Wednesday, April 25, 2018

In New Albany, Jeff Gahan still is "cowering before the demands of drivers," but "more and more cities are deciding to wrest control of their streets back from the tyranny of the automobile."

Thanks, B.

Jeff Speck devised a plan for downtown street grid reform. It was emasculated by Deaf Gahan's anointed and indemnified cleaver-wielding assassins at HWC Engineering. Gahan declared victory and moved to the next opportunity to bundle campaign finance.

In New Albany and Florida, bicyclists and pedestrians remain at risk when planners refuse the change car-centric nature of the street grid.

Jeff Gahan's de-Specked two-way street reversion led HWC Engineering to tack on bike and pedestrian infrastructure without changing the car-centric nature of the state's transportation planning.

Actually, almost all the biking infrastructure suggested by Speck was removed amid gleeful cheering by the irresolute likes of CM Greg Phipps (has he ever actually been on a bicycle?), but the analogy holds.

The two-way street grid project has not been transformative because Gahan didn't allow it to be ...

There's plenty of cowering and cowardice in New Albany. Maybe -- just maybe -- in 2019 we can start the process of changing the retrograde default into a paradigm that looks forward.

#FireGahan2019

Cars Are Ruining Our Cities, by Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey (New York Times)

(Mr. Gillis is working on a book about climate change. Mr. Harvey is the chief executive of the research firm Energy Innovation.)

SAN FRANCISCO — We might be living through a new age of miracles. Last month, Los Angeles decided against adding lanes to a freeway, an unexpected move in a city that has mistakenly thought for years that more lanes mean fewer traffic jams.

Shortly before that, Germany’s highest court ruled that diesel cars could be banned from city centers to clean up the air. Mind you, Germany is the land where diesel technology was invented ...

 ... As we write these words, we can sense the bile rising in some drivers. Americans have such a sense of entitlement about cars that any attempt to limit them can provoke a fight, as New York has discovered.

Yet the truth is that people who drive into a crowded city are imposing costs on others. They include not just reduced mobility for everyone and degraded public space, but serious health costs ...

The bottom line?

The bottom line is that the decision to turn our public streets so completely over to the automobile, as sensible as it might have seemed decades ago, nearly wrecked the quality of life in our cities.

The shrinking remnants of Moser Tannery can't take much more of this strange "love" from Team Gahan.


There was a fire over the weekend at, in or near the former Moser Tannery, which the city of New Albany purchased last year as part of its plan to render the Loop Island Wetlands into a proper, campaign-finance-accruing parks unit for the greater glory of Gahanism.

WDRB mentioned the fire, but did not follow-up. Don't even ask about the Collected Works of Tom May, formerly known as the 'Bune, which evidently was busy sponsoring a barbecue coloring book contest somewhere near River Ridge.

The fire was the second in the vicinity of the tannery since early March, when a late-model industrial warehouse adjacent to the remaining brick building went up in flames. 

Is it just me, or has the abuse of the tannery site -- graffiti, vandalism, garbage and fires -- escalated noticeably since City Hall (ahem) took control?

I'm sure Dear Leader's official party line still calls for the reclamation of the main structure into something suitably luxurious to impel the mayor up from the bunker and out for a ribbon-cutting.

But right about now, it looks like the longer the city sits tight doing nothing at the Moser footprint, the greater chance there'll be nothing left to do anything with. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

LIVE TO EAT: The News and Tribune really likes A.S.S.

Now THAT's a great multinational beer list.

Allow me to make an observation, but before I do, kindly note that my point is not directed at the establishment known as A.S.S. -- or, American Smokehouse Stadium, which is located somewhere in Jeffersonville, slightly removed from my usual migratory route.

Mundane beer list aside, I have nothing whatever against the establishment, and what's more, I don't know anyone involved with it -- and by the way, A.S.S. is not a dig; it's purely intentional on the part of ownership (see logo above).

May they live long and prosper.

Rather, I find it fascinating that today's News and Tribune article about A.S.S. is the third one since September last year, and the second to be tagged as a "feature."

The first article previewed the restaurant, the second surveyed its progress, and the third (today's) offered insights into a recent ownership shuffle and menu reboot by a new chef.

In short, the sort of routine things that occur fairly regularly in the restaurant business.

 

Am I missing something?

Is it normal for one restaurant of many to be given this much attention?

How many local restaurants have had three separate News and Tribune stories in a seven-month period?

Does Bill Hanson's nephew work at A.S.S.?

Is the restaurant paying to play, given all this coverage?

Or, is A.S.S. the one cowering in terror behind the cabinetry -- "please, no, not another article; coverage from the Tom May Gazette is the kiss of death."

With the newspaper two reporters down (Morris on leave and nary a replacement for the departed Beilman), New Albanians already know which areas of coverage will be cut first.

Perhaps there are two asses, not just one.

ASK THE BORED ENCORE: What the hell do we do when a street light is out? Shouldn't this Duke Energy link be featured on the city's web site?


Today's installment of ASK THE BORED is an updated encore presentation of an unanswered question from November of 2016. 

---

You're outside walking the pooch after dark, and you trip on a malformed sidewalk that hasn't been repaired since the Kennedy years.

"Damn," you curse. "If only the street light would have been functional, I could have minded the gap."

And so you go to the city's snazzy upgraded web site, the one where you're greeted by a billboard-sized portrait of Our Beloved Leader, in order to report the street light outage, because you know the sidewalk's gonna be toast at least until the second Chelsea Clinton administration.


So much for that -- and be aware that searching for street light, street lamp and their plurals also comes up empty.

Surmising that the city probably has outsourced all such matters to the utility monopolies, which play a central role in campaign finance for those aspiring to be President Chelsea's local branded representative, you're off to Google.


Problem is, Duke says "no can do" in Indiana.

However, hit another link recently posted on a Facebook page, and there's this.


It appears to be a procedure for reporting street light outages. I tried it this evening (marked in red below).


This week's question to the Bored, destined to remain unanswered just like the rest: Exactly what is the procedure for reporting a street light outage? Is it Duke, or must citizens take a half day off from work to pay homage to Chairman Warren in person?

And: Shouldn't this information be on the city's web site?

Also this: Is it Happy Hour yet?

Martin Luther "prefigured modern-day evangelicalism, and a look back at his life can help explain why so many evangelicals support Trump today."


In 1989 during my month's stay in East Germany, three of us skipped work one day and took the train to Lutherstadt Wittenberg on the Elbe River to the southwest of Berlin.

Wittenberg is where Martin Luther may have posted his 95 theses on the cathedral door (this isn't definitively known), but it's definitely where he kicked off the Protestant Reformation. Soon I'm hoping to begin digitalizing the slides from the trip, and maybe after seeing the photos I'll remember a bit more about the day apart from buying bottles of beer and drinking all the way back to base camp.

All I knew about Donald Trump in 1989 is what I'd read while abstracting magazine articles at the long defunct UMI-Data Courier. It wasn't a favorable appraisal, and my impression cannot be said to have improved.

