Friday, March 31, 2006

"When You Don't Have a History, You Create It."

I don’t recall seeing this 2004 journal entry at the Voices of Civil Rights website, but better late than never, because it’s definitely worth a read.

'When You Don't Have a History, You Create It', by Joe Nick Patoski (Oct. 1; New Albany, IN).

One of the most rewarding aspects of riding on the Voices of Civil Rights bus is the sense of discovery that awaits us each and every day. Take today’s stop, New Albany, Indiana. No one on the bus, not even Vern Smith, our walking, talking civil rights encyclopedia, had a take on New Albany. Nor did any of the reference books on board mention this bucolic town of 40,000 just across the mighty Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Warning: A personal rant from the author.

I try to cultivate a semblance of detachment when it comes to these chronicles of the life and times of New Albania, not so much in the sense of refusing to take sides (as you’ve no doubt noticed, I do this on widely scattered occasions, mostly when bored), but owing to a recognition of imperfection in the world.

Which is to say that although we humans may strive for qualities like objectivity and fairness, we come into the game from the scorer’s table knowing that these ideals are elusive at best. With hard work, diligence and commitment, attainment can some times be reached – but not always.

People are social creatures, and they love to talk … some people plan ahead, while others don’t … there are leaders, and there are followers … and so it goes, on and on, as we navigate the highways, byways and the random muddy path of the varied human tapestry that surrounds us.

Detachment, accompanied by an appreciation of nuance, a dash of contemplation, and a resigned acceptance of random absurdity, can assist in the endless endeavor of determining ultimate meaning from the multitude of daily experiences.

But there are times when you’ve no choice except to throw your hands in the air and express exasperation with the seemingly random vagaries of human experience.

Now is one of these times, at least for me.


At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin is said to have observed, “Ay, we must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately.”

Apocryphal or not, it is a sentiment to be carefully considered by every person in New Albany who truly wishes to make the city a better place.

From the inception of NA Confidential, I have held that irrespective of previous experience, even a stopped pre-digital clock is right twice each day. Accordingly, owing to a confluence of circumstances, a window has been left ajar, and the citizens of New Albany must determine whether they will make an effort to crawl through it in search of the achievement and the success that has for so long eluded the city.

Unity of purpose is the key to any game plan of sustainable action with a remote hope of facilitating renewal and revitalization, and unity is utterly dependent on communication. We – myself included – tend to pillory our elected and appointed officials for their failures in communication, even as we commit the very same mistakes and pay little heed to the damage that such dysfunction does within the circle of residents who want to believe they can make a difference.

Alas, while it may be the saddest and most inexcusable cliché in all of sports chatter, nonetheless, it’s entirely true: There is no “I” in “team.”

Right now, we have one whale of a reformist “tiim,” and not much of a “team.”

Consequently, I’m sick to death of “he said, she said, they said” being offered as a reliable substitute for dialogue between presumed equals – and be aware that I’m not referring in this instance to our so-called “adversaries” at places like the spitwad blogyard.

I’m referring to those people who have the capabilities, intelligence and talents to spearhead the urban renaissance … if they would just raise their games, check their egos at the door and make a genuine effort to be a little less like the malign problem that has characterized New Albany for so long, and a little more like something that resembles a feasible solution.

Those in New Albany whose preferences are with the moribund status quo – because it’s profitable, because it’s the only way they know, or because they lack the imagination and vision to see another way – surely must revel in the inability on the part of those fancying themselves to be reformists to eschew the gossip, the backstabbing, the impulsiveness and the overall lack of cohesiveness and discipline that to this date have prevented the “movement” from gaining anything approaching critical mass.

The elements for success in our quest to make New Albany a better place to live and work are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that must be fitted together – not separately. Make no mistake; all the pieces to the puzzle are here, waiting to be linked.

It isn’t about political parties, social classes and petty feuds. It isn't about who gets credit. It is about what each of us is prepared to do toward accomplishment, improvement and progress.

I’m not at all sure what it will take to forge this consensus: Banging heads together, gentle persuasion, locking us in our rooms until the homework is complete, bringing new blood into the fold, ritualistic public embarrassment, a show trial or two … or maybe just another cup of coffee.

But right now, it isn’t working the way it should, and the clock’s ticking. Are we going to run an organized, patterned offense with the ultimate goal of winning the game, or are we going to dribble and shoot fall-way three pointers? Is there going to be a coach, a plan, a strategy – or a series of movements with no coordination? Long-term, or whim? Do we want to win, or not? Are we going to start acting like we do?

Discuss if you wish. I’m off work today, and going outside for a springtime bicycle ride. While exercising, I'll be examining my own conscience for clues as to how I can improve my performance with respect to the topics considered in this admitted rant.

Go to your corners … and come out thinking.

Or lose.

New Albanians on site, helping to rebuild New Orleans.

You may have seen this story in the Monday C-J:

Spring break in New Orleans IUS students drawn to chance to serve, help rebuild ravaged city, by Dick Kaukas (The Courier-Journal).

Here's a dispatch from two of them (one an IUS student, and her husband a civilian volunteer).


We are staying in a tent in the parking lot of St. Mary of the Angel's School in the Upper 9th Ward, and they have us working in the Lower 9th Ward. It looks totally like a war-zone.

We worked at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School yesterday in the middle of the Lower 9th Ward. Apparently, it flooded up to the second floor and residents used the second floor as shelter.

It was an interesting contrast, as they let us go upstairs after we gutted the first floor and there were notes survivors left on theblackboards. We even found a letter from a child from an assignment they turned in about the hurricane (prior to the flooding).

Other things you'll see are where people broke security glass on the second floor in order to open doors to try and find food, as well as a photo of the library where you can see the mold up to the level where it flooded (no books as they were all mush, but some surviving books could be found stuck up in the ceiling where they floated up).

Today, we were gutting a house in the Lower 9th Ward and took some video of us just driving around, we'll try to get that up another day. We'll try to touch base again sometime before we leave. Gotta run, sorry for the random bursts, leeching WiFi from a random parking lot.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

UPDATED: On leadership, communication and the perils of non-enforcement.

Wednesday update: New Albany neighbors show frustration -- Their problem: Lack of resources to enforce building codes, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

In the spring of 1989, ranking officials in Hungary unceremoniously declined to renew a border enforcement pact with the country’s fraternal socialist nations. The USSR under Mikhail Gorbachev did not intervene.

The significance of this decision was unclear until some weeks later that year, when one or more East Germans – their identity lost to history – crossed the formerly sealed Iron Curtain into Austria without being apprehended or shot by the Hungarian guards, as would have occurred six months before.

They proceeded to West Germany and phoned home with the good news.

By autumn, the socialist bloc was no more.

In like fashion, New Albany’s city court reportedly was dissolved in the 1970’s during one of several Bob Real administrations. Undoubtedly the decision was motivated by politics, money or quite possibly both; whatever the rationale, at some point thereafter it became evident to growing numbers of city residents and outlanders alike that a fine might go unpaid, and a ticket uncollected ... and there would be no day of reckoning.

Needless to say, this fact did not go unnoticed – usually by the wrong people.

Time passed, life in America became increasingly mobile, and New Albany gradually became a very different place. An older generation died or moved, and their homes went up for sale.

A succession of poorly educated public officials, both elected and appointed, pursued their unimaginative traditional agendas of petty glad-handing, ward-heeling and palm-greasing, unimpeded by vision or purpose … and the city continued to become a very different place.

More and more of the rules violations went unpunished. The culture of non-compliance came to seem perfectly normal, especially for those who had never known another way. Numerous unscrupulous people were able to profit from the expanding attitude of Third World laxity, and just as many time-serving politicians became accustomed to catering to the whims of these fine folks who, while leeches, voted according to the largesse they were granted.


Indeed, we see that non-enforcement has certain consequences, some predictable, and other unforeseen. Some times, it causes systemic geopolitical change in far-off places.

Other times, it abets a fracturing of society at the neighborhood level.

It was a good thing for Hungary that non-enforcement led to something positive -- freedom.

It’s a very, very bad thing for New Albany that non-enforcement has led to something negative – freedom from responsibility. It has fostered an acceptance of under-achievement, and a failure to meet minimum standards taken for granted in other cities near and far.


Yesterday morning, a delegation representing the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association (of which the blogger is a member) attended the weekly meeting of the Board of Public Works and Safety.

Here are excerpts from the manifesto that was read to the board by Greg Roberts, ESNA’s president:

As a courtesy to the City, we are here to inform you of our impressions and our response to the lack of hope presented by the city body …

… in the present concern of 1018 E. Spring St., this collaborative effort is demonstrating no results. At this time, dealing with our city is not providing hope that there will be a resolution.

We are not here for an update. We are here for action. Downtown New Albany is 51% rental and 10% vacant (residential figures). It will only get worse if the city does not stop it now …

1. It would appear to be in your best interest to protect the rights of the disadvantaged, i.e., renters in subsidized housing, renters in low-rent or weekly rentals.

2. One would imagine that it is vital to protect the children from these substandard properties, both the ones they inhabit and the empty ones where they explore, as with 1018 E. Spring. They do not have a voice. We hope that you will be their voice as you should be.

