Sunday, October 20, 2019

CFA-4 Follies: OMG, just look at Gahan's huge pile of special interest donor cash flowing to out-of-towners.


"Don't forget that Gahan is legally entitled to convert those campaign funds into personal funds. All he must do is pay the income taxes on them. He can make charitable donations, political donations, or buy groceries with that money. In other words, the excess monies are bribes. That's not his fault. It's the way campaign finance works in Indiana."

So far in 2019, Jeff Gahan has raised $147,000 (on top of roughly $128,000 cash on hand) and spent $204,800 to remain mayor.

$140,000 of these expenditures has gone to companies and individuals outside New Albany's city limits.

That's 68%.

Gleaned from the expenditures side of the October 18 CFA-4 filing -- remember, Cherished Leader isn't done yet; this accounts for only the first three quarters -- here are a few highlights, restricted to expenditures of $2,000 or more, year-to-date.

* To establish context, I've appended a few statistics from the US Census Bureau.

In NA's history, no candidate for mayor has raised this much money (I'll be chipping away at donor numbers during the coming days), and no one has spent this much money. Gahan says he's moving the city forward, but the numbers don't lie even if he's prone to doing so.

Jeff Gahan is moving himself forward by means of the most pervasive pay-to-play political patronage system ever seen in this city during modern times. It is one built to benefit donors from far and wide, political cronies and his own family. Gahan's vision? It's New Albany as a Banana Republic -- with Gahan himself remaining Top Banana.

Now for the numbers, in ascending amounts -- and boy, do they ascend.

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$2,195.38 La Catrina for the Sherman Minton Dinner "after party."

$2,950 to Susie Gahan (wife of the mayor) for "operating expenses"; these are recurring expenditures and literally thousands of dollars have been itemized this way during the past eight years.

$3,500 Ryan Media LLC for radio.

$3,744.52 to Warren Nash for rent. The former failed mayor and exalted Democratic Party grandee is charging Gahan only $600 monthly for use of his dilapidated building on Bank Street, presumably including utilities (which his previous Floyd County Democratic Party tenant was seldom able to keep up to date).

$4,480 to Meyer Consulting LLC for advertising (there are several businesses with this name and it isn't clear which this is).

$4,482.80 to the Floyd County Democratic Party for ... basic life support? Interestingly, the only other Democratic candidate whose name appears on the expenditures ledger of the 2nd and 3rd quarter CFA-4 is none other than Matt Nash ($250 from the Genius of the Floodplain), who is Warren Nash's son. Perhaps the NAHA job wasn't enough.

$4,810.98 to Grace by Design for signs, stickers, shirts, bags and dog bandannas. Grace by Design is located in Louisville, and the owner appears to be Andrew Delahanty, who might even be a genuine "progressive," which is surprising given the way Gahan works assiduously to avoid being viewed as one, probably because he isn't.


Grace by Design's Facebook page hasn't been active in a while, but circa 2012 the company donated signs to the Occupy movement in Louisville.


Very interesting. Maybe Delahanty's credentials are why Team Gahan didn't Buy Local.

$5,878.97 to Linda Moeller (city controller) for label, postage, printing and magnet reimbursement.

$5.918.13 to Christopher Gardner for printing, postage, invitations reimbursement and "operating expenses" (also a city employee and son-in-law of the mayor). It's fascinating how "operating expenses" appear nowhere else except  itemized by family members.

$6,000 to Kristen Self for "fundraising." Self lives in the Indianapolis area and was the finance director for the Liz Watson congressional campaign, billing herself as a "campaign consultant."

$6,825 to ProMedia for videos and billboards. During 2019 ProMedia also has donated $3,000 to Gahan4Life for "in-kind" professional services. That's a lot of money; this is campaign-related, so wouldn't you love to see the contract for no-bid "professional services" between the city of New Albany and ProMedia?

$8,678.52 to Valley View Golf Club for ... new balls? There is no explanation for this expenditure.

Now for the heaviest hitters.

$15,000 to 76 Words (Washington DC): "We craft campaign strategy -- and turn that strategy into television, radio and online communications to elect Democrats and support progressive causes."

$40,000 to Media Fortitude Partners (Jersey City NJ) for this: "Media Fortitude Partners — a revolutionary media buying agency — will combine traditional and evolving digital platforms to efficiently and effectively win political campaigns from local to national levels. MFP uses the next generation of media buying solutions and targeting technology to achieve each of our clients’ goals, particularly in the political realm."

$57,746.05 to Terris Barnes & Walters (San Francisco, California): "Founded in 1988, Terris, Barnes & Walters is a full-service campaign firm, specializing in general consulting and direct mail. Our mail philosophy is simple: we believe any campaign has a maximum of five seconds from mailbox to recycling to make a voter decide to open your mail and keep reading — and you’re competing for readers’ attention not just with other political media, but commercial appeals as well. Since 1988, we have created high-impact mail that grabs and holds voters’ attention — and has helped win over 350 successful campaigns nationwide."

Allow me to observe that Jeff Gahan is not publicly listed as a client at TB&W. Is he shy, or does this imply that while $57,000 is substantially more than the median household income in Nawbany, it's chump change for a major national slush spewer in the Bay Area.

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* A few statistics from the US Census Bureau.

Population estimates, July 1, 2018, (V2018) ... 36,604
Population estimates base, April 1, 2010, (V2018) ... 36,349
Population, percent change - April 1, 2010 (estimates base) to July 1, 2018, (V2018) ... 0.7%
Population, Census, April 1, 2010 ... 36,372
Median gross rent, 2013-2017 ... $753
Households, 2013-2017 ... 15,232
Bachelor's degree or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2013-2017 ...  20.6%
Median household income (in 2017 dollars), 2013-2017 ... $43,914
Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2017 dollars), 2013-2017 ... $25,266
Persons in poverty, percent  ... 18.3%

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Tricky Dickey's latest malicious misdirection won't hunt, because Mark Seabrook was a county commissioner, not the "mayor" of Floyd County.


The Floyd County Democratic Party will go to any length to avoid acknowledging Jeff Gahan's pervasive monetization fetish.

Pay-han's only real achievement during eight years in office has been the meticulous revitalization of the Tammany Hall model of grubby pay-to-play political patronage, while the self-identified "progressives" stare off into space, unable to consistently apply their presumed standards of social and economic justice to obvious matters like the culture of pure corruption flouted by their local mayoral Disney wannabe.

Recently the GOP has had the unmitigated gall to examine Gahan's unchecked accumulation of debt. Tricky Dickey quickly mounted his rickety Kool Aid soapbox in righteous indignation, shrilly squeaking the only reply local Democrats are ever able to muster: "WE REEK TO HIGH HEAVEN, BUT THE REPUBLICANS IN COUNTY GOVERNMENT ARE WORSE." 

Specifically, Squire Adam's refrain: Because he was county commissioner, Mark Seabrook is to blame for county government's budgetary iniquities. 

Well not exactly, but nice try. You may wish to hold on to your day job.

It's fitting and proper that the two political parties hurl mud back and forth, but let's get a few facts straight with regard to roles (thanks to Commissioner Billy Stewart for posting these points at Facebook).

