Friday, December 31, 2004

31 DEC 04: GIMME '05

Are you ready for 2004 to end tonight? I suspect many people are. I heard someone say the other day they were happy when December 26 showed up - because Sunny 100-FM finally was listenable again, with no more holiday music.

(By the way, if you still have a tree up in your house - I saw four real trees on the ground outside the door of St. Luke United Methodist Church on Tuesday. It's time....)

Remember the last time New Year's Eve fell on a Friday night? It was five years ago, at the brink of Y-2-K -- and many people worried about whether their utilities would keep working after midnight. This year in Columbus, the issue may be how long factory employees will keep working.

The concern about jobs goes far beyond Char-Broil. International textile trade quotas expire with the new year, and some unions are worried China will overwhelm our country with cheap clothing. Why can't this country stick to its name -- and only export china?

All sorts of events are planned around the area to mark the start of 2005. Many churches will hold what's known as "Watchnight" services. A few of them also will be watching for Sheriff's Officers, walking in with subpoenas....

I've never been to a Watchnight service, but I suppose the point of the event is to begin the new year in a godly way. Yet I can't help asking - has SafetyCab ever been called to a church, after a holiday communion service?

Lest we forget: SafetyCab is available to provide you a free cab ride home, should you have too much to drink. Either that, or you can try to make friends with one of the highrollers who show up at parties in limousines.

A friend at work told me this week she has an unusual resolution for 2005. She resolves to START smoking - instead of stopping it. She explains most people don't keep their resolutions, so you might as well pick a really easy one to break.

So where will your blog be on New Year's Eve? Part of the day will be spent hunting down a 2005 calendar. I picked up a free one at a drugstore weeks ago, but somehow it disappeared from my kitchen. As my pastor likes to say: "Where has this year gone?"

Oh, you mean at MIDNIGHT where will I be? Unless something unusual happens, I'll be in bed resting after a very busy week. But don't worry, I'll probably be awakened at midnight -- by neighbors setting off fireworks illegally.

2004 IN REVIEW, CONCLUSION: The November election brought a few big changes across our area. Marshal Ken Suddeth was voted out of office. Republicans won control of the Georgia House. And imagine if Rick Boren had faced an African-American challenger for Columbus Police Chief.

A new Russell County Commission took office in November - only to be told this week almost all the members must give up their seats. Remember when Probate Judge Al Howard warned the old commission about recall petitions? Can we do that for judges, too?

Current Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters wrote our blog in November, to deny various sightings of love interests. So much for my plan to make fast money, sending a "scoop" to a tabloid about Lindsay Lohan....

The woman Bobby Peters beat for Superior Court Judge found herself sued in November. Columbus public relations maven Marquette McKnight claimed Roxann Daniel still owed her $10,000 from the summer campaign. Ms. Daniel can't finish writing that tell-all book fast enough.

Fort Benning opened a new security checkpoint in November, on Interstate 185. We assume all sorts of Coach's Corner customers caused traffic backups there, and won its liberation from the "Benning banned" list.

The SOA Watch protesters outside Fort Benning finally had some big-time competition in November, as thousands attended the "God Bless Fort Benning" rally. If both these groups keep holding mass rallies on the same weekend, Port Columbus might organize them to hold a Civil War reenactment.

Auburn football wrapped up an unbeaten season in November, and now is preparing for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Did you hear some of the players talk Thursday night about the Louisiana Superdome, and how huge it is? Apparently they don't practice enough at Jordan-Hare Stadium to know their home field has more seats.

Troy University's football team played well enough to gain its first bowl berth. It was Thursday night's Silicon Valley Classic - a game so ignored, local Troy Network station WDAK forgot to broadcast it.

A supermodel visited Columbus at the end of November - only it was"former supermodel" Kim Alexis at a big Cascade Hills Church event. Well, at least this church's runway fashion shows would show something besides choir robes....

November was a month for moving in our area. Char-Broil announced it's moving production to China. Carmen Cavezza announced he's moving out of the Columbus City Manager's office. And after convening a grand jury, Kenneth Davis moved his body out of town as fast as he could.

The "no-bill" decision in the Kenneth Walker case was followed in December by the release of the law enforcement videotape of Walker's shooting. This tape has received plenty of play in the last month - but for some reason, no one's given it to Ed Harbison's "Public Agenda" show.

December brought the introduction of a new corporate logo for AFLAC. The company claimed the old sign atop the tower had "come to the end of its life." So did it get a decent burial at the landfill? Or does the Amos family plan to sell it on eBay?

December also marked the end of the Bradley Library in Columbus. A new library on Macon Road opens Monday - and from what I'm hearing, it will have enough security guards to beat up every owner of brass knuckles in Lumpkin.

Auburn University went off accreditation probation in December. The administrators must have felt like they were at "SACS Fifth Avenue...."

December ended with confusion over a "financial boycott" of Columbus mentioned at a Jesse Jackson news conference. Some civil rights leaders were quick to clarify his remarks - but have you noticed Jackson hasn't been to town since he made that statement?

COMING SOON: It's blog year-end awards time....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


The Chattahoochee Promenade is a winding footpath above the Riverwalk, west of Front Avenue. It has a couple of gazebos, a replica of the Liberty Bell - and so many curves that some Victory Drive club owners might be jealous of it.

Perhaps the Promenade winds a bit too much. The other afternoon I went jogging on this path, and watched a man walking ahead of me teeter to one side and fall in the grass. Part of me quietly wished I had run by him first, to truly cause someone to eat my dust.

This man held a cane in his right hand - but he staggered a few steps on his left foot only, before tipping over. It was the sort of scene that Rush Limbaugh could exploit on his talk show for weeks.

I jogged up to the older-looking man on the ground, and asked if he was all right. His answer surprised me: "I'm all right, sir. But I admit, I've been drinking." Too much alcohol not only can make you tipsy - it can make you brutally honest.

This was one man who would not have been helped by SafetyCab. For one thing, he tipped over at about 5:30 p.m. - and the free holiday cab rides don't start until 9:00. For another thing, he'd have to DIAL SafetyCab. If you can't even stand up, pushing buttons on a wireless phone can be a bigger adventure.

Since the man on the ground told me he was all right, I decided to jog on down the course. But now that I've had time to think about it, perhaps the Chattahoochee Promenade isn't "walker-friendly" enough. Who can we sue, for the lack of handrails at some of those curves?

My latest run Wednesday night brought another close call. This time, the course was the Riverwalk from South Commons east - and the evening air was so cool and calm, you couldn't even smell anything from the Dolly Madison bakery to make you hungry for dinner.

This section of the Riverwalk has a long wooden bridge, between the softball stadium and Port Columbus. I'd say the lighting is terrible - but that might insult the Creator of the full moon, which provides the only light at all after sunset.

I've learned the habit of clapping my hands as I run, to alert slow-moving people in front of me that I'm coming. They can clap with me if they wish - but please don't ask me to sing, if I've passed the one-mile mark.

I'd been running and walking all by myself on the Riverwalk for about 30 minutes. But at this bridge, I saw what looked like a reflection from someone's sneaker. I started clapping - and it was a good thing I did, because two men finally became apparent in the darkness. If they had been criminals, I would have jogged right into their switchblades.

Apparently the two men heard my footsteps as I plodded onto the bridge, so they froze in their tracks. When I clapped my hands, they seemed almost relieved. No, I was not the swamp creature of South Commons.

"This area needs better lighting - that's obvious," I said as I jogged by and headed for home. But let's face it, Columbus is facing big budget cuts in the coming year. Go jogging after dark next summer, and you might need a coal miner's lantern for your head.

2004 IN REVIEW, CONTINUED: September brought a scare to our area, when Hurricane Ivan came ashore. Some people lost power. Other people had damaged property. But at least President Bush finally visited Alabama once, before Election Day.

The Columbus Civic Center became a hurricane evacuation shelter, for people fleeing dangerous storms in Florida -- but apparently not many people stopped there. It's too bad the reputation about Riverdragons crowds is spreading like this....

But Vice President Cheney DID come to Columbus in September -- only not to campaign. He visited a Fort Benning military ball. So next time you hear the Vice President is in that "secure undisclosed location," check on post first.

Later in September, Jesse Jackson visited Columbus State University and encouraged young people to vote. If enough of them had paid attention, who knows how different the Kenneth Walker grand jury might have acted in November....

Fort Benning added "Drive One of Columbus" to its off-limits list in September. The business closed weeks later - and I'm a bit surprised no "Drive Two" has come along in its place.

A Columbus radio station made a startling change in September, as B-101 FM turned into "The Beat." I didn't listen to this station the last few weeks - so did they play holiday songs about a "Beat-Nick?"

