Monday, February 28, 2005

Brave new 'Bune world kicks off Tuesday

Tomorrow marks the debut of a new look for the New Albany Tribune.

Our best guess is that the differences will be strictly cosmetic and that there will be no serious effort to upgrade the newspaper's content.

These long-anticipated "reforms" began with yesterday’s final Monday edition, which is to be replaced by a Saturday issue.

On Sunday, Managing Editor Chris Morris verified our friend Joe Emerson’s prediction by tying the new Tribune publication schedule primarily to the lofty ideals of high school sports.

Both Chris and Publisher Carl Esposito have referred to various other aspects of life on Earth as conceivable reasons for a revamped ‘Bune, but as Joe correctly noted, basketball remains the prime mover in New Albany (and America).

Unfortunately, Chris’s Sunday morning explanation, complete with too many assurances that quality is job one, put to rest any forlorn hope that the Tribune might decide to broaden its vision and become involved in local issues that range beyond sweat and short pants.

Perhaps higher common denominators have been banned by ordinance, although in light of the city's budget crisis, an ordinance enforcement officer has yet to be hired.

Given the Wichita serial killer situation, this might not be a bad thing.

NA Confidential apologizes for its inability to offer direct quotes from Morris and Esposito. The Sunday Tribune was not delivered, the newspaper’s phone wasn’t answered on Sunday morning, a special delivery of the Sunday paper was promised us on Monday, and like stopped clockwork, it didn’t show up today, either. We read the Sunday paper over coffee at mom's.

It has been suggested that the Tribune and the Evening News will share more content as a result of the changes, and if this means that long-suffering ‘Bune readers find themselves with a larger chunk of the superior news writing available on a daily basis in the Evening News, then it will all be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, the Tribune remains a source of surreal wonderment. Its management claims to care most about sports and education, and in these areas, both athletes and students excel by training diligently and working hard to improve their performance.

If he’s reading, Carl Esposito is cordially invited to answer the following question:

Why do these qualities not apply to the newspaper itself?

Although we can't spell "obscenity," we sure as hell know it when we see it ... by the way, is that item for sale?

The Sherman Minton Bridge still stands.

The many vacated commercial buildings in downtown New Albany haven’t collapsed – yet.

People are moving, going to work, shopping, living their lives.

When the sun again sets, the highlands we know as Silver Hills will cast a long evening shadow over the city’s west side, where New Albany Adult DVD finally has opened on Main Street in spite of persistent and generally bungled efforts on the part of the city to keep the business shuttered.

The First Amendment has survived another beating at the hands of small-minded ward heelers, and now the market will commence its judgment on the veracity of New Albany DVD’s business plan.

Naturally, owing to the ongoing litigation and various settlement possibilities, we’ll never know if the store’s strategic aims were designed with day-to-day profit in mind, or whether inviting the city’s misguided wrath and collecting the proceeds was the store’s only goal from the beginning.

Amany Ali’s Sunday Tribune survey of the New Albany DVD saga concludes with this account of the Wizard of Westside’s latest bizarre rationale for self-insertion with respect to arbitrating New Albanian morality.

West end resident Dan Coffey said he is attempting to raise enough money to buy the building and use it for a senior center. Coffey is a City Councilman, but said his efforts are strictly as a New Albany resident who does not want the adult bookstore in New Albany.

Coffey said he has taken pledges so far, and said he will not actually begin collecting money until he knows that enough money could be collected to accomplish the goal.

Coffey said the new business is not an asset to the city.

"I try not to look at it," he said. "It kind of breaks your heart when you drive by it."

Coffey said he doesn't think local residents will frequent the store.

However, he said he thinks customers will keep the business open.


"I think the vast majority of people will come from Louisville," he said.

Citizen Coffey is to be commended for belatedly swapping his elected persona for a more properly expressed private one, which places him firmly within the ranks of concerned taxpayers like David Huckleberry, whose recent suggestion that we do a better job of fleecing Caesar’s-bound motorists drew enthusiastic nods from Councilman Coffey.

However, Coffey is heartbroken at the sight of New Albany DVD, a rare “new business” that even the Wizard can see fits the bill of enticing transitory Louisvillians to spend money in New Albany, something that “local residents” assuredly won’t do … but these same “local residents” still must pay, either by pledging the money they wouldn’t spend on adult DVDs toward a crusade to uproot the store, or providing it indirectly to city government to atone for its botched campaign against the First Amendment.

All the while, whether through Coffey’s congenital grandstanding or the city’s mangled legal strategies, New Albany DVD is provided free publicity and maximum exposure (pun intended) far beyond what it could receive in paid advertising.

Had the city ignored New Albany DVD in the spring of 2004, allowed it to open for business, passed ordinances restricting future projects of the same ilk, and all in all, treated the phenomenon according to a policy of containment rather than aggression, it is quite possible that New Albany DVD would already have passed into history by now.

Instead, fueled by the puritanical zeal of the Coffeyites, the city faces a lose-lose situation, with every available option standing to cost us money we don’t have to spend.

As for the Wizard himself, it is quite likely that he see the situation as clearly as NA Confidential … but when it comes to ambition, self-aggrandizement means never having to say you’re constructive.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Latest issue of Jeff Roudenbush's "The Forum" mailed to NA Confidential

NA Confidential is appreciative of being placed on the mailing list of “Jeff Roudenbush’s The Forum of New Albany and Floyd County.”

Thanks for the enrollment.

The current issue of The Forum (February 2005; Volume 2, Issue 4) arrived today via snail mail, as it is a print-only product and apparently is not available on-line.

Articles are “limited to New Albany and Floyd County politics and government,” and written contributions are actively sought, with authors asked to “specify his or her party affiliation or political leaning.”

This month’s contributors include Yvonne Kersey, who compares New Albany’s 2003 and 2004 year-end financial reports, and the editor himself, Jeff Roudenbush.

Jeff discusses a request by township fire departments to consider reorganization into “fire districts,” the New Albany Fire Department’s proposed change in hiring policy (as presented before the City Council), and developments in the Linden Place subdivision controversy.

His editorial, “NA’s ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ Is Expanding,” expresses pleasure that “more citizens are taking an interest in city politics,” and introduces The Forum’s readers to Blogging in the form of NA Confidential (“runs pretty hot”), Volunteer Hoosier (“a civil level of discourse”) and New Albany Renewal (“downtown preservation and renewal.”)

As a longtime observer of the local political scene, Jeff has advice for the new generation of Bloggers:

“If I have any concerns about the bloggers at this point, it’s their newness to the process, the people and the personalities, the rules and regulations. Unrealistic expectations can cause undue anger when change does not happen as fast as you would like.”

He urges Bloggers to take account of issues, regulations and restrictions, as well as other, more instinctive factors.

“I had the wife of a candidate in a recent election tell me that she could not believe how many times her husband was asked whether he was a native of Floyd County (he wasn’t). She didn’t understand that natives will know and understand our issues – will know us – best.”

Jeff kindly adds:

“I think Roger Baylor of NA Confidential and Randy Smith of Volunteer Hoosier are going to have a positive impact on political discussions here in New Albany. I wish that someone like Warren Nash, retiring chairman of the Floyd County Democratic Party, a man who was Mayor of New Albany at an earlier age than these men began to take an interest in its politics had the interest and skills to moderate a blog. With his knowledge of the history of New Albany politics, what he could say if he were willing to say it … that would be fascinating.”

He concludes by asking public officials who might be tempted to participate on the Blogs to remember the potential pitfalls.

“Every word you say and especially every word you write is a part of the public record. Do your best to maintain your dignity and to make sure that nothing you say can come back to bite you.”

Speaking only for itself, NA Confidential knows and appreciates the sweet caress of the rhetorical stiletto, but nonetheless is delighted and honored to be one of the neighbors permitted to discuss the local news.

Again, sincere thanks for the issue.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Where men are men and hillsides are scared

When I was in high school, there were at least four taverns in the general environs of Floyds Knobs, all clustered tepidly along Paoli Pike as the highway swung left at the crest of the Knobs and set out westbound toward Mt. St. Francis.

To have spent one’s childhood years in a parsimonious, Baptist-inflected place like Georgetown is to grasp how important it became to win friends and influence classmates living in predominantly Catholic towns like Floyds Knobs.

A seemingly inexhaustible supply of big brothers and family friends to help the under-aged consumer buy beer was but one benefit of these hard-earned contacts.

Irvin’s, the most primitive and archaic of all the Floyds Knobs taverns, was located a few miles north of “downtown” in the shadow of St. Mary’s. It has been gone a very long time.

Herman’s Tavern also disappeared many years ago, although his widow Grace kept the bar open, sans signage, for short afternoon hours well into the 1980’s.

The Schupperts Corner beer joint that served me Falls City at age 17 didn’t survive the gentrification of the structure into “Mooresville Station,” circa 1980.

Happily, the venerable Mike’s Tavern remains alive, and will be open so long as there are Freibergers freely floating around the county.

The other bar still operating on Paoli Pike, Sammy O’s, not only has stayed in business, but it has undergone a complete metamorphosis. It is a transformation so incredible that if “surreal” were not a word, I’d have to invent it. The “new” Sammy O’s strikes me as a metaphor of sorts for the transformation of Floyd County from pastoral farmland to carefully crafted exurb.

I was reminded of this fact last week when Kyle Lowry’s front-page Tribune news story highlighted potential problems for Sammy O’s, as certain issues arising from its refurbishment have yet to be addressed:

Trust me, you must see the Tribune photograph before reading the remainder of this article.

In my fading recollection, the old Sammy O’s was a 1950’s-era brick structure divided into a bar and family room, with the familiar patina of cigarette smoke and grease, and a palpable aura of familiarity.

Today’s Sammy O’s is a completely new building, one-half tavern (facing the street), and one-half banquet facility in the rear.

The owner’s decision to expand his business certainly was influenced by the shape of the new Floyds Knobs, still a scattershot community laid out along creeks, valleys and accompanying roadways, but now utterly dominated by high-dollar developments like the Woods of Lafayette, a sprawling, garish subdivision complex that predictably necessitated the obliteration of its namesake woods to make room for something that the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu might have planned had he been born in Galena and not Wallachia.

Having little reason to venture into the county apart from occasional trips to Georgetown to visit my mom, I’d taken little notice of the evolution of Floyds Knobs until the summer of 2004, when my cousin’s wedding reception was scheduled for a place I’d never heard of, which was because it was the first such party to be held in the recently constructed hall … which of course turned out to be the catering arm of the “new” Sammy O’s.

All this faded into irrelevance as we drove into Floyds Knobs and saw the missing hillside behind the place where Sammy O’s used to stand.

I didn’t remember a rock quarry there.

Across Paoli Pike was a jagged, scarred and denuded slope where a wooded ridgeline used to be, and where landscaping apparently was about to begin as part of a Woods of Lafayette entrance, but at the time it was a barren tableau of mud inhabited by puttering bulldozers.

A strip mine? In Floyds Knobs? Perhaps the quarry and the mine were a package deal.

Torrential rain had made it impossible to finish the parking lot of the new Sammy O’s, which was slated to fill the space formerly occupied by the dynamited hillside, so fresh-faced teenagers were ready and waiting to park cars in the mud so wedding guests wouldn’t have to do it and get their shoes dirty.

Inside, the wedding reception proceeded without incident. With nary a good beer to drink, I became bored and wondered from the banquet hall section of Sammy O’s into the new barroom.

At first, it seemed as though I’d been beamed down into a sterile, gingerbread airport lounge – such was the airy, almost pastel-driven contrast to the gritty barroom d├ęcor of olden time.

Was that a spittoon hidden behind a potted plastic plant?

The tavern’s regulars were there just like they always were, but even they were vice-gripping their frozen longnecks like frightened children pawing the safety bars on an amusement park roller coaster, slack-jawed and gaping at clean walls entirely undecorated except for a Budweiser NASCAR banner, which is required by Indiana statute.

Strange days had found us … and it was an unsettling picture.

The reception ended, we tipped our valet, and it was over. I haven’t been back to Sammy O’s since, and probably won’t go – nothing against ‘em (in fact, I admire the owners for plunging ahead and investing in the future), but in the end, there’s no beer there for me.

And that strange missing hillside gives me the willies.

Here's to the hope that the Sammy O's regulars did well at the re-education camp. Change can be a very scary thing.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Coffee shop at 1515 E. Market taking shape

As reported by New Albany Annie some weeks back, the retail space at 1515 E. Market looks to be evolving into a coffee shop.

One clue is the "California's Coffee" sign on the front of the building. Another is the new flooring and counter being constructed inside.

Marvelous.

And only two blocks away ... perhaps the new coffee shop will stay open for more than 30 hours a week and thus make possible our patronage.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On disappointment, epiphanies and progress

One might say that a strong sense of disappointment motivated the birth of NA Confidential.

The accumulated experiences of a lifetime spent living and working in and around New Albany gradually coalesced, unexpectedly presenting me with a bouncing baby epiphany.

It flared while riding a bicycle or walking through the streets of New Albany, when considering the way it is here and the way I’ve observed it to be in other places, as I wetted a finger to lift into the breeze … after looking into the mirror and seeing the now middle-aged face smirking back at me … as a quarter-century of often reluctant adulthood finally made the persuasive case that neither I nor anyone else close to me stood to succeed in changing the world.

But helping to change my own little patch of turf might be another story entirely.

In turn, this simple observation both begs an important question and frames the subsequent political implications.

In short, why change?

Why prepare for the inevitability of tomorrow when the reality of today is itself such a challenge?

The answer is simple. We do it for the children.

From the beginnings of recorded history, thinking men and women have known that the only constant in life is change. We may honestly disagree as to the specific merits of this change or that one, but we cannot ignore that the world is in a continual state of flux.

We cannot, but for various reasons many among us do, and this is the element of the equation that is so very difficult to reconcile.

As one example of many, for a disturbingly large proportion of the world’s population, sewage disposal remains the open ditch running down the middle of a village street.

Yet, as beneficiaries of education and the wealth it creates – as the beneficiaries of progress – not one of us reading these words can avoid recoiling at the thought of living in such a place.

Assuming, of course, that we think at all.

And that's the problem.

It follows that at every juncture in human history, as a skilled researcher or incisive thinker provides incontrovertible evidence that open sewers cause suffering and disease, and that the quality of human life itself stands to be improved immeasurably by channeling and treating the effluent, someone in a position of power has looked on and said, “no – that’s not the way we do it here.”

Which is to say, the way we do it “here” is broken … and it needs fixing.

To understand what needs fixing in a place like New Albany does not imply the necessity of reading the complete works of Proust, earning an advanced degree in business administration or acquiring basic computer skills, although each is useful in its own way.

Rather, a short stroll though the downtrodden downtown area should be quite enough to convince the most casual of observers that there is much work to be done to improve economic opportunities, to upgrade sub-standard housing, and to provide an enhanced quality of life for the residents of the city.

It should be equally obvious that political “leadership” founded on the notion that the fulfillment of minimum standards and the maintenance of the lowest common denominator provide “success” in solving these problems has proven to be discredited, exhausted and bereft of the vitality necessary to move New Albany into the 21st century.

Political “leadership” of this ilk fails most spectacularly when it cynically surveys the certainties of what is to come, and in essence, takes the unfathomable position that it really isn’t necessary to act now so as to provide children of today with the possibility of better lives tomorrow.

Instead, it’s more important to hoard short-term political power today, to be the big fish in the little pond, to lubricate the ward heeler’s machine, and to insure that unexpected climatic change doesn’t disrupt the way things should remain.

To keep the lid on the dynamism that the small-time political power broker fears most because it can’t be controlled, our local Neanderthal populists must create and deploy a bogeyman.

Sadly, in New Albany, that bogeyman is the all-purpose notion of progress.

All too often our political luminaries inform us that progress is bad, and stagnation is good – it’s preserving our way of life, we’re told – except that in the absence of movement forward, there is no standing still because the only constant is change, so instead, there is regress, and regress is the lifeblood of the populist political cadre that has dominated New Albany for decades, content to obfuscate progressive attitudes and impede the efforts of progressives because the atmosphere engendered by progress is incompatible with the retention of control by the traditional system.

After all, nothing scares the big fish in the little pond more than the pond becoming bigger.

NA Confidential came about as a primal scream and a visceral response to these pathetic champions of regress, to these venal community pillars, and to those who continue to profit from keeping other people down.

To be disappointed in the foot-dragging, narrow-minded, small-time, dirty river town mentality of people who style themselves as political “elites” is one thing, but to see it worn almost as a badge of honor is to be profoundly embarrassed ... and to become angry.

Emotions aside, it all comes down to a simple comparison, one that I intend to continue using as the best means of examining the New Albany scene and the participants therein.

The comparison is far from absolute, and there is room for honest disagreement over its components. There will be trade-offs and compromises, but that’s always the case when there’s more than one person in the room.

Progressive or regressive?

Yesterday we considered the forthcoming Democratic Party leadership contest. A slate was provided. On one side are names like Randy Stumler, Marcey Wisman and Tony Toran.

On the other, one name stands out: Dan Coffey.

Progressive or regressive?

In point of fact, the countywide leadership contest is a referendum on the general theme of progress.

Progressive or regressive?

Here in the city, Mayor James Garner stumbled badly during his first year in office. Much of it was his own fault, and from its inception NA Confidential whipped him mercilessly … until it became clear that those “leaders” who are allied with the most virulent strains of regressive populism were using our “anti-Mayor” motif to attack the very notion of progressivism.

Progressive or regressive?

Thank you for asking, because that’s where I draw the line. Individuals come and go, but ideas and worldviews remain.

Progressive or regressive?

These are the stakes as New Albany contemplates its future, and as the Democratic Party prepares to select its leaders.

Na Confidential espouses progressivism and the implementation of a visionary and dynamic plan of action to move New Albany forward.

If our current Mayor’s instincts are in fact progressive (and there is evidence to suggest that in spite of his gaffes and missteps, this is the case), and if his opponents continue to espouse the politics of regressive populism, there should be absolutely no confusion as to which camp this Blog and its author propose to inhabit.

