Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Evening at Bistro New Albany -- and, we hope, many more to follow.

On a day filled to the brim with Derby activities, weddings, the NFL draft, NBA playoff games and an excellent beer festival, Bistro New Albany finally arrived and held a belated kickoff party last night in celebration.

Here’s the Tribune’s bNA preview from earlier in the week:

Bistro New Albany to open Monday for lunch, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

Note that regular business hours commence on Monday at 11:00 a.m. (not 10:00 a.m.), with a lunch menu and limited afternoon hours for May, and a more extensive evening operating schedule in June.

Here are a few photos from the event. Much to my chagrin, I neglected to squeeze off a shot of Dave Himmel, who resuscitated the project after founder Greg Merz’s untimely health problems put plans on hold earlier in the year.

However, Dave’s partner, Chef Dave Clancy, is shown below mugging for the camera before returning to a hot burner:

Gratifyingly, the common theme of conversations held during the course of the evening was optimism for New Albany’s future. I’ve always been aware that for some in the community, the advent of a dining and drinking establishment is not something to be regarded as a signal accomplishment, but for those already living and working downtown – whether their tenure is measured in months, years or decades – and for those everywhere in New Albany willing and able to learn and speak what amounts to a second language hereabouts – this being the language of progress, success and future thinking – the arrival of bNA and other bastions to follow preface a turning point.
Crucially, they provide us with “third spaces”:

What is a third space? It's a place that's neither work nor home; it's an in-between-space. It may be a coffee house or a bistro. Third spaces are generally busy and locally owned…with funky restrooms.

Absolutely. First there's Dave at Federal Hill, and now two new Daves at bNA; can we find more Daves to open even more third spaces?

I’ll provide bNA updates as merited.

You? Go out and find some Daves -- pronto.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hangman

...but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved...

Who said it? In what book?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ in _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

Guess one letter and only one letter per commenter. No cheating. No Internet searches. First one to guess the author and the book completely and correctly wins "Blogger o' the Day."

Like anyone won't go to ask.com and punch in the text string!

Oh, Say, Can You See...? (updated)

Let me put my marker down, right here, right now.

Asked at a news briefing in the Rose Garden whether he believed the anthem would have the same value in Spanish as it does in English, (President) Bush said flatly, "No, I don't"

"And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English," Bush said. "And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

Accordingly, if you want to worship Christ and sing the Hallelujah Chorus, it follows, you must sing it in German.

Nuestro Himno (Our Hymn) is just fine by me. I'd like to hear it sung in Arabic, Hebrew, French, Italian and Swahili, in Tagalog, Japanese, Mandarin and Russian.

If you don't know what this is all about, read a paper.

And post your thoughts here on the following question after voting in this online poll: Is it dishonoring of or disrespectful to the U.S. for immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries to sing (or enjoy the singing) of a Spanish-language version of The Star-Spangled Banner, our National Anthem?

Spanish Language U.S. National Anthem

Money Wars, continued

Previously, we reported the latest PAC contribution reports, courtesy of the Web site OpenSecrets.org, for Mike Sodrel, Member of Congress for the Ninth District of Indiana. Today, with thanks to contributor Brandon Smith, we offer candidate and former Congressman Baron Hill's take:

Baron Hill (D)

Indiana University $11,850
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees $10,000
AmeriPAC: The Fund for a Greater America $10,000
Assn of Trial Lawyers of America $10,000
Blue Dog PAC $10,000
Carpenters & Joiners Union $10,000
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $10,000
National Education Assn $10,000
New Democrat Coalition $10,000
PAC to the Future $10,000
Plumbers/Pipefitters Union $10,000
Sheet Metal Workers Union $10,000
United Auto Workers $10,000
United Food & Commercial Workers Union $10,000
Our Common Values PAC $7,500
Operating Engineers Union $6,000
Democratic Party of Indiana $5,602
AFL-CIO $5,000
Air Line Pilots Assn $5,000
All America PAC $5,000
International Assn of Fire Fighters $5,000
International Longshoremens Assn $5,000
Laborers Union $5,000
MWH Global $5,000
National Assn of Letter Carriers $5,000
Simon Property Group $5,000
Teamsters Union $5,000
United Mine Workers $5,000

Friday, April 28, 2006

An Evening at The Grand

Much interest, of course, here about Bistro New Albany. Last evening I and other habitues of NAC were next door spreading the word about bNA's imminent (and eminent) opening (May 1 for lunch, May ?? for dinner). In fact, each attendee at the soiree had a short flyer announcing the opening.

But I see a problem vis a vis the cherished courtyard. Various and sundry politicos of the nicotine-addicted variety decamped from time to time through the French doors to the East of the Grand's ballroom and out into the bNA courtyard. That could become a problem if the Bistro catches on as I suspect it will. If patrons of The Grand take it for granted that they can traipse into the courtyard dining area at will, especially to smoke and kibitz, it won't be a pretty sight.

-----------------------

As promised, here are a few observations from the Jefferson-Jackson Day Democratic Party celebration.

I experienced a moment of cognitive dissonance when I discovered ink-stained wretch Amany Ali all scrubbed up, seated with the grownups, and sans steno pad. In fact, Amany was a guest of honor and the recipient of an encomium of appreciation for her stalwart work as a reporter over past years.

But habits die hard, and I have it on good authority that the raven-haired Ali continues to dig for the story and made it a point to gather intelligence at the event. A reporter's instincts don't float away simply because the paycheck is signed by a different employer, even if the weekly take is higher.

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After a less-than-perfect dining scrum at last fall's Roosevelt Day dinner, the Floyd County Democratic Party Central Committee organized a much more effective solution to feeding hundreds of folks. Logistics prevented the preferred family-style service, but expanded buffet lines solved most of the problems.

It fell to party Vice-Chairwoman Marcey Wisman to herd the cats, and on paper the litany of "table 1 and 2 go to buffet line 3, table 40 and 39 go to buffet line 2, table 3 and 4...." must have seemed brilliant. It was, in fact, confusing, but it worked.

I have to admit to having stolen credit for one of the funnier lines of the night, and must credit Township Board candidate Rick Carmickle for the bon mot. I quickly passed it on to Ms. Wisman, but attendees thought it was my line: "Please remember that you will not be able to go through the buffet line without presenting a photo ID."

A little inside, but understood by a room full of political types on the virtual eve of an election day. HAVA, ostensibly the Helping Americans Vote Act, stimulated this new requirement at the polls; be sure to have a government-issued photo identification that includes an expiration date when you go to vote. Should you not be able to produce one, you may still vote on a provisional ballot, but you'll have to go to the County Clerk's office by noon on May 12 to prove you are who you are.

You are not required to present photo ID, ironically, if you vote "absentee" in person at the Voter Registrar's office (2nd floor north, City County Building). That "poll" is open today until 4, Saturday from 8 to 3 p.m., and Monday from 8 to noon.

-----------------------

James Garner was at his best last evening. He spoke off the cuff in praising various dignitaries and made an eloquent case for a Democratic recapture of the statehouse and Congress. I've never heard him do better. He did not read from prepared remarks, but spoke from the heart about the critical problems faced by minority Democrats in the Indiana General Assembly, and by the towns and cities faced with unfunded state mandates.

I made it a point to keep my back turned and just listen while he spoke. I watched my tablemates and the crowd, who listened attentively. Cherie Smith Baumgartle, whom I escorted to the event, and who is also seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Township Board, assured me the mayor was not reading from the page, but was making eye contact with his fellow Democrats. All in all, it was an inspiring performance, especially his tribute to retiring County Commissioner John Reisert.

Nice job, too, in presenting the Roosevelt Award to former county Democratic Party chairman John Garry, Jr.

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Be sure to check out New Albany Today for a light-hearted look at last evening's J-J dinner, coming soon.

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Sadly, it appeared that the idea of a rancor-free primary campaign couldn't survive actual contact, and some of the factions obviously snubbed those from other factions. The most pointed was one incumbent's refusal to shake hands with a primary opponent.

In 2006, it appears the GOP can only count on turmoil within the Democratic Party to prevail in November. Unfortunately for the Dems, that is often something that can be counted on. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Stumler needs to watch for bitterness arising from the primary while waging his own campaign to become a county commissioner. It's a tough job, but if anybody can bring the party together, Stumler's the one.

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Baron Hill was unable to reach Louisville from Washington, so was forced to fly into Indianapolis and drive down, making him a couple of hours late for the dinner. He did make it in time, and I exchanged a few words with him on his way in. Let's just say it was a memorable encounter and leave it at that.

Congressional candidates John "Cosmo" Hockersmith (Washington County), Gretchen Clearwater (Bloomington), and Hill (Seymour) alternately amused and inspired the throng with an indictment of Republican corruption and dishonesty, and pleaded for the chance to take on incumbent Mike Sodrel.

Hockersmith comes off as a bit of a non-linear thinker, and has promised to donate his Congressional pay to charity. Clearwater is cogent and an attractive candidate, and offers a fairly progressive plan of action, based mostly on dissatisfaction with Bush handling of the economy, foreign policy, and national security. Hill seems self-assured, as usual, but obviously feels he must play this campaign toward the center. I'm still waiting for anyone who thinks Hill won't be the nominee Tuesday night.

---------------------------

Once again, the gracious Becky Gardenour put in an appearance. Some will remember that the school board member created a bit of a stir at last fall's event. Although she serves on a "non-partisan" body, Gardenour is a pillar in a local party organization that includes not the "D" that most attendees proudly wore.

I introduced Becky to our friend the Highwayman, and the three of us discussed one particular local lawsuit for a few moments.

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Constituency for Progress members have pretty much agreed that endorsements aren't a CFP objective. On the other hand, most CFP'ers will be happy to share with you their views about the candidates. If you desire to know whom any of us might be supporting this election season, feel free to contact us individually.

A periodic reminder: NA Confidential's policy on reader comments is explained.

Newcomers, please take note.

NA Confidential follows a policy with respect to your comments.

First, you must be registered with blogger.com according to the procedures specified. This is required not as a means of directing traffic to blogger.com, but to reduce the instances of flaming and anonymous attacks.

Second, although pen names are perfectly acceptable, I must know your identity (and, of course, will keep it confidential).

To reiterate, I insist upon this solely to lessen the frequency of malicious anonymity, which plagues certain other blogs hereabouts.

You may e-mail me at the address given within my profile and explain who you are. Failure to comply means that your comments may be deleted.

Thanks for reading, and please consider becoming a part of the community here, one that is respectful of the prerequisites of civilized discourse.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

In related news...

Louisiana, reeling from the twin punches of Katrina and Rita, those global-warming-fueled disasters of Mother Nature, is hard at work getting the Bayou State back on its feet. That's why the legislature made it a priority to pass laws this month to bar flag burning and cock fighting.

No word yet on who will step forward to ban cock burning and flag fighting.

Money Wars

Without passing judgment on the man himself, it is clear that Mike Sodrel's seat remains one of the key legislative objectives of both parties. It was once believed that the Ninth Congressional District of Indiana would be a battleground of unprecedented scale. Now, however, we may be spared some of the outside money that was expected, because so many more seats are in play as Dubya and the GOP reel from the scandals. For us, that means less money, fewer commercials, but still a very competitive race.

Today, we report Sodrel's PAC contributions

From Open Secrets:

MICHAEL E. SODREL (R-IN)

Top Contributors during this election cycle
1 Keep Our Majority PAC $15,000
1 Rely on Your Beliefs $15,000
3 Promoting Republicans You Can Elect $12,500
4 America's Majority Trust $10,000
4 American Dental Assn $10,000
4 Americans for a Republican Majority $10,000
4 Associated Builders & Contractors $10,000
4 AT&T Inc $10,000
4 Every Republican is Crucial PAC $10,000
4 Majority Initiative-Keep Electing Repubs $10,000
4 National Auto Dealers Assn $10,000
4 Siebel Systems $10,000
13 Credit Union National Assn $8,500
14 George Pfau's Sons $8,200
15 MAC Construction $8,000
15 Morgan Foods $8,000
15 Sodrel Truck Lines $8,000
18 Ernst & Young $7,500
19 National Beer Wholesalers Assn $7,000
19 National Multi Housing Council $7,000
19 Natl Star Route Mail Contractors Assn $7,000

The unintentional humor of some of those PAC names is priceless.

Tom and Andy

The two fellas couldn't have been more different. The patrician farmer was a polymath whose Monticello was a repository for scientific curiosities and inventions. The frontier fighter built The Hermitage, which only became a place of significance in its owner's later years.

The two fellers couldn't have been more alike. Both lost wives when they needed them most, and served in the White House sans First Ladies. One helped create the Union, the other did more to preserve it than any man of his generation.

Both lived long lives and influenced their party more than any others. Our third president was the first Democrat to hold the office. Our seventh president solidified the identity of the party as the people's party.

T.J. authorized the exploration of the American West. A.J. secured it for posterity, but in the process inadvertently gave renewal to the withering institution of slavery.

Tom was cerebral, and took on no great military role beyond Commander in Chief. Andy was such a military genius that it was feared he might become Commander in Chief with or without the imprimatur of an election.

Jefferson treated with Napoleon, much to the benefit of the country, and this region in particular. Jackson was accused of wanting to be Bonaparte.

In all likelihood, the two men didn't much care for each other, although no record exists that the elder actively opposed the younger, or vice versa.

Tonight, their legacies are celebrated anew as the Floyd County Democratic Party meets at The Grand in New Albany. Buffet food will lubricate the exchange of intelligence and the latest gossip from the primary campaign front, and a few will debate the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. We'll follow tomorrow with reports from the scene, and we invite all who attend tonight's party shindig to share their thoughts about it, too.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Update: Bistro New Albany seems about to commence operations.

(Crossposted at Potable Curmudgeon)


Bistro New Albany appears to be ready for liftoff, beginning with lunch hours on Monday, May 1.

Most readers are familiar with the ups and downs of bNA, a downtown New Albany eatery planned for the space at the corner of Market and Bank that formerly did business as the House of Bread.

Rather than provide links to earlier pieces I wrote, it strikes me as more appropriate to provide you with an assessment from one of the partners. Here’s the most recent update on bNA’s status, courtesy of Chef David Clancy, and as posted on Monday, April 24 at Robin Garr’s Louisville Restaurants Forum:

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Robin Garr:
I got this from Dave Clancy while we were out of town, regrets that I neglected to post it until now. It's great news for foodies all over the metro.I wanted to take a moment to get you up to speed on what has transpired since February (our opening date was originally projected to be 2/6/2006, as you may recall).

The principal owner (Greg Merz) had physical issues arise that basically brought the whole project to a screeching halt. I have spent the last two months trying to arrange financing to open the business on my own, and was fortunate enough to find a new partner, Dave Himmel, who is just as eager to strike out in the fledgling New Albany market as I am.

We have now come to terms with Greg on a buyout of his business interest in the restaurant, and are slated to open May 1st for full service lunch, followed by full service dinner later in May. The same basic concept remains intact, in that our goal is to bring fine dining to downtown New Albany – affordable, and approachable to a wide demographic.

We will feature tap beers from NABC and BBC brewing, a world class wine list, as well as menus based on local purveyors such as Capriole farms, Kentucky Bison, Lotsa Pasta, Turtle Run etc.

You may feel free to post or use any of this information at your discretion, and my hope is that we can play an integral part in the renewal of downtown New Albany, as it is clearly a city on the move.

----

As for NABC’s end of the deal, I corresponded with Dave and Dave while visiting the West Coast, and since returning from the trip, I’ve met and spoken with them about the beer selection. Here is my assessment, as posted on the Forum:

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As with Greg before, I've been offering beer assistance and suggestions to Dave and Dave. Here is the projection with respect to craft beer at the new bNA. It's a good and balanced list with room for playfulness and seasonal rotations. They're all quality beers with food, and Chef Clancy will be using some of them in his recipes.

1 NABC Community Dark (Dark English Mild)
2 NABC Croupier (English IPA)
3 NABC Elector (Imperial Red?)
4 NABC Bob’s Old 15-B (Porter)
5 Rotating according to season and demand
6 BBC APA (American Pale) Ale
7 BBC Alt (German Altbier)
8 Bell’s Oberon (American Wheat)
9 Rogue Dead Guy (Amer. Hop/Bock hybrid)
10 Spaten Premium Lager (German Lager)

The Bell's and Rogue taps likely will rotate seasonally. The open tap might be almost anything -- subject perhaps to Chef Clancy's culinary needs?

----

I’ll try to keep Potable Curmudgeon Blog readers posted on hours, menu offerings and other relevant bits of bNA information as the exciting new era dawns.

You're simply going to adore bNA's outdoor seating area, for dining as well as drinking.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good to Have Him Back, Isn't It?

Welcome back, New Albanian. We missed you. Well, not the NBA-mania, but the rest, you know? Our favorite publican has a knack for the "reveal" that adds spice to life in New Albany.

Speaking of spice, readers, have you declared your preference by adding the NA Confidential T-shirt to your wardrobe? I wear mine regularly, alternating, of course, with my own more commercial bookstore T. The light gold shirts are available in all sizes, exclusively at Destinations Booksellers in the heart of the historic district, emblazoned with the slogan "New Albany is a state of mind...but whose?," and the most popular URL in town.

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Amid the growing buzz about the release of our "down payment" on the city-county jail, I keep waiting to hear a responsible public official explain how this money might be used in the next few years. I have my own ideas, but I'd sincerely like to see some reality-based thinking from elected officials.

