Saturday, March 31, 2007
What better time than my current period of home recuperation following rotator cuff surgery to break out “Bix Restored” for an epic listening party?
“Bix Restored” gathers all surviving 78 rpm records made by jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931) along with more than a few alternate takes. The music is arranged chronologically by recording date, and takes up four 3-compact disc sets.
That’s right: 12 CDs.
From my vantage point astride the top floor recliner, and with frequent breaks for napping and the mandated three daily hours of physical therapy (ouch), I finished the final disc on Thursday evening.
With respect to jazz as an art form, Bix’s legacy is substantial, and dozens of professional musicologists and academics are fully capable of explaining why, sparing me the obligation other than to note that to a previous generation of his contemporaries, Bix symbolized the inventive, daring and hopelessly impractical artist, forced into artistic enslavement (see Whiteman, Paul) and then cruelly cut down in the prime of life.
The truth is somewhat more prosaic. Employment with Whiteman’s ponderous pop orchestra, with which Bix cut the majority of records, was in fact a plum position, highly paid and much sought. And, the sad reality of Bix’s self-destructive drinking habits – dying before the repeal of Prohibition of complications from alcoholism, Bix certainly ingested more than his share of rotgut – isn’t east to overlook even if he was universally adored by friends and fellow musicians.
In the end, the truth’s in the music. Bix’s full tone, clarity of phrasing and melodic lyricism usually carry the day even when accompanying musicians are clueless or Whiteman’s less adept arrangers clutter the soundscape with pomp and circumstance. In jazz parlance, he plays “cool” whether or not the music’s “hot.” He can’t help it.
Understandably, being dead for three quarters of a century and being known for skills on behalf of a uniquely American music that most Americans no longer acknowledge has its way of making millions of Americans forget all about you, with unpleasant ramifications for anyone who wants “to be remembered.”
However, as with cultural icons of previous eras, ranging from the Marx Brothers to the Berlin Wall, and from the Paul Reising Brewing Company to ordinance enforcement in New Albany, I’ll do my best to keep memories alive.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Having grown up with a shovel in one hand and a book in the other, it's a feeling I well understand. Certainly, it's one I've been struggling with more than usual as of late, owing to the fact that the notion of revitalization applies to one's person as much as it does to a city. Self-reinvention can be a tough business, especially if one leads a dualistic life to begin with.
It's likely a product of some logical fallacy whose name I don't have the energy to summon at the moment, but it occurs to me that the reverse is true as well. If my own revitalization process resembles that of a city, then the city's process must resemble that of mine, thousands of mes, all going through some sort of loosely collective, simultaneous experience, passing from one way of being into another.
Lubrano from Limbo:
We didn't know it then, but those days were the start of a branching off-a redefining of what it means to be a workingman in our Italian-American family. Related by blood, we're separated by class, my father and I. Being the white-collar child of a blue-collar parent means being the hinge on the door between two ways of life. With one foot in the working class, the other in the middle class, people like me are Straddlers, at home in neither world, living a limbo life. It's the part of the American Dream you may have never heard about: the costs of social mobility. People pay with their anxiety about their place in life. It's a discomfort many never overcome.
What drove me to leave what I knew? Born blue-collar, I still never felt completely comfortable among the tough guys and anti-intellectual crowd who populated much of my neighborhood in deepest Brooklyn, part of a populous, insular working-class sector of commercial strips, small apartment buildings, and two-family homes. I never did completely fit in among the preppies and suburban royalty of Columbia, either. It's like that for Straddlers, who live with an uneasiness about their dual identity that can be hard to reconcile, no matter how far from the old neighborhood they eventually get. Ultimately, "it is very difficult to escape culturally from the class into which you are born," Paul Fussell's influential book Class: A Guide through the American Status System quotes George Orwell as saying. The grip is that tight. That's something Straddlers like me understand. There are parts of me that are proudly, stubbornly working class, despite my love of high tea, raspberry vinaigrette, and National Public Radio. Born with a street brawler's temperament, I possess an Ivy League circuit breaker to keep things in check. Still, I've been accused of having an edge, a chip I've balanced on my shoulder since my days in the old neighborhood.
Listen to Lubrano's interview with Liane Hansen from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, October 26, 2003, and let me know what you think.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
the new albanian said...
Con-Dem wrote: We are constitutionally bound to a 2% debt limit, which we surpassed with Scribner Place. We hear this repeated all the time, but is that really true?
Con-Dem answered that it is.
The fact of the matter is that the City of New Albany didn’t issue any debt for Scribner Place. The New Albany Redevelopment Authority, as a legally recognized separate entity, did. The Redevelopment Authority’s 2% is calculated independently of the city’s, meaning that taken together they can issue debt equaling 4% of net assessed property value.
While that’s good information, it’s irrelevant in this and most cases of Indiana public finance. The bonds issued were done so as part of a lease structure, a perfectly legal and commonplace financing method not bound by the 2% debt limit. The truth is, Scribner Place financing doesn’t affect our debt limit at all.
As the State Board of Tax Commissioners explained in a preliminary fair market value report to an Indiana General Assembly study committee in 1996:
Local governments in Indiana, like most local governments throughout the nation, rely on the local property tax base to generate revenue to repay debt issued to finance capital improvement projects. Local governments can sell general obligation (GO) bonds which are supported by the full, faith and credit, or unlimited taxing power, of the entire taxing unit. But there are state constitutional and statutory provisions that restrict the ability of local governments to issue GO debt in Indiana.
Article 13, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution limits the total principal indebtedness of any political subdivision to no more than 2 percent of the net assessed valuation of taxable property within the taxing unit. The debt limitation applies to 2 percent of net assessed valuation, not 2 percent of true tax value. The constitutional debt limit applies to each municipal corporation individually, and not in the aggregate to municipal corporations which may cover the same area or include the same taxpayers. This has led to the establishment of many overlapping municipal corporations (e.g., school, jail) and special taxing units (e.g., special districts such as fire, library, parks and recreation, sanitation, and redevelopment authorities) that use the same property tax base as the general government to finance capital improvements.
Local government property-tax backed debt in Indiana consists primarily of non-GO bonds because of these debt limits. Most local property-tax backed bonds sold in Indiana are lease rental bonds. During 1992-1995, more than $2.3 billion in lease rental bonds were sold, compared to only $218 million in unlimited tax (GO) bonds. Lease rental bonds account for 88 percent of all of bonds sold by local entities in the state. Most general governmental and school corporation lease rental bonds are repaid directly from lease rental payments that are raised from property tax revenues.
Lease rental bonds are popular with local governments precisely because they are not subject to the 2 percent debt limit.
In our case, the city’s portion of the lease rental payments are covered with Economic Development Income Tax funds, with property taxing authority used only as a backup mechanism in order to secure a better interest rate.
In a discussion of TIF districts, Ball State’s Center for Economic and Community Development explains the lease arrangements thusly:
When other tax revenues are pledged to enhance a TIF financing, Indiana constitutional debt limit restrictions often dictate that the financing be structured as a lease. Under this structure, a separate entity known as a redevelopment authority is created by ordinance of the unit's legislative body. The redevelopment authority then issues bonds, constructs the project, and leases it back to the redevelopment commission. The commission then pays lease rentals to the authority from TIF and the other pledged revenues in an amount sufficient to pay the authority bonds.
Lease rental bonds are a fundamental method of local government finance across the country and have been since the 80s. Their use gives municipalities flexibility to finance projects while creating more attractive situations for investors.
As the Tax Commission clarifies:
Unlike most lease rental bonds sold throughout the nation, Indiana lease rental bonds do not contain an annual appropriation-out clause enabling the government to annually withhold debt service payments.
In effect, such lease rental bonds are structured as synthetic GO bonds. This provides Indiana lease rental bonds with two additional layers of repayment security that is absent most other lease rental bonds in the nation. The additional layers of security have been fine tuned over the years so that, research shows, investors favorably view Indiana lease rental bonds since they exhibit interest costs no different than GO bonds.
With weight loss inducing regularity, generally accepted modern practice has been met with alarmism and rumor mongering in New Albany. It’s difficult to tell exactly how such rumors get started, but it’s easy enough to figure out who preys upon the fears of those factions that insist on their perpetuance.
In a supposed statement of his core values, 3rd District Council Member Steve Price let’s us know that he was the one who informed citizens “how we by-passed the 2% constitutional debt limitation” in financing Scribner Place as if it were some sort of conspiracy he’d personally uncovered. Mind you, he’s the same guy who once told a room full of constituents that we were spending all of our EDIT money on Scribner Place. We’re actually spending less than 10%.
