Thursday, June 30, 2011

ON THE AVENUES: Hauntingly multinational.

ON THE AVENUES: Hauntingly multinational.

By ROGER BAYLOR
Local Columnist

According to the dictionary, “to haunt” is to visit or inhabit as a ghost. Not unexpectedly, “to be haunted” is to be visited by these spectral non-corporeals, or to be inhabited by them.

Seeing as in theory, ghosts are immaterial spirits – more prosaically, we think of them as having been alive (in the past tense) and now dead (in a passed sense) – it’s probably neither incorrect nor particularly original for me to suggest that ideas have the power to haunt, too.

And there are memories, too; shadowy recollections of things passed, subjected to the human brain’s self-protecting preference for airbrushing, and often regurgitated as nicely pruned and tidied nostalgia.

In short, one glosses over the bad parts. Because of this safety mechanism, it is my view that memories themselves often are hazy hauntings, adorned by remnants of ideas propelling actions, which in turn prefaced the memories.

Ideas endure and are less adaptable than memories. They’re stubborn this way, and perhaps the haunting emanates from the dissonance. With distance from the source and the time, the spookiness is compounded, perhaps even exponentially, and that’s why aging is about more than mere physical deterioration.

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It is now clear that my 50th birthday last year qualifies as a watershed event (I wrote about it at the time). In the realm of thoughts and ideas affirming and animating my interior world, something as yet indefinable keeps churning, collating and coagulating. I sense future change, and seek to remain alert to its possibilities. Just the same, I’m haunted by the past.

It is a cliché, but the only constant is change. It occurs. Most of the time, it comes slowly and imperceptibly. Given the age of the planet and the “deep-time” pace of evolution, none of this is a surprise, and yet we humans are creatures of otherwise irrelevant habit, locked blithely into our daily personal and cultural constructions, and surfacing only periodically to notice the alterations in our landscape, be it local or global.

Then, belatedly, we exclaim: “What happened?”

Usually, whatever it is actually has been happening for a long, long time. We didn’t notice the gradual transformation, because as John Lennon presciently noted, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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So it is with me. I am midway through my second year of circumstance-enforced absence from the European continent. As the time passes, my attitude evolves.

From 1985 through 2009, I generally took one trip each year, longer and less frequent journeys in the beginning, and then as the years passed, shorter jaunts taken more often.

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the intense geo-political lure of the prevailing Cold War climate disappeared overnight, even if history did not stop, and the focus of my subsequent travels increasingly was applied to beer’s European contexts in history and culture.

The current travel hiatus owes to an absence of time as well as financial and philosophical realities coming in the aftermath of Bank Street Brewhouse’s inception in 2009. Briefly stated, my company’s expansion project has required herculean efforts, drained all the coffers, and led to an unexpected top-to-bottom rethink of my personal and professional position in the world of beer and brewing, some of which I’ve shared previously.

There’s also been an obvious dove-tailing between NABC’s growth and an escalating interest in the community where I live, culminating in my recent failed candidacy for city council. As a result, a temporary suspension of European visitation has been the most practical course, and my wife and I fervently hope that in 2012, we’ll be able to make a trip overseas.

Less obviously, perhaps remaining stateside for more than six months at a time, exploring my own terrain and experiencing various epiphanies in my 50th year have combined to produce an altered outlook. It is retrospective, yet also forward-gazing.

I’ve come to realize that during my early trips to Europe, whether I accurately fathomed it or not, an era was coming to a close. There’s a considerable difference between the 40th anniversary of war’s end in 1985, and the 65th in 2010. Obviously, a whole generation has passed on since then.

The Cold War’s end hastened European integration, and European unity has profoundly altered the landscape in every conceivable way, including in the areas of beer and brewing. We’re now a full thirty years removed from the traditional European beer culture described so lovingly by the late Michael Jackson in his seminal volumes.

Much of what Jackson documented, which inspired so many of us to emulate him, is now as obsolete as his “Beer Hunter” series on VHS videotape, decimated by consolidations, familial sagas, changing tastes and just plain time inexorably passing.

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Naturally, there are certain lamentations, but in truth, the mind reels at the joyous extent of what has arisen to take the place of the disappeared.

Craft breweries and brewpubs are seemingly everywhere, from Scandinavia to Italy and beyond. American brewers like Stone are making plans to brew American-style craft beers in Europe, for a local niche market.

Being part of a business in the midst of such an unprecedented flowering means more to me than money, although of course, a small piece of the largesse would be nice.

The final verdict remains murky, but goes something like this: I’ll always be a European, and I’m haunted by the ideas and past experiences that compelled me to comprehend this nationality, but during the course of transitioning NABC to a position of emphasizing its brewing operation, I’ve been serendipitously rediscovering something inside, which is about being an American.

Is it time for dual citizenship?

REWIND: Out and About (2009).

This one of my columns isn't in the newspaper archive, and apparently was never published here in its revised entirety. Until now. It's from February 5, 2009.
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BEER MONEY: Out and about.

By ROGER BAYLOR Local Columnist
But the whole point of liberation is that you get out. Restructure your life. Act by yourself. -- Jane Fonda

Shouldn’t the act of writing be as personal as it ever gets, especially if the results are intended for public, not private, consumption?

Shouldn’t one’s own words be inextricably linked to one’s own identity, with the writer endeavoring to honestly address matters like self-realization, personal liberation, and all those little acts of defiance, mourning and acceptance that go together to make a life?

Certainly this was the general condition for much of human history prior to the electronic immediacy of modern times. Either a person was literate, retaining at least the possibility of leaving a tangible record of existence for posterity, or he wasn’t, in which case a life passed unnoticed -- unless one was part of the tiny minority deemed suitable subjects for biographical renderings.

In those earlier times, when something of significance needed to be said, those few who were literate were expected to compose manifestos, polemics, confessionals and apologetics. Just like Martin Luther’s famous tract, these were intended to be nailed both literally and figuratively to the cathedral door for all to see.

In the current age of ephemeral solipsism, you needn’t know any more than the method of posting a self-made YouTube video, then sit back to count the hits as they mount through e-links, and finally calculate the extent of your newfound (and short-lived) notoriety.

It just isn’t the same.

These themes of personal freedom and written expression today compel me to broach a difficult topic, and yet it seems to me the right time to tackle it: Who am I as an individual, where did I come from, and where am I going?

For me, the one achievement reasonably attainable in my lifetime is self-knowledge. Random serendipity deposited me here, and I was issued one non-renewable life with second chances rarely if ever permitted. There is so very much of it that cannot be controlled, time is short, and as an atheist, I don’t look elsewhere for answers. But each of us spends every single moment of our lives inhabiting our own bodies, so doesn’t it make sense to come to terms with who we really are?

I can’t remember when it first occurred to me that I was different from the others.

There was neither a singular epiphany nor an earth-shattering revelation, only a dawning recognition that my attractions and desires were directed toward other places than those taken for granted as "normal."

For almost a quarter of a century, I’ve known the truth. The immensity of it overwhelmed me, and the implications usually blinded me to the realities of my situation. I kept going both directions, there and back and forth, never willing to admit that my orientation might be other than that considered typical for a male of my upbringing in a small Southern Indiana town and in a conservative, traditional society.

As a youth I wanted nothing more than to be like my friends, and after all, in those days we were not readily exposed to alternative lifestyles as part of our formative educational experiences. One might by chance read about such matters in books and see the issues skirted on television, but here? It really was the sort of thing that dared not speak its name aloud.

I was tormented by the usual doubts and questions. Was it nature or nurture? Had I done something wrong? Was I being punished? Did I have control over my real feelings and possess the ability to change them, or were they hard-wired and non-negotiable?

After much soul searching and heartfelt discussions with loved ones, dear friends, longtime customers, local politicians, cherished teachers, and even that pleasant fellow in White Castle the other day whose name I can’t remember, I’ve come to a momentous decision, and I’m able finally to reveal it to you, my faithful readers, and to the world.

I’m really a … a … a European.

There, I’ve said it. European. Not American.

Apparently the stork erred, and I’ve spent 48 crazy-quilt years trapped in this hamburger-eating, swill-slugging, mindless patriotic church-going, NASCAR-gazing country. It’s just so profoundly unfair.

