Sunday, September 11, 2005

Fair Use

They may not care for me doing this, but a signed editorial by Tribune Managing Editor Chris Morris deserves a wider audience. Let's call it "volunteer" transcription instead of an appropriation. Publisher John Tucker can take it up with me and demand an online royalty for this same-day republication, if he likes.

What is wrong with the City of New Albany
by Chris Morris
Tribune Managing Editor

James Garner looked to have everything going his way two years ago.

He had just been elected mayor and eight of the nine City Council seats were won to members of his own party. He had all the political power a mayor of a small city in Indiana could ask for.

However, it seems like in less than two years, all of the euphoria surrounding Garner at the time of his election has gone south. Several City Council members want to fight or question him over every decision. What was suppose (sic) to be a somewhat easy term has been anything but easy.

And Thursday night, it may have come to a boil as Garner and City Councilman Dan Coffey got into a heated exchange over whether or not to privatize the city's sanitation department. The mayor says privatizing the department is the only way to save the city money. Last year the department lost $785,000.

Of course, the politically correct thing to do is stand up for the sanitation workers - some of whom could lose their jobs when the department is privatized. Although Industrial Disposal said those workers can apply for jobs with their company.

Some on the council, including Coffey, say there has to be a better way (emphasis added). After all, no one wants to see someone lose their job.

So, Thursday night, the council rescinded the $400,000 pledge to Scribner Place - a downtown development project. The council later voted to give $263,000 to the project which includes a YMCA and indoor pool.

The thinking behind the decision is to save money. However, Scribner Place is being used as a political pawn.

Now I am no accountant, and I don't pretend to have the same management skills as those running our city, but how can the city find $785,000 each year to make up for the loss in the santitation department? They can park city-used vehicles, or force the mayor to eliminate staff, but it still would not equal that amount.

What is the plan?

So far, the City Council members haven't come up with an alternative plan. Some council members can yell and scream and call the mayor incompetent and insensitive, but where do we go from here? If there is an alternative plan, let's see it in print. How can we make the sanitation department profitable, and keep all of the employees happy? Why can't the mayor and the City Council work together, instead of always working against one another.

Police and fire protection take up a large portion of the city's budget and there is no way we can cut either one of those departments. Health insurance and gasoline costs continue to skyrocket which also eats away at the budget.

So, what is the plan?

Council members need to put personal agendas aside, and focus on the problem. Yelling back and forth at a public meeting is not going to solve anything. This is a real financial crisis, and it needs to be solved. These people, who along with the mayor, were elected to solve problems. If the council doesn't like the mayor's solution, they need to come up with a useable (sic) plan so both sides can begin comparing notes and solve the problem.

As citizens of this city, we deserve the best representation we can get. I don't care if certain council members don't like the mayor, or if the mayor doesn't like them. I do care that the city is losing almost $1 million annually in the sanitation department. I do care that money that was committed to Scribner Place is being used as a bargaining chip. It's come to the point that we either need to move forward with Scribner Place, or just kill the idea. I'm sick, and I know the residents of this county are sick, of all the talk. I want to see some dirt turned, and something built at the site of the project. Caesars donated $1 million to Scribner Place for 20 years. If city officials keep playing with the funding formula for the project, it's just a matter of time before that pledge will be taken off the table. Then the project would be dead.

People ask me all the time what is wrong with this city. They tell me it's dirty, houses are falling down, sidewalks are crumbling, and the city seems dead.

Well, I think the City Council and the mayor should answer those questions. This city has problems, and as the governing body and top official of the city, those problems need answers. We don't need public outbursts or verbal jabs, we need answers. After all, that is why they were elected.

Think about it Chris. Isn't it obvious? The obstructionists on the council don't have any plan, unless it is to delay the Scribner Place redevelopment project until it is so costly as to be undoable. The so-called "rescission" of the EDIT pledge was illegal - that pledge is still in effect, no matter how much or how often the Gang of Four congratulate themselves. Once pledged, that commitment cannot be rescinded.

And as for the dirt, the crumbling sidewalks, and the falling houses? That's the way they want New Albany to be, and to stay. They know that without a vigorous press vigilance (and the metropolitan paper is their tool, not a watchdog), the mayor will be blamed. Few pay any attention to the votes or actions of the council. They rely on their belief that in New Albany, "it must be the mayor's fault."

For the record, here are the clueless, lawbreaking council members who STILL haven't offered an alternative to the sanitation department deficit, but insist "there has to be a better way," and who tried to vote to rescind the Scribner Place commitment (and, by the way, who continue to oppose the effective enforcement of city ordinances - see below for one reason why):

Larry Kochert, 4th District
Steve Price, 3rd District
Bill Schmidt, 2nd District
Dan Coffey, 1st District
and Donnie Blevins, at-large council member, who is so conflicted on this issue that he should rightly have abstained completely, but who clearly lacks any sense of propriety.

Four of these men have clear and glaring conflicts of interest in their opposition to the mayor's efforts to "Clean Up New Albany." And the fifth is just looking out for his political buddies, who have controlled things so long they can't believe anyone might want a change.

Don't forget these men when 2007 rolls around. All would be up for re-election, although Schmidt and Kochert have told supporters they are, at long last, retiring from the public arena.