Friday, December 31, 2010

Good riddance. Next!

To paraphrase Ignatius J. Reilly:

I dust a bit. In addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional Slovak-style sauerkraut soup to celebrate the New Year.
We'll be pairing the soup with beer later tonight in the company of friends. Another pop culture reference occurred to me, and so with apologies to Monty Python:

This year is no more! It has ceased to be! 2010’s expired and gone to meet its maker! It’s stiff! Bereft of life! Pushing up the daisies! Metabolic processes now history! It’s off the twig! Kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-YEAR!
On virtually every front save the confines of our house, 2010 was the most stressful, demanding and unyielding ever. If not for the loving accompaniment of my bride, the past year would have been completely unbearable. I recognized long ago that she completes me. I only hope to periodically return the favor.

Better times and best wishes to readers as 2011 dawns!

It's the end of an era and a new world order on Friday at the Pizzeria & Public House.

(Edited from yesterday's posting at my PC blog)

I will be at the NABC Pizzeria & Public House at lunchtime today (December 31, New Year’s Eve) for the express purpose of smoking a cigar, because when we reopen for business on Monday, January 3, ours will be a newly minted smoke-free facility. We first made the announcement in August …

The NABC Pizzeria and Pub will be smoke-free as of January 1, 2011.

… and now the appointed time finally has arrived, although in an odd, seemingly premature way. The impending change also was the subject of my Wednesday Weekly column at Potable Curmudgeon last week: Wednesday Weekly: Sadness at the passing of a regular habit?

Transitions of any sort are challenging, and I think way too much – always have, and probably always will.

Just the same, the overwhelming motifs in my consciousness as we prepare to move forward into a new year are elegiac images from the past, which are becoming increasingly dim in the rearview mirror. That’s largely because in 2011, NABC will be doing its level best to reinvent itself in a future tense, and to some extent, history will be both made and relegated. I've never been as disgusted with the old year, or more excited about a fresh beginning.

Those who know me best always say that it isn’t necessary for me to perpetually spin my wheels in an effort to explain myself, as it invariably gets me into trouble (as with the Wednesday Weekly mentioned above), but it’s something I can’t turn off.

As much as I might like to qualify it, the fact remains that the beer business with which I’ve been associated for almost twenty years always has been an extension of my own personality -- crusading, campaigning, heart pinned to sleeve, forever flapping my jaws and being forcibly rejected every now and then -- and so when it comes to making policy changes like implementing a smoke-free workplace and radically reforming the guest beer program, and doing both of them simultaneously, there is a rigorous self-examination preceding and prefacing the public’s knowledge of new direction.

Which is to say: These matters impact me, too.

It took years to come to grips with both of the biggies on the business horizon.
A seismic shift in my professional “beer life” commenced about three years ago, and the aftershocks finally have awakened me to the next phase, to where I need to be, and where I hope many of us are heading. It seems to me that a full circle has been traveled, and I’m grateful for the wake-up call.

If you are out and about at lunchtime today, I’ll be smoking a cigar at my own bar for the last time, so come and join me.


As a postscript, the smoke-free workplace may soon be a statewide phenomenon. In his most recent column in the New Albany Tribune, State Representative Ed Clere had this to say:
CLERE: Session will require resolve from all

... A statewide smoking ban seems inevitable. Indiana is among a dwindling number of states that do not have some type of statewide ban. Support for a ban appears to be growing. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has made a total ban on smoking in the workplace one of its 2011 legislative priorities, and earlier this month, Gov. Mitch Daniels said he would sign a ban. First, of course, the legislature would have to pass one, and the Senate has snuffed out recent attempts.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Today's Tribune column: "Look, ma, I’m a beer patriot."

I were told that them people want me reemoved to the woodshed ... wonder how that's going?

BAYLOR: Look, ma, I’m a beer patriot

Recalling that I became a professional beer drinker in order to effectively channel lingering bitterness at the ineptitude of the stork, which mistook New Albany on the Ohio for Neuburg on the Danube, permit me to offer another wrenching confessional.

No tears, but a tear to ring in the new year.

The MRI is back, and the images indicate a two-inch tear of the vastus medialis (one of the quadriceps muscles) above the knee, as resulted from my slip on the ice two weeks ago.

The spilled blood from the tear has worked its way down my leg to the calf and foot, where it looks nasty and causes discomfort, but should resolve itself in time.

Ironically, my sawbones suggests that my leg muscles, strengthened by an al-time record 6,000 kilometers of bicycling during 2010, might have contributed to the prospects for such an injury. I interpret this to mean that there should have been more stretching exercises, but no matter. The short term prognosis involves good news (no surgery necessary) and bad: The 2011 biking season is postponed until mid-February at the earliest.

Beer drinking continues to be somewhat curtailed while taking prescription meds. This too shall pass.

It's a fitting end to my least favorite of years, perhaps ever. Gimme 2011 - fast.

Is it 2011 yet?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I stopped reading at "We was told," but she don't like me very much, do she?

How sadly familiar the refrain: We're all for free speech and a free press, until we're against it. Then it HAS GOT TO GO, and he has got to go -- right now.

I'm reprinting this screed without permission, but seeing as freedom of speech hasn't yet been extended to Professor Erika's own comments section ... well, you know the drill. I added the actual link to the column in question, seeing as it was omitted in the original.



Tue Dec 28, 2010 21:01 from FREEDOM OF SPEECH by One voice (

Dear Executive Editor,

First, we support Freedom of the Press and Freedom Of Speech.


First, we forget that you actually pay Roger Baylor to write this tripe. "BAYLOR: Beware, yuletide oupistophober. I'm watching." Noneless, it is when good men sit back and do nothing that people like him get this kind of opportunity.

Secondly, we was told by Kozarovich a long time ago that if enough people wrote in to say they don't like his column, they'd get rid of it!

So what we want our readers to do is this. Here's a link to the story. If you're tired of reading crap like this, write to the Tribune to let them know that you want Roger Baylor's columns to stop running. They are giving him free space to write destructive nonsense that is unhelpful.

Here's the link: Then decide if this is the garbage and crap you want to read in our local Tribune newspaper.

Third, He can have his blog, but it is truly a problem that the Tribune is PAYING Baylor to put crap in there like that.

We, believe in freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, but the paper chooses NOT to put in a lot of things that need to be in there. It's high time they choose not to include this.

It's really offensive and is NOT the kind of thing that ought to be included in a decent newspaper.

But to attack Christianity and Christmas is just too much.

At the very least, the Tribune needs to know they're paying for this crap.

If you agree with us, Contact: Tribune Publisher & Executive Editor or contact him by phone: 812-206-2148 or drop him a note: 303 Scribner Drive, New Albany, IN 47150.

Tell him Roger Baylor has got to go...

"Beer Money" fan mail pours in ... that's nice ... is it time for a beer yet?

I've always found it amusing when advised not to discuss politics and religion at the dinner table.

The truth of the matter is this: As the political and religious topic comes closer and closer to one's own home and neighborhood, silence steadily descends along with the gravy. In other words, politics and religion won't disturb anyone's meal any time soon if they're being argued in a local context, where deeds actually might mean something if ventured. Rather, most folks would rather get worked up about things happening a thousand miles away or in a different astral dimension. Doing so spares them any chance of actual involvement.

Thus: Don't talk about (national) politics and (illusory) religion.

In this spirit, having failed to elicit much in the way of discussion while warning of the tyranny of bridge tolls, I changed course last week and devoted my Thursday Tribune column to atheism. Predictably, the online comments area quickly filled.

Here are a few of the gems. By the way, thanks to 'The Big Deal' for joining the chat.

First up is Amy. We've jousted before, haven't we? She's the Clere Channel groupie, right? I know it's her because she always addresses me in the same way. At any rate, Amy comes off sounding really grumpy about my column, although it didn't suppress her twitteristic voyeur instinct, did it?

