Thursday, May 31, 2007

C'mon, who could turn down an afternoon at Louisville's Muhammad Ali Center?

Given a choice on Memorial Day between attending the Abbey Road festival honoring the Beatles and visiting the adjacent Muhammad Ali Center, we opted for the latter.

Something in the way the Courier-Journal slickly touted the riverfront Beatlerama struck an unresponsive chord within us, while the memory of listening to the Ali Center’s Daniel Kalef speak at the Floyd County Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner remained strong, urging an appreciation of the boxer-turned-cultural ambassador’s fascinating life.

In fact, it is difficult to imagine any self-declared Democrat – for that matter, any person, period – consciously turning down the opportunity to reflect on the universal human ideals considered therein:

The Muhammad Ali Center serves as both a destination site and an international education and cultural center that is inspired by the ideals of its founder Muhammad Ali … Two-and-a-half levels of interactive exhibits and captivating multi-media presentations present Ali’s life story through the six core values of his life: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, and spirituality … Ultimately, the Ali Center strives to inspire you to pursue your potential and explore the greatness that lies within yourself.

At the aforementioned Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on April 27, Mr. and Mrs. Confidential were flatly envious of 5th district Democratic council candidate Diane McCartin Benedetti, who walked off with the door prize of specially selected Muhammad Ali Center materials and admission tickets. I wonder if she has yet had time to visit, and if so, whether the experience was good for her.

It certainly was good for us. Here are a few views of the interior.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Repair Affair 2007

Repair Affair mobilizes community-wide resources and volunteers to support the housing repair needs of elderly and disabled homeowners of low income throughout Kentuckiana.

The community development specialists at New Directions Housing Corporation are gearing up for their annual Repair Affair, a metro area volunteer effort to improve owner-occupied homes for the older and more challenged among us in Louisville and Southern Indiana. In the belief that increased homeownership capacity is an efficacious remedy to slumlordism, NAC will be doing its part and invites you to join us.

The houses have been chosen and the Southern Indiana work date set for Saturday, June 9.

Many volunteer teams have already committed to complete the needed maintenance and repair tasks but much work remains. Various support roles, such as food and materials runners, are still available.

As the statistics below indicate, Repair Affair provides a worthwhile opportunity to have direct impact on the community and many of the people who populate our neighborhoods.

2006 Repair Affair Impact Results

156 homes received repairs
94 in Louisville and 62 in Southern Indiana

1,421 volunteers
921 in Louisville and 500 in Southern Indiana

Completed repairs include:
Total Roofs
Minor roof repair
Wheelchair ramps
Hand rails & grab bars
Floor repair
Minor electrical
Minor plumbing
Door & window repair
Exterior paint
Interior paint

I'm currently confirming the details of the New Albany and Southern Indiana repair effort. Readers with an interest in volunteering at any level may contact me via the email address in my Blogger profile. A second Louisville work day will take place the following Saturday, June 16.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Divided we fall (again?): Time to discuss the "Price" of unity in the 3rd district.

It strikes me as odd that the Floyd County GOP chose the prelude to a holiday weekend to break the news that Brenda Scharlow is the party’s likely nominee to oppose incumbent 3rd district councilman Steve Price in the November election, but that’s the way it happened, and we though it best to defer discussion for a bit. Here's our Saturday posting, with a quote from the Tribune's story:

3rd district in the spotlight; Price to raid grandma's cookie jar for fall campaign.

Asked whether he was disappointed that he’d now have to fund a general-election campaign, Price replied that he’d long expected a challenge.

“I had heard that they were possibly going to run an independent, so I figured there would definitely be someone running against me somewhere,” Price said.

Indeed, as even Price is aware, planning for an independent campaign was (and remains) afoot. However, a credible Republican candidacy inevitably alters the dynamic; while CM Price came to office with a lopsided win against a colorless GOP opponent in 2003, both his Democratic primary wins have come during three-way races, most recently earlier in May when 63% of those voting chose either Maury Goldberg or Charlie Harshfield over Price's continued reign of error.

There are questions to be answered, and soon.

Given that in stated political thought as well as recorded council deed, Price has consistently performed in a fashion that is deleterious to the future interests of the city in general, and of his district in particular, just how important is it to the residents of 3rd district that he is returned to full-time rental property management in January, 2008?

Did we learn anything from our unfortunate failure to unify during the primary?

If we decide to run an independent candidate in the fall, do we risk yet another three-way split – and yet another Price victory with less than a majority?

Assuming that Scharlow’s platform is palatable (naturally, all bets are off if it isn’t, but recall that she very much needs progressive votes to win the race), do we support the Republican candidate as the best choice for unity, knowing all the while that those in the Democratic Party hierarchy who are closest to us will have no choice except to back Price, even if he is an ongoing embarrassment to them?

(Know that there are potential embarrassments other than Price, but we'll come to that in due time. Also know that the author once wrote in this blog that he’d sooner drink Miller Lite than vote for a Republican. Is defeating Steve Price important enough for me to drink Miller Lite?)

Or do you think it is somehow not proper to discuss these issues openly?

To the contrary, I believe it is fitting and proper that we do so, because to do otherwise is to play politics as usual – and isn’t that what we’re ostensibly against?

Whether you live within the 3rd district or elsewhere in the city, your thoughts on the preceding are much appreciated. If you don’t wish to post, send comments to the e-mail address in my profile and I will repost them pseudonymously.

Monday, May 28, 2007

REWIND: "My shoes are filled with Volga mud ... "

(Originally written in 1999, and published here on Dec. 4, 2005. It came to mind as I've been reading articles about the remaking of Moscow)

I knew we were in trouble when I saw the weather-beaten boat that had been hired by Allan Gamborg to take us out into the expanse of water that he swore was a river, but looked to me like a vast inland ocean.

A handful of pasty white male natives in flowery swimming trunks eyed us with curiosity from behind reeking cigarette stubs. There was an odor of gasoline in the air … or was it vodka?

It had taken more than three hours just to reach the village. We began the day in central Moscow on the inner ring road, with Allan pointing the car north through seemingly limitless, shabby cement towers, until at some point approaching sheer urban claustrophobia, we reached the open countryside.

A couple of reform-proof collective farms were bisected, and we probably passed through a time zone or two before arriving eventually at the Russian equivalent of Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes, a big piece of land wedged between the confluence of three rivers, terrain dotted with venerable rural homes made of peeling painted wood, weekend houses (dachas) of the high-rolling city folk, and numerous indications that the short-term visitor would be utterly removed from the fast pace of urban life.

Allan’s dacha, a nicely built house of recent vintage, was being tended in his absence by a neighbor. Among her advance instructions were to garner and prepare food in anticipation of the arrival of the vacationing foreigners: The two oversized Americans (myself and Barrie Ottersbach), as well as Allan’s fellow Dane, the ever-energetic Kim Wiesener.

Scouting opportunities for profit, a stereotypically scarfed, elderly woman met us at the rickety gate of the compound, displaying a rather large and odiferous fish that she excitedly explained might well be the highlight of our visit to all of Russia. Allan bought it for mere kopecks, and with only slight trepidation it was slated for the outdoor grilling of meat and vegetables set to follow the boat trip to Sand Island.

Settling into our evening accommodations, we secured the perimeter of the kitchen against horse flies and bees, then examined the afternoon’s provisions. Bottles of expensive imported Budvar beer (each costing the equivalent of 50 cents, American), peppercorn-encrusted salami (already road gnawed), hunks of regional cheese and crusty bread were thrown into a bag. I slammed a clip into my camera and reached for Bulgakov’s "The Master and Margarita," some sunscreen and a vial of insect repellant.

The four of us strolled down a gentle slope to the marina, which proved to be a rectangular patch of murky river water enclosed by a roughly reinforced concrete wall, all gray and rust, perhaps a suitable home for pocket submarines during the late, lamented Cold War. It isn’t known whether our small boat was named the Minnow, but its tiny, coughing outboard motor sputtered like a leftover Trabant. The grizzled captain welcomed us aboard, his metal teeth shining, and our Volga cruise began.

