Friday, February 29, 2008

Burying the Destroyer

No, I don't mean Gravity Head, which starts today, or even spending the morning watching our Senior Editor on television with WHAS's Terry Mieners, kicking off the nationally recognized 10th annual festival with a 5:00 A.M. tailgating party.

Longtime readers will remember our references to Ted Fulmore's excellent three part historic series on local business college professor Ira Strunk and his murder of Charles Hoover published on his Our History in New Albany blog. Ira gunned down Charles and his father after rumors of an affair between the younger Hoover and Ira's wife, Myra, became too much for a respectable Gilded Age gent to bear.

Desperate Housewives - 1886 style
Ira and Myra – the descent
Ira vs. Myra - the end

Given that the brutal killings occurred in broad daylight on Market Street downtown, it's a bit of a puzzler that Ira was acquitted of the crime.

Enter Lawrence Lipin, author of Producers, Proletarians, and Politicians: Workers and Party Politics in Evansville and New Albany, Indiana, 1850-87, and the Journal of Social History.

Lipin's essay, Burying the "destroyer of one happy home": manhood, industrial authority, and political alliance building in the murder trial of Ira Strunk, first published in the Journal in 1995 and excerpted below, exposes the class warfare that took center stage in a trial that often had more to do with the shots fired by workers at a domineering upper class than it did with those fired by Ira at Charles.

For Strunk's trial to make this visible, timing and context are everything. Since the War of 1812, New Albany had been a busy manufacturing town on the Indiana bank of the Ohio river. There a large and prosperous group of native-born steamboat carpenters and joiners engaged in fraternal organizations, in reform, and in local politics, bequeathing the community with the kind of active and cantankerous public life that was not uncommon in the antebellum era.

However, the Civil War changed all that, economically decimating the shipyards while encouraging merchants to move their capital into the construction of large iron, glass and woolen mills. While important connections were made between the new industrial workers and the remaining ship carpenters in churches, temperance organization, and in politics, working-class power would prove to be short-lived in the postwar era. During the depression of the 1870s all the major factories came under the control of Washington Charles DePauw. Described by an early member of the Knights of Labor as "the greatest tyrant and labor-crusher on earth," DePauw imposed his will on the city time and time again.(7) Doing his bidding, the city council vacated streets without compensation handing them over to DePauw - redrew city boundaries to exclude his glass works from taxation, and created special police forces to patrol his works in times of industrial conflict.(8) During strikes, the local press - regardless of party - defended him and printed threats to "communistic" foreign-born workers.(9) In this new and hostile environment, the labor movement became increasingly inert. Since few politicians were willing to antagonize the city's most prominent citizen - who often threatened to move his plants elsewhere - Gilded Age workers in New Albany were increasingly isolated from the support of the local community. And they would remain so until 1886.

The full paper is well worth a read if you find time between beers this weekend.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The last of a dying breed.

Hard as it may be to comprehend, for a time I was a regular reader of William F. Buckley’s National Review. Buckley, the oft-caricatured and curmudgeonly gadfly of the conservative movement, died this week at 82.

For a year and a half during the late 1980s, I was employed by a company that was creating an early CD-ROM version of a database somewhat along the lines of the old paper copy readers’ guide to periodicals. The staff was small, but generally competent, and even though we weren’t supposed to specialize in any one topic, human nature led us in that direction. Management tolerated it so long as the results were acceptable.

Thus, the woman who’d always wanted to go to medical school always abstracted the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet. One of the guys was a budding young investor and grabbed Barron’s and Forbes, while another hoarded the sports magazines.

Being the resident Europhile and history buff, it soon fell to me to act as the division’s foreign affairs desk. In practice, since we only abstracted English language publications, this fact brought me into constant contact with periodicals from the UK, and The Economist, New Statesman and Punch all were constant companions throughout my stay. Because these alone didn’t provide sufficient articles to meet the quota, I looked for other fairly dependable choices that would provide both sustenance and numbers. National Review fit the bill.

Buckley was a familiar name and face, and I’d read some of his essays and columns while in college, but it wasn’t until the period of twice monthly paid exposure that I began to appreciate the breadth, erudition and vigor of his polemical style. Good writing’s good writing, though in my view sadly wasted in defending the likes of Joseph McCarthy.

Certainly the oppressive whole of today’s bile-spewing conservative blogosphere could learn more than a few lessons from Buckley’s techniques of argumentation and his ability to express himself without overtly foaming at the mouth. That so few today aspire to such levels of credibility emphatically should not be interpreted as an indictment of the late wordsmith.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wrong teleprompter, bub.

It’s sublime narcissism, indeed, for Indiana’s property tax “revolutionaries” to imagine themselves populating an Ayn Rand novel and announcing that they intend to stop the engine of local government.

The only difference is that good, bad or indifferent, the original John Galt at least had a counter-proposal. The current crop doesn’t. They’re playing roles in Rand’s novel – just not the ones they think.

People like New Albany’s resident nutty professor have latched on to this issue for one reason and one reason only: As a means to sate a lifetime of pathological grudges while camped safely on the sidelines of relevance. Along with the Steve Prices of the world, they can offer nothing save for civic decay management. That simply isn’t enough for a 21st century city, although I suppose that at the end of the day, it scratches an itch.

The wrong one, but an itch.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CHDO's homebuyer & credit/budget classes start March 8.

(Straight from John Miller at New Albany Community Housing)

Thanks to our upgraded staff, the CHDO is starting an ongoing series of free homebuyer & credit/budget classes. The first one begins on March 8. Details on our blogsite:

Did I mention they're free?


Monday, February 25, 2008

A Storm "Serge": Tim Dorsey author appearance Tuesday at Destinations Booksellers.

First the facts.

Author Tim Dorsey will be in New Albany on Tuesday, February 26, first at Destinations Booksellers (604 East Spring Street) from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for a book signing appearance, then later at the Prost special events wing of Rich O’s Public House for what’s shaping up as a rollicking after-party slated to start at 7:30 p.m., with NABC progressive pints on hand and the chance for attendees to order pizza and sandwiches.

Destinations proprietor Randy Smith asks you to come to one or both. Call (812) 944-5116 to reserve a book for signing, and to reserve space at the party.

I may not make the book signing, but of course I'll be at the after-party, and I'm hoping to see many blog readers there. In the passages that follow, Randy introduces you to Tim Dorsey and notes the importance of this event to New Albany. He is right, and as someone who knows how important it is when nationally recognized individuals in your field take time from crowded schedules to drop by, permit me to fully concur that it's not just about Randy or myself, but about the whole city, too.

Time for Randy to speak.


The man was born in Indiana, which explains a little. His professional career in newspapers culminated in Florida, which explains a lot.

A local jurist said, "I just have to see what kind of person would writer such 'twisted' stuff." And I promise you'll find yourself laughing your butt off at every turn of the page.

We couldn't be prouder to be hosting Tim Dorsey tomorrow night. We'll have a booksigning beginning at 5 p.m., joining Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, and much larger cities on the list of host cities. This is a HUGE moment for New Albany, whether you know it or not. Come down and get your copy of Atomic Lobster autographed by Tim. Then consider joining us afterward at Rich O's Public House for the after-party.

I'll personally guarantee you will love any or all of Dorsey's books. In fact, I'll buy them back from anyone who disagrees if they are in our Patron Passport Program. We believe in Tim Dorsey. What's more, we believe New Albany can and will support the visits of national authors. Come prove us right!

Make no mistake. A low turnout on Tuesday will be a major setback for New Albany and the store. You can't imagine how hard it is to convince national publishers to invest their authors' time in our small city when Denver, Miami, Chicago, and even Indianapolis are offering tremendous crowds and sales. If we can't make this event a success, we'll probably stop trying. That will impact your ability to see your favorites in the future.

On the other hand, we can prove to New York publishers that New Albany supports authors and should be considered occasionally for major author tours. We missed out on what could have been a marvelous series including Jim Wallis, Bart Erhman, Randall Balmer and Stephen Prothero discussing the state of politics and religion over four weeks this winter. A massive Dorsey turnout will make our city and our store an account to reckon with on future bookings.


How you respond to the Dorsey event is more important than you can imagine.

Believe it or not, New Albany is NOT on the short list for author visits. It takes a lot of physical, psychic, and financial effort to persuade a national publisher to book an author into our town.

Tim Dorsey may not be your favorite (he is ours - we've spent three years trying to lure him), but if you EVER want to see national authors in our town, your attendance (and, we hope, purchases) at Tuesday's event can be determinative.

Randy Smith

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Part 1).

See also: Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Introduction).


To the best of my recollection these many beers later, the meandering springtime Italian rail path that took me eventually to Trieste began in Florence and passed through Venice. Make no mistake: In those days, Italian trains could occasionally make it up to full meander, though usually not.

I’d visited Florence earlier, just before disappearing into Umbria for a week roaming around Sienna, Assisi, San Giminagno and Perugia and soaking up equal portions of history, mass market beer and antipasto.

No time was spared for Venice, because I'd been there two years before and found the city packed to the gondolas with disheveled and ecstatic Catholic pilgrims suffering from spiritual hangovers after an ill-timed (for me) papal visit the day prior to my arrival. Surveying the teeming and cluttered scene, I made hasty tracks for Vienna the same evening following a few hours spent walking the historic streets and sniffing raw sewage coursing through murky lagoons.

In spite of all these annoyances, Venice in 1985 had indeed been shabbily gorgeous, and even fairly cheap at the time, yet memories of Mann describing a "Death in Venice" and Hemingway's subsequent cradle-robbing libido from “Across the River and Into the Trees” went a long way, indeed, but now it was May, 1987, and greater challenges were on the eastward horizon.

Trieste was to be just a brief stopover to Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, then a constituent republic of Red Yugoslavia, and the entry point for a month wandering the Communist Balkans and Hungary prior to a departure for Moscow in late June and my long-sought date with the Evil Empire, after which the return trip across the Iron Curtain would include stopovers in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

And so it transpired that the creaking “express” brought me to Trieste, former base of the Habsburg navy and the location of the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian's supposedly haunted seaside Miramare Castle. It was a lazy Friday around lunchtime when I debarked and checked my pack in the baggage room, and although there was ample opportunity to secure affordable lodgings nearby, the lure of the border was much too strong to resist.

Although guidebooks insisted that advance planning wasn't necessary, and a visa could be obtained easily at the border, I'd taken the precaution of acquiring one from the Yugoslav embassy in D.C. by mail before leaving the States. The posted schedule at the rail station showed two departures for Ljubljana each day, one in the morning and another at 19:30, slated to leave a siding around the corner from the regular platforms.

The Eurailpass ceased its territorial validity outside Italy, but the tickets were dirt cheap, and I was impatient. I pocketed the rough cardboard train tickets and shuffled off to the harbor to enjoyed a fine afternoon meal of grilled local catch and cheap house wine, little suspecting that things were about to get exceedingly strange.

Why? A cardinal rule of budget travel had been considered and then willfully ignored: "Never arrive in a strange place late on a weekend without reservations."

Especially in the East Bloc.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Introduction).

My recollections of Yugoslavia in 1987 are bubbling to the surface now because of two entirely unrelated events.

First was the selection of Tony Judt's "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945" for our on-line reading group of almost nine years, which we call Samizdat. Early chapters detail the ideological struggle between Marshall Tito and Stalin, documenting the way that Tito eventually sidestepped the issue internationally, choosing to accept aid from the West and chart a third, "nonaligned" path while retaining an iron hand (and a socialist one) internally.

The second enticement was sitting on the couch at the pub a few weeks back and hearing an army veteran tell stories about her brief stint in Bosnia while serving in the military in the mid-1990's, a visit necessitated in the aftermath of the conflagration visited upon what we now call the former Yugoslavia when the remnants of Tito's patriarchal control mechanism were seized by Slobodan Milosevic and co-opted in an effort to consolidate control. Judt recounts the tragic story of Yugoslavia’s disintegration of the country, and there are too many curs and too few heroes in the tale.

Telling the story of my visit to a then-peaceful Yugoslavia just a few years before the violence was unleashed is more difficult than might be expected, as attested by dismayed glances at the admittedly sketchy records I kept at the time. Retrospectives help explain matters, but they also erode the authenticity of the narrative. While there, I knew that a multi-ethnic, -linguistic and -religious conglomeration had been kept together for various complicated reasons. Having no way of knowing what was about to happen, I have to be careful now not to read conclusions into the story, ones that weren't reached until much later.

My primary reason for wandering through Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia in the spring and summer of 1987 was to see Communism up close and personal. It was not to apologize for it, but to see for myself what it was like. The geographical area had interested me since childhood, and I kept returning to it when given the option during collegiate history classes.

Besides that, the East Bloc was just plain cheap, for the most part. My three-week Hungarian idyll in 1987 ended up costing about $13 a day, and I was neither starving nor doing without (mostly bottled) beer and an occasional dose of Bull's Blood wine. A train ticket from Budapest to Moscow, with two nights in a three-bunk sleeping berth, cost $17 one-way at the discounted student rate (I didn't say anything about not cheating here and there; I wasn't a student, but I had a student ID).

I'm thankful every day that I traveled the Bloc during those times instead of keeping dead-end jobs for the sake of normalcy. In fact, I was never very good at normalcy anyway, and now there's no longer a Bloc to see.

The Yugoslav tale will take up the next few Sundays. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Iceland: The greatest nation ever to occupy the island where Iceland is located.

In an otherwise hackneyed posting about Barack Obama’s wife, in which the usual lunatic fringe invective gets indiscriminately pepper-sprayed around a mostly empty room, local blogger Daniel Short included this observation:

Most of us are proud of the ole USA no matter who is in control. Most of us believe it is the greatest nation on Earth.

Since I enjoy being a gadfly, I responded.

The only question is this: Why does it matter?

Daniel’s answer, in part, read thusly:

You see Roger, a lot of liberals do not really like America. I suspect that given your affection for Europe that you deep down harbor ill feelings toward America. Liberals believe the U.S. is the cause of the world's troubles, that we are war lovers and mother nature haters. It matters because if someone doesn't believe in the idea of America, how can they govern a place that is that idea?

A brief discussion followed, with my cohort Bluegill making a few typically concise points, and John Manzo contributing a brilliant exposition of the liberal/conservative wartime dichotomy. You can follow the above link to read all of it.

As for me, I can’t help observing that in a time when the Euro zone is shredding the efficacy of the dollar, the charge of being a Europhile apparently now carries as much negative impact as Communist, humanist and atheist.

It’s cartoonish to suggest that there are Communists lurking through New Albany’s foggy pumpkin patches. As for the other three perceived denigrations, I’m right there, although not thumping my chest like a child. Things like that are embarrassing, don't you think?

My purpose here is not to speak for Daniel, who is quite capable of digging his own deep holes without requiring me to dirty my hands helping with the shoveling.

Rather, it’s simply to say that discussing “the greatest” anything is an exercise in futility, that I’ve never understood the chest-thumping impulse, and that I agree with the athlete Edwin Moses, who I recall eschewing the contrived, flag-waving Hollywood pageantry of the ’84 Olympics to insist that he regarded himself as a citizen of the universe.

Funny, then, that a Christianity which incessantly professes to be universal in application must ultimately rest on the armed “might” of a particular “greatest” nation, at least in the minds of so many Americans. It’s hard indeed to fathom any Prince of Peace accepting that particular syllogism.

But what do I know. I’ve not been indoctrinated, have I?

However, when it comes to patriotism and religion, the re-education camps are never very far away, are they?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

POSTPONEMENT tonight: NA Council Meeting

Like the Jeffersonville Main Street event below, tonight's New Albany Common Council meeting has been postponed due to inclement weather. The City/County building is closed.

According to Council President Gahan, they hope to reschedule for next week, though a definite time hasn't been set yet.

POSTPONEMENT tonight: Jeffersonville Main Street's "Chili and Beer Bonanza."

