Friday, September 29, 2006


The news about area schools Thursday was not very good, to put it mildly. Two students were arrested in Columbus for having weapons. We learned another teacher was arrested in Russell County. And who knows how many young baseball players received dinner invitations from coaches in their e-mail?

Columbus police arrested two Hardaway High School students, on charging of bringing weapons to school. One student admitted it looked strange, to see classmates led away in handcuffs. Why, of course - since I'm not sure that ever happens in "Grand Theft Auto."

Columbus police say one student brought a loaded .380 pistol to Hardaway High School, and showed it off to classmates. Truly, this teenager was not smart. Your National Rifle Association membership card or hunting license should suffice.

Further investigation indicated another Hardaway student had a two-and-a-half-inch long knife. At Jordan High School, this might be acceptable - since that magnet program includes woodworking.

Muscogee County Deputy Superintendent Robin Pennock said she's not really shocked anymore, by reports of students carrying weapons at school. That's really a shame - because in days gone by, they'd only be carried to fights deep in the woods.

Meanwhile, Russell County Sheriff's officers revealed Thursday another teacher had been arrested. Odean Johnson is a physical education teacher at Oliver Elementary School, and stands accused of punching a student. Well, I suppose teaching boxing skills is a good alternative to carrying weapons....

A sheriff's report accuses Odean Johnson of punching an Oliver Elementary fifth-grader in the head last week. Johnson claims the punch was intended to be good-natured -- but fathers who press charges tend to be just the opposite.

Odean Johnson surrendered at the Russell County Jail Tuesday night, on misdemeanor harassment charges. How will she explain a punch to a student's head - by claiming a Three Stooges defense?

Some parents of Oliver Elementary students said Thursday Odean Johnson should be considered innocent until proven guilty. But others said the arrest was not surprising, because Johnson has a reputation for being tough. All my old physical education teachers ever did was make us run wind sprints for an extra half-hour.

If you've lost count, we're now at eight arrests of Russell County School faculty members this calendar year. They're only three away from taking on the high school football team, in a real-life version of "The Longest Yard."

If all this isn't enough, today's Opelika-Auburn News reports a videotape has surfaced of girls changing clothes at Beulah High School. So?! If WLGA TV-66 is preparing a local show called "Beulah's Next Top Model," what's the problem?

But wait, there's more! The front page of Thursday's Ledger-Enquirer warned of a "crisis" in Muscogee County schools due to a lack of bus drivers. This calls for a major recruitment drive. Get the "Yella Fella" to drive a yellow bus for a week....

E-MAIL UPDATE: This e-mail from Thursday will allow us to update a message we received Wednesday:

I'd be willing to bet that if Lonnie Jackson had been a retired Colonel instead of a retired Sergeant his memorial service would have been attended by many city officials. It seems that retired sergeants don't get any respect from the "bigwigs" regardless of their accomplishments.

Whoever is responsible for the big debate at the RiverCenter should realize that without Bert Coker the mayoral debate will be very boring. Can you imagine folks listening to Poydasheff bragg incessantly and Wetherington say he's not privey to that information as a respone to every question. But then again, maybe they realize that Bert Coker would "show up" the two major candidates when he explains things to the citizens in a way they can understand and offers solutions to problems.

By the way, as I understand it he did "qualify" to run for mayor and receive votes, just not in the "usual" way of paying $1,800. But he did follow the procedures that the law requires.Therefore he should be allowed in the debate. And since he hasn't received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from "special interests" he would not owe these individuals anything when he was elected and therefore would be free to do what is in the best interest of all the people and the city. Oh my gosh. That sounds too good doesn't it?

We can't have that! Our system of government is based on politicians taking care of their financial supporters.

Kudos to Bert for taking the time and effort to do something that most citizens won't do.

Political Observer

Taking first things first: Thursday's Ledger-Enquirer reported several city officials DID attend Lonnie Jackson's funeral. Mayor Bob Poydasheff spoke. City Manager Isaiah Hugley attended. And Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin apparently didn't expect the service to be in his town, or he might have shown up as well.

As for the mayor's race: Aw c'mon - how can you say a Bob Poydasheff-Jim Wetherington debate would be boring? They've already appeared together at two candidate forums, which occurred at community breakfasts. I haven't heard of any spectators getting hurt, by their heads nodding off on the tables.

I'll grant you that Burt Coker "qualified" to be a write-in candidate for Mayor. But by not paying the $1,800 filing fee, does that make him the candidate of sound fiscal management -- or a penny-pinching cheapskate?

