Friday, May 06, 2005

Adopt the Garry Plan

The members of the New Albany City Council make an elaborate show of respect for city controller Kay Garry in all their public proclamations. In their speech they universally pay tribute to her competence, intelligence, and integrity.

Charged with crafting a solution to the city's fund balance crisis, Mrs. Garry developed a comprehensive plan to keep the city running through this calendar year.

Garry has worked tirelessly to create a plan that fully complies with the stringent rules of local government finance in Indiana. She has not been afraid to tell the administration the truth; she has not been reticent in telling the council the truth.

Not every dime collected by this municipality can be devoted to the general fund - a point Garry must make continually to certain members of the council.

City departments have been operating for months under the assumption that the budget, as passed by this council, is a chimera. Department heads have, accordingly, restricted spending for almost half a year to accommodate the fiscal emergency. Once the Garry plan was proposed, the department heads were required to go over each expenditure line item to find even more savings.

Kay Garry has put together a plan that would allow the city to continue to operate. Money from available funds would be shifted to the general fund to keep city departments running. As would any prudent financial officer, she recommends that the city maintain a reserve in its capital spending funds by borrowing from a city-owned utility.

It's time to pass the Garry Plan. Pass the resolution to maintain a capital reserve. Pass the appropriation to shift funds from the Rainy Day Fund. Pass the appropriation to shift funds from the Riverboat Fund.

Show your respect for Garry and her work. Mouthing platitudes is no longer acceptable. No one, least of all the city controller, can sit by and watch council members make obsequious remarks about how much they respect her, how much they like her, how beholden they are to her expertise, integrity, and intelligence.

Mrs. Garry is, by all accounts, the ultimate professional. She is not a mental defective to be soothed with sweet talk. It is transparently disrespectful and dismissive, and an insult to this dedicated public servant, to praise her with words while rejecting her counsel.

Show her the respect she deserves. Pass her plan.


Randy Smith,

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I've Had Enough

I can't watch the local news (especially the weather) without it causing a precipitous rise in my blood pressure. I open the paper and see it glaring back at me. Boldly and brashly, it invades my space uninvited.

Never, ever, ever again do I want to see the word "Kentuckiana."

I hereby apologize for any usage of the term I have ever made. I hereby renounce it and pronounce a ban on its usage in this blog. Any comments using the term will be removed posthaste.

And if it ever comes to be, please don't allow the EMT's to drag my apoplectic carcass to anything called the "Kentuckiana Medical Center."

For heaven's sake, doctors (and Mike Naville)...don't come before our Board of Zoning Appeals and plead for approval of a hospital with such an atrocious construct as "Kentuckiana." At least have the good grace to call it the "Inditucky Medical Center" if you want to locate it in our environs.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pick a Side/ or Ducks on the Pond

Government in action (particularly New Albany government) is not always a pretty sight. Coming up with solutions can be damned difficult.

It's even harder to do when, like a duck in the rain, you bury your head beneath your wing and let the water droplets do their worst.

But on rare occasions, government in action can be simply sublime.

Monday night's City Council meeting was a showcase of both the ri(duck)ulous and the sublime, and if you missed it, trust me, you'll be hearing about this night for the next 30 months.

As I watched the proceedings, I caught myself trying out witty turns of phrase to describe it. The one that came most often to mind was from the sweet science and the event it most resembled was the rematch of Ali vs. Frazier. And the single anthem surging in my inner ear went something like this:


The Honorable James E. "Gentleman Jim" Garner, mayor of New Albany, delivered a policy and political knockout blow this evening that will reverberate throughout the city up to November of 2007.

His Honor separated himself from the pack with a sense of resolve, responsibility, and command of the material that no one who feels themselves to be part of New Albany's constituency for progress will have to make a decision on which side to pick.

For James Garner picked a side tonight! The highly visible declaration of principle I felt he simply had to make to restore a threatened incumbency was on full display.

Faced with difficult choices, the mayor's opponents chose to play politics. Big mistake. Because the game tonight wasn't politics - it was policy fisticuffs. The mayor and his administration stepped into the ring and delivered jab after jab, hook after hook, leaving the forces of "no progress at any price" literally reeling.

And there was no cut man, no fight manager to help the gang of (four?) in their attempt to play rope-a-dope.

In the end, it was the regressive fighters who threw in the towel, signaling their defeat by ABSTAINING on the most important fiscal crisis vote this city has seen in decades.

Like ducks on the pond in the midst of a deluge, the mayor's opponents tucked their heads under their wings, hoping to avoid the realities, apparently expecting the sun to be shining when once again they crane their necks to the sky.

The next City Council meeting is much more likely to be an alley fight. Be sure the forces determined to keep New Albany down will try to marshal their own peanut gallery as the key final votes to save the city from a shutdown are cast. Council Member Messer, a man of creativity and enthusiasm, will be absent, leaving no majority either for or against the mayor's proposed budget adjustments.

Garner has presented his best solution. Now it is up to council to authorize the appropriations. A 4-4 vote isn't a real option, so it will be fascinating to see who breaks ranks to save the city from disaster.

My guess is that Council Member Schmitt will justify the faith his constituents invested in him over these many years and vote to approve. Once that becomes known, Mr. Kochert is likely to read the tea leaves and join Mr. Schmitt in approving the mayor's plan. The lone Republican, Mark Seabrook, hasn't really aligned himself with the gang of four, but remains unpredictable when it comes to fiscal matters, but my bet is that once he gathers all the facts, he too will join to approve the mayor's plan.

Weather vanes will be popping up all over the 1st District as Council Member Coffey surveys which way the wind blows. Does abstention (again) or a nay vote set him up as the anti-Garner? Or does it relegate him to political oblivion? And of course, we won't know how Mr. Price will vote. But don't worry. Mr. Coffey's name comes first in the roll call, so all Mr. Price has to do is listen carefully to his instructions from two seats to his right.

Maybe the council could set its next meeting at the riverfront amphitheatre, where fans of progress and the forces determined to make New Albany a third-rate city can square off to watch their champions in action.

Frankly, though, the mayor has done his job. His staff have done theirs. With plans in place to meet either contingency, I would urge the mayor and his staff to take a brief vacation. After all, the City Council meeting is for the City Council, twice a month. The administration is at work every day. Come back the Monday after the vote, Mayor, rested and ready to lead this city to the future it deserves.