Thursday, March 31, 2011

Open thread: RiverView development, a TIF-fy $12-18 million, DNA "politics" and the whole Phase Two thang.

Permit me to say this as dispassionately as possible.

Irrespective of one's opinion about the merits of this epochal development, it seems to me perfectly fitting and natural that Develop New Albany would take a position on the issue. In fact, I applaud the organization for taking a side.

And yet, when it was suggested (primarily by yours truly) that bridge tolls are precisely such an issue worthy of principled advocacy, DNA meekly cited the imperative of avoiding politics in the context of non-profit designation as reason to evade a clear stand.

My questions: What, then, is local government's private/public partnership arrangement with the developers of RiverView, if not political? As such, how can DNA cite "politics" as the preventative when it comes to bridge tolls, and as motivating factor in this instance?

These questions are obvious, and I am serious in asking them. Shall we consider possible answers, and give the RiverView project a once over prior to tonight's work session?

Here is DNA's mailing.

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Hi ,

If you like the idea of having more residents living in downtown New Albany, and further revitalizing our wonderful city, then WE NEED YOUR HELP!!

You may have heard that developer, Mainland Properties, LLC (headed up by New Albany native, Jack Bobo) has been working tirelessly to bring a mixed-use waterfront development to the downtown area. This is a $45 million project that will create a vibrant and exciting corridor for our City ... including 45,000 sq. ft. of office space, 45,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, and 150 residential condo units. This development will not just be a place where our local citizens can work, live and shop, but also for all visitors who come to our area.

Not only will this project bring HUNDREDS of much-needed jobs to our local area during the construction phase and beyond, but will generate approximately $1.3 million in estimated tax revenue annually to our City. WE NEED THIS!

Please ... if you are in support of this project, and able to attend next week’s City Council meeting, you are invited and urged to do so.

The Council will be taking a vote for all those in favor of the project, and YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

Downtown New Albany River View Project Photo


Upcoming Meetings - Please Attend & Show your Support!

Workshop Event: Thursday Mar 31st 6:30pm at the New Albany City County Building 3rd Floor

City-Council Meeting: Monday April 4th, 7:30pm at the New Albany City County Building 3rd Floor

Coffey, Price to star in remake of Laurel & Hardy's "Sons of the Dessert."

The knee-slapping hilarity in this sordid case of Copperhead's elder abuse and the reception of tainted housing property by a ventriloquist's puppet is overwheming even before one reads all the way to the bottom, and learns amid guffaws that Coffey's attorney is none other than Dave Matthews's right-hand GOP hatchet man, Rick Fox, who also lurks in the shadows of the unnecessary parks legislation.

Does that mean that Coffey also seeks to flip the floodplain parkland across the street from his house, where the public toilet used to be? Expect legislation in Indy soon.

New Albany City Councilmen Coffey, Price named in lawsuit, by Daniel Suddeath (OSIN)

... Price said with a primary scheduled for May, it seems like the timing of the suit was politically motivated since he and Coffey and are seeking another term on the council.

Price received a 30-day extension from Judge Terrence Cody to file his response to the claims, giving him until May 4 to finish his response. Coffey’s attorney, New Albany lawyer Rick Fox, said they will not request an extension.

The principle involved is not procedural.

Paraphrasing a line from Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" on this opening day of baseball season: The state of Indiana is an ass.

Smith: Gay marriage ban is simply wrong for state, by Erika D. Smith (Indy Star)

... A ban on same-sex marriage is not going to make people less gay.

It's not going to make John Clark and Steven Gillam, two Indianapolis men who have been together for nearly 10 years, break up and marry women.

"Whatever they say at the capitol, I could care less," Clark said. "It's not going to change how I feel about my partner -- or my husband. What are they going to do if I call him that? Kill me and eat me?"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NABC events ... and Chef Josh's departure.

The weather might be more cooperative, but we're having a Patio Party with PA Project (bartender Nate's band), tonight at Bank Street Brewhouse. There'll be an acoustic set by Ben and Natalie Felker of The Fervor, and Chef Josh is holding a blind IPA tasting, too (while supplies last).

The fun starts at 6:30 p.m., and there are heaters (don't worry; NABC paid cash for them) on the Taxpayers' Memorial Patio.

The next few days will serve as a transition, because Bank Street Brewhouse is bidding a fond farewell to Chef Josh. Follow the link to read all about this a few other personnel moves.

Josh's last day in the kitchen is Sunday, April 3, which also is the second of two "Indiana Breweries" book signings with authors John Holl and Nate Schweber -- 12 noon on Sunday at BSB, and a Saturday pre-game signing is at 3 p.m. at the NABC Pizzeria & Public House.

REWIND: Take my city – please? (2010)

A group of New Albany business owners were discussing the uncanny tendency of councilmen Dan Coffey and Steve Price to vote against proposals that stand to improve the very neighborhoods they represent, and the eternally bizarre way their constituents reward them for warding off the threat of progress. One person said, "It's because they're invested in failure, not success." That's very, very true. A culture of losing perpetuates losing, and dire predictions must prove to be dire, lest Nostraccino be proven false. The following was published in the pre-OSIN Tribune on February 25, 2010.

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BEER MONEY: Take my city – please?

By ROGER BAYLOR, Local Columnist


The English language is rich in words that convey varied shades of meaning. For instance, consider the notion of defeatism.

According to Merriam-Webster, it means “an attitude of accepting, expecting, or being resigned to defeat,” and dates to the end of World War One. During wartime, defeatism might doom any entity, whether an individual or a nation, to collapse at the hands of the enemy. What if defeatism were to extend beyond resignation, to the point where defeatists actually begin collaborating?

We might refer to collaborators as traitors, a term personified in American history by the person of Benedict Arnold, a homespun turncoat now synonymous with villainy and treason. Back in Europe, the era of the Second World War spawned two floridly suggestive terms in a similar vein.

One is “fifth column,” defined as “a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group, such as a nation from within, to the aid of an external enemy” (Wikipedia). The other, which also suggests equal elements of active participation in bringing about defeat, and eager cooperation with a victorious enemy, is “Quisling.”

Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian military officer and fascist politician, took the opportunity of Nazi Germany’s 1940 invasion to subvert resistance, and with Norway’s fate sealed, to form a government in concert with the occupiers. In reality, Quisling was a mere puppet with almost no power beyond that exercised by foreign military might through a credo of violence.

Whether confronting a defeatist, Benedict Arnold, traitor, collaborator, turncoat, fifth columnist, villain, puppet or Quisling, the amateur psychologist in all of us is tempted to explore inner psychological motives when asking, “Why?”

There isn’t a single answer. The other side offered a better deal, and the slighted Benedict jumped. Many residents of Berlin, subjected to horrific daily bombing raids, concluded that the war was lost, and sought to end it sooner rather than later. At least some Norwegians held the same views as Quisling, and saw him as a savior.

However, I believe that each of these words in its own nuanced and distinctive way incorporates an element of willfully surrendered autonomy, dignity or freedom of choice to a force outside one’s control. Undoubtedly, in each case, an obligation is severed, ties that bind shattered, and faith broken. Yes, treason may be the only way out, in the sense of preserving one’s life.

But what kind of life is that?

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Recently I was skimming the local blogosphere and reading an angry discussion of sewers, rates, bonds and various suggestions that are anatomically incorrect. Interestingly, one anonymous commentator counseled surrender.

“If you can possibly comprehend such an idea as most New Albanians have, we WANT the Bondholders to come after us; we WANT the State to step in; WE WANT the EPA to stop our nightmare. We'll take one or all three; simply show citizens where and what and why about our money! It is not we want New Albany to fail; we want an end to corruption in NA -- or at least what MOST FEEL is corruption.”

Seeing as I’m not hooked on a feeling, I disagree.

If we as citizens and elected representatives of this city fail to face our legal obligations with regard to bondholders by financing and maintaining the sewer utility, we will default, and our affairs inevitably will be run by higher authorities.

Once engaged, these authorities will not be interested in show trials stemming from “feelings” of corruption, or revenge for past slights, or our various daily pleas of stupidity, poverty and degradation, which we routinely cite as reasons for not facing our municipal problems, as though we as a community are whimpering mutts groveling lest another round of beatings commences.

In fact, should this day of capitulation come, our civic autonomy will be severely curtailed, and for a long, long time. We’ll not be leaving our rooms for supper until the mess is tidied.

Amazingly, others among us believe that the best way of coping with the sewer utility’s financial crisis is to take every last cent of the city’s economic development money, both now and for decades into the future, and use it as a subsidy for today’s rates. My 3rd district councilman, Steve Price, suggested exactly this approach, aloud, last week.

