I've submitted my answers to the News and Tribune candidate questionnaire, and here they are.
OFFICE YOU ARE SEEKING
Mayor of New Albany
None, although I refuse to hold the political experience of my opponents against them.
My wife is Diana Baylor, a native of Maine, who is a social worker at Seven Counties Services in Louisville. Seeing as we have no children, most of my cousins live elsewhere, and my mother is retired, you needn’t fear nepotism from a Baylor administration.
Since 1990, I’ve been engaged in the craft brewing and restaurant business. I’m co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Company (Pizzeria & Public House) and Bank Street Brewhouse, and also have been published as a free-lance writer. My interests include reading, cooking, walking, bicycling and music.
RELATED PERTINENT EXPERIENCE
I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Brewers of Indiana Guild and am secretary of the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association. Previous positions include the boards of the New Albany Urban Enterprise Association and Develop New Albany.
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NEW ALBANY MAYOR
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR THIS OFFICE?
New Albany has come a long way in recent years, and as an independent local businessman right in the middle of this revitalization, I’ve seen the inexhaustible willingness of local entrepreneurs to work hard and invest, as well as the support and enthusiasm of New Albany’s residents, who really want to see improvement in the quality of their lives.
I’ve also seen how little of this progress is driven by our political culture, and that’s why I’m running for mayor. We need a different pair of eyes to see what’s coming next.
Currently the city of New Albany is controlled by the Democratic Party, and while I’ve been left-leaning my whole life, the Gahan administration simply doesn‘t have what it takes to prioritize and innovate for the city’s future. On the other hand, Floyd County is run by the Republican Party, and the county is starved, financially as well as intellectually. One party has a stranglehold on the city, and the other on the county.
Where’s the choice in that?
Why run as an independent? A better question would be, why not?
The usual suspects are NO LONGER AN OPTION. Two major parties may share power, but they don’t have a monopoly of ideas. In fact, the best ideas don’t even come from political parties. They come from real people, and deserve a fair hearing.
The two-party system here is broken, and it’s not going to get any better on its own. And for most of us, governance isn’t about party affiliation, anyway. It’s about managing competently, planning rationally and producing results every single day – right here in New Albany -- where we live and work and play.
WHAT MAKES YOU THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THIS OFFICE?
I’m not a politician, but 25 years as a local independent business owner has equipped me with a useful tool box. Local independent business owners strive to maintain a level playing field for consumers. We listen, accommodate, troubleshoot, manage employees and solve problems as they arise. We create tangible value from scratch, as with the American craft beer industry.
I’ve also traveled through America and Europe, paying attention to life and learning how things work. I’ve probably attended more council meetings than some elected council persons, and maintained a public affairs blog (NA Confidential) for the past 11 years.
I’m uniquely placed to break the two-party stalemate in New Albany and Floyd County, and to be a bridge to the next generation of leaders. I have no political party to serve, only the people of New Albany, and I won’t ever forget that. As your mayor, neither my name nor the names of elected officials will appear on plaques. “The City of New Albany” means all the people, not just a privileged few. My team will manage your investment in this community, and to provide an equitable return. It’s going to be about us, not me.
WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING THIS OFFICE AND HOW WOULD YOU PROPOSE HANDLING IT?
TIF bonds do not a civic mission statement make. It’s time to stop thinking about New Albany in terms of past glories and how we can borrow to restore them, and begin viewing this city in a future context. What’s our specific place in metro Louisville? What kind of municipality do we intend to be?
Long-term thinking begins with deep analysis – how are we going to pay for Jeff Gahan’s spending spree for WANTS, and return the focus to fundamental NEEDS. It won’t be easy. There is no single pressing issue, but rather a laundry list of interconnected challenges:
- Transparency, and the need for more sunlight and fewer decisions by appointed boards
- Infrastructure: Streets, sewers, storm water and communications
- Empowerment, and taking care of our own people first
- Localism in economic development
- Affordable housing and homelessness
- Rental property registration and inspection
- Economic inequality and sub-par wages
- The effect of bridge tolls
- Human rights and civil liberties
The list goes on, but in the end, quality of life isn’t measured by flower beds planted along just one street, a water park useful for only for a few months a year, or musical concerts funded by taxpayer money. A mayor isn’t supposed to be a combination of Elvis, PT Barnum and Walt Disney.
The mayor must administer and manage the city’s infrastructure every day, not every now and then, striving to improve quality of life by means of a level daily playing field for all citizens, not only the privileged few. City government’s job is to keep public services working, maintain public safety, and set the table for private enterprise to invest, provide jobs and multiply choices.
These actions must occur transparently, without prejudice, and with as much public participation as can reasonably be provided. Because few of these mandates are being pursued at present, perhaps the most pressing issue facing New Albany is restoring a sense of shared purpose to City Hall, and to do so fairly and openly.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT STEPS THE CITY CAN TAKE TO ATTRACT GOOD JOBS TO NEW ALBANY?
It would help to ask the right questions about what good jobs really mean in this day and age. We’re at a crossroads in terms of economic development. In the past, having industrial park acreage was sufficient for deploying the usual “boilerplate” economic development tools like subsidies, incentives and tax abatements, but we’re being hit with a double whammy.
First, modern economies require modern infrastructure, which we’re lagging behind in offering, as in fiber optic communications.
Second, the advent of River Ridge Commerce Center in Clark County – the state’s chosen regional winner – means that henceforth, someone else can always do “boilerplate” far better than us.
Therefore, we need to do economic development differently than before. There’ll likely be no more Pillsbury plants, but there can be a greater number of small companies to spread risks and rewards. We must shift our economic development strategies to meet these challenges, by focusing on localism, start-ups, entrepreneurs and grassroots economic initiatives.
Localism is vital. As the American Independent Business Alliance says:
“Multiple studies show locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much per dollar of revenue to our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors.”
Consequently, New Albany’s economic development strategies must be directed toward greater recognition of the key role played by independent local businesses. We need genuine infrastructure enhancement, spread throughout the city rather than concentrated in one place, including fiber optic, multi-modal two-way streets and incubation/pollination incentives.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE BEST WAY TO ADDRESS NEW ALBANY’S DOWNTOWN STREET GRID, IF AT ALL?
Two ways are better than one. Period. The evidence is in, and the verdict is returned.
I am the city’s foremost advocate for traffic calming, complete streets and the prompt and comprehensive restoration of the city’s original two-way street grid. We’ve paid Jeff Speck, the nation’s foremost engineering expert to explain exactly how and why two-way streets work. Now we must take Speck’s study off the dusty shelf and implement it.
One-way streets were a 1960-era suburban solution to urban problems that no longer exist, and nowadays they act as invasive high-speed interstate highways slicing dangerously through densely populated urban neighborhoods. As such, a preponderance of research shows that maintaining these wide-lane, high-speed, pass-through arterial streets reduce neighborhood and core business district property values.
They also make walking and biking unsafe. Speed kills, and any city genuinely concerned with public safety for people, not just their cars, recognize a responsibility to promote safety by design.
While one-way streets work against other revitalization efforts, research proves that two-way streets encourage a number of positive outcomes, ranging from increased quality of life in neighborhoods to a more level playing field for local independent business, and including the enhancement of property values and reduced crime.
Calmed two-way streets do not exclude large commercial vehicles, which must drive more slowly via narrower lanes, which in turn help redefine the terms of engagement by promoting multi-modal use. Better still, two-way streets and infrastructure designed to promote walking and biking are the New Albany equivalent of Jeffersonville’s Big Four Bridge, because our up and coming generations demand these options.
Walkability and bikeability are realities capable of being harnessed to connect neighborhoods with the central business district, and link the same neighborhoods to outlying “thinking” destinations like IU Southeast and the Purdue Center. We have transportation corridors, and they need to be capable of being used by everyone.
Two-way completed streets made suitable for all persons, not just those piloting motorized vehicles, should be the stated, above-board, publicly advanced and ultimate goal. I’ll begin working toward this goal on January 1, 2016.
HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THE CITY’S DILAPIDATED BUILDINGS AND UNSIGHTLY PROPERTIES?
The logical first step is consistent ordinance enforcement, because if we continue to demolish properties while remaining passive as to their systematic neglect, we’ll someday run out of buildings to tear down. That would be a shame, and not just because the demolition kickbacks would cease.
It’s because (a) the greenest building there can be is the one already standing, and (b) historic preservation adds inestimable value to the urban core.
For the past 12 years, Democrats have held the mayor’s chair and a huge majority of council seats, and there has been almost no progress toward ordinance enforcement or an accompanying program to incentivize infill construction in those instances (far fewer than you might think) when demolition is the only choice. At the same time, we’re throwing millions (including sewer tap-in waivers) at an Indianapolis developer to build “luxury” apartments at the Coyle site.
What if a fraction of this amount went to encourage affordable infill housing? It’s an idea worth pursuing.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ARE APPROPRIATE USES FOR TAX-INCREMENT FINANCING FUNDS?
As an economic development tool, TIF should be safe, legal and rare.
TIF is intended as government’s tithe toward basic infrastructure as a spur for private investment and development – not to take the place of private investment and development by funding 100% of top-down, government-inspired capital projects, which have become little more than bright shiny objects to propel re-election campaigns.
The Gahan administration’s funding of park expansion with TIF puts the cart before the horse. The debt thus incurred to achieve one man’s questionable vision will handicap future municipal governments, while failing to produce the economic progress we need now to raise the tax base. TIF abuse forces us to pay a higher price for “wants,” because in addition to the price of bright shiny objects, there is an opportunity cost in the form of what we might have done instead.
TIF also obscures the budgetary process. Mayor Gahan’s presumably balanced budget does not take into consideration these bonded capital “improvement” projects, which add up to somewhere around $100 million in bonded debt, payable with interest over decades.
It’s a good thing your grandchildren like the water park. They’ll still be paying for it after you’re gone, when they have children of their own.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT NEW ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICERS WEARING BODY CAMERAS?
There is a case to be made for police body-worn cameras, which can boost accountability and the delivery of justice, but we must be careful not to see these as some sort of perfect solution to the evolution of better policing.
We’re early in the game when it comes to camera programs. There are issues yet to be resolved, among them procedural. When do the cameras roll, and when do they stop? What about privacy and public records requests?
These issues eventually will be resolved, and so I generally favor police-worn cameras, though not in a policy vacuum. The fundamental role of police in the community must be clearly defined and constantly reinforced through community-oriented policing and ongoing training in areas like crisis intervention.
Plainly, the more our police know, the better they can reply to a constantly changing scene. Cameras are part of this program, though not the only component. In this area, as with the other mentioned previously, better communication always is a fundamental step.
As mayor, I’ll begin by meeting with the entire police department – something the current mayor hasn’t found time to do in four whole years.