Tuesday, December 31, 2013

ON THE AVENUES: Mr. Gahan -- plug in this clock.

ON THE AVENUES: Mr. Gahan -- plug in this clock.

A special New Year's Eve column by Roger A. Baylor.

Perception.

Reality.

They’re how I’ll remember the year 2013, and so appropriately, two New Year’s Eve tweets tell the whole story, and nothing but the story.

From City of New Albany Government: It's New Year's Eve and the City of New Albany wishes everyone a happy and safe night. It was a great year here in New Albany and the future of 2014 looks bright for our city!

From Jeff Speck: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." -- Upton Sinclair

(By the way, the city’s utterance today might be the last authored by ProMedia, which cannot be blamed for municipal government’s notoriously non-responsive social media effort. The Green Mouse is told that these communications are to be taken back in-house. Shall we speculate how this decision will impact exclamation mark futures?)

Meanwhile, aside from musical memories coming on Thursday in this space, there’ll be no year in review.

That’s because it was another in a series of mediocre, underachieving years, in which New Albany largely reaffirmed its half-century commitment to repeating the same reactive actions over and over, while hoping the outcome might be different this time.

The Bicentennial was utterly wasted with same-old-suspect buffoonery. There was no plan for economic development downtown, and there are no plans to have a plan. Selected property owners were fluffed, while others were relegated to the iron rule of the slumlord. We’ll have a wonderfully expensive parks system, and use our cars to drive back and forth between them on streets designed for high-speed, reckless driving, while ignoring success stories in other cities, where the city itself has become a recreational area simply by taking back its street grid. The Democratic Party substitutes words for action, and the Republican Party is so moribund and devoid of an intellectual pulse that it doesn’t even have its own Tea Party insurgency.

Even the tea partiers understand the meaning of wasted effort, and concentrate their attention elsewhere.

---

I’m always exhausted at year’s end. This year, as my business approached the end of what amounted to a five-year plan, it has taken much more effort than usual to plan for the next phase. Curiously, as both the city of New Albany and America’s craft beer segment have declared victory, there’s a nasty bubble waiting to pop, although willfully blinded eyes are averted.

Craft beer’s headed for an adjustment, borne of over-capacity among breweries dependent on production-level distribution. There will be casualties. In like fashion, downtown revitalization in New Albany faces the very real likelihood of a slowdown. We’ve gone as far as we can go with smoke and mirrors. Now more than ever, we need the city to put some skin into the game.

Louisville, Jeffersonville and even Clarksville have development plans and strategies to garner entrepreneurs and their dollars. In New Albany, we have enough eateries and bars, and we may well have too many. There needs to be a next phase; and yet current indie business operators are hard-placed to find the time to cooperate. Non-profits are inconsequential. There are no downtown housing initiatives. Ideas that can help right now – a street grid that supports, not defeats, the sort of indie ethos we’ve painstakingly built with our own money – are marginalized by city leaders bizarrely ignorant of urbanism and forever afraid of their own political shadows.

And the newspaper’s top stories of 2013?

Two murder trials, River Ridge, the Floyd County auditor’s incompetence, the city’s new unconnected parks department … and the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Shall I state the obvious?

The ORBP is the undisputed 800-lb gorilla casting a shadow over every single thing mentioned here. We might be doing something about it now; for instance, a commission composed (please God, just for once) of more than just the same tired old usual suspects, to brainstorm coping strategies now, and to engage the public, rather than await the results of useless studies conducted by even more tired old usual consulting suspects, and try yet again to bluff our way through at the very last moment, lest we offend a Democratic Party grandee or dispute Bob Caesar’s self-interested conviction that toll bridges connected to one-way streets will bring an unprecedented number of diamond shoppers downtown.

---

More urbanism, not less. More transparency, not less. More localism, not less. More public information and participation, not less. More thinking and doing outside the stunted, Democratic Party-smothered obstruction zone, not less.

Watch them read the preceding paragraph. See their body language. Realize how futile such efforts are doomed to be.

Quite frankly, I’d dearly love to say “fuck it” and disengage; cash out, punt, pack Uncle Jed’s jalopy and finally spend some quality time in places that are not perpetual fixer-uppers, but turnkey habitations: Like Bamberg -- not Birdseye on the Ohio.

But see, the thing is this: Reduced options have a remarkable way of narrowing one’s focus. At home or at work, we’ve bet the whole pile on this recalcitrant, woebegone, thick-headed old and dirty river town, and I was a stubborn bastard even before it became clear that it was a dubious wager I must have placed in a state of intoxication much more elevated than my normal level of degradation.

I may be tired, but I am not defeated.

I so wish there could be togetherness. There isn’t, so I will push. They will push back. Maybe, for once, we’ll get lucky. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if just once, we could hack our way through the oblivious mire, push the plug into the wall socket, and see what happens when the clock actually runs?

After all, we haven't tried it before.

The 2013 NAC Person of the Year vote ends in a tie!

For the first time ever, we have co-winners in NAC’s Person of the Year voting, which ended in a tie.



Person of the Year is an annual selection by the readers of the NA Confidential blog, spotlighting a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that "for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year" in New Albany.


Generally, I’d merely break the tie and cast a deciding ballot. However, because the results seem deeply symbolic -- reflecting our hopes as well as our screams -- it seems appropriate to declare co-winners … and here they are.

Houndmouth ... Four youthful musicians possessing consummate skill and a collectively precocious sense of irony, such that their city benefits immensely from the band's mere existence without ever really grasping why this might be the case. Long may they wave.

And …

Quality of Life ... Or our seldom-urban priorities here in the city. As we've come to grasp throughout the year 2013, "quality of life" as a pretext for spending money invariably reflects a mayor or council person's subconscious suburban mores first and foremost, because these leanings are safely white and mostly understood, whereas urban living suggests racial diversity, social chaos and rampant book reading. In addition, "quality of life" always applies far more to the area just around an elected official's home, and might be subtitled “automotive only”; far less importance is accorded those areas located even a short walk away. Because, of course, none of them ever walk or bike, do they?

Here are the other nominees for 2013:

NA’s small business entrepreneurs
Private planning and design firms
Dr. Thomas "You're My Inferior" Harris
Our errant Bicentennial
Dan "I'm with Jeff" Coffey

Previous winners:

2011: The Sherman Minton Bridge
2012: Bill Allen's dilapidated paint job

Essential reading: "The 'middle class' myth: Here’s why wages are really so low today."


According to Oil Can Eddie, "Class consciousness discourages office workers from unionizing."

I'd guess that something quite similar prevents neighborhoods and small businesses from organizing. Again and again, one points to Benjamin Franklin's famous utterance ...

"We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

... and listeners nod, while continuing their lonely determination to fight heroic and mostly losing battles, all by themselves.

That clinical definition of insanity. It's New Albany's proud motto.

The “middle class” myth: Here’s why wages are really so low today

Want to understand the failures of the "free market" and the key to getting a decent wage? Here's the real story.