3. It only makes sense that it would be in your best interest to protect the health & safety of other neighbors from loose parts of buildings, glass, trash, rats & roaches …

4. You may consider it is in your best interest to protect the financial investment of the individual homeowners and the city …

5. One would presume it would be in your best interest to promote fairness in enforcing the city codes. If you require some to comply, you must require compliance from all …

6. It is our understanding that enforcement of the laws is your job. Enforce the law. That’s all that the neighborhood associations want.

As motivated citizens we are willing to offer our assistance in anyway to support the city in its efforts of revitalization and hope that we can continue to strengthen our relationship with you. However, as with the issue of 1018 E. Spring St., we fear we have to explore every option available to us, beginning today, to resolve this issue without your assistance.

To contact all media, including TV, newspapers, internet; State & Federal agencies, State Dept. of Health, Child Protective Services, HUD, and our other legal options.

Please let us know if there is anything we can do … it’s time to break the cycle of inaction.


What followed was an impassioned 25-minute dialogue between members of the board and citizens in attendance, one at first punctuated by palpable tension and obvious stress.

However, the impromptu discussion concluded in a conciliatory fashion, with most parties agreeing that elected and appointed public officials must be provided with the resources – including a city court -- to do a good job of enforcing the law, and city residents must be prepared to continue their grassroots work toward revitalizing their neighborhoods.

Processes were explained. Grievances were aired. There was speaking, and there was listening. Roadblocks were noted. Volunteer opportunities were mentioned.

There was communication.

Will there be more?


All for the good, but there’s still no municipal mission statement. Who are we? What are we trying to achieve? How do we do it? Where do we start? What’s the game plan?

And why is it that so many of these questions are being phrased, debated and vetted by those who live, work and play outside the confines of the City-County Building? It’s tantamount to the signals being called by hot dog vendors and cheerleaders, not the coaching staff and the quarterback.

Since my early doubts were dispelled, I have been, and I will remain, broadly supportive of the sitting mayor and his immediate team. They have responded remarkably well to numerous crises beyond their control. To talk with them privately or in small groups is to come away impressed with their grasp of the issues facing New Albany.

But maddeningly, and for reasons that remain elusive, little of this has been translated into effective communications with the public at large. Worst yet, given the absolute and undeniable link between the self-interest of the city and the self-interest embodied by the members of the delegation of neighborhood association members present at the Board of Public Works meeting yesterday, is that the neighborhood leaders were there at all -- seeking action, answers and some evidence of leadership on the most fundamental questions we face.

Is this inability to communicate another manifestation of a lack of resources, in the sense that the mayor needs an administrative assistant?

Or, have we passed into a post-modern era (debatable, given New Albany’s considerable developmental issues) where effective communication as a component of leadership is no longer a marketable attribute, either because no one’s disposed to listen, or they’re getting it from their evangelists, iPods and credit cards, instead?


Leadership in this context certainly must have at least something to do with actively motivating and inspiring ordinary people to seek out the best and to believe at a basic level that the best is still possible, and if there’s any single legacy of the detestable New Albany Syndrome that taints each new day in this city, it’s the received “wisdom” that we’ve somehow forfeited the ability to fathom being the best, much less actually striving for excellence.

That’s bunk, plain and simple. It’s nothing you’d want to teach your children, and yet it has been accepted as perverse and self-defeating gospel by generations of New Albanians, including a few too many of the city’s elected and appointed officials.

The words “Gang of Four” spring clearly and continuously to mind.

At the same time, I’m absolutely positive that City Hall doesn’t feel that way … and we need City Hall to say so, now – loudly, unequivocally, and without us first being obliged to ask the right questions or find the proper code to make the current administration open up.

As was proven yesterday at the Public Works meeting, there are numerous people who are willing to help, and who will act irrespective of party affiliation and other convenient and sadly common arguments against unity. They will proudly refuse to withhold their assistance out of the stale pettiness and practiced spite that has characterized past failures.

Many – perhaps most -- of those who are prepared to become part of the solution to New Albany’s problems will be in attendance next week at the Neighborhood Forum announced for Tuesday, April 4th.

Wouldn’t it be nice if City Hall beat us to the punch, and came with its own mission statement … its own plan … its own marching orders? Flashed some passion, said here’s where we are, and here’s where and how we’re going – and although we know that money’s tight, sometimes it isn’t about money. It’s about will, and pride, and wanting to learn, to work, to get better, and to succeed.

And without us having to ask, first?

It’s all there. I know it.

How does it get out, in the open ... where it can lead?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Renewed prospects for Bistro New Albany ... and more on Scribner Place and downtown progress.

Sources indicate that substantial progress has been made this week in restructuring the ownership of Bistro New Albany, the downtown restaurant project that was put on hold in February when unexpected health problems caused original owner Greg Merz to pull out of the project.

I’m told that Greg’s partner, chef David Clancy, will be on board and that BNA is ready to move forward once legalities are resolved. The business plan is said to be much the same as before, and this makes me hopeful that NABC craft beer will be pouring when the doors finally open.

However, it hasn’t been discussed, as I’ve yet to meet the new partner(s).

As noted earlier this morning in NAC, the Monday and Tuesday editions of the Louisville Courier-Journal are filled with positive and hopeful news about New Albany. In Plans for Scribner Place complete, the C-J’s Ben Zion Hershberg writes:

Robert Caesar, owner of J.O. Endris and Son Jewelers in downtown New Albany, is among those who have been following the progress of Scribner Place closely.

"The people who do business in downtown New Albany and want to do business there are doing fine," Caesar said. "There just aren't many of us."

He added that "Scribner Place will make a difference" because it will make many more people aware of downtown New Albany.

"It's a paradigm shift," Caesar said.

(Estopinal Group architect Kyle) Wilson agreed, saying he already has received phone calls from three or four potential investors in the downtown area who wanted to know about the schedule for Scribner Place construction.

Clearly, downtown New Albany is an undervalued asset in the context of the Louisville metropolitan area, and an increasing number of investors from here and elsewhere are coming to understand the possibilities inherent in downtown revitalization.

Just as clearly, Scribner Place is an integral part of this prospective reawakening.

Good news plentiful in the C-J -- will we be able to say the same of the BOPW?

The Monday and Tuesday editions of the Louisville Courier-Journal are filled with positive and hopeful news about downtown New Albany. The following three links are to articles written by the newspaper’s Indiana beat reporter, Ben Zion Hershberg:

Plans for Scribner Place complete; construction might begin in early June.

With architectural plans now complete, construction of the Scribner Place project in downtown New Albany is scheduled to begin in early June.

Banners help to spruce up New Albany; latest downtown effort applauded.

Employees of the New Albany Street Department began hanging about 50 banners in the city's shopping district yesterday in an effort to make the area more attractive. "We're trying to spruce the downtown up," said David Barksdale, chairman of the Develop New Albany design committee.

Leader patiently pushes progress (profile of Greg Roberts, president of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association).

Persistence, and the good nature Roberts maintains when working toward a goal, are the main reasons the neighborhood association has grown from about five active members to roughly 45 since it began five years ago, (Charlie) Harshfield said.

In other local news, NA Confidential will attend this morning’s weekly gathering of the Board of Public Works and Safety, where the disposition of city enforcement authorities as it pertains to a non-compliant property at 1018 East Spring Street is scheduled for discussion -- again.

Given the undoubted responsibility of public officials everywhere to uphold the rule of law, and considering this city’s curious reluctance to consistently do so during the past forty or so years, here’s today’s toss-up question:

What if ... dysfunctional political time-servers like the 4th District Councilman Larry Kochert awoke one morning to find that voters planned to punish them for non-enforcement of the city’s laws?

It's something for the theoretically non-partisan BOPW to consider.

Monday, March 27, 2006

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Trogs or progs? Local Democrats face the future.

Me? I’m on the wagon, so to speak; haven’t touched the stuff for eight days and counting, and verily, I’m feeling stronger every day.

What, alcohol?

Nah, couldn’t refrain from beer – after all, that’s business in my world. I enjoyed a tasty, ginger-spiced 750 ml Dogfish Head Pangaea on Saturday evening while watching the movie, “Capote,” on DVD.

Make no mistake: Philip Seymour Hoffman richly deserved the Oscar for his role as Truman Capote.

Let’s just say that recently I’ve taken a pledge and currently will not crane my neck for a view of the ongoing highway accident, which will continue to occur whether I’m watching or not.

Rather, spring is coming -- the primary’s right around the corner, and political signage is starting to crowd street spam for space along the city’s avenues.

George W. Bush was in Indianapolis last week to raise money for Mike Sodrel’s use in fortifying the 9th Congressional district for the GOP. In a nice touch, Democrat Baron Hill countered with a fundraiser for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

Speaking of politics, here’s a reprint of an October 22, 2005 article from NA Confidential: Trogs or progs? Local Democrats face the future.


There will be a Democratic Party function at the Grand Convention Center next Thursday night, and it is my stated intention to don a media cap and attend -- mind you, as an observer, and not as a party loyalist.

Readers may recall an earlier effort to chart NA Confidential’s general political orientation, an article written in a state of supreme pique at contemptible efforts by Indiana State Republicans to renege on the payout for counties hosting riverboat casinos:

Partisan at last: I'd vote for Miller Lite before I'd vote for a Republican.

Six months later, and having carefully considered matters, I’m forced to admit that absolutely nothing has changed, and I still feel the same way – if anything, more strongly than before. Paraphrasing a much-loved Republican president, I wrote:

If I could defeat these Republicans without voting for any Democrat I would do it, and if I could defeat them by voting for all the Democrats I would do it; and if I could defeat them by voting for some Democrats and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Needless to say, nary an ounce of the world’s absolute worst mass-market beer – jet fuel for the lowest common denominator -- has passed my lips since then, either.

Around the same time, in another piece, I put it this way:

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 …

Progressive or regressive?

Days later, when Randy Stumler was elected to the chairmanship of the Floyd County Democratic Party at the head of what amounted to a contextually youthful leadership slate of fresh, educated faces, I will freely admit to rejoicing, and not because he and I are acquainted; in fact, to my knowledge, we’ve not been formally introduced, although we’ve shopped in the same bookstore at the same time.*

Rather, in spite of my lifelong skepticism … given my philosophical and political objections to the two party system … acknowledging that the possibility of my choosing to be a Republican is as remote as selecting an ice cold Bud in a can … it was because, like most people, I’d prefer the option of being “for” the Democrats in some (any) manner rather than settling for the party as a convenient vehicle for use “against” the Republicans.

In Randy and his “slate” that wasn’t, such an option began to look attainable.

Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, Monarchists – you have my attention, but the fall of the Berlin Wall taught me that change certainly is possible in one’s lifetime, and in narrowing my gaze to the two monoliths, I’m merely being pragmatic with my time and interest.

However, in some ways, the intervening six months have muddied the waters.

After all, it hasn’t been Mark Seabrook, the city council’s lone Republican, who has staged a continuous, anti-intellectual, ill-tempered insurrection against literacy, decency and progress – it has been the council’s obstructionist Gang of Four, councilmen Coffey, Price, Kochert and Schmidt, registered Democrats to a man, ones seemingly determined to imprison an entire 21st-century city within their own reactionary 19th-century hues, and in order to so, seeking succor from terminally disaffected, only nominally Democratic voters who in the harsh light of day might as well be Republicans, such is the weight of the regressive tendencies implicit in their conspiratorial, thuggish, Luddite view of the world.

Let’s be perfectly clear about the nature of this mean-spirited, rear-guard action.

During the most recent chapter in the political history of New Albany, when it has come to base instincts triumphing over noble ideals … when it has come to the frantic race to pander to the worst angels of our natures … when it has come to a tragic, self-defeating advocacy of fear … when it has come to consistently providing the most irredeemably wrong message to the city’s next generation, those for whom we must provide reasons for moving forward by staying here and assisting us in making New Albany and Floyd County better places to live, to work, and to achieve – when it has come to these flagrantly unsuitable indicators of mediocrity, the poster children for societal regress have all been Democrats, and while there may be Republicans capable of far worse (given that most currently are employed by the illegitimate national regime), they’ve not unwisely held their tongues and permitted the far lesser lights of the Democratic Party to wreak havoc on themselves.

Obviously, there is a cruel, almost nativist strain to all this, one that is incapable of articulating a coherent program for the future because it remains mired in New Albany’s congenitally wretched, self-loathing, “little people’s” mindset of “it’s the way we’ve always done it,” and one that exhibits little recognition that New Albany and Floyd County can succeed only by getting smarter, and while getting smarter admittedly is a nebulous and evolving concept, certain components of it are crystal clear, i.e., a Democratic Party that still harbors whiffs of racism and homophobia will not be the political organization that ultimately retains influence here.

Exaggerations? Hyperbole? Rhetoric? Don’t take my word for it; turn to the Democratic Dullard’s On-Line Guide, settle in, and read all about it. You’ll probably have the same bemused reaction as noted political thinker Pat Sajak:

Political pornography is not unlike the sexual kind: difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.

But the times have changed, and they continue to change. There will be a Democratic Party function at the Grand Convention Center next Thursday night, and it is my stated intention to don a media cap and attend -- mind you, as an observer, and not as a party loyalist.

Maybe that will change … even for me.


* I've since been introduced and chatted with the chairman on two or three occasions.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Attributions ‘R’ Us: Mistaking “freedom of speech” for “freedom from accountability.”

You’d think that the masked and transgendered “college professor” of political science and economics would know better by now than to brazenly plagiarize by failing to attribute quotes to their proper authors, but so it goes at the masquerade blog known as Freedom of Speech, where cowardly anonymity is on tap each and every day.

Meanwhile, for us here at NA Confidential, the “rules” we play by include the proper tracing of intellectual property rights. Consequently, and as a public service, we offer this correction of Erik/Erika’s latest screed.

The FOS passage that begins “democracy is a question of human dignity,” was really written by Olof Palme, martyred Swedish political leader.

John Ralston Saul, Canadian author and philosopher, actually wrote this: “The best defense for the public good is aggressiveness, the aggressiveness of the involved citizen,” and the remainder of FOS’s second paragraph.

Bits and pieces of the following paragraph, including the sentence “Public discussion is a political duty,” are purloined from Justice Louis D. Brandeis.

Political writer Walter Lippmann is the source of this paragraph: “What the public does is not to just express it's opinions, but to align itself for or against a proposal. It can be the direct expression of the will of the people. We must not abandon the notions that we the people govern.”

(The perpetually anonymous blogger then devotes three badly written sentences of his/her own to an attack on the mayor of New Albany. Always remember that when the grammar at FOS suddenly shifts from distinguished to labored and strained, it signifies that the semi-literate voice of the hooded author finally has been allowed to creep through the rampant plagiarism).

Two stitched-together proverbs conclude this latest bit of pitiable polemic: "Learn from yesterday, hope for tomorrow. He who has hope has everything."

The web offers numerous sources for each of the preceding sentences, and they may well have passed into the public domain, but what’s certain is that someone else thought of them first.

It's back to school for Erik/Erika. Kindly permit NA Confidential to demonstrate how to do it the right way.

The following passage is a letter to the editor reprinted from Stars and Stripes (July 22-28, 2001; Pacific edition):

Anonymity is cowardly.

In reply to the July 18 letter “Benefits of anonymity,” I must strongly disagree with the characterization of Stars and Stripes’ policy on anonymous letters as cowardly. Anonymity, on the other hand, is essentially a cowardly way to get one’s point across without having to actually put anything at risk. Honor and courage dictate that any just cause is worthy of risking something of value.

How effective would the “95 Theses” have been if Martin Luther had nailed them up signed “Anonymous?” And how about an anonymous “Declaration of Independence?” Abraham Lincoln could have written an anonymous “Emancipation Proclamation,” and maybe spared his own life at the hands of bigots.

When you truly feel that you are right, even about small matters, don’t be too cowardly to put your name on it.

I agree with the assessment of hypocrisy, and I despise the media — Stars and Stripes included — practice of quoting unnamed or unidentified sources. Most readers are educated, and quick to discount such spineless drivel.

Anonymity is too often a shield for lies and exaggerations, and is widely recognized as such. As an American and a Marine, I am happy to have a forum that will print the voice of dissent, as long as it is not skulking in the shadows.

The letter writer has sadly mistaken “freedom of speech” for “freedom from accountability.” The Stars and Stripes policy only censors those who are looking to whine without repercussion or who have no stomach for defending what they believe is right. People who will not identify themselves, censor themselves. They can pity themselves anonymously too, I don’t want to hear it.

Please don’t complain “out of respect … for those who serve today.” That’s me. I can complain for myself, and I’ll sign my name to it when I do.

Jerry M. Milton

Camp Foster, Okinawa


'Atta boy, Jerry. We here at NAC keep pitchin' 'em ... and FOS just keeps missin' 'em.

Louisville's future in the context of its arts and cultural ecology ...

... and New Albany's dogs still playing poker.

Recommended reading in this morning’s Courier-Journal comes in the form of a commentary contributed by Peter Morrin, director of Louisville’s Speed Art Museum.

A 'creative economy' and the visual arts; Speed's future linked to city's,

In recent years, the citizens of our region have embraced the ambitious goal of moving Louisville into the top-tier of American creative economies. As author Richard Florida has pointed out, achieving this goal is possible only by continuing investment in the city's artistic and cultural attractions.

Two recently published civic development reports, "Beyond Merger: A Competitive Vision for the Regional City of Louisville" and the "2005 Competitive City Report," both stress the importance of Louisville's commitment to education, and a "package of amenities" including a renewed dedication to recreation opportunities, arts and cultural life.

The Speed Art Museum now has the opportunity to build on the recommendations of the two reports, partner in this visual arts renaissance and be a more vibrant contributor to Louisville's arts and cultural ecology.

Imagine living in a place where concepts like “arts and cultural ecology” are the subject of serious discussion and not the target of adolescent chortles from the leading spokesmen of New Albany’s Gang of Four councilmen and their Luddite acolytes.


Seven days and counting ...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

IUS students provide storm water drainage assistance.

