Thursday, August 27, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Here’s a flashback from August, 2010.

It’s been five years since this column appeared in the pre-merger New Albany Tribune, and it remains fairly topical, although both Michael Dalby and Steve Price are gone, to be replaced by Wendy Dant-Chesser and Greg Phipps, respectively.

NABC paid back the revolving Horseshoe loan on time, in five years. 

Jeff Gahan? He was elected mayor in 2011, and will leave office at the end of 2015 as the biggest-spending in New Albany’s history.

Late note to 1Si: We may need that $70,000 back, because eventually, the water park’s going to need scrubbing.


Dear reader:

Recently I confided that city council meetings no longer were atop the “must do” list posted on the Baylor household’s refrigerator door. I remarked to one of my lawyer friends that since refraining from attending these tragic-comic legislative follies, my IQ was creeping back up.

He said, “Let me know when it gets to 80.”

Imagine my amusement upon learning that even when I’m not present to monitor the council’s shenanigans, my name comes up, as it did on August 2 when Michael Dalby of One Southern Indiana (1Si ) made his annual journey from the outer reaches of the Latino-manicured, McMansioned exurb to the council’s bilious, spittle-flecked rostrum, beige fedora in hand, to beg money from the perpetually cash-strapped body.

To Steve Price’s credit, he probably started voting “no” when he saw Dalby parking his car.

With the connivance of 6th district councilman Jeff Gahan, whose electoral acreage lies slightly closer to 1Si’s primary clients in River Ridge, Dalby came before the council with a sheaf of satellite photos showing formerly green Floyd County spaces that have recently been bulldozed and filled with concrete, all the better to claim credit and remuneration for 1Si as facilitator of economic development.

According to witnesses, and for reasons known only to the land developers who name their subdivisions for whatever physical feature they obliterated to build them, Dalby inserted my own Bank Street Brewhouse into a discussion with councilman Dan Coffey, evidently to refute the latter’s allegation that while 1Si may perform occasional good deeds, it secretively doles out largess without first asking for Coffey’s neo-papal stamp of approval.

Dalby responded by mentioning that even such a persistent blog critic of 1SI as Roger himself had come aboard the regional development machine to derive benefit from the affiliation. The presumption, whether stated or not, is that it’s never personal, just business, when it comes to turning a buck.

As usual, the truth is more nuanced than that.

It is a matter of public record that in 2009, Bank Street Brewhouse was approved for a piece of the Horseshoe Foundation’s revolving loan to business, which is only administered by 1Si. Breaking with longstanding precedent, and although not required to do so, we decided to join 1Si and see, for once, whether standing inside the tent might be useful.

Having done so, I can say that the area outside the tent is more to my liking, especially when nature calls.

Membership in 1Si has been a mixed bag, and I doubt we’ll remain when the next bill comes due. There have been a few good networking opportunities, and I’ve made the acquaintance of younger 1Si operatives who genuinely seem to “get it,” but 1Si’s overall position reflects an internal star chamber’s non-democratic advocacy of flawed positions reflecting old political power structure privileges and profits, rather than innovative solutions to regional problems.

For instance, there is the Godzilla-esque boondoggle of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which 1Si supports with a zeal bordering on the religious, and which will require tolls on existing bridges that plainly will discriminate against working Hoosiers while fatally impeding the flow of commerce into Indiana from Kentucky, all for the sake of a “fix” that will be outmoded long before completion.

Green, future-oriented, regional transportation alternatives, anyone? Don’t ask 1Si to espouse them. In a world of solar panels, 1Si is mining coal with pick and shovel.

Surprisingly, Coffey’s point was merited, if characteristically muddled. Yes, Bob Caesar’s vote surely was a conflict of interest, and legitimate questions of whether a governmental body should hand cash to any “economic development” entity without bidding the work were ignored.

Still, the question for Coffey (and you) to ask the five council members who voted in favor of $70,000 doled out to 1Si is this: Tolling to pay for the bridges disaster will disproportionately hurt Southern Indiana, so unless we’re all sadomasochists, why would we pay entities like 1Si to hurt our interests – to damage us?

Can’t we hurt ourselves without paying for outside help? Haven’t we, for years?

Conversely, if the council reverses field and decides to use its $75,000 economic development grant as it originally said it would, rather than as it voted to on August 2, I’d like to submit a bid, billable to my consulting company, Potable Curmudgeon, Inc.

I’ve already asked Pete at Digital Resource Center in downtown New Albany to help with the estimate.

We’ll be publishing a couple hundred glossy ringed binders filled with testimonials, pie graphs, statistics, and artfully retouched 1Si press releases. Sleekly professional, though not ostentatious, their design will befit the buttoned-down aspirations of self-respecting Southern Indiana CEOs, each of whom can be counted upon to strategically place the unopened binder on one corner of their desks, where its multi-colored ubiquity will attest to the veracity of the contents.

The beauty of Potable Curmudgeon Inc.’s plan, which we’re calling “Res ipsa loquitur, Southern Indiana,” is that its existence is definitive proof of its value. The binders will serve as unimpeachable evidence of economic development success. Why? Because the binder says so.

Can we prove any of it? Of course … you DO have a binder in your hands, right? What more proof do you need?

If the city council acts today, Potable Curmudgeon Inc. will extend a remarkable 50% reduction to just $35,000 for regional economic development, renewable each and every year, and with binders available in a wide range of different colors to satisfy the interior décor of local corporate headquarters.

Except green.

For some reason, it’s just not a popular color around here.


Recent columns:

August 20: ON THE AVENUES: In the groove.

August 13: ON THE AVENUES: It’s time to purge two-party politics and tie the community together.

August 10: ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL EDITION: When it comes to the RCI, can the RDA opt out of the RFRA?

August 6: ON THE AVENUES: Money is the ultimate bully.

July 30: ON THE AVENUES: Homegrown New Albany, but not in a good way.

July 23: ON THE AVENUES: A citizen's eloquent complaint about the parking debacle at River Run reminds us that planners and brooms go hand in hand.

No comments: