Friday, February 23, 2018

You CAN go home again -- and Taco Steve is moving in mid-March to NABC Bank Street Brewhouse.

Last week's sneak preview.

In case you missed it, there was a big announcement last week, and as previously revealed, there already was a reshuffle under way amid the downtown New Albany restaurant and bar scene.

Before linking to media accounts of Taco Steve's "coming full circle" relocation, let's recap.

Stacie Bale, late of NABC, reveals new project: Roadrunner Kitchen, coming soon to 145 E. Main Street in downtown New Albany.

Bale, late of Earth Friends Café, had operated the NABC downtown front-of-the-house since early 2015, just after I announced my impending departure from the business.

As a side note, there'll be more to say about my buyout status next week, when I finally should have positive news to report.

With Taco Steve moving to the (once again) Bank Street Brewhouse, there's a vacancy at the Destinations Booksellers incubator. I'm told we'll be seeing action on that front very soon.

Dragon King's Daughter has an impending ATC permit date, and should be moving soon to its new location on the corner of W. 1st and Market.

Also being readied for a spring launch is Longboard's Taco & Tiki, from Ian Hall and his Brand Hospitality Group (302 Pearl Street).

Finally, Joe Phillips and I continue work toward the establishment of Pints & Union at 114 E. Market Street.

Now, read about the homecoming of Stephen Powell.

Bank Street Brewhouse will soon have Mexican food as Taco Steve moves in, by Danielle Grady (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — After two years of steady growth at Destinations Booksellers in downtown New Albany, Taco Steve is making a move to a different kitchen.

“It’s just a matter of I feel like I’ve kind of outgrown the kitchen where I’m at in the bookstore,” said Stephen Powell, the owner of the popular Mexican-inspired lunch spot. “I love it here, don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy this environment, but we’ve kind of got to move up and on.”

Powell’s destination is the New Albanian Brewing Company’s Bank Street Brewhouse — less than a mile down the road from his current spot. Powell, who worked for the New Albanian on and off from 1989 until he opened Taco Steve, will be replacing the brewhouse’s current in-house menu of burgers and “bar bites” with his own food ...

And:

Boomerang effect: Taco Steve to relocate to Bank Street Brewhouse, by Kevin Gibson (Insider Louisville)

... Powell said he will roll out new menu items slowly, and that the popular tacos mexicanos deal of two tacos and a side for $7.50 will continue.

When Taco Steve reopens, he said, it will probably four days a week — Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Eventually, days will be added, along with a planned Sunday brunch.

Coffee break's over, so let's begin by commending Team Gahan for modernizing the city's pumping plants.


"As often as I criticize the current administration, when the rains come like this I do remember that Mayor Gahan had the flood pumps rebuilt and/or replaced. That was a good thing because those pumps were old."

Every day not every now and then.

From afar, we've been following the rising waters, and what Mark wrote yesterday at Facebook is true without qualification. An amphitheater enveloped by flood waters is exactly why we have a levee and flood wall, and making sure the city's part of the deal is up-to-date and functional is the job of any mayor. Previous occupants didn't see the need, so let's give credit where it's due.

There is much more to report; all in due time. It's good to be home.

Photo credit: Joey Ward.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Money is the ultimate bully (2015).

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Money is the ultimate bully (2015). 

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I'm on vacation, so this is a rerun from August 7, 2015, when I was waging an ultimately unsuccessful bid for mayor of New Albany as an independent candidate.  Two and a half years later, I'm finding that much of my material has worn quite well, hence the encores. 

Don't forget: #FireGahan2019

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New Albany is a city of 37,000 residents. Not even 1% of them bicycle to work. The poverty rate is 23%, and incumbent mayor Jeff Gahan came into the year 2015 with almost $100,000 in his re-election fund.

He’d have spent some of it during the primary season, and surely raised more since then.

That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

Do you ever wonder where it all comes from?

For $100,000 to have come entirely from New Albany, every voter opting for Gahan in 2011 already would have donated at least $22 to his 2015 campaign. One needn’t be a card-carrying cynic (like me) to know this has not been the case, and I’d wager that less than 20% of the mayor’s total take has come from “just plain folks” locally.

Speaking in broader terms, we needn’t bother examining Gahan’s financial filings with a magnifying glass in order to make educated guesses about the sources of the lucre.

$50,000 or more probably has come from elsewhere, whether Indianapolis, the Magic Kingdom or the Canary Islands, by way of various PACs and Democratic Party funding sources. In addition, there are certain to be significant chunks from those engineering, contracting and construction firms commissioned to erect Gahan’s many gleaming palaces by means of taxpayer money.

Did I say gleaming palaces?

I meant TIF-bonded, plaque-ready building projects. They’re pictured on the flash cards Gahan holds aloft at every opportunity, although where I grew up, things can’t be classified as “gifts” when the giver used your credit card to pay for them.

Since 2012, the good times have rolled and many beaks have gotten nice and wet. Randomly adding together Bicentennial Park, the farmers market buildout, Main Street beautification, parks and aquatic center bonds, Coyle site sewer fee waivers and the accompanying corporate TIF welfare handouts, special event equipment rentals, overtime and an expense account luncheon here and there, Gahan has spent well north of $30 million since January 1, 2012, on wants, as opposed to needs.

It’s probably closer to $40 million … and I forgot the drive-to-only dog park.

$40-odd million.

That’s a lot of money, isn’t it, and it helps to explain the familiar cycle of campaign funding, doesn’t it, and as a longtime blogger, independent mayoral candidate and fairly well-read fellow who also enjoys sitting at the bar and nursing a beer, is it somehow my fault that I possess the ability to bring all this to your attention in an educational and entertaining way?

Am I forcibly seizing the bully pulpit? Using the tools at my disposal? Deploying guerrilla tactics against a well-heeled, unscrupulous opponent?

Of course, all the while hoping there still exists a modicum of free speech, allowing any of us to mount that soap box and let it rip – and to toss a hat onto the ring, file petitions, do paperwork, amass a scant pittance of campaign contributions, mount an insurgency against a man who has held elective office for twelve years, who has $100,000 burning a hole in his pocket, and what’s more, possesses a slick publicly-financed social media stream disseminating shameless re-election materials daily under the shabby guise of civic news -- and lest we forget, flaunts a local Democratic machine faithfully at his side, one ready to transition the incumbent as an Indiana Senate hopeful at the drop of a few hundred thousand bucks.

Let's try to be adults. Even this heretic knows that Goliath was the big bad bully, and not the dude with the spot-on slingshot, and accordingly, I’ll continue to speak and write openly about the way things are in New Albany, because when it comes to underdogs, sleepers, dark horses and the man in Tiananmen Square blocking a column of tanks with his briefcase, you won’t find any of them in the $100,000 mayoral suite overlooking one-way Spring Street.

And that’s exactly the way I like it.

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars comprising New Albany’s debt, but what the hey -- it’s the way American politics work, all disgusting and horrible when Republicans do it, which is why Democrats do it, too. Meanwhile, 44% of African-Americans in New Albany live below the poverty line … and 100% of Gahan’s out-of-town sugar daddies remain unaware of this fact.

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Four years ago, Jeff Gahan and I got together. He held a grudge over my participation in an abortive lawsuit intended to compel unwilling city council members to redistrict fairly, a reform Gahan helped shoot down, but heeding advice to be a good soldier and work within the Democratic Party system, I parleyed.

Over coffee, we spoke about what we viewed as important for the city’s future. On my list were topics familiar to anyone who’s been reading this blog since 2004, including two-way streets, rental property registration, slumlord abatement, ordinance enforcement, economic localism and historic preservation. He seemed to be in agreement, and I supported his candidacy as a result.

Obviously, Jeff Gahan won the election.

Obviously, Gahan hasn’t followed through on his promises to my satisfaction – and I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Obviously, I believe he has turned out to be an absolutely lousy mayor. If I believed otherwise, would I be running against him as an independent?

