Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jeff Gahan on traffic safety, pretty flowers and engraved house numbers on sidewalks of gold.


Last Tuesday at the New Albany Housing Authority event, Jeff Gahan spoke of the importance of doing something "special" for Main Street, since people were driving 60 mph there!

On Thursday, he repeated this, almost word for word.

He then observed that I'm disgruntled because I live on Spring Street -- where he's done absolutely nothing to resolve speeding and traffic safety issues, including 60 m.p.h. traffic.

How's that make you feel, resident of Market/Spring/Elm? After all, tackling issues like safety with a mind toward genuine improvement requires street design, not landscaping.

How about something different for a change?

Southern Indiana Equality's annual meeting is Thursday night at St. Marks.

SIE's first annual meeting is Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.

I'll be there.

This will be our first Annual Meeting for Southern Indiana Equality. There will be an election/re-election of officers, Brad will have a state of the company address, we will discuss our future plans and create committees and some of the municipal candidates from Floyd and Clark Counties will also be on hand. We will have our Hands For Equality project on display, and you'll be able to add your hand that night as well. Please plan on attending as your support and participation is the driving force behind our success. The meeting will be held in the School Building at St. Marks (in the Mr. & Mrs. Room 108). The easiest way to find it, is by entering on the 3rd street side under the green awning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Leadership Southern Indiana debate recap: A calm and factual discussion about choices.

Courtesy of the Floyd County GOP page at Fb.

Shea Van Hoy live-tweeted Tuesday's Leadership Southern Indiana debate; check the feed here. If you're using your noggin before voting, please watch the video when it is released at the News and Tribune.

Thanks to LSI and everyone responsible for tonight's debate at NAHS. They worked hard and produced a class presentation from top to bottom. The debate featured great questions in a concise, fast paced format. The discussion was issue-driven and substantive.

Special thanks to Kevin Zurschmiede. He was informative and honest. I tried to be, too.

New Albany mayor's debate focuses on who wasn't there, by Jerod Clapp (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — Several issues were brought to the stage, but Tuesday’s New Albany mayoral debate was bookended by who was missing from the discussion.

Two of the three candidates running for the seat — Kevin Zurschmiede, a Republican, and Roger Baylor, an independent — participated in Leadership Southern Indiana’s debate at New Albany High School.

Baylor for Mayor's second campaign video: "Parks is Parks."



"Incumbent Democratic mayoral candidate Jeff Gahan talks a lot about parks ... now."

Previously: "A Question of Health and Safety."

Roger Baylor, Independent candidate for New Albany mayor, answers a question about public health and safety during a League of Women Voters debate. Incumbent Democratic candidate Jeff Gahan attempts to rebut.



Watch the amazing permeable concrete video.


I've underlined a sentence that cannot be repeated often enough. Meanwhile, click through and watch this video. You will be amazed.

A Parking Lot That Drinks Stormwater: Topmix Permeable concrete soaks up 4,000 liters in 60 seconds, by Sarah Goodyear (City Lab)

Permeable pavement is one of those super-wonky infrastructure items—incredibly important but not always easy to care about. Thanks to the mesmerizing video above, however, a new and improved variety of concrete developed in the U.K. called Topmix Permeable has been turning heads. The video shows a parking lot paved with Topmix absorbing 4,000 liters of water in a minute, and it’s kind of magical to watch it disappear.

This new concrete, from Lafarge Tarmac, could potentially be a very useful tool in combating urban flash flooding from sudden, heavy storms—the type that are likely to become increasingly common because of climate change.

Green Mouse asks: Who knew the city "abated" almost $1 million in lease payments for Valley View Golf Course?

The Green Mouse isn't much of a golfer, but recently he came across documents that suggest a disturbing absence of transparency on the part of city officials during last year's Valley View Golf Course reconstruction.

In a "Status of Reconstruction Project" memorandum dated May 25, 2014, written by club president John Kraft and addressed to the golf club membership, two conditions for the reconstruction project are identified (underlined passage is ours).

Your Board of Directors met on May 22, 2014. As stated during the opening day activities, this memo is written to provide an update on the reconstruction project and additional information you may find interesting.

The Board unanimously approved a loan proposal from Your Community Bank to finance the construction of 19 new greens and 18 new bunkers. This loan remains contingent on two items: 1) that the city of New Albany signing a revised Agreement, now an Operating Agreement, that essentially abates our payment obligations during the life of the loan (16 years), and 2) the commercial appraisal of our facility and assets that will be used as collateral for the loan. The city currently has a final draft of the Operating Agreement and we remain confident this will be executed soon.

The lease payments in question are $60,000 per year, totaling a $960,000 abatement over the 16-year term.

The minutes of the June 24, 2014 Board of Public Works and Safety meeting document the city's official explanation of the new operating Agreement.

Mr. Gibson presented an operating agreement between the city of New Albany and Valley View Golf Club, Inc. He explained that this deals with the quality of life projects that they have been doing over the last couple of years which include the aquatic center, the sports complex, and improvements to the parks. He stated that this goes along with those other improvements and explained that the paving of cart paths have been approved for Cherry Valley Golf Course and this is another intiative dealing with Valley View and the land out in that area. He explained that the golf course is owned by the City of New Albany and there has been a lease agreement with Valley View since that time and this will modify and replace the old long term lease with an operating agreement which basically says that the land will continue to be used as a golf course and Valley View will continue to maintain and operate it on behalf of the city.

A question from Warren Nash followed: Is the club making the improvements?

Mr. Gibson stated that they are and they are assuming all of the debt that goes along with the improvements.

The $960,000 abatement is not mentioned in the minutes. BOW unanimously approved the agreement, and on July 28, another memorandum to club membership from Kraft confirms it.

... making a true partnership in the spirit of the cooperation between the Club and the City when I-64 forced the Club to move from New Albany to Floyds Knobs.

That, and now $960,000 more.

On June 24, 2014, following the choreographed Board of Works rubber stamp, the News and Tribune reported details of the city of New Albany's new operating agreement with Valley View.

The New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety agreed to a 16-year operating agreement Tuesday that will see more than $700,000 in improvements made to the course.

The best part, from the city’s standpoint, is that Valley View will be paying for the upgrades, which will feature 19 new greens at the golf course.

City residents will also receive a 10 percent reduction in green fees when they play a round at Valley View ...

... Shane Gibson, an attorney with the city’s legal department, said the city will also receive 5 percent of gross sales

“This will be a good, positive step for land the city of New Albany owns,” Gibson said.

The mayor was ready with a press release.

“These long-overdue investments will benefit the people of New Albany now and for many years to come,” Mayor Jeff Gahan stated in a news release issued following the board of works meeting.

From start to finish, either in BOW minutes or the newspaper's coverage, is there any mention of the $960,000 abatement.

And by the way, city council knew nothing until the deal was done.

For those of you keeping score, it looks as though another cool million should be added to the bill ... and deducted from a neglected list of opportunities.

"A flexible workforce needs an expanded management bureaucracy to oversee it."

Word lovers: Welcome to the "precariat."

In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare as well as being a member of a proletariat class of industrial workers who lack their own means of production and hence sell their labour to live. Specifically, it is applied to the condition of lack of job security, in other words intermittent employment or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence. The emergence of this class has been ascribed to the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalism.

Referencing the USSR, eh?

The era of cheap labour is over, by Paul Mason (The Guardian)

 ... The assertion that job security kills innovation is etched deep into the free-market mindset. The pursuit of flexible labour markets has, for the past 30 years, made it easy for bosses to hire and fire; and harder for workers to demand both higher wages and the higher security that comes with them. The zero-hours contract has become the symbol of this culture, but there is worse. Unions trying to organise precarious workers report many businesses where there is no contract at all. Temporary work, part-time work, contracts that guarantee just four hours work a week are all common in the low-pay sector.

The result is the precariat. A broad layer numbering in some countries 25% of the workforce, whose contracts are either temporary or informal, or who arrive via employment agencies.

Now, an influential study by economists at Delft University has concluded what many of us suspected. A flexible workforce needs an expanded management bureaucracy to oversee it. Because precarity damages trust, loyalty and commitment, say the Delft researchers, it demands more management and control. An entire generation of free-market workers has begun to act according to the factory adage of the old Soviet Union: “We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us” ...

 ... In Britain, three basic things would lay the groundwork for a more controlled shift of pricing power towards the workforce and away from employers: the right to a written contract; the obligation to publish salary bands for specific job titles in private-sector firms; and limiting temporary contracts to genuinely temporary or seasonal tasks.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Campaign Diary, Chapter 7: Economic development, quality of life and New Albanian inner rings.

In New Albany geographical context, we're speaking broadly of the post-WWII inner ring suburbs between the historic city center and I-265. It applies to commercial strips like the Colonial Manor center on Charlestown Road. Previously we referenced Sanphillippo's essay here: Impure thoughts about suburbia" and New Albanian corridors.

More recently, we looked at an argument for adaptability for these areas: Securing inner ring suburbs by "moving away from the traditional suburban standards and making them adaptable."

All these ideas address two common misperceptions: That (a) the city of New Albany devotes disproportionate attention to downtown, and (b) that a downtowner like me cares only for my immediate vicinity.

In fact, sprawl (of which inner ring suburbs were the earliest example) always has cost more, dollar for dollar, than efforts to utilize denser urban centers. Moreover, looking back over the past decade, it can be seen that city spending on downtown has indeed been disproportionate -- but only in the sense that time and money has not gone to further private investment during the same time.

Furthermore, when the city has spent money downtown, it invariably has been justified on errant premises, as with the Main Street beautification project. If anything, reigning city decision-makers continue to think and spend downtown according to suburban precepts, which is senseless on multiple levels, though useful when explaining $9 million water parks.

Besides that, for 25 years I've owned a business off Grant Line Road and University Woods Drive, and for ten years I lived a block away from it.

What's true is this: We need development and maintenance strategies for the inner ring as well as downtown. These have been more slow to evolve, but suggestions are emerging in American experiences elsewhere.

DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE SPRAWL (SORT OF), by John Sanphillippo (New Geography)

I’m a longtime advocate of walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-served neighborhoods. But lately I’ve been having impure thoughts about suburbia. Let me explain.

What often passes for a neighborhood in America is a low grade assemblage of chain convenience stores, big box outlets, franchise muffler shops, multi-lane highways, and isolated cul-de-sacs. Even when it’s physically possible to walk or bike from Point A to Point B it’s not pleasant, safe, or convenient.

Or, those landscapes along our roadway corridors between downtown and I-265. Among them, State Street, Grant Line Road and Charlestown Road are the primary commercial zones.

I always assumed that these neighborhoods would all devolve into the new slums – and many certainly are doing that. Ferguson, Missouri anyone? But it doesn’t have to go that way. These forgotten suburban neighborhoods can just as easily be the new sweet spots for small enterprise and a renewed middle class.

The author proceeds to explain, and later in the article, he makes a handy point about bicycle aptitude.

The primary factor in their favor is that highway expansion and car-oriented improvements are fantastically expensive, while bike infrastructure is ridiculously cheap.

Indeed, the distances are short. With proper bicycle infrastructure, a person living near Silver Street Park could bike to IU Southeast or downtown in a very short time -- a far more "millennial" response than the mayor's luxury apartments. Because ...

What about all those tragic little post war ranch homes? Well, it turns out that they’re radically less expensive than either a condo downtown or a McMansion in the newer suburbs.

The conclusion isn't unexpected.

So far what I’m seeing is that a dead downtown contributes to even deader close in neighborhoods. A thriving downtown attracts more people to the city and creates an economic incentive for people to get creative with the reinvention of not-so-fabulous nearby areas. So if you want your struggling suburb to succeed, support your downtown.

There is one inescapable element to this conversation. Whether living in the inner ring or operating a business there, stakeholders simply must communicate and work together. New Albany's traditional tolerance of political fixing and one-party dominance has tended to mute grassroots organizing.

If there is to be a renewal of quality of life in the inner ring and prospects for business, as described in the article linked here, cooperation of this sort is absolutely necessary.

WATCH THIS VIDEO: Baylor for Mayor ... A question of health and safety.


"Roger Baylor, Independent candidate for New Albany mayor, answers a question about public health and safety during a League of Women Voters debate. Incumbent Democratic candidate Jeff Gahan attempts to rebut."

It's our first video release, riffing off a point made by Jeff Gillenwater at the debate's conclusion:

Baylor: The Gahan administration has spent and spent and yet the lives of most New Albany citizens remain unchanged. I'm perennially disappointed when local Democrats aim all our money and projects at the wants of upper and middle class suburban white people while real fundamentals like transportation and a level playing field go unaddressed. They never seem to talk about the local independent businesses who employ most people, affordable housing, income inequality, a living wage, or anything of the sort.

