Vintage Fire Museum’s Chili Cook-Off is Nov. 14, and city’s economic development plan is … is …


The Vintage Fire Museum soon will be moving to Jeffersonville, but for now it remains New Albanian. In the photo, Curt Peters previews the Museum’s approaching fundraiser for the Board of Works audience earlier this week.

The Vintage Fire Museum’s 5th Annual Chili Cook-Off takes place on Thursday November 14, 2013 from 5:30-8:00 pm. It will be held at the The Grand on 138 E. Market St, New Albany, Indiana.

Following are the Top Three Things we know for sure about the Chili Cookoff.

  1. The museum’s restored 1937 flood-time floating fire truck (above) will be unveiled.
  2. The chili will be good.
  3. The Grand won’t bother with craft beer at the cash bar for the occasion. Does it ever?

Sighhhh … it’s probably time to send Blake to The Grand and explain localism to them (again), but in the meantime, as we wish the best to the Vintage Fire Museum in transitional days to come, it’s worth a reprise of thoughts published here in August.

What’s the plan, and if there’s a plan, how are we to know?

We now know that the Vintage Fire Museum will be moving to Jeffersonville, and that Curt Peters takes the high road (as always) in explaining the museum’s ongoing regional basis while barely mentioning the nifty $500 a year lease making such a move inevitable.

Understandably, museum backers are disappointed. But we also know there are two sides to every story, and we’ve discussed the concept and implications of the fire museum in the past. It was never a panacea for New Albany, to be sure, but could have been a nice addition under favorable circumstances. You know … as part of an overall plan.

Just let me try to explain, very briefly, what strikes me in all of this. It’s not about the fire museum, itself. Primarily, it’s that as various issues like this one come and go, and decisions are made (or not made), it is maddeningly difficult to see any pattern, and if there is one, it is a plan largely undertaken without substantive public input.

Consider the following, listed randomly.

  • The UEA shifts part of its bounty to Quills, but Lancaster’s moves to Clarksville.
  • Taming the Main Street corridor is absolutely vital, but other looming grid necessities downtown (one-way streets impeding revitalization) are placed on the seemingly permanent back burner.
  • Projects already in an advanced state of planning (Slate Run) suddenly look shaky, and for financial reasons.
  • Millions of dollars for two new showpiece parks are declared a priority, but neighborhood pocket parks are not, and there is no consideration as to access for these new parks apart from autos.
  • The riverfront amphitheater remains mostly unused, with all attention on Bicentennial Park.
  • Another Harvest Homecoming almost is here, with no action or discussion with respect to its disruption of downtown revitalization. Why?
  • Nearing the halfway point of the current administration, are there any ideas for downtown housing, parking, pedestrians and bicycles? If so, they’ve not been revealed.
  • There is no currently strategy for coping with the dislocations of the bridges project.

My point is simple: What’s the plan, and if there’s a plan, how are we to know?

In the absence of substantive and sustained transparency, how can any of this be viewed other than as piecemeal and reactive?

Say what you like about Jeffersonville, but at least there seems to be something unified about its current planning direction, something that suggests awareness of challenges and complexities ahead.

Yes, New Albany’s had a nice, non-threatening, Chautauqua-style Bicentennial celebration. Unfortunately, it looks increasingly like a wasted year, one during which too much money is being thrown at too few goals, none of which has yet to involve the public.

Is it too much to ask to have a plan, and for the plan to be shared?