I should be riding on bicycles or affordable public transportation through thoughtfully planned, human-scale communities to important soccer matches, and then vacationing in Libya or Bali or Cuba.

I might be drinking Belgian ale, Greek ouzo and Spanish wine from the appellations of their origins, and gratefully choosing between many more than just two political parties, among them one that actually reflects my own belief system.

I could be enjoying competent, universal, cradle-to-grave health care and never having to worry about the harmful encroachment of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, with religion restricted to debating the architectural merits of charming church buildings in Rome and Kiev.

I would be refusing to own a firearm, seeing that the crime rate is low and I needn’t affix my status as genuine citizen and "real man" on gunshot cadences … speaking a full half-dozen languages fluently … and understanding that my tax burden, while high, is being distributed to the benefit of my community as a whole, which benefits me as an individual.

Surely the delivery error can be rectified with a revised document of authenticity.

Anyone seen that damned negligent stork?

Roger A. Baylor votes Social Democrat, and will continue to blog at www.cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com until the immigration forms arrive.

But that one dude promised.

Two more public meetings for the Ohio River Bridges Project, tons more propaganda dispensed by the Oligarchy Benevolence Society (1Si, GLI, etc), and still no study of the economic impact on small Southern Indiana businesses.

You mean the Bridges/Tolling Authority members lied to me?

I'm shattered.

Andy's Book Review: "Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It."

Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It, by Amy Cortese; reviewed by Andy Terrell.

“You can save your community. Nobody else is going to swoop in. The government is not going to come in and dump buckets of money on the street. Corporate America is not going to come in and save our town. It’s our town and our responsibility to make sure that we continue to exist”
- LoriSchuh of the Clare (Michigan) Downtown Development Corporation

​I recently watched the film Too Big To Fail, based on Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book of the same name. I remember feeling frustrated and even a little angry at the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. The repercussions of the bailout were not favorable to the smallest of small businesses who found credit lines and potential investments into their businesses dry up.

​A week later, I picked up Amy Cortese’s optimistic book Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It, a thought-provoking look at how investors and businesses all over the country are connecting through alternative ideas. Many of these alternatives use local sources, and Cortese does a terrific job in explaining how these programs work in simple, layman’s terms – something much appreciated by someone (me) who struggled with the most basic economics courses in college.

Cortese moves across the spectrum with programs such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) through community banks and credit unions to Peer to Peer (P2P) or “crowdfunding” opportunities whereby many, perhaps hundreds, of investors make small amounts of money available. Oftentimes, these investors make these funds available not because they hope to make a significant return but simply because they believe in what they’re doing.

​SEC regulations, written in the 1930’s with little realization of how the future world would change, are being challenged by many of these groups in an attempt to change the rules set to favor the large institutions. This book was published in May 2011 and the results of these challenges are not yet known. If successful, Cortese believes that the playing field will level somewhat and more of these alternative, grassroots movements will form.

​Cortese also discusses the explosion of cooperatives occurring all over the county. There may be no better example of locavesting than the co-op model. Cortese uses the example of the Blackstar Co-op Pub and Brewery in Austin, Texas. Over 2200 people invested money in amounts ranging from $100 to $3000 to raise over $600,000 to build the brewpub. While still in relative infancy (they just celebrated their fourth year in business), this community-owned brewpub stands as a model of community support and belief in a project. It shows how good things occur when everyone pulls together.

​Locavesting reads as a “how-to” guide for small businesses while taking time to explain concepts that may be foreign to many readers. It’s a hopeful look at how tens of thousands of people all across the country are looking for a different way to invest and help keep their local businesses alive. As someone involved in our own “Think Local” movement, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see more of this kind of thinking in the future.

Check out my spiffy new t-shirt!

Last week, I participated in an entrepreneur's workshop at IUS, and in return for my testimony about how I've "succeeded" in bizness without really trying, I was gifted with this trendy tee. Seriously, it was fun; I'm flattered; it all goes to show that war is over, if you want it; and if you forget why any of this matters, just let your clicker do the walking back to March and this: A Candidate’s Progress (7): Professor Frump will play the company way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flannel, boots, and bridges.

Interesting amongst all the bridges talk, I had occasion recently to chat with a relative I rarely see owing to a funeral home visit. As we all stood in small circles who recognized each other thinking of things to talk about like people do at funeral homes, she introduced commuting as a topic.

This relative lives in the rural Indiana hills, a setting that has largely kept her out of urban politics for most of her life. No preconceived notions, no factions, no allegiances-- just the unimpinged, practical mindset that often comes with country life.

"Wouldn't it be great," she said, "if we had public transportation? It would be a lot easier and cheaper. I could just drive a short way to a small train station, hop on, and spend the time usually stuck driving or in traffic doing something productive like reading or working on the computer. I don't see why we can't do that."

Though they're often pointed at as justification, she and "people like her", supposed unaccomplished rubes generally identifiable by their lack of more formal business attire, have rarely been the source of the "can't do that" problem that keeps the region from pragmatically moving forward. It's the unchecked arrogance of area leaders who assume beyond evidence that we must be held back because of them, that certain options and issues cannot be considered because people here are just far too plain to possibly understand the often very simple concepts with which the leaders themselves seem to struggle.

Simply put, they're wrong.

More about double wides.

On a hot summer night: Diffie, Kershaw and Tippin to play free show Sunday in New Albany (Suddeath; N and T)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Opposed to "regional apartheid"? Your last chance to speak is tonight.

(From Curt Morrison)

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Public meeting (the Louisville edition)
Tuesday, June 28 ... 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Holiday Inn Hurstbourne, 1325 Hurstbourne Parkway, Louisville, KY


This is it. The Bridges Project is seeking community input on their latest revisions. Then it's a tolled and down-sized, 4-lane East End Bridge, and tolls on I-65.

Basically, the current tolling scheme is a tax on Hoosiers that work in Louisville, to pay for Spaghetti Junction and the bridges, because after tolls, we'll have a regional apartheid. There will be very little cross-river traffic that's not absolutely necessary. It's not very equitable for Hoosiers. It's the opposite of regionalism. But the worse part, even if the tolls were only $1 each/way, this would equate to a 4% tax on a single mom earning $15,000/yr in her job across the river. At their very core, these tolls are going nuclear in our war against the poor. And it can't stand.


Find out more info at: http://www.no2bridgetolls.org/

Or get your info straight from the source: http://www.kyinbridges.com/public-involvement/upcoming-events.aspx

And check out our latest video: http://youtu.be/kHY3UGCPieA

"The project, as it is proposed with tolls, is not what the community wants.”

For the record: I couldn't stay, and the congregation of braying suits was a bit much.

Public has their say: Concerns of tolling, safety voiced at Indiana meeting on Ohio River Bridges Project, by Braden Lammers (News and Tribune)

A similar sentiment was passed along by John Gilkey, who is running for Clarksville Town Council (Paul Fetter is also a candidate for Clarksville Town Council), that he heard while he was campaigning.

“The overwhelming sentiment that I get from [Clarksville residents] is that the project, as it is proposed with tolls, is not what the community wants,” he said.

“There is overwhelming belief that tolls will have a tremendous negative impact on the well-being of Southern Indiana. This project has two potentials: one is to be an instrument of economic growth to the entire area; the other is to become an instrument of economic decay for Southern Indiana.”

Absent content, and people, looks like it needed craft beer, after all.



Monday, June 27, 2011

8th and Culbertson: Salient back stories?

The drawing above shows the boundaries of the Midtown Renaissance area in black, with red circles showing the initial rehab concentration areas. I inserted the green circle and arrow, the latter pointing to the northwest corner of 8th and Culbertson, where the partially collapsed former tavern building has engendered much discussion of late.

The green circle illustrates the curious fact that the area adjacent to the deteriorating structure, a small salient of houses enclosed by Fairview Cemetery, is omitted from the rehab target area. I don't know why, and am hoping someone involved in MR can explain it to me.

Given that more than one structure at the corner in question is/was owned by the same notorious deadbeat slumlord (some still actually stand), and as a result, the vicinity suffered much degradation, it seems ideal for inclusion.