Tim Deatrick alerted us to this story two days ago, and this morning, both local newspapers covered it:

A little hands-on training; IUS students help with study on storm-water drainage, by Ben Zion Hershberg (The Courier-Journal).

The hope, said consulting engineer Steve Mayes, is that if enough IUS students are willing to learn how to map and analyze the city's storm drainage system, they can help with the continuing monitoring and analysis required by federal and state regulators.

The details of future student assistance in the effort are still to be worked out, Mayes said. But yesterday's trek with the students could help lead to a partnership between IUS and the city on the storm-drainage program.

The Tribune story will be linked here when it appears on-line.

(Here it is).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Six random Friday morning observations.

Wouldn't it be better for everyone if we could take a train instead of driving?

I defy you to listen to the original 1983 recording of the song New Year's Day by the rock group U2 and not get goose bumps.

Alpha King notwithstanding, Broad Ripple Brewing Company's Extra Special Bitter (ESB) probably is Indiana's all-time signature microbrew.

One reason I like cats so much is that I can't remember the last time an untethered feline chased my bicycle.

No NBA games on television last night? That's right -- that other professional league's in the middle of its tournamant just now.

Speaking of my two+ weekly hours of TV viewing, it's embarrassing to admit that Volkswagon's "un-pimp your ride" television advertisements make me laugh out loud every time.

Keeping local electronic media local.

Here’s an old link, but an enduring concept:

Main Street fights Chain Street: Campaign hopes to persuade people to shop at local stores before heading to the big retailers and regional malls, by Carolyn Said, Staff Writer (San Francisco Chronicle; Tuesday, November 29, 2005).

Yesterday, the Confidentials patronized Federal Hill Café for lunch and enjoyed coffee at the new Buffalo Madison outlet at Slate Run and Charlestown Road (the former Bean Street location), and then we drove to Indianapolis for a concert, pausing in Broad Ripple for snacks and drinks in two brewpubs, book shopping and coffee again – all in locally owned establishments.

NA Confidential is dedicated to several propositions, but the one central to our efforts for the past 18 months is something along the lines of “Think globally – write/buy/act locally.”

Or as we microbrewers like to say with admirable simplicity, “Think globally – drink locally.”

When we got home, the Tribune was waiting. Over the past months, we’ve watched eagerly as the Tribune – a chain newspaper -- has struggled to reinvent itself by expanding its local orientation. The experiment is ongoing.

Whatever the outcome, it points to the need for local news coverage and commentary. Ironically, the worldwide web provides the platform for serving the local community. When used responsibly, blogs, podcasts and forums all complement improvement efforts at the neighborhood and municipal level.

In the beginning, I neither thought much about where NA Confidential might lead nor considered what it might become. The idea was to write, and to be read. As with my own small business, time passes and the narrative takes on a life of its own, and now it seems appropriate to take measures designed to boost the endeavor to the next level. NAC is at a point where the mission can be broadened.

More importantly, existing local entities need to be kept local, and work is underway to achieve an alliance toward this end.

We’re working on it, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Albany rental property kingpin facing foreclosure?

In One To Watch, a posting at the Diggin' in the Dirt blog, Ann points to this article in yesterday's Tribune:

Bank wants to foreclose on 22 city properties; All buildings owned by same landlord, by Eric Scott Campbell

First Savings Bank is trying to foreclose on 22 mortgages of New Albany properties owned by landlord David Gregory.

The bank filed its complaint and served notice to all occupants last week. Garret Hannegan, attorney for the bank, said renters aren’t in immediate danger of eviction.

Ann points out that Gregory is "one of several people who own multiple apartment dwellings in our city."

Indeed, and his name has surfaced repeatedly -- and often unfavorably -- during related discussions about the responsibilities of rental property owners.

Could be interesting.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tribune guest columnist says "open downtown to business," but reaches errant conclusion.

In yesterday’s Tribune, guest columnist Jeff Roudenbush wrote:

The regulations that force bar and restaurant owners to pay so much for a license to sell liquor are disgraceful in a country that prides itself on free and unrestricted trade.

Yes, indeed. That's true.

See, it certainly is possible for us to be in agreement about something.


The column hasn’t yet passed muster with the mysterious rules that power the Tribune’s bizarrely erratic random archive generator (RAG). You’ll have to get a copy of the newspaper to read the whole piece (as of Thursday morning, two days followig publication, the column is archived).

While I agree with the overall tone of Jeff’s article, which supports the idea of a riverfront development area and the state of Indiana’s commensurate offer to help with the district’s revitalization by providing non-quota alcohol sales permits at a lower price point, it still seems to me a good idea to forge consensus among existing license holders before proceeding.

According to Jeff, “a greater flow of customers into the downtown will mean that both old and new businesses will be competing for a part of a much larger source of revenue,” and I believe current license holders will come to see the truth of this in time – something that the city’s economic development director can assist them in doing by explaining the special rules governing permits in this scenario and the ultimate benefits to be accrued from their issuance.

In spite of several solid points, Jeff is unable to avoid a mistaken conclusion owing to pre-existing ideological attachments – although the first clauses are accurate:

This new downtown entertainment district has a real chance to bring life into our downtown. Each customer equals actual dollars in spending.

Yes ... but then, a sudden wrong turn:

The YMCA cannot promise that. This is a better direction for downtown development. Let’s give it a try.

"Better direction"?

That's artful, but fallacious in its implication.

By “YMCA,” Jeff is referring to the prospective Scribner Place project, but he is absolutely incorrect in expressing the downtown development equation as an “either/or” proposition.

Scribner Place, while not a panacea, will be the ideal complement to any future “entertainment district” that takes shape downtown. I’ve yet to hear opponents of Scribner Place differ in any serious way with the ability of the YMCA to attract members, and not coincidentally, these members occupy a target demographic precisely the same as that served by restaurants, cafes and pubs of the sort Jeff correctly sees as making use of the benefits of the riverfront development area.

Many critics of Scribner Place seem to base their opposition to the project on a continuing failure to see this demographic staring back at them when they look in the mirror each morning.

This doesn't mean it isn't out there for the plucking.

A riverfront development/entertainment area and Scribner Place are joined at the hip, with each inspiring its own ripple effect – if for no other reason, by bringing people downtown and offering options for their discretionary spending. Tack on the future benefits of recreation offered by Cannon Acres and the Greenway, and the vision becomes even clearer and more obvious.

But don’t take my word for it alone.

Ask the existing downtown merchants and those real estate agents who’re willing to dirty their hands in the vicinity of Scribner Place -- people like Dave at Federal Hill Café and Mike Kopp from Lopp Realty.

Ask Mike what potential clients ask him.

All in all, a good column by Jeff – marred by an erroneous conclusion, but a start, nonetheless.

UPDATED: Intellectual dishonesty oozes from anti-intellectual intent -- honest.

(Wed., 8:00 a.m. note: Supplementary to the New Albany Today link below, another posting at the same site considers this topic: blog (Freedom of Speech) site.)


According to Wikipedia:

Intellectual dishonesty is the creation of misleading impressions through the use of rhetoric, logical fallacy, fraud, or misrepresented evidence. It may stem from an ulterior motive, haste, sloppiness, or external pressure to reach a certain conclusion. The unwary reader may be deceived as a result.

On February 23, February 22 and February 21, the Freedom of Speech blog presented lists of city expenditures. These pages of numbers were not explained or given context, with the transparent intent of the anonymous author being to incite unrest among “mad as hell” taxpayers.

Nothing new there, and yet imagine a telephone book filled entirely with numbers, but no names. What use would such a random listing be, anyway?

Ex-councilman Maury Goldberg of the New Albany Today blog noticed several of these expenditures lifted from FOS and cited in a random anonymous posting at the SOLNA spitwad blogyard, and he resolved to do the impossible – at least by New Albany standards.

Maury asked. He asked city controller Kay Garry to explain the quoted expenditures – and also asked who her had requested them prior to their posting at FOS.

Go to Maury’s City Expenditures posting to read the rest. Anyone care to guess which two councilmen the numbers passed through, gooselike, before coming to rest with Erik/Erika?

The point isn’t to indulge in conspiratorial speculation, but to illustrate that some of our “neighbors” are rather unscrupulous when it comes to the presentation of information, especially those quasi-religious numbers.

Gads -- some amongst us are being intellectually dishonest, although perhaps such shortcomings can be rationalized by their fundamentally (and willful) anti-intellectual worldview. Apparently the “rules” need not be obeyed if to do so would inspire cognitive dissonance with predetermined prejudices.

In the end, numbers are neutral and apolitical, although they can – and are – being used toward political ends in the city of New Albany. Numbers are helpful tools for mankind, although they can – and are – being used as weapons in the heated political climate hereabouts.

Numbers can facilitate understanding – but they won’t set you free.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Goodbye, Main Street Grind ... maybe in another 12 years, your view might have improved. Or not.

The view.

Vistas of the south side of Main Street between Bank and Pearl. Photos were taken in the summer of 2005. Both the used furniture and vacuum repair stores now seem to be out of business. In the fall of 2005, the Schmitt furniture family finally acknowledged interest in selling the moribund Reisz building for redevelopment.


