Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A hearty welcome to La Tiendita ("the little shop") on Market, at 111 W. Market, where Aladdin used to be.

I completely missed this, but you should know that La Tiendita on Market is open today. The Facebook page has more information as well as numerous photos of what appears to be a mom & pop grocery (with stock ranging from produce to toilet paper) with taqueria-style food offerings.

This is exciting! Welcome and best of luck to the owners.

ASK THE BORED: Had NA Confidential not asked, it's unlikely City Hall would have answered, so "Initial Work on Grid Modernization Begins."

Hell, it took NAC two weeks to ask, but at least we got around to it on the 24th.

ASK THE BORED: BOW directs handicapped sidewalk users into traffic lanes as downtown corner ramp replacements make a mockery of safety, but bolster campaign finance slush. Also, downtown RR crossing expenses.

None of this has to do with functionality, service to citizens, or even basic competence. It's purely a financial transfer scheme and Team Gahan is making the previous two mayors look like rank amateurs.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that someone had to prod before City Hall felt the need to answer. In New Albany, "proactive" means that 5% of the 80% tithed by the federal government has been safely installed in its comfortable new Cayman Islands home. After this cardinal rule is obeyed, coin flips are sufficient for future information dissemination.

And so they answered with a sleek press release on the 27th. It's called "cause and effect." Of course, it might have been better for City Hall to explain what was happening when the blasting caps first began igniting, but ... see the definition of "proactive" above.

Initial Work on Grid Modernization Begins

Initial work on the Grid Modernization Project, which will transform New Albany’s downtown grid from a 1-way traffic system to 2-way streets, has begun.

Two initial steps have been taken to start the process:

1. All non-American with Disabilities Act compliant ramps in the downtown grid system are currently being updated to provide connectivity and access for all that use our downtown sidewalks.

Working from an inventory that was recently completed by local engineering firm Jacobi, Toombs, & Lanz, Inc., crews have been working since early January on bringing these important infrastructure items up to code. While the largest number of updated ramps are mostly limited to Spring, Market, and Elm streets, side streets with non-compliant ramps are being updated as well. This initial work is expected to be completed by the end of February.

2. Bumpouts on the north side of Market Street are being reconfigured beginning Monday, January 30th.

The bumpouts along the north side of Market Street are being reconfigured in preparation of 2-way traffic along Market Street. By having these bumpouts re-aligned, the city will be able to retain the same number of parking spaces along this corridor when the conversion to 2-way streets is made. During the construction, an estimated 6 parking spaces will be unavailable until the full conversion is made. However, once the 2-way street conversion is complete, all current parking spaces are expected to return.

Future schedule for the Grid Modernization Project

Milling and paving of the downtown grid will begin shortly after asphalt plants reopen in Spring 2017. The project will then begin the installation of a new signalization system, along with accessible pedestrian facilities at each signalized crossings. The contractual completion date for the entire 2-way conversion is September 30, 2017.

If 2017 really is to be the year when the Downtown Grid Modernization Project transitions from the mere rumor of a long overdue, messy compromise of a typically botched Gahanesque half-ass measure, to these adulterated facets actually appearing in real life, then City Hall's favored minions at HWC Engineering, now safely ensconced in the same building as the sewer utility, making those dreamy stuffed satchel transfers easier than ever before -- though it isn't clear which way the largess is traveling -- should have long since moved past the stage of ensuring campaign finance rivulets flowing downhill like raging storm water from Summit Springs, straight into the mayor's splendid State Senate coffers, and started the task of rendering our splendid Speck into adulterated sausage.

So they have. By September 30, we'll see just how badly they've botched it.

"Revitalized into oblivion": An astoundingly synonymous cautionary tale about Gah ... sorry, I mean Stephen Reed, former mayor of Harrisburg PA.

Last September, the Confidentials drove through Harrisburg, capital of Pennsylvania. We were road-tripping from Massachusetts to Maryland, and as we looked around, I harbored a vague notion that Harrisburg was somehow famous (or infamous) for malfeasance. The details eluded me at the time.

Only now does it come full circle with me. We'll begin this amazing story with a new post at CityLab.

The Mayor Who Broke Harrisburg, by Brentin Mock

Stephen Reed used to be known as Harrisburg’s “Mayor for Life.” His tenure as head of the Pennsylvania capital spanned almost 30 years, and in some quarters he still holds that title, even after he was voted out of office in 2009. Now he may be known as the “Mayor Who Avoided Life,” after dodging a sentence of thousands of years in prison for a 499-count indictment of theft, bribery, and corruption while he was mayor.

Today, Reed was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to 20 counts of the least-serious crimes on his docket. Earlier this week, he admitted that part of his small collection of artifacts was bought with taxpayer money. The stolen items were part of an even larger collection of Civil War-era trinkets, documents, statues, and other memorabilia left over from Reed’s failed campaign to make Harrisburg a “city of museums.” Reed began siphoning taxpayer money into a secret account that he used to purchase heaps of 19th century American relics, all in an effort to transform the city into a “Westworld” of the East.

This was just one of Reed’s poorly (and criminally) conceived schemes that brought Harrisburg to the brink of bankruptcy—and almost landed the ex-mayor a 2,439-year jail sentence. How he got off with a two-year no-prison cakewalk instead is owed to a unique confluence of circumstances ...

The writer Mock makes several references to an article written last year by David Gambacorta at The Baffler, and as a resident of New Albania, I felt my neck hair doing calisthenics while reading it.

No, the billion-dollar economy of scale isn't the same. But the parallels are eerie, indeed. We pick up the narrative several paragraphs into Gambacorta's essay. I've marked certain passages in bold. Be sure to click through a read this in its entirety.

Called to Purchase: How mayor Stephen Reed shopped Harrisburg, PA, straight to hell, by David Gambacorta

 ... No one was really prepared to question Reed, or to peek behind the curtain of his kindly, eccentric persona. If they had, they would have found a petty autocrat hunkered down on a pile of redevelopment schemes, mistaking hoarding for a model for governance—a scenario only too possible in municipal America, the land that term limits forgot. The artifacts? Oh, they were just the spoils of a spending bender fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. When the spree was over, Reed would end up facing hundreds of criminal charges, and Harrisburg would be left in fiscal ruin.

The shared rise and fall of Reed and Harrisburg was decades in the making, a story of ambition and corruption that stands out even in Pennsylvania, a state that can’t go more than a few years without seeing one of its political giants succumb to arrogance, egotism, or the irresistible urge to take, take, take. As Reed prepares to finally go to trial on 114 charges, including theft, his case offers a stark reminder that the urban renewal and revitalization initiatives of the last century continue to dog our cities—and that too many of those initiatives turned out to be rip-offs, luring tourists to urban “playgrounds” at the expense of existing residents.

Sound familiar? Bright shiny objects, rather than daily nuts and bolts.

... According to state prosecutors, in the decades that followed (Reed's election in 1981), he set out to seize the puppet strings of anyone who had a say in the city’s financial decisions.

To the public, he appeared to use this power for good. Eateries and museums cropped up, along with hotels and a university. Reed was like a gleeful patriarch who continually surprised his children with vacations and shiny new toys—just never mind about how any of it would be paid for.

Imagine how many boards Reed packed. He was mayor for life, but elsewhere it was poverty for life.

