ON THE AVENUES: Return to sender; decency is such a lonely word … the sounds of silence reign o’er me.


ON THE AVENUES: Return to sender; decency is such a lonely word … the sounds of silence reign o’er me.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I had the craziest dream last night, yes I did.

The Reisz Furniture building had been completed, and amid the governmental extravaganza of a city hall relocation upgrade, there was a new German-style beer hall located on the ground floor.

City Hall was upstairs, accessible by rope ladders, baskets and pulleys, like the Meteora monasteries in Greece. Helicopters kept landing and departing from the roof.

Was I still in Saigon? The bartender in the Hawaiian shirt asked me what I was having.

“A martini,” I answered, “but only if you have Lillet instead of vermouth.”

“That’s completely absurd,” he replied. “You can have any brand of gin you like, but never Lillet in place of vermouth.”

Let me tell you, I was peeved. Whatever happened to the customer always being right?

However, before we could get into an argument, I heard two men talking just outside the open garage door. The furnace inside was blasting, so I took my vodka & tonic with me (it was served in a half-gallon mason jar) and sat on the couch in the warm open air.

The ensuing conversation was very strange, indeed.

“Excuse me, aren’t you a city councilman?”

“That depends on who’s asking. Are you friend or foe?”

“I’m a taxpayer and live in the 3rd district.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll make an exception for you, but let’s not make it a habit. Do you have a question?”

“Yes, I do. As a council representative, what’s your stance on public housing and Mayor Gahan’s hostile takeover?”

“Wait just one minute. You said you were a friend – now all of a sudden you’re changing it. Do I need to call the police? Hopefully they’re not all down at Bono Road with the re-educators.”

“Actually, I’m very serious. I can’t find any record of you stating a point of view for public consumption.”

“Precisely, because city council has no say in such decisions — it’s the mayor’s decision. Yay!”

“That’s strange. My 3rd district councilman said exactly those same words when I asked him. Are you a Disneycrat, too?”

“Heaven knows – I mean, heavens, no. I’m a Republican.”

“Which district do you represent?”

“I’m an at-large council member.”

“What does ‘at-large’ mean?”

“It means that instead of representing the people in one district, I’m supposed to be responsible for representing the whole city.”

“Except public housing residents?”

“Yes. I mean, no. I’ve already told you. The mayor represents them, not the council – and Ben Carson. That’s it; the mayor and Ben Carson.”

“Where does it say that?”

“Well, um … nowhere. Say, wouldn’t you like to talk about historic preservation? If only those NAHA buildings were listed structures, then we could make some keen swaps.”

“No. I’d like to talk about who in the legislative branch is representing public housing residents since the council men – there aren’t any women on the council, right? – in the numbered council districts all say it’s none of their business, even when there are public housing units in their districts.”

“It’s either Kismet, or they’re Democrats. But how about that Romeo Langford; what a great kid. And that Farmers Market – just kicking butt.”

“Maybe, but your council colleague Dan Coffey is fond of telling people that public housing residents aren’t even deserving of representation, so he doesn’t bother with them, and you know this for a fact. You also know that as an at-large council member, you’re supposed to be representing them, and yet you still can’t talk about the public housing takeover? Do they or don’t they deserve representation?”

“I think you’ve pole-vaulted into foe territory, young man. Hey, bartender: can you hail a basket for me? I think there’s an office for me up there somewhere.”

“But weren’t you supportive of Haven House and the Homeless Coalition when they came before council asking for funding? If these people are homeless, they’re non-constituents by definition, right? To be consistent with hands-off, you’d have had to abstain, citing a principled objection that they don’t exist as constituents, and if they do, the mayor’s in charge of them?”

“I’m sorry, but Blair does resolutions, and I have a Tree Bored meeting to attend. Maybe after we’ve harvested a few thousand more board feet and restored a few more old buildings, we’ll have time for affordable housing – but I’m a Republican; we can’t get too pie in the sky or it might disrupt the natural order of historic preservation tax credits — and then what? Bye!”

“Wait – don’t run away! I want to ask you a few questions about the Redevelopment Commission … and aren’t you on Develop New Albany’s board, too? … ”

Jeeebus, nightmares are awful. After all, I seldom drink vodka. Meanwhile, wide awake in Giddy Giddy City, I’ve decided to have one last stab at penetrating DNA’s veil of secrecy – or maybe it is better described as an embarrassment of kitsches?

Following is the e-mail that will be going out to the board, just as soon as I have a beer.

To: Develop New Albany’s board and staff person


You may recall my most recent e-mail, asking for Develop New Albany’s perspective on recurring issues pertaining to the Taco Walk.

