Saturday, December 31, 2005


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find this humorous, serious, or a little of both - but from time to time, we offer things to reflect upon as we keep the seventh-day Sabbath.)

The church denomination where I attend actually is the result of a split ten years ago. The old group made major doctrinal
changes, which the new group opposed - so it was truly a case of everything old being new again.

I left the old group in 2000, on the weekend my Pastor was effectively fired my ministers brought in from headquarters. He was replaced with two "lay pastors" who have other jobs during the week -- which means, of course, they cannot really face a lay-off.

I happened to meet one of those lay pastors at a department store the other night. Harry [not his real name] isn't a minister anymore. From the way he talked, he may not even be attending church full-time anymore. The United Methodist Church might call this "open hearts, open minds, open weekends."

"I only planned to do it six months," Harry told me -- talking about when a Regional Pastor asked him to become local co-pastor about five years ago. "I wound up doing it 14 months." And no, I don't think because he gave long-winded sermons....

Harry had a job which took him out of town quite a bit. It was growing, so he was traveling - and it left him little time for church duties. "I was staying up until 3:00 a.m.," he told me. Considering his wife is a teacher, they had little time for serious conversations - you know, in bed together.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised to learn Harry was made a co-pastor. I'd heard in during services more than once speaking profanities about various things. But I guess he kept it clean when the boss was watching -- the one which isn't capitalized, that is.

Harry seemed to become burned out, after 14 months of serving as a lay pastor. It's a reminder that many ministers feel a special calling to hold that job -- a job which can have long hours, and require words of wisdom under very difficult circumstances. I guess it isn't that far removed from politics, after all....

There's been a movement recently to make October "Pastor's Appreciation Month." But I'd like to suggest you NOT wait until then. Show the minister you care this weekend -- whether it is by word, greeting card or some other means. After all, they try to encourage you. Isn't it only fair that you do it back?

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Thursday marked the return of Northwest Airlines planes to Columbus. Trouble was, it was only one plane, it was an emergency landing - and no one even seemed to want to take the Northwest name.

A flight from Jacksonville to Memphis made an emergency landing at the Columbus Airport, after a warning light came on in the cockpit. The light indicated an oil pressure problem. On a Delta Air Lines jet these days, it might indicate another request for a pay cut.

It was a bit confusing exactly whose airplane this was. It was clearly marked Northwest, but was reported as a "Pinnacle Airlines" flight and part of a "Canada Air regional" service. And they say our country doesn't have enough airlines....

Whichever company's plane it is, the pilot wasted no time when he saw the warning light. Passengers said he declared an in-flight emergency, and reduced the engine's power. So it was a bit like what U.S. Senate Democrats want to do next month....

Columbus emergency crews raced into action, when they heard an unscheduled flight was landing with only one engine. The airport management no doubt acted quickly as well - posting a one-hour ticket sale on, to see if Northwest service can be restored full-time.

Some of the 43 passengers aboard the Northwest jet say they were wondering about the flight even before the emergency was declared. One noticed the plane never went very high -- perhaps not realizing that's the best way to view Providence Canyon.

Some passengers admit the emergency made them scared, but they note the pilots were very professional. Apparently they kept the same monotone radio speaking voice from start to finish....

The emergency landing was a safe one, allowing all 43 passengers to make an unscheduled visit to Columbus. It must have been a surprise to all of them - for instance, to find an airport without a Starbucks, Cinnabon or Burger King.

Some passengers waited several hours, for another Pinnacle jet to arrive and take them to Memphis. Others were put on buses, and driven to Atlanta - letting them have a good taste of what many real Columbus travelers experience every week.

BLOG UPDATE: A check of the Ledger-Enquirer "To Do" section Thursday found NO fireworks shows listed for the Columbus area this weekend. And no, I do NOT know if they'll let you blow some up in the Fireworks Outlet parking lot in Seale.

(Remember, young people - just because Wanda is the "Bang-Bang Lady" does NOT mean you can set off firecrackers under her shoes.)

As you might guess, a variety of Columbus clubs are throwing New Year's parties. An old-style big band dance is planned at the Columbus Trade Center, organized by the "Mr. and Mrs. Club." Simply look for the homosexual protesters marching outside....

Let's be careful out there - but don't go out until we check other Thursday headlines:

+ The Metro Narcotics Task Force raided Columbus Fire Station #9 on Edgewood Road, and arrested firefighter Jason Dempsey on drug charges. He's accused of selling methamphetamines - so apparently that burner he had was NOT used to test smoke detectors.

(Jason Dempsey also is charged with having cocaine, which reminds me of an old rhyme we said at the grade school bus stop. Let's see -- engine engine number nine, one of your own snorts a line?!)

+ Elsewhere, Columbus police officers handed out free bicycle helmets to children. A woman with "SafeKids Columbus" said youngsters should wear helmets, even if they're on tricycles. So where's the special version for toddlers learning to walk?

+ Phenix City police arrested four 17-year-olds, on charges of robbing the "4 Pizza Pirates" restaurant on U.S. 431. These teenagers simply didn't get it. If you're going to be a PIZZA pirate, you don't take money - you take pizzas.

+ Antonio Carter of WRCG's "Talkline" asked why police at first called Wednesday night's killing on Interstate 185 a "drive-by." He claimed the term implies gangs were involved. What would he prefer - a "drive-THROUGH" shooting?
Wouldn't that imply it happened at Wendy's?

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported the main complainant against Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed shares an attorney with Probate Judge Al Howard. Hmmmm - what ARE the exceptions to attorney-client privilege?

(That attorney is Phenix City's Kenneth White, who says HE was the one who uncovered Ronnie Reed's 30-year-old burglary conviction in Columbus. It looks like bloggers aren't the only ones who can have too much time on their hands....)

+ Columbus Hospice nurse Karen Cole won $10,000 in a Winn-Dixie supermarket contest. Cole says she and her husband had been praying for a supernatural financial miracle. That'll teach me - I should have asked God if He really wanted me to get groceries last week at Wal-Mart.

+ Utah unraveled Georgia Tech 38-10 in college football's Emerald Bowl. The game was played in San Francisco - but at the pro baseball stadium, not the pro football stadium. I guess the 49ers don't want to be shown up, by having TWO teams with winning records on its field.

(San Francisco actually has a veteran TV newscaster named Emerald Yeh. I can't help wondering if the Georgia Tech cheerleaders said that once, in her honor....)

+ Instant Message to the jail work crew I saw blowing leaves out of the Government Center parking lot well after dark, around 8:00 p.m.: Why? Did you get a complaint about leaves blowing next door, into Judge Bobby Peters's yard?

2005 IN REVIEW, CONCLUSION: November began with Opelika trying something new - as the Public Works Department was moved to private management. We're still waiting for Columbus city officials to save money, and have Peachtree Mall security guards patrol the entire city.

A man on Schomberg Road in Columbus also tried something new and different in November. He put up signs saying "STUPID IS.... AS STUPID DOES," hoping to stop speeding. I'm relieved to report those signs have NOT been moved in front of my home yet.

The new item at Oxbow Meadows in November was a "treetop trail," letting you walk five feet above the ground. This should be marketed to men, as a chance to feel a bit like Shaquille O'Neal.

Phenix City began a series of promotions in the fire department during November. A woman became a fire chief. Then a retired Columbus fire chief became an assistant chief. And if a few water cannons are installed outside Don's Fine Foods, maybe the crime there will stop.

Speaking of work, your blog had a fun Sunday afternoon in November meeting some of the people who hold furniture sale signs on Columbus street corners. Now that Rhodes Furniture is out of business, what are they going to do on Sundays? Stand on corners, holding alternatives to the Ledger-Enquirer?

The TV business mourned in November when longtime weatherman Doug Wallace died. Hopefully WRBL will keep his legacy alive - and hold annual chalk-tossing contests for children.

AFLAC made big news in November, announcing a $100 million expansion in the Corporate Ridge industrial park. I could have topped that - but I never bought a $315 million Mega Millions ticket that week.

The Georgia Baptist Convention spent several days in Columbus during November. It called for financial separation with Macon's Mercer University -- but disappointed some people by NOT endorsing Beacon University's new radio station.

Then came the weekend in November when three huge local events were held. If only they had occurred together - we might have seen S.O.A. Watch protesters march across football lines at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, offering cell phones to any soldier they could find.

Talbot County was forced to close and renovate a recreation center in November, after TV news reports showed it in bad disrepair. To hear some students and parents talk, the Talbot County school board may be in for the same treatment next year....

But the Columbus YMCA was pleased to announce in November it plans a new complex on Broadway downtown. Nervous residents already are debating one big issue - which member of the Village People should have a statue in front of it?

November ended with a wild situation, as a local bounty hunter tried to arrest a man at a mobile home park and wound up shooting him. Just wait until all the Third Brigade soldiers get home from Iraq, and have a one-month leave....

December began with the Christian Television Network taking over WCGT TV-16. Most local programming stopped. Russ Hollenbeck's morning show disappeared. And Nate Sanderson's Sunday night talk show "Out of Order" probably is held now inside a local barbershop.

Perhaps related to this, Fort Benning opened a new chapel in early December. If you go there on days other than Sunday, maybe you'll win a big cash prize like that nurse did at Winn-Dixie.

