Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Election year crosswalk paint -- on a one-way street.

Nope, they don't read what we write.

They just respond to it.

The good news: After NA Confidential's constant reminders to the city over weeks, months and years, that it has a duty to make streets safe for walkers, finally some crosswalk striping is being done.

Is it an election year?

The bad news: Elm, Spring and Market are still running in one direction, not two, and for so long as these streets continue to be one-way, the city is making the streets less safe for walkers from omission. As long as they're running one-way, not two, then all other efforts are being negated, 24 hours each day.

The evidence continues to mount, and City Hall continues to hide ... although it's not the only such failure of nerve.

Gilderbloom on New Albany street mess: One-way streets are bad for neighborhoods and businesses.

Gahan now open to covert art discussions, but still no public comment on two-way streets.

This quote moved me -- from the sofa to the fridge for another beer.

“I certainly don’t like to see not just Mr. Wimmer, but any artist, leave New Albany,” (Mayor Jeff Gahan) said. “We are certainly open to discussions on how we can bring quality art projects here.”

Now, in a world exclusive NAC SPY CAM VIDEO, follow the top-secret, down-low City Hall route artists must take to find the meeting room where these "open" discussions typically take place.

Communication. Rinse and repeat.

Yo, Michael: I'll come visit in Jeffersonville. Cheers!

Artistic differences: Wimmer leaving New Albany after disagreement over artwork, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)

Michael Wimmer paints a dreary picture of New Albany’s appreciation for public arts.

There’s a desire within the community to see more works, the artist and owner of WE Studio said Friday, but city officials have made the task of installing public art cumbersome, Wimmer said.

“I’m an artist. Of course I love art. I love to see it. But it also brings tourism in, especially to a downtown area like this,” he said.

Wimmer plans to soon close his East Main Street studio in New Albany and move it to an undisclosed location in Jeffersonville, where he is already taking part in multiple public art projects.

His reasons for leaving stem from a series of guessing games he said the New Albany administration played with him about two sizable art projects.

Superintendent Hibbard: "I think we need professional help."

Okay, that was just a bit gratuitous.

Here's the key quote for me.

“People had different reasons why we lost,” (Bruce) Hibbard said. “People thought it was apathy, but people also didn’t think we did a very good job of getting the word out about the question. People would go and read the question not knowing that 23 cents was falling off [the rate thanks to an expiring bond] and they were getting 20 [back on].

Earth to superintendent: One significant reason the referendum lost is that many voters understood the question quite well, but are terminally mistrustful of current management to implement the proposed bond.

Sorry, but that's as simple as it gets. You mean to tell me no one mentioned this possibility during the retreat?

(Rolls eyes, cues Yes Men, strikes up the band)

NA-FC referendum may get another shot, by Jerod Clapp (N and T)

It didn’t pass last time around, but the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. might give a referendum another shot in 2016.

This time, they might hire some help.

At the board’s retreat at Wooded Glen in Henryville last weekend, administrators and board members discussed the possibility of hiring a political consultant to advise them on how to encourage voters to approve the measure.

Superintendent Bruce Hibbard said Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, did what he knew to do with the campaign, but an outside company could hone their message to the county.

“We weren’t built to be politicians — we’re educators and I think we need professional help,” Hibbard said Saturday. “One of the things a professional will do is they’ll canvass our community.”

Gilderbloom on New Albany street mess: One-way streets are bad for neighborhoods and businesses.

Another possible subtitle: "Papa Morris snoozes as summer intern gets it right." Talk about the value of a fresh pair of eyes. The newspaper needs to retain this woman.

Street studies support New Albany proposal: Two-way streets could promote safety, housing values, according to study U of L professor, by Danielle Grady (News and Tribune)

John Gilderbloom is a doctor who said his research saves lives. His specialty, however, isn’t medicine — it’s economic development — and he’s recently focused his expertise on the difference between one-way and two-way streets.

The University of Louisville professor has written more than 50 articles and appeared in national publications for his research on the impact of one-way streets on safety and business in Louisville. He’s also watched New Albany as it's debated the feasibility of converting some one-way streets to two-way.

“It’s the way to go,” he said of the proposed conversions.

True, the reporter Grady gets a few facts wrong (the date of Speck's visit, the name of Pete's store), but overall, let's assign credit where it's due: Unlike the newspaper's other staffers to date, Grady went straight to Gilderbloom for an explanation of how nationally disseminated and genuine research applies to our street situation.

This surely trumps baying at the moon -- or affectionately caressing trucking companies who shouldn't be conducting their industrial business in the middle of residential communities in the first place.

Which brings us to Chris Morris, who recently contrasted Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany.

MORRIS: Wake up and smell the activity

... New Albany and Clarksville definitely have some good things going on, but Jeffersonville is ahead in the race, no doubt about that.

Well, at least he's right about the amphitheater. Beyond this, it may be time to study concepts like cause and effect, and so students, your homework is simple. Read Morris' piece, and consider his comparative assessment of apples and oranges.

Then re-read Grady's report.

SPOILER ALERT: Just in case Irv Stumler is reading, here's the gist.

These points being made by Gilderbloom and Riggs, as embraced by Jeff Speck in his downtown street network proposal for New Albany, are the curative for many of the problems Morris sees, but fails to diagnose because he is unable to be impartial. 

I've been advocating for complete, two-way streets for a decade, and here's my conclusion.

Speck. New Albany. Now.

Monday, June 29, 2015

"A strong sense of place is an important factor ... in the physical and economic health of our cities."

I'm going to continue mentioning this even if it drives you crazy.

How Placemaking Drives Resilient Cities, by Ethan Kent (PPS)

 ... Thriving places have a direct impact on our ability to address major societal challenges. As numerous studies have shown, a strong sense of place is an important factor not only in our own health and well being, but also in the physical and economic health of our cities. Part of this experience of a place comes from actively participating in the creation of its meaning and use—and people are less likely to develop a strong relationship to, and investment in, a place if there is a high risk of the place not being sustained. We need to focus on Placemaking in order to generate resilience, just as resilience is necessary for investing in place ... a resilient community also leverages its investments for broader outcomes – this is what Dr. Judith Rodin has dubbed “the resilience dividend.”

Baylor for Mayor nominating petitions have been submitted, and we await ballot access.

(See also: "Care about kids? Then do something about rental properties in this city")

In the state of Indiana, a “Petition of Nomination for City or Town Office in 2015” signed by registered voters residing in city precincts is required to nominate independent candidates or candidates of a minor political party not already “entitled” to have its candidates placed on the ballot (Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians).

Accordingly, the Baylor for Mayor campaign now has collected the required number of signatures, and we delivered the completed petition to the Floyd County Voter Registration Office on the morning of Monday, June 29, 2015, along with various two other pertinent documents.

Once verified and forwarded to the Floyd County Election Board, these documents will provide me with ballot access as an independent candidate for the municipal election in 2015.

