Sunday, October 31, 2004

Garner's C-J letter an embarrassment to all New Albanians

I wrote to the Courier-Journal to express shame and dismay over the Mayor's letter.


In his meandering, illogical and semi-literate letter to the editor of the Courier-Journal, New Albany’s Mayor James Garner achieved nothing so much as foolishly embarrassing himself and confirming the city’s long-held position as regional joke.

Does Garner really believe that a newspaper's community obligation somehow does not extend to scrutinizing his abysmal personnel record since taking office?

Does Garner really believe that reducing an employee's hours and denying him benefits somehow does not constitute a "demotion"?

Does Garner really believe that the citizens of New Albany will not stand for the Courier-Journal's "lack of common decency," but will somehow continue to tolerate a glacial learning curve that threatens to last for the duration of his mayoral administration?

After decades of frustration, throughout which you'd have been better off looking for forward thinking political leadership in North Korea than in New Albany’s City Hall, finally there are compelling reasons to believe that the goal of revitalizing New Albany's persistently moribund downtown area may be within reach.

A progressive, articulate and charismatic mayor could do much to help this process along. Instead, we’re rewarded with more of the same tired, petty political games, this time artlessly played by a thin-skinned amateur who has nothing better to do than whine about “disrespect” from journalists doing their jobs.

New Albany does not need yet another genial and well-meaning figurehead to pose at flag raisings and Little League banquets. We need vision,aggressiveness and chutzpah. Judging from Mayor Garner’s pathetic letter, he’s completely, utterly overmatched.

Mayor Garner replies to the C-J: Gimme some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

New Albany's Mayor responded to the Courier-Journal editorial with this letter, titled "New Albany's Mayor offended."


I take great offense to your Sept. 16 editorial "Garner's spiteful act." Your newspaper does not give you or anyone in your organization the right to be disrespectful. Your poor choice of comment and opinion in the editorial was rude, unmannerly and disrespectful. I do not use the phrase "shut up" in my family or outside my family. It shows total disrespect for the intended person. I would hope that this phrase is not common for you or your family. Not only adults read your newspaper, children also read, and they need to see your newspaper as a pillar in this community, not as a disrespectful tabloid.

My father taught me to respect all people. Respect is something that can easily be afforded to all people, even when they disagree. I am not asking you to agree with me, but you should show respect to me and everyone else you might choose to berate in your paper. I will not, and the citizens of New Albany will not, stand for this lack of common decency.

Statements in your editorial are not correct. First of all, I did not demote Steve Broadus; he is still an inspector for the City of New Albany, and his hours were reduced to part time.

Second, it was not budgetary sense; it was fiscal sense due to the lack of work. It is true that New Albany had three full-time inspectors in early 2004. However, with a change in management, sometimes efficiencies can be found. New Albany does not have the volume of inspections to keep three full-time inspectors. We are in the process of reorganizing the Building Commissions Office and creating new ordinances in the city to increase our inspection of properties. I have said that if the work increases for Broadus' area of expertise, he will be offered the right to return to full-time employment.

Third, you did not seem to want the other side of the story. If you had, you might have contacted me for more information.

Any time an employer has to terminate, demote or reduce an employee's hours, it is a tough decision. However, these tough decisions are made every day by managers in our metropolitan area. The chief executive of a government entity is not the same as in private business, but you do not write editorials about private businesses when they reduce an individual to part-time status, and you should not for the government sector either.

I request that you give me a personal apology and a public apology for your rude and disrespectful comments. Your organization should be a friend to the community and not burn bridges with government officials with your personal comments.


The Louisville Courier-Journal on Mayor Garner

This editorial appeared on Sept. 16, 2004.


TALK about the law of unintended consequences. When New Albany plumbing inspector Steve Broadus beefed about the conduct of Building Commissioner Eddie Hancock, he didn't expect to lose his own full-time job.

But, in fact, Mayor James Garner did reduce Mr. Broadus, an 18-year city employee, to part-time work, which also eliminated his job-related benefits.

No question, change is justified. The question is, what kind? Inspection is under the control of Mr. Hancock - a 71-year-old former builder whom the Mayor appointed earlier this year, even though he's not a certified inspector. The state has begun checking all new commercial and industrial construction in the city, after discovering what appeared to be slipshod local oversight. Some of Mr. Hancock's own private building work is under state scrutiny.

The Mayor's explanation for demoting Mr. Broadus - that it makes budgetary sense, because there's so little work for him to do - ! sounds as thin as cheap plywood. The building department now will have only one full-time inspector, as opposed to the three people it had early this year.

Mr. Broadus wonders whether "this is happening to me because I'm trying to do my job." What else should he conclude, after being shoved to part-time the day after he issued a second order to stop work on a project being built by Mr. Hancock's brother, Nick?

It should come as no surprise if the public concludes there's something wrong here. City council members clearly think that what the Mayor has done looks bad and smells bad.

The Mayor's latest effort to justify his actions is a charge - made at a recent council meeting - that Mr. Broadus has been working for himself while on city time. Firmly denying this, Mr. Broadus notes that the Mayor never raised such an issue with him before cutting back his hours.

If the Mayor has proof, he should produce it. If he doesn't, he should back up and shut up.

Moving In

For someone who has lived in the New Albany area his entire life, the history and politics of the city never made much of an impression. More than three decades were spent in Georgetown and Floyds Knobs, both smaller communities in Floyd County. During my first marriage, we lived near work, out by I-265 and away from the faded city center. I spent a year in an apartment on Market Street, then bought a house downtown on Spring Street with Diana, who’s now my second wife.

This was in November, 2003, just about the time that an election was held and a new mayor, James Garner, was elected. I paid no attention to any of it beyond what little I read in the Louisville Courier-Journal, where I learned that Garner was the son of a deceased local doctor and campaigned on a platform of “a different kind of mayor.”

Fair enough. The first two-thirds of 2004 were spent walking and biking throughout the heart of the old city, or at least what remains of it, and a fascination began to take hold. Quite simply, numerous convergences boded well for the city’s future. There seemed to be a few people with the right idea, but for every one of them, there were a half-dozen absentee landlords whose dilapidated rental properties impeded progress.

Surely a different kind of mayor would put paid to the old ways, the pre-existing tolerance for sloth, and the bad habits of a half-century previous.

Wouldn’t he?

Friday, October 22, 2004

The masthead.

You don’t need a gumshoe with rotten breath and one too many alimony payments to figure out the problem with this town. It’s something in the water that causes people here to lose their vision. Q: What do New Albanians call Southside's mashed potatoes? A: Freedom Foie Gras. Well, we’re here to change all that.