That’s penny- AND pound-foolish. I trust that most rational people can see the unmitigated folly in using future development resources to avoid paying what it actually costs to flush our toilets now, and will be puzzled at how anyone would suggest crippling his own habitat.

That’s because it makes sense only as culture war. The Price Plan would have the effect of “protecting” today’s low-income, fixed-income residents by ensuring that they remain precisely where they are, forever, by striking a blow to any hope of future economic progress, which at long last will ensure that all New Albanians exist at the same egalitarian level of impoverishment.

Price enjoys using the word “Communist” to describe anything he disagrees with, including me, but I submit that his plan to gut the city’s economic future, taken in concert with the idea that outside control of the city is a better idea than self-rule, combine to create just as communistic a system as I ever witnessed in Eastern European countries during the Cold War.

Outside entities would govern us, society would be leveled, and a small group of ideological (as opposed to fiscal) elites would call the local shots.

Is Price’s regressive “vision” yours, too?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Second Colokial international boutique to open in downtown New Albany.

(Press release provided by Mike Kopp)



COLOKIAL, Expressions of the World Announces the Grand Opening of New Albany, IN Store.

Colokial second store offers unique gifts with an International Flavor

NEW ALBANY- Indiana based International Boutique Store, Colokial, today announced they will open a second store. The new store will be located at 138 E. Spring St, Suite 2 in the “New Downtown” New Albany. Colokial brings more diversity to Downtown New Albany and additional retail shopping.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday Apr 15th, 2011; followed by the official store opening. Colokial will hold a Grand Opening and welcome reception with hor’derves, desserts and wine tasting from a local Winery. Owners, Sandra Abreu and Scott Ginkins will also have a raffle of one of their signature items providing local residents with a taste of what will be available to them.

"The opening of the new store symbolizes Colokial’s commitment to expanding its presence in the area and support the new developments in southern Indiana," said Scott Ginkins, store owner. "We look forward to providing residents in New Albany and the surrounding areas with a convenient, diverse and unique place to shop for all of their personal needs, just in time for a new season in the “New” New Albany."

“Our Expressions of the World are products that provide viable economic alternatives to artisans and their families in developing countries while promoting social and environmental responsibility”, said Sandra Abreu, store owner. This approach and style is one that we believe Floyd County residents will appreciate.

To learn more about Colokial, please visit the store’s website www.colokial.com or become a fan in Facebook.

About Colokial: Expressions of the World, Colokial, is a store for the style conscious consumer that appreciates diversity. Providing unique, eclectic and affordable international handmade jewelry, home accents and gifts, we intend to enhance customer’s lifestyle, make their lives more comfortable and provide unique and uncommon product selections beyond the mass market retailers.

Whither River View: Council work session at 6 p.m. this Thursday.

The formatting on Blogger has been utterly cooked. Nothing much can be done on the "Compose" page. Maybe I'll start posting photos exclusively.

Tolling Authority meets tomorrow; agenda includes shunning of the public.

Lest we forget, the fight against bridge tolls, described as some area politicos as the "wave of the future," and by others (me) as an involuntary tax on Hoosiers workers and commuters, continues unabated.

Just because the oligarchs "exempted" the Sherman Minton from the onerous burden of tolls, we neither should trust them nor cease the struggle on behalf of our brethren in Clark County. In his blog, Curt Morrison illuminates the Tolling Authority's meeting tomorrow.

Bridges Authority Meeting: Just stand up and heckle

Wednesday, March 30, 10:30 AM - Bridges Authority Meeting (at) Sheraton Louisville Riverside Hotel, Second Floor Ballroom, 700 W. Riverside Dr., Jeffersonville, Indiana

They're calling it a committee meeting but typically the Authority has rubber stamped everything to occur in a committee meeting, so public attendance is encouraged, by me it is at least. And
Say No to Bridge Tolls. The Bridges Authority on the other hand, has a history of not having the audio right, turning the chairs away from the public, and well, the public isn't even on the agenda.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Uh oh, Cappuccino has a folding metal TIF chair in the ring, and Maalox doesn't see it ...

Slippery heated oil and freshly churned Ohio River channel mud with flapping carp still attached are likely to become the hallmarks of a serene, reasoned debate as world-famous TIF RASSLIN' is renewed this Thursday at a city council work session.

New Albany council to discuss $42 million development; River View project calls for $12 million public investment, by Daniel Suddeath (One Southern Indiana Newspaper)

The New Albany Redevelopment Commission took the initial step recently to provide the public funding by voting to amend the downtown parking garage TIF district to include the River View development. The city council will now have to vote to amend the TIF district, and there’s been consternation among some officials over whether public money should be invested in the project.

Previously at NAC:

Three views of the River View riverfront development project

There, I fixed it.

"A pretty cool place to live, work and play," but alas, still no Trader Joes or Chili's or Williams-Sonoma ...

A couple months back, Business First produced an editorial in support of the River View waterfront development project, otherwise known as the "We Don't Want Another Parking Garage Karaoke Night" at the Luddite Bar & Grill.

The entire piece is reprinted here, primarily so readers can join me in attempting to fathom the transition from this: "If River View gets built, downtown New Albany is going to be a pretty cool place to live, work and play."

To this: "Although we are big supporters of locally owned stores and restaurants, we can’t ignore the importance of attracting popular brands such as Trader Joe’s, The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s to our city. To many, their presence helps elevate Louisville into the top tier of cities."

I understand that the editorial writer is using one space to make separate points about separate issues, but why does it annoy me? Is it because I'm waiting for the first person to say aloud, wow, just imagine if the commercial space in River View had a Spaghetti Factory or Old Navy!!!

Editorial
River View would boost New Albany’s transformation
Business First
Date: Friday, January 21, 2011, 6:00am EST

For those who rarely travel to the “sunny side” of metro Louisville, you’re missing out on an amazing transformation going on in downtown New Albany.

A few years ago, there weren’t a lot of reasons to go to downtown New Albany, especially after business hours. That began to change in 2008, when the Scribner Place project opened. The $23 million project included the Floyd County branch of the YMCA of Southern Indiana and a city-owned aquatic center. YMCA and city leaders realized that if they built the YMCA branch and natatorium downtown, it not only would alleviate overcrowding at the YMCA in Jeffersonville, but it also would serve as a catalyst to bring people to the city center.

In the last couple of years, numerous restaurants, bars and specialty shops have opened in New Albany. Streets that once were abandoned at night now bustle with activity.

Downtown New Albany can take another huge step forward if the New Albany City Council does the right thing and approves a $12 million bond issue to help fund Phase II of the Scribner Place project. New Albany native Jack Bobo, a trade policy adviser with the U.S. State Department and an attorney in Washington, D.C., wants to build a $42 million housing, retail and office development on the river adjacent to the YMCA.

The project, called River View, would have 30,000 square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of retail space and 100 to 150 condominiums all built on top of a 550-space parking garage. The plan calls for removing about 600 feet of the levee, which would open up a dramatic view of the Ohio River.

Mainland Properties, Bobo’s development group, is ready to move forward if the city council approves the $12 million bond issue to pay for the bulk of the two-story garage. It is projected that the development would create $23.2 million in tax revenue and tax increment financing proceeds in its first 20 years.

Some major details remain to be worked out. The levee cut would have to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and financing would have to be secured to cover its $6 million cost.

When Bobo first proposed this dynamic downtown development, many dismissed it as nothing more than a pipe dream. But then again, many said the same thing when the YMCA was proposed.

We encourage council members to keep an open mind and seriously consider the bond request. If River View gets built, downtown New Albany is going to be a pretty cool place to live, work and play.

Trader Joe’s will be a welcome addition to retail lineup

Rightly or wrongly, cities often are branded by the trendy retailers that have stores or restaurants there. How many times have you heard Louisville shoppers enviously pining for big-name retailers with outlets in Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Nashville?

Well, Louisville soon will be able to add Trader Joe’s to the list of popular chains located here. Business First has learned that the offbeat California company will open one of its specialty grocery stores in the Shelbyville Road Plaza. Finally, you’ll be able to buy “Two Buck Chuck” without leaving town.

Although we are big supporters of locally owned stores and restaurants, we can’t ignore the importance of attracting popular brands such as Trader Joe’s, The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s to our city. To many, their presence helps elevate Louisville into the top tier of cities.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Candidate’s Progress (8): My question for mayoral candidate Jeff Gahan.

