Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fill 'er up: More health fascism on the Indianapolis legislative horizon.

As an oblique way of approaching today's polemic, the question has been asked whether NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse will be smoking or non-smoking.

There are seven persons doing the bulk of the start-up work at the new location on Bank Street: The Publican (me), Gregg, Jesse, Jared, Kelsey, Josh and John. Of these, there are three cigarette smokers and at least one cigar aficionado (my habit is one a day, sometimes two).

We decided to vote democratically on the smoking issue, and it was unanimous in favor of no indoor smoking at the taproom/brasserie. Because there will be an outdoor patio, there is the prospect of arranging an all-weather enclosure for smokers. This option will be pursued when there is time.

The point to me is that we conferred and reached an equitable decision with which we’re all comfortable. The taproom/brasserie is quite small, and we’ll be trying to do new and different approaches to food and beer. All this is incompatible with smoking inside. Consequently, our workers will be protected from second-hand smoke, and our smoking employees, as adults capable of making their own decisions, will continue to subject their lungs to smoke.

Meanwhile, with a drastic economic downturn underway and Indiana ranking near the top of selected unemployment statistics, there’s time for the state legislature to mimic New Albany’s city council and waste valuable time with superfluousness.

Panel to air smoking-ban bill; Some businesses are seeking exemptions, by Lesley Stedman Weidenbener.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana would go smoke-free in all public places -- including restaurants, bars and casinos -- if legislation to be heard in committee next week becomes law …

… Doctors, health groups, anti-smoking organizations and others are scheduled to have two hours to make their case that a ban will save lives now lost to diseases caused by second-hand smoke.

Then opponents -- including casinos, restaurant owners and some local government officials who don't want to cede authority to the state -- will have two hours to make their case.

"We're hoping to fill the House chamber with people," said Tim Filler, grass-roots chairman of the Indiana Campaign for Smokefree Air.

One must wonder whether the presiding legislative officer in Indianapolis will take a cue from former council president Gahan and suspend his own rules to permit Filler to fill more time disparaging the sub-humans who smoke?

NA in the Indiana Brownfields Bulletin.

From Mike Ladd of the UEA comes this good civic PR from the Indiana Brownfields Bulletin. Follow the link, scroll to page 7, and enjoy the photos.

On November 15, 2008, the City of New Albany celebrated the grand opening of its new YMCA and Aquatic center ...

... This brownfield redevelopment project is in a formerly contaminated area of New Albany along the Ohio River that has a long history of industrial blight. The site was assessed using an Indiana Brownfields Program (Program) assessment grant and cleaned up using a portion of $400,000 in cleanup grant funds from the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency ...


Read the rest at Indiana Brownfields Bulletin.

Friday, January 30, 2009

See anonymous. See anonymous yap. Anonymous is mad.

My pal "anonymous" posted the following on Mrs. Baird's blog.

I think it's funny. Maybe you will, too.

---

The difference between NAC and FOS.

a.) NAC does not put facts on his blog. Case in point: He's been ranting about redistricting, but didn't our council pass an ordinance which makes his blog his opinion not fact?
b.) If he does not like what you state he attacks you, so he's dealing with his opinion not based on fact.
c.) His vocabulary is slightly warped and full of vengeance
d.) I researched blog ,do you know what it says? You are to have very few links, it is a well known fact that what NAC post does not mean people are reading what he post. It just means people click on NAC for the links not his words.
e.) So I challenge NAC to take the links off and lets see who is reading his crap.
Fact is NAC has been after Councilman Coffey and Steve Price for years, which proves my point it's personal. At least FOS backs their postings up with laws, facts and what individuals say.
f.) When reading NAC do you like others shake your head and say: what the f**k is he even saying? Most of the time like I stated before it's his opinion and never much substance.
g.)How many times have you read FOS and said to yourself, I feel the same way. I have several times.

Just like Shirley's blog here. She allows us to vent, give our thoughts, opinions and that's good for all of us.

But my thought are, don't try to force his/NAC opinions on others.

h.) As for grammar, I've checking his words and someone needs to explain to him his grammar is not so good either and the tribune has to place a disclaimer to keep from being sued.

I.) In fact, Roger's stumbling, fumbling, and endless searching for words have caused him many enemies.

As I once heard; you can form opinions without having to get the facts.

January 30, 2009 7:17 AM

Who makes the call? President or group?

Given that the move surprised many people, both within and without the city council, it's a legitimate question to ask: How did council attorney Jerry Ulrich come to be replaced by Stan Robison?

Anyone know?

More than one city council member has been heard to remark that he first learned of the council attorney swap only upon entering the council chambers on January 15.

So, did the council's president have an obligation to consult with his betters before pulling the trigger?

In this instance, New Albany’s much ignored code of ordinances is mute, although the state of Indiana’s rule book has this to say:

IC 36-4-6-24

Attorneys and legal research assistants


Sec. 24. (a) The legislative body may hire or contract with competent attorneys and legal research assistants on terms it considers appropriate.

(b) Employment of an attorney under this section does not affect the city department of law established under IC 36-4-9.

(c) Appropriations for salaries of attorneys and legal research assistants employed under this section may not exceed the appropriations for similar salaries in the budget of the city department of law.

As added by Acts 1980, P.L.212, SEC.3.

“Legislative body” seems to imply that the entity as a whole is charged with considering such matter, although in the most recent case, it is painfully obvious that Dan Coffey made the rotating attorney decision unilaterally. Perhaps he consulted other selected council persons, but just as obviously, not all of them.

New Albany’s code of ordinances describes the president’s duties in this passage:

§ 30.16 PRESIDENT.

(A) The President shall preside at all meetings, preserve order, decorum and decide all questions of order subject to appeal to the Common Council. He shall appoint all standing committees and all special committees that may be ordered by the Council. All standing committees shall be appointed at the commencement of each year of the term of Council and shall serve only during the term of the President appointing same. He shall fill all existing vacancies that may thereafter occur in any of such committees.

(B) He shall sign all ordinances, orders and resolutions passed by the Council before their presentation to the Mayor, as well as the journal of proceedings.

(C) He shall vote on all issues, his name being called last.

('71 Code, §30.05) (Ord. 4600, passed 3-4-57)

There is no mention of appointments beyond committee members, and we'll let the "preserve order, decorum, etc" go until another day.

We’d be happy to hear from any council member or surrogate who can help us understand the process (if any) for replacing one council attorney with another.

Until then, and turning back to the state of Indiana’s guidelines for local legislative bodies, we find that there is an official remedy for Coffey's reign of error.

IC 36-4-6-6
Power to expel member or declare seat vacant; rules

Sec. 6. The legislative body may:

(1) expel any member for violation of an official duty;

(2) declare the seat of any member vacant if he is unable to perform the duties of his office; and

(3) adopt its own rules to govern proceedings under this section.
However, a two-thirds (2/3) vote is required to expel a member or vacate his seat.

As added by Acts 1980, P.L.212, SEC.3.

The question is whether anyone will use the necessary medicine.

Hmm … wonder how Jeff Gahan would vote?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Let's turn up the heat a notch: Tribune columns and responses now proliferate.

Last week’s ROCK column has generated two combative letters from Tribune readers, and today the slightly delayed Coffey column is running. As for the latter, I appreciate the opportunity to work with publisher Steve Kozarovich. I added a disclosure, and he added an editor's note. I like my original title better ("Hot toadstools and cold cappuccino"), but you can't win 'em all.

Here are the relevant links.

BAYLOR: Coffey’s conduct unbecoming (January 29)

LETTERS (Malone on ROCK): Jan. 29, 2009

LETTERS (Womack on ROCK): Jan. 29, 2009

BAYLOR: ROCK ‘n’ role playing (January 22)

I’m delighted that my columns are generating such responses, which can only enhance the local debate and promote public discussion of the issues therein.

Among other diversions, Mr. Malone accuses me of “avoiding the issue being debated” before avoiding it himself and attempting to answer the question, “which culture is ROCK seeking to reclaim?” with this answer:

The culture ROCK is attempting to reclaim is one (however imperfect) in which a common sense understanding of decency is understood by both the legal class and the working class.

Note that in argumentation, an appeal to “common sense” is itself a fallacy, precisely because it is often the case that matters formerly taken for granted as uncontested evidence of common sense (slavery, the subjugation of women, infanticide) now can be seen as usually foolish and often harmful – which is why I asked the question in the first place.

Reader Womack is funnier in his rebuke, lamenting my sending him running to his dictionary, and invoking the cartoon characters of the Chicken Hawk and Foghorn Leghorn to chide members of the (presumably liberal) intelligentsia for defending what he regards as the indefensible, i.e., indecency in the form of Theatair X. Neither Malone nor Womack attempt to define what decency and indecency mean in the context of reclaiming something that also isn't defined.

Dictionaries, please.

As for the Coffey Agonistes piece today, all I ask is that anyone planning on attending Monday’s city council meeting ... please bring a video camera.

As stated previously, I plan on using the full five minutes of my non-agenda speaking time to offer a heartfelt homily on something or the other as yet undetermined. It will tug the heart, tease the brain, induce laughter in the gallery and offer the council president the irresistable opportunity to gavel me away from the podium and exact his revenge. It would be nice to have such a moment captured on film and displayed prominently on this page.

In fact, for so long as Coffey’s latest outrage goes publicly unaddressed by his trembling political peers, I suggest that as many of us as possible attend and be prepared to speak.

After all, there’s no such thing as too much information, is there?

Obama and beer ... by Lew Bryson.

Verbatim from my Philly-based beer-'n'-whisky writing friend Lew Bryson, at his Seen Through a Glass blog.

---

Obama to Congress: Drinks, my place, tonight; we'll talk (1/28/09)

President Obama continues to bring an adult attitude about drinking to the public eye. According to the New York Post, he invited 24 Senators and Representatives -- from both parties -- to the White House for cocktails tonight. They're going to have a few drinks and talk about the stimulus package.

That's great, I love a chief executive who isn't afraid to openly say "come over for a few drinks," but the very best part is that all the pictures accompanying the story at the Post and in the blog post about it at The Huffington Post show Obama drinking... BEER! Ha ha! Suck it, wine people.

Oh, my. Fun to relax at the end of the day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NABC will be open at noon on Wednesday the 28th (Sportstime side).

Update:

Forget what I wrote before. Kate and Jesse are in the building (no power outage, at least yet), and enough of the crew can be rounded up for NABC to open for business at noon, pizza side only.

I'll provide updates later, but for now, there is food and beer on Plaza Drive from noon on.

Develop New Albany's next "First Things First" on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the YMCA.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You won't believe this.

Posted by Picasa

That's right: I am the proud and thoroughly confused owner of an iPhone. NABC's Bank Street project manager Gregg "Irving Thalberg" Rochman refused to give me an out, orchestrating my overdue ATT upgrade and patiently guiding me through the process that ended with possession of my first ever such gadget.

Wow. Jesse Williams said I'd be blogging from it in no time ... not yet, but stay tuned.

Snow day for NABC today (Tuesday the 27th).

Because we're a destination of sorts, I feel compelled to let you know that we decided to take a snow day today and close NABC, Rich O's and Sportstime.

We have a couple of key employees who are snowbond in the Knobs, and as far as we're concerned, safety first.

Perhaps we'll do a snow day makeup some sunny Sunday in June ... but it isn't enough to stop work on the Bank Street Brewhouse. Those of us downtown can snowboard down Spring Street.

New Albanian political lessons, ice-cold Coffey, and "Frost-Nixon."

It is an act of consummately ironic timing that Great Escape, New Albany’s exurban cinema, has seen fit to debut the film “Frost-Nixon” only days after 1st district councilman Dan Coffey’s recent dual public meltdowns in the council chamber and Studio’s family room.

I’ll get back to the Wizard momentarily.

First, and happily, director Ron Howard’s movie adaptation of the 2006 stage play is a resounding success, boasting insanely fine performances by Frank Langella eerily channeling Richard Nixon, and Michael Sheen as David Frost, the supposedly lightweight British television presenter whose legendary 1977 interviews of the deposed American chief executive are quite simply the stuff of legend.

Go see it. You will not be disappointed.

These many years later, it remains difficult to separate Nixon the man from Nixon the political operator. His stultifying arrogance was balanced by unconcealed self-loathing, his crippling self-deception countered by a brutally honest knowledge of his own damaged character, and his frequently keen insights into the character of others blindsided by a debilitating paranoia.

But Nixon’s undoubted skills are what make his personality and career compelling in the theatrical sense. From ancient Greek dramatists to Shakespeare, there is the realization that weakness and personal flaws alone are not sufficient to derive universal truth, primarily because they’re far too common in the human race. We see them all the time, sans nothing redemptive.

With Nixon, there is another dimension, one of genuine talent coexisting with the ever-germinating seeds of his own destruction. Without complexity, Nixon is useful for little beyond trite caricature. Without ability, he becomes just another over-reaching and hackneyed village wannabeen … which brings me to you-know-who.

New Albany’s own recurring civic disgrace, who’d be back on the street if we’d yet determined how to go about impeaching him, will never command six figures with an interview, although Steve Price might commit to a chat over iced tea at Bob Evan’s.

I freely confess to an inability to offer concrete proof of this assertion, but it is my opinion that insofar as Dan Coffey knows history at all – a questionable proposition, I might add – he almost surely sees elements of himself in a typically wrongheaded, romanticized view of Nixon.

Now, lest there be any misunderstanding, it must be conceded that this is true, although only insofar as Coffey’s tendencies accurately mirrors Nixon’s flaws of anger, paranoia and manipulative scheming. Unfortunately, any other more positive connections are purely imaginary in any remotely constructive sense.

Yes, an exhumed Richard Nixon, magically reanimated and transported by garlic-lined coffin to New Albany in the present day, might be indistinguishable from Dan Coffey in terms of obstruction of justice, Constitutional chicanery and tactical dirty tricks; however, even a dead Tricky Dicky would possess several useful characteristics that Coffey never will: Sufficient brainpower, working knowledge, political acumen and the possibility of achieving something during those rare times when the customarily emasculated “good” angel is at long last able to interrupt the daily dialogue with the “bad” one.

We’re being asked to exercise patience, and it has been noted that just because words are not said aloud, and for public consumption, it doesn’t mean that our decent, law-abiding council persons are not earnestly discussing what to do about Coffey’s latest demonstrations of his unsuitability for leadership.

The problem is that this isn’t a solution. Rather, it’s more of the same sort of problem that lies at the heart of our political paralysis. Disappointingly, it’s more of the same opaqueness, more of the same backroom dealing, and more of the same political class mentality that substitutes deals for dialogue.

Nixon’s overdue denouement was public, not private. Coffey’s should be, too. Anything less is the New Albany Syndrome, and we all know where that’s gotten us, don’t we?

Coming Thursday, February 12: Jeff Main Street's annual chili and beer tasting at Kye's.

NABC will be there again this year. It's a fun event, held in a building that is an excellent local example of adaptive reuse. Note the "shop local" logo among the sponsorships. It reminds me of "Make (and only then keep) New Albany Weird."

Monday, January 26, 2009

More on the death embrace between boobies and killjoys.


Thanks to T for the image. It may or may not be doctored, but the symbolism is timeless.

Bottom right: NA Confidential's mask-free policy on reader comments.

I've added a permanent explanation of "NA Confidential's mask-free policy on reader comments" to the gadget list at right. Scroll down past the various links to read it.

Your compliance is much appreciated. Thanks!

Auto Pilot! (part 2)

To continue the conversation concerning the rampant code violations in New Albany, here is a scenario for consideration.

Tom & Gerry peruse the inner core of our fair city and find a vacant lot to invest in. Following the purchase they acquire a building permit and proceed to build a modest home. All goes well, the finished structure is completed, the Building Commissioner’s office signs off on it, and they move in.

Then it gets funky. The following year they decide they need/want more living space so they purchase an adjacent lot and begin adding on to the original structure. Only this time they leave out a few pertinent details.

First of all the transfer of ownership for the second lot is never recorded with the County Recorder.

Secondly no building permits are pulled for the additional construction.

Thirdly, although the addition violates the set back from property line regulations, no Zoning Variance is applied for. At least not until after construction is complete.

So why does all of this matter and WHO really cares? As to the second part of the question apparently no one in officialdom.

As it concerns the WHY, we all should care for at least the following reasons.

Failure to record the deed means among other things it remains on the books as a vacant lot and is taxed as such. The result being not only a loss of revenue for the City/County, but a potentially troublesome transfer of ownership & tax liability for the next buyer.

Failure to obtain a building permit means that no inspections as to structural integrity, nor adherence to plumbing, electrical, & HVAC codes ever occurred. This also affects the tax roles as the forwarding of these permits from the Building Commissioner to the Tax Assessor is how that office is made aware of a structure's existence.

In this case, with the addition not being accessible from the original house, it means that it could be viewed as stand alone living quarters (i.e.; multifamily dwelling) by some future owner. All the while this particular house sits dead in the middle of a single family zone.