Hence, my point: When I say Jeff Gahan is a lousy mayor, either aloud or in written form, and at times with pictures, some of them artistically altered so as to be funny, it’s hardly character assassination. Rather, it is an ongoing dialogue, and an argument constructed with concepts, ideas and evidence in addition to the wit and snark. In 2015, it’s also a political campaign, and as such, it is a milieu that each candidate has accepted as part of the game.

Of course, several of us have gone to great lengths, fairly often and for a very long time, to explain in excruciating detail why Gahan’s decision-making process is faulty, how we’d have done it differently, and what we might yet do to reverse the mistakes and make things better.

Here is one recent example.

Gahan’s corporate welfare bursar is David Duggins, although his official title is the increasingly improbable “economic development director.”

Duggins is fond of using words like “ripple effect” to describe Reaganite-style “trickle down” Hail Mary plays in cases like the Coyle site upscale luxury apartment development, in which the city of New Albany will pay one-third the price of a private company’s $15 million investment, devoting taxpayer dollars to mitigating the private company’s risks, these being magnanimous guarantees unavailable to dozens of homegrown entrepreneurs and investors.

One “ripple effect” of the Coyle site deal, which Duggins himself has referred to as mere “boilerplate,” is that it neatly closes the circle of campaign finance (see above).

But to me, these unfortunate “ripple effect” references better describe the many negative ramifications of Gahan’s bad Coyle site decision, above and beyond “just” losing the $5 million in corporate welfare handouts being thrown at Flaherty Collins.

For one, it sends a dreadful message to stakeholders in perennially neglected neighborhoods a mere stone’s throw away, which can be read in the smirk on Duggins’s face:

“Relax, folks. Trendy bocce ball access is on the veranda, with Mojitos and the best internet service in town, and these amenities matter far more than taking the time to curb the slumlord or revert the one-way street, actions that would increase your property values, reduce crime and enhance your quality of your life. Just be patient and wait for the ripple effect, because we’re sure the high rollers won’t forget the gratuity when you’re finished picking up after them. After all, they’re the right kind of people.”

The underemployed single mother in a shotgun house?

She must have forgotten to make a campaign donation.

Furthermore, the Coyle site subsidy represents five of 40-odd million questionable decisions, each one representing opportunity costs, lost chances and squandered potential. The money might have been spent on projects and programs designed to address genuine fundamentals of the sort calculated to spread the risks, spread the rewards, nurture the grassroots, and help lift the many rather than stroke the few.

However, far too often Gahan’s “investments” have not been directed toward these goals, and this isn’t my idea of what quality municipal government does. Perhaps it is yours, in which case I’d recommend voting for the mayor’s re-election, because in the end, that’s how elections are supposed to work.

They’re not enthronements. Ideally, they represent choices, and that's precisely what I aim to provide in 2015. If Jeff Gahan cannot keep up, it isn't my problem.

So, let’s be crystal clear: We rage against the current mayoral machine because the machine is the bully in this equation. To think otherwise is to practice the sort of enduring self-deception and intellectual debasement that have characterized Democratic machine politics in New Albany for so very long, and which prevent this city from reaching its potential.

I believe there are alternatives to the same tired civic rituals, practiced by the usual underachieving political suspects, and which come down to these three priorities:

Infrastructure
Empowerment
Transparency


Broken down a bit further, I’ll close the column today with these ten bullet point Baylor for Mayor platform planks.

Infrastructure upgrades and management
Quality of life by two-way design and ordinance enforcement
A sane and sustainable budget
Historic preservation and greening
New Albany’s economy comes first
Equal governance and level playing fields
A deep personnel cleaning of City Hall
Internet connectivity as infrastructure
Transparency and governmental communication
Human rights as non-negotiable mandate

Next week, I’ll elaborate on these points.

---

Recent columns:

February 15: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: No more fear, Jeff (2015).

February 8: ON THE AVENUES: Golden oldie classic comfort beers at an old school pub? Sounds like Pints & Union to me.

February 1: ON THE AVENUES: Did you hear the one about Duggins' deep TASER regrets? I laughed until I cried -- and so did the folks in Keokuk.

January 25: ON THE AVENUES: David Duggins’ violent “jokes” will continue until the New Albany Housing Authority’s morale improves – or Duggins is fired. We advocate the latter.

Focus on Portugal: The characterful and historic azulejo tiles of Portugal.


I don't remember much about my first trip to Portugal in 2000, but the country's ubiquitous azulejo tile murals and decor have always stuck with me -- like the reaction I had upon arrival at the Pinhão Railway Station.

Pinhão Railway Station is a beautiful train station along the Douro Line, one of the most iconic rail journeys in Portugal. The station is a major tourist destination in the Alto Douro Wine Region. The first train arrived at the Pinhão Railway Station on 1 June, 1880, and for nearly one hundred years the station served as the primary transport site of people and goods into and out of the Douro Region. It was particularly important in the production process of the Douro Valley’s Port wine.


That's right; as incredible as it seems, the beautiful tile work is at a train station.

A Brief History of Portugal's Beautiful Azulejo Tiles, by Nina Santos (Culture Trip)

Azulejos date as far back as the 13th century, when the Moors invaded the land that now belongs to Spain and Portugal, but they secured their foothold in Portuguese culture between the 16th and 17th centuries. The word azulejo stems from Arabic roots, meaning ‘small polished stone’. Originally they were fairly simple structures cut into geometric shapes in neutral tones.

It wasn’t until Portugal’s King Manuel I visited Seville and brought the idea back, that Portugal truly adopted this artwork into its culture. The tiles were used to cover up the large areas of blank wall that were common inside buildings during the Gothic period.

Antique azulejos were decorated in a simple color palate, dominated by blues and whites. It is believed that these colors were influenced by the Age of Discoveries (15th – 18th centuries) and considered fashionable at the time. The other colors that appeared were yellow (sometimes looking gold) and green ...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Focus on Portugal, which remains a central player in the world's production of natural cork.



"Portugal produces about half the world output of commercial cork, and its exports over recent years have accounted for around 70 percent of world trade."

Cork - Cortiça

The precious and versatile vegetable tissue known as cork is the outer bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber or as the Portuguese call it sobreiro). Cork (cortiça) is most easily stripped off the tree in late spring and summer when the cells are turgid and fragile and tear without being damaged. The tree quickly forms new layers of cork and restores its protective barrier. No tree is cut down. This simple fact makes cork harvesting exceptionally sustainable, leading to a unique balance between people and nature.

Cork has a structure that you can compare with that from a honeycomb. Every cm2 consists of approximately 40 million cells. These cells, as well as the spaces in between, are filled with a kind of gas resembling air, without CO2. Thus the cork cells work as small sound and heat insulators and absorb pressure and shocks. This is what makes cork so remarkable. Up till today there has not been found any other material which combines the same characteristics as cork does.

Given the advent of synthetic cork, is there a future for cork wine stoppers?

... For long aging however, the only closure with an adequately long track record is natural cork. So to be safe, that is the closure to choose. Once we have solid long-term evaluations of synthetics and screw caps, it will be possible to judge their suitability for extended aging, such as more than ten years.

Over centuries, winemakers have consistently taken advantage of new technology to improve their product, from oak barrels to bottles to modern crushing and pressing equipment and micro-oxygenation. While manufactured closures have some key advantages, it is proving difficult to displace natural cork due to its centuries-old tradition, albeit with a few problems, and its connection to the natural environment.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Focus on Portugal: Craft beer in Portugal? Finally, the answer is yes.


For some unknown reason, Stephen missed the Super Bock Lounge at Francisco Sa Carneiro International Airport in Porto, Portugal.

Airport bars you want to get stuck in, by Stephen Beaumont (The Globe and Mail)

By the time you read this, I'll have heeded the call of duty and investigated. Of course, Super Bock is not "craft," although by most accounts, "craft" at long last has arrived in Portugal.

On the hop: Lisbon's exploding craft beer scene, by Kevin Raub (Lonely Planet; 2016)

A cold beer in Portugal has traditionally meant one of two things: Sagres or Super Bock. These two everyman lagers, created during military dictatorships, have dominated the country's beer landscape for decades.

But a hop-heavy suds revolution is brewing in Lisbon and beyond. Europe's oldest independent capital city is finally embracing the craft beer booze-fest.