With Southern Indiana shutting down owing to the threat of icy road conditions, the organizers have decided to err in the favor of caution and postpone tonight's chili and beer fundraiser in Jeffersonville.

Jeffersonville Main Street's "Chili and Beer Bonanza" at Kye's, Thursday, February 21.

They're hoping to reschedule a date soon. I'll keep readers posted.

"News Flash ... No one likes to pay taxes."

There are nine members of New Albany’s city council, and I find it both instructive and refreshing that one, John Gonder, grasps the utility of the Internet as a means of disseminating information and maintains his own blog.

What is even more amazing than an elected official who writes is that as a member of a local Democratic party which refuses to take a position on anything, CM Gonder actually states opinions as a basis for discussion and – gasp – perhaps even consensus.

There’s bound to be an ordinance against that, seeing as it happens so very seldom hereabouts.

Accordingly, here’s an excerpt from his most recent post, Twitch and Shout.

Another twitch-inducer is the orgiastic pursuit of property tax avoidance by certain elements of our community.

News Flash....No one likes to pay taxes.

No one likes to live in a city saddled with rising costs and shrinking services

No one wants to give up essential services like police and fire

No one wants to live in a city where the first question is often the last question as well ,"how much does it cost?"

No one wants the future of their children circumscribed by the fearfulness and penury of our day

No one should enjoy the harvest of savings in our day, while salting the fields of their day.

The anti-taxers seem unable to grasp the concept of the Civic Compact which states that we will provide a City that meets not only our needs and broadens our horizons but builds the infrastructure to pass that on to future generations.

It is only by happenstance that we live now. We are like pebbles dropped into a river. The anti taxers don't seem to care if the stream dries up after they hit the surface. The only way we can truly value the now is to build for the future, which we won't see. That is the only way we have what we have today. We owe no less to the future. Some see running the city as a business, some see it as tending our small corner of civilization.

A fine statement of principle from a leader who’ll now be pilloried by the community’s opinion regurgitation devices. I can read it now: "You’re toast, Gonder. Signed, anonymous."

NA Shadow Council approaches the anti-tax gurgle from a similar angle. Here’s an excerpt from Combating the Lies:

The loons have it bass ackwards. Investment is what will lower taxes. The ideologues who want to cap property taxes are only trying to shift the burden onto businesses and consumers. The landlords behind all this are asking the legislature to give them a 33.3% tax abatement, preferring their businesses over others. An added penny on the sales tax will put Indiana retailers at a further disadvantage competitively and will drive businesses with options to neighboring states or put them out of business altogether.

As someone with a business that will be paying more property tax than the city’s bountiful crop of slumlords, that’s a powerful statement, indeed, and yet the first reaction of so many in the community continues to be “drown government” and "stop investing in the economy."

But no more today. I must prepare for the next round of white death.

Council meets tonight; here's the agenda, and the Tribune's preview, which helpfully quotes the 3rd district's albatross, Steve Price, as mouthing his tiresome "no" to progress litany. I shan't be there, because I'm pouring beer for the Jeffersonville Main Street chili fundraiser at Kye's (5:30 - 8:30 pm) -- assuming it's a go.

Note also that New Albany's England postpones State of the City address (Tribune).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

8664 on East End Bridge delays and the C-J's ongoing obfuscation.

(E-mail release from 8664)


Dear Supporter,

Our worst fears are being realized. Kentucky's two year road fund provides no construction dollars for the East End Bridge. It appears clear that the opposition to the East End Bridge has the money and influence to quietly oppress public opinion and the greater good of the region.

Road Plan Delays Start of work on East Bridge

(For some reason, this story didn't run on the front page of the Indiana's version of the CJ.)

This is troubling on many levels. The impact it has on our transportation system and economic future, but more disturbing is what it says about public policy. Our elected leaders don't appear to be listening to their citizens.

Meanwhile, the Courier-Journal is doing their part to provide cover for the politicians that secretly oppose the EE Bridge. How fitting that they would run this cartoon (notice the 8664 tag) on the same day that the delayed EE Bridge was announced.

Economic Growth ... also read the comments below the cartoon.

If you've been reading our emails for the last couple of years, you know that we saw this coming. But we didn't start this campaign because it was going to be easy. We're trying to do the right thing for the future of this city and we will not be deterred by a small set back.

If you are as frustrated by this as we are, please take the time to contact your public officials and tell them how you feel. Particularly, Hoosiers need to speak up to make the East End Bridge a reality.

Thanks for your time and support. It might take a while, but we're going to make this happen.


Tyler Allen and JC Stites

PS We don't have newspaper editors, lobbyists or high-priced attorneys; we rely on the grassroots support and common sense of this community. Thank you for helping us make our case. If you can provide financial support donate online.

Mission: To advocate for the revitalization of Louisville through the adoption of a transportation plan that will provide long-term benefits to the region's citizens, neighborhoods, environment and economy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wrong tree, wrong dogs barking

As the chart above from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance shows, 74.2% of the total county property tax levy is paid by residential property owners. While the implied argument for economic development as a method of property tax relief is strong as the development of additional businesses would reduce the portion of taxes collected from residential property, one factor that's not so obvious is the built-in landlord subsidy.

According to the 2000 census, there are 29,087 residential units in Floyd County at about 95% occupancy. Those units include single-family homes, trailers, apartments, and any other arrangement of separate living space. Only 68.6% (19,954) of them are owner-occupied, however. That leaves 7,557 of them as rental units. 26% of all housing units in the county are owned by someone other than their residents and are operated as rental businesses.

Why does this matter? Because the current property tax proposal being mulled over by our state legislature seeks to tax rental businesses at a different rate than other businesses. Owner-occupied residential property tax caps would be set at 1%, rentals at 2%, and other businesses at 3%.

It's difficult to exactly calculate how 7,557 rental units are divided up between various properties. One property could be comprised of 30 units while another could be a detached, single-family rental, i.e., one unit. For comparison's sake, let's assume a typical New Albany rental property of four units. 7,557 total rental units with four units per property is equal to 1,889 properties.

With that figure in hand, take into account the median county property value of $104,300. 1,889 properties multiplied by the median value equals $197,022,700 worth of taxable property.

That property, taxed at an as yet unjustified special rate of 2% would lead to $3,940,454 in revenue. If taxed at the same 3% rate as other businesses, however, the revenue would be $5,910,681. That's a difference of $1,970,227- a difference that would be made up by homeowners every year.

How would that affect individual households? Remember, as of the 2000 census, there were 19,954 owner-occupied homes in Floyd County. $1,970,227 divided among 19,954 homes equals $98.74 per homeowner each year. It may not seem like much on its surface, but those interested in fairness should take note. With the owner-occupied residential property tax rate set at 1% and the median home value at $104,300, the typical property tax bill will be $1,043. That means that if our "number of units per property" assumption is anywhere near correct, roughly 10% of every "average homeowner" property tax payment would be going to subsidize area landlords who refuse, via special interest lobbying efforts, to fairly pay the same tax rate as other businesses.

We've already been collectively subsidizing the rental property business for years by allowing owners to pay residential tax rates on their business property and have often been paid back with an alarming lack of property maintenance and the accompanying attraction of the criminal element into our communities. The newest take on property taxes further codifies that subsidy without requiring any additional responsibility from landlords in return for it.

At the very least, the Jim Bakers and Pat Harrisons of the area should be held publicly accountable for such a boondoggle, as should those public officials who would vote in favor of it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Time: What a concept ...

A reader has asked why there seems to be less “abundant” writing here than there was before. That’s a good question, and I’ll see if I can answer it.

The simplest response is that there has been precious little time for writing. If you know me well, you know how difficult it is for me to say no or to sit still – unless it’s time for a beer break. That’s a blessed exception, and one that I cherish down to the last drop, though not as often as people think – or I’d like.

I generally don’t kill time sitting in front of the television set because there isn’t enough time to read, learn and grow to permit “American Idol” to intrude.

I have a career that is still evolving and probably always will, an existing business to keep running and growing, a projected business expansion to get started, and what seems like two or three other lives to live somehow and somewhere within in the mix—family, bicycling, cleaning the house, planning travels, cooking dinner … you name it.

