Wednesday morning -- here are the web links to local media coverage of yesterday's county meeting.
County government weighs its role in Scribner Place, by Kyle Lowry, Tribune County Reporter.
Floyd needs a new jail, officials agree; County just starting to gather ideas, by Dick Kaukas of the Courier-Journal (limited shelf life for C-J links).
But first, with polite applause from the studio audience, we join “Southern Indiana Jeapardy,” in progress …
“I’ll take Public Officials for $1,000, Alex.”
(Whirring electronic noise.)
“Only he could unite YMCA fundraiser Mike Ricke and professional oppositionist David Huckleberry in mutual annoyance.”
"Mr. Baylor ... "
“Who is Ted ‘Headmaster’ Heavrin, the Floyd County Council President?”
Audience member: “Well, at least we can use the thousand bucks to defray the costs of Scribner Place.”
FLASH: On Tuesday afternoon, the Floyd County Council made no decisions with respect to a contributory role in Scribner Place funding, and did not confirm or deny the dollar figure stipulated in the New Albany City Council’s July 7 resolution pertaining to the county’s suggested tithe of half the annual lease rental payment for the project.
This calculated inaction came as a surprise to a meeting room filled to nervous capacity with advocates of Scribner Place, including Mayor James Garner, the city’s development and redevelopment chiefs, DNA and YMCA officials, members of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, one city councilman (Jack Messer), a former councilman, and others too numerous to mention.
There was no Lord’s Prayer, no menacing Brambleberry “for all” echo of the Pledge of Allegiance’s final two words, no pussyfooting with the agenda, no demands for an investigation into the mayor’s role in the Watergate break-ins … and no discussion of Scribner Place, as well as no public comments permitted on the topic of the project.
Period. The End. Finito.
Instead, there was a brisk, no-nonsense business meeting during which Coffeyesque grandstanding was strictly prohibited by the formidable president, followed by an offer of public speaking time that was not taken advantage of owing to the qualification that the public would not be allowed to speak about Scribner Place – which, of course, is why the public thought it was in attendance at the county’s Tuesday meeting in the first place.
Council President Heavrin’s explanation of these compelling negations came about in response to the plaintive wail of compulsive complainer Huckleberry, and it soon became obvious that Huckleberry had chosen to finish the pledge in unison this time because he knew CM Heavrin wouldn’t permit him to monkey around with it as the city council generally does.
Note to Jeff Gahan ... please ...
CM Heavrin originally had been inclined to allow a “spokesman” for groups in attendance to have five minutes of speaking time, but when Huckleberry objected to being excluded because none of his fellow Luddites were in the room, and hence he was not a member of a group (anarchists seldom are, but that may be giving him too much organizational credit), CM Heavrin shrugged and immediately changed tack, precluding any and all comment, and explaining that while he’d previously been told that an unnamed newspaper had mentioned that the county council would be discussing, and perhaps even voting, on Scribner Place at Tuesday's meeting, this was utterly untrue – and, not illogically, if there were to be no vote, there would be no discussion.
During this and another half-dozen subsequent references to the “paper” and its purveying of misconceptions about the council agenda, CM Heavrin neither mentioned the newspaper’s name nor explained why he didn’t read it himself, and more importantly, he didn’t once comment on why he hadn’t tried to correct the mistake, which would have saved concerned citizens the trouble of altering their schedules to attend a meeting where their topic of interest was not included on the agenda for consideration.
But wait ...
There's a rational and ultimately powerful reason for CM Heavrin’s inaction, for if he had energetically acted to set the record straight, few who were in the crowd would have bothered attending, and consequently, there would not have been a fully captive audience of important city officials, each sitting meekly while they were vigorously scolded for the sins of the previous Mayor, who didn’t include the county in her plans for Scribner Place, and for the transgressions of current City Councilman Larry Kochert, whose “fair share” clause was inserted to insult county politicos … and in a rare instance of achievement on the ward-heeling CM Kochert’s part, did exactly that.
And so everyone grimly sat and took their medicine, dispensed with fairly sizeable dollops of dripping condescension from both CM Heavrin and CM Larry “I know finances, and you don’t” McAllister, but in the end, fair is fair.
CM Heavrin had us ... and he wasn't letting go. I can't say that I blame him for that.
What followed was a meticulously orchestrated seminar on the sheer number of expensive, pressing issues that the county council and county commissioners must deal with in the coming months, and as we in the city struggle to make sense of why we’ve been burdened with CM Steve Price’s asinine pronouncements, and reel in horror from CM Dan Coffey’s cheap theatrics, and scratch our heads in abject puzzlement at the mercurial provocations of Slippery Larry, the members of the county council want us all to know that they're performing their statutory functions and watching the whole county's purse strings.
Just as CM Kochert inelegantly used last week’s city council meeting to release the lesser angels of his nature with reference to the county, so today the county’s CM Heavrin responded by presenting a virtuoso, impromptu clinic for the benefit of the city leaders lured to the meeting, expounding at length on jail overcrowding, what it might cost to build a new facility, how that might be tied in with relocation of county offices, the potential $2 million bill for the forthcoming Camm/Boney trials, numerous unfunded mandates from the state … and while the county council understands how important Scribner Place is for the city, it intends to deal with its own “In Box” first, thank you – and learning a few manners wouldn’t hurt, either.
It made sense, and it was fully understood and appreciated in this quarter.
Providing the proverbial spoonful of sugar, the county council’s recognized Scribner-friendly members made their thoughts clearly known, observing that while they support the project and see the benefits for both city and county, some of their constituents in the county do not, and those views must be taken into consideration.
Although differences in opinion were evident, the interplay between county council members during this give and take session did not become strained as is the all too frequent case during city council meetings, and a uniformly high degree of professionalism was maintained throughout.
In closing, here is one blogger’s opinion: I know that if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger, and I appreciate the skull session about the jail and your sociological survey of crime statistics, but damn it, Ted, I already knew that we need a selective purge of regressive city council members, and since we can’t do anything about them for another two years (anyone care to broach the redistricting idea that Dan Coffey was so adamantly opposed to a couple years ago?), how about cutting us some slack?
Readers, take note: The county council's public hearing on the matter will be held on Tuesday, August 9 at 6:00 p.m. in the third-floor meeting room.