Baylor, since you've made up your mind to be angry about Christianity, I'm not sure why I'm writing this because it won't make any difference. I saw that you wrote anti-Christmas stuff on your Twitter account too. You've been a grump, grump, GRUMP about the whole thing ... The only thing you're ever happy about is beer. What kind of sad statement is that! ... To the Tribune: Please stop publishing this rubbish. Several people I know refuse to read this column and now I'm joining their ranks. Please fill the space with something else.
Amy will be delighted to know that I've taken her advice. This week's column is quite happily about beer.

And then there's Andrew, who cribs Amy's (those pesky "A" names) formatting. He couldn't help reading, either, accusing me of being angry before getting a tad miffed himself.

Takes a lot of nerve to put it in print that you don't believe in God. I'm not surprised. Goes along with all your anger ... To the Tribune: I agree with the commenter who asked that you stop publishing Baylor's columns. He doesn't write anything to help the people. This article doesn't make any more sense than anything else he writes. I don't read this and only checked this one out because someone sent me a link. It's just filling space. Make it your New Year's resolution to get rid of it.
If they're "just filling space," why do they take so damned long to write?

'Believe it or not' hasn't forgotten the Publican or Christopher Hitchens. He or she detects a group of followers trailing behind my robes, but what the hey -- I'm no tinpan prophet.

I pray for you (prayers that, I suspect, you do not wish for), and even today in church we collectively prayed for all non-believers ... Why not consider writing something to offer the public a wisdom to uplift rather than tear down, to come to a greater understanding of themselves rather than to criticize, and to speak to all the people rather than engage your group of supporters in strong (and angry) alliance with you?
Saving the best for last, even my personal physician weighs in:

With all of his big words and rhetoric, Mr. Baylor attempts to hide the fact he suffers from Theophobia (fear of Gods or Religion).

You rarely find any Christian as outwardly intolerant as you repeatedly hear and read from Mr. Baylor. There are numerous examples of his utter disdain for people with a religious belief.
At least my sawbones, a Republican, openly opposes tolls. Recalling that holiest of dictums, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," we might yet find grounds for common cause.

Thanks to those who read my column each week, critics and fans alike.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ironies (and straight lines) abound.

Only one day after St. Daniels artfully exposed his sensitive side in a conference call with Hoosier journalists, going so far as to acknowledge "concerns that have been brought up by the residents of Southern Indiana in relation to the bistate bridge project," our newly re-elected State Representative used his weekly Tribune slot to offer professional resolutions for the coming year: CLERE: Session will require resolve from all.

• I resolve to be more accessible. Over the last two years, I have worked hard to be accessible. Still, I know there are some folks who have had trouble connecting with me, and I resolve to find new ways to be even more accessible.

• I resolve to listen ... I want to hear from you. If you live in my district, you will soon receive a survey, which will also be available online, but if you have a question or concern, please don't hesitate to go ahead and get in touch.

• I resolve to do my homework and ask tough questions ...

• I resolve to get more folks from Southern Indiana to participate in the legislative process.

Now, I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I might know of a place to start, and ... what's that? It was written by WHO?

But as Hungadunga is my witness, I thought Matt Nash wrote them!

File under: "Things King Larry Will Never Understand."

This being one of my daily favorites, the original Cycle Chic blog, where visitors are requested to: "Hold My Bicycle While I Kiss Your Girlfriend."

Evening Roll (you have to see the photo)

Until we get Shelby Street Sheik and its annual survey of best value in leotards, it'll have to do.

John Warhola's passing inspires a Medzilaborce remembrance.

John Warhola has died, and therein lies a story.

In the fall of 1991, having only recently assumed my duties teaching conversational English to staff members at Kosice's university hospital, I was asked by Dr. Roland, the hospital's first non-Communust administrator, if I'd like to accompany him to a Saturday afternoon museum opening in Medzilaborce, Slovakia.

The trip involved a total of seven hours on the road, to and from Medzilaborce, a lengthy commute not fully suggested by maps which did not account for the fractured condition of rural Slovak roads and a handful of "touristic" stops along the way. Dr. Roland did not drive, and at the time, he still made use of the hospital's de facto chauffered limo service, with its fleet of Soviet-made gas guzzlers and uniformed personnel.

What a ride!

Medzilaborce is cradled within the northern terminus of the Carpathians, which then veer westward to end in exclamatory fashion at the compact Tatra mountain range. Small towns are nestled between rugged, forested ridgelines. Poland is only a few miles away. This isolated area of Slovakia (as yet Czechoslovakia in 1991) is inhabited by Slovaks, Poles and indigenous Rusyns, the latter of the Orthodox persuasion, accounting for the gorgeous church in the center of town, and explaining the road signs in the Cyrillic alphabet: Меджильабірці.

Two large Campbell's Tomato Soup cans guarding the doorway of an otherwise nondescript concrete building gave the game away, for Andy Warhol's family was Rusyn, the collection now known as the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art was an embryonic East-West cultural venture in the immediate aftermath of Communism, and Andy's brother John was on hand to speak for the foundation.
Andy Warhol's elder brother dies aged 85; John Warhola was one of three founding members of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (in the Guardian)

After Warhola's father, Andrij, died in 1942, Warhola raised his younger brother, Andy (born Andy Warhola), and made sure he attended college. Their father, who had emigrated to the US from what is now Slovakia in 1914, left enough to pay for Andy's first two years of college, but his brother took responsibility for the reminder of the artist's education.
And so, that's how I came to meet John Warhola, if only for a few seconds and a handshake in a receiving line.

"Surreal" doesn't really do it justice, but I'm happy to see that the museum has survived and apparently prospered during the two decades since my visit. In 1991, we capped the opening with early dinner at a restaurant down the street, which served delicious pork and knedlicky dumplings with roasted potatoes, all washed down with cool golden lager brewed down the road in Presov.

With requisite condolences at John Warhola's passing, I dedicate these memories of that singular day to him.

Monday, December 27, 2010 "The issue of tolls is still very much a ball in play."

(This just in from


Friends and supporters of “No Tolls” on existing bridges and infrastructure:

We recently learned that that appointed (non-elected) members of the Bi-State Bridges Authority voted on and approved a financial plan that includes tolls on existing bridges and infrastructure. The authority members don’t have experience in financing public works projects and made a lot of assumptions in putting together this financing plan, including public acceptance of tolls.

The Bi-State Authority members are not empowered to set toll rates, so they can only speculate what tolls may be. They also assumed that the Federal Government will allow tolls on infrastructures that have already been paid for as a means of fundraising for new structures (two new bridges plus the Interstate connectors known as “Spaghetti Junction.”) The Federal Government requires that toll revenues be used exclusively for the facility being tolled yet the Bi-State Authority thinks they have a means to get around this historic protocol.

As with any large financing endeavor, we want to remind you that your elected officials are ultimately accountable and will have to take a stand on this issue in legislature before laws for tolling existing bridges and infrastructure pass. So we ask you, if you have not already done so, let your legislative representatives know that tolls are unacceptable funding methods for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Tolls are bad for families and businesses. Our organization exists to educate the public about the issue of tolling; we are not advocates for alternative financial options, although we believe there are many. We are also not opposed to bridges that are built within the financial means of our regional economy provided they do not require tolls on existing structures. We assert that there are plenty of other options to tolls that must be pursued, or an affordable alternative to the plan so that tolls are not necessary. In other words, we are not opposed to new bridge(s).

At this time, the Bridges Authority financing plan will likely get a ‘rubber stamp’ approval from Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Agency (KPTIA) and it will proceed to the Federal Highway Administration for review. Please be assured that this organization,, and many hundreds of volunteers are keeping an eye on this issue and will keep you posted as we have updates. The issue of tolls is still very much a ‘ball in play’ and is not a “done deal” as some would have you believe.