Given that important decisions need to be made concerning the other 90%, it might be best not to rely on 100% ignorance and those who think that's all we can do.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The City receives approximately $1.5 million in EDIT funds each year. Outside of the small Scribner Place payment of $137,500, the pittance used to set Economic Development Director Paul Wheatley up for failure, and a tiny $20,000 committment to the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency, New Albany has over $1.2 million in economic development funds at its disposal per annum, outside of the current surplus. One drain on those funds, debt service on a downtown parking garage, will end soon. The misguided jail bond is paid off already.
Mr. Wheatley has at various times provided some solid thinking on the subject of how the money might be used only to have the Council respond to his well-researched ideas with a sucking force normally saved for rare earth magnets.
In addition to Wheatley's sensible requests for funds last year to be used as a match from the City to fund a downtown low interest loan pool in coordination with local banks and the Urban Enterprise Zone and to provide preliminary design studies on vacant or deteriorating historic buildings in our downtown in an effort to encourage their rehabilitation, there are a host of other ways the money could be used.
For perspective, here's how $1.2 million might be used in a given year:
• Pay for Scribner Place eight more times
• Pave about 20 miles of streets
• Buy a city block of houses and give them away for rehabilitation
• Provide 240 years of education at IU Southeast
• Pour roughly 5 miles of sidewalks
• Award 120 historic rehabilitation grants of $10,000 each
• Subsidize the total annual interest on $18 million in home mortgages at 6.5%
We have or will soon have the money without raising taxes one cent. All we have to do is pick one and pay for it.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
On Monday, all my unused drafts went up on the marquee as posts. That’s a signal to Bluegill to get ready for action, since he’ll be performing chief editor’s duty for a few days.
In turn, that’s because today I’ll be having outpatient surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder, something that has been in need of attention for quite a while. Too many curve balls? Too many progressive pints sounds more like it.
I’m quite eager and willing to follow my surgeon’s orders to the letter and get the rehab under way so there’ll still be a bicycling season for me this year – even if it doesn’t start until June. I’ve been grounded off the bike since January, and it’s just depressing having to drive to work every day. People simply shouldn’t have to do it.
So, I’m taking a break from my various jobs and hobbies, and turning over the weathered soapbox to my co-editor. Take it away, Jeff …
Monday, March 26, 2007
In unrelated news, Wal-Mart says that a Chinese tanker vessel’s recent grounding on an uncharted Pacific atoll has led to critical shortages of cheaply outsourced political clichés. The world’s largest retailer suggests that politicians in need of an immediate fix should consider endlessly recycling previously used clichés until new shipments arrive from India.
As a prelude to what follows, it is helpful to recall that Vicki Denhart, the author of “troglodyte’s revenge,” known locally as the Freedom of Speech blog, has spent the past two years posing pseudonymously as a male academic during the course of frequent slanderings and slimings obsessively directed at her apparently numerous enemies.
Erika’s primitive gurglings are periodically humorous, commonly misdirected, and always cowardly, but now the charade has escalated to a new level since Ms. Denhart declared her candidacy for an at-large city council seat. It has yet to be seen whether she will don mock male professorial garb during scheduled campaign appearances, if any. At least she’s using her real name (so far) in signing the required paperwork.
At the end of a recent, characteristically pointless recitation of fire department longevity pay statistics, which led to another in a series of anguished wails in opposition to modernity, Ms. Denhart/Erik/Erika wrote:
"When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, listen to Roger Baylor."
Readers are free to judge the veracity of the Vickster's assertion, with only one helpful comment from me.
Factual, lawful or otherwise, I sign my name to what I write.
‘Nuff said, my dear Erika.
At-large council candidate at it again: Gonder defies conventional wisdom with another substantive platform plank.
Meanwhile, the amazing and probably unprecedented story of Gonder, a city council candidate with a genuine platform and the ability to express it intelligibly, sans cliché, continues to captivate those of us in favor of thinking in the future tense.
From A Proposal:
The purpose of seeking this office is to provide a voice and a vote on the City Council that secures progress for our city. I have mentioned a few of the things that, for me, connote progress: rental housing improvement, increased homeownership, environmental concern, support of independent businesses and an infusing of the spirit of sustainability into the decision-making process.
John, please tell us: How did you get approval from the local Democratic party to go around spouting ideas?
Following a weekend’s reflection, I remain entirely confident that a vast majority of sensible people (whoa -- not so fast, David “non-city-resident” Huckleberry; the axe you’re grinding is bigger than Paul Bunyan’s), would, if queried, look upon Thursday evening’s spectacle with the same disgust, and reach precisely the same conclusion, as I did.
Given my certainty that ordinary and honest citizens of New Albany are likely to concur in this purely objective judgment, I nonetheless find myself slightly perplexed, although perhaps not yet troubled, by the blogger’s role in the politically motivated charade last week.
Specifically: Balancing our obligation as citizens to shine a bright and relentless light on the chronic flaws of the council’s obstructionist element, are we not also assisting in its enablement by rewarding misbehavior with much desired attention?
Let’s consider an example close to home.
For more than three years, I’ve observed the phenomenon of CM Price’s steady, alarming regression into what can only be properly understood as self-caricature. The more NAC explicates in painstaking detail Price’s myriad inadequacies as an office holder, all the more loudly and persistently he publicly flaunts these shortcomings, in the process managing nothing less than his transformation into something far more virulent and closely resembling our satiric renderings than he was before we commenced our efforts to expose these compelling reasons to vote against him.
Obviously, as a ward-heeling politician, Price must mobilize his core constituency of like-(in effect, non-) minded Luddites, but beyond that understandable imperative, and the blatant pandering it implies, it would seem that persistently shining our relentless light on his considerable dysfunction has simply inspired further pride in dysfunction – with self-defeating and corrosive effects for a community that must somehow escape Price’s and his ilk's blinders, brake pads and homilies if it is to succeed in rejuvenating itself.
Readers, what do you think? By giving the dysfunctional the attention they crave and providing them a stage upon which to posture, are we merely enhancing the collateral damage to the city?
If so, what’s the solution?
That is, the solution beyond showing them the door in May?
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I'm told that numerous people stopped by during the two-hour event, asking both about Charlie's candidacy and Treet's, which ordinarily isn't open on Saturday mornings.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
On numerous occasions I’ve confided to friends and pub patrons that coming up with a sequel to the legendary 2004 German-Czech beer tourism group trip has proven to be a chore. That’s because the 2004 trip was probably as close to perfection as any of us are likely to experience, and in addition, the years since have been filled with other challenges and commitments that have conspired to make a group trip difficult to schedule.
After much deliberation about the future of such endeavors, I’m pleased to announce that my mind’s finally made up. I’m planning two very different group beer trips for 2008, and you’re invited to attend.
The 2008 spring group excursion to the Pacific Northwest likely will include Seattle, Portland and Rogue Nation in Newport, Oregon. All I can say for sure is that it will take place in May, probably after the Kentucky Derby, which runs on May 3, 2008. The trip will last around 10 days. It is likely that the bulk of the group will be flying from Louisville, although participants are free to make their own arrangements subject to my being in the loop.
Once in Portland or Seattle, a chartered motorcoach will be waiting, and we’ll go from there. Of course, as many beer-related events and tours as possible will be scheduled, and there’ll be ample free time in the cities we visit for non-yeast-culture activities.
In September, 2008, the usual suspects from the beercycling gang will be organizing a bicycle-oriented beer hunting trip to Belgium and Netherlands. The core group will either take bikes or rent them in Amsterdam, which we’ll in all likelihood be using as arrival and departure point. The group will travel by train to the vicinity of the Poperinge hop festival (probably Ieper), and attend the parade on September 21, 2008. After a program in the area, we’ll ride over a period of eight or so days back to Haarlem, Netherlands (minutes from Amsterdam), where the trip will conclude.
We have precise biking maps of the entire area to be covered, and this beercycling trip will be completely planned and micromanaged to ensure that a pre-determined, specific distance is covered each day, with conclusion in a pre-booked hotel.
It is our aim to rent a vehicle to serve as sag wagon, and to carry luggage aboard the sag wagon, not in panniers has been the case on previous trips. Subject to interest and the size of the vehicle, there will be limited seating in the sag wagon for non-cycling participants – perhaps as many as three or four. In addition, given the proximity by rail of most of the sites we’ll be visiting, there is the possibility of meeting rail travelers at pre-arranged rendezvous points. I will assist interested parties in arranging their affairs, but will not actively supervise them.
As of this time, I’m interested in knowing who may be “in” for either of these planned excursions in 2008. There are no financial obligations. Write to the e-mail address in my blog profile, or leave word at the pub. Also, suggestions are appreciated.
