For almost a full year, gentle reader, you’ve heard nothing from me here. Anything I had to say, Ann alone had to hear it. Poor woman.

mystery

Let’s see. I tossed my hat into the ring for election to a vacant school board seat and lost – badly. I sought to return to my career in journalism and was all but ignored by what passes as our “local” paper. And then, glutton that I am, I offered myself for yet another school board seat that came open – and was roughly treated.

In business, I’ve been the living embodiment of the aphorism that pioneers get slaughtered while settlers prosper. I’ve been at it long enough and seen enough peers disappear that I qualify for the former category. But the scars I’ve earned entitle me to advise the latter.

I’m inspired today by my reading, which has been extensive over the last 12 months, and it turns out that it involves a light chuckle that makes me think of New Albany. It’s told by Tom Corcoran, a confidant of Jimmy Buffett and the creator of the Key West-based Alex Rutledge mysteries.

Key West back then had one more charm: It was empty. “The joke in ’73 and ’74 was the chamber of commerce had someone stationed on the Seven Mile Bridge to call ahead when a car was coming,” Corcoran told me. “Then everyone would race down Duval Street and open their stores.”

 

There’s a not-quite-fake-news piece circulating on Facebook that suggests that New Albany would be great place for a group of gal pals to go spend a few days. Really?

On those infrequent occasions when Ann and I consider a 3-day weekend, we consider shopping, history, education, arts, dining, and perhaps entertainment. Importantly, we don’t want to find ourselves in a ghost town on any of those days.

If we lived 50 or more miles from here, we wouldn’t choose New Albany for a getaway. Sorry. That’s just the truth.

Now, as a pioneer, I talked the talk and for many years also walked the walk when it came to doing my small part to help make New Albany a destination. Standing alone as the only independent business open 7 days a week was, frankly, an exercise in futility, if not masochism.

Make no mistake. As a pioneer, I know how tough it is to stay open on Sundays, too. But if the settlers here are ever to know their town as a true destination, they have to be open when destination visitors want to and can be here. That means Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

I hear you, restaurateurs. Yes, many of you are open on Sundays. How about “Ghost Town Mondays?”

Here’s a modest and interim proposal that, upon utterance, will certainly be declared anathema.

Suppose we had an entity, agency, or government who actually had an interest in promoting New Albany as a destination. What if that “?” offered each independent store in a selected zone a weekly stipend of $50 to be open on Sunday, too? Or offered each independent restaurant in a selected zone the same to be open on Monday, too?

Think that would result in some economic development? And wouldn’t that $50 stay here, too, instead of being exported to Indianapolis or Cincinnati or elsewhere?

That stipend is small, but remember we’re only asking the stores/restaurants to be open. They get to keep all sales and profits generated that day, but $50 toward labor and overhead might be just enough to pay someone to open the door and see who drops in.

A year of incentives might cost $100k to as much as twice that. Or about what the city spends on free concerts. Which of those two choices is more likely to make New Albany a destination? And which of those two choices would essentially keep 100% of the cash in New Albany?

Discuss amongst yourselves. I think I’m becoming verklempt.

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Note to self: Make sure you are logged in to the right account before starting a blog post.

We are the Killers

Posted: May 14, 2016 by NewAlbanist in guilt, Public issues, safe streets, safety, streets
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I have pretty much super-glued my mouth (typing fingers) for six months. One acquaintance likened it to a voluntary exile from discussion of public issues and I had to agree. But tonight, I’m contrite. I say mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

To be sure, this is not about me. It’s about us. But mostly, it’s about our neighbor. It’s about Cora’s mom. About Laura’s next-door neighbor. It’s about tragedy. Needless tragedy.

My father died about a month ago at the age of 81. His health was poor, but his life was rich – in many ways very rich. In a retirement home, he had found a new venue of service, a place for ministry, and a home for joy. That’s a rare experience for the elderly and I am desperately pleased that he found that.

We held the requisite ceremonies to honor his life and his death. And though he and we were prepared for the event of his death, he was not supposed to die, especially on the anniversary of his marriage to my late mother.