. Columbus Police Chief Willie Dozier announced his retirement in September. For some reason, public safety organizations still haven't his picture on one of those "why are the officers leaving" signs....

September was a big month for women's soccer in our area. Columbus State's team played its first games ever. And Auburn had a good start - until my old alma mater Kansas showed up. I resisted the urge to cover Toomer's Corner with blue spray-paint afterward.

Then came October - when gas for $1.79 a gallon looked great. By comparison, on Wednesday I found a Columbus station at $1.59. This is what happens when men stay home on autumn weekends, to watch football games....

Campaigning was in full swing in October - and so were the rumors surrounding Marshal Ken Suddeth. Things should get interesting in January. G.B.I. agents will be in Columbus to consider an investigation of the Marshal's office. And Mr. Suddeth will have all the time in the world to go to Chef Lee's, and be watched.

October was a month of departures in Columbus. Ritmo Latino Radio went off the air on weekends - yet I haven't seen a rush to tear down the Spanish-language signs on Victory Drive and South Lumpkin Road.

Also in October, we learned City Manager Carmen Cavezza had applied for a job at Columbus State University. He'll take that C.S.U. position in January - and see if he can lobby state lawmakers for money any better than he did local voters.

The end of October brought controversy, when the son of Sheriff Ralph Johnson collided with a child on Oates Avenue. Consider how that crash has brought Adam Johnson and his dad together. Father can teach son all about how to handle big civil lawsuits....

Lumpkin made the news late in October, when a group of teens with brass knuckles intimidated the local library into closing for weeks. If the Columbus Vice Squad gets its hands on these young people, you know what could happen - big undercover stings at downtown clubs.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Tuesday's Ledger-Enquirer was first to report on a big consumer complaint settlement, involving Bill Heard Chevrolet. The auto chain has to pay about $188,000 - which will be recovered in about four SUV's.

The Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs concluded Bill Heard dealerships in metro Atlanta deceived customers in four distinct ways. Before you get ahead of me -- no, you scoffers, the four deceptions were not inside each door of a car.

The state Consumer Affairs office cited Bill Heard for advertising all customers were "pre-approved" for loans, when they're really not. Perhaps the car dealer means bankrupt people will at least be given bus fare for a ride home.

Bill Heard also was accused of promising cars on sale that really weren't on the lot. This complaint seems a bit unfair. If he's "Mr. Big Volume," do you really expect him to hold a Chevy in the showroom until everyone in Atlanta has stopped by to check it?

A third complaint against Bill Heard was that it offered "repossessed" cars which never were repossessed at all. While we're at it, let's check "Repo Joe" at Carl Gregory Dodge - starting with whether Joe is his real first name.

The last gripe by the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs was that Bill Heard promised "limited warranties" on cars, but failed to deliver. I wonder if this meant the city limits....

We should note the Bill Heard dealerships in Columbus are NOT part of this settlement - several Atlanta dealerships are. As we've all come to know this year, the place to file complaints about Columbus businesses is not Atlanta. It's the commanding general's office at Fort Benning.

For now, it appears Bill Heard's name will stay on the main theater at the RiverCenter. When a modern country singer performs in concert there, the nickname "Mr. Big Volume" finally makes sense.

So next time you see the manager of Bill Heard Cadillac say on TV, "Mark 'em all down" - remember one thing. In Atlanta, their reputation already WAS....

BLOG UPDATE: The Russell County Commission voted 4-3 Tuesday to fire county attorney Billy Benton. Imagine what might have happened, if commissioners had voted on firing the Probate Judge....

The plot thickened Tuesday in the dispute over Russell County commissioners filing security bonds. Circuit Court Judge Al Johnson showed up, and declared Probate Judge Al Howard has no authority over those bonds. Judge Howard may have just clinched his second Burkard Award in a row, for "man who wants most to become king."

Judge Al Johnson said Judge Al Howard should simply have passed on the paperwork about security bonds for commissioners. Instead the Probate Judge ruled the papers invalid, declared commissioners disqualified from office - and he stopped just short of calling in the National Guard.

Judge Al Howard explained he turned down forms for commissioner security bonds in November because they were incorrect. He says they were supposed to be for four years, but the paperwork specified one year -- perhaps expecting the judge's recall petition drive against the new commission.

But Judge Al Johnson told the Russell County Commission he's the only one who has authority over security bonds. For one thing, the Circuit Court Judge's office probably has a bigger budget for liquid paper to correct mistakes....

(So we have Judge Al versus Judge Al - and in AL-abama, no less! Surely these men must have the same distant relatives somewhere....)

Perhaps the happiest person in the commission room Tuesday was Russell County Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan. She said the security bond flap was the latest example of Probate Judge Al Howard harassing her. But it could be worse - Judge Howard could name Tillman Pugh as his new court clerk.

Quickly now to finish things up:

+ The Columbus State men's basketball team continued its "bonanza" at the Lumpkin Center, by beating Benedict. What's this team's nickname - the Arnolds or the Eggs?

+ A Huntsville, Alabama City Councilman reported he escaped death, when that killer tsunami struck Thailand. We're thankful to know he's alive - but doesn't it seem strange that an elected official from Alabama is on vacation in Thailand?! Is there NO place open yet on the Gulf coast?

+ Instant Message to all East Alabama fireworks stands: Why do you have ads on billboards all over Columbus - especially since it's illegal to shoot fireworks in Georgia without a permit? Do you WANT people to spend this weekend in jail?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We ran out of time Tuesday night, so our review of 2004 will resume Thursday....)

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Russell County's Probate Judge dropped a bombshell on a county commission work session Monday night. Al Howard declared six of the seven commissioners have to vacate their positions! Does something smell funny here - as in "P-ugh?!"

Judge Al Howard told the Russell County Commissioners each member was supposed to post a $3,000 bond for the recent election - and only Mervin Dudley did it. We never thought "Dudley Do-Right" would be at work in East Alabama....

Because six Russell County Commissioners didn't put up a $3,000 bond, Judge Al Howard says they're all disqualified from their jobs. So much for the theory that any ordinary resident can serve in Russell County government. Many people would have trouble finding $3,000 for a mobile home down payment.

Judge Al Howard went on to call the Russell County Commission "illegitimate." Now hold on a second? Didn't I read Monday that Russell County has the highest marriage rate in Alabama? [True/AP]

Russell County Commissioner Cattie Epps told WXTX "News at Ten" Judge Al Howard's comment about an illegitimate government was "inappropriate." For one thing, Phenix City just celebrated getting rid of ITS illegitimate government 50 years ago....

(Of course Cattie Epps would consider what Al Howard said inappropriate. The judge's nit-picking with rules forced her into a write-in election last month. Since Ms. Epps won reelection, she thinks sore losers should shut up and go away.)

Alabama Governor Bob Riley reportedly has been notified of the "illegitimate" commissioners, as has Russell County's District Attorney. So what will Kenneth Davis do - put all six commissioners in jail? Then they'd have a quorum, and keep holding meetings.

The main event for the Russell County Commission was supposed to be the possible firing of the County Attorney today. Now the attorney might stay, while the commission gets changed. We believe in Alabama, this is called the "Tuberville Method."

That was going to be our topic before Al Howard opened his mouth - the rumors about Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville possibly taking another job. Only last week we were told he had a new contract "in principle." But some coaches love to call the end-around play....

The Atlanta newspapers seemed to start the buzz about Tommy Tuberville, by claiming his agent had been "given the green light" to talk to Louisiana State about becoming head coach there. How did Coach Tuberville do this? By showing his wallet was a bit light of "green?"

The Atlanta newspaper web site went farther, claiming a big L.S.U. booster already had approached Tommy Tuberville's agent about the head coaching job. This is happening so indirectly, they might also work out an asylum deal for Fidel Castro.

The Atlanta newspaper also noted Auburn's playing in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl, putting coach Tommy Tuberville only a short drive from the L.S.U. campus in Baton Rouge. Why, he wouldn't need to assemble a posse the way William Walker did a year ago....

But Coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters at the Sugar Bowl he still "plans to be back at Auburn next year." Considering the Tigers are scheduled to play L.S.U. on the road in Baton Rouge next fall, that should settle the issue....

The mayors of Auburn and Blacksburg, Virginia made a wager Monday on the Sugar Bowl game. Somewhere, former Governor Don Siegelman smiled at that news - while the Alabama Christian Coalition may have consulted attorneys about challenging it in court.

Now other curios from the Monday cabinet:

+ WRBL reported on an unusual shooting at the Baker Village apartments -- where someone reportedly opened fire from a limousine. Maybe now someone will demand "The Sopranos" be taken off cable TV.

(People firing shots from inside limousines?! I can remember when criminals saved the fancy stuff for their last meals on death row.)

