Amid universal nods of resignation, the ‘Bune editorial board botches parks secession opinion.

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Apart from Keith Olbermann and Charles P. Pierce, it’s generally a bad idea to entrust political commentary to career sportwriters. That said, let’s lower ourselves into the abyss of the newspaper editorial board’s opinion on the evolving NA-FC parks split. Their text appears in normal formatting, and my replies as quotes.

OUR OPINION: Plenty of problems to share for parks split

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan’s justification for wanting to form a separate New Albany parks system is legitimate.

Over an eight year period, Floyd County shortchanged the New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department by about $4 million. This summer, the Floyd County Commissioners declined to vote on forming a cumulative capital fund to aid in expenses with the park, though city taxpayers have been footing the additional levy for years.

The reasons for not living up to their end of the bargain have changed numerous times for Floyd County officials. We’ve been told the money had to be used for murder trials, the county didn’t realize the taxes weren’t going to the parks department and even that the state cut the levy rate.

Those aren’t exactly the practices of an entity most would consider partnering with for any matter that has financial implications.

No, they’re not, are they? The ‘Bune’s editorial board clearly understands the magnitude of the county’s serial “deadbeat dad” approach to governance. But you just know it can’t last …

However, the parks situation is much larger than a simple yes or no vote. Jobs, property and future collaboration with the county must be considered by the city before moving ahead with the divide of the parks system. The New Albany council voted 6-3 to do just that Thursday night, but finalizing the move will require one more vote.

Ah, I see. It is “much larger.” What does this mean, and why is it true? Yes, jobs, properties and “future collaborations” (Really? You wanna go out with that guy again after he dined and dashed before the check came due and made you go Dutch Treat?) are considerations, to be sure; as I noted last week, these also were presumed factors in seeking to avid the split of an entire Central European country, and Czechs and Slovaks somehow managed to work them out.

Frankly, Gahan hasn’t been forthcoming with the NA-FC Parks Board about his intentions, at least not in an official capacity. Gahan was one of the few city or county officials who skipped at least one of the joint meetings hosted by the parks board to try to mediate past woes between the entities. Also, no one from the Gahan administration addressed the parks board about the split prior to the measures being placed on the New Albany City Council’s agenda Thursday.

On one hand, county officials never came before the city to announce they wouldn’t be adequately funding the parks department. But the county’s mistake should be a lesson, not a reason to keep the parks board in the dark about what may transpire.

Two things here. First, what is it about the parks in general, and the parks board in particular, that cloaks them in a perpetual above-the-fray holiness, more so than other local administrative entities? Personally I believe parks are very important, but I can see numerous potential models of governance. Since when did this one become sacrosanct, unimpeachable and shielded from scrutiny? In addition, why does Mayor Gahan have a greater responsibility to be loquacious than county government? Gahan gets scalded for non-transparence, but the county’s years of similar mute funding behavior is merely a lesson. What of the parks board’s own non-transparence in conducting its affairs, as when it sought to engineer a state legislature-mandated tax hoarding without notifying the county or the city? Why wasn’t that considered non-transparent?

The parks board oversees several employees, some of whom have served this community for 40 years. Gahan owed an explanation to those volunteer board members — whether they agreed with his choice or not — so they could, in turn, inform parks employees.

Subsequent news items suggest he has done so.

If he believes in the split, he should stand up for it and look parks board members in the eye. Not to mention it’s October, and if there’s going to be a city parks system in place by Jan. 1, there’s a tremendous amount of preparation and planning that will be needed.

Again, why is it that Gahan alone bears the solemn quasi-Old Testament obligation to look parks board members “in the eye”? Were these board members appointed by “god” herself? Why this disproportionate requirement of Gahan, while serial fiscal negligence on the part of county government gets little more than an affectionate butt slap — hey, cool, you’ll do better next eight year stretch, right?

What is the rush? Why not release a plan, get people on board and proceed in 2014. There seem to be too many questions that need answers before the split occurs.