The progressive one.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Here are ALL the candidates for the upcoming Floyd County Democratic Party election

Na Confidential has received the full slate of candidates for leadership positions in the Floyd County Democratic Party. The election takes place on March 5 at the Bonnie Sloan Post of the American Legion. Precinct committee representatives do the voting, but the public can come and observe.

Chairman – Randall Stumler vs. Maury Goldberg
Vice-Chair – Marcey Wisman vs. Nikki Price
Secretary – Tony Toran vs. Dan Coffey
Treasurer – Adam Dickey vs. Beth Hardin

A quick note: We'd be more than happy to publish information pertaining to the workings of the local GOP, but to date, we've received no information.

'Bune axes Monday edition; city's parakeets restless

On January 16, NA Confidential asked: “Is the Monday edition of the Tribune headed for redundancy?"

Today, in news so earth-shattering that the full page ad announcing it is buried on page 10, the Tribune reveals that … its Monday edition is headed for redundancy, and a new Saturday edition will soon appear.

Publisher Carl Esposito promises that breaking Monday news will appear on the newspaper’s web site on those rare occasions when it is updated in a timely manner.

Class, holding your breath can be very bad for your health.

Floyd County Demos seek new leader

The Courier-Journal’s Ben Zion Hershberg reports that veteran politico and former mayor Warren Nash, chairman of the Floyd County Democratic Party since 1993, won’t seek re-election to his post when the party meets next week.

The outgoing chairman assesses the current political balance of power:

“With the development of many higher-priced subdivisions near Charlestown Road and in Lafayette Township, Nash said the Republican Party has gained strength in Floyd County in the last 12 years.”

Indeed, portraits of Grover Norquist and James Dobson are most often seen displayed lovingly on the mantles of walled exurbians.

“But in New Albany, Nash said, ‘we're stronger than ever.’ Democrats hold all the city's elected offices except one seat on the City Council.”

How’s that for consolation? With some members of the current City Council vying publicly for the coveted title of “least read” New Albanian, it’s not the place to look for threads of progressive leadership … at least at until the more reasonable members of the body come to the fore.

However, Hershberg leaves us with an extremely hopeful factoid.

“So far, Nash said, the only person who has notified the party of his intention to seek the chairmanship is Randy Stumler, a member of the Floyd County Council.”

Although Randy may have disqualified himself for a party leadership role by daring to express a progressive vision for the city of New Albany, and at half Nash’s age would undoubtedly frighten the stodgier party pillars, the thought of a bona fide teacher manning the controls of Floyd County’s Democrats is a pleasant one.

Consider the indigestion it likely would induce in Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey’s Anti-Thought Gang. That alone would be worth the price of admission.

Nash says, 'It's time for new blood'; Top Democrat in Floyd to step down, by Ben Zion Hershberg of the Courier-Journal.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Who's your mandate?

If, as the saying goes, prejudice is the child of ignorance, then ignorance is the father to us all, at least to judge from the prevailing winds of the American political climate.

It's mourning in America, so here's your complete forecast: Self indulgent skies this morning will become dunderheaded this afternoon. Very slight chance of redemption, highs few in number, lows in the suicidal range. IQ's at 5 to 10 mph, except during NASCAR.

While epiphanies are like steroid-induced homeruns in an era of televised talk-show psychology, the shallowness of the mass-marketed balm should not be permitted to detract from the periodic internal fireworks display somehow achieved autonomously and without the assistance of Oprah or “Your Life for Dummies.”

Mine came on he morning of November 3, 2004, as I surveyed the lunar landscape of election results and examined the newspaper for signs of how America had come to this.

Arguably, no nation in human history has been as determined to ignore the lessons of its history by turning its collective back on the precepts that brought it to a position of power and affluence.

Of the 60% of Hoosiers casting their votes for the trickle-down, tinkle-on economics of George W. Bush, how many (a) are sufficiently well-heeled that their tax breaks will magically translate into the sort of community-wide investment that programs like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) achieve, and (b) are at an income level where the absence of such grants will be keenly felt?

By the way, the necessity of trimming the federal budget to account for the regressive shift of wealth away from what is intended to comprise a permanent underclass has led to a proposal to eliminate the CDBG program.

George W. Bush thanks you for your mandate.

As the Tribune’s Amany Ali notes today, CDBG money funds New Albany’s redevelopment effort, helping to pay for handicap-accessible ramps, replacement windows and new sidewalks.

The White House insists that a revamped grant program will help put the money where it is needed most – in the hands of faith-based initiatives operated by volunteer evangelicals who will insist on loyalty oaths and public prayers before doling out rolls of quarters, designer Bibles and “Saddam Bombed the WTC” coloring books.

Okay, okay … the White House didn’t say that.

Out loud.

Did I mention that Dick Cheney thanks you for your mandate?

From The Nation: The Daily Outrage … What would MLK think?

New Albany could feel brunt of federal budget cut, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor

Monday, February 21, 2005

Dr. Thompson checks out

'I really love (Kentucky),' Thompson told Courier-Journal reporter Bill Cox in 1972. 'But you have to leave it to ever get to do what you want to do.'

After a time, I could not read Hunter S. Thompson.

That is, I could not read him without trying to write like him, and this had a very bad effect on my work.

Not so with my primary influence, H. L. Mencken, whose essays and newspaper articles remain a stylistic reference and a rhetorical inspiration, but can be read and digested while remaining on the tracks.

Over at Contrarian55, Joe Kerstiens a remembrance of the Louisville native Thompson:
...you mus'n't miss...excitement like this...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

(Off topic) Belgium and Netherlands Beer Tour, 2005

And now for a word from our sponsor.

Many of you are aware that my working life revolves around good beer.

It’s 2005, year of the triennial Poperinge hop fest, and time for another joyful immersion into Belgian beer, cuisine and culture.

Once again, I’m organizing a group tour, our eighth European beer-hunting excursion since 1995, and the first under the banner of Potable Curmudgeon, Inc., my new consulting and travel enterprise.

The same great experience is at hand. The tour dates are September 8 – 20, 2005, and all friends, beer lovers, customers, FOSSILS club members, and adventure seekers are invited to make the trip.

Please contact me if you’re interested. Participants are limited to 22, and it’s first come, first served.

Write to: Roger A. Baylor/Potable Curmudgeon, Inc.

More information: Itinerary notes and links

If Muzak is playing but there's no one around to hear it ...

Ed, a friend and mentor, came into the pub for a pint yesterday, and we chatted about what it’s like to live in the city of New Albany.

Our verdict: There are times when one must pause, take a deep breath, and have a good laugh. It’s either that, or curl up in a corner and cry all day.

It’s either that, or the cranium again explodes at the thought of the fear, stubbornness, passivity, stupidity, blindness and mediocrity.

But enough of New Albany’s “leadership” class.

Scratch off a lottery ticket, turn on NASCAR, pop open an ice-cold Miller Lite and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em as we consider a story by Gregory Hall in today’s Courier-Journal:

Making a scene Performers sing, recite at audition for roles in summer shows

“Performers sang and recited lines before Bob Trinkle, New Albany's riverfront director who also produces and directs shows at the French Lick facility. The auditions took place at the Kentucky International Convention Center.”

Whoa -- THE Bob Trinkle, erstwhile leader of the StoneDeaf Band and New Albany’s foremost professional altruist during the forgotten decade of the 1980’s?

The man who once entered Scoreboard Liquors, ostensibly to buy chewing gum, and asked, “why do you hate me,” and when informed that it wasn’t hate, it was satire, stated that he didn’t know what “satire” meant?

How fitting, perhaps even touching, that the man who gave his name to our beloved Trinkle Dome amphitheatre on the Ohio should be appointed the director of the riverfront.

Trinkle’s stewardship ensures that solid, family-style good taste will prevail … hey, wait, that’s it!

Suddenly, the solution to the city’s nagging New Albany DVD problem is at hand!

A StoneDeaf Band reunion at a benefit concert at the Trinkle Dome, and accompanying anti-porno telethon, with speaking slots for the Mullah Goebel and Councilman Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey … plenty of lemonade, weenies and elephant ears, and all proceeds going to buy a couple gallons of gasoline and a Bic to help send the evil pornographers packing.

Then, concerned citizen David Huckleberry could use the leftover flammables to roust the remaining bars and taverns downtown ... and we would be free to descend into a golden era of conformity, sterility and Third World taxation rates.

Okay, laughter’s done.

It’s crying time again …

Saturday, February 19, 2005

New Albany Downtown Development Plan 9 from Outer Space

How’s this for a statement of vision?

The “new” downtown New Albany will be a place people recognize as a focus of important community activities and as a destination for business, dining, shopping, and recreation. Its buildings will be attractive and clean with emphasis on the historical resources of downtown. The downtown will have a strong residential component. People will be able to move easily by motorized and non-motorized means through the area. Downtown will be a gathering place for many purposes and it will be recognized regionally as a vital element in the Louisville metropolitan area.

Very impressive, we'd say. You’ll find it on page 36 (of 47) in an exciting work of fiction that NA Confidential has been reading this evening.

It’s called “New Albany Downtown Development Plan,” compiled in 1999 and 2000, and submitted to the New Albany Redevelopment Commission, Develop New Albany and the New Albany Housing Authority in December, 2000, by the undoubtedly well-remunerated authors at the Corradino Group, McKenna Associates and Indiana University Southeast.

