Thursday, August 10, 2017

ON THE AVENUES: Super Tuesday shrapnel – or, tiptoeing through the tulips with Dan Coffey, now THE face of historic preservation in New Albany.

ON THE AVENUES: Super Tuesday shrapnel – or, tiptoeing through the tulips with Dan Coffey, now THE face of historic preservation in New Albany.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

"Thank you for the dinner and a very pleasant evening. Have your car take me to the airport. Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news at once."
 -- Tom Hagen

Deaf Gahan has given the term Super Tuesday a fresh and innovative meaning.

Henceforth, I propose the second Tuesday of August to become a New Albany municipal holiday – a time for bargain vote-buying sprees, and maybe even the perfect occasion for the Meat Loaf Walk, superseding our previous choice of Election Day in November.

Gahan’s new and improved Super Tuesday reminded me of the original Godfather film, albeit without the gore. You’ll no doubt recall the ending of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic tale of Corleone family values. While Michael impassively attends the christening of his sister’s child …

Corleone assassins murder the other New York dons and Moe Greene. Tessio is executed for his treachery and Michael extracts Carlo’s confession to his complicity in setting up Sonny's murder for Barzini. A Corleone capo, Clemenza, garrotes Carlo with a wire. Connie accuses Michael of the murder, telling Kay that Michael ordered all the killings. Kay is relieved when Michael finally denies it, but, when the capos arrive, they address her husband as Don Corleone, and she watches as they close the door on her.

This week on Super Tuesday, Gahan stayed safe in the bunker, impassively tending to the consumption of a Chick fil-A sandwich as his minions announced one of the most efficient vote-buying hauls in the city’s long and dubious history.

For the amazing low price of $826,000 of someone else’s money (in this instance, one or the other of the Redevelopment Commission’s taxpayer-funded larders), and without any semblance of city council approval (the Board of Works soon will vote, but all three members were appointed by Gahan and exist primarily to rubber stamp Dear Leader’s directives), the following results have been achieved.

Glorious Stated Aim #1: The repair and restoration of the Louis Hartman House on State Street, known to us as the Baity Funeral Home, which was damaged by fire last winter.

Translation: Coupled with last year’s municipal contribution toward the restoration of the spire of the Town Clock Church – a significant Underground Railroad historic site as well as home to an active though shrinking religious congregation – the rebirth of Baity’s is meant as reassurance to the city’s African-American community: “Deaf wants you to know that his assault on public housing ain’t nuthin’ personal.”

Gahan will continue to pay lip service to the needs of this key Democratic voting bloc, while of course doing nothing of actual substance.

Meanwhile: With Indiana Landmarks in tow in this and the other two rehab ventures, Gahan will have pried IL from the competition (dastardly Jeffersonville), because IL will move its office to the restored Baity structure. Under normal circumstances, kowtowing in such a fashion to historic preservationists would ignite the fierce fire and fury of key Gahan ally Dan Coffey, but …

Glorious Stated Aim #2: Give the Knights of Columbus (Main Street) a new façade.

Translation: … since Coffey is a tremendous backer of the K of C, he’s neutralized and back on the mayor's payroll, at least for the moment.

Meanwhile: Deaf Gahan is Catholic … and the Democratic Party has been holding gatherings in Catholic-affiliated venues since the long ago days when bona fide Democrats like FDR walked the earth ... and that pesky priest at St. Mary’s keeps breathing down Team Gahan’s tight collars about the original sin of the two-way streets conversion … so POOF; all dissonance disappears, just like that, and to such a pervasive extent that we now see Coffey taking pride of place in the mayor’s MTV video touting Super Cash Stuffed Envelope Tuesday (below).

That’s right, folks. By means of just a teensy tiny bit of façade cash awarded to an organization that maintains an anti-abortion monument out front, welcome to a gay-baiting, venom-spewing, ward-heeling councilman forever in service to the highest bidder becoming the poster child of historic preservation in New Albany … but Gahan isn’t finished yet.

Glorious Stated Aim #3: The moribund Reisz Furniture Building is saved from neglect by the pillars of the business community who’ve sat on its deterioration for a quarter-century, with the Denton Floyd firm out of Louisville absorbing much of the rehab expense after enticements, City Hall undertaking a 25-year lease to move its offices there, and historic preservationists delighted at this providential turn of events.

Translation: City employees will have plush new digs, and consequently their loyalty to Dear Leader (and the votes of the employees and their families, going all the way back to the Democratic Party's always productive subterranean precinct at Fairview) is duly secured.

A Louisville contractor is used, so Gahan doesn’t have to deal with those demanding local builders who won’t vote Democratic, anyway – and so what if the bucks are going to Louisville construction workers? They went to Flaherty and Collins for the Break Wind Lofts at Duggins Flats, and no one uttered a peep – not even Coffey.

Meanwhile: Historic preservationists have sold their souls, trading any remaining independence and autonomy for a Hail Coffey touchdown, with Coffey, their perennial critic, being content to abide by his leash.

However:  The price of being co-opted is that if any piece of this puzzle fails to materialize, Gahan’s finger will be pointed at Indiana Landmarks and local historic preservationists, in precisely the same manner as the Board of Works when it tossed its grid modernization contractors under the dump truck after mistakes were made in the two-way buildout – and Coffey’s “tear that old shit down” snarl will circle back to the next relevant council meeting, initiating yet another cycle of finding ways to buy him off.

And yet, there’s even more.

At long last, secure in the reasonable expectation that the very best candidate the GOP can muster for mayor in 2019 is Deaf’s politically superannuated subdivision neighbor Mark Seabrook, the mayor has effectively Trumped and Lapped his hapless enemies in Floyd County government.

Seabrook & Co. will be stuck with an unspeakably dowdy 1960s-era Only the County Now Building, which might plausibly be a film set for one of those Commie spy dramas about East Germany during Reagan’s first term, though if Seabrook has a sense of humor, he might retaliate by mimicking the Stasi and turning the monstrosity into one massive jailhouse.

All aboard the re-election train, folks: African-Americans. Historic preservationists. Catholics. City employees. Develop New Albany’s forever fluffing auxiliary. Newspapers. Breitbart News Network devotees. There’s something here for each one of you, and only one caveat.

Don’t ask Deaf any questions. Take your number, sit quietly, and when you hear Shane Gibson’s voice on the loudspeaker, raise those color-coded signs.

Gibson’s no Tom Hagen, but he’ll do in a pinch.

As usual, the shame in all this is that the local media maintains such a similarly awestruck demeanor in the face of Deaf’s star power that it cannot ask even the simplest of follow-up questions.

And why do these questions matter?

When the minions get self-assured in the absence of scrutiny, throwing out those benumbing numbers – $826,000 here, a million-five there – all the while earnestly asking you to trust their math, it’s important to remember the sheer volume of what they keep hidden, both large and small.

Try asking the minions for the financials from Deaf’s signature River Run aquatic center (large), or the status of the Bicentennial coffee table books (small). Suddenly their blarney evaporates, and they can’t even decipher their own filing systems.

When politicians and their aides wish not to talk about a topic, isn’t this precisely the time when a newspaper should?

However, even more than the newspaper’s ongoing failure to make Deaf’s dome bead with sweat, it’s even more disappointing to me that David Duggins doesn’t appear on the mayor’s Reisz Vote-Buy Bonanza video at YouTube.

By the way, did you know that Gahan's feel-good video was directed by the same guy who did David Lee Roth’s seminal “Just a Gigolo"?

Given the now familiar stratagem of routing all big ticket projects through the all-appointed and sycophant-tested Redevelopment Commission, it’s obvious that this deal didn’t emerge on the morning of Super Tuesday.

Duggins’ envelope-strewn, back-alley, pump-priming paw prints are all over Super Tuesday, and yet there he is, dazed and marooned at the public housing demolition authority, unable to mug for the cameras and commission plaques to himself.

It just isn’t fair, but there isn’t time this week to understand why. Join us again next Thursday, as we learn why it’s going to be so hard to replace Dugout at Redevelopment.


Recent columns:

August 3: ON THE AVENUES: On the importance of being ancient.

July 27: ON THE AVENUES: Irish history with a musical chaser.

July 20: ON THE AVENUES DOUBLEHEADER (2): A book about Bunny Berigan, his life and times.

July 20: ON THE AVENUES DOUBLEHEADER (1): Listening to "Dixieland" jazz, and thinking about drinking a beer.


Iamhoosier said...

In fairness, didn't Elizabeth try to get an interview with the Supreme Leader and got turned down?

Randy said...

As wrong as I believe this is, there is a silver lining. At least Deaf will never get to sit in the new mayor's office except as a supplicant.

The New Albanian said...

True in the specific instance, so perhaps the newspaper management might use its bully pulpit to encourage greater cooperation.


I also think this pertains on a broader level, as we've both observed.