Wednesday, December 31, 2014
ON THE AVENUES: To the third floor -- but first, we throw the rascals out.
A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
Usually I publish ON THE AVENUES on Thursday, but let's squeeze one more column through the slot before 2015 break. After all, we're trying to accomplish something here.
It’s always important to remember that until something actually happens, nothing at all has happened.
This axiom might well be New Albany’s depressing city motto through the ages, reflecting as it does an insecure municipality forever fond of talking a good game, but almost never following through.
However, to be perfectly fair, it applies to me just as accurately.
And so, in the coming weeks, I’ll complete the required paperwork, get the necessary signatures on the mandated petition, and file as an independent candidate to run for mayor of New Albany in 2015.
It won’t be official until it is official, but it will happen.
My rationale isn't overly complicated. I’m running for mayor because a city in transition like New Albany, where the unfulfilled possibilities can make you ache and scream in unison, desperately needs progressive ideas like those espoused by people just like me, from all walks of life, who routinely have been marginalized or ignored by the same old game, played the same old way, by the same old, tired political suspects.
Even better, I think there are enough voters of like mind in New Albany to win this race.
New Albany needs coherent, progressive ideas expressed as a sustainable master plan, with goals and objectives, and as openly embraced, owned and implemented by City Hall, not used merely as diversionary propaganda for the unwitting consumption of social media and superannuated rote-vote Dixiecrats.
A mayor needs to believe in his plan, to advocate for his plan, and to engage the public as equal participants in their governance, rather than promoting the incumbent's currently voguish practice of hiding from the public, skulking in formerly smoke-filled rooms, and doing his business in the shadowy corridors of appointed commissions and boards.
I’m utterly convinced that if someone like me does not step forward at this time to promote different ways of progressive civic thinking in a higher-profile manner, the dull Philistines of the locality will triumph, and our two underperforming local political parties, which share power to the satisfaction of both, will remain unwilling and incapable of anything approximating progressive thinking.
This is particular true of the rapidly disintegrating former Democratic patronage machine, which might have arrested its slide into irrelevance had it ever once been willing to sniff the faintest perimeters of the contemporary planet.
Chairman Dickey prefers Walt Disney, but I believe Mikhail Gorbachev’s prescient remark in 1989 to Erich Honecker, ruler of East Germany, is more appropriate:
“Life punishes those who delay.”
Our local Democratic Party has delayed, and now its shaky “New Albany Wall” might topple into vapid rubble at the slightest nudge.
If so, I’m volunteering for privilege of pushing.
And what about a platform?
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’m just like most people in New Albany. I have a job or two, a family, bills to pay and interests to pursue.
Unlike David White, I haven’t had time to cut and paste One Southern Indiana’s obsequious boilerplate bromides into a seemingly comprehensive “job creation” campaign platform, but I’m constantly working to integrate my own ideas in my own words.
Campaigning is an on-the-job learning experience, so this electoral crusade will evolve over time. In the interim, if you’d like a taste of what I’m about, simply scroll through 8,278 previous posts on this blog, dating back to October of 2004, and you’ll see that the progressive platform (the Bookseller’s “New Albanism”) has been building for a while. I’ve been right, and I’ve been wrong, but it’s all there. My name's on it, and I own it.
He who controls the past controls the future, and I’ve been writing the story of the past. Now it’s time to fast forward, sooner rather than later. Here are three broad beginning salvos, which apply cogently to residents in all of New Albany’s neighborhoods.
Progress is a two-way street.
The city’s most pervasive and expansive possession is its physical infrastructure -- its streets, sidewalks and parks -- and these aspects of the city’s physical infrastructure must be honed, modified and deployed together, as a self-reinforcing unit, to promote the city’s well-being and possibilities of is citizenry on an everyday basis, day in, day out, and not just when there’s a special event or festival.
New Albany for the New Albanians.
In the craft beer business, there is a saying: Think globally, drink locally. If you’ve purchased a home or invested in an independent small business, and consequently if you are living and working in the city, then progress needs to be about localism and economic localization. It needs to be about you, in the neighborhood where you live. After all, you’re there every day. If calmed traffic and two-way streets make it more time-consuming for a resident of Clarksville to reach the I-64 interstate ramp, so be it. The very first consideration should be about us, not the pass-through extractors.
New Albany is a city, not a town in the countryside. It was built according to progressive urban principles, and it is best operated according to progressive urban principles, aspects of which include considerations of place and placemaking, safe streets and transportation for all users (not only their cars), urban design, historic preservation, asset-based community development, arts and cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism and destination development and quality of life advocacy.
All these and so much more. The primacy of ideas needn’t be an endangered species, and there is no reason that an independent candidate cannot articulate them.
Naturally, there are numerous opinions as to the right and wrong ways to conduct a mayoral campaign.
I propose to do it in the only way I know how, according to the muse I follow: I’ll be me, and put the parts together as I go, precisely as most readers would if they were in these shoes.
I will not suddenly become an apostle of yard signs, a wearer of three-piece suits, a habitual interloper on your front porch, a glad-hander seeking vast sums of money, or a business person insisting that the city must be run just like his or her business (sorry, but government is more than just another business).
Rather, I’ll do what I’ve been doing for a very long time, which is challenge norms, stir the pot, rattle the cage and discuss different ways to achieve the city’s ultimate betterment.
I’ll seek to define the current occupant’s bizarrely muddled buzz phrases (quality of life, public safety, better access), primarily because he seems too confused to do so himself, and I’ll suggest pro-active civic policies designed to maximize New Albany for all residents, not merely targeted pockets of cynical political patronage.
In doing so, I shall refuse to be something I’m not, because pretending to be something I’m not would contradict my reasons for seeking office in the first place. There’s enough craven dishonesty in City Hall as it stands.
In the end, who and what I am, and the ideas I’m offering, will suffice – or they won’t. I’ll espouse what I’m for, attack what I’m against, and try as hard as I can to spread the word and engage voters.
In closing, the brief three-point progressive topic list offered here is hardly an exhaustive one, although you’ll no doubt notice that mayoral candidates in New Albany seldom, if ever, mention progressive topics like these.
There are two reasons for the omission.
First, they generally possess no awareness of progressive topics, having not cracked open a book since last required to do so by Mr. Dusch.
Second, if belatedly (remarkably) made aware of these progressive topics, they generally dismiss local interest in them – or, to echo David Duggins, arguably the most under-qualified economic development director in recent New Albany history, they simply bully listeners into silence by insisting that no one out there really wants to hear about such crazy things.
But I think they’re completely mistaken.
I think you’re out there, and have been all along.
I think you do want to hear about progressive topics.
I think you’re tired of holding your nose and voting for “C” and “D” students functioning as big fish in little ponds, or (understandably) not voting at all, and I think you’re eager to learn more urban-centric topics; to live in a city that does more than sneer at modernity; and to grasp that we can work smart in New Albany, too.
In the coming months, I’ll be asking for your help, and for your vote in November … because progress is a two-way street, and one-way politics aren’t.
Thanks for your support.