Wednesday, July 13, 2005

For the Time Being

I don't often do this, but today I'm going to direct you to, the incisive journal of all things New Albanian operated by our friend Roger Baylor. I think it's time for some communal discussion about the becalmed Scribner Place project, Roger's blog provides just the space for that. Look for my comments there, if you wish; I post under the nom de plume all4word.

One Take on the Locust Street Decision

Although we don't offer direct commenting capabilities here at Volunteer Hoosier, we do encourage you to e-mail your comments. As we collect them, we are happy to post them.

Here's is reader J.R. Steuerwald's reaction to this earlier posting:


As a resident of the Locust Street area I would have preferred to have the street re-opened full time with specific travel management. That said however, I am please to see that The Board of Public Works heard the sound reasons of neighborhhood arguments in support of opening Locust Street. I personally believe that if the Street Dept. erects clear, concise road signs so that traveling motorists will realize quickly while driving through the area that Locust Street is open during non-school hours; and if the NA-FC School Resource Officers patrol De Pauw Avenue during pick-up and drop-off times at school and enforce the traffic laws on De Pauw Avenue and surrounding streets, that this compromise could work for all parties. I like you are hopeful that this decision is a harbinger of good responsive government in the City of New Albany and thank you for providing space on your fine weblog to this issue.

J. R. Steuerwald
1705 De Pauw Avenue
New Albany

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Cloud-filled Day

County Council punts on Scribner Place. Games continue. Council defers until August 9...more news and commentary to come...

BPW&S Decides Fate of Locust Street

A great deal of interest had been generated by a request from the schools corporation to continue to restrict traffic on Locust Street near New Albany High School and the Hazlewood Middle School.

The Board of Public Works and Safety has jurisdiction over the street, which had been closed during the past few years of construction. Neighbors to the north had felt they would be unduly burdened if the street were not reopened.

In a Solomonic, compromise decision made this morning, the BPW&S decided to take these actions, as passed on to us by board member Steven LaDuke:

Re-define the use of Locust St. including:

- NA-FC School will install lockable, operating gates on Locust St.
- These gates will be closed from 6:30 AM - 4:00 PM during the months of August - May.
- The gates will be open all other times.
- When open, Locust St. will have 2-way traffic between Vincennes St. and Silver St.
- Install signage on Locust St. at Vincennes St. & Myrtle Ave. explaining Locust St. operating hours.
- Yellow line curbs on Locust from Vincennes to Myrtle and post "No Parking at Anytime" signage.
- Double yellow line the middle of Locust St.
- Install signage at Depauw stating no through traffic.
- The School resource officer will patrol Depauw Ave. during pick-up and drop off to help enforce
traffic rules on Depauw.
- Install stop signs at Myrtle Ave. and Locust St.

We also wanted everyone to know the city, residents and Schools will continue to monitor the situation and continue to tweak the plan as needed. We want to have a traffic count performed once we are able to open Locust St. as well as a traffic count during school.

It was the intention of the Board of Public Works to take immediate action no matter what decision, however because of the rain for the rest of the week, it looks like we will not be able to stripe the street until next week.

We're pleased to be able to broadcast this information via our Web log in the public interest and we thank the board for providing it.

We'd also like to know what you think about this decision. Write us with your thoughts. Note that the board will continue to monitor the situation and may well make changes to the plan in the coming months. Let's hope this display of cooperation between competing interests can be a harbinger of things to come in other areas of government.

Randy Smith,

Monday, July 11, 2005

My Personal Letter to the Floyd County Council

Tuesday evening, if the newspapers are correct, the Floyd County Council will consider making a commitment to retiring the construction bonds for Scribner Place, Phase I. Rather than repeat myself, ad infinitum, let me just urge you to contact your county council member and let him or her know your sentiments. Contact information can be found at for the council, and for the commission. None of these elected officials have published e-mail addresses at the site, but it does include phone numbers.

The county council will hold its regular monthly meeting at 4 or 4:30 at the end of a long day of budget hearings on Tuesday. We don't know if they will actually take a vote, but your presence or your call or letter will be important. Afterward, county commissioners John Reisert and Charles Freiberger will conduct an open forum on the subject of county participation in Scribner Place. Please go to one or both of these sessions to support the project.

I won't be able to attend, but I am sending a letter to be read or delivered to each body. If you care to write a letter, e-mail it to me or drop it by my store at 604 East Spring Street and I'll see to it that it gets delivered. Here's mine:

The County Council of Floyd County

Dear Sirs and Madams:

The demands of my business, which has been open on East Spring Street for less than one year, prevent me from attending your important meeting that includes consideration of the Scribner Place project. Please accept this letter as my contribution to the public forum.