Here's one more e-mail - from our occasional Smiths Station writer:

The cans are here, The cans are here,

The much awaited time for curb service is upon us now. If for some reason you do not have your Green Can bye this Friday - your can must have gone awall (g).

Is there going to be a ceremony from the City Council to announce the start of a clean City..

Whom will be the first one to have their trashed picked. where are they going to start Monday (g).

Are they going to refuse to pickup the can if the outside of the can is dirty.

Are Lee County Deputies going to need pickup trucks to find lost or stolen Cans........where will the reward come from.

Will awards be given out for the cleanest can each Month.....

decisions, decisions, decision's

Wow, am I ever impressed by this! Suddenly the "Can Man" trend has hit everyone in Smiths Station.

CORRECTED: From this rather fragmented message, I get the feeling curbside trash pickup begins next week in Smiths Station. I understand people won't be allowed to use a city dump anymore. But unlike Marion County, I haven't heard any complaints about this change - and nothing about a "dump stir."

Hopefully no one would steal a green curbside trash can in Smiths Station. After all, why would anyone want to take one - unless he's planning the biggest picnic in Lee County history, and needs a drink cooler to match.

Now let's discard of other items we discovered Thursday:

+ An employee of Woody's World coin shop on Manchester Expressway was arrested. Columbus police say he tried to switch some expensive coins brought in by a customer, for coins of less value. What was this suspect thinking? The Alabama quarter has braille bumps, which give it away as different from Rhode Island.

+ Chattahoochee Valley Library System Director Claudya Muller presented a "State of the Library" address - but only after a musical group called "The Porch Pickers" performed. You know, she may be on to something here. Maybe hip-hop groups should perform between questions of the mayoral debate, to liven things up.

+ The Muscogee County Library Board voted to begin negotiations to buy the Firestone store just outside the main library. There's a part of me which hopes Firestone is NOT torn down. With books so close for following what maintenance workers are supposed to do, it could be the most honest car repair shop in Columbus.

+ President Bush visited the Birmingham area, praising the city of Hoover for using "E-85 ethanol" fuel in its vehicles. But whose voice was that aboard Air Force One saying, "I thought E-85 went through Opelika"?!

+ Auburn University stayed unbeaten in college football, surviving South Carolina 24-17. For all the statistics they showed on TV and mentioned on radio, there was one I wanted to hear and never did. How many times did South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier throw his visor?

(Thanks to an onside kick, Auburn had the ball on offense for the entire third quarter -- yet only scored three points. This is why "keep away" never made it beyond the grade school playground, to become a professional sport.)

+ Carmike Cinemas showed the Auburn-South Carolina game on a giant movie screen at Columbus Park Crossing. WRBL indicated the theater was packed. But if they don't have good-looking servers offering discounts on pitchers of beer, I'm not really sure of the point.

+ Instant Message to WVRK-FM "Rock 103": Are you kidding? Can announcers say they're getting "totally smashed," while they're live on location in Lee County? Which company is your station's official taxi service?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daily blogging will diminish over the next couple of weeks, as we prepare for a fall vacation.)

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Thursday, September 28, 2006


The Landings shopping center on Sidney Simons Boulevard can be a busy place on weekend nights. No fewer than three nice restaurants are located on the south side of Airport Thruway - and that's not counting the "Big K mart" grill which still may be open.

I received a taste of the action at The Landings the other night - and wound up at the busiest restaurant of all. It surprisingly was NOT the new "Chop House," where the Texas Steakhouse used to be. I guess that's what happens when Atlanta finally misses the baseball playoffs....

There was a 20-minute wait for a table on a Friday night at the Mediterranean Café. I've wanted to dine there for a long time, but a church group changed its plans last spring after the restaurant lost its liquor license for a while. Yes, this church group drinks without shame - but don't you dare ask it to take a salad with real bacon bits on top.

The Mediterranean Café has its liquor license back now, which meant I could wait for my table next door at the Suite 23 bar. "There's no waiting in there," a man told me as I stood outside by myself. The man seemed so concerned, I almost asked if he was the bartender.

"I'm OK," I told the man.

"But there's no waiting!" he pressed on. "They're connected!" I'd never met the man before. I'd never dined at Mediterranean Café before. For all I knew, he could be drunk and lying. Or this might be a homosexual bar - with one desperate customer.

"I can get a drink with dinner," I said quietly to the man. He left after that - apparently not used to someone who's willing to be patient.

So I had 20 minutes to wait, I walked around the Sidney Simons part of The Landings. I confirmed Que Pasa Burrito Company has shut down. It's so tempting to say this restaurant concept ran out of gas....

The 20-minute wait wound up being closer to 40, so I stepped inside Mediterranean Café and sat down in the lobby. A military group was there, as were a couple of families. One mom urged a little daughter: "Go to the window and say goodbye to Lexus." I didn't dare turn to see if that was the name of another girl - or a fancy car near the door.

I'd given the Mediterranean Café's desk crew my last name when I first arrived. But only when I finished a magazine article I was reading and looked up did a woman ask if I was ready for a table. Was she actually waiting on me, even before I had a table?

Once I had that table, I checked the Mediterranean Café's menu. It quickly became clear to me several items would NOT be available on this night. They were served on "a bed of fresh spinach" - and after the recent contamination scare, I'm not sure Popeye is even daring to try that for awhile.

Something else was not available for awhile on this night: glassware. My first soft drink was brought to me in a Styrofoam cup, because no glasses were available for a short time. I tried to reassure the waiter that at least I still had mine -- the glasses I wear for reading.

The evening specials on the Mediterranean Café's lobby board cost between 15 and 17 dollars -- but the menu has a good range of dishes which cost several dollars less. I ordered Chicken Balsamico for $12.95, which came with a "Greek salad" appetizer. Feta cheese on fresh lettuce made the side cup of dark dressing practically unnecessary - so it was a feta-complete.

The Mediterranean Café also serves muffin-sized loaves of bread with dinner, which you can dip in a spicy tomato sauce. It was a bit like Domino's Pizza, only nowhere near as crusty.

Meanwhile, it turned out Suite 23 WAS attached to Mediterranean Café - just up a ramp. A man was playing four decades of pop songs on this night, but one scoffer walked by my table calling it "music in an empty bar." So maybe that man who approached me outside the bar was looking for a receptive audience.

At last the main dish came - and Chicken Balsamico is a good meal for the money. Grilled chicken is served with plump mushrooms and melted cheese on a bed of rice. The plate was so big and packed that I eventually reminded the waiter of what I might say at the Taco Bell being rebuilt down the street: "I'm full."

(I left some rice on my plate, but decided it wasn't worth the trouble to take it home with me. One of these days, the chefs might need it - if they come up with an Italian-style meat loaf.)

With a drink and tip, I dined at Mediterranean Café for about 18 dollars. It seemed nice and intimate -- and affordable, compared with similar restaurants with that format. I could understand why it had people waiting outside on a weekend, while Japanese and U.S. steak houses up the sidewalk did not. Now if they can only find a clapboard, for that guy outside the bar....

E-MAIL UPDATE: As Lonnie Jackson was buried at Fort Benning Wednesday, we found this e-mail about Tuesday's tribute at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park:

Today I went to the memorial of Lonnie Jackson. I didn't know him but, when he would take inmates out to the Veteran's Memorial, he would feed them, befriend them and make them feel like human beings for a while. He did a LOT for this sh**t* city but not one city official showed up to show Columbus' appreciation. They always talk about wanting people to volunteer for everything from literacy to trash pickup; yet, one gets this feeling of being unwelcome or feeling stupid when they do. Well, no more proof in the world was needed to substantiate this fact, than not one soul, from our city government, stepped up to commemerate this man's service. At Lonnie Jackson's memorial this afternoon, the speaker asked if anyone from the city government was there to speak (as if not expecting anyone anyway) and of course, no Columbus elite came forth. After decades of service and kindness, this man was acknowledged by his family, friends and pastors. Praises are due this man and shame on this city.

Perhaps no one from city government attended Tuesday's memorial, but I noticed from watching TV that at least two school board members were at the Vietnam Veterans' Wall. Perhaps they realized how much worse Muscogee County test scores would be, without all those tutorial programs.

It's possible Columbus city officials went to Tuesday's visitation for Lonnie Jackson. I didn't notice any familiar government faces at Wednesday's funeral service, from watching the coverage on WRBL. In fact, the only familiar face I spotted was Fourth Street Baptist Church Pastor J.H. Flakes -- and I must say, there's never much trash to pick up around his building.

For some reason, the funeral for Lonnie Jackson was held at Franchise Missionary Baptist Church in Phenix City. So the slow trend away from Columbus continues - although it seems odd comparing Lonnie Jackson to a professional wrestling troupe....

I didn't realize until this e-mail arrived that Lonnie Jackson took inmates to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Park. If you can't get groups to volunteer and serve, you find "volunteers" who have no choice in the matter.

By the way, did you notice the picture of Lonnie Jackson at Tuesday night's memorial service? It showed him wearing a Georgia Tech hat - which seemed strange, because I always saw him wearing hats recalling his years in the Army. I can't help wondering if Jackson had a personal rivalry with Jim Rhodes, to have the biggest cap closet.