If you have not already done so, please do at least one of these three things:

1. Call the Department of Transportation at (202) 366-4000 and ask for Secretary Ray LaHood’s office and leave your comments that you oppose tolls on existing structures on our bridges,

2. Write your legislative representatives and let them know in your own words that you oppose tolls and why tolls are bad for families and businesses, and

3. Tell people you work with, socialize with or are related to, that the tolling issue could still be a reality if we, the people, do not stand up in protest. Help us spread the word that Tolls are not the solution.

Thank you for your support of the socio-economic livelihood of Kentuckiana. We encourage you to tell your own story about the negative impact of tolls when you write or call Secretary LaHood or your legislative representatives.

Dude, please tell tell that to homeowners near Silver Street, Pine View ...

I'm still playing catch-up, not to mention ketsup, after abundant down time during the holidaze.

After reading Jerod Clapp's Tribune story, I'm puzzled anew at the school corporation's failure to grasp elementary (pun intended) public relations. Are their feet ever removed from mouths? Was the PR guy imported from Libya after Colonel Gaddafi downsized? Is this a good time to talk about a raise for the superintendent? Why do we need portable classrooms when neighborhood schools were given the mountain oyster treatment?

Here's a helpful hint: Keep this McWhorter fellow away from the microphone unless you really think an inadvertent comedy routine helps sell the notion of a referendum.

NA-FC Schools could bring referendum to vote; 2012’s budget could be in bad shape without it

... (Chief business officer Fred) McWhorter said the school corporation has made efforts to show the community how it’s worked to make the school system better.

“If we move forward with a referendum,” McWhorter said, “now we can say with a straight face, ‘we’ve become more efficient.’”

He said even though four schools were closed last spring, the facilities left are being used more efficiently than they had been. Without any empty classrooms and class sizes still staying in reasonable levels, he said he thinks the school corporation has demonstrated its efforts at increasing efficiency ...

... McWhorter said community members without children in local schools need to consider some of the benefits of having a good school system in their area, including the increase of property values.

He said studies show how a more educated populous generally has less crime.

“All you have to do is look at places like Detroit [Mich.] where the schools have been run down and what’s happened to their property values,” McWhorter said. “We don’t want that to happen here.”
Photo credit: My esteemed colleague M. Nash.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More such heresy entirely necessary where St. Daniels is concerned.

Something said by city council member John Gonder was buried a few paragraphs down, but is sufficiently prescient to see the light of day.

FLOYD COUNTY: New Albany police chief, sheriff have different views on combining police protection; Mills supports a merger of departments, by Daniel Suddeath (Tribune)

... But the state push — primarily from Gov. Mitch Daniels — to consolidate public services is the reason New Albany City Council President John Gonder said his “knee-jerk” reaction to a merger is opposition.

“I don’t want to be led around by what [Daniels] thinks local government should be,” Gonder said.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"H.L. Mencken Speaks."

The other seven parts of this marvelous interview can be found here:

Why am I thinking about the Sage of Baltimore, a longtime personal hero? Because a hardback set of Prejudices 1 through 6 was a Christmas gift from the missus, that's why.

There's an exception to every rule.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Looks like I win the bet. Never say, "You WON'T post the Wham! video."

Pizzeria & Public House are open today until 5 p.m.

Only 10 days away from a smoke free NABC Pizzeria & Public House, which is open today (Christmas Eve) until 5 p.m. Growlers? Just remember: No alcohol sold in Indiana on Christmas Day!

Note: Bank Street is closed today and tomorrow, reopening Sunday.

The trick now: Keep it rolling.

Excellent Christmas Eve reading from Matt Nash.

NASH: A stranger comes to town

... He stepped into the winery where a duet was on stage singing an acoustic version of Mellencamp’s “Ain’t even done with the night.” All of the tables were filled with patrons that seemed to be enjoying themselves. He sat at the bar and sampled a glass of Riesling, and a piece of “Chocolate Lava Cake.” He left thinking of all the places he had visited and all of the wine he had sampled. This place stood out in his mind as one of the finest atmospheres he could remember, and he was reminded he was still in New Albany.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today's Tribune column: "Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching."

All things considered, I'd rather be in Bamberg, but at least the Eiche is on tap at the Public House.

BAYLOR: Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching.

... My favorite recurring seasonal set piece is when Christians, easily the beneficiaries of the most pervasive and relentless propaganda machine in the history of mankind, express outrage whenever miniscule dollops of free thinking manage to elude the leaden grip of the mandated American theocracy, and suddenly pose an Ebola-like threat to the hegemony of Christianity’s indigenous edifice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'll have my budget scrambled, please -- and can you hold the brinksmanship?

Top Ten Ways to Close the Budget Shortfall

10 Make all them fancy downtown bars and restaurants go away, at least until they put a damn cheeseburger on the menu

9 Open Air Museum triples price for yearly visitations, with pass outs no longer allowed

8 Laid-off policemen and firemen to set up coffee can toll booths at major approaches

7 Sell by-the-day tent space on the lawn of CM Price’s rental properties

6 Ron Craig auctions Historical Preservation Commission on Ebay, graciously kicks back 10% of proceeds

5 Get rid of all that fancy, expensive new fire equipment, just use the old ones sitting there in that nasty old Coyle building

4 My cousin Vinnie agrees to be narcotics cop at half the going rate

3 Kick off inspirational “How Low Can We Go” propaganda campaign, with Dan Coffey as namesake chairman

2 All councilwomen agree to drive a hybrid Lexus until the crunch eases

1 Bring back the Asian health spa for downtown stress relief


Indeed, living NA-style means the next crisis is never very far away.
New Albany City Council says no to plan to balance budget; City primed to being 2011 with a near $3.7 million deficit, by Daniel Suddeath (News & Tribune)

... Council members Diane McCartin-Benedetti, Dan Coffey, Steve Price, Kevin Zurschmiede and Jeff Gahan voted against the EDIT appropriation. The latest proposal — which entailed using multiple boards and funds to shift money to cover the shortfall — called for proceeds from a 2008 revenue bond to be used to pay backthe EDIT account for the $1.7 million expenditure.

NA Exchange coming to MyBar space off Grant Line Road.

The basic facts: A new dining and drinking establishment will be opening soon just down the street from NABC's Pizzeria & Public House, at 3306 Plaza Drive, by the railroad track, clearly visible from Grant Line Road.

Ian Hall has closed MyBar, and feverishly is remodeling the space into a full servive restaurant to be called NA Exchange. For those of you who still regret the passing of Bistro New Albany, know that Ian's chef will be none other than Dave Clancy, returning to New Albany in a professional capacity for the first time since 2007.

This is great news for the Northside of town. Following are Chef Clancy's comments at the Louisville Restaurants Forum.

... We are in the process of re-tooling what used to be MyBar, right by Roger's digs. It will be a full service restaurant and bar featuring upscale but approachable cuisine (imagine BBC and Bank Street, and we fall in between that).

We are planning an extensive App/Bar menu and less entrees than at my old dive downtown with nothing over $20 but multiple micro brews (including a few of NABC's). What we are looking at doing is adding a nice dining option to that demographic just looking for a gnash or a full on dinner in a pub type atmosphere ... a "gastropub" of sorts. Projected opening is early January but you know as well as I that things often get derailed and postponed (I got hosed on many fronts opening my old place).

Regardless, this is the kind of project that I enjoy the most as it allows me to think outside the box and give folks what I believe they want and I know we can deliver. I think that Ian and I will make a great team, a great venue, and a great dining option for everyone! Thank you all for your support and wish us luck!

Perfect with eggs, too.

As ususal, Erika gets it wrong.

If a reindeer walked into Bank Street Brewhouse, it certainly would be the last time ever ... because I'd have Chef Josh put him on the menu.

Reindeer with Bonfire of the Valkyries ... yummers.

150 years later, still the wrong side of history.

