Friday, January 28, 2005

Blevins, Laduke and Toran appear before the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association

Last evening, members of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association became something approximating a “test audience.”

The result was a very informative meeting.

Republican Steve Laduke, a member both of the Building Commission and the Board of Public Works & Safety, and Democrat Tony Toran, City Operations Director and President of the BPWS, have resolved to go “on the road” to meet with neighborhood and civic organizations.

It is their intention to remain non-partisan while not shying away from politics (at least on Steve's part), to answer questions lost in the confusion of City Council meetings, and most importantly, to provide information to the public about the best way to solve problems and get things done.

As an added bonus, Councilman at Large Donnie Blevins opened the meeting by commenting in an earnest and forthright manner on methods of, and difficulties with, garbage collection in New Albany.

He explained the nature of problems with the garbage trucks leased during the Overton administration, adding that in his role as councilman, he will ask for money to purchase two back-loading trucks.

Then, returning to the topic of public speaking time at City Council meetings, Steve and Tony endeavored to establish the roles and responsibilities of various components of city government and its departments, stressing that much of the congestion at City Council meetings would be relieved by citizens taking their concerns about services to the weekly Tuesday morning Board of Public Works meetings, where mechanisms exist for resolution.

Furthermore, it was pointedly noted that concerns relayed by citizens to their elected council representatives also should be presented before the BPWS. To illustrate this point, Steve produced complete minutes from 2004 BPWS meetings that showed which council members had taken constituent problems to the board.

According to the minutes, only Bill Schmidt (numerous times), Larry Kochert and Donnie Blevins did so in 2004.

The message was clear, to the point, and buttressed by the presence of Donnie, who agreed that City Council members may or may not know correct procedures, and may or may not play by the rules when they do, for what might be political reasons – or, as Steve answered when asked by an audience member, for the sake of "power."

Before Steve is attacked for his candor, let it be known that he is not the first observer of political science to note that the fundamental objective of politics is determining the nature of power and who shall wield it.

In fact, by some definitions, New Albany may arrive as a player only when the power sought by politicians rises above that of the penny-ante into the realm of genuine megalomania.

The logic goes something like this: If a City Council member knows that complaints about snow removal are best taken to the BPWS, whether by a constituent or by the council member on behalf of the constituent, and then knows that to voice such concerns at a City Council meeting is in effect to address the wrong forum with the least effectiveness, then why continue to listen to such complaints without making an effort to inform the constituent that his or her precious time is better spent at the BPWS meetings, or, better yet, volunteering to be the conduit for transmission of the complaint?

Why continue to pose as an arbiter during the wrong session?

Answer: Certain council members wish to have more control over the city’s affairs than currently is mandated, therefore to cynically encourage the notion that council meetings are the proper forum for complaints is to artfully deflect blame for subsequent inaction toward the Mayor’s office – without accepting responsibility for actually seeking solutions, or acknowledging their own obligation to relay the complaint to the appropriate authority.

It's one theory.

None of this is meant to suggest that citizens not appear before the City Council and take their opportunity to address the members on broader issues of importance.

None of this is to suggest that Mayor Garner not consider periodic public forums to take his office to the people in the manner that Steve and Tony took theirs to Muir Manor last evening.

None of this is to deny that Steve and Tony occasionally were caught making an almost too unified case designed to volley public scrutiny back toward the City Council.

However, it is to suggest that finally, an effort has been made to relay the “right” information to the public. The best way to find out whether Steve's and Tony's information is "right" is to test it by utilizing the BPWS and seeing what actually happens.

NA Confidential detected one interesting side note to the proceedings.

Entirely inadvertently, and with absolutely no visible axe to grind, Tony Toran may have made too good a case as to his own utility in the current chain of command.

He spoke thoughtfully and persuasively of the role played by the Board of Public Works, and observed with sincerity that his board presidency and his job as City Operations chief combine to provide wonderful opportunities for him to play his favored role of non-partisan problem solver, which he was able to extend to the City Council on a recent occasion when Mayor Garner was absent, with tangible and optimistic results.

So, uh, hmm ... will the real Mayor of New Albany please stand up? Indeed, 2007 draws ever closer.