Why does this matter? We're belatedly being asked by proponents of saving the tavern building to consider the northwest corner of 8th and Culbertson as a potentially critical nexus for Midtown Renaissance, even though it lies somewhat on the furthest perimeter of rehabs as delineated during the first round, and was not even included within boundaries when the project was commissioned.

Why? Commercial vs. residential?

This omission may or may not suggest anything at all, other than typifying a pathetic phenomenon too obvious to be denied: The chronic, longstanding neglect of the building by all parties involved until precisely one minute after the collapse at the structure's rear. Now, emergency measures -- and emergency monies -- are required. One wonders when, and if, we ever learn.

The presence nearby of the cemetery, which anywhere except New Albany would be a park-like showcase for revitalized housing, and the old Robinson-Nugent campus provide persuasion for the notion that the damaged building at 8th and Culbertson might indeed (and ideally) become a neighborhood pivot of the sort being minted of late.

But the question: Why did we wait until the alarms are ringing at crunch time to elucidate the vision? Has something else changed that we should know? Has a new vision come into focus since the bricks started falling?

Is it pragmatism or politics, or just another example of the New Albany Syndrome in full flowering?

ORBP and Tolls: An Urgent Message From The Clark-Floyd Counties Convention-Tourism Bureau.

(Press release from John Gilkey)

Greetings!

Your business viability could be at risk from Bridge Tolls! Please Attend Tonight's Meeting on the Ohio River Bridges Project at the Holiday Inn Lakeview in Clarksville

One of the most important meetings in recent history concerning the Ohio River Bridges project will be held today from 4 to 8 pm at the Holiday Inn Lakeview in Clarksville. It is imperative that you attend and make your concerns known! Tolls on the I-65 corridor will negatively impact your business!

While the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention-Tourism Bureau is in FULL support of the Ohio River Bridges Project, we are also in FULL opposition to any form of tolls on any of the downtown bridges and in particular the I-65 corridor. Tolls will create an economic barrier that will cost your company business and could have a negative impact on your long-term business survival.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we depend upon Louisville for a huge percentage of our business here on the Sunny Side of Louisville. There is almost nothing that people in Louisville NEED to come to Southern Indiana to buy or do. We need to face it; they have it all on their side of the river. We offer alternatives, options and something different ... but the fact remains that they don't need to come to Southern Indiana to do business.

Transponders have been proposed as a means to allow local residents to pay the smallest toll charge while everyone else will have to pay the maximum rate which will be applied to people tracked by a video surveillance system on the bridges. Consider the likelihood that the only people who will purchase transponders and have them installed in their vehicles and linked to their bank account are the people who absolutely need to come to Southern Indiana on a regular basis. That is a VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE of the people in Louisville. All others will pay the highest toll rate.

Fees of up to $3 in each direction have been proposed. In addition, there will be an administrative fee applied at the time of billing that could run anywhere from $5 to $25 for motorists using the video capture system proposed to avoid toll booths. Bridge groups have said that the rate of people who fail to pay tolls imposed by the video systems is around 40 percent. That is most likely the group of people passing through the area from whom collection efforts would be difficult. Local residents could be forced to pay the fees. Those are your customers!

A proposal has been made to further scale back the project to lessen the cost of the downtown I-65 bridge to the point where it can be financed with existing local and federal dollars. The east end bridge could be fully funded using bonds retired by tolls. I urge you to attend today's meeting and voice your support for this approach. Keeping tolls off the I-65 corridor will reduce the impact of the bridges project on your business and your income.

We need to stand together in this issue as an industry! Tolls on the I-65 corridor will have a negative impact on tourism. And since tourism is our bread and butter, it will have a negative impact on us.

Sincerely,

John Gilkey
Director of Communications
Clark-Floyd Counties
Convention-Tourism Bureau

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to...



As a reader and neighbor shares from the road, "This is what happens when you start the toll ball rolling." Thanks, B, for the pic and the thought.

Street party at The Dandy Lion, June 25.


There were more than a few decibels from left to right.



I was struck by the overlay of signs where the antique shop is now. It has the appearance of a foreign language.



Over all, it seemed like good business was being done downtown last night.

Toxicity: In a nutshell, here is the case against me.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the case against the NA Confidential blog and its authors (primarily, me) is clear and persuasive, or so a correspondent earlier this week would have us believe. Admittedly, the charges are grave. Do they have merit?

In the interests of a certain neutrality of presentation, I am omitting mention of the specific episode seemingly prompting this correspondence, and while the following citations are listed out of chronological order, I’ve done nothing to edit them or diminish their impact. In a nutshell, here is the case against me.

"(Roger is fostering) a culture of negativity and community dissent bred through loaded discourse ... (this is) negative and tearing down others’ committed and well intentioned acts.

"Facts are distorted, reputations are sullied, and some of the authors are projecting their beliefs on other people's actions, like the conspiracies imagined and connected to every good work/project.

"When folks attempt to try and do something toward community betterment (they) are raked over the coals for doing so.

"(What is missing) is an effort on (Roger’s) part to be a part of the solution, to offer input on problem-solving on some of these issues. Why not take the time to call and have some dialogue and understand … instead, public criticism through the blog becomes your bully pulpit.

"(These words will) be distorted and predictably used as further fodder for your destructive antics.

"Many folks have told me that they refuse to patronize your business because of your condescending tactics and negativity.

"See how toxic your approach can be."
And so, the prosecution rests.

Is there even hope of a defense?

Discuss.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bombers bus trip is next Saturday -- will NA's Jeremy Juliot play?

Below are details of NABC's July 2 motorcoach trip to see the Dubois Couny Bombers play, and to enjoy craft beer along the way. It isn't too late to reserve your seat. Meanwhile, toward the cause of local rooting interests, I received the following note last week after the trip was mentioned in the News and Tribune:

We have a local graduate from New Albany High School playing on the Dubois County Bombers baseball team. I saw the ad in the paper for the trip to see them on July 2nd, and thought you would like to know. His name is Jeremy Juliot, and he was the starting left handed pitcher for NAHS in 2009. He received a baseball scholarship to Vincennes University, and was picked up this year to play for the Bombers. This has been a great opportunity for his baseball career. If you could pass on this information to the ones going on the trip that would be great. Thank you,

Shannon Begley (Jeremy's aunt)
Indeed ... Jeremy has an astute press agent at work, and we'll keep an eye open for him. Maybe a banner would be appropriate? Also, know that a contingent of homebrewers from the Dubois County Suds Club will be at the game, too.

As previously noted, NABC has chartered a bus for the Dubois County Bombers game in Huntingburg on Saturday, July 2. It's only $50 per person for the bus (with beer) and ticket. Obviously, this is an adult-oriented trip, and there'll be two craft beer refueling stops in route (Harrison County Summerfest in Corydon, and the Schnitzelbank Restaurant in Jasper).

To reserve space, let me know: E-mail or call Jeff Gesser (number on poster above).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Götterdämmerung, as performed at 8th & Culbertson.

In reverse order, here are a few toxic questions to start the day, as transmitted on Twitter.

Readers may refer to "Dan Coffey is right: The UEA is not City Hall’s ATM" for background, and know that yesterday, the Urban Enterprise Association board voted down a funding request to provide money toward the building at 8th & Culbertson. It is rumored that another modified funding request is forthcoming today. More when NAC has time.

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190 days remain until change. Am I the only one detecting hints of desperation and whiffs of Götterdämmerung in the 8th & Culbertson saga? less than a minute ago

What does "Clean & Green" downtown beautification have to do with (a) the corner of 8th & Culbertson, and (b) with the Horseshoe Foundation? 3 minutes ago

The UEA captures statebound $ and uses it. Apart from its perceived value as an ATM, why is City Hall targeting the UEA at this time? 5 minutes ago

If the building at 8th & Culbertson is being viewed as future anchor for the Midtown "renaissance," shouldn't the neighborhood be consulted? 7 minutes ago

If the UEA's participation in the future Landmarks building at 8th & Culbertson was vital, why did the deal's planning go down without them? 9 minutes ago

Follow me on Twitter

What would it look like?

