Friday, May 31, 2013

LSI, 1Si cadres to discuss the ORBP whilst rolling on the river.


It certainly smells like sheep spirit.

Leadership Southern Indiana Mix, Mingle, Learn Takes to the River

Alumni Event Features Bridges Update Aboard the Spirit of Jefferson

Leadership Southern Indiana (LSI) will host its next Mix, Mingle and Learn Alumni Event on Thursday, June 13 aboard the Spirit of Jefferson. Boarding begins at 5:30p.m. with the cruise starting at 6:00p.m. The cost is $15 for alumni who are current members of LSI and $25 for non-members. Anyone interested in attending needs to register at www.leadershipsi.org by June 7.

Sponsored by Northwest Mutual, the event provides LSI alumni, their guests and community leaders the opportunity to network, share stories, and meet prominent business and community leaders.

In addition to networking, guests will hear an update about the Ohio River Bridges Project.

NABC and Exclusively New Albany: What would YOU do?

(Exclusively 2010)

For those who've queried, here's the straight dope.

Since the inception of Develop New Albany's Exclusively New Albany, NABC has been happy to dispense beer samples at the event. Each year we've done so, lots of folks have asked why they can't purchase full pours of craft beer, seeing as generally there has been a full cash bar on hand, albeit without any beer remotely approximating craft -- because, oddly, some people still don't/can't/won't "get" it.

Finally I decided to ask, and the answer that has come back to me is that Exclusively New Albany is a "signature" event, meaning that only those businesses paying dues as members of DNA have the right to vend for cash (as would be the case with full pours of craft beer from NABC). All others are invited to participate as samples-only delegates, and donate product.

There isn't much else I can say; after all, rules are rules.

Note the diplomatic complexities. I appreciate the general direction DNA's new management is taking; it is a welcomed change, and I'd like to recognize it and help them out. I don't mind conceding a sense of frustration (perhaps fury) when mass-market swill wins out, but so it goes ... and, regrettably, far too often. Joining DNA for the sole purpose of vending would be counter-productive, both in terms of defraying the expense through one night of vending (highly unlikely), and personal ideology. I'm tempted to offer an alternative on the 20th by licensing the property of a friend next door, although some would perceive that as churlish. And, finally, I might set up a table once again, pour 10 growlers by 2-ounce allotment, write it off, and call it a day.

It's complicated. Advice, anyone? Maybe it's time for a web poll.

Nash on Lee Kelly: The voice of the Bulldogs.

In days of yore, Lee Kelly was required to begin his day at Floyd Central High School, where the radio department was an afterthought located in a tiny space, and the class was offered only during first period.

Lee would leave after class and commute back to New Albany High School during his "open" period. Given my proclivities for finding creative ways of avoiding class, there were times I didn't see very much of Lee, but nonetheless, the experience was enlightening, and the basis for a lifelong friendship.

Matt's essay is wonderful, because Lee is one of the great guys and an iconic figure in this town. I hope he enjoys retirement. Lee, if you're reading, how about that ballgame we keep talking about attending?

NASH: The voice of the Bulldogs, by Matthew Nash (N and T)

 ... The moniker “Voice of the Bulldogs” was given to the radio station many years ago. I believe that it should be permanently retired along with Mr. Kelly as a tribute to his years of service to the radio station, the school and to our community.

I wish Mr. Kelly all the best during his much deserved retirement. With his voice I am sure he could have had any job he wanted in broadcasting and made as much money as he needed. He chose to teach high school and was able to touch thousands of lives over his 40 years at WNAS New Albany. I am a better person for having him as a teacher and proud to call him a friend.

"Because it’s not the first question that gets to the truth. It’s the second and third questions."

If I had ever been here before
I would probably know just what to do
Don't you?

---

Terry Boyd: Louisville media and the unasked $64 million questions

How do I put this respectfully?
When people dissemble, they generally are reverting – sometimes involuntarity– to a Darwinian survival mode.
Especially in a big business or financial deal, they do what they need to do to get out of a tight spot.
But a very intentional message embedded in a transparent lie is, “You’re so stupid, we can tell you anything.”
The problem with a Louisville media that it is so incurious and so math- and finance-challenged is that you really can tell them anything.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

ON THE AVENUES: It’s the wrong way, pal.

ON THE AVENUES: It’s the wrong way, pal.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Every now and then, you just have to suck it up and admit that Dan Coffey was right about something.

As a case in point, here’s a stray thought from Chairman Cappuccino’s little unread book, as relayed by the News and Tribune’s Daniel Suddeath on September 9, 2009.

The way it looks right now, the lane changes are confusing, City Council President Dan Coffey said. He feels the bike lanes were added to appease a certain segment of New Albany. “The mayor is going to do anything he can to help the progressives out because he figures they’re going to help get him re-elected,” Coffey said.

Really? The bike lanes on Spring Street are almost four years old? And we’ve done nothing else since then to augment them?

Yep. Overnight in 2009, the street was reduced from three one-way Indy car lanes to just two, an improvement that calmed traffic, albeit briefly. Two bike lanes were added on either side of the traffic lanes, both running in the same direction toward the city center.

Was there dancing in the streets?

Hardly, because New Albany’s street grid is designed to accommodate cars alone, not people, so dancing is best done wherever there’s a pole -- but let’s leave Rustic Frog out of it.

It’s true that “progressives” applauded the addition of the bike lanes. We clapped while waiting for the remainder of the biking and walking plan to unfold, and of course it didn’t, because there never was a plan, just a re-election campaign that failed. Then it became clear that we HAD been fooled again, and the crickets chirped anew.

And so I used to be a fan of bike lanes on Spring Street. Now I’m not even sure they matter.

---

Clearly, the dilatory and deservedly defunct England III administration created the Spring Street bike lanes in a self-congratulatory mode of bare minimalism, and it isn’t surprising that they’ve functioned as well as any strictly symbolic, otherwise orphaned project might be expected to work – which is to say, half-assed at best.

But victory was declared, balloons were released and press bromides were distributed, after which ruling class attention spans quickly lapsed back into sloppy microdot patterns. The carrot dangling just behind the traffic lane reduction and dual bike lane addition was that they were undertaken in preparation for restoring two-way vehicular traffic to Spring Street.

There was none. The stick?

It was soggy and flaccid, because the England administration lacked the political cojones to initiate anything that might have required the expenditure of political capital, this being because their wallets were utterly bereft of cash, and their minds incapable of pursuing ideas or ideals, as opposed to petty small-pond lap swimming.

Four years later, Spring Street as yet runs one way, with too few stop signs or lights, still tailor-made for speeding and reckless driving. Although you’ll see knowledgeable recreational cyclists using the bike lanes on the north side alongside traffic (as they should), dozens of others merrily pedal the wrong way on both sides of traffic -- when not engaged in doing the same on adjoining sidewalks, with scant regard for walkers.

