Saturday, April 30, 2011

REWIND: Tempest in a tinhorn’s teapot (2009).

Dan Coffey has proven himself temperamentally and educationally unsuited for public office so very often that we’ve largely ceased pointing it out to readers. It simply is a given, accepted by one and all, like knowing that Dallas Cowboys fans always are obnoxious, Lite beer has no flavor, and White Castles are flatulent.

1st district voters unfortunately have acquiesced to keep Coffey in office, and by doing so, they’ve doomed themselves to persistent irrelevance. But the Wizard of Westside faces two opponents next Tuesday: Theresa Timberlake, who narrowly lost to Coffey in 2007, and Vicki Denhart, a.k.a. “Professor Eric” the masked blogger.

Reports suggest bloody, hand-to-hand, medieval warfare in the 1st district, and not unlike civil wars in isolated Asian jungles, outsiders can hear the noise and feel the earth shake when the bombs explode, but they have little clear notion of the situation within.

The following column, which was first printed in the News and Tribune on September 10, 2009, reprises the famous council meeting when Coffey, Denhart and the Publican (that’s me) collided. A year and a half ago, the copperhead defended the troglodyte’s virtue. Now, she’s gouging out his eyes.

Who will win? All I can say is, “Go Theresa.”


BEER MONEY: Tempest in a tinhorn’s teapot.

By ROGER BAYLOR, Local Columnist

At the September 3 city council meeting, its president remarked that he could not “in good conscious” vote for a particular ordinance.

However, Dan Coffey mustered sufficient consciousness to vote in favor of an amendment to precisely the same ordinance, but only after publicly inquiring of the city’s long-suffering clerk as to how the tally stood prior to his own decision finally being registered.

Malaprop theatrics like these matter because they violate the council’s own rules of order, which prohibit the president from joining in a discussion before first passing the gavel to a colleague, but because reticence would not suit Coffey’s view of the council president as ringmaster of a flea circus, he seldom observes protocol and frequently flaunts it. Apart from a solitary recent instance, his fellow councilpersons seem content to acquiesce in their workplace being governed by the ward heeler’s whim.

Meanwhile, members of the public – known as “taxpayers” if favored by Coffey and “them people” if not – are periodically compelled to abide by randomly applied rules, and so it was that at the meeting of August 20, during the course of departing the council chamber for more stylish digs down the street, I famously uttered a few cross words.

Last weekend, Coffey deigned to put his name on a letter to the editor of this very newspaper, attesting to his somewhat inaccurate recollections of my transgression. Ever since then, sometimes when sleeping and other times while conscious, my conscience has bothered me, though not for the reasons you might expect.

Surely no one, least of all me, likes to lose his temper, and yet it happens to all of us from time to time. There are occasions when it is inordinately difficult to maintain one’s composure, as when baseless innuendo is being peddled to a council evidently too bored or self-serving to respect the sanctity of genuine truth, primarily because baseless fabrications better fit the pre-determined prejudice of the body’s vitriolic president.

Yes, I lost my temper. Just the same, much of the remainder of Coffey’s depiction of the scene belongs on the shelf alongside “Alice in Wonderland,” or even more appropriately, “Pinocchio.”


Forever exaggerating, Dan Coffey would have you believe that a harmless little old lady was steamrollered by a truncheon-wielding Communist, but the woman in question is an outspoken citizen activist who, to put it mildly, is quite fluent with name-calling, mud-slinging, publishing a trash-talking blog under the pseudonym of a non-existent male college professor, and other characteristic acts of local political foreplay.

Of course, the limited pleasures of foreplay are as good as it can get with the current sitting council, because in order to reach a climax, something actually has to be finished.

In his letter, Coffey suggests that those whom he has arbitrarily judged guilty of rambunctious behavior should be held to a higher standard of accountability, seeing that among them are Tribune columnists and members of local appointed non-profit boards.

Funny, but I don’t recall the saintly Coffey deploying the same logic back in January. Here are excerpts from what I wrote at the time:

“(Mark) Cassidy came before the council and waited patiently for the opportunity to read a prepared statement and to ask a simple question: Does the current legislative aggregation have any intention of doing its Constitutional duty to draw fair electoral districts by lawfully redistricting for the first time since 1992?

“Cassidy … politely endeavored to ask this question, but Coffey … argued with Cassidy and gaveled him down.

“The story resumed … with Coffey's verbal and physical harassment of another, entirely different citizen in Studio's. There, surrounded by witnesses … Coffey initiated a heated discussion with (Jeff) Gillenwater that ended with Coffey aggressively grabbing Gillenwater by the shoulders and vowing to be ‘like a copperhead’ and to ‘strike when you least expect it.’”


So much for civility. How does Coffey reconcile hypocrisy of this magnitude?

More significantly, why do his somnolent council seatmates tolerate it?

Only one of them, John Gonder, possessed the intestinal fortitude in January to suggest that Coffey deserved some form of censure. The others sat and stared at the floor, and now, bizarrely – pathetically – they just can’t understand why they’re regarded as political laughingstocks by anyone who takes the time to observe them in non-action.

Me? I take my deserved lumps when erring, which is why I’ve always signed my name to everything I write -- always have, always will. Passion for the cause of civic progress and a profound inability to suffer fools at times may lead to unfortunate outbursts, which I regret. Know that if given the chance to do it over, I’d have used a different noun, though not a different modifier. Color me defiant, and unrepentant, and let the chips fall where they may.

But here’s the rub: Coffey’s breezy fiction to the contrary, this entire story isn’t at all about me, my friends or our values. It’s about the desperate concoction of a smokescreen for the ongoing failure of the Coffey Council to offer any semblance of leadership in the form of a pro-active future vision for the city of New Albany.

Coffey’s cavalier disregard for the rules of engagement is a nasty symptom of the rot within, one that is being left to fester by council persons who quite simply know better and yet do nothing. In terms of legislative achievement, Dan Coffey’s council is barely conscious.

Do any of its members still have a conscience?

Friday, April 29, 2011

May Day rally in Louisville.

From Jonathan Meador at LEO's Fat Lip blog.

May Day rally set for downtown Louisville

This weekend, we strongly urge you to get out and enjoy the weather by attending the massive May Day celebrations being held Sunday at downtown’s Jefferson Square Park, starting at 3 p.m., to maybe tacitly show the Scott “Koch whore” Walkers and Rick “OCP” Snyders of the world that we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take anymore of their shit.

There will also be puppets ...

Nash: "More people should come out to vote."

The biggest tactical question remains city council at-large: Vote for one, two or three? Vote for three more favorable choices in order to block those deemed less desirable?

NASH: Let’s get out the vote

... In last year’s primary election less than 18 percent of voters turned out locally for the election. That was when everyone seemed to be up in arms about the direction the country was headed. In November there was historic turnover in the U.S. House of Representatives, but relatively few people actually took the time to vote.

Two years later, L'il Stevie finally found his way to Bank Street.

And all I got was this lousy mimeograph.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Explain this one, Rep. Clere.

It's not about jobs, and not about budgets. It's not about education, and not about property taxes.

Tell us, Rep. Clere: What's up with the Planned Parenthood smackdown?

You may use your truncated newspaper agitprop space if you wish. We know how much you dislike questions like these.


The 'Ville Voice:

Making you kinda proud to be a Kentuckian: Indiana is set to defund Planned Parenthood. [

A Candidate’s Progress (13): There I go, reading again.

I am struck by the juxtaposition in these passages from two books. Both prefigure war, one a literary treatment of 1990’s Belgrade just before NATO air strikes on Serbia, and the other taken from the pages of pre-Civil War history in the state of Missouri, circa 1861.

The italics are mine.

Out in St. Louis, we visit the Forty-Eighters — reviled as the “Damned Dutch” by the Missouri secessionists — refugees from the failed revolution against the monarchs of the German Confederation, who discovered in the slaveholders “exactly what they had come here to escape: a swaggering clique of landed oligarchs, boorish aristocrats obstructing the forces of modernity and progress.”
-- Adam Goodheart
Just because I don’t understand something, replied Marko, doesn’t mean that some dark evil force is behind it, a mysterious organization in collusion with the government, army, police or who knows what. Such things, he said, happen only in American movies, in which, by the way, the entire plot is reduced to the struggle of conspirators to strip free and honest American citizens of their right to information, to knowledge that supposedly belongs to them, if for no other reason than that they regularly pay their taxes
-- David Albahari
It's fascinating that in America on the verge of a bloody nervous breakdown 150 years ago, immigrants handily identify the source of the problem, while more recently, in the fractious and tragic Balkans, an ordinary citizen offhandedly links contemporary American conspiracies not to conniving Byzantine orders of the Illuminati, but to minor irritations spawned by the tax revolt.

Accordingly, it transpires that Umberto Eco and Dan Brown have wasted the bulk of their writing careers. The modern American, in the midst of the Information Age, and yet not unlike Dan Coffey and systematically deprived of crucial information, responds in Pavlovian fashion by refusing to pay his property taxes. He is duly appeased and enfolded within the loving arms of the Pander Bears, and civil society sinks ever more quickly into an unfunded morass that tea baggers barely notice amid shopping trips to Wal-Mart.

