Thursday, February 28, 2019

Jazz break: On Muggsy Spanier's Ragtime Band, "That Eccentric Rag" and the long departed Rod Cless.

I could go on and on about the entire rich history of jazz in America during the early 1900s, but I won't. My aim is limited tonight: for you to meet Muggsy Spanier, be aware of his "Great 16" sides of music, and know that "ragtime" is among the components of what we'd now refer to for the sake of convenience as Dixieland.

Britannica has a solid overview.

Dixieland, in music, a style of jazz, often ascribed to jazz pioneers in New Orleans, La., but also descriptive of styles honed by slightly later Chicago-area musicians. The term also refers to the traditional jazz that underwent a popular revival during the 1940s and that continued to be played into the 21st century. See also Chicago style, New Orleans style.

New Orleans was not the only city where early jazz took root at the turn of the 20th century, but it was the centre of that musical activity, and most of the seminal figures of early jazz, black and white, were active there. It is likely that both blacks and whites played the music that came to be known as Dixieland jazz.

New Orleans during the late 19th century was, in effect, two cities: Downtown was home to most whites and Creoles, and Uptown was home to freed black slaves. The strictness of the city’s segregation was evidenced in 1897 with the establishment of Storyville (known as “the district” to locals), a 38-square-block area, designed to isolate such activities as prostitution and gambling, that was split by Canal Street into black and white areas. Virtually every brothel, tavern, and gambling hall in Storyville employed musicians. The unique urban culture of New Orleans provided a receptive environment for a distinctive new style of music.

The scant available evidence (mostly anecdotal) suggests that the black and white musicians of New Orleans shared many common influences, although it would appear that white bands tended to draw on ragtime and European music, whereas black bands also built on their 19th-century ethnic heritage ...

J. Russell Robinson was born in Indianapolis and began writing songs while in his teens. "That Eccentric Rag" dates from 1912.

Jazz didn't really come to be identified as such until just after the Great War, which in turn couldn't be called the First World War until there had been a Second. Robinson's tune became a standard, with the first known jazz band recording by the Friar's Society Orchestra coming in 1922.

Francis Joseph "Muggsy" Spanier, who borrowed his nickname from baseball legend John McGraw, was born in 1901 in Chicago. Like the songwriter Robinson, Spanier's professional music career began early. He patterned his playing style on Louis Armstrong and King Oliver, the top African-American jazz trumpeters of the day.

Spanier spent the late 1920s and most of the 1930s as a sought-after sideman in name orchestras. While passing through New Orleans in 1938 with the Ben Pollack band, Spanier was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer that required treatment and a prolonged stay in the Touro Infirmary. Back on his feet again, Spanier determined to go out on his own and form a band to play the music he preferred, hence the formation of his popular but short-lived Ragtime Band in 1939.

From an excellent biographical sketch of Spanier:

Before the band broke up they made 16 exceptional hot jazz records: 4 in Chicago and 12 in New York for the RCA Victor Bluebird label. When the first long-play collection of all the sessions was issued, it was entitled The Great 16, and this immediately became the generic name by which they are recognizable to all jazz buffs.

Among the titles was "Eccentric," shorthand for Robinson's ragtime composition.

There's much to be explored about Spanier's contributions to jazz, but his band mates are far more obscure these days. Trombonist George Brunies began performing at eight years of age, and also played on the aforementioned Friar's Society recording of "Eccentric." The clarinetist is Rod Cless, a truly forgotten jazz virtuoso of the period who died at 37 in 1944.

This piece about Cless is well worth the time. Jazzmen of the period, whether black or white, had a fraternal bond that had much to do with relative privation. Then as now, no one want to pay the musicians.

But they believed.

Remembering Rod Cless (Shiraz Socialist)

I recently came upon a stash of old jazz magazines, including some copies of ‘The Jazz Record’, edited by pianist-bandleader Art Hodes and his sidekick Dale Curran between 1943 and 1947. It’s fascinating stuff, full of contemporary reports of what was going on at Nick’s in Greenwich Village and what the likes of Pee Wee Russell, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Condon and James P. Johnson were up to. The piece reproduced below is from the January 1945 edition of the magazine, and I found it particularly moving. Clarinetist Rod Cless is now all but forgotten, but in the early 1940’s was a well-known and popular figure on the New York jazz scene. He died in December 1944 as a result of a fall over a balcony after heavy drinking, and then drinking some more from a bottle or flask smuggled in to him in hospital. This obituary – by someone who is obviously a close friend – strikes me as worth republishing as an example of how jazz people mourn.

During the last two weeks of February I listened to the Great 16 as a bloc five or six times. Just before that had been an extended period with Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, both very different from Spanier's milieu. I always come back to all of this music at intervals, soak it up again, and try to learn a little bit more than I knew before -- as with this column from 2017.

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

A confusing Kentucky proposal to allow cities to support tourism by taxing restaurants.

Here in SoIn we already have a tax to support tourism. It's a hotel room tax, which of course can be better defended as coming from the pockets of visitors, to attract other visitors.

Meanwhile I'm in tune with the basic vibe of Marsha's case in opposition to what sounds like a poorly reasoned bill.

With national momentum gaining toward paying workers a living wage, and large cities continuing to enact mandates increasing the minimum wage (as they should!), small businesses — especially those in the hospitality category, which depend on optional household discretionary funds — are stretched to the breaking point. Both fledgling and established restaurants in Kentucky would suffer, and many would close, due to the effects of another added tax burden.

Restaurant profit margins are already as thin as the chimera that our restaurants are perched upon. All over the country, states and municipalities give massive tax breaks to large corporations with hope that they’ll create jobs in our cities. Proposed tax hikes such as HB 345 can and will actually destroy jobs at independent restaurants across the state, including in Louisville.

At the same time, this part confuses me. I've underlined the specific passage.

House Bill 345, sponsored by state Rep. Rob Rothenburger, R-Shelbyville, would allow cities to impose up to a 3 percent tax on restaurants, in addition to the 6 percent sales tax they already collect. If the bill passes, many restaurants will be forced to increase their menu prices or close their doors, because, even though 3 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s actually dangerously close to the national common average restaurant profit margin of between 3 and 5 percent. Imagine being faced with half-to-all your profits being taxed away. You’d have little choice but to pass the costs to your customers.

But how many cities would impose such a tax? Phrased this way it's not obligatory.

Maybe that's a question for beloved pretend-progressive Greg "Budget Crisis" Fischer.

A sharp needle pointed at our restaurant bubble, by Marsha Lynch (LEO Weekly)

 ... The bill aims to inject this money into state tourism, distributing “at least 25 percent of revenues generated to the tourist and convention commission, the remainder to be used to create or support infrastructure supporting tourism.” And while there’s no denying that tourism is great for the state and great for the businesses within it, legislators need to understand that most local restaurant profits are driven by — you guessed it — locals: people who live in the city and return to their favorite spots time and again. It’s the repeat business from Marty and Janine down the street that keeps local restaurants afloat, not the biannual visit of your aunt and uncle from Wichita.

This Sunday: "Southern Indiana Residents Rally to 'Protect Hoosiers From Hate,' Support Comprehensive Bias Crimes Law."

Facebook event page.

(Because of expected winter weather, the rally has been rescheduled for Sunday, March 10th at Noon)

Here's the press release; see you there.


Southern Indiana Residents Rally to “Protect Hoosiers From Hate,” Support Comprehensive Bias Crimes Law

WHAT: On Sunday, March 3rd at noon, Southern Indiana Pride along with the Indiana Forward campaign will host a rally at Bicentennial Park in New Albany (118 E. Spring Street) to call on Indiana Statehouse legislators to support a strong hate crime bill that includes a list of characteristics supported by Governor Eric Holcomb. The rally will be bipartisan in nature and will include Southern Indiana political and faith leaders, business owners, students, and activists.

Hoosiers from all over Indiana were let down by the State Senate’s refusal to pass a comprehensive hate crime bill. Senate Bill 12 is not a hate crime bill. The enumerated protections were stripped from the bill after legislators approved Sen. Freeman’s (R Indianapolis) amendment. The protections stripped from the bill included a list of personal characteristics supported by Governor Eric Holcomb that included race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The bill now goes to Indiana’s House of Representatives. Our hope is that Indianapolis will listen to Hoosiers and amend the bill so that it protects all Hoosiers from hate.

WHEN: Sunday, March 3, 2019 | 12 p.m.

WHERE: Bicentennial Park, 118 E. Spring Street, New Albany, IN 47150

WHO: Speakers at the rally will include:

Councilman Al Knable (R-New Albany)
Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany)
Rep. Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville)
Michael Leppert - Indiana Forward Campaign For Hate Crime Legislation
Jason Applegate (D-Candidate for New Albany City Council)
Miguel Hampton (D-Candidate for Jeffersonville City Council)
Pastor John E. Manzo (St. Marks UCC)
Cade Gibson (Jeffersonville HS)
Elijah Mahan (Roncalli HS Shelly’s Voice Leader)

WHY: Bias crimes are on the rise across the country, but Indiana remains one of just five states without a clear and specific bias crimes law. Gov. Eric Holcomb has repeatedly called for bias crimes legislation and has stated that reaching consensus on this issue is his top priority in 2019. More than 74% percent of Hoosiers support a bias crimes law, including a majority of Republicans, according to a January 2019 Indiana Chamber statewide poll. This support echoed by employers, who report that the state’s lack of a bias crimes law fuels a negative perception of the state that hinders their talent recruitment efforts and economic development opportunities.

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: Beer diversity is bitter and malty, sweet and sour, big and small, foreign and domestic.

The current draft lineup at Pints&union is a very good representation of what I've been hoping to achieve in a concise, ten-tap setting.

Taken in concert with the bottle and can selection, our beer list might not be the biggest or even the "best," whatever THAT means these days, but there can be no doubt that it is downtown New Albany’s most thoughtful: bitter and malty, sweet and sour, big and small, foreign and domestic.

The "classic" quotient is high and the "trendy" buzz low, and purposefully so, but if all the others are kaleidoscopic hamster wheels, intelligent and stable design becomes the most revolutionary concept of all.

Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Oliver Sacks: "Information is different from knowledge."

Oliver Sacks died in 2015, and it's not clear when this essay first was published, but it's excellent. That's all I have to say. Technology obviously isn't going away. However, individuals can resist its ubiquity. I recently wrote about this.

Just an off-the-cuff rumination about taking our sweet time to get it right.

My resolution for the year 2019 is that whenever prompted to breathlessly participate in our short, social media-driven collective attention span, I'll do my very best to opt out, remain calm and seek space sufficient for deliberation.

Want me to hurry up? Sorry, this only encourages me to stop and think harder about it. Pour yourself another drink, because my musings might take a while.

Want me to scroll through the image carousel and indulge in the national flashcard kaleidoscopic consciousness? Nah. I'd rather slow down and mull the topic in depth -- and look at the pictures later, once I'm familiar with the context.

Now, to Sacks.

The Machine Stops, by Oliver Sacks (The New Yorker)

The neurologist on steam engines, smartphones, and fearing the future.

 ... I have not adjusted as well as my aunt did to some aspects of the new—perhaps because the rate of social change associated with technological advances has been so rapid and so profound. I cannot get used to seeing myriads of people in the street peering into little boxes or holding them in front of their faces, walking blithely in the path of moving traffic, totally out of touch with their surroundings. I am most alarmed by such distraction and inattention when I see young parents staring at their cell phones and ignoring their own babies as they walk or wheel them along. Such children, unable to attract their parents’ attention, must feel neglected, and they will surely show the effects of this in the years to come.

In his novel “Exit Ghost,” from 2007, Philip Roth speaks of how radically changed New York City appears to a reclusive writer who has been away from it for a decade. He is forced to overhear cell-phone conversations all around him, and he wonders, “What had happened in these ten years for there suddenly to be so much to say—so much so pressing that it couldn’t wait to be said? . . . I did not see how anyone could believe he was continuing to live a human existence by walking about talking into a phone for half his waking life.”

These gadgets, already ominous in 2007, have now immersed us in a virtual reality far denser, more absorbing, and even more dehumanizing. I am confronted every day with the complete disappearance of the old civilities. Social life, street life, and attention to people and things around one have largely disappeared, at least in big cities, where a majority of the population is now glued almost without pause to phones or other devices—jabbering, texting, playing games, turning more and more to virtual reality of every sort.

Everything is public now, potentially: one’s thoughts, one’s photos, one’s movements, one’s purchases. There is no privacy and apparently little desire for it in a world devoted to non-stop use of social media. Every minute, every second, has to be spent with one’s device clutched in one’s hand. Those trapped in this virtual world are never alone, never able to concentrate and appreciate in their own way, silently. They have given up, to a great extent, the amenities and achievements of civilization: solitude and leisure, the sanction to be oneself, truly absorbed, whether in contemplating a work of art, a scientific theory, a sunset, or the face of one’s beloved.

A few years ago, I was invited to join a panel discussion about information and communication in the twenty-first century. One of the panelists, an Internet pioneer, said proudly that his young daughter surfed the Web twelve hours a day and had access to a breadth and range of information that no one from a previous generation could have imagined. I asked whether she had read any of Jane Austen’s novels, or any classic novel. When he said that she hadn’t, I wondered aloud whether she would then have a solid understanding of human nature or of society, and suggested that while she might be stocked with wide-ranging information, that was different from knowledge. Half the audience cheered; the other half booed ...

Beth White's video testimonial: "I have always partnered with my husband David, and I will continue to do so."

In the video Beth White, wife of Democratic mayor hopeful David White, details their life-long commitment to serving our community and tells us why her husband deserves your vote. Beth is a mother of four, a physical therapy assistant at New Albany-Floyd County Schools, the Harvest Homecoming President-Elect, and a local philanthropist.


In the mayor's race, David White is saying exactly what needs to be said.

With David White as mayor we'll have ethical standards from the get go -- not Jeff Gahan's pay-to-play cesspool on the down low.

David White speaks with the News and TomMayBune about the Harvest Homecoming Festival Foundation.

David White: "On May 7th, you will have the opportunity to get your city back, but I need your help."

David White's video reassures city employees on the shop floor and condemns politically-motivated retribution from above.

ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL EDITION: As David White's mayoral campaign begins, let's briefly survey the electoral landscape.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: David White addresses citizens and city employees in a News & Tribune insert today, denouncing deception, bullying, non-transparency and debt.

Democrat David White to announce his candidacy for mayor of New Albany at noon on Monday, October 1.

River City Winery: "We are exploring the relocation of our entire operation to another part of Southern Indiana."

Problems at River City Winery began in earnest around September of 2018. On the surface these had to do with licensing to produce wine, but it soon became evident that other, deeper issues were at play.

Yesterday this appeared at Facebook.

RCW will continue putting out award winning Indiana wines as soon as possible but we are exploring the relocation of our entire operation to another part of Southern Indiana. We shouldn't be more than a short drive away. Stay tuned!

I mention all this only because in 14 years of NA Confidential, there has not ever been a topic generating as many queries as this one. Dozens of people have texted, e-mailed and message me wanting to know whether RCW was open or closed, what had happened, and what the outcome might be.

There surely is a story, but I don't have it.

At least I don't have enough proof for a story. For six months it's been like being seated in a theater, facing a curtain. Behind the curtain can be heard the sounds of a knock-down, drag-out fight. However, it isn't clear who is fighting or why. You can piece together some bits from the din, yet in the end it's a complete mystery. The ultimate fate of River City Winery lies just beyond our view; we can sniff shell casings on social media, but remain unable to arrive at a conclusion.

Someday I'd love to be able to tell this story. Until then, the best I can do is express the hope that everyone involved on all "sides" eventually emerges from the maelstrom feeling a measure of peace.

The fog of war, indeed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 6: GM Development, yet another economic development consultancy from afar.

Previously: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 5: In 2019, Gahan will pass the half million dollar mark in campaign fundraising since 2011.

Some people knit for fun, but during the coming weeks we'll be plucking highlights from eight years of the Committee to Elect Gahan's CFA-4 campaign finance reports. Strap in, folks -- and don't forget those air(head) sickness bags.

Here's a slice of boilerplate from a Board of Works meeting in February of 2017, just before David "Bag Man" Duggins was shifted from glad-handing contractors in economic dishevelment to threatening public housing residents with being given a good TASER-ing if they didn't straighten up and bow to Dear Leader properly.

Strictly cookie-cutter; after all, $55,000 for advice from an Indianapolis consultant, as lifted from "excess" funds (!) barely qualifies as an expenditure, right?

GM Development and its honcho Greg Martz may gotten other, similar contracts, having greased the wheels of beak-wetting with a few choice contributions to Jeff Gahan's piggy bank

         GM Dev.         Greg Martz
2018    3,000
2017    3,000
2016                            3,000
2015    1,000
2014       500
2013                            5,000

Total: $15,500

It's not the highest donor total, but a nice chunk of change and enough to launch a negative mailer at the first sign of anxiety.

Rebuttals are welcome and will be published unaltered -- so don't forget spellcheck. If you have supplementary information to offer about any of this, please let us know and we'll update the page. The preceding was gleaned entirely from public records, with the addresses of "individuals" removed.

Next: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 7: Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz, or the anatomy of $33,225 "Big Daddy Dollars" since 2011.

"America needs to regularise the status of millions of illegal immigrants, while further improving border security to win consent for that change."

We're wasting a lot of time in this country on the ephemeral. I can only hope the last sentence is prophetic.


Donald Trump’s real target is not illegal immigration but diversity, by Lexington (The Economist)

That battle is already lost

When Juan Garcia started work as an urban planner for the government of Gaston County in 1997, he reckons he was the only Latino among its 1,400 employees. Hub of a dying textiles industry, on the western edge of Charlotte, the county was missing out on the boom already rippling through the periphery of North Carolina’s most dynamic city. For that reason Gastonia, its altogether less zippy capital, was not seeing many of the Mexican immigrants then pouring into the state, to labour on the building sites erupting in Charlotte and revive the poultry industry in Union County, east of the city. But this was about to change.

Finding opportunities overlooked by others in Gastonia’s run-down factories and mills, migrants started settling in the town’s trailer parks and poor black neighbourhoods. Its Hispanic population soared, to around 6,000, or 9% of the total, within a few years. This caused friction with Gastonia’s white majority, recalls Mr Garcia, who was born in Colombia. “Mexicans like to get physically closer when they’re talking to you than Anglos do. They might slaughter a chicken in their yard. They play loud music there.” But the ill-will rarely went beyond grumbling about the migrants’ poor English. Some in Gastonia said this reflected the much deeper tensions in the South between whites and blacks. Resentment of immigrants was only a brief distraction from that main drama. In any event, the migrants, many of whom had either moved from Texas or come directly from the Rio Grande, expected no favours. “So long as you treat people the right way, you’re all right,” shrugged Elvira, who came to North Carolina to pick tobacco 25 years ago and now works at the “Las Americas” supermarket in Gastonia.

The influx of Hispanics to the town, and hundreds of unfashionable cities like it, illustrates how much they have changed America over the past three decades. The Hispanic population has risen ninefold since the 1960s, to around 60m. Its members, many of them second- and third-generation immigrants, are dispersing across the country, driving growth and changing the social fabric wherever they go. While the white population is on the cusp of declining, most states have flourishing Hispanic communities. North Carolina, which had around 40,000 Hispanics in 1990, now has almost a million. The high growth rates it has meanwhile sustained owe a lot to this migrant infusion.

To men like Julian, in other words, who had popped into Las Americas on a half-hour break between his jobs. From 5.45am to 3.30pm he works as a machinist in one of Gastonia’s surviving looms; between 4pm and 11pm he drives a fork-lift in a packaging factory. Thus have Gastonia’s Hispanics filled gaps in its old industries, taking low-skilled jobs that blacks and whites no longer want. Meanwhile the many small landscaping and construction businesses they launched have forged an overdue connection between Gastonia and the new services-based economy of the South, a 20-minute drive across the Catawba river in Charlotte. Recognising the community’s importance, as well as its needs, Gaston County now employs over 100 Hispanic public servants, with a premium on bilingual doctors, nurses and social workers.

This transformation is the essential context in which to view Donald Trump’s talk of a crisis at the southern border. The president appears to be motivated less by genuine concern for the state of the border than by his white supporters’ feelings of anxiety over demographic change. His promise of a border-wall, which few immigration experts think America needs, following a steep decline in the number of illegal crossings, is a sign of that. In fact, were Mr Trump not so obviously using his promised border-wall as a political device, he might have built one by now. Last year he turned down an offer from the Democrats that would have given him wall money in return for comprehensive immigration reform—far more money than his emergency is likely to get him. In short, the physical promise of the wall is largely a figment. It is a symbol of Mr Trump’s tacit pledge to his white supporters to defend them against the diversifying of American society that many fear. It is too late for that, however. Most of the growth in America’s Hispanic population is the result of natural increase, not immigration. Mr Trump’s nativist stand is positively Canute-like.

It also carries great costs. The most important is the forgone opportunity to cauterise America’s immigration sore that his presidency represents. The anxiety of Mr Trump’s followers is exacerbated—explained, even—by the chaotic legacy of decades of illegal immigration. It stands to reason that America’s roughly 11m illegal migrants, most of whom are Hispanic, are willing to work harder, in tougher conditions, than indigenous people. Economists may argue over the effect of that on wages; but it is a theoretical disadvantage to natives that they are bound to resent.

Meanwhile the insecurity illegal migrants live with is a barrier to assimilation, which also causes tension. It was fairly amazing that most of the shoppers in Las Americas, despite having spent years in America, spoke little or no English. The answer to these tangled problems has long been clear. America needs to regularise the status of millions of illegal immigrants, while further improving border security to win consent for that change. Given Mr Trump’s hold on the nativist right, he could have done this. Yet that would have required him to want to fix the mess, and not seek to profit from it.

A wave is coming

The pay-off for his party will be short-lived, however, because of another development among Hispanics. For several reasons, including the fact that many are illegal and unable to vote, their political clout has lagged behind their numerical rise. In North Carolina, they are 10% of the population and 3% of registered voters. Yet Hispanic citizens are now entering the property-owning middle-class in vast numbers. The looming calamity for Republicans, who have done so much to alienate them, is that such people vote.

ON THE AVENUES: Pretty in pink slips, aren’t they? Those who mutilated Speck need to be cashiered.

Yes, it's true that I've been indulging in reruns, but hear me out.

For the past two weeks I've been using all my spare moments to go swimming in the rank, toxic, soul-crushing sewer otherwise known as Mayor Jeff Gahan's CFA-4 campaign finance reports.

Y'all know I'm a hardcore cynic -- and the pay-to-play is worse than even I thought.

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 5: In 2019, Gahan will pass the half million dollar mark in campaign fundraising since 2011.

There's another reason for dipping into the archive.

Many readers weren't with us back when a column like today's was first published (January 8, 2015). At the time, consultant Jeff Speck's draft report about the two-way future of the street grid had only just appeared.

It took another two years for Gahan to commission the ever servile HWC Engineering to butcher Speck's overall perspective, stuff the remnants into sausage casings, spread the largess among the usual suspects, and declare victory.

In short, Gahan gleefully botched the street grid modernization as trucking special interests applauded and the mayor's sticky sycophants sagely nodded -- among them the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, the brain trust of which concluded with all due terror that "modernization" was far too dangerous a concept to risk in New Albany.

ESNA was catastrophically wrong, and its timidity was both short-sighted and unforgivable. Now Greg Phipps wants four more years as councilman because he's not finished yet -- doing the mayor's daily bidding, that is. We need a principled, independent choice in the third district, don't we?

As for Gahan's trashing of Speck, you can't say I didn't predict it. Read on, and don't forget to vote these under-achievers out of office as soon as you have the chance.


ON THE AVENUES: Pretty in pink slips, aren’t they?

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

On Tuesday, the very morning when City Hall at long last hazarded a first halting, wheezing, asthmatic step toward taking proper possession of Jeff Speck’s seminal street study, it was disturbingly sunny outside.

Now, I’m so old I can remember when Speck was Jeff Gahan’s Big Idea, prompting his very own commissioned mayoral study, at least right up until that fateful moment when the Tiger Trucking semi rig’s headlights froze Hizzoner dead in his tracks, at river’s edge, like a bedraggled, matted raccoon without a paddle, stuck in the middle of an arterial one-way Highway to Birdseye.

Where was I?

Oh, yes: It was sunny outside.

I muttered a choice epithet and spat as I walked downtown, past the doomed urban corner where a quarter million is about to be squandered to permanently anchor a temporary seasonal farmers market on one of the city’s hottest future infill parcels.

Damn. It really needed to be cloudy outside on this, our auspicious Speck Study Day.

After all, if Mayor Gahan (or more likely, the hardest working hologram in Indiana municipal governance) were to surface from Das Subterranean Command Bunker on Speck Study Day, only to see the sun actually shining, we’d be condemned to eight more years of foot-dragging, feeble excuses and DemoDisneyDixecrat appeasement, with little hope of street grid reformatting taking place in our lifetimes.

However, and we can only hope fortuitously, agoraphobia is the cruelest of mistresses. Mayor Gahan sent the city engineer, Larry Summers, to the Bored of Works in his stead, and poor Larry was far too nervous performing his assigned task of explaining how something and nothing can occur simultaneously to notice the prevailing atmospheric conditions.

Tinkerbell Dickey was there, too, but the Democratic major domo was preoccupied with feverishly emitting ear-lobe-tugging, nose-scratching procedural signals to the BOW chairman Nash, who gazed in bewilderment at the Power Point slides:

“Wow, Larry, you mean a road diet isn’t a Disney theme park ride?

"Why, this is the space age!

"Next thing you know, they’ll have color TVs playing at the Waffle House.”


Unsurprisingly, those of us most thrilled by the comprehensive efficiency and vigorous optimism of Jeff Speck’s Downtown Street Network Proposal are just as dour and pessimistic about the chances of it ever being carried out hereabouts in any substantive fashion.

That’s because in Come to City, we’ve never really come to, and what’s Groundhog Day, anyway? In New Albany, it’s just another word for tomorrow, and the day after that, and …


In 1989, several previous fallen dominoes (Solidarity’s election victory in Poland and the partial opening of the Austro-Hungarian border, to name just two) culminated with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The USSR stood aside, and the Warsaw Pact was no more.

The subsequent experiences of these East Bloc nations varied, but to some extent in all of them, surely more so in Romania and Bulgaria, the period of post-Communism possessed a decided aura of déjà vu, because there, in the seats of power, occupying elected as well as appointed offices, sat the very same functionaries as before.

Rather like a species of rapidly evolving insect (remember, Franz Kafka was Czech), they either chose the proper moment to switch sides just prior to the outbreak of revolution, or merely shifted into a dormant stage of Down-Low to wait out the post-crash euphoria, reasoning that in the cold light of day, their bureaucratic skills would be deemed essential, and their previous careers worthy of selective forgetfulness.

In this context of adaptability, formerly Communist officials in newly democratic Eastern Europe drew upon an irrefutable pedigree, because after all, denazification in Germany following World War II proved to be schnauzer that simply wouldn’t hunt. Apart from a low percentage of high-profile examples, numerous adherents of the “Heil Hitler” persuasion made a seamless transition from discredited losers to irreplaceable stalwarts of the new/old system now harnessed to a different master, whether West or East.

Why mention Europe’s 20th-century totalitarian hangovers?

It’s because Speck’s street study is more revolutionary than all the (Groucho) Marxists and (John) Lennonists combined, meaning the chances of its implementation in the Land of C and D Students is embarrassingly slight.

But what if a miracle occurs?

What if Speck Happens?

Maybe Tricky Dickey was right all along, and all it takes is faith, and a little bit of pixie dust, and BOOM – Speck in our time!

The good guys win, the city’s future brightens … prosperous times are around the corner, with Tippecanoe and Walkability Too … get out those bikes, people, and skates, and … hold on.

Just wait. It couldn’t be, could it?

Those guys with the clipboards, managing the Five Year Speck Conversion Plan, working for the New Boss … OMG, say it ain’t so.

Not him.

Anyone but him.


That’s right. You guessed it. Even in the very rosiest of street scenarios, which most of us reckon might – just might – yield a Speck Study Quotient conversion rate of 15%, quite likely we’ll be asked to accept a state of affairs wherein the same street-disfigurement criminals wreaking havoc all along are magically transformed into courageous reformers.

We’ll be asked to believe that zebras can shed their stripes, as they set out at the usual bloated pay scale to dismantle the very same dysfunctional one-way, auto-centric edifice they spent the previous three decades perfecting, the sheer idiocy of which comprised the fundamental cause for the revolution in the first place.

Specifically, if John Rosenbarger has anything to do with the implementation of the Speck plan, which clearly calls for ridding the landscape of previous masterworks undertaken at Rosenbarger’s dull instigation, like the rock-strewn bump-outs on State Street, then we’ll have final, irrefutable proof of New Albany as default Groundhog Day, every day, forever.

Wonderful. Rosenbarger and his compatriots, some departed, and others still secured within the Third Floor woodwork like termite larva, built a street grid that Speck’s study relentlessly, mercilessly eviscerates – block by block, and lane width by asphalt expanse. Now, he’ll fix it.

Not only is it bullshit, but it’s also unconscionable, absurd and intolerable. In New Albany, these four words are considered synonyms for “bound to happen” – again, and again, and again.

Good grief, people.

Just during the brief period of the Speck study’s gestation in 2014, Rosenbarger merrily shepherded our Main Street equivalent of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s destructive pre-1989 boulevards and palaces chaos in Bucharest, placing a colossal raspberry of damp flatulence on the street grid he has had such a prominent hand in pillaging over 30 long, wasted, impotent years.

Imagining him at the triumphant Speck photo op, equipped with kiddie hardhat and requisite rubber shovel, those glow-in-the-dark reddened eyes leering, makes me reach for my garlic cloves and nice, sharp, wooden stakes. Ceaușescu wasn’t the only vampire on his Romanian bloc, you know.

Yet, in the end, there is very good news … and also very bad news.

The good news is that Rosenbarger probably will have no part whatever in implementing the Speck study in New Albany.

The bad news?

There’ll probably be no implementation of street modernity in New Albany.

Once upon a time, Speck was to have been Gahan’s Big Idea, but now the odds makers are unanimous, and persuasive: All we get is this lousy Potemkin Village – Hooterville and Caesartown, and again tomorrow, and the day after that, and …

Wouldn’t it be nice, just for once, to escape the recurring cycle of stupid?


Recent columns:

February 22: ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL: Take your cult of personality and shove it, Dear Leader.

February 19: ON THE AVENUES: I'd stop drinking, but I'm no quitter (the 2019 Gravity Head remix).

February 12: ON THE AVENUES: If it's about learning and knowledge, then by definition it's a Gahan Free Zone. You're welcome.

February 5: ON THE AVENUES: Our mayor hates non-elected boards -- except when they're his own, which is why "hypocrisy" is spelled G-A-H-A-N.

January 29: ON THE AVENUES: How has the 3rd district councilman fared since this question from 2015: "Et tu, Greg Phipps?"

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 5: In 2019, Gahan will pass the half million dollar mark in campaign fundraising since 2011.

Previously: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 4: The Estopinol Group and Cripe Architects are just two facets of River Run Waterpark's fertilizing effect.

Some people play euchre for fun, but during the coming weeks we'll be plucking highlights from eight years of the Committee to Elect Gahan's CFA-4 campaign finance reports. Strap in, folks -- and don't forget those air(head) sickness bags.

Let's pause the accounting to let this sink in. Another average fundraising year for Big Money Gahan, and he'll pass the $500,000 mark in donations since running for mayor.

2011: $56,515
2012: $16,575
2013: $30,350
2014: $58,795
2015: $103,532
2016: $51,799
2017: $56,225
2018: $64,250

Total: $438,041

Yearly average: $54,755 and change

Beginning 2019: $128,000 cash on hand

Roughly 25% of this engorged total has come from just a handful of key donors, perhaps as few as six or seven in number. When this research series concludes, we'll be able to see the exact breakdown. What does all this money buy Gahan4Life?

Following are a few random expenditures from 2015. The middle column to the right is Year to Date. Just look at all those mailer air strikes from Way Out West.

Well, there was at least ONE local recipient of the gravy. How much money does one vacuous fraud need, anyway?

Rebuttals are welcome and will be published unaltered -- so don't forget spellcheck. If you have supplementary information to offer about any of this, please let us know and we'll update the page. The preceding was gleaned entirely from public records, with the addresses of "individuals" removed.

Next: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 6: GM Development, yet another economic development consultancy from afar.

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 4: The Estopinol Group and Cripe Architects are just two facets of River Run Waterpark's fertilizing effect.

Previously: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 3: Eight-year donor Terry Ginkins and a consistency of beak-wetting.

Some people watch ballgames for fun, but during the coming weeks we'll be plucking highlights from eight years of the Committee to Elect Gahan's CFA-4 campaign finance reports. Strap in, folks -- and don't forget those air(head) sickness bags.

As a preface to what follows, it's a long and winding road when it comes to navigating Jeff Gahan's big money. Dozens of companies are connected to Gahan's ruinously expensive capital projects, and connecting all the dots between so many out-of-town attorneys, consultants and vendors eager to pay respects to Dear Leader with a few hundred dollars of spare pocket change from their natty three-piece-suits would be a fool's errand.

Rather, I'm merely offering a tantalizing taste of the golden dust swirling around Gahan's money machine, enough for us to #FollowThatSlush.

For instance, here's a small and seemingly insignificant donation: a one-time only, never-to-be-repeated $100 tithe to the benevolence of our Dear Leader.

This C-note came in during the 4th quarter of 2015. River Run (New Albany Family Waterpark) had opened in July. The donor's connection is circled.

Krempp Construction of Jasper was River Run's general contractor, and a rarity in the annals of Jeff Gahan's all-encompassing campaign finance Shop-Vac Mechanism because there is no record of donations coming to Hizzoner from Krempp. However, I suspect the list of sub-contractors might yield a more interesting result, and that's coming soon.

River Run exists today owing to the windfall Tax Increment Financing-propelled city parks build-out that so grandly summarizes the Gahan style of governance on the down low, recalling that no one can recall parks being raised as a campaign issue in 2011 -- not even once.

In October of 2012 the city of New Albany abruptly seceded from the combined New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department, paving the way for new parks planning (2013), contracts to be awarded (2014) and construction completed in 2015 -- providentially and by sheer coincidence just in time for the municipal election season in 2015, and loads of sunburned selfies by the water slide.

The $19.6 million bond floated by the city footed the construction of the aquatic center, Silver Street Park and upgrades to Binford Park. In April 2014, the redevelopment commission accepted Krempp Construction’s base bid of $6.89 million to construct the aquatic center.

It's worth recalling that in 2011 the city's share of the parks budget was $517,914. By 2016 this figure had ballooned to at least $2.08 million.

Bearing in mind that pre-construction matters like engineering, design, legal representation and various other consultancies are not determined by bidding -- they're at the discretion of appointed boards stuffed with lackeys and partisans, among them redevelopment, board of works, sewer board and stormwater -- here's a reminder that thankfully at least a few principled objections were raised.

Design costs for big New Albany projects draw criticism, by Daniel Suddeath

Some city officials aren’t pleased with how much money Cripe Architects will be paid to design the multiuse center at Hoosier Panel and the makeover of Binford Park.

The New Albany Redevelopment Commission approved on Tuesday paying the Indianapolis company up to $35,000 to design a refurbished shelter house, which will double as a concessions stand, at Binford Park.

That amount is in addition to the $122,000 the company will receive for engineering the rest of the Binford Park project and another $277,000 to design the multiuse recreational facility at the former Hoosier Panel property.

“That’s just too much money,” said New Albany City Councilman Dan Coffey, who is also a member of the redevelopment commission.

He abstained from voting on the additional $35,000 contract which was approved by the redevelopment commission 3-1. Councilman and redevelopment member John Gonder voted against the proposal.

Gonder questioned why Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration chose to accept Cripe for Binford Park and the Hoosier Panel project and The Estopinal Group to design the outdoor aquatic center without getting other proposals for comparison.

All three quality-of-life projects are being footed by a $19.6 million bond.

The rough estimate for the cost of the multiuse center is $5 million, and up to $9 million for the aquatic center.

Gonder said he’s discussed the aquatic center project with an engineer who said he “can easily shave a pretty significant chunk off that pool price.”

But the city, with the approval of the redevelopment commission, has already entered into a contract with The Estopinal Group and Cripe for design.

The late Wayne Estopinol, founder of TEG (The Estopinol Group), dropped cash into Gahan's in-box in 2013 and 2014 with $5,000 divided between two donations.

For the longest time I couldn't trace an Indianapolis donor named William H. Stinson, who made five donations to Gahan from 2011-2015, totaling $2,700. Stinson remains nearly invisible on-line, but his title at Cripe says it all: Director of New Business Development.

Team Gahan doesn't do irony, so give credit to Mayor Gahan's daughter, bookkeeper for the campaign finance enterprise, for being impeccably and probably inadvertently honest about Stinson in 2011.

She identified him as a "political engineer."

Political engineer?

In other words, her veneer-schlepping dad's most favored type.


Belated postscript: American Structurepoint's role in the River Run buildout and the company's campaign donations) were inadvertently omitted in Part 4. Read about them here: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 13: United Consulting Engineers rocks Deaf Gahan like a hurricane.

Rebuttals are welcome and will be published unaltered -- so don't forget spellcheck. If you have supplementary information to offer about any of this, please let us know and we'll update the page. The preceding was gleaned entirely from public records, with the addresses of "individuals" removed.

Next: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 5: In 2019, Gahan will pass the half million dollar mark in campaign fundraising since 2011.

Our out-of-touch, tone-Deaf Gahan, bought and paid for by special interests. Let's hear YOUR stories about Gahan's #CultureOfCorruption.

Mayor Jeff Gahan's campaign finance reports are like iceberg tips. There is far more down below the water line, out of our view, originating in the familiar cash-stuffed envelopes -- and fully including favors (remember David Duggins' classic Keeneland junket at Denton Floyd's expense?)

NA Confidential's special election year coverage already is under way.

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 3: Eight-year donor Terry Ginkins and a consistency of beak-wetting.

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 2: Of fire stations, amphitheater studies and Axis Architecture and Interiors of Indianapolis.

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 1: Mysterious CRS Marketing and the inevitable HWC Engineering tie-in.

But I need YOUR help documenting our ruling elite's #CultureOfCorruption. Tell me about your experiences with the Jeff Gahan Money Machine, and together we can pull back the curtain and reveal the truth behind the propaganda -- and make absolutely no mistake, because that's exactly what Gahanism is, pure propaganda masking pervasive corruption.

Confidentiality is assured. Write me and we'll talk. Thank you.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 3: Eight-year donor Terry Ginkins and a consistency of beak-wetting.

Previously: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 2: Of fire stations, amphitheater studies and Axis Architecture and Interiors of Indianapolis.

Some people watch ballgames for fun, but during the coming weeks we'll be plucking highlights from eight years of the Committee to Elect Gahan's CFA-4 campaign finance reports. Strap in, folks -- and don't forget those air(head) sickness bags.

From 2011 through 2018 Terry Ginkins (T.A. Ginkins Construction Company LLC) contributed $8,525 to Jeff Gahan's campaign finance larder. He's one of the few Gahan "old reliables" to have maintained a perfect record, donating all eight years.

Coincidentally Ginkins has gotten contracts from numerous city departments. In 2014, Redevelopment Commission minutes show these two projects; curiously, T.A. Ginkins was the only bidder. Another coincidence?

The Binford Park work was part of the $19.6 million parks buildout/TIF bonanza.

And Board of Works claims in 2014 and 2015.

And two 2017 entries from the Sewer Board claims docket.

Back to the Board of Works in 2017. These "subdivision entry" upgrades were a pet project of then-redevelopment chieftain Duggins, presumably to be pre-determined at the Roadhouse over a light lunch before approval at BOW.

Apr 11 2017: "The (Board of Works) approved a $29,000 contract for T.A. Ginkins Co. to replace the Watkins Prairie entrance way. The city will continue to replace subdivision markers this year.
January 10 2018: "The New Albany Board of Public Works & Safety approved a proposal from T.A. Ginkins Company LLC Tuesday to improve the median landscape and lighting on Shelby Place. The plan, which is for $39,447, calls for the removal of existing trees and shrubs which already has taken place and to install new landscaping."

Well, we know what they say about icebergs. It's probably reasonable to suggest that Ginkins' specialty over the years has been to put his company in place for smaller projects like these, presumably ones (a) easier to rig, or just as likely (b) far under the radar for those larger contractors with economies of scale, eyeing bigger paydays. 

Let's close by conceding this much: at least in Terry Ginkins' instance, the business is indisputably local, and not one located in Indy or Lexington KY.

For Deaf Gahan, that's a rarity. He really believes these special interests love him for who he is -- as opposed for what he allows them to take.

Rebuttals are welcome and will be published unaltered -- so don't forget spellcheck. If you have supplementary information to offer about any of this, please let us know and we'll update the page. The preceding was gleaned entirely from public records, with the addresses of "individuals" removed.

Next: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 4: The Estopinol Group and Cripe Architects are just two facets of River Run Waterpark's fertilizing effect.

Sunday morning coming down: The Black Death, a bum rat and the Danse Macabre.

It isn't the best BBC documentary I've ever watched, seeing as I tend to frown on period piece recreations. However, it is decently informative and thought-provoking in places, as when surviving peasants in England suddenly realize their economic prospects have vastly improved since the number of competing laborers was halved.

A more concise overview is here, including brief treatments of other pandemics:

This apparently precedes new research findings, as noted in this space last year.

They got a bum rat.

Rats were not to blame for the spread of plague during the Black Death, according to a study.

The rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe.

But a team from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara now says the first, the Black Death, can be "largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice".

There's much written about the Black Death in Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, which remains an excellent introduction to the late medieval period. Not only that, but no discussion about the Black Death is complete without a reference to the Danse Macabre, a medieval allegory about the inevitability of death.

In the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, skeletons escort living humans to their graves in a lively waltz. Kings, knights, and commoners alike join in, conveying that regardless of status, wealth, or accomplishments in life, death comes for everyone. At a time when outbreaks of the Black Death and seemingly endless battles between France and England in the Hundred Years’ War left thousands of people dead, macabre images like the Dance of Death were a way to confront the ever-present prospect of mortality.

Redevelopment Commission hands $40,000 for infrastructure subsidy to a fast food chain on Grant Line Road. Where do indies queue for some of this action?

Just a random glance at small potatoes fixes, approved and forgotten. From the minutes of the January 22 Redevelopment Commission meeting:

The developer slated for $40,000 to improve a privately held parking lot:

No one argues that Muncy has upgraded an outmoded suburban asphalt pit. The location:

The latest cookie-cutter sandwich chain to titillate us with sheer meaninglessness:

My question, as always: Do independent restaurant operators have a snowball's chance in Guam of scoring a similar subsidy?

Break up into groups and discuss ... and don't forget to #FireGahan2019 ... to sweep clean those department heads, clear the appointed boards, and see if we can't make all this local system a tad more democratic (lower case "d").

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 2: Of fire stations, amphitheater studies and Axis Architecture and Interiors of Indianapolis.

Previously: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 1: Mysterious CRS Marketing and the inevitable HWC Engineering tie-in.

Some people watch movies for fun, but during the coming weeks we'll be plucking highlights from eight years of the Committee to Elect Gahan's CFA-4 campaign finance reports. Strap in, folks -- and don't forget those air(head) sickness bags.

Preceding is the record of campaign donations made to Mayor Jeff Gahan by the Indianapolis firm Axis Architecture and Interiors from 2011 through 2018. The total is $11,750, and Axis is one of three Gahan donors uncovered so far to have contributed in each of the past eight years (the others are the Clark Dietz PAC and New Albany contractor Terry Ginkins, who since the public housing putsch has been an NAHA board member).

The total is $11,750. Axis lists New Albany's newest fire house among its completed projects.

It's probably just a flip-of-the-doubloon coincidence that Axis is to receive the impending contract for the "Axis Downtown Conceptual Design" expenditure, an amphitheater and levee parking vicinity study.

Ah, but design studies, consultations, engineering preliminaries ... they're all discretionary, courtesy of appointed boards. Whomever makes the (ahem) "best pitch" gets the contract.

If you have supplementary information to offer about any of this, please let us know and we'll update the page. The preceding was gleaned entirely from public records, with the addresses of "individuals" removed.

Next: The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 3: Eight-year donor Terry Ginkins and a consistency of beak-wetting.