And the above example is just the tip of the iceberg. At a Building Commission meeting late last year it came to light that a group of homes (shacks) along our riverfront were put there by squatters decades ago on property they did not and still do not own!

That fact had never been recognized by officialdom as I understand it.

No, check that ... I don’t understand it!

It leads one to conclude that there really is no one paying attention.

The sad news is all of the above result in adding to an already strapped city’s ability to provide the services we all desire to have. They endanger the property values of all who surround them. And they set even further precedent to the all too pervasive trend of ignoring local ordinances.

The sadder news is that due to a lack of dollars, training, job descriptions & legal guidance either state or local, most of these positions are more politically filled than they are by knowledge of the job requirements or skills needed to perform them.

At the county level save for the County Clerk and Tax Assessor, the only statutory requirement for holding a particular office is that one be a resident of the county and be a registered voter in the county. One typical example is that you need not have any medical background to be the coroner.

The saddest news of all is that we the tax paying citizens are the only recognized defense against violators getting off without a hitch. When asked how they become aware of most violations I’ve had official after official at both city & county level say the information came from a member of the public bringing it to their attention.

So it comes to this. If the public is doing all the research & leg work, why are we paying for vehicles, gas, insurance and all else that go with it for city/county officials who apparently can’t see the forest for the trees?

Why is it that even though the various offices often share the same data base it takes someone walking in off the street to point out a discrepancy to various offices? Is there no intra system communication?

Or ultimately if the general public is doing the work or is satisfied with it going undone, why do we need these positions at all?

Must we privatize all public offices in order to get results?

All the more reason for advocating public involvement in the process for to many of us, it is apparent that those charged with doing the peoples business and protecting the public’s good…… Aren’t!!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Movie: Celebrating America's Most Livable City.

The transportation discussion engendered by a recent 8664 posting raised several interesting reader responses including mass transit advocacy, questions as to how other cities are melding their transportation needs with urban design and environmental principles, and, perhaps above all else, frustration with our region's continuing inability to imagine and explore better possibilities.

This particular video answer, with its spotlight on Portland, Oregon, is provided by the folks at Streetfilms which, like its siblings Streetsblog and StreetsWiki, are projects supported by the Livable Streets Network, "an online community for people working to create sustainable cities through sensible urban planning, design, and transportation policy." Combined, they represent a sort of urban geek heaven.

The video is roughly 30 minutes long but is so stuffed with good ideas that it's easily worth it, even if a few different viewings are required.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Let's hear it from the council: Can taxpayers speak openly during their time, or does the Wizard decide who is heard?

My memory is hazy as to when the city council agenda was altered to include “miscellaneous communications” at meeting’s end. An admittedly cursory glance at archived minutes suggests this “non-agenda item” speaking time first appeared at the beginning of 2007, although I persist in thinking that the topic came up earlier than that.

It is a recurring feature of council meetings – in fact, of most if not all political discourse, here or elsewhere – for elected officials to pay lip service to the principle of honoring and serving the taxpayer. Naturally, this brings up the side issue of why only taxpayers are eligible for service, but the point remains that of all the conceivable ways that a councilman might observe this dictum, sitting quietly and listening for five minutes while a taxpayer speaks to the assembled body strikes me as the barest of minimums.

As was made clear last Thursday, Dan Coffey cannot even achieve the bare minimum when it comes to the notion of free and open speech for the taxpayer, although the current council president has never hesitated to reference his obligation to the taxpayer during the act of filibustering, grandstanding or scratching the anti-intellectual itch that feeds his all too frequent, apparently uncontrollable frenzies.

As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, it isn’t as if Coffey’s totalitarian impulses have never before been witnessed. Back in 2005, when for the very first time I decided to make comments during the public communications portion of the meeting, Coffey interrupted me, disagreed with me, and hectored me from his seat near then-president Gahan … who sat passively upon his gavel.

Almost four years later, this time as the council’s president, Coffey treated Mark Cassidy in precisely the same way. Not only did Gahan – Geppetto to Coffey’s Pinocchio – again sit silently, but so did the remainder of the council, many of whom subsequently have suggested that Coffey’s behavior disturbed them.

My question to the council: If so, and when confronted by damaging loutishness, why sit passively and do nothing?

Those members of the city council who are not animated by vendettas, and who are capable of comporting themselves with the professionalism and dignity demanded of those who have been elected to public office, are sorely in need of a reality check. Each time that Dan Coffey embarrasses the council without correction or rebuke, he is, in effect, branding the council’s “product” – and the image he is giving the product, whether the council’s image or the city’s itself, is tantamount to the consumer’s reaction upon encountering a jar of peanut butter with the words “now with salmonella” printed boldly on the label.

Geppetto apparently likes his creation just fine, although why is a mystery for the ages, but for the remainder of the council, it’s time now to lead and to do something, not merely be content to wave blank sheets of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement stationary at the ogre and say, “don’t let it happen again, or we’re going to do something!”

Do it now, and send a message to the people in this city who genuinely are working toward a better future that you actually get it.

Beginning on February 2nd, I intend to avail myself of miscellaneous communications time at every opportunity. As a taxpayer, and in consideration of the council’s own speaking policy, I will be approaching the podium with the expectation of five uninterrupted minutes in which to enlighten our elected representatives on a wide variety of topics. I may read from the phone book, or quote passages of HL Mencken’s on the subject of political cupidity. Perhaps a verbatim run-through of my latest column will strike me as appropriate, or a recital of a previous meeting’s minutes.

I may even have my five-minute appearances filmed, and post them on YouTube.

The question: Is this my right as a taxpayer, or isn’t it?

We know how Dan "Copperhead" Coffey would answer this question … but what about the other council members, whose stock plunges further with each passing day of inaction?

"Peace" in our time ... or finally doing the right thing?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bicentennial sloganeering.

In 2013, New Albany will be 200 years old. Let's brainstorm on the topic of official bicentennial slogans.

New Albany -- where ordinance enforcement goes to die and be buried in Larry Kochert's garage.

New Albany: From plate glass to broken window panes in only 200 years.

New Albany: Two centuries of bad manners and cretinous politics.

New Albany -- Land of the indentured tenant, home of the slumlord.

New Albany: Our Coffey is cold and the Price is wrong.

You get the feeling, eh?

But seriously, lest I again find myself accused of hating my town by virtue of stating the obvious, are there any positive, uplifting slogans that we can use, and that can be said aloud without choking on the irony?

The 'Ville Voice on the C-J's 8664 hatchet work.

Good stuff in Rick Redding's blog, The 'Ville Voice, reprinted in its entirety:

C-J Follows Pattern, Critiques 8664

It’s almost comical. Every time the 8664.org people make news, as they did this week with the launch of radio ads critiquing the creation of a tolling authority, the C-J editorial board lets loose with a stern editorial. You’ve got to at least admire the consistency.

And the argument the Courier always seems to make is that a bunch of politicians and their favorite civil servant, Jerry Abramson, are behind it. So the Ohio River Bridges Project, which is pushing for the tolling authority which could ultimately push for $5 tolls, must be the way to go.

It’s a good exercise for the editorial board to come up new ways to be critical of the opposition, painting 8664 as the bad guy attempting to thwart this fine two-bridges plan that everybody they think is important has agreed on.

From today’s piece:

“…the 8664 crowd has decided to run irresponsibly alarmist radio commercials, raising the possibility of $5 tolls.”
The C-J touts the technology of modern tolling, claiming that regular commuters won’t pay so much. But if you talk with Tyler Allen, the man behind 8664, he’ll tell you the math doesn’t add up, and 20 minutes later he’ll still be talking. Allen is continuing a tour de force of local organizations, telling his story to anyone who will listen. The C-J won’t, so radio ads might be a good way to go.

Sustainable City Series forum on balanced growth at the Glassworks, Feb. 5.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ordinance enforcement in the news, better if in reality.

On the same day that my column about Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK) appeared in the Tribune, Daniel Suddeath contributed two newspaper articles on the loose theme of ordinance enforcement, with the first describing the quintessential New Albany scenario: A fiercesome, draconian adult entertainment law enacted some years back, ignored, starved, and ultimately proven to be toothless at the point of impact.

Now that II Horseshoes has taken its pole straight through the unlocked statute door, intriguing new laws must be written: Adult entertainment ordinance coming to February agenda.

A recent ROCK e-mailing was effusive in its praise of the city council's efforts "to protect children, families and the community from the harmful effects of the s*x industry."

Their asterisk, not ours. Here's more:

ROCK is pleased to update you that steady progress is being made in the work toward an effective ordinance and city officials have spent countless hours to ensure the document is a strong and sound protective device for the benefit of New Albany children and families ... ROCK applauds New Albany officials in their methodical and diligent approach to this very important matter to the community ... as information becomes available we will inform you of the exact date and time that you can look forward to attending the New Albany City Council meeting to thank our officials as they move forward in their efforts to protect our families and community.

I can hardly wait until this righteous zeal is directed toward the task of protecting women, children, families, the community and various house pets by enforcing ordinances and bringing to heel the city's proliferating, unregulated sl*mlord population. Appropriately ...

New Albany making efforts to clean house; Council committee’s code enforcement suggestions released

Cue Gomer Pyle: "Surprise, surprise," because Steve Price is still against it rental property registrations, although unlike a previous characterization, the 3rd district uncouncilman didn't use one of those potty words that ROCK would have to edit for family consumption.

Committee member Steve Price vehemently supports enforcing existing codes but is against singling out rental properties for registration. He said tax records already identify the names and contact information of rental property owners.

In each of these cases, all the laudable council intentions in the world mean nothing without a sustainable, funded enforcement mechanism with some semblance of teeth. More council members than ever before seem to grasp this simple truth, which is cause for cautious optimism even if holding one's breath still isn't advised.

Was "Coffey Lied" an album by Steely Dan?

Or is it the overdue end to another reign of error? Only Jeff Gahan knows for sure, but here’s the long-awaited link to yesterday’s Tribune coverage of the Great Coffeyhead Implosion of 2009:

New Albany City Council President Coffey named, not charged in police report, by Daniel Suddeath.

According to the report, Gillenwater claimed Coffey told him “I’ll catch up with you later and get my revenge. I’m like a Copperhead [snake], I’ll strike when you least expect it.”

Coffey told police that no threats were made. He said Tuesday he never made that statement to Gillenwater and there was no reason for him to feel endangered.

It occurs to me that CM Coffey gets away with the perpetual gyrations and bullying obstructionism because there’s always someone on the council or in city government who has swallowed the bait, drinks the Kool-Aid and chooses to believe that Coffey actually possesses enough political clout to make good on his threats. His bluffs seldom get called, and because they aren’t, the impression is given that he’s really a certifiable force to be reckoned with, when in reality, there’s only ceaseless blow without the requisite "do something" show.

The city suffers yet another embarrassment, would-be players like the previous council president deny responsibility for their poor gamesmanship, Coffey lives to bluff another day, and the cycle repeats endlessly.

Why on earth would the council wait until he ticking time bomb detonates to do something about it?

Did you know that humanity poses the greatest threat to the natural habitat of copperheads?

I’d like to link you through to today’s Tribune coverage of the events of last Thursday evening, when the president of the city council did what comes naturally, which is to say he reacted to the themes of a discussion by getting physical, likening himself to a venomous snake and vowing to strike when least expected, but of course Dan Coffey denied all wrongdoing when questioned by the police after a report was filed, which means that in the end, Coffey did the very same thing that he claimed gravely offended him when our friend Jeff Gillenwater noted aloud that Coffey was lying, although in deference to the councilman’s skewed vocabulary, I prefer to call it the daily practice of willful mendacity, but you’ll have to wait until the story appears on-line to draw your own conclusions.

It hasn’t appeared yet, but when it does, I’ll patch you through here.

Earlier I wrote that last week’s incidents (let’s not forget Coffey’s cowardly and inappropriate gaveling of Mark Cassidy during non-agenda item public speaking time) would form the basis of my Tribune column today. I wrote the piece and submitted it, but after conferring with the publisher, the column has been saved for another week pending suggested revisions. You’ll hear no disagreement from me. They’re the journalism pros, and if I don’t learn something from the experience of writing a weekly column, it isn’t worth my time to give it a try. I’ll rewrite. If I can run the piece there, I will. If not, I’ll run it here.

The one thing I will not under any circumstances do is to refrain from shining as bright a light as I’m humanly capable on councilman Coffey’s congenital political obstructionisms, on his habitual bullying of those with whom he disagrees, on his misconceptions and misunderstandings, and on the simple fact that insofar as he is able to pose (incorrectly) as the face of New Albany, it is a repugnant and self-defeating image for all of us, in his district or out.

Dan Coffey makes us all look bad, and I’m not willing to accept it without dissent. We can only hope that the council, and perhaps even Coffey’s patron Jeff Gahan, gets the memo. There are good people serving on the council, and if they are truly serious about their roles, duties and legacies, they will remove Coffey as council president. His actions constitute bad faith. His actions have humiliated the council numerous times in the past, and they did again last week.

Does any sitting council member really believe that it won’t happen again in the future?

One, maybe two … and that's a sad commentary on prevailing standards of decency.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Open thread: Another way of looking at EDIT expenditures.

It’s hardly a secret that New Albany’s two most reactionary councilmen subsist off their council pay packets, scant as those stipends are.

Permit me to dream for a moment …

If we manage someday to get EDIT monies out of the sewer rat hole where they absolutely don’t belong, would it be an example (in more ways than one) of legitimate economic development expenditure to buy out the remaining three years of Boner & Jethro’s council contracts in return for their resignations from public office?

It would be less than a hundred K, right?

Those of us characterized as “them people” keep joking that the council should buy out the progressive bloc and ship us en masse to communistic, atheistic Holland so (a) we could live happily, and (b) be safely out of way of the city’s congenital underachievers … but, given the cost/benefit ratio to be derived from how very little it would cost the city to sweep aside impediments to overall economic progress like the conjoined councilmen, doesn’t it make more sense for the ones capable of glimpsing the future remain, and those that cannot contribute pack up, take their buy-outs, and settle in Birdseye?

Discuss if you wish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unbelievers -- finally American?

In his inaugural address, President Obama said something that is true, but that I doubt has ever been noted by an American his position and situation.

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth."

Me, a nonbeliever, and finally recognized as part of the noble experiment. Now, if we can come to a place where we're not bringing up the end of the queue ...

Elector on Inauguration Tuesday.

Posted by Picasa

The glass is half full.

Let's lead off with some good stuff from Billy Reed: It’s a Hopeful Morning in America (billyreedsays.com). It's easy for cynics like me to be pessimistic. Today, optimism is merited.

Barack Obama’s inauguration is underway, and for me his presidency stands to be deeply symbolic, if not for all the reasons it will be for so many others.

The presidential election results in 2004 induced a deep personal depression, but ultimately the disaster of Dubya's second term for Dubya – “disaster” perhaps being far too mild a term to describe the four years since – convinced me to put my interest in national political affairs on ice, and to look around my own neighborhood for a place where my principled involvement just might bear fruit.

Considering how much I didn’t know about local affairs four years ago, the experience has been akin to studying for a second university degree, and yet, I feel like 've made a difference, albeit small, and more importantly, found more kindred spirits than I imagined existed, who've also helped establish the groundwork for local change by becoming part of the process.

And make no mistake: You're part of the process. Don't listen to the Gahans and Coffeys and Kocherts when they insist that running for office is the only way to make a difference. They're whistling past graveyards of their own making - out of tune, no less.

Your very existence is a counterweight to petty political games played by ward heelers. They've won a few rounds, but so have you. It's sad to consider that we all should be participating together, but the decision to polarize the community has been made by a small number of persons who make no bones about protecting the little they know and have at the expense of the greater good. Posterity will judge them harshly for it.

Speaking again for myself, without listening and learning and involvement, here at the blog and out on the street, there wouldn’t be a brewery expansion project underway. I wouldn’t have an understanding, however fragmentary it remains, of all the mechanisms that go into efforts such as facilitating downtown revitalization -- my personal dream in all this.

And, tragically, how difficult it is to purge the demons of a discredited past, those personages entirely unable to contribute in any useful fashion to the future hope, but manage to retain an effective veto against the uphill climb for the sole reason of their willingness to take advantage of the less fortunate to assuage their own bitterness and instability.

We’ve made impressive gains these past four years, but what happened at last week’s city council meeting vividly illustrates how far we have to travel in our own community, a significant portion of which remains hidebound, ignorant and frightened. Too many opportunists among us are eager to prey on these sad weaknesses, but today, I’m an optimist. America as a whole did it with its embrace of change in the form of Obama, and so can we.

Even Dan Coffey cannot stand in the path of the future forever.

There’ll be time enough to reflect in greater depth on these themes. For now, to those of you reading who were dismayed by last Thursday's abuses, I want to offer encouragement. The battle’s just starting. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be investing in downtown. We’ll have to work harder, and work smarter.