It’s enough to make one wish for the halcyon days of genuine big-ticket issues: Civil Rights, Communism vs. Fascism, the social responsibilities of capitalism (are there any?) and whether or not the Yankees should be broken up now or later – anything rather than the institutionalized selfishness symbolized by the “neither taxation nor human progress” clique spewing intemperance within the city limits of New Albany.

Why is it that while I’m a taxpayer like all the rest, the dimensions of conspiracy do not reveal themselves to me? But what actually is clear to me is that the GOP’s historic property tax caps have so far resulted in my taxes, as well as those of my business, increasing. Meanwhile, it’s obvious that someone, somewhere, is being pandered to via commensurate tax decreases, since all levels of local government are strapped and reduced to begging for scraps from St. Daniels and the Clere Channel fluffers.

Given that so much as mentioning the Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) aloud has become tantamount locally confessing to atheism, animal abuse and book reading – or all three – the only truly heroic utterance I’ve heard to date on the 2011 primary campaign trail came from Suellen Wilkinson.

In essence, at last Friday’s IUS campaign discussion, she refused to duck and cover, openly referred to the taboo concept of LOIT, and brazenly noted that all options should be on the table for consideration when it comes to funding local government and supporting the concept of a civil society.

In doing so, Suellen did something exceedingly rare hereabouts: Not only did she refrain from pandering to taxpayers, but as a taxpayer, she refused to pander to herself. To quote John Gonder, it was “a profile in courage”, and I agree.

Whether any of it matters in the materialist world of today is anyone’s guess, but at least it won't be long until Elector Day. On Tuesday, March 3, Drink and vote early, and often.

Bert the Turtle on New Albany politics.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

News and Tribune reader: "Perhaps Mr. Stumler can afford the luxury of flitting between parties when it’s politically expedient."

Surely one of the more insightful letters to appear lately at OSIN, although the title does scant justice to the gist of Mr. Condon's point.

Reader urges vote for Gahan

At the Griffin Street Center debate April 3, Irv Stumler was evasive on the issue of his past as a Republican. But an article by News and Tribune’s Daniel Suddeath from Jan. 19 of this year clearly states that Mr. Stumler “had considered running [in this mayoral election] as a Republican, and that [Doug] England’s choice to not seek another term was influential in his decision to run as a Democrat.”

Mr. Stumler’s sudden party switch raises many troubling questions. Did he support the Republican Party’s platform one day, and the Democratic Party’s the next? What will he support tomorrow? And most importantly, what can we glean from all this about how he intends to run the city?

Perhaps Mr. Stumler can afford the luxury of flitting between parties when it’s politically expedient. But those of us struggling in this economy need to know whose side our mayor is on.

Recent budget battles in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and yes, Indiana, have proven just how hateful and destructive the Republican Party’s agenda for America has become. Those of us who reject these scorched-earth policies deserve a mayoral candidate who shares our values.

Irv Stumler is the latest in a long line of patrician businessmen who dabble in politics by pledging to run government like a business. We “elected” one of his kind president in 2000; today, another publicly questions President Obama’s citizenship to publicize his reality show.

With any luck, Mr. Stumler won’t resort to such desperate tactics against his most qualified and experienced opponent in this race. That candidate is lifelong Democrat Jeff Gahan, and I urge all of you to vote for him May 3.

— Eric Condon, New Albany

Clerely, lest we forget: NO TOLLS.

In the continued absence of an Indiana small business economic impact study -- remember, the one that certain Bridges (Tolling) Authority members from Floyd County insisted would be forthcoming, and which (of course) has never emerged, Kerry Stemler having borrowed the idea to use as toilet paper, anti-tolling hero Paul Fetter's point remains the one of central concern to Hoosiers, even if Ed Clere and Ron Grooms refuse to consider it for ideological reasons.

LEO's Steve Shaw offers this ORBP update.

Bargain bridges? Altered Ohio River Bridges Project sparks mixed reactions among critics

Paul Fetter, co-founder of Southern Indiana’s No 2 Bridge Tolls group, says he was excited by the proposed downsizing “because they had told me for months that the project couldn’t be changed.” But he’d be more gratified “if they decide to make more changes.”

He thinks tolling would disproportionately burden Hoosiers, disadvantage Kentuckiana in competing for regional and national events, and thwart cross-river mobility and commerce. “Indiana has to go to Kentucky for many things, but Kentucky doesn’t have to come to Indiana for hardly anything,” he says.

A Candidate’s Progress (12): Clere, Grooms, Benedetti and "fighting for" House Bill 1210.

At last week's city council meeting, 5th district Diane Benedetti desperately was looking for a way of defusing John Gonder's typically earnest effort to instill a bare sliver of social consciousness into the antebellum mood typically defining the group's self-serving, comic book deliberations.

The topic was legislation removing restrictions on local gun control, presumably because Republicans now seek greater personal safety by packing pieces to ward off the anarchy ensuing from their efforts to destabilize civil society in the interest of increased fundamentalism and wealth retention.

Infamously, Benedetti mused: How could I, as a mere council occupant who refuses to read newspapers or have an e-mail address, even in the advanced year 2011, possibly have a relevant opinion on state legislation?

Specifically, shouldn't the council defer to Ed Clere and Ron Grooms for marching orders and direction? Shouldn’t we demand that Clere and Grooms tell the council how to think?

After all, announced Benedetti: "They're fighting for us in Indianapolis."

As another pathetic example of what Clere and Grooms have been "fighting for" during the most reactionary legislative session in living memory, consider this: Abortion bill could pass Indiana House Wednesday (C-J).

Has our representative, who fancies himself a legislative “reporter”, addressed this bill in his newspaper column? If not, perhaps management needs to restore a weekly propaganda slot.

When following the path of House Bill 1210, even a caveman can see that both Clere and Grooms have worn their ROCK jackboots in full polish from the beginning to the end of what amounts to an institutionalized deprivation of heath care for women, of whom Bendedetti is one.

What Benedetti is not is poor, and unsurprisingly, poor women will be the chief victims of House Bill 1210. Like a majority of Clere’s and Grooms’s votes this year, the Planned Parenthood gutting is 100% right-wing, theocratically, appeasingly ideological, something to remember when Ed and Ron again deny they’re ideologues.

At the IUS city council discussion last Friday, we were asked how a body like the city council might possibly impact policies toward the least advantaged members of society. Randy Smith, who’s running against Benedetti in next Tuesday’s primary, answered that while it’s a tough question, the answer surely must incorporate a strategy of not making the lives of the poor less safe by putting the least advantaged at greater danger, depriving them of whatever sources of stability exist -- like neighborhood schools and health care.

Had Benedetti attended the informative session at IUS, would her answer have been: As a Democrat, I don’t know, so I’ll copy off the paper of the Republican seated next to me, and get back to you with an answer?

At the very least, shouldn’t a Democrat be a Democrat, and not a Republican apologist?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jeff Gahan for Mayor of New Albany.

(Following is Roger’s personal endorsement. It is not the “official” endorsement of NAC)

During the course of the campaign, I’ve attended six or seven election functions. At each one, the Democratic candidates for mayor of New Albany have spoken about their platforms and aspirations.

Just like everyone else, I’ve been listening to Paul Etheridge, Jeff Gahan and Irv Stumler, and deciding who among them would get my vote on May 3.

It’s time to make that choice, and mine is Jeff Gahan for Mayor.

I would not be voting for Jeff if his single qualification to serve is his status as the only viable alternative to Stumler, Etheridge having failed to convince me that he’s a credible candidate, even if he surely would be the best street department head this city’s ever seen.

Upon reflection, there are plenty of good things to say about Jeff’s candidacy. But, let’s start by addressing the 800-lb gorilla.

Indeed, Jeff Gahan is not Irv Stumler.

In a city already noted for brazen political shenanigans, one is hard pressed to recall an instance of cynicism equivalent to the 75-year-old Stumler’s abrupt and expedient defection from lifelong Republicanism to become, overnight, the bizarrely anointed successor to the incumbent mayor, Doug England (a Democrat).

The circumstances have not been fully explained, and likely never will be. However, it is known that over the years, Stumler has contributed substantially to the Republican National Committee, among others, which have used these contributions to pursue disastrous economic and social agendas that we must work together to thwart if we are to witness progress in our lifetimes.

Having advocated these agendas, will Stumler now reverse course and advocate against them? That's highly doubtful.

In fact, no one in the Stumler camp has so much as attempted to rationalize or explain any of it. England has skirted the issue by his inexplicable city council run, which has diverted attention from what will be remembered as The Deal.

It would be a mistake to regard this undisguised attempt at machine king making as inevitable, or an act of a capricious God. Rather, in reality it is about the perpetuation of power, which is why questionable entities like Neace properties have gifted the already wealthy Stumler with sizeable campaign support. New Albany deserves much better tha this. The Deal has smelled from the very start, and it should be rejected by voters.

So, obviously: Vote Jeff Gahan.

At this juncture, some will ask, "But Roger, the people in this town who hate you the most are supporting Jeff Gahan. How on earth can you align yourself with them?"

In my mind, I’d be aligning with them only if my sole reason for supporting Jeff Gahan was anti-England malevolence. It is not. Jeff is the best pick, entirely apart from troglodyte antics and the Stumler saga.

