As the usual suspects circle the customary wagons, let's be perfectly clear.
NAC isn't lobbing Molotov cocktails at Develop New Albany just for the sport of it. Rather, I believe there are topics worthy of airing, consideration and discussion, and the fact that so few others seem interested in them only makes me more determined to ask.
Just imagine a world where all the facts were readily available, without having to fight the gatekeepers for every scrap of information. At any rate, let's go all the way back to the beginning.
It doesn't matter whether DNA gets a penny, $5,000 or $100,000 from City Hall. The fact that DNA receives funding from City Hall obliges it to be transparent about its activities and expenditures, and to answer questions about these matters from taxpayers -- even when they don't belong to the organization.
Furthermore, whether DNA gets a penny, $5,000 or $100,000 from City Hall, the organization will forever be walking a thin line as it pertains to politics, and far from constituting an exemption from scrutiny, this places an even greater burden on DNA in terms of openness.
As defined by political scientist Harold Laswell, "Politics is who gets what, when, how." The plain fact is that Jeff Gahan (or any mayor) routinely makes political decisions, and although DNA just as routinely claims to refrain from politics by virtue of its non-profit status, these claims are hypocritical and spurious far more often than not.
This is why DNA's institutional culture must be driven by its unique program of work, as defined by National Main Street's Four Points. Only in this manner can DNA produce results that justify its existence, and help to insulate it from political interference.
Of course, DNA's principals must desire operational autonomy, as opposed to courting political interference. Consequently, it isn't without reason that today's Taco Walk bears a hard look, particularly given DNA's recent fondness for touting its own "signature events." This is because National Main Street has issues with this event-centered approach.
National Main Street hopes to correct certain errant conditions.
Many Main Street programs tend to focus too much time and effort on the components of the Main Street Approach where they may feel most comfortable, and where they can have the most visible impact in a short period of time – most often, Design and Promotion. As a result, many programs report that they struggle to be recognized as serious revitalization organizations and reach key revitalization benchmarks.
In short, event-planning has become the focus of many such organizations, and this can cause them to lose focus on the bigger picture. National Main Street is on it.
As has been the case in the past, Main Streets will be encouraged to engage a wide range of local stakeholders in developing a vision of success for their downtown or neighborhood commercial districts. Main Streets will then be urged to develop cross-cutting Community Transformation Strategies that are connected to meaningful, longterm change. Progress will be measured in a variety of ways, including through economic metrics and qualitative assessment.
I cannot emphasize the importance of downtown independent business owners taking a few minutes to read these two National Main Street documents, and to consider how useful they'd be if applied to New Albany.
It should be clear that DNA's choice of signature events is itself political -- who gets what, when, and how. Who plays, and who doesn't.
Let's all eat at Israel's Delicias de Mexico Gourmet on Saturday, August 12.
Moreover, such prioritization must be viewed in the context of opportunity costs. Devoting resources to one activity probably means depriving them from another. How is this or that decision made? If City Hall provides funding to DNA, then the organization needs to do a far better job communicating the decision-making process as to who gets what, when, and how.
A few years ago, when DNA actively and publicly lobbied for farmers market expenditures to expand and make permanent the market's current home, while simultaneously denying that doing so was in any way "political," the organization wasn't just being disingenuous to the point of hypocrisy.
It also was seeking to make impossible an in-depth community dialogue about whether the current location is appropriate for anchoring (pun intended) a sporadically used farmers market when the future infill redevelopment potential of the corner of Bank and Market is so considerable.
By working to forestall a credible discussion of other options, DNA was being as political as the term can possibly be, and an opportunity has been lost. Because of this and so many other examples, the very last comment we should be hearing from anyone affiliated with DNA is that it can't or won't answer questions like these two:
What's the current level of annual City Hall support for DNA?
Of the monies collected for the Taco Walk (for example: 400 buyers at $30 per ticket is a gross of $12,000), what's the percentage to be kept by DNA?
These are perfectly legitimate questions, aren't they?
My last survey of these issues came was last August. I'm guessing these links are still topical.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2016
ON THE AVENUES: There has never been a better time for an Independent Business Alliance in New Albany.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 11, 2016
ON THE AVENUES: DNA, National Main Street, the Four Points, and how it might yet be possible to get this thing right for once.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 11, 2016
From 2011 and 2015: Regaining consciousness in a city “coming” to? Or, the infamous Come to City marketing fiasco of 2011.