ON THE AVENUES: The end of an error.


ON THE AVENUES: The end of an error.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

There’ll be a city council meeting held tonight in the usual shabby, metal-chaired, 1960’s-era space on the third floor of the city-county building, itself a flawed monument to muddled thinking during a post-war period spent proving America’s superiority over the Soviet Union by emulating its architectural non-achievements.

Apart from the possibility of a tacked-on, truncated legislative session on December 28, this will be the final regularly scheduled meeting of 2011, and a last hurrah for three departing council seat holders.

New Albany bids adieu (for now, at least) to at-large council person Jack Messer and the 6th district’s Jeff Gahan, both of whom ran for mayor this year. Gahan won the election, and he will assume the executive position immediately after the huge paper mâché toilet about to be erected on Hauss Square ceremoniously flushes at midnight on December 31. Messer’s political future is as yet uncertain, but I wish him well.

Also passing into the city’s remarkably nefarious history books (thanks, Gregg Seidl) is Steve Price, who in theory has represented the 3rd council district for the past eight years. In practice, Price has yodeled plaintively and ineffectually from a rusty camp stool in the corner of the Luddite Bar & Grill as numerous others worked to make New Albany a better place, invested in its future, and did the heavy lifting necessary to bring the city close to within spitting distance of the 21st century.

Indeed, New Albany has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past eight years, and not only was Steve Price perpetually absent from the process, he actively resisted it every step of the way.

Even as our local Democratic Party’s phalanx of unreconstructed Dixiecrats continued to succumb to advancing age and rampant conceptual confusion, it openly adored Price for his heroic stands against modernity. Democratic leaders smiled benignly, bowed in subservience to Heavrinist orthodoxy, and insisted it could be the party both of Barack Obama and Li’l Stevie. However, in the May primary, Greg Phipps toppled the recumbent incumbent with the ease of a weed whacker slicing through unwanted dandelions in a slumlord’s dilapidated backyard.

Little was learned, and no one was saved, but who really cares? Price is gone.

Let’s all flush, shall we?

Yes, and then there are the denizens of Troglodyte Nation, already gathered around their kitchen tables of venerable, cracked linoleum, demanding that the incoming mayor honor his campaign promises to his core constituency of embittered wee ones, or else they’ll … uh, maybe climb atop some discarded phone books and drink more Bud Light, or something like that.

The little people will be disappointed soon enough, seeing as mayor-elect Gahan will have far more important agendas to pursue than Professor Erika’s demand for blood purges, war trials and the public drawing and quartering of certain previously elected (and appointed) officials for past offenses.

Throughout history, revolutionary juggernauts have rolled excitedly into the capital city, aiming to remove every trace of the previous regime, and almost without exception, it soon becomes apparent that without somebody trained to keep the lights on, it gets tiresome trying to read edicts in the dark.

Furthermore, looking back at Gahan’s recently concluded campaign, there’s very little to suggest that populist radicalism is about to seize the levers (in New Albany, the toothpicks) of power. Following is the simple, effective mantra prefacing Gahan’s whopping 64% majority:

In order to become a better community as a whole, we should come together to focus on three major goals: being physically cleaner, financially stronger, and fundamentally better.

V.I. Lenin’s screed it ain’t.

Granted, the primary objects of troglodyte displeasure will be departing (except for the author, of course). New Albany won’t have a deputy mayor to kick around any longer, and there’ll be a new city attorney, with Stan Robison replacing Shane Gibson. Three-term chief executive Doug England is headed into retirement, presumably short-lived, with sufficient time to plot the next astonishing comeback.

There’ll be the usual reshuffling, and improvements in management capability always have the potential to elevate performance, but in the end, 90% or more of those currently on the city’s employment rolls will remain there. For the next four years, in ways great and small, New Albany will be playing much the same hand. As dealers go, how will Mayor Gahan play the game? We’re about to find out.

Speaking as a resident of the 3rd council district, 2011 was a year of supreme, ultimate vindication. We always knew that Price could not survive a primary in which he faced only one opponent. Eight years of Price’s minority rule ended when Phipps took 57% of the vote, and now we can move ahead, toward long overdue representation. I’m feeling all gushy and (lower case) democratic, for once.

In terms of local politics, the forthcoming year should be immensely entertaining, with all those Dixiecrats pretending to be Democrats scrambling with all their declining might to support whatever non-entity the GOP eventually nominates to run against Obama, who’ll lose here big-time in spite of the city’s alleged Democratic majority — even if the sitting Floyd County Republican chieftain, Mr. Matthews, will remain unable to capitalize on these gifts constantly handed to him by the Retrocrats.

Is it Happy Hour yet?