The "Merry Christmas" debate dominated December - and it became so heated at Auburn University that two trees were put up for the season. This now becomes a big-time staredown. Which group will blink first - and which one will turn its tree into a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King in January?

But the biggest decision at year's end had to be the Columbus Council vote for a Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Midland. I can't wait for the department store to change the name of this neighborhood to "Low-Price-Land."

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Yes, I know this is supposed to be The Blog of "Columbus." But this week, the most interesting stories seem to be coming from Phenix City -- as if people want the 1954 state intervention all over again....

Wednesday's main event involved Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed. An attorney announced Reed has received permission to hold his office by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles -- so once again Georgia residents have a reason to feel superior.

Ronnie Reed has been serving on the Russell County Commission despite a felony conviction for burglary in Columbus 30 years ago. Under Alabama law, the conviction disqualified him from political office - though Don Siegelman may be trying to prove he's an exception to the rule....

Attorney Jim McKoon told reporters Wednesday the Georgia Parole Board restored Ronnie Reed's rights last Wednesday. And it took him a week to announce this?! Did Reed decide to hold a spur-of-the-moment celebration in Destin, or something?

Jim McKoon's announcement happened to occur on the day the Ledger-Enquirer reported a complaint had been filed by Fort Mitchell residents, in Ronnie Reed's commission district. It's like these people are trumping each other and playing bridge - only without a honeymoon.

Jim McKoon tried to minimize the 1975 burglary conviction. In his words: "Mr. Reed was 20 years old - it was so serious, he got not one day in jail." Isn't this amazing? Prison overcrowding in Columbus was a problem way back then.

Jim McKoon claimed the probation revelation is part of a plot to attack African-American members of the Russell County Commission. That's strange - because earlier in the year, Tillman Pugh joined Ronnie Reed in getting arrested for campaign violations....

(So where is the Phenix City NAACP chapter, coming to the defense of the African-American commissioners? If it's had a meeting this year, everyone seemed to have missed it....)

Jim McKoon argues now that Ronnie Reed has his rights restored, the petition against him holding office should be dropped. This is a bit like arguing a serial killer should be let off the hook, if he can get a "concealed carry" permit.

One question left unresolved Wednesday night was whether Ronnie Reed knew his probation conviction disqualified him from running for Russell County Commissioner. But then again, Jim McKoon didn't dare argue ignorance of the law is an excuse....

Former Russell Commission Chair Cattie Epps attended Wednesday's news conference, and said it's time for political conflicts to stop. Yeah, right - that's a sensible appeal to make, on the eve of an election year.

So what about this talk of a conspiracy against African-American commissioners? Russell County Probate Judge Al Howard told WRBL Wednesday that's not true, because "I didn't make those laws." He also didn't make it easy for the commission to move his office....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Apparently we have company coming this weekend:

Will there be fireworks in Columbus this New Year's Eve????


Charlotte Ray

Birmingham, Alabama

Yes, Charlotte, I'm expecting some. In fact, you might not to have to drive all the way into Columbus - as a trip to the Russell County Courthouse might be good enough right now.

But seriously: I checked an online events calendar Wednesday night, and found NO big fireworks show planned for Columbus Saturday. You may have to settle for the unannounced shows - for instance, with teens shooting smuggled fireworks at the Wilson Apartments.

Columbus tried to have big New Year's fireworks shows for a couple of years, around the turn of the millennium. Some of you may remember December 31, 1999 - and the party billed for months as the "last sunset in Georgia." Thankfully, the Y-2-K bug was NOT that powerful....

The big year-end fireworks show in the area these days tends to be at the "Night of Lights" along the Chattahoochee River - but that was three weeks ago. We tend to rerun big events like that only when more soldiers come home from Iraq.

Now for more assorted explosive items from the Wednesday's news:

+ WRBL talked with the owner of a Phenix City ice cream shop, who's been wearing a pistol on the job for several months. If he says that's chocolate and not fudge marble, that's good enough for me....

+ A line of severe storms dropped hail in parts of the area. One report claimed the hail in Cottonton was the size of lemons. Do they mean the fruit in the store, or the old cars on concrete blocks?

(Yet the high temperature was 68 degrees F., and some of my neighbors had an evening cookout. I'm starting to think they're addicted to propane gas....)

+ The MEA Federal Credit Union admitted it's had computer problems since Saturday night. It's been hard for people to withdraw money from ATM's or do online banking -- but those tellers on Macon Road had better not start asking for tips.

+ An Albany TV station reported the Atkinson County, Georgia High School boys' basketball coach has resigned, after kicking a student in the thigh. I presume this coach already has sent his resume to Bob Knight at Texas Tech....

+ Georgia Tech's men's basketball team was embarrassed, losing 54-46 to Air Force. The Jackets must have been distracted by that Air Force slogan - "aim high."

+ Instant Message to the Chattahoochee County Probate Court: Why do you need a consultant? That's one of the points listed on the interim county manager's resume. [True/Tri-County Journal] Are there hot new trends for dividing wills among family members?

2005 IN REVIEW: October brought a newspaper report claiming Columbus was short 50 police officers. Yet unlike earlier in the year, this did NOT bring any e-mail to your blog from "Is Our City Safe" - so maybe now he's safely hiding in Talbotton.

The Chattahoochee County Sheriff was accused in October of pocketing warrants issued by judges, and not arresting people. So? Isn't he setting a nice example for those Muscogee County deputies, who tried to arrest people in churches?

Columbus firefighters had a busy night in October, when the Jordan Mills complex went up in flames. Detectives declared the fire was "set," but NOT an arson. Of all the places to hold a Sunday evening hot dog roast....

October was rocked by a truck which blew up outside a Phenix City restaurant. It was a pleasant change of pace -- an explosion in Russell County which had nothing to do with the county commission.

The political bandwagons started rolling in October, as both Roy Moore and Bob Riley announced they're running for Alabama Governor. We hope Mr. Moore reviews the Ten Commandments before his campaign stops -- and doesn't covet Mr. Riley's office.

History was made in Columbus during October, when the city's first Hindu temple opened. Who knows how many misguided residents were disappointed, when they stopped by to shop for an Elantra....

Country music legend Loretta Lynn was supposed to appear at the RiverCenter in October, but the concert was called off when Lynn broke her foot. I didn't quite understand that - since Jerry Lewis never dances around when he sings at his telethon.

October ended with Columbus State University announcing the end of a four-year fundraising drive. It brought in more than $100 million - so next year, President Frank Brown had better give the faculty gold bars instead of trees.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: The review of the Columbus area in 2005 concludes....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

28 DEC 05: UPDATED SCORE - 3-1

More details emerged Tuesday about Don's Fine Foods in Phenix City. The attorney for owner Don Ford said the store has been robbed four times in 17 months. So Ford's use of force last March may have been a case of "strike three, you're out."

Attorney Frank Martin told reporters Don Ford plans to keep his store on Fourth Avenue in Phenix City closed, in the wake of last Saturday's shooting. In a related note, all Spectrum employees in Phenix City are asked to clean their security cameras every two hours.

Frank Martin seemed to blame last August's murder indictment for last Saturday's shooting. He claimed Don Ford hesitated, when robbers entered his store wearing ski masks. Can you blame him? After all, these people are supposed to wear Santa Claus beards on December 24....

(So was Don Ford's hesitation due to the murder charge he's facing? Or was he waiting to see if Ashton Kutcher would walk in the door, and declare he'd been "Punk'd?")

Frank Martin says Don Ford will need a hip replacement, in the wake of last Saturday's shooting. The District Attorney will find that comment interesting -- because he believes Ford shot from the hip back in March....

Frank Martin says the weekend shooting shows it's "not reasonable to say every detail of a robbery should be checked," before a business owner opens fire. He raises a good point. After all, only the dumbest criminal would state his name and address during a stickup.

Frank Martin stated his hope that murder charges against Don Ford will be dropped, in the wake of the shooting. Russell County District Attorney Kenneth Davis is being awfully quiet about that - as if he's preparing papers to hold the trial in Huntsville.

(So is Kenneth Davis being too tough on crime, for charging Don Ford with murder? Or was he too wimpy, by letting Ford get out on bond so he could be shot?)

Meanwhile, Phenix City Police responded Tuesday to recent complaints about a crime wave on Fourth Avenue around Don's Fine Foods. A spokesman said the crime rate is the same in that neighborhood, as it is everywhere else -- so don't be surprised if users of the "Phenix Skate Park" roll everything into Smiths Station.

The Phenix City Police spokesman said crime goes up all over town in December. At last - a government official daring to make an argument against keeping Christmas....

You may be surprised to learn while the Columbus Police Department has dozens of unfilled positions, the Phenix City force is full. In fact, four new officers will join the department early in 2006. Quick, somebody - find the latest list of Columbus city retirements.

We'll keep watching this case - but let's see what else made headlines Tuesday:

+ The northbound lanes of Interstate 185 were closed for about three hours, after a deadly drive-by shooting. I've heard several police reports of road rage in recent days - and you know it's bad in late December when it spreads beyond parking spots near the department store door.

+ An Associated Press survey found Hurricane Katrina was Alabama's biggest news story of the year. The Natalee Holloway case was second - which makes you wonder how many times Greta Van Susteren and Rita Cosby voted.

