A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
Not since the unlikely elevation of a dissolute New York City property mogul to the highest office in the land has such an abysmally unqualified individual been handed the keys to the future of so many lives, but we reside in the Principality of New Gahania, and David Duggins now “directs” the New Albany Housing Authority.
Perhaps only the likes of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka or Gabriel Garcia Marquez could explain our new surreal reality by means of creative fiction, but to paraphrase the mayor, “Nobody reads books.”
Duggins was awarded his dandy high-paying sinecure by a board of obsequious toady minions, as carefully packed by Mayor Jeff Gahan with his best available bobble-headed sycophants eager to abandon their integrity to bask in the glow of their puppetmaster’s gleaming pate, leaving no doubt about the ownership of whatever master plan for demolition is being implemented.
Never forget that the dismantling of public housing in New Albany is to be Deaf Gahan’s crowning achievement, unless Duggins botches the job and is sent back to the bullpen at the Class AA River Ridge Bootlicking Wannabees, absorbing the blame for disappointing whole generations of white suburban males who feel deep in their bones that if only the poor people would go away, this town might really amount to something.
The fact of their preachers encouraging them in this belief is a topic for another time.
Speaking of stopped clocks, the timing of Duggins’ windfall pay rise, as well as the arguably more significant and impending appointment of his replacement as economic dishevelment director and artful router of beak-wetting sustenance at the Redevelopment Commission, simply cannot be separated from impending election cycles in 2018 and 2019.
With Gahan still emitting random gurgling sounds about the State Senate race in 2018 (the vexed commode begs him to decide), there exists neither time nor desire for Gahan to bring in fresh blood from outside.
Meet Bob Caesar, Chris Gardner or Zelda the Wonder Ferret, YOUR new interim redevelopment figurehead, fully capable of treating the high rollers to drinks, mass-producing cookie-cutter tax abatements, and using one of those ballpark t-shirt cannons to ensure proper distribution of cash-stuffed “In Gahan We Trust” v-necks.
By then, Mike Hall and Adam Dickey will have produced fresh and scintillating reams of adulatory press clippings for the mayor’s ketchup-topped binge credulity, and there’ll be an election campaign or two.
Exactly where Gahan’s megalomania is taking us remains murky, but it’s best to harbor no illusions about his ambition or any of these minutely orchestrated preludes.
He’s doing what’s best for Big Daddy G, just like he always does.
Getting back to our local production of “HUD Times with Ben Carson and Diamond Dave,” here’s a comment left at NAC by Susan Ryan, a longtime community (and local Democratic Party) activist.
Duggins is getting a nearly 40% raise, not 30% which means that he is basically doubling his salary. My favorite part, however, is how a brand new housing board (most of them only have been in place a couple of months) can continue to talk about the firing of Bob Lane as necessary because he didn't share their vision.
Huh? How does any board that has no experience, and no history of working together develop a vision in just a couple of meetings? Hogwash!
Next thing to look for: Duggins will let maintenance slide and push the units into a state of total disrepair by neglect. Then they will have to be torn down. Some residents also expect that their now quiet and safe environment will suddenly be filled with problem tenants so that crime will increase, making the housing developments a broader negative public concern.
And beyond Duggins’ lack of experience for the NAHA position, we now have a new executive for the Homeless Coalition. Her background is working for the Chamber of Commerce. We only want to get those homeless and poor out of our city. Simply appalling.
Ouch. There's so much hard truth in Ryan's words that local Democrats probably will obey their overlord by not bothering to read them. After all, there's always television.
Meanwhile, the headline just writes itself.
One Southern Indiana ecstatic as Homeless Coalition selects former Indiana Chamber of Commerce staffer to concur with Wendy Dant Chesser’s plans for a regional oligarchy free of the unsightly impoverished.
True, I hadn’t been paying all that much attention to goings-on at the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, and I missed this passage in a June 5 newspaper article written by Danielle Grady, explaining the departure of HCSI director Dawn Klemm.