Here is why:

Jeff Gahan has eight years of city council experience, and a record upon which to be judged. True, he and I have not always agreed. Truer, the relationship has occasionally been contentious. Truest, I still feel that when he’s been wrong, he’s been way-off-the-chart wrong. However, the past is passed, and upon these topics and others, he and I can agree to disagree, like rational adults, focusing instead on the future and numerous positive, shared visions for the city’s operation.

Jeff Gahan is a Democrat. He is no leftist, like I am, but he’s also not a Dixiecrat. In terms of temperament and core beliefs, he falls far closer to the region of principled conviction where a true Democrat’s political instincts should lie than the party’s local Dixiecrat component. I can live with that.

Jeff Gahan has taken a risk in choosing to seek the office of mayor. He is surrendering his council seat and going for broke. I find much to admire in this.

Jeff Gahan, correctly in my view, has chosen not to announce his appointments prior to being elected, sparing us the indignity of watching in embarrassment as aspiring position holders boast Gahan t-shirts and buttons at public forums, as current position holders have been doing with their ubiquitous StumlerWear.

Jeff Gahan owns an independent local business, and he has been instrumental in advising and assisting the start-up of New Albany 1st, our city’s first-ever grassroots organization dedicated to the interests of independent local business, which in turn, are in the city’s best interest.

And, Jeff Gahan is a baseball fan. That doesn’t hurt.

As I’ve conceded, we’ve had our share of disagreements. Yet, it would be childish of me to view these as deal-breaking impediments to making a considered, rational choice for mayor.

At face value, Irv Stumler may appear inevitable. He has the money, the patrician bearing, the family and business connections, and the endless curriculum vitae.

But think outside the box, and reject the cynicism of the The Deal.

Dig more deeply, and I believe you will agree that Jeff’s Gahan is a better bet – because of who and what he is.

Please consider voting for him next Tuesday.

Thank you.

Livability: an infographic.

REWIND: Starving for education (2010).

Originally published in the News and Tribune on February 4, 2010.


BEER MONEY: Starving for education.

By ROGER BAYLOR, Local Columnist

Are you fed up with words you don’t understand? Tired of picking up the newspaper to read your favorite contrarian columnist, then coming to a screeching halt when he uses “troglodyte” and “disgruntlement” in the same sentence?

Hi, Roger Baylor here with an amazing new product – you’ve got to see it to believe it – called the Dictionary, and it’s a do-it-yourself confusion remover with professional results … guaranteed!

Just pick the word you want to define, match it to the alphabetical listing in the Dictionary, and read the answer. It’s that easy. And, because it’s wireless, there are no plugs, cords, batteries, tools or wiring to worry about.

With the amazing Dictionary, you can even learn how to pronounce the word!

The Dictionary contains all the words that you’ll ever encounter in this or any other column, and yet it’s small enough to put one in every room where you might find yourself reading the newspaper. Place one next to the toilet so you don’t have to go back downstairs to the den. Keep another on the porch for smoke breaks. The amazing dictionary fits in the glove box, in your purse or on top of the coffee table.

The Dictionary’s powerful information technology lets you define old words and learn new ones. It cuts through those multi-syllable, compound nightmares with ease, and talk about shock-absorbency … I’m going to shield my head with the Dictionary while my assistant attempts to beat my brain senseless with a 900-word newspaper column. See? Even after continuous pounding, my synapses are still transmitting neuron signals.

That’s the power and protection of the Dictionary, folks.

Call now and you’ll get the Dictionary for only $19.99. You’ll also receive my handy Sticky Notepad and Self-Sharpening Pencil, absolutely free. Just copy the problem word from my column and stick it to the Dictionary until you feel like looking it up.

Yes, you’ll get the Dictionary, the Sticky Notepad and the Self-Sharpening Pencil, all for only $19.99. But if you call right now, I’ll double this entire offer. Just pay shipping, and you’ll get two Dictionaries, two Sticky Notepads and two Pencils. But you can only get this special two-for-one offer by calling now …


In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama returned to a theme he often explored during his campaign for the White House.

“The best anti-poverty program around is a world class education.”

Naturally, the precise components of a “world class education” are open to interpretation, discussion and debate between open-minded citizens, assuming you can find any of them in these idiotically polarized times, but the overall sentiment that education is a corrective to impoverishment has been proven to be truthful again and again.

Apart from my personal belief that a genuinely world class education is one stripped of as much theological and creationist hokum as possible, whether Christian, Muslim or Zoroastrian, and should come equipped with provisions designed to enhance appreciation of creativity, art and cultural pursuits, I’m less concerned with negotiable details than one’s attitude toward the general topic of knowledge, its veracity, and the marketable skills to be gained from expansive education as opposed to confining, crippling illiteracy.

In short, given the linkage between education and economic advancement, why is it that people choose to attack the notion of education rather than to seek it?

Recently in this space, State Representative Ed Clere shared results from a survey of his constituents.

“What should the General Assembly’s top priority be?“

"The response to this question reflects concern over the economy. There were five response options. Job creation, retention and training programs is the top concern for 51 percent of respondents, followed by 27 percent who favor expanded tax relief as their top priority. Sixteen percent rank K-12 education first. Higher education and welfare programs for family and child services each receive 3 percent support as a top priority.”

How can we have one without the other? Just over half the respondents sensibly view economic advancement in the form of jobs as a governmental priority, but only 19% see value in providing the education required to fill those jobs. While this result may be a statistical anomaly given the size of the sample, and ignoring the somewhat ideologically motivated phrasing of the survey questions, it still strikes me as significant.

And yet, how many of the poll respondents regularly read the sports page – that heavenly and simplistic refuge from the dastardly dictates of the classroom – and are able to spout points-per-game averages of players attending purported institutions of learning where games supposedly serve as periodic distractions from the primary realm of study, and not the other way around?

Okay, okay … a nation transfixed by meaningless athletics is a whole other topic (file under: “bread and circuses”) for another time.

At this moment, looking at the recommended textbook entitled, “Open Air Museum: Rules for New Albanian Living,” specifically in Chapter 7, subsection A1, we see our indigenous reworking of the old Chinese proverb – yes, you guessed it, one printed on plasticized card stock suitable for framing, and available not from the heirs to Billy Mays, but from Wal-Mart via Guangdong Province:

"Give us more fish, but don't you dare teach us how to fish."


What would happen if you combined classic sacred choral music with a thesaurus? You’d have a synonym for a seminal hymnal! Hi, Roger Baylor here for the Sing ‘o’ Saurus. It’s no ordinary reference book. Watch this!

Monday, April 25, 2011

HB1003 (voucher bill): Questions for Rep. Ed Clere.

(Courtesy of Vic’s Statehouse Notes #83 – April 25, 2011)

Dear Friends,

Thursday’s historic Senate vote on the voucher bill was not reported in the Indianapolis Star, Indiana’s largest newspaper.

An excellent letter to the editor by Susan Blackwell opposing vouchers was printed in Friday’s paper, but there was no report on the vote. More importantly, the public has not been informed that the first-ever “foot in the door” state tax benefit for home schools has been added to HB 1003, which already contained the monumental change to allow state funding for religious school tuition for the first time since the 1851 Constitution was written.

Apparently, the first step in the abandonment of public education in Indiana is not newsworthy to the editors of the Star.

Well, if you are not being kept informed by the paper, you still know all about HB 1003 if you are reading these notes. Please remember that the deal is not done. Since the voucher bill has not been finalized, I hope you are ready to contact your legislators today with these questions:

Questions for Members of the House of Representatives

1) Will you turn back the Senate’s decision to add tax breaks for home school parents by opposing HB 1003 when it comes back to the House for concurrence?

2) Since the tax deduction provision does not define “home school” or “eligible home school”, won’t the door be open to fraud?

3) After elaborate discussions to define “eligible students” and “eligible schools” in the voucher bill, how in good conscience can undefined “home schools” be added to the bill for their first tax break in Indiana history?

4) Since the tax deductions also apply to expenses for private schools, shouldn’t eligible private schools be defined? Are all private schools eligible, even those unaccredited, or are only private schools that are eligible for the voucher program also to be eligible for the new income tax break?

5) How can $3 million be made available for this new, unvetted income tax deduction for home school and private school expenses when the line item of $5 million in the 2009 budget for professional development has been zeroed out?

6) Why should home school parents get a tax deduction for textbook fees when public school parents don’t?

7) Does the Senate’s action to remove the requirement that to be eligible for vouchers, the school must verify compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act, fire safety requirements, and health standards under federal law change your vote?

8) Does the Senate’s action to delete the provision that schools eligible for vouchers must adhere to “state teacher evaluation requirements” change your mind about supporting the bill?

Many members of the House signed on to voting for the voucher bill reluctantly in the midst of stiff opposition from public school parents and educators back home. Adding a “first ever, foot-in-the-door” income tax deduction for home schools might give them pause before concurring with this plan, but only if they know you are watching and asking these questions.

HB1003 (voucher bill): Questions for Sen. Ron Grooms.

(Courtesy of Vic’s Statehouse Notes #83 – April 25, 2011)


Dear Friends,

Thursday’s historic Senate vote on the voucher bill was not reported in the Indianapolis Star, Indiana’s largest newspaper.

An excellent letter to the editor by Susan Blackwell opposing vouchers was printed in Friday’s paper, but there was no report on the vote. More importantly, the public has not been informed that the first-ever “foot in the door” state tax benefit for home schools has been added to HB 1003, which already contained the monumental change to allow state funding for religious school tuition for the first time since the 1851 Constitution was written.