There are times when being for the underdog places you squarely on the wrong side of history. So it was when I was a kid, just after the Civil War centennial observance. At a tender, impressionable age, I viewed the Lost Cause favorably, but fortunately I grew up, and have regretted the mistaken identification ever since. It would be pleasant to think that we, as a nation, might finally get this one right.

Gone With the Myths, by Edward Ball (New York Times)

... I can testify about the South under oath. I was born and raised there, and 12 men in my family fought for the Confederacy; two of them were killed. And since I was a boy, the answer I’ve heard to this question, from Virginia to Louisiana (from whites, never from blacks), is this: “The War Between the States was about states’ rights. It was not about slavery.”

I’ve heard it from women and from men, from sober people and from people liquored up on anti-Washington talk. The North wouldn’t let us govern ourselves, they say, and Congress laid on tariffs that hurt the South. So we rebelled. Secession and the Civil War, in other words, were about small government, limited federal powers and states’ rights.

But a look through the declaration of causes written by South Carolina and four of the 10 states that followed it out of the Union — which, taken together, paint a kind of self-portrait of the Confederacy — reveals a different story. From Georgia to Texas, each state said the reason it was getting out was that the awful Northern states were threatening to do away with slavery.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nice work, Paul Fetter: "Bridges plan raises more questions."

Dispassionately, and with admirable restraint, Paul Fetter tells it like it is.

Earlier today, I wrote to Ed Clere, whose weekly Tribune column today discusses "fiscal challenges" for Hoosiers, ending with this statement: "The next two years will be difficult, but if we avoid tax increases and spend what we have wisely, Indiana’s economic recovery will be strong and lasting."

Class, your assignment: How do tolls to facilitate an unnecessary $4 billion bridges project fit into our representative's assessment of the economy's prospects?

Or do they at all?

Bridges plan raises more questions, by Paul Fetter (News and Tribune)

... The authority’s tenure has been characterized by misdirection and misinformation. Its activity has been difficult to follow and understand.

What we do know is the authority’s message seems to change constantly. Even those that have followed this issue closely don’t know all the facts. It’s disappointing that the culmination of the authority’s work is an incomplete plan that raises more questions than answers.

While new bridges have been contemplated for the last 50 years, it seems silly to now be picking an arbitrary date to jam this square peg through a round hole. It’s time to take a deep breath, step back and figure out how we can address transportation needs — without imposing tolls that will only penalize our businesses, our communities and our families.

Dear Ed.

For the record: The following e-mail was sent to State Representative Ed Clere last Wednesday, just after the Tolling Authority's "public input" debacle, and a day before the Authority ratified its foregone conclusion. During the "input" session, I enjoyed an unexpected chat with Mrs. Clere, and based on this exchange of views, it occurred to me to "reach out" (a faddish usage I detest, but which seems appropriate here) and see if communications might be resumed. I've heard nothing so far, but maybe this time will be different.

Note also that this tolling fight has only just begun, in spite of the Tolling Authority's efforts to convince the public that its unelected dictates are carved in stone. Oatmeal's more like it. The letter is followed by comments to the Tolling Authority submitted by myself and BG.


Good morning, Ed.

I needn’t remind you that we’ve not spoken lately. This has been a phenomenon I neither instigated nor sought, but history is precisely that. It is what has passed. We cannot change history, only rewrite it, although accuracy certainly is paramount when it comes to moving forward.

Let’s consider the topic of tolling existing Ohio River bridges as a means of financing the Ohio River Bridges Project.

I had the pleasure of speaking with your wife at Monday’s farcical public “input” meeting, and she assured me that both of you are opposed to tolling as a means of implementing the $4 billion transportation “solution.”

However, she added that because you were so busy with the campaign, and lacking time to familiarize yourself with tolling’s details, you’ve chosen not to speak publicly on the issue. I sincerely believe that (a) you have clearly spoken (see below) on the issue, and (b) apart from your answer to the Tribune’s question, your absence as we’ve debated the matter has decidedly not been in the best interests of your constituents. I told Amy this, and trust that she relayed word to you.

Personally, I believe that your linkage of opposition to bridge tolls with partisan political concerns was unbecoming considering your level of skill. It was both unnecessary and insulting to those many people, like me, who typically shun the vulgarities of both major parties. I believe that genuinely valuable time has been wasted, but I also believe that enough time remains, precisely because the future is not the past, and it’s never too late to start all over again.

Let’s examine your one public statement on tolling, in the form of comments to the Tribune/Evening News just prior to the election, in which you indicated with a fair amount of clarity that you in fact held (as yet hold?) a position, and that this position addresses tolling in only two contexts: As partisan politics, and as job creation. It is my contention that both these contexts ignore reality here, now, on the ground, and in the trenches, as has been made evident every day since the election was held by exponentially growing opposition to tolling.

“Special interests are trying to use tolls as a scare tactic to kill the bridges project altogether. Politicians have failed for decades to build the bridges, and I won’t use the issue of tolls to score cheap political points. There’s too much at stake, including tens of thousands of jobs. This isn’t a question of being for or against tolls. It’s a question of being for or against jobs, and I’m for jobs. I don’t want to pay tolls. I also don’t want to leave the bridges project as a problem for my children to solve. It’s our responsibility to find a way to move forward. I’m eager to see the financing plan the bi-state Bridges Authority will propose later this year. If the plan involves tolls, I will have the same questions and concerns as anyone else who lives here and uses the bridges. I won’t, however, take a position against something that hasn’t been proposed in a cynical attempt to win an election.”

Ed, there are so many questions to ask about this statement.

Am I to deduce from this statement that my opposition to tolling indicates that I am being manipulated by special interests?

If so, can you identify them?

Am I to deduce that the Democratic Party has compelled me to speak out?

Do you think for a moment that the 10,000 local residents and dozens of Hoosier businesses signing petitions against tolling did so because they were trying to influence the outcome of an election that already was decided?

When it comes to jobs, why must the concerns of these dozens of small Hoosier businesses – concerns derived from daily experience in the marketplace over long periods of time -- that tolling will negatively impact their operations be almost entirely ignored in favor of accepting exaggerated claims of job creation that have been discredited time and again?

Doesn’t putting a small business out of business actually cost us jobs?

Who decides which of these jobs is most important?

A plan for tolling “hasn’t been proposed”?

As noted in my comments below, for as long as I’ve been attending meetings and observing the activity of the Bridges Authority, there has constantly occurred an activity for which the English language possesses no single word as accurate as this one: Lying. Officials stand directly in front of placards explaining the absolute necessity of tolling to achieve the project, look at you, and say there is no firm plan to toll.


Can’t you see that in your ongoing silence, you lend tacit support to this unabated nefariousness?

Ed, during the period of your silence, for whatever its reason, an anti-tolls movement has emerged that reaches across various and sundry aisles in a surreal way seldom witnessed hereabouts. I have sat in a room and found myself agreeing with tea partiers. Communists and fascists are sharing beers. More than a few local Republicans have confided to me their agreement that tolling is madness, even if they cannot bring themselves to say so publicly for fear of being blackballed by the same party (as a hint, an elephant as symbol) that preaches fiscal responsibility and non-taxation on perhaps every other topic except this one.

How can this be, and how can special interests manipulate folks on so many different sides?

As busy as you have been, and for whatever other reasons you have chosen to maintain distance, you cannot fail to have noticed the phenomenon. And yet, all that you have yet been able to say publicly about an issue of huge significance and cost that will impact your community for a half-century to come is the frankly dismissive and snarky passage quoted above, which surely – surely -- is not indicative of your caliber of intellect, and the your capability of discourse.

Ed, in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter whether you and I like each other, or if we get along. We needn’t consult an oracle to deduce that given my political proclivities, I don’t have a proverbial pot to piss in, and remain isolated in New Albany's noted progressive ghetto, although better to live in obscurity than be forced to attend another Nurnberg rally like the one I endured on Monday.

