Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Kochert Dilemma

Larry Kochert, the City Council member for the 4th District of New Albany, and now serving his final term on council, has an opportunity to burnish his legacy of service. But will he make the right choice?

On record as saying he's for Scribner Place but unwilling to proceed without the county paying what he calls "its share," Kochert has a decision to make.

The county is on board now. An official vote by the county executive triumvirate is a foregone conclusion. Those three worthies met with Mayor Garner and came out of the meeting unanimously supporting the idea of Floyd County participation in Scribner Place. County Council is likely to add its endorsement.

Will Mr. Kochert now create a new justification for blocking redevelopment downtown, or will he declare himself satisfied and join the majority vote in favor of Option 1 in the Phase I financing plan at the July 7 council meeting? Will his temporary alliance with the Schmidt-Coffey cabal dissipate? Or was Mr. Kochert's public statement just a tool of delay?

An overwhelming majority of New Albany's citizens are expecting the city to approve funding for the project. The popular majority is so large, in fact, that it is surprising that any council member is wavering on the issue. A great many people, in fact, have assumed all along that Scribner Place would be the city's signature commitment to revitalizing downtown and never imagined some of their representatives might try to block it.

Now that the decision has been subjected to so much sunlight, the writing on the wall is much clearer. The people want Scribner Place to go forward.

Now the fight moves to which financing option is best. This correspondent has provided ample support for approving Option 1. It is the choice that offers the lowest interest and the highest return. Any other option would constitute gross negligence. For more details, read this earlier posting.

Mr. Kochert, the seventh generation is calling.

To let Mr. Kochert know how you feel about the upcoming vote, may I suggest you call him at (812) 945-7652, or write him at 2236 Shelby St., New Albany, IN 47150. Mr. Kochert, unfortunately, does not publish his e-mail for constituents to contact him.

Randy Smith,

News Reported, Commentary Deferred

Much to the surprise of many, the executive body of Floyd County, a bipartisan group consisting of county commissioners John Reisert, Charles Freiberger, and Steve Bush, are prepared to commit county EDIT monies to the financing package for Scribner Place, Phase I.

Mayor James Garner had always said he would make his case for county participation when the time was ripe. It seems the mayor was persuasive in laying out the regional benefits of the downtown redevelopment project. The commissioners unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed the project and are ready to back it up with cash.

Congratulations to Ben Zion Hershberg for ferreting out this dramatic news. Should make for an interesting bunch of weekend (and holiday) conversations in the runup to the July 7 City Council meeting.

Here's Hershberg's story:

Floyd leaders get behind Scribner: Commissioners back New Albany project

Guest Editorial

Today's topic is...Scribner Place: What Signal Are We Sending? Today's guest columnist is Mike Ricke, the working head of the YMCA Capital Contributions Campaign. We're eager to hear Mr. Ricke's take on city investment in Scribner Place.

Mr. Ricke, your public silence, like that of Mr. Reger yesterday, is deafening. At least Mr. Reger's organization is soliciting its constituency to lobby for an ongoing city investment in downtown revitalization.

Randy Smith,

Friday, June 24, 2005

Are They Talking About Dan Coffey and His Three Cups?

They lie and lie. The lies carry them into the disaster... They insult, they sneer, and then they lie again. This isn't an accident--it's an identity.

--- posted today at TPMCafe, The Mask Comes Off, by Todd Gitlin.

Mood Enhancer for the Weekend

I have the world's largest collection of sea shells.

I keep it scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you've seen some of it...
------------------ Steven Wright

A Letter From Develop New Albany

June17, 2005

To Those Interested in the Scribner Place/YMCA Project,

As you probably know, Develop New Albany, the Indiana Main Street program which supports historic preservation and economic development in New Albany’s Historic Business Districts, has been a staunch supporter of the Scribner Place project since its inception. The project can be a real catalyst to downtown development. The initial resolution and commitment by the city in 2003 pledged EDIT funds to leverage $20 million from the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County ($18 million to the city for project financing and $2 million to the YMCA for a 20-year period).

