Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Floyd County Council rejects the RDA and RCI. Will the city of New Albany now rush to enlist?
For the sparse straight dope, read Chris Morris's description of yesterday's meeting, in which the Floyd County Council voted 5 - 2 to reject One Southern Indiana's entreaties and remain outside the Regional Development Authority (RDA) required to participate in the Regional Cities Initiative lottery.
The voting breakdown reflects this issue's strange non-partisan orientation. Four Republicans and a Democrat (Striegel) voted against, with Pickett (D) and Schellenberger (R) voting in favor.
Ed Clere is a big proponent of RCI, and this carried no weight yesterday.
If I understand this correctly, there is still a chance that the city of New Albany could take Floyd County's place in constituting the RDA, which must at bare minimum include two contiguous counties (so far, Clark and Scott).
However, these must have a combined population of 200,000 people. They don't. One Southern Indiana has stated that the RDA train leaves the station on August 31, although some dispute this date. It's a treasure hunt, not a Supreme Court ruling.
Meanwhile, Horseshoe-rich Harrison County is out, but Washington County's council has scheduled a reconsideration for August 20, having previously failed to support the measure in resolution.
New Albany's city council has a meeting the same day at 7:00 p.m. As a second-class city, New Albany is eligible to join the RDA on its own if the county does not. Jeffersonville might, too, but it's moot because Clark County is in.
Depending on whose numbers you use, flipping Washington County and adding New Albany would give Wendy Dant Chesser her 200K population numbers, making the RDA more formidable when the state reviews the RCI lottery applications.
Way back in December at the otherwise poorly attended merchant mixer meeting, both Jeff Gahan and Ed Clere were there to let these small business owners know about the approaching boon in state project funding.
I'm told by insiders that Gahan subsequently pulled away from active RCI support for fear that Floyd County's dominant GOP would be in the driver's seat. As of yesterday, this threat is removed, and if the city enlists, it'll be under terms of engagement dictated by the Democrats.
In short, Gahan and the same usual suspects can be self-exalting heroes, offering a chimera to assuage their bumbling mismanagement of Pillsbury's departure , and achieving what even the powerful Clere could not produce in his own home county.
Surely this is powerful elixir, and irresistible to them -- and how many council members would oppose it?
I'm thinking as few as three. Personally, I remain opposed.
There are many reasons to be suspicious of the Regional Cities Initiative, from the basis of the tax amnesty funding the state's portion, to eminent domain fears as yet unaddressed, and including reasonable doubts about a new layer of non-accountable governance, the latter something inadvertently emphasized by Jerry Finn yesterday.
Finn spoke of the Ohio River Bridges Project, and the Bridges Authority's work prefacing it, praising the body for its cooperative regional approach, when in reality it helped usher an era of an unnecessary downtown bridge and obligatory tolls to pay for it -- tolls on bridges in an auto-centric region, which hurt the working poor hardest, and which came about absent representative government's involvement, top-down, from the elites.
In fact, there is nothing in any of it -- RDA, RCI or One Southern Indiana's perennial definition of "economic development" -- that addresses matters like concentrated poverty, exclusionary housing or income equality.
Furthermore, there is nothing in the $450 million RCI package conceived by 1Si's committee of so-called experts that covers any ground whatever in New Albany, apart from something like $30 million in proposals to expand a Greenway that isn't finished yet.
There's nothing in it for Floyd County in the larger sense, at least not to represent a risk worth the county council's consideration.
It's all about regionalism, we're told -- and 60% of the money, which probably is fictitious, anyway, lands not unexpectedly at River Ridge, and if that's the way is has to be, how about express bus service to get people in Georgetown to their jobs in Utica without having to drive each day?
Yesterday a Knobs resident mentioned a preference for organic growth. He's right, and he points to an underlying truth: We must cease accepting 1Si's insistence that the economic development model it touts is the only game in town.
According to whom?
I will continue to argue that 1Si's usual formula of trickle down corporate welfare is the problem, not the solution.
Still, visions of sugar plums dance in Jeff Gahan's and Adam Dickey's eyes this morning. Taking New Albany onto an RDA would be a political coup ... but nothing more. To repeat: For New Albany, nothing in any of this addresses fundamental projects, or recognizes the basic needs of the people who need the help the most.
Just say no.