But ... in what amounts to lofty disdain for those in opposition to tolling, those mere “populists” who actually oppose tolling for the very same reasons that undergird your core political orientation, you are doing a tremendous, indefensible disservice to the community which only recently returned you to office. They are looking to you, and you are not there.

By all rights, this is your fight.

Where are you?



My “official” comment, as submitted to the Bridges Authority:

Personally speaking, I resent the ongoing, self-perpetuating lies about tolling, which have been representative of Orwell at his finest. When the placard on the wall says, in effect, "there must be tolls to support the project as constituted," and otherwise sane Authority members look one in the eye and say, "no decision has been made about tolling," it is an abomination that speaks to the existence of cognitive dissonance on a deep and perhaps unredeemable level.

Tolling will be injurious to Southern Indiana small retail businesses, and yet not a person connected to the Authority has considered studying what this effect might be until AFTER tolls are established. Don't you think that's important to know?

Even beyond tolling, the truth of the matter is that the ORBP is a 1950's solution to 2050's problems, entirely ignoring every other available option beyond automotive transport to "solve" mobility needs for the next 50 years. How is any of this a judicious expenditure of $4 billion?

A friend of mine says it best: "Build what we need. Build what we can afford. Build the East End Bridge. And see what happens."

Raising a barrier to commerce in the form of tolls on existing Interstate and other infrastructure is madness. Do any of you sleep at night?


As usual, Jeff Gillenwater says it better:

The projections used to justify this project in its current form are not accurate. Population, job, and traffic growth rates are lower than predicted. There are regional mobility solutions that are cheaper, safer, more conducive to economic investment, that will create more jobs, and are environmentally much more responsible. That none of them have been seriously considered in direct comparison to ORBP is a disservice to the region and the nation, creating a false "all-this-or-nothing" dichotomy and necessitating rancorous dissent where reasonable discourse would have better served had initial, well researched public input efforts been responded to in kind. What you are asking is that the regional community spend the next several decades paying more than necessary for a project it neither wants (except the East End Bridge) nor best serves its long-term transportation needs. The conflicts of interest, both real and perceived, that led to this untenable juncture should be disclosed and reviewed right alongside readily available alternatives to this project. According to your own estimates, all that can be accomplished while the East End Bridge is being constructed utilizing traditional state and federal funding with no new sources of revenue - tolls, private investment or others - needed. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

It didn't happen at the Public House, but maybe it should.

It's a "surprise performance of AGAO's Opera Choir 'Premier Ensemble' in Café Iruña of Pamplona, Spain," in May 2010, as part of the celebration of the European Opera Days 2010. Thanks to the Beakster for the link.

Monday, December 27: Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle - this year with guided tasting!

It's that time again, Portheads.

Monday, December 27, is the 2010 gathering date for the annual Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle of New Albany, Southern Indiana, Oz and points afar.

This year, there’s a twist, although as before, the port tasters will be imbibing in the Prost banquet and special events wing at the NABC Pizzeria & Public House.

In 2010, the Circle’s tasting will unfold in two acts.

Thanks to the timely intervention of Kevin Lowber, who moonlights as evening Public House server nonpareil after spending his days selling wine for Vintner Select, there will be an official program of Port education this year, featuring the emceeing/interpretive services of the estimable David DuBou of Vintner Select.

This session begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be guided by David; 2-oz samples of the six Ports listed below will be served, with commentary. The price for this sampling is $20 per person; the Ports also will be available for carry-out purchase afterward.

Kopke White Oporto
Kopke 10-Year Oporto
Kopke Coleita Oporto
Old Shandon Port Works Syrah Port, Paso Robles
Kopke Vintage Oporto
Kopke Late Bottled Vintage Oporto

This educational tasting session is open to all comers, although I’m asking that you reserve space in advance by e-mailing me:

If you're willing and able, a purely optional Act Two begins when the educational sampling concludes, around 8:30 p.m., when a coalition of the willing reprises our time-honored “pot luck” tasting format.

Just bring a bottle of Port and a snack (cheese, salami, olives or other munchables) for post-class sampling.

Recall also that Prost is smoke-free, and you'll be forced to retreat to the bar for the consolations of tobacco … but remember that this is the final year for such pleasures; we go tobacco-free on January 3, 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

White flag aloft: I'm not buying DNA's 501(c)(3) dodge.

As reported earlier today, after months of dragging its feet, Develop New Albany finally opted out from the single most important issue facing its supposed constituency (bridge tolls) and provided as a tremulous excuse this tired sidestep:

The organization is a tax exempt charitable organization and IRS rules state Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct.
Take a look at the IRS guidelines linked below.

Can you find any part of it that would (a) preclude a one-time vote supporting toll-free bridges (substantial part test), or (b) would prevent a self-described economic development organization from conducting educational activities pertaining to the economic impact of bridge tolls on the same small businesses the organization claims to represent? Of course, the organization would have to desire performance of its stated function, which is another topic.

What say the lawyers?
Political and Lobbying Activities

Political activities and legislative activities (commonly referred to as lobbying) are two different things and are subject to two different sets of rules. The rules depend on several issues:

  • The type of tax-exempt organization (different rules apply to private foundations than to other section 501(c)(3) organizations),
  • The type of activity (political or lobbying) at issue,
  • The scope or amount of the activity conducted, and
  • The consequences of exceeding the given set of limitations.

DNA releases impenetrable verbiage masquerading as a statement on bridge tolls.

The community looks to the self-described revitalization leaders for leadership.

Instead, they're given evasive chickenshit, from top to bottom.

Nothing else needs to be said, except that I'm feeling personally embarrassed right about now.

Develop New Albany releases statement regarding bridge tolls.

We support the success of downtown merchants.

Develop New Albany will continue to observe the progress of the construction of new bridges and the proposal for tolls on existing bridges and release statements as they pertain to the economic development of the historic business corridors. The organization is a tax exempt charitable organization and IRS rules state Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. As a non-political organization we are in favor of anything that supports the success of New Albany business owners and favor policy that advances economic development. We encourage a transparent effort on the part of the Bridge Authority and political leaders.

This Corporation was organized with the mission to promote and encourage the economic revitalization and historic preservation of downtown New Albany. Therefore, actions that contribute to these goals have been, and will be, welcomed by Develop New Albany. Actions that are a detriment to these goals have not been, and will not be, welcomed by Develop New Albany.

Develop New Albany: Develop New Albany, Inc. is a non-profit organization composed of local businesses and community volunteers. Develop New Albany is committed to the economic revitalization and historic preservation of Downtown New Albany. Develop New Albany proactively markets New Albany to organizations and businesses to encourage the continued renaissance of Downtown New Albany.

Develop New Albany Contact:
Mike Kopp, President

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I'm looking for someone to tell on.

And why not?

Everyone else seems to be doing it.

It's just like kindergarten all over again ... except that back then, we didn't need four billion reasons to be petty.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Much posturing about absolutely nothing at wasted council yawnfest.

Last night's city council meeting was characterized as "extremely post-menopausal" by a bemused onlooker, who added, "I hope Coffey feels better soon."

Referee Diane Benedetti signaled illegal procedure as Carl Malysz repeated his creative financing plan for the third meeting in a row.

Later, when Benedetti reminded her colleagues that she wears the pants in this spineless jellyfish of a pansy legislative family, council president John Gonder thought long and hard before answering, "Yes, dear."

CM Coffey expressed renewed outrage at the gall of any government employee to ask for more money from impoverished rag pickers like (well, you know), and as a gesture of reconciliation, he offered to reimburse taxpayers for his 2010 council pay. City officials declined, noting that used snake oil still is not legal tender in St. Daniels Land.

And, without the marvelous bounty of La Rosita's, none of it would have been remotely endurable.

