Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Twitch and Shout

In the old Pink Panther movies Inspector Jacques Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers, had the uncanny knack of bumbling to a successful resolution of whatever case he was on. His farcical approach stood in contrast to his antagonist, Inspector Dreyfus, who was more or less a by-the-book crimefighter. Throughout the movie, Inspector Dreyfus, succumbing to Clouseau's manic assault would begin to crack. It started with a twitch and often ended in an insane asylum.

Fidel Castro gave his two week notice today. He's spent and is turning the revolution over to his younger brother Raul. Rumor has it he's got his eye on a nice piece of beachfront property in Miami.

I've thought the embargo against Cuba a national disgrace for a long time. It's an indefensible relic of the Cold War if not the Monroe Doctrine. The news of Castro's retirement made me think of Inspector Dreyfus. I believe I even twitched. Not because Fidel threw in the towel,(incidentally, it was not too long ago that one of Castro's doctors had pronounced him such a fine physical specimen that he would probably survive to the age of 144, likely something to do with the sea air) but rather, because our own Commandant Bush said, now Cuba might enjoy "free and fair elections". Cuba, as we all know, lays a mere 90 miles from the scene of the crime where the Arsenal of Freedom abandoned the concept of "free and fair elections". This is the place where ancient Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, passed up the opportunity to vote for then-Democrat Joe Liebermann and instead cast their butterfly ballot for Pat Buchanan. This is the place where paid Republican Thugs rushed the county clerk's office to show "outrage" at a possible recount of votes. This is the place where Bush flew in his pajamas (I saw it on TV) to inveigh against the heathens who would allow Terri Schiavo to die. I'm reminded of the line from the movie Chinatown and think the Bush version might be, "Forget about it Jake. It's Florida". Bush invokes virtue. I twitch.

Another twitch-inducer is the orgiastic pursuit of property tax avoidance by certain elements of our community.

News Flash....No one likes to pay taxes.

No one likes to live in a city saddled with rising costs and shrinking services
No one wants to give up essential services like police and fire
No one wants to live in a city where the first question is often the last question as well ,"how much does it cost?"
No one wants the future of their children circumscribed by the fearfulness and penury of our day
No one should enjoy the harvest of savings in our day, while salting the fields of their day.

The anti-taxers seem unable to grasp the concept of the Civic Compact which states that we will provide a City that meets not only our needs and broadens our horizons but builds the infrastructure to pass that on to future generations.

It is only by happenstance that we live now. We are like pebbles dropped into a river. The anti taxers don't seem to care if the stream dries up after they hit the surface. The only way we can truly value the now is to build for the future, which we won't see. That is the only way we have what we have today. We owe no less to the future. Some see running the city as a business, some see it as tending our small corner of civilization.

Two more twitchers from the day's news:
1) A fevered group of Hoosiers worries that we must quickly move toward a Constitutional amendment classifying same-sex marriage as illegal. If quick action is not taken, the amendment may have to languish until 2012. What element of privacy escapes these people's purview?
2) From the Courier-Journal headlines: Smoking Ban Shows Dramatic Results...in the level of unhealthy particulate matter in the air of selected venues. I spoke to my cousin in Minneapolis the other day, she was nonplussed that smoking is still allowed in restaurants and bars here. New Albany will get there some day. Until then, Smoke Gets in My Eyes, and I twitch.

Finally, driving is becoming more hazardous around here. I'm driven to twitching as I see the numerous billboards featuring those creepy androgynes with the doe eyes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 21, City Council Meeting

Prior to the February 21, 2008 City Council meeting an informational presentation on Tax Increment Financing will be offered. The meeting will also offer some time to discuss some of the changes in tax abatements.

The meeting is for the benefit of the City Council members. It is open to the public, however, it is not intended to feature public participation.

The meeting will be held in the third floor Assembly Room. It begins at 6:00 PM.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye

John Wilcox has resigned from Mayor England's administration. He says he is simply tired and wants to enjoy the retirement he set aside to join England's team. He was the campaign manager during the primary and general election. The proof of his effectiveness is shown by the results of the election. Although he didn't say it directly, I believe John was somewhat reluctant to enter the fray full time. I think the England team has lost a valuable member.

Mayor England is now presented with an opportunity to reshape his team and continue to move forward with an active agenda for the city. Should he replace John Wilcox with another person with the title of Deputy Mayor? Or, should he let that title reside exclusively with Carl Malysz? My opinion is that John's share of the title should be retired and not be re-filled.

Regardless of who comes in to fill Wilcox's position, it should be someone with a wealth of experience in city government. If that is not the direction the Mayor wishes to go, perhaps he'd like someone from outside government, the person should, at least, have the ability to function on an equal basis with the heads of various departments in the City, and that means he or she will need to have experience.

Mayor Garner was rightly faulted for some of his early appointments. Now that events have opened the way for Mayor England to again add defininition to his administration it is my hope that he makes the most of that opportunity.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ask Not For the Bridge Tolls

Sunday's Courier-Journal featured an editorial titled "Bridges aren't free". The editorial's final paragraph said it all: "No one likes tolls, but no one likes other financing options, either. And the fact is you can't get a $4.1 billion project for free. Kentucky needs that project." (italics added)

What caught my attention is the fact that even though tolls are as popular as a skunk at a _______(fill in your social event of choice), the editorial board couldn't bring itself to even consider the elegant alternative to bridge tolls offered by the 8664 plan.

As most everyone knows, the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) is expected to cost over four billion dollars. On the other hand, the East End Only Bridge Option To Which We First Agreed So Many Years Ago Before River Fields Extorted An Uneeded Second Bridge Into And Through The Downtown Area Of Jeffersonville Just For Spite And As A Gambit To Block The Bridge They Didn't Want In The First Place Because They Are NIMBYS (EEOBOTWWFASMYABRFEAUSBIATTDAOJJFSAAAGTBTBTDWITFPBTAN) or EEO for short, would cost just over two billion dollars. For some reason the Courier has decided to pattern its intransigence on the ORBP after Jerry Abramson's intransigence on the Arena project, which means, essentially: My Way or My Way, take your pick.

New Albany could truly gain from the 8664 plan because the elimination of the section of I-64 between Portland and I-65 would be morphed into surface streets. This alteration could tie both sides of the river along that stretch together. Some of the large population of the Portland area could find it more convenient to shop in downtown New Albany rather than going to downtown Louisville or to shopping malls in the east end. The prospect of the historic Portland neighborhood minus the hideous scar of I-64 separating it from the river, could lead to a revival of that oldest section of Louisville. That revival could lead to improvement in mass transit options which would affect both sides of the river and more closely unite us regionally.

The primary environmental benefits of 8664 would at first seem to be aesthetic, as the barrier separating people from our greatest natural feature, the river, came down. But those benefits would fall in prominence as the revivified neighborhoods returned to a more people-oriented scale. Like New Albany, the Portland section of Louisville has a wonderful inventory of historic homes and an infrastructure built with people in mind rather the car. If the leaders on our side of the river could recognize the benefit of aligning our city more closely with our near-neighbors just across the Sherman Minton bridge, they would embrace 8664 and do their part to avoid the need for bridge tolls.