The use of government funds to jump start development in Floyd County is critical to the survival of New Albany as a center of commerce. Considering that this county is one of the smaller and more compact counties in Indiana, it is important to nurture the urban area as a focal point for commercial development. Residential development, while desirable and necessary, will seldom generate the tax revenues needed to fund the services demanded by county residents.

Now is the time to get started. Fortunately, the Scribner Place project is being watched by investors here and elsewhere to see if the local governments are serious about making downtown a vital core. Failure of the governments to take advantage of the private investment/donation from the Caesars Foundation will destine our county seat to become a rotting and hollow shell.

My wife and I made our investment here in the full expectation that Floyd County and New Albany were committed to bringing downtown back as the commercial and retail center of the county. Any signal you send by failing to support it will certainly be read by other investors as a sign that New Albany is not a place friendly to new investment.

As a resident of the city, I can’t necessarily speak for non-city residents. But as it would be my county taxes, too, that would be used to retire the Scribner Place construction bonds, I would point out that even if the county provides half of the required money, city residents will be paying three fourths of the taxes – all of the city contribution and approximately half of the county contribution. Non-city residents can hardly complain that the development is unfairly costly to them under those conditions.

You stand at a crossroads. Scribner Place is more than a recreational facility. It will be the beating heart that announces to the world that New Albany and Floyd County are serious about quality of life issues, economic development, job creation, and equitable taxation. Please make a commitment to cover one-half of the lease rental payments on Scribner Place.


Randy Smith,

Ah, For the Days When...

...we were putting the spotlight on issues of national importance. You'll remember this winter we took aim at the threat that monopolistic telecommunications companies were making by throwing a billion dollars into a lobbying effort to strangle municipal broadband and wi-fi installations.

Now, the battle is moving from the statehouses to the nation's capital. The ploy is called pre-emption. That is, the telecoms want legislators to make it illegal for an underserved municipality to provide, under its utility powers, Internet access at high speeds.

Read this story at

Then tell us what you think. Who is being served here?

Randy Smith,

She's There to Get the Job Done

My mother used to tell us kids she was down to her last nerve, and we were getting on it.

That's the way 5th District City Council member Beverly Crump must be feeling.

The way I hear it, Bev Crump is fed up with the good ol' boy way council operates and she's not going to put up with it.

Any observer of council meetings will notice how closely Mrs. Crump pays attention. The will also notice her lips tighten perceptibly when certain of her council colleagues begin to speak. What do you want to bet Bev Crump is going to quit biting her tongue and start making her bite felt elsewhere in the assembly room?

Mrs. Crump was one of the council members who voted for the city to move forward with the Scribner Place development. When some of her constituents became concerned over false rumors that their property taxes were going to be raised to pay for a YMCA or for a swimming pool, Crump spent the time to explain to them what was the truth and what was a lie.

It wasn't easy for Mrs. Crump to dispel the confusion. But it was an easy choice for her to make when it came to saving the city money. She was one of the leaders (all new council members, by the way) who insisted on financing the project on the best terms and at the lowest interest rate.

Although she did not rise to give a stirring speech as did her colleagues Messer and Blevins, Mrs. Crump showed where her heart is with her vote. As the whole city waited and watched, she fought the miasma of confusion and led a majority of council in backing the best financing plan.

Thank you, Bev.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

View From the Knobs, etc.

I took a jaunt out to Polly's Freeze for dinner Sunday evening. My wife and I enjoyed the clear and pleasant night and the sense of community there in Edwardsville. As I do each time I wander up the hill, I again couldn't help but notice that ours is a compact county and one in which the folks uphill have more in common with those of us downhill than they do with any other demographic.

More than one resident of New Albany has reminded me that for too many years, the government of Floyd County has acted as if they don't realize that residents who live in the city are also citizens of the county.

But a politics of resentment and challenge need not be the norm. Evidence suggested last week that a solid majority of the county council were inclined to offer Floyd County EDIT collections as part of the security and funding for the Scribner Place redevelopment project.

Now, in what I believe was an ill-advised and completely unnecessary move, the city council has passed a resolution that seemingly "dares" the county not to come through with that contribution.

How about this? Just ignore the tactless way in which the city's resolution is worded. In fact, council chair Ted Heavrin should spread the word that he doesn't want to hear even one word about hurt feelings, injured pride, or the county being somehow painted into a corner.

