Deaf Gahan’s hostile takeover of public housing: Lots of tricks, zero treats — and no representation for residents.


Much to her credit, yesterday afternoon the Democratic state senate candidate Anna Murray became the first visible party member (apart from Jeff Gahan himself) to publicly state a viewpoint on the ongoing public housing putsch.

It was a thoughtful answer to a simple question, made all the more striking by the party’s silence. Here’s an excerpt.

It does seem like the residents’ fears could be assuaged if they knew what was going to happen next after razing, and when that might occur. Perhaps the whole issue could have been thought through a little more from beginning to end before making a decision without knowing what the next steps would be.

As to the procedural aspects, whether the Physical Needs Assessment should have been done, whether HUD policies were or were not violated, whether the firing of Bob Lane was appropriate or strong-arming, I am really not in a position to know the answers to these questions. I was not involved in any of this, and am not an expert in the inner workings of the housing authority.

Two things.

First, in a purported democracy — or whatever other word we’re currently using to describe decision-making in a time of oligarchic trickle-over consolidation — concepts like transparency and fair play actually do matter.

Gahan’s tactics for implementing this remaking of public housing have been secretive, undemocratic and at odds with what local Democrats claim they believe; for them to remain silent is to condone pure malice.

Murray correctly acknowledges that the mechanics of the takeover might be pursued differently, but they haven’t been, and aren’t likely to be so long as Gahan looks in the mirror each morning and sees Glorious Leader smiling back at him.

Methods matter, and Democrats obeying the directive by refusing to discuss the ugliness are entirely complicit in it. The sharper among them are aware of the cognitive dissonance. Apart from this relative minority, we’re forced to conclude that the remainder have always accepted the mythology of public housing as source of all New Albany’s problems. Not only is this hokum, but it’s also not very Democratic of the Democrats.

Second, while none of us understand the inner workings of HUD, the larger issue with Gahan’s public housing power grab and the future of public housing residents is that they quite plainly have been disenfranchised.

To understand this, consider where New Albany’s public housing residents live. The biggest concentration are in District 1; their council unrepresentative is Dan Coffey, a nominal independent.

Smaller pockets are in Districts 2, 3 and 4 — Caesar, Phipps and McLaughlin, respectively; all supposed Democrats and none of whom have had the first public word to say about the destiny of these constituents. Of the three at-large councilman, all Republicans, only Al Knable has ventured a position (broadly in favor of decentralization, with several caveats).

Riverview Terrace is here in my 3rd council district, and originally it was targeted for demolition. When I asked CM Phipps about his stance in a private message, he replied: “Council has no say in such decisions, it’s the Mayor’s decision.” But council also had no say in the aftermath of the 2016 massacre in Orlando, Florida, and this didn’t stop Phipps from authoring a resolution of support for the victims.

(Phipps) offered a non-binding resolution expressing solidarity with the city of Orlando in the wake of the horrible massacre there. The resolution noted support of universal LGBT rights and repudiated violence. It was impeccable, and all eight council representatives in attendance concurred.

Gesture politics from afar apparently are easier than grassroots engagement down the street.

Then there’s Coffey, who in the past has openly asserted that public housing residents don’t enjoy the same rights as citizens as the rest of us.

While you’re chewing on this, note that despite Coffey’s repudiation of the Democratic Party, and his open embrace of Trumpism, he continues to be coddled by Team Gahan and party chairman Dickey — or maybe I have this backwards, and Coffey is coddled by Team Gahan and Dickey precisely because he believes public housing residents aren’t citizens.

The point remains.

Elected council representative from districts in which public housing units are located, three Democrat and one Independent, are abdicating their responsibilities. Ironically, the only one of these four to remain hypocrisy-free is Coffey.

Because the other three are Democrats, and because of what Democrats maintain are their core beliefs about social justice and concern for the working class (90% of public housing residents are employed), it adds up to why Anna Murray, Dan Canon and Liz Watson should inform themselves and provide a semblance of leadership in the vacuum created by Gahan’s megalomania and the local party’s cowardice.

The cognitive dissonance is there, whether or not the local Democratic Party is willing to come to grips with it. Is it going to be a party platform or Gahan’s cult of personality — and why should public housing residents surrender their rights as Americans and be used as pawns while kingpins like Dickey connive?