Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An empty chair's better than an empty suit -- or why Frankfort Avenue is bad for an Uncouncilman's stunted imagination.

In 1976, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided three player sales made by Oakland Athletics owner Charles O. Finley, who lambasted Kuhn as the “village idiot.”

Later, Finley sincerely apologized to America’s many villages, and amended his assessment of Kuhn to that of the “nation’s idiot.”


Meanwhile, in his clearest and most unambiguous statement to date on the topic of New Albany’s revitalization, 3rd District Uncouncilman Steve Price said last night that we should not “pack people in like sardines,” as is the case over at Louisville’s Frankfort Avenue, where presumably the numerous niche shoppers, gallery viewers, satisfied diners, all-hours coffee drinkers, job holders, taxpayers and residents of highly valued properties would pose a conspiratorial threat if they were to be somehow transported to New Albany and permitted to spend money here.

Price, a rental property owner, spent the evening enthusiastically playing to the obstructionist Luddites in attendance by joining fellow Siamese Councilman Dan Coffey in affectionately stroking the sizeable, green-tinted chip that rests at all times on Coffey’s shoulder -- the one that manifests itself in unbridled and self-destructive disdain for any human being in a position of authority who has made the mistake of being educated ... as Coffey has not.

Consequently, not content merely to oppose efforts to amend a new sewer tap-in fee ordinance to allow community housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity to receive waivers, or at the very least discounts, so as to assist these organizations in keeping the price of starter and low-income housing low, and encouraging in-fill development in blighted areas, both Coffey and Price seized every opportunity to smirk and to scoff at any and all progress in human affairs, leading inevitably to the single most preposterous utterance of Price’s bumbling, embarrassment-filled tenure in the 3rd District council chair.

We learned last night that of all the dreadful bogeymen invading Li’l Stevie’s restless dreams, none is as terrifying as the one in which New Albany actually succeeds at something more than barely maintaining the lowest common denominator used by the Prices and Coffeys of the world to measure underachievement (and determine rents).

And the whipping boy chosen by Steve Price?

Frankfort Avenue.

To tens of thousands of people, it’s a weekly and perhaps even daily destination, a vibrant and diverse place to eat, drink, shop, spend, walk, love and enjoy some of the best that the Louisville metro area has to offer.

There isn’t a community in the United States of America that would not do whatever is necessary to have such a three-mile long corridor, one that attracts natives and outlanders alike, enhances the city’s image in tourist commentaries, pours tax revenue into the coffers, employs hundred of people – one that makes its residents and the city of Louisville proud.

And yet, to Steve Price and those of his utterly clueless ilk, Frankfort Avenue is somehow the enemy, an inexplicable collection of strange people and alien concepts to be feared and loathed owing to the incomprehensible differences, and a revitalization equation that simply does not compute -- at least when reckoned by the slumlord’s shopworn abacus.

Undisguised contempt for education – more accurately, hatred for human reason itself -- is the only way to explain why a hectoring bully like Dan Coffey continues to publicly and petulantly slur the Scribner Place project, the best hope in a generation to bring change to his perpetually degraded district.

Undisguised contempt for education – more accurately, hatred for human reason itself -- is the only way to explain Steve Price’s ongoing, spiteful jihad against every rational proposal to improve the neighborhoods that he was (mistakenly) elected to represent.

Collectively, New Albany improves only as it gets “smarter,” and there are numerous ways for the city to become “smarter.”

Ever heard of addition by subtraction?

You will, as the 2007 elections draw ever closer.


edward parish said...

So sorry that Pagliacci, aka Mr. Price thinks that a Frankfort Ave type atmosphere doesn't work, but hey, that is the NA state of mind: negative thinking. I guess Mr. Price would think that of the Seward in St. Louis as well?

Ann said...

I didn't make it to Council last night--was needed here at home to discuss the complexities and logistics of St. Nick's visit, which apparently took place in the wee hours of the morning.

Is it possible that Price's comment isn't so much a statement against progress, but his rather "folksy" way of saying that New Albany needs to retain small-town feel?

Sometimes the expressions he uses--at least this is my opinion--don't convey what he means very well. You should talk to him one-on-one and ask him where he stands on certain issues, and you might get a better idea what he is really like.

I've been trying to find the newspaper article on this, and I can't since the Tribune got rid of its archives, but I remember that Price, shortly after he took office, introduced some type of rental-inspection idea to Council. I didn't know him them, but I called him to tell him I supported such a program. He told me that he had rental housing too, but he didn't agree with letting things get rundown, that he considered it a health issue. There was some argument about his proposal, and it died, but I think that may have been the very beginning of the code enforcement officer quest. I'll try to locate info on this if I can.

shirley baird said...

I believe you are taking one comment and running with it. There were MANY comments made last night on various subjects ( a $100,000 "starter" home for instance)

My grandparents lived on Payne St. duriing the 1940's thru the 1970's until they passed away. The Frankfort Ave. I remember was a working class neighborhood. My aunt and uncle lived there. The shotgun houses were so close together I wondered how they managed to build them and maintain them.

I know that the area has gone through a major change in the past 15 to 20 years. It now has shops and resturaunts, which is great. I have been there during Christmas when they have the carriage rides and all of the businesses are decorated.

I think Mr. Price may have been remembering the Frankfort Ave of the 1960's and early 1970's. He may have had relatives in the area as I had, and had a lasting childhood impression also.

There were a lot of issues discussed last night. I think we should try to work together and get some of these matters resolved before going off of the deep end about one small comment.

My opinion, of course.

All4Word said...

Why not, Roger, offer a "Christmas Truce?"

You can withhold fire on the Uncouncilman through Dec. 25. In exchange, he can answer the question: Are you the council member who attempted to corrupt the sanitation bidding process? Are you the council member whose efforts to pretend to have knowledge made this city appear to be sleazy? Are you the council member who cast Kay Garry, the Board of Public Works, the administration, and the ENTIRE City Council as a bunch that is on the take? Are you the one whose declaration spread like wildfire through the sanitation department during Thanksgiving week? Are you the one who tried to discourage current and future bidders from submitting their best efforts, who tried to make them think the fix was in? Which one of you is calling Laura Oates a liar?

Maybe you could offer the same deal to the other eight members of council. 19 days of a cease fire.

As for Ann's take on a comment that struck the assembly room dumb before the boos and hisses began: We saw no evidence that Mr. Price seeks to create Pleasantville. He and Coffey endorsed tear-downs and weed-infested, glass-strewn abandoned lots over infill and restoration of the historic city.

Their reasons? Well, that's where the kids play. No suggestion to acquire, make safe, and maintain playgrounds and pocket parks. Instead, they say we should discourage homesteaders from turning these eyesores into homes again - homes where, as the eloquent Rick Carmickle said last evening, families can contribute to the community as volunteers, voters, and taxpayers.

Stepping up and saying "Let's acquire this land and make it into mini-parks might have been appealing. But since it was transparently an attempt to resist change, and possibly protect his own income-stream (renters over homeowners), It's very hard to credit Mr. Price. He may be a fun guy to drink with, but he has shown no proclivity for being able to grasp the concept of representative government.

ceece said...

ok, so were supposed to assume that Price is recalling the status of a neighborhood from 30-40 years ago? Well, he certainly needs to get out more.

I nearly got sick when reading the recount of the meeting. New Albany could be so lucky to bring in the income, community diversity, prosperous business's and neighborhood pride that the Frankfort Avenue residents see EVERY DAY!

This is the type of area that the up and coming generation want to live in, or hell any body with a brain for that matter. Why would you not want to live in a prosperous area where people take pride in their surroundings?

I would love to hear more about the rental-inspection that was brought up previously. After all, areas like Frankfort Road have rental property too and they haven't managed to be the downfall of it-yet

The New Albanian said...

New Alb Annie said: “I've been trying to find the newspaper article on this, and I can't since the Tribune got rid of its archives, but I remember that Price, shortly after he took office, introduced some type of rental-inspection idea to Council.”

Perhaps, and he cared about it so much that he let it drop? In other words, must I add a lack of aggressiveness with reference to crucial issues to the other well-documented deficiencies of the Uncouncilman? Perhaps Steve would like to attend a neighborhood meeting more often than once every two years in order to explain himself?

Shirley said: “I think Mr. Price may have been remembering the Frankfort Ave of the 1960's and early 1970's. He may have had relatives in the area as I had, and had a lasting childhood impression also.”

Ceece already said it. Shirley’s seen it. Last evening, he made no such attempt to clarify, bumbling forward to confuse residential parking with business district parking in an effort to extricate himself from cluelessness with respect to revitalization.

Randy’s right. More than anything else, it’s Steve’s persistent unwillingness to improve that so aptly mirrors the obstructionism of his followers. Do we as city have to get smarter to improve and move forward? If so, do we need leaders who are capable of getting smarter to do so?