I’ve never seen a policeman stop one. I’ve never seen any effort on the part of the city to educate cyclists, or to enforce any outdated laws pertaining to them. This would require having a plan, a scheme, a semblance of an outline, rather as Jeffersonville is doing right now in trying to coordinate a master plan.

New Albany’s chosen methodology is plainly piecemeal, now and always. If there was a way to picture half-assed piecemeal, it really should have been the bicentennial logo.

---

The hardest thing for me to concede is that these serial vagrants riding their bicycles against traffic in existing bike lanes, and navigating sidewalks as recklessly as they would in their automobiles had their licenses not been confiscated owing to persistent drunkenness … well, they’re not entirely stupid, after all.

They’re displaying understandable defense mechanisms in a hazardous environment. In the absence of calming on Spring Street – because Doug England didn’t see fit to finish the job he started, because those nasty bullies on the council wouldn’t let him (sniff, sniff ... HONK) – today’s rogue cyclists correctly intuit that regularly tolerated vehicular chaos in the traffic lanes makes the bike lanes intrinsically unsafe to use as intended.

That’s why bike lanes are ineffective in a vacuum, in such a setting, where everything else about the street grid around is designed to fail.

---

It is as yet unclear whether any elected official will come out in the open and truly get in front of this issue. Most of them seem to feel that furtive non-transparency conducted behind-the-scenes is the best tactic to proceed, while I tend to prefer revolutionary notions like openness and public meetings.

There is a palpable fear that any changes to the street grid will prompt complaints from the usual elderly Luddite (Democratic Party) suspects, which are the same elderly Luddite (Democratic Party) suspects typically bothering to vote – and that’s the scary part for the politicos.

And yet, openness surely would rally at least some support for street grid reform among New Albany’s younger cadres.

If we finally begin having public chats about such matters, it is my view that a Spring Street finally properly right-sized, calmed and returned to two-way traffic probably means doing away with the bike lanes, although reduced lane widths might allow one bike path to remain.

But there'll need to be two traffic lanes, one running east and the other west. With street parking on both sides (the street is primarily residential), it’s either the bike lanes or a center turn lane – and a center turn lane is inevitable on a former arterial street intended for taming.

We’d lose the bike lanes, but right now, they’re pretty much useless, anyway. They were built wrong. There’s been no follow-up; the city has no comprehensive biking and walking plan apart from assuming that until the end of time, everyone who votes will drive a car. It may well have become even more dangerous for a cyclist on Spring Street since the lanes were installed. The rapidly fading bike lane stripes inhibit a degree of non- vigilance already sorely tested by mobile phones and in-car curling irons, and drivers think more about the cyclist’s duty to stay within his boundaries than their own obligation to pay attention to the road.

We set up speed traps, and pretend they work.

Pretending.

That’s New Albany’s real bicentennial legacy, isn’t it?

NSP, DMB, SOL.


It's politics, you know.

(We need an investigation)

It's politics, you know.

(Let's let the state do it)

It's politics, you know.

(Can't be too careful with that Federal money)

It's Coffey tics, you know. Previously, there was this: Who dunnit? My money's on that copperhead over there.

And this.

Transparency? That's a fine idea. Found any yet?

Following is the official reporting. Sighhh.

State to get conflict-of-interest probe over New Albany home purchaseGonder: Review gives impression of political motivation regarding councilwoman, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — On Tuesday, the New Albany Redevelopment Commission voted in favor of allowing the state to rule on whether the purchase of a home by a city council member’s niece would constitute a conflict-of-interest.

The issue revolves around the niece of Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti, who was a day away from closing on the purchase of a house at 315 E. 11th St. when the city administration froze the deal so it could be reviewed.

The house was refurbished through the $6.7 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is managed at the state level by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, or IHCDA. Benedetti served as a nonvoting council liaison to an NSP board that was set up by former Mayor Doug England. She also was a member of the redevelopment commission while the project was being implemented.

A reminder: NABC Tricentennial debuts this Saturday at the Culbertson Mansion.


For further details, head this way.

(Poster design by Tony Beard)

Krugman on "The Obamacare Shock."

Clear and absent sensationalism. That simply won't do. Perhaps Al Mohler can explain it better.

The Obamacare Shock, by Paul Krugman (NYT)

 ... So yes, it does look as if there’s an Obamacare shock coming: the shock of learning that a public program designed to help a lot of people can, strange to say, end up helping a lot of people — especially when government officials actually try to make it work.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Houndmouth’s new ‘From the Hills Below the City’ premieres on Conan’s Team CoCo website."

I'm old school, so I'll probably wait until the album is released on CD and hope some of the money finds its way to the band. Meanwhile, Houndmouth is in Diksmuide, Belgium on May 31. It's a short and flat bicycle ride away from De Dolle Brouwers, one of  Europe's great breweries.

Free streaming online: Houndmouth’s new ‘From the Hills Below the City’ premieres on Conan’s Team CoCo website
by Michael Tierney (Insider Louisville)

... Matt Meyers, Shane Cody, Zak Appleby and Kate Toupin all have songs to call their own.

They all shine and take turns in the spotlight.

But each member has bought into what it really means to be a band – a single entity with a united effort to produce a unique and recognizable sound.

Houndmouth has produced an album that sounds like something out of the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, and is a true testament to the life and times of Midwestern Americans in the 21st Century.

Houndmouth returns to Louisville with a spot at Forecastle Festival on Friday, July 12.

The Stutzmans, Zoellers and Pences bleat and wail.

And that's good enough for me.

Indiana Planned Parenthood declares victory after Supreme Court declines to hear funding case, by Jill Disis (Indy Star)

The U.S. Supreme Court will not disturb a lower court ruling that blocks Indiana’s effort to strip Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions among its medical services ...

... The law would have also defunded family planning programs throughout the state.

“We are happy that the Supreme Court’s action lets stand the Appeals Court ruling that the state does not have plenary authority to exclude a class of providers for any reason,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, in a statement issued Tuesday. “Federal law protects the right of Medicaid patients to choose a health care provider free of interference from the state.”

Rob Ford, huffing rock, and "do it yourself" urbanism.

Obviously, there is no crack cocaine scandal in New Albany, at least in political terms. But setting aside the druggie aspect of this story from Toronto, there is a major nugget of wisdom therein.

Why You May Want a Crack-Smoking Mayor, by Stephen Marche (guest post at the Esquire politics blog)

... The lesson of Rob Ford may not be one that urbanists particularly want to hear: Having an utterly paralyzed and embarrassing government may not be that bad a thing. Nobody expects City Hall to do anything: Since Ford came to power, if you wanted the little park in your neighborhood to look good, you and your friends were going to have to organize it. If you wanted more green space, you were going to have to figure out a way to make that happen. Toronto is the one city I know of where the hipster kids in the parks and the billionaires in penthouses share mostly the same values and goals, at least in regards to the city they want to live in; since Ford, both groups have had to think of themselves as city builders. And they are proceeding to build the city. They know they have to build it themselves because the mayor is, uh, otherwise engaged.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Targeted Traffic Enforcement, Part The Infinity.


