ON THE AVENUES: Tickling the master’s creatures.


ON THE AVENUES: Tickling the master’s creatures.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Earlier this week, the local newspaper reported that Lord Cornwallis has been proven right.

The world has turned upside down, pigs are flying, toaster ovens are reciting Pynchon, and the building commissioner is onto certain code violators like the proverbial stink on genuine, locally ripened farmhouse cheese.

As Grandpa Jones would say, “That’s good!”

And as Archie Campbell would reply, “No, that’s bad!”

In truth, it may be either, or perhaps both. In New Albany, are daily affairs ever what they seem?

New Albany Building Commissioner David Brewer has ordered a rental property at 1308 E. Main St. to be vacated by Sept. 16 because of unsafe conditions.

Brewer made the announcement during a New Albany Building Commission meeting Tuesday, as he said the city will explore options, including razing the structure, which is owned by local businessman Matt McMahan.

The Irish Exit in New Albany and The Levee Bar and Grill in Jeffersonville are owned by McMahan.

The link to the newspaper article is here, assuming Internet surfers dare to risk publisher Bill Hanson’s bottom-line, auto dealerships’ pop-up fetish: Deadline set for vacating New Albany apartment.

In an e-mail yesterday, my blogging partner Jeff almost immediately put my own initial reaction into words.

Anybody know what McMahan did to piss off the City?

Countless other people and structures are worse, with the 8th and Culbertson building being just one example. It was declared out of code and in need of tens of thousands in repairs just to be habitable months before the corner collapsed. They bust McMahan, who has done at least some positive investing, and offer to enrich the other slum lord owner with no penalty. The McMahan house is in a historic district and they want to demolish it. The Culbertson building isn’t and it’s vital to the neighborhood?

These are my sentiments exactly, and while I can hear the accusations of toxicity being loaded along with black powder and grapeshot in the rhetorical muzzleloaders of those local power elites most recently ensconced in the good graces of City Hall’s current occupant, it remains that Jeff’s considerations are valid, and they embrace precisely the sort of questions the newspaper never seems to get around asking of the elites.

So, did Matt McMahan climb to the top of the splendiferous Elsby Building and moon the mayor in full view of downtown shoppers?

Did he refuse to let the deputy mayor run a tab at the Exit?

Does this explain why every time I suggest including the Exit in riverfront catering activities, it is rejected in favor of making sure the New Albany Country Club bar and grill gets the majority of slots, sans any semblance whatever of a fair bidding process?

Has the rot of favoritism become so pervasive that we’ll never be able to believe what we read?

Yep, Matt must have pulled a Roger, because after all, he was given a deadline, and now the city proposes to ignore it by intervening a full two weeks early, ostensibly because for the first time in recorded history, someone’s actually checking back to see what’s been done after an order was given.

That’s good … except that it might be bad, too, and in saying this, I’m not being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. I’m also neither criticizing Brewer, who runs his routes within the constraints of a leash brandished by higher-ups, nor coddling Matt, who can take care of himself.

As you know, NA Confidential has long advocated rule of law and the enforcement of ordinances as two sure means of solidifying the foundation of the city’s urban future, particularly as these pertain to the health and safety of rental property occupants. If the health of Matt’s tenants is threatened by mold, then something obviously must be done, precisely as something needed to be done throughout the city during the long reign of slumlords like the infamous Gregory brothers – and wasn’t, not once, not ever.

And, as I’m sure Matt would agree, he and I have had our differences in the past. Part of the process of our coming to terms was me confessing to being overbearing, and he admitting that if he had things to do over, he’d have done some of them differently. We’ve worked together a time or two, and it’s been fine. If Matt is given a chance and fails it, that’s regrettable, but he’s shown me that he’s willing to learn. Because of this, I believe he deserves that chance, just like anyone else.

My hunch is that Matt’s just another scapegoat, and I’d like to see evidence of other rental property owners being monitored in like fashion, because there’s a pesky 800-lb gorilla perched somewhere in the vicinity of Room 316, and it’s a massive question mark denoting skepticism and doubt: Doubt in the notion of equality, doubt in the sense of how uniformly such ordinances are enforced, doubt in the transparency in the process, and doubts as to whether there is any consistency in it.

When purely political motives can be seen to determine so many other facets of the city’s daily life, how can we be sure that Matt is truly deserving of newfound and meticulous enforcement scrutiny when others continue to boldly fly under the radar?

How can we really be sure that the inequality of cliquishness, rampant cronyism and the calculated (and secretive) backing of winners, from River View down to the Bud Light at Confederate Railroad show, are not factors at work in Matt’s case?

As we have seen, City Hall’s backroom reaction to 8th & Culbertson’s dilapidated status, including its ongoing efforts to seize the assets of the Urban Enterprise Association, stands as a non-transparent benchmark of justified skepticism.

There are 114 days left in which to answer these questions, before the next chapter begins. DM Bagshaw, Jeff Gahan, Thomas Keister and Jack Messer are the candidates running for mayor in our November election, and to each of them, I have only this to say: Will you pledge to disband “local government by unelected cliques”?

It’s the single best step the winner could take to remove past taints, and to help boost New Albany to the next level.