Sovereign elected bodies have more productive ways of sending signals. Had I been consulted by city CM Larry Kochert, I would have drafted his amendment to read something like this:

The mayor and the president of the city council will present this plan to the elected officials of Floyd County and make request of them to contribute up to one-half of the annual EDIT need from county EDIT collections.

At this moment, what is requested is a resolution to pledge county EDIT funds to support the annual lease rental payment (bond payment). While all of New Albany and all of its council members certainly believe the county should make a contribution, only CM's Kochert and Seabrook are holding out for a certain dollar contribution, or else.

At this moment, we don't know exactly how much needs to be spent from the respective EDIT collections each year. But a pledge now enables the bonding process to move forward. During the next four months, the city and the county can debate, negotiate, and maneuver over any aspect of the funding, including whether or not each entity will pay half.

Make the pledge now and let the process begin. And here are some good talking points for the county council to ponder.

1. By a definitive 6-2-1 vote, the city council demonstrated a previously unsuspected will to revitalize the core of the county seat. Most of that majority were prepared to make a full commitment of EDIT funds to the tune of $400,000 a year. Those four, no matter how much they may believe the county will benefit and should kick in, did not vote "yes" conditionally. Those four will welcome county participation, but believed so strongly in the Scribner Place project's necessity that they made the first, and critical move, without demanding any kind of commitment in advance from the county.

2. The city council approved a resolution that included pledging the city's full faith and credit to the bond payments. In so doing, the city council showed that it is a good steward of its tax money and saved the project from between $1.4 and $1.7 million in additional costs. The county should see that as the city having its act together.

3. Mayor James Garner, after a rough first year at the helm, calmly and skillfully worked with both the County Commission and with his own city's council to right what some had believed was a foundering ship called Scribner Place. The county should take comfort in knowing that Garner and the council have found a way to work together. They also should take note that Garner never once issued a challenge, but rather, worked carefully to weld together a majority on his city's council and made a compelling case to the county commission that Scribner Place is a project that benefits the whole county.

4. There's no reason the county should treat the city's resolution as anything more than a referral. County Council needn't treat it as a challenge, but rather as an opportunity to discuss it rationally, just as had been planned. Consider the case on its merits.

5. Even at the maximum amount requested, the commitment is little more than the cost of a day pass or two for each non-city resident. Remember that even if the county comes on board for one-half, the apportioned share for non-city residents will be about 1/4, with city residents paying 3/4. That is, the Galena resident will pay only one-third of what the resident on Klerner Lane will be paying. But a 50% contribution by the county gives the Galena resident parity in access and admission costs, whether that be for a day pass or an annual or seasonal membership. Sounds like a pretty good deal, especially in a county so compact as Floyd.

6. Assume for a moment that county council members think of themselves as representing only the non-city residents. Even if that were so, the points made in #5 still apply. Non-city residents can achieve parity, but pay only one-third the cost that city residents will pay.

7. Be creative. If you can't bring yourself to pay $135,000 or $150,000 or $200,000 each year to retire the bonds, restructure your commitment. Pledge $100,000 from EDIT proceeds to retire the bonds each year. Then create another revenue stream, if you must. What about pledging to pre-pay $100,000 more each year for day passes for every county resident. I'd bet the management of the aquatic center would give you a pretty good price. How about 30,000 one-day passes paid for by the county each year, and distributed in any manner county council determines. I'll bet the kids in the youth shelter would find a use for them. So would any number of low-income families in and outside the city. Don't walk away from this just because you didn't try.

8. There have been a lot of signals sent, in the open and behind the scenes, but the clear consensus among all local governments shows an enthusiasm for Scribner Place and what it can mean to New Albany and Floyd County. I believe a good 80% of residents have always assumed Scribner Place would happen. They're going to be pretty disgusted if their elected officials squander this opportunity.

9. A delay costs about $140,000 each month. Don't defer your decision. Give the executive bodies a resolution they can work with that will enable them to begin the negotiations with the financial markets. You all know this project is going forward. Don't let pettiness get in the way. Cooperation between the governments is the only way this city and county will be able to handle the challenges of the near future. Let's start expanding the tax base as soon as we can so we'll have the funds to capitalize on the intrinsic advantages of this historic area.

10. Mayor Garner and his staff, along with city council president Jeff Gahan, must see to it that the members of the county council have as much information as they need. Get them copies of the bonding options TODAY. Make sure they have some time to consider the whole package. Common courtesy dictates that the city would not ask the county to act with less information than city council had on Thursday.