Monday, August 31, 2015

Dear Jeff: Can we buy an advertisment in the next Stormwater Gazette?

Fairly bland. I've re-imagined it with a bit more flair.

I mean, we DO get equal time on the campaign ads, right?

On the verge, and some trees.

It's always a challenge to determine exactly what property owners are to do and not do as it pertains to the area between sidewalk and street, which often is referred to as the road verge.

In this instance, the road verge is for parking, although in fairness, there is no verge, and the sidewalk itself isn't marked in any way,meaning a wheelchair user would be compelled to roll into a one-way arterial street to evade the blockade.

That's #GahanSafe.

In this one, it's for growing hay and stacking debris, which has been there for two weeks now.

A recent comment at NAC makes a good point .

The area between the sidewalk and the street is the property owners responsibility to maintain however when it comes to the trees it's a different philosophy. The City loves to plant trees but they do nothing as far as pruning or maintaining them once they're planted and they can't be removed without approval from the City. I prune the tree they planted in front of my house because I didn't want it in the first place and secondly it would grow into my Dogwood tree which is irreplaceable. It's a joke to talk to the "Tree Board".

Just imagine if trees were prioritized like water sports. We might achieve the restoration of our battered canopy.

Meanwhile, this is how pleasant the results can be when a property owner goes the extra mile, whether legally or otherwise. A few carrots and sticks might achieve even better.

Of course the best kept trees of all are on Main Street, where a level of care is extended that's seldom seen elsewhere.

Wait -- that's John Rosenbarger's house, isn't it?

Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

I just want to walk to the cigar shop, not compete in the Hunger Games.

Check out today's gas company carnage. They might as well have closed all of Pearl Street and staged a Jackhammer Fest.

Ever notice that Vectren's demolition contractors have a fairly low opinion of sidewalks and walkers? It seems to go beyond what they must do to complete their work, into the realm of open contempt, as here:

Autocentrism vs. ADA 101: Vectren's first thought is to block the sidewalk.

It reminds me of something I was told recently by a downtown shopkeeper. Seems the utility monopoly dug up both street and sidewalk in front of his building, explaining that part of the reason for doing so was to ensure no future inconvenience for cars, because if they ever had to do it again, only the sidewalks would be blocked, and not the traffic or parking lanes.

On mayoral forums and debates, no-show incumbents and "a spectrum of opinion."

"But the bigger the office, the more need for a public exchange of ideas. The candidate who can’t agree with that much devalues our democracy."

Jeff Gahan missed the Southern Indiana Realtors Association candidate luncheon last Thursday. I asked one of the organizers about it, and he said, "He was really hard to reach, and when we finally did, he said he'd try to make it."

File under "THEMES, recurring."

Seeing as Kevin Zurschmiede is a realtor, perhaps Gahan thought he'd be at a disadvantage. I feel much the same way about the League of Women Voters' bizarre decision to award its debate venue to Gahan's own Silver Street Park building, but it won't stop me from attending the event.

Sept. 24 "fix" at the Taj Mahal: I'd prefer a genuine debate to a staged re-enthronement, but let's do it.

I've spoken with several persons who feel that Gahan won't come to any of the upcoming forums. I persist in thinking he will. Here are the occasions as revealed to me thus far.

Building & Development Association of Southern Indiana
Thursday, September 10, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
300 Spring St, Jeffersonville, IN 47130

New Albany Housing Authority Candidate and Voting Information Session
Tuesday, September 22, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
300 Erni Avenue Gymnasium, New Albany, IN 47150

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum 
Thursday, September 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Silver Street Park, 2043 Silver Street, New Albany, IN 47150

Leadership Southern Indiana New Albany Mayoral Debate
Tue, September 29, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
New Albany High School, 1020 Vincennes Street, New Albany, IN 47150

This editorial was written in New Jersey in 2014, not New Albany, but significant portions are quite relevant to us.

N.J. incumbents must stop dodging debates: Editorial (

... the big-ticket incumbents who won’t debate their opponents -- particularly those leading in the polls who are just trying to run out the clock until Nov. 4 -- are doing their constituents a disservice.

Politics is a debate of ideas, and elections are a referendum on who best expresses those ideas, but it’s hard to compare two candidates if one guy refuses to stand still for more than a few hours.

It’s disappointing that U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is one of them. His decision to engage in only one debate against Jeffrey Bell gives credence to the assumption that they serve but one purpose: to reinforce your prior decision to vote for the blue team or red team, which is precisely the problem with our pro-wrestling-level of political discourse nowadays.

Perhaps the best way to drag incumbents out of their comfort zone is a third-party candidate who could tell the others why they’re out of touch, which isn’t beyond reason in a country that lives in a perpetual state of war, can’t feed its hungry, can’t educate its kids, and can’t bring itself to punish the Wall Streeters who bankroll the major party candidates.

You know, a spectrum of opinion. Democracy.

But Booker needs to have more than one debate with his Republican challenger. Bell is often dismissed by Democrats as dotty and irrelevant, but he has the courage to be on a ballot and he deserves to be heard. Who said so? Bill Bradley said so. He and Bell had 21 debates when they ran for Senate in 1978, and though Bell lost the vote, he scored significant points: When Bradley authored the legislation that overhauled the federal tax code – the two-bracket system -- he incorporated some of Bell’s ideas.

Those days are gone. Frontrunners have been programmed to avoid the gotcha moment, as one slip in the morning gets you pilloried during the B-block that evening on Hannity or Maddow ...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why "a great experience is priceless" is the worst answer for any city employee to give.

What does it cost the city to stage Friday evening concerts at a venue that wasn't built to host them?

Surely somewhere these raw numbers exist: Production Simple does the booking and staging, city workers block the street, prepare the grounds and clean up, police officers act as security, and of course, there are sponsorships, and these defray at least some of the costs, right?

Shouldn't this information be part of the public record?

I asked.

The quick response came not from Shane Gibson, but Chris Gardner: "A great experience is priceless."

Think about that.

Chris Gardner is the city of New Albany's director of flood control. He has a degree in business management (IU Southeast; 2010), used to work at a veneer plant, and is married to the mayor's daughter. These facts are matters of public record, and if subject to review by the most disinterested of space aliens armed with theories of impartiality and a recent dictionary, there'd almost inevitably arise at least some reference to the concept of nepotism.

