ON THE AVENUES: When the whip comes down.


ON THE AVENUES:  The fruitless search for adults in county government.  When the whip comes down.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor. 

See Jerod Clapp’s solid News and Tribune piece

The cracks rapidly are turning into fissures, and it’s only a matter of time until the baseless edifice begins crumbling.
Neutral observers from here to Ulan Bator agree that the Floyd County Health Department quite clearly is losing ground, and rapidly, as PourGate 2013 enters its third month.
You’re more likely to uncover an atheist in Dave Matthews’s root cellar than find anyone outside of a lone figure on a Floridian grassy knoll who believes this saga hasn’t brought abject disrepute to Floyd County … but why focus on the obvious major themes when seemingly minor details can be so deliciously instructive?

As you may recall, Dr. Thomas Harris was oh-so-lordly-dismissive when quizzed by Eater Louisville’s Zach Everson about a government actor’s webiquette.

“I’m pretty sure that was an accident,” said Dr. Tom Harris, Floyd County Health Officer, pointing out that the picture was labeled “stock photo.” When told that an NABC Bank Street Brewhouse employee witnessed the photo shoot the Wednesday before it was posted, and asked how many restaurant pics the Floyd County Health Department’s photo archive contained and that Floyd County is 148 square miles, was it really an accident that its most recent website photo was taken in the 10 feet in front of the NABC Bank Street Brewhouse, Dr. Harris said that it was his department’s prerogative to post what it wants on its website.

If this week’s bumbling deletions are any indication, Dr. Tom was mistaken.
On Monday, the FCHD was notified of NABC’s cease and desist demand, with accompanying tort claim notice. By Tuesday afternoon, the department had gotten the message, and it began somewhat belatedly exploring the esoteric nuances of a Word Press blog platform. It was time for the good doctor to put away the leeches and make a date for the modern world, except that it wasn’t quite so easy to be weaned from the patent medicine.
Having resolved to substitute a photo of me for the previous actionable view of the departmental truck parked illegally on the street adjacent to Bank Street Brewhouse, and to drop the E.coli incitement text in favor of dated and disingenuous agitprop, whomever was handed the site keys and password could do no better than add the new photo beneath the old, swap texts, and fail to discern how the heading might be replaced. It was a muddle, even by the department’s messy standards.
A few hours later, the riddle of removing the old photograph finally was solved, with the comic result that the health department now claimed to be protecting the integrity of county-wide food safety from the wiles of that nasty green-clad Communist with the beads in his beard.
In the end, it took two legal documents, three days, multiple web site makeovers and a friendly note from me to the FCHD’s web site host/admin on Wednesday, and the malicious and defamatory photo of the FCHD’s photo finally disappeared. So did the photo of me, one deployed weekly here on my blog as the face of my column.
Actually, I hated bothering the site administrator about it, but after all, as rigorous sticklers for the rule of law and common savior’s etiquette, the FCHD never actually asked my permission to use the photo it cribbed from NAC. I appreciate the admin’s prompt and professional attention to niggling detail.
All that’s left now on the front page of the FCHD web site is the corrected header and the new text, and while it isn’t E.coli, it’s vastly misleading in terms of the department’s creative depiction of its Keystone Kops-like public access “compliance,” which in fact was a masterpiece of sneering evasion, but I guess we need to let them score a point every now and then — just to keep the game interesting. 
With more dust settled, and smoke clearing, let’s be clear about where we stand. 
As county government vacantly wheezed, merrily whistled, rolled puffy eyes and scratched butts in a pre-Camm III stupor, its health department ineptly staged a defamatory “stock photo” and posted it, leaving the photo and E.coli text on a government web site for two full weeks, clearly causing damage to my business, and making just about any rational person ask:
Is anyone in charge here?
In short: Your tax dollars at dork, as opposed to work.
Now the photo finally has been deleted, and yet we’ve yet to the see the apology mandated in NABC’s legal action, although it might constitute a welcome start toward rehabilitating the department’s oft-self-shot feet.
As of yesterday, it’s been two months since the health department operative first appeared in the alley by Bicentennial Park to cite NABC for failure to possess a temporary food service permit that we don’t need to have. Insofar as this error of the department’s judgment is concerned, I’m reasonably confident of it being sorted out sooner rather than later, at higher Indiana state pay grades than either mine or Dr. Harris’s.
So be it. Too much time already has been lost to this foolishness, but perhaps the time has arrived to view the situation in broader focus.
What have we learned about Floyd County government, overall?
Healthblogger may need to instigate a mass narcoleptic prescription before we’re able to tackle that one, although these latest returns … well, they’re not at all encouraging, are they?