I’m looking forward to engaging the people of New Albany in discussions about the many local topics that Democratic and Republican candidates tend to overlook, among them governmental transparency, grassroots economic localism and the proper uses of the city’s public infrastructure and physical assets. These may not be sexy or flashy topics, but they impact the lives of our residents every day, not every once in a while. They’re needs, not wants, and they'll be our prime focus.

Local government shouldn’t be about the same old political parties and their equally tired patronage schemes, but about doing the right things for the right reasons. We'll try not to criticize without offering potential solutions. It's time to try something different for a change.

We'll be commencing serious work on the website this week, and preparing the game plan for the coming months. I'd like to thank the voters who signed the petition, especially those who remarked to me that while they may or may not support my candidacy, it mattered to them that the system should permit the participation of non-partisan and independent candidates.

Huge thanks as well to those who volunteered to go out and canvass for signatures. You rock. A candidate like me, without financial resources like theirs, needs to be creative, but moreover, we need volunteers, so if you're interested, let me know.

Baylor for Mayor


Care about kids? Then do something about rental properties in this city.


An arcade game in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles, which appear at random, back into their holes ... used with reference to a situation in which attempts to solve a problem are piecemeal or superficial, resulting only in temporary or minor improvement.

I googled "slumlord" and "safety," and came up with the article quoted below, among many hundreds of others. Before you read it, take stock of the reality in New Albany.

We're actually not playing "whack-a-mole" here.

While it's true that Section 8 housing is registered and regulated with periodic inspections, hundreds of other rental properties are not even subject to the most simplistic registration, much less inspection.

Year in and year out, political "leadership" in this town looks the other way. Always has. We all know it, and tend to prefer living in denial or blaming renters rather than act.

Consequently, here's my tip-off for the week to come. In this town, hundreds of children live in unregistered, uninspected and unregulated rental properties. They live there every day and night, and every week and month during the year.

Now we have a wonderful civic pool, slated to be open two months out of the year. Building it has cost the city $9 million, not counting yearly upkeep, and in order to finance it, we borrowed against future tax revenues in the expectation that property values in the pool's TIF district will rise, and so will property taxes, and the difference will pay the bonds.

In this TIF area, hundreds of children live in unregistered, uninspected and unregulated rental properties. They live there every day and night, and every week and month in the year, and the existence of a pool is doing nothing to make their quality of life cleaner, healthier or safer.

Praise water sports and parks to your heart's content. They're important. But don't suggest to me that their existence testifies to heartfelt concern for children, when children are subject to degradation that this town's movers and shakers cannot bring themselves to address with government intervention where such action might be the only way to secure genuine improvement.

And don't even dare use the words "fundamentally better" to describe a place where an issue like this is perennially ignored owing to political cowardice. A pool is not fundamental. Living conditions are.

If you cannot tell the difference, you have no business being a lifeguard, much less a mayor.

Whack-A-Mole City Enforcement Keeps Slumlords in Business, by Megan Burks (Voice of San Diego)

... Repeated requests for repairs through Shah and his managers have netted few substantive improvements, tenants said. In a brief phone call, Shah said he acts quickly when tenants ask for repairs, but failed to follow through with an offer to provide KPBS and Voice of San Diego with proof.

And stacks of formal complaints against Shah show the city’s essentially playing a game of whack-a-mole. The city’s code enforcement team knocks out thousands of isolated complaints a year, but does little to hold repeat offenders accountable.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

More Sunday reading: "What role will the arts and humanities play in this brave new world?"

Accompany with black coffee.

Matt Burriesci: The Arts and Humanities Aren’t Worth a Dime, by Matt Burriesci (Guernica)

“The object of the education system, taken as whole, is not to produce hands for industry or to teach the young how to make a living. It is to produce responsible citizens.”
-Robert Maynard Hutchins, The University of Utopia

As one of the editors of the Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins believed that Westerners were all participants in a Great Conversation that began in antiquity. Over the course of several thousand years of that conversation, Western civilization experimented with many different modes of political and economic organization. We have been a polis and we have been an empire; we have lived in feudal monarchies and free republics; we have been capitalist, mercantile, and socialist; we have been democratic and tyrannical. None of these systems has been permanent. Each model has given way to a new one.

The Western World once believed, as Aristotle did, that the political unit preceded the economic one. We changed our minds in the 17th century. John Locke argued that in order to have a government at all, one first had to embrace the concept of private property, and so political freedoms were dependent upon economic liberty. Governments existed for limited purposes, with the consent of the governed, and primarily to defend the property of free citizens. This economic freedom is also what Adam Smith meant when he wrote of the “Invisible Hand.” Smith argued that if individuals were free to choose their own labor, they would choose the most profitable labor possible. By doing so, each individual, guided by a force he or she did not understand (“an Invisible Hand”) would maximize the wealth of the nation.

Today we have come to understand economic metrics as the only units of measurement. We talk about “the marketplace of ideas,” as we “vote with our dollars.”

Sunday reading: Real Indiana and wedges splintering.

A confession: When I land at a newspaper website demanding the answers to stupid questions before being permitted to read the content, I ALWAYS GIVE THE WRONG ANSWERS.

Piss off, Gannett.

Friday's SCOTUS decision on marriage is wonderful, and in Indiana, we still have much work to do.

Locally, this probably means utilizing whatever means are available to extract a clue from the barren consciousness of Ron Grooms, who has learned absolutely nothing from the lessons outlined in these two articles.

It might take until 2018 to pay back Mr. Grooms, by voting against his continued presence in Indianapolis. Let's not forget to do so.

First, Matthew Tully: "Pockets of intolerance and the pettiness of a few influential culture warriors don't define Indiana." I hope he's right.

Dear America, this is the real Indiana, by Matthew Tully (Indy Star)

First, the polls show that the politician most closely tied to the religious freedom debacle, Gov. Mike Pence, continues to pay a severe price for his advocacy of the bill and his handling of the debate. What this shows is that it wasn't only outsiders who were upset with what Pence and his Republican Statehouse allies did. Among the angry were Hoosiers.

Many Hoosiers.

Second, the poll found that Indiana residents strongly support concrete, legally binding actions aimed at inclusiveness. Actions such as the expansion of state civil rights laws to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Next, John Krull observes that political wedges are multi-directional.

Note that in response to these latest reversals, the rapidly shrinking Pence is defiant; if the governor cannot defeat the gays, then he'll raise a middle finger to greenhouse gas emission rules.

When wedges no longer work, by John Krull (NUVO)

... But here in quiet, staid Indiana two events have given the political landscape an earthquake-level shake.

The first involved the mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city, Democrat Pete Buttigieg of South Bend. Buttigieg is a former Rhodes Scholar and a Navy reservist who was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months last year ...

... Then, hours later, a poll conducted by a respected GOP pollster – and paid for by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ first campaign manager, Republican Bill Oesterle – showed that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (also a Republican) is in real political trouble.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mayor Jeff Gahan Presents: "Those stupid neighborhood splash pads you keep bugging me about."