Trump's more vinegar than vintage wine ... but when it comes to the sweet taste of exposing the breathtaking fraudulence of white American evangelicals, I've got to hand it to the kitschmeister. It may be the only mission he's accomplished as president, but I cannot think of a more important one.

How Martin Luther Paved the Way for Donald Trump, by Michael Massing (The Nation)

To understand why evangelicals support the president, look to the first Protestant.

 ... The verdict is clear: In supporting this thrice-married, coarse, boastful, divisive, and xenophobic president, evangelicals are betraying the true nature of Christianity. In making such charges, however, these commentators are championing their own particular definition of Christianity. It is the Christianity of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus blesses the meek, disdains the rich, welcomes the stranger, counsels humility, and encourages charity. “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” he declares—a most un-Trumpian sentiment.

Yet this irenic message is just one strain in the New Testament. There’s another, more bellicose one. In Matthew, for instance, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword”—to “set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” In John, he declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” and “no one comes to the Father except through me”—a statement long used to declare Christianity the one true path to salvation. The Book of Revelation describes with apocalyptic fury the locusts, scorpions, hail, fire, and other plagues that God will visit upon the earth to wipe out the unbelievers and prepare the way for the Messiah.

From the earliest days of the faith, this militant strand has coexisted with the more pacific one. And it was the former that stirred the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther. In his fierce ideas, vehement language, and combative intellectual style, Luther prefigured modern-day evangelicalism, and a look back at his life can help explain why so many evangelicals support Trump today.

In defending the cause of Christ, Luther was uncompromising. No one, he wrote, should think that the Gospel “can be advanced without tumult, offense and sedition.” The “Word of God is a sword, it is war and ruin and offense and perdition and poison.” In Luther’s famous dispute with Erasmus of Rotterdam over free will and predestination, the renowned Dutch humanist suggested that the two of them debate the matter civilly, given that both were God-fearing Christians and that the Bible was far from clear on the subject. Exploding in fury, Luther insisted that predestination was a core Christian doctrine on which he could not yield and that Erasmus’s idea that they agree to disagree showed he was not a true Christian ...

Monday, April 23, 2018

THE BEER BEAT: Speakeasies here, speakeasies there, and not an original thought to be found anywhere.


It's far easier to be "magical" when your family has profited immensely from LEGAL liquor sales, the budget is unlimited, and you're not scraping for crumbs to implement good ideas -- but money can buy neither love nor an exemption from imminent prosecution for inexcusably pretentious word abuse.

The CJ's writer somehow keeps a straight face, this being a skill I never learned.

Blink and you might miss the latest trend to hit Louisville bars: Speakeasies, by Bailey Loosemore (Louisville Courier Journal)

 ... "It's sort of out of time and out of space," said Maud Welch, co-owner of Hell or High Water in downtown Louisville. "You walk in and you feel like you're part of an escape."

Welch and her brother, Stirling Welch, opened Hell or High Water earlier this year after spending 18 months constructing their bar within the Whiskey Row development.

The Louisville native said she was inspired by the speakeasy trend that picked up in New York during the four years she lived there.

"I just fell in love with the concept, especially in New York where in the hustle and bustle, you were able to go into these hidden underground spaces to have a quiet moment with a friend," Welch said. "It was pretty magical."

All together now:

"Speakeasy" is voyeurism, channeling the thrill of that danger without having to encounter it.

---

From June 2, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: "Please stop calling your legal, open-to-the-public bar a 'speakeasy' " -- and other adventures in fake news.

Allow me to suggest that far too many lamentations about the scourge of "fake news" are found to emanate from those who routinely and unquestioningly absorb vast mounds of extraneous bilge written and photographed in the service of food and drink promotion.

It isn't so much that many of the press releases I read from food and drink businesses are badly written, though stunningly often, they are.

Cringing in the expectation of further abuse is no way to enjoy your morning coffee.

Rather, it's when these hype sheets refer to the imperative of Hagio-Simmered Whey Encrusted Virgin Pork Gills, somehow combining pretentiousness, snobbery and loin of PT Barnum in a single phrase. We're supposed to nod knowingly, so that others will, too, even if none of us has any idea what it means.

As another example, a word like "speakeasy," unraveled here. To use this word without having a clue as to its proper context and historical meaning ... well, is that not fake?

If it isn't fake, what is?

And before someone asks, the late Speakeasy in New Albany was a restaurant, bar and musical venue that didn't claim to be something it wasn't. It was a proper name, not an implied identity. 

Fantasy is fun, and it appears that vast numbers of us were raised on pretending, though spouting utter nonsense doesn't make you a card-carrying member of the 1%, precisely because the 1% still holds all the cards -- and intends to keep it that way.

Better to learn something, act on one's convictions and teach the coming generations how life really works. End-times extravaganzas financed by plastic might prove only to presage the end times. I'd prefer to think and move otherwise.

I remain supportive of the various revolutions in food and drink, and always will, but the time has long since passed to raise a hand and call "bullshit," whether to drivel oozed by national political figures, local economic dishevelment directors or the posturing that accompanies restaurant openings and new beer releases.

Now, I'm going to make a statement (again) without really knowing how I intend to back it up, but speaking only for myself: It's back to hitting fungoes and shooting those hundred free throws every day. My world needs to be about fundamentals, genuineness and dependability. The train must become reacquainted with the rails, and those rules that matter learned prior to breaking them.

Rant over. Enjoy your damned weekend.

Please stop calling your legal, open-to-the-public bar a "speakeasy", by Esther Mobley (SF Gate)

Just because your bar doesn't have a sign does not make it a "speakeasy."

Other features that, sorry, still don't make it a speakeasy: a hidden door. A reservation-only policy. An intimidating gatekeeper.

And here's something that definitely precludes your bar from being a speakeasy: You send out press releases and post endless photos on Instagram, no matter how many old-timey mustaches or antique medicine bottles may appear in said photos.

For a while I've been biting my tongue, willing to let this term go the way of "handmade" or "artisanal," wearing itself out to the point of meaninglessness. But it's gone too far now.

The latest offender is the Grid, the new "Tron"-themed "speakeasy" inside the arcade-cum-bar Coin-Op. (Though there's some confusion even among its operators about what to call it: All press releases call it a "speakeasy." But one partner prefers "VIP lounge" to "speakeasy," which, don't even get me started on "VIP lounge.")

Choices, choices: Will the GOP's new "Opportunity Zones" further incentivize the gentrification Deaf Gahan encourages as a DemoDisneyDixiecrat?


A breathless tout of a press release ran under the radar at the end of last week owing to fireworks mania, and it reads every bit as dismally as if it had been submitted to the understaffed and hapless News & Tribune by One Southern Indiana itself.

Actually, since Wendy Dant Chesser is prominently featured, it probably was, and you can hear the advice from the 1Si break room: heck, just send it to the 'Bune -- they'll print anything.

