Our Mission is to Plant Ourselves at the Gates of Hope

gates of hope

On this chilly Friday in December, my thoughts wander to friends out there who are beset by doubts and fears, by crises and catastrophes, and who are struggling to find meaning in it all.

I keep this posted beside my desk. It is a meditation by Victoria Safford, to whom all credit should be given. Ponder and enjoy.

Our Mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope – not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness … nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of ‘Everything is gonna be all right,’ but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle – and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.

May you all have peace and joy in this season.

The Rev. Victoria Safford is minister of the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. She is the author ofWalking Toward Morning: Meditations (Skinner House, 2003) and a contributor to The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books, 2004).

Who is Scott Stewart?

For someone who wasn’t born here, I know quite a few people. Fortunately or not, the vast majority of people I know in New Albany and the surrounding towns are customers of my bookstore. That is, readers.

sstewart

What’s more, they are readers, for the most part, who strongly support the concept and the reality of independent business. They understand that their choices make a difference.

Unfortunately, those people in New Albany who don’t buy books from the only independent full-service bookstore in the Southern Indiana often fall outside my ken.

Accordingly, I rely on those people I do know to introduce me to those I don’t. Often that is in real-life. Sometimes that is virtually.

I’d like to meet (virtually or otherwise) a man named Scott Stewart. We don’t run in the same circles (yet) and I’m curious to know more about the man.

Here’s what I think I know about him, objectively. [from the Web]

  • He is a native of New Albany, although he spent much of his professional career working for Procter & Gamble in postings throughout the U.S. and the world, retiring in 2008.
  • He subsequently served as a “senior policy director” for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
  • Before taking his current post, he served as Director of Strategy for the Indiana Department of Transportation on the Ohio River Bridges project.
  • He recently joined the board of the New Albany-Floyd County Education Foundation.
  • He is said to live in Silver Hills.
  • He is currently the Port Director for the Ports of Indiana-Jeffersonville.
  • He is a board member of 1SI, the regional chamber of commerce.
  • He is a graduate of Indiana University Southeast.

So … who knows him? What can you tell me about him? And can you help me to know more and perhaps to meet the gentleman?

That is all, for now.

$6,142,49: Mayor Gahan Must Just Be Swimming in Money

It happens every year – the Indiana Secretary of State Attorney General issues a press release reminding residents to check for unclaimed property being held by the State of Indiana. The City of New Albany has literally dozens of unclaimed checks and credits and thousands of dollars sitting idle, albeit safely.

scrooge-money-swim

Something is wrong, though, when an administration that promises to make our city “fundamentally better” can’t keep better track of monies owed to it. Most, but not all of the money owned by New Albany but apparently not important enough to keep track of consists of insurance premium refunds. You can look it up here.

In something of an irony, New Albany Township Little League, Mayor Jeff Gahan’s bete noir, has left a few bucks unattended, too. So has the Tribune, who ran a story this week reminding everyone to check the state website for unclaimed property.

The $6,142.49 figure is just from a cursory search. There might actually be more there.

Make your own searches. It could be fun and the state even offers you the ability to email a friend to let them know they have money coming to them. And please share your results with us in the comments below.

Are you searching, Floyd County Young Republicans?

List of Properties to send to your friend.

Property ID Name Total Cash Value
$
1535350 FLOYD COUNTY YOUNG REPUBLICANS 279.22

How about you, New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department? Or you, Floyd County Youth Symphony? How about you, Faculty of New Albany High School?

Even the staff of NA Confidential ought to try a few searches … hint, hint.

Ann and I Are Expecting

I”M CROSS-POSTING HERE FROM OUR STORE BLOG, because this is about big news for New Albany and fits right in with our philosophy of NewAlbanism.

For some readers, this will come as a jarring shock. For others, it will bring tears of laughter to imagine us bringing a little one into this world.

No, it’s not what you’re thinking, except perhaps metaphorically.

Since 2004, we’ve tried to create a place for community, bending our backs to recruit, nurture, and facilitate the efforts of creators, whether they be communitarians, authors, or entrepreneurs bringing unique products and services to our city. And let there be no illusions: creators are the soul of a city.