It’s early, but preparations are starting. If you're new to this, know that my objective after organizing and arranging these trips is to pay my own way with a percentage of the proceeds, which is all above board and conducted through my side venture, Potable Curmudgeon, Inc. References from past travelers are available upon request.
I hope to see many readers next year.
Friday, March 23, 2007
City council president Larry Kochert admits to breaking the law, but had fingers crossed behind his back at the time.
I asked: “Do you have any intention of running a meeting fairly while you’re still here?”
The question was repeated to him at least three times.
Kochert’s response: “What did you do with your leotards since you’ve lost weight?”
As mating rituals go, it was almost endearing. I have decent legs, I guess, but this come-on almost qualifies as a “hunka-hunka burnin’ love.”
Moments before, in a startling eye-opener, CM Kochert had openly admitted to breaking the law, the therein lies another instructive story pertaining to his escalating unsuitability for office.
It helps to know that last night’s designated set piece of amateur troglodyte theater (parts are assigned on a rotating basis) centered on providing Kochert’s old friend, DICK STEWART, with ample public speaking time to air a self-serving complaint that he is the victim of calculated political persecution stemming from his own questionable decision to blatantly plant numerous of his political yard signs in public rights-of-way, which according to clear and specific passages in the city’s ordinances, is plainly illegal.
STEWART helpfully provided the audience with photos that showed the universally improper places where his signs had been planted prior to being uprooted by the city after complaints, the latter almost certainly phoned in by STEWART’S antiquarian cohorts in the Coup d’Geriatrique bad thespian troupe.
The drama of STEWART’s typically buzzing, gnat-like lamentation of victimization was delayed from his original target of public speaking time at the council session’s beginning, when only agenda items are to be addressed, to non-agenda public speaking at the conclusion of the plodding, rancorous demonstration of native dysfunction – but not before president Kochert, in the first of at least two dozen abject instances of failure to exercise control over the meeting, sought to allow his incontinent lapdog territorial pissing rights.
Hours later, when public speaking time resumed, the whole spectacle finally played out, and city operations director Tony Toran came to the end of a forceful defense of his decision to enforce the law on the books in response to the complaints, Toran pointedly asked Kochert how the council president knew that signs had been planted in the spots depicted in STEWART’S photos, when none were there any longer to be seen.
“Because I helped him put them there,” responded Kochert, whose contempt for ordinance enforcement – while well documented over a period of decades – certainly has never been so brazenly (and breezily) conceded in public.
That’s your council president, folks. Rest assured that the civilized world isn’t laughing with him.
A full catalogue of the evening’s many grating reminders that our sitting city council, as currently constituted by people who can’t get along, and artlessly “administered” by a president who has no desire to administer, is beyond my ability to relate this late in the evening, or perhaps ever.
Verily, you’re read it all before.
Another bizarre and contrived conspiracy theory, this one pertaining to the city’s sanitation contract, was excitedly unfurled, duly refuted, and the resolution calling for immediate action tabled with recommendation of cowardice. The resolution’s sponsor, CM Donnie Blevins, subsequently melted down publicly and began predicting reprisals, famine and locusts. In default mode, CM Steve Price prattled nonsensically about carts, horses and doing things little by little. CM Dan Coffey, an uncharacteristic voice of reason for most of the meeting, lost his religion in an outburst against STEWART, but for once, you can’t blame the Wizard of Westside. Candidate STEWART’s pneumatic prodding is a pestilence of Biblical proportions.
Unfortunately, most ordinances requiring substantive decision making were endlessly debated sans direction from the chair, then unceremoniously tabled so that the whole, endless, vituperative process of unregulated foolishness can flare up right where it left off. One that did come to a vote was defeated. It was the second reading of an effort by CM Coffey to overturn the savagely debated recent firefighter hiring ordinance and revert to previous practice.
The crowd in attendance openly hooted and jeered these diverse and assorted travesties. The gavel was silent as unreconstructed trogs heckled public officials. Voices were raised, screaming sessions erupted, and through it all CM Kochert remained utterly devoid of the slightest considerations of impartiality and subtlety in openly playing favorites in his role as presiding officer. By the standards of my well-deserved and uncontested ouster earlier this year, half-a-dozen could have been ejected last night, and were not.
As with Kochert’s sadly characteristic decision that breaking the law if perfectly fine so long as it enables him to score political points, his increasing unwillingness to exercise control and do something about the escalating chaos during council meetings reinforces a legacy of astounding underachievement that would be laughable if not so harmful to any hope of progress in the city of New Albany.
There is nothing novel or surprising in any of this. To consistently enable disruption and dysfunction is to expect disruption and dysfunction in return, and so it is. We can hope only that the cleansing power of the forthcoming elections will remove those impediments to professionalism that currently control the council.
The last thing Larry Kochert said to me Thursday night presumably was meant to be facetious: “You’re a fine citizen.”
I can’t say that I disagree with the councilman, seeing as one obligation of citizenship beyond the obvious imperative of obeying the law is the exercise of free speech -- to point in the direction of ward-heeling political hacks whose historically exaggerated powers now are diminishing, and to say clearly and without reservation:
But, barring a miracle, this council is not going to accomplish anything of substance for the remainder of the year -- unless one views fisticuffs as a form of legislative victory. The stakes for the city are far too high, but that’s the way it will be, in spite of well meaning efforts by a few council persons to reverse the trend. The obstructionists are too old to learn, too angry to compromise, too dense to “see the big picture,” or all three at once.
There’s no love coming from the current group, and if you care about the city of New Albany, it may be time to go to the mattresses.
It can no longer be doubted that we’re on our own.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
It's election season.
As predicted, a nasty but predictably adolescent scrum has enveloped the body politic of our city. The ball’s somewhere in the middle of all those writhing, clawing bodies, and about all that can be seen from the bleacher seats is Johnny Cash’s “the mud, the blood and the beer.”
Of course, there’s always a certain internal logic to these frenetic couplings and dizzying shifts of alliances, to the pandering, caterwauling and buffoonish posturing of people otherwise identifiable on random occasions as adults, and to their endless array of dirty tricks, smirks and tactical harassments.
Look no further than the political yard signs so many candidates numbingly erect in public right-of ways where, naturally, the signs are not supposed to be – even as they hasten to assure us they’re 100% for law and order in New Albany. Certainly it must be an indicator of something approximating temporary insanity.
Consider further that far more often than not, Larry Kochert spent the past city council term (if there really is a deity, his last) voting in concert with Bill Schmidt, and against positions espoused by Jack Messer. Now Messer and Kochert both support Larry Scharlow for mayor, and Scharlow’s treasurer, Bob Caesar, is running against Schmidt.
(Late note: I'm told that the rules prohibit Bob Caesar from simultaneously being a candidate and a treasurer, and that he has resigned as reasurer for the Scharlow campaign. However, the gist of the point is unchanged.)
As an aside, it’s been particularly fascinating lately to watch as another wave of pre-meditated venom has been unleashed against Mayor James Garner, who by now should be reduced to quivering and politically emasculated goo by the intensity of the relentless assaults … but damned if he doesn’t somehow keep answering the bell, time after time, in spite of the furious pounding.
I’m not sure how Mayor Garner absorbs the punishment, and whether it’s even worth doing so, although it must mean that his candidacy for re-election is still regarded in some quarters as viable – or else, why would the full-court pressure continue unabated?
There are no Billy Tubbs disciples in the current motley group – are there?
Irrespective of party and faction, almost all these clamorous outpourings of noise and repetitive bile have one fundamental thing in common: They are accompanied by a complete and utter absence of a principled program, one capable of convincing us that the individual at the lectern hurling abuse in all directions has any better idea of a future plan than the frequent victims of his or her wrath.
Instead, tradition reigns supreme. All is platitude, homily and cliché. Nothing is offered by the majority of current occupants or aspiring candidates (of course, there are periodic and honorable exceptions) to indicate a grasp of modernity, a coherent system of policy ideas, or an applicable state of instructive ideals,
Rather, we’re regaled with pious assertions of honesty, integrity, and happy marriages fecund with children, on and on, ad nauseam, and complete with vapid slogans like these:
“New leadership – not management”
“Standing up for you”
If you approached Republican mayoral candidate Randy Hubbard right now and asked him, “what time is it”, I’m not sure he would risk an answer for fear of taking a substantive position on any topic that truly mattered. Instead, he’d propose to take it under advisement before adding that he’d consider asking the community if it considered the time of day as an important issue.
He’s not alone. When asked the time, most members of New Albany’s political class would answer with the year of their high school graduation – that is, the ones who actually graduated.
I suppose one way to look at all this is that perhaps the glass in New Albany is indeed half full. In spite of our many problems, enough people care about the community to run for office and campaign to the best of their abilities, even if they’re unable or unwilling to offer anything of substance. They’ve neither read a book nor learned how to program their DVD players (make that VCRs, to account for the backwardness), but they mean well – so the half-full argument goes.
