Friday, September 30, 2005

Educated vs. non-educated society, and why CM Coffey isn't likely to read this posting.

As a left-leaning contrarian, I’ve never regarded conservative columnist David Brooks of the New York Times as a must-read, although his recent claim to fame as the poet laureate of the American exurb seems to me justified.

That being said, here’s a Brooks column worth reading:

The Education Gap,” by David Brooks, New York Times, September 26th, 2005 (the story link is to a web site that has taken the liberty of reprinting Brooks’s column, with or without permission of the NYT, which has added his works to its "select" for-pay plan).

Here are excerpts:

As you doubtless know, as the information age matures, a new sort of stratification is setting in, between those with higher education and those without. College graduates earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates, and people with professional degrees earn nearly twice as much as those with college degrees ...

… A social chasm is opening up between those in educated society and those in non-educated society, and you are beginning to see vast behavioral differences between the two groups.

For example, divorce rates for college grads are plummeting, but they are not for everyone else. The divorce rate for high school grads is now twice as high as that of college grads.

There are other behavior differences, large and small, which reflect the different social norms in the two
classes. High school grads are twice as likely to smoke as college grads. They are much less likely to exercise. College grads are nearly twice as likely to vote. They are more than twice as likely to do voluntary work. They are much more likely to give blood. These behavioral gaps are widening …

… In an information society, college is the gateway to opportunity. Crucial life paths are set at age 18,
which means family and upbringing matter more.

Educated parents not only pass down economic resources to their children, they pass down expectations, habits, knowledge and cognitive abilities. Pretty soon you end up with a hereditary meritocratic class that reinforces itself generation after generation …

… now the gap between rich and poor is widening. Students in the poorest quarter of the population have an 8.6 percent chance of getting a college degree. Students in the top quarter have a 74.9 percent chance.

According to Brooks, “only 28 percent” of American adults have a college degree.

At the same time, according to the 2000 census, a bit less than 16% of New Albany’s residents can make the same claim.

In a key passage, Brooks writes of the necessity of individuals being “culturally prepared” for college.

Seeing as the concept of culture embraces the community outside the home and family, and given New Albany’s wider gap, it seems fair to ask whether we as a city are “culturally prepared” for college, in the sense of possessing a culture that values higher education and understands that unless the city gets “smarter,” (in this way and in many others) it is likely to be left even further behind than it is now.

Our local newspaper, the Tribune, commonly embodies the educational disconnect that afflicts New Albany. On the positive side, and owing primarily to the personal interest of its managing editor, the newspaper does a fairly good job of covering issues pertaining to area elementary schools and high schools.

Unfortunately, the coverage usually stops there. Universities are confined to the sports page ghetto, and Indiana University Southeast seldom makes the cut when it comes to education news in the Tribune, an omission that handily reinforces the notion that a high school education is sufficient in today’s job market, and college is an institution one watches play ball on television -- and, as Brooks explains, the facts indicate that this simply isn’t so.

And who can forget the night that Councilman Dan Coffey disparaged reading, in public, during a council meeting?

The arrival one year ago of our first full-service bookstore in fifty years caused much excitement, but the pathetic thing is that for every dozen customers, there are two or three others who actively fear, and more often than not loathe, the possibilities engendered by literacy, and symbolized by rows of books that they themselves detest, and would deprive from others if given the wish.

We can take Brooks or leave him as we please, but it remains that now more than ever, education isn’t everything – it’s the only thing, and that’s why NA Confidential will never “give a break” to any elected public official (or, for that matter, any private citizen) who expresses contempt or derision for the concept of learning as a means of human betterment– or behaves in such a manner as to suggest that there is virtue to be derived from such a position.

There is none. The sooner we get smarter, the better.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tribune publisher outlines bold reform plan at symposium.

According to Illinois native John Tucker, the new publisher of the Tribune (and its sister newspaper, the Evening News), bringing his family to Floyd County fulfills a personal desire to “put down roots,” while taking on the task of revitalizing the Tribune provides an “opportunity to bring back something that is needed.”

Inferring from his comments last night during a Public Affairs Symposium at Destinations Booksellers, Mr. Tucker understands that reversing a workplace culture of long-term underachievement at the very same time as seeking secure and profitable footing in a changing media marketplace constitutes heavy professional lifting of a high order, but that he relishes the challenge and is being fully supported by the corporate office at Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., which views the Tribune reclamation project as the company’s “biggest challenge” at the present time.

In terms of its journalistic mission, Mr. Tucker views the Tribune as a “community newspaper,” one that must strive for balance in its goal of “doing right by the community” without sacrificing its obligation to serve as watchdog in community affairs, readily conceding that the Tribune has functioned ineffectively when it comes to the latter, and bluntly acknowledging that the newspaper has much improvement to make if it expects to be taken seriously.

Furthermore, as “community newspapers,” the Tribune and Evening News must stand on their own, not function merely as adjuncts of the powerful Courier-Journal.

With refreshingly candor, Mr. Tucker provided detailed answers to all questions asked of him, ranging from an honest assessment of industry profits – “newspapers used to make truckloads and truckloads of money, but now it is just truckloads” – to the difficulties in weaning circulation departments from over-reliance on telemarketing to sell newspapers.

In short, by the end of 2005, Tribune readers can expect noticeable changes, and Mr. Tucker earnestly predicts that we’ll be surprised at how fast these changes take place during the coming months.

If John Tucker’s crash program of glasnost and perestroika succeeds in implementing his vision of a Tribune as the newspaper should and might be, the benefits to our community are incalculable.

As with any reform program implemented within any human institution, there is bound to be fervent resistance, both from within and without, such as we see now with the reaction in a small, brutish minority of the community to such unfamiliar concepts as “change” and “progress.”

However, there is a healthy and growing constituency for progress in New Albany, and a local newspaper that functions in the manner outlined by Mr. Tucker last night at the symposium certainly must be counted at the very least as a fellow traveler in the push for sustainable progress in the community.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Publisher John Tucker of the Tribune headlines Sept. 28 Public Affairs Symposium at Destinations Booksellers.

It's tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 7:00 p.m.

News and Tribune Publisher Faces Off With Readers

We're delighted to offer another Public Affairs Symposium this Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. with publisher John Tucker. Tucker has been with the for papers a couple of months and tells us he'll reveal some major changes to each during this event.

If you have anything to say to the publisher of our area newspapers, this is your best opportunity.

We'll be there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

NA Confidential's favorite Larry Kochert quote, ever -- bar none.

But don’t hold us to it, because there’s always the chance we’ll agree with him again some day.

In January, 2004, the longtime city councilman, and equally long-serving sewer board member, was asked by the Tribune’s Amany Ali to consider the motives of a group of city and county residents, a veritable who’s who of congenital obstructionism then loudly engaged in opposing the city’s granting of a sewer connection to the LaFollette Station project (now close to completion) along Highway 150 in Floyds Knobs, whose appeal to the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication was laughed out of court by the Environmental Law Judge in July of the same year.

Kochert responded to the reporter’s question with palpably mystified exasperation as to “why anyone would appeal the project,” and his analysis nestled gracefully into the very center of the target:

They're against everything. I've not seen one thing they've agreed with … I think they're wasting taxpayers' money. I don't think they're going to stop it. I think they're only going to delay it.

Then, noting that the city would both save money in building the sewer line and make money from those tapping in, CM Kochert closed with this:

Why wouldn't you want to do that?

Verily, it’s a question that defines our “little” epoch here in New Albany.

New Albany residents protest plan linking city sewers to new county development, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor (link to the Indiana Economic Digest reprint of the January 29, 2004 Tribune article).