The plan includes charts, maps, tables and diagrams. The sections, as numbered in the original, are as follows.

1. Introduction
2. Downtown New Albany
3. Economic Analysis
4. Demographics
5. Downtown Elements
6. Coordination with Other Projects
7. Vision, Goals and Objectives
8. Development Strategies
9. Implementation

Unfortunately, pages 49 through 51 of “Implementation,” comprising “organization,” “schedule” and “funding,” have not been included in the copy provided us by Develop New Albany.

New Albany's five-year plan (that’s right, five years -- just like the five-year plans in Eastern Europe during Communist times) is stunning, comprehensive and exciting, its epic scope and encyclopedic references amazing, and its vision impeccable. Nothing at all is omitted, it’s all there in black and white, and everyone’s in the tent.

From A to Z, New Albany is transformed, timetables drawn, schedules enacted, and a veritable utopia becomes visible right here on the banks of the Ohio.

Of course, looking at the plan dispassionately, it would appear that no more than 10% of the material therein has received any measure of useful attention in the five years since it was released.

Accountability? No, there's no section dealing with that. Sorry.

NA Confidential is aware that dozens of factors have been involved in the colossal disconnect between the visions of a paper plan and the reality of a bricks and mortar world, and most of them have to do with money.

However, some don't.

If this plan is what Develop New Albany is in the “business” of achieving, and if what we see today is the best that DNA has been able to do in five years, then shouldn’t we be re-examining DNA?

Even the caged birds would have caught these Tribune fumbles

In the Friday edition of the New Albany Tribune, sports editor Mitzi Greenwell refers to a 1980’s-era star Floyd Central wrestler as Craig Allstock.

Actually, the name’s Alstott.

Elsewhere, marring an otherwise entertaining and thoughtful review of T.R. Reid’s book, “The United States of Europe,” guest columnist C.R. Reagan quotes Illinois Senator Barak O’Bama.

That’s Barack Obama.

He's not Irish.

And, boldly heading a full-page ad for Coyle Dodge are the words "Diamler Chrysler."

Daimler, guys. It's German, which is similar to English in the sense that all language is Greek to the Tribune.

Sad.

About the Downtown New Albany Merchant's Association

The following was added yesterday as a comment to a previous posting, but we fear that NA Confidential readers might miss it, so it's being moved here. T

The author, Rick Carmickle, is owner of Carmickle's Photography, which is located in the White House Centre downtown on Pearl Street.

Here is Rick's informative note:

"As the facilitator of the newly established Downtown New Albany Merchant's Association, I want to express that when I started this project, I sent post cards to every business located in an area of Vincennes to West 10th, the Ohio River to as far north as Arni's Pizza.

"In fact I have paid out of my pocket mailing expense for two mailings inviting any and all business to attend these meetings. Our last meeting had over 20 merchants attending, the mostever for this type of event.

"We are an independent organization, separate from any government agency, and I damn well hope to keep it that way. This is an open forum for business owners and shop keepers; our goal is to get people talking to each other, let each other know what wares and services we have to offer.

"Downtown New Albany will never be what it was when I was a kid growing up six blocks west of State Street, but it sure as hell shouldn't be a ghost town either.

"I plan on attending the forum on March 2, as I understand it is a panel discussion without input from the public, although that is not what it was touted as in the paper a few weeks ago.

"If any readers of this forum wish to attend our merchant meetings, they are an open forum held the second Tuesday of the month, in the White House Centre. You are more than welcome to attend.

"Sorry this post is long, but I feel the frustration of the little city trying to act like the big city, and for the most we get Chicken Little, 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling!'

"Thank you for your time!"


Previous NA Confidential coverage of the Merchant's Association

The Tribune: Merchants looking to improve downtown (01/16/05)

Friday, February 18, 2005

The 'ol "cross-blog": Every man a king!

Fellow Blogger Volunteer Hoosier offers another take on Thursday night's City Council meeting.

Randy closes with this paragraph:

"Here's my question. How many of you, how many of the council, would agree with the statement made to me by a 'concerned taxpayer' just this week, to wit: 'I'd be perfectly content for New Albany to remain a third-rate city.'"

Indeed, the quest for mediocrity is alive and well here in River City.

The question is, why?

And, how do they find such perfect candidates to support?

City Council seeks "leadership" transplant; donors scarce in New Albany

At last night’s City Council meeting, a surprisingly contentious debate arose over an ordinance that would alter the procedure for hiring fire department personnel.

Fire Chief Ron Toran addressed the issue by noting that in recent years, written test scores have come to be given disproportionate weight in the hiring process.

Toran accepts the veracity of test scores as a requirement, but seeks more latitude to discern a quality that’s impossible to measure on paper.

Heart.

When Toran said that in the case of a fireman, “heart” matters as much as “smart,” he might have been echoing the same mockery of educational attainment so readily indulged by certain perpetually sensitive members of the City Council seated before him, but it didn’t come off in this manner.

Rather, Toran was trying to say that while education matters to the specific position of firefighter, intangibles do, too.

A more perfect forum for Toran’s observation could not be found, for if there were such an illness as being intangible-deprived, the current City Council, as a group, would be eligible for immediate emergency assistance.

This is not to say that the individuals comprising the City Council lack redeeming qualities, or that they ignore their constituents, or that they’re “bad” in any way. It’s simply wrong to assume such things. Obviously, all nine are interested in public service, or else they would not have run for office.

However, taken collectively, there is little in the way of chemistry or cohesion within the current City Council. As a group, there is an intangible missing.

Call it “vision,” or call it “leadership.” Call it both. If either of these intangibles exists to any appreciable degree within the ranks of the current City Council, might we be provided evidence of it?

Councilman Bill Schmidt asks solid questions about the city’s finances, but Councilman Steve Price follows with a line perhaps cribbed from Yogi Berra: “We need to live on less than we make.”

Councilman Mark Seabrook, the council’s lone Republican, wears an expression of palpable frustration suggesting that he has been mistakenly institutionalized.

President Jeff Gahan sits motionless, his gavel gathering dust, as self-styled “majority whip” Dan Coffey uses most of each meeting to prattle, pontificate and insert himself into every conceivable nook and cranny that might someday come in handy to further the pursuance of his partisan political agenda, whatever it is.

And so it goes.

The same tired attack dogs are trotted out, meeting after meeting. Like some Pavlovian experiment gone haywire, the same stimuli prompt the same responses, meeting after meeting. Observers can predict almost to the second when the imaginary red light flashes, the salivary glands take their cue, and one or the other council member launches into their time-tested grandstanding routines.

The fire chief seeks “heart” in selecting his firefighters.

We seek “leadership” from this City Council.

Yes, it is an intangible, something that does not reside in every human being, but sometimes it arises from the least expected places.

Without an injection of some of it, the city of New Albany stands to continue along its lowest-common-denominator mud path of bizarrely prideful underachievement.

This is not about the budget crunch or the city’s financial woes, although these are real and must be addressed.

It is about whether this city is going to amount to anything, or conversely, we are going to remain beholden to the “no progress at any cost” school of stagnation and ultimate decay.

We believe that there are decent, responsible City Council members who grasp the nature of the disease as it spirals out of control.

It is well past time for these and others like them to step forward and at least make an effort to put an end to the poisonous posing, plotting and hypocrisy.

As a side note, let it be understood that NA Confidential came into existence for a number of reasons, one of which definitely was not to acquiesce in being used as a tool to assist in the partisan flagellation of any one politician or public figure.

That's because New Albany’s absurd sickness is not confined to one man, one party or one electoral district.

Rather, It is epidemic.

There are a number of reasons why it was unfortunate that Mayor James Garner’s first year in office was a continuous, self-inflicted public relations disaster, but as time goes by, it becomes increasingly evident that in the wake of his problems, the city of New Albany has seen no sign whatsoever of a creative pulse emanating from the supposed pool of prospective replacements.

Words to the effect that New Albany’s citizens are being served by the current political “class” count for far less than actions, and insofar as there has been action, it has been consistently regressive.

And unless you’re a Visigoth, regressive just isn’t going to cut it any longer.

Perhaps rather than constantly stooping to the lowest, easiest and cheapest form of “villainous educated egghead vs. downtrodden common man” populism at the first sign of an emerging idea, those citizens of New Albany styling themselves as the “political elite” would do well to embrace the notion that the only way this city is going to even begin solving its problems is by getting smarter.

It may require self-improvement … even reading a book.

Heaven forbid.

Is that legal in New Albany?

The Louisville Courier-Journal covers the City Council meeting

Controller: budget problems were years in the making, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor

New Albany DVD: It may well depend on the pocket being picked

Cash strapped New Albany’s bungling attempts to prevent New Albany DVD from opening were laughed out of court, and now the adult store’s lawyer offers settlement options for the city to consider as the store readies for opening.

The Courier-Journal’s Ben Zion Hershberg writes that the City Council remains divided over its response to the settlement options, which range from allowing the store to go about its business to buying it out with cash the city doesn’t possess.

Self-styled majority whip Dan Coffey, the Wizard of Westside, predictably seizes center stage in the article by Hershberg:

“His own view, Coffey said, is that decisions about New Albany DVD shouldn't be only based on dollars and cents but should include the consideration of much broader issues, such as moral values and future economic development.”

Hershberg fails to identify any intelligible strand in Coffey’s relentless demagoguery on the issue of New Albany DVD that might pertain to economic development, other than the potential precedent of the city buying out any business that doesn’t fit Coffey’s narrow definition of “moral.”

At last evening’s City Council meeting, ostensible Coffey ally of convenience David Huckleberry devoted his public speaking time to a vision of economic redevelopment that promotes the passive incorporation of the city’s river port heritage into a Native American interpretive center.

This would take precedence over current proposals to build a youth soccer complex, which both Huckleberry and Coffey evidently fear will be the taxpayer-supported bastion of eggheaded, upper-income privilege, whereas an interpretive center (funded how?) would siphon large numbers of revelers headed for Caesar’s casino, allowing New Albany to “pick their pockets.”

The “morality” of picking pockets? How remarkably quaint.

Well, we’ve got news for both Huckleberry and Coffey: New Albany’s heritage as a port city has far more to do with brothels, bars and New Albany DVD than it does with the crazily futile notion of diverting gambling-obsessed, Caesar’s-bound drivers to a celebration of Native Americana.

But how silly of us to forget that it's not about morality and economic development at all. It's about "no progress at any price" on the one hand, and "self-aggrandizement at any price" on the other.

Adult video store offers to settle; New Albany given four options to suit, by Ben Zion Hershberg

“Steve, sometimes we have to listen to what’s going on”

(Quote from Councilman Dan Coffey, who after three almost uninterrupted hours of listening to himself speak paused long enough to urge colleague Steve Price to do the same)

As we ponder the many forms of dysfunction and regression on display at the February 17 meeting of the City Council, readers who attended are invited to post their thoughts.

Did you know ...

Using “smart cities” as a search term on Google yields more than 3,900 hits.

Search “smart cities” and “New Albany” together, and the hit total drops somewhat.

All the way to zero.

That's where New Albany's "revolution from nothing" will have to begin.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

City Council meeting tonight: Can free speech survive this one?

Yesterday Mayor James Garner met with City Council members in a workshop session and discussed the city's finances.

The Courier-Journal's Ben Zion Hershberg reports that during the meeting, "Council member Steve Price asked, 'If the city is in such bad shape, how come you all can go on with Scribner Place?'"

You all? Who'd that be, exactly?

As for tonight's public meeting, I'd wear a pith helmet ... if I had one.

New Albany still awaits budget word; $3 million cut is a possibility, by Ben Zion Hershberg of the Courier-Journal.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Colder, but another fine day for a ride

The phenomenon of "blogging" means different things to different people, and accordingly, a regular reader has gently chided me for not providing more information of a personal nature.

So, here's a little something.

Since NA Confidential is intended as an ongoing chronicle of the life and times of the city of New Albany, and yesterday's 60-degree temperatures in the city provided the ideal conditions for an urban outing, I was quick to take advantage of the day and cruise the streets on that most consumately egalitarian of machines, the bicycle.

For an invigorating account of a new book on the topic of bicycling, see It Is About the Bike from the Jan. 30 New York Times Review of Books.

In 2004, my cycling group gathered on a street corner in Liege, Belgium to watch the beginning of the Tour de France, which was won by Lance Armstrong for the sixth consecutive time. Forty-somethings shouldn't need heroes, but Lance is one of mine. Happily, we've learned today that Armstrong will be competing in this year's Tour de France.

Finally, yesterday's ride convinced me to pick up the phone and quiz the representatives of Mike Sodrel, our newly minted 9th District Congressman and noted automotive fetishist, as to whether he has taken a position on Ohio River Greenway funding, which is missing from the preliminary federal budget. If and when Sodrel's office returns the call, I'll report back.

Meanwhile, consider this posting on New Albany Renewal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"Knowledge is an antidote to fear."

So said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Here’s an excerpt from Bob Herbert’s syndicated column of February 14, a remembrance of playwright Arthur Miller entitled “The Public Thinker.”

“Arthur Miller, in his autobiography, ‘Timebends,’ quoted the great physicist Hans Bethe as saying, ‘Well, I come down in the morning and I take up a pencil and I try to think ... ’

“It's a notion that appears to have gone the way of the rotary phone. Americans not only seem to be doing less serious thinking lately, they seem to have less and less tolerance for those who spend their time wrestling with important and complex matters.

“If you can't say it in 30 seconds, you have to move on. God made man and the godless evolutionists are on the run. Donald Trump (‘You're fired!’) and Paris Hilton (‘That's hot!’) are cultural icons. Ignorance is in. The nation is at war and its appetite for torture may be undermining the very essence of the American character, but the public at large seems much more interested in what Martha will do when she gets out of prison and what Jacko will do if he has to go in.”

In today’s Courier-Journal, Dick Kaukas describes a proposal to dramatically alter the operation of a New Albany elementary school:

Floyd plan would overhaul Lillian Emery school, by Dick Kaukas of the Courier-Journal.

Kaukas writes:

“Under a plan proposed last night, New Albany's Lillian Emery Elementary would close at the end of this school year and reopen in the fall as an ‘early learning preparatory academy.’

“The proposal outlined to the New Albany-Floyd County school board would also eliminate the fourth and fifth grades at the academy, so teachers could concentrate on students in preschool through third grade.

“The older students would be assigned to other schools.

“Last night's plan is the latest to try to improve the academic performance of students at Lillian Emery, at 1111 Pearl St. The school has been plagued by low scores on the state's annual ISTEP exams.

“For instance, on the tests taken by third-graders last September, only 27 percent of the students passed both the language arts and math sections. The state average was 65 percent.

“Teresa Perkins, assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said last night that the school ranks among the lowest in the state, and was ‘27th from the bottom’ out of 1,087 elementary schools statewide as determined by the third-grade ISTEP tests.”

NA Confidential fully understands that educational achievement is not measured solely by test scores, that it depends on numerous socio-economic factors.

We believe that first and foremost, society must value education, both as an essential prerequisite to productivity and as an immutable ideal that is valued in itself.

With memories of an intemperate and fascistic verbal tongue-lashing still fresh, we ponder who among New Albany’s political class is reading this evening, and ask this question:

To what extent does the institutionalized ignorance described by Herbert beget contempt for educational standards, and in turn, perpetuate a crippled and downtrodden community struggling to attain basic educational standards, suitable for exploitation by charlatans, ward heelers, slum lords and snake oil salesmen, and thus doomed to remain that dirty little river town we all know so well, resistant to thinking, immune to change, reliant on the lowest common denominator?

Please explain leadership in this context. Thank you.

New Albany Tribune letter to the editor policy explained

For yesterday’s caller:

NA Confidential contacted Chris Morris, managing editor of the New Albany Tribune, and asked about the newspaper’s letters-to-the-editor policy.

Chris promptly responded:

“I do not run letters if they are not signed, or if I can not get in touch with the person who wrote the letter. Also, if the letter is going to get us sued, I do not run it. Otherwise, they all run.”

We are in perfect accord with Chris as to the requirement that writers must sign their letters, and that writers provide contact information for the purpose of verification.

Those who remember the excesses of the LaDuke-era Tribune, when anonymity was allowed and cowardice was the rule, know how matters changed for the better when upper management overruled the former editor and the current requirements were instituted.

While we cannot profess to know the standard Chris uses when determining that a letter might prompt legal action against the newspaper, it is widely understood that newspapers are liable to charges of defamation on the basis of stories written by staffers, letters to the editor, and even advertisements.

We hope the preceding helps to clarify the Tribune’s policy. Our best advice is to follow the newspaper’s rules as outlined by Chris … and if the letter isn’t published, we’d like to see it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

City Council, community access and videotape

While visiting Maine two weeks ago, NA Confidential watched as the Windham town council held its regular weekly meeting.

Because the meeting was televised live over the area’s cable access channel, there was no need for citizens to brave the wintry elements in order to observe the council’s workings. The telecast came in the form of a split screen incorporating two camera angles that showed the entire meeting room and remained “live” from start to finish.

At the most recent New Albany City Council meeting on February 7, a long-running topic again was broached with reference to videotaping the council’s meetings.

Going back several months, local resident Valla Ann Bolovschak has undertaken to absorb the expense of professionally recording the council meetings with the concurrent idea that they be broadcast on the television arm of New Albany High School’s WNAS, which can be seen on Insight’s cable channel 25.

Quite predictably, and regrettably, discussions of this phenomenon have tended to digress into political considerations, both real and imagined.

What are Valla Ann’s political motives? Did City Council President Jeff Gahan apply pressure to the Superintendent of schools to prevent transmission of the videotapes? Does someone wish to keep governmental workings a secret? Is the Mayor part of this vast conspiracy? Who are the heroes, and who are the villains?

Quite frankly, NA Confidential finds these questions tedious, misplaced and utterly reminiscent of junior high school dating intrigue.

What we would like to know, while confessing from the outset that we don’t have an answer to the question, is this:

Given the organizational basis of the various entities involved, are there compelling reasons for the school corporation to agree to broadcast the videotaped city council meetings?