Perhaps Jeff Gahan's exaggerated fluke of a vote total in 2011 blinded him to the implications of the word "nepotism", or maybe he didn't know what it meant in the first place. I doubt he cares, but even if the director of flood control weren't an otherwise unqualified son-in-law, and even if he were just another unqualified city political patronage employee, can this or any other mayor countenance a taxpayer inquiry being greeted with this?

"A great experience is priceless."

Perhaps Gardner's sequestration down by the river, where few people actually live, has caused Gardner to overlook the plain fact that lots of folks living hereabouts are not enjoying a great experience, because the reality of income inequality is that they cannot afford a frat boy's nonchalance, either in terms of attitude or disposable income. 

What's more, not many of them are in a position to enjoy the bread, circuses and musical events being staged for their benefit. They're working multiple jobs, juggling parental duties and just scraping through. They're struggling with finding and keeping affordable housing. Whether we care to admit it or not, most of us are far closer to poverty than we'll ever be to the lofty ease of the 1%, and we'd be advised to remember how quickly any of us could fall through the patchwork safety net, which Republicans keep trying to dismantle. 

Shouldn't Democrats be more concerned with maintaining a functional, level playing field than pretending to be Walt Disney?

Seriously, how many of us shrug and spend money without looking at the price?

Let's say I come home with a brand new car, run inside the house, get Diana and say, "Look at the nice shiny thing I bought for you."

Is anyone outside of the 1% NOT going to ask me how much it cost, to demand an explanation, to point out that we already owe far more than we make, and can we really afford it?

New Albanians should do the same. Experiences may indeed be priceless, but creditors are notoriously inconvenient when it comes to seeing the transaction in a different light. When Jeff Gahan's minions brag to you about their nice shiny objects, don't forget to ask them how much they cost ... and how do we pay for them ... and how many years will we be paying?

You'd ask these same questions when making your household purchases, wouldn't you?

Some day those objects won't be quite as shiny -- and your grandchildren will still be paying for them. That's neither great nor priceless, is it?

Taibbi feels the Bern: "An elected government should occasionally step in and offer an objection or two toward our progress to undisguised oligarchy."

This one from Matt Taibbi was posted on April 29, 2015, and I've underlined a passage which echoes something we've been saying locally:

Why do we accept the entire governmental structure becoming oriented toward monetizing and dispensing financial favors to the business and construction elites, at the expense of a level playing field for ordinary people?

This is why I'll trudge down to Tuesday's BZA meeting and denounce cynical trickle-down corporate welfare yet again, even as the Dugginses and Gibsons of the ruling elite chortle from the back row at the temerity of anyone daring to question their wheel-greasing boilerplate.

Flaherty Collins rubber stamp for the Coyle site to be hastened by the Board of Zoning Appeals this Tuesday night.

I'd never even consider placing myself in the same league with Bernie Sanders, but this much we have in common: There'll be no oligarchy appeasement here.

Give 'Em Hell, Bernie: Bernie Sanders is more serious than you think, by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)

 ... That saltiness, I'm almost sure of it, is what drove him into this race. He just can't sit by and watch the things that go on, go on. That's not who he is.

When I first met Bernie Sanders, I'd just spent over a decade living in formerly communist Russia. The word "socialist" therefore had highly negative connotations for me, to the point where I didn't even like to say it out loud.

But Bernie Sanders is not Bukharin or Trotsky. His concept of "Democratic Socialism" as I've come to understand it over the years is that an elected government should occasionally step in and offer an objection or two toward our progress to undisguised oligarchy. Or, as in the case of not giving tax breaks to companies who move factories overseas, our government should at least not finance the disappearance of the middle class.

Maybe that does qualify as radical and unserious politics in our day and age. If that's the case, we should at least admit how much trouble we're in.

A sidewalk etiquette primer, and Roger's first rule: Get that bicycle off the sidewalk, adult.

No walking on this crappy sidewalk. Thank you, BOW.

If you publicly proclaim the position that two-way streets are not needed in New Albany because it's already a bike-friendly place, and if every time I see you on a bike, you're riding on the sidewalk, and often riding on the Spring Street sidewalk with a bike lane ten feet away, then we probably cannot communicate as adults ... because you're not behaving as one.

If it has wheels and can go as fast as a bike, you are probably terrorizing other people on the sidewalk—best to ride in the fast lane and take the bike lane instead.

If you say that there are no people there to terrorize, we've entered the realm of chicken v. egg. Grow up, and get a clue.

Otherwise, even I'll admit that New Albany's culture of walkability remains as far down the scale of down-low as Jeff Gahan's personal appearance aptitude. That said, here are a few helpful hints on sidewalk etiquette.

I've edited them to bullet points, so click through and absorb -- for the future, if not the present ... or when you travel to real cities. Speaking from personal experience, when I was 25 years old and walking in European cities, I had to learn some of these tips the hard way. It quickly became evident that whether or not Americans realize it, we barrel and swagger.

Better to blend and enjoy the experience.

Yes, Your Sidewalk Etiquette Could Be Better: A primer on the rules of the pedestrian road, by Rachel Pincus (City Lab)

... When we take to the sidewalks, our manners kind of fizzle out. Hence the need for snarky faux infrastructure like the “texting lane. Here’s how to be better at sharing the space.

Stick to your right

Keep your ears open

Keep a good speed

Look where you’re going!

No vehicles, please

Don’t walk with a posse

Put the kibosh on sidewalk rage

Use data to avoid crowds

The Baylor for Mayor web site has been updated.

Join the Shift to Baylor Campaign

Big thanks to the team members who've significantly upgraded the campaign website. The platform planks are in place, as well as donor and volunteer information. There aren't any bells and whistles, just information.

When you check it out,be sure and sign up for the e-mail list.  I'll be doing my best to provide updates as we move forward.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Midtown Renaissance: It depends on what you mean by "painted lady."

I suspect the use of "painted ladies" is intended to imbue these rare instances of New Albanian urban infill with architectural respectability.

"Painted ladies" is a term in American architecture used for Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. The term was first used for San Francisco Victorian houses by writers Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen in their 1978 book Painted Ladies - San Francisco's Resplendent Victorians.

But while it's probably no longer politically correct, I prefer Elton John's word association.

"Painted lady" is a euphemism for a prostitute, but Elton's voice is in fine form in this 1976 recording.

Today is the finale of the Mount Saint Francis picnic. Coming next year: Mount Fest.

Grab your machete, hack through the full array of pop-ups, roll-overs and auto-play videos, and read about how the venerable Mount Saint Francis Picnic is no more ... after today's finale.

A festival featuring craft beer, wine and local restaurant fest could work just as well in the Knobs as anywhere else, and it's an under-served market in this regard. I admire the Mount's willingness to think outside the box.

That said, it will be a completely different festival model, both in terms of potential audience and the organizers themselves. Significantly, the current demand for the presence of local-anything at events like Mount Fest has increased exponentially, and truly, with so many models from which to choose, the phrase "devil's in the details" never has been more applicable.

Sales or sample driven?

Tastes of food, or meals?

If the Mount's going to do "craft", then they need to do it right, and I'm sure they want to do so. One thing the Mount indisputably has going for it is prime location. Ever since 1985 and my first visits to German and Austrian beer gardens, I've thought the Mount could be just like them.

Mount Saint Francis picnic going out in style, by Papa Morris (News and Tribune)

MOUNT SAINT FRANCIS — It started in the 1920s, was silent during the war years and resumed in 1971.

The Mount Saint Francis Picnic has been a mainstay in the area, and is usually the final event in the New Albany Deanery summer festival schedule.

But times have changed, and so have the crowds and interest in the picnic. Past generations couldn't wait for the final Saturday of August each year, but not so much with today's Millennials.

"The young kids don't seem to get as excited about it as the older generation," said Mount Saint Francis Director, Friar Robert B. Baxter, OFM Conv.

So with dwindling crowds and tired of battling the August heat, Baxter and others decided it was time for a change.

On June 4, 2016, Mount Fest will replace the annual picnic as a summer fundraiser. The event will feature jazz music, wine, microbreweries, food from local restaurants and other attractions like a raffle. It will last only six hours, instead of the 13 hours the picnic is open.

"We decided to go in a different direction," Baxter said. "We are having it earlier. The weather in August is just too hot. Who wants to eat hot chicken under a hot tent? I would go in the chapel and there would be parents in there with young children and elderly just trying to cool off. Hopefully it won't be as hot the first week of June."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Flaherty Collins rubber stamp for the Coyle site to be hastened by the Board of Zoning Appeals this Tuesday night.

An aside: Naturally, Board of Zoning Appeals minutes cannot be found on the city's web site, although minutes from some boards can ... if you look on the city clerk's page.

Anyway, the next step in the city's trickle-down, ripple-effect, luxury-R-us corporate welfare gift to Flaherty Collins takes place on Tuesday night. I may go to see if anyone at all asks a good question.

TO: New Albany Board of Zoning Appeals

FROM: Scott Wood, Director

SUBJECT: Regular Meeting, September 1st, 2015

DATE: August 27th, 2015


The regular meeting of the New Albany Board of Zoning Appeals will be held on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., in the Assembly Room (Room 331) City-County Building, New Albany, Indiana, at which time a Public Hearing will be held to consider the following petitions:


Docket B-26-15: Flaherty & Collins Properties requests a Variance to permit a multi-family complex that will not meet development standards or parking requirements in the C-2, General Business and R-4, Multi-family (high density) districts, at the entire 400 Block of East Spring and 501-515 East Spring Street.

Other Business:

1) Approval of August 4th BZA meeting Minutes

Following are ten links offering background on this issue.

ON THE AVENUES: Money is the ultimate bully.

Gonder on Coyle sitecapades: "We need new rules, special rules, to guide the use of public/private partnerships."

Coyle site luxury giveaway: "The people that they want to attract can't afford to live there."

Coyle sitecapades: In New Albany, Democrats WILL be Republicans ... and Jeff Gahan WILL stay on the down low.

David Duggins on the ironclad reliability of selective expertise.

The Arts Council's Beer Bourbon and BBQ 2015, at the Pepin Mansion.

Good crowd, good times at the Arts Council fundraiser tonight.

I was pouring NABC beers alongside Donum Dei Brewery. It was Rick's and Kim's first outside event ever, and the attendees seemed to approve.

For those who are wondering: Yes, all three mayoral candidates were in attendance. Kevin Zurschmiede was there early, and Jeff Gahan late.

Thanks to Diane Benedetti and Larry Schad; it was a pleasure helping out.

Campaign Diary, Chapter 4: Rental property registration, exclusionary zoning, ordinance enforcement and the SIRA luncheon.

At yesterday's Southern Indiana Realtors Association candidate luncheon, which predictably was boycotted by New Albany's hermetic and curtained Jeff Gahan, I was pleased that the general topic of "ordinance enforcement" formed part of one question to each  candidate.

There were two candidates present from Jeffersonville, Salem and New Albany. The incumbent Charlestown mayor's opponent had a prior commitment, as did Gahan: Oz was flossing, and couldn't be bothered.

Six of the seven mayoral candidates present yesterday expressed a preference for "small government," and as this construct might pertain to ordinances, they preferred to praise what's already on the books rather than contemplate disagreeing with Pat Harrison on rental property registrations in a room filled with real estate professionals, and dare be seen advocating a dreaded "new layer" of intrusive government.

But what if the layers we already have are actively exclusionary or simply outdated?

I was the only candidate present who chose to make this the basis of his answer. Yes, it's true that if New Albany enjoyed a long history of excellence in enforcing its own rule book, we might not be having a chat about rental property registration, but we have not, and because we have not, rental property abuses have become a full-blown concern embracing public health, safety and basic human rights.

Those must be addressed, and so I answered Harrison's question by saying that I'm completely in favor of rental property registration and inspection, with a fee structure to support the same.

Credit Kevin Zurschmiede for noting that tenants as well as owners must be aware of rights and responsibilities, though given the historic tendency of ownership to zealously protect its worse apples rather than be pro-active in weeding them out, how can these rights and responsibilities be applied and maintained without government participation?

Zurschmiede also mentioned that he moved from his Elm Street home because the state of the neighborhood precluded the enjoyment of his property, which is a right recognized by all realtors.

At least he was able to move. Those with lower incomes living nearby might well not be the cause of the problems -- and not be able to leave, either.


Reverence for existing laws becomes somewhat comical when one considers that New Albany still has a law on its books governing "cruising" behavior at the Frisch's on Spring Street, which has been gone so long that "cruising" now means something entirely different -- except when adopted by Harvest Homecoming as a parade theme.

Then there are topics like planning and zoning. Consider this, as buried in a newspaper account of city council budget hearings.

Scott Wood, director of the New Albany Planning Commission, said he’s hopeful the department can begin work on a new comprehensive plan this year. The current plan was approved in 1999.

Wood labeled it a “relic” in need of refreshing.

