Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

On Christmas, may your heart be light,
Yet brimming up with glee
A joy too great to be contained
By boxes 'neath a tree
borrowed from Adbusters

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Good News From 2007

Bush visits New Albany twice; Property taxes; Ground broken for dormitories at IUS; Doug England wins again; Firefighter test brouhaha; Chalfant breathes new life into T.B. hospital; Sixteen cases of e-coli; No-bid contracts for sewer and drainage work; unequal council-districts bring lawsuit; Railroad bridge for Grantline; Deputy killed in line of duty; Georgetown still looking to place sewer plant; Bill Koehler resigns from Parks Department; Stormwater fees; Downtown merchants begin special Saturday hours; Floyd County adopts animal control ordinance.

These are the local stories the Tribune suggested as the most important of 2007. Readers were asked to select from this list, the one story they felt was, indeed, the most important local event.

From this list, the story I think has the most far-reaching impact on New Albany, and thereby the most important for New Albany is the construction of dorms at IUS. This is such an important development because it signals that Indiana University Southeast is taking a major step beyond the "little brother" relationship to I.U. in Bloomington. It signals that the campus is growing. A growing college will add more degree programs and feed further growth.

I'll apologize to any IUS alumni or faculty, in advance, for my recollection, which I'm sure is hopelessly out of date now. But, I remember a time when the degrees from the regional campuses of I.U. were conferred with , if not literally, at least figuratively, an asterisk. That imputed asterisk signified a distinction with a difference. At one time IUS was derisively called Grant Line High. That was a holdover from the former "Warder Park High" from the time before IUS migrated to New Albany from Jeffersonville.

The construction of dorms on the campus of IUS offers the chance to change the asterisk to an exclamation point. People living in a campus dorm are not likely to be residents of nearby counties or towns. These students will live in a campus community far different than was previously available. These students will come from someplace else and may actually feel a pull to stay here after school ends for them. The growing campus will naturally bring more teachers, who are affluent and could be invited into a deeper involvement incommunity affairs. This development offers great potential for our city.

New Albany can capitalize on this opportunity by developing an attractive, functional downtown district which meets many of the commercial needs of the campus residents. The highlighting of the downtown district does not mean that other areas of town would be shut out. As an example, Bloomington has a downtown which is comparable in scale with New Albany's , it is, however, much more commercially vibrant. Bloomington simultaneously supports several suburban commercial districts. The downtown district is a walkable environment filled with independent businesses, while the suburban areas are auto-centric with chain-structured businesses. New Albany has the latter but we need to focus much more on the former.

Will all or most of the resident students at IUS have cars? If not, how will they get where they need to go? Enhanced bus service to the campus will be required. A bus to Wal-mart or a bus downtown? In all honesty, the most likely choice for such a student would be a trip to the mall where, as the ad used to say, the student could find, "more stores, more choices." New Albany's downtown, as all downtowns are, is a mall without a roof. There could be plenty of stores and plenty of choices if there were plenty of people with vision and ideas.

New Albany's downtown already has many "captive customers" working at government offices, banks, law firms, etc. The addition of resident students could be just the catalyst New Albany has needed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Neither Summer Soldier nor Sunshine Patriot

How do you spell relief?



"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

--Thomas Paine in 1778

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Indiana Association of Cities and Towns--Orientation

Last Tuesday, another Councilman-elect and I attended the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) orientation for new and returning elected officials in Columbus. It was encouraging on several accounts. First, it is good to know that this organization exists and stands ready to assist officials from towns across Indiana with issues that will arise throughout their terms of service. Second, the IACT members/presenters are knowledgeable about questions in their field. Third, because the organization is non-partisan, the advice is presented in a matter-of-fact manner which stresses the structural limits of the office but doesn't necessarily seek to steer policy. I feel more confident that I can find an answer from this source free, or at least freer, of unspoken local motivation.