Reed sometimes ran unopposed for reelection, earning the “mayor for life” tag from the media along the way. And why not? The ongoing projects seemed to prove that Harrisburg was a city on the rise. But with at least 33 percent of its residents now living in poverty, according to 2014 census data, and with state-owned tax-exempt land comprising a significant portion of the capital, where was the money coming from to cover the cost of these huge efforts?

“Nobody asked those questions,” sighs Patty Kim, a Pennsylvania state representative who worked with Reed when she served as a Harrisburg city councilwoman from 2005 to 2012. “He was able to play a shell game. He always had a new project to distract people.”

Note the connection between Reed's Special Projects Fund and the city's bond-compounded debt.

So money began to flow into the Special Projects Fund from every imaginable direction. Mealy said Reed began tacking on inexplicable “administrative fees” to the multitude of bond sales and debt that the Harrisburg Authority incurred at the mayor’s direction, and those fees were routed directly to the fund, according to the grand jury records.

Not unexpectedly, enforced loyalty maintains the cult of personality. Remember when Diane Benedetti and own John Gonder were messily deposed for failing to agree often enough?

“It was always, ‘You vote with me or you are the enemy,’” former Harrisburg City Council president Richard House told state investigators, according to the records. But Reed, apparently, had a lighter touch too. House said Reed offered him a community relations coordinator job in 2001 with the Harrisburg Senators—a position that previously didn’t exist—with the understanding that Reed was buying House’s votes, and the votes of other council members.

In the end, the accumulated debt could no longer be hidden.

... After a month of combing through handwritten records, (Eric Papanfuse) pieced together the big picture: Harrisburg was fucked. Everyone knew the incinerator was costing the city a fortune, but it seemed no one had done the math on the years and years of bond and debt deals that had built the city’s new attractions and also covered the cost of Reed’s artifact obsession. The total sum was north of a billion dollars—for a city with a population that couldn’t fill up a professional football stadium.

Such was Reed's hold that it took several years for Papenfuse to interest anyone in investigating, but once the state attorney general intervened, the house of cards collapsed. Reed was defeated for re-election.

(Linda) Thompson, at least, broke the “mayor for life” cycle, lasting only one term. She took heat for spending $35,000 to renovate the mayor’s office, after complaining about the inescapable cigarette odor that Reed left behind—and was replaced by Papenfuse, who was tasked with rescuing a city that had been revitalized almost into oblivion.

Looking for epitaphs?

Maybe Reed’s growing pile of dead-end revitalizing fantasies, tied more to his idiosyncratic understanding of leisure than to the interests of his city, was firmly in line with late twentieth-century urban-planning trends, which held that no city was too small to bet the farm on tourism-first redevelopment projects, the benefits of which would somehow trickle down.

Lots and lots of similarities, don't you think?

Hmm. Does Harrisburg have a luxury doggie park?

Never forget that Jeff Gahan used your tax dollars to subsidize luxury at Breakwater.

An "alternative fact" of a skyline? Learn more here.

Let's hope new residents at the Break Wind Lofts at Duggins Flats aren't too disappointed when the city of Louisville turns out to be situated a bit further to the southwest than Pastime's gazebo.

Austin Carmony, the firm's vice president of development, said the complex's 66-unit residential building, where tenants have already started moving in, was completed in December. The second 125-unit building will be done in April. Rent for the units ranges from $650 to $1,650.

Let's also hope the most luxurious of the high end digs aren't gifted with a view of the lovely landscaping at AT&T, across an as yet uncalmed one-way Spring Street -- where presently, the traffic is moving faster than ever.

A relatively small space on the east side of the former Coyle showroom remains rough and unfinished, and so this evidently is what Carmony refers to in this passage.

The renovated former Coyle showroom will house retail and amenities including a heated pool, gym, grilling stations, fire pit and a dog park. Carmony said no one has signed on to fill the space yet, but he thinks a restaurant would be ideal in the location.

Another dog park? Who knew that the Coyle lot was built atop a Native American site? As an aside, I still think it was a mistake to omit bocce ball; if only Redevelopment would have kicked in another couple hundred thousand to a for-profit private developer to make it happen.

Wouldn't bocce have fit comfortably on one of those rooftops, thus better facilitating a distanced squint at Louisville?

Two months ago, a local restaurateur told the Green Mouse that the unfinished potential eatery space in the former showroom actually is priced fairly -- for being unfinished.

Flaherty and Collins apparently is offering to lease this space at the low bargain rate and provide something like $50,000 in cash for the build-out (the Green Mouse was told by the restaurateur that it wasn't enough of an enticement to interest him), but the dollars-per-square-foot price fairly skyrockets if the building's owner must finish the space.

Always be aware that as City Hall touts the many restaurants and bars downtown, as though it had anything whatever to do with their founding and operation -- and you can ask virtually any eatery owner to explain where the bulk of the start-up capital originates, this being with them, and not a magical bunkerside ATM -- the fact that the city subsidized the entirety of the Break Wind development means that the city also is subsidizing the eatery or bar that eventually comes to rest in the rough unfinished space. The city might as well be the one writing the check for $50K, right?

I'm not making this point owing to my antipathy for the current occupant, which is real, but rather because it's absolutely true. With Break Wind, the city's been picking winners with your money -- and is picking winners with your money the sort of thing you want Jeff Gahan doing?

Coyle showroom now luxury clubhouse in New Albany, by Madeleine Winer (Courier-Journal)

The clubhouse is open and the first tenants have started to move into The Breakwater, a luxury apartment complex still under construction in New Albany.

Monday, January 30, 2017

CARTOON: If Gahan's not careful, the Boss will revoke his driving privileges -- or call in the termites.

Just remember, New Albany is ...

Now, does anyone have a bucket handy?

Thanks to Padgett, a halfway house will front a two-way street. When it comes to social justice, ya gotta start SOMEWHERE.

If it weren't for a citywide irony so pervasive that it flies at 30,000 feet, over the heads of everyone involved, then those stopped clocks registering the right time twice each day wouldn't be so enduringly entertaining.

Padgett family offers to help start New Albany halfway house; 1514 E. Spring St. home will be purchased if the city approves, by Danielle Grady (Hanson Obliviousness Modulator)

NEW ALBANY — Thanks to a charitable business family, plans to build a halfway house for women in New Albany are back on.

Pending city approval, the family that owns Padgett, Inc., will purchase 1514 E. Spring St. to transform into Nicole’s Place, a home for women recovering from addiction.

But let's not be churlish. This stands to be a good use for the space, and kudos to Padgett for its social consciousness. Perhaps in addition to "God working behind the scenes" (as a predictably trite quote in the article suggests), either He or Padgett finally will get behind the house, a part of the building never entirely completed during its previous remodeling roughly 10 years ago (photos from the summer of 2016).

As an aside, am I the only one who believes that the renowned law firm of Greg & Greg will bring the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association to bear against such a use for this house? 

Lisa Livingston is the local woman behind Nicole’s Place. A graduate of a similar program in Jeffersonville, Livingston originally planned to open Nicole’s Place at 2106 E. Elm St. in New Albany, but the city plan commission voted to deny her the special exception she needed to start it.

The plan commission worried that Elm Street was too residential for Nicole’s Place.