  • The County Commissioners are NOT the Fiscal Body of County Government.
  • They don't set budgets for the County.
  • They didn't pass the jail tax, as the County Council only had the authority to do so.
  • The County, like EVERY other unit of local government, has to have a balanced budget. 
"In a nut shell, Adam doesn't seem to understand how Floyd County government operates. County government is NOT city government. Commissioners are NOT mayors!"

When it comes to lighting one up, best to be careful what you wish for, lest politicians bogart the joint.


I'll freely admit there are times when I just plain don't get it on a personal level, and this bridge lighting and decorating idea is one of those times.

Note that I fully respect the viewpoint of proponents. Good luck in your efforts. Rock on. At this precise moment I'm not boarding that train, merely regretting we have no trains to board. However, I'm not above buying popcorn, having a seat in the bleachers and being a spectator. Maybe I'll change my mind. 

IT'S LIT: New Albany residents push for decorative lighting on Sherman Minton Bridge, by John Boyle (League of Tom May Voters)

NEW ALBANY — In the coming years, the Sherman Minton Bridge will get a facelift in the form of a major renewal project.

The rehabilitation will cost anywhere from $90 million to $105 million, with an expected start date in early 2021. How the timeline of the project will look is still up the air, as Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) officials are still in the process of deciding whether to move forward with a full closure or a partial closure.

While the looming prospect of impeding traffic flow on the major artery in any capacity is cause for concern to some residents and business owners, others are looking at the possibilities in a more creative light. This week, a Facebook page called "Light the Sherman" was launched, attracting over 200 likes in the few days it's been active.

The move appears to have been inspired by the Sherman Minton's sister bridge, the Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis, Tenn. While that bridge shares a similar design, there is one obvious difference — it has decorative lighting, similar to that found on the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville.

The idea has gotten quite a bit of attention on social media, with the page organizers calling on people to convince local members of Congress to allocate money for the installation ...

Although I remain open to persuasion, bridge lighting strikes me as a want, as opposed to a need. It's also a distraction from other more genuine needs.

I believe any money generated to pay for creatively lighting the Sherman Minton bridge -- by the way, where exactly is this money coming from? -- would be better spent scattered among numerous enhancement projects along the waterfront, rather then illuminating it from above like a gaudy billboard (see photo above).

To me, this is another example of the One Big Grandiose Project syndrome, rather than the two dozen smaller projects actually impelled by participatory grassroots partnerships, with the problem being that OBGPs tend to move with lightning speed away from the grassroots, and into the hands of usual design suspects like HWC Engineering or their bridge lighting equivalents.

The result usually is generic pay-to-play pablum like baseball Hall of Famer Jim "Do You Know I Live in Carmel?" Rice's HWC Market Street Mussolini tribute.

In this vein, tourism's Russell Goodwin makes a very good point in the newspaper article.

Studies have shown that such aesthetic ventures do often translate into more visitors and money spent by them in the local economy. Russell Goodwin of SoIN Tourism said the key factor is collaboration and communication between project officials and local stakeholders, such as residents and business owners.

Let's not forget the templates and schemata of "collaborative" public input meetings in New Gahania ...

Joshua Poe explains how those "public input" meetings are kept meaningless to maintain pre-determined outcomes.


As noted: I'm open to a rethink.

Until the evidence is mustered, I'm sticking to the imperative of many small improvements rather than one big one -- and don't use the Big Four in Jeffersonville as a counter-example, because it's the "big project" exception that proves the rule.

The Big Four Bridge is all about function as a non-automotive mobility device, and this function would remain completely intact without lighting (which cost more than $2 million) or the dreadfully redundant and intrusive classical music playing halfway across.

The Big Four's logic is applicable not to the Sherman Minton, but the K & I. That's the mobility project in need of prioritization.

Nationalize that mutha, now. I bet President Sanders will.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Pay-to-play special interests are POURING MONEY into Jeff Gahan's coffers to the tune of almost $150,000 in the past ten months.


At The Aggregate News, Nick Vaughn has initial coverage of today's candidate financial report filings.

On Friday, October 18th at noon, candidates across the State of Indiana running for municipal office were required to submit their "Pre-General" financial reports which disclose the amount of money they spent and raised since May of 2019.

In an effort to make information more accessible, The Aggregate News has received financial reports for all of New Albany's candidates. We have posted them on our Local Elections page. In the coming days, we will be analyzing the reports and will publish a story with our analysis. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to look through the reports.

As expected, Payhan's special interest donors dug deep in an effort to keep the gravy train rolling for another four years.

Incumbent Democratic Mayor Jeff Gahan raised the most money in the reporting period and possessed $276,472.87 before spending nearly $204,000 in the same time period. He currently has around $71,000 cash-on-hand.


That's the overview. It's going to take a while to digest 24 pages line by line, but suffice to say that Gahan's best out-of-town, pay-to-play friends have been extremely generous.

All the reports can be found here.

Here's a look back.

Gahan's first quarter CFA-4 has been filed, and it's another massive, quivering edifice of pay-to-play cash.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Friday) Slick Jeffie's hoarding of power and money is a very real threat to New Albany's future.

Last week was Harvest Homecoming, and my city's favorite amok time kept me pinned to the tarmac, but now we're back to what passes for normal here in New Gahania, where "We're All Here Because We're Not All THERE."

This week as a run-up to Decision 2019, I'm headed back into the ON THE AVENUES archive for five straight days of devastatingly persuasive arguments against four more years of the Gahan Family Values™ Personality Cult.

I've already made the case for Mark Seabrook as mayor. Now let's return to the voluminous case against Gahanism in five informative and entertaining installments, of which today is the fifth and final hammer blow -- until next week, when I may decide to do it all again. Heaven knows we have enough material.

Today's installment is of recent origin (updates in red), but it bears repeating. Gahanism is about power and money, and Team Gahan's justification for its continued existence oddly parallels America's governing "logic" during the Cold War era, paraphrased:

"The threat of Communism is so great that all power must be concentrated at the top, in the hands of a relatively small governing military/industrial/social elite, and all dissent must be suppressed, these extreme measures being necessary so we as a nation can be more coldly efficient in countering the existential peril posed by the USSR ... "

... and making a handy profit while "we" are at it. Substitute the words "Republicans" for Communism and "Floyd County government" for USSR, and it should be perfectly clear where Mayor Sunshine & the Adamettes' set list is coming from.

In a mounting sign of desperation, Gahan and the DemoDisneyDixiecrats are going full-tilt negative slimeball against Mark Seabrook.


Jeff Gahan's "inspired by Pyongyang" personality cult is the obvious corollary to the Floyd County Democratic Party's institutional avarice and accompanying paranoia. In the grand tradition of failed watercolor artists, seminary students and cobblers, Gahan the middling veneer salesman concluded early in the game that celestial destiny was clearing a path for his unparalleled brilliance -- and we've been reminded of it on a daily basis ever since.

Problem is Payhan's an unclothed emperor, and perhaps this time we'll succeed in deposing him.

Previously:

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Monday) The Reisz Mahal luxury city hall, perhaps the signature Gahan boondoggle.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Tuesday) Gahan the faux historic preservationist demolishes the historic structure -- with abundant malice.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Wednesday) The shopping cart mayor's cartoonish veneer of a personality cult. Where do we tithe, Leader Dearest?

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Thursday) That Jeff Gahan has elevated people like David Duggins to positions of authority is reason enough to vote against the Genius of the Floodplain.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Friday) Slick Jeffie's hoarding of power and money is a very real threat to New Albany's future.