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Chattahoochee County has the highest percentage of uninsured drivers in Georgia. This may be the only county in the state where drivers don't laugh at Geico commercials.

+ Lightning Graphics on St. Mary's Road set up extra phone lines, and invited Third Brigade soldiers to use them for free. Other businesses near Fort Benning may follow this trend - for instance, offering "you talk, we tattoo."

+ WRCG Radio's "Talkline" featured former TV talk show Nate Sanderson -- who said on the air he was ready to "beat up some liberals." You can always the people who watch Jerry Springer....

+ The Columbus Civic Center rink was open for public skating. Perhaps the skaters were inspired by the Cottonmouths - just as we suspect boxing clubs have been inspired by coach Jerome Bechard.

+ The Columbus High School wrestling team won all three matches in a "quad meet." And you thought quad meets referred to four-by-four vehicles holding a mud run....

(In one of the matches, Columbus slammed "Dr. Phillips High" of Orlando 63-7. This may start rumors about the job security of Superintendent John Phillips all over again.)

2005 IN REVIEW: Georgia was reeling from Hurricane Katrina in September, so Governor Sonny Perdue ordered a suspension of state fuel taxes for 30 days. Then he called on public schools to close for two days. And last week he took the biggest fuel-conserving step yet - urging you not to travel to Aruba.

Law officers from Columbus and other parts of the country went to the hurricane zone, to help keep order. Some of them wound up on traffic patrols in Baton Rouge - where they had to get used to spelling word on tickets with "aux."

Despite high gas prices, Harley-Davidson fans from across Georgia gathered in Columbus in September for a state convention. These riders know how to keep a budget. If gas prices go up again, they'll simply buy one less leather jacket.

September was fair month in Columbus - and this year it regained the name "Greater Columbus Fair." Civil rights leaders had learned their lesson from Riverfest, and did NOT hold a "Greater Columbus is Unfair" picket.

Allen Elementary School staged an unusual event in September - "Backpack Awareness Day." If grade school students aren't aware of that big bulky thing attached to their shoulders, they need to stop listening to iPods so much.

We found out in September about a survey of Auburn University students - which showed 75 percent of them do NOT know Opelika exists! They must pick up copies of the Opelika-Auburn News, and think Mr. Opelika created it years ago.

Tim Chitwood took on a new job at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in September, reporting on Columbus Council meetings. If Chitwood REALLY wanted to write funny columns, he should have asked for the Russell County Commission beat.

This blog had high and low points in September. First came an invitation to speak at the Columbus Kiwanis Club. Five days later, I collapsed from possible food poisoning. I may never tell an AFLAC joke in public again....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

27 DEC 05: A 1-1 GAME

Phenix City (and probably part of Columbus, too) spent Monday talking about a shooting. A convenience store owner was shot, four months after he was indicted for murder. Simply cross the Chattahoochee River, and you're back in the wild west - of the metropolitan area.

Don Ford was shot Saturday afternoon during a robbery at Don's Fine Foods on Fourth Avenue in Phenix City. Thankfully, the injuries are NOT serious - so Ford can walk into his murder trial, stare the District Attorney in the face and say, "I told you so."

You may recall Don Ford shot and killed a man in March at his store, during what he called an attempted robbery. A grand jury indicted him in August - and now another robber has taken Tom Joyner's radio line, "Right back at 'ya" one step too far.

Phenix City police say they have store surveillance video of Saturday's shooting, which could help them find a suspect. Well, that's a comforting thought! Earlier this year that tape led to Don Ford's indictment....

(I can hear the commercials now, by critics of the Russell County District Attorney -- have you driven a Ford out of business lately?)

The Phenix City bloggers already beat me to some good lines about this case. Will Don Ford be indicted THIS time, one wonders. Maybe local officials should bring charges against themselves, another suggests. But now that Ford's been shot, maybe we'll have a first - with prosecutors requesting a change of venue for his trial.

Think about it a minute - will the shooting of Don Ford make him conviction-proof, at his upcoming murder trial? They can't possibly find a jury filled with high school dropouts younger than age 30. I mean, not even in Russell County....

(Come to think of it, we don't know who was on that August grand jury. Could someone have decided an indictment of Don Ford now was worth some easy money later?)

People who live near Don's Fine Foods admittedly aren't amused by all this. They say gunfire is becoming more common, and some of their homes even have bullet marks. I smell a steel siding "hot zone" developing for next spring....

If that wasn't enough, the owner of a Phenix City indoor skateboard park said Monday she's been burglarized for the third time in two months. She fears one of the skaters might have done it -- and those boards only tend to leave skid marks when they chip away pieces of concrete.

Kim White says she's lost $6,000 to theft, since she opened a skateboard park on Lakewood Drive two months ago. If this keeps up, she threatens to shut down her business - and those skateboarders will be all over the Lakewood Golf Club cart paths again.

I was reminded Monday that it's been four months since the Russell County District Attorney threatened action in another part of Phenix City, against the Center City Motel. Wow, things have gone downtown since the city started pushing used car lots out toward Ladonia....

For all the news the Phenix City Fire Department has made with promotions in recent months, we haven't heard much at all from the Phenix City Police. All these cases make you wonder what the police is doing. Is it waiting for the OK to arrest County Commissioner Ronnie Reed?

Now for other notes from (sob, sniff) the final Monday night of pro football on ABC:

+ Members of the 36th Engineer Group returned to Fort Benning, after spending almost a year in Iraq. Some of these engineers came home just in time - to figure out how to build new bicycles for their children.

+ The managers of Community Bank and Trust on Veterans Parkway issued a statement, assuring customers it is NOT connected with "Alabama Community Bank." The chair of the Alabama bank is going to prison for fraud - while the Columbus bank directors go directly to Winn-Dixie for freshly-baked bread.

+ WRBL's 5:00 p.m. newscast came on more than 20 minutes late, due to some sort of "technical difficulty." Whoever took so long to figure this out should be assessed a technical foul.

(Someone in the know tells me WRBL's programming is NOT run from a control room in Columbus, but by remote control from South Carolina. A few switches in the wrong direction, and we might see nothing but Steve Spurrier throwing hats for hours.)

+ Fireworks Outlet in Russell County unveiled a second "bang-bang" spokesmodel - as Mary joins Wanda in a new commercial. Only eight more to go, before the Columbus Cottonmouths officially can retire their cheerleading squad.

+ Instant Message to the man who asked me to complain in this blog about the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's web site "pop-up ads": You have an alternative, you know. But don't subscribe to the newspaper on Saturdays, when the news is hidden inside wrapper ads for car dealers.

2005 IN REVIEW: More than 5,000 people came to Columbus in August for national teenage fastpitch softball tournament games. A couple of weeks later, Carver met Spencer in the "too-fast-football season" game.

August featured an unusual protest - as demonstrators from a Baptist church in Kansas showed up in Opelika, at the funeral for a soldier who was killed in Iraq. They claim God is killing soldiers overseas because some of them are homosexual. So if Saddam Hussein mysteriously breaks out of prison, we know who to blame.

Fort Benning changed Commanding Generals in August. Benjamin Freakley was shipped out - and I think his replacement's last name will come up at the next corporate spelling bee.

Eve Tidwell expanded her "God Bless Fort Benning" campaign in August, flying to Texas to counter antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan. I'm afraid it didn't work, though. Sheehan still gets all the talk on right-wing radio talk shows. Negative of course, but she gets it....

After years of waiting, Chattahoochee County opened its own high school in August. I drove to this school recently, and it's very plain-looking -- almost like they borrowed an extra-large warehouse from Fort Benning.

The son of Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson was arrested in August for driving with a suspended license. We can't wait to see Adam Johnson driving with Kurt Busch on the NASCAR circuit....

Then there was Muscogee County Frank Jordan Jr., whom we learned in August had issued a court order about Government Center parking spaces. Considering Columbus High School students didn't want to take shuttle buses from Macon Road, this made a little sense....

TSYS gained a big client in August, as it began to handle Capital One credit cards. And you thought it was only a coincidence that Auburn keeps going to the Capital One bowl in Orlando....

The Space Science Center downtown closed for extensive renovation in August. Thankfully, it stopped short of renaming it the "Coca-Cola Zero Gravity Center."

Carmike Cinemas closed the Columbus Square 8 theatres in August, leaving no movie houses south of Manchester Expressway. That's why some of us think Pastor Ann Hardman's forgetting something, with that new megachurch she's planning on Victory Drive. Why stop at just a gym?

A big star came to Columbus in August, as Hilary Duff held a back-to-school concert. All right, Lindsay Lohan - where's your "I'm coming after you" tour?

In TV news, Blaine Stewart announced online in August he was leaving WRBL within a month - then turned around and signed a new contract. It sure didn't work that way for football's Terrell Owens....

August ended with Hurricane Katrina coming ashore, and Columbus drivers rushing to gas stations which hiked their prices to as much as five dollars a gallon. As of Monday, the low gas price around Columbus was $2.04 - and that BP station on Buena Vista Road has to settle for sky-high cigarette prices.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 26, 2005


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: On this legal holiday, we defer to a guest blogger - TV news anchor Wayne Bennett. Our regular entries should resume Tuesday, including our continuing review of events in 2005.)