Given the lowest-common-denominator propensities of the dead weight clinging to our legs, that shouldn’t be altogether difficult, should it?

Bank Street Brewhouse status report: Brewing system examination day.

I’ll try to post regular updates on our progress with the NABC Bank Street Brewhouse, beginning with this one, and continuing whenever there’s time and energy.

Yesterday we had a lengthy conference call with the good people at DME, fabricator of the brewing system that will be officially on order just as soon as the bank package closes, which we hope will be in the next ten or so days.

The system specs were reviewed line by line. Architectural plans will be sent to DME and another check made to ensure that everything will fit as it should. When the build-out is completed in front and the taproom can open for business with beer supplied from Grant Line, our owner/contractor can begin roughing in the brewery floor plan and ready the building for shipping the system, which DME reckons can be delivered by May 1. It will take three to four weeks to install, and then brewing can begin at Bank Street.

Of course, we still have federal and state regulatory paperwork to complete as pertains to brewing. The Indiana three-way retail hearing is February 3, and then we should be clear to vend.

With the providential intervention of the marvelous Louisville-based architect Mose Putney, the interior and exterior designs for the building have undergone a complete transformation. The feel will be modern and contemporary, and it’s going to be a blast in warm weather with the garage doors up and the outdoor patio open.

Chef Josh Lehman, late of Le Relais, is supervising the kitchen completion and acquiring the equipment he will need to prepare the modified Belgian-style café menu that we’ll be offering.

In addition to ongoing duties at the original brewery location, which will remain operational as the source of seasonal and specialty beers, brewers Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson are heavily involved with the Bank Street planning phase. We’ll be hiring another brewer to join Jesse downtown come summer, while Jared will run the Grant Line facility.

Kelsey Donovan, a veteran of Schlafly’s brewpubs in St. Louis, will be the bar manager downtown. John Campbell, formerly of Schlafly and Bluegrass Brewing Company, is the marketing director and brand manager, charged with outside sales in Louisville metro and Indiana once production begins in earnest.

Gregg Rochman of the Rocklee Company is the project manager, numbers cruncher and professional prodder, and I’m drinking beer, signing checks and writing promos like this one. My official title is carnival barker, and Gregg’s my interpreter. We couldn’t have gotten this far without him, and now the heaviest lifting will start.

Barring the unforeseen, the soft opening will commence circa the middle of February. Opening times, kitchen hours and the like will be variable for a while as we get a feel for what will fly.

We’re excited about the prospects when we join the existing downtown dining and drinking establishments, as well as the forthcoming Toast on Market and the River City Winery, in creating critical mass in the historic business district.

Just a bit longer …

Coming Friday, February 6: Tax education seminar for Urban Enterprise Zone businesses.


Monday, January 19, 2009

For the sake of progress and civility, Dan Coffey must be censured by the city council.

The facts are undisputed.

Last Thursday evening, Dan Coffey, who is New Albany’s council president, first refused to permit a citizen to speak during the meeting time allotted for it, and then afterward both verbally and physically accosted another citizen in a public place.

Both citizens are taxpayers. Imagine that, and note how it is so conveniently forgotten by the troglodytes who typically rush to the defense of such tactics.

In correspondence over the weekend, several friends and readers contributed opinions on these events, ranging from the hope that correction will come from within the same council that acquiesced in elevating Coffey, to the view that diplomacy should be allowed to run its course, and including the sensible advice that we all begin wearing wires around the clock and posting hidden cameras in preparation for the next “60 Minutes” (if not YouTube) moment.

Coffey’s behavior was so wrong, and on so many levels, that the metaphors with New Albany’s crippling primitivism would be obvious to cavemen with far better manners than Coffey’s, although they might yet elude New Albanians accustomed to congenitally low standards of office holding.

And, it’s hardly the first time for such disgraceful displays, to which I can personally attest. Once upon a time roughly a year ago, Coffey paused from grandstanding during a council meeting to duck low behind Bob Caesar’s chair, look right at me, and mouth the words, “I’ll kick your ass.”

I'm quite sure he would try, and this, my friends, is the man that Jeff “he who would be king” Gahan regards as suited for a position of leadership in a city of 37,000 people. I believe that in this context, Gahan is an accessory to last Thursday’s civic embarrassment. He has enabled the boorishness and helped place it in a position to make us all look like dullards.

Why put us through it, Jeff?

How does this help us shed our reputation as laughing stock?

Recall that in essence, Coffey is council president because Gahan bizarrely finds the unthinkable to be somehow useful according to the hidden master political strategy that Gahan has never once been willing to share with those members of the community who by all rights should be Gahan’s natural political allies, but who have been summarily abandoned during his speedy descent into the dark side.

Gahan might sincerely believe that Coffey has something constructive to offer, or maybe his intent has been to neutralize Coffey with just such a damaging fall, but I believe that either way, the events of Thursday, January 15 are sufficient to question Coffey’s suitability for office and the veracity of Gahan’s judgment in back-room maneuvering.

You can rationalize it any way you like, but if you believe that Coffey serving as president removes him from a position to inflict mischief, this belief has already been proven wrong. If you believe that he can be co-opted for your own gain, you’re quite likely to be disappointed, too. Coffey serves Coffey, and he has been doing it for so long that his most recent ill-tempered bullying seems little more than par for the degraded course he’s always played.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Coffey gotta dispense self-aggrandizing malice. In some ways, it’s a yawner ... unless, of course, you're the one actually being threatened by an elected official who apparently didn't get the memo and doesn't think that human decency -- not to mention rule of law -- applies to him.

Speaking personally, I’ve spent two years mortgaging my life in order to expand or business into a downtown that has been moribund for most of my adult life. I’ve chosen to do this for two reasons. First, I believe it will be successful, and we’ll make a profit. Second, I want to do my bit to get us through an open window of opportunity and make downtown live again. It’s a risk, but also an opportunity, and I’m not the only one who sees it.

I’ve tried to talk other people into taking the same chance … and then they see the council president hiking his leg and urinating on free speech. I volunteer my time to two economic development entities, and then the same council president tells me that the only way for me to participate properly is to run for council; otherwise, I’m to have no say.

Granted, Coffey isn’t the council representative for the precinct where the new business will be located, but his closest sycophant, Steve Price, is.

To top it off, Gahan, the council representative for the area where my existing business is located, has spent the past year consistently acting against my personal and professional interests, and recently enabled the ascension of the council member who’s now doing the former president’s territorial pissing for him.

And … consider that if the current council president lacks the basic self-restraint to control his anger, avoid physical contact and refrain from verbal threats directed at a private citizen in a public place, why should I or anyone else put personal safety and business investment dollars at risk by locating anywhere close to his sphere of influence?

Rational people will recognize that without investments made by business owners like me, there is no hope whatever of Coffey’s (or Price’s) neighborhood ever improving, and yet he harbors such depths of ignorance that it’s a deal he’s willing to accept … and, in perhaps the most delicious irony of all, this elected official who works tirelessly to frighten away anyone in a position to bolster the local economy serves on the Redevelopment Commission.

Damned right I’m concerned.

This time, Coffey needs to answer for his transgressions, and in a big way. Permit me this opportunity to call for his removal as council president and a formal censure on the part of his colleagues, who by doing so might yet indicate to the rest of us that they support progress in the city of New Albany.

It is long past the time to end Coffey's habitual bullying in and out of the council chamber, isn’t it?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just a side note.

If you see 1st district councilman Dan Coffey, would you please tell him that my Tribune column this coming Thursday will be all about him?

And you might tell Jeff Gahan, too. After all, he's an accessory.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"The king of bad presidents: George W. Bush."

This pretty much sumarizes Dubya's unprecedented reign of error:

"The king of bad presidents: George W. Bush."

As President George W. Bush gets ready to leave the White House, it says a lot that the most frequently asked question about his place in history is whether he's the worst president ever, or just in the top five or six.

I foresee the historical marker at the corner of Market and Bank: "One Southern Indiana brought the worst president ever to visit here in 2007. Thanks, guys -- may we not have another?"

Friday, January 16, 2009

What The F@#* Opie? Ya Ain't Seen Nothun Yet!

Here it is, the middle of the week, the predicted coldest night in recent memory, there’s nothing of consequence on TV, and y’all still elected to be couch potatoes when you could have attended one of the most entertaining New Albany Common Council meetings to date.

It started out harmless enough. Our resident mail carrier took to the podium to say he felt the Council had better things to do with its time than deal with a Resolution in support of HR676 (a US House bill concerning universal health care).

