Friday, December 26, 2014

A 2014 Recap, Of Sorts

Well, the end of the year is at hand.  The end of my first term as your city commissioner is at hand.  So what am I thinking about as the year winds down?

For those of you who are old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show, who was that guy who kept all the plates spinning atop those pointed wooden sticks? You know, he would start one spinning, and another, and another, all the while “re-spinning” slowing plates so as not to let them fall off the sticks.  I think that might be a metaphor for the past 24 months.  Just to mention a few city plates that were spinning: a hotel, curbside recycling, E 911, the animal shelter, the “bump out” riverfront park, and of course the unexpected structural problems with City Hall.  These are the big plates that cannot come crashing down.  Fortunately, we have a cadre of talented people in City Hall.  Yes, we all have our stories, and I certainly have had mine, but at the end of the day we really have a good group. I would be particularly remiss in not thanking City Manager Jeff Pederson for taking time to have lunch with me most Tuesdays, for probably the most productive hour I spend all week.  So, thanks.

Moving into 2015, I’m thinking that we all have a real opportunity to work closely with our (largely new) county government.  While I’m at it, I have met the Paducah Economic Development guy, Scott Darnell, and he is a winner.   Already there is a better working environment between our two organizations, and that’s a good thing.

Then, there is this quiet guy in the city.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone… but it’s Jon Perkins, head of finance.  We have a lunch date, over chili, about once a quarter.  I always feel better about our finances after lunch with Jon, and it isn’t the chili that gives me that good feeling either.

My biggest surprise in elected office has been that we (the mayor, commission and department heads) don’t meet just by ourselves.  Of course I understand “sunshine” laws, with the media always in the room, and that’s O.K.  It’s just that when I was in business, I met with department heads monthly to hash it out and get those ideas flowing.  Even the crazy ideas always had a kernel of good in them.  We can’t do that like I’m used to, and I’m not convinced that we are better for it.

Lastly, I’m thinking of the conversations you and I have had about our city.  I would not change those meetings with you all (I guess I’m supposed to say “y’all” there) one bit.  So here’s the deal—for the next 24 months, you keep me informed on your thoughts, and that will keep me energized. 

Now if I can just figure how to sleep through the night…


Monday, September 29, 2014


I probably should not get into this subject, but a little introspection never hurts.  Well, maybe it only hurts a little bit. 

It was really easy when I was a candidate two years ago to defiantly proclaim that Paducah had a deep talent pool so why would we ever go out of town for a consultant.  Well, it isn’t for that consultant’s look of khaki slacks and blue blazer, I can assure you.

I was talking with my friend Charles today, and the subject of consultants came up.  “Why go out of town to hire one of those guys?” he asked.  I was on the spot with a friend and a voter.  I explained it this way.  I’m really interested in making Paducah more bicycle friendly.  That friendliness includes Paducah being a “walkable city” also.  I told him before I was a city commissioner I had read the book Walkable City by Jeff Speck.  I was really impressed with his ideas for city “bikeability” and “walkability,” and thus its appeal to a vibrant younger generation.  I will not bore you with the facts of his book, but just stay with me on this. 

Fast forward to early this year.  City Manager Jeff Pederson and I were discussing Jeff Speck.  He had read the book earlier also, and he had a plan hatched to bring Jeff Speck here, yes as a consultant.  Why did I fall into this trap of consultancy?  Simple.  In this case, I wanted a noted city planner, a walkable city, bike friendly guy, to help me get the city where I thought it should be headed.  Yes, I wanted to get some real horsepower to bolster my position.  Charles, I asked, “Wouldn’t you do the same thing?”  He got it. So whether it’s bikes and walking, theater renovation, or your favorite desire for the city, sometimes it’s O.K. to go outside and get the person who really is the recognized expert.

This doesn’t mean to simply park your brain and follow the consultant, skipping merrily behind.  It does mean being exposed to new ideas and the challenge of working through those ideas to find the ones that best fit our community.

So, as my dad shared with me as a returning college graduate, “Don’t saw yourself off” with absolutes.  Instead, be flexible.  Well, and I guess here is the punch line, if you can see your way clear to support me for another two years, I promise to lighten up on the absolutes and promise to stay the kind of commissioner you have encouraged me to be.

Oh, and before I forget, Jeff Speck isn’t the kind of consultant who wears khakis or a blue blazer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Vote

I don’t know about you, but I think the cooler weather has invigorated me.  So here goes.

