Thursday, December 08, 2016

Ooh, ooh that SMELL: Jeff Gahan proposes arbitrary CPI pegs to raise sewer rates annually, when sewer rates already are illegally subsidized.


Jeff Gahan, who draws a salary as both mayor of New Albany and head of its sewer board, proposes that in the future, annual sewer rate increases are to be pegged to one or another variants of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in a formula yet to be identified.

This vague mechanism appeared from nowhere, as appended to a sewer bonding ordinance, and was approved 7-2 in its first two readings, with a final vote coming next Thursday (December 15). As in previous years, city officials are stampeding the vote at year's end, citing tremendous urgency in solving problems no one knew existed until December.

Returning to the concept of pegging sewer rate increases to CPI-something, there is an obvious question that must be answered first: Is the current sewer rate legal?

Many of us believe it isn't. Randy Smith wrote the following in the spring of 2015, and it remains a must read for anyone seeking to understand the year-to-year mishandling of New Albany's sewer utility -- and did I mention that the mayor appointed himself to "run" the sewer utility?

(Bold text added)

Sewer Utility Still Draining Tax Dollars

 ... I had thought the (illegal sewer rate subsidy) chicanery had finally ended when I read last year that the subsidy had been removed. But just to make sure, I perused the city’s 2015 budget. There, to my astonishment, was yet another transfer of $570,000 from the income tax fund (EDIT) to the sewer utility.

I have written at length in the past about the illegality of this transfer. To be brief, while a city in Indiana can own and operate a municipal utility, the finances of that utility must be completely separated from other city funds. That is, the utility must stand on its own, without subsidies of any kind.

With this budget year, Jeff Gahan has in 11 budget years (as a councilman and as mayor) approved more than $10 million in transfers from city taxes to prop up the utility.

One might be of the opinion that using tax dollars to fortify the sewers is a good thing, but none of us are entitled to an opinion on this matter. State law is extremely clear. It’s illegal. (It happens to be illegal in Louisville, too, under a different state’s laws – ref: MSD.)

This misfeasance on the part of the mayor and council subjects the utility itself to the jeopardy of a taxpayer lawsuit to recover these millions of dollars.

However, illegality has become normal in New Albany. It’s not just the law-breaking that New Albany voters need to be aware of as they go to the polls. This transfer is possibly the single dumbest way to divert tax money and demonstrates innumeracy and financial incompetence on the part of the mayor and his advisors.

Also from Randy Smith, this week:

SEWER RATE INCREASE imminent in New Albany. But instead of taking responsibility for setting a legal rate, the city council has voted to begin an automatic rate increase pegged to some version of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Final vote is on Thursday, December 15. That is not the legal way to set rates. CPI is not an economic variable - it's merely a statistic.

My information is that the wastewater utility needs a rate increase of $0.21 per billing unit, meaning even the lightest user would see a rate increase of about 2.8%. But no CPI will provide those funds, leading back to illegal tax subsidies for the heaviest users of the city-owned utility.

Contact your council representatives before it's too late.

At-Large – David Aebersold (R), Voted FOR
(812) 944-9823, daebersold@cityofnewalbany.com

At-Large – David C. Barksdale (R), Voted FOR
(812) 945-1839, dbarksdale@cityofnewalbany.com

At-Large – Al Knable, MD (R), Voted AGAINST
(502) 386-5051, aknable@cityofnewalbany.com

1st District – Dan Coffey (I-D), Voted FOR
(502) 797-8347, dcoffey@cityofnewalbany.com

2nd District – Robert Caesar (D), Voted FOR
(812) 945-8744, rcaesar@cityofnewalbany.com

3rd District – Greg Phipps (D), Voted FOR
(812) 949-8317, gphipps@cityofnewalbany.com

4th District – Patrick McLaughlin (D),Voted FOR
(812) 949-9140, pmclaughlin@cityofnewalbany.com

5th District – Matt Nash (D), Voted FOR
(502) 718-4986, mnash@cityofnewalbany.com

6th District – Scott Blair (I), Voted AGAINST
(812) 697-0128, sblair@cityofnewalbany.com

Sudden stealth sewer rate hikes reveal the breathtaking extent of Jeff Gahan's intellectual dishonesty. Isn't it time to hold Team Gahan and its toadies accountable?

Council Crackers: Final victory over Nawbany's EPA sewer nemesis is so crucial that Jeff Gahan stayed home and watched "Walker, Texas Ranger" reruns on DVD.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: An oxymoron about burial rites and enraged toads.

Welcome to another installment of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these newfangled words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, the ones that worked so well during the glory days, before naked greed kicked in like a bond-issue percentage speedball, knocking you back into the turnbuckles but feeling oh so good, and now as the Great Elongated and Exasperated Obfuscator in the comic book series, you teach principles of banking to bankers when not otherwise occupied making deposits into your own account?

Thankfully, even if one is toiling for the Genius of the Flood Plain, a healthy vocabulary isn't about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Municipal corporate attorneys reaping handsome remuneration to suppress information also can benefit from this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate CPIs, IUDs and IOUs, all we really have is time -- and the opportunity to learn something, if we're so inclined.

As such, what is funereal buffoonery?

I was walking on East Market Street between 11th and 13th when suddenly this oxymoron popped into my head.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory, but which contain a concealed point ... The most common form of oxymoron involves an adjective–noun combination of two words.

Let's take it apart. First, the adjective funereal.

funereal

[fyoo-neer-ee-uh l]

adjective

1. of or suitable for a funeral

2. mournful; gloomy; dismal: a funereal aloofness that was quite chilling

The origins of funereal are straight Latin, but the word buffoon is a bit more interesting.

buffoonery (from buffoon)

[buh-foon]

noun

1. a person who amuses others by tricks, jokes, odd gestures and postures, etc

2. a person given to coarse or undignified joking

Origin of buffoon

French Italian ... 1540-50; earlier buffon < French < Italian buffone, equivalent to buff- (expressive base; compare buffa puff of breath, buffare to puff, puff up one's checks) + -one agent suffix ≪ Latin -ō, accusative -ōnem

Related forms

buffoonery [buh-foo-nuh-ree], noun
buffoonish, adjective

Apparently the origins of buffoonery as a puffing of cheeks goes all the way back to the Latin word for toad, and as we know, there is little in nature quite as comical as a toad's expanding cheeks, as though the creature was bursting from red-faced, self-important flatulence.

Here's an example in a sentence:

When the commissioner postured about "the will of the people" pertaining to a topic never submitted to popular vote, his funereal buffoonery resulted in giggles among onlookers.

Funereal?

Well, that's just vocational geography.

Sudden stealth sewer rate hikes reveal the breathtaking extent of Jeff Gahan's intellectual dishonesty. Isn't it time to hold Team Gahan and its toadies accountable?


As holder of salaried positions as mayor and head of the sewer board, shouldn't Jeff Gahan be the one -- THE ONLY ONE -- to explain why sewer rate increases have been artfully hidden in a rote bonding document ... why economic development concerns (and the city's inevitable subsidy of them) are at the heart of G-16-03 ... and why tender concern for the environment is the very last thing on the mind of a City Hall team that has cut more trees so far in 2016 than Weyerhaeuser?

Council Crackers: Final victory over Nawbany's EPA sewer nemesis is so crucial that Jeff Gahan stayed home and watched "Walker, Texas Ranger" reruns on DVD.

... Praised by its backers as one of the signal achievements of Gahanism in contemporary New Albany, the sewer ordinance came forward without the Genius of the Flood Plain present in the room to argue on behalf of its merits.

Significantly, Jeff Gahan is the mayor of this city. He appointed himself to the Sewer Board chair (a paid position), and also appoints the other members of the board, but if you were expecting leadership by example from Gahan -- something apart from the labored antics of subalterns, as with David Duggins' frat boy mugging or the vocabulary-deprived glowering of Shane Gibson -- then too bad for you.

On Monday it took an hour of desultory skirmishing before city officials finally conceded the central point, in that this desperate-haste-from-nowhere-ordinance is necessary because the existing EPA points cap will prevent planned developments in 2017.

Given that we all favor independence from the EPA, shouldn't we know more about the nature of these development plans?

As holder of salaried positions as mayor and head of the sewer board, shouldn't Jeff Gahan be the one to explain these plans, and why they matter?

Evidently not, because Gahan remained safely ensconced in the Down Low Bunker on Tuesday, as the city's Propaganda Commissariat went full frontal disingenuous (synonyms include insincere, dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying and mendacious):

At last evening’s City Council meeting, the City Council voted 7-2 in favor of bill G-16-03. If approved on final reading, this ordinance would authorize the construction of sanitary sewer projects that would eliminate the final remaining sanitary sewer overflows in the city.

As Bluegill succinctly observed with respect to the spin cycle:

And in today's City Hall PR announcement, not a single word about automatic annual sewer rate increases (or any rate increase at all).

To repeat: As holder of salaried positions as mayor and head of the sewer board, shouldn't Jeff Gahan be the one to explain these hastily inserted* CPI-pegged sewer rate increases?

Isn't it time at long last for Gahan to be held accountable? The Bookseller scores today's coda, and explains council's unfortunate culpability:

SEWER RATE INCREASE imminent in New Albany. But instead of taking responsibility for setting a legal rate, the city council has voted to begin an automatic rate increase pegged to some version of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Final vote is on Thursday, December 15. That is not the legal way to set rates. CPI is not an economic variable - it's merely a statistic.

My information is that the wastewater utility needs a rate increase of $0.21 per billing unit, meaning even the lightest user would see a rate increase of about 2.8%. But no CPI will provide those funds, leading back to illegal tax subsidies for the heaviest users of the city-owned utility.

Contact your council representatives before it's too late.

At-Large – David Aebersold (R), Voted FOR
(812) 944-9823, daebersold@cityofnewalbany.com

At-Large – David C. Barksdale (R), Voted FOR
(812) 945-1839, dbarksdale@cityofnewalbany.com

At-Large – Al Knable, MD (R), Voted AGAINST
(502) 386-5051, aknable@cityofnewalbany.com

1st District – Dan Coffey (I-D), Voted FOR
(502) 797-8347, dcoffey@cityofnewalbany.com

2nd District – Robert Caesar (D), Voted FOR
(812) 945-8744, rcaesar@cityofnewalbany.com

3rd District – Greg Phipps (D), Voted FOR
(812) 949-8317, gphipps@cityofnewalbany.com

4th District – Patrick McLaughlin (D),Voted FOR
(812) 949-9140, pmclaughlin@cityofnewalbany.com

5th District – Matt Nash (D), Voted FOR
(502) 718-4986, mnash@cityofnewalbany.com

6th District – Scott Blair (I), Voted AGAINST
(812) 697-0128, sblair@cityofnewalbany.com

* As forwarded in the council's Monday meeting packet, ordinance passages pertaining to the proposed sewer rate increases were pasted in an entirely different font.

"The Ideology of Traffic" moves traffic, but creating wealth is something else entirely.


Which ideology is it? Traffic or wealth creation? Charles Marohn breaks it down: The Ideology of Traffic (Strong Towns).

Folks like Irv Stumler and David Aebersold should be reading. They might learn something.

They won't ... so they don't.

This weekend, there was an article that appeared in the NY Post titled The Real Reason for New York City’s Traffic Nightmare. I know the Post is tabloidy; the story contained all anonymous sources and lacked even a rudimentary level of fact checking that you’d find in an actual news story. Still, it fits the ideology of the traffic engineering profession and I saw the piece widely distributed. Here’s a quote:

“The traffic is being engineered,” a former top NYPD official told The Post, explaining a long-term plan that began under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and hasn’t slowed with Mayor de Blasio.

“The city streets are being engineered to create traffic congestion, to slow traffic down, to favor bikers and pedestrians,” the former official said.

“There’s a reduction in capacity through the introduction of bike lanes and streets and lanes being closed down.”

Let’s apply a contrasting value system to this quote, not one based on moving traffic but one based on building wealth. Here’s how each of these statements could be rewritten:
Ideology of Traffic: The city streets are being engineered to create traffic congestion.
Ideology of Wealth Creation: The city streets are being engineered to make property more valuable, encourage investment and improve the city’s tax base while reducing its overall costs.
---
Ideology of Traffic: The city streets are being engineered to slow traffic.
Ideology of Wealth Creation: The city streets are being engineered to improve the quality of the space for the people who live, work and own property there.
---
Ideology of Traffic: The city streets are being engineered to favor bikers and pedestrians.
Ideology of Wealth Creation: The city streets are being engineered to favor the access of high volumes of people over the movement of comparatively small volumes of automobiles.
---
Ideology of Traffic: There’s a reduction in capacity through the introduction of bike lanes and streets and lanes being closed down.
Ideology of Wealth Creation: There’s an improvement in the quality of the place and it’s corresponding value through the introduction of bike lanes and the closing of some streets and lanes.
Before the Suburban Experiment, cities were built with an ideology of wealth creation. 

Democracy is being crushed by transnational corporations, which is why I say "Death to Chains."


As an appetizer, Matt Taibbi savages Thomas Friedman's new book.

Late Is Enough: On Thomas Friedman's New Book (Taibbi; Rolling Stone)

In his new book, 'Thank You for Being Late,' Thomas Friedman makes a short story long

"The folksiness will irk some critics ... But criticizing Friedman for humanizing and boiling down big topics is like complaining that Mick Jagger used sex to sell songs: It is what he does well." –John Micklethwait, review of Thank You for Being Late, in The New York Times

With apologies to Mr. Micklethwait, the hands that typed these lines implying Thomas Friedman is a Mick Jagger of letters should be chopped off and mailed to the singer's doorstep in penance. Mick Jagger could excite the world in one note, while Thomas Friedman needs 461 pages to say, "Shit happens." Joan of Arc and Charles Manson had more in common ...

On to the main course, referencing Friedman but actually making sense.

No country with a McDonald’s can remain a democracy, by George Monbiot (The Guardian)

... Under the onslaught of the placeless, transnational capital that McDonald’s exemplifies, democracy as a living system withers and dies. The old forms and forums still exist – parliaments and congresses remain standing – but the power they once contained seeps away, re-emerging where we can no longer reach it.

The political power that should belong to us has flitted into confidential meetings with the lobbyists and donors who establish the limits of debate and action. It has slipped into the diktats of the IMF and the European Central Bank, which respond not to the people but to the financial sector. It has been transported, under armed guard, into the icy fastness of Davos ... above all, the power that should belong to the people is being crushed by international treaty.

Monbiot's conclusion:

One of the answers to Trump, Putin, Orbán, Erdoğan, Salvini, Duterte, Le Pen, Farage and the politics they represent is to rescue democracy from transnational corporations. It is to defend the crucial political unit that is under assault by banks, monopolies and chainstores: community. It is to recognise that there is no greater hazard to peace between nations than a corporate model that crushes democratic choice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Council Crackers: Final victory over Nawbany's EPA sewer nemesis is so crucial that Jeff Gahan stayed home and watched "Walker, Texas Ranger" reruns on DVD.


(ASK THE BORED is off drinking this week, to return on the 12th of Never, or barring that, the 13th of December. Also, there are no links to local media coverage of Monday's council conclave, as no local media representatives attended.)

In a staged tableau achingly familiar to longtime council observers, an ordinance touted as the final heroic act in New Albany's quarter-century-long sewage control saga of "now we're complying, now we're not" (with federal regulatory edicts) was rushed pell-mell before council last night for two initial readings.

It was approved 7-2, and likely will receive final approval at next Thursday's second December meeting -- and by the way, apropos of nothing apart from Gahanesque imperatives of congenital secrecy, built into the ordinance is a mechanism for annual sewer rate increases tied to an as yet undisclosed sector of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI.

Praised by its backers as one of the signal achievements of Gahanism in contemporary New Albany, the sewer ordinance came forward without the Genius of the Flood Plain present in the room to argue on behalf of its merits.

Significantly, Jeff Gahan is the mayor of this city. He appointed himself to the Sewer Board chair (a paid position), and also appoints the other members of the board, but if you were expecting leadership by example from Gahan -- something apart from the labored antics of subalterns, as with David Duggins' frat boy mugging or the vocabulary-deprived glowering of Shane Gibson -- then too bad for you.

Here in New Albany, we're so very special.

Meanwhile, the 40-odd page ordinance has three central pillars.

1. It establishes bonding (up to $12.5 million) for a final phase of infrastructure initiatives that presumably will end the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) oversight of our sewage treatment network, and by doing so, free the city from remaining within a limit of yearly "points" allocated for various development projects (which were unidentified).

2. It refinances previous sewer bonds on more favorable terms to the city.

3. It establishes incremental annual sewer rate increases by tying these to the CPI, although the precise one of these indexes (there are many) or the mechanism itself is not stipulated.

As for the consumer price indexing, the best we can say is that it's a needlessly bureaucratic solution to a problem borne of political cowardice, in that it remains the council's responsibility to establish rates charged to the consumer, which will pay for the sewer system's operation without EDIT subsidies (although we still do this, illegally), and historically, this function has been the first can to be kicked down the road.

That's because in the past, any hint of a sewer rate increase would result in red-faced, pitchfork-wielding citizens clogging the 3rd floor corridor to the Down Low Bunker's safe haven.

However, in a supreme irony, the self-described Potty Police seem to have disbanded. Once an eagle, indeed. Not a single angry citizen attended last night's meeting to wag an ominous finger at impending rate increases. Of course, this might yet occur for the ordinance's final reading next Thursday, and if so, the Pee Party will face proud councilmen brandishing brand new magic shields: Don't blame us -- blame the CPI.

It isn't Remember the Alamo, but it will do in a pinch, while fleeing in abject terror.

Last night, kudos are due councilman Scott Blair, a banker, who commented at length on the complexity of the End of EPA sewer document, asking the necessary central questions: Why does something of this magnitude arise seemingly from nowhere, with implied urgency for approval during council's final two meetings of the year, without sufficient time to examine the details of the financial assumptions contained therein?

After all, amid various self-aggrandizing advertisements for his own essential role in the sewer system's victorious Long March, councilman Bob "Bicentennial Bookman" Caesar's introduction of the ordinance included repeated repetitive phrases of this general contradictory tone: There's no real hurry with this BUTDAMMITCAN'TWEMOVEANYFASTER?

The Green Mouse says: Caesar wants to be mayor someday -- and that'll make you move to Ireland quickerthanTrump.

It was only after an hour of debate that The Great Elongated and Exasperated Obfuscator, City Hall corporate attorney Shane Gibson, at last publicly conceded the precise reason for the urgency. It seems someone on Team Gahan finally looked at the needs of development projects slated for TIF-draining in 2017, and concluded that the city would not possess the necessary EPA sewer points even before the usual crony capitalism incentives are applied.

No points, no project ... and no project, no campaign finance beak-wetting. Something's up for 2017. We don't know exactly what, but it's why Caesar spent another evening carrying Gahan's jockstrap, and in turn, why Caesar's bicentennial shenanigans are being shielded by the oily operatives in Gahan's apparatus.

If Gahan could just tie sewer rates with paving contracts, and direct debit the contractors' creamy campaign finance rivulets -- then he really would be a genius, and I could have just stayed home and watched television, too.

Nostalgia.

Something for CM Aebersold to learn about revitalization -- from a conservative, not us.


Purely accidental first-year councilman David Aebersold famously expounded at depressing length about the weight of his ignorance of the modern world in a September 28 letter to the Courier-Journal.

Today, urban planning is dominated by an anti-auto mentality that overrides common sense. In efforts to discourage driving, planners are willing to accept more congestion – which is what will happen on Spring Street – more air pollution and greater numbers of accidents, a result of changing one-way streets to two-way streets. Traffic speeds are independent of whether the streets are one-way or two-way and can probably be controlled on one-way street through the use of coordinated signals that can be set for almost any desired speed.

What the hell -- not everyone can read and research and learn, and the older you get, the less you care to try, although come to think of it, David's not the only confused Aebersold in town. Jamey doesn't grasp it, either, but what can we expect from jazz musicians (wink wink, nudge nudge)?

I'm not sure what can be done about the syncopation of auto-centrism, but in my usual helpful spirit, here's something that might assist the accidental councilman in comprehending little shards of the reality outside his gated preserve -- and not only that, it's completely safe for him to peruse because the publication is called THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE.

I've highlighted just one pertinent suggestion. You're welcome.

How to Brew a Midwest Downtown Renaissance, by John Burtka III (The American Conservative)

1. Infrastructure. Local government music t invest in downtown roads, streetscapes, placemaking, parks, and trails. If you have the vestiges of 1970s urban planning, such as roads turned into walking plazas or one-way bypasses speeding potential customers around and away from downtown businesses, you must remove these impediments to growth now. Many of these projects can take advantage of federal and state incentives that already exist.

See, that wasn't so bad ... was it?

Monday, December 05, 2016

If Mayor Gahan's new sewer rate initiative is as vital as his press release says, will he actually attend tonight's council meeting to take ownership of it?


Earlier today, just a few hours before tonight's city council meeting, sewer-colored smoke began rising from the flue of the Down Low Bunker. 

Remember when Mayor Jeff Gahan mentioned the sewers during his re-election campaign in 2015?

I didn't think so. That's because he didn't. Following is the text of today's strange last-minute announcement, verbatim. 

---

Sewer Board & Mayor Urge Action to Protect Health, Environment, and Economic Growth of City, by the Anchor Propaganda Commissariat.

At this evening's City Council meeting, the City Council will consider support of certain Sanitary Sewer Improvements that will finalize the City of New Albany’s obligation with the Environmental Protection Agency by eliminating all remaining overflows and to take action to protect residents from excessive sewer rate increases.

The New Albany Sewer Board is requesting that the New Albany City Council approve four capital projects and assign a Consumer Price Index for all future rate changes.

The four infrastructure projects include the construction of an underground storage tank, which is being designed to eliminate the remaining sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and meet all the final requirements demanded by the EPA under the Consent Decree including the oversight of sewer credits. The New Albany Sewer Board is requesting approval of the City Council to fund a system of underground, odorless storage tanks. These storage tanks will help eliminate the remaining SSOs by containing the contaminated rainwater within the tanks while the sanitary system is at peak capacity due to heavy rainfalls and not producing overflows into the community. As the rainfall and water levels subside, the contaminated water in the storage tanks will then be pumped back into the system. In addition, the Sewer Board is asking the City Council to help fund 2 lift station improvement projects and a clarifier system that helps improve the efficiency of the treatment operation. With these projects, it is expected that no additional major capital improvement projects will be needed for at least 10-15 years and the EPA will release the City of New Albany from the highly regulated consent decree which restricts development by regulating sanitary usage to prevent sanitary sewage overflows SSO’s.

The City of New Albany has been held to an EPA consent decree since 1992.

A Sanitary Sewer Overflow is when untreated sewage is discharged from the sanitary sewer system before it reaches the sewage treatment facility. These SSO’s are mainly caused by rainfall, creating what is known as a wet weather overflow. The EPA demanded the City of New Albany eliminate these SSOs in 1992. Before previous and recent improvements were made, a 1 inch rainfall could cause Sanitary Sewer Overflows in the millions of gallons. Now, with ongoing efforts and improvements like the Sewer Reline Project, even a heavy 3.5 inch rainfall event only produces about 10,000 gallons of SSOs. In 2010, the City identified nearly 80 SSO sites. Currently, the City is down to 16 sites that experience SSOs during certain conditions and rainfalls.

Also as part of the Consent Decree, the EPA has oversight and final approval of any developments within New Albany’s service through the granting of a limited amount of sewer credits. This means the EPA can limit, reduce, or deny economic development projects and growth opportunities for the City. The City of New Albany is experiencing growth, business development and future interest in redevelopment. However, with a limited amount of sewer credits remaining, and final approval of these developments by the EPA, the City could be in a situation of turning down projects and growth for the community.

The Sewer Board has also asked the City Council to assign the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all future rate changes to protect residents and businesses from excessive rate increases.

On average, sewer expenses have risen 22% over the last 4 years in communities throughout the state of Indiana, and lots of these communities have not taken action yet to protect residents of their communities. Six years ago, residents of New Albany had to experience the harsh consequences of a large sewer rate increase because it was not addressed by prior officials before it became an issue. In 2010 and 2012, customers had to endure a total rate increase more than 40%. By comparison, the City of Jeffersonville had to implement a rate increase beginning in 2011 to 2015 which equated to approximately a 200% increase to customers in their average sewer bill from about $24 per month to $73 per month.

By taking this action, we can help protect residents of New Albany from exorbitant and detrimental rate increase to sewer customers as seen in other communities and help protect their financial situation in the future.

Sewer Utility Finances


Compared with other local communities, the New Albany Sewer Utility is on solid financial footing. The Utility is hopeful that all EPA requirements will be met within the next 3 years, provided the projects are approved that will eliminate the final nuisance SSOs. Current financials show that they Utility will see significant debt reduction of over $4 million annually within 7 years. As a comparison, some local communities are not projected to be debt-free until 2045.

"We’re very proud that we have been able to both reduce debt caused by EPA obligations and protect residents from large rate increases, while simultaneously making improvements to the Utility that help protect the environment. Adopted as presented, this ordinance will set the course for long-term economic growth, protect the health of all residents, and ensure the financial viability of the New Albany Sewer Utility well into the future," stated Mayor Gahan.

Mix and mingle: Southern Indiana Equality's annual meeting is Thursday, December 8.


Southern Indiana Equality's annual meeting is on Thursday, December 8th, Details follow below, but first, what to talk about.

