Thursday, September 27, 2007

One Down Nine To Go

This post has nothing to do with local issues. This blog is supposed to be about issues related to my campaign for a city council seat, so look at this an interlude along the campaign trail.

I offer these quotes from various learned individuals and ask that you consider them in conjunction with the linked piece from William Rivers Pitt.

In light of the craven action in the U.S. Senate last week to grandstand against several senators were asked if they supported MoveOn's "Betray Us" ad. I think the simple and correct response should have been, "I support the First Amendment". In the climate of this nation, as outlined by Pitt and also shown by the recent "taser incident", is it any wonder free speech is on the endagered species list?

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary"
--George Orwell

"The media serve the interests of state and corporate power, which are closely interlinked, framing their reporting and analysis in a manner supportive of established privilege and limiting debate and discussion accordingly."
--Noam Chomsky

"Democracy is not about trust; it is about distrust. It is about accountability, exposure, open debate, critical challenge, and popular input and feedback from the citizenry. It is about responsible government. We have to get our fellow Americans to trust their leaders less and themselves more...".
--Michael Parenti

"Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all...we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn't true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn't true of the United States."
--Harold Pinter

"The people will believe what the media tells them to believe."
--George Orwell

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Neighborly Chat

Last week I had occasion to visit my old college haunt of Bloomington. I was there for a nearby business purpose and so called on an acqauintance who is a member of the Bloomington City Council. We discussed city issues in our respective homes and had lunch at the City Hall. I found it most enjoyable and informative.

New Albany could do well to adopt some of the ideas and methods in use in Bloomington. I'm not suggesting something as simple as, Bloomington, good; New Albany, bad. It's more like, Bloomington forward-thinking and inclusive, New Albany, not so much.

Our northern neighbor has 39 boards and commissions which are chartered by the City Council. These boards address a wide range of issues from bicycle and pedestrian safety to a commission on the status of black males, from accessability issues to sustainability issues. These boards and commissions meet (many are volunteer boards with no pay) to discuss issues of importance to the board members. Council members seek out some with apparent knowledge but citizens with less apparent expertise in a given field are also asked into the discussion. The product of the boards is then made available to the City Council and the Mayor with hope that it will result in more informed decisions. It brings more people into the government. It is closer to government "of the people, by the people". It is, in short, closer to democracy.

New Albany has boards and commissions as well. I sit on the Plan Commission. Presentations at those hearings would be given greater value if they could include input from a board which had, for example, studied the environmental impact of a proposed development, or the impact new construction might have on a historic neighborhood. The benefit I see when using the Plan Commission as an example is that citizens, who have an emotional as well as an economic stake in preserving their surroundings, would not need to stand alone. They may not need to adopt the role of the obstructionist because it is the only role available to them in the short time allowed to prepare a case on their behalf. Ideally, during the hearings of the board or commission, the differences could be aired and what comes to the Plan Commission could be a studied plan with more input from all sides and less of the rancor of a pitched battle.

The meeting in Bloomington also jogged me to think that we have one of those universities here too. I don't think we are taking full advantage of that valuable asset. I hope as a councilman to do my part in changing that. I hope the new Mayor does his.

A quick note from the news:
I also heard a few minutes ago that the French mime Marcel Marceau has died at age 84. So please, a moment of silence.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday Events

I went to the Silver Grove picnic yesterday. It was a stunningly beautiful afternoon. It was made even more interesting for me because I grew up on Charlestown Road, not more than three-quarters of a mile away, and until the last few years I had not heard the designation "Silver Grove Nieghborhood". Of course I knew the streets were there, but it was not given a named status of a neighborhood. And, I did not know until just yesterday that Siver Grove had, around the time of my grandfather's birth in New Albany, begun as an independent alternative to New Albany. Thanks to Jim Munford for his brief tutorial on the history of that neighborhood.

What also struck me about the event was the fact that it was an authentic, although modest, display of community. This thread of commonality, which is really just a self-identifier of pride in where the people live, can be an example for other parts of the city. Indeed, I have been in attendance at meetings at Scribner Middle School and am aware of such meetings at S. Ellen Jones and Fairmont Schools. The purpose of these meetings is to build a sense of neighborhood and offer the schools as focal points of that sense. If all the neighborhood associations can function at the level of the Silver Grove community, I am encouraged for the city's future.

Jim Munford didn't try to portray the Association's efforts as paying unrealistically high dividends, but he did say that since the Silver Grove Association was formed, crime has decreased, poorly maintained houses are fewer and there is a recognizable sense of pride in the neighborhood.

That is precisely the strength of potential available to the entire city. New Albany's size is ideal to maximize these various efforts and to spread the benefits city-wide.

Another festival yesterday also pointed up the importance of community. My wife and I went to the Latin Festival at St. Mary's. When I was an altar boy I would have assumed such a festival would have involved recitation of the Confiteior and the Pater Noster. Today the Latin Festival is held to build community among some of the newest members of New Albany's population-the diaspora from Mexico and Latin America. The crowd was large and overwhelmingly of latin origin. My Spanish communication skills are non-existent and, in fact, many of the vendors did not speak English very well. We enjoyed some cullinary offerings and spoke to a few people we were acquainted with before the event.

This raised a question for me. Is there anyone in our local government who is able to communicate with this significant segment of our population? One of the people we spoke with last night is Lillian Rose. Her office at the old Convent at St. Mary's is called the Hispanic Connection. Her purpose is to act as a liason between the anglo and the hispanic world on many issues, some profound family problems and some mundane, such as drivers licenses etc. The sense of isolation felt by the immigrant population has some dire consequences, the most serious of which is a high rate of teen suicide. Whether you feel welcoming toward these, or any, immigrants is beside the point. They are here and we, must learn to get along. It is critical to the progress of our city.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Brave New (Post 9/11) World

I do believe in spooks.
I do believe in spooks.
I do believe in spooks.

-- The Cowardly Lion

"The only thing we have to fear
is fear itself...."

Fear itself

Sunday, September 9, 2007


In the halcyon days of television, when the shows were offered in any color you chose, so long as your choice was black and white, people's faces would disappear to reveal the contents of their skulls. This peeling back was necessary to see the anvils being hammered, thus revealing the source of their headaches. Anacin to the rescue. In another diagnostic viewing, the abdominal skin was pulled back, we could see acid dripping into the stomach by way of something akin to a moonshiner's still. No problem. Rolaids consumes forty-seven times its weight in excess stomach acid.

Those images were meant to put a brand name on relief. That was selling at a gut level, so to speak. Its subtlety or lack thereof was its charm. It is, from our sophisticated perch in the age of color television, quaint; kind of like the Geneva Conventions, a relic of a simpler time.

So, last Friday after I got home from work I figured I'd better turn on the T.V. and see what had happened to cause the stock market to drop 250 or so points. In my day as a stockbroker, a 250 point drop was significant. Relatively speaking, 250 points now is no big deal. Still, the numbers have a pull. At 5:30 on a Friday afternoon it seems, Jim Cramer's Mad Money is the go-to for an immediate reading of the day's entrails. He was speaking, apparently live, from the campus of USC to an audience of business majors. In case you've not caught Cramer, his schtick is to accentuate the MAD in Mad Money (not an expression of anger but, the British sense of daft nuttiness). The audience was tuned in to Cramer in a strange way that seemed to foretell a capitalist bacchanal after the show. He actually got wild applause for recommending Northrop-Grumman.

Perhaps because he was in Southern California, Cramer brought on a guest from Anaheim, I can't verify precisely his position but the guest was a high officer of Disney (for the purposes of this writing let's call him Walt). After the over-the-top cheering subsided Walt began to expound on the unbelievable value inherent in the Disney Brand, and you thought it was a place or a cartoon. You would be wrong; it's almost a lifestyle to hear Walt tell it. The Disney Brand sells and the sky's the limit. Not just movies and visits to the parks but hotels, clothing, greeting cards, cell phones you name it, Mickey can sell it. A Disney coffin? Well, who's up to here with time on their hands?

Awareness dawns slowly but awareness dawns surely.

The New Albany Brand has lost its punch. It's down there on the list with Lux Soap and Mail Pouch tobacco. It's probably still on the shelves somewhere but have you bought any lately?

Of course I think branding is so much malarkey. A sleight of hand engaged in by dessicated hucksters and people lacking in vision. The lack of a shared vision of New Albany is, however, probably the single highest hurdle to our success. One of my huckster friends may even say it is a re-branding opportunity. Are we a bedroom community for Louisville? Are we a regional education hub, (so long as the region stops at the river)? Are we an example of New Urbanist design preserved in a bell-jar of apathy, simply waiting for someone to lift off the cover which holds us back? New Albany, and probably any city, is like the elephant described by the five blind men; different things to different people depending on their given perspective.

The city races this year are critical. I believe Mayor Garner has set the table for us to enjoy a fine meal, if not a feast. He clearly set the direction he hopes this city will follow. His efforts and successes are significant but not yet fully realized. I'm not convinced, and I certainly have no reason to know of any behind-the-scenes work, that the inevitable rifts which developed during the primary between Garner and England camps has been set aside for the good of the city. Do we want the New Albany brand to be "New Albany-home of the false start"?

As a candidate for City Council I run with a party that I hope puts forth a unified vision of what this city can be. That overarching vision must come from the mayoral candidate. I'm certain that Doug England has the vision and the drive to help this city realize more of its potential. The word "more" is critical because, like the horizon, potential is always out there, always beckoning, yet never quite attainable. I hope, as a councilman to also be a counselman with the mayor. If you read my words during the primary you know basically what I favor. I want local prosperity to build from local businesses. I want New Albany to always reach for its potential. I want environmental concern to define that potential. I want young people to see a future in New Albany and worth in remaining here. I want us to leave aside petty differences that prevent us from living together as a community.

I will write about specific issues as the campaign unfolds. I will again attempt to walk the entire city and meet as many people as possible. I would encourage anyone to submit questions here to find my views on any relevant issue wheter I have written about it or not. I would also ask anyone who is so inclined to let me know about placing a yard sign in their yard at a later date. The ground is too dry now and the signs wear out their welcome if they are placed too early.

I hope to serve as a councilman who cares about the fiscal elements of city government but also as a conduit of innovative ideas. Such ideas will more often than not be rendered into policy by the Mayor but I plan to have a hand in their formulation.

Another image of our city I don't want to portray in our rebranding effort is---Dream Lean--It's New Albany.