Thursday, September 29, 2016
ON THE AVENUES 3-PK, PART THREE: Survey says … Irv’s street grid agitprop won’t be putting Diogenes out of work any time soon.
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
In the finale of a 3-pk, we come back to the present, only to find that like always in New Albany, the past won't let the future be.
The Green Mouse has uncovered a bonus copy of Irv Stumler's "Survey of Business in New Albany," as wrapped in a whoopee cushion made in China, and gifted to the Board of Public Works and Safety amid a room of eyes rolling in unrestrained mirth.
It isn’t a real survey, because Irv has made no apparent effort to present a fair case for the opposing side, and then to tally the ballots, come what may.
Rather, he’s circulating a petition, not a survey, and he intends to be given the “correct” answers, even if he is obliged to remind unfortunate listeners that one-way streets discourage atheism, dissuade onanism, and are better than milk and beefsteak for growing young drivers.
Naturally, Irv has a perfect right to post his selected theses (even his trademark feces) on any church door he chooses, at least once he’s browbeaten the attending minister for a few thumbtacks and plastic bags.
Concurrently, I feel the need to expose Irv’s ginormous honking whoppers, and today it is my grudging task to dissect this muddled, tragic and frankly hilarious mess, though with an important caveat.
Apart from a sole necessary exception, I’ll not be naming names. I harbor no interest in outing, or assembling boycott lists. To do so would merely perpetuate the divisiveness Irv seeks so mightily to conjure, and he can keep this dubious distinction for himself.
I hope he chokes on it.
When it comes to framing the many issues involved with our city’s potential to build a “complete” and calmed two-way street network downtown, Irv has shown neither an interest in, nor an aptitude for, any semblance of intellectual honesty.
His self-appointed task is evangelistic, to find fissures and to exploit them mercilessly – to foster division for the maintenance of the status quo, not so much of street direction itself as the prevailing local economic power structure.
A rebuttal is merited on both counts, and in formulating it, my only exception to the rule of discretion is Mark Seabrook, for reasons that should be obvious. As a funereal politician, High Commissioner Seabrook likes to have it both ways, and accordingly, I enjoy giving it back to him, good and hard, on a tarnished silver platter.
Someone’s got to do it, at least until the electorate has the good sense to turn him out.
What we have before us are several sheets of paper stapled together, with an introductory prelude written by a preschooler.
Exactly who has chosen to buy into Irv’s drivel?
Not very many, at least once the petition has been edited into vague comprehensibility, and as such, we can begin our sad survey of Irv’s bogus “survey” by consolidating repetitious entries, as when several signatures appear on behalf of a single business.
These duplications account for roughly 15% of the total signatures on the document. Out they go.
Next to be removed are the names of those companies who’ve already publicly voted against street grid reform by joining the 800-lb reigning Tsar Padgett in threatening to sue the city (see “lawyers at their feeding troughs,” below).
Irv would like us to believe that each time he goes pandering, a fresh new wave of like-minded drones materializes. Alas, this isn't the case. His latest petition is littered with the usual suspects, and we already have been made painfully aware of their opposition to street grid modernity.
So, chuck 'em.
Moreover, a typical business’s employees (as opposed to its owners) are in most cases unauthorized to represent their employer’s interests. Their signatures can be set aside; I've already fact-checked two instances of this occurring without management’s knowledge, and I'd guess there are at least a half-dozen more.
Nice try, but no dice.
C’mon, Irv. You should at least stick around long enough to speak with the person in charge.
What about “survey” signatories who don't actually live in New Albany?
Seeing as the pompous perpetual power-brokering windbag (and high commissioner) Seabrook has informed the newspaper that street direction opinions from people who "don't live here" cannot be trusted, we must take the conniving time-server at his word, and immediately dismiss the dozen-plus business owners who are opposed to two-way streets, but as yet reside outside city limits.
(Personally, I’d be inclined to accept the signatures of these out-of-town business owners, since they’re investing something concrete in New Albany, but who am I to dispute High Commissioner Seabrook’s stellar reasoning?)
Which makes this a good juncture for a digression.
Consider these mad-as-hell downtown business owners living elsewhere, generally in sedate rural settings, safely segregated from urban neighborhoods obviously intended by God herself to use as industrial corridors, and yet they are grievously offended that "a very vocal group" of homeowners (read: homo-owner-sexuals) who actually DO live downtown, “on the east side of the city,” keep insisting on measures to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood.
The unmitigated gall.
If all the city slickers agreed to be herded into a housing project by the crane works, just think how high profit margins might go!
Aren’t urban dwellers supposed to be inconvenienced by industrial activities that wouldn’t be permitted anywhere near the business owners’ homes?
Concurrently, I'm absolutely comfortable in guessing that 85% or more of Irv’s "survey" signatories are white males well past the age of 50, and as such, readers are invited to do their own social justice deprivation mathematics.