One issue specifically addressed by a legal authority there gives credibility to the recent actions of Dan Coffey regarding the distancing of the Sewer Board from the City Council. In unambiguous terms, the counsel stated that a sitting City Councilman (the question was about a City Councilman, but the answer encompasses any office holder) can, in most circumstances, have no more than one paid office or position. When asked to elaborate, she clarified the term to say, "if you make fifty cents, it's paid." Coffey is attempting to remove council representatives from simultaneously serving on the sewer board. Bloomington representatives said they have an ex-officio member on the sewer board. He doesn't vote, and isn't paid. He serves to convey information from one body to the other.

Another issue addressed was that of City Court. Again I have been given information that the office of City Court is a financial drain. Rather than "turning a profit", by hauling in unpaid fines, the institution still returns a hefty portion of the collected fines to the state, and still has to cover its administrative costs, but seldom does. I understand the desire to have a mechanism to facilitate enforcement of ordinances on a host of issues, but it does not seem that a city court is the way to go. I remain open to the idea, but I haven't found good bases for it yet.

One of the speakers there stressed that voters are likely to be disappointed because instant gratification, though often sought, is seldom found through government. In a remark that caused the bromide meter to jiggle a bit, he offered a sentiment which I hope will accurately reflect my term and the upcoming council term, "Honor your service by serving honorably."

One final observation of the event is that it began with a welcome to the attendees. We did not recite a prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bad Comedy Begets Bad Comity

At the gentle urging of my editor I have expunged the previous post.

But, I would like to remain on record as saying that Bush's lying about the danger Iran posed/poses for the United States, (a danger which Bush said could precipitate World War Three, and a danger which Bush knew did not exist), is in fact, the greater danger to the survival of constitutional government in the United States.

Coming soon...a report from the conference of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.

Excuse me while I write 500 times," All politics is local". And, 500 times, " Local politics is all."

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Twenty Nine Days and Counting

In all honesty this may simply be a latent case of Comment Envy brought on by seeing the voluminous number of comments posted on other blogs, notably New Albany Confidential.

At any rate, this is a call to write your letter to Santa Claus. I certainly can't help with the delivery of the perfect gift during this season of giving. What I have in mind is, "what do you want your City Council and Mayor to bring you for Christmas?" Or, "what is the gift that will keep on giving in the new year, and beyond?" There may only be 22 shopping days 'til Christmas, but there are only 29 tabula rasa days left before the new city government commences.

Most people are well aware of the fact that Mayor Garner began his term in circumstances quite similar to those facing Mayor-elect England. Both had City Councils with dominant majorities of his own party. Both had clear ideas of where to steer the city. What could be a better recipe for accomplishment? While both men had similar hands dealt them, it is my wish that England 's tenure results in smoother relations between the two branches of local government.

Given smoother relations among the elected representatives, another item on my wish list is greater involvement of non-elected citizens in the agenda-setting and policy-formulation functions of city government. It is further wished that these incidences of greater involvement are accepted with sincerity by the elected representatives rather than being grudgingly accepted, or worse, simply accepted as windowdressing.

I suspect anyone who reads this is fairly clear on the things I want from city government. I've discussed them here, throughout the primary and the general election campaign. I sincerely want to know what you want. As I said earlier, I may just be trolling for more comments but, I do want to know what people want from me and the other elected officials. Now is the time to get ready for the New Year.


Another big wish for the new year is progress toward meaningful reform of our healthcare delivery system. House Resolution 676 has been introduced by John Conyers of Michigan each year since 2003. This bill would, in essence, make each and every American eligible for health coverage through Medicare.

You can look at the Conyers web site for details. You can also go to for information on Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan. The Democratic Party has supported universal health coverage as a right since the days of Harry Truman. If a Democrat is elected as president in 2008 the U.S. may finally abandon its status as the only developed country without universal health coverage. It is long overdue.

If anyone is interested in being part of a local group which is building support for H.R.676, you may contact me here, or call me at 500-3333, or call my wife, Ruthanne, at 944-3121. The purpose of this group is to build grassroots support which will, we hope, provide political courage to Baron Hill to co-sponsor this legislation, as has John Yarmuth and 85 other congressmen.