In 1975, I covered a story that nearly soured me on sausage forever.

I was working as a reporter for WESH Television in Orlando, Florida when a call came in from a distraught farmer whose hogs were mysteriously dying. My photographer, Buddy Pittman, and I loaded up a news vehicle and headed out. The hog farm was located in a rural community called Bithlo. For those unfamiliar with the Orlando area, Bithlo is made up of numerous junkyards and trailer parks, a couple of liquor stores and, of course, one hog farm.

It was mid-August. The mercury was hovering somewhere in the upper 90s, so when we arrived at the farm, the air conditioner was blowing full blast. Nothing could have prepared us for what happened next. We opened the doors to get out and the smell assaulted us. If you've never smelled a pig farm, consider yourself lucky. It has a pungently overpowering scent that would gag a maggot. It certainly triggered the gag reflex in us. We jumped back in the car and slammed the doors, but it was too late. The smell had permeated everything. It was days before it completely went away.

After getting over the initial shock and pulling ourselves together, we once again ventured from the car to check out the farmer's story. He wasn't exaggerating. There were dead and dying hogs everywhere. Some of them were in rigor mortis. Others were barely clinging to life. It was not a pretty sight. We interviewed the farmer, filmed the carnage, and got the h**l out of there as quickly as we could.

In those days, we were still shooting our stories on 16 millimeter film. The editing process took place through a viewer that was about three inches square. When the story aired that night, what we could not see through the viewer was perfectly obvious on the television screen. As the farmer droned on about his pig problem, an Irish setter walked in over his left shoulder, squatted, left a steaming token of disdain, and walked away. My fellow reporters were in stitches. My News Director was not amused. Unfortunately, it didn't end there. As the story came to an end with a slow pan of dead and dying hogs by the dozen, we did not go back to the anchors. We did not go to a wide shot of the set. For some reason I still haven't discovered, we cut directly to a Jimmy Dean Sausage commercial. The sales department was upstairs at the far end of the building, and we could still hear their anguished screams echoing down the hallway. It was, needless to say, not my finest hour.

We later learned the hogs were being killed by contaminated feed. The source of the contamination, as far as I know, was never determined. Buddy Pittman later went into sports and is still working for WESH. I eventually wore out my welcome in Orlando and am now anchoring the news for WTVM....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

© 2005 Wayne Bennett.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Did you hear about what happened at Riverdale Cemetery along Victory Drive? Police say a man went there, and dug up his mother's remains! I've heard of being with your family over the holidays, but this is ridiculous....

Columbus Police say they caught Jason Van Daam in the act Friday, digging up an urn with his mother's cremated ashes. He supposedly did this around 5:00 a.m. - perhaps waiting for all the werewolves to go to bed.

It turns out last Thursday would have been Sonya Van Daam's birthday. She was born in 1949 and died in 1990. So why would her son wait 15 years to pull up his mother's ashes? Did someone at a Waffle House dare him to do it for money?

Columbus Police say they found Jason Van Daam with his mother's urn in the back of his pickup. He was arrested for criminal trespassing, along with the charge of "being in a cemetery after hours." I guess those hours must be closer to a bank than a Krystal.

(I didn't know there was a city rule restricting the hours you can visit cemeteries. That must be why local groups of witches meet indoors, and in private....)

Jason Van Daam left jail on bond, and Sonya Van Damm's urn was returned to her grave at Riverdale Cemetery. But what is to stop him from doing this again -- perhaps at 12:00 noon today? It IS his mother, after all. And if he broke a relative's vase, this is a creative way to cover it up.

Police didn't say why Jason Van Daam might have dug up his mother's remains. But all sorts of ideas come to mind....

+ He saw videotape of that guy spreading ashes on the football field in Philadelphia -- and he has tickets to tonight's Cottonmouths game.

+ A country singer plans to do a new version of the Randy Travis classic, "Diggin' Up Bones."

+ He wants to make a fortune, selling something strange to a casino on eBay.

+ Someone gave him very bad advice on starting a flower garden.

BLOG UPDATE: It turns out Wal-Mart isn't the one place rushing the seasons. Saturday's mail brought my Georgia income tax forms. At least the Internal Revenue Service people have enough compassion to wait for people to finish Christmas shopping.

A check of the Georgia income tax book shows there are several changes for 2005. One of them is a "deduction for expenses related to organ donation." To borrow from an old country song, this could be called the Wurlitzer Prize.

But seriously: you now can deduct up to $10,000 in lost wages, lodging and travel if you donate part of your body. It applies to transplants of bone marrow, kidneys, lives and lungs -- but NOT a heart donation. So it doesn't pay in Georgia to give your heart to someone....

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Woo-hoo! My beloved Kansas won the Fort Worth Bowl 42-13 - the football team's first win in a bowl in ten years!! But it feels downright strange for the 7-5 football Jayhawks to have a better record than the basketball team....

Now for other items of interest from this unusual weekend:

+ A Saturday night storm added to the Columbus 2005 rainfall total, which according to WRBL is among the top ten in city history. We've had so much rain that big bands plan to change one New Year's Eve party tune to, "We're in the Muddy."

+ A drive past the 24-hour Walgreens store in Phenix City at 7:45 Saturday night found the parking lot packed. So which ones of you wound up with the Chia Pets?

+ A pothole developed in the northbound lane of Broadway, between Fourth and Fifth Streets - not far from where a parked car advertises a "Santa for Hire." Hopefully he's going to lose some of that weight in the next few weeks....

+ WRBL had trouble showing the First Presbyterian Church Christmas Eve service at 11:00 p.m., so it presented a rerun of "C.S.I." instead. [True!] Somehow, I think this would be more appropriate around Passover -- with all those dead Egyptians....

(The St. Luke United Methodist Church WAS on television - so maybe God decided at the last minute He liked Methodists better than Presbyterians.)

+ The Cascade Hills Church telecast on WLTZ showed Bill Purvis marking "Christmas in New York" -- complete with Christopher Cross singing, "When you get caught between the moon and New York City!" I didn't know the church holiday pageant had become big enough to appear on Broadway.

(At one point, Bill Purvis said a Christmas trip to New York simply MUST include a trip to Macy's at Herald Square. Excuse me, Pastor -- but I think Peachtree Mall still has one.)

+ WHAL-AM again defied usual radio wisdom, by playing its usual "gospel music" on Saturday night instead of Christmas songs. I don't object to this at all - but does Clear Channel Radio consider this its "alternative" to what Sunny 100 FM does?

+ The Atlanta Falcons lost at Tampa Bay 27-24 in overtime. The Falcons technically still can make the N.F.L. playoffs - but they need to persuade several National Conference teams to stay out late on New Year's Eve and miss next Sunday's games.

+ Instant Message to the driver of an Envoy with a Lee County tag, and an ad for "brand new X-Box 360's" on the back: Am I really supposed to believe you? Where did you find a broken-down tractor-trailer filled with them?

2005 IN REVIEW: June began with an unusual warning from Fort Benning. Soldiers were barred from fishing along the Chattahoochee River, in the downtown area - and everybody else who fishes there has eaten a bit better ever since.

A fuss developed in June involving the Muscogee County Library Board and a proposed Albert Paley sculpture. The board seemed to learn its lesson from this - because you may have noticed NO big Christmas tree in front of the main library.

The sculpture debate exposed a deep little secret about Columbus -- it has a number of powerful boards, which seemingly answer to no one and fill openings quietly among themselves. In other words, they're a lot like corporate management. The thing is, no one seems to mind that with corporations....

The Columbus Public Library redeemed itself a bit during June, by starting a series of "movies under the stars." I'm amazed Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin hasn't borrowed this approach, to bring a movie theater back to his city. All you need is a canvas, and one of the empty used car lots on 13th Street.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Poydasheff proclaimed during June he has not received one complaint about panhandlers in town. Maybe if some of them stood on the corner of Ninth and Second, instead of Fourth and Second....

Your blog was first to mention in June that Starbucks was planning to open a coffee shop near Columbus Park Crossing. The deal became official Thanksgiving Day - and when it opens, Columbus will only be 1,999 Starbucks behind Seattle.

We also were first to note the disappearance of several named bricks from the "Olympic Ring" in South Commons. Oh no - you don't think that gravedigger at Riverdale Cemetery tried a smaller plot of ground first?!

A well-known woman confirmed a change in June, as Miriam Tidwell announced she's now going by the name "Eve." So Saturday marked the first of many years in which she'll have to endure holiday jokes....

Another big change was announced in June, which really will hit Columbus this coming year. The Georgia Public Service Commission ordered ten-digit dialing in the 706 area code. This already is happening more than you might think - with all the people moving here from Atlanta, and refusing to change cell phone numbers.

Monica Pang won the Miss Georgia title in Columbus during June. But she's been cooling her high heels ever since, because the Miss America pageant has changed TV networks and locations. She'll finally compete in Las Vegas next month - so what color feathers will be in her big hat?

Columbus High School beat Shaw in June, to win another Georgia state baseball title. But Columbus High never took on Russell County's Alabama state champs - which may mark the only major area where AFLAC failed to make a substantial donation.

There were other sports notes in Columbus during June. The Bike Ride Across Georgia began at South Commons. And Terrell Owens appeared at Rod Hood's youth football camp - but no one took time to investigate how much money he demanded in an appearance fee.

Then the calendar turned to July - and a new star was born in our area. Hopefully "Wanda the Bang-Bang Lady" had her own float at the Bi-City Christmas Parade a few weeks ago....

The storms started moving through our area in July. There was Tropical Storm Cindy, then a bit of Hurricane Dennis, and before it was over -- well, let's just say I prefer other methods of learning the Greek alphabet.

Perhaps the biggest local storm came when NAACP President Bill Madison talked on WRCG's "Talkline." Some people said he threatened to blow up Port Columbus. Madison says he didn't - and let's face it, he hasn't rolled any cannons toward that museum since.

In local political storms, a big fuss was made in July over controlling traffic on Cherokee Avenue. Should the lanes be changed? Should there be guardrails near the canal? And why didn't someone concerned about the city budget suggest making it a toll road?

The Columbus Police Chief did some tinkering with his budget in July, to keep the G.R.E.A.T. anti-gang program going. Too bad no one bothered to tell the students at East Columbus Magnet Academy several months later....

Phenix City Police had some big new tools in July, as officers began riding on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I can't help noticing there hasn't been a single "poker run" started in that city since.

Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff called during July for big local companies to install security cameras. As if that stops people from robbing convenience stores now?!

Baseball's Columbus Catfish issued a statement in July, denying the team was considering a move to Tennessee. If only reporters had gone to the management, and started naming other states....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 23, 2005


The surprise sat there at the end of an aisle, as if it was nothing unusual -- but to me, it certainly was. Thursday night I found a store already selling Valentine's Day items! Well, it does have one thing in common with Christmas -- the color red.

Believe it or not, the Phenix City Wal-Mart SuperCenter had Valentine items on sale Thursday night -- three days BEFORE Christmas! Who knows how many shoppers are getting things mixed up, and hanging paper hearts instead of mistletoe?

Assuming you're planning ahead, the Phenix City Wal-Mart had boxes of Harry Potter Valentines on sale. I suppose if you turn him down, you'll turn into a goblet of fire or something....

I've become used to stores putting out Valentine's Day items on December 26, the day after Christmas. But c'mon -- three days BEFORE?! If this trend continues, soon someone will have a baby Jesus breaking out of an Easter egg.

But hold on, you may be asking - what was I doing in a Wal-Mart SuperCenter Thursday night? Why would this "Christian who doesn't keep Christmas" [11 Dec] be in such a store so close to the big day? The answer is simple, and what critics in Midland tend to forget - low-priced groceries.

It was time for my biweekly grocery trip, and it was Wal-Mart's turn for my shopping dollars. But when on this busy weekend should I go, to avoid massive crowds? Friends told me to go Thursday night, instead of Friday afternoon - perhaps realizing Columbus libraries would be closed today.

Before I left to shop, I heard the latest complaints about Wal-Mart. WRBL reported the Lee County District Attorney will lose $45,000, because Wal-Mart will start using a private company to handle bad checks. Well, at least the company is concerned about our overcrowded jails....

Lee County District Attorney Nick Abbott says his office earns about $100 for each bad check it handles. That computes to about 450 bad checks a year at Wal-Mart - making you wonder why SuperCenters bother to have bank branches in them.

District Attorney Nick Abbott plans to make up for the lost $45,000 by NOT replacing an assistant D.A. who recently resigned. So much for the theory that no one with a government job is irreplaceable....

Wal-Mart explains it switched to using TeleCheck to handle all bad checks nationwide, in a move to streamline its accounting. For one thing, there's more time to write checks for all the lawsuits Wal-Mart may lose -- like the $172 million it was ordered to pay California employees Thursday.

This is a difficult question -- should Wal-Mart privatize how it goes after hot check writers, if it leaves local governments less money for handling other crimes? Will Nick Abbott's prediction be right, that more customers will write rubber checks? Or could county government start writing some, too?

Armed with all this knowledge, I went to Wal-Mart anyway -- and the SuperCenter parking lot was crowded at about 7:00 p.m., but not completely full. I didn't even bother looking for a parking space near the door. If all those New Yorkers could walk several miles to work....

The SuperCenter made sure things at least felt more crowded than usual, by filling its usually empty aisle next to the checkout lanes with all sorts of sale items. But at least it was Wal-Mart and not Kmart - with no blue light specials leading to five-minute stampedes.

I stuck to the "supermarket" side of the SuperCenter, and it really wasn't that overcrowded. There were a few couples and families having cross words with each other about what to buy and how to do holiday things -- making "The George Lopez Show" look almost true-to-life.

My big mistake came when I crossed over to the other side of the SuperCenter - because for some reason, personal care items such as toothbrushes are at the opposite end of the store. And the sporting goods department is hidden in the back, so you can't be reminded of all the exercise you're getting.

After picking up a toothbrush (for only 21 cents with my coupon!), I rolled my cart past the electronics aisles. I should have realized that would be the most crowded part of the store. Remember, children: your parents might want some toys this weekend, too.

All in all, the Wal-Mart grocery trip turned out to be peaceful and uneventful -- and took about as long as usual. As so many TV reporters have said lately, I "packed my patience." And thankfully, I didn't have to stop at Blimpie for dinner while waiting for the crowds to leave.

BIG PREDICTION: Whoo-hoo! My Kansas Jayhawks are in a football bowl game! I predict they'll beat Houston tonight in the Fort Worth Bowl - assuming they didn't get confused and fly to Houston, to play Texas Christian of Fort Worth.

While our heart bleeds true for the Crimson and the Blue, let's check other local notes from Thursday:

+ The Census Bureau reported Columbus's population is now almost 189,000 people. Enough transferring soldiers to Fort Benning could push the total to 200,000. So NOW can we stop calling this a "River-TOWN?"

+ Shane Cummings of LaGrange was presented a $500,000 check, for winning the Georgia Lottery "King Kong" game. Hey Shane! Just a suggestion - do NOT take the money in cash, and hide it around your house.

(With a name like "King Kong," you'd think the Georgia Lottery would provide something extra besides cash. For instance, a date with Naomi Watts....)

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths won 6-3 at home over "Pee Dee." Shame on all of you who see the visitors' name, and think of a newscaster in a restroom....

+ Atlanta Falcons cornerback D'Angelo Hall told ESPN Radio's "The Herd" he wore short sleeves during last Sunday night's game in ice-cold Chicago - and late in the game wondered why he did it. Perhaps his brain was frozen, even in the locker room.

(D'Angelo Hall also said watching Michael Vick in practice reminds him of Wayne Gretzky. This is a remarkable comment - that a pro football player in the South actually knows the name of a famous hockey player.)

+ Instant Message to residents of the Hilton Heights neighborhood: Are you kidding - some of you leave your front doors unlocked during the day? People on 30th Avenue ought to pay you a visit and give you some burglary advice, because even they have more sense than that.

2005 YEAR IN REVIEW: May began with a change at some Columbus restaurants, as all Burger Kings went smoke-free. Two months later, all Georgia restaurants did so by law - and at year's end, I'm a bit surprised Smokey Bones Barbecue hasn't changed its name.

May brought news of a big change at Fort Benning, as military base realignment will bring thousands more soldiers to our area. Hopefully the returning Third Brigade soldiers won't mind the extra G.I.'s sleeping on their living room floor....

May also brought the arrest of two current and former Russell County commissioners. Ronnie Reed was arrested for violating election rules - and apparently he knew his "right to remain silent," because the violation about a felony conviction didn't surface until months later.

Not even the library was safe from scandal during May - as former Phenix City librarian Irma Duke was sentenced to prison for stealing library money. In Columbus, they tried a more creative way to do this several weeks later. But the Albert Paley sculpture was stopped in time....

The police blotter in May shows someone stole seven tons of cottonseed from a store in Americus. The suspects didn't get far - because attempting to sell crude-looking underwear from the back of a van will give you away every time.

Columbus Police Chief Rick/Ricky Boren announced in May his officers would start using stun guns. They worked immediately -- as local civil rights leaders who complained about Gwinnett County's Taser policy didn't say a thing.

A Spencer High School student caused a national stir in May. He was suspended because his mother serving in Iraq called him on his cell phone during school. Imagine if she had called during a world geography quiz....

Vice President Cheney visited the area in May, delivering a commencement speech at Auburn University. Who knows how many of his aides were outside the arena, looking for people to spy on.

The most stunning departure for some people in May was the disappearance of Amy Giuliano from the morning TV news. She's now in public relations AND has a different last name! This must mean she's married - because you normally would change a name like Giuliano to stay in television.

May was a winning month for many teams in our area. Russell County and Glenwood both won Alabama state baseball titles -- so now we know which members of the 1999 Phenix City little League team had money, and which ones didn't.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: For the first time, we have a special guest blogger.... a name you probably know....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Let's send out some introductory greetings right away. To the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer - THANK YOU for mentioning me and this blog on the front page Wednesday! Does this put me in the running for a Page One Award?

And to all new readers we might have as a result of the front-page mention - welcome! You're visiting a blog which dares to take on the critical issues of the Columbus area. And one of these days, I'll get to that in-depth comparison of scrambled dogs....

It was quite a surprise to see my name on the front page of the Wednesday Ledger-Enquirer, as well as the Local section. A newspaper reporter apparently took one of our comments as a challenge - but no, Kaffie Sledge is not writing a humor column now.

Reporter Mark Rice investigated a question we asked: "Where have you gone, Irvin Zyskind?" [4 Nov] Let the record show he DID quote the blog correctly. Sometimes journalists actually do that....

We asked about Irvin Zyskind because he was the last name listed in the Columbus phone book - until the current edition. We didn't know it at the time, but Zyskind's name was last for 29 years. That's probably even longer than Jordan High School's football team has been last in its region.

Mark Rice of the Ledger-Enquirer obviously had time to track down the answer -- because it was in Wednesday's paper seven weeks after we asked the question. He has a great future investigating spying at The New York Times.

But the news was sobering about Irvin Zyskind. As we somewhat feared, he died in April 2003 -- and no, we will NOT stoop into the gutter here and say he finished dead last....

Mark Rice called this a "monumental matter" (HIS bad death joke, perhaps) -- and reported Irvin Zyskind's widow now lives with her son in Montgomery. I hope they're doing well, but this raises one obvious question. Does Mrs. Zyskind plan to vote for Don Siegelman as Alabama Governor, to bring in a lottery?

Mark Rice didn't stop there, and went on to check on the new final name in the Columbus phone book. He's Frank Zylstra, who works at a local salon. He's been in the business four decades -- long enough to remember when they were called "hairdressers," and not stylists.

While we're thinking in terms of memorials: our condolences to the family of Emilio Masciovecchio. We learned of his death Wednesday - the Columbus man known around the country as "Mac the Mechanic." With a last name like that, can you really blame him for taking a TV and radio nickname?

Mac the Mechanic made his home in Columbus, but used Atlanta media as his springboard to national fame. He used to have a weekend show on WGST Radio (not WSB, as the Ledger-Enquirer claims) - and he probably paved the way for the "Car Talk" guys, only his humor was actually about cars.

Mac the Mechanic used to bring in all sorts of curious-looking items, for TV interviews. They related to cars in some way - and this was long enough ago that you knew he couldn't have found those things shopping at eBay.

The phone book lists a "Masciovecchio Car Care Center" on Buena Vista Road - which surprised me, because I've driven for years past a small shop on Warm Springs Road with Emilio's name on it. This should teach Councilor Nathan Suber a lesson: some businesses actually DO move south in Columbus.

The funeral for Mac the Mechanic is planned for 4:00 p.m. today. Wouldn't it be amazing if the man who coined the car repair phrase "five o'clock surprise" offered one more of his own - and sat up in the casket?

The Ledger-Enquirer reports Mac the Mechanic will be buried in his signature bright-red work shirt. We wish his family well - and we wish we knew the secret of how they got the oil and grease stains off those shirts.

Now for items from Wednesday's news, which might get this blog mentioned in even more newspapers:

+ The first group of Third Brigade soldiers returned home to Fort Benning from Iraq. We're certainly glad to have them back - and we hope they were told to stay away from the banks of the Chattahoochee River. They're dangerous, you know....

+ The manager of the Cannon Brew Pub told the late news his business has NOT gone down, since smoking was banned in Georgia restaurants in July. In fact, I suspect it might have increased - since addicted smokers eat and run faster between cigarettes.

+ A man told Columbus Police someone broke into his home near Forest Road, and stole $20,000 in hidden lottery winnings. The TV detective in me finds something strange about this. Why would you have $20,000 in cash - and hide it around your house? Was he planning THAT big a shopping spree at Family Dollar?

(And don't you suspect someone entered this house, who KNEW the man had won a big lottery prize? If I ever win a sweepstakes prize, I plan to tell as few people as possible - at least until the moving truck comes, to take me to Green Island Hills.)

+ A survey by the political web site Stateline found Alabama's Governor mentions the "risen Christ" and Christmas in his year-end greeting card, while Georgia's Governor does not. Is this really a surprise? Bob Riley's running against Roy Moore next year, while Sonny Perdue isn't....

+ Speaking of which: Alabama Governor Bob Riley revealed Roy Moore wanted the National Guard called in 2003, to guard the Ten Commandments monument in Montgomery and block its removal. Aha - this explains it! God didn't send down lightning on the moving crew because Judge Moore lacked faith He could do it.

+ A Stockbridge, Georgia doctor was indicted on charges of treating cancer patients with weed killer. Hopefully no one let this doctor near the man who drank the cleaning fluid at a Waffle House....

(This raises a thought-provoking question, though - if the doctor had used weed killer on marijuana addicts, would it have worked?)

2005 IN REVIEW CONTINUED: April began with talk of a Riverfest boycott, and 30,000 people attending a civil rights march in downtown Columbus. It ended with no boycott, no march, no "days of abstinence" - and did Riverfest even have 30,000 visitors?

Attorney Joseph Wiley called for a "cooling-off period" in Columbus, as the civil rights boycott was called off. That approach has worked so well, the Kenneth Walker case only resurfaced for a chilly Sunday afternoon memorial service in December.

Phenix City Councilman Arthur Sumbry was charged in April with writing hot checks. Well, at least he didn't act like Ronnie Reed - and keep it quiet for 30 years.

There was bad economic news in April, as Tom's Foods filed for bankruptcy. Lance Foods bought out the company in the fall - thus beating the same-sex union of Elton John by several weeks.

But AFLAC still was doing well in April - well enough to donate on million dollars to Millard Fuller's new charity. Mr. Amos, I'm not asking for that much of a donation to this blog - I mean, $1,000 would be nice....

The Columbus Cottonmouths brought home a hockey title in early April. In case you haven't heard, they ARE playing in town again this season. Based on their radio broadcasts, you might think they're playing at Beard-Eaves Coliseum in Auburn.

The Columbus Riverdragons also did well, winning the N.B.D.L. regular season title and reaching the final round. April included "Paint the Town Orange Week" in their honor. Too bad no one realized orange is a color on U-Haul trucks.

Northside High School also had a winner in April, as its rifle team won a Georgia state championship. I should hire these sharpshooters to go hunt me down some deer meat for the winter.

A reenactment of the Civil War "Battle of Columbus" occurred during April at Port Columbus. The organizers even threw in a bogus battle which the South won - which shows political correctness was out of hand long before December.

Oxbow Meadows made several improvements throughout the year - including a new swamp in April, complete with its own alligator. For some reasons, the Florida alumni club did NOT watch football games there during the fall.

April ended with Home Box Office showing an award-winning movie "Warm Springs," about the Georgia home of President Franklin Roosevelt. By comparison, the movie "2,001 Maniacs" shot at Westville two years ago still has NOT come out - so maybe historians have disproved that one.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Barbara Walters presented a two-hour special Tuesday night asking, "Heaven -- how do we get there?" After a vote in Columbus Council earlier in the day, some Midland residents will tell you the path won't go through their neighborhood much longer.

Columbus Council voted 7-3 in favor of a new Wal-Mart SuperCenter on Gateway Road, in the Midland area. And we all know once a Wal-Mart shows up, the "rollbacks" only happen inside the store - not in the development around it.

Councilor Evelyn Turner Pugh voted for the new Wal-Mart, but warned the company it had better keep a promise to build another SuperCenter on the south side. In her words: "my reputation is at stake." You don't have to change many letters in "reputation" to spell "reelection."

But the two other African-American councilors voted against Wal-Mart. Nathan Suber said the plan for three SuperCenters from Airport Thruway north will entice South Columbus residents to drive to them, instead of the Buena Vista Road store. Isn't he assuming something - that all those residents have cars?

(The manager of the Buena Vista Road Wal-Mart told WRBL Tuesday night she thinks regular customers would return, once the "newness" of a SuperCenter wears off. I don't see that logic working yet at Northside High School.)

Councilor Julius Hunter says he voted against Wal-Mart because he's "not satisfied" all of the company's promises will be met. That's easy for him to say, since I can't recall him making a single promise when he ran for office.

The third Columbus Councilor to oppose the rezoning for Wal-Mart for Glenn Davis. So much for him holding a baseball autograph signing at the new store....

But Mayor Pro-Tem Jack Rodgers voted for the rezoning, saying the land on Gateway Road was suitable for retail business. If that's the standard, can you imagine Mike Gaymon of the Chamber of Commerce serving on Columbus Council? We might have stores on every street corner in the city.

Jack Rodgers suspects the opposition in Midland was directed more at Wal-Mart in particular, than retail development in general. He said if the proposal was for a Nordstrom or Neiman-Marcus, there wouldn't be a debate. So when are those stores coming - and where?

Wal-Mart plans to build a 200,000 square foot store on Gateway Road - but first it has to work with the Georgia Transportation Department on details of road improvements. For one thing, we have to figure out which famous politicians to name the roads after.

Supporters say the new Midland Wal-Mart is expected to bring other businesses - including a bank, and possibly a motel. I suppose they're for Talbot County residents, who want to make this a weekend getaway....

But the next Wal-Mart SuperCenter to open in our area probably will be near Columbus Park Crossing. The land is cleared for it, yet it might not be ready until late next year. Contractors must be allowing plenty of time for protesters to slow things down.