The motor died more than once, but the captain expertly revived it when necessary, and the boat was steered into the middle of a huge open lake -- an impoundment, to be sure; even Russians don’t make rivers that big. It was a brilliant, sunny summer’s day with enough wind to create choppy waves that our small craft struggled valiantly to conquer. After twenty-five minutes, we slowed and began chugging toward a long, low island carpeted with pine trees.

When we closed to within a hundred yards, I noticed something peculiar about the shoreline ahead: There was no dock jutting out from it. In fact, there appeared to be no structure of any kind of the sort that would calm the nerves of an inveterate non-swimmer. Actually, being neither a swimmer nor a naturalist of any remote sort, I asked Allan: "Uh, well, exactly where’s the dock?"

"There is no dock," he said cheerfully.

We’d have to wade in like so many Douglas MacArthurs, except we’d be bearing beers and sausages, not guns, and we’d be wading right back out whenever Captain Ahabski returned for us – assuming, of course, that his long-suffering outboard didn’t go the way of Dzerzhinsky’s toppled statue in front of the Lubyanka prison back in Moscow.

It was later that Allan made the offhand comment that proved to be the mantra of the trip: "My shoes are filled with Volga mud." I could accept that, just so long as my lungs weren’t filled with Volga water. In the meantime, I held my Budvar close to my heart and stuck a naked toe over the side.

The Future Is the Past?

From the beginning of the trip, it seemed a strange sensation to be finally returning to a land that had captivated me so intensely earlier in my life.

In particular, it seemed quite wrong to be entering Russia by plane. Before, back in the dark ages of the 1980’s, I’d arrived after long journeys by bus or train, the latter taking me eastward through ever more mysterious and primitive circles of east central Europe. Being able to effortlessly glide into an airport in the belly of a Swissair jet seemed corrupt and decadent by comparison.

Sprawling, brooding Moscow remains the imperial capital of Communism, at least in physical appearance. Seventy years of urban methodology has been loosely draped with the familiar veneer of the capitalist west’s victory in the long running Cold War saga. Garish neons, intrusive billboards, cellular phones, even the occasional coat of paint -- all conspire to trick the unthinking visitor into believing that Moscow has become somehow Western.

Don’t believe it.

Perhaps it will never be possible for me to fathom Moscow with the precise clarity of an objective, unbiased eye. I first visited the Soviet Union when I was young and impressionable, during a time of geopolitical ubiquity, when hardly a press conference passed without Ronald Reagan making one reference or another to the evil empire centered in a city neither Napoleon nor Hitler could capture and hold.

In 1987, people queued around the block to glance for fleeting, rushed seconds at the mummified remains of Lenin, the founder’s fist clenched beneath the eerie glass. Exiting Lenin’s mausoleum in the shadow of the massive red brick Kremlin Wall, the pilgrim walked past idealized busts and burial places of the Soviet Union’s friends and luminaries ("there … that’s John Reed’s slot … "), then spilled out onto Red Square and girded for the inevitable bargaining for jeans and shirts and shoes.

Perhaps the hushed conversation was taken off the crowded street and into a dirt-cheap and dirty stand-up eatery, with the deal being sealed later over a shared bottle of vodka while seated on a park bench, watching the dignified old folks shuffle past, the ones who worked so hard for so little building the nation, their grandchildren circling them like tiny ice cream smeared Sputniks.

In 1999, with the long and fevered century coming to a close, my days in Moscow were spent thinking and drinking, a bit part from a Dostoevsky screenplay, flashing backward and forward from the eighties to the present, haunted by the past, confused by the present, but glad that it no longer was necessary to buy beer from the trunk of a cabdriver’s car or the hard currency shop.

Contemporary capitalism was user-friendly: Merely find the nearest kiosk, spend the ruble equivalent of $5.00, and walk away with more bottles of beer than could be comfortably carried.

Our Friends Share Their Knowledge.

In 1999, both Allan and Kim were living and working in Moscow, where they had first met in the 1980’s while studying at Moscow State University. Better hosts could not be imagined.

Barrie and I were taken for a tour of the KGB museum. We were hustled to the affluent northwestern outskirts for a meal in a theme restaurant where servers in peasant blouses ladled out ridiculously overpriced game dishes to mafia bosses, who were seated astride an artificial, babbling brook.

We viewed thousands of bootleg compact discs that were being hawked at the huge weekend open-air music mart somewhere west of the center, bought a few, and enjoyed the marvelous Kvass (a lightly fermented, carbonated beverage made from bread and malt) being dispensed from one of the old streetside tanks.

We visited a brewpub that could be reached only after passing through a metal detector, where the beer was mediocre, but the selection of pro-am prostitutes was diverse and entertaining, providing us with many new ideas for marketing like-sized American brewing establishments.

We walked along the Moscow River, viewed the city from the Lenin Hills, found the Patriarch’s Ponds, seemingly straight from Bulgakov’s novel, and drank good draft beer on a hot summer’s night while seated on a cement wall at the foot of Kim’s apartment complex, laughing heartily about the proximity of public toilets – out that way, behind the untrimmed shrubbery, where the light bulbs all had been broken.

Still, the excursion into the Russian countryside was the best part of the itinerary.

Beer Hunters Lurking.

I awoke groggy and disoriented. We had retreated indoors quite early the previous evening, aiming to avoid mosquitoes of Biblical proportions, and sat inside talking and drinking Baltika Porter from St. Petersburg in the odd glow of a never quite black summer’s night.

Allan’s local helper had been commissioned to prepare fish soup for a midday meal to be consumed just prior to making the drive back to Moscow, and this left us with several hours to explore. Allan proposed a drive to a nearby town.

Armed with bootlegged Jackson Browne and Bad Company CD’s that had been procured for next to nothing at the thriving music market back in Moscow, we set out for the trek to Kolyazin, a dusty and isolated provincial town that has the eternal good fortune to be dusty and isolated less than four hours away from Moscow – this being “good” because a brief look at any reputable map of Russia will reveal there to be hundreds of Kolyazins, most of them located in places that are so lost in the middle of nowhere that they might as well be on another planet.

The open road led through another unreconstructed Soviet-era plantation, then into the "city" limits. A right turn, a rutted dirt street sloping downhill, cracked and peeling pre-revolutionary houses … and at the bottom the street abruptly stopped at the water’s lazy edge. Ahead of us, one hundred yards from dry land, completely surrounded by water, was the steeple of an Orthodox church, which had been converted into an island by the river’s impoundment some years before, no doubt pleasing numerous atheistic bureaucrats at the time of construction.

Kolyazin’s bleak main square still was being overseen by V. I. Lenin, his statue no more weed-encrusted and neglected than the remainder of town. The market showed a few more signs of life. Accompanied by children who had sold their services as "protection" for a few cents – they were supposed to be guarding the car, but kept wandering off to invest their newfound wealth in ice cream cones -- Barrie and I bought a few bottles of beer and surveyed the trinkets.

Allan had determined that beer was available in one or all of three places: The market itself, a nightclub, and on draft in a genuine tavern, which was rare in the countryside. The market had bottles of Baltika (a good sign), and the nightclub was closed (also good, judging from the appearance). The tavern was located in a relatively new addition to an older building and appeared positively upscale compared to the surroundings, but once inside, the ambience was late Spartan: A few wooden tables, plastic chairs, and a window to order and collect the beers.

A young, engaging woman served us from behind the counter, noting to the ever-solicitous Allan that the beer was brewed locally and giving him vague directions to the site. As he relayed this information, I saw Barrie’s eyes following something at the base of the wall. It was an adapted garden hose, now serving as the line carrying the beer from the cellar to the tap. Nonetheless, it wasn’t bad golden lager, a bit yeasty and perhaps on the green side, but fresh tasting and refreshing. We resolved to find the brewery.

Back on the main highway in the outskirts of Kolyazin, we followed the barmaid’s ambiguous directions. Eventually Allan pulled over to the shoulder to ask a pair of slack-jawed pedestrians if they knew the location of the brewery, and in opportunistic fashion, they offered us this critical information in exchange for a small fee: A ride.

Moments later the car came to rest in front of what appeared to be a collective farm storage building, more gray concrete with rusty port wine stains down the sides, and no discernable activity on the premises. Our sweaty passengers swore to the authenticity of the site, and suggested that we ask for the proprietor in a cluster of houses at the end of a muddy lane that was sufficiently booby-trapped with potholes that Allan correctly feared for the life of the car. It was midday, and there were few signs of people to ask directions, so we elected to abandon the brewery chase.

Allan drove back down the dirt road to the highway, and as we pulled out I happened to see a hand-lettered, cardboard sign with an arrow pointing to the left and a single word in Russian, one announcing the site of the Grail: Pivo.

That’s “beer” in the Russian tongue.

It was a roadside beer stand, the mysterious local brewery’s de facto open-air tap room, nestled under the welcomed shade of trees in a farmyard littered with puddles, chicken droppings and fish bones, where a lady poured beer from a rigged faucet attached to a single keg, minus the needless expense of extras like refrigeration or television advertising.

At her disposal were six mugs, a basin of well water for rinsing them, and a bowl of rubles for making change. A half-liter of draft beer cost 25 cents, and the origin of the bones was revealed when I offered her a 20-ruble banknote for two beers, and in lieu of coins, she offered two small, leathery smoked fish in return.

Barrie and I chewed on the pungent freshwater fish jerky as Allan conversed with the proprietor, learning that the building we had found indeed was the brewery, that is was operated by a Moscow man who’d moved to the countryside, and that the business was growing.

The beer itself was the same fresh, golden, unfiltered lager that we’d sampled back in the Kolyazin pub. How good was it? I feel that it would be wise to subordinate any critique to the uniqueness of the setting, in this case sitting on a wooden bench, washing away the dust and midday heat with a cool (not cold) beer, and watching two hilariously drunk local farm workers in action.

Their extended liquid lunch break apparently having come to an end, along with the bulk of their money, the two staggered to their feet. One of them pressed coins into the hand of an old man seated nearby, who nodded and disappeared around the corner. Within minutes the old man reappeared, bearing a washtub filled with water, which he proceeded to dump over the heads of the delighted drunks. Soon their ancient Lada sputtered out onto the highway, and when we also left soon after, we were careful to drive the opposite direction.

Mother Russia & Sand Island.

The boat drifted toward shore, the engine was cut, and we were as close as we were going to get to Sand Island. If I intended to make the picnic and enjoy my salami and Budvar, I’d have to get my feet wet. To the surprise of none, Barrie had no doubts: "I’m going in," he announced, and commenced swaggering through the knee-deep water.

As so often before, I was quite happy to let Barrie do the blocking, and after my initial hesitation, I found the layers of black mud and decomposing leaves to be reassuringly soft between my toes.

Clambering up the wooded hillside, we established camp in a sandy clearing and watched through the gently swaying branches as the boat disappeared over the horizon. It was as peaceful an idyll as I’d ever known. The salami was greasy, the Budvar beer outstanding, the company of my good friends valued, and the mud – the timeless Volga mud clinging to my feet – unexpectedly reassuring.

Photos by Allan Gamborg, except for the Kremlin wall, which was borrowed from the Lenin Mausoleum website. Here we are (l to r): Roger, Kim, Barrie and Allan.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

REWIND: Councilman Cappuccino declares city administration null and void, invites YMCA to form provisional government with himself as regent.

(Originally published on June 23, 2005. The "Coffey plan" was unceremoniously rejected, and in spite of persistent Luddite opposition, Scribner Place is rising during the summer of 2007, with completion scheduled for 2008)

Councilman Cappuccino shifted uneasily in his venerable Lazy-Boy, the flickering images of an infomercial about amazingly inexpensive industrial-strength cleaning products bouncing off his tall, fat tea glass, the ice long since having melted during his period of contemplation.

He reached for a book … then remembered he didn’t read.

It was getting late in the game, and if Cappuccino didn’t do something soon, his city’s vital issue of the day might slip forward into reality, but there was a big problem with the project, and he simply must find the answer – and soon.

A trained expert in many fields of human endeavor, his cherished Bazooka Joe diplomas in civil engineering, mink ranching, cold fusion and underwater Peruvian basket weaving placed carefully alongside mortgage and insurance papers in the lockbox buried out back by the grill, Cappuccino jammed his eyeballs shut and flipped through the ancient yellowed file cards gathering dust in the nether regions of his buzz-cut cranium.

What was the nagging concern about the forthcoming project that kept him awake at night?

Fondling the public toilet keys that a grateful constituent had fashioned into a commemorative “thank you” bracelet, Cappuccino furiously inventoried.

Was it drainage this time? No, that didn’t sound right, and neither did sewer seepage, although both might be used to trump various other development proposals somewhere down the line.

Cappuccino’s gearbox hummed and moaned. Was the hillside too steep? Traffic too heavy? Reclamation costs too high? Bonding options offensive? Would the planned development result in the wrong type of snobby people crossing the boundaries of his district to inflict undesired modernity on his simple but utterly devoted tribe?

Yes and no; all these objections seemed relevant in one way or another, and to be sure, the very notion of progress symbolized by the development project violated his sworn oath to the creed of the Luddite civic forefathers, the Cappuccinos of old who watched, whittled and wailed as the city was built around their non-compliant selves, but none of these matters caused him indigestion.

What was nagging him?

Glancing out at the photos of his life arranged in meticulous chronological order on the dust-free mantel shelf, Cappuccino saw himself as a rosy-cheeked young man, fresh out of junior high, with a hall pass in his pocket and his whole life ahead of him.

The brittle image now stared back at the aging public servant, who felt his eyes moisten as a surge of conviction gathered force and struck him across the forehead with all the finality of a turbo-charged vintage Mustang tearing down I-64 toward Holiday World.

Why hadn’t it occurred to him before this?

The development proposal that so plagued Cappuccino surely was missing its single most important ingredient, the key fundamental element, the one crucial aspect without which there could be no hope for his approval, no chance for the project’s ultimate success, and no progress at any price.

Why, Cappuccino himself.

The councilman’s indelible stamp was nowhere to be found. Neither had he giddily appeared on television, nor had the public seen his stern and statesmanlike visage displayed in the local newspapers.

Kept infernally busy interfering daily with affairs in council districts other than his own, Cappuccino had thus far played a negligible role as the development project was debated and inched forward, and now, with the clock ticking, how could he yet manage to claim credit for moving the project forward – or, as the case may be, for tossing the decisive spanner into the works to have the project stopped or altered, thus discrediting his major political enemy?

Not that politics should enter into it, mind you, Cappuccino giggled to himself.

The councilman needed a plan, and he needed it fast. He knew that mundane considerations like environment concerns, even if conjured from thin air with the assistance of embittered and opportunistic local office seekers, would put the voters to sleep faster than pointy-headed classical music or those boring, word-filled screeds on economic development in the 20th century, so he needed to go straight for the jugular, just the way he’d been taught so long ago while taking the correspondence course from the fine folks at the George C. Wallace Academy of Populist Demagoguery.

As a last resort, hit ‘em in their wallets, blind ‘em with finances – and don’t stop until they squeal.

Cappuccino would interject himself into the debate by creating a tragic financial logjam where none existed before, then rush like the 7th cavalry to the rescue, with a grand compromise to save the city from ruin, and restore the Cappuccino luster in the run-up to maintaining his place on the public payroll during elections two years hence.

Finally, it all made sense.

Heart pounding and head spinning, Cappuccino quickly jogged into the kitchen, reached into the crock pot, and transferred a considerable glob of slowly simmered barbecued bologna into his waiting mouth.

