Thursday, August 04, 2016
ON THE AVENUES: Federal funding mechanisms total eighty percent. The other half is unalloyed political malice.
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
The News and Tribune, which bizarrely enjoys using the word “community” as a dainty mantra in its marketing campaigns, has established an irony-free zone in which the hallowed concept of The Fourth Estate has mutated into reality TV coverage, cooking school and a recurring cycle of pet adoptions.
Meanwhile, for a period of more than ten months, New Albany has been without a beat reporter. During this time, in addition to a critical and largely ignored municipal election, there have been literally dozens of missed or under-reported stories generated in a criminally overlooked city.
As a “Fifth Estate” blogger, I’ve done what I can to help Bullet Bill Hanson’s depleted staff cope with overwork and a chronic absence of direction, though I manage without Hanson's fattened CNHI bonus checks, because what better plan might there be for copping another Publisher of the Year beanie than by holding down salaries?
So it is that when the remaining journalists are busy dangling entertaining click bait, you can be sure the Gahan clique will be free to skate, and so it was on Monday at the opener of an August city council doubleheader.
The Jeffersonville-oriented paper couldn’t be bothered to send a steno, sleeping or awake, and so other area news agencies effortlessly lapped the N & T on coverage of unrest in the Mt. Tabor Road vicinity as the imminent prospect of the 3 R's -- Renewed Roadway Rosenbargerization -- produced complaints so loud that they somehow penetrated the mayor’s clatter-proof Down Low Bunker.
Clark County resident David Duggins duly was dispatched to spray gasoline on the brush fire, which he accomplished with his usual aplomb by threatening to send the Rasputin of Redevelopment and other city officials into the afflicted neighborhoods to knock on doors and remedy "misperceptions", which immediately sent panicked refugees streaming toward Silver Creek, into the newspaper’s Clark County coverage area.
As a motley band of council onlookers desperately began combing the council chamber for black coffee and amphetamines, Duggins uncharacteristically said something of genuine importance. He observed that the many roadway projects currently under construction have dove-tailed together because that’s when the federal money (customarily 80% funding for auto-centric road “improvements,” as opposed to alternative modes of transport) has finally made its way through the pipeline.
The ol' 80/20, straight to the gut.
Setting aside the consistently predictable percentage of road construction money that invariably finds its way into the campaign coffers of ranking politicians, consider for a moment the implications of Duggins’ comment.
First, any road work the city does beyond its annual boondoggle paving is likely to be tied to a ratio approximating 80/20 federal funding.
Second, as such, road work will be planned according to whatever construction formula works best to garner the federal funding, as without it, we’ll probably do nothing – but doing nothing fails to sufficiently wet many thirsty beaks in a town where patronage remains supreme.
Third, having determined to do whatever road work is best calculated to securing federal funding, there is continued resistance to any notion of a master plan, which might dare to prioritize road work according to community needs, and not the contrived availability and careful parsing of federal funding, which might well be unconnected to any other project, past or future.
Okay, okay. This is boilerplate, right?
We’ve always known how the system oozes along, but these three points omit the sheer, breathtaking moral bankruptcy of the Federal Funding Prerequisite, because when the check from DC finally arrives in the mail and it’s time to rev up the usual engineering and construction suspects to divvy up the booty, City Hall’s propaganda bureau invariably attributes the impending road work to dire necessity on grounds of safety.
In short, this/that road is very unsafe ... so much so that we've been compelled to wait for years for federal funds to come to us, rather than to deploy other funding mechanisms like CDBG and TIF (in their defined zones) to make the roads safer without delay, perhaps because we plan to tap out these ripe sources to erect brighter, shinier, showier projects sure to dazzle the sheep -- er, voters.
Those pesky thirsty beaks again.
Therefore, we suspend our heartfelt concern for safety until the easy money arrives, and then we pursue auto-friendly corrective measures like widening roads and adding lanes, which in short order attract even more cars and their atrocious drivers, making the roads flagrantly unsafe all over again, thus compelling Rosenbarger and his merry crew to design yet another round of campaign finance construction enhancement federal largess attraction.
Forehead slap! Come to think of it, you could keep your job as a municipal timeserver for 40 or more years just repeating the same action over and over, hoping it won’t ever have a different outcome.
Finally there’ll be a temporary ribbon cutting, because after all, there’ll be another ribbon-cutting later, in a year or ten. There’ll be a shiny new road for the utility monopolies and heavy trucks to begin destroying, and the whole package costs us only 20 cents on the dollar.
Hanson will stoop to attend the party and be overheard blathering about his ad generator’s commitment to community, before accepting another award he designed for himself.
Only the observant (and chronic cynics) will notice the mayor’s State Senate 2018 bank account imperceptibly fattening.
Somewhere, a dog will bark, and no one will notice that two more pedestrians were hit by a driver earlier that very same day, although the police will issue their standard proclamation of city-wide safety.
Liquor cabinets will empty, especially those of the Fifth Estate.
On Monday evening in the council chamber, Duggins scurried off before the beginning of non-agenda public speaking time, and that’s too bad, because I had a question. It was a question the newspaper might be asking, but that’s okay. Bungalow Bill can put it on my tab.
The question is this:
What is the true story behind the New Albany Boat Club returning to its moorings and building astride the prospective Greenway?
As recently as 2013, according to public records, the Greenway Commission was being told by New Albany's bureaucratic functionaries that as land acquisition continued, easements were being sought from the New Albany Boat Club.
But concurrently, and in fact for a great many years, the boat club appears to have been the subject of a lawsuit pursued by local businessman Daniel Meyer. His property lapped over the concrete flood wall at 10th Street, and the boat club was squatting on it.
Piecing together what can be found on-line with what I’ve learned on the street, it appears that in 2015, Meyer at long last triumphed, and the boat club vacated the premises.
Almost simultaneously, the city slammed Meyer with eminent domain proceedings for its Greenway build-out, and won the right to pay him a pittance for the needed property, including the boat club building.
As I write, the New Albany Boat Club is back in its building and boasts a brand new Facebook page celebrating its return to legitimacy. Looking at the screenshots, we see a familiar face acting as intermediary.
Of course, Chris Gardner is the mayor’s son-in-law and works as the city’s flood control director.
Meanwhile, Daniel Meyer spent many years in pursuit of justice and property rights, and just about now, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, he’s scraping that shit right off his shoes.
Admittedly, there’s a lot about this situation I don’t know. I’ll try to learn more. The Fourth Estate doesn’t care a jot, and admittedly, it’s left to me to swing at the occasional pitch high and outside. I hit some and I miss some.
It's my personal take, and so lest we forget, Daniel was a valued board member on the Urban Enterprise Association during my tenure there. He worked closely with his friend Mike Ladd, the former UEA director, until Ladd's tenure came to an abrupt end.
It concluded because Jeff Gahan’s first major initiative as mayor was to facilitate the artless removal of Ladd in order to bring the UEA’s bank account in-house, where it could be controlled, with Duggins playing the role of designated hit man.
Later, Ladd was forced to sue the city of New Albany for his back pay. He's lucky Shane Gibson didn't stop payment on the check, to be swapped for discount water park coupons in lieu of cash.
And yes, I may be jaundiced, this being a charge to which I plead nolo contendere, but you’ll have to work awfully hard to convince me that Daniel's current position of being forced to watch helplessly as the city gushingly returns the boat club’s “rightful” property to squatters isn’t the result of an act of pure sadistic intent on the part of an administration that specializes in petulant vindictiveness.
Of course, if Gahan, his campaign sweater dogs, Duggins, Rosenbarger, Greg Phipps or any other member of the administration dream team wishes to contradict my assessment here, future ON THE AVENUES column space is all theirs, no strings attached.
If Hanson’s purported newspaper isn’t up to writing the history of the present times, I relish the opportunity. After all, someone's got to do it ... drink or sober.
July 28: ON THE AVENUES: An imaginary exercise tentatively called The Curmudgeon Free House.
July 21: ON THE AVENUES: We have our own Big Four Bridge. They’re called Main, Market, Spring and Elm.
July 14: ON THE AVENUES: Weeds, porch appliances and our civic Gospel of Appearances.
July 7: ON THE AVENUES: You say you want a resolution?