We’ve all become accustomed to legislative scorecards compiled by various lobby groups. Not unexpectedly, these tend to rank the performance of elected officials according to criteria precisely targeted to the wants and needs of the particular interest group doing the scoring.

Here in New Albany, one female voter/candidate goes so far as to pretend she’s a male academic, posting the results of her convoluted canvassing of past city council votes on a blog that refers to the wonders of free speech without permitting any of it to occur.

Just as obviously, individual voters make similar mental calculations according to personal belief systems and preferred policy positions, although when it comes to local matters, perhaps they’re less systematic than the pros, owing to a relative closeness to the candidates, and the very real possibility of soft-pedaling dogma in consideration of proximity.

During the time I’ve been observing New Albany’s city council, it’s my guess that 3rd district council person Steve Price has been wrong three times as often as he’s been right. Conversely, John Gonder (at-large) has been right far more often than wrong. So has Jack Messer, but he’s not running for office again – at least yet – while both Price and Gonder are gunning for re-election.

One of their colleagues, Jeff Gahan, is giving up his 6th district council seat to seek the office of mayor.

(As an aside, I believe it is commendable, if atypical, for an office holder to do what Gahan is doing by risking his currently serviceable sinecure to make a move for something bigger. It takes confidence and chutzpah to put it all on the line).

Both Paul Etheridge and Irv Stumler, Gahan’s opponents in the Democratic mayoral primary, come to us from outside the realm of politics and government service, and consequently neither of them has a legislative voting record for us to examine.

Gahan does, and while I haven’t the time or the interest to quantify his votes in Erika-esque fashion, I trust my gut in saying this: If he has come down on the right side 7 times out of 10, which is likely, those other 3 times have been “fails” of truly epic dimension.

Topping my personal list of these dubious achievements is Gahan’s unexpectedly vehement and eager service in the cause of regressive anti-Constitutional ward heeling way back in 2008, when redistricting and the council’s inexplicable, ongoing refusal to perform its mandated redistricting duties were topics of the day.

The reason I’m bringing this up is not to embark upon an anti-Gahan tirade. Straight up: I like him, and his council tenure has been pretty much exemplary, even if he and I don’t agree on every issue (most prominently, this one).

Furthermore, in raising this issue, I emphatically am not conspiring “against” his mayoral aspirations. In fact, I’m struggling mightily with the comparative merits of the tripartite Democratic field.

So far, neither Etheridge nor Stumler has said anything to inspire me, but Gahan actually has, and the truth of the matter is that I’d like very much to support him in his quest to be mayor – except just now, I cannot.

Not until he addresses and clarifies his role in redistricting, circa 2008, when he blithely dismissed Constitutional imperatives by ensuring that the council would defeat the fairest and most equitable redistricting plan this city has ever seen, and by doing so, knowingly thwarting the intent of a settlement proposed by a Federal judge who knows more about the Constitution than Gahan or me.

Others may have different concerns, and they’re free to ask their own questions. This one’s mine.

Jeff, can you explain the importance of the Constitution and the context of rule of law in the redistricting case of 2008?

Kindly understand that I’m not looking for a contrived answer designed to appease me. It’s just that in private and public conversations at the time, Jeff’s comments with regard to the primacy of the Constitution and the implications of it for rule of law, as elected officials ostensibly are sworn to uphold, were sufficiently ambiguous to merit clarification, especially now that he seeks to occupy the highest elected office in the city.

We might yet agree to disagree on this issue, and if we do, I’d love to be able to cast my vote for Jeff and to encourage others to do the same. I very much want to be able to do this, because during our work together on the steering committee of NA First, I saw a side of the candidate that I had not seen previously. I look forward to his answer.

In a retrospective mode, following is a brief overview culled from a mere two days of NAC posts in 2008.

Wonderfully and delightfully us … and that’s why major surgery is required.

Last evening the city council convened to consider a redistricting ordinance. The ordinance as submitted to the council was derived from the work of a committee. The committee was established for one reason and one reason alone. A previous incarnation of the council had for many years refused to cooperate with mandates set down by the very same Constitution referenced previously, and it had failed in its duty to fairly realign voting districts.

Because the previous council failed so spectacularly to do its job, citizens (of whom I was one) asked a Federal Court to interpret the council’s inactivity. Presiding over that body was a judge, whose job it is to apply Constitutional principles to problems like these, and whose job it is not is to be familiar with irrelevancies ranging from the location of one councilman’s house, whether dogs bark louder before a rainstorm, or the way that one neighbor never really thought highly of the color used by another to paint his house, and always complains about it at the Elks club meetings.

The judge sagaciously considered the previous council’s attitude with regard to its mandate to redistrict, and found it sorely wanting. He examined the previous council’s last-second attempt to implement a redistricting plan contrived in a Geritol-induced haze by the wife of one of its now mercifully retired members, and found that plan sorely wanting, too, because it did not adhere to the principles of the Constitution.

The Constitution. What a concept ... just not here.

In effect, the judge in question laughed the previous council out of court, made the very strong suggestion that it keep the Constitution in mind, and directed it to try again. The committee was approved and was formed, with three at-large councilmen and three community members (only one of whom was involved in the original lawsuit), and the council agreed to consider the results ...

… That is, unless you’re one of the four city council members, including the body’s president, Jeff Gahan, voting against Constitutional principles last evening, and in favor of local self-determination even if it means soiling a parchment all were sworn to uphold.

As ever, the Uncouncilman is “entitled to his opinion” – just not to his facts.

NAC received this e-mail comment earlier today.

In fact, if there is a new lawsuit, I want in as a plaintiff, as I am now pissed and disgusted the way certain councilpersons treat others for attempting to help move this city forward. The committee saved the city tens of thousands of dollars and what they received in return was being accused of politics and, regardless of the fact that they pay property taxes on homes in the city of New Albany, they’re outsiders.

Mere facts without lame excuses and sentimental claptrap ... in New Albany? Are facts even legal?

Jeff Gahan, who was the previous council' s president for two years, now stridently agrees with Price that redistricting is a council mandate, just as it was before, and yet, as we've seen, and as a Federal judge quite forcefully agreed, neither Price nor Gahan ... nor any other sitting council person at the time... was so sufficiently enamored of their Constitutional obligation to undertake redistricting. As best it can be determined, none even mentioned the possibility.

REWIND: Sign o’ the rabid times (2009).

From the Tribune guest column archives on July 30, 2009, an examination of the pathology of "no" as compared with "yes," not just when erecting signs, but all of the time.

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BEER MONEY: Sign o’ the rabid times. By ROGER BAYLOR Local Columnist

This is the year my family reunion came to town.

Annual hosting privileges rotate between the cousins, who are the sons and daughters of my mother and her seven brothers and sisters, five of whom now have passed on. With my oldest cousin nearing seventy, and only a handful younger than me, it appears that a passing of the torch is imminent. Until then, we soldier on.

Roughly 40 people turned out for Saturday’s picnic-style finale at our house on East Spring in New Albany. Visitors came from as far away as Boston, El Paso and South Florida. A half dozen massive pizzas were trucked in, group photos were taken on the porch, and then we held the annual family meeting, catching up on events of the past year and previewing the reunion to come in 2010.

When the formal program ended, a few attendees indicated interest in checking out the Bank Street Brewhouse, which is only nine short blocks west of the house. It was between afternoon rain storms, and with skies sunny, we decided to go by foot. I asked them to meet me on the sidewalk, and we set off down Spring. After about four blocks, it occurred to me to look back and see who else had decided to come, and to my shock I saw that the small group had grown to more than twenty. Only the teetotalers stayed behind. My hunch is they weren’t very happy about it, but then again, teetotalers never are.

Feeling variously like the Pied Piper of beer and the helpful fellow on the Verizon Wireless commercials, I duly escorted this huge group of family members of all ages to the corner of Spring and Bank, made the northern turn, and presently we were examining the shiny new brewing equipment and indulging in scientific sampling. The pitchers were lined up on the counter, sweaty and beckoning, and everyone had a beer in hand. I have to admit that it made me proud.

Only a handful of those attending the reunion live in Floyd County, and throughout the brewhouse visit there were many questions about life and times in New Albany: What’s that building, and why’s the roof gone? Where’s the Greenway? Is your city council as loopy as ours? Why doesn’t someone make them clean that mess up?

And, perhaps my favorite: Isn’t there a rule against those tacky signs?

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They’re not exactly yellow ribbons tied ‘round the old oak tree, those white yard signs scattered around town with the big red “NO” in screaming caps. I see them, and I shrug. To me, they’re the plaintive wail of the inarticulate and congenitally disaffected, those unable to describe what they’re “for” in the sense of a positive contribution to the community, only to squawk about what they’re “against” as a negation of unity.