This one's worth a good joyful, soulful cry.

Now, back to work.

Recent events demand that Team Gahan provide a full and prompt public disclosure of the city's finances.

Today we are being gifted with the crowning achievement of Jeff Gahan's first and only term as mayor, as his Mayor Jeff Gahan Presents Your River Run Family Water Park opens for a truncated first season.

The project, which was not mentioned a single time during Gahan's mayoral campaign in 2011, was originally budgeted for circa $9 million, as borrowed on the city's TIF ONE card, although now the city alleges that the real cost has been only $7.5 million. It will be open for wetness perhaps two months each year, and has a fee structure virtually the same as the Kentucky Kingdom amusement facility in Louisville.

Want to go to either of these fun parks? You'll just have to drive.

The re-election circuses will continue this evening with another "free" summer concert series installment at Bicentennial Park, itself built at a cost of somewhere around three-quarters of a million dollars, though not with adequate infrastructure for the events being held there. Perhaps another $200,000 has been spent over a period of fours years on temporary stages, sound and booking, as provided by a third-party contractor/promoter based in Louisville.

Meanwhile, an amphitheater languishes.

Just up one-way Spring Street street from Bicentennial Park is the former site of Coyle Chevrolet and Coyle Dodge. Gahan's minions have cut a deal with an Indianapolis developer to construct "upscale" apartment buildings at the site. It is said to be a $15 million project, spurred in part by an unprecedented sewer tap-in waiver worth more than $200,000 to the developer, as well as TIF bonds allowing the developer to substantially reduce the amount of its own investment in the project.

In short, millions of dollars are leaving town, as going to incentivize these apartments. Standing before the rubber-stamp Redevelopment Commission, upon which sits the chairman of the Democratic Party, the city's economic developer described the nature of this deal.

"It's boilerplate," said David Duggins.

Yesterday, Develop New Albany forwarded an e-circular touting the many refurbishments and investments occurring in downtown New Albany. It can be read here.

Of the eleven separate projects discussed in the circular (and there are others under way, too), eight have been financed entirely by local private investors, with minimal city participation.

Two of them, wayfinding parking signage and the farmers market expansion (now termed "City Square" in yet another utterly non-transparent exercise), are city-funded projects.

The eleventh? It's the Coyle site redevelopment -- heavily incentivized, subsidized and according to Duggins, "boilerplate".

Perhaps our local builders should establish a post office box in Indianapolis.

All this, and I haven't even mentioned the $3 million beautification project on Main Street that contradicts every tenet of the Speck study following (not preceding) it.

Recall these previous postings, and as you do, contemplate Team Gahan's pathological secrecy and habit of non-transparency.

Phipps: City council has not been asked for more money; therefore, River Run Family Water Park is not over budget.

Pocket veto council Ninja.

Jeff Gahan refused to sign an ordinance requiring City Hall to provide financial information to the city legislative body. This "pocket veto" was dispersed via a 9-0 vote by the very same city council that has allowed itself to be played like a cheap kazoo by the mayor.

What's that about?

There is an election coming in November. Amid the scrambling for cover, does anyone know how much the pool really cost? And, finally, would you characterize any of this as "boilerplate"?

It's time for New Albany to try something different for a change, but before this opportunity arrives in November, a good first step would be Team Gahan's full and prompt public disclosure of the city's finances.

What we'll probably get instead is this.

$$$ hologram improvement project in New Albany receives bond, Dan and Adam approval.

That other Supreme Court opinion: The Fair Housing Act of 1968.

We're all waiting for the other ruling, but this one's important.

The Supreme Court Keeps the Fair Housing Law Effective, by the editorial board of the New York Times

Housing discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional to be illegal. That is the point of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday interpreting the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in accord with clear congressional intent, and preserving a well-established and critical tool in the long-running battle to ensure a more integrated society.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Red scarf, white shirt and San Miguel beer (2012).

ON THE AVENUES: Red scarf, white shirt and San Miguel beer.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

This column originally took the form of a considerably longer electronic essay from 2005, itself dating back to the year 2000 and the FOSSILS club newsletter. The 2005 version of 4000+ words includes much supplementary  information on food, drink and attendance at an actual bullfight.

In my travels, I've been fortunate to witness a May Day parade in Vienna, frenetic all-night Greek political rallies, Munich's fabled Oktoberfest, U2 performing live on stage in Ireland, selected soccer matches and small snippets of the Tour de France. The fall of the Berlin Wall in ’89 was an epochal one-time celebration, requiring three decades of preparation and packing a visceral punch, but I missed that one, just barely.

To me, the top Euro-fest of them all is the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, which runs from July 6 through July 14 each year. My fourth and last visit was in 2000, and I miss it very much.

Pamplona’s festival is a multi-hued hybrid. Spectacular public displays of orgiastic, besotted and scatological indecency occur alongside proud and dignified demonstrations of traditional values extending too far back in time to be consciously understood. Rather, they’re felt.

San Fermin is a primitive, almost mythological outburst balancing seemingly disparate elements. Confrontations between man and bull, gatherings of grandparents and grandchildren sharing hot chocolate, feasting and contrition, outpourings of religious and political conviction, incessant musical cacophony and extraordinary alcoholic lubrication all suffice as snapshots of the grandeur and debauchery.

I’m so glad that Papa “discovered” Pamplona.


During the Roaring Twenties, an adventurous native of Oak Park, Illinois chose a dusty Spanish market town and its unknown local religious festival as the setting for a novel that made him famous. He was Ernest Hemingway, and his book was “The Sun Also Rises.”

In it, Hemingway offered an enduring behavioral framework for self-aware but intelligent Anglo expatriates. At his San Fermin, foreigners respectful of local color and tradition are contrasted with others who’ve cross the sea for all the wrong reasons, unable to grasp why Pamplona is not Peoria.

Hemingway also established drinking norms for several generations of travelers. Imagine the effect on contemporary readers encumbered by the orthodoxies of Prohibition-era America to read about incessant aperitifs, teeming sidewalk cafes and sweaty pitchers of cool lager beer in the hot Iberian sun.

Eight decades after the novel’s publication and a half-century following Hemingway’s death, San Fermin remains intact, affording the opportunity to walk, talk and drink like Papa.

And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.


As Hemingway undoubtedly would agree, the greatest two minutes in sports do not take place at Churchill Downs each May.

Each morning during San Fermin, muscular beasts and eager humans take to the streets of Pamplona to memorialize the death of the festival's namesake patron saint. The ritual is known as the "Running of the Bulls," as the six bulls scheduled to appear in the coming evening's bullfight (along with six heifers) are released into narrow, barricaded streets and driven 900 meters -- a little more than half a mile -- to the bull ring.

In the path of these bulls are thousands of thrill-seeking festival-goers, roughly divided into two groups.