“Typically those are updated every five years, more like seven-and-a-half to 10, so we’re pretty far behind right now,” Wood said.

The candidate luncheon was held at Elk Run Golf Club, and the outdated nature of New Albany's comprehensive plan is par for the course. How archaic is 1999? As a point of comparison, mobile phone cameras came to America in 2002.


Finally, zoning. I was the only candidate in attendance yesterday who said the words "exclusionary zoning" aloud.

One of the best ways to fight inequality in cities: zoning, by Daniel Hertz (Washington Post)

... For years, activists and researchers have known that restrictive zoning is among the most powerful forces behind racial and economic segregation in the country.

This is for two reasons. First, in many neighborhoods, zoning laws prevent the construction of low-cost housing by, for example, allowing only single-family homes instead of apartments. Second, zoning laws restrict the total amount of housing that can exist in any given area, which means that wherever well-to-do people decide to move, they will bid up the price of housing until it’s out of range of everyone else. Imagine, for example, if there were a law that only 1,000 cars could be sold per year in all of New York. Those 1,000 cars would go to whoever could pay the most money for them, and chances are you and everyone you know would be out of luck.

I don't have a magic wand, and will not claim to know every answer. For instance, there is public housing, a perennial bugbear in New Albany politics.

People in New Albany who ask the question, "What are you going to do about The Project?" tend to be white, and want to see the problem solved by doing anything at all short of changing the fundamental paradigm from exclusionary warehousing of a segment of society, to perhaps advancing a level of opportunity borne of more egalitarian planning.

Meanwhile, people who live in The Project ask, "What are we going to do about affordable housing?" They tend to be African-American, and it's a very good question, isn't it?

If the overall gist of zoning laws already on the books is to keep The Project where it is, occupied by residents with few other options in a country already experiencing historic levels of income inequality, then it's likely they'll remain there. Isn't that how exclusionary zoning laws came into existence in the first place?

It is a mystery to me how an unregulated "free" market in slumlord rental properties addresses the affordable housing quandary, but this seems to have been New Albany's best answer during the past century.

That's inadequate, but even worse, throughout this and so many other discussions, New Albany never varies in the sense of refusing to have these discussions. Jeff Gahan's non-transparency is merely a malignant strain of what we've always been: Down Low on the Ohio.

While I'm at it, this article is instructive:

Where Black Lives Matter Began: Hurricane Katrina exposed our nation’s amazing tolerance for black pain, by Jamelle Bouie (Slate)

But there’s a problem with this capsule summary of Katrina and its place in national memory. It assumes a singular public of “Americans” who understand events in broadly similar ways. This public doesn’t exist. Instead, in the United States, we have multiple publics defined by a constellation of different boundaries: Geographic, religious, economic, ethnic, and racial. With regards to race, we have two dominant publics: A white one and a black one. Each of them saw Katrina in competing, mutually exclusive ways. And the disaster still haunts black political consciousness in ways that most white Americans have never been able to acknowledge.

White Americans saw the storm and its aftermath as a case of bad luck and unprecedented incompetence that spread its pain across the Gulf Coast regardless of race. This is the narrative you see in Landrieu’s words and, to some extent, Obama’s as well. To black Americans, however, this wasn’t an equal opportunity disaster. To them, it was confirmation of America’s indifference to black life. “We have an amazing tolerance for black pain,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson in an interview after the storm. Rev. Al Sharpton, also echoed the mood among many black Americans: “I feel that, if it was in another area, with another economic strata and racial makeup, that President Bush would have run out of Crawford a lot quicker and FEMA would have found its way in a lot sooner.” Even more blunt was rapper Kanye West, who famously told a live national television audience that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Here’s a flashback from August, 2010.

It’s been five years since this column appeared in the pre-merger New Albany Tribune, and it remains fairly topical, although both Michael Dalby and Steve Price are gone, to be replaced by Wendy Dant-Chesser and Greg Phipps, respectively.

NABC paid back the revolving Horseshoe loan on time, in five years. 

Jeff Gahan? He was elected mayor in 2011, and will leave office at the end of 2015 as the biggest-spending in New Albany’s history.

Late note to 1Si: We may need that $70,000 back, because eventually, the water park’s going to need scrubbing.


Dear reader:

Recently I confided that city council meetings no longer were atop the “must do” list posted on the Baylor household’s refrigerator door. I remarked to one of my lawyer friends that since refraining from attending these tragic-comic legislative follies, my IQ was creeping back up.

He said, “Let me know when it gets to 80.”

Imagine my amusement upon learning that even when I’m not present to monitor the council’s shenanigans, my name comes up, as it did on August 2 when Michael Dalby of One Southern Indiana (1Si ) made his annual journey from the outer reaches of the Latino-manicured, McMansioned exurb to the council’s bilious, spittle-flecked rostrum, beige fedora in hand, to beg money from the perpetually cash-strapped body.

To Steve Price’s credit, he probably started voting “no” when he saw Dalby parking his car.

With the connivance of 6th district councilman Jeff Gahan, whose electoral acreage lies slightly closer to 1Si’s primary clients in River Ridge, Dalby came before the council with a sheaf of satellite photos showing formerly green Floyd County spaces that have recently been bulldozed and filled with concrete, all the better to claim credit and remuneration for 1Si as facilitator of economic development.

According to witnesses, and for reasons known only to the land developers who name their subdivisions for whatever physical feature they obliterated to build them, Dalby inserted my own Bank Street Brewhouse into a discussion with councilman Dan Coffey, evidently to refute the latter’s allegation that while 1Si may perform occasional good deeds, it secretively doles out largess without first asking for Coffey’s neo-papal stamp of approval.

Dalby responded by mentioning that even such a persistent blog critic of 1SI as Roger himself had come aboard the regional development machine to derive benefit from the affiliation. The presumption, whether stated or not, is that it’s never personal, just business, when it comes to turning a buck.

As usual, the truth is more nuanced than that.

It is a matter of public record that in 2009, Bank Street Brewhouse was approved for a piece of the Horseshoe Foundation’s revolving loan to business, which is only administered by 1Si. Breaking with longstanding precedent, and although not required to do so, we decided to join 1Si and see, for once, whether standing inside the tent might be useful.

Having done so, I can say that the area outside the tent is more to my liking, especially when nature calls.