What they’re really against is the whole of modernity, although they express it in terms of money. I find that unspeakably sad.

Since the overwhelming percentage of temporary signage posted hereabouts falls into categories of plainly illegal or trespassing, with handwritten day-care touts duct-taped to city-owned traffic signal stanchions, absentee slum lord solicitations stapled to wooden utility poles and political signs never removed after last year’s fall election, I tend to regard them as little more than obtrusive garbage.

Not only do I believe they should be removed; I’m perfectly willing to remove them myself, and will continue to do so whenever the mood strikes me. Nationwide, this blizzard of ugliness is known as “street spam,” and those who volunteer to remove it are “street spam sharks.”

But In the case of the raggedy, pestilential, malice-laden “NO” placards, most of them seem to be located quite properly in the yards of obstructionists. These are safe havens, perfectly legal, and the signs should be permitted to stand where they are as an indicator of bile within.

Several of us in the progressive bloc have concluded that matching “YES” placards should be created, although we’re mindful that describing what you’re “for” is sometimes more difficult than just screaming “NO” and holding your breath until you’re properly purple.

Among the “YES” suggestions that were made last week at the NA Confidential blog were these, in no particular order:

Rule of Law
Education
Fairness
Affordable health care
Sustainability
Code enforcement
Preservation
Green buildings
Friendly streets
Neighborhood schools
Craft beer
Bicycles
Gay Bars
Neighborhoods
Craftsmanship
Human-centered design
Communitas
Democracy here, now
Downtown
Native hardwoods
Participation
Redistricting
Two way streets
Locally owned businesses

“YES” signs currently are being printed and will mimic the design of the “NO” ones, except that green is used instead of red. Some will have items we’re “for” already printed in the spaces, while others will be left blank to encourage public participation. If you’d like to have one, and support the notion of positive participation in the community, let me know.

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Two hours after the group left to walk to the brewhouse, we ambled back home, and the reunion began winding down just before the rainfall at 8:00 p.m. I smoked a cigar to celebrate a successful conclusion to a familial obligation that I'll not be revisiting until some time around 2017, when I'll be ... a bit older than I am now. Who'll be coming then, and who will not?

There's no way to know, and that's why we play the game, same as with life in downtown New Albany.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I felt like this for about a whole year once.

That's some quorum: Price, Coffey join Benedetti, Messer on council's after-school detention list.

With an election right around the corner, let's hope the local combined newspapers take an interest in explicating a lawsuit that names two sitting and conjoined council persons, Dan Coffey and Steve Price, as defendants.

Rumors and accusations about this case of familial squabbling, elder care, sickbed sign-offs to strangers, property deeds, blood money and house flipping goes back a few years, and apparently it even made the newspaper, although all I can find by searching the Tribune archive is an angry letter taking issue with the newspaper's story, itself nowhere to be found: LETTERS: April 28, 2007 (by Patricia Walker). Was the story removed, or never archived? Only the Shadow knows.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit's a matter of public record, and not unlike Diane Benedetti's wine-driving case, it appears to have been pushed back until after the primary. How very unexpected. Yet another council member, Jack Messer, has just learned that his brush with notoriety (a suspension) cannot be ducked, but he's not on the ballot ... yet.

Follow the link for just the facts, Erika.
22C01-1103-CT-000313

Marcelene Jahn, Avis Byers, Dixie Denton et al vs. Dan Coffey, Stephen Price

03/07/2011 Floyd Circuit Court
CT - Civil Tort Pending


03/24/2011
Appearance Filed
Stephen Price
For Party: Price, Stephen
File Stamp: 03/24/2011

03/24/2011
Motion for Enlargement of Time Filed
Filed By: Price, Stephen
File Stamp: 03/24/2011

03/24/2011
Order Granting Motion for Enlargement of Time (Judicial Officer: Cody, John Terrence )
To and Including May 4, 2011
Order Signed: 03/24/2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

REWIND: Wonderfully and delightfully us (2009).

According to the Who's Pete Townshend, the legendary Keith Moon became the group's drummer very early in its career after approaching Townshend between sets, gesturing in the direction of the incumbent, and saying, "I can play better than him." He was given the chance, and proved it.

In like fashion, at one point or another, political races come to a point where comparisons are inevitable. Experience hath clearly shown that certain sitting council persons are congenital underachievers, impeding the goal of effective governance, and even if Dan Coffey and Steve Price are not my direct opponents in the primary, I see no reason to shrink from pointing out their inadequacies, as I did in this Tribune column on May 14, 2009. It bears noting that nothing has occurred in the two years since then to change the verdict.

---

BEER MONEY: Wonderfully and delightfully us.

By ROGER BAYLOR, Local Columnist

A few years ago, upon returning to her office in Louisville after a holiday, my wife noted to a co-worker that we had vacationed in Europe.

The co-worker’s reply: “Did you fly or drive?”

I’m trying to imagine a European with the equivalent of an American elementary school education making a similar comment, but I simply can’t. It’s inconceivable.

Here, it’s a recommendation for elected office.

----

Previously I’ve written about my birth as a tragically misplaced European, dropped into New Albany by a drunken stork without the saving grace of GPS. Accordingly, I retain a healthy sense of continental-style irony, something few native-bred Americans can appreciate.

It certainly helps to appreciate irony when delving into the mailbag, as in this comment recently posted on a local blog:

“I wish you well, and hope your business fails downtown.”

Anonymity always empowers malice, but oddly enough, I don’t take it personally, because this sentiment is bigger than me. More than a few local commentators sincerely hope that downtown fails, period, and given traditional political groupings, tribal intemperance, individual envy, periodic outbreaks of heartburn and their own absence of coherent alternatives, the existence of terminally spiteful unwell wishers comes as no surprise – until they’re elected to office.

Only then does the irony profusely bloom.

NABC has been building a business on the north side for more than two decades, and now we have expanded into downtown. Our plan for this expansion is calculated to provide eventual profit for the company and its owners, as well as a quantifiable boost to revitalization efforts currently underway. It’s a risk, and the investment is large by our previous standards.

So it goes that having chosen to make an investment in the betterment of downtown, we’re faced with the ironic prospect of enhancing the value of those council districts represented by New Albany’s two loudest and most vociferous opponents of progress. NABC’s new brewhouse is located in Steve Price’s fiefdom and lies two short blocks away from Dan Coffey’s.

Ironic, eh?

As purveyors of gloom, doom and decay management, perhaps it’s no surprise that neither Coffey nor Price has congratulated us, and yet their districts will benefit from the ripple effect of “progressive pints” even though NABC’s fledgling existence downtown is a mortal affront to the councilmen and their hapless acolytes, precisely because it puts the lie to their central article of faith in non-development: “No one wants to invest downtown.”

Unsurprisingly, if someone does seek to invest in downtown, obstructionists like Coffey and Price pursue policies designed to thwart it, lest the “nickel and dime” flotsam and jetsam comprising their campaign “platforms” disappear into the breeze like many empty White Castle boxes drifting like tumbleweeds down Spring Street.

Opposition to the future is all they know, and it’s the time-dishonored default for New Albany. Ironically (there’s that word again), these politics of decay comprise a platform of futility that neither political party bothers challenging in any coherent way, ever.

In turn, this gaping leadership void inevitably implies that the prime hope for progress forever lies in the ability of activists, business people and contrarians to ignore the conniving politicians, sidestep the turf battles, and invest in New Albany, anyway, perhaps for no other reason beyond a need for someone to do something – anything – positive.

To review: We elect intellectually vacant politicians who promise that nothing will change for the better.

We get exactly that.

It isn’t ironic.

Not at all.

----

Many of these business people, contrarians and activists, and far fewer politicians, look forward to convening monthly at Develop New Albany’s “First Tuesday” networking gatherings.

The May edition was hosted last week by the River City Winery (321 Pearl St.; 812-945-9463; www.rivercitywinery.com/), which is preparing to open its doors full time later this summer. Evening wine sampling should be underway soon, with the owners still putting in long hours toward opening the kitchen. Call for details and opening hours before visiting, but take my word for it: When you see the job they’ve done remodeling and refurbishing the historic Baer Building, you’re going to be impressed … and thirsty.

The winery will be taking advantage of an active subculture that revels in something I’ve always jokingly referred to as “alco-tourism.” While there are other, more subtle ways of describing it, the underlying impulse is the same. Growing numbers of folks enjoy searching out small, distinctive, handcrafted libations, and they’ll go out of their way to find them.

In a planet filled to the brim with fast food franchises, the independent River City Winery will be one of a kind, attracting visitors who choose consciously to ignore the everyday chain eateries and watering holes, dining and drinking instead at locally-owned restaurants and pubs. Such is the reaction to the mass market mentality of the cookie cutter that related possibilities for profitably investing time, money and interest in niche alternatives are better placed for success than ever before. It works for bistros, wineries, cafes, coffee shops and breweries, as well as art galleries, bookstores and specialty retail businesses.

To concentrate these niche businesses in a place that had been previously undervalued, like the historic business district of a city like New Albany, is to create an atmosphere with a good chance of luring like-minded people to come and take a look.

Just don’t expect the conjoined councilmen to understand any of it. After all, their job is to prevent growth from happening.

Nash on the first anniversary of health care reform.

There are several answers to Matt's questions below. Much of the problem always has been the crass materialism that has come to define the American experience; dollars invested in human happiness may not be available to purchase vital plastic trinkets from overseas manufacturers. Infinity beckons, but all we want are our toys, and society does not exist outside the walls of the gated community.

To me, it's always gone even deeper than money, into aberrant psychology. What Americans crave more than anything else is their "right," one irrespective of comparative circumstance or variable station, to find someone (anyone will do) "lower" than themselves, and to heap abuse on these convenient victims by means of this lofty phrase: "After all, it's your own fault. Why should I pay to help you?"

But what about unhealthy children? Is it their fault, too? Or, is it enough to blame their parents and allow the guilt to trickle down to the powerless?

Worse yet, the main offenders tend always to explain their derision by reference to Christianity, which in turn exalts wealth as the condition preferred by Jesus, and permits personal greed to be thinly disguised as a theological condition whereby the believer condemns the sick to Hell for harboring illness.

Since when is good health not precondition for the pursuit of happiness?

Apparently I've forgotten the modern American's creed: "Life is good, but not on my dime."

Anyone know a cheap faith healer?

NASH: A year of health care reform

... Why are so many lawmakers concerned with the repeal of this legislation without any concerns for those that are benefiting from it? Why are they not concerned for the health of this nation that falls behind on many key statistics except for the actual money that is spent on health care?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tenants rights? Huh?

This article covers much ground, and differences between Europe as a whole and the US must be factored into the equation, but one paragraph jumps out at me. Can New Albanians even begin to fathom life in a place where rental property ownership is fairly regulated, rather than slumlords cynically empowered?

Brits buy homes, the Germans rent – which of us has got it right? Germany seems to offer cheaper rents and more choice than the UK. But is the grass really grĂ¼ner?, by Joe Palmer (The Guardian)

... She has no doubts that Germany offers tenants a better deal than the UK: "There's more to rent here and it's all very transparent. You can check if your rent is fair using the Mietspiegel [rental index] on the Munich city website. If you are paying too much, the tenants' association will step in for you."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

REWIND: Stand united, fall divided (2009).

Way back on February 12, 2009, I used one of my earliest Tribune guest columns to discuss one of many elemental dysfunctions afflicting New Albany: The steadfast and puzzling refusal to unify and organize as a means of achieving shared goals.

It's been two years, and unfortunately, this congenital failure to grasp the merits of rowing together is once again rearing its self-harming head in the form of economic development entities bizarrely reluctant to support what's best for the whole city, in the form of an independent small business alliance to facilitate localization, as opposed to what rewards individuals within their own bureaucratic fiefdoms.

I'm running for council at large, and while it's true that there may be little traction for an individual office holder who attempts to tackle the miasma, it remains that one of my campaign slogans is, "Zero tolerance for non-cooperation among non-profit economic development entities." Read into it what you will ... and I hope some of you do. Whether elected or defeated, I will continue to use the closest bully pulpit to promote the virtues of cooperation and decry the foolishness of small-pond thinking. Thank you for your patronage.

---

BEER MONEY: Stand united, fall divided.

By ROGER BAYLOR Local Columnist

A neighborhood forum was held last night. According to the planned agenda, topics were to include:

· Current experiences and problems in the city
· Ideas for improving quality of life
· City and neighborhood safety
· Code enforcement
· Proactive neighborhood involvement
· Future vision for the city and neighborhoods
· Street concerns

Over the past five years, probably a half-dozen neighborhood forums have been held, and the agenda list of hot button issues has been examined in exhaustive detail.

At various junctures during this time, individuals arrayed in small groupings throughout the city have diligently pursued their own solutions to selected flashpoints, whether by campaigning, petitioning government bodies, or enlisting legal assistance.

While there is general agreement among neighborhood activists as to problems and solutions, few tangible gains have resulted in spite of persistent efforts. The ongoing credit crunch, an economic turndown, and state government’s eagerness to starve municipalities of funding all have contributed to the stalemate.

Other impediments have been partially addressed with the ballot box, as in the genetic propensity of New Albany’s ruling elite to favor passivity and lowest common denominators rather than aggressiveness and the principled raising of community standards.

However, these are little more than glib excuses. My words today are written prior to the most recent neighborhood forum, but my fondest wish for a positive step forward remains a renewed commitment to grassroots unity, and a recognition that defeating the New Albany Syndrome requires cooperation, solidarity and inter-dependence as necessary preconditions for neighborhood progress, and not as bogey men to be feared by residents and manipulated by our congenital ward heelers.

---

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Mark Webb, an Indianapolis attorney who serves the Brewers of Indiana Guild as legal advisor and part-time legislative liaison.

I refrain from using the word “lobbyist” in describing Mark’s function, although I shouldn’t. There is nothing intrinsically unsavory about businesses banding together to advocate for their shared interests by hiring someone adept in relevant legalities and procedures. Such a person helps us stay informed so we can navigate the murky regulatory and statutory swamplands.

The key point is this: How many small Indiana breweries standing alone can afford to have representation in such a way?

The obvious answer: Maybe one, perhaps two, but to pool the resources of 25 or more Indiana breweries is to facilitate the retention of a point man like Mark.

With him, the Guild has a knowledgeable professional who voices our collective concerns to the legislature and state bureaucracy – and we all share his expenses. Our viewpoint no longer is the lone voice of a single brewery, but the massed chorus of an economic entity. That, too, is why the legislators and bureaucrats have an interest in listening to what Mark has to say to them.

It isn’t one. It’s many.

And this is why politicians pay closer attention when any well-organized lobby group like Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK) turns out its foot soldiers at a public meeting. Collective action implies weight of numbers, and weight of numbers catches the attention of those whose continuing employment depends on votes.

There’s a catch of sorts: Once the Indiana brewers have made a democratic decision pertaining to a policy or position, it becomes my responsibility as an individual member to maintain solidarity with the collective will of the whole.

For instance, Mark informed me that the Guild will not take a public stance on smoking legislation currently being debated in Indianapolis. Personally, I’d like to see us do so, but a decision has been made based on membership input, and I fully support it. We’ll our save ammo for other, more important, targets.

In order to enjoy the bigger picture benefits of collective action, we all may be obliged to surrender a smidgen of autonomy and subordinate a few bits of personal need in order to succeed at larger objectives.

----

So, what does any of this have to do with the city’s neighborhoods?

My analogy should be clear, and surely nothing I‘ve written today should surprise anyone who understands that at an elemental level, human social existence is political in nature, and politics is about power and how power will be distributed. That’s why there are political parties, labor unions, the NRA and the AARP, all of which act in the knowledge that a greater share of influence comes from disciplined organization, which represents the weight of numbers, forming a stronger collective voice to get the point across to those not inclined to listen otherwise.

Many folks have spent years seeking to revitalize New Albany’s neighborhoods, searching for workable solutions to the problems like those discussed at neighborhood forums. There have been answers, and herculean efforts toward rallying property owners, cleaning streets and alleys, making residential blocks safer, demanding the city enforce its own codes, and transforming New Albany into a place where residents are proud to live, not numbly resigned.

The dooming problem is that simple unity across neighborhood boundary lines both real and imagined has been unattainable, and with sporadic exceptions, the toil has been rendered piecemeal.

Worse yet, there has been a tendency toward parochial self-aggrandizement on the part of egotistical and underachieving local politicians, who thrive on dire warnings against what supposedly can’t be done, rather than doing something.

Isn’t their inveterate, manipulative obstructionism the very best evidence that without disciplined unity, we can’t hope to reclaim New Albany’s neighborhoods?

Dear censorEd: Why, the "radical's" in the details, isn't it?


Let the fluffing begin; you can read all about it in Rep. Clere's free campaign ad space in your local newspaper. Not that he's perpetually campaigning or anything gauche like that ...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Like me, please: Campaign page at Facebook is up.

