Speak Out Loud NA

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Progressives and the "little people"

You know, I have to agree with the progressive's point about the term "little people". It has a degrading connotation to it, and it should be changed into something more suitable. Suggestions everyone. Think of how you want to be perceived, and give yourselves a dignified name.
Sounds pretty stupid doesn't it? With everything that's going on, let's worry about what the labels are. There are only 2 labels that really count around New Albany anymore, the powerful, and the powerless.
Right down economic lines too. May as well be the rich and the poor. Or better yet, the labels that say it best, the "haves" and the "have-nots".
If there is one MAJOR problem in this little town, it's the fact that there is too much power in the hands of too few people. How many Boards, and Commissions, and Councils, can any one person serve? How many salaries can one earn? How many cars are we paying for?
I understand some Council Members are sitting on 8 or 9 different committees. Is this even within the legal boundaries? If it is, it should't be. This can only lead to temptations of corruption, flirting with abuse of power, and killing the Democracy that we are all supposed to be living in. Enough with the political favoritisms and deals done behind closed doors.
I've walked those hallways at City Council meetings for a reason. You would be surprised how much you hear out there. But, the main show has gotten to be such a mockery of a true political process, as it should be...one that represents the people, that I can hardly bear to go anymore. Many have imploded into shouting matches between Council Members.
It's as unprofessional as it can be without bordering on Soap Oopera drama, and as worthless as the time I could be spending watching something much more entertaining, and not quite as scary, on HBO. Very different from the way the County Councils are presided over.
The deals are done before they take their seats, but all they know about what each other is doing, or saying, is what they've read in our little piece of a local newspaper, and the minor attention we receive in the Louisville Metro newspaper. But noboddy's talking to anybody else.
New Albany is full of people who are very different from one another. Some areas flourish, others are left to deteriorate. Often depends on your councilman's worth. Can't be based on real need. It's a selective, calculated move in everything that gets done through the "system" we've got going on here right now. "All depends on who 'ya know!" Familiar? Sadly, yes.
New Albany is a very small town, one where most folks know most of the other folks. One where most people know all the streets. And still, we are divided.
We continue to divide ourselves with opinions and labels. So, what's to be done now?
The administration continues to dole out positions to people already on the "inside", leaving the circle of Power among a very small group. This leads to questions of propriety.
So, one must decide to try to get on the best side of that Power structure, or one fights against it. I am appalled at some of the insensitive things I've seen written about the Sanitation workers jobs. It is not what I expected out of what I always thought was a close knit community.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Mind of Reason

Please take the time to read the posting at www.diggindirt.blogspot.com
Ann has done something wonderful. I agree 100%, and thank her for capturing the real sentiment of a community that cares. Too bad the administration doesn't.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What a Move!!!

Seems the Mayor has managed to get all his ducks to fall into line, and he's staring straight down the pipe of dreams. He got the City Council to go ahead and push through the approval for Scribner Place, despite not knowing if the County Council will move to dedicate any funds for the mutually beneficial project. Score: Garner= 1, Common Sense= 0. Nice move.
Still, wasn't there a stipulation in the first passing...that it was contingent on the County allocating dollars to the costs? Why and how did the approval go through without waiting to see what the County was, or was not, going to do?
Does anybody still think there were no ulterior motives on this one? Why was it pushed through without adhering to the stipulation? Is this allowable?
Because, Garner knew that once this cut was made public, nobody would approve of spending the EDIT dollars on a bunch of swimming pools. That money should be supporting the Sanitation Department. Did anybody see this coming?
Still think there's "no way" any of our tax dollars will ever be needed for the bonds? Every Mayor has a pet Project, and you can bet there is a sacrificail lamb during every administration.
Overton's was getting rid of the sewage office downtown by privatizing the sewage billing.
Wasn't it just a few months ago, while scurrying around to save the budget, that we were ultimately assured no city services were left in jeopardy? Thanks "progressive thinkers" of the Council for approving 17 more years of this.