Rewards like this made public service worthwhile.

But there was more to come. The councilman's last-minute compromise had to have a name.

Why not the Cappuccino Plan!

Abruptly pausing in mid-chew, Cappuccino’s face suddenly turned crimson. There was one small problem with the solution to the problem he’d created. He needed numbers – any numbers would do, so long as they looked imposing on paper, and added together, were ambiguous and capable of being molded like waiting clay – not unlike his loyal acolyte in the 3rd district – into whatever form was needed at the time of presentation.

Numbers weren't Cappuccino's strong point, but fortunately, he knew where to reach out for help, fondling his rotary dial phone and inserting a stubby, sauce-smeared finger.

“Anna? Hi, how are you? They’re fine, thanks. Listen, Anna, I need some numbers … ”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

3rd district in the spotlight; Price to raid grandma's cookie jar for fall campaign.

It's a holiday weekend, and perhaps half our normal readership will be clocking in, so we'll refrain from substantive comment about the changing dynamics of the 3rd district city council race until next week.

The Tribune expands its coverage from yesterday's news flash:

New Albany council: GOP making District three a race, by Eric Scott Campbell.

Many downtown residents will now have an extra choice to make Nov. 6.

Brenda Scharlow has agreed to run against Democratic incumbent District 3 City Councilman Steve Price in the general election, filling the Republican Party’s ballot vacancy there ...

... “I think we just need somebody in there that will have a vision for the city, and I think I would be able to work with anybody” elected to the council or mayor’s office, she said.

Speaking for myself, I'm cautiously optimistic about future prospects for uniting the hefty majority of 3rd district voters who agree that "vision for the city" should not be incompatible with occupying a council seat, as is the unfortunate current reality with incumbent Steve "No Progress at Any" Price.

But let's not neglect the humorous side of Scharlow's probable entry into the race, one provided (unintentionally as always) by New Albany's own eternally nutty professor -- the so-called Erik, who lectures in voodoo economics and pseudo-history at Tooth Fairy U.

In a posting today, the trognonymous Vickster takes issue with Brenda Scharlow's political affiliation.

Which party has your loyalty now? And will the 3rd District take you serious as a candidate?

Bold, vibrant words coming from a man who is really a woman ... and from a woman whose past veiled delusions have included anonymous racial slurs among other bits of vituperative character assassination and unanswerable innuendo.

If these perpetually unsavory character traits weren't enough to confirm a measure of confused self-identity on the part of Freedom to Screech's chief attack dog, it's worth noting that the very same inveterate masquerader recently stood for an at-large council seat as a Democratic candidate whilst playing political footsie with the true object of her adoration, strident Republican operative Auntie V -- who, in turn, was resoundingly rejected yet again by local members of her own cadre.

In fact, seeing as neither of these inveterate schemers has taken political affiliation seriously when looking at their own mirrors, for "Erik" to question it as pertains to another citizen goes somewhat past ironic.

All the way to pathological.

There'll be reruns the next two days. See you next Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Opening tip: "Do all City Council races need a Third Party Candidate?"

Former 3rd district councilman Maury Goldberg, who was narrowly defeated by the incumbent (and fellow Democrat) Steve Price in the recent primary election (another Democratic candidate, Charlie Harshfield, was close behind in third place), ruminated on a hot topic last Friday at his New Albany Today blog.

Maury's original posting follows. After it are my comments, Maury's responses and a parting thought by Bluegill, my colleague here at NA Confidential.

Readers, what's your take?


Friday, May 18, 2007: Third Party Candidate(s)? Updated, posted by Maury K. Goldberg at 5/18/2007 10:44:00 PM.

Let’s talk about the Third District City Council race to illustrate a point I want to make. The Democrat Party's nominee for the Third District City Council District is Mr. Steve Price. As of this date of May 18, 2007, the Floyd County Republican Party has not chosen a candidate, but will do so at a later date. An Independent Party Candidate files for the Third District City Council seat. On November 6, 2007, the Third District voters have 3 candidates to vote for.

When one looks at the Third District Democrat Primary in 2003 Mr. Price won his race in a three man field as he did in 2007. The General Election was a Democrat sweep plus Mr. Price was a political unknown at the time does not factor in to the political equation. Of the 3 election contest with Mr. Price, two have been with two opponents and one with one opponent. Mr. Price has been able to hold his own.

Enter a Third Party Candidate and Mr. Price faces the same challenges he has encountered in 2003 and 2007 Primary Election contests. Names I have heard for such a candidacy are too litigious. Further, why would the Republican Party choose a Democrat or anyone not affiliated with the Republican Party? Local political history has shown the Republican office holders are more cohesive in supporting Republican Mayor's than the Democrats towards their own Mayor's.

Mr. Price would hope for a Third Party candidate, which helps him with the job of retaining the Third District City Council seat for the Democrats. This bring up the question of what is the goal of a Third Party candidate? To defeat a political party nominee? Is it a personal hatred for a political party's candidate? To further your own political agenda? Such questions have to be confronted in laying the basis for such a candidacy. The point being made is "Do all City Council races need a Third Party Candidate."

Let ask the question about the possibility of one or several Independent Candidates could win. The voters could be confronted with the possibility of a 4-4 split City Council with a Independent party candidate holding the balance of power. What about possibility of a majority of Independents on the City Council? How would such a majority of Independents work with whoever is elected Mayor this coming November, 2007? How would policy be decided? Will we have political grid lock as we have now?

One has a right to run and offer themselves as a Third Party candidate. The aforementioned list question need to be answered before the voting public is to vote for you. So if a Third Party candidate runs in the Third City Council District or any other City Council District or as an At large City Council Candidate one has to explain their candidacy. For hatred of a Political Party's nominee is not justification for running.


On 5/19/2007 at 9:07 AM, The New Albanian said...

When there's time, I'll be elevating this discussion to the marquee at NA Confidential so that a broader audience can participate. Until then …

Names I have heard for such a candidacy are too litigious.

Really? I'm aware of one lawsuit pending, but it isn't clear how this applies to independent candidates in the 3rd district -- unless, of course, you refer to the aspect of the word that implies “argumentative." Which do you mean to be used in this case?

Further, why would the Republican Party choose a Democrat or anyone not affiliated with the Republican Party?

Indeed, but I wasn't aware that the GOP was considering such a strategy. Do you know somthing the rest of us don't?

Mr. Price would hope for a Third Party candidate, which helps him with the job of retaining the Third District City Council seat for the Democrats.

Just like he hoped for two Democrats to run against him in May. That one turned out nicely, didn't it?

This bring up the question of what is the goal of a Third Party candidate?

Many possible answers to this one, but the most obvious would be in a situation where, as is so often the case, both major parties in the American duopoly fail to offer viable policy alternatives. Are you suggesting that with 63% of the 3rd's voters choosing one of two progressive platforms in the primary, that these voters are undeserving of the chance to advance the platform again?

How would such a majority of Independents work with whoever is elected Mayor this coming November, 2007? How would policy be decided? Will we have political grid lock as we have now?

Your point here is growing ever more elusive. My counter: Can a council that includes independents be any more gridlocked than the present one with eight Democrats (come of them profoundly non-Democratic?)

And, given the non-Democratic voting patterns therein and the failure of the local party structure to enforce discipline or even to advocate a coherent platform, are you suggesting that independent voices would be more untrustworthy when it comes to voters of a progressive mindset?

So if a Third Party candidate runs in the Third City Council District or any other City Council District or as an At large City Council Candidate one has to explain their candidacy.

Precisely, and in the same manner as major party council candidates ... and surely if certain of them had been more forthcoming last winter when the time was opportune and stepped forward to discuss platforms and ideas when we were fairly begging for such a public exchange to occur, we might not have labored through the politics-as-usual split that resulted in Steve Price being re-nominated in May.

For hatred of a Political Party's nominee is not justification for running.

That's a faulty conclusion, and one based on a handful of faulty premises.