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March 26, 2019


ON THE AVENUES: Gahan's hoarding of power and money is a threat to New Albany's future.

"I had always given Jeff the benefit of the doubt. No more. I'm afraid once again, another human being has let power go to their head."
-- Facebook comment (from outside the mayor's immediate family)

DemoDisneyDixiecratic Party chairman Adam "Tricky" Dickey has a longstanding gag order prohibiting two-way communications between the delicately perfumed governing class and rude dissidents like me.

But periodically we witness this leash being chewed straight through by Mayor Jeff Gahan's family and functionaries (often one and the same person) who find themselves in a state of outraged pique and distemper. When this occurs, they usually return hurriedly to the scene and scrub the social media graffiti clean rather than risk the sting of Dear Leader's nocturnal lash.

As here.


Gahan's own obsessions run primarily to slobbering in the presence of powerful special interests who write him campaign finance checks, and he has shown little ability to inspire genuine affection on the part of regular townspeople. Still, some of them devour the Rice Krispies Treats and chug the Kool-Aid.

Baylor's obsession with the mayor is crazy! He goes to every website he can find to rant against a very good man and excellent mayor. I know he is obsessively in favor of David White, but to constantly malign Mayor Gahan is dirty tactics and should not be tolerated in politics ... this is exactly WHY you should not listen to his rhetoric and vote for your priorities and what his platform stands for. Gahan has done a lot for New Albany and deserves respect for his accomplishments, not maligned for dirty partisanship.

My response to such comments?

"Thanks for reading, and know that I'm not finished yet."

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"Obsessive" social media outbursts like the preceding make it clear that we're overdue a refresher course about the meaning of politics, power and political realities, as opposed to fantasies.

“The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth - that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community - and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”
― Wendell Berry

Like it or not, politics is about power -- who has it, who doesn't, who benefits from it, who wins and who loses. At any given time there'll be those among us differing with the balance of prevailing political power, and who believe it to be excessive. Our conceivable responses in terms of resistance are many, from accepting the status quo to opposing it, and from exercising the ballot box to lobbing a Molotov cocktail.

Simply stated, Gahan has amassed far too much power. 

Gahan's pursuit of power has been relentless, marked by an insatiable thirst for money and a fetish for silence and secrecy, as opposed to discussion and openness.

Gahan's primary objective has been the accumulation of as much unrestrained political power as can be gained by a big fish in this otherwise small pond; to raise as much money as he possibly can through pay-to-play campaign finance patronage; and to deploy his concentration of power and money to limit decision-making to an inner circle of cliquish elites.

As Bluegill put it on the topic of last week's Colonial Manor debacle:

Gahan isn’t remotely interested in input. His personal insecurity, control issues, and need to generate campaign kickbacks from the contractors involved keep any sort of real input from ever happening. Citizens get expensive, poorly conceived and executed projects and Gahan gets a flood of tax dollars into his campaign coffers. It’s a worst case scenario, repeated frequently enough to be the hallmark of his tenure as mayor. New Albanians two generations from now will still be paying for his ego trip.

Conversely, ordinary people who disagree with Gahan often find it difficult to make themselves heard. The local newspaper has long since abandoned its investigative mandate and responsibility to the people to become an absentee-owned, feel-good lifestyles rag filled with taxpayer-funded ads from the very same mayor who knows exactly what his largess purchases. Call it what you will, although to me simplicity suffices: it's protection money.

Sorry, but I wasn't raised to root for US Steel, the New York Yankees and berserk kleptocrats. I was raised to believe in fair fights, level playing fields, assistance to underdogs and two-way conversation. The News and Tribune can't be bothered with any of it, so NA Confidential has undertaken to follow Gahan's big money, at least that iceberg's tip of which we can see, given that $500 handshakes are notoriously hard to trace. The results are summarized in a 20-part series, with links in the finale:

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 20: Buying and selling a city? Our master list of 59 Gahan wheel-greasers is a pornographic potpourri of pay-to-play.

(An update followed)
April 22, 2019
Gahan's first quarter CFA-4 has been filed, and it's another massive, quivering edifice of pay-to-play cash.


As for the power Gahan has gathered, consider these points.

Gahan is the salaried mayor.

Gahan has amassed $438,041 in campaign finance donations during the period 2011-2018, dwarfing all predecessors. Why so much? Money is power.

Gahan's campaign finance expenditures amply document this power. We'll be exploring them in the coming weeks.

Gahan is the salaried president of the sewer board, which controls tens of millions of dollars.

Gahan’s appointees control the Board of Public Works and Safety, which administers city-owned infrastructure.

Gahan’s appointees control the Redevelopment Commission, through which passes almost all the money (especially Tax Increment Financing funds) for capital projects, again totaling tens of millions of dollars which are not reflected by the yearly general fund budget.

Gahan is the president of the Horseshoe Foundation, and in a position to influence the foundation’s disbursements.

Gahan annexed the New Albany Housing Authority to direct City Hall control in 2017, appointing his own director and their own pliant board, in effect placing NAHA’s physical assets under his sway. They're now being used to purchase commercial properties all over town.

Gahan directed and helped fund former Building Commissioner David Brewer’s successful 2018 run for Township Trustee, extending City Hall’s reach into the trustee’s budget, then rewarding Brewer with a consultancy to make up for his cut in pay.

Gahan belongs to the Ohio River Greenway board, has openly sought to manipulate the Human Rights Commission, and has made a series of board and commission appointments reflecting loyalty first and competence second.

Gahan's political appointees include Police Chief and Fire Chief, and the former has openly participated in purely partisan fashion during previous election cycles.

Gahan has manipulated public funding outlays for city “communications,” transforming legitimate public service announcements into a daily social (and conventional) media stream of messages aimed at his own political self-glorification, via the conduit of favored no-bid contractor ProMedia.

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Obviously Gahan's patronage machine has lots of buttons -- and he has lots of fingers.

Doug England's wheeling and dealing previously was the gold standard of local legend, although by comparison with Gahan's exploits it appears quaint and penny ante. Here's a story that illustrates the point.

Ten years ago one of Gahan’s current and biggest out-of-town corporate contributors tried to make inroads with England. They met, and England handed the company’s spokesman a card with a Louisville tailor’s address and the measurements for a new suit.

In 2019, Gahan wears the same lackluster Soviet Politburo-vintage suits as before, and the company in question now pulls one lucrative no-bid design contract after another while funneling tens of thousands of dollars straight into Gahan’s breast pockets.

It's irrelevant whether Gahan launders this money to finance Disney World junkets. The point is that money of this magnitude equates to political power. In 2018, Gahan passed almost $9,000 of it directly to other Democratic candidates.

By the standards of a small city with a quarter of its residents existing below the poverty line, Gahan has hoarded a vast stock of power. He wields it autocratically with almost no input from outside the ruling circle, and buttresses his power by means of a ludicrous personality cult reflecting a former veneer salesman's abrupt makeover from regular guy to flawless genius.

It's, well, creepy and more in keeping with Gregor Samsa's metamorphosis, but then again, so very few of them read books.

As such, whenever his family members, their former co-workers and other mindless fans prattle about loathsome stalkers hating on the epitome of mayoral perfection, a reminder is in order.

One simply can't speak truth to power without breaking a few eggs, preferably right between the powermonger's eyes. 

