New Albany's city council meets tonight at 7:30 p.m.
It's election season.
As predicted, a nasty but predictably adolescent scrum has enveloped the body politic of our city. The ball’s somewhere in the middle of all those writhing, clawing bodies, and about all that can be seen from the bleacher seats is Johnny Cash’s “the mud, the blood and the beer.”
Of course, there’s always a certain internal logic to these frenetic couplings and dizzying shifts of alliances, to the pandering, caterwauling and buffoonish posturing of people otherwise identifiable on random occasions as adults, and to their endless array of dirty tricks, smirks and tactical harassments.
Look no further than the political yard signs so many candidates numbingly erect in public right-of ways where, naturally, the signs are not supposed to be – even as they hasten to assure us they’re 100% for law and order in New Albany. Certainly it must be an indicator of something approximating temporary insanity.
Consider further that far more often than not, Larry Kochert spent the past city council term (if there really is a deity, his last) voting in concert with Bill Schmidt, and against positions espoused by Jack Messer. Now Messer and Kochert both support Larry Scharlow for mayor, and Scharlow’s treasurer, Bob Caesar, is running against Schmidt.
(Late note: I'm told that the rules prohibit Bob Caesar from simultaneously being a candidate and a treasurer, and that he has resigned as reasurer for the Scharlow campaign. However, the gist of the point is unchanged.)
As an aside, it’s been particularly fascinating lately to watch as another wave of pre-meditated venom has been unleashed against Mayor James Garner, who by now should be reduced to quivering and politically emasculated goo by the intensity of the relentless assaults … but damned if he doesn’t somehow keep answering the bell, time after time, in spite of the furious pounding.
I’m not sure how Mayor Garner absorbs the punishment, and whether it’s even worth doing so, although it must mean that his candidacy for re-election is still regarded in some quarters as viable – or else, why would the full-court pressure continue unabated?
There are no Billy Tubbs disciples in the current motley group – are there?
Irrespective of party and faction, almost all these clamorous outpourings of noise and repetitive bile have one fundamental thing in common: They are accompanied by a complete and utter absence of a principled program, one capable of convincing us that the individual at the lectern hurling abuse in all directions has any better idea of a future plan than the frequent victims of his or her wrath.
Instead, tradition reigns supreme. All is platitude, homily and cliché. Nothing is offered by the majority of current occupants or aspiring candidates (of course, there are periodic and honorable exceptions) to indicate a grasp of modernity, a coherent system of policy ideas, or an applicable state of instructive ideals,
Rather, we’re regaled with pious assertions of honesty, integrity, and happy marriages fecund with children, on and on, ad nauseam, and complete with vapid slogans like these:
“New leadership – not management”
“Standing up for you”
If you approached Republican mayoral candidate Randy Hubbard right now and asked him, “what time is it”, I’m not sure he would risk an answer for fear of taking a substantive position on any topic that truly mattered. Instead, he’d propose to take it under advisement before adding that he’d consider asking the community if it considered the time of day as an important issue.
He’s not alone. When asked the time, most members of New Albany’s political class would answer with the year of their high school graduation – that is, the ones who actually graduated.
I suppose one way to look at all this is that perhaps the glass in New Albany is indeed half full. In spite of our many problems, enough people care about the community to run for office and campaign to the best of their abilities, even if they’re unable or unwilling to offer anything of substance. They’ve neither read a book nor learned how to program their DVD players (make that VCRs, to account for the backwardness), but they mean well – so the half-full argument goes.
Perhaps that’s true, because the converse scenario of a glass half empty suggests a genuinely loathsome and incurable heart of darkness, and consequently is something – like a nuclear attack and potential pandemics – too unsettling to fathom. To be sure, the past council term has revealed in startling clarity the Price we as a city must pay for electing and empowering overmatched, under-gray-mattered dullards to office.
Me? I merely smile and grin at the chaos all around. Quite some time ago, Randy Smith -- then an NAC collaborator -- wrote:
The conclusion we have drawn is this: the problems facing our community are not states of nature. They stem from an environment poisoned by actual individuals, individuals who devalue education, deride progressivism, and seek only to elevate their egos by jealously guarding the levers of power from any who might actually want to use them.
Our critics seem to shudder at what they call unfounded personal attacks. They miss the point. They are personal because (we) believe (they are) the persons who are responsible for the mess we are in. So long as the citizenry averts their eyes from what is a fairly repugnant form of political knife-fighting, they will never know who those looters and destroyers are. Then, when election time comes and the voters see New Albany sitting by the side of the road with a flat tire, they'll assume the driver is at fault. We're here to show who is wielding the knives, who is spreading the tire-puncturing tacks, who is pouring sugar in the gas tanks.
At precisely this moment, it’s pretty much all of them, irrespective of previous faction and alignment, who are dumping “sugar in the gas tanks” by the sack, merrily fiddling “Ward Heeler’s Reel,” and plotting, scheming and lowering the common denominator even further as the rest of us search high and low for the faintest sign of genuine leadership at a time when just a smidgen of it might help to push the city’s ship back out into the harbor.
Check back tonight. NAC plans on attending the council meeting, albeit in disguise -- wouldn't want to give the presiding officer too much warning to sharpen the axe, eh?