One Southern Indiana?

Last night, the city council of Jeffersonville, In., became the latest Southern Indiana community to pass a resolution prohibiting the tolling of existing infrastructure as a means to pay for the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project.

From a press release, courtesy of Say No to Bridge Tolls:

Thanks to the lobbying efforts of several members of Say NO to Bridge Tolls and the Indiana Tea Party Patriots, a NO TOLLS resolution was passed 5-1 last night by the Jeffersonville City Council. Council Member Keith Fetz introduced the resolution. The “No”vote was from Councilman Nathan Samuels while Councilman Ron Grooms abstained. Grooms, a Republican seeking support from the Tea Party Patriots in his current campaign for state legislature, was a critic of the resolution at prior council meetings.

“I’m really looking forward to delivering this resolution to the Bridges Authority. It’s time they wake up and smell the coffee,” said Shawn Reilly, one of the co-founders of Say NO to Bridge Tolls.

“The Jeffersonville City Council has done the right thing.” said Paul Fetter, the sales manager of Clark County Auto Auction.”In the coming weeks, I’m hoping even more municipalities, especially town boards, follow suit. They’re voices should matter in this too.” Fetter has lead the lobbying efforts in Jeffersonville, as well as been responsible for a great deal of the over 5,000 signatures already on the Say NO to Bridge Tolls petition.

Similar resolutions have already been passed by New Albany’s City Council, the Louisville Metro Council, the Clark County Council, and just last week, the Utica Town Council.

Thus, Jeffersonville has joined the ranks of Clarksville, New Albany and Utica, In. — including Louisville Metro — all of which now stand in opposition to the project’s most-talked about funding mechanism (tolling), thereby solidifying anti-toll sentiment in all of the Indiana communities directly affected by the massive public works project. One would think, then, that the message sent by these communities and their elected officials — i.e., they don’t want to pay a bridge tax to fund the project — would conflict with the views held by One Southern Indiana, the chamber of commerce of Floyd and Clark Counties, which has been a staunch advocate of tolling and, as it turns out, a paid contributor to the Southern Indiana political process.

Michael Dalby, CEO of One Southern Indiana, said of Jeffersonville’s no tolls vote: “It is a disappointment to see them take a move like that prior to anything really being proposed as to how we’re going to fund the project.”

“But,” he added, “they have the right to be able to do that.”

In a prickly interview with LEO Weekly, Dalby — who has been described as “delusional” by a columnist for the New Albany News & Tribune, and called much more by New Albany Confidential blogmaster Roger A. Baylor — disagreed with the notion that Southern Indiana’s now-unified opposition to tolling in any way represented opposition to the project, claiming that only “two cities” have passed anti-toll resolutions without naming which cities they were.

“I’m not certain that the vote completely conflicts with or reflects the opinion of the majority of people living in Southern Indiana,” says Dalby, who suggested that an accurate polling of such sentiment would consist of standing on a bridge and asking motorists if they’d like extra lanes.

“(Those communities) aren’t speaking out against funding the project,” he continues, “just one way of funding it. Most people would wait to see what the funding options are before they inform an opinion (and act on it).”

The Bi-state Bridges Authority, which was formed by governors Steve Beshear, D-Ky., and Mitch Daniels, R-In., and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, was set up to find a way to pay for the project, and has come up with fuck-all in the way of a financial plan, but probably won’t come out with one until next year. Maybe.

At any rate, here’s part of a transcript of a phone conversation I had with Dalby, which was painful but interesting in the sense that it shows the kind of temperament these pro-bridges folks bring to the table.

LEO: Now that Jeffersonville has joined the ranks of virtually every Southern Indiana community that this project will be affecting — from New Albany to Utica — I was just wondering, does (Southern Indiana’s opposition to tolling) sort of undermine One Southern Indiana’s position on a unified front regarding the bridges project?

(Silence)

Dalby: Go back to your question, but stop at the point of “undermine One Southern Indiana’s position.” So try it again.

LEO: Uh, excuse me?

Dalby: Ask the question again, but take out the last part. The last part is an opinion. I mean, I grasp what you’re shootin’ for here, but if you ask the question, then I’ll answer the question. But you asked a question and gave an opinion. So, try again.

LEO: (inaudible, as Dalby begins shouting at me)

Dalby: Hang on hang on hang on Jonathan! Just try again! (silence) Go ahead.

LEO: (wondering if Dalby’s got a turtle head poking through) I would think that if there’s any opinion, it’s probably (an opinion) that those communities’ have voiced via their council meetings, and passing these resolutions. Do these resolutions … conflict with One Southern Indiana’s goal regarding advancing the bridges project? Does it mean that One Southern Indiana is at odds with Southern Indiana in terms of the bridges project?

Dalby: Well, you heard from two city councils … I’m not certain that that’s a voice for all of Southern Indiana… I don’t think two votes by the councils preclude that.

A real pill, for sure, but hey: You don’t get to be the CEO of anybody’s chamber of commerce by being cordial with the press.

Dalby eventually accused me of trying to trick him by asking the same questions again and again — does One Southern Indiana’s support of the bridges project put itself at odds with Southern Indiana itself? — and the Texan just wasn’t going to have any of this journalism nonsense.

The scary part is that while downplaying  his reported support of tolling (“Nobody wants to pay tolls,” he told me), Dalby voiced his support of public-private partnerships, which will — in the absence of adequate federal subsidization of the project — result in a fleecing of these communities by large banks and their enablers at the local chambers of commerce.

3 Comments

  1. Roger A. Baylor
    Posted October 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Dead straight, and thanks for the link. “Utter bullshit” actually is a mild characterization of the unfolding saga.

  2. Jeff Gillenwater
    Posted October 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Meador has learned firsthand what many of us in Southern Indiana have known for years via the exact same method: When confronted with facts, Michael Dalby has no answers and it takes about 3.6 seconds for the resulting slobber to make them tap dancing shoes awfully slippery.

  3. Cherise Williams
    Posted October 19, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    From bodily function trouble of a coal ash worker, to this interview w/Dalby…Jonathan Meador is on top of his game! Thanks for telling it the way it is, Jonathan!