Livingston needs another special exception to open Nicole’s Place on Spring Street, but the neighborhood contains a mix of residences and businesses.

She plans to bring her proposal for Nicole’s Place to the plan commission’s March meeting. It will need to be approved by both the plan commission and, later, the board of zoning appeals.

Livingston was disappointed by the plan commission’s original decision to deny her a special exception, but was determined to find another place.

Still, she wasn’t expecting it when Jimmy Padgett, the vice president of Padgett, Inc., contacted her and asked for a meeting.

The Padgett’s are concerned about the drug epidemic in the United States, according to a release from Padgett, Inc.

“The Padgett family feels strongly that people who are trying to fix their problems should be assisted in every way possible,” said Jimmy in a statement. “Addiction is a disease. The people with this disease need compassion, the same as people with any debilitating disease. They cannot be held responsible for their disease but they must be held responsible for their sobriety. It is incumbent upon everyone to help people who are providing solutions that can transition those seeking sobriety back to being productive citizens, and that is the mission of Nicole’s [Place].”

The Padgett family will purchase the property on Spring Street for Livingston after the planning and zoning department approves her plans. They’ll lease it to Nicole’s Place with the goal of the halfway house purchasing the home from the Padgett’s within 18 months with grant dollars and other donations. The Padgett’s will also provide a donation to Nicole’s Place.

Jimmy met with Livingston and the director of Nicole’s Place before deciding to help. He wanted to make sure Livingston had a good plan, she said.

Nicole’s Place will be based off of the Bliss House in Jeffersonville, where Livingston used to live.

Residents at the Bliss House must call and ask for a spot for 30 consecutive days before being accepted into the program. They must also be clean and sober 30 days prior to their placement there, and after placement, must pay $100 a week in rent for their recovery courses, meals and access to the Internet and other services.

The Bliss House also has a zero tolerance drug use police and a no male-contact rule.

Nicole’s Place already has a board of directors, which includes people who have worked with the Bliss House in the past, one of whom was a former director.

There will be parking lot behind Nicole’s Place and residents will always be supervised by staff while on the property.

The Padgett Inc. release said that the Padgett family is aware that many people are opposed to places like Nicole’s Place because they don’t want people with drug problems living near them.

“However, the reality is we are surrounded by people with drug problems everywhere: at the grocery store, work, social events and walking or driving down the street,” the release said.

Livingston said she’s overwhelmed by Jimmy’s contribution to Nicole’s Place.

“I had heard about people like him, but I’ve never met any,” she said.

Livingston said that Greg Henderzahs, the executive director for the Center of Lay Ministries, which runs Bliss House, expressed surprise at the Padgett’s help with Nicole’s Place.

“[Henderzahs] said things like this just don’t happen,” Livingston said. “This is definitely God working behind the scenes.”

Jimmy wasn’t the only person that reached out to Livingston after the News and Tribune published two articles about Nicole’s Place in November.

Livingston thinks that’s because the motives of those behind Nicole’s Place are pure.

“We aren’t going for financial gain,” she said. “It’s all about helping. And Floyd County is in dire need.”

Livingston said she hopes to start moving women into Nicole’s Place by April if the halfway house is approved by New Albany in March. About six women would live in Nicole’s Place at first, but the Spring Street house could potentially hold 25.

Where are the Democrats? "It’s urgent Democrats stop squabbling and recognize seven basic truths," says Robert Reich.

(See also: Where are the Democrats? "The Democratic Base Is Marching Right Past Its Leaders")

If you're a Floyd County resident and consider yourself in alignment with the Democratic Party, then please click through and read Reich's seven truths.

Next, consider carefully the recent history of the Floyd County Democratic Party. As currently constituted, do you think the FCDP understands these truths and is capable of doing what's needed (as Reich asks)?

If the answer is yes, the blog is yours. Make the case, explain what the FCDP will be doing, and tell us why these appearances of utter futility are deceptive.

If you feel constrained by lack of skill in writing, don't worry. I'll help you. If you're bashful about speaking openly because the party's leadership tends toward the secretive and hermetic -- well, isn't that a huge part of the problem?

In fact, I'm begging local Democrats -- any or all of them -- to explain this:

ON THE AVENUES: Jeff Gahan and Adam Dickey are Trumping the Donald when it comes to breathtaking moral turpitude. Have they no shame?

There are good people in the FCDP; unfortunately, they've been silent for too long, submerged beneath the vapid corporate surface sheen which continues to amass little more than losses. The FCDP as we know it today functions primarily as Jeff Gahan's fundraising arm -- and with all the funds raised going to Gahan, and none to the party.

If Gahan possessed Barack Obama's intellect and charisma, this might make sense, though carefully mark my words: Gahan may have won two mayoral terms, transforming him into a genius superstar in the eyes of local Democrats, but he's on course to become a tremendous liability.

Local Democrats have been almost swept clean in the county, and there are no natural successors to Gahan in the city, apart from functionaries like Pat McLaughlin and Bob Caesar, for whom wishing simply won't make it so. Now Gahan is striking deals with the likes of Coffey, not because these concessions assist his moribund political party in any coherent way, but in defense of the mayor's own campaign-finance-lockbox-driven indefensible ambitions.

As you know, I don't care a jot about the Democratic Party, although we could use an entity to function as the principled local opposition to state and national madness. If it cannot do even this, then Reich is correct. Let it be swept away, and the sooner the better.

The life of the party — 7 truths for Democrats, by Robert Reich (San Francisco Chronicle)

The ongoing contest between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings of the Democratic Party continues to divide Democrats. It’s urgent Democrats stop squabbling and recognize seven basic truths ...

7 The party must change from being a giant fundraising machine to a movement. It needs to unite the poor, working class and middle class, black and white — who haven’t had a raise in 30 years and who feel angry, powerless and disenfranchised.

... If the Democratic Party doesn’t understand these seven truths and fails to do what’s needed, a third party will emerge to fill the void.

Third parties usually fail because they tend to draw votes away from the dominant party closest to them, ideologically. But if the Democratic Party creates a large enough void, a third party won’t draw away votes. It will pull people into politics.

And drawing more people into politics is the only hope going forward.

Where are the Democrats? "The Democratic Base Is Marching Right Past Its Leaders."

Newly minted activists want Democrats in Washington to actually fight against Trump — or get out of the way ... a fired-up progressive base is marching far ahead of the party leadership. Democrats are scrambling to keep up ...

That's the Huffington Post; this is somnolent New Albany, where the Floyd County Democratic Party had a pleasant Central Committee meeting on Saturday morning, with piped-in elevator music, a floor show by the Disneyettes and fresh Kroger doughnuts.

However, the theme was slightly misleading.

Stronger? Isn't it true that one first must be strong in order to add the superlative -er? Recalling and paraphrasing the immortal words of Jim Morrison, "They've been down so goddamn long, that it looks like up to them."

Surely they adhered to the traditional niceties, popped a few Diet Cokes, and reaffirmed the doctrine that the same losing tactics, leading inevitably to the same outcome, over and over again, is peachy keen -- and as they met, the tenor of the times was exploding all over the country, suggesting that maybe something different is merited.

Couldn't you feel the raw excitement just looking at the photos? All those energized white-haired folks -- and those were just the YOUNG Democrats.

Okay, not exactly. The Young Democrats met earlier last week, and almost filled a small room. Look at all the progressives ...

We've heard no sounds of marching feet in New Albany, at least yet. However, for the FCDP to continue as Republican Lite may not be the best strategy to mobilize a more vigorous base, as we discuss elsewhere this morning.

The Democratic Base Is Marching Right Past Its Leaders, by Jennifer Bendery and Ryan Grim (Huffington Post)

 ... (Senate confirmation votes) came just days after millions poured into the streets in more than 650 women’s marches on Saturday made it that much more jarring. Those marches, after all, had not been sparked by Planned Parenthood, or the Democratic Party, or unions, or MoveOn.org, even if they did pitch in to help once it got going. Instead, they came from regular, angry people ― people who may try to replace the ones in power ...

... The organizers of the march provided the platform that an angry electorate demanded, but they didn’t dictate what comes next. Yes, they co-hosted the march with well-established, progressive groups in Washington D.C., like Planned Parenthood and the Natural Resources Defense Council. But they didn’t coordinate with those groups to collect attendees’ names and email addresses to keep them engaged in those groups’ fights around reproductive rights or climate change. Instead, the organizers collected contact information for the local organizers themselves, which may wind up being far more powerful than another giant list of progressives.

Jeff Gahan pays himself around $11,000 each year to head up the sewer board. Shouldn't Gahan attend the city council rate increase hearing on February 6 and listen to public comments?

Not only that, but shouldn't Gahan answer questions, too?

Shouldn't he attend and answer questions, of his own accord, springing from a deeply held desire for transparency and the exchange of information, and not being dragged to the meeting kicking and screaming, like a child seeking to avoid the dentist?

Sadly, we already know the answer. Maybe he'll come, anyway.

My biggest question is this: Seeing as one of the stated aims of these sewer rate increases is the city's ability to remove EPA limitations, thus allowing supposedly vital development projects, can we learn a little more about what these development projects entail?

What are they, and why the hurry?

Are they industrial? Retail? Luxury bocce-equipped housing?

Where are they to be located?

Finally: Why are the answers to such questions forever regarded as tantamount to state secrets, hidden so far underground that stacks of Bob Caesar's unsold Bicentennial books probably are being used like sandbag paperweights?

I urge readers to attend and to speak, whether Gahan shows his hide or not.

New Albany city council public hearing regarding wastewater rate change and the implementation of consumer price index is February 6.


The New Albany City Council will conduct a Public hearing February 6, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at 311 Hauss Square, 3rd Floor, Assembly Room 330, New Albany, Indiana at which persons may be heard concerning the proposed changes to rates, charges, and implementation of a consumer price index for the sewer utility user fees. The City Council will consider an increase in wastewater rates and charges effective July 1, 2017 or at a date set upon adoption of the rates and yearly thereafter. The proposed rates and charges are as follows: 3% increase in the monthly charges for all consumer categories and the implementation of a consumer price index yearly thereafter. Users of the sewage works for service of property located outside corporate boundaries may be entitled to petition the commission under section IC 8-1.5-3-8.3 et seq. to review and adjust the rates and charges imposed on the users if a petition under IC 8-1.5-3-8.2 or under IC 36-9-23-26.1 with respect to the same rate ordinance has not been filed.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Democrats fold lightning fast as Coffey broadens demands to include groceries, free cable and the return of square dancing.

Councilman Dan Coffey, whose DCP (Dan Coffey Party) holds one city council seat, and who recently demanded the axing of city council attorney Matt Lorch as the price for his continued cooperation with Jeff Gahan's and Adam Dickey's Undemocratic Party, has released an updated list of demands, "or else I'll vote with the Republicans and take that namby-pamby banker with me."

In addition to a small laundry list of parking tickets to be fixed, the list includes:

  • Retroactive sewer tap-in abatements for Coffey's house
  • To facilitate Coffey's crusade to "keep track of their pinko faggot asses," all New Albany residents who voted for Hillary Clinton must wear a yellow star
  • Council prayer time to be expanded to include "some of those wonderful old-time gospel numbers"
  • Silver Street Park is to be renamed Steve Price Park, and the multi-million-dollar sports facility made available for the use of unlicensed auctioneers
  • There must be a complete audit of city corporate attorney Shane Gibson's bond underwriting proceeds

(Editor: Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day)

The Green Mouse found Gahan and Dickey in conference at the Roadhouse, mulling Coffey's proposals. Dickey released this statement:

"My good friends, for the umpteenth time in our history, a party chairman has returned from Westendia bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."

He added, "Shane's not going to like that last part, but what's he going to do, go out in the real world and work, or something?"

Sunday scriptural realities: "Apparently, America is only a Christian nation when it’s convenient."

In less than two weeks, Donald Trump has done more to highlight the perennial pervasiveness of Christian hypocrisy in America than any freethinker or atheist of whom I'm aware. It has been like a nationwide litmus test. Those of us who've been making these points for our entire adult lives are feeling something along the lines of shock and awe.

As most readers are aware, my anti-Trumpolini credentials date to the second Reagan Administration, but a proper sense of intellectual (in this instance, anti-intellectual) honesty compels me to give credit where credit's due.

Now, pop open a locally-brewed beer, and let's listen to the outraged rebuttals from the comfy white evangelicals whose votes for Trump were cast from a position they insist resembles fundamental decency.

(crickets chirp)
(pins drop)
(somewhere, a dog forlornly barks)
(the flutter of this passing moth's wings is deafening)

But seriously: I know there are many Christians who don't merit inclusion in this hyperbolic rendering. I know that you, too, are dismayed, and furthermore, many of you will be speaking to these issues from the pews on your side of the aisle. If you'd like to write about it here, in this blog space, let me know. I'm happy and eager to make space available for your thoughts -- after all, the newspaper will ask you to keep it to 200 words, and I won't.

These Prominent Evangelicals Are Pretty Sure Trump’s Refugee Ban Is Perfectly Moral, by Carol Kuruvilla (Huffington Post)

Apparently, America is only a Christian nation when it’s convenient.

Some of President Donald Trump’s top evangelical advisors have reached a troubling, and somewhat baffling, theological consensus about a restrictions he’s placed on refugees entering the country.

Based on The Huffington Post’s interviews with a few leaders who have the president’s ear, the consensus is this: The Biblical command to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger applies only to churches and individuals. The government doesn’t have to abide by that standard.

In essence, for these evangelicals, their traditional Christian values should have an impact on how the president makes decisions about abortion and same-sex marriage. But on the matter of refugees fleeing war, it’s perfectly fine for the president to turn his face away from suffering, because safety comes before being a Good Samaritan to those in need.

White evangelical Christians’ overwhelming support for Trump helped put him in the White House. As a whole, members of this spiritual tradition have a high regard for the Bible as the source of ultimate moral authority. But beliefs about how to apply Biblical principles to politics can vary greatly ― and the debate about Trump’s “extreme vetting” plan is bringing up some of that tension.

Trump signed an executive order on Friday that establishes new vetting measures to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the country. The order blocks refugees from Syria indefinitely and temporarily bans people from a few unnamed countries from entering the U.S.

The National Association of Evangelicals, which has helped refugees for decades through the resettlement agency World Relief, called Trump’s plans “alarming.” Other Christian aid groups have also criticized the temporary ban.

But some prominent evangelicals, including a few who were part of Trump’s evangelical advisory committee, find no problem with it.

Have your credit cards ready, because Jeff Gahan is offering "limited edition" sanctuary city status to immigrants who meet Comprehensive Re-election Plan criteria.

On Saturday night, as President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration directives went into effect, causing mass upheavals and inducing charmingly dead silence from all the Trump voters who've insisted they're “fundamentally decent" human beings, Mayor Jeff Gahan signaled that he's ready and willing to address the immigration issue right here in New Albany.

At an unannounced press conference held adjacent to the corner booth at the Roadhouse, Gahan grasped a pre-wetted handkerchief as he spoke to members of the wait staff, who paused from clearing Bud Light Lime bottles from the table and checked their iPhones.

“I’m happy to be here at the kickoff of the Bicentennial Park winter meditation series,” read Gahan. “We’re not finish … ed … er, what was that, Mike?”

Hall, who serves Gahan as indispensable Anchor Certified City Hall Body Double, whispered to the mayor, who briefly contemplated a trademark 3:00 a.m. phone call before resuming his speech.

“Give ... me … your ... tired … huddled …”

Hall sighed and grabbed the Holiday Inn Express stationary from Gahan’s hand.

“Hi! I’m here for the mayor tonight," beamed Hall. "He wants you to know that he's happy to offer our luxurious city to all voting immigrants, especially the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and maybe even the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, though only if there's enough public housing units left over after we ship the residents to Galena, but of course the refugees are on their own once we're finished ... "

"We're not finished," croaked the mayor. "Did we fire Lorch yet?"

" ... tearing them all down, because after all, the new comprehensive plan we wrote for ourselves says affordable housing is far less luxurious for the quality of our lives."

Gahan's eyes remained fixed on the voluptuous cheeseburger going out to Table 5.

"We'll be releasing the New Albany Immigration Grid Resettlement Improvement Retention Project on the web site just as soon as our amazing web contractor puts it there," continued Hall, "but in the meantime, all the immigrants need do is come on over to Silver Street Park during business hours, with a check or money order for $1,000 each, payable to Gahan for State Senate 2018, and we'll take care of the rest."

After lone rally attendee Adam Dickey finished applauding, a Mexican immigrant who works in the kitchen approached Gahan and ceremoniously emptied the insipid contents of a Miller Lite can over his head.

The mayor giggled.

"That tickles, but boy do I love water sports. I'm too legit to quit. Say, did we get any money yet?"

BOOKS: "Thomas Piketty's 'Capital' in 3 minutes."

Novel Explosives is finished, and next up on the nightstand is Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

My friend Brandon has been touting Piketty to me ever since Capital was published. With perhaps 30 years elapsing since the last time I delved into Karl Marx's 19-century version, it's time to catch up.

The brief video from BBC provides an overview sufficient for bluffing knowledge. The book's 35-page introduction did the same, and now the tougher sledding has started, but I can do this. I think.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Vilhelm Hammershøi: "He was an artist. He made paintings. The rest is silence."

The documentary is called "Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershoi" (2005), more specifically Vilhelm Hammershøi, and while I've learned a lot about Denmark since befriending Kim, Kim and Allan, this artist had remained completely unknown to me until watching the film.

Palin tries mightily to get inside the artist's head and learn what made him tick, but a century later, evidence remains elusive. The conclusion? Sometimes things just are. Palin's valedictory words are very moving to me.

"He was an artist. He made paintings. The rest is silence."

'A heady fusion of Hopper and Vermeer', by Michael Palin

... I don't think Hammershoi would have liked the confessional times we live in now, when a desire for privacy is considered suspect and appreciation of any work of art seems to depend on how much we know about the artist's personal life. He left us his quirky, innovative paintings and I think he intended them to say everything about himself that he wanted the world to know.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interiør. Stue med klaver og sortklædt kvinde, 1901

"If you’re a Person Who Lives in a City, your voice matters. If you’re a Person on a Bike, get out there and ride."

Because if you're an elected official in New Albany, wouldn't it be wonderful if you read and digested thoughts like these?

Why I'm Not a Cyclist, by Kea Wilson (Strong Towns)

 ... I resist the term “cyclist” because I don’t believe riding a bicycle should, by necessity, be an extreme sport. You don’t magically become a NASCAR racer when you get behind the wheel of your Honda—and if the street outside your house was designed like the Indianapolis motor speedway, you’d probably be pretty stressed out. I ride a bike for the same reasons many Americans do. Or the reasons that many of them would if they thought they’d be safe doing it:

  • Because it’s cheaper to get to the grocery store or the movies on my bike, and quicker, especially if I’m headed to that ultra-packed downtown food festival
  • Because some of my best memories are from group rides with friends to north city breweries, rain-soaked and happy by the time we sat down for burgers and $4 drafts
  • Because it’s good exercise? Kind of. But I’d be lying if I said that mattered much to me ...

 ... We can all see the problems in our neighborhoods—and if people get the message that they need to be experts to participate in conversations about how to fix their towns, then we’re losing out on an enormous and crucial resource.

Engaged citizenry shouldn’t require expertise, any more than riding a bike should require a $2000 frame and a mastery of cycling lingo (and to my cyclist friends reading this: forgive me for whatever I’ve butchered). If you’re a Person Who Lives in a City, your voice matters. If you’re a Person on a Bike, get out there and ride.

THE BEER BEAT: It took a week to get the details straight, but BBC is leaving its current St. Matthews location after 23 years and hopes to reopen elsewhere in Louisville.

There are lessons somewhere in all this, but at the moment I am bereft of glibness. If Jim, Debbie and Blake are reading, thanks; you had it right the first time. 

To revisit the roller coaster of the past week, first the rumorama insisted that January 29 would be the last business day for Bluegrass Brewing Company St. Matthews, but the rest of it was unclear. Next, the Green Mouse received a more nuanced and expansive report, much of which has now come to light (below), to the effect that the January 29 date was incorrect.

Then literally, this report proved to be true; not January 29, but February 5 as the last day for BBC at its longtime Shelbyville Road digs.

Yesterday morning, Insider Louisville's Caitlin Bowling reported about the fast and furious BBC rumors, and subsequently her instincts were proven correct.

Rumors fly about fate of Bluegrass Brewing Company’s St. Matthews restaurant

During the past week, Insider Louisville has received tip after tip from people who say they’ve heard that the Bluegrass Brewing Company plans to close its St. Matthews bar and restaurant.

A few hours later, the floodgates opened. I believe the C-J's Bailey Loosemore was first past the post.

Bluegrass Brewing Co. to leave St. Matthews

Bluegrass Brewing Company is moving from its St. Matthews location after 23 years on Shelbyville Road.

On Friday, co-owner Pat Hagan told the Courier-Journal that the company has agreed to forgo its lease on the brewery's building so that another restaurant can move in. Partners in the new venture were previously involved in Sully's Saloon, a Fourth Street Live! bar and restaurant that closed in 2013 after an 11-year run ...

... Soon, construction will start on a new BBC restaurant in the Kindred Healthcare facility at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street. And Hagan hopes to find a new building in the East End where he can reopen a taproom and resume retail production.

Business First's David Mann closed Friday with an update.

BBC leaving St. Matthews after 23 years

Bluegrass Brewing Co. is leaving the St. Matthews space it's called home for 23 years. The brewpub, located on Shelbyville Road, near Breckenridge Lane is closing up shop Feb. 5, allowing a new concept to move in to the location.

The area has changed in the more than two decades since BBC opened there, owner Pat Hagan told me in an interview today.

"It's more of a night club area now, which we're not," he said.

So, to recap: Owner Pat Hagan bowed (intelligently, in my view) to leasing and area development realities and now hopes to move BBC to a new location, one that will allow the expansion of brewing into bottling and/or canning. The 3rd Street brewery and restaurant remain open, and the 4th Street branch will reopen when the Kindred building is finished. The coming week will be a victory lap for BBC in St. Matthews, and I hope to make it over and learn the future of my Wort Mug, number 66.

That's the way it is, at least until it changes again. APA, here I come.

Elevation, segregation and hallucination as TIF-endental Meditation comes to a Parks Department Taj Mahal near you.

It was bound to happen, if for no other reason than cash flow(n), if not minds blown.

Silver Street Meditation

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! -- Act now with a $100 contribution to Gahan for State Senate 2018, and you can meditate right along with the mayor (koozie not included).

BUT HE'S NOT FINISHED YET --Just imagine the fun when the megabuck aquatic center gets into the act, combining meditation and icy water sports to produce Polar Bear Pondering.

In an effort to take our minds off the abundant comedic and satirical possibilities of TIF-endantal Meditation at one or the other of our many multi-million dollar parks, let's give Team Gahan a few more words to consider. In fact, the lyrics read as a sort of mezcal-laced history of the Gahan administration.

This should keep them busy well into 2018.

Try not to hate

Love your mate
Don't suffocate on your own hate
Designate your love as fate
A one world state
As human freight
The number eight
A white black state
A gentle trait
The broken crate
A heavy weight
Or just too late
Like pretty Kate has sex ornate
Now devastate
The truth dilate
Special date
The animal we ate
Guilt debate
The edge serrate
A better rate
The youth irate

To moderate
Or detonate
Atomic fate

Clear the state
Now radiate
A perfect state
Food on plate
The Earth's own weight
Designate your love as fate
At ninety-eight we all rotate

Try not to hate

Love your mate
Don't suffocate on your own hate
Designate your love as fate
A one world state
As human freight
The number eight
A white black state
A gentle trait
The broken crate

A heavy weight
Or just too late
Like pretty Kate has sex ornate

Now devastate
The truth dilate
Special date
The animals we ate
Guilt debate
The edge serrate
A better rate
The youth irate


Friday, January 27, 2017

BOOKS: Jim Gauer's "encyclopedic" Novel Explosives.

For my first book of 2017, it proved to be 713 crazed pages in 27 days, and for me this qualifies as exceptionally fast reading.

I richly enjoyed Jim Gauer's Novel Explosives, selected by my friend Jon, and described by reviewer Jeff Bursey as an "encyclopedic novel."

This strikes me as entirely apt. There is an obvious though imperfect linkage to the brilliant 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, which I read two years ago, and also references the havoc wreaked by drug cartels in places like Ciudad Juarez (and America's culpability).

Among the names dropped by the book's reviewers in an effort to establish affinities are writers David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, and Richard Powers, as well as filmmaker Quentin Tarantino -- and again, it's hard to argue with these linkages. Oddly, what's missing is sex, apart from a single interlude roughly halfway through.

For the most part, Gauer's novel deals with money and power.

Set out in three parts, the action takes place from 13-20 April 2009, mostly in cars, hotels, houses, and buildings in El Paso and, primarily, Juárez and Guanajuato, Mexico. The book begins with an amnesiac trying to figure out who and where he is. A “United Kingdom driver’s license, with an address in Scotland,” identifies him as Alvaro de Campos, one of the many heteronyms[1] created by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), with an 80-year-old photo of Pessoa to match. The amnesiac isn’t taken in, and later on becomes Probably-Not Alvaro for a short while. Underlying the surface calm in the presentation of his situation is an edginess of mood when faced with no idea who he is, how he came to occupy his hotel room with a crude photo card, an ATM card with no PIN, and a large bump on the back of his head, or why a FedEx package with clippings showing mass graves relates to his life. The second narrator is the nameless capitalist who provides a brief summary of his early life, mostly from the business angle, leaving out the identities of his first and second wives, but eager to discuss his financial successes, aside from a venture involving Dacha Wireless. The third narrative thread follows two gunmen, Raymond and Eugene, as they search for the venture capitalist whose financial gain from Dacha bothers their Mexican cartel drug lord boss, the Shakespeare-quoting Gomez. There are a few ancillary men and women whose lives intersect, briefly or longer, with these figures.

Bursey points to the specialized language and jargon used by each of the main characters, whether about weaponry, finance, surgical instruments or the inner world of blowflies: "The unfamiliarity of the terms can slow the reading down," Bursey writes, "but if the language is allowed to wash over one then a general sense of what’s going on gradually becomes clear."

For some, these may remain as serious obstacles to enjoyment, and bring up the questions: Why? And how is this literary prose? Years ago, someone I once knew came up with a handy triad (or else appropriated it from goodness knows where) that can be applied in diverse situations: esoteric—knowledge of which you approve; arcane—knowledge of which you are afraid; anachronistic—knowledge of which you are ignorant. It is no less intrinsically worthy to read about “Redeemable bait” than a description of a park or a character’s haircut. What matters most is that these distinct vocabularies assist in presenting and thickening the milieu the characters’ thoughts spring from. What at first look to be unwieldy fragments of language are entirely germane to the worlds inhabited by VC and Ray. As Ludwig Wittgenstein—a definite touchstone for Gauer—says in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922): “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” 

"Wash over" is an appropriate way of describing it. Page-length lists of military hardware aren't my thing, but if the reader allows these interludes to function as the backing rhythm track, it works.

Novel Explosives is wild, funny, serious, entertaining and not without a thought-provoking message. I recommend it without hesitation -- and many thanks to Jon for the favor.

Next up on the 2017 reading list, finally, is Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I'm wondering if there'll be any specialized language and jargon therein.

I'll be back in a few weeks to let you know.

THE BEER BEAT: No selfies necessary, because localism is why I believe the impending Falls City expansion is good news.

I'd like to applaud a news item pertaining to Falls City Brewing Company, but first, a wee bit of background.

Anyone seen my soapbox?

At some point in the distant past, I joined two or three Facebook sites devoted to "craft" beer, primarily (naively?) seeking information and discussion.

It soon became apparent that I have little in common with an entire generation of "craft" beer fans, especially when exploring the topic of localism in brewing. In retrospect, some of the chats I had on "social" media should have prepared me for the bottomless venom of Clinton v. Trump.

I'd suggest that local beer and brewing were good, and to be desired, and within minutes you'd think I'd bayoneted a baby.

Once upon a time there were many local American breweries. A conflagration (Prohibition) leveled most of them, and of those remaining, only the ones most adept at capital accumulation (ah, glorious capitalism) were able to meet the reemerging beer market's needs, less in terms of price point than packaging to sell beer in areas which might have been out of range formerly – i.e., those very same locales where brewing ceased or diminished owing to Prohibition. The habitat changed, and the strong survived.

Capital accumulation leads to greater size, which leads in turn to wider powers, which leads finally to the ability of an Anheuser-Busch to come into a marketplace (say, Louisville, 1950s and 60s) and knock out whatever remained of brewing competition (say, Fehr’s, Oertel’s and eventually Falls City) by under-selling.

Voila! Now Budweiser from St. Louis could become "Louisville’s beer," and to this very day it says so right there on that humongous sign in right field at Slugger Feel This, bringing with it all the abuses of economic power that compelled us to stage a beer revolt in the first place.

But localism as an economic doctrine provides another way of looking at the world – capitalism with a more human face, complementary to a good beer ethos, and also a different collection of information that permits tying a singular love of mine (beer) to another (the community in which I live, and how to make it better). It offers sense and sensibility out of relative scale, and suggests differing standards of value and achievement.

It isn’t infallible, but it’s a place to start.

I’m coming to understand why Dave Zirin is my favorite American sportswriter, He refers to his column as the place where sports and politics collide, and that’s the same way I feel about beer.

Granted, my former career in beer had its share of missteps, and I didn't always “get it" when I should have, but looking back, there is considerable relief, and a measure of vindication, that I got it right more often than not.

For the most part, I tried to connect dots even before I knew what they meant. Beer is inseparable from community, and it is not consumed in a vacuum. If good beer cannot touch adjoining areas of the human experience, to modify them and be modified by them, then it no longer interests me.

Now, back to the Facebook portals, where the vast majority of activity (then as now) involves participants posting loving photos of the beers they have acquired, or are presently drinking, or will soon hide away in a space formerly reserved for the delusions of post-nuclear attack “survivors.”

Seldom are there substantive efforts to explain exactly why we should be in awe of the treasure troves depicted within; only visual beer porn, because as members of the insider's club, we’re expected to know – or to hurriedly search on-line beer ratings aggregators lest we appear dumb:

“Ah, look; dude got him an equatorial, triple-soured, dry-Chrysanthemummed Brett bomb aged in caskets formerly used to bury Scottish road kill constructed with Islay-tempered wood. Lucky fucker. Maybe he’ll trade me for a …”

To me, this attitude is little more than a circle jerk: “Look what I have, and see how important I am.”

I'd suggest that narcissism of this caliber goes far to explain the nation's current ideological gridlock, and I'll be damned it I'll allow it to intrude upon the serenity of my beeriness -- explaining why I seldom return to the sites in question.

Taking it a step further, with hundreds more breweries capitalized and predicated on an "export" model of packaging, dedicated to shipping elsewhere as opposed to increasing the local "craft" beer base and growing organically, the logic implies attitudinal assumptions with the real potential to negate local brewing's fundamental raison d'etre.

If one follows the export doctrine to its logical conclusion, each brewery will be shipping its beer somewhere else, at least until they’re winnowed out by force of capital accumulation, at which point a brewery in Georgia will erect a billboard somewhere by the Ohio River toll bridges: “We’re the only beer Louisville really needs,” and in the dark of night, their trucks on the interstate highway to Louisville will pass the ones from Louisville breweries, headed toward Atlanta.

Then we’re right back where we started, aren’t we, and in need of (yet another) revolution?

Let's see ... I promised something about Falls City, and here it is. To me, this is great news. It brings the brand back home, and the expansion ties into what John Neace and Neace Ventures are doing with Louisville City FC, and in my mind, enhances prospects for the soccer stadium to be in the west end.

All I need is for the K & I Bridge to be reopened to foot and bicycle traffic, making my commute to all this easier without a car.

This iconic Louisville beer brand is considering a major expansion, by David Mann (Louisville Business First)

Falls City Brewing Co. is planning a major Louisville expansion and it's teaming up with Heine Brothers' Coffee to do so.

Neace Ventures, Fall City's parent, has signed a letter of intent to acquire ownership in the building that houses the Heine Brothers’ Coffee headquarters, according to a news release. The building would be co-owned by the companies. And the move would bring 100 percent of Falls City’s brewing operations to Louisville.

Insofar as there is a "left" in New Albany, it simply cannot trust the local Democratic Party to "lead" it.

The problem with relying on the Floyd County Democratic Party's largely fictional "leadership" cadre to assist in the rebirth of the Left is that they are capable neither of waging nor winning a "battle" for the party's soul.

Our Gahans and Dickeys are influence peddlers, displaying far less soul than conditioned responses for self-preservation, and they're currently leaning over backwards to appease Dan Coffey, a snarling Trumpian and the polar opposite of what's really needed. They're engaged in this demeaning somersault because the local party presently has no stated purpose apart from enhancing Jeff Gahan's cult of personality.

ON THE AVENUES: Jeff Gahan and Adam Dickey are Trumping the Donald when it comes to breathtaking moral turpitude. Have they no shame?

If all this disgusts you, you'll be delighted to know that alternative models exist. Let the principled refurbishment begin ... and if the local protectors of rapidly failing orthodoxy are unable to adapt, seeing them swept away would be a highly soulful development, wouldn't it?

First, about the Left itself ...

The American left will be reborn under President Trump, by Owen Jones (The Guardian)

Clintonian-centrism was defeated in November, but attempts to repeal Obamacare show the Republicans are weak and divided. Now is the time for the left to craft a populist alternative

Donald Trump is now the most powerful man on Earth. You would expect the American left to be despondent; it’s not. The left is stronger than it has been for decades. They are up against a president who lost the popular vote, who assumes office with the lowest approval rating on record, and whose party is riven by divisions. In November, Clintonian-centrism – whose compelling selling point was the ability to win – was defeated, plunging the American republic into its gravest crisis since the war ...

 ... A battle for the soul of the Democratic party now beckons. There are siren voices who claim that the Democrats were too radical, too vociferous in their support of women and minorities. But a powerful new movement is determined to transform the Democrats into a party that unapologetically challenges vested interests.

 ... then, some strategies for those still embracing the Party.

The First Step to Electing More Democrats? Getting Them to Run, by Tim Murphy (Mother Jones)

How one group is trying to channel the Trump resistance into political gains.

... Run for Something's mission is not to stop Trump in 2020, at least not directly. Its focus is on local races, where Democrats have been creamed over the last eight years, losing some 935 state legislative seats during the Obama era. In 2017, it is focusing its efforts on Virginia and North Carolina, two places where Democratic gains at the state level (the party controls the governor's mansion in both states) are undercut by conservative legislatures. In Virginia, a blue state in the last three presidential elections, Democrats have failed even to show up in some races: 44 of the state's 67 Republican delegates ran unopposed in 2015, including three Republicans in districts carried by Hillary Clinton. Democrats have a long way to go to recoup what they lost, but they've also left a lot of low-hanging fruit on the vine.

Marohn to POTUS: "We're going to make investments in infrastructure with the systems we have, not the ones we wish we had. There are ways to get better results now."

The excerpt here is intended as a tease only. You'll want to read Marohn's statement at the point of origin, because the links included provide a wealth of information as well as opportunities for further study.

Forget POTUS.

This letter needs to be read by all public officials in New Albany and Floyd County, and they also should consider visiting Strong Towns on a regular basis. Something solid is on display there every day.

