Yes, it’s true that I’ve been indulging in reruns, but hear me out.
For the past two weeks I’ve been using all my spare moments to go swimming in the rank, toxic, soul-crushing sewer otherwise known as Mayor Jeff Gahan’s CFA-4 campaign finance reports.
Y’all know I’m a hardcore cynic — and the pay-to-play is worse than even I thought.
The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 5: In 2019, Gahan will pass the half million dollar mark in campaign fundraising since 2011.
There’s another reason for dipping into the archive.
Many readers weren’t with us back when a column like today’s was first published (January 8, 2015). At the time, consultant Jeff Speck’s draft report about the two-way future of the street grid had only just appeared.
It took another two years for Gahan to commission the ever servile HWC Engineering to butcher Speck’s overall perspective, stuff the remnants into sausage casings, spread the largess among the usual suspects, and declare victory.
In short, Gahan gleefully botched the street grid modernization as trucking special interests applauded and the mayor’s sticky sycophants sagely nodded — among them the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, the brain trust of which concluded with all due terror that “modernization” was far too dangerous a concept to risk in New Albany.
ESNA was catastrophically wrong, and its timidity was both short-sighted and unforgivable. Now Greg Phipps wants four more years as councilman because he’s not finished yet — doing the mayor’s daily bidding, that is. We need a principled, independent choice in the third district, don’t we?
As for Gahan’s trashing of Speck, you can’t say I didn’t predict it. Read on, and don’t forget to vote these under-achievers out of office as soon as you have the chance.
ON THE AVENUES: Pretty in pink slips, aren’t they?
A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
On Tuesday, the very morning when City Hall at long last hazarded a first halting, wheezing, asthmatic step toward taking proper possession of Jeff Speck’s seminal street study, it was disturbingly sunny outside.
Now, I’m so old I can remember when Speck was Jeff Gahan’s Big Idea, prompting his very own commissioned mayoral study, at least right up until that fateful moment when the Tiger Trucking semi rig’s headlights froze Hizzoner dead in his tracks, at river’s edge, like a bedraggled, matted raccoon without a paddle, stuck in the middle of an arterial one-way Highway to Birdseye.
Where was I?
Oh, yes: It was sunny outside.
I muttered a choice epithet and spat as I walked downtown, past the doomed urban corner where a quarter million is about to be squandered to permanently anchor a temporary seasonal farmers market on one of the city’s hottest future infill parcels.
Damn. It really needed to be cloudy outside on this, our auspicious Speck Study Day.
After all, if Mayor Gahan (or more likely, the hardest working hologram in Indiana municipal governance) were to surface from Das Subterranean Command Bunker on Speck Study Day, only to see the sun actually shining, we’d be condemned to eight more years of foot-dragging, feeble excuses and DemoDisneyDixecrat appeasement, with little hope of street grid reformatting taking place in our lifetimes.
However, and we can only hope fortuitously, agoraphobia is the cruelest of mistresses. Mayor Gahan sent the city engineer, Larry Summers, to the Bored of Works in his stead, and poor Larry was far too nervous performing his assigned task of explaining how something and nothing can occur simultaneously to notice the prevailing atmospheric conditions.
Tinkerbell Dickey was there, too, but the Democratic major domo was preoccupied with feverishly emitting ear-lobe-tugging, nose-scratching procedural signals to the BOW chairman Nash, who gazed in bewilderment at the Power Point slides:
“Wow, Larry, you mean a road diet isn’t a Disney theme park ride?
“Why, this is the space age!
“Next thing you know, they’ll have color TVs playing at the Waffle House.”
Unsurprisingly, those of us most thrilled by the comprehensive efficiency and vigorous optimism of Jeff Speck’s Downtown Street Network Proposal are just as dour and pessimistic about the chances of it ever being carried out hereabouts in any substantive fashion.
That’s because in Come to City, we’ve never really come to, and what’s Groundhog Day, anyway? In New Albany, it’s just another word for tomorrow, and the day after that, and …
In 1989, several previous fallen dominoes (Solidarity’s election victory in Poland and the partial opening of the Austro-Hungarian border, to name just two) culminated with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The USSR stood aside, and the Warsaw Pact was no more.
The subsequent experiences of these East Bloc nations varied, but to some extent in all of them, surely more so in Romania and Bulgaria, the period of post-Communism possessed a decided aura of déjà vu, because there, in the seats of power, occupying elected as well as appointed offices, sat the very same functionaries as before.