BLOG UPDATE: Maybe the candidates for Columbus Mayor missed the memorial because they're too busy campaigning. Well, make that SHOULD BE busy campaigning. A TV news reporter took pictures of the main contenders around town Wednesday -- and many people didn't recognize either one! So much for my buying ad time on the government access cable channel....

One ordinary resident was shown a picture of mayoral challenger Jim Wetherington, and thought he was Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. No, these two candidates are very different. For one thing, absolutely no one expects Wetherington to promise a tax cut.

Jim Wetherington was asked about the comparison with Sonny Perdue, and he said he's "not ready to run for Governor." He's not?!?! Wetherington spent time as Georgia's Corrections Commissioner - and people have run for Governor with less government experience than that. Not that it helped Guy Millner, of course....

Mayor Bob Poydasheff seemed a bit embarrassed when he learned some people didn't recognize his face. He said in the last four years, he's been "everywhere." Of course, some folks would say that's the problem - because he's taken a couple of vacations outside the country.

(Aren't people noticing the billboards around town with Mayor Poydasheff's face? Or have political signs become the latest victim of drivers with cell phones?)

With 40 days left before Election Day, some people are surprised there hasn't been more aggressive campaigning by the candidates for mayor. But that's what makes Columbus a "town" and not a city. Even the attack ads start a little slower here.

Jim Wetherington says he plans to run TV commercials, but not until the last three weeks of the campaign. I can see it now. Wetherington's ads will appear during "Cops," while Bob Poydasheff's ads promoting another city sales tax will appear during "The Price is Right."

Someone else who saw that report about the candidates for mayor vented to us about it quickly:

I just watch WTVM 6 O'clock news and the story about the Columbus ' Mayor's race. They only mentioned 2 candidates running, they only interviewed 2 candidates, they only announced 2 candidates to be at the debate coming up in October. I keep saying 2 because of the comments Paul made on that One sided talk radio.

When Paul mentioned about WTVM Lee Brantley leaving out The write in Candidate for Columbus Mayor's race, the Female Host basically called him a liar, over and over.

Paul is correct and the Radio Talk show is only there to Promote the current Mayor, that is Crystal Clear.

Bert already has his back against the wall and for stunts like to this show up, you have to ask yourself - why try here any more


Pist off listener and viewer

From what I'm hearing, Paul is correct. Burt Coker will NOT be part of the October 19 debate at the RiverCenter - and the reason is because he IS a write-in candidate, who didn't file for mayor in the "usual way" the other two did. If you don't decide to run on time, how long might police officers be kept waiting for a raise?

And besides - have YOU seen Burt Coker's picture anywhere since he announced the write-in campaign? If ordinary citizens can't identify the incumbent mayor, Coker might as well be running with a wrestling mask on.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: A city near Columbus develops green can fever....

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

27 SEP 06: A 6-3 VICTORY?

Today's candidate for quote of the year comes from Russell County Commissioner J.D. Upshaw. On Tuesday he said: "Being fair doesn't mean you have to be fair all at the same time." Either he's ready to write a parenting column for Family Circle magazine -- or he was sneakily promoting opening day of the Greater Columbus Fair.

J.D. Upshaw said these words after a closely-watched vote by the Russell County Commission. A county budget was approved which did NOT give Sheriff Tommy Boswell the 20-percent raise he requested for his staff. The deputies and their wives now will have to wait for Alabama's Governor to make it a campaign promise.

The Russell County Commission voted 7-2 for a compromise budget, which gives sheriff's deputies and jailers a six-percent raise. Everyone else on the county payroll will receive three percent more. Only one percent more for the deputies, and we might conclude the commission was inspired by the Louisiana State-Auburn game.

J.D. Upshaw cast one of the two votes against the compromise Russell County budget. He apparently wanted the entire sheriff's department to have a six percent raise, not only the deputies and jailers. But look on the bright side - now the office clerks have even more incentive to take target practice.

The other vote against the Russell County budget came from Mervin Dudley. He wanted a three-percent raise across the board, with no special treatment for deputies and jailers. Mr. Dudley had better hope for a similar response, if a deputy ever pulls him over for speeding.

But of course, the compromise Russell County budget did not please Sheriff Tommy Boswell. He wanted a 20-percent pay raise for his department, and received less than half of it. So will his warning come true? Will Mr. Boswell move to Columbus, and run for Muscogee County Sheriff in 2008?

It's curious to note that while Phenix City and Russell County complain of tight budgets, things are very different down the road in Eufaula. The City Council there will vote next week on giving some police officers a 12.4 percent raise. And that's for working in a city with NO notorious nightclubs....

