Thursday, July 31, 2008

Source says: A solitary public hearing later, it's time to vote on a smoking ban.

According to a reliable source, New Albany's proposed smoking ban ordinance will be comprehensive, just like Louisville's, and will be voted on at Monday's meeting.

Modern times? Lemme e-mail it to you. You do have e-mail, right?

The fact that I’ve just gotten to this article after more than a month on the coffee table is sad testimony to the absence of reading time of late.

That having been said, this article from the New York Times Magazine is one of the better treatments I’ve seen lately that address the space/time deficiencies of our local branch of the Democratic Party. Granted, the author intends the analysis to apply on a national scale, but he couldn’t have done a better job of describing Floyd County demos, some of whom occupy seats on the city council and yet can’t be reached by e-mail.

Dudes … it’s 2008. That whole flat earth thing is sooo over. Here are two excerpts; follow the link for the complete article.

Idea Lab: Network Nation, by Dalton Conley (New York Times Magazine, June 22, 2008).

The chatter these days is that the Republicans are a party that has run out of ideas. The Soviet Union is long gone; welfare has been reformed; market logics have permeated almost every aspect of our lives (eBay, anyone?). The truth is that the triumph of conservative ideas may present a political problem for the ailing Republicans, but the party that’s truly lacking in new ideas is my own, the resurgent Democrats ...

... It’s not surprising that the private-sector, new-economy companies are ahead of government in adapting to the networked society, but if progressives want a victory in the world of ideas and policy — and not just a couple of good election cycles — they are going to have to stop talking F.D.R, J.F.K. and L.B.J. and start thinking eBay, Google and Wiki.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goebbels said it best.

Or perhaps it was Goering.

No matter the source, it remains the case that the bigger and more breathtaking the lie, the more likely gullible folks are to believe it. Locally, no one fabricates them better than the 1st district’s Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey, who dispensed his favorite tall tale to the Tribune’s reporter in an article today about the city budget.

Coffey proposes using money owed to the city’s Economic Development Income Tax fund from the State Street parking garage tax-increment financing district, to float a bond for paying for officers.

The old “pay back the $3 million” line should be enshrined on the Urban Legends web site alongside the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. My colleague Jeff rebutted it only recently in the comments section of another blog, after which the pins could be heard dropping.

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The bond for the parking garage was initially approved by the Council so that it would be paid by both EDIT and TIF, with a majority coming from EDIT.

As stated in the notes, the bank didn't finish the top floors of its building as soon as expected. That means not as much TIF was collected as expected in the earliest years of the bond, hence the $256K shortfall mentioned.

The Council was asked to appropriate additional EDIT to cover that shortfall and the lease rental reserve. That total, according to the notes, was $580K.

The rest of the $3.6 million had already been allocated to the garage in the original bond agreement. It was neither extra nor a loan. Only the $580K was additional. The $3,696,350 mentioned was the total amount of EDIT spent on the garage including both the $3 million already pledged by the council and the additional $580K to be requested.

You'll also note that Mr. Malaysz suggested that the money ($580K) COULD be paid back. Just because he mentioned it in a Redevelopment meeting DOES NOT mean that the Council voted to set it up that way. The notes posted mean only that it was discussed as a possibility outside of a Council meeting.

When Dan Coffey brought a bogus resolution forward to pay more than $3 million from TIF to EDIT last year based on this rumor instead of actually doing his homework (he never even requested information about the garage bond), Mr. Rosenbarger offered to provide Coffey and the entire Council with the original bond documentation showing his error. Coffey, of course, refused.

Since that time, the long disproven rumor of a $3 million loan has continued to circulate, usually from anonymous sources who, like Coffey, are more interested in political turmoil than the truth.

Note also that the same anonymous gripes continue to claim on your blog, as did Coffey at the time, that our tax dollars subsidize the operation of the parking garage.

Their own notes here prove them wrong, showing that the garage actually turns a small profit each year. They'll no doubt purposely forget that and go back to griping about subsidizing garage operations soon.

In short, why doesn't TIF pay back $3 million to EDIT? Because it doesn't owe EDIT $3 million and never did.

Besides, EDIT money can be spent on anything that TIF can be used to finance. What's the point of continuing to demand the false repayment if the money can be spent on the important projects you mention anyway?

Fire hazard?



The third photo isn't that clear, but it shows junk and boxes stacked chest high throughout the ground floor of the unused building at 109 E. Market. I imagine there's an ordinance against it. Might it be enforced?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wow.







Posted by Picasa

REWIND: Biking, walking and other blatant attacks on the New Albanian way of life.

At the invitation of Mayor England, I'm preparing to board my bike and pedal to a stategy session on community biking/walking systems. There'll be more on the afternoon's discussion coming later this evening. Until then, here's a "rewind" from January, 2005, and you'll note that I was wrong. We're having a forum of sorts today, and it is being chaired by the mayor. That seems like progress to me.

Biking, walking and other blatant attacks on the New Albanian way of life

For the second consecutive temperate January day, NA Confidential will be bicycling to work. Of course, it is essential to use the side streets, as New Albany's major thoroughfares are too dangerous and lack not only bike lanes, but ridiculously often, the bare minimum of sidewalks for pedestrian use.

Fittingly (in more ways than one), today's Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) and staffer Rochelle Renford return to last month's report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, "which names Metro Louisville the 23rd most dangerous place for pedestrians among 50 similar-sized regions."

Referring to sociologist Richard Florida's assertion that the presence of bicycle lanes is one amenity (of many) needed to attract the creative class, Renford bluntly adds that "in Metro Louisville, bike lanes and the ability to avoid the automobile are still just dreams, although there are downtown lofts and a very hip skate park."

Renford surveys recent efforts in Louisville to improve this abysmal ranking. Coming up in February is the Metro Louisville Bicycle Summit, where longtime public advocates like the CART organization will join with other attendees for a public forum hosted by Mayor Jerry Abramson.

A public forum? Chaired by the Mayor? Son, that's Louisville, not New Albany. Besides, it's funny enough trying to imagine any current City Council members riding a bike, much less expressing support for the same.

Here are the relevant links:

Walk This Way: A pedestrian-friendly community is a livable community, by Rochelle Renford in LEO

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson hosts the Metro Louisville Bicycle Summit, February 7-8, 2005

CART: Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation

Monday, July 28, 2008

Truly relevant issues languish yet again as a hasty council “smoke screen” diverts and divides.

Reporter Daniel Suddeath’s article in the Friday edition of the Tribune quotes city council president Jeff Gahan as raising the possibility that an anti-smoking ordinance could be ready for voting as early as the August 4 meeting.

A draft of the ordinance is being prepared, but it has to be approved by legal counsel before the details can be released. If it is OK’d, it would likely be up for a first vote at the next meeting, Gahan said.

Given the sheer length of the dirty laundry list of potential topics for the council’s consideration in 2008 (just a few of which can be viewed on the right side of this page), the unexpected warp speed with which a smoking ordinance is now being pushed isn’t just unprecedented. It’s nothing short of miraculous.

We’re talking about walking on water territory here, all the more so because neither the current sitting council nor its bilious predecessor might be described in any significant way as displaying pro-active tendencies toward any topic whatsoever beyond the re-election of its members. Furthermore, legislative urgency apparently has not been an historical hallmark of the New Albany political experience since the auspicious day two centuries ago when the Scribners rowed ashore and, tragically, didn’t have sense enough to proceed to Birdseye – the Taj Mahal of Coffeyites far and wide.

Nostalgic? Recall that the EPA had to threaten the city with the nuclear option to force us, kicking and screaming, into repairing decrepit sewers, and know also that it is pathetically likely that a second citizen courtroom initiative will be required to compel the council to properly redistrict for the first time since 1992.

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Whether inelegantly cribbed from the Internet a la Slippery Larry Kochert's 2006 tour de farce, or provided verbatim by the small army of paid lobbyists who gathered to testify at the solitary public hearing on the smoking issue, the smoking ordinance headed our way will be designed to address a specific argument: Workplace safety.

But what about safety in one’s own place of residence? Surely ordinance enforcement (or New Albany’s abject lack of it) pertains to domicile safety, and the average person spends roughly twice as much time at home than at work.

Strangely, it is difficult to attract the same number of eager experts when it comes to explicating the health and safety concerns inherent in unregulated rental properties, but on the other hand, the council has consistently shown open hostility toward the concept of a city enforcing its own laws.

In essence, it would seem that in choosing to focus its attention on the dangers of smoking in the workplace, the New Albany city council, which historically is resentful toward outsiders who dare tell it what to do in its wonderfully and delightfully dysfunctional backyard, now looks to outsiders to help it do something – anything – to distract attention from its unwillingness to enforce the laws it already has written.

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All of which made the scene even more surreal when, roughly two months ago, and after almost four years of discussion at this and other local blogs about the critical topic of code enforcement and rental property inspection, CM Gahan bizarrely confided to me during a conversation that he had become only recently aware of fervent public interest in residential safety.

Say what? I felt like the AFLAC duck after his barbershop encounter with Yogi Berra.

Are we writing, speaking and working in a vacuum?

Are the northernmot outposts of Klerner Lane really that far removed from the reality of the city’s historic residential areas?

Think about it. All the blog postings, numerous newspaper articles, and hordes of neighborhood association people and residents who’ve attended meetings to keep the idea of safe housing alive against the wishes of Gahan’s fellow neighborhood deconstructionists in the 1st and 3rd districts – meetings that Gahan not only attended, but often chaired – and only now has the subject become of sufficient urgency to show recognition?

Hence the political cowardice inherent in the council president’s sudden obsessive fixation with smoking to the exclusion of so many other line items of genuine merit, and so it is that a scant month after the first and only public hearing to date on a possible smoking ban, itself a topic ranking second only to abortion when it comes to civic rancor and interpersonal divisiveness (in truth, perhaps here in New Albany our unique brand of sewerpottyyvonnemania actually trumps both), we’re told that a smoking ordinance is almost ready for action.

It’s beyond rational comprehension, and accordingly, seeing as a solid block of council members lives according to dully repetitive precepts of irrationality, the games now will begin.

I don’t give a damn either way about a smoking ban, but what I care about is having a council that gets it, and in the run-up to the smoking ordinance, we’re about to be deluged with more evidence that it doesn’t. An indoor smoking ban positing the necessity of protecting workers from second-hand smoke makes sense only by being universal and comprehensive, permitting none of the exemptions and exceptions that shameless ward-heeling amateurs will inevitably seek to disburse like Halloween candy to their cronies.

For an idea of how this simply fact stands to play out in New Albany, otherwise known as the land that education forgot, imagine the wacky pretzel logic about to be deployed as Steve Price tries to explain how he completely understands that second-hand smoke is bad for a server in one of those restaurants he refuses to patronize, but perfectly acceptable for a bartender in an American Legion hall, ‘cuz gee, they fought for their country and all that.

The customers, not the workers. Cue the AFLAC duck again, will you?

It’s almost as nonsensical to advocate a smoking ban within New Albany proper but not have a matching one outside the city limits, in the remainder of Floyd County, where the nicotine-addicted will flock unless the county council follows suit.

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Meanwhile, if you’re like me, you can look out your window at crumbling streets in perpetual need of repair, with existing city ordinances in desperate need of enforcing, and ponder a police force so understaffed that it is barely able to keep pace with the predictable fruits of slumlord empowerment … and glance again at all the imperatives on this council’s plate listed at the right … and try somehow to explain to me that the very best this council’s leadership can do is propose to divide the populace even further by creating a new criminal element within it.

Unless, of course, a smoking ordinance is meant to be another in a long series of rules without enforcement mechanisms.

Once upon a time, not that long ago, upon learning of the council president’s weirdly belated epiphanies on code enforcement, and knowing how important code enforcement remains to the community, and lastly, that politics involve trade-offs ... I said that my own business would swallow the pain, take one for the inevitable, and accept a smoking ban, but – BUT – only for so long as it is comprehensive, because that’s the only way that it can be fair to all.

However, since Gahan has once again spit in the eye of the U.S. Constitution over redistricting, and found it expedient to spend much of his time hovering in the dark shadows of the Coffey-Price dumbumvirate, which will make grandstanding hash of any conceivably rational smoking ordinance just as surely as road kill is barbecued for a W. 7th Street re-election fete, I find my position to be steadily evolving. I've had hig hopes for the current council, and my hopes quite possibly are futile. I've had big hopes for the progressive instincts of the council president, and I still do, but his course thus far is erratic -- and I'm being charitable.

Come to think of it, what’s Mayor England’s position on a potential smoking ordinance? I believe I'll give One Southern Indiana a ring and find out.

In the meantime, I’ll be examining the efficacy of roadblocks, because the way I'm feeling right now, any sugar I can pour in the gas tank of the anti-smoking bandwagon, I will ... unless, of course, someone can explain to me why this is happening. Is Donald Sutherland available? I have the park bench.

Photo credit: www.teacupspuppies.com and AFLAC

Trogs ‘n’ blogs: Speaking of committee reports, there is one we'd like to see.

For the past few days a desultory discussion has taken place elsewhere in the local blogosphere. To distill it down to the base weirdness, an anonymous troglodyte masquerading as multiple anonymous troglodytes (well, you can’t really know, can you?) wants to know the location of the minutes kept by the recently disbanded redistricting committee.

I wasn’t part of the committee, but I’m tempted to answer that the soggy minutes had to be carted off to the landfill after five council persons took advantage of the most recent meeting to publicly urinate on the proffered results of the committee’s work, and by extension, to soil the very concept of equal representation.

The thing that continues to strike me as telling amid the accusations and recriminations of Luddite Nation is its refusal to apply the same standards of accountability to the abortive redistricting plan that was hurriedly rushed through the council’s docket in 2007, only to be swatted down like a blood-engorged horse fly in high summer heat by a Federal judge.

I’ve always called the council’s flaccidly abortive compliance effort the Schmidt Plan, primarily because it had the fingerprints of the Coup d’Geriatrique all over it, not to mention worn Formica fragments that even a forensics novice could readily link to the ex-councilman’s/woman’s kitchen table.

A handful of the council’s lesser lights duly conspired to submit the Schmidt Plan as a solution, and you can bet your sweet bippy that it was incalculably more “gerrymandered” than the plan offered by the redistricting committee, and yet our anonymous friends aren’t scandalized at all by such wholesale chicanery, preferring instead to slime the committee and to wholeheartedly endorse the work of oblivious officials whose very presence on the council may have stemmed from earlier refusals to redistrict and the electoral inequalities stemming from them.

It’s a highly selective interpretation, indeed, but then again, they’re anonymous, aren't they?

Can I see the minutes from the Schmidt kitchen cabal, please?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

From Yuri Andropov, with love.

When Yuri Andropov replaced the enfeebled Leonid Brezhnev as Soviet kingpin in 1982, there was no way of knowing that the ex-KGB operative's stint at the top would last only 15 months. Andropov's severe health problems were never made public, but he was dying almost from the moment of accession. When yet another wheezing and debilitated party boss (Konstantin Chernenko) assumed the leadership position in 1984, anything remotely resembling the forthcoming roller coaster ride of the Gorbachev era was regarded as a pipe dream and dismissed out of hand.

A quarter century later, we can see that while Andropov was no cuddly liberal, his many years in the KGB and frequent travels through the Soviet Bloc provided him with a realistic – in context – perspective of affairs. Andropov's methods of "reform" within the USSR surely would have been brutally repressive; after all, he was Moscow's man on the scene during the Hungarian revolt of 1956, and yet he grasped the fundamental need to reform, something that eluded the ossified Brezhnev gerontocracy.

This isn't to imply that cosmetic reform had any real chance of success, such was the gap between the USSR's preferred method of operation and a rapidly changing world that was outpacing it in every way. It remains that if not in terms of flair and style, Andropov certainly was Gorbachev's crucial patron, without whom Gorbymania would have been stillborn.

I'm reading a political biography of Yuri Andropov, written in 1983 by a husband and wife team of exiled Soviet journalists, and purporting to help Westerners understand the milieu of Ronald Reagan's then adversary in the Kremlin. It is a fascinating account of the deadly, Byzantine maneuverings behind the scenes in a time and place that seems even more dated than it actually was … and is.

In 1982, I received my degree from Indiana University Southeast and stepped out into a world that in geopolitical terms was absolutely defined by these matters. In resolving to travel in Europe, I, too, was defined by the Cold War whether I knew it or not.

In 1985, Chernenko's final resting place in the Kremlin Wall was barely cold, and Gorbachev had been in charge for only six months, when I entered the USSR for the first time, crossing the border from Finland aboard a bus bound for Leningrad. The route took us through the Finno-Russian area known as Karelia, which I later learned was Andropov's first power base in the Soviet hierarchy.

The bus was mostly filled with young Americans like myself, but I made friends with an Aussie named Mark, who helped me celebrate by 25th birthday by bribing our way into a restaurant and negotiating an all-we-could-drink meal (with a few little bits of inedible food included) for the price of $10 cash each. That's dollars, not rubles.

Mark, who perhaps was a year younger than me, became extravagantly drunk, and while comically hung over the next day managed to trade three pairs of nylons for an evening of sex with a 40-something woman he met at an ice cream stand on Nevsky Prospekt. His original plan was for me to keep her friend similarly occupied, but I possessed neither the necessary hosiery nor any other commodity for creative bartering. Besides, she was somewhat larger than me, and looked a bit too much like Andropov for my tastes. I opted "in" for the remainder of Mark's vodka, and counted myself fortunate for opting "out" of my end of the tryst.

Two years later, I suddenly thought of the late and unlamented Andropov again, this time while visiting Budapest.

During the month of June, 1987, I aimlessly roamed through Western Hungary, staying in towns like Koszeg and Sopron, and ending with just shy of two weeks in the shabby but endearing capital city on the muddy "blue" Danube, scene of Andropov's defining ambassadorial triumph thirty years before. Those were inexpensive and exhilarating times. Including a ticket to watch the rock group Genesis at the soccer stadium and a one way train ducat for the three-day, 36-hour trip from Budapest to Moscow, expenses came out to $17 a day for the month in Hungary. Subway tickets were a dime apiece, imported bottles of Czech lager came in at four for a dollar, and meals would be had for two bucks at one of the "people's" cafeterias scattered throughout the city.

The meals were acceptable for the dirt cheap price, if fairly predictable, and while they hinted at the glories of savory, lard-laden Hungarian cuisine, the commissary fare fell a bit short of world class. As my departure day drew near, I decided to splurge at a much praised restaurant in the Buda Hills, the sort of place that ordinary Hungarians could ill afford on their paltry salaries, but I could easily manage every now and then.

On a quiet and sunny Sunday, I boarded the tram and rode almost to the end of the line, got off, and easily found the recommended eatery. As customary, the full menu was posted by the front gate, and I was studying the possibilities when there was a commotion at the entrance, which was hidden in tall shrubbery thirty feet away.

An older man dressed in regulation rumpled Communist party gray suit came staggering out. I could smell the alcohol on his breath all the way from the street. The man was mumbling in Hungarian, that most incomprehensible of languages transported by the migration of Asiatic peoples to the area a thousand years ago, but what struck me as he approached was that he looked more like the deceased Andropov than the Soviet leader did while alive, and when he finally got to me, nearly stumbling on a cobblestone in the process, he slurred something angrily in Magyar-speak and very slowly launched an attempted haymaker in my general direction.

The punch didn't come anywhere close to landing, and the force of his fist's impact with the stale evening air caused him to completely lose balance and fall to his knees, where he was briskly intercepted by the group of comrades who had come running behind him. Two of them packed the old man off into an adjacent Lada, and two others began apologizing profusely to me in attempted German. I responded in Hoosier-laced American, which caused them even more consternation ("but we like your mister Reagan," one whispered).

Their communication skills were inadequate to convey why the Andropov lookalike wanted to slug me. I reckoned that he plain didn't like Germans.

As it turned out, the first beer inside was on them, and the Chicken Paprika and sour cherry soup that followed on my forints was damned good, too. In the end, it gave me a good story to tell two years later, in August of 1989, when I sat drinking beer with Vladimir Putin (another of Andropov's KGB men) at the Radeberger beer cellar in Dresden, German Democratic Republic.

But that's a tale for another day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Albany Now tomorrow: The Ohio River Bridges project.

Yesterday at NAC: Excuse me while I scrape my shoe.

Tomorrow night, the discussion moves to online talk radio. Here's the promo.

Ohio River Bridges: Who's the Fool?

We have a heavy schedule of programming in the next two weeks, starting with a special Sunday night show. The esteemed co-editor of NA Confidential, bluegill, aka Jeff Gillenwater, will join us as our special guest, to discuss the Ohio River Bridges project.

For the remaining schedule, please visit the show profile to see what's on tap.

We're lining up guest callers for Sunday night and we invite your questions. The show kicks off at 8 p.m.

"Green Porno" -- it's a bug's life, after all.

Green Porno (at the Sundance Channel).

Thanks to Diana and Elizabeth.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Excuse me while I scrape my shoe.


During the most recent mayoral campaign, then candidate Doug England and I had a conversation about the Ohio River Bridges Project, 8664, and the state of transportation in our region.

It's hardly a secret that the senior editor and I are proponents of 8664 and I told him so, with gusto added when it came to the dishonest means by which One Southern Indiana was promoting both itself and the bridges. While he didn't quite go so far as to endorse 8664, our future mayor assured me that neither he nor Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan "gave a damn about another downtown bridge".

Funny then, that a bridges story by Daniel Suddeath in yesterday's Tribune features a ORBP-supporting Mayor England saying, “Completing the Bridges Project is the needed and critical step to link our citizens and foster job growth throughout the metro area."

Mayor England also assured me at the time that he fully expected his actions to be monitored and that I and a host of others were expected to call him on bullshit whenever we encountered it.

Consider it done.

In response, I started to write a more lengthy exposition on transportation and the self-defeating demagoguery that typically defines the subject.

Luckily, Tyler Allen and J.C. Stites of 8664 beat me to the keyboard with an email asking yet another round of relevant questions that our mayor will now have to answer himself.

Here's the email, verbatim:

Dear Supporter,

We hope to see you at the
Forecastle Festival this weekend. Please drop by our booth and pick up one of our new sustainable-green t-shirts while supplies last.

What do you think?

In our last email we confirmed that 98% of the budget cut from the Bridges Project through 2010 has come from the East End Bridge. This begs the question, what are they planning to do with the $170 Million or so currently allocated for the downtown portion of the project over the next two years?

Keep in mind that the current Bridges Project doesn't even address Hospital Curve (unchanged at 6 lanes) or Cochran Tunnel (unchanged at 4 lanes).

Do politicians Abramson and Yarmuth honestly want to build a downtown toll bridge and 23 lanes of Spaghetti on our waterfront? Or is the downtown portion of the project just a big smokescreen to stop the East End Bridge?

We welcome your thoughts or insights. Reply to this email or email us at news@8664.org.

Keep the faith,

Tyler Allen and JC Stites
http://8664.org/

I'll see the 8664 folks at Forecastle this weekend. You might see the Mayor around town sometime soon. Right after making the BS call, feel free to pass along the questions. I'm sure Tyler and J.C. won't mind.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Boner & Jethro: On the nature of council opposition to progress.

Yesterday we took a look at a few of the things happening downtown.

A quick look around downtown ... courtesy of the Urban Enterprise Association.

It was by no means an exhaustive survey, and there could have been many more citations.

Considering that we’re in an inflationary period of economic uncertainty, it’s significant that urban pioneers continue to invest in a neglected downtown. They’re not doing so in spite of eroding traditional development models.

Rather, they’re doing so precisely because these development models are eroding, and with their passing will come new opportunities to create and profit by means of other, emerging strategic outlooks.

The impressive part of it to me is that they’re continuing to invest in the face of opposition, a motley assortment of flat-earthers, mail carriers, anti-tax zealots and embittered troglodytes that seems determined to weaken or eliminate the comparatively few enticements typically made available by governmental entities to slightly reduce the risk of attempting to raise the dead.

At each and every city council meeting, and constantly within the venom-flecked pages of our city's anony-blogs, there is an attitude reflecting what must be honestly termed as defeatism. That such an attitude will seep up at any given juncture from a handful of the city's residents isn't at all surprising. The clueless squalor that one knows is often preferable to the uncertainty of change, and that’s just part of the universal human condition.

But, that such destructiveness emanates from elected council persons, typically (but not restricted to) Dan Coffey and Steve Price, is plainly reprehensible. Never have there been two better examples of persons willing to sow confusion and incite fear to prevent the betterment of the community they’ve been sworn to uphold.

Take a walk through New Albany’s emerging downtown. Does Steve Price grasp even a small part of the significance of what's happening there, or is the fact that few of his voters reside there enough to keep his attention riveted to the environs of Dewey Heights … and to the exclusion of the public good elsewhere in his long-suffering district? Perhaps the latter is to be expected from a person who has publicly stated his aversion to the prosperity of Louisville’s Frankfort Avenue corridor.

As I’ve noted previously, Price – council president Gahan’s appointee – has missed five of seven Urban Enterprise Association board meetings this year.

Given that many of the UEA’s expenditures benefit Price’s own council district, you’d think he would give a damn about it if for no other reason that political self-interest, but like Jethro Bodine on moonshine, he thumbs his nose at economic development, whether assisted by the UEA, supported by the city, or undertaken by investors who scratch their heads in confusion at Price’s pathological resistance to their readiness to spend money in Price’s backyard.

The inescapable conclusion is that irrespective of his periodic words to the contrary, Steve Price’s actions almost always have the real-world effect of reinforcing decay and urging continued poverty on his unfortunate constituents. I’d use the word “commonweal,” but I won’t. Neither Price nor his coterie would know the meaning.

Nor would they care.

We've already watched as Dan Coffey energetically seeks to limit economic development in his own district. 'Nuff said about that.

Speaking personally, the solitary drawback to building a new brewing business downtown is the knowledge that people like Coffey and Price will seek to benefit from the emerging community that we’ll be playing a role in reviving – this coming after they’ve done everything in their powers to deprive the community of this opportunity to reinvent itself for the good of all.

We’ll do it anyway, because in addition to helping play a role in downtown revival, our work will eventually bring New Albany to a better place, where fear and stupidity are looked upon as reasons not to vote for shiftless demagogues.

The city simply can’t wait for that sweet day to arrive.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A quick look around downtown ... courtesy of the Urban Enterprise Association.

Mike Ladd of the the New Albany Urban Enterprise Association (NAUEA) provides these photos of a walk around downtown New Albany yesterday. Click on the image for a larger view.

So many things are happening that it's difficult to keep track, but here are a few random notes.

I'm a member of the UEA board, and we're seeing a record number of applications for facade grants as more buildings undergo renovation. The UEA has taken a lead role in the landscaping project currently underway downtown, and is seeking other grants to continue the project, both from the Horseshoe Foundation and in conjunction with Develop New Albany.

Meanwhile, Develop New Albany has sold the White House Center for redevelopment, and the organization's "First Tuesday" networking gatherings (next up on August 5 at the Honeymoon Mansion on Main Street) have been a great success.

Don't forget that it's Wednesday, and that means the Farmers Market will be running downtown later this afternoon.

I'm told that there'll be a "before" open house this coming Sunday (the 27th; 4 - 7 p.m.) at the Fair Store, now under rehab on Market Street just across from the soon-to-be-revived Connor's Place (and less than two blocks away from NABC's new brewery and taproom project, for which I'll provide an update later this week).

If Matt and Jessica are reading ... want some beer on Sunday? I may know how to make that happen.

As with Mike's photos, this isn't intended as a comprehensive survey. What are we leaving out?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Available in watermelon flavor, or so I'm told.

The other day, in a comment appended to a blog posting here at NAC, I wrote this:

First Jeff Gahan was in bed with Dan Coffey (sewers), and now Steve Price (redistricting).

Do they sell full body condoms down at Cleopatra's adult book store?

Upon further reflection, I've reached the conclusion that there's absolutely no reason for me to retract it.

Over and out.

Open air rooles.

“Our intensions are to put the pieces together and see what we come up with.”

Prof. Erika probably means “intentions,” but hey – she’s the transgendered faux professor, although I am flattered to be included in the “Plaintiffs spew their venom” section, which is the highlight of Freedom to Screech’s most recent puff piece precisely because they’re our words – not hers.

It lends her work an aura of class and authenticity, don't you think?

Prof. Erika says that a redistricting ordinance, presumably last winter’s farcical and forgettable Schmidt plan, has been passed, and that no other is required. Unfortunately, she somehow forgets that a Federal judge laughed the same plan out of court, which is the reason why former council president and longtime wannabeen Larry Kochert’s last-second “Hail Mary” pass was unceremoniously deflected by the US Constitution, landing harmlessly in the Port-A-Can posted at the 50-yard line.

Yawn.

Forget the misspellings, bad grammar and plagiarism. For someone so fond of insisting on playing by the "rules", Prof. Erika seems entirely unaware of more than a few elementary guidelines. Then again, playing by the "rules" implies signing your name to what you write, offering consistent attributions, and being accountable for the idiocy that ensues.

And yet, improbably, it gets even funnier.

Because Prof. Erika refuses to allow comments and discussion, local wee ones outraged by another of Roger’s signed commentaries at a blog they claim not to read will log on to Mrs. Baird’s otherwise constructive public affairs blog and – that’s right – spew their venom toward me … anonymously.

With enduring dysfunction like that coming from people who say they know the “rules”, it’s small wonder non-entities like Steve Price and Dan Coffey make it into office.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Productivity and progressivism - how's the current council doing?

On December 28, 2007, the NA Shadow Council blog published a consideration of the tasks ahead for New Albany's city council. Seven months and fourteen regularly scheduled meetings have passed since then, along with several other hearings and work sessions.

At the time, Shadow made this observation.

At least a "rump" segment of the incoming council has pledged to seek the following goal: To help make New Albany a more productive and progressive city.

Granted, no one ever imagined that any more than a "rump" of the council might conceivably view the following as priorities. For example, as his neighborhood yearns for principled engagement on the part of its accidental councilman, Steve Price can be counted on to understand almost none of these planks and to vote against most.

The council has somehow found the time to ban novelty lighters and ignite the divisive debate over smoking in public places, even as it has deferred constructive action on redistricting, beyond offering another round of earnest claims that the job they refuse to do is their exclusive province.

Still, perhaps it's early yet. As we look back on the first half year, how is the council's work proceeding if one uses the list below as an indicator of potential action items?

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Accountability
City Beautification
Enforcement/Laws
Education/City Off
Image/City
Sewers
Communication
Re-organization/Dept
Traffic Flow
Environment
Public Involvement
Parks
Service
Size of Gov
Industrial
Leadership
Business
Revenue
Constituents
Spring St. Hill
Housing
Streets
Drugs/Crime
Manpower
Budget
Empty Space
Railroad
Teamwork
Dept. Heads
Infrastructure
Downtown
City Hall
Rental Prop


Sunday, July 20, 2008

From New Albany Now: A "vicious, venal, and veracity-challenged circus of horrors, orchestrated awkwardly by Dan Coffey."

Regular readers know that we seldom reprint whole commentaries from other sources, while reserving the right to make periodic exceptions. It’s time for another.

The source is New Albany Now, the blog for New Albany’s first online call-in show, and the author is Randy Smith. In the main, I share Randy’s sentiments, and I believe they deserve a wider audience.
Here’s the link to the audio referenced below.

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Commentary: A Diversion and a Digression

I don't intend for this to be either a partisan blog or an "attack" blog. At root, it is a billboard for the radio show. In the past, I have been boisterous and opinionated and have often, by my vitriol, caused even friends to recoil. You can search around to find my mothballed blog to verify that for yourself.

Nowadays, I take keyboard in hand to comment on the blog postings of others with discretion, contributing to other blogs only when I feel it is truly needed.

That does not mean that I have retired from the field, though. On occasion, though, something demonstrably egregious arises, and this blog will not erect any fences prohibiting frank commentary. New Albany Now is and will continue to be a bright light shining on the issues in this city. That is our purpose. That does not mean I will arbitrarily muzzle myself when an injustice is done.

I posted an historic broadcast last evening. For the first time in many, many months, the deliberations and debate of the New Albany City Council were made available to the public. And for the first time ever, that record is continuously and forever available ON-DEMAND. If you need to refer to it, it will always be there.

With that in mind, I'd like to point out that Thursday night's meeting was (as usual) degraded and tarnished by yet another vicious, venal, and veracity-challenged circus of horrors, orchestrated awkwardly by Dan Coffey, the embarrassment of a human being who reigns over the seat intended to represent the interests of constituents in the 1st District of New Albany on the City Council.

I imagine that Coffey once found himself bed-ridden and without batteries and thereby forced to watch a one-hour documentary on Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. Apparently, he saw that as a "good thing," and decided that would be his model.

Late in Thursday's meeting (segment 6 - slide the show slider to the last 20 or so minutes), Mr. Coffey put on an abysmal dramatic performance. Co-star Diane McCartin Benedetti (D?-D5) played foil to Coffey in a feeble attempt to slime at-large council member John Gonder.

Simulating a great concern for "comity" and decorum, Mr. Coffey practically soiled himself while presenting a sham concern for an individual who was "concerned" about a "fax" that had been circulated declaring the "news" that Mr. Gonder had been one of the original people who believed that New Albany shouldn't be unique in the state of Indiana, unique in the roster of municipalities across this great land of ours, and that its legislative (city council) districts should be drawn to offer equal representation as guaranteed under The Constitution of the United States.