In the face of so much power, money and control, those of us in the political opposition have a perfect right to seek counter-balancing power where and as we find it. It is Gahan's objective to hold power, and the opposition's to modify his grasp of power, or when necessary, to seek depriving him of it. His tools for exercising power are considerable and entrenched. By necessity, ours are improvisational.

My own chosen tools are words.

They may not seem like much compared to money and authority, but I believe the bully pulpit still matters when used consistently and creatively. Then again, I'm literate; the illiterate might disagree, because lacking the words, they're deprived of power, at least my kind of power.

In 2019, an election will decide whether Gahan's reign is furthered, or the city returns to self-government. I'm looking forward to it. My own "obsessive" recommendation on May 7 is to vote for David White in the Democratic mayoral primary and #FireGahan2019 November 5 is to vote for Mark Seabrook in the general election and #FireGahan2019.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Finally, an honest mailer from the Gahan campaign.


Them paranoid Gahanites are getting testier by the day. They need to rediscover the tranquil joys, as described in this book review in The Economist (from which the Getty Image in the meme above was copied).


Debts to pleasure: The key to a good life is avoiding pain


And finding tranquil joys. Or so Epicurus thought. Is he right?

How to be an Epicurean, by Catherine Wilson

In Catherine Wilson’s manual on “the ancient art of living well”, her guide is the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who advocated a calm life of modest pleasure. By explaining how the world was, he thought philosophy could show people how to live. Ms Wilson, an Epicurus specialist, agrees. Her intelligent and readable book lies, she says, somewhere between technical philosophy and “advice columns”.

Click the link to read more of the review.

In a mounting sign of desperation, Gahan and the DemoDisneyDixiecrats are going full-tilt negative slimeball against Mark Seabrook.


Tricky Dickey has outdone himself. There's now a web site devoted to fact-checking, or myth creation (hard to tell the difference when it comes to THAT group) and the announcement is noteworthy because Adam quotes himself three times.

Like he mattered, or something.

Couple this latest Dickeyite meltdown with the highly entertaining DemoDisneyDixiecratic apoplexy (sorry, Shane) over Senator Todd Young's endorsement of Seabrook, and add a dash of veteran Indiana political analyst Brian Howey's targeting of New Albany as a prime locale for a change of party in the mayor's seat, and you get Jeff Gahan's snarling, vicious true political nature finally out in the open for all to see.

Yes, I know -- Gahan will say it's the party, not the candidate, but we all know the party is skint without Gahan's bulging bank account. Let the sitting mayor disavow the attacks if negativity somehow disturbs him.

We know better, don't we? Read about Tricky's latest Goebbels moment, right here -- and don't forget that at least one DemoDisneyDixiecratic council candidate has told the truth this campaign season.


Jason is said to be a close friend of Seabrook's. I wonder how he feels about his party's decision to plunge to rock bottom with negative campaigning?

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Thursday) That Jeff Gahan has elevated people like David Duggins to positions of authority is reason enough to vote against the Genius of the Floodplain.


Last week was Harvest Homecoming, and my city's favorite amok time kept me pinned to the tarmac, but now we're back to what passes for normal here in New Gahania, where "We're All Here Because We're Not All THERE."

This week as a run-up to Decision 2019, I'm headed back into the ON THE AVENUES archive for five straight days of devastatingly persuasive arguments against four more years of the Gahan Family Values™ Personality Cult. I've already made the case for Mark Seabrook as mayor.

Now let's return to the voluminous case against Gahanism in five informative and entertaining installments.

During Jeff Gahan's 2011 campaign for mayor, he proffered numerous private assurances to the effect that two-way streets and traffic calming would be priorities. In retrospect the fact that these promises were not a matter of the public record was ominous.

It took five years and another election for Gahan to actually get around to implementing a two-way grid reversion downtown, and hindsight also affords us the opportunity to see that the project, as eventually dumbed-down, emasculated and diluted from consultant Jeff Speck's suggestions -- shall we say, Gahanized? -- would not ever be brought to fruition without being tied to the system of pay-to-play political patronage which has been Gahan's only true accomplishment in office.

In short, until no-bid contracts for firms like HWC Engineering could be spider-webbed to produce maximum campaign finance enhancement, matters like safety and support for independent small businesses were of no consequence to Gahan ... and his minions, chief among them David Duggins, who at the time was married to HWC's local queenpin.

Hence the following Rubicon crossing moment, as recounted in ON THE AVENUES in late 2014. A little more than two years later, the starving public servant Duggins was dispatched to serve as Exalted Grand Poobah at the New Albany Housing Authority, seized by Gahan in the same fashion as European imperialists used to pluck colonies like lush grapes from the hands of vestal virgins, and handed to Duggins along with what probably was the single largest pay increase ever witnessed by a bureaucrat in New Albany.

But that's another story. Neither Gahan's street grid cowardice nor his poor taste in underlings was the first manifestation of Jeff Gahan's "inspired by Pyongyang" personality cult. In the grand tradition of failed watercolor artists, seminary students and cobblers, this middling veneer salesman concluded early in the game that destiny was clearing a path for his brilliance -- and we've been reminded of it on a daily basis ever since.

Why?

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Monday) The Reisz Mahal luxury city hall, perhaps the signature Gahan boondoggle.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Tuesday) Gahan the faux historic preservationist demolishes the historic structure -- with abundant malice.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Wednesday) The shopping cart mayor's cartoonish veneer of a personality cult. Where do we tithe, Leader Dearest?

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Thursday) That Jeff Gahan has elevated people like David Duggins to positions of authority is reason enough to vote against the Genius of the Floodplain.

---

November 20, 2014

ON THE AVENUES: Really, the word “progressive” embarrasses you? That’s okay, because political cowardice disgusts me.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

We’ve all experienced those disturbing times during a verbal debate when you know you’ve been whipped.

Your opponent’s grasp of facts and overall rhetorical excellence has you pinned, wiggle room is gone, and disaster looms. You can hope only to limit the damage, and perhaps survive to debate another day.

So it was that one of those times did not occur on Tuesday morning, during or after the merchant meeting, when the city’s economic development director, David Duggins, both publicly and privately read me what he imagined was an impassioned riot act.

Unfortunately, all he managed to do was concede almost every point we’ve tried to make in the past year with respect to City Hall’s persistent errors, with the result that the third floor’s credibility reserve is coughing vapors.

It may have been exasperation, anger, envy at City Hall’s inability to respond in kind, or maybe even exhausted vulnerability. I’m intentionally omitting delusional arrogance, but whatever the rationale, Mr. Duggins’s words to me formed a composite, abject expression of institutional impotence, one reeking of raw political terror, and offering further ample evidence that especially since November 4, when the local Democratic Party suffered a purely epic thrashing at the polls, the once mighty machine’s threadbare wheels have thrown their bolts and are rolling merrily across the landscape.

The cement blocks are being fetched, a motley collection of meth heads stands by eager to salvage copper wiring, and a fleet of U-Hauls are being dispatched to facilitate the magic kingdom’s overdue housecleaning. Surveying the carnage, Dixiecrat Party chairman Adam Dickey has chosen the junior high school tactic of censoring social media, but it’ll take more than a prayer breakfast and another failed “get out the vote” drive to avoid impending disintegration.

My shovel’s in hand. Just tell me where to dig. Better yet, maybe a few of us can dig together.