By Edward McClelland (Salon)

Let me tell you the story of an “unskilled” worker in America who lived better than most of today’s college graduates. In the winter of 1965, Rob Stanley graduated from Chicago Vocational High School, on the city’s Far South Side. Pay rent, his father told him, or get out of the house. So Stanley walked over to Interlake Steel, where he was immediately hired to shovel taconite into the blast furnace on the midnight shift. It was the crummiest job in the mill, mindless grunt work, but it paid $2.32 an hour — enough for an apartment and a car. That was enough for Stanley, whose main ambition was playing football with the local sandlot all-stars, the Bonivirs.

Stanley’s wages would be the equivalent of $17.17 today — more than the “Fight For 15” movement is demanding for fast-food workers. Stanley’s job was more difficult, more dangerous and more unpleasant than working the fryer at KFC (the blast furnace could heat up to 2,000 degrees). According to the laws of the free market, though, none of that is supposed to matter. All that is supposed to matter is how many people are capable of doing your job. And anyone with two arms could shovel taconite. It required even less skill than preparing dozens of finger lickin’ good menu items, or keeping straight the orders of 10 customers waiting at the counter. Shovelers didn’t need to speak English. In the early days of the steel industry, the job was often assigned to immigrants off the boat from Poland or Bohemia.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Manzo: "Why I, as a Christian, Found Phil Robertson’s Comments to be Offensive."

The Pastor is a Christian, and so his perspective on this story is different than mine. Except that it isn't, really.

Why I, as a Christian, Found Phil Robertson’s Comments to be Offensive, by John Manzo (John's Musings About Whatever)

... People who know Phil Robertson well say he’s not a bigot and he is very honest when he says he really doesn’t judge people and that he loves everyone. Perhaps this is so. Mr. Robertson may, in fact, be a wonderful man.

His recent interview offended me as a Christian.

"Moving forward" in year-end interview, Mayor Jeff Gahan says absolutely nothing about two-way streets.


Nope. Zilch. Cerro. Not a word.

But there's this, as it pertains to the construction of a recreational complex at the old Hoosier Panel property:

“I feel really good about what that’s going to do to the property values in that area, and again it’s an improvement to the quality of life in New Albany,” Gahan said of the recreational center.

If you live on or near one of downtown New Albany's one-way arterial streets, which are not sufficiently important to be so much as mentioned in this interview, isn't about time you began using the Q(uality of Life) word and asking City Hall and various boards that dictate infrastructure:

But what about OUR quality of life and property values? 

It seems increasingly evident that they're not going to mention it to you, first. Why? Because is  question they wish not to here, much less reply to.

Read it and weep. Louisville's supposedly Possibility City. I believe this makes us Oblivious City.

STATE OF NEW ALBANY: Gahan reflects, looks ahead; Mayor reaches midway point of term, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

MOVING FORWARD

The next two years will be busy in terms of projects and improvements to New Albany, Gahan said.

There’s a planned expansion of the downtown Farmers Market, the establishment of a dog park and a project slated for this summer to rebuild some of the city’s flood gates and controls for the first time in 60 years.

Gahan also hinted that the administration plans on working with the council to update zoning codes in 2014.

An estimated $1.8 million project to improve Main Street is also scheduled for this year. Gahan said the administration is also moving forward with design plans to upgrade McDonald Lane.

He credited city employees for being dedicated to their jobs, and thanked New Albany residents for giving him a chance to serve.

“New Albany is a really great place to live when you compare it to other communities,” Gahan said. “I think what really sets us apart is we have a strong mix of friendly people.”

'Walkable' downtowns in demand in remainder of country. Here, we get a dog park to drive to.


I persist in citing interviews and articles like this one because each time they appear, as they have repeatedly throughout the United States in communities great and small, New Albany's institutional timidity and obliviousness are brought into sharper focus.

It's genuinely breathtaking that a municipality like ours believes that constantly repeating past patterns of failure will somehow result in a different result in the present time, and of course they won't, but it didn't matter back when decay management was the only game in town. What these patterns of dysfunction might do now, as opposed to the past, is negate numerous other efforts -- ranging from entrepreneurial investment to neighborhood stabilization -- by the city's chronic refusal to think outside self-defined boxes.

Note to self, and to the world, especially residents inhabiting one-way arterial corridors: This Q & A on walkability with Jeff Speck, including the two excerpts quoted below, is filed at the web site under "Real Estate."

Think about that. After all, city planners aren't.

'Walkable' downtowns in demand, by Kathleen Lynn (North Jersey Dot Com)

 ... You said working directly with mayors who want to revitalize their towns and cities was a great design education for you. What did you learn from them?

The mayors were using street life as the principal indicators of the success or failure of their communities. People, especially millennials, want to live, work and play in walkable places. Entrepreneurial talent is especially mobile. You want to first become a place where people want to be, then people with creative talent will come to your city.

To draw pedestrians, it's not enough to just make a place safe to walk, right?

It has to be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.

Some of the downtowns around here have added nicer sidewalks and streetlights. But you say that's not the answer, or at least not enough by themselves.

In 320 pages of my book, I don't think I mentioned streetlights or sidewalks once. Often the least effective approach is to spend money on the streetscape when you should be spending money on calming traffic, inviting bikes and creating incentives for the right type of development.

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/realestate/237859751_How_to_make_towns_more_walkable.html?c=y&page=3#sthash.D04aYa6W.dpuf

Spoiler alert: "Progressive Ideas for Historic New Albany."

An ad, as viewed in Southern Indiana Business Source (January, 2014). You can view the magazine without tunneling under the paywall.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

It's a Smoked Pork Crown Roast -- well, it USED to be.


As prepared by Ryan Rogers at Feast BBQ and served on Saturday night at the 1117 East Spring Street Neighborhood Association's holiday gala. The dish easily weighed 15 lbs.


The Internet boasts numerous references to pork crown roast. The photos don't do it justice; bones point to the sky, the stuffing is marinated in pig oil, and it isn't readily apparent how much meat there really is on each one until you cut the string and start carving. Ryan smoked the meat in his inimitable way, and words on a page simply cannot describe the house-filling aroma and succulence of the porcine main course. Lawdy.



Festive, eh? Beer never hurts, and there was Port wine, cheeses, cigars and bountiful conversation. Too soon, the new year comes, and it's back to the grind -- work as the curse of the drinking class. Until then, good company provided a wonderful evening's escape.



In New Albany, "One way streets are an infectious disease being treated as if it were a chronic condition."


Kudos to the Bookseller for this excellent essay. With 2014 just around the corner, here's the takeaway:

Mayor Jeff Gahan and the New Albany City Council believe one-way streets are not that serious a disease and the we can “live with” a broken and discredited model of street grid.

It's fine reading as we await the official press release of the Opening Plenary Session of the 2014 Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Floyd County, which of course will be absent a substantive position but replete with flowery ssertions of future abundance.

Whatever. Now, go read Randy's piece.


One-Way Streets Are a Disease

by NewAlbanyBooks
Think of New Albany as you would a human body. As much as we might like for it to be restored to its prime of life, there are physical aspects of the city we cannot control or change. A city does age.
But like a man or a woman in maturity, New Albany might just want to forestall the aging.
Humans die. Cities, properly managed, do not.
One way streets are an infectious disease being treated as if it were a chronic condition.
One-Way Streets Are Not a Chronic Condition

Farewell to Red Lobster?

Gads, without Red Lobster and Olive Garden ... where would denizens of the exurb go for authentic seafood and Italian like momma used to make?

I'm telling you, it's a case for the ACLU.

Yawn.

Farewell Red Lobster: Owner to Sell or Spin Off Red Lobster, by Charisma Madarang (Foodbeast)

So long crab linguini soaking in alfredo sauce and lobster tails glistening in butter. Darden announced Thursday that it will either sell or spin off Red Lobster, in hopes of bolstering its stock value.

The company, which also runs Olive Garden and other restaurants, stated that it will also suspend the opening of new Olive Garden locations and slow down new locations for LongHorn Steakhouses.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jackson's Seafood has closed.


This prompted a rant of mine on Twitter:

Someone needs to say this aloud: Downtown New Albany needs to get its shit together, now. Businesses, non-profits, government ... now. 

Downtown is not finished. It is barely started, and exceedingly fragile. I see what's happening in Jeffersonville and across the river, and look around at the "players" here ... and it's fairly discouraging. No cooperation, no plan, and no signs of it changing. Mark my words: Without unity, this great experiment will be making no further progress, and in fact, might well regress.

I've warned you. I've been warning you. Sorry I had to get all apocalyptic on you. Is it beer thirty yet?

In which the Floyd County Health Department ignores the Attorney General of the state of Indiana.

I think they're bluffing. What about you?

Previously:

Banner headline Tuesday: In the matter of PourGate, total and unequivocal defeat for the Floyd County Health Department.


Complete text: “Floyd County/ New Albany ordinance issue in violation of IC 7.1-3-9-2, 7.1-3-9-6″


Earlier this week (sorry, all I have are .jpgs:




Friday, December 27, 2013

The Great Roundabout Turnabout of 2013 and pedestrian friendliness.


I didn't see the newspaper's coverage of the Great Roundabout Turnabout of 2013 until after yesterday's column was written and published.

ON THE AVENUES: Roundabouts make the politicians really ring.

 ... These activists asserted their right to some degree of neighborhood autonomy, and because their councilman almost surely understood that it was time for a favor to be returned, the point was made, and the mayor visited their homes to concede it. It may be the single most important lesson of the year, and a template I hope is being grasped in Midtown neighborhoods, where the very existence of one-way arterial streets affects quality of life, property values and fundamental prospects for renewal as feet are dragged, Main Street is fluffed, and City Hall’s eyes are averted.

In the newspaperman Suddeath's piece, city hall floats the notion that the Mt. Tabor roundabout was pulled because it abruptly became evident that it would not be "pedestrian friendly." Speaking personally, I believe this to be a red herring the approximate stature of the Elsby Building ... BUT if the Gahan administration wishes to stick to the walkability argument, I'm fully in favor of accepting it.

After all, we've spent many years arguing that the current layout of the downtown street grid should be changed for PRECISELY THE SAME REASON, and vindication ... well, it's a nice thing, indeed.

Roundabout scrapped from New Albany road project; Mt. Tabor, Klerner Lane Intersection likely to remain a four-way stop, by Daniel Suddeath

Improvements to Mt. Tabor Road won’t include a roundabout at the Klerner Lane intersection. The city has pulled the roundabout from its proposed construction design, as many residents opposed the idea during a September public hearing including the four property owners whose land would be affected by the traffic circle.

“We determined the impact was going to be severe on those properties,” New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan said this week ...

 ... “We’re going to continue to listen to people and move the project forward,” Gahan said ...

 ... District 6 Councilman Scott Blair credited the Gahan administration for listening to the residents in the neighborhood, as the majority opposed the roundabout.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Blair said, as he added removing the roundabout from the plan will alleviate some of the concerns of residents in the area. “I’m satisfied with the process and the way things have transpired.”

Designing for the future by creating conditions for desired behavior to be generated.

It isn't rocket science, though we seem intent on making it so.

Unlike previous years, I feel no great need to review the one about to pass. As always, we've devoted much time and energy to critiquing the city in which we live, generally from a perspective that is far simpler than local grandees believe.

There's a world outside New Albany, and in some other places new ideas can be seen to have led to positive improvements. Thinking is good. Ideas matter ... and so on. 

This article is a bit geeky, but as the one-paragraph takeaway shows, much intriguing information is offered. Give it fifteen minutes.

Toward Resilient Architectures 5: Agile Design, by Michael Mehaffy and Nikos A. Salingaros (Metropolis)

 ... A central principle, as with Agile Methodology in software design, is that the operating system should be re-written, not to specify the behavior desired, but rather, create the conditions in which that behavior is most likely to be generated. This “generative design approach” — employing complex adaptive transformations, engaging economic processes, and exploiting Agile self-organizing capacities — is emerging as the key to resilient design for the future.

"Sirens" by Pearl Jam.


Consider this a tease. My utterly irrelevant, AARP-vintage "year in music" may be coming soon, or not at all. Pearl Jam's new album is in my top ten. A whole generation of performers, ranging from Miley Cyrus to Kanye West, is a complete mystery to me, and I still process music on the basis of songs capable of being whistled while you refrain from work. I also prefer real human voices and rock music, both of which are waning.

But Houndmouth is great ... and the band's pretty damn good, too.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

ON THE AVENUES: Roundabouts make the politicians really ring.

ON THE AVENUES: Roundabouts make the politicians really ring.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Earlier in 2013, New Albany’s planners announced a long-gestating “improvement” project for Mt. Tabor Road.

Residents in the vicinity promptly objected to the plans, noting presciently that proposed measures to reduce traffic congestion would have the real-world effect of putting more cars on the road at faster speeds, compromising safety and reducing their neighborhood’s quality of life.

In short, they’d spotted the likelihood of induced demand, and decided to press the case against it.

The neighborhood activists found an eager ally in 6th district councilman Scott Blair, who lives nearby. He assisted them in the orchestration of a city council appearance, in which elected officials were petitioned for a reconsideration of the improvement project. Specifically, a roundabout proposed for the intersection of Mt. Tabor Road and Klerner Lane came under intense criticism, and not merely owing to the selective logic of the NIMBY. Rather, these were very good points.

If the four-way stop at this intersection functioned so well amid existing traffic that there had been few, if any, accidents reported there in years, why construct a roundabout that would require a larger topographical footprint than the current working arrangement?

And, by extension, wouldn’t the “need” for a roundabout serve as tacit acknowledgement from planners that far from regulating traffic in the neighborhood, the coming “improvements” actually would be increasing it?

There came a magical moment when the words were spoken aloud (paraphrasing): Won’t these changes bring more traffic from people using Mt. Tabor to pass through to somewhere else?

Yep. In a nutshell.

Veteran council watchers agree: Nothing tilts the legislative balance quite like large numbers of citizens crowding the inadequate council chambers. Public forums are one thing, and demonstrating at a regularly scheduled meeting something else entirely. It brings out the fears in their eyes, and the tears in mine.

