Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sometime During the Ninth Inning

Blogs are typically, and this one is certainly, a small platform from which to speak. Several people have cautioned me against writing these posts and others have said they "stay away from the blogs". The latter sentiment uttered, I suspect, to shore up the notion that this is no sensible forum. Judging by the tit-for-tat exchanges in the Tribune, I have to wonder where does one locate a sensible forum for local political debate.

I have posted here for nearly nine months and have generally found it to be gratifying. My editor has discouraged the deviations from the path of "local issues" to which I am often tempted. My reasons for expounding on non-local issues are that sometimes a larger issue seemed more compelling, or that I believe any issue is a local issue if it elicits a local response, or that anything which happens in the world is of concern here because, and I can prove this, we are part of the world. Beyond that, it seems to me that if a reader has a look at what I believe on broader issues, it may give a better idea of how I might vote on a purely local issue.

I don't know what size sewer pipe is required in which part of town or how deep to dig a drainage ditch for storm water runoff. But I can recognize some of the things that are wrong with this town and I have definite ideas of what can be done to approach a solution. The ideal New Albany, or the ideal Anytown, is always out of reach, always on the horizon, but the ideal New Albany is a city continuously striving to reach that horizon. The journey, in this small town, must be one that includes anyone who wants to come along. On this small planet, it must include concern for people above profit; tomorrow must be as important as today.

I've heard quite a few people talk of the need for beautification of our city. This is an undeniable need. The main entry points into New Albany are, in fact, among the most unattractive sights to be seen in the entire town. The aesthetics need to be addressed, but I think a more pressing need is the deficit in minor maintenance. Taken as a litany of individual problems, the deficit may not seem so bad-a broken sidewalk here, a missing railing there, or a public area littered and overgrown.

I think an attainable solution to this widespread inattention is a small team of city workers dedicated to looking for problems in need of correctioin; something along the lines of a maintenance man for a building or factory. The problems this crew would deal with would be small in comparison to street repairs or sewer repairs. The small scale of the repairs is very likely the reason they are put off for another time.

Walking home from Oak Street along State to Captain Frank recently, I passed no fewer than four patches of sidewalk that were not only cracked, but hazardous to pedestrians. The minor maintenance crew could repair these bad sections. The same crew could cut limbs away from stop signs or street signs. Neighborhood groups might be a good place to collect a list of maintenance problems for a particular part of town. Individuals could call a City Council representative or the general City switchboard. At any rate, the minor things that collectively paint the town as run down or neglected could be dealt with before they become larger problems. No, it wouldn't have prevented the problems with the sewers, nor would it have paved the streets. But it just might make people take more pride in their city, and further, make them feel they are getting something for their taxes.

If I don't write again before the election November 6, please remember to vote.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Anyone who would like to vote early in Floyd County's city and town elections may do so. No excuse is required.

The County Clerk's office is open, 8:00AM-4:00PM, Saturday October 27, 2007 for early voting.
You can also vote early any week day, 8:00AM-4:00PM, until November 2, 2007.
The Clerk's office will be open again, 8:00AM-4:00PM, on Saturday November 3, 2007 for early voting.

The Clerk's office is on the second floor of the City-County Building.

You will need to present a photo ID just as you would at the polls.

The County Clerk's telephone number is 948-5415.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Caught in the Devil's Bargain

Once upon a time, in a place called America, some, mostly young, people had hope. They were called hopies. Many of these people believed they could save their own and their brothers' lives by ending a war in a faraway land. The hopies had young relatives called hippies. Sometimes it was hard to tell them apart because they believed many of the same things. They particularly believed that the war should end. They said things like "War is not healthy for children and other living things" and "Give peace a chance."

In 1969, a party was held in a town called Woodstock. A lot of hippies and hopies attended the party. The event seemed to take on special significance . (A movie, that no one has ever watched all the way through, was filmed at the party.) A song that was sung there asked the question about the war, "One, two, three, four...what are we fighting for?" No one in attendance had a good answer. It was a party, after all, perhaps the government should have had the answer.

