ON THE AVENUES: Dan Coffey speaks for Jeff Gahan and the Democratic Party … unless they say otherwise.


ON THE AVENUES: Dan Coffey speaks for Jeff Gahan and the Democratic Party … unless they say otherwise.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

For many New Albany residents, the WAVE 3 video of 1st district councilman Dan Coffey’s antics during Monday’s prayer – I mean, council – meeting, during which Coffey made intemperate and homophobic remarks, then denied them even as he was chased down the stairs by the reporter, have proven shocking.

In sad fact, they’re the time-tested norm.

Many of these same residents promptly took to social media, asking why the Floyd County Democratic Party and our incumbent mayor, Jeff Gahan, for whom Coffey has recently served as unofficial council whip and “fundamentally better” enforcer, both have failed to comment on the situation.

You guessed it: Mute Democratic impotence also is the norm hereabouts.

I’ve been describing Coffey’s frequent outbursts at NA Confidential for a very long time. His career in playacting at public service has been an embarrassment to his party and the city in myriad ways since before I even began attending meetings in 2004, but there is “Something Different” about the most recent episode of the Wizard of Westside’s frothing at the mouth.

It was captured on video.

But there’s a twist, because I think Coffey planned it that way.


That’s how much he hates gays, lesbians and transvestites.

It’s worth remembering that Joe Stalin attended seminary school before embarking on his stellar career of thuggery and mayhem, and in like fashion, Dan Coffey’s belated discovery of prayer has not been meant to bring him a step closer to a ragpicker’s sainthood.

Rather, it has been a convenient means to an end. It’s been about inciting and assembling an angry mob – like the crowd of angry “Christians” who gathered a few meetings back to learn who was taking their cherished rituals away – which can be called back to the podium when needed.

Of course, in this case, it’s been about three years since council protocol changed, with nary a peep from Coffey. He didn’t care an iota about the Lord’s Prayer, not then or now; it merely was another chit to be safeguarded whilst nursing his elderly white man’s panoply of grudges, at least until the right cue came along.

Coffey got his chance when the council resolved to denounce the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Astronauts on orbiting space stations could see him salivate in anticipation.

You see, the gays, lesbians and transvestites had taken it a step too far … and it was time to declare Coffey Jihad Time by paying them back with the resumption of invocations.

True enough, only Sigmund Freud himself might be able to establish the Coffey-concocted connection between prayer and sexual orientation, but if Freud were reincarnated and attended a council meeting, Coffey would start prattling on about the Jews taking over.

And a majority of his colleagues wouldn’t say a damned single word about it.

That’s because Coffey is accustomed to saying and doing as he pleases; after all, he’s a Democrat, and generations of council presidents have been Democrats, too, and none of them have ever tried very hard to discipline Coffey.

Current president Pat McLaughlin treats his gavel as though it had only recently been dipped in Ebola jam, and he cannot so much as use the restroom until the Gahan gives him a signal via earbuds. Coffey’s been bullying his cohorts for years. He knew the cameras were there, knew he could do as he pleased, and knew he’d not be censured for it.

That’s how enduringly tone-deaf Gahan and the Democratic Party have become.

Yes, Dan Coffey’s behavior is routinely despicable, but the Democratic Party persists in enabling him. With few ethical principles of their own to promote, local Democrats jokingly handle their “Coffey problem” by siding with Lyndon Baines Johnson’s preferred method of dealing with J. Edgar Hoover:

“Better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than the other way around.”

More importantly, ostensibly “respectable” elements in the party are forever in need of Coffey’s services as sin eater, and to launder their own bile. They won’t say it aloud – but Dan sure will! They believe they can use Coffey, and even if he usually turns the tables and uses THEM, non-democratic Democrats get exactly what they need in the interim.

What’s more, Coffey’s invoice doesn’t go to the Democratic Party. Rather, the entire city pays it, again and again, in a loss of civic reputation … and of remaining a regional backwater.

I’m hoping to be proven wrong, but there’s as much chance of Dan Coffey being censured for his most recent bullying as the aquatic center actually paying for itself.

Way back in 2009, when Coffey physically threatened my colleague and friend Jeff Gillenwater, only one council member, John Gonder, had the intestinal fortitude to suggest that Coffey deserved some form of censure.

The other council members sat and stared at the floor.

I watched them look the other way, ducking and covering, and I’ll watch them do it again, this time, all the while remaining pathetically incapable of grasping why they’re regarded as political laughingstocks by anyone in town who takes the time to observe them in twice monthly repose.

What of Jeff Gahan? Dan Coffey has been Gahan’s loyal, groveling Sancho Panza. Will the mayor emerge from his bunker to reassure the LGBT community that Coffey does not speak for him?

I doubt it. Gahan believes what he reads on the city’s Facebook page, which is updated by a paid contractor, who provides precisely what its client wants to hear. A typical animated Disney feature contains more reality than this.

Coffey’s snarling disregard for the rules of simple human civility is a nasty symptom of the rot within, one that is being left to fester by mayor and council alike. Coffey is a nasty bigot, all right, but far more significantly that this, he’s an apt metaphor for the diseased existence of the local Democratic Party, which now operates purely from a principle of machine monetization.

It’s more Republican than ever before. There’s a lot of censure to go around.

None of it will.

Think of it as the sorrow of New Albany.

Recent columns:

May 28: ON THE AVENUES: The last of the summer beer.

May 21: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: “I Just Want to Know, Can I Park Here Somewhere?”

May 14: ON THE AVENUES: Take this cult of personality and shove it.

May 7: ON THE AVENUES: In Havel I trust.

April 30: ON THE AVENUES: Until philosophers become kings.

April 27: ON THE AVENUES MONDAY SPECIAL: Et tu, Greg Phipps? Or: Anger and the electoral variability of transparency.