Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Today's Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.

The two-man Board of Public Works and Safety met this morning, and it was a crisp, professional session.

Most readers are interested in an update on the 1018 E. Spring Street situation. Owner Ronald Niehoff’s request for a 60-day extension on his deadline to make necessary repairs and elevate the structure to the general vicinity of code compliance was rejected, and the board reports that he is incurring daily fines as a result.

However, at present only City Attorney Shane Gibson knows for sure the exact parameters of the fining and collection process.

The city’s ad hoc task force, including the acting building commissioner, has made a follow-up inspection and given Niehoff additional instructions with respect to his lawn driveway of gravel (with access via the street side curb), and presumably this is to be addressed separately from the previous list of violations.

In a related discussion, it was determined that in spite of an ordinance that places responsibility for rental property smoke alarm enforcement on the fire department, no procedure currently exists to achieve this, and the general consensus is that entry to perform such an inspection currently could not take place without the participation of the building commissioner.

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this and other meetings involving our elected and appointed governmental officials.

First, most of them are aware that the chronic dysfunction known widely as the New Albany Syndrome – the tolerance of baseline standards, the culture of non-enforcement, the decades of daily excuses for failure punctuated by periodic outbursts of outright venality – must be purged if the city is to so much as begin making progress in a rapidly changing world.

Second, without effective tools – enhanced legal resources, a city court, rental property inspections with genuine enforcement teeth -- with which to engage the multi-tentacled beast of chronic New Albany underachievement, such efforts are doomed to minimal success at most.

Does your city council person agree?

Or does an atmosphere of dysfunction provide the perfect breeding ground for the obstructionist populism practiced by those without a plan, like our Siamese Councilmen?

Dazzle your friends, confound your enemies ... be blunt!

(Just another morally corrupt citizen killing time before the Public Works meeting. I'd go down to the Luddite Bar & Grill for a pick-me-up, but they don't serve my preferred brand of $19.43 progressive beer)

Monday, February 27, 2006

More on the improvement of housing quality in New Albany.

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.
-- Michael O’Brien

Yesterday we glanced at a half-dozen positive developments in New Albany, then adjourned to La Rosita’s for a Sunday afternoon feast:

From beer, facades and stained glass to Scribner Place and Gloria Allred, good news is breaking out in New Albany.

Today, the news gets even better, as the Courier-Journal devotes much appreciated column inches to one of the great no-brainers of our era:

History for sale: Old New Albany properties offer modern appeal, by Chris Poynter (The Courier-Journal).

"We want people who will take care of these buildings and cherish them," said Greg Sekula, director of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

Sekula, along with historic preservation advocates and neighborhood leaders, have launched a Web site --
www.historicnewalbany.com -- that boasts of their city's architectural gems. The city hopes to attract buyers from Louisville and elsewhere who are looking for a bargain.

Meanwhile, NA Confidential will be in attendance tomorrow morning at the weekly meeting of the Board of Public Works and Safety. In light of City Hall’s recent efforts to gauge the extent of New Albany’s housing problems, many of which centers on seemingly endless decades of ordinance and building code non-enforcement, we’ll ask the board about the status of the house at 1018 E. Spring, which has been under the newly aroused enforcement looking glass, and whose owner is supposed to be incurring fines as we write.

Is he?


Ted Fulmore has been considering the many housing improvement threads on New Albany’s blogs, and he has compiled this brainstorming list of housing quality topics and solutions at the S. Ellen Jones Forum. We’re reprinting in its entirety; you are encouraged to discuss here at NA Confidential.

Goal - To Improve Housing Quality in New Albany, by Ted Fulmore.

There have been wonderful threads recently in the blog world brainstorming on the issue of housing quality in New Albany.

I’ve taken the liberty of stating a Goal:

To Improve the Quality of Housing in New Albany

Below are key bullet points I’ve taken from those threads. I invite everyone to add to this list. There are items below that are doable and some are even in progress.

Housing Quality Brainstorming:

Consistent enforcement of City building codes/ordinances

Rental Inspection Ordinance – with consistent enforcement

Newspaper (Tribune/Courier) to devote space to exposing the most egregious offenders by publishing photos and public records.

Local Non-Profits, Neighborhood Associations, and residents partnering with New Directions Housing Corp. Repair Affair program

Comprehensive inventory of buildings (once a year?) carried out by Neighborhood Associations – (purpose to measure trends/progress)

Listing homes for sale (or going to sheriff’s sale) on http://www.historicnewalbany.com/

Additional funding for rehabs from the City’s CDBG allotment

CHDO rehabs with funds made available as Linden Meadows moves forward

Workshops from local banks to review loan programs available for remodeling/rehabbing/purchasing homes

Establishment of a City Court to speed code enforcement process

Increasing the staffing of the City Legal department

We have a stated goal. Let’s continue to brainstorm ways to accomplish that goal. Please post your ideas.

The next step will be to develop specific objectives and strategies that contribute to accomplishing the goal. At a future date, we can take this discussion off the web and have a public forum (hosted by S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association and East Spring Street Neighborhood Association) to explore assigning owners to specific tasks and projects.

Let’s also consider measurements of success. For example, how will we know that housing quality is improved? Has the number of blighted properties decreased? What’s the total number of blighted properties today? Is there a positive trend? How many homes have been rehabbed with CDBG or private funds? How many homes listed on HistoricNewAlbany.com were sold? How many building code citations were written last month? Last six months? Last year? How many were resolved successfully?

My point is that we can measure progress. But we need to establish how. Otherwise we are doomed to repeat the same threads, meetings, and complaints over and over and over.

This is a City wide problem. Put in your 2 cents worth – To Improve the Quality of Housing in New Albany.


Finally, and specifically addressing the topic of the money needed to demolish those properties beyond redemption:

Unsafe Building Demolition: Thinking Outside the Box, by Ann Streckfus (Diggin’ in the Dirt).

I can't claim responsibility for the excellent suggestion that follows, because it was given to me by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. This friend is employed by a large government entity that requires frequent building removal, and they don't pay for it–they get paid by the companies who do the demolition. Yes, that's right–demolition companies will pay for the right to demolish many buildings and salvage the materials.

Thanks to Ted, Ann and everyone else who has been keeping this topic alive in the New Albany blogosphere.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

From beer, facades and stained glass to Scribner Place and Gloria Allred, good news is breaking out in New Albany.

My feet, knees and lower back are throbbing, but that’s a small price to pay for an artistically and financially successful eighth opening weekend of Gravity Head, our annual draft beer celebration at NABC, Rich O’s and Sportstime.

Beer enthusiasts from points throughout the region visit us each year during Gravity Head. A group of thirty from Dayton, Ohio were with us last evening. Hoosier friends from Bloomington, Richmond and Indianapolis stopped by. On Friday night, quite a few Louisvillians were in attendance. Next weekend, a delegation from Tennessee is coming, and the weekend after that, still others from Ohio.

I make no outlandish claims as to the applicability of all this to the world of New Albany outside my doors, except to note that it proves conclusively the irrelevance of the tired mantra of “location, location, location” in the sense of prospects for success and failure in business.

Location doesn’t measure competence, ability or desire. It can enhance what you choose to do, and provide critical mass in conjunction with what others choose to do, but it contributes nothing with regard to desire, skill, confidence and all the intangibles that combine to make something special, while something else remains ordinary.

It is my conviction that if you do something well, people will come -- as an individual, a business or a community.

As we’ve seen during the past months, a minority of fellow New Albanian citizens differ with this assessment, dwelling incessantly on a depressing litany of what this city and the people in it cannot do.

It’s utter nonsense, and it is being disproven every single day.

The Tribune’s publisher, John Tucker, sees it, contributing a thoughtful piece in today’s newspaper ("Keep sprawl to shadyside") on the potential of New Albany and Southern Indiana within the context of the Louisville metropolitan area. Nick P. and I covered similar ground yesterday in this space.

Ted Fulmore goes further in his Saturday posting at Our History in New Albany: Restoration, Preservation, and a Grand Opening.

It was a busy day in New Albany. The restoration of three storefronts began in the 300 block of Pearl Street ... The Cardinal Ritter House restoration is progressing. The roof is complete and new windows are being installed. Louisville Stained Glass held their Grand Opening to a steady and robust crowd.

