Monday, September 30, 2013

A message to Harvest Homecoming food vendors ... and your PourGate update for Monday, September 30.


Harvest Homecoming food vendors, take note.

You'll soon be paying $20 per day to sell food during New Albany's annual fest.

You should know that earlier this year, the Floyd County Health Department decided that beer qualifies as food, but when NABC took them to the mat, they offered a feeble compromise in an effort to keep us quiet. Now they say beer is food, and beer pourers must get a temporary food serving permit -- but we beer pourers don't have to pay the $20 fee.

The rest of you? You still do.

That's really dumb, isn't it?

If beer is food, isn't food also beer? If so, exactly why are YOU still being compelled to pay for these temporary food permits when beer pourers are not required to fund the department's rampant slush?

Really, shouldn't you ask the health department flunkies this very question when you go to the Taj Mahal on Bono Road to pay for a permit, one that according to Dr. Tom Harris at our July hearing isn't "about the money" at all?

If it isn't about the money, then why should any of us pay?

And, for anyone else contemplating a temporary beer event: If the fine for not having a temporary food serving permit is half the cost of the permit, and it there is no charge for the permit, then what's the fine? Think carefully, because after all, careful thinking puts you five steps ahead of the Floyd County Health Department.

Meanwhile, as I've indicated on several occasions, NABC is perfectly content to fight the ongoing Cold War with the health department, and do so for the foreseeable future, as we await the relevant state agencies reaching what (to us) is the inevitable conclusion that only the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission has statutory control over temporary permits for pouring beer. State wheels can turn slowly. No matter; it's only a question of time. Since June 14, the issue primarily has been one of hidebound bureaucratic control, and secondarily, enhanced future revenues once the precedent of control has been accepted.

We do not accept the precedent, and we'll continue to fight. Note that the other side of the coin -- the health department's juvenile on-line defamation -- still remains very much in play. It isn't going away any time soon, which is just fine with us ... because neither are we.

Them angry white folks in the GOP are doing that shutdown thing again.


Anyone seen Mark Seabrook and Steve Bush lately, or have they already retreated to the command bunker?

This Week in ‘Nation’ History: Government Shutdown as Coup d’État, by Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation)

... Dramatizing the supposed precariousness of public services by forcing their arbitrary cessation makes it easier for conservatives to argue that the market alone should determine the proper distribution of wealth, goods, and services in American society. There is no smaller government than none at all. As the radical political philosopher Sheldon Wolin argued in a remarkable 1996 essay in The Nation, “Democracy and the Counterrevolution,” the effort “to stop or reconstitute government in order to extract sweeping policy concessions amounts to an attempted coup d’état.” Wolin’s brilliant essay reminds us how shutdowns and austerity economics fit within the broader Republican philosophy of governance—or lack thereof—and how that philosophy is antithetical to the defining principle of democracy: rule by the people.

Meanwhile, back home again in Indiana, the state Republican apparatus prepares to filibuster Obamacare to the ultimate detriment of its own people. That's leadership.

HOWEY: Obamacare, propaganda and statesmanship, by Brian Howey (N and T)

But Congressional Republicans are using their offices like political candidates do during campaigns. They have become fonts of propaganda, declaring that Obamacare has “failed” and is a “trainwreck.” This isn't an effort to help their constituents understand the new law. There has been little effort to “tweak” or even revise troubling segments of the law. Instead, they play to that 10 or 15 percent of their constituents who pose a threat in a May primary.

In 2013, some Harvest Homecoming questions -- asked, but not answered.

As a preface to Harvest Homecoming's 2013 invasion, here are the follow-up questions we asked last year (October 16, 2012). At the time, we called it an evolving worksheet, noted that the event remains something capable of being reformed to bring it into line with current realities, and pointed out that unless the discussion actually begins, there can be no solution.  

A year has passed. Have any of these questions been answered? 

In the coming days, I'll be reprinting several essays about Harvest Homecoming. As always, thanks for reading. 

---

For city government and the police department: Can there be clear and public clarification of the open container laws, or absence thereof? Those of us who did our level best to comply with ATC regulations governing alcoholic beverages being carried in and out of our licensed space continue to find it disconcerting that there is inconsistent open container enforcement, if any at all. If this state of affairs owes to ambiguities in state law, I’m happy to take the case to higher authorities. If it owes to local indifference, then we have accidents just waiting to happen during Harvest Homecoming.

For the Board of Public Works: You are charged with managing the city’s properties, which customarily include our streets and sidewalks. The traditional Harvest Homecoming festival business model is reliant on being granted permission to charge booths a fee for temporary street set-up space, which has had the consequence of blocking the entrances of businesses that operate year-round – and there are far more of these now than in the past, when the festival’s business model was developed. Harvest Homecoming’s grudging compromise solution in recent years has been to give existing businesses a first chance to purchase booth space for $300, and using the purchased space to function as de facto entry to their front doors. How does the Board of Public Works justify this practice of compelling year-round businesses to pay for entry into their own buildings? Is there a statutory precedent for this practice sufficient to dissuade legal action? Is this something the Board intends to address when it arises, and not before?

For Harvest Homecoming: Is there a credible economic impact study, one conducted since revitalization commenced in earnest downtown, charting the festival’s belief that its presence is a boon for the area in which it is held? Such an impact study must seek to document where the money spent during the festival actually goes, and if there is benefit or detriment to existing businesses, which are forced to alter their modes of operation to suit the needs of the festival. If there is not such a study, how can such positive economic impact claims possibly be verified?

For the city’s elected officials: It should be obvious by now that the economic interests of our 365-days-a-year revitalizing downtown business district clash with the traditional Harvest Homecoming business model, which was devised during a time when downtown was in decline. This clash can only get worse without some form of intervention. While it is clear that numerous people come to the city’s center each year during the festival’s run, it is far from clear whether their presence is a good thing for those existing businesses that have invested heavily in their own business models. Isn’t it the city’s job to help answer the questions I’m asking here? Isn’t it the city’s job to arbitrate and mediate the ongoing conflicts of interest? After all, each year the city approves the festival’s increasingly outdated business model. It needn’t proffer approval without active participation in discussions and exercised aimed at greater festival transparency and a more inclusive approach.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

R.I.P., Manuel Baker.

I didn't know Manuel Baker for very long, nor saw him all that often, but there's something about him that always will stick with me.

Around the time the Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society (FOSSILS) got started in 1990, some of us regularly attended meetings of the LAGERS club. The acronym stands for Louisville Area Grain and Extract Research Society, and it predates FOSSILS by a year or so.

Manuel was a LAGERS stalwart before moving to Florida in the early 1990s. Being retired, he always had time to work the LAGERS booth at the Kentucky State Fair. He was genial and fond of telling wonderful stories, like the time he explained one of his experiences during World War II.

Seems that the American forces had begun the push onto German soil, and had paused on the outskirts of a town. Manuel's unit had been specifically warned that a nearby brewery was off-limits for fear of remaining snipers -- and having learned for the first time that a brewery was nearby, Manuel and several others decided to reconnoiter.

Access to the brewery was gained without incident, and stores of beer were located. There ensued a rest period, during which these remaining stocks were substantially reduced. Having conducted sufficient intelligence gathering, the soldiers emerged to make their way back -- and immediately came under fire. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but there was a stiff fight, and after returning to camp, there was "Hell to pay," as Manuel described it.