NOW IS THE TIME TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (The New Yorker)

... Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.

Here is the meeting announcement. I hope to see you there.

---

Greetings! 

We hope to see you at Southern Indiana Equality's annual meeting this week on Thursday, December 8th, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Pride Bar + Lounge, 504 State Street in New Albany. This event will be a mix and mingle-style evening, with the goal of connecting and collaborating. Additionally, this event will be family-friendly and there will be wristbands available for those under age 21. There will be a full menu/bar open - plan an evening out.

After a whirlwind summer with the inaugural Jeff Pride Festival, Southern Indiana Equality has spent some time reflecting and thinking about the year ahead. We are looking forward to our upcoming annual meeting as an opportunity to collaborate, gather your input, and plan together for the year ahead to best address your goals for equality in southern Indiana. We want to be a group that serves the community with action and compassion.

We look forward to connecting with you at our meeting! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Hannegan Roseberry
Vice-President
Southern Indiana Equality

"I speak not for myself but for those without voice... those who have fought for their rights... their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated."
-- Malala Yousafzai

Jeff Gahan's predictably wasted opportunity to civilize Vincennes Street using Jeff Speck's sensible plan.


This text is pasted from Jeff Speck's landmark New Albany streets study, and now serves to remind us that from a glorious potential starting point of ribeye, we're left with a tiny puddle of fatty stew meat.

---

A Limited Mandate

The conclusions from this exercise are clear: downtown New Albany has the potential to become much more crowded with vehicles than it currently is, and the best way to protect against this overcrowding would be to reduce the Supply of downtown lanes to a number that is no greater than the current Demand.

However, as dramatic as this recommendation would sound, it actually has a very limited impact, since so few of New Albany’s streets are more than two lanes wide.

As will be discussed ahead, two-way traffic is superior to one-way traffic for both safety and city vitality, and a conversion of many streets back to two-way traffic will be recommended. This means that only those streets of more than two lanes are candidates for reduction. Within the study area, that condition applies to significant stretches of only the following streets: Vincennes, Market, and Spring.

Within the study area, Vincennes is the easiest street to discuss, because it contains a strange extra northbound lane, creating a 3-lane capacity on a road carrying only slightly more than one lane’s worth of traffic. It also has a massive 5-lane cross-section at its intersection with Main Street, despite its low car counts. Eliminating the extra northbound lane and the unnecessary right-hand turn lane at the Main Street intersection will result in a safer street that is still sized well beyond its current volume would demand.

Vincennes Street

Vincennes Street’s asymmetrical section contains an additional northbound lane that is not justified by traffic demand.

Current Condition

From half a block north of Spring Street to Main Street, Vincennes Street consists principally of a three-lane section, with additional right-hand turn lanes inserted at Spring Street and Main Street, and an additional southbound lane added at Main. This 3-lane section is striped with two lanes northbound and one lane southbound, as if the northbound flow were dominant, but it is not. Hourly traffic counts on Vincennes peak at 490 north of Main, 812 north of Market, and 654 north of Oak.

Analysis
Vincennes Street is clearly oversized for its traffic. At no point do car accounts approach the number that would require a third lane. This condition is supported by the fact that the third lane, rather then being striped for left turns, merely provides northbound redundancy with no southbound counterpart.

Acknowledging that a two-lane section is ample south of the busy Spring Street intersection allows the extra northbound lane to be replaced by a wider parking aisle on that side, holding angled parking instead of parallel. Given that Vincennes is a desired bike route, this parking should be back-in, and sharrows should be placed in the roadway.

As it approaches Main Street, the tapered cross section gains additional width that should be put to used as a center turn lane, with other lanes (including the parking lane) widening slightly in order to use up the extra asphalt.

Recommendation

From Division to Stone, restripe Vincennes to include 8-foot parallel parking on its western curb and 17-foot back-in angle parking (at 60 degrees) on its eastern curb. South of Stone, as the street widens, insert a 12-foot left-hand turn lane, and broaden the parking bays to 10 feet and 18 feet respectively. Insert sharrow markings in roadway near each intersection.

Get paid to eat and drink? Hey, I'm back in the job market, and this position sounds promising.


Except that I draw the line at the festering remains of the Floyd County Democratic Party. That's just too much risk for this pagan.

The Worst Paid Freelance Gig in History Was Being the Village Sin Eater ... Sin eaters risked their souls to soak up the sins of the dead, by Natalie Zarrelli (Atlas Obscura)

When a loved one died in parts of England, Scotland, or Wales in the 18th and 19th centuries, the family would grieve, place bread on the chest of the deceased, and call for a man to sit in front of the body. The family of the deceased watched on as this man, the local professional sin eater, absorbed the sins of the departed’s soul.

The family who hired the sin eater believed that the bread literally soaked up their loved one’s sins; once it was eaten, all the misdeeds were passed on to the hired hand. Once the process was complete, the sin eater’s own soul was heavy with the ill deeds of countless men and women from his village or town.

The sin eater paid a high price to help others drift smoothly into the afterlife: the coin he was given was worth a mere four English pence, the equivalent of a few U.S. dollars today. Usually, the only people who would dare risk their immortal being during such a religious era were the very poor, whose desire for a little bread and drink carried them along.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

(2 of 2): It's been 600 days, and Bob Caesar and the city of New Albany continue to stonewall a legitimate request for Bicentennial Commission records. Can't someone just tell us about the books?


For a more comprehensive survey of what transpired in New Albany during the Bicentennial Year Zero End Times in 2013, go here.

(1 of 2): It has been 600 days since I asked Bob Caesar to show us the Bicentennial accounts, but at last, an entirely unsatisfactory answer has been proffered.

All we really wanted to know is how well those hired-gun Bicentennial books had sold, how many of the 5,000 (!) remained to be sold, and whether Redevelopment's loan was ever paid back. At the time, we were fairly gripped with mercenary gala nostalgia just thinking about it.

I've been trying to make sense of it ever since, and this brings us to the present.

---

It was almost exactly 600 days ago when I first asked Councilman (and former Bicentennial Commission chairman) Bob Caesar in public during city council speaking time to see the commission's records.

Specifically, I asked for information pertaining to the commission's showpiece bicentennial book: How much it cost, who paid the bill, how many were sold, and how many remain.

There were follow-up e-mails with Caesar, in one of which he voluntarily acknowledged having these records (below), as well as further public reminders during council meetings. However, the records were never produced.