The Courier-Journal’s Dale Moss also is on the story, devoting his Sunday column to the impending kick-off of Scribner Place construction:

New Y aims to alleviate treadmill traffic jams

"Neat things are happening and most people don't know," (Mike) Ricke said. "We're moving ahead. It's going to be a reality."

This new Y will prove to be the core of the ballyhooed Scribner Place development along Main Street. A city-built aquatic center, to be overseen by the Y, also will make a splash. Like the Y, Scribner Place's prime benefactor is the Caesars Foundation.

Good news, indeed, but a lunatic fringe of chronic complainers and congenital obstructionists persists in disparaging the clear and indisputable signs of municipal progress presented in the preceding paragraphs, declaring that none of it matters so long as “fairness” and “justice” are denied them, although coherency in defining these qualities consistently eludes the motley collection of white, employed, middle-class homeowners prone to such spasms of taxpayer outrage.

Here’s just the ticket for them.

On March 9th, civil rights attorney Gloria Allred will be in New Albany – not Louisville -- for an appearance at the Culbertson West on Main Street.

Destinations Booksellers is putting this event together with the help of several local businesses and foundations, all of whom share a belief in such occasions as barometers of how far we’ve come in terms of personal and citywide consciousness. It's a chance to examine the parameters that will define the human aspect of New Albany's future.

How many readers of the SOLNA blog, Jeff Roudenbush’s “Forum” and The Gary’s Christmas card list are planning to attend the Gloria Allred function, and of these, how many are prepared to learn something from it, something that might shed valuable light on topics like injustice that they claim are so near and dear to their hearts?

Conversely, and foreseeing in advance the lengthy list of those with no intention of attending (anyone seem the Siamese Councilmen lately?), what do these inevitable absentees ultimately bring to the table when it comes to the revitalization of New Albany -- beyond continuing to publicly flaunt their own lack of comprehension as to what that revitalization entails?

NA Confidential will be there.

Will you?

Photo credit: Ted Fulmore (second view)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Roger and Nick P. discuss the "New Albany Syndrome."

Gravity Head opening night was a record-breaking occasion, artistically as well as financially, and all of us at NABC thank friends and readers in attendance. We'll be carrying on today and into March.

Here is the transcript of a recent thread on the Louisville Restaurants Forum that led us from the glories of La Rosita to a discussion of the New Albany Syndrome.


Roger said:

It occurs to me that not everyone knows of La Rosita's newest outpost at 1515 E. Market in New Albany. It's a block west of Tommy Lancaster's.D. and I dined there today, and it's everything that the Charlestown Road taqueria does with more options added, and plenty of seats. Israel has limited mainstream beers in bottles at the Market Street location, but today we discussed adding an NABC draft beer when he gets his keg box installed.

It's three blocks from our house -- now THAT'S good news.

More at my blog: The Market Street (New Albany) location of La Rosita's is open, and you need to go there, now.


Nick P. said:

Thanks Roger, I went there today. What a COOL place -- very urban, old building. Outstanding food. This is an example of the type of stuff NA (and Louisville needs). The owner is so nice and he even has a second floor with more tables and two plush couches that sit by a fireplace. Very cool indeed, and on top of it, no one anywhere can touch his tacos. This includes places I’ve had them in TX and FL.


Roger said:

I'm just pleased as punch that we have a place like this three blocks from my home, and I hope to put an NABC tap in once Israel gets his keg box.

It balances the bad Bistro New Albany news somewhat.


Nick P. said:

Roger, why don’t more people live in those beautiful old homes in your neighborhood? Do New Albanians consider that area "dangerous" as suburban Louisvillians see Old Louisville as "dangerous?" Just seems like many of those houses could use some work, but they are so cool. I would like to see a nice coffee shop in that area.


Roger said:

What a fine question ... but we're making progress.

Actually, the tide is starting to turn, and we're seeing some single families back in houses that were offered as appeasement to slumlords decades ago owing to the dimwittedness of successive generations of local "leadership."

NA's got considerable potential, and there's reason for a degree of cautious optimism. You get more housing bang for the buck here, and the businesses are showing signs of following.

Nick, do you live in Louisville or over here?

Here's an interesting web site for your perusal: Historic New Albany.

The unexpected collapse of the Bistro New Albany project has me somewhat depressed, and so I'm looking again for an opportunity to get our beers somewhere close to downtown.

You mentioned a coffee shop; the space now occupied by La Rosita's II was remodeled a year or so ago to be a coffee shop, but that fell through. We have a couple downtown, but they fail the test of not looking shocked when you ask for a double espresso -- "you mean, just like it comes?"


Nick P. said:

I live in Old Louisville and am a bit of an historian. Theoretically, downtown NA and environs are just another urban hood in Louisville. Unfortunately, most do not see it that way. Areas on the western side of town especially around Silver Street are as nice as the Highlands architecturally. Then you have the Mansion Row, which while smaller, is more grand than Louisville's Millionaires Row on 3rd St. That said, many of those mansions need work.

There is a multi-room (I think 8k sq foot) mansion around 13th and Market that is yellow that is selling for around 400k. That is incredible for a home of this caliber. I am guessing there are no crime problems in NA even like we have in areas like Germantown ... so I wonder why people stay away from these old houses? Are the cookie cutter vinyls out on Charlestown Rd more attractive to these middle class families?


Roger said:

Nick, I don't know the answer. I live at 11th and E Spring, and share your assessment. The crime situation's not bad; petty stuff, no different from anywhere else.

The price of these homes is cheap compared with the Highlands, which is why I decided to remain here and see if we might stage a revolution.

Of course, a lot of people here, including too many slumlords and rental property owners, want to see it under-regulated as it has been in the past, but we're making headway.

Granted, we don't have the food and drink and shops infrastructure -- yet. There's much going on underneath the radar, though, and when the Scribner Place project gets under way, I think you'll see some of it come to the surface.

I'm an optimist. Having La Rosita's around the corner helps.


Gary M said:

Roger, I have always enjoyed bicycling in New Albany. Downtown, it feels like riding around a small town (complete with rolling up the sidewalks at five PM on the weekends!)

I love the old buildings ... the remains of that old Catholic church among others. It would be nice if Tom Owens grabbed his bullhorn and gave NA the same treatment he's given to Portland, West Main Street, Butchertown and other Louisville neighborhoods. There is some guy in New Albany who tries, but when I checked it out a couple of years ago, so many people attended that I got lost in the crowd. Could not hear what he was saying.


Roger said:

David Barksdale? He's probably the foremost local historian, and a good speaker when you can hear him.

Verily, all the ingredients are here, and the more I get involved, the more evident it seems to me that the missing ingredient is attitude. We're suffering from a complex, and I'm simply not sure how to commence the cure -- although, as I've noted, efforts are underway.


Nick P. said:

Potentially, NA could be Louisville's 4th good urban hood after Crescent/Hill Clifton, Old Louisville, and Highlands. Demographically, the area doesn’t seem too different than Germantown, but the housing stock is much better architecturally than the shotguns and bungalows that exist in G-town. And the houses in NA are generally much cheaper too, even compared to Germantown. The problem is, I think too many from Louisville and even NA do not consider it a part of Louisville. Realtors would never steer people there. In many ways, downtown NA is more intact than downtown Louisville, only with less business. NA did not get torn down as much with urban renewal and surface parking, although even NA (sadly) has its share of surface lots (blah!). There is still a cross density core there with great nineteenth century commercial buildings--but most sit vacant. Imagine that area lined with boutiques and places like Bistro NA and Heine Bros on ground level and then residential and condo on the second or third floors.

Alas, NA has to do a lot of self-examination for that to happen.

I just thought of something...what I just described for NA is what they are doing with the Jeff Towne center--a cheesy replica of what already could be rehabbed in NA.


Roger said:

"Alas, NA has to do a lot of self examination for that to happen."

Ain't THAT the truth.

I've dedicated my non-working hours to urging such self-examination, and I'm not alone. You've heard of the ol' "can do" spirit; NA's is a "can't do" inferiority complex, but fortunately, time doesn't stand still, and the window cracks open from time to time.Do you mind if I reprint this thread in my blog?


Nick P. said:

Sure you may reprint it. But how do I view the blog?


Roger said:

The link is here: NA Confidential.


