A joyful noise? The six most-read ON THE AVENUES columns of 2018.
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
“If Potter gets hold of this Building and Loan, there’ll never be another decent house built in this town. He’s already got charge of the bank. He’s got the bus line. He got the department stores. And now he’s after us!”
Poor George Bailey gets a vision of awful, grasping Potter getting everything and naming everything after himself: Pottersville, a hideous ego-plutocrat takeover. And if he had a hotel chain, it would be called something alliterative, no doubt, like … Potter Palace?
The Jeff M. Gahan Family Fun City Hall?
We can’t fault The Guardian piece’s writer, who knows all about It’s a Wonderful Life but hasn’t witnessed the Potter-like proclivities of our own dull mayoral eminence.
And so our scene opens with a panoramic shot of the city filmed by drone, gradually zooming to street level. Stuffed to the turducken with campaign cash, Dear Leader is seen waddling toward Bunker Hatch #4.
He seems to be humming a tune: “You wish me a Merry Christmas — or else.”
Naturally the captive local news media dares not take him to task. The Genius of the Flood Plain’s wretched anchor tattoo adorns every street sign and trash can. Sewer lift stations and Rice Krispies coeds titter when he is ushered into the photo-op by a team of drooling glad-handers.
Discarded envelopes flutter to the floor beneath the Pedestal of the Fruit Baskets, accumulating like snow (sic) drifts atop David Duggins’ desk at NAHA.
But hey: That’s why he’s here.
Those 37,000-plus city residents who currently do not enjoy the perks and privileges of inner circle membership somehow have managed to stumble to the conclusion of New Gahania Year Seven, known as “2018” to the wider world existing outside the confines of the Open Air Museum of Ignorance, Superstition and Backwardness.
Well, come what may, my job at NA Confidential is to provide the other side of the story. Truth actually mattered when I was growing up. You can count me out of the ring kissing. I don’t do idol worship, and I won’t pretend to honor the credentials of a middling mediocrity of a veneer salesman who hasn’t read a book since Ray-Gun was president, although I’d be remiss without offering a helpful suggestion: Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis.
On second thought, never mind. It would be pearls before bovine.
Let’s have a glance at the six most-read ON THE AVENUES columns of 2018, with a necessary caveat.
As recently explained, the “scoring” system at Blogger underwent a manner of bizarre and largely unexplained alteration in October, and statistics for the past three months don’t correlate with those of the year’s first nine.
I regret my blog being situated at this perennially inept platform, and if 13,400 posts hadn’t already adorned the tote board since 2004, I’d do something about it. As such, we begin with one honorable mention, based not on Google hiccups, but an informal tally of Facebook engagements.
This November 29 column looks to be tops for the months of October, November and December.
City council president Al Knable’s inspired 2018 appointment of Scott Stewart to the cloistered confines of the Redevelopment Commission was a signal for New Albany’s suburban-minded, self-congratulatory ruling caste to move with characteristic pre-election haste to make the city safe for all the people just like them.
Accordingly, when Wile E Gahan pointed his ego toward someone else’s idea about a recreational rails-to-trails, and headed down to the Quality of Life Pawn Shop for the cash to pay approximately 3% of a long-term project located almost entirely outside city limits, Stewart asked a series of excellent, pointed questions.
These concerns were batted away by redevelopment’s the-fix-stays-in sycophants, who quickly reaffirmed their pre-determined vote prior to sliming Stewart in subsequent social media Trump-o-grams, which almost certainly were written by Adam Dickey, lifetime redevelopment wheel-greaser, who also serves as Democratic Party chairman.
Number Six appeared on January 4, previewing the coming year’s renewed non-transparency.
Tome May’s News & Maroon kicked off 2018 with another triumph of unalloyed stenography, providing Jeff Gahan with excessive column inches to belch his exaggerated feats of Kool-Aid consumption. Our forever posturing mayor heartily congratulated himself with the “shucks, just can’t help it if I’m perfect” plea familiar to cloistered autocrats (or Greg Fischer) since time immemorial.
I dissented, reminding readers that just because the local chain good-news-paper won’t tackle the hard issues, it doesn’t mean they’re not there: a flawed and unsafe street grid realization, luxury parks deficit funding, clearcutting of the urban canopy, the public housing putsch, criminal neglect of civic assets like the doomed Moser Tannery, and worst of all, Gahan’s pay-to-play lovefest with special interests.
There also was advice for Republicans: If Gahan won’t give a State of the City with real people in the room, interacting, then a Republican needs to give one instead. The marketplace of ideas is preferred by many, though abhorred by the likes of Gahan. I urged the GOP to full-court press him, because I’m getting damned tired of doing it all alone.
Not as though they ever began — or I ever stopped. Such are the burdens of commitment.
Number Five took a look back, and was as relevant on February 15 as it had been three years earlier.
From the moment Gahan settled into the anchor’s seat in 2012, he began drinking deeply of the ego-driven power potion, as preferred the world over by big fish swimming in small ponds. The bullying and intimidation has only escalated in the following years, and transparency has become as rare as mountain oysters on downtown vegetarian restaurant menus.
Free speech seems a particular irritant to Gahan and the Floyd County Democratic Party, especially as it pertains to social media. In the marketplace of ideas, they’re a one-party dictatorship, albeit without any verifiable dogma to protect from scrutiny apart from daily compounded monetization of municipal contracts. It is telling that Chairman Dickey rivals Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin in his eagerness to block dissenters.
I’ve actually been to places where fear was a daily consideration, but New Albany isn’t East Germany, and we can do better than this.
On September 30 there was reason for hope. It’s Number Four.
On November 6, the Floyd County Democratic Party’s ramshackle jalopy bottomed out on a speed bump in a snail’s path.
In the aftermath of a certifiable Red Wave, the Alamo Scenario materialized: Gahan, his party chairman and a scant four remaining city council Democrats placed in a last-ditch, us-against-them scenario, tattered and bedraggled but with no choice except defending the lucrative system of political patronage that Gahan has adeptly exploited these past seven years.
David White already had declared his intention to challenge Gahan in the 2019 Democratic primary, and Gahan’s steadily multiplying negatives make a strong case for White, given the centrist (at best) and right-leaning (bingo!) tendencies of those older local Democrats who actually bother voting.
White is a fiscal conservative, and while no flaming radical, his concern for the community’s most vulnerable citizens, coupled with libertarian attitudes toward social issues, is a welcome change for those of a more youthful and progressive bent, given they’d no longer have to clench their teeth and tolerate Gahan’s reactionary worldview in an ongoing Faustian bargain to preserve the party’s declining prospects for ward heeling.
Coming in at Number Three, there was a nostalgic remembrance of employment, which was published on March 1.
Three decades ago, my introduction to the Open Air Museum was a gig at Scoreboard Liquors, located across the street from the Federal Building in an oppressively ugly structure long since demolished — for once, rightfully.
Package stores of Scoreboard’s socioeconomic ilk remain an ongoing psychological experiment. During my tenure, insights into the human condition were plentiful, and sometimes fairly hard to stomach.
It was my introduction to good beer, and we did a fairly good trade in imports, given their obscurity and the fact that whenever I wasn’t on site to explain what they were, consumer requests generally were greeted with a sneer by Duck, the manager.
“Huh? I don’t drink that shit.”
The year’s runner-up at Number Two came on January 25. Truth-telling isn’t always easy; it took far too much effort on my part to interest the newspaper in this story, so most of what we know was disseminated right here.
In early 2017, Gahan seized control of New Albany Public Housing, firing NAHA’s longtime director and packing its board with a collection of shameless, kowtowing lickspittles unparalleled in venality even by New Albany’s subterranean standards.
Gahan appointed his flagrantly unqualified campaign fund bag man David Duggins to one of the city’s top-paying positions as NAHA disheveler-in-chief, and Duggins missed very few opportunities to remind us what a dreadful idea his appointment was in the first place, as when he emerged from a board meeting in January of 2018 and threatened a NAHA resident with an impromptu disciplinary tasering.
The ruling caste predictably laughed it off — Davey, well, he’s OUR boy — but of course had the same NAHA resident “joked” about shooting or tasing Duggins, he likely wouldn’t have emerged from the meeting room uninjured.
Our city hall C-students — almost all of them white, male and insular graduates of New Albany High School — seem unable to grasp that only with disproportionate power comes the “right” to say it was all a joke, and make no mistake: Duggins’ threats were about power. So was Gahan’s hostile takeover of public housing.
People? They’re just in the way.
Jeff Gahan owned this predicament when it occurred, and he still does. Duggins has been empowered for far too long, and after he made a fool of himself and exposed the intellectual vacancy of Gahanism in the process, his power actually increased.
This made me sick then, it makes me sick now, and it should make readers sick, too. Duggins should have been fired on the spot, and still should be — before someone gets hurt.
It should come as no surprise that my commentary about a new luxury city hall for “inhumanely” treated city workers was Number One, and the most-read ON THE AVENUES of 2018 (June 12).
Whenever Gahan, a presumed Democrat, pontificates about the Reisz Mahal project being “a move to protect our history,” I sadly recall the fate of Haughey’s Place and so many other remnants of the city’s past, buildings that might have been adaptively re-used, but didn’t meet the threshold of narcissistic grandiloquence demanded by the mayor’s ethics-free selective reasoning and laughably elevated self-image.
In a city more allergic to irony than pollen or ragweed, Gahan’s newfound tender concern for the historical imperatives of the Reisz building is profoundly ironic, too. Do you recall those two words, “dilapidated” and “neglect”?
They’re not mine.
Rather, they come straight from Dear Leader’s mouth, via the medium of Mike Hall, the Shadow Mayor & Big Word Interpreter & Imperial Court Food Taster, and they serve as the convenient excuse for Gahan to don his Halloween leftover Superman outfit and rescue this pathetically abused historic building from the scandalous clutches of its shirker owner, who after all, has allowed it to deteriorate to the current juncture of high urgency.
Except the neglectful “villain” in this instance has been remunerated far above market value for his stubbornness. The redevelopment commission surreptitiously gifted the Reisz’s purchase price of $390,000 to the city’s preferred contractor Denton Floyd — by sheer coincidence a firm frequently contributing to Gahan’s campaign war chest — which duly passed the money to the Reisz building’s owner, who as Gahan himself concedes, rendered it dilapidated in the first place.
In consequence-free Nawbany, the words “miraculous government-enabled windfall bailout” spring immediately to mind.
Eagerly abetting Gahan’s desire to erect a lasting memorial to his shimmering and saintly benevolence is councilman David “Tunnel Vision” Barksdale, a thoroughly camouflaged Republican and prominent historic preservationist, who has let it be known that the Reisz building is so very important to the city that no cost is too great to “save” it.
To summarize, for at least thirty years the structure has rotted, but only now, with a crucial municipal election coming in 2019, does time suddenly become of the essence. The decision about Reisz must be made right away, with as little transparent public debate as possible, or else the city’s forward progress will be halted dead in its tracks.
And people still wonder why I’m cynical.