From the globaloneness project:


What if the world embodied our highest potential? What would it look like? As the structures of modern society crumble, is it enough to respond with the same tired solutions?

Or are we being called to question a set of unexamined assumptions that form the very basis of our civilization?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Come to the Tolling Authority's public meetings next week and say "no" to bridge tolls.



On Tuesday night, www.No2bridgetolls.org held a public meeting at the Buckhead Mountain Grill in Jeffersonville. The purpose was, "To inform supporters of strategic initiatives in advance of the upcoming June 27 and 28th Bridges Authority Public Meetings."

The media was there, and the News and Tribune's David Mann summarized next week's two critical public meetings:

Group urges members to voice toll opposition

... Tuesday’s meeting was held in advance of two public meetings of the bridges authority, scheduled for next week. The first meeting is 4 p.m. Monday at the Holiday Inn Lakeview, 505 Marriott Dr. in Clarksville; the second meeting is 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Hurstbourne, 1325 Hurstbourne Pkwy. in Louisville.
It's simple: If you are opposed to tolls, you need to do whatever you can to arrange your schedule and attend one of these meetings. We have the facts, and we need bodies to back them up. Speaking for myself, I can attend the Monday meeting in Indiana for a bit at the beginning, and will be there for all of Tuesday night's Kentucky session.

Other coverage at the C-J is here: Anti-tolls group rallies supporters ahead of bridges meetings

Other sites of interest:

Say No to Bridge Tolls: http://www.youtube.com/user/saynotobridgetolls

No2BridgeTolls at YouTube: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/pages/No2BridgeTolls/160386417337040

No Tolls on the Sherman Minton or Kennedy Bridges Ever: http://www.facebook.com/pages/NO-TOLLS-ON-SHERMAN-MINTON-OR-KENNEDY-BRIDGES-EVER/308004181768?ref=ts

ON THE AVENUES: Tight fitting genes.

ON THE AVENUES: Tight fitting genes.

By ROGER BAYLOR
Local Columnist

Music does something to me, and I’ve never been able to explain why. It just does. Sometimes I walk into a supermarket, hear a pop song on the sound system, and my attention wanders. I forget the shopping list.

My earliest childhood memories have melodic accompaniment. When very young, I’d go to sleep to the cracklings of an ancient AM radio, and perhaps that’s why absolutely nothing about being five years old remains except hearing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

The grooves on a LP collection of children’s music subsequently were worn and frayed. I recall two cuts in particular: An American folk song called “One More Day,” and Mozart’s “Turkish Rondo.”

The anecdotes are both endless and tedious, but the point is this: Music plays inside my noggin at all times, and has done so for as long as I can remember. It is central to my being. And yet, for all the ways that music is the soundtrack of my life, I possess no musical skills.

I cannot play an instrument, and my voice, once capable of carrying a tune, has digressed through decades of misuse and abuse to the point of shower stall braying alone, safely away from the ears of others. I listen, drum fingers, hum, whistle and participate as best I can. It’s enough.

My conclusion? There is a music gene, and I have it. Music has spoken to me from the beginning. Had my formative years been spent with musicians as role models as opposed to athletes, perhaps it all would have turned out differently.

As it stands, I’ve no complaints. The innate pleasure to be derived from listening to music is more of an essential heartbeat than an optional amusement, and I can’t imagine life otherwise. If the music in my head ever stops playing, it will be the unmistakable sign of imminent death -- and as all atheists know, death is a symphony without encores.

---

A musician like J. S. Bach certainly thought differently, regarding his considerable musical skills as gifts from God, intended to be used to glorify and exalt Him. The simplistic vision of angels cleverly arranged on cloudbanks, deploying a phalanx of harps to while away eternity, surely derives from this idea of music and holiness intertwined.

It doesn’t resonate with me. Music may well “have” its own gene, but its manifestation in a tangible, real world is a human construct. Liturgical music would strike that tuneful genetic chord no matter what, but the mysteries and meanings we read into it result from eons of conditioning, not a deity’s intervention.

Of course, if given the chance to choreograph my final departure, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings would be a fine choice for greeting eternity. The music would play, it would end, and on the very next beat, so would I. There would be the final silence, and life would continue without me.

---

Yesterday I had a beer with a member of the Sojourn Church’s forthcoming New Albany congregation, which has purchased the sadly abandoned Silver Street Elementary School. We had a deep and enjoyable chat about life in Nawbany, and an atheist and a Christian sharing bar space over craft beer has to be a good sign.

One tidbit bears repeating, which is my statement to him that as an unbeliever, it matters surprisingly little to me what is said within the confines of a church so long as the sacred doctrine doesn’t result in secular discriminatory litmus tests outside its walls.

As an example, if church teaching casts gays as existing outside the celestial directives, will the ones living around the corner be declared ineligible for neighborhood outreach assistance? The answer I received was reassuring in its furtherance of love as Sojourn’s answer. We’ll see how it plays out in real life.

---

At some point in the conversation, I was asked if I could identify the source of my atheism. Was I rebelling against the religion of my parents?

No. While my childhood was not without general religious assumptions and a nebulous, largely unexamined “faith in something bigger” approach to talking points, there were no onerous obligations or regimented teachings, and overall, both my parents were tolerant. If rebellion were the only goal, I’d have likely become a fundamentalist owing to the absence of instruction.

Echoing the music gene, and adding to it my belief that homosexuality predates mankind’s insistence on concocting religions to assuage its recognition and fear of death, maybe what I lack is the God gene, a predisposition toward accepting one or more versions of a deity. I’m only guessing, since I’ve no experience with such a state of consciousness.

That’s because in all honestly, I cannot remember a time in my life when such a concept as God seemed plausible to me in the least. Rather, it was all to be regarded as mythological, a phenomenon for placing on dusty outmoded shelves beside ancient Greek small-case gods, Mayan sacrifices and Norse sagas.

Only later, in university, did I learn there was a name for the God gene’s absence: Atheism. It was the ultimate in revelations, for it was revealed to me that others felt the same way, and could explain their non-belief rationally. I needn’t embrace the palpably untrue, after all.

---

Yesterday, there was a moment of seriousness, yielding to mirth.

Told that from Sojourn’s perspective, God is directing it to the city of New Albany to do His work, I replied that having charted the dimensions (dementia?) of the New Albany/Battered City Syndrome, maybe just this once, God didn’t know what a mess He was getting into. Genetic or not, this town is a strange place, indeed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The schedule's up ...

... unfortunately, it is last year's schedule. Photo taken on Saturday, June 18, just prior to Celts on the River.

Dan Coffey is right: The UEA is not City Hall’s ATM.

The little birds this morning are singing songs of betrayal and treachery, and the Green Mouse says: Today may be the day for City Hall to move against the Urban Enterprise Board and its director, Mike Ladd.

Ostensibly, the bit of carrion currently stuck in City Hall’s throat is the disposition of the former grocery and tavern building at the corner of 8th and Culbertson, the back part of which collapsed a few weeks ago after years of neglect by an unregulated slumlord.

Part of the “deal” (aren’t they always?) proposed by City Hall at the behest of preservationists to save the building from demolition involves a substantial tithe from the UEA, long regarded by the current administration as little more than a convenient ATM to be debited when necessary, often for purposes more politically oriented than any which actually pertain to the UEA’s state-mandated mission.

I say all this without flinching because I am a former member of the UEA board, and have observed on a number of occasions the phenomenon of City Hall’s strong arming. Consequently, readers should understand that the story goes much further back than this week’s impasse.

None other than council person Dan Coffey gets it, and has been stating it aloud at the last three council meetings. Coffey, who this year became the council’s representative to the UEA, has done what others (most prominently, the somnolent Steve Price) didn’t, which is try to understand why the UEA exists, where it derives its revenue stream, and how it responsibly administers real programs addressing specific needs within the territory of the zone.

Coffey has grasped that the UEA’s board is top-flight, populated by experienced, capable local business people Dan Meyer, Al Goodman and Larry Brumley.

Coffey sees that the UEA’s monies, while diminished compared to previous eras as the zone concept itself undergoes yearly “reform” scrutiny at the state level, have the maddening appearance of forbidden fruit to those in the community who are frustrated by the UEA’s relative independence from partisan politics, who know that its organized, do-something board precludes easy pickings.

