Friday, March 31, 2006


I'd forgotten Thursday was a momentous anniversary for our country, until TV news programs mentioned it. It's been 25 years since then-President Reagan was shot in Washington. He survived and lasted two terms in office. John Hinckley survives to this day -- proving U.S. residents are not as harsh as some Afghan Muslims.

Where was I on 30 Mar 81, when Ronald Reagan was shot? On my own version of a racquetball court -- the driveway of the duplex where I lived. It was a mild Monday in metro Kansas City, and I was whacking the ball against the back brick wall. I wonder if the ball markings are still on the second-floor wood shingles above it....

I was working in radio news in 1981 for KJLA-AM - a Kansas City station that changed from disco music to "Top 40" to mostly-oldies in about a year's time. Yes, this was an era when most AM radio stations actually played music.

In March 1981 I had been at KJLA ten months. In fact, I was the entire news department at the time -- working a split morning/afternoon shift while the bosses searched for a second person. So you might say I was on my four-hour lunch break.

My duplex had a phone in the basement/garage area -- so I was near the phone when it rang. "The President's been shot," said the station Program Director on the phone. I didn't know then that a wacko had interrupted my whacking.

I hurried into my used clunky Karmann-Ghia and drove to the radio station. Listening to my competition on the way, WHB-AM offered an update on the President's condition - then midday announcer J.J. Stone played "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra. If the phrase "what was he thinking" had been around then, I would have said it.

Walking into the newsroom, I heard the Program Director making a rare on-air appearance. "We now know the name of the suspect," Ken Edwards ad-libbed. "The man, if you want to call him that, is John Hinckley Junior." This was 1981, remember -- long before "The O'Reilly Factor" made that sort of newscast popular.

"I'm not used to doing news," Ken Edwards admitted to me after broadcasting the news bulletin. He wasn't used to a lot of things, as it turned out. As a native of San Diego, we actually had to explain to him why tornado warnings mattered in Kansas City.

Things went smoothly after I stepped in and did the station's news coverage on that day. In fact, I remember what everyone else did on the air more than the things I did. I mean, the management didn't lay me off until six months later....

The only thing I recall of my newscast during the Reagan shooting was a last-second adjustment I did to a short sports story. The National Basketball Association announced a free throw rule change - and in the nick of time, I stopped short of saying, "Three-to-make-two is dead."

The NCAA basketball final (men only in 1981) went on as scheduled, that Monday night. That caused controversy among some reporters, who felt it should have been postponed in respect to the President. But since Kansas didn't play, I really didn't care either way....

The shooting of the President only added to a year of momentous events. The Iran hostages were freed in January. Pope John Paul II was shot a few weeks later. Then the skywalks at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency collapsed that summer -- a story I covered in person. No wonder I don't hear anyone calling 1981 the "good old days."

E-MAIL UPDATE: Enough about me -- let's get to you. We've had plenty of e-mail at the blog lately, so let's do some spring cleaning and bring it all out in the next few days. We start with a blogging buddy in Ohio who's admittedly "confused" about what's happening in West Point:

I'm following your posts on the proposed Kia plant and don't understand the problem. Isn't the plant a good thing? You always hear people complain that our nation's manufacturing base is going overseas and that there is a shortage here. So Kia is bringing those exact kind of jobs here and people are complaining? Bizarre!

Being from the other Columbus I'm not familiar with all the areas you mention. Is this plant being put next to million dollar homes or something?


No, Buck, I don't think the complainers are living in million-dollar homes. In fact, I'm not sure you could get a million dollars for one of West Point's closed mills anymore....

I've heard several theories about the "Kia Komplainers" in this area. Some of them seem concerned about a South Korean company becoming so dominant in this part of the U.S. Others think the complainers really wanted their homes bought out, too - and Spectrum won't offer nearly as much money for a convenience store.

On top of that, Thursday's Montgomery Advertiser reported next week's big meeting with parts suppliers in South Korea has been postponed by Hyundai. The company is accused of creating a slush fund there, to influence politicians. So Georgia didn't have to offer incentives -- Kia could have offered its own.

Some Kia critics went to LaGrange Thursday night, for a meeting on planned adjustments to Interstate 85. But it turned out the Georgia Department of Transportation was there NOT to talk about the plant, but the impact of base realignment at Fort Benning. Are the Humvees THAT much wider than auto haulers?

Next on the e-mail stack, a comment on that new "first-class hotel" heading for Whittlesey Boulevard [29 Mar]:

> By the way, did you notice "The Prestige Group" which is investing 15 million dollars in Homewood Suites includes Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis? If his project is being praised by Mayor Poydasheff on TV, I guess it's time to strike Davis from the list of potential election challengers.

Glenn Davis is also one of the owners of Cascade Hospitality, LLP - which opened the Hilton Garden Inn at Brookstone Centre on July 2nd, 2004.... Hilton Garden Inn, and Homewood Suites are both Hilton Hotels. These two developments could be under Mr. Davis' company, Cascade Hospitality, LLP.

There is also an economy-priced hotel opening off Williams Road (next to Country Inn & Suites) next year - Microtel Inn (rates starting at $40/night)....

Just a few thoughs.


Thanks, A. I guess I missed the announcement about that hotel on Williams Road. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce decided to Microtel the media about it.

(Boy, am I ever out of touch! I thought a "Microtel" was one of those wireless phones people put in shirt pockets.)

Since Councilor Glenn Davis co-owns the Hilton Garden Inn, now I'm wondering what he thought when Mayor Bob Poydasheff said Columbus lacks a "first-class hotel." What's lacking at the Hilton Garden Inn -- the city government cable channel, maybe?

We're taking the e-mails in order, and next comes a message about something we haven't even discussed here:

In [Wednesday's] paper to quote Mr. [Hal] Kirven,"What needs to be implemented is more programs like Columbus High offers in which failure to achieve a passing level means you lose your opportunity to benefit from the program."...Does Mr Kirven realize that Columbus HIgh puts out students who do not make the grade,even after all the extra credit work is completed..What an advantage to a school's rating,if the student fails put him out.The other high schools in Columbus are over crowded,but CHS can put kids? If CHS did not get one of the best high schools in the state some thing would be seriously wrong..Wow,what an opportunity to go to a on public money.

OK, I'll take the first guess - you went to Hardaway High?!

I haven't checked the context of Hal Kirven's letter to the Ledger-Enquirer, but our writer may not realize something. Failure to pass at ANY school can cost you benefits. It's called dropping out, and working in low-income jobs.

Has the Muscogee County School District really created a "private school on public money" in Columbus High? I'm not so sure about that. After all, only the baseball and wrestling teams consistently contend for state titles....

I suppose you could argue all magnet schools act like private schools to some degree, because students with special interests receive top priority. Add to that the incoming Muscogee County School dress code, and Brookstone might file a lawsuit claiming plagiarism.

Another e-mailer is in a mood to vent, and seeing red....

Tonight [Wednesday] on WRBL City Manager Issiah Hugley told News 3 that the reason people in Columbus run red lights is because the old lights are not bright enough so people don't see them change...........No you putz! People run red lights because there are not enough cops on the force to enforce all the laws in this little town. People run red lights because they are a) in a hurry; b) too stupid to realize they are risking lives; and c) because they know they won't be caught. Almost everyday I see people, multiple cars at once!, run the light. I've seen accidents caused by red light runners. I've even seen police on multiple occasions witness light runners and do nothing about it.

The city manager needs to get his head out of the sand (or wherever he keeps it) to see what goes on around him. You want people to stop running lights? Enforce the law ALL the time. And here's an idea: instead of buying the new LED lights, take that money and spend it on more cameras. As I understand it,
the city has bought cameras, but only for a few intersections. Just like government to put a bandage on things.


So let me get this straight, AR - it's not the old lights which are not bright enough. It's the old drivers....

I've seen the same sort of thing AR has seen at traffic lights. The other evening a driver clearly missed the yellow light on Veterans Parkway - and I honked at him as he sped by. Perhaps my horn woke him up. Besides, if he was in a big hurry, he wouldn't have time to turn around and bump my car.

But really now - does ANY city have enough officers to enforce all its laws? Even little Hurtsboro can't seem to stop those allegedly roaming gangs. It's a wonder they've failed so far to burn down the entire town.

AR may not know the "traffic cameras" Columbus is installing are NOT set up to catch red light runners. At least that's what city officials say. If the crowd at Recorder's Court suddenly doubles in size, I guess we'll know better.