The Facebook "fan" page is up: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roger-Baylor-for-NA-City-Council-At-Large/112117005535055?sk=wall&filter=1.

When permitted to do so, I'll attach a shorter URL. Meanwhile, if you are inclined to support progress in New Albany, knidly reward my candidacy with a "like" at the candidate site above. I will try to be as active as possible there, but given the sum of my sites ... we'll see how it goes. Here is the roster:

The campaign web site at http://www.rogerbaylor.com/ will be more static in nature, with the bare bones, but not as participatory in a social media sense.

Longer form essays and blogging will continue here at NAC: http://www.cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com/

And then, there's my personal Facebook site for rabble rousing and amusement: http://www.facebook.com/roger.a.baylor

REWIND: It shan’t happen here (2009).

New Albany's civic inferiority complex is the subject of this, another of my Tribune columns. It was originally published on March 12, 2009.

---

BEER MONEY: It shan’t happen here.

By ROGER BAYLOR Local Columnist

To live in New Albany is to be compelled forever and always to look at positive developments with a shrug, knowing that local Limbaughs are praying for failure, and to listen to their self-flagellating admonitions of futility, powerlessness and begrudgery:

It just can’t be done here – and you’re a fool to even try.

Which ideas and activities do the naysayers advise us to shun? Virtually all of them, especially any that suggest a departure from established thought and practice, even if it can be demonstrated that the “way we’ve always done it” never worked.

You name it, and it has been rejected as impossible in New Albany. From electrification and internal combustion engines in days past, to ordinance enforcement and restoring two-way streets in the present age, reality-based forward thinking always has been derided as completely unattainable.

Usually the excuse for inaction is the city’s lack of cash, but the malaise extends far deeper into the tortured psyche of the citizenry. Ours is an inferiority complex of epic dimensions, and outlanders discern it immediately upon entering the city limits, yet because these widespread feelings of inadequacy constitute a known devil, ruinous conservatism compels people to hug the ground and wait for impending change to cease before rising to scurry to previous dysfunctional patterns.

But the world continues to rotate and calendar pages inexorably turn, with or without New Albany’s assent, leaving the city’s enlightened elements to struggle against the dreary shackles of habitual humbuggery as they seek freedom from the fear-crazed nooses of the little people, whose contradictions are legion.

Is it rational to insist that we are citizens of the greatest country on the face of the earth, purportedly a place where opportunity is unlimited, but at the very same time, to assert entirely different rules for New Albany, thus dooming us to suffer through ignorance, squalor and underachievement as though we’re being gleefully punished by one of those celestial deities that folks hereabouts so eagerly accept?

I don’t buy it, and neither should you.

---

Given my outspokenness on this topic, dissent is inevitable, and I’ve heard the vague rumblings. These might be enough to induce paranoia into the bloodstream of this opinionated barfly, but since the market on New Albanian paranoia is fully sated in the 1st council district alone, I shall continue to walk through the valley of the shadow of the alley between my Bank Street Brewhouse and Connor’s Place without fearing evil – or anonymous e-mails, or even spilled, bitter Coffey.

Ten weeks into this experiment in constructive agitation, the objections can be distilled to this essence:

“Roger, why do you hate New Albany so much?”

Let me try to count the ways that this accusation makes even less sense than the usual opinions seeking to pass muster as facts in a place that seldom values the distinctions between the two.

I hate New Albany so much that it has been my conscious choice to live here since descending the Knobs in 1994, later moving into a century-old house downtown with my wife in 2003, and all along resisting the common local impulse to transform the house into a quadplex rental unit while disingenuously denying that rental property is a business activity.

I hate New Albany so much that I’ve been working here in one or another capacity since 1983, becoming a business owner myself, and spending the past four years studying urban revitalization, networking with the like minded, and devising a business plan for an expansion of our brewing business into downtown – even though there were opportunities as good elsewhere.

I hate New Albany so much that I remain sanguine about the prospects of forging pacts of unity with fellow progressives, and doing my little bit to transform this city into a viable, marketable, modern component of the Louisville metro area.

Sorry to dash those preconceived notions, but I don’t hate New Albany.

----

However, with our longstanding civic inferiority complex looming over us like an 800-pound pigeon perched on the Elsby Building, New Albany’s populace certainly seems to hate itself. Why does it conduct itself in such a self-loathing way?

Perhaps because so many of the ward heelers we elect to local office provide living, daily proof of the old axiom, “Insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Too many New Albanian politicians persist in greeting the wide world around them with fear and incomprehension, trumpeting their confusion as bequeathed to them by birthright, citing their own shortcomings as proof that the world cannot be changed or even modified, and spending their political careers excusing futility and failure.

Not to single out my 3rd district councilman, but where else do you hear campaign slogans like this:

It just can’t be done here – and you’re a fool to even trying.

And yet the citizens of New Albany vote for those proud of being incapable. The same people vote for the similarly incapable further up the Indiana governmental food chain, those who insist that local government must do more with less than ever before?

I won’t point a finger at government, because we get exactly the quality of government we deserve. If we hate ourselves and vote for others who do, too, then there’s only one place to look for the real answer: Pogo, who knew the truth.

The enemy (still) is us.

Monday, March 21, 2011

League Stadium in Huntingburg: Rockford Peaches, meet Dubois County Bombers.

Why does a town like Huntingburg have a cozy retro ballpark like League Stadium? The inscription near the main entrance tells the story. Currently the stadium is home to the Dubois County Bombers, a college-aged summer league team.

The underside of the oldest, original section of the 1894 grandstand is pictured here:

League Stadium is situated on the edge of town, amid parkland. Here's the view toward left field. For the movie, old-fashioned outfield fence billboards were imaginatively conjured. 20 years later, several of them remain in place.

Remember the dugout on the third base line? It's where the "no crying in baseball" scene took place.





Here's the view down the right field side. The molded plastic seats closest to the field were acquired when Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium was demolished. For Bombers home games, they're the priciest seats, at $6 and $7 dollars. Bleacher seats cost only $5.

The picnic and concessions area on the left field side shows great potential for craft beer sales, don't you think?

The press box's "Rockford Peaches" reference reminds onlookers that League Stadium played a significant role in American cinematic lore. I think that NABC's Tafelbier model wearing a Peaches uniform would look mighty fine.


Okay, so when the deal's done and the press release is ready, we'll announce it over the public address system. Until then, and as you may have already guessed ...

... NABC hopes to have draft beer in League Stadium this June and July for Dubois County Bombers home games.

REWIND: Human rights in New Albany? (2009).

As you already know, I am running for city council at-large, and my newspaper column is on hiatus pending the outcome of the primary election in May. During my first incarnation as columnist, from January 2009 through February 2011, a total of 111 essays were published, and because many of them pertain directly to campaign issues, it seems appropriate to reprint some of them. The following appeared in the Tribune on April 16, 2009.

---

BEER MONEY: Human rights in New Albany?

By ROGER BAYLOR Local Columnist

To my delight, last week the Iowa Supreme Court defied the American theocratic establishment by affirming a non-discriminatory definition of marriage as a secular institution, existing concurrent with organized religion, but not dependent on its supernatural sanction for validity.

By doing so, the court did its own little bit to reclaim genuinely salvageable culture, correctly espousing the rule of law and exposing the fraudulence of those whose vision of America as a “Christian nation” forever requires depriving fellow Americans of basic human rights clearly enunciated during the founding. Moreover, I’m reminded of this passage written by H. L. Mencken more than 75 years ago:

“The truth is that Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to all other attempts at rational thinking … Since the earliest days the church, as an organization, has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was the apologist for the divine right of kings.”

Coincidentally, my wife and I, who were married in 2004 by the city clerk, recently had the chance to watch “Milk,” the acclaimed biopic of gay activist, politician and martyr Harvey Milk. Sean Penn, the finest actor of his generation, stars in a riveting, Oscar-winning performance as the title character. Drop what you’re doing, rent the DVD of “Milk,” and prepare to be challenged, rewarded and enriched.

While the real Harvey Milk’s principled political activism in the diverse milieu of 1970’s San Francisco specifically espoused gay rights, his focal point is inseparable from the broader context of human rights and freedoms, providing the basis for a question I won’t stop asking until some semblance of a coherent answer is provided:

Precisely which aspects of the past are organizations like Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK) seeking to reclaim?

---

Buried deep within New Albany’s terminally neglected Code of Ordinances is a 1974 law mandating a Human Rights Commission. It existed for a time, and then was unceremoniously discarded, so today I’m embracing a custodial public service duty by reminding the community that there is statutory authority to re-energize and staff a new Human Right Commission. We should do so immediately.