For the opponents living near the new Midland Wal-Mart, I have a couple of suggestions. If you plan to sell your home, put up posters around current Wal-Mart stores. And if you plan to stay, make money off all that extra traffic you expect - by holding yard sales every weekend.

Now let's enter the express lane, for other news items from Tuesday:

+ WRBL reported someone recently stole a Columbus city dump truck from an equipment yard. Why would anyone want to steal a dump truck? It can't be for the aerodynamics or the cushy interior.

(A series of thefts from the equipment yard in recent months have included one pickup truck and two lawnmowers. This is what happens when prison inmates cut the grass along the Riverwalk.)

+ East Alabama Medical Center reported 20 milligrams of morphine had disappeared. If I could offer some advice - look for the patient with the widest smile.

+ The Sumter County Commission voted to take in as many as 30 inmates from the Gwinnett County Jail. Of all the ideas I've heard to bring the "two Georgias" together, this tops them all....

+ The Jerry Springer Show on WXTX featured a man who cheated on his wife, with a woman he met in the human wheelbarrow race at central Georgia's "Redneck Games." He picked up a new lover, in more ways than one....

(The man named Erik complained to Jerry Springer that his wife wouldn't let him enter the Redneck Games tire toss. What did she do - threaten to "steel belt" him one?)

+ Shaw High School's boys basketball team handled Hardaway 100-76 at the Shaw Holiday Tournament. The Hawks have a player named Elijah Pitts - who might find himself recruited to make a football comeback for the Green Bay Packers this weekend.

+ The Atlanta Hawks were embarrassed in Miami 111-92. That score is misleading, because the Heat led 81-43 in the middle of the third quarter - and I started to wonder if Reggie Bush of Southern California can play basketball, as well as football.

(You know the game is out of hand when Hawks announcer Steve Holman resorts to bad Shaquille O'Neal puns. Who joins O'Neal at the golf course? A Caddy-Shaq.)

+ Instant Message to Rhodes Furniture: Eight days before you go out of business - and you STILL won't break up bedroom suites to sell me a chest of drawers?! I thought no reasonable offer was refused! And I didn't raise my voice once....

2005 IN REVIEW CONTINUED: What do you know - our review of March events reminded us the Columbus Planning Commission recommended AGAINST that Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Midland! So much for those commissioners thinking they have powerful positions....

March was the month when the Columbus City Manager dreamed of a pay raise - only to have Columbus Council turn him down. So when does Isaiah Hugley plan to retire, and become Assistant City Manager of Phenix City?

Later in the month, Lisa Goodwin of METRA was named one of Isaiah Hugley's assistants. I assume she works in her office all day long, because a METRA bus ride to a project across town simply would be too long a wait.

An e-mail to the blog in March announced a bumper sticker campaign with the slogan, "Let's Raise Police Pay." To this day, I haven't seen any of those stickers on cars - but then, I don't tend to follow Columbus police cruisers that closely....

The Washington Post revealed during March that Millard Fuller was accused of sexual misconduct several times, during his years at Habitat for Humanity. Amazingly, his new "Fuller Center" has its headquarters in Americus - and NOT on Victory Drive in Columbus.

March was a month of mourning, as several famous names passed away. They included WRBL's Rozell Fabiani, former Phenix City Mayor Jane Gullatt, the Olive Branch Café in downtown Columbus - as well as attorney Johnnie Cochran, who would have made them all rhyme somehow.

Your blog spent a week in federal court during March, covering a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. WRBL's parent company lost, yet the damage may be done already. No one on the WRBL news team has become noticeably pregnant since.

We also tracked down some interesting numbers in March - learning paid attendance at "Thunder in the Valley" dropped by about 25 percent from the year before. This may prevent next year's event from expanding to "Thunder and Lightning in the Valley."

Speaking of numbers, regular unleaded gasoline went above two dollars a gallon across Columbus during March. It actually dropped below that amount for a while in recent weeks - and if you please do NOT smoke while you fill up, a lack of fires could bring the price back down.

A new multilingual newspaper premiered in Columbus during March. The English section is called "The Courier." The Spanish section is called "Eco Latino." And it's probably only a matter of time before an Ebonics section is in there....

And in radio, Davis Broadcasting made several changes in March. The stations at 92.7 FM and 95.7 FM switched places. The station at 1580 AM switched to sports talk. And at WFXE "Foxie-105," they're thankful they haven't switched spots at the top of the ratings with "101.3 The Beat."

WRBL's Blaine Stewart used to work in radio - and he revealed during March he was the first announcer to play a Britney Spears record. It's a good thing he didn't claim any "secret sex tapes" as well, because Spears sued a magazine Tuesday about that....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Days of speculation in Phenix City came true Monday - as former Columbus fire chief Roy Waters became that city's Deputy Fire Chief. Some skeptics were expecting Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin to become an assistant city manager in Columbus.

Roy Waters "retired" as Columbus Fire Chief only three weeks ago, after spending 33 years with that department. Why do I have a feeling this man isn't sure how long the city can afford his pension?

(Three weeks is an awfully short retirement - but let's face it. How many times can a former firefighter watch the movie "Backdraft" at home before becoming bored?)

But let's do some math here: Roy Waters joined the Columbus Fire Department at age 22. He announced his retirement as Fire Chief at age 55. The only people who realistically "retire" at that age are athletes, lottery winners and hosts of get-rich-quick infomercials.

I didn't realize until the Monday evening news that Roy Waters has lived in Phenix City for years. I guess that's no big deal - as long as he never took a pumper truck home with him for the weekend.

Roy Waters is joining the "Phenix Phirephighters" partly as a favor to an old friend. He taught a class at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in the 1980's, and had current Phenix City Fire Chief Wallace Hunter as a student. Do you think Bill Gates has done this sort of thing, since he dropped out of college?

Roy Waters assured reporters he'll be working under Chief Wallace Hunter, as Assistant Fire Chief in Phenix City. Apparently the city budget has no money for "consultant" positions to do this.

As Assistant Fire Chief in Phenix City, Roy Waters will oversee the fire marshal's office - as well as something called "fire suppression." What does that division do? Certainly it wouldn't cover up the arson reports....

Fire Chief Wallace Hunter says the hiring of Roy Waters is an important step in restoring the Phenix City crew's integrity. A seven-year feud within the firefighters didn't help the department's image. But at least the legal papers in the lawsuit were kept in fireproof boxes.

The naming of Roy Waters was part of a major promotion ceremony for the Phenix City Fire Department. Six firefighters were promoted to captain. Eight were promoted to sergeant rank. But no one was publicly named a terrorism spy for the Bush administration.

But I can't help wondering what Columbus Councilors and city officials think of Roy Waters's new job. Did they know this switch to the Phenix City Fire Department was coming? Did they try to handle Waters like a baseball player - offering him a new contract with a raise, only to see him choose free agency?

The TV newscasts didn't say whether Roy Waters is taking a pay cut to join the Phenix City Fire Department as assistant chief. I would assume he is - since I haven't seen Phenix City workers carry signs in protest outside government buildings

So do Columbus city officials feel a bit abandoned, because Roy Waters joined a fire department across the river? Do they - wellll, you know - do they feel burned?

While you ponder those probing questions, let's throw some more logs on the Monday fire of topics:

+ The evening news reported Russell County Judge Al Johnson has ordered the District Attorney to take action against Commissioner and convicted felon Ronnie Reed. When Al Johnson is doing what you'd expect Probate Judge Al Howard to do, this is a dangerous combination.

+ Port Columbus announced plans to put a full-size warship outside its Civil War Naval Museum. If terrorists try to go after the new National Infantry Museum, we'll be ready....

+ Managers of the Columbus Airport admitted their telephone information line is badly out of date. Call the number, and you'll be told THREE airlines serve Columbus - when two of them left years ago! Maybe it's time to turn this place into an aviation museum.

(Mark Oropeza at the Columbus Airport said the telephone information line will need up to 30 days to change, because a completely new system must be installed. I guess the "record" button fell off the old voice mail machine.)

+ A Georgia Senate committee heard details of plans to close West Central Georgia Regional Hospital. A state official told GPB Radio community-based homes are better for treating mentally ill people than expensive hospitals. And patients can raise money if necessary, by begging around the neighborhood.

+ Cascade Hills Church hosted a seminar on the new Medicare prescription drug plan. Considering the music and messages presented at this church, I'm amazed any members are old enough for Medicare.

+ WRBL reported Georgia's "Voter ID" bus to help low-income people legally vote has broken down three times. So? It's all the better for relating to these voters....

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue traveled to Zoo Atlanta, to examine an elephant. Now THIS is a confident politician -- not even bothering to check the Democratic donkeys.

(And did you notice the Governor checked an AFRICAN elephant? This is one strange way to win minority votes next year....)

+ Instant Message to the teacher who told WRBL science should be made "more exciting" for students: Four-word answer - Fireworks Outlet field trip.

2005 YEAR IN REVIEW CONTINUED: February began with trouble in Americus, as the board of Habitat for Humanity dismissed President Millard Fuller. This made for some fun tongue-twisters at area speaking clubs - such as "feuding fired founder Fuller."

Isaiah Hugley made history in February, becoming the first African-American City Manager in Columbus history. So far, he seems to be keeping things above board. City insurance contracts with his wife's State Farm office have NOT increased.

