Pass the cyanide tablets: Reisz rehab tabled as we reflect on the meaning of the phrase “all eggs in one basket.”

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Last Monday’s city council meeting was standing-room-only for community pillars, but on Thursday night the room was almost empty, suggesting one of two outcomes for the third and final reading of the 2018 Omnibus Gahan Campaign Finance Enhancement Through Reisz Rehab and City Hall Relocation Project.

Either approval was a done deal, or the measure would be tabled pending further frenzied backroom “fact finding,” and indeed, CM David Barksdale delayed the final vote with a pained expression akin to a man sawing off his own arm with a letter opener.

Here’s papa by the numbers, then my thoughts.

New Albany City Council tables city hall proposal, by Chris Morris (Where the Tom Mays Roam)

Committee formed to take more input

NEW ALBANY — Plans to turn the vacant Reisz Furniture Building at 148 E. Main St. into New Albany’s new city hall were slowed a bit Thursday night.

The New Albany City Council was supposed to take a third and final vote on an ordinance that calls for the city to enter into a lease agreement with Denton Floyd Real Estate Group to rehab the building. Under the agreement, the city will pay $570,000 a year for 15 years. In year 16, the city will outright own the building.

The ordinance was tabled by councilman Dave Barksdale, who introduced it a week ago. A committee consisting of Barksdale, Bob Caesar and Council President Dr. Al Knable will meet next week to discuss the ordinance. Council members are supposed to provide questions and input to the committee. Knable said a public hearing will likely be held next month and the ordinance won’t come back for final vote until July.

Let’s take note of an interesting sidebar of the Reisz rehab discussion, this being the emerging point of view that the reuse of this one single structure among so many is the crucial pivot upon which rests the whole future of downtown New Albany.

Gimme a break, will ya?

It’s the viewpoint being encouraged by Team Gahan, and it simply isn’t accurate, although I understand the feelings of the business owners who operate in direct proximity.

The Reisz building’s decades-long dilapidation — neglect, to quote City Hall itself — has not prevented dozens of other nearby buildings from being salvaged and put to use. If the Reisz collapsed tomorrow, this in itself would have no effect on infill construction like that being undertaken by Matt Chalfant a half-block away.

A vacated Reisz footprint probably would become prime infill property before the rubble was carted away.

I’d love to see this building saved — in the right way, and for the right reasons. At the moment, we’re indulging non-transparency, shrillness and contrived deadlines, and that’s why a re-examination is in order.

Is Team Gahan’s plan for the Reisz building the crowning culmination of a long-term, organized and contemporary strategy for downtown revitalization, or an opportunistic, multi-layered (and decidedly covert) roll of the dice undertaken by an administration that always thinks of itself first (just peruse those campaign finance reports), then allows a bit of the largess to trickle down to the plebes?

You know what I think, and to me the verdict is clear, because whether or not this Reisz City Hall Relocation plan passes or fails, the future of downtown depends on numerous factors, not just one grandstand play.

It’s frustrating to me as a long-termer that some downtown players have consumed far too much of the Kool-Aid and are injecting a note of desperation into the proceedings — we need this, we need it right now, and either a new City Hall or the deluge!

Sorry, no. This is plainly absurd.

The Reisz building does not exist in a vacuum. For one, there are factors influencing our existence in New Albany that we cannot control, including state, national, environmental and cultural issues.

Also, there are many other ways that Team Gahan has chosen to assist the cause of downtown revitalization, and dozens of options not utilized.

Two-way street grid? Good.

Two-way street grid stripped of most redeeming features for walkers and bicyclists? Bad.

And so on. If a business downtown currently isn’t doing well, it might mean one of a hundred things, but in addition, perhaps the downtown cards Team Gahan has played thus far haven’t been the best ones — like the mayor’s face and name always featured more prominently on ads and promotions than the city feature presumably being marketed. 

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? At some juncture, a “re-election first, city later” personality cult simply doesn’t help the city, even if it works wonders for the mayoral candidate’s bank account.

If the Reisz rehabilitation is viable, then it should be attractive owing to inter-related factors of a downtown dynamic, not solely because a unit of government is willing to pour money into it. It should be a prospect for numerous contractors and developers to bid, not just one. It should reflect a dialectic of many ideas competing, not only one that represents a fix firmly in.

Any one building, idea or action cannot by itself make or break the city. There is no such thing as a one shot deal in a truly healthy municipality, and if Team Gahan insists it must be, then the question to ask is this:

Why isn’t Gahan’s personal plaything of a city healthier after six years of his brand of TLC?

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