There is little doubt that CM Blair was being quite savvy, indeed, in the sense of leveraging a positive resolution to his district’s roundabout issue by transforming it into one of those political chits, to be redeemed in the form of a favor returned for previous support … say, for an aquatics center.

Well, this is the way the game is played, isn’t it, and these thoughts came back to me this week when I received a tweet from one of the Mt. Tabor activists.

“Ding dong the roundabout is DEAD! Now hopefully one way streets follow.”

Roger couldn’t agree more, but I was curious: How did he know, seeing as I’d not yet heard the news through normal channels?

“The four of us on the corner received a personal visit from the mayor Sunday evening. Nothing in the paper that I know.”

Roundabouts are not intrinsically evil, but the Mt. Tabor Road residents looked past the surface dollar sheen and got to the heart of the matter: Roadway engineers would be altering conditions to suit the maxim of moving traffic through their neighborhood as “efficiently” as possible, and by doing so, would be reducing their quality of life in an almost mathematical, commensurate ratio.

These activists asserted their right to some degree of neighborhood autonomy, and because their councilman almost surely understood that it was time for a favor to be returned, the point was made, and the mayor visited their homes to concede it. It may be the single most important lesson of the year, and a template I hope is being grasped in Midtown neighborhoods, where the very existence of one-way arterial streets affects quality of life, property values and fundamental prospects for renewal as feet are dragged, Main Street is fluffed, and City Hall’s eyes are averted.

Mt. Tabor residents, I salute you. You clarified some very important points.

Midtown residents, just this: See what we’re trying to say?

Quality of life might be a valid concept, and it might also be a cliché. Quite possibly, it is both. But one recurring feature of life in New Albany is that rational definitions always pale in comparison with organizational skill and raw bile.

And selective hardball on the part of a councilman doesn’t hurt, either. It can be distasteful … but like invasive surgery, sometimes it is necessary. Shall we count favors?

---

Throughout the year, the newspaper’s Amanda Beam has been writing a weekly “Bicentennial column,” which I often enjoyed prior to the Alabama Pop-Up Paywall’s construction.

(Mr. Hanson, tear down this wall)

In her final installment, at least until we commence the People’s Bicentennial celebration in 2017 (the 200th anniversary of the city’s actual incorporation), Amanda looks to the future – and remember, when it comes to future versus past, 1 for 52 is a far better batting average than Bob Caesar can muster.

New Albany residents, business owners and community leaders were asked to answer the question, “where do you see New Albany 100 years from now?” Below are their responses.

Respondents include Ed Clere, Jessica Knable, David Barksdale, Alice Miles and Dan Coffey … and your faithful blog columnist. I was hesitant to offer a reply until I’d conferred with the Green Mouse, who has seen it all.

“In 2113, the tiny number of white-skinned speakers of English left in New Albany will gather together during Cinco de Mayo at the usual spot by the Fork in the Road sculpture, decant their bottles of NABC Quadcentennial Ale, and say: ‘You know, 100 years ago there were one-way streets here. That’s amazing. It’s a wonder they ever figured it out; but after all, even a stopped clock is right twice a century.’”

Amid a chat about streets and classism, the Floyd County Democratic Party displays some classicism.

Classicism ... in verbiage, vacuity and veering (from the topic).

But this is to be expected from a one-party municipal patronage system that can't compel its membership to vote for its own presidential candidate.

On December 20, the Floyd County Democratic Party posted on Facebook. Kindly note the time stamps.

---

Floyd County Democratic Party (December 20)
It's Soap Box Friday at FCDP. What issues are on your mind? Go ahead, put it out there and let's discuss.

Roger A. Baylor (December 20)
Why is it that what's right for Main Street isn't right for Elm?

Floyd County Democratic Party (December 20)
Great discussion point Roger! We don't think anyone stated such a position. What is true is that the Main Street project has been developing for several years, reflecting multiple studies by both private and public entities. Additionally, the project was made possible by a relinquishment of right of way to the city, which also brought state dollars critical to financing the project. While we would defer to city leaders to better address plans for other streets, including the idea of one way to two way conversion, public support and planning must also develop. We hope you will continue your advocacy for your ideas in a positive fashion that adds to this dialogue and benefits all concerned.

Roger A. Baylor (December 20)
But won't displaced traffic from Main skew study results on other streets? Is there a master plan?

Floyd County Democratic Party (December 20)
Again, we'd defer to city leaders to discuss specific plans or aspects thereof, but it's important to remember that progress never occurs in a vacuum. As such, the constantly changing nature of Southern Indiana (New Albany specifically) and the development of projects (public and private) all can have an impact on studies and plans developed today. That said, it doesn't mean that we can't make informed decisions based on our knowledge of existing projects like Main Street. In fact, because we know about them, we can including information on those projects as part of any study or the development of individual plans or designs. Although most people often overlook them, it should also be said that the city publishes a number of planning documents, ranging from the Comprehensive Plan covering all of New Albany, to more localized plans involving road improvements or specific areas. These plans play a critical role in the development of our city and are used by officials to help guide actions. That's why it is important to have a sustained dialogue on the development of our community to ensure new views and ideas are incorporated as planning documents are updated while outdated or ineffective concepts are discarded. These plans are on file at the city and county for public review.

Roger A. Baylor (December 22)
All right. I've been thinking about this, so why don't we broaden the conversation? When I spoke to the mayor a few weeks back, he said that in his view, the community has no opinion about the possibility of two way street conversions -- this in spite of the 30+ businesses agreeing on its merits, or the 300 signatures once gathered by the Bookseller, or the DNA poll showing 72% in favor with 300 votes cast.

Rather, he said no one has an opinion. To me, and as I noted to him, this means he's free to do as he pleases, and do the right thing -- after all there's no opposition according to his own reckoning.

And yet, both he and others in City Hall are being tremendously, inordinately cautious. Now, let's see; if the public doesn't care either way, where's the sort of opposition that would make one hesitate? Is it the Republican Party -- which barely registers a pulse in the city?

Who could it be, if not the mayor's own Democratic Party elders? After all, in a city government controlled by the Democratic Party, if the public doesn't care and the party does, it's a done, sealed, and gone deal, isn't it? And yet, nothing happens.

You know that I'm a reliable fellow traveler given the Democratic Party's national platform. I'm not sure at the moment whether any of it ever seeps into this community. How big was Mitt Romney's majority in the city, where Democrats ostensibly outnumber Republicans by a wide percentage?

So, tell me: If the Party's for it and the public has no opinion, where could the caution-inducing pressure possibly be coming from?

The Libertarians?

Jeff Gillenwater (December 22) 
The Main Street Project is another great example of classism in New Albany, introduced, signed off on, and implemented by a Democratic majority.

Roger A. Baylor (December 23)
Somewhere, a dog barks.

Roger A. Baylor (December 25)
See what I mean?

Same-sex marriage, Indiana and the legal deluge.

In which the Hoosier state's conservative cadres are on their heels, wagons circling.

Indiana Finds It’s Not So Easy to Buck Gay Marriage Trend, by Monica Davey (NYT)

... So suddenly Indiana, where lawmakers in the coming weeks are expected to call for the second vote needed to put a ban before voters in the fall elections, is now in a far more tense, unpredictable and closely watched spot than anyone here had imagined — a test case in whether a state will impose new limits on same-sex marriage in this fast-moving political and legal environment.

It's a fine seasonal gift, isn't it?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, THE LEGAL DELUGE, by Jeffrey Toobin (New Yorker)

... Then, on Monday, two days before Christmas, a federal court in Ohio issued a lower-profile decision that may have been the most important of all. James Obergefell and John Arthur, who lived together in Cincinnati, married in Maryland at a time when Arthur was gravely ill. In anticipation of Arthur’s death, the couple petitioned the state of Ohio for Arthur to be listed as “married” on his Ohio death certificate, and to record Obergefell as the “surviving spouse.” Ohio, which does not allow same-sex marriages, refused, but federal judge Timothy S. Black ruled against the state and in favor of the couple. The judge said it was “not a complicated case.” Throughout Ohio’s history, Ohio has treated marriages solemnized out of state as valid in Ohio. “How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriage as ones it will not recognize?” Black asked in his opinion. “The short answer is Ohio cannot.”

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Al Jazeera asks: "Is Christmas becoming a secular holiday?"

The video strikes me as fair and balanced.

Is Christmas becoming a secular holiday?, at Al Jazeera America

A growing number of Americans don't identify with a religion. Some see Christmas as a cultural, not religious, holiday.

Somehow, this year it was possible to avoid most of the mercantile excess and focus more on the pagan, solstice angles that make the holiday meaningful for an atheist like me.

Having said this, I hope all readers enjoy the day as they will, for whatever reason. Cheers.

On meanings of Boxing Day, which is tomorrow (December 26, 2013).

At the Rover, 2011

First and foremost, Boxing Day is a longstanding Louisville tradition for the day following Christmas Day, and the Irish Rover always does it right. In the old country, Boxing Day these days might signify shopping and sports.

Millions of Brits to start shopping online on Christmas Day

EPL Week 18 Predictions: Picking Boxing Day's Most Thrilling Matches

Here's an impartial explanation for Boxing Day. Maybe next year, we'll get around to a Boxing Day brewhouse brunch at BSB. Until then, there's the Rover, and I hope we're able to make it this year.

What is Boxing Day? Why is it Called Boxing Day, by Elaine Lemm (britishfood.about.com)

What is Boxing Day?

How many times am I asked - What is Boxing Day? Or, Why is it called Boxing Day?

Here in Britain and Ireland we are greedy, it’s not enough for us to have Christmas Day celebrations we have added on another day called Boxing Day. Boxing Day is a national holiday and another day to spend with family and friends and eating up the leftovers but its origins are steeped in history and tradition.

As a coda of sorts, consider these photos from Boxing Day at the Irish Rover, 2008, as previously posted at Potable Curmudgeon.

Excellent breakfast, including black pudding ... and Guinness.

There was music and a festive ambience on the day after Christmas.

Jon illustrates a story as the pints look on.

Tim, Jeff and Graham.

Jeff and the introductory smoked salmon.

Only one of those pints belongs to Graham.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas," by the late, great Christopher Hitchens.

How I miss him. Introductory excerpts only are reprinted below, so be sure to follow the link to read the whole, glorious piece, first noted at NAC in 2008. I reread it every year on Christmas Eve, although this time there is added gravity.

I've finished reading Ray Mouton's novel, In God's House. In 1984, he was the lawyer chosen by the state of Louisiana's Catholic Church hierarchy to defend the first priest ever to be charged in a secular court with child molestation. Looking back on the perspective of the present day, we obviously know what became of all this, and that Ray's appointment with destiny was the first tiny peek inside a truly massive scandal. I wasn't expecting to be moved, but I have been. Carrying these thoughts into my annual date with Hitchens, the atheist's cynicism is vastly enhanced.

'Tis the Season To Be Incredulous: The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas, by Christopher Hitchens (Slate; Dec. 15, 2008)

… My own wish is more ambitious: to write an anti-Christmas column that becomes fiercer every year while remaining, in essence, the same. The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.

As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere. You go to a more private place, such as a doctor's office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard. So, unless you are fortunate, are the same cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer. It becomes more than usually odious to switch on the radio and the television, because certain officially determined "themes" have been programmed into the system. Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader's birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring. Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events ...

What would the holidaze be without "beer and the pissoir"?

Our last visit to Bavaria was during Christmas, 2009, and in the purest of anthropological senses, it was a revelation to witness the holiday observed with a manner of dignity and traditional restraint, at least by prevailing and manic American consumer standards. A few of these memories surface in this week's Potable Curmudgeon essay at LouisvilleBeer.com, where I'm trying to return to writing about beer on a weekly basis.

In 2009, the genuine wintry weather in Bamberg provided ample opportunity to drink beer and eat pork indoors, in proximity to grandly tiled stoves fairly pumping heat, with an inevitable chilly contrast when it came time to use the restrooms. While not about Christmas in any specific sense, these observations now invariably strike me as seasonal. 

---

Of beer and the pissoir.

Any farm boy can tell you what happens in winter, when hot liquid hits frozen ground and steam rises, and so my youthful reveries tending our livestock came back to me after I made my way from the toasty upholstered interior of the beer café, through the entry door, across a corridor, through a second door, and outside to where the restrooms were located just off the snowy, arched passageway leading from the street.

They were unheated, with a predictable temperature differential. I was in and out in a flash, returning to cool smoked lager in a far warmer room.

At least there was plumbing, albeit frigid fixtures.

In 1999, while drinking draft Baltika in Moscow at a tiny bar located in the concrete bowels of a towering modern concrete housing block, my fumbling water closet query in wholly deficient Russian was met with a shrug. The bar man gestured in the direction of what proved to be a slippery collection of muddy shrubs around the darkened corner.

It may have been Archie Bunker who observed, “You don’t buy beer, you rent it,” and your humble columnist has gleaned a fair amount of experience in such matters in his career as professional beer drinker, especially when imbibing in Europe. Many aspects of the continent’s beer and brewing cultures have changed since 1985, but none more so than a steady escalation in cleanliness and comfort of the facilities at a typical watering hole.

Good, bad or indifferent, my personal theory is that such improvements owe more to the course of the women’s liberation movement than the interest of most males in facets of basic hygiene. In all likelihood, publicans continued pointing to the bushes out back until modernity brought changes in migratory patterns, in the form of female patronage. Only then were modern plumbing solutions contemplated.

Beer and Bamberg (Germany) are gloriously intertwined, which is why I became a regular visitor so long ago. During the 2009 Christmas trip, it suddenly dawned on me that the pleasant modern urinals in the men’s room of Brauerei Spezial (founded in 1536) weren’t there until the late 1990’s. Before that, men urinated into tiled trenches running along the floor. These trenches presumably emptied into the sewer system, although sometimes it’s best to take nothing for granted.

While I hardly can attest to how it was done during the Middle Ages, or even as recently as the 1970’s, my impression is that the process of waste disposal always has differed little from my experience in Moscow, or this one in Albania, circa 1994: A lovely, contemporary wood-lined room with a spotless, modern stainless steel urinal … connected to PVC pipe, which led outside to termination just shy of the town’s riverbank.

Unscientifically speaking, you can look at the many centuries-old brewery taps and public houses in places like Bamberg and see that restrooms weren’t included in the original architectural designs. They were added later, away from the seating areas, often tacked onto the interior courtyards that are a familiar feature of these older buildings.

Modernity has deprived us of the European waste disposal mechanism I miss the least: The fearsome female restroom attendant. Sometimes she was ensconced behind sliding glass windows, but more often she remained seated at a rickety wooden table in front of the battery of stained tiles, guarding her ceramic plate, which was intended for loudly smacking coins into, indicating you’d paid the required tariff and qualified for a square of toilet paper (if really necessary).

In theory, the women were there to keep the area clean, and surprisingly, they often did just that, sometimes while you were otherwise engaged in your business. It made for initial embarrassment, but after all, they were skilled and highly professionals, only doing their jobs.

Male toilet attendants were permitted, but invariably they were less reliable than the elderly ladies, especially as the geography passed eastward from capitalism to communism. When I was teaching English in Slovakia, I was a frequent customer of a venerable drinking establishment where the restrooms were in the basement (not uncommon).

My preferred brand of beer also was the nightly preferred beverage of the subterranean lavatory commandant. Whenever his plate contained the requisite number of coins, he would climb the stairs for another pint of pay package, and by closing time, he could be found unconscious at his post, snoring in the sour, fetid air.

Now THAT’S motion-activated, folks.

Cincy will have its street car, after all. Well, maybe.

On December 16, we took a peek.

Politicians, streetcars and money in Cincinnati.

A streetcar system is coming back to Cincinnati, except maybe it isn't, even though construction has started. There was an election, the political hand was rejigged, and now it's all muddy. Very, very muddy.

Maybe it's a bit less muddy now.

Cincinnati Will Complete Its Streetcar, by Angie Schmitt (DCStreetblog)

 ... The area’s regional transit agency, SORTA, has agreed to assume responsibility for operating the four-mile starter loop. It will be the first time Cincinnati has had rail transit in more than 60 years. The project was hard-fought right until the bitter end. The Federal Transit Administration has indicated it would pull $45 million in funding for the project at midnight tonight unless the city agreed to resume construction.

Monday, December 23, 2013

New Albany Person of the Year balloting begins now and ends on the 29th.


Previous winners:

2011: The Sherman Minton Bridge
2012: Bill Allen's dilapidated paint job

Here's the template for our objective

Person of the Year is an annual selection by the readers of the NA Confidential blog, spotlighting a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that "for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year" in New Albany.

Here is the final list of nominees.

Houndmouth the band ... Four youthful musicians possessing consummate skill and a collectively precocious sense of irony, such that their city benefits immensely from the band's mere existence without ever really grasping why this might be the case.

NA’s small business entrepreneurs ... Much of the record of this city's revitalization has been written by self-propelled entrepreneurs, ranging from business owners through developers and facilitators like Steve Resch, while 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  benefits and abatements) to larger companies in industrial parks, or just uninformed, disorganized and obsessed with political irrelevancies.

Private planning and design firms ... We pay them, and pay more for them, than anyone else, even though they completely ignore the interests of the citizenry. In theory, this makes them really important to somebody. Did we mention the city's forthcoming Dubai-standard aquatics center and the Main Street Home Value Improvement Project?

Dr. Thomas "You're My Inferior" Harris … The health department's chieftain fought the law, and the law won. In a rout. Apparently Harris views himself as heir to television's House, although the Indiana Attorney General now views Dr. Tom merely as dead wrong in every single facet of the PourGate matter. As such, Harris becomes a vapid, arrogant metaphor for the bumbling ineptitude of county government.

Our errant Bicentennial … Really? We waited 200 years for 12 months of costume balls?

Dan "I'm with Jeff" Coffey … It cannot be denied that during two years on the job, municipal government's daily operations bear Mayor Gahan's unmistakable stamp: Inward, guarded and hermetic. For Coffey, Gahan's ascension has been the chance of a political lifetime. By positioning himself as the mayor's voicebox and chief council proponent, the once and future copperhead has startlingly reinvented himself in plain sight. Will Gahan return the favor as Coffey challenges that funereal home dude for a commissioner's seat? It could be interesting to view the handshakes.

Suburban, not urban, “quality of life” ... As we've come to grasp throughout the year 2013, "quality of life" as a pretext for spending money invariably reflects a council person's subconscious suburban mores first and foremost, because these are safely white and mostly understood, whereas urban living suggests racial diversity, social chaos and rampant book reading. In addition, "quality of life" always applies far more to the area just around an elected official's home, and far less to those located even a short walk away. Because, of course, none of them ever walk, do they?

Vote here, or at Facebook, or pretty much any way you damned well please so long as it is legible. One vote per reader, please. The voting deadline is midnight, December 29.

Why would Heine Brothers consider New Albany? Why, the disincentives, of course.


Hmm.

I wonder if the city of New Albany's economic development director saw this one?

City loans to boost local restaurant growth, including new Germantown pizzeria, by Steve Coomes (Food and Dining)

The past six months have seen lots of talk about a new pizzeria in Germantown, but last I spoke with one of the potential owners, she asked me to keep it on the down-low until things became more official.

Well, that day has come with the notice of two METCO loans being made to TenFiftyEight, LLC, (1045 Goss Ave.) to be applied to the future opening the aforementioned pizzeria.

According to a news release from Mayor Greg Fischer’s office, the two loans, totaling $60,000, will help “owners Laura Clemmons and Robert Neely to renovate the exterior and interior of this former VFW Post in order to open a new pizza parlor. Repairs will be made to the storefront, siding, painting and signage, as well as accessibility improvements to the restrooms.”

But wait, there’s more METCO news you’ll like. Two more loans totaling $46,660 were made to THCSJB, LLC to help “owners, Tommy and Sally Clemons, to renovate this space and expand the existing Highlands Tap Room that is next door.

Yes, yes. That's Louisville and this is Southern Indiana, and never the twain shall meet -- especially after Kerry Stemler's tolling regime takes root. And yet, hadn't I seen something similar only recently?

Sure did.

Big Four + Big Four = Evidence ... of a plan in Jeffersonville.

Previously we've noted the importance of the potential importance of the Big Four's pedestrian and bicycle access for Jeffersonville, which has always seemed to lack redevelopment focus. The bridge provides this focus, which places a rather considerable spotlight directly on revitalization-through-walkability issues -- and to the city's credit, the opportunity is being grabbed with both hands ...

... Note two things Jeffersonville does that New Albany does not: Forgivable loans, and 10K facade grants

Which, in turn, makes this one even more interesting.

Heine Brothers eyeing new coffee shop locale, by Caitlin Bowling (Business First)

Heine Brothers’ Coffee Inc. might open its 15th Louisville area location next year.

