Saturday, January 29, 2005

Doing the grunt work

Might we look back on the first week of February as a watershed moment in the history of Floyd County?

If you're reading this, you're probably accustomed to rapid connectivity and technological ease-of-use issues. Likewise, Web logs aren't typically the hangout of the uninvolved.

The Floyd County Council seems determined to bring county government in line with the technological growth seen in the commercial sphere and among the most progressive communities. Is there any doubt that technology creates new opportunities for communication while keeping the cost of service delivery manageable?

The council will address such questions this week during a work session at the City-County Building's main assembly room. It's not a forum for the public to speak, but I'm certain the public would be welcome to observe. The tentative schedule says 5:30 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 3).

Remember, this is a working session for the council to discuss needs and solutions, so if you plan to go, observe and report back. Often, it is these sessions where the real work gets done, so drop by, let the council know you have an interest in the government/technology nexus, but let them do their work.

Friday, January 28, 2005

What have you heard?

Have you written your legislators about House Bill No. 1148? Have they responded, yet? We wouldn't really want a form letter campaign, but if you are concerned about this bill designed to protect utility companies at the expense of municipalities and the public, contact them with something like this:

I write urging you to oppose, procedurally and otherwise, the passage of House Bill No. 1148, which would preempt municipalities from bringing broadband Internet services to their entire populations, even when regulated telecommunications companies deny or delay the rollout of this essential democratizing service.

I am eager to know your views on this bill and your evaluation of its likelihood of passage.

Skittishness in "Mayberry"

The news is unsettling this morning after the Charlestown City Council tabled its motion to join in and issue bonds for a universal wireless broadband public-private partnership.

Timing may in fact be critical on this matter. Although we don't yet know the full scope of the bill before the legislature which would preempt municipalities from creating universal broadband service availability under their statutory public utility powers, the delay is troubling.

One citizen was quoted as saying, "We're running our city like Mayberry." Except there's no calm and reasoned Sheriff Andy Taylor at the helm.

Now, a final vote is delayed until February.

The Evening News's Greg Gapsis has been following this story closely, but space limitations prevented our local paper from giving the story. Rumor has it, though, that The Evening News will have a comprehensive story on all these issues in Saturday's editions, available here at the store or online at

In the absence of local coverage, read more in Alex Davis's report in The Courier-Journal or online at Charlestown delays vote on Internet deal; financing risks eyed.

A correction?

Previous inquiries about the whereabouts of New Albany's city engineer Cory Earl hadn't yielded any answers. But a conversation with city operations director Anthony B. Toran last evening indicates that Mr. Earl is still on duty.

I was careful to only raise the question online, so there's nothing to apologize for. But if Mr. Toran is to be believed, and I think he can be, the city engineer continues in his job. If possible, I'll share with you an explanation for the previously unresolved mystery when it becomes available.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

C'town ascendant

It was close, but Charlestown's City Council voted to approve Mayor Mike Hall's proposal for a public-private venture that will bring high-speed wireless Internet connections to all of Charlestown and possibly to surrounding areas. The city will issue $750,00 in bonded indebtedness over the next five years.

Read Greg Gapsis's coverage in the Evening News in this story:

Broadband measure gets OK on first reading

Big news, but still hanging over other municipalities (and perhaps Charlestown) is the looming threat of House Bill 1148, which would effectively stop cities and counties from creating universal access to high-speed Internet.

You know the drill. Call your legislators.

Call for volunteers

I'm not aware of any comprehensive inventory of downtown properties short of a street by street search of the tax records, and I know that can be misleading. While we'll need that, too, I'm calling for volunteers to help us create a necessary component for any renaissance of downtown New Albany.

In any other city, this would be a natural government function, but it's not one the taxpayers are willing to foot the bill for. So let's do it ourselves and do it in a coordinated manner. Anyone who has made a start on this --- please share your work.

I suggest we meet at Destinations Booksellers on Sunday, Jan. 30, at 1 p.m. Short of a blizzard, we'll walk the streets of downtown, however we choose to define it, and catalog the properties on each street, documenting their use(s) and occupants, and take record photographs of same. Later we can determine ownership, further uses and occupants, and official plat designations and tax valuations.

With enough volunteers, we can do this in short order, but if it's just a few of us, we'll keep plugging until our inventory is complete. Weekends are best for me, but we can determine assignments between ourselves.

If you have a passion for bringing downtown New Albany back to life, join us. And post your comments below or e-mail me at

Who's zooming who?