Membership in 1Si has been a mixed bag, and I doubt we’ll remain when the next bill comes due. There have been a few good networking opportunities, and I’ve made the acquaintance of younger 1Si operatives who genuinely seem to “get it,” but 1Si’s overall position reflects an internal star chamber’s non-democratic advocacy of flawed positions reflecting old political power structure privileges and profits, rather than innovative solutions to regional problems.

For instance, there is the Godzilla-esque boondoggle of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which 1Si supports with a zeal bordering on the religious, and which will require tolls on existing bridges that plainly will discriminate against working Hoosiers while fatally impeding the flow of commerce into Indiana from Kentucky, all for the sake of a “fix” that will be outmoded long before completion.

Green, future-oriented, regional transportation alternatives, anyone? Don’t ask 1Si to espouse them. In a world of solar panels, 1Si is mining coal with pick and shovel.

Surprisingly, Coffey’s point was merited, if characteristically muddled. Yes, Bob Caesar’s vote surely was a conflict of interest, and legitimate questions of whether a governmental body should hand cash to any “economic development” entity without bidding the work were ignored.

Still, the question for Coffey (and you) to ask the five council members who voted in favor of $70,000 doled out to 1Si is this: Tolling to pay for the bridges disaster will disproportionately hurt Southern Indiana, so unless we’re all sadomasochists, why would we pay entities like 1Si to hurt our interests – to damage us?

Can’t we hurt ourselves without paying for outside help? Haven’t we, for years?

Conversely, if the council reverses field and decides to use its $75,000 economic development grant as it originally said it would, rather than as it voted to on August 2, I’d like to submit a bid, billable to my consulting company, Potable Curmudgeon, Inc.

I’ve already asked Pete at Digital Resource Center in downtown New Albany to help with the estimate.

We’ll be publishing a couple hundred glossy ringed binders filled with testimonials, pie graphs, statistics, and artfully retouched 1Si press releases. Sleekly professional, though not ostentatious, their design will befit the buttoned-down aspirations of self-respecting Southern Indiana CEOs, each of whom can be counted upon to strategically place the unopened binder on one corner of their desks, where its multi-colored ubiquity will attest to the veracity of the contents.

The beauty of Potable Curmudgeon Inc.’s plan, which we’re calling “Res ipsa loquitur, Southern Indiana,” is that its existence is definitive proof of its value. The binders will serve as unimpeachable evidence of economic development success. Why? Because the binder says so.

Can we prove any of it? Of course … you DO have a binder in your hands, right? What more proof do you need?

If the city council acts today, Potable Curmudgeon Inc. will extend a remarkable 50% reduction to just $35,000 for regional economic development, renewable each and every year, and with binders available in a wide range of different colors to satisfy the interior décor of local corporate headquarters.

Except green.

For some reason, it’s just not a popular color around here.


Recent columns:

August 20: ON THE AVENUES: In the groove.

August 13: ON THE AVENUES: It’s time to purge two-party politics and tie the community together.

August 10: ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL EDITION: When it comes to the RCI, can the RDA opt out of the RFRA?

August 6: ON THE AVENUES: Money is the ultimate bully.

July 30: ON THE AVENUES: Homegrown New Albany, but not in a good way.

July 23: ON THE AVENUES: A citizen's eloquent complaint about the parking debacle at River Run reminds us that planners and brooms go hand in hand.

Jeff Gahan blows off today's SIRA candidate luncheon.

Today was the Southern Indiana Realtors Association luncheon at Elk Run Golf Club in Jeffersonville. There was a huge question hanging over the pre-lunch session, which featured the Jeffersonville and Salem mayoral candidates.

Would Jeff Gahan attend the function, or just send Mike Hall like usual?

As you can see, there was an empty seat for the empty suit.

Mark Cassidy contributed Gomer Pyle, and Nick Vaughn took the photo.

One of the organizers told me that it was really difficult getting hold of Mayor Gahan, and when finally he responded, it was to say he'd try to attend.

I enjoyed it; thanks to Martina Webster to extending the invitation. The gig included a free lunch -- and after all, it's why we fight.

Arts Council's Beer, Bourbon & BBQ 2015, Friday night at the Pepin Mansion.

I had every intention of doing more in the way of publicizing this event, but I haven't, and for this I'm apologetic. There's still time to buy tickets and attend. As you can see below, it's a first-rate lineup of food & drink vendors, artists and music. Alcoholic beverages will be available as samples, and at a cash bar. I'll be representing NABC, and talking beer instead of politics.

Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ 2015

Where: Pepin Mansion, 1003 E. Main St., New Albany, IN
When: August 28th, 2015, 6:00 p.m. -- 10:00 p.m.
What: Barbecue, bourbon, beer, live music, and artist demonstrations
Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the Arts Council.

"How New Affordable Housing Development Incentives Could Change Louisville."

Today I'll be attending a candidate luncheon sponsored by the Southern Indiana Realtors Association. As such, this article is timely reading.

If you've ever asked the question, "But what do we do about The Project?" (code language if ever I've heard such), I'd recommend taking a look.

I don't have a simple, glib answer to this question, primarily because there isn't one. However, taking inventory of the principles involved and being willing to speak openly about them surely must constitute the first step toward understanding.

Has the local Democratic Party ever had anything coherent to say about these issues?

Didn't think so.

How New Affordable Housing Development Incentives Could Change Louisville, by Jacob Ryan (WFPL)

The Metro Council on Thursday will take up an ordinance that housing advocates say is imperative for expanding affordable housing options in the city.

At present, Louisville is a sharply segregated city with a zoning policy that may violate fair housing laws, said Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition. This vulnerability stems from zoning policies that ban development of certain housing types in some areas of the city.

The ordinance up for council consideration is seen by fair housing advocates as a first step to address these problems and give low-income residents more housing options outside of historically impoverished neighborhoods.

It’s a first step, Hinko said, but a big one.

In Rio, outcomes differ when spending on "projects for people."

Compare and contrast these two projects, and consider how their themes might apply in New Albany. There is much to chew on here, but what I'm getting from it is the less expensive neighborhood project compared to the more expensive showpiece.

Lots to learn ... if we're receptive to learning.

In Rio’s Biggest Favela, One Flashy Project Thrives While Another Fails; As Rio invests for the Olympics, only some of the city’s upgrades are built to last, by Julie Ruvolo (City Lab)

... State of Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral decided to spend the bulk of the PAC funding, about $105 million, on a gondola imported from France. (Some say Cabral was inspired by the international praise Medellín’s mayor received for installing aerial-tram service in the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.) In parallel, the city broke ground on the $1.5 million movie theater, built alongside a community service center and neighborhood daycare.