The administration of Mayor James Garner displayed a keen private grasp of the moribund commission’s potential importance, but nothing happened, and if you’re looking for a nutshell summary of the Garner era, this is as good a place as any to begin. Excellent intentions were accompanied by a supreme mastery of detail, but an inexplicable absence of political acumen and simple stick-to-it-ive-ness resulted in stasis.

No matter. That was then, and this is now. I support a rehabilitated Human Rights Commission simply because I always try to put myself in others’ shoes, imagining how it must feel to do as I’ve done by publicly promoting civic improvements and espousing reforms in an effort to make the city itself a more livable and civilized place, while recognizing that even these hard-fought gains may not provide protection from discrimination and harassment owing to race, gender or sexual orientation.

For instance, consider the fundamental human act of walking.

I walk New Albany’s streets on a daily basis, and do so at all hours, seldom giving the notion a second thought. Then again, I’m a white male standing well over six feet, and weighing 270 lbs. at last reading. Naturally, in a world filled to the brim with firearms, physical stature alone neither precludes violent acts nor negates harassment … but it does have a way of reducing problems.

Even so, occasionally a passing dullard finds it amusing to bait a man my size. Imagine going out for a walk as a more vulnerable potential target: Female, or gay, or an ethnic minority, or handicapped, or all four together, perhaps leading one to forsake activities and pursuits taken for granted by others, thanks to social and cultural primitivism that extends well beyond familiar urban woes like drugs and impoverishment, into public racism, overt homophobia and violence.

Just as speeding is not an enforcement issue, but a design issue, so goes an active daily consideration of human rights. A tweaked and reconstituted Human Rights Commission, even if chronically underfunded in the sad New Albanian tradition of penny wise, pound foolish, might provide an effective bully pulpit for making this city a place that welcomes diversity and its accompanying benefits, and not views “different” as opportunities for abuse and exploitation.

Now is the time. Is there the will?

A Human Rights Commission is sorely needed in a place where topics like basic rights, diversity, and fundamental human dignity are regularly the targets of gleeful disparagement and outright malice on the part of those of dominant white, male culture, who've obviously never suffered institutionalized deprivation.

Furthermore, thinking back to its conceptual origins in housing discrimination, a functional Human Rights Commission might be a component of solutions to the city’s rental housing problems. Tenant rights and human rights are cut from the same bolt, aren’t they?

Are any members of our local political establishment willing to go on record as supporting the revival of New Albany’s Human Rights Commission?

Or: Are any of them willing to go on record as supporting anything?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Two more readers questions answered: Infrastructure and human rights.

Dear Larry,

Your opening question was answered here. Following are the answers to your next two questions.

Q. What is your position on infrastructure projects and the funding thereof? What projects take priority?

A. In terms of city council service, my primary interest in policy matters is the principle of localization, whether this is taken to imply economic matters (local investment; buying locally; keeping money at home; using economic development funds to empower local businesses), moving to fight the good fight necessary to implement a high degree of local autonomy to retain and enhance grassroots decision-making, or restoring neighborhoods as the most vital building blocks of localized living and a genuinely civil society.

Two factors will preface all of my considerations of infrastructure long before the first dollar is spent: Inter-connected imperatives of sustainable green development and redevelopment, and quantifiable elevation of quality of life for the people inhabiting this city.

The city’s infrastructure begins with a blade of grass. As extreme weather events surely have indicated, mankind’s superstructure originates in the natural environment, previously trumpeted in the heroic American ethos as something obstructive, to be tamed and molded to our often temporary infrastructure needs, while ignoring the long-term effects on the quality of human life.

Here in New Albany, we have paved the earth, neglected the forest canopy and designed haphazardly, and then shaken our fists at predictable results such as storm water drainage problems and ensuing flooding, demanding Soviet-bloc sized engineering solutions even as we refuse to pay their cost. This cannot continue, because the result is an ineffective Band-Aid.

It is far better to begin implementing long-term, holistic and sustainable remedies for storm water drainage, including house by house and block-by-block remediation. Can we do more to encourage and reward permeable surfaces? Can we pull up unneeded pavement and asphalt? Can we plant trees to replace the ones lost? Obviously, we can’t do everything at once, but nothing can be accomplished unless we first begin the effort.

Thanks to the EPA’s monitoring of the results of decades of shortsightedness, we still lack complete autonomy over the sanitary sewer system, and what control we have constantly is deployed to perpetuate politically dysfunctional tribal conflict. I’m guardedly optimistic that this era of EPA control is about to come to a close. I believe we must bear the costs of the sewer utility’s conforming to high environmental standards, and do so without political subsidies from EDIT funds. This is better accomplished by a council willing to consider expert testimony and able to understand it, rather than contriving sewer system calculations based on the previous election’s vote totals.

As infrastructure pertains to roadway and traffic projects great and small, the Ohio River Bridges debacle clearly illustrates what can happen when everyday human needs and quality of life considerations are tossed aside in favor of compounding historic auto-envy with an oligarch’s largesse-and-reward system that perpetuates design flaws to maintain Holy Profit Writ.

I intend to subject all roadway infrastructure plans to a simple means test: Do humans, as opposed to their cars, fit into the plan, and to what extent? The greater the extent of consideration for human needs, the better to go forward with the project. The better the roadway design, the less need for subsequent enhanced enforcement regimes, and also, the roadway design/redesign can help achieve other goals.

Especially downtown, city streets should be two-way, traffic calmed, more allowance for walking and bicycling made, and all traffic projects implemented with surrounding neighborhoods in mind, not merely the traffic engineer’s need to move autos more quickly to the other side of the city.

More specific infrastructure questions? Please ask.

Q. What is your position on a Human Rights Commission? What is your position on extending Equal Opportunity Employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity? What is your position on extending protections against discriminatory housing practices for sexual orientation and gender identity? What is your position on extending protections against hate crimes for sexual orientation and gender identity?

A. Human rights are incapable of quantification through market pricing. If memory serves, I began advocating for a reconstituted Human Rights Commission in 2005. It is statutorily enabled, and yet moribund. A revived Human Rights Commission is the obvious first step toward consideration of your three specific questions. I am in openly and unapologetically in favor of each, although still unsure as to how the city council can help implement them. The often neglected bully pulpit is always available, and I will use it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

NABC news: C2 Beer Dinner, Hard Core Gore and "Indiana Breweries" book signings.

The primary campaign coincides with the usual late winter-early spring events schedule for NABC, these serving as tune-ups prior to summer's outdoor festival season. Occasionally, although not often, I envy those with 9 - 5 jobs who can leave their work at the office. Anyway, here are three things to know about NABC. There'll be more.

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It's almost here: C2 beer dinner at Eiderdown (Wed., March 23).

After waiting seemingly forever for a taste of C2, the product of last year's collaboration between brewers from New Albanian Brewing Company, O’Fallon and Schlafly, and loving it, now finally comes the beer dinner, to be held this coming Wednesday, March 23, at Eiderdown (983 Goss Ave., Louisville, KY 40217). The four courses will feature kitchen collaborations between the chefs from Eiderdown and NABC, and the price will be in the range of $44 per person.

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Hard Core Gore: New NABC release honors the memory of the late Jason Gore.

Jason was a longtime NABC employee and a friend to all, in addition to being one of those special, distinctive personalities one sometimes has the good fortune to meet while traveling through life. Jared Williamson, brewer at NABC's Pizzeria & Public House location, has formulated and brewed Hard Core Gore, a special tribute to Jason (to be released on March 21).

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Indiana Breweries book signings with the authors coming to both NABC locations.

John Holl and Nate Schweber are coming to New Albany to participate in book signing events at both NABC locations, with signed copies available for purchase. Dates are Saturday, April 2 at the NABC Pizzeria & Public House at 3:00 p.m., and Sunday, April 3 at NABC Bank Street Brewhouse at 12:00 Noon.

In which a rogue Democrat helps Republicans trash Nash.

Meet your elected officials in action, rigidly non-transparent to the final gulp, with key assistance by a leading local Republican functionary who pretends to be legally neutral, a commissioner who imperially dismisses public input and a cop who issues "directives" while on the clock.

Charming, isn't it?
Nash fired as Floyd County Solid Waste director;Board director did not give reason for termination, by Chris Morris (Tribune)

After seven years, Warren Nash is out as director of the Floyd County Solid Waste District.

