Monday, March 29, 2010


And what do we call the 45,000 Americans a year who die because they lack insurance, but now might live? Welfare queens and kings? Collateral baggage?

What about Obama truly gets under the skin of the tea baggers?'s the skin.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mayor's Alternative Sewer Rate Plan

Here is an e-mail marked for "immediate release".

A rate table alluded to in the test inexplicably didn't move from the original to this format.

The e-mail and the words are the administration's not mine.


(New Albany, Indiana) Mayor Doug England announced this afternoon that he will be submitting an alternate sewer rate plan to the Common Council for consideration at its Sanitary Sewer Rate Workshop to be held on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 6:00 pm.

At a similar workshop held yesterday, Mayor England proposed a sewer rate plan that subsidized the sewer utility with $700,000 of EDIT and Riverboat funding, annually, for twenty years. The Mayor also indicated that he would slash $1.0 million out of the sewer utility’s annual operating budget.

But Mayor England has since expressed concerns about that plan. “It utilizes almost all of the EDIT and Riverboat funds that the City has available to fill other budgetary needs. There would be no money left for purchasing equipment, paving streets, or funding deficits in public safety—Police, Fire and Ambulance. The City would also have to stall or abandon several worthy projects including a new water park, a new Little League complex, and the Ohio River Greenway project, to name a few.”

Mayor England also noted that all of these projects must be kept on track, particularly as New Albany approaches its Bicentennial in 2013. “I think the people of New Albany and its future generations deserve better than simply saving a few dollars on sanitary sewer bills. Our legacy should be that we built a great City, and not just one where you simply could get by."

Under what has been dubbed “Alternate B”, the use of EDIT and Riverboat funding to subsidize the sewer rates would be scrubbed. But Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund the debt service for three projects contained in the Capacity Assurance Plan—Basin 14 Lift Station Upgrade, the Mount Tabor Lift Station Upgrade and the Jacobs Creek/Lewis Branch Interceptor—would be utilized. The amount required to fund debt service to be pledged from TIF would be approximately $240,000 per year. The “Alternate B” plan also slashes $1.0 million from the sanitary sewer annual operating budget.

The “Alternate B” plan would phase in a 23% rate increase, immediately, and 20% rate increase in 2012. The following table depicts the actual rates to be paid by the lowest to average users under the “Alternate B”

Finally, Mayor England said “I think we’ve come a long way from the 70% rate increase that was originally proposed. The ‘Alternate B’ plan keeps rates reasonably low and, at the same time, it enables us to invest in our future. It’s now up to the New Albany Common Council to choose a sanitary sewer rate plan that best serves the fiscal needs of the community.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

Which Side Are You On?...The Day After

Last Summer during the August recess, I posted daily health care reform stories gleaned from different sources. I titled each day's entry as "Which Side Are You On...Day Whatever".

In light of the passage last night of a weakened, watered-down health care reform bill which is simply a foot in the door for eventual substantive reform, I am moved again to ask "which side are you on?"

The side of those who shouted epithets, racial, sexual, or hateful,
The side of those who threaten now to secede from the union,
The side of those who rest comfortably in a cocoon of employer-provided health care while 45,000 of their fellow citizens die each year because they have no access to health insurance,
The side of those who view health care as one more object of profit in capitalism's bazaar,
The side of those who see exclusion and call it fiscal discipline,
The side of those who see the future and avert their eyes,


The side of those who see a wrong and try, however feebly, to right it?

Here are some reactions to last night's vote.


Once again, thanks to Baron Hill for following his heart.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yellow Peril

When the School Corporation sneezes, the City catches cold.

One step the school board could take to ameliorate the funding mess is faces is to downsize or eliminate the large school bus program.

The City faces two problems related to the transportation system currently in place, ie., transporting of students via buses owned and operated by the school corporation:

1. It is a costly service which subsidizes the choice of some parents to live in non-walkable neighborhoods, which causes the well-planned inner city neighborhoods to further deteriorate as essential services such as neighborhood schools are eliminated. This degrades the general quality of life within the older neighborhoods of town, and the entire community suffers.

2. The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is being forced by a variety of factors to cut service throughout its service area, including New Albany. Because of these cuts the already meager bus system is pushed closer to the brink. The city is deprived of a viable system of public transportation, such a system can benefit the the community at large through greater access for all its citizens, better air quality and a residential pattern. Such a pattern allows the city to operate more efficiently as infrastucture is used to its greatest advantage, rather than having it spread thin in a costly advance toward the the sprawling edges of the community.