The party ended after a few days. The hopies and the hippies grew old.

Many years later, a knight who was neither a hopie nor a hippie, although he could have been because he lived ath the same time, decided he wanted to be the King. He was in a race to be named King at the same time a lady, who had once been a hopie, was trying become Queen. The knight thought one of the nastiest things he could ever say about the lady, whom he desparately wanted to prevent from becoming the Queen, was that she had once been a hopie. He made fun of the party the hopies and the hippies had thrown long ago; it seems while they were having a party, although the lady who would be Queen was not actually at the party, he was being held captive in a prison. The knight thought the people would like him more because he had suffered while the hopies had simply tried to end his suffering.

The moral of the story is, why must the idealism of youth be disparaged as one grows old? Do we think less of our grown children because they once thought we were omnipotent? Are we too clever to believe we can remake the future in a more positive way? Do we get the leaders we deserve?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Aural Redlining

In a film version of Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf, one scene of Harry Haller's (Steppenwolf's)madness seemed almost reasonable to me, as a nearby resident of I-64. Harry positions himself and his howitzer on a ledge above a road, from which he fires at passing cars. In his case, he wanted to do battle against the, then recent, incursion of the automobile into modern life. In my case, I just wanted to be able to sit on the front porch and carry on a conversation without the odious noise from the passing trucks. At times they sounded so loud it seemed possible they might be airborne and headed straight for the house. Clearly it was a problem in need of a solution, albeit somewhat less spectacular than Harry's.

So, about ten years ago, my wife and I set out into our neighborhood with clipboards and blank petitions to gauge the level of support for sound barriers along I-64. It was overwhelming, perhaps even unanimous, in favor of building the barriers. We walked over a period of about a week and spoke to 50 or 60 people. Since we had gotten such a good response, we contacted the State Department of Transportation and told them what we had done. We were beginning to think that our foray into citizen involvement would pay off when the D.O.T. dispatched someone with a decibel meter to test the level of our pain. The meter was placed on the stoop outside our front door and began to register its findings. Our hopes were dashed ,however, when the tester informed us that the level he was reading was the level the state tries to reach after the sound barriers are built. Back to the drawing board, and a few inquiries about mail-order ordnance ( it's doable but the shipping and handling will eat you up).

As the years have passed, the annual mandated hearing tests at work have continued to show that I have "moderate" hearing loss in my right ear. (That's the ear, when sitting on the porch, that faces Ike's Folly.) So it was like a bolt out of the blue when last October I received a letter from State Representative Bill Cochran. It seems he had been in contact with the Commissioner of the State Department of Transportation about a noise barrier. More or less concurrently, Indiana's le petit chief executive has sold off mile upon mile of our infrastructure. The resulting boon, approximately three billion dollars, should now be available to address some of the needs and desires of the state's citizens.

Just the other day I was walking (campaigning) in the west end, along Main Street. The aerial bombardment of noise from I-64 as it passes above Main and Market Streets is so loud that conversation is difficult. I have written of the need for stronger code-enforcement and Challenge Zones as some of the ways to revitalize the older parts of town. Based on my walking in that neighborhood, I'm suggesting that one of the surest means of making those areas more attractive is the construction of noise barriers. The noise is an insult to people living near the highway; it is a statement that those who control the highway system simply do not care about the people affected by it.

Interestingly though, if you drive through many affluent areas, in Louisville and along I-65 in Indiana, you will see noise barriers already built or under construction. It is time we, in New Albany, push for noise barriers along all interstate highways in residential areas. Noise is a pollutant that is damaging to health. It can cause concentration to suffer which has obvious effects on learning in children. It undermines the property values of houses in its path. It is not too much of a stretch to see this as a class issue when one observes where noise barriers are being built and where they are not being built.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bicycle Lanes Rattle Some

"Build it and they will come." That line from the movie Field of Dreams is accepted wisdom now, used in discussion of projects such as the arena in downtown Louisville. The counterpoint to that, "Don't build it and they won't come," is hard to argue with.