+ Columbus emergency workers were called to a reported fainting at Krispy Kreme doughnuts. So was it because they smelled so good - or because the price was so high?

+ Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox filed papers to run for Governor. If she comes to your door asking for campaign contributions, remember one thing - call her office first, and make sure it isn't a scam.

+ Columbus State University began a four-day "basketball bonanza" at the Lumpkin Center. If you think about it, this is one "bonanza" where Dan Blocker probably would not be welcome....

+ Instant Message to the man I saw holding one finger high above his head, as he walked across Eighth Street: Did you hold up two fingers at the next intersection? Or were you calling a play of some sort?

2004 IN REVIEW, CONTINUED: August found Columbus and Albany near the bottom of a Hallmark Cards list of the funniest U.S. cities. Given some of the e-mails this blog received during the fall from Miriam Tidwell and opponents of Marshal Ken Suddeth, it was absolutely justified.

An August runoff led to Lynn Westmoreland getting elected to Congress, and not Columbus's Dylan Glenn. I keep meaning to head back to Glenn's secluded neighborhood - to see if he pulled a Danae Roberts, and moved out of town.

On the Alabama side, Jeff Hardin was elected Phenix City Mayor in August. So far, his promise to bring a movie theater to the city have not come true. Why, he hasn't even shown "The Phenix City Story" at the amphitheater again.

A Columbus Council meeting became a bit heated in August, as Gary Allen called Glenn Davis a "rookie." Let's see Mr. Allen try that line, if he gets hauled before Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters.

August brought a surprising discovery at the Columbus landfill - as the former First Union bank wound up dumping $46,000 there over several months. I knew the interest rate on savings accounts was low, but this was ridiculous....

August was Olympic month - and Auburn University swimmer Kirsty Coventry won three medals for Zimbabwe. Then she went back to the Plains, and had to explain to all her dates exactly where Zimbabwe is.

A Lee County jury declared in August Continental Carbon was liable for more than $20 million in soot damage in part of Columbus. If this company pays off in cash, this would be one time when "money laundering" would be appreciated.

And what about the Kenneth Walker case? That became so boring in August that the Ledger-Enquirer had to do a special report on the killing for it to get attention....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 27, 2004


After more than seven years in Columbus, I've learned the best time to go shopping. It's Sunday morning, when large numbers of people are in church. If anyone points a finger at me and asks why I'm not in church, I simply say: "I was there yesterday."

Given this knowledge, I decided to go out around 10:45 Sunday morning for half-price chocolate at Target. But before I arrived, I received hints this Sunday would be different -- because at several churches, the parking lot was only half-full.

Target was a busy place -- and as I walked toward the door, I saw an example of how giving people are at this time of year. A southbound car swept in and took a parking spot near the door, before a patient northbound driver could claim it.

I elected to take a parking space in the center of the Target lot. For one thing, the walking to and from my car is good exercise. For another thing, all the aggressive parkers wouldn't be tempted to call me names.

Did you see the "Good Morning America" the other day on people's parking strategies? Some are "stalkers," actually following shoppers to their cars and waiting for them to depart. The best revenge for such drivers is obvious -- leave the items you bought in the trunk, then walk back inside.

Regular blog readers know the day after a holiday is the best time to buy chocolate -- and on this "Boxing Day," the bags of M&M's at half-price were plentiful. But my main problem was finding them. Target reorganized its store recently, to add more grocery items. I didn't check to see if the Target Dog is on his own brand of dog food.

For some reason, the half-price racks at Target were full of M&M's bags - but hardly anything else. Either Hershey's didn't bother to sell holiday kisses this year, or people considered this a germ-free alternative for moments under the mistletoe.

The trip to Target also uncovered something I'd been hunting for months - a pair of maroon socks. This color is part of my wardrobe, but has been missing from major department stores. It's almost like they knew Washington's football team would have a lousy season.

I thanked the checkout woman at Target not only for the half-price chocolate, but for being a "safe haven" at this time of year.
You know - no Salvation Army bell-ringers....

From there it was on to Peachtree Mall -- not really to shop, but to exercise. The St. Luke Ministry Center gym was closed for the holiday weekend. Come to think of it, that seems strange - since I guess the sanctuary was open for Sunday services.

For the first time since last February, I walked for exercise at Peachtree Mall. It's the only place where I keep track of how fast I move. Most of the time for me, a "time trial" is when people don't show up on time - and I consider it a trial.

The mall walk began at 11:51 on a Sunday morning, and nearly every store at Peachtree Mall was open. I've only seen one other shopping mall where this happened - and in San Juan, I assume it's because so many Catholics are in and out of mass by 9:30.

(In fact, so many people were around a register at J.C. Penney's that you'd think Christian activists were trying to change the initials to Jesus Christ.)

The attendance was moderate at Peachtree Mall, and that allowed me to move quickly down the aisles. Speed-walking at a mall is a bit like NASCAR racing - except more females are likely to "spin out" and change direction, when they spot bargains.

I wound up completing two laps inside Peachtree Mall in less than 24 minutes - about 30 seconds faster than the last time I did it in February. Perhaps this shows I've been out running more this year. Or perhaps it was because I turned my head away from the Victoria's Secret window as best as I could.

Now let's slow down for some other notes from the last weekend of 2004:

+ A touch of sleet was on my windshield wiper, when I strolled to the car for the shopping trip. It wasn't even enough to throw at a neighbor, and pretend to have a snowball fight.

+ Retired Judge Albert Thompson died. He was the first African-American elected official in Muscogee County -- and don't you wonder how many times Sheriff's Deputies pulled him over for searches?

+ The Columbus Riverdragons advanced to 10-1 on the season by beating Florida. They're playing so well that a major trade may be in the works - exchanging our team for the Atlanta Hawks.

+ The Atlanta Falcons lost 26-13 at New Orleans. Michael Vick was "inactive" for the game, only days after signing that $130 million contract. Does team owner Arthur Blank let all Home Depot employees pull a stunt like this?

+ Instant Message to "The Place" in Cusseta: I wasn't able to get to your show of "Cusseta's Hottest Girls" late Saturday night. Were there three of them, or four?

2004 IN REVIEW, CONTINUED: July began with a new Georgia law, allowing bars to sell stronger beer. Maybe now we know why people are waiting longer than ever for SafetyCab to answer the phone....

July brought the Georgia primary - and in a battle of Republican Senate candidates, Johnny Isakson beat Mac Collins. The race was so lopsided that I don't even think a majority of Apple Computer users voted for this "Mac."

Locally, the showdown for Superior Court Judge went to Bobby Peters. Roxann Daniel certainly went quietly - so quietly that we're not sure she ever conceded the race.

Remember the chicken spat of July? Several employees at a Popeye's on Wynnton Road walked off the job, after one was fired for leaving a back door open. Inspired by this, several pro football teams have thrown "backdoor" passes for touchdowns this season.

July marked the start of Ritmo Latino's decline. Co-founder Jose Ricci was indicted for embezzlement - and now about the only way you can hear Spanish music in Columbus is to turn up the theme songs of soap operas on Univision.

But Jose Ricci was not alone - as the daughter of Councilor Nathan Suber was indicted on embezzlement charges as well. At least Cynthia Suber hasn't been spotted speeding through residential neighborhoods since then....

Phenix City began a summer of celebration in July, marking 50 years since vice was removed from the city. Of course, now that there's the Cadillac Jack's nightclub on the 280 Bypass AND Sunday beer sales, people may have decided enough's enough.

But there was no celebrating in downtown Columbus, when Kravtin's announced it would close after eight decades in business. I still don't understand why the owners didn't do what "Downtown Jewelers" did -- and move to Cross-Country Plaza.

Columbus lost another familiar name in July, when broadcaster Chuck McClure died. I still suspect he died from the shock of hearing Don Imus supporting John Kerry on WRCG....

Another local broadcaster left the air suddenly in July - WRBL news anchor Dave Marshall. Someone raised a stink about a stinking apartment complex. Marshall made a stink about that to his boss. Then it became an online stink, when someone leaked his news script to us.

A major renovation of Columbus Trade Center was completed in July. It apparently was so impressive, Vice President Cheney and his wife took a personal tour of it weeks later.

Eufaula Mayor Jay Jaxon suggested a change in the city's name during July, to "Lake Eufaula." Then a hurricane blew through the area in September, and almost turned his dream into a real nightmare.

The end of July brought a four-day "tax holiday" across Georgia. If President Bush can get his way with the next Congress, the holiday season may last all year-round....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The jokes for today have concluded. But you're welcome to read on, for some serious reflection.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: After my Sunday of shopping around town, the real world slapped me squarely in the face. But it's hard to believe 11,000 deaths from an Asian earthquake had less of an impact on me than one death in North Carolina.

