Friday, January 06, 2006

Communication Problem?

New Albany's Gang of Four
That explains it!!
Get your own memento of City Council meetings at

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Puzzler

Local scandal-blogger, rumormonger, and fantasist Laura Oates is a real puzzler.

She is on record as insisting that Rumpke's $18 plus per household bid would turn out to be the winning bid on the sanitation contract. In the alternative, she bleated repeatedly that the only legitimate choice was the $16 plus alternative suggested by AFSCME.

It is clear that the costs for each of those far exceed the cost of the actual winning bidder. So, pray tell, if it takes $16 per household just to cover the costs, how much profit can there be in the $12.90 cost to the city?

With all the precision and control of explosive diarrhea, Oates more than implies that great riches are flowing to the recipient of the contract and that she is entitled, on behalf of her quartet of bitter aggrieved former office-seekers, to know the complete shares agreement of each of Bob Lee's companies.

Why is everybody out to get you, Laura?

No Thanks

Volunteer Hoosier works hard to bring you news you can't get elsewhere. We recognize that not everyone has the time (nor the inclination) to be their own reporter. The nature of this medium allows for immediacy in a way not offered by other media sources, so we are rightfully proud to be able to bring you news when it comes to us.

During the past year, our reporting has been factual and timely, often "scooping" other outlets. Fellow blogger Roger Baylor and his NA Confidential is yet another reliable source for news about public affairs.

The one rule both Roger and I abide by is that we don't publish until we have the facts. When our readership wants answers, we provide them.

Recently, our readers expressed great curiosity about the details of New Albany's contract for sanitation. When we learned the contract had not yet been signed by the parties, we inquired of the city and others to learn what was happening. We requested to be informed when the contract was executed and to be included on the distribution list for any press releases or official announcements thereof.

Alas, being a reporter is a thankless job; no release was issued, so I repeated my request and was sent a copy of the signed contract. When rampant speculation ensued as to what might happen in the new year without a contract, this Web log made the announcement that the contract had been signed. Later, accusations of a coverup were circulated and speculation began about details of the contract that ranged from schadenfreude to pure character assassination.

To allay any legitimate and sincere concerns, VH published, in two installments, the agreement between the City of New Albany and Clark-Floyd Landfill LLC/Eco-Tech LLC d/b/a Southern Indiana Waste Systems.

The document was and is public information. It became more public and readily accessible upon publication on these pages. Any resident could read the contract and evaluate it. It remains available even now.

By making this agreement public, the parties were alerted to inadequacies in the drafting of the agreement, ambiguities that did not reflect the actual intent of the parties. Those flaws were corrected on the next working day. Those technical corrections are not reflected on these pages as of yet, but then, they were technical, not material. I am certain that any interested party can obtain a copy of the amended agreement at the City County Building.

VH doesn't typically attribute its reports to its sources. In so doing, we put our personal reputation for truth-telling on the line. No weasel words like "according to so-and-so." It's risky, and readers will have to make their own judgments about how accurate the reports on these pages have been over the past months. Our conscience is clear.

In this instance, we reported first the signing of the agreement, then demonstrated the existence of the agreement for those who doubted our first reports, and subsequently transcribed the entire agreement for public consideration.

No thanks are necessary. You're welcome. Glad to do it.

When we are mistaken, we correct those mistakes. But we don't publish until we know the truth, and you will continue to see it here.

VH decided to post the signed contract here so that the public could decide for themselves what the contract contained.

For those curiously obsessed about this reporter's "right" to seek out and publish information, public or otherwise, here's a passage that pretty much defines it:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Most state constitutions and long-standing jurisprudence have extended these rights as against the states, their agents and creations.

And here's more discussion of the topic:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This is for You, J.F.

For the intended recipient, the jury is still out on the perspicacity of this writer. Although our posts have been increasingly infrequent, we do realize that frequency and entertainment value are, well...valued by our readers.

I'm privileged to be able to preview a certain percentage of upcoming literary releases (heavily weighted toward fiction, I might add), and I hope to be able to use this forum to share piquant passages from that literature.

So, this one's for you, J.

Should democracy be applied like a tourniquet? Or a suppository?

Talk amongst yourselves.

And for you, J., if you want to go "slumming," try 038551722X. To my mind, it's a cross between C. Buckley and J.S. Foer. Accessible, yet bizarre. Satiric, yet filled with cultural iconoclasm.

For Wonks Only

There is a lot of deliberate disinformation floating around town, with this past week seeing hitherto unseen lows from troggus bloggus and the hooded cowards who post there.

The brand of Web fantasy dealt there is most akin to arson during a drought. Some people just get their jollies from seeing things burn. More responsible bloggers with a sense of journalistic integrity find it their duty to fight these unceasing firestarters.

Herewith, a little primer on one small bit of sleight-of-hand being used to distract the truly sincere with alphabet soup and tired doggerel from past decades.