Portugal's tyrannical two-brew past

Although its beer history isn't as famous or marketed quite as well as that of some of its European neighbours, Portugal-produced beer predates the country itself, going all the way back to pre-Roman Lusitania. But foreign influence was heavily muted during the Estado Novo, the totalitarian dictatorship that ran the small Iberian nation from 1933 to 1974. Two rebel-rousing domestic brands, Sagres and Super Bock, flowed freely from the taps with little competition. Coincidence that Lisbon-speak for a draught beer is imperial? Not likely.

"During the dictatorship, society was so nationalistic; they didn’t want to import or export, or the influence of anything coming in," says American chef/brewer Adam Heller, who recently opened Chimera Brewpub in Lisbon's industrially hip Alcântara neighbourhood. "They wanted to preserve their identity" ...

Just remember: Super Bock is neither "super" nor "bock," but the last time I visited Portugal -- 18 years and a whole different life ago -- it was a golden lager that worked just fine served very cold. There are several varieties these days, including a Stout and a Pilsener, but still no Bock.

In 2014, when NABC needed a beer for modeling our special one-off World Cup Series USA vs. Portugal brew, Super Bock yet again volunteered for duty.


By the way, there'll be no special World Cup Series brewed at NABC in 2018, unless Josh and Ben adopt a different nation as rooting interest. But what about craft beer in Porto?

Once again, Sara Riobom comes to the rescue at her Portoalities blog.

Ever since I lived in The Netherlands I started to really appreciate craft beer. Therefore, it’s with great enthusiasm that I wrote this Guide of 7 amazing craft beer pubs in Porto.

With luck, I've already checked out a couple of them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Focus on Portugal: The Carnation Revolution in 1974, and Portugal in the current age.



Before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia (1989), there came the Carnation Revolution in Portugal (1974).


Remembering Portugal’s Carnation Revolution
(Freedom House)

... The Carnation Revolution—the first of the world’s many subsequent flower or color uprisings—is little remembered today. Its very success may account for its obscurity. At the time, however, the Portuguese developments were understood to be extraordinarily important. The Carnation Revolution brought about the overthrow of an entrenched right-wing dictatorship. It ended, once and for all, European colonialism in Africa. It was decisive in ensuring that at some time in the future, Europe could truly boast of being whole and free. It set the stage for peaceful and democratic change in neighboring Spain. It produced a democratic breakthrough at a time when strongmen and commissars seemed to be on the march around the globe. And it was eventually recognized as the event that triggered the “third wave” of democratization, a phenomenon that was to transform politics throughout the world.

There were immediate implications of the Carnation Revolution in Angola and other soon-to-be former Portuguese colonial realms.

Portugal's new regime pledged itself to end the colonial wars and began negotiations with the African independence movements. By the end of 1974, Portuguese troops had been withdrawn from Portuguese Guinea and the latter had become a UN member state. This was followed by the independence of Cape Verde, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Angola in 1975. The Carnation Revolution in Portugal also led to Portugal's withdrawal from East Timor in south-east Asia. These events prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens from Portugal's African territories (mostly from Angola and Mozambique), creating over a million Portuguese refugees — the retornados.

Portugal was accepted into the European Economic Community (now the EU) in 1986. At the time, the country was among the poorest in the EEC. It joined the Euro zone in 1999, and after a transitional period of three years, the escudo disappeared in 2002.

Between 2009-16 the Portuguese economy experienced a severe economic crisis – characterised by falling GDP, high unemployment, rising government debt and high bond yields. This was caused by a combination of the global recession, lack of competitiveness and limitations of being in the Euro.

Portugal's policy of austerity in the wake of the recession proceeded without the newsworthy tumult of protests in Greece. It was controversial nonetheless.

The Next Portuguese Revolution, by Mark Bergfeld (Jacobin; 2014)

... Beneath the cloak of unity, bitter wars have been raging over the nature of 1974–5, the government’s eager submission to the Troika’s austerity agenda, and whether the new Portuguese left is up for the task of providing a people ravaged by capitalism with a viable alternative to it ...

... While many of the gains of that revolution have been eroded, the poet Ary dos Santos reminds us that “no one will ever close the doors that April opened.”

To keep up with current events in Portugal (in English), visit The Portugal News Online.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Focus on Portugal: Was António de Oliveira Salazar an autocrat or a dictator? Tyrant or protector? It's complicated.

Photo credit

To put it mildly, the legacy of António de Oliveira Salazar is open to a variety of interpretations.

António de Oliveira Salazar GCSE, GCIC, GCTE, GColIH (28 April 1889 – 27 July 1970) was a Portuguese politician and economist who served as Prime Minister of Portugal for 36 years, from 1932 to 1968. Salazar founded and led the Estado Novo ("New State"), the corporatist authoritarian government that ruled Portugal until 1974.

Just 11 years ago -- a full 37 years following Salazar's death -- he was declared "the greatest Portuguese who ever lived," albeit in non-scientific voting conducted by a television show.

Nostalgia for António de Oliveira Salazar divides the Portuguese, by Dan Bilefsky (NYT)

SANTA COMBA DÃO, Portugal — When the Portuguese recently voted the former dictator António de Oliveira Salazar "the greatest Portuguese who ever lived" in a television show - passing over the most celebrated kings, poets and explorers in the nation's thousand-year history - the broadcaster RTP braced itself for a strong reaction. But what ensued resembled a national identity crisis ...

... Whatever the intrigue behind the voting, Fernando Dacosta, a biographer of Salazar, calls his victory the "Portuguese revenge" for disillusionment with the revolution of April 25, 1974, which overthrew the dictatorship but failed to deliver on its own promises. Today, Portugal is the poorest country in Western Europe, and its recent history is marred by corruption scandals.

"The Portuguese don't want to have Salazar back from the dead," says Dacosta, who was jailed several times as a student during the Salazar regime. "But they miss the dream they had in the past about a future that never came."

He said nostalgia for Salazar also reflected the "saudade," or longing, of the Portuguese soul, a melancholy, he noted, that is present in most things Portuguese like the existential angst of fado music.

There isn't much to be found in terms of English-language video documentaries about Salazar and the era of his preeminence. However, the films of Susana de Sousa Dias (including 48) strike me as a must-view.

48 (the title refers to the period of the dictatorship between 1926 and 1974) is perhaps the most radical response to this challenge, in that it offers nothing else but still images of faces and recordings of voices of those who were imprisoned by the regime. Mugshots taken on the moment of capture are accompanied by testimonies of survivors, relating their experience of the brutalities they endured in prison and the insidious system of oppression that kept the dictatorship in place for so long. But De Sousa Dias also manages to reframe and displace the meaning of these images by transforming what were originally small, generic images, useful for identifying enemies of the regime, into large-scale portraits that accentuate the dignity and shared humanity of these women and men whose name and age remain unknown to us.



During Salazar's 36 years as prime minister, he theoretically served at the discretion of the president. Reality was different, but in 1958 there was a presidential election with an opposition candidate, a military man named Humberto Delgado, seeking the office on a succinct platform.

After declaring his candidacy in the 1958 presidential election, Gen. Delgado was asked what he would do with Salazar if he became president. "Obviously, I'll sack him," was his reply.

The election was fixed, and Delgado lost. In 1965, he was murdered, and there wasn't much opposition to Salazar (and his successor) until the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Focus on Portugal: Learn about the music called Fado.


In 2000 on my only previous trip to Portugal, I visited the Museu do Fado in Lisbon. I remember little, but a half-dozen CDs from the home selection go into the disc changer on occasion to offer a reminder of the music.

I like the overall ambiance of Fado, although specific tunes elude my untrained ears.

The video (above) is an excellent, short introduction to the genre. Perhaps the most truthful and succinct comment about the state of the musical art is provided by Raquel at Sara Riobom's Portoalities blog, in her installment about Fado in Porto.

Best places for Fado in Porto

Even though almost no Portuguese listens to Fado regularly (we’re sorry to break the myths!), we totally understand that you want to watch a live Fado show once in Porto. Therefore, we made a list of the best places for Fado in Porto. We hope you enjoy it!