The City Council is on the verge of an important vote for an ordinance to allow financing of the project at a cost of $400,000 a year in city EDIT funds through approximately 2022. (This letter was prepared prior to the June 16 City Council workshop, where Option 1 would have the city committing only $270,000 to Scribner Place bonds - Ed.)

The property was purchased last year for the Scribner Place site, and recently, the Schmitt Furniture Warehouse and Retailers Supply have relocated part of their operations. In addition environmental clean-up is being scheduled in preparation for construction. If the financing is approved, ground is expected to be broken on the project before year’s end.

The project involves an aquatic center featuring a lap swimming pool, family fun pool and therapeutic pool, parking and infrastructure for what is considered Phase II, private development at Pearl and Main streets. The YMCA is currently raising funds for its building, and is currently over half-way toward its goal.

If you want to see the Scribner Place become a reality, please call or write your City Councilman. Attached is a list of Council members and their districts.

You may also want to attend upcoming Council meeting. Votes on the ordinance should begin at the Thursday, July 7 meeting.

If you have any questions, please call us at 941-0018.

222 Pearl Street, New Albany, IN 47150 (812) 941-0018

New Albany City Council Members

Donnie Blevins
1548 Corydon Pike
New Albany, IN 47150
(At Large)
Beverly Crump
1510 Star Haven Drive
New Albany, IN 47150
(Fifth District)
Jack Messer
1906 Carriage Court
New Albany, IN 47150
(At Large)
Jeff Gahan
1122 Eastridge Drive
New Albany, IN 47150
(Sixth District)

Mark Seabrook
1130 Eastridge Drive
New Albany, IN 47150
(At Large)

Dan Coffey
425 W. Seventh St.
New Albany, IN 47150
(First District)

Bill Schmidt
202 Ellen Court
New Albany, IN 47150
(Second District)

Stephen Price
112 Butler St.
New Albany, IN 47150
(Third District)

Larry Kochert
2236 Shelby St.
New Albany, IN 47150
(Fourth District)

Guest Editorial

Each Friday and each Saturday, Volunteer Hoosier invites responsible commentary on a pertinent topic. Today's topic is...Scribner Place: What Signal Are We Sending? Today's guest columnist is Greg Reger, president of Develop New Albany.

We look forward to hearing more from Mr. Reger and other citizens engaged in the issues facing New Albany.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I Guess Tasmanian Devil Wranglers Don't Swim

If you have not yet read this post from Monday, June 20, you might find it helpful to do so before ingesting the following. - RS

Dan Coffey is blind with envy.

That must be the reason he's making his eleventh-hour bid for publicity. Coffey, all the while insisting that he's "for" Scribner Place and "for" the YMCA building downtown, is doing everything in his power to stop it. Coffey has never been "for" the Y or "for" any aspect of the Scribner Place project. Only now has he recast it as a question of the city's funding priorities.

Dan Coffey thinks you are a gullible fool.

That must be the reason he's trotting out his laundry list of "priorities" that make public investment in a revitalized downtown "impossible." It is an age-old trick of demagogues, but the "Wizard" is confident you won't look behind the curtain.

- We have old people doing without prescription medicine; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have potholes in our streets; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have a development environment that encourages sprawl; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have locks on the rest rooms in our parks; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We face ever-rising gas prices; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have cyclists without bike lanes being struck by careless drivers; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We allowed developers to build subdivisions without sidewalks; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have police officers and firefighters who are injured or disabled; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We face a pension liability as city workers near retirement age; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have animals running loose, in need of neutering and spaying; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have subdivisions where the sewer connections have broken; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have speeders and drunks on our thoroughfares; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have break-ins, assaults, and meth labs in our city; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have garbage trucks that won't run when it rains; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have police patrol vehicles that are breaking down; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have absurdly unbalanced council district populations; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.
- We have high school seniors leaving, never to return again; therefore, we can't invest in Scribner Place.

Any of the above "we haves" or "we faces" will have its adherents. A certain percentage of voters, maybe even 100%, can be found to agree with one or more of these.