Monday, September 26, 2005

On the nature of lawlessness, the motivations of looters, and the pernicious influence of hatred in our community.

My longtime friend Joe, a keen observer of the human condition and possessor of a long memory, surely will object to the lack of specificity prevalent herein, reminding me that there have been times when I objected to the trait in other writers.

And yet, I’m confident that my readers will understand the basis of these sentiments – if not today, then perhaps later.

Being a victim of criminal lawlessness is by no means enjoyable or excusable under any circumstances, but after careful consideration, I’m prepared to argue that in some cases at least it can be rationally understood -- although neither sanctioned nor condoned -- more easily than in others.

For instance, take the relatively common crime of burglary.

In this day and age, most of us have come to understand that items stolen in the vast majority of burglaries are not being used to adorn the living quarters of the perpetrator.

Rather, they’re being sold to finance one of the many varieties of drug habits, which we as a society prefer to criminalize and only reluctantly to treat as the illnesses as they really are, thus helping establish and maintain the market price of addiction and to create an attractive incentive for a brand of thievery that, in the end, merely emulates the “legitimate” supply/demand, dog-eat-dog economy from whence it mimics.

While in high school, my family was burglarized twice, once for kicks and drug money, and the second for drug money alone. Years later, my business was robbed. It was a classically “inside” job, with no wasted motion on the part of intruders who knew exactly what they wanted, and where to find it. Again, the logistics of drug finance were the underlying reason for the break-in.

We filed insurance claims, and perhaps learned as much as possible from the experience, given that we’re law-abiding citizens – installing security systems, putting valuables in the safe deposit box, and the like.

But what if you’re the victim of a crime, and the underlying rationale is not support of an addiction, but to engender fear, to intimidate, to let the victim know clearly and without any doubt that he, she and “their type” are the subjects of hatred – a crime designed to hurt, and to bludgeon the victim into silence – what then?

It must be conceded that crimes committed against an individual not because he has something of real value to steal, but because of who he is, what he knows, what he says, or how he lives his life, rank more heinously in the pantheon of human depravity than pilferage by the ill and addicted.

Splitting hairs? Perhaps, but as I suspect any African-American will attest, it’s one thing to have your mailbox vandalized, and another entirely to awaken to a cross burning in the front yard. The first act of vandalism generally can be rationalized as random in nature, but the second clearly goes further, into the realm of violence, insinuated or perpetrated, for cultural, racial or political reasons.

Recognition of this difference is why sensible people delineate simple brutishness and thuggery from the calculated terror that lies at the conceptual basis of the hate crime.

We’re left with speculation eternal as to exactly why the human animal has the capacity to hate, to oppress and to destroy.

Perhaps it is the polarity of opposites … gist for the denizens of the agora in ancient Greece, and in large measure unchanged during three millennia later.

For literacy is anathema to the illiterate, and culture to the uncultured. When it comes to the devil one knows, the only sure thing about it is that the untutored, the inbred and the envious almost always will prefer succor from the poverty, ignorance and violence borne of their unfortunate experiences, and just as certainly will seek to place the blame for even the slightest hint of helpful change on the part of those whose dynamism and vision often have been the sole impetus for progress on the planet Earth: The thinkers, the planners, the immigrants, the educated, the outsiders – the doers, not the looters … those who add value to our world, not subtract it.

Of course, to embrace this scenario is to ignore the possibility that what seems to bear all the hallmarks of a hate crime might in fact be nothing more than petty vandalism and rage contributed by the congenitally incapable -- but conversely, it also does not take into account possible motives of a far more venal, self-protective and damning nature.

If the very same relatively privileged people, those who insist on the necessity of wearing masks to ward off reprisals from the lawful, turn out to have fostered a bilious atmosphere in which certain seemingly threatened paragons of traditional virtue feel compelled to don their own masks and enter a dark realm of unlawful reprisal against those who have erred only by daring to teach the unlettered … well, when such a turnabout comes to pass, how exactly does one explain the anonymity of the burglar, of the hooded Klansman, of the Internet scribe composing screeds urging holy war against the infidel who reads?

Furthermore, how does one explain it to the children of the community?

Barring the sad reality of a pathetic eagerness to see their children grow into adulthood with the same paucity of opportunity as their parents, doomed to trod the same desperate paths of futility, and in all likelihood to abandon the flawed community that their quarreling elders are so reluctant to change, the parents had best begin trying to come up with an answer beyond being mad as hell and using their anger as an excuse to pillage and harass.

That’s because although being mad as hell may sound cutely cinematic, it may well also encourage the less endowed and less principled among us into committing acts of criminal lawlessness, and if that happens, the hateful provocateurs igniting the fuse are just as responsible for the consequences as the expendable underlings throwing the bomb.

At the same time, there are few spectacles in human affairs quite as sadly predictable, and somehow eerily fascinating, as the implosion and collapse of a soul rotted from within.

I feel some degree of pity for the ones who collapse from the weight of addictions and struggles that overwhelm the powers of human reason and personal restraint with which they were gifted at birth.

But no pity need be spared for the pernicious elements, for the looters, for the practitioners of lawlessness, or for the people amongst us whose vendetta against the powers of human reason is manifested by wielding hatred as a means of control.

Maybe that’s the best way to explain it.

C-J praises OEO Badger in today's issue.

Reminding us that it’s way past time for New Albany’s institutionalized culture of unaccountability to be rectified, the Courier-Journal's Ben Zion Hershberg this morning provides a pleasant overview of new Ordinance Enforcement Officer (OEO) Pam Badger’s first busy weeks on the job.

Code-enforcement officer gets results, by Ben Zion Hershberg, (short shelf life for C-J links).

Meanwhile, somewhere on Shelby Street, someone is reaching for the Rolaids and muttering, “It’s gonna cost us votes.”

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Let's discuss the good news for New Albany.

Upon returning from the continent, I nestled in the vicinity of the espresso machine for an intimate hour, with a song in my heart ("Sweet Neo-Con" off the new Stones album, to be exact) and two weeks of New Albany Tribune back issues by my side.

Although you’d be forgiven for concluding that irony has been bred out of the American gene pool, the fact remains that life brims over with it, and during a span of time when all forms of media were justifiably focused on covering the unprecedented catastrophes in and around New Orleans, most of the news emanating from New Albany was delightfully favorable, at least for men and women of taste and vision.

Mind you, it's not good news for one political party or the other. It's simply good news for the city. Off the top of my head, here are just a few of the headlines since our departure on September 8:

Ordinance Enforcement Officer Pam Badger on the job, and approved by the City Council in a rare, though in a few individual cases reluctant, show of unanimity.

City Council’s obstructionist Gang of Four currently rocked on its heels, and increasingly exposed to public scrutiny.

County Commissioners and County Council on board Scribner Place, then the Scribner Place bonding issue approved, and finally the contract awarded for Scribner Place site cleanup.

Cannon Acres sports park another step closer to reality.

Jeffersonville getting serious about the approach to the Big Four bridge bicycle and pedestrian link to Louisville, and New Albany businesswoman Valla Ann Bolovschak appointed to the Greenway Commission.

Brandon Smith appointed to the Historical Preservation Commission, and work underway to save an historic home on Paoli Pike.

And, to give credit where it is due, two fine editorials by Managing Editor Chris Morris, both berating New Albany’s regressive tendencies, happily indicating that the Tribune itself is increasingly confident and willing to say what needs to be said as we get this thing on the move.

I’m probably omitting a few welcome nuggets, but it’s worth noting that with the sole exception of the ongoing Sanitation Debate and the predictably emotional, partisan wrangling that it has generated, progressivism is on the march in New Albany.