An obvious priority for the city is to divert tax dollars to sewer maintenance. The sanitary sewer operation is a business enterprise of the municipality, and independent, but it goes without question that we have neglected the ongoing maintenance and upgrading of the actual sewer lines. Continued neglect is just courting trouble.

This writer recognized the need immediately on reaching this shore, and I've yet to meet anyone who disagrees that we need to boost spending and try to stay ahead of the curve of natural decay and obsolescence. It's so obvious that it hardly merits discussion, given the fact that there is universal agreement. I remain baffled by some of the screeds that circulate as if it was not a recognized problem.

Nonetheless, there is a deep confusion about how much of the operational maintenance should be borne by the utility and its rate-payers, and how much should be borne by the taxpayers.

For almost two decades, the indebtedness for jail construction has required the city (and the county) to maintain a reserve balance in cash sufficient to satisfy a period's worth of bond payments. As the bonds are retired this summer, that "deposit" again becomes available.

I think it is clear that we are some years away from a need to borrow for additional jail space. In fact, I'm suspicious of those who beat the drum so loudly about it. It is all well and good to anticipate a need, but the immediacy is not there. Local crime rates are falling steadily, and at least for now, Floyd County is not in crisis, nor in danger of facing a constitutional decree. It may, and probably will, come, but not immediately.

A portion of what has sheepishly been called a windfall (the $2.5 million, plus the freed up annual bond payment) can be allocated to increase sewer line maintenance. Under the recent agreement with the EPA, the sewer utility committed to at least $500,000 in annual expenditures. A case can be made that the utility could spend another quarter-million and we'd still be rolling the dice.

But the idea of dumping the cash into the sewers to avoid a rate increase is misguided. It is the opposite of prudence.

Under the existing bond agreement, sewer rates must generate enough to cover all operating expenses, replenish the reserve, and then spin off a minimum of 125% of the annual bond obligation. A direct cash infusion aimed at preventing a rate increase is not permitted. The rates themselves must provide all the operational funds plus 125% of the bond payment. Playing games by commingling tax funds with enterprise funds is a clear violation of the bond agreement.

To freeze the utility rates or subsidize them with tax dollars is a shell game. It's unlawful and unwise. The sewer board needs to put the enterprise on a sustainable footing, supported clearly by rate-payers, including new connections.

It is obvious that brazen political manipulation is the goal. The ex-officio sewer board members who represent the city council are calculating the electoral cost of a sewer rate increase. I suspect they are gambling that an illegal subsidy from "found" money will be safe, and that bondholders won't grumble so long as they receive their payments. Mr. Seabrook will face the voters this fall, and presumably next spring and fall, and is of course wary of being tagged with blame for a rate increase. Mr. Kochert is, of course, retiring from public service, but he, too, is sensitive to what the spin might be on his legacy.

I'd like to commend the sewer board for the responsible way it insisted on segregating the sewer operations from other city operations. They have laid the groundwork for a future where the sewer utility will operate as designed, paying for its own operations and only its own operations. The board can continue to act responsibly by setting a rate sufficient to meet the actual operational needs of the system.

The city must be extremely careful in how it structures this. Any tax money dedicated to the sewer operation must be a capital expenditure, not an operational subsidy. The "windfall" money can be used only to accelerate the upgrading of the system, not to subsidize rates or delay a necessary increase. If, without the "windfall," a rate increase is imminent, then the rates should be increased. The "found" money may only be used for non-operational expenses - that is, to move the infrastructure further from collapse.

If you see anything else going on, you'll know it's self-serving electoral chicanery.

-----------------------------------

Aren't you glad The New Albanian is back? A steady diet of this would kill us all.

National Preservation Month kickoff tonight.

You'll be hearing more about National Preservation Month, but in the interim, here are a few teasers:

Architectural heritage cause for celebration Preservation talk today will kick off drive, by Ben Zion Hershberg (The Courier-Journal).

Recent historic-preservation successes in Southern Indiana and the many remaining challenges will be discussed today at 7 p.m. a session kicking off several weeks of events highlighting the region's architectural heritage.

The local events are part of National Preservation Month.


Also ... check out the calendar of "Preservation Month 2006 Activities" at the Indiana Historic Landmarks Foundation website. Here are local highlights:

Can we talk? Join others interested in New Albany’s preservation at two free and informal discussions hosted by Historic Landmarks’ Southern Regional Office. Wednesdays, May 3 and 17, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Destinations Booksellers. Call 812-284-4534.

Hold the anchovies. Eat pizza and pick up preservation tips during the “Pizza and Preservation” workshop series, at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany. Topics include researching the history of a house ... Tuesdays, May 9, 16 and 23, 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. Free. Call 812-284-4534.

(Note: The 5/16 session, "Pizza and Preservation: Paint Your Historic House Beautiful – Presenter: Brenda Summers, Interior Designer, Porter Paints, New Albany," is slated to be held in the Prost events room at Rich O's Public House owing to our proximity to the Porter Paints store on Grant Line Road.)

Women’s history. Tour homes along New Albany’s Mansion Row, where costumed interpreters share stories of women from the community. Saturday, May 27, 1 to 3 p.m. Free. 812-945-1839.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Thoughts for Monday.

Thank heavens it’s over: Blunder Over Louisville.

Thank heavens they’ve started: The NBA playoffs.

Thank heavens for upgrades: Laundering your cell phone is not recommended.

And now, alas, it’s time to return to work …

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Good News about RDD, bNA and La Rosita.

Here’s a biggie from Thursday’s council meeting:

Restaurant bill approved 8-0; Eateries would be exempt from liquor-license quotas downtown, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

The City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to create a riverfront development district where restaurants could buy liquor licenses without adhering to state quotas.

Several business owners spoke in favor of the bill during the public comment period, saying it would attract new restaurants and entertainment. The bill must be approved two more times to become law.

However, councilmen Dan Coffey and Steve Price called for more stringent language in the bill that would forbid the city from paying to help new business owners with costs like building refurbishment.

Hmm, are our obstructionist Siamese Councilmen cooking up restrictions that would neuter the ordinance’s stated intent? Best keep an eye on them, Mike Kopp, especially when CM Price volunteers to transfer final approval for the new permits to council members who’ll work for free.

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Bistro New Albany’s original mission was scrubbed in early February after health problems forced the primary managing partner to the sidelines, but work has been going on behind the scenes ever since, and it again looks like lift-off is just around the corner.

The new big guy at bNA is Dave Himmel, who’ll be partnering with original chef Dave Clancy, and they’re confident that the doors will open as soon as the last bits of bureaucratic paperwork (primarily ATC) are settled. Plans call for a lunch schedule and very limited evening hours at the beginning, and a gradual ascent into longer hours once a routine is established.

It’s looking solid to me, but for fear of jinxing the endeavor (like before?), I’ll say no more at present. Keep reading for more details, and best wishes to the Daves. I can't wait to enjoy craft beer in what soon will be recognized as the New Albany classic bNA patio.

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In a final tidbit, Israel is hoping to have the new location of La Rosita’s open by mid-May. It will be located in that impossibly garish building of The Gary's –where Old Mill Wine & Spirits formerly did business – at the corner of Charlestown Road and Blackiston Mill Road. It appears that the original location within Shireman's produce market on Charlestown Road is closed. Judging from last Friday night, the Market Street branch still is thriving.

Good luck to a deserving entrepreneur!

Without proper disclosure, credibility is questionable.

My first marriage ended in divorce.

Since then, I’ve remarried.

These facts aren’t intended to be surprising, and probably won’t create much of a stir in the minds of most readers, but for me to inform you of these and other aspects of my background is a pertinent form of disclosure, something that helps readers establish context and a sense of perspective with respect to my credibility as a blogger.

Dependent, of course, on what I’ve chosen to write.

For example, my other primary blog, The Potable Curmudgeon, is devoted to beer and various issues pertaining to it. While ethical guidelines still are evolving in the blogosphere, one thing I know for certain without being told is that it would be improper for me to discuss the world of beer without my first informing readers that beer is my business and sole source of personal income.

Why? Perhaps I’m touting a beer simply because it’s on draft at my pub and I’d like readers to come and buy some of it. Maybe a brewer has provided me with a gift to sing the praises of his beer.

To be sure, I don’t tend to vend beers I don’t personally like or that I fail to appreciate in one manner or another. Also, although I receive point-of-sale materials and other business-related items from brewers and wholesalers, it’s usually reinforcing a relationship rather than creating one.

I was given Corona promotional materials recently, but didn’t write favorably about Corona. I detest it, and it is sold ay my pub only so I can determine the highest price people are prepared to pay for bad beer. The P.O.S. materials were transferred directly to the dumpster.