For the record: The Board of Public Works and Safety meets each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. in the third-floor assembly room of the City-County Building. City department heads are required to be in attendance. Everyone involved with the board understands that it is difficult for working citizens to attend, so you are encouraged to transmit concerns to Tony Toran as well as to your council member.


Greg said...

33 members of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association turned our last evening to hear three guest speakers (Donnie Blevins, Steve LaDuke and Tony Toran).

I would like to thank each of those speakers for addressing concerns and providing us with communication needed to resolve our problems! This has given us an other avenue to help us with the problems we face.

The neighborhood association is very vocal and we believe that politics should not play a role in helping us clean up our city and our neighborhoods that is why, with the approval of the ESNA members, I requested that the ESNA be the first organization to host BPWS town hall meeting. We need to get the politicians out of the City/County building and into the neighborhoods!

Greg Roberts, President
East Spring Street Neighborhood Association

Watching Eye said...

Shouldn't Council Memebers answer questions about City Council Business??? Just a thought.

S. LaDuke said...

I just wnated to thank everyone for the opportunity to speak with you last evening.

As Roger said, you were our first stop on the "Reality" Tour so I hope we didn't ramble too much.

I hope everyone found our visit informative. I look forward to speaking with you all again in the near future.


The New Albanian said...

Watching Eye - yes, City Council members should be questioned about City Council business, and the speaking portion of the meeting allows that. The point as made my last night's guest speakers is to direct questions to those forums most likely to provide an answer. This does not seem unreasonable to me.

Tim Deatrick said...

This is my first blog comment and I hope it is perceived as positive by all bloggers, at the very least it is an observation. With a background in economic development I have found the most effective communities are those that have a consensus about where they want to go and what they need to do to get there.

There appears to be a conflict oriented atmosphere currently dividing the community, perhaps the Blog can serve as a forum to take the pulse of the community and assess where New Albany is lacking and where it can be.

I think the this blog has a real opportunity to be an advocate and a forum, good luck Roger and all bloggers, lets make New Albany all it can be.

Watching Eye said...

New Albanian - it is reasonable, I agree citizens should be informed as to which department handles which issues. Isn't that what the councilmen do - direct them or handle the issue for them.

What is the "Reality" tour?

When I gaze over Garner Kingdom I wonder why Toran and LaDuke would be the ones to answer questions lost in confusion. The questions I hear are about Jimmy and the choices he has made (pocket veto, shinny new car, Broadus, Hancock and the list goes on).

Maybe Toran and LaDuke were there for the "sake of power". Let's see Jimmy's right hand man, his bestfriend (LaDuke) and a politically chanllenged councilman are good ones to say blame certain councilmen. Do they play by the rules?

dan said...

Good catch watchfuleye, for we are in fact serfs in the Garner Kingdom with a court full of Rasputins, AKA Tony Toran, Steve LaDuke, and of course The President of the City Council, a body of govt that is supposed to put a check on the King, Jeff Gahan.

And to Mr. Deatrick: nice comments but my question is, Are you on fantasy Island? What you have in mind is a city that is truly democratic, and I don't mean as in political party. In case you haven't noticed we are ruled by a dictator. Good luck getting the King to include the serfs in any dialogue, of course it would appear that he did open the door to Mr. Baylor, my question for Baylor is when are you going to make the move to get a town hall meeting set up?

Hal9000 said...

It appears to me that there is no intelligent life at Spaceship Garner, the crew: Capt.Garner and his 1st mate Tony Toran are seriously jeopardizing New Albany's mission: progress!

The New Albanian said...

For Hal: The problem lies in defining "progress," and it is this definition that is of the utmost importance.

The ideal state of progress for the slum lord and of that designed to lure tourists to a specialized museum certainly is quite different. The problem with City Hall at present is that its choice is not clear, and consequently, we propose to help clarify it.

Hal9000 said...

For New Albanian: That's great but besides putting up a blogspot what will you actually do to make the unintelligent life forms, The Garner crew embrace what you are proposing, seems to me if you are serious about it you would do more than just blog about it.

I guess what I am trying to say is put up or shut up!

All4Word said...

The returns are in. It's put up. Channels of communication have been opened without anyone being forced to compromise on goals or principles, without anyone losing face.