Both interventions were introduced as projects for the people. At the gondola’s inauguration in 2011, President Dilma Rousseff said the project was a show of respect for Alemão’s residents, and deserved the “justifiable envy” of everyone else. At the theater’s inauguration the same year, Mayor Eduardo Paes struck a similar note. “It’s important for people to know that poor areas also deserve high-quality services,” the mayor said. “This is what we will always provide. High-quality service for everyone.”

I visited both projects a year later. I rode up and down the gondola on a Friday afternoon, securing an entire car to myself most portions of the ride. Despite free tickets for locals—visitors pay as much as 5 reais, or $1.50—not many people were actually riding.

What’s more, there was a general sense of resentment at the huge sum of money that had been earmarked for favela upgrades and instead delivered a tourist attraction. “Close to half a billion reais,” David Amen, of the nonprofit Raizes em Moviemento, told me at the time. “How are you going to spend this money on social projects in Alemão without talking to the residents and letting them be heard?”

To my surprise, however, the movie theater was packed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learn about Indie Fest 2015, coming on Sunday, September 27.

Indie Fest returns on Sunday, September 27. As noted below, Indie Fest is the kickoff event for the first New Albany Independent Restaurant Week, which concludes on Saturday, October 3, with Biers on Parade -- also Harvest Homecoming Parade Day.

Here's the link to the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association's press release. 

The point is this: If Harvest Homecoming is to be the community's focus from parade day forward, then we're trying to make New Albany's independent local business segment the focus for a week on the other side of Harvest Homecoming, beginning with Indie Fest on Sept. 27.

Below is what you need to know about sponsorships for Indie Fest. In my ideal world, Indie Fest revitalizes New Albany First, which then would include the New Albany Restaurant and Bar Association as a parallel arm. Of course, what must happen before any of this is an expansion of consciousness, and a willingness to work together toward common goals. Combined, locally-owned independent businesses possess potential clout far beyond what can be wielded individually.

We must unite to achieve it.


Dear Business Owner,

You have poured your blood, sweat, and tears into making your business successful. You are an integral part of the movement that is making New Albany a destination and a thriving hub of commerce.

As a business owner you know how important it is to provide the community with attractions that pull people in from around the region to showcase the diversity New Albany has to offer. We are providing you the opportunity to be an essential part of a special celebration of all things local and independent. On Sunday, September 27, 2015 New Albany First will be hosting the Fourth Annual Indie Fest. This event will be held at the newly refurbished Underground Station in the 100 block of Bank Street in downtown New Albany.

Indie Fest is a wonderful display of the rich heritage of the arts in New Albany, and will showcase booths for merchants, artists, restaurants, and craftspeople. As in years past, our event will feature music from local musicians spanning all genres, playing throughout the day. Indie Fest is by no means just for adults, there has always, and will continue to be, an extensive kids area that includes a magician, a local musician with instruments for the kids to play, arts and crafts, and other kid friendly activities. This is truly a family event.

Indie Fest is New Albany’s end cap to an exciting summer music series. We are also excited to be part of the Grand Opening celebration for the Underground Station, and the kick-off event for NARBA’s independent restaurant and bar week.

A successful event like this would not happen without the help of our sponsors. We would love to showcase you and your business at Indie Fest. There are multiple sponsorship levels available to meet all budgets and all are absolutely vital to making this event possible.

Please join us as we celebrate New Albany. Help us make Indie Fest 2015 epic!


Marcey Wisman-Bennett
Chairperson, New Albany Indie Fest, LLC


Sponsorship Possibilities

Presenting Sponsor - $2,000
· First right of refusal for Presenting Sponsor for next two years at the same $2,000 rate
· Logo recognition on all promotional and advertising materials
· Logo and/or company name recognition in all Indie Fest public relations efforts
· Recognition on social networks
· hanging of a 4x6 blow through banner
· Opportunity to address the festival crowd during a specified time slot
· Opportunity to provide up to (4) additional 3’x10’ banners with company logo
· Reserved vendor booth space
· Opportunity to distribute coupons, special offers, sampling, conduct raffles and special promotions specifically for YOUR business. (Does not include signage other than the speaker banners.)
· Invitation to sit on the event planning committee!

Gold Sponsor - $1,000
· Logo recognition on all promotional and advertising materials
· Logo and/or company name recognition in all Indie Fest public relations efforts
· recognition on social networks
· Printing and hanging of a 2x6 banner in key locations near stage
· Verbally thanked on stage during the festival for your participation
· Reserved vendor booth space
· Opportunity to distribute coupons, special offers, sampling, conduct raffles and special promotions specifically for YOUR business. (Does not include signage other than the banner near stage.)

Silver Sponsor - $500
· Logo recognition on all promotional and advertising materials
· Logo and/or company name recognition in an Indie Fest public relations efforts
· Recognition on social networks
· Printing and hanging of a 2x6 banner in key locations near stage
· Verbally thanked on stage during the festival for your participation
· Reserved vendor boot space
· Opportunity to distribute coupons, special offers, sampling, conduct raffles and special promotions specifically for YOUR business. (Does not include signage other than the banner near stage.)

Bronze Sponsor - $150
· Logo recognition on all promotional and advertising materials
· Verbally thanked on stage during the festival for your participation
· Logo recognition on group 2x6 banner in front of stage

Banner Sponsor - $50
· Opportunity to provide up to 1 banner with company logo for staff to hang
· Logo recognition on all promotional and advertising materials

Make checks payable to:

New Albany Indie Fest, LLC.
1739 Houston St.
New Albany, IN 47150

The New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association presents Biers on Parade, at the Farmers Market on Saturday, October 3.

The press release will be going out this week. Here's an advance preview.


NEWS FROM: The New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association (NARBA)


CONTACT:   Roger A. Baylor
(502) 468-9710

On Saturday, October 3, 2015, NARBA Presents:

Biers on Parade

At the New Albany Farmers Market

Local beer, fine food and melodies at the Farmers Market (City Square), at the corner of Market and Bank in downtown New Albany, 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 3.

The New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association (NARBA) is partnering with New Albany’s Farmers Market to stage Biers on Parade, a family-friendly food and drink showcase at the newly remodeled Farmers Market pavilion at the corner of Market and Bank on Saturday, October 3.

Biers on Parade coincides with the Harvest Homecoming Parade through downtown New Albany, and also will conclude New Albany Independent Restaurant Week.

The Farmers Market will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on October 3.