Gahan: I resent that suggestion. Anyone who can manage to get a ride to this multi-million dollar indoor soccer facility I financed against tax revenue for the next 20 years is welcome to use it.

Photo essay: New Albany Indie Fest 2015 was a blast.










I grabbed most of these photos off Facebook, although Mark Cassidy is responsible for some. The new Indie Fest location is better than before, and crowds were good throughout the afternoon.

Marcey Wisman-Bennett and her team excelled in putting together this event in the teeth of a gale-force push back from Jeff Gahan's retributive inner circle. I'll have more to say about this later this week, but for the moment, let's celebrate a victory for localism. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in staging Indie Fest 2015.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

This is New Albany's economic development challenge: "Developing the Cure for Corporate Welfare."


There are so many relevant points in this article that I'll reprint it in its entirety. While you're reading, bear important points in mind.

  • New Albany's local independent business segment has borne the brunt of downtown redevelopment efforts without any substantive "economic development" assistance from City Hall
  • Throughout New Albany, local independent businesses have created jobs and value
  • The mayor's signature "business of residency" project at the former Coyle site has required millions in TIF subsidies to assist a for-profit developer from elsewhere
  • This assistance package to Flaherty and Collins includes the city's first-ever sewer tap-in waivers, which were denied even when IU Southeast requested them for student housing
  • When the long anticipated Pillsbury closure was announced, City Hall's response was to offer the multinational General Mills $7 million to stay, a "hail mary" gesture as embarrassing as it was futile
  • 40 acres of industrial park property sits idle on the north side of town. 
  • City Hall's most recent corporate economic development "success" was helping deliver jobs to Charlestown

Attending ribbon cuttings while only pretending to have been involved in the efforts of local independent businesses, entrepreneurs and developers looks good in a photo op and plays well on social media, but it's little more than play-acting when the city's economic development efforts remain targeted toward corporate welfare and crony capitalism.

Michael Shuman outlines the "cure" in his books, the most recent of which is The Local Economy Solution. We must reorient our strategies to develop our own local economy as a counterweight to the  state-inspired hegemony of River Ridge Commerce Center in Jeffersonville. It has been ordained as the "winner,  and we cannot delude ourselves into thinking we compete with it on the usual subsidy, incentive and abatement terms. We must create and deploy our own rules here, and emphasize what makes us unique.

And it wouldn't hurt to devote bigger ticket economic development monies to infrastructure intended to assist our efforts: Opportunity costs and fiber optic communications: A closer look at Jeff Gahan's luxurious incomprehension.

---

Developing the Cure for Corporate Welfare, by Oscar Perry Abello (Next City)

Philadelphians don’t exactly need another reason to love the Reading Terminal Market, the city’s one-hundred-plus-year-old iconic public market, but here it is anyway: The whole place is 100 percent self-financed.

Not only are the tenant vendors local, independent businesses, tenant rents and sales cuts fund 90 percent of the Market’s budget. The rest comes mostly from an annual fundraiser that brings in about $100,000. Contrast that with General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, General Electric, Boeing, Amazon and 42 other companies that received more than $100 million each in state or local incentives from 2007 to 2012, according to an independent study by the New York Times.

The study found that state and local governments gave up $80.4 billion in incentives to “attract and retain” businesses for the purposes of “creating jobs.” It’s a number that author and local economy expert Michael Shuman is sure is actually much higher.

“There’s so many reasons why that is a dumb way of economic development,” Shuman says. “The most important of it is the growing mountain of evidence that the best and more important economic development comes from locally owned business.”

Shuman has written four books on local economies, most recently The Local Economy Solution, which came out in June.

“What I was responding to this time was how there were many groups who are doing good work on local economies, and their first impulse is to try and go out and raise foundation money to support their work, while many economic development departments are still stuck ponying up public dollars for economic development,” Shuman explains, citing the aforementioned New York Times study as well as a study he led himself.

Beginning about eight years ago, Shuman and his colleagues began compiling data on statewide economic development programs in the U.S. Choosing 15 states, largely rural given a secondary focus on food systems, they analyzed the three largest statewide economic development programs in each. Of the 45 programs they studied, 26 were giving less than 25 percent of their incentives to local businesses. Sixteen programs were giving 90 percent or more of incentives to non-local businesses.

And yet, there is “a growing universe of self-financing businesses that were undertaking the functions of economic development,” Shuman says. He calls them “pollinator businesses,” self-financing businesses that serve other businesses, whose mission is about building a great local economic marketplace. Reading Terminal Market is one of them, featured in the book.

The first thing you have to do, Shuman says, if you want to support “pollinator businesses,” is to shut down all of your existing economic development programs that are dedicated to “attract and retain.”

“Those are a dead end,” Shuman asserts. “Then you take some of the savings and perhaps you invest in some local entrepreneurs getting pollinators going. Many of the pollinators that I write about are interested in either helping startups elsewhere get going or deploying some kind of franchise model, so you don’t have to start from scratch on most of these things.”

He categorizes them into five different fields — planning, purchasing, people, partnership and purse pollinators. Purse pollinators, for example, include credit unions like Vancity, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which Shuman features in the book. It’s one of the largest credit unions in North America, with 500,000 members, providing 38,000 local businesses with credit, partnerships and technical assistance. (It’s not in the book, but check out this lending model created by a food co-op and credit union.)

One example of a partnership pollinator model is used by Tucson Originals, a local restaurants’ association in Tucson, Arizona. As one of its services to members, Tucson Originals offers pooled procurement. They survey members annually to find out the top 25 products that every restaurant uses, and then coordinates cumulative purchases from bulk suppliers. It’s a way to give small — and particularly minority-owned — firms a more equal playing field with large corporate chains.

“Many of the entrepreneurs in Tucson Originals are Latino sole proprietors,” Shuman notes. “There’s no conceptual reason why any of these programs, even if the existing ones are not targeted at low-income, or of color, could not be redesigned to do so. In fact, the more challenging the economic circumstances, the more one needs a pollinator design because you basically don’t have the resources to pay for economic development as usual.”

There remain some important kinks to work out with pollinators. “Most of these pollinator models, while they have a theory of self-financing, they haven’t quite done it yet,” Shuman says. For example there’s Reading Terminal Market’s annual fundraiser.

“We also don’t know how well they’re going to survive a crisis, a change of management, a strike, a shortage, whatever,” Shuman says. “I kind of warn people that most of the models that you read about are probably not going to be around in five or 10 years. That’s the bad news.”

“The good news is,” Shuman continues. “People are learning from them, people are adapting models and figuring out what went wrong and do better the next time.” Some of the pollinators Shuman writes about in The Local Economy Solution learned from failures he wrote about in his earlier books.

The bottom line, according to Shuman, is that even at the state and local level, public policy right now is systematically subsidizing big business to the disadvantage of small business. “Cities cannot coherently have strong economic development if they continue to do that,” he says.

Part of the response will have to come from civic engagement, one way or another. Shuman points out a need for transparency about how much incentives go to local versus non-local business might help, or more accountability about how much gets spent in incentives per each job created after the fact.

“Another approach, you might call a libertarian approach,” Shuman says, “Is to just get rid of all of it. I’m deeply sympathetic with that. It’s clean. It gets rid of a lot of corruption in politics.”

A kitchen incubator? That's real economic development, Jeff.


Gina Brown has been working for more than a year in the former Dueling Grounds cafe space.

Class with Chef: The official press release.

Foodie foreshadowing & denouement: Class With Chef.


Now she's adding the element of a "kitchen incubator," or a space where "early-stage catering, retail and wholesale food businesses" can share an accredited kitchen.

The article below explains the concept in the context of an effort in Louisville. Notice the entrepreneurial tie-ins with transitional neighborhoods; it's a leg-up for people with ideas but little start-up capital.

June 29, 2015: Louisville's First Kitchen Incubator

National and local leaders came together today to celebrate as Community Ventures, a Kentucky-based nonprofit corporation, broke ground on Louisville’s first kitchen incubator, Chef Space, located in the Russell Neighborhood. Chef Space will occupy the former Jay’s Cafeteria and will provide commercial kitchen space and business support services for up to 50 food- related early stage businesses. The facility will also house a retail outlet and meeting spaces open to the community. Community Ventures is renovating the 13,000-square-foot site with a late October opening planned as the first phase of a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization project.

On the advent of Underground Station, rank political poseurs and a dangerous street without crosswalks or stop signs.


Hmm ... it's the weird institution of the ribbon cutting, when grasping local politicians and corporate welfare dispensation chambers you haven't ever seen before somehow arrive nonetheless, breathlessly accepting credit for things they didn't do.

Then they disappear again. At least there's that.


I'm delighted for the developers, tenants and residents at Underground Station. You're doing it every day, not every now and then. Unfortunately, there's something you all need to bear in mind: Jeff Gahan does not understand what you're about, and he has no intention of lending a hand apart from the Friday photo op, which now will be used to illustrate his tender concern for local businesses.


As my Italian friend pointed out, "Camorra" is a more accurate term than Mafioso. Notice the city's new marketing symbol, with Team Gahan's branded slogan to follow: "We're Anchored Firmly Into Place. Come Stay Put with Us."


Why is the mayor carrying a paving stone?


When I left the ceremony yesterday, I walked from the entrance on Bank Street to the intersection of Bank and Main. Only recently, New Albany's hand-picked Bored of Works paused briefly from stifling the street piano to reject the idea of a four-way stop at this intersection. Notice the driver below, who cannot see and is easing out into a gray area, where often traffic moves quite fast.


How fast?

I'm so glad you asked. Twice this week, Mayor Gahan told audiences that something special just had to be done for Main Street owing to traffic moving 60 miles per hour. He also accused me of being frustrated because I live on Spring Street -- where more traffic than ever before travels 60 mph since Main Street was made "special", which means that in essence, Gahan has made the overall speeding problem worse. He seems very proud of that.

Here, you see a section of Main Street, where I've seen traffic moving quite fast, and yet nothing special is being done to help cars navigate a crossing when more of them will be doing so than ever before because Underground Station now is open.


Look at these wide expanses of asphalt, and now imagine people walking back and forth from other downtown businesses and events. Notice the complete absence of crosswalks or any other effort to ease their passage.

Ironically (pathetically), at Thursday's LWV debate, Gahan claimed credit for being the two-way streets mayor by virtue of paying the nation's foremost expert in design-driven walkability to conduct a study. Noting the obvious fact that nothing whatever has been done to date, and with no public plans to act as the "ripple effect" of bridge tolls draws ever closer, Gahan answers that his crack team of non-national experts are carefully mulling the options of what was written as a shovel-ready plan -- and the random darts are being tossed into voodoo dolls over Bud Lights at the Roadhouse as we speak.


Jeff Speck is blunt.


Crosswalks may not be rocket science, but this is New Albany, and our mayor is Jeff Gahan. If Gahan insists on making the point that something must be done to alleviate high traffic speeds, conducts a study, piddles for six months, then decides to wait another 18 months before contemplating a starting date, isn't he acknowledging the existence of an unsafe situation he's doing nothing to address?

There's nothing "fundamentally better" about any of this -- except for the unsubsidzed, non-incentivized and largely ignored efforts of independent local businesses, entrepreneurs, contractors and developers. They're doing it every day, not just every now and then.

Just remember that the one solid, fundamental action the city could take to help Underground Station prosper in the absence of assistance in any other conceivable form would be to GET THE STREET INFRASTRUCTURE RIGHT without dithering and obfuscating,

Even this simple truth eludes Jeff Gahan.

Ready for a change yet?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

TOMORROW: Indie Fest at Underground Station, kicking off at 12 noon.


Indie Fest 2015 is tomorrow (Sunday, September 27) at Underground Station. It's located on the 100 block of Bank Street between Main and the levee. There'll be music, art, beer, food and me campaigning from my camp chair.

The future of economic development in New Albany is the local economy. That's what Indie Fest annually celebrates. Thanks again to Kevin Zurschmiede for matching my $500 contribution to staging this festival, and although Jeff Gahan still has yet to follow suit, I'm confident he'll bring his check book to the event.

Indie Fest at Facebook

The musical roster is as follows.

Courtyard Performance Area
Set Times / Band Name
12:30 PM - Drew Alexander
2:15 PM - Salsa Dancing
3:00 PM - Indiana Joe & Arrow
4:15 PM - St. Aubin
6:30 PM - IN Lightening
7:45 PM - Fauna

North Stage Performance Area
Set Times / Band Name
1:00 PM - Ghostholler
1:45 PM - EMDW
3:30 PM - Kendra Renee Villiger
5:45 PM - Mercy Academy
7:00 PM - Catch Kennedy
8:15 PM - Tall Squares
9:00 PM - Bad Times Band

Indiefest back for fourth edition in New Albany, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)

NEW ALBANY — Year four of New Albany Indiefest will feature rock and roll, local arts and crafts, and a new location.

The festival will be held from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday in the courtyard area of Underground Station, which is located at the intersection of Bank and Main streets. The festival will also occupy the 100 block of Bank Street.

In past years, Bank Street was blocked off between Spring and Market streets for the events. Marcey Wisman-Bennett, who is the lead organizer of Indiefest, said the Underground Station provides more space, and will be more conducive to the format of the hyperlocal festival.

Parks are nice, but "poverty negatively affects Americans’ health over the long term."

Meme courtesy of a campaign supporter.

Artificial turf in a civic vacuum might as well have remained a brown field. We'll have more to say about this in the coming week, but for now, just think about the ways that poverty isn't healthy -- no matter how many parks you build.

Four Ways That Poverty Hurts Americans’ Long-Term Health, by Sy Mukherjee (Think Progress)

 ... Poverty cuts off vital resources to the poor and places them in an environment of ongoing stress — and that has long-lasting effects on Americans’ general wellness that can be difficult to reverse. Here’s how poverty negatively affects Americans’ health over the long term.

Jeffrey Lee Puckett on mental health and Will Russell.

I've never met Will Russell, although we have mutual acquaintances who freely testify to his talent and charisma.

These past few months have not been kind to Russell, and it has been sad and surreal these past few months to observe a figurative car crash play out in real time on social media, all the while reading as Russell's friends continue to ask, "Can't something be done?"

As the status update often affirms, it's complicated.

Jeffrey Lee Puckett explains why. We may know Puckett as the C-J's music reporter, a seat he seems to have occupied since the Beatles played Shea Stadium, but in this piece, Puckett patiently and skillfully tells the story of Russell's mental health struggles. It is well written and highly recommended, whether you know Russell or not ... because you probably know someone who grapples with similar issues.

Mental illness at heart of Will Russell's struggle: Will Russell's story is one of longtime mental health issues and recent headlines tell only part of that story

Louisville entrepreneur Will Russell has been making news for nearly 14 years. Most of it has been good, and good for the city, but a recent spate of arrests and increasingly erratic behavior have put him in a dramatically different kind of spotlight.

Russell’s accomplishments are well-known. He co-founded Lebowski Fest, an annual event that has gone global with sister festivals in more than 30 cities. He opened WHY Louisville, a Kentucky-themed gift shop, at 1583 Bardstown Road, in 2005 and added a second location at 806 E. Market St. in 2013. And this year began with Russell deep into a project to open Funtown Mountain, a Cave City amusement park.

All of it has been threatened by a severe manic episode related to Russell’s bipolar disorder, a condition with which he has struggled since his teens, according to his father, Bill Russell. The manic episode began last year following a deep depression, and the 39-year-old's return to substance abuse after nearly 20 years of sobriety became apparent in July when he was first arrested on drug charges ...

In the one-party city, we'll be needing some human rights assistance.


Speaking politically, one-party states seldom relinquish their monopoly "rights" without a fight.

ON THE AVENUES: One-keg parties rarely work, either.

 ... Obviously, the very notion of a one-party state embraces the concentration of power within one sphere, according to a single set of guidelines, and with avenues of political participation effectively closed apart from reigning orthodoxy. In the absence of palpable opposition, the sole party devotes itself to maintaining its own entrenched bureaucracy, safe in the knowledge that governmental institutions merely mimic the party’s own time-honored levers, and cannot be detached either physically or metaphorically from the entrenched patronage of the party itself.

Or, in other words, much like political life in New Albany.

If you're wondering why an otherwise sensible person like Democratic Party chairman Adam Dickey would comment on social media to the effect that the Party loves and supports all its candidates equally, conveniently ignoring David White's primary election evidence to the contrary, and even after Dan Coffey spent much of 2015 publicly contradicting the Party's platform, behaving as an unreconstructed, homophobic nutcase and regarding Dickey's stewardship with palpable disdain, it's because Coffey is completely unprincipled and therefore useful to the maintenance of a one-party city.

If Jeff Gahan is Vito Corleone and Dickey poses as Tom Hagen, then Coffey serves as Luca Brasi. The only drawback to this analogy is that "The Godfather" was not a product of Walt Disney's studio.

As Dickey publicly whistles tunes from the musical "How to Succeed in Politics Without Really Trying," Coffey can be relied upon to plant stilettos in the backs of opponents, especially those within the Party itself -- like John Gonder, who should remember never to choose a chair facing the door.

Coffey occurs precisely because shift is not intended to happen, and that's why we must be pro-active and contact the Carter Center now.

Do election monitors charge by the hour? We can crowd-source their pay packets.

Checkpoints at cemeteries should do the trick ... right, Adam?

Our Goal

The Carter Center works globally to advance democratic elections and governance consistent with universal human rights.

What do Carter Center election observers do?

Election observers recognized as impartial and credible play a key role in shaping perceptions about the quality and legitimacy of electoral processes. To ensure a meaningful, nonpartisan role for its election observation activities, The Carter Center must be invited by a country's election authorities and welcomed by the major political parties.

Election observation missions start long before election day, with experts and long-term observers analyzing election laws, assessing voter education and registration, and evaluating fairness in campaigns. On election day, observers assess the casting and counting of ballots. In the days and weeks after the election, observers monitor the tabulation process, electoral dispute resolution processes, and the publication of final results.

Read more about our recent observation of elections in Nepal, Madagascar, Kenya, Mozambique, and Tunisia.

Urban trees: Not bright shiny objects, just supremely useful and necessary for "quality of life."

Rosenbarger Deforestation Project, Thomas Street Edition.

I saw a comment on social media from a friend. He was lamenting the loss of trees being removed to make way for the expansion of Beach Mold & Tool. For those unfamiliar with New Albany, the firm is located on the north side in a suburban setting, at the foot of the Knobs. It may be small consolation, but at least a fair number of trees remain nearby.

My reply was that there ought to be a law: Remove a tree and plant five in its place.

Since we moved into our house in 2003, we've been forced to remove one diseased tree. We've planted about 16, and I like those odds.

As a city, we have a tree board, an arborist and a tree plan. I don't need to spend time researching this issue to know (not guess) that we're not being sufficiently pro-active in restoring an urban street canopy battered by disasters over the past decade. We all know this is because of non-prioritized funding. We've bonded $20 million for parks improvements, which have included the planting of trees in parks, and yet there are entire residential blocks downtown with none.

As this article attests, and as anyone who ever walks downtown in summer can verify, shade equates to coolness. In times of escalating temperature, anything equating to coolness that can supplement the electrical demands of air conditioning is a bonus.

Trees do that. They're a need ... not a want.

Why Urban Trees Solve Most of Our Problems

 ... The unequal allocation of city greenery means that many low-income and nonwhite urbanites are missing out on the benefits of having trees on their city blocks, which, it turns out, are significant.

If your street is peppered with Magnolias and American Sweet Gums, your neighborhood will look better, sound better, and be less windy. Trees in urban spaces suppress noise, beautify monochromatic pavement, and reduce wind speeds.

If offensive city noises do traverse the leafy canopy outside your window, you'll be less stressed about it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Jeff Gahan's "nothing positive" comment is an admission of malice as it pertains to local independent businesses.

"(Roger’s) never done anything in a positive manner to help the city of New Albany”
--Jeff Gahan

Eric Schansberg, professor of economics at IU Southeast, was reading Fb when Mayor Gahan's quote was mentioned. Here's what he had to say about it.

Here's a jack-wagon and false thing to say: "He's never done anything in a positive manner to help the city of New Albany."

The mayor doesn't understand the beauty of capitalism and mutually beneficial trade. Under that metric alone, you've done millions of things that have been positive.

I thanked him and replied.

I was thinking, well, our life savings and a total investment of a million bucks (in NABC) might be considered a positive in some quarters.

He explained in greater detail.

That's a way to measure some of the larger, easier-to-see impacts of your work and vocation. But you make a positive impact every time you sell a beer or a pizza-- in terms of the narrow economics and the broader social implications for community, etc.

Politicians have a similar op -- in providing an environment in which such activity (and other) can occur. But of course, politicians can also engage in Peter/Paul crony capitalism or worse.

Putting it another way, it is *ridiculous* to say that a business owner has never done anything positive. It is far more likely for one to be mayor without doing anything positive for a city as a whole.

Considering Eric's comments, the plain fact is that if Jeff Gahan is capable of tarring me with this "non-positive" brush, it isn't only me he's smearing.

It's every single entrepreneur and local business owner in town, the economic clout of whom has barely scored a blip from City Hall during the past four years.

Recall that independent local businesses in America with fewer than fifty employees generally are credited with generating roughly 30% of the economic activity.

In New Albany's historic downtown business district and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it, this percentage is likely higher. These are the businesses widely understood to have done the most in sustaining the core during the lean years, then revitalizing a formerly moribund area with a fresh wave of food, drink, retail and service businesses to complement the survivors of a previous era.

Not chains, not Flaherty and Collins, and not the Disney Corporation.

Rather, local independent businesses.

Like mine, like yours.

Like the ones that keep money in the local economy, create jobs and grind it out all year long ... not merely during special occasions.

And yet, not only does the city's economic development effort weirdly tout just about any other ephemeral and improbable definition of "trickle down" activity capable of disturbing a sleeping Orwell (anything/everything bonded with TIF counts as economic development absent any need to qualify or explain) -- all the while pretending to be responsible for investments made by grassroots entrepreneurs, business owners and developers -- but City Hall now is on record, from the mouth of our highest ranking elected official at a public debate, as denigrating them.

Soon I'll be leaving my current business, but I'm proud of what we've achieved in the past quarter century. I put every bit of skin I had into this game, and I busted my ass in the process. When I walk away from the business, it'll be with only a fraction of what I put into it, primarily because I usually reinvested in it and refrained from taking value out of it -- but the business itself will continue doing what it's always done.

These folks involved with economic development at the municipal level ... have any of them actually ever owned a business?

Yep. Didn't think so.

Thanks to everyone for the comments and notes. It surprised even me when Gahan said what he did, and I'm typing as fast as I can trying to answer all of you.

When I'm mayor, you can trust me to put the local economy first. It's one of our most important assets, and we deserve better than this.

By the way ... Jeff Gahan has yet to answer the Indie Fest challenge, which is no surprise considering City Hall's antipathy toward the event in 2015. However, that depressing story will have to wait.

Roger still challenges municipal candidates to support Indie Fest. Even you, Adam?

Opportunity costs and fiber optic communications: A closer look at Jeff Gahan's luxurious incomprehension.

Opportunity cost is defined as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”

During last night’s League of Women Voters “debate” at Estadio Azteca, I proposed that questioning the price of Jeff Gahan’s nice shiny capital project objects, while necessary and to be encouraged, doesn’t go far enough.

To be succinct, $20 million in TIF bonding for parks improvements not only makes hash of any sensible definition of economic development, but it also represents the absence of potential gain from other projects.

Down the road, as we continue to pay debt service (including interest) on Gahan’s bonded spending spree, and as yearly maintenance costs for these baubles escalate over time, what will we have lost by not pursuing infrastructure needs, as opposed to bread-and-circuses wants?

My example of urgent need? Fiber optic communication. Here's an overview.

A November 2010 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) found that the Internet plays an integral role in helping small businesses achieve their strategic goals, improve competitiveness and efficiency, and interact with customers and vendors.

Respondents to SBA’s survey generally agreed that high-speed Internet access is “as essential to my business as other services such as water, sewer, or electricity.”

A more recent report from Connected Nation also shows that broadband connectivity is an increasingly essential component for business growth in the United States.

It states that over four million U.S. firms have web sites, including more than two million businesses with fewer than five employees, and that broadband-connected businesses report annual median sales revenues approximately $300,000 higher than revenues for businesses without broadband.

With Louisville partnering to explore Google Fiber, and as a fiber optic trunk line is being installed through Jeffersonville (estimated completion is 2016), it's easy to see how quickly New Albany could fall completely off the map of modernity.

I propose we call this preferred premature obsolescence "The Indatus Effect."

At a time when cities like Chattanooga are deploying fiber optic to shed their smokestack images, New Albany's mayor insists that a water park, not high tech jobs, constitute economic development.

But it gets far worse. In his rebuttal to these comments, Mayor Gahan expressed indignation at the suggestion that New Albany is behind the fiber optic times.

To paraphrase:

We're making sure the heavily subsidized luxury apartments for millennials has high speed internet. 

And the remainder of the city? I suppose it can do with dial-up, given that so much of the people live in poverty, anyway -- but don't mention that to a Democrat. They're not dealing with cognitive dissonance very well at the present time.

Let's turn to an actual millennial for a rebuttal of our own.

---

My name is Matthew McDonald. I’ve been a resident of New Albany Indiana all 31 years of my life. It is a place I proudly call my home, and am proud to have grown up in. This year I became a first time home owner and bought a beautiful Sears home, one of only a few in New Albany.

I’ve been proud of some of the progress we’ve made in revitalizing our downtown and in making it a better place.

However, even with said progress, we are always seemingly a step behind our neighbors in Jeffersonville. We have yet to fully embrace Speck’s downtown two-way street proposals, which would make our downtown more livable, and slow down traffic incurred by the tolled bridges.

But besides this major issue, I see another issue which will put us at a major disadvantage with our neighbors in Jeffersonville and Louisville.

As we all know, Louisville has made a major announcement that the city is working with Google to bring Fiber to Louisville, offering speeds 100 times faster than the national broadband average.

There was much excitement among many for the benefits it will bring. It will make Louisville more attractive to high tech businesses and offer residents a better choice than Time Warner and AT&T Uverse. It will also force these companies to lower their prices and increase speeds to compete. Many of my friends were excited, but the resounding question was “Will New Albany get Google Fiber?”

While we are considered part of the Louisville Metropolitan Area and receive the same broadband providers, I find this possibility to be remote, meaning we will receive none of the benefits enjoyed by our neighbors.

Once again we’ll be behind, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I want to know from whomever is running for Mayor and those who are running for city council seats: Will you do what it takes to bring Fiber to this city?

We cannot allow ourselves to lose the next Indatus. This means we need a city government to work with the Mayor of Louisville and Google to find a path to making this happen, even if that includes paying for some the construction fees to make it possible. Nothing should be off the table.

As I write today I want a declaration of position from all candidates running for Mayor or city government seats. This city is important to me and I want to see it invest in our future because I’m invested in it.

I can tell you some are willing to leave this city because of these disadvantages, many of whom live here and work and Louisville. In fact, the previous owner of my home sold the house for that very reason. He didn’t want to deal with the traffic from the tolled bridges.

I also work in Louisville, but stand firm in living here, though not the same can be said of everyone else.

We can and should mitigate these disadvantages. Don’t leave this city behind while our neighbors move forward.

---

This posting serves as my declaration. I asked a friend with experience in high tech to provide a summary.

Jeff, are you still reading?

---

New Albany was the richest city in Indiana and Kentucky in the 1870s because of innovation - and our current sad condition is due to a failure to keep up. Other cities have time and again jumped us, using the same march of innovation as the driver of change.

New Albany saw the invention of plate glass (Star Glass Co) and business boomed. When natural gas was found in great quantity near Chicago, our plate glass business withered and fortunes fell.

New Albany had the largest woolen mill in America (If not the world) and again, the owners didn't keep up with greater mechanization, and innovation decimated that business as well.

Recently, a lack of reinvestment in the veneer business (more efficient plants, robotics) has seen New Albany's 100+ year veneer business start to die. The irony is China imports the raw veneer logs from Indiana and the midwest, ships it overseas, converts it to finish veneer and faced sheet plywood and ships it back! Even with the great expense of shipping two ways, the Chinese investment in modern infrastructure is killing New Albany's veneer business. Again, New Albany's leaders just sit on their hands and watch another industry fail.

And so it is with the stunning lack of foresight, planning and lack of effort to bring fiber optic trunk lines to New Albany and Floyd County.

It's the current equivalent of not stringing electrical lines and doubling down on whale oil since "that's the way everyone's always done it."

Kansas City, Chattanooga, Huntsville - these cities are booming, attracting high paying jobs that don't pollute, growing their tax base and they will thrive while New Albany seems to be doomed to watch the future pass the city by. 

Who's trying to tie New Albany in with Louisville's current effort to have Google Fiber installed? When Clarksville and Jeff hook into the Louisville loop, New Albany will literally be completely shut out.

Edwin Hubble taught at New Albany High School - we have a storied history of technology we could build upon, but most here seem content to milk the market instead of grow the market.

The positive impact of broadband technologies on economic growth and small business creation is clear.

---

Cheer up, folks. After all, the water park opens again next June.

LWV Debate 1 (N and T link): Why is Jeff Gahan terrified of a mayoral threesome?

Photo credit: Christopher Fryer, N and T.

The subtitle is very important.

"Voters won't see full-field New Albany mayoral debate."

After announcing he'd fly back from his son's destination wedding for last night's LWV debate at Wembley, Kevin Zurschmiede changed his mind and chose to remain with his family. I believe that's a civilized and rational decision, and I respect it.

We simply must not forget that the ongoing responsibility for conniving to evade face to face debates with all three mayoral candidates present lies with Jeff Gahan, not Zurschmiede.

It's clear that Gahan is ducking and covering, though he still might choose to do the right and honorable thing by attending the Leadership Southern Indiana session on Tuesday, September 29.

Yes, I know. It's advisable to refrain from holding your breaths. Gahan's already asphyxiated common sense and decency in this town, and there's no use in NAC readers becoming casualties, too.

The departing reporter Suddeath sifts through it quite well, and this is a solid overview of the LWV affair. Earlier this week, he covered the NAHA forum here. The raw video of last evening is here.

New Albany mayoral candidates trade jabs over platforms and personality; Voters won't see full-field New Albany mayoral debate, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — Incumbent Democrat Jeff Gahan and Independent mayoral challenger Roger Baylor continued their verbal sparring Thursday over the future of New Albany, as well as decisions made in the past, during the second candidates forum held this week.

Baylor attacked Gahan's track record on economic development, citing the recent or planned exoduses of companies like General Mills, Indatus and StemWood from New Albany. Gahan accused Baylor — who has been a co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. for more than 25 years and active in numerous other local causes — of being too negative.

"He's never done anything in a positive manner to help the city of New Albany," said Gahan, who is seeking his second term as mayor, during the debate hosted by the League of Women Voters.

LWV Debate 2 (video link): Gahan and Democrats feeling the burn, though not the Bern. That's the problem.

Fundamentally Jerry Jones.

Robert Landrum's raw LWV debate video can be viewed here. Note again that Kevin Zurschmiede decided to remain at his son's destination wedding, and missed the debate.

Let's give Robert a well-deserved hand. He's been right there at several key events in recent months, taking the time to film when others (read: city) couldn't be bothered. These occasions include Jeff Speck's and John Gilderbloom's (parts 1 and 2) vital streets presentations.

Last night ...

From the start, I knew that the League of Women Voters debate was being purpose-built for the incumbent, if for no other reason than the choice of venue.

I knew that whenever Jeff Gahan needed a boost of any sort, he’d merely shrug and say “look around you – isn’t this nice?”

Still, when he actually did it on more than one occasion, it was flabbergasting to think that the mayor genuinely believes that his $20 million TIF bond for parks construction has irrevocably altered the course of New Albany history.

Self-delusion among this city's Democrats has spread to a degree previously unattainable apart from the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Almost to a man, this city's Democrats gaze at Disney World as a daily inspiration, but significantly, Disney is not real. It's entertainment. It's escapism. And it's entirely imaginary.

As usual, Jeff Gillenwater provides the best capsule summary of the evening.

Baylor: The Gahan administration has spent and spent and yet the lives of most New Albany citizens remain unchanged. I'm perennially disappointed when local Democrats aim all our money and projects at the wants of upper and middle class suburban white people while real fundamentals like transportation and a level playing field go unaddressed. They never seem to talk about the local independent businesses who employ most people, affordable housing, income inequality, a living wage, or anything of the sort.

Gahan: I resent that suggestion. Anyone who can manage to get a ride to this multi-million dollar indoor soccer facility I financed against tax revenue for the next 20 years is welcome to use it.

There'll be more to say, but first, I learned something very important last night. It's hard to get a laugh out of a crowd at your opponent's home court when roughly 70% of them depend on him for their paychecks.

In fact, so many Democrats in that crowd owe their jobs to the mayor that if the State Police could have cited people for driving under the influence of The Kool Aid, there'd have been a road block at the park entrance and proceeds enough to build another bridge over the Ohio.

Part one is here, and don't forget: Indie Fest this Sunday at Underground Station, corner of Bank and Main in downtown New Albany.

The 3rd council district deserves a Phipps-Bagshaw debate. Who can make that happen?

3rd district council aspirant Dale Bagshaw (R) attended both political forums this week, including the New Albany Housing Authority session on Tuesday, and incumbent Greg Phipps (D) was on hand at Cowboys Stadium last night for the League of Women Voters event.

I don't recall whether Phipps "debated" Jameson Bledsoe in 2011 prior to the general election, although there was a candidate question 'n' answer evening at S. Ellen Jones school preceding the three-way Democratic primary in 2007, which incumbent Steve Price won with 37% of the vote against Maury Goldberg and Charlie Harshfield.

Phipps handily beat Price and Bledsoe in 2011.

Who can make this happen? I firmly believe the 3rd district deserves an hour (or more) with its candidates.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

After a brief scare, the New Albany Street Piano returns to non-ideological musical duty.

Today:


Wednesday:


Hannegan has asked that we all respect the piano's position above politics.

Let's close with a musical number!

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.

Perception.

Reality.

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?

Water parks or affordable housing?

After Tuesday's candidate session at the New Albany Housing Authority, I asked NAHA director Bob Lane a question:

In the context of New Albany future decision-making, would it be fair to compare the immensity of the EPA's past "fix your sewers or else" decree to what is coming down the road with respect to the federal government's evolving position on affordable housing in general, and public housing in particular?

He said yes, quite fair. The NAHA does a fine job, and it is aware that times likely will be changing. These three articles at City Lab amplify a few points largely being missed or ignored locally, beginning with an overview of the American public housing experiment.

Here's a fine topic sentence:

“The story of American public housing is one of quiet successes drowned out by loud failures,” writes the historian Ed Goetz.

The point is expanded in The Real Power of Public Housing, by Alana Semuels.

...In some small cities ... public housing has worked and continues to work. That includes Austin, the site of one of the first public-housing complexes in the nation, which still stands today. The Housing Authority of the City of Austin has been recognized as a “High Performer” by HUD for 15 years in a row, and, rather than depending on the federal government for help, it has embarked on a few entrepreneurial programs to raise money.

Jersey City is seeking "to steer mixed-income development to all its neighborhoods with clever tax incentives." Note that this refers to affordable housing, not bocce ball settings.

Jersey City's Innovative New Affordable Housing Plan Might Actually Work, by Tanvi Misra

... In the coming years, Jersey City’s overall population rise is expected to accelerate, and the housing stock is expected to increase by 20 percent by 2020. To ensure this growth is equitable, the city has unveiled a clever new housing policy that employs a seemingly simple strategy: tax incentives. Local officials believe the plan can preserve community while promoting development—a harmony that’s proved so elusive elsewhere.

Since moving to downtown New Albany, what I've heard most often is the importance of home ownership, but we may be missing something, in that it isn't so much whether we have a choice in being a rental market, but rather what sort of rental market do we want to be?

If it's true that "America’s housing crisis will likely worsen during the next decade, with millions more struggling to make monthly payments," then heavy subsidies to Flaherty and Collins to build "luxury" apartments seems designed to exacerbate a situation we already lack resolve in addressing.

For Renters, a Bleak Future, by Gillian B. White

 ... The researchers estimate that the current rental crunch—the one where vacancies are around 7 percent, about half of renters spend more than 30 percent of their salaries on housing, and one quarter spend 50 percent or more—is only going to get worse over the next decade. Even if housing prices and income rise as quickly as inflation (about 2 percent annually) the number of severely rent-burdened Americans (those paying 50 percent or more) would increase by 11 percent over the decade, to over 13 million people in 2025.

This isn't to imply there are easy answers, only that it might be helpful to start asking the correct questions.

"A recent transplant’s view of Cincinnati" is relevant to us, too.

If the Gahan administration really comprehended what millennials want, would the flunkies be allowed to use the words "millennial" and "luxury" in the same sentence?

Of course not. It's what you get from the suburbs, looking in, uncomprehending.

How do we foster a culture designed to retain our best and brightest, to support localism in business, and take care of our own by exceeding the lowest conceivable political denominator?

Looking in the mirror.
Asking questions.
Listening.
Making lists.
Involving people.

Then again, I'm hardly a serious commentator, am I?

A recent transplant’s view of Cincinnati, by Fatima Hussein (Cincinnati Enquirer)

 ... I found out last week that a large portion of young people living here, both home bred and transplants, are itching to move to bigger cities throughout the country.

In Cincinnati, the youth exodus phenomenon is a huge issue for business leaders. Leaders such as Mary Stagaman worry that if nothing is done to attract and retain young talent, we can’t expect to have a vibrant economy, and the corporations that have long called Cincinnati home will have less incentive to stay ...

 ... And it doesn’t help that for every study that says Cincinnati is up-and-coming or an affordable place for families, there are others that say Ohio and Kentucky are some of the unhappiest places in the country – or that Cincinnati is one of the most unwelcoming cities on earth.