Yes, writing is essential for me; without it, I’m unhappy, but there are times when it must take a back seat, and does so, albeit grudgingly. You don’t know how hard it is to look your long overdue muse in the eye and say: “Not tonight. I must attend a performance of the Conjoined Councilmen.”

(If their tone-deaf ramblings didn't inspire sufficient bile to produce words, the free price of admission would be even more worthless than their vision of life. I suppose I should be thankful for such exceedingly small favors.)

For whatever reason, I harbor the belief that “retirement” is a concept not applicable to my life. To stop working, thinking and learning is to be waiting to die. Type “A” I’m not, though certainly manic on occasion, with more ambition than I tend to acknowledge, and consequently, leisure time is merely the tail, not the dog.

When it comes to the subject matter for which this blog has become locally, shall we say, notorious, I take the obligation to inflict my views on the city with a seriousness that reflects a fundamental work ethic that should be apparent by reading the preceding.

To look back on the past four years in the context of this chronicle and my own personal relationship with the city is to see steady evolution inward, both in the manner by which my passion has been drawn toward the urban experience downtown, and also by my involvement in matters pertaining to it.

I joined the board of Develop New Albany more than a year ago, and was appointed by Mayor England to serve on the board of the Urban Enterprise Association beginning in January, 2008. Permit me to say only that the view is somewhat different from the inside looking out, and I know now more than ever before that while freedom of speech isn’t negotiable, perception of reality on the part of others should never be taken for granted.

It’s February, 2008, and the local mood might be viewed as transitional. It’s a presidential election year, with national economic trends intruding on the disastrous Iraqi incursion as a topic for barroom discussion. Indiana’s media has been obsessed with exaggerating the dimensions of the state’s property tax “revolt,” which more than anything else is a red herring of truly colossal dimensions, but then again, both sex and disgruntlement move units, don’t they?

New Albany’s new mayoral administration and a reconfigured city council have been on the job less than two months. A handful of recent reversals aside, good things are breaking downtown. My optimism is guarded, but genuine.

That’s it for now. Thanks for coming by.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"The Death of Mr Lazarescu."

"The Death of Mr Lazarescu" is a much acclaimed Romanian film from 2005 that chronicles what may or may not be the final eight or so hours in the life of an otherwise anonymous, declining 62-year-old Bucharest alcoholic.

The plot is simple. Mr. Lazerescu, a pensioner and resident of one of the Romanian capital's high rise apartment blocks, is taken ill. When the ambulance finally arrives, he is taken on an increasingly grim tour of municipal hospitals by a paramedic who is oddly determined to see the drugged, confused and increasingly incoherent old man treated even if the universal reaction to his condition is dismissive; after all, he's just a superannuated drunk, and hardly worth anyone's effort.

Along the way, we learn a bit about Mr. Lazarescu's hermetic life, indifferent family and quarrelsome neighbors, but see nothing of external Bucharest save for nighttime traffic on the city's crowded thoroughfares.

And so the dying man is shuttled from one hospital and mishap to the next, and the 2.5-hour film, which is hand-held realist and almost documentary-like in format, is unsparing in its depiction of a medical system that while vastly improved since Communist times, remains underfunded and overwhelmed. But if the periodically comedic aspect is jet black, the uncooperative doctors, bored staffers and nearby bureaucrats are cast in shades of gray. They're not so much evil as victims themselves.

There is rampant pettiness and a noticeable absence of the sort of screen-written heroism that mars television medical dramas, yet these are counterbalanced by acts of gentleness and kindness. The last scene is replete with metaphor about rituals of death and dying. I'll not ruin it for you, but merely note its symbolic simplicity and power.

Although "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" is long, it did not bore me. The doomed old man's plight aroused a plethora of buried emotions pertaining to my late father's experiences during his final weeks, especially the descent of both patients into dementia – the film's depiction was much compressed, and the time frames are very different, but the effect indicative that the wounds beneath my scabs are still fresh almost seven years later.

When I began writing this review, I thought I'd address those memories. Now I know I can't, at least yet.

The film is disturbing, warm, harrowing and funny.

In short, essential.

Photo credit:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The New Albany Inn story.

Develop New Albany's newsletter, The Renaissance Chronicle (.pdf format), had the story yesterday on the impending ownership change at the New Albany Inn.

February 2008 Newsletter

Here's the Tribune story today: New Albany Inn will soon have new ownership.

Friday, February 15, 2008

This space available ...

... to all the "belt tighteners" who spent a good portion of yesterday assailing Mayor England for pointing out that the loss of revenue created by the proposed property tax plan would lead to spending cuts.

For all the knee-jerk "get used to it" reactions, not a single one of the critics in different forums offered even an inkling as to what they would cut, how their cuts would be better for the city than those mentioned by the mayor, or how they would replace the revenue lost if they haven't developed their own cost cutting plan and accompanying justifications.

They may or may not have thought about it. They certainly didn't write about it.

The magic number is $377,000. Now's their chance to shine.

Not nearly as many when we speak of TIF zones.

Thanks for the traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday. NAC's site counter was off the charts.

Nothing like one of Casey Jones' train wrecks (or a statement of atheistic intent) to entice readers.

As for the week's surreal train wreck: I persist in believing that it will morph into a full-blown Jerry Springer episode -- verily, the second coming of Camm trial -- before it's finished.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Today's selected Kinks lyric: "Destroyer."

Met a girl called lola and I took her back to my place
Feelin guilty, feelin scared, hidden cameras everywhere
Stop! hold on. stay in control

Girl, I want you here with me
But Im really not as cool as Id like to be
cause theres a red, under my bed
And theres a little yellow man in my head
And theres a true blue inside of me
That keeps stoppin me, touchin ya, watchin ya, lovin ya

Paranoia, the destroyer.
Paranoia, the destroyer.

Well I fell asleep, then I woke feelin kinda queer
Lola looked at me and said, ooh you look so weird.
She said, man, theres really something wrong with you.
One day youre gonna self-destruct.
Youre up, youre down, I cant work you out
You get a good thing goin then you blow yourself out.

Silly boy ya self-destroyer. silly boy ya self-destroyer

Silly boy you got so much to live for
So much to aim for, so much to try for
You blowing it all with paranoia
Youre so insecure you self-destroyer

(and it goes like this, here it goes)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(here it goes again)
Paranoia, the destroyer

Dr. dr. help me please, I know youll understand
Theres a time device inside of me, Im a self-destructin man
Theres a red, under my bed
And theres a little green man in my head
And he said, youre not goin crazy, youre just a bit sad
cause theres a man in ya, knawin ya, tearin ya into two.

Silly boy ya self-destroyer.
Paranoia, the destroyer

Self-destroyer, wreck your health
Destroy friends, destroy yourself
The time device of self-destruction
Light the fuse and start eruption

(yea, it goes like this, here it goes)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(heres to paranoia)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(hey hey, here it goes)
Paranoia, the destroyer
(and it goes like this)

Paranoia, the destroyer
(and it goes like this.)

(Substitute female perspective for male, and see: New Albany activist's arrest, drug charges surprise many, by the C-J's Dick Kaukas)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pacific Northwest Brew Pub Tour, May 6 – 14, 2008.

As many of you already know, I’ve put together a Pacific Northwest brew tour package for May and am now accepting reservations. We have a limit of 25, with ten signed on as of today.

Leaving Louisville May 6, returning May 14.

NOT included; Bliss Travel (New Albany) is working on a group package, and you're free to determine your own so long as I know the itinerary, you can find the group once there, and return arrangements fit the schedule.

Final pricing:
$1,875 per person double occupancy, and $2,275 per person single occupancy. This includes transfers, all motorcoach, brewery tours, breakfasts, a few evening meals, museum, ballgame admissions and all lodging.

Please do me a favor and pass this along to interested parties. My e-mail address is istanbul85(at), and our local tour operator is Tony Minden, owner of OregonWest Excursions.

