persistent hemorrhaging, as with Pillsbury, StemWood and Indatus.  

Yes, Jeff, I know: Beach Mold & Tool is expanding -- and the company thinks so highly of your contribution to this expansion that it is hosting the GOP chili cook-off next week.

When there's nothing to say, you tend to change the subject, hence Gahan's "Elvis meets PT Barnum at Walt Disney's penthouse suite" persona.

I've campaigned on a platform of de-emphasizing economic development boilerplate in a time of River Ridge envy, turning attention to the localization of the economy, and devoting our economic development efforts to useful infrastructure improvements toward this end, as with fiber optic communications and two-way streets.

Kevin has not offered specifics, and worse still, he possesses his own 800-lb gorilla: Padgett, an old-school industrial entity which does not comprehend new-school economic development, and in fact has advocated actively against measures to achieve it (those pesky two-way streets, again).

As a candidate, I'm delighted to be the only one of three to so much as mention economic development as a civic priority, and to both articulate and define a future agenda.

As a voter, I find it curious that both major parties are playing prevent defense, but please, be my guest.

In closing, as with the DemoDixieDisneycrats, the GOP appears to be willing to embrace the attack, although even with this, the Republicans are being reactive to Gahan's ludicrous claims.

Where's the beef?

Mailer Wars '15: An unbalanced Gahan leads off with budgetary tall tales.

Jeff Gahan's first mailer is out, and it isn't balanced.

More tellingly, the DemoDixieDisneycratic Party's opening broadside is an attack on the Republican. It's likely to be the ongoing pattern, with Gahan aiming for the warm and fuzzy, while Adam Dickey brandishes the stiletto.

Just remember that Party Politics 101 is the primary reason for considering alternatives.

Previously we recalled Jeff Gahan's many promises from 2011. Curiously, among them was NOT a vow to fund $30 million in "quality of life" projects with TIF-backed bonds.

Shattered 2011 Gahan campaign promises, Part 1: The "good jobs" mayor!

Shattered 2011 Gahan campaign promises, Part 2: The "good education" mayor!

Shattered 2011 Gahan campaign promises, Part 3: The "let's work together" mayor!

NAC's Jeff Gillenwater explains.

Jeff Gahan likes to say that he has balanced the budget because it makes it sound as though he's somehow managed to run the city more efficiently. He's not as keen to put real numbers to that claim, though, for good reason.

As provided by the Department of Local Government Finance, the state agency that oversees local budgets, here are those actual numbers-- New Albany's annual budgets from each of the past few years. Gahan took office in 2012.

2011 - $14,665,386
2012 - $18,738,682
2013 - $20,084,675
2014 - $22,600,514
2015 - $24,300,565
2016 - Gahan is currently asking the City Council for another increase

Understandably given the large annual spending increases, the district tax rate has increased under Gahan each year as well.

Even with city government spending approximately $10,000,000 more per year now than it did before Gahan took over, those tax increases did not cover his tens of millions of dollars of additional spending on special and often seasonal projects like the aquatics center. Several of those projects, over $30 million, were financed with Tax Increment backed bonds, borrowed at interest against projected future tax revenues for the next 20 years. Many New Albanians 45 or older will likely be retired or perhaps even deceased before taxpayers manage to pay off just a single Gahan term as mayor.

And, as Gahan himself says, he's not done yet.

There's little reason to believe a second term would be differently focused, more efficient and practical, or more open and inclusive. As Roger Baylor says, transparency should not be a last resort. We shouldn't be reading about million dollar golf course deals months after the fact but we are. If, like many New Albanians, you're not comfortable with a mayor who tells you he's "balanced" the budget when he's substantially increased it or that he's paid off debt from previous administrations when he's taken on much more for comparatively frivolous projects and corporate subsidies, please vote accordingly.

Quality of life begins with honest communication, something that just doesn't figure in Jeff Gahan's accounting.

Friday, October 09, 2015

It makes perfect sense that the Floyd County Democrats would hire Comical Ali.

You'll remember Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf as Comical Ali (or Baghdad Bob).

He is best known for his grandiose and grossly unrealistic propaganda broadcasts before and during the war, extolling the invincibility of the Iraqi Army and the permanence of Saddam's rule.

Meanwhile in New Albany ...

ON THE AVENUES ENCORE: The Adamite Chronicles: Have muzzle, will drivel.

The nutty professor name drops hog wash, candidate Nash and Dr. Seuss.