Nick P. said:

And Roger, that "can't do" inferiority complex in NA is only a microcosm of a larger inferiority complex--that of Louisville.Louisville has a major can't do attitude--for example: We don't need a downtown arena. They'll never build that skyscraper. Nashville and Indianapolis have passed us by. We can't support pro sports. We don't need or want new development. Downtown is unimportant and will always be dangerous. The state holds us down, our taxes are too high, and they can't even paint a bridge. We will never get more high-paying jobs. The east end is great. The rest of the city is trash. Southern Indiana is a bunch of hicks along with Dixie Highway, they are not a part of Louisville ... you hear all these things. Well if anything, that mentality is starting to change. I spoke in the CJ about this awhile back regarding the arena. The status quo has been too popular here, and it takes people like you and me to challenge it. People don't think there is an option other than to live in a new, vinyl house, on the outskirts of town, to eat at Applebee's, shop at Wal-Mart, and come home to a mass market Bud Light. These people are not bad or wrong. But they do not challenge the status quo ... because they have not thought about life in a different way.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Garton kills wine bill compromise, says let court decide.

The committee met, the Governor intervened, and a compromise was reached … and then:

Ind. Law - Garton kills wine bill compromise, says let court decide.

The decision dooms any movement this session on the wine shipping matter, which bubbled up last year when the Indiana Alcohol Tobacco Commission told wineries to stop shipping to in-state customers.

It’s enough to note that Sen. Garton – who has spent the current session under fire for various and sundry inadequacies -- later insisted that he was unaware of pending litigation until yesterday morning, this despite several months of public discussion since last fall’s court injunction.

The link above is to good coverage of yesterday’s events as offered by the outstanding Indiana Law Blog. For now, this will have to do; Gravity Head beckons.

Note to self: If Sen. Garton so much as tries to enter my pub, just do the pre-emptive thing and deny him entry. We have a right to refuse service to political charlatans, don't we?

Louisville Stained Glass open house this Saturday.

We'd love to go check this out, but Saturday's booked solid for Mr. and Mrs. Confidential. However, you need to drop in and visit ...

Louisville Stained Glass, which has been in the process of relocating to the former M.T. Dearing building at the corner of Pearl and Market, is holding an Open House on Saturday, February 25. It will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

These photos were taken three weeks ago, following the initial announcement.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Task force visits unsafe properties as Tribune emits a head-scratcher.

As NA Confidential first reported approvingly on Tuesday morning:

Officials tour unsafe buildings; Mayor examines 3 candidates to replace Roberts, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

At 309 E. 10th St., (City operations director Tony) Toran said, the unsafe building has been recently bought, and the new owner plans condominiums on the property. But at 1018 E. Spring St., violations such as rodent infestation, unsafely kept animals and an improperly gravel-covered driveway are now costing owner Ronald Niehoff between $100 and $1,000 a day in fines, Toran said.

The photo of 309 E. 10th is old; the windows have since been covered with plywood.

The article by the Tribune’s newest staffer goes on to assess the departure of recently resigned building commissioner Paul Roberts, and concludes with a useful odds-and-ends listing of “other city business.”

Meanwhile, Tuesday's edition of the Tribune revealed a surreal and bizarrely self-congratulatory milestone, as the crisp bunting was unfurled, marching band trumpeters blew spit out of their horns, and hundreds of yellow ribbons shone on oak trees outside the newspaper’s headquarters:

Welcome back Jeff; New Albany columnist returns to Tribune, by Jeff Roudenbush (Local columnist).

Where’s he been, Buenos Aires? Laos? Alabama?

Anyway, Jeff celebrated his “return” with a medley of chart smashes, a biographical sketch, and a relatively benign assessment of the state of New Albany, and took care to emphatically agree with his boss, Tribune Publisher John Tucker, while not writing anything that would cause a stir in the teletype machines of the GFNA (Gang of Four News Agency).

The genetically predetermined blarney cells will commence ideological multiplication soon enough, we suspect. It should be fun.

Previously in NA Confidential:

March, 2005: Latest issue of Jeff Roudenbush's "The Forum" mailed to NA Confidential.

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.

November, 2005: Police Chief Harl to Roudenbush: “You should get your facts straight.”

Unfortunately, NA Confidential does not have access to Roudenbush’s publication at this time, as it is not archived on line. As we continue to urge Roudenbush to join us in the present, digital century, let it be understood that we will gladly update this article to include his original comments if he or other readers will kindly provide them to us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Whenever CM Cappuccino hears the word "art," he reaches for his BBQ bologna croissant.

Let's take a break from decrepit housing and consider the meaning of art to the community.

Two council meetings ago, NA Confidential reported on the predictable reaction of conjoined councilmen Dan Coffey and Steve Price when New Albany’s economic development director asked the council for $5,000 toward funding Studio2000SI, a “art as career” program for students with initial funding provided by a Caesar’s Foundation grant.

UPDATED: Siamese Councilmen attack student art program, announce new Hindsight Party.

More grants are being sought to continue the program, which is designed as a unique outreach to talented public school students. As an interim measure, and in seeking a “partnership” for the city in the program, (Paul) Wheatley came before the council to ask for $5,000 as a bridge to future grants.

As for what followed, it should suffice to say that when CM Price intones, “I’m all for the arts, believe me,” it’s not unlike the feeling you get when a piranha winks and opts for the salad bar.

What followed was a vintage duet not unlike George and Tammy as the Siamese Councilmen damned the ideas of art and education with the barest discernable trace of praise, dragging all their familiar bogeymen into the fray, including CM Price’s congenital fear that any action taken today might prove to have been the wrong one in hindsight, and CM Coffey’s axe grinding sparks of venom toward a county government that Wheatley should have known better to ask for money prior to troubling the Wiz – and while you’re at it Paul, couldn’t you have tried to pick the pockets of the parks department first, since they’ve been known to do artsy fartsy things for the urchins?

All of it was delivered by CM Coffey in the patronizing tone of the schoolyard boor, typically something that emanates from the vocal chords of the planet’s insecure charlatans, who unfortunately know a captive audience when they see it, and plan their strangleholds accordingly.

The motion was tabled again on February 16, and the dithering seems set to continue well into summer, or until the arts program collapses, at which point the Siamese Councilmen will hastily reverse field and loudly point to its failure as yet another reason why City Hall can’t be trusted.

Until then, such incessant posturing provides numerous opportunities for those locals typically occupying the “anti-intellectual” booth at the Luddite Bar & Grill to express befuddlement as to why “Velvet Elvis” and “Dogs Playing Poker” aren’t artsy enough for one unrealized lifetime.

As an example, here’s an anonymous bit of troggiti scrawled on the weathered drywall above the rust-streaked urinals at the spitwad blogyard’s kitchen cabinet art gallery – where the Mardi Gras beads fill a plastic Spuds McKenzie stadium cup -- and two eloquent responses that followed, as written by our friends Ceece and Bluegill.


Questions said...

We already have the Southern Indiana Arts located on E Market next to Interfaith. Can you tell the taxpayers WHY WE NEED ANOTHER ONE just for the White House Center? Andrea Grossman is the Director of the one we already have; what is their opinion? Help us understand the dynamics of why -- when we already have one we ARE FUNDING. Thanks.


Ceece said...

The Arts Council of Southern Indiana has completely different goals and missions then that of Studio2000SI save the Arts Appleseed program.

Studio2000SI is a bridging tool to give students the opportunity to see how art can be a job and a career.

The Arts Council works to increase arts and culture to everyone.

The students WORK for Studio, and get paid to do jobs.

Here is the link for the Arts Council.

Both organizations are an asset to our community and we should do what we can to support both of them


Bluegill said...

Echoing and adding to Ceece:

The missions of the two arts organizations are completely different. The Arts Council of Southern Indiana exists mostly as an umbrella organization to coordinate and help fund artistic efforts in the region. While they do provide some limited arts programming directly, they mostly act as a foundation-type conduit to help other organizations achieve their goals. They are in no way New Albany specific nor do they provide opportunities for local students to spend an extended period of time working with a professional artist in a studio atmosphere.

Studio2000SI is an entirely different animal. It's their intention to provide talented students with a hands-on opportunity to spend a summer working as paid artists in a studio under the supervision of a professional artist to create works for the benefit of the community and for sale. It's a tradition of apprenticeship that's as old as human history and one that we make readily available to students in other vocations via Prosser and other agencies.

In order to understand why Studio2000SI matters, it's good to first consider why the arts are important to a community and its youth. Rather than recreate the wheel, I'll point you here for a probably oversimplified but well-stated explanation:

Why Are the Arts Important?