Perhaps that’s true, because the converse scenario of a glass half empty suggests a genuinely loathsome and incurable heart of darkness, and consequently is something – like a nuclear attack and potential pandemics – too unsettling to fathom. To be sure, the past council term has revealed in startling clarity the Price we as a city must pay for electing and empowering overmatched, under-gray-mattered dullards to office.
Me? I merely smile and grin at the chaos all around. Quite some time ago, Randy Smith -- then an NAC collaborator -- wrote:
The conclusion we have drawn is this: the problems facing our community are not states of nature. They stem from an environment poisoned by actual individuals, individuals who devalue education, deride progressivism, and seek only to elevate their egos by jealously guarding the levers of power from any who might actually want to use them.
Our critics seem to shudder at what they call unfounded personal attacks. They miss the point. They are personal because (we) believe (they are) the persons who are responsible for the mess we are in. So long as the citizenry averts their eyes from what is a fairly repugnant form of political knife-fighting, they will never know who those looters and destroyers are. Then, when election time comes and the voters see New Albany sitting by the side of the road with a flat tire, they'll assume the driver is at fault. We're here to show who is wielding the knives, who is spreading the tire-puncturing tacks, who is pouring sugar in the gas tanks.
At precisely this moment, it’s pretty much all of them, irrespective of previous faction and alignment, who are dumping “sugar in the gas tanks” by the sack, merrily fiddling “Ward Heeler’s Reel,” and plotting, scheming and lowering the common denominator even further as the rest of us search high and low for the faintest sign of genuine leadership at a time when just a smidgen of it might help to push the city’s ship back out into the harbor.
Check back tonight. NAC plans on attending the council meeting, albeit in disguise -- wouldn't want to give the presiding officer too much warning to sharpen the axe, eh?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Found myself right back where I started again.
--Jim Croce, “Age”
Can you tear a rotator cuff by shrugging?
Spin it any way you like. Point selectively to one ordinance rather than another. Advocate starving an arm of government even while you’re criticizing it for underperformance. Repeat trite homilies so often that even your dog turns tail and runs for cover. Try to square as many circles as you please – go on; no one’s counting, primarily because no one ever learned to count. Transform personal grievances into relentless crusades. Change the subject. Howl at the moon. Pretend you’re a college professor. Switch personalities the way some people change ball caps.
It’s all immensely entertaining to me. Now, sweep all the subterfuge and evasions aside, and the fundamental questions still remain:
Why does the city of New Albany have such difficulties enforcing its own laws?
Why does a culture of ownership mean so little to so many who steadfastly (and hypocritically) claim to believe in market-based, democratic precepts?
Why is it so difficult to grasp that New Urbanism is little more than leveraging usable existing resources to create greater opportunities for greater numbers?
Is there something we’ve missed in the evolution of New Albany, beyond the obvious fact that anti-intellectualism is the only true religion that unites disparate elements within the city’s gates?
It can’t be denied that at some point in the dim and distant past, the community deemed it fitting and proper to provide a regulatory regime for its housing stock. If this were not so, there would be no pertinent codes on the city’s books, and yet they’re right there.
Evidently the community is – or at least was – in agreement on this point.
Notwithstanding the devil’s advocacy of a relative few who somehow smell the stench of elitism in the impossibly radical notion that rule of law might constitute some form of a level playing field, it would appear that these building and housing codes amount to commonly agreed-upon standards, and as such, they pertain to minimum considerations of safety on behalf of all, but especially those, like children, who are most in need of protection.
Significantly, such standards also are a cost of doing business for those seeking to rent housing space to others.
However, seeing that a rule of bathos continues to define everyday political life in New Albany, it has been apparent for years, perhaps decades, that the city has chosen to abdicate significant portions of its responsibility to enforce these standards. The practical consequences of such negligence are horrid, they are damning to the legacies of those who have aided and abetted it, and only the blindly disingenuous among us have failed to note them.
Not only has the city’s housing stock deteriorated, with commensurate damage to the efforts of current and future generations to preserve the city’s viability, but the cynical and seemingly perpetual abandonment of the poor and the powerless to vicious recurring cycles of vastly reduced health, safety and hope have contributed immeasurably to an abysmally wretched civic reputation that unfortunately has been fully earned.
If all that were not sufficient for compensatory show trials to begin immediately, this historical abandonment of enforcement, and our persistent neglect of standards, has in reality amounted to an indirect subsidy for rental property owners, one that reduces the cost of doing business as a landlord. Whether such a situation increases the owner’s profit margin is a scenario that readers may contemplate on their own time, but I don’t believe it is far-fetched.
Given the prevalence of federally subsided housing, ineffective or infrequent HUD inspections might constitute yet another indirect subsidy of this purportedly “market-based” system of warehousing people. Whether or not this is the case is for others to determine, but the central point remains: Indirect subsidies that result from a relaxation of accepted standards surely reduce some costs for rental property owners, but at an unfairly high price for the city as a whole.
It is my contention that subsidies might be deployed in a far more productive fashion.
Just about everyone, occupying all sides of this and other issues, agree that while rental property always will be a fact of life, and in fact should be a fact of life, the community is better off as a whole when more people own their homes.
Rather than the indirect subsidy given rental property owners when standards are not enforced, which we can reasonably infer does much to enable the less functional aspects of neighborhoods filled to the brim with rental properties, doesn’t it make more sense to enable home ownership through any measure possible? Indirect subsidies, direct subsidies – whatever and whenever possible. Shouldn’t we seek to enable a culture of ownership?
Americans seldom grasp satire, but disingenuousness would seem to be a birthright. The "market forces" referred to earlier this week by commentators like Knighttrain currently aren't "free market" at all, any more than exurban sprawl represents a “free market,” because we all subsidize that particular “free market” mechanism, too. Don't we have both a right and an obligation to examine the myriad ways that direct and indirect subsidies provide for both the continued exploitation of the underprivileged by unregulated landlords, and inflict ever greater individual expense to prop up widened public services in expanding exurban areas?
Why aren't we demanding a "full investigation" of these incredibly expensive phenomenons?
Ah, politics in spring. As we’ve seen throughout this week’s threads, there are many – my 3rd district Uncouncilman almost certainly foremost among them – who will shamelessly seek to transform this issue of a truly civil society's basic community standards into a completely different (and self-aggrandizing) tug-of-war touting have-nots vs. haves, us vs. them, and little people vs. elitists. It's simply not true.
It isn't elitist to seek economic development that makes the pie bigger for all.
It isn't elitist to suggest that we directly subsidize home ownership rather than indirectly subsidize exploitation.
It isn't elitist to posit that without investing in the future of the community, there is little hope of the community’s future.
Elitism? That dog won’t hunt, and at least some of you know better than to imagine that it might. If you’re looking to defend the indefensible, you’re going to have to come up with something stronger than populist blather.
A showcase on on Main Street; Buildings to become offices and stores, by Sheldon S. Shafer (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).
A block of century-old buildings that was once the heart of Louisville's downtown whisky district will be transformed into a $50 million commercial showplace with offices and retail stores selling clothing, jewelry and furniture.
That's what investor Todd Blue sees with his "Iron Quarter" project -- a 12- to 14-story glass and steel complex to be built incorporating some of the currently run-down facades along Main Street between First and Second, near the planned downtown arena.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
In fact, I’m hesitant to publicize at-large city council candidate John Gonder’s blog for fear that he’ll become an immediate target of the Coup d’Geriatrique’s fear-mongering anonymous hit squad, but since the regressive elements fail to frighten me – they make me laugh, and besides, history is about to overtake them (calling all dustbins) – I’m reasonably sure that John also is immune to their siren-like call for a retreat into the collective womb.
These disclaimers aside, read this posting at John Gonder’s blog: New or Old Urbanism?
… we in New Albany have the opportunity to create New Urbanist neighborhoods, not from the ground up but rather from existing structures, in existing neighborhoods, with existing streets, and existing sewers, where people would send children to (wait a second don't get carried away) existing schools, and people would attend existing churches, and play in existing parks.
Anathema to Uncouncilman Steve Price’s no-can-do, one-chord millennial sect, perhaps, but for many of us it’s refreshing to find a candidate for office who can discuss topics that genuinely impact New Albany in a contemporary manner, and to commit these thoughts to writing sans plaintive wail or super-sized pander.
There’s probably an ordinance against articulate candidates, but never fear.
If so, it isn’t being enforced.
Can a full investigation be very far behind?
Monday, March 19, 2007
To respect certain wishes, I’ve had to edit the exchange, and of course you may return to the original using the above link to see if I’ve done it competently. The point to me is that the issues raised here are worthy of discussion, and many of you will have lost sight of the thread once it began sinking down the page.
The gist will become clear fairly quickly. Please join the conversation, subject to this blog’s usual disclosure policy.
So what is the deal with the property at 703 Main? It was for sale for months and the sign is gone now. Did it sell? I looked at it and it did not look that bad to me. Nothing a little yard work could not cure.
knightrain: Are you a slumlord wannabe? I bought Bill Baize's other property at 619 E Main a year ago. I'm now watching as all his slumlordly cover-ups fall off and the full extent of 30 years of neglect shows thru. I will spend $100,000 before I’m done to undo the damage caused to this beautiful historic house. I also looked at 703 E Main and it's the same stuff. Your comment is most perplexing...unless you're a slumlord.
No Coyle. I used to own a slum on Main Street for 30 years, but sold it for 12 times what I paid. I notice that there is a lot of property up for sale in the area and I cannot figure it. Speculation I guess. BTW--My slum was inspected many times by the city over the years and always passed. A couple of times I had to make some changes as the code changed. I meant that I looked at the outside of the 703 and it did not look as bad as what I was hearing. I did not know who owned it. 10:39 AM
The New Albanian said...
Congratulations, Knighttrain. You've excelled at capitalism. Hard to figure why other won't do the same ... but wait ... slumlording is a form of capitalism, isn't it? Doesn't make 'em Kulaks, though, hard as we may wish it to be so.
Yes, it is and I may dabble again soon. But the truth is there are many in the downtown area who have a vision that is not very realistic, or they just are not very tolerant of others outside of what they perceive to be their social class. People should realize that New Albany is a very poor community with a generally poorly educated population and poor people need roofs they can afford. NOT THAT I AM IN FAVOR OF CREATING SLUMS!!! But the fact remains that there is an economic niche to be filled. There have been many urban areas where they have scattered the public housing into many areas of the city rather than have the "projects". Perhaps we could expand these into the Klerner Lane area and the Main Street area and we can all feel better about ourselves.
The New Albanian said...
"But the truth is there are many in the downtown area who have a vision that is not very realistic, or they just are not very tolerant of others outside of what they perceive to be their social class."
Pleasant thoughts from someone who previously bragged about turning a big profit on a slum, but I digress.
Please, expand upon this thought, Mr. K. This is looking increasingly like a topic that needs to be elevated to the marquee. If you agree, then I'll do so -- and the remainder of the unrealistic crowd can have a chance to join the discussion.
(Note: Knighttrain now replies to a comment that subsequently was deleted, and in turn, I have removed his references to it)
I simply implied that there are different visions and the reality in New Albany is not one that many like to accept.
There are many properties that are up to the legal codes that many on these blogs would turn up their noses at as well as the people who live in them. Families move in and out of rental housing all of the time, why? Because they are in bad financial situations. Go ask the local school principals how many children move in and out of each school in New Albany on a weekly basis---I think you would be surprised.
AS for New Albany--41% live in rental housing--12% in public housing--the median income is far below state standards and---grab this---25% of the people in New Albany over 25 did not graduate from high school----so lets build some nice upscale places for them to live? They are trying to get by. They do not need affordable housing by your standards---they need cheap housing by their standards. But there are many that need just the bare minimum to get by and as long as it meets the code it is the consumer that sets the standard---not bloggers.
New Albanian--I was joking about it being a slum--but it was in the downtown area and an older building. It met all codes and as I said was inspected many times.
The New Albanian said...
KT, duly noted, and of course I've been sassy with you, too.
BTW--I did not say I dabbled in being a slumlord---I have rented property---and have dabbled in making money----and not at the expense of poor people.As long as I am on the subject though I have rented for years before I could afford my own home and I lived in some places where the cockroaches crawling on me in the morning woke me up every day--so don't lecture to me about the poor. There is a stigma attached to renting. Everyone in the neighborhood knows you are renting and thinks a little less of you. I saw where on of the mayoral candidates said something about this situation and he referred to absentee landlords and renters in the same sentence as if the city needed to be rid of them as well. It is unfortunate that poverty is alive and well in New Albany--but the economics are not changing, it is getting worse not better I see it every day.
And that’s where we pick it up again. Readers?
Crews working on Scribner Place foundation, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).
With support pilings in place — and the incessant clanging noise created by their installation no more — Scribner Place construction workers are laying the fitness and aquatic center’s foundation before erecting the building’s steel skeleton late next month.
For more: Interest Up in Historic New Albany, from Our History in New Albany.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Mayoral candidate Doug England’s first big print ad ran in today’s Tribune:
Doug England Will Clean Up New Albany!
Garbage In Alleys … Street Litter … Unsightly Buildings … Weeds
ENGLAND FOR NEW ALBANY
The ad appears at the bottom of the Tribune’s Spectrum section, beneath an informative Robyn Davis Sekula feature article on the 1917 tornado, a piece that includes three photos of the devastation that bear a curious resemblance to certain areas of the city today, nine decades later – and the latter-day examples coming without an act of nature to blame for the mess.
Rather, today’s scenes of squalor and civic disintegration are the result of purely human decision making, much of it occurring over a period of thirty to forty years, a time when in retrospect, proclivities for future vision appear to have been entirely bred out of New Albany’s collective gene pool.
But, of course, none of it happened overnight. Successive generations of New Albany political leadership took their turns to snooze at the helm, either unable or unwilling to do more than shrug while permitting the worst angels of humanity’s nature to take their course, and abetting the expanding desperation in the city’s core neighborhoods by institutional shortsightedness, calculated political ignorance, and periodically, simple gross corruption.
Seeing as belated conversions are a characteristic both of ominous prospective deathbeds and eagerly resourceful candidates, the obvious question to ask of Doug England, who after all served two terms as mayor of New Albany, is whether any of these pressing matters, which were well along their way when Richard Nixon was in the Oval Office, ever came to his attention during eight previous years as mayor.
Among “these matters,” I would include the ongoing erosion of willingness and legal capability with reference to ordinance enforcement, an unprecedented and opportunistic expansion of unregulated rental properties at the expense of owner occupied homes in the city’s neighborhoods, the downward social immobility accompanying such shifts, and what might be termed as an inevitably deleterious and surely obvious ever-widening ripple effect of all this on the continued viability of the city itself.
And so I asked this question of Doug England, and his answer – one that I judge as perfectly sincere and truthful – is that no, these did not come to his attention, and they remained somewhat off his radar screen during his tenure as mayor.
He goes on to say that eight years away from local politics have made him humble, taught him how to listen, and broadened his field of vision, and that if given another (final, he adds) chance to serve as mayor, he’s ready to place an emphasis on improving New Albany’s neighborhoods by thinking in the future tense.
Fair enough. Please know that today’s posting is intended neither as a pro-England apologetic, nor as an anti-England polemic. Readers who have placed neighborhood issues into a position of importance in personal and political terms must judge according to their own consciences whether Doug England, or for that matter any other candidate, is capable of following through with substantive change when it comes to the city’s slowly awakening revitalization.
I note only that revitalization isn’t just about bricks and mortar, litter and slumlords, or short-term clean-up Band-Aids. A friend who is a participant in training provided by the Neighborworks Training Institute passes along this definition of revitalization:
Community and neighborhood revitalization is the strategic process of transforming neighborhoods and communities that lack vitality into places of choice through collaborations of residents, organizations and other stakeholders. These communities and neighborhoods strive to be resilient places where it makes sense for people to invest time, energy and money, where they are optimistic about their future, where they feel they have control over their surroundings and the capacity to respond to community dynamics, and where they are connected to each other and the larger region. The process addresses five key elements:
- 1. The neighborhood’s or community’s image
- 2. Market forces that act on the neighborhood or community
- 3. The physical conditions
- 4. The social conditions
- 5. Stakeholders’ ability to manage neighborhood or community issues and affairs
(Source: Strategies and Implementation Techniques for Creating Neighborhoods of Choice Through Revitalization, pg 29, Neighborworks Training Institute)
To be sure, cleaning up our neighborhoods in the physical sense is a large part of it, and yet the notion of revitalization does not refer exclusively to physical appearances, but to a collective regeneration of the urban human spirit and a restoration of a sense of community and our places within it. In this context, as important as it remains to address the need to enforce the city’s own laws and to exercise pro-active involvement, it’s immeasurably more important to foster manifestations of control, connectivity, management, resilience and optimism.
Speaking personally, qualities like these engender powerful feelings, especially when applied to one’s own backyard. The house next door to ours is for sale, and we’re keenly interested in the way that the “Hat Ladies” propose to market it – and to whom.
We hope they choose to do so via means like the Historic New Albany web site.