Freedom to Screech is back, and less literate than ever.


We are concerned about a comment made by a candidate for City Council.

At a recent Democrat gathering he was overheard telling potential voters and we Quote: Candidate Matt Nash stated, that the people should serve local government rather than local government serve the taxpayer.

Matt was kind enough to tip me off when the pretend professor mentioned me, so I returned the favor on Twitter: They're taking issue with ya.

His reply: "I have no idea what they are talking about."

My summary: They don't, either, but it makes for much needed comic relief.

Vote early, vote now, vote often and vote Pirate.

The photo above has been doctored, and the extended link with complete information on when, how and where to vote is here: http://www.floydcounty.in.gov/resident/votecenter.htm

Both Koreas can agree on the virtues of the hangul alphabet.

A second fascinating article for the day, courtesy of The Economist.

South Korea’s hangul alphabet|Superscript: The country celebrates an ingenious writing system

... As North Koreans were preparing this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party with the usual display of bellicosity, the South had a day off to celebrate something indigenous, brilliant and pacific — their alphabet.

Speaking of South Korea, just in case Mike Bryant is reading ... sorry, but I've yet to uncover any solid information about homebrewing supplies in your current country. I haven't forgotten. It may take until after the election, but I'll find something.

On Che Guevara and semiotics.

Earlier today, The Economist coughed up a social media link to a 2007 article observing the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara's death:

A modern saint and sinner: Why the Che myth is bad for the left

What caught my attention is the word "semiotics," the professional specialty of Italian novelist Umberto Eco.

But it is semiotics, more than politics, that leads teenagers ignorant of the Sierra Maestra to sport Che T-shirts.

After all, I was a philosophy student once.

Semiotics, or semiology, is the study of signs, symbols, and signification. It is the study of how meaning is created, not what it is.

In turn, the 2007 piece links to the original report from 1967, and this prescient ending:

Che Guevara's name is already being classed with that of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar. Latin America's marxist “liberation” has yet to look even likely, but Guevara has died with his reputation intact. From his middle-class Argentinian youth, he became a revolutionary by conviction and profession. With the two Castro brothers he invaded Cuba in the cockleshell Granma, stayed on to help run revolutionary Cuba as minister of industry, then, perhaps growing bored, took his leave of Cuba on a dedicated secret mission to set the continent alight. He failed. But many Latin Americans will go on believing that the legends that will be spun round his Pimpernel existence may one day lead to his picture being hung beside that of the Liberator in Latin American halls.

Campaign Diary, Vol. 8: My answers in the News and Tribune questionnaire.

I've submitted my answers to the News and Tribune candidate questionnaire, and here they are.



Roger Baylor


Mayor of New Albany






None, although I refuse to hold the political experience of my opponents against them.


My wife is Diana Baylor, a native of Maine, who is a social worker at Seven Counties Services in Louisville. Seeing as we have no children, most of my cousins live elsewhere, and my mother is retired, you needn’t fear nepotism from a Baylor administration.


Since 1990, I’ve been engaged in the craft brewing and restaurant business. I’m co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Company (Pizzeria & Public House) and Bank Street Brewhouse, and also have been published as a free-lance writer. My interests include reading, cooking, walking, bicycling and music.


I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild and am secretary of the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association. Previous positions include the boards of the New Albany Urban Enterprise Association and Develop New Albany.







New Albany has come a long way in recent years, and as an independent local businessman right in the middle of this revitalization, I’ve seen the inexhaustible willingness of local entrepreneurs to work hard and invest, as well as the support and enthusiasm of New Albany’s residents, who really want to see improvement in the quality of their lives.

I’ve also seen how little of this progress is driven by our political culture, and that’s why I’m running for mayor. We need a different pair of eyes to see what’s coming next.

Currently the city of New Albany is controlled by the Democratic Party, and while I’ve been left-leaning my whole life, the Gahan administration simply doesn‘t have what it takes to prioritize and innovate for the city’s future. On the other hand, Floyd County is run by the Republican Party, and the county is starved, financially as well as intellectually. One party has a stranglehold on the city, and the other on the county.

Where’s the choice in that?

Why run as an independent? A better question would be, why not?

The usual suspects are NO LONGER AN OPTION. Two major parties may share power, but they don’t have a monopoly of ideas. In fact, the best ideas don’t even come from political parties. They come from real people, and deserve a fair hearing.