Apparently, the first step in the abandonment of public education in Indiana is not newsworthy to the editors of the Star.

Well, if you are not being kept informed by the paper, you still know all about HB 1003 if you are reading these notes. Please remember that the deal is not done. Since the voucher bill has not been finalized, I hope you are ready to contact your legislators today with these questions:

Questions for Members of the Senate -- Ron Grooms

If the House leaders decide to change the Senate version, the bill must go to a conference committee in the few days remaining in the session. Then the questions come back to the four Senators that made the difference in the close 28-22 vote last Thursday:

1) If the House removes Sen. Steele’s amendment requiring private schools to adhere to several laws regarding citizenship and patriotism and to submit to annual visits by the IDOE, will you change your support of the bill?

2) If the House removes Sen. Miller’s amendment to give a $3 million tax break to home school and private school parents, will you change your support of the bill?

House and Senate leaders have only a few days to settle these questions.

I urge you to keep asking your questions in support of public education in the waning days of this session. Don’t leave these final maneuvers to the “insiders” acting in vacuum. Many things could still change on the final version of the voucher bill. Let your voice be heard with e-mails, phone calls, and letters to the editor as the final version of the most important education bill of our generation is finalized.

Gonder on forks and forms (Form Based Codes).

File John Gonder's most recent blog post under, "What they won't bother talking about at Kitchen Fable". That's too bad. John has utilized the current campaign as a bully pulpit to ponder issues just like Form Based Codes. Needless to say, he has my vote on May 3.

A Fork in the Road

The River View project has taken a seat for the moment. Signs point to a slower closer consideration of the project. Consensus seems to be that the project is good from at least one angle: people are thinking big about downtown New Albany and, likewise, thinking big about housing downtown ...

... Perhaps the best method of democratizing this project and, indeed, the entire process of building a modern, adaptable, environmentally responsible city for now and the future is found in the Smart Growth tenet of Form Based Codes. Here are a couple links to Form Based Code information: Link one and Link 2 ...

... The BFD is, do we involve the citizens of this community in an inter-generationally defining project, or do we kick it around the Plan Commission and the City Council and come up with something "that we can live with"? A Form Based Code gets the community involved in defining how our City will develop both literally and figuratively.

As the primary campaign winds down, I pledge now, if I am given a second term,to do all that I can to push this city toward a full exploration of a Form Based Code. It may not be the answer to all our planning issues. It may be unworkable here for one reason or another. Or, it may be what lies down one direction of that fork in the road, the direction that leads us sensibly and responsibly into the still-new century.

NA First! Info session/membership drive this Thursday at River City Winery.

Needless to say, NABC will be coming on board at the $500 level. Now, let's turn it over to Andy Terrell for the details.

Hi everyone,

We appreciate all the patient questions about when we would be getting started. Well, we're ready. NA First! is now officially incorporated, a temporary board of directors is in place and we're ready to get to work for the locally-owned, independent busiensses of New Albany!

To that effect, we invite you to come down to the River City Winery this Thursday evening, April 28th, anytime between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to meet with myself or members of the board of directors to get more information about what we plan to do and to let us get to know you and answer any questions you might have regarding New Albany First!

The temporary board of directors, put together by volunteers until an election can be held, are as follows:

Kate Caufield - President
Marcey Wisman - Vice President
Cisa Berry - Secretary/Treasurer
Tommy Kaiser
Melissa Anderson
Stacie Bale

You'll find attached to this email a membership application. If you plan on attending, just bring out your completed application with you and a check or cash for whatever level of membership you choose to join at. Here's a breakdown of the levels :

Supporting Business Memberships - $300 or $500 - At the $300 level, you will receive a listing and free ad in our printed "Think Local New Albany!" guide plust listing and ad on our upcoming website along with a vote on any issue brought to the membership. The $500 level gives you those benefits plus sponsorship of all NA First! events throughout the year.

Business Membership - $15 per full-time employee (or full-time equivalents) with a $75 minimum and a maximum of $150. You will receive a listing in the printed Think Local New Albany! guide and listing on the website plus a vote on any issue brought to the membership.

Friends of New Albany First! - $50 per year - This is a membership created for fellow non-profits or businesses that do not meet the requirements of a locally-owned, independent business. Friends will be listed in alphabetical order in a special category on the website and printed guide.

Individual/Family Memberships - $25/yr for an individual and $40/yr for a family. You will be listed in a seperate category on the website and the Think Local guide.

If you cannot attend, but would still like to meet with one of us before signing up, just shoot me an email here and we'll set something up!

There are a couple of misconceptions about New Albany First! that I've been hearing over the last couple of months that I want to clear up.

First, NA First! is an independent business alliance, not a marketing campaign. Our main focus will be educating and creating awareness among the public of the benefits of shopping and using locally-owned, independent businesses.

Second, NA First! is not "aligned" with any other organizations. We are being housed in the offices of the Urban Enterprise Association and I have been receiving assistance from the Director of the UEA, Mike Ladd, in getting all the necessary paperwork together. NA First!, however, is a grass-roots campaign that encompasses all locally-owned, independent businesses in the entire city of New Albany. We very much look forward to working with other organizations to accomplish what should be everyone's ultimate make New Albany the very best it can be. That can only be achieved by working together...

Thanks to everyone that have been showing an interest in what we're trying to do here. It's an exciting time for us and we hope to see many of you come out Thursday evening at the River City Winery anytime between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., have a glass of wine and dinner and talk with one of us about how NA First! might help your business and how you might be able to help us!


Andy Terrell
Director, New Albany First!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

REWIND: Surreal barroom of dreams (2009).

The News and Tribune has released its Voters' Guide, in which the candidates answer questions submitted by the newspaper.

(If you can find the Voters' Guide at the newspaper's web site, please let me know. If you can find the on-line text of my letter to the editor yesterday at the newspaper's web site, please let me know. If you can find the "web extra" coverage touted by today's paper copy, please let me know. If you can discern consistency in the newspaper's web site operation, please let the city know.)

All but a handful of the aspirants complied. By my count, Democrats Timberlake, Blevins and McLaughlin, and Republicans Rutherford and Harbison, all were absent.

Of all the submissions, I was struck by incumbent 5th district council person Diane Benedetti's answers, which pole-vaulted over intelligible syntax, substituting somewhat disjointed numerical lists rather than the "essay answers" intended.

Although I'm still not quite able to conclude why all this reminds me of the following column, which appeared on May 28, 2009, it does.


BEER MONEY: Surreal barroom of dreams.

By ROGER BAYLOR Local Columnist

Having spent the better part of 30 years diligently studying human behavior in my chosen habitat, the barroom, the first thing I noticed when the well-dressed woman rose from her table and approached me was the way she held her wine glass.

She was clutching the defenseless glass like the handle of a sword, and there was nothing dainty about it.

That, my friends, is a bad sign.

It is reputed that in the days before indoor smoking went the way of the rotary dial phone, the famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow would carefully insert a thin wire into his cigar, which held the steadily lengthening ash in place as Darrow smoked and spoke, commanding the complete attention of the denizens of the courtroom as a result.

In much the same way, watching someone grasp a stemmed wine glass with a closed fist tends to make you wonder when the increasing pressure exerted by an obviously agitated drinker finally will snap the glass in half, and while glassware can be replaced, it’s always a tragedy to waste good booze.

Which assumes, of course, that the booze in question isn’t common rotgut, but there’s an upside either way, because the puddle of spilled alcohol will shine a floor better than commercial cleaning products ever could.


“I want to ask you a question about that column you write in the newspaper.”

Sure. What about it?

“Just who do you think you are writing like that?”

Um, like what?

“People around here, they don’t understand what you’re saying. They ask me, what’s he saying? Who do you think you are, writing things that people don’t understand?”

(There was ice in wine. How very frightening!)

Well, I don’t have an answer for that. I write the only way I know to write, and I write for people who are capable of …

“And what about those big words? Do you think you’re better than people around here? Why don’t you write things that we – I mean they – can understand?”

Okay, let me ask you a question. Why is it my responsibility to help you – er, I mean, them – read English? If you have to look up a word in a dictionary, then you’re doing the same thing I did to learn the word in the first place. I look at dictionaries all the time.

“You want to know why they can’t understand it? I’m going to tell you … in a minute.”

(She balanced the glass on the table, staggered toward the lavatory, and upon returning, drained the remaining ice cubes and wine in a single, well-executed gulp.)

“Now, I’m going to tell you. Do you know how many people in this town live in rental properties? I’ll tell you how many. 63% of them, that’s how many. Why don’t you write so they can understand you?”

You must be kidding me. What does being a renter have to do with reading comprehension?

“You know what I mean. I’ve lived here my whole life. You don’t know me, and you don’t know my family. All you want to do is intimidate people. Who do you think you are, writing like that?”


My interrogator didn’t let me answer the final question, and that’s just as well, because it was time for her to go to the bar for another drink. At least the wine glass survived, and we remain thankful for small favors.

Beside, it was time for me to walk home, and as I exited the side door, I noticed my inquisitor’s expensive, gas guzzling luxury car parked squarely in the middle of two parking spaces, presumably to protect it from the deprecations of local, illiterate rental property occupants, and I felt the urge to rationalize the irrationality of her opinions in the context of wealth, privilege, and the way that some people insulate themselves from the real world.