Note the euphoria over mere nominations to an awards program as yet largely undefined. There may be no winners to date, but the decision is coming soon, and the same old SoIn economic dishevelment grandees want you to know they're on the scent of trickle-down, not to mention tinkle-over.

Five SoIN areas nominated for federal incentives program

SOUTHERN INDIANA — Five areas in Clark and Floyd counties have been nominated as Opportunity Zones, a federal program that provides tax incentives to attract private sector investment to low-income urban and rural communities. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday that he submitted a total of 156 census tracts from 58 counties to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury for the program.

  • Clarksville tract 18019050401 - The approximate 1400-acre tract is bordered by Browns Station Way to the north, the Ohio River to the south, Jeffersonville to the east, and New Albany to the west.
  • Jeffersonville tract 18019050199 - The heart of downtown Jeffersonville with the Ohio River to its south, across from downtown Louisville.
  • Charlestown tract 18019050903 - This tract is located adjacent to River Ridge Commerce Center (RRCC), the premier industrial park with 6,000 prime acres under development in the Midwest’s top-ranked business environment.
  • New Albany tracts 18043070400 and 18043070500 – Central to the City of New Albany’s recent reinvention and rise as a destination for traveling foodies, shoppers and residents alike, this census tract is ripe with opportunities for future growth.

A detailed map showing all 156 nominations

Let's try to unearth a semblance of context. Whatever it is, this sorta/kinda/maybe "opportunity zone" covers vast tracts of SoIn near the banks of the Ohio, and it's something to do with the GOP's purported tax cuts and the pressing need for the rich to become even wealthier.

Opportunity Zones In Indiana

Public Law 115-97, also known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, allows the Governor of each state to nominate certain census tracts as "Opportunity Zones".

This seems important: "low-income communities." Is there smoke from third-floor windows yet?

OPPORTUNITY ZONES: A NEW INCENTIVE FOR INVESTING IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES

The Opportunity Zones program is designed to incentivize patient capital investments in low-income communities nationwide. All of the underlying incentives relate to the tax treatment of capital gains, and
all are tied to the longevity of an investor’s stake in a qualified Opportunity Fund, providing the most upside to those who hold their investment for 10 years or more.

Spoiler alert: there also are dissenters, and some of them aren't socialists like me.

Will Opportunity Zones help distressed residents or be a tax cut for gentrification? by Adam Looney (Brookings)

... There is no evidence that the design of Opportunity Zones will be as effective as Empowerment Zones or other redevelopment efforts, particularly when it comes to benefits to local residents. Moreover, the theoretical effect of the Zone tax subsidies on local residents is ambiguous. It’s a subsidy based on capital appreciation, not on employment or local services, and includes no provisions intended to retain local residents or promote inclusive housing.

I'm both repelled and fascinated for reasons of local propaganda and politics.

Imagine you're Deaf Gahan (insert anguished scream here). Deaf's a good DNC center-right Democrat, one presumably opposed to the GOP's tax cuts even if he supports escalating the enrichment of capital accumulators, so long as they donate to Gahan4Life.

Now a Republican governor sitting atop a solidly Republican state apparatus has embraced a Republican-driven tax cut for wealthy investors, and that's all hunky-dory, except by doing so, he has simultaneously declared Gahan's anchor-laden Giddy Giddy City to be a Potemkin pretend-facade.

Actually, says Holcomb, downtown's a low-income wasteland in need of rescue by wealthy, GOP-suckling hoarders -- and of course, Dant Chesser nods vigorously in approval.

But downtown is Gahan's triumph, isn't it?

He says so all the time. From the moment Deaf was sworn into office, he's been taking credit for single-handedly rescuing downtown from all those Democratic predecessors, whose names appear seldom in the victorious and increasingly Orwellian narrative centering on Gahan's personality cult.

From Trump through Holcomb, and including Dant Chesser and other groveling functionaries, Gahan's pride and joy has been pinpointed as an area of economic devastation meriting alms from the rich, effectively yanking a plank of the re-election platform out from under the mayor's bunker-sore feet.

If downtown is so rosy that affordable housing units can be destroyed at will (see "Duggins Does the NAHA," weekly in this space), then how can it be that the GOP is free to declare it a disaster?

It gets even trickier.

If Gahan fights against the GOP's Opportunity Zone program, he'll be depicted as rejecting worthwhile potential cash infusions; at the same time, seeing as one of many progressive cases against the zones involves potential gentrification, well, gentrification is exactly what Team Gahan's been seeking all along.

Is Dear Leader for or against "opportunity zones"?

We may need a theologian to help unravel this pretzel, and fortunately, the nullpaper currently has two of them writing each Sunday. As for me, it's perilously close to beer-thirty ... and our overall problem hasn't changed.

10 years ago today, Barack Obama was in New Albany.

I hadn't yet joined Facebook, Bank Street Brewhouse didn't exist, and Doug England had only just started his third (and final) term as mayor of New Albany.

It was April 23, 2008, and presidential candidate Barack Obama was in New Albany, Indiana. Not only did Obama go on to become the first ever African-American president, but he even won the state of Indiana in the general election that November.

In short, it was a thousand years ago.

---

Today in New Albany: Barack Obama and a full house.



Barack Obama was in New Albany today, appearing for a "town hall" meeting in the Activities Building at Indiana University Southeast. I took a few photos, few of which are presentable.


Progressive Pints were absent, but so was good ol' country cookin', so it was a wash in that department.


There's going to be an Obama event at the Public House on Saturday afternoon. Since the event is still being organized, I can't tell you any more at this point. Stay tuned.

---

And a follow-up from April 24, 2008.

---

Far better photos from yesterday's Obama visit to New Albany.


That's because I didn't take them. They're either by an anonymous donor or TS. First up is an excellent view of Floyd County party chairman Randy Stumler.


The remainder are of the guest Senator from Illinois. Pick Barack, or select Hillary, but one thing's crystal clear: The GOP catastrophe of eight years running bears immediate correction. Show trials, anyone?



Sunday, April 22, 2018

If the pickup truck killed the boy, then charge it. Charge SOMETHING or SOMEONE.


Three times, the newspaper of record stated that a pickup truck struck a boy. Italics have been added.

Texas Boy Killed by Truck as His School Held a Walkout on Guns, by Christina Caron (New York Times)

Photo credit: An 11-year-old boy died after being struck by a pickup truck as he tried to cross a busy highway in El Paso on Friday, the same day that his school and others nationwide held walkouts to protest gun violence.

An 11-year-old boy in El Paso died on Friday after getting hit by a pickup truck while his school held a walkout to protest gun violence.

“Obviously everybody’s in a state of shock,” Xavier De La Torre, the superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District, said at a news conference on Friday.

The boy, Jonathan Benko, and a group of about 12 to 15 other students from Parkland Middle School in El Paso decided not to participate in the walkout, and instead left the campus to visit a park on the other side of Loop 375, a busy highway that surrounds parts of the city, officials said.

