Thursday, October 13, 2005

New Albany Cleans Up Nice

Zip over to Clarksville and do a U-turn. Then start back across Silver Creek on Brown Station Way/Spring Street and play spot the eyesore.

We have one less to count, I'm here to report. The proprietors of Sunset Spirits Too have made a major contribution to the aesthetic atmosphere of our fair city. I'm told that the tenant prevailed on the landlord to spiff up the place.

First, about two weeks ago, the astoundingly ugly "LIQUOR DEPO" sign was consigned to oblivion. From all appearances, that atrocity of a pole-mounted, double-sided sign was electrified by little more than an extension cord that draped from the roof of the purveyor's place. UGGGGLEEEE!

It's gone, and that alone would have made a major contribution to the impression made as people enter New Albany from the east. A run down Spring Street reveals only a few jarringly ugly distractions, if you make allowances for '50s vintage strip architecture, fast-food modern, and 21st Century suburban standard architectural styles.

The bottle shop is no longer a dank, dark distraction. It's still little more than a block building with a glass face, but it's now much, much more attractive. New paint, repaired lighting, and a newly visible wall sign improve the Gateway of New Albany tremendously.

Volunteer Hoosier applauds the owner. The mayor should issue a special beautification award. Our eastern Gateway can be presentable, and the investment made at this location by the landlord and tenant deserves recognition.

Now, on to the half-dozen remaining eyesores between Silver Creek and Hauss Square.

Al Gore in 2008

Since 1988, I've been convinced that no American has prepared better to be this nation's leader than Al Gore. He tried twice. Twice elected vice president and once elected president, he has learned the lessons necessary to clinch the deal.

For the record, this writer endorses Al Gore for president in 2008. He'll certainly be better than Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, who stands a remarkable chance of becoming president before another year is out. Now let's try to figure out who would make the best running mate on the Democratic ticket. I earnestly believe that Gore can define the Democratic Party in much the way that Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Roosevelt once did.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Really Always Thought It Was Trite, But...

...I have to admit that it has its applications.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again...." - Theodore Roosevelt.

Umpty-umpt years ago, my then father-in-law offered this quote in support of a good man in an untenable situation. If you care to know, come by and ask me who the man was, but you'd have to be a real trivia nut (or just old) to even have a clue as to who the man was. Remember, I'm a "newcomer." One of those "outsiders" who aren't entitled to speak out on public affairs.

For example, I'm not permitted to speak out about how MY property values are lowered when the neighbor next door decides that, despite his double-wide driveway (fairly unique in my neighborhood), he can just park his truck in his front yard. I'm scolded that I "just don't understand New Albany."

A year ago, still apparently feeling his way into the duties of his office, Mayor James Garner was struggling to demonstrate his talents. Unfortunately, he fell back on an extremely weak argument that he, by virtue of his office, was entitled to "respect."

True or not, it was an argument from weakness, or at least, it appeared to be one of the lamer declamations ever put into writing by a municipal executive.

Since that time, however, the man has demonstrated why so many invested their confidence in him in 2003. Time after time, he has been willing to shoulder the burden of responsibility for this city's welfare, and politically, he has managed to be a winner on issue after issue, vote after vote, and has successfully led this city through an unprecedented and inherited fiscal crisis.

He has weathered the fiercest criticism with grace and aplomb.

He has created an environment where partisan affiliation is no longer relevant, and where even the most disengaged recognize that New Albany has changed...that the city is no longer a place where "change" is a bad word, where nothing ever "really" changes. When even these, the least interested citizens, are declaring that NA no longer has an ineffective government, but an active and responsive one.

No matter whose "idea" it was, James Garner was steadfast in promoting the most ambitious voluntary economic development concept in recent history - the Scribner Place redevelopment project. He worked closely with the City Council to make Scribner Place, the Floyd County YMCA, and the Caesars' Foundation Aquatic Center at last a reality.

Against all odds, Garner tackled the intractable problem of a much-neglected sanitation department deficit and proposed a solution that maintains city control without unnecessarily burdening its most vulnerable citizens with outrageous fee increases.

He negotiated successfully with all of the city's employee unions.

And now, inexplicably, he is attacked by the willing tools of the Gang of Four, accused of withholding information (FALSE), of seeking to enrich himself (FALSE), and of somehow desiring to burden the city's residents with, what his critics say is a manufactured storm water management fee.

Q. How in Hades is this Garner's plan? This unfunded mandate is what it is. Its costs are what they are. To my knowledge, James Garner hasn't even issued an opinion on this matter, but rather, has ardently solicited the input of a citizen's committee to address the requirements of the mandate. This ever-evolving advisory committeee (not a STEERING committee, no matter how egoistic and egotistic its component members may be) is charged with developing the permanent plan for allocating the costs of a storm water management plan.

