Gregory Travis

August 22, 2004

Ok, it's official: this is one stubborn vampire. Every six months I hear someone pull out the "Bloomington is anti-business" vampire and, every six months, I think I do a pretty good job of driving a stake through it. But the SOB keeps coming back and I just can't figure out why. It's a wooden stake, right? That is what I'm using and I am getting frustrated.

The bastard bit me twice in the neck last week. The first time was when my lovely wife showed me a candidates' questionnaire from the Chamber of Commerce, a questionnaire that included their now obligatory question: "Does Monroe County foster a business-friendly environment?" (there is only one correct answer to that). And then I got bit a second time, and bit more deeply, reading the online weblog of an Indiana House candidate who said: "Bloomington [is] as anti-business as any place I've ever lived." Ouch.

August 15, 2004

In logic there's something called "the fallacy of the golden mean," which is also known as the fallacy of moderation. The fallacy is committed whenever someone holds that a given position is invalid simply because it represents some extreme (in the person's view). The fallacy is also committed in the opposite when a position is held as valid simply because it represents the mean, or the middle, between two opposing "extreme" positions.

In few places is the fallacy of the golden mean more prevalent than in the areas of local and national politics. How many times have you heard a candidate dismissed simply because of his or her "extreme" views? And how many times have you heard another candidate lauded simply because the candidate represents a "moderate" position? Yeah, you hear it all the time. Ever wonder why that is?

August 1, 2004

There was little controversy back when the idea for a Bloomington Economic Development Canine (EDC) was first floated. At the time, communities were struggling to deal with the realities of the first Bush recession and the idea of handing the reigns of community economic planning and development to qualified dogs was as appealing as it was promising. Ten years, and thousands of EDCs across the country later, it's clear that the program is an unqualified success, no less true here under the direction of our own EDC, headed up by my ably talented Beagle, Hoagie.

Therefore I'm not at all sure what Mayor Kruzan's plans are for funding the Beagle Economic Development Canine (BEDC), but I'm concerned about it. For the past couple of years, local Democrats have been wringing their hands about what they term is the BEDC's penchant for secrecy and exclusivity. You'd think that with all of the BEDC's recent successes that they'd get over their political paranoia and want to increase his funding.

July 25, 2004

A few weeks ago I was at a forum for local Democratic office-seekers, a forum being sponsored by Democracy for America (DFA), a spin-off of the organizational and ideological forces behind the Howard Dean campaign that is carrying forth the candidate's energy and ideas, if not the candidate himself. This was one of those forums where the sponsors, the panel members, and the audience were all drawn from the same, friendly, territory.

It's the kind of "group hug" environment that always triggers my inner curmudgeon. I like a little tension. I like it when things go a little unscripted. So when question time came around, I thought I'd ask something that is terribly important to me but that I also expected would shake things up a little. I got that, but I also got something else.

July 18, 2004

I got a chance to go on talk radio this week, ostensibly to discuss a broad swath of economic issues, mostly local but also national. But, as so often happens, we didn't quite stick to the show's putative topic, venturing off (or dragged there by our callers) into the separate, if closely related, issues of land use and the partisan makeup of local government.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the conversations that we had and I was surprised that neither my, nor my host's, comments drew the vitriol that I expected given that both of us come from the progressive liberal side of the aisle and that the audience for talk radio overwhelmingly consists of those "NASCAR dads" hailing from the Rural Right. Or so I'm told.

July 11, 2004

Plus Ça Change, Plus C'Est La Meme Chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing better illuminates that old saying more than the developing "Stone Brook" apartment complex, now making its way through the machinations of local government.

For those of you who remember the Canterbury debacle, Stone Brook is just like it -- only more so. Another dreary apartment complex located even farther out of town and farther from the amenities of civilization than was Canterbury. But, of course, it comes with even more government subsidies and more government inducements to "growth," even while it sports even less justification for those subsidies and even less demonstration of need.

June 27, 2004

The bigger the elephant, the harder we work to deny he's in the tent. I'm no exception. For years I've prattled on endlessly about all the second-tier chronic abuses of the public's capital, goodwill, and spaces. The Thompsons, the Whitehalls, the Renwicks, etc. But I've kept relatively quiet, ignored is actually a better term, about the biggest abuse of all.

But at least I'm not the only one. At lunch yesterday I threw out the subject of today's column, asking my fellow gourmands about the subject and asking why neither we, nor anyone else, ever talked much about it. There were a few opinions thrown out but no matter what, the conversation quickly and inevitably switched to a different subject. We just weren't going to "go there."

June 20, 2004

How Bloomington ever got recognized for "preserving greenspace" I'll never know, but it's a fact. The June 2004 issue of Realtor Magazine ( ... ) features a piece entitled "Forging Livable Communities," which celebrates Bloomington's "love of green."

Like I said, I don't know how it happened but the Herald-Times picked up on it and reprinted, almost verbatim, the article last week. As I read it, online in some airport, I thought I must be losing my mind because, surely, the level of reality disconnection necessary to pen such an assertion couldn't exist.

June 13, 2004

I spent most of this week at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. By far the biggest lesson that I took away was that government can, and sometimes does, produce great architecture and places worth caring about, learning from, and defending.

Great architecture is the product of great institutions, public and private. I thought much of institutions and what they tell us about ourselves as I traveled through our nation's ancient industrial cradle and as I traveled through the rust belts of upstate New York and down the Hudson River. Like an astronomer looking into a telescope and making observations millions of light-years into the past, I saw out the car windows into our country's past.

June 6, 2004

Last night my lovely wife asked what I intended to write about today. I replied that I wasn't quite sure (it's usually Saturday afternoon before I figure it out) but that I supposed it would be a standard dyspeptic rant rooted in a favorite bete noir or two. Perhaps the idiotic dysfunction of modern civic planning, perhaps the coming energy train wreck, or perhaps the tyranny of the real estate grifters and the land speculators. I wasn't sure, but I was sure it would come to me.

"Why don't you write something funny?" she said. I was a little insulted. After all, I think I'm hilarious. But I realized that she was touching on something that other readers sometimes complain about too, namely that when I think I'm being sardonic and droll, others just find it sarcastic and cynical. Caisse le pied as the French would say.

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