A tiny minority of sober true believers makes the run each morning in quasi-mystical ecstasy, metaphorically reliving the primitive fears and urges buried in mankind’s collective subconscious, and now brought jarringly to the surface. These native purists and foreign aficionados genuinely want to run WITH the bulls -- to run near them, just ahead of the powerful animals, or alongside them.

Most other “runners” quite frankly are unconscious, having been consumed, digested and expelled by the singular intensity and alcoholic promiscuity of a festival that never sleeps. They desire nothing more than to tell their friends that they "ran with the bulls," and as accommodation, masses of humanity are advanced to starting positions near the end of the course, permitting most to jog a few drunken yards into the bull ring, declare victory, and begin drinking all over again.

At 8:00 a.m. a rocket explodes, signaling the release of the bulls from their pens. A second rocket indicates that all of them are out and running, driven by expert native runners who wield canes and use them -- not on the bulls, but to lash humans who attempt to create problems that might lead to the animals becoming separated.

This is important, because as long as the bulls stay together, chances are the only injuries will come as a result of humans falling over each other. But if a bull becomes separated from his brothers, he becomes annoyed and may begin flicking his massive head, ramming, goring and tossing people across the street with relative ease.

Indeed, someone is killed every now and then, and yet running with the bulls is surely less dangerous than bicycling in New Albany, where know-nothings texting, eating Rallyburgers and applying lipstick while simultaneously failing to properly navigate a vehicle prove far more deadly than a half-ton of rampaging meat on the hoof .

The run ends inside the bull ring, where the bulls are driven into their pens. A crowd of triumphant “runners” awaits charging heifers, their horns padded, which are sent into the ring to wreak havoc among the drunkards. Meanwhile, the true aficionados are absent, having already adjourned to bars like the Txoko on the Plaza de Castillo for post-run champagne and lengthy analysis.

Me? I’ve never run with the bulls, and neither did Hemingway, or so I’m told. There are three very good reasons why I haven’t done it.

First, I’d surely spill my drink, and that’s blasphemy.

Second, I couldn’t run 900 meters drunk, sober or anywhere in between.

Third, I’m a coward.

I’ve no idea what Papa’s excuses were, but in his stead again this year, I’ll spend a week in July remembering the good times and wonderful people in Pamplona, all the while craving a bowl of fresh toro stew, a glass of addictive Pacheran liqueur, and a sizeable stogie, one recommended for smoking during that special bull run voyeur's afterglow.


Recent columns:

June 18: ON THE AVENUES: These 10 definitions will help you speak local politics like a native.

June 11: ON THE AVENUES: This is Dan Coffey, New Albany’s quintessential Democrat.

June 4: ON THE AVENUES: Dan Coffey speaks for Jeff Gahan and the Democratic Party … unless they say otherwise.

May 28: ON THE AVENUES: The last of the summer beer.

May 21: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: "I Just Want to Know, Can I Park Here Somewhere?”

May 14: ON THE AVENUES: Take this cult of personality and shove it.

Adam cringes: "What If We Reinvented Civic Infrastructure Around Placemaking?"

Think about the massively expensive "places" recently created by municipal government in New Albany: Bicentennial Park, River Run Family Water Park, Silver Street Park and the coming "upscale" apartments on the Coyle site.

Then think about the ongoing reign of the slumlord and the city's unwillingness to tackle sub-standard housing, the counter-productivity of one-way arterial streets and the incestuous non-transparency of city officials and Democratic Party functionaries.

The following article deals with placemaking, itself a notion as intimately familiar to Team Gahan's TIF ONE credit card drones as Mandarin Chinese is to your house pets. Think about the "fractured, siloed structure of contemporary government" not just as it pertains to placemaking failure, but to all of local government's activities.

Just think about it. Gahan, Dickey, Duggins -- they don't want you to think. That's the single best reason to do it.

Just an excerpt below.


Toward Place Governance: What If We Reinvented Civic Infrastructure Around Placemaking?, by Ethan Kent (PPS.org)

Refocusing Governance to Support Public Spaces

As we have experienced in all of these contexts, Placemaking identifies and draws out local leadership, partners and resources on all levels of community and government. When we ask: “What if a central focus of governance became the building of successful places?” there is general comfort and energy to make that happen–to work together in new ways.

The fractured, siloed structure of contemporary government, with its myriad departments and bureaucratic processes, often directly impedes the creation of successful public spaces. Transportation departments view their mission as moving traffic; parks departments are there to create and manage open green space; community development agencies are focused on development of projects, not the spaces in between them or the organic opportunities that arise from social interactions within them.

The Placemaking approach builds on the ability of place-based institutions to create great community places that bring people together and reflect community values and needs. In cities where Placemaking has taken hold, local government is often not directly involved in implementation, but relies on more localized community development organizations, business improvement districts, and/or neighborhood partnerships to take the lead in making community change happen.

How would moving toward a place-centered governance shift the effectiveness of government’s ability to work across departments and with the communities it is meant to serve?

If the ultimate goal of governance, public institutions, and development is to make places thrive, then governance culture and processes need to change to reflect that goal. Place certainly does not represent all of the public good and value in a community, but place as an organizing focus can best help that value be preserved, shared and leveraged.

A focus on place supports a culture of leadership to emerge from all levels, inside and outside of government. A Placemaking culture challenges everyone to compete to contribute to shared value. Bad ideas and privatizing forces are adeptly kept in check or pushed out. The open governance process and culture, enabled by a shared focus on place, is more accessible to all, and more compatible with constructive participation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

$$$ hologram improvement project in New Albany receives bond, Dan and Adam approval.

豆贝尔维 克斯 吾艾 贼德

(Apologies to Daniel Suddeath, whose article about the Coyle site development is here)

NEW ALBANY — Chinese hologram manufacturer Guangzhou Swansong Electronics Co., Ltd. will be allowed to pay “back” up to $4.9 million for a 190,000-wavefront, security-encrypted, completely personalized mayoral re-election image generator with tax-increment financing funds based on a bond issuance approved initially by the New Albany Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday.

According to New Albany Oh So Common Council member Dan Coffey, the bond debt neither will have to be approved by the legislative body, nor reviewed at the redevelopment commission, because since all requisite prayers already have been offered, it would be insulting to both mayor and God to keep gabbing about something that’s already been decided.

“Everything is here. We’ve just got to move forward,” Coffey said.

“Obviously, any kind of talk about a bond issuance for mayoral holograms, you want to know about what kind of illusion it’s going to perpetuate for the bedazzlement of the sheep,” said redevelopment member and Democratic Party chairman Adam Dickey before detailing some of the potential benefits of the upgraded, true-to-life computer imagery, which imbues the mayor with almost human qualities.

The hologram is expected to have a $30 million impact on New Albany over the first five years of the development, and create more than 100 high-paying tech jobs in that time frame.

