Develop New Albany’s annual party is tonight, and the Sweet Home Alabaminator reports a change in leadership. The incoming president is Joe LaRocca, head of the YMCA.
LaRocca told the newspaper that DNA wants to work with other organizations, and such a stance is welcomed. I stand ready to lead my people to DNA’s door. After all, new presidents always get a honeymoon.
At the same time, how do we know there’s been a change?
Cooperation implies a semblance of genuine outreach and compromise. In fairness, it also suggests a systems analysis, not just of DNA, but of the other organizations involved.
Who’s doing what? Why, and for what reasons? Is any of it truly worthwhile? Where does the Gahan Administration stand? And so on.
Admittedly, I’m skeptical. If the late, unlamented DNA/UEA marketing project is the model, or if the city again will be seeking to anoint and endow winners as it did during the last England administration (see “108K Solutions We Have Known”), then DNA isn’t worth a second glance, at least yet.
Conversely, if DNA decides to come to the table prepared to listen to other points of view in something shared from the grassroots up, as opposed to dictated from the lofty heights down, it could be a good thing, even after all of the organization’s stone-deaf past missteps. It’s never too late to start all over again, and no less than Ronnie RayGun himself said: "Trust, but verify."
Sadly, the best reason for renewed sighs aloud and doubt as to DNA’s willingness to evolve is found in the newspaper’s coverage:
The size of the organization’s board of directors will grow from 10-12 members to 21 representatives, LaRocca said. Of the new additions, the Develop New Albany board will have more public officials from the city represented.
As well as more realtors, lawyers and retirees, if the on-line list is any indication.
Note simply that an entity proudly billing itself as a “business-promotion” organization is stating aloud that in order to better promote business, it is adding more city officials. Think about that, and perhaps you’ll share my puzzlement, because wouldn’t business promotion as a stated objective be better served by including ... could it be ... more business owners as board members?
Of course, there are a few DNA-member businesses, but perhaps the major incongruity is this: On the enlarged board, there is precisely one owner of a retail business in the whole of the city.
I mention this in order to ask another question: What has been the unquestioned prime mover of downtown New Albany during the past five years?
The answer: The food and drink segment, without which there would be no downtown New Albany revitalization at all, period, and so, with DNA eager to claim responsibility for this same revitalization, how many food and drink establishments are member businesses?
Only River City Winery and Wick’s.
How many are on the DNA board?
None, unless we count John Neace, who owns JR’s but is not identified as such on the web site.
Maybe, just maybe, this state of perpetual under-representation on the board of an organization that seeks to take credit for revitalization, as the shortage pertains to those types of business that actually have implemented the revitalization, tells us what we need to know about the odds of zebras changing stripes any time soon.
What about me?
I’m forever the cockeyed optimist.
I believe that Joe LaRocca will purge the DNA same-cadre-as-always demons, freshen the bloodlines, engage the business community, honestly examine DNA’s institutional nothingness, and implement a series of hard-hitting reforms designed to actually DO SOMETHING to promote business rather than merely writing glowing press releases after someone else's fact.
It’ll be New Albany, “Come To Perestroika City,” a place we can be proud to inhabit, work and play.
(Boy, I could use an ice-cold Budweiser right about now.)