The two-party system here is broken, and it’s not going to get any better on its own. And for most of us, governance isn’t about party affiliation, anyway. It’s about managing competently, planning rationally and producing results every single day – right here in New Albany -- where we live and work and play.


I’m not a politician, but 25 years as a local independent business owner has equipped me with a useful tool box. Local independent business owners strive to maintain a level playing field for consumers. We listen, accommodate, troubleshoot, manage employees and solve problems as they arise. We create tangible value from scratch, as with the American craft beer industry.

I’ve also traveled through America and Europe, paying attention to life and learning how things work. I’ve probably attended more council meetings than some elected council persons, and maintained a public affairs blog (NA Confidential) for the past 11 years.

I’m uniquely placed to break the two-party stalemate in New Albany and Floyd County, and to be a bridge to the next generation of leaders. I have no political party to serve, only the people of New Albany, and I won’t ever forget that. As your mayor, neither my name nor the names of elected officials will appear on plaques. “The City of New Albany” means all the people, not just a privileged few. My team will manage your investment in this community, and to provide an equitable return. It’s going to be about us, not me.


TIF bonds do not a civic mission statement make. It’s time to stop thinking about New Albany in terms of past glories and how we can borrow to restore them, and begin viewing this city in a future context. What’s our specific place in metro Louisville? What kind of municipality do we intend to be?

Long-term thinking begins with deep analysis – how are we going to pay for Jeff Gahan’s spending spree for WANTS, and return the focus to fundamental NEEDS. It won’t be easy. There is no single pressing issue, but rather a laundry list of interconnected challenges:

  • Transparency, and the need for more sunlight and fewer decisions by appointed boards
  • Infrastructure: Streets, sewers, storm water and communications
  • Empowerment, and taking care of our own people first
  • Localism in economic development
  • Affordable housing and homelessness
  • Rental property registration and inspection
  • Economic inequality and sub-par wages
  • The effect of bridge tolls
  • Human rights and civil liberties

The list goes on, but in the end, quality of life isn’t measured by flower beds planted along just one street, a water park useful for only for a few months a year, or musical concerts funded by taxpayer money. A mayor isn’t supposed to be a combination of Elvis, PT Barnum and Walt Disney.

The mayor must administer and manage the city’s infrastructure every day, not every now and then, striving to improve quality of life by means of a level daily playing field for all citizens, not only the privileged few. City government’s job is to keep public services working, maintain public safety, and set the table for private enterprise to invest, provide jobs and multiply choices.

These actions must occur transparently, without prejudice, and with as much public participation as can reasonably be provided. Because few of these mandates are being pursued at present, perhaps the most pressing issue facing New Albany is restoring a sense of shared purpose to City Hall, and to do so fairly and openly.


It would help to ask the right questions about what good jobs really mean in this day and age. We’re at a crossroads in terms of economic development. In the past, having industrial park acreage was sufficient for deploying the usual “boilerplate” economic development tools like subsidies, incentives and tax abatements, but we’re being hit with a double whammy.

First, modern economies require modern infrastructure, which we’re lagging behind in offering, as in fiber optic communications.

Second, the advent of River Ridge Commerce Center in Clark County – the state’s chosen regional winner – means that henceforth, someone else can always do “boilerplate” far better than us.

Therefore, we need to do economic development differently than before. There’ll likely be no more Pillsbury plants, but there can be a greater number of small companies to spread risks and rewards. We must shift our economic development strategies to meet these challenges, by focusing on localism, start-ups, entrepreneurs and grassroots economic initiatives.

Localism is vital. As the American Independent Business Alliance says:

“Multiple studies show locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much per dollar of revenue to our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors.”

Consequently, New Albany’s economic development strategies must be directed toward greater recognition of the key role played by independent local businesses. We need genuine infrastructure enhancement, spread throughout the city rather than concentrated in one place, including fiber optic, multi-modal two-way streets and incubation/pollination incentives.


Two ways are better than one. Period. The evidence is in, and the verdict is returned.

I am the city’s foremost advocate for traffic calming, complete streets and the prompt and comprehensive restoration of the city’s original two-way street grid. We’ve paid Jeff Speck, the nation’s foremost engineering expert to explain exactly how and why two-way streets work. Now we must take Speck’s study off the dusty shelf and implement it.


One-way streets were a 1960-era suburban solution to urban problems that no longer exist, and nowadays they act as invasive high-speed interstate highways slicing dangerously through densely populated urban neighborhoods. As such, a preponderance of research shows that maintaining these wide-lane, high-speed, pass-through arterial streets reduce neighborhood and core business district property values.