But I resisted the temptation. Literacy and illiteracy, comprehension and incomprehension, getting it and not getting it – they aren’t so much about money as one’s personal willingness to try to learn and understand, right?

Here’s what I’ve learned in barrooms over the years. For many people, alcohol is a veritable truth serum. It transforms circumspection into exhibitionism, and alchemizes unspoken thoughts into bold theses nailed to the front door of the dive in question. I haven’t seen that woman since, although we’ll probably occupy the same saloon space on another, similarly enchanted evening.

What’s more, my experience tells me that while it’s possible she remembers the one-sided conversation we had, it isn’t really likely. She’ll remember few if any of my answers, and so we’re destined to have the same chat over and over again, because that’s the way the New Albany Syndrome works -- and another way it works is that the more one is consumed by the syndrome, the better chance that he or she rises to a position of elected or unelected functionary according to the eternal futility of lowest common denominators.

For me, the barroom remains just as sacred a place as the church confessional, and what is said there, stays there under the majority of normal circumstances. Accordingly, the story I’ve told today may or may not be entirely true. It’s possible that I’m embellishing for dramatic effect, exercising creative license, and writing metaphorically.

It’s also possible that the story is completely factual.

What do you think?

Greg Phipps for City Council: My letter to the News and Tribune.

(As yet not archived on-line. Appeared on Saturday, April 23)


Letter to the editor of the News and Tribune:

Democrat Greg Phipps is running for city council in the 3rd district primary. It is a seat that has been inexplicably vacant since 2003.

Actually, the seat in question has been (nominally) filled since then with someone who indeed has a pulse and endorses council paychecks, but it might as well have been used to stack old magazines or provide Fido with a warm spot for contemplating the roaring fire.

In essence, the 3rd district council seat has gone dusty, rusty and unused for eight long years. Greg Phipps aims to change that.

Greg has numerous positive qualifications. He knows what government is like, having served for many years on the Board of Zoning Appeals -- a thankless job if ever there was one.

Greg has not taken the easy way out and wagged a populist finger on the topic of public safety, and he sensibly asks only that police, firefighters and first responders receive respect and professional courtesy during considerations of staffing and pay, and for an end to the dysfunction that currently pervades these discussions.

Greg has helped to drive the establishment of a neighborhood association, spoken out for code enforcement and the rule of law, and in ways large and small, has put his time and money into the fray.

Greg bucks the tendency of hooded and semi-literate discourse that tends to make local politics acrimonious. He actually has a university degree … actually is a university professor … and manages all of it while using his own name when he speaks and writes.

In the context of New Albany, it’s a novel and amazing feat of transparency. Imagine: He is who he is.

Greg is a powerful advocate for human progress, and can be trusted to consider the interests of the 3rd district as a whole when issues arise. His thoughtfulness, rationality and personal equilibrium will preclude the sort of ideological extremism that has characterized the incumbent’s intemperate “No progress by any Price” tenure.

In fact, it’s so simple that even a caveman (or an antebellum Dixiecrat) could see it: Greg Phipps will address problems by using his brain, not jerking his knee. I urge 3rd district voters to choose him on May 3.

Roger A. Baylor
1117 E. Spring Street
New Albany

Saturday, April 23, 2011

City council candidate forum: Vote for the ones who showed up.

The IU Southeast College Democrats staged a New Albany City Council Candidates: Meet, Greet and Question Panel on campus last night.

8 out of 15 council candidates attended, and each of them had his or her moment. In my view, the clear "winners" were Greg Phipps (3rd district) and Randy Smith (5th district). In strictly objective terms, their answered illustrated to triumph of intelligence over karaoke and bloodlines.

Props are due to Jeff Gahan for being the only mayoral candidate bothering to attend the event. Of the city clerk candidates, I saw Vicki Glotzbach, too.

Naturally, It would have been interesting to see how the seven absentee candidates would have answered wht proved to be very goodand insightful questions -- which almost certainly is why they stayed away.

Here is the link to the complete video: 2011 city council candidate forum.

(Tribune coverage whenever their act comes together later today)
Coverage by Harold Adams at the Courier-Journal

Amy Huffman-Branham jeers the GOP on Planned Parenthood vote.

Kudos to this powerful statement of principle by the News and Tribune's Amy Huffman-Branham. She can rest assured that Ron "Tell me how to vote, St. Daniels" Grooms stopped reading after the word "Senate", and of course we all understand that depriving women of health services has everything to do with the Republican Party's ideological leanings toward theocratic fascism and nothing whatever to do with any real concern for the health of women.


... to the Indiana Senate, which voted Monday to prohibit state contracts or grants with Planned Parenthood or other organizations that provide abortions.

It is disappointing that state legislators would make a decision that effectively takes away women’s access to health services — which extend far beyond providing abortions.

At a time when millions of Americans live without health insurance, it’s hard to understand how legislators think this is a justifiable move. Thousands of low-income women rely on Planned Parenthood and similar organizations for birth control, pelvic and breast exams and other health services.

The passage of the bill Monday comes on the heels of the passage of legislation last week that adds other restrictions to the state’s abortion laws, giving Indiana some of the tightest restrictions in the nation.

If the concern among legislators is to reduce the number of abortions, it hardly makes sense to pass a law that will make it harder for Hoosier women to get birth control. And it is appalling that lawmakers continue to encourage and support legislation that sacrifices women’s health and restricts their right to make decisions for themselves.

— Amy Huffman-Branham, assistant editor

Shea Van Hoy jeers candidate campaign sign street spam.

It's time again for Cheer & Jeers at the extended local newspaper, and Shea Van Hoy is having a justifably violent allergic reaction to street spam. He might have mentioned the name of the sole candidate to reject such pollution: Me.


... to politicians or their supporters who litter public property with campaign signs.

Most municipalities have laws against this sort of thing, laws that are regularly ignored by fly-by-night businesses. I can understand that to a point — they are just trying to turn a quick buck.

But those in elected office — or who want to be — are held to a higher standard, so breaking the laws others have made is a double-negative.

All the signs in places they shouldn’t be are a sore sight for the eyes.

— Shea Van Hoy, editor

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fire Fighter and police unions endorse Greg Phipps.

Greg Phipps has received the endorsement of The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 410, and The Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99.

Open thread: "Five Dumbest of the Dumbest Moments" last night.

In response to my stated intent earlier today to list the Five Dumbest of the Dumbest Moments during last evening's council laughfest, Iamhoosier left this comment here: Refusing to speak for the city's residents, Coffey makes strange gurgling sounds instead as council members snore through meeting.

I'm anxious to see how you cut it down to just 5 moments. My #1 would have to be a 2 term councilman wondering how ordinances get sponsors. In seven years on the council, Mr. Price still doesn't know? (No, I didn't make that up. He actually asked that last night)
Here's another.

In response to John Gonder's resolution, which was intended to convey non-binding council opposition to the GOP-dominated Indiana legislature's ongoing efforts to preclude localized gun control measures, Diane Benedetti kept insisting that instead of thinking about it, the council would be better off appealing to GOP stalwarts Ed Clere and Ron Grooms for help, because they're "fighting for us in Indianapolis."

Thus, uninformed to the last, Benedetti gave no indication that she is aware of the proposed law, no sign that she reads news or stays in the loop, no sign that she believes even remotely in the Democratic Party's precepts, and amid guffaws, she could do no better than to appeal for help to the very same Republican ideologues whose party authored the legislation.

At this point, Dan Coffey scooped up the ball and expressed grievous misgivings with such symbolic resolutions as Gonder's, continually muttering about a Constitution he's freely ignored and violated in the past, then finally clarifiying why this resolution was completely different from the anti-tolling resolution he enthusiastically supported last year:

"When you're talking about tolls, you're talking about an economic issue, but when you're talking about guns, you're talking about the Constitution."

That's a lot of talking ... all of it gibberish.

Mark gave you one, and I've given you two. There's even more Dumbest Moments out there ... anyone else?

Refusing to speak for the city's residents, Coffey makes strange gurgling sounds instead as council members snore through meeting.

Matt Nash's words today in One Southern Indiana Newspaper ring truer than ever following last evening's council debacle.

In recent years, New Albany residents have also continued to send people back to the city council that are incompetent and totally ineffective. This year, some of the least effective members on the council are facing some challenges from worthy opponents that deserve a chance to show us what they can do. With the combination of two of the councilmen not seeking re-election and the challenges to the current group, the next city council could have a drastically different look in 2012.
Apart from the departing Jack Messer, who seems to have lost interest in policing the doltitrude, and John Gonder (the one who reads books), it is obvious that the remainder of the council members are choosing a "prevent" defense as the primary approaches. There was precious little of intelligence to be said about anything last night, just a series of pander-squawks lest a voter might be listening.

Here's the straight dope, courtesy of reporter Suddeath. If I have time later, I'll be back with last night's Five Dumbest of the Dumbest Moments. Until then, can anyone answer this question: Is there a "hidden" ordinance somewhere stating that the Michell, Timperman and Ritz Architects firm must design every project in town?

New Albany City Council tables River View development request; Method for purchasing bicentennial park property approved, by Daniel Suddeath (OSIN)

The council voted to include the purchase of a lot at the intersection of Pearl and Spring streets for a bicentennial park in the TIF zone. The city was awarded a grant from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County to establish a bicentennial park.