EDIT (or CEDIT) stands for economic development income tax. It was created as a source for counties, cities and towns to actually invest in their towns. All residents who earn income, here or elsewhere, pay the EDIT tax. EDIT can be as high as .5% of income. It is distributed twice a year.

CAGIT (county adjusted gross income tax) is intertwined with property taxes and property tax relief. CAGIT is collected by the state and distributed to municipalities twice a year. Most CAGIT revenue replaces property taxes - about 12.5% of CAGIT can be used for other governmental purposes, with the rest going to general fund property tax relief. It is designed to change the mix of tax burden, benefiting property owners at the expense of income earners. By implementing a CAGIT, then, a municipality must reduce property taxes by an amount equal to 87.5% of the CAGIT revenue. In most jurisdictions who use it, the rate is set at either .5%, .75%, or 1%.

A third option, which cannot be used in conjunction with CAGIT, is the COIT, or county option income tax. It is not tied to property tax relief, and thus can be a source of revenue that captures income rises while maintaining the property tax base. COIT is distributed monthly, and can rise to as high as 1% (of income) over time.

The combination of EDIT and CAGIT in Floyd County and New Albany is capped at 1.25% of adjusted gross incomes of the residents of the jurisdiction. If my memory serves, we're slightly under that taxation limit, and some are advocating for a cut, reasoning that we no longer need to invest in the future.

EDIT funds, at least until July of 2005, required a jurisdiction to have a specific state-approved plan for the use of EDIT funds. That is, it was to be used for investments designed to generate a new tax base to help pay operating expenses and keep the property tax burden down. The last session of the legislature removed that restriction, offering the temptation to localities to use EDIT money for operating expenses or any governmental purpose.

The more responsible office-holders are determined to keep the use of EDIT taxes for investment, not operating expenses. In the next few years we'll see who has the discipline to leave those funds intact for economic development, and who will want to raid those funds for short-term gain.

The City of New Albany receives (if my memory serves) about $2.4 million each year from the EDIT (tax). Almost all of that is committed to bond retirement, with two bonds set to expire in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The city is in no danger of over-committing these anticipated funds, particularly with respect to the Scribner Place project. There is more than enough in EDIT to meet those requirements, which could be as little as $140,000 per year.

To restate, EDIT funds committed previously have all been according to a written plan that justified their commitment as economic development. Residents can argue over what constitutes economic development, but as of right now all commitments met with state approval. Neither the city nor the county have "oversubscribed" those funds. In a year or two, there will be greater opportunity to invest in the future.

Where other funds have been used to meet what may have previously been "EDIT" obligations, the state has approved them all.

Nos, if any residents care to make the case that pumping up the investment in city sewer infrastructure (as opposed to capacity) is an economic development activity, and to advocate for an accelerated investment in propping up the main sewer arteries in the inner city...I think the case can be made. Right there with bike paths and sidewalks. I agree that we are spending too little on all three of those.

Hope this helps.

And one last thought: Why is it the people who demand more investment in sewers are the first to don their white hoods and hoist their pitchforks against any investment in economic development? And in any thought of increasing the tax base to support city operations? The anti-tax crowd is, in fact, the anti-community crowd, the anti-New Albany crowd.

But then, you knew that already, didn't you?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sanitation Ops Begin With Cooperation

NA's Board of Public Works and Safety met today and heard a comprehensive report from the president of Southern Indiana Waste Systems, the operating company assigned by Clark-Floyd LLC/Eco-Tech LLC to fulfill the five-year residential waste and recycling contract.

Still no word on just how many of the former city workers hired on with SIWS, though presumably most of them are on the job with the new company today.

The contract has been amended to reflect the intent of the parties and to clear up any ambiguities. Section 5 was cleaned up to reflect billing rates on 12,000 residential units x $12.90 per month, paid two times a month.

There was, of course, never any doubt that this was the case. And it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the parties might amend it again as events dictate.

The spirit of cooperation preceded the formal institution of the contract. The city's operations were hampered last week by a "perfect storm" with three trucks out of service, the loss of one day (Monday) to pick up the slack, and the "normal" excessive amount of refuse that always accompanies Christmas gift-giving.

SIWS jumped into the breach by lending the city two trucks and two crews. It really helped the city, and allowed the management of the company to get an advance feel for the work.

Still, a few routes did not get picked up during the past week. As I recall, this was the case last Christmas, too, abetted by lingering white stuff and trucks without the motive force to navigate slickened alleys and roadways.

Next year, Christmas falls on a Monday, which will set up a valid test of the new operation vs. the past operations. Cross your fingers.

Bob Lee of SIWS told the board today that Lawrence Jones will be the supervisor of the SIWS operation. Anybody know Mr. Jones?

Six new trucks provided service today, with recycling being conducted by two additional "red" trucks. Two other trucks were trying to catch up on the routes missed last week, according to reports from the meeting.

Looks like week one is off to a good start.