Some day Dan Coffey will be a distant political memory. Last night, that day began drawing nearer.


It’s been a long time coming, but last night Doug England declared open season on the city council president’s imagined hegemony.

The Bookseller described the “dramatic mayoral smackdown” in a comment late last evening:

It certainly was planned, it certainly was intended, and it certainly found its mark.

Tonight marked the end of accommodation and the beginning of confrontation. Mr. Coffey will have to spend the next 15 days determining how he wants to respond.

The cold war has become hot, and its about time. While I’m no partisan on this battle, it is about time. And while there may be a third way, it’s time to settle where the weight of political power lies – with England or with Coffey.

On the facts of the night, the weight lies with Coffey, who knocked in the three-pointer for the Cops resolution. But England shows he can apply his own mojo.

Let’s call this halftime. Coffey 54, England 51.

I disagree only as to the score.

England conceded the police funding issue (i.e., the three-point stripe) to Coffey, but scored freely in the paint while doing so, and exploited the council president’s myriad defensive deficiencies.

As an example of what happens when Coffey is pressed full court, consider the words he later snarled, which are sure to infuriate the troglodyte bloc: “I’m not worried about the budget,” adding that the money’s there — an interesting concession, to be sure, considering his previous stances. Does he mean it’s always been there, with Dan Coffey the chosen entity to identify and allocate it? If so, England’s comments showed there are gaping cracks in the Wizard of Westside’s assumptions, and Coffey was noticeably weakened (see “subsidies” below).

To be blunt, Coffey hasn’t faced full-court pressure in a while. He didn’t respond capably to it last night. I’ve always said that if you press him, he’ll commit turnovers. England proved this last night.

Coffey also was put squarely on the defensive when he announced that he’d stepped down from the Planning Commission so that he can heed the demands of his constituents to devote full time to defending them from the terrors of progress, economic development, and “them” people’s demand that everyone be forced to drink beer that tastes like beer.

Coffey asked that a council member take his place at Plan-Com, at which point Diane Benedetti reminded Coffey that he also had relinquished his self-appointed spot on Redevelopment.

“But Kevin (Zurschmiede) is taking that,” said Coffey.

The mayor, by now seated, chimed, “that’s the council’s decision, not the president’s,” and a huffing Coffey sarcastically thanked him for his input, later proclaiming that the question would be resolved “when Stan’s (Robison, absent council attorney) is back.”

We already know the answer, because in this matter, as in so many other arbitrary renderings since Jeff Gahan enabled Coffey’s council “leadership,” Coffey is mistaken. As various councils have proven in the past, “the way we’ve always done it” and the way they’re supposed to do it are two different things, and if the council can’t enforce it’s own ordinances … well, you know the rest.

However, these are trivial debating points compared with the overall impact of England’s tone and aggressiveness, particularly his impassioned defense of economic development and his uncompromising advocacy of stripping EDIT subsidies from the sewers, with similar treatment of other public services.

Like the council before it, this one seems determined to buffer its electoral prospects by squandering economic development monies down the sewer subsidy rathole, and last night, England called its bluff, prompting Coffey to aurally stumble over the history and proper uses of economic development monies — hypocritically, as always, given that he’d already served notice of removing himself from entities upon which he has had no business serving, for the purpose of retiring to his poverty-stricken district for the sole reason of keeping it poor.

This constitutes leadership?

Since all of this was as much about political positioning as the business at hand, it’s worth noting that for Dan Coffey to continue his political “career,” it is his absolute imperative to preserve the status quo in Westendia. Redistricting must be avoided, and so must development projects that would alter the delicate balance of exploitable dysfunction. It is the political equivalent of Dean Smith’s four-corner freeze. Coffey will drain the occasional trey, but his only reliable defense is keeping the score low and the ball in one place: His hands.

Press him hard, and all that barbecued bologna begins to take its toll on poorly conditioned legs — and the self-coaching was inferior from the start.

Naturally the mayor is not without future political considerations, and these opening hands were played last evening.

But the next round of elections affecting both he and Coffey remain months away, and based on the results last night (my card shows England up 49-46 at the half), it is abundantly clear that England has more to offer the city than Coffey — assuming he’s willing to continue attacking the basket. If England persists in this vein, he can do more good for New Albany in the next year than Coffey might in twenty, because Coffey cannot do good for the city without harming his own political prospects.

Understand that, and it all makes sense.

By evening’s end, Coffey was reduced to verbally attacking a citizen for failing to heed his earlier warnings about proper speaking protocol, and the citizen responded by reminding Coffey that the council president had already freely contradicted his own rules via extended speaking times. It was another pathetic stab at a power trip on Coffey’s part, one that serves to remind us that the council president’s effectiveness depends on him hogging the ball.

But last night, the ball wasn’t in his hands very long, and if you’re rooting for the Wizard, it wasn’t pretty at all, because the clock has started ticking toward end game.

Bring on the pompon girls. And some beer.