Tonight I vote on hiring BFW, a local company, and Ratio, an out-of- town company, to create an overall park and land use plan for the former Executive Inn site.  I have not gone soft, but I thought a bit of explanation might be in order.  It will come as no surprise that I have been critical of JJR and their Riverfront Development Plan.  Additionally, I was very critical of City Vision and their Renaissance Area Master Plan, a.k.a. RAMP.  You should also know that the RAMP was only “accepted” not “adopted” by the City of Paducah at the recommendation of the independent Planning Commission.  In other words, it isn’t part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the primary planning document. 

So what am I thinking about?  The old Executive Inn site, also known as the “debris field” or “scar,” is the last remaining piece of the riverfront not developed.  Maybe,I’m just trying to get this final piece correctly fitted into place, if you will.  Maybe I can find happiness with this last part of the puzzle.  Maybe the third time will be a charm.

I do think it is important to have a local face to lead the city in this endeavor, and Bacon Farmer and Workman will be that face.  Ratio is the firm that did the design work with the City of Indianapolis for the 2012 Super Bowl.  So, the skill set is there.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I’m not happy.

Tonight I voted to spend some $90,000 for re-engineering the riverfront park, a project I have twice voted against.  A change of heart?  No, but I’ll explain. The PRDA has come up with a simpler riverfront plan.  The $90,000 funds the engineering to bring the plans from the much larger JJR design to the current PRDA plan.  With this smaller plan, the contractors will then provide bid packages on the project.  We will finally have prices.

Without tonight’s redesign spending authorization and the contractor bid packages, the city will be stuck with the current “rock only” situation. This is not an alternative.  With firm bids, we can then see what we can afford.  Again, my position is to spend the $3,800,000 earmark and not our local taxpayers’ money on the project.

So I spend dollars tonight on a project I have twice voted against.  I am not happy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Missed Opportunity

A Post from Afar
(This commissioner doesn't go on vacation; he just frets about city politics via text messages and the use of his daughter's secretarial services.)

(For those new to the issue, this is in regards to the fate of the red brick building at the corner of 4th and Harrison Sts. It was voted last night to accept the proposal for the new owners to demolish the building and erect the Troutt General Store in its place. The losing proposal was for it to be kept and turned into apartments.)

I just did not see it coming. Yes, I had received emails from neighbors in support of the proposed Troutt General Store here in LowerTown, but I couldn't help but think of the tragedy of tearing down a building that dates back to just after the Civil War. No, I'm not a hopeless romantic. I understand that there is a balance that must be struck between economic growth and historical preservation, but still feel that there could have been an alternative to demolition of this structure.

Chad Beyer of i5 Design had also submitted a proposal, for renovating it to create a new four-unit apartment building. Paducah, we know, is starting an Upper-Story Living Initiative downtown. If we are to attract young thinkers and community-builders from both at home and afar, we must create attractive, affordable housing in downtown and LowerTown to give the district that sought-after metropolitan vibe.

The Troutt General store is a good thing too, but for me, there had to have been a better way forward. This did not have to be a zero-sum game. With more consideration, both projects should have been allowed to survive in a way that pleased entrepreneurs and preservationists alike. Unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to find a great location for the Troutt General Store and give a historic building a new life as a downtown living space.

To me, there is no better way to inspire a passion for Paducah in the minds of new downtown residents than to promote modern living in history-rich places. And while retail spaces like general stores, restaurants and groceries make for sustainable neighborhoods, if we don't also focus on residential spaces, who will be here to sustain them?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Go Muzzle Yourself.

Now that the first festivals of the year have passed…and we couldn’t possibly have any more city hall issues out there, I have turned my thoughts to the muzzling of dogs.  This is not about “should you bring your dog to an event?”  It is not a liability primer concerning dogs.  And it is not about how hot pavement must be painful to the pads of the dog’s feet.  No, this is just questioning why we have an ordinance muzzling your dog in city festivals or parks or well, wherever. 

My go-to logic says, “What do other cities do?”  Naturally, I tend to think of places that we might be willing to visit or to live in ourselves.  How about Lexington, Austin or Nashville.  What do they say about “the muzzle ordinance?”  As a Google user it is easy to find out.  All three of these very livable cities do not consider muzzling dogs enough of an issue to make it an ordinance.  O.K. You got me. They do mention “vicious dogs.”  But really, what is it that we know that the aforementioned cities don’t know?  Maybe we have discovered that the muzzle ordinance is the “cutting edge” of truly livable cities and by retaining the ordinance we will leapfrog Nashville, Lexington and Austin.

My guess is that our city is simply, just more risk averse, but risk abounds in everyday life.  I suspect we may be told that we are safer when dogs are muzzled in public, but that is hardly quantifiable. It just seems strange that three very livable cities have gone one way, and we have gone another.   

Let the muzzles be removed and your comments begin.