“This new and modern mimicry addresses New Albany’s long-time need for additional Jeff Gahans downtown,” Mayor Jeff Gahan stated in a news release after the meeting. “Our focus on the business of convincingly reproducing me will maintain my momentum for historic urban core growth in New Albany as it pertains to my ability to not be unduly inconvenienced by meetings, christenings and plaque dedications.”

The city has agreed to provide $500,000 in work and planning for the hologram. The hangar-sized warehouse necessary for the computerized equipment and slide projectors has also garnered a state tax credit worth up to $3.3 million.

The size of the hologram has grown, as the number of Gahans needed to read press releases has increased from 157 to 190. Guangzhou Swansong is expected to purchase additional property, including a neglected rental property nearby that was found to have a deadbeat owner who hadn’t maintained his direct debit payments to the Democratic Central Committee.

The $4.9 million bond would include the cost of haberdashers, financial advisers, makeup artists, bond counsel and other fees associated with the loan. The city will not pay additional funding for the hologram, but will allow the TIF revenue generated to be used by Guangzhou Swansong to pay back the debt.

David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, labeled the issuance a “boilerplate” bond note for re-election campaign expenses. The life of the bond is 20 years, and the city will be required to reserve debt service for the loan long after Gahan is soundly defeated in his coming attempt to oust Ron Grooms from the Indiana State Senate.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, Duggins said the city’s TIF districts “are in excellent ideological shape,” with not a single acre allowed to sport Republican yard signs before May’s primary election.

The city took on an 18-year bond issuance worth $19.6 million to construct River Run Family Water Park, Silver Street Park, and to make improvements to Binford Park. The new family of Gahan action figure holograms will be geared toward individuals drinking $500 of Kool-Aid annually, and will include soothing phrases, registered clichés and fundamentally more terrifying clarity.

Coffey, who is a member of the redevelopment commission, noted his close personal friendship with “my homie” Franklin Graham before saying that the Gahan holograms will help the city attract more residents who know the words to Barry Manilow’s “It’s a Miracle” by heart.

Coffey added that many more re-election expenditures solely designed to take advantage of his longtime mentor’s role to Gahan are sorely needed.

Trees 3: "Melbourne’s city council plans to strategically increase the proportion of the city shaded by trees."

Trees 1
Trees 2

Melbourne's city council is acting aggressively to augment its urban canopy.

New Albany's city council? It has spent the better part of six weeks arguing about the proper form of prayer for government meetings.

Meanwhile, the trees keep being cut to make room for the usual re-election enhancement projects.

Is it really possible that we're this stupid, or is it the water? Since every felled tree typically is classified as "diseased," it must be the liquid -- with added Kool-Aid.

The Best Ways to Throw Shade ... Just in time for summer: three smart ways cities, and the people who live in them, deflect the sun’s rays, by Jessica Leigh Hester (City Lab)

On really hot afternoons in crowded cities, the pavement seems to sweat and sizzle. As the sun beats down on tarry roads, the asphalt sometimes feels like it’s singeing your shoes and licking at your ankles.

Chalk that up, in part, to the urban heat island effect. Dense cities, packed with steel, cement, and glass, retain more heat than rural areas. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that cities with more than 1 million residents can have an annual mean air temperature nearly six degrees warmer than surrounding areas. On a given evening, that difference can be as much as 22 degrees.

Here are three smart ways that cities—and the people who live in them—can deflect the rays.

Trees 2: "Without intervention, only 21 percent of Louisville could be covered by canopy in the future."

Trees 1
Trees 3

New Albany announces a project, usually already formulated in whole by the time the press release goes out. There may or may not be input from the public.

No one knows what's about to happen, and those who ask are scolded for not attending insider board meetings held at times when most people work.

Chain saws rev, trees fall, and when complaints are made, it's always the same answer: The trees were diseased, and the tree board approved their demise.

There isn't an iota of transparency to any of it, and this simply has to change. Louisville may be headed down the right path, and the model here looks possible for us. But we must want it first.

Tree Commission Draft Ordinance Would Change the Way Louisville Manages Trees, by Erica Peterson (WFPL)

The Louisville Metro Tree Commission holds its final meeting this evening and is expected to vote on a draft ordinance that could create a new tree commission and new city policies for tree management.

Louisville’s urban canopy is declining due to age, storms, pests and development. A recent inventory of the canopy found that the city is losing 54,000 trees a year, and without intervention, only 21 percent of Louisville could be covered by canopy in the future.

Trees 1: "Thomas Street now looks like a war zone, devoid of life, beauty, and charm."

Still more Rosenbarger deforestation.

Part 2
Part 3

That's right: It's deja vu all over again.

Over the weekend, a conversation started at the Facebook group called New Albany Indiana, which is an excellent portal for local news and events.

A few neighbors who live on or near Thomas Street are upset because trees were cut down as part of the sidewalk replacement project there, and (stop me if you've heard THIS one before) they received neither forewarning nor an opportunity to offer an opinion on the topic.

And some of them are steamed. If for any reason you cannot view the page, here is a sampling of the comments. In fact, one of them composed and shared a "jeer" for the newspaper.

a JEER to the city of New Albany (or whoever is responsible) -

Thomas Street now looks like a war zone, devoid of life, beauty, and charm. Thank you (NOT!) for cutting down all of our trees. Some trees have been taken care of meticulously by their owners - beautiful, Bradford pear trees. Trees where the owners always had them trimmed. Trees that just had $600 spent on them a few months ago for trimming. Trees that are now pulverized.

Trees that are good for us, good for the environment, added shade, added beauty, added value to our homes and our neighborhood.

This was totally NOT necessary. This neighborhood is upset.

Cue the annoyed, as follows.