Pulling the rug out from under many city employees, and turning it into a campaign saying that it "just makes sense" to stop the bleeding of money from a revenue-losing city service, is downright bullshit! It has been payable out of one of the Sewage funds for some time now.
On paper it will look like a cash cow, in reality it just didn't have its own fund. So it shows as a loss on paper if you want it to. Sometimes you really can't believe your eyes.
Does anybody ever watch Penn & Tellers "Bullshit!" show on HBO? Boy, I'd love to hear what they would have to say about this sequence of events. Think I'll write.
After all, how stupid does Garner think we are?
This is outright railroading. How comfortable does everybody feel now? Still think they're looking out for our best interests? Where's our Code Enforcement person? Or are we back to "we have no money for __________ " (insert need), like it was before?.
Moving hundreds of thousands of dollars around to different funds, and making the books so confusing that even the State cannot make sense of them, is an obvious sign of mis-use.
I think we need to call for an audit, payable from the General fund, and pass an ordinance that states any Mayor is only allowed to earn 1 City Salary while in office.
Possibly we should ask that restrictions be placed on use, or dedication, of funds beyond a "reasonable" amount of time after one is out of City office (17 Year's?!!!)
I also think they should make the costs of ALL City paid expenditures, such as vehicles, cell phones, and other "miscellaneous" City costs, available as Public Record. Let the people ask some questions. Bring some answers. We need a Town Hall meeting.
It should be a meeting that is Governed by a mutually agreeable entity. Perhaps IUS? Perhaps a favorable professional mediator. It's time to put all cards on the table.
I was already about to jump up and down about the new "wastewater fee" we'll be getting soon. What a mess.
It is maddening and sad at the same time. A mixture of emotions if you, like me, thought home would always be in New Albany. No wonder so many For Sale signs are up.
And, we're seeing new construction going up around town, but no one investing in a downtown building. And I'm supposed to be happy about that?
Sorry, I'm not happy about the new building going up on the corner of Jay and Spring Street. I would guess the people living in the blue rental house right there aren't really too happy about it either. Looks like they went as close to that property line as they were allowed to. Isn't there an Ordinance about Buffers being placed between Residential and Commercial Properties that infringe on quality of life issues, such as noise, hours of operation, and lights, and traffic congestion as well? There's no room for buffers to be placed.
Oh well, I guess we're just expected to sit back and watch it happen. And it keeps happening.
A $3 million dollar Fire Station that was evidently awarded to an inept private developer.
As Donnie Blevins spoke at one Council meeting not so long ago..."we voted him in and he deserves our trust and support", like we should let the man do his job and run this town the way he wants to.
Sorry Donnie, I can't roll over and play dead, and I'll be damned if I'll sit back and play Stupid!
This administration will get my support and respect as soon as they earn it. So far, it's all been about one bad decision after another.
What do you folks want?
What do you think should happen now?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Think About It...

To everyone who comments on this blog:
I have tried to create an open forum where everybody could speak their mind about city issues and the problems facing New Albany. I allowed anonymous comments because I wanted ALL people to be able to comment without fear of retaliation or retribution. I did so because a big part of the problem with New Albany is a lack of information getting to the people. I think that has become sorely obvious if you've read things on this blog with any regularity. There is a lot of mis-information out there, and misconceptions about the way things are done.
I had really hoped that this forum would become a way for more information to get to the general population from the people who are in a position to know. My reasoning was based on the inescapable fact that the people of this city are disgruntled and disgusted with the way things have become in New Albany.
With more and more people attending city meetings, it's apparent that change is wanted and, more importantly, city leadership is being held accountable. City Council meetings became the place where folks felt they could bring their questions, concerns, and comments to their elected officials and be heard.
However, people were soon told that comments at Council meetings would be limited to 5 minutes, and furthermore, our elected Council members were not the correct avenue to go through with concerns. Rather, the Board of Works was the place to take concerns to. However, the Board of Works meetings are held weekday mornings when most folks are unable to attend. This made people feel that no one really cared to hear their comments, answer their questions, or take their concerns into consideration.
Frustration and anger seemed to be growing at an alarming pace. Not only from members of the public, but between members of the Council as well as between the Council members and the Mayor. City Council meetings became a circus.
With these things in mind, I thought it would be good for people to have a place to "vent" their frustrations and ask questions that could be answered, anonymously, by city officials or other persons who might have the information. But, there has been only short bursts of discourse of such a nature before descending into nonsense that serves no purpose.
I have wrestled with people who have condemned my efforts because I decided to allow anonymous comments, and I have stood my ground in the face of utter disrespect and slanderous criticism, because I believed the people would use this opportunity to their advantage. Indeed, some do. Unfortunately, others do not. Instead they choose to insult, insinuate, and incite anger.
There are a particular few who have made it their personal mission to make a mockery out of this blog that was set up for the benefit of the people. I don't know if they are intimidated, or if they're just full of meanness. I truly don't understand why this one little blog has been so very upsetting to them. My personal opinion is that they are so full of themselves that they just can't stand to allow another blog to operate without revealing identities that would allow them to then pursue personal attacks to discredit people. After all, they have done just that with everyone who has revealed their true identity.
I have made real attempts to rid the blog of folks who only want to throw insults, make attacks, and be downright rude. I have set 1 rule: "Be nice, or be gone", but some persist. I cannot, and should not have to, babysit this blog deleting unnecessary ranting and ugly, slanderous remarks. I assume we are all adults here, and there is really no excuse for behaving childishly.
I am writing this to make a request. I want the people who genuinely want to use this blog for its intended purpose to make an effort to discuss city issues, and simply ignore the nasty remarks that are put here to entice folks into anger. They are coming from simple minded people.
To start this off, I suggest going to www.amlegal.com/new_albany_in/ and take a look at the City Ordinances. Choose one that you think is a particular problem in the city, and tell us how much of a difference you think it would make if that one ordinance was being enforced. Or, tell us about something you think deserves more attention, or suggest a topic that would be good for discussion at a "Town Hall" meeting. Then let's try to organize one.
If this blog is not going to serve its intended purpose, I will make the necessary changes. Although this will surely hurt my confidence in the people of New Albany who I thought were truly concerned, I am not here to be the punching bag for bloggers who don't appreciate the effort, or the fight I have put up to defend this forum.
To those who disparage this blog and find no use for it, please just refrain from visiting here if it upsets you so. Why expend so much time and energy on something you dislike so much? It makes no sense to me.
For the rest of the folks who just read, but don't comment, please consider writing a line or two to let me know what you think.
Thank You.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Upcoming EPA Visit

How's this for information:
In an interesting Courier Journal article from April of this year, the issues New Albany faces with the EPA regarding the sewage system in our city are explained in a little more detail than in recent newspaper coverage.
In this article, dated April 6, 2005, project manager Sam Lahanis predicted a finish date of April 27th for the $40 million dollar sewer-system expansion legally mandated in 2001 by the EPA. The original finish date was to be the end of March, but the city failed to meet that first deadline.
Delays were attributed to “…problems with the starters and circuit breakers for 3 pumps needed to send treated sewage to the Ohio River after unusually heavy rainstorms….”. A week prior to the story, a storm had once again overwhelmed the system because the pumps were not operational at the time.
Those storms produced the equivalent of sending 40 million gallons of sewage through the system per day.
The article quotes Rob Sartell, manager of the West 10th Street pumping station, as stating now that the 3 pumps were up and running he had confidence the system could handle up to 66 million gallons of sewage per day. Such capacity was a requirement of the EPA’s 2001 agreement with New Albany. That agreement also called for a 2004 finish date of the expansion, which obviously wasn’t met. This was after negotiations in the late 1990’s failed to produce any progress in fixing the failing sewage system of the city.
The City was given a new deadline for completion of April 30th, 2005 because the causes for the delay were said to be “…beyond the city’s control.” If anyone can shed some light on what those conditions were, please advise me of such. I am very interested in learning what caused these uncontrollable delays.
Before work began, the system was only able to handle 26.5 million gallons per day. So the upgrade of the system was to increase capacity by 40 million gallons per day, for a total capacity of 66 million gallons per day, by the end of April of this year.