Circa March 2016, after a year had passed, I brought it up again during a council meeting, and Caesar opted for open evasion. He claimed the records are available on-line (untrue then, as now), and then waved off my reminder by saying I could file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) public record request if I wished.

So I did.

The city's corporate attorney Shane Gibson promptly acknowledged receiving my request, provided an equally timely date for it to be honored, then ignored his own deadline, waiting 21 weeks to act. This prompted me to file a complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor.

Last week (November 30), with the counselor's decision imminent, Gibson e-mailed me. He said I could have what he was willing to let me have (tax records and council meeting minutes, for the most part), but not what I specifically requested.

Here's the letter.


Following is the relevant text from Gibson's letter (above), in which he responds to my specific requests item by item. They're my original words from the initial request, with Gibson's replies underlined.

Requested Items:

Details should include all bids, contracts and expenditures for Bicentennial Commission activities, prime among them the process through with the Bicentennial book (“Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge,” by James Crutchfield) was contracted, published and sold, and the status of the Redevelopment Commission’s loan to make publication of this volume possible.

Response: The City does not possess the above referenced items.

As part of this request, I am requesting to know the current status of inventory with regard to these books. If books remain unsold, how many remain, and where are they stored? Also, when a Bicentennial book is given away at a public ceremony, who paid for it? These invoices are to be considered part of this request.

Response: The request for inventory is not a request for public records, however, the City does not possess any such document that details inventory. The City does not possess any of the other above referenced items.

As part of this request, I am further requesting copies of the official e-mail correspondence between Robert Caesar and other members of the Bicentennial Commission pertaining to these plans and transactions.

Response: The City does not possess the above referenced items.

Now, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Gibson would treat my information request in a spirit of spiteful nonchalance. It's what Team Gahan does.

At the same time, strictly speaking, he's probably telling the truth by means of carefully chosen words, and this is something I can at least appreciate. He says the city does not possess the referenced items, not that the referenced items do not exist. Presumably, someone else possesses them, and this certain someone undoubtedly is Caesar himself.

Because: Caesar previously admitted possessing them. Turning back the clock to June, 2015, here is my e-mail question to Caesar, followed by his reply.

Monday, June 08, 2015:
Do you recall a few weeks back, when I spoke a city council and expressed interest in learning about the state of the Bicentennial finances? Consider this my follow-up. So many things are happening that I let it slip, but I was (and remain) serious about seeing these numbers.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015:
None of the financials are on line. They are upstairs under a lot of stuff. I can tell you all bills are paid, and paid on time. All reporting to the state is done. And we did not use all of the city money. There was about 5 to 10K that stayed in the city funds.

That's right, folks.

Not on-line where the public might view them, and not even stored in an accessible public office, but "upstairs under a lot of stuff." Welcome to accountable governance, Nawbany-style.

To repeat, the records I've been requesting for over a year and a half, which detail the activities of a municipally-chartered body, one that by Caesar's own admission made use of at least a portion of taxpayer money to finance its activities, are not available at City Hall, where they should be filed, but "upstairs," perhaps in Caesar's attic, or (at the time) his former jewelry business.

That's incredible.

Consider also that by the spring of 2016, when Caesar sarcastically contended the commission's records were available on-line, he knew there was no way this assertion could be true, as it implied that someone attached to the city had taken the records from their resting place "Upstairs at Caesar's," except this surely didn't happen. If it did happen, and the records were transferred to City Hall to be scanned, why couldn't Gibson find them? What happened to them?

And so on, and so forth. Sadder still, there's no way of knowing if the records aren't currently taking up space in the landfill.

But bicentennial books definitely still exist. What about them?

At the time of the Bicentennial Commission's iron Luddite grip on the city's anniversary celebration, Caesar's own repeated public utterances suggested that 5,000 books were to be produced at a cost of $144,000 ($28 and change per book), and we know that seed money to accomplish this came from the Redevelopment Commission, following a farcical effort to extort money from the Southern Indiana Tourism Bureau.

In fact, Caesar told the council that profits from book sales would help pay for the cost of hiring an out-of-state-freelance writer and other publishing-related expenses. To put it gently, bountiful apocryphal evidence suggests that Caesar's dream scenario didn't come to fruition, which makes Gibson's reply last week even more potentially disingenuous.

Because: While the commission's records may not be within the city corporate attorney's possession, plenty of the books apparently remain in the city's loving reach, to be handed out by the mayor like Halloween candy at ribbon-cuttings and other civic events, as shown in this photo I took in 2015 at Underground Station. Look for the paving stone under the mayor's arm.


Gibson again: "The request for inventory (of books) is not a request for public records, however, the City does not possess any such document that details inventory. The City does not possess any of the other above referenced items."

If so, where is the mayor getting his many copies of the book?

Did he purchase them himself?

Are they stacked at his garage?

Shouldn't the Bicentennial Commission's records explain all this?

Shouldn't those records be available for public perusal, since public money was used to finance the bicentennial festivities?

Why can't just one of these persons -- any one of them, just take your pick -- man up, answer these questions and provide the requested records?

I know nothing will come of this, but by any measure of ethics as applied to elected officials, Bob Caesar's behavior in this instance merits censure by the city council. At the very least, perhaps other council members can help Caesar understand that when he has spent 600 days sidestepping what should be a simple information request, it makes the council look bad as a whole, as well as feeding suspicions that Caesar has something to hide.

Caesar is a self-styled budget hawk, constantly making references "for the record" about the grave necessity of paying close attention to the financials and accounting for every dime of public money.

Except when the jeweler fancies himself a publishing mogul. Below is the ordinance establishing Caesar's personal plaything commission.


BI-CENTENNIAL COMMISSION
§ 33.165 CREATION.
(A) There is hereby created the New Albany Bi-Centennial Commission.
(B) The membership of the Bi-Centennial Commission shall be composed of nine citizen members, five appointed by the Mayor and four appointed by the Common Council. The terms of office of the membership shall be for the period of time commencing with appointment and concluding at midnight on December 31, 2013. The Mayor and Common Council may remove and appoint its members at will.
(C) The mission of the Bi-Centennial Commission shall be to plan, coordinate and implement projects and events to celebrate the city’s bi-centennial. The Bi-Centennial Commission shall work with local citizens, businesses, organizations and institutions to accomplish its mission.
(D) The Bi-Centennial Commission shall adopt by-laws. These by-laws shall address such issues as meeting times and places, rules for the conduct of meetings, and other rules for the efficient operation of an advisory commission.
(E) The Bi-Centennial Commission shall appoint members to an advisory committee that it will work with to engage local citizens, businesses, organizations and institutions to accomplish its mission.
(Ord. G-09-06, passed 3-19-2009; Ord. G-12-01, passed 2-6-2012)

(1 of 2): It has been 600 days since I asked Bob Caesar to show us the Bicentennial accounts, but at last, an entirely unsatisfactory answer has been proffered.