We’d cherish a sale to fellow conceptual travelers with an interest in the specific place in which we all live. We lament that there was a time when such homes would have been quickly abandoned to the speculative blood-suckers of the world, irrespective of location, and the conversion would have proceeded with little notice. Perhaps now, indifference and fatalism are no longer the accepted emotions when contemplating the city of New Albany’s future.
Meanwhile, it is encouraging to see Doug England putting his advertising money where the zeitgeist quite obviously is, and it is a good beginning, although far more substance from his camp is necessary.
Of the remaining mayoral candidates, Larry Scharlow (D) has a website, incumbent James Garner (D) a rental property trial balloon, little known challenger Bill Castile (D) a handful of yard signs, and Randy Hubbard (R) not a solitary public position on any topic at all, to date.
As an extension of a dialogue that we hope is emerging on these and other matters of importance, all candidates are invited to submit platforms and position papers to NA Confidential for publication, and if possible, further discussion.
See you around the neighborhood. After all, it’s where we live.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
It's a boarded up, decrepit outpost of the (former or current?) Gregory slumlord empire, proudly indicating support for the chief enabler of non-enforcement in New Albany.
We're confused. Exactly what kind of "vision" is this?
Friday, March 16, 2007
Politics sometimes makes bedfellows straight out of Bizarro Land, but this is ridiculous. The "org" proposes to spend less money for the greater good, while the "pol" seeks to spend no money, for no good, at any time. Doesn't sound like a strategy for growth, but only your inner Jethro knows for sure.
By the way, "standing up for you" returns 13,400 hits on Google. Originality? That's just a song title from a "cover" band, like "Silence Is (a) Golden (shower)."
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Imagine, then what it must feel like to take a leading role in promoting civic improvements like walking and cycling – in essence, to publicly espouse reforms in an effort to make the city itself a more livable and civilized place – when even the greatest gains accrued may not be sufficient so as to protect the advocates of change from harassment.
I’m not writing about myself in this context. It is widely known that I walk and bike New Albany’s streets on a daily basis, and do so at all hours, seldom giving the notion a second thought.
Then again, I’m a white male standing well over six feet, and weighing 235 lbs. Naturally, physical stature neither precludes violent acts nor negates harassment, but it does have a way of reducing problems.
All bicyclists have an intimate knowledge of the dangers that regularly emanate from passing autos, courtesy of inattentive, unskilled and sometimes crazed drivers. Being jacketed by several thousand pounds of metal is almost like drinking whiskey. It lowers inhibitions, and has a way of imparting behaviors that wouldn’t be attempted face to face, but seem charming and fun when practiced from an open window while speeding away from the scene.
If the occasional passing yokel is amused by baiting a man my size, just imagine what it must sometimes be like for potential targets of a more traditional nature: Our community’s women, gays and ethnic minorities, to name just three.
In the months and years to come, how many of them will be striving earnestly for a New Albany where greater walking and biking opportunities contribute to an enhanced quality of life, even as they recognize that they’ll not be able to take full advantage of these normal human pursuits owing to a stunted social and cultural milieu that extends well beyond the petty crime borne of familiar urban woes like drugs and impoverishment, into areas like public racism and overt homophobia?
It is tempting to note here that among the many disadvantages of the slumlord culture enabled by successive generations of local political officials as an expedient to fill the limitless vacuum left by visionless “leadership” is that it serves as the perfect support mechanism for the dysfunction perpetuated by downward immobility.
Instead, permit me to state simply that sexism, racism and homophobia are human right issues that pertain to numerous contemplated reforms at many levels, ranging from the examples provided above to the very essence of rental property inspections and reform.
The current mayoral administration has suggested at several junctures during the past three years that a revival of New Albany’s moribund Human Rights Commission might be in the offing, but so far, nothing has been done.
Now is the time. Is there the will?
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Apologies: In reprinting these comments, I have edited references to specific properties originally made by Greg, Chris and Gina, but only in the interest of brevity. Please reference the entire discussion if you wish to read the unedited version.
It is my hope that more details will emerge after lifting this thread to the marquee.
At 12:29 PM, Brandon W. Smith said...
A rental inspection program is a great idea, but it will lack effectiveness unless we have a legal department enforcing ordinances.
Currently, through lack of resources and lack of political will, our legal department does virtually no ordinance enforcement. Thus, while some folks will voluntarily comply, citing a landlord for a rental inspection violation will have no effect on the worst offenders.
Which candidates will pledge to work with the Mayor's office and City Attorney to put an effective legal enforcement mechanism in place?
That is a far more crucial question, in my opinion.
The current (part-time) City Attorney claimed that, for roughly $80,000, which is what the council was willing to put forth, we could hire a second part-time city attorney and a legal secretary. It would take little time to develop processes and procedures to make ordinance enforcement a routine part of city business.
Routine enforcement of zoning laws, building codes, historic preservation violations, and cleanliness ordinance would have a tremendous impact on the slumlord problem.
At 4:17 PM, S. LaDuke said...
I can tell you all that this is an extremely important issue in the minds of the administration.
Currently, there is work progressing with an announcement coming in the very near future.
I'll let you know more information when it is ready.
Sincerely, Steve LaDuke
At 5:10 PM, Brandon W. Smith said...
I can tell you all that this is an extremely important issue in the minds of the administration.
If you are referring to legal enforcement, that has not been my experience.
At 5:58 PM, bluegill said...
I have to agree with Brandon.
I'd be happy to hear that anyone in a position of authority is considering taking enforcement seriously but, after years of unexplained non-action, it will be an uphill battle for any incumbent to convince the public that the effort is sincere.
At 9:07 PM, New Alb Annie said...
" . . . very important issue in the minds of the administration."
" . . . work progressing with an announcement coming in the near future."
It's primary time, isn't it? Why is it that this administration is well into its fourth year, and now, amazingly, we hear that "an announcement is coming"?
Look around New Albany. It doesn't appear that this is an important issue in the minds of the administration.
At 10:15 AM, All4Word said...
Based on the sentiment of this activist subset of the voting public, a major announcement regarding rental properties is a day late and a dollar short.
Candidates are putting forward their platform points gradually, but time is running out for any announcement from the administration.
Honestly, I don't doubt the sincerity or competence of the current administration, but, once again, there has been no public communication.
If the Garner administration has a plan, put it out now! You may never convince these readers you are sincere, but if you have a plan, it does the city no good to keep it in your vest pocket.
Anything else just shows a tin ear for the political mood in New Albany.
If you're serious about enforcement, show it. Otherwise, accusations that the Garner administration, just like all the rest, are in the pocket of the slumlords will become the prevailing truth and an irreversible part of not only the campaign, but of any hope of capturing the hearts and minds of the urban core voters.
It could well be too late. But given the current lineup of candidates, I would think that yours is the only campaign with even a glimmer of hope of capturing a bump from the progressive element in this city.
Silence merely reinforces hardening attitudes that the Garner administration is no different from the England administration. Is that what you want the zeitgeist to reflect?
At 3:30 PM, S. LaDuke said...
You know me better than to think that anything I am involved in is kept quiet for political reasons. I know where you're coming from with your post but... we have not gone public with this yet because it's not quite ready. Keep in mind, I was appointed to the Building Commission by Mayor Overton. Mayor Overton had a plan and it was voted down because, in my opinion, it was not fair and equitable. She certainly had the right intention! I am fighting for an ordinance that will be fair and equitable. If my ideas are listened to, I believe the only way someone could possibly be against the ordinance is if you own and operate sub-par property.
Sincerely, Steve LaDuke
Here's a Wednesday morning reminder from Randy Smith:
"Big parts of the presentation (from last night's public meeting) will be available for public viewing at Destinations Booksellers for the next several days. Those who were unable to attend the presentation by ACE are welcome to examine the data-filled aerial photographs during regular business hours."
On Tuesday evening there was an illuminating public meeting on the topic of New Albany’s Inner-City Grid Transportation Study, which is an examination of the usefulness of “traffic calming,” including considerations of traffic flow, one- vs. two-way streets, speeding and accidents in the context of street design. Roughly 30 people attended, and many excellent questions were asked, and answers provided.
As the Tribune noted in its preview (New Albany downtown traffic forum set for Tuesday):
One-way traffic serves parts of Oak, Elm, Spring and Market streets as well as some north-south streets between West 10th and East 10th. Converting some or all of those to two-way traffic “is one of the alternatives we would expect to consider,” said Scott Wood, the city’s chief planner.
The study area’s boundaries are Oak Street to the north, Main Street to the south, Scribner Drive to the west, and Vincennes Street to the east. Perceptive readers will immediately see that the majority of this area falls within the domain of the city’s 3rd city council district.