As someone who works with collegiate art students everyday, I can tell you that most of those students, and the community in general, would benefit a great deal if more of them had opportunities for local experience and validation early on. Each of these talented people has been taught from an early age that their community doesn't value their skills. Math is more important. Auto mechanics is more important. Basketball is more important. And when comparing the amount of money spent by local high schools on theatre to that spent on visual arts, even other arts are more important. It's difficult for any of these students, no matter how hard they work, to feel as though their community accepts and supports them. The end result is that most of them skip town, creativity in tow, first chance they get.

That loss of creativity, unfortunately, bears much more on a city's future than just the sacrifice of some pretty pictures. These are the young minds that not only claim there's a better way but create it, constantly challenging us to look deep within ourselves for the threads that bind us together, daring us to think differently about those we view as others, and to value the ability to form and communicate the relationships that define us as humans. What we’re talking about is the very essence of ingenuity and resolve and how best to foster it in our community.

As I stated in the very first comment I ever typed onto a blog, even a casual perusal of past community revitalization efforts across the world point to artists as the most common catalyst for positive change, bringing their talents and work ethic to areas that appear blighted to others but as just a problem of vision to young creatives. For proof, one needs to look no further than East Market Street in Louisville. Businesses are popping up all over the district to serve the art community that was there first. A DIY, trailblazing attitude is simply a function of everyday life for those who choose to define themselves by their own ability to create.

As a region, we're beginning to come to our collective senses regarding the value the arts bring to an area. The Indianapolis Museum of Art recently completed a multi-million dollar expansion of its contemporary art space. Cincinnati also recently spent millions to bring in a world-renowned architect to create an architectural gem to house its contemporary collections. Visitors are pouring in to both cities purely in pursuit of art. Louisville, too, is in the beginning stages of adding to its skyline the city’s most significant architectural achievement in nearly a hundred years, a building whose main purpose is to retain and attract arts related activity.

You'll notice in this Courier Journal article about the Louisville project that several of the participants mention the opportunity for synergy and mutual benefit that Museum Plaza will create. Speed Museum Director Peter Morrin even goes so far as to call creativity and imagination the survival skills of the 21st Century, a sentiment echoed by economists and other scholars throughout the developed world.

If you care to root for the underdog as SOLNA readers seem prone to do, you'll have a difficult time finding a more fitting underdog that cuts across all economic, racial, and gender groups than local visual arts students, who’ve been ignored for decades. If we hope to participate in the regional uplifting taking shape all around us, we need them. If we hope to keep them here, they need to know we support them so that our hope becomes theirs. A one-time effort of a little over ten cents a citizen doesn't seem an unreasonable way to begin that process.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

UPDATED: "Cleaning up" New Albany means identifying and attacking congenital dysfunction. Does your councilperson agree?

(See 9:30 a.m. update below)

Last week in New Albany ended with a bang, as Building Commissioner Paul Roberts suddenly resigned on Thursday afternoon, and Mayor James Garner announced at the city council meeting the same evening that a six-member task force would begin this week to examine neglected records on derelict properties.

Ominously, Mayor Garner also noted the absence of money to remove those structures deemed worthy of demolition, and predictably, it was conceded that previous administrations had been nonchalant with respect to pursuing remuneration from property owners who had allowed their buildings to rot to the point of intervention.

Alas, when it comes to the ghosts of past sloth and underachievement, almost nothing is surprising in New Albany (suggested motto: "Where every day is Halloween, and the slumlords all reign supreme").

As we wrote last week:

For reasons that may remain unknown to us – desperation, payola, expedience, lack of imagination or just plain laziness – successive generations of political “leaders” have failed to address New Albany’s culture of unaccountability, failed to articulate a vision of residency that does not rely on the slumlord’s corrosive calculation, and failed what should be a government official’s fundamental measurement of efficiency, namely, fair and equal enforcement of laws that exist to maintain a level playing field for all citizens.

Yes, there is blame to be spewed in all directions, but far more importantly, there is work to be done in the present and future tenses.

Numerous suggestions have been advanced in this space and others as to how the city might begin the task of making up for lost time without incurring unaffordable costs, and here we are not speaking solely of demolition procedures, but of better implementing the ordinances that currently exist toward the aim of improving the housing stock to prevent the last resort of demolition.

As an example, and prior to Roberts’s resignation last week, the building commissioner had received a request from Ronald Niehoff, owner of the dilapidated property at 1018 E. Spring Street, that an extension be given on a deadline handed him a month earlier by the Board of Public Works and Safety.

The Board’s weekly meeting is today, as is the kickoff of the task force described last week by the Mayor … but what of last week’s deadline?

Niehoff’s house had fallen squarely in the spotlight of neighborhood concern over an obviously deteriorating structure and presumably unsafe living conditions within it, and after numerous visits to the Board of Public Works, that body finally took firm and decisive action. Little has been done by the property owner to rectify the situation.

In the wake of the building commissioner’s departure, will this momentum carry through to the next step required to bring a seemingly recalcitrant property owner into line with the community standards observed by law-abiding citizens?

NA Confidential appreciates these recent efforts on the part of the Board of Works and the Mayor, and although we’ve no axe to grind with the now departed building commissioner, it’s obvious that the office requires a higher level of aggressiveness and self-motivation than was displayed by the previous occupant.

However, in fairness to all concerned, sometimes there’s more to taking back a city than hard work, dedication and diligence. It helps to have goals and the sustainable plans for achieving them, as well as ideals and the leadership skills necessary to inspire their acceptance.

It may require (shudder) the expenditure of political capital, and if so, then the burden should be shouldered by all, not some, of our local elected officials.

After all, to our knowledge, none of New Albany’s elected public officials has publicly and explicitly disavowed the precepts of code and ordinance enforcement expressed in today’s posting.

It is true that a select few may have uttered agreement with fingers crossed behind their backs, but it is precisely for this reason that the time has come for all of them to commit publicly and explicitly to a program that seeks not merely to clean up New Albany by collecting trash, demolishing unsafe structures and removing street spam, but to Clean Up New Albany by attacking the sources of indolence, venality and enforcement dysfunction that have been allowed to run rampant for far too long.

We understand that there will be resistance, both from certain elected officials and from those members of the public who benefit the most from the New Albany Syndrome, to grandiose ideas that we’re told are all but impossible to bring to fruition, such is our level of backwardness and resistance to the reality-based world -- ideas like rental inspections, a full time city attorney and a city court.

However, much can be done with the resources at our disposal as we work toward these desired – and necessary – goals.

We’re interested in what you think such a manifesto or resolution should say about statements of purpose, goals and proposals for attainment. Once we have it in hand, we’ll go about the task of seeing which of our leaders are ready to lead – and which need to return to full-time management of their own rental properties.

It should be very, very instructive.


Tuesday, 9:30 am update: Waking correspondent Courtney spotted the promised task force bright and early this morning examining a building at 1106 Elm Street that was discussed at last week's Board of Public Works meeting as being the source of a rat problem, and for various code violations.

Previously in NA Confidential:

The thread was too good to interrupt ... but where do we go from here?

708 Culbertson Avenue: They're not pretty pictures.

Rental property reform: "We have an obvious problem and no elected officials are offering solutions," so here's one, courtesy of our own Bluegill.

Seeing as rental property reform is a community building proposition, who could possibly be opposed?

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Historic Housing Quality in New Albany," courtesy of Ted.

Readers familiar with my business are aware that this is one of the busiest weeks of the year, because our annual Gravity Head draft beer festival begins on Friday.

Following in the vein of last week's postings on housing in New Albany, and while I try to find time to write, check out Ted Fulmore's Historic Housing Quality in New Albany.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Market Street (New Albany) location of La Rosita's is open, and you need to go there, now.

Back in October, LEO’s erudite reviewer Marty Rosen (now writing for the Courier-Journal) effectively kicked off the La Rosita’s craze in New Albany by exposing Israel Laudin’s tiny taqueria on Charlestown Road to an audience far larger than that afforded by an already considerable local word of mouth.

Soon La Rosita deservedly became a Louisville-area media staple, and its cramped quarters were packed at all hours.

Meanwhile, closer to New Albany’s urban core at 1515 E. Market, the on-again, off-again experiment in conceptual vertigo known as California’s was lurching unsteadily toward another of many costume changes. During winter, it finally ground to a halt, and shortly thereafter a banner was unfurled announcing the forthcoming arrival of a second and expanded La Rosita’s at the site.