They also make walking and biking unsafe. Speed kills, and any city genuinely concerned with public safety for people, not just their cars, recognize a responsibility to promote safety by design.

While one-way streets work against other revitalization efforts, research proves that two-way streets encourage a number of positive outcomes, ranging from increased quality of life in neighborhoods to a more level playing field for local independent business, and including the enhancement of property values and reduced crime.

Calmed two-way streets do not exclude large commercial vehicles, which must drive more slowly via narrower lanes, which in turn help redefine the terms of engagement by promoting multi-modal use. Better still, two-way streets and infrastructure designed to promote walking and biking are the New Albany equivalent of Jeffersonville’s Big Four Bridge, because our up and coming generations demand these options.

Walkability and bikeability are realities capable of being harnessed to connect neighborhoods with the central business district, and link the same neighborhoods to outlying “thinking” destinations like IU Southeast and the Purdue Center. We have transportation corridors, and they need to be capable of being used by everyone.

Two-way completed streets made suitable for all persons, not just those piloting motorized vehicles, should be the stated, above-board, publicly advanced and ultimate goal. I’ll begin working toward this goal on January 1, 2016.


The logical first step is consistent ordinance enforcement, because if we continue to demolish properties while remaining passive as to their systematic neglect, we’ll someday run out of buildings to tear down. That would be a shame, and not just because the demolition kickbacks would cease.

It’s because (a) the greenest building there can be is the one already standing, and (b) historic preservation adds inestimable value to the urban core.

For the past 12 years, Democrats have held the mayor’s chair and a huge majority of council seats, and there has been almost no progress toward ordinance enforcement or an accompanying program to incentivize infill construction in those instances (far fewer than you might think) when demolition is the only choice. At the same time, we’re throwing millions (including sewer tap-in waivers) at an Indianapolis developer to build “luxury” apartments at the Coyle site.

What if a fraction of this amount went to encourage affordable infill housing? It’s an idea worth pursuing.


As an economic development tool, TIF should be safe, legal and rare.

TIF is intended as government’s tithe toward basic infrastructure as a spur for private investment and development – not to take the place of private investment and development by funding 100% of top-down, government-inspired capital projects, which have become little more than bright shiny objects to propel re-election campaigns.

The Gahan administration’s funding of park expansion with TIF puts the cart before the horse. The debt thus incurred to achieve one man’s questionable vision will handicap future municipal governments, while failing to produce the economic progress we need now to raise the tax base. TIF abuse forces us to pay a higher price for “wants,” because in addition to the price of bright shiny objects, there is an opportunity cost in the form of what we might have done instead.

TIF also obscures the budgetary process. Mayor Gahan’s presumably balanced budget does not take into consideration these bonded capital “improvement” projects, which add up to somewhere around $100 million in bonded debt, payable with interest over decades.

It’s a good thing your grandchildren like the water park. They’ll still be paying for it after you’re gone, when they have children of their own.


There is a case to be made for police body-worn cameras, which can boost accountability and the delivery of justice, but we must be careful not to see these as some sort of perfect solution to the evolution of better policing.

We’re early in the game when it comes to camera programs. There are issues yet to be resolved, among them procedural. When do the cameras roll, and when do they stop? What about privacy and public records requests?

These issues eventually will be resolved, and so I generally favor police-worn cameras, though not in a policy vacuum. The fundamental role of police in the community must be clearly defined and constantly reinforced through community-oriented policing and ongoing training in areas like crisis intervention.

Plainly, the more our police know, the better they can reply to a constantly changing scene. Cameras are part of this program, though not the only component. In this area, as with the other mentioned previously, better communication always is a fundamental step.

As mayor, I’ll begin by meeting with the entire police department – something the current mayor hasn’t found time to do in four whole years.

ON THE AVENUES ENCORE: The Adamite Chronicles: Have muzzle, will drivel.

ON THE AVENUES: The Adamite Chronicles: Have muzzle, will drivel.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

This column was published on December 4, 2014, and in recent days, it has once again become topical, so let's have a second look. 

Our local Democrats are having a free speech problem, aren't they? And yet it doesn't prevent their pompous piety as it pertains to "human rights," requiring frequent recourse to the irony sickness bag.   