The grant stipulates the city must purchase a site for the park, and put up an additional $250,000 toward building the public facility. The $250,000 match was not included in the resolution OK’d by the council.

The measure originally included making a $400,000 expenditure to revamp the downtown Farmers’ Market a TIF eligible expense. But the council voted to remove the request from the proposal.

The improvements would include the construction of a mirroring structure to match the existing pavilion, as well as a building with bathrooms for the outdoor facility.

The Farmers’ Market is operated by the organization Develop New Albany. The construction estimate was provided by the firm Michell, Timperman and Ritz Architects at the request of the administration.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nickels and dimes for Maalox, Volume 265.

... And then Li'l Stevie scratched his head and replied, "Gee, ma, what's blogging?"


"Public Safety Unions Endorse Smith in District 5."

Good news from Smith campaign HQ.

Public Safety Unions Endorse Smith in District 5

... All public employee unions are under attack today and most of this is driven by misguided ideology. Randy believes firmly in the rights of public employees to bargain collectively for wages and terms of employment. No employer, especially a city, has anything to fear from a unionized workforce that fights to ensure due process in the employer-employee relationship. Randy promises to protect the rights of public employees to bargain collectively in New Albany.
As do I, although Randy's eloquence has eluded me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gutting of public education proceeds apace; Indiana's conservative architects of douchbaggery now rendering us a world laughingstock.

Thanks for the forward. The vote comes today. Contact Ron Grooms and register your voice for posterity, even if his consumption of Kool-Aid probably precludes any possibility of independent thought.

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #80 – April 19, 2011, 10:30pm

Dear Friends,

Unbelievably, an amendment was added to the voucher bill today which would give an income tax deduction to home school parents.

Yes, you read this correctly.

Home school parents, a group that had never even been discussed related to HB 1003 since the bill was introduced in January, would get the first tax break for home school expenses in Indiana history. Sen. Miller, the author of the amendment, said the tax break would have a fiscal cost to the state of $3 million.

This was already an historic bill in breaking the 160 year vision set by the 1851 Constitution that public money should go to public school students and not to religious or private schools. Now, add another “first”: The first state funding for home school parents. This gives you one more reason to contact your Senator or other Senators tonight or first thing in the morning to oppose the bill.

After nearly four months of debate, the historic vote on vouchers will come tomorrow, Wednesday, April 20th. According to their website, the Senate will convene at 1:30pm. Assure Senators that you contact that their votes will be remembered forever, either way. This is not just another vote. This is the “2011 Voucher Battle” vote. This one will determine the future direction of public education in Indiana.

Will the direction be to privatize schools or to support public education?

Details of the Voucher Bill Amendments

Three amendments were added to HB 1003 today on second reading. Let me begin with the details of the income tax deduction cited above:

1) Amendment 17, offered by Sen. Miller, would give a $1000 deduction “against the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income” multiplied by the number of dependents “for whom the taxpayer made educational expenditures in the taxable year.” Expenditures are defined as “tuition, fees, computer software, textbooks, workbooks, curricula, school supplies (other than personal computers), and other written materials used primarily for academic instruction or for academic tutoring, or both.” The deduction is for unreimbursed expenses “in a private elementary or high school education program” which is defined as “(A) home schooling; or (B) attendance at a private school.”

Do public school parents get to take a deduction for public school textbooks or fees? No.

This is a small savings for home school and private school parents, but it is a “foot in the door” to bigger deductions after the precedent is set. If $1000 is deducted from income, the savings per child is $34 dollars for the parent, based on the state income tax of 3.4%.

The fiscal cost cited by Sen. Miller for this new benefit is $3 million. It seems strange that the Senate could endorse $3 million for this new benefit for home school parents and private school parents in this tight budget. Compared to the 2009 school budget, a $1 million cut has been proposed in the much needed fund for ESL students and $5 million of state funding for professional development was zeroed out.

Members of the public must stay alert to items added with little discussion at the end of a session.

2) Amendment 18, offered by Sen. Steele, passed on a 48-0 vote. It would require private and parochial schools eligible for vouchers to follow mandates that apply now to public schools regarding citizenship instruction, patriotic practices, and detailed curriculum requirements taking three full pages to enumerate. Included in the requirements is a flag displayed in every classroom and teaching music, art, health education and “the effects of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and other substances.” It says “An eligible school, charter school, or public school shall not teach the violent overthrow of the government of the United States.”

Then at the end, it reads “The department shall, at a minimum, annually visit each eligible school and charter school to verify that the eligible school or charter school complies with the provisions of IC 20-51-4, the Constitutions of the state of Indiana and the United States.”

At first reading, this supervisory function of IDOE, approved unanimously today by the Senate would seem to contradict another part of the bill inserted by Sen. Schneider in a committee amendment. Sen. Schneider’s language reads as if the state may have no supervisory authority over private schools that accept vouchers:

“A nonpublic eligible school is not an agent of the state or federal government, and therefore: (1) the department or any other state agency may not in any way regulate the educational program of a nonpublic eligible school that accepts a choice scholarship under this chapter, including the regulation of curriculum content, religious instruction or activities, classroom teaching, teacher and staff hiring requirements, and other activities carried out by the eligible school; (2) the creation of the choice scholarship program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, the state’s officers, or a school corporation to impose additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those necessary to enforce the requirements of the choice scholarship program in place on July 1, 2011; and (3) a nonpublic eligible school shall be given the freedom to provide for the educational needs of the students without governmental control.”

Juxtaposing this language with Sen. Steele’s amendment regarding citizenship mandates requires an amazing level of mental gymnastics. Both of these sections are in the same bill. It’s enough for someone to say, “Enough! Send this bill to a summer study committee for further review!”

3) The third amendment adopted today, offered by Sen. Yoder, removed two restrictions on Scholarship Granting Organizations, making it easier for them to operate.

That is what happened today. I hope you will get involved in what happens tomorrow. Contact your Senator one more time tonight or early on Wednesday.

Is this the generation of leaders that will privatize Indiana’s public education system?

Will Indiana become the nation’s biggest state for private school vouchers?

We’ll find out tomorrow. It could be a very close vote. This is your last chance to let your Senator and other Senators know how you feel about vouchers.

Groomsian "freedoms" from a Republican Party intent on keeping women barefoot and pregnant.

During the course of my campaign, I've been asked why I seem to prefer denouncing Republicans rather than conducting a polite primary meet 'n' greet.

If the shoe fits ... then Democrats with a conscience need to wear it.

Item: Poor Indiana women might lose access to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services

Item: Last evening, Vi Simpson tweeted this observation: "Awful day in Senate today. No citizen left unscathed by Repub majority - women, workers, teachers, voters, students. What about tomorrow?"

Item: Whether or not I win my race for city council, and whether or not there is anything specific a council person can do about Indiana's current fascist tilt, I guarantee that the coming year will be spent assisting the grassroots opposition. We can't get to Ron Grooms for a while, and that's too bad. But in 2012, there'll be another chance to retake a House seat. Just let me know how I can help.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Candidate’s Progress (11): Suit yourself. Plaid?

The Woodstock festival took place in 1969, when I was only nine years old -- too young to completely understand what was occurring in America amid the generational upheavals depicted nightly on the tube, and yet capable of registering their impact in my evolving consciousness.

Something was happening, and not unlike Bob Dylan’s musical Mr. Jones, I didn’t know what it was. But it was exciting, if for no other reason than an older generation’s (read: those of my parents’ age) often expressed annoyance and exasperation with it.

One of the mantras of a turbulent period devoted to letting it all hang out struck me at the time as enduringly valid advice: “Never trust anyone wearing a suit.”

Obviously, the powers that be – the wielders of capital, the exploiters of the proletariat – all wore suits, and insofar as the middle and lower classes inevitably imitated the mores of their wealthier “betters”, it was a form of unwitting obeisance better avoided than indulged.

Bizarrely, here was a topic on which both Baby Boom hippies and my Great Depression father should have been able to agree, had it not been for his inability to move past the length of their hair and listen to what they were saying.

If my dad even owned a suit, it was reserved for weddings and funerals, and worn grudgingly even then. He was a working man’s Populist to the very core, and usually as suspicious of moneyed elites and polite society as any bandana-wearing revolutionary. In a different country than the United States, one with more than two political parties to channel belief, his course in life might have been profoundly altered.

However, like so many others, in striving arduously for his sought after place in a middle class perhaps already doomed, even in the late 1960’s, he was inexorably steered by those very same besuited powerbrokers into emulating them by craving a modicum of their material trappings.

In fairness, a vast majority of the rebelling hippies at Woodstock eventually discarded their own youthful principles, taking the same materialistic path, but diverging from my father’s way in one very important sense: The Baby Boomers aged and became steadily more selfish, to the point that they’re now refusing to pay taxes.

Meanwhile, to the end, my father retained his agrarian communal instincts. Somewhere else, he might have been one hell of a socialist. We’ll never know, and that’s a shame.


Resolved: Never trust anyone wearing a suit?



No, not really. It is not a matter of trust, and I trust plenty of people who wear suits. Conversely, I seldom ever wear one, because I don’t have to. Comfort, personal preference and an active desire to enjoy what I do and not feel constrained by unnecessary adornments have conspired to result in an absence of suits in my closet. You’re free to dress as you please – or as you must.

