A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
There is a monolithic message adorning the west-facing side of the former Anchor Range & Stove building, which for many years has been owned by Padgett, Inc.
The banner is two stories tall, almost as wide, and probably can be seen from Skyline Drive in the Knobs.
Zurschmiede for Mayor
“Conservative Principles Driving Progress”
Paid for by New Albanians for Common Sense Government PAC
The last time I saw an inscription this large was in Moscow, back during Communist times – something about the critical importance of the five-year plan, the threat of American imperialism, or some such – but I mention this phenomenon not as the pretext for a series of “size really doesn’t matter when it comes to happy endings” jokes.
Rather, it’s all about the nomenclature.
You see, ideas do matter, and as human beings, we concretely express our ideas with words, and words are building blocks. It’s how we move beyond mental abstraction to communication, and from primitivism to progress.
So, while Adam insists I’m “not a serious candidate” for mayor, and Jeff dismisses me as having done nothing “in a positive manner for New Albany” – concurrent with the entire Padgett industrial enterprise differing with my viewpoint on the primacy of humans versus trucks on our street grid, most often by reverting to the non-verbal, as with their middle fingers held aloft, just look at the way all of them have started using these two words.
Guess who coined that descriptor?
Until the New Albanian Brewing Company came along in 1994, did anyone in these parts ever routinely choose the words “New Albanian” to describe someone from New Albany?
It is possible they did so in a random or periodic sense, though let’s face facts: NABC’s adaptation of the term has spilled over into popular usage and acceptance, hence the identity of the slush fund sponsoring Padgett’s overwrought signage.
It’s nice to have a legacy, isn’t it? If only there were royalties at play.
Meanwhile, local Democrats and Republicans alike have been using the hashtag #CountTheWays in social media.
Gahan is busy counting the number of bright, shiny gifts he’s given us, always remembering to scrape the price tag off with his dainty finger nail before affixing the ribbon and grinning like the fatherly potentate he imagines himself to be.
Zurschmiede’s hard-working subalterns have been busy counting their own ways in rebuttal, often deploying phrases originating … from elsewhere. Since I’m feeling charitable, I’ll use the word “subconsciously” to describe their passage from source to meme.
I can live with it, even without the screenplay credits. After all, I’m a content creator. For me, the hashtag is #CountTheIronies, which embraces both the major political parties as they’ve reacted to my presence in the race.
You might think that as a European-style social democrat, my independent mayoral candidacy would have the effect of pulling our right-leaning local DemoDixieDisneycrats leftward.
Instead, the party establishment has responded by doubling down on its bizarre love affair with trickle-down Reaganomics, conveniently substituting ruinously expensive quality-of-life “wants” (water parks, beautification projects) for steroidal 1980s-era military spending in the partisan broken budget analogy.
Concurrently, the city's Republicans have gleefully adopted my platform points, pushing the GOP as an entity steadily left, toward the center. It’s surreal for the GOP to issue ritual denunciations of crony capitalism, corporate welfare and trickle-down Reaganomics, and recent promises to create a "user-friendly" city are enough to make dispassionate space aliens believe they’ve finally embraced two-way streets, too.
However, Padgett’s Soviet-scale banners and PAC money make such a conversion extremely unlikely.
All of this leaves this unrepentant Bernie Sanders fan as the only mayoral candidate eager to speak openly about specific, critical economic development needs, as opposed to quality of life wants.
Ironies aside, I'll just stay where I am, over here, comfortably left of center. If the Republicans are more eager to join me than the Democrats, then it just makes the irony even more delicious – although it should make a fair number of Democrats who ought to know better profoundly uncomfortable.
They’re probably too filled with mute nostril agony to even notice.
As it pertains to the mayoral race, the New Albanian (that’s me) is an outsider, insurgent and underdog. Apparently he’s also a wild card. Both party camps seem to be basing their electoral predictions on varying estimates of the votes I’ll extract, and from where.
But in a political system built and maintained for the benefit of two major parties, an independent surely must take votes from somewhere, almost by definition. That’s why we refer to the existence of voters who’ve been known to display autonomous tendencies, like thoughtfully considering individual candidates and their ideas outside the confines of the archaic phrase, “pulling the straight party lever.”
I believe these discerning voters can see quite clearly what I’ve brought to the table during this campaign. It’s a principled alternative, and a third way to approach local governance, one necessary because the two-party system here is tired and broken.
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.
I’m not a politician, but 25 years as a local independent business owner have 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 throughout 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 this public affairs blog day in and day out, for the past 11 years.
The New Albanian (me again) is 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. As 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. It’s going to be about us, not me.
As for the ramifications of my effort, it may or may not be true that Kevin Zurschmiede will be the ultimate beneficiary, but the ballot is set, and there's nothing I can do about the likelihood of Gahan's ego-driven vanity candidacy siphoning votes from the only genuine Democrat left in the mayoral race.
That Democrat is me, and conscience is key.
I’ve written about rumblings of threats and retaliation emanating from the mayor, his minions and Democratic Party elders. It is unfortunate when "group-think" is allowed to digress into intimidation, but apparently it has.
Know that if the local Democratic Party machine wishes to be spiteful and vindictive, it's the machine's problem, not ours. It remains a mystery how the party's chairman contorts reality so as to square his pious bromides about "respectful" candidates with Dan “Copperhead” Coffey's continued presence on the ballot as a Democrat -- but that's his problem, and a huge one.
Ultimately, it remains my position that ballots and basic choice are matters of personal conscience, and I've neither the desire, nor any solid reason, to tamper with such. If you support my independent candidacy, I'd rather you be able to express your preference openly, but at the same time, given the current atmosphere, I understand perfectly well if you cannot.
Some voters who ordinarily find themselves occupying a "side" based on factors beyond the actual issues (family, habit, compulsion at work) may choose to preserve the outward appearance of conformity, while resolving internally to opt out of politics as usual and vote differently -- independently -- in 2015.
If so, merely let conscience be your guide. That's why the ballots are secret, and no one should be looking over your shoulder, anyway.
If we’re voting as New Albanians, as opposed to Democrats and Republicans, then the choice is perfectly logical. It's doing what’s right for the whole city, and not only one or the other of our two clubs.
October 8: ON THE AVENUES: There’s an indie twist to this curmudgeon’s annual Harvest Homecoming column.
October 1: ON THE AVENUES: No more fear, Jeff.
September 24: 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.
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).