There is always a dividing line between the creators and the looters, and hardly anyone qualifies as neither. One is either building and creating or one is extracting and looting.

We like to encourage the creators and it has long been our dream to build an incubator where they can do their thing without undue risk and with some infrastructure support.

Many of you were patrons of Dueling Grounds Cafe until we closed it in 2011. For some time now, we’ve been working with both serious and not-so-serious people who needed a great kitchen to prove their concept, but no one until now had the requisite preparation and experience to utilize the space with a viable business plan.

Now, we have just such a tenant. This is not a Destinations Booksellers operation. It is fully independent of us and will have free reign in the back of our building. Ann and I are just the landlord.

We’ll be making a follow-on announcement to reveal the details of this new food-related operation. We want to give this new business a chance to make their own public bow, to make their own splash, but we’ll follow shortly so all of you can know what’s going on. By Tuesday, all the details should be locked down and we all hope to have appropriate signage in place soon.

So, to that extent, Ann and I are expecting. We expect great things from our new tenant and are convinced that this is something New Albany, Southern Indiana, and the entire region need now.

In the meantime, know this. This new occupancy will not exhaust the possibility of other food-related businesses making productive use of the space because it is, while permanent, not a full-time operation. It’s a good space for a caterer. It’s a good space for someone who wants to offer daily breakfast and/or lunch service or a beverage service. And both Ann and I still think New Albany can support a savory bakery (thanks, moondansyr). So if you know someone who’s looking for something like that, have them get in touch.

And be sure to check back for the full reveal of this exciting addition to New Albany’s rising food class.

A Thought for the Weekend

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

Farmers’ Market Polls: Winter 2014

New Albany’s Common Council is discussing a request to make a sizable investment to build additional structures there, locking in that site’s use as a permanent farmers’ market. What do you think?

It Costs Far Too Much

Building a new shelter and bathrooms for New Albany’s farmers’ market is a bad idea made worse by a stunningly high price tag attached to it. Very little I’ll say here that I haven’t said before, but it clearly needs to be said again. The farmers’ market needs no expansion.

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New Albany owns a prime tract of property at the corner of Bank and East Market streets (the southwest corner, so to speak). It was once and now is again the site of a thriving weekly farmers’ market during the warmer months. It also hosts sellers for a few late-day hours during the week.

James Garner’s mayoral administration (2004-2007), hoping to attract a critical mass of vendors to ensure that downtown had a farmers’ market, but unable to manage it, granted Develop New Albany (DNA) the exclusive contract to operate and manage the market. Within just a few years, DNA recruited a nice mix of farm product vendors, making the weekly farmers’ market an essential part of our weekend.

Now, while the vendors are what make the market, I would not begrudge the giving of applause to DNA for bringing the market back to life. It had developed a really nasty reputation with farmers in the area and for holding it together the way they have, the putative Main Street organization deserves praise.

There is much – and I mean MUCH – about DNA that deserves criticism, starting with their … oh, never mind. That is not what this is about.

The market is great. The current manager claims that the vendors are insisting that the city cough up $321,000 for a second shelter and bathrooms. She also implies that some vendors have “threatened” to leave the market unless we do so.

The only such “threats” I’ve heard about arose when the manager herself decided that she was not the landlord, but the boss. These vendors are independent business people. Such people don’t take kindly to being bossed around. Because their market business is transient, it is not tied to New Albany. I don’t believe a single farmer who sells there lives in this city. They do have options.

Here’s what a market vendor wants: A market where (many) people come to buy their farm products. That’s it.

No one has even hinted that market traffic is dwindling. No one has said that we have too few vendors and need more covered space. The market is meeting demand and most vendors are doing well. Vendors with seniority are under cover. Vendors without seniority bring pop-up tents when necessary.

In fact, I’ve heard two complaints. One is that the market is too crowded. The other is that carrying groceries from the market can be an ordeal when shoppers must park blocks away.