The 3rd district’s incumbent councilman, Steve Price, who once commissioned his blogging ghostwriter to bloviate, “I have communicated my principles, stood by my fundamental values, and remained true to my core beliefs consistently and constantly,” once again was observed doing exactly that: Spitting vividly into the eye of his district’s neglected core neighborhoods by failing to attend. Will he now whine before the council that the crucial information about the street grid was not forthcoming?
In fact, neither CM Price nor any of his eight colleagues on the city council were to be seen last night, but both Charlie Harshfield and Maury Goldberg, CM Price’s opponents in the May primary, were there, as was Mayor James Garner. 4th district candidate Pat McLaughlin and at-large candidate John Gonder also were spotted.
Okay, that's all. Having made the sadly necessary point that certain of our "leaders" are entirely unfit for anything remotely approximating leadership, we’ll happily defer to Wednesday’s Tribune coverage of the public meeting for the nuts and bolts. It will be linked here when the time comes.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Maury Goldberg (D; 3rd district): Rental Inspection.
Let me start out by saying that I am in favor of Rental Inspections of Apartment Houses. Neighborhoods and Residents are being victimized by Absentee Landlords. Let's put a stop to this condition that exists today.
Pete Lyons (R; 2nd district): Much ado about nothing.
Now, before you misunderstand the title to think that I'm saying there's not a problem, take the title and apply it to the level of activity that you see taking place from New Albany's city government. There's a lot of talk, especially now that there's an election coming up, but what is REALLY being done? NOTHING!
I've made a promise not to say anything negative about fellow candidates. I don't believe it's necessary or warranted. I believe an incumbent’s actions speak louder than anything I could say about them.
At New Albany Eyesores, Chris has published three other statements by Pete Lyons (above), Valla Ann Bolovschak (R; council at-large) and Larry Scharlow (D; candidate for mayor).
Read them here.
Read the Tribune’s preview: New Albany downtown traffic forum set for Tuesday.
Through the good offices of the diligent Graham Phillips, here’s a brief update on the current health status of your friend and mine, Lloyd “Highwayman” Wimp, who has been hospitalized since February 20 for cancer surgery, and has had a couple of unexpected complications along the way.
According to Graham, Lloyd is mostly untethered, weak but up and walking, and cantankerous overall. That’s great news, seeing as feistiness and a taste for dark ale are Lloyd’s most endearing qualities. Perhaps he can indulge in the latter soon, as it appears his release date could come as early as this week.
Graham adds that Lloyd remains ensconced in Room 577 at Jewish Hospital. Let’s hope he’s back home by the weekend.
Turning to politics, there’s much to report. First, there’s a new candidate blog from council hopeful John Gonder, and it’s very encouraging:
Gonder for New Albany At-Large
The things we do on a daily, local basis have the cumulative effect of steering our nation in a certain way. In many ways, the place we have arrived as a nation is not acceptable. I hope to look for ways we, right here in New Albany, can make small changes that resist unwise national trends or, better, begin the positive change we need today and tomorrow.
Note also that another council at-large candidate, Shirley Baird, was the first to go on record as supporting a rental property inspection program:
I posted a comment on the New Albany Eyesores blog that it will take the cooperation from the Administration and the City Council to create a rental inspection program. It won't be easy but it must be done.
Shirley’s commendable lead was followed yesterday afternoon – we think – by 3rd district candidate Charlie Harshfield. In his newly released platform statement, Charlie writes:
GOAL: Enhance and expand Code Enforcement in all areas, including a Rental Inspection Program.
Owing to the fact that a rental inspection program currently does not exist, we’re not sure how it might be expanded and enhanced, but almost certainly this is intended to convey that Charlie is “for it,” and that's welcome news.
Meanwhile, incumbent Steve Price’s second opponent in the primary, former councilman Maury Goldberg, has promised a statement on rental inspections by Tuesday, March 13. We’ll link to it when it appears.
A brief note to all candidates: I have a lunch slot open this week -- and you know how much I like my lunches. If anyone can make it, please give me a shout and I’ll offer a full public disclosure, because as fetishistic (obsessive?) has it may seem, some folks in New Albany are morbidly fascinated in my eating habits – “fed up”, even.
Back to Gravity matters.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Tension rising in in New Albany; 'Fact sheet' divides mayor, City Council, by Dick Kaukas (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).
In fact, Kaukas’s article is one of the clearer expositions to date of the numerous, ahem, “communication” issues plaguing the council (and, in fairness, the mayor’s office) for the past three years.
Here’s a good one:
Council member Bill Schmidt also didn't attend but said he saw news accounts of what happened.
"I have been on the City Council for 16 years and I have never seen such unacceptable behavior at a public meeting," Schmidt said.
Of course, it is famously difficult to judge such matters when not actually present, although perhaps the Bicknell's private videotaping concern provided excerpted highlights, but at least CM Schmidt’s recollections are accurate in the sense that he and his shadow councilwoman do the bulk of their plotting and scheming decorously, away from the council table itself.
This one’s even better:
"That fact sheet was nothing more than dirty politics," said council member Dan Coffey, "and it's unfortunate that some members of the council have stooped to that level."
Any council member engaged in stooping will be looking CM Coffey right in the eyes.
What do the council’s consistent displays of unprofessional behavior over the course of three years say to the people who are considering investing in New Albany? What do these say to the community members who are spearheading the effort to attract these investments?
3rd district councilman Steve Price, one of the more predictable impediments to any semblance of progress in the city, apparently takes considerable pride in this these achievements. He tells the reporter Kaukas:
"Some people think all we do is fight. That's not true. But we are definitely not a rubber-stamp council."
Pray tell, "not a rubber stamp"? Looks like the cat is out of grandma’s cigar box, Steve.
Don’t forget NAC's reprise series:
Part 1: NA Confidential examines Councilman Steve Price's interview responses.
Part 2: NA Confidential examines Councilman Steve Price's interview responses.
Part 3: NA Confidential examines Councilman Steve Price's interview responses.
Somewhere in the placement, there lies a message.
Ironically, the topic of rental property inspections re-entered the blogosphere over the weekend. One of CM Price’s 3rd district challengers, Charlie Harshfield, has yet to enunciate a public position on this topic, while the other, former councilman Maury Goldberg, does not include it among the planks of his February 17 platform statement. Public statements, anyone?
Not so long ago, as part of a three-part interview published at NA Confidential, CM Price himself was asked, “Do you agree that New Albany should institute rental property inspections with real teeth? Why or why not?” His answer:
As a reminder, I spearheaded the cleanliness ordinance. I think homeowners’ period should take responsibility for their property. At the present time, I feel we need to focus on enforcing the established ordinances before entertaining new ones.
As a public service, NAC is reposting the Steve Price interview series in its entirety. Perhaps one or the other of his challengers – and perhaps a 3rd district voter or three – will find his non-answers illuminating.
(Originally posted in January, 2006)
Part 1: NA Confidential examines Councilman Steve Price's interview responses.
Part 2: NA Confidential examines Councilman Steve Price's interview responses.
Part 3: NA Confidential examines Councilman Steve Price's interview responses.
Our original questions are numbered, and CM Price's original responses italicized. Commentary follows. Note that while two-thirds of the questions asked of CM Price were formulated by Jeff "Bluegill" Gillenwater, the commentary is entirely that of the blog owner. Jeff is invited to join the discussion, either as a team member or in comments, and of course, all readers are likewise encouraged to provide their thoughts subject to our identity policy.
1. Mr. Price, you ran for council as a Democrat. How does your performance in council reflect your role as a Democratic Party officeholder? How can we separate your public statements from those of myriad Republicans over the past 40 years? Why are your stated preferences so different from the historic and progressive ideals of the Democratic Party? Does being a Democrat mean anything to you? What would that be, and how do you differentiate yourself from a Republican?
I am a 21st century Democrat who represents all the people. I believe in standing up for what is right and speaking out against injustice. New Albany is seeing first hand the repercussions of frivolous spending. History has been my teacher. I am not against “community-based” progress just force fed growth. It is not about trying to differentiate myself from anybody; it is about fulfilling the needs of the citizens of New Albany, and doing what will ensure a positive future for this city.
CM Price’s answer to the opening question sets the tone for the remainder of the interview by indicating clearly that either the specifics of the question elude him, or just as likely, he had no intention of risking an explication of them in the first place.
Along with 260 million fellow Americans embracing a myriad of political persuasions, CM Price claims to stand up for what “is right” and to “speak out against injustice.”
He provides no concrete examples of what these might be, or how his definition of “right” and “injustice” as a member of the Democratic Party differs from the perspective of the card-carrying Republican on the other side of the aisle.
Exactly when has CM Price taken the lead in “speaking out against injustice? Exactly what was the injustice?