Eight more months have dragged past since my last update on March 14, 2016, which is repeated below. Finally, after 600 days, I've received an answer, which is explained in detail in the second of two posts.

(2 of 2): It's been 600 days, and Bob Caesar and the city of New Albany continue to stonewall a legitimate request for Bicentennial Commission records. Can't someone just tell us about the books?

"The City does not possess the above referenced items."

Why has Bob Caesar (and now Shane Gibson) stonewalled a simple information request from a taxpaying citizen, and for 600 days? The following explanation provides an overview; it appeared on November 2, 2015.

---


I'd sugarcoat it if I could, but it isn't possible. If you live in the 2nd council district, you're simply doomed for the next four years in terms of council representation.

Incumbent Bob Caesar vows to do anything possible to rectify street design deficiencies so long as nothing is done to rectify street design deficiencies.

Challenger Irv Stumler agrees, and ups the ante by promising to demolish any unsightly object, because appearances are all that matter.

In short, two well-off elderly white men, vying to see which of them imposes the same vision of anchors-in-place propriety on a fluid situation, with neither of them grasping anything that has occurred since about 1974, as experienced by the rest of us out here in the real world.

And then there's the legacy of our city's Bicentennial celebration two years ago.


Way back on January 7, 2014, we asked:

On the Bicentennial's Crutchfield seat cushions: How many were sold? Was the loan paid back?


All we really wanted to know is how well those hired-gun Bicentennial books had sold, how many of the 5,000 (!) remained to be sold, and whether Redevelopment's loan was ever paid back. At the time, we were fairly gripped with mercenary gala nostalgia just thinking about it.

A pile of these books surely still exist, unsold and destined to be dispersed at every glad-handing political photo opportunity between now and the Tricentennial, as at the dedication of Underground Station in the fall of 2015.

Look under the mayor's arm.


Dig it: Your life savings invested in a local independent business amid the economic development director's incessant protests that nothing can be done by the city to help you, and then when zero hour arrives, they hand you a Bicentennial book and scatter, never to be seen again until the day you drive past the Bob Evans and see all those city vehicles parked there.

But enough of chagrin.

Let's get back to Tiberius Severus Octavian Elagabalus Septimius Augustus Claudius Hadrian, the Protector of Pearl, Deliverer of all Downtown Datedness, Master of the Mercantile, and Guardian of the Gates.

Earlier this year (probably April) I used a portion of non-agenda speaking time at a city council meeting to ask Bob Caesar publicly about the Bicentennial finances in general, and the book in particular.

My question came almost two years after Vic Megenity urged the council to audit the Bicentennial commission, a request swept under the rug as council heads gravely nodded and the Gahan administration  shifted into full retribution mode, subjecting Megenity to the usual Coffey-led ritualistic scourging for daring to differ openly with The DemoDixieDisneycratic Machine.

In fact, my council meeting question to Caesar came at about the same time that the Sanctioned Monument to the Glorious Usual Heroes of the Bicentennial Park Cash Unlimited Uprising was being installed, this being the plaque omitting Megenity's name -- they may not read books, but it doesn't mean they don't know their knee-jerk Orwell behavioral tics.

In April, Caesar said he'd get the information for me. In early June, I realized Caesar had never done so, so I e-mailed him.

Monday, June 08, 2015:
Do you recall a few weeks back, when I spoke a city council and expressed interest in learning about the state of the Bicentennial finances? Consider this my follow-up. So many things are happening that I let it slip, but I was (and remain) serious about seeing these numbers.

The following day, Caesar replied.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015:
None of the financials are on line. They are upstairs under a lot of stuff. I can tell you all bills are paid, and paid on time. All reporting to the state is done. And we did not use all of the city money. There was about 5 to 10K that stayed in the city funds.

Baylor: But surely they are available for perusal? Does it explain the ultimate disposition of the books? And, with whom would I speak with to get a copy? Thanks for your prompt attention.

Caesar: Give me a little time and I'll get them.

Roughly 118 days passed, and I tried again in an e-mail on October 5, 2015.

I was reminded that it's been a few months. Do you have this (book) information yet?

Caesar did not respond, but I saw him at Harvest Homecoming just a few days later and asked whether he received the e-mail. He nodded assent. I told him there was no particular hurry, but I'd love to see the figures. He said okay.

Another three weeks have passed, and the election's tomorrow. I think you know why I haven't seen the financials yet, and won't be viewing them until Wednesday at the earliest.

But Jeff Gahan says he doesn't agree with anyone who believes his team isn't transparent -- and make no mistake, Caesar is on Gahan's team.


So, Bob ... these many months later ... think there's any chance we might be able to view the Bicentennial finances, and learn how many of those books remain unsold?

At some point before the Tricentennial?

Thanks.

My State Street Parking Garage public art dream.


Even better: Hang a Trabi right in the center.


Zoo TV Tour

Breathlessness begets toothlessness as rental property registration begins tomorrow.


Bring out yer slumlords!

The self-congratulatory boilerplate begins in three ... two ... one ...

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Official News and Information about the City of New Albany directly from the Mayor's office. You can also keep up with our full calendar of events by clicking HERE.


December 01, 2016

Earlier this year, Mayor Jeff Gahan and Building Commissioner David Brewer urged the City Council to pass a rental registration program that requires landlords to register any properties within the city limits that will be rented to tenants. The Rental Housing Ordinance will increase communication that will help prevent the deterioration of residential housing, assist in compliance of minimum rental housing standards, improve safety for residents, protect the character and stability of residential neighborhoods, and preserve and increase property values throughout the city.

For more information about this history of this ordinance, please see here: http://newalbanycityhall.com/home/2016/3/7/rental-housing-ordinance-a-must-for-new-albany

To view the Rental Housing Registration Ordinance, please click HERE.

Rental Property Registration will begin on Monday December 5th. All landlords within the city will have until January 31st, 2017 to register their properties.


To register a property, please download and complete the form (linked HERE). After completing the form, you can mail the form in or turn it in at the City-County Building. A registration fee of $5.00 will be applied per rental address/parcel.

