Thursday, September 24, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: Almost two years later, Mr. Gahan has yet to plug in this clock, and so it's time for him to clock out.

Tonight there'll be a softball toss masquerading as a debate, in a Taj Mahal that shouldn't exist, as organized with bored partiality by local Democrats, for whom job security comes before any substantive commitment to substance or ideals of impartiality, and really -- should any of this come as a surprise?

It's what happens in a top-down, one-party state.

At least all three mayoral candidates will be in attendance tonight, although if Kevin Zurschmiede had not opted to purchase a round-trip ticket from his son's destination wedding, Jeff Gahan would have achieved his ideal of not having to face both opponents at once. Whether undertaken from conniving or cowardice, Gahan's "debate" planning should be offensive to every voter in this city.

This column was written on New Year's Eve, 2013. That's almost two years ago, and obviously, much has happened since then. The outside vendor still has the communications contract, but Gahan's minions write the script, so it isn't ProMedia's fault that during 2015, social media and municipal outreach have been devoted almost exclusively to Gahan re-election bromides -- at taxpayer expense, of course.

Downtown decision-making continues to be made according to prevailing Eastridge Drive Neighborhood Association standards of suburban-think, as opposed to urban logic. Bob Caesar gave up the wrong vocational ghost, retiring from jewelry sales, which he was good at doing, and retaining his political seat (not so much). The backroom antics continue, with no-bid contracts and the ritualistic Hooters visits by the economic dishevelment department.

We await the first pangs of John Rosenbarger's shame at not only signing off on millions to plant flowers in front of his Main Street home, but watching as the preferred non-union pavers have gotten his pet project wrong so very often that they're now being confused with the management of the Oakland Raiders. I'm not holding my breath on this one.

Sadly, overall -- 21 months later -- I stand by this paragraph:

More urbanism, not less. More transparency, not less. More localism, not less. More public information and participation, not less. More thinking and doing outside the stunted, Democratic Party-smothered obstruction zone, not less.

I hope to see some of you later today at Silver Street Park. The session begins at 6:00 p.m.


ON THE AVENUES: Mr. Gahan -- plug in this clock.

A special New Year's Eve column by Roger A. Baylor.



They’re how I’ll remember the year 2013, and so appropriately, two New Year’s Eve tweets tell the whole story, and nothing but the story.

From City of New Albany Government: It's New Year's Eve and the City of New Albany wishes everyone a happy and safe night. It was a great year here in New Albany and the future of 2014 looks bright for our city!

From Jeff Speck: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." -- Upton Sinclair

(By the way, the city’s utterance today might be the last authored by ProMedia, which cannot be blamed for municipal government’s notoriously non-responsive social media effort. The Green Mouse is told that these communications are to be taken back in-house. Shall we speculate how this decision will impact exclamation mark futures?)

Meanwhile, aside from musical memories coming on Thursday in this space, there’ll be no year in review.

That’s because it was another in a series of mediocre, underachieving years, in which New Albany largely reaffirmed its half-century commitment to repeating the same reactive actions over and over, while hoping the outcome might be different this time.

The Bicentennial was utterly wasted with same-old-suspect buffoonery. There was no plan for economic development downtown, and there are no plans to have a plan. Selected property owners were fluffed, while others were relegated to the iron rule of the slumlord. We’ll have a wonderfully expensive parks system, and use our cars to drive back and forth between them on streets designed for high-speed, reckless driving, while ignoring success stories in other cities, where the city itself has become a recreational area simply by taking back its street grid. The Democratic Party substitutes words for action, and the Republican Party is so moribund and devoid of an intellectual pulse that it doesn’t even have its own Tea Party insurgency.

Even the tea partiers understand the meaning of wasted effort, and concentrate their attention elsewhere.


I’m always exhausted at year’s end. This year, as my business approached the end of what amounted to a five-year plan, it has taken much more effort than usual to plan for the next phase. Curiously, as both the city of New Albany and America’s craft beer segment have declared victory, there’s a nasty bubble waiting to pop, although willfully blinded eyes are averted.

Craft beer’s headed for an adjustment, borne of over-capacity among breweries dependent on production-level distribution. There will be casualties. In like fashion, downtown revitalization in New Albany faces the very real likelihood of a slowdown. We’ve gone as far as we can go with smoke and mirrors. Now more than ever, we need the city to put some skin into the game.

Louisville, Jeffersonville and even Clarksville have development plans and strategies to garner entrepreneurs and their dollars. In New Albany, we have enough eateries and bars, and we may well have too many. There needs to be a next phase; and yet current indie business operators are hard-placed to find the time to cooperate. Non-profits are inconsequential. There are no downtown housing initiatives. Ideas that can help right now – a street grid that supports, not defeats, the sort of indie ethos we’ve painstakingly built with our own money – are marginalized by city leaders bizarrely ignorant of urbanism and forever afraid of their own political shadows.

And the newspaper’s top stories of 2013?

Two murder trials, River Ridge, the Floyd County auditor’s incompetence, the city’s new unconnected parks department … and the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Shall I state the obvious?

The ORBP is the undisputed 800-lb gorilla casting a shadow over every single thing mentioned here. We might be doing something about it now; for instance, a commission composed (please God, just for once) of more than just the same tired old usual suspects, to brainstorm coping strategies now, and to engage the public, rather than await the results of useless studies conducted by even more tired old usual consulting suspects, and try yet again to bluff our way through at the very last moment, lest we offend a Democratic Party grandee or dispute Bob Caesar’s self-interested conviction that toll bridges connected to one-way streets will bring an unprecedented number of diamond shoppers downtown.


More urbanism, not less. More transparency, not less. More localism, not less. More public information and participation, not less. More thinking and doing outside the stunted, Democratic Party-smothered obstruction zone, not less.

Watch them read the preceding paragraph. See their body language. Realize how futile such efforts are doomed to be.

Quite frankly, I’d dearly love to say “fuck it” and disengage; cash out, punt, pack Uncle Jed’s jalopy and finally spend some quality time in places that are not perpetual fixer-uppers, but turnkey habitations: Like Bamberg -- not Birdseye on the Ohio.

But see, the thing is this: Reduced options have a remarkable way of narrowing one’s focus. At home or at work, we’ve bet the whole pile on this recalcitrant, woebegone, thick-headed old and dirty river town, and I was a stubborn bastard even before it became clear that it was a dubious wager I must have placed in a state of intoxication much more elevated than my normal level of degradation.

I may be tired, but I am not defeated.

I so wish there could be togetherness. There isn’t, so I will push. They will push back. Maybe, for once, we’ll get lucky. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if just once, we could hack our way through the oblivious mire, push the plug into the wall socket, and see what happens when the clock actually runs?

After all, we haven't tried it before.


Recent columns:

September 17: ON THE AVENUES: Dear Neighbor: If you’re tired of the same old story, turn some pages.

September 10: ON THE AVENUES: Lanesville Heritage Weekend comes around again.

September 3: ON THE AVENUES: When even Mitt Romney can run to the left of New Albany’s Democrats, it's a very big problem.

August 27: ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

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?

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