First things first. The news from the City-County building is not so dire as first reported.
It seems that rumor built on rumor to become perceived fact, prompting neighborhood association leader Greg Roberts to alert the troops to the possibility that Mayor James Garner was wavering on his commitment to implementing the codes enforcement officer position that created such a stir in the first two months of 2005.
Not true, according to those in the know. Greg reports that the mayor and his administration remain committed to making the job a reality.
I have to admit that I was mystified when I opened my e-mail last evening to read the initial bulletin regarding the rumor. It seemed to be a complete reversal on the mayor's part. Well, it would have been if it had been true.
Had this new information been available earlier, I no doubt would not have posted this as originally written.
What I did write, I'll leave up without edits. The "reversal" was reported on this log as apparent, not confirmed. But few readers of this blog haven't been exposed to some of the theories, wild or otherwise, about the motivations and loyalties of politicians, particularly this mayor.
Making a call for patience and thorough examination of such innuendo would have been much more difficult had the mayor actually been prepared to pull back on his commitment to filling the codes enforcements officer position.
So...the original post stays. The danger seems to have passed. My post stands as a question: Why would the mayor do this (he isn't)? and as an outline of the consequences if he had betrayed those who invested their trust in him (a trust that seems to have been justified, after all).Here's the original entry, as posted, without edits.
It's remarkable the things that come to pass when you look away for just a little while. Volunteer Hoosier finally joined the rest of Southeast Indiana in sharing the Flu of 2005. And while we were absent from our keyboard, much of interest has gone unremarked on.
Even the most idealistic of politicians (and James Garner has never in my hearing been accused of being that) will ultimately revert to a position he or she believes is most likely to "garner" votes. Yes, a vote or administrative decision can always be cast as doing the "right thing" or responding to the "will of the people," but few politicians have the courage to unilaterally disarm by ticking off the voters.
The more cynical among us might look at political decisions as a financial matter; that is, a politician will always serve his paymasters. Opponents of the mayor have made broad, but largely unsupported charges, that the mayor is in the pocket of special interests who contribute to his campaign or otherwise feather his nest.
Whatever his motivation, the mayor is reportedly ready to abandon his previous support for the implementation of a city codes enforcement officer. You will recall that earlier this year he took a lot of heat for his pocket veto of an ordinance authorizing the position. I believe he has adequately explained his stance on that and after a few issues of executive prerogatives were fixed in the ordinance, the mayor enthusiastically gave his approval to a new ordinance.
Now, Greg Roberts, president of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association
, tells us the mayor will not be hiring a codes enforcement officer after all. If this is true, James Garner is setting himself up to drink from a bitter cup, this time rimed with the rotten fruit of betrayal.
Is this New Albany Spring
marked by a newfound patience with the mayor coming to an end? Will the city's top elected official ever be able to speak and have the citizenry believe him?
Much of the dissatisfaction with Mayor Garner's first year in office stemmed from his woeful missteps in communicating his vision for the city. We don't doubt the mayor has a vision. He has taken tentative steps to communicate that over the past few months, showing us that he does have a grasp on the issues facing this city.
But unless the mayor forcefully and repeatedly articulates his reasoning on the codes enforcement officer, counseling patience will quickly become untenable.
Which brings us back to the opening paragraph. On this single issue, the mayor stepped out in front of a constituency for progress. Whatever political capital he expended in getting this ordinance through a hostile City Council would have been well worth it in the currency most politicians value - votes.
Many who would never have identified themselves as supporters of the mayor made tentative peace with the administration and saw that, perhaps, their previously low estimates of James Garner's worthiness might just have been premature.
It is these voters (and make no mistake about it, these are active voters and campaigners) who, once burned, will never trust the mayor again if he isn't clear, compelling, and convincing in explaining his actions.
At this point, I can't see any justification for delaying the hiring of a codes enforcement officer. The mayor is walking a very fine line on this issue and if he hopes to have any credibility with those who identify themselves as the constituency for progress, he'll have to conduct a P.R. offensive the likes of which this city has never seen to recover any good will he has built up over the past several months.
But then, maybe the mayor has found his constituency, after all. Let's face it - everyone read the recent county Democratic Party caucus, in part, as a referendum on James Garner. After "his" slate thrashed the opposing slate, perhaps the mayor is feeling far less vulnerable. Perhaps he's entirely comfortable with the perception that he's beholden to the slumlords.
I still think the constituency for progress is the hidden electoral weapon in this city, but if the forces of regression squawk the loudest, the political calculus in Silver Hills may well be different.