Daniel Suddeath provides by-the-numbers coverage of the purely wasted evening: New Albany City Council delays action on balancing budget shortfall; Final vote on $1.7 million appropriation scheduled for Tuesday.

Shockingly, Steve Price was unable to navigate the lofty, icy expanse of Dewey Heights and failed to attend last night's meeting, halting his consecutive meeting starting cliche-spouter record of 143, begun in 2004. Somewhere, someone caught a glimpse of Brett Favre smiling.

Rest assured: He was the only one.

Crowd goes wild as the "right" wing descends on the ORBP.

At the Hoosierpundit blog, annoyance at bridge tolls and the ORBP as a whole.

Why is it important? After all, it's what we've been saying for months, isn't it?

Except that this scathing critique comes to you from far across the aisle, on another side of the political spectrum, one that seldom sees the likes of me. It took a while, but no matter. Welcome to a fight that has only just begin, Scott ... and I expect you'll be hearing from the GOP soon.

But wait ... you are the GOP. Hmm. How are they going to spin that?

Bridges Authority Approves Tolls, Tells Southern Indiana Businesses & Commuters to Drop Dead

... But momentum to "just build the bridge" was not slowed by the addition of ever-more poison pills to the project. The thing had a life of its own. Then the unelected bridge authority, sort of a modern-day Robert Moses in committee form, decided that the bridges couldn't be built without tolls regardless of the broader negative impact on the community the bridges were supposedly being built to serve.

Ho ho, hum hum at Freedom to Screech.

Substantial portions of Erika's latest post appear to have been cribbed from the Internet sans attribution; here's a likely source at He/she thanks the "source" at the City-County Building, Nice try, but nope.

It's just a reminder of how very important "the rules" are until the pretend-prof decides to ignore them to make embittered propaganda points.

The Medicis would be downright embarrassed, Erika. I'm sure Berlusconi will pardon you, though.

Nash gets socks -- again.

Matt, I mean seriously, would you please write your own articles -- c'mon, everyone at the Grow Room What the Hey blog who knows you, knows better. Congratulations Matt, you have made an impact, you're being attacked by the anonymous character assassins. Hoppy Holidaze and a job well done, old chap.

NASH: My Christmas wish list for 2010

... What this means is that we need some good, qualified candidates that are willing to work hard to make this community great. The pay is not very good, the hours seem tedious and it is a very thankless job. Those that are willing to put up with some of the shenanigans that go on in and around city hall. They must understand what their role is and give the mayor the proper tools to do his job. The council members should not try to micromanage but should be willing to work with the mayor and his administration to try to improve the way things are around here.

It's time for more New Albanisms, and you, too, can contribute.

It's been more than a year since the first installment.

Today's Tribune column: "A New Albanist’s Dictionary."

Now it's time for Volume 2, coming soon, or as soon as I complete it.

Examples of the genre:

Infinite Monkey Theorem
Expression of mathematical probability suggesting that if given enough time, an ape typing at random would eventually write Shakespeare's “Hamlet,” or an ordinance outlawing the Historical Preservation Commission.

Skin-tight leg wraps that viscerally threaten the fragile masculinity of a former Gang of Four council stalwart; also called “tights,” as in, “Let’s get all tights and vote in my garage for a change.”

Get to thinking, people, and add your New Albanisms to the comments here, or e-mail them to me. Your contribution will be attributed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kids Giant Cookie Decorating Party at Patticakes & Pies Cafe this Sunday (Dec. 19).

8664: Decreasing traffic volumes call ORBP plan further into question.

For years, members and affiliates of the 1Si/GLI/Bridges Coalition/Tolling Authority cabal have been attempting to scare the bejeezus out of citizens with dreadful predictions of the region grinding to a halt if their unpopular pet project isn't fully implemented, costs be damned. Those claims, however, have been and still are based on out of date, inaccurate demographic and traffic projections easily disproved with real, on the ground data.

Thanks to 8664 for compiling a list of actual traffic counts for our interstates near Spaghetti Junction. It's alarming that we can't count on those who are supposed to be representing the public as appointed officials to share such information, but I'm glad someone is.

Click on the press release image below to see how much traffic volumes have decreased since the Ohio River Bridges Project's Record of Decision was issued.

An easily shareable PDF is available here, and Jake at the The 'Ville Voice is covering this as well.

No surprises ...

BREAKING: Bi-State Bridges Authority votes 13-0 to approve toll-based financial report for the $4.1B Ohio River Bridges Project (leoweekly on Twitter).

Today's Tribune column: "Ten of 2010’s books.”

In which the title says it all.

BAYLOR: Ten of 2010’s books

Is it any wonder I'm bitter? Hours spent battling tolling charlatans, Councilman Cappuccino and neo-Prohibitionists means never having enough time to read.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Evening News joins Tribune in condemning tolling proposals.

To quote Mr. Nash: "The Evening News gets it right."

EVENING NEWS EDITORIAL: Leave tolls off existing bridges, roads

... It’s wrong to ask Hoosiers and Kentuckians to essentially again pay for roads and bridges that have been constructed. It’s wrong for locals to be asked to pay more than half of the estimated price tag in tolls.

More than anything, it’s wrong to ask them to pay tolls when so many questions remain ...
Previously, all the way back in April, the Tribune reached the same conclusion.

TRIBUNE EDITORIAL: Bridges plan not worth any cost

However, the current consideration of adding tolls to all existing bridges is an idea we can’t support even if it means a smaller or delayed construction project.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Empty bottles as means of sovereign action -- but who gets plunked first?

Yesterday’s artlessly choreographed Tolling Authority photo-op left a universally bad impression on attendees, although, in final analysis, expecting the best in performance art from an aggregation of very bad actors is like asking one of my housecats to read selected passages from Twain's Adventures of Huck Finn.


I've gathered opinions from several quarters, from print media to Facebook. Television coverage is not included because I seldom watch local television news, but if you wish to add links in the comments area, feel free.


Via e-mail, from No 2 Bridge Tolls:

Last night’s “public input and information meeting” seemed to be more about information and less about public input. The Bridges Authority seems intent on going forward with creating a tolling authority to implement tolls on all bridges (new and existing), and possibly all junction traffic, even vehicles not crossing the bridges.

If you were unable to attend last night, you can still have your voice heard by filling out the comment form at:

Please bookmark to keep informed. And most importantly you need to contact your legislators. Their information is on our website and we have a template letter on the site. Please edit the letter in your own words to let the Bridges Authority know how tolling is a bad idea and what the personal impact will be. Please also visit our Facebook page and “Like” us to receive news updates. Thanks for your support of NO Tolls. Together, we can have a voice and make an impact, but we must get the message out to our legislative representatives.


An Architect’s (Steve Wiser) Thoughts On The Bridges Meeting, at The 'Ville Voice blog:

...I am a half-glass full optimist, but if tolls on all bridges is approved, I hate to say it but, I will be a half-glass empty pessimist. I hope you do not sign a death warrant for this community.


That’s right – the Bridges Authority is terrified to look the public in the eye, also at The 'Ville Voice.

They’re just going to tie your hands behind your back, cut off your feet and then pig eff you until you pass out and forget about tolls, two bridges, eight bridges, Waterfront Park, whatever. Once again, a handful of people making all the decisions for our beautiful city ... (Linked to David Morse at Facebook).


Surprise, Surprise: Small Businesses Oppose Bridge Tolls, by Scott Fluhr at the Hoosierpundit blog.

The Courier-Journal treats this as some sort of amazing revelation; it shouldn't be for anyone with a brain and anyone that has been following the issue of the construction of new bridges (plural, multiple bridges, even though only one is really needed) between southern Indiana and Louisville.


THE GREAT DIVIDE: Toll boosters and bashers have their say; Some members of the public unhappy with format of meeting, by David A. Mann (News and Tribune).