Now it is open, and thriving, and yesterday we finally found the time to make the short (and chilly) three-block walk and give it a try.

Verily, it was a life-altering experience.

I’d eaten previously at the Charlestown Road taqueria, and at the new second location, that basic and tasty menu has been supplemented by extras that space constraints at the original location precluded. The gratifying result is a high quality, inexpensive and enjoyable eatery that continues to change the way New Albanians think about Mexican cooking.

The differences between the routes traveled by these two establishments, La Rosita’s and California’s, are instructive. While well-meaning people lacking the necessary experience in the restaurant field conceived California’s, food service veterans with the aim of cooking fresh and authentic Mexican food started La Rosita’s.

I’ve not met Israel’s wife, but he is a passionate and talented man after my own heart, in the sense that he’s seemingly on a mission to de-Americanize his native cuisine, and is willing to patiently explain the ingredients and techniques to all those willing to listen. As our friend Bluegill noted, “that man can cook,” and he certainly can, but beyond even that, he can teach, too.

Forget what you think you know about Mexican food – like many of us, you learned it incorrectly at Tumbleweed, anyway – and note the absence of “enchilada style” and Wisconsin cheddar on the La Rosita’s menu. In their place are an array of freshly conceived sauces, moist and white Chihuahua cheese, and delectable meats ranging from the standards to tongue, goat and homemade chorizo.

My lunch on Saturday was a beef tongue taco and a chorizo gordita, with fresh flan for dessert. Diana enjoyed a huge vegetarian burrito. Mexican soft drinks are available, but we had water and iced tea, with the final tally coming to a very reasonable $17 for two.

Israel and I discussed the prospects for an NABC beer tap once he follows through on his plan to buy a keg box, and while conceding that he doesn’t drink beer and knows little about it, he noted that several customers had already asked him about having an NABC beer on draft.

Of course, I’m very interested in doing it – but which one would be best?

It would have to be one of the five ales we’re committed to brewing on a regular basis: Bob’s Old 15-B, Community Dark, Croupier IPA, Elector and Hoptimus.

Of these, Elector and Hoptimus probably would be too big, and Community Dark wouldn’t be necessary where Dos Equis is pouring. Bob’s is a smooth Porter, and Croupier pale and nicely hoppy, but not completely over the top. Either would serve as fine complements to Israel’s delicious food – think of Mexican seasonings, cilantro, peppers, tomatoes and savory meats, and the semi-sweet, chocolate-tinged Bob’s … or the assertive, balanced bitterness of the Croupier.

I’m interested in your opinion, but my vote goes to Croupier. That’s spelled “crupier” en Espanol.


La Rosita’s hours at the Market Street location are 11:00 a.m. Monday through Sunday, to 9:00 p.m. weekdays, later on Friday and Saturday, earlier on Sunday evening.


Marty’s October, 2005, story in LEO.
Robin Garr’s October, 2005 review at Louisville Hot Bytes.
Sarah Fritschner’s article, “Lesser-used animal parts delight adventurous eaters,” including a reference to Israel’s use of tongue (Courier-Journal).

In which the blogger departs the sunken vessel for rosier climes.

I have something to get off my chest, so kindly indulge me.

Regular readers of NA Confidential know that the Bistro New Albany was supposed to have opened for business on February 6, but that at the last moment, numerous issues arose and the project was put on hold.

You also will recall that neither I, nor my brewing business (NABC), was ever an investor in Bistro New Albany, although there was an agreement between NABC and BNA for the latter to sell our microbrewed New Albanian beers, as well as an accompanying (and informal) promise from me that BNA would have the exclusive right to do so in downtown New Albany for at least a year and perhaps more.

Dear readers, please understand that I’m not intentionally being unresponsive with regard to your many, many questions about this situation.

If I had fresh news about Bistro New Albany – if I had any news at all, even stale tidings – I’d gladly share them with you, but I’ve heard nothing for two weeks.

The telephone at BNA is disconnected, and in the absence of updated information, I’m inferring that while other investors may yet be waiting to step forward and commence operations at the site (as I was told previously), the format won’t necessarily be the one that I was so enthusiastic about and willing to support with NABC’s beers.

In short, I honestly thought there was a loop, and that I was somewhere in it, but two whole weeks without a phone call, text message or smoke signal have made me pessimistic, annoyed and unwilling to squander any more of whatever personal and professional integrity that has been lost since the commencement of this fairy tale-turned-nightmare scenario.

MK, if you’re reading, please be aware that NABC beer placement at whatever incarnation replaces the BNA at the corner of Market and Bank is off the table unless I’m informed otherwise -- and very, very quickly.

Instead, we’re perfectly happy to focus our efforts on supplying our good friends at the Come Back Inn in Jeffersonville, and finding someone else to work with here in New Albany, preferably toward a low-risk, sustainable NABC tap room project with a relaxed atmosphere, a short but interesting pub grub menu, and perhaps an espresso machine.

Yes, I’m going to miss the prospect of drinking NABC beer in that beautiful courtyard at the former House of Bread. However, there’ll be other places and other times.

Anybody out there open for a discussion? Drop me a line.

I feel better now. As you were.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A transcendent Friday set by Jimmy Scott, courtesy of Louisville's Jazz Factory.

If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.
~ Charlie Parker

Jimmy Scott has been living it since he began singing with native Louisvillian Lionel Hampton’s band in 1948 at the tender age of 23, and last night at the Jazz Factory, he shared some of the lessons from this long and creative musical life with a packed house of ardent fans.

Our friends Jon and Natasa outdid themselves for this occasion, miraculously procuring a table directly in front, yielding as close a view of the 81-year-old singer and his letter perfect backing trio as would have been possible without actually crawling on stage.

At an early age, Scott was diagnosed with Kallman’s Syndrome, a rare hormonal deficiency that effectively precluded puberty, stunting his growth and leaving his voice with a boyish, high pitch.

In a testimonial to the power of positive thinking, Scott uncomplainingly played the hand he was dealt, developing an expressive vocal technique, with cadences of vowel-rich phrasing sometimes reminiscent of Billie Holiday, and other times punctuated by percussive bursts – all wrapped up in an emotive, warm and conversational stage presence.

As America’s music, jazz bears testament to the very best and the very worst that this country has to offer, and as a prime example of the latter, there is the oft-told and deeply disturbing story of Jimmy Scott’s decades of mistreatment at the hands of the lesser, blasphemous managerial and bean counting lights of the music business.

Singing credits were erased, ridiculously bad contracts signed, royalties withheld and masterpiece albums withdrawn from the market. By the early 1960’s, Scott had had enough of the punishment, and he disappeared into the menial workaday world of his hometown of Cleveland for two decades, performing only occasionally, before emerging in the 1980’s to rejoin a world more attuned to his abilities, and since enjoying an autumnal period of productivity, acceptance and popularity.

Straddling a stool last night, Scott delivered selections from the Great American Songbook -- “Blue Skies,” “Embraceable You,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” – with impish bravado, sly suggestiveness or wistful reflection, and sometimes all these and more in the course of a single number.

Entering his ninth decade, and with a roller coaster career behind him, Scott is utterly without weariness or bitterness. His set last night was short, but just as rewardingly sweet, with keynote emphasis on our ability to love, and lose, and love all over again, all the while retaining a childlike wonder at the intensity of the experience, and the sublime beauty to be experienced during every moment of our all too brief time on the present stage.

Long may he run, and many thanks to the Jazz Factory for making such a revelatory musical event possible. It was our first visit to the basement of the Glassworks, and it won’t be our last – but topping Jimmy Scott will be very, very difficult.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"With sorrow," we note a friend's passing.

Thanks to Ann Streckfus, creator of the Diggin' in the Dirt blog, for putting into appropriate words the sentiments being felt today by many at the Public House, where Sara was known and liked by all.


With Sorrow, by Ann Streckfus.

I read in today's paper that a former tenant in our carriage house died yesterday in a single car accident on Highway 62 near Madison.

Sara Zozula, a beautiful and vibrant young woman, lived here on Mansion Row in our carriage house during the summer and fall of 2003. Sara was one of those people that you like right off the bat, and she had scads of friends to prove it.

We hit it off because she'd been homeschooled as a youngster, and we talked a lot about my decision to homeschool my daughter. Sara reaffirmed my decision, not only by telling me how much she'd enjoyed her homeschool years, but by displaying the good qualities parents hope their children will grow up to possess.

She brought her mom by to meet me, since we were both gardeners and she wanted to introduce us. I could sense the bond and love between Sara and her mom, and I grieve for her mother now.

In my mind's eye, I can still see Sara biking up our driveway after she got home from work, and that beautiful head of hair of hers, as she flashed past the window on her way up Main Street.

Rest in peace, Sara.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Council night: Roberts resigns post as Building Commissioner, and The Gary loses ... again.

At tonight’s City Council meeting, Mayor James Garner announced that as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Building Commissioner Paul Roberts has resigned, and City Hall is searching for a new person for the job.

The Mayor produced a box filled with files on properties with structures suitable for demolition, and added that beginning next Tuesday, a task force composed of representatives of the fire and police departments, the ordinance enforcement officer, the city attorney, the city operations chief and a representative of the building department would begin running down the files.

Before we get too excited at this welcomed flurry of activity, it must be noted that Mayor Garner also conceded that the fund for demolitions is $65,000 in the hole and will need an infusion of money.

During public speaking time, Mrs. Anna Schmidt made a good presentation on the topic, calling for the council to make a resolution and suggesting that the money come from Riverboat funds. It also would appear that past administrations did not do a stellar job of recouping demolition costs, and Councilman Larry Kochert suggested examining past records for chances of remuneration.

So it was that the evening’s central theme was demolishing decrepit buildings, and while this is a start, it is just one plank in what needs to be a platform of comprehensive attention to the city’s housing stock through aggressiveness on the part of the building department, the implementation of rental property inspections, and the establishment of a city court.

Of course, New Albany can’t be rebuilt in a day. Any action is good action at this stage of the game.

The other noteworthy drama of the evening occurred when the once proud Brent Jacobs of the McCartin Company mounted the podium to carry The Gary’s lunch with respect to the proposed commercial development at the corner of Green Valley Road and Daisy Lane, a reconfigured idea that was given an unfavorable recommendation by the Plan Commission.

In a room oozing hostility, Brent offered a bizarre, disjointed soliloquy on the nature of The Gary’s fabled largesse, turning to the assistance of two architectural suits for a gushing depiction of perhaps the best planned commercial development ever, all of which made the Wizard of Westside’s subsequently groveling praise for the excellence of the presentation all the more sycophantic.

But even CM Coffey joined the unanimous vote against the zooming change. Was Brent leveling with us when he said that if rejected, his company would be “done” with it? Only The Gary knows for sure.

Still searching for that elusive inner city church, "The Gary" announces his intention to buy, subdivide tonight's City Council agenda.

There's a City Council meeting tonight, and as we await the publication of an official agenda (to be found here), there's a news flash from Volunteer Hoosier: BULLETIN: "The Gary" on the Agenda.

Tonight, The Gary seeks to have the City Council override the decision/recommendation of the New Albany Plan Commission regarding the erection of a professional office complex at the northwest corner of Green Valley Road and Daisy Lane.

How long will it take for CM Coffey to denounce the Tribune's recent spotlighting of his grandstanding? Will CM Price try to best his own record of three mixed "Pandora's Box" metaphors in one evening? May we expect the distempered Brambleberry to snort his disrespect for the Pledge of Allegiance -- again?

Hot, hot, hot ... see you there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The thread was too good to interrupt ... but where do we go from here?

The owner/occupant of this three-apartment (!) house at 1018 E. Spring was told by the OEO that his yard could not be used to park his vehicle, so he dumped a load of gravel on the lawn. The black flap hanging from the roof is tar paper; shingles are nowhere to be seen. After frequent complaints by the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, the owner was given a month to address various code violations. The deadline is February 17.

What do you think will happen?


For the umpteenth time in the short history of the NA Confidential blog, yesterday’s posting about New Albany’s often decrepit and dilapidated housing stock -- and our inability or unwillingness as a community to come to grips with what it means and how we might fix it -- has hit a rather formidable nerve on the part of our collective readership.

To these frequent expressions of conviction in the still sparsely populated blogosphere must be added the constantly repeated expressions of anger and frustration heard on a consistent basis at neighborhood association gatherings, and in public at numerous Board of Works and City Council meetings, along with past letters to the editor to all known local newspapers, as well as the combined totals of hundreds, if not thousands of hours of effort on the part of ordinary citizens to address the lingering problems of non-enforcement of ordinances that are supposed to govern unkempt, hazardous and unacceptable properties and the patently non-responsive entities that own them … and it becomes increasingly obvious that here, finally, is the single defining issue that unites people of all ages, races, classes, political affiliations and musical preferences.

But will they unite?

We have laws on the books, and although it would be helpful to see an official and explicit policy that embraces goals and standards of quantifying them, a full-time city attorney and a city court on hand to help do the job, the tools to begin certainly do exist.

Why, then, do we continue to accept conditions as they are?

Is this purely a monetary issue?

Were successive generations of political “leadership” powerless to prevent New Albany from sinking into the grip of the slumlord lobby, or is it more insidious than that?

Does it strike directly into the heart of this city’s persistent dysfunction – a low common denominator accepted for so long in housing, in discourse, in electoral choices – in culture itself -- that we’re now unable to cope with the therapies necessary to commence a cure?

What on earth are we afraid of?

NA Confidential does not endorse the view that the cancer of which we speak is the fault of this or any previous mayoral administration – not because we are beholden to this, that or another local politician, but because such a simplistic position is simply nonsensical.

It has taken a long time to reach this point.

For reasons that may remain unknown to us – desperation, payola, expedience, lack of imagination or just plain laziness – successive generations of political “leaders” have failed to address New Albany’s culture of unaccountability, failed to articulate a vision of residency that does not rely on the slumlord’s corrosive calculation, and failed what should be a government official’s fundamental measurement of efficiency, namely, fair and equal enforcement of laws that exist to maintain a level playing field for all citizens.

In recent weeks, numerous ideas have been discussed in this space. What is needed now is a strategy for coordinating the time and talents of the people who are willing to unite and make this our moment to try and make this a better place to live.

Much surely can be accomplished by volunteers if they’re properly directed.

It would be helpful to have a display of principled resolve, as well as a smidgen of backbone, from the city’s elected and appointed officials, all of whom at one time or another have paid lip service to the notion of accountability. It is understood that money’s tight, but perhaps there are other ways to approach this problem. We cannot go on using lack of money as an excuse not to make an effort.

There is a newspaper in New Albany, and that newspaper might decide to devote space to exposing the most egregious offenders by publishing photos and public records – or not. The depth of interest in topics like ordinance and building code enforcement and rental property inspections certainly is evident among the Tribune’s readers. Is the newspaper listening?

None of this stands to be easy, but guess what? Almost nothing in life is – never has been, never will be.

Where to start?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

708 Culbertson Avenue: They're not pretty pictures.

Paging the Building Commissioner ... Mr. Roberts ... Mr. Paul Roberts ...

As first brought to our attention on Maury Goldberg's New Albany Today blog in Eyesore of the Week or even the Year, here are several views of the wreck at 708 Culbertson. First, the east side.

Here's a closer view of the porch, with the street behind the photographer:

What's left of the front window faces Culbertson to the north.

And here's the interior view, as exposed through the smashed front window:

We'd better hurry and get this one demolished before someone rents it "as is."

Tonight: CDBG planning for New Albany.

If you’re reading from the vicinity of the S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association, Ted Fulmore’s S. Ellen Jones Forum may be of interest to you.

The purpose of this web log is to create a place where a constant exchange of ideas and creativity can take place about our neighborhood. Not everyone can attend our monthly meetings, so this site will serve as our other meeting place.

Yesterday, Ted used the forum to provide information that may be of interest to many New Albanians:

CDBG Planning for New Albany: Tuesday, February 14 – 7pm, Assembly Room 331 City-County Building

The staff of the redevelopment Commission shall conduct a public meeting concerning the nature of the Community Development Block Grant program; eligible and ineligible activities; programs areas and activities, as well as to discuss CDBG and its uses.

In short, funding's reduced, but the program is intact.

NA Confidential can't make tonight's CDBG meeting; if you can, and come back with a report, please use the comments section to provide it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Tribune’s Tucker tackles city council “etiquette,” leaves it to NAC to name a name.