According to the FCC, the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation is the licensee of WNAS.

According to the “Code of Ordinances for the City of New Albany, Title XI, Chapter 113 – Cable Television System,” the chosen cable provider (Insight) has several obligations, among them this:

§ 113.10 SERVICE TO MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS AND SCHOOLS.

(B) The company shall reserve one channel for use by public and parochial elementary, secondary and college level schools.

And, according to Karen Stokes of Insight Communications:

“Educational Access (Ch. 25) is the Community Access channel for your area.”

The following explanation of “community access” comes from the web site of Fair Lawn Creative Cable Community Access Television in the borough of Fair Lawn, New Jersey:

“Both the Cable Acts of 1984 and 1992 permit local governments to include and enforce requirements for PEG (i.e., public, government and educational use) access equipment, facilities, services, and support in a franchise.

“Access can be subdivided into public access, educational access and government access. The term "PEG access" is called "public, educational, and government use" under the Cable Act.

“Public access consists of video programming and other electronic information produced, directed, and engineered by community volunteers. (For convenience, all types of information carried on PEG channels will be referred to as "programming," although PEG channels are used to carry video information, data, video text, and voice communications.) In the case of public access, the programming is developed or acquired by nonprofit community groups, neighborhood organizations, social service agencies, and individual citizens. It focuses on many aspects of community life, ranging from the services and activities of community organizations to the opinions and beliefs of individuals in the community.

“Educational access is developed or acquired by school or college employees, students, and school volunteers. It typically focuses on distance learning, school activities, and information that the school/college wants to get out to the community or share among schools.

“Government access is created or acquired by local government employees, elected officials, and volunteers. It typically focuses on information about services provided by local, State, and regional governments, issues faced by local governments, and public meeting coverage. Government access is also used for other purposes, such as providing training to City employees or exchanging information between City agencies and other institutions.”

Now, it would appear that according to an ordinance authored by a previous City Council, New Albany has chosen the educational access option, and in this case, the option is exercised by WNAS, which is licensed through the school corporation and not directly through the city of New Albany.

On the surface, none of this would seem to have anything to do with the City Council or its meetings, videotaped or otherwise.

We return to the original question:

Are there compelling reasons for the school corporation to agree to broadcast the videotaped city council meetings on its television station?

City Council meetings are but one element of local government, so what of County Council meetings and Board of Public Works and Safety meetings, just to name two?

Why broadcast one but not the others?

Is there money available to begin doing this in a taxpayer-supported, comprehensive fashion?

If not, who pays to videotape which meeting?

Furthermore, who actually “owns” the information on the videotapes if they are financed by the private sector and not the public sector?

Taking all this into consideration, how, then, does the school corporation decide what to broadcast and what not to broadcast if some meetings are financed by the private sector and others aren’t?

There certainly seem to be many more questions than answers, and the questions seem to suggest far more in the way of complexity than simply reducing the story to one of heroes vs. villains, or of whistle-blowers and bureaucrats ducking and covering.

The governing ordinance clearly states that New Albany’s community cable access is to be in the form of educational, not governmental, programming.

Given the absence of any legal obligation according to the prevailing code or any obvious mandate to do so, what is there to be gained by the school corporation becoming involved with any of this, especially since there remains at least the possibility that such involvement might be construed as politically partisan in nature?

Our comments today are not intended to attack or defend any single person involved with the ongoing discussion of City Council meetings and the videotaping of them by private citizens. They are, however, an attempt to identify some of the core issues involved with the discussion.

What have we missed here? Please let us know.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Potpourri: NBA vs. college; how NA cooduh beenuh condenduh; Ward Churchill; and good beer writing

Thoughts during a rainy February Sunday’s NBA doubleheader …

The NA Confidential household doesn’t spend much time watching television, but we always try to make room for NBA games a couple times a week.

College? That’s where people go for an education. Meanwhile, the world's finest basktball players play in the NBA.

In the NBA, it’s all about the money – and not a single person involved with the league denies it.

In college basketball, it’s also all about the money – and every single person involved with the sport denies it.

In both the NBA and college, it’s a paying proposition. In both cases, the fans pay to watch athletes play basketball.

In the NBA, a large proportion of the money generated by the players goes to the players in the form or salaries and endorsements.

In college, a strikingly small percentage of the money generated by the players goes to the players in the form of scholarships and grants.

The NBA is far from perfect, but at least it’s free of hypocrisy.

~~~

Speaking of basketball ...

In today’s Tribune editorial, “That boat would look good on our riverfront,” Chris Morris reminds us that New Albany “blew it” a decade ago, when “voters in this city had a chance – two chances – to vote yes on a referendum which would have allowed a riverboat casino to dock on our riverfront.”

Adds the Tribune’s Managing Editor:

"If the residents of this county had boated for the boat, Scribner Place would have been completed, the sewers would be paid for, and Mayor James Garner wouldn’t have to worry about coming up short or owing $2 million in a sewer loan.”

It’s certainly true that if a riverboat casino were docked in Floyd County, the money would be rolling into our coffers.

It's less certain where it would go after that.

In truth, the sheer number of variables involved makes it difficult to calibrate hindsight and to reckon the outcome had we voted for “the boat” ten years ago.

Had Clark County voted favorably at the time, it’s possible that only one license would have been issued, and Jeffersonville would have snagged it. Conversely, had Floyd County gotten a license, Caesar’s might be exactly where it is today, only a few hundred yards east of the county line – and downtown might well have seen no direct investment as a result.

Perhaps Doug England would have been re-elected Mayor instead of being toppled by Regina Overton.

And so on.

In the end, there’s just no way to know, but we agree with Chris that “we’re living with the consequences,” for better or worse.

~~~

Thanks to our friend Edward, here’s the link to a site that includes the original text of scholar Ward Churchill’s infamous essay.

The current controversy surrounding Churchill’s assessment of 9-11 has been described by at least one NA Confidential reader as “one of the juiciest to come down the pike in many moons,” and this probably is true, but the real question for us is this:

How many of the people discussing Churchill have actually read what the man said?

