Thursday, October 01, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: No more fear, Jeff.

ON THE AVENUES: No more fear, Jeff. 

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

“I talked to a downtown business owner. He’d put a Zurschmiede sign in his window, and (a city employee) came in and said it was frowned on. He didn’t know what that meant, so he took it down”

“I was sitting there minding my own business, and here comes (a mayor-appointed board member). He looked at me and said, ‘Jeff Gahan is the best mayor we’ve ever had.’ What was I supposed to say?”

“(The council member) ran inside and started yelling at my employees about my Baylor yard sign. He said he was a city employee, but we wouldn’t identify himself.”

“So I called down there (city offices) to see if they planned on doing anything about the trash piling up in the alley behind my neighbor’s slum, and they patched me to (high-ranking official). The first thing he said to me was where do I get off asking for favors with a Zurschmiede sign on my property?”


There was a novel feature of the Leadership Southern Indiana debate on Tuesday, which should have been a threesome, but was missing a sitting mayor.

Each of us was asked to provide a question to be asked of the others. With Jeff Gahan absent, this meant Kevin Zurschmiede and I questioned each other. He asked me about my depth of feeling about two-way streets, and I explained in detail.

I asked him whether he’d support local ordinances against human trafficking, and he fielded the question positively and flawlessly, indicating that he grasps important contemporary issues.

Leadership Southern Indiana might not have allowed the question I’d have asked to Gahan, had he bothered attending.

Jeff, why are so many ordinary people in our community afraid to differ openly with you?

I can almost hear the answer.

That’s a cheap shot, because every single person I’ve talked to in this city supports the water park – and if you’re not one of them, expect an angry phone call very late at night.

Yes, this is the state of New Albany’s ongoing degeneration.


Seeing as it’s my lot in life to say aloud what others are thinking, here it is.

During the time I’ve been paying attention to the local scene, there simply has not been any point of comparison with the atmosphere today in terms of retribution, intimidation and implied vengeance.

For those in support of the opposition, the consistent message is there’ll be hell to pay if the incumbent loses his bid for re-election.

My calls for UN election monitors and assistance from the Jimmy Carter Center are only partly in jest, because the situation is getting increasingly tense as voting draws near.

Consider the experience of Indie Fest. Last Sunday’s fourth edition was a success, with over 2,000 attendees, but it almost didn’t happen.

Earlier this year, city officials approached Indie Fest organizer Marcey Wisman-Bennett and asked her to consider shifting Indie Fest to Labor Day weekend, so as to provide a September bookend (with Boomtown Ball in May) to the summer concert series at Bicentennial Park. She also was asked to move the event to the Riverfront Amphitheater. She agreed.

Shortly thereafter, I announced my intent to gather signatures for mayoral ballot access as an independent, and Marcey agreed to be my committee chairwoman. On the day the papers were filed, she and I decided to have a coffee at Quills, and by the time we walked there from the county clerk’s office, she’d already been texted by a city higher-up expressing disdain for my candidacy, and her involvement with it.

You have three guesses as to what happened after that – and the first two don’t count.

A City Hall once nominally supportive of independent local businesses completely disappeared from view. The mayor’s handpicked Board of Works fiddled and dithered with non-information about the amphitheater’s availability, before finally denying the Labor Day weekend date previously requested by City Hall itself … because someone already had booked it.

Marcey was left to dangle for weeks, and finally gave up trying. She turned briefly to the county, which characteristically was of no help. Almost at the last possible moment, the Carter brothers, developers of Underground Station, stepped forward and took it upon themselves to approach the city and tie Indie Fest to their own plans for a grand opening weekend.

Presumably the city, having done almost nothing to assist the Carters with their project, was in a giving mood.

The many delays and obfuscations crippled Marcey’s fundraising efforts, and several former donors hinted that behind-the-scenes pressure was being exerted on them to not be seen supporting Indie Fest this year.

The story I’m telling is no secret, and it isn’t supposed to be.

Politically motivated strong-arming is a public function, not a private one, because the object is for others to see it taking place, and to learn the "proper" lesson that their own independence will be greeted in similar, heavy-handed fashion.

It’s abhorrent, and yet it’s happening. Worse yet, more than a few Democratic Party stalwarts are abetting the ugliness by refusing to face it head on.

Somehow this reminds me that the first annual meeting of Southern Indiana Equality is tonight. In the context of this meeting, human rights and Team Gahan’s incessant bullying, here’s a quote of significance from the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

“Free expression is the base of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth.”

That silence you hear?

It’s becoming deafening.


Free speech seems a particular irritant to Gahan and the Democratic Party, especially as it pertains to social media. In the marketplace of ideas, they’ve almost never replied to questions by facilitating dialogue, as this would constitute two-way communications, and as such, veer uncomfortably close to an admission of intent to listen.

Rather, their chosen mode of communication most often involves systematically blocking it. On social media, I've been unfriended by several Democrats, and blocked by two Democratic agitprop groups, as well as by the mayor's campaign, his personal page and his wife's.

Consequently, I close today by concurring with this important point made on Facebook by my friend Mark Cassidy.

I just want to let the Floyd County Democratic Party, Jeff Gahan, and anyone else for that matter, know that you are more than welcome to post on my timeline, respond to any comment that I may make, engage in a discussion, etc., all without fear of being blocked by me. I have no fear of the free exchange of thoughts, ideas, plans, needs, wants, desires ...

I’ve been to places where fear was a daily consideration, but New Albany isn’t East Germany, and we can do better than this.


Recent columns:

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.

August 27: ON THE AVENUES: Whips, chains and economic development (2010).

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.

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