Jonathan, a sixth grader and the last one to try to cross, was struck by a Ford F-150 pickup truck, Officer Darrel Petry, a spokesman for the El Paso Police Department, said on Saturday. He was transported to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where he died.

All that, and only then did the driver belatedly enter the story.

None of the other children were injured, Officer Petry said. The driver of the truck, who stayed on the scene, was uninjured. He was not charged, the police said.

Granted, it's important to know whether this was one of those newfangled driverless pickup trucks -- and it wasn't -- but moreover, given that the pickup truck hit the boy, why not charge the pickup truck, or not ... seeing as we seldom charge the driver?

Or do we always lede by blaming the vehicle so there's a reason not to think about the driver's role? Except, of course, the authorities would have gone after the driver full bore had he been drunk, as opposed to sober.

It's all very confusing.

Couldn't we just charge drivers who kill people?

Isn't that important?

From Colokial to DADA in two blocks or less, with a sideways glance at DNA's tacky mobster tactics.



The upshot: Colokial closes so its owner can transition to a different business model, and DADA moves from Underground Station into the vacated Colokial space because it needs more square footage, leaving behind an affordable slot that might be regarded as an incubator, or become the permanent location of a niche business.

It all makes perfect sense. To reiterate thoughts expressed in this space after Feast BBQ and Comfy Cow recently closed, downtown must be viewed as a dynamic in progress. As long as usable spaces are being occupied, there's nothing much else to say, and there'll be steps forward and backward. The aim is to keep moving forward.

Obviously, this doesn't excuse City Hall from maintaining infrastructure, or independent small business owners from cooperating; in both instances, we could be doing a better job of it.

It also points to the ongoing folly whereby Develop New Albany, the city's anointed events contractor, stages monthly merchant meetings to read top-down scrolls from Dear Leader rather than engaging folks who are investing with real money on the ground every day about ways to identify and address preconditions for successful commerce.

Lately DNA seems to spending the bulk of its time in an active effort to isolate and discredit former volunteer Kelly Winslow via the usual mobster tactics backed by the clout of Team Gahan.

Why? Because Winslow's non-subsidized grassroots New Albany Social is doing a better job than DNA with fewer resources (read: none), even as DNA's prerequisites when planning come-to-city events must always include a percentage of the take to pay a staff person's salary.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DNA's poorly concealed vendetta against Winslow owes to what the small-pond pillars perceive as a threat to their monopoly. It's sad and stupid, and amazingly, entrepreneurs continue to do what they do best, survive and sometimes thrive, set against this backdrop of Gahan-encouraged junior high school hijinks.

All the best to A Wild Guess and DADA.

ON THE AVENUES: New Albany's downtown food and dining scene is solid ... for now.

To me, job one remains encouraging density in downtown residency, not by bribing huge developers to pursue one or two showpiece projects, but providing fair incentives for a dozen smaller ones.

The more people living within walking and biking distance of historic downtown business district, the better the business climate, and the speedier the shift to balanced offerings; as Bluegill has been asking forever, how far must one walk from his or her home NOT to drink craft beer or eat Peruvian street food, but just buy a damn roll of toilet paper?

LIVE TO EAT: "Why restaurants became so loud — and how to fight back."

Decibels. Like a rock concert.

This article is far too detailed to summarize, so go over to Vox and absorb the whole of it. Design, intent and social trends help to explain the phenomenon of noise, but as someone who has traveled often overseas, #5 is both spot on and eternal. Jeeebus, we're loud.

Why restaurants became so loud — and how to fight back, by Julia Belluz (Vox)

 ... In reckoning with this underappreciated health threat, I’ve been wondering how we got here and why any well-meaning restaurateur would inflict this pain on his or her patrons and staff. I learned that there are a number of reasons — and they mostly have to do with restaurant design trends. In exposing them, I hope restaurateurs will take note: You may be deafening your staff and patrons. I also hope restaurant patrons will start, er, raising their voices about this, or voting with their feet.

1) “No one wants to walk into a mausoleum”
2) Good acoustics are expensive
3) A shift in restaurant aesthetics has had a huge impact on our ears
4) Some spaces — like former churches — will always be noisy when filled with people
5) Americans are loud

THE BEER BEAT: This humble plinth could be the spot where we memorialize the myriad victims of Prohibition.


It is imperative for the future health and well-being of the municipality that we embrace historical consciousness, hence my contention that the victims of the savage and deranged social experiment known as Prohibition -- surely America's second-worst idea ever, albeit well behind human slavery in terms of ramifications -- be memorialized, preferably adjacent to a watering hole that reminds us of what the heinous teetotalers tried to take away.

This effort may well become the focus of the rest of my life. Less than a year ago, I surveyed the background:

“In a house once standing here, New Albany’s chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union advocated for Prohibition and abstinence from ‘Demon Alcohol.’ But Prohibition proved to be a disaster, and so it is vitally important that we remember the WCTU’s efforts favoring Prohibition, all the better for us to reject Prohibition, now and forever.”

Of course, my permanent departure from the New Albanian Brewing Company precludes the realization of the Prohibition memorial at the precise spot where the WCTU's headquarters once operated; currently, this square footage serves as Bank Street Brewhouse's outdoor seating area.

Perhaps a plaque might eventually be erected there as part of a walking tour incorporating too many vital historical insights to enumerate here. The central point remains: Prohibition was absurd, and every aspect of remembering its lessons is factually verifiable. It is non-fiction.

To return yet again to the words of Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There needs to be a memorial to the idiocy, because it must not be forgotten.

I suspect the major problem with using the concrete plinth (circled in the photo above) as the base of a memorial art installation is that it belongs to the alley, and hence to the city. However, everything's negotiable, and it costs nothing to ask questions. If the project is deemed feasible, then I'll pursue it.

Until then, savor these words by H.L. Mencken.

The Prohibitionists, when they foisted their brummagem cure-all upon the country under cover of the war hysteria, gave out that their advocacy of it was based upon a Christian yearning to abate drunkenness, and so abolish crime, poverty and disease. They preached a millennium, and no doubt convinced hundreds of thousands of naive and sentimental persons, not themselves Puritans, nor even democrats. That millennium, as everyone knows, has failed to come in. Not only are crime, poverty and disease undiminished, but drunkenness itself, if the police statistics are to be believed, has greatly increased. The land rocks with the scandal. Prohibition has made the use of alcohol devilish and even fashionable, and so vastly augmented the number of users. The young of both sexes, mainly innocent of the cup under license, now take to it almost unanimously. In brief, Prohibition has not only failed to work the benefits that its proponents promised in 1917; it has brought in so many new evils that even the mob has turned against it. But do the Prohibitionists admit the fact frankly, and repudiate their original nonsense? They do not. On the contrary, they keep on demanding more and worse enforcement statutes — that is to say, more and worse devices for harassing and persecuting their opponents. The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and, whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate — which is to say, upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are. They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.