The Eufaula Tribune reports that city's budget proposal would give police a big raise in several pieces. Certified officers would receive $1,500 more in April, then public safety workers would receive an extra three-percent boost in June. I never realized that spring Eufaula Pilgrimage could be so stressful.

So what makes Eufaula so different from Phenix City and Russell County? Mayor Jay Jaxon says sales tax money in the city is up significantly this fiscal year. This is why more fish need to be put in the Idle Hour Park pond....

But I want to go back to our quote of the day from J.D. Upshaw. Can you really "be fair," without being fair "all at the same time?" I mean, does this explain that Fox News Sunday interview with former President Clinton?

Now for other Tuesday thoughts, about things fair and otherwise:

+ The Greater Columbus Fair opened - and for the first time that I can remember, no TV station went to South Commons to report on opening night. Even with a memorial service, Lonnie Jackson steals the spotlight again....

(Is it good for news reporters to ignore the Greater Columbus Fair? I mean, what if someone measures the Exchange Club's foot-long hot dogs and finds they're only nine inches long?)

+ Fort Benning announced the South Lumpkin Road entrance will close permanently in late October. That's the entrance right down the road from the planned National Infantry Museum - so what's going on here? Is Benning afraid a big rush of patriotic visitors will march out of the Imax Theater and storm in?

+ Wal-Mart executives revealed the SuperCenter in Midland has yet to start construction, because of delays in obtaining easements. The more time nearby residents have to sell their homes, the happier they'll be.

+ The Muscogee County Prison Warden showed Columbus Council a trophy he received, for having the top "county correction facility" of the year in Georgia. Somehow, I have a feeling the Marion County Jail will NOT win this award next year....

(There must be a reason why the top correctional facility is awarded a trophy and not a wall plaque. It gives the warden an extra weapon, in case a revolt breaks out.)

+ The Russell County School Board approved Vivian Carter as its new superintendent. The hiring will not become final until a contract is negotiated - and probably until after the board conducts three separate criminal background checks.

+ The Opelika-Auburn News revealed Beulah High School teacher Constance Rosenblatt was arrested last week for drunk driving - on school grounds. Isn't it a little early to do these Red Ribbon Week demonstrations?

+ Briggs and Stratton announced it will lay off 200 Auburn employees at the end of the week. Sales of the company's generators are in a slump, because we haven't had any hurricanes this year. Maybe we should show compassion for these workers, by giving gas stations 20 extra cents for every gallon of gas we pump.

+ Georgia football coach Mark Richt said he'll probably use two quarterbacks in Saturday's game at Mississippi, but he still hasn't decided which one will start. This may not come down to which player takes the most snaps, but which one does the most suck-ups.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Oh no! First Riverfest is canceled for next year -- and now Columbus apparently has lost another professional sport! If we didn't know better, we'd think Hugo Chavez had become mayor and everyone was protesting....

The latest "sport" to leave Columbus is professional wrestling. The wrestling news web site of Steve Gerweck reported Monday "Great Championship Wrestling" is moving its matches -- all the way to Phenix City! Add this to Club Roc and the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, and people will start saying, "WHAT Park Crossing?!"

For more than two years Great Championship Wrestling matches have been held (I wouldn't dare write "staged") in the old Burnham Industries building near Cooper Creek Park. In fact, it was converted into the "GCW Sports Arena" -- but for some reason, the promoters never added an ice rink so the Cottonmouths could practice there.

But the whole wrestling equation apparently had a reversal Saturday night. The Gerweck web site reports GCW now has new owners, who plan to move the matches across the river. But maybe this had to happen. Maybe when WWE wrestlers appeared at the Columbus Civic Center three weeks ago, the promoters had their own "loser leaves town" match.

GCW fans reportedly were told over the weekend weekly wrestling cards now will take place at the recently-closed Phenix City Skate-a-Rama on the 280 Bypass. In fact, the rink may reopen on other nights of the week - so people who aren't good enough to wrestle could become roller derby stars instead.

But there's another big switch in the works at Great Championship Wrestling - as the weekly matches will move from Saturday nights to Wednesdays. The new owners reportedly believe there's too much competition from other local events on Saturdays. So this is a major victory for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra....

(Somebody's gotta ask it: what are these new owners thinking? There's plenty of competition in Columbus on Wednesday nights as well -- called prayer meetings.)

For all the talk of Columbus being a wrestling town, Steve Gerweck's web site notes attendance at GCW matches has been rather small. Last Saturday night's card attracted about 350 fans. Yeow - I think even the Columbus Catfish do better than that, on nights with regular-priced beer.

The report from Steve Gerweck's web site notes the changes were announced at the third annual "Fred Ward Memorial" wrestling card -- and the new owners are taking over for the "retired" Jerry Oates. One famous wrestling name in Columbus is dead, while another is retiring. The next "legends" event might require Dan Masters to take a night off from "The Edge" magazine.

In a way, I can see why Great Championship Wrestling is moving to a different location. For one thing, suppose a Texas Death Match gets out of hand. The former Skate-a-Rama on the 280 Bypass is close to that new hospital....

And this move of pro wrestling to Phenix City is a big win for Mayor Jeff Hardin, just one year before he's up for reelection. He campaigned on getting a theater in the city - and now he has theatre of a very different sort.

On the other hand, how could the city of Columbus possibly let a wrestling troupe get away like this? I mean, the Saints were persuaded to stay in New Orleans after the hurricane. Where was the financial incentive package, negotiated by the Chamber of Commerce?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION was changed Monday afternoon, and now pits the candidates for Columbus Mayor against each other. We'll see if the loss of professional wrestling has a major impact on the vote - although the addition of write-in Burt Coker might have almost as much impact.

It's six weeks until Election Day, and some people are telling me they expected "more fireworks" from the mayor's race by now. Perhaps this poll will stir up the powder keg a bit - but then again, we ARE in a city where the only legal fireworks are sparklers.

Our last Big Blog Question ends with 57 percent of you (4-3) supporting the "Can Man." They said it's OK for my neighbors at the apartment complex to leave beer cans outside on the ground, for wandering collectors to pick up. We should alert "Keep Columbus Beautiful" that we do NOT track the IP addresses of our voters -- so don't even ask.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Back to the world of entertainment for a moment:

For some red light entertainment on a Sunday go to the intersection of Macon and University and watch the teen selling newspapers .. He dances better than Michael Jackson...

Hmmmm - OK, if you say so. But when I saw the words "red light entertainment," I thought this writer was going to recommend a strip club on Victory Drive.

It's a long wait until next Sunday, so for now you'll have to settle for these short items from Monday:

+ Which local activist sent e-mails all over Columbus, with a title saying the person's group "mourns the LOST of Lonnie Jackson"? Maybe this activist needs to spend a couple of Saturday mornings in tutorial English at Eastway School.

+ Max Wilkes told WRBL he was fired last week as Phenix City's Municipal Court Clerk, only six months short of his retirement. This has to sting a little - especially every time he drives past a "TitleMax" business, and realizes he doesn't have one anymore.

(Phenix City Council member John Storey explained Max Wilkes was released because the city budget is tight - and besides, Wilkes was paid $30,000 more than he should have been due to a city error. So Wilkes already has his city pension money, if he hurries up and puts it in the bank....)

+ The wives of several Russell County sheriff's deputies gathered outside the county courthouse for a small protest. From what I saw on TV, these women have every right to complain about a lack of income - because they can't afford to visit top-dollar hairstylists.

(One business with a big marquee along the 280 Bypass has put up the words: "WE SUPPORT OUR SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT." That's nice to remember -- because if the county commission doesn't approve big raises, it may have to provide support. The financial kind....)

+ Crews set up the Greater Columbus Fair for today's grand opening. Robin Walker with the Columbus Civic Center promised this year's fair will have something new. Hmmmm - how many calories does a reduced-fat funnel cake have?

+ The Historic Columbus Foundation announced instead of Riverfest next year, it will bring a big-name speaker to town for a November fundraiser. How about Bill Cosby? He could take issue with some of the musical acts presented at Riverfest in recent years.

+ Alabama gubernatorial candidate Lucy Baxley spoke at a Democratic Party rally in Phenix City. WXTX "News at Ten" showed Baxley holding a copy of incumbent Bob Riley's "plan for change." If a Republican was given a Democrat's campaign book, it probably would be burned to a crisp by now.

+ The LaGrange Daily News reported on Zeek Cofield of Callaway High School - who was crowned Homecoming King last Friday night at halftime, then returned the second-half kickoff at the football game 99 yards for a touchdown. Now there's a man who REALLY wants a second dance with the Homecoming Queen.

+ Former University of Georgia coach Vince Dooley spoke at the Columbus Quarterback Club - and said yes, the Bulldogs DO have a quarterback controversy right now. Hearing these words from Dooley seems a bit like some hearing retired Army generals talk down the mission in Iraq.

+ The Atlanta Falcons fell to New Orleans 23-3, at the grand reopening of the Superdome. One week after Michael Koenen had two field goals blocked, Morten Andersen watched the Saints block an attempt from 25 yards. That settles it -- the Falcons need a better holder.

