Saturday, April 23, 2005

From my inbox

As a historical Baptist who adheres to the Baptist Faith and Message as approved in 1963 by the Southern Baptist Convention, I'm only being true to the historic principals of my faith in decrying the encroachments of one person's faith on the constitutional government of this country. You will be surprised to know that when Madelyn Murray O'Hair sued to stop school prayer in 1962, the Baptists joined her in seeking to keep the government out of matters of faith.

I can't say it any better than does in this e-mail I received today.

As you probably know, this weekend Louisville will be ground zero in the right-wing campaign to seize absolute control of the federal courts. On Sunday, James Dobson's Family Research Council and Republican Senate Leader Bill Frist will join in a telecast from Louisville which, outrageously, will accuse Democrats of stopping far-right judges because they're "against people of faith."

But Frist and company will have to share the national media spotlight on Sunday. Our friends at, the Clergy and Laity Network and other organizations are holding a rally at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon to show that most religious leaders don't agree with politicians and preachers cloaking right-wing extremism in the garb of faith –- and that God doesn't take side in partisan politics.

The national media will be there, and the more of us that attend, the more clear it will be that Dobson and Frist's rally doesn't represent the American mainstream.

Here are the details:

WHAT: Freedom AND Faith Rally
WHO: National Clergy and Laity Network,
National religious leaders of many faiths
WHEN: Sunday, April 24, 2004, 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Central Presbyterian Church and adjacent park
318 West Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky

Here's a map of the location:

More info is available at

We hope you can make it.

–Eli, Marika, Micayla, Wes and the MoveOn PAC Team
April 22nd, 2005

Our store will be hosting a reception for artist Karen Moeller-Stumler from noon to 3, but we'd be thrilled to see you here before you join in this statement of American faith.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wake Me Up, Before You Go Go

In my younger days, oversleeping was a problem. Ultimately, I paid a price for oversleeping, and learned to get my butt going. I've always been a night person, so it has taken some fortitude to adjust to the rhythms of a world designed for morning persons.

New Albany is now paying the price for the previous administration's (and council's) nasty habit of sleeping through important deadlines and letting its year-to-year spending number get out of balance.

Make no mistake about it. The city didn't just forget to repay the money it borrowed from the sewer board. It overspent, and although Messrs. Kochert, Coffey, Schmidt, and Garner were on that council, they didn't practice the necessary oversight to prevent these consequences.

That would explain some of the hyper-attention being paid to budget matters this term by the three veteran council members. Their vigilance is a model for the newly elected members of the council, too. Mr. Seabrook is, of course, a veteran who was not then serving.

But it is Mr. Garner, now mayor, who seems to have the firmest grasp of the consequences, as he should. Now, he must "garner" the trust of the council as they begin the painful adjustment process.

As it happens, the city has the ability to tighten its belt this once, helped by a seeming windfall that appears to be from the state's distribution of unanticipated income tax collection (statewide collections, not necessarily local ones). The so-called "rainy day" fund will accommodate a large percentage of the $2.8 million that must be made up this year to pay for past mistakes. Although this fund would have been available to cover future contingencies, our rainy day is here now, so pray for good fiscal weather in the next five years or so.

The second windfall is less unexpected. The mayor proposes to dip into the "riverboat" fund (an allocation of taxes collected by Harrison County each year and subsequently distributed to its city neighbor) to the extent of $800,000. The riverboat fund is, apparently, intended for infrastructure and capital acquisitions, and this crisis will leave the fund above water, but significantly leaner.

Cuts in planned general fund expenditures add a few hundred thousand to the kitty, but the mayor expects there will be no need for layoffs.

Finally, the city is poised to again borrow from the sewer board, this time to the tune of $500,000. That cool half-million, in all likelihood, will have to be squeezed out of NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET.

So, there's your report from the City Council work session held Tuesday. Although the city will be operating at the margin, the executive and the legislative branches appear ready to pay for the city's past mistakes, for the most part out of this year's budget.

The state is running even farther behind in reporting the audited beginning and ending fund balances for 2002 and 2003, so there may be a slide left or right in these numbers, but all that remains is about 4 to 6 weeks of public notice and legislative appropriation action to authorize the changes.

We assume the council members who were unable to make Tuesday's work session have or will study the mayor's proposal and be ready to cooperate in making it work. We're all going to feel the pain this year and next, but it appears that for the time being the interpersonal squabbles will be put aside and the administration and the council will shoulder the responsibility together.

Chaos Theory

We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities. - Walt Kelly

I am of an age to remember Garry Trudeau's predecessors, particularly the satirical cartoonists Walt Kelly and Al Capp.

Capp's fearlessness contrasts favorably to Kelly's conservative approach to satire. Kelly, by taking the safer route, survived longer, but arguably, had a lesser impact on public affairs.

I mention these legends of cartooning after logging on this morning and reading a reaction to the call to arms made in the last 36 hours by The New Albanian on his NA Confidential Web log.

The poster, who styles himself as emersonlives, and the posting induced in me first a quiver, then a twitch, and finally a full-blown knee jerk. "Em" contributes yeast to the loaf that is New Albany's most widely read blog by posing as an equal opportunity balloon-puncturer and his "view askew" is most appreciated.

But this morning's reading forces the judgment that his cynicism has, this time, overwhelmed his reasoning.

"Em" sees the Constituency for Progress as a movement marred by a "tincture of egalitarianism" and as a prime example "of tyranny of the intelligentsia."

Way to jump on the bandwagon, "Em!"

But first get your facts straight. Were the intelligentsia to join in this movement, they would be welcome. But the CFP is as working class a movement as you'll find in this post-industrial age.

I'm a merchant, toiling 14 hours a day in a job I enjoy and that rewards me in many ways beyond the norm. I am of a generation taught that even in one's work, one can find fulfillment. Our parents and grandparents would have found that premise laughable. Work, to them, was nothing more than a means to an end, a necessary evil to put bread on the table.

I know I am fortunate to have found a vocation I enjoy. But there is nothing in my background or belief system that merits dismissing my efforts as a tyranny of the intelligentsia.

I am a country boy, a scholarship kid, a confirmed member of that large fraternity known as GDI's in college, a scrambler for work however I could get it, including decades of working for myself before creating a small, independent bookstore in a small Indiana river city.

Neither I nor any of my friends, family, associates, or acquaintances have ever taken up a verbal cudgel to diminish the value of another, particularly because of a lack of education. Your frame is bent, "Em." Valuing knowledge and education is not an elitist enterprise. But devaluing it, treating anyone who has sought knowledge as being an elitist, is the domain of the demagogue.

Pick a side, "Em." I can't see being egalitarian as anything but a virtue.

Any place that anyone can learn something useful from someone with experience is an educational institution. - Al Capp

It is not good enough for things to be planned - they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation. - Walt Kelly

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Constituency for Progress

Dipping into the blogosphere, I find that fellow Web denizen NA Confidential has taken up the banner of progress this fine Monday morning.

The contrasts in our respective weekends couldn't have been more severe.

SATURDAY: NA Confidential spent most of his Saturday burrowed into the cave that is his Rich O's/Sportstime Pizza/New Albanian Brewing Co. Volunteer Hoosier enjoyed a day of enlightenment at Southeast Indiana's celebration of Earth Day. NAC in the dark, VH in the sun.

SUNDAY: VH and his bride spent the day at Destinations Booksellers serving the needs of those hardy souls who braved the fine weather to browse and buy. NAC and his bride savored the pleasures of Madison, Indiana's shops, galleries, wineries, and museums. VH in the dark, NAC in the sun.

Yet, on each day, we each undertook explorations of our surroundings and made soundings of the opinions of our fellow citizens. My own weekend was leavened by reading Bernard-Henri Levy's Toquevillian trek across the landscape of America in this month's The Atlantic. Later this week, I hope to relate some of that with you online.

From our weekends, we each seem to have discovered that, at long last, New Albany is at the tipping point. Almost daily, I hear expressions of appreciation for the news and commentary relayed on this blog and on Roger's. I'm sure he could say the same.

These expressions come in the form of a knowing look and a comment like "I read your blog...and Roger's too. Keep up the good work." Occasionally, it comes in the form of "I enjoy your Web site."

I'd have to say I wonder about the "enjoyment" engendered by these postings. "Angered" sometimes seems more appropriate. "Disturbed" would be an apt word. But I do know what they mean when they say the "enjoy" it.

But Ann, Roger, Tabitha and I are not voices in the wilderness. Since I arrived in New Albany, I've tried to soak up the zeitgeist to understand what this area and this city are all about. I have observed a remarkable cast of characters in New Albany. Many of these folk have been gracious enough to educate me as to the history and peculiarities of the place we call home.

We live in a town filled with remarkably accomplished people. The level of discourse, if not in public meetings, is thoughtful and rational and tolerant and (dare I say it?) progressive. Liberals and conservatives share a heritage of progressivism, and in the context of New Albany that requires a missionary mentality.

What you need to know is that there is a constituency for progress. There is a constituency willing to fight for a clean city with safe streets, clean alleys, effective government and more. New Albany is not a city filled with lone-wolf survivalists demanding nothing more than that government stay out of their business.

If politicians cater to a segment of the population that, for example, believes it is their constitutional right to store old appliances, mufflers, and busted sofas in their weed-infested back yard, it's only because they believe there is no countervailing force that will hold these elected officials to account.

And if a politician is too timid to take a stand for a progressive city that will entice employers, entrepreneurs, and creative types that will enhance the quality of life and provide the amenities that make a city whole, it's only because they are unaware that their constituents are starving for a leader with vision.

That ends now. If a majority of the voters are happy with a crumbling infrastructure, filthy properties, cronyism in politics, underfunded public services, overcrowded public facilities, rundown parks, unpaved streets, limited recreation, crumbling or nonexistent sidewalks, they had better outvote us.

Because WE are the Constituency for Progress. The self-help movement has already begun, but the whole notion of "city" is a planned civilization, and the CFP votes for neighborliness and civilization. We speak so leaders of vision know we exist. Our platform, as we reveal it, is one we invite prospective candidates to mount. But be sure you're bold enough to upset the applecart.

No incumbent is irredeemable. But now is the time to identify yourself if you are an incumbent who belongs to and seeks to serve the Constituency for Progress. We await the roar from both sides.

For those of you reticent to post publicly on this forum, e-mail me at Let me know if I can repost your comments and let me know if you wish to remain anonymous. But now is the time to identify yourself as a member of the Constituency for Progress. Join us in creating a city our children will want to stay in.