---

Mr. Duggins said many amazing things during the course of the group meeting and the private chat following it. Once my jaw dropped the first time, I left it safely on the floor to avoid over-exertion.

Although Mr. Duggins has not ever owned an independent local business, he freely offered marketing advice to those who do. He took a departed shop owner to task for being a complainer, when all she ever did was ask why the city allowed an adjoining building to fall quite literally to pieces outside her front window.

Perhaps the building commissioner was busy leveling historic buildings elsewhere.

Mr. Duggins openly conceded that the city does not customarily address sidewalks or sewers until a developer or realtor steps in, and an investor makes the first expenditure, and he brushed aside the counter argument that doing so beforehand actually might spur greater investment and constitute an actual economic development program, as opposed to piecemeal infusions of scattershot cash.

But it was my prodding on two-way streets, traffic calming and walkability that prompted the most memorable portion of the dialogue, and in the process, snapped this camel’s back.

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To reprise, it has long been NAC’s contention that compared with pro-active “by the usual chamber of commerce numbers” efforts aimed at economic development as defined by the tired imperative of the suburban industrial park, this administration has neither understood the economic implications of independent local business, nor has bothered to openly embrace any organized, overt effort or plan to be of assistance to them.

Furthermore, while conceding that an economic development plan for independent local businesses, especially those located in a bloc amid the historic business district core, might be an unfair challenge to One Southern Indiana caliber non-thinkers in the absence of readily identifiable templates, we’ve insisted that thinking outside self-imposed boxes is by no means impossible. After all, these independent local businesses have invested heavily in themselves, with time, money and enthusiasm – and with almost no assistance from municipal governmental entities apart from “moral” support.

This is why we’ve consistently pointed to the city’s street grid as the ideal, contemporary infrastructure “bonus” readily available for molding into an asset occupying an extensive geographical area, one that enhances the urban experience for residents and visitor alike, whether working, shopping or living in or near downtown.

We’ve pointed to walkable and bikeable streets as an organic whole, running two ways, completed and calmed, and connected to IU Southeast, the Purdue Center, the Greenway and the Knobs, comprising New Albany’s only realistic equivalent of a magnet and generator comparable to the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville, because what makes the Big Four so special is that it is not at all special – it is open and available for public use every single day, not every now and then.

So it might be with two-way streets and walkability in New Albany, which brings us to the Jeff Speck study, as commissioned a full two years after mayor Jeff Gahan took office, in spite of campaign assurances that street reform would be pursued energetically.

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And so it transpired that when queried about two-way streets, Mr. Duggins revealed a mind-blowing factoid guaranteed to impress, nay, astound, those who closely follow local events. For not once but twice, and in the strongest terms, he demanded that I come to grips with the ongoing Jeff Gahan term as undoubtedly the most progressive era in recent New Albany municipal history, and quite likely the most progressive period ever -- in a city that celebrated its 196th birthday just last year.

As proof, Mr. Duggins pointed in effect to the very absence of two-way street conversions, asking me to accept as evidence of City Hall’s innate progressivism an unrealized, barely enunciated intent – the many shadowy, non-transparent, Rosenbargian behind-the-scenes steps the city has taken thus far to commission Speck’s study, and to perhaps someday glacially come around to considering the incremental possibility of timidly sticking its toes into the waters of two-way streets and an accompanying, comprehensive street grid reform plan.

You see? Dyed-in-the-wool progressivism … in camouflage.


I was very confused. In fact, only moments before this presentation of Gahan’s solidly FDR-like progressive record, and still quite dazed at the Orwellian fog suddenly shrouding the proceedings, Mr. Duggins had somewhat imperiously dismissed the notion that those business owners in attendance might wish to talk about the street grid. Mind you, it was not his meeting to chair, and not his agenda to write. In essence, he refused to address the topic publicly. In fairness, he probably wasn’t happy with me for asking questions of substance.

Since he wouldn’t talk about streets while the others were there, I was compelled to wait until they had gone, and only then asked: If City Hall is a progressive entity, and if it recognizes the absolute necessity of street grid reform to help people like those in the room, as well as neighborhoods and the city’s prospects overall – as it constantly claims it does, privately – then in the name of wholly Jeeebus, why not lead the discussion?

Why not make sure that independent local business owners know the proven record of two way streets in promoting downtown business districts?

Why not make sure that neighborhood residents know the proven record of walkability enhancement in improving quality of life and lifting their property values?

Why not ensure support for the reform by getting out in front of the issue, driving it, and doing precisely what advocates are supposed to do?

Fairly paraphrased, here is the reply.

While impeccably progressive, City Hall could not possibly appear to be advocating progressive measures, not ever, because to do so would be to enable the administration’s powerful and dangerous naysaying enemies, who in spite of Jeff Gahan’s 64% vote tally in 2011 – the most lopsided majority in decades – somehow retain their uncanny ability to disrupt the mayor’s well-ordered universe at the merest hint of progressive leanings, because the “Old Guard” would be incited to … to …

To do what, exactly?

Well, to name the most prominent living example, any public appearance of progressivism on the part of City Hall would incite “Old Guard” stalwarts like Republican county commissioner Mark Seabrook -- of course the mayor dramatically and repeatedly spit in his eye during the course of the city-county parks department split, but that was different -- to rear back and belittle the helpless mayor by bellowing, “Ha Ha – you’re just appeasing those nasty progressives with two-way streets! Whatcha gonna do next, have some kind of FAIRNESS ordinance?" 

(Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but no. I’m paraphrasing, but honoring the tone. How could I make this up?)

Hence, the institutionalized New Albany City Hall Department of the Way on Down, Down Low, shielding the progressivism that dare not speak its name, a malady that only Speck’s study can dissipate, because then, and only then, can an administration with a 2/3 electoral mandate, but which remains terrified of Seabrook’s schoolyard taunts, finally point to the egg-head consultant’s findings and deploy them as the political cover it cannot function without. Note that I’d freely accused them of this very weakness on numerous occasions – and now the city’s economic development director wasn’t even trying to deny it.

Being the stubborn sort, I persisted: And yet, really, why couldn’t City Hall engage small business owners to explain the virtues of a walkable street grid?

If we did that and even one small business failed, they’d blame us.

Of course, right now, as it stands, the city’s interminable, fear-driven delay of street grid reform is quite effectively achieving the very same result, by leaving in place a one-way arterial street grid that nullifies every penny-ante ribbon cutting and “stay open late” promotion tossed into the air by increasingly desperate indie shop owners in the absence of a downtown economic development plan, because while street grid reform could be so very helpful, and constitute an economic development plan in itself, it would fatally embarrass a Democratic mayor to be seen openly advocating it.

It's exactly as if Gahan were to say it's okay to be gay, just as long as you don't kiss in public.

---

It’s simple.

I’m proud to be identified as a progressive, and what's more, I'm capable of presenting my reasons and arguing my points. But I’m far more ashamed of myself for supporting Gahan in 2011 than he is embarrassed at the ignominy of the term “progressive.” All I can do is learn from my mistakes. He doesn't believe he's made any. There's a difference.

One more thing.

Late in the chat, Mr. Duggins suggested I stop lashing the discredited, careerist city me-development wrecker John Rosenbarger, saying that at best, he was no more than a figurehead for the Main Street plan, and cannot be blamed for constantly acting through the years in such a way as to maintain his employment, even if it meant a steady stream of blatant lies sufficient to make Pinocchio blush.