+ Instant Message to Falcons radio announcer Wes Durham: Are you sure about that? You said Roman Harper of New Orleans was a three-year starter at Alabama under "Coaches Shula, Franchione and Price." Was Mike Price in Tuscaloosa long enough to even NAME any starters?

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise here to thousands of monthly visitors or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006


Today you get to join me in playing detective. We've posted three pictures as clues in our "Monday Mystery," and your job is to figure out what it all means. There's no prize if you're the first person to figure out the answer - but there may be openings soon for investigators on the Russell County Sheriff's Department.

We'll discuss the pictures below -- so no peeking! While you ponder them, let's get other things out of the way....

E-MAIL UPDATE: An e-mailer seemed ready for some fall housecleaning on Sunday:

I'm not voting for anyone in Columbus in any office to return to that position..from the school board, to the city council, to the mayor's chair...I think they have all let down the voters of Columbus. The next mind boggling future political move would be for Hughley to run for mayor and Phillips to run for city manager..

I agree with you - that scenario WOULD be mind-boggling. For one thing, the City Manager's job isn't an elected office.

You have to give credit to the Hugley family for one thing: it's NOT all in one aspect of government. Isaiah Hugley is City Manager. Carolyn Hugley is a State House member. Patricia Hugley Green serves on the Muscogee County School Board. So you'd think one could mediate between the other two....

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: Four women are sitting together at a nice Columbus restaurant. The conversation bounces from Auburn University football to Sunday morning habits.

"I have a routine.... read the newspaper about 9:30, then feed Blu...."

"Who's Blu?"

"That's my dog."

"You ought to get another dog, and name it Orange."

"Except the name is spelled B-L-A-Y-E-W."

AND NOW.... Back to our Monday mystery. I came upon all these clues under the Oglethorpe Bridge, at the end of a Sunday morning run. And no, there was no homeless person sleeping nearby who might have been able to explain it.

Notice the small ramp leading from the street to the sidewalk. The corner of Fourth and Broadway is near the Oglethorpe Bridge, and the sidewalks on that corner are NOT wheelchair accessible. But this ramp is so narrow, it probably won't even hold a child who eats dinner at Bludau's -- assuming one actually would ask to eat there.

There are a few wheelchair-accessible parking spaces on the south side of the Oglethorpe Bridge, anyway - so what's the deal with this ramp? Notice next the crumpled yellow bag nearby. It's a bag of "Kwikrete" instant concrete mix - as if someone used it to build the ramp recently. Yet it's not tall enough for a terrorist to reach up, and unscrew bolts on the bridge.

There's a big incline from the sidewalk beyond the ramp, to the underside of the Oglethorpe Bridge. But c'mon now - why would someone need a two-inch running start from off the curb to reach that?

The answer to all this may be found from the sticker on one of the bridge pillars. Notice it pictures a roller skate. At least that's easier to remove than the gang graffiti, which has been painted over on the big incline....

After putting these clues together, I've reached the conclusion that Columbus skateboarders have marked off their new "turf." I've seen some of them practicing stunts under the Oglethorpe Bridge in recent weeks. Now they've apparently built their own concrete ramp - as if someone's father needed two-by-fours to build a new deck.

It's one thing to bring your own items to a spot, and work on skateboard moves. It's another thing to build your own ramp out of instant concrete. My next conclusion is that these boarders must be from Jordan High School's industrial arts program....

Skateboarders also have used the Olympic monument near Golden Park to practice their maneuvers recently. It's as if they're looking for alternatives to the Christopher Columbus statue on the Riverwalk. Maybe some tourist came up to them, and challenged them to actually name the themes on the four sides.

But building your own ramp under the Oglethorpe Bridge - and out of concrete, at that - says several things about these skateboarders:

1. It's the next best thing to a commitment ceremony.

2. They need to be recruited, to help with House of Heroes construction projects.

3. If the city needs to lay off more workers to increase public safety pay, the skateboarders could be "interns" with a public works crew -- maybe building that proposed skate park.

Now a quick check of other Sunday discoveries:

+ The price of gasoline dropped again in parts of Columbus, falling to $2.17 per gallon in the downtown area. When the price doesn't go up for The Greater Columbus Fair, I can start to understand why some people are suspicious.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer printed a guest column about the Springer Opera House's 135th anniversary - purportedly written by a "Springer O. House!" This is only going to reinforce those silly ghost stories....

