I’m running for mayor of New Albany as an independent candidate in order to provide voters with a choice. It’s as simple as that. It is my core conviction that locally, we have a two-party system standing for very little in terms of coherent platform principle, apart from doing whatever is necessary to preserve its shared monopoly of power.
Republicans have the county, Democrats the city. For decades, the Democratic Party machine has remained pre-eminent in New Albany, with long-serving politicians like Jeff Gahan burrowed deeply within this apparatus of patronage and control, and yet almost everything positive accomplished in New Albany during the recent era of revival has come in spite of the party machine, not because of it.
It is exhausting to always wrestle progress from the cold, dead hands of big fish in small ponds, and yet each step of the way, it’s been the default mechanism in New Albany.
Many of us are sick of this, and it must change.
I truly believe there are alternatives to the same tired civic rituals, practiced by the usual underachieving political suspects, and which come down to three priorities. If aggressively implemented, I contend they can tie this community together and help New Albany achieve its potential.
Here are seven Baylor for Mayor platform planks.
Honesty in government
Local economy first
Democracy & social justice
Two way streets NOW
They’re inter-related, which points to something important: When government acts, it should try whenever possible to connect these actions to best achieve multiple positive results, which reinforce each other. Doing so is the best use of money and time, and it doesn’t take a business person to know it. You do it in your own homes and workplaces.
City Hall can do it, too … and we will.
Honesty in government
This is job one. Jeff Gahan’s City Hall has been the least transparent in recent memory, and the consequences have been crippling. Daily information has been safeguarded like crown jewels, and far too many decisions have been taken by appointed boards, rather than elected officials. Public input has been rendered inert, either by calculated infrequency (the aquatic center and accompanying $20 million parks bond, and the Coyle site giveaway) or sheer organizational ineptitude (the three Speck meetings). It does not help that public meetings (Board of Works, Redevelopment) dealing with important decisions are held at inconvenient times for working people, and that we do not harness widely available electronic mediums to film and disseminate them.
Consequently, in the interests of greater transparency, I’ll dedicate the necessary resources to ensure robust two-way communications and conversations between the city and its citizens. My aim is equal governance and a level playing field, and so I will promote transparency every single day at City Hall, not every now and then. Finally, I will commence a deep cleansing of management level personnel in City Hall. New thinking is needed to stimulate the “same old, same old” management culture, which is in-bred and unresponsive. We’ll take applications, interview candidates, and find new talent, because our city employees already work hard. They need bosses who work smart.
I support a sane, sustainable budget, something that is not currently being provided by Democrats, and which is not to be considered an exclusive province of the GOP. I will not sacrifice long-term budgetary sustainability for short-term glitz and glitter. On the one hand, Gahan’s astronomical bonded debt will be with us for decades to come, placing an ever greater strain on his illusory budgets. On the other, a Zurschmiede administration’s budgetary model would be that of Republicans in Floyd County government: Starvation rations, bread made from sawdust and the occasional corn husk. Disneyland versus North Korea? These are not the only two choices. It’s going to take an independent candidate like me to find truth between the extremes – and I will, because our real infrastructure needs will require investment.
Maintaining the city’s public infrastructure and effectively utilizing our physical assets isn’t sexy. It’s essential, and it’s also about every single day, not every now and then. Like much of America, New Albany has neglected these fundamental needs, and yet they are the conditions that matter most right where you live. Everything else we do as a city extends from strong fundamental physical infrastructure: Streets, sidewalks, sewers, storm water and many more similar functions, big and small. These tasks comprise the city’s bones and blood.
Two-way streets are the perfect illustration: Speck them to spec, and watch as street design and expanded walkability support and enhance other measures already aimed at bolstering neighborhood revitalization, property values and independent business success – rather than actively work against them in a cloud of semi-trailer fumes and vehicular speed. It is my contention that quality of life cannot be imposed from the top down, but must rise from the grassroots up. Without better infrastructure management, this is not possible. We’ll analyze these areas from the ground up, and plan for success by design – every day, not every now and then.
Equal governance and level playing fields cannot be attained without consistent and principled ordinance enforcement, as applied professionally and separated from petty politics. To cite just one example, the city of New Albany still does not have a rental property registration and inspection program in the year 2015.
Here is another: Parking ordinances are enforced in some places and not others – and no one knows where the non-enforcement line is drawn. On one block, blocking the notoriously inefficient street sweeper earns you a ticket. On the next, cars are parked on the sidewalk as we look the other way. It is hypocrisy to have laws and selectively enforce them, and it is lunacy to have no laws at all covering basic human habitation of living space. It’s time to begin moving toward a government of law, not variable political whim, and it is sad that we’ve waited this long to even start.
Local economy first
There is a “boilerplate” arsenal of economic development incentives, abatements and secret handshakes that seldom if ever apply to small, local, independent business operators, builders and developers, who have been the engine of growth in New Albany at a time when old-line companies like Pillsbury are departing, and the existence of River Ridge in Clark County is making it harder to replace them. As mayor, I will put New Albany first by nurturing grassroots economic development initiatives, and spreading risks and rewards, because I believe that economic development begins right here at home, with the empowerment of our own people and a level playing field for independent local businesses.
Locally-owned businesses activity encourage recirculation and a multiplier effect, wherein more money spent locally stays in the local economy, and for a longer period. I think we can position ourselves to thrive in the changing regional economy by exploiting market niches, but it will require thinking outside self-imposed boxes, and investing in economic development by fundamentally improving our infrastructure, not building plaque-ready water parks and pandering. It’s about priorities, after all.
Democracy & social justice
Human rights are a non-negotiable mandate, whether Dan Coffey thinks so or not. Respect for human rights and freedoms, democratic principles and social justice must start with the city’s employees and appointees, who must be accountable to the very highest standards in protecting and defending the civil rights of every person in this city. City Hall also must do what it can to be cognizant of institutional racism, discrimination, poverty, income inequality, homelessness and other social issues. We cannot pretend these problems don’t exist here, and I will not pretend to have all the answers. What I can promise to do is listen long and hard, and act on what I hear. It’s about starting a dialogue, and since the two major political parties have refrained from doing so, an independent mayor will get it done.
Two way streets NOW
Gahan’s bizarre fear and timidity aside, the arguments have been made, the overwhelming fact-based evidence presented, and the case effectively closed. There is no reason whatever not to implement the Speck downtown street network proposal in its entirety at the first opportunity, toward which purpose the use of TIF bonds actually would be a fitting and proper exercise, as two-way streets would increase safety, decrease crime, and directly assist in the revitalization and quality of life of a downtown area of approximately 120 square blocks, while not impeding reasonable use of these streets by commercial vehicles.
Once Speck’s directives have been accomplished, we can begin harnessing the same principles to the corridors within the beltway, as incorporating the city’s original suburbs off State Street, Grant Line Road and Charlestown Road. I’m often asked whether I “care” as much about Klerner Lane (as a random example) as downtown. I do. Know that my business meal ticket remains a pizzeria and brewery on Plaza Drive on the north side, and that our development patterns in these areas do not preclude connectivity elsewhere.
Thanks for your support,