I shrugged, but Mr. Duggins continued, assuring me that he’d never be one of those careerists like Rosenbarger; after all, he certainly isn’t making very much money working for the city of New Albany, and while personally loyal to the sitting mayor, he’d someday get out when the getting was good.

Teeth clenched, I smiled.

As one who has invested his entire life savings in a downtown business, and arises each day wondering when or if there'll be a return, there’s nothing like having the city's economic development director -- you know, the one without an economic development plan -- tell you that hes footloose and fancy free, and able to leave any time he wishes.

I won’t even waste a stray “go to hell” or "fuck off" on cluelessness of that astounding magnitude.

It's quite enough, thank you. If you refuse to take ownership, you’re not getting credit. Blame is another matter. Local Democrats in general, and the current administration in particular, always have dismissed progressive ideas because they feared no consequences. As such, we’re obliged to try to prove them wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, because the insurgency begins right ... now.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Rules for election letters to the Daily Journal of the Tom May Writers' Colony, formerly known as the News and Tribune.


If the News and Tribune genuinely valued "fairness to the candidates," the sinking newspaper wouldn't support the sham candidate "forums" sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

But I digress.

Here are the rules for submitting election-related letters to the editor of the Jeffersonville newspaper, followed by a recent example of one.

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Out of fairness to the candidates in the Nov. 5, 2019, General Election, the News and Tribune will be cutting off election-related letters several days before voters go to the polls.

The last day to submit election letters to the News and Tribune is Tuesday, Oct. 29. Here’s how:

• Letters can be submitted in person or through the U.S. Postal Service to our New Albany office (318 Pearl St., Suite 100) and Jeffersonville office (221 Spring. St.) by close of business Oct. 29.

• Electronic submission of letters through our website (newsandtribune.com) or by email (newsroom@newsandtribune.com) must be timestamped by midnight that day.

Letters received after the deadline will not be published. Maximum length is 600 words. The last day the News and Tribune will publish election-related letters before the election is Friday, Nov. 1.

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Now for a sample letter.

Incumbent Gahan best choice for mayor

I read Randy Smith’s letter of Sept. 26 and could not disagree more with his assertions. Smith, a long-time and well-known political opponent of Mayor Gahan ...

Well, let's see. If this letter writer, who apparently is an officer in a regional electrician's union that previously has donated to Payhan's campaign ... and who quite possibly is benefiting from the boom borne of Beach Blanket TIF Bingo ... utterly fails to note all this background in his puff piece, then I'm not really obliged to link to it.

What's more, I've also been "a long-time and well-known political opponent of Mayor Gahan."

How 'bout some equal time, Mr. May?

Video: The Treuhand (1991-94), and how newly reunited Germany put capitalism back together again in the former GDR.



November 9, 2019 will be the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's obsolescence. Communism's collapse was followed by a period of intense politicking, resulting in the unification of the two German states on October 3, 1990.

It was said at the time that while the planet had numerous examples of how to turn an economy from capitalist to communist, no one yet knew how to flip it the other way around.

The video explains how Germany did it.

In many respects the process wasn't pretty, although it bears recalling that for better or worse -- maybe bits of both -- East Germany was the only East Bloc nation to have a "West" half capable of absorbing it.

Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the others had their own privatization procedures, and controversies. When it came to figuring out how to return seized assets, these nations often had to extend the verification period into the 1930s to account for both Nazi and Communist expropriations.   

It's the stuff of history geeks, but some readers will enjoy this video as much as I did.

East Germany and the difficult legacy of the Treuhand (Deutsche Welle)

The word 'Treuhand' still triggers stronger reactions in eastern Germany. For millions of former East Germans, the change from a planned to a market economy meant unemployment - and an affront that still rankles today.

As President of the Treuhandanstalt, the agency charged with privatizing the old East German economy from 1991 to 1994, Birgit Breuel pushed ahead with painful privatizations and the closure of thousands of companies - and became the hated symbol of the transition to a market economy. After decades of silence, she returns to this chapter of her life and talks in detail about a time when everything was running full speed ahead and rational decisions to completely rebuild a country needed to be taken. How did she make her decisions? How does she rate them in retrospect? And what motivated her to take on such a mammoth task at all? How much leeway did the Treuhand have? Were there any other ways to turn the former East German economy around? The filmmakers interview managers, politicians and experts about the work, goals and challenges of the Treuhand, diving back into the heady years from 1990 to 1994 and illuminating the backgrounds and consequences that still have an effect today.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Emissions, omissions, intermissions -- whatever. Anyone seen that cigar box?


The Green Mouse (it's "viridi mus" in Latin) has a hobby. The mouse follows the money, and the trail usually doesn't lead to places that are all that surprising -- pay-to-play schemes aren't exactly a game of chess -- but at times something turns up that causes even the Sagua Berdea (Basque) to shake his head in amazement.

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Consequently, the Mouse says the county auditor's office may not be the only place that a financial misfeasance scandal is afoot. Let's just say there's a lot of scrambling on the north end of a certain floor of the main building at 300 Hauss Square. Is it felony or misdemeanor? And if so, would Keith Henderson prosecute?

What's the penalty for that?

Forced resignation?

Disqualification from future ballots?

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Wednesday) The shopping cart mayor's cartoonish veneer of a personality cult. Where do we tithe, Leader Dearest?


Last week was Harvest Homecoming, and my city's favorite amok time kept me pinned to the tarmac, but now we're back to what passes for normal here in New Gahania, where "We're All Here Because We're Not All THERE."

This week as a run-up to Decision 2019, I'm headed back into the ON THE AVENUES archive for five straight days of devastatingly persuasive arguments against four more years of the Gahan Family Values™ Personality Cult. I've already made the case for Mark Seabrook as mayor. Now let's return to the voluminous case against Gahanism in five informative and entertaining installments.

It is likely that posterity will view May, 2017 as the period when Jeff Gahan's ludicrous cult of personality spectacularly jumped the shark.


Gahan had only recently seized the New Albany Housing Authority with a publicly stated vow to bulldoze half the units, and now he was encouraging us to shop at just one bloated supermarket chain to the exclusion of others -- unless the city eventually might choose to pay for his re-election ad placements at Aldi and Wally World, too.

What's next, Big Lots?


Maybe the ads were free, intended as barter for the perfectly functional fire station the city razed (at a loss to taxpayers) so as to facilitate Kroger's ginormous enlargement.

Two years later, some of the Kroger shopping carts still bear the mark of the Anchor King.




Shopping cart worship portals weren't the first manifestation of Jeff Gahan's "inspired by Pyongyang" personality cult. In the grand tradition of failed watercolor artists, seminary students and cobblers, this middling veneer salesman concluded early in the game that destiny was clearing a path for his brilliance -- and we've been reminded of it on a daily basis ever since. 

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Monday) The Reisz Mahal luxury city hall, perhaps the signature Gahan boondoggle.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Tuesday) Gahan the faux historic preservationist demolishes the historic structure -- with abundant malice.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Wednesday) The shopping cart mayor's cartoonish veneer of a personality cult. Where do we tithe, Leader Dearest?

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May 14, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: Take this cult of personality and shove it.