But the city received a setback in February, when the Tour de Georgia decided to move its bicycle race course to avoid Columbus. You'd think the cyclists would have enjoyed maneuvering through the Streetscape obstacle course on Broadway....

A resignation in February may have offered a hint of events to come. Don Cook quit the Muscogee County Library Board, declaring it was "too political." So was Albert Paley's giant sculpture a Republican or a Democrat?

Things were difficult at the Mockingbird Mobile Home Park in February, as the landlord shut off the residents' water. What a sneaky way to encourage trailer arsonists....

A racial dispute broke out at Auburn University in February - with complaints two associate athletic directors were fired because they were African-American. These days, of course, the issue is different. Did either of those faculty members ever have a traffic ticket fixed?

Columbus civil rights leaders called in February for four "days of abstinence" at the end of April. That led to a plan to boycott Riverfest - and that eventually led to everything being canceled at the last minute. At least those leaders can change in a hurry, even if the rest of Columbus doesn't.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois beat the boycott, by appearing at a Black History Month event in Columbus during February. Maybe next year he'll show up on Saint Patrick's Day, so he can be Senator O'Bama.

February marked the closure of the notorious Boom Boom Room on Cusseta Road. From what I can tell, the nightclub has not reopened - but then again, I try to avoid driving past it at 11:00 on a Saturday night.

But there was a major opening in February - as the John B. Amos Cancer Center opened on Veterans Parkway. I suppose putting it on "Lump-kin Road" would have been insensitive.

The son of Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson pleaded guilty in February to D.U.I. and marijuana possession. Adam Johnson was back in trouble with the law only a few months later, and now - well, has Roy Waters in Phenix City taken in any house guests?

The Phenix City Council approved plans in February for a major redevelopment project downtown. Someone actually has given me a couple of bricks from the demolition of one building. Now if I can get Mayor Jeff Hardin to autograph them....

Keeping it in the family: your blog was first to break the news during February that AFLAC Chairman Dan Amos had remarried. In keeping with the company's 50th anniversary events in 2005, I presume he gave his bride a million-dollar dowry.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 19, 2005


The report was both troubling and unusual. The main figure in a Christmas display had disappeared, and no one could find him. And there were NO sightings of ugly green creatures pushing trees off a cliff....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: This is the true story of a weekend search for the truth. It began with a report that a Jesus figure vanished from a seasonal church display. Without my even planning it, I became a C.S.I. - a Christmas Scene Investigator.

The mystery developed at First Baptist Church of Warm Springs. A source connected with the church told your blog that Jesus was missing from the Christmas display. Who would take such a thing? Was someone who insists on saying "Happy Holidays" getting some sort of revenge?

There have been scattered reports across the country this month of Jesus figures being swiped from nativity scenes. The people who do this must not read their Bibles carefully - because Jesus DID support the "thou shalt not steal" commandment.

On the other hand, I wondered, could a "Jesus-napping" be a church stunt? During my college years, a public relations class "kidnapped" one of the university mascots for several weeks - and it was a class project! Was the church board trying to gain a free appearance on The 700 Club, to get more members?

Our search for the truth began by calling law enforcement offices. If Jesus was stolen, surely the church would have reported it. Maybe the kidnapper in Warm Springs would be convicted - and drop the baby in the lap of a Franklin Roosevelt statue.

The Meriwether County Sheriff's Office knew nothing of the missing Jesus Saturday night. Nor did the Warm Springs Police officer who answered the phone Sunday morning. But the Chief would be back in the office Monday - so like church members, he was pushing this on to The Man Upstairs.

It became apparent if I wanted to get to the bottom of this story, I'd have to call First Baptist Church of Warm Springs directly. But what would I find there? Would members be in agony because Jesus was missing? Would they offer to swap two donkeys and three head of cattle from the nativity scene, for one Christ?

(Then again, would this church even answer the phone on a Sunday morning? Some congregations have everyone in the sanctuary at worship time - and if you call at 11:00 a.m. seeking help, you might think everyone has been raptured away.)

I dialed First Baptist Church of Warm Springs around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, and there was plenty of noise in the background when a woman answered the phone. So there were several suspects on the scene. All we had to do was find the one with the tiniest diaper.

"I don't know anything about it," said the woman who answered the phone. "I'm just helping with our church school." So at least First Baptist of Warm Springs is one church where gossiping is NOT a problem....

The woman asked me to wait a moment - and then a man named Wynn Self came to the phone. "I'm trying to confirm a report," I told him, "that you've had a theft from your Christmas display."

"A theft?" he replied.

"That your Jesus is missing." I wasn't quite dramatic and breathy enough to be C.S.I. Miami's David Caruso, but I'm working on that.

Wynn Self then understood what I meant. "Well yes, Jesus was missing -- but he's back now. We found Jesus!!" It was all this online journalist could do not to respond with a hallelujah.

No, Wynn Self explained, Jesus was NOT stolen from the Warm Springs First Baptist Christmas display. The figure simply was misplaced for a few days. "They found him in a closet or something," he said. Amazing - homosexuals come out of the closet, while this Jesus gets buried in one.

For the Christmas keepers at First Baptist Church of Warm Springs, this story has a happy ending. For those of you who don't keep Christmas, you may scoff at all this fuss. But consider this: could you play chess without two kings on the board? Churches like this one do it 11 months of the year - and only bring their King out in December.

With that speculation resolved, let's check some things which really HAVE occurred in recent days....

+ The Opelika-Auburn News revealed 60 Auburn police officers have voided traffic tickets in the last couple of years. So far, only one has been suspended and indicted for ticket-fixing. The city had better hurry to hire a new police force, before college students return for spring semester.

(A list of voided tickets on the Opelika-Auburn News web site shows a speeding ticket was canceled last May for the wife of Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. But maybe she had a good explanation -- like Bobby Lowder cutting her off on a highway.)

+ The Columbus RiverCenter hosted a concert by the "Blind Boys of Alabama." For those of you who aren't familiar with gospel music - no, this was NOT the grand jury in Birmingham which keeps indicting Don Siegelman.

+ Davis Broadcasting held its annual "Radiothon" toy giveaway at the Columbus Civic Center. But what was that title WRBL put on the screen - calling Michael Soul of Foxie 105 a "volunteer?" That's going to start the job rumors all over again.

+ Sportscaster Kirsten Olesen and her fiancé left Columbus, moving to Fort Myers, Florida. Their departure seems to leave this blog as the second-oldest in Columbus - and some local bloggers who haven't posted anything in two months risk being given up for dead.

+ A Waffle House employee in McDonough, Georgia was charged with daring an allegedly drunk and homeless man to down a bottle of cleaning fluid for five dollars. This is why some of us were unhappy to see "Fear Factor" come back to prime-time TV....

+ The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Bears in bone-chilling Chicago 16-3. Who was the smart aleck in the National Football League office who decided to schedule a home game in Chicago in mid-December - at NIGHT? Does this guy have a second job, researching global warming?

(The Bears radio broadcast on WBBM caught one Chicago defender writing on a board during the game: "The weather is much better in Hawaii." It's nice to see players looking ahead - beyond their team in the Super Bowl, to their own incentives for being in the Pro Bowl.)

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW: We'll spend the next few days reflecting on highlights (and maybe some low ones) from Columbus in 2005. The year began with a large civil rights march downtown, featuring Jesse Jackson. It seems police learned a valuable lesson that day - because I haven't seen an officer eat a banana since.

There actually were two marches, as supporters of former deputy David Glisson held one downtown first. That group has NOT been heard from since - and I never realized so many people could hide behind attorney Richard Haglar.

But even before that, the first week of January marked the grand opening of the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road. Since then, we've heard complaints about street signs that are too small, a proposed sculpture that's too big - why, it's enough to make parents check out storybooks about the Three Bears.

A new Home Depot store opened during January along U.S. 280 in Phenix City. Residents of Midland will be stunned to learn Wal-Mart has NOT driven it out of business yet.

January meant a new Marshal in Muscogee County, as Greg Countryman replaced Ken Suddeth. So did the new Marshal reclaim all the honorary badges the old one gave out? Are any of them on sale at the Lee County Flea Market, along with drugs?

January also meant a change at the top of the Columbus NAACP. Bill Madison became President - and apparently is paid so much money in the position that he sold his hearse, which used to be covered with protest statements.

Apparently unrelated to this, the Muscogee County Humane Society held a "blackout adoption event" in January - and we caused a stir by questioning if it was appropriate in a racially tense city. Maybe next time, the Humane Society should simply give away animals in the dark.

Georgia's Department of Education put all Muscogee County Schools on its "needs improvement" list in January. So how has the school board responded to this? Oh yeah - they made Charles Flowers a district-wide athletic director.

AFLAC announced during January it would donate one million dollars to build a national memorial to Martin Luther King, Junior in Washington. Yet we're still waiting for the company to spend $1,000 to put a bust of Dr. King on the Riverwalk, next to John Amos.

Auburn played in the Sugar Bowl in early January, and finished a perfect season. This was so stunning a development that not one college football game has been played in the New Orleans Superdome since.

January also found the Columbus Riverdragons basketball team on a record winning streak. Of course, this was followed only months later by another record-breaking streak - the fastest move by a team out of town.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The year-in-review will continue over the next several days....)

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.