NARBA member businesses will be selling food, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks from 1:00 p.m. through 6:00 p.m.

Biers on Parade will offer the first-ever opportunity for patrons to choose from a lineup that includes beers brewed by all three of our city’s breweries: New Albanian Brewing Company, Donum Dei Brewery and the newest, Floyd County Brewing Company.

There’ll also be food prepared by Big Four Burgers + Beer, Feast BBQ and The Exchange, and wine from River City Winery. Other participants TBA.

Proceeds benefit NARBA and Harvest Homecoming’s selected charities. NARBA is applying for non-profit status as a 501(c)6 professional trade group:

The New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association (NARBA) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit trade organization serving the independent restaurant, bar and on-premise food and drink industry in New Albany, Indiana. NARBA serves as the unified voice of its members on government and public relations issues. It also provides programs that offer educational and operational benefits for members. NARBA represents New Albany’s best known and most vibrant local independent business segment, and is dedicated to the advancement and preservation of New Albany as an urban community.

NARBA’s Biers on Parade is the final event during a week devoted to independent local businesses in New Albany.

New Albany Indie Fest takes place on Sunday, September 27. It’s “a local arts festival including artist booths, amazing music, food, drink, children's area & more! Located at Main & Bank Street in front of the new Underground Station.

September 28 – October 3 is the inaugural New Albany Independent Restaurant Week. New Albany is Louisville’s most flavorful borough, and our locally-owned restaurant and bar operators will be running promotions and holding special events throughout the week. Visit NARBA’s page at Facebook for more:

Harvest Homecoming’s booth days in downtown New Albany begin on Thursday, October 8 and run through Sunday, October 11. For more information:

Sept. 27: New Albany Indie Fest
Sept. 28 – Oct. 3: New Albany Independent Restaurant Week
Oct. 3: Biers on Parade at New Albany City Square
Oct. 3: Harvest Homecoming Parade
Oct. 8 – Oct. 11: Harvest Homecoming Booth Days


The feds, walkability and bike lanes: Why local and state traffic engineers should be trusted as far as you can toss their cars.

Contrary to perceptions, the greatest threat to pedestrian safety is not crime, but the very real danger of automobiles moving quickly. Yet most traffic engineers, often in the name of safety, continually redesign city streets to support higher-speed driving.
-- Jeff Speck

It seems that the Feds want to make several points perfectly clear. Click the link to read this gratifying testimony, in black and white.

Of course, this doesn't explain Jeff Gahan's failure to make use of the transformational walking and cycling measures offered him by Speck, and buttressed with cold, hard fact by John Gilderbloom.

But that's political cowardice, which isn't directly addressed by the FHA in its memo.

Feds to Traffic Engineers: Use Our Money to Build Protected Bike Lanes, by Angie Schmitt (Streetsblog)

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

On Terry and Vera Cummins, and doing what you have to do.

As noted in the previous posting ("College student from Lanesville saves life with bone marrow donation"), I went to high school with Larry Cox, Chuck Freiberger and approximately 350 others, who graduated from Floyd Central in the Class of 1978.

Way back then, Terry Cummins was the FCHS assistant principal in charge of students, a job that included administering discipline. Then as now, I was a malcontent ... meaning we saw a lot of each other. Eventually I became a bit much even for Terry to handle alone, and my file was handed to a different administrator who was more of a Dean Wormer type.

This isn't a eulogy, but Terry's not doing well in terms of health, and neither is his wife Vera.

CUMMINS: Do what you have to do

Beginning in the 1990s through the helpful medium of the Public House, I got to know Terry as an adult. Since then, in spite of a periodically adversarial relationship with the local journalism cadre, one thing I've tried not to miss in the newspaper is his weekly column, and if you've ever read his writing, it makes perfect sense that he'd be writing about his life as it is, right now -- without a trace of annoyance or self-pity, just matter-of-factly, and from a position of bedrock values and an accompanying spiritual serenity.

Is there a better purpose than to live well and die well? For more than 80 years, Vera and I lived well, despite a few kinks here and there. What more could we ask?

Indeed. Please keep both these fine people in your thoughts.

"College student from Lanesville saves life with bone marrow donation."

Daniel Cox's father is Larry Cox, who I've known since childhood. We played high school basketball and baseball together (Chuck Freiberger, too), and did some carousing after college, when Larry got his career job teaching Spanish at Crawford County High School and married Carol. He's now retired from teaching -- and it looks like they raised one heck of a son.

GIFT OF LIFE: College student from Lanesville saves life with bone marrow donation, by Jerod Clapp (N and T)

Daniel Cox, a biochemistry student at Indiana University, became a bone marrow donor after seeing an interview on “Good Morning America” with a cancer survivor. He’s helped start a chapter of Be the Match on campus and helped save a woman’s life with his donation.

More Information: To donate to Daniel's chapter of Be the Match

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Why Indianapolis is a test case for a fairer form of gentrification."

That word again -- not gentrification, but "fairer." It isn't always used in this context.

Why Indianapolis is a test case for a fairer form of gentrification, by Cara Courage (The Guardian)

“I helped change one neighbourhood into a hipster place, and then we got priced out of there.” Artist Jim Walker is describing the shift in fortunes of the Fountain Square district of Indianapolis, where his Big Car arts collective was born a decade ago – and of the artists and residents who have been forced to move on by the neighbourhood’s gentrification.

Walker’s experience is an increasingly familiar story in cities around the world – a tale of urban pioneers who play a central role in the redevelopment of a downtown area, only to find themselves unable to afford to stay there. Is there a more equitable way? That’s just what Walker is trying to find out with his latest arts-led Indianapolis project.

The twist is a "land trust."

While some lower-rent properties are still available in Fountain Square, the change led Walker to look at other areas in the city that could offer the vacant space Big Car’s operation requires. But this time, Walker wanted to do it differently – pushing for a model of regeneration that places the arts in control of the development process; a model that keeps artists and locals at the centre of the change, and should prevent residents from getting priced out.

His Big Car collective is now busy in Garfield Park, a disinvested area on the south side of Indianapolis, having located a new home on one of the city’s arterial routes, Shelby Street, which is lined by a small parade of service stores, a secondhand bookshop and a cafe.

Thanks to city government and philanthropic help as well as its own funds, Big Car has bought a “land trust”, as Walker calls it, “for the artists working hard with neighbours to improve the area”. The development includes two former factories now repurposed as studios, exhibition and performance spaces, and the Listen Hear sound-art gallery and radio station – located in what used to be a laundromat. Vacant houses are being renovated into affordable homes for artists; Big Car is also a key partner in a community-led safer streets programme, and in talks to bring Indianapolis’s rapid transit to the area.