"Simply substitute 'War on Drugs' for 'Prohibition,' and see what you think."

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Church-state separation: Reverend's got a brand new church spire, but New Jersey's supreme court begs to differ.


We turn back the gnarled pages to 2013.

75k for church restoration to be weighed by New Albany council, by Daniel Suddeath (All Tom May All of the Time, Even Then)

The final vote on a $75,000 appropriation to help restore the historic Second Baptist Church building is slated to be taken by the New Albany City Council Thursday.

It passed.

Councilman John Gonder is the sponsor of the $75,000 appropriation, and said due to the church’s role in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, the building should be maintained and treasured as a part of New Albany’s legacy.

He added more money will have to roll-in to support the rehabilitation of the structure, as the first phase of the project including replication of the original steeple and repair of architectural woodwork is estimated to cost $217,500.

“What we’re putting in is a significant amount, but it’s not enough to get the job done,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting out and talking to the citizens and getting them involved in seeing the value of this.”

The Horseshoe Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to the project.

Councilman Scott Blair opposed the measure on initial ballots because he said he wanted more guarantees that the city’s money would be matched by other entities.

The $75,000 public grant should serve as a foundation for the project with an assurance that enough funds can be raised to see the rehabilitation finished as planned, Blair said.

Councilman Greg Phipps was the other member of the body to vote against the appropriation on initial ballots. Phipps said he has “strong feelings of separation of church and state” and that the project mixed a religious institution with public funding.

While annoying owing to the casual manner in which local elected officials stared at the ceiling and skirted the issue of church-state separation, the spire supporters' argument from history and historic preservation had at least some merit.

It's just that as a one-off exception, this decision to spend taxpayer funds on church building repairs did not establish a useful precedent for other non-religious instances. No pattern emerged, and it was back to the same old political back-scratching.

It's also worth noting that while opposed to the measure on principled, impeccable grounds, with which I concurred, Phipps expended not a dollop of political capital in opposition, and soon returned to doing as he was told, when he was told, by mayor and party.

And still they mock him behind his back. To the Gahans and Dickeys of the planet, Phipps is just a useful idiot. It's sad, but there we are.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, we've been given a glance at what church-state separation should look like.

---

NJ Supreme Court Says Taxpayer Money Cannot Be Used to Fund Church Renovations, by Hemant Mehta (Patheos)

In a unanimous decision just announced by the New Jersey Supreme Court, taxpayer dollars cannot be used to help repair or maintain churches. It’s a major victory for church/state separation advocates and one that will save taxpayers in the state millions of dollars that would otherwise have gone to promoting religious dogma.

The case involved more than $5.5 million in “historic preservation grants” that were given to a dozen churches in Morris County between 2012 and 2015. They were presumed legal because they didn’t directly promote faith.

But giving churches money for general maintenance is promoting faith since it frees up funding that goes right back into worship.

That’s why plaintiff David Steketee and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2015 saying the grants were illegal.

Unfortunately, a judge ruled against them in January of 2017. If the decision wasn’t appealed, there was a good chance other churches would’ve taken advantage of the loophole, taking whatever money was in their budgets for maintenance, repair, and other structural issues and putting them into programming, knowing that they could just replete their accounts courtesy of state taxpayers.

FFRF appealed the decision and it eventually landed in front of the state’s supreme court. Today, thankfully, all seven of the justices overturned the earlier decision.

Here, the County awarded $4.6 million to twelve churches to repair active houses of worship — from roofs to bell towers, from stained glass windows to ventilation systems. The use of public funds to pay for those repairs violated the plain language of the Religious Aid Clause.

The judges noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran — which allowed taxpayer funding for ostensibly secular projects like a playground even if it was on church property — didn’t apply here because this was clearly not a secular project.

… the public funds awarded in this case actually went toward “religious uses.” It is clear from the stipulated facts in the record that the Churches all “have active congregations that regularly worship, or participate in other religious activities,” and all hold “regular worship services in one or more of the structures that they have used, or will use,” taxpayer-funded grants to repair.
… a number of the applications expressly stated that churches sought funding for repairs to continue to conduct worship services.



This case does not involve the expenditure of taxpayer money for non-religious uses, such as the playground resurfacing in Trinity Lutheran.

The judges said it would be virtually impossible to figure out how much of the grant money was used for religious or non-religious purposes at this point, so they are allowing the old grants to remain in place. The ruling isn’t retroactive. The churches can have the money already given to them, but the good news is that they won’t be able to receive the grants in the future.

FFRF is obviously thrilled with the victory but also relieved that these justices understood their argument.

“It’s shocking that it took a trip to the New Jersey Supreme Court to enforce such a plain constitutional command,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “New Jersey taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief that their constitutional religious liberty rights have been protected.”

“This is not just a win for secular citizens, but for every New Jersey taxpayer,” explains FFRF constitutional attorney Andrew L. Seidel. “Governments in New Jersey cannot force Muslims to bankroll temples and yeshivas, compel Jews to subsidize Christian churches and Catholic schools, force Christians to fund mosques and madrassas or nonbelievers to support any religion. It’s a win for all.”

The Religious Right won’t see it that way. They’ll inevitably twist this ruling into some tale of Christian persecution. But when all the justices speak in unison like this, anyone looking for the facts will find them easily. They just have to read the ruling instead of the spin.

Thomas Frank explains how Trump could win another term, and how genetically altered Democrats might prevent it.

There's no water at THIS reservoir.

"In the vast catalogue of social posturing, there are few more repugnant sights than rich people congratulating themselves for being righteous. In particular, it is a terrible way to win back the blue-collar white voters who were responsible, even more than were the Russians, for Trump’s win."
-- Thomas Frank

Frank's original essay at Harper's is a longer read, and I recommend it, but the Cliff Notes version is provided at The Nation.

Thomas Frank: Trump Could Win the 2020 Election, by Jon Wiener (The Nation)

Let's focus on two questions asked of Frank by Wiener.

JW: Okay, what about Mueller saving us?

TF: Every Democrat that I talked to is counting on Mueller to deliver the midterms for them. This has worked for Democrats before. The famous Watergate class in Congress in 1974 was entirely the doing of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, and the Democrats are basically expecting that to happen again. It looks like it will work.

JW: What’s wrong with that?

TF: It breeds a kind of passiveness among Democrats where they never have to think about their own message. They may succeed in the coming midterms, but that’s a recipe for disaster in the long term. If Trump is not running for reelection three years from now, there’s going to be another Trump. The Republicans are never going to retreat from what this guy showed them in 2016. They now understand how you beat the Democrats. The next Trump is not going to be so vulgar, he’s not going to have affairs with porn stars, he’s not going to pick fights with NFL players. So the Democrats have to be thinking bigger. They can’t think “Oh, he screwed up. Great! Now we get back in.”

Or, as Frank put it at greater length at Harper's:

How do Democrats change course without sounding like they’re criticizing Obama or the Clintons — or, by extension, the neoliberal fantasy that has sustained the party since the Nineties? The answer is that they can’t, and so they don’t. They would rather sit back and expect Robert Mueller to rescue them. They would rather count on demographic change to give them a majority somewhere down the road. So they “do nothing and wait for the other side to implode,” observed Bill Curry, a former adviser to President Clinton who has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s strongest internal critics. “That’s been their strategy for most of my adult life. Well, how’s that been working out?”

Curry continued his critique. The party, he said, desperately needs to get over its infatuation with its glorious past: “The mistakes of the Democratic Party are the mistakes of Obama and Clinton. Taking responsibility for those mistakes means holding them accountable. And so many people have such deep, positive feelings for Obama and the Clintons that they can’t bear to have that conversation.” His conclusion was as blunt as what I heard from so many others: “Trump wins by the Democrats not changing.”

It would be enjoyable to speak of these matters with our local Democratic horizontal hierarchy, serial drinkers of the DNC's by-the-numbers-bot-speaking Kool-Aid for so very long. But it remains a tableau of circled wagons, dedicated first and foremost to maintaining grassroots beak-wetting at the expense of ideas.

Frank persists in offering the solution to our miasma.

Get that great majority back together, I think, and it would be unstoppable. There is really only one set of successful politics for an age of inequality like this one, and it naturally favors the party of Roosevelt. Trump succeeded by pretending to be the heir of populists past, acting the role of a rough-hewn reformer who detested the powerful and cared about working-class people. Now it is the turn of Democrats to take it back from him. They may have to fire their consultants. They may have to stand up to their donors. They will certainly have to find the courage to change, to dump the ideology of the Nineties, the catechism of tech, bank, and globe that everyone now knows is nothing but an excuse for an out-of-touch elite. But the time has come. History is calling.

Friday, April 20, 2018

This photo collage shows the incredible transformation of the Pints & Union building at 114 E. Market.


Joe Phillips (Pints& Union) spoke with Kelly Winslow (NA Social) earlier this evening, and you can watch the video here.


Meanwhile, the collage shows just how far the build-out has come since around April of 2017. It's almost finished. Resch Construction has been amazing as always; many thanks to Steve, Jacob and their crews.


Thunder THIS ... a 2018 reminder.


First published in 2016. Contrarians of the world, rise up!

It's the least wonderful time of the year
With the fighter jets screaming
And everyone drinking the shittiest beer
It's the least wonderful time of the year

It's the dumb-dumbiest season of all
With those circle jerk fireworks and throngs of stone drunk jerks
When Thunder Day falls
It's the dumb-dumbiest season of all

(with fervent apologies to Andy Williams)

I'll be in or near the perimeter of the 1117 E. Spring Street Neighborhood Association, guarding the premises with a bottle of gin in one hand, vermouth in the other, and recalling what it was like during the London blitz.

Move on ... mind the gap (in consciousness) ... nothing to see here. But if you must do it, consider doing it in New Albany: Thunder is #SoIN New Albany. Localism's better than nothing.

Previous outbursts at NAC:

"These aircraft ... are normally used to do stuff like carry troops, bomb buildings and kill people."


The Derby Grinch says: In or out of town today, just drink better beer.


R.I.P. Carl Brown, and farewell to the Plain Brown Rapper.


Like Matt Stone, I met Carl Brown only once, maybe twice.

I met Carl Brown once. Smart guy. He was once a promising Louisville politician. But he died alone, fighting his demons. Sad. If Louisville likes to keep it weird, a Carl’s Louisville banner could hang in the Highlands.

That's very true. Joseph Gerth provides the poignant facts.

Once a promising Louisville politician, Carl Brown died alone, fighting his demons

Carl Brown died alone last week.

In his small apartment in the Highlands where he had holed up for the past year, as his moods grew darker, as he battled the bipolar disease that burst into public view one terrible, bizarre February morning 35 years ago, his body finally gave up.

Police found him on April 13 after his sister and some of his friends became concerned that they hadn't heard from him for several days and the apartment looked dark ...

Yes, and Charlie Bond was hit by a DRIVER, not a car.


Best wishes to Charlie Bond, who is familiar to anyone who walks downtown. He's recovering from being hit by a DRIVER, not a car, which is doubly interesting in that the local chain newspaper pays tribute to the man's legendary status as super basketball fan, without ever having once mentioned the Spring Street incident that sent him to the hospital.

I wonder what happened? Isn't that why we have newspapers in the first place? Maybe Bill should send hyper-content provider Tom May to either get the story, or proselytize. There's probably a third column slot in there somewhere.

No wonder there is a proliferation of chiropractors. You spend all your time shaking your head.


MORRIS: Every team needs a super fan like Charlie Bond, by Chris Morris (Tom May Every Day and Sunday)

... While sitting around last week recovering from a medical procedure, I found out that Charlie was hit by a car along Spring Street in New Albany. He suffered numerous injuries and was taken to University of Louisville Hospital. It will be a long recovery ...

 ... But just like there has never been another player like Romeo Langford, there will never be another fan like Charlie Bond. He has gained legendary status by just being Charlie. He lives for basketball season. He’s a true Bulldog.

"The pressure of online advertising (makes) your favorite local news site, and many others, a fresh hell that even Dante himself couldn’t have imagined."


One minute to read an article written at 3rd-grade level of comprehension, and two minutes to swat away the myriad advertising intrusions.

What could any of this possibly have to do with the demise of the American "democratic" experiment?

Why Are Newspaper Websites So Horrible? by Andrew Zaleski (CityLab)

The pop-up ads! The autoplaying videos!

Emily Goligoski ... has heard time and again from news readers about how they’re increasingly turned off by the presentation they’re offered by local newspapers’ websites.

The torments of these sites are well known: clunky navigation, slow page-loading times, browser-freezing autoplaying videos, a siege of annoying pop-up ads, and especially those grids of bottom-of-the-page “related content” ads hawking belly fat cures and fake headlines (what’s known as Internet chum).

Put another way: Why must newspaper websites suck so damn much?

In particular, why is the online presence of local papers so much vividly worse than other fare on the web—especially when these outlets are engaged in a desperate fight for readers and subscribers nationwide? Perhaps you recall the (in)famous cartoon drawn by Brad Colbow in 2011. Entitled “This is Why Your Newspaper is Dying,” it offered a cheeky but precise summation of several crimes against digital decency, from “Your content takes up less than 20% of the page” to “Linking to a random story in the middle of an article.”

If anything, the situation may have somehow gotten worse in the years since, and the quality gap between local newspaper sites and more sophisticated content purveyors has become even more stark ...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Our great and noble leader is here to stay, so let's break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Our great and noble leader is here to stay, so let's break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Early this morning I began writing the weekly column over kippers and coffee, and after 300 words, a pervasive feeling of déjà vu began furrowing my brow. Sure enough, upon comparative examination, I'd been there before -- 13 months ago, to be exact.

In which case, why not just repeat the original?