It is, however, on the "therefore" that Coffey demonstrates his contempt for the common sense and rationality of the city's residents. Because "A" is true (or at least, arguable), Coffey believes he can fool you into thinking that the Coffey-provided "B" is the conclusion.

Dan Coffey can't swim.

If Dan Coffey can't, won't, or doesn't swim, then he doesn't want your children, your families, your friends, or you to be able to use a clean, modern, indoor pool. No matter that every medical and fitness authority says swimming is one of the best exercise regimens. No matter that some marketing experts project that our city-owned aquatic center will be a destination draw for fun-seekers 100, 150, and even 200 miles away. I'll bet he doesn't bike, either. Therefore, creating bike lanes for safe and environmentally sound cycling is sure to be an advancement he will oppose.

Laying a false trail

Like the outback tour guide from the posting referred to at the start of this one, Dan Coffey is hard at work laying a false trail, hoping to stir up the "Tasmanian Devils." By dragging the carcass of a discredited and shameful defeatism across this city, he hopes to get a certain segment of the population to buy into ludicrous conspiracy theories. He hopes to generate the perception that anyone who offers a future-oriented solution is trying to steal from you, raise your taxes, kidnap your kids, and donate your organs to space aliens. Unreasoned frenzy and rage are Coffey's allies. Reason is his enemy.

Any thing that smacks of change is a thing Dan Coffey fears, and he has no compunctions about playing on your fears. He assumes his acolytes will follow his lead without thinking and that those who find his methods boorish and his reasoning deficient will be afraid to engage in the advocacy and debate that is required to get anything done in New Albany politics.

If you don't stand up to the Dan Coffeys, they will take this city from you without a fight. "It's always been this way" is a tired refrain, and I urge you to speak loudly and often to make sure the regressive minority who dance to the Coffey tune don't run off with your city's patrimony once again.

What Does Bill Schmidt Have Against Codes Enforcement?

I try to give the benefit of the doubt to members of the New Albany city council, believe it or not. But sometimes I can't begin to understand what motivates them.

What turned into a multi-year effort to create the position of Ordinance Enforcement Officer to enforce the city traffic, parking, and cleanliness codes reached what was thought to be a successful conclusion at the beginning of 2005.

Due in no small part to the tireless lobbying of our neighborhood associations (Greg Roberts and ESSNA, take a bow), the council and administration agreed to create the position. Setting aside my own belief that this was just the first step in creating a vigorous codes enforcement regime, it seemed that the council was being responsive to its constituents.

As of today, however, the council has refused to give the mayor the resources to fill that position. As of today, the ordinance authorizing a salary for that position lies on the table where 2nd district council member Bill Schmidt put it.

Of course, the recent kerfluffle over state-mandated budget cuts gave Mr. Schmidt all the cover he needed to defer action to authorize the hiring of an OEO. Schmidt and others simply went into hibernation until they could find out, to the penny, just how much the penalty would be for financial mismanagement during the previous administration.

Mayor Garner, by his nature, is seldom one to demand anything from council and he continues to show deference to the prerogatives of council, having served there previously. Quite obviously, I'm a bit less hesitant about such things.

The council has known for months what the budget bite was going to be, within a reasonable margin, so I can only assume that funding the OEO position is the absolute lowest priority of Mr. Schmidt and the other council members who are keeping this matter on the table.

Does Mr. Schmidt believe that the neighborhood associations and the residents of New Albany expended all that effort just to get a feel-good sense-of-the-council resolution about ordinance enforcement?

Does Mr. Schmidt believe we have forgotten the commitment to real codes enforcement? Is there some hidden reward that motivates him to delay the enforcement of ordinances designed to whip the slumlords and others into shape and make our community more livable?

Does Mr. Schmidt live in the same fantasy world his colleague Mr. Coffey inhabits? You'll remember Mr. Coffey's belief that "quality of life just happens." Does Mr. Schmidt believe "codes enforcement just happens?"