There’s an old story, perhaps apocryphal, in which former Soviet kingpin Nikita Khrushchev reminisces about his early revolutionary days, and specifically the time that his band of proselytizing Bolsheviks set up shop somewhere in the middle of the endless Russian countryside in an effort to instruct the peasantry in the modern ways of the New Soviet Man, circa 1925.

Spying the traditional outdoor pit toilet, Khrushchev’s vanguard determined to introduce the concept of modern plumbing to the steppe, installing a familiar commode so that users might be seated while they worked – and presumably supplying copies of Pravda for use as “reading” material, although village illiteracy may have precluded such naivety and led to other, non-propagandistic solutions.

At any rate, the experiment was short-lived, as within a very brief time the sparkling throne was fouled beyond redemption by visitors who continued to approach the task in the only way they knew – squatting, albeit while balancing precariously atop the newfangled porcelain arrival.

According to Khrushchev, this was the moment he finally understood the immensity of the educational task that lay before the conquering Communists – and became cynical about the prospects for its success.

The newfangled gadget was removed, and the hole in the ground restored to its previous status.


Meanwhile, in the Sunday edition of the Tribune, Publisher John Tucker again contributes a thoughtful column, this time on the timely topics of respect, dignity and decorum, and how it is unlikely that anyone might confuse these concepts with a typical evening spent observing a New Albany City Council meeting.

If and when the column is archived, we’ll point you in the proper direction.

Reflecting on his very first council meeting on February 6, Tucker accurately conveys the standard flavor of the carnival atmosphere, noting “irresponsible statements … hurled by our elected officials in a public meeting” and the “blame game (being) played with great zeal,” and he points his rhetorically accurate finger at the council itself, choosing the tactful course of regarding the body in its collective form during the scolding:

At the beginning of the meeting, a sheet of paper was handed out to the public on how to behave while observing or speaking to the council. Evidently this is a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” Because it wasn’t the public who could have learned a lesson on etiquette, it was the council.

However, in truth, John’s net is cast a bit too widely.

Why not place the largest share of the opprobrium precisely where it belongs, on the ward-heeling shoulders of the 1st District’s Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey?

Unlike his council brethren, CM Coffey consistently calibrates his public demeanor at each and every council meeting so as to achieve the maximum of disorder and confusion, consciously deploying limitless verbiage utterly bereft of meaning, ritualistic straw man beheadings and unceasing preening and posturing as substitutes for the qualities of genuine “leadership” that John is understandably shocked to see almost completely missing from the Feb. 6 proceedings.

It should be added that Council President Jeff Gahan continues to make efforts to run the council meetings in a responsible manner, and has largely succeeded in reining in the lynch mob mentality that pervades the SOLNA-fed worldview of public communications as a violent soapbox for malice, self-aggrandizement and outright character assassination while still allowing the responsible, non-Brambleberry portion of the public to have its say before the city’s elected representatives.

But John squarely nails the fundamental problem with a clarity that increasingly seems exclusively reserved for those who have come to New Albany from elsewhere, and consequently aren’t carrying the suffocating psychological baggage hauled like truckloads of rotting, moldy furniture to the negotiating table by locals who demand their address to be annotated in the past tense:

Certainly there needs to be accountability for mistakes made, but the way the council conducted itself only made the observer feel frightened for New Albany’s future. That’s because the future, and what we were going to do about it, really wasn’t discussed – only that there was a problem that was so bad that no one wanted to take responsibility for it.

In a nutshell, that’s the New Albany Syndrome in all its futility and virulence, and if we expect to see thinking in the future tense emanating from the vicinity of the small-time ward heeler -- one determined above all else to remain in a position where people must pay some degree of attention to ravings that otherwise would be dismissed as the desperate palaver of the congenital underachiever – then, like Khrushchev, we probably deserve to be disappointed.

However, we need not be cynical -- just yet.

Those in the community who “can” simply must work harder and more efficiently to counteract the willful obstructionism of the ones who, like the Siamese Councilmen and the anonymous SOLNA graffiti artists, cannot.

John Tucker’s testimony yesterday is a hopeful sign that the Tribune will take its rightful place in the ranks of those who can make New Albany a better place for all its residents -- not merely the disaffected, disgruntled and dysfunctional who can scream obscenities the loudest.

By the way, anyone seen the keys to Councilman Cappuccino’s public toilet?


(Photo credit: The Tribune)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Back from a fine weekend in Indianapolis, and the best hoops in the world.

Today at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the undermanned but feisty Indiana Pacers – missing three starters to injury and with Ron Artest finally exiled to California – missed a wonderful chance to upset the visiting NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, falling 92-88 in the closing seconds of a nationally televised game before 18,345 fans.

We drove north yesterday, somehow managing to avoid the worst of the multi-car pileup on I-65 in near blizzard conditions, then enduring a 15-mile, 1.5-hour detour that ended with a late lunch in brilliant sunshine and driving sleet (all at once) at Greenwood’s Oaken Barrel brewpub.

The bizarre world of Indiana weather is exceeded only by the state’s official roller coaster ride of rabid affection and inexcusable venom (see “Davis, Mike”) induced by basketball as the spectator sport of choice.

The mythology of high school basketball in Indiana is unquestioned to such an extent that Hollywood dedicated a movie, “Hoosiers,” to it, and our response to this recognition was to gut it and kill the magic by introducing class basketball.

Loyalty to the state’s college programs is lifelong and fervent, with thousands of Indiana University fans in near-suicide mode as their program’s long slide downward gains critical mass, but as Dale Moss notes in today’s Courier-Journal, Indiana University Southeast’s nationally ranked NAIA men’s basketball team can’t draw flies even on Gary “The Gary” McCartin Bobble Head Day.

Somehow in the midst of these generational and purely parochial loyalties, the professional Pacers thrive in Indiana’s capital city, and do so with a splendidly schizophrenic approach to marketing the urban game to a target audience imbued with rural sensibilities.

For three quarters or more of today’s game, as various “kiss cams” intruded, scantily clad cheerleaders wiggled and Our Sponsor’s Fan of the Night performed impossible stunts for meaningless prizes, a steady soundtrack of hip-hop and various soulful grooves filled every spare moment.

Such is the NBA norm in the 21st century, and a far cry indeed from the less boisterous ambience I recall from childhood, when the Sunday games on TV were quiet and seemingly choreographed, like a muscular and reverential ballet danced before a few thousand polite spectators.

The rival ABA, of which the Indiana Pacers were a charter member, is responsible for introducing the caffeine-driven, incessant off court antics that have helped to boost attendance and draw casual followers to games, hence the scene at today’s game, where not a single moment can be left empty of motion, noise, or both.

Of course, music is central to this tableau, and so we are reminded that the rock group Chicago’s major claim to the rock and roll hall of fame is that there was a time when its horn heavy songs were performed by every ragtag pep band in every leaky high school gym in the basketball heartland, of which Indiana still sees itself as pre-eminent in spite of recent travails, and perhaps this explains why every time I go to a Pacers game and the game gets tight after three quarters, suddenly the resident DJ is silent, and the arena sound system’s search capability suddenly yields nothing but classic rock: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Queen and Led Zeppelin song snippets, and as a bonus, video clips from “Hoosiers” and “Animal House.”

World colliding, to be sure, but as long as the paying customers aren’t troubled, there’s no reason to care. We left satisfied, entertained by the loony capers, the shuck, and the jive, but far more so by the chance to watch great athletes perform, and to observe the little things that make it all worthwhile.

With less than a minute to go and San Antonio unbelievably trailing, the Spurs inserted the veteran Robert Horry into the lineup and brought the ball inbounds. After screening, Horry paused, shrugged, and retreated unnoticed to a position behind the three-point line, fifteen feet away from the nearest defender, and seemingly ready to sink yet another of the game-winning shots that have defined his big-game career.

But it was not to be. The Argentine phenom Manu Ginobili drove the baseline for the hole and was fouled, and his two free throws put the champs ahead for good.

The shot I’ll remember was the one Horry didn’t get a chance to take – and as the saying goes, you miss 100% of that kind.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

VH thread: What do you want to see from The Tribune and the Evening News?

Volunteer Hoosier has the right idea for a discussion:

It's going to be a long weekend for everybody, so let's open a thread. We've all been patient with The Tribune/Evening News over the past four months, and we have, for the most part, kept our opinions to ourselves.

And although Mr. Tucker seems a touch ambivalent about candid appraisals, he does seem to be inviting comments. So, here's your chance. What do you want to see from The Tribune and the Evening News? Where have you seen improvement? etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Make your comments at Open Forum: The Tribune.