I suppose one might say that four hours' placement on Memorial Day constitutes "targeted," although San Francisco (below) sounds keen to implement the other dozen tactics, too. Note that I'm not griping about speed traps as such, just the absence of political will across multiple generations that makes them seem somehow feasible.

Too bad he wasn't sitting in the same spot two days ago, when the red SUV was racing eastbound through this very block. I'd have settled for a few words directed toward the bicyclists peddling the wrong way on Spring, but I suppose that's different.

Solutions

Addressing Unsafe Speed

This strategy includes many actions to address the problem of unsafe speed, including targeted traffic enforcement, new speed reporting devices, and traffic calming and complete streets interventions that include road diets, narrowing lanes, and installing speed humps and wider sidewalks, especially with corner bulb-outs.

Improving Streets and Intersections

This strategy also includes actions to make intersections safer and ensure that drivers yield to pedestrians when they have the right of way. These include stepped-up police enforcement and several engineering techniques: narrowing intersections with bulb-outs; narrowing or reducing lanes; adding continental or ‘ladder’ crosswalks and pedestrian refuges; providing additional crossing time with signal adjustments; and installing pedestrian countdown signals.

These all improve intersection safety by slowing cars, helping drivers and pedestrians see each other, and giving pedestrians enough time to cross safely.

A .143 craft beer winning percentage for the Bats.


The Louisville Bats are in the midst of a homestand before packing off to Toledo on Friday. Over at Potable Curmudgeon, I've been using the home fields of the club's opponents to illustrate Louisville's lamentable record in support for craft beer. Just the other day, a team employee wrote me to suggest that my oratory isn't reaching the proper targets within the hierarchy, which presumably might express solidarity. Toward this end, I was told to contact the Centerplate official primarily responsible for craft beer's current degraded plight.

Maybe some day.

Possibility ... what?

---

Probably no craft beer options for Gwinnett Braves games at Coolray Field, so the Bats finally win one.

The Louisville Bats recently concluded a slate of games in Georgia, where the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves plays its games in the outer suburbs of the city -- a novel arrangement, to be sure.

The Gwinnett Braves also appear to be the initial exception that proves the rule, seeing as there seems to be little in the way of craft beer available at Coolray Field.

Gwinnett Braves: A great experiment or failed endeavor?

I'll leave it at that. The Louisville Bats have two craft beers on tap, albeit well hidden, so we'll give Centerplate the win this time.

Season record: Opponents 6, Bats/Centerplate 1.

Previously:

If you can find where the Charlotte Knights play, there's craft beer there.

Craft beer at Lehigh Valley IronPigs baseball games.

Buffalo Bisons, Coca Cola Field, and local craft beer access.

Indianapolis Indians, Victory Field and a merciful end to "don't ask, don't tell" in local craft beer access.


Toledo Mud Hens view locally brewed craft beer as positive enticement. Imagine that.

Doc Severinsen, left standing.



Johnny Carson (2005), Ed McMahon (2009), Tommy Newsom (2007) and now Ed Shaughnessy have died. Doc Severinsen is 85 years old, and was touring as recently as last year.

Carson, during his last show, in thanking Doc and the band, would lament TV's loss of the "last big swing band," saying, "To say that this band is not 'hip' is to not know the meaning of the word."

Monday, May 27, 2013

A brief note on the jarring persistence of fundamentalist douchebaggery in L'America.

In this case, at the monolithic edifice known as Southeast Christian.

Oy.

“We want everyone, including ourselves, to live by biblical standards,” (Mullah) Hester said.

Great.

Suit yourself.

Just leave me out of it, okay?

"Houndmouth have brought back the old-fashioned virtues of musicianship."

There likely will be many more reviews like this one, which I pulled from Katie Toupin's feed at Twitter. The album is due to be released on June 4.

Houndmouth - From The Hills Below The City, by Charlie Clarkson (The 405)

I'm not going to bother with preliminary introductions here for two reasons - One being, is an in-depth biography really necessary for what will be a wonderful listening experience? And two, I can't find the words because really I just want to talk about the record. What I will say is that Houndmouth consist of four young musicians from New Albany, IN, and they have all the right ingredients to be a bona-fide, distinctly American bluesy folk-rock band – singers with twangy drawls, raw instrumentation, ideas… and a band member with the obligatory beard.


"Hitler built the autobahn."

I consider myself to be reasonably informed, and yet if there might be time for any one course of study, I'd love to learn more about architecture -- not from a purely engineering standpoint, but historical and aesthetic perspectives.

Hitler's Classical Architect: Why is Léon Krier defending anew the work of the Third Reich’s master builder?, by Michael Sorkin

 ... Although (Albert) Speer’s redemptive dissembling has now been stripped away by Gitta Sereny and other historians, the Speerian narrative—like that of rocket man Wernher von Braun—still abides as a central ethical conundrum of the Nazi era: how could people who seemed to be like us become mass-murdering criminals? The impossibly illusory answer defines evil itself. Both Speer and von Braun managed their respective rehabilitations by claiming they were nonparticipants, merely present at the scene of the crime, and thus deserved to be credited for their special technical or artistic competences, which might well have been applied in other circumstances without opprobrium. Von Braun, after all, took us to the moon, and Speer outshone Hollywood with that fabulous searchlight colonnade at the Nuremberg rallies. For his part, Hitler built the autobahn.

There's another Albert Speer, as yet working as an architect in Germany: Speer's son, of the same name. The photos are instructive, especially the first one from Halle; readers might recall the book about Czechoslovak housing reviewed here.

Interview with Architect Albert Speer: 'Calamity of Postwar Construction Came from Rejecting History' (Der Spiegel)

City planner Albert Speer, son of the notorious Third Reich architect of the same name, says that reconstruction in Germany has been problematic because of the complete rejection of history after World War II. He spoke with SPIEGEL ONLINE about why even new buildings must be rooted in the past.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Indiana alcohol legislation, teetotaling and "public safety."

Yes, Representative Bill Davis is serious: If small brewers were to sell closed containers of craft beer at farmers markets (as farmhouse wineries already can), public drunkenness and illicit fornication soon would chase the kiddos away from the heirloom tomato stall. I was there in the room when Davis remarked that if he had his way, Prohibition would yet again be the law(less) of the land.

Perhaps soon the legislature of Mississippi will begin its sessions with a new prayer: "Thank God for Indiana, or else we'd be the most ... "

You know, red state shit.

Legislature had little taste for alcohol bills, by Maureen Hayden (CNHI Statehouse Bureau)

Greensburg — When it comes to alcohol, the 2013 legislative session may be marked more by what it didn’t do to boost booze sales than what it did.

Legislators did decide to let a small group of well-established wineries and breweries to get into the business of distilling spirits, and it cleared the way for an auction of some cheap liquor licenses for lakefront development in a resort community on Lake Michigan. But they crafted both bills to have narrow impact.

In turning down another bill that would have given Indiana breweries the same right as Indiana wineries to sell their products at farmers’ markets, the legislative gatekeepers signaled their distaste for lifting Indiana’s historically strict limits on alcohol.

“If we did that, the next thing you’d know, we’d have farmers markets turning into liquor stores,” said House Public Policy Chairman Bill Davis, a Republican from Portland who’s played a key role in killing alcohol expansion bills.

Davis is a teetotaler who’s repeatedly killed a bill that would allow grocery and liquor stores to sell carry-out alcohol on Sundays. But he said decisions aren’t based on his personal views, but on what’s best for the public safety.

Cafe 27 opens for business on Memorial Day.

The work at Cafe 27 on Main Street has been underway for quite a while ...

Cafe 27 opening to be pushed back a bit, says Chef.


 ... but now downtown has a new eatery, opening tomorrow. The north side of Main Street between Pearl and Bank is getting there, and we wish good fortune to the owners, chef and staff. 

Cafe 27 page at Facebook

Even One Southern Indiana is getting into the act (sighhh).

Cafe 27 Ribbon Cutting & Grand Opening
Date: 5/31/2013
Time: 11:00 AM

145 E Main Street
New Albany, IN 47150

Phone: 812-945-0266

Books to greet the approaching centenary of World War I.

Not a season, but a whole planet ...

On the Brink: ‘The Sleepwalkers’ and ‘July 1914’, reviewed by Harold Evans (NYT)

... The historiography of World War I is immense, more than 25,000 volumes and articles even before next year’s centenary. Still, (Christopher) Clark, and Sean McMeekin, in “July 1914,” offer new perspectives.

The Great War's witnesses are gone, and the ranks of those who recall World War II are thinning quite rapidly. But the historical record remains ... if we're inclined to read and draw conclusions from it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

This is the eighth Fest of Ales? Really?

Seems like only yesterday the thunderstorm was threatening to make us extras on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Todd's fine event is the same day as the Culbertson Mansion Garden Party (Tricentennial Ale debut), and I'm working the New Albany gig, but as always we'll have a crew at St. Anthony's.

---


Eighth-annual Fest of Ale to feature 50 breweries, nearly 200 beers

Local beer lovers, clear your calendars for the 8th Annual Keg Liquors Fest of Ale on June 1.
I’ve never met a beer fest I didn’t like, but I’m partial to this one: its wide open grassy layout on the table-flat grounds of St. Anthony Catholic Church, 320 N. Sherwood Ave., in Clarksville; the quality and variety of beers poured; the amazingly varied attendee demographics (20s to 70s); and the great, easy going vibe, something founder Todd Antz said was established from day one.

Who dunnit? My money's on that copperhead over there.

Yesterday, we considered the Case of the Councilperson's NSP Niece:

Transparency? That's a fine idea. Found any yet?

Therein, we linked to the newspaper's account of this horrendous scandal (italics below by the editor) whilst pondering who was doing who.

New Albany councilwoman subject of conflict-of-interest review; Diane Benedetti’s niece was in process of purchasing NSP home

 ... City Councilman Dan Coffey serves on the redevelopment commission.

“First off, I hope it’s not true. Because if it’s true, what they did put the city in a lot of jeopardy as far as future grants,” he said, as Coffey added he feels sorry for Benedetti’s niece if she ultimately isn’t allowed to move into the home. “But for every person like that involved, there’s somebody else out there that didn’t get a chance.”

Coffey said an independent agency or individual not associated with the project or local officials should also review the situation.

“As a city official, you cannot try to push anything that’s going to benefit yourself or a family member,” he said. 

Now we have yet further unwanted testimony, with the long-silent Gary "The Gary" McCartin weighing in. His words are among the comments at the article on-line (underlined passage below courtesy of the editor).

This is welcome news that finally my daughter can be exonerated for simply taking advantage of a program that allows her to purchase her first home for her and my grandson to live in! My sister had absolutely nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to do to influence, persuade, or effect the transaction with New Directions or anyone associated with the purchase of the home, and the suggestion that anything otherwise is unwarranted and unfair to everyone involved.We are thankful that at the end of this review that it will be transparent that there was and is no conflict of interest, and that the program in fact is working as it was intended to do, and that my daughter can proceed to owning her first home as she so innocently desired to do in the first place. I applaud Mr. Duggins and Mr. Gibson and the staff for requesting this review to insure the assurance of transparency and protections to insure that nothing should jeopardize future funding for such worthwhile projects in the central areas of our community!

First, to even begin fathoming the rampant hypocrisy of The Gary's reference to "worthwhile" centrality, we must turn back the pages of the calendar to January, 2006, and an article in which I quoted a newspaper account of The Gary's downtown redevelopment pontifications: The Gary: An excess of pure, unadulterated ego? Perhaps tolerable in the exurban sprawl, but not relevant to downtown New Albany.

Not everyone is convinced that Scribner Place will be the great catalyst for downtown New Albany. Longtime developer Gary McCartin doesn’t think people are interested in living downtown. And he doesn’t think a YMCA will entice people to do so

… Instead, he thinks people would rather have a yard and live near their church and other conveniences …

… McCartin reviewed the plans for Scribner Place when they were originally introduced by former Mayor Regina Overton.

“My expertise told me it was not a winner,” he said.

McCartin thinks there is hope for downtown. He thinks city officials should use their power of eminent domain to tear down some buildings and determine what would be best to erect. He thinks some part of the downtown could be utilized for discount-priced retailers.

“It’s (about) getting the right facilities,” he said.

That was then, and this is now. It's 2013, and bizarrely, those "right facilities" include NSP housing rehabs, and yet apart from "how the mighty hath fallen" ruminations, who really cares whether The Gary's daughter (Ms. Benedetti's niece) buys one of them, so long as she qualifies according to the parameters of the program?

Dan Coffey apparently does. You see, Dan's currently the City Hall whip on council; Pat McLaughlin may be titular head, but Coffey's the one banging heads to spend millions on selected quality of life projects (let's hope someone in the Gahan administration is keeping track of what is due Coffey for these services), and if The Gary sees fit to publicly "applaud" city officials for exonerating his daughter -- not blame them for bringing it up in the first place -- then Coffey's your man on the scene.

It's artful, at least in that low-rent, oozing sort of way that forever defines this city's underachieving political culture. Coffey wields the hatchet to punish Benedetti for being the sole "Democrat" on council who is refusing to follow the party line on expenditures. Any mud generated lands on the whip, who is accustomed to groveling in it not unlike a slop-flecked hog, and city officials pose angelically off to the side ... message duly dispatched. Afterwards, there'll be cigarettes all around and a quick rinsing in the lazy river at Camille Wright.

