Today’s Tribune column: “Dear Pat.”


Here’s the purported link to the Tribune’s web posting of my column today. Good luck trying to make it work, or figuring out why, yesterday, the name of a recently deceased person was included as part of the opinion columnists’ roster.

As I write, the tab is spinning merrily and telling me the Tribune web page that won’t even load is, in fact, very busy, and may try to cause problems if I shut it down!

More problems than there already are? That’s hard to imagine. Our city council is a paragon of efficiency by comparison.

Anyway … because the newspaper’s web site seldom is functional these days, I’m reprinting my Thursday column right here, in a space that actually works.


By ROGER BAYLOR, Local Columnist

“I can’t help but wonder if we’ve made a mistake in settling down in New Albany. This place is nuts.”

Dear Pat,

The words quoted above are real. I didn’t make them up. They were spoken to me by a friend who wasn’t raised here, like you and I were, you in the city, and me in the county.

Perhaps neither of us is able to see the counter-productive political dysfunction holding sway hereabouts quite as clearly as someone who views our home turf with clear, unprejudiced eyes – the type of person far too many natives persist in dismissing and deriding as an “outsider.”

Pat, we don’t know each other that well, and during the time since you were elected to represent the 4th council district, we’ve had a few heated debates over politics, policy and public affairs. Let’s forget those. The reason why I’m writing you today is because of my friend, who came here from somewhere else because he and his wife believe in our city’s largely untapped potential. In spite of our differences, Pat, it’s always been my view that at some level, you genuinely “get it.”

As such, what are we to tell my friend – tell him, and her, and “them people,” as your caterwauling council colleague Dan Coffey has oft times referred to anyone who is educated, artistic, productive and capable? Are we to follow Coffey’s lead and turn away the new blood – the sort of people that any community needs to build, grow and prosper – or shall we harness, integrate and welcome them to a city that values their presence and benefits from their labors?

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, Pat. It isn’t about newcomers alone. It’s also about those who already live here — most importantly, about their children. It’s a cliché, but children are the city’s hope and its future. In the past, our best and brightest tended to leave town, because we couldn’t offer the sort of economic, cultural and lifestyle opportunities they regarded as necessary to stay. This needs to change, and in some respects, it has.

Surely we can agree: When it comes to education and educational opportunities, that selfishness, resentment and spite have no conceivable place in the discussion.

And yet, Pat, since you’ve served on the city council, can unbiased, neutral observers reach any other conclusion than this one:

New Albany’s city council, as permitted by its members to be dominated by a regressive, anti-intellectual faction led by Dan Coffey and abetted by Steve Price, has consistently stood against education, and educational attainment, and sustainable economic development flowing as a natural consequence of education?

I’m trying earnestly not to exaggerate the Coffey-led council’s anti-educational bias, which in practice might better be referred to as an aversion to human progress in virtually any quantifiable form, except you and I both know the malignancy is there, and profoundly damaging.

My question to you, Pat: If you know better, and I think you do, then why, at this late juncture, is your name so closely linked politically with theirs?

Consider last week’s tragicomic school closings. If ever there were a time for this pointlessly fractured, hopelessly divided council (and that’s just the eight strong Democratic contingent) to come together, call a special town hall meeting, posture, grandstand, point fingers and squawk, this was it: Neighborhood schools being closed in three downtown council districts, hampering if not outright crippling revitalization prospects and economic development for decades to come.

Predictably, none of it occurred. As a body, the council was silent, and the only way to explain its timidity is outright malice on the part of its movers and shakers. City Hall came out forcefully against the school closings, and almost certainly, that’s why the Coffey-Price “let’s pretend to be Democrats and hope that we all fail” faction refrained from comment.

That they fail as individuals to see any value in progress merely seals the deal on their crass political absenteeism. Either way, it’s another black eye for a city already ill disposed toward insight.

Understood: Times are hard. The business climate is tough, and yet quite a few people, many of them from elsewhere, have invested in downtown New Albany. To cite one example, the new State Street branch of Wick’s Pizza has been its best performing store in metro Louisville. Wick’s is situated in Coffey’s council district, and yet he hasn’t missed an opportunity to speak and act against such development, to bad-mouth entrepreneurs, and to urge future investors to stay away from New Albany.

Pat, is this really leadership?

(No, Roger, it isn’t.)

I know you believe that. I know you’re better than that. I know you have what it takes to lead. But Pat, here’s what bothers me.

Why do you tolerate it, and why do you persist in voting with Coffey and Price?

Sorry, no; you can’t explain it by saying that the issues upon which you’re been marching lockstep with the council’s ward heeling looters — sewer rate votes, audit envy, public safety and dollar-and-cents issues — are somehow different in nature from the spiteful, repugnant, self-debilitating attitude toward the city’s future displayed by these same congenital “no” voters. The non-governing principles prefacing book burning and tea parties are exactly the same.

Pat, it’s eloquently simple even though it’s excruciatingly hard.

When the time finally comes for last call – not a quick pint before the trip home from the warm pub on a cold, desperate and anonymous night just like all the rest, but the punching of the big ticket and the cosmic bow prior to that most irrevocable of all curtains falling, how will posterity judge your political legacy?

Was it progressive or regressive?

Was it Dan Coffey’s legacy … or yours?

Roger’s legacy is clear: He was that pain-in-the-rump beer guy. Read more at the NA Confidential blog: