Friday, May 20, 2005

Thank You

To all of you who turned out last night for the teach-in.

To all of you who e-mailed your support for the efforts and the demonstration of civil debate.

To all of you who sent word by other means, expressing your support.

To the courageous monitors who braved the storm inside the council chamber.

To the stalwarts who stayed with us outdoors.

To the city workers and city officials who were kind enough to address our gathering and hear our concerns.

To the hundreds who blew their horns, waved, and yelled out their support.

To the visionaries who provided and erected our visual art.

To the many city employees and others who would be affected by sudden layoffs and dramatic cuts in city services, but were unable for fear of retribution, to join us.

To the supporters of Scribner Place and downtown revitalization.

To the volunteers working to make the YMCA a reality.

To the citizens concerned for the welfare of abandoned animals.

And finally, to the organizing committee of the CFP:
Rick and Karen Carmickle
Jeffrey and Karen Gillenwater
Jim and Tabitha Sprigler
Roger and Diana Baylor
Greg Roberts
all of the others who would have willingly been part of the organizing committee had we asked,

and most of all to my brilliant wife, Ann Baumgartle Smith. I love you, honey.

In the face of an orchestrated plan of diversion by those who look into New Albany's future and see only doom, by those who believe that a city cannot change, these folks made an effective demonstration that there is in this city a constituency that will support vision, will applaud responsibility, and will expose dilatory and self-serving attempts to confuse the residents of this historic city.

Constituency for Progress, welcome to New Albany.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Leadership Yardstick

The very nature of elected leadership dictates that what you say matters. As you, the citizen, evaluate the words you hear this evening or read tomorrow morning emanating from the City Council and filtered through the mainstream media, you should have your own yardstick to measure the leadership quotient, or lack thereof, of each official.

Wednesday's C-J made a splash with a leaked version of the state's audit for New Albany 2002. It was not a pretty sight. There is very little in the document that wasn't already known by City Council and the administration. Some of the more frightening aspects of the audit will be toned down when the 2003 audit issues from Indianapolis later this month.

Tonight, listen carefully. Here's my yardstick. If a member of council uses this audit as an excuse for voting against the Garry Plan, there will be no leadership quotient to measure.

If, on the other hand, a member of council recognizes that this audit is the reason for the Garry Plan, there will be leadership to measure.

New Albany's fiscal woes are a direct result of inattention to the details. But it doesn't need to be treated as a disaster. No one is trying to divert attention from the seriousness of this problem.

But only a minority of council seem willing to fix the problem. Right now, a majority of the council are paralyzed with fear.

This is what I'm hearing from that majority:

We have a serious problem.
We don't have the ability to spend what we thought we had.
Therefore, we should do nothing.

I'm weary of hearing the refrain "we just don't know." That's either a lie (my vote) or an admission of dereliction of duty.

There is no longer any excuse for any council member to say "I don't know."

If you don't know, you should have found out.

No more excuses. There is only one solution on the table. It addresses the problem with courage and ingenuity. It is lawful and financially prudent.

Failure to pass the Garry Plan, and each element of the Garry Plan, will be an admission by the "know-nothing" contingent that they are paralyzed by fear or that they actively wish to harm this city.

Voters will remember who showed leadership tonight. And they'll remember who used this crisis as an excuse to prolong the city's darkness.


Of what?

Join us at New Albany's City-County building this evening beginning at 5 p.m. for a teach-in and vigil.

We'll discuss various measures designed to improve the quality of life in the city, including the immediate issue of the city's budget crisis. Crisis can be avoided if the City Council approves the Garry Plan (below). Disaster is the alternative.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

It Can't Be Said Any Better

A copy of this letter from Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana came into my possession. Herewith, I share with you what County Commission knew last evening.

May 16, 2005

Mr. John E. Reisert
Floyd County Board of Commissioners
311 Hauss Square
City-County Building, Room 214
New Albany, IN 47150

Dear Mr. Reisert:

The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, the nation's largest statewide, non-profit, historic preservation organization, respectfully urges the Floyd County Board of Commissioners to delay action on approval of a new county annex building on Grant Line Road. The reason for this delay request is to afford the community more time to study the findings of the County Council and its architect Larry Timperman. The potential for a $6 million dollar expenditure of public funds to accommodate the construction of a new annex facility merits an opportunity for New Albany and Floyd County residents to digest the scope of the project and the long term impacts such an investment will have on the community.

Our organization is concerned over the possible demolition of the former County Home which is a historic resource for this community - a fact that has not surfaced to our knowledge in any of the discussions on the fate of this building. In August of this year (sic), the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission forwarded a letter to Mr. Timperman with a copy to you inviting its participation in an evaluation of the structure and possible reuses. No formal written response to that letter was ever received nor was there an invitation for participation in the evaluation process. A phone conversation between Mr. Timperman and commission administrator and Historic Landmarks' staff member, Laura Renwick, revealed that the investigation into the condition of the building was preliminary and that no decisions had been made. No subsequent follow-up from Mr. Timperman ever occurred.

Much of the media attention on the Annex issue has focused on building code violations at the building, many of which have been corrected to comply with OSHA requirements. While it is recognized that these improvements are only a short term solution, no compelling argument to justify demolition has been brought into the public arena. Is this building structurally unsound? Could this building be renovated with a portion of the $6 million dollars that now seems to be available to produce a facility that meets current needs? Could the building be rehabbed for county office uses and new construction be used to construct a youth shelter? Could the building have another community use such as a county museum? There are numerous examples throughout Indiana of successful adaptive reuse projects involving historic county homes. The stellar rehabilitation of the former Scott County Home as a museum and heritage center is a nearby example to emulate.

Another are of discussion should be focused on the opportunity the annex space crunch issue offers Floyd County government to show its commitment to downtown revitalization. A vital city center is predicated on the presence of local government - City and County - in the city center. The City continues to show its commitment to downtown through its efforts to facilitate the Scribner Place development. As the majority of your constituents reside within the City and the fact that New Albany's downtown is also Floyd County's downtown, serious consideration should be given to building or rehabbing in downtown to accommodate additional county offices. The benefit of this approach will have ripple effects on the economic vitality of the city center and will send a clear message to the community that our county commissioners value and want to be leaders in our downtown. Moreover, it sends the message that our local elected officials desire to combat the devastating effects of urban and suburban sprawl on New Albany's core. Historic Landmarks urges the County Commissioners to engage in a serious dialogue with city officials and representatives from Develop New Albany and other interested parties on the potential for office space expansion in Downtown New Albany.

In closing, I urge the County Commissioners to delay action on building a new facility on Grant Line Road and to work to engage the community on alternatives that speak to the long term health and vitality of the community.


Gregory A. Sekula, AICP
Southern Regional director


Or, commissioners, you could do exactly the opposite.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Must-Be TV

I'm feeling much humbled today. It seems my intention to participate in a teach-in before and during Thursday's City Council meeting is misguided. Seems I could have stayed home to catch that must-see episode of "E.R." Must have been all that energy we raucous youngsters have to burn off.

Now that CM Seabrook has issued his proclamation, I realize I shouldn't believe my lying eyes (and ears). I just don't have "all the information."

But isn't that what a "teach-in" is designed to accomplish?

See you there at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Hauss Square, and we'll await the "secret" word from inside the council chamber.


Has anybody heard a forecast for meteor showers on Thursday?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Surrender, Dorothy

Just when you think the 21st Century is starting to take hold in Floyd County, up pops the stench of cronyism and "think-for-today-alone" policymaking.

The looters seem to think no one is watching.

Did you wonder just how the county was planning to pay for its stopgap solution to the decaying youth home/annex? You know, the deteriorating building they've refused to upgrade all these years? The one that stands ever ready to be condemned for human occupancy?

The last remaining green space along Grant Line Road is the lawn that descends from the building known in the vernacular as the "poor farm." Alongside the priceless Sam Peden Community Park, this county-owned land is a figurative breath of fresh air.

Having lost their fight to buy a totally unsuitable church building that, by the way, would have enriched a former colleague by way of a real estate commission, the council wants to build what is sure to be a temporary structure to house county employees. They insist that downtown New Albany, the historic seat of government, just won't work, so they're going to build a $6 million building that is unlikely to outlast the term of the construction bond.

But how do they propose to come up with this $6 million, when a suitable downtown alternative is available for less than a half-million? Why, of course, they want to sell off the frontage along Grant Line Road to a strip-mall developer.

What a marvelous improvement to GLR that will be...hmmph!

Sounds like a sweetheart deal to me, but let's ignore that for a moment. Is more retail space that motivates continued sprawl and traffic tie-ups what New Albany and Floyd County need or want? Is turning over what is essentially park land to a quick-pour monstrosity the answer to the blight of more and more commercial development?

Let's infill the available space, much of it better-built, much of it in historic structures, and build a community instead of exacerbating our drive-in lifestyles.

Better yet, let's take this land permanently out of the ravenous hands of quickie developers and make it a place of honor.

The Grant Line Road frontage is the perfect location for a Law Enforcement Memorial monument. It's on a historic road with easy access by Interstate. It's next to a beloved community park used often by area residents. And it's already owned by US.

This is the week each year we honor those law enforcement professionals who have given their lives in the line of duty. So let's start the ball rolling now. Make the park-like frontage a solemn memorial to those officers in Southeast Indiana who have paid the ultimate price in service to their communities. Dedicate the land to a Vietnam Memorial-type tribute for the men and women in the nearest 17 Indiana counties who've died on the job.

Whaddaya think about that? Or maybe we really DO need another strip mall?

Randy Smith,