Or can you win the Super Bowl with a Pop Warner league team?

Annie, you know that I respect you personally even though we've dsagreed now and then. Please (please) provide something in the way of firm evidence that in political terms, Steve Price is not an embarrassment to the district he was elected to represent.

As with last evening, the record continues to speak clearly.

Brandon W. Smith said...

Refering to Frankfort Ave., Cece said:

This is the type of area that the up and coming generation want to live in, or hell any body with a brain for that matter.

Bingo. We need leaders who understand this or who can be made to understand this.

The New Albanian said...

And at least four current sitting council members neither understand this, nor have the slightest intention of understanding this.

(Clue: Look to the "wrong" side of the council table).

Tim Deatrick said...

A couple of oddities last night: David Huckelberry calling the mayor out for having lunch with his mother and David's, I dont see how that pertains to anything that was on the council agenda, but that is a price we pay for freedom of speech, the right to be irrelevant.

#2. Why the discussion on sanitation? The awarding of the saniation bid is in the hands of the Board of works, not the council, the council had their chance to produce a solution and they didnt. Time to move on.

ceece said...

oh tim, you know some people just like to hear themselves talk...

Ann said...

Roger, I've been mulling this over for months now (maybe even years) . . . "Something's wrong in New Albany, just what the hell is it?"

The only conclusion I can reach is that there's no definite conclusion. It's lack of leadership, but that's not the only problem. It's lack of vision, but that, too, isn't it. It's lack of education, perhaps, and lack of sophistication. It's a lack of a cohesive mission. It's pervasive. I can't heap it all on this faction or that one. Just when I think an administrator or council person is on the right path, they veer off on an unexplainable, indefensible tangent.

I think the lack of unity is what's driving the out-of-control machine called city government. No one agrees on a damned thing. If the Council likes it, the Mayor doesn't. If the Mayor likes it, half or all of the Council doesn't. It's absolutely maddening.

Rick Carmickle said...

Shirley, you seem to think that $100,000 is a bit to steep for starter homes. While it has been a while since I purchased a house, all I can go by is the new subdivision that is being built next door to me. Two bedrooms, concrete slab foundation, brick front, vinyl on the other three sides, are being called starter homes. Or at least that is what the developer is calling them, price tag, around $125,000.00. Consumer Reports says, the US national average purchase price for a single-family home reached $264,540 in 2004. Even the little two bedroom house I own, built in 1941 is appraised at $95,000. So, one of us needs a reality check on prices of real estate.

As far as houses being built on top of each other, I grew up in the west end, Mr. Coffey’s district. Most houses in the west end had what we called gangways between the houses, some less than two feet. Most of the lots in the west end are 30 feet wide or less. And, yes there have been a lot of houses torn down over the years. Many of these houses were under water during the 1937 flood, therefore they suffer from rotting foundations and floor joist. There are pockets of empty lots through out the west end, and I have to disagree with councilman Coffey, they are not sandlots where children play. They are lots that have weeds growing in the summer; some with trash, old tires providing mosquito breeding grounds, and most of them owned by absentee landlords. It would be nice to see newer houses sitting on these properties. A big problem is that contractors do not want rebuild shotgun houses on these small lots, the reason, money, not enough of it. They want to build $400,000 homes in the fringe area and county, that is where they make the most money.

On a final note, it was sad last night to see the raises for elected officials not even get a second. I agree with what one gentleman said that the council is a part time job. The Mayor and most of the council members have other sources of income. But Marci Wiseman, the city clerk, that is not a part time job for her, she most likely spent eight hours in the office yesterday and then another three hours at the council meeting and doesn’t receive overtime pay. To me that last night was a slap in the face to her!

But like you say! That’s my opinion!

The New Albanian said...

Rick, a simple thanks for your thoughtful and powerful words last night.

It amuses me that over the years, Dan Coffey has marketed himself as the sole repository of "wisdom" pertaining to his west side fiefdom, but you amply illustrated last night that his isn't the only point of view.

na girl said...

I understand one concern with infill housing that came up last night is density.

I would like to point out that there is a difference between density of houses and population density.

In New Albany we seem to have it backward. We allow houses to be chopped up into tiny apartments but we don't want to put single-family houses back on empty lots.

Losing a house from a neighborhood is much like losing a tooth. The gap actually hastens the deterioration of the surrounding properties just as having a missing tooth will cause problems in the adjoining teeth.

I would much rather have a house next door to me than a vacant lot with weeds and trash.

What I don't want is for someone to take a 1,000 sq foot house and divide it into 2 apartments which doubles the population density. If you think that I am exaggerating about dividing 1,00 sq ft into 2 apartments scan the real estate listings for properties in the older neighborhoods and see if you don't find house after that has been divided into tiny apartments. You may also be surprised at how many places you find that are not zoned multi-family but have an extra kitchen in the basement--wink, wink.

There are actually people who want to live in the older neighborhoods in houses that are close together.

There are people who want or need to live in small houses because they are affordable and easier to maintain.

So in answer to a question that I heard was asked last night that went something like, "How would you like to live in a house so close to the house next door that you could spit on it?" I do live there and I like it very much, thank you. I actually chose it over a comparable size brand-new ranch-style house.

shirley baird said...


I do indeed think $100,000 is too high for a starter home. Even though the national average is around $264,000 or was a year ago, the national average includes California & New York where the average "starter" home may cost over $500,000.

Mr. Judd said the Habitat homes go for around $59,900 with no interest for 20 years. This seems much more reasonable.

I am not sure exactly where you live but I believe you said near Corydon Pike. How much land is included with your home? Most of the lots in that area seem to be large. I am sure you have also made improvements to your home since you purchased it years ago.

As I stated earlier on SOLNA the people who need the most help purchasing a starter home are the single parents. Many of these people are single women with lower incomes. They cannot afford a $100,000 home. Even with child support you must admit this is a stretch.

I admit I do not know anything about real estate, but I do know many people who are financially strapped.

Maybe I am not the one who needs a reality check.

Rick Carmickle said...

Shirley, maybe I do!

All I know is what I read in the papers, and you know they would never tell a lie!

I agree $100,000 is on the high side, and 60,000 seems more reasonable.

I still think that CHODO or Habitat need to have some relief from the sewer tap in fee.

Buy the way, the new larger homes next to me are going for 190,000. That's out of league!

Excuse, I now have to go get a reality check! :-)

Jeff Gillenwater said...

Rick and Shirley are both right. $100k is a starter home price and a lot of people can't afford that. But whether the cost of starter homes is $59K or $100K, prices like that are only available for the most part in the older, more urban neighborhoods on this side of the river.

There are so many benefits to individuals and the city for encouraging the building, rehabilitation, and habitation of those densely arranged homes that they're too numerous to mention.

We can bicker about the best way to encourage that development but the first task is to convince people (particularly government officials) that New Albany isn't a small town. If you think New Albany is a small town, you've probably never lived in one. Henryville is a small town. Greenville is a small town. New Albany is an urban center and always has been. Misunderstanding that is a major part of the problem.

Our aim shouldn't be to preserve a sleepy little backwater that's never existed in the first place. It should be to enliven an ailing, aged urban environment that for the large majority of its life made itself relevant as the center of culture and industry. That difference is important as the target market for small town and urban lifestyles can be radically different.

As NA Girl points out, people choose to live in an environment like New Albany for a reason. For most city dwellers, that reason is proximity to interesting businesses, cultural attractions, and recreational opportunities. They want to be challenged socially and intellectually without a required commute to make it happen.

New Albany has made the mistake, repeatedly, of marketing itself as slow and quaint to people who don't want it. People who want quaint, private, and homogeneous would never choose to live here even if every block looked like a postcard. Every single one of my friends and acquaintances who live in actual small towns think my wife and I are nuts because our city neighborhood is the polar opposite of what they were looking for when they made their lifestyle and housing choices. Even those who can comprehend and appreciate the reasons for our choice would never make it themselves. Appeals to that demographic are a waste of time.

There are literally thousands of people, though, across a broad spectrum of income levels in this region who would love to live in an urban environment and those numbers are growing as people are gradually becoming more aware of the malaise inherent in suburban sprawl. A lot of people who live in the suburbs do so only because they can't afford to live nearer to the places of business and pleasure where they spend all their time and money. If you want a reality check of housing prices, find a home equivalent to yours and inquire what it would cost in the Highlands or Clifton/Frankfort Avenue areas. You can usually start by multiplying by at least two. If we can provide those city oriented people with a stimulating urban environment at a reduced cost, we'll be hugely succesful in generating revenue for everyone who lives here.

That's not going to happen, though, as long as we keep trying to sell oatmeal and apple cider to people who want ethnic food and chardonnay.

It would be nice to see even a glimmer of understanding of that in city government policy.