Clich├ęs, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality.
― Hannah Arendt

One month ago, the Floyd County Democratic Party suffered an epochal beating in county (midterm) elections. In the aftermath of the electoral carnage, the party’s relatively youthful and web-savvy "reformist" core paused to take stock of future options. Surveying the rapidly shifting political terrain with a collective eye trained on the future, these characteristically near-sighted operatives took a bold and innovative step to reboot the tottering, leaky and spluttering local party machine.

They gazed into the mirror, and blocked me on the Democratic Party’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

On that very day, as the untrammeled heavy truck traffic thundered past my Spring Street residence on a one-way arterial street the very existence of which contradicts the party’s incessant claims to care about topics like revitalization, quality of life, public safety and other nagging reminders of its perennial impotence, I conducted my own survey of the political landscape … threw back my head … and laughed, loud and long.

Surely this bit of childishness represents the acme, the pinnacle -- the very highlight -- of my career as a pestiferous gadfly.

I haven’t stopped laughing since then. At precisely this pivotal moment of inexorably changing mathematics, when the Floyd County Democratic Party might have initiated an honest dialogue with its long-neglected left wing – as inhabited by genuine non-Dixiecratic Democrats and a formerly reliable but rapidly disillusioned cohort of left-leaning fellow travelers – for succor, it has chosen instead to espouse censorship and express its abiding hostility to ideas.

We hardly need Adam Dickey as chairman for that, do we? After all, while Ted Heavrin may be out of office, it isn’t like he’s dead or anything.


Granted, social media is only one aspect of the local political scene, but censoring Facebook and Twitter suggests delicious irony given the party’s recent giddiness over its generational shift. Instead, it’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” though arguably worse. The upper echelons of the party, as seamlessly interwoven with its last, fading bastions of strength in City Hall, now openly offers themselves to the world as New Albany’s native version of The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

In the movie, (Robert) De Niro plays Mario Trantino, an Italian bicycle racer that gets involved in a Brooklyn gang war. Kid Sally Palumbo (Jerry Orbach) operates his gang under the auspices of mob boss Baccala (Lionel Stander). Trying to get out from under the boss' thumb means killing Baccala, but Kid Sally's gang proves unequal to the task and backfiring schemes make funerals an everyday occurrence. When Kid Sally's sister (Leigh Taylor-Young) starts dating Mario, who is then in the middle of pulling a scam on Baccala, Kid Sally sees his chance at last.

However, even an inept, cartoonish mafia is by no means the best comparison. Rather, what we have here is a willful failure to communicate, as embraced by functionaries who see their bland bureaucratic banality as a symbol of new age organizational prowess.

Here, reprinted in its excruciatingly mundane entirety, is my correspondence with Adam.

I'm going to ask you a direct question: Is the Floyd County Democratic Party acting to censor me on social media, and if so, what is the reason for it? I will publish the answer or non-answer at the blog no one reads. Thanks.

Roger, thank you for your inquiry. FCDP encourages public activism as part of the Democratic process and strongly supports an individual's first amendment rights to express their political viewpoint.

In regard to the administration of our social media sites, we invite thoughtful, respectful and constructive dialogue on those sites. We strive to manage a positive online space where individuals can feel free to express themselves. Accordingly, when we created the social media sites, we also established a social media policy. For reference, that policy is posted on our Facebook site under "Notes."

FCDP Social Media Policy

Floyd County Democratic Party – Indiana invites thoughtful, respectful and constructive dialogue on our Facebook page. We strive to manage a positive online space where our constituents can feel free to express themselves. We understand that some conversations around articles, blog posts, events, videos, organizational initiatives and other content on this page or linked to this page can create strong opinions which can lead to debates and passionate responses.

For that reason, when comments or posts descend into derogatory remarks, personal attacks, inappropriate content or confusing streams of irrelevant content, we reserve the right to remove comments on our pages and potentially move the conversations offline (either onto e-mail or discussions via phone). We want to see your comments and posts that:

  • Are "on topic" and that respond to the content in our posts
  • Are responses to comments left by other readers
  • Are reasonably brief and to the point
  • Have a positive/constructive tone
  • Are open to being contradicted by other readers
  • Might disagree with the content in the article or post, but never insult the writer of the article or blog post, or other commenters

We will immediately delete, without notice, comments and posts, that:

  • Are unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, or contain racially, ethnically or similarly objectionable content
  • Are personal attacks, including name-calling or celebrations of another person's misfortune
  • Are injurious to the reputations or privacy of the Floyd County Democratic Party’s officers, volunteers, candidates and elected officials
  • Are false statements or unrelated to the Floyd County Democratic Party’s programs and mission
  • Contain advertising or spam
  • Are incomprehensible or do not contribute to reasonable dialogue
  • Are disruptive, including personal conversations better suited for private messaging
  • Violate any of Facebook's Terms of Use and Code of Conduct

Violations of Floyd County Democratic Party – Indiana’s Facebook community rules will cause a commenter to be blocked from making future posts or comments on the Facebook page.