I join Dan Coffey in saying this: The UEA does not act to protect its fiefdom. It acts to implement its mission, does so adeptly and efficiently, and you can take that to Main Source, board member Brumley’s bank.

Someone else besides Coffey needs to say this aloud: The current 8th and Culbertson crisis is pure chicanery, a form of last-gasp desperation foisted on the public by an administration that sees its lame duck options dwindling in the aftermath of Irv Stumler’s fix-is-out defeat in the May primary.

It’s another in a series of attempted power plays, a desired feather for City Hall’s cap using someone else’s money, and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. By all means, save the decrepit building. Just don't demand handy financing from an entity whose objectives and budget don't account for such projects.

I encourage the local newspaper to devote scrutiny to the issue, and in all sincerity, I thank Dan Coffey for his insight and willingness to take the UEA’s case. Strange bedfellows, indeed, but as the political death rattles continue to increase in intensity these final six months, it's something you’ll be seeing more often.

Ford: "The mobility model we have today will not work tomorrow."

Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry and executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, spends about 17 minutes in this TED Talk explaining that, in terms of future mobility, "the solution [to gridlock] will not be more cars, more roads", i.e., misguided, auto-centric anachronisms like the Ohio River Bridges Project. As TED says, "when he worries about cars' impact on the environment, and about our growing global gridlock problem, it's worth a listen. His vision for the future of mobility includes 'smart roads,' even smarter public transport and going green like never before."


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Distracted drivers.

My nephew recently graduated from Jeffersonville High School. The school is so large that commencement attendees were asked to park in a nearby big box retailer's lot and be shuttled in. My mother was excited. Having grown up in inner-city New Albany, it was the first time she'd ever ridden a school bus.

Things have changed.

New Albany-Floyd County CONSOLIDATED School Corporation buses travel roughly 1,000,000 miles per year. Fuel costs are so high adminstrators say it's worth spending additional money to install GPS tracking systems on the buses to try to determine more efficient routes.

And today they're closing the sale of one of the only walkable schools left in the corporation's inventory for a reported $415,000, helping to ensure that the driving inanity above will be much more difficult to correct in future.

I hope the homophobes enjoy it.

Irony parking only.

A public service announcement produced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation a few years ago and distributed for use by Main Street organizations as part of a national media campaign.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jared's going to work for Schlafly, and we're damned proud of him.

The Publican now steps aside as NABC's brewmaster, Jared Williamson, does the writing and tells you about love, serendipity, and his impending move to St. Louis. I still believe I should have held out for a Stephen Hale kilt to be named later ... but to be truthful, words fail me when it comes to thanking Jared and wishing him the best at Schlafly. We're sending a brewer out into the world!

---

Love and Serendipity

Where do I begin … let’s go back a few years.

At some point in the spring of 2005, when it became known that NABC’s original brewer Michael Borchers would be leaving, I turned to the now Brewery Representative/sales guru Richard Atnip, who then was a server and myself a kitchen worker/guest beer grunt, and said these now fabled words: “We should take over the brewery.”

Since then, well, a lot of serendipitous things have happened. Six years later, NABC has grown from two fermenters and a few house beers on tap amongst our world renowned beer bar, using online clip art for our signs, to a two brewery regional power, featuring one of the best graphic artists in the business, with a new bottling program primed to take serious flight. The journey has been arduous and exhilarating; wrought with discoveries, defeats, and triumphs. I could write many pages detailing the journey, but this letter has a different purpose.

In 2008, NABC was invited to attend and pour our beers at Schlafly’s Repeal of Prohibition festival, where each year they invite breweries from a different state to attend. Our salesman at that time, John Campbell, had previously worked for Schlafly and due to this connection, NABC was one of the four Indiana breweries invited. We traveled to St Louis and did what we normally do: Pour samples of our awesome beers, sell some t-shirts, educate people about NABC, and wow the taste buds. But something else happened that weekend that I was not planning on, and that is how serendipity works.

The stars aligned that weekend and I met the love of my life, Kelsey, and my life hasn’t been the same since. It’s taken several years for us to sort out the details, but ultimately we have worked towards both of us being together, living and working happily in the same community. And that my friends, is the reason for this letter:

I am leaving my post as NABC Brewmaster and joining the team of brewers at Schlafly in July.

Over the last few years, St Louis has been my second home and now it will simply be home. I am struggling to find the words to properly convey my emotions but the simple truth is the timing and opportunity are here, and I need to embrace this next phase of my life.

I cannot thank Amy, Kate and Roger enough for the opportunity they gave me years ago and I hope their trust has been repaid through my work for the company. I love The New Albanian Brewing Company, without them who knows what I would be doing today. A huge part of my soul, creativity and determination will always be with NABC, and I will keep a keen eye on all things NABC from St Louis. I hope to one day see our 22oz bombers on shelves there, and will probably weep with joy if and when I see them.

I want to thank all the current and former employees of the company, and those we have lost way too young, who all have played a role in some way in my life. You guys are dear to me and I will miss seeing you, laughing with you, and raising pints with you. I want to thank our loyal customers, without your contributions none of this would have been possible. I have proudly brewed for all of you these years and in turn all of you have graciously lifted me up.

I am so proud of how far we have come as a company, and so excited for the future of NABC. It’s as strong a company as it has ever been and this next phase of growth will see NABC up the revolution to heights that just a few years back seemed like a dream. David Pierce and the rest of the brewery team are poised for fantastic growth at Bank Street, and some lucky brewer will get to take the post at our R&D brewery and live the dream that I have, and will always cherish. I will proudly trumpet the name and beers of NABC where ever I roam, and am proud to be the first NABC brewer to move on to continue my brewing career.

I hope to visit often, and those of you that know me well, know that I am a road warrior. The four hour drive from STL to NABC is quite easy, and I know the way all too well. I also hope to come back and guest brew here again when the timing is right, and will be back often to see so many of my friends and family that live here as well. I was not born in Indiana – Iowa, for those who wonder – but I have spent the majority of my life here and my roots are deep. I haven’t even touched on my music roots here, and honestly, that is a book unto itself.

So you see, my tale is full of love and serendipity, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. My becoming a brewer was serendipitous, and my love for brewing continues to grow as the years pass by. My meeting Kelsey was serendipitous due to my love of brewing, and now it is time to start the next chapter in this journey we call life. I could ramble on for hours, perhaps days, about how everything has lead to this moment. But instead I will finish with this quote from a good friend of mine:

“Parting is sweet sorrow, and the battle rages on”

Cheers

Jared Williamson

---

Final note: Stay tuned for more about how we're going to fill the position. Notice I didn't use the word "replace," because that simply isn't possible.

Windstream second-guessing sweeps NA: Which language is who speaking, when, and why?

If it was my job to prepare a lesson plan encompassing the following news item, it would include a few simple questions.

Coffey: Windstream move caught New Albany City Council by surprise; Messer cites lack of communication from administration; Gahan said proposal had council support (Suddeath; N&T)

1. Exactly what is meant by "growth" in the context used by Windsteam's Dan Bates?: "The administration here has done an awesome job of trying to bring growth to New Albany, and I think this would have been a great way to do that."

2. Is it the meat or the motion?: "According to (Dan) Coffey and Councilman Steve Price, Windstream tendered its product patents for collateral instead of real property or cash. 'This was a risky loan,' Coffey said."

3. When City Hall says, "No comprehension," and Coffey says, "No information," and Jack Messer says, "No communication," should the entire city of New Albany join the refrain from the Stones, circa Beggar's Banquet:

Take me to the station
and put me on a train
I've got no expectations
To pass through here again

4. Exactly what is meant by "entrepreneurial" in the context used by Mayor Doug England?: "In a news release, England did not directly fault the council for Windstream but said 'I do hope the city learns that we must become more entrepreneurial in our economic development decision-making.'"

5. Exactly what is meant by "economic development decision-making" in the context of the preceding passage? Whose definition? Who decides? Is there more than one way to look at such questions?