I tend to refrain from reruns of such recent vintage, but as Year Zero approaches, there has been a noticeable resurgence of sheer, unmitigated hubris on the part of Team Gahan's increasingly vacuous functionaries, including (though not limited to) Pat McLaughlin's malicious Knable censure resolution, the shameless and bullying pilferage of intellectual property rights on the part of Develop New Albany's tittering second-raters, a rumored million-dollar cost overrun on the mayor's luxury city hall reclamation, and politically motivated harassment and intimidation of city employees.

There's a great deal of talking down, and too little talking to or with. The stench emits from the top, from Jeff Gahan himself and the Floyd County Democratic Party.

Local Democrats are feeling cornered, and like animals, their fangs are being bared. Decades of ward-heeling patronage and forever merrily wetting beaks is at last threatened by a gradual rising tide in the form of the municipal wing of the Republican Party.

Unfortunately, ranking local Democrats remain enamored of center-right pandering spaced with occasional whiffs of gesture-laden identity coding to entice the two-person-strong East Spring Street Neighborhood Association -- and they're as terrified by the likes of Dan Canon in 2018 as they were by Bernie Sanders in 2016.

Straight up: Gahan's all the Democrats have; this is an apocalyptic Alamo in the making, and doubling down is their only real choice. The re-election tactics already are nasty, and they're going to get worse, because the institution is incapable of reform as constituted, on the fly, but the problem goes far deeper, because in addition to the usual petty graft and high school city council chicanery, the power elite -- Gahan, Dickey, Gibson and Duggins, among others -- truly believe they're infallible. 

They aren't. Furthermore, neither am I. Returning to March of 2017 and rereading what I wrote last year, it occurs to me that the odds of regime change have improved. The more we point at the deficiencies of Gahan's megalomania, and to the absurdity of a veneer peddler's innate perfection, the more numerous are those heads nodding in agreement.

They may or may not vote, but there'll be two chances to topple the statue and begin papering over those anchors.

---

Țuică is plum brandy, and sweeping generalizations tend to be insupportable. Seeing as I’m in no mood to be dainty, let's have a drink of the firewater and stumble into the breach.

As human beings go, the late Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918-1989) was a regrettable and unfortunate piece of work.

Yes, Ceaușescu was canny and possessing the survivor’s keen animal instincts, but offered few redeeming qualities otherwise. He was brutal, long-winded and poorly educated, though slightly brainier than his wife, Elena, a semi-literate bumpkin who built her own cult of personality around pretending to be a superstar scientist.

To read about the despot Ceaușescu nowadays is to constantly find yourself asking, “How could this nondescript dullard of a rural functionary be called the Genius of the Carpathians?”

Even apart from Ceaușescu being an installed and pliant cog in a closed international geopolitical system, itself constructed to institutionalize precisely such non-ironic chicanery, the very thought is breathtaking – and almost surely he believed every word of it.

While shaving each morning, the Conducător (leader) gazed into the mirror not unlike Wile E. Coyote, and paused to admire the length and breadth of his genius.

And why not? A quasi-feudal collection of stooges, sycophants and “yes men” surrounded Ceaușescu, assuring him constantly that he was every bit the ranking luminary ever to have emerged from the dark, forested Transylvanian mountains, overshadowing even the legendary Vlad Tepes – historical basis for the character of Dracula.

In turn, these assurances became the substance of propaganda, including press clippings about himself that Ceaușescu read eagerly over his daily breakfast of luxury foods generally unavailable to his subjects, as well as ubiquitously placed visual reminders of his presence.

Propaganda was the source for parroted and fluttering expressions of fealty on the part of those Romanian citizens who grasped the obvious, and cheerily rebroadcast the boilerplate from a desire to stay out of prison – and of course some of them ended up there, anyway.

What a vicious and dreary fraud, that Ceaușescu.

For 25 years, he was a veritable anchor of vapid tastelessness, mired in the mud flats of the Danube River delta, surrounded by clueless henchmen and corrupt vandals who enriched themselves at the expense of the common man.

Hmm. I’m not sure what made me think of all this, but did I tell you there was a ceremony at the amphitheater on Tuesday morning?

---

As we enter Year VI in the Chronicles of New Gahania, the only major surprise is that Mayor Jeff Gahan hasn’t yet designed a logoed scepter.

On Tuesday morning, Gahan – our Genius of the Floodplain – bounded to a podium hastily erected at the underused amphitheater, chosen for this occasion because the river looks so “cool” behind it, though it remains unfit for the dashing Team Gahan otherwise.

Giggling and gesticulating in a paroxysm of agoraphobic ecstasy, Gahan thanked the Horseshoe Foundation board members who he’d either had appointed or strong-armed, or both, and accepted a check for $5 million from the only Floyd County politician whose compliance really mattered, his neighbor and arch-rival Mark Seabrook, who from this moment forward will be utterly forgotten as Gahan claims full credit for the foundation’s largess.

Gahan proceeded to run down the list of previous multi-million dollar quality-of-life luxury improvements, praising the investments while never revealing their true cost in terms of municipal subsidies and post-ribbon-cutting maintenance.

Verily, Gahan’s done it all; laid the bricks, moved the dirt, smoothed the asphalt, sold hot dogs and swept the floor. It was repulsive and sickening, and within a few seconds it became evident to me as never before that short of getting caught in bed with a known book reader, Gahan has emerged as the odds-on favorite to serve indefinitely as New Albany’s de facto mayor-for-life.

The list of baubles, glitz and glitter – of bright, shiny objects that function as Potemkin facades, suggesting municipal progress while obscuring the ongoing rot proceeding apace underneath – has become as lengthy as Shane Gibson’s arm.

Concurrently, Gahan’s increasingly pedestrian press releases clearly indicate that he’s efficiently cured our city of the social ills that plague the remainder of the planet, apart from a handful of Scandinavian towns and the acreage of various Disney properties.

We have no crime, drug abuse, homelessness, poverty or red lights being run by speeding vehicles. Litter? It isn’t really there, you know. Perhaps you imagined it.

It is left to vicious scandal-mongering dissidents like Jeff Gillenwater to challenge the status quo.

With what's potentially the most significant political upheaval in several decades currently taking place, New Albanians can take solace in the fact that both city and school corporation leaders have ensured an equally significant lack of flexibility going forward with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments coming due over the next two or three decades. If you're planning on having any good civic ideas in 2027, tough cookies.

The problem for Bluegill, and for me, and for anyone else who pays close attention, is that in the main, New Albanians seem perfectly content with the Ceaușescuist tendencies of King Gahan.

After all, in 2015, roughly 14% of the city’s eligible voters opted for the anchor, and as with Donald Trump nationally, they’re getting exactly what they deserve – good and hard.

It’s increasingly difficult to imagine a scenario in which Gahan loses a third term in 2019. Try as he might, Seabrook won’t ever be able to shake the ignominy of smiling weakly while handing Gahan what amounts to five million free clams to campaign for re-election.