Sadly, as with the three (four?) e-mails preceding it, I have not received any sort of reply. I wrote my articles without DNA’s input; not my preference, but gratifyingly, these two posts collected some of the highest page view numbers my humble blog experienced in 2017. It seems the community is very interested in Develop New Albany.

Here are the links with excerpts.

December 29: DNA’s and the newspaper’s masks … or, thoughts occasioned by an excellent essay called “Meet the man who hides behind a mask”

 … The volunteer concluded she wasn’t happy with the way her idea was implemented — cultural appropriation was among the reasons for her decision — and so, working under the assumption the Main Street organization possesses a fundamental sense of decency, she told DNA she’d be taking it back for a future reboot.

Um, nope. Seems the anchor already had been dropped.

DNA wasted no time in sending her packing: Taco Walk belongs to DNA now, and the organization will do with it as it pleases — and don’t bother running to Big Daddy Gahan, because the fix is always in.

And this.

December 31: C’mon, DNA: The time has come. A fact’s a fact. Taco Walk belongs to her. Why not give it back?

 … There is a simple way to resolve the situation.

To begin the New Year on a high note, the truly decent thing for Develop New Albany and Mayor Jeff Gahan to do is to say they’re sorry, both for the cultural appropriation and the intellectual property violation, and to give the Taco Walk back to whom it belongs, although I’m forever mindful of that old Biblical observation about a camel and the eye of the needle.

First this. Then we have the open, above board discussion about cultural appropriation. There is no reason why this cannot be resolved satisfactorily.

Basic human decency, guys. I know you can do it.

It’s not about me or my pen.

It’s about doing the right thing.

I’m planning a letter on this topic to the News and Tribune fairly soon (the absentee Fourth Estate is a whole other story), so please be aware that if there comes a time when DNA elects at long last to speak publicly about this matter – the Taco Walk’s inexcusable cultural appropriation, the subsequent expropriation of another person’s idea, or any sub-topic therein – I’ll happily publish DNA’s thoughts at the blog, standing alone, without any comment on my part.

In other words, please step forward, make the organization’s case and be a part of the dialogue. I wish it were possible to convey to you how much might be accomplished by doing the decent thing in this instance. You could lead by example, but you’re fleeing for the safety of the circled wagons where the mayor pitches his tent.

Can’t you just talk about it openly?

Concurrently, several other requests remain outstanding, so kindly allow me to repeat them. Answers would be appreciated.

First, I’m still curious about the disposition of monthly morning merchant meetings. Are they still being held? If so, I’m no longer receiving e-mail notifications about them. To rule out a problem with my current address, allow me yet again to ask that it be changed to this: mayorbaylor(at)gmail(dot)com

Kindly note that I’m actively working as a beer consultant with more than one current and future business owner in downtown New Albany. If for some reason I’ve been banned or excluded from meetings, that’s fine, if misguided, but at least let me know the definitive situation so these business owners can submit their e-mail addresses and be kept within city hall’s “official” (see what I did there, David?) information loop.

Second, on several occasions I’ve asked that Develop New Albany reveal its annual funding level as tithed from the city of New Albany. During my stint on the DNA board a decade ago, it was in the range of $5,000 per annum. I understand DNA is a de facto arm of government these days, so surely the public has a right to know how much it’s costing them?

Thanks for your time. As always, I look forward to an actual reply.

I know, I know.

There won’t be a reply.

Councilmen will refuse involvement with the NAHA putsch, and Bob Caesar won’t ever come clean about the Bicentennial books. Any information request I make of City Hall will be routed through the corporate counsel, who’ll treat it like a used condom.

In return for demanding accountability and transparency, we’ll be labeled “creeps” and “stalkers” (pay attention, David; you’ll be tested) by the First Family.

The wetting of beaks, the tastefully bulging envelopes and the nepotism — they’ll continue, and through it all, Adam’s handpicked Democrats will beam with pride at their hometown hero. We’re outmanned, outgunned and down by twenty at the half. It looks almost as grim as when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

I think we have him right where we want him.

Just keep pushing. I swear to you, this worm’s about to turn.

Recent columns:

January 4: ON THE AVENUES: Opposition? It is defined as resistance or dissent, expressed in action or argument, and in New Gahania, now’s the time for it.

December 28: ON THE AVENUES: It’s the beginning of the end of insipid Gahanism, so let’s look back at the Top Ten columns of 2017.

December 21: ON THE AVENUES: Truth, lies, music, and a trick of the Christmas tale (2017 Remix).

December 14: ON THE AVENUES: My Franz Ferdinand heritage trail, 30 years ago in Sarajevo.