While parked on the Clark Memorial bridge yesterday I was moved to wonder what is the motivation to not "build" bike lanes in New Albany.This would seem to be the easiest construction project imaginable-paint applied to an existing roadway.

The difficulty in construction lies not with road-building equipment but within the recesses of some cranial cavities.

While looking at tire tracks burned onto the bike lane emblem on the bridge surface (recently pictured on the cover of LEO), I thought of the fear which must have motivated the anonymous dolt who laid that editorial statement for all to see. It seems a kind of motorized version of the spraying that un-neutered male cats practice. Cats are driven instinctually to spray turf
they wish to claim. How sad to think that humans of such limited powers of reason have command of a 3,000 pound machine. How much more harrowing to think that machine may meet up with a cyclist who has crossed a territorial line.

We can paint the lanes to demarcate our turf as cyclists, but no such simple fix exists to alter the psyche of those who fear something about "those who aren't me". Unfortunately, the only thing to possibly change minds is continuous repitition of the sight, of people moving without cars, which must set off something twisted in certain eyes.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Look in the Mirror

by P.M. Carpenter Oct 15 2007 - 9:40am

Frank Rich's underlying point about us, "the Good Germans"
article tools: email print read more P.M. Carpenter
For my money, the New York Times' Frank Rick stands unrivaled among the commentariat in eloquence, perspicacity and formidability, and he confirms his singularity virtually every week. He manages to articulate rage with a calm, surgical style that paradoxically intensifies the reader's preexisting rage -- something most of the vast and sympathetic blogosphere has yet to comprehend, and something most of Rich's print colleagues are simply incapable of matching.
I suspect it was the years he spent as a theatre critic, examining the smallest of performance nuances to gauge a play's worthiness, that made the titanic absurdities of politics such a comparative cinch for him.
Yesterday morning Rich offered a repeat tour de force, in "The 'Good Germans' Among Us."
I won't quote at length, since it is far more informative to just read his column. But his theme is this: "It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.... By any legal standards ... we are practicing torture.... I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq," but, laments Rich, "As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin."
In hammering at the point, Rich nails it: "We can continue to blame the Bush administration for the horrors of Iraq -- and should.... But we must also examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name."
Rich rightly doesn't dismiss the top-down-driven contours of our "democratic failure," citing a swindling White House and "the powerful institutions [Congress and the press] that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case," but "failed to do their job."
A few, however, in both Congress and the press, did not fail. They hollered and squalled and bellowed from the rooftops. Rich was among them, as was I and a few thousand other irate scribblers, and one recalls as well the heated admonitions of such prescient political voices as Sen. Robert Byrd.
But the collective readership, viewers and listeners? -- the "We"? Rich notes: "The debate [was] labeled 'politics.' We turn[ed] the page."
And that, right there, spotlights, underscores and isolates the deeper problem -- the collective but imprecise use of "we." Every commentator is guilty of it, especially moi. It's simply impossible to analyze in 600 words or 2000 the assorted outrages of national behavior without lumping starkly opposite poles together. "We" condoned this idiotic war, so we are ultimately responsible for it and all the miserable fallout.
Except there are 300 million different we's, each with different motives, different psyches, different backgrounds, different resources, different internal cultures -- different everything that makes up the individuated and complicated human. Some are stupid, some are smart; some are educated, some are not (and there is a difference). What "we" means, I haven't a clue.
But I can guarantee you my absolute knowledge of one thing: Each and every one of us believes we're doing what's best for ourselves, no matter how we arrived at that belief. And in this country -- in fact, it is by now a worldwide phenomenon -- that means consumerism, and with it, boatloads of distraction from humanity's common condition.
The real geniuses are those who drive that consumerism. They tell us that a more versatile cell phone and a wider TV will make us happy at long last, and, being unhappy, we give it a go. (I know, I'm back to committing we-ism, but it's the only we-ism that I and whole communities of political sociopsychologists can comfortably identify.)
The realization of the deeper (but far less profitable) pleasures of reading a book, or painting a picture, or educating a child simply never occur to most of us, because we're too busy getting happy. It fills the ever-expanding void created by the most recent failure of happiness creation.
Still, some of us do realize that there are higher and more rewarding experiences in life than having bragging rights around the watercooler to the latest in TV technology and the newest car.
Maybe we're the boneheads. Maybe we're the ones who can't see, or can't accept, that all life's pleasures are fleeting, and that struggling for the betterment of humanity is the most long-term of emotionally self-defeating propositions. There, I'm back to territory of the unknown.
But when Frank Rich says "Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war," and that "it's up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day," he's not talking about the "we" -- he's talking about the aforementioned us, the materialistically un-preoccupied minority, and one likely to remain such for untold generations to come.
In short, he's talking only, and loosely but pointedly, about the much-disparaged, right-wing whipping boy of the intellectual elite -- and by that I mean those who are intellectually engaged; those who reside on Main Street, not merely in ivory towers. Everyone else is too busy -- to the right's unending gratification and its own causation -- with the distractions of consumerism to be bothered, which is what got us into this mess in the first place._______

Monday, October 8, 2007

Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire

The Chamber of Commerce requested all candidates for local office to answer questions. I presume all candidates were asked the same questions but that may not be correct. My questions and answers appear below. Other candidates' answers can be found at the One Southern Indiana web site www.1si.org.

Question No. 1.

One Southern Indiana believes that regional partnerships and cooperation are key elements for a business-friendly environemnt and economic progress. How do you plan to work with county leadership, surrounding counties and cities, and with Louisville in achieving economic prosperity and land use planning for your city?

The primary role in setting a regional strategy for economic progress belongs to the mayor. As a candidate for Council at Large, I plan to lobby the mayor on behalf of the entire city, including all its citizens and businesses. I will do so from my perspective as a business owner in Louisville, a life-long resident of New Albany, and as a citizen committed to environmental stewardship. Prosperity and the environment can peacefully co-exist.

Land use planning is one of the most significant steps local governments can take toward creating a sustainability model. The guidelines of such a model can be highly positive for businesses. Curtailing sprawl, for example, reduces the tax money spent building infrastructure for outward growth patterns. Sprawl promotes development first. Smart growth promotes re-development first. Portland, Oregon placed curbs on sprawl in the early 1990s, which caused entrepreneurs to re-develop. Today, according to a recent New York Times article, Portland has become a wining and dining hotspot. Now that the core of Portland has been densified, the government there is looking toward orderly expansion outward. The difference now is that a robust hub serves as the focal point of commerce rather than a diffuse, haphazerd sprawlscape. To quote Mayor Jerry Abramson:"You can't be a suburb of nothing."

Question No. 2.

One Southern Indiana focuses on economic development-either through the attraction of new businesses or by helping our existing companies to expand. If elected, what would you do to increase economic development opportunities and improve the competitiveness of your city for investment and growth?

Economic development can be looked at locally or regionally, but with the understanding that such a strict division is, practically speaking, artificial.

Locally:I would hope to foster rejuvenation of our neighborhoods. Such redevelopment is environmentally sound because fewer resources are used for new construction; and it is fiscally prudent because we, today, can benefit from the capital expenditures made by our predecessors. I have suggested that redevelopment of distressed neighborhoods could be helped with a program called "Challenge Zones". These zones would offer regulatory latitude to re-developers of owner-occupied houses, such as no-cost permits or economic incentives. I would work to see that procurement of government goods and sevices is done with a preference for local businesses. I believe such a preference strengthens our economy. I would work to increase citizen participation through increased use of boards and commissions. This helps bring more knowledge to government and more understanding of government. It makes citizens more than simply tax-payers.

Regionally: I would, again, working as a team with the mayor, try to capitalize on one of Southern Indiana's greatest assets--Louisville. Many people work in Louisville but live in Indiana. Beyond that aspect of Louisville's importance to our region is the active promotion of the city as a convention destination. While convention visitors are in the region, Southern Indiana can promote satellite attractions to entice these visitors here to shop for antiques and art, tour museums and wineries, attend a concert or event ant IUS, and take a carriage ride, a bike ride, or a stroll along the Greenway for the best view of Louisville.

Question No. 3.

What is your agenda for business?

My agenda for business is to entice it to become more environmentally beneficial. Beyond obviously helping the environment, "green" businesses and business practices are already taking shape as trends for the future. Such a focus can keep business ahead of the curve instead of being left behind. In addition, promoting locally owned businesses is high on my list of priorities. The most valuable dollar in a local economy is one earned by a local business and spent in other local businesses.

Question No. 4.

What is your vision for Southern Indiana?

My vision for Southern Indiana is that of a prosperous community of tolerant, engaged people who are proud of their past, and are looking responsibly toward the future.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Few, The Proud

If you noticed in the papers last week, the test for U.S. citizenship has been reworked. A question about Patrick Henry is out and one about Susan B. Anthony is in.

This, as expected, released a torrent of jurisdictions around the country seeking to rule certain people in and certain people out of those chosen venues. Membership, as the slogan says, has its rewards. Not to be outdone, New Albany has joined in with a citizenship test of its own. The new version is, well, new, since there wasn't an old version and we can see what that lack of exclusivity has wrought. But the need to "qualify" is a little greater now than in the past. Poking around where I shouldn't have been poking around has turned up a partial advance look at the test. I offer it here for the benefit of all.

I was able to discern that the test is in three parts, and likely patterned after Scrooge's Ghosts, as it tests one's knowledge of New Albany's Past, Present and Future.

New Albany's past:

1. A famous New Albany men's store was John____Mitchell. Fill in the blank.

2. New Albany's bus line was known as _________________________?

3. What type of construction was proposed to take place on the current site of the Culbertson Mansion a.)____________ after the mansion was sold by whom?______________________________

4. New Albany held a big celebration in 1963. Why?___________________________

5. What used to happen, that does not happen now,at the intersection of Main and Vincennes streets when a train came?____________________________________________

6. What was the New Albany's telephone exchange prefix?______________________

7. Shortly after the Union National Bank on the corner of Pearl and Main Streets closed another business operated in that building. What was its name, and why was it called that?________________________________________________________

8. Two all night restaurants used to operate in the 200 block of Vincennes Street until the 1960s. What were the two restaurants called?_______________________________

New Albany's present:

1. What is New Albany's population?_______________________________

2. What are Doug England's mayoral campaign platform ideas? (use additional paper if necessary)____________________________________________________________

3. What are Randy Hubbard's mayoral campaign platform planks?___

4. What areas of New Albany's fringe are most likely to be the next ones annexed?______________________________

The following questions are TRUE or FALSE

5. Glorianna Frangipani is an Italian cardinal who visited New Albany before being named Pope Dalliance III.___________

6. The K & I Bridge still standing._____________

7. IUS is an important resource for New Albany._______________

8. Citizen participation in New Albany's governance is encouraged.____________

9. Most people in New Albany wish they lived somwhere else.____________

10. Many New Albany restaurants sell "Omelet Boxes" for picnics._________

New Albany's future:

This section is essay. Any answer is acceptable if supported by reasonable argument; use Blue Book.

1. Why is recollection of the past not a valid plan for the future?

2. Why is recollection of the past important?

3. List three elements of New Albany's current situation that thwart progress? What would you do to turn those elements around?

4. If a multi-million dollar project were proposed in New Albany's downtown and a competing project of similar scope were proposed for a suburban location, which location would you favor?
Address each location on the basis of a.) environmental appropriateness, b. ) economic impact, c.) its benefit for the entire city, d.) its effect on "regional" status.

Nobody said it would be easy.