Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Council Crackers: Final victory over Nawbany's EPA sewer nemesis is so crucial that Jeff Gahan stayed home and watched "Walker, Texas Ranger" reruns on DVD.

(ASK THE BORED is off drinking this week, to return on the 12th of Never, or barring that, the 13th of December. Also, there are no links to local media coverage of Monday's council conclave, as no local media representatives attended.)

In a staged tableau achingly familiar to longtime council observers, an ordinance touted as the final heroic act in New Albany's quarter-century-long sewage control saga of "now we're complying, now we're not" (with federal regulatory edicts) was rushed pell-mell before council last night for two initial readings.

It was approved 7-2, and likely will receive final approval at next Thursday's second December meeting -- and by the way, apropos of nothing apart from Gahanesque imperatives of congenital secrecy, built into the ordinance is a mechanism for annual sewer rate increases tied to an as yet undisclosed sector of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI.

Praised by its backers as one of the signal achievements of Gahanism in contemporary New Albany, the sewer ordinance came forward without the Genius of the Flood Plain present in the room to argue on behalf of its merits.

Significantly, Jeff Gahan is the mayor of this city. He appointed himself to the Sewer Board chair (a paid position), and also appoints the other members of the board, but if you were expecting leadership by example from Gahan -- something apart from the labored antics of subalterns, as with David Duggins' frat boy mugging or the vocabulary-deprived glowering of Shane Gibson -- then too bad for you.

Here in New Albany, we're so very special.

Meanwhile, the 40-odd page ordinance has three central pillars.

1. It establishes bonding (up to $12.5 million) for a final phase of infrastructure initiatives that presumably will end the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) oversight of our sewage treatment network, and by doing so, free the city from remaining within a limit of yearly "points" allocated for various development projects (which were unidentified).

2. It refinances previous sewer bonds on more favorable terms to the city.

3. It establishes incremental annual sewer rate increases by tying these to the CPI, although the precise one of these indexes (there are many) or the mechanism itself is not stipulated.

As for the consumer price indexing, the best we can say is that it's a needlessly bureaucratic solution to a problem borne of political cowardice, in that it remains the council's responsibility to establish rates charged to the consumer, which will pay for the sewer system's operation without EDIT subsidies (although we still do this, illegally), and historically, this function has been the first can to be kicked down the road.

That's because in the past, any hint of a sewer rate increase would result in red-faced, pitchfork-wielding citizens clogging the 3rd floor corridor to the Down Low Bunker's safe haven.

However, in a supreme irony, the self-described Potty Police seem to have disbanded. Once an eagle, indeed. Not a single angry citizen attended last night's meeting to wag an ominous finger at impending rate increases. Of course, this might yet occur for the ordinance's final reading next Thursday, and if so, the Pee Party will face proud councilmen brandishing brand new magic shields: Don't blame us -- blame the CPI.

It isn't Remember the Alamo, but it will do in a pinch, while fleeing in abject terror.

Last night, kudos are due councilman Scott Blair, a banker, who commented at length on the complexity of the End of EPA sewer document, asking the necessary central questions: Why does something of this magnitude arise seemingly from nowhere, with implied urgency for approval during council's final two meetings of the year, without sufficient time to examine the details of the financial assumptions contained therein?

After all, amid various self-aggrandizing advertisements for his own essential role in the sewer system's victorious Long March, councilman Bob "Bicentennial Bookman" Caesar's introduction of the ordinance included repeated repetitive phrases of this general contradictory tone: There's no real hurry with this BUTDAMMITCAN'TWEMOVEANYFASTER?

The Green Mouse says: Caesar wants to be mayor someday -- and that'll make you move to Ireland quickerthanTrump.

It was only after an hour of debate that The Great Elongated and Exasperated Obfuscator, City Hall corporate attorney Shane Gibson, at last publicly conceded the precise reason for the urgency. It seems someone on Team Gahan finally looked at the needs of development projects slated for TIF-draining in 2017, and concluded that the city would not possess the necessary EPA sewer points even before the usual crony capitalism incentives are applied.

No points, no project ... and no project, no campaign finance beak-wetting. Something's up for 2017. We don't know exactly what, but it's why Caesar spent another evening carrying Gahan's jockstrap, and in turn, why Caesar's bicentennial shenanigans are being shielded by the oily operatives in Gahan's apparatus.

If Gahan could just tie sewer rates with paving contracts, and direct debit the contractors' creamy campaign finance rivulets -- then he really would be a genius, and I could have just stayed home and watched television, too.


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