Reggie White was called the "Minister of Defense" in pro football for a couple of reasons. He was an outstanding player - and a minister of God as well. Yes, White said some controversial things. But merely talking about eternal issues around football players had to be controversial enough to them.

The words of praise from pro football announcers and writers were well-deserved. But how stunning it was to hear Reggie White died at only age 43 -- three years younger than I. Those years in the N.F.L. may have taken a toll. But the sack count and number of games missed due to injuries show White gave more of the pounding than he took.

Near my computer there's a box I bought months ago: "Will Workshop Deluxe 2004." I bought the software realizing I haven't updated my will in nearly ten years. Now the death of a football player has me wondering why I haven't opened that box - and let all sorts of other things, including writing this blog for you, get in the way.

Life is too short for all of us, whether you live 43 years or 86. We all should take time to put our priorities in order. It seems to me Reggie White did that - and far beyond a last will and testament. I sincerely hope you do, too.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Before we get to our topic -- BREAKING NEWS: The Columbus area is in a "winter weather advisory" for Sunday morning. We mention it here because hardly any TV station had a newscast Saturday night, to get you scared out of your wits about it.

Some meteorologists like to call the freezing rain, sleet and light snow a "wintry mix." Some of us can remember when that referred to a snack made with Chex cereal.

If you want snow in Columbus, hurry to Springer Street while you can. A family drove home from Louisville, with 700 pounds of snow in the back of their pickup truck! [True/WRBL] Be thankful you didn't have to drive behind that truck -- especially in the windswept mountains of middle Tennessee.

But to our topic -- nothing makes any city look more like a ghost town than December 25. The streets of Columbus barely had any cars Saturday. Almost every parking lot was empty. Even the church group I attend only had half the usual turnout. Does that always happen when a Pastor is out of town?

To be honest, several members of our congregation were at a special church "Winter Weekend." It was held in Louisville, Kentucky - so I hope they're happy with the big pile of snow they're driving through.

A couple in our congregation announced last week we'd have a potluck dinner after church this weekend - then took it back a couple of minutes later, then told people privately they could bring food if they wanted. I've never had a stealth supper quite like this....

Trouble is, the couple which arranged this meal never showed up Saturday. I brought dessert for the occasion, but was pressed into other duties at church and never even pulled it out of the bag. So I wound up with a box full of brownies, and only me to eat them. Being single DOES have advantages.

So with no after-church meal, what was I to do for dinner? In most cities, the only restaurants open on Xmas are the Waffle Houses -- and I know from experience that's when the attendants are most at their wits' ends. They'd like to be scattered, but the crush of customers keeps them covered and smothered.

But thankfully, I stumbled upon a dining alternative this year. It's the new "Buffet City" restaurant at Airport Thruway and Whitesville Road. It shares a shopping center with Caffe Amici and Stevie B's Pizza - so it's the choice for diners who don't have a lot of money, and don't want children running them over.

I told a couple of people at church about Buffet City, noted this Chinese buffet was open on Xmas - and one man responded: "Those Asians will do anything to make a buck...." Didn't this guy pay attention to the sermon on transforming your tongue?

It turns out I went solo to Buffet City - and arriving around 5:15 p.m., I may have beaten the crowd. It offered a holiday buffet for $8.95. "Steaks! Turkey! Ham!" promised the sign at the door. But as it turned out, any resemblance to Ryan's or Golden Corral was purely coincidental....

Buffet City didn't have any noticeable "holiday" displays up, which was fine with me. The only sign of Xmas was faint music on the restaurant's public address system. The couple which planned the church dinner said they didn't want to be bothered with holiday music eating out - so maybe they feared hearing it in the car, as well.

There's a picture of a big city skyline on one of the walls at Buffet City. I think it's Hong Kong - and amazingly, the Chinese Red Army still hasn't taken the "NEC" sign off the top of one of the skyscrapers.

One big selling point for Buffet City is its "Teriyaki Grill." Trouble is, the neon sign on the wall spells it "TERINYAKI." I refuse to blame this on immigrant managers - since Columbus DOES have a big literacy problem.

Yes, Buffet City served three main meats - a ham, a side of beef and a roasted turkey. But you had to carve the meat yourself! So much for Dad trying to avoid embarrassing himself with a carving knife at the dinner table....

Chinese restaurants in Columbus often seem to have some quirks to them - and I found a few at Buffet City:

+ Sushi Pizza. No, I didn't dare try this - but the sushi sure looked a lot like pepperoni.

+ A "Dragon and Phenix Roll." I thought the old mill downtown went by a different name....

+ If there was a "salad bar," I guess it was the area with well-trimmed cucumbers sitting by themselves. Lettuce and tomatoes must cost more than I realized.

I'd certainly go back to Buffet City - but I'd suggest the managers put more Chinese beef entrees in the tables. There were plenty of chicken and shrimp items, along with "Mongolian Pork." This is what happens when Taylor County gets tough against hog farms....

At least the Christmas pressure now is off us for another year. The next time I hear the phrase "big guy," I expect Mark Taylor will announce he's running for Georgia Governor.

2004 IN REVIEW, CONTINUED: June found the heat rising across Columbus. And imagine if there had NOT been a race for Superior Court Judge....

Judge candidates Roxann Daniel and Bobby Peters had a much-discussed debate in June. But it happened on NBC-38's "Rise-n-Shine," so I'm not sure anyone younger than age 55 paid much attention to it.

(I understand WLTZ actually replayed the Rise-n-Shine debate before the July election. Perhaps the second time, they added some gospel singers to keep everyone thinking in a nice way.)

The race for Muscogee County Sheriff became interesting in June, when Ralph Johnson's son was arrested on marijuana charges. Considering what's happened to Adam Johnson since then, I wonder if he's hired Richard Hagler as HIS attorney, too.

June was primary election month in Alabama - and I think Senator Richard Shelby spent about $500 to win renomination. Whatever the filing fee was....

U.S. Senate candidates came to Columbus in late June for a debate. But Johnny Isakson was a no-show, because (he said) he had a church commitment. I keep waiting for some reporter to sit in on one of the Sunday School classes Isakson's taught all these years.

Some Columbus police officers went to Sea Island in June, to provide security for the "Group of Eight" summit. People there must miss them a lot - because later in the year, Sea Island residents closed all their public roads. [True!]

But Columbus police were on alert later in June, when young Tellious Brown vanished for 24 hours. The boy is now safely back home - and we're a bit surprised civil rights leaders haven't blamed the Sheriff's Department or the District Attorney for not making an arrest in the case.

Auburn University's police department was merged with the city police force in June. It sounds like Columbus civil rights leaders want the same sort of thing to happen now, with the Sheriff's Department coming under Public Safety. So which group will sponsor the Ralph Johnson - Rick Boren winner-take-all wrestling match?

The entire country mourned the death of President Ronald Reagan in June. When his body lay in state, several politicians apparently were allowed to cut in line. What would Mr. Reagan have thought of this? Wasn't his point that politicians should NOT think they're above everybody else?

In early June, your Blog visited the new "Mac Daniel's Burger Park" near 8th and Veterans Parkway. We wondered back then if McDonald's would try to shut it down over the name. It turns out the restaurant closed even before Fort Benning banned it.

A petition drive was underway in June to shut down another Columbus business. Yet as far as I know, not even a Benning "hit list" has closed the Boom Boom Room.. Maybe if Cottonmouths Coach Jerome "Boom Boom" Bechard spoke out against it....

But a big business opening occurred in Columbus in June - the city's first Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. So how's the competition doing these days? Are other doughnut shops, well, in the hole?

A big bank merger was announced in June, as Wachovia of Charlotte bought out SouthTrust of Birmingham. So I really felt ahead of the curve last week, when Jesse Jackson announced that boycott....

COMING THIS WEEK: Staggered and stunned.... in that order....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Maybe this makes me look like a holiday hypocrite, but I'm in a musical mood this weekend. We begin with a song for Pastor Wayne Baker and fellow civil rights leaders - based on that holiday tune about "two front teeth":

All we want for Christmas is a second chance.

A grand jury getting more than a glance.

All we want for Christmas is a second chance,

To put in jail that David Glisson!

Next: What if you're like me, not celebrating Christmas - yet you have children at home? Maybe we can change that silly song about wanting a hippopotamus, to this:

I hope that there's a McDonald's on vacation!

I want to eat there every single day!

I want a Happy Meal - it's such a groovy deal,

With all the toys I'll get to take away!

My mom and dad will want some relaxation,

But all the sights are waiting for my eyes!

And if there's Mickey-D's, I'll be so good to please.

It's one vacation I can Super-Size!

Now we go back to 1996 - and a song I submitted to national sports-talk host Papa Joe Chevalier, which won me a T-shirt. Think Nat King Cole for the theme (words adjusted slightly for 2004):

Matchups studied by an open fire,

Face masks covering your nose.