Portland OR
Embassy Suites (Downtown)
BridgePort Brewing
McMenamins Cosmic Bus Tour (McMenamins Edgefield, Kennedy School, Crystal Ballroom)
Rogue Ales in Portland
Crown Point State Scenic Corridor
Multnomah Falls
Full Sail Brewing
Hood River Fruit Loop
Timberline Lodge

Tacoma WA
Harmon’s Brewery & Restaurant
Museum of Glass

Seattle WA
Silver Cloud Hotel
Hale’s Ales Brewery & Pub
Pike Pub & Brewery
Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurants
Safeco Field tour and Mariners vs. White Sox

Astoria OR
Comfort Suites Columbia River
Wet Dog Cafe & Astoria Brewing Company
Fort George Brewery + Public House
Columbia River Maritime Museum
Seafood School

Newport OR
Elizabeth Street Inn
Rogue Ales
Rogue Ales Public House
Marine Discovery Tours
Rogue Brewer’s on the Bay
Oregon Coast Aquarium

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Maybe the stash should have been hidden in the sewers.

For a Wednesday morning update, the C-J's on the story: Couple arrested in drug case Ex-candidate's home searched, by Dick Kaukas.

Police said that they found "an indoor marijuana growing operation" in the basement of the couple's home and that officers recovered more than 35 pounds of marijuana.


From Tuesday:

I take no pleasure in passing along this story from today's Tribune. In my opinion, marijuana should be legal.

But it remains illegal.

And news is news.

New Albany Police make drug arrest at Main Street home

Police searched a home at 616 E. Main St. in New Albany on Monday and arrested two people listed as living at the home for possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana, among other offenses.

Frank J. Lucchese, 59, and Yvonne R. Kersey, 53, were listed in the Floyd County Jail book-ins for allegedly dealing marijuana, maintaining a common nuisance and possession of paraphernalia, along with the possession charge.

It was not clear at press time what charges would be filed and no other information was available from police.

"John Wilcox has resigned from Mayor England's administration."

From at-large councilman John Gonder's blog (Tuesday, 12 February):

Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye

John Wilcox has resigned from Mayor England's administration. He says he is simply tired and wants to enjoy the retirement he set aside to join England's team. He was the campaign manager during the primary and general election. The proof of his effectiveness is shown by the results of the election. Although he didn't say it directly, I believe John was somewhat reluctant to enter the fray full time. I think the England team has lost a valuable member.

What do you remember about the snow storms in 1977 and 1978?

It's finally white outside.

I certainly remember the consecutive yearly blizzards while nearing the end of my high school career, and our being out of class for around three weeks in both 1977 and 1978.

It’s hard to believe, but I was a Floyd Central varsity basketball player at the time (it’s even harder to believe that I could dunk, though these days such antics are restricted to doughnuts), and the school cancellations had almost no effect on the sports routine. Few if any practices were missed as a junior in 1977, and it seems that at least some of the games were played, although others were postponed.

My recollection of 1978 is that ultimately, the issue was less about snowfall than a coal shortage and high energy prices in the midst of Jimmy Carter’s famous “malaise.” Consequently, we continued to practice in daylight right after school at Georgetown Elementary, where there were still windows, so that the electricity could be spared at FCHS. The games we played on our home court were also right after school, so the gym wouldn’t have to be heated at night.

But … am I on the right track here? Something about these memories doesn’t jibe.

What puzzles me in retrospect is why we didn’t get back to school sooner. Apart from the not unexpected phenomenon of the basketball program’s tail wagging the dog (how times have changed at FCHS!), there are memories of getting out, driving around, socializing, grocery shopping.

More recently, there was the massive snow dump of 1994, when we were somehow able to keep the pub open after about ten inches and had a great business day, in the process unfortunately missing the single best Rich O’s photo opportunity ever when my pal Kevin and his brothers-in-law drove their snowmobiles over and parked right outside the door atop the mound created by the industrious “Mr. Plow.” But the '94 snow was gone within days.

Given the panic-stricken standards of today, the current snowfall constitutes the apocalypse. I believe there was a time not so long ago when the White Terror earned its sobriquet. On the other hand, quite a few beers have passed in the interim.

If I start telling stories about walking miles through snowdrifts, you can give “last call.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Discussion: What is “Economic Development”?

The following was contributed to NA Confidential by a local resident who chooses to use the pen name of Orlando Poe. While it is true that since this blog’s inception, I have stated a general preference for full disclosure, exceptions have been allowed, and this is one. Orlando's real identity is known.

The thoughts reprinted below seem ideal as a discussion starter even if I don’t agree in lock step with each and every one.


There are many issues facing New Albany at this moment:

“Economic Development”

· Realizing that we’re all in this together and we had better resolve to work together to save downtown New Albany and the community as a whole.

· Realizing that no one faction, organization or group – be it private sector, public sector or nonprofit sector – has the answers to the problems facing New Albany.

· The private sector has a role to play and a responsibility to step up when it comes to rebuilding downtown; just as much as city government has a similar responsibility. The private sector must understand its responsibility to take the lead in many instances in rebuilding downtown. We should not expect the new administration to be all things to all people. They have a role to play, but do not have all the answers. And the new administration should realize that very same point. It should know what it doesn’t know; and know when to turn to others for answers. The new administration should not expect to be host to the only ideas and programs designed to bring back downtown.

· The new administration must understand the private sector is allowed to organize and should encourage the private and nonprofit sectors to create their own agendas and programs of work for rebuilding downtown New Albany. The new administration has much on its plate and can’t be expected to be everywhere or do everything for everybody. There is more to New Albany than just the downtown and the new administration will have to address issues in other neighborhoods and parts of the city. That shouldn’t mean efforts in the downtown stop. All three sectors must work together on developing a comprehensive plan to bring the downtown back.

· Downtown New Albany will never return to what it once was, and why would we want it to? Instead of looking at the past, look to the future and see what we can build here and now – and tomorrow. What was good enough for our parents should not be what we settle for when it comes to us.

Let us then begin: What is “Economic Development”?

Is it just bringing jobs into a community, or is it more; for instance, “Community Development”?

I posit that Economic Development is more the latter. Bringing jobs into the local community is economic development. But it is so much more. We must begin looking at community development as economic development. We must think in terms of public arts programs, neighborhood development and other programs when we think of economic development.

In 2007, downtown New Albany had a wonderful spring and summer; new businesses came in and existing businesses spruced up their facades. Things were looking up. Then came the fall and winter months; to date, we have lost two local restaurants, and one wonders when a third will announce its closing. There is a second beauty salon opening on Pearl Street; and a second arts gallery operating in the same area on an appointment basis. We appear to have run willy-nilly in bringing in businesses that may not have had the following we originally believed.

Don’t get us wrong.

We (the royal “We”) should welcome all comers and offer to do what we can within our limited means to help them succeed. But shouldn’t we be looking at an expanded local economy instead of putting our eggs in a limited basket? How do we know New Albany will support these businesses? Instead of bringing in a business just in order to give someone a commission – only for it to go out of business a few months later – shouldn’t we find out what kinds of businesses the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods will support? How do we do that? We do need to look after our reputation. If downtown gets the reputation of being unable to support new or existing businesses, we might as well shut down shop now. We also need to understand that Scribner Place is not going to be the panacea to the problems of New Albany. Instead, it is one piece of a larger puzzle.

Should we encourage those who know how, to find out what types of businesses New Albany will and can support, and then pursue them? How do we do that? Should the city and/or nonprofits – or the two groups working together - have an aggressive local economic development recruitment program?

What is the best avenue to keep the downtown alive? Increase foot traffic? How do we accomplish that? What projects or programs would being more people downtown and make them get out of their cars?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wrong photo, guys.

In the top right-hand corner of the Sunday Tribune's "Spectrum" section, there’s a photo of Sammy Hagar.

For the uninitiated, Hagar was the singer for the rock band Van Halen from 1984 through about 1996, replacing original vocalist David Lee Roth.

Hagar’s photo is meant to draw attention to an article inside that charts the considerable success of the current Van Halen reunion tour.

