Tippecanoe museum building

Though I don’t have a formal “bucket list,” I always keep my bucket close to hand. On our May trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, we diverted to visit the Tippecanoe Battlefield near the town of Battle Ground, Ind.

I did not grow up in Indiana and so my youthful education was not saturated in the worship of frontier generals and genocidal campaigns to find new land for white settlers. But a chance to see the site where Gen. W.H. Harrison gained a large measure of his fame could not be missed.

It’s an easy site to visit. If you’re on I-65 near West Lafayette, on your way between Indianapolis and Chicago, it’s a convenient stop for picnicking or to take a convenience break. The site is just east of the interstate highway (EXIT 178 – so about 178 miles from “home” at the Kentucky-Indiana state line), but to get there you must first head west toward Lafayette and then circle back under to discover Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum as well as its companion site, Prophetstown State Park.

The museum is operated by the Tippecanoe County Historical Society and adjoins the battlefield where, on Nov. 6, 1811, a battalion from the territorial capital of Vincennes staged to attack the village that a federation of American Indian tribes treated as their capital.

Personally, I found the battlefield and the entire theater of operations to be shockingly compact, bounded by a creek and a marsh. Prophet’s Town, the intended target of the regular and militia troops, would have been, perhaps, a 15-minute march from the encampment that became the battle ground in the early hours of Nov. 7.

Tippecanoe museum

Prophet’s Town was, in essence, a religious capital for the the Indian nations. Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) was revered for his visions and his guidance, and drew pilgrims from throughout the region. As more white settlers encroached, his brother Tecumseh became more prominent as a leader by the time of this pivotal battle.

Although a parley was scheduled for the next day, Harrison deployed his troops in battle formation. At about 4 a.m., the tribes attacked. The Prophet had intended to kill Harrison himself and instructed his force to concentrate fire on the man on the pale horse. For whatever reason, Harrison took to the saddle of another horse while directing this battle, but the goal of killing the man on the pale horse was fulfilled.

Including lunch, we were there for no more than an hour but were able to tour the museum, chat with the docent, and peruse the spectacular onsite bookstore. I was jealous.

Though still a territory of the U.S. government, Indiana was but a few years from statehood. When formally organized, the state’s counties were named after prominent heroes of the American Revolution, such as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, et al, and military heroes like LaFayette, etc. But as the Hoosier State began naming counties, no fewer than 14 counties bore the name of men who won the victory at Tippecanoe.

Tippecanoe

If you look closely at the map on this page, you may see a name that’s both familiar and unfamiliar. In our area, we know George Rogers Clark. But have you ever heard of Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark Floyd? He was the titular leader of a major component in Harrison’s force, but was on furlough at the time of battle. Of course, it’s all but settled that our Floyd County was named after Davis Floyd, a non-commissioned officer who fought at Tippecanoe.

DID YOU KNOW? (Of course you did) Gen. Harrison derived lifelong fame from his victory at Tippecanoe and it became his nickname, immortalized in what some call the first campaign slogan for the presidency of the United States – “Tippecanoe, and (John) Tyler, Too.” Unfortunately, after his inauguration, Harrison grew ill and died, making him the U.S. president whose term was the shortest.

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I heard that the weekend in New Albany was less than ideal. It’s probably a good thing that we decamped for points north, where the weather was ideal and the experience was nurturing to body, soul, and mind.

Neither Ann nor I had ever visited the Indiana Dunes, although she had experienced similar natural phenomena further up the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. With a late start on Friday morning, we were still able to make a great weekend. The Dunes are about 4.5 hours from here, though we took a few detours, if only to strengthen my less-developed sense of Indiana geography and history.

The occasion was this year’s iteration of the annual Logs to Lustrons events, an architectural/historical tour of homes and other sites situated within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The people who run this National Parks Service site joined with Indiana Landmarks to conduct guided tours of select homes and other facilities within the national park.

During the week, I’ll share some of what we saw and learned, starting with Friday night’s reception and presentations at the Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk pavilion, an amazing modernist centerpiece, LEED-certified building that straddles the dunes, wetlands, and lakeshore.

Riverwalk May 18

The photograph atop this page was taken from there, with a view to the west. Most of the lights are from factories along Lake Michigan in Gary, Ind. and, I suppose, south Chicago. I think we were just a bit too far from Chicago-proper for any of the taller buildings to be visible.

I’m struck by more than a couple of things. This was not the view available to my fading eyes, per se, but rather was what my Pixel 2 phone camera was able to capture, without enhancements or photo-editing. You might say, “Big deal,” but it was actually dark. You might think this was a fortuitous capture of a fading sunset. In fact, it was taken at 9 CDT, probably akin to 9:45 in New Albany. You’ll notice Venus, the Evening Star, has “risen.”

DID YOU KNOW? The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the newer parks in the National Parks Service system, only coming into being as such in the 1960s. It stretches from Michigan City, Ind. to Gary and includes 15 miles of beaches and dozens of nature trails in the marshes and along the Dunes. The cities and towns bounding the park include Gary, Ogden Dunes, Portage, Burns Harbor, Porter, Chesterton, Beverly Shores and Michigan City, Indiana. U.S. Highway 12 runs for 28 miles along and through the entire length of the park. The heart of the park is in Porter County, which has Valparaiso as its county seat and largest city.

In purchasing the land, the Park Service acquired and removed many houses and other buildings, but some with historical value have been preserved under NPS ownership. There are no privately-owned buildings within the boundaries of the Lakeshore. Some buildings in need of rehabilitation, can be leased to individuals/families willing to underwrite their restoration.

The Logs to Lustrons events we attended are designed to draw attention to buildings that can be or are already leased to Indiana Landmarks and sub-leased to benefactors willing to invest in the restoration and maintenance of these historic buildings.

More than 1,100 native plant species can be found within the Lakeshore, making it the fourth-most diverse site among all National Parks. IDNL surrounds the Indiana Dunes State Park and co-exists with many lakeshore heavy industries on the lakeshore but outside the bounds of the park.

Later today, I’ll try to share our experience at one of the pit stops we made on the trip up to the Indiana Dunes.

Public Housing and Speaking Truth to Power

Posted: December 18, 2017 by NewAlbanist in Uncategorized

I am but one small part of a group of citizens standing up to call for transparency in what can only be called a putsch to demolish public housing accommodations in New Albany.

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For 80 years, New Albany has been a stalwart in providing federally-subsidized affordable housing to residents who find themselves under the crush of dire financial circumstances.

During this calendar year, however, a new spirit of malevolence has invaded the public sphere. Bob Lane, a sterling public servant who had administered New Albany’s public housing programs for more than a decade, was summarily dismissed. The board of directors was also terminated and replaced with a rogue’s gallery of New Albany mayor Jeffrey Gahan’s sycophants. A new, wholly unqualified but fully subservient director was installed.

At the same time, a number of programs shepherded by Lane were discarded in favor of a new paradigm that inevitably will result in the expulsion from this city of a large number of current public housing residents.

Tonight, we seek to speak truth to power, insisting that no public housing should be demolished unless and until viable alternatives are made available to public housing residents.

We, part of the organization We Are New Albany, are standing up peacefully for this proposition tonight in front of the City-County Building and presenting collected petitions representing this position.

The problem with speaking truth to power comes when power has no respect for truth, public sentiment, or open government. There is a non-zero chance that we will be confronted by the power tonight regardless of our Constitutional rights to peacably assemble and to petition for the redress of grievances. We demonstrate tonight on public property, without trespass, in exercise of those rights and will not impede the rights of any other. Nonetheless, we live in an America and a New Albany where the exercise of rights is not sacrosanct. We live in a city where vindictive retaliation is the norm and where there is little hesitation to deploy police powers to intimidate and do injury.

Over the weekend I came across an eloquent expression of our duties to one another. We do not inherit our legacy from our ancestors. Instead, we are but borrowers of that legacy – that is, what we do today we do on sufferance from our descendants. Our children and our grandchildren have unwittingly given over THEIR reputations to us and what we do today is their inheritance.

I pray that New Albany does not endow its inheritors with a reputation as “cleansers” who needlessly expelled from our midst those among us who are least fortunate.

Right Thing Done Rightly

Posted: July 21, 2017 by NewAlbanist in Uncategorized

If you’ve followed this blog the past 2 days, you may want a status update.

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I no longer have reason to believe that the work of the Institute for Social Research will be impeded in New Albany. And that’s a good thing. Thanks to all who made this happen.

Suffice it to say that the city has exercised its regulatory responsibilities in a courteous and professional manner. As an advocate in this matter, representing only myself but on behalf of a situation I saw as a misunderstanding, I was at all times treated with courtesy and respect.

 

Jeff Gahan’s appointees could use a refresher course in due process. After all, it is a tenet of representative government and basic justice.

Due Process concept

Yesterday we reported on a decision by the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety (BoW), appointed by Gahan and chaired by former mayor Warren Nash (1971-75) that appears to thwart the work of one of the nation’s most-respected social research institutions.

I believe that decision was misguided and does not comport with the relevant city ordinance. A strong case can be made that the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan (ISR) needn’t have even appeared before the board and I will try to make that case tonight at New Albany’s city council meeting and, if necessary, at next week’s BoW meeting (10 a.m., city hall).

Further, due process requires that a board with such broad public responsibility state its reason for withholding its approval. In the absence of a defensible rationale, that approval should be forthcoming. After all, the relevant city ordinance says nothing about prohibiting the requested activities – if it’s applicable in the case at all, it’s only about regulating them.

Witnesses report that even before the meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Nash showed sheer annoyance that the ISR notification letter had been placed on the agenda. He griped that “Kathy (Cousins) knows we never approve these.” He went on to reject the notification, saying, “Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve never approved anything like this.”

That’s a pretty sad state of affairs, isn’t it? The body charged with evaluating and approving solicitations (again, this is hardly applicable) has erected barriers to even be heard.

The ordinance, again, does not ban solicitations at all. That is not its intent. There is a legitimate public purpose in regulating and, perhaps, limiting door-to-door solicitation. And it addresses people who are engaged in the business of selling or canvassing for business purposes.

At one point during the meeting proper, I’m told that Mr. Nash inquired of his colleagues about whether the “council has given us any guidance.” He was informed that the council had specifically addressed so-called “roadblocks” wherein teams flock to key intersections to collect money in buckets. But no guidance regarding the solicitation ordinance had been given.

I’ll state again that the mayor could remedy this injustice easily and by the end of the business day. He could provide direction.

In its absence, I hope to engage the council tonight in a discussion of the ordinance. Over the years, efforts at cleaning up the city ordinances have failed miserably. But if the council can send a clear signal tonight that the ordinance does not apply in this instance, it may go a long way toward fixing things.

ISR is not engaged in business. They are not randomly going door-to-door to conduct their rigorously designed survey. They are not comparable to the free-lance cable/satellite/internet salesmen who do go door-to-door-to-door soliciting for new business – without license from the BoW, without registration with the City Clerk, and without being cited and fined by the New Albany Police Department.

To reiterate:

  1. ISR has been conducting national surveys since 1946 under the umbrella of the University of Michigan. Its annual survey results are shared with public policy-makers from Congress on down to local governments and aid them in evaluating changes in conditions and attitudes toward public policy.
  2. ISR is funded by government and foundation grants.
  3. ISR, in order to conduct reliable surveys, chooses census tracts that are demographically representative of the nation. Many of these are “longitudinal” surveys in which the go back to the same households year after year.
  4. ISR’s protocol is to notify local law enforcement when they are working in a jurisdiction so as to appease any fears about “strangers” knocking on doors. I’ll wager that they meet municipal resistance rarely, and even then only when there is a gross misunderstanding of their work.
  5. ISR sends letters to likely households within the chosen census tracts informing residents that they will be visited by interviewers. That visit is solely to determine if that household meets the criteria for the survey. For example, the eligible resident may have died or moved, or some other aspect that was at first believed to be true is no longer so.
  6. If the residents agree to be part of the survey, an appointment is made to come back for the interview. Participants are paid stipends that are, to be discreet, surprisingly generous.

I hope the council will speak tonight and communicate to the mayor and the BoW that it is not the intent of the ordinance to inhibit projects like this that are not engaged in business. A strong case can be made that the language of the ordinance implicitly exempts ISR from the city’s approval or disapproval.

Suppression of social research, especially when conducted by legitimate and respected institutions, is never a good thing for government to do. It’s embarrassing to think that New Albany is an outlier among the thousands of communities in which ISR and similar organizations conduct their work.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve to hear about what else Mr. Nash said during the meeting. Facing the ISR representative, he said, “Don’t ask.”

Various interpretations can be divined, but one could well be that if organizations like ISR don’t ask, the BoW can’t say no. Alas, it was diligently reported by the local newspaper that the BoW rejected ISR’s letter and prohibited it from conducting its survey work. Without a correction to date, it’s kind of hard to unplow the ground now.

So, city council? Help the members of the BoW. They need, lo, they asked for your guidance. Can you give it tonight and remove the stain on our city?

Now, can we talk about those scofflaw ice cream trucks?

Karen Rice had no idea what she was walking into Tuesday because she represents a professional organization.

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Ms. Rice hand-delivered a “To Whom It May Concern” letter from her organization, the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. As written, it is a courtesy letter informing those concerned that some people in our geographical area will be surveyed and that ISR representatives may be in the area over the coming months conducting important survey research.

Then Ms. Rice met the Hon. Warren Nash, who currently serves as chairman of the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety. He and his two colleagues said “no way.”

To be certain, U of M was not asking for permission as the type of work they do wouldn’t require the permission of a municipality. However, they do understand that in an age of scam artists, citizens might become concerned when they receive a letter and a subsequent visitor asking questions. Who would one call if they suspected something fishy? The police or the mayor’s office, of course.

To allay those concerns, the ISR politely informed a public meeting of city officials that their scientific work would be carried out here.

I’m grateful that our local newspaper managed to find the space to report on what should have been innocuous news. But Mr. Nash turned it into something else.

We all are entitled to an opinion. Mine is that Mr. Nash and the board embarrassed this city out of ignorance and that they could correct their mistake with a quick apology to Ms. Rice, or better yet, to Patty Maher, Director – Survey Research Operations, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

In fact, I’ve called Maher to apologize on behalf of this city and its citizens. You might want to as well, but I think it might be better to fix this here before inundating ISR with supportive phone calls. Educate yourself, then take to your social media by commenting on this and sharing it.

So let me tell you what I’ve learned. This gets a bit long, but it will explain why some of us are embarrassed for our city.

It is likely that the survey in question is the National Health & Retirement Study, created to serve a request from the U.S. Congress for reliable statistical data about those topics. That is what is called a longitudinal study wherein a group is studied over a period of years, with new members recruited randomly but scientifically when old members pass away. That is, it is conducted annually among the same population to see changes.

It is also likely that ISR was in our area last year, the year before, and the year before that. In fact, the study has been conducted since 1946. Perhaps your grandfather was one of the study participants.

Let me share with you the letter itself.

To Whom It May Concern

The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research will be conducting a study in your are during the next few months. In anticipation of any inquiries you may receive about us from residents in your community, the following describes the general nature of our research.

Each year since 1946, the Institute for Social Research has carried out nationwide surveys designed to get an accurate picture of how people in the United States feel about important national issues and to gauge how they respond to changes in their lives and the economy. Our research is carried out under government and foundation sponsorship. We only undertake research that is scientifically valuable and socially worthwhile. All data that we collect are made available for public use but are primarily used by government and university researchers to better understand important public policy issues.

Your geographical area is one of over 100 areas in the country in which we conduct interviews. Addresses at which interviews are to be taken within each area are randomly selected by scientific sampling procedures to represent an accurate cross-section of the nation. Results of all the interviews are combined and published in reports which represent the country as a whole. No individual person is ever identified in these reports. All information that is collected is strictly protected. Indeed, our commitment to confidentiality has allowed us to successfully carry out important research for more than 50 years.

Please accept this letter as a notification of our intent to conduct research interviews in your area. A local representative will be in contact [Ms. Rice] to supply the names of the interviewers who will be working in your area. Each of our interviewers has been specially trained in interviewing and sampling procedures. They are required to sign a pledge of confidentiality and to carry picture identification as employees of the University of Michigan.

Should you wish additional information about our organization, please call our toll-free number: 1-866-611-6476 or send an email to isr-studies@umich.edu.

Sincerely

Patty Maher
Director, Survey Research Operations
Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan

 

So, what happens a letter is sent to addresses chosen randomly in a selected area that meets demographic requirements. An interviewer, in this case Ms. Rice, will visit to ascertain whether the household meets the survey criteria. Some don’t qualify, but of those who do, more than 2/3rds agree to participate. An interview is scheduled and participants are provided a healthy cash stipend in appreciation for that.

In every jurisdiction, the local representative lets the police know who they are and what they are doing. In this case, the representative was informed that only the BoW could grant permission.

Call your council members. Call the mayor. Let them know we are not happy with the way Ms. Rice was treated and that we as citizens have no objection to this survey being done in our community. The mayor could fix this in the next ten minutes if he wished.

Tomorrow, a report from an insider who was at the meeting and a review of city ordinances regarding what the BoW is calling “solicitation.” And maybe even a review of First Amendment.

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.

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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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