At least 150 attend hearing devoted to public input on bridges project, by Marcus Green (Courier-Journal).

A slight correction in opinion calculations.

Sunday at the Padgett with Floyd County's experience in the Civil War.

The Civil War exhibit upstairs at the Padgett Museum has been there since spring, and finally we made time to view it. All I can say is: Recommended.

As perhaps subconsciously prompted by the Civil War's centennial in 1961, I developed an obsession with the war as a child, and by the age of 14, ripped through all the library's books on the topic. Now the 150th anniversary is coming, just next year, and there are folks who don't think the Mason-Dixon Line still matters. Really? Try attending a bridges authority meeting.

The photo roster above and below dates back to 1903; it's the organization of Union war veterans in New Albany and Floyd County, including about a hundred old-timers, with perhaps a half-dozen clean shaven faces among them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tolling Authority "input" session utterly without the redeeming presence of strong liquor.

The Tolling Authority staged a meticulously choreographed mini-rally this afternoon. In a bit of biting irony that surely escaped most of the tolling authoritarians present for duty, it took place at the Muhammad Ali Center, an edifice celebrating democratic empowerment, which was not at all on the menu of this "public input" session.

The best line of the night: "This isn't a public input session. This is a groundbreaking ceremony."

Somehow, I lasted the whole three hours, and spoke with most of the tolling authoritarians present, at least one of whom forbade me from ever using his name again in print. However, flattery will get him (and them) nowhere.

Let's just say that in all conceivable respects, the gathering was thoroughly Orwellian. After the first hour, the logic became so circuitous that I feared having been drawn into an Escher drawing.

Yes, I made it a point to track down David Nicklies of the Bridges Coalition, which is connected to the Tolling Authority in most significant ways except for anyone actually admitting to it, and he repeated to me that all businesses always should be willing to sacrifice for the wider community benefit.

No, I did not ask Nicklies for evidence that he has ever followed this dictum.

With nuanced condescension, Nicklies then remarked that upon closer inspection, his comment in the morning paper to the effect that only 3% of the community opposes tolling was exaggerated; it's even less than that, he said.

Nicklies in person is even more of a dismissive, unctuous dirtbag than voluminous prior notice might have indicated. Two showers later, and I'm still not clean.

Here are a few photos.

David Hawpe presses the flesh with workers from the building trades prior to the start of the meeting. Hawpe, who escorted an chirpy, exhumed Leni Riefenstahl to the confab, happily left the premises before the public session began, having presumably made his point in private prior to the elevators being opened.

In short, we must be innovative to finance the bridges boondoggle, and even if we didn't need to be innovative and could finance all of it without tolls, in 15 or so years there'd still be an antiquated 1950's solution to a 2050's problem with not a cent left to do it right in terms of genuinely enhanced mobility.

Wanna comment? Right this way, and a steno will take your testimony, which we promise to study in depth for voting Thursday on a plan that's a plan, but isn't really a plan if you mean something bad by it. Got it?

It was a farce from start to finish. If I can muster the strength, I'll churn out another column for the Thursday edition of the Tribune. If not, I probably will, anyway.

Anonymous: "Frankly, Roger Baylor knows precious little about teachers or the union."

Forget for a moment the persistent dysfunction perpetuated by blogside anonymity; we've beaten that horse to death, and I'm bored with being proven right, again and again.

Rather, I'm more than happy this time to offer an anonymous critic a broader soapbox than that offered at Mrs. Baird's blog. While nameless, the broadside is well written and evidence of an ability exceeding that of the norm. I don't agree with the opinion stated, but competence should be rewarded every now and then, even when masked.

Speaking for myself: I'm up for beers (or coffee) and conversation any time, and I can't remember an occasion when I've turned down a request to chat about this or any other issue.

As an aside, many times lately it has been my wish that State Representative Ed Clere, with whom I'd gotten along perfectly well in the past, would have another such reasoned conversation with me about the imminent threat of bridge tolls (my particular hot button interest as a small businessman), but as hard as it is for my bedazzled, confused detractors to admit, the truth remains this:

Ed struck first, muzzled me, and suspended diplomatic relations -- not the other way around. I merely asked a question. His was a ham-fisted tactic that wasn't necessary, one surely calculated to create the rift that has emerged, but so it goes. Perhaps I'm being useful as a straw man. If so, I'm flattered beyond measure, although I'd settle for garden variety pain in the ass, any day.

We're all adults, and some times we're pawns in games far larger than our own mundane, everyday concerns. So it seems to be with a $4 billion bridges boondoggle. We're simply not supposed to resist, and not supposed to question our "betters" on this. However, in my world, when my "betters" won't answer questions, they've already discredited themselves.

My only obligation it to shine as much light in their eyes as I can muster -- openly, without subterfuge, sans aliases.

Verily, as it pertains to my erstwhile friend, it's never too late to start over again, both in politics and in life. Nixon went to China, after all. Lamentably, the Publican's breath is not being held, and the prospect of a long, grim Cold War makes me sadder than my exaggerated reputation suggests I'm capable of feeling. So much for press clippings.

The floor's yours, anonymous. My mother was a teacher for 30 years, and I know how difficult it can be.


Anonymous has left a new comment on the post ""POP' GO THE BAD GUYS":

Shirley, I'd like to thank you for your posts too. They are timely and include everything important to know.

I'd also like to thank you for allowing anonymous comments. Because you allow this, and because I know Roger Baylor reads this, I'm going to comment on HIS blog here.

I can't put my name down because I am a public school teacher and I belong to the union. I do not need people picking on me at school (not many would, but some people with the power would find some way to punish me). Also, I don't want my name to become associated with union matters. I teach students. They do not need to know how frustrating it is for me, personally, in my job. It is only helpful for them to know that teachers struggle with these things.

Roger Baylor rants about Ed Clere DAILY. I'm really sick of it. People point this out to me at work--teachers have been onto the union's and the Democrat party's efforts to claim that Ed Clere is against them. The union has softened on this, thank goodness.

Roger Baylor and his friend Jeff Gillenwater have not. They post the most caustic stuff about Ed Clere every day and many teachers are getting VERY angry about it. Frankly, Roger Baylor knows precious little about teachers or the union.

I am a public school teacher AND union member. For the record, neither I nor at least 40 or so of my colleagues that I've talked with about this have EVER heard Ed Clere say ANYTHING against the union. Not a single thing. And we've talked with Rep. Clere MANY times about a variety of issues.

Why am I saying this? Because of a message one of my fellow teachers sent me with a link to Baylor's blog. Here's what Jeff Gillenwater wrote:

"Though it's become commonplace for the likes of State Representative Ed Clere and State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett to blast teachers unions for exhibiting behavior strikingly similar to their own..."

In the first place, Ed Clere doesn't ever act like the union. In the second place, Ed Clere has NEVER, NOT ONCE blasted the union. Even when they treated him like trash.

We all knew that the only reason they supported Gibson is that Gibson knows practically nothing about education (I heard about the interview), and that they thought he'd be a "yes man" for what they want. That's all.

THIS is why we voted for Ed Clere. We KNOW he'll do whatever's right, even if it's painful sometimes, for the greater good. And it's about time someone did.

The friend who sent me that blog link was looking for a teacher brave enough to put name to paper and write to the Tribune. I'm afraid I cannot. But I wanted to say somewhere that we're sick and tired of reading Baylor's tirades against Ed Clere, a man who is no coward and who will do his best for the people whether it's the teachers union or any other issue.

Omigod: Tolling's threat to small business (and large) is so obvious that now even the C-J has noticed.

In which we learn that David Nicklies and Kerry Stemler are suckling from the same Kool-Aid teat, and that as a result, we three-percenters must sacrifice for their common good, although as the reporter succinctly notes, "No one has studied how tolls will affect businesses."