Frankly, the discussion should end here. The market does not need to be expanded. If it does need to be expanded, the current location is not the right place. And $321,000 is far too high a price tag for the taxpayers to bear.

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Most farmers markets are set up in idle parking lots or even fields. In a distant past, our market was semi-permanent and sited down the middle of, yes, Market Street. Vestiges remain today. The current shed is, to be blunt, a bit of an eyesore. By design, it is supposed to conjure the image of a steaming paddlewheeler of the type so skillfully built by New Albanians in the city’s first century.

Instead, visitors to our city probably wonder why a large picnic shelter is sited on such a central piece of the city’s property.

For 216 hours a year, however, it serves a purpose. Vendors, mostly farmers, come in from out of town and peddle their wares to an appreciative public. Saturdays are particularly vibrant. In contrast, most downtown businesses are open that many hours each month, 12 months a year.

And yet, we’re being asked to pay for a $321,000 facility to host transient businesses from out of town. There’s something deeply wrong when anyone thinks this is a good idea.

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Would the farmers’ market collapse if it were moved? It might, but I seriously doubt it. Market Street itself is configured in such a way that the entire market could be set up on the north side of the street. Vendors could sell off the back of their trucks or off tables. Portable tents could be easily erected to provide cover for vendors and shoppers.

At least 2 city council members believe that the city’s parking garage, just 2 blocks away (and situated beside a two-way street) would serve as an excellent alternate site if there is truly a need and demand for an expanded farmers’ market. It’s an idea worth exploring.

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To me, the most compelling argument against spending $321,000 to expand the farmers’ market is the intrinsic value of the land on which it sits. For one thing, sinking that kind of money into that site makes a statement that this plot of land is and always shall be the site of some kind of “official” farmers’ market. Granted, having a farmers’ market there is a nice amenity. But there are dozens of nearby locations where a temporary market can be established, and quickly.

My own building, 2 1/2 blocks away, gives you some idea of what $321,000 can buy. The Destinations Booksellers building is slightly more than 3,000 s.f. It is a year-round, climate-controlled, secured building with ethernet, gas heat, air conditioning, electricity, and water. It includes a licensable functional kitchen and bathrooms. In addition, it has more than 4,000 s.f. of paved parking that would be suitable for temporary vendors to set up tents.

Nearby are plenty of parking spaces.

Now, if that’s available downtown today for that price, why on earth would the city pay that much for 2 bathrooms and another shed cover on a key commercial corner of downtown?

In fact, let me make this offer. Pay me $321,000 for my building and give me an option on the land where the city intends to invest $321,000. I’ll vacate the property within 30 days of closing and find another place for my store.

While I’m completely serious about that offer, I don’t think that if the current proposal were framed that way that anyone would be proposing to do it. Maybe so, but it’s awfully hard to imagine.

And yet, here we are trying to stop the city from pouring vast sums into a farmers’ market that’s open 216 hours a year.

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I’m told the city council will be discussing this appropriation at this Thursday’s regular meeting. If you can’t go to the meeting, call your council member and let them know what you think of the idea. I know that CM Baird and CM Benedetti are on record as supporting the idea. Presumably, at least 2 other CMs are in favor, so this decision will be a close-run thing. Call the mayor, whose Board of Public Works and Safety came within a few minutes of approving this expenditure. Ask him to oppose it and to veto it if it passes through the council (they’ve already appropriated $271,000 for it). Let’s stop it right now.

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DNA is running a curiously tricky poll that casts the decision as being between expanding the market in place or moving the market to the city’s parking garage. It’s a dishonest poll designed to present false choices and generate support for their desired windfall on the backs of the taxpayers.

Read these pieces at NA Confidential, please. Then go vote FOR the garage proposal, if only to show that you won’t be fooled.

Develop New Albany’s on-line farmers market “poll” is a reeking, juvenile cesspool of intellectual dishonesty.

Yo, DNA: Here are some examples of OUR propaganda. You can have the hearts. We’ll take the minds.

Maybe the city could buy indoor space for the Winter Farmers Market. Would $108K do it?

As the farmers market follies morph into farce, City Hall just stands there. Why is that?

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