Campaign Diary, Chapter 1: Municipal governance is about every day, not every now and then.


There were so many City Hall stalwarts at the farmers market yesterday that I thought a plaque to one of them was about to be dedicated.

Soon we’ll probably need to demolish an historical structure to build a pole barn to house them all — the plaques, not the stalwarts.

But it’s good to know that I’m already having a positive effect on the mayor’s race. Jeff Gahan was politicking at the farmers market, and he was not wearing a three-piece suit. Kevin Zurschmiede was shopping, too, and rocking the casual attire. Surely a sartorial revolution is underway … sans culottes.

At least we now can understand the urgency with which Team Gahan pushed through New Albany’s farmers market build-out at 11:59 p.m. on December 31.

Jeff Gahan’s quarter-million dollar farmers market fluff job.

It’s all about keeping up with the Moores, because Jeffersonville has a nice, shiny new structure to house the farmer market there — and as we’ve seen, Team Gahan’s prime (only) re-election strategy in 2015 is to constantly point toward nice, shiny new objects, while taking great care to peel off the price tags first.

Our temporary seasonal events, primarily benefiting agriculturalists who live elsewhere, shall take a back seat to no one’s! Damn the sticker shock — full subsidy ahead!

Consequently, it’s important to make a point, and to keep making it.

Municipal governance is about every day, not every now and then. 

New Albany is a city, and must function as a city to be efficient. We’ve learned that while all areas of the city matter, our overall health is weakened when there’s a hole downtown, in the place where urban density can truly be an economic engine.

New Albany’s independent business community has spearheaded the revitalization of downtown, and done so almost entirely without the usual economic development subsidies and incentives, warded the usual suspects. This is positive news, but there is much more to be done.

The city’s basic infrastructure must promote economic development and quality of life, not work against them.

Walkability, as enhanced by two-way “complete” and calmed streets, and as exhaustively outlined in Jeff Speck’s downtown street network study, would constitute a quantum leap forward for the entirety of the downtown business community to reach the next level, and on a day-in, day-out basis.

This precisely is the value of the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville. It works for its intended purpose every single day. The same would be true of Speck’s street reform plan, when (if ever) implemented in New Albany.

The Speck plan is our Big Four Bridge. Do it now, not later.

Meanwhile, the farmers market, while a valued component, is seasonal and occasional, as are special events like the Bicentennial Park concerts and others requiring street closings, which can both help and hurt downtown independent local businesses.

Team Gahan remains enamored of itself as an all-purpose special events coordinator, and City Hall emphasizes these one-off, temporary events. They make for wonderful plaque erection, but ignore the single most obvious way to help downtown: Walkability, bicycle friendliness … the Speck plan … infrastructure that works every hour of every day, not a few hours here and there.

Municipal governance is about every day, not every now and then. 

The idea is to maintain the infrastructure suited to an active and evolving urban core, keep the economic playing field level, and watch as local independent businesses and creative entities act as their own special events coordinators, from the grassroots, without control from the top. Speck’s principles are designed (that word again) to restore the historic business district as a vibrant and movable feast, on a nightly basis.

Of course, local small-pond politicians don’t like grassroots empowerment of the sort I’m describing here, because it doesn’t allow them to claim credit. Jeff Gahan says we cannot even think about Speck-styled streets for a year and a half.

Gahan’s foot is on the wrong brake.

In delaying, prevaricating and insisting on secretive control, Gahan is damaging the very revival he so enjoys crediting himself for achieving. City Hall shouldn’t be picking winners for political reasons. It should be acting as the grounds crew for infrastructure, and the referee when the match is under way.

Jeff Gahan is supposed to be helping matters, not retarding their progress. There can be only one conclusion.