Coaching rumors going out on the wires

By fans who think they're in the know.

Everybody knows some football at this time of year

Helps to make the season bright.

Tiny tots dreaming of scholarships

Will get to bed quite late tonight.

They know the bowls are on their way -

The Rose, the Sugar, Orange, and the Holiday.

And every mother's child is gonna spy,

To see how fast punt returners can fly.

And so I'm offering a simple phrase

To sports fans one to 92:

So what if your team didn't cover the spread?

Happy bowl season to you!

COMING SUNDAY: Was all of Columbus closed for Christmas? Not quite....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 24, 2004


A Columbus civil rights group called a news conference Thursday to "clarify" the boycott announced Monday by Jesse Jackson. The fact that the news conference was not held in downtown Phenix City should say something right there....

Pastor Wayne Baker of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance declared a financial boycott of Columbus is a "viable alternative" - but only if all else fails. After all, we saw how many Piggly Wiggly stores shut down when Rainbow/PUSH boycotted them a few years ago: exactly none.

At a Government Center news conference, Pastor Wayne Baker offered a list of six demands which must be met concerning the Kenneth Walker case. The only problem was the location. Isn't someone in a red suit taking lists of demands at Peachtree Mall?

Here's what the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance wants to see happen in Year Two of the Kenneth Walker saga:

1. The convening of a second grand jury. This could be the reality show Black Entertainment Television has been waiting for.

2. A city personnel board denying former deputy David Glisson his job back. That's what we like to see - a city board which isn't influenced by money.

3. A "reasonable settlement" of the civil suit brought by Kenneth Walker's family. Huh?! You mean $100 million in damages is NOT reasonable?

(Someone said at work Thursday the 100-million dollar civil suit is too high, because "justice doesn't have a price tag." The family of Ron Goldman knows that too well - because O.J. Simpson hasn't paid that family one penny.)

4. A review of anti-racial profiling legislation, by local members of the Georgia Legislature. Now this could be a problem. How do you mark African-American History Month without doing profiles of people of that race?

5. Local law officers undergoing "cross-cultural training." I'm not sure the Nation of Islam will support any demand promoting the cross like this....

(To be fair, all of us probably could use some kind of cross-cultural training. After 20 years in Georgia, I couldn't cook collards if you forced me at gunpoint.)

6. The placing of the Sheriff's Department under Columbus Public Safety. Now there's a sure way to bring change -- as deputies get fed up with their pay and move on.

(But hold on a second: if the Sheriff's Department comes under Columbus Public Safety, would that make the Sheriff's office a city-appointed position? Civil rights groups might find Ralph Johnson in office for the rest of his life.)

Pastor Wayne Baker set no deadline for meeting his group's six demands. But he warned the "window of opportunity is very short." Translation: the next election will be here in about 19 months.

Several city officials were on hand for the I.M.A. news conference. Councilors Wayne Anthony and Julius Hunter agreed a second grand jury should be convened in the Kenneth Walker case. After all, if Georgia has a "two strikes" law for criminals, why not for prosecutors?

Mayor Bob Poydasheff also watched the news conference, and quickly told reporters he'd issued a new city memo against profiling. From now on, expect all police mug shots to be face-forward only - no "profile shots" to the side.

Mayor Bob Poydasheff opposes a possible economic boycott of Columbus. He says outsiders are NOT needed, to tell the city what to do. OK, so when is he giving back those federal Homeland Security grants?

The talk of a financial boycott has done strange things for some Columbus stocks. AFLAC and Synovus went up a bit, in the two days after Jesse Jackson's announcement. But after Thursday's clarification, AFLAC and T-SYS stock wound up lower! I get the feeling callers to radio talk shows are doing some bargain-hunting.

BLOG UPDATE: The number to beat today is five. St. Luke United Methodist Church downtown is holding no less than FIVE different Christmas Eve events. Step One in identifying a "mega-church" - how many services it takes to fit everybody in.

The busy St. Luke day starts with two communion services, the first one at 12:00 noon. My Pastor wondered aloud the other day why churches use the presumed day of Jesus's birth to hold communion - which the Bible says marks His death.

Then St. Luke holds a 5:00 p.m. "Christmas pageant." Which good-looking contestant is singing "Santa Baby" in the talent portion this year?

But wait, there's more! At 7:00 p.m., it's time for the St. Luke "Casual Christmas" service. I guess this is a fashion trade -- with gaudy bright-red ties left at home, but more bright-green sweaters showing up.

The biggest St. Luke Christmas Eve service is the one at 11:00 p.m. It's broadcast live on TV and radio, and beamed far and wide via satellite. Some people wouldn't mind if that signal overrode Al-Jazeera for awhile.

By the way, St. Luke United Methodist Church added something new to its Fitness Center Thursday. There's a posted set of conduct rules at the door, including NO profanity. But based on what I heard a few basketball players say while I was jogging, it was typical Methodism -- with plenty of overtolerance.

There's plenty of other stuff to think about from Thursday:

+ The price of regular unleaded gasoline dropped to $1.60 at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive. Let's all say it together: "I think
they can, I think they can...."

+ Blaine Stewart's "Restaurant Report Card" found a perfect score for a new Japanese steakhouse on Veterans Parkway called "Sumo-a-Go-Go." Please tell me this place does NOT have sumo-sized go-go dancers....

(Have you heard the radio commercial for Sumo-a-Go-Go? There's a voice with such a stereotypical Japanese accent that Jim Rhodes might call for the restaurant to be A-bombed.)

+ Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick signed a $130 million, ten-year contract extension. The "over and under" in Las Vegas is set at three season-ending injuries.

+ Instant Message to WGSY "Sunny 100-FM": A friend of mine said the other day he turned on your station twice in a one-hour period - and both times you were playing "The Little Drummer Boy." Is that the hottest-selling song at FYE this week?

2004 IN REVIEW CONTINUED: High gas prices slapped Columbus drivers in the wallet during May, as premium unleaded fuel went above two dollars a gallon. Looking back, I think it was a big conspiracy - because I didn't notice any restaurants closing their drive-through lanes.

May was a big month for Opelika, as native Brad Cotter won the "Nashville Star" country music competition. Yet for some odd reason, "Taco Star" on Macon Road didn't last the year.

Another prize-winner in May was Tim Vinson. The Jordan High School welding instructor was named Muscogee County "Teacher of the Year." We only hope he doesn't "light a fire" under his students in the wrong way....

May was a winning month in other ways. Columbus State's baseball team reached the Division II World Series. Columbus High's baseball team advanced to win a state title. And the number of people removed from the Civic Center for clapping their hands during commencement may have hit a record low.

May marked the end of Pittsview Elementary School, despite the complaints of local residents. So have the drugs and crime moved into town yet? Has Pittsview become - well, the pitts?

May was also the end of Muscogee County Schools' Reading Recovery program. Combine that with the lack of a central library during winter break, and all some children have is closed-captioning on a TV screen.

May marked the unofficial start of the local political season. The first hot race was for Superior Court Judge - which reminds me: has anyone offered Roxann Daniel a job lately?

Republicans from across Georgia had their state convention in Columbus during May - yet when November came, John Kerry had more votes in Muscogee County than George W. Bush. Maybe the G.O.P. should have tried to recruit voters other than Gray Conger.

But the effort by Rainbow/PUSH to recall Sheriff Ralph Johnson fell short in May - about 28,000 votes short, out of 30,000 required. And then Pastor J.H. Flakes says the majority in Columbus doesn't have a voice?! It does, and it's singing a happy tune....

While many talked about "One Columbus," Taylor County actually did something in May - by having one school-sponsored prom. We're pleasantly surprised to report there hasn't been a single march by a "Southern heritage" group there yet.

A Phenix City worker was fired in May, for stealing city library money. You don't think that worker used the money to buy brass knuckles, then moved to Lumpkin and went after THAT library?!

Then a legal surprise came from Birmingham, when former Governor Don Siegelman. By the time 2004 ended, Siegelman was clesred in court while former Chief Justice Roy Moore had lost. Those liberal judges even hide in Alabama, don't they?

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: What would you rate our blog's #1 joke of 2004? Write us with a nomination, and we may count then down here next week....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


It was 8:00 a.m., and several mothers were upset. It was the first day of "winter break" in Muscogee County schools - and the pressure of having children at home was boiling over already?!

The mothers called this week to complain about a news story concerning Santa Claus. The Mobile Register and the University of South Alabama surveyed Alabama residents, about the right age to "tell children the truth about Santa." From the outcry, you'd think someone was revealing he's bisexual or something.