However, as I remember it, we had a major rainstorm hit the city on Thursday, May 19th, that obviously overwhelmed the system once again. Every street in the inner city seemed to be flooded as I tried to make my way from the City Council meeting downtown back to my home at the eastern boundary of Floyd County. Manholes were overflowing and cars were seen with water up to the windows, many stranded in the middle of the streets, as people frantically tried to navigate the flood-waters in the city.
At that point I believe we all pretty much knew that the sewer system expansion had not been completed in the prior month as was previously reported.
Recently, the article of July 15th, states that EPA officials will be here next month to inspect “…the city’s recently completed sewage-system expansion.” This article noted that Mayor Garner and Greg Fifer, lawyer for the Sewer Board, were interviewed during the previous mornings ceremony celebrating the completion of the expansion. So I assume we missed the April deadline as well.
Another point that brings me to such a conclusion is the mention in the April article that Mr. Fifer was expecting to write a formal letter to the EPA that the expansion was complete and the 12-month test period of the system, which includes EPA oversight, was to start at the end of April. Now, the July 15th article reports that city officials hope to convince the EPA, during its August visit, to begin the one year test period as soon as possible.
In addition to this one year test period with the EPA, the city faces a six month demonstration period with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in order to lift state restrictions on new connections.
The April article stated the city was hoping that the city would be allowed to start connecting up to 3,200 new houses, or buildings that would create the equivalent amount of flow through the system, by the end of that month.
The July article echoes this hope for new connections to be allowed. Mayor Garner said it’s “crucial” that the EPA recognize the city’s new capabilities to handle sewage treatment at an adequate level in order to begin allowing new connections so the city can grow.
Both articles cite ongoing disputes with the EPA in terms of a promise made by the city to spend an additional minimum of $500K per year for additional needed repairs to the system. The EPS’s regional office declined to comment on these disputes citing possible litigation. Something Attorney Greg Fifer hopes can be avoided.
Both articles say that city engineers have developed a different list of repairs that they feel need to be made first. The city intends to ask the EPA for flexibility on this part of the agreement, to determine for themselves the order of priority for work that still must be undertaken.
What is not revealed in either article is how many years must the $500K be spent on sewer repairs, or if this money is already allocated. How much money is currently in the sewer fund? The fund the Mayor wanted to borrow $500K from in order to fix the city budgetary woes.
Former City Council member and current sewer board member Dick Bliss said it best in the conclusion of the July article;
“I’d say we struck out three times” in failing to fix the sewers, “and they just don’t trust us.”
Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The various ideas of organizing teams to clean up New Albany and do beautification activities are interesting. However, I ask this...why can't the city join with us by providing something more than dumpsters placed in the neighborhoods so we can do the clean ups?
We have begged for a Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) for well over a year, yet what we got first was an Economic Development Director, at a $36K salary, who has been invisible thus far. The commenter who explained that we must pay higher salaries for higher quality, experienced employees did not answer my questions regarding what he has been doing. What are his qualifications? At 26 years old, I can hardly imagine that he has had any significant experience regarding enticing businesses to a particular area. What is his background?
I want to know more about him. What are his duties, and what are his experiences that make him worthy of such a salary?
Meanwhile, we are repeatedly told the city has no resources to assist the neighborhoods in clean up efforts other than providing the dumpster drop offs and pick ups. I find this hard to swallow. The city seems able to come up with funds when needed for other activities. They found $100K to fight the Adult Bookstore, giving them more free advertising than they could ever afford to get for themselves. If New Albany doesn't want such an establishment, it will not be patronized, and it will fail. Instead, we spent huge amounts of money on a losing battle. Did we spend the whole $100K? What fund did it come out of in the first place?
Also, what has happened to the salary & benefit funds left in the building commissioners office for employees that are no longer there? These are just a couple of examples.
Cleaning up New Albany is a high priority, not only for those who live here in the inner city, but for the city as well, to entice new businesses to the area. This should be a joint effort.
The amount of money we would use for some man-power to be provided, or extra runs of the garbage trucks, is minimal compared to many other expenditures the city undertakes.
After all, we do pay for garbage pick-up, we do pay for recycling, we do pay our taxes that are supposed to provide basic city services. Why can't the city contribute a little more assistance to the folks who are willing to roll up their sleeves and clean up trash and debris that makes this city look poor and neglected? There are some things we cannot do by ourselves. What about the elderly and the disabled, and the folks who don't have trucks to get their rubbish to a dumpster? We aren't talking about huge amounts of money needed for this, but rather a minor investment that could make major improvements in the aesthetics of the city.
Consider the landscape that introduces New Albany to people coming off the Sherman Minton bridge? That is going to require an investment from the city. A wise investment for the good of the city image. But this is an example of something that volunteer residents cannot undertake.
We must all work together towards the same goal.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Where Do We Stand Now?

Now that the Council has passed the Scribner Place plans, we can only sit back and wait to see what the outcome will be. The clause that requires the county to make a contribution to the costs is questionable. Will the project be abandoned if the county doesn’t come through with the proposed share of dollars? I doubt it. I think the commitment to see the project through has been made.
I am still hopeful that the YMCA & the City administration will hold public meetings on the costs of memberships and usage of all the facilities made available to anyone who wishes to partake in the physical recreational programs the project has to offer.
Until the facility is completed, we will only be able to watch as millions of dollars are poured into the construction of what is supposed to save our downtown business district. I would still like to see a statement from just one business that would say they are coming to downtown New Albany because of the YMCA -Scribner Place project.
If they are so convinced that this will spawn significant economic development, why don’t they already have even one business signed on as ready to operate in downtown New Albany? I’ll ask again, where is our Economic Development Director, and what has he been doing? This project has been on the table since 2002, that’s 3 years of planning that has not resulted in even one commitment.
Still, it is time to move on, and we can only hope that additional business investments will come to fruition.
Meanwhile, the Clean Up New Albany campaign should be taking center stage as the most pressing order of business facing our community if we are to realize a revitalization of the inner city and downtown.
There are too many homes in disrepair, there is too much trash in the alleys and in yards, and there are too many “low-income neighborhoods” that are less than desirable places to live.
If we are truly hopeful of attracting new businesses, we must convince them that there is a viable marketplace here with households that have expendable income to support such investments.
We must take proactive measures to stop the out-migration of families and individuals that creates more and more rentals, which attracts a transient population. A transient population will not take pride in the appearance of their living space, because they won’t be there long.
Now, I’m not saying this is true of all renters. Some renters have very nice homes, and invest in making their environment attractive. Seniors, young families, and singles all make rentals a necessary portion of housing in any city. But, when a portion of these renters are ready to become home owners, are they purchasing homes here in the inner-city? Or are they moving to the outlying fringe areas where new home developments are attracting buyers?
Look what is happening to the once beautiful older homes. They are becoming multi-unit apartment houses and we have nothing in terms of enforcing standards of upkeep and safety for all these rentals.
There is no reason we should still be without a Code Enforcement officer. Once the codes are enforced, a huge job for a brave soul, the fines collected will almost certainly fund the position. What do we have to do to get the ball rolling on this issue?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Pondering the Inevitable

Well, I believe we have pretty much exhausted the discussions regarding the YMCA – Scribner Place project, and hopefully everyone has had an opportunity to make their feelings and opinions known.
It is indeed a project that will undoubtedly reach fruition regardless of public sentiment about the financing. We will know a lot more after Thursday night’s Council meeting. Whatever the outcome, let’s hope it truly is what’s best for the city, not just what’s best for those who have a vested interest.
I think most people would agree that having a YMCA in New Albany is certainly not a bad thing. The reputation of the “Y” and the respect they garner will be an asset to our city, and to the county if it is able to attract adequate membership.
What I would like to see happen is a public meeting outlining the membership options and costs to users. Despite what another commenter said, I was at a workshop meeting when the Mayor said the water-plex usage would be a cost not included in a YMCA membership. I’m also curious how they came up with the estimated 6000 memberships.
Is that just for the “Y”? Or is it for both facilities?
I don’t have a great deal of faith in the “Build it and they will come” theory of economic growth, but I do have faith that the “Y” has a chance to be a long-term entity due to its past history of success. Still, Mr. LaRocca, Director of the “Y”, stated that it is a rarity these days for a YMCA facility to operate in a downtown district. I’m curious to know about the success rates of such facilities.
I’m also curious to know how many city administrations have become so intricately involved in the financing, development and extra amenities, such as the water-plex, as New Albany has.
If the “Y” agrees to unify the facilities and manage the entire project, it would be much easier to anticipate a good outcome than it would be if the city were to take on the management and operations of the pools. Yes, investing in economic development is a function of EDIT funds use, but that doesn't mean the city needs to actually run the businesses it helps create.
I would like to see a public meeting take place that would outline the costs of a membership and if the water-plex will be included in that membership.
Given the fact that almost 20% of all family households in the city with children under 18 are living in poverty, I am hopeful there is a way for everyone to be able to participate. It was very distressing to me to learn that the poverty level jumps to more than 45% for single mothers with children under 18 in the city. Will this development be accessable to everyone?
Comparatively, only a little more than 11% of families in the county with children under 18 are living in poverty. Who seems more likely to benefit from this development?
Additionally, as I looked over the differences between city dwellers and county dwellers I found that the median family income level is more than $10K greater in the county than in the city. That’s a pretty wide gap.
These circumstances brought back to mind the desperate need for a Code Enforcement Officer to help improve the quality of life and living in the inner city. With rentals being more than 40% of housing city-wide, and given the poverty levels, it is imperative that housing is inspected for safe conditions and clean surroundings. This, of course, is only a small portion of the work that needs to be done on ordinances.
The council passed approval of the position and set the salary back in September of 2004 by signing ordinance A-04-56. Why are we still waiting for the position to be filled?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Economic Development

On July 7th, next Thursday, the 30-day comment period regarding the YMCA/Scribner Place project will come to an end. I strongly urge all who are concerned to contact their respective Council member and make your thoughts and feelings regarding this project known.
I will again state my position as welcoming the YMCA venture to New Albany, and I sincerely hope that it will fulfill the intended role of attracting new businesses to the Downtown area.
However, I oppose the involvement of the City in a venture that falls outside the scope of city services. The proposed investment and involvement of the City is frightening given the long-term commitment it will require. Looking 17 years down the road, it is hard to imagine that things will progress across future administrations as suggested.
There will be 4 elections between now and the time the project is fully paid for. Can we be assured that each new Mayor and their administration will remain dedicated to this arrangement? Furthermore, projecting costs 17 years out is a risky business to say the least. I’m not talking about the costs of the original financing for the construction of the complex. I’m referring to the costs associated with the ongoing maintenance and management of the water-plex.
The City is already having difficulties providing basic city services, such as recycling, which we are paying for even though the City cannot provide the recycling service.
I don’t think I need to re-state all the issues that are facing us now, let alone what may be coming in the near future, but we all know there is enough on our plate to be dealt with.
If the City wants to invest in economic development, perhaps a plan to restore the architectural beauty of some of the old buildings downtown, and helping to subsidize new business ventures for their first year, would entice development. If the upper floors of these grand old building were turned into living spaces, we would have a population downtown that would greatly improve the chances for success for new businesses.
Additionally, folks living downtown would most likely do their shopping on foot, or by bicycling, thus creating a “bustling” atmosphere that could catch the attention of the hundreds or even thousands of cars that pass through New Albany every day on the way to the Caesars Riverboat.
Where would we find these potential residents for downtown living? Especially given the information released in today’s paper regarding new population estimates that show New Albany has lost more than 700 residents since the 2000 census.
Consider the advantage inherent in having a local community college nearby. The City could invest in creating student housing downtown, which would spawn the need for a shuttle service that would not only take students to the University, but could, in turn, bring consumers back downtown.
In summary, using our current circumstances to our advantage in terms of economic growth has a greater potential for success than taking a leap of faith on a swimming pool complex.