The time for shell games is over, Mr. Schmidt. If it ever was, our attention is no longer diverted. Bring the OEO pay ordinance off the table and bring it to a vote. Your constituents aren't fooled.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Courtesy of "bluegill"

Ever watchful, friend "bluegill" points us to this story in today's edition of The Evening News. His tip deserves elevation to prime position. Please give this news story your careful consideration.

Jeffersonville earns heritage award

These are the criteria for the award, as stated in Larry Thomas' article
- Initiating or pursuing significant preservation efforts within the past five years.
- Having a program in place to revitalize and restore a community's downtown. (emphasis added)
- Implementing planning and zoning that include billboard and sign ordinances (emphasis added), and guidelines to protect and preserve a community's special character (emphasis added).
- Having a shared vision of itself as a special place. (emphasis added)
- Hosting Historic Southern Indiana hospitality training.
- Having an active historical society, museum, archives or published history or histories.
- Hosts heritage-related festivals or other special heritage events.

Thanks, Jeffrey. Aspire, New Albany. We have some of it in place already and Election Day is only 28 months away.

Keeping a Promise

I've promised not to let a week go by without reminding you that help is on the way. CM Larry Kochert has promised his constituents that this will be his last term on council. I'm keeping my promise. How about you, Mr. Kochert?

Coffey Brake, or, If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

with apologies to Jim Croce

Unreported from last Thursday's City Council meeting is this howler from The Hon. Dan Coffey, council representative for the 1st District of New Albany:

"Quality of life will happen regardless."

Sure, Danny.

While engaged in a colloquy with city attorney Shane Gibson, who was attempting to explain the necessity of the city sticking to its promises and paying 21% of the cost of Scribner Place, making the YMCA a reality, adding a first-class city-owned recreation and swimming facility, and laying the groundwork for future private economic development, Mr. Coffey objected to Gibson's view that city ownership of the aquatic center was a "quality of life" issue.

You see, Gibson was looking out for the citizens of New Albany, who would have to stand in line behind YMCA members in access to the pool if it becomes the fiefdom of a private agency. Gibson points out that a private pool adds far less to the welfare and quality of life of New Albany citizens than would a public aquatic center.

I would point out that economic development in the blighted areas of the 1st and 3rd districts would be far less likely if the city sends the signal that it has abandoned all pretense of utilizing the irreplaceable resource that is our downtown. Creating a city that not only provides, but nurtures quality of life issues is job number one for a city council member.

Dan Coffey just doesn't get it. He thinks quality of life just happens.

Quality of Life is a broad term that can include many things from health and safety to arts, heritage and education. In the New Economy, Quality of Life matters, as knowledge and technology workers want to live and work in attractive, clean areas with abundant recreational and cultural opportunities...landscape, recreation and historic resources, along with livable communities are considerable assets for companies looking to locate, expand or start-up. *

One measure comes to us from the Six Nations, who are the oldest living participatory democracy on Earth. This line from a speech to the United Nations by Oren Lyons is instructive: "Our leaders were instructed to be men of vision and to make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come; to have compassion and love for those generations yet unborn."

Lyons, an Onandaga chief, told journalist Bill Moyers in a 1991 PBS interview, "When we were given these instructions, among many of them, one was that when you in sit in council for the welfare of the people, you counsel for the welfare of that seventh generation to come. They should be foremost in your mind, not even your generation, not even yourself, but those that are unborn. So that when their time comes here they may enjoy the same thing that you are enjoying now."

Here's another instructive excerpt:

Oren Lyons: We are now. We are now. Now is us. We're the seventh generation. I'm sitting here as the seventh generation because seven generations ago those people were looking out for me. Seven generations from now someone will be here, I know. So each generation makes sure that seven generations is coming, all the time.
Bill Moyers: And that's accountability, right?
Oren Lyons: And that's accountability. We're accountable. We, you, I, we're accountable.
Bill Moyers: To people on going?
Oren Lyons: Yes we are. And they are going to call us. They're the ones that are going to say, "Why did you do this?" Or "Why did you not do this?" **

I'm here to tell Mr. Coffey, quality of life doesn't just happen. As an elected official, it is his responsibility to use the resources of this community to build. It is not his prerogative to sit on his ass and rely on "someone else" to do it. He must be accountable to the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh generations.