I learned over the weekend that New Albany’s Main Street Grind coffee shop plans to wind down operations at the beginning of April after 12 years in business.

That’s quite a run, and it’s a shame for it to end. The way you feel when you read an obituary -- that's the way a small business owner reacts to word that a fellow operator is folding up his tent. I look into the mirror, and say to myself: I'm still standing – at least for now ... but tomorrow may be very different.

Although we have mutual friends, I’m not well acquainted with the owners, who’ve always been hospitable and friendly during my infrequent visits.

Especially since moving into downtown in 2003, D and I have eagerly sought a “third place” to pass time near our home, but since our working hours are during the day and Main Street Grind’s hours were geared to lunchtime, it wasn’t possible to go as often as we’d have liked.

Yesterday I was corresponding with a friend and discussing the impending departure of the Main Street Grind, and she wrote:

I've been going to the Grind for 12 long years, and I've watched those buildings across the street from it decay for 12 long years and then some.

I've watched other businesses open in other parts of town, struggle and finally close because of the lack of leadership, vision and management in this city. It's sad, it's disgusting and who the hell do you blame when there are so many people responsible for the mess? City planners? Mayors? Develop New Albany? Building Commissioners?

Is there anybody in there?

Lamentable, but very true, although she omitted a key player: We the people – the residents of New Albany. "We" have just the sort of town "we" want, because if we didn't, would it be like this?

The inescapable conclusion is that "we've met the enemy ... "

You know the rest of Pogo's Axiom.

In the end, leadership is meaningless unless one consents to being led, and vision optional in the absence of a desire to clearly see.

Management? That’s merely an impediment to the profits to be accrued in the preferred vacuum of non-enforcement and apathy.

At the conclusion of the Communist era in Czechoslovakia, the dissident writer and playwright Vaclav Havel was elected president of the country that less than a year before had imprisoned him. Havel's government faced an exceedingly difficult necessity of finding ways to reverse four decades of economic stagnation brought about by the outmoded, state-owned economy, and doing so without societal chaos.

After all that time, the intrinsic absurdities of the command economy were evident, but people were accustomed to them. Suddenly, things had to change.

President Havel offered few concrete ideas as to how the government might retool his country’s uncompetitive economy. Instead, and significantly, he focused on what he perceived was necessary at a more fundamental and human level, something without which the economic reform program would have little chance of succeeding.

Havel theorized that the chief legacy of Communism was a degradation of the core of Czechoslovak society itself, and consequently, before economic rationalization could succeed, a “civil society” would have to be defined and rebuilt from the ground up.


As events of the past week have amply illustrated, Havel’s analysis applies foursquare to New Albany, and this is why events like the forthcoming neighborhoods forum are so important. Without a firm perimeter established in the places where we live, it is unlikely that citywide redemption can succeed.

Currently there are pockets of worthwhile activism scattered throughout the city, but owing to longstanding patterns of mistrust and a general lack of communication, there is no cooperation between them.

Unfortunately, there is an attitude of persecution and secrecy on the part of many who fear that communication and cooperation might somehow provide succor to the political enemy of this moment or the next – and this is profoundly shortsighted, although understandable in the present context of bile and loathing.

To be truthful, the beneficiaries of non-cooperation aren’t so much political in nature as they are social. Non-cooperation nurtures the same deleterious conditions of incivility and inertia within the same vacuum of unaccountability that we all claim to abhor and seek to terminate.

As my friend noted above, whom do you blame when there are so many to blame?

Vaclav Havel provides the answer: We must remove ourselves from the cycle of blame and get on with the process of building a civil society with a firm foundation that prefaces future progress.

New Albany is profoundly dysfunctional. We’ve all acquiesced in various and sundry ways in permitting the city to become dysfunctional. The only hope of reversing this dysfunction is to join together in a workable coalition that suspends partisan wrangling, concedes the immensity of the task, formulates sustainable strategies, and gets to work.

Money would help, too, but unity is far more important.

So, who among us wishes to abandon his or her laboriously crafted straw man first, and get on with the task of reconstituting New Albany’s lost civility?

Did I just hear another pin drop?

Techno- and computer-besotted readers, I need your help.

Mrs. Confidential and I are in the market for a laptop/notebook.

She’ll be using it for academic functions pertaining to graduate school in the fall, Internet access, and perhaps light entertainment like watching DVDs and listening to music.

I’ll use it for word processing, transferring photos from my digital camera, and hitting the Internet to blog – wirelessly, I imagine.

That’s it. No sophisticated gaming or advanced multimedia needs are anticipated at this time; just meat and potatoes computing.

Okay – what do we need to be looking for with regard to processor, adequate memory, batteries and the like?

In beer terms ... never mind.

Your suggested parameters are appreciated. Please use the comments section below, or write to me here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Volunteer Hoosier offers retrospective as New Albany blogosphere prepares for reshuffling.

As always, wise words from Randy Smith at Volunteer Hoosier as he guides his pacesetting blog through a week-long coda: A VH Retrospective.

The conclusion we have drawn is this: the problems facing our community are not states of nature. They stem from an environment poisoned by actual individuals, individuals who devalue education, deride progressivism, and seek only to elevate their egos by jealously guarding the levers of power from any who might actually want to use them.

Our critics seem to shudder at what they call unfounded personal attacks. They miss the point. They are personal because Volunteer Hoosier believes it is the persons who are responsible for the mess we are in. So long as the citizenry averts their eyes from what is a fairly repugnant form of political knife-fighting, they will never know who those looters and destroyers are. Then, when election time comes and the voters see New Albany sitting by the side of the road with a flat tire, they'll assume the driver is at fault. We're here to show who is wielding the knives, who is spreading the tire-puncturing tacks, who is pouring sugar in the gas tanks.

Recall that last week, Randy returned from a brief absence and reported the first inkling of changes approaching within the local blogosphere:

I have before me a letter of intent that outlines the terms and conditions of Volunteer Hoosier's merger with an online site that offers up political commentary, humor & satire, travel & leisure, literature, poetry, art, and a plethora of subjects. We are flattered to have been asked to shut down VH and become an editor with this admirable organization.

NA Confidential looks forward to this new strategic reincarnation of Volunteer Hoosier, which is said to represent a merger of shared interests, and that sources indicate might come to fruition by April 5.

In fact, we like it so much ...

Now more than ever, paranoia is the big destroyer.

The headshrinkers call it paranoia, and when it gets bad they put you away. Because, after all, people who think everyone in the world wants to kill them can be dangerous.

Joseph R. Garber


Now that all the relevant clarifications and denials have been trotted out, let’s begin another manic Monday by reviewing media coverage of the March 16 city council meeting, during which local businesswoman Valla Ann Bolovschak chewed the scenery with evident glee while dramatically producing a hitherto elusive copy of the city’s 2004 audit report, reading excerpts aloud and gloriously basking in the quasi-erotic approbation of “little people” who can afford neither a $19.43 progressive pint nor a folding cot in her B & B, and regularly condemn all those who can – except, of course, their Machiavellian heroine.

(Late note: To be perfectly fair to the rising Sun Tzu of the local GOP set, whose calculated tactical grasp of disingenuity NAC deeply respects, I suggest that readers visit SOLNA to read Valla Ann’s personal account. While you’re there, hold your nose and tour the spitwad blogyard propaganda facility. Note the stifling preponderance of populist blather, leering anonymity, anti-intellectual hatred and undisguised envy, and ask yourself this question: Why are so many bearers of the “truth” so timid when it comes to their identities -- and what might Pol Pot have learned from them?)

The first portion of the Tribune’s Friday article on the meeting focused on factoids gleaned from the audit, concluding with this sentence:

(Controller Kay) Garry, (Mayor James) Garner and council member Bill Schmidt -- council president in 2004 -- discussed the audit results with state officials Feb. 14.

State audit shows city’s ‘04 financial errors; Garner: ‘Mediocre’ results still better than past years, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

Observe that the preceding constitutes the sole mention of CM Schmidt’s name in the Friday, March 17 edition of the Tribune, and refers to an audit meeting that took place in mid-February -- two weeks before March 3.

Then, giving its merrily random archive wheel a hefty heave, the Tribune elected not to make available (i.e., archived on-line) the conclusion of reporter Campbell’s March 17 article. Here’s the pertinent excerpt not posted on the Internet:

Council members said they hadn’t received the report until Bolovschak gave copies to them and Garner shortly after her remarks.

Garner told a reporter he believed a council member had obtained a copy earlier but gave it to Bolovschak instead of to city officials, “trying to embarrass everyone.”

Earlier on Friday, NA Confidential had described the scene:

Such as when the forever coy future mayoral candidate with every reason to embarrass the incumbent brought a copy of a 2004 audit that – gee -- hasn’t been officially released, which in all likelihood was passed to her by the same city council member who has been feeding sacks of numbers sans meaningful context to the transgendered ghost blogger Erik/Erika, and this high profile player promptly lectured the council about the improperly leaked document’s contents – and the Siamese Councilmen went into immediate spasms of near orgasmic intensity in praising her for doing so …

To assist those just tuning in, “transgendered ghost blogger Erik/Erika” is our way of describing the author of the Freedom of Speech blog, which arose from the primordial troglodyte ooze a few months ago and claims to be written by a university professor – a transparently fictitious and adolescent claim that is a laughing stock among educated people hereabouts – at least among those lacking vendettas.