Just leave me out of it, please.

While it is true that for a brief period during Junior High, I took an active interest in dressing according to society’s restrictive expectations, a candid assessment of acne-laden adolescent gawkiness led me to realize that a life of high fashion was not my likely destiny.

So be it. Know thyself; when you dispense with redundant fantasies of a GQ modeling gig, you’re free to use your entire brain, unbound by convention, custom and prejudice. It’s almost as liberating as Woodstock, and there are times when it still infuriates the unreconstructed Nixon generation.

That makes me very, very happy.


There are many reasons why the craft beer milieu “suits” me as a job and avocation, and one of them is the casual nature of its dress code, which “suitably” contrasts with assumptions about the genre’s dynamic, expansive business success.

Huh? Say what? A 12% growth rate nationwide … during a recession … and seemingly none of you wear appropriate business attire so as to buff and fluff the share holders? How on earth is that possible?

It’s because it matters far less what we look like than how we conjure our performance in the marketplace, and besides, if we had conformed to the expectations of what fuddy-duddies believe beer should be, there’d be no craft beer business at all.

Craft beer creates interest where there was none. It adaptively reuses, and leaps ahead of habit. It is vibrant, evolutionary and exciting. How many rock stars wear suits on a regular basis? Aside from Bryan Ferry and perhaps David Bowie, quite few of them.

Who cares?

Consequently, I dress casually for the requirements of my job, just the same as those bankers and lawyers with whom I transact company affairs, and who, at their first opportunity, gleefully change into shorts and a t-shirt to come drink some of the craft beer that’s brewed thanks to all of our labors, suited or otherwise. The wonderful part of my job is that I can dress the same way working, drinking, or all of the above. It simply does not matter what I wear, nor should it.

A college professor friend, himself a veteran of the Age of Aquarius (and who may be reading this essay), used to greet unsuspecting new sociology students in the guise of a custodian. With the class still awaiting the arrival of the instructor, he’d enter the room clad in work overalls, lope around, dust a shelf and empty the trash can -- and then begin talking about sociology.

You can imagine the students’ collective reaction, gleaned entirely from conditioned responses to mere appearance, as opposed to content: Who does that lowly janitor think he is talking to us about sociology? What could he possibly know? As it always turned out, he knew quite a lot – if the listener chose to look past the hair, beard and coveralls.

Given that I entered the race for at-large city council as an outspoken contrarian already thoroughly loathed by those discredited Dixiecrats pretending to be Democrats, and now profess an almost Coffeyish expertise for sartorial elegance, it is perhaps inevitable that the oldest of these perpetually irrelevant fogies will criticize me for not looking the part of a politician, whatever that means, even while they excuse the typically slovenly appearance of their antebellum, regressive darling, Steve Price.

It is hypocrisy, but I do not begrudge it. They wouldn’t vote for me under any conceivable circumstance, whether I’m clothed in an Armani suit, Newt Gingrich’s loincloth, a hoop skirt or medieval armament, so why does it matter, apart from another opportunity to remind myself that while I might age, I won’t let my attitudes grow old and stodgy?

For the rest of you, those capable of discerning thoughts and ideas, we’ve been having a marvelous discussion for quite a few years, and we’ll continue to do so – win, lose or draw.

If you’ll kindly excuse me, I have a load of “These Machines Kill Fascists” t-shirts to wash. One of them needs to be clean and tidy for my next public appearance, at IUS on Friday evening. Hope to see you there.

Carl Malysz's lost comment at "Are you TIF enough?"

Last night, Carl Malysz left a comment on the post, "Are you TIF enough?" This morning it was gone; I've been asked why, and I don't know.

As blog administrator, I am notified by e-mail when comments are posted, and the notification came through fine. Later, the space was blank. The good news is that for the fist time in two weeks, the "compose" screen here works properly. At any rate, here is the lost comment from Carl Malysz:

According to my sources on the City Council, the Resolution for River View will not be acted upon this coming Thursday, April 21st. That said, I will not post Q&A on the City's website until a later time. However, I will attempt to clarify what is in process with River View right now.

Mainland Properties is asking the City to issue Economic Development Bonds (EDBs) through an ordinance adopted by the Common Council. The process includes a public hearing that will be conducted by the Economic Development Commission (EDC), after which the EDC will adopted a Resolution regarding the project and bond issue. But the EDB process has not yet begun.

The New Albany Redvelopment Commission is being asked to fund future pro rata bond payments for the public improvements of the project-- the parking garage and the plaza-- by pledging the future tax increment generated by the development.

The TIF process is just getting started. The NARC passed a Resoluiton to include the parking garage and plaza into the TIF district; the NACPC ratified the NARC Resolution; but the process has been stalled at the Common Council as indicated above.

After the parking garage and plaza become part of the TIF district plan, the NARC will have to pass resolutions/other actions to pledge the TIF to the project. That would be done sometime before the Common Council would pass an ordinance authorizing issuance of the EDBs.

The EDBs contemplated will not be a risk to the City of New Albany. All that is being pledged or promised, if you will, is the tax increment from the River View Development. No one is proposing a property tax back-up or an EDIT back-up or any other back-up at this time. If the Common Council was asked for a back-up, it would have to authorize it. (Such a back-up is not automatic with EDBs and again, I will repeat, no one is asking for a back-up. And these are NOT TIF bonds...)

The public improvements will be built by Mainland Properties. There will be a lease with the City to ensure public use and access while the bonds are being paid off. After the bonds are paid off, there will be a transfer of ownership of the parking garage and plaza or another long-term agreement to ensure public access and use.

All of this will be controlled by ordinances, agreements, bond documents, et cetera. It is way to early to produce all of this stuff right now. We are only at the beginning of an incremental process that will likely take several months to complete. But I am open to questions and suggestions.

Sprawlmeister Kraft on responsible development: Surely suitable for ESPN's play of the game.

It sounds like a career night and a defining moment for attorney John Kraft, perhaps the chief local defender of asphalt sprawl and all the lovely manifestations that emanate from it. With fellow shyster Rick Fox playing against type in the role of woodlands advocate, Kraft rose to the occasion during last nights Plan Commission meeting.

Floyd County Plan Commission gives park thumbs down; Floyd commissioners will have final say Tuesday, by Chris Morris (OSIN)

Attorney John Kraft, who was representing Lind and Deters, argued that the park is not responsible development and growth and said there still were safety concerns. He said a recent plan commission vote required a developer to build a wider access road, so it would be inconsistent for members to vote in favor of the parks request.“

But it’s OK for the parks department to build a 10 to 12 foot [wide] road to go back to a park,” he asked. “This road will split property ... this is responsible development and growth? I don’t see it.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

REWIND: Truth remains stranger than fact ... Team Hammond, Team Screech, Sis 'n' Boots, and much ensuing hilarity.

In which Erika reveals why she must masquerade as Erik. Reprinted by request of the Kitchen Linoleum blog; originally published on June 24, 2009. Links might be outdated, but who cares?


In the end, the epiphany always finds you.

I can’t pinpoint its arrival in my case, but as an avid reader of history, it long ago became clear to me that a record of human events is inseparable from personal qualities that are fundamentally and eternally irrational. Envy, greed, disappointment, anger, pride, vanity, ego, arrogance … they’re usually the best explanations for decisions and positions that defy logic, whether in the heat of the moment or afterwards, when dispassionate observers seek to fathom motives for occurrences that simply don't make sense.

Apart from neighborhood politics, here's interesting achival reading from the TEAM HAMMOND TAXPAYERS' GROUP (that's right -- all shrieking caps and righteousness).

It's dated Tuesday, February 5, 2008, and is attributed (imagine that -- intellectual honesty) to the Hoosiers for Fair Taxation blog on the same day. There is no longer any sign of it there, if in fact it ever was posted, although HFFT's discussions from the corresponding time period are unintentionally hilarious, with leading Indiana tax activist and crypto-fascist hypocrite Eric Miller having just commenced his bizarre linkage between property taxes and gay marriage, prompting some Libertarians to look around the romper room and wonder if they came through the wrong door.

Because it may already have been deleted once, and to preserve this masterpiece of muddle in the public record, I'm reprinting it in full.



We received this message today from Freedom of Speech Team, our activist friends in New Albany.

Our city is a train wreck about to happen. Our new mayor is our old mayor of 12 years ago. He is a crook and a bigger CROOK now. You cannot imagine what all he has done over the last 30 days- an $11,000 raise for himself. We now have 2 deputy mayors a 118 take home cars. In 16 years we have spend around $60 million dollars on sewers and we now have another $47 million to spend. They have been giving like $32 million dollars in 2007 in tax abatements. They have borrowed $5.3 million from sewer utility to cover our general fund and never paid it back. We have been to the city prosecutor, Indiana atty. general and even the governor and been told is too political.

You think you have it bad in other counties. Listen to this one:

My sister is the assessor for our county. I worked for her for 5 years. During the entire time I worked there she was cutting peoples' property taxes to get re-elected.

Her first deputy works doing income taxes for 3 months out of the year. She not only collects a salary FROM doing taxes but a nice check from City. It took me 2 years to figure out what was going on and then I started making copies of time sheets and everything I could get my hands on. I mean boxes of paper work.