Then again, perhaps The Gary speaks facetiously in commending the city. Rather than be troubled at the pronouncements, we'll just leave him be, out there in the fringe, scouting fresh new greenfields to pave, because none of it changes an ever-escalating pattern of ugliness.

There is weird complicity, and things are getting strange again. Benedetti's niece? She's the very least of it.

“What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France.”

Given that it is Memorial Day weekend, I suspect Howard Zinn would approve. My view is that it does not detract from the historical record to treat it with honesty. Others will disagree. War is hell, and we shouldn't forget it.

The Dark Side of Liberation, by Jennifer Schuessler (New York Times)

The soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.

In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.”

This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Local History Never Tasted So Good": Garden Party at the Culbertson on Sat., June 1.


Tricentennial Ale has been brewed and will be served at the Garden Party on June 1. For more, catch up on your reading:


Tricentennial Ale: The artwork, the recipe, the schedule and the future.



Tricentennial Ale: The label.

Transparency? That's a fine idea. Found any yet?

Hmm.

It's Dan Coffey's council, and he and Diane Benedetti have been on opposite sides of many issues given the current council's rubber-stamp configuration. Now Coffey's out in front of the pack with axe in hand as it pertains to the specific issue of Benedetti's niece and the NSP.

(Uh huh. Move along; nothing to see here. No politics in any of it)

What's even more curious is David Duggins' mention of transparency.

Most of us didn't know there was a Main Street corridor public meeting earlier in the week.

Most of us didn't know there was an Urban Enterprise Association program to award low-interest loans and equipment grants to small businesses, and yet these were awarded at the UEA's most recent meeting.

Most of us understand that megabuck aquatic center plans were a done deal before they were brought to three sparsely attended public meetings, which in all likelihood were sparsely attended because the plans were a done deal.

I like Dave, and transparency is a wonderful thing, indeed. However, shall we say gently and yet firmly that transparency equally applied is even better? If it's right, then it needs to be right all of the time, wouldn't you say?

New Albany councilwoman subject of conflict-of-interest review; Diane Benedetti’s niece was in process of purchasing NSP home, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)

NEW ALBANY — A potential conflict of interest regarding the Midtown Neighborhood Stabilization Project and involving New Albany City Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti will be the topic of a special meeting Tuesday morning.

According to sources, the conflict-of-interest claim relates to Benedetti’s niece attempting to purchase one of the NSP houses. David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, confirmed Thursday the sale has been frozen pending review.

The New Albany Redevelopment Commission — which has been the lead city agency for the $6.7 million federal program — will weigh the matter the Tuesday meeting.

“The NSP project is too important and has done so much good for the neighborhoods that have been positively affected by it, that we just want to ensure that the perception of the project is as transparent as possible,” Duggins said.

R.I.P. Ed Ehalt.


In addition to being kinfolk of my late father's, Ed Ehalt was the "driving" force behind one of the most entertaining episodes in the history of Georgetown, a place where very little generally occurs.

Driving is to be taken literally, because in late winter of 1971, when Floyd Central's famed Superhicks advanced to the state finals in basketball, Ed drove his tractor all the way to Indianapolis in support of the cause. We was adored for it by the faithful fan base. Do any tractors remain in today's FC's 10-star exurban school district?

A Purple Heart vet of WWII, Ed was a garrulous, crusty, friendly, bow-legged lifelong horse lover, and at my father's wake back in 2001, his reminisces of their adolescent misadventures were the highlight of the gathering.

He'll be missed.

(photo credit)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

ON THE AVENUES: “The Drinker” (A Book Review).

ON THE AVENUES: “The Drinker” (A Book Review).

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

A respectable 40-year-old businessman returns home from a normal workday to discover the maid has neglected to replace the floor mat by the front door. Annoyed at the omission, he tracks mud into the entryway, is mildly chided by his wife and becomes uncharacteristically angered.

A short time later, he suddenly recalls the existence of a long-forgotten, stale and vinegary bottle of red wine stashed in the cellar. Although a virtual teetotaler, a glass of this rancid wine helps considerably to take the edge off his day, and he feels far better. The floor mat spat now forgotten, he gifts his wife with money to buy herself something special, and goes to bed.

Next thing we know, his permanent residence is an insane asylum.

---

For Americans of a certain age, to read Hans Fallada’s novel The Drinker is to immediately recall the Simpsons episode wherein a flashback depicts Barney’s very first drink of beer, as offered to him by Homer. With one swallow, the well-groomed and sober young preppie morphs immediately into a swollen, drunken slob, forever destined for dissolution, and hilariously so.

A similar downward trajectory awaits Fallada’s main character, Herr Sommer – and there is very little humorous about an amazingly detailed and poetically rendered descent into lunacy. However, the story of The Drinker doesn’t end with a gripping, frightening novel, because the circumstances surrounding Fallada’s work of fiction hardly were imaginary at the time of writing.

Hans Fallada’s real name was Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen. He was born in Greifswald, Germany in 1893, and died in Berlin in 1947. In 1944, with World War II still raging throughout the continent, Fallada managed to write The Drinker in two weeks flat while incarcerated … in an insane asylum. It would have been an incredible feat anytime and anywhere, much less one undertaken secretively in an institution run by the Nazis, who obviously were unbound by the inhibitions of Hippocratic oaths.

In fact, Fallada’s entire life was not easy. An severe injury to his head during adolescence seemed to have changed him, and it may have directly led to lifelong mental health issues, suicide attempts and drug addiction, and yet, in that strange way sometimes characterizing an artist’s process of creation, Fallada became an exceptionally gifted writer prone to frenetic periods of work activity followed by elongated spirals into madness.

During the 1920s, Fallada married and enjoyed an extended period of domestic harmony and commercial success, including a worldwide readership for his novel, Little Man, What Now? But a collision course with Hitler’s totalitarian regime was inevitable owing to its inclination to channel all manifestations of art into approved support for the regime.

The storm clouds gathered, and yet Fallada chose to remain in Germany and not seek exile, spending the war years walking a tightrope -- neither an overt collaborator, nor seeking involvement with the resistance. From our vantage point these many years later, cohabitation with repression does not seem the ideal path for a writer with only a fragile grip on sanity, who already was peering into the abyss with clocklike frequency.

Fallada tried waiting it out. Perhaps the pressures hastened his demise, but maybe he was just doomed, anyway -- just like the rest of us.

---

Does Fallada’s wartime work as a writer represent acquiescence with the various Goebbels party lines, or was he endeavoring to write between them? The debate persists to this day. Was The Drinker allegorical, suggesting the common man’s struggle to cope with oppression? Or, was it an autobiographical work so meticulously researched from personal experience that larger themes aren’t really necessary?

Of course, it’s up to the reader.