After all, the city of New Albany has no influence on the Beltway Boys so why waste the time.

At this point a non-agenda item was raised in the form of a council committee report from the housing/code enforcement threesome. (make that a twosome as CM Price abstained from officially signing the recommendation.)

Steve's reasoning was that he disagreed with a sentence that seems to hold rentals to a higher standard than us lowly homeowners as it pertained to enforcement.

As a side note, Pat Harrison & her entourage of landlords presented CM & Committee Chair John Gonder with a copy of said recommendation prior to the meeting. The mystery of that is according to Gonder himself, he had not presented said report to any Council Members prior to tonight’s meeting. Strange indeed!

Then in the Communications from City Officials slot an employee from the City Controllers office took a stand against A-09-01 which would give a raise in pay to two Non Bargaining Unit employees who work in the Utility Billing Department.

It seems they have inherited the billing duties from EMC as it pertains to Storm Water, Trash, & Sewer bills as those has now been brought back into the Cities venue.

She was followed by one of the two affected employees who pled their case for the increase after which the fun began in earnest.

Carl then stood in the absent Mayor’s stead and proceeded with a detailed explanation of England’s surgery, (good thing I didn’t eat before), recovery, therapy, and remorse for not being at tonight’s gathering.

He was going to elaborate even further but Council President Coffey took the floor and exclaimed that while the Council and the audience were concerned about the Mayor’s well being, it was not necessary to give a blow by blow report at each & every gathering.

He went on to request that if the Deputy Mayor had any further official city business to discuss to get on with it.

I went blank for a few seconds but as I recall Carl offered a report about the insurance monies received for the Tabernacle Building, the FEMA funds forthcoming from Ike, the city’s resolve to address code enforcement based in part on the committees recommendations, and his assurance that Mayor England would give his State of the City address at the next meeting.

With that we moved into “the meat of the meeting” per President Coffey.

Resolution (R-09-01) to support the aforementioned HR676 passed with a vote of 7 for & 1 abstention (CM Gahan).

Ordinance A-09-01 amending Salaries for Non Bargaining Unit employees garnered a 4 to 4 vote. At this point Pres. Dan conferred with Council Attorney Stan Robison (oh! Did I forget to mention we have a new attorney?) who ruled that a tie vote on first reading amounted to a failure to pass.

Next came Z-09-02 to amend the Zoning Classification in a portion of the West End of our fair city. Upon a recommendation from Zoning and Planning it passed with an 8-0 count on first reading.

There were two more ordinances on the agenda but one got tabled (again) and the other I blanked out on (again). Even more evidence that attending one of these events stone cold sober is hazardous to ones health!

Then came the first round of the Headliner of the evening ie; Non-Agenda Items! Our good friend and comrade-at arms Mark Cassidy took the podium to ask this council to consider the US Constitutionally mandated redistricting of New Albany’s voting districts.

If you’ll recall, the previous Council’s prime objection was that action had been initiated without having first requested that they (the Council) do their duty. Mr. Cassidy was merely attempting to abide by the Council’s wishes by bringing it forward again.

However President Coffey was going to have none of it. He cut Mark off in mid sentence explaining that in these dire times there were much more important issues facing New Albany.

He furthered that the previous Council had indeed passed a redistricting plan that met the State statute and that was the end of it.

Not one to be ignored, Mark respectfully asked if he could at least finish his remarks. Coffey nodded in the affirmative and Mr. Cassidy began again.

At this point the new Council Attorney began to dress down Mark about events concerning this subject that occurred back in 1999. Apparently Mr. Robison had been sitting in as a substitute for then Council Attorney Henderson on the evening that this subject was broached and afterwards had been berated in the media and elsewhere for his action/inactions during that event. So tonight opened up an old wound and he came out like a wounded pit bull.

To his credit he later in the evening apologized to Mark for his outburst and seemed genuinely remorseful for his actions.

President Coffey took over where Stan left off and began to look like the Dan we’ve all come to know over the years. Mark tried several times to finish his statement but in the end he was gaveled down and the meeting was adjourned.

We all took a deep breath of WHEW! Damned glad that’s over without bloodshed!

But is was not to be for Round Two was just over the horizon!

I hurriedly guided Mark out the door to the elevator and into the cold night air. We proceeded to Studio’s for our regularly scheduled Council Meeting Afterglow. We ordered a coupler of beers and were pleasantly surprised to see our very own Bluegill and his compatriot Roy stroll in.

We began to impart a report of the gathering to them and who walks in but Coffey, Gonder, Robison, & Carl Malysz!

Dan apparently hadn’t had enough and the discussion began anew with gusto!

It wasn’t long until Bluegill got involved and he & Coffey got nose to nose. The volume rose, the faces got red, threats got hurled and then slowly something close to a tone of reason began to return.

Almost all present exchanged their views on the subject and although no agreement was reached there was no broken glassware, no blood on the carpet, and no 911 calls.

Dan left, Stan again expressed his remorse to Mark, we ordered another round and collectively discussed the variety of still unresolved issues before us.

In the end it was a toss up somewhere between definite lines being drawn in the sand and a no harm/no foul street ball game.

Sure does make one wonder what the future holds though. So grab a season ticket and enjoy the festivities.

Hell they’re FREE!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ulrich out, Robison in as city council attorney?

WTF?

I didn't attend tonight's meeting, but Lloyd just phoned, and evidently Jerry Ulrich has been displaced as city council attorney by Stan Robison.

I'll let the Highwayman provide the rest of the story in due time, but he also says that during non-agenda item public speaking time, Robison and council president Dan "Wizard of Westside" Coffey took ex-kingpin Jeff Gahan's place in publicly urinating on the Constitution v.v. a request to consider redistricting.

Whooo-eee. Stay tuned for a fuller report.

Pogo and all that.

My second column appeared in the Tribune today.

BAYLOR: Pogo's axiom and New Albany Sydrome

Yes, I know. Gently: I checked the original headline that I submitted, and it reads, "Pogo and the New Albany Syndrome."

Not being critical. Just for the record.

Baptist Tabernacle? Think big.

The city-owned Baptist Tabernacle had its roof blown off by last September's hurricane-force winds, and now local officials are trying to decide what to do next. For the story on the insurance settlement ...

New Albany ponders options for building; 1 report in hand, another awaited, by Grace Schneider (formerly One Great Newspaper).

I'd like to see the historic buildings already on that block preserved, reused, and woven together with a contemporary architectural design, the result being a governmental campus of the sort mentioned in the article.

Yes, it will cost money. It also would link the past and the present and address future needs for a government that probably will endure in spite of Grover Norquist's best anarchistic efforts.

Everything costs money. It's time to concede this, move forward and get something done.

I hope you'll be sitting at a bar like this in a month or so.


(Does not come equipped with Max Headroom bar staff)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How does one tell the difference?

Chris Morris offers a jeer in today’s Tribune:

JEERS..... to those responsible for vandalism on the New Albany riverfront. For some reason, there are a few bad apples in our community who find enjoyment out of tearing up private and public property.

There’s a simple and painfully obvious corollary to these sentiments. In fact, much of the city has the appearance of having been vandalized, and while it would be redundant to insert yet another recitation of unkempt properties, dilapidated housing and denial of responsibility, the squalor deriving from neglect that we take for granted on a daily basis promotes the overnight variety occurring on the riverfront.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

8664: Stemler, the study, and digging a bit deeper (Part 2)

A review of Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) history, then, along with the support of 8664 by many Hoosiers, lead us to Kerry Stemler’s published claims.

His first claim is that 8664 doesn’t address congestion from the west in New Albany. A review of both the 8664 and ORBP plans, however, does not support that conclusion.

Anyone who regularly travels I-64 and I-265 in the New Albany area knows that the intersection of the two is a congestion-inducing bottleneck during heavy traffic times. Accordingly, the much less expensive 8664 plan budgets $52 million to augment that merge point, including the construction of additional lanes. In contrast, the ORBP for which Stemler advocates, even with its nearly doubled price tag of $4.1 billion, budgets no money for that area. The already crowded interchange is, in fact, not addressed by the ORBP plan at all.

Further, neither Stemler’s remarks nor the ORBP reflect concerns about the flow of human traffic between West Louisville and New Albany.

As much faith as I have in the West Louisville residents I know and the work they’re doing to revitalize the area, a portion of New Albany’s criminal activity has traditionally been attributed by citizens and police alike to our proximity to its sometimes struggling neighborhoods. The veracity of that attribution notwithstanding, it’s clear that New Albany has a vested interest in the betterment of our southern neighbors.

Like the I-64/I-265 interchange, the ORBP again fails to address the issue with its massive expenditure. 8664, on the other hand, stands to improve West Louisville substantially, thus improving New Albany by association. Aside from reestablishing an attractive waterfront from downtown to approximately 22nd Street, 8664 would remove the massive 9th Street ramp to I-64 that has for decades served as a physical and psychological barrier between West Louisville and the downtown business district. Doing so would help foster confidence in the area and spur much needed investment.

Additionally, an 8664 review of impact in other cities that have restored waterfront areas shows that not only is the directly reclaimed property positively affected, but a secondary zone, usually within ¼ or ½ mile of the reclamation area, also shows increased value and investment. In Louisville that amounts to 60 - 120 city blocks, much of it to the west of the downtown business district, nearer New Albany.

As we move toward reopening the K&I Railroad Bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, more closely connecting Louisville’s riverfront with our own, what’s on the other end of it will play a considerable role in determining how attractive an amenity it will be in and of itself and, ultimately, how accessible other amenities on the opposite shore will be. A rejuvenated West Louisville is the best possible scenario for allowing New Albany to market a pedestrian bridge connecting the two as an asset and to encourage those enjoying Louisville’s waterfront to extend their walk or ride to include our shops, eateries, and cultural institutions.

Though already partially addressed, Stemler’s second claim is that since Hoosiers have not had a voice in visioning the 8664 plan, it would damage our side of the river.

Momentarily setting aside the regular communication that occurs between Hoosiers and 8664, the group’s consistent requests to communicate with Indiana officials and business leaders, and the fact that Indiana businesses help sponsor the group’s events, two points immediately come to mind: 1) As 8664 representative Joe Burgan rightly pointed out in the article, his group, unlike Stemler’s, is currently the only one standing up to East Louisville political forces, fighting to prioritize the East End Bridge that Hoosiers have favored for decades and 2) prioritizing the East End Bridge stands to create an economic boon in Indiana, as shown by the federal environmental impact study conducted for the ORBP.

The study claims that the East End Bridge will create approximately 10,000 jobs in Indiana that may otherwise go to Kentucky, a number used not only by Kentucky-based bridge opponents to argue against it but also by local chamber of commerce One Southern Indiana to support it. As recently as a 2008 article published in The Lane Report’s Market Review of Greater Louisville and Southern Indiana, 1SI again touted the job creation numbers and District 71 State Representative Steve Stemler characterized the East End Bridge as “really the missing, critical link” in our region.

While 1SI and ORBP representatives did acknowledge the East End Bridge as part of the larger ORBP scheme later in the article, job increases induced by completing the I-265 loop were mentioned repeatedly while no similar claims were ascribed to the proposed third downtown bridge. Odd then, that Kerry Stemler, Past-Chair of 1SI, would refer to a plan that prioritizes East End Bridge construction as “detrimental” to our state.

Beyond his initial illogic, however, Stemler and the Bridges Coalition’s more recent advocacy betrays his concern for keeping Hoosier voices prominent in the decision making process.

Perhaps the most significant financial occurrence in the bridges saga since the formation of the Build the Bridges Coalition has been Kentucky's passage of a transportation budget in 2008 that included much less than the amount deemed necessary to maintain the ORBP schedule. It showed not only the difficulty inherent in financing such a megaproject but also revealed important preferences as Kentucky officials chose to delay East End Bridge construction by two more years, instead prioritizing available funds on the redesign of Spaghetti Junction in preparation for a new Downtown Bridge.

Given Indiana’s long favoring of the East End Bridge and the benefits touted by his own economic development organization, one would think that Stemler would have rushed to the defense of his fellow Hoosiers, decrying the decision and pushing for the Bridges Coalition to pressure Kentucky’s government to return the East End Bridge to its rightful place in the funding hierarchy. Instead, he and the Coalition chose a far different course of action: the pursuit of tolls.

We'll examine the potential impact of those tolls on Hoosiers in the next installment.

Monday, January 12, 2009

8664: Stemler, the study, and digging a bit deeper (Part 1)

A recent Tribune article detailing the misrepresentation of the 8664 plan in a study commissioned by Kentucky state transportation officials was unfortunately marred by misleading statements from Kerry Stemler, a Hoosier and member of the Build the Bridges Coalition’s Executive Committee.

Aside from his snide and inaccurate assertion that 8664 is nothing more than “pretty pictures”, Stemler objected to the plan on two points: that it doesn’t address congestion coming from the west in New Albany and that a lack of concern for Indiana’s needs have rendered the plan “detrimental to what’s going on our side of the river”.

Neither is true.

Before examining Stemler’s claims, however, it’s important to understand the context in which his Build the Bridges Coalition operates. As Hoosiers who’ve long supported the construction of an East End Bridge are well aware, that particular span was officially adopted as part of the region’s transportation plans in 1969. It was reaffirmed in those plans in 1978 and 1993.

For decades, a small but wealthy contingent of Kentucky property owners, via a group called River Fields, has fought the construction of the East End Bridge. It wasn’t Hoosier citizens, elected Indiana officials, nor even traffic engineers who purposely complicated matters by introducing a downtown bridge proposal in 1994.

That year, Louisville’s Downtown Development Corporation (DDC), a private group with strong ties to both River Fields and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson but no public accountability, released a study suggesting that Spaghetti Junction congestion could only be eased by attaching the interchange to an additional downtown bridge. The DDC’s relationship with Abramson, who has over the years unilaterally approved the transfer of millions of dollars from Louisville coffers to the organization, has become so suspect that members of the city’s Metro Council recently filed open records requests in an effort to at least track how the money is spent.

Even though that relationship and the study’s bridge conclusion were and are still disputed, River Fields seized the obstructionist opportunity and, under the leadership of then president Jim Welch, released a plan for a Downtown Bridge within months.

The Downtown Bridge proposal was introduced not to suggest the construction of an additional bridge, however, but as a mechanism to further fight the eastern one. As Kentucky politics boiled, Hoosiers had no voice in the matter and their concerns were ignored even as public polls at the time continued to show overwhelming support for the eastern bridge.

As the green of Hoosier’s east end referencing “Build the Bridge” bumper stickers faded, consistent lobbying and delay tactics from River Fields and their allies continued to divert attention from the majority opinion to the point that years passed before a still contentious “political compromise” was reached, backing the region into a corner with a monstrous, all or nothing $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) that we’ve yet to and may never figure out how to finance.

For some, that was the point. Of the two bridges, one project plan, even our governor, Mitch Daniels, said in the News and Tribune, “The 'one project' idea - I think for some people - it was a tactic to delay the whole project."

It’s worth noting that, according to ORBP estimates, Indiana currently has the money in hand to build the East End Bridge and its corresponding northern approach – twice – while incurring no debt. The delayed Kentucky approach, already more costly owing to mass and length, was made tens of millions of dollars more expensive and thus more difficult to finance with the inclusion of a 2,000 feet long tunnel that, according to River Fields’ pressure tactics, is necessary to protect a single historic estate.

Tellingly, River Fields, who supposedly counts historic preservation among its concerns, has advocated for a plan that would demolish numerous historic structures downtown and in nearby areas to facilitate a bridge, a grossly expanded Spaghetti Junction, and a widened I-65 there.

In recent years, Jim Welch, the previously noted former River Fields leader and East End bridge opponent, was named Chair of the DDC. The DDC, in turn, helped create the Build the Bridges Coalition and Welch became a member of its executive committee. Questions as to why a staunch opponent of the East End Bridge was given such a prominent role in pursuing financing for the Bridges Project have gone unanswered.

Interestingly, another founding member of the Coalition dependent on Abramson’s support, Greater Louisville Incorporated (GLI), may have provided early impetus for exploring the removal of Interstate 64 from Louisville’s waterfront even before 8664 was formed. Though admittedly unconfirmed, a reliable source has publicly stated that Louisville entrepreneur Doug Cobb, founder of the Cobb Group, CEO of Appriss, and former GLI president, was impressed enough with other cities’ success in removing their waterfront expressways that he had the group travel to study them as possible best practice. The following GLI president also supposedly supported the expressway removal idea. Outside of speculation about Abramson’s and River Fields' influence, the group’s about face concerning local interstate initiatives remains largely unexplained.

Though Louisville, New Albany, and Jeffersonville governments have all ceded leadership to them, the Build the Bridges Coalition is a private organization and, like the DDC, has no public accountability even though its membership consists of several groups who receive public funding. Two of its founding organizational members have documented and/or reported histories that do not all match the group’s stated objectives, qualified professionals have publicly refuted factual claims made by the group but have received no response, information about decision making methodology has often been available only through legal challenges and the public has almost no input into the process at all.