Here's your chance.

~~~

For lighter reading on the general topic of good beer, the Potable Curmudgeon's Blog is up and running:

The Potable Curmudgeon

Friday, February 11, 2005

'Bune says: It depends on what the meaning of "downtown" is

lame
adj. lam·er, lam·est
Weak and ineffectual; unsatisfactory: a lame attempt to apologize; lame excuses for not arriving on time.


In today’s Tribune, Harriet S. Goldberg of New Albany gently but incisively takes the ‘Bune’s Amany Ali to task for failing to note the existence of a bookstore in downtown New Albany.

Thank you, Mrs. Goldberg.

Unfortunately, appended to the letter is this editor’s note:

“According to Develop New Albany, the official boundaries of downtown New Albany are from the Ohio River to Culbertson Avenue, and from East Fifth Street to West Fifth Street. Destinations Booksellers is located at 604 East Spring Street, which is not in the downtown boundaries.”

This predictably lazy effort to enlist semantics in a rear-guard action to excuse the bungling of the City Editor bizarrely possesses a grain of profundity, albeit one that is entirely unintentional, for by defining the boundaries of DNA’s zone, it calls attention to what has (and hasn’t) occurred within them.

Double Seven to be razed, and Redman's Club to move

Last night, the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission approved razing three buildings on West Main to make way for the first phase of the Scribner Place project.

Although none of the buildings are deemed significant in architectural or historical terms, we’ll miss the one that most of us know as the Double Seven Tire building.

Do retreads still exist?

Of more interest than the fait accompli on West Main is the first public acknowledgment that the Redman Club has sold its building at 904 East Main to Third Century powerhouses Carl Holliday and Steve Goodman, with the club slated to erect a new building at 401 East Main, replacing a historically significant vacant lot.

What are Carl’s and Steve’s plans for the neglected house, and more importantly, the attached meeting hall?

And where will the Democrats gather to celebrate election returns?

Panel approves razing 3 sites in historic area; Scribner Place plans advance, by Ben Zion Hershberg, Louisville Courier-Journal

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Repost: What alias are you carrying in your wallet?

My name is Roger A. Baylor, and I am NA Confidential.

I live in New Albany, work in New Albany, own a business in New Albany, and currently see no reason to believe that any of this will change any time soon.

Full disclosure aside, for a full account of the exchange we’ll be referencing here, please go to the burgeoning “comments” section of "NA Confidential vs. NA Incontinent at Monday's City Council meeting." Specifically, near the end, you will find two February 10 posts from “Rhiannon of NA.”


Now, according to Rhiannon's logic, MJ -- who as far as we can tell is the only member of the current administration to post here, and does so with unvarying grace, intelligence and grasp of the issues -- undertakes the effort to do so as part of a conspiracy to defend the unholy secrecy of the Garner/Gahan hit squad.

Huh?

It's way past time for a reality check when we begin equating City Council work sessions with the second Nixon administration, which in terms of hyperbole is reminiscent of the Tribune’s Chris Morris describing work place smoking bans as Gestapo … but with one very important difference.

Chris Morris signed his name to the piece.

In the interest of fairness, and in the interest of fairness alone, consider that apart from NA Confidential's many and varied reasons for existence, each and every rhetorical grenade lobbed from these pages into the lap of targets like James Garner, Jeff Gahan, Marcey Wisman, Dan Coffey, Bev Crump, Tony Toran, Shane Gibson or any other elected or appointed city official is tossed according to the dictates of one critical precondition:

The recipient is clearly visible to the one lobbing the grenade.

We all know who these public officials are, don't we? But they don't know who all of us are, do they? Isn't it just as logical to assume a conspiracy on the part of the anonymous individuals posting here as it is in city hall’s alleged cabal of the elders of the protocol of whatsoever?

Now, did the people mentioned above accept the burden of detailed and even potentially microscopic public scrutiny when they decided to run for office or accept an appointment?

Yes. If they forget it for a single minute, stern rebukes certainly must be issued, because they are servants of the citizens of New Albany.

But my point today is this: Elected or appointed officials may have accepted a burden, and when doing so, they may have forfeited some degree of privacy, but they did not forfeit the right to face their accusers.

Simply stated, we know who Jeff Gahan is. We don’t know who Rhiannon is, and until we do, we know only part of the story.

This isn’t to suggest that we all “come out,” because I know that’s not the way the world works. Readers are encouraged to continue posting in whatever fashion they wish.

At the same time, I wish there to be no confusion whatsoever as to my feelings on this matter.

When it comes to the customs of human discourse, I abhor anonymity, especially (though not exclusively) when it applies to me.

NA Confidential may be a pen name of sorts, a nom de plume, but there has been absolutely no effort to hide behind it, a keyboard, the Maginot Line or any other wall, real or imagined.

My views are mine, inseparable from me, and I’m not about to praise or criticize a living soul without that individual knowing who I am.

That said, I believe there remains a case to be made for anonymity, but not without certain obvious exclusions.

As an example, I believe it is reprehensible for one person to post behind multiple and contrived facades. This has happened on NA Confidential, it might happen again, and for all I know it may be happening now, but make no mistake: I am opposed to it.

Likewise, I believe that the deployment of anonymity to veil the mentality of a non-constructive, flame-throwing, attack dog also is disgusting to me on a personal level, but it probably must be tolerated in an open society. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I believe that such exceptions do prove the rule. There are cases when a person in a sensitive place must utilize anonymity for protection with respect to his or her position, but this is rare, and understood strictly in a narrow context.

Otherwise, no.

Incomplete: What alias are you carrying in your wallet?

The sound you are hearing is the grinding of molars ...

Thanks to Ed for pointing out that another post has disappeared in mid=sentence. In fact, this happened each time I tried to post today, and must be some fault of Blogspot.

Couldn't be me.

However, the original text is at home on the hard drive there, and presently I'm at work, so reposting will have to wait until Thursday night.

Sorry 'bout that. It was a good one, too.

My name is Roger A. Baylor, and I am NA Confidential.

I live in New Albany, work in New Albany, own a business in New Albany, and currently see no reason to believe that any of this will change any time soon.

Full disclosure aside, for a full account of the exchange we’ll be referencing here, please go to the comments section of

Startling fact: 50% of drug labs are found on rental property

"If we had a brothel move into town, people would close it down instantly. If we had an X-rated movie house come, it'd be gone within a week. But this has been here. It is a monster. We didn't know what kind of monster it was."

The Rev. Jon Pearce of the First Baptist Church in Crothersville, Indiana, on methamphetamine as a factor in the death of Katie Collman, as quoted in “Too Late for Katie, Town Tackles a Drug's Scourge,” by Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times. Registration is required to view the article.

Wilgoren writes:

“Katie (Collman’s) Jan. 25 disappearance, and the Feb. 2 arrest of an unemployed high school dropout, have shaken this small town out of silence about the scourge of methamphetamine.

“Like many similar communities across the nation's midsection, Crothersville, 40 miles north of Louisville and with a population of 1,541, has seen methamphetamine steadily seep into its streets.”


Taking a temporary break from contemplating the dangers posed to the community by New Albany DVD, NA Confidential perused the web and found the following checklist, or variants of it, on several sites devoted to landlords and rental property.

***Preventing Drug Labs on Your Property - Tips for Landlords

Did you know?
  • Property owners are responsible for meth lab cleanup costs
  • 50% of drug labs are found on rental property.
What's the cost? - When drug criminals operate out of rental property, owners pay a high price ...
  • Loss of rent
  • Decline in property values
  • Damage of property
  • Civil penalties
  • Dangerous and threatening tenants
  • Resentful and angry neighbors
  • Loss of other valued tenants
By making small changes you can avoid big problems

At the time of rental application ...
  • Application should be filled out completely
  • Conduct background checks
  • Rental history
  • Credit report
  • Employment history
  • Criminal background
  • Meet every adult and require picture identification
  • Be aware of renter's appearance and behaviors
Visit property often and be aware of lab indicators...
  • Blackened windows, drawn curtains
  • Frequent visitors at all hours
  • Paranoid, odd behavior
  • Extensive security
  • Excessive garbage specific to meth manufacturing
  • Chemical odors
  • Absentee landlords should have an agent, friend, or relative check the property on your behalf.

Mayors united in support for K & I bicycle link

Earlier this week, the Courier-Journal provided coverage of the bike summit in Louisville:

Letting cyclists on bridge backed; Idea discussed at bike summit, by James Bruggers of the Courier-Journal

“The mayors of Louisville and New Albany want pedestrians and bicyclists to be able to use the K&I railroad bridge across the Ohio River.

“If the Norfolk Southern railroad, which owns it, could be persuaded to go along, the bridge that links Louisville's Portland neighborhood with Main and Vincennes streets in New Albany could be part of a 14-mile bicycling loop along both sides of the Ohio River.”

Last fall, during a chat with NA Confidential, former Councilman Richard Bliss took note of the K & I bicycling proposal.

The railroad isn’t hard to work with, we recall Bliss saying at the time. He added that so long as you’re willing to take all the responsibility, do all the work, pay for all of it and accept all the insurance liability, the railroad’s right with you on a project.

In other words … cyclists may wish to refrain from holding their breaths.

At the same time, we note with approval Mayor James Garner’s statement, as quoted in the article:

"We need to provide quality-of-life amenities in our communities. We need to connect our communities."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Strange but true: Local radio institution Lee Kelly honored while still living

Voice of NAHS Radio receives IHSAA award, by Jim Nichols, Managing Editor of the Jeffersonville Evening News

NA Confidential is delighted to provide this link to Jim Nichols’s (Jeffersonville Evening News) tribute to Lee Kelly, who for 31 years has served as the station manager at WNAS, “the nation's oldest high school radio station at Indiana's oldest high school.”

Way back in 1977, coffee thermos in hand and newspaper in tow, Lee made the morning trek to Floyd Central High School for its first period radio class.

Having unwittingly been duped into allowing me to take the class, Lee was forced to endure the relentlessly immature antics of a gangly and confused kid who had no idea who he was, where he was going, or how he planned to get there.

It had to be painful for Lee at times, but fortunately (for me!) he didn’t take it personally, and we became friends.

Now that I’ve grown into an adult who still doesn’t know where he’s going or how to get there, at least I have a much better idea of who I am, and people like Lee Kelly deserve the credit.

Or, as many would suggest, the blame …

Floyd County Council unsupportive of Northside plan; attention shifts elsewhere

For the fourth time, the Floyd County Council has rejected buying the Northside Christian property on Grant Line Road as a replacement for the disintegrating Annex building down the street.

The Courier’s Ben Zion Hershberg and the Tribune’s Kyle Lowry describe the vote last night.

Floyd still not sold on church; Idea to relocate offices dies again
, by Ben Zion Hershberg, Louisville Courier-Journal

County proposal to buy Northside church dies, by Kyle Lowry, Tribune County Reporter

Further analysis of the Coffey debacle at Volunteer Hoosier