Previously at NA Confidential: Tribune publisher outlines bold reform plan at symposium (September 29, 2005).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mind-bending skyscraper planned for downtown Louisville.

Most people in the metropolitan Louisville area already will have seen this in the newspaper or on television, but if you’re tuning in from elsewhere, this story is absolutely off the wall:

Skyscraper to transform Louisville skyline, in the Louisville Courier Journal.

I could have sworn there's a bridge somewhere in the vicinity of 2nd Street ...

At any rate, look to the far left near where the Clark Memorial Bridge is in real life, and try to imagine a new arena there. Today, the C-J reported that the U of L trustees back LG&E arena site, an endorsement critical to the future of the downtown arena.

Obviously there’s much drama ahead for both projects, and no guarantees, because accompanying the stories about them was this item: Kennedy Bridge painting deal canceled. Years have passed, a state bribery scandal has been uncovered and millions have been spent, and still only 6% of the bridge is painted.

In some matters, Kentucky remains true to form.

Also, if you’ve not seen it yet, visit Louisville at a Crossroads, the web site that advocates removing Louisville’s waterfront Interstate 64.

(Photo credit: http://www.museumplaza.net/images.html)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Heeding that certain call, Mt. Laura erupts to a chorus of hysterical laughter.

“I pity the fool.”
-- Lawrence “Mr. T” Tureaud

In case you blinked and missed it, Wednesday night was Shammy Awards Night at the Luddite Bar & Grill, as all 13 of the bar’s tiny patrons crowded into the battered unisex toilet for an evening of self-congratulatory Crayon Karaoke.

After opening the show with a gritty version of her signature “Trog Sham(an)’s Blues,” EastdisTended mounted the podium by the poker machine (where the paper towel rack used to be) and awarded “Thread of the Year” to herself for the “gangstas four rap” concept album “Death Knell for Knobbany.”

Later, the androgynous Legal Bagel – accompanied by a chorus line of dancing manhole covers -- urged community unity, prayer and ritual cleansing as means toward the cherished SOLNA aim of replacing the city of New Albany as currently chartered with an open-air UNESCO World Heritage Sewer Site.

At ceremony’s end, all 12 who were left standing -- excluding Potted Police, who had fallen asleep and dreamed of voting the straight ticket -- linked hands around a spittoon filled with Kool-Aid and sang “We Are the Trogs”:

We are the Trogs, we are the Potties
We are the ones who can't or won't think none
So let’s keep rotting

There’s a choice we're making
We'll drag you down as well
It’s true we don’t have a plan

So go to Hell

For further details, see Enough Is Enough, where finally, almost a year after first extending the offer of team member status at SOLNA before breaking the promise, EastdistEnded lifts my writings to the marquee in a rare display of literacy amid the intellectual squalor that is, and shall remain, the Spitwad Blogyard.


FLASH - This just in from our college ‘fessor friend Derek:

Hey, it sounds like you have a nasty stain that just won’t go away. Well, shout it out! And always remember. And never forget. Our Constitutionally mandated FREEDOM TO BLEACH.

Bistro New Albany temporarily on hold.

That’s right – the stylish eatery planned for the site of the former House of Bread at the corner of Market and Bank in the heart of downtown New Albany is in a state of suspended animation, entirely ready to unlock the doors, but awaiting the resolution of completely unexpected difficulties that arose in the days prior to the expected commencement of operations on Monday, February 6.

Previously, NA Confidential reported that personnel problems -- the issue of staffing – had thwarted efforts to open the bistro according to its original schedule, but these bumps had been resolved to the satisfaction of founders Greg Merz and Dave Clancy when suddenly, far graver difficulties intervened in the form of a major health scare for Greg.

Consequently, the single best piece of news that I have to report today takes precedence over all considerations of the bistro, because at this writing it seems quite likely that Greg has had the incredible good fortune to receive the early-stage diagnosis of a potentially debilitating cardiovascular problem, and can begin treating it now rather than later.

As hard as it is for him, Greg -- for whom Bistro New Albany was to be the culmination of a career dream long held -- is facing a clearly defined choice between stress-inducing bistro work and the prospect of renewed health, and his decision to do what it takes to live is precisely the same all of us would make in similar circumstances.

Greg’s a close friend, and while it is extremely sad that he may not be able to achieve his business dream, he’s receiving a wonderful opportunity just the same. I think all of us understand that without our health, we have nothing whatsoever. In good health, other dreams always are possible.

And so a bistro restructuring currently is under way, one that probably will result in Greg no longer actively participating in the project. Chef Dave may go it alone and hire a manager for the front of the house, or find another partner or partners in order to carry on, but I know he earnestly desires to bring the bistro to fruition according to the original business plan.

To be perfectly honest, I can’t predict what the final details of this restructuring will be. What I’ve heard so far inspires optimism, but I’m not at liberty to disclose the details.

Given the close contact with Greg and Dave as they’ve prepared the bistro for opening, and the work I’ve put into expanding my own business so that draft NABC beer can be served in downtown New Albany in a good atmosphere fostered by mutual respect and appreciation, you’ll have no trouble understanding how profound a gut check this has been for me.

In fact, as I alluded in my last public update, there’s a considerable personal guilt attached to the events of the past few days. After all, everyone knows that I’ve been cheerleading this project from its inception, referring to it not just as a great business decision on the part of seasoned and professional operators who’ve grasped the current and future opportunities, but also – and not coincidentally – as a veritable rallying point for a community finally on the rise.

Perhaps I've pushed too hard.

That my own rising expectations are generally unattainable in their typically idealistic form is a condition I understand quite well, and having evolved various mechanisms for coping, these can be rationalized quite readily – and are.

But I’m humbled and sincerely apologetic if my enthusiasm for the Bistro New Albany has contributed to an unhealthy accumulation of stress and pressure on all concerned with the project.

Contrary to my curmudgeonly proclivities, I’m a glass-half-full type of guy when it comes to sure bets, of which I continue to believe wholeheartedly that Bistro New Albany remains one.

I believe there will be a way soon out of the temporary impasse, and that the bistro is still going to be a reality, albeit a bit later and likely with a different internal structure than before.

But my fondest hope at present is that Greg’s health improves, and even if he is unable to actively participate in the bistro at this time, that he’ll soon be seizing the color of his next parachute and in coming years be able to look back with pride on his role in creating a downtown New Albany institution.

When there is more to report, look for it here.

To conclude, a personal note ... Greg, if you're reading, please forgive me if I'm compromising your privacy in any way by discussing these matters in this forum, but I just wanted you to know that you have many, many friends, and at the pub, we're all family -- and first and foremost, your family is worried and wants to be sure you're okay ... capeesh? Good times are around the corner. See you soon.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Spinnin’ wheels: A Wednesday tour of local blogs.

In Curiouser and Curioser, Randy “Volunteer Hoosier” Smith reports that the Tribune’s Amany Ali is leaving the newspaper:

In something of a shocker, Ms. Ali has accepted a position with (drumroll, please)...The McCartin Companies.

Best wishes to Amany and her new Sprawlmeister boss. Now, about that "spin" cycle ...

Meanwhile, on Monday evening, former city councilman Maury Goldberg mustered the courage to attend the Dan Coffey Memorial Chautauqua Lecture (otherwise known as the first of two February city council meetings), and came away with heartburn. Read all about it in City council Meeting -02/06/2006, and note his sensible advocacy of public access to recordings made of the proceedings.

On a lighter note, Ted Fulmore offers another delightful rumination on the city’s past (with a personal slant) in My History in New Albany.

I imagine a trip to New Albany was a pretty big deal for a farm boy from Harrison County.

It still is, Ted – for Louisvillians.

More good news about downtown is tendered at Diggin’ In the Dirt: Ohio River Greenway Update (a report submitted by New Albany’s hard working Greenway rep, Valla Ann Bolovschak).

New Albany Renewal continues its recent spate of excellent postings with these two must-reads:

Filling In – considering “Design and Development of Infill Housing Compatible with Historic Neighborhoods.”

Preparing the Next Generation -- Urban Plan, a program where "high school students learn the roles, issues, trade-offs, and economics involved in urban development.”

The R & R boys are seen inspecting their respective t-shirts, which are available to the thinking public exclusively at Destinations Booksellers.

Coming tomorrow: Why the Bistro New Albany is on hold.