It’s a city council Monday, and our elected officials will be looking at not one … not two … but three controversial agenda items, each guaranteed to generate heaping portions of bile, to pack the tiny council chambers with concerned citizens, and to provide CM Dan Coffey with his cherished biweekly opportunity to preen and posture while chewing the scenery in a purely McCarthygasmic celebration of spite and envy.
Here’s a brief rundown of the fun on tap this evening.
An Ordinance to Amend Section 32-80 of the Code Of Ordinances: The New Albany Fire Department Candidate Selection Act
When last we visited the council, its newly elected president had somewhat ineptly dithered until the very last moment to change the meeting agenda, excluding G-06-21 from consideration, and compounding his problems by preventing discussion of the matter -- even though a large body of people who had not been informed of the sudden change sat earnestly in attendance.
See: CM Kochert’s petard: Self-hoisting, no waiting.
Tonight CM Kochert returns for an encore, and having given his random procedural wheel yet another mighty heave, a spanking new policy has gurgled forth: Henceforth, if one cares to sit through an entire meeting’s worth of foreplay, which customarily includes ample examples of conjoined councilmen pontification and oppositionist blather, then – and only then – Slippery Larry will permit the staging of “New Albany Idol” with his new “MISCELLANEOUS COMMUNICATIONS: (public comments on non-agenda items)” design feature.
Seeing as both the NA Confidential and Volunteer Hoosier blogs first raised this notion of an expansion of citizen participation back in spring, 2005 (coincidentally, about the same time as the council began discussing the topic of firefighter hiring), we heartily endorse CM Kochert’s decision, and hope to be reading the telephone book to captive council persons at midnight.
Unfortunately, all of the preceding instances of damage control have been made necessary by executive bumbling that itself bears no direct connection to the firefighter hiring ordinance.
An Ordinance to Prohibiting Smoking in Specified Areas
The president’s ham-fisted pawprints are all over this one, too, even if his elevation to parliamentary kingpin has made it necessary to hand the brief to CW Bev Crump.
Given the smoking ordinance’s current semi-legible condition as a declamatory mishmash, large portions of which have been cribbed and crudely Kochertized from a template at the Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights’ website (including references to a “city manager” and “county administrator”), obviously it is destined for considerable revamping and fine-tuning in committee, and will be returning with zombie-like regularity to foment community unrest well into the coming year.
One thing is clear: If the premises of the anti-smoking bloc are correct, and "there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke," then there should be absolutely no exceptions. If incorrect, there should be no ordinance. Gradualism and exceptions are meaningless; it should be all, or nothing at all.
View the ordinance here as a .pdf file, beginning circa page 27 and extending for at least 15 pages … imagine how long it will take for inveterate non-readers from West Endia to tackle … ask yourself whether a legal definition of a “bar” should correspond with that used by the regulating authorities in Indianapolis … and consider the likelihood of the Floyd County health department authorities being willing and able enforce a city ordinance without city money being allocated for enforcement by a council generally unwilling to enforce ordinances that already exist. Ask Larry Kochert this question: Why this, and why now?
And see: Emperor Kochert’s newly progressive anti-smoking clothes -- and their utterly striking invisibility and CM Kochert's council legacy? One clue: It won't be a smoking ordinance.
Ordinance Amending the Code of Ordinances New Albany, Indiana, Title XV, Chapter 156 (Docket P-12-06: Pat & Pam Kelly – Summit Springs Development)
Discussion of this, the latest in a series of divisive green field development projects, is my not-so-dark-horse choice to prompt a shouting match, either between citizens, council members, or both.
In essence, local zoning authorities use existing sets of criteria to rate such projects, which pass to the council for final approval, and are considered by the council using entirely different sets of criteria (read: political and electoral). The predictable result is a wide divergence of philosophical intent, and a striking absence of contextual continuity from one debate to the next.
With open space at an ever-increasing premium within the city limits of New Albany, but numerous adjacent tracts available for redevelopment and the type of adaptive reuse that we advocate here on a weekly basis, it continues to be frustrating that the square-pegged development logic of the “limitless” exurb so often is forcibly jammed into what are urban holes of decidedly different shape and ideal usage.
Unfortunately, a big part of the problem is the community’s inability – perhaps its unwillingness – to unify for the pursuit and maintenance of common development goals. To reframe our zoning standards according to a futuristic perspective, and to step up enforcement of standards already determined, is to set goals that are consistent with a principled recognition of changing circumstances, and to plan how these bars can be cleared for overall betterment.
As with so many other issues, I’m entirely unsure how we get past the enmity of generations and eliminate the personal animus that tends to improperly provide the backdrop to most of the council’s zoning decisions. It is clear that a working compromise between certain development mentalities structured to transform corn fields into asphalt, and those addressing the city’s pressing need to meet the demands of a far different – not better, not worse, just different – target market for an urban experience downtown, must be achieved … and soon.
Like so many previous proposals that have come before the council for consideration, it is likely that the Summit Springs project will be subject to the spasmodic paradigms of the body’s ward-heeling faction, and that it will be approved or rejected in the lamentable absence of a genuine community debate over developmental standards. Where the coin will drop is anyone’s guess, as it always is with this group.
In a final bow to the surreal, we note the presence on tonight’s agenda of CM Bill Schmidt’s much belated request for funding to restore the viability of the Unsafe Building Fund, New Albany’s dereliction removal arm.
To recap, the UBF has been in deficit (not “deficient,” as some councilman persistently and incorrectly allege) since the current body took office, with CM Schmidt perennially content to permit the non-functional and unfunded entity to be used as a politically-motivated bludgeon against a mayor he despises -- until the bluff finally was called in January by the Building Commission president, who publicly asked for the council to revitalize the UBF.
Now, if the stars align, we’ll be able to demolish a few unsafe structures, although there’ll still be insufficient political will to enforce those building standards that might have prevented dilapidation in the first place -- and, true to form, the Schmidt coup d'geriatrique has done little if anything to redress this particular imbalance.
Will Blair Affordable Homes protest this unprecedented deprivation of its right, as provided by New Albany’s landmark Slumlord Protection Act, to quickly flip properties to aspiring, ahem, rental property managers and unsuspecting non-profits?
We hear that civil rights lawsuit coming. Until then, bring a magazine, knitting or some very strong drugs. It’s going to be a long, cool one.