On April 2 a “handful” of Mark Elrod Tower residents (the mayor’s words, not ours) witnessed a full-throttle City Hall team in glorious campaign mode. Mayor Gahan, Gauleiter Duggins and BOWhisperer Nash each spoke.
For this final excerpt, comprising roughly the first ten minutes of the “presentation,” it’s a shame the audio isn’t available. I’ve taken the liberty of underlining those passages in which Gahan’s and Duggins’ tone of voice changes markedly, from talking to (not “with”) an audience of seniors as though they were schoolchildren, to brief snippets of a defensive, almost menacing edge.
Here is the extended excerpt. I went over it a second time for accuracy and made a few light edits to the passage previously published here. Thanks to the Green Mouse for uncovering this gem.
(David Duggins is speaking as the recording begins)
Duggins: “I just learned we’ve got maybe a squirrel issue, which we’ll be working on some squirrel issues here. We’ll get that taken care of, too.”
Duggins: “If there’s anything you need always get with Steve or Sue, and I’m happy to help anytime I can. I’d like introduce my good friend, Mayor Jeff Gahan. Thank you.”
Gahan: (giggling) “That’s a good sign, right? Hey, listen, uh, thanks for taking time out, and thanks, uh, for giving me a minute tonight. I certainly appreciate it, uh, I do want to acknowledge the work that everybody does here at New Albany Housing Authority because it’s really a serious group of people. I know you see Dave, you see some of these folks, they got a smile on their face, and they’re kinda cutting up some times, right? But, but you know, they’re real serious about their job, they’re real serious about making all the properties in the New Albany Housing Authority, you know, top flight. And, uh, top, they want to make sure they’re all well maintained, and, uh, the accommodations are the best that we can offer. And it’s really a challenge nowadays, uh, and I’ll tell you why, because okay in the city of New Albany we have 1,187 units, and for many years you had to go through this period where at the federal government they were kind of turning the screws and they weren’t putting the maintenance money that they needed to maintain the properties down here, so, we knew we needed some maintenance done but it didn’t really get down here like we wanted it to, and that trend is continuing, uh, the latest budget they’re pushing for has a 16% reduction in funds for housing and urban development. So we’re still committed to making this, everything, every unit, the top flight, and we’re going to continue to do that, and I can tell you that’s going to happen, uh, we’re taking every step that we can possibly make to make sure that every unit is as good as it can possibly be. And uh you’ve seen a little bit of changes around here, Dave’s done a great job, and changed some things, but soon you’ll see even more, you’ll see additional, we’re taking steps right now to acquire additional properties throughout the city, to build new ones, we’re taking steps right now to make sure that, uh, each one of the units have been inspected, you’ve probably seen people coming and going, making sure that we have a good idea of what the condition of every one of the properties is. And we’re going to take steps to improve them. David Duggins, again, he worked for the city in re-, in economic redevelopment before he came here, so he knows what it takes to take dollars and put them into service, take dollars and turn them into improvements for everybody. And that’s what we’re going to do, that’s the course we’re on for the next five or six years, you’ll see really, really cool improvements in the housing in New Albany and Jeff. You have a really great place, this happens to be the best facility we have, uh, we have some of them that are in terrible condition, they’re terrible, and, uh, but we’re taking steps and making plans to improve those as well. So I’m excited about it, it’s a really great opportunity for us to show how we can make something that’s very much needed, housing is very, very needed, uh, across the board where, uh, there’s a shortage of housing at all levels, uh, at all income levels we’re short houses, we’re short housing, and, uh, we’re committed to improve the housing stock all over the city and make better opportunities for people to live here, and afford to live here, so, uh, in addition to that you’ll see the mission of the housing authority is expanding, which I think is really cool. Uh, we’ve, we’ve taken steps to improve the health, and we’ll be announcing some facilities that will improve, have opportunities for you folks to go to, to have check-ups and their, your teeth looked at, uh, which I think is very exciting – we haven’t had that, but you’ll see that soon. You’ll also see, if you haven’t already seen, additional police presence on campus, more police, more security, more cameras, all right, so a whole lot of really cool things are going on, and uh, again – again we’ll just be expanding services in general, so I’m excited about it, and uh, I wanted to come in and say hi, so if you’ve got any questions, I’m sure you have questions and I’d like to answer them.”
Resident: “I want to know why you’re buying more property for parking when you’re going to tear down Riverview. The newspaper states that you’re putting in more parking for Riverview residents, but yet you’re moving Riverview residents out and you’re going to tear down the building.”
