Thursday, April 21, 2016

ON THE AVENUES: The Green Mouse tells all.

ON THE AVENUES: The Green Mouse tells all.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Do you remember the Asteroids video game from days of yore?

Asteroids is an arcade space shooter released in November 1979 by Atari … the player controls a spaceship in an asteroid field which is periodically traversed by flying saucers. The object of the game is to shoot and destroy asteroids and saucers while not colliding with either or being hit by the saucers' counter-fire. The game becomes harder as the number of asteroids increases.

These days I’m having daily flashbacks to Asteroids. I awake each morning to all sorts of unreported New Albany news, fresh rumors and passionate testimonials from the Resistance. It’s like having 20 assistant coaches simultaneously hitting ground balls to me with their fungo bats, and I can’t come close to fielding them all.

Just imagine if we had a newspaper in New Albany.

Until we do, here’s an admittedly scattershot potpourri of comments on recent hot topics. It’s all pro bono, folks, and so ongoing and profuse thanks to those of you who regularly communicate with the Green Mouse. I couldn't do it without him.

Overheard on the avenues.

“I’ll try to hold onto my seat as long as I can, just so Gahan can’t appoint one of his relatives to fill it.”

“Are you kidding? None of these people make enough money to be found on one of those Panamian offshore banking lists. No, wait. I’m wrong. The city attorney, what’s his name – Gibson. Maybe him.”

"Looks like the boat club's back for good and there is a possibility that the Main Street Association is going to get its park where Metal Dynamics is currently located."

Media equality.

During Thursday’s Southern Indiana Equality quarterly meeting, SIE’s president Brad Bell glanced around the room, visibly disappointed.

“We hoped local media would be here,” he said. “They were all invited.” This provoked the week’s best aside.

“Maybe Business First will cover it.”

Although if Bill “Eastside” Hanson had his way, it’d be Bon Appetit.

Trans-politically speaking …

Election Day is Dan Coffey’s big moment.

We’ll never know why he suddenly outed himself in January and left the Democratic ranks, although as in all things pertaining to Adam Dickey’s local political monetization machine, it is recommended to follow the money.

Not unlike Donald Trump, if Coffey pulls a Republican ballot next Tuesday, there’s nothing to stop the Copperhead from self-identifying with the GOP. But will he?

Given that among Coffey’s latest Fb postings are attacks on Hillary Clinton, the ACLU and gay pride, and paeans to the Bible and the Confederate flag, it’s a moot point. During his 416 years on the council, he’s never missed an opportunity to vote for himself, and that’s unlikely to change.

Public housing turf war.

During last year’s campaign, Jeff Gahan consistently avoided the topic of public housing -- and affordable housing, homelessness and income inequality. In fact, he avoided most topics, not just these. Then last week, the mayor abruptly produced a press release about public housing.

The Green Mouse was told that the mayor has refused to cooperate with past efforts on the part of the housing authority to get tax credits for improvements, presumably (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) because he seeks total control over the process.

As such, Gahan’s recent press release may be signaling an attempted end-around. The NAHA has its consultants, and now Gahan does, too; it’s an Indianapolis beak-wetting firm previously forcibly removed from the redevelopment commission’s revenue stream owing to an obvious conflict of interest. Gahan seems intent on cutting public housing director Bob Lane out of the loop.

At various times in the past, Gahan apparently has remarked openly that his preferred option to reform public housing in New Albany would be to shift all of it outside the city limits to (paraphrasing) “somewhere out in the county.”

Well, if county government can sell the hospital, what’s to stop Gahan from ripping the Valley View golf covenant to shreds and reinventing public housing anew, right there on the front nine in sunny Floyds Knobs?

The county might gain revenge by devoting a portion of its hospital sale proceeds to constructing a wall around Jeff Gahan Presents Po View Valley Folks Estates, and afterward, converting Sam Peden Community Park into a regional toxic waste dump. Finally, all the big white male fish might be happy in their tiny Kool-Aid ponds.

Seriously: While all of these phobias play nicely with Donald Trump's voting bloc, it remains that most public housing policy emanates from the federal government, lying just beyond the conceptually bankrupt reach of Gahan’s grubby paws.