Getting through The Drinker is like watching a cat torture a mouse before killing it. As the pages turn, Herr Sommer’s layers of dysfunction are unsparingly peeled away by the first-person narrative, and the deep-seated rot exposed. It becomes clear that none of the character’s many difficulties originate with that first drink of wine; rather, the alcohol merely delineates them.

Sommer already has started losing grip of his business, and growing apart from his wife, whom he resents for being efficient when he is anything but. The lies and self-deceptions merely require readily available fuel to combust into elephantine self-destructive proportions, and bottles of schnapps and cognac consumed with the speed that most of us reserve for ice water after a hot afternoon in the garden couldn’t be better for ignition.

When describing the weeks-long binge embarked upon by Sommer, Fallada’s prose is hazy and replete with confusion, self-loathing and false bravado, but when he lands in jail and begins drying out, matters become quite clinical. Eventually transferred to the asylum to receive the “help” he quite clearly needs, the inmate offers a portrait of daily life there that is detached, detailed and thoroughly horrendous.

By novel’s end, has anyone been saved?

It’s unlikely. There are no Hollywood happy endings to The Drinker, a novel that I recommend unreservedly, although not without certain caveats: If you’ve ever wondered whether your most recent drink was one too many, owing not to ordinary intoxication but to extraordinary curiosity as to whether there might come a point when the altered state persists even after the alcohol’s all gone … well, Fallada’s tale will not be an easy read for you.

It wasn’t easy for me. So, is it Happy Hour yet?

What's right for Main Street is right for all the streets. Right?

There was a breakfast meeting of the Downtown Business Owners group yesterday, and before making any further comments, thanks to Sweet Stuff for providing the doughnuts.

My waistline disagrees. Foolish waistline.

The prime topic for discussion at the gathering was to have been the city's future plans to implement two-way, complete streets downtown.

Unfortunately, no one from the city was able to attend.

However, Rep. Ed Clere was there, and he was able to brief us about Monday's public meeting on the Main Street corridor work. It's a meeting that few of us knew was occurring, but metaphorically critical nonetheless; as Ed noted, if the city is saying that Main Street needs to be completed, then there really isn't any way to simultaneously suggest that other city streets do not need to be completed.

Thanks to Ed for making this point and several others of extreme relevance to the immediate future of the street grid. Granted, I often publicly disagree with him. But fair play compels me to publicly agree, too, and this is one of those times. I believe that if, like me, you favor a modern, rational, complete street grid for New Albany, one in which all users are created equal, where traffic is calmed and both neighborhoods and businesses prosper as a result, just like they have in other cities where progressive thinking is more common, then Ed Clere is an ally to the cause. I thank him for it.

I also believe City Hall when it says that it favors complete streets.

My trust is absolute.

Now, all we need is verification, the sooner the better.

The Main Street project is a beginning -- but only a beginning. If it is undertaken without a system-wide plan of action, it might well become a vacuum, in which the usual declarations of victory are announced, and tired excuses like "but Main Street is different than other streets" and "but we don't have any more money" are trotted out to justify the dragging of feet.

Verification.

Just a bit of it, please.

Let's reason together for a change ... all of us.

"Can you have revitalization, reinvestment, renewal without some level of gentrification?"

Shared streets, shared neighborhoods. Food for thought.

Moving On From Gentrification to 'Shared Neighborhoods', by Brent Toderian (HuffPost blog)

As the renaissance of cities and urban areas in North America continues, more and more neighborhoods are struggling with the challenges of change. Although the market's rediscovery of inner-city, walkable, mixed-use communities is an excellent thing in many ways, the word "gentrification" inevitably comes up in almost every discussion. But one person's gentrification is another person's revitalization, so the debate is always complex and heated.

Can you have revitalization, reinvestment, renewal without some level of gentrification? Probably not, as any perceived improvement in the eyes of the marketplace changes the economics. I do though, continue to believe that in planning for community change, there are reasonable levels of gentrification, that gentrification can be strategically managed, and that we can have "revitalization without displacement." In fact, this phrase has been the vision for Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) for years.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yes, magic helmet: The greatest cartoon ever, for Richard Wagner's 200th.



With Bugs in drag, no less. 

When's the Harvest Homecoming parade, anyway?

NBA? It's a state asset, too.

I really hope the Dalai Lama told (okay, counseled) the trembling Greg Fischer to get his shit together.

An NBA team in Louisville WOULD be a regional asset precisely because it WOULD NOT be affiliated with the University of Louisville.

NBA not DOA: Kentucky econ-dev czar Larry Hayes says NBA team would be ‘a state asset’, by Terry Boyd (Insider Louisville)

 ... Translated: The market study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that there is insufficient corporate density to support NBA suites at KFC Yum! Center didn’t calculate regional interests from Lexington, Northern Kentucky and other areas.

Which is exactly the position of NBA2Louisville organizers.

Tierney on the advent of NA's summer concert series.


The free-lancer Tierney does a pretty good job with this one. Hopefully soon he'll be able to ask Forecastle's organizers if the fest plans to pair local beer with its local music lineup at the WFPK Port Stage. I mean, if it's all good to market one, then why not both? 

What was that? Pay to ... what?


New Albany’s Bicentennial Park summer music series debuts June 7, by Michael Tierney (Insider Louisville)

Everyone is abuzz lately about New Albany; about how the river town has revived while retaining its small town feel, and about local heroes Houndmouth’s rise to stardom.

This week, city officials announced plans for a Friday night summer concert series at its new Bicentennial Park.

Mayor Jeff M. Gahan has teamed up with Louisville-based Production Simple and the park to host a free monthly concert starting Fri., June 7.

The concert series is aimed at “after-work” relief and family oriented with music appropriate for all ages. Being that the concerts will be on Friday is further motivation for New Albanians to ease their worries with tunes within a community event – something very similar to Louisville and WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday.

Aquatics: More on less.

First, a reposting of the $3.5 million aquatics center site plan from Marion, Ohio, shared here recently. One of the most noteworthy features isn't in the image but in the branded text: the architectural firm who helped make the low cost happen, Brandstetter Carroll Inc, has a Louisville office. It might be worth a phone call before handing the full set of keys to The Estopinal Group.


Second, it's also worth noting that not every community manages to build an aquatic center similar to New Albany's proposal for as little as $3.5 million. Some spend more, as shared below.

Joplin, MO

The Schifferdecker Family Aquatic Center in Joplin replaces an aging pool much like in New Albany. It maintains most of the features in New Albany's plan but also includes a full size 50 meter pool as some residents here have requested. It will be open within the next couple weeks.  
Total Cost: $5.3 million


Leitchfield, KY



The Leitchfield Aquatic Center plan is very similar to New Albany's in that it lacks a full 50 meter pool and focuses a bit more on the splashy elements. It's being placed on a previously undeveloped site so all supporting infrastructure like entrances, parking lots, and buildings will have to be built from scratch. New Albany's plan includes the use of some preexisting Camille Wright infrastructure, explained as a money saver. Leitchfield sold $4.9 million in bonds a few weeks ago to cover construction costs. $400,000 was added to the overall budget to cover a slightly higher than projected interest rate and to lower annual payments by $10,000 per year. Officials expect the center to open in 2014.  
Total cost: $5.3 million

Lacking a full size pool and reusing some preexisting infrastructure, New Albany's non-bid, Estopinal aquatics plan has been approved for a total cost of up to $9 million.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Downtown Business Owners at BSB on Wednesday morn at 8 bells.

The next Downtown Business Owners (formerly Merchant Mixer) meeting is Wednesday, May 22, at 8:00 a.m. at Bank Street Brewhouse. I'll have coffee and sweets on hand.

As determined last time out, the DBO's mission "is to be a coalition of downtown business owners to share information by communicating the opportunities and concerns of our downtown businesses."

Among the items for discussion are parking and two-way streets.

What a novel idea, basing it on actual evidence, as opposed to blackmail.

Social drinkers/drivers with a lower blood alcohol count aren't the ones inflicting mayhem on the streets and roads. Never have been. Chronic violators are the problem, and a .05 BAC standard does nothing to bring them into compliance. Measures like this are thinly veiled prohibitionism in a nation that chronically undervalues public transportation because its libido fixates on the presumed "freedom" of the automobile.

Pfui.

Tighter Indiana drunken driving law seems unlikely (Associated Press)

INDIANAPOLIS — Some key Indiana legislators don’t expect the state to adopt a federal safety board’s recommendation that the threshold for drunken driving be cut nearly in half.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in its proposal last week that drunken-driving deaths could be reduced if states lowered the current 0.08 blood-alcohol level for driving to 0.05 percent ...

... “I think before we go running off and introducing law, because somebody suggested we should be blackmailed, let’s look at the data and see what’s most effective and with what do we get the most reduction in alcohol-related injuries,” (House transportation committee Chairman Ed) Soliday said. “Some of that may not need a law passed.”

There's a time and a place to die: My favorite band this week ...



 ... is Paramore, although I'm sure I'll change my mind by next week.

Thanks, and best future wishes to Kyle Ridout.

After just shy of 20 years at the helm, Kyle Ridout is retiring from his position as head of the Paul W. Ogle Cultural and Community Center at Indiana University Southeast. I worked with Kyle and his staff on several Bier Prost fundraisers to benefit the Ogle Center, and always enjoyed the experience.

Kyle circulated an e-mail informing friends and contacts of his impending departure, and I'd like to focus on just one section of it, which I believe provides insight into what goes into making such an endeavor work.

In the 18 years I have worked for the campus, I have valued the faith the community has placed in me. My charge these many years has been to serve both the campus and our community. I have tried to do that with a certain amount of humility, knowing that my success was always dependent on the interest and support of others.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Full June Lineup for Bicentennial Park Summer Concert Series Announced."

I still favor Mix at Six, but it doesn't matter. Let's have a beer and listen to music in Rent Boy Park this summer. The eventual goal is to have NABC's Houndmouth (the beer) and Black & Blue Grass on tap for all 12 of the Friday night shows scheduled for June, July and August. 

---

PRESS RELEASE – Full June Lineup for Bicentennial Park Summer Concert Series Announced

May 20th, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Michael Hall

Mayor Jeff M. Gahan and the City of New Albany are pleased to announce the full June lineup for the Bicentennial Park Summer Concert Series. Each show will be held on Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. throughout the summer in historic downtown New Albany’s Bicentennial Park, located at the corner of Spring Street and Pearl Street.

June 7th – Ranger (rangertunes.bandcamp.com) with Riverboys (riverboys.bandcamp.com)

Two up and coming hometown bands will kick off the series at its opening on June 7th. Ranger will bring their original indie folk rock to Bicentennial Park, coming off their recent outstanding performance opening for local sensation Houndmouth at Iroquois Amphitheater. Ranger will be supported by fellow Southern Indiana newcomers, Riverboys.

June 14th – Lucius (ilovelucius.com)

This five-piece group from Brooklyn, NY just recently played a wildly successful set at 2013’s SXSW music festival in Austin, TX, and is bringing their own brand of Indie Pop into the heart of downtown New Albany. Their music has been described as “catchy, distinctive indiepop tunes” by Rolling Stone magazine, and the New York Times’ Paul Krugman describes them as “something special, and their songs keep rattling around in my head.” This will be Lucius’s last tour date before they play in this year’s Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, TN.

June 21st – Ballroom Blitz (ballroomblitzdance.com)

The concept is simple: an all-star supergroup that can play anything, from the hottest Boston song to the most intricate Queen, with dance grooves stretching from the B-52s to Michael Jackson - and vocals as huge as the Bee Gees. Drawing on the richest musical era of the past century, The Blitz brings a staggering body of musical experience, creativity and energy into the moment - lighting the fire, bringing the magic back.

June 28th – Quiet Hollers (quiethollers.com)

Based in Louisville, KY, Quiet Hollers have found their niche following a paradigm shift in musical direction from Hardcore Punk to Roots and Americana. They have forged a brand of Roots music equally reminiscent of Springsteen and the Replacements as it is Townes Van Zandt or Uncle Tupelo, yet still with a sound all their own. Their talent with many instruments allows members to shift between vocals, guitar, bass, mandolin, violin, cello, accordion, banjo, harmonica, and other instruments seamlessly.

Water on the brains: Much less for far more will keep us swimming in it.

Since the serious prospect of a new municipal swimming pool or aquatic center was made public in New Albany, several people, though not elected officials or most media types, have issued numerous, relevant questions.

Roger did a fine job, for instance, of asking how or why an aquatics-based project fits with quality of life justifications, particularly when more pressing quality issues, some of which are much less expensive to address and more costly not to, stand mostly ignored.

Likewise, Sam Schad and his group asked why, with such a huge expenditure, we can't at least get increased utility from such a facility if we're going to build it anyway without the sort of considerations Roger suggests.

Somewhere in-between the two, I mused that whether the expenditure would be worth it or not would depend largely on what was ultimately and comprehensively delivered-- hardly a profound concept but one too readily dismissed by too many current decision makers. Given the vast amount of money then proposed and now doubly approved, I foolishly held out hope that council voices would rightfully point out that, for the price, we should be able to produce an aquatic center and a competitive lap pool and the reclamation of our two-way streets and perhaps some other potential initiatives.

Why did/do I think that? Because, apparently unlike some voluntarily voiceless council members, I bothered with a smidgeon of research into how comparable cities have handled comparable situations.

Marion, Ohio, is one such city. Its population of just under 37,000 is almost exactly the same as New Albany's. Marion, too, had an aging pool - a very common predicament nationwide - in a setting of roughly the same land space as Camille Wright: one that needed either substantial rehabilitation or replacement if the city decided to maintain a facility at all.

Conversation in Marion was somewhat similar to ours here as well.  Like New Albany, there were discussions of the overall usefulness of such a facility and whether or not it would cash flow. Totally unlike New Albany, there was even legitimate debate about proposed costs. Finally, Marion's city council overrode a cost driven mayoral veto to build an aquatic center, depicted below via text and images from Marion Online and the aquatic center's Facebook page. It opened last summer, 2012, and has since won a state award for recreation facilities.

"The new center will feature heated water, Lazy River, Floating Lilly Pads, Zero-depth entry, 25 foot Racing Slides, a 6 foot Family Slide, a Water Play set with a bucket that dumps 150 gallons of water, 25 meter 6 lane pool with a high dive and low dive and a separate baby pool."

It indeed appears to be a very nice facility that's been well received by the community. 

Here's the rub: That debate about cost that led to both a mayoral veto and a council override? It was a fight over whether to spend $2.4 million or $3.5 million. The council favored the 3.5 and won. 

All the above- much of it strikingly familiar - was built within the past couple of years for less than half of even the most conservative cost estimate provided by the administration and approved by the council for New Albany's impending center. Assuming we're not purposefully overspending for nefarious political purposes, New Albany could have something very similar and $4 - 5.5 million left over to address other quality of life needs without spending any more than what's already been approved.

Making that possible, though, requires a majority of council members who think beyond mayoral and Estopinal suggestions and consider such basic, comparative due diligence a part of their job. In terms of what our council has thus far publicly offered up relative to aquatic center merits, the one direct comparison offered here - easily gleaned from about 30 minutes of individual research - unfortunately represents more than our council members have collectively put forth over several months. 

The quantity and quality of discourse around numerous "park" projects has been so low and the prices so high that, if I didn't know some of the folks involved personally, I'd probably just assume they were receiving substantial kickbacks for such a dubious (lack of) effort. I don't believe that, but the lack of diligence has been egregious enough to make it a plausible explanation to fill an obvious void.

One would think (or at least I did) that the public embarrassment of a $750,000 downtown pocket park with less utility and flexibility than a $200,000 park could've offered and/or tens of thousands so casually given to a Bicentennial Commission who clearly told council members they had "no idea" how the money would be used before being granted funding should have been sufficient cause for a slightly more thoughtful approach in considering the aquatics expenditure. But, then, I already admitted to being foolishly optimistic.

If any of the council "yes" voters would like to explain exactly which portion of our proposed aquatic center justifies multiple, additional millions as compared to what we can plainly observe here, the floor is open. It's been open for months. Until any such rational, evidence-based explanation materializes, however, "rubber-stamp" criticisms will ring truer than usual for a group who, via the intelligence of its individual members, ought to know much better. 

As an overall experience, our current council group has in ways been even more frustrating than some of the lesser moments of the Kochert-led era that served as my introduction to New Albany politics. During that time, a distinct lack of intellectual capital coalesced with an abundance of insider bullying to render capacity so low as to substantially limit both expectations and actual potential. 

But that's not the case here. What we have now is an example of "won't" rather than "can't" in which acquiring council seats has somehow rendered usually talented people into an amorphous mass of counterproductive group decline. The sum is less than its parts. No one is consistently demonstrating their capacity for good questions, so we're settling for lousy, injudicious answers and losing badly.

So far, a bunch of really smart people have managed to haphazardly waste millions in public funding without so much as addressing some fundamental quality of life and prioritization issues. If such behavior continues unchecked by any number of council members quite capable of checking it, future councils and the city at large will have a much more difficult time responding to those issues as we try to dig ourselves out of holes already dug, some quite literally, at places like Bicentennial Park and the aquatics center. 

As a citizen and voter, I've always felt it important to extend at least some effort toward helping ensure that we elect as talented a group of leaders as possible. This council, however, with its inexplicable yet seemingly automatic brainpower off switch - apparently activated by the doors at city hall - is calling that premise into question. 

An unexamined "yes" is no better and sometimes worse than an ignorant "no" in that it actively reduces opportunities rather than just passively ignores them. In short, all this "no-brainer" malarkey when it comes to water features is costing us a lot of money that could easily be better spent but which we'll never get back. 

We've seen several frighteningly unthinking financial decisions from this council lately that, taken together, set quite a negative precedent that should be and, since no aquatics contracts have been let, can be immediately corrected before yet another boondoggle becomes a part of their permanent record.

The swashbuckler, the teenager and the revolutionary.


Back in the early 1980s when the Bob & Rog Show was a staple on the local tavern circuit, we both looked to the film star Errol Flynn with considerable reverence as a symbol of sustained dissipation. I've now managed to live three whole years longer than Flynn, who died at 50 of the accumulated effects of his debaucheries.

Any similarities begin and end with alcohol. Flynn's final flirtation was with a teenage girl, and his last movies were set in Cuba. One of them, Cuban Rebel Girls, has long been a source of fascination owing to its wretchedness, although perhaps enough time has passed to render it a cult classic.

Well past his prime, Errol Flynn agreed to star in the basement-budgeted Cuban Rebel Girls for two reasons: he was fascinated by Fidel Castro, and he needed a quick tax write-off. Flynn plays "himself," an American news correspondent on assignment in Havana. He joins a group of Castroites who undertake several guerilla raids; among the rebels is 17-year-old Beverly Aadland, actor Flynn's at-the-time girlfriend. Cuban Rebel Girls was hastily assembled in Cuba and New York by fly-by-night producer Barry Mahon. Sadly, it proved to be Errol Flynn's last film.

Actually, it turns out the proper descriptive word is not "last." It is "penultimate," but more about that in a moment. My attention was directed to these topics by yesterday's newspaper of record, in which Flynn and Aadland are reunited in a biopic of sorts.

The Swashbuckler and the Teenager; Kevin Kline as Errol Flynn in ‘The Last of Robin Hood’, by John Anderson (NYT)

 ... “His early performances have a wonderful dash and bravura,” said Morris Dickstein, film critic, professor and author of “Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression.” “But like Barrymore, he eventually disappeared into his own caricature and made his ‘Wicked, Wicked Ways’ his calling card.” He added, “It would have been a sad case, except that he seems to have had a good time of it.”

Seems there was a time for another project, too: Cuban Story, a documentary rediscovered after decades on the shelf, and finally released in 2012. While it remains posted at YouTube, you can watch the complete documentary: Cuban Story.

Film star with a cause, by John Paul Rathbone (Financial Times)

A recently rediscovered film about Fidel Castro is a rare chronicle of a defining moment in world history as well as Errol Flynn’s near-redemption.

It gives a whole new meaning to "In like Flynn," which upon closer examination sounds like a great name for a commemorative beer. After all, I know someone who owns a brewery.