Monday, October 26, 2015

ON THE AVENUES EXTRA: Gahan says speeding sucks, but street safety can wait until after he is re-elected.

ON THE AVENUES EXTRA: Gahan says speeding sucks, but street safety can wait until after he is re-elected.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

There's a lot to say this week, so why not have more than one column?

In the Courier-Journal, reporter Lexy Gross has profiled the incumbent. Let’s skip his numbingly predictable self-hagiography and move straight to the fun parts.

(Jeff) Gahan sees housing and infrastructure problems that still need to be addressed.

We know all too well how Gahan “sees” these problems: Demolish what you can, toss a few kickback bones to Coffey and otherwise ignore all pertinent ordinance enforcement details, all the while insisting that he’s making “fundamental” changes to benefit demographic groups he can’t even spell, much less define coherently.

But it’s Halloween, and the mayor’s “not finished yet,” so pop open an ice-cold Bud Light -- because there’s even more inanity in store.

One issue residents and his opponents have discussed with fervor is whether or not New Albany's street grid should change to accommodate traffic from the untolled Sherman Minton Bridge, once the Ohio River Project bridges are tolled.

Unable to avoid the topic of two-way streets, as he has done regularly for months on end, Gahan instead sent the Fact-O-Meter straight to “TILT,” though at least gifting us with the precise reason why Shirley Baird and Greg Phipps now have taken to subserviently qualifying any stray utterance involving “two-way streets” with a spanking new, hitherto unknown phrase.

“Where feasible.”

Coincidentally, in the spirit of this glittering Orwellian age, I decided to make their logic my own, and after staring at my ballot, it simply proved not feasible for me to cast a vote for either one.

But I digress.

Not coincidentally, there’s a reason why I’ve used the following graphic as often as possible for the past year and a half.

It’s because we knew all along, didn’t we?

Even when the mayor confided in us – even when he looked us in the eye and said he really understood, and he’d be out their battling for two-way streets – we knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Didn’t we?

As he started applying those “TIF and spend and sprawl” suburban solutions to every urban problem, it became even more obvious.

He really didn’t get it, did he?

At best, he'd hide for years, then half-ass two-way streets, probably just after jetting off to run for State Senate, and we'd be better off not changing the streets at all than doing the job so utterly wrong.


Something about it reminds me of that poor kid with the coke bottle glasses out in right field, standing there solely because the usual starter missed his ride, and with the final out of the game drifting his way in the form of a lazy fly ball that’s a real can of corn, I’m filled with despair and melancholy, because we know those Hollywood endings never happen in real life.

We know he’s not going to catch the ball, and as the runners circle the bases, it’s going to land thirty feet behind him, destined to roll unmolested all the way to the fence, only to be flattened (the baseball, not the fielder) by a passing Tiger Truck on the one-way street beyond.

But there’s a crucial difference.

We actually feel sorry for the kid.

So, Lexy Gross asked Jeff Gahan about two-way streets, and the mayor responded by making vapid excuses, all  of which have been contradicted by either documented history or his own team ... at his behest.

The city has 75 years of infrastructure supporting one-way streets, (Gahan) said, from signage to curbs and overhead signals. It's one of many issues he hopes to take a closer look at if re-elected.

Safety as slave to re-election? Say it ain't so, Jeff.

Except we already know it is so -- don't we?

Of course, Main Street had existed as a two-way street since the city’s founding, as had all the rest of the streets, but when Gahan altered Main Street after 200 years to “calm traffic and install medians” (more below), he did so in accordance with beautification principles, not contemporary “complete street” design principles – principles that would have cost far less and made sense in terms of an integrated downtown street grid plan.

Apparently it’s proper to alter a street after two centuries so as to plant flowers and carve house numbers, but not acceptable to revert nearby one-way streets to two ways after a mere 50-odd years (not 75, which would place one-way conversions to the year before Pearl Harbor).

As for signage, only recently Team Gahan’s minions were publicly bragging about their awesome program to inventory all the signage in town, and install gleaming new ones, which in an election year was manifested not by swapping the many faded STOP signs, but by immediately changing as many street signs as possible, better to display the cute new city logo which Team Gahan insists is not a logo – no, it’s just branding emblem/marketing device, albeit it one to be affixed to permanent signs, and one that nonetheless has not yet been approved by a single elected official in any process approximating a vote.

