Pig-in-the-poke may turn out as no pig at all

It’s hard to believe, but here we are, once again, $80,000 later, still enduring presentations from planning consultants about a comprehensive plan,. This time it was for Union County, but as usual, the report isn’t finished and the consultants are still “asking for our input.”

According to consultant Sam Russell, “I am about done with New Albany’s plan; I should have it in another month or so after that, I will have this one for the county where you can look at it.” Unless I am mistaken and my memory is actually worse than I am willing to admit it is, this is the same guy with the same statement who talked to the City of New Albany some months ago. Every time I think about all these delays and non-deliveries I think about being warned about buying a pig-in-a-poke.

While we always used that term to refer to a bad deal while I was growing up, the real origin is from advice given back in the 15th century, “Don’t buy a pig until you have seen it.” They refined that advice for the British commercial law, “Caveat emptor” or “Let the buyer beware.”

A poke is a small sack or bag from which comes the descriptive term pocket. It is the sort of bag one might use to carry a piglet to market in earlier days. The problem which made the advice important is that a pig that’s in a poke might turn out to be no pig at all. If a merchant tried to cheat by substituting a lower valued animal, and here is where another great phrase originated, his trick could be uncovered by “letting the cat out of the bag.” As they usually said 500 years ago, “When ye proffer the pigge open the poke.”

Hindsight is always superior, but to second guess  elected or appointed groups is many times considered unfair or even “dirty-pool,” but then again, it’s our money that may have bought that proverbial “pig-in-a-poke. We will never know for sure why our elected officials, advised by their appointed officials didn’t heed the advice, “don’t buy a pig (comprehensive plan) until you have seen it.” And then again, the pig that is in the poke may turn out to be no pig at all, meaning there may not be a comprehensive plan at all, only, as suspected, promises to have one later.

Ironically, the same consulting firm let the proverbial cat out of the bag as they made their presentation to the City of New Albany Aldermen and the public, as the pig-in-the-poke turned out to be the “Annexation-Cat.” Again in hindsight, our elected and appointed officials should have opened the poke prior to the exchange of monies and most certainly prior to a public meeting where the long awaited and expected comprehensive plan turned out to not be finished and took on the shape of an annexation project map. Now that same consultant is promising to “be done with New Albany’s plan,”  and we have to be concerned with which pig or cat this plan will turn out to be.

My personal opinion is that all of our elected and appointed officials are fully aware of what is in the poke and if a cat is let out of the bag, it will be one with which they are very familiar and with which we, the public, may not be very happy.

The truth of the matter is that we desperately need comprehensive plans for both the county and the City of New Albany. Ironically, all of the “alliances” and quasi-governmental non-profit agencies who have inserted themselves into the business of elected governments know it. Without comprehensive plans, we must take a back-seat to those cities and counties progressive enough to have theirs in place as economic development opportunities open up. Without a comprehensive plan, we can’t compete.

If that last statement fills in some blanks in the puzzle about why we don’t seem to be progressing, then you are on your way to figuring  out why there is no urgency  or encouragement from our alliance partners for the writing or adoption of comprehensive plans for New Albany and/or Union County.

About Chris Elkins

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