I suppose that's why neither a single Tolling Authority member, nor any of its cadre of apologists, has once so much as attempted to answer the business community's questions to that effect. I'm feeling vindicated, even if Erika still can't bring herself to dispute her beloved's political cowardice and take her own stand on tolls.
Small businesses worry tolls would cut off customers, by Marcus Green (Courier-Journal).

... The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, the body in charge of financing the $4.1 billion project, is expected to vote this week on a plan that anticipates $2.2 billion of the project’s cost to come from electronic tolls, designed so they don’t slow traffic.

No decisions have been made on where the tolls will be located, but the authority has asked the federal government to determine whether existing interstate highways can be tolled.

There’s not a major city in the United States with tolls on all of its interstate bridges, according to the International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association, a toll industry trade group.

The notion of charging a toll to cross existing roadways has opponents big and small.

UPS, which has its main air hub in Louisville and whose trucks routinely cross the river, is against fees on the Sherman Minton or Kennedy bridges, as well as Spaghetti Junction. The Clarksville Town Council has also passed a resolution opposing tolls on existing highways.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another Hibbard Heads-Up: NA/FC Schools Admin seeking public participation changes.

According to messages NAC received this weekend, it seems NA/FC Schools Superintendent Bruce Hibbard and crew are at it again, proposing new, more restrictive rules for the public's engagement with the school board who supposedly serves them. It was clear enough during the school closure debacle that Dr. Hibbard is wary of communicating with the public. Apparently, he's uncomfortable with the public communicating with the school board and each other as well.

Click on the images for new public participation school board bylaws being proposed by NA/FC Schools Administration:

The old rules can be found at the school system's web site in the School Board section.

A message of concern from Mark Kessans, president of the local teachers association:
The above bylaw was written and is being recommended for passage by the Central Administration. It is apparent to the Association that the Administration is attempting to put into place measures that will allow the administration and Board to silence both the public’s and the Association’s ability to peacefully and adequately express concerns to the Board. It is also an attempt to prevent the Public and the Association from organizing to attend and speak at a school board meeting.

The Association especially finds paragraphs G -4 and G-5 to be very troubling, along with the requirement of a 10 day notification in order to request that an item be placed on the agenda. Paragraphs E, F, G-1, 2 and 3 are very sufficient safeguards to ensure a productive, safe and orderly meeting and a five day notification would be reasonable.

I have made numerous attempts to meet with Bill Briscoe to discuss and edit the troubling language. Bill has repeatedly told me that the Administration is holding firm on this and will not agree to make ANY edits to the proposed bylaw language. I have also sent an e-mail to each school board member expressing the Association’s concern and requesting that they make a motion to amend and/or support the removal of the three troubling components of the Bylaw. After nearly twenty four hours, I have not received the first reply to my request from any school board member.

If any of you have a personal working relationship with any School Board Member, I would encourage you to make a special point to contact them and encourage them to support rejecting the replacement by-law. Admittedly by the Administration, there has been no problem with the current by-law and it has served the board well. At a minimum, please encourage board members to support the removal of the above three items. This will allow whoever is President of the Board the authority to silence the voice of anyone that would like to address the Board if he or she does not want to hear what anyone has to say. (Censorship?) I thought that we lived in America where we enjoyed “Freedom of Speech”. How does the proposed bylaw language align with what we teach our students about Freedom of Speech?

Please share this e-mail with anyone that may voice our concerns. I would also encourage you, others and the general public to attend the Board Meeting this coming Monday, December 13, 2010, at 6:00pm in the ESC. Be sure to sign up to speak to influence Board Members to either amend or “vote down” the above bylaw. This bylaw would allow the President of the Board to abuse his or her authority and have sole censorship authority over who speaks, what is placed on the agenda and what is discussed at future Board Meetings. This holds true even if the board meeting continues or is adjourned and reconvened at a later time or date.

I would appreciate as many of you as possible attending Monday’s meeting and signing up to speak regarding this bylaw, or at a minimum, attending and supporting those of us who will be addressing the Board with our concerns.

I look forward to seeing each of you at Monday’s Board meeting!

Mark Kessans
New Albany-Floyd County Education Association
Bonterra Building, Suite 100
3620 Blackiston Boulevard
New Albany, IN 47150-8529
800-638-5711 ext.# 4

Some commentary/beginning talking points:

1. Though it's become commonplace for the likes of State Representative Ed Clere and State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett to blast teachers unions for exhibiting behavior strikingly similar to their own, it's worth noting here that the local union president is the only person currently trying to inform the public that their access to the school board may be changing. Union 1, Management 0.

2. The process for submitting items to the school board for agenda inclusion was flawed even before the 10 day advance was proposed. Other than submitting her or his own agenda requests, the superintendent should have no say in what the board does or does not discuss. There is simply no justification for giving the Superintendent the authority to approve or disapprove such requests from the public. Though Hibbard seems set on acting otherwise, the elected board is the superintendent's boss and not the other way around. The school board exists to protect the public's interests, not the superintendent's. As such, agenda items should be submitted to the full board for their inclusive consideration, not to the superintendent. If the board wants to change the rules, they should start there.

The 10 day advance for agenda item requests is troubling as well, owing to the superintendent's and the school system's usual lack of public communication. As we've seen repeatedly over the past few years, school initiatives are often kept hidden from public view until the last breakneck moments before a vote. This proposed public participation bylaw change is just the latest example of what has become an all too common practice.

What's actually needed is not a shortened time frame for public concerns and idea generation but an extended period of public notification, allowing proper research, debate, and communication to take place.

As an aside: Internal communication doesn't seem to be much better. The first communiqué I received about this matter did not include the actual bylaw language proposed. In an effort to be informed and fair, I contacted a school board member in order to familiarize myself with the proposal's specifics. As of Saturday morning, at least some of the school board members had received neither an agenda nor an information packet related to Monday's meeting and had no idea that bylaw changes were even being proposed. The public, on the other hand, is expected to have their act together well in advance to be considered at all.

3. Paragraph F states that oral complaints about specific students and/or personnel will not be heard. It further suggests that employees contact their immediate supervisor about complaints relative to employment. That makes sense in every case except as it pertains to the superintendent. The school board is the superintendent's immediate supervisor. Whether intentional or not, this rule in effect states that the board will not hear criticism of the superintendent. That's unacceptable.

4. Mr. Kessans rightfully points out problems with G-4 and G-5, which gives the school board president the authority to single-handedly adjourn meetings abruptly and to limit the number of speakers. Given that no consistent guidelines are provided for making such decisions, what's discussed is left entirely up to the discretion of a single person, inviting, as Mr. Kessans suggests, abuse and censorship. If 20 people show up to speak to a particular issue and the president limits the number of speakers to 10, how will he or she decide who is heard and who is not? If the public, according to these bylaws, are not allowed to register complaints about Dr. Hibbard and three people in a row complain about him, is that grounds for adjournment?

5. The audio and video recording rules are problematic as well. Again, decisions about access should not be made by the superintendent. It's not her or his meeting. And, again, as evidenced by this particular situation and many others, the lack of school system communication makes a requirement for five days advanced recording approval untenable. Having become aware of the proposed public participation changes (no thanks to the school system) just yesterday, let's say that I'm now concerned enough that I think recording is justified so that the public can witness what transpires at the meeting on Monday. According to the rules, I won't be allowed to record because, through the school system's fault, an approval request five days in advance is impossible.

In an era when large media corporations like Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (the Tribune's owner) are demanding that staff take unpaid furlough days to cut costs, citizen-driven reporting is becoming more important, not less so. Curtailing access for those inclined to provide it would be a clear sign that the school corporation doesn't want coverage, which is precisely the attitude that justifies more of it.


The next school board meeting is tomorrow, December 13, at 6:00 p.m. at the Education Support Center, 2801 Grant Line Road. That unfortunately overlaps with the Tolling Authority's "public forum", so take your pick or do both in succession.