This survey found Alabamians had various ideas, about when parents should tell children "the truth about Santa Claus." Some said age six, others went as high as 10 or 11 - and based on the numbers, a majority of adults may wish the whole issue would "dash away all."

By even mentioning this survey on the air, the mothers were upset. They'd told their children Santa Claus was coming, and now the children were asking what "the truth" was. And you thought only politicians called, to complain about news stories which make them look bad....

The calls of complaint led to a local news media decision: the Mobile Register survey would NOT be mentioned. Yes, it was a Santa Claus cover-up - as big and red as anything the Chinese Communist Party did under Mao Tse-tung.

Not everyone in the local news media was satisfied by the Santa survey suppression. Your blog saw one e-mail, which noted stories about the risks of smoking aren't taken off the air if smokers complain. But of course, smokers can always go outside and light up to avoid them.

More pointedly, this e-mail stated negative stories about Iraq aren't kept off the air - so why should a story dealing with "the truth about Santa Claus" be censored? Maybe it's because mothers do a better job of "psychological operations" than the military does.

There's a core issue at the heart of this whole discussion - the role of journalists in reporting "the truth," whatever it may be. For 11 months a year, the job seems easy. Then one guy shows up at a shopping mall, and all the rules change.

Let's be honest here -- the mothers who called the other day actually wanted the news media to reinforce a lie. Should parents lie to their children? Children lie to each other enough already - about things like the cooties.

"But it's an innocent lie," some parents may say about Santa Claus. The jury didn't buy that defense in the Scott Peterson trial -- and the jurors weren't far from Santa Clara.

Even some churches buy into this, by having people dress like Santa Claus at holiday events. Haven't the ministers of these churches read the Bible verse about "all liars" winding up in "burning sulfur?" That sounds a whole lot worse than one lump of coal.

People who know me know I'm not a fan of Christmas. In fact, I've written at length online about it. Yet Christmas supporters seem to be screaming louder this year - even opposing phrases like "Happy Holidays." That's the way to make Hanukkah-keepers feel welcome.

The bottom line issue here is this: If you expect news reporters to lie about Santa Claus during December, do you also want them to lie about other things the rest of the year? Maybe that's why some of the Santa stuff is left to weather forecasters - because people expect them to be unreliable at times.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The debate over Jesse Jackson's financial boycott of Columbus begins:

I find it interesting that Calvin Smyre was so outspoken several weeks ago at a local press conference, I believe held to announce the lawsuit filed against David Glisson and Sheriff Ralph Johnson, and now he acts as though he has been completely left out of the loop with this financial boycott on Columbus. Calvin may want to decide which side of the "white-washed" picket fence he is going to stand on and stay there.

tired of ALL the fences in Columbus,


Christine, I'm tired of all the fences as well. Please, Columbus State University - open up Bay Avenue at Tenth Street SOON!

But anyway: Rep. Calvin Smyre is a churchgoing man. He'd probably say Jesse Jackson felt "moved by the spirit" to announce a boycott. Whether it was really the spirit of attention-getting remains to be seen....

Christine raises an interesting question here: why are picket fences "whitewashed," anyway? Was the inventor of this approach subtly racist?

Now other items of interest from Wednesday:

+ The Lee County Sheriff's Department announced two more methamphetamine arrests, pushing the total for the year to 100.
This is the sort of "new meth" we'd rather not learn.

+ Port Columbus marked the 140th anniversary of the Confederate warship Jackson. But a planned appearance by the CSS Jackson at a celebration near the Space Science Center was called off for "technical reasons." Take that, Jesse....

(A 140-year-old warship has TECHNICAL problems?! C'mon - where did the tugboat break down?)

+ Jay Jacobs was named the new Auburn University athletic director. Inspired by this, the Auburn men's basketball team lost at a tournament in Puerto Rico -- to Toledo. There's still time for Jacobs to pull a Rick Majerus, and back out of this....

+ Instant Message to El Vaquero restaurant: How do you keep doing it? Even on Wednesday night in a holiday week, you were full - and you didn't even serve combined red and green margaritas.

2004 IN REVIEW CONTINUED: April found Georgia Tech's basketball team playing in the national championship game. But the fervor for the Yellow Jackets may be waning. Not one Columbus radio station thought Tuesday night's appearance in the "Champs Sports Bowl" was worth broadcasting.

But the owners of the Columbus Cottonmouths announced in April they'd move the team to Florida's west coast. Somehow the Cottonmouths resurfaced in the fall in a new league - proving a chop at the head doesn't always kill a snake.

While the Cottonmouths left the Civic Center in April, the country band "Alabama" showed up for a concert. Columbus residents view the group's songs a bit differently. They hear "Mountain Music," and think of a parade in Pine Mountain.

Brian Sharpe left WRBL in April after several years, to take a job with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Maybe the one-cent sales tax would have in November if Sharpe had issued a "Recreation Report Card" about it.

Rep. Tom Buck announced a career change as well in April, retiring from the Georgia Legislature. Former Columbus Councilor Richard Smith will have his seat in January - so truly the Buck has been passed.

Riverfest returned to its roots in April, holding its annual spring party on Broadway in the Historic District. They were flushing hydrants in that area just the other day - so the hooligans hid their vandalism really well.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Tuesday's Ledger-Enquirer clarified what sort of economic boycott Jesse Jackson is declaring on Columbus. I went to bed Monday night wondering whether I should tell an ambulance driver to send me to Opelika if I became ill. If enough people did this, couldn't David Glisson be blamed for killing MORE people?

It turns out Jesse Jackson of Rainbow/PUSH has called a boycott of Columbus's financial institutions. This includes AFLAC, the local banks - and I guess Fort Benning soldiers should stay away from all title pawn shops.

(Jesse Jackson might deny this boycott is about race - but let's face it, the AFLAC duck isn't brown....)

Jesse Jackson wants a financial boycott of Columbus until two things happen. The big thing is the federal prosecution of former deputy David Glisson, for shooting Kenneth Walker. But Jackson may be overlooking something - how Muscogee County voted for John Kerry for President, so the Bush administration might not really care.

Jesse Jackson's other demand is for the Georgia Legislature to pass a bill making racial profiling illegal. We'd consider this an excellent suggestion -- except we can't help noticing none of the top civil rights leaders in the state are white.

Jesse Jackson's boycott announcement in Atlanta stunned a lot of Columbus leaders - including some African-American leaders who work at places being boycotted. For instance, Rep. Calvin Smyre is a vice-president at Synovus. Does he quit that nice job? And is there room at the Waggoners for any more truck drivers?

Columbus Councilor Nathan Suber actually suggested Tuesday people should NOT cancel their AFLAC insurance policies, or pull their money out of CB&T. But I suppose an automatic withdrawal of any interest to the Rainbow/PUSH Georgia office would be acceptable.

Nathan Suber openly wished Jesse Jackson had talked with local Columbus officials, before announcing the financial boycott. I think this courtesy is known among politicians as "political cover...."

The Jesse Jackson boycott announcement also took a lot of Columbus journalists by surprise. Civil rights leaders William Howell and Wayne Baker showed up in Atlanta, apparently without telling any TV station what was happening. These ministers want publicity -- but do they REALLY expect reporters to follow them 24 hours a day?

Did Jesse Jackson overspeak by declaring a financial boycott of Columbus? Antonio Carter of the National Action Network revealed Tuesday it was discussed weeks ago during a conference call -- but only as one possible option. It's nice to know Jackson supports democracy and "one man, one vote" in cases like this.

Fourth Street Baptist Church Pastor J.H. Flakes said a boycott was called because "the majority don't have a voice." They don't?! How many votes for Sheriff and District Attorney were ruled invalid last month?

After all this, is it still possible to have One Columbus? Pastor J.H. Flakes thinks so. He called Tuesday for a series of "bridge-building sessions" among ethnic communities during 2005. If they want to go ahead and replace the aging Dillingham Bridge, we wouldn't object to that.

We can think of other steps which can be taken right now, to promote One Columbus:

+ Disco Fashions on Broadway can do a TV commercial with some white models.

+ Davis Broadcasting can swap the announcing staffs of "FM-92 The River" and "Foxie 105-FM" for a day. Would half of their listeners even notice a difference?

+ A white family could move into the East Wynnton Park neighborhood -- to prove the children in that ad are right, and everybody DOES have fun.

Former deputy David Glisson could make a move, which saves the city of Columbus a lot of headaches and national prestige. But that answer raises another difficult question. If he goes to Guantanamo Bay, which suspected terrorist goes free in his place?

Now let's take our hands off our bank accounts for a moment, and consider other items from Tuesday:

+ Columbus Council agreed to create a four-way stop sign at 42nd and Oates Avenue. Now we'll know for sure if Adam Johnson has been drinking too much on this street....