Here’s the Freedom of Speech entry of Saturday, March 18, 2006, reprinted in its entirety without the permission of the author – who after all, doesn’t exist, and as such, need not be consulted.



Freedom Of Speech contacted Councilman Bill Schmidt and asked him to reply to the "Accusations" being made about the presentation of the 2004 New Albany City Audit. We appreciate his Response.

So let's set the record straight!

March 17, 2006

To: Freedom of Speech Newsletter
From: Councilman Bill Schmidt

Re: 2004 New Albany City Audit

There are all kinds of accusations being tossed out and I want to tell you that the announcement and presentation of the 2004 Audit Copy was a complete surprise to me at the Council meeting.

My wife and I were in Memphis, Tennessee, with our grandchildren from March 3 to March 15, 2006. I returned to New Albany on Wednesday night, the day before the City Council meeting.

I had asked the state for a copy of the 2004 Audit when it was completed.

I have not received a copy from the State at this time.

I do not know how or when the 2004 Audit was delivered to the citizen who passed out copies to the Council members at the meeting. I thanked the citizen because I appreciate finally getting a copy of the 2004 Audit.

I have just read the March 17 Tribune article and saw the accusation that I provided the copy of the audit that was passed out at the council meeting.

I am very disappointed in the public officials who are making these accusations.

I take my role in representing the citizens of New Albany very seriously.

Councilman Bill Schmidt


To be sure, it's bold, forthright and plausibly deniable, but very strange, indeed, for how often do you see someone vigorously denying allegations that were never made?

Reread the Tribune passages quoted above, and you’ll see that the there was no mention of CM Schmidt’s name in the context suggested by his statement, “I have just read the March 17 Tribune article and saw the accusation that I provided the copy of the audit that was passed out at the council meeting.”

In other words, he’s responding to a charge that wasn’t even made by the source he cites, as no such allegation was made by the Tribune.

Furthermore, by consciously noting his March 3 – 15 hiatus, CM Schmidt does not address the significance (if any) of the February 14 meeting date that actually was reported by the Tribune.

In an endearing and blushingly demure manner, NA Confidential is guessing that the CM Schmidt’s letter to the transgendered ghost blogger Erik/Erika was not intended to address NAC’s vibrant and factual meeting coverage, as the councilman did not directly respond to our main insinuation (which we fully acknowledge) that he or his team had previously leaked documents to Erik/Erika – such as a letter from since departed building commissioner Paul Roberts that appeared at FOS in February.

Is it a measure of the extent to which Councilman Schmidt, a member of the Democratic Party, takes his representative role seriously that he and his are prone to speaking through an anonymous blogger with a patently false identity, with the end result of acting in concert with the undisguised and Machiavellian ambitions of a local Republican?

Umberto Eco couldn’t come up with a plot line quite that intricate, but we persist in thinking this to be the case. No agendas here. NAC just wants to set the record straight.

So, if you're out there E/E, who was the Paul Roberts letter originally addressed to – and how often does the information conduit tiptoe through the CM’s tulips to you -- the hooded blogger with the false, misleading and absurd non-identity?

You see, here in New Albany there’s no need to follow the money.

Just follow the bile instead. Usually it leads right to the source.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

One Glimmer Twin to a breakfast sandwich, pal.

Mansion at Riverwalk featured tonight on HGTV.

Must viewing tonight:

Mansion at Riverwalk special to air on HGTV, by Kyle Lowry (News-Tribune)

If the walls inside of the Mansion at Riverwalk, a Main Street bed and breakfast, could talk one thing’s for sure — they would speak volumes about the people, sights and sounds witnessed since it was built 134 years ago.

The Mansion at Riverwalk will get a chance to ‘speak’ about its time as a former widows’ home on Sunday evening on HGTV’s series “If These Walls Could Talk.”

The stately 24-room, 12,000-square-foot home is owned by Carl Holliday and Steve Goodman, proprietors of Third Century Inc.

It’s on at 10 p.m., Sunday night (tonight).

(Photo credit: Third Century Services)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Volunteer Hoosier on downtown commitment; meanwhile, fresh hope for Bistro New Albany.

After time away for tending to business, Volunteer Hoosier is back:

Seeking a Second Source

I, for one, am not prepared to accept the proposition put forward in today's Tribune that New Albany's downtown will "never again be the commercial center of Floyd County."

However, revitalization awaits and the renaissance sputters in fits and starts. It is time for local government to put down its marker. With elections looming in the county this year, and the city next, voters should know where each relevant official and candidate stands on the issue of restoring downtown.

Unfortunately, it’s all not good news. VH briefly charts the current status of three downtown businesses, with one (perhaps) closing, another moving and a third, the dormant Bistro New Albany, still waiting to open after an unexpected illness knocked its owner out of the box prior to the anticipated February inaugural.

But wait -- BNA’s fortunes may have taken a positive turn with news that a local restaurant professional (Sullivan culinary; Fourth Street Live managerial) is negotiating to buy into the restaurant, and plans to partner in a yet undiclosed way with original chef David Clancy. Word is they hope to open the doors in mid-April.

Admittedly, firm information is lacking, and yet NAC’s sources are credible, so our fingers are crossed.

Friday, March 17, 2006

NAC swings and misses on the topic of the proposed Riverfront Development Project Area -- a good idea that needs more work.

Almost lost amid the accusatory fingerpointing and ejaculatory grandstanding that characterized Thursday night' city council meeting was the tabling of R-06-07 (to have been introduced by CM Jack Messer, who was absent): "Designating the Boundaries of a Riverfront Development Project Area in the City of New Albany."

Because the ordinance was tabled, economic development head Paul Wheatley was not permitted time to make the case for the project area, which if enacted would allow "downtown restaurants (to) purchase liquor licenses at will, exempt from state-imposed quotas, in a redevelopment-inspired proposal" (Tribune quote).

During public speaking time, two opinions were offered against the proposal.

The first viewpoint came from the chronically disaffected David Huckleberry, who conjured a dire, lawless picture very similar to the third panel of Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights": Fornication, vandalism, inebriation and wickedness would be sure to ensue if downtown were to be redeveloped in accordance with non-Puritanical principles of eating, drinking and being merry.

Huckleberry's trog karaoke was forgotten the moment it was uttered. CM Dan Coffey was seen yawning. Somewhere a dog barked.

Subsequently, a second and far superior argument was elucidated by Carl Holliday and Steve Goodman, owners of Third Century Services and operators of several key downtown businesses, including two bed and breakfasts, the Culbertson West events hall and the Parthenon.

Carl and Steve presented the view that relaxing the quota for new restaurant businesses would not be fair to the expense and effort incurred by existing three-way permit holders, who paid quota-driven market price for their paper on top of investments in property and buildings.

Briefly digressing, kindly note that the state of Indiana's alcohol licensing system is the real culprit in all this. By use of a quota system based on population, the state limits the number of permits, creating a whopping secondary market in which the price for a three-way can skyrocket to 30 times its original price -- with none of the added value going to the state.

It's insane, and it always has been, but logic means even less to the regulation of alcohol in Indiana than it does to the Gang of Four News Agency.

At any rate, as one who has never held a three-way, I now can see quite clearly that I was wrong in not grasping the implications of the quota exemption. Sorry about that.

My respect for Carl and Steve as human beings and businessmen is firm and deep, and accordingly, I fully recognize the validity of their argument that fairness demands a more detailed examination of the proposal.

Significantly, I did not hear them expressing opposition to the riverfront district itself, but they provided good reasons why it should come into being in a spirit of consensus, with safeguards in place to avoid abuses. As Mrs. Confidential correctly noted, what felt to them like a kick in the teeth could have been avoided by consultation beforehand. They, and others like them, should have been asked for their opinions and input.

A brief Internet search shows that when the city of West Lafayette was considering such a riverfront development measure, language was discussed that would augment the matter by requiring non-quota permit holders within the project area to demonstrate a minimum expenditure per square foot on building improvements. This, or something similar to it, is needed here.

I believe that Paul Wheatley is advancing the riverfront development proposal with the best of intentions, and I support anything that will help bring business downtown, as do Carl and Steve, but they're right: Existing operators need to be kept in the loop, and to participate in drafting an ordinance that results in greater unity, not more discord.

There's enough discord as it is.


Leapfrogging the three-way quota? First the City Council must authorize a Riverfront Development project.

A City Council meeting to be forgotten, but a strong performance by Mayor Garner -- even though the fix was in.

A City Council meeting to be forgotten, but a strong performance by Mayor Garner -- even though the fix was in.

I knew it was going to be that kind of a city council meeting when Councilman Larry Kochert’s prized guard poodle shifted his considerable bulk in my direction and sidled up to me just before the opening bell, flashed his yellowed and superannuated molars, and promptly urinated on my left sneaker.

(Actually, for the preceding to be “in character,” it would have to be written this way: URINATED ON MY LEFT SNEAKER.)

Or, as in elementary school: See Dick whiz. See Dick embarrass himself.

Dick isn’t toilet trained.

In this as in most other significant aspects, it was an artfully choreographed
evening – sadly, to the detriment of most civilized standards of behavior, but then again, Civility 101 apparently wasn’t taught at Bazooka Joe University, where the entire right side of the council table matriculated.

We’ll have these moments to remember, though.

Such as when the forever coy future mayoral candidate with every reason to embarrass the incumbent brought a copy of a 2004 audit that – gee -- hasn’t been officially released, which in all likelihood was passed to her by the same city council member who has been feeding sacks of numbers sans meaningful context to the transgendered ghost blogger Erik/Erika, and this high profile player promptly lectured the council about the improperly leaked document’s contents – and the Siamese Councilmen went into immediate spasms of near orgasmic intensity in praising her for doing so, without once asking the only pertinent questions:

How did she get it, and from whom?

And how is any of this praiseworthy?

T o add insult to injury, she was then officially congratulated … by the presumed Deep Throat leak monger and ex-council president himself, as more fangs were bared around the cramped room than we’ve seen since our last visit to the serpent’s chamber at the Louisville Zoo.

Nicely done, Brambleberries. Simply marvelous theater, deeply (bowel) moving, and free of charge!

Small problem, though, in that Mayor James Garner rose to the challenge proffered him by the assembled political lynch mob.

Last night was a transparently rigged set-up routine straight out of a shoddy B-movie script, with every major troglodyte in town attending (except the mysterious Main Street gay baiter), and with the Gang of Four’s talking points having shifted back to blaming Scribner Place for every malady known to man – among them world hunger, global warming and the proliferation of spandex-clad senior citizens who really do exercise.

Then the results of the 2004 audit were brought up for discussion and even the Mayor himself had yet to see them … so how would he react?

Emphatically, Mayor Garner did not stumble.

He stood tall before the stacked hostile crowd, faced the predictable Coffeyesque grandstanding, batted back CM Steve Price’s endlessly repetitious “we can’t” choruses, and attempted as best he could to extemporaneously answer questions about sewers and audits – something he’s not supposed to be good at doing.

But he was pretty good at it last night.

He had some backup on the sewer issues from CM Mark Seabrook, a Republican, who insisted on clarity as fellow sewer board member Kochert sat on his hands and passed an occasional table scrap to Dick the Wonder Poodle.

Make no mistake: The city’s pathological obstructionists were in it for the kill, but the Mayor stood his ground admirably, avoided the obvious bushwhacking, sidestepped the crafted set piece, and now will live to fight another day.


There are many reasons why last night’s city council meeting was a depressing and senseless spectacle, but chief among them is that surveying the ranks of those in attendance, one sees veneration for sheer mediocrity and a lack of respect for the inquiring mind, both symptoms of the malignancy at the heart of the New Albany Syndrome.

Messy, stupid, petty and nonsensical.

Tell us, VAB – and Bill & Anna, Dan C., Steve P., Larry K., David H., Erik/Erika, Trog Sham(an) – how did any of what you orchestrated last night contribute toward making this city a better place?

What part of it returned a home to single family ownership, closed down a meth lab, created a job, attracted a business or stopped the remainder of the metropolitan Louisville area from laughing at us for just a moment?

Enlighten us. Send the explanation here, and I’ll post it. Help us out; we’re losing the plot line behind the costuming and orchestration … and it’s there somewhere, right?

Tell us you have a reason for it.

We really, really want to know.

Note: The Riverfront Development ordinance was tabled. More on that later.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Leapfrogging the three-way quota? First the City Council must authorize a Riverfront Development project.

It’s a City Council Thursday in New Albany, and here’s the agenda.

One item in particular should speak loudly to all those interested in reviving New Albany’s downtown, for listed beneath the “Introduction of Ordinances” heading is R-06-07 (Councilman Jack Messer) is this:

“Designating the Boundaries of a Riverfront Development Project Area in the City of New Albany.”

As explained in the Wednesday Tribune:

Downtown restaurants could purchase liquor licenses at will, exempt from state-imposed quotas, in a redevelopment-inspired proposal on the city council’s agenda Thursday.

A state law that took effect in 2004 allows any city to designate a riverfront district where quotas wouldn’t apply. New Albany’s would encompass most of the area between Elm Street and the river, from E. 5th Street to Scribner Drive.

Three-way licenses, allowing the sale of beer, wine and liquor, cost $1,000 a year. State law allows only one license per 1,500 residents and New Albany’s are all taken, said economic development director Paul Wheatley, who crafted the resolution. A restaurateur who wants one must buy it used from its owner — at a considerable markup — or warrant a special exemption for a new one by demonstrating $50,000 in annual food sales.

From: Act would ease liquor-sale rules; Could city draw more restaurants downtown?, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

The point here with relevance to tonight’s meeting is that the council must provide a “local ordinance or resolution of the local governing body authorizing the municipal riverfront development project.” (Indiana Code 7.1-3-20).

Lest anyone reading this harbor the notion that the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will greet the news of New Albany’s newly delineated Riverfront Development Project by tossing three-way permits into the air like confetti, be aware that the ATC’s voluminous regulations for granting permits still will apply.

The only aspect of the process that changes is the applicant’s access to a permit application beyond the limitations of the population-based quota.

There remain the usual hurdles of ownership, moral character, residency, bonding, location of premises, applicable fees and probably a dozen others that must be cleared before a three-way permit is issued – and the local alcohol board still might not approve the application:

What are some reasons a new permit may not be approved by a Local Board and the Commission?(from the ATC FAQ):

The applicant may be denied for any one of the following:

(1) The applicant does not maintain a high and fine reputation in the community; (2) There is no need for such services at this location; (3) The neighborhood or community does not desire these services; (4) The services at this location would have an impact on other businesses in the neighborhood as well as an impact of such services on the neighborhood in general; (5) The permit premises may be within 200 feet of a church or school; and (6) The premises is in a residential area as referred to in IC 7.1-1-3-8 and905 IAC 1-18-1.

Consider also that any three-way permits issued for use in the riverfront development area will be non-transferable, and cannot ever be used outside the designated boundaries.

All things considered, being permitted to skip the three-way permit quota is an incentive for doing business in a particular place where business is needed, and all the ATC’s prevailing rules (dozens and dozens and dozens) still apply. If quota exemption is the carrot, the “stick” is the fact that the area in question isn’t currently the best imaginable place to do business, but that could change quickly if the quota impediment is removed and critical mass forms.

Speaking personally, I strongly support this idea because it stands to be good for downtown, and consequently for the city at large, and not because I’m interested in acquiring a three-way permit under these conditions. Those who’ve known me for any amount of time can attest that I’ve no desire to be in the business of selling liquor – anywhere, anytime. Beer (and some wine) is quite enough for me, thank you.

If you’re wondering who’ll take the council lead in opposing this no-brainer of an ordinance – and make no mistake, there’ll be venomous opposition from somewhere – look no further than the councilman who has publicly derided Paul Wheatley, leaked documents to Erika, would disagree with “2 + 2 = 4” if such a statement were to be seen emanating from the mouth of the Mayor, and denounced Louisville’s vibrant Frankfort Avenue corridor as overcrowded.

Oops. Guess that’s more than one, isn’t it?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Of bicycles, councilmen and the smothering mediocrity that tickles the nostrils of those who say "we can't."

My old friend Edward recently rejoined the ranks of avid bicyclers, and accordingly, he has taken the lead in establishing a blog: New Albany Bicycle Coalition.

This blog is not intended to supplant existing Louisville area bicycling clubs and resources, but to provide a locally tailored Internet site for New Albany’s hardy “beercyclers” to meet and discuss our hobby, trade information and plan future trips.

Read Ed’s posting about the bicycle committee in the town of Woodside, California.

We’re permitted to dream, right?

Until then, it’s back to dodging monster trucks, untied dogs and councilmen who haven’t exercised a lick since knee pants were on special at the White House.


On Tuesday, I rode my bicycle downtown to the City-County Building to do brief business with the county treasurer. This accomplished, I exited the main entrance and strode left toward the steps facing Spring Street, where I’d left the bike chained to the handrails.

Coincidentally passing in front of me -- apparently having departed the building on its north side -- was Councilman Larry Kochert. He looked at me from the corner of his eye and walked straight ahead, descended the steps, glanced at my bike, and emitted an audible snort of derision.

I laughed out loud … and went for a ride.

Now, it will surprise many readers to learn that I don’t begrudge the fossilized councilman his territorial pissing. He’s typical of more than one generation for whom the open-source tenets of contemporary life are harbingers of confusion and consternation.

Really -- you’ve no better chance of teaching Larry Kochert about the realities of the creative class than training the pub cat to recite Shakespeare's sonnets in Urdu, and of course the only reason any of it matters is that people like him continue to wield influence entirely disproportionate to their capabilities.

CM Kochert’s been in office for what, a thousand years?

And accomplished … uh, what?

Slumlords still swarm like maggots over the shards of the inner city, which has been unofficially designated as a dumping ground for anything and everything our neighboring municipalities don’t want to deal with. CM Kochert worries that bringing them to heel might cost votes.