Obviously, the incident took place after the Battle of the Bulge. I don't recall Manuel ever alluding to the battle, or to his Bronze Star earned there. The obituary is the first I've heard of it.

Manuel was a fine fellow, and deserving of a pint consumed in his honor. I encourage readers to do this. When it comes to his generation, the ranks are thinning ... as eventually they will in our own. Cheers to Manuel ... and thanks for a story I'll never forget.

---

BAKER, MANUEL A., died September 14, 2013 in Oviedo, FL.

He was born June 10, 1919 in Muskegon, MI, he served in the 3rd Armored Division of the U.S. First Army during World War II in Germany where he earned a bronze star at the Battle of the Bulge. He was active in the 3rd Armored Division Association, eventually becoming Vice-President for the Southern Region. He ended his business career as General Manager of Fontaine Truck Equipment in Louisville, KY. Retirement allowed him time to further his wood working skills and take up genealogy, where he discovered his ancestors first came to North America in 1725, and his wife's ancestors in 1625.

To a friend's description of him as "a true gentleman, a good friend and a great man" can be added a loving husband and father.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Juanita Kelsey Baker; brother, Clarence; son, Gregg; and granddaughter, Kathryn.

He requested no memorial service, and that donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project: www.woundedwarriorproject.org in lieu of flowers.

9th annual NAC Harvest Homecoming Parade gala, non-bicentennial edition, is this Saturday, October 5.


As the view above from parade day 2008 wholly implies, the tradition lives on.

Saturday (October 5) will be the 9th such Harvest Homecoming parade gathering hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Confidential at their domicile on East Spring Street, world headquarters of the 1117 East Spring Neighborhood Association.

This time, HH is importing Scribners from far and wide in order to reinforce yet again what our flawed and disposable bicentennial shouldn't ever have been about -- what, none of them could bear the thought of remaining in the hometown of their veneration?

But Bob Caesar's grinning, and when Buddha smiles, the rest of us reach for our air(head) sickness bags.

Back to the parade party: You're invited to drop by and say hello. As noted oft times before, there’ll be craft draft beer (probably NABC's Strassen Bräu) and a place to watch the parade, which begins around 12:00 noon, although we'll be available from 10:00 a.m. or so for the usual slider brunch.

Beer snacks are welcomed, but because we'll move the celebration downtown immediately after the parade concludes, there is no need to bring a dish or more complicated foodstuffs. You may need to bring a camp chair. If there is rain, we may remain huddled on the porch. With beer. We will drink the whole day through, and contemplate alternative universes where the streets run both ways.

If you're an anonymous commentator from another blog, you're welcomed, too, but you must wear a paper sack over your head to preserve the fiction. Hint: The one with protruding Chesterfield is Erika herself.

Damnable truth-telling: "They’ve just never had to think about this."

Two excerpts tell the (becoming ever more familiar) tale of the thoughtless grappling with thoughts.

First, the backdrop.

The Log Cabin Republican, by Frank Bruni (New York Times)

ORBISONIA, Pa. — MIKE FLECK, wholesome country boy, cruised to a second term in the State Legislature in 2008, running unopposed in both the Republican primary and the general election. He got 100 percent of the vote in a largely rural, religious, conservative district.

It was the same two years later: 100 percent. And the same again in 2012.

But for 2014, primary opponents are circling. Some supporters are fleeing. He’s in trouble.

And while nothing has changed — not his deep roots in the farmland here, not his degree from an evangelical Christian university founded by Jerry Falwell, not his fondness for hunting or his pride in the bear pelt from one of his kills — everything has. At the end of last year, he announced that his marriage of 10 years was over. And that he’s gay ...

Second, the takeaway, although in a sense applicable locally without reference to sexual orientation.

... “I love this area,” he told me. “I think it’s going to catch up. But it’s never going to catch up unless there are people like me out there. And that’s true not just of here but of the Bible Belt and a whole lot of America.”

“These are good people,” he added. “They’ve just never had to think about this.”

"They’ve just never had to think about this."

It could be human rights, two-way streets, density, urbanism, the importance of local business, the idiocy of sprawl ... the list just compounds and compounds -- and I'm NOT TALKING ABOUT ordinary citizens.

I'm talking about who gets elected to office locally. We see them exposed to ideas, ducking and clawing as though rotten fruit is being thrown in their direction; visibly uncomfortable with the notion of learning anything.

Couldn't they at least be better actors?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

More American wet dreams.


Maybe if we had the right religion, the right immigrants and the right firearms, this wouldn't seem so obvious.

The American dream has become a burden for most; As wages stagnate and costs rise, US workers recognise the guiding ideal of this nation for the delusional myth it is, by Gary Younge (The Guardian)

 ... For underpinning that faith in a better tomorrow was an understanding that inequality in wealth would be tolerated so long as it was coupled with a guarantee of equality of opportunity. In recent years they have seen both heading in the wrong direction – the gap between rich and poor has grown even as possibilities for economic and social advancement have stalled.

From Jim's Gun Room to Regalo in just a few (easy) months.




Harvest on the Skids ... that's Fringe Fest 2013, coming to BSB from October 10 - 12.


NABC’s sixth annual Fringe Fest opens on Thursday, October 10 at Bank Street Brewhouse. As in years past, we'll alter our normal working routine to harmonize with the downtown chaos accompanying New Albany's splendiferous civic celebration, sometimes known as Harvest Homecoming.

As in 2012, a percentage of the proceeds from this year's Fringe Fest will be donated to Open Door Youth Services:
"Open Door Youth Services exists to respond to the needs and promote the healthy development of vulnerable children and youth."
Late note: We think our friends at Billow will be stopping by to sell cigars on Friday and Saturday, and the Raqia Belly Dance troupe will perform on Friday night. Also, expect wines from Old 502 Winery to be a part of the festivities … stay tuned for details.

Hope for good weather, and stop by while you're downtown during Harvest Homecoming. Following are capsule previews of what to expect; these will be updated as certain arrangements are finalized.

BEER

Weather permitting, much of Fringe Fest 2013 will take place in and around Bank Street Brewhouse's WCTU Reading Room (the former patio, now an enclosed indoor room with garage doors) and Lloyd's Landing, the outdoor beer garden. For the occasion of Fringe Fest, we'll be emphasizing the following selections:

Hoosier Daddy ... NABC’s Crimson & Cream Ale begins its six-month seasonal run with a Fringe Fest release.

Strassen Bräu ... Genuine Bavarian yeast gives our annual autumnal Märzen/Oktoberfest lager its smooth character.

Wet Knobs Harvest Hop Ale ... American Pale Ale brewed with “wet” (unprocessed) locally grown Floyds Knobs hops. It’s a small batch, and it usually doesn’t survive Fringe Fest.

Tricentennial … A Post-Colonial ale brewed to commemorate New Albany’s 300th birthday in 2113. Our last kegs will be tapped for Fringe Fest, and limited edition, hand-numbered commemorative bottles will be available for purchase.

Of course, other NABC favorites will remain on tap during Fringe Fest.

