Tuesday, February 19, 2013

OTA Redux: My Three Step Therapy for the Tolling Blues (August, 2012).

Jeff begins our Tuesday morning with a look at the New York Times looking quizzically at us and our approaching bridges boondoggle.

Louisville metro and our place in it: The words are watching.

Has anyone else noticed that when local independent sorts are left to their own devices the metro area tends to get great national coverage and makes "best of" lists but when the regional power structure intervenes we always seem to get targeted with suspicious glances and generally confused disbelief?

To repeat: As long as there remains a fight to wage against the imposition of the ORBP, I'm there. 

At the same time, wishful thinking's never been a good civic strategy. New Albany is my top priority, and our city must begin planning for the future with the bridges variable in mind. I've made this case for pro-active readiness many times, as in this On the Avenues column from August 23, 2012. 

ON THE AVENUES: My Three Step Therapy for the Tolling Blues.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Southern Indiana’s resident economic oligarchs have diligently labored, backstage-leveraged, and eagerly licked exposed posteriors to provide the metropolitan Louisville region with a gift for the American post-industrial age so woefully inadequate that to this very day, it all seems like a Bill Maher satire piece.

But it’s the Ohio River Bridges Project, an auto-centric, Eisenhower-era, top-down “mobility” solution for the resource-gobbling individualist.

Think of the ORBP as a garishly wrapped box, which when opened, reveals a steaming pile of cattle dung and a slot to drop quarters for the privilege of continuing to smell it.

While other communities nationwide explore futuristic transit options, we get Kerry Stemler’s pre-pubescent idea of an erector set, with his leering tumescence enabled by naked steel girder eroticism, not unlike Dagny Taggart’s attraction to Reardon Metal in that crazy dead woman’s book that the wacko teabaggers still believe is literature.

I’ve never been more proud to have been labeled as an toxic obstructionist than through my adamant opposition to the ORBP. Indeed, the fight isn’t over. Show me where the Sunnyside version of the Alamo stands, and I’ll man the crumbling ramparts against One Southern Indiana’s zombie polo-shirted hordes until the first wildly inaccurate Wilbur Smith revenue estimate causes the river crossing fee to quadruple in mid-sensor-scan.

That said, the odds for us are worse than before. The Feds have laughed aloud and told us that if we’re so determined to be obstinately dunderheaded, please be their guests; the grants can go to mass transit elsewhere, and it tolls are inevitable, the Feds suspect that with educational standards hereabouts at such a low ebb, we’re sure to relax and enjoy it.

If bridge tolls eventually become reality, three things need to happen.


First, we must consider the status of the Sherman Minton Bridge – New Albany’s bane as recently as 2011, when it was closed for repairs, but in the future, potential symbol of our civic free lunch.

As a disclaimer, label me skeptical. In spite of the oligarch cadre’s insistence, the mere existence of Horseshoe Casino, and the need for untrammeled (read: untolled) access to the all-night gaming we depend on to indirectly fund waning social programs probably will not permanently spare the Sherman Minton from taxation.

However, for so long as it remains safely off the tolling grid, the city of New Albany has a tailor-made, providential civic slogan, one we must repeat over and over:


Forget Trickle Back City, Open for Business, Riverview is Our Savior and all the other half-baked suggestions that make reasonable people wonder whether we’ve lost our minds. Compared with our brethren over in Jeffersonville, who are about to be relentlessly pulverized, first with unnecessary downtown bridge construction detritus, delays and clutter, and then, when all of it has been nicely carted off and paved, with the sheer villainy of tolls themselves, New Albany will be able to market itself as an island of sanity amid the turbulence of KStem’s self-serving tumescence.


Second, seeing as this potential New Albany advantage has one significant drawback, we must reverse decades of Real-time, Caesaresque inertia and get radical, aggressive and determined about our own streets, what they mean for the people who live here, and what we can do to facilitate them for use by people as well as automobiles.

It should suffice to say that maintaining our holy writ of a quasi-Stalinist 1960’s grid of one-way speed enhancers, with the novel magnet of an untolled Sherman Minton Bridge attracting drive-throughs and fly-overs through the city’s neighborhoods in unprecedented numbers, traveling as quickly as possible to save two bucks, and ignoring what we have to offer as they put the pedal to the metal, would be suicidal to our future prospects.

They will not stop here any more than casino clients already do (they don’t). Let’s “complete” New Albany’s streets now, and cure with a dose of intelligent design the illnesses we now try to “treat” with old-fashioned Georgia speed traps.


Third, let’s resolve to never forget that the ORBP is happening not because of genuine concerns for safety, or comprehensive thoughts for the future of transportation in the metro Louisville statistical area, or whatever other drivel we’ve been fed in a effort to solicit support for the project where precious little exists among just plain folks.

Rather, this is happening because the oligarchs and their ancillaries need to make their money the Mitt Romney way, in the exurbs, at places like River Ridge, where the jobs added by the likes of Amazon can only subtract independent small businesses from their homes down the street in the urban core.

In short, the ORBP is capitalism all right, but in a very restricted, profit-making sense of channeling the largess in directions so obvious that Nostradamus needn’t return to help us guess.

From the ORBP’s beginning until now, it has been representative of American robber baron capitalism of the old, heavy, monopolistic school, where Gohmann Asphalt’s soulless flunkies issue pious public intonations of “for your own safety” even as they ink the bids for the business constructing the project itself, “sealing” the deal with watery Bud Light Limes at a vapid chain restaurant somewhere on Veteran’s Parkway.

Thus, my third suggested bit of pre- and post-tolling therapy is simply this: Let’s never forget from whence this foolishness has emanated.

Granted, we cannot vote against the likes of Kerry Stemler, Steve Schultz and the rest of their merrily fluffing oligarch’s advancement society.

However, politicians are another matter, and when it comes to the ORBP and the likelihood of the regressive tax we’re all still euphemistically referring to as “tolls,” we have a clear idea of who is responsible.

Anyone seen Ed “Pro-Tolls” Clere or Steve “I Heart Tolls” Stemler lately? Remember them, will you?

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