Dan Malloy, mayor of Stamford, Conn., says quality of life is "the esprit de corps of a community. " One online dictionary defines esprit de corps as: A common spirit of comradeship, enthusiasm, and devotion to a cause among the members of a group. The literal translation of this French euphemism is: esprit (spirit) + de (of) + corps (group, body). What is Dan Coffey's common spirit of comradeship? What is Dan Coffey's enthusiasm? What is Dan Coffey's devotion to a cause?

Economist/sociologist Richard Florida's thesis is that, in the new global economy, the regions that succeed will be those that are magnets for the highly educated, highly mobile, innovative people that high-wage, high-growth companies need to hire. These are cool and distinctive places that welcome newcomers, offer a wide range of quality lifestyle amenities, celebrate their diversity and allow people to validate their identities as creative people. These places offer not just one hot industry or a couple of hot companies, but an array of potential employers for talented people who define themselves in terms of their professions, not their companies. Almost always, they have a thriving urban core that serves as a source of energy and social interaction. Most also have great universities that attract a steady flow of young people and new ideas. ***

Such an economy doesn't leave people behind. But it won't tolerate obstructions. Get out of the way, Dan Coffey. New Albany is moving and it won't allow you to stop it. Why are you so bent on preventing new jobs and private investment from coming into the 1st and 3rd districts?

* Source: Mission statement, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
** Source:
*** Source:

NEXT TIME: I Guess Tasmanian Devil Wranglers Don't Swim.

William's Rules of Order, or, It Don't Matter to Me

Making a life in New Albany has been a most peculiar experience. In most respects, I have found my new life in this city to be filled with delights. More importantly, I've discovered a community that includes a reserve of engaged and informed citizens. Most long-time residents of New Albany still have hope for its future and the newcomers practically assume that New Albany has the will to make that future.

I agree. But it's time to call out that reserve force. The future of this city compels those of its citizens who have averted their gaze from the messiness of government to re-engage their elected officials and convey to them their conviction that business as usual will no longer suffice.

Since my arrival here, I have tried to educate myself about the city, its workings, and its personalities. Thanks to the generosity of many of you, I have been able to break through the shell of how government here is supposed to work and begin to divine how it really works in Indiana, Floyd County, and New Albany.


Some of those who have managed to attain elected office are venal, brutish, hidebound, or frightened. Those who show even a glimmer of vision must do battle with them to accomplish even the simplest things to lead this city toward a brighter future.

It is time for those who want to see New Albany thrive to make their voices heard, and loudly. We're more than two years from the next election, but the progressive faction in this town must speak up now, on Scribner Place next month, on vigorous code enforcement in the coming months, and on each and every issue that arises during the next two years. Do not yield your city to the know-nothings, the luddites, the "no progress at any price" faction.

Which brings us to Exhibit A: William Schmidt, member of council and a key to the unity of the do-nothings on the New Albany City Council.

After watching this man over the last six months and after seeking the counsel of dozens of New Albanians, I have come to the conclusion that the Hon. Mr. Schmidt is one of the irredeemable members of that council.

I don't know who Bill Schmidt listens to, but it's clearly not his constituents. I'd wager I've talked to more of his constituents in the last six months than he has, and most of them are extremely disappointed in his opposition to Scribner Place and any measure designed to improve the effectiveness of public investment and spending.

Just because he is a long-time incumbent, that doesn't give him the right to run roughshod over the rules of responsive representation and established procedure. He is wrong to think his constituents endorse his retrograde resistance to progress.

His constituents are among the most progressive in the city. Reelection was due, no doubt, to the disengagement of his constituents, who had no idea just how damaging that reelection could be. In the next election, if he chooses to run, the damage he has done to this city will be the issue. There will be no free passes next time for Mr. Schmidt. For that matter, there will be no free passes for any of his comrades-in-defeatism.

Schmidt abides by William's Rules of Order as it suits him. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it is Anna's Rules of Order. Whatever good or ill Anna Schmidt contributes, she clearly is not the presiding officer of the New Albany City Council.

After the last city council meeting, where he was permitted to turn a second and third reading into an impromptu public hearing, he can be charged with knowingly violating procedure simply because he wanted to and because he opposed the PUD.

Counsel for the developers, John Kraft, rightly objected to the violation, by taking to the podium and once again explaining to council that rejection would result in what even the developers know would be a more severe impact on the area. Council, by law, could not stop the development. They could only control it by approving a lower-impact development.

Ironically, I'm no fan of sprawl, either, but the law only gave council one chance to limit its negative impact. The four who voted to reject the PUD did so in full knowledge that it was a play to ignorance. Had they succeeded in stopping the planned development, things would have been even worse for the residents along Kenzig Road and its environs. And for the city.

I think it's time Mr. Schmidt's "friends" urge him to either play by the rules or step down before he diminishes his reputation any further. There is no doubt Mr. Schmidt no longer gives adequate representation to his progressive constituency.

NEXT TIME: Coffey Brake, or, If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

Randy Smith,

Errata and Announcement

I am informed (reminded) that Tim Deatrick's and The Tribune's acknowledgement of fellow blogger NA Confidential ( in Tuesday's editions is not the first time.

I stand corrected.

Coming later today: William's Rules of Order, or, It Don't Matter to Me

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Rehab Dances

Phase I in the rehabilitation of a local writer's reputation seems to have begun with today's edition of The Tribune.

We were pleased to see an informative piece from Dances With..., an aspiring journalist/ecologist with whom most of you are familiar. One can't know if the piece was intended to be objective or if it had hidden barbs. But it would take a divining rod to ferret out any agenda on the part of the writer (if I've mixed enough metaphors, let me know).

Tim's story on IUS's ongoing West Nile Virus monitoring project is certainly newsworthy, but it may have greater significance. With this story, The Tribune takes editorial notice for the first time, I believe, of the phenomenon of local Web logging. NA Confidential and its creator were mentioned in a news story.

I'm marking the day on my calendar...just not yet in red.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Wildlife Tours Boost New Albany Economy

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus laniarius) is a carnivorous marsupial found exclusively on the island of Tasmania, and is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. The size of a small dog but stocky and muscular, the Tasmanian Devil is characterised by its black fur, offensive odour when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screeching and vicious temperament when feeding.
----------From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

While listening to the local public radio station this weekend, I heard a fascinating story about a guide in the outback who leads tours that have as a central goal the viewing of Tasmanian devils in their feeding frenzy.

It seems this guide would gather roadkill, especially dead wallabies, and put them in his deep freeze until it was time to stir up the devils. In order to bring these mainly nocturnal (creatures who thrive in darkness) creatures to display their vicious temperament, he would thaw the roadkill, tie it to his bumper, and drag the carcass across the bush to create a scent trail. Kind of like chumming for sharks.

Then, he would place the dead animal in front of the window of his bush cabin and wait for the devils to turn up shortly after the sun slipped under the horizon.

After waiting all day in the cabin, his customers would settle in to watch the devils feed on what they assumed was a fresh kill. Invariably, the devils, with their enormous heads, would turn on each other in a whirling frenzy, biting and tearing at each other to get at the choicest meat.

Watching some of my fellow citizens erupt in psychotic rage and confusion over Scribner Place put me in mind of the devils. Clearly, the devils didn't know what it was they were feeding on. Clearly, the mania and disorganized thinking on display in Tasmania has its parallels in New Albania.

Like the guide to the marsupials, someone has clearly been laying a false scent trail for the mammalian "devils" hereabouts. The guide did it just to watch his devils rip and tear and fight amongst themselves, sort of like an animal sociology experiment.

Hmmm? Could some local sociologist be conducting a similar experiment on our own "devils?" Could someone be taking advantage of the fears and prejudices of otherwise good-hearted New Albanians? Better decide. It will be dark soon.