Speak Out Loud NA

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Interesting Facts From Ann

Everyone please take time to visit Ann's blogspot, www.diggindirt.com
she has done a bit of research and has come up with some very interesting facts and figures.
Personally, I would like to thank Ann. Not only for exposing some of the history of problems in this City, but finding the good in it as well, when it is there to be found.
Ann, you have a very keen sense of right and wrong, and you never fail to look at things objectively.
You have my sincere appreciation and respect.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ordinance Enforcement & Sanitation Losses

Well, well...looks like we have finally acquired a Code Enforcement Officer, Pam Badger of the New Albany Police Department. However, as I understand it, she is not a sworn officer. She is the officer behind the wheel of the car that follows the street sweeper around town. Gee, wonder where they got that idea?
This action has been proposed here many times as an interim measure, until a full time enforcement officer could be appointed. Since we already had an officer driving the streets at 5 mph, why couldn't that officer enforce blatant code violations as well until a code enforcement person was hired? Apparently, this option has become the final appointment.
As much as I am delighted to have a person to turn to for code enforcement in our distressed neighborhoods, I am somewhat suspicious of the route taken for the final appointment of the full term officer. That responsibility was supposed to fall to the City Council for final approval.
The process that was written into the record, and signed by the Mayor, for approval and assignment of a person to fill this position, was that the Board of Works would make a recommendation, and the City Council would make final approval, then the Mayor would sign off on it.
This process was circumvented by allowing Chief Harl to make the appointment directly.
It appears that, once again, the Mayor is changing the rules as he goes along, more or less letting the council know that their authority and duties are only utilized at his discretion.
Well, the City Council is the body that is supposed to provide the checks and balances that protect the public from autonomous power. In other words, a govenrment of one.
Perhaps if Mayor Garner would govern a little more democratically, he might just get a little more cooperation from the Council, and it wouldn't take so long to get something like a code enforcement officer in position without all the political power struggles stalling it.
Instead, Garner wants to dictate the governmental decisions that need to be made for New Albany. There are no discussions, no compromises, no mutual decisions when it comes to deciding what is best for the city.
Since the Council didn't approve Messer, as recommended by Garner, he gave the decision over to the Police Chief, disregarding the approved protocol.
Like the Mayor's autonomous decision to yank the Sanitation department and privatize it. Nothing was discussed prior to his decision, and there were no meetings between the Mayor and the Council to take a hard look at the numbers. It was simply announced.
Perhaps because if one looks at the numbers, it becomes clear that something is not quite right.
After the 1998 sanitation fund coming in at $26K+ in the black, the 1999 fund came in at almost $200K in the red. In 2000, the fund reflected a $300K deficit, and by 2002 it was $428K in the red. The deficit doubled in 2003, coming in at -$892K, and by 2004 it was -$929K.
Probing further into what may have created such substantial losses, we have to consider that sanitation fees were handed over to Indiana American Water Corp. just as the sewer fees were.
I discovered that when a sewage bill was forgiven, as were many, the sanitation portion of the bill was never addressed, or collected. Furthermore, since 2002 as dilenquent bills were collected for sewage and/or water, none of the money recovered was distributed to the sanitation department. This could very well account for a part of the depth of the sanitation deficit.
Privatization should not be considered until the books and accounting records are reviewed and the losses accounted for. To date, the State says it is impossible to audit the sanitation and sewer funds because the books are impossible to deconstruct.
I hate to keep harping on the sanitation department, but it just seems so unfair to delete a city service when it is not known why or how the department deficit happened.
The sewage fund was used too often as a stop-gap measure, and now we are in the position of having to get our ducks in order due to scrutiny from the EPA.
Look folks, all I'm saying is, if it doesn't make sense, it's probably not true. I think we truly deserve an official and full audit to explain how we got where we are before any changes are undertaken.
As for the Ordinance Enforcement Officer, I am very glad to have someone in place. and I hope the process of complaints and enforcement are established quickly, and that we will start seeing a difference in the city soon. Even though I don't agree with the way Garner did it.
We have waited way too long.
So, welcome Pam Badger, I hope you have your running shoes on! You're going to be very busy! As for James Garner, shame on you again, for flying in the face of procedure and behaving like a spoiled child who has to get his way. Your track record of appointments and decisions speaks for itself. It does not speak well of your abilities, and it has cost you any credibility.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Thoughts & Ideas