FOOD

Normal BSB kitchen service is suspended during Fringe Fest. On Sunday, October 13, there’ll be a return to the usual weekly schedule, with Sunday Brewhouse Brunch and the famed Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar. During Fringe Fest’s 2013 run, a special menu will be served by Chef Matt Weirich, Sous Chef Jake Bibb and their stellar crew. A sneak preview of this Fringe Fest menu, courtesy of Chef Matt, will appear here in due course).

MUSIC

Another stellar musical lineup will perform during Fringe Fest, volume six. There's no cover charge, but we'll be checking IDs at the gate and issuing bracelets for those wishing to imbibe. Here is the list of performers; thanks to Kolton Norton for his booking expertise.

Thursday, October 10
Meadow Ryann 6-7
Jacob Resch 7:30-8:30
Carissa LeCates 9-10

Friday, October 11
Jordan Amos 6-6:45
The Vivideras 7:15-8
The Protagonist 8:30-9:15
Nick Dittmeir 9:45-10:45
The Whiskey Riders 11:15-12

Saturday, October 12
Thunder Wrane 6-6:45
Taylor Nicholson 7:15-8
Youngstown Parade 8:30-9:15
The Thumps 9:45-10:45
Ready Access 11:15-12

Friday, September 27, 2013

1st Annual Taste & See at the K of C, October 19.


Elizabeth at Thomas Family Winery told us about this K of C wine tasting, and I think it's a great idea.

But permit just a gentle suggestion: Tell us a bit more about the wine available for sampling. I know from chatting with Elizabeth that Indiana wineries are being invited, but it's something that needs to be publicized, too. Will there be wines from other places, countries, states?

You can't have too much information. Good luck with the inaugural tasting, guys.

The competitive advantage of localism.

"As seen on TV"

Just yesterday I was contemplating the yearly cost of a 1950s-era sidewalk spread out over six decades.

ON THE AVENUES: You actually can get something for nothing.

The point I’m making is that from an economic development standpoint, the city of New Albany has leveraged its blessed downtown indie “renaissance” on virtually nothing, compared with what it routinely spends on industrial park space and chain retail enfluffment.

Okay, true; "enfluffment" isn't a real word. It sounds good, though. What's it like, anyway?

Opinion: The competitive advantage of local, by Michael H. Shuman (The Vancouver Sun)

 ... Despite endless hype about the wonders of the global economy, non-local businesses in North America have not increased their relative presence or power.

The performance by local businesses is remarkable, given that public officials and economic developers essentially tried to kill them. The vast majority of economic-development spending in North America, for example, is to “attract and retain” global companies. The impact of these subsidies, if not the intent, is to make small business less competitive.

Even if foolish public policies remain in place, there are deeper trends in the global economy that actually are increasing the competitiveness of small, local business.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A little known New Albany tourist attraction.


 It's the Triumphal Arch at the Heroic Banker's Monument.

ON THE AVENUES: You actually can get something for nothing.

ON THE AVENUES: You actually can get something for nothing.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

(Last week: Yellow lines, and what comes due.)

To me, symbolism matters.

To me, the short stretch of sidewalk in front of Bank Street Brewhouse, my downtown business, stands for far more than it may seem, at least at first glance.

The year was 2009.

From the very beginning, as NABC’s owners planned what would eventually become BSB, we hoped the city of New Albany would be able to help us think and act creatively with the sidewalk’s immediate future. Then-mayor Doug England was receptive, as were other city officials and the Board or Works.

Our idea was to sacrifice three parking spaces and replace the existing, pitted and narrow sidewalk, which appeared to have been untouched for a half-century (and perhaps even since the construction of the building itself in 1950), by pouring new concrete and pushing the perimeter out into Bank Street.

Steve Resch, the building owner and contractor, showed the plan to all appropriate authorities. The city took bids, and the price for our Bank Street work and another sidewalk replacement project in front of the future Wick’s Pizza on State Street proved to be far less than what the city originally anticipated (combined, the bid was around $16,000). All parties were in agreement. The requisite jackhammering, mixing, pouring, signing and coloring took place, and as a result, we had frontage for a patio.

Concurrent to this $8,000 sidewalk undertaking, NABC was in the process of investing around $750,000 into BSB as our second brewery and restaurant. This was only the initial investment. All told, we’ve put more than one million dollars into an abandoned cinder block day-old bread store building. Profits have been minimal, if any. That’s okay. When you’re playing a long game, shorter terms are negotiable, assuming the rules are the same.

And there’s the rub.

---

Consider, if you will, the bizness-as-usual mantra of economic development as it pertains to a city like New Albany, and those demands for public assistance typically made by the likes of a Wal-Mart or TG Missouri. Watch the city’s economic development team (any of them, extending back to the Scribner Brothers) eagerly roll on their backs with these terms, amid those enduringly familiar explanations about spending whatever is necessary to lure employers to our fair city.

Now, think back to NABC’s sidewalk. In addition, since we’ve been located on Bank Street, the street has been paved, as was the alley. Conceding that asphalt isn’t cheap, at least the costs are spread out among all users. Even the sidewalk bump-out project itself, while obviously benefiting BSB directly, has commensurate benefit to anyone walking on it. Yes, we’ve gotten tax credits from the Urban Enterprise Association … but that’s an Indiana state initiative, isn’t it?

Hmm, what else? At last glance, we’ve employed people, paid our share of taxes, and helped draw visitors to a previously moribund downtown.

Those crickets are chirping again.

The point I’m making is that from an economic development standpoint, the city of New Albany has leveraged its blessed downtown indie “renaissance” on virtually nothing, compared with what it routinely spends on industrial park space and chain retail enfluffment.

In NABC’s case, this has meant a mere $8K for a sidewalk that had not been improved since Dwight Eisenhower was President, and some street paving that would have been done anyway. Voila! A cool million pumped into downtown.

Now, multiply these figures by the number of new businesses appearing downtown during the time that Bank Street Brewhouse has been operating – and don’t forget investments made before 2009, by since-departed pioneers like Bistro New Albany and Speakeasy. There are no handy reliable figures, and yet is $20 million dollars exaggerated? It’s likely an understatement, and virtually all of it has come from small, local, independent businesses … for the city’s price of routine infrastructure work that’s supposed to be happening, anyway, and often wasn’t in any timely fashion.

There’s another, perhaps more galling side to this viewpoint: How stupid have the entrepreneurs been, me prime among them, not to have behaved more like the Wally World predators, and less like simpering victims of the Stockholm Syndrome?

Inexplicably, we remain feral cats that refuse to be herded, even when our own obvious interests are at stake. Remember Mainland Properties’ abortive $15 million parking garage clip job? That’s a lot more jack than an 8K expanse of concrete, isn’t it – and Doug and Carl wanted all of it to go to one company, itself sans a cast iron pissing pot, but with the notable chutzpah to extort money it couldn’t even match.

How quaint of us to have been spending our own money on our own businesses. What could we have been thinking?

---

Before the free-marketing Darwinians go all mental on me, rest assured that I’m not advocating a direct transfer of funds from taxpayers to my European travel fund. That’s because my being faint of stomach, the inevitable self-immolations might prove disruptive to the digestive track. Erika’s no prize without the lighter fluid.

Rather, it is my unapologetic view, and one that is far more representative of the new generation of business people downtown than those stuck ostrich-first in the rotary dial era, that the city can indeed help downtown entrepreneurs and indie businesses in a broader, collective sense by aggressively molding urban conditions, particularly the infrastructure, and specifically, the street grid.