+ Georgia's Public Service Commission granted Georgia Power a 4.2 percent rate increase. It's the utility's first increase in 13 years - and suddenly, we don't feel guilty anymore about not hanging Christmas lights.

+ Georgia's Education Department released results of high school "End-of-Course" exams. A calculator on the Atlanta newspaper web site revealed more than 45 percent of Muscogee County students failed to meet the state standard for U.S. history. They're perfect candidates for the University of Georgia - where Michael Adams wants everyone to forget Vince Dooley.

+ Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville agreed in principle on a lengthy contract extension -- only hours after Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino signed one of his own. Once again, a long shadow covers the Plains....

+ Instant Message to WHAL-AM: What do you mean you're on "from Uptown to Downtown?" Don't you realize in Columbus, Uptown IS downtown?

2004 IN REVIEW CONTINUED: March was a decisive month for Georgia, as voters endorsed the current state flag. We're still waiting for supporters of the old flag in Taylor and Sumter Counties to announce they're seceding from the union.

A giant display was unveiled on the Hamilton town square in March, showing the Ten Commandments. Supporters have been a bit disappointed ever since - because Roy Moore hasn't stopped by to bless it.

Central Columbus celebrated in March when a new Chick-fil-A restaurant opened on Wynnton Road. I'm not saying other restaurants are running scared - but the Sonic on Wynnton Road plans to be open this Saturday evening.

The Kenneth Walker case dragged on during March. Friends of David Glisson started their own web site. Opponents of Sheriff Ralph Johnson started a recall petition drive. To this day, I don't know why these groups haven't merged....

Albany's Ken Hodges was named a special prosecutor over the Kenneth Walker case in March. Then came Thanksgiving week, a grand jury - and civil rights groups didn't consider him very special anymore.

A Columbus Police officer was in trouble with the law for a few days in March - Officer Larry Lightning. With a name like that, why doesn't he drive cars at East Alabama Motor Speedway?

Auburn's Colonial Mall changed its name in March, to "Colonial University Village." I'm still trying to figure out which map the owners checked, when they decided Alabama was a U.S. colony.

(Maybe this mall gave someone the wrong idea - because days after the name change, Auburn University's Interim President fired both the Athletic Director and men's basketball coach.)

Columbus High School's girls basketball team played in a state championship game in March. Compare that with Tuesday, when the Lady Blue Devils could only score about 15 points in a half. Ashley Powell isn't coaching this team anymore, and opponents are much more focused on the game.

But Auburn University pulled a double in March - with both the men's and women's swim teams capturing national titles. Hopefully students understood, when the teams came home and rolled Toomer's Corner with plush bath towels.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Fort Benning issued a revised list of banned businesses Monday. Reporters peered over it not only for which names were there, but which names were not. It was a little bit like checking the list of speakers at an old Soviet Communist Party conference.

(It's tempting to say Fort Benning's list shows who's been naughty and who's been nice - but hold on. The generals are letting soldiers visit "adult nightclubs" again.)

Four businesses which were declared off-limits to Fort Benning soldiers during the summer now are OK again. The best-known name on the list is the Coach's Corner sports bar. So maybe the weirdos have been moved down the shopping center, to New Life Tanning....

Employees of Coach's Corner admit the Benning ban caused plenty of damage to their business. After all, ordinary customers felt an obligation to buy visiting soldiers a drink. They don't feel that way when Columbus State students walk in to watch games.

Fort Benning also lifted the restrictions on two Victory Drive lounges: Cellars and the Gold Lounge. As cold as it's been, the generals apparently decided soldiers needed a steamy place to go.

Cellars Lounge made the biggest public stink about the Fort Benning "hit list." The managers posted signs declaring they were NOT to blame for Columbus's drug problem. Apparently Benning finally decided the methamphetamines were brought in by Lee County customers.

A Fort Benning spokesman explained businesses which came off the off-limits list had made progress toward eliminating a drug problem. So I guess the Candlelight Motel is off the list, because the maids sprayed more powerful air freshener in every room.

Yet Fort Benning's new "hit list" also is noteworthy for the businesses still there. "Drive One" is mentioned, even though its building on Victory Drive has been vacant for weeks. Shouldn't Benning make a pre-emptive strike, and ban "Drive Two" as well?

The Fort Benning list still includes a Chinese restaurant near 8th and Veterans Parkway - the one that turned into a burger stand in the spring, and has nothing in it now. You'd almost think Benning's generals are waiting for police to remove Chinese spy agency listening devices from the walls.

Another Chinese restaurant remains off-limits - but this case is even more confusing. Fort Benning's list calls it by the "Chopstick House," but the sign on Victory Drive has shown the name "China Inn Express" for months. This shows how confusing that closure of Interstate 185 was for people....

There's one noteworthy addition to Fort Benning's list - three life insurance companies. They're accused of offering soldiers what sounded like investment plans, but really were pricy insurance policies the soldiers didn't need. And if supplemental insurance from AFLAC wasn't available, what good were they?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION about AFLAC wrapped up Monday - and an overwhelming 73 percent of blog voters say the company should have kept its old logo, instead of making a new one (8-3). So I guess we can say the new look is not "just ducky."

This is one matter that it seems people are talking about privately, but no one wants to mention publicly. But we must remember AFLAC has been a rather quirky place for years. Which reminds me -- did anyone move in to Elena Amos's parking garage rooftop house?

BLOG UPDATE: Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson called Monday for an economic boycott of Columbus, because of the shooting of Kenneth Walker. If S.O.A. Watch honors this boycott, countless local residents will consider it a dream come true.

This economic boycott will be interesting to watch. How many businesses on Buena Vista and St. Mary's Roads will go under, because their customers will drive to Phenix City to shop?

(But then again, how will the city of Columbus pay for that $100 million lawsuit filed by Kenneth Walker's family? With no sales tax revenue, the city could go bankrupt -- and Willie Gary could wind up City Manager.)

Jesse Jackson and the "Concerned Black Clergy" of Atlanta compared the shooting of Kenneth Walker to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police in 1991. Now this seems a bit unfair! Absolutely no one in Columbus rioted, after David Glisson went unindicted.

Local Rainbow/PUSH leader William Howell told WXTX "News at Ten" a mid-January protest march in Columbus is designed in part to "bring about harmonious inclusion...." We think this means Atlanta activists will be included in the protest....

Now other quick items left outside to freeze in the Monday chill:

+ The morning low in Columbus was 21 degrees F. -- and WDAK's Chris Weber declared it was "too cold to frost." Obviously this man never has had to defrost a freezer in his kitchen.

+ The wife of former Auburn basketball coach Cliff Ellis revealed she's thinking about running for political office. How embarrassing could this be? If she can persuade more voters than her husband did basketball referees....

+ Instant Message to the man who told me he called SafetyCab for a free ride home, and the phone rang for nine minutes: Did you realize Columbus had that many drunks, needing help ahead of you?

2004 IN REVIEW CONTINUED: February was a difficult month in terms of employment. T-SYS laid off hundreds of workers. Public safety employees staged several public protests. And who knows how many of them bragged to friends about getting a nice new job at Char-Broil.

Perhaps the most newsworthy firing in February came when Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson fired Deputy David Glisson. Ten months later, some civil rights leaders still aren't satisfied - because we still haven't seen Glisson's full face on camera, with no sunglasses on.

But February was a big month in terms of entertainment. The Junior League staged a "Follies" show. "Barney" the dinosaur appeared at the Civic Center. And "Cats" was presented at the RiverCenter - somehow without celebrity veterinarian Hank Hall in a cameo role.

In sports, the Atlanta Hawks traded for Rasheed Wallace -- then traded him again after one game to Detroit. Wallace wound up winning an N.B.A. title, while the Hawks kept changing players like a guy in a fantasy league.

The Columbus baseball team changed its name in February, from the Waves to the Catfish. The team mascot became a character named "Hook" - but it's minor league baseball, so he has yet to become Captain Hook.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 20, 2004


"Prestige hams." Those were the first words out of the man's mouth, at the back of a Columbus Winn-Dixie store. Those words alone struck me as funny. I mean, have YOU ever considered a ham prestigious?

"Where are the Prestige hams?" the man went on to ask an attendant in the meat section the other day. I gained the feeling this middle-aged man only goes into supermarkets for a different spelling of Hamms - as in the beer from Minnesota.

As a single guy, I've grown used to making grocery trips every couple of weeks. And the guys who seem uncomfortable on a grocery trip become rather easy to spot. For instance, they're the ones who meander a cart around the aisles the way some people hunt for just the perfect spot in the parking lot....

On the day I encountered the man looking for Prestige hams, other meats were on my mind. Take the pound of ground turkey I bought for next weekend. It tends to cost less the ground beef. It's lower in fat. And you don't have to worry about injuring yourself, carving it at the table.

Then it was on down the aisle, for a package of hot dogs. I keep a package in the freezer now, in case I get invited out for weekend dining. So if you come to visit, remember - for me, a "three dog night" means something very different.

But back to our ham-hunter: as I collected my meat, I reached the conclusion this man came with specific instructions from his wife -- and those instruction were, "Prestige ham." Repeat a short phrase often enough, and it starts to sink through men's brains.

Being ever the sneaky blogger, I didn't stop to hear every word the attendant at Winn-Dixie told the man. But I suspect the Prestige hams were gone, because the customer next asked: "Where are the turkeys?" Just think - in almost any other business, this question would refer to the management.

Some grocery stores used to help customers such as this man, by hanging big cardboard pictures of foods above the areas where they're sold. I still remember a smiling cartoon potato hanging above the potato section of a store back home. Of course, these days Mr. Potato Head might sue for copyright infringement...

I made one more stroll past the meat section of the store before checking out. That man was still there, only now on a cell phone. Truly these phones provide security - in this case, against a big argument with the spouse at the kitchen door.

Hopefully that man found the meat he needed to satisfy his wife. But after all these years, the stories of finding romance in the supermarket aisle haven't become reality for me. You go looking for something sweet, and wind up with nothing but frozen food.

2004 IN REVIEW: Someone asked me the other day what the number-one local story of the year was - and to me it only seemed obvious. If you don't think it was the Kenneth Walker case, you must work in attorney Richard Hagler's law office.

This past year began with civil rights leaders in an uproar over the way the Sheriff's Department handled the Kenneth Walker case. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance handled out pamphlets comparing local law officers to the Taliban of Afghanistan. Yet I don't recall one woman filing a sex discrimination suit all year.

Dr. William Howell of Rainbow/PUSH warned in January he might call for a boycott of Columbus Civic Center events, because of the Kenneth Walker. Was he ever surprised, when most of the city boycotted his recall petition drive.

Some of the quotes made in January about the Kenneth Walker look rather interesting, one year later:

+ Dwayne Brown, the attorney for Walker's fellow passengers on that fateful night, said District Attorney Gray Conger "can't be impartial" in the case. So why are many civil rights leaders so angry now, and calling Conger a buck-passer?

+ The I.M.A. pamphlet called on Georgia's Attorney General Thurbert Baker to intervene in the case. Will this group now challenge Baker's re-election, for handing the investigation over to the wrong man?

+ Edward DuBose of the NAACP called for a Citizen's Review Board, to check law officer misconduct cases. That board became reality - but now DuBose probably wishes he had included law officer's sons like Adam Johnson.

+ William Howell of Rainbow/PUSH called for Mayor Bob Poydasheff and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to resign. Imagine if they had - the Republicans might have been even more dominant in the November election.

+ David Glisson's attorney said he sent his "deepest condolences" to the family of Kenneth Walker. But the way Richard Hagler talked about Walker at the end of the year, you were almost left with the feeling Walker deserved to only be wounded.

As all this unfolded, Columbus city government gave the Deputy City Managers big pay raises. Public safety workers were kept waiting all year - but thankfully H.H. Gregg showed up in November, with its deep discount pricing on appliances.

Also in January, a tanker truck caught fire on Interstate 185 on a Saturday morning. It brought plenty of stares from passers-by - since barbecue pits don't tend to create that much smoke.

The Presidential campaign came to our area in January. Howard Dean visited Jimmy Carter's church in Plains - then less than 48 hours later doomed his campaign by trying to shout like a Pentecostal preacher.

John Edwards later visited downtown Columbus. He wound up as John Kerry's running mate - but he never returned to the city, while Dick Cheney made an appearance before Election Day. A 1-1 tie apparently goes to the party in power.

January also was a time of condolences in Columbus, as local gospel singer Jake Hess died. At least, we think he died - but every time there's a Gaither Homecoming hour or infomercial on TV-16, there he is....

Speaking of television, WRBL dropped live Georgia Lottery drawings in January. Have you noticed no one has picked them up since? Not even WCGT shows them - perhaps because that station would lose lots of money from preachers canceling church broadcasts.

Columbus was challenged to lose 10,000 pounds in January, during the "Weigh Down Columbus" campaign. A lot of people lost weight -- but I don't recall any barbecue restaurants going out of business.

Callaway Gardens made its own reduction during January, cutting about 25 jobs. But at least none of the flowers and trees were outsourced to China....

Auburn University was in turmoil in January, as President William Walker resigned. The Auburn football team hasn't lost a game since, so maybe he was a walking curse.

January found the Columbus Riverdragons in last place in the standings. Now they're in first place - so I guess it pays for the management to open that wallet, and spend a few hundred more dollars on free agents.

At the end of January, I posted a blog entry urging you to join me in boycotting the Super Bowl. Recall my #1 reason?

1. MTV is producing the Super Bowl half-time show. Do you really want to risk your family seeing another Britney Spears-Madonna style kiss?

Two words - Janet Jackson.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Watch for more of our 2004 review in coming days....)

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

19 DEC 04: MOW, MOW, MOW

The last two weeks had me working an all-night shift - and that meant sleeping during the day. It's really not that bad in December, as sunlight comes through the bedroom window to warm me at midday. And if you close the door to the room with the telephone, it's like telemarketers don't even exist.

But one afternoon this past week was a bit different. I was awakened at about 2:15 p.m. by a familiar, yet surprising sound. One of my neighbors at the apartment complex likes to tinker with a 1970's-era Volkswagen Beetle But did he have to choose this time to actually attempt to drive it?

But no, it wasn't an old car making that noise outside. I got out of bed and peered out the window to confirm what it was -- a man pushing a lawnmower. A poem immediately jumped into my mind. But this mower was NOT pushed by a fat guy in a red suit, handing out gifts....

The sight of a man cutting the grass stunned me. I went to my atomic clock and verified it was still mid-December -- and I had not hibernated until late March.

Never to my knowledge had the landlord sent someone to mow the lawn in December -- and this visit came after a couple of below-freezing mornings, which left frost on the lawn. This was an apartment complex, not a country club golf course....

I peeked out the door to see if the lawnmower man actually was cutting any grass - and I couldn't tell much difference in the rows he mowed. Either the change was microscopic, or this man must have needed extra money from outdoor work to pay holiday bills.

(One thing his lawnmower DID was blow dead leaves around, when he trimmed grass around hedges. So maybe it was a subtle message for residents to get some exercise, by going outside and raking.)

A check on 4th Street later in the afternoon indicated a city work crew recently mowed grass around the Oglethorpe Bridge as well. This work usually is done by prison inmates -- but is punishing them worth the cost of burning all that gasoline in the engines?

Yet I can't recall ever seeing people cut the grass in Columbus this deep into December before. We DO have seasons here, unlike the year-round warmth of much of Florida. Maybe my landlord is taking the news stories about global warming more seriously than I thought.

Could grass-cutting like this partly explain why Columbus has made the federal government's "non-attainment list" for the Clean Air Act? Mayor Bob Poydasheff told WRBL Saturday night any pollution in Columbus is beyond the city's control -- well, unless enough people file lawsuits to shut down Continental Carbon.

Russell County also made the Environmental Protection Agency's non-attainment list. Of course, this could mean many things in Russell County - like having bad air, not finding missing money at the Middle School, not attempting to bring business to Seale....

But is there another overlooked reason for the clean air problem? Several people reported a big plume of smoke and ash from Fort Benning Saturday - another of the post's "controlled burns." You'd think soldiers in basic training could be forced to chop down all those trees, instead.

"Controlled burns" produce a smoky smell near Fort Benning at various times of the year. In fact, civil rights groups should be thankful prosecutors haven't burned any evidence in the Kenneth Walker case out there....

Now let's cut other things down to size on this last weekend of fall:

+ S.O.A. Watch received an award from an institute in Spain, for its efforts to influence international policy through protest. Apparently this institute scores based on headcounts, as opposed to actually changing anything.

+ Davis Broadcasting held its annual toy giveaway at the Civic Center. First St. Luke United Methodist Church did this, then "Shop with a Cop," and now Davis Broadcasting. It almost makes you wonder if some parents make the "toy circuit," the way some golfers go to tournament stops.

+ The American Red Cross office was visited by "Hooters girls," wrapping gifts for blood donors. I knew they served sweet treats in the canteen area, but this is getting ridiculous....

+ The Atlanta Falcons blew a fourth-quarter lead, then fought back to crush Carolina 34-31 in overtime. The game came down to a winning kick by Jay Feeley - or as I call ir now, a "Feeley Goal."

COMING MONDAY: We begin our year-end review of the Columbus area in 2004....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.