ON THE AVENUES: It’s time for a change, and David White understands that change begins with a whole lotta scrubbing.


I trust that readers will have gleaned my strong support for David White in the forthcoming Democratic primary.

By whichever method you intend to vote, please do so, and whatever your party affiliation, be aware that you can do a wonderful service to New Albany and help set the stage for an intelligent, sensible dialogue this fall … by voting for David White today.

One playing field at a time, please, so let’s begin today’s discussion with a line from George Clooney, as delivered in the film Michael Clayton, which addresses life as so many of us actually experience it.

“I’m not a miracle worker, I’m a janitor.”

My position as a White supporter is that the city of New Albany needs a mayor capable of repeating this phrase, following through on it, and making it his or her own.

That’s because there is no such thing as a miracle, only hard work being done behind the scenes, and furthermore, if you take just a little time to glance behind the attractive facades of Jeff Gahan’s “miracles” that aren’t, you’ll find a truly humongous toxic waste dump, growing by the minute.

I keep hearing questions like, “What’s White going to do about this, that or the other?”

But before White or any other person “does” something about this or that specific issue, our nasty toxic waste dump must be remediated. Owing to Gahan’s colossally expensive delusion that he’s a miracle worker, New Albany needs precisely such a janitorial service before we gather to regroup.

Job One is to remove the cancer. Only then can the patient’s rehabilitation proceed, and we simply cannot address White’s curative platform without documenting the extent of the problem — and recognizing that we’ll all be expected to take our turn at the weed-whacker.

Unfortunately many Democratic voters view the incumbent mayor as an Oz-level producer of miracles; “look at all these nice, bright, shiny objects,” they say, and Gahan does everything he can in terms of self-glorifying propaganda, often paid for with taxpayer dollars instead of his own campaign finance larder, to encourage this quasi-Biblical view of his two terms.

However, Ponzi schemes are not miraculous in the least.

As defined on-line, “A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors.”

In municipal terms, with a city’s general fund budget subject to limitations borne of variable tax revenue and state oversight, the Ponzi-style “miracle worker” solution is to bond and/or borrow from elsewhere.

After a huge leap during Gahan’s first few years in office, New Albany’s limited annual general fund budget is now increasing by a far smaller yearly amount. The returns flatten, and this fact of budgetary life won’t be changing any time soon.

It’s an existential conundrum for Gahan, because on a strictly practical level, one problem with all those bright, shiny objects is the annual cost of maintaining and repairing them. Up and up goes these costs, while revenue lags.

Moreover, for Gahan to keep producing these miracles out of nowhere, and crucially, to continue extracting huge pay-to-play campaign finance donations from faraway no-bid contractors and vendors, there constantly must be more bright and shiny object construction projects to keep the wheels turning.

But how to finance them?

One way is the Redevelopment Commission’s tax increment financing (TIF) mechanism, which borrows against future tax revenue increases. There’s also a huge pot of money at the sewer utility (Gahan himself is president of the board).

Incredibly, even the New Albany Housing Authority has become an investment agency. Under the management of former redevelopment bag man David Duggins, NAHA has become a NAHA-ATM, with $13 million in funds originally earmarked by former director Bob Lane for 1:1 housing rehabs now being used to buy commercial properties all around town

These properties are best suited for lucrative commercial development, not scattered site public housing, but as the late Bud Dry once noted, “why ask why?”

There’s a sudden imperative to annex a couple thousand properties on the north side. That’s because the city reckons it can turn a “profit” of close to $2 million of tax revenue annually once the hoops are cleared.

The same goes with money controlled by New Albany Township, now administered by the mayor’s close ally David Brewer, as well as Gahan’s constant badgering of the Horseshoe Fund-ation for more, and more, and more.

You’ll see that one prominent thread links the preceding, aside from an obvious and increasingly desperate search for ready cash — itself a sure sign of the Ponzi scheme, full in, like an addict in search of another hit.

The link is the non-elected clique. Apart from Gahan himself and four remaining Democratic members of city council, the vast majority of human beings involved with transacting these bright, shiny objects — preserving Gahan’s campaign finance haul and using someone else’s (your) money to do it — are political appointees, not elected officials.

Political appointees are the lifeblood of the patronage machine. They answer to the mayor, and must buff and polish Dear Leader’s personality cult in order to preserve their own “big fish, little pond” fiefdoms. In the case of some, loyalty as an unpaid commission member leads to remunerative beak wetting at the day job (see Ginkins, Terry).

Gahan’s political patronage system is a closed circle impervious to “public input.” In fact, it is erected precisely to avoid public input. The governing clique is composed of a few trusted subordinates and augmented with many other reliable sycophants, and it exists to perpetuate the mayor’s and the clique’s power.

And it retards civic progress, not advances it.

The jackals are braying: Why keep talking about Gahan? What about White?

  • Because Gahan isn’t a miracle worker.
  • Because he is a toxic waste generator.
  • Because we need a janitor.
  • Because White knows that cleanup comes first, followed by getting out of bed every day as mayor and doing the fundamental things needed to address needs, not wants.

There’s only one genuine question for a voter to answer in 2019:

Is Gahan’s unprecedented power, and the money buttressing it — and the stooges reinforcing the fix — good or bad for the city?