I hope this addresses your concern. Thank you again for your inquiry. Please let me know if you have trouble accessing the social media policy.

Impressive. Can you clarify the human element of the policy, i.e., has it been applied by committee, or is there a sole social media arbiter?

There is a committee that manages the site.

Final question: Can you specify my offense? Thanks.

The decision was reflective on a pattern of violations that covered most of the examples listed under the second set of bullets.


It matters little whether the terms of use comprise cribbed boilerplate, or were written by the “committee” itself, although when I inquired of another party insider, the reply I received speaks volumes:

There isn't a social media committee.

Damn. Mr. Disney really has it in for me, eh?


Following the midterm election, William Greider appraised the Democratic Party as a whole, nationwide.

How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul, by William Greider (The Nation)

... The tattered authenticity of the party matters more now because both the country and the world face dangers and disorders that demand a fundamental reordering of the global economic system. This requires bold action, at a time when neither party is confronting the threatening situation. The Republicans are a wholly owned subsidiary of the business-finance machine; the Democrats are rented.

What we need is a rump formation of dissenters who will break free of the Democratic Party’s confines and set a new agenda that will build the good society rather than feed bloated wealth, disloyal corporations and absurd foreign wars. This is the politics the country needs: purposeful insurrection inside and outside party bounds, and a willingness to disrupt the regular order. And we need it now, to inject reality into the postelection spin war within the party.

I’ve been a fellow traveler for a very long time, always examining the bill of ballot fare as presented by both local political parties. With a recurring feeling of nausea, I’ve held my nose and voted mostly Democratic. Occasionally I’ve expressed active support for a Democratic aspirant, and almost without exception, the outcome has been disgust, disappointment, self-flagellation and yet another evening of commode hugging.

No more.

I cannot and will not support censors, and you should not, either.

Censorship as practiced by the likes of Chairman Adam plainly reveals a fundamental intolerance, and it intolerance is the local goal, I might as well follow the sage advice of Abraham Lincoln and opt for the unalloyed variety as practiced by the Republicans.

Or, conversely, we all might choose to approach politics in New Albany as principled, progressive independents, because in the end, it isn’t the word “progressive” that sets us apart from this planet’s petty Chairman Adams -- although our local Dixiecratic backsliders most assuredly are not progressive in any remotely coherent sense.

Rather, it’s the word “principled.”

Censors aren’t.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Hash it #gahanhypocrisy: A mayor who doesn't bother attending council meetings criticizes KZ for poor attendance.

Jeff Gahan's first "attack meme" comes to us from the Democratic Party's page at Fb, which is well on its way to purging all dissenters by prohibiting their comments. It's a repugnant twist emulated at the mayor's campaign page, and in some recent instances the city's social media feed.

That's right: Taxpayer dollars not only are spent to tout Gahan's re-election campaign, but to prevent comments. Those of Gahan's supporters with a passing interest in human rights might consider this quote.

Meanwhile, as Mark Cassidy asks ...

Inquiring minds want to know:

Why does Jeff Gahan not attend city council meetings? He was so mad at Doug England for not attending, that he, as council president, would not allow anyone to speak in the Mayor's slot on the agenda but the Mayor. Now, as Mayor, he attends even less frequently that England did and routinely sends someone to speak in the Mayor's slot. Hypocrite or not?

Far less frequently, in fact. As for me, I intend to attend as many council meetings as I can once elected mayor. Hell, I already do. I will answer questions, throw rhetorical punches, and do so for as long as they wish. It should be like question time in the House of Commons.

A discussion followed Mark's post about Gahan's chronic non-attendance.


Clint: It depends on what the meaning of attending is.

Stephen: I was told by the current Council president that there was no reason for him to be there just to get "attacked" by the council members. This was at least two years ago, maybe three, when I raised the issue of his absence. That was when my disillusionment began.

Mark: Takes one to know one, I guess. At least England was man enough to show up considerably more often than Gahan has. Not to mention that he told many of us, when he ran four years ago, that he would be a regular attendee at meetings. Pshaw.