It needn't be hatred of a nominee, and so far as I can tell, it isn't. I've not heard the "h" word used until now. Rather, it is disgruntlement with the nominee's platform planks and ideas, and a desire to offer an alternative. Specifically, in the context of the 3rd district, this notion of offering alternatives is better pursued in a unified fashion than fragmented.

In fact, I'm entirely unaware of any better rationale for an independent candidate than offering powerful ideas, educating people about them, and doing so in a manner designed to achieve unity rather than guarantee fragmentation.

I concede that nesting comfortably in the bosom of the two-party system is a veritable New Albany birthright, but if we are to speak of "local political history," then we must be willing to speak truthfully as to the rate of success of such a strategy.

Which is my question to you: Are any of the points you've raised here really persuasive when it comes to the argument against an independent candidate in the 3rd?


On 5/19/2007 at 4:32 PM), maury k goldberg said...

Dear Roger,

I will answer your questions.

1) Yes,I mean argumentative.
2) No, I only was mentioning what the GOP would do.
3) We learn from the past.
4) No, Whoever is the Third
5) Party Candidate has to state their platform. I cannot make an assumption that the Third Party candidate will be a "Progressive."
6) Again, until we know the "Independent Candidate(s) are, one is making an assumption such a candidate will be progressive. The questions will have to be answered once the Third Party candidate is known.
7) Roger, you do not understand the point I was making. The Third District City Council race was used to make the point "Do all City Council races need a Third Party Candidate?" I do not make any arguments against Third Party Candidate(s) nor do I assume that they will be a "progressive" in any City Council race.


On 5/20/2007 at 12:29 AM) bluegill said...

This argument would be much more interesting if any of the current or former candidates could explain how they came to recognize themselves as members of either side of the presiding duopoly in the absence of any substantive platforms with which to identify.

When and if the various designations begin to have meaning born of shared policy goals rather than the choosing of one electoral machine over the other, discriminating voters will have legitimate decisions to make where party affiliation is concerned.

Until then, all the candidates are ultimately running as independents.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Devil's advocate: There's a big reason why a springtime festival for New Albany won't float.

In yesterday’s posting about the past weekend’s folk festival in Madison, I appended “civic cooperation” to the list of search terms. This was done so intentionally.

Madison's successful Ohio River Valley Folk Festival is a model, but ya gotta want to emulate it.

In the perky discussion that followed, several perfectly reasonable ideas were lofted, and these might be summarized as a collective interest in a springtime festival celebrating New Albany’s river connections and history, with added dimensions of unity and diversity. There was a listing of steps to take toward inaugurating such an event, and one comment (by John Alton) stood out, at least to me:

Third, you plan by example. The Harvest Homecoming is one of the most successful festivals in Indiana, and it is a perfect blueprint to follow. It gained its status through great planning, hard work and dedication. A Spring Festival that celebrates our history as a city ... and why we are even a city ... deserves no less.

True ... and not so easy.

Of course, all of us know that if there is to be another public celebration in New Albany, it isn’t going to be in late summer or fall, because that’s Harvest Homecoming’s time of the year. Have you ever wondered if Harvest Homecoming's scale actually precludes other efforts in the same vein?

Yes, there’s already a one-day 4th of July fireworks display along the waterfront. Other than that, whether for reasons of non-funding or lack of imagination on the part of the management, the riverside facilities we have are chronically, and seemingly perpetually, underutilized.

Perhaps not all readers know that for a few years prior to 2007, when it has disappeared into limbo, there was a Develop New Albany-sponsored springtime festival downtown called Da Vinci. There are many reasons why Da Vinci was an idea whose time never came, with non-funding and lack of imagination (is there a deep scratch on this LP?) being just two, although maybe it was a just one of those notions before its time.

As downtown revives, there may be another chance to attempt something that begins small, with annual growth potential.

To my mind, here’s the central question:

Is Harvest Homecoming too big for there to be another festival that might be viewed as competing for scant community resources?

Ideas we surely have, and in abundance, but money and volunteer labor are two commodities in much, much shorter supply. Currently these are directed toward Harvest Homecoming, which possesses its own internal and self-perpetuating set of rationales and objectives. For what it is, it’s a wonderful thing.

But as my councilman might say, it is what it is.

Put simply, and in terms of New Albany’s willingness and ability to fund and manage an outreach to the remainder of the world, there is neither an institutional nor a strategic counterweight to the annual pre-eminence of Harvest Homecoming

Contrast this to Madison, where it would appear that in matters of events pertaining to the imperative of providing entertainment for the citizenry while also pulling in money from visitors, there is a shared sense of purpose, pooled resources, and cohesion … and a half-dozen annual events from which to choose.

As my councilman also might say, that’s not putting all the eggs in one basket. It seems to work for Madison.

Meanwhile, New Albany has Harvest Homecoming. We appear to be content with that, so it isn’t realistic to expect short term changes.

In other words, if we're to work our side of the street as directed, we're going to have to be thinking way outside the box.

And that isn't something for which this city is celebrated.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Madison's successful Ohio River Valley Folk Festival is a model, but ya gotta want to emulate it.

The second annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival is history, and the city of Madison could not have asked for a better weekend in terms of weather, even if it was a bit nippy on Friday evening.

As in 2006, the crowd was well-behaved and the music superlative. The festival’s organizers persist in espousing the apparently revolutionary notion that a gathering dedicated to the diverse ethos of folk music should also reflect grassroots choices in food and drink.

Consequently, Budweiser was not available, there was no California box wine in sight, and Taco Bell didn’t have a concession. It was enough to gladden a contrarian’s heart – although the Thomas Family Winery’s delightful hard cider helps on that count.

There was a noticeable sprinkling of New Albanians in the crowd, and most probably were thinking much the same as I: Why can’t New Albany use its riverfront more often? Or hold more than one festival a year? Or work together in some fashion resembling a team to stage events that bring money and tourists from outside the city limits?

Is it in the water?

But it’s the same river, isn’t it?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jerry Falwell died a few days ago. Don’t look here for tears.

Reader advisory: The litigious screed that follows boldly disqualifies the author from politics as usual in New Albany. The squeamish might wish to click through to councilman Larry Kochert’s “Ward Heeling for Dummies” for solace.


Today’s Courier-Journal runs an op-ed piece that purports to explain the late Jerry Falwell’s public career as “a theological fatalist but a political activist.”

Holy warrior, wholly committed; Falwell cared deeply for faith, country, GOP, by Zev Chafets (Special to the Los Angeles Times).

He was a born-again Christian, an American and a Republican, in that order, and if you didn't like it, well, there were plenty of other places you could spend Sunday morning.

Nice line on the part of the apologist, although his glibness obscures the underlying truth.

The bottom line is that the American ideal – as often sadly the opposite of flawed historical practice – isn’t about deploying personal religious conviction as a convenient brass knuckle with which to disenfranchise and humiliate segments of the populace whose rights derive from purely secular sources and not the fragmented cosmos of religious superstition.

It’s important to note that not once in my life have I chosen to spend Sunday morning at the Thomas Road Baptist Church urging that the religious beliefs being touted therein by Jerry Falwell should be banned, suppressed or otherwise discouraged.

And yet Falwell spent more than 30 grimly delighted years advocating the scourging of “secular progressives” on religious grounds, a jihad that in the end is not unlike any practiced in the Muslim world – one that Falwell and other fundamentalist preachers publicly abhor but ultimately resemble in so many telling ways.

Remember Falwell’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?

God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve … And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen." *

Later the godly religious beacon backpedaled. The trouble is that the sum of his teachings during the Moral Majority decades leads one to precisely such a position even if it isn’t expressed in such an ungraceful and frankly hateful manner.

The “prophet” is dead; such is the conclusion for us all.

Me? I’m for letting his doctrines follow suit.


* From Foulwell: Rev Jerry Falwell, blaming civil libertarians, feminists, homosexuals, and abortion rights supporters for the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, quoted from John F Harris, "God Gave US 'What We Deserve,' Falwell Says," The Washington Post (September 14, 2001)

Sunday Blue Light Backfill Special: Three good Tribune reads.