The preceding disclaimer doesn’t change the fundamental equation. It’s better for it to be understood from the start that as a pub owner, there are potential – not necessarily actual – conflicts of interest with wearing another cap as a beer writer. Accordingly, my quarterly columns for “Food & Dining” magazine clearly identify me as a Publican, and readers are free to draw their own conclusions as to the veracity of my writing.

A proper appreciation of these issues of disclosure, conflict of interest and ethical guidelines probably isn’t necessarily in all fields of endeavor, although each job or pastime has its own rules of the game. But for those aspiring to some semblance of journalism, they’re absolutely vital.

What if I were a business writer for a newspaper, and in an article about the prospects for a new start-up company, my assessment was damning and unfavorable, perhaps doing damage to the image of the new entity?

And what if the owner of the start-up company subsequently was revealed to be the husband of my ex-wife – something I hadn’t bothered disclosing in the original article?

Of course, it’s unlikely such an omission of disclosure would occur, given the customary diligence of newspaper and magazine editors, who are paid to know these things and to prevent such lapses – whether intentional or otherwise – from occurring.

It’s perfectly clear that in such an instance, my credibility as a commentator would be compromised. That’s why it’s much better for any writer to make full disclosure a habit.

Often, this isn’t the case, and that’s unfortunate.

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Meanwhile, in Friday’s edition of the New Albany Tribune, the recently returned guest columnist Jeff Roudenbush paints an unflattering picture of NA township trustee Tom Cannon’s tenure in office while examining an upcoming primary election challenge to Cannon by Jeannie Freiberger. Jeff’s piece is not yet archived on the Tribune’s web site.

What was that – something about disclosure?

Never mind.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

One fine day in Seattle (Part One).

Probably the last sight I expected to see in Seattle is a 20-foot tall statue of V.I. Lenin in full revolutionary stride, but there it is, centrally located in the Fremont district, which seems to be making a determined effort to hold on to a shred of counter-cultural eccentricity amidst the gentrification exploding all around it.

You know with certainty that something of an artistic nature really is good when Republicans wring their hands and openly agitate against it, and so it is with Fremont’s Lenin statue, which was brought to the neighborhood from Slovakia by a resident artist after the Soviet leader’s system fell like dominoes in 1989-90.


Another example of the flowering of public art in Fremont is its underpass Troll, which is depicted devouring a Volkswagen that originally was decorated with Elvis memorabilia prior to an unfortunate act of vandalism – presumably committed by Republicans without a sense of humor – or the Memphis city fathers.

Elsewhere in Seattle, the human imprint on the landscape ebbs and flows in accordance with a hilly topography and the proximity of Puget Sound, Lake Washington (and its famous floating highway bridge), and many smaller bodies of still and running water, including a shipping canal or two. The city’s mild climate and pervasive rains and mists ensure rampant greenery in all directions.

One hundred years ago, Seattle’s civic leaders began an aggressive program of public park construction, making the case for financing these green spaces by means of an argument that we now would refer to as pertaining to the “quality of life.”

Subsequently, Seattle took its rightful place on the long list of Olmstead “intelligent design” park credits, and among these is Volunteer Park, which abuts the north end of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and boasts an arboretum, art museum and water tower, the later available for climbing and the enjoyment of spectacular views on a clear day.

The last time I saw Mt. Rainier was the summer of 1974 while vacationing there with my parents. Back then, I gazed at the silent behemoth as we sat in the family car, listening to the radio as President Richard Nixon resigned from office.

On Tuesday I secretly hoped that such good news might come out of nowhere to strike twice in a lifetime … but alas, the illegitimate regime lives on.

Another newer park is located along Lake Union at the site of the gasworks, where two rusty but oddly relevant portions of the industrial architecture have been preserved and surrounded with open lawns and a vantage point overlooking an adjacent small lake.

Continued at the Potable Curmudgeon’s beer blog: One fine day in Seattle (Part Two).

Truth is stranger than fact: CM dramatically refuses dictation, opts for self-arousal as the preferred means of upgrading city attorney position.

Earlier at NA Confidential, the question was asked:

Uh ... do I have this right?

Here’s part of the answer in the form of the Tribune’s account of Thursday evening’s fractious city council meeting:

Attorney job passes first vote; Neighborhood groups rebuffed in request for tabling, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

Tribune reporter Campbell describes the Wizard of Westside’s crowning outburst:

(Greg) Roberts approached the podium and repeated the appeal for time to research. When (CM Mark) Seabrook asked Roberts why he thought the bill wasn’t being tabled, Roberts indicated the bill was not a product of the forums.

(CM Dan) Coffey shouted, “I’m not dictated to by a neighborhood forum!”

Previously, having hijacked the full-time city attorney idea for his own nefarious and purely political purposes by means of a nifty stratagem that he obviously considered worthy of television’s famed “Matlock,” CM Coffey piously cited the jilting of his impoverished fiefdom as a prime motive for his pique:

This request appeared to have bothered Coffey when it was time to take action on the bill. He did not table it, and he chastised forum organizers, saying they did not invite his West End’s neighborhood association.“We compromise the biggest neighborhood association there is,” Coffey said.

This breathtaking revelation comes as great news to the many neighborhood forum organizers, who recently have had more luck finding the gunman on the grassy knoll than they have locating any evidence of a West End neighborhood association that exists apart from a slip of yellowed paper in CM Coffey’s wallet – or a figment in his cobwebbed imagination.

But in a moment of uncharacteristic candor, CM Cappuccino acknowledged something that was painfully obvious to all in attendance:

About the request to table, Coffey said, “I’ve seen politics in this tonight.”

Boy, has he – and he should know better than anyone, because the politics he cites are all of his own making, but as we’ve noted here for quite some time, when it comes to CM Coffey, it’s rarely if ever about the greater good of New Albany.

Rather, what good there is to be found within a Coffeyite proclamation must be defined somewhat more narrowly, and on occasion, it’s so scarce as to entirely elude detection.

If there is a West End neighborhood group, a rude awakening is in order: Yet again, you’re being marched like lemmings to the precipice … and guess who’ll be standing aside, watching with paternalistic pride, as you hit the rocks?

I attended the first neighborhood forum and observed the wonderful discussion, one masterfully moderated by Dr. Newman, which concluded with those present expressing unanimity in researching the city attorney position and the possibilities inherent with expanding it.

I’m told that this research is ongoing. A second forum has occurred and another is planned, and forum participants are in the process of scheduling a meeting with Mayor James Garner and the current city attorney, Shane Gibson, to discuss the issue.

A promising whiff of civility, cooperation and – gasp – democracy was in the air, and apparently such a flowering, however modest, even na├»ve, posed a mortal threat to the pompous ego of New Albany’s foremost ward-heeling schoolyard bully, who has determined to forcibly seize the city attorney issue from the citizenry, to gut it, to deprive it of any meaningful context whatsoever, then to merrily wave the flattened and bloodied carcass for political gain during the next electoral cycle.

Quite simply, there can be no other explanation than this for the Wizard of Westside’s latest act of brazen and self-serving chicanery.

Should we refuse to join Dan Coffey’s perpetually abused constituents in drinking the loutish councilman’s favored brand of Kool-Aid? After all, to do so might well endanger good-faith efforts already expended toward steps to enhance ordinance enforcement.

Even if the diligent research currently being pursued provides clear evidence that an expanded city attorney position is the correct first step in the direction of easing the symptoms of the New Albany Syndrome (and as readers already know, not all see it as such), has the reality of CM Coffey’s savage co-opting of the measure tainted it beyond redemption?

Would it be subject to the councilman’s further politically motivated manipulations? We all know they're coming.

In short, has CM Coffey’s cynical embrace of a position that is contradicted by his every breath rendered it DOA?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to these conundrums, and I want to see the gist of the findings and consider the opinions of the researchers. Compromise should never be ruled out.

But one thing is clear: It would be a mistake, pure and simple, to fall for the councilman’s transparent ploy. There's no sincerity therein -- only conniving.

We must be very, very careful.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Uh ... do I have this right?

Maybe I'm missing something here.

1st District Councilman Dan Coffey attended the second of two neighborhood forum meetings last week after missing the one at which it was determined to push for a full-time city attorney.

He listened (presumably?) as the second forum session concluded that further research and a meeting with City Hall both were in order before proceeding with an ordinance before the council.

He then introduced his own ordinance at last night’s meeting, pausing only to remark (as reported by the Highwayman) something along the lines of: I’ll not be dictated to by a neighborhood forum.

Now, I’m just an innocent who’s been abroad (well, sort of -- the Pacific Northwest), but this action would appear to be grandstanding of the highest and least honorable order.

Mind you, not that it’s unexpected given the source.

Have you ever wondered why CM Coffey’s council district remains moribund in spite of his “best” efforts?

The answer is as clear as the councilman’s transparent intentions. But then again, it's never been about the overall good of the city, has it?

Once again: What am I missing here?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A quick note and a healthy debate.

And just in time for Blunder Over Louisville, no less.