Louisville has “a very competitive coffee shop market,” but that hasn’t deterred Heine Brothers from expanding, said co-founder Mike Mays.

Mays said the company is considering adding another store during the latter part of next year ­— its 20th anniversary year ­— but hasn’t chosen a location or even area of town yet for the possible new store. There is a chance, however, it could pop up across the river.

“We like Southern Indiana,” Mays said. “We like the south end of Louisville.”

Perhaps Mike might consider a Heine Brothers location in New Albany's industrial park. After all, there we actually have economic incentives in place for businesses like his.

Ranger's new album is "The Bard."


Ranger was one of two opening acts at the April 26 Houndmouth show at Iroquois Amphitheater, and later performed at the Bicentennial Park concert series. I enjoyed the band's music on both occasions.

At Insider Louisville, Michael Tierney examines Ranger's record release, "The Bard."

Back in July, Ranger’s Adam Faris, Michael Homan, Yuto Kanii and Alfonso Ramos were jamming out in an abandoned candy factory on Floyd Street in Louisville, in order to let loose and nail down some new songs.

Now, after a trip to Kevin Ratterman’s La La Land, the New Albany band has a new album entitled The Bard ...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Attention: Destinations Booksellers "Open Sunday, Ordering Monday for Delivery Christmas Eve."


That's right now, people.

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We’re Open Sunday, Ordering Monday for Delivery Christmas Eve

In case you were wondering, we ARE open Sunday from 10 to 5. It's a great time for a no-rush, no-hassle shopping experience.

We're building our last pre-Christmas order right now for 1-day delivery. I'll place that last order on Monday morning and by Tuesday afternoon, your currently out-of-stock book will be in your hands.

Some of you will be getting new tablets this year. This week would be a great time to switch your e-book reading to your local bookseller. Simply download the app for your phone or tablet from kobo.com/indieapp and choose Destinations Booksellers as your preferred vendor. Prices and selection are the same as or better than any other e-book outlet and the app works with any smartphone or non-disabled tablet.

Come by today, Monday, and Tuesday for last-minute stocking stuffers, Christmas CDs, and those books you've been meaning to read. Call or text us at 812.944.5116, e-mail us at destinationsbooksellers@gmail.com, We'll add your selection to Monday's order and call you on Tuesday when the big brown truck pulls up with a load of Christmas gift-giving joy.

We traditionally close on Christmas Eve at about 4 p.m. Call if you need us to stay until 5. Ann and I hope you all have a safe and peaceful Christmas Day and a fruitful new year. This is our tenth Christmas in New Albany. We're very grateful for your support of the only independent full-service bookstore in our area and look forward to serving you for the next 10 years.

Chevolution.



The documentary tells the story of what might be the world's most famous photograph. A former fashion photographer named Alberto Korda was taking pictures at a public memorial in Havana when Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara suddenly appeared. Korda had barely enough time to squeeze off two exposures, one of which much later became the basis for militancy, art and metaphor all over the word.

Korda received little for it, and the notion of Che's image transmuting into a mainstay of global capitalism transcends mere irony. It prompted roughly two hours of chat in my household alone. Can a photograph of a Communist revolutionary icon be brandished by non-communist money grubbers without all participants straining ideological credulity? To me, the original photograph taken by Korda remains a one-off, wonderful fluke. It's an accident with a life of its own, and the documentary is worth your time.

As "Utah’s same-sex marriage ban falls," we hope for a Hoosier sequel.

It really couldn't happen to a better state, home to one of the classic ales in the craft beer pantheon, Polygamy Porter.

Wait; it could.

It needs to happen to Indiana. At NPR, we learn that Utah's governor has "condemned the ruling as judicial activism that overrides the will of the people."

Just like back in olden times, when the "will" of the South's inhabitants favored slavery, and this certain war had to be fought ...


Utah’s same-sex marriage ban falls, Lyle Denniston (SCOTUSblog)

Directly applying the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act to a state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a federal judge in Salt Lake City ruled Friday that Utah’s voter-approved state constitutional amendment violates the federal Constitution.

“The Constitution protects the choice of one’s partner for all citizens, regardless of their sexual identity,” U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled in a fifty-three-page opinion. He was the second federal judge to nullify a ban imposed by a state’s voters at the ballot box; the first such ruling nullified California’s “Proposition 8″ — a ruling that the Supreme Court left intact in June but without a direct ruling on it.

If Judge Shelby’s ruling withstands an appeal, it would make Utah the eighteenth state where same-sex marriages are allowed, and the seventh in which equal marriage rights were established by a court ruling.

Yes, a couple different ways at least.

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3 from Cy Kuckenbaker on Vimeo.





The attachment of the modern American to his automobile, and the symbolic role played by his car, with its aggressive and lubric design, its useless power, its otiose gadgetry, its consumption of fuel, which is advertised as having almost supernatural power … this is where the study of American mythology should begin.

Meditation on the automobile, what it is used for, what it stands for — the automobile as weapon, as self-advertisement, as brothel, as a means of suicide, etc. — might lead us at once right into the heart of all contemporary American problems: race, war, the crisis of marriage, the flight from reality into myth and fanaticism, the growing brutality and irrationality of American mores. 
- - from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, written sometime between 1956 and 1967 by Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

DNA poll: Monthly trolley hop & shop schedule?

There's another poll at Develop New Albany's web site, this time about the monthly trolley hop & shop schedule. I voted for Friday nights. Recognizing that the trolley idea is intended to swing business toward downtown retail, it seems to me a better bet to tie late shop closings to the evening of the week guaranteed to have eaters and drinkers already out and about.

MONTHLY TROLLEY HOP & SHOP SCHEDULE

Downtown and Uptown Hop & Shop events take place once a month in Historic New Albany. Participants hop on the trolley and visit shopping stops on the route.
On what day and time would you be most likely to participate on a Hop & Shop Event?

N and T: "State: Floyd County Health Department shouldn’t require permit."


Dr. Tom Harris has long since retreated from public comment on the topic of PourGate, but on August 1, we imagined his probable response: ON THE AVENUES: "Kneel and Kiss My Ring, You Degraded Alcoholic."

Baylor, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with syringes. Who's gonna do it? You? Lee Cotner? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the ATC, and you curse the health care supermen. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know -- that my random personal opinions about food safety, while unsupported by Indiana law or precedent, saves lives; and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

Maybe so, big guy.

Now, about the way the Attorney General looks at it differently ...

State: Floyd County Health Department shouldn’t require permit, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)

NEW ALBANY — The Floyd County Health Department incorrectly charged businesses for temporary food permits to sell beer at festivals and events, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has concluded.

In June, the New Albanian Brewing Co. protested citations it was issued by the health department for not obtaining a temporary food permit before selling beer during concerts at New Albany Bicentennial Park.

Other vendors were also issued citations during the city’s summer concert series at Bicentennial Park, and four citations were handed out during a Develop New Albany event in June.

Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris maintained the department had required the permits for some time, and that such inspections are necessary to ensure food and alcohol is safe for consumption.

