Monday, November 23, 2015

In Which I Instruct My Social Secretary To Send My Regrets

Is it overly churlish of me to call attention to the fact that the timing of the inauguration ceremony for municipal officeholders, this coming Saturday, before the terms of the outgoing office holders expire, is just a tad premature, and a bit gauche?

If one views the planning and discussion leading to the event as a kind of  class struggle, NO won.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Also Ran

I lost an election tonight, and will soon depart from public life. Serving two terms on the City Council has been an honor granted me by my fellow citizens of New Albany, and one I will hold dear.

Best of luck to the victors in this race: David Aebersold, Dave Barksdale, and Al Knable.

Below, is a poem by Wendell Berry, from his collection, Leavings.


In time a man disappears
from his lifelong fields, from
the streams he has walked beside,
from the woods where he sat and waited.
Thinking of this, he seems to
miss himself in those places
as if always he has been there,
watching for himself to return.
But first he must disappear,
and this he foresees with hope,
with thanks. Let others come.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Same As It Ever Was

A day or so ago my commitment to the policy of changing New Albany's one-way streets to two-way streets was questioned. While such a change in the City's relationship to the automobile has not been the main issue of my bid for re-election, it is a change I fully support.

Below are some of the posts I have written on this topic.

I have written my blog for a number of years now. While some may claim, tongue in cheek, to have the "blog that no one reads", I in fact, do write the blog that no one reads. As I have written previously, even though I reach few people with my writing, I enjoy doing it, and view the exercise as my attempt to lay out, for those who are interested, a public record.

In the case of my support for two-way streets, I believe my position is clear; same as it ever was.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Keep Those Cards and Letters Comin'

I posted a picture here, the other day, of the post cards my wife and I are handing out as we walk the city in my campaign for re-election, November 3. I tried using a photograph, but was concerned that the type blurred into illegibility. Below is a typed version of the card, followed by the original.

I've been pleased with the cards that roll in, and I'm grateful for the time people take to answer the questions. I was particularly moved to hear a gentleman the other day thank me because, "Nobody ever asks what I think" about local government. Others have thanked me on the returned cards.

If I should be so fortunate as to win re-election, I am going  to take these concerns forward on behalf of our citizens, and try my best to get results on these and other issues to help make New Albany a better city.

How important are these issues to you?  
Very    Somewhat    Not at all

a. Enforcing noise ordinance                    
b. Adding sidewalks                                  
c. Drainage/Runoff                                    
e. Cooperation between City & County
d. Historic preservation
f. Animal shelter/Animal Control              
g. Traffic conditions                                  
h. Downtown revitalization                       
i. Code enforcement                                   
j. Police body cameras                               
k. Public transportation                             
l. Greater police presence                          
m. Creating a climate for better jobs        

Should the City Council have more say in what is expected of major projects, such as the aquatic center, a dog park, the redevelopment of the Coyle property on Spring St. into luxury apartments?       YES____               NO____

In general, should local government deliver municipal services, such as sewerage, trash collection, among others, or should private sector providers be used?
YES____ (local govt.)  NO ____(private sector)

What would you like to see New Albany's government do that it is not doing?

Are there parts of New Albany where you don't feel safe?
NO____ If yes, where?___________________

Should local tax policy incentivize residents to move to certain parts of town?
YES______  NO_____

Didn't see your concern here? Or need more space? me at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Campaign Postcard Asking for Voters' Opinions

As I've been walking and campaigning in different parts of the city I'm handing out these postcards. I'm asking people to answer the questions on the card and mail them to me. Quite a few have done so.

The card below is a photograph, but if you'd like to answer the questions, or some of them, you can e-mail me at the address shown, or answer in a comment.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

For the Record

A few weeks ago, all the Democratic candidates for the upcoming election were given the task of preparing a campaign biography. We were asked to follow a general format so all the bios, at least among Council candidates, would in some way look the same.
Here is mine:

John Gonder is a graduate of New Albany High School and Indiana University, Bloomington, where he majored in Political Science and Journalism. He is seeking reelection to the City Council as a Councilman at Large.

John works at QRS Recycling as a buyer of recyclable materials, and accounts manager. In addition he and his wife, Ruthanne, own and manage residential and commercial property in New Albany and Louisville.

John was a founding member of Trash Force, which served as the City's recycling organization prior to the introduction of curbside recycling. He is a graduate of Leadership Southern Indiana. Prior to election to the Council, he served on the New Albany Plan Commission for six years. John's community engagement encompasses membership in the Elks Club, the Floyd County Men's and Women's Democratic Clubs, board membership of the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, the New Albany Redevelopment Commission, and the Tree Board.

John's overarching concern is protection of the environment. Preservation of existing buildings and neighborhoods, advancing local businesses, and creating a vibrant, walkable city from New Albany's existing housing stock are issues of particular concern for John.  He believes that including a primary concern for sustainability when building new, and getting more out of what we've already built, are things local government can do to promote environmental responsibility while making New Albany a more desirable place to live. John supports meaningful inclusion of the City Council in decision-making for major projects, from planning to implementation. He hopes to continue serving on the Council as a progressive voice for sustainable prosperity.


The following was not included on the campaign bio above, but I believe is relevant when voting for a Council candidate. These are some of the votes I consider significant over the time I've been in office:

Passed responsible funding of New Albany's sewer utility, leading to stellar improvement of the City's bond rating and near-elimination of the violations cited by the Environmental Protection Agency in a protracted legal battle between the City and that agency. That strong medicine set the stage for the current administration to continue progress through diligent lien filings, and the re-establishment of a City-managed sewer system, which keeps the improvements on track.

Passed funding for restoration of the historic Town Clock Church. The church is now well on its way to full restoration as a significant historic element of our city, as well as a living monument to the struggles of southern slaves as they were shepherded to freedom in Union territory during the Civil War.

Passed legislation to establish the New Albany Port Authority. A port authority can help New Albany maintain the Green Way, can someday lead to building of a marina below the Falls of the Ohio, and can be instrumental in establishing a short-line railroad so this environmentally responsible mode of transport can survive in our city.

Voted to rescind the joint City/County Parks Department. This vote ended an unfair system which was not serving the citizens of New Albany in relation to the funding they were providing.

Have been advocating for the building of sidewalks on heavily-traveled, dangerous roads in the city. Traffic levels make it imperative that those who choose to walk, or by circumstance, must walk, be safe when doing so. It is irresponsible and unconscionable to allow those dangerous roads to continue to exist without sidewalks. Failure to accept this responsibility flies in the face of building a "walkable city". 

Supported annexation.

Supported reestablishment of the Human Rights Commission.

Supported the no smoking ordinance.

Passed resolution against bridge tolls.

Passed ordinance to assign responsibility to contractors who dig up city streets, so they "own the hole" they dig, beyond a simple, inadequate, and immediate patch. This helps to lengthen the life of the City's investment in infrastructure.

Passed resolutions ensuring inclusion and equal protection for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation/identity, religion, or any other mechanism of discrimination.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fish Story--One That Got Away

A widely accepted proposition in pursuit of environmental responsibility is, "the greenest building is one that's already built." This says, use the earth's resources which have already been expended in a good, solid, or even well-worn structure, before chasing after the tweaks and technological advances of new construction in pursuit of greater efficiencies. After all, even a high-efficiency structure displacing a usable older building, carries with it the sunk environmental costs of the resources, time, money, and effort of the original building. Even if those costs are not reflected monetarily, they are still carried as debits on the earth's ledger.

An economic development corollary to that proposition might be, "the business most worthy of economic assistance is one that's already operating." Assuming the existing business is a positive commercial citizen of the community, one that adds value by delivering necessary and helpful products, services or labor, or one that by its very presence helps to stabilize a neighborhood or lay the groundwork for further improvement in a particular part of town, it may be wiser to focus scarce economic development funds on that business, rather than a different startup asking for assistance. It may be better to water a withering vine than to plant a new one.

I happened upon such a withering vine yesterday in New Albany's Uptown area. It is the Benjamin Moore paint store at the corner of Vincennes and Market streets. I buy a lot of paint, and yet in the two years the store has been in New Albany, yesterday was the first time I'd been in it. So, I, and others like me, are at least part of the reason the store is closing.  The gentleman working at the store and I discussed the sad news reported by the big yellow notes on the front door, and the cash register, posted to inform customers that the store will close on September 11, 2015.

He said the tide of people depending on the big-box stores as their first place to buy paint has weakened the once-dominant hold paint stores had as THE place to buy paint. And, he said, the traffic needed to bring people to his store never materialized in sufficient volume to make the store profitable, or even viable. The general vibe of that part of town is not inviting to people who may need and want to buy paint and related products.

It's not likely that local economic development efforts can do anything to redirect American shoppers out of the big boxers. Easy access to massive stores with a wide variety of low-priced merchandise is nearly a birthright of American citizenship. (A recent trip through part of Canada revealed that even the good-natured folk to our north are focused on low prices and great deals. The Costco we visited was full of Canadian bargain hunters. The store was approximately the size of Manitoba, I think) Granted, big, macro forces are aligned against small-scale neighborhood stores. The future of this mode of commerce does not appear bright.

But, if city government sees these kinds of local entrepreneurial efforts as integral pieces in what is needed to build stronger, safer more livable communities, there are some steps it could take which might improve the situation.

The City must use a lot of paint, at the parks, at the various buildings it owns and maintains, the curbs the street department paints. Each and every gallon of paint, and all related supplies for these civic uses should come from locally owned and operated paint stores and hardware stores--the big boxers will get more than a good slice of the pie from the average shopper. The requirement to buy from the local vendors should not be limited to government workers only, but should be a requirement of companies under contract to the City.

The neighborhood around the Benjamin Moore store has problems. Some of those problems can be addressed through stronger code enforcement and greater police presence. The elimination of those problems might not have staved off the fate the store is facing, but the effort might have helped, and it certainly would have had benefits beyond the possible help to the paint store.       

Market Street is one way. Since the gentleman I spoke with mentioned traffic (and I'll grant that traffic need not refer simply to cars) it is quite possible, if not predictable, that two way traffic would have brought more automobile traffic, but more importantly, it might have done what Jeff Speck and John Gilderbloom say it will do, and that is, make the street a more vibrant, livable, inviting, place to be, to shop, and to rebuild a neighborhood around. 

The fellow working the paint store said, as he talked about the disappointment he faces in closing the store, "when you lose the Mom and Pops you lose a lot more than just a store." Maybe the loss of the Uptown's Benjamin Moore store is simply the cost of doing business in Big Box, warp-speed commercial America, nothing more. But, I think the gentleman is correct, when the Mom and Pops close you do lose a lot. And the thing we're losing here is a chance, a chance to do economic development right here, where the rubber meets the road, not dreaming of pie in the sky dished out in some distant corporate war room.