Human psychology is a nuanced and often bewildering topic, but it’s probably safe to assert that to some vague extent with respect to interpersonal relationships, most of us want to be liked, and prefer being liked to being feared.

(Note that in this digression, I have no intention of trying to fathom what it means to be “liked” on Facebook)

Meanwhile, as always in the real world, the devil resides fully within the details.

Getting along with people and being liked are two very different issues. To get along with someone requires that you figure out how to balance meeting your needs with that of another person until the two of you arrive at a resolution. Your best chances of being liked occur when you go along with the desires of other even if it means sacrificing your personal goals. To be liked means that other people have positive associations to you so that when they see or think about you, it's with a mental smile.
What about if you don't particularly care about being liked? You have a job to do, for example, that involves your making tough decisions that possibly cause other people to resent your or, at best, prefer to stay out of your way. When they think of you, it's with an active sense that being with you will cause them more pain than pleasure.

If human psychology is a tangled wilderness of conditioned responses and primal screams, consider the genre of politics.

Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, definition "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities.

In the context of politics, which pertain to invasive concepts like power, control and authority, what does it mean to be liked?

Are our likes and dislikes personal, or professional?

Can politicians be inspiring, totemic figures, or do we merely tolerate them as a regrettable but necessary evil?

---

Longtime readers already know about my youthful travel experiences in Europe, and how these wanderings dovetailed with previous university studies in history, geography and philosophy, producing the opportunity to witness, albeit it briefly, the phenomenon of 20th-century communism in places like Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.

At my point of debut in the mid-1980s, this political system didn’t have very long to survive, but of course this couldn’t be known at the time. During the post-war period in these places I visited, the theory and practice of communism actually was subject to change, though most often for reasons of ideology (and international power politics) rather than any natural evolutionary process.

I’ve told the story of Ladislav, with whom I became acquainted in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia in 1989. He was 65 years old, and had observed his country’s period of hopeful interwar democracy, then a devastating conflict, to be followed by the imposition of communism by the occupying Soviets and a subsequent four decades of historical entrapment.

Ladislav would have been just shy of 30 years of age when Joseph Stalin died in 1953, a termination which led to a brief period of communist reform and softening under Khrushchev.

Czechoslovakia’s own indigenous version of Stalin, a nonentity named Klement Gottwald, died of his excesses shortly after Stalin’s funeral and was replaced by Antonín Zápotocký, who gifted Prague with a huge statue of Stalin on a hillside overlooking the Vltava River.

Interestingly, the sculptor was so filled with remorse that he committed suicide prior to the unveiling, and the statue was dynamited in 1962 after one shifting of socio-political breezes, and just prior to the next.

It would be very hard to maintain the illusion than any of the men mentioned here were “liked” in ways we might fathom -- not even by their wives and children, although perhaps by their dogs. And yet, they were obeyed, venerated and even worshipped in a political-cum-religious sense, surely out of fear, but also because they had erected and encouraged personality cults to reinforce their positions.

Khrushchev the successor pilloried Stalin for his cult of personality. Ironically, the philosophical father of them both, Karl Marx, disdained the notion.

Cult of personality is a pejorative term implying the concentration of all power in a single charismatic leader within a totalitarian state and the near deification of that leader in state propaganda. Totalitarian regimes use the state-controlled mass media to cultivate a larger-than-life public image of the leader through unquestioning flattery and praise. Leaders are lauded for their extraordinary courage, knowledge, wisdom, or any other superhuman quality necessary for legitimating the totalitarian regime. The cult of personality serves to sustain such a regime in power, discourage open criticism, and justify whatever political twists and turns it may decide to take.

Many Americans will scoff, dismissing these examples as unique, arising from diseased ideals amid peculiar historical imperatives, and taking place in the lives of other people, elsewhere.

Unfortunately, cults of personality are American, too, and can exist in a democracy just as easily as in a totalitarian system of government. George Washington was resistant, and Huey Long obliging. No matter the locale, certain themes in a cult of personality are constant.

The political platform has no independent existence apart from the leader, and the political process is utterly dependent on the leader for guidance.

Manifestations of activity on the part of government also are promoted as inseparable from the leader’s benevolence, and while the leader may have utilized resources theoretically shared equally by his or her subjects, the results must always be portrayed as stemming from the wisdom of the leader.

Mistakes never occur, and when they do, they’re never, ever acknowledged even as minions pay the price.

The leader’s pre-eminence is reinforced by the constant repetition of mass marketing, including the leader’s name and image as attached to almost anything lacking the good sense to move out of the way.

Contemporary electronic media surely assists the cause of building a leader’s cult of personality, but it must be remembered that the Roman Catholic Church was adept at pursuing the same strategy for its papacy long before electricity and the outsourcing of Twitter feeds.

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Often during the course of my own beer business, there have existed the temptation to indulge in precisely this sort of self-deification. I wouldn’t have been the first, and regrettably, I wasn’t immune to periods of relaxed vigilance, which are characterized by reading one’s press clippings (especially his own) and believing what they say.

What kept me grounded most of the time was the simple realization that I was part of a team, and the daily efforts of the team resulted in satisfied customers, who returned and made possible the survival of the business. I played one role, and it was just that: One part among many, inter-related, and meaningless when separated from the whole.

Perhaps politics works somewhat like this, and perhaps it doesn’t, but either way, the very notion of a personality cult is deeply offensive to me. What’s more, the greater our proximity to it, the more indefensible a cult of personality becomes.

If functioning as an elected official means a stock photograph behind everyone’s desk, daily laudatory references, names on plaques and a ceaseless perpetuation of peerless wisdom, then the wheels have jumped the track.

Those of Ladislav’s generation in Eastern Europe and the USSR had no say in the personality cults inflicted upon them. Those of my generation in America have a ballot box. It’s an interesting tool, and when used properly, acts as kryptonite to the cult.

Just remember that, because very soon, you’ll have a chance to act accordingly.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Carnegie Center's meet and greet on Friday evening at Pints&union with Hunger Skateparks, designer of the New Albany Flow Park.


Meet & Greet: Hunger Skateparks is a program on Friday evening, October 18 (6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.), hosted by the Carnegie Center for Art and History and Pints&union. It will take place upstairs at the pub.

Guests are Bart Smith and Christy Wiesenhahn, owners of Hunger Skateparks, the design and build team of the New Albany Flow Park, the region's first "public art skatepark." Carnegie Center curator Daniel Pfalzgraf will guide a chat with Smith and Wiesenhahn, including question and answer time.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Tuesday) Gahan the faux historic preservationist demolishes the historic structure -- with abundant malice.


Last week was Harvest Homecoming, and my city's favorite festival kept me pinned to the tarmac, but now we're back to what passes for normal here in New Gahania, where "We're All Here Because We're Not All THERE."

This week as a run-up to Decision 2019, I'm headed back into the ON THE AVENUES archive for five straight days of devastatingly persuasive arguments against four more years of the Gahan Family Values™ Personality Cult.

I've already made the argument for Mark Seabrook as mayor. Now let's return to the voluminous case against Gahanism in five informative and entertaining installments.

In the following saga of the demolition of Haughey's Tavern in the autumn of 2014, you'll see all the elements of virulent Gahanism falling into place. There is the mayor's instinct for self-deification, his pathological secrecy, and the bullying of subordinates (note that John Gonder was targeted for defeat by his own party in 2015 owing to this and other examples of independent thinking).