That’d be the tour with David Lee Roth singing, and without Sammy Hagar involved in any way. In fact, Hagar’s name is not mentioned in the article itself, and it is clearly noted that during the ongoing tour, no songs from after 1984 are being played, just the ones that Diamond Dave originally sang prior to that date.

Somehow this reminds me of the inexplicable tendency of newspapers to do things like run a banner headline naming a savage criminal, then prominently display a photo of the police officer who arrested him.

The devil's in the details, guys.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Turn-Key restaurant opportunity in New Albany at the former Treet's.

The following announcement comes from Matt & Jessica Bergman, who have restored and reside in the historic commercial building at 315 E. Market. That's in downtown New Albany, across the street from the former Bistro New Albany and the Grand Convention Center.

Most readers know that Matt's and Jessica's storefront was occupied by Treet's Bakery Cafe until a month or so ago. We continue to lament the passing of Treet's, but as Matt reveals, a good commercial opportunity has surfaced in its wake. It's worth noting that while there is no alcohol licensing of the floor plan, the building lies within the domain of the riverfront development area, and if the owners were willing, a permit would be easily obtained.

However, I persist in thinking that the best use for the space would be a coffee shop on the Heine Brothers model (don't ask them; I already have. While supportive, Gary and Mike are busy expanding in Louisville).

Note that the former Rainbow Bread building that NABC hopes to convert into a brewery and taproom (an expansion of our current operation, which will remain as it is) is only a block and a half away from Matt's and Jessica's building.

Help us by spreading the word, please.


I wanted to make you all aware that we recently lost one of our downtown businesses when Treet's Bakery Cafe closed at the end of January. Jessica and I are in search of a new tenant for our location at 135 East Market St. We would love to have another bakery & cafe type of place but are open to other options.

To secure a quick turn around, we have purchased all of the equipment and furniture in our building from the bank. This means we have a turn-key operation that is ready to open right away. The lease will be $1530 for over 2400 sq ft of restaurant space. We will also consider offers to purchase the equipment out right, creating an option to receive a lower monthly lease payment.

If you know of any businesses looking to expand or start a new business, please contact Mike Kopp 502-386-9022 to arrange a time to see our nicely restored space at 135 East Market St.

A rose and a pet … free flowers with furry friends.

(A press release from the NAFC Animal Shelter)

Don’t have a sweetheart? Pick your own partner by adopting a homeless pet, complete with a rose!

Buds In Bloom has graciously offered to provide a free rose with every furry friend adopted at The New Albany Floyd County Animal Shelter -- only on Valentine’s Day this year! Coupons will be distributed with each pet adopted at any of our locations. The coupon can be redeemed that day at Buds In Bloom at 225 Pearl St.

All pets adopted from the New Albany Floyd County Animal Shelter have been vaccinated, wormed, treated for fleas, and micro-chipped. Cats have tested negative for Feline Leukemia/FIV, and dogs have tested negative for heartworms. In addition, all animals come with an adoption gift pack and starter bag of food!

Shelter Adoption Hours:
Monday through Friday: 12:00 noon - 4:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

GreenTree Mall Adoption Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 12:00 noon – 7:00 p.m. (closed 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. for lunch) ... cats are also at SuperPetz, Connor Jewelry and the New Albany Feeders Supply.

Adoption fees:
Cats: $50 … Cats under 4lbs: $60 … Dogs: $70

Theresa Stilger (Animal Care Coordinator) or David Hall (Director)
Cell phone: 376-8637, 376-8430
Shelter: (812) 948-5355

Friday, February 08, 2008

"Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat."

In the Irish love triangle there are three parties involved: A man, and a woman – and drink.

And so the girl gives an ultimatum to her boyfriend: It's either the drink, or me.

And he chooses the drink.

But afterwards, he relents. They get married and live happily ever after.

The three of them.

-- in-concert anecdote told by Sean Cannon of the Dubliners


My cousin Don the college professor returned to Southern Indiana one typically balmy summer in the middle 1980's bearing a sack full of vinyl. The albums were old pressings of the Dubliners, the Wolfe Tones, Tommy Makem, the Clancy Brothers and other Irish folk bands, most of which had risen to prominence in the 1960's.

I'd already been to Ireland a couple of times at this point, but the trips were short, and while sufficient to drain numerous pints of the national black elixir and deplete the seas of fish to accompany chips, there hadn't been time for a proper cultural education.

As a pedagogue in the best of all classical senses, Don now proposed to redress the imbalance. I was given reading assignments: James Joyce ("Ulysses" is one thing; "Finnegan's Wake" quite another), Seamus Heaney, John Synge, W.B. Yeats, and "The Green Flag," Robert Kee's masterful history of Ireland.

We watched a videotaped episode of the PBS series "The Story of English," which examined the contribution of Gaelic-speaking Ireland toward shaping the language the island now speaks.

Best of all, we listened to the records, and drank quite a lot of beer. It was one whale of a summer seminar, and I'll never forget it. My family background is almost entirely white trash German, with a smidgen of English tossed in, but once I'd developed a taste of things Irish, it always seemed that there must have been at least one stray shot of Irish DNA in the mix somewhere. A rogue, a wander, an outcast in the great disapora. Otherwise, how could I feel so intensely that I'd been there long before I ever actually visited?

It can't be said often enough that Ireland's leap forward in the twenty years since my summer course in all things Irish parallels nothing so much as Eastern Europe's trajectory since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It was a very different Ireland then, and once familiar with the music, I could grasp several themes in the Irish experience between the potato famine early in the 19th-century and the Cold War period.

There was a deep reverence for the collective Irish historical experience, slipshod and impoverished as it had been. There was contempt for the British colonial overlord, but also a recognition that Ireland would not be returning to its Gaelic past, even when an often hamfisted theocratic government insisted. There was a sense of gallows humor, mordant and defeatist, yet playfully proud and vibrantly patriotic, looking always to a different and better future in spite of the horrendous pratfalls of the past. There was much good-humored bawdiness about drinking and whoring and the alleged nobility of true love.

Stereotypes aplenty, but as we know, stereotypes become such owing to prescient grains of truth amid the inflation of hyperbole.

And what gifted musicianship! Fiddles and tin whistles, guitars and banjos, all crowded in the corner of a pub somewhere with sod burning in the fireplace even in high summer, pints of Guinness all around, and everyone in the room singing – not just karaoke, but singing far more than capably, often with voices better than the performers.

So it remains, in a country now ranking among the wealthiest in Europe.

A favorite song? As with all music, it's impossible to make a definitive selection, but the Dubliners remains my favorite group (thanks, Don) and among there finest creative periods was the mid-1970's, when the legendary Luke Kelly was at his peak, joined for a brief period by Jim McCann, an impressive tenor whose version of "Carrickfergus" is, for me, better than Van Morrison's.

Here are the lyrics, though they can't convey the simultaneously tragic and uplifting mood of this incredible traditional song.

I wish I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygran
I would swim over the deepest ocean
Only for nights in Ballygran
But the sea is wide and I can not swim over
And neither have I the wings to fly
I wish I had a handsome boatman
To ferry me over, my love and I

My childhood days bring back sad reflections

Of happy times we spent so long ago
My boyhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on like the melting snow
And I spent my days in ceaseless roving

Soft is the grass and my bed is free
Oh to be back now in Carrickfergus
On that long winding road down to the sea

Now in Kilkenny it is recorded

On marble stones there as black as ink
With gold and silver I would support her
But I'll sing no more now till I get a drink
'Cause I'm drunk today and I'm seldom sober
A handsome rover from town to town
Ah but I'm sick now, my days are numbered
Come all you young men and lay me down

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Code enforcement and rental registrations back in the news.

Get, 'em, Lloyd.

Lloyd Wimp keeps his New Albany property maintained; he wants rental property owners to do the same, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune).

(Lloyd) Wimp is leading a movement with like-minded property owners who want better enforcement of codes in New Albany. His current focus is rental property owners that live out of the city and do not keep their lots up to par.

Wimp spoke to the Building Commission on Monday about the problem.

“One of the big issues that I understand is they (code enforcement officials) are having trouble finding who owns the property, and when they find out who owns the property, finding out where they are at,” Wimp said.