The cameras being set up downtown supposedly are designed to help with traffic flow. Maybe they'll spur a return of radio traffic reports - which only seem to happen now when a caller to WRCG's "Talkline" interrupts a discussion on Al

Our last e-mail for today responds to our Thursday note about a big building when could get a new name:

> Columbus Civic Center manager Dale Hester confirmed to WRBL he's trying to sell the arena's name to bring in extra money. Remember, your PayPal donations to us can make this possible - and provide events for the "Columbus City Blogatorium."

A little more information about the renaming of the Civic Center. It could be the Blogatorium for a sweet $600,000+

Thanks for the tip - but yeow, $600,000? And the deadline to submit a bid is TODAY?! For that price, I want more than the name of the building - I want at least a section of seats.

If $600,000 is the target price for naming the Civic Center, I can think of only one local company which could afford to pay it. The "AFLAC Arena" is a nice-sounding name - but if they dare put a giant inflatable duck in front of the U.S. flag, forget it.

But then again, $600,000 might be a bargain for the Civic Center. Kia is spending more than one billion dollars in West Point, and all it's getting so far is a boulevard.

We thank all of you who write us - and now let's see if Thursday's headlines inspire you further:

+ Which unusual traveler rode a motorized wheelchair down Interstate 85 through Lee County? I'm told police stopped the guy, yet they let him pitch a tent along the interstate overnight and keep going. The Department of Veterans Affairs simply MUST open more clinics....

+ Flags at the Government Center and Public Safety Center flew at half-staff. I'm told it's in memory of former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. I appreciate the show of sympathy - but what does he have to do with Columbus? Which city councilor's campaign fund did he help?

+ Former police officer Charles Weaver announced he'll run for Nathan Suber's Columbus Council seat. Weaver told WRBL he wants "to focus on our schools." That's funny - I thought there was a School Board election this year, too.

(A former police officer runs for Columbus Council, and the first words out of his mouth are about improving schools? Somewhere "Is Our City Safe" must have thrown his computer keyboard halfway across the room.)

+ Law officers from across Georgia gathered at Kendrick High School, to teach students the important of safe driving. It's nice to see that at least a FEW police departments in the state are at full staff, and have extra people to lend to us....

+ The final day of the Georgia Legislature's session featured a debate of more than one hour, over whether to have license plates promoting abortion rights. They would counter the "Choose Life" tags - yet somehow I doubt the other ones would say, "Choose to Abort."

COMING THIS WEEKEND: E-mail about Waffle House.... and a spam lightning round....

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

30 MAR 06: P.G.-FORCE

Things have been quiet at the Columbus Public Library lately. Maybe a little too quiet. Away from the reference section and all those books, I mean....

A new issue has surfaced at the Columbus Public Library -- and it involves the free movies shown from time to time. A committee of the Library Board is considering whether to check viewers' ages, for movies not rated G. You know, the way real movie theaters do -- well, every once in a while.

You may not realize last year's Saturday night "movies under the stars" outside the library included a couple of PG-rated films. Movie industry guidelines say young children should NOT see them without an adult. As if that's stopping DVD rentals at Blockbuster....

The Columbus Public Library shows several movie series indoors throughout the year, in its auditorium. Or as some people on Rigdon Road are starting to call it: the Columbus Square 1.

A legal counsel for the Muscogee County Library Board suggests age restrictions be enforced for movies with ratings other than G. I recall hearing or reading a complaint somewhere about this, involving a movie series for teens. But at least the movie gets them away from steamy web sites....

Perhaps the Muscogee County Library Board's attorney is fearing a lawsuit, over not checking ages at "mature" movies. He may be trying to get this rule in place before Fred Phelps's congregation in Kansas finds something new to march about.

But Library Board committee members note the ratings issued by the movie industry are guidelines only. They are NOT the law. So if theater ushers come home at night with loaded pockets, the money wasn't under the seats - those were (ahem) tips.

Some Library Board members say for most library activities, you're considered an adult at 18. But for movies in theaters, the boundary line tends to be 17. And Georgia is such an advanced state, some middle-aged women marry boys who are 16.

Library directors add it's becoming harder and harder to find G-rated movies to show. And let's face it: you can have only so many "March of the Penguins" marathons....

So should "legal ID" be required for young people to watch library movies? I would suggest checking local high schools, to see what kinds of movies are shown there now. The sex education films might be worth at least an R rating.

One of my high school English classes watched feature-length films such as "East of Eden" and "The Manchurian Candidate." We never were quizzed about those movies, either -- leading me to think the teacher had run out of good books to recommend.

I can see why the Library Board's attorney is recommending a screening process for movies. After all, a parent might complain about the content of something their child sees -- and police only tend to enforce city lewdness rules at Civic Center concerts.

BLOG UPDATE: If you clicked on our Wednesday link for the Myspace area showing Roszell Gadson, you may have been disappointed. The page with a bogus profile of the WXTX news anchor vanished from cyberspace Wednesday. Perhaps the creator plans a one-day-only tribute to Phil Scoggins next.

The bogus biography about Roszell Gadson contained some poor grammar, which could have bordered on racial stereotyping. But when we double-checked at post time Wednesday, the page had been changed to say everything was "a joke." Online versions of Rich Little don't always work as well.

If the creator of the Myspace page thought it was all a joke, Roszell Gadson did not. Gadson told your blog Wednesday he called the U.S. Attorney's office to make a complaint about it. I'm not sure what prosecutors can do - since they still haven't found enough evidence to indict the shooter of Kenneth Walker.

Now other fast facts from a warm Wednesday:

+ Columbus Civic Center manager Dale Hester confirmed to WRBL he's trying to sell the arena's name to bring in extra money. Remember, your PayPal donations to us can make this possible - and provide events for the "Columbus City Blogatorium."

+ The National Urban League issued a report on the African-American community nationwide, and found it economically lacking. Yet Columbus President Reginald Pugh said this area is "better than the national average" - and if you elect him to the State Senate, he'll gladly be an example.

+ Descendants of LaFayette native Joe Louis said when the boxing legend was nine years old, a milk cow kicked him - and he slugged the cow in response, breaking three of its ribs. And you thought "cow punching" started in the old West....

+ Speaking of fighting, Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney reportedly struck a U.S. Capitol police officer at a House office building. It must be an election year - because she's changing that "peace-nik" image.

+ Instant Message to Ruth Ann's Restaurant downtown: Thank you for posting on your sign when the Columbus Catfish have their home opener. The Catfish don't seem to be revealing that information in many other places.

COMING FRIDAY: E-mail about a high school, hotels and more....

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Really now, Mr. Mayor - did you say what we think you said Tuesday? That Columbus is lacking in first-class hotels? We might expect you to say that about airline seats, but not that....

The occasion was a Columbus Chamber of Commerce economic announcement - one of those events where the Chamber doesn't tell reporters what the news is until they show up. What would happen if the reporters stayed away? Would they miss a new business owner ripping up the contract in disgust, and driving away?

But anyway: the Columbus Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday a new "extended stay hotel" will open near Columbus Park Crossing next year. In law enforcement, I believe an "extended stay hotel" refers to the state prison system.

Homewood Suites will open a hotel with about 90 rooms on Whittlesey Boulevard, across the street from Ken Thomas Acura/BMW. Why is an extended stay hotel going there? Is it going to take THAT long to fill out the paperwork on a five-year lease?

But it was Mayor Bob Poydasheff's comment about Homewood Suites which grabbed our attention: "This is what we've been lacking in Columbus, quite candidly, something that's first class...." The Mayor's office at the Government Center
must not have a window facing the downtown Marriott.

I've never stayed overnight at the Marriott Hotel downtown, but the lobby area seems very nice to me. I've eaten at Houlihan's restaurant and enjoyed that as well. But are they "first-class?" For some of us who settle for Motel 6 and McDonald's on road trips, they probably would be....

(Do you think Mayor Poydasheff was making a subtle religious statement here? Maybe the Marriott isn't "first class" because the chain puts copies of the Book of Mormon in all the rooms.)

Maybe it's the extended stay concept which makes the new hotel "first class" in the mayor's eyes. But there's an "Extended Stay America" on Armour Road - and even Amerisuites, just across J.R. Allen Parkway from where Homewood Suites will be. Maybe their free breakfast is nothing but little cereal boxes.

Perhaps Mayor Poydasheff simply was caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment, when he suggested Columbus has no first-class hotels. But hopefully he won't be surprised, if some hotels turn him down for election night parties....

By the way, did you notice "The Prestige Group" which is investing 15 million dollars in Homewood Suites includes Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis? If his project is being praised by Mayor Poydasheff on TV, I guess it's time to strike Davis from the list of potential election challengers.

BLOG UPDATE: New development is NOT pleasing everyone in West Point. Tuesday brought word of a semi-organized group which seems to oppose the new Kia plant. Has someone made it clear to these people - Kia is based in SOUTH Korea?

Some people in the Gray Hill community near West Point had a meeting last Friday night, to vent their frustrations with the Kia deal. They complained no signs have been posted yet to rezone land for the auto plant. If they were, of course, they might complain again about what an eyesore the signs are.

Jim Gilmore is a spokesman/critic for the Gray Hill group. He says he's heard nothing but negative comments about Kia from neighbors -- and some neighbors have such nightmares about it that their stomachs are churning. I thought Kia was making cars, not launching rocket ships to other planets.

The people of Gray Hill explain they moved to rural Troup County for peace and quiet, away from the noise of big cities. Now Kia's billion-dollar factory is coming - and the residents apparently are convinced the cars will have muffler problems.

The rural residents also seem concerned that West Point might annex their homes. Are they really surprised by this? If West Point grows any farther west, it'll become East Lanett, Alabama....

Speculation also is swirling around Gray Hill that once construction begins on the Kia plant, neighborhood water wells will become polluted or dry up. But perhaps a compromise can be worked out here - to let Gray Hill residents have free car washes on the assembly line.

Some West Point city officials chalk up the Gray Hill grumbling to people simply afraid of change. I have another theory about this, which no reporter seems to have brought up. Are all these complainers driving U.S.-made Fords and Chevys?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Some messages to us can be probing and pointed:

As a longtime blog reader, please answer me this: Why do you never mention WTVM? You constantly mention WRBL in your blog by name, but you when a WTVM story hits your blog it's referred to "a story on the evening news". The other day you stuck your neck out and even mentioned "the biggest Columbus TV station"....wonder who that is? What do you have against WTVM? This reader demands an answer!

There could be many possible explanations for this question. For instance: ignore something long enough and it goes away -- but that doesn't seem to work with illegal immigrants.

OK, I'll confess -- this observant reader has outed me. Your blog admittedly has faced some pressure over the years not to mention, uh, er, that station between channels 8 and 10. It's nothing I have against it -- it's really what it has against me.

The source of the pressure concerning, uh, er, that station formerly owned by AFLAC actually doesn't mind if we mention WRBL a lot. After all, its viewership tends to be so small that any publicity is probably better than none at all.

. As for that reference to the "biggest Columbus TV station" [21 Mar] - we actually used the plural "stations," and included WRBL as well as that, uh, er, other one. Both of them had severe weather coverage last week, while WLTZ's staff probably was asking if it was a "Deal or No Deal."

Speaking of TV stations -- which local wise guy has created a page about WXTX "News at Ten" anchor Roszell Gadson? I'm told Gadson didn't do it. Is this the next scurrilous trend to hit this web site - creating bogus biographies, then demanding ransom to take them down?

Now if I may be allowed to stop squirming, we'll finish with some other items from Tuesday's news:

+ The Columbus Public Library hosted a public forum on immigration reform. Councilor Mimi Woodson told (yes) WRBL a crackdown on illegal immigrants will lead to "innocent people in jail and criminals on our streets." Is she sure about that? Can't the criminals take the jobs that illegals are working now?

+ Another new restaurant opened on Broadway. This one is called Rhino's, next to the Bradley Theater. I will resist the obvious borderline joke here - because the encyclopedia shows a rhinoceros really is NOT horny.

(Meanwhile, I didn't know until the other day that Crystal River Seafood on Manchester Expressway had closed. Apparently it competed in a duel to the death with B. Merrill's - and Logan's Roadhouse counted out both of them.)

+ Huntsville handled Columbus 3-2, to eliminate the Cottonmouths from the S.P.H.L..playoffs. Coach Jerome Bechard now faces a big decision - does he punish his players by ordering them to keep the mohawk haircuts throughout the off-season?

(You realize, of course, the end of the Cottonmouths season officially means spring has come to Columbus. The idea of waiting azaleas to bloom at Callaway Gardens is SO 1980's....)

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

28 MAR 06: SPEAK UP!

We take our title from the name of a daily five-minute editorial, which appeared on Kansas City television about 40 years ago. Jim Monroe sat at a desk and read the opinion of the day. Much has changed since then, of course. Nowadays, Al Fleming of NBC-38 doesn't use a desk.

Several items have me thinking about speaking up today. Let's start at Columbus Council, which could vote today on putting a "protest-free zone" around all funerals. This sounds difficult right from the start. If the minister tries to preach the leader of a murderous drug gang up to heaven, how do you stop him?

The proposal before Columbus Council would put a 300-foot ring around funerals. No one could hold protest signs or use abusive language inside that ring during a service -- which opens the door for the scheduling of mass funerals outside the Fort Benning gate on S.O.A. Watch weekend.

(I hope Columbus Council doesn't get its proposals mixed up today - and vote to bar protests within 100 yards of a fire lane.)

Mayor Bob Poydasheff told WRBL Monday while he respects the protesters' right to speak freely, "we have the right to dictate the time and place." For instance, the city government channel is available between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m.

Columbus's Mayor is confident the 300-foot "protest-free zone" can pass a court challenge. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court set similar boundaries for protests outside women's clinics several years ago. In fact, I'm a bit surprised the clinic doctors didn't spray the boundary line on the sidewalk....

If you haven't been keeping track, the protest-free proposal is aimed at Kansas preacher Fred Phelps and his congregation. It travels from coast to coast, picketing outside events of all sorts. You almost get the feeling the only funerals they support are for the church's own membership.

Fred Phelps seems to enjoy the proposals being made by governments across the country, restricting his church's protests. Phelps told CNN a few weeks ago he hopes Congress will take up the issue, so he can have a national audience. Sorry, Pastor, but that didn't work for Roy Moore....

I can understand why Columbus Council and other governments want to set-up "protest-free zones" outside funerals. But can such areas really pass a court challenge? Remember: if the U.S. Supreme Court is turning right, it's heading in Fred Phelps's direction.

There was one recent case where free speech was abruptly stopped, and it caused a stir among many in Columbus. If you tried to hear Saturday night's Cottonmouths game on radio, you know what I'm talking about....

I found out only Monday that WCJM-FM shut down its Cottonmouths broadcast early Saturday night, before the double-overtime game in Huntsville was over. Please, young people -- follow the Snakes's example, not the radio station's.

Based on what I'm hearing, WCJM had set its computer to end the Cottonmouths broadcast at a certain time and return to regular programming. Trouble was, the game in Huntsville lasted until about 1:00 a.m. - long enough for the Snakes' mohawk haircuts to grow about two inches.

Cottonmouths fans rushed to the team web site to pick up the Internet broadcast of the double-overtime game. People with no Internet access started inundating Columbus TV stations with phone calls - as if it was the biggest event in the area since "24" was interrupted for a severe weather report.

The Cottonmouths won in double-overtime, and face a decisive third game in its series with Huntsville tonight. Thankfully, the game is at the Columbus Civic Center. Fans won't have to worry about a radio broadcast -- because you can't hear WCJM at the Civic Center, anyway.

Perhaps the happiest news for bloggers about speaking up came Monday from the Federal Election Commission. It ruled blogs are exempt from campaign finance laws -- so they can bash candidates all they wish online, and try to get money for ads to make it all stop.

The Federal Election Commission put blogs in the same class as newspapers, when it comes to campaign finance laws. Now I don't have to worry about spending limits, unless paid political ads are placed on the blog. Don't worry, you candidates -- I do my own taxes, so I'm good at bookkeeping.

Longtime readers know this blog can get a bit wild with e-mailers, when election time is near. Monday's federal ruling means the messages can keep coming, and I can keep posting - and recalling a couple of years ago, the attorneys can file slander suits against each other after it's all over.

E-MAIL UPDATE: For example, we can keep posting messages from "IsOurCitySafe" -- and another lengthy one came Monday:

Here are some excerpts from letters sent to the editor of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer concerning displeasure in the job our city government is doing:

1) When I see fine policemen leaving Columbus for better-paying jobs, reducing our city's vital protection, while our public school administration continues to become top-heavy; I question who is really serving the public. I hope other voters are as disappointed as I am with the performance of our local officials and will exercise their power at the polls, as I will surely do in the coming elections.

Submitted by Carl "Bud" Paepcke

2) The Rails to Trails project behind my home seems at first to be a lovely idea. Just imagine being able to walk out of my back gate to a park. But, how long will that park be lovely? If the City of Columbus doesn't have funds to provide me with the necessities (police officers and firefighters) how long can they provide routine maintenance for a park? What if the park then becomes a breeding ground for vagrants and drug activity? If I call 911 will an officer be available? Maybe not. Please use my tax dollars wisely. I need meat and potatoes first. If there is enough money left over I will take the dessert.