You have an idea? Air it out. Leave the catcalls for an election year. The work is being done, but it has to be done right. How many times have single-issue activists flared brightly and then burned out? How many times have new businesses offered bright promises before giving up.

You can expend energy without creating locomotion. I think the movement afoot here is strategic and long-term and designed to build a consensus without wasting energy.

Anyone who sees this venue as a forum to attack people is getting it all wrong. With sometimes caustic wit, NA Confidential has, from its inception, demanded accountability while suggesting solutions. It salutes vision and ridicules the lack thereof. It applauds those officials who act in the public interest and condemns those who engage in petty gamesmanship.

This is simply not the place to whine "Nothing good will ever come out of New Albany."

Got an idea to move the city forward? Let's hear it.

dan said...

Yes, I agree with HAL, dont just talk about it or blog about it. Get the town hall meetings set up and dialogue about it.

S. LaDuke said...

Watching Eye,

First, I'd like to address the point that I am the Mayors "Bestfriend" or his "confidant". If this is true, Mayor Garner leads a lonley life. I may possibly see and speak to the Mayor once a week if I run into him before or after a weekly Board of Public Works and Safety meeting. I have, at times, stuck my head into his office before a Council Meeting to say hello. If he invites me in to chat, I go in. If he doesn't, I go on my way. To my knowledge, I have only had lunch with the Mayor once which was during the Campaign. I met with Mayor Garner and Mr. Toran, as I did with the other candidates, to discuss the debate hosted by the Historic Kiwanis Club of New Albany which and held at I.U.S. The Mayor has NEVER sought me out to ask my opinion on any city matter to which I was not directly connected. A City Inspector was on vacation for 2 - 3 weeks and the Mayor asked if I knew any plumbers who would be qualified to handle inspections during that time. I gave him a reference and someone contacted that person. Being a long standing member of the Building commission (appointed by Mayor Overton) the Mayor contacted me when Mr. Applegate passed away and asked if I knew of an architect who may want to take his place on the Commission. I have known and worked with Chet Michelle for years and thought he would be a perfect candidate for that position. Mr. Michelle was approved by the City Council almost a year ago with no question however, now there seems to be question among some as to weather he is the right person for this position. The same was true about Mr. Phil Koetter. There is not one person who is more qualified than Mr. Koetter to fill the position vacated by Mr. Pry. Now, there is a rumor going around town that says I am the person who "pushed" Mr. Pry into resigning his position on the Building Commission so I could get my "greedy" little "power hungry" hands on the Building Department of the City. Nothing could be further from the truth! If anyone would care to check the minutes for our first meeting of last year, I was the one who nominated Mr. Pry for President of the Commission. There seems to be question that I am out for "special" treatment with my private sector business. (I am in the Heating and Cooling business.) To be completely honest, I have only had one issue with the Building Commission Department in the 15 years I have operated my business. This matter was solved when a second inspector was called to give his opinion, which differed from the original inspectors opinion. The second inspector was right.

Up until this past year, the only involvement I had in politics was to support a candidate by donating a little money and putting a sign or two in my yard. I don't NEED to be a member of a board, nor do I NEED to hold a position to feel important. I do, however feel the need to give back to my hometown. I spend my time going to meetings and helping in the community because I feel it is the right and proper thing to do. Believe me, I could spend my time somewhere else! I had absolutely no idea how two-faced and back-stabbing the local political arena was, but I sure do now. The thing that amazes me most is how certain people can say something publicly and think that it won't get back to the person they are talking about.

I'll address the other items in short form! Pocket Veto - Dead issue, the ordinance has been passed and signed, move on. / shinny new car - not my issue. / Broadus - 2-sides to every story / Hancock - I believe the Mayor has publically admitted this was a mistake. The City has a fine person in this position now, let's let him run the department and make the decisions that need to be made. / "sake of power" - please, I have a life!

I would feel this way no matter who was in office because, I feel this is the right way to be.

Steve LaDuke

The New Albanian said...

Steve, thanks for the detailed perspective.

Watching Eye said...

Steve LaDuke,

Bravo !!!!

What a nicely chronograph entertaing perspective. Did I hit a nerve?

S. LaDuke said...

A nerve... no, not at all. I just wanted to put to rest the rumors and innuendo that seem to be circulating among certain groups of people.

Steve LaDuke