However, NABC challenged the health department’s stance, as it claimed the business had served beer at dozens of events in New Albany over the years without having to obtain the temporary food permit.

NABC co-owner Roger Baylor said there are existing state regulations that cover beer and alcohol sales, and that the company had already obtained its small brewer’s permit, three-way riverfront permit and a supplemental catering permit.

Essentially NABC’s case was that the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission’s authority preempts local ordinances, and the attorney general’s office agreed after being asked for an advisory opinion by the ATC.

Charting the "false narrative" of the Floyd County Commissioners.

I ran into Joseph "PJ" Moore a while back and he mentioned that he'd submitted a letter to the newspaper, but much time had elapsed, so I volunteered to run it here. I'm just a nice guy that way -- plus, as usual, PJ's right on target, and he should write more often.

Please note that the Nov. 6 editorial response mentioned here, while examined at NAC, wasn't able to be properly linked because the guys up in the paywall watchtower heard a twig snap and started shining those damnable spotlights. If readers have a link, I'll insert it here. The response was vintage Seabrookian caterwauling, and good for mucho laughs over strong ale. Take it away, PJ.

---

MOORE: There’s blame to go around for fiscal mess

I found the editorial response the Floyd County Commissioners published Nov. 6 to be interesting.

I agree that they do not deserve all of the blame for the county’s fiscal dilemma. I also agree that “it is disingenuous and misleading ... to create a false narrative,” so I am curious at their own use of such tactics, even if it was unintentional.

For example, they blame “the fiscal impact of a nationally known murder case and the shortcomings of a new officeholder” as “major contributing factors” to our situation. However, they neglected to mention that they had already set aside significant funds for the third Camm trial, but that much of that money was diverted for other projects, leaving us now scrambling to pay the bill for that trial. So, blaming the David Camm case is misleading.

And I can only describe as disingenuous their comments about former county Auditor Darin Coddington. The commissioners were aware of Coddington’s performance as early as Feb. 14, 2012, yet they chose to ignore the warning signs and approve almost every spending request put before them.

I personally witnessed at least three of the auditor’s fiscal misadventures during 2012 alone — his literal rubber-stamping of prosecutor Keith Henderson’s use of almost $28,000 for his personal legal fees; his botching of the entire county’s 2012 spring allotment from the state Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF); and his faulty advice to the commissioners to donate the county’s entire Humana insurance premium refund of almost $700,000 to county employees instead of returning it to the proper account (which they were inclined to do until several residents raised public objections).

Only in the Henderson matter did a commissioner, Chuck Freiberger, question the auditor’s incorrect advice and seek the return of the misspent funds. In June 2011, Henderson got the commissioners to approve the use of county funds ($10,000) to keep him on the Camm case while diverting almost three times that amount ($27,539) to pay his personal attorney to defend him against an ethics complaint.
Incredibly, even after discovering that they had been deceived, Freiberger’s fellow commissioners chose instead to provide political cover for their fellow Republican Henderson and have refused Freiberger’s several motions seeking an explanation from Henderson, let alone the return of our money. 

Apparently, they value the local GOP’s reputation more than their duty to the rest of us.

Coddington’s incompetence was even defended on other occasions for the same reasons of partisan loyalty. When the Georgetown Township Trustee was forced to seek the commissioners’ help in rectifying the auditor’s mistakes (that left his township with no funds), Commissioner Mark Seabrook — normally much more careful with tax dollars — verbally attacked the trustee at a public meeting Aug. 7, 2012, labeling a legitimate request for help as “political” and telling the trustee that his (and our) only recourse was to vote against Coddington in 2014. 

Has the oath of office been amended to read “party before citizens?”

The commissioners are involved in the budget process and approve many expenditures before they are considered by the county council. In fact, it was Seabrook who asked the council to allocate Henderson’s funds for legal fees. Both bodies bear responsibility and, hopefully, the council has learned to exercise the proper degree of independence from, and scrutiny of, the board of commissioners.

It’s not just the commissioners. There is plenty of blame to go around:

• The law does not require any qualifications or experience to be a county auditor, and Coddington is a poster child for why we need that changed.

• Blind partisanship played a large role. Our Republican commissioners clearly put the interests of their party above those of the taxpayers and our Republican-dominated county chose as our auditor an unqualified truck driver because the qualified candidate was a member of the ‘wrong’ party.

• Our public boards rely far too much on the advice of their consultants and they rarely, if ever, scrutinize the advice or figures of these “experts,” even when there’s reason for doubt.

• Until now, our commissioners and council have spent like drunken sailors, believing that a penny saved is a penny wasted ... or maybe a vote wasted?

• Worst of all, most county residents are relatively apathetic so we get the government we deserve. When was the last time you attended a public meeting that wasn’t about your own backyard? Good government only happens when the politicians know we’re watching them. 

This is a wake-up call, people. What will you do to help change things?

Friday, December 20, 2013

City council approves more ordinances to refrain from enforcing, declares victory, and returns home to carve the Christmas spam.


Last night's final city council meeting of 2013 is amply covered by Grace Schneider in the C-J. Surely she's cursing the misfortune of drawing the short straw.

Of Vicki "Erika" Denhart's favored council seat holders, Kevin Zurschmiede and Diane Benedetti were absent. It's an unscientific assertion, but I'll reiterate: Has there been such a recurring level of council absenteeism in the past decade?

I think not. Because gin was sounding far better than spin, I wasn't there, either. Then again, I wasn't elected to serve, which implies clocking in on a regular basis.

Shirley Baird was present, and offered an ordinance to suppress aggressive panhandling. It was passed on its first two readings, as was the port authority enabling legislation. The latter seems justified, at least until we see the strikingly poor caliber of usual suspects appointed to its governing board, and are duly repelled. As for panhandling, it brings to mind an array of stirring council memories, including porch furniture bans, prohibitions on novelty lighters and heroic objections to non-binding resolutions.

Really?

I'm not sure why non-binding resolutions get all the attention. Non-binding ordinances are far more common in this town.

Al Goldstein and New Albany DVD (Cleopatra's) both are dead. Somewhere, a dog barks.

2005 photo

But Larry Flynt lives.

Zach Everson had it pegged on Twitter yesterday.

Al Goldstein Dies at 77; Made Porn Dirtier // Best-ever @nytimes obit contains paper's best-ever correction http://nyti.ms/1fp9c7y

The correction:

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 19, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a movie Mr. Goldstein starred in. It is “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy Are Screwed,” not “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy Get Screwed.”

The obit: Al Goldstein Dies at 77; Made Pornography Dirtier, by Andy Newman

Meanwhile, Cleopatra's (formerly known as New Albany DVD is going out of business. In itself, this means quite little, but back in 2004/205 when the Main Street sex shop opened for business, the entertainment value was extreme, even by this blog's typically jaundiced standards.

Click here for "New Albany DVD" search results at NA Confidential

It turns out that the presence of New Albany DVD/Cleopatra's did far less to compromise New Albany's integrity than lingering one-way arterial streets. With the money spent to fight the store's presence, we could have purchased quite a few traffic calming measures.