It was "brought to" his "attention" by this "fax" that Mr. Gonder was once a plaintiff seeking the deserved assistance of the U.S. Federal District Court to enforce the law.Please show me ONE person who believes that a "fax" caused Mr. Coffey and Ms. McCartin Benedetti to become aware of Mr. Gonder's past status as an advocate for the law and The Constitution.

Over the previous 10, or 110 days, Coffey had plotted his ambush, his blatant attempt to smear Mr. Gonder with fecal matter and to attempt to intimidate him from casting a considered vote on whether the city should continue to be a rogue city or whether this city, New Albany on the Ohio, should conform to the requirements of the 14th Amendment.

During a serious, substantive portion of the council meeting, Coffey and city council attorney Jerry Ulrich conducted their own meeting, and Mr. Ulrich, knowing that Coffey stand fully prepared to lever him back into fully private practice, signed on to the smear attempt.

Ulrich, Coffey, and McCartin Benedetti struggled to appear sincere in their faux concern that, somehow, having stood up for the law, Mr. Gonder was thus unqualified to vote on G-08-05, the ordinance to, at long last, draw lawful districts for the first time since at least 1992. Ulrich went over the line in his attack by saying to Mr. Gonder that if his "conscience" were clear, he couldn't see why Mr. Gonder should recuse himself from voting.

I, for one, looked around to see if Karl Rove had entered the room, for this was a classic Swift-boat attack. That Gonder stood up for the law before he was elected and continues to stand up for the law now that he is in office became, with the full complicity of a majority of the City Council, a declared black mark on Gonder's reputation.

Without any fear of being disputed, I'll tell you that Coffey manufactured, fomented, and stoked a fake popular uprising, including a disingenuous "fax," to smear his colleague.

As would be expected by anyone who knows John Gonder, the enormously popular at-large council member handled the kneecapping with inordinate grace, willingly identifying himself as the member who Mr. Coffey pretended to be so concerned for, for whom Mr. Coffey shed crocodile tears over the fact that he simply had to step forward and pour a bucket of excrement on.

What has New Albany come to that an entire council (well, a majority of the council) would be complicit in trying to eviscerate a man who stands up for following the law?

What is, indubitably, a virtue, was treated as something to be ashamed of by the city council and its attorney. They, individually, and as a body, owe Mr. Gonder an abject apology.

I urge you, if you are reading this, to demand it. Write to your newspapers, call your council members, and tell all your neighbors about the atrocity that was committed at Thursday's meeting.

John Gonder is a ray of sunshine on this council. We couldn't do better to have eight more of him serving this city. Don't let this political crime go unpunished.

Coffey, who like a majority of his colleagues believes he "owns" his district, needs to realize that constituents pick their representatives, and not the other way around. Mr. Gonder, who received more votes in the last election than all but one other candidate, has more credibility in a single eyelash than the combined integrity of Gahan/Coffey/McLaughlin/Price/McCartinBenedetti.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New Albany Community Housing now HUD-certified as a Housing Counseling Agency.

Here's a news item from John Miller of CHDO:

Pat Yense-Woosley at our office worked really, really hard to get us approved with HUD as a certified Housing Counseling Agency. It took months and months, the info is on our website, and we're trying to spread the word:

Community Housing Now HUD-Approved!!

Most counseling agencies (both big ones in Louisville) are bogged down with foreclosure right now, but we're still able to focus on homebuyer education and credit/budget counseling.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Isn't Groundhog Day in February??

Due to the absence of both Bluegill and the NAC senior editor, the Highwayman will take a stab at highlighting the events at the latest episode of our favorite soap opera, “Eternal Disconbobulation” (otherwise known as the New Albany Common Council meeting).

The meeting started off evenly enough with Police Chief Crabtree invoking the council once again for appropriations to support a drug task force for our fair city. It seems that Federal monies for the joint venture of the city, county & state police have run their course.

He also put in a request for two civilian employees to work with the new AFIS (fingerprint analyzing system) that has been approved for purchase.

Of course neither of these items were on the agenda for tonight so no action was taken, but the nine legislators were made aware of the need one more time.

CM Messer then brought up (again) the ongoing problem of abandoned junk vehicles’ scattered around our fair city and proposed yet another solution. There appears to be suitable five acre plot somewhere near the Mayor’s property that can be leased, enclosed, and secured for a paltry $50 thousand dollars.

CM Coffey of course questioned how soon the city could expect reimbursement from the sale of said vehicles. Again both CM Messer & Chief Crabtree had to remind those present of the multi step procedure for dispensing of them. The state requires that VIN numbers be checked for ownership & lien holders as well as whether they were or weren’t stolen before being cleared for auction or scrap.

Messer’s best guess was possibly a year or more for the bulk of them. Coffey countered that he felt the turn around should be much quicker what with the price of scrap at the moment.

CM Caeser chimed in to support Messer’s idea and the consensus was that he continue the investigation & report back at a later meeting.

Oh, and did I mention that Pat Harrison owns the property?

Deputy Mayor Malysz then rose to the podium to announce Mayor England’s exasperated desire to tend to the city’s rubbish & yard waste problems. The Mayor has edicted that the entire city will be yard waste free by the end of next week! (unless of course there proves to be so much of it that in runs into the following week)

Potholes, street signs, line painting, & street sweeping be damned! The people have spoken!

Furthermore following this purge, the city will be divided into four sectors and every Thursday the street department will choose one sector and pick it clean again in an ongoing effort to keep up with debris.

CM Coffey then introduced A-08-11 which was an ordinance to approve monies already in existence for the hiring of a full time city engineer.

The proposed salary for this position was $55K in round figures with 25% coming from the Storm Water Department, 50% from the Sanitation Department, and 25% from the City’s general fund.

CM Coffey defended the measure on the grounds that this person could perform duties now being contracted out. He reminded the Council once again that the same could be said for hiring a full time city attorney.

CM Zurschmiede inquired about the $75K that had previously been set aside to hire a Sanitation Department Manager. Carl responded that a portion of that money was being used to pay Brian Kessings salary. You will remember that he was recently hired to monitor EMC’s work (or the lack thereof) with the sewer & storm water infrastructure. Although never verified the assumption is that the remainder will make up the Sanitation Dept’s 50% contribution.

Kevin further asked if hiring another person was not a duplication of workforce. The Deputy Mayor’s answer was no. Although the new engineer would now be responsible for the work that Elizabeth Coyle currently does for the sewer & storm water system, he/she would also oversee the construction of our streets and other infrastructure. Ms. Coyle would remain as a member of the Sewer Board but would no longer be an hourly paid engineer for them.

I understand the watchdogs watching the watchdogs part, but who is watching the watchdogs?

In the end the ordinance passed muster with a 9-0 vote.

G-08-06 followed with what was the quote of the evening by CM Price. “I’m a little confused” he quipped about this issue which pertained to Economic Development Bonds for the Summit Springs Project.

DM Malysz referred to them as Industrial Development Bonds which would ultimately be purchased by the developer and would be paid for by TIF dollars generated by the project.

Again there was a bit of confusion voiced about the whole concept but CM Coffey voiced his approval and a favorable vote followed.

G-08-05 was the next victim on the chopping block and CM Price handed it back to CM Messer for introduction. There was a bit of discussion about whether CM Gonder should recues himself from voting on this issue but finally the Counsel’s counselor (Jerry Ulrich) indicated that he could find no problem with John voting if his conscience would let him.

It did and he did but to no avail. The measure failed on 2nd & 3rd reading with CM’s Caeser, Gonder, Messer & Zurschmiede voting for and CM’s Coffey, Price, McLaughlin, Benedetti, & Gahan against.

Who would a thunk it?

After the vote President Gahan announced a workshop would be held prior to the next meeting to discuss where to go from here on the redistricting plan and a committee of counsel members appointed to develop a one that is closer to even numbers than the one that is currently in force. You know the 8600 to 5300 one?

He further said at the same workshop they would discuss code enforcement and smoking bans, and revisit the tow in lot question.

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like a whole lot of discussion of a wide range of issues in a short period of time.

Perhaps I misunderstood! Confirmation anyone??

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tonight's New Albany Now blog radio cancelled.

Here I am, painstakingly working my way through a growler of progressive ale in a shabby Evansville hotel room, cell phone at the ready, blog radio page queued on the laptop ... then comes this announcement ...

Thursday Show Canceled

The segment of New Albany Now scheduled for this evening has been canceled. We regret any disappointment this may have caused. My attempt to expand the scheduled time slot resulted in a technical block that prevents us from broadcasting this evening.


Please check back here or at blogtalkradio.com for upcoming programming.

Geez -- those Bazooka Joe Cold War Radio Jammers really work ... and for only two dozen comic wrappers postpaid!

Bring your buckets: City council tonight.

Jeff and I both are out of town and will miss tonight’s city council meeting, and even though the agenda hadn’t been posted online when I began writing today’s entry, we all have a fairly clear notion of what will transpire.

Conjoined councilmen will attack measures designed to help their neighborhoods move forward, and a mail carrier will rise to praise the virtues of the charming civic sloth that inspires those same underachieving councilmen to do absolutely nothing.

For something like the 138th time dating back to 2002, the council will shun its Constitutional imperative to redistrict, and certain of its members will defend this institutional indolence by spouting idiotic homilies about solemn council duties that none are willing to take seriously except in the breach.

The council president will blame the messengers for what he claims not to have known about his duties.

Observers with the scantest awareness of the world existing outside New Albany’s Open Air Museum of Ignorance, Superstition and Backwardness will shake their heads and wonder why such a low standard of representation is the norm in New Albany.

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In short, it will be just another night of watching in amazement as semi-literate vandals do their level best to prove Ayn Rand correct in spite of lacking the ability to actually read (any of her books), and plumbing the depths of this city’s perpetual hostility to common sense. This is a depressing scenario, albeit recurring, but it is entertaining, and just might be preferable to an evening in Evansville.

I’ve made a couple of spare keys, and our friends Roy Hardy and Lloyd Wimp will be posting their thoughts on the council meeting.

Also, don’t forget blog talk radio at 11:00 p.m. tonight:

Late-night recap of the events of the July 17, 2008 regular meeting of the New Albany City Council. We'll take callers and report the debate, the actions, and the inactions of council, plus contributions from residents who spoke during the "Communications from the Public" portions of the evening.

Pack your flasks ... and don't forget your Groucho masks.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crayon futures skyrocket as Price handed redistricting dossier.

As we reported earlier today, New Albany redistricting to be revised (Courier-Journal).

An ordinance redrawing the boundaries of the New Albany City Council's six voting districts is expected to be sent to a new committee for revision after getting a 4-4 vote in its first review earlier this month.

US Constitution prepares for more spitwads as council meeting approaches.

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
-- Groucho Marx

Groucho sure nailed that one ... hey, be careful -- that ordinance is loaded, Steve.

With July's second council conclave looming, the Green Mouse sez that city council president Jeff Gahan will take colleague Jack Messer at his word, hand the 2nd and 3rd readings of last meeting's redistricting proposal to Steve Price, and watch contentedly as Price buries the papers like the coded plans in Whittaker Chambers's Cold War pumpkin patch.

Am I the only one who speculates how it could be that a councilman serves two terms as president of the body, insists he didn't know about the redistricting imperative until a lawsuit was filed, and then gets sore at people like me for reminding him of it when it was the previously serving councilmen (Coffey, Kochert, Schmidt) who never bothered to bring him up to speed?

You don't think they were trying to protect the status quo, do ya?

Meanwhile, the Wizard of Westside has convened a neighborhood association oddly named Dreamboat Dan's Our Man and is said to be studying outtakes of the Khmer Rouge's Year Zero instructional film for clues as to how to deal with pergessives, snobs and anyone caught wearing eyeglasses.

Okay, enough sarcasm for one morning. At 2:00 p.m. today, on-line radio's New Albany Now will feature a discussion of the redistricting proposal. If you've been reading NAC, you probably already get the picture. If not, chances are you're posting anonymous insults elsewhere.

Knock yourselves out. I'll be in Evansville on Thursday night polling mail carriers about what they view as the charming idiosyncracies of that city's failures that make it so warm and endearing for its resident wee ones. I may even pass through Birdseye in route.

Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Randy Stumler resigns as Democratic party chairman and will teach overseas.

Important morning news in local politics, and here's an extended excerpt from the Tribune. Feel free to discuss.

Stumler steps down as councilman, chairman of Democratic party, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

Randy Stumler has stepped down from positions of Floyd County Councilman and chairman of the Floyd County Democratic Party.

Stumler will pursue a teaching opportunity with the U.S. Department of Defense, assisting with military personnel. He will move in August to the Azores Islands, which are located off the coast of Portugal, about a five-hour flight from the U.S. east coast ...

... Vice chairwoman Marcey Wisman will step-in for the time as head of the county’s Democratic party, a position held by Stumler for four years.

He said a caucus will be held to choose a permanent replacement, but he supports Wisman.

“Marcey is just a great person. She’ll run for the chairperson spot and she’ll do a great job,” Stumler said.

Stumler expects a successful year for the party in Floyd County. “This is a great team, and we’ve worked very hard to bring everyone into the party and keep this a big tent,” he said.

Photo essay: Neglect.

We were walking down Main Street past a decaying group of buildings owned by a respected local professional, and Diana said, "I've never understood why people don't take care of their buildings."

Beats me. You?












Monday, July 14, 2008

REWIND: "It's never too late for a renewed civic commitment to human rights."

I have chosen a custodial public service duty to the community of periodically reminding it that New Albany actually does possess a Human Right Commission. That is, the city possesses an ordinance establishing the body, and it has a previous history of the commission's existence in the real world.

The Garner administration displayed a keen grasp of the commission’s potential importance and showed brief interest in reviving the moribund commission, but for various reasons failed to follow through; if you’re looking for a nutshell summary of the Garner era, this is as good a place as any to begin.




There were excellent intentions accompanied by a supreme mastery of detail, which in the end were sabotaged by an inexplicable absence of political acumen and simple stick-to-it-ness.

No matter. That was then, this is now.
The following was published on March 17, 2007.



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If I had never heard of New Urbanism … if the identity of the “creative class” had remained unrevealed … if I were to return to a dormant state of apathy with respect to public affairs … it would still make perfect sense to me that New Albany as a city might choose to encourage walking and bicycling as part of an overall program of public transportation alternatives that seeks to leave more cars parked, and fewer miles driven overall.

Imagine, then what it must feel like to take a leading role in promoting civic improvements like walking and cycling – in essence, to publicly espouse reforms in an effort to make the city itself a more livable and civilized place – when even the greatest gains accrued may not be sufficient so as to protect the advocates of change from harassment.

I’m not writing about myself in this context. It is widely known that I walk and bike New Albany’s streets on a daily basis, and do so at all hours, seldom giving the notion a second thought.

Then again, I’m a white male standing well over six feet, and weighing 265 lbs. Naturally physical stature neither precludes violent acts nor negates harassment, but it does have a way of reducing problems.

All bicyclists have an intimate knowledge of the dangers that regularly emanate from passing autos, courtesy of inattentive, unskilled and sometimes crazed drivers. Being jacketed by several thousand pounds of metal is almost like drinking whiskey. It lowers inhibitions, and has a way of imparting behaviors that wouldn’t be attempted face to face, but seem charming and fun when practiced from an open window while speeding away from the scene.

If the occasional passing yokel is amused by baiting a man my size, just imagine what it must sometimes be like for potential targets of a more traditional nature: Our community’s women, gays and ethnic minorities, to name just three.

In the months and years to come, how many of them will be striving earnestly for a New Albany where greater walking and biking opportunities contribute to an enhanced quality of life, even as they recognize that they’ll not be able to take full advantage of these normal human pursuits owing to a stunted social and cultural milieu that extends well beyond the petty crime borne of familiar urban woes like drugs and impoverishment, into areas like public racism and overt homophobia?

It is tempting to note here that among the many disadvantages of the slumlord culture enabled by successive generations of local political officials as an expedient to fill the limitless vacuum left by visionless “leadership” is that it serves as the perfect support mechanism for the dysfunction perpetuated by downward immobility.

Instead, permit me to state simply that sexism, racism and homophobia are human right issues that pertain to numerous contemplated reforms at many levels, ranging from the examples provided above to the very essence of rental property inspections and reform.

The current mayoral administration has suggested at several junctures during the past three years that a revival of New Albany’s moribund Human Rights Commission might be in the offing, but so far, nothing has been done.

Now is the time. Is there the will?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

InBev to absorb A-B -- and it doesn't matter a single bit.

News from Reuters: InBev agrees to buy Anheuser for $50 billion.

Go ahead. Read this and other stories about the creation of the world’s largest beer maker, and if you find any bits of text that have the remotest thing to do with beer (as opposed to shares of stock), please let me know.

As the hypocrites clamor about the “American icon” Budweiser falling into the hostile hands of a Belgo-Brazilian consortium, I’ll do my best to suppress a yawn as big as distance between Budweiser and anything truly worth drinking, and remind readers that precious few people gave a damn during A-B’s march to the top, when its carnivorous tactics chewed up and spit out countless small, local competitors.