  • Why did they cut down the trees
  • Good question.....
  • They were NOT all diseased ... our neighbors had planted beautiful pear trees along the side of their house (corner of Culbertson and Thomas) - they FAITHFULLY had them trimmed and kept them beautiful!!! In fact, just a couple of months ago they paid out $600 for them to be trimmed (which they did every year). They were NOT diseased. Our neighborhood looks TERRIBLE now!!!! Thomas Street used to look like a beautiful lane with the trees. Now it looks like a war zone.!!!!
  • New Sidewalks were put in on our other streets and few to no trees were cut down. Getting new sidewalks is a lousy excuse. I have lived here for 30 years and it looks TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!!! I am so glad someone put this on here, because I have been prepared to write a letter to the Tribune and put a call into the Mayor's office. This is one, VERY unhappy New Albany resident. We NEEDED those trees. They are good for the environment. They are good for our home values. They added beauty to this ugly, cruel world of ours. I. AM. NOT. HAPPY.!!!!!
  • Oh, and just one MORE thing - when the sidewalks were being put in earlier, the jack hammers were so loud and so hard, it literally shook our houses - and caused new cracks in our neighbor's house!!! This may not be one of the ritzy, hotsy-totsy neighborhoods, but we have VERY nice older homes with an abundance of character (how many of YOU have seven stained glass windows, cedar lined window seats, beveled glass in your windows and mirrors, a built-in Belknap ice box in your kitchen)....but we take pride in our neighborhood and we have the BEST neighbors!!!
  • Same thing happened on Main Street - 72 trees (my count) were cut down in order to make New Albany a more 'walkable' city. Maybe it's just me but I like my walk in the shade of those beautiful trees. I'll vote for the neighbor's cat before I vote for Gahan.
  • (I gently rebutted the preceding: "Let's be emphatic: the Main Street project was about beautification (according to a solitary top-down $$$ definition) and not about walkability. Street trees are an essential component of walkability. Love it or hate it, the notion of walkability is about infrastructure design, not beautification."
  • New Albany took a third of my front yard to widen the road and put sidewalks in. Crime is up, traffic of school buses all day long (choking us to death when on front porch) and the sidewalks look like maybe they got ripped off by a low ball bidder, and last but not least, they tore up my driveway and never repaired it. My driveway is now washing away and will cost me thousands to get it redone. New Albany also fined us $250 for having our trash sitting too close to our privacy fence. They said it was a fire hazard. Yes, New Albany loves their tax payers. I can tell.
  • This also happened to the beautiful shade trees in front of the National Cemetery on Ekin. I was also told they were diseased trees....ridiculous!!!!
  • Many of them were beautiful and well maintained. Now, this street - which needs all the help it can get- looks plain U.G.L.Y. and very non-inviting.
  • Dead trees are one thing. Diseased trees fall within the same category. Beautiful trees that are serving many purposes, all positive, ....quite another. Seems as if someone decided that this was blighted property.

If Jeff Gahan allergic to transparency?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pocket veto council Ninja.

For Pete's sake, couldn't someone just ASK Mike Hall why he didn't sign the financial information ordinance -- I mean, he probably just forgot, right?

New Albany City Council votes down mayoral veto, by Daniel Suddeath (Otisco Today)

NEW ALBANY — Mayor Jeff Gahan failed to sign an ordinance calling for certain financial information be provided to the New Albany City Council at the last meeting of each month.

In response, the council voted unanimously Thursday to again approve the measure, and thus overrode the pocket veto of Gahan. A pocket veto occurs when an executive takes no action on a bill as opposed to an outright veto of the measure.

Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti sponsored the ordinance, which was passed 9-0 on final reading during the May 21 meeting. Gahan hasn’t provided a reason for the veto.

The ordinance calls for financial records such as bank reconciliation statements, budget to actual expenses, and cash balances to be submitted to the council by its final monthly meeting, which is held on the third Thursday of each month.

Benedetti said she checked with the City Clerk’s office multiple times before reintroducing the measure, and said Gahan had not signed the ordinance.

Look, it's another new municipal logo -- we're walkable now!

Because making this place walkable might require lifting a pinky every now and then.

How many people will be tripped by this pipe before the city quits making excuses and fixes it?

New Albany's new slogan: "Truck Through City" ... Part 93: Bored of Works approves monster truck jamboree for any street where the bored don't already live.

I'm working on a new logo for the Bored of Works. More about that in a bit, though first, here's the gist.

Let's get our weekly trucking porn a-rollin' down those urban interstates.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How many people will be tripped by this pipe before the city quits making excuses and fixes it?

On July 19, 2014, these three images were published at NA Confidential under this heading: File under: Attention to detail.

Then and now, the metal pipe collar pictured above, located in the center of the sidewalk between Regalo and Bella Roma, protrudes an inch or so from the paving stones. It's plenty enough to be a trip hazard for a walker, a fact readily grasped by someone's decision last year to temporarily cover the collar with an orange pylon.

Unfortunately, this isn't be any stretch the only such booby trap hereabouts.

For instance, at the southeast corner of 10th and Elm, roughly two inches of an old, sheared-off signpost protrudes above the level of the sidewalk -- just a block away from S. Ellen Jones School, where until recently flashing red lights had been burned out for months, and immediately adjacent to a busy intersection on a one-way arterial street, with one faded crosswalk to delineate four potential crossing points.

10th and Elm: Another failure-by-design for walkability.

Such is New Albany's stellar daily commitment to walkability. Attention to detail -- you know, the small things -- isn't what you get when the people in charge never actually walk, or ride a bicycle, or take seriously the preconditions for a plan like Jeff Speck's.

Back to the metal collar sticking out of the sidewalk between Bella Roma and Regalo.

My reason for posting the photos on July 19, 2014, was because someone had tripped, fallen down, and been injured. According to a friend of a friend, there were two replies when this was brought to the attention of city officials:

"There's nothing we can do" and "notify the storefront."

But the city owns the sidewalks, right?

These answers from last summer curiously echo the Bored of Works' yawning dismissal of new downtown handicapped parking spots as utterly impossible and absolutely unprecedented in spite of dozens of them already scattered throughout the city.

"It's not an option," ruled the bored political appointees, in what might henceforth be known as the Gahan Cop-Out Doctrine.

It's been almost a year, and yesterday Al Knable had something interesting to say at his Fb campaign page. Uncanny similarities, wouldn't you say?

I wonder what degree of injury and prowess of attorney will be required to fix something so very small, yet so hugely metaphorical?

Take it away, Al.


Sometimes it's the small things:

I had a great breakfast downtown with a couple of the kids this morning. Afterwards I ran into the owner of one of New Albany's many nice restaurants. Small talk for a minute and then I asked if there was anything the City could do to help make his life easier.

An interesting discussion followed.

It turns out that he shares many of the same opinions and concerns I hear repeatedly.
Two we expounded upon: 1) New Albany needs to be cleaner and 2) its citizens deserve more approachable, and responsive local government.
Case in point:

Our restaurateur shared with me his odyssey concerning the below pictured utility pipe/cap that sticks out about 1/2" above the surrounding sidewalk. A pedestrian hazard for sure, a personal injury attorney's dream perhaps.

He told me he's brought this to the attention of city officials numerous times- both before and after an elderly patron recently tripped on it bloodying her knees.

Months have passed. Yet it remains.

He has been told it is simply a cap to a non-functioning pipe. It remains.

He reported it again recently (after he, himself tripped over it) this time with another local business owner in tow. It's still there.

He has been told by three different officials that it is someone else's responsibility. No explanation for why it cannot be removed has been given.

Where does the buck stop? (Where does it start around these parts?)

It would take less than an hour's work to fix. The pipe abides.

It's a small thing- until someone falls and breaks their teeth off- but important. It's representative of one way that I believe life in New Albany can be improved via more responsive and responsible government.

As for overall cleanliness- harder to resolve. We need to instill a sense of pride back into our community. We need to each do our part but the tone has to be set by our local officials.

More on this general issue as the campaign continues but I'll leave you with two additional photographs.

Please study the images of downtown Columbus, IN and our New Albany below.

Where would you rather open your business? Shop? Live?

We can do better.

Working together we will!

Clean Columbus, IN sidewalks. Yes! That is a downtown, two-way street in the background running by City Hall.

A recent view across the street from our City-County Building. The weeds seem to be winning.

"American conservatives aren’t necessarily racists, but they are invariably anti-anti-racist."

Ironically, only moments before viewing this article, I was making a point to a friend as to why the city of New Albany typically refuses to do very much about the physical infrastructure of "domestic" disturbances, particularly as they occur (a) in rental properties, and (b) outside the geographical and socio-economic vicinity where such matters typically (and cynically) are "expected" to occur, and are planned for accordingly.

Now, there exist various mechanisms which might be deployed by functionaries to turn up the heat on the property owner, but in my experience, these are only sporadically referenced. Political will is virtually non-existent, as you already know. Your issues cannot possibly exist in this shining city on the hill (or, in the flood plain).

In short, any elected official capable of convincing himself that an incessantly chanted mantra of "fundamentally better" describes a city where one's own two eyes persist in returning a different verdict probably is inclined to exist in a perpetual state of denial.

If this place is wonderful, then by definition, there can be no unresolved problems. It follows that those who continue to point to the unresolved problems must be doing so from malice and spite. In short, in the current climate of make-believe, my friend's complaints are likely to be construed as direct attacks on the mayor of the city, whose campaign platform is restricted entirely to this:

"These nice things I bought for you using your credit card are proof that we are fundamentally better and simply must go swimming while consuming more ice cream and cookies."

Meanwhile, there is the tendency of conservatives to be "anti-anti-racist." The preceding example has almost nothing to do with racism, as does the article referenced here. However, I'd argue that there is a linkage in the sense of cognitive dissonance, and methods of rationalizing it. Feel free to disagree, as we're still supposedly allowed to do so, at least until the guns come out.

National Review Magazine's Racism Denial, Then and Now, by Jeet Heer (New Republic)

... This unwillingness to admit a racist motive for the Charleston killings has a deeply political motive, for doing so would mean admitting that racism is a real, ongoing problem in American society—one that requires policies to counteract it.

American conservatives aren’t necessarily racists, but they are invariably anti-anti-racist. The creed of anti-anti-racism goes something like this: racism was a problem in the past, but no longer is a serious issue; the chief barrier for non-whites to advance in American society is their own behavior; attempts to remedy racism, such as affirmative action, are themselves a form of racism. For the anti-anti-racist, the very word “racism” has a strange, talismanic power. To utter the word “racism” is to create racism, which otherwise does not exist in the wonderful meritocracy that is America.

Phipps: City council has not been asked for more money; therefore, River Run Family Water Park is not over budget.

In response to this post ...

... 3rd district councilman Greg Phipps offers this reply.

If it had gone over budget, the council would have been asked to approve additional appropriations. To date, we have not received such a request.

Thanks to the councilman for this reply via Facebook. Not all city officials are willing to communicate in a fashion convenient for constituents, hence yesterday's post:

For information on the city's newest economic development generator, go here:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

How does Jeff Gahan score using these "5 Best Practices for Open Local Government"?

"Open government"?

"Culture of transparency"?


Deep within the bowels of the mayor's down-low bunker, they'd be laughing at these open government practices, emanating three or more years ago from the state of Utah.

But they're not giggling, because they're entirely unaware that notions like these even exist -- and that's why they need to be sent packing.

Photo credit: The article.

5 Best Practices for Open Local Government, by Noelle Knell (Government Technology; April 6, 2012)

1. Local governments should establish a dedicated open government webpage, providing a searchable repository for all public information, accessible in three clicks or less.

2. Online information needs to be collected, generated and maintained in a digital form and made available on the open government webpage in a timely way.

3. All electronic communications made with government supplied equipment, including emails and instant messages, should be considered public records.

4. Elected officials and senior administrators should post their schedules publicly, maintain open settings on social networking sites and commit to a culture of transparency.

5. Governmental bodies should make all public meetings as open as possible by posting agendas and meeting materials in advance, streaming live meeting audio or video, posting recordings within 48 hours and allowing remote participation.

George Carlin, or a temporary antidote to the thoroughly depressing week that was.

By Friday afternoon, I'd just about had it with the humanoids occupying this continent. Fortuitously, I caught a Facebook posting by my friend BM, pointing to a collection of video clips by the late George Carlin.

I sat on the porch with my iPhone, beer in hand, and watched the clips, one after the other. It would be an understatement for the ages to refer to the experience as cathartic.

Curmudgeons unite: I laughed until I cried. It may not work for you, but verily, I needed that.

Remembering George Carlin’s Most Important Jokes, by Johnny Sugar (Uproxx)

George Carlin would have been 78 years old (May 12), and this seems like a great time to look back on some of his best routines. He was a revolutionary comic whose sharp critiques of censorship and organized religion have influenced political and comedic thought for decades. He targeted the orthodoxy and the establishment, always with remarkable success. These Carlin routines showcase him at his best …

Rachel Dolezal and minstrelsy ... or, the thoroughly depressing week that was, Part 4.

Ten years ago, I finished an informative book, and wrote these words in this space.

My friend Jon gifted me with “Where Dead Voices Gather,” by Nick Tosches, whom I consider one of the finest American writers of our time. Tosches specializes in biographical portraits of entertainers (Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin) and doomed outcasts (Sonny Liston), and he also writes novels.

In “Where Dead Voices Gather,” Tosches manages to top his own lofty standard, basing an entire volume of compelling historical, musical and cultural testimony around the almost completely undocumented life of one Emmett Miller, a stalwart of blackface minstrelsy in the 1920’s. As in all his non-fiction works, Tosches does not fail to address the simultaneously disturbing and exhilarating essence of what it means to be an American.

At some point on television last week, now perhaps almost quaint and nearly forgotten amid various other vile outrages occurring shortly afterward, Rachel Dolezal made a point.

"I don't put on blackface as a performance," Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane, Washington, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told interviewer Matt Lauer. "I identify as black," she said.

The history of minstrelsy in America may or may not be relevant to any of this, but as a white male desperately trying to parse the nuance produced by the Dolezal case, notions of masks and disguises seem plausible in part. For a balanced overview of the genre, a History of Minstrelsy exhibition at the University of South Florida library looks very solid, indeed.

Also, earlier in the week that was, local free-lance writer and activist Erica Rucker pointed to this article.

Black Like Her, by Jelani Cobb (New Yorker)

I pass it along, unsure whether it matters at all. There was Dolezal unfinished, then the church shooting -- horrifying.

The past week was depressing and also frustrating, because I don't like the feeling that comes with the realization of knowing so very little about the whys and wherefores of our community, assuming it is even proper to continue viewing it as a community.

All that's clear to me is that I have a lot to learn.

Anti-intellectualism AND self-centeredness ... or, the thoroughly depressing week that was, Part 3.