It’s anyone’s guess as to where the mayor’s sudden interest in public housing will lead (just don’t forget to follow the money), but where it assuredly will not lead is in the direction of substantive community-wide discussion of public housing, affordable housing, income inequality … you know the down-low drill by now.

Boomtown Ballers.

Speaking of behind the scenes, Houndmouth’s signature festival returns to downtown New Albany on Sunday, May 29, and the question the Green Mouse is hearing more often than any other is whether the band itself will be involved.

The city’s press release makes no mention of Houndmouth. The band performs on the West Coast on May 27, then shifts to the East Coast beginning June 2, so an appearance is theoretically possible.

Want more details?

The Green Mouse suggests going straight to the top and asking the power brokers in charge of Boomtown -- not the city of New Albany, silly reader, but Production Simple and the Flea Off Market, both Louisville entities, who are the prime beneficiaries of a festival intended to attract youthful Louisvillians to a New Albany street grid designed to resemble Louisville as much as possible, because not once in five years has Team Gahan trusted New Albanians to be “cool” enough for school.

As with the Bicentennial Park concert series and other Gahan for Whatever Office extravaganzas, Production Simple imports the temporary equipment and the musical entertainment, and takes the money back to Kentucky. Wouldn’t you love to know how much cash these instances of self-aggrandizement have cost the city since 2012?

The Green Mouse would, too, and needs to get to work on that, right after vacation.

The Summit Springs sell-out.

That nasty denuded drainage-defeating hillside facing State Street is only the most recent obnoxious chess move in a property development game extending back more than a decade.

Previously I’ve mentioned last October’s resolution of a lawsuit undertaken by the property owners against the city, and I’m still hoping there’ll be a chance to view the decision. Until then, this much is clear.

Years ago, the property owners’ Planned Unit Development (PUDD) proposal made its way through New Albany’s planning and zoning arms as well as city council, but in spite of what may or may not have happened since then in terms of missed deadlines, rejections, approvals and legal fees to Krafty John, Summit Springs cannot possibly come to fruition without a road to access it.

And: A city once willing to contest these issues in court now proposes to construct just such a half-mile, $3 million (or more) road via the TIF mechanism. The Summit Springs proposal, once tenuous, has become magically important to the city’s future, and of course Gahan seeks to claim it as his own, in spite of the myriad problems still remaining to be resolved.

One needn’t be a grand master to fathom that for the property owners, a $3 million (or more) access road would obliterate any need for the city to pay damages from a lost lawsuit, which in effect appears to leverage another dose of crony capitalism. You can expect to see the architect’s renderings on a Gahan for State Senate sign, circa 2018.

The cost?

More “boilerplate” TIF expenditures, an impossibly congested State Street corridor, but more importantly, a city blithely tossing its own planning and zoning codes under the bus, along with any remaining threadbare commitment to the rule of law.

The poor ol' Tree Board.

The mayor appoints the members of the Board of Works.

The mayor appoints the members of the Tree Board.

Whatever work the Tree Board does with respect to cutting, planting and maintaining trees on publicly owned lands and right-of-way is at the behest of the Board of Works, which is given marching orders by the mayor. Shocking, isn't it?

The Tree Board is lamentably understaffed and mostly non-funded. Currently it is short a board member, and to hurriedly arrive at a conclusion for this extremely depressing digression, it comes down to Oz's Whim.

In short, Team Gahan decides whether a tree stays or goes, irrespective of whether the tree is healthy or dying, and quite apart from extraneous considerations of aesthetics, storm water abatement or Urban Heat Islands.

I’ve no reason to believe the Tree Board isn’t well-meaning, or doesn’t try its best. I'm satisfied it does what it can -- and what it can do is highly circumscribed.

Or, like almost everything else in New Gahania, if the big kahuna can't monetize it, you might as well forget it. Get your checkbooks ready, loyal readers. 2018 will be here sooner than you think.


April 14: Forever NA, the wrong way ... from 2012, through 2014, to 2016 and beyond, forever more.

April 7: ON THE AVENUES: The Six Session Beers of Session Beer Day.

March 31: ON THE AVENUES: Abortion? Wichita, or maybe Targu Mures.

March 24: ON THE AVENUES: Introducing New Albany Craft Beer Week, May 27 – June 4, 2016.

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