As we reported last week on another Web log, the New Albany City Council missed an opportunity to move the city forward at Thursday's meeting. The Tribune reported the highlights of the meeting in Friday's editions (Positions approved during raucous council meeting), addressed the fractious meeting editorially on Sunday (The Tribune does not archive editorials and columns), and today shares with the public some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that caused the council meeting to end on a sour note.

Amany Ali reports in ," (Buildng controversy: Appointments to Building Commission once again delayed) the background and details that led to the council yet again deferring a decision to fill two vacant positions on the NA Building Commission.

Here's our report from Friday:

Many citizens departed the meeting at the recess, but those who stayed until adjournment might not agree that the meeting "ended" on a positive note.

Tension reasserted itself rapidly in inverse proportion to the number of citizens in the room when the Mayor pointed out that his nominee for the building commission would now be left on the table for two consecutive meetings without action by the council.

Building Commission member Steve LaDuke pointed out to the council that his body continued to have a problem raising a quorum while two positions remained vacant. CM Gahan suggested that the mayor simply see to it that all appointees show up and that would solve the problem.

One commissioner works as a utility company lineman, so let's pray for light winds, no ice or snow, and no other emergencies that may prevent the building commission from even electing its own officers to begin the year.

Apparently, a private deal was worked out by council members to slide that item off the agenda without telling the mayor or anyone else, then to wait until after the recess to discuss it. Here's irony for you. The fact that the citizens had departed at the recess was used as an excuse to refuse the mayor's request. And this is for an appointment that clearly had unanimous support among the CM's.

Could someone be trying to yank the mayor's chain?

Ali put in the hours to chase down the real story: CM Kochert doesn't want the mayor to be able to appoint anyone "aligned" and thus opposed both of the nominees on the agenda. CM's Coffey and Seabrook objected on procedural grounds and Council Chairman Gahan ruled a vote to be improper.

The Building Commission has not been able to organize or perform its duties with these two vacancies and may not be able to summon a quorum for its next scheduled meeting, either. It is the council that has dropped the ball on this one, not the mayor.

See Monday's Tribune for details on the pre-meeting negotiations and what has transpired since then at

Monday, January 24, 2005

Heads up on broadband

Blog correspondent bluegill let us know about a telco-backed bill before the Indiana legislature that would practically preclude municipalities from creating the infrastructure for high-speed Internet service when the less and less regulated utilities refuse to install it.

Now, Greg Gapsis of the Evening News provides us with a story about Charlestown's efforts to stay connected to the wider world.

The council is expected to decide whether to move forward with an unique partnership that would create Charlestown Wireless, a technology venture that would bring state-of-the-art wireless Internet connections to the entire city. The vote is planned during a special State of the City more

House Bill No. 1148 can be found at
and I'm reliably informed that the underlying documents literally bear the stamp of one telco's chief lobbyist. No kidding. And these guys are serious. Although a previous attempt to smother municipal Internet ventures was tossed by the courts in another state, this time they think they've covered all the bases, and if it passes it would effectively be a telco protection act.

Gapsis's story lays out just how important broadband service is to a community's continued vitality.

If you're a Charlestown resident, know that tonight's City Council meeting could mark a turning point in that city's development.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Amber alert for Earl?

Whispers are increasing in frequency and volume about the whereabouts of City Engineer Cory Earl. During 2004, as we were renovating our building, we encountered several items that fell under Mr. Earl's jurisdiction and had great difficulty in getting any response from his office.

Ultimately, with the paid assistance of an outstanding geo-tech engineer, we were able to finally meet this city official, who, once alerted, promptly promised to use his powers to get one of our problems ameliorated.

Then nothing.

Accustomed to the pace of government action, we thought little of it, but remained curious about what resolution would ensue.

Now, we hear that we are not the only ones waiting to hear from the city engineer. It appears that Mr. Earl, by all accounts a competent professional civil servant, has gone walkabout. Various individuals and government boards who rely on his presence and/or advice languish in his absence.

We certainly hope that all is well with Mr. Earl, but if city officials can't answer the question "Where is Cory Earl?" it creates all manner of condundrums. Is Mr. Earl on official leave? Is he getting paid during his absence? What government functions are being ignored? Has the mayor contracted with private companies to fill the void? Has a missing persons report been filed and shouldn't the public's help be enlisted in an effort to locate him?

Would the last person to speak with Mr. Earl be kind enough to post a comment or drop us a line?