In the overall context of political self-identification, CM Price’s choice of words seems quite odd, for in fact there is an organization called 21st Century Democrats, which has antecedents in the political campaigns of the late Paul Wellstone and former presidential candidate Howard Dean, and connections to another contemporary “blue” Democratic lobby group called Think Blue.
It should suffice to say that neither of these philosophies seem to be in harmony with what little of his personal political beliefs that CM Price is willing to let us glimpse in his answer to our first question.
Moreover, he moves with unseemly quickness to distance himself from the obvious burden of political self-examination by establishing the existence of his own personal bogeymen, “frivolous spending” and “force fed growth.” As you will see, these concepts are vital to CM Price’s narrow worldview, but they are not defined.
What is Steve Price in the political sense? He doesn’t tell us, but he strongly suggests that it is cautious, provincial and populist.
2. Will you pledge to never abstain from a vote unless you can provide details, on record, of the conflict of interest that keeps you from voting?
Each vote is a separate matter to be evaluated through education and consideration before the vote is made. I will continue to vote, either by aye, nay or an abstention as it is best for my constituents. It is better to pause until further information is available than merely blindly rubber stamping.
For the record, here’s how Wikipedia defines abstention:
Abstention is a term in parliamentary procedure for when a participant in a vote is not absent, but does not cast a ballot. An abstention may be used to indicate the voting individual's ambivalence about the measure, or mild disapproval that does not rise to the level of active opposition
In the United States Congress and many other legislatures, members may vote "present" rather than for or against a bill or resolution, which has the effect of an abstention. In the United Nations Security Council, representatives of the five countries holding a veto power (including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and the People's Republic of China) sometimes abstain rather than vetoing a measure about which they are less than enthusiastic, particularly if the measure otherwise has broad support.
It’s worth noting that while an abstention on the first reading of an ordinance might correspond with CM Price’s example of a “pause until further information is available,” that same could not be said when the vote has reached its final tally.
NAC trusts that in the future, CM Price will be willing and able to explain why a specific abstention is “best” for the 3rd District’s constituents.
3. Can you please explain the concept of new urbanism and how its guiding principles may help New Albany?
The basic principle of new urbanism is a focus on neighborhood development, with the end resulting in obtaining a balance of living, working and playing spaces in a given area. It is a continuously growing city wide plan, where public input plays a vital role in its success. Creating places for children to play where parents can gather, designing pedestrian friendly shopping districts and affordable safe housing is not as simple as merely drawing a map and placing an “X” where there should be a park.
Anytime a city focuses on positive growth for its economy and residents a city will benefit from careful planning in those areas.
I feel New Albany is currently working on the ground floor of putting into action these principles by enforcing cleanliness ordinances already established, while making “smart” renovations to existing parks and unimproved land areas.
The concepts that have coalesced under the banner of New Urbanism are anything but staid, conservative and dull. Whether one agrees or disagrees with them, they are dynamic, active and transformational in nature. Here are three short descriptions gleaned from the Internet:
NEW URBANISM promotes the creation and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed-use communities composed of the same components as conventional development, but assembled in a more integrated fashion, in the form of complete communities.
The New Urbanism is a reaction to sprawl. A growing movement of architects, planners, and developers, the New Urbanism is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create human-scale, walkable communities.
“Part of that revisionism is New Urbanism, which also has a strong social agenda. Those who think the point of New Urbanism is to make pretty middle-class suburbs don't know New Urbanism. The point is to reform the way we build and to make good, beautiful, walkable, diverse, sustainable places with a public realm worthy of ourselves.”
CM Price addresses these dynamic concepts of New Urbanism with characteristic tones of caution and reserve.
New Urbanism is about “planning,” he says, and requires “balance”; we must be “careful” in considering it, because it may not be “as simple” as it seems, and “smart” tweaking at the existing “ground floor” level must be undertaken before anything else.
Taken at face value, CM Price provides a workmanlike description of New Urbanism, albeit one with an underlying tone of suspicion. One might follow suit by describing the Mona Lisa as a famous painting in a museum somewhere.
We learn here that while the councilman (or someone close to him) possesses a rudimentary understanding of the genre, it comes with the congenital minimalist’s lack of enthusiasm and is absent any core commitment to its comprehension or perpetuation.
4. Can you please explain how you intend to use your council position to advocate for those principles via legislative action? If you could give examples of successful legislation from other cities that have done a good job of improving housing and living conditions, it would be helpful.
The point of new urbanism is to serve the needs of the residents in the city. What is crucial to remember is the trends are only as useful as how they serve a particular community at a particular time.
It would be more useful to focus on serving the people who currently live in New Albany by revamping existing structures. I would use my legislative position to advocate for public dialogue of revitalization of existing city parks, how to improve the current parking situation in the downtown area and economic incentives for new downtown locally owned businesses.
I am a proponent of live entertainment, utilizing our riverfront in conjunction with the Greenaway. Live entertainment never goes out of style.
For a councilperson to “serve the needs of the residents on the city” surely is to fulfill only the most basic requirement of his or her job description, and can be accepted as a given in most cases. No one doubts the councilman’s sincerity on this fundamental point.
Consequently, the purpose of asking questions like ours is to determine how an elected official like Steve Price intends to set about identifying and “serving” these needs.
Thus, having been asked previously to define New Urbanism, and being able to provide no more than an unenthusiastic, “partial credit” response, CM Price now rushes to disavow any element of this unified and cogent theory of planning and development, perhaps fearing that such an acknowledgement implies a responsibility to inititate rather than to react, and to propose rather than oppose – to “restructure” rather than to “revamp.”
To lead, rather than to follow.
More clearly than ever, CM Price serves notice that he is wary of “trends,” and intends to remain firmly rooted in the realm of community band-aids for “existing structures” that serve the “particular community,” i.e., his own milieu, his own people, his own upbringing, and a deeply conservative point of view reflected by a recent public comment to the effect that one example of “live entertainment (that) never goes out of style” is Chubby Checker.
5. How do you think the city could improve its reputation and attractiveness within the circles of educated, creative, entrepreneurial people whose presence continues to be proven necessary for success in the 21st century economy?
21st century economy is moving towards being debt free; both on a household level as well as a governmental level. Until New Albany’s resolves our current fiscal situation how can we offer an incentive package to those individuals? Statistics tell us that people want to be part of a movement toward growth. Getting in on the ground floor so to speak. When dark clouds of fiscal burdens surround the boundaries of our city – what does that say to our perspective entrepreneurial people? We are a city who is incapable of living within a budget, who is wasteful with monies. The list could go on. How can we ask for monetary investments when we have given the perception of being incapable of handling our own finances?
Intentionally or otherwise, CM Price chooses not to dispute the fundamental gist of the question, which is to establish that the presence of “educated, creative, (and) entrepreneurial people” has been “proven necessary for success in the 21st century economy.”
Instead, he sneaks through the back door, offering this assessment of prevailing economic theory:
“21st century economy is moving towards being debt free; both on a household level as well as a governmental level.”
According to CM Price, New Albany is “wasteful,” “incapable of living within a budget, and unable to handle its “own finances,” and because of this, we must conclude that the city has nothing to attract investors.
What, then, has attracted the entrepreneurial cadres already at work downtown? Why haven’t they been frightened away?
For two years, we have listened to CM Price’s twangy homespun homiles about nickels, dimes and grandma’s cigar box, but in this instance, he’s the one mistakenly putting the cart before the horse.
Just perhaps the “educated, creative” and “entrepreneurial people” and their focused investments are what helps to bring financial stability and economic growth, and that their presence in a particular place has as much to do with factors such as real estate prices, proximity to recreational opportunities and lifestyle choices as anything else.
Perhaps the “incentive package” that’s best to offer such people isn’t cash, either directly or indirectly, but a receptive and hopeful attitude on the part of the existing community.
After all, these aren’t all outsiders, although some come from elsewhere; many were born and raised here, and left to seek greener pastures precisely because there was no encouragement for their skills and aspirations here in New Albany.
Perhaps the ones who have come here from other parts of the country aren’t interested in hearing the excuses for failure, but bring with them a can-do spirit that used to be part of New Albany’s fabric when it was young and growing.
To be sure, cities far more degraded than ours have managed to revitalize themselves in spite of less to work with than New Albany possesses. How have they done it?
It might be as simple as the will to succeed.
As a side note, and in closing today’s considerations, it’s worth pointing out that by his own admission, the works of the right-wing, debt-free financial guru Dave Ramsey have a heavy personal influence on Councilman Price.
The question, as yet unanswered, is whether Ramsey’s household realm of advice and theory is applicable to the “21st century economy” in the wider sense. CM Price implies that it is.