Is there any compelling reason why they both can't be killing America, simultaneously?

Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America: Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason, by David Niose

... In considering the senseless loss of nine lives in Charleston, of course racism jumps out as the main issue. But isn’t ignorance at the root of racism? And it’s true that the bloodshed is a reflection of America's violent, gun-crazed culture, but it is only our aversion to reason as a society that has allowed violence to define the culture. Rational public policy, including policies that allow reasonable restraints on gun access, simply isn't possible without an informed, engaged, and rationally thinking public.

The bookend essay at Psychology Today isn't so much counterpoint as piling on.

No, Self-centeredness is Killing America: A lack of empathy is at the root of our ills, by Ravi Chandra M.D.

David Niose rightly points out one problem in America: anti-intellectualism and the abandonment of critical thinking in certain sectors of society. However, I think this is simply a spoke on the deeper, more central issue that is at the hub of why we hate, are polarized and sometimes kill in the name of our beliefs. We are very, very self-centered and therefore we believe our own snuff.

Mutchler's letter ... or, the thoroughly depressing week that was, Part 2.

In these numbingly stupid times, it's no longer possible to differentiate between fact and The Onion. In fact, The Onion is probably more factual than many alleged news sources.

But there was nothing Onion-like about Thursday's "open letter" from Dave Mutchler, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Louisville.

I write not as a candidate, just as an ordinary citizen engaged for many years in the pursuit of small business -- and moreover, as someone who tries to live by the rules of the game and tries his best to know why we have these rules, and what they mean.

I know plenty of policemen, and do my best to support the cop on the street. Always have, always will, and yet Mutchler's words were absolutely blood-curdling for anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to the outside world.

"Sensationalist, liars and race-baiters" sounds plainly like rhetoric pulled directly from the worst chapters of 20th-century history books -- you know, the ones we typically refuse to read -- as uttered by people in Mutchler's position in places like Franco's Spain, the Uganda of Idi Amin, or in East Germany.

And let me tell you that having traveled in Communist countries, policemen were feared, precisely because the definition of who constituted a "lawless element" was subject to change on whim.

At Insider Louisville, Joe Dunman offers his usual precision take.

Opinion: In a free society we are entitled, right or wrong, to criticize the actions of public servants — including police.

 ... Mutchler’s letter is so dangerous because police officers wield tremendous power and privilege. Our life and liberty as citizens are often literally in their hands. When someone claiming to represent police officers puts citizens “on notice” for their “attitude,” promising to meet them “with force” should they dare not comply with orders, it invokes the most terrifying aspects of a fascist police state.

Police are public servants. They answer to all of us as citizens, even those who don’t reflexively defend their every action. They don’t get to decide who in the community they will protect and who they will target for retribution. That’s not how a democratic, constitutional society works.

I assume by criticizing Mutchler’s ill-conceived threats to the public I will be added to his list of “sensationalists, liars, and race-baiters.”

So be it. In a free society we are entitled, right or wrong, to criticize the actions of our public servants without fear of retribution by agents of the government. Those public servants swear an oath to the Constitution, which still includes, much to Mr. Mutchler’s apparent disdain, the First Amendment.

Of course, Mutchler's subsequent denial of a threatening tone to the words he chose to use testifies more than anything else to several generations of Americans passing through the portals of our education system without instruction as to the meaning of words and how to write them coherently.

The letter was so disturbing that even the milquetoast Courier Journal was moved to rare editorial eloquence.

Editorial | Don’t let Mutchler inflame tensions (The Courier-Journal)

 ... Then, we had to spend a day trying to make sense of the uncivil and unproductive letter from Fraternal Order of Police president Dave Mutchler.

Knowing that our own words are often misinterpreted or misunderstood, we read and re-read his comments. We tried walking a mile in the shoes of an obviously frustrated FOP president. But those shoes kept getting mired in one of the key byproducts of the backside at Churchill Downs.

There are times when we're looking for answers, and while the right answer may be elusive, we can at least eliminate the wrong ones. Mutchler's letter was just such a wrong answer, and that's the best I can do at the moment.

Following are two other explanatory links.

Local FOP president sends threatening open letter to ‘sensationalists, liars and race-baiters’ (UPDATED), by Joe Sonka (Insider Louisville)

Mayor and police chief issue condemnation of FOP president, by Joe Sonka (IL)

Charleston and the Confederacy ... or, the thoroughly depressing week that was, Part 1.

Once again, in the absence of any shared commitment to historical truth, we turn to a comedian to provide critical insight.

I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist. And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack shit. Yeah. That’s us.

Meanwhile, sorry if it hurts your feelings, but the Confederacy was all about racism, folks. History just shouldn't be an elective.

What the Confederate flag really means to America today, according to a race historian, by Roberto A. Ferdman (Washington Post)

 ... But I also think that people invoke the flag because they want to endorse on some level, even if secretly or subconsciously, the very rationale for the Confederacy. When people say 'heritage not hate,’ they are omitting the obvious, which is that that heritage is hate. When someone says it’s about history, well, that particular history is inseparable from hate, because it is about hate. It’s about racism, and it’s about slavery.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Gone fishing.

Not really.

Fishing holds no great appeal to me, although eating fish can be pleasant enough, so you catch 'em, and I'll bring the beer. Find a third, and maybe he or she can produce cole slaw.

Speaking of beer, yesterday was the deadline for my quarterly submission to Food & Dining Magazine.

The day started at Gordon Biersch in Louisville. Next came the usual writing, rewriting and re-rewriting of the article itself, and then a mug of Marzen from the Gordon Biersch growler as reward for finishing. It paired nicely with homecooked tacos for dinner.

Friends of the missus made an unexpected appearance, so we made more tacos. Additional growlers were procured. A cigar was smoked. Conversation flowed, time passed, and it was midnight. Naturally, we slept in this morning.

I'm coming to a couple of points.

One, that today I'm annoyed to have wasted an evening drinking beer when there is so much to do, this being a prime reason why I drink so much less beer than ever before.

But, who can be annoyed for long when there is a chance to stop life in its tracks for just a little while and enjoy simple pleasures with friends? No television was necessary, and for this we must be grateful.

Finally, while being spotted drinking a few beers may inflame the puritanical instincts of some observers, there is a considerable difference between such relaxation and ensuing denunciations of drunken debauchery.

After all, fermentation is a natural process. For those of a deistic bent, fermentation issues from God's handbook of earthly delights. During WWII, Winston Churchill never ceased drinking champagne for breakfast, while Adolf Hitler was a teetotaler.

My case makes itself.

Today there is work to be done. Time was squandered last night, though not really, and there'll probably be more of it to use or abuse.

My recent pattern has been an evening with beers followed by five or six without -- except, of course, on city council nights, when extreme, sodden gin-swilling alone provides the altered consciousness necessary to fathom Dan Coffey.

I'm only joking.

I think.