You can be sure that the New Albany Tribune is on the right track when the city’s most shameless of trognonymous bloggers begins attacking it for presumed bias – on behalf of folks (s)he detests, and against the saintly Auntie V:

The New Albany Tribune deserves an award for being a One sided local news paper that will only print what the current adminstration wants printed … And you Sir, Mr. Campbell have done a greater disservice to Valla Ann Bolovschak a successful business owner, a citizens advocate and taxpayer of New Albany.

Someone call the spelling, grammar and syntax police; Erika appears to be having another “Cupid’s arrow” moment. Can Fantasy Island be far behind?

Meanwhile, for the non-apoplectically minded, there here are three highly worthwhile reads in today’s Sunday edition:

Famous big band booked for New Albany Speakeasy; Glenn Miller Orchestra playing State Street jazz club’s opening, by Eric Scott Campbell.

Brad Tharp wanted a big-name jazz ensemble to open his New Albany club, so he got on the horn … Tharp called the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which has toured virtually nonstop for 50 years, after he got approval to launch Speakeasy in a vacant State Street building downtown.

COPAS: Kathy’s rules of order, by guest columnist Kathy Copas.

A couple of months ago, I attended my first New Albany City Council meeting. A blogger neighbor of mine suggested I go. He made a great point one night, during a front porch rocking chair conversation, that it’s important to go at least once if you’re someone who lives in and truly supports New Albany moving forward.

ALTON: City Council? Not this time, by guest columnist John Alton.

I was originally considering a run for the 4th District City Council in New Albany as a Democrat, and had intended to file. I withdrew in favor of Pat McLaughlin when I learned that he had filed, and I saw where he had barely lost in the last election to Kochert. I did intend to run as an Independent, but with the death of my mother in February, it took a lot out of me, and it took the steam out of the effort.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Worth a read, worth a ride

A couple of weeks ago, I bumped into David Coyte of the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation while working on a local historic home with other community activists.

David expressed his appreciation of our efforts to save the house. I expressed my appreciation for his efforts to save the region.

While far too many of our regional leaders have resigned themselves to anachronism by simply adopting the same outdated methodology that helped create our transportation problems, David and his cohorts at CART have consistently prodded them to consider alternatives a little more forward thinking than the increased dependence on single-passenger, fossil fuel burning automobiles that threatens our economic and environmental sustainability.

His May 17 letter to the Tribune, reprinted below, does just that:

This is an open letter to the public also sent to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet:

Public perception is that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is not really interested in public input.

We at Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation or CART would like to know what traffic mitigation measures are being implemented. Since the additional congestion from this project will impact us at the most critical air quality periods we would expect that Kentucky Transportation Cabinet would implement aggressive CM measures.

Are there going to be express buses from New Albany or other western areas to help with commuter congestion?

Has KYTC considered a commuter rail service from New Albany to downtown during this period? There is available ROW to implement such. This option could significantly reduce congestion and speed commutes. Bus service helps, but still contributes to traffic and congestion.

What alternative street routes are being emphasized and how are they being marked?

What is KYTC, or KIPDA, doing to monitor traffic flows during this time to evaluate the effectiveness of these routes, our urban street capacity, emergency routing, etc.

We look forward to a reply before the public meeting.

— David Coyte, CART - Louisville

Similarly, the LEO has taken responsibility for keeping the public informed of those alternatives, while the Courier-Journal and its corporate publisher Gannett have eschewed journalistic integrity, choosing to accommodate the often hypocritical and nonsensical pronouncements of transportation officials rather than challenge them.

LEO staffer Stephen George, in particular, has single-handedly outworked the C-J, questioning local politicos' stances on 8664, Smart Growth, and any number of planning issues that they'd just as soon not have to explain and often can't.

Most recently, George posed a challenging question to himself: Can one live in Louisville without a car? He answered it the only way someone really could, by giving up his car for six weeks.

The results of that experiment produced a LEO cover story:

Share the Road by Stephen George, LEO

Friday, May 18, 2007

Afternoon Reminder: downtown loft tour on Saturday

From the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission's web site:

Lofty Ideas Downtown Walking Tour
May 19, 2007

Meet at the loft residence of Matthew and Jessica Bergman, in the Historic Wilcox Block, 133-135 East Market Street, New Albany, to begin a tour of five fantastic spaces with opportunities for their development into living quarters.

The tour is designed for investors, real estate professionals, developers, architects, professionals with an interest in urban living, along with anyone fascinated with the second and third floors of New Albany’s historic downtown buildings.

On hand for serious discussion of how to proceed with acquisition and renovation: Mike Kopp, Commercial Realtor, Lopp Real Estate, LLC; Ed Clere, Dragonfly Realty; Anita Massey, Marketing and Business Development Director, Schaefer General Contracting Services and David Barksdale, New Albany Historic Preservation Commission and Floyd County Historian.

Sponsors: Develop New Albany and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Free and open to the public.

The tour begins at 11:00 a.m. and should last until around 1:00 p.m. with discussion and appetizers following at Bistro New Albany.

Readers are also reminded that Treet's Bakery Cafe, occupying the storefront of the Bergmans' building, is open for breakfast tomorrow and the next couple of Saturdays as part of a trial run for weekend hours.

A sewer runs through it.

Yesterday afternoon, NAC’s Bluegill previewed the evening’s city council meeting, and while doing so asked a few pertinent hypotheticals.

Speaking of Slippery Larry, one wonders if he'll again conveniently forget his own long tenure on the sewer board and try to pin any accounting deficiencies on the Mayor, or if he'll suddenly spin his head and allow us the joy of watching him grimace as he owns up to actually agreeing with Garner.

Actually, CM Kochert was far too busy committing the most fundamental of substitute teaching errors, which is making an exception to classroom rules for one student, and then being forced to explain to others why preferential treatment was merited.

This rather hilariously led to a spanking new, tower-of-quivering-jello Kochert Dictum: Ya wanna talk during the meeting? So go out in the hall, already.

In turn, this fresh interpretation of Kochert’s increasingly obvious unwillingness to fairly run a council meeting meant that having declined to bounce the initial citizen peanut gallery violators (the odd couple Glimmer Twins, Bolovschak and Denhart), Kochert couldn’t quite summon the nerve to send others (my better half meritoriously included) to the penalty box.

Only Larry knows for sure and, in the absence of a crowd to play to, he probably hasn't decided yet … And what of at-large CM Kevin Zurschmiede? Having vociferously opposed paving appropriations without full documentation of the street department's intentions during early discussions, will he hold himself to the same standard as a sewer board member or give up the grandstand now that the Republican party no longer needs to concern themselves with Garner as a candidate?

I’ll leave it to others to fully document CM Jeff Gahan’s search for a sewer utility budget, and whether the financial information proffered the council last evening qualifies as such. It is interesting to note that both Zurschmiede and Kochert, dual council and sewer board members, publicly took the position that the sewer utility simply cannot ever be held to the same standards of budgetary accountability as other city departments.

Will 3rd district CM Steve Price involuntarily vote no on the measure before realizing its purpose is to withhold funds?

In the end, CM Gahan tabled it to further study the sewer board financials, so we don’t know what was or wasn’t happening between the ears of the 3rd district’s “37% Solution.” Later, Price’s continued inability (or more likely, unwillingness) to fathom how decades of “nickel and dime” tactics by politicians remarkably similar to himself have managed to produce the deterioration that has directly led to the current sewer rate reminded viewers that you can lead a quasi-Democrat to knowledge … well, you know the rest.

What are the chances that mayoral candidate Doug England's name comes up in the discussion?

It did, at least twice. But Guido already had left the room by then.


In closing, I invite readers to contemplate the nature of the grandstand, which an on-line dictionary defines as:

“To conduct oneself or perform showily or ostentatiously in an attempt to impress onlookers: The senator doesn't hesitate to grandstand if it makes her point.”