Submitted by Brenda Folsom

3) I am in complete agreement with the author who stated that one way to keep our city positions filled instead of cutting 150 jobs back was to park several of the unfilled Metra buses. Just yesterday, I was traveling down Wynnton Road and something caught my eye that I would like for that author to know, along with the rest of this city; There running beside me was a brand new city bus! There was a paper tag on it with a January date and at the top of the tag is said "Commercial Bus Sales." I was not able to catch the 800 number, but I did get the #1187 bus number already tagged on it. This is an outright injustice to the people of this town who are looking at the unemployment in the face because the city townsmen supposedly do not have the money to pay them. What will they do next?

Submitted by Stephanie Hoover

4) First, we read about 150 city employees getting laid off. Then we read about private meetings with selected members of council, the city manager, and the finance director. Be assured that when this crowd meets in secrecy, they are cooking up well-developed front to hoodwink the citizens and then make it look like we simply misunderstood. Their behavior is shocking but not surprising. Every year they foretell of financial meltdowns that never occur, yet there continues to be an expanding tax base, massive amounts of private development, increasing sales tax revenue, plenty of taxpayer dollars available for special interest land giveaways and on and on. I am appalled that even long-term employees targeted for layoff are offered no more than pink slips for their years of dedicated service. Obviously, the council doesn't put much value in the slogan "quality people providing quality service." Despite their claim that the $9 million increase in the next year's budget is for health care, pensions, energy and elections, most of this money is for employees raises that include substantial increases for the highest paid executive level positions including the city manager and his assistants. Councilor Pugh recently said that there is no "finance committee." I totally agree. A real finance committee would protect the citizens by reviewing the hard numbers and ensuring the budget is consistent with reality. Instead, council scrambles around months later wondering why the fund balance increased after the budgeters projected a draw down.

Submitted by G.W.Odom

5) Why in the world are our elected officials putting so much thought into Riverwalks, skating parks and walking trails when we don't have enough police officers to protect our residential areas and roads? Cutting our police and fire departments should be the very last thought in their minds. And I believe paying them well should be a primary thought! No, I am not part of a family either. I have, however, been in desperate need of police officers during an armed robbery where two people were killed and a second seriously injured. Of course, the officers responded not knowing what they were running into. And believe me, my co-workers and I were eternally grateful! When one does not know if the next person shot will be him, it puts a deep appreciation for the police officers taking that chance and coming to their rescue. Friends, lets rally around our police officers and firefighters. Maybe the next time we are asked for a penny increase, IT WILL BE SPECIFIED FOR THE ONES WHO LAY THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE TO PROTECT US! Otherwise, Columbus may cease to be the safe, wonderful place we have enjoyed all these years.

Submitted by Dee Lowery

An article of interest contradicting statements made by our fine city mayor that Columbus is ready for a disaster: This article titled "Ready when disaster strikes" quotes Captain Rick Kelly (Muscogee County Sheriffs Office) with saying "If a disaster occurred in Columbus, local emergency services would be completely overwhelmed because they are simply not set up now to assist that many people at once."

How is it that our city leaders, primarily "Bob" and councilors, can say that Columbus is ready for a disaster when police officers and sheriff's deputies say we are not? Who would you believe? The people in the ivory tower downtown who have their heads implanted in their posteriors or the men and women patrolling the streets everyday who see what actually goes on in the city?


Concerned citizen and constant pain in Bob's side,

Wade Sheridan

I think I'm starting to see why Wade doesn't write the Ledger-Enquirer himself. He'd exceed the "letters to the editor" word count limit almost every time.

The thoughts of "Bud" Paepcke are worth noting, because he's a longtime marshal in U.S. District Court. But doesn't he have his government areas mixed up here? Does he really expect school district officials to fill in as late-night police officers?

As for letter #2, about city parks and trails becoming drug-infested places for lowlifes -- well, it's sad to hear Lakebottom Park has fallen so far, so fast. The last few times I was there, no beggars approached me at all.

And how dare METRA buy a new city bus! Some of us prefer the old pollution-belching models, thank you very much....

. But haven't the last few weeks shown Columbus actually IS ready for a disaster? Simply sound the sirens early, and chase everyone inside to watch TV weathercasters scratch their heads about what's happening.

Wade may want local elected officials voted out -- but it's the last week of March, and where are the challengers to take them on? The only one I've heard about so far is Reginald Pugh of the Urban League. And he's running for Ed Harbison's State Senate seat -- so even he wants to leave Columbus for three months every year.

Now a quick check of other things we noticed Monday:

+ Another local blog which proudly displays a Burkard Award took WRBL's Chris Sweigart to task for a Sunday night news story. Sweigart called it the "Phenix City Dragway." That other blogger says the proper name is "Phenix Dragstrip." Maybe Sweigart was trying to avoid the word "strip" in a Bible Belt city.

+ Country music legend Merle Haggard performed at the Columbus RiverCenter. The center had trouble selling out this concert - perhaps because residents protested Haggard calling his hit record "Okie from Muskogee," with a K.

(OK, who will be the first to call WKCN "Kissin' 99.3" and challenge the on-air announcers to name three Merle Haggard songs? In 2006, they might have trouble naming anything by Barbara Mandrell.)

+ Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks denied speculation by gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore that the reported mad cow case might be a hoax. Maybe the state should sell pictures of that cow to the National Enquirer, and settle this....

+ Instant Message to St. Luke School: What's going on here? You give students a book project based on the alphabet, and the boy assigned the letter J writes about jellyfish and "jingling jingle bells." Shouldn't a Christian school have encouraged the mention of Jesus in there somewhere?

COMING WEDNESDAY: An e-mailer asks: "What do you have against WTVM?" Ooh boy....

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Monday, March 27, 2006


Sunday was a sunny, mild day - perfect for getting outside and doing things. It was a wonderful time to ride a bike, then park it somewhere and beg total strangers for lunch money....

BLOGGER BEGGAR #4: "Excuse me, Sir," said the man sitting on the sidewalk outside the Spectrum on Fourth Street. "Can I have a dollar, so I can get something to eat?" Usually beggars aren't at this station on Sunday afternoons. They show up on weekdays, since lottery players already are throwing away dollar bills.

"Let's go in, and I'll buy you something to eat," I replied. Only as I write this do I realize how difficult this would have been. I walked to Spectrum from my home with a "refill cup" for fountain soda, and less than one dollar on me. But a Little Debbie snack cake for a quarter still would have counted.

"I was planning to go to Burger King after awhile to get something to eat." I owe Spectrum an apology right here, because I didn't stick up for the quality of its hot dogs.

"I live about a block from here, and I can take you to Burger King and buy you something to eat." The Veterans Parkway location is about one block from where that man held up a cardboard sign last Friday - so maybe that man was back, taking this guy's space.

"I was going to ride my bike over there." The man sitting on the sidewalk pointed to a bicycle standing at the other side of the Spectrum. I guess he wasn't "hungry" to the point that he lacked the strength to pedal 11 blocks.

"You can ride my bike to where I live. I'll secure it there, and take you to Burger King."

"I don't want you to go to all that trouble," the beggar answered. Perhaps he thought I was trying to out-con him - and my refill cup had lead weights inside, to beat him up and steal his bicycle.

"It's no trouble," I assured the man. If anything, he was making this more trouble than it was worth. Food is sitting less than 50 yards from him, but he HAS to go a mile-and-a-half to eat something?

"Never mind, sir. I'll ask some people later for a couple of dollars." Hmmmm - a COUPLE of dollars, after he asked me for one? Maybe he has a building jackpot system here....

"There's a Burger King over on Fourth Avenue where I planned to go," the beggar continued. Fourth Avenue, huh? That tells me the man is a longtime Columbus resident -- and he probably also knows he can pedal his bicycle across the bridge to Phenix City now, and buy beer with Sunday donations.

It turned out the Spectrum soda fountain for my refill cup was out of order -- and with less than one dollar in my pocket, I couldn't afford a 20-ounce bottle. So I left as empty-handed as the beggar was. I guess I should have told him that - but he might have invited me to join him in a begging tag-team.

The count now stands at four beggars we've encountered in Columbus this year - and only one has wound up receiving help from us. I don't know why this one wasn't interested in letting me personally buy him dinner at Burger King. Should I have shaved, before stepping outside?

E-MAIL UPDATE: The disappearing beggar we passed Friday along Fourth Avenue - oops, Veterans Parkway - brought this e-mail Sunday:

he was inside me.

OK, I'll trust you - and should I assume YOU were the one who stopped and bought him lunch? Or was the beggar taking a lunch break on his own?

