ON THE AVENUES: Me? I’m just a crackpot.


ON THE AVENUES: Me? I’m just a crackpot.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

If you’re a one-man band and you need to use the bathroom, the music must stop — for a moment or two.

In the non-working hours I’ve set aside since Tuesday, October 29, I’ve squeezed in visits to two Board of Public Works and Safety meetings, one City Council gathering, and Tuesday night’s Develop New Albany “1st Tuesday” function.

These activities haven’t left me with very much time for two-way proselytizing from door to door, but I’ve had ample face time with the anointed movers and shakers, of whom the notable urban theorist E. Presley presciently commanded, “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

(Shrugging, sips espresso)

I’m fairly serene. If it’s true that we reap what we sow, then I’m doing as much sowing as possible in the hope that the reaping comes along in due time.

All of it seems to be inordinately puzzling to some people. Why? Surely I must be enmeshed in a conspiracy of some sort, except that I’m not.

Nope, it’s just a grassroots chatting-up, and nothing more complicated than a sharing of ideas. In advocating for two-way streets, I’ve been acting alone, for the most part. Obviously, those who’ve taped the two-way emblem to their windows in solidarity comprise a bloc of the like-minded, and so it’s more than just me. But it’s been my money, my time and my energy, at least so far, and while I’d rather be a cog in the progressive machinery – assistance would be very much cherished, folks – being a lone wolf never bothered me much.

No, it isn’t because I’m planning on running for office again.

In fact, I’ve spent far more on materials for the two-way street project (about $150) than I did when running for city council in 2011 ($0.00). The former has garnered maybe 30 fellow travelers, while the latter earned 1,341 votes. My financial priorities might well be skewed.

Two-way street grid advocacy is what the pretend-local newspaper should be doing regularly, apart from a single isolated editorial — one that is appreciated, but typically inadequate. At some point, I’ll tunnel under the paywall and have a look, although the vista is unlikely to surprise anyone.

Two-way street advocacy is what both Develop New Albany and New Albany First should be doing. It is sequenced as part of DNA’s National Main Street program DNA, and it’s also in keeping with NA 1st’s affiliation with AMIBA. Both organizations have expressed informal, non-binding affinity, and members of both have posted emblems, but these organizations both note that surveys of membership must be conducted before any position can be taken, if any is taken at all. Apparently, heeding one’s molecular structure isn’t what it used to be.

Still, I believe that they’ll board the train soon enough, and so it doesn’t really matter when.

It’s pretty much a one man show, and as such, perhaps I’m playing out an unanticipated (and revealing) culmination of nine years’ slogging through the vine-choked tentacles of our battered city’s ruinous New Albany Syndrome, wherein whatever notion that generation upon generation of vision-challenged elected officials cannot imagine, cannot possibly be real, and must be dismissed without a second glance.

Pfui. Traffic studies are bullshit — and so is the New Albany Syndrome. We’re overdue for some wooden stakes and garlic, aren’t we?

I view it as axiomatic that how we get around, and the manner by which our mobility options influence the surroundings, absolutely should not be determined solely by a self-interested engineering caste … but to so much as consider this bit of evolutionary/revolutionary theory requires our elected and appointed officials to stop squirming like elementary school children, wash the rheumy glaze from their eyes, grow a metaphorical pair, and think a little bit.

After all, unused muscles atrophy. It isn’t clear whether the muscles of imagination and abstraction have been exercised in governing circles for generations, extending backwards as far into Bob Caesar’s idealized bicentennial glow as we can bear to contemplate.

Well, it’s never too late, is it?

And, in fact, it’s more than just our governing circles.

It’s asking precisely the same of my fellow independent business owners and operators, which explains my choice of an audience. It’s the place where I’m on a level playing field with peers, and it’s why I’m not making neighborhood concerns the central thrust of the advocacy. I’m asking only that business owners and operators consider exactly what I’ve considered, to peek over the wall of the generally self-imposed “we’ve always done it that way” concessions, and ponder the possibilities afforded by change.

We all work hard, but what if the physical infrastructure of the city itself was arranged to help with our workload, and to support what we’re doing, rather than impede it owing to clearly outmoded imperatives from a time long since passed?

Independent local businesses — not big boxes, not chain stores — have revitalized downtown New Albany all by themselves, with almost no assistance from government, and yet government can still provide assistance by recognizing that shared infrastructure is mutable and capable of adaptation. Eisenhower-era, one-way street grid changes themselves prove the point. They are not carved in stone on an 11th Commandment.

A downtown economic development policy bringing some governmental skin into this game would be nice, too. Why should the industrial park get all the favors?

It comes down to this: If I’m a solo crank and just  crackpot, and no one’s really paying attention, then by all means ignore the two-way message. It won’t hurt my feelings. At the same time, as what I’m saying gradually filters back through the muck, and it seems as though an ear or three might be bended in this direction … well, then I have a flier for you to read.

The NewAlbanist: “Excessive Speed: A Quality of Life Issue”.