Non-learning curve: This ON THE AVENUES column repeat reveals that since 2011, we’ve been discussing the safety hazards on Spring Street between 10th and 9th. Too bad City Hall is deaf.

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Elsewhere today: If you want to know how Deaf Gahan purposefully botched the Speck plan for walkable streets, read this article. Hint: HWC dunnit.

I’m rethinking my weekly ON THE AVENUES column placement. It isn’t going away, but it may be moving to a different time slot, and as I contemplate the options, hopefully you’ll forgive a rerun or two.

This column from February 12, 2015 is a doubleheader of topicality. It addresses the ongoing foolishness of street sweeping, but more importantly, establishes a chronology with regard to the Spring Street safety hazard otherwise known as Williams Plumbing, located in a building at 901 E. Spring that seems always to teeter on the edge of an eyesore — and has fallen off the edge on more than one occasion, as in 2016.

This outrage against innovative public art must be avenged — or, what happened to the Williams Junk Water Heater Park?

Let’s begin a block up the street. The spot where Spring Street curves at the intersection of 10th always has been a red flag, whether one-way or two-way. Drivers approaching westbound, completely unimpeded from the stop light (and railroad crossing) at 15th Street, have five full blocks to build up speed, and invariably navigate the curve too fast.

The problem isn’t quite as bad eastbound, probably because the intersections at 7th Street (stop light) and 8th Street (major northbound connector) have a slowing effect.

Last year’s two-way reversion, and the embarrassing placement of a completely useless pedestrian “beg button” crosswalk (a tiny, sad yellow light — thanks, HWC Engineering) at precisely the point when westbound traffic reaches top speed, has done nothing to decrease westbound speeds around the curve.

Drivers simply drift to the right in order to make the curve, which means they’re regularly straying into the (rumored) bicycle lane and unoccupied parking spaces. At times, they come very close to the sidewalk itself.

I see it often while walking — something city officials should consider trying some time, if they can extricate themselves from Nanny Barksdale’s “inhumane” working conditions.

Then, having driven too fast around a dangerous curve, drivers speedily approach 9th Street, where the tall Williams Plumbing trucks have been parked along the north side of the street for as long as anyone can remember, and often on the east side of 9th.

In the evening and on weekends, these trucks completely obscure the viewpoint of all users, whether traveling westbound on Spring or southbound on 9th.

By the way, municipal ordinance forbids parking commercial vehicles being parked curbside in this manner — and as long as anyone can remember, this ordinance has not been enforced. 

To summarize, it’s been seven years since this blog first mentioned the issue, and the problem was ongoing for quite some time even then.

It’s very simple, folks. These conditions almost certainly played a part in skateboarder Matt Brewer’s death, and irrespective of the role they played, these conditions are dangerous, not only to non-automotive users, but for drivers, too.

The intersection of Spring and 10th needs to be controlled, and those trucks from Williams Plumbing need to be removed.

If HWC Engineering’s crack team of Speck Plan assassins couldn’t grasp these plain facts in 2017, a refund is due the city. My neighborhood is sick and tired of the bullshit, wherein leaders and their chosen contractors duck responsibility.

If Team Gahan’s sickening arrogance precludes admitting they made a mistake in allowing these obvious instances of negligence to continue unabated, then the clique needs to be cashiered in 2019.

Here’s the column repeat from February, 2015. Note that in 2016, I began protesting the street sweeper violations … and Team Gahan folded like the poseurs they are.

ON THE AVENUES: Street “sweeping” epitomizes the degradation of governance in New Albany.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

It’s an election year, and so the current occupant must hurriedly make up for three years of squandered time as it pertains to his unwillingness (read: sheer inability) to define various meaningless but oft-chanted mantras. Consequently, the street department chief has been ceremoniously trotted out to announce an expansion of the city’s street “sweeping” program.

Unfortunately, words have meaning, and ideas matter, and in New Albany, street “sweeping” has not ever been a cleanliness issue.

Rather, it is a political hypocrisy issue, fully exposing this city’s historic tendency not only to tolerate selective law enforcement, but to double down, institutionalize and celebrate it as a civic birthright.

Bluegill perfectly summarizes the prevailing idiocy:

A wasteful program is getting more wasteful. As a Midtown resident. I wish they’d stop rather than expand. This is a parking ticket revenue grab, hounding locals for cash while truckers and other passers through speed by unhindered. We’re continually told the city can’t afford this or that but we can always afford to pay people to ride around in circles all day writing ridiculously expensive tickets to residents. They even write them when the sweeper isn’t sweeping, when people have blocked absolutely nothing. It’s a joke.

To repeat: Street “sweeping” should not be expanded. It should be ended. The physical process of “sweeping” is largely futile, and there is no United Nations storm water “law” stipulating dust cloud creation as a workable corrective. Genuine drainage impediments like leaves and garbage barely are addressed by “sweeping.”

Bluegill again:

We’d be better off spending the time and money on drain cleaning and waterway improvements. Instead, the City has chosen the least effective (but most profitable) system to expand.

However, when it comes to profitability and effectiveness, the most profound outrage of all is that parking regulations supposedly applying to all city residents are enforced in some instances, as during street “sweeping,” and not in others, as in the entirety of the historic downtown business district.

Amazingly, it gets worse. Since the inception of institutionalized parking enforcement hypocrisy during the waning years of the third England Error, there has not been the first clear indication of where this imaginary Green Line between enforced and non-enforced parking is drawn.

Following is a column originally published here on May 19, 2011, and repeated in 2013. That’s almost four years of ongoing failure. How much longer before we undertake to resolve the parking issues downtown?

The sweeping of municipal dysfunction is prohibited. That’s the ordinance we actually enforce.

Yesterday was Wednesday, and Wednesday is street sweeping day on our side of the block.

A police operative customarily follows the street sweeper, because cars are not supposed to be parked on the street, where they obstruct the sweeper’s solemn duty to transfer rubbish from the curb into the center of the bicycle lane.

Recently, with the stated intent of promoting businesses (like my own) and sparing shoppers, diners and shop employees the hassle of thinking about where they park, City Hall publicly announced a moratorium on the enforcement of parking regulations “downtown.”

To my knowledge, downtown as a geographical construct was never specifically defined in this enforcement suspension context. My household is in Midtown, while Vincennes Street, only a few blocks away, now calls itself Uptown.

However, Develop New Albany only recently indicated that in the organization’s eyes, a stated organizational mandate to deal exclusively with downtown issues does not preclude it from expanding operations outward, into areas previously not regarded as such, implying that suddenly, we’re all downtowners.

Meanwhile, our residence in Midtown shares a driveway with a dental office. There used to be a day care business next door, and a doctor’s office further down. Big Value is on one corner of the block, opposite an ad agency office. On another corner, there is a funeral home, facing a fire and water damage repair shop.

That’s a fair number of businesses for a residential block — and I’m not even counting meth labs.

Yesterday, although I knew the street sweeper was coming, I left my car parked on the street. I wanted to see what would happen.

Leaving the usual pathway of uncollected dirt in its wake, the sweeper swerved to avoid my car, and the police functionary promptly ticketed me. Moments later, I climbed into the car and drove to my meeting, westbound on Spring Street, where I caught up to the sweeper and the tailing police officer.

Other parked cars were obstructing the sweeper’s progress, but they were not ticketed, presumably because an invisible line of demarcation had been passed, and the weekly shifting of muck and butts from curb to street was occurring within the “downtown” area, where the moratorium of non-enforcement was in effect to promote businesses … that’s right, businesses just like the ones on my block, where the rules against sweeper obstruction are being enforced, or at the very least, where tickets are being written, whether not there is any intent to collect the fines.

I got the ticket, and I’ll pay the fine.

The question: Why should I?

When there is a stated policy of non-enforcement within areas that are only vaguely defined, what is the rationale for enforcement elsewhere?

Anywhere?

If the rationale for non-enforcement downtown (whatever that really means) is the proximity of businesses, shouldn’t that rationale apply throughout the city?

If downtowners who have serially refused to pay their parking fines for decades announce their evasive intentions on local television, and are not prosecuted immediately, why should I feel any obligation whatsoever to drop my twenty-spot in the slot?

Yet, I do. It’s something in my upbringing. Granted, that’s twenty fewer clams to be deposited with local businesses downtown, but heck, I just consider it a token of my esteem for a New Albanian process so random, convoluted and inexplicable that it nostalgically reminds me of the feudal nonsense prevalent in Old Albania.

Neighborhoods lying in, outside or near downtown, depending on today’s variable definition of downtown, historically have served as laboratories for non-enforcement of a different variety.

Slumlord empowerment blocs and the occasional derelict private dwelling have freely ignored basic codes pertaining to building appearance, sanitation and safety, and pretend-leaders have abetted the extractive shtick.

Nowadays, the city seem to be doing a slightly better job of it, although there always seems to be greater interest in the last resort of demolishing those properties allowed to deteriorate through previous non-enforcement regimes. Little time is devoted to filling the holes left behind, but then again, this is New Albany: One thing at a time, please, and you’d best give us five or six years to accomplish it.

Like basic exterior repairs. I’m continually amazed by prominent examples of neglect that go completely unaddressed. Almost every day, I walk or bike past Williams Plumbing* on the northeast corner of E. Spring and 9th. If I’m not mistaken, long ago it was Cora Shrader’s Shoppe, a nicely maintained corner property.

Now it is a scantily maintained, increasingly dilapidated eyesore used exclusively for what amounts to industrial storage. Extreme weather over a period of years has torn hunks of siding away from both sides of the house, exposing the wood.

Worse, the company’s big trucks tend to be parked right on Spring Street, consistently impeding the view of motorists approaching southbound on 9th.


Do these trucks get ticketed when they block the street sweeper, or does the invisible, undefined, non-enforcement Green Line come into play?

Is it downtown or midtown?

Lowdown, or down low?

If there is ticketing, does Williams Plumbing pay the tickets?

Can a building crying out for code enforcement scrutiny be any more prominently located than this one, or do the code enforcers just shut their eyes two dozen times a day while driving past it?

If readers can answer any of these questions, they’ll enter a drawing for a $175,000, studio-sized condo overlooking the river … in downtown Tirana, Old Albania. Play your cards right, and the neighborhood Mullah might save you a parking space.

* Williams Plumbing finally repaired the exterior in 2012. The trucks continue to block sight lines at 9th and Spring.

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