The Sunday InBox also had a message from the West Coast:

I stumbled on your blog while looking for something totally unrelated. What's funny is that I grew up in Columbus. I now live in Southern California. It was amusing to see places mentioned that I remember well.

I was there a couple of years ago to perform the wedding of my cousin, Ashley Albritton (now Pezold.) Since that time they have moved out here, leaving me very few Columbus relatives.

Have a great Sunday.

Perry Hamilton

Thanks for finding us, Perry - and for giving a very different meaning to that prime-time TV show. "The O.C. - Out of Columbus."

Let's head back into town now, for quick news headlines from the weekend:

+ Several cargo planes left Columbus Airport, flying low over Columbus State University. WDAK's Scott Miller was broadcasting a C.S.U. baseball game and asked, "Are we invading Alabama?" Maybe so - to rescue that state from its oppressive lack of lottery games.

+ West Point held a street dance, to celebrate obtaining the new Kia plant. I assume no country music was played at this event - since that music is filled with songs about pickup trucks, and Kia doesn't make any.

+ The Columbus Symphony Orchestra presented a children's matinee of "Peter and the Wolf." Commercials promoting this classical work reminded me the wolf is accused of eating a duck - so I guess AFLAC didn't sponsor this concert.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths played until after 1:00 a.m. ET, and beat Huntsville 4-3 in double overtime to stay alive in the hockey playoffs. You can tell the Snakes are tired when the dramatic score isn't posted on the team web site after 12:00 noon....

+ Auburn University won the NCAA men's swimming title, matching the title its women won earlier in the month. How does Auburn keep winning national championships in swimming? Do the coaches threaten to make the athletes swim in Lake Martin?

+ Instant Message to the Ledger-Enquirer: It's nice to see you finally did a story on the radio ratings. And it's nice to know I beat you to that story -- by almost two months [1 Feb].

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daily blogging may diminish over the next few weeks, as we conduct our annual serious spring cleaning.)

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Sunday, March 26, 2006


Many radio stations make sudden changes to surprise the competition. It's rare when a station warns you a change is coming - but that's happening right now on the AM dial in Columbus. When people start speaking Spanish about April 1, that's a clue....

In January this blog predicted WHAL "Hallelujah 1460" was the radio station most likely to change formats next [1 Jan]. We were right - as Clear Channel Radio is running announcements that the new "Viva 1460" will premiere next weekend. Perhaps managers decided a warning time was the Christian thing to do.

The WHAL-AM web site already has been changed, to note the upcoming launch of "Viva 1460." That suggests to me the "Hallelujah" music won't be moving to another station -- unless Clear Channel's "Southern Gospel" station at AM-1270 is about to reflect the ENTIRE South.

(I should have smelled this change was coming a few weeks ago, when Columbus Pastor Terry Jefferson moved his weekly broadcast from WHAL to WSHE AM-1270. Jefferson's congregation is African-American - unless a lot of white folks suddenly moved to Cusseta Road.)

So what is "Viva 1460?" If you've been in Atlanta and dialed around the radio, you probably already know. Clear Channel went all-Spanish there with "Radio Viva" a couple of years ago, and it's brought big ratings. So why was it a little Gainesville station which gained the credit for Friday's day off?

Unlike "Ritmo Latino Radio," which used to be on the Columbus AM band from Friday to Sunday, "Viva 1460" apparently will be a seven-day Spanish station. This seems only fair. After all, no one expects El Vaquero to serve burgers and fries two days a week.

One of the announcements promoting "Viva 1460" says it will be "as Latin as you are." Finally! My year of learning Latin in high school will pay off....

With no competing Spanish station in Columbus, "Viva 1460" should do well. But the big winner in this radio station change appears to be WEAM-FM. It will be the only full-time "black gospel" station in town, so perhaps the staff celebrated by opening bottles of -- well, grape juice, of course.

But what will happen to the local churches with broadcasts on WHAL? I doubt they're saying "Hallelujah" to this change. In fact, some pastors may blame their congregations today for not praying hard enough about the station's success.

One church broadcast which comes to mind right away is "Getting on Top of Life," with Pastor/School Board member Joseph Roberson. He moved his program from the old WEAM-AM to WHAL a few years ago. What does he do now -- give a series of sermons on the "prodigal son?"

Another question about this change is what will happen when WDAK-AM has to move sports events down the dial. They've been moved for years to WHAL - for instance, when the Columbus Catfish had an afternoon baseball game. You don't dare interrupt Rush Limbaugh for a bunch of minor league "lefties."

(Then again, maybe the Catfish already have planned for this - by hiring a bilingual play-by-play announcer.)

BLOG UPDATE: If "Viva 1460" had been on the air Friday, perhaps the "Day of Dignity" protest would have had an impact here. Few Columbus Hispanic residents seemed to know about the one-day protest. So maybe it's time this blog went bilingual....

We went to the Oakland Park shopping center on South Lumpkin Road to check how the Day of Dignity was going. We found two Hispanic-owned markets open as usual. Not even a "Taqueria" took a care....

A step inside Millie's Market found a young woman at the checkout. "Business as usual?" we asked.


"We'd heard on TV there was a Hispanic boycott going on today."

"I didn't know that," she said. Maybe all she watches on Univision are the "telenovelas."

A drive by the Ritmo Latino Nightclub on North Lumpkin Road found two people talking outside. But there were no protest signs, or any indication Friday night's big show would be canceled. The Jose Ricci Defense Fund may need all the money it can get.

The only sign we saw of a possible boycott came at All-American Recycling on Martin Luther King Boulevard. We've noticed several Hispanic employees there in recent years, but saw none on this Friday afternoon. Maybe the managers finally decided the name of the business meant something....

The immigration issue came up among church friends of mine this weekend. "There's going to be a big lawsuit," one man promised, if an employer "requires me to know Spanish." I assume he goes into Taco Bell and orders salads.

Another man told me illegal immigrants pay NO taxes at all in this country. "They're paid under the table," he said. That's funny - every time I've been in a Mexican restaurant, the tips are left on top.

Now for other revelations from a cool late-March weekend:

+ Fort Benning hosted a big welcome-home weekend for the Third Brigade. But if it was for soldiers and their families, as someone told me it was, how did Governor Sonny Perdue wind up there?

+ The evening news reported home sales in Columbus are up 25 percent from last year. Even the Second Baptist Church on Second Avenue now is "under contract" - so who knows which AFLAC executive is buying that one.

+ Former Valley Police Chief Tim Bryan was named the City Manager. Bryan moved to Foley, Alabama last year to be police chief - only to be suspended for arguing with an employee. The department chiefs had better like his budget....

+ A Jacksonville, Alabama man was arrested on charges of stealing tailgates off pickup trucks in Phenix City and Auburn. And here I thought all the drivers were removing them for aerodynamics and better gas mileage....

(Police say the Jacksonville, Alabama man had 35 stolen tailgates in his home, and was selling them on eBay. But who would buy a pickup tailgate online? Someone who lives 50 miles from the nearest junkyard?)

+ Aruba's chief investigator told CBS's "48 Hours Mystery" he now doubts Alabama teen Natalee Holloway was murdered. He claims Holloway drank all day, and may have died from a "mix of intoxicants." So if you add teenage lust to beer, isn't that at least manslaughter?

(Ever defending her daughter, Beth Holloway Twitty told "48 Hours Mystery" it's legal for 18-year-olds to drink in Aruba. Imagine if Natalee Holloway's senior trip had been to Cuba, and she was photographed smoking big cigars.)

+ Carver High School hosted its annual "Battle of the Drumlines" in his gym. Hopefully the spectators were given free ear plugs at the door....

+ Columbus State University's softball team played its first home game in five weeks. The Cougars played 24 games in a row on the road. Yeow - how many Southeastern Conference teams put THEM on the schedule?

+ Jerome Bechard of the Columbus Cottonmouths was named S.P.H.L. Coach of the Year. It's a good thing this was a secret ballot - because Bechard might have been in a mood to beat up everyone who voted for somebody else.

+ Louisiana State topped Texas 70-60 in overtime at the Georgia Dome, to win the N.C.A.A. men's basketball Atlanta Regional. Let's see if Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis can get tickets to the Final Four, by claiming he's related to L.S.U.'s player with that name....

(L.S.U. star Glen "I'm not a Columbus Councilor" Davis told CBS Sports after the game he had "tapeworms in my stomach" about winning a national title. This was one Hurricane Katrina reference we absolutely did NOT need.)

+ Instant Message to whoever shot off fireworks outside Golden Park around 5:30 p.m. Saturday: I'll take three guesses....

A) You're practicing for the Catfish season.