When it comes to the downtown business community, two-way streets, traffic calming and greater walkability are enhancements to revitalization, not impediments. The city touts its responsibility to assist industrial park occupants by providing the “right” infrastructure, doesn’t it?

The downtown business zone is deserving of the same rationale, isn’t it?

Successive generations of political leadership in New Albany have neglected economic development in the historic core of the city. Finally indies and entrepreneurs took it on themselves to do much of the heavy lifting, on their own, with little more than verbal encouragement. Isn’t it past time for the city to put some real, substantive skin in the game – in a clear, real-world way that benefits the many, rather than the few?

Isn’t it time for the city’s economic development team to advocate publicly for what’s right downtown?

I think so.

To me, symbolism matters – but there’s nothing quite like a sincere, loving embrace, and we long to feel it.

With revised lyrics, Jim Reeves explains all.



Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let's pretend that we're together all alone
I'll tell the man to turn the juke box way down low
And you can tell your friend Old CeeSaw he'll have to go

Whisper to me tell me do you love me true
Or is he holding you the way I do
Though love is blind make up your mind I've got to know
Should I hang up or will you tell Bob he'll have to go?

You can't say the words I want to hear
While you're with another man
Do you want me answer yes or no
Darlin' I will understand

Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let's pretend that we're together all alone
I'll tell the man to turn the juke box way down low
And you can tell your friend Old CeeSaw he'll have to go

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Allegiance is a two-way street.

To be clear, this is bluegill, not the New Albanian, but...

Given this:


and this:

 
and this:



I keep seeing this...


in Portland.

Our daily reality in New Albany? That'd be Bob Caesar waxing delusional.


Not that WDRB's report is any masterpiece. In fact, it's rather horrid.

Granted, Charlie Harshfield provides the two-way neighborhood perspective, which is sufficiently irrefutable that opposing voices aren't really necessary.

But then Bob Caesar purports to speak for all downtown business, which of course is flagrantly mistaken. Caesar speaks for downtown business in roughly the same way as I represent the interests of Somali warlords. Significantly, he's afforded the platform to blather about potential harm sans rebuttal. Hurting small business downtown and hurting Caesar's profoundly limited cognitive skills are two very different processes. His selfishness when it comes to neighborhood issues? Shameful.

WDRB essentially does nothing with this story, and that's too bad. A reporter might ask some questions, right?

Or am I asking too many myself?

New Albany debates turning one-way streets into two-way, by Lawrence Smith (WDRB)


Of Place at the Carnegie: An "antidote" to the tyranny of our white bread Bicentennial.

Yesterday I vented at Facebook.

Imagine that.

If I believed in some variety of god, I'd thank her that the NA Bicentennial year is nearly finished. So much hard work, and such a pristine tea and crumpets celebration, given NA's indisputable lineage as dirty, corrupted and imperfect river town; it strikes me as an antibiotic that kills good and bad microbes alike, with scrubbed beige Formica emerging from the other side of the assembly line. I hope that when Laura Buckingham starts baking, we get some damned pumpernickel, because after 2013, I never want to see a slice of Caesar-brand white bread ever again. Rant over.

Laura says she does pumpernickel, and Bluegill reminds us of a forthcoming event at the Carnegie Center, one that clearly shows how much more meaningful this anniversary year could have been had cooperation and participation been the goal rather than exclusion.

And I'm not saying this just because David Modica took pictures of me.

---

October 18, 2013 – January 11, 2014
New Albany Bicentennial Exhibition: Of Place
Tiffany Carbonneau and David Modica
Opening Reception: Friday, October 18, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

As New Albany's bicentennial year comes to an end, our attention turns to New Albany today and the future of our community. The exhibition Of Place presents artworks by Tiffany Carbonneau and David Modica, two contemporary New Albany artists that speak to their experiences of living here today. Their different perspectives influence their points-of-view on the city — one is a longtime resident, the other recently moved here. They both work in relatively new art media — one with photography, the other with video. The combination of their approaches also connects to a theme that finds its way into most discussions about place and culture today, namely the relationship between local and global experiences and societal issues. David Modica's photographs explore the stories, characters and places that a resident gets to know intimately when he interacts with the community. He gives us a glimpse of multiple perspectives and experiences that individuals have of our community on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the videos of Tiffany Carbonneau place New Albany in a global context as a mid-sized city located on a major waterway. Her documentations of similar places around the world strive to show us just how similar our local experience is to that of others around the world.

Werner Tübke and the Americans, 1989.


Werner Tübke -- that's the guy.

Occasionally I'm possessed by weird flashbacks to my heavy travel years, past the oft-repeated drinking anecdotes to the dislodging of sheer, otherwise forgotten esoterica: Street food in Skopje, a "free" Bergen piano recital that wasn't, or the Irish woman's insistence that my voice reminded her of John Wayne's.

In the waning days of our stay in East Germany in 1989 -- unbeknownst to us, in the waning days of East Germany as a geopolitical concept -- my friend Jeff spotted some rather arresting artwork on an East Berlin sidewalk poster, and we explored the archway into a gallery of some sort where the art of Werner Tübke was on display. It wasn't the panorama of the German peasant's war for which the artist was best known. Memories are hazy, and beer quite well may have played a role. I just remember being impressed and wanting to buy the poster, of which none were on sale.

Nonetheless, somewhere in a stack of banker's boxes, there may be a physical remnant of this viewing. I saved much forensic evidence of my travels, from ticket stubs and meal receipts to bottle caps and cigar wrappers, imagining that examining the flotsam and jetsam would bolster my recall in the years to come. For this to be the case, I'd actually have to sift through it, but doing so might place an unwelcome spotlight on a quarter-century's time elapsed.

Like sleeping dogs, the prompters mostly are left to lie. It's better to rely on the accumulated weight of the experiences, and the way they changed me.

Take East German art seriously, by Bernhard Schulz (The Art Newspaper)

 ... Debate about East German art has suffered from misperceptions for many years. At the time of the country’s division, East German artists were often perceived as representatives of “their” government. This was confirmed by Documenta 6 in 1977, when works by the so-called Leipziger Viererbande (Leipzig gang of four)— Bernhard Heisig, Wolfgang Mattheuer, Willi Sitte and Werner Tübke—made their first appearance in the West and became, in the minds of curators and critics, representative of GDR art.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Oakland A's win the AL West, and I am happy.


On Sunday, the Oakland A's clinched a second consecutive division title, one marginally less improbable that last year's last-day-of-the-season triumph. Yes, I'm enjoying this even while refraining from clogging my social media streams with annoying commentary.

In recent years there have been a couple of essays in this space referencing the only sports team of any sort that I regularly follow.

40 years on: 1973 and the world champion Oakland A's.
ON THE AVENUES: It no longer keeps me waiting.

As for 2013, here's an appropriate summary from USA Today.

17 awesome things about Oakland A’s; A’s clinch AL West with another strong September, by Ted Berg

15. Their incredible mustache history


This is almost impossible to believe and even more difficult to reconcile, but Major League Baseball went over 50 years without a single player fashioning any sort of facial hair. That embarrassing stretch ended when the 1972 A’s broke the mold and went on to win the World Series and usher in a league-wide facial-hair Renaissance.

Two street scenes documenting safety that isn't.