6. Given the scope of the request, the fact that it was City Hall and not the council asking for more time to be duly diligent, the resident whoredom of businesses seeking "economic development" favors from "entrepreneurial" cities, and the benumbing difficulties in separating fact from fiction in an election year, doesn't council president Jeff Gahan's statement constitute the final word on Windstream:

“I felt like it was moving as fast as it could have given the amount of money they were asking for from the council.”

That's enough for now. Let me know if you find any nuggets.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beautiful people alert.

"Seriously, what does that man think he's going to find in a dumpster, except garbage?"

Steinert's is said to be closing.

I'm told that Saturday will be the final business night for Steinert's, which will close up shop, and that Ric is gravitating to another project down Main Street way. That's all I know at the moment, other than to say I feel rotten for the loss of a civic institution, and everyone at NABC wishes Ric the very best in his next endeavor. If you know more, please feel free to post.

From headier times, two years ago: Steinert’s Bar and Grill reopens in downtown New Albany.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Newspaper editorialists detect "political component" in Windstream's skedaddle. Unfortunately, it's the wrong one.

I've been as strident a critic of the current council as anyone.

And, yes, the Windstream Technologies notion of green wind turbines might well be the next great idea. In theory, I like it.

Just the same, under the current rules of the game, the proposal that our city play bank to a private company without money or credit of its own came with many more risks than most such interventions, to such an obvious extent that the administration itself was tapping the brakes to take a closer look. It was fitting and proper for both branches of government to dig deeper. I'm glad they did.

Obviously, Windstream was in a hurry and skedaddled, primarily because in some fashion as yet unknown, North Vernon offered it a quicker and better deal. Seems the enraptured suitor was playing the field, widely, and accordingly, there's a good chance that posterity will judge New Albany's caution as justified under the circumstances.

Why marry the first one who comes along, anyway?

OSIN disagrees, yet again advising injudicious risk-taking in economic development. The newpaper's editorial board has traveled down this path before with reference to the River View development: "In order to grow and attract businesses, governments sometimes have to take a leap of faith, and provide incentives."

I don't entirely disagree, other than to say that if we're serious about breaking banks, let's do it right.

If the economy is bad enough to justify governmental intervention in River View and Windstream, perhaps a detailed examination of the structural iniquities of American capitalism is merited, and the degree of governmental involvement heightened somewhat beyond the smaller comparative potatoes of foundational parking garages and $3.7 million high-risk loans to Californians.

EDITORIAL: No winds of change a shame

NEW ALBANY — On the same day Windstream Technologies decided to take its $3.7 million expansion investment elsewhere, the New Albany Redevelopment Commission elected to spend $35,000 to save a historic house at 703 E. Eighth St. that’s partially collapsed.

These two issues are very different, but ironically New Albany leaders were looking to resurrect the past on the same day it appeared they shunned a potential key component of the city’s future — jobs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

All over New Albany, hot dogs are being aimed at rolls.

Council endorses trickle-back economics in River View vote.

Last night, some crowd members sported red "yes" badges. Seriously, why not green? Wouldn't the symbolism be better than suggested by red? Were the buttons left over from Professor Erika's last yard sign campaign?

At any rate, the council embraced trickle back economics: River View rolls along in New Albany; $53 million development deemed TIF worthy by New Albany council.

The Frenchman is coming ... to the Bergman Building retail space on Market.



Readers might recall a blurb placed in virtually the same spot (as the storefront above) a year and a half ago in the run-up to the exceedingly short-lived Paul's One World Cafe: "Chef Chiquito is back!" Regrettably, the exclamation mark was not enough, and Paul wasn't back for long.

Let's all hope the Frenchman and the Bergmans have better luck this time around. My fingers certainly are crossed. The owner/chef is French by birth, and I've heard nothing but good things about him. All he needs do now is get on board with a good beer list. Bieres de Garde, anyone? I'll work on that.

Messer declares.

The News and Tribune observes that Jack Messer's New Albany mayoral run (as an independent) was not an easy choice‎, because of the "controversy that has surrounded him after comments he made about civil rights last year."

Two local television stations covered yesterday's announcement. In an illustration of spin put to use, note the difference in their web site headers. WDRB plays is straight, with "New Albany police officer to announce candidacy for mayor‎," while WAVE inserts the "r" word: Police officer accused of racism to announce run for New Albany mayor‎.

In like fashion, I might have chosen to title this post, "From within a gated, razor-wired compound, populist Jack Messer declares for mayor." It would be true, but also slightly misleading.

Make no mistake. I already have a candidate, but I like Jack, and my mind is open to what he has to say. To me, it's less a case of him explaining the alleged racial comments than addressing his quirky, declining and occasionally outright weird city council report card over the past year, and illuminating his brief dalliance with the GOP's Dave Matthews before eventually landing in the mayor's race as an independent.

Speaking personally, I sincerely hope Jack addresses these matters himself, in due time, and -- this one is especially important to me -- in his own words. Consequently, readers are advised to pay close attention to Jack's emerging social media campaign. Deftly exercised, social media might make his bid. Ham-fisted, it could just as easily break it. I have a good feeling about the next few months, in the sense that Jack Messer and Jeff Gahan will offer much for voters to consider.

As for D.M. Bagshaw, he remains a blank slate. As for persistent rumors that Doug England will conjure a way to re-enter the mayor's race as an independent, let's hope not.

Note: Messer's web site is up, although not all hyperlinks are active.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From Louisville Courant: More on "Benny Breeze" and the backtrackin' Vaughan Scott.

It didn't require Hercule Poirot to sniff a connection between Vaughan "1Si Values" Scott, the fictional "Benny Breeze", and Greater Louisville Inc.'s Joe Reagan. If you believe in following the money all the way back to the oligarchs, then keep an eye on Kerry Stemler, too. Just wait for it; it'll come.

Thanks to Curt Morrison for keeping this ball in the air.


Benny Backtrackin' Breeze

Earlier in the week, this blog highlighted two peculiar aspects of the bizarre "Benny Breeze" campaign.

(
Fictional character, Benny Breeze created with undisclosed funding source, to manipulate public)

ON THE AVENUES: The sorrow of Nawbany.

ON THE AVENUES: The sorrow of Nawbany.

By ROGER BAYLOR
Local Columnist

It’s unusual to be a morning person when simultaneously engaged in the beer and food business, which remains a nighttime game. Even during periods now mercifully passed, when I tended bar in the evening and closed at midnight or later, I’d usually be awake again at dawn.

Long ago, it became clear that my prime creative time is sandwiched between an early breakfast and late lunch, and whenever possible, the daily work schedule is juggled accordingly.

Nowadays, some vague combination of incessant stress, body chemistry and the aging process often awakens me even earlier than usual. Old timers further along than me say it’s a common occurrence. On such days, after a bathroom break between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m., there’ll be no blissful return to unconsciousness, only eyes wide open. About the only reasonable thing to do is to get up and start the day.

And it’s wonderful. Right after the first espresso, the birds start singing. There aren’t many cars on the street until six or six-thirty, and it’s the ideal quiet time to cherish pickled herring on toast, load the disc changer with Shostakovich string quartets, or perhaps some medieval liturgical fare, and reflect on life.

These thoughts are many and varied, although most of them eventually fall into a category which might be summarized as philosophical: “What the hell am I doing here?”

It’s less in the existential sense than the geographical. Why must New Albania so resemble Old Albania?

---

New Albany's chief of police, Todd Bailey, was among those gathered in NABC’s Prost room on Monday night for the Gahan for Mayor fundraising fete. Comparisons to the Star Wars cantina scene are purely non-coincidental.

I resumed a conversation with Todd about bicyclists habitually traveling eastbound (i.e., the wrong way) on Spring Street. I might have added comments about adult cyclists riding amok on sidewalks, or King Larry weed-eating shirtless, but please, one daunting challenge at a time, okay?

With bike lanes drawn on both sides of a one-way street, numerous untutored cyclists seem drawn to the bike lane on the south side of the street. Even though the pictograms are crystal clear, the cyclists ride against traffic. It's illegal and unenforced (where exactly are the State Police in such cases?), and probably only a matter of time until a motorist crossing Spring Street neglects to look, and hits a misplaced rider.

