Saturday, September 30, 2006

A periodic reminder: NA Confidential's mask-free policy on reader comments is explained.

Newcomers, please take note.

NA Confidential believes in a higher bar than is customary in the blogosphere, and follows a disclosure policy with respect to reader comments.

First, you must be registered with according to the procedures specified. This is required not as a means of directing traffic to, but to reduce the lamentable instances of flaming and personal attacks on the part of the anonymous.

Second, although pen names are perfectly acceptable, the senior editor (yours truly) must be informed of your identity, and according to your preference, it will be kept confidential.

To reiterate, I insist upon this solely to lessen the frequency of malicious anonymity, which unfortunately plagues certain other blogs hereabouts.

You may e-mail me at the address given within my profile and explain who you are. Failure to comply means that your comments almost certainly be deleted -- although the final decision remains mine.

Thanks for reading, and please consider becoming a part of the community here, one that is respectful of the prerequisites of civilized discourse, and that seeks to engage visitors in dialogue.


Friday, September 29, 2006

REWIND: An important book on human reason and the failure of faith? Not on the bestseller list at Wally World, we can be sure.

There are times when it's easiest to hit the archives for a rewind, and tonight is one. Given the gist of the week's conversations, here is a book worth reading (from 12/20/2005).

My friend, sometimes collaborator and fellow longtime Open Air Museum curator, Joe, has come in from the gloaming after a characteristically lengthy sabbatical from the scene – and with a topical, incisive Christmas reading recommendation gleaned from C-SPAN's book talk.

It’s “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason,” by Sam Harris.

As an enticement to run right out and purchase the book, which I almost literally did yesterday at Desperations ... er, Destinations Booksellers, Joe provided this excerpt, which can be viewed along with other snippets of text at the author’s web site:

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

According to reviewer Natalie Angier of the New York Times:

“The End of Faith" articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood… Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America … This in an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason.

Perfect timing, Joe, and thanks for the tip. I'm up to page 40 already.

When I’m finished, she’s yours …

Thursday, September 28, 2006

UPDATED: Citizen Hill: Splitting semantic hairs, and the appeasement of superstition, as campaign platform.

9:00 a.m. Friday: The discussion has been wide-ranging, so I'm leaving this posting on the marquee until later this evening. Please feel free to join in, subject to our usual rules pertaining to disclosure.


Never underestimate the ability of politicians to disappoint. It’s Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football all over again … and I’m lying on the wet ground, looking up at the sky, and vowing not to fall for it another time.

Having grudgingly accepted the painful notion of casting my ballot for Democratic challenger Baron Hill as the least harmful of three suited annoyances in the 9th District Congressional race, he’s once again publicly hurrying to express agreement with the practical consequences of the incumbent’s right-wing cultural bias, while insisting that subtle differences in reasoning somehow constitute an viable alternative.

In a letter to the editor of the Tribune – one presumably published in newspapers throughout the district – candidate Hill hastens to assure us that his position on marriage is precisely the same as Mike “Hot Wheels” Sodrel’s:

Simply put, I believe that marriage is sacred and is a right only between a man and a woman. In the Indiana legislature, I sponsored the law to define marriage as existing between one man and one woman, and I would support a federal law to do the same. The people of the 9th District know that I am a man of my word, and they know that I will work to return strong Hoosier family values to Washington — values such as honesty, integrity and faith.

But we must look elsewhere for the specific reason why Hill expects us to believe that this shameless pandering on the topic of marriage is dissimilar to Sodrel’s. In Sunday’s Courier-Journal, Hill explained:

"I could support a federal law defining marriage as that of a man and a woman," Hill said. "But I don't want to use the Constitution as an instrument to ban gay marriage. That's not what the document is about."

Groundbreaking stuff, eh?

Baron Hill is opposed to Mike Sodrel and others of his reactionary ilk in their evangelical quest to “use” the Constitution to explicitly ban gay marriage, but Hill supports the “use” of federal law to achieve exactly the same outcome.

Such a federal law would ban gay marriage, wouldn’t it? Now, let’s think hard; is that really an alternative?

Somehow I’m reminded of the medieval practice of dunking criminals in nearby streams to determine innocence or guilt. Survive the attempted drowning and be guilty (and subject to immediate execution), or conversely, be proven innocent by dying in agonizing fashion (and, well, be just as dead as before … but blameless in the eyes of God).

Once again, something (gay marriage) that should be one of the great non-issues in the history of American moral and political skullduggery is being deployed – this time by a Democrat – as a convenient straw man suitable for a good, sound thrashing. I can hear the applause of the fundamentalist yokels, and imagine Hill’s pulse racing as he calculates the number of votes to be gleaned from stooping to this rank level of prejudice.

How does any of this constitute a choice come election time?

When it comes to the reigning GOP political and governmental philosophy of “fright makes right”, particularly the contrived chimera of “family values” as a magic wand to frighten the populace, what can possibly be the benefit of a Democratic challenger seeking so transparently to emulate a repugnant Republican incumbent – and deploying regrettably vapid sophistry to espouse look-alike principles that differ only in the realm of semantics, not the everyday world of reality?

For those so inclined, why not vote for the more authentic of the two bearers of conservative hoo-hah, the unalloyed internal combustion mogul Sodrel, whose famously incorrect thinking has the sole merit of being absent the degradation implied by Hill’s cynical electoral calculation?

Here’s the skinny: I want very much to be for candidates like Baron Hill, but just as our local Democratic Party seems institutionally incapable of providing the barest minimum of succor to a thinking man, Hill’s recent pieties are a reminder that the two-party system and the mechanics of power sharing that it has spawned simply may not be capable of redemption.

As always, we’re left to hold our noses and vote against the greater of the two threats.

Which I’ll still do, but not gladly … and with a good measure of resentment.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A “must read” for Wednesday: LEO’s Stephen George on 8664 … “is there cause for hope?”

A case for the future: 8664 IS STILL AROUND, AND WITH MORE SUPPORT THAN EVER. IS THERE CAUSE FOR HOPE?, by Stephen George (Louisville Eccentric Observer).

With the Courier-Journal in active opposition to the grassroots vision elucidated by the movers of 8664, it’s left to LEO to assume its proper place as media outlet for the alternative – as Stephen George’s cover story today makes abundantly clear.

It’s this week’s local media must-read.

The measure of a world-class city is most often taken in its downtown. There is no way to accurately say whether 86-ing I-64 from downtown will be the economic boon (Tyler) Allen and (J.C.) Stites contend it will be. Likewise, it’s also impossible to assure Louisvillians that 14 years or more of major highway and bridge construction downtown — with the end result an urban zoo even more populated by automobiles — will kill the huge momentum Louisville has right now to reinvigorate our city’s heart.

With so much at stake, though, isn’t an open mind at the very least prudent? When suggesting an alternative to a $2.5 billion transportation project with so much potential for both efficiency and disaster is considered an impediment, do we not proceed then at our own peril?

Previously at NA Confidential:
8664: It’s never too late to start all over again.
UPDATED: 8664: On bridges (real & imaginary) and vision.

Mark your calendars: NA Confidential’s Harvest Homecoming Parade fete, Saturday, October 7.

For the third year running, NAC’s friends and fellow travelers will monitor the progress of the annual Harvest Homecoming Parade from the porch of the senior editor’s Spring Street homestead.

The parade begins at noon at New Albany High School, and will pass NAC’s impromptu reviewing stand a short time later. As in times past, the format is strictly open-house; stay for a few minutes, or all day. It's your choice. There'll be no protocol.

However, there will be a pot of vegetarian chili, and a semi-professional grilling master (Jason) on duty to cook sausages and other meats (provided) to taste.

Those planning to make a day of it, please bring beer snacks or suitable sides. Small batch sodas from Milwaukee’s versatile Sprecher brewery will be on hand, as will a selection of draft beer courtesy of the New Albanian Brewing Company.

We encourage walking and bicycling; parking places are limited (none on the street), so if you drive, be creative – and arrange a designated driver.

Walk-ins are welcomed, but for the purpose of planning, all I ask is that you provide a tentative and non-binding RSVP.

Hope to see many readers on the 7th …

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

From the NYT: "What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat."

I seldom reprint articles from other sources, but today’s an exception.

Without express written permission, here is “Threat Assessment,” from the September 10, 2006, New York Times Sunday Book Review. The author is Martin Walker, “editor of United Press International and a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute at the New School.”

WHAT TERRORISTS WANT; Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat.
By Louise Richardson.
312 pp. Random House. $25.95.

Karl Rove’s observation that virile conservatives march forth to defeat their terrorist enemies while epicene liberals seek to understand them was memorable for its partisan venom. Yet the fact is, without making a thorough effort to comprehend the motives, fears and capabilities of Al Qaeda’s militants, we can hardly hope to defeat them.

Modern terrorists — whether operating in the United States, Europe or the Middle East — have sought to understand us and the vulnerabilities of our open societies. It is high time we sought to understand them. Louise Richardson, a lecturer at Harvard, has now produced the overdue and essential primer on terrorism and how to tackle it. “What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat” is the book many have been waiting for. Richardson’s approach is clear and simple, and is deeply informed by the personal insights of one who, as a student in Dublin, was briefly recruited by the political wing of the I.R.A. She has since organized seminars and war games that have brought together academics, former terrorists and those she calls “activists.”

It may be objected that there is a fundamental difference between Al Qaeda and the I.R.A., a European national independence movement with Christian roots that was prepared to use terrorist tactics as a rational means to achieve a political end. The I.R.A. wanted to bomb its way to the conference table, while Al Qaeda seeks to blow up the table as a symbol of Western cultural oppression. The I.R.A. usually abjured suicide attacks since its militants wanted a sporting chance of experiencing victory (the death of Bobby Sands and his compatriots by hunger strike was an exception). By contrast, Al Qaeda is commonly seen as a nihilist group with no negotiable objectives; with an ideology that embraces and glorifies suicide bombings; as so many mad dogs who can only be hunted down and killed.

Richardson points out that this is a dangerous misconception. Al Qaeda is neither unique in its organization nor unprecedented in its scale and reach, or in its readiness to inflict mass casualties. The Aum Shinrikyo perpetrators of the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, for instance, hoped for thousands of deaths. With admirable clarity and deep erudition, Richardson suggests that like all terrorist movements, Al Qaeda requires three components: alienated individuals, a complicit society or community, and a legitimizing ideology. Its troops are motivated by some mixture of three key goals: revenge, renown and reaction from the enemy.

Richardson goes on to argue that the policies of the Bush administration have provided Al Qaeda with great renown and monstrous overreaction — precisely the stimulants it needs to prosper. By declaring “war” on terrorism, the White House has defined the struggle against Al Qaeda essentially as a military problem, best managed by the Pentagon. This flies in the face of all available evidence from successful antiterror campaigns. These include the British operations in Malaya in the 1950’s, the penetration of Shining Path by the Peruvian police, the defeats Turkey has inflicted on the Kurdish P.K.K. and, most recently, the co-option of the I.R.A. leadership into electoral politics through the cooperation of the London and Dublin governments.

These successes have a number of features in common. They were led primarily by police intelligence units working in very close coordination with other arms of the state, including the military and the judiciary, as well as local economic development teams. Government officials all came to understand that they were faced with what was fundamentally a political challenge, and that the prime objective was to separate the terrorists from their base in the community. This meant addressing the grievances of that base seriously, and it meant cooperating with moderates in that community who might have shared some of the terrorists’ goals but shrank from their tactics.

A successful counterterrorist campaign, Richardson explains, seeks to empower and legitimize the nonviolent moderates, thus isolating the terrorists. Success requires governments to hold the moral high ground, convincing the undecided that the state and its agents are the good guys, who enforce democratic principles and civil liberties even among their own troops and police officers. In other words, with an effective antiterrorist policy there would be no Guantánamo, no detention without fair trial, no secret wiretapping programs and no “renditions” of suspects to friendly but foul regimes that practice torture. Intelligence organizations would operate under clear and strict judicial guidelines, with transparent political oversight.

In its determination to display resolve, Richardson says, the Bush administration has so far failed to learn these lessons. She points out that most governments go through an initial phase of draconian measures with full public support, a second phase of polarization, when liberals bleating about human and civic rights are treated as semitraitorous wimps, and a third phase that comes with the understanding that the tough tactics are not working as expected and that (as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems to have realized in Iraq) they are creating new terrorists faster than the old ones can be killed or neutralized.

This third phase leads to a reassessment, and then to a search for ways to divide the enemy and exploit the merest hint of division or ideological argument. Probably going further than this administration can yet swallow, Richardson recommends discreetly opening negotiations with Ayman al-Zawahri, the ideologist of Al Qaeda; it’s known that Zawahri had gently scolded Al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for killing Iraqi Shiites in order to foment a civil war. And there may be rivals of Osama bin Laden whom the administration could reach out to — in any event, it would be helpful to insert such a worrisome worm of suspicion into Al Qaeda’s leadership. Richardson suggests that British intelligence was so adroit at developing informants and fomenting splits in Northern Ireland that there was a period when the I.R.A.’s counterinfiltration teams killed off more of their own militants than the British did.

Al Qaeda, for its part, has already shown itself quite adept at the tactic of dividing the enemy, exploiting differences between Washington and its European allies. And if senior figures in the Bush administration are even bothering to read bin Laden’s speeches, they should have noticed that he condemns the United States for its rejection of the International Criminal Court and for turning a blind eye to the profiteering of the Halliburton Company. As Richardson points out, this suggests that bin Laden has taken to heart “Lenin’s key contribution to terrorist strategy ... the importance of exploiting every fragment of local alienation for its own ends.”

Richardson’s weakest point is that she does not fully address the most profound problem Washington faces. Domestic politics and wider geostrategic considerations have locked the United States into a seemingly unquestioning support for Israel and for unsavory but pro-Western regimes that will make it very difficult to win over moderate Arab opinion and isolate the terrorists. Still, improving America’s image overseas is not rocket science: witness the transformation among Indonesians after the magnificent relief effort that Washington led following the great tsunami. Now that many Americans as well as a number of officials inside the administration are going through the third phase of reassessment, the campaign against Al Qaeda can, perhaps, begin to succeed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Abortion rights and the predictability of Winking, Blinkin and Nod.

(Sorry about the title spelling error this morning)

If the weekend rains and flooding weren’t sufficient to induce suicidal depression, a brief glance at Sunday’s Courier-Journal provided much encouragement to begin drinking at a reasonable hour – say, breakfast.

A Michael Kinsley column traced the origins of the Bush regime’s Orwellian “victory” chants in Iraq, while a news story reported findings strongly suggesting that the Iraq invasion has helped to expand terrorist recruitment, which makes thinking people wonder whether the current vogue of advocacy for meting out similar punishment to Iran is going to be accomplished by robots, a return to the draft or the employment of our second-favorite bogeymen (illegal aliens) as Hessians of the moment?

There was the Reverend James Dobson’s DC conference urging America’s tax-exempt churches to “get involved” with politics – presumably not affairs of the agnostic or secular variety, but ways to make those of us resistant to rampant superstition march instead to the beat of the Christian drummer.

By the way, why does the Tribune insist on running this man’s family advice column?

Which brings us to the most disconcerting article of all, a front page piece examining the frantic efforts of not one, not two, but three candidates for Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District seat to take the most stridently “pro-life” (I use the term loosely on purpose, the better to promote thoughts on how one proposes to protect life by slaughtering Iraqis, Iranians or, for that matter, Lebanese) position as a prelude to the November election.

On the surface, Democratic challenger Baron Hill’s espousal of a legislative alternative to abortion, one that would increase educational efforts and make birth control more widely available to those most in need of it, seems fairly sensible, particularly since it has been attacked with characteristic haughtiness by the incumbent, Mike “Big Wheels – Small Mind” Sodrel, whose “GOP as friendly Uncle Torquemada” anti-abortion campaign platform is sufficiently repugnant to make most other competing ideas seem tame.

Sorry, but in Hill’s typically leaden hands, the seemingly sensible is quickly transformed into the usual pandering and anti-abortion demagoguery by another name, all part of an ongoing effort to flail the centrist blue dog until it yelps in agony, sensing its increasing proximity to the general vicinity of Karl Rove and the other Republican haywire theocrats stroking Dick Cheney’s pacemaker as they confuse the Constitution with the Bible, Haliburton contacts, or both.

While the presence of Libertarian academic Eric Schansberg in the congressional race has been refreshing, and he’s shown a fine aptitude for the disruptive planks of the customary third-party playbook, his abortion position reflects an inability to escape the limitations of personal Christian fundamentalism – with predictable future consequences for women. However, with the shared monoploly of our two-party system stacked against him, Dr. Schansberg has no chance of winning.

Independent voters might well find a greater range of choice on outdated Politburo electoral lists than that to be seen among these three candidates for Congress.

Meanwhile, as the Northrup/McConnell machine commences the predictable sliming of John Yarmuth over on the Louisville side of the flood plain, we’re left to ruminate on the fate of political candidates who’ve made the mistake of thinking aloud -- or in Yarmuth's case, ruminating in print over a long period of time.

Politics as a graveyard for ideas? Sounds consummately American to me.

Wonder what the Bubbas are, uh, "thinking"?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fred and Ginger, or stray thoughts on form and function.

Most of us associate the city of Prague with numerous examples of architecture representative of “old Europe,” but as with any modern city, the truth of the matter isn’t so simple even if a larger proportion of venerable buildings have been preserved there than in other, less fortunate (read: war damaged) European locales.

Sadly, the pre-fabricated concrete contributions of the socialist era, though functional, cannot be said to contribute to any aesthetic beyond that of the ham-fisted and totalitarian. Since a majority of Czechs reside and work in these still largely gray, formless blocks, and will do so for quite some time to come, one senses that the best hope for their redemption is to apply a coat of paint and wish for a high level of prosperity within the forthcoming Euro currency zone that will permit frequent holidays abroad.

Note that NA Confidential has long advocated the same cost-effective and colorful solution (paint, not vacation) for prevailing local monstrosities like Riverview Tower, which persists in appearing as an ominous relic of the discredited Bloc rather than an attractive part of the civic skyline.

See: Paint and public art as progressive ideals -- why not in New Albany?

This blog remains a strong supporter of the ideals of historical preservation, which in Prague’s case must be considered the city’s tourism bread and butter -- and might be here, as well. At the same time, we look to nearby urban areas like Columbus, and note the record of success when blending the modern with the historic.

A superb example of this recognition exists on a street corner in Prague, by the majestic Vltava River.

An excerpt from Meghan Walsh's piece in the Journal of the International Institute sets the table:

While working in Prague this past summer, I met Vladimir Milunic, the Czech architect who collaborated with Gehry on one of his latest projects, an office building for the Dutch insurance company, National Nederlanden, to be completed in December 1995. The project, a bold, curved structure that resembles a pair of dancers in motion, is affectionately called "Fred and Ginger" by American architects, and tancinsky dum (the dancing building) by Czechs.

While I was away on holiday, Chris Morris of the Tribune offered a report on the space crunch at the City-County Building: Spaced Out; City-County Building out of room. Here are excerpts.

(Ted) Heavrin, president of the Floyd County Council, said the best way to solve the overcrowding issue at the City-County Building is for the city to find its own building, which would allow the county to take over the current government center. That scenario recently occurred in Jeffersonville …

… County Councilman Randy Stumler would like to take Heavrin’s idea to the next level. He said a new government center needs to be built as part of the Scribner Place project and transform the current building into a criminal-justice center.

Stumler said the county should establish a timeline.

Kudos to Randy Stumler for his consistent advocacy of this position, and in fact, it sounds suspiciously like something that might become part and parcel of a genuine -- dare we speak the word in public? -- platform, should his Democratic Party ever be permitted to birth one.

And so, a dancing building, or something like it, as the city’s center of operations on the right bank of the Ohio?

A man can dream, can’t he?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Yep, we had some rain.

Thanks and best wishes to the family that stopped and gave us a ride last night after D.'s car broke down following an unexpected encounter with 12 standing inches of flood water.

I drove her to class at U of L this morning, and one of the streets next to campus appeared to have a lake about the size of Patoka spread through it.

Ever notice how these severe weather events are coming more quickly and often than before? Thank heavens we have Dick Cheney's assurance that global warming is no more than a figment of Al Gore's tortured imagination.

Friday, September 22, 2006

UPDATED: Bravo! Fortissimo! Author! Keep those cameras rollin', rollin'.

When you're driving down the highway at night
And you're feelin' that wild turkey's bite
Don't give Johnny Walker a ride
Cause Jack Black is right by your side
You might get taken to the jailhouse and find
You've been arrested for driving while blind

--ZZ Top, from "Arrested for Driving While Blind."


Note: Those damned high school students filled the cheap seats in the rear filming area – that’s just gotta stop. I really need to keep my back to the wall.


Perhaps having previously visited NA Confidential, one of the students said she was expecting to be entertained, but in truth it was a civilized meeting by prevailing city council standards, with the usual outbursts and acrimonies surprisingly muted.

I’ll leave it to the local newspaper writers to provide the play by play, and move directly to the color commentary. When their stories appear, updates will follow below.

Speaking of the media, during the evening’s most heated discussion – sewer department salaries – there was a five-minute recess, and the Courier-Journal’s new man on the job was pulled into the corridor by none other than our local Greenway Commission representative.

When he returned to his seat, I leaned over and asked him to check his wallet.

No, really.

Previously, Ms. Bolovschak’s customary leadoff public speaking time had ended on a strange note when she inexplicably bobbled an easy, choreographed lob pass from 3rd District councilman Steve Price on the topic of her role in bringing the Greenway check home from Indy. The fumble occurred after several of her political shot attempts were savagely blocked by city controller Kay Garry, who wisely chose not to risk a technical foul with undue celebration.

Once again rebuffed, and with considerable force, Ms. Bolovschak took her seat, only to suddenly spring to the podium again during the communications from public, i.e., non-Greenway officials, prompting a flabbergasted gavel from council president Jeff Gahan and a gasp from the direction of Sigmund Freud’s grave.

Moments later, as Mayor Garner finished a brief statement during his speaking time, a female voice from the back row was heard to say, “you’re welcome” – and it wasn’t from Professor Erika, who talked through much of the meeting and was consoled by Cappy Dick.

So, as predicted here yesterday morning, the price of admission included a floor show … and, for once, not from the Siamese Councilmen.

However, let’s not forget the Priceless Quote of the night:

“It’s been told to me, that compared with other cities … we have a two-headed monster … it will become insolvable eventually.”

I think Mr. Price was referring to salaries of police and firemen.

But he may have been talking about Sybil.


Council OKs $16.1 million budget; Some New Albany workers get raises, by Matt Batcheldor (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).

The New Albany City Council approved a $16.1 million budget for 2007 last night, overcoming differences over longevity pay for some city employees and the salaries of sewer department workers and Building Commissioner Ron Hartman.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

From Bohemia to Babel: Yes, it's a city council Thursday!

I’ve joyfully awakened two mornings running to orchestral music by Dvorak, the Czech composer. Twelve days in Bohemia play just these sorts of tricks, and even though the Czech lands have changed drastically in the century since Dvorak’s death, the country’s pastoral vistas still have a way of conjuring spontaneous Slavonic dances.

Back home in New Albania, ongoing efforts to lift our once vibrant city out of its prolonged period of ennui and institutionalized neglect have cleared another hurdle.

New Albany to start on greenway; City gets $1.2 million state grant for path, by Matt Batcheldor (short shelf life for Courier-Journal links).

Work on New Albany's portion of the $41 million Ohio River Greenway is to begin next month using a $1.2 million state grant the city received yesterday ...

… Mayor James Garner said a contractor for the project will be chosen next week. Garner has spent this week in Indianapolis trying to expedite the grant before a Sept. 30 deadline for federal matching dollars.

Not unexpectedly, there is another side to this story, one that you can read here, as presented by my friend New Alb Annie. Unfortunately, it remains that persistent and disingenuous public choreography on the part of Ms. Bolovschak, our Greenway Commission member, has a tendency to distract (and detract) from her energetic good works. That's too bad. Who is right, and who is wrong? Who gets credit, and who doesn’t?

Who’s on first, anyway?

As we await the verdict, perhaps the cameras will again be rolling, the teleprompter merrily humming, and Professor Erika absently doodling in crayon at tonight’s second of two September city council meetings. A brief preview is offered by the Tribune’s Eric Scott Campbell:

Longevity incentives proposed for nonunion city employees.

How long will it take for 1st District councilman Dan Coffey to say, “It’s the first I’ve heard of it”?

Will 3rd District CM Steve Price’s “no” votes make any sense at all?

What are the odds that the council Democrats’ continuing divisiveness will yet again permit lone Republican Mark Seabrook to float wisely and gently above the fray even as he prepares for an election battle with Floyd County Demo party chairman Randy Stumler, who has consistently refused to discipline the pathologically wayward Gang of Four?

Let’s just hope that the meeting doesn’t keep us past Bistro New Albany’s last call. Progressive pints -- and in a pinch, Dvorak -- can be relied upon to soothe the dissonance engendered by the pettiness of local politics. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bistro New Albany scores early and often in this week's LEO.

LEO’s out, and the Bistro New Albany is the subject of a rave review by veteran Louisville food and dining writer Robin Garr.

LEO's Eat 'N' Blog With Louisville Hot Bytes: Drop your Kentucky prejudice and head to Bistro New Albany

With its intact blocks of sturdy, historic office buildings and its lovely rows of stately Victorian mansions, N’Albany seems to have just about everything a city could want — with the possible exception, unfortunately, of a busy, vibrant street scene after the sun goes down.

But here and there, lately, there’ve been distinct signs of a renaissance, and none more vivid than the arrival of Bistro New Albany, a lovely dining room that’s been earning a growing cadre of fans since it opened in May.

Congrats, guys. I’d been planning the meet D. for lunch tomorrow … can we perhaps reserve a table and get in ahead of the crowd?

And now for the (social) hangover.

I biked from the suburban Vienna pension to the underground, loaded the bike on it, and debarked a kilometer from Westbahnhof station. The bike was loaded onto an express train for a seven hour journey to Frankfurt central station, walked around the corner to a waiting hotel, then walked back the same route early this morning. I put it on an S (suburban) train, and got off at the airport. The bike was repacked, with a switch in Cincy. Back in Louisville, there was a theoretical possibility of finding TARC connections to New Albany, and without the case, I might have pedaled home.

But you know the rest of the story: Diana picked me up, and home we went. How much again are we planning on spending to build more bridges for more traffic, and more sprawl requiring more bridges ...

One more thing before I collapse into delirium: Jeff Gillenwater is a saint, and his work here for the past three and a half weeks speaks for itself. Dinner and drinks for Bluegill and Karen at Bistro New Albany are on me, all night, as soon as a date opens up. After all, we can walk home -- even without a truly civilized country's public transportation.

Calling Tabitha ... what's the story in Thailand?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Community Legacy, One Window at a Time

New Albany has won Historic Southern Indiana's Community Legacy Award for 2006 in recognition of its historic preservation efforts including the addition of downtown New Albany’s Historic District, the East Spring Street Corridor, the New Albany National Cemetery, and the Old Pike Inn to the National Register of Historic Places and the establishment of the East Spring Street Neighborhood as a local preservation district, among other acheivements.

The award will be officially presented tomorrow in a short ceremony at the Scribner House at 4:00 p.m.

For the first time in decades, the folks at Lambert Distributing will have a chance to catch a glimpse of the action from their third story windows on Main Street, owing to their recent efforts to clean up the 1830 building facade as reported back in July by The Tribune's Eric Scott Campbell.


Monday, September 18, 2006

UPDATED*: Scribner Place and ...?

*Some readers saw this question yesterday. It's been previously noted that NAC readership and response is a bit lower on weekends and Sunday was no exception. Perhaps it was an editorial error on my part to introduce such a central question on a day off but I found it somewhat strange that, when asked what they envision for downtown, none of the 90 readers yesterday responded with any desired outcomes.

I'll leave the original question for the remainder of the day in the hopes of spurring a response -- or at least a suggestion of how to better pose the question. If we can't say what we want, how can we work toward it? Or is not knowing what we want a part of the problem?

One of the learning opportunities mentioned in a previous post was a discussion of using the Wikipedia concept of crowdsourcing to develop a collaborative vision of downtown redevelopment.

Typically, developers construct buildings then market it via realtors without any public input, and it shows - the downtown isn't very attractive to younger people. The “crowdsourcing” model looks to establish a 'beta community' of future downtown residents, and allow them to direct investors and developers to build exactly what they want, where they want it, at the price they can afford.

With Scribner Place a step closer to reality, what other businesses or living arrangements would maximize downtown's attractiveness?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Save the Date, Buy a House - SEJ discusses homeownership

Working under the general auspices of improving the quality of housing in New Albany, the S. Ellen Jones Neighborhoood Association's meeting on Tuesday will focus on homeownership, examining the role that ownership of both properties and issues plays in community redevelopment.

The first few homes at New Albany Community Housing's Linden Meadows, an ingenius affordable housing development created by moving historic homes slated for demolition to a new location, recently hit the market and NAHC's director, John Miller, will be on hand to discuss the transition from renting to home purchase.

As revitalization continues, affordable housing will be an increasingly important topic to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the improvement process and the diversity of our urban neighborhoods is preserved.

S. Ellen Jones Homeownership Meeting
Tuesday, September 19th
6:30 p.m.
S. Ellen Jones Elementary cafeteria
600 E. 11th Street

For a sneak peek, SEJ is also hosting a cookout this afternoon (apologies for the short notice) at the school from 11:30 to 1:00. Hot dogs, burgers, and drinks will be provided. Please bring a dish, chips or dessert to share.

S. Ellen Jones Forum

Friday, September 15, 2006

Just Dandy

Sometimes brevity serves, too. The Scribner Place redevelopment project will, as promised, cost the taxpayers of New Albany $137,500 per year, just as projected by the city's administration all along. Bonds are being prepared for sale and groundbreaking is expected within 60 days.

Congratulations New Albany. Congratulations Floyd County.

A shout-out goes to all who fought to bring this to fruition. You know who you are. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, folks. Mr. Robison's gloomy predictions may yet be refuted. After all, a majority of the elected officials in the city and the county voted to make this happen.

So where do I go to sign up for a FLOYD COUNTY YMCA membership?

Read Eric Scott Campbell's coverage in The Tribune.


A final holiday postcard comes to you from the outskirts of Prague, where Diana and I are staying at the same campground where the bicycling group resided two weeks ago.

The bicycling portion concluded last Sunday with a memorable 50-km ride in and around Vienna, a city with over 700 km of marked bicycle routes. The final mileage tally for the trip was around 500 km, or 320 miles. We omitted a portion of the Greenway owing to a recognition that while we were capable, it was simply too much work for something designed as vacation. This startling concession has become a new slogan: When the going gets tough, the tough take the the train.

Thoughts to all, and we will see you in a few days.

A portrait of New Albany from a young man

Seeing as how a lot of us have put forth considerable effort bringing attention to the idea that a revitalized downtown New Albany would be attractive to young smart people, it’s gratifying when a young smart person confirms it.

New Albanian and University of Evansville student Daniel Robison took to the task yesterday in the pages of The Tribune and handled the topic admirably, challenging New Albany to do better vis-à-vis sprawl, campaign rhetoric, city/county cooperation, and citizen political involvement.

If New Albany’s politicians, he said, are insincere in their commitment to downtown, at least confess as much. Some citizens feel as if they haven’t been let in on the joke yet and are beginning to feel foolish for continuing to treat the downtown issue as legitimate. I challenge the city and county officials to change our minds.

ROBISON: His downtown diatribe
Daniel Robison, guest columnist, The Tribune

Nice work, Daniel. Thanks for paying attention and writing. Please move back.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Champion Passes On

We join millions in lamenting the death of Ann Richards, former governor of Texas. She died last night, in the company of her four children.

Richards served her state and party for years and as governor from 1991-1995, but the voters of Texas chose a fellow named George to replace her; we all know how well that turned out.

Ann Richards was no fake. She would be on the front lines in defending Democratic Party values, including loyalty to its candidates and its principles. Her advice to faux-Democrats would certainly be "Stop the charade. Don't claim to be a Democrat while empowering the people who don't believe in our principles."

Richards was 73.

Free Learning Today

East Spring Street Neighborhood Association President Greg Roberts passes along the following information about upcoming local learning opportunities, the first this afternoon:

Using the Wikipedia Model to Revitalize the Downtown

Thursday, September 14

4:00 pm

Standard Oil Building, Room 236

426 West Bloom Street, (near 4th and Cardinal Blvd)

SUN (U of L's Sustainable Urban Networks) is sponsoring a presentation and film by prominent Washington D.C. new urbanist Neil Takemoto who founded the firm "CoolTowns", along with Louisville developer David Barhorst The presentation will begin with a short movie or you can see it on quicktime at City Cafe will be providing appetizers and drinks for this event.

Wikipedia uses the concept of “crowdsourcing” - large groups of people independently collaborating to solve a problem or create a vision. Typically, developers construct buildings then market it via realtors without any public input, and it shows - the downtown isn't very attractive to younger people. The “crowdsourcing” model looks to establish a 'beta community' of future downtown residents, and allow them to direct investors and developers to build exactly what they want, where they want it, at the price they can afford. The presentation will be fun, bold, creative and interesting. For more information on the award winning Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods, please visit the website:

Sustainable Housing Design

Saturday, September 16, 2006

10:30 am

Urban Design Studio

507 South Third Street

SUN (U of L’s Sustainable Urban Network) and AIA (American Institute of Architects) is sponsoring a forum on Sustainable Housing Design this coming Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Urban Design Studio in downtown Louisville on September 16.


John Gilderbloom, University of Louisville College of Urban and Public Affair

Panel Members

Michael Barry, Architect, 7107 River Road

Michael Huston, architect, Butchertown Houses

Mark Isaacs, Architect, Overlook Court

Anne Del Prince, Architect, Keefe Residence

Gary Waltous, architect, Shah Residence

Representative from Bravura, Architect for Waterfront Park Place

AIA House Tour

Sunday, September 17

1:00 – 6:00 pm

AIA (American Institute of Architects) Central Kentucky Chapter is pleased to announce 7 houses to be featured in this year's AIA House Tour to Benefit Habitat for Humanity. All homes on the tour are recently completed projects by local architects. A $15 ticket gains you access to the self-guided tour of all 7 houses and may be purchased at any of homes on the tour. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to experience the cutting edge of residential design in Louisville! This year’s tour includes an exciting mix of downtown multi unit condos, downtown & suburban single family homes, and river road single family homes. To purchase tickets in advance or for more information, contact Sarah Mascarich at or 502-315-6227.


1. Waterfront Park Place - 222 E. Witherspoon St., Downtown, Louisville

Architect: Bravura

2. Butchertown houses - 927 Franklin Street, Louisville
Architect: Michael Huston

3. Overlook Court - 2400 Overlook Hill Court, Highlands
Architect: Mark Isaacs, AIA/ Isaacs Associates Architects

4. Morris House Addition - 1314 Everett Ave, Highlands
Architect: Mary Jackson, AIA

5. River Road House - 7107 River Road
Architect: Michael Barry

6. Keefe Residence - 6902 Beachland Beach Road, Prospect, KY

Architect: Anne Del Prince, AIA

7. Shah Residence - 1706 Longwood Circle, Prospect, KY

Architects: Gary Watrous, AIA

Relationship Between Housing, Historic Preservation &

Downtown Revitalization

Tuesday, September 19

3:15 – 4:30 pm

Marriott Downtown Hotel

Donovan Rypokema, one of the most important thinkers in urban planning, will talk about the relationship between housing, historic preservation and downtown revitalization.

Landscape Illusions

Friday, October 13

9:00 – 10:30 am

Galt House East

Adriaan Geuze is one of the Netherlands most famous housing developers. He is the man who built bold, innovative, sustainable housing on abandoned and polluted docklands of Amsterdam. Adriaan Geuze, senior design partner of award-winning Dutch landscape design firm West 8, examines the changing nature of landscape in the urban environment as part of the 2006 Idea Festival. Response by David Mohney, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design. Go to the websites to get free tickets Idea Festival Or call 502-584-2121

University-Community Partnerships

Monday, October 16

4:00 pm

Standard Oil Building, Room 236

426 West bloom Street (near 4th and Cardinal Blvd.)

John Gilderbloom, professor at the University of Louisville College of Urban & Public Affairs, will release his DVD on University-Community Partnerships (UofL's Sustainable Urban Networks). The DVD features remarks from former President Clinton, former HUD Secretary Cisneros, President Derek Bok of Harvard, Mayor Jerry Abramson of Louisville and Sam Watkins of Louisville Central Development Corporation and features a slide show of West Russell “before during the early 1990’s and today.

For more information, please contact:
Melissa Mershon, Director
Louisville Metro Department of Neighborhoods
400 South First Street
Louisville, KY 40202
502-574-2320 W
502-574-4227 Fax

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

353,875,000 Reasons

The National Trust Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In the 1970s, the National Trust developed its pioneering Main Street approach to commercial district revitalization, an innovative methodology that combines historic preservation with economic development to restore prosperity and vitality to downtowns and neighborhood business districts. Today, the message has spread, as the Center advocates a comprehensive approach that rural and urban communities alike can use to revitalize their traditional commercial areas through historic preservation and grassroots-based economic development. It has created a network of more than 40 statewide, citywide, and countywide Main Street programs with more than 1,200 active Main Street programs nationally.

The Main Street Center has spent millions of dollars and countless hours over the course of the past thirty years developing a four-point revitalization methodology focused on organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring. That methodology has been successfully replicated in communities across the country.

The Center is straightforward in pointing out that the numbers include municipalities of various sizes, economic means and investment time frames but, having tracked investment patterns in communities using their methodology from 1980 to December of 2005, they’re able to claim ownership of a Wall Street trouncing reinvestment ratio of 28.31 to 1, meaning that every dollar spent to operate a local Main Street organization has led, on national average, to $28.31 in new investment in those communities.

Develop New Albany is one of those local Main Street organizations. New Albany is one of those communities. Critics, including this writer, will quickly point out that, much like New Albany itself, DNA thus far hasn’t lived up to its potential. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There have been encouraging signs from DNA lately. Last weekend’s historic home tour, for example, was a success clearly in line with Main Street-type promotional goals. The Main Street Center offers extensive training and educational resources to its member organizations in each of the four strategic areas as well as consulting services, financial programs, and partnership opportunities. Their Knowledge Base and library of issue specific articles and presentations, based on case studies and documented success stories, could fuel blog content and Council discussions for years. A recent search of their Knowledge Base for “tax credits” alone yielded 89 relevant results.

The city very recently committed approximately $12.5 million in economic development funds to subsidize the sewer utility. If that money were to instead be properly utilized in conjunction with Main Street redevelopment methodology, there’s strong evidence to suggest New Albany’s rate of return would be much higher than the paltry 45 cents each in monthly “savings” the current funding situation will generate.

$12.5 million x 28.31 = $353,875,000

We’d do well to capture even a small portion of that.

Revitalization is possible. It’s been done and we have access to people who’ve done it repeatedly. They want to teach us. There’s no reason we can’t learn. There are certainly no guarantees, but if I thought the city would take the opportunity seriously, I’d write a check for $6.00 to cover my household’s annual share today.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Part-time Council, Full time nothingness

Resident Randy Bulleit again brought forth a potential plan addressing a residential parking permit system at last night’s City Council meeting. He’d reportedly been told that it wouldn’t be discussed at a previous Council meeting then heard that it had put on the agenda and introduced as an ordinance.

Having decided to attend last night’s session to discuss the idea with the Council —or to at least avoid missing their discussion-- he was told that he wasn’t on the agenda and that no discussion would take place. Receiving no satisfaction from the Council and being left understandably confused by his interactions with city government thus far, he asked if his parking situation was indeed an appropriate topic for a Council meeting or how he should follow up on the topic. Answer: We’re not sure, but a Council Member will get back to you.

Another ordinance was introduced to deal with the distribution of tax dollars in reference to a state mandated retirement plan for police and firefighters. It passed after a brief discussion but Council Member Dan Coffey voted against it on the grounds that “we don’t know where the money is coming from.”

The Economic Development bond for the YMCA’s portion of the Scribner Place project passed with Council Member Steve Price casting the lone no vote. It was explained in great detail that the bond would solely be the responsibility of the YMCA and the bank providing them credit. The city would incur no risk or fiscal responsibility. Even Coffey was satisfied by the explanation. Price voted against it with no explanation whatsoever.

The kicker of the evening was Council President Jeff Gahan’s proposed ordinance to establish reporting requirements for the Sewer Board, a seeming call for additional accountability via regular financials and additional Council oversight of sewer expenditures. There’d obviously been little discussion amongst Council Members concerning the workings of the ordinance or the sewer department as Council and Sewer Board Member Mark Seabrook immediately objected to specific language in the ordinance that did little to account for emergency repairs, a near constant condition of our long neglected sewer system, particularly with the EPA looming. Gahan then asked several questions, ones that would’ve made sense to ask before introducing an ordinance.

Last night’s meeting, while mostly void of the more vivid floorshows we’ve come to expect, served as a potent reminder to those in attendance that no one on the Council knows what they’re doing or prepares for meetings with answers rather than questions. Not only did they have to pause more than once last night to figure out their own rules of operation but members consistently assumed a posture of general confusion and ignorance broken up only by the usual bouts of innuendo and anger.

Residents aren’t allowed to address the Council concerning issues not on the agenda and issues only make the agenda, often as day-of-meeting additions, as proposed ordinances that have never been discussed, published or otherwise publicly revealed. It’s legislative Russian roulette and the gun is loaded with consequences.

Despite their constant calls for more information and increased accountability, the Council has taken no steps to cure its own inability to function as a responsible working body. State statute clearly defines the role the Council is supposed to play in researching and calculating the impact of potential legislation and they simply don’t do it, even when they sponsor the measure themselves. In fact, after two years of semi-regular Council meeting attendance, I’ve never even heard some of the state-outlined topics discussed at all.

For those curious, I’ve copied the relevant sections of Indiana law below. Fittingly, the sections referenced occur in the codebook immediately preceding information pertaining to the legally required redistricting the Council also chose to ignore. Perhaps I’ll make photocopies.

Anybody have a concise definition of hypocrite I can include?


There shall be ten standing committees in the Common Council, appointed by the President, which shall consist of three members each, except the Committee on Budget and Finance which shall consist of all the members of the Council; provided that the President shall appoint a chairperson of each committee from its members:

(A) Budget and Finance.
(B) Rules.
(C) Public Utilities and Transportation.
(D) Police Department.
(E) Fire Department.
(F) Public Safety and Traffic.
(G) Public Works.
(H) Public Health and Welfare.
(I) Schools and Library.
(J) Development and Annexation.

('71 Code, §30.25) (Ord. 4600, passed 3-4-57)


The duties of the various standing committees shall be as follows:

(A) Budget and Finance. Fees, salaries, budgets, appropriations, tax levies, revenue bonds, claims, litigation, contracts, supervision and investigation. The Chairperson shall maintain liaison with City Controller.

(B) Rules. To establish and maintain rules under which Common Council shall operate.

(C) Public Utilities and Transportation. To consider and report on all ordinances affecting the public utilities, electric, gas, water or any public transportation, such as bus, rail, truck, boat or air.

(D) Police Department. To consider and report on all ordinances or resolutions concerning matters pertaining to the Police Department.

(E) Fire Department. To consider and report on all ordinances or resolutions concerning matters pertaining to the Fire Department.

(F) Public Safety and Traffic. To consider and report on all matters pertaining to the flow of traffic, traffic signs and signals, to the regulation of and parking of cars in the city limits. Also, to consider and report on all ordinances and resolutions pertaining to pedestrian traffic and safety and to the general safety of residents of the city.

(G) Public Works. To consider and report on all matters pertaining to streets, alleys, sewers (sanitary and storm), drainage and garbage collections.

(H) Public Health and Welfare. To consider and report on all matters pertaining to the public health and welfare. To maintain close liaison with Floyd-Harrison Health Department and administrator of the Floyd County Memorial Hospital. To consider and report on all ordinances concerning parks and recreation.

(I) Schools and Library. To consider and report on all matters concerning public schools and city library.

(J) Development and Annexation. To consider and report on all matters pertaining to the general development and improvement of the city, to planning and zoning and annexation.

('71 Code, §30.26) (Ord. 4600, passed 3-4-57)


When a subject is referred to a standing committee or to a special committee, the member introducing the same shall be a member of such committee during its deliberation thereon, but, as such, shall have no right to vote, except if he is already a member of such committee. He shall be notified by the chairperson of the time and place of meeting of such committee.

('71 Code, §30.27) (Ord. 4600, passed 3-4-57)

§ 30.53 REPORTS.

All reports from committees shall be made in writing, giving the title and bill number thereof, and must be signed by a majority of the members thereof; and all committees shall return all ordinances, resolutions and papers referred to them and report upon the same to the Common Council not later than the regular meeting night after the same are so referred; provided that the Council may, at its discretion, extend the time for making such report. This section does not include reports from committees created by the Council and containing members of the Council. These reports may be presented orally to the Council upon the request of any Council member, provided that the Council may, at its discretion extend the time for making such report.

('71 Code, §30.28) (Ord. 4600, passed 3-4-57; Am. Ord. G-92-135, passed 12-7-92)


(A) In forming a Committee of the Whole Council, the Presiding Officer, leaving the chair, shall appoint a Chairperson to preside, unless the Chairperson Pro Tempore of the Council is present, in which case he shall preside.

(B) Ordinances which have been committed to a Committee of the Whole Council shall be read throughout by the City Clerk, and then again read and debated by sections. The body of the ordinances shall not be defaced or interlined, but all amendments, noting the line and page, shall be duly entered by the Clerk upon separate paper, as the same shall be agreed to by the Committee, and so reported to the Council. After report the ordinance shall again be subject to debate on the floor.

(C) The rules of parliamentary law and of proceedings in the Council shall be observed in a Committee of the Whole Council, so far as they may be applicable, except the rule limiting the time of speaking; but no member shall speak more than two times on any question until every member choosing to speak shall have spoken.

('71 Code, §30.40) (Ord. 4600, passed 3-4-57)

Monday, September 11, 2006

UPDATED: Scribner Place and Taxes Tonight

There's a City Council meeting tonight, third floor assembly room of the City/County Building, 7:30 p.m.

From Jane Alcorn of Develop New Albany:

Monday night is another important New Albany City Council meeting for the Scribner Place/YMCA project. The YMCA is applying for Economic Development Revenue Bonds in the approximate principal amount of $5,500,000 to finance a portion of the costs of construction and equipping their three story facility at the corner of State and Main streets. As a not for profit, the YMCA can utilize these bonds, as have the Christian Academy School and Valley Ridge (subsidized rental housing) over the past few years.

None of the bonds will be general obligations of the City of New Albany , the Common Council or the Economic Development Commission. Neither the bonds nor the interest thereon constitute or give rise to any indebtedness of the City or any charge against its general credit or taxing power.

This meeting is another chance to continue the support of the project we have all worked hard to see to fruition, if you would like to attend.

Develop New Albany is forwarding a letter of support to Council members. You may do this, call your councilman or attend the meeting.

The Council should also be considering an additional property tax levy tonight as a means to cover a state mandated retirement plan for police and fire personnel as Eric Scott Campbell reported in the The Tribune.

It's largely unremarkable save for a couple of facts: The Council recently sold out the city's economic development future in order to "save" citizens an annual amount similar to the levy currently in question and someone will inevitably claim that their property taxes are being raised to pay for Scribner Place.

We'll link to an offical agenda when it becomes available.

In the mean time, remember that heroes are best honored by creating a way of life that doesn't require heroism.

Tonight's Council Agenda

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A House is Just Part of a Home

Some 250 people took advantage of some bang-up weather and convivial hospitality yesterday, making a full day of exploring the interiors of a group of New Albany’s historic homes. As one of the host homes on the tour, it was gratifying to meet so many like-minded people appreciative of what our downtown neighborhoods have to offer. A certain kinship exists between those who share ideals and the home tour was in some ways a reunion of that family.

A personal highlight was meeting a pair of former neighbors who’d come to see what had become of the home they remembered from decades past. One woman was born two doors down and used to visit with the doctor who built our home when he still held office hours in the house in the 1930s. Another lived in the historic duplex directly behind our home as a newlywed in the Forties and remembered over-the-fence conversations with members of the Wright family, our house’s second owners. They were thrilled that their pasts had become part of our future. We were happy to feel so connected with the community that preceded us in the neighborhood, knowing that our work will help maintain that human continuum.

With a steady stream of visitors over several hours, it was an exhausting day but one that very much validated the effort that so many downtown exert to preserve the city’s heritage by ensuring its continued reinvention. It seemed worth it yesterday.

I’m appreciative of the folks who took up the task of making the tour a reality and look forward to participating on some level in future. Readers who participated in the day’s festivities are invited to comment on their experience.

Friday, September 08, 2006


2005 census data shows that one in eight Americans lives in poverty. For children under 6 years old, that number rises to one in five.

I’m inclined to agree with Steve Earle who said, “There's more than enough here to take care of everybody. Any reason someone offers you for why people can't get a job or can't get enough to eat or can't get medical attention is bullshit. There's no other explanation than greed.”

Anyone else care to take a stab at explaining how or why the richest, most powerful nation on Earth accepts and justifies such high poverty levels?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another postcard from abroad.

Ahoj, New Albania.

I write to you from the Czech Republic, near the city of Znojmo, on a Czech language keyboard that is giving me fits.

There is much wine hereabouts, and the implications should be obvious.

Tomorrow we begin the passage through Austria to the Danube, and Vienna.

More public thanks to Bluegill for his stellar performance. More later.

Yeah, what they said.

Partners For Livable Communities is a fantastic organization doing the work to which many of us aspire.
Partners for Livable Communities is a non-profit leadership organization working to improve the livability of communities by promoting quality of life, economic development, and social equity. Since its founding in 1977, Partners has helped communities set a common vision for the future, discover and use new resources for community and economic development and build public/private coalitions to further their goals.

While regular NAC readers will recognize many of the principles it contains from previous posts and discussions, Partners has made available an extremely worthwhile document providing a succinct primer on the creative economy and its effects on cities.

The Creative City Resource paper responds to three questions:

What are the characteristics of the new economy most important for cities?

What are cities doing to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities created by the new economy?

What kind of leadership is needed to develop the creative city?

I grew tired of trying to quote or paraphrase something already well done into what would've ultimately been a lesser contribution. Please do us both a favor and just read the original.

The Creative City: Power for the New Economy (PDF, 26 pp., 68k)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Daily Bread

A friend recently accepted a new position in Burlington, Vermont. As I was checking out the virtual scene, comparisons to New Albany, another historic city of similar size, were inevitable.

In searching for clues as to the differences between the two municipalities, one thriving and the other being us, and how local action may make them more similar, it was again evident that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel when so many others have paved the road, put gas in the tank, taken the car for a test drive and then wisely opted for public transportation.

We may want to consider reinventing money, though. The Burlington Currency Project has created a monetary system, Burlington Bread, usable at local establishments only. In fact, there’s a whole national movement to do so.

It's unclear at this point whether we should print bills with the Samtec logo or trade for growlers of beer, but it's not a bad idea. Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Historic Homes, New Attitudes

As highlighted by local preservationist Ted Fulmore’s Why a Home Tour is Important on his Our History in New Albany blog, Develop New Albany, the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission and the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana have conspired to make us look good. A tour of historic New Albany properties, showcasing both fully realized and in progress restorations, will be offered on Saturday, September 9th, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The skinny:

The tour begins at the New Albany Farmers Market at Bank and Market Streets where participants will pick up a tour booklet and map guiding them to twelve properties spread throughout each of New Albany’s four historic districts. The tour booklet provides a brief history of each building and highlights their notable architectural details.


$15 each, $5 for children under 15

Advanced ticket sales at:

AAA Plumbing Doctor
302B Market Street

Destinations Booksellers
604 E. Spring Street

Martha’s Attic
222 Pearl Street

Tickets can also be purchased at the Farmers Market on the day of the event. All proceeds go to fund preservation activities in New Albany.

The rest:

With so many great structures available in a single day, it’s understandable that one may have the urge to rush from one to the other in an effort to view as much as possible. In a word, don’t.

The buildings on the tour represent not only the masterwork of bygone architects and builders but also the present day hope of many to turn those historic visions into something more tangible in their everyday lives. Having been in several of the homes, I can personally vouch for the craftsmanship that created them and the sincere care that refurbishes and maintains them. But it’s not the physical structures, regardless of how impressive, that are important. It’s what they represent.

In the Poetics of Space, French Philosopher Gaston Bachelard, said “Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.” Having lived downtown for over a year now, I can tell you that: 1) I truly love our house. 2) Construction started in the 1920s and it’ll never be finished. 3) I’m glad.

As long as it’s not finished, I’m not either. I’ll have a reason to walk the streets around it, searching for clues to its history and ideas about how I might improve on it. I’ll have a reason to call a neighbor over for commiseration and help, knowing that it’ll cost me more work in the long run when he calls me to his place later. I’ll have a reason to continue to meet with other friends and acquaintances to brainstorm on making the neighborhood better and how best to show the rest of the world the potential that we all plainly see. And those meetings will occur in the independent eateries and businesses that have sprung up as part of a renewal that’s bigger than any of us individually, although each of us probably feels defined by it at times.

It’s that 'inhabited space', that stretching idealism, that way of being that built New Albany and it’s that same energy that will superimpose itself over top of thirty years of negative images until the light burns a hole through the substrate. Like those who built the physical space we reside in, the people here aren’t choosing easier. They’re choosing better and getting to know them and their ideas is worthwhile. So take your time. Ask them about their situation. They’ll probably invite you to join in it.

Plan to walk to one of several good restaurants. Stop in the bookstore or library to reference whatever architectural or cultural detail catches your attention. Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry and wander down to the river. Find an item in a shop that will always represent the day. Enjoy the buildings, too, of course, but know that their histories are just that. It’s the future that’s really on display.

For more information about the tour, email or call 812.941.0466.

For information about preservation efforts in New Albany, check out the the Historic Preservation Commission’s web site.

If you just can’t wait until Saturday and have to buy a historic home of your own now, provides information on many properties currently for sale.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Working Holiday

As much as it’s about honoring the contributions of the working class, Labor Day is an opportunity to consider the meaning of work and the spirit that drives people to accomplish, to make better, and to find worth in that circumstance.

Our friend and neighbor Tabitha Sprigler perhaps knows that better than most of us. In addition to her award winning academic work and local volunteerism, Tabitha has taken it upon herself to spend five months in Thailand’s poorest neighborhoods; teaching, learning, and documenting her experiences.

While I was in the slums, each day had many common features. My Maw and Paw woke up at 4 or 4:30 am. I would lay in the net until 5am (sometimes 6am) and then make my way to ab naum (shower). In the shower, I would use buckets of cold water and doge random insects that hung out on the ceiling/floors/"walls" of the facilities. The other day I had a "how did I get to this point in my life moment." I had just gotten undressed (except for Paw's shower shoes) when I realized that I had to use the bathroom. As you know I use squat toilets here (gravity is amazing. . .I promise the tutorial is coming someday). There I was in position, nude (save the shower shoes), and watching random insects scurry around. It briefly registered that I was nude, squatting, surrounded by insects, in some random bathroom in Thailand. Surprisingly this is not the part that I found strange. The part that really caused me to pause is that I was fine with this process. How did I get to this point in my life where this seemed normal? I mean seriously, what led me here? I have always been the type to avoid public restrooms at all costs. . .

Like the Thai people she’s acquainting herself with these days, we’re lucky to know her and the example she sets.

Her most recent report from the road, as excerpted above:
Em Laow (I'm Full)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I'll take city attorneys for $150K, Alex.

Dan Coffey wants to hire a full-time city attorney. For those of us in attendance at the neighborhood forum during which he berated citizens for considering that very same measure as a potential aid to code enforcement, Coffey’s suggestion of following through with the full-time attorney idea should seem surprising. But it’s not. We know Dan Coffey.

We know that Coffey’s interest lays not in actually ensuring that the legal department has the resources necessary to carry out enforcement duties, but only in trimming an insignificant amount from a budget that’s already too small to accommodate mundane tasks that residents of other cities take for granted. We know that Coffey’s worldview doesn’t include an understanding of what it takes to effectively accomplish anything in a professional working environment. We also know that Coffey is unwilling or unable to conduct the research necessary to expand that worldview, as forum attendees did. Unlike those citizens who actually want to solve the enforcement problem, Coffey didn’t even consult with the City Attorney prior to introducing his ill-fated measure, putting forth a document so lacking in rationale and information that Council colleague Mark Seabrook said, "I don't think it's in any form to be voted on at this time."

Now for the shocking news: The City of New Albany is spending $127,000 on legal matters this year. Even in bold print, it’s a yawn-inspiring bit of information. The city’s total operating budget for the year is about $28 million and legal fees will account for less than one half a percent of it. While Coffey continues to his highlight his own ignorance by incessantly quoting the number as an outrage from which citizens need defense, there’s simply no wonder as to why New Albany’s such an attractive business climate for absentee property rental.

A person who made a legitimate attempt to understand the situation would know that, according to, the median salary in the Louisville market for an attorney with two to five years experience is $106,632 and that for one with five to eight years of experience is $141, 171. At a little over $41,000 part-time, current City Attorney Shane Gibson is actually underpaid for the number of hours he works.

That person would also realize that the political nature of working for a city’s legal department makes it less attractive for potential public counselors. City Attorneys are hired by the Mayor and therefore face the possibility of removal from office every four years, regardless of their own personal performance. Job security? A chance to make partner? Nope, just extra unpaid work to ensure that your employer retains the authority to sign your paycheck.

A reasonable person may conclude that there’s perhaps a better way to build a city legal department with a combination of part-time attorneys and paralegal resources that wouldn't cost much more but would provide continuity, daily attentiveness, and create a more attractive work environment. Unfortunately, the person in question is Dan Coffey. According to him, there’s no reason an already gainfully employed, experienced attorney wouldn’t jump at the chance to give up his or her own private practice to work for less than market value with no job security.

Much like his Council cohort Steve Price, who’s done his damnedest to explain to constituents that “We already gave Shane a paralegal” when what actually occurred was a transfer of $16,000 to the legal department for a part-time administrative assistant, Coffey has no sense at all of how the professional world operates or which expenses therein are reasonable and which ones aren’t. It doesn’t really matter to him since he’s not actually trying to accomplish anything other than to make sure his personal disdain for government translates into weakening its ability to acheive so he can blame someone for it later. It just may, however, matter to those in Coffey’s district who expect their vote to translate into solution-based government.

New Albany considering hiring full-time city attorney
Matt Batcheldor, The Courier-Journal

Friday, September 01, 2006

Prague interlude.

I'm taking advantage of a lull to check mail and relax while my fellow beercyclers explore the wonders of Prague, the Czech capital city that lives up to its reputation for beauty. Two of my friends have not been here previously, and are understandably excited about seeing the castle, the Charles Bridge, and the interior of the U Fleku beer hall for the very first time.

Our lodging here is in a campground lovingly and efficiently maintained by a family that lost its ancestral homestead during the nationalizations of the Communist era, but was awarded it back after a restitution process that followed the Velvet Revolution. Half the barn houses horses, while the other half contains the family quarters, a restaurant operated by the son, and the guest rooms that we are inhabiting.

It's worth remembering that our very presence at Camp Drusus testifies to the Czech Republic's admirable success -- rocky indeed at times, but steadily progressive -- in moving beyond the many ghosts of its past and redefining itself for a future within the European Union.

I'm impressed and humbled by Bluegill's eloquence in my absence. More later ... perhaps next week.

Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.*

With the understandable disappointment surrounding the City Council’s regrettable decision to mortgage our economic future for less than fifty cents in monthly sewer bills, it’s been far too easy this week to overlook that good news is happening in spite of them. On the Friday preceding Labor Day, let’s take a moment to remember that success most often comes from work wholly immeasurable by paychecks, tax brackets, and accountants.

In a show of resolve and cooperation, residents from several New Albany neighborhoods took it upon themselves last night to educate their neighbors about how they can help with the city’s trash woes. It’s clear that city government has little active interest in addressing the issue so it’s good to see citizens stepping up to fill the leadership void. This writer was unfortunately absent from the meeting, but readers are encouraged to report on the evening. Media links will be added as they become available.

Last Sunday, Matt and Jessica Bergman hosted a well-attended open house at their recently purchased downtown property, the former Lewis Furniture and Appliance store at 135 East Market Street. Work on the upstairs residence is forthcoming, the building’s façade is being restored and there’s already commercial interest in the ground floor retail space. In case you missed it, The Tribune ran a story about the project on August 12.

Downtown Diligence in New Albany
by Eric Scott Campbell, The Tribune

This week’s Board of Public Works discussion concerning the parking needs of those who reside in the downtown commercial district is another encouraging sign. While I’d feel better about it if that discussion had been proactively instigated by government officials, parking in the district will undoubtedly become a more pressing issue as redevelopment gains even further momentum and should very much be a part of city planning now rather than later.

While the problem is still relatively minor in the immediate sense, the number of residents in that area is increasing with more living space happily on the way. “People who are wanting to move downtown…”, as Brenda Scharlow put it, is an assumption that’s easier to make every day.

Two-hour parking exemptions discussed in New Albany
by Eric Scott Campbell, The Tribune

Those who live or will live downtown need services and there’s perhaps no service more basic than that provided by a neighborhood grocery store. Most know that Daily’s 24 Hour Food Mart, 419 Vincennes Street, planned on closing so Mr. Daily could pursue other business interests. As reported this week, though, the business has been sold and will most likely remain a grocery store.

A dutiful sense of civic responsibility and the food mart’s convenient location attracted a fair share of customers. Perhaps the new owner, whose identity is yet to be revealed, will build on that support and offer a less readily available variety of goods many of those customers would appreciate, allowing their continued shopping to be more pleasurably motivated.

24 Hour Mart to remain open
By Chris Morris, The Tribune

We’ve said it over and over again. Economic development is dependent on our ability to attract and retain creative, productive talent to our community. Talent decides where to live based on amenities that contribute to quality of life. Businesses in turn decide where to locate based on access to that talent. It’s a competitive affair and standing still is losing.

For those of you keeping score in that contest, the New Albany/Floyd County Parks and Recreation Department gets it. More than most city entities, Parks and Rec has shown an understanding of its role and is enthusiastically reinventing itself to move forward.

It’s impressive, though not entirely surprising, what can be accomplished with thorough planning and the organized pursuit of defined goals. Director Bill Koehler and crew, having already earned a holiday weekend several times over, upped the ante again.

New Albany Parks Department create new foundation
By Chris Morris, The Tribune

Other notables:

New Albany audit shows improvement
by Eric Scott Campbell, The Tribune

Contractor extends Scribner bid
By Matt Batcheldor, The Courier-Journal

The large majority of the above was obviously well covered by The Tribune. Linking to all those stories wouldn’t have been possible a year ago.

Relax. Catch up. Appreciate.

*The title is still gleefully lodged in my head, having been implanted there by Todd Snider via his brilliant East Nashville Skyline LP almost two years ago. He has a new one out as well.