Great Unanswered Questions, Volume 1: How many Bicentennial books were sold, and who paid for the ones that didn’t sell?

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Throughout history, mankind has grappled with vexing existential questions.

Does God exist?
What’s the meaning of life?
Why are we here?

Conversely, NA Confidential’s questions are far more down to earth, even if answers to them tend to be just as infuriatingly elusive as the those queries pertaining to the wider cosmos.

From time to time, I’ll be recalling some of these questions. Today, another look at New Albany’s “official” (and Caesar-approved) Bicentennial book, “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge.”

  • How many of the books were sold?
  • Was the Redevelopment Commission loan ever paid back?
  • Why are the Bicentennial Commission financial records not in possession of the city?

Why should the answers to questions like these depend on the identity of the person asking them?

PART I:

January 7, 2014
On the Bicentennial’s Crutchfield seat cushions: How many were sold? Was the loan paid back?

All we really want to know is how well those hired-gun Bicentennial books sold, how many of the 5,000 (!) remain to be sold, and whether Redevelopment’s loan was paid back. We’re fairly gripped with mercenary gala nostalgia just thinking about it.

PART II:

January 5, 2017
Bob Caesar and City Hall still won’t divulge the bicentennial book details, but at least my letter to the newspaper was published, and I’ve got THAT going for me.

In 2013, New Albany city councilman Bob Caesar was chairman of New Albany’s Bicentennial Commission. 800-odd days ago, I asked Caesar for financial records detailing the committee’s activities.

I specifically sought details about the “official” Bicentennial book, “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge.” How was it contracted, published and sold? What is the status of the Redevelopment Commission’s loan, without which the book wouldn’t have been published at all?

Supposedly 5,000 Bicentennial books were published at a cost of $144,000, or $28 per book; to this day, they’re routinely gifted by Mayor Jeff Gahan at ribbon cuttings and public ceremonies. If books remain unsold, how many are there, and where are they being stored? Who paid for them?

At various points, Caesar confirmed publicly that he would make available this information, and in a 2015 e-mail, he conceded the records were in his possession. I’ve been stonewalled ever since.

Earlier in 2016, when I reminded Caesar of his obligation to taxpayers, he told me to file an open records request with City Hall. I did, and was stalled by city attorney Shane Gibson for five months before this answer arrived: “The city does not possess the above referenced items.” Sadly, this isn’t the first time our mayor, his team and his political allies have seen to it that information like this is withheld.

If they’ll willing to go to these lengths to cover up dated Bicentennial financial records, what else is being hidden?

PART III:

March 30, 2017
ON THE AVENUES: Our great and noble leader is here to stay, so let’s break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

… Consider one of Gahan’s chief acolytes, self-important councilman Bob Caesar, who formerly served as nominal Ceaușescu of the Bicentennial Commission.

Most readers are aware of my two-year-long struggle to wrest public Bicentennial Commission financial records, first from Caesar and then the city itself, only to be dismissed with supreme condescension by both.

To repeat: The celebration of New Albany’s two-hundred-year birthday cost several hundred thousand dollars, and was funded in part with taxpayer funds. I’m a citizen of New Albany. Caesar refused to show me the records, and the city attorney Gibson said the city doesn’t have the records to show.

In short: Go peddle your papers, insufferable peasant.

This is amazing, and it should be unacceptable; absolute power corrupts absolutely, and any mayor who takes seriously his obligation to enforce the law shouldn’t allow it.

However, I’m happy to announce that the Green Mouse has obtained these Bicentennial records. Fascinating revelations lie within, and copies currently are in my possession, illustrating plainly that while Caesar and Gibson may not have lied outright, they certainly have acquiesced in a cover-up, and are guilty of consciously subverting the intent of state laws governing freedom of information and public access to records.

This should disturb all of us, and both should be cashiered. If they’ll resort to evasions and subterfuge to obscure Caesar’s handling of relatively paltry Bicentennial funds, just think what they’ll do to obscure the leakage from the many yearly millions going toward feel-good, beautification projects.

And yet … you’re bothered, but only a bit, and not enough to rock the boat, right?

The newspaper doesn’t ask these questions, does it?

In more candid moments, it may seem like smoke and mirrors, but just enough of that magic pixie dust is being spread around to encourage acceptance.

Isn’t it?

And you’re fine with it, aren’t you?

The fact is, if I were to spend 40 more hours of my own time, gratis, to sifting through the records the Politburo has denied exist, in order to show that lots of Bicentennial bucks were hemorrhaged this way and that, often straight to community pillars and/or political party stalwarts who nuzzled up to wet their beaks – as I’m completely confident I could – nothing at all would happen, would it?

They wouldn’t concede error or apologize, would they?

You wouldn’t expect it, would you?

And this is a slight problem, isn’t it?

I’m not ruling anything out, or in. I might take the time to sort through those records, or maybe use those precious hours to drink beer and watch documentaries about tin horn dictatorships the world has known.

But there isn’t much one person alone can do to prevent Jeff Gahan from redesigning New Albany in his own beige image, and as the sainted Bob Knight once implied, if tacky Disney totalitarianism is inevitable, then we might as well escalate plans for a new barroom in order to have somewhere to seek refuge from the sheer indignity of it.

That’s exactly what I’m working to achieve, and when it finally comes to pass, I promise to place portraits of Ceaușescu and Gahan right where they belong, at the entrance to the toilets.

Or better yet, inside them.

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