To mail in your completed rental registration form, please send both the form and $5.00 registration fee (checks only) to:

City of New Albany Building Department
311 Hauss Square, Rm. #329
New Albany, IN 47150
To e-mail your completed application, please send it to RentalRegistration@cityofnewalbany.com


If an application is e-mailed, you will still need to pay your registration fee either in person or through the mail.

"Engineers design streets for speeds well above the posted limit, so that speeding drivers will be safe—a practice that, of course, causes the very speeding it hopes to protect against."


See also: Charles Marohn's "The Five Ways Engineers Deflect Criticism."

The title of this post is explained by Jeff Speck, right here, but before we consider the "questionable applications of data" on the part of traffic (or "transportation") engineers, resulting in streets intended to accommodate automotive speed at the expense of wider societal safety, here is Speck again to metaphorically explain what HWC Engineering has done to his wonderful walkability plan for New Albany.

The relevant passage is in bold.

Speck: Resist the urge to make every street a highway

Urban design expert Jeff Speck -- who has made repeated appearances in Des Moines -- says transportation engineers often see every new street as a chance to build a highway.

That's a mistake in an era when streets need to be designed to meet diverse community needs, including the ability to walk through an area without crossing four to eight lanes of speedy traffic.

Speck, who runs his own consulting firm and teaches at Harvard University, writes in a blog post in The Atlantic: "Even when traffic engineers have the best intentions, too many simply lack the tools to make successful places. In the typical American city, asking a traffic engineer to design a walkable street is like asking a hammer to insert a screw."
Of course, HWC's merry hammering at screws is occurring according to the wishes of a City Hall that brains long ago forgot. Speck's New Albany streets study might as well have been written in Gaelic, insofar as Mayor Jeff Gahan is concerned. Sections applicable to campaign finance beak-wetting were retained for modification beyond recognition, and the rest was flushed.

The result?

Speck's amazing and transformative principles of walkability now have been truncated to achieve entirely unrelated imperatives, like paving envy and federal monies (see "beak wetting," above), as well as abject capitulation to trucking interests; hence the grainy, filler-stuffed sausage, and a two-way street grid plan stripped of most ancillary usefulness -- but just as with the elevation of the Mighty Trumpolini, Nawbanians elected Gahan, and now you get exactly what you want, good and hard, in the form of a city being built according to his atrophied, sleight-of-hand, Mickey Mouse "vision."

That felt great, so back to the point: Here's how traffic engineers knowingly build streets fit only for speeding cars.

Why The Rules Of The Road Aren’t Enough To Prevent People From Dying, by Anna Maria Barry-Jester (FiveThirtyEight)

... In 2013, 32,719 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, and 2.3 million were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Those numbers were down from the previous year, but motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death, and speed is a leading cause of accidents. The NHTSA estimates a $277 billion annual price tag for those accidents, with an additional $594 billion for “harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries.”

Given the social and economic toll of speeding, one might assume that we set speed limits with careful calculations aimed at maximizing safety. But that’s not exactly how it works, and a history of questionable applications of data is partly to blame.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Umberto Eco on "Eternal Fascism" and fascism's common features.


Simply stated, the late Umberto Eco is a great favorite of mine. To me, writers, intellectuals and thinkers matter.

They matter a lot.

Umberto Eco: “When men stop believing in God, it isn't that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything.”

This website aims to present all the aspects of the Writer, Linguist, Philosopher and the Man UMBERTO ECO. Eco was born in Alessandria, Italy on January 5th, 1932 and died at the age of 84 in Milano, Italy on February 19th, 2016.

Umberto Eco is still best known for his novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) which was published in 1980. The book is an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory. In 1986 a movie by the same name, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Sean Connery was released.

His 1988 novel Foucault's Pendulum could be described as a "thinking man's Da Vinci Code".

Umberto Eco was President of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici, University of Bologna. Additionally he has written a multitude of academic texts, children’s books and essays.

Eco's 1995 essay Ur-Fascism has exploded back into significance.

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism, by Josh Jones (Open Culture)

One of the key questions facing both journalists and loyal oppositions these days is how do we stay honest as euphemisms and trivializations take over the discourse? Can we use words like “fascism,” for example, with fidelity to the meaning of that word in world history? ...

Let's snip through to the list.

 ... While Eco is firm in claiming “There was only one Nazism,” he says, “the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change.” Eco reduces the qualities of what he calls “Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism” down to 14 “typical” features. “These features,” writes the novelist and semiotician, “cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”


  1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
  2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
  3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
  4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
  5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
  6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
  7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
  10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
  12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”


This abridged list (available in full at The New York Review of Books) comes to us from Kottke, by way of blogger Paul Bausch, who writes “we have a strong history of opposing authoritarianism. I’d like to believe that opposition is like an immune system response that kicks in.”

Cities may be able to curb the Mighty Trumpolini, but first, some unsightly trash.


Full disclosure: I'm linking to this article primarily because it's an excellent platform for this "take out the garbage" photo, sourced by the Green Mouse.

The article's pretty good, too.

Can Cities Counter the Power of President-Elect Donald Trump?, by Benjamin Barber (The Nation)

As the federal government turns toward nationalism, local governments will become crucial beacons of pluralism.

The new American reality suggests a very particular role for cities. The dominance of the Trump-brand of Republican party over all three branches of government renders the old balance of powers ineffective. Yet America’s cities and the networks they have forged with cities across the world—in bodies like the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the US Conference of Mayors, EuroCities, and the new Global Parliament of Mayors—have the weight to contain, and push back against, power.

The clock is ticking. Bridge completion and tolling is coming by the end of December, and Team Gahan is 100% unprepared.


Here's the set:

Now we know when the East End bridge will open (maybe) (Business First)

We have a tentative date for the opening of the East End bridge: the weekend of Dec. 17-18.

And the spike:

So when will tolling begin? Mindy Peterson, a spokeswoman for the downtown crossing and the RiverLink tolling system, told the CJ that a start date hasn't been determined. But she said tolls could be levied on the Lincoln and Kennedy bridges before the East End bridge opens.

That's two weeks, maybe three. What's the short term plan, Jeff?

Nuttin', honey.

 ... Supporters of two-way conversions say the change could help discourage Spring and Elm streets as a Ohio River Bridges Project toll-dodging method. The Sherman Minton Bridge connecting West Louisville and New Albany is one of two bridges that will be toll free at the end of the year.

"They've dragged their feet so much that the tolls are going to happen before they do anything," Mark Sanders, vice president of the (East Spring Street) neighborhood association, said.

It turns out that improv isn't just for comedy clubs any more.