Swill-loving, America-first advocates please take note: Very soon none of the “big three” – Coors, Miller or A-B – will be independent.

The perfect time to switch to locally-brewed beer, don’t you think?

Great news: White House Center sold to group headed by John Waggoner, and refurbishing under way.

In Saturday's Tribune:

Develop New Albany sells White House Centre

Develop New Albany has sold the White House Centre, located at 222 Pearl St., after owning the building for 13 years.

In a news release, organization officials confirmed the sale of the Centre to New Albany White House LLC, which is co-owned by John Waggoner — president of Hornblower Marine Services.

Waggoner led the restoration of the Reibel House, located at 115 Market St., where Hornblower is now located. He was recognized by Develop New Albany and other organizations for his work with the Reibel House.

Full disclosure: I'm a board member of Develop New Albany, with a bit shy of two years service. Irrespective of your opinion about the organization -- and opinions are numerous -- I believe we can all agree that John Waggoner's purchase of the building is a wonderful occurrence.

Yes, it may have taken too many years to achieve, but here it is, and it's good, because his organization's stewardship of the Reibel House speaks for itself ... and we can't say that about every downtown building owner, can we?

(Photo credit: The New Albany-Floyd County Public Library's Indiana History Room online)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On second thought, the Scarecrow of Oz was a straw man, wasn't he?

Just the other day I was asked this question:

“Who would you use as a straw man if Dan Coffey weren’t around?”

My answer was Steve Price. Actually, I would cherish the opportunity to refrain from exposing the inadequacies and other local nonentities, but at root, the question itself is invalid.

Wikipedia defines a straw man as follows:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw man argument" is to describe a position that superficially resembles an opponent's actual view but is easier to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent (for example, deliberately overstating the opponent's position). A straw man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it carries little or no real evidential weight, because the opponent's actual argument has not been refuted.

Its name is derived from the practice of using straw men in combat training In such training, a scarecrow is made in the image of the enemy with the single intent of attacking it. Such a target is, naturally, immobile and does not fight back, and is not as realistic to test skill against compared to a live and armed opponent.

It isn’t necessary to misrepresent Coffey’s or Price’s arguments in such a manner, because their actual views are easy to refute. If anything, it's far less a case of straw men as it is fish in a barrel.

I'm perfectly content to permit posterity to be the judge. In a few years, read back over the hundreds of postings herein, and tally the scorecard.

But thanks for asking.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Who is the imposter wearing Cappuccino's empty suit? Quick, someone ring the irony police.

When 1st district councilman Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey first minted his Magna Farta, otherwise known as one of two resolutions designed to thwart the aims of developers capable of doing for his neighborhood the very sorts of things that Coffey has been congenitally unable to achieve throughout endless years of public "service", word on the street was that the England administration simply didn’t care one way or the other.

The second of Coffey’s resolutions passed muster earlier this week, and it was obvious to all present save a handful of his constituents that the junkyard dog had indeed been tossed his bone, albeit a rubberized version. In the end, Coffey’s transparently contrived appeal to change zoning designations could do almost nothing to impede progress, but it might fool a few gullible voters and keep the ball in Coffey’s court long enough that he might survive to nonsensically grandstand another day.

Even radical atheist outsiders like me (raised up the hill in far-off Georgetown) know that politics embraces the art of compromise, so I suppose the Tribune’s revelation yesterday comes as little of a surprise.

Pair eyes new home for New Albany's city hall; Gonder, Coffey believe Baptist Tabernacle would be perfect fit, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune).

A new spot for city hall is what some New Albany officials are suggesting for the Baptist Tabernacle, a recent purchase by the city, located at 318 E. Fourth St.

Citing the need for more space and a growing rental fee the city is paying the county for offices on the third floor of the City/County Building, City Councilman Dan Coffey believes it’s time for a change …

… When renovated, the Baptist Tabernacle would offer two floors for use, with Councilman John Gonder believing the second story would be the best for meeting rooms.

Speaking of stopped pre-digital clocks, what do you think about a councilman who vows to say aloud those things he’d never dare put in a blog?

I think it means that Steve Price doesn’t know how to operate a computer.

You may disagree, but that’s okay. After all, we’re all entitled to our opinion, right?

(Photo credit: I stole it off the Internet)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

User fees for foreigners: If incomprehension is the enemy, are we on Candid Camera yet?

(To myself) ... it simply has to be a set-up, like when comedian Don Novello wrote goofy letters to politicians and corporations in the guise of Laszlo Toth ... but I guess I’m falling for it …

Following is the text of a July 9 letter to the Tribune, unarchived as of yet, but worth examining for insight into life within the confines of the Open Air Museum.

He wants out-of-state visitors to pay

I went to Sam Peden Community Park recently to go fishing.

There was a crowd but considering it was July 4, I should not have been surprised. But after checking out the license plates of the cars in the parking lot, I noticed that 90 percent of these people are from Kentucky.

Why in the world would people drive across the bridge to visit our parks when Louisville has at least five or six parks of their own?

Back in the day, when Community Park was new, there was a fee to get in there. Yes, there was a swimming pool at the time.

But since we have to pay to go into Deam Lake or Buffalo Trace, if you are not a county resident, why not be charged to get into Community Park, if you are not an Indiana resident?

We do not have that many parks as it is and we all know or city and/or county could sure use the money.

-Jim Baird, New Albany

Well, one way to look at it is to separate the apples from the oranges. Accordingly, we see that Deam Lake State Recreation Area is administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and as a state facility, it’s a whole different discussion.

At Buffalo Trace, which is a Harrison County parks property, resident and non-resident alike pay to enter. However, a discount is given for county residents. Interestingly, entrance is free for bicycles and pedestrians – and as a seeming carrot for the physically fit, that’s exactly as it should be. Harrison County’s fees are explained here.

A glance at the NAFC Parks & Recreation web site shows that Floyd County also charges a full range of fees and rentals.

I don’t know why we’ve never decided to gouge Kentuckians for the privilege of using our parks, but it might have something to do with plain ol' karma. That's because there’s another way to look at it. Those Kentucky residents bypassing the dozens of parks owned and operated by Louisville Metro to frolic at Community Park are traveling to it via I-265. Accordingly, they must pass numerous stores, restaurants and other businesses on Grant Line Road while in route.

It’s inevitable that money is being pumped into the local economy by these visitors. I’d venture to say that we come out ahead in the end.

Maybe my take is skewed, but when I see cars with Kentucky plates parked at my own business, I feel pride, not dismay. Sixteen years ago, the prevailing conventional wisdom was that no self-respecting Louisvillian would cross the bridge to drink beer and eat pizza in New Albany.

But they do.

Why on earth would they? To me, it's this: Just because we're New Albanians doesn't meant we must labor under the leaden weight of an inferiority complex. It doesn't mean we can't be good at something, and do it right.

Countless others in New Albany spend their days trying to make visitors feel welcome, secure and unthreatened. It certainly doesn’t help the cause to feel suspicion toward fellow inhabitants of the metro area, and to wonder why on earth they’d want to come here.

Ask ‘em that same question aloud -- why come here? -- and chances are they will reconsider wanting to do so. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if I’ve ever heard one, and yet we hear it emanate from the conjoined obstructionist councilmen at almost every council meeting.

Sad. Very sad.

"Pub Snacks, Revisited" -- another NABC beer and food pairing, coming Monday, July 28.

Time for a business tout -- NAC's "sponsor", so to speak ...

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Can it have been eight months since Josh Lehman and Andrew McCabe wowed us with the Creative Costume beer dinner?

"Creative Costume" beer dinner review: Multiple thumbs up.

They're back, and another innovative food and beer pairing will take place in Prost on Monday, July 28. It's called Pub Snacks, Revisited, and is intended to definitively answer the question of what beer best accompanies smores, anyway?

As an added bonus, the 28th also kicks off Dogfish Head Off-Kilter Sixers week.

Here are the facts:

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Pub Snacks, Revisited

A New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC) beer & food pairing, featuring Sous Chef Joshua Lehman and Pastry Chef Andrew McCabe, both of Le Relais Restaurant.

Rich O’s Public House
3312 Plaza Drive
New Albany, Indiana 47150

At Prost, the special events wing
Monday, July 28th ~ 6:45 p.m.