The interim fee structure is little more than an arithmetic calculation, and the storm water advisory committee has no discretion with regard to that fee. Unless and until they get to work on the permanent plan, an admittedly flawed interim plan only funds the planning process for the next 12 to 18 months.

My own self-isnjection into New Albany's public affairs was motivated by a sincere curiosity as to what it was that made the city so unreceptive to new businesses (and new residents). I found my answers by asking questions and making my own observations (aided by newfound friends).

I have NEVER found it difficult to find the answers to my questions. In every instance, if I had a question, SOMEONE was able to answer the question. At least at the upper levels of city government, where Garner himself has been able to effect a semblance of control, I've been able to obtain the answers to any question I asked.

Those who have been paying attention will remember that, with the possible exception of one preeminent blogger, I was the furthest thing from a cheerleader for NA's city government.

But, like that Web logger, I was sincere in seeking out the truth. As it revealed itself, my own latent political analytical skills asserted themselves, and my initial reactions proved to be just that - reactionary.

No thing is clearer than that a cabal of venal, self-interested politicians (ward-heelers) and hangers-on (you know who you are) are intent on creating a miasma of discontent in New Albany. Relying on their experiences from the past, they believe that Rove-ian propaganda can ensure that, come election time, all of that discontent will be poured out indiscriminately toward whoever is the incumbent mayor. After all, isn't that the norm. Don't try to improve things, just blame whoever's in there at at the top of the ticket?

It's a game. Don't allow yourself to be gamed. Gaming is for the Harrah's/Caesar's time- and money-sucker down the highway.

What the criminally negligent incumbents (yes, Gang of Four, that's you) seem to be ignoring is that, for once, New Albanians are paying attention to what's going on in the city far before the two weeks prior to the elections. That works against you. Your own behavior is under the microscope. The mayor's incremental moves to move the city forward are invariably appreciated. Your own obstructionism and willful celebration of ignorance is spotlighted.

Where once the four-year interregnum between elections was pretty much ignored, the progressive movement in this town has created an atmosphere where YOUR actions are under the microscope. I abstain? What the hell? If I lived in Corvallis, Ore., or Carmel, Ind., I might possibly object to providing economic incentives to some "River Rat" town on the Ohio.

But if I were the sole direct representative of a district that was on life support and relied desperately on every possible incentive to attract investment and jobs, I could never justify voting against the continuation of its designation as an Urban Enterprise Zone.

Who in the world are you representing?

We know, by now, that you take pride in your ignorance and your refusal to represent the best interests of your constituents. You are now irrelevant. We earnestly hope that you continue to ignore what we say, that you continue to listen to your extremely limited inner circle, and that you continue to believe that, once election time rolls around, that New Albanians will again "blame the mayor, not the council member."

And surprise of surprises, you'll soon discover that your own party will find it distasteful to tolerate your ongoing attempts to propagandize, to obstruct, and to serve a master other than your constituents.

Watch closely, Gang. Watch as people who once, at least, deigned to pretend to pay you the respect you so deeply crave begin to distance themselves from you. Watch them as they abandon you. Don't be surprised when your phone calls are diverted to voice mail, when your calls are no longer returned. Don't be surprised when your own constituents reach out to the "at-large" council members to represent THEIR interests. It's already happening with the majority in the 3rd District. The 2nd and 4th Districts are slowly awakening to the reality that they are no longer being represented at council.

And you, Mr. First District. The BIG surprise will come when you discover that a dozen dozen votes is no longer enough.

If only to disassociate themselves from your deeply sociopathic public actions and votes, your cartoonish slavishness to the precepts of Willie Starkism, and your contempt for reason and rationality, the acknowledged leaders of the Democratic Party will renounce and disengage from you, leaving you to find your own constituency.

Will that be criminals, homophobes, slumlords, malcontents, and the barely functional deranged?

I suspect so. So far, the only visible support you evince is from trogloditic cave-dwellers devoted to moving society backward as far as possible (hey, let's bring back slavery) or, as they describe themselves, troglobytes (trilobytic "little people").

But surprise of surprises. A whole community of non-partisan, usually disengaged citizens are paying attention. While they may have no devotion to the incumbent mayor as an individual, they are repulsed by the effluvia that emerges from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th District representatives.

With no other alternative, they will, as against your alternative, be compelled to see this city's executive as the anti-trog candidate in 2007. And when the established party elders see this truth, you will be isolated, condemned, and left in this glacial-edged territory's ashbin.


Private message to the Duchess: I recognize that medical conditions can affect judgment, but can you tell me who in this tiny blogosphere is most likely to be accepting of your personal choices - the progs or the trogs?