Crazed ragpicker poses as city employee, makes terroristic threats to laughing-out-loud store owner.

Longtime readers of this blog know that for many years, I've expressed an aversion to political yard signs.

But having thought better of it during the course of campaigning for mayor, and secure in the knowledge that we're offering platforms over platitudes, the whole process of sign placement has proven to be fun and entertaining, just so long as the tail isn't wagging the dog.

This morning, the sheer entertainment potential of political yard signs was revealed to its greatest conceivable extent.

We'd delivered two signs on Saturday to Cisa Barry at Sew Fitting, and she decided to put one in the tree well in front of her business.

I'm told it's the same tree well the city refused to clear of weeds or bother improving, so Cisa and a friend pulled the weeds, and the building owners added barrier cloth and rock.

My campaign treasurer is Marcey Wisman-Bennett, who works at Sew Fitting, and Marcey quizzed Cisa in precisely the same way I've done when asked for a sign by a business owner: Are you sure? It may repel some customers, and also attract the attention of a particularly vindictive species of City Hall denizen. Cisa was firm (as have a handful of other fellow independent business owners, whom I thank).

As to whether it is legal to put a sign in that tree well, I'd concede that strictly speaking, it's probably no more legal than the two tacky signs tacked to the utility pole in front of the VapeWorks, adjacent to Sew Fitting -- which the city has done nothing about.

Further, I submit that if a business owner finds herself in the position of doing the city's tree well maintenance work for it -- especially after the Board of Public Works has been overtly unhelpful in previous requests made of it with regard to the safety of the intersection, something almost surely owing to political motivations (see "vindictive" above) -- she may care less about strict interpretations, especially when a scene like this is permitted two blocks from her business.

This morning, before Marcey arrived at work, Cisa had a visitor. He said he was a city employee, but did not otherwise identify himself, and she didn't know his name. The city "employee" was red-faced and yelling.

"Marcey should know better than to put a political sign on city property ... if Roger is going to complain about the job I'm doing he shouldn't have signs on city property."

In the hope that he might go away, Cisa removed the sign, but let the city "employee" know that she was the business owner, and she was the one who made the decision to put the sign out -- not Marcey, and not Roger.

After that he was a tad deflated, but managed to huff and puff an additional flatulent utterance: "Marcey still should know better," before stomping away.

Now here's the funny part.

When Marcey came into work and heard the story, she thought about it, and arranged a "lineup" of social media faces in the hope of coaxing a positive ID from Cisa.

And this is how we know who it was.

Dan Coffey.

Thus informed, Cisa did the only logical thing.

She put the sign back out.

CM Blair's bank, the State Street exurb, commercial dereliction, corporate welfare and non-transparency.

Lightning Food Mart is an excellent example of the durability of locally-owned independent small business.

Conversely, most of State Street between the hospital and I-265 long ago was given over to chains and franchises of varying stripes, with a handful of locally-owned businesses scattered randomly through the vicinity.

It's several blocks of exurban sprawl logic crammed inelegantly between neighborhoods where people actually live, with perpetually renewing auto-intensive development, traffic problems, more car-driven development and the ensuing hamster wheel of futility in trying to balance conflicting interests.

Meanwhile, on Sunday this posting racked up huge numbers.

Let's go Krogering?: Does CM Blair's fixation with a boarded-up Hardee's have to do with gas pumps and corporate welfare?

As pointed out to me subsequently, Kroger's ongoing machinations aren't the only reason to pretend that discussions of how to seize and demolish "derelict" commercial properties should occupy council time when other factors are involved.

From 2013 ...

First Savings Bank nearly finished with Wesley Commons project, by Kevin Eigelbach (Louisville Business First)

Clarksville-based First Savings Financial Group Inc., the holding company for First Savings Bank, has nearly finished developing a 4-acre retail center in New Albany. The bank held a grand opening for a new bank branch there, its first in New Albany, last month.

And this:

Tenants: A Bob Evans restaurant, a Tire Discounters store, a Visionworks eyewear store, a Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurant, Bella Nails manicurist, Fantastic Sam’s hair care, Woodside Dental Center, the First Savings branch and a Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-through lane.

Ooh, a drive-thru?

And this:

The bank’s total investment: $7.55 million.

As a friend notes, $7.55 million for all of Wesley Commons makes the $9 million for River Run seem even more inflated, but the point is transparency.

Granted, just because CM Blair is a banker, it doesn't mean he's to be vocationally vilified (even if the temptation always will be strong for me), but the fact that his bank is a player in the immediate vicinity, and Kroger's redevelopment designs were not clearly delineated by Blair or anyone else at last Thursday's council meeting (the razing of  the fire station at a loss to the city to suit Kroger on the other side of the plaza is a different but no less annoying topic), and the city council itself typically participates in decisions pertaining to zoning, traffic and land use on the State Street corridor -- look, all these factors demand more, not less, transparency from elected officials.

Although it does prove that "independent" means different things to different people ... and I like my definition better than his.

Props to Lightning Food Mart's half-century in business.

This article is a good illustration of the qualities that independently-owned local small businesses exhibit when surviving over the long haul. They adapt to changing markets, find undervalued niches, and provide great service. Obviously, Lightning has been doing these things right.

Lightning strikes twice in New Albany, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

When Tammy and Bob Wolford decided to move Lightning Food Mart across Charlestown Road from the spot it had been located since 1962, they knew it would be a gamble.

But risk and reward are concepts convenience stores are built upon. Ranked as the top selling lottery store in Southern Indiana, Lightning Food Mart’s reputation for facilitating winners stretches from Floyds Knobs to Louisville.

At the risk of picking nits, one sentence is unsettling to me.

“One of the things I take the most pride in is we’re one of the only American-owned convenience stores left,” Wolford said.

Of course, I'm an advocate of "American-owned," so there is no disagreement there. However, why say "American-owned," when "independently-owned and operated" conveys the same meaning, without a reference to American, which in this context implies code language for "not owned by foreigners"?

It's just that words, language and ideas genuinely matter, but let's not stray too far from the central point: Independent local businesses are the economic backbone. Instead of subsidizing big-ticket, plaque-ready projects, shouldn't we be tending to our fundamental infrastructure as the best way to help independent local businesses compete on a level playing field?