We were sitting on the porch for a Sunday afternoon Scrabble game when there was a commotion on Spring Street. Someone traveling northbound on 11th decided to turn eastbound onto Spring. He didn't make it very far amid a crescendo of horns from westbound traffic, otherwise eager to cut through town as quickly as possible because they consider such trasit the 11th commandment.

Once the cars passed the wayward vehicle well in excess of the speed limit, the confused driver was free to turn around and begin westbound travel in the one-way fashion.

Bob Caesar likes to say that all this is indicative of one-way safety.

Yeah, right.

Indiana State Sen. Jim Banks gets it right about craft beer.

Wine (left) and beer (right) at this year's Indiana State Fair.

In this clear and concise explanation of why Hoosier brewing is good for Indiana, Sen. Banks makes a solid economic development argument. Our Rep. Ed Clere, like Banks a Republican, led last year's artisan distilling effort in the House. It is my hope that the stalled farmers market bill gets some traction this time around.

In its entirety ...

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GUEST COLUMN: “Hopping” the Red Tape for Craft Beer, by State Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City)(In.gov)

As a legislator, I know from experience that some policy topics are more fun to discuss than others. I’ve served a variety of roles in the Senate, and all of them have had their own share of debate and consideration. But no matter how divisive the committee discussions get, we can all agree on our love for Hoosier-grown businesses and products. For me, that includes craft beer.

In 2012, 409 craft breweries opened in the U.S. That’s been reported as the largest increase in brewery openings since the 1880s. As the number of breweries grew, so did the number of job opportunities. Currently, small brewing companies employ over 100,000 people across the country. With these advancements, craft breweries have captured a 10.2 percent share of beer sales.

Indiana isn’t left out of these trends. Our state currently has 68 craft breweries, ranking 14th in the nation. Last year, Hoosier craft brewers produced enough beer to generate a 27 percent growth rate – the 19th-highest in the country. We’re also home to one of the nation’s fastest growing breweries: Sun King Brewing Company. As more brewers seek to open shop, these numbers will only continue to improve.

It’s clear that consumers’ tastes are changing. Beer lovers are now turning toward unique, complex flavors over the traditional manufactured types. That places Indiana in a prime position to continue to profit from these ongoing advancements.

But this issue is more than just connecting consumers to beer makers. It’s about supporting homegrown businesses and, in turn, our economy as a whole. Buying local returns three times the revenue to communities compared to purchasing products from national chains. If we keep that money flowing through local economies, it will ultimately preserve market health and help it prosper.

Farmers’ markets are one popular avenue for buying local goods. Every Saturday, the Whitley County Courthouse Square bustles with farmers selling meat and produce and artisans displaying their handmade merchandise. Now imagine local brewers joining these vendors, sharing their own craft with hundreds of customers every week.

Currently, farm wineries are allowed to sell their products at these markets and trade shows, but craft brewers are still restricted from doing so. In the 2013 legislative session, I introduced two bills that would have made this possible, but they did not gain enough support. For now, it’s an outlet these brewers cannot access.

Indiana has made significant gains in supporting local brewers, which is evident in the high rate of growth this industry has experienced. However, there is still more we can do to help these businesses establish themselves in our state.

Oftentimes, brewers are held back by archaic, Prohibition-era restrictions that limit their ability to share their trade. For example, in Indiana, we have caps in place to restrict how much a brewery may sell and distribute to customers. This puts these businesses at a disadvantage, holding back Hoosier companies from competing in their own state.

Indiana has set itself apart as a business-friendly state, and we can continue that by improving opportunities for our craft brewers. I’m hopeful these discussions will be a focal point of future legislative sessions.

In the meantime, I look forward to discovering new favorites around our great state to fill my growler for the weekend. As they say, “Think globally. Drink locally.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Renn: "Louisville Bridges Project Proceeds From Tragedy to Farce."


Just read it and weep -- not in sorrow, but at the sheer volume of the stupidity inherent in the Oligarch's River Bridges Project.

Bridges Project Proceeds From Tragedy to Farce

I’ve written a lot about the $2.6 billion boondoggle project to build two new bridges across the Ohio River in Louisville (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). A new East End river crossing is without a doubt necessary and adds regional value, but the rest of the project is basically bad news.

But no matter how crazy this project is, it always manages to find ways to show that it’s even more wacky than I thought. The latest installment comes from the so-called “investment grade toll study” that was conducted in order to set toll rates and issue bonds.

News and Tribune: "Gahan ‘generally supportive’ of two-way streets in downtown New Albany."


Let's begin Monday with a generally guarded mayoral endorsement of "more" two-way streets in the future than now. Seeing as we advocates of a "complete" street grid are subject to a starvation diet in Nawbony, we'll take supportive tidbits wherever we find them, and yet I fee compelled to repeat: (1) At which point will we see City Hall shape this future message according to the two irrefutable twin pillars of two-way, these being safety and economic development? And, (2) are we approaching this in the best and most timely fashion?

Gahan ‘generally supportive’ of two-way streets in downtown New Albany

NEW ALBANY — Mayor Jeff Gahan said the Ohio River Bridges Project should be taken into account before switching downtown streets to two-way traffic, and added a study would paint a clearer picture of what the city needs to do to usher in such a change.

“I’m generally supportive of more two-way traffic than we have now,” Gahan said. “We just need to have more definite information and more factual information before we make sweeping changes.”

Jeff Speck's "Recommendations for a More Walkable Boise."


It's Boise, not New Albany, but certain principles are far more universal than the fear-mongers would have you believe. There's even some morsels for one-way apologists to savor, although I'm not about to tell you where, and we can be sure that the likes of Caesar won't bother.

Hint: It has to do with bike lanes.
Jeff Speck's Recommendations for a More Walkable Boise

Recommendations on how to make Boise a more pedestrian friendly, economically vibrant and traffic efficient city.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

More brutalism in sclerotic thinking than architecture, at least in Nawbony.


In the interest of fairness, and coming a week after the latest New Albany historic homes tour (which we very much enjoyed), here's a look at recognition for brutalist architecture in the UK.

And what is brutalist architecture?

It's largely what we skipped over in New Albany. When we demolished buildings here, more often than not we designed vacant lots to take their place, and did not even bother with rebuilding. Of course, there are exceptions. I imagine the Riverview Towers building might qualify as brutalist, although it's a bit dull and Bulgarian to fit, at least in my opinion. Bluegill, if you're reading, please weigh in.

Perhaps we can give protection to brutalist vacant lots? Especially the unused ones with asphalt.


UK's brutalist architecture celebrated as four postwar buildings get listed status; Bunker and electricity substation are among structures awarded Grade II and Grade II* protection, by Peter Walker (The Guardian)

Given that diehard critics of postwar architecture already liken its creations to bunkers, warehouses and electricity substations, they could be forgiven for feeling simultaneously vindicated and horrified at the news that the government has now granted protected listings to precisely such structures.

They are among four constructions built between the 1950s and 1980s – the last is a slightly less forbidding Mies van der Rohe-inspired steel and glass home – given Grade II or II* status on Friday by the government.

The news coincides with Brutal and Beautiful, a new exhibition by English Heritage, which advised on the listings, examining the nation's attitude to our recent architectural past ...

Sobriety -- now there's your social awkwardness.

