ON THE AVENUES: Pay attention, students, because voter turnout went UP in New Albany.


This time out, the weekly column is to be kept (relatively) short and sweet. I’ve no grand pronouncements to make, and quite a lot of catching up to do. After all, the art of the polemic is hard enough when you win.

Has anyone in Southern Indiana who purports to be “exercising” the practice of journalism (right) ever once considered the notion of institutional memory – or, conversely, the usefulness of a scant ten minutes of basic research?

Take it away, Susan Duncan; for the uninitiated, she’s the editor of the local chain newspaper.

Yet another exercise in flexing our Democracy muscles is in the books. Here are some post-2019 election musings from the editor’s office …

The majority of voters aren’t into exercise. Only about a third of the electorate in Clark and Floyd counties bothered to vote. That’s disappointing. Even the convenience of vote centers — something I favor for all counties — didn’t seem to make much of a difference in Floyd County. We have to start thinking outside the box when it comes to attracting voters. Maybe door prizes.

“Democracy muscles”?

Actually here at the vicious tabloid blog no one reads, door prizes are being saved for those rare and elusive occasions when the local chain newspaper’s editor departs from daily news suppression and displays a modicum of comprehension, and this isn’t one of those cases.

That’s because voter turnout on Tuesday in New Albany went up, and in truth, it went up somewhat dramatically given our recent history.

(That’s right: history. It’s all right there in the newspaper’s morgue, but as with so many of life’s challenges, one has to care enough to look past the knee-jerk and gaze upon facts.)

Alas, Duncan’s not the only one ignoring history. I’m having trouble understanding the many lamentations I’ve heard from members of both parties about “low” voter turnout on Tuesday.

Yes, it’s all relative, and from an overall perspective 30% is puny, yet almost 1,800 more votes were cast in the mayor’s race (8,447) than in 2015 (6,684). In fact, that’s the most votes in a mayor’s race since 2003.

Isn’t THIS the takeaway, the headline, the banner?

If I’m bright enough to cut and paste numbers from the newspaper’s own stories, you’d think the editor would be, too.

Obviously it wasn’t the election result I personally was seeking, but both parties brought out voters who haven’t been participating during recent election cycles, and for Jeff Gahan to pull in an extra 1,000 votes over his total in 2015 cannot be overlooked even if I’d like to. Seems his cash was well spent.

To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, it remains that those 4,631 Gahan supporters knew exactly what they wanted, and now they’ll be getting it good and hard, but this doesn’t make the mayor’s ability to increase his support via 1,000 more votes any less newsworthy.

Of course, Duncan missed this, and a better indicator of her newspaper’s steady decline is hard to imagine.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I’m a bit discouraged, but life goes on.

What I’ll never forget about the 2019 election campaign in New Albany is the way the incumbent’s ludicrously massive pot of special interest money successfully deflected substantive discussion about so many important topics that his own political party supposedly cares about, as well as the accompanying way so many of the community’s self-encrusted pillars let him get away with it, because in the end tribal spasms count for more than anything else to them.

Their “team” won, and now they can return to their sustaining daily delusions, warm and safe on the fantasy side of those Potemkin facades.

Probably none of it will impact me, but lots of less fortunate folks are going to suffer the next four years because Jeff Gahan remains mayor, and the cool kids who’ll be so quick to criticize me for saying this aloud will be the same ones resolutely looking the other way when the whip comes down.

As usual, my main muse (his name is Jeff Gillenwater) has bored directly into the central points emerging from Tuesday’s balloting.

“We have to change the local culture, not just the people in office. That means holding those self-encrusted pillars and cool kids every bit as accountable as the politicians themselves. There are plenty of “educated professionals” – not to mention professional educators – around here who ought to be ashamed to walk down the street today. But they’re not. Because they “won”. 

“I’ll say again: Do not trust those people in politics or daily life. They lie. They cheat. They suck.

“Personally, I’m just glad we won’t be here in five, 10, 15 years as all the bright, shiny, unbid, and absurdly misdirected objects start to crumble and need substantial but wholly unfunded maintenance, not to mention an even more substantial change of overall direction toward the sustainable and/or regenerative well before current patronage projects are even paid off. 

“Whoever gets stuck in office trying to deal with that is going to be wildly unpopular, likely owing to the crime of trying to be honest and realistic. New Albany votes not just like it’s the 1950s but as if the 50s are an infinite possibility. It would be wonderful if people had the forethought to choose better, to think even 10 or 20 years ahead. As is, they’ll be forced in future as usual without ever tracing their pending lack of choice back to choices they’re making now.”

Jeff also states the case in personal terms, and my household concurs.

“We both have long family histories here and in moving back thought we were going to be a part of genuine, cooperative community development. The insular power trip folks here, though, don’t want that at all. We both have a long collection of ugly stories and memories. A few along the way have sold out completely. Most have just left. Lots of talent rejected and wasted here in the name of “winning”.

“We’ve been here for 15 years or so, which is too long. During that time, though, everyone I’ve ever met here (except those getting a paycheck from a politician) who has legitimately studied urban planning or community and cultural development ends up disgusted and happy to leave.”

I’m grateful to Jeff for expressing my feelings. At first it seemed I might be angry after the beat-down. However, in terms of civic dysfunction, the results were entirely in keeping with the very nature of New Albany. I’m sad and a tad puzzled. That’s just about it.

One doesn’t stop caring, agitating or fighting after losing a single battle or one ballgame. However, multiple setbacks suggest reformatted thinking and different tactics. We’ll see how this goes. In the meantime, there’ll be some literal and figurative housecleaning in my universe, and a period of desperately needed cerebral battery recharging in Europe later this month.

Political asylum in Trieste? Now that’s a pleasing thought.

Recent columns:

October 31: ON THE AVENUES: In which Team Gahan’s looming appointment with unemployment is examined.

October 3: ON THE AVENUES: The cold hard truth, or just plain Slick Jeffie-inflicted consequences.

September 26: ON THE AVENUES: Socialists for Seabrook, because we desperately need a new beginning in New Albany.

September 12: ON THE AVENUES: There’s no business like no business, and it’s none of your business (2016).