B) You had fireworks left over from the Third Brigade's welcome-home party.

C) You bought them illegally, and thought you could destroy the evidence before sunset - forgetting they make noise.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

for 25 Mar 06: BEAT ME TO IT

(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.)

"I'M HUNGRY CAN YOU HELP" said the cardboard sign held by the man on Veterans Parkway Friday afternoon. Before you ask - no, the man did NOT look Hispanic and feeling the effect of that day off.

This hungry man was standing in a prime begging spot - on the sidewalk outside McDonald's at 14th and Veterans Parkway. So at least he knew where the food was. But when the extra value menu is too expensive, you're in bad shape....

I saw the man with his cardboard sign too late to turn into McDonald's and talk with him. My goal was actually to buy milk less than a block away. Spectrum has two gallons of Parmalat milk for five dollars right now - loaded into plastic bags so thin that you dare not walk more than one block with them.

It actually took me three Spectrums to find what I wanted: a gallon of two-percent milk. Other stores had whole milk or none at all - and I'd rather get fat on the two-for-one Hershey's candy bar special.

But then an interesting idea hit me. The Spectrum which had two-percent milk also had a deal entitling me to a free tube of peanuts. There's the answer - go back a couple of blocks to the hungry man, and give him the peanuts. I'd help meet his hunger, whether he liked it or not.

Yet when I drove back to 14th and Veterans to help the hungry man, he was gone - no longer standing on the sidewalk. My opportunity had passed in less than five minutes. It was as if that man was a human Kmart "Blue Light Special."

Where did the hungry man go? Did someone else come to him and buy him food at McDonald's? I certainly hope that was the case -- because otherwise, police cars are picking up "tramps" faster than I ever imagined.

Regular readers of this blog know I try to help the beggars I meet (three officially so far this year). What do YOU do for them? Do you wave at them and drive on by? Do you offer to pray for them - even though the only prayer that might really help a hungry man is in one of those "Command Mints" at Christian stores?

I've admittedly been too busy over the years to attend the "Empty Bowl Brunch" for the Second Harvest food bank, but events such as that are a perfect way to help hungry people. If they really want to eat, pantries are available for them across the Columbus area. If they're really hungry for apple wine, that's another matter....

Next time you pass someone like this along the side of the road, think about actually stopping to help them. And if you can't stop, think about how you can help in other ways. It would be great to leave the cardboard signs along the roadside for high school cheerleaders, holding car washes.

COMING SUNDAY: A prediction from January that's apparently coming true.... and what we saw on the "Day of Dignity...."

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Uh oh - before we start, please don't misunderstand our title. We are NOT encouraging Hispanic people in Columbus to sin. In fact, we haven't noticed any steamy nightclubs on Victory Drive with Spanish names....

Our title translates literally from Spanish into "Without Latins" -- and that scenario may occur across Georgia today. Hispanic groups are calling for a one-day economic boycott by Hispanic residents, with no working or shopping. And unlike some Columbus civil rights protests, this one hasn't been cancelled yet.

The Coordinating Committee of Community Leaders actually denies today's event is a boycott -- but a "signal of Hispanic impact." But if you're avoiding work and not buying items, what else would you call it but... well, hold it. High school seniors would call it "skip day."

The official name for this one-day Hispanic, uh, day off is a "Day of Dignity." Well, why limit this to one ethnic community? I say we should show dignity to all poultry plant workers - and give them a break by eating hamburgers at least twice a week.

The Day of Dignity was called shortly before Thursday's vote by the Georgia House for a major immigration reform bill. Some Hispanic residents apparently fear the bill will leave them locked up or deported. There ARE times when lawmakers should prepare copies of bills in Spanish.

The bill approved by the Georgia House actually is aimed at illegal immigrants. If you can't prove you're in Georgia legally, you'd be denied some state services. So who knows how many Phenix City commuters will join in this day off, too....

The House bill also imposes a five-percent surcharge when illegal immigrants make wire transfers. Large numbers of immigrants use Western Union to send money to relatives back home in Latin America. But the company can't change its name to "Southern Union," because Opelika already claimed that.

Supporters of the Georgia House immigration bill say it will save the state money, as only residents who legally have state services coming will get them. But remember, this can be a two-way street. Mexican food stores might ask you to show a U.S. passport before ringing up your items.

Opponents of the immigration bill are taking unusual approaches to make their point. The Atlanta bilingual paper "Mundo Hispanico" printed a map, showing all the Spanish-owned businesses near the home of the bill's main sponsor. And who knows how many families with Mafia connections run Italian restaurants....

The timing of this Day of Dignity is ironic, because the Census Bureau noted this week Hispanic-owned businesses are opening much faster than the overall total. Will they all shut down today - leaving the Oakland Park Shopping Center parking lot practically empty?

The Oakland Park Shopping Center has one of the pioneer Hispanic businesses in Columbus. Millie's Marker just marked ten years since its opening. I've met owner Harold Encarnacion, and he says he works there seven days a week -- so the Day of Dignity might be the first holiday he's had since Xmas.

(Harold and Millie aren't really immigrants to the U.S. Their heritage is Puerto Rican - and if Puerto Rico is still anything like the place I visited in 1995, it's QUITE American. I've never seen a place with more Ponderosa Steak Houses than San Juan....)

Immigration is an issue in many other state legislatures, besides Georgia. A similar one-day demonstration in Milwaukee Thursday was called a "Day Without Latinos." Or as Ku Klux Klan leaders called it, "Step One."

I realize illegal immigration is a big issue, not only in Georgia but nationwide. But I would ask a question about it - why are so many people from Latin America coming HERE, to the U.S.? Haven't they heard all the "outsourcing" work is going to China and India?

We're heading to Oakland Park today, so we'll let you know how the day off goes there. In the meantime, you might want to play it safe at lunchtime -- and go for the Mexican look-alike food at Taco Bell.

Now other quick bites from the last couple of days....

+ Phenix City police were called to the Piggly Wiggly parking lot on the 280 Bypass, because at least eight dogs were roaming around. One woman speculated they somehow escaped from a veterinary clinic - so the first question officers asked was: "Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?"

+ Former attorney John Swearingen was sentenced to five years in prison (he'll probably only serve two) for selling cocaine. Swearingen's developed such a long criminal record that he might try to become a life coach for Bill Campbell.

+ Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf appeared at the Georgia State Capitol, on behalf of the National Infantry Museum. State lawmakers approved a package of tax breaks for the new museum on South Lumpkin Road. It was either that, or the Third Brigade would get a new invasion assignment....

+ Eastway Elementary School students learned NASA will put their experiment involving popcorn on a future high-altitude balloon flight. Will popcorn still pop, 25 miles up in the atmosphere? Will another NASA balloon have to send up another balloon, with the world's highest-flying microwave oven?

+ Instant Message to the Academic Success Center: Congratulations on your 100th anniversary - but about that 1906 time capsule you opened awhile back. One woman tells me a second time capsule is on an upper floor of the building, from 1976. She wants it opened NOW - else I guess you're guilty of age discrimination.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006


And you thought the Columbus Police Department was short on staff, and hard pressed to fight crime. Wednesday's news showed just the opposite. When officers aren't waiting out possible hostage-takers at businesses, they're cruising shopping centers to clear out fire lanes....

The Columbus SWAT team peacefully resolved a tense standoff at Custom Windows on Metro Drive. Chief Rick (until further notice) Boren says Steve Purdie fired shots at a co-worker, and talked about killing President Bush. And even stranger - Purdie doesn't look like a radical Muslim at all.

But I want to focus on the next big police project. A proposal in Columbus Council would increase the fine fourfold, for parking in fire lanes. We don't want firefighters raising money to fight muscular dystrophy in the middle of the parking lot, do we?

If you're caught parking in a Columbus fire lane, the current fine is 50 dollars. Columbus Council will vote next week on increasing it to 200 dollars - which will be serious money around here until the new Kia plant opens.

If you think a 200-dollar fine for fire lane parking is bad, consider this. The fine for illegally parking in a reserved disabled space in Columbus is 500 dollars -- not to mention the humiliation of military veterans jotting down your license number, and spreading it all over town.

The proposal to increase fire lane fines has the backing of Columbus's "Homeland Security Director." I laughed when I first saw this - but then I realized car bombers might park in fire lanes. Of course, a faithful suicide bomber wouldn't really care how big the fine is....

Why do people park illegally in fire lanes near the front doors of businesses, anyway? Some people admit they do it because they're in a hurry. And I suppose some Green Island residents might expect a valet to come out and park the car FOR them.