(Duggins quickly intervenes in a question intended for Gahan)
Duggins: “Well, none of that’s been released, it said in the paper we had the opportunity to buy an eyesore, and one of the proper uses for that is parking for that area. We do have a parking issue in that entire area, when we have anything that goes on at Riverview Tower we have to move folks out, we have to close those two spots out front, so any work, when we have electricians and all that, and when that eyesore became available to be purchased, which the city had targeted that for a long time, we purchased it, and that is why we’re doing it. We have not made formal – we have just finished with the negotiations for the insurance on Riverview Tower and this is Mark Elrod Tower, there’s a difference in the type of age of people that live on this side and the quality of the units of this apartment complex compared to Riverview Tower, so when we purchased that, that is available, be available, there are environmental issues and a big creek that runs through there, we’ll be tearing the building down there and looking for that, but yes, property, property purchased for the expansion of parking.”
Resident: “Okay, but you are going to tear down Riverview?”
(Both Gahan and Duggins can be heard murmuring amid the muddle; Duggins can be heard condescendingly saying “not tearing down buildings.” The questioner, perhaps fearing a Taser “joke,” says “Okay, alright, I just want to get clear in my mind.”)
Gahan: “Okay, what’s the issue with Riverview? Do you know people who live over there? I mean, why are we talking about Riverview?”
Resident: “Because they’re all moving into here – no, it’s not I’m concerned that they’re moving in here, but you’re moving those people … the people from Riverview are being moved out.”
Duggins: “No, that’s not true. We haven’t moved anyone out. There are eleven, eleven vacancies here now, and the people at Riverview have first opportunity to come here because we are holding vacancies there because we have an electrical issue, so when we have vacancies here and if they qualify by their age, uh, which there is a different age requirement for living here, then they are welcome to move here just like you were welcome to move here, and that’s what we’re doing – there are 11 vacancies as of last – I looked it up – last Wednesday and we’re trying to fill them, and the folks at Riverview have the opportunity to move over here, and they’ll continue to have the opportunity.”
Resident: “Before other residents within in the city?”
Duggins: “Yes because they’re in public housing, public housing.”
Gahan: “Yeah, I don’t think, I don’t think you have to be worried about anything, uh, that’s going to crowd you, if that’s what your concern is, I mean I don’t think you have to worry about that. We have 1,187 units, which is more than anyone in Clark County, any five counties combined, we have more than anyone, and we’re going to keep – that’s the way it’s going to stay, with more opportunities to live here in New Albany than any other place, but what we won’t put up with is sub-standard housing. It’s not, we’re going to make it better, make improvements, and you know I, I feel great about it, and you all should be too – I think you all should be really thrilled about it, because yeah, at the end of the day, you know, with folks out in Seattle, that, there, they can make you know 150,000 dollars a year, 200,000 dollars and they don’t have a place to live, because houses have gotten too expensive for people to live in! And that’s the way it is. And that’s what we’re going to do …
(Resident interjects, “That’s Seattle, that’s not New Albany.”)
… here, we’re going to do everything, everything to make this a better place, but you have to be right now, you’re feeling super, because this is the best that the city has right here.”
(garbled question: will you build another high rise?)
Gahan: “I don’t know if it’s going to be a high rise, I mean that’s something for the New Albany Housing director, the board to discuss, but I don’t know if it would be a high rise, because it’s kind of difficult, for, you know, seniors to get up and down a tower – but additional housing, additional housing, additional, uh, housing, absolutely, it may not be a tower, but you know, it’s – you know, right, don’t need to tell you, it’s hard to get up and down.
(Resident whispers, “I know”)
Gahan: “So anyway, so I know those things, uh, you know we’ve made some changes and when you make changes you make people a little nervous, and I don’t blame ya! I’m the same way, uh, I can just tell you we have some really solid plans that we’re working on now to improve the residents, the residence halls for everyone, and uh, these things don’t happen overnight, everything we do has to be approved at the state level and at the federal level, it’s not like I can just come in here and Dave come in here or the board come in here and make all these changes, these wholesale changes, it doesn’t work that way. It has to be approved all the way up the line and then back, and it includes lots of layers of bureaucracy that we have to deal with, so you know there’ll be no changes overnight, but I have people say, when’s it going to happen? Well, each box has to be checked. But first thing we had to do when Dave came over here was to make sure he understood the condition of each unit. Hell, it’d been years since people had even walked in and knew exactly what was going on in those units. First thing he did was inspect them all. Every one. Every single one. Dave did that. So now we have an idea of what the condition of each unit is, that’s the starting point, and I have to tell ya, it wasn’t really great news. Some were in pretty rough shape – these aren’t, these are super …
(resident heard scoffing)
… but if you ever had the chance to go see some of the others … right? So I want you to feel good about it, I feel good about it, I feel really great about the future of the New Albany Housing Authority, it has some great leadership there, got a great board, got a great leader in Dave, got committed staff, committed maintenance, and it’s a big part of New Albany, and it’s going to stay that way. Okay? So what other questions do you have, what do you have, what else?”