While Mayor James Garner is not personally responsible for all of the preceding, it remains that the city of New Albany is visibly moving forward as we approach the midpoint of his tenure in office -- and that's powerful electoral medicine.

Of course, all this good news is taking place against a comic opera backdrop of rumblings and grumblings from the terminally and perpetually disaffected, who are at the point of vein-bursting disagreement with the Mayor if he were to announce that the sun is expected to rise in the eastern skies and set in the west, and who have yet to offer an alternative vision for the city of New Albany beyond the vacuous "gallantry" of the lynch mob.

Progress indeed is ascendant. It may be disturbingly slow, it cannot be taken for granted, and there is much work yet to be done – but we’re getting there.

And that’s good news for New Albany.

With Harvest Homecoming on the horizon, I've got some good news of my own, but it must remain a secret for a bit longer. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A new blog in town: NA Health.

A blog called NA Health debuted this week.

Here's the intent:

As with anyone from my generation, blogging is a new endeavor. I am looking forward to corresponding with the people of New Albany about healthcare issues in and around our city. I have major concerns about the current structure and political issues related to our hospital and our healthcare. We compete with the Louisville service area and I believe we have the potential to excel in many areas but we are hampered by the current shortsightedness of our city leaders, our county leaders, the hospital administration and its board. We need forward thinking people to compete with this rapidly changing environment.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Netherlands/Belgium commentaries at the "Potable Curmudgeon" blog.

For your reading enjoyment:

Highlights of the 2005 journey to Belgium and the Netherlands.
A visit to the European Parliament, unparalleled Dutch bicycling, still fine Belgian beer, consistently good coffee everywhere, and the great hop fest in Poperinge.

Proof that Westvleteren 12 exists.
"Arriving at the marvelous Hotel Palace in Poperinge, we found no Westvleteren at that estimable cafe; actually, it wasn't clear whether Guy had had any from the start, or whether his stock already was depleted by the time we checked on Saturday."

Further media coverage of Thursday's City Council meeting.

Previously, in Did you hear the one about the golf cart?, NA Confidential defied the fatigue of jet lag and CM Dan Coffey's incessant, self-serving drone to remain awake and describe last evening's city council meeting.

For more coverage of the spectacle, visit the following.


An excerpt from Council votes for Scribner Place bonds, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor.

At its regular meeting last night, the council passed the first of three readings on a lease agreement that will allow bonds to be sold for Scribner Place. The development will include a YMCA, aquatic center and other private development.


An excerpt from They Think They Can Fool You, by Randy Smith, Volunteer Hoosier:

Long accustomed to a passive immunity from consequences (if you do nothing, how can they hold you accountable), the veteran members of the New Albany City Council's Gang of Four (1st District CM Coffey, 2nd District CM Schmidt, and 4th District CM Kochert - 3rd District CM Price simply follows wherever the leash pulls him) hope to continue a string of no accountability.


An excerpt from Contract awarded to firm for Scribner Place cleanup, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor.

An environmental cleanup plan was approved yesterday that will help a downtown development project move forward.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

UPDATED: Did you hear the one about the golf cart?

Neither did we, so instead ...

Tonight, in an epochal moment that will be remembered for generations in New Albany, our City Council heeded the sage advice of the community’s most reliable witnesses and resoundingly approved the appointment of Brandon Smith to the Historical Preservation Commission.

Well, almost all of the council did, ‘cuz nothing’s ever simple here in the Land that Brains Forgot.

With CM Jack Messer's absence leaving the council with only eight members present, the HPC appointment vote was 6-0, with CMs Bill Schmidt and Steve Price bizarrely abstaining from one of the only genuine no-brainers that we’re likely to see this year.

Presumably, they were holding out for “concern taxpayer,” Jouett Meekin or one of SL Price’s well-rehearsed needy renters to be nominated for the post.

Congratulations, Brandon – we think.

In other council news, the body’s lone Republican, CM Mark Seabrook, joined the city’s controller, Kay Garry, in asking the council’s Gang of Four – to judge by their reactions, specifically CM Price and fellow Siamese councilman Dan Coffey – why the local press (read: Ben Hershberg of the Courier-Journal, who was attacked by name at least twice during the session) generally seems to get wind of resolutions and ordinances before he and she do.

Check their cell phone records, Mark.

Mrs. Garry’s dispassionate, concise and detailed explanations of the reality of city finances yet again deprived the inevitably pontificating CM Coffey of the Category Five wind required to inflate his considerable gills, leading to the garbled Cappuccino back-peddling that is as much a necessary part of city council meetings as gasoline is to the internal combustion engine: “We really don’t know how much of what is being spent.”

If the air weren't hot, it would help cool the meeting room.

Treachery lurked just around the corner through most of the evening’s proceedings, as when CM Price plumbed the depths of his high school rhetoric textbook (Chapter One: “Play Some Skynyrd”) to praise the inspired brilliance of Mrs. Garry, only to suddenly point his finger at her and say, “You can help us find the money, but you won’t.”

Pssst, Steve – the money’s hidden under the neon condom display, aisle three at New Albany DVD. Didn’t the Mullah Goebel tell you?

Meanwhile, NA Confidential sincerely notes the very human tragedy that CM Donnie Blevins has found himself flailing through ever since the issue of the sanitation department (his employer) first surfaced, but it’s rather obvious that by failing to consistently abstain on votes that represent certain conflicts of interest for him, CM Blevins has made his problem far worse.

Tonight, he intemperately called Mrs. Garry a “liar,” then later issued the last of the evening’s many “clarifications” just prior to adjournment, insisting that it was a “misunderstanding,” and that he respects her deeply.

Phil Collins said it best: “(You’re) in too deep.”

Yes, it certainly was a choreographed affair up on the third floor. First, the Sewer Board reported en masse, in essence informing the council that there’s no available money to be redistributed from the sewage utility’s coffers to support other arms of the city, i.e., a sanitation department awash in red ink.

With the Sewer Board’s collective fingers furiously wagging, and the proposed Industrial Disposal privatization contract now gone by the wayside, submerged beneath New Elbonia’s primordial glop, all parties in attendance agreed to make nice, form a new committee and consider options for the future of sanitation in the city of New Albany.

Apparently the bleeding will continue until morale improves.

A love-in of a different sort was staged by two earnest female members of the speaking public, who used their time to lob fat softballs in the general direction of their beloved regressive icons, CMs Coffey and Price, and despite being joined at the hip, these well-prepared luminaries were easily able to hit the scripted-in-advance pitches clean out of the park.

It’s a short porch in wrong field, you know.

Speaking of male bonding, there were numerous instances of gentle nuzzling, affectionate back-slapping and protests of chaste intent passing back and forth on the Gang of Four’s side of the table.

The crowd groaned as CM Larry Kochert paused briefly from his favored pastime of bashing the county to question why CM Price had not been recognized by name for his gratis musical performance at the recent Silver Grove Neighborhood Association’s street fair.

Tossing those panties on stage was a bit much, though.

Earlier, CM Schmidt strangely chose the portion of the agenda labeled “Communications from City Officials” to read his own prepared comment, in which he professed steady support for ordinance enforcement and castigated anyone who doubted it, then immediately changed the subject and began outlining his plan to expand the standing sanitation committee by adding non-council members.

Perhaps Valla Ann’s cameraman inadvertently got in the way of CM Schmidt’s teleprompter.

But give him his due: CM Schmidt joined with all council members in approving Pam Badger as New Albany’s OEO.