At the same time, the current crop of potential Republican challengers has largely chosen to play along with Gahan’s beautification-over-substance shell game.

Granted, the rules of this game have been written to exclude elected officials and empower political appointees, and there isn’t much the minority party can do, but when push comes to gag, the nominal opposition will be depicted as having been complicit.

Just remember: The Bicentennial Boondoggle was very bipartisan.

---

Consider one of Gahan’s chief acolytes, self-important councilman Bob Caesar, who formerly served as nominal Ceaușescu of the Bicentennial Commission.

Most readers are aware of my two-year-long struggle to wrest public Bicentennial Commission financial records, first from Caesar and then the city itself, only to be dismissed with supreme condescension by both.

To repeat: The celebration of New Albany’s two-hundred-year birthday cost several hundred thousand dollars, and was funded in part with taxpayer funds. I’m a citizen of New Albany. Caesar refused to show me the records, and the city attorney Gibson said the city doesn’t have the records to show.

In short: Go peddle your papers, insufferable peasant.

This is amazing, and it should be unacceptable; absolute power corrupts absolutely, and any mayor who takes seriously his obligation to enforce the law shouldn’t allow it.

However, I’m happy to announce that the Green Mouse has obtained these Bicentennial records. Fascinating revelations lie within, and copies currently are in my possession, illustrating plainly that while Caesar and Gibson may not have lied outright, they certainly have acquiesced in a cover-up, and are guilty of consciously subverting the intent of state laws governing freedom of information and public access to records.

This should disturb all of us, and both should be cashiered. If they’ll resort to evasions and subterfuge to obscure Caesar’s handling of relatively paltry Bicentennial funds, just think what they’ll do to obscure the leakage from the many yearly millions going toward feel-good, beautification projects.

And yet … you’re bothered, but only a bit, and not enough to rock the boat, right?

The newspaper doesn’t ask these questions, does it?

In more candid moments, it may seem like smoke and mirrors, but just enough of that magic pixie dust is being spread around to encourage acceptance.

Isn’t it?

And you’re fine with it, aren’t you?

The fact is, if I were to spend 40 more hours of my own time, gratis, to sifting through the records the Politburo has denied exist, in order to show that lots of Bicentennial bucks were hemorrhaged this way and that, often straight to community pillars and/or political party stalwarts who nuzzled up to wet their beaks – as I'm completely confident I could – nothing at all would happen, would it?

They wouldn’t concede error or apologize, would they?

You wouldn’t expect it, would you?

And this is a slight problem, isn’t it?

I’m not ruling anything out, or in. I might take the time to sort through those records, or maybe use those precious hours to drink beer and watch documentaries about tin horn dictatorships the world has known.

But there isn’t much one person alone can do to prevent Jeff Gahan from redesigning New Albany in his own beige image, and as the sainted Bob Knight once implied, if tacky Disney totalitarianism is inevitable, then we might as well escalate plans for a new barroom in order to have somewhere to seek refuge from the sheer indignity of it.

That's exactly what I'm working to achieve, and when it finally comes to pass, I promise to place portraits of Ceaușescu and Gahan right where they belong, at the entrance to the toilets.

Or better yet, inside them.

---

Recent columns:

April 12: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: In Havel, I trust.

April 5: ON THE AVENUES: New Albany's downtown food and dining scene is solid ... for now.

March 29: ON THE AVENUES: Al Knable doesn’t lie, but the local Democratic Party is a flood-plain Pinocchio. Let’s censure it at the ballot box.

March 22: ON THE AVENUES: Remembering Max Allen, bartender extraordinaire.>

In New Albany and Florida, bicyclists and pedestrians remain at risk when planners refuse the change car-centric nature of the street grid.


Read this sentence.

Florida's complete streets law led officials to tack on bike and pedestrian infrastructure without changing the car-centric nature of the state's transportation planning.

Allow me to fix it.

Jeff Gahan's de-Specked two-way street reversion led HWC Engineering to tack on bike and pedestrian infrastructure without changing the car-centric nature of the state's transportation planning.

Actually, almost all the biking infrastructure suggested by Speck was removed amid gleeful cheering by the irresolute likes of CM Greg Phipps (has he ever actually been on a bicycle?), but the analogy holds.

The two-way street grid project has not been transformative because Gahan didn't allow it to be. Speck saw the larger picture, but Gahan made adulterated sausage from it, rendering potential boons to walkability and bikeability into yet another omnibus paving project to appease speeding drivers, and now we're left with paltry returns from what might have been genuinely meaningful, and without the political will to make the necessary changes. Phipps himself already has surrendered -- not that this is unusual.

Yep.

Told you so. Now can we all join together and do the right thing?

#FireGahan2019

Florida’s Complete Streets Law Saved Thousands of Lives, and That Wasn’t Enough, by Angie Schmitt (Streetsblog)

A new study highlights the successes and shortcomings of the state's 1984 law that mandated consideration of walking and biking routes in transportation projects.

Florida epitomizes Sun Belt autosprawl and all its attendant dangers for people on foot. The state routinely ranks among the deadliest for walking.

But it could have been worse, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Florida adopted a statewide complete streets policy in 1984. The law stated that routes for biking and walking must be considered in road construction projects, with a few limited exceptions. It also charged the state with developing a statewide “integrated system of bicycle and pedestrian ways.”

The law, now 34 years old, did not transform car-centric transportation planning in Florida, and the state’s streets remain unacceptably dangerous for walking. But even this incremental step saved lives, according University of Georgia researcher Jamila Porter.

Porter and her team compared changes in Florida’s pedestrian fatality rate to national trends, as well as to other Sun Belt states without complete streets policies. They found that pedestrian deaths fell faster in Florida after the complete streets law was adopted than they would have if the state had tracked trends in peer states or the U.S. as a whole. The difference added up to between 3,500 and 4,000 lives saved over a 30-year period.

While Florida’s per capita pedestrian fatality rate fell 60 percent, from 6.36 fatalities per 100,000 people to 2.56, it remains among the most dangerous in the nation for walking. In 2015, only Delaware had a higher rate.

In interviews with 10 Florida DOT officials, each with at least 15 years of experience, Porter and her team also highlight how the law was not sufficient on its own to change the cars-first culture at the agency. While infrastructure for walking and biking was tacked on to projects, the state still focused on moving motor vehicles, not creating safe bike and pedestrian networks.

“We did well what we thought we knew to do well. We provided a 5-foot sidewalk… that was it. Or we provided a bit of bike lane,” said one staffer. But the state was still “consumed with the requirements — that we have adequate capacity for cars on roadways — and part of that was based on the ability of a car to get from location A to B in a timely manner and fast.”

Other state policies worked against the goals of the complete streets law. One staffer pointed out that Florida still places too much emphasis on metrics of motor vehicle throughput, like level of service, that undermine pedestrian safety. Some said that while the state’s policies were better than most, Florida should have made more progress.