A Candidate’s Progress (14): Jeff Gahan for Mayor, redux.


Throughout the primary campaign, which will conclude tomorrow on Elector Day, I’ve sought to further an ongoing dialogue about New Albany’s past and its future, much as we’ve been doing since 2004, right here at the NA Confidential blog.

Verily, there is much of importance to be found in past experience, primarily by thoughtfully adapting the time-tested urban experience to modern times, and extending it into the future. At the same time, New Albany’s long tradition of dysfunction remains a disfiguring carbuncle on the torso of the body politic, one to be removed and cast aside.

It comes down to this: If you agree that a council person should use his head, and not jerk his knee, then I’m your man, and I’d appreciate your vote tomorrow.

Rightly or wrongly, the race for mayor is the one we’re all watching. For what it’s worth, I’ve already given my personal endorsement to Jeff Gahan. If I have any single regret during this election cycle, it’s not having arrived at this conclusion earlier than I did.

I’ve nothing whatever “against” Gahan’s opponent, businessman-turned-politician Irv Stumler. He has been gracious and pleasant, and overall, the experience reminds me of the way I felt throughout the Reagan years.

He’d probably be a great neighbor when it comes to grilling steaks, drinking a few beers and listening to the tales of old times. But affability is not the best reason for occupying office, and accordingly, after much deliberation, I find that Gahan is the better choice, for reasons both positive, pertaining to his own personal attributes, and negative, in the sense of the way that Stumler has come to be offered as a contestant in this race.

That’s because for all his good qualities, we mustn’t ever lose sight of the secretive process whereby an erstwhile Republican, Irv Stumler, somehow came to be a Democratic nominee for mayor.

To be honest, it has repulsed me from the start.

Stumler dallied with the Republican Party chair, Dave Matthews, evidently convincing the GOP that he was their best hope, and then abruptly executed a stunning 180-degree pirouette, accepting “The Deal” offered by incumbent Doug England, who evidently feared Stumler as an opponent enough to co-opt him, while at the same time thinking nothing of how such a cynical move made further mockery of a local Democratic Party already in decline owing to a congenital absence of principle.

Thus, overnight, England gifted Stumler with the votes of department heads and various other patronage legacies, and they duly began campaigning for the new boss even while on the clock, while still beholden to the old one. The farce has proceeded without any discernable sense of shame (please don’t insist otherwise, as I’ve witnessed it), adding yet another layer of repugnance to an already offensive “fix-is-in” electoral scenario.

Barely pausing for breath, the three-time mayor then hastened to explain that while he cannot continue as “hizzoner” because he’s getting on in years, and he needs more time with his family – both seemingly plausible reasons – he’d rather, implausibly, serve on the city council, openly implying that council service requires far less time and effort than executive duties, which a first-time office seeker eight years older than England, who hails from the other major political party, would be far better placed to handle than the incumbent himself.

The Deal that brought Stumler across the aisle may have been conducted behind closed doors, but in terms of sheer chutzpah, it is utterly transparent, remarkably artless, and far more indicative of the New Albany Syndrome’s enduring contagion than representative of any sensible solution to the disease.

Speaking personally, I always will like Mayor England. It has been a pleasure to work with him, even if so very much of his appealing platform from four years ago remains unfulfilled, like (to name just two) two-way street conversions and a genuine push to undo slumlord empowerment.

True, a litany of natural disasters, a debilitating inability to see eye to eye with an overwhelmingly “Democratic” council and the oppressive budgetary atmosphere emanating from the state GOP may have acted in concert to clothesline the mayoral agenda.

Still, taken overall, the past three years and four months often have seemed paralyzed by a curious listlessness and perpetually blurred focus – and the buck stops at the mayor’s desk. Maybe after all those years, he just ran out of gas, although the fact that England’s handpicked successor was immediately handed a sizeable check from Neace Enterprises suggests otherwise.

We must vote to undo The Deal, because there comes a time when the idiotically insulting political yard signs all point in the same direction, and now is precisely such a juncture.

To repeat: Jeff Gahan for Mayor.

Gahan is an underdog in an uphill battle against privilege, money and connections, and he’s responded to the challenge with tenacity and tireless campaigning.

Gahan is far younger than Irv Stumler, both chronologically and even more important, generationally, but by the time he’s sworn in as mayor, he’ll have had eight years of valuable council experience. Conversely, Stumler has no experience in elective office, and at 75, he’s even older than the baby boomers. Reagan was two years into his second term before reaching the same age.

Although I’ve no idea how he’s managed it, Gahan goes into tomorrow’s election with support from the Gang of Four’s coterie on one side, and most of the extended NA Confidential family on the other. How he plans on maintaining such bi-partisanship once in office is anybody’s guess, but significantly, he has gotten to this point as his own man, with his own qualifications and his own strengthened message – not merely as the catch-all alternative to Stumler.

I’m voting for Jeff Gahan tomorrow, and I encourage you to do so, too.

While you’re at it, don’t forget Baylor for Progress At-Large, okay?