I’m not finished yet. Those overhead signals?

John “Conflict of Interest” Rosenbarger has been assuring folks that (a) recent upgrades on traffic lights have rendered them readily adaptable for use on two-way with little added expense, and (b) we have $2 million or so in federal money waiting on an 80/20 grant to facilitate the two-way reconversion.

Hmm, look over yonder.

Jeff Gahan says he must take a closer look at all this, but curiously, there it already is, on the INDOT letting board for 2017. Someone in city government had to put it there, right? It might even be someone who works for Gahan. Wait – you don’t think it has something to do with the federal money Rosenbarger referenced?

What an unexpectedly profound coincidence, but if it's there, why hasn't Gahan mentioned this fact publicly?

To the reporter when asked?

Of course, the sum total of Gahan’s down-low, prevaricating concerns, as outlined to the C-J reporter, have already been exhaustively answered and minutely explained by Jeff Speck, the nation’s reigning expert on such matters, whose company was hired by Jeff Gahan himself, and paid by the City of New Albany.

Speck’s job was to prepare the conceptual blueprint for these same two-way street plans that Gahan – who signed Speck’s check – now professes to require even more time to ponder than the four years having already elapsed since his first (and Jeeebus willing) only term as mayor, and the two terms as council person before that.

Consequently, had Gahan actually read, grasped and embraced the plan he himself commissioned, he’d already know that his “$2.4 million project … launched last year to calm traffic and install medians on Main Street” was too much money spent on beautifying one street prior to paying the nation’s leading expert to explain how it might have been done correctly … and was not.

Concurrently, anyone who has spent any amount of time using our one-way streets while on foot or riding a bike would stare in open-mouthed amazement at this statement of Gahan’s.

(Gahan) said there probably are too many one-way streets in New Albany, and traffic moves too fast through the city. But “it’s a balance between restricting speed … and not slowing down commerce," he said.

Safety? Shrug. It can wait. Let’s translate this into fervid Gahanese.

Yeah, I suppose speed kills and all that, but hey, we can’t slow down commerce, you know – I mean, that’s why the Scribners built those one-way streets in the first place, because how else could we get those steamboats (it’s a really cool anchor on that non-logo) get up and down Spring Street without Padgett cranes, and … it’s a quality of life issue for our truckers. It's a ripple effect. We're where they ought to be.

To reiterate, all of it has been addressed in Speck’s study, this being the same one the mayor himself commissioned, and the one he apparently saw fit to ignore when making comments to the Courier’s new reporter, regarding readers as rubes who wouldn’t know they were being conned.

If Gahan views it as feasible for humongous trucking vessels of “commerce” to have an intrinsic right to pass through densely populated urban areas at high speeds, even when they’re not the entities contributing to his engorged re-election war chest, then he has abdicated his responsibility for public safety, and he might as well take the final logical step and advocate for the construction of toxic waste dumps adjacent to schools – or, as a friend put it, we can build the schools on top of the toxic waste dumps and save even more space.

Sounds Gahan-feasible, so long as the toxic waste dump operators tithe according to prevailing contract versus campaign financing guidelines.

After all, he’s not finished yet.

But ye Gods -- hasn’t the man done enough so far?


Recent columns:

October 22: ON THE AVENUES: My career as a double naught capitalist.

October 19: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Courtesy bicycle to the Hotel Silly (2010, 2013).

October 15: ON THE AVENUES: To the New Albanians, each and every one.

October 8: ON THE AVENUES: There’s an indie twist to this curmudgeon’s annual Harvest Homecoming column.

October 1: ON THE AVENUES: No more fear, Jeff.

September 24: ON THE AVENUES: Almost two years later, Mr. Gahan has yet to plug in this clock, and so it's time for him to clock out.

September 17: ON THE AVENUES: Dear Neighbor: If you’re tired of the same old story, turn some pages.

September 10: ON THE AVENUES: Lanesville Heritage Weekend comes around again.

September 3: ON THE AVENUES: When even Mitt Romney can run to the left of New Albany’s Democrats, it's a very big problem.

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