He had fallen and broken his leg – in three places – and it necessitated a week or so in the hospital and a couple of weeks in “rehab.” Nothing about that meant he should die. He died of neglect of care. His caregivers failed him. People we trusted allowed him to acquire a bedsore that poisoned him one day before he was to return home. His compromised system could not handle it.

My brothers and sister were prepared for him to die. But not that week, not that day. Ignorant or negligent people killed him.

It’s hard to summon the requisite rage. Had he died last fall, or the winter before, we would have dealt with it. We are dealing with it now, but he was not destined to die in April of 2016.

Cora’s mom was not destined to die in May of 2016, either.

Chloe was not supposed to die Friday afternoon. And it’s killing me that she did.

Chloe was looking forward to a family wedding next Saturday. She had taken her dress to the cleaners on Spring Street. Then, she walked over to the hair salon on Vincennes to confirm an appointment for a set on Saturday morning before the wedding ceremony. Then, to home on Shelby Place.

Chloe did not make it home.

Chloe will not be at the family’s celebration of the union of two hearts.

For Chloe hazarded to cross East Spring Street in New Albany, Indiana on a sunny  Friday afternoon in May. She tried to cross with the light. She never made it to the other side of the 48-foot-wide street.

I, as much as anyone, know what she hazarded. This week, I told my wife that if ever I were to be killed crossing the street that she should know it was not because I was careless. I walk through that intersection five to six times a week. I am ever vigilant. I, for one, am sure that 83-year-old Chloe was also vigilant.

Alas, vigilance is no defense against an extended-cab truck that pays no heed to fleshly obstacles to its destination.

Someone was killed. Already, chatter condemns the driver of the truck that struck Chloe and caused a hemorrhage that ended her life about a half-a-day later, the brain-bleed that no physician could prevent.

May I propose that the driver of that extended-cab pickup, who whether guilty or not is remorseful beyond belief, is only to be judged proportionately.

For we are the killers. We blithely tolerate a street grid with 48-foot-wide streets that pedestrians are expected to navigate without the sanction of government protection. Already some speculate that Chloe should not have taken the risk of crossing the street. The temptation is great to cast blame.

I’m writing here to accept blame. I know the hazards. And though I’ve spoken out about the need for rational (read: non-lethal) solutions, I have not spilled blood to save the lives of Chloe and the next victim. I have sacrificed little in money, reputation, or status to create safer streets. Oh, I’ve flapped my gums. But I failed to save Chloe.

It breaks my heart.

I began this post with reference to my own father. Dad would have died to save Chloe. He would have sacrificed. He was a legend back home. I have never sacrificed for my community the way he would have, and did.

Dad, I failed you. New Albany, I failed you. I, and we, failed Chloe.

Sunday, as the sun goes down, I will station myself at the intersection of East Spring Street and Vincennes Street to honor the memory of Chloe and to acknowledge my own guilt for her death. For I could have sacrificed more. I could have risked more to make that and every intersection safe enough for Chloe to go home and plan for a wedding next weekend.

I won’t be so arrogant as to expect anyone else to join me Sunday night in a vigil to Chloe’s memory. I will simply state that Chloe’s death will not be in vain.

We are the killers. Mea culpa.

Mr. Gahan’s “Blue” Problem

Posted: October 29, 2015 by NewAlbanist in Uncategorized

Floating just under the penetrative waves of the political radar over the past 4 years has been a deep and abiding morale problem among New Albany’s Finest, our men and women in blue. At the senior command level, all is well, as evidenced by the active campaigning and generous campaign contributions from the chief and deputy chief. But in the ranks, there’s a nasty smell.

blueribbon

Personally, I believe an Indiana mayor has no business being in an adversarial relationship with the law enforcement officers he employs. However, the long-standing abdication of duty by multiple city councils has brought us to a state where our mayor is not advocating for our police officers but, rather, harshly working to diminish their job satisfaction. But that’s beside the current point.