Be forewarned, for it’s a grim sum, indeed.
Various “survey” blatherings about safety and common sense are pure unadulterated hokum, appended as afterthoughts, doing little to obscure the basic fact that Irv's tireless solicitation of respectable people is directed primarily toward the preservation of local white male power elites, of which he is a part, as underwritten by self-appointed pillars of suitability, of whom he is one, and who aren’t saying that streets must be kept as currently configured to ease the passage of trucks and heavy machinery alone.
No, it’s much more than this.
What they're really saying is that people not operating vehicles powered by internal combustion engines have absolutely no right to the road, and by definition, respectable people do, because they have cars, trucks and motorcycles.
In fact, Irv’s purported “survey” is a document detailing social judgments borne of class warfare, not engineering conclusions.
Tiger's owner Joe Zeller ominously tooted this particular dog whistle at last week's public meeting, noting that whenever them dainty Spandex bicyclists get too close to one of his fully erect 18-wheelers – well, hell, we all know who always wins such confrontations, just sayin’, WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE, and it’s certainly not any of Zeller’s responsibility to cede a square inch of tarmac ON A PUBLIC ROAD to make such conflicts less likely.
Rather, as Irv told BOW in high dudgeon, any piddling pedestrian scared of high-speed street traffic best get his spindly yellow ass up on the sidewalk, where his kind belongs.
To repeat: Irv’s absurd “survey” is about who belongs, who does not belong … and who decides, and in High Commissioner Seabrook, Irv has an eager applicant for the task of tattoo artist.
A handful of attorneys also signed the petition, probably from the mistaken notion it was a paycheck. I believe each one of them has either suckled at the teat of Seabrook's tender GOP in the past, or continues to do so now.
Are their expressions of concern for trucking public safety genuine, or are they applying a little more Astroglide for the process of saying what must be said, so as to facilitate the continued wetting of beaks, considering that the most persistent opponent of street sensibility other than Irv is a Floyd County Commissioner and Republican Party stalwart named Mark Seabrook? After all, they're lawyers, serving on councils and committees.
Now if you'll excuse me, I must go take a shower.
Finally, I don't begrudge the stated "opposition" to two-way streets on the part of a duo of specific signatories whom I know personally.
Except that I've been around them long enough to know their beef with the city has nothing to do with streets. Their non-directional complaints with City Hall probably are legitimate, but their signatures on Irv's petition are plainly irrelevant.
When the smoke has cleared and the mirrors have all shattered, Irv’s jihadist screed adds up to far less than the sum of its ballyhooed parts. What does it tell us?
In the past few years, dozens of new businesses have been established in downtown New Albany. Of these newer businesses, less than a half-dozen of them deigned to sign Irv's most recent poison pen petition.
This may be because Irv simply didn’t bother approaching the ones he knew would ignore him, or he conveniently forgot to record their true feelings after a series of swinging doors graced the fabric around his posterior. From beginning to end, Irv’s petition has been a contrived exercise in propaganda, one that never was intended to be scientific, and he feels no compunction whatever about spinning yarns.
Significantly, these many new businesses – the ones NOT rallying around Irv’s white flag of capitulation – symbolize the future of downtown New Albany as an inclusive, diverse and representative modern economic and residential entity.
Appropriately, this new breed of downtown business owner hasn’t once advocated for the exclusion of crane operators, veneer companies, wholesalers, funeral homes and trans-shippers, but merely sought civic equality, and as it stands, HWC’s street grid plan represents a compromise for all downtown stakeholders.
Why isn’t this compromise sufficient, Irv?
Mr. High Commissioner?
Almost unanimously, New Albany’s new generation of downtown business owners has rejected Irv’s desperate entreaties to keep New Albany configured for the rapidly diminishing past, as opposed to a constantly evolving future.
Ironically, then, Irv has done the city a great and purely unintended favor. In his blind zeal to discredit the future, he has revealed the obstructionist obstinacy of his own coddled ilk in refusing to compromise for the betterment of all.
For this, I think both Irv and Mark deserves plaques, to be permanently embedded by a crosswalk beneath our feet in the pavement of a two-way street.
I'll take great pleasure in walking there.
September 29: ON THE AVENUES 3-PK, PART TWO: Inkem binkem notamus rex, protect us all from the city (still) with the hex (2014).
September 29: ON THE AVENUES 3-PK, PART ONE: Chocolate covered frozen banana republic, or "understanding" Harvest Homecoming, our peculiar institution (2014).
September 22: ON THE AVENUES: On two-way streets, a modest proposal for the consideration of my disoriented one-way counterpart.
September 15: ON THE AVENUES Now for my next amazing conversion trick (KABOOM!!!) – look at those pretty windows on Schmitt Furniture.