Readers, please know that while the following might be filed under satire, Even Deeper Throat is in fact a real person, not a fictional creation; his comments have been incorporated here in an effort to provoke discussion, and are not necessarily those of the author. What do you think? New Albany's city council meets this evening ... and here's the sparse agenda. Bring sunscreen (for repelling the harmful glow cast by the Glimmer Twins), a seat cushion and your sedative of choice.
There are times when New Albany’s perpetual sewage follies seem to surpass daily human understanding in a manner that invites immediate, involuntary psychotherapy. Consider this relevant passage in a 1993 Art Journal commentary; it's not for the squeamish:
Freud argued that feces, as matter that comes from within oneself and then becomes matter outside and thus independent of oneself, is recognized by the child as his "creation." In this recognition, the child frequently uses feces for love, offering it up as a gift to those for whom he cares. As something which he makes and which becomes his own (and is not bestowed on him externally), the child perceives of feces as personal property that defines independence. The child also recognizes that this substance, often problematically received by the world, can be used aggressively, as a weapon. Thus a child's sense of mastery, power, and defiance derives initially from manipulation of excrement.
The last sentence deserves an encore:
Thus a child's sense of mastery, power, and defiance derives initially from manipulation of excrement.
But in New Albany, sewage isn’t so much a weapon as it is the ultimate excuse. When it comes to the sewer utility, successive generations of local elected officials are like the Welsh and Scottish sin-eaters of olden times, absorbing the procrastination, sloth and expedience of their predecessors, and then being ritually absolved in turn by the next wave of unimaginative caretakers, and so we find ourselves as a city always in the position of fighting previous battles, and always using the urgency of unfurnished previous business to explain why we can’t look into the future or plan for anything beyond the shortfall to come.
And that’s because when it is least expected, the Grim Reaper, otherwise known as the wielder of the dictates of the court-ordered consent degree, summarily demands a huge pile of money, and amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth, a check for the interest is cut, the principle remains untouched, Band-Aids are applied, and having spared the citizenry the unfathomable burden of another couple bucks a month, another election cycle makes its merry way through their craniums, much cheap beer is consumed, BBQ bologna is tossed merrily from second-floor windows, and God is thanked yet again for overlooking us.
Doesn't "He" ever.
Sewers and storm water, budgets and no-bid contracts, grandstanding and stand-up commedy, resolutions and overturned vetoes, chaos and rancor, marriages of convenience and battlefield divorces … and right up front, the Odd Couple holds sway.
Verily, it is next to impossible to attribute purity of motive to an inveterate, self-serving ward heeler like 1st district councilman Dan Coffey, so how to explain the scruffy and vainglorious Wizard’s current agenda-sharing partnership with the 6th district’s affable Jeff Gahan?
After all, during three years of council service together, the two routinely have been at odds. Moreover, CM Gahan is everything his amok counterpart is not: He’s educated, polite, reasonable, and as close to progressive-minded as any single person presently serving in local government at any level.
How to explain the cognitive dissonance engendered by this seemingly irreconcilable tableau?
One interpretation of the situation comes to us from the lips of Even Deeper Throat, an apparent insider, who last week agreed to a surreptitious meeting at the rear of the buggy whip factory located atop the parking garage at State and Market.
Dodging distracted commuters, Even Deeper Throat explained it this way:
There has been some criticism of the council due to personalities and boy, do I understand it. I do not think that many realize how important the vote was (last) Saturday. I think it was the most important vote of the past four years. This was the council starting to take back control of the city finances from the sewer board. Next year we will have a much better council. Getting the sewers under the council control is very important. I have looked at all of the figures of their monies (believe me it is not a budget), except for their "special projects" which are mostly expansion of sewer lines into the fringe and the county, they operate about 2.5 million in the black each year.
Peering over the guardrail, I could see Pat Harrison's picket line. Her sign read, "HOW ABOUT WELFARE FOR SLUMLORDS -- FOR A CHANGE." I lamented the death of irony in America as Even Deeper Throat continued:
Once they are under control, the council will have the money to do great things for this city. Once they solve the sewer issue there will be money to fix all of the streets, which are in the worst condition I have ever seen), hire more inspectors (I doubt twenty though), and make room for special lanes for those that enjoy two wheeled transportation. I am of the opinion that the sewer board has been holding this city back (and up) for a long time and if things work out the way I am hoping there could be a very bright future for the city during the next ten years.
We continued to chat while walking to a handy park bench across from the sewage treatment plant, which smelled of lilacs and brand new automotive interiors on a brutally hot day. What about that cognitive dissonance? Giving the benefit of the doubt to Gahan, could it be possible that Coffey, too, is somehow sincere, and if so, how do we go about detecting trustworthiness behind the numerous chips of acrimony resting on the Wizard’s slumped shoulders? Do they make Geiger counters that strong? Are hazmat suits recommended? If we come into contact with the unadulterated bile, will it leave an unsightly blemish on our favorite Kochertian leotards?
Deep Throat thoughtfully drew from his Gauloise, and paused before answering:
It is just that the issue cuts across all lines, which makes for an odd alliance. Kochert and Zurschmiede are sewer board members first and council members second. Messer wants to be chief. Coffey needs an audience. Blevins needs to learn to read the ordinances before he votes on them. Crump needs development. Price needs to get rid of cell phones and Schmidt needs his medicine.
As Even Deeper Throat connected the dots, I saw a huge, carcass-engorged groundhog slithering across the grounds of the treatment plant across Main Street. Upon further examination, I was surprised to see that it was two women in conjoined full camouflage, crawling in the underbrush with an infrared camera in tow and a Big Chief tablet in hand.
Meanwhile, my chain-smoking informant was by no means finished. I needed to understand how the Friday afternoon massacre and the veto override went hand in hand to explain the “strange coalition” between Coffey and Gahan.
The stormwater board went too far. Even Messer said so at the last meeting and was willing to vote for court action against them but not the sewer board. When the sanitation department was eliminated there were months of public debate in the papers and at council meetings. The storm water board did the same with no warning at all and it took everyone by surprise. The reaction should have been obvious but it was not to inexperienced board members.
Was that Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner speeding past on the way to uncounted riches at Caesar’s? And if the city council refuses jurisdiction over the fringe area to forestall sewer construction, does that mean that enterprising businessmen are free to erect high-dollar “gentlemen’s clubs” there so long as they’re connected to septic tanks? Even Deeper Throat concluded:
Gahan had to let Coffey take the lead on these issues, in fact he told him he had to. Gahan understands that it is better to let Coffey take the lead from that side of the table in order to gain the support that is needed to make the necessary changes. I believe it was Churchill who said that he would jump into bed with the devil himself (Stalin) to rid the world of Hitler. There has to be some postering and odd alliances to do, in the end, what is right for the city.
As the ghost of LBJ descended in the odiferous gloaming, we parted ways. It was late, and the hop juice was calling.