Last evening Ms. Valla Ann Bolovschak took advantage of public speaking time to address items not specifically on the council’s agenda (the 2006 state audit report for New Albany). This is prohibited by the council president’s own rules, which he once used to chase an African-American minister from the rostrum.

However, the council president permitted it.

She was introduced by the council president by her chosen forename appellation of Valla Ann, presumably because he cannot pronounce her surname, although others generally are paid the courtesy of Mr., Mrs. or Ms.

Indeed, branding is an important facet of all marketing campaigns. She used 15 minutes when five is the stated limit.

Looking thoroughly powerless, the council president permitted it.

Returning to her seat, she joined with the academic poseur Denhart in audibly clucking throughout city controller Kay Garry’s reasonable point-by-point explanations of the items not on the agenda that Ms. Bolovschak used too much time to present to a council that already had access to the information in the audit.

As murmurings of discomfort began spreading through the room, the council president finally was moved to issue a half-hearted warning, which later became his equally flaccid “out in the hall” directive -- which he tepidly declined to enforce.

Now, make no mistake. The author does not pretend to be blameless when it comes to outbursts during council.

But mine are not politically premeditated theatrical performances, designed to disrupt and muddy, and unfortunately abetted by a council president who both implicitly and explicitly endorses the notion that rules are to be applied differently depending on his bias and whim.

That’s the very root of the problem in New Albany, Larry. I asked you before, and it's again important: Do you intend to run a meeting fairly at any point this year?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lame ducks ponder sewer refuge, the Council meets tonight

Actually, it's non-lame duck 6th district Council Member Jeff Gahan, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, who's taking a lead role role this evening, introducing a resolution to suspend sewer appropriations until the utility produces a budget for council review, thereby fulfilling what he feels is its legal obligation to do so.

It'll be interesting to see if any of the members who support Gahan's stance realize the irony of the law and order routine coming from a Council that's yet to adequately address its own and the city's legal shortcomings.

The Council continues to operate in violation of election law in their refusal to take responsibility for the mandated redrawing of their districts, Council President Larry Kochert is presumably on tape admitting to illegal primary shenanigans, and the slumlords are all sleeping soundly.

Speaking of Slippery Larry, one wonders if he'll again conveniently forget his own long tenure on the sewer board and try to pin any accounting deficiencies on the Mayor, or if he'll suddenly spin his head and allow us the joy of watching him grimace as he owns up to actually agreeing with Garner.

Only Larry knows for sure and, in the absence of a crowd to play to, he probably hasn't decided yet.

And what of at-large CM Kevin Zurschmiede? Having vociferously opposed paving appropriations without full documentation of the street department's intentions during early discussions, will he hold himself to the same standard as a sewer board member or give up the grandstand now that the Republican party no longer needs to concern themselves with Garner as a candidate?

Will 3rd district CM Steve Price involuntarily vote no on the measure before realizing its purpose is to withhold funds?

What are the chances that mayoral candidate Doug England's name comes up in the discussion?

Eric Scott Campbell provides pre-meeting Tribune coverage here.

Meeting agenda and materials from City Clerk Marcey Wisman.

Notice also that MArcey's updated her site with council member voting records.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

2nd Annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison, IN, this weekend.

Man, I'm just having one of those days, but good times are around the corner:

2nd Annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison, IN, this weekend.

Yo, Chuck Hagel: That's true, so what about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the rest of the discredited crew?

Not to mention Larry Kochert. Here's the scoop from Yahoo News a few minutes ago:

Hagel demands Gonzales' resignation

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Hagel on Wednesday became the latest Republican to call for Alberto Gonzales' resignation, saying revelations about a sick bed visit to his predecessor has negated his moral authority to lead the Justice Department.

Citing dramatic testimony a day earlier that revealed that Gonzales, then the White House legal counsel, tried to undermine the department he now leads, Hagel demanded the attorney general's resignation.

"The American people deserve an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question," Hagel, R-Neb., said in a statement. "Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead." (more here)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tribune visits Connor's Place during last night's grand opening gala.

The Tribune was there last night:

Drink scene spills south from Market Street, by Eric Scott Campbell.

Connor’s Place, a bar catering to the pub-grub-and-patio crowd, opened its doors Monday evening next to the Parthenon at Main and Bank streets. Owner and father Dave Himmel leased and renovated the historic Maytag building after selling his stake in the neighboring Bistro New Albany last winter.

It was a good crowd and much fun last evening. Best of luck to the Himmels.

Food for thought.

In case you missed them, two examinations of last week’s primary election have appeared in the local blogosphere:

Primary Election Analysis, by Maury Goldberg (New Albany Today blog).

Democrat Council At-Large Candidates In Trouble This November?: Under votes and why they count, by Coop (New Albany 15A blog).

Maury asks, “The question in the 3rd City Council District is can Steve Price unite the Democrats?”

Or … perhaps more accurately stated, will the 3rd district’s approximate 2/3 majority voting in opposition to Price – as much as ¾ if Republican voters are counted in – unite against the accidental councilman in the fall?

Readers, your thoughts are appreciated. Post if you wish. Is a coffee klatsch merited?

(Not a coffey klatsch, mind you. Way too bitter for my taste, and anyway, the 1st district has its own dross to bear).

International Jazz Downtown Tonight

Our own Carnegie Center for Art and History is hosting a free concert this evening at 7:30 featuring the Halcyon Jazz Trio, a part of the much larger and wonderfully ambitious Roads to You international music series, connecting the Arab Muslim world with hometown USA via concerts, lectures, and workshops.

Another full ensemble concert will follow on May 19th at Louisville Male High School.

If Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan digs it, I'm guessing the local intelligentsia can groove to it, too.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Connor's Place grand opening is tonight; regular business hours to commence tomorrow.

We are beginning the week with a sad farewell ... and a joyous new beginning.

Rick Carmickle’s funeral is today. He died last Thursday, and will be sorely missed downtown. Oft-quoted words written by Kurt Vonnegut, another pure Hoosier original just like Rick, seem highly appropriate as we celebrate Rick's life:

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'"

Rick didn't get his hundred years, but he was kind, and he did much good. I’ll have one in his memory tonight at Connor’s Place, the new eatery and bar owned by former Bistro New Albany co-proprietor Dave Himmel.

That's because Dave is having an official grand opening party and ribbon cutting from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. this evening.

As a reminder, Dave won’t be open for lunch today in preparation for this evening’s event, but regular business hours (Monday-Saturday, lunch and dinner) will begin on Tuesday.

As a recently minted board member of Develop New Albany, and as longtime co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Company, I’m very happy to represent both my organizations at the ribbon cutting.

With relaxed sports bar ambience and casual dining in a historic building at 207/209 E Main (next to the Parthenon), Connor’s Place is the newest downtown New Albany drinking and dining entry. Dave has another knockout outdoor seating area to go along with the Bistro New Albany beautiful patio, and a fine draft lineup: NABC Community Dark and Elector, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Spaten Premium Lager, Franziskaner Hefe, and a sixth rotating choice. There’s also wine and full bar service.

Readers are invited to come down and see us on Monday night.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

CM Kochert declares intention of continued hubris in Tribune article; "Reign of Error" in 4th to be compounded?

You may have been led to believe that today is Mother’s Day, but apparently the greeting card industry erred, and we’re actually experiencing April Kochert’s Day. You simply must read this article in its entirety to believe it:

Calculating the Kochert factor, by Eric Scott Campbell (New Albany Tribune).

If (Democratic 4th district council nominee Pat) McLaughlin explains his platform and (current occupant Larry) Kochert finds it appealing, the councilman said he won’t enter the race. But if Kochert finds McLaughlin’s stances lacking or the newcomer doesn’t approach him at all, chances are “very high” that Kochert will launch an independent bid, he said.

