Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Strong Towns Week: Man buys $15,000 uninhabitable shack to renovate. What could go wrong?

We've all heard about something too big to fail. Welcome to the story of a 700-foot house too small to (be allowed to) succeed.

LESSON LEARNED, by Johnny Sanphillippo (Strong Towns)

A couple years ago, I bought a $15,000 uninhabitable house in Cincinnati, Ohio. The copper had been stripped out and no one had lived there for years. This was on a street where a third of the homes were in similar condition. When I told my friends back home in California, there were a few raised eyebrows. I shrugged. Buying a $1,200,000 one bedroom condo in a trendy coastal city seems far more terrifying to me. The little seven hundred square foot shotgun shack in Ohio was so inexpensive that if it turned out to be the worst financial decision of my life I’d only lose $15,000. It was like buying a used Volkswagen.

Well… Last month I sold the place for slightly more than I paid for it. The resale price covered my initial cost, the real estate agent’s fee, and a year of taxes and insurance. If you squint, I broke even. But if you add in other expenses associated with my attempt to renovate the place, I lost about $3,000. That’s not enough to care about in the big scheme of things, but not great either. Like I said… it was basically a used Volkswagen. So what happened?

What happened was a bureaucratic nightmare. If only the author had been eligible for sewer tap-in waivers; alas, his name is Sanphillippo, not Flaherty Collins.

I hasten to point out that in the year my designer struggled to get multiple unresponsive city bureaucracies to give us the green light on our little shack addition, a 131-unit apartment complex went up three blocks away. All the high mucky mucks were at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the cameras. The new building was “transformational.” It was “catalytic.” It was proof that a progressive developer and enlightened city authorities could work together to turn the neighborhood around.

Lesson learned.

R.I.P. Connie Hawkins -- and a look at Roger's labor theory of basketball value.

I'm annoyed at having missed the news of Cornelius (Connie) Hawkins' death earlier in October.

The story of this Hall of Famer's life recalls an earlier time of college basketball corruption, one that had nothing to do with Hawkins, but nonetheless resulted in his blackballing. Then it was gambling, now it's pretend amateurism. The two eras cannot be compared in terms of money.

First a remembrance, followed by the repeat of an old column explaining why an inherent hypocrisy prevents me from enjoying college basketball, though in truth I seldom watch any games of any sort these days, pro or otherwise.

Connie Hawkins, New York City playground legend and Hoops Hall of Famer, dead at 75, by Frank Isola (New York Daily News)

Connie Hawkins, the Brooklyn playground legend who rose from the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant to become a four-time NBA All-Star and gain induction into the basketball Hall of Fame, died on Friday the Phoenix Suns announced.

Hawkins was 75.

Nicknamed “The Hawk”, Hawkins was an athletic, offensive force who made a name for himself with his graceful and acrobatic moves long before anyone had ever heard of Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Michael Jordan.

"Someone said if I didn't break them (the laws of gravity), I was slow to obey them," Hawkins once told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In this household, Rick Pitino's fall from grace was greeted with yawns. In 2011, this column appeared in the chain newspaper, and in 2014 I liberated it from behind the Hanson-Fried Pay Wall.

In our fast-moving world of ephemeral meaninglessness, some of the topical references have aged better than others, but the gist remains precisely the same: When it comes to the artful fiction of student athlete amateurism amid rampant, monopolistic and profiteering hypocrisy, college basketball is tops.


A labor theory of basketball value.

Numerous sources agree that on average, Americans spend at least four hours a day watching television, and although three decades of competitive beer drinking have atrophied my basic math skills, I’m fully capable of calculating this amount to a weekly total of 28 hours and a yearly tally of 1,456, give or take a TV evangelist’s sermon or three.

In truth, it’s probably a lot more than that, and speaking personally, I can’t fathom it. Wasting one’s life watching television makes less sense than squandering valuable agitation time asleep. Both are better done when dead.

Reading and writing, or staring passively at someone else’s creative output, assuming “reality” TV can be “creative”?

Walking and biking, or another numbing episode of Two and a Half Men?

I’d rather mow grass or even put up hay bales than subject myself to Glee, American Idol or any show about comic book criminal forensics, and if refraining from these vapid intrusions, and avoiding the even more disgusting commercials accompanying them, means I’m missing out on a shared “cultural” experience, that’s fine by me. I’ll listen to Duke Ellington instead.

However, exceptions prove the rule. While spending nowhere close to 28 hours a week staring at the tube, I enjoy selected sporting events – a few baseball games in summer, and National Basketball Association (NBA) contests.

‘Round here, the merest mention of my preference for the NBA usually is enough to incite anguished howls from those with rooting interests in universities that many rabid fans have never visited, and couldn’t locate on a map even if map reading were a widely shared skill in Christina Aguilera’s America.

In my admittedly obtuse and distended world, colleges and universities are places where students go for an education, the overall contempt for which severely punishes our American battered work force in a time of increased global competitiveness.

Conversely, America’s (and recently, the world’s) finest basketball players are paid to play in the NBA, which functions vaguely as a market economy, with laborers remunerated in a manner somewhat commensurate with the wealth they assist in creating.

In the NBA, it’s all about the money – and refreshingly, not a single person involved ever bothers denying it.

In American college basketball, it’s also all about the money – and alarmingly, almost every person involved constantly denies it.


As products competing for the entertainment dollar, sporting voyeurism in both the NBA and college hoops is a paying proposition. Fans pay to watch athletes play, and make no mistake: At both levels, without the presence of athletes out there actually playing basketball, no one would ever pay to attend. Remember this whenever college or pro basketball’s “cult of the coach” rears its pompous, idiotic head, because there have been no recorded instances of fans tithing for the privilege of watching Bob Knight or Phil Jackson bark instructions to an empty court.

Given that basketball players are the means of generating profit from nothing, a significant proportion of the money generated by NBA players comes back to them in the form or salaries and endorsements, and that’s as it should be, even if it took until recent times to rightly end the sort of artificially maintained monopoly/cartel at the professional level that merrily and deleteriously persists in college basketball to this precise moment.

In short, while the NBA is far from perfect, at least it’s free of hypocrisy.


Meanwhile, in college basketball, a strikingly small percentage of the money generated by the players comes back to the players, not as pay, but in the form of scholarships and grants. Before Cards or Cats fans begin waving this bogus “free ride” statistic in my face, recall that NCAA Division One basketball players generate billions of dollars of revenue.

Yes, the players are lightly “paid” with wholesale-priced scholarships, representing what amounts to sweatshop wages in proportionate terms, as well as being “rewarded” with the opportunity to work more often than study. All of it is hypocritical and exploitative, and the system as currently constituted is to the detriment of higher education, as Murray Sperber concludes in his classic study, “Beer and Circus."

In the book, Sperber (who the iconic Knight understandably detests) charges that Big Time Universities knowingly entice students not with bang-for-the-buck learning, but with the siren’s lure of party culture and upper echelon NCAA athletics, hence the term “Beer and Circus,” which consciously echoes ancient Rome. Distracted by parties and ballgames, students hopefully fail to notice that their educational institutions fail to provide them a quality undergraduate education … and tuition never decreases.

In a nutshell, that’s why I can no longer watch college basketball. The sham is too much for this hardened cynic, even if every once in a while a school like Butler comes along to encourage us to giddily swallow the bait and get all touchy-feely about the alleged triumphs of amateurism, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

To maintain the populace’s preference for the fiction of student athlete amateurism amid the rampant, monopolistic and profiteering hypocrisy, why not institute a program of delayed gratification?

Take a percentage of the revenue generated annually by NCAA basketball (just think of the advertising monies generated by March Madness alone) and use it to pay the players according to an agreed upon wage scale -- but deferred, not until they graduate, or failing graduation, when they reach a certain age.

Until then, how ‘bout them Heat?

Deaf Gahan's hostile takeover of public housing: Lots of tricks, zero treats -- and no representation for residents.

Much to her credit, yesterday afternoon the Democratic state senate candidate Anna Murray became the first visible party member (apart from Jeff Gahan himself) to publicly state a viewpoint on the ongoing public housing putsch.

It was a thoughtful answer to a simple question, made all the more striking by the party's silence. Here's an excerpt.

It does seem like the residents' fears could be assuaged if they knew what was going to happen next after razing, and when that might occur. Perhaps the whole issue could have been thought through a little more from beginning to end before making a decision without knowing what the next steps would be.

As to the procedural aspects, whether the Physical Needs Assessment should have been done, whether HUD policies were or were not violated, whether the firing of Bob Lane was appropriate or strong-arming, I am really not in a position to know the answers to these questions. I was not involved in any of this, and am not an expert in the inner workings of the housing authority.

Two things.

First, in a purported democracy -- or whatever other word we're currently using to describe decision-making in a time of oligarchic trickle-over consolidation -- concepts like transparency and fair play actually do matter.

Gahan's tactics for implementing this remaking of public housing have been secretive, undemocratic and at odds with what local Democrats claim they believe; for them to remain silent is to condone pure malice.

Murray correctly acknowledges that the mechanics of the takeover might be pursued differently, but they haven't been, and aren't likely to be so long as Gahan looks in the mirror each morning and sees Glorious Leader smiling back at him.

Methods matter, and Democrats obeying the directive by refusing to discuss the ugliness are entirely complicit in it. The sharper among them are aware of the cognitive dissonance. Apart from this relative minority, we're forced to conclude that the remainder have always accepted the mythology of public housing as source of all New Albany's problems. Not only is this hokum, but it's also not very Democratic of the Democrats.

Second, while none of us understand the inner workings of HUD, the larger issue with Gahan's public housing power grab and the future of public housing residents is that they quite plainly have been disenfranchised.

To understand this, consider where New Albany's public housing residents live. The biggest concentration are in District 1; their council unrepresentative is Dan Coffey, a nominal independent.

Smaller pockets are in Districts 2, 3 and 4 -- Caesar, Phipps and McLaughlin, respectively; all supposed Democrats and none of whom have had the first public word to say about the destiny of these constituents. Of the three at-large councilman, all Republicans, only Al Knable has ventured a position (broadly in favor of decentralization, with several caveats).

Riverview Terrace is here in my 3rd council district, and originally it was targeted for demolition. When I asked CM Phipps about his stance in a private message, he replied: "Council has no say in such decisions, it's the Mayor's decision." But council also had no say in the aftermath of the 2016 massacre in Orlando, Florida, and this didn't stop Phipps from authoring a resolution of support for the victims.

(Phipps) offered a non-binding resolution expressing solidarity with the city of Orlando in the wake of the horrible massacre there. The resolution noted support of universal LGBT rights and repudiated violence. It was impeccable, and all eight council representatives in attendance concurred.

Gesture politics from afar apparently are easier than grassroots engagement down the street.

Then there's Coffey, who in the past has openly asserted that public housing residents don't enjoy the same rights as citizens as the rest of us.

While you're chewing on this, note that despite Coffey's repudiation of the Democratic Party, and his open embrace of Trumpism, he continues to be coddled by Team Gahan and party chairman Dickey -- or maybe I have this backwards, and Coffey is coddled by Team Gahan and Dickey precisely because he believes public housing residents aren't citizens.

The point remains.

Elected council representative from districts in which public housing units are located, three Democrat and one Independent, are abdicating their responsibilities. Ironically, the only one of these four to remain hypocrisy-free is Coffey.

Because the other three are Democrats, and because of what Democrats maintain are their core beliefs about social justice and concern for the working class (90% of public housing residents are employed), it adds up to why Anna Murray, Dan Canon and Liz Watson should inform themselves and provide a semblance of leadership in the vacuum created by Gahan's megalomania and the local party's cowardice.

The cognitive dissonance is there, whether or not the local Democratic Party is willing to come to grips with it. Is it going to be a party platform or Gahan's cult of personality -- and why should public housing residents surrender their rights as Americans and be used as pawns while kingpins like Dickey connive?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Democratic State Senate candidate Anna Murray replies to our question about the New Albany Housing Authority.

Anna K. Murray is a Democratic Party candidate for Indiana State Senate, District 46. The seat currently is held by two-term incumbent Ron Groom, a Republican, and the election is in 2018.

In a Facebook comment, I asked Murray whether she'd be taking a position on the public housing controversy in New Albany. This is her answer, for which she is to be thanked, given the party's continuing reluctance to engage in discussion.


Since the New Albany housing issue seems to be one of local, and not state government, and since I am not terribly familiar with all of the details, and since it has been very controversial, this has seemed like a great one to not get involved in at this time. However, since you are so insistent to press me on the issue, I will give you a statement. Please bear in mind that I admittedly do NOT have full information, in part because I do not think full information is yet available at this time.

The controversy seems to be about the plans to tear down several low income housing units, and what will happen next to those residents, and whether these decisions were made in a procedurally proper manner.

The purported rationale for the decision is that the units are in such disrepair that it would be more financially feasible to simply rebuild. There seems to be some pushback on whether this is true, or whether some units in particularly bad disrepair were showcased anecdotally to give a false impression of the state of the situation. I do not know which is correct.

Additionally, the new consensus seems to be that poor people are generally better off mixed in amongst the community, instead of being crammed into a centralized location, ie "the projects." This makes sense so that children from poor families can intermingle with children with higher incomes (and vice versa), and not feel like they are stigmatized from where they reside. Same goes for adults, of course. So from that perspective, switching to a voucher system has some good things going for it.

On the other hand, there is a shortage of affordable housing, and the question arises whether there would be enough units available to accommodate all those with vouchers, and whether the vouchers would be sufficient to cover rent and utilities at the available locations.

It is my understanding that the demolition of the public housing units is going to take place over a course of years, and the details are not fully fleshed out yet. That says to me there is a possibility that minds might change and new plans might be made. It does seem like the residents' fears could be assuaged if they knew what was going to happen next after razing, and when that might occur. Perhaps the whole issue could have been thought through a little more from beginning to end before making a decision without knowing what the next steps would be.

As to the procedural aspects, whether the Physical Needs Assessment should have been done, whether HUD policies were or were not violated, whether the firing of Bob Lane was appropriate or strong-arming, I am really not in a position to know the answers to these questions. I was not involved in any of this, and am not an expert in the inner workings of the housing authority.

All I know is that people with low or fixed incomes need to have places to live and a decent quality of life. There are many ways to get there, and I have to hope that despite the differences of opinions, the housing authority will find a way to make it work. I certainly don't think that anyone wants to see residents being made homeless.

Now, what I'd really love to talk to you about with regards to local housing issues is turning lawns into gardens so that everyone has access to fresh, healthy foods and starts living more sustainably. In fact, if we are going to redo this whole public housing situation, this might be a great opportunity to design some communities that have centralized gardens and chicken coops that can be worked and shared by all- installing cisterns to catch rainwater and other features that make it functional, efficient, beautiful, healthy and earth-friendly.

Strong Towns Week: "Traditional Development Patterns were, for thousands of years, synonymous with human progress."

I received an e-mail from Strong Towns (we're paying members):

"In a divided America, we believe the Strong Towns message is more needed than ever. So this week, we’re shaking things up a little. We’re going to shower you with some of our best content from the past several years — revamped and ready for sharing. Unless you’ve read every article we’ve ever written since 2008 (in which case, props to you!), we guarantee you’re going to discover something new and interesting this week."

This week as time permits, I'll be sharing some of these articles. Besides, today's essay is a good excuse to study a juxtaposition of images: the drawing above, and the 1905 postcard below.

ROMANCING THE STONE AGE, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

America's pre-Depression development pattern relied on exploitation of workers, poor living conditions and exclusion of women and minorities. How is the Strong Towns approach, which advocates for traditional development patterns, different?

... There are two differences between the Traditional Development Pattern and the Suburban Experiment that we find significant and critical. First, in the traditional approach, development happens incrementally over time. Things start small and then mature in phases. Conversely, for the suburban approach, we tend to work in large steps with grand designs. Economies of scale is a modern ethic that, combined with our perceived affluence, supersedes the more bootstrapping mindset of incrementalism.

The second difference is closely related. With the traditional approach, all development is on a continuum of improvement. It starts incremental and it is always seeking the energy to move to the next level of advancement. With our post-War Suburban Experiment, we build everything to a finished state. No additional improvement is anticipated or even desired.

That shift in mindset is really important. When your ethic is to build things to a finished state, the tendency is to demand the highest quality you can hope to experience. This means that even cities that are struggling financially are often weighed down by regulation and bureaucracy that ensures "quality construction." Lost is the notion of bootstrapping — doing what you can with what you have available — and with it, the notion of widespread upward mobility.

Concerned about Gahan's public housing putsch? You are invited to a meeting of We Are New Albany this Wednesday at Destinations Booksellers (7:00 p.m.)

Back to the bulldozers, ladies.

Previously: In truth, Gahan's public housing putsch is an assault on working people -- and Floyd County's Democrats OWN it.

I was thinking back to my mayoral campaign in 2015, which is something I seldom do -- water under the bridge, and all that. It seems to me that while the topics of affordable housing and homelessness were broached two years ago, both my opponents generally ducked them.

As significantly, I can't recall the issue of public housing being discussed at all, at least to any length. I was aware that the NAHA had an ongoing plan to leverage tax credits into a 1:1 demolish and rebuild, and I knew that Bob Lane was on top of it. I'm not sure anyone outside the inner sanctum was aware of Jeff Gahan's intentions. It was off the radar, and Gahan preferred to keep it that way.

Gahan's entire 2015 campaign came down to this: "Look at all these bright shiny objects -- want more? I'm your man."

In fact, Gahan's entire political career has been based on non-transparency, and so it's not surprising that while his public housing putsch was being planned during term one, no mention of it was made publicly during the 2015 campaign.

Privately? That's another matter. White New Albanian males of Gahan's generation possess their own array of dog whistles pertaining to the ancestral mythology of public housing as mortal threat to a suburbanite's placidity and a city's progress.

Too bad Gahan didn't have the courage to place his cohort's socio-economic prejudice on the 2015 ballot. He'll have another chance in 2019. I wish I'd have been more pro-active about it.

But as always, I digress.

On Wednesday evening (November 1), 7:00 p.m. at Destinations Booksellers (604 E Spring Street), there'll be a meeting of We Are New Albany, a grassroots movement being organized by Hoosier Action, as summarized by this recent NAC header.

Meet WE ARE NEW ALBANY, and tell Jeff Gahan: No demolition of public housing without a plan to replace!

I'd like to invite my friends and co-conspirators from the 2015 pirate raid to attend this meeting and learn more about this movement.

And don't forget the on-line petition.

The many faces of fake news ("Old Albany and the New Albanians.")

As occasioned by a social media discussion yesterday about New Albanian history, it occurs to me that newer readers might not recall that from 2009 through early in 2011, I wrote a paid weekly guest column for the pre-merger New Albany Tribune.

Upon announcing as a Democratic Party candidate in the 2011 primary election for an at-large city council seat, I was compelled to relinquish the column, which I was assured would resume if I lost the race, which I promptly did.

The incoming editor told me there wouldn't be space in the "new" paper for all previous columnists, and so we forged a deal wherein I agreed to end the general interest column in return for one about food and drink. Six and a half years later, the editor in question is gone and I'm still waiting for our good-faith agreement to come to fruition.

Yesterday's on-line history chat was followed by an off-line dialogue about the founding Scribners. Following is an update of an ON THE AVENUES column from October 18, 2012, which referenced a Tribune piece from 2009.

Maybe it's time to write a book.


Old Albany and the New Albanians.

There was a far-off time, very early during my 112-week tenure as a paid guest columnist at the pre-merger ‘Bune, when I fixed my gaze on the dawning of our civic Age of Precarious, or New Albany’s approaching bicentennial celebration.

It was the year 2009, and I traced the roots of the New Albany Syndrome all the way back to the era of the Open Air Museum's birth. The story went like this.


It’s time to throw a slab of barbecued bologna between two slices of clammy white bread, check the mountains on your blue-cold can of Coors Light, and crank up the Victrola with some red-hot Benny Goodman, because New Albany’s bicentennial is fast approaching, and assuming that Steve Price doesn’t lead the fight against celebrating it (too few nickels and dimes in grandma’s cookie jar), here are some bicentennial basics.

In 2013, it will be 200 years since the Scribner brothers washed ashore at the Falls of the Ohio, surveyed the wilderness and concluded that this riverbank would be a fine locale for commemorating their hometown back east … and the city of Albany in New York has never forgiven its wayward sons for the ensuing guilt by association.

The Scribners built the city’s first proper structure in 1814, and the Scribner House was soon followed by two cheaply built rental quadplexes up on the future East 15th, which Joel Scribner promptly flipped. Pocketing the proceeds, he skipped on his bar tab at Ye Olde Luddite Inn, thumbed his nose at the hapless code enforcement officer, and fled town for a redeye steamboat ride to New Harmony for the hottest craps tables this side of the Louisiana Purchase.


Who among us foresaw that with Price removed from the council's equation, Bob "CeeSaw" Caesar would be liberated to spend $1.2 million (or more) on various birthday parties for the city, and to successfully dodge all questions as to what all this money bought?

My larger point was this: while New Albany’s earliest settlers may or may not have been angels, they somehow succeeded at city building, something that as yet eludes a great number of present-day citizens as well as their chosen, perennially underachieving political kingpins.

Moreover, a full two centuries later, the urban foundations built by previous generations remain capable of serving as a blueprint for efficient, civilized living in a modern world beset with challenges, and irrespective of dribs and drabs of "progress" in recent years, the city as yet remains ripe for adaptive reuse.

But what got me into trouble in 2009 wasn’t sneering at penny-wise, pound foolish lowest common denominators. Rather, it was exercising my artistic license by imagining that the Scribner Brothers came from Albany, New York. It read better that way, or so I thought.

That's right; before the term came into vogue, I was curating "fake news" about the founders. 

A week after my column was published, Anne F. Caudill, librarian of the Piankeshaw chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, “correct(ed) Baylor’s history mistakes.”

I have had recurring DAR-laden nightmares ever since. Her comments follow, as does my own commitment to observe birthdays and anniversaries in a future tense. It's safer that way, with or without satire and jests -- the tricentennial inexorably approaches.


Mr. Roger Baylor’s article, “Unrecognizable to a Scribner,” in The Tribune on June 23, 2009, points out the fast approaching bicentennial celebration of New Albany’s founding to be held in 2013.

The Daughters of the American Revolution Piankeshaw chapter has since 1917 maintained the home of Joel Scribner, one of the founding brothers, keeping it as a museum and “home place” for the town. The chapter appreciates this recognition of the vision and enthusiasm and hard work of the Scribner brothers as they risked their fortunes and their futures to establish the town. The many handsome homes and sturdy buildings from earlier years attest that they were right in their faith in the future of the new town.

However, as we celebrate the history of New Albany, let us get the history right. According to the written account of Dr. William Augustus Scribner, son of Joel Scribner, one of the founders, his father was born in South East, Duchess County, N.Y., in 1772, but soon after the war, his father, a Revolutionary War veteran, moved the family to Connecticut, where the family grew up.

Later, Joel in turn established his family in Connecticut, but in 1808 moved to New York City, where he operated a grocery and feed store. Then in 1811, when William Augustus was 11, the family began the journey west to go into business in the frontier town of Cincinnati, along with the family of Joel’s sister and her family, the Warings.

The family never lived in Albany, N.Y.

In 1812, Joel was joined by his younger brothers, Nathaniel and Abner, and they decided to go into the business of starting a new town of the northern side of the Ohio River, then the frontier. By early January 1813, they made a trip to find a suitable location and purchased the land below the Falls of the Ohio. Tradition has it that they made this trip by horseback. It was in May 1813 that they moved the two families down river from Cincinnati by flatboat to the new location.

That year, William Augustus was 13 and helped with the surveying and laying out of the town’s streets and lots. His memory and recounting of the family story and development of the town is to be credited. They named the town New Albany after the prospering capital of the state of New York, in the belief that it, too, would become the capital of a large new rich and prosperous state to be established from the Indiana Territory. Another brother, James Scribner, their mother, Phoebe, and a sister soon followed to the new town.

Let us not allow Mr. Baylor’s article to begin another misconception, even in satire and jest, that the Scribners were greedy developers who pocketed gains and fled town for gambling tables elsewhere. Joel Scribner was a founding member of the First Presbyterian Church, organized in the home of his mother, and was an elected elder of the church.

Other members of the family were founding members. From the beginning, the family established an educational fund, contributed as a portion of the sale of each lot of land. They gave land for public buildings, a log school house and the church. All the family worked in various ways to insure the future of New Albany. Unfortunately, all of the brothers had died by 1827, too soon to fully realize how their vision would be fulfilled.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Main Street intersections at Bank and 4th are hazardous for pedestrians. Where's City Hall, apart from a state of denial?

An increased number of businesses are on the north side of Main Street. More are on the south side (Underground Station) as well as one of the larger expanses of surface parking (by the levee).

Notice the crosswalks and other means of making pedestrian passage across this wide street easier.

That's right. There are none. 

The intersection of Bank and Main also is bad for drivers, especially those northbound from the surface lot. It's been two and a half years since this was first pointed out to BOW (reprint below).

Now the situation is worsening at 4th and Main, where Hull & High Water is generating a great deal of foot traffic, both from area parking and the beautified corridor.

Jeff Speck had thoughts about this. These are 17-foot traffic lanes and 8-foot parking depths. That's a whole 50 feet from one side to another, without any effort to slow traffic or assist pedestrians. 

Until city officials do something about this, anything they say about "walkability" is to be taken as an insult. After all, it's "not an option," is it?


May 13, 2015

Board of Works approves new city slogan for new city seal: "It's not an option."

There were many curiosities at yesterday's Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, held at the usual 10:00 a.m. slot which precludes so very much in the way of attendance and public input.

We learned that some folks can temporarily close streets with little effort, while others must assemble a petition. We noticed that when it comes to communications, it doesn't. It was reported that John "Human Chainsaw" Rosenbarger will be felling 30+ trees on Thomas Street, and planting 50 more ... and so on.

However, let's focus on just one of the items.

At a previous meeting, local businesses occupying the evolving Underground Station property on the corner of Main and Bank had asked the Board of Works to refit the intersection in front of their building (Main and Bank) into a 4-way stop, and to add a handicapped parking space on Main.

It wasn't surprising to hear street department commissioner Mickey Thompson speak for the board in waving away these requests, but his justifications (and his tone) were puzzling.

As for the handicapped space, Thompson feared establishing a harmful precedent, as though to say that if one business seeks a handicapped space, all of them would. Left unsaid was whether people with handicaps would find this useful.

But isn't the real question this: Why doesn't the city, through its Board of Works, proactively address parking issues and enforce parking ordinances? Why be troubled by a solitary handicapped space when no laws presently are enforced? After all, don't just do something -- stand there.

As for the 4-way stop request, which was made owing to steadily increasing traffic probably resulting from the simple fact that finally there is commercial traffic where before there was none, Thompson could do no better than grunt: "It's not an option." 

The obvious question that should have been asked and answered: "Why Not? Why isn't it an option?" 

We already know that through the top-down marionette otherwise known as the Board of Works and Safety (that word again), the Democratic municipal machine is delaying all movement toward street grid reform for 18 months or more. However, as the intersection of Main and Bank attests, the grid already is unsafe, and in the regrettable vacuum created by Jeff Gahan's politically-inspired and plainly cowardly deferrals, our streets are becoming more unsafe by the day.

Jeff, Warren, Adam ... yo, guys, can we at least have a Band-Aid to staunch the bleeding?

Even a wooden clothespin in place of the necessary tourniquet might help us to stay alive and watch you ineffectually fiddle.

Following are some fair and balanced pros and cons of the 4-way stop.

The Great Stop Sign Experiment, by Sam Newberg (Streets MN)

... In the big picture my personal hope and goal is for my neighborhood (and city) to be a safer place for all ages to walk and bike. If that means cars have to drive slower or there is more congestion in places or at certain times of the day, I’m willing to accept that. If we build and manage our roads to accommodate rush-hour traffic, the livability of our city will suffer at all hours.

The beatings will continue until morale improves: A week late, but happy birthday to NA Confidential.

2006. Sold out!
This essay is revised substantially from its original publication on the occasion of the blog's 10th birthday in 2014. Much has happened since then, both publicly and privately, but through it all one question still remains: New Albany is a state of mind … but whose? We continue to observe the contemporary scene in this slowly awakening old river town, because if it's true that a pre-digital stopped clock is right twice a day, when will New Albany learn to tell time?


Last Sunday (October 22) marked the 13th anniversary of NA Confidential.

As usual, I pondered the possibility of a party in celebration of making it another year without my being institutionalized, but there’s no pressing reason for a gathering. We need only gather at the pub of our choice for commemorative elixirs (Progressive Pints remain my drink of record, though fewer than before) and call it good.

Thirteen years is a long time. Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of fudging when making the claim that the blog's conception was a direct result of massive personal despair in the wake of George W. Bush’s re-election; obviously, the actual NAC birth date in October preceded Election Day in 2004.

However, in retrospect it is perfectly accurate to suggest that the grim promise of four more wasted White House years merely exacerbated the development of an epiphany already budding.

Since then, it's hard to tell whether matters have gotten better or worse. In 2016, in a cataclysm at once bizarrely inconceivable and entirely understandable, election day gave us Donald Trump in the presidency.

In New Albany, we already possessed ample reason to resist -- and once we're done with Gahan, it'll be on to Trump. More than a blog will be needed to cope, and so I've started drinking bourbon.

However, the blog's opening phases remain somewhat intact in the historical record.

During the years 2003 and 2004, several previously disparate threads gradually were coming together in my life. The most significant factor was my own renewal. My first marriage was over, and a wonderful new relationship under way.

We felt sure enough about our combined future prospects to begin shopping for a house, and in 2003 came the purchase of a home located on Spring Street, in what is now occasionally referenced as Midtown. Halloween of 2017 will make 14 years of living there.

Verily: Trick or treat? If we’d only grasped these nuances of civic foreshadowing.

2007: For heaven's sake, give 'em
some candy ... and maybe they'll leave us alone.

Even before the ink was dry on our bouncing baby debt, I'd experienced dozens of walks and bicycle rides through the deserted wastes of a criminally neglected downtown, with a huge question eventually looming over all of it: Why was New Albany’s devastated former business district downtown different from those vibrant quarters I’d visited in other states and nations?

Was the decay avoidable? Could it be these people in other places knew something we didn’t? If so, why weren’t we emulating it? Was it money, politics, culture … or something in the water?

The questions mounted, and easy answers seemed frustratingly elusive. I didn't fully understand at the time the extent to which my ground was shifting. Thoughts previously devoted to escapist obsessions (generally, variants of beer and travel) began turning elsewhere, toward a vague context of rootedness.

Surely, something could be done, right there in the city's core.

NABC already was brewing on the north side, but it was only a small facet of the “good beer bar” business model. It began to occur to me that the answers to these questions of everyday life in one’s place of residence impacted this model. As a brewery, perhaps NABC was transitioning toward a fuller embrace of local existence. Might brewing make sense as the ultimate, local, creative act – in fact, what we should have been aspiring to achieve from the start?

This emerging epiphany was about place, and one’s place in it. As the presidential election year of 2004 advanced toward the pathetic re-enthronement of the second-worst American chief executive ever, an absurdity began gnawing at me.

Most of us spend vast chunks of our lives living in a specific place, but spend much of our time debating issues far beyond it. Granted, being aware of the world outside remained absolutely vital, and I wasn’t about to renounce my planetary citizenship, but when it came to action, as opposed to verbiage, what chance did I have of influencing the tragedy of a second Bush administration?

(Or Trump's first.)

To devote precious psychic energy debating these faraway issues left none to apply to matters nearest me, when these were precisely the sort of local conditions best addressed through direct participation. How to make things better right here, outside the doors of my home and business?

The comparative odds were 1 in 300 million, or 1 in 37,000. Which would you choose?

At this juncture, a deeply personal proclivity came into play, because what I decided to do first was write about it. After all, everyone is entitled to my opinion, although some might say that writing and action aren’t the same things at all. I disagree. Ideas, words and how we use them do matter.

Lately I'm phrasing it a bit differently: You're entitled to my opinion, and as time has passed, I've come to see that facts are crucial -- but they should never stand in the way of a proper polemic.

Quite early in my life, it was obvious that being able to arrange words on a page was essential to my being. I don't know why. It just is. Through most of my adult life, I have awakened to a jumble of thoughts centering on topics for the day, along with thoughts on how this jumble might be untangled and organized. They must be written, as soon as possible, in order to expel the current crop of thoughts and make room for others.

I suppose it’s a compulsion of sorts. Music always plays in my head, alongside sentences forming there. I'm convinced that when these idiosyncratic synapses cease to occur – or when math and numbers finally start to make sense to me – death will be imminent.

Concurrently, what better way to facilitate these needs in 2004 than electronic media? It required no start-up money. I could write locally, and disseminate globally. And so it has gone, from then until now. It builds character, and makes me a better gadfly.

On the occasion of this column, NAC's 12,108th post, thanks to Jeff Gillenwater, Randy Smith and the late Lloyd Wimp for their credited contributions over the past nine years, and to all the green mice, guest columnists, moles, agitators and malcontents who help our ideas to gestate. Thanks to my wife for tolerating my writing and cage-rattling compulsions. Thanks especially to you, the reader.

Lloyd at the Bistro New Albany, circa 2006.

Special thanks to the late, great Howard Zinn for demonstrating the fundamental veracity of a people's history, and the critical need for it, because while this blog is as imperfect as its originator, the intent all along has been to provide New Albany's “other” side.

Doing so has required a learning curve, but I'm damned proud of the results, and I think we've helped provide a body of work and an alternative record, while offering more ideas per square pixel than New Albany’s local political power structures and non-local media combined. Disney does fantasy just fine. I prefer the real world.

Has any of it really mattered? It's a question others must answer. I'm too close to the beating heart to tell. Personally, I think NAC is ridiculously underrated, particularly by local "media" outlets, but of course this doesn't matter all that much. It's their loss, and that's life.

Because: Somewhere, it's beer-thirty.


FFRF: "Now it's time for atheists and agnostics to come out of our closet."

I chose "secularist" because the mood struck; "infidel" was close, but as you can see, there's a non-delusional shading for every occasion.

It's one of my go-to orgs, based in one of our favorite towns.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

Remember the time when FFRF called Deaf Gahan on the carpet?

Pesky church-state issues: The Freedom from Religion Foundation investigates the Mayor's Community Prayer Breakfast.

Maybe this year's event can be a weenie roast atop the smoldering remnant of a demolished public housing unit.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Deaf Gahan annexes the New Albany Mayor's Community Prayer Breakfast, eyes massive redevelopment deal.

Meanwhile ... a chance to express yourself.

Join FFRF's Out of the Closet Virtual Billboard Campaign

Declare and share your nonbelief! Although the nonreligious — including one in four U.S. citizens — is a significant segment of the world population, many Americans have never knowingly met a nonbeliever. You can help dispel myths, educate and promote reason by adding your voice, face and message to FFRF's friendly neighborhood freethinker campaign. This is your chance to proclaim you're a freethinker and why. It's working for the gay rights movement. Now it's time for atheists and agnostics to come out of our closet. Many faces make Enlightenment work.

It's fun, it's easy and takes less than a minute to complete! Once your cyerboard is approved by FFRF, you may post and tweet it or use it as your Facebook or Twitter image. We even size it for use as your Facebook or Twitter image or banner.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Baseball fandom broken down by zip code and Facebook preference, and my Oakland Athletics lose almost everywhere.

As a Twitter pundit presciently notes, "If you are looking for a wonderful time-waster, you can’t beat this interactive map of baseball fandom."

Up Close on Baseball’s Borders, by Tom Giratikanon, Josh Katz, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy (New York Times)

Fans may not list which team they favor on the census, but millions of them do make their preferences public on Facebook. Using aggregated data provided by the company, we were able to create an unprecedented look at the geography of baseball fandom, going down not only to the county level, as Facebook did in a nationwide map it released a few weeks ago, but also to ZIP codes. We can now clearly see that both Hartford and New Haven are in fact Yankee outposts. We can also determine the precise Chicago neighborhoods where White Sox jerseys stop being welcome and the central California town where the Dodgers cede fan favorite status to the Giants.

It comes as little surprise that the Reds come out on top in Floyd County, or that the Yankees have fans all across the country.

Taking the analysis a step deeper, 1117 East Spring Street Neighborhood Association results show a clear split:

TEAM                   PERCENTAGE
Boston Red Sox              50%
Oakland A's                    50%

That's right: the wife is from Maine and the husband yearns for the People's Republic of Berkeley but is marooned in New Albany.

However, this constitutes a far better percentage score for the A's than any of the zip codes in or near Oakland. Similarly, the New York Mets finish second to the Yankees everywhere in New York City. 

And BOOM, a whole half an hour wasted.

Go Astros!

Dread & circuses: Trunk and Treat and lots of leftover Harvest Homecoming debris at the amphitheater.

Second billing? The mayor's being coy for once. Given that the Englands attached plaques to themselves ...

 ... can you imagine the size of the statue Jeff Gahan will erect to commemorate his reign?

It's the city council version -- don't ya know.

Meanwhile, the amphitheater was looking a bit threadbare yesterday when I walked past. Has there been an event held there since the Orange Occupation ended?

But the star of the show was a skateboarder over on the city side of the levee.

Here's a cropped and filtered view.

Talk about riding the rails.

Friday, October 27, 2017

UPDATE: 90 days later, Deaf Gahan's "blight and eyesore" has been superseded by "eyesore and blight" -- and DNA jauntily approves.

(October above; August below)

Boy, what a difference three months makes. Now two-way traffic on Market affords motorists an entirely different view of the former eyesore.

As the Green Mouse says, "Those gaping holes and half-buried debris are all autumnal and shit."

Too bad the USA is dropping out of UNESCO, or else we might have a new tourist landmark: The Duggins Cool-newal Urban World Heritage Site.

I wonder how many public housing units would fit in this space?


August 6, 2017Thanks, Gahan: Deaf called it "a blight and eyesore for the area," so he acted swiftly ... to create another one in its place.

Curiously, NAC's forensics department verifies that Team Gahan only recently has been on the site it has helped keep derelict.

Back in March, a scandal-plagued Jeff Gahan explained why he had to demolish buildings at the corner of Market and Vincennes. He didn't say anything about creating a post-industrial wasteland in the aftermath, but maybe the memo got lost when Duggins took all the city's bulldozers over to the New Albany Housing Authority ... with Democratic Party approval.

But wait.

Maybe it's another case of contractor error.


Once again, NA Confidential handily scoops Jeff Gahan's flailing propaganda commissariat, so let's take a glance at the mayor's new theme park.

River Run Family Waterpark is doing so well that an aquatic sequel is planned for the former Market Boy acreage.


As an addendum, NA Confidential has been unable to confirm whether New Albany Mayor Jeff M. Gahan or anyone working in the city's administration is under federal investigation or indictment for corruption, bribery or racketeering. It is standard policy of the U.S. Justice Department to refuse to confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or subjects of investigations. A similar policy exists at the F.B.I.

Hey, dumbass! Get those steel beams off the street and put 'em where they belong -- on the sidewalk.

It's okay. Handicapped users can use the sidewalk on the other side ...

... which doesn't exist.

Looks like we're all out on the street, literally and figuratively.

Why does the Board of Public Works and Safety routinely approve things like this? Until municipal government learns what is meant by concepts like walkability and handicapped access, and enforces this understanding not only as it pertains to others, but to municipal government itself, the situation isn't going to improve.


At 220 State Street, the gorgeous retro sign hiding behind an atrocious facade, now revealed.

Before ... the Google street view (220 State Street) from December, 2016.

After the crappy facade was removed, a pristine sign was revealed.

In recent years, 220 State Street was the home of Allen's Men's Shop, New Albany Sewing Center and Singer Sewing Center. My guess is the tiling already was there, though I don't recall noticing it.

It is as yet unverified, but I was told this is a Resch Construction project for Schmitt Furniture.

In truth, Gahan's public housing putsch is an assault on working people -- and Floyd County's Democrats OWN it.

The older and whiter the New Albanian, the more enduring the corrosive mythology: "All that stands between New Albany and world dominance is the existence of public housing, and people inhabiting it."

It's complete and utter bunk, but for as long as I've been cognizant of chemical processes masquerading for rational thought in New Albany, I've heard variations of the preceding.

It should come as no surprise that irrespective of religion or party affiliation, a vast majority of Mayor Jeff Gahan's peer group accepts this assertion without question.

Broadly speaking, it's a generational phenomenon. While by no means a scientific observation, fewer millennials seem to have accepted the veracity of the "public housing as mortal threat" doctrine.

Perhaps that's because younger people have more direct experience with (un)affordable housing than their parents and grandparents. 

To repeat, for a C-student in New Albany of Gahan's demographic not to equate public housing and malaria in terms of progress through eradication would be the truly unusual development, so taking it a step further, from where did Gahan borrow his ham-fisted methodology v.v. the putsch -- his hostile takeover of public housing, the annexation of public housing properties to city control, demolition and useless vouchers, and calculated indifference to human suffering?

The latter can be explained by Gahan's worsening paranoia and agoraphobia. My guess is that the remainder has been lifted to lesser or greater extent from the plan of operation in Louisville these past few years. Gahan isn't capable of strategic planning of this magnitude, so it's a given that he's copying the answers from another mayor's test paper -- and he idolizes Louisville's mayor Greg Fischer. 

If you're a New Albanian seated to the left of the aisle, you'd naturally look to the Floyd County Democratic Party to fight on behalf of social injustice, to protect working men and women (90% of public housing residents are employed), and to advocate solutions (affordable housing, a living wage) to problems afflicting those both inside and outside our public housing units.

Pins drop and crickets chirp.

It can't be said that the party is frozen by the incoming headlights, because this implies standing erect in the middle of the road, and when spinelessness occurs, a better analogy is a blubbery heap oozing fear atop the center line.

In short, until the party emits a pulse on the issue of Gahan's putsch, it plainly owns the doctrine. Gahan isn't just one of the few (supposed) Democrats left standing; he's Adam Dickey's shining star and the party's sole great (pasty) white hope. Until the party's officeholders and candidates indicate otherwise, Gahanism is its real platform -- and Gahanism is neither upper case Democratic, nor lower case democratic.

No single plank of Gahanism better illuminates the local "democratic" party's quandary than the mayor's assault on the residents of public housing. Amid the deafening silence of wannabe progressives, the hypocrisy and cowardice mount.

Just as the Inuit possess dozens of words to describe varying manifestations of snow and ice, so are the many subtle shadings of Let's Pretend We're Democrats® finally revealing themselves for our edification.

Consider it a voting guide for 2019 ... and, for that matter, 2018, too. It's shameful, but Gahanism is all about shamelessness.

Where are the Democrats?

Caption Contest: "Which end is up? No, I mean the tree."

Did you know the Japanese word for "corrupt" is 破損した ?

Thanks to CA for the photo, which has been lifted from DNA's FB page, which lately has devolved into a forest of #OurNA hashtags and exclamation marks, because the less one has to say, the louder it gets:

Shall we assume that second prize was four tickets?

Will DNA be selecting a matching sombrero for this poor, doomed tree?

Anyway, caption contest: Comment here or at Facebook. If I bother selecting a winner, I'll post it randomly. Or not.

Is Christmas over yet?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

ON THE AVENUES: Could that be David Duggins paddling across Jeff Gahan's putrid cesspool? On second thought, I'll take the blindfold.

ON THE AVENUES: Could that be David Duggins paddling across Jeff Gahan's putrid cesspool? On second thought, I'll take the blindfold.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Last Friday at lunchtime, the Green Mouse joined me for an anthropological expedition to the grassy levee, and there we enjoyed a purely metaphorical taste of the high life – from afar, of course.

So, what’s the story, morning glory? The Green Mouse believes he knows.

The Green Mouse believes that last Friday, October 20, there was a junket aboard a sparkling Xtreme Transportation limo bus to Keeneland for an installment of the fall meet, and then later, to the Louisville City FC match at Slugger Field.

The Green Mouse believes this junket was organized by Denton Floyd Real Estate Group, and that Vitality Senior Living, to be the future occupant of the M. Fine rehab on Main Street being built by Denton Floyd, paid for at least part of it.

The Green Mouse believes former Redevelopment Commission kingpin David Duggins, now the interim director of the demolition-of-housing authority, was a prime junket honoree, presumably as a measure of heartfelt thanks for his efforts on the city’s behalf to assist Denton Floyd’s and Vitality’s project at M. Fine – and as a prelude to whatever luxurious domiciles eventually are constructed atop the smoldering remnants of public housing in New Albany, which of course is one reason for Duggins being cozily ensconced within his current sinecure – this, and for catering to the eccentric whims of Dear Pretend Democratic Leader.

The Green Mouse believes the three women seen boarding the limo bus prior to its departure from the YMCA were models hired for the occasion from the Cosmo agency.

Neither the drunken mouse nor this columnist can fathom why hired models were necessary for a day at the races, though we acknowledge that in light of incessant sex scandals involving slimeballs like Harvey Weinstein and other high rolling moguls, standards of propriety encompassing property development circles and their public officials held tightly in bondage (pun intended) perhaps require different standards of taste and propriety from those to which we’re accustomed as grubby plebeians.

Was the junket illegal? That’s highly doubtful. In the absence of clearly defined ethical standards, public officials always are in a position to take advantage of friendly back-scratching – figuratively, mind you, not literally.

It’s the way of the world, right?

Boys will be boys, and it's business as usual, with charming fringe benefits, and good clean fun for the golf-playing, horse wagering, chummy-buddy TIF-milking set.

Tasteless? Surely, especially when public housing residents fear they’re about to lose their homes.

Poor people don't understand handicapping, anyway.


Back in July, after New Albany Housing Authority director Bob Lane was cashiered and Duggins was reassigned on a full-time basis to the Gahan’s social engineering experiment at the NAHA, the Green Mouse and I were utterly baffled by the timing of Duggins’ move.

Here’s an extended excerpt.


Using Deaf Gahan’s dullest razor, we race straight to the bottom of his hurried NAHA putsch launch.

 ... Obviously, the reason why interim director (David) Duggins has nothing to say is because he knows just as little about the daily workings of the agency to which he has been transferred as any of Donald Trump’s bumbling cabinet appointees.

With Duggins tongue-tied, (Irving) Joshua must lead the diversion. His garbled and increasingly tiresome protests, holding that so little public housing “reform” is impending that a plan of operation to pursue it hasn’t even been devised, and anyway, the potential time frame for any changes might stretch into as many as three future US presidential terms, should be prompting equally obvious media follow-up questions:

If so, then why this, and why now?

Has any local media outlet asked these questions yet? ... 

 ... What if the key to it all – the reason for the timing of the new bobbleheaded board’s lubrication, Lane’s pathetic decapitation, subsequent squealings of ignorance, and especially the switch from redevelopment to public housing of a woefully inexperienced Duggins – was a sudden and unexpected need to move Duggins, Gahan’s cockamamie confidant, trusted second-in-command and de facto deputy mayor, somewhere/anywhere else -- and quickly?

The best reason to investigate this premise is the inopportune timing of Duggins’ departure from his economic development and redevelopment fiefdoms. It makes no more sense than his shift to the NAHA.

Think about it. With six years of wheel-greasing and back-alley Bud Light Lime pounding behind him, probably a dozen projects with Duggins’ fingerprints all over them will be coming on-line in the next year or so.

A short set list of Duggins’ singalong compositions includes riverfront park creation; downtown façade grants for first family laggards; Break Wind’s delayed completion; the projected mixed use development at Vincennes and Market; alleyway beautification; aging subdivision entryway landscaping repairs; and even the grid modernization project itself.

And, we all know the way this game is played.

Each of them comprises a feather in Duggins’ professional cap, irrespective of the extent of his actual involvement (v.v. the Greenway, for instance), and each is wonderfully and delightfully redeemable for political favors or employment perks in the private sector when the time comes to fleece the public from a different angle.

With Duggins at the NAHA, he won’t be around to cash in his chips and use his coupons, which defies the inexorable logic of claiming credit.

Why would anyone step away from the spidery magnitude of these achievements (albeit ones financed with other people’s money) just when the congratulatory plaques are about to be engraved and fixed to every triumphant arch in town?

Why transfer to a thankless “interim” position at NAHA, particularly without possessing the slightest relevant skill set, for the “reward” of dealing with the federal government in bureaucratic ways barely fathomable, and worse yet, having to act in the best interests and welfare of real living people, not merely inanimate, cash-stuffed envelopes?

Perhaps the transition is tolerable owing to the astounding ease with which the entry-level neophyte Duggins immediately was gifted with Lane’s old pro veteran salary, a substantial (and I mean multi-mucho) increase over the redevelopment maestro’s previous rate of pay.

Look at it this way, and everything adds up.

Yes, Jeff Gahan was planning to annex public housing anyway. Topics like the working poor and affordable housing shatter the C-minus mayoral student’s buzz, and the properties owned by NAHA can be put to far better use to engorge the perennial suburbanite’s insatiable appetite for perceived luxury … with a dollop of campaign finance for good measure.

Then came a curve ball. On short notice, Duggins needed to be moved away from redevelopment, and what’s more, he needed a little extra in terms of salary.

Gahan understandably stayed loyal to his bag man; after all, if push ever came to shove, just imagine what Duggins might divulge. There aren’t enough grand juries, and so the mayor made the necessary moves, even though they rushed the NAHA putsch before all of Gahan’s ducks were in a row, hence the public relations farce that has ensued.


Allow me to elaborate from the vantage point of three additional months.

It may have been the case from the very start that the wheeling-and-dealing Duggins had at last provided the nuts and bolts of a viable land-grab game plan for a public housing eradication program already favored by the vast majority of white male New Albanians of a certain age, who’ve bought into the idiotic myth of the city being hamstrung by its freeloading poor people.

Maybe, but let’s look at Duggins' “promotion” from the angle of the spur of the moment, although first, let this be clear: There’ll be readers crying “foul” at what I’m about to write. Unfortunately, there are times when the professional cannot be explained without reference to the personal.

It’s also the case that in politics, there can be considerable overlap between the two, private and public. Witness the Perons in Argentina, Mr. and Mrs. Ceausescu, and the classic escapades of Wilbur Mills.

I believe that one possible explanation for Duggins’ hurried transfer from Hauss Square to Bono Road might lie in the breakup of his marriage. This is relevant only in the sense of his public persona and that of his ex, Sally Hughes, who is in charge of business development at HWC Engineering, and only insofar as what transpired during the time when Duggins ran amok as a daily presence downtown.

It's only -- only -- about the juncture of the largely fictional "free" market and the realm of "good enough for government work." I've no interest in exploring any other aspect, and frankly, I wish it weren't necessary to delve into this part of it. However, we can't be squeamish.  

Scroll back a year, and we see HWC’s profile in New Albany municipal contracts becoming larger, as with the grid modernization project and the writing of a new master plan. It wasn’t just New Albany; HWC reckoned that 15% of its business was coming from Southern Indiana.

New Albany definitely could be seen as a launching pad for HWC’s aspirations, and when the firm was looking for an office in Southern Indiana, it was established in the remodeled Tribune building within a literal stone’s throw of the Third Floor.

I believe that with HWC’s enhanced role as being tantamount to the city of New Albany’s engineering department (by frequent outsourcing), one increasingly attached to arms of city government of which Duggins was integral, he was prematurely shifted to the NAHA because potential bad personnel vibes from a soured relationship might step all over the symbiotic ties between HWC and the city.

Conversely, by buying time and waiting for things have cool down, the downtown pipeline could remain freely flowing, while a path cleared for HWC to grab future luxury enhancement contracts at the former NAHA.

I believe the disturbing and outlandish pay increase was a reward to Duggins for loyalty to the Genius of the Flood Plain – and the financial burden of post-marriage reality absorbed far more easily on Bob Lane’s salary than the public servant's chickenfeed which Duggins was earning previously.

(Some years back, Duggins told me he was taking a substantial pay cut to work for City Hall, compared to what he might earn in the "private" sector of the economy.)

But the private sector is risky, isn’t it? Better a safe 30% pay rise to stay securely in a job where you’re playing with house (read: taxpayer) money.


There’s nothing expressly illegal about any of this, although “flagrantly tacky” is another matter entirely.

Duggins may or may not be a disposable, replaceable, appointed cog in Jeff Gahan’s perpetual political monetization pyramid scheme. It depends on how willing Doctor Interim is to keep the financial machinations of Gahanism to himself.

However, Gahan owns this mess, and every last bit of it testifies to the mounting limitations of the hermetically sealed bunker Team Gahan inhabits.

For six years, Gahan’s roster of confidants has remained the same, and one needn’t be a persistent critic of Gahan’s cult of personality to see a palpable exhaustion of inspiration and ideas. Rigging undemocratic processes isn't the same thing as altering paradigms, is it?

The problem with nepotism, cronyism, self-perpetuating cliques, yes-men, yes-women, mayor-bots, fluff drones, shameless sycophants, toady boot-lickers and prolapsed time-servers is that maintaining their “in” status inevitably becomes job one, precluding injections of innovative thinking.

There is no one around Gahan willing (or able) to restrain his ever widening megalomania. There is no one to dissent, object, question or freshen his banal ideas. There is no one to suggest his personality cult is bereft of clothing, or that increasingly, people are laughing at him.

By his own choice, and by his choice of lackeys, Gahan’s mayoral milieu resembles a silo. It is a closed loop and a dead-end alley. Forget the ubiquitous anchor "branding" mechanism, because Gahan’s most apt symbol is bizarrely affiliated with Duggins' model-clad Keeneland excursion.

How much more obvious need it be?

Just like Donald Trump, Gahan cannot drain a swamp when the swamp is him. Ooh ... that smell. The smell of impending electoral reckoning surrounds him.


Recent columns:

October 19: ON THE AVENUES: I'd like nothing more than to go for another ride.

October 12: ON THE AVENUES: The Orange Occupation is here again, and as a precaution, we’ve baked a handy file into this cake.

October 5: ON THE AVENUES REVISITED: Chocolate covered frozen banana republic, or "understanding" Harvest Homecoming, our peculiar institution.

September 28: ON THE AVENUES: Sniffles, gratitude and mental exhaustion. Apparently vacation is over.