That’s a wrap, and tonight’s cool, refreshing Bug Light “Outstanding Grandstander of the Meeting” nod goes to CM Steve Price, who with his predictably cowardly HPC abstention managed to thumb his nose at his own district for a Gang of Four leading 176th time this year.

Not only did CM Price confide that he had once “read something on a Blog,” but he also contributed this classic quote:

“We’re scrambling here – there’s families out there who aren’t going to have a Christmas.”


Friday morning update:

The C-J's Ben Zion Hershberg focuses on the council's approval of the Scribner Place bonding mechanism, which was passed last night, with the only "nay" vote coming from lame duck councilman Steve Price:

Scribner bond-finance plan OK'd; New Albany backs financial arrangements, by Ben Zion Hershberg (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).

Mayor Garner responds to information request

Now that current contract negotiations with ID have stalled, it may be helpful to re-examine the financial health of our current sanitation department before certain council members try to spend $520,000 to buy more time avoiding what may still be inevitable. It's important that they deal with real numbers openly. Medicating a terminal patient to make them comfortable before death and curing the disease that may kill them are obviously two different things and should be treated as such. Hope itself is a powerful drug but, to the extent that it may keep workers and their families from properly preparing for their futures based on falsehoods and unrealistic expectations, it's dangerous.

In an earlier post, I suggested that the dispute over sanitation losses be settled by making the numbers public.

Mayor Garner has responded.

Below are graphs from a PowerPoint presentation made available by the Mayor showing sanitation financials from 1998 through 2004:

I asked Mayor Garner how CM Bill Schmidt could've possibly come up with a number several hundred thousand less than his own estimate. The Mayor, in spite of the challenge to his competency, took the high road and simply explained that the state audit sheet from which CM Schmidt was reading contained a calculation error.

In the fund accounting required by the state, accounts normally carry rolling balances. In a miscalculation that City Controller Kay Garry is investigating, rather than showing that balance, the state calculated the difference between 2003 and 2004 losses. The $34,000 that Schmidt quoted acutally indicates that sanitation lost $34,000 more in 2004 than it did in 2003.

It's unfortunate that the sanitation situation can't be miraculously cured by discovering a mistake in the initial diagnosis. Anything, of course, is possible, but it's going to take more expertise and hard work than any of the current staff have ever exhibited and it may, in fact, require a decision to be made allowing for death with dignity. Let's just make sure that both the doctors and patients know that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's 5.22 a.m., body time.

For the very first time in two decades of trying, I’ve managed to visit Europe without once purchasing a newspaper or logging on to the Internet.

Apart from a free International Herald Tribune aboard the flight to Detroit from Amsterdam today, a few inadvertent minutes of BBC television news in a hotel room somewhere, and a surreptitious glance at the baseball standings when the Brugge newsstand owner looked the other way, it’s been a complete news blackout.

There’s been no writing, either, just a few scribbled notes to help recall certain exquisite Belgian ales and the seasoning used in the broth for the pot of mussels accompanying them.

Accordingly, I’ve spent the past hour perusing the discussions that have taken place here at NA Confidential over the past days, as well as checking in at Volunteer Hoosier.

Jeff: Thanks a bunch, and don’t even think about slipping back into the woodwork. We need you here in some capacity, and we can talk about it when the time is right. Feel free to carry the ball through the remainder of the week!

We’re unpacking and waiting for the promised delivery of our bicycles, which for reasons unknown remained stowed in Brussels while various vehicles, winged and otherwise, brought us back to New Albany. The NorthWest Airlines agent helpfully provided a tracking web site to access if we care to follow the progress of the bicycles on their way home, with their arrival scheduled for about the time the City Council meets on Thursday night.

A council meeting on jet lag? What a concept …

A comment about comments

You'll note that there's no link here today to the Courier-Journal article about CM Bill Schmidt and the building of a flood wall next to his niece's house. Apparently, proper authorization procedures for the work weren't followed.

What's more interesting is that, according to some sources, when Mayor Garner experiences personal business difficulties that have nothing to do with city business, it's somehow indicative of his character and the public has a right to know via newspapers and blog postings.

However, when Bill Schmidt improperly uses city funds to improve a relative's property, letting the public know about it is simply a game of political "gotcha" and shouldn't be considered as commentary on Schmidt at all.

That's an interesting perspective from someone calling for the end of spin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Job Security - Only slumlords need apply

Whomever eventually gets the garbage gig in this town ought to take CMs Coffey, Schmidt, Kochert and Price to dinner, if they haven't already. Their proposed $520,000 temporary non-solution to the city's sanitation problem will guarantee an abundance of garbage and trash for the foreseeable future (or at least until a post election 2008). Dinner alone may not be enough to warrant the lovemaking the CMs seemingly reserve for those special slumlords, but a suitor has to start somewhere.

With no funding for a code enforcement officer, no paralegal to help the already part-time city attorney prosecute ordinance violations, no building inspection and no economic development, the cycle of financial and cultural poverty will continue indefinitely. What Coffey, Schmidt, Kochert and Price have offered up is a nearly perfect plan to exacerbate the problem, making progress towards a long-term solution impossible-- kill the prevention program while simultaneously making sure we have no hope of generating any additional revenue to help pay for the resulting increased need for services.

What's the pay off for this proposed investment? The city will delay a sanitation decision for three months until the end of the year. CM Schmidt says, "This would give us time to work on it". That time will cost taxpayers $173,333 a month—a lot of nickels and dimes for part-time work from a crew with no history of success.

Schmidt, Coffey and Kochert have had twenty years (with sanitation in dire straits for the past few) to solve this problem and, for another half-million in tax dollars, they've agreed to think about it some more. If this proposal, which does absolutely nothing to actually solve the sanitation problem for the city or its workers, is passed, their continued regimen of delay and obfuscation will cost the city more than three percent of its annual budget this quarter alone.

The human cost may be best measured by walking the streets of downtown neighborhoods. Last weekend, I had to move garbage off the sidewalk to clear the way for a teenaged mother who'd chosen to alter her route down a cross street in a hurried attempt to avoid a young ruffian returning home via Market, presumably after a visit to his dealer's rental, proudly bragging to anyone within earshot that he had been drinking and smoking all day. She could've made the turn sooner but the sidewalk on the other side is impassible for strollers due to the grass and weeds growing up through it. Avoiding the abandoned car behind the house on that side was probably a good idea, too.

Luckily, they passed without incident. But not before my tightened grip on the rake reminded me of my own fears of rearing a child in this place.

It's too bad Ben Hershberg thinks the mayor's personal business difficulties warrant headlines but the people responsible for the situation above for the last twenty years shouldn't have to answer any real questions. If he intends to ride out his career by making New Albany look bad, he's missing his best opportunity to do so.

City eyes shifting funds to sanitation by Ben Zion Hershberg, The Courier-Journal (short shelf life for C-J links)

Monday, September 19, 2005


In his brilliant 1969 work, Streets for People: a primer for Americans, Bernard Rudofsky laments the state of American urbanity stating, "The American city has always been the repository of the inhabitants' collective lack of know-how, and no other facet of national life illustrates the shortage of instinct, imagination, and grace as does the urban environment."

He later goes further saying that "Altogether, cities correspond closely to the ideas and ideals of their inhabitants. They are the tangible expression of a nation's spirit, or lack of spirit, and Americans are perhaps to be commended for their honesty in showing their true colors."

If New Albany is indeed an expression of collective spirit and Develop New Albany is attempting to harness and market that spirit as renaissance, it seems that now, with a pivotal change in the their leadership imminent, would be a prudent time to ask:

In a perfect world, what would DNA do?

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's 4.4 miles...

between the 9th Street exit in Louisville and our own downtown New Albany exit.

The 9th Street exit will soon be home to the Muhammad Ali Center and Museum Plaza amongst others. Our exit has historic ties to human rights struggles, bed and breakfasts, a growing restaurant scene, independent retailers, lots of available space and the lesser known but increasingly ambitious Arts Council of Southern Indiana in new digs at 820 E. Market.

Draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

County backs Scribner Place, Gang of Four scrambling for new excuses

In what some are calling a historic moment for Floyd County, some of our elected leaders have chosen a path of long-term vision and agreed to work together to bring citizens the county's first publicly financed recreational facility since the 1960s, a facility that with care will become the cornerstone in a foundation for downtown revitalization, smarter growth, and a new era of progressive building for a prosperous, sustainable future. On the advice of County Commissioners, the Floyd County Council yesterday voted 5-1 in favor of committing $137,000 for 16 years to the Scribner Place redevelopment project.

You're welcome, Larry.

It seems that after three years of often contentious negotiations, the only real debate left was why county citizens should help finance basic city services, a fair question given our City Council's recent vote to use previously committed economic development dollars for a wholly symbolic, temporary non-solution to the city's current sanitation woes. Apparently, reneging on your own commitment while simultaneously asking/demanding others to join in it isn't good strategy.

Luckily, Mayor Garner was at the helm to explain the seemingly unexplainable, assuring County Council members that city government is indeed committed to working with the county to make the project happen, regardless of Coffey, Schmidt, Price and Kochert's incessant linking of the project to any other totally unrelated barbecued bologna-fueled opposition that they can come with to avoid having to develop ideas of their own.

It seems that, too, may be changing, however. The Mayor, showing more patience and deference to the democratic process than should be expected of any reasonable person given the usual fruitless shenanigans of the gang, has agreed to postpone signing a contract with Industrial Disposal for a couple of weeks to allow the council even more time to refine and present their "better way" of handling sanitation and other city business.

Insert your own "ball and court", "shoe and foot", or "money and mouth" cliché here, but the time has come for the excuses to end and the full force of whatever intellect the Gang of Four possesses to reveal itself in the form of a viable plan that doesn't simply continue to subsidize a failing operation but corrects it in total.

Given the twenty years most of the gang has had to work on it, I don't recommend that other cliché, either, lest Ben Hershberg's next story be written about the collective asphyxiation of an entire city.

Floyd commits to Scribner Place by Ben Zion Hershberg, The Courier-Journal (short shelf life)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Liars, idiots, and those of us who can read

Mayor Garner thinks privatizing sanitation is the only viable option for relieving the city of the financial burden of a failing operation. CM Coffey and some other council members say there has to be a better way, though they've yet to produce a workable alternative.

Seems simple enough.

Service contracts such as sanitation are the purview of the mayor. He can choose to seek input from the City Council or not. If he chooses to engage them, one would think the council would offer alternatives and their relative merits could be argued.

Not in New Albany.

As classless as it is with the city's financial well-being and some individual jobs at stake, certain members of our council have chosen to use this opportunity to not only endanger an important public project but to challenge the mayor's competency, claiming that neither he nor his staff have the ability to comprehend financial statements. Mayor Garner says sanitation is running a deficit of $700,000-$900,000. CM Bill Schmidt claims it's only $34,000 (regardless of the fact that he soon thereafter inexplicably voted to appropriate $137,000 in economic development funds to sanitation). A source tells me that the very sheet of information that Schmidt used to prove his point at the last council meeting proves him wrong.

As a result, both Mayor Garner and CM Schmidt have been called liars and idiots.

Let's cut the crap.


If either side has confidence in their own abilities, there's really no excuse for not doing so. Why should citizens have to waste their energies trying to decipher who has credibility and who's just grandstanding? Give us the numbers. Some of us can read.

To that end, any newspaper that's covering this story or New Albany politics in general has a responsibility to seek and publish this and other relevant information. If a public official is fudging numbers or spinning facts to score points with a certain constituency at the expense of the majority, we need to know it. Thorough coverage of public affairs is the primary responsibility of any newspaper. It's not enough to tell us there's a dispute. It's your job to dig for the facts and challenge assertions. When I attend government meetings and public officials make statements on record that are patently untrue, I usually know it. Those who depend on your reporting for their information do not. You're enabling lies and deceit.

There have been several relevant questions asked on this and other blogs recently. Here's a list to get you started:

Give us the correct numbers for sanitation.

If his only motivation was to save sanitation, why did Bill Scmidt vote to appropriate more than $100K more than what he claims the deficit to be?

Why is sanitation, a basic city service, a proper repository for economic development funds? Is it?

Which government officials have a history of code violations?

Which government officials own rental properties?

Have those government officials who own rental properties followed proper procedure for renovations, repairs and zoning?

Is the ownership of multiple rental properties a conflict of interest when dealing with ordinance enforcement decisions?

Is it a conflict of interest for a sanitation employee to vote on funding for his department?

Why, when there is no apparent conflict of interest, is abstaining such a popular choice among council members? What repsonsibility do they have for actually making the decisions we elect them to make?

Good luck. We're waiting.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

UPDATED: The Trib's Chris Morris asks and answers a vital question

In what may be the strongest writing from him that I’ve personally read, Tribune Managing Editor Chris Morris uses today's top editorial slot to take the City Council and the entire city government to task for inexplicably linking sanitation and Scribner Place and then failing to make headway on either, boldly asking What is wrong with the City of New Albany?

Unfortunately, the Tribune doesn’t make their editorials available online.

Lamenting the abhorrent behavior that’s become the de facto modus operandi of the Council and worrying that it may very well cost the city it’s generous Caesars gift if dirt isn’t turned soon on the Scribner Place site, Morris rightfully points out the lack of progress inherent in such derision and simply asks the Council, “What is the plan?”

An excerpt:

So far, the City Council members haven’t come up with an alternative plan. Some council members can yell and scream and call the mayor incompetent and insensitive, but where do we go from here? If there is an alternative plan, let’s see it in print. How can we make the sanitation department profitable, and keep all of the employees happy? Why can’t the mayor and City Council work together, instead of always working against one another?

Police and fire protection take up a large portion of the city’s budget and there is no way we can cut either one of those departments. Health insurance and gasoline costs continue to skyrocket which also eats away at the budget.

So what is the plan?

Council members need to put personal agendas aside, and focus on the problem. Yelling back and forth at a public meeting is not going to solve anything. This is a real financial crisis, and it needs to be solved. These people, along with the mayor, were elected to solve problems. If the council doesn’t like the mayor’s solution, they need to come up with a usable plan so both sides can begin comparing notes and solve the problem.

Kudos, Chris.

Mr. Morris has brought a decades-long New Albany problem to the attention of readers. As has been well documented by NAC, the choice in New Albany is all too often between small steps toward progress and, in simplest terms, nothing.

Like it or not, the Mayor has done his job and offered a workable solution to a problem that’s plagued the city for years. The City Council, despite the predictable yet utterly fruitless reactionary grandstanding of Dan Coffey and gang, has yet to bring anything to the table that helps the sanitation workers or the city at large, let alone both.

If you’re not helping either constituency, whom are you helping beside yourself?

* For the entire editorial and insightful analysis, see Volunteer Hoosier's Fair Use

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ten Pin Alley

Last night, I went bowling.

I wonder if maybe I should’ve gone to the City Council meeting. NAC asked me to cover his blog temporarily and the meetings are usually his beat. I especially worry that the support I’ve gotten from NAC in the past might be lost if I don’t at least get something in print to show some solidarity.