Another fascinating repercussion of the Haughey's fix in 2014 is fully applicable to the Reisz Mahal boondoggle in 2018.


Greg Sekula of Indiana Landmarks called Gahan's bluff the first time, so when the mayor needed to reverse field and lie shamelessly and publicly about his historic preservation credentials in order to bring about the luxury city hall expenditure, he staged a creative end-around.

Payhan simply bought off the preservationist bloc with the bait of the old Baity funeral home (now serving as Landmarks headquarters), then deployed a pliant and enfeebled David Barksdale (a presumed Republican) as the fifth "aye" in a controversial city council vote.

We don't term Gahan's milieu a swamp for nothing.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Monday) The Reisz Mahal luxury city hall, perhaps the signature Gahan boondoggle.

GIVE GAHAN THE BOOT: (Tuesday) Gahan the faux historic preservationist demolishes the historic structure -- with abundant malice.

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October 2, 2014

ON THE AVENUES: Now on tap at the ghost of Haughey's Place: The politics of pure spite.

Whether or not it's historic isn't really relevant. Randomly tearing down what for all we know is a perfectly salvageable, useful commercial building in a neighborhood that needs them isn't cleaning up. It's just destroying assets, a waste in itself. If there's a rational case to be made for why the building isn't usable, no one from the City has made it.

The mayor says there's a post-demolition plan for the lot but it's a secret that can't be revealed to the neighborhood. Councilman Phipps, who represents the neighborhood, says there is not a plan, or maybe there is, and, if there is one, he shouldn't really tell us what it is anyway.

There's far more dirtying up than cleaning up going on.

-- Jeff Gillenwater, on Facebook

“The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.”

-- Jared Diamond, in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed"

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In the frustrating weeks prior to the pre-ordained demolition of the historic Haughey tavern building at 922 Culbertson, numerous efforts were made by this blog to coax someone/anyone in city government to explain the sudden haste in destroying it, apart from the purely shambolic and theatrical "public safety" subterfuges, repeated like bureaucratic mantras, over and over again.

Even the customarily somnolent newspaper ventured a few sparsely tepid inquiries, although as usual, it couldn’t locate an editorial standpoint amid the profusion of rollover videos.

There were many questions, and the city batted them all away, preferring to conduct its predatory business in private, via a combination of overweening silence and condescending press releases.

Disturbingly, our 3rd district councilman Greg Phipps also took a vacuous pass on the topic, resorting to startlingly evasive academic sophistry when directly questioned about plans for the future of the cleared space, all this despite numerous substantive explanations of the building's value, both in a contemporary sustainable neighborhood sense (Gillenwater’s oft-repeated remarks above) and by area journalists without snarky bones to pick (see "Historic Culbertson tavern demolished", by Baylee Pulliam in the Courier-Journal)

All such efforts at transparence came abruptly to rest at what has become the single enduring symbol of Jeff Gahan's mayoral administration: A big, honking, impermeable stone wall.

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Afterward, as the fully jigged dust was settling over the rubble, Gahan finally released his explanation, announcing what we'd all suspected was true from the start: A top secret agreement already was in place for an as yet undisclosed builder to erect two houses on the lot – hence the many rumors postulating Habitat for Humanity’s involvement, which were denied by the organization, but now can be seen as harbingers of a fix, all in.

We don't know who’ll be building these houses, or why this information could not be released before 922 Culbertson came to earth. Maybe it since has been announced in classic governmental fait accompli fashion, as filtered on Facebook by city hall’s chosen content provider, or hidden somewhere within daytime commission meeting minutes.

But make no mistake: This quote by Mayor Gahan surely speaks volumes.

“After the construction of these homes are completed, no one will miss the dilapidated structure that was at 922 Culbertson Ave.”

You’ll note Gahan's presumptive use of the term "dilapidated."

It is a characteristically passive/aggressive way of having the last word in a contest of wills, which few community members ever knew took place. His choice of post-mortem language, aimed at mocking the building's presumed decay, is telling. It is anti-intellectual, and it is an intentional dig at his critics.

Gahan could not bring himself to reveal details of this bold, shining path of a future for the corner lot as justification before irrevocably removing a piece of New Albany's drinking history, but evidently there was a “plan” all along, and our own councilman was bizarrely willing to abet the charade by assuaging his suburban aesthetic sensibilities.

Unfortunately, there always will be questions as to the nature of the presumed decay. How dilapidated was it? As Jeff Gillenwater wrote:

There's been no evidence provided by the City or anyone else that it's rotting apart. The building has never been publicly marketed like a regular property to potential buyers. The proposed sale price has never been publicly shared.

So... we don't know what kind of shape it's actually in, what the price is, or how any stipulations put on the property by the City might be defined.

Based on not telling the public what specifically is wrong with the building and needs to be fixed and not really ever trying to sell it at a known price that reflects repair needs, city officials have somehow - magic, perhaps - determined there's no interest in it.

This knowledge, if any, was kept safely controlled within the inner sanctum. The city wouldn’t release it, and the council (perhaps excepting John Gonder) didn’t care to ask about it.

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The Green Mouse did some digging, and he reports that at least some aspects of the 922 Culbertson anti-transparency debacle might be explained by Gahan's determination to establish authority over the Indiana Landmarks Foundation and its local overseer, Greg Sekula.

According to insiders, Sekula took Gahan to task early in the pre-programmed 922 Culbertson demolition farce, demanding that the mayor protect the building after he learned that siding and other architectural elements were being harvested from the structure. Sekula then went public to demand that Landmarks be given time to broker a preservative outcome.

It’s all too clear, isn't it?

With the mayor having conceded moments after the demolition that a mysterious, secret infill “plan” was in place all along, and with the very existence of this unrevealed plan neatly explaining the city’s ongoing reluctance to clearly explicate the building’s presumed decay – again, other than to insist that the same “public safety” concerns currently unenforced on hazardous one-way streets pressingly applied to this one, lone building sans any semblance of due diligence – it is obvious that Sekula made the error of fatally intruding into what was, in effect, a finished deal, one done dirt cheap in timeless and enduring New Albany civic fashion.

The result? Vindictiveness, an iron fist, and the loss of something irreparable. The Green Mouse’s contact had this to say:

Sekula daring to do his job apparently violated Gahan’s principles, because he “owns” the town since being elected God of New Albany, and so Landmarks gets nothing from now on, even if they offer up the best plan. Gahan was defied, and that’s now allowed, and so he has turned his guns on Landmarks, and Sekula especially. It's fine by me. Now that the rats are devouring one another, maybe there actually is something to karma.

What remains in the wake of 922 Culbertson's demise? For starters, there's an administration sworn to pathological secrecy, displaying a pervasive need to control information that approaches Nixonian proportions.

There's also a question of whether we have a participatory city council in any coherent sense. When was the last time that the council president Pat McLaughlin could be seen to veer from city hall’s proscribed diktat-of-the-moment? To be sure, Gonder has dared to do so -- and now finds himself on the municipal “shit list,” to be excluded even further from insight into state secrets.

The “shit list” continues to grow, and those of us inhabiting it may need to relocate to a more expansive holding pen. Maybe it’s time for us to buy a dorm fridge, paper plates, some picture frames and furniture, and decorate a bit.

Does anyone know where those 922 Culbertson fixtures are being stored?