Intense discussion here the past few days, eh?

Lest there be any misunderstanding, that was my hope. Now that I'm back, maybe I can take part, too.

In my view, the advent of the neighborhood forum marks a turning point in the quest to reinvigorate New Albany. This doesn't mean that the process won't be without bumps, cliffhangers and annoyances. It also doesn't imply lockstep uniformity of opinion. It doesn't even suggest that the reinvigoration will be a success.

However, the center of gravity in terms of the debate has shifted. Where it goes next is anyone's guess. To me, the key is involvement.

Who attended the council meeting tonight? I didn't step off the plane until after eight. Looking forward to the report, if any; otherwise, I'll link to media coverage on Friday morning and take it from there.

Yo, NAC editorial board ... time for that beer and pizza skull session!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Principiis amicus

In case it has escaped anyone’s notice, I’m not a supporter of the recently floated idea that the first step in creating an effective ordinance enforcement regime is to hire a full-time city attorney.

I take issue with the contention that a functioning city court is an irrelevancy, too. In fact, the (re)creation of a city court is the drive mechanism that converts the energy (citations and inspections) into motive power (mitigation of the violations). Without a city court, the fuel will burn and the engine will race, but the gears will not engage and there will be “enforcement” in word, not in deed.

The incrementalist approach is a subtle form of co-optation. Those who hold the purse strings, and thus the reins of power, may yield ground in a strategic retreat (what my esteemed colleague calls a rear-guard action) and concede incremental approaches. If the instant citizen’s group has the persuasive ability or political muscle to achieve the increment, it also has the ability to advocate for a comprehensive solution. Why else would the opponents of ordinance enforcement yield unless the array of forces were able to demonstrate overwhelming sense and/or political power?

Bluegill, whose intellectual rigor I hold in the highest regard, scolds me for being “unhelpful” and “unfair.” I would characterize it another way. In challenging the accepted wisdom, I’ve elicited a spirited defense that otherwise might not have been heard this week. In all fairness, this defense has been mounted without defensiveness. However, good motives and fastidious process aren’t enough. There are indeed forces whose interests would be threatened by a city government with the resources to actually enforce ordinances. They are perfectly happy with things the way they are, and far more experienced at getting their way.

I believe it was Bluegill, again, who stated that New Albany has marketed itself well – to slumlords, that is.

So what is to be made of CM Coffey’s sudden interest in ordinance enforcement, coupled with his newfound zeal for beefing up the force complement of the NAPD? Have the scales suddenly fallen from Councilman Cappucino’s eyes? Has the senior of the Siamese Councilmen had a Road to Damascus moment wherein exposure to the good government ideals of the all-so-nonpolitical summiteers has caused him to see the light and to champion the hiring of a full-time city attorney?

You might guess my answer to that.

First of all, I don’t believe this council is willing to pay the price it will take to retain a qualified attorney who will forgo the fees generated by a part-time private practice. As much as I admire Paul Wheatley, he is a very young man and though appropriately educated and sufficiently seasoned, he is just beginning his career, and thus is available to work for the pittance this council and mayor felt they could pay for the economic development function. Would this council not pinch pennies and hire, say, a lawyer one year out of law school to serve as corporation counsel to a city of 38,000 souls?

But say they will pay what it takes. What does that accomplish? Friend Brandon says making the city attorney full-time will resolve the biggest of the problems, but offers no support for that assertion. Yes, he has been told that referrals for enforcement action sink into a black hole when sent to the city attorney’s office. But has Shane Gibson said that lack of hours is holding him back? Sincerely, has he?

I contend that the city law department, as currently organized, would be sufficient to handle the volume of enforcement actions if the supporting personnel and other resources were properly appropriated. The Gang of Four knows this, I believe. That is why Coffey is willing to play rope-a-dope with the summiteers. Give them what they say they want, hijack the idea so you can claim it as your own, and dance back to the paymasters to report that you’ve mollified the goo-goos. That’s my evaluation.

So, what’s my solution? Rough and dirty, this is it.

1) Add four clerks to the office of the City Clerk. If necessary, assign one of those to the controller’s office to meet statutory requirements. The sheer volume of work to write and send demand letters and citations supports this. But this would not be a new expense for the city government. It would be justified by increased collections. By one report, less than 40% of all citations are being collected, and that is a direct result of a council that refuses to give that office, and that individual, the resources to do her job.

2) Add three new ordinance enforcement officers to work with officer Badger. Maybe you make one a sworn police officer so that warrants can be served by an armed officer.

3) Increase the traffic division to a total of four people. Assign one of those to dig out the highly-secured vehicle ID and registration information for which access is restricted to sworn law enforcement personnel.

4) Write and pass the enabling legislation for a city court now. By law, such legislation must be passed by Dec. 31 of this year, elections held in 2007, and the court begins operations in January of 2008. By law, if we do not pass this now, we must wait until 2010, for a 2011 election, and a functioning court beginning in 2012. New Albany cannot wait six years for a court. The mere fact that CM Coffey preemptively announced his opposition to it last year adds, I believe, a sterling recommendation for this action. Our soon-to-be abogado y licensiado notwithstanding, a city court is the essential piece of the puzzle. Why?

5) To fund 1 through 4. That’s right. The net cost to the city of this enforcement regime is nil. It will require initial funding, but as the city begins to levy and collect fines, seizes and sells properties and vehicles, and cleans up the city, that appropriation will be rapidly offset. All of the above can be paid for out of the hides of the anti-social elements that have endangered this town for so many years.

Is that good enough for you, Bluegill? Fire away and pick it apart all you want. I won’t consider it unfair or unhelpful in the least.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Is it possible to survive on oyster shooters and espresso?

No, it isn’t -- not without (liquid) bread, and this is where the Pacific Northwest’s abundant craft beer scene comes into the picture.

I’ve known for quite some time that in terms of craft beer market penetration, no other locale in America matches Portland and Seattle.

To actually forage in the midst of it is a marvelous sensation.

There was a neighborhood deli in Portland with only microbrews on tap … a Safeway near Seattle boasting a beer aisle with a special section for microbrews … and numerous times when it’s been possible to walk for blocks and blocks without seeing a neon sign touting mass market swill.

This morning, Mrs. Confidential and I have been perusing the coffee houses in Fremont, just north of the Seattle city center. Later today, there’s a Mariners-Rangers game on tap and a chance to experience Safeco Field, where sushi and hot dogs both are in the starting lineup.

For a brief time earlier, mountains were visible on all sides: Cascade and Olympic ranges, and Mt. Rainier.

A good time is being had by all. Graham’s back in Portland enjoying his grandchildren, and the two of us are enjoying a fine respite from the daily stress of home.

Speaking of home, I’ve been sent good news: The revised ownership of Bistro New Albany seems set to close on a deal that will enable the slightly delayed establishment to open by the beginning of May.

Keep your fingers crossed … there’ll be more at a later time. Until then, we really need a good Seattle-style coffee vendor downtown. It's something to being working toward in earnest, and as soon as the taps at bNA start flowing ...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Principiis obsta

A reader or two might be able to discern the meaning of the Latin title of this posting. I know it only because I ran across it during a recent reading.

The dictum principiis obsta translates roughly as “beware of beginnings.” Good advice, particularly for the group marshaling its resources to demand a full-time city attorney as its preferred solution to a woeful enforcement regime for city ordinances.

Learning Latin is an acquired skill. Some come to it naturally; others encounter it in their occupations (the law, medicine). Some are privileged to learn it in school, if their schools offer it as part of the curriculum. But for most of us, Latin is “Greek” to us.

Still, we can learn it as we need it, and apply it where it is useful.

In short, Latin is tough. So is the task the Neighborhoods Summit group has set for itself. Wading into the thicket that is the New Albany Code of Ordinances will be tough. Coming out the other end with a coherent recommendation (or demand, if you will) will be equally difficult.

A group of us spent considerable time in 2005 working on the very issues addressed at the recent meeting of neighborhood activists. Our work was comprehensive, consultative, progressive, and pragmatic. Unfortunately, many of the same individuals who now are eagerly racing to justify their call for a full-time city attorney rejected the whole idea of a comprehensive approach to ordinance enforcement in 2005.

Any rational examination of the state of ordinance enforcement in NA will lead to but one conclusion: Forces are aligned to prevent any effective enforcement.

I say “forces,” but what I mean is people. People who hold the levers of power. Elected officials who arrogate to themselves the right to inflict and withhold justice. Citizens are encouraged to believe that they live under the rule of law. But in reality, residents of New Albany are subject to the whim and caprice of anti-democratic thugs, and the venal interests of their paymasters. Whether that “pay” comes in the form of filthy lucre, insider information, or simply continued political power, these thugs have proved that might makes right.

The progressive agenda proposes, among other things, that this calculus is backward. Might flows from the rightness of a cause; that is, right makes might.

This week, we'll explore the reality and its implications...to be continued

Three days that shook my world.

John Reed, the early 20th-century American leftist, activist and journalist immortalized by Warren Beatty in the epic 1981 film “Reds,” grew up at the corner of Park Place and Lewis & Clark Circle, just below Washington Park, about two blocks up the hill from the Portland, Oregon bed and breakfast chosen by Mrs. Confidential to house us while visiting the city.

My last direct encounter with Reed came in 1989. The author of “Ten Days That Shook the World,” a contemporary account of the Bolshevik revolution, died in the newborn Soviet Union and was interred in the Kremlin Wall, where I glimpsed his name while exiting Lenin’s Mausoleum after a cursory glance at the embalmed corpse of the USSR’s founder.

Neither Reed’s boyhood home (razed for an apartment complex), nor the Russian Communist experiment is left standing.

However, relics of another Russian venture still exist in Northern California, and Graham and I visited them prior to entering Oregon a few days back.

Fort Ross marks the spot where the Russian Empire, lured by the potential wealth of seal pelts and fisheries, established a colony in the 1820’s. The physical location of the stockade overlooking the Pacific is stunning, but the foray only lasted two or so decades before the steady financial drain convinced the Tsar to cut his losses, pack up his Aleut fishermen and hunters, and return to home base in Alaska.

Unsurprisingly, the then-legitimate Mexican government in California regarded the newly arrived Russians as illegal immigrants to the area north of San Francisco.

Since the Europeans did not come to Fort Ross in sufficient numbers to assist in picking the vegetables necessary to maintain the price point of the 99-cent value menu at Mexican fast food outlets of the period, nothing was done about the unwelcome presence – and the Russians returned of their own accord to the land of serf-harvested borscht and bliny.

Two hundred yards from the site of John Reed’s house, the city of Portland and various local individual and corporate donors have built a Holocaust memorial that is one of the most unique and moving I’ve yet seen.

Of course, nothing can approach the damningly visceral impact of visiting the actual sites of the death camps in Eastern Europe – something I’ve done before and prefer not to do again.

The Portland Holocaust memorial recreates a minimalist European city square, complete with cobblestones, benches and a street lamp; it is seemingly innocuous at first view, until you see items scattered randomly on the ground.

They’re sculptures: A shoe, shattered eyeglasses, a violin, a torn teddy bear, a twisted Menorah and ripped pages of a book.

During Claude Lanzmann’s documentary “Shoah,” an oral history of the Holocaust filmed during the 1970’s, aging Polish peasants are shown recounting with unapologetic indifference the disappearance (and slaughter) of fellow Jewish townsmen, leaving the viewer with the impression that it wasn’t so much ideology or religion, but simple envy and spite, that accounted for the willingness of devout Christians to watch with approval as others perceived to be better off materially were removed and murdered.

As the memorial reminds us, the objective in life must be to find and reinforce the qualities that all people share, rather than to exploit those that divide us to suit the preferences of those capable only of hatred.

Verily, Portland is going to be a very tough act to follow. It is a green city, one that continues to nurture an economy based on creativity and education, with quality of life issues at the forefront of planning, a visionary public transportation system, and a shared determination to keep its urban core strong even if it means putting the brakes to the excess of the exurb.

New Albany’s Siamese Councilman and their Gang of Four cohorts simply never have seen anything like it … and that’s one reason why they have so amazingly little of genuine coherence to say about the future of our city.

Next stop: Seattle.

(Photo credit)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Thought for the day: Easter Sunday.

Contrary to popular belief, the greatest drinking song ever written is neither “Louie Louie” nor “Roll Out the Barrel.”

It is Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

If you don’t believe me (why wouldn’t you?), please google the title, read the lyrics, or download the song. Johnny Cash’s version is the most famous.

The Man in Black understood.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A city of roses and deluge.

Portland,OR ... it's raining. I'm told that's normal.

Someone in the neighborhood is providing wireless access. Thanks to them.

The morning was spent walking the avenues nearby, stopping for breakfast in an establishment that is purely local, but would be considered in the upper echelon of Louisville cuisine, drinking good coffee, and in broad terms, admiring the type of city that can result from enhancing the value of urban neighborhoods rather than gutting it.

In short, the type of experience that our Siamese Councilman neither can comprehend, nor will ever be able to assist in bringing to fruition.

Over breakfast, my friend and I discussed the attitude shift necessary to bring about positive change, and how those that can't derive self-worth from actively thwarting those who can.

When's that next meeting?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

While religiosity is met with varying levels of (dis)pleasure around NAC, the consideration of a particular Friday as good or bad is still up for grabs. At the moment, I’m inclined to err on the side of the positive.


1. It’s amusing to see the largely undeveloped arguments of certain council members consistently creep up in other arenas hosted by fictitious authors. There’re more connections there during any given week than at, well... Connections. It’s even more amusing to share in the laughter such creep generates. Laughing is healthy. Thanks.

2. There are still some rough edges, but the Tribune seems to be making like the birds and bees, using the chutzpah of spring as an excuse to produce. They’ve been out-reporting the Courier on local issues fairly regularly lately and it’s not gone unnoticed in this camp or at the C-J, where we’re beginning to see new names on the Indiana page in response. Being first and reputable is a good thing. Bugging Gannett is even better.

3. The Courier did manage a good story about a group of English educators who traveled to Scribner Middle School from the UK to observe progressive education methods, including one class in which students assembled poetry with verbiage taken from various other media. The literacy and international exchange are impressive but it’s the assembled expression of seventh grader Dakota Bennett that warrants sharing: Zippo the Jack Russell terrier kills 10 in Chevy Suburban wasteland. I wonder how it feels for the inaccurately self-styled “most powerful developer in Southern Indiana” to be outwitted by a 13-year-old (or Zippo for that matter)? Dakota represented our community to an international audience well. Perhaps we should collectively consider that making New Albany look and feel like every other sprawling, non-descript suburb (known as vision in Gary-speak) might not be the best strategy to entice him to continue his astute observations from a local perch.

4. Sewer progress.

5. Scribner Place progress.

6. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled this week that state law does not prohibit unmarried couples from filing a joint petition to adopt children, giving each parent equal custody. What this means is that, until Indiana aimlessly wanders into the 21st century and accepts that two people making a caring, life-long commitment to each other shouldn’t be illegal, gay and lesbian couples can jointly adopt children and be legally recognized as the loving parents they’ve always been.

7. As much as the word “never” gets cast as bait to the scarred-lip fishes of New Albany, it’s relative worth as a word is steadily being diminished by groups of dedicated citizens who simply refuse to accept that our city will always be nothing more than a holding tank for chum. I’ve never believed that anyway.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The awful rowing towards haute cuisine

In the thread below, our friend Lloyd "Highwayman" Wimp capably outlined the accomplishments of last night’s second neighborhood forum.

The paraphrased highlights:

1) With the help of DNA, a committee consisting of representatives from each neighborhood association in attendance will request a meeting with the Mayor and City Attorney to begin a dialogue about the legal resources necessary for effective code enforcement. Hopefully, schedules will coalesce in such a way as to allow for the meeting prior to the next neighborhood gathering.

2) Another committee of volunteers will begin collecting information about how other cities' legal departments function so that ongoing conversations with our own officials can be informed by the experiences of others.

3) The next meeting will occur on Tuesday, April 25th, with both committees reporting answers and better questions obtained at that point. IU Southeast Professor Dr. John Newman will again moderate the discussion as we consider the next steps in the process.


To be sure, it was an effective gathering with all residents in attendance clearly understanding both the decisions made and the reasoning used to arrive at them. I’m proud to report that, even in the absence of skilled moderation, most in attendance continued to nobly set aside any previous differences, committed to coming together, focusing on the common good. It was heartening to say the least. What’s not yet clear, however, is the role that City Council Members Schmidt, Price, Kochert, and Coffey hope to play in the process. Their attendance is welcomed but, if eighty percent of success is showing up as Woody Allen suggests, it must be the other twenty that's confounded many who've witnessed the testimony of the council members. While resident legal scholar Brandon Smith chose to take the high road, displaying admirable diplomacy in both the live session and his comments written in the previous thread, a post-meeting survey of a random but sizeable sample of forum attendees found most rather disgruntled with the amount of energy wasted in fending off the interloping agendas they felt evident in much of what the CMs had to offer.

In reference to the African-American experience in the United States, Malcolm X once said, “Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on the plate.” What Malcolm later learned and so ably expressed, though, is that, in order to truly enjoy a meal, one must first learn to use sharp utensils for something other than jabbing the diner next to you. It’s instructive of New Albany political history to witness the difficulty with which the four CMs in question grapple with that concept. At a time when the spirit of cooperation and rational, objective thinking are the plats du jour, these men seem to be ordering from a menu prix fixe with selections not updated since the cold war. Apparently, years of finger pointing have led to poked-out eyes and a lessened appreciation of more palatable fare. Questions of motivation aside, they just don’t know how to act at the table.

What’s on that table is a living, breathing microcosm of what government can look and, perhaps more importantly, feel like. Ideas were debated and augmented. Responsibilities were agreed upon. Hands, rather than voices, were raised. And, when it was over, handshakes and smiles were shared as easily as documents and email addresses. The political reality that Brandon referred to is very much a product of the citizens and politicians that participate in it. And just because that political grounding occurs near the river, it’s absolutely no reason we should have to face drowning before we pull ourselves up out of the water beyond the floodplain. If I’m not mistaken, saving ourselves from that particular fate is exactly the purpose of building the boat of credibility referred to in All4Word’s analogy yesterday.

Grab a fork and an oar, gentlemen. We’ll show you how to use both.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Just for the record ...

... I'm reposing by the ocean in Oregon, just north of the border with California, just as Graham (above) was yesterday, further down the coast.

Owing to the wonders of wireless, I've been able to keep track of events, at least until yesterday. The super cheap motel in Fort Bragg, California did not have Internet access.

Here's to the hope that tonight's neighborhood meeting was fruitful. My departure the morning after last week's first gathering precluded much in the way of commentary, although one thing about it that worried me was the willingness of 3/4 of the Gang of Four in attendance to indicate agreement with the tone of the discussion.

Keep an eye on them. If Cappuccino shows up, consider changing the venue, and make sure no bread crumbs are left behind.

As for me, well, I haven't spent this much time in an automobile since Jimmy Carter was President. The trackless waste of the pioneers has yielded somewhat to the banal sterility of chain store exurb, but more than a few acres of desert, forest, prairie and seashore somehow have survived, along with independent businesses and often, contrarian spirits behind the counter.

Like I said, best wishes to those of you who are taking the lead. Please, someone provide a report, okay?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Watch Out for the Shoals

In case you’ve forgotten, Tuesday night is the appointed time for a remarkable exercise in self-government. At 6:30, motivated residents will gather in the common hall of The White House Center, 222 Pearl Street, the putative nerve center of downtown New Albany, to brainstorm ideas about increased enforcement of city ordinances.

A Neighborhoods Summit last week developed a consensus that the current configuration of the city Law Department is not sufficient to meet the needs of a city with the scope and scale of this riverfront municipality.

So, a private group will proceed, presumably, toward drafting legislation to present to council making the city attorney a full-time position. It is believed by participants to be the one thing most in need of adjustment.

This will be a fascinating exercise to watch. Apparently, the group will meet several times to develop their plan. So far as can be determined, this will be done without the support of even one council member. We’ve been unable to find any member of the administration or the council who is willing to say that the employment status of the city attorney is the key to unlocking the enforcement treasure-box.

It is compelling evidence that residents are frustrated with the pace of government in New Albany. Rank suspicion toward the good faith of the Garner administration seems to be the motivating force. Displeased (to say the least) with the responses they have received, this “task force” is shouldering the burden of forcing systemic change.

Followed close on the heels of a dramatic demonstration by members of the East Spring Street Neighborhood association at the last March meeting of the Board of Public Works and Safety, this initiative shows that ESSNA is willing to risk its credibility on an issue members believe is a critical element in creating a livable city.

NA Confidential extends best wishes to the group as they embark on this dicey venture.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Backfill: Something to which we all aspire?

William Randolph Hearst was an influential media magnate of the pre-digital era.

He built a modest country home on the top of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean north of San Luis Obispo, California.

You may have seen documentaries about Hearst’s San Simeon residence looped endlessly on various cable vacation & “house and garden porn” channels – and lucky for you, because we could barely see it from the veranda of the visitor center, where pre-booked tours depart.

We decided against spending $20 each to view the decadence up close and personal.

When NA Confidential begins turning a profit (huh?), perhaps our relationship with Hearst and his journalistic and architectural legacy can be redefined.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Desert life and a fortunate spin of the wheel.

Yes, we made it -- to California, that is. It's my first time visiting this state since 1978.

During the past 15 months, I've been fortunate to spend time in Maine, Savannah GA and Charleston SC, Chicago and now the Southern California desert. Lobstermen, sea islands, broad shoulders and Rebels; now Route 66, Pueblos, Ponderosa pine, and the Joshua Tree. From the Mississippi to the Colorado.

It's my first real desert. Tomorrow, the Pacific coast highway. Later, redwoods and wine.

It's powerful tonic for the Europhile, but I haven't reverted to alt-country quite yet, although the late Buck Owens hit it big just up the highway in Bakersfield. LA's somewhere to the southwest.

There were bike lanes in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Flagstaff. I wanted to ride on them, but not past Wal-Mart.

Tonight my buddy Graham and I hit a Barstow steak house and enjoyed medium rare fine London broil accompanied by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from upstate California. Luckily, we hit anniversary night and an unexpected buy one, get one free bonanza. Emerging from the restaurant, it was sundown over the cactus, and the cool evening breeze. Perhaps the aesthetic wasn't the reason for the wagon trains west, but I'm happy to experience a slice of the contemporary symbolism.

On to San Luis Obispo ...

Friday, April 07, 2006

With luck, no wrong turns in Albuquerque.

If the hundreds of miles of plains, high plains, deserts and and brushfire warnings weren't enough to make the point that one isn't in New Albany any longer, there's always the architectural style.

It looks like the prototype for one of The Gary's exurban earth scrapers, perhaps a chain Tex-Mex outlet with plenty of Budweiser on tap. In fact, we're becoming familiar with the cookie cutter exurb, numerous views of which are afforded from the Interstate.

The old part of downtown Santa Fe has been scrubbed, polished and rendered into an adult Southwestern art and craft theme park, but it's been tastefully done in the main, and there are coffee shops and tap rooms for necessary refueling. Much, much history is on display, and it might be summarized as the record of intermingling between Spanish, Native American and later standard issue "American" cultures. In front of the cathedral is a statue of a local 17th-century Native American woman later elevated into sainthood.

Trinkets galore, and fun for browsing. Last night we were regaled by an elderly cabbie, who spun stories of Santa Fe's recent growth and the way it used to be when he was delivering milk. He dropped us off at a wonderfully electic brewpub, Second Street Brewing, where we watched a cross section of locals while draining the grain for a couple of hours.

This afternoon, we've moved on to Albuquerque and a meeting with reigning regional beer expert Stan Hieronymus. Albuquerque would appear to be nothing but exurb surrounded by relative emptiness. Saturday calls for the resumption of our journey toward the coast. Perhaps we can make California.

More later.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Casting On" to Knit a NA Tapestry

In all the furor, amid all the “demands” being made by New Albany’s clans, associations, cabals, and terrorist cells, there should be time taken to discuss the “philosophical” underpinnings of what and why “we” expect so much from our city government.

Encouragingly, much of the activity is the result of a belief on the part of many that they can, indeed, have an impact on how we are governed. That’s very idealistic, but until that impact is demonstrated through action, rather than activity, both the visionaries and the obstructionists will look at all of us as pretty much of the same stripe – complainers. The status quo is so entrenched in this town that even those who are inclined to help us will regard us with suspicion. Those for whom we are a potential source of concern rely on the Kochert Maxim to guide them.

Larry Kochert, long ensconced in what was always a “safe” council district, dismisses the progressive movement in this city. He’s “seen it before.” Kochert and his ilk are invested in a rock-solid belief that activity does not equal accomplishment.

In short, Kochert believes “we” will go away. It matters not how. Mr. K is certain we can be divided or neutralized. Right now, the biggest danger is an amateurish zeal that consists of little more than demands. But personalities can conflict, life situations can change, and the entire locomotive of progress can simply run out of steam. Without a guiding philosophy, progressivism in New Albany can stall.

It is not the opponents of progress who are to be feared – it is ourselves and those among our “friends” who lack the courage to risk anything in the fight.

Some sit in world-weary cynicism and like modern-day soothsayers declare idealism to be dead.
Others operate in the belief that anonymity and pious high-mindedness will insulate them from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” finding the unpleasant but necessary realities of politics to be distasteful and beneath them.

Naively, they speak of a nebulous form of public service that somehow avoids conflict, that needn’t obey the rules of human nature. Despite all evidence to the contrary that there are walls between as we wander this mortal coil, that people do take sides, that rationality isn’t the guiding principle for all contenders with the right to sit at the public table, these “friends” are more like spectators than participants.

The progressive movement is perfectly willing to be held to account. But hypocritical “judges” holding up scorecards (and holding their noses, too) are not part of the solution.

The “game” is under way. It didn’t start yesterday, nor a year ago. The tree fell in the forest whether we were there to hear it fall. The game has been going on for eons and will continue to be played out long after our hearts stop beating. But sitting on the sidelines is, for many of us, no longer an option.

Let’s see if a weekend thread can unravel and re-knit a philosophy underlying what it is “we” want. Jump right in. Try to avoid platitudes and be willing to take a risk. If this thread breaks, I’ll put in my three cents, but I believe the readers of this blog can brainstorm and define a progressive philosophy.

I’ll make it easy. Why is it anybody else’s business if I dump my garbage at Falling Run Creek on public land? And why should the coercive power of government be called upon to regulate it? Take it a step further. Why is it anybody’s business if I store appliances (or cars) in my own yard? Isn’t this a free country? Don’t I own my own land? Doesn’t the conservative movement (those strict constructionists) tell us that “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” means individual property rights rule supreme? Why should I complain if Jill Commuter decides that lower Spring Street should be a 50-mph speed zone instead of the 25-mph zone that’s posted? Aren’t I overreaching when I protest, when I ask the city to enforce its ordinances?

1,350 miles down ...

The preceding scene is somewhere in Texas. The following is the approach northward from the Interstate toward Santa Fe. Note the mashed bugs on the windshield.


Much of the day today was spent driving into 50 mph headwinds within yards of the original Route 66, marveling at the steady transformation of the Plains from the comprehensible landscapes of the Mississippi to the tumbling tumbleweeds and roadside carnival attractions in the middle of unoccupied New Mexico.

Well, the Land of Enchantment is almost blue, especially in the crowded Second Street brewpub in Santa Fe. Great Imperial Stout.

Here are a few topical entries made over at my PC blog:

Santa Fe, sans Atcheson & Topeka.
Greetings from Oklahoma City.
Luggage? We don't need no stinking luggage.

Tomorrow's Albuquerque, and after that we pick up the trail toward California. This is a strange trip for one accustomed to the Old World attractions of Europe. I suppose it will help me to get back in touch with my inner American ... although I'm not at all sure why that's desirable.

Has Rumsfeld been fired yet?

Why Johnny (and Janie) Can't Be Bothered

“The crisis in America, where ironically we have the world's highest rate of bachelor's degrees, is that if people don't read papers, they generally won't vote. The crisis of the press here is a crisis of democracy too. The single best indicator of whether someone votes is whether he reads a paper, according to political scientist Martin P. Wattenberg in his book, "Where Have All the Voters Gone?" But the converse is also true. Whether one votes is a much better indicator than a college degree as to whether one is reading a daily paper. The reaction between these two trends, a decline in voting and the decline in the reading of dailies, is what scientists call autocatalytic. One drives the other in a downward spiral. The under-30 young read far less, and vote far less--and according to their teachers, have fewer opinions. Not reading, not having political sentiments, they aren't especially capable of voting intelligently anyway. What can we do now? Teach our kids to read.”

[SOURCE: Chicago Tribune by Thomas Geoghegan and James Warren]

Thanks for the catch, Doc!

Pounding the Pavement

Nothing cures misperception better than a close-up view, as NA Confidential has provided since its inception. This evening, a portion of the populace will get the chance to practice what NAC preaches when Mayor James E. Garner, Sr. will take a stroll through the precincts.

Accomplishment that goes unreported is diminished, and perception can be as important as accomplishment. So, beginning at 5 p.m., the mayor and members of his staff will take a walking tour of portions of the city, as reported first by the Indiana bureau of The Courier-Journal.

In the confines of the City-County building, a mayor can seem inaccessible. But when the chief executive officer of the city walks our sidewalks, sits on our porches, and invites us to tell him our concerns, we (and he) are reminded that he works for us.

It's likely the mayor and his department heads won't be knocking on your door this evening, but NA Confidential does invite any reader who encounters His Honor during this public stroll to report their impressions here.

Many regular readers have called for an enhanced program to communicate this administration's vision. This writer is confident that familiarity most certainly won't breed contempt.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Kochert to Resign Party Post?

With today's Gang of Four News release to Larry Kochert's favorite stenographer, the 4th District council member signaled his intention to surrender his post as precinct committee person for the 13th precinct...DEVELOPING

Let the lobbying begin: Neighborhood Forum favors full-time city attorney for New Albany.

Last night's Neighborhood Forum at the White House Center in downtown New Albany was well attended. Here's a view from meeting's end, as a near unanimous accord was reached to the effect that research should commence toward weighing the options of a full-time New Albany city attorney as a possible first step toward redressing the city's culture of ordinance non-enforcement.


Representatives from all of New Albany's neighborhood groups were on hand, along with five council persons (CMs Kochert, Price and Schmidt -- as pictured below -- and also CMs Messer and Crump). All of them spoke and took part in the conversation. City Hall was not represented.

Indiana University Southeast's Dr. John Newman served as moderator for the two-hour meeting, and he did a wonderful job of keeping the discussion moving.

I'm facing big time constraints tonight, and there's simply no time to go into great detail other than to express appreciation to the organizers and everyone in attendance.

Readers, here's the tip-off for an open thread: What were your impressions of the Neighborhood Forum?

See you in a couple of weeks. Ciao.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Last call: Neighborhood Forum is tonight, 6:30 p.m., White House Center.

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 www.HistoricNewAlbany.com 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.

---

Here's the link to local media coverage preceding the event:

New Albany neighborhood groups to meet; Housing, collection of city fines could top agenda, by Eric Scott Campbell (The Evening News & The Tribune).

UPDATED: What are the facts? Councilman Cappuccino in anguished meltdown as the penguins march on.

Double dipping: Two SOLNA comments in a row by the same anonymous troglobyte.
---The Curmudgeon’s Dicionary

---

The only thing surprising about the embarrassing tantrum thrown by the Wizard of Westside at 8:37 p.m. last night was that it had taken him an hour and seven minutes to unveil his bi-monthly set piece of impassioned scenery chewing.

Perhaps frustrated by a dearth of grandstanding opportunities during recent council sessions, the Siamese Councilmen were back in mid-season Springeresque form on Monday night as they shamelessly parroted stormwater drainage board talking points handed them by Erik/Erika, with 1st District CM Dan Coffey resorting to frequent and intemperate screaming, and the 3rd District’s reigning Uncouncilman Steve Price getting down and homespun.

The trogs were completely agog as Li’l Stevie denounced bureaucracy, rate increases, and books without pictures, and when he began chanting “freeze, freeze,” I was transported back to a recent viewing of “March of the Penguins,” a fine documentary about birds who can’t fly, but retain a certain dignity just the same.

We’ll pick up here later this morning with council meeting media links and further thoughts.

Right now, I’m going to bed.

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In Tuesday morning’s C-J, CM Coffey’s shrill theatrics are discretely (and mercifully) overlooked in a straightforward account of the Monday council meeting:

Council approves storm-water board; Two more votes needed for New Albany panel, by Ben Zion Hershberg, (Courier-Journal).

"We're trying to save people money," Price said as he questioned whether members of the new board should be paid … Price said that he and others would be willing to serve on such a board for free …

To get professionals to serve on the storm-water board and put in the hours and work required will require compensation, (Mayor James) Garner said.


In a nutshell, there it is.

In two and a half years of service, Uncouncilman Price’s already limited repertoire of leadership skills has continued to erode until nothing of substance remains save for the lowest common denominator of Wal-Mart’s cheapest deal every day, but just like the majority of Wal-Mart shoppers, the Uncouncilman is unwilling or unable to discuss the true cost of his preferred super-low Price.

But we can view these depths openly at each and every council meeting, as the Uncouncilman panders to the same venomous group of die-hard and purely congenital obstructionists, meandering monthly across the same frozen intellectual tundra with the same increasingly trite catch phrases, utterly bereft of vision for the future, and reduced to pawing the hand that turns the calendar forward while pathetically bleating, “we can’t afford to go forward.”

There’s never a thought as to the frightening cost of not going forward -- but that would appear to be the mayor's job, as such deliberations are a predictably easy target for politically calculated attacks.

Meanwhile, whatever the pitch of CM Coffey’s voice – and last evening, it was loud and confrontational, at least until fellow councilman Mark Seabrook and sewer board attorney Greg Fifer joined to call his typically hollow bluster-bluff – his script remains the same three-step shuffle: (1) There is a conspiracy to deprive Coffey of information, (2) blame must be assigned, and (3) repeat first step.

The delicious moment to be remembered last evening came when Fifer responded to one of CM Coffey’s outbursts of pompous bellowing with words that regular NA Confidential readers have previously ragarded: “You have a right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts!”

Stunned and reddened, the Wizard of Westside screamed back, “what are the facts?” as CM Gahan pounded the gavel to restore order.

Well, here’s a fact: The behavior of the Siamese Councilmen is an ongoing embarrassment to the city.

Here’s another one: In just one year, there’ll be the opportunity to do something about it.

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For a fine, detailed council meeting report, see NA Council talks new sewer panel, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune). It's been posted early on the web site, and we're appreciative of this diligence.