Regardless of intentions, that’s the situation that One Southern Indiana helped exacerbate under Kerry Stemler’s leadership when they joined the Coalition and the one he continues to support in his capacity as an executive committee member.

Next time, we’ll begin looking at his published claims.

* a small portion of the above was paraphrased from the 8664 web site history section.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama inauguration party at the Public House, January 20.

At the suggestion of longtime regular customer Dennis, NABC is going to accept moveon.org's offer to join the national celebration of Barack Obama's inauguration, to take place on Tuesday, January 20 at the Public House (prost room).

The working title is "NABC Public House Inauguration Bash New Albany," and the party will begin at 5:00 p.m.

While precise details are still being conjured, if you wish to be seated in Prost among the like minded, and in front of the flat screen, you can RSVP here.

Details are in the offing.

Our Gahanic Majesty's Bequest: How many days since this/any city council redistricted?

The answer, as of today, is 5,870 days (the most recent lawful ordinance was 12/17/92).

Sunday readers, I need a little help.

I'm working on a Tribune column about the city council's ongoing failure to redistrict (see Bluegill's thoughts below), and it would be helpful to have a definitive rendering of exactly how long it has been since any New Albany city council has complied with its own rulebook and carried out lawful redistricting hereabouts.

The number of days will become part of the column's title, and can be converted into a running daily digital count on the blog's front page. Think of it as the sum numerical total of accumulated unconstitutionality.

Bluegill brought all this back to my attention with this comment earlier today hre: Tribune's "2009 agenda for Floyd County."

Kudos to the Tribune for publishing a very sensible agenda.

All the more baffling, then, that the City Council seems unable to produce an agenda of its own.

I would note also that waiting for the 2010 census would delay fair voting even more than what might be apparent. Results of that census won't be available until 2011, within a year of a municipal election, barring the Council from acting until after yet another unconstitutional vote was complete in 2012.

And that's exactly what Gahan, Coffey, Price, Benedetti, and McLaughlin, based on their voting records, want.

Tribune's "2009 agenda for Floyd County."

Memories can be deceptive, but in my lifetime of reading the Tribune, I can't recall a precedent for today's editorial page and its highly relevant "agenda" items, most of which have been staple items for discussion at NAC.

Explanatory excerpts and topic headings are listed below; follow the link to read the editorial board's thoughts in their entirety.

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OUR OPINION: Tribune offers 2009 agenda for Floyd County

In 2009, we think the following events need to be pushed to the top of residents’ and elected officials’ agendas. They are listed in no particular order. Please spend some time with them and share your opinions with us and those we elected to represent us in public office.

Let’s get the master plan approved to show we’re serious.

Address the lack of space issue downtown — specifically the jail and the City-County Building.

Give area police and fire departments what they need to protect us.

The New Albany City Council needs to stop dragging its feet and redraw the districts to be legally compliant.

Break ground for a new wastewater treatment plant in the county.

Stop using economic development income tax funds to reduce sewer rates.

Continue cleaning up downtown and promoting it.

New Albany needs to cure its water woes — no public swimming pool and a lackluster riverfront.

Fix up our ‘front yards.’

Stop talking about correcting downtown New Albany traffic patterns and do it in 2009.

We hope you agree that these items merit your attention. Floyd County is filled with wonderful people with excellent ideas. We think if residents, elected officials and organizations work together as a team and stay focused on moving forward, we can succeed. But what do you think?

Our Opinion editorials are consensus viewpoints of the editorial board of The (New Albany) Tribune.

EDITORIAL BOARD >> Steve Kozarovich, publisher & executive editor; Chris Morris, region editor; Mary Tuttle, advertising manager.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Better late than never, so here’s my list of favorite 2008 albums.

The marvelous thing about being a music buff is that there’ll always be time later to pick up on the releases and groups that were neglected or omitted, Glasvegas and TV on the Radio among them. It’s also wonderful to know that whether I live three more years or thirty, it won’t be necessary to waste a moment’s time on the inanity of country music.

That’s right, so get used to it: I’m a rock-pop-oriented listener, and unapologetically mainstream.

No, I enjoy lots of jazz and classical, too. Sorry, but the “no depression” genre completely depresses me, and although snippets of Americana and roots music peep through (Polk Miller, anyone?), it isn’t very often.

My favorite local, live music of the year was at Fringe Fest. Thanks to John Campbell for arranging it, and I enjoyed each and every one.

Feel free to post your own choices. As I write, “Day & Age” by the Killers is playing. I doubt it would have made the list.

TOP TEN (IN ORDER)

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
I knew nothing about this British group before April, and now I can’t get one line from the song, “Grounds for Divorce” out of my head: “Soon we will be drinking with the seldom seen kid.” There’s a novel in that one solitary quotation, and more where it came from.

Counting Crows – Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
Ever unfashionable group, and yet the “concept” moves me: The first half of the album chronicles how thoroughly you hate yourself for doing what it takes while on the prowl, and the other half how the behavior is even less excusable over hot coffee in the cold light of morning.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Contending for “most listened to” disc of the year. Any songwriter who can use the words “subpoenaed” and “sequestered” in successive six-syllable, sing-along chorus lines deserves a vocabulary medal – and it makes sense. He “went there on business.”

Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul
Noisy guitars, the usual snarky attitude, Zak Starkey’s farewell on drums and ramped-up psychedelic ambience add up to only 60% of a classic album in spite of Noel Gallagher’s best songs in a decade, but that’s fine by me.

Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Let’s put it this way: In my world, “U2 soundalike” simply isn’t a pejorative.

Duffy – Rockferry
Welsh sprite with good pipes and an eerie Dusty Springfield vibe, whose atmospheric songs get played on television series promos far too often for my austere taste. I forgive her for it.

Johnny Dowd – A Drunkard’s Masterpiece
My soundtrack during transit to the beer fests during the month of May. A seamless montage of dysfunction, love, murder, betrayal and infidelity – but wait, isn’t he playing “Smoke on the Water” now?

Keane – Perfect Symmetry
Shameless, sugary melodic Brit-pop with meaningless verses and shimmering choruses that can be whistled in the shower. Doesn’t get any better than that. Another U2 opening act that I adore.

John Mellencamp –Life, Death, Love and Freedom
Love the man, and love the direction he’s been heading. Hint: Leftist, populist, bleak, and profoundly disturbed with the asinine legacy of W’s clueless exurban Amerika.

David Gilmour – Live in Gdansk
I’m only a casual Pink Floyd follower, and was not expecting to be enthralled by an album purchased primarily because of the Polish locale where the 2006 concert took place (the former Lenin Shipyards). But I was, and belatedly realize that Gilmour is a true giant.

HONORABLE MENTION (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

Radiohead – In Rainbows
This merits an asterisk: The album was placed on my 2007 list, although it was technically released in the US on January 1, 2008, and it is placed here again only because we saw the band live for the first time ever in Indianapolis on my 48th birthday, August 3, and the performance was transcendent.

Def Leppard – Songs from the Sparkle Lounge
The group continues to tour and record, and there are quality components on display each time out. Toby Keith’s cameo on the first track is not among them.

Supergrass – Diamond Hoo-Hah
The Brit aggregation’s previous album, “Road to Rouen,” is an all-time fave of mine, and expectations were tempered, correctly, for this follow-up.

My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
Granted, I don’t pay close enough attention, but where’d the Prince shtick come from? I love it.

Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
There’s something dangerous and spooky about these guys, and whatever it is, it’s growing on me. I liked the last album better, though, recalling how cool it was to listen while on serious painkillers following my shoulder surgery in ‘07.

REM – Accelerate
Had you forgotten what it’s like to devote multiple sessions to an REM album? Short, restorative, and providing future hope.

Lindsey Buckingham – Gift of Screws
He’s too eccentric to be included in the upper pantheon of creativity, even if fully deserving.

Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
I’m told that the earlier releases bear less of the acid-trip madrigal influence. No complaints here. Dreamy, spacey, damned English.

The Feeling – Join with Us
Not an improvement over the group’s hook-laden debut. Jury’s out.

Upstairs at the (forthcoming) River City Winery.


Develop New Albany's most recent board meeting was held upstairs at the future River City Winery on Pearl Street. We all can see the marvelous restoration of the exterior facade, which the first photo above shows in its flooded 1937 appearance. Accompanying below are a few more views of the upper floor interior. Note that the large banquet/meeting room will be available for rental once the winery as a whole opens, which I'm told should be late winter or early spring. Speaking for myself, I can hardly wait.