I needed a drink just to read this piece of health fascist propaganda below).

After all, it's after 12  ... okay, it's almost noon.

Yesterday it was time to purchase a replacement bottle of gin, so after loading in for Rock the Rocks, I steered the car toward Pearl Street and the oasis known hereabouts as Keg Liquors, only to remember that the street was being blocked off for a car show -- which I take it was an officially-sanctioned white bread Bicentennial event, or else Emperor Caesar would have self-immolated.

I went home instead, but later, me and the missus went on a long walk, and following restorative espresso at Quills, we strolled over to Keg for the necessary larder. It was helpfully brown paper bagged, and we set out for Spring Street and the route home, where we'd be walking in the same direction as cars should be traveling if not for the ceaseless Luddite resistance to human rationality.

Before reaching the turn, we encountered selected city officials. Pleasantries were exchanged, and afterwards, my wife speculated as to whether they think we're alcoholics.

No, I replied. In all likelihood, and speaking only for myself, they KNOW it. But it's just as Winston Churchill once said: "I've gotten more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."

These are words for living and coping, especially in this benumbed and often quite stupid place, and that's why a small scientific sampling hardly deters me.

Alcohol can make you socially awkward, by Kimberly Gillan (MSN)

You might reach for a schooner or a glass of sparkling to take the edge off an awkward social situation, but a new study shows that too much alcohol renders you incapable of reading social cues.

US researchers recruited 12 college students and gave half of them an alcoholic drink and the other half a non-alcoholic drink.

They were asked to match images of happy, angry, fearful and neutral faces with faces with the same facial expression while their brains were being scanned ...

Which one of us us the real Matt Nash?


This might well be the best column I've ever written.

NASH: A message to a ‘taxpayer’

... The “NA Taxpayer” goes on to say that “It’s one thing to have an opinion but it’s worse when you push an agenda that is not best for all citizens of New Albany.” I do not actually have an agenda that I am pushing on the subject, I just believe that for years we have tried to get people to leave New Albany as fast as they can. Maybe we should make it easier for them to stop and spend money.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

In which Erika decries bullying, plays Twister with her pink elephants and savors a Chesterfield.

I wonder who she's talking about now?

A BADGE OF HONOR....

This blog posting is the first of our personal opinions examining the impact of bullying on everyday people.

Bullying is different from constructive criticism or conflict, bullying is persistent, it focuses on a person rather than a real issue.

We consider an attack from a certain blogger as a "Badge of Honor."

Bill Maher: Is the US the world's policeman, or a schoolyard bully?

Bill Maher quite simply rocks.

The US: world's policeman or schoolyard bully? Ever since 9/11, it seems America's just been itching for a fight – and any Muslim country will do. Really, who acts like this?, by Bill Maher (The Guardian)

New rule: 12 years after 9/11, and amidst yet another debate on whether to bomb yet another Muslim country, America must stop asking the question, "Why do they hate us?" Forget the debate on Syria, we need a debate on why we're always debating whether to bomb someone. Because we're starting to look not so much like the world's policeman, but more like George Zimmerman: itching to use force and then pretending it's because we had no choice.

Now, I'm against chemical weapons, and I don't care who knows it. And there's no doubt a guy like Bashar al-Assad deserves to get blown up: using toxic chemicals on unsuspecting civilians is purely and profoundly evil.

But enough about Monsanto ...

Some fine photos from The Fall Flea, 2013.

These photos absolutely capture the essence of The Fall Flea. The only thing this blogger missed was the beer truck, but that's okay.

The Fall Flea

This weekend April and I were grateful to have spent the weekend in our hometown, Louisville for the first time in over a month. I specifically wanted to make the short trip up in time for local boutique, Dress and Dwell‘s annual Fall Flea.

Friday, September 20, 2013

In which Patrick Duffy steps from the shower, and Bob Caesar lovingly French-kisses petrochemical fascists.



There was a council meeting last night.

In it, two-way street conversions were discussed, even though neither measure considered was even remotely necessary, because the mayor does not need council involvement to rationalize the street grid, except evidently City Hall does not intend to expend its own political capital to pursue what it says it supports despite making no public comments in favor of it, and when it comes right down to it, someone in the administration really needs to read this memo I wrote. Where the hell is John Galt when you need him?

Meanwhile, reporter Daniel Suddeath strives mightily to make sense of the evening's needless muddle here.

Or, you can read my tweets. Spoiler warning: There is jaundice and dolt fatigue throughout.

As an aside, last night we learned to no great surprise that Bob Caesar, who somehow avoids being hit by retributive ideological lightning while still referring to himself as a Democrat, capital-D, bases his "lost cause" defense of 1950s-era roadway planning and the white bread social order entirely on the wit and wisdom of the Thoreau Institute.

This is rather like an anti-Semite citing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as justification for an internal noggin irrationality for which permanent cures don't presently exist, although lobotomies remain an option -- for those of us forced to listen to the sheer drivel.

Yes, it can be depressing living in this monument to underachievement.

Certain of these elected "leaders" gaze at us -- at the year 2013, at modernity itself -- with an abject and bottomless incomprehension, even sometimes the ones who might on occasion know better. New Albany remains in the perfect position to be an exciting, groundbreaking laboratory for urban change. The ones who know this mostly just sit there and say nothing for fear of ... well, of what?

And the ones who do not possess the imagination to grasp change are the ones we permit to make the decision. The decades-long search for political cojones in New Albany goes on and on, but in a place where ignorance is considered the ultimate virtue, perhaps those particular balls simply never will be launched into the air.

Will some one wake me when the clock strikes disinvestment time?

Gyros, Shawarma and Tabbouleh in New Albany? Yes, and Turkish coffee, too.



I haven't yet had the chance to have coffee or a sandwich, but check out Aladdin Cafe at 111 W. Market. It's two doors down from the Firestone.

Robert Temple is the new Executive Chef at The Exchange pub + kitchen.

The release speaks for itself. All the best to Ian and the gang as the transition moves forward.

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Ian Hall
Tel.: 812.948.6501
Email: ian@exchangeforfood.com
The Exchange pub + kitchen appoints new Executive Chef

New Albany, IN (September 17, 2013) The Exchange pub + kitchen is proud to announce the appointment of Robert Temple as their new Executive Chef. Temple has been with The Exchange pub + kitchen since April of this year in the role of Chef de Cuisine.

“Chef Temple is a vibrant chef whose focus of giving his guests a high quality dining experience in a relaxed and casual atmosphere makes him the perfect fit for our restaurant. Robert has been the acting interim chef over the last 6 weeks while we evaluated our team during this transition. He has really stepped up over the last few months and elevated our kitchen and the team to the next level, not only from a culinary standpoint but also in a leadership role. It is important to me that we build our team from within and give our staff the opportunity to grow with us. I know I can speak for Robert when I say he is extremely excited to take the reigns in the kitchen at The Exchange pub + kitchen, “ says Owner, Ian Hall. “ We will continue to provide our guests a high quality dining experience that many have come to know over course of the last 3 years and continue to push the envelope everyday to improve. I couldn't be more confident about the direction we are heading with Robert and our team.”

Temple's culinary endeavors began long before his first restaurant job. Hailing from a large Sicilian and German family, Rob fondly recalls eating shellfish at age four, and was frequently cooking dinner for his family by age seven. It was while pursuing a degree in Enviromental Science and working as a chef at Reata in Aline, Texas-along with the inspiration of chef Thomas Keller-that Temple was exposed to a higher level of cooking. He realized that cooking could be much more than just a hobby. Combining his interest in cooking, agriculture, and science, Temple discovered cooking to be the perfect marriage of science and craft.

When making the decision to pursue the craft of cooking as a career, he chose to pursue a more detailed knowledge of ingredients in lieu of culinary school. Temple worked in management for Whole Foods Market, overeeing the seafood and specialty departments. This role allowed Temple the opportunity to develop close relationships with products and purveyors, while remaining focused on the environment’s role in our food culture. In addition to a wide variety of seafood, he gained extensive experience with cheese, charcuterie, coffee, beer, and wine.

Returning home to Louisville, Temple applied this wealth of product knowledge to his cooking career. In 2007, Temple landed a chance to work in the kitchen at Proof on Main with chef Michael Paley. As sous chef, Temple was given the opportunity to utilize local ingredients to create dishes with simple but elegant flavor, and focus his passions for braising, smoking, and curing meats in Proof’s charcuterie program. After spending years in Proof’s kitchen, Temple later joined Tyler Morris and Michael Trager-Kusman to open Rye on Market. In addition to developing the charcuterie program and overseeing production, Temple cultivated his skills in butchery through a series of whole animal dinners at Rye.

Earlier this year, Rob was asked to join restaurateur Ian Hall’s team at The Exchange pub + kitchen in New Albany. Having previously worked with Hall at Proof on Main, Rob was eager to join his new project. As executive chef, Rob embraces an approach to cooking that blends his interpretations of Italian, Native American, and New Mexican cuisines into progressive comfort food. When not in the kitchen, Rob (and his weakness for tacos) can be found spending time with his wife and two young daughters-who tell people he is a pirate.

Recognized as the premier dining venue for outstanding cuisine since it opened in 2011, The Exchange pub + kitchen restaurant has received numerous local and regional acclaim. Located in historic downtown New Albany, the timeless design, 20 foot soaring ceilings with steel beam trusses, top-notch service are just a few notables that continue to give guests a wonderful dining experience. The Exchange pub + kitchen is the perfect setting for intimate and grand dining affairs, business outings, and all your special dining needs.

For more information about The Exchange pub + kitchen, please vistit our website at www.exchangeforfood.com, or contact us at (812) 948.6501.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

CM Caesar issues call: Save our Pearl Street from the free-love, two-way drunken pergressives ... arm yourselves with white bread ... don't be scared to use it!

We are not shortcuts. We're even more than two ways.

All one has to do is actually look at the streets in question to easily determine that they were designed from the beginning for mutlimodal use. They didn't end up that wide by accident and we're lucky they and the practical sensibility they represent are still there. Every time we diminish one of those modes, though, either directly like transit removal or indirectly by making non-motorized use too dangerous, our capacity as a community - the ability of the city to function as a platform for working, learning, recreating, giving and receiving care of all kinds - is diminished right along with it. That we have ended up, after two hundred years of public and private investment, in a position of begging for such basic consideration serves as testament to just how badly we have neglected not only our heritage but the ways of shared opportunity and decency that created this place. When city leaders do finally hear that begging, when it registers as something more than a spreadsheet, it will be their consciences making the case, not us.

ON THE AVENUES: Yellow lines, and what comes due.

ON THE AVENUES: Yellow lines, and what comes due.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

On Tuesday I visited an old pal to do some catching up.

He’s a Louisville restaurateur whose business is located in the epicenter of Frankfort Avenue. As we spoke over a cool adult libation, a steady stream of walkers, joggers and cyclists traveled past. It’s a thriving area with a strong indie ethos. There are a handful of retail vacancies, but not many. The neighborhood around my buddy’s place is filled with homes worth double or greater the value of equivalent structures in New Albany.

In short, Frankfort Avenue is fun and livable, and it’s the same milieu once publicly shunned by a New Albany city councilman, who feared our town might become too much like it. Yogi Berra couldn’t have said it any better than L’il Stevie: No one goes there anymore because it’s way too crowded.

Granted, my friend’s business always has been difficult to reach in peak periods – and the parking at times is gruesome. But even now, when me and the wife spend so much of our own free time in downtown New Albany, we still make the transit over to the Frankfort Avenue area every other week. Yes, there are lots of people therein. Travel can be quite slow, and parking often is a pain – and yet, precisely owing to these factors and others that flow from urban density, there is abundant life on every corner.

It’s a worthwhile destination, and so we seek it out.

So there I was on Tuesday afternoon, ensconced a stone’s throw from Frankfort Avenue -- and all my friend wanted to talk about was my town, not his. He said that recently his family was in New Albany for an entire day, just exploring, shopping, eating and drinking. He professed fascination with the atmosphere and history, and conceded that there’s enough to do in New Albany to occupy a whole weekend without once venturing into Louisville.

He asked me: How are you guys managing to do this?

My answer: Pretty much all on our own, as entrepreneurs, volunteers and chief bottle washers.

“But what about local government? What has it done?”

Crickets chirped. Pins dropped.

Somewhere, a skateboarder barked at a dog.

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The single most important step toward New Albany’s revitalization ever taken by any portion of city government was the council’s approval in 2006 of the riverfront development area, and the subsequent availability of non-quota 3-way alcoholic beverage permits.

It’s true that the Urban Enterprise Association’s façade grants have been helpful, as has Develop New Albany’s networking. While I’ve not always agreed with Clean and Green’s program of beautification, at least the work has come from private donations. The Horseshoe Foundation’s revolving loans have been useful, too.

Other than these entities, and with One Southern Indiana abjectly negligible, most of the entire record of revitalization has been written by entrepreneurs, ranging from business owners through developers and facilitators like Steve Resch. There are too many names of over-achieving, life-savings-grade investors to mention all of them here, but it should suffice to say that apart from a perpetually well-intentioned bully pulpit, local New Albany government largely has been AWOL – chronically under-funded, often paying more attention (and granting very real tax abatements) to larger companies in industrial parks, or just uninformed, disorganized and obsessed with political irrelevancies.

It isn’t that I’m not thankful for their moral support. It isn’t that the politician types aren’t trying the best they know how, with the tools at their disposal. It’s just that the haphazard, uncoordinated and plainly strange way we’re now approaching street grid reform has me fearing the worst.

And those fears have a history of being realized.

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This blog began in 2004. In 2005, the Garner administration publicly (and with exaggerated and paranoid caution) casually mentioned the concept of impending two-way street conversions.

Nothing happened.

Garner’s successor, King England III, talked quite a lot about the topic. In truth, there may never again be a mayor who talked as much.

By the way, nothing happened then, either.

Now, a full eight years after the first muffled and muted Hauss Square mutterings somehow leaked into the newspaper of record, we’re told that when it comes to two-way traffic, the current Mayor Jeff Gahan is said to be “for it” – so much so that City Hall has yet to make an official statement supporting two-way streets ... and David Duggins, Gahan’s economic development adjutant, has offered no public utterances on the topic to date.

Now, I believe what I’ve heard through the grapevine, but at this juncture, the administration’s only real comments on the matter have been made at council meetings by city planner John Rosenbarger, and I’m sorry: This is rather like President Barack Obama trotting out the head of the Postal Service to reveal bombing plans for Syria.