If the school corporation would eliminate the school bus program and instead rely on non-corporation-owned buses, it should realize a sizable savings. If TARC were presented with a daily cadre of student bus riders it would go a long way toward building a base of ridership to rationalize a comprehensive general public transportaion system for the entire community. The transportaion system would benefit the community as a whole and the presevation and revitalization of inner city schools would, likewise, benefit the community as a whole. The savings would allow the school corporation to focus its funds on its true mission --educating students, enriching the community, ensuring a sound future for our city-- which is a better use of scarce educational funds.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Below is a quote which was forwarded to me. The sender is in California. He did not disclose his intent in highlighting these words, but I think they have relevance to the gravity of the situation facing our local schools.

"We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots, and executions. We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, suffering, and shame. In the same way all disrespect for life, all hard-heartedness, all indifference, all contempt is nothing else than killing. With just a little witty skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person. Life is waiting everywhere, the future is flowering everywhere, but we only see a small part of it and step on much of it with our feet."
Hermann Hesse, German poet and novelist.

emphasis added

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Things First

One of the major issues confronting the sewer system in New Albany and many older cities is the problem of inflow and infiltration. This is a situation of leaking or broken pipes which allow rain water to leak into the system. Another problem is illegal hookups to the sewage system with direct connections of downspouts and sump pumps.

New Albany has a discrete system which keeps stormwater and sewage water in separate pipes headed for separate destinations. Sewage to the plant at West Tenth Street and stormwater to a creek or basin and then to the river. Massive surges of flow into the plant during large rains can be attributed to a failing pipe system rather than an uncontrollable urge to use the toilet or bathe during such events.

The system cannot handle the extra flow, and like an insufficient electrical system blowing fuses, the insufficient sewage system blows a fuse which results in untreated sewage flowing into the Ohio River. Regulation of such overflows falls under the purview of the the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's mandate is clear and this worthwhile agency does not allow much margin for error through either mismanagement, penury or stupidity.

Part of the proposed sewage rate increase facing the citizens of New Albany is intended to fix whatever leads to the overflows and keep the City in compliance with EPA regulations. Some of the projects proposed to make this fix are increasing the capacity of various drainage basins around the city. These are expensive fixes and can lead to rate increases.

Some of the problem can be fixed in a more direct manner.

A number of years ago the City did smoke tests to verify that downspouts and pumps were not hooked illegally to the sewage system. I have seen photos of recent smoke tests which show smoke percolating out of the front lawn of a house. That smoke is evidence of a source of inflow and infiltration, and that house along with all the other houses with the same problem are part of the reason why New Albany is on the EPA watch list, and thus subject to fines and further regulation.

Fixing the inflow and infiltration problem in private sewer lines to houses and businesses goes a long way toward alleviating the system problems in New Albany, which may cause rate increases and does cause some of the sewage backup problems plaguing some residents. Large system-main-lines are also subject to inflow and infiltration, and of course this element of the problem needs to be corrected too.

I suggest we begin a blitz in a systematic, comprehensive search for sources of inflow and infiltration through smoke testing. If EMC, the management company that runs the sewerage, doesn't have the personnel, they should hire the people needed for this project.

When violations are discovered, notify the homeowner of the illegality and give them so much time to correct the problem. If they have not corrected the problem or contracted the work to be done, add a surcharge to that sewer bill. The surcharge should be of sufficient heft to cause the problem to be fixed, perhaps $50 per month. The problem can be addressed, as I understand it, in two basic ways: the broken pipe can be dug up and replaced or it can be re-lined with some type of plastic liner ( a company called Insituform offers this ).

A significant number of citizens may not be able to afford such an unbudgeted expense and therefore should not be automatically penalized with the surcharge. For these people, a financing program needs to be in place where the problem can be fixed and the cost can be fronted by government and a reasonable monthly charge could be added to the sewer bill to pay back the cost of the repair. Each address that avails itself of this program financing would need to be tagged so that if and when the current resident sells or moves, the government-fronted costs will still be the responsibility of the owner of that address.

Local government should offer financing through a plan that works with New Albany's plumbers. If the citizens are going to bear the costs of these repairs, the money expended should stay in New Albany's businesses to employ more New Albany residents.

Individuals can pay to fix their own problems first, with assistance from government, or they can take the irresponsible route and allow their neighbors to pick up the tab through a no new fees stance. Is it possible that a systematic plan to attack this deficiency in our system could be seen as a good faith effort to comprehensively solve our EPA problems and forestall the rate increase no one wants?

To be sure, this modest suggestion is no panacea for the woes of the sewer system. I believe we waste the citizens' money by bearing the needless expense of profit exacted by the private enterprise sewer manager. The sewage system is a governmental undertaking and contrary to the notion that government should be run like a business, I believe the citizens own the system and the citizens owe no profit to private handlers. Let the citizens hold their elected officials accountable for the proper management of their system and keep that responsibility in local hands.