ON THE AVENUES: Dear Neighbor: If you’re tired of the same old story, turn some pages.


ON THE AVENUES: Dear Neighbor: If you’re tired of the same old story, turn some pages*

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Dear neighbor,

Some of you know me, and others don’t, so please allow me to introduce myself.

I’m Roger, and I’m running for mayor of New Albany as an independent candidate, although throughout my life, I’ve voted with the Democratic Party the vast majority of the time.

Seeing that it’s perfectly natural for you to ask me what has changed, I intend to explain it as honestly as I can, but first there is the other side of the aisle to consider.

While political party affiliation is not a perfect indicator of local voting patterns (I support non-partisan local elections, anyway), it provides a reasonable anchor for guesswork, and as such, most New Albanians who identify with the Republican Party – or self-identify as “conservative” – probably will be voting for Kevin Zurschmiede this fall.

Consequently, if you live near me in the 3rd council district and have declared your support for Kevin, I understand completely. Carry on; smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.

At the same time, what I have to say might be of interest to you, too.

In 2003, my wife Diana and I bought our house at 1117 E. Spring Street. Like homeowners all across the city, we began investing time and money in our home, property and neighborhood.

In 2009, as the part-owner of a restaurant and brewery business, I took the concept of “skin in the game” a step further, and NABC chose downtown New Albany as the place to invest in its second location.

It should suffice to say we’re invested, and heavily so. You may have heard that I’m selling my share of NABC to my business partners, but I’m not going anywhere, and the company will be part of the community for many years to come. I’ll continue to think globally and drink locally.

Almost from the start, Diana and I began attending meetings of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association. The topics of conversation back then mostly had to do with how a relative handful of local activists could overcome systemic inertia and reverse the long-term neglect, and subsequent devaluation, of what once had been a vibrant residential neighborhood.

At monthly meetings from 2003 forward, the culprits were discussed, among them high-speed, one-way arterial streets slicing through populated areas; the city’s maddening inconsistency in enforcing its own ordinances; the complete absence of rental property registration and inspection; and the social disengagement caused by these necessary fundamentals being neither addressed nor understood by the dysfunctional leadership caste.

In fact, the very first mention of rental properties at my NAC blog, coming just a few months after it began, was in this article: Startling fact: 50% of drug labs are found on rental property.

Fast forwarding to the most recent ESNA meeting I attended in August of 2015, a full 12 years after the first, and what were the primary topics of conversation?

That’s right. The very same ones.

One-way streets remain fast, unsafe and a drag on property values. Code enforcement still is a coin flip, and slumlords as yet remain free to behave as they please, without any semblance of regulation.

Is George W. Bush still President, too? Has Grenada surrendered? Do we have a polio vaccine yet?

A space alien might be forgiven for speculating whether this chronic inactivity – an unabated 12-year period of utterly miserable nothingness – might be the result of two-party gridlock, or maybe a paucity of civic funding.

Sadly, we know better. Here is the breakdown of executive and legislative office holders in the city for the periods in question, by political party.

Democratic mayor, eight Democratic council members (including Jeff Gahan), one Republican.

Democratic mayor, eight Democratic council members (including Jeff Gahan), one Republican.

Democratic mayor (Jeff Gahan), seven Democratic council members, one Republican and one independent.

As for municipal finances, budgets were in the annual range of $13 million when we bought our house in 2003. In 2016, the budget has doubled, coming in at around $26 million. That’s a lot of money.

But streets still are one-way.
And ordinances still are ignored.
The slumlords? They laugh.

There can be only one reasonable conclusion: Democrats want it this way. Consequently, it is time to realize that pulling the same voting lever over and over again in the hope of a different outcome is insane.

Time and again, the neighborhood has supported Democrats.

Time and again, Democrats have not supported the neighborhood.

This must stop, and I’m asking for your support to help make it stop.

I’ll add this one addendum. For what it’s worth, and speaking only for myself, my votes in the forthcoming election will go to those city council candidates who have publicly advocated for two way streets.

First-time Republican at-large candidate Al Knable is one, along with Democratic incumbents John Gonder (at large) and Greg Phipps (my own 3rd district).

Yes, at times I’ve been disappointed with both Gonder and Phipps. However, I believe they’ve been sullied and bullied by Jeff Gahan’s egotistical toxicity and the formless intellectual vacancy of the reigning Democratic Party leadership, and are deserving of another chance and another dance with a mayor who, at long last, actually “gets it,” which I do.

For those New Albany residents reading today who don’t live in our neighborhood, just take a page from Ronald Reagan’s notebook and ask the question.

Is YOUR neighborhood better off today than it was in 2002?

In addition to the factors mentioned here, is the storm water draining? Does your snow get plowed? How’s traffic?

Let’s face it: New Albany isn’t a big place. Much of it fits between the Knobs, I-265, the Ohio River and Silver Creek, and these landmarks are only a few miles apart. All of our neighborhoods are fairly close together, and all of them would benefit from getting the fundamentals right.

But to be done right, fundamentals must be every day, not every now and then. Jeff Gahan’s term as mayor has been about purchasing bright, shiny objects with property taxes yet to be paid by your grandchildren, and hoping you don’t notice the ongoing problems.

Actually, the city isn’t cleaner. The city is living on what amounts to credit cards. And there’s nothing fundamentally “better” about any of this.

It isn’t the East Spring Street neighborhood alone. It’s all of us.

I’m running for mayor as an independent because the Democratic Party has failed the city’s neighborhoods.

We need to stop rewarding failure, and I’d appreciate your support.



* RIP, Gary Richrath

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