All Rosenbarger can do is speak nuts and bolts to engineering wonks. The political side of this – and yes, so long as Bob Caesar seeks to hold back the evil forces of modernity, there is a political side – falls to officials quite apart from the planner. They’re not putting enough skin into this game, at least for my taste.

Consequently, and mostly because no one else seems willing to say it aloud, please allow me to be the bringer of truth:

Dear New Albany politicians in the executive and legislative branches of government,

Hi. You know this whole two-way street conversion thing we’ve been talking about since the House of Bread was still open? Well, here’s the way it needs to work.

Do it. 

Now.

You owe us.

That’s right: You owe us.

In fact, it’s all quite easy to understand, so let me help you out.

Just take every one of those “no-brainer,” “quality of life,” and “economic development” arguments made by those in favor of $20 million worth of new city parks, and grasp that these exact same arguments apply just as strongly to two-way streets, traffic calming and complete streets – at least insofar as the new cadre of independent business owners are concerned. 

Remember us? 

We’re the ones who actually have been investing downtown.

Then add the needs and interests of present and future inhabitants in those neighborhoods making up the city’s historic core. They’re not feeling arterial – no, not at all. 

While you’re at it, take the case for Main Street’s makeover (you can keep the excessive expense, but that’s another story), and understand that the Main Street rationale (i.e., we all need nice things) applies to Elm and Spring Streets, too – as much, and probably more so, because unlike Main Street, those other neighborhoods still hang in the balance. The NSP was nice … but it was mostly Federal stimulus money, wasn’t it?

You see, you owe us a modern street grid, because so far, most of the heavy lifting in the historic core has been on someone else’s dime, whether from local investors, state highway pay-outs or Obama funds. Now, with this much needed two-way street conversion and other related measures to enhance New Albany’s prospects, it’s time at last for you to go all in and show us that you really get it, and that River Ridge envy shall not be the dominant economic development motif hereabouts.

Just remember: You owe us.

Pay us all back, all at once. Give us a street grid that facilitates revitalization, not one that actively hampers it. 

Hell, if you buy the paint, we might even roll a few kegs out some afternoon and paint the stripes for you.

If you decline to act – well, we might just paint the stripes ourselves, anyway. Maybe Clean and Green can fund it. A little civil disobedience never harmed anyone.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We're watching.

Roger

Six ideas from Jeff Speck that are as plain as the cost-benefit nose on a banker's face.


This 2011 article provides an outline of Speck's book to come ("Walkable City"). As I read through them, I keep hearing bankers talking about "cost-benefit analyses," and I feel much the same way as when I see people looking at their iPhone weather apps rather than looking out the window

Quality of life "no-brainers"? Here are six. Can you take the time to read them, please?


Recipes for Great Places: Jeff Speck On Six Ideas That Are Changing the Planning World, by Kevin Pozzi, (1000 Friends of Oregon)

Walkability

A consistent theme throughout Speck’s discussion, walkability is a key focus for planners, consumers, and business people today, as evidenced by popular sites like Walkscore.com.
“It really all comes down to walkability. It’s a great way to tell if your city is doing something right,” Speck said, detailing that pedestrians desire a safe, comfortable, enclosed, and interesting walk. “So how do you get people to walk? You give them a reason to walk—a mix of uses.”
As walkability consultant for Oklahoma City, Speck’s firm advanced the city’s downtown transformation through the successful Project 180 initiative, retrofitting many of the city’s wide arterials to improve walkability and add bikes lanes and on-street parking.

Urban Triage

The next concept Speck introduced, a Duany-coined term known as urban triage, acknowledges that most American cities are dominated by auto-oriented land uses, likestrip malls, and big box stores.  
Because these uses will be around for the foreseeable future, Speck advocates for a thorough analysis of street quality in targeted areas like downtowns, focusing resources on what will ultimately have the most amount of impact.
“We need to get people to walk by choice and to create walkable places,” he said. “And to reference a Duany quote, the first place to do that is in our downtowns, because downtown is the one neighborhood that belongs to everyone.”

One-Way Versus Two-Way Streets

Speck also discussed the impacts of one-way streets versus two-way streets. He described how the uninterrupted mass momentum of vehicles in one direction harms the retail environment by obscuring visibility of shops from view and distributing vitality unevenly throughout the urban landscape.
He mentioned Vancouver, Washington as a prime example of a city that experienced a remarkable transformation of downtown street life and business activity after modifying its one-way thoroughfares to two-way streets.
“ODOT’s boilerplate solution to everything seems to be speeding traffic through downtowns,” Speck said, referencing the prevalence of one-way thoroughfares in smaller towns and cities throughout Oregon. “It really should be changed.”

Road Diets

Related to the one-way vs. two-way distinction is the concept of road diets,an approach that reduces the amount of lanes on thoroughfares in an effort to increase safety and encourage active transportation.
Most of these adjustments retrofit streets from four lanes to three, allowing space for bike lanes, wider sidewalks, landscaping, and on-street parking. Studies show that these modifications don’t significantly alter overall capacity and are a cheap solution that improves the overall safety of the street.
The video from Streetfilms explains the concept further, and includes some impressive examples from around the country.



“Four lane roads are extremely dangerous. T-bones come from cars turning left into lanes that you don’t see,” Speck said. “If you have a three lane road, there is simply no more danger of being t-boned.”

What We Know About Parking

Transitioning the discussion to stationary vehicles, Speck detailed the latest on parking through the lens of Donald Shoup, a Yale urban planning professor who has written extensively about the intersection of parking and land use.
 “Parking is a public good that must be measured properly if downtown succeeds,” Speck said. “It is important to price parking so that one space is empty at all times, mirroring individual choices to maximize utility.”
Speck explained that underpriced parking leads to crowding, which can then lead to a loss in customers and quality of life issues.
Of course, discussions about parking prices can generate considerable debate. So how can municipalities price parking in a politically feasible way? Speck suggests that they create a public benefit district to transfer generated revenues back into the neighborhood.

Greenwashing

Speck concluded his discussion with the topic of greenwashing, citing numerous examples of initiatives that may seem environmentally friendly, but often consist of green gadgetry or misleading spin.
Speck argued against what he calls “gizmo green,” the addition of accessories to buildings in an effort to fulfill an obligation to be environmentally friendly. While not advocating against these retrofits, he is concerned that many of these ‘sustainable’ buildings are located so far from walkable neighborhoods and transit corridors that they are completely dependent on automobiles.
“By far a human being’s greatest carbon footprint and environmental impact is from driving,” he said.

Conclusion: "Details Matter"

As a respected author, consultant, and advocate, Speck’s voice has been very influential in the smart growth and New Urbanism field. While seemingly critical of certain dogma within the profession--namely his discussions around certain "green, sustainable" improvements and street couplets--he consistently champions the creation of walkable cities designed for all modes of transportation.
Speck’s overall argument might be condensed down to the phrase “details matter.” It matters to pedestrians if the journey is interesting enough to actually walk, it matters to businesses when commuters can only see their storefronts one time of day, and it matters how we price parking spots. Most of all, it matters how communities locate, connect, and design their neighborhoods, businesses, and services, to create transportation options and a thriving local economy.

Oregon Stories | October 2011