Our fellow blogger and advocate, Volunteer Hoosier, has provided invaluable coverage of the fallout from Councilman Dan Coffey's poisonous attacks on participatory democracy at Monday evening's City Council meeting.

NA Confidential readers who haven't yet read the following three must-read posts at Volunteer Hoosier are advised to do so.

Subject to subjectivism

No need for dissection

Contrapunction

Don't forget New Albany Renewal, which "is intended to serve as a repository for ideas relevant to preserving and restoring historic buildings, cleaning up neighboorhoods, revitalizing downtown, and improving the quality of life in New Albany, Indiana."

The ‘Bune, sans apologies, leaps aboard the symposium bandwagon

We must credit the New Albany Tribune with moving quickly to extricate itself from the embarrassment caused by City Editor Amany Ali’s colossal gaffe in Sunday’s edition of the newspaper.

For those tuning in late, Ali used the present tense when referring to Louisville’s Hawley Cooke Booksellers, which was absorbed by Borders two years ago. She went on to write that New Albany’s downtown could use a bookstore like the one no longer in operation in Louisville, handily ignoring the existence of Destinations Booksellers.

Yesterday the ‘Bune scrambled endearingly to make amends. First, Ali mentioned the forthcoming “New Visions for Downtown New Albany” symposium at Destinations in her front-page account of Monday’s City Council meeting, then shockingly, the symposium was touted in the newspaper’s editorial slot on page 4A.

The editorial closes with this thought: “People will be talking. That is a good thing.”

Indeed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

NA Confidential vs. NA Incontinent at Monday's City Council meeting

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. Author Ray Bradbury

“What are you reading?”

As opening lines go, this is a fairly innocuous one. Most of us regard it in the same manner as other common greetings, like “how are you?” and “what’s up?”

How is it, then, that a seemingly harmless supposition with respect to one’s view of the act of reading is transformed into an offense, a provocation, a seeming challenge to one’s masculinity?

Mention the words “NA Confidential” to New Albany Councilman Dan Coffey, and you’ll find out what those of us who grew up on a farm have known since childhood.

Wild skunks spray as a defense mechanism when they perceive a threat.

At least one beleaguered local politician has now been observed to display similar characteristics.

At last evening’s City Council meeting, I took advantage of the time allowed for public comment to speak briefly on three matters:

(1) To restate NA Confidential’s opposition to the further expenditure of public monies to fight a losing battle against the 1st Amendment in the New Albany DVD case,

(2) To encourage the mayor (who was absent) and the council to consider setting up public forums for discussion of matters not reserved to the weekly Board of Public Works and Safety meetings, and

(3) To support the March 2 Public Affairs Symposium, "New Visions for Downtown New Albany."

NA Confidential regards these statements as general in nature, fully in keeping with the “respect” factor and time limitations enforced by President Jeff Gahan, and certainly not directed toward any single individual on the City Council.

But Dan Coffey’s immediate, visceral and jarringly defensive reaction was as indicative of an ill-tempered, anti-progressive mindset as one is apt to find without running to the library for transcripts of Senator McCarthy’s 1950’s-era witch hunt hearings in the US Senate.

These hearings might be available on video for the benefit of those who feel threatened by the act of reading.

Coincidentally, Dan Coffey does not read Blogs because “anyone can hide behind the keyboard,” but by means of osmosis or the Vulcan mind meld, he purports to know exactly what is written in NA Confidential.

Dan Coffey, who sits as part of an elected body known as the “city” council, which is charged with matters pertaining to the city as a whole, sees no need to speak with anyone outside his own district, where he holds public meetings six times a year ... and ... hey, you ... outsider … you don’t live here, do you? … well, congratulations, you’ve just been invited not to attend!

Dan Coffey emphatically and abrasively possesses not the slightest intention to attend any town hall, public forum or revival meeting that is not organized by himself in the safety of his own fiefdom, especially if he’s invited only to listen to the taxpayers throughout the city who pay his salary (and whose money he spends) rather than speak himself.

That’s because Dan Coffey, red-faced and sermonizing, is in fact gravely insulted at not being consulted.

By his own admission, he doesn’t read, but also by his own admission, he is one of the select group able to understand the money, who controls the purse strings of the city, who knows how things get done, who certainly doesn’t need the advice of mere "complainers" who should know their place in the back of the cosmos bus or else get up off their laggard butts and run for office – as if there were no other way to participate in the political process in this city.

The meeting room was quiet as the Wizard of Westside self-destructed.

Then, having encapsulated the most virulent form of New Albany’s native disease in far more eloquent fashion than has been attempted in NA Confidential or any other repository of the written word, Dan Coffey ceased his diatribe.

Ten minutes later, Dan Coffey nodded in assent as fellow Councilman Bill Schmidt produced the results of personal research indicating that neither he nor Coffey, or for that matter, anyone else on the City Council really knows how much money the city has borrowed or if it has been paid back.

NA Confidential earnestly hopes that Dan Coffey’s outburst last evening was the result of the stress and strain that doubtless accompany the task of sifting through New Albany’s current budgetary woes. The Courier-Journal’s and Tribune’s coverage of the meeting make clear the extent of the crisis.

But extenuating circumstances aside, Dan Coffey’s performance cannot be allowed to pass without comment.

His narrow parochialism with respect to the responsibilities of elected public representatives is sadly indicative of the discredited “ward-heeler” school of political “thought,” once the norm but now utterly incapable of providing the unifying vision critical in a world increasingly reliant on the very qualities of communication and inter-dependence that Coffey regards with open contempt.

And, for the record, I’m reading “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” by John Barry.

Volunteer Hoosier's essay "Contrapunction" analyzes the February 7 City Council meeting

New Albany budget questions put vehicle requests on hold, by Ben Zion Hershberg of the Louisville Courier-Journal

Outstanding loans force delay in possible purchase of city vehicles, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor

Monday, February 07, 2005

Will you still love me tomorrow? Or, the City Council's February 7 meeting

Tonight, NA Confidential retreats to a position of relative safety behind its protective keyboard and thoughtfully sips a cup of unsweetened West Side coffey (served bitterly hot) while asking those of you who attended tonight's City Council meeting to post your impressions.

Mullah Goebel and the battle against New Albany DVD

A letter to the editor entitled “Fight against pornography is not over” appears in Sunday’s New Albany Tribune.

The author is Tony Goebel, pastor at the New Beginnings Community Church.

Pastor Goebel begins by presenting his credentials as a “pastor and a lawyer,” and provides his game plan for the “battle against pornography creeping into our community through New Albany DVD.”

In Pastor Goebel’s view, “Round One ended with Federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker refusing to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by NA DVD alleging the city of New Albany had violated its (NA DVD’s) Constitutionally protected ‘free speech’ rights … (because) Judge Barker held that the actions taken by the city to stop this adult business from opening ‘are susceptible to an inference of bad faith prosecution’ … but her denial is not the end of the story.”

For what he perceives as Round Two, Pastor Goebel offers “free legal advice” with respect to the city’s appeals options.

As for Round Three, he belatedly comes to the obviously grudging admission that, “the sale and distribution of ‘pornography’ as defined by the courts is protected ‘speech,’ while the sale and distribution of ‘obscenity’ is not.” Pastor Goebel recommends enforcing current obscenity laws and passing new ones.

Round Four constitutes the inevitable advertisement for Pastor Goebel’s primary business, saving souls: “The only way to defeat the predominance of sin is by sharing the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost … the more people who are converted to Christ, the less demand and profit there will be for any adult business.”

And, just as inevitably, who better to unite the “churches and Christians of New Albany” than Pastor Goebel himself? Accordingly, on February 17, New Beginnings will be hosting a meeting to organize the “knockout punch to pornography.”

Above all else, Pastor Goebel’s letter serves to remind us that in the struggle to create a revolution from nothing and to move society forward, those among us who embrace superstition and advocate regression stand ever ready to assist us in making the journey backwards in time to the primordial ooze.

Granted, it is quite likely that there’s not a single person currently living in New Albany who, if asked, would publicly profess a predilection for pornography.

However, and far more importantly, there are many hereabouts who understand that Pastor Goebel’s intentionally slippery rhetorical slope poses grave problems for the maintenance of free speech, free expression, and free choice when it comes to matters of conscience like religious observance.

Pastor Goebel begins with the word “pornography,” shifts to “obscenity” in mid-argument, then concludes with “sin.” Even Tribune readers can see that these three words do not mean the same thing, and as a lawyer trained in the importance of semantics, Pastor Goebel knows it, too.

Cleverly, Pastor Goebel does not address the legal concept of community standards with respect to obscenity, preferring instead to sidestep this most crucial (and complicated) consideration by introducing the concept of sin, in effect pole-vaulting over any legal and secular obstacles to the Inquisition to nestle safely in the realm of theology.

And guess who is ready, willing and able to provide the suggested view according to his particular version of Christian theology?

Theology is not the realm addressed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, but this simple fact will never suffice to convince the theocrats among us.

Those who do not wish to reside in a place where Mullah Goebel defines concepts like obscenity for you, rather than in a place where you have the freedom to consider these concepts on your own, must remain vigilant, because it would be tragically mistaken to presume that Adult DVD is the sole target of any such Crusade.

As for the involvement if tax-exempt religious groups in political matters, we’ll just have to leave that one for another time.

Paul Wheatley appears on C-J radar

Monday morning’s Courier-Journal takes note of Paul Wheatley, New Albany’s new economic development director:

“New Albany Mayor James Garner no longer needs to start his days by worrying about finding new jobs for his community. He's now got Paul Wheatley, the city's new economic development director, to do the fretting -- and the planning he hopes soon will eliminate the need for worry.”

If only it were that simple ...

New Albany pushes development; City creates post to boost economy, by Steve Chaplin (Special to The Courier-Journal)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Evening News reports a councilman's proposal to help downtown Jeff, while the Tribune visits a chain shoe store

On the same day that the Tribune’s City Editor fails miserably to comprehend the issues that pertain to downtown redevelopment, her counterpart at the Evening News offers a crisp, well-written news story about Jeffersonville Councilman John Perkins’s vision of progress in our neighboring river city.

Councilman wants $200,000 for downtown,
by Larry Thomas, City Editor

NA Confidential readers are again encouraged to visit the combined web site of the Evening News and Tribune to compare and contrast staff writers.

Quite simply, the day-to-day work of Thomas, Greg Gapsis and John Gilkey for the Evening News is of a far higher standard than that foisted on apparently benumbed and undiscerning New Albanians by the Tribune.