Leslea Townsend Cronin, chair of the homeless coalition’s board, said that she could not comment on whether or not the former director, Dawn Klemm, had resigned from her job or her employment had been terminated …
… Stacy Deck, a Floyd County resident, said in a text that Klemm is now a fellow member of an informal advocacy group that opposes a recently passed memorandum of understanding between the City of New Albany and the New Albany Housing Authority board …
… (former coalition board member Virginia) Peck said that she left because she had originally only planned to work on the board for a year, but that she, too, wanted to do more advocacy work that she didn’t feel comfortable with as someone affiliated with the homeless coalition ...
… Peck said that the board was dependent on the generosity of local government. The city councils of New Albany and Jeffersonville voted to each give $75,000 to the homeless coalition to get it started.
“I didn’t want to take a chance on harming the coalition’s relationship by doing the advocacy work that I felt was really needed in our community,” Peck said.
“Sometimes elected officials don’t like it if you disagree with their policy positions and sometimes they are not particularly willing — not willing to work well with you — if you have used them in the past,” she said.
Sometimes they disagree?
An amazing coincidence, but as Ryan observes, the HCSI has quickly filled its leadership vacancy, presumably with someone more in keeping with the tastes of local elected officials.
Elizabeth Beilman explains.
... Keeley Stingel, a Washington County resident, replaces former director Dawn Klemm who left her position this spring. Stingel starts her new role June 19.
In her capacity at the Chamber of Commerce, Stingel's work has covered as many as 45 counties. She also brings experience from the Indiana Lieutenant Governor's Office of Community and Rural Affairs and Hoosier Uplands Economic Development Cooperation. She is a member of the Indiana Youth Institute Board of Directors and the Commission for Higher Education 21st Century Scholars Advisory Council.
Stingel holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and a Master's in Public Affairs from Indiana University …
… Leslea Townsend Cronin, president of the homeless coalition board, said it's Stingel's experience in fundraising, community building and advocacy that drew the board to her.
"She's incredibly dynamic. We're very excited to have her," Townsend Cronin said in a phone interview. "She's very knowledgeable about funding systems, funding streams, very passionate about the people she's going to be serving."
But will Stingel be able to soothe Interim Redevelopment Procurator Caesar's fevered brow as he frets about playing second fiddle to the imperial ambitions of Dear Leader, without so much as a single paltry vestal virgin to plop seedless grapes into his mouth while NAHA burns and Duggins gets all the credit for the inferno?
How might Caesar successfully mount a future mayoral bid without being able to say it was CeeSaw, not Duggins, who made New Albany luxurious again?
It might be helpful for Caesar to renew his breathless vows with One Southern Indiana; perhaps after Dant Chesser has contrived a second Regional Cities Initiative boondoggle, she can direct her captive RDA to set aside a farthing or two for public transport – in this instance, bovine rolling stock.
Because: As economic movers and shakers will tell you all too readily as you squirm over your third martini and look desperately for the fire escape to offer some way out of this acronym-laden golfing oligarch’s networking hell, it’s all about economies of scale.
Why use separate trains to transport first the homeless, then public housing residents to their peachy resettlement camps located just across the Harrison County line, when all of them can be crammed into cattle cars for a single gala trip, offering a far more efficient photo-op for Gahan, Caesar, Dan Coffey, or any other local politician in need of a platform plank?
And again this reminder: No local elected officials with the possible exception of a typically venomous Coffey have spoken publicly about Gahan's plans for the NAHA. Silence is acceptance, is it not?
They're all imaging the Orwellian words inscribed on the locomotive, right next to the smiley faced mud flat anchor.
“Hop on Board the Quality of Life Express.”
Rather like Petticoat Junction and all that shit.
June 8: ON THE AVENUES: Since 2004, "Two way, better way."
June 1: ON THE AVENUES: Take this cult of personality and shove it.
May 25: ON THE AVENUES: Welcome to wherever you are, and come to think of it, Ljubljana will do nicely.
May 18: ON THE AVENUES: Are dissidents born or made? A humanities major examines his life and locale.