Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forget the 2009 time stamp, because they're just now hearing about the modern world.

These periodic time capsules are worth the digging.

They have a tendency to vibrantly illustrate a basic New Albany truth: As those in positions of authority dig their claws into the upholstery as you attempt to compel them to gaze past the county line, they like to dismiss the topic of the day as something newly brought to their attention, raised only now by wild-eyed, book-reading radicals with hidden agendas. They invariably play to the peanut gallery as pitiable victims of fresh thinking and new ideas, when the thoughts expressed actually extend well into the past, even allowing for local standards of comprehensive indifference to modernity.

And so it was April, 2009, and my column in the newspaper, which means that these words were not confined to a blog that no one ever reads until it needs rebutting, in which case someone else reads it aloud to them so they they needn't concede using their own eyes. Nowadays, Steve Price is back to playing music, which he does quite capably, and Dan Coffey's running for commissioner, having assisted today's current administration in spending more discretionary "quality of someone else's life" money than the Garner and England regimes combined.

I'm not entirely sure where the bloody shirt has gone, although the odds are it isn't in the landfill.

The two words I'd most like to take back are struck through. Other than that, I'm delighted with being so prescient. Thanks for asking. Now, go and read a book. Any book.


Two-way, better way.

What is the desired outcome, and how do we get there?

If the desired outcome is boosting New Albany’s future prospects as an urban entity, a key element is improving the city’s quality of life in residential districts adjacent to downtown, and linking their inhabitants to niche-oriented commercial redevelopment in the historic business district.

A restoration of the city’s two-way traffic grid is rightfully viewed by a diverse cross-section of the community as an achievable centerpiece of future downtown redevelopment strategies, with added benefits for residential and business interests alike.

If the desired outcome is doing as little as possible to avoid offending a steadily shrinking minority of city residents who view the future as a threat to be “nickel and dimed” into leaving us alone, the chosen political alternative is lethargic decay management, a strategy preferred by those of our local council ward heelers adept at “boiling the bitter Coffey.”

Who are they, and what is that? Let’s begin with a digression.


Out there – in the wider world, beyond the Knobs, and even past the state line – there is broad agreement as to the merits of slower, calmer automotive traffic patterns.

According to the bigger picture, speeding and certain other manifestations of dangerous driving are viewed as street design issues, not law enforcement issues. To design a traffic grid that encourages speeding and reckless driving is to achieve exactly that. Aggressive law enforcement should be a given, and yet approaching the problem from a design perspective offers more lasting and substantive relief, as well as a long list of added attractions for urban areas.

By requiring greater driver attentiveness, two-way streets and related traffic calming measures lower travel speeds, and lower speeds reduce the number of accidents as well as their severity, further lessening repair costs and the number and extent of injuries. Lower speeds also are green, reducing noise and automotive emissions.

Planners of a previous generation responded to the advent of suburban sprawl and the corresponding desertion of the historic city core with one-way, arterial street refittings, manipulating the transport grid as a means of motoring people in and out as quickly as possible, and jarringly dismissing the patterns of urban life prefacing the city’s original layout.

Now, in 2009, as conditions in the real world outside New Albany constantly change, it’s plainly mistaken to persist with an antiquated one-way traffic pattern that defies all efforts to revitalize New Albany into a human-friendly, future-oriented city, creating a more civilized, less threatening streetscape for pedestrians, cyclists, residents and visitors, improving livability in the city’s neighborhoods, and helping to attract fresh New Albanians by offering them a better quality of life.

The rational future of downtown lies in its transformation into an overtly-stated, explicitly-billed antithesis of the plastic, big-box exurb, and what is more perfectly representative of the soulless exurb than its cruelly auto-centric traffic requirements?

Conversely, how better to jump-start the process than allow the city center to function as the city center was originally designed to function?


Let’s return now to New Albany’s stunted political culture.

The phrase "waving the bloody shirt" came into common usage following the American Civil War. It describes a familiar trait of political demagoguery, wherein a politician points to the bloodshed suffered by “our side,” as heinously inflicted by the enemy (“them people”). The tactic is a conscious effort to deflect criticism and avoid honest consideration of the topic.

In the lexicon of the New Albany Syndrome, the bloody shirt might be paraphrased as “boiling the bitter Coffey,” wherein a local politician attacks the source (“them people”) of ideas, innovations and hope in a conscious effort to deflect criticism, avoid honest consideration of the topic at hand, and protect “our side” from a difficult, demanding future.

Accordingly, to “boil the bitter Coffey” is to be trapped in a state of perpetual political obstructionism, inexorably bound to the nonsensical principle that “them people” – i.e., those residents who are eager, educated, capable and willing to assist in the process of change – are arrogantly and callously demanding unaffordable and effete luxuries, something that the saintly and penurious “little people” must oppose at all costs, supposedly on financial grounds, but actually on ones vaguely reminiscent of the GOP’s culture wars – except that our Coffey boilers are always Democrats.

We’re about to see a high volume of Coffey being mercilessly boiled, right down to the darkest dregs, because these standard bearers of the city’s embittered and increasingly irrelevant wannabeens seem fully prepared to go to their mattresses in an offensive against the current administration’s efforts to rebuild and re-energize New Albany.

In addition to proposals for comprehensive paving and two-way street conversions, a full range of uniformly exciting and long overdue public and private investments currently are on the table, including the second phase of Scribner Place, ongoing riverfront enhancements, rehabs for existing housing, and positive ideas for West End redevelopment, all aimed at improving the quality of life for residents and businesses within the city’s historic core, and providing a platform for future growth.

The two council districts with the most to gain from progress are the 1st and 3rd, congenitally under-represented on the city council by Dan Coffey and Steve Price, surely the city’s most predictable proponents of deflated defeatism, penny-wise, pound-foolish fiscal deconstructionism, and outright malice toward a modern world that neither seems to comprehend.

Decay and death, or progress and life?

Can we afford not choosing the latter?

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