Well to make a long story short, my sister came to my new home (I purchased Sept. 2003 and moved into November 2003) on Martin Luther King day 2004 and handed me my termination papers. And told me she didn't have to give me an excuse to terminating me. So we got a bunch of citizens and current employees together and created Freedom Of Speech, IN 2005. Of course I am the only person who knows who everyone is. People know I'd not tell if someone put a gun to my head. Our cars have been trashed, gasoline poured on my porch. Spray painted "Bitch " on my garage door. On my birthday there was a box on my porch wrapped in a telephone cord with a bullet tied to it. Of course I deny being with Freedom of Speech.

My entire family has turned against me because I promised my dad before he died if she ever fired me to take her down. Well, I have been sitting with all this information, video tapes, time sheets. They also collected comp time and are making a fortune in local government.

I couldn't afford to fight her over being fired. I could not afford an attorney. This entire town is a house of cards. It would be so easy to expose this corruption and all if someone would help. I have even considered going to the FBI. You folks think you have it bad you ought to be living here. We have cops following us everywhere.

They are playing a shell game with our city money. Our state board of accounts audits is down right criminal for 4 years. Employees have been overpaid, our parks department ran up a $10,000 cell bill in one month. State Board of Acccounts tell us they have no power.

We don't have money to fight them. People are scared and won't even attend council meetings. I wish someone had some ideas or answers how we can fight back. We're the little people, working class citizens and have no recourse. We just keep plugging along but what can we do?? I'd be willing to go into protective custody to blow the whistle on these crooked "bastards".....

No one will touch this I swear, I have been trying for 4 years....

BTW, I guarantee this could turn into a movie deal. This is nothing but pure corruption, ghost employment, criminal crap and all we want is help to put all these crooked bastards in jail.....!!!

I have all these documents and no one to help us!!!!!!!! We need more than a Tea Party in our hometown, trust me.

Freedom of Speech Team in New Albany

From Hoosiers for Fair Taxation
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

HB 1003: "It would shatter the separation of state funding and religious schools established by our Constitution 160 years ago."

While I've no clue as to Senator Brent Steele's overall ideological grounding, other than the generally justifiable presumption that as an Indiana Republican, his politics probably fall somewhere in the territory of a Franco or Peron, but I am struck by the tone of his thoughts in this letter, as passed along to me with last week's edition of Vic's Statehouse Notes.

St. Daniels is rushing toward an ideologue's abyss with the drooling, worshipful assistance of eager young operatives like our own state representative (Ed as smart, ambitious and conniving) and far older political has-beens like our state senator (Ron, who apparently never read a book about any human topic not directly connected to the practice and profit of pharmacy).

It looks gloomy now, but history and pendulums have a way of swinging back. It will be a laborious process, but in future years, we'll be able to gather the pieces of a fair, civil society currently being strewn around the Romper Room like plastic toys by petulant, privileged and primarily white male children, place them back into the framework of reason, and begin anew toward achieving a recognition of human life as something more than the quantification of dollars, and beyond the GOP's only genuine raison d'etre: Keeping the majority of the country's wealth in the hands of a minority of the country's inhabitants.

In the context of educational reform, St. Daniels' roughshod disregard for the principes of church-state separation is contemptible, if trendy among those who are not at all unwashed and illiterate, but sufficiently well versed to know better, and to leverage their cynicism in pursuit of political power. Whatever the fate of legislation discussed below, I nonetheless feel vindicated in my life's work of opposing the imposition of top-down Christian theocracy in America, where Godly fascism runs counter to the founders' intent -- whether or not modern day Republicans care, or are able, to grasp it.

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #78 – April 15, 2011

Dear Friends,

The Senate Education Committee passed the voucher bill (HB 1003) on a party line vote on April 13th. The Charter Bill (HB 1002) passed the Senate on a 29-20 vote on Tuesday. April 12th. Here are the details:

Senate Education Committee

The stage is now set for Senate floor action and the historic vote on the voucher bill. This one is for history. Following the lead of Caleb Mills and the I851 Constitution, Indiana has not given public money for private school tuition vouchers in the 160 years since the Constitution was written. The 50 members of the Indiana Senate will decide this historic issue early next week.

The Senate Education Committee amended the bill as follows:

1) Amendment #19, which passed 7-3 on a party line vote, removed the requirement that to be eligible for vouchers, the school must verify compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act, fire safety requirements, and health standards under federal law. It also removed the requirement that eligible private schools must adhere to “state teacher evaluation requirements”, such as those in Senate Bill 1.

2) Amendment #21, which passed on a unanimous 10-0 vote, inserted “An eligible school may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” A similar amendment (#22) which added language implying religion could be added to this list was not considered by the committee.

3) Amendment #23, which passed 8-2, added a section “to honor the autonomy of nonpublic schools that choose to become eligible schools under this chapter.” It would be worth your time to read the rest of the amendment verbatim to fully grasp what your tax dollars would be supporting:

“A nonpublic eligible school is not an agent of the state or federal government, and therefore: (1) the department or any other state agency may not in any way regulate the educational program of a nonpublic eligible school that accepts a choice scholarship under this chapter, including the regulation of curriculum content, religious instruction or activities, classroom teaching, teacher and staff hiring requirements, and other activities carried out by the eligible school; (2) the creation of the choice scholarship program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, the state’s officers, or a school corporation to impose additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those necessary to enforce the requirements of the choice scholarship program in place on July 1, 2011; and (3) a nonpublic eligible school shall be given the freedom to provide for the educational needs of the students without governmental control.”

Sen. Schneider brought this amendment, saying the language came from a Texas law to say that the “state can’t change the curriculum away from a faith-based approach.” Sen. Skinner asked if he thought religious schools should be held accountable in terms of the percentage of teachers with teaching licenses. Sen. Schneider said the amendment only speaks to private school authority.

[Editorial note: This amendment is clearly a declaration of independence for nonpublic schools. They are trying to avoid the strings that are inevitably attached to money that supports the schools. It leaves the question for Senators: Should private and parochial schools receiving public money have this kind of independence?]

4) Amendment #24, which passed 9-1, changed the tax credit portion of the bill in a significant way. Sen. Kenley brought the amendment, saying it would keep the bill from needing to be recommitted to Senate Appropriations to vote on the “enormous fiscal” related to the tax credits. He described the amendment as keeping the current (2009) tax credit “as is” but raising the state dollars available for tax credits from $2.5 million to $5 million.

With that brief explanation from Sen. Kenley, the vote was taken. Sen. Yoder described this as “a tough vote” for him after he worked with Sen. Kenley on the amendment, and then he voted yes.

After the meeting, proponents of the bill were clearly not pleased with the trim given to the tax credit side of the bill.

Equally interesting is what the amendment deleted that was not discussed in the meeting. A section was deleted giving a supplemental distribution to school corporations and charter schools from the state savings due to transferring students from public schools to cheaper private school using vouchers. It is not clear why this section was taken out or why.

When all the amendments were completed, the roll was called: 7 Republicans in favor and 3 Democrats opposed. The bill will now go to the floor for second reading amendments and a vote early next week.

Now is the time to contact Senators to vote NO on the voucher bill. Much has been said, but to me, these are the key points of opposition:

It would shatter the separation of state funding and religious schools established by our Constitution 160 years ago.

It would transfer $58.5 million from public school students to private school students over the next two years.

There is no cap on private school vouchers after two years. Private school entrepreneurs will start building capacity with state support while public schools close.

The income eligibility rules leave 45% of all students eligible for a full voucher ($40,000 for a family of four) and approximately 20% more eligible for a partial voucher ($61,000 for a family of four), making roughly 650,000 Hoosier students (two-thirds) eligible for public tax money for their private school tuition.

Contact Senators on these and other points. The vote could come as early as Monday afternoon (April 18th). I have attached for your reference the letter of opposition sent to all legislators by Sen. Steele (R-Bedford).

Senate Action on the Charter School Expansion Bill – HB 1002

The final Senate vote on HB 1002 came Tuesday, April 12, passing by a margin of 29-20. Surprisingly, seven Republican senators opposed one of the Governor’s priority bills. Joining all 13 Democrats in oppositions were: Sen. Becker, Sen. Head, Sen. Landske, Sen. Paul, Sen. Steele, Sen. Tomes and Sen. Waterman.

These and all other senators should be approached about opposing the voucher bill as well.

The Senate made several significant changes in the charter bill compared to the House version. Whether the House members will accept the Senate changes or will ask for a conference committee to try to restore some of the House provisions remains to be seen.

I and others in the Indiana Coalition for Public Education had tried to remove private colleges as charter school authorizers, arguing that private entities not subject to the open door law and transparency laws like private colleges should not be given powers to commit public tax money to create public charter schools. Our opposing arguments failed. Thirty private colleges are listed by name in the bill as potential authorizers. Ironically, the 30th and final private college listed is Wabash College, founded in 1834 by none other than Caleb Mills, who had no problem with sectarian colleges but convinced his generation and many to follow, until our generation, that common school education should be non-partisan and non-sectarian.
Good luck in contacting Senators to oppose vouchers in the historic vote coming as early as Monday.

Join the Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Again I urge you to join us or ask your public school friends to join us using the form below. We need every public school advocate in our membership. Your $20, $50, $100, or $250 or other donation is vitally important to continue this legislative battle! Thanks!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith