Council to meet tonight; Cappuccino expected to propose West Endia wall, to be constructed from yard waste and “antiques.”

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Timed perfectly to coincide with the summer season’s first lengthy heat wave, there’ll be a city council meeting tonight.

Bring a lawn chair, sunscreen and spiked lemonade to the third floor conference room. At some point later today, the agenda will be found here.

With budgetary discussions under way and the city set to receive $3 million from the closing of the jail bond, competition for the one-time spoils stands to be intense and unrelenting.

Under the general principle of combining two or more wrongs to make a purported “right” – and to forestall the feared electoral consequences of being responsible for further sewer rate hikes – one body of council opinion advocates using the entire lump sum from the jail bond to “pay back” the sewer utility for money previously leeched from it for years untold in order to support other city services.

Fortunately, this certifiably insane proposal seems to have lost its legs in recent weeks as the inevitability of sewer rate hikes has become increasingly obvious … but with the Gang of Four practicing the voodoo that they do so well, virtually anything is possible.

Sewer board pushes 19% rate hike; Councilman predicts passage, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

To pay for a host of improvements to New Albany’s unreliable sewer system, the utility’s governing board is recommending a 19 percent increase in user fees.

The increase would begin in October, 2006, and be incrementally phased in through 2009.

In other matters pertaining to hot-summer, hot-button issues, City Hall chose Tuesday’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting to speak publicly about trash, garbage, yard waste and their indiscriminate dumping throughout the city limits.

New trash truck proposed; City official: Residents must be responsible for dumping (also written by Tribune reporter Campbell).

Some residents have recently complained of piles of garbage that go untouched for weeks. In a planned statement at the end of Tuesday’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, (city operations director Tony) Toran emphasized the importance of residents’ responsibilities to set the right amount of garbage in the right place.

“People are being irresponsible with the items they’re placing out,” Toran said. “I don’t know how people think they can set out everything but the kitchen sink.”

Those residents — and those who dump garbage in public places anonymously — are being cited for code violations, “but there’s only one of Miss Badger,” Toran said, referring to code enforcement officer Pam Badger.

Toran noted other obvious problems, including “too-small fines for violators, between $25 and $100,” and added: “We need to start dragging some of these people in and making them accountable.”

Absolutely, and yet apparently no specific mention was made of the pestiferous local absentee slumlord population, which remains shielded from scrutiny by New Albany’s landmark Slumlord Protection Program.

The question remains:

In a city that has systematically institutionalized non-compliance over a period of decades, exactly how does one go about re-emphasizing accountability while continuing to lack the legal and enforcement mechanisms to encourage cooperation?

Not to mention the political will, which is as abundant in New Albany any time of the year as snowballs are in Death Valley in July.

It is fitting and proper to recognize the role of individual responsibility, and to provide information so that those among us naturally inclined toward responsibility will know what to do with trash, and when and how to do it.

But the law abiding are precisely that, and they were predominantly law abiding long before this issue arose.

The initiatives and explanations offered by City Hall on Tuesday are appreciated, if for no other reason than providing much needed, publicly stated evidence that local government acknowledges the existence of a problem.

Unfortunately, there remains not a scintilla of proof that New Albany’s governmental hierarchy, both elected and appointed, and both Democrat and Republican, is prepared to examine the fundamental, underlying issues that are most important as downtown New Albany’s neighborhoods struggle for renewal.

Education? Yes. Another garbage truck? Of course.

Sufficient resources and legal staff to collect fees and penalties? Code and ordinance enforcement, and rental property inspections with genuine teeth? The periodic use of one’s political position as bully pulpit to articulate and reinforce these themes? A recognition that passivity can never lead to regeneration?

Required.

There’s a few million dollars coming this way … how might the greenbacks be used for maximum benefit to the community?

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