Rather like a species of rapidly evolving insect (remember, Franz Kafka was Czech), they either chose the proper moment to switch sides just prior to the outbreak of revolution, or merely shifted into a dormant stage of Down-Low to wait out the post-crash euphoria, reasoning that in the cold light of day, their bureaucratic skills would be deemed essential, and their previous careers worthy of selective forgetfulness.
In this context of adaptability, formerly Communist officials in newly democratic Eastern Europe drew upon an irrefutable pedigree, because after all, denazification in Germany following World War II proved to be schnauzer that simply wouldn’t hunt. Apart from a low percentage of high-profile examples, numerous adherents of the “Heil Hitler” persuasion made a seamless transition from discredited losers to irreplaceable stalwarts of the new/old system now harnessed to a different master, whether West or East.
Why mention Europe’s 20th-century totalitarian hangovers?
It’s because Speck’s street study is more revolutionary than all the (Groucho) Marxists and (John) Lennonists combined, meaning the chances of its implementation in the Land of C and D Students is embarrassingly slight.
But what if a miracle occurs?
What if Speck Happens?
Maybe Tricky Dickey was right all along, and all it takes is faith, and a little bit of pixie dust, and BOOM – Speck in our time!
The good guys win, the city’s future brightens … prosperous times are around the corner, with Tippecanoe and Walkability Too … get out those bikes, people, and skates, and … hold on.
Just wait. It couldn’t be, could it?
Those guys with the clipboards, managing the Five Year Speck Conversion Plan, working for the New Boss … OMG, say it ain’t so.
Anyone but him.
That’s right. You guessed it. Even in the very rosiest of street scenarios, which most of us reckon might – just might – yield a Speck Study Quotient conversion rate of 15%, quite likely we’ll be asked to accept a state of affairs wherein the same street-disfigurement criminals wreaking havoc all along are magically transformed into courageous reformers.
We’ll be asked to believe that zebras can shed their stripes, as they set out at the usual bloated pay scale to dismantle the very same dysfunctional one-way, auto-centric edifice they spent the previous three decades perfecting, the sheer idiocy of which comprised the fundamental cause for the revolution in the first place.
Specifically, if John Rosenbarger has anything to do with the implementation of the Speck plan, which clearly calls for ridding the landscape of previous masterworks undertaken at Rosenbarger’s dull instigation, like the rock-strewn bump-outs on State Street, then we’ll have final, irrefutable proof of New Albany as default Groundhog Day, every day, forever.
Wonderful. Rosenbarger and his compatriots, some departed, and others still secured within the Third Floor woodwork like termite larva, built a street grid that Speck’s study relentlessly, mercilessly eviscerates – block by block, and lane width by asphalt expanse. Now, he’ll fix it.
Not only is it bullshit, but it’s also unconscionable, absurd and intolerable. In New Albany, these four words are considered synonyms for “bound to happen” – again, and again, and again.
Good grief, people.
Just during the brief period of the Speck study’s gestation in 2014, Rosenbarger merrily shepherded our Main Street equivalent of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s destructive pre-1989 boulevards and palaces chaos in Bucharest, placing a colossal raspberry of damp flatulence on the street grid he has had such a prominent hand in pillaging over 30 long, wasted, impotent years.
Imagining him at the triumphant Speck photo op, equipped with kiddie hardhat and requisite rubber shovel, those glow-in-the-dark reddened eyes leering, makes me reach for my garlic cloves and nice, sharp, wooden stakes. Ceaușescu wasn’t the only vampire on his Romanian bloc, you know.
Yet, in the end, there is very good news … and also very bad news.
The good news is that Rosenbarger probably will have no part whatever in implementing the Speck study in New Albany.
The bad news?
There’ll probably be no implementation of street modernity in New Albany.
Once upon a time, Speck was to have been Gahan’s Big Idea, but now the odds makers are unanimous, and persuasive: All we get is this lousy Potemkin Village – Hooterville and Caesartown, and again tomorrow, and the day after that, and …
Wouldn’t it be nice, just for once, to escape the recurring cycle of stupid?
February 22: ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL: Take your cult of personality and shove it, Dear Leader.
February 19: ON THE AVENUES: I’d stop drinking, but I’m no quitter (the 2019 Gravity Head remix).
February 12: ON THE AVENUES: If it’s about learning and knowledge, then by definition it’s a Gahan Free Zone. You’re welcome.
February 5: ON THE AVENUES: Our mayor hates non-elected boards — except when they’re his own, which is why “hypocrisy” is spelled G-A-H-A-N.
January 29: ON THE AVENUES: How has the 3rd district councilman fared since this question from 2015: “Et tu, Greg Phipps?”