“I’ll see if he comes and talks to me. If he doesn’t come, then I assume he feels he’s a shoo-in and doesn’t need any help,” Kochert said. “If he’s going after the issues, there’ll be no need [to run] ... He’s got to have something besides rhetoric.”

As if Kochert’s caterwauling, ward-heeling and underachieving tenure on the council haven’t been enough reason for change in the 4th district, the declining precinct boss now demands substance over rhetoric, when he's been completely unable to provide it for 23 years -- and what's more, threatens an insurgency that would most benefit the Republican challenger if not in receipt of sufficient buffing, polishing and all-around homage.

I chose the word "hubris" to describe Slippery Larry's most noticeable political quality, although now it appears to be understatement of criminal proportion on my part. It makes you wonder how reporter Campbell kept a straight face during the interview, but kudos to Democratic Party Chairman Randy Stumler for this statement of party principle:

“If he’s considering running as an independent outside of the Democratic Party, I assume he’s resigning from the Democratic Party,” Stumler said. “I don’t know what other assumption I could possibly make. If he had questions about Pat McLaughlin, he should have asked those questions in February.”

Powerful stuff, Randy.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Today at the Public House: A spotlight on Darfur.

It’s our third art show weekend at the New Albanian Brewing Company, Rich O’s Public House and Sportstime Pizza, and this time there's a twist.

NABC's Hoosier Daddy Art Show this weekend (May 10th,11th & 12th).

It bears repeating that I’m very proud of our twenty-something employees for their hard work in organizing these events, and equally impressed with their unimpeachable success at mixing the arts with commerce, entertainment (and craft beer), and coming up with an increasingly popular concept. It annoys me to no end that geezers my age and older insist on blustering that the “younger generation” is in some way lacking in gravitas.

It simply isn’t true.

To the contrary, I posit that there at least one trait evident in many of our younger employees – one just as noticeably lacking on the part of the aging barstool philosophers at Hooter’s – is more than a mere semblance of social conscience. My contemporaries are prone to scoff at such interests as naïve or dilettantish, and to me, this is nothing more than proof of their own obliviousness to a world they won't, or can't, comprehend.

NABC’s Kallie Crume is heavily involved in the effort to persuade an apathetic local populace that there is something fundamentally skewed about its ongoing failure to acknowledge the tragic situation in the Darfur region of Sudan, where approximately 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million more displaced by brutal government sponsored militias over a period of years unsurprisingly paralleling those of America’s involvement in Iraq.

Call it civil war, or ethnic cleansing, or genocide. Know that whatever it is called, Sudan’s government supports the militias that are doing the killing. Reflect that the biggest source of investment in Sudan is China – chief supplier of plastic trinkets to Wal-Mart. Run along to watch “American Idol” or grab a half-dozen Big Bufords – but don’t tell Kallie and others that they didn’t tell you so. If she doesn’t slap you, I might.

At 4:00 p.m. today, Kallie and the art show crew will be showing Darfur Diaries, a documentary film that chronicles the “worsening political and humanitarian crisis” in Darfur. Afterwards, Kallie and Bob Brousseau, co-founder of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Task Force on Darfur, will give a short presentation.

Read about Brousseau’s work and the “Lost Boys of Sudan” in this week’s Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO): ‘How Can I Pretend That You Do Not Exist,’by Elizabeth Kramer.

(The) Kentuckiana Interfaith Task Force on Darfur, (is) a coalition of local social service organizations, social activist and religious groups, and individuals.

Taskforce member Bob Brousseau says he started realizing the extent of the carnage about 18 months ago, after he began reading columns about it by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof. “Something about it just clicked,” Brousseau says, “and I felt that I had to do something.”

Kallie provides this short list of web sites for those interested in learning more about Darfur:

Save Darfur
Divest Sudan (Divest Terror Initiative)
UN Refugee Agency
Mia Farrow’s web site: Humanitarian and Advocacy Information

Thursday, May 10, 2007

In Memoriam: Rick Carmickle.

Friday morning note to readers: Coming on the heels of Tuesday's election excitement, Rick's untimely passing is a jolt. I'll not be posting today, but will add to the following as news comes in. There are two brief news items for regular readers. First, Connor's Place (Dave Himmel's new eatery and bar) is open today and tomorrow, with a Grand Opening next Monday. Go here for details. Second, it's art show weekend at NABC. Learn about it here. See you tomorrow.


Friday afternoon update (thanks Debbie and Tony):

Visitation for the late Rick Carmickle will be at Kraft's Funeral Home on Spring Street from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 13, and from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday, with the funeral at Kraft's at 1:00 p.m. on Monday.


Thanks to Randy "All4Word" Smith for passing along the news and letting us all know. I'll append further information as it is received. We're going to miss Rick, who was a true original.


New Albany lost a good man today. Rick Carmickle, our friend, passed away after a complication from surgery.

Please remember Karen and Rick's kids in your thoughts and prayers.

Rick was nobody's fool. Plainspoken and proudly New Albanian, he will be sorely missed.Rick recognized bullshit when he saw it and was devoted to making this city all that it could be. He recently completed a project, at no cost, that will serve to preserve a vital historical document at our public library. And that was the least of his contributions to our gang.

Last year, Rick put his name and reputation on the line, running for public office, at great sacrifice to himself and his family.

Rick's health problems were manageable, but when God decides it's time to come home, it's time.

Karen, we love you. I know Roger will elevate this news to the marquee as soon as he hears of it. Please, even if you did not know Rick, join his friends when we learn the details of any memorial service.

I'm hoisting one to my friend. Rick, buddy, I will miss you more than you will ever know. You've been a friend when others didn't have the stones.

3rd district: Mandate for change vs. plumb mud stuck?

Yesterday I received a post-election report alleging that following last week’s 3rd council district candidate debate, members of the Steve Price entourage were telling area renters that candidate Charlie Harshfield regarded them as, ahem ... shall I say ... subhuman.

While plausible given the vacuity of the incumbent’s customary antics, such stories are difficult to verify, and of course a brief survey of American political history reveals far more numerous examples of political trash talk, the slinging of mud and the telling of lies – here and elsewhere in a nation that we’re often told is the last, best hope for mankind.

Interestingly, in their debate statements the challengers Harshfield and Maury Goldberg both openly embraced an aggressive reform package with regard to the city’s rental properties, one that would include registrations and inspections.

Price’s response was to ineffectually mumble old platitudes about personal hygiene and his long forgotten cleanliness ordinance, which in effect has been rendered moot by his own congenital refusal while on the council to aid, assist and fund the cause of citywide ordinance enforcement.

In the end, almost two-thirds of the Democratic vote in the 3rd District was cast for one or the other challenger, something that strongly suggests that Price is in the minority on most campaign issues in spite of whatever dubious tactics he may (or may not) have employed.

Did Price have this stark repudiation in mind when he told newspaper reporters that his threadbare margin of victory indicated that the people of his district favor change?

Frankly, I doubt it. The change that Price speaks of is “spare change,” not the more valuable variety that genuinely commands the ability to change lives for the better.

As ever, he's penny wise, future foolish.


A question subsequently was asked of me:

“How does an opponent respond to lies (like the subhuman renter analogy), as well as to the sort of promises a politician makes knowing full well that the allegations are false and the promises are impossible to keep?”

I believe that the best response to provocations of this sort is for the opposing candidate to retain his or her passion and integrity, to conduct his or her campaign with dignity, to respect the ability of people to “get it,” and above all else, to simply tell the truth. If the listener is unable to fathom it, and insists on believing the palpably untrue, it’s a vote you probably didn’t have a chance of securing in the first place.

Councilman Price now advances to November. He may well have done so with the help of a few tall tales about his opponents, and that’s just good ol' boy politics. However, as opposed to convenient fabrications about renters, progressives, the city's debt limit and other forays into the realm of Pinocchio, Tuesday’s 3rd district numbers simply don’t lie.

The incumbent has nothing remotely resembling a mandate.

The only question is whether he’s sufficiently astute to see it.