After researching cities around Indiana, Wimp has come to the conclusion that requiring rental property owners to register with the local government would help solve some of the problems.

Better hurry down to the courthouse. I hear Pat Harrison's planning a public immolation.

Wouldn't want to miss it ...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Three-for-one at NA Shadow Council.

Three postings from NA Shadow Council address issues pertaining to Monday's first of two February city council meetings, and are worthy of your attention. I'm providing a brief teaser for each:

Gettin' Down in the Muck
Less than a month after the council showed wisdom in bringing to an end two pieces of litigation it was sure to lose, it officially reversed itself on one of them and thumbed its nose to the court and the opposing parties on the other.

A Mac Attack
D4 Pat McLaughlin tabled or deferred consideration Monday night on a tax abatement measure intended to give incentives to L&D Mail Masters for investment in a new property.

The One-Member Veto
Do New Albany's ordinances and council procedures actually permit a single member to bottle up legislation because he or she is unprepared, confused, or opposed to a measure?

See also: President Gahan keeps his foot on the gas and an eye on the hourglass.

Bush, Seabrook do the funky McAllister, vote to proceed with demolition of North Annex.

I can't say it better, so why try?

Bass Ackward, by New Alb Annie at Diggin in the Dirt.

Maybe one day our elected officials will try to take all the needs of a community into account, but it didn't happen last night at the Floyd County Commissioners meeting.

Instead of engaging local preservationists at the outset, when talks about demolishing the historically significant North Annex began, the Commissioners and County Council chose to ignore expressed concerns by failing to respond to letters addressing the matter.

Oh, well. I suppose we get what we vote for.

Here's C-J coverage last night's Philistine confab. Props to my old teammate Charles Freiberger for at least grasping the utility of amassing as much information as possible before making a key decision. That counts for something, I suppose.

Leveling of Floyd annex is approved

Rejecting a request from preservationists to study whether the county's 130-year-old North Annex building can be renovated, the Floyd County commissioners voted 2-1 last night to proceed with plans that include tearing it down.

(Photo credit: Floyd County Historical Society)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Open thread: Super Tuesday.

Dual Clintonians or Obama?

In a few hours, we may have a clue as to the direction the Democrats will be following in 2008. As an aperitif, I’m suggesting this article by the inimitable Frank Rich:

Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama, by Frank Rich (New York Times).

Now that John McCain has gathered momentum, will the Republicans end their misery and eviscerate Mitt Romney? The West Virginia caucus results earlier today certainly seem to suggest that the answer is yes, with all the delegates in poverty central going to the doomed theocratic huckster Huckabee.

Stay tuned, and feel free to discuss here as the results unfold.

As for me, it will be delightful to cast my eighth consecutive anti-Republican presidential vote this fall. I'd prefer it be for Barack Obama.

Give me Obama-McCain, and a generational competition that represents a true choice, and we’ll see.

Monday, February 04, 2008

President Gahan keeps his foot on the gas and an eye on the hourglass.


Tonight’s council meeting clocked in at 42 minutes, flat, and I’m not sure whether to demand my money back or dance naked in the street – and even the latter’s no longer a safe bet, seeing as (perhaps) we’re finally beginning to enforce an ordinance or three.

New Albany revives suit over bids; Sewer, storm-water contracts challenged, by Dick Kaukas (Courier-Journal).

The major move of the evening came when the council voted 7-2 (CMs Jack Messer and Kevin Zurschmiede dissenting) to rescind resolution R-08-04, which had been approved 5-4 at the second January meeting.

R-08-04 was the resolution to drop the council’s lawsuit against the sewer and stormwater boards over the legality of those boards awarding no-bid "professional services" contracts to EMC in 2007.

In reversing course tonight, CMs Bob Caesar, Pat McLaughlin and Steve Price insisted they were influenced to change their votes by the dramatic resurfacing of new information. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t recall this new information ever being introduced at any point during the session. All Caesar had to say was to deny that it was aimed at any one person.

Chalk this one up to heavy behind the scenes lobbying of the two council newbies by the faction that favors a court decision.

As it stood, and without the mercifully retired Larry Kochert to chime in, Zurschmiede yet again defended his role in negotiating the EMC contract, and CM Dan Coffey yet again damned Zurschmiede with faint praise and vowed to place his paws around the wastewater spigots post haste.

In short, it was a rerun.

Coffey also used the opportunity offered by the debate over sewer board and related legal fees to suggest that the battle three years ago against New Albany DVD, the generally empty porno front on West Main Street, was worth every penny it cost the city because it prevented a slew of similar businesses from locating along the strip.

As with the “new” information about sewer-related legal action, no documented claims for any of this were offered by Coffey.

Apparently Bazooka Joe U. offers no courses in pornography forensics; either that, or pumpkin patches just aren’t in season.

They sell wax ones, you know.

Tonight: A council’s prerogative to change its mind?

New Albany’s previous sitting council dully chased “all the information,” the “withheld information” and the “missing information“ for four seemingly endless years, to precious little concrete effect, but in this bold new era, finally – finally – “additional information” has bubbled to the surface.

New Albany sewer, storm water suit not over yet, by Daniel Suddeath (News & Tribune).

Additional information in the lawsuit between the City of New Albany and its Sewer and Storm Water Drainage boards could result in the rescinding of last month’s City Council vote to end litigation in the case.

Fans of the mystery genre already know the outcome: It was the butler who finedishly enabled the no-bid sewer contract, but the real entertainment comes from seeing the council members don their houndstooth hats, plug in their briar (unlit) pipes and reverse field. Just remember that the imperative to provide a hungry audience with numerous sequels means that there's always previously unidentified information waiting to leap in the council's laps -- or, depending on the case, to remain buried until needed.

Meanwhile, the 3rd district’s reigning political embarrassment already has offered a strong contender for quote of the year (abject economics futility category) with this gem:

“The way I see it right now we have two solutions to come up with more money,” (Steve) Price said. “Start printing it ourselves or increase (sewer rate) rates — I am against both.”

Just imagine if we used economic development monies to, well, develop the economy and not to subsidize sewer rates. The citywide pie might actually grow larger, and instead of subsidizing the rates for all people, a share of the larger pie might be used to subsidize only those who can’t afford the increase.

Of course, when it comes to the 3rd district councilman, any crumb on the floor is tantamount to a pie in the sky -- and just as unattainable.

February 4 agenda and exhibits.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wilbur Larch, among others.

For a quarter-century I’ve been scourged by critics hereabouts on the grounds of presumed communism, atheism – and the worst condemnation of all – humanism.

Communist? Only the most stunted of imaginations could contrive charges of communist sympathies in an entrepreneur and small businessman, and yet this idiocy surfaces again and again. I'm a social democrat in the classic European mold, without a political party in this country to represent me, and so be it; I vote against the fascists, and have a clear conscience.

Atheist? Yes. We can discuss that aspect another time, although I suppose that a rejection of the supernatural leads somewhat naturally (pun intended) to the final slur, that of secular humanism.

Humanist? Absolutely and indeed, and in fact, I subscribe to the following, as worded by the Council for Secular Humanism:

Secular Humanism is a way of thinking and living that aims to bring out the best in people so that all people can have the best in life. Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness … equality, justice for all … in the here and now, in a world defined far more by gray areas than black and whites connected to the unverifiable … where we must negotiate and compromise with each other in human communities … all these notions underpin my personal conception of humanism. You’re free to disagree.

To me, no one issue better illustrates the struggle for equality on the part of fully half the world’s population than the right of reproductive choice for women. While a woman’s freedom to choose the option of abortion may well represent the extreme component of reproductive choice, a clear majority of Americans believe that it should remain just such a legalized, regulated, and defined option.

I support a woman's right to choose.

Seldom does NAC publish full articles from other sources, but today is an exception.


The Abortionist.

THIS COMMON SECRET: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor.

By Susan Wicklund with Alan Kesselheim.

A review in the New York Times Book Review by Eyal Press, a contributing writer at The Nation, and the author of “Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict That Divided America”

One morning in January 1991, Susan Wicklund arrived at work wearing a heavy coat of makeup and a curly auburn wig pulled over her half-inch-long gray hair. It was a get-up worthy of a double agent, and it succeeded in helping Wicklund slip unnoticed across enemy lines, though not without feeling as if she’d stepped into a version of “The Twilight Zone.” “Why do I have to do this?” she scrawled in her journal afterward. “WHY?”

The price of concealment is the central theme of Wicklund’s memoir, “This Common Secret,” which offers a rare glimpse into the life of an abortion provider who, like her dwindling band of peers, learned to don an array of disguises over the course of her tumultuous and peripatetic career. Wicklund grew up in a small community in rural Wisconsin populated by gun owners and deer hunters. She went on to become a reproductive health specialist who helped staff abortion clinics in five states, mostly in the Midwest, places that, by the late 1980s, had become veritable combat zones.

Wicklund’s daughter, Sonja, who contributes an epilogue in which she recalls breaking down every time she learned that another abortion provider had been shot, saw her mother as a pillar of strength who never let the wrath of anti-abortion protesters faze her. As it turns out, the stoic demeanor was as deceptive as the wig. The unstinting pressure — “Wanted” signs bearing her photo posted up around town, throngs of demonstrators amassed outside the places where she worked — often drove Wicklund to tears. She took to carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver. She watched what she said to strangers, sometimes even to relatives, refusing for years to tell her grandmother she performed abortions out of fear she’d disapprove. When Wicklund finally divulged the secret, her grandmother shared one of her own: at 16, her best friend had gotten pregnant, most likely following an act of incest. She’d tried to help her end the pregnancy with a sharp object, and watched her bleed to death.

“This Common Secret” does not attempt to offer a comprehensive account of the abortion conflict, much less an evenhanded one. Though Wicklund claims to respect those who harbor moral qualms about abortion, her book makes no effort to engage critics of Roe v. Wade. The narrative has a somewhat slapdash feel — a journal entry on one page, a flurry of statistics on the next — and, though recounted in the first person, lacks a distinctive voice, perhaps because the book was written with a co-author.

Yet in setting down her story, Wicklund has done something brave, not only by refusing to cower in the shadows but also by recounting experiences that don’t always fit the conventional pro-choice script. Before receiving her medical training, Wicklund had an abortion herself. She was asked no questions, offered no advice and left the clinic feeling violated. Years later, she terminated the pregnancy of a woman who’d been raped and wanted an abortion. Afterward, Wicklund examined the product of conception and discovered the pregnancy had occurred two weeks earlier, meaning it was not a consequence of the rape. Both she and the patient were horrified.

Opponents of abortion might view such episodes as proof that abortion is evil. For Wicklund, they are what drove and inspired her to help each woman she encountered make an informed, truly independent choice. At a clinic she ran in Montana, this meant placing the emphasis on counseling, which sometimes strengthened a patient’s resolve to terminate her pregnancy and other times led her to reconsider and bear the child instead. Wicklund may never convince the protesters who demonized her that women should be free to make such decisions on their own. But in sharing her secrets, she has shown why there is much honor in having spent a lifetime attempting to ensure they do.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"Food porn" from the the NYT Book Review.

While puttering around the kitchen to prepare a pot of Cincinnati-style chili for Super Bowl Sunday, I picked up a two-week old New York Times Book Review and read something really funny, as reported by Dwight Garner in "TBR: Inside the List":

Michael Pollan’s slim new book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” enters the nonfiction list at No. 1. It’s Pollan’s third book to appear here in hardcover, after “The Botany of Desire” (2001) and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (2006). On NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” a few weeks ago, Pollan deplored the “heroic” cooking on many food shows.

“They make it look really hard,” he said. “You know, it’s like watching too much pornography. You think that that’s how sex is done, and it’s kind of intimidating.”

Nothing heroic about chopping two onions, opening a few cans, adding spices and a beer, and dumping all of it into a pot to simmer while I continue reading and sipping tea.

What was that about sex?

Friday, February 01, 2008

8664 Update - Exciting news and URGENT request.

(Verbatim, from Tyler Allen and JC Stites at ... and this just might be the first time in three years that NAC and Freedom of Speech are in agreement, even if I'm uncertain why Prof. Erika has chosen to insert the word "greenway." All in all, I'm not sure whether to applaud or crane my neck toward the grassy knoll)


Dear Supporter,

We need your help in one of two ways.

Today we confirmed that we will be presenting to the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation this Monday, February 4th. The meeting will be at 2pm in room 131 of the Capitol Annex. All the details are below. This is our one chance to impact this project at the state level. We would like to have a strong show of support, so please spread the word.

If you can't attend our presentation on Monday, PLEASE show your support right now by calling:

800-372-7181 (legislative hotline)

Provide your name, address, and phone number.

"My message is for the House BR SUB on Transportation."

"I want to save $2 Billion and I support 86-64."

As they say, operators are standing by. Please, make the call right now. There has never been a more critical time to impact this project.

Thanks for your time and support.


Tyler Allen and JC Stites

PS We don't have lobbyists or high-priced attorneys, we are relying on the grassroots support and common sense of this community. Thank you for helping us make our case.


To advocate for the revitalization of Louisville through the adoption of a transportation plan that will provide long-term benefits to the region's citizens, neighborhoods, environment and economy.

Meeting details:

Monday, February 4, 2008

Arrival Time 1:40 p.m.

Meeting will be from 2:00-3:30 pm

Room 131, Capitol Annex

702 Capitol Avenue

Frankfort, KY 40601

Directions: It will take an hour and ten minutes from downtown Louisville. Take I-64 east to exit 53B (Lawrenceburg Rd. US 127N), go 2.2 miles north and turn RIGHT on US 60. In less than a mile, you will see a sign to the Capitol. Go LEFT onto Lafayette Drive. Go down the hill straight between the Capitol on your left and Capitol Annex on your right. Beyond the Annex, turn right into the top level of the parking garage. You may need to drive down into the garage to find available parking.

Enter the Capitol Annex in the front of the building. You will need show photo identification to go through security. Please arrive by 1:40.

If you would like to arrange for a carpool, please email and we will help to facilitate.

Traffic redirect: New postings at NA Shadow Council.

Can't think of anything to say today? Not Shadow5, who closed January with three postings at NA Shadow Council.

Me? I'm holed up with my dog-eared copy of "The Wit and Wisdom of Larry McAllister" -- both squares.


First Monday Preview

In his second stint (and third year) as council president, we hear that Mr. Gahan intends to lock in the council agendas five business days prior to the meetings. That might make it easier for members and watchdogs to prepare. It might just make it easier for members.

It does create a situation where evolving issues will be shut out from discussion. One such issue where the city council could lend its influence has arisen. We are waiting to find out if this new, unannounced parliamentary procedure will be used to stifle debate or invigorate it. The convenience of members shouldn't be the paramount consideration. But then, as seen below, some members just need more time to avoid confusion. But will they use the extra time or simply wait until the gavel falls to begin their consideration.

In any event, you don't have to wait until Monday to study up. The Feb. 4 agenda is posted now, accompanied online by the exhibits included in members' packets.


Defending Diane

Over the past two weeks we've heard a number of complaints about Diane McCartin-Benedetti's rocky start as the rookie council member representing the old 5th District. Around here we call her "D5" to differentiate her (and to avoid the temptation to coin a new label).

Today, we'd like to take a few moments to look on the bright side of her month-old term of office and offer a lawyer's defense of her performance so far.


The Kochert Legacy Begins to Crumble

And now work begins on the other Larry's legacy...

A long-awaited and much-appreciated move by the new sewer board (created without the input of Diane McCartin-Benedetti, council member for D5) earns the top spot in Friday's editions of The Tribune.

Many have advocated for the city to use its financial and regulatory muscle to encourage preferred development. One of the most immediate ways for the city to do so is to impose or waive various fees.

The city-owned sewer enterprise moved Tuesday to waive the sewer tap-in fees for two Community Housing developments, signaling that they "get" the whole idea of progressive community development.