Now I’m confused. The parks split is acceptable, and there are compelling reasons for it? If so, given that the editorial board can see that county government is culpable even if the board shrinks from learning its own lessons from the experience, why tolerate another year of county under-funding guesswork? Why not act swiftly? 

Here are some other questions to consider:

• What would such a divide really mean for the residents of New Albany? Sam Peden Community Park is the city’s largest and most frequented outdoor recreational facility. But the land is owned by the county, so if the split ultimately happens, it will solely be in charge of the park’s upkeep.

After what has taken place in the past, how much do you trust the county to maintain the city’s most sizable park? Floyd County Commissioners President Steve Bush said recently he would not be in favor of selling any of the park land for commercial use, but he’s only one vote.

What if the county decides one day to develop Community Park? New Albany would have very few options to stop the greenspace from being covered with asphalt and residential or commercial buildings if that were to transpire.

New Albanians are grateful the newspaper’s editorial board seems to grasp that when it comes to the future of Community Park, county government can be trusted only as far as I can throw a keg filled with 12% beer. Naturally, the board cites this legitimate mistrust of county government’s ultimate aims as evidence that city residents should live in fear of the bully. Uh, right.

• Also, in a time where taxpayers are calling for condensed government, how will Floyd County and New Albany be affected when footing two parks departments?

New Albany taxpayers have already shouldered the biggest part of the parks funding load, but that won’t change when the split happens. Unless New Albany plans to secede from Floyd County, city taxpayers will still be paying for the bulk of parks operations. New Albany residents will be paying for city parks on their own, as well as taxes that will likely help foot a new and separate county recreation system.

The showdown over this issue has spilled over into other arenas as well. The city and county are now in the midst of a legal battle over planning control of the fringe area, and New Albany declined to merge its 911 dispatch operation with Floyd County. The county is the second-smallest county in the state in terms of land area, so shouldn’t we be coming together to cut out duplicated services and costs?

The Alabama-based N and T parent company eliminated duplication in 2011, didn’t it, and look where THAT got us. But I digress. These bellicose taxpayers presumably are the very same ones who’d be among the first to demand that all parties involved pay their fair share into the parks just like the taxpayers themselves have been doing all along. Would taxpayers genuinely interested in fairness be willing to forgive and forget the county’s serial underpayment of parks monies? Or do we merely fluff taxpayers in a sort of ritualistic abnegation without exploring the nuances of what they’re demanding this week? Sadly, nowadays, yes, but it’s also worth noting that if one is to follow this incredibly tired “duplicated services and costs” to its logical conclusion, we’d have only one government nationwide, obtaining the very best rates for bulk purchasing and distribution … wait, sorry; that’s the socialist bogeyman, isn’t it?

At some point, the city and the county are going to have to cooperate for the good of the residents.

When all is considered, New Albany may have a better chance of garnering a new outdoor pool and a Little League facility on its own. But such a big move as splitting a parks department shouldn’t be rushed into a special meeting with little notice.

Parks are one of the assets companies review before deciding to locate to a community. Just thinking about a warm sunny day in a park with family and friends stirs positive emotions in our minds and souls.

But this whole issue has been anything but warm and fuzzy. It shows incompetence by the county and lack of respect by the Gahan administration for the employees and board members who have served the parks system.

So, why isn’t the editorial board asking the single most obvious question posed by this discussion: How do we compel county government to cooperate? To make this point again: If the newspaper is interested in clarity, mustn’t it explain why a simple, subjective and highly debatable “lack of respect” from Jeff Gahan is to be considered commensurate with a county government so objectively “incompetent” as to fail to honor its side of a money deal not merely for the brief tenure of Gahan’s term, but for a period of years? How are these failures equal, editorial board? And what on earth do warm fuzzies have to do with any of it?

— The News and Tribune editorial board is comprised of Publisher Bill Hanson, Editor Shea Van Hoy and Assistant Editors Chris Morris and Amy Huffman-Branham.

Perhaps it is, but since the managing editor freely acknowledges that 3/4 of this quartet rarely venture out of HQ in Jeffersonville, I believe we know who wrote it, don’t we? And that explains a lot, doesn’t it?

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