But I have another theory about fire lane parkers -- that it's a sign of celebrity. When Deion Sanders played pro sports in Atlanta, he was ticketed late one night for blocking a supermarket fire lane. It was a big local news story -- and for years when I talked about the "Deion Sanders Parking Rule," the plugged-in guys understood.

Even people who aren't sports stars seem to park in fire lanes as an attention-getter. For instance, they might want to show off their fancy cars or their ridiculously loud stereo systems. But I've never seen a group of "fly girls" gather outside those cars, and start hip-hop dancing.

I can hear the critics of this big fine now. They say Columbus city government should forget about fire lanes, and focus on the "REAL criminals" - and they're the ones I want to follow on a shopping trip, to see where THEY park.

But doesn't small-time crime often lead to bigger offensives? Let people block a fire lane today, and they might drag-race down the interstate tomorrow - which at least would open the fire lanes for emergency vehicles.

So how does Columbus compare with other cities, when it comes to fire lane violations? Someone told me Wednesday the fine in Phenix City isn't 50 dollars - it's only FIVE. Maybe it should be renamed: "Phenix City, the No-Inflation City."

E-MAIL UPDATE: We missed the latest update on the Muscogee County school dress code, but one of our blog readers did not:

I see where the MCSD board has approved the wearing of hoodies,if the hoods are not worn over the head..Who on the board suggested that they be banned in the first place? Bet they don't have children or grans...I bet old Navy thinks, "Gee willies,I wish that board would make up their mind before the order for fall school clothes goes in."

Maybe it wasn't a clothing issue, but a grooming one. The school board doesn't want any student to be picked on for "hoodie hair" during the winter.

By the way: which local school board member recently wound up waiting seven hours for a western flight, because he misread the ticket departure time and showed up late? Maybe we need a magnet school for travel agents....

Now before the hour draws too late for us, let's check other developments from Wednesday:

+ A local lawmaker feud erupted at the Georgia General Assembly. Rep. Debbie Buckner spoke against Sen. Seth Harp's proposal to reduce the amount of buffer space between developments and streams. Maybe they should have a duel in a buffer zone - with Buckner standing in a river, and Harp in a high-rise building.

+ U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert came to Georgia, and endorsed returning Mac Collins to Congress. I didn't realize Collins was trying to return to Washington - so maybe his condo there hasn't sold as quickly as he expected.

(Mac Collins seems to have learned a lesson from his failed U.S. Senate bid of 2004. He actually appears to be campaigning more than a month before the primary.)

+ WRBL reported the original B. Merrill's restaurant on Manchester Expressway has closed. This actually could be good news for many people. The Dunkin Donuts shop next door needs a bigger building for those Saturday morning lines.

+ WDAK's Val McGuinness declared during "The Morning Show" groups which stage protests outside funerals should "have their b**ts whipped." Now hold on here - isn't that something Muslim extremists do at funerals? Retaliate, I mean....

+ Former Auburn University wide receiver Dale Overton was beaten up at a high school baseball game. Overton coaches Beauregard's junior varsity team, and a parent reportedly was upset about his son not playing enough. This is why old cheers like "fight, team, fight" are out of style today.

+ Three members of the Columbus Cottonmouths were named to the S.P.H.L. year-end all-league team. They include Tim Green, who led the league in scoring with 41 goals. So when will the Snakes wear bright-green uniforms in his honor?

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Well, isn't this nice to see! Leaders of cities across the Chattahoochee Valley soon will gather together, for a little friendly competition against each other. You'd think they'd do this at the Columbus Civic Center - but in 2006, they're going all the way to South Korea....

We learned the dates Tuesday for a major meeting of area leaders and South Korean auto suppliers. They'll come together April 4-7, to discuss where parts plants will be placed for the Kia factory in West Point. Maybe the Columbus Catfish should join them - since the Koreans made the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

More details were revealed Tuesday about what Phenix City will offer Kia. It has 35 acres of land along U.S. 280, north of the Wal-Mart SuperCenter - and Home Depot will be happy to hold weekend clinics, to teach people how to do the work themselves.

Phenix City Economic Development Director Victor Cross says the 35-acre plot is perfect for a plant. Parts could be driven up U.S. 280 to Opelika, then northeast on Interstate 85 to West Point -- as long as drivers don't stop at the Lee County Flea Market and swap the parts for Confederate flags.

Victor Cross brings up a good point about access to the Kia.plant. Locations in north Phenix City are a four-lane drive all the way to West Point. Industrial areas of Columbus might not be that easy - especially with Mayor Poydasheff still trying to figure out how to synchronize all the traffic lights.

Can't you hear the critics now, saying south Phenix City could be slighted again in all this? But Victor Cross says locations on State Docks Road will be offered to Kia suppliers as well. Hey, there's an idea - barge traffic up the Chattahoochee River, and through West Point Lake.

If all goes well with Phenix City's plans, Mayor Jeff Hardin could get two items for the price of one. If a parts supplier decides to locate a plant in his city, it might throw in that movie theater he promised 18 months ago - even if the theater only shows kung fu movies.

Some people in Columbus say the mass media is making too big a deal of the $1.2 billion Kia plant. They should see the Valley Times-News, which has had articles with pictures about Kia and South Korea almost every day since the contract was signed. Maybe Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church plan to buy it?!

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus Council surrendered Tuesday on the disputed land at 13th and Cedar in midtown. It will be sold to the developer which bought the corner lot at an auction. All that remains now is for the Historic Columbus Foundation to declare the fountain there untouchable and off-limits.

The Columbus Council voted 9-1 to let Ted Pierce of C&A Family Partnerships have the land at 13th and Cedar. You'll recall the City Manager tried to stop the sale, saying the land was promised to someone else [15 Feb]. Can't Isaiah Hugley offer some nice empty storefronts on Victory Drive instead?

A spokesman for C&A Family Partnerships suggested the city still might be sued, for promising the 13th and Cedar lot to someone else after the auction. If every politician who ever engaged in double-talk was sued, the backlog of cases would last at least five years.

Now for other quick steps from "National Dance Day" (that's what Tuesday was, on a calendar I saw):

+ Captain Brian McGarr was named Phenix City's new police chief. He currently is in charge of police training - and I'm told he even trained HIMSELF for the new job as chief. I suppose that beats a correspondence course, at one of those online colleges which sends out spam.

+ Harris County voters overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension of a one-percent sales tax. This proves once again the cranky anti-tax bloggers and serial letter writers are outnumbered....

(Some of the sales tax renewal money will build a new intermediate school in Harris County. The way this county's growing, it might as well buy the construction trailers and keep them there as permanent overflow classrooms.)

+ Former Georgia Congresswoman Denise Majette announced she'll challenge Kathy Cox for state school superintendent. So Majette will NOT run against Rep. Cynthia McKinney again - which I suspect saddens members of both parties.

+ Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore toured the state, to announce he'll stay in the Republican Governor's race. He will NOT pull a switch, and run as an independent - even though everyone who served with Moore on Alabama's Supreme Court would say that's exactly what he is.

+ Craig Stahl of the Columbus Cottonmouths helped several teammates get ready for the playoffs - by giving them "Mohawk" haircuts! [True/WRBL] Let's all be thankful hockey players are required to wear helmets on the ice these days....

(Craig Stahl openly admitted the special playoff haircutting is "one of the silliest things I've ever done." But hold on - after the playoffs end, he can be an instructor at Rivertown School of Beauty.)

+ Instant Message to anyone who heard about a welcome-home ceremony this week for the Third Brigade: I'm told Friday's event is NOT open to the general public - only soldiers and their families. If you're spotted with binoculars watching fireworks pop above Fort Benning, you could be in big trouble.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Instant Message to my family: I'm doing fine - unscathed by Monday night's severe weather. And at least I'm telling you here. My niece in Lawrence, Kansas still hasn't called me back about how SHE did last week. (Ahem....)

A line of severe storms moved through the Columbus area Monday night. It brought hurricane-force wind gusts, reports of possible tornadoes - and a surprise one-day extension of "Thunder in the Valley."

I owe a big debt of gratitude to a Phenix City blogger, for alerting me to the trouble. His home page said "TORNADO WARNING FOR RUSSELL COUNTY" while I listened to college basketball on a Louisville radio station. If the sports radio station in Columbus had picked up these games - well no, I still wouldn't have known....

The radar screens of local TV station showed a potential tornado in the Seale area. Tornado areas appear in purple - which could mean they were devised by a fellow Kansas graduate. Purple is the color of big bad Kansas State, you know....

It turned out tornado warnings were issued for Chattahoochee and Marion Counties, as well as Russell. Warning sirens sounded across Columbus at 9:47 p.m., but NO tornado warning was issued by the weather service. Does Emergency Management Director Riley Land have a quota to meet?

The biggest Columbus TV stations sounded their tones often at the height of the storm. I had "Supernanny" on, and wasn't sure at times if the "beeps" were for a tornado sighting or a parent swearing.

At 10:00 p.m. I was all set to get a full weather update from WXTX - but I don't have cable, and the broadcast signal went off the air. It came back just in time for "Health Watch," AFTER the forecast. Too bad there was no news about how to handle a panic attack.

Things were even worse at WRBL, where the broadcast signal went down for about 30 minutes. But give this station some credit - it didn't put Blaine Stewart in charge of the severe weather alerts. He's advanced to the 6:00 p.m. news, though, so he's on the way....

Other TV stations didn't offer much help for severe weather information:

+ WCGT-TV 16 was in a fund-raiser for its new owner, the Christian Television Network. I was asked to pledge $60 a month for six months - but no one offered to pray about possibly losing the roof over my head.

+ WLGA TV-66 showed "Fear Factor." In a strange way, this was more encouraging during a severe storm than the religious channel.

+ Georgia Public Broadcasting presented a history program, about the "Gibson Girl" of New York modeling. For those of you under 35 - no, she was NOT a pop singer named Debbie.

The final numbers from "stormy Monday" severe weather showed a top wind gust of 85 miles per hour. To which some North Columbus residents said with a laugh, "I've driven down the J.R. Allen Parkway faster than that."

WRBL reported about 5,000 customers in Phenix City lost power from the storm, compared with 3,000 in Columbus. So those birds atop the Alabama Power billboard need to tie their connections a little tighter....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We have readers from coast to coast. This question reached the blog Monday from South Carolina:

I have a friend named, Carrie, who needs to know all she can about "Club Oxygen". What can you tell me?

Shannon Kerr Gunnells

Sorry to say, Shannon, I can't tell you much. I've never been inside Club Oxygen on Broadway. I've jogged past it several times - but no one stepped outside and offered oxygen for my breathing.

We have a wide-ranging blog readership, and we invite them to offer any information they can about Club Oxygen. But it's listed merely as "Oxygen" on one line of the Columbus Yellow Pages - so maybe that "club" word confuses people.

Perhaps your friend has heard rumors about (Club) Oxygen - and we can address a few of those:

+ It is NOT owned by the people who put on the Oxygen cable channel. If Oprah Winfrey managed part of that club, she would have appeared in Columbus by now - and you would have seen it on her talk show.

+ It has NOT spawned any spinoff clubs in other parts of Columbus. I mean, there's no Club Hydrogen, Club Nitrogen, Club Molybdenum....

+ It's different from the "Platinum Club" on Manchester Expressway. That club allegedly has naked dancers. Oxygen probably has a two-piece minimum.

Now for other elements we discovered Monday:

+ Columbus Urban League President Reginald Pugh announced a program with the Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center, encouraging men to be screened for prostate cancer. Pugh is running for the Georgia State Senate - so Ed Harbison now needs to win the endorsement of the John B. Amos family.

+ WRBL reported Baker Middle School has asked to go back to a traditional school year, ending year-round classes. Apparently too many students were dropping out - so now in a way, the principal wants to join them.

+ The Georgia Senate voted 45-3 for a bill protecting insurance agents. Believe it or not, Georgia law says you can have agents arrested if they sell you insurance while they buy you lunch! [True/GPB] How many undercover Columbus Police officers wish they could have trapped Carolyn Hugley in that one?

+ Kasey Kahne won the rain-delayed "Golden Corral 500" NASCAR race outside Atlanta. But the big story for some was the appearance of African-American driver Bill Lester. Minorities in ANY role on NASCAR teams are about as rare as Firestone tires on cars.

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Monday, March 20, 2006


Our title is borrowed from a religious publication, which coined that phrase recently to describe today's Internet-using teenagers. I think most of them would pronounce that symbol "whatever."

The article with that title was a warning to parents about the now-notorious web site "Myspace." We mention it here because a Blackmon Road Middle School counselor has found some stunning postings there from that school's students. If they quoted this blog without permission, make them write me apology letters....

The counselor apparently went searching around Myspace, and found all sorts of shocking things posted by Blackmon Road Middle Schoolers:

+ Comments about drugs. And I thought these children would be too young to use Plavix.

+ Curse words. Would she rather the students said them aloud - maybe to a teacher?

+ Photos of "half-naked" students. Now this is more serious. Middle schoolers should be listening to Hilary Duff records, not Jennifer Lopez.

But the biggest concern for this counselor apparently is that Blackmon Road Middle School students have been posting their full names, addresses and phone numbers on Myspace. This is obviously risky to do - because who knows how many telemarketers write down those numbers, and try to sell magazine subscriptions.

Critics of Myspace say unsuspecting young people have posted all sorts of revealing things, which could put their safety at risk. I can understand why they're concerned. But if this counselor somehow thinks middle school students don't swear or talk about drugs - well, why doesn't she work at Calvary Christian School instead?

Before there were middle schools, they were called "junior high schools" - and I learned all sorts of shocking things during those years. Guys flipped towels and swore often in physical education class. And we never had to take off all our clothes and shower, after grade school recess.

My point is that middle school years are when young people tend to start trying to assert independence, and attempt to "act adult." If they're swearing, talking about drugs and posing in revealing outfits, we shouldn't be surprised. Jerry Springer is still on WXTX at 5:00 p.m., after all these years.

But how dangerous is Myspace, and is this counselor justified in her concern? Over the weekend I went to that website to find out. I searched the "blogs" section for Columbus -- and the first thing I learned was that some motels offer substantial discounts, if you click on a sponsored link.

A "Columbus" search in the blogs section of Myspace turned up 17 matches -- and none of them revealed anything related to Blackmon Road Middle School. So many the young people saw Friday evening's news and cleaned up their blogs. Or maybe their parents went online and did it FOR them?!

(No doubt the parents would have to check their children's blogs secretly. You know how many teens have told their parents in frustration: "You're in Myspace.")

The only mention of Columbus, Georgia I found was on a blog by a married woman in Ohio named "Secciness." I don't know why she chose that name - but I think it could apply to plenty of Southeastern Conference cheerleaders....

Here's what Secciness posted relating to our city: "You don't look cool if you lived in Columbus, GA all of your life, but have ATL next to your profile pic." At least she realizes Columbus is NOT an Atlanta suburb -- or is this a subtle slap suggesting we're backwards hicks?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Sunday scattershot of comments brought a response about one weekend event:

I took 15 partial cans of paint and many used spray paint cans and old anti-freeze to the Recycle Columbus event at the Civic Center..I just want to say I was appreciative of the organization and courteous manner of the volunteers..

It's nice to know you were treated well. But I imagine other people would be happy to accept those used spray paint cans - such as dropout members of teen gangs.

I think Saturday's "Clean Up Columbus Day" event at the Civic Center inspired the Cottonmouths hours later - because did you notice how many "junk goals" they scored in that 11-5 win?

We have one more e-mail, from someone who wants to send a message to - well, somebody:

Will the guy who is letting his pittbull run around in Edgewood at night please keep him at home..The neighborhood cat burglar can't go to work..

Now, now - this could be the start of a fun new Columbus tourist attraction. If Pamplona, Spain can have the running of the bulls, why can't Edgewood have the running of the pit bulls?

This has nothing to do with dogs - but the e-mailer's spelling of "pittbull" reminds me of the funniest moment yet in the NCAA basketball tournament. Did you see Sunday's game between Bradley and Pittsburgh? And did you notice the CBS scorebox on the screen showed the teams as "BRAD PITT"? So much for Jennifer Aniston watching....

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: A group of men is talking at church, and one brings up killing snakes in his yard.

"You can pick up and handle those snakes, you know," says one of the men recalling a Bible verse.

"I know. I pick it up after I kill it."

Now let's pick up other scraps from Sunday:

+ Which candidate for Congress says he was told to leave an event at an area airport? He supposedly showed up to campaign, and was warned police would arrest him. Apparently this airport doesn't need any more federal grant money....

+ The annual "Empty Bowl Brunch" at the Britt David Studio raised more than $4,000 for the Second Harvest food bank. Where I come from, an "Empty Bowl" event usually means the end of a poor college football season.

+ The NASCAR "Golden Corral 500" in suburban Atlanta was postponed by rain, and will be tried again today. Sadly, I don't think there's a Golden Corral restaurant at the track to take advantage of all the hungry customers.

+ Instant Message to the Fourth Avenue Car Wash: Ohhhhh. The sign is supposed to say "GOT Pollen." I saw it the other day without the T, and thought you were starving for business....

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