Mayor Doug England was standing nearby. Eventually I observed to the mayor that, of course, the best way to end the wrong-way cycling problem is to make Spring Street a two-way street, as pledged during his campaign in 2007.

His reply was that he aimed to do it, but the city council would not let him.

There were no roars or thunderbolts, just meek acceptance. Isn’t it way past time we borrowed the question of a younger generation, and asked: “WTF?”

---

It is not out of spite and negativity, but from sheer befuddlement and a good measure of plain sadness and disappointment, that I must ask how it has come to be that in a city where, by acclamation, everyone agrees that the mayor has considerably more power than the city council, this central campaign pledge (two way street conversions) of candidate England’s, as made to residents of the city’s neighborhoods and its downtown business cadres, has yet to occur?

Depressingly, it can only be because there was never a serious intention to follow through. Now, with the end near, it is unavoidably clear that the current administration was outgoing even as it was incoming. From start to finish, it has been unwilling to expend a solitary farthing in political capital. Term Three has been lame duck from day one, which makes it even harder to determine the need for such thrift.

After all, what redemption value does political capital have once the office is relinquished?

Can it be somehow spent on trinkets, like Green Stamps of old?

Insofar as posterity cares at all about New Albany, circa 2007-2011, it will express abject puzzlement at the slump-shouldered passivity always following so closely on the heels of City Hall’s expressions of progressive intent. What ever happened to the whirling dervish mayor of previous years?

Mellowing is one thing, and perhaps it is understandable, and yet how many times have we first heard words of heroic principle, yielding so quickly to: “Pass it or kill it – whatever the council likes.”

One, maybe two of these polite withdrawals possibly might be explained as tactical retreat. Two dozen surely constitute fevered head scratching. What makes all this so very lamentable is that in the end, the payback for our support turned out to be another wallop of cynicism.

---

The reward for patience was not the completion of the deal, but the announcement of The Deal: Irv Stumler, a Republican, anointed by Mayor England, a Democrat, to inherit his mantle and run for mayor on a platform of … of … beats me. I still can’t figure it out, but it was the final straw, and the ultimate indignity. I wish it had not happened. Regrettably, it cannot be forgiven.

Win or lose in the fall, Jeff Gahan already has performed a community service that will not be soon forgotten. He dismantled the rotten back room political deal, one no less odiferous with the passage of a few months’ time. Hints of job insecurity in the offing are a delicious reminder that in a town noted for sewer follies and potty/potted police, it’s not ironic at all to suggest the time has come for some serious, sustained flushing.

Walls and dominoes falling at the corner of 8th and Culbertson.

In today’s newspaper, Daniel Suddeath charts the status of the partially collapsed building at the corner of 8th and Culbertson, and in the process of doing so provides readers with enough smelly discussion points to last the whole day through.

New Albany spending $35,000 to save dilapidated house; Historians tout importance of 1858 structure to neighborhood

It is conceded by all interested parties that the historic building in question has been the victim of long and sustained neglect, and in fact was “out of code.” The owner is a legendary, notorious absentee slumlord. Yet, no enforcement mechanisms were exercised, and nothing was done until after Mother Nature provided the necessary cue.

Was the slumlord a Democratic Party donor, or is it just another case of the New Albany Syndrome?

And so: The city having yet again enabled a slumlord through non-enforcement, and with the familiar result of chronic neglect leading first to disaster, and then the piety of newfound urgency, the fund-raising for Band-Aids begins anew.

Grumbling all the way, the Redevelopment Commission is tapped for some CDBG cash, and Indiana Landmarks tithes its share, which in an interesting twist is revealed to be coming from the sale of a long dormant Landmarks-owned property on the 1600 block of East Spring.

Wonder what the purchasing developer's plan is for that one?

The politician/realtor handling the transaction of the East Spring property for Landmarks makes a requisite appearance to promote the fundraising effort, and no one blinks an eye.

Carl Malaysz off-handedly remarks that more of the needed restoration money might come from the Horseshoe Foundation, or better yet the Urban Enterprise Zone, the current administration’s recurring and handy ATM in times of need. Everyone agrees to be more diligent and pro-active in the future, and nothing at all changes.

In Jeffersonville, the slumlord giggles. Again.

Speaking personally, of course I want to see the building saved. But will anything ever be learned here? As a friend observed on Twitter:

"When will New Albany figure it out? Consistent code enforcement is cheaper than spending money to 'save a dilapidated structure' ... and it becomes really expensive to pay a building commissioner and code enforcement officers to essentially do as little as possible."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From LEO: "The bizarre ballad of Benny Breeze."

An excerpt from Jonathan Meador's report on Vaughan Scott's immaculate deception in the service of area pro-bridges project oligarchs.

The bizarre ballad of Benny Breeze; Astro-turfed pro-bridges campaign courts controversy, confusion, by Jonathan Meador.

Today, the ongoing saga of the Ohio River Bridges Project is going to get a lot weirder.


At 1:30 p.m. at the Kentucky African-American Heritage Center, the public will be introduced to Benny Breeze, the main character of a short film whose purpose is to “educate and entertain” the community about the $2.9 billion public works project in what amounts to a bizarre media campaign and bus tour bankrolled by pro-bridges project financiers that some members of the anti-toll activist community are calling an “astro-turfing” effort designed to distract, mislead and — at worst — offend.

Although Scott says he became involved in the project on behalf of the future of his three daughters and the future of the community, there appears to be more motivation behind his senses of familial concern and civic duty.

Scott is a board member of Southern Indiana’s pro-bridges project chamber of commerce, One Southern Indiana, and is the vice president of Wells Fargo subsidiary Axiom Financial Strategies Group, a well-to-do position allowing him to spend (along with other anonymous donors) an undisclosed sum to finance the Benny Breeze campaign.

In 2003, he served as the vice president for wealth management at brokerage and investment firm Smith Barney and, according to his Axiom corporate profile page, founded the Smith Barney Investment Center at New Albany’s Your Community Bank, a commercial bank upon whose board sits none other than Kerry Stemler, finance subcommittee chairman and co-chair of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority (LSIBA).

Currently, Axiom is housed in the same building as Stemler’s bank, at 101 W. Spring Street in New Albany, Ind.

A thought from a walk.

Just in walking around town, I regularly encounter architects, builders, growers, craftspeople, brewers, urban planners, retailers, artists, engineers, vintners, project managers, bankers, designers, and any number of others who are here now, engaged with the community, and ready to work. If anyone tried to tell me that, given the chance, those folks collectively couldn't come up with something better than what Carl Malysz negotiated behind closed doors, then I would tell them that they have a radically different view of this city and its capabilities than I do.

Benny Breeze proposes a pro-bridges pogram, but at least No2BridgeTolls is still fighting the idiocy.

Before turning to the meeting announcement from No2BridgeTolls, kindly take note of this story, as broken at Curt Morrison's blog, Louisville Courant.

Fictional character, Benny Breeze created with undisclosed funding source, to manipulate public

Curt's post details the Benny Breeze project, a surprisingly semi-literate effort given the artistic qualifications trumpeted by its creators, although as this passage amply illustrates, the theme behind Benny Breeze is just as anti-democratic and strong-armed as one might imagine simplistic propaganda from Stemlerites to be:


Our team respects and appreciates other people's opinion's; however, we believe that the risks given the current condition of the bridges too high at this juncture to discuss and debate alternatives, that cannot be incorporated swiftly and efficiently with the current plans. We believe that as a community we must work collectively and swiftly to eliminate this threat as promptly as possible. Along the way we would hope that other opinions and ideas would be considered so long as the overall process is not delayed by unnecessary debate.
Echoing Curt, clearly note that in this phrasing, opinions are just threats, which not unlike termites, need eliminating. Debate is unnecessary, especially in a state of emergency. Presumably, Constitutions and other restrictions are not relevant at such times.

If this isn't fascism, I don't know what is, and the relative youth of the project's progenitors surely cannot be cited as an excuse for displaying historical ignorance of this magnitude. What's next, Vaughan Scott? Perhaps a nice Kristallnacht for tolling opponents? We do have it coming, right? After all, we keep asking questions, and behaving like vermin.