It would’ve been easy to get out of the bowling commitment. Our team has a substitute list and the bowlers on it are capable. I’ve even thought of quitting the team altogether. It’s a long-term commitment and there are certainly other ways for me to spend my money and Thursday nights. Some of them would undoubtedly make me more popular with family and friends in the most immediate of senses.

I made the commitment to the team a couple of years ago, though. The subs didn’t. And if all the bowlers handled their commitments so casually, the league would fall apart in short order.

Unfortunately, that realization didn’t help with my frustration. I’ve been trying the same things repeatedly for several years now and my scores have never improved. To that end, I decided to spend my lunch hour-and-a-half at another bowling alley for perspective. I met a new pro. He examined both my ball and my roll.

As is to be expected from someone in the retail bowling business, he suggested some changes. My ball was drilled wrong and my grip needed work. As it turns out, I literally didn’t have a handle on my game.

I hated to spend any money. I have a house to fix up and my car needs tires. Our anniversary is this weekend. How much is my team worth anyway?

I left the alley with a new ball, a new grip, a lesson, and three perfect strikes under my belt. Apparently, I’m “coachable”.

When I gathered with my teammates last night, it was much the same as always. We shuffled the roster around this year but the new faces are really just the old faces wearing different colored shirts. Half the guys on the other team used to be on our team. A couple of the guys have formed a partnership of sorts outside our usual league night. They’re constantly discussing strategy and the best way to embarrass the captain.

One of them is an old guy that’s been around for decades. He scoffs at new equipment and insists that his ever lowering average has nothing to do with his cracked ball and worn out shoes. “These lanes," he says, “were built in the Fifties. That ball you have wasn’t made for these conditions.” The other is a newbie who’s convinced that the minutiae of the game are the secret. He’s constantly telling us to move two inches that way or to aim about a degree and half in the other.

I struggled with the changes in the first game. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve ever gotten a nine and left the head pin standing. And I did it more than once. We lost.

The second game wasn’t much better. My directional control improved a little but my speed was off. I didn’t know what the ball was going to do when it left my hand and I was hesitant to go for shots. We lost again.

By the time the third game started, my old teammate (who blamed his own poor performance on back trouble) was calling for my old ball and the newbie suggested I just needed to use his ball cleaner to save a few more pins.

I stuck with my new everything and let the oil accumulate on my ball. Just as the lanes were breaking down and the other players’ usual big hooks started failing, I found the pocket. Six times.

I still left a couple of open frames but my 192 was enough to cinch the game for us and even held up to win us the series. As the rest of the team left for the bar down the street, the captain shot me a knowing grin and we discussed which team members would be going to the state tournament and which ones would be staying home.

Anyways, sorry I didn’t make it to the meeting, NAC. Maybe next time I’ll have a better story to report.

Here’re the links:

City weighs sanitation and Scribner Place by Kyle Lowry, Tribune

City tries to keep garbage workers by Ben Zion Hershberg, The Courier-Journal (short shelf life)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

ESSNA announces a Harvest Homecoming Parade float.

Good news from Mark Sanders, vice president of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association:

I just called the Harvest Homecoming office to confirm that they received our application. Mark your calendars for October 1st at 12:00. The Harvest Homecoming Parade will travel down East Spring Street and we will be a part of it. Get a good seat and welcome the ESSNA float as it passes by!

The association already has a committee to design and build the float, presumably along the lines of this year’s theme, “Country Harvest.”

We were thinking more along the lines of “Slum Lords on Trial,” with some sponsorship money from Court TV.

Maybe next year.

Congratulations to the ESSNA for entering the parade, and many of us will be watching you from the safety of the NA Confidential porch beer garden.

See you all in two weeks.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Charlestown Road fire damage, and a new taqueria.

On my way to and from work, I usually bicycle across Charlestown Road from Terry, and take Ormond to hit the back streets on the north side. Yesterday, I was surprised to see a smoldering hulk where the tanning salon used to be.

On the brighter side, looking roughly southbound toward Shireman Produce, here's a view of the latest Mexican eatery in town, Tacos la Rosita.

Wondering how many Mexican places the city will support? I am, but what once was exotic, now is mainstream.

It's nothing a bit of good hot sauce won't cure.

Don't miss the "rental properties" series at Volunteer Hoosier.

Randy Smith is two days into an excellent week-long "rental properties" series at Volunteer Hoosier, and the discussion lines are open for comment.

Tuesday: It's New Albany, Not New York
Over the next several days, we're going to try to examine the situation with rental properties in New Albany with a series of what we hope are provocative questions.

Wednesday: Mortimer Learns From His Elders
What would a slumlord do? How could he game the system so it's a no-lose situation?

Floyd Commissioners board the Scribner Place bandwagon, with County Council expected to follow; investigation demanded.

The Courier-Journal records another small step toward a brand new day:

Floyd panel backs Scribner Place; Commissioners OK 16 years of funding, by Ben Zion Hershberg, (short shelf life on C-J links).

The Floyd County Board of Commissioners voted yesterday to commit $137,000 a year for 16 years to help finance the Scribner Place development in downtown New Albany. The vote does not, however, guarantee the
funding with county property taxes …

Specifically, Commissioners Reisert and Bush voted in favor, and my old roundball teammate Chuck Freiberger abstained, although he insists he's for Scribner Place.

No matter. Mayor James Garner is quoted as saying he is “pleased” with the decision, while noting ominously that he will “have to discuss the county funding with the City Council,” virtually guaranteeing another encore performance of the Obstruction Chorus by the members of the New Albany Men’s Luddite Glee Club, a..k.a. councilmen Dan Coffey and Steve Price.

"We can't do nuthin', we don't know nuthin', and everyone should be like us," crooned the solo tandem before a packed house of six sewer-obsessed trogs who chanted "no progress at any price" on cue and showered the stage with nickels and dimes after the final encore.

Coffey's and Price's Welcome to the Open Air Museum Tour is expected to last through 2007.

ESSNA wins a round; Board of Zoning Appeals denies duplex variance request.

Previously at NA Confidential:
ESSNA urges you to attend Tuesday night's meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

An update from an elated Greg Roberts:

I just wanted to say, “thank you” to everyone that turned out last night for the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

I am very happy to report that the variance for another duplex was denied. The ESSNA had ten members present for the meeting, and we got to meet a gentleman that owns a duplex in the area who is going to be renovating his building. He actually spoke against adding another duplex because of the parking issue and congestion.

Again, thank you!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

UPDATED: Tonight at Rich O's: $10 for a pint of Abita Purple Haze - for a good cause.

NOTE: This will last as long as there's beer left in the keg, so remember to check back!

$10 for a pint of Abita Purple Haze?

You bet, and with all proceeds to be donated to Hurricane Katrina disaster relief.

On Tuesday afternoon, we’re tapping a keg of Abita Purple Haze, a raspberry wheat ale brewed near New Orleans.

20-oz. Imperial pints will be sold for $10, with all proceeds earmarked for disaster relief. There are approximately 95 pints in a keg, so when the keg’s dry, we’ll probably round off the contribution at $1,000.

As a side note, it would appear that Abita, maker also of the justly renowned Turbo Dog, escaped major damage, but there's no word yet on Dixie and Crescent City Brewing.

"Our" Man Mitch distributes a partisan treat to local G.O.P. stalwart.

Over at Diggin' In the Dirt, Ann has breaking news:

I just received word that Valla Ann Bolovschak has been appointed to the Ohio River Greenway Commission. I'm pleased that our Mansion Row district will now have representation on this board, as this is a project that will greatly impact our neighborhood. I'm sure Valla Ann will do a great job for all of us.

Although information is outdated on much of its official site, you can go here for some facts about the Ohio River Greenway project.

I just can't help tweaking Republicans, but the headline aside, Ann's surely right: "I'm sure Valla Ann will do a great job for all of us."

Monday, September 05, 2005

ESSNA urges you to attend Tuesday night's meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

From the forever vigilant Greg Roberts, President of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, comes this important notice.

SUBJECT: The Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Tuesday, September 6th at 7:00 P.M.

The meeting will be held on the 3rd floor of City/County Building, and is very important. The person who purchased the carriage house on 10th Street (behind the Costumery) wants to turn the house into a duplex.

The owner is asking for two special exceptions:

(1) To turn the house into a duplex, which means adding more people to an area that already is congested -- and with more people comes more parking problems, garbage and crime (the police agree with us on the issues of crime
and parking).

(2) As the building has no parking available, the owner wants a special exception to the requirement that every unit must have at least two off street parking space available, freeing her from having to provide off-street parking.

We need everyone at this meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 6), so please mark your calendars!

Thanks, Greg.

Say, kiddies, is anyone calculating the odds as to whether our 3rd District Councilman Steve “A.W.O.L.” Price will come and show solidarity with his long-suffering constituents?

What was that – a snowball’s chance in where?

D.N.R.? No, not sure what that means.

If he breaks with precedent and tears himself away from his own rental property to attend, surely there'll be dancing in the streets and nickel thimbles of small beer for the l'il uns.

If given the chance, how would you operate New Albany's riverfront "Trinkle Dome" amphitheatre?

A small news item announcing the immediate shutdown of New Albany's riverfront amphitheatre for the remainder of 2005 owing to budgetary constraints ran in Saturday's Tribune, and Randy Smith also made mention of it in Volunteer Hoosier.

Down By the Riverside

Bob Trinkle, director of the venue ... has invited residents to join a planning committee meeting on Sept. 11 to discuss plans for the 2006 season. He invites "anyone from the public sector or business community who has ideas for entertainment opportunities" to attend the 90-minute session.

Regular readers know that we've been boisterously critical of Trinkle's stewardship of the riverfront facility.

Beyond that, what do you think?

And what are your ideas?

Do you plan on attending the September 11 meeting?

We'll be on holiday, and cannot, but if any reader makes the meeting, please send a report to bluegill for posting here.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

We're still waiting for the 'Bune to own up to Wednesday's "Ugly American" editorial.

In the Sunday Tribune, columns by managing editor Chris Morris (in the editorial slot) and city editor Amany Ali both contemplate the unprecedented destruction and societal chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The columns, which aren't archived on-line, are refreshingly thoughtful and sincere, expressing complex and introspective emotions while revealing heartfelt personal searches for perspective in troubling times.

I congratulate both writers for jobs well done.

And yet … the ‘Bune still has not explained last Wednesday’s breathtakingly awful editorial on the same topic.

Tribune's "ugly American" editorial Wednesday ignores Gulf Coast suffering in favor of cheap theatrics.

NAC wrote:

As the appalling human tragedy on the Gulf Coast unfolds, the Tribune’s official editorial position can reach no higher than to ask how much it will cost to rebuild New Orleans, and to petulantly demand that because the United States is “always first on the scene with money and goods,” that the rest of the world should come to our aid.

Wire service stories today noted that the United States has decided to accept United Nations aid, and Britain’s inimitable Guardian put it this way:

And in belated recognition of the depth of the crisis, Washington swallowed its pride and asked for blankets, food and water trucks from the EU and Nato, and beds and medical supplies from Canada.

America has yet to indicate whether it will allow Cuba and Venezuela to contribute to the effort.

Both have offered.

Presumably the Tribune’s far too hasty editorialist still holds his or her breath, chauvinistically waiting for the world to respond to the tragedy, when all along the real issue has not been whether such aid would be forthcoming – but whether we would accept it.

The Tribune’s Wednesday editorial remains petty, shortsighted and just plain wrong.

Would anyone there like to take debit for it?

"Anonymous" drinks a very light and intellectually less filling Lite.

UPDATED: Look at this dump: 200 block of Pearl Street (west side).

Sunday morning update: Please don't forget to read the reader comments below. There's much valuable information there that pertains to this building.

From Greg Roberts of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association comes these photos and comments spotlighting yet another example of dereliction in downtown New Albany -- this time in the form of a commercial structure.

This building, which is one of the more peculiar architectural specimens downtown owing to its strange sheet metal front (we are told that it is is not covering an original facade, but in fact is the original facade), recently has deteriorated markedly.

Greg says:

Several people have complained about this property in the 200 Block of Pearl Street. The front door glass is broken out and the building has recently been a haven for stray cats.

Look closely at the photo and you will see cat feces in the display windows of the storefront.

Where is the Health Department?

Where is the Board of Works?

Why isn't the city cleaning this town up?

How can we attractive investors to downtown New Albany, when what you are greeted with are dilapidated buildings, broken windows and cat %^$* for a display!

Good questions, Greg, and even more puzzling given the building's location, with Classic Furniture just a couple of doors down on one side, and the White House Center (home of Develop New Albany) opposite it on the other.

Who owns this building? The public outing of neglectful landlords must at some point begin, so let's start here.

Note: The preceding appeared originally at Clean Up New Albany.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

H. L. Mencken enjoys a local resurgence.

It is with a palpable sense of amusement that longtime aficionados of H. L. Mencken look on as the Sage of Baltimore is embraced by those who would have you believe, mistakenly, that a solitary quotation does justice to the canon of curmudgeonly feistiness left behind by this unparalleled master of the art of the polemic.

As a mental exercise, a proper appreciation of Mencken is neither simple, nor easy. Recognition of Mencken’s worldview as a whole is essential, lest one be lulled into the enthusiastic embrace of one or another of his colorful quotes without noticing that he’s picked your philosophical pocket in the meantime.

For instance, take this oft-quoted Mencken chestnut as an example:

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.

Before embracing this sentiment as the call to arms for an assault on whichever politician currently has one’s goat, remember that Mencken was one of the earliest advocates of unrestricted bile as a means of equal opportunity, and while he may be mistrustful of elected officials as a class, he will provide absolutely no succor for those contending that the solution to the problem of bad politicians is more comprehensive democracy (small “d”) – especially if this democracy is to be cultivated by the “common man”:

All professional philosophers tend to assume that common sense means the mental habit of the common man. Nothing could be further from the mark. The common man is chiefly to be distinguished by his plentiful lack of common sense: he believes things on evidence that is too scanty, or that distorts the plain facts, or that is full of non-sequiturs. Common sense really involves making full use of all the demonstrable evidence and of nothing but the demonstrable evidence.

And, as we know, common sense is remarkably uncommon.

For what it’s worth, I believe a case can be made that a corrupt politician is potentially of more use to society than an honest one, if the bad one’s graft can be measured and incorporated in the cost of doing business, and if the latter insists on pursuing policies that are designed to thwart progress and bring society down to his or her level of honest, uncreative poverty rather than to lift people up toward better things.

But that’s for another time.

Here is Mencken's Creed, which I cannot currently verify as to point of origin, but nonetheless seems to be an accurate reflection of his point of view.

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech ...

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Please welcome a new contributor to NA Confidential.

In my opinion, of all the periodic contributors to New Albany’s burgeoning blogosphere, Jeff Gillenwater, a.k.a. bluegill, is the best pure writer of the bunch.

He's rock-solid and well-informed on the important local issues. He explains his points with precision and style, and is a deadly interrogative counter-puncher when assuming the role.