It took less than five minutes for the solid waste board to vote 4-3 in favor of relieving Nash of his duties. Republicans Mark Seabrook, Steve Bush and Patti Hayes, along with Democrat Ted Heavrin, voted in favor of terminating Nash, while Democrats Chuck Freiberger, Doug England and John Gonder voted to keep Nash.

Seabrook, the Solid Waste District board director, did not give any reason for Nash’s termination, only saying the board wanted to go in a different direction. Since the matter was discussed and resolved in executive session, and since it involved a personnel issue, there was no public discussion allowed, Seabrook said ...

... Nash said he was also asked to resign his position Jan. 27 by Solid Waste Board attorney Rick Fox but refused ...

... Nash said Heavrin, who is president of the Floyd County Council and Floyd County police chief, has always had it in for him. He said when he was hired seven years ago, Heavrin was the only board member to vote against his selection.

“He wanted someone else. He told me then [in uniform] he would get me one of these days,” Nash said.

Heavrin said that statement was “all lies” ...
As he removed his truncheon?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Candidate’s Progress (7): Professor Frump will play the company way.

It's a little known fact that my first and only high school musical performance came as a member of the besuited male chorus in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." 34 years later, it has become a campaign issue in irony-free New Albanee.

On Tuesday, I posted this comment on my Facebook wall. I didn't even use spray paint. Perhaps that was a mistake.
School budget guttings? When Job One is preserving the wealth of monied oligarchies and privileges elites at the expense of everyone else in the country, the GOP implements a governing order that really and truly trickles down to all of us, mostly in the form of raw sewage. Expect more of the same.
My secret desire was to incite the semi-pro apologists at the Clere Channel Network to a new, frenzied fete of fervent fluffing, just the sort of hero worship guaranteed to entertain me much in the same way as watching squirrels frolic in the back yard just before the condors move in for the picnicking.

Boy, was I ever mistaken. Instead of a chat about ideological sewage deployed by over-reaching Republicans as odiferous napalm against local government's work, I found myself embroiled in a spread sheet gang bang.

My fundamental point about "government as business" handily ignored, the conversation indeed took a turn, although little did I know that in the aftermath of the battle royale stemming from this most unexpected of unintended provocations, I'd manage to annoy certain northside NA collegiate academia to such a degree of agitation that my name subsequently would be openly mentioned in front of an undergraduate business class as an example of abhorrent dissidence that cannot go unpunished by respectable elements in society, like the ones who persist in believing that One Southern Indiana represents the very acme of human aspiration (and dress codes).

Whoa, and what the hey?

I'm just a little ol' kitchen table philosophy major who's never forgotten how much sheer joy can be had in questioning straight-laced and -jacketed orthodoxies, especially when they're housed in small ponds like the Open Air Museum's tiny swimming hole.

Judge for yourself. Here's the Facebook thread in question, during which my original campaign essay here at NAC was introduced. Given the way these musings pulled successive IUS business department instructors into the fray, forgive me for wondering if they were doing some tweeting of their own? Not that I mind. After all, I'm an untutored exhibitionist.

(While it is humbling to know that my testimonies can elicit such labored breathing, it's a shame they never seemed to do the trick in an earlier life when I truly was "on the market" and available to the lowest female bidder. Capitalism failed me then, and I've never forgiven it.)

Surely the business education team at IUS recalls the first lesson at beer entrepreneur's school: Any publicity is good publicity. Accordingly, in spite of seldom (perhaps never), using the following modern Internet shorthand here at this longer-form blog, it is highly merited in this instance.

LMAO

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All right. In response to the expected rebukes, I'll be "serious," but only for a moment.

The unrepentent class clown has important things to do today, like trying to dope out how Wal-Mart/Sam's Club can be the main sponsor of the Small Business Administration's "Small Business Week," without each and every one of us ingesting voluminous quantities of hallucinogenic compounds.

I happily attended classes at IUS, and was awarded a BA in 1982. I have many friends and customers in the School of Business at IUS, and they know that in my own hyperbole-ridden, barnstorming way, admittedly one not always capable of being quantified by money, I've supported the university ever since graduation, primarily by never wavering in vigorously defending its quality against the wailings of the Open Air Museum's resident dullards, those who've never comprehended the value of a university education, and quickly demean as irrelevant IUS and other educational institutions which have the misfortune of NOT boasting a Division 1 NCAA basketball program to divert short attention spans for a few weeks every spring.

What's more, for the the past few years, I've taught a beer class for IUS's continuing education department. It isn't rocket science, but I do a good job, and students enjoy the experience. For the fourth time in the past decade, I'm preparing to help with the Ogle Center's Bier Prost fundraiser at Horseshoe. The list goes on, and on.

I engage in public discussions all the time. I make no effort to hide my identity, and I accept the consequences as periodically assisted by my outspoken nature. Nothing much is required in return, although a sense of fair play would be pleasant enough. I've been told that both my name and elements of the discussion thread were mentioned aloud in a class, and this is flattering even if presented in a disparaging manner. Just know that I'm available for equal time, to address the students in that class, and offer one contrarian business owner's side of the story.

It might just be instructive.

I can talk about what I've learned in the sacred pursuit of bizness, and the presiding instructor can freely take me down a few notches in person by explaining the unlikelihood of my having learned any of it by reading books written by mere thinkers ... those misguided novelists, historians and theorists who never attended business school, and did not receive the proper vocational education.

Until then, I'll have to settle for spitwads, passion, jousting, dust-ups and frequent dosages of wisdom from the closest available Progressive Pint. I don't recommend these to everyone, even if they've always worked for me.

Response to a reader's question.

Q. What is your primary goal in seeking a position on the New Albany City Council? What changes will you facilitate?

A. Seven years ago, I began attending city council meetings as a way to learn more about how local government operates, because I had numerous questions. These questions can be rolled into one overarching query:

Why did the city of New Albany come to symbolize regression, and how can we reverse this decline, and instead pursue progress toward a stronger, more just and economically equitable civil society?

I harbor no "Jimmy Stewart Goes to Hauss Square" illusions about the extent to which an individual at-large council member can “change” anything. However, council members overall can be far better informed and aware of a vast planet that exists outside the city limits.

Now more than ever before, New Albany needs elected officials who are capable of creative thought somewhat beyond conditioned dysfunctional responses intended to preserve their own tiny fiefdoms (and worldviews). “No” votes are not to be confused with leadership or ability. Politics is the art of the possible, and too many council members fail to grasp this truth.

Here’s a brief summary of my platform.

Human dignity has no price tag. Justice, diversity, equality and basic human rights begin at the grassroots. I will never lose sight of this.

Aggressive pursuit of a localized economy is essential. The beginnings of a stronger, smarter, more sustainable economic foundation are possible right here, with more money staying in this community and a greater degree of economic self-sufficiency.

Existing economic development funds are for economic development, and should be used to assist in localization. They are not sewer rate subsidies, bribes for wealthy multi-national corporations, or available for the use of bloated oligarchs under the wing of One Southern Indiana.

Zero tolerance for failure to cooperate, as it pertains to existing economic development entities: New Albany First, Develop New Albany, Urban Enterprise Association and applicable government agencies. We all row in the same direction, or else.

Environmental restoration and sustainability are fundamental to resolving longstanding problems with storm water and the sewer system.

Sustainable initiatives, green and urban, can take New Albany back to the future and return it to functioning as cities are intended to function. We have to adapt what we have, understand the lessons of historic preservation, build new buildings the right way, and maximize the advantages of urban living.

A progressive, family- and human-friendly neighborhood policy must emanate from the bottom up, not the top down. Many current problems result from generations of bad remedies and design flaws. We must rethink, plan, explore cause and effect, recognize inter-relatedness and repair these.

It’s time to fairly enforce our own laws. This is a political deficiency, not a police issue. All proceeds from enforcement should be kept right here to help fund further improvements. Mandatory rental property inspections need to begin as soon as possible.

No tolls! The Ohio River Bridges Project is a multi-billion dollar transportation boondoggle. I’m proud to say I was an early opponent of tolls, and I remain opposed in spite of recent cosmetic changes in the plan, Tolling will disproportionately burden Hoosier small businesses, Hoosier workers and Hoosier families. Build the East End Bridge now, and then reassess other vehicular transportation needs later.

The biggest “bully pulpit” issue is our obligation to fight the good fight for greater local determination. The Indy-centric budgeting system we have now is inefficient and infected with malicious Republican ideology. Cutting essentials in education, public safety and social services is penny-wise, pound-foolish madness. Yes, spend less when possible, but think more, and work smarter. The obsequious obstructionism of past councils is inexcusable.