Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shall We Gather at the River?

Lacking the will to shoulder the responsibility for implementing an interim stormwater management program, and the unwelcome but necessary impact fees to fund it, New Albany's City Council punted Thursday night, but not before bemusing the crowd with a semantic debate that reveals just how diminished is the awareness of certain elements.

In a fit of pique that infected both sides of the table, with two abstentions and a remarkably petulant "nay" from Gang of Four veteran and Strom Thurmond wannabe Larry Kochert, council decided that no, we shall not gather at the river. Instead, we shall again run from responsibility and blame the big, bad Feds when they impose daily fines of $25,000.

Volunteer Hoosier is working on developing an online calculator so readers can plug in the budget line amount for their favorite city service to discover why the Gang of Four wants to eliminate that service. I don't know about you, but having 911 dispatchers get that ambulance to me on time is MY favorite city service!

For those of you who do not read books, here's a primer.

SHALL is directive. WILL is predictive. MAY is permissive. - VH Glossary of Legal Terms

shall (shal) v. aux. pt. should [ME schal, pl. schullen sceal, inf. sceolan, akin to Ger sollen < IE base (s)kel-, to be indebted > inf. Lith skeliu, to owe] 1. Used in a first person to indicate simple future time [I shall probably go tomorrow] : cf. WILL (sense 1) 2. Used in the second or third person, esp. in formal speech or writing, to express determination, compulsion, obligation, or necessity [You shall listen] 3. Used in a statement of laws or regulations [The fine shall not exceed $200] 4. Used in questions about what to do [shall I invite them] 5. Used in conditional subordinate clauses [If any man shall hear, let him remember] USAGE - see usage note at WILL - Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, the Official Dictionary of the Associated Press

Council's attorney pointed out the reality-based truth (granted, a foreign concept to the opponents of responsibility) that will and shall are interchangeable in common speech, although shall is the preferred usage in legal documents, still.

Somehow, Li'l Stevie's fan-girls define shall as some exotic weasel word. Hey girls! Maybe next time, instead of muttering "bullshit" (I kid you not) all night, you could pick up a dictionary. Some experts!

In other news, the bipartisan attempt to knee-cap $75 million in outside investment in fair, affordable housing that (wonder of wonders) meets code and complies with zoning regulations continues apace. As Cruella de Val looked on, her agents on the council came very close to torpedoing up to $600,000 in federal grants, provoking a rare flash of anger from Redevelopment Director John Rosenbarger when he was accused of lying.

One surprise was the appearance of a contingent of student journalists, on hand to cover this government meeting. They were treated to random outbursts of anger from almost every point of the council compass, and the behavior of the citizenry was only slightly more savory. Even your humble correspondent succumbed to the spirit of anarchy, but the response my "crudeness" provoked gives me a few suggestions for investigators chasing leads on the recent spate of criminal harassment toward progressive elements.

Kristallnacht any day now. We invite responsible comment.

I Guess It Wasn't a Progressive

Baseless allegations, slander, racial epithets, slurs on personal faith, and outright homophobia, all conducted under the cover of anonymity and/or under the influence and guidance of the most regressive elements in elective office...taking sides with the slumlords and the mafia. Throwing "birds" at a man's family as they celebrate the city's signature moment...personal attacks, threats, libels and harassment...

Who is the diseased mind who found it appropriate to launch a brick through the window at James the Cleaner? Logic dictates who is responsible for this. There is a sickness, diagnosed or otherwise, driving a Nazi element in our fair town. If you are one who fosters this hatred, your fingerprints are on that brick, too.

My guess? It wasn't a progressive who committed this crime.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sense and Sensibility

Why do you read blogs? To find something interesting!

Poll: More Americans Getting Their News From Bev

Quote of the Day

I don’t trust books. They’re all about facts, not heart. And that’s what’s tearing this country apart. --- Stephen Colbert

Monday, October 17, 2005

To Everything There is a Season

Volunteer Hoosier extends its sympathies to 1st District Council Member Dan Coffey. Although we find ourselves in agreement with Mr. Coffey on practically no occasions, we don't wish him ill will.

We learned today that Mr. Coffey was involved in a collision along Spring Street in the West End, leaving his vehicle undriveable. We extend our best to Mr. Coffey as he deals with any injuries he might have sustained.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Investigative Journalism?

Friends across the river report that the only time they hear any news about New Albany, it's bad news. The Courier-Journal fails miserably in covering the Southern Indiana arts scene, so event announcements, civic club activities, and other items that would and could be important for folks separated from us by the river go unreported.

IU Southeast gets short shrift. Businesses large and small are treated as insignificant if they are located in Southern Indiana, especially if the matter is important to the region. Such news only makes it into the Indiana "section" of the Indiana editions of the C-J.

I put "section" in quotes because the typical 8 pages include maybe 2 pages of local news and some slapped-together Indiana wire copy on a third page.

And yet, every Southern Indiana subscriber is guaranteed to know about every development if it's happening in a Kentucky zip code.

Indiana Weekly is inserted on Wednesdays (and distributed separately, according to rumor), so every event competes for coverage on one single day, whether it's timely or not.

That's why I and others are so ardently hoping for a renascent Tribune and Evening News to fill the void. As an advertiser, it is in my vested interest that The Tribune, in particular, become an essential read for anyone on this side of the river. Their goal, as I read it, is to make that so, and then if you have a particular need to find out something specifically about Kentucky because you work there or still have family there, you can make the C-J your "second" paper.

The problem is exacerbated by the neglect that the editors of the Louisville paper show toward the New Albany/Floyd County beat. Clearly, the only way government beat writer Ben Zion Hershberg can get good placement in the paper is to sensationalize his coverage of local government.

I don't blame Ben. It is the neglect shown by his superiors that constitutes my beef with the Gannett company. His editors don't worry about whether his stories are accurate. Their only view of New Albany is Ben's. The idea that what Hershberg reports bears little resemblance to reality has probably never crossed their minds.

They reward Ben because his snarky attack style is fun to read. It doesn't matter to the C-J executives that it paints a picture that is misleading. It doesn't matter to the C-J that it is slanted to reflect the views of Ben's anonymous and not-so-anonymous informants. Ben's stories present "a view askew," a view that is tainted by the reporter's sloppiness with quotations and his allegiance to crackpots who can always be counted on to launch baseless accusations.

It's good copy and his editors don't have a clue whether it's true or untrue. When Ben's stories make the front pages, his editors recognize them as similar to great investigative stories they've heard about in journalism school. They never question whether they are true.

So Ben does what any ambitious reporter will do. He shades his story to make piddly mistakes into crimes of great magnitude. He then goes out to find someone, anyone, who will give him a quote to support his slant on the story. Remember the "lady at a bus stop" who Ben asked about the issues facing New Albany's sanitation operations? No context, no analysis, just a supporting pull quote. From there, Ben proceeded to paint the reconstruction of the sanitation department as something that many (Ben's words) in the community oppose.

He did much the same during the years of struggle to make the Scribner Place redevelopment project a reality.

I speak not from a partisan or Partisan perch. I speak from experience. As I tried to find out how and why things work or don't work in this town, I relied on the local newspapers, including the Courier-Journal. My bad.

One trip to a New Albany City Council meeting, which in 2005 have been marked by contentiousness, vilification, slander, and near-criminal neglect by the Gang of Four, and certainly an abdication of representative responsibility, is all it will take for you to discover that the Courier-Journal and Ben Zion Hershberg are not serving you with the truth.

I have observed closely. I've asked questions. I've reported on what actually happens in this city, and increasingly in Floyd County as a whole. What I've observed bears no resemblance to what Ben reports. Don't believe me? Join me Thursday and see how a city council meeting goes. Then read Hershberg's report the next day.

That's how Ben gets rewarded. He won't stop now.

Volunteer Hoosier calls on the C-J to reassign Hershberg to another beat and to put a reporter with integrity in place in Floyd County. Today's overblown non-story is typical Hershberg. Using the "hook" of a returned audit of the New Albany Township Trustee's operations, he paints a picture for readers throughout the region. KY readers again hear only bad news.

The slant, snark, and words from Ben mimic award-winning journalism. But a careful reading reveals that Mr. Tom Cannon has done nothing of substance wrong. An audit is a report by technicians on just how far off the perfect mark an operation is hitting. From my reading, there is no story.

A driveway was built alongside the township fire hall, a condition requested by planning authorities. A building was built without using an engineer or architect. A travel expense reimbursement was rejected. No, Tom Cannon's operations aren't perfect, but they are far from the dereliction of duty implied in Ben Hershberg's coverage.

Complaints by political opponents have been referred to a government attorney in neighboring Clark County. In Ben's telling, Cannon is "under investigation by a special prosecutor."

It would pretty simple to rewrite Ben's lead to reflect the truth with another slant. It happens all the time.

ITEM: "Long-time political opponents of New Albany Township Trustee Tom Cannon are citing a recent report from state auditors as evidence that Cannon is mismanaging the trustee's office.

Although the audit highlights minor problems with recordkeeping and questions some expenditures, observers note that the personal animosity of the Township Advisory Board has led that body to make a routine financial report into a cudgel to use against Cannon just one year before the next election."

That story is equally valid. It, too, would make the front page, and would be a great launching point to discuss how the vitriol from the advisory board makes their contribution to township affairs little more than political posturing.

But the C-J gets Ben's slant, buys it as gospel, and reinforces the belief that New Albany is Yokelville, USA, filled with corrupt politicians, shady dealings, and an electorate powerless to change things.

Hey, Ben's chosen his side. It's time for the C-J to send a reporter who doesn't take sides. VH won't be linking to C-J stories until then. Our friends at NA Confidential may feel comfortable peddling Ben's trash as "news." From this keyboard, I won't be bothering.

Although Ben's stories provide a limited view into the minds of his sponsors and informants, they do not provide news fit to reprint, much less news to which I would refer you.


Take the Challenge

October 20, 2005
7:30 p.m.
Third Floor Assembly Room
City County Building

The Common Council of the City of New Albany meets at 7:30 p.m. They will often hold public hearings 15 minutes prior to their scheduled meetings.

Come to the meeting. Take your own notes. Read the faces, hear the words, and measure the mood. Then read the newspaper coverage the next day.

Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Other upcoming City Council meetings:

November 7th and 17th
December 5th and 15th

The jockeying for selection of a new president of the council should be fascinating. I'm hearing that a deal has already been cut to oust current president Jeff Gahan of the city's 6th District. My question is "Why?" And who's making the deal? And in exchange for what?