If you think financial malfeasance, unprecedented power and social toxicity is good for the city, then yes, Gahan’s your man.

Meanwhile candidate White disagrees. He says no, these things aren’t good, and what we’re witnessing is an old axiom brought to life:

Gahan’s absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

Gahan plays politics every minute of every day of his public life, and when someone disagrees with him, they’re accused of … wait for it … playing politics.

But the fact that Gahan somehow believes an equation wherein his tenure as mayor and the very practice of politics in this town are intertwined, synonymous and inseparable — that Gahan possesses a monopoly on political power, as though to suggest political power is exclusive to Gahan himself — openly threatens the very principle of democracy, and is the single best indicator that he has gathered far too much power for one ill-equipped man.

Hence the case for White as mayor begins not with grandiose promises of Christmas mornings to come, but with clear-eyed realism, because what’s needed is a mayor with the ability to understand that “miracles” are nonsense and objects not as bright and shiny as their facades — and that their ongoing cost is an unwelcome, burdensome “gift” to future generations.

There is a mess, and White will do his best to clean it up. The mess isn’t only financial. It’s also a clear and abiding abuse of power.

White’s solution is to devolve power, to dismantle the governing clique’s patronage machine, and to disperse power to the grassroots.

Hence, People First. It really isn’t a slogan. It’s a way of addressing Gahan’s governing cancer by loosening the reins and allowing democracy to determine solutions, not an entrenched special interest group.

White knows he’ll be spending much time just listening to people – people in neighborhoods, people standing on street corners, people calling him, people living in public housing and people waiting to be heard after eight long years of being patronized, threatened or flatly ignored by the Gahan privilege machine.

By clearing the patronage clog-ups and communication blockages — by cutting pay-to-play donors from the equation — White has a realistic chance of finding out what real people are thinking, and of devising ways to help them.

Look at White’s basic platform.

It’s the sort of program any political party would be proud to espouse, which leads to another point, seeing as I’m also told that any challenge to an incumbent is to be viewed as a contagion to be vigorously suppressed, because: Democratic Party unity!

How dare the party’s elite’s slate of fellow elitists be questioned?

To which I reply: “Equine feces.”

By this reasoning a ball club wouldn’t play exhibition games before the regular season starts. For a sports team, practice games help establish routines and reinforce tactics, but when it comes to a political party, small groups of elders on “both” sides prefer fixing the starting lineup before the real games even start.

It makes no sense outside the boundaries of elitist cliques.

As for Democrats, the advent of a candidate like White, who is both an independent thinker and a party member, should be regarded as a heaven-sent opportunity to bring people back into the equation.

A local Democratic Party like ours, which remains under the control of a small clique of power-brokers, incessantly rationalizes that its oppressive central control is necessary to (a) preserve local patronage networks, and (b) mobilize the cadres for state and national election cycles.

Consequently real people living right here in New Albany finish a poor third on the list of priorities. As far as the Democratic Party here is concerned, ordinary people are to be seen, not heard. Why do you think planning and communications have trickled (oozed?) down not unlike coal ash sludge from the lofty heights during two Gahan administrations?

Ruling elites forever view the inseparable political objectives of money and power as far more easily attained and preserved if public input is kept to a bare minimum.

This is why I laugh so heartily every time Team Gahan invites citizens to public meetings, because I’m so old that I can remember he way it was done in Communist countries of old, when Poles, Romanians and Cubans (not to omit North Koreans even today) were invited to come cast their votes in favor of the only name on the ballot, which of course had been pre-determined without input of any sort from citizens.

Or, just the same way Adam Dickey and the Democrats do it right here in Anchor City. The boot-lickers preen, the so-called progressives pretend the prevailing toxicity is healthy, and the “fix” stays permanently in place.

Again, notice the gist of David White’s platform points and consider how they might apply to life within the Floyd County Democratic Party itself.

How would the democratization (pun intended) and decentralization of the party damage its obligation to support candidates up ticket?

It wouldn’t.

Can too much democracy, too much transparency and too much participation ever hurt a human endeavor meant to be shared by all on the first place?

No, it can’t.

The only casualty would be the imperative to concentrate money and power in the hands of a small clique dispensing political patronage for the benefit of their own operatives and not that of the commonweal.

It is indisputable that David White has ample qualifications to be the Democratic nominee for the office of mayor, and to serve as mayor if elected to the position.

But White would be the first to tell you he’s no miracle worker, just a janitor – or, for that matter, doing what any number of blue collar workers do cleaning, lifting, fixing, maintaining, and performing other behind-the-scenes hard work, with their faces never once appearing on sewer bills or lifestyle advertisements.

Join me in voting for David White for Mayor. It’s time for a change, which begins with a whole lotta scrubbing.

Recent columns:

April 2: ON THE AVENUES: Donnie Blevins tells his story.

March 26: ON THE AVENUES: Gahan’s hoarding of power and money is a threat to New Albany’s future.

March 19: ON THE AVENUES: In 1989, six months of traveling fabulously in Europe.

March 12: ON THE AVENUES: Tender mercies, or why Democratic Party luminaries didn’t want to be seen at the “Protect Hoosiers from Hate” rally.