$50 per person ~ all inclusive, Reservations taken in advance at Rich O’s Public House or by phone:
(502) 939-6734– ask for Andrew
(812) 989-2321 – ask for Josh

Menu

Soup & Sandwich
Heirloom tomato bisque, cucumber, brioche grilled cheese
~NABC Saison

Mussels
Ginger, tamarind, coconut milk
~NABC Phoenix Kentucky Komon

Peach Pizza
Whole wheat crust, italian sausage, tellagio cheese
~NABC Elector (Imperial Red Ale)

Soft Pretzel
Gruyere, Jalepeno
~NABC Elsa Von Horizon Imperial Pilsner

Corn Dog
Duck sausage, Sweet Corn Mustard
~NABC Old Lightning Rod (Colonial Strong Ale)

Smore
Smoked Marshmallows, Graham Cracker, Spicy Chocolate
~NABC Jasmine the Mastiff (Sweet Stout)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mere facts without lame excuses and sentimental claptrap ... in New Albany? Are facts even legal?

Time and again I've listened or read comments to the effect that the plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit "done the council wrong" by not appearing, kneeling with hats in hand, to ask for redistricting before filing the lawsuit in Federal court.

Really?

Steve Price, who now savagely proclaims the council's legal prerogative to redistrict, sat through two years of his first term and did absolutely nothing other than to remark that redistricting was something that floated former colleague Larry Kochert's boat, and little more.

(Cue the Deliverance soundtrack twang)

Jeff Gahan, who was the previous council' s president for two years, now stridently agrees with Price that redistricting is a council mandate, just as it was before, and yet, as we've seen, and as a Federal judge quite forcefully agreed, neither Price nor Gahan ... nor any other sitting council person at the time... was so sufficiently enamored of their Constitutional obligation to undertake redistricting. As best it can be determined, none even mentioned the possibility.

So, tell me: Why must a citizen ask his or her elected representative to kindly perform the bare minimum of duties required of the position?

In the pantheon of excuses, how does "you didn't remind me to do my job" stack up with "my dog ate the homework"?

Anyone?

(Crickets chirping, pins dropping)

I thought as much.

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NAC's co-editor Bluegill had this to say yesterday. I think it's worth elevating to the marquee.

If someone works to ensure that an election is illegal and is then "voted" into "government" as a result of that illegal election, are they actually empowered to wield authority?

It's something a court probably needs to review but I'd think the average citizen would say no.

Interesting, then, that that's the exact position Price, Coffey, and Gahan are in.

One really interesting tidbit from (Monday) night was Gahan's suggestion that the council could just wait until after the next census to redistrict. Doing so would ensure that our next city elections would again be based on voting districts that a federal court has already pointed out as illegal.

I guess if you're going to get busted anyway, you may as well go for broke.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

As ever, the Uncouncilman is “entitled to his opinion” – just not to his facts.

Today’s previous posting: Wonderfully and delightfully us … and that’s why major surgery is required.

Tribune coverage of last night’s redistricting comic opera is on line.

New Albany redistricting proposal leads to hard feelings, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune).

(Steve) Price — who voted against the measure along with (Jeff) Gahan, (Diane) Benedetti and Dan Coffey on first reading — said he was entitled to his opinion. “I won’t put it on a blog, I’ll tell it to your face,” Price said. “(Redistricting) should be a council decision.”

I’ll echo Brandon: “I thought I would go ahead and put it on a blog for him.”

State bylaws require a city council to approve redistricting measures, according to Price. He said each member should sit down to hash out a plan to eliminate any element of bias, an opinion that drew laughs from some members of the committee.

We laughed because the council already approved a plan that was rejected by a Federal judge, who ruled that the council had made a mockery of the prerogative that Price blithely references, which was something never mentioned last night by any of the four council persons opposing the committee plan, and that’s probably why NAC received this e-mail comment earlier today.

In fact, if there is a new lawsuit, I want in as a plaintiff, as I am now pissed and disgusted the way certain councilpersons treat others for attempting to help move this city forward. The committee saved the city tens of thousands of dollars and what they received in return was being accused of politics and, regardless of the fact that they pay property taxes on homes in the city of New Albany, they’re outsiders.

Yep.

It’s certainly funny that the volunteer “outsiders” on the redistricting committee are characterized as evildoers by the same councilpersons who propose paying outside consultants to help them with the numbers, but of course Price has now gone on record as stating that the council could do in a just a few post-meeting New York minutes what it took the committee 30+ hours to do -- and without professional help.

One thing is for sure: Professional help is needed ... and soon.

Wonderfully and delightfully us … and that’s why major surgery is required.

Here in America we have a document called the Constitution.

You may have heard of it, although if you have, chances are you are not a New Albany city council person, and may wish to stop reading now lest I offend you.

That is, if you can read at all.

In broad terms, the reason we have a Constitution is to provide a shared legal and conceptual framework that unites Americans from many varied geographical locales and gives them a sense of common purpose.

Admittedly, it has taken quite some time to iron out the rough spots and to apply the precepts of the Constitution equally to all Americans. Indeed, the work continues, and it always will. Rule of law isn’t appealing to criminals, anarchists and four current council persons … but more on that in a moment.

Last evening the city council convened to consider a redistricting ordinance. The ordinance as submitted to the council was derived from the work of a committee. The committee was established for one reason and one reason alone. A previous incarnation of the council had for many years refused to cooperate with mandates set down by the very same Constitution referenced previously, and it had failed in its duty to fairly realign voting districts.

Because the previous council failed so spectacularly to do its job, citizens (of whom I was one) asked a Federal Court to interpret the council’s inactivity. Presiding over that body was a judge, whose job it is to apply Constitutional principles to problems like these, and whose job it is not is to be familiar with irrelevancies ranging from the location of one councilman’s house, whether dogs bark louder before a rainstorm, or the way that one neighbor never really thought highly of the color used by another to paint his house, and always complains about it at the Elks club meetings.

The judge sagaciously considered the previous council’s attitude with regard to its mandate to redistrict, and found it sorely wanting. He examined the previous council’s last-second attempt to implement a redistricting plan contrived in a Geritol-induced haze by the wife of one of its now mercifully retired members, and found that plan sorely wanting, too, because it did not adhere to the principles of the Constitution.

The Constitution. What a concept ... just not here.

In effect, the judge in question laughed the previous council out of court, made the very strong suggestion that it keep the Constitution in mind, and directed it to try again. The committee was approved and was formed, with three at-large councilmen and three community members (only one of whom was involved in the original lawsuit), and the council agreed to consider the results.

Last night, the council wonderfully and delightfully pissed itself.

Diane McCartin-Benedetti argued forcefully that the committee was created for the express purpose of saving her the trouble of doing such work herself … and then she voted against the committee’s work, naturally without explanation.

John Gonder was forced to concede that an unguarded comment about a deck of cards made to colleague Steve Price was justification enough for Price, who hardly needs provocation to make asinine allegations of impropriety, to publicly insult the integrity of committee members who, as you recall, were only doing McCartin-Benedetti’s job for her. But Gonder, a committe member, voted in favor.

Dan Coffey raved and ranted about not playing games, and joined Price in suggesting that this is what happens when you let those evil outsiders come into town. The gallery Coffey had packed with Westendians in an effort to preserve his waning influence by thwarting progress in the district he has chronically neglected had already left, or there may have been a progressive lynched on the spot.

Rather like the White Southern “states rights” folks, who used to passionately argue against the precepts of the Constitution because, well, you just don’t understand the way it has to be with us and the Negroes, and understand that we have our own customs and traditions, and if slavery and prejudice happen to be among these, so be it. It makes our neck of the woods special.

Rather like earlier last evening when a local mail carrier accidentally provided a theme for the meeting by suggesting that the federal judge might have better ignored the Constitution in reaching his decision taking the previous council to task over its refusal to observe the dictates of voter rights and equality. According to the postman, there is something sacred and holy about current configuration of voting districts – something indefinable, yet true in a mystical sort of way. Never mind that the council has been directed to reshape these districts in accordance with reality. Subjectivism -- that's where it's at.

In the end, amid the fear, loathing and sheer Pricist buffoonery, the vote was a tie, 4-4, with Pat McLaughlin absent. There will be two more readings.

Eight people, three local television news channels and the Courier-Journal were at last night’s council meeting, and all but a handful of the public departed after the public hearing on smoking. There’s a Constitutional principle involved in the smoking ban debate, too. All of it goes back to that document.

That is, unless you’re one of the four city council members, including the body’s president, Jeff Gahan, voting against Constitutional principles last evening, and in favor of local self-determination even if it means soiling a parchment all were sworn to uphold.

Sad, but wonderfully and delightfully New Albanian, don’t you think?