In order to give broader coverage to their plaint, I’m republishing the text of a newspaper advertisement placed this week by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99. And yes, I’m doing so because I believe the safety and well-being of this city depend on Jeff Gahan being retired from public office. Indeed, I am continually amused that so many feign outrage that a blog, a Facebook post, or a Tweet might contain an actual wish that the writer’s preferred candidate be elected and that the incumbent be retired. City employees and appointees and the mayor’s family members seem to think that electoral politics requires silence about the issues and deference to their chosen one.

Enough. Here is the text of the relevant open letter to the voters:

As president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99, I have been asked to express the Lodge’s absolute and unequivocal anger at the lack of respect shown to the Officers and Members of the F.O.P. by the current Mayor Gahan. Since he took office, the mayor has gone out of his way to ignore his lawful obligations to or with us.

Mayor Gahan began by refusing to sign a contract agreed to by Mayor England, resulting in a totally unnecessary arbitration and expensive litigation for the City. Inexplicably, more recently, he failed to present an Arbitration Award rendered in May of this year to the City Council. When I talked about the Award with the City Council at its regular meeting on September 2, 2015, the members were shocked that the financial information, so necessary to its budgeting process, had been knowingly withheld from the Council. (In retrospect, this was a harbinger of things to come. The County Council has had to sue the Mayor to get financial information it believes necessary to do its job.)

It appears that the latest refusal to abide by a lawful Arbitrator’s Award, as required by local ordinance, will again result in costing the City needless litigation expenses.

The position of Mayor Gahan in ignoring his obligations under local ordinance is the most arrogant display of disrespect possible: ignore your lawful obligations then compound it by needlessly spending City revenue to defend your unlawful actions, again, with out-of-town lawyers.

This disrespect is not reserved for the F.O.P. It is visited on individual members in a variety of ways. For instance, early in his Administration, an Officer reached his mandatory retirement age. He was a Navy veteran with 40 years of service to the City. Rather than telling him well in advance that he was going to be forced into retirement, the Officer was called in at the end of his shift and told he was retired. No advance notice, no time for him to prepare for his sudden unemployment, and a practice not theretofore implemented by any other Administrator.

In a similar incident, the Mayor vehemently opposed the return to work of an Officer, and a U.S. Marine veteran. who was cleared by three separate physicians to do so, two of which were the City’s physicians. Fortunately, the Merit Commission restored the Officer to his employment.

It appears that Gahan has not learned a life lesson that people may not remember what you said to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. He has apparently made it his goal to make every Officer feel disrespected.

Each day, when a member of the New Albany Police Department put on his/her uniform and badge and walks out the door to work, they are saying to the citizens of New Albany “we’ve got your back.” The time has come for this Mayor to discontinue his campaign of disrespect. He can do that by simply abiding by all Arbitrator’s Awards for all public safety employees, as the law requires.

We appreciate the support we have had from the citizens of New Albany and wish we could get the same from Mayor Gahan.

JOHN HALL
President, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 99

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Image  —  Posted: October 23, 2015 by NewAlbanist in Uncategorized

We’re deep into the primary campaigning season and New Albany voters are preparing to elect a mayor and nine council members.

shell-game

Quite a few of the incumbents, including Mayor Jeff “M” Gahan, are boasting about the state of our sewer system (Gahan is also the paid president of the city-owned municipal utility).

But it turns out that our elected officials have resumed an illegal shell game with taxpayer money once again being used to disguise the true state of the utility’s finances.

Just four years ago I asked voters in New Albany’s Fifth Council District to elect me. During that campaign, I pleaded with Gahan to promise to end that subsidy. He denied it was illegal and declined to make such a pledge.

I had thought the chicanery had finally ended when I read last year that the subsidy had been removed. But just to make sure, I perused the city’s 2015 budget. There, to my astonishment, was yet another transfer of $570,000 from the income tax fund (EDIT) to the sewer utility.

RBFM Illegal

I have written at length in the past about the illegality of this transfer. To be brief, while a city in Indiana can own and operate a municipal utility, the finances of that utility must be completely separated from other city funds. That is, the utility must stand on its own, without subsidies of any kind.

With this budget year, Jeff Gahan has in 11 budget years (as a councilman and as mayor) approved more than $10 million in transfers from city taxes to prop up the utility.

One might be of the opinion that using tax dollars to fortify the sewers is a good thing, but none of us are entitled to an opinion on this matter. State law is extremely clear. It’s illegal. (It happens to be illegal in Louisville, too, under a different state’s laws – ref: MSD.)

This misfeasance on the part of the mayor and council subjects the utility itself to the jeopardy of a taxpayer lawsuit to recover these millions of dollars.

RBFM Foolish

However, illegality has become normal in New Albany. It’s not just the law-breaking that New Albany voters need to be aware of as they go to the polls. This transfer is possibly the single dumbest way to divert tax money and demonstrates innumeracy and financial incompetence on the part of the mayor and his advisors.

Let’s do a little simple arithmetic. It takes a few steps to show that this is a foolish way to spend.

The local income tax is split equally between Floyd County and the City of New Albany. It taxes the incomes of people who work here and/or who live here. If you work outside the county, you may also pay income taxes there, but adjustments level out.

Today, New Albany takes in just less than $3 million each year from the income tax. Over the 12 years Gahan has been an officeholder, more than $10 million dollars has been illegally diverted. This year, they’ve allocated slightly less than 20% of all EDIT collections to be able to say the city utility is “financially sound.”

Every dime sent to the sewer utillity is a dime that could have been used to pave roads, hire more cops, or address any of the crying needs of New Albany. If you work, here’s roughly how much of what you paid has been going to keep sewer rates artificially low:

RBFM Sewer EDIT

Let’s take a relatively low number like $30,000. That household pays about $65 a year so that sewer rates can be subsidized. The largest subsidies, of course, go to the largest users – industries and orthers who use large amounts of water each month.

RBFM Sewer Rate

Assuming they use 3 units each month, their monthly bill is about $22.50. Over the course of a year, they will pay $270 to the municipal sewer utility. To maintain that rate, though, that same household pays $65, or rather, fails to receive $65 in city services like code enforcement, law enforcement, emergency and fire response, paving, etc.

So if it’s costing that household $65 today, how much would it cost to remove that subsidy? You might be shocked to learn just how much money is being stolen from the city’s general fund – at a cost of more than a half-million dollars in lost city services.

RBFM Sewer Rational

Which would you rather pay to the sewer utility? $335 or $281?

RBFM Sewer Wasted

One-Way Streets Are a Disease

Posted: April 19, 2015 by NewAlbanyBooks in Uncategorized

The NewAlbanist

Think of New Albany as you would a human body. As much as we might like for it to be restored to its prime of life, there are physical aspects of the city we cannot control or change. A city does age.

But like a man or a woman in maturity, New Albany might just want to forestall the aging.

Humans die. Cities, properly managed, do not.

One way streets are an infectious disease being treated as if it were a chronic condition.

One-Way Streets Are Not a Chronic Condition

The American Diabetes Association tells us that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes and that another 79 million are prediabetic. Diabetics are 2 to 4 times more likely than nondiabetics to suffer a stroke or have heart disease. The #1 myth about diabetes is that it is not that serious of a disease. ” If you manage your diabetes properly, you can…

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The NewAlbanist

I understand that some readers can still say of New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan that “He’s my guy.” I only ask, “Why?”

Street_Study

Almost from the moment I arrived in this city, I’ve pushed, prodded, and pleaded for city officials to pay some attention to our broken streets, most often in the downtown area, but elsewhere, as well. At first, my quest was relatively simplistic. I asked why we couldn’t change our one-way streets back to the two-way traffic patterns they were designed for. As the years passed and I educated myself and others, “my” quest became “our” quest and our petitions to our elected officials metamorphosed from simplistic to sophisticated, though no less simple to accomplish.

This is my 11th year working on this. Coincidentally, this is Mayor Gahan’s 12th year as an elected official. These were years where he could have educated himself and perhaps even become a champion for…

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