Sunday, March 23, 2014

DNA can come out of the farmers market dust-up smelling like the proverbial rose. All it needs to do is follow this script.

What have we learned these past two weeks?

  • The farmers market is popular, and people support it.
  • There is far more interest in keeping the farmers market away from the parking garage than rejecting outright other conceivable locations.
  • The simplistic "black vs. white" straw man quickly built to rout John Gonder’s plausible garage idea, while unfair and regrettable, has clearly won the day, for now and perhaps forever.
  • In the aftermath, as people have been exposed one-on-one to the many different aspects of the discussion that were purposefully not mentioned before last week’s council meeting, they’ve been both surprised to learn there actually were other angles, and receptive to factual arguments.
  • Opinions tend to be mistaken for facts.

In short, welcome to reality. We learned what we already knew, and now it remains to salvage sensibility from the insensible.

The supreme irony is this: For all its lampoon-worthy missteps, Develop New Albany emerges from the skirmish ideally placed to do the right thing. With City Hall inexplicably doubling down on its secretive mixed signal mode, DNA may be the only (albeit loosely) organized civic group able to point the farmers market conversation in the right direction, to do so openly and publicly, and to play a leading role in restoring sanity to the scrum.

Yes, it cannot be denied that DNA’s polling and Facebook page comment deletion tactics have been a complete disgrace, and the organization has acquitted itself very poorly even if some members are embarrassed by the shoddiness of it all. These failures must be addressed. And, yes, many years of non-housetrained bad procedural habits must be confronted and vetted by DNA's board.

I didn't say it would be easy, but lately I'm riveted by counter-factual history.

To be sure, I’ve taken a sinfully great delight in pointing out these inadequacies to those many people locally who never, ever read what I have to say. However, it does not preclude me from offering DNA this real-world, rational solution, because if it chooses to do so, and I hope it will, Develop New Albany could take control of the situation tomorrow morning, occupy what passes for a high ground in this town, bring well-meaning folks back to the thoughtful middle, and encourage what should have been happening (transparent consensus) all along, before this whole farmers market expansion imbroglio was doltishly stoked into extremism.

That is, if Shirley Baird will see fit to allow it. She went out and brought back Doug England's years-delayed lunch money, and as God is her witness, she's intent on spending it. But lunch isn't the same thing as a yacht, and DNA’s statement should read something like this.


Develop New Albany always strives to fulfill its mission as a Main Street organization. It's why we're here, and why we volunteer.

Develop New Albany was founded in 1990 by community-minded individuals and local business leaders. The leadership of Develop New Albany focuses the organization on the economic revitalization, historic preservation, and promotion of our Historic Downtown.

In recent weeks, what should have been a guided civic conversation about New Albany's farmers market has somehow gotten off the rails, and Develop New Albany is eager to restart the process of achieving consensus.

We understand that while the composition of our recent on-line poll was flawed (our social media presence requires a major tune-up, too), the sheer volume of votes received amply testifies to the community’s keen interest in the continued success of the farmers market, and by any reading, this is fitting and proper.

Furthermore, Develop New Albany fully understands that the economic revitalization of our Historic Downtown is dependent on multiple factors, not only one, as reflected by the differing but complementary components of our own Main Street program goals. It is crucial that all these factors are given a hearing.

For example, the very fact that the city of New Albany has committed to spend $75,000 on a street study conducted by none other than the nationally renowned Jeff “Walkable City” Speck indicates that infrastructure factors previously unaddressed (street calming, traffic direction and walkability, among others) must be counted among those factors directly impacting economic development in a modern, versatile and thinking urban area. In fact, it is highly likely that many of Speck’s recommendations for New Albany will mirror similar ideas in Develop New Albany’s own experience as a Main Street organization, given that the national Main Street program has been advancing complete streets for a decade or more.

The results of Speck’s study, both great and small, are sure to serve as the blueprint for many overdue changes, some of the implications of which cannot be envisioned at this precise time. Accordingly, the recent constructive dialogue about the farmers market’s location and long-term future is just the beginning of a consultative, inter-active process ideally taking place alongside the study and other examples of thinking outside previously limiting boxes as we move toward a city configured to meet the challenges of coming decades within a Louisville metro area itself surely to be reconfigured owing to the ongoing Ohio River Bridges Project.

During the coming months, Develop New Albany proposes to take the lead in exhaustively and transparently studying future options for the farmers market, thus cataloguing the facts that must be known in order to make informed choices, and providing elected officials, civic leaders, other non-profit organizations and farmers market shoppers with information and the proper tools to act in the best interests of this valuable amenity. In this vein, the results of Jeff Speck’s study can only help us see more clearly into all the myriad possibilities awaiting New Albany.

The farmers market has been successful as it is, where it is, and as such, there is no reason why it cannot do so again this season as we come together collectively to think about how it might be made even better in the future. By autumn of 2014, we’ll all have a far better grasp of the coming landscape in downtown, and we can begin planning with all the facts, not just a few, at our disposal.

We’re very excited about this process, and are eager to begin. Let us know what you think, and help us become part of the solution.


You're welcome. You may use it without attribution ... but we'll be watching to gauge the effectiveness of implementation.

1 comment:

Antiques Attic said...

While Dna proceeds in the endeavors concerning the Farmer's Market and hopefully the City Council Committee does the same, I sent a note to the Council and the Mayor through the email addresses provided on the city website to share some food for thought from my perspective and hope others in the community do the same. If they will not or can not come to us to ask we can at least make our voices heard. Do not just sit back and see what happens.