Today’s OSIN column: “Municipal dysfunction sweeping prohibited.”

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BEER MONEY: Municipal dysfunction sweeping prohibited.

By ROGER BAYLOR
Local Columnist

Yesterday was Wednesday, and Wednesday is street sweeping day on our side of the block.

A policeman customarily follows the street sweeper, because cars are not supposed to be parked on the street, where they obstruct the sweeper’s solemn duty to transfer rubbish from the curb into the center of the bicycle lane.

Recently, with the stated intent of promoting businesses (like my own) and sparing shoppers, diners and shop employees the hassle of parking tickets, City Hall publicly announced a moratorium on the enforcement of parking regulations “downtown.”

To my knowledge, downtown as a geographical construct was never specifically defined in this enforcement suspension context. My household belongs to the Midtown Neighborhood Association, and the former Shooter’s tavern on Vincennes Street, only a few blocks away, now calls itself the Uptown.

However, Develop New Albany recently indicated that in the organization’s eyes, a stated organizational mandate to deal exclusively with downtown issues did not preclude it from expanding operations outward, into areas previously not regarded as such, implying that suddenly, we’re all downtowners.

(Applause)

Meanwhile, our residence in Midtown shares a driveway with a dental office. There used to be a day care business next door, and a doctor’s office further down. Big Value is on one corner of the block, opposite an ad agency office. On another corner, there is a funeral home, facing a fire and water damage repair shop. That’s a fair number of businesses for a residential block — and I’m not even counting meth labs.

Yesterday, although I knew the street sweeper was coming, I left my car parked on the street. I wanted to see what would happen.

Leaving the usual pathway of dirt in its wake, the sweeper swerved to avoid my car, and the policeman promptly ticketed me. Moments later, I climbed into the car and drove to my meeting, westbound on Spring Street, where I caught up to the sweeper and the tailing police officer.

Other parked cars were obstructing the sweeper’s progress, but they were not ticketed, presumably because an invisible line of demarcation had been passed, and now the weekly shifting of muck and butts from curb to street was occurring within the “downtown” area, where the moratorium of non-enforcement was in effect to promote businesses.

Or, businesses just like the ones on my block, where the rules against sweeper obstruction are being enforced, or at the very least, where tickets are being written, whether not there is any intent to collect the fines.

I got the ticket, and I’ll pay the fine.

The question: Why should I?

When there is a stated policy of non-enforcement within areas that are only vaguely defined, what is the rationale for enforcement elsewhere?

If the rationale for non-enforcement downtown (whatever that means) is the proximity of businesses, shouldn’t that rationale apply throughout the city?

If downtowners who have serially refused to pay their parking fines for decades announce their evasive intentions on local television, and are not prosecuted immediately, why should I feel any obligation whatsoever to drop my twenty-spot in the slot?

Yet, I do. It’s something in my upbringing. Granted, that’s twenty fewer clams to be deposited with local businesses downtown, but heck, I just consider it a token of my esteem for a New Albanian process so random, convoluted and inexplicable that it nostalgically reminds me of the feudal nonsense prevalent in Old Albania.

Neighborhoods lying in, outside or near downtown, depending on today’s variable definition of downtown, historically have served as laboratories for non-enforcement of a different variety.

Slumlord empowerment blocs and the occasional derelict private dwelling have freely ignored basic codes pertaining to building appearance, sanitation and safety, and pretend-leaders like the soon-to-be-mercifully-retired Steve Price have abetted the shtick.

Nowadays, the city seem to be doing a slightly better job of it, although there always seems to be greater interest in the last resort of demolishing properties allowed to deteriorate through previous non-enforcement regimes. Little time is devoted to filling the holes left behind, but then again, this is New Albany: One thing at a time, please, and you’d best give us five or six years to accomplish it.

Like basic exterior repairs. I’m continually amazed by prominent examples of neglect that go completely unaddressed.

Almost every day, I walk or bike past Williams Plumbing on the northeast corner of E. Spring and 9th. If I’m not mistaken, long ago it was Cora Shrader’s Shoppe, a nicely maintained corner property.

Now it is a scantily maintained, increasingly dilapidated eyesore used exclusively for what amounts to industrial storage. Extreme weather over a period of years has torn hunks of siding away from both sides of the house, exposing the wood. Worse, the company’s big trucks tend to be parked right on Spring Street, consistently impeding the view of motorists approaching southbound on 9th.

Do these trucks get ticketed when they block the street sweeper, or does the invisible, undefined, non-enforcement Green Line come into play?

Is it downtown or midtown?

Lowdown, or down low?

If there is ticketing, does Williams Plumbing pay the tickets?

Can a building crying out for code enforcement scrutiny be any more prominently located than this one, or do the code enforcers just shut their eyes two dozen times a day while driving past it?

If readers can answer any of these questions, they’ll enter a drawing for a $175,000, studio-sized condo overlooking the river … in downtown Tirana, Old Albania. Play your cards right, and the neighborhood Mullah might save you a parking space.

Roger is resisting the temptation to make Potty Police jokes, but he’s weakening. Read more at the NA Confidential blog: www.cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com

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