Steven: Mayor Garner almost always showed up and was almost always attacked by the Council.

Mark: True. I started attending on a regular basis during his last year.

Roger: But Gahan completely controls this council. Last night was vivid proof. It was as though their teleprompters went blank, and in the absence of instructions, flailing was the order of the day: "We'd tell you what we think as soon as Gahan tells us."

Stephen: From my perspective, being there is part of the job. No one else can answer for you, but you. Be a man, Gahan.

Roger: Only if manhood pertains to monetizing or propaganda. Cults of personality mean never having to be yourself. The fear needs to stop.

Clint: "Ve half vays of making you think."

Roger: Even in New Albany?

Clint: I didn't specify useful or logical thinking.

R.I.P. Ralph Griggs. It is belated, but heartfelt.

And then you get sidetracked.

30-odd years ago, when I was working nights at Scoreboard Liquors (razed in 1988), we'd rope off the parking lot during Harvest Homecoming and charge people $5 to park -- unless they were paying customers.

The idea eventually arose among my friends to just leave our cars parked there, purchase some Stoli, Rose's Lime Juice and plastic cups, and stroll the festival at our leisure.

Thus was born the concept of Vodka-Thon, and one of those years, Ralph came along.

Ralph was a regular customer. He was a few years older than me, short of stature and heavily bearded, and if memory serves, he'd been in the army in Vietnam. He was smart, soft-spoken, and a tad eccentric -- he actually read books, regretted not being an undertaker, and once gave me a textbook about mortuary science. I still have it somewhere.

How did I know these things?

Because Ralph came in a lot, at all hours of the day, and what I didn't know -- what I chose not to know -- was that he was an alcoholic. Functional, perhaps, but still.

Vodka-Thon was a lark for us. It was everyday reality for him.

Later in the 1980s, after the liquor store had moved to the corner of Spring and Beharell, we lost touch. I heard from a mutual acquaintance that things had gotten bad for Ralph in every respect. Evidently I did nothing with this information. He had become one of those faces lost in the huge crowd of past lives.

This morning Vodka-Thon occurred to me, and Ralph's face popped into view. I did some googling, and it appears he's been dead for 15 years. This doesn't surprise me. I believe he had children, and they may still be around, grown now. If so, and if they read this, please know that none of these ruminations are intended as flippant or disrespectful.

In fact, I feel awful. I didn't know then what I know now, but that's hardly an excuse for doing nothing when it was obvious something was wrong. Ralph seemed like a good fellow, tormented by demons, at least one of which was the disease of alcoholism.

Ralph, I'll always remember our chats about book and life. I'm sorry I was oblivious to the other part of it.

Rest in peace, sir.

ON THE AVENUES: There’s an indie twist to this curmudgeon’s annual Harvest Homecoming column.

ON THE AVENUES: There’s an indie twist to this curmudgeon’s annual Harvest Homecoming column.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

You may have noticed that in 2015, I’ve consciously soft-pedaled blog references to Harvest Homecoming.

In completely unrelated news, there is an amazing concept called “pragmatism.” It has taken me 55 years to be introduced to it, and I thought I’d give it a whirl. Being pragmatic actually has little to do with running for mayor. It’s about reformatting for the future, and getting something important accomplished.

Those detailed annual critiques of Harvest Homecoming, as regularly offered here since 2005, remain far more applicable than not. They’re objective, factual and easily searchable. You are invited to indulge, read and learn.

Apart from impeccable reasoning of the sort I’ve offered in this space previously, I have three primary reasons for taking a break in 2015.

First, there is escalating personal exhaustion.

Numerous metaphorical 800-lb. gorillas roam the mean streets of New Albany, and without occasional exercises in triage, energy conservation and gin, wrestling with them all at once can be quite tiring. It’s better to pick selected battles and topple the behemoths each in turn – or, failing that, drink more gin.

Second, I’m experiencing mounting personal changes, many of them delightful.

My decision to uncouple from NABC has been liberating in several ways. Among them is a boomerang of sorts with regard to my terms of engagement with Harvest Homecoming.

The advent of downtown New Albany’s first wave of indies (i.e. Bistro New Albany, circa 2006), and then later Bank Street Brewhouse (2009), brought me into annual downtown contact with Harvest Homecoming for the first time in decades. BSB’s concurrent Fringe Fest was and is a direct response to the myriad challenges of happy harvesting for local independent businesses.

Dependent on my future job status, perhaps now I’ll be free to revert to that halcyon pre-2006 default condition of avoiding upcloseandpersonal contact with Harvest Homecoming, especially as it is manifested in its enduringly invasive “booth days.”

Frankly, it’s never been my kind of event, and there’s not much of substance in it for folks like me. So be it, and it takes all sorts to fill a planet.

As such, I envision a future family custom of departing for vacation on the Monday following the parade, because parade day has taken on a renewed significance for me, which brings us to Reason Number Three.

There’s a new tradition called Biers on Parade.


This year the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association “popped up” a beer garden at the Farmers Market, intended to coincide with the parade. The weather didn’t cooperate, but we got it done with the active help of the New Albany Farmers Market and Harvest Homecoming. Even the captive Board of Public Works and Safety gave prompt and courteous approval.

See, various entities actually can row in the same direction. Kudos to them all.

We’re eager to build on this year’s Biers on Parade experiment as the capstone to an entirely different and yet complementary concept for the week preceding Harvest Homecoming’s downtown takeover.

This is the cause of heightened economic localism, and a week-long spotlight placed directly on local independent businesses.

Let it be known that enhanced localism should be the basis for the city of New Albany’s overall economic development strategy, and if I’m elected mayor, it will be. The American Independent Business Alliance offers one reason why.

“Multiple studies show locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much per dollar of revenue to our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors.”

As we continue working toward this goal, pragmatic adjustments to the fall calendar are in order. Harvest Homecoming’s parade always takes place on the first Saturday in October. Henceforth, we’re hoping that the last Sunday in September provides a handy annual localism kickoff with Indie Fest, followed by New Albany Restaurant & Bar Week, concluding with Biers on Parade.

Taken together, it’s a ready-made Indie Week to bookend Harvest Homecoming. It extends festive times over two full weeks, not just one. It provides the opportunity to trumpet the merits of “we’re here all year” alongside those of “come to Harvest Homecoming once a year.” It can be adapted to all downtown stakeholders, not just food and drink businesses.

It restores balance, and takes a necessary step toward democratizing downtown.

What it cannot do is completely relieve the stress points created by Harvest Homecoming’s “booth days” presence in an evolving, working, beating heart of a city. In years to come, dozens of people will be living upstairs in previously vacant buildings. Festive noise and clutter are one thing, and access to living space something very different. Something’s got to give.

However, I’ve become convinced that a younger generation of Harvest Homecoming movers and doers understands the need for evolution. We worked together to stage Biers on Parade. This year’s official Harvest Homecoming program contains a centerfold map of downtown, highlighting local independent businesses. It isn’t perfect, but reformers need encouragement.

Better communication helps. If I’m elected mayor, transparency is a guarantee, and we’ll move along the process. If not, irrespective of my new life, I intend to remain involved with independent local business activities preceding Harvest Homecoming.


A final word about my parade non-participation in 2015.

This year, I couldn’t bend the parade committee to the notion of common sense, which to me implies an acceptance of walking as the simplest, most basic form of human transportation.

There was a surreal, 1960s-era quality to the conversation (paraphrasing): “You’re the candidate of walkability, and walkability is the future of our downtown? That’s nice, but don’t you want a shiny car for that? After all, it’s Hot Rod Harvest.”

No thanks. I’d just like to walk the parade.

Yes, bureaucracies usually evolve accordingly. Rule books cease being living documents, and become immutable commandments for facilitating control. But if there is any single thing I’ve learned in the craft beer business, it’s that creativity freshens stale orthodoxy – and creativity is best inspired by letting loose, as opposed to tightening up.

I believe the parade is redeemable, and should be multi-modal – just like the streets it uses each year.

We’ll get to THAT, too.

If you venture into the weekend's Harvest Homecoming scrum, remember the buildings behind the booths. The businesses inside them -- and the people living above them -- are here all year.


Recent columns:

October 1: ON THE AVENUES: No more fear, Jeff.

September 24: ON THE AVENUES: Almost two years later, Mr. Gahan has yet to plug in this clock, and so it's time for him to clock out.

September 17: ON THE AVENUES: Dear Neighbor: If you’re tired of the same old story, turn some pages.

September 10: ON THE AVENUES: Lanesville Heritage Weekend comes around again.

September 3: ON THE AVENUES: When even Mitt Romney can run to the left of New Albany’s Democrats, it's a very big problem.

August 27: ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

August 20: ON THE AVENUES: In the groove.