A Letter to POTUS on Infrastructure, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

 ... What do we do today? To paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, we're going to make investments in infrastructure with the systems we have, not the ones we wish we had. There are ways to get better results now.
  • We need to prioritize maintenance over new capacity. With so many non-performing assets, it's irresponsible to build additional capacity. Project proposers will try to add additional capacity with their maintenance projects. If it is truly warranted, it can and should be funded locally. Cities need to discover ways to turn such investments into positive ROI projects, a process the federal government can only impede.
  • We must prioritize small projects over large. Small projects not only spread the wealth, they have much greater potential for positive returns with far lower risk. Large projects exceed their budgets more often and with greater severity -- dollars and percentage -- than smaller projects. A thousand projects of a million dollars or less have far more financial upside than a single billion-dollar project ever will. It's administratively easier to do fewer, big projects, but that is a bureaucratic temptation we need to overcome.
  • We should spend far more below ground than above. Many of our sewer and water systems are approaching 100 years old. When these core pipes fail, the problems cascade throughout the system. Technology may soon dramatically change how we use our roads and streets making investments in expansion there obsolete, but water and sewer will still flow through pipes as it has for thousands of years. We should spend at least $5 below ground for every $1 we spend above.
  • We should prioritize neighborhoods more than 75 years old. We've modeled hundreds of cities across the country and in every one the neighborhoods with the highest investment potential are the ones that existed before World War II. These are established places where small investments have a huge impact. Most investments in neighborhoods built after World War II are simply bailouts, pouring good money after bad.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Shock and awe: It appears that New Albany's luxury soccer stadium offer has arrived at the Dead Letter Office.

You'll recall the first yuuuuge local headline of 2017, courtesy of Boris Ladwig at Insider Louisville.

ON THE AVENUES: Gahan's stadium arcadium kicks off a new year with hilarity, pathos and own goals.

... Such was their enthusiasm for this idea, at a price tag of as much as $30 million, that New Albany’s Mayor Gahan, his adjutant David Duggins and their council fixer, Pat “His Master’s Voice” McLaughlin, apparently spoke openly with Ladwig. In the aftermath, they were left looking like naïve rubes propped atop an incoming hay wagon when Neace and Louisville City FC’s varied clarifications began flowing the morning following Ladwig’s story.

Three weeks have passed, and evidently the bloodhounds have tracked Louisville City FC's stadium chase back to a location in downtown Louisville, leaving New Albanians to ruefully shake their heads and ponder whether Team Gahan went for the glamorous bait with or without a proper sense of ironic detachment -- in short, did New Albany play its nodding, nudging, winking role so as to concentrate the thinking of Mayor Fischer's economic incentives hit squad, or did we really believe we were in The Game?

Only the mildewed Down Low Bunker walls know for sure, and as usual, the principal players aren't talking. Earlier this week, Louisville City FC disgorged a press release, which was incorporated into an article at WLKY, which was reprinted by IL with permission, prior to these stories being artfully cut and pasted together to form an unattributed story at the News and Tribune.

Let's reference the club's own words, shall we?

Louisville City FC has entered into partnership with global architecture firm HOK for design of a soccer-specific stadium and adjacent development projects, a key step in the club’s pursuit of a long-term home.

HOK will provide the vision for a 10,000-seat stadium that could later expand in capacity to 20,000. The overall site plan will also include space for office and retail development.

“We’re getting closer to securing a lot in urban Louisville, and now we’re thinking about what we can build on it,” said LouCity Chairman John Neace. “HOK’s work ensures that once a location is determined, community members will have a tangible picture of Louisville City FC’s future.”

Ladwig provides further background here: Soccer official: Division II status brings broadcasting, sponsorship opportunities for Louisville City FC.

... For LouCity, this year, its third in the league, is shaping up to be a pivotal year. Club leaders have identified the need for a soccer-specific stadium as their primary goal this year. The club hopes to build a $25 million venue in Louisville, but hasn’t ruled out moving to Southern Indiana, depending on how the finances work out. Chairman John Neace has said that the local owners plan to raise millions of private dollars toward construction, but likely will need some public support to make the stadium a reality.

"Gentrification has a much bigger effect and poses far bigger risks for renters."

New Albany is gentrifying, at least in comparative terms.

Taking into consideration the Gahan administration's emphasis on scattered pockets of heavily subsidized "luxury," the mayor's concurrent war on public housing -- which in reality is far less "welfare" than affordable housing for the working poor -- and his failure to fully mobilize rental property inspections, it's clear that the risk of displacement described by Florida will be borne (yet again) by those New Albanians least able to cope.

Gentrification Has Virtually No Effect on Homeowners; The risk of displacement falls largely on renters, by Richard Florida (CityLab)

Gentrification is the hottest of hot-button urban issues. Many activists and critics see it as essentially a process by which more affluent and educated white newcomers displace poorer, working-class black residents. But those who have studied the subject closely, like Columbia University urban planner Lance Freeman, believe that the issue of displacement is more myth than reality. In fact, Freeman’s detailed empirical research has found that the probability of a family being displaced by gentrification in New York City was a mere 1.3 percent.

Now a recent study by Isaac William Martin and Kevin Beck in Urban Affairs Review helps deepen our understanding of the issue of displacement. It’s the first study I’ve come across that separates out the effects of gentrification on renters versus homeowners. Previous research, including Freeman’s landmark research, grouped renters and owners together ...


... The big takeaway is that gentrification has a much bigger effect and poses far bigger risks for renters, who tend to have lower incomes, are subject to rising rents, and can be evicted from their apartments. For many today, the solution to today’s urban housing affordability problem is to deregulate land use and build more housing. But this is likely to help more advantaged homeowners, who already benefit from the substantial subsidy that comes from their ability to deduct the interest paid on their mortgages. It’s time for housing policy to focus on lower-income renters who face the highest housing burdens—and the biggest risk of being displaced by gentrification.

If Matthew Tully says it's "An impressive start for Gov. Holcomb," then I'm paying attention.

Let's put it this way.

Matthew Tully was outspokenly critical of Mike Pence during Pence's time in the Statehouse, and the reason I know this is because I cherry-picked Tully's writings very often in order to make my own "screw Pence" points.

Consequently, I regard Tully as a credible witness, so in fairness, let's consider this assessment of Indiana's incoming Governor, Eric Holcomb.

Tully: An impressive start for Gov. Holcomb, by Matthew Tully (Indy Star)

It’s only been two weeks, but Gov. Eric Holcomb is off to a solid start as governor. The reason: His focus is on all the right things.

He’s not yet been in office for two weeks, but Gov. Eric Holcomb is off to the kind of start that gives you hope about the things to come.

With his speeches, staff appointments and legislative agenda, Holcomb is reminding Hoosiers of what it’s like to have a governor who keeps his focus on the kind of issues that truly matter. I know that sounds simple, and it’s hard to understand why a governor would do anything but that. Nonetheless, we’ve seen up close what happens when a governor fails to focus only on the core issues facing our state.

Holcomb has seen it, too, and it’s looking like he’s intent on avoiding the damage that comes when one’s ideology leads the way. Or when one forgets that a governor’s job above all else is to move his or her state toward more prosperity and opportunity. Or that governing is not just about indulging and exciting your base.