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.