Meanwhile, and fortunately given the passage above, No2BridgeTolls keeps on trucking.

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No2BridgeTolls Plans Strategic Public Meeting June 21, 2011

6 PM Buckhead Mountain Grill, Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville

No2bridgetolls.org founders and supporters are hosting a public meeting on June 21st at Buckhead Mountain Grill on Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville to inform supporters of strategic initiatives in advance of the upcoming June 27 and 28th Bridges Authority public meetings. The No2BridgeTolls.org meeting will start with networking at 5:30 and the meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

"We feel that we have made progress in our efforts to stop tolls on the I-65 Kennedy Corridor, but the fight is not over,” said No2BridgeTolls.org co-founder Paul Fetter. The purpose of this meeting is to bring supporters up to date on our efforts and to prepare the public for the Bridges Authority June 27th and 28th meetings which will be held on both sides of the river,” Fetter added.

“Tolls are bad for families and businesses and we are calling on elected and appointed leaders to continue efforts to pare down this project to a reasonable and affordable plan that does not require tolls. Specifically, we are asking Governors Daniels and Beshear, as well as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to find additional or alternative funding to take tolls off the table,” said Fetter.

“The logical answer would be to reduce the project cost,” said Co-Founder Wes Johnson, Jr. “We know that the project can be changed based on recent announcements, despite the original Record of Decision, and we urge elected officials to prioritize this issue and take a stand for the working people who have to cross the river daily,” said Johnson. "Our group formed because tolling our existing infrastructure and transportation routes would divide our river city, and we have thousands of people who support our position,” he added.

About No2BridgeTolls.org

We are a broad-based coalition of businesses, organizations and private individuals who are opposed to tolls on the I-65 Corridor/Kennedy Bridges System. We have formed under the entity of “Organization for a Better Southern Indiana, Inc.” (OBSI.) Our purpose is to educate the public of the true impact of the current proposed bridge toll on both sides of the river. We are a 501-C6 non-profit organization that has been formed for the purpose of disseminating information. We are not against the bridges—just tolls or user fees on the I-65 Corridor/Kennedy Bridges System, which will divide our community, be a regressive tax that our citizens and businesses cannot afford, and will adversely affect the local economy, disproportionately affecting Southern Indiana.

For more information, contact Paul Fetter (812) 283-5555, ext. 27 or Chris McCarty (502) 419-3135 ... No2BridgeTolls.org

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Like Grandpa Jones always said, truth is stranger than fact.

Can words begin to describe "surreal" to this magnitude?

Trickling back: It's about gravy, not gravity.

One can be for the River View project or against it, although like most New Albanians, not much of a damn is given at all, but to me, the most regrettable aspect of the proposed development just might be the inexplicable decision of its proponents to describe the potential economic impact on downtown as "trickle back."

I personally heard these words spoken at the recent public hearing at the library, and DNA repeated them in its mailing yesterday -- because that's what happens when you're looking off someone else's paper come exam time.

(By the way, congratulations to OSIN's Daniel Suddeath for including the "trickle back" passage in his account of the coming council vote on inclusion of River View in the TIF area)

Understanding that historical perspective is fleeting in a place like New Albany, it must be stated for the record that "trickle" as an economic (and perhaps linguistic) principle has considerably bad (and dated) connotations, going back to the far-off 1980's and Ronald “Supply Side” Reagan's program to enhance and preserve the wealth of the enriched, crumbs of which inevitably would reach the poor, or so we were told.

For all the hue and cry to date, during which River View's backers have all but suggested that the condo project with $180,000 studio flats would cure the common cold and make Charles Atlas out of the puniest of male anatomies, is it really a positive selling point to define the project’s economic benefits as "trickling back" to the remainder of downtown?

For $53 million (without a TIF pledge, it's so far an imaginary sum), don’t we have a right to expect something more than a trickle? Is the usage of this term unintended buffoonery, cluelessness, or just plain bad writing?

Given the stock caricatures of beautiful, white, Merlot-sipping stock traders gracing the back page of Mainland's prospectus (above), I'm guessing the latter. The acclaimed conversation from yesterday continues here: Mr. Haney, DNA support "trickle back" from River View.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mr. Haney, DNA support "trickle back" from River View.

I keep intending to ask whether DNA ever did a full board vote on its advocacy of this project, or whether it was an executive decision, but no matter. We've written much about River View, including this sampling:

ON THE AVENUES: How do we pick the winners?

The Wizard of Oz, or maybe Pearl Street.

Gonder on forks and forms (Form Based Codes).

Here's the official DNA case, made with increasing urgency as the vote draws near and community skepticism rises.

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Thursday June 16th is an important night for the future of downtown New Albany.

New Albany’s City Council will hold its regular meeting this Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the 3rd floor Assembly Room of the City/County Building. In this meeting, the Council will vote on whether or not to pass the resolution to include the River View project into the existing downtown TIF district. This vote is critical to the project advancing to the next step! While this is not the final vote that will make the project a go (but rather to simply include the project into the existing TIF district), this is however, a CRITICAL vote because, if the resolution is not passed at this meeting, the project is dead in the water! Mainland Properties MUST get the resolution passed in order to advance to the next step which is secure their private financing. Without the resolution getting passed, the lending institutions will not go any further with working out lending terms until they know we have an actual project. Once the resolution is passed, we’ll then be able to get into the ‘meat’ of the matter on the financing details.

In case you’ve missed the recent public forum / public hearing meetings which Mainland Properties and the City Council have jointly held in an effort to disseminate all of the information and details about the project, let us share with you now some of the more pertinent facts about River View:

River View is an estimated $49 - $53 million project, consisting of retail, office and residential space including;


40,000 sq. ft. of retail space

40,000 sq. ft. of office space

550 space (2-levels) underground, parking garage
… and, a 70,000 sq. ft. public plaza which will offer handicapped parking, water fountains, various art features, park benches, shading devices, beautiful park-like landscaping/trees, bike racks, ample lighting, etc.

150 sq. ft. of residential space (approximately 111 condos, varying in size and price point)

We believe River View is a huge opportunity for the City of New Albany … not only will having such a development bring a dramatic increase in the number of families living downtown (111 estimated families), but also a sizable number of jobs within the development (conservatively, 456 estimated jobs … 230 during construction and 226 afterwards), and significant local income and property tax injections into the TIF district. The positive impact of having such an influx of new residents and workers will certainly trickle back out into the rest of the community and only serve to positively enhance the momentum already enjoyed with the various new shops and restaurants who have recently located within the downtown area. Much like the phenomenal success the YMCA has enjoyed, we believe River View will also enjoy similar success, while at the same time, further supporting the momentum which the YMCA has generated.

So, what is Mainland Properties ‘asking’ of the City?

1. To have the River View project be added into the existing TIF district, which will allow us the opportunity to move forward with the private financing piece.

2. A $12 million Economic Development Bond (NOT to be confused with a General Obligation Bond), to offset the total cost of $19 million to construct the parking garage.

(Keep in mind that Mainland Properties absorbs the remaining $7 million of the garage, as well as the remaining $37 - $41 million of the building masses)

Why should you support the River View project?

1. The risk to the City is ZERO! The $12 million Economic Development Bond will NOT be funded by taxpayers, but rather underwritten by Mainland Properties.

2. The City will not release ANY money from the bond until Mainland Properties has their private financing secured, guaranteed and ready to implement.

3. Mainland Properties’ credit worthiness MUST be strong enough for them to secure financing in order to move the project forward. If it’s not, then NO project and NO bond.

4. If, at some point, there should be a shortfall in the tax revenue accrued from the development, then Mainland Properties will be liable for the bond payment, NOT the City and NOT the taxpayers. The risk truly lies with Mainland Properties … NOT the City!

If you’re anxious to see New Albany experience a remarkable, long-awaited rebirth and have a downtown area which invokes the mood and atmosphere of a much simpler time when people took pride in their community, walked to the store and talked to their neighbors, we believe NOW is New Albany’s chance! There are few opportunities in our lives to be associated with the rebirth of a community, and yet New Albany is on the verge of just such a moment.

Please join us this Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the City/County Building and show your support for River View.