Consequently, having concluded that Jeff would be the ideal choice to assist my old friend Joe Kerstiens as guest host of NAC during my forthcoming September holiday absence (and perhaps consider a more regular role in the future), I was somewhat nervous at the thought of asking him to do it.

I'm relieved -- and excited, because if you glance to the right, you'll see that "bluegill" has agreed to become part of the NAC team. As with Joe, Jeff is likely to swoop in with a posting at any time, even when I'm still in town.

As always, thanks for reading, and if you haven't already, please consider becoming a part of the community here -- one that is respectful of the prerequisites of civilized discourse -- by registering and participating in discussions. NAC's rules for identity and comments can be viewed here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

NABC to expand brewing capacity to 1,000 barrels per year.

(Press release; cross posted at the Potable Curmudgeon beer blog)

In response to escalating demand for its house-brewed draft beers – Beak’s Best, Elector, Community Dark, Bourbondaddy and Croupier, to name just five -- the New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC), New Albany’s only microbrewery and first brewery of any kind since 1935, is pleased to announce the commencement of its long-awaited brewery expansion project.

In the time-honored NABC tradition of meticulous attention to detail, this work has taken far longer than initially predicted.

Actually, a full year longer -- but who’s counting.

NABC has purchased two additional fermentation vessels and four serving tanks from DME Brewing Services of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The fermenters are to be installed in the brewhouse annex that faces University Woods Drive, while the serving tanks will be housed in what is currently the game room of Sportstime Pizza. Draft lines will be run from the serving tank area to a new tap station planned for the current Rich O’s Public House floor space generally referred to as the “coffee room.”

NABC sells most of its draft beer on site at Sportstime and Rich O’s, so being able to dispense four brands from “single keg” serving tanks rather than fourteen standard /12 barrel kegs will enable the brewery to produce a greater diversity of beers and to have more of them on tap at a given time.

Brewing capacity should double to roughly 1,000 barrels per annum after the expansion project is completed later this fall, and we anticipate that a modest surplus will be available for kegging and off-premise consumption, perhaps at a taproom project in downtown New Albany, options for which are always under investigation.

There are no plans to bottle.

The New Albanian Brewing Company, Inc., was founded in 1994, and brewing began in 2002. Sportstime Pizza dates to 1987 and Rich O’s Public House to 1990. Including all positions, NABC employs 28 people, nine of them full-time. The business is located at 3312 Plaza Drive, off Grant Line Road, and is nationally recognized as one of America’s finest specialty beer bars.

Neighborhood brewing once thrived in New Albany.

(Cross posted at the Potable Curmudgeon beer blog)

In the era that followed the Civil War, when New Albany was half a century old and still growing, multi-national brewing conglomerates were unknown. When it was time for a beer, the city’s residents walked around the corner and down the street to one of New Albany’s neighborhood breweries, which thrived by brewing and serving quality beer to the local market – sometimes in barrels, sometimes in bottles, often in buckets or jugs.

These jugs, called “growlers,” were carried home from the brewery tap to accompany the workingman’s evening meal and to fuel his nightly conversations with friends and neighbors on the front porch, or to quench thirsts engendered by sandlot baseball games.

It was good beer, or so stated a writer for the New Albany Ledger Standard, who in 1877 observed:

For many years New Albany has been famous for the excellence of her beer … and the demand is so great that until recently our brewers could not supply orders.

Earlier newspaper records show that Hew Ainslie, an immigrant from Scotland, established a commercial brewery in New Albany in 1840. We can surmise that Ainslie -- a published poet and fervent Scottish nationalist -- brewed ales and porter in the style familiar to him from his upbringing in the British Isles. In the 1850’s, Germans began to settle in great numbers in New Albany, bringing with them an appreciation for the newly emerging lager beers of their homelands.

Brewery owners Paul Reising, Peter Bucheit and Veit Nirmeier are forgotten today, but at one time their names were synonymous with business acumen and civic rectitude, and their breweries held respectable places in the pantheon of local manufacturing excellence.

New Albany’s brewing heritage was fully intact at century’s end, and the city’s residents still regarded the availability of freshly brewed local beer as a social and cultural norm. Two independent breweries, producing lager styles and the indigenous Louisville-area ale called Kommon, thrived in New Albany in 1900. Another had closed only two years before.

A handful of smaller brewing operations were recognized, including “saloon” breweries (known as “brewpubs” today). Another moderate-sized brewery operated in Jeffersonville, while across the river in Louisville, there were as many as 20 breweries in operation at various times during the years prior to World War I.

Things began to change in the early years of the 20th century, when a number of social and economic developments conspired to weaken the bond between Americans and their local brands of beer. Brewers in larger urban areas began to apply the techniques of industrial mass production to the process of brewing. Markets were expanded by the use of refrigerated rail cars, and smaller local rivals fell victim to unfavorable economies of scale as well as the unscrupulous methods familiar to those who have studied the “Robber Baron” period of American history.

New Albany’s German brewing tradition was dealt a blow when America entered the Great War. Subsequently, the cultural atrocity of Prohibition effectively killed smaller-scale local brewing in much of the United States. The way was paved for the rise of the monopolistic, multi-national beer factories that have diluted not only their beer, but also the experience of drinking fresh beer locally in the truest sense that our forbearers intuitively understood.

Repeal of Prohibition proved to be too little, too late for the majority of these family-run businesses. The only New Albany brewery to operate after the repeal of Prohibition was the Southern Indiana Ice & Beverage Company, popularly known as Ackerman’s. Brands like Vienna Select, Old Rip and Imperial Double Stout were brewed where the Holiday Inn Express now stands, but unfortunately the business was short-lived. It closed in 1935, and the city’s brewing tradition entered a period of dormancy.

67 years later, in 2002, the New Albanian Brewing Company set out to recapture the small-scale, artisanal spirit of brewing in New Albany during its late 19th-century zenith, while at the same time incorporating the global stylistic perspective afforded by the American craft beer revolution of the 1990’s.

Thanks to Conrad Selle and Peter Guetig, authors of “Louisville Breweries,” for their invaluable research.

Paul Wheatley is tonight's Silver Grove Neighborhood Association guest speaker.

Paul Wheatley, New Albany’s economic development director, will speak at tonight’s monthly Silver Grove Neighborhood Association meeting.

Earlier this year, Wheatley was profiled in this Tribune article:
New development director looks to future, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor.

Tonight’s SGNA meeting is at 7:00 p.m., in the basement of Advent Christian Church (2129 Shelby Street). All are invited to the meeting.

Tribune's "ugly American" editorial Wednesday ignores Gulf Coast suffering in favor of cheap theatrics.

What on earth can the Tribune’s Wednesday editorial writer be thinking?

Before the Wednesday edition's editorial was written, the almost incomprehensible devastation from Hurricane Katrina already was being reckoned as the worst natural disaster in America since the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.

Thus, with thousands of deaths, an entire city evacuated, the prospect of widespread disease, rampant looting, and the very real possibility that there will be no return to their homes for residents until months have passed, what is the Tribune’s editorial focus?

It’s, “Will other countries come to our aid?”

Yes, that’s it.

As the appalling human tragedy on the Gulf Coast unfolds, the Tribune’s official editorial position can reach no higher than to ask how much it will cost to rebuild New Orleans, and to petulantly demand that because the United States is “always first on the scene with money and goods,” that the rest of the world should come to our aid.

Which Tribune luminary is responsible for this graceless outrage?

Not only does the Tribune’s typically unresearched position fly in the face of statistics that show other wealthy nations (as opposed to citizens) to be larger per capita donors of aid than America in times of crisis, it perpetuates every stereotype of the self-centered, ugly American.

As well as every stereotype of a newspaper too damned lazy to learn.