I would like for folks to comment on their take of the City Council meeting that took place this past Thursday night (8-18-05), and how it stood up to your expectations of what was going to be discussed and/or resolved.
With so many people in attendance, I'm sure some folks were anticipating some sort of action to be taken. Tell us about those anticipations, and what you felt you actually came away with in terms of understanding the processes and what will happen next.
What do you tink SHOULD happen next?
Finally, let's devote some time to step back and take a look at what is good within our City.
What positive attributes do we have now that might entice businesses to locate Downtown?
What kind of businesses would you like to see Downtown?
If you had the power to make one thing happen for the City, what would it be?
RULES: No profanity. No personal attacks. Keep it about the CITY, not the people in it.
Thanks, in anticipation of your responses. I'm looking forward to your ideas.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Things to consider for Thursday night...

What was written in the resolution approved by City Council for hiring the OEO?
What procedure was outlined, and who was designated as having the authority to appoint this position?
Is Mayor Garner going to circumvent the City Council by allowing Chief Harl to "assign" J. Messer to Ordinance enforcement in order to get his pick into the job? Why would such measures be taken to ensure a particular appointment?
If this is the plan, that means CM J. Messer will have the following positions:
Police officer, moonlight security, Redevelopment Commission, City Council member & Ordinance Enforcement.
This is too many hats for one person to wear. It is time to bring in a fresh body, and one with NO political aspirations. This would eliminate the tendency to be worried about re-elections, and thus favoritism for certain people in return for votes. This is not to accuse, but merely to point out a possible problem.
Also, considering the impropriety of the sanitation bid proposals, where might the public view the RFP's, bids, and contracts awarded to work on the Scribner Place project? Can we ask for an independent review of these processes?
Unfortunately, the Mayor has created an atmosphere of mistrust and incompetence. It is a shame that we cannot have faith that our Mayor is acting in the best interest of the City and its citizens. Too many mis-steps have already been made.
The proposal that has been put forth for the sanitation workers is that 7-10 persons will be retained as city employees for the strict purpose of cleaning alleyways and specific locations. What fund will these employees be paid out of? Will the taxpayers be asked to pay an additional fee for this new service?
This administration keeps insisting that money is tight, and there is no way for the sewer department to support the sanitation department. Just three months ago, after State mandated budget cuts, the Mayor insisted that a $500K “loan” from the sewer fund was a reasonable solution, and it wouldn’t hurt the sewage department’s ability to meet its financial obligations. What has changed?
Once the budget was patched up, Mayor Garner announced that all city services would remain intact. Yet, it was back in April that the RFP’s went out for bids to privatize sanitation. Why wasn’t this plan announced earlier?
If we are unable to support basic city services, then we have no business pouring available EDIT funds into unnecessary pet projects of recreational facilities.
Bringing the YMCA into New Albany, yes. But, an additional $20 million swimming complex has to fall lower on the list of priorities than sanitation services.
Furthermore, the big red trucks will be paid off in the fall of next year, and the cans will be paid off the following year. So, can we seriously look at current numbers and say that sanitation is never again going to be able to operate with self-sufficiently?
Something really stinks here, and it's not the garbage.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Save Our City!

Looking around at the people who occupied the emergency room of the hospital when we took my Grandmother in, made me think about the damage that has been done to New Albany and the wounds that have been inflicted on the community and its citizens.
It’s not so easy to get these types of wounds bandaged up and all better. We can’t just walk into a place and say, “fix it”. No, these wounds run deep and there is no surgery that can replace what has been lost, or that can remove the diseased elements that are causing the illness that plagues our city. It will take time to heal, but only if given the proper treatment.
We have been lied to, taken advantage of, misled, ignored, and abandoned.
We have watched as people, so undeserving, have been given leadership positions in the political sphere due to nothing more than favoritism. And we’ve watched them fail.
We have also watched as others, so undeserving of the political ax, have had their life pulled out from under them with unforgiving dismissals.
They have told us repeatedly that there is no money for this or for that, but they always manage to find money to get what they want. This is a misleading practice, and is, in my opinion, the biggest catalyst in the cry for additional audits. The “money shuffle” game has got to stop.
How can they possibly think that the people of this City are so gullible that we would sit back and watch such antics continue unencumbered by protest?
Privatize sanitation, “can” the workers, and in the next week announce their intentions of giving raises. What a slap in the face! It stings of greed and has the stench of corruption. The RFP that was issued was misleading and decidedly unfair for the competitive bidding process we are entitled to by law.
Are the workers that are being retained by the city going to receive their same pay and benefits? Are those who go to work for ID going to receive theirs? What about the ones who wind up with no jobs what-so-ever? Is the city offering any type of job replacement help? What about Garner’s campaign promise not to privatize sanitation? I can only presume that he gives no more credibility to his spoken promises than he does to his contractual obligations.
Yeah, this is great economic development, taking away jobs and letting his own business fail should give a lot of credibility to New Albany as a viable business environment.
There are new construction projects going on all around town, but not IN the Downtown district where beautiful old buildings sit empty and boarded up. Why?
We are continuously being hit up for additional fees, such as the new storm-water drainage fee, only to see it sucked up by gasoline prices that are spiraling out of control. Yet we are still expected to pick up the gasoline tab for city bought vehicles, and Police cars being taken out to other counties for personal use. I say if we need to “trim the fat” from the budget, we ought to take a look at the “luxury” expenses first.
All this, and more, have left most citizens feeling as though we’ve been kicked in the teeth, the political power structure is difficult to stomach, and the political favoritism in hiring and appointments is enough to give one a serious migraine.
Yes, I am sick of this mess. The wounding is severe, but we can still be saved.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Citizens of New Albany! Let's Keep Each Other Informed

First, thank everyone for the thoughtful messages sent. Nana is getting better, and will go to re-hab by tommorow or Saturday. (see comment at end of previous post for more info)
Meanwhile, I can't stop my brain from thinking of things I want to say on the blog, and I really wish I had a laptop more than ever. But, for now I am inconvenienced with only a desktop, so while I am distracted to other things, the blog lays dormant.
I don't want the blog to suffer in my absences when other business is calling and I cannot be at my desk. So, I want you guys to go ahead and debate and talk about the issues, and continue to bang away at the problems that plague New Albany and its "...bombed out" downtown district. (Did anybody catch the Editorial in the Wednesday Tribune, "Visitor Unhappy Following Visit to New Albany"?) PRICELESS.
Boy, that Scribner Place is sure gonna make a difference among the "bombed out ghetto" of buildings that is our downtown. Plunk a $40 million dollar duplex at the bottom of the hill, and all will be well for the future of the citizens of New Albany.
I have a better bet... all will be well in Mr. Garner's future ( and a few others).
Everyone should take a look at www.diggindirt.blogspot.com and realize that we have a Mayor that most likely is losing, or throwing away, his own dry cleaning business, and is getting himself sued over it in the process. Nice job James.
Since he doesn't have to pay property taxes, I guess he thinks he doesn't have to pay anyone he doesn't want to. It can't be a matter of not having the resources. He's not only double dippin' out of City Departments, he's setting up his future because he knows he can never run for public office again.
We need to press for the full review of the audits, and learn what is in the 2006 budget.
Meanwhile the progressives insist we're supposed to have faith in his abilities to manage our City and, by association, a certain percentage of our lives. I, for one, ain't buyin' it.
The Sanitation Department takes the fall immediately following the fast tracked YMCA-Scribner Place deal approval, even before the county vote took place. What IS up with that? Oh yeah, the Mayor and other staff need their raises.
Why don't they start allowing salary increases for elected officials decided only by the results of a public vote of confidence and competence perceptions? Isn't the budget supposedly squeezed too tight already? They sure can come up with it when there isn't supposed to be any. How can they do this after saying there is no money to support sanitation?
Didn't Garner want to borrow 1/2 a million $$$ out of the Sewer fund to shore up the budget just a couple of months ago? He sure made it seem as though it wouldn't hurt the sewer utility fund a bit. Now, it can't subsidize the sanitation department anymore, even though the truck leases will be over next year saving more than $500K off the budget right there.
Yet, we will now be adding a few more dollars to our household budget to pay for stormwater drainage. I'm really getting confusing and conflicting indications of where the city really stands in terms of dollars available. An investigation of City proceedures, city funds, hiring practices and departmental appointments is desperately needed.
Please Folks, let's keep each other informed by sharing info about the pressing issues of:
Sanitation privatization, Stormwater fee plan, administrative raises, the 2006 budget, and the sewer review results from the EPA.
Anything else you find interesting, please bring it up and continue to discuss. You folks handled things real well on the recent comments I've just read. Only the progressives are behaving like spoiled children.
Hopefully I will return to daily duty by the weekend.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Please Excuse Me....

I wanted to let everyone know that I may not be around for a little while, as I have been MIA since last night.
My 85 year old Grandmother had an accident Monday evening and went through the first surgery she has ever had in her life. She refuses doctors, and has been blessed with good health.
Healthy as a horse we always say. That's probably where I get my stubborness.
But, please excuse me for a little while, as my family is small and we all need each other right now. She has had a hip replacement, and it went well, but she still doesn't know where she is, or what has happened to her.
I am home now for sleep and nothing else, before I go back to my Grandmother's side.
Everyone play nice while I'm gone please.
Mr. Baylor, et al., try not ot take advantage of my Grandmother's disadvantage.
Thank You,

Monday, August 08, 2005

Proposed Sanitation Contract Possibly Illegal

I want to encourage everyone to try to attend the Tuesday evening meeting (5:30PM) of the council to address concerns regarding the proposed sanitation privatization.
As reported in the August 5th Courier Journal, the process mandated by law for soliciting competitive bids was not adheared to, and therefore any action by Mayor Garner to sign a sanitation contract under these conditions will likely bring lawsuits from other eligible companies.
Documents regarding this matter explain that the purpose of mandating procedures for bid solicitation are in place in order to prevent "back room dealing" which deprives the citizenry of assurances that the best possible deal had been made on their behalf.
The contention is that New Albany solicited bids for DISPOSAL only, and did not indicate a request for bids concerning COLLECTION. Thus, only one service, Industrial Disposal, submitted a bid for both services while other companies submitted bids only for disposal.
Indeed, the RFP (request for proposal) was issued back in early April of this year for a three year contract for disposal of solid waste. Yet, the contract Garner is awarding to Industrial Disposal is outside the scope of the RFP in that it includes both collection and disposal of solid waste, not for a 3 year term, but for an eight year period contract.
The city did not comply with mandated bidding processes, and therefore the proposed contract with ID can likely be considered illegal, unbinding, and unenforceable.
This is an important decision that concerns everyone within the city limits of New Albany. This is also another blatant example of corruption within the system of City politics and services.
This is the time to show up, in force, and insist that we are not going to tolerate such underhanded tactics from those who were elected to protect the best interest of the public.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Stand Up Proud!!!

I am so happy to see so many people defend themselves and explain that being called the "Little People" of New Albany is not a degradation of character, but a proud title that covers a lot of the people who care in this town.
The fact that you all have stood up and defended yourselves and embraced whatever "label" has been stamped on our opinions and our stance on the current condition of life in this city is a big step in organizing ourselves as a cohesive group.
I am sorry that my words offended anyone, or made anyone feel as though I didn't stand behind you. Rather, my point was, names or labels don't matter as much as words and actions and taking a firm stance on the issues. The "name-calling" was a useless battle. It doesn't matter what we call ourselves, or what others want to call us. It matters that we show solidarity.
Most everyone who commented on the last posting were standing proud as "little people" who give a damn about what happens in New Albany.
I believe the dialogue brought folks together and made the ties between us even stronger.
I will take the hit of saying things that incited such a dialogue, but I believe the result was worth it. I would rather let you fuss at me to get your point across, than to have another brawl with the so-called "progressives". It's time we get organized and show a strength with numbers.
I am with you, and I am proud to also be a "little people".
Thank you for making all the valid points about what was wrong with what I posted. Thank you for being out there and caring. Thank you for putting in your 2 cents worth.
I hope all the progressives out there have had a chance to read your words and think about them. I hope the administration has caught on to the fact that there are a whole lot of voters out here who don't agree with the way they are doing business with our money.
We are proud, we are strong, and we are NOT going away!