His Democratic Party hangs on to its traditional hegemony by numbing force of habit, still managing to win elections in the city but steadily losing ground in the county, as its elders continue to mouth vapid platitudes as though allergic to the articulation of principle … and when finally a bright, youthful cadre comes on the scene, it is sniped at by the retirement-age underachievers who’ve done so very little on their decades-long watch.

Through it all, CM Kochert’s been right there, but can anyone point to a single piece of meaningful legislation that he’s proposed … any instance of genuine leadership during those long years of serviceable posturing?

Mind you, by “leadership” I’m not speaking of the ability to calculate figures on a spreadsheet, serve on multiple boards, dress up like Santa at Christmas, hold elections in your garage or be a good Union Man.

Leadership? As the motivational speaker once observed, it is the challenge to be something more than average.

Need I say more?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Unity of purpose in the form of a Neighborhood Forum.

Yesterday we received word of an exciting gathering planned for Tuesday, April 4:

This just in: Neighborhood Forum announced for Tuesday, April 4th.

If you've just tuned in and are wondering why such a forum is necessary, read today's posting at Diggin' in the Dirt:

Public Enemy #1: The Slumlord.

Now, back to the forthcoming forum. Jointly sponsored by three of the city’s neighborhood associations and Develop New Albany …

"This forum is to discuss where the city and our neighborhoods are and where we need to go! The forum will be to develop specific objectives and strategies that contribute to accomplishing the goal(s) … to improve the quality of housing and quality of living in New Albany.

It has been observed again and again that because this issue pertains to the fundamental building block of the city’s neighborhoods, it is something that unites residents and overcomes boundaries.

There must be expanded unity and more coherent action at a grassroots level, and this must exist alongside the city’s proper fulfillment of its enforcement obligations. One cannot hope to succeed without the other.

A few days back, we reprinted an anonymous letter from a resident of the West End: NAC is asked: Who'll help clean up the West End?


Consider it done.

It is hoped that CM Coffey and all the rest of his fellow councilpersons will attend the forum on the 4th and opt for being part of the solution.

Find me a Druid -- and make it snappy.

Props to the News-Tribune’s citizen columnist Lindon Dodd on his calling out (on Sunday, no less) Rep. Mike “Hot Wheels” Sodrel for sheer legislative frivolity in the matter of “immunity” for Christian prayer in the Indiana assembly: Representative Sodrel’s bill is missing issues.

Rep. Sodrel, like most of today’s politicians, likes to use the wedge issues to play politics and secure votes. Such issues as religion and abortion easily inflame and excite the masses. Such problems will never be solved by legislation that will always be just a Band-Aid solution for a situation that requires a surgical procedure.

Much more pressing problems like the health insurance crises, Social Security solvency, global disharmony, poverty, unemployment and hunger are so much more complicated to solve and any legislation much more difficult to introduce.

Meanwhile, there’ll be a New Albany city council meeting on Thursday night.

In attendance will be persistent critics of the council president’s meeting management techniques, with the loudest of their numbingly repetitive central themes being that the order of council business no longer matches that specified by ordinance.

Well, there’s a grain of truth in it, after all.

Consider that before the meeting begins, those in attendance will be asked to rise and recite the Lord’s Prayer … and yet, this ritual is not mandated by ordinance as written:


The following order of business shall be observed by the Common Council at its meetings:

(A) Invocation. To be given by ministers, if present of different faiths.

There’s nothing here to specify a particular prayer or denominational standard; in fact, the wording seems to imply an interfaith approach, and doesn’t even stipulate that the invocation must be Christian in nature.

Of course, it would make the most sense to eliminate the invocation altogether, but if it is to remain as solace for the superstitious, are we truly prepared to apply it equally?

I know better than to hold my breath.

Monday, March 13, 2006

This just in: Neighborhood Forum announced for Tuesday, April 4th.

Neighborhood Forum
April 4th @ 6:30 pm
White House Center, 222 Pearl Street (Downtown New Albany)

The forum is open to all!

Sponsored by:

East Spring Neighborhood Association
S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association
Silver Grove Neighborhood Association
Develop New Albany

This forum is to discuss where the City and our neighborhoods are and where we need to go!

The forum will be to develop specific objectives and strategies that contribute to accomplishing the goal(s).

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 were sold? How many building code citations were written last month? Last six months? Last year? How many were resolved successfully? What about workshops from local banks to review loan programs available for remodeling/rehabbing/purchasing homes?

Do we need to establish City Court for speed code enforcement process?

Do we need to Increase the staffing of the City Legal department?

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

For more information, please contact Greg Roberts or Ted Fulmore.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

UPDATED: Smart growth? First, you have to believe in “smart.”

Former EPA chief and New Jersey governor Christine Whitman spoke in Jeffersonville last week. Here are three excerpts from her remarks, as noted in Whitman to cities: Get smart (News-Tribune with no byline; also see Eric Scott Campbell's full article here):

“Small downtowns are being challenged by megamalls and sprawl. Unfortunately, building growth is taking place in our natural areas.”

“One of the most important messages to get across is that smart growth doesn’t mean no growth. Sprawling and haphazard patterns have become so familiar we forget they’re costing us money.”

“If we really plan to be as inefficient as possible, we couldn’t think of a better way than we are doing it today.”

Tribune publisher John Tucker returns to the topic of smart growth in toady’s Sunday column, focusing on the meaning of the movement for New Albany’s downtown areas. John’s piece will be linked (it now has) when and if the newspaper’s random Internet archive wheel comes to rest on the appropriate slot.

Utilizing and revitalizing what is already in place is key. No urban sprawl is allowed – if new neighborhoods or retail districts are developed they are well thought out and held to high standards.

Right now, it’s much easier to build on an undeveloped lot of trees north of Interstate 265 than it is to remodel a building downtown.

This seems backwards …

John goes on to make the case for city government to do whatever is possible to promote investment in downtown, and shortly comes to the crux of the matter:

How do we get this done? We begin by demanding greater planning. There doesn’t seem to be much of a map for growth in Southern Indiana – and if you don’t have a map you’re bound to get lost.

Verily, John has placed his finger squarely on a significant problem in defining community planning goals in New Albany: An enduring disconnect between citizens, our professional planning and zoning specialists, and elected political leaders.

It is a dysfunctional manifestation of the New Albany Syndrome, and one that has developed over a very long period of time. This injurious cycle of apathy, mistrust and poor communication must be addressed if we are to move “smartly” into the future.

Concurrently, there must be an overarching vision of the future that overlaps parochial concerns. We believe it is coming into view at the grassroots level, and we’d like to see the cause forcefully enunciated by the city’s elected officials.

Particularly in the context of political and governmental affairs, the city of New Albany differs from almost every other organized business and social institution that you might cite with regard to its long-term failure to embrace what one might term as a “civic mission statement.”

While it is not to be expected that a city function exactly as a private business or household would, it does not mean that certain aspects of private business aren’t applicable to everyday governance and municipal performance.

While it cannot be denied that plans are extant, and that numerous public officials are on the job, implementing, tweaking and interpreting them, it remains that the articulation of overall civic strategy and the ability to “sell” such ideas have been traditional weak points among those styling themselves as “leaders” hereabouts.

During an informal and fascinating round table discussion of housing issues held two weeks ago, NA Confidential began considering how the city of New Albany has gone about selling itself over the past few decades when it comes to housing and the quality of life therein.

As an individual, a business or a city, we make decisions about how we present ourselves to the world – how we sell ourselves. Here are just a few questions to consider:

What have we chosen to “sell” in the sense of our goals? Has this choice been made explicitly, or by default owing to neglect and the pursuant vacuum? Have we chosen the right product to sell? Are we doing a good job of marketing the product? Are we familiar with the target demographic? Does our product line make sense for the future growth of the business?

Most strikingly in the historic downtown districts of the city, we see that what we’ve chosen as a municipality to “sell” is a relaxed enforcement regimen, ease and convenience for rental property owners, an accompanying diminution of value that works against all earnest efforts to improve areas of blight, an overall atmosphere of indifference to the urban core, and the rot that predictably follows.

It would appear that we’ve done too good of a job in marketing the wrong product to the wrong demographic, and as a result, cheapened ourselves in the process – perhaps irreparably.

One prominent tool in the arsenal of all but the very least talented politician is the option of dividing and conquering, and even the dimmest of our local political luminaries cannot fail to have noticed that the issue of ordinance and code enforcement and its corollary, neighborhood improvement, is one that is uniting otherwise disparate elements in the community as we write.

The best chance for this evolving unity to be expanded and for the influence it stands to engender to be used constructively for the greater good of the city’s residents is for our neighborhood associations to work together to elucidate a platform of goals – the city’s mission statement – and for our fractious and currently self-serving political elements to get with the program that emerges, or return to blessedly private life following the next electoral cycle.

In John Tucker’s column today, he closes with this thought:

Growth is going to happen quickly in this area. Let’s grow something our kids will want to stay a part of.

Can your councilman become a part of the solution to these problems, and assist in the process of rededication to a functional social contract?

Or is your CM persisting with the embarrassing “we can’t” mantra advanced by the city’s pathological underachievers?

Let’s find out.