+ On "The Mark Richt Show," the Georgia football coach refused to name a starting quarterback for next weekend's game against Mississippi. He said the team has "three or even four guys who can do the job." So is there someone on the roster who hasn't played yet?! Or is Richt trying to arrange a trade with Washington of the N.F.L. for Jason Campbell?

(Asked if Georgia had a quarterback controversy, Richt said he's calling it a "quarterback competition." It's only a controversy, of course, if a sports reporter says it is - and that may depend on how tasty the press box food was in Athens last Saturday.)

+ Instant Message to Radio Shack at Cross Country Plaza: That was a radio station on your public address system, right?! I mean, playing "You're Never Gonna Get It" at a retail store like yours doesn't exactly send a vote of confidence to your customers.

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The barrel was sideways - not the direction it should be. And it was in the middle of the street, which was apparently not the place it should be. There was no pothole below it - even though it was on Dillingham Street, which has been so busy with construction this year that it's a wonder the east end of the old bridge hasn't collapsed.

I saw this woebegone barrel blocking the eastbound lane of Dillingham Street while making a Friday twilight run. I decided to keep running west, and fix things on the way back if no one else had. At 6:30 p.m. on a Friday, no construction workers were around -- and some probably were on their third rounds at Broadway bars.

When I jogged back across the Dillingham Street Bridge, I decided to stop for the barrel -- and the late Lonnie Jackson came to mind. He died Thursday of cancer, after spending years working to improve his part of Columbus. And now, I could be like him in two ways - solving a problem, then publicizing it in any way I could.

While Lonnie Jackson did a lot as head of the Combined Communities of Southeast Columbus, he also made sure people knew what he did. He was quite a self-promoter. When you fill out a "Nine Special Friends" application for yourself, as Jackson reportedly did -- well, self-promotion is one way to describe it....

If you've attended the Columbus International Festival, you may have seen Lonnie Jackson's self-promotion. He didn't have a single booth on the second floor of the Civic Center. He had two or three, with tables full of plaques and awards Jackson and his group had received. I sometimes wondered if Jackson kept them all in his trunk - ready to impress anyone he saw.

Working in television news, I took many calls from Lonnie Jackson. He wanted to be on newscasts talking about his group's next project. He wanted to make sure reporters went to his events. And if one ceremony at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park was missed, he'd declare it an insult to every veteran in town - even if thousands of them didn't show up.

(Lonnie Jackson was SO hands-on that I called him in 2004 to ask about a Kenneth Walker protest event at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park - and I was shocked when he didn't know anything about it.)

The last call I took from Lonnie Jackson occurred in August. He was taken aback to learn managers now had to approve all guests appearing at one broadcast outlet. Jackson's reputation truly preceded him - and he sometimes tried to use it to his advantage.

(So when Lonnie Jackson's death made the top of the front page of Friday's Ledger-Enquirer, I was NOT surprised when a co-worker said aloud: "Just the way he would have wanted it....")

Yet to be fair, Lonnie Jackson was so persistent because he was involved with so much. Consider everything Jackson and the Combined Communities of Southeast Columbus are doing:

+ Trash cleanup drives not for one day, but two months. That's the problem with having a "Can Man" in your neighborhood - he discriminates, by not picking up other stuff.

+ Tutorial programs in schools, on Saturdays and during the summer. At least Eastway School stayed off the "needs improvement list," even if others didn't.

+ Ceremonial programs before major holidays, such as Memorial Day and Independence Day. In fact, they're so far ahead of those holidays that I'm a bit surprised trick-or-treaters don't visit the Veterans Day programs.

+ Signs across town promoting C.C.S.C. projects, including one at the intersection of Wynnton and Buena Vista Roads - which I don't really consider Southeast Columbus at all.

Even though he sometimes seemed like a media hog, Lonnie Jackson stood out from other African-American activists. While the others threaten to take action if things aren't changed and improved, Jackson organized people to actually MAKE the changes and improvements. If Nike ever brings back the "Just Do It" slogan, you might see Jackson's face again on a T-shirt.

BLOGGER BEGGAR #6: As I walked up the short chute toward Front Avenue after fixing the barrel, a woman came up to me on the sidewalk.

"Do you have a cigarette I can have?"

"No," I answered. "I'm out running, and I never carry cigarettes with me when I run." Or any other time, for that matter.

"OK. Thank you," the woman said.

"They'd just get in the way," I added. And lighting up after running up probably would mean even more tar and nicotine in my opened lungs.

Too bad for me - I missed a second opportunity to "do good." Which really wasn't an opportunity to do well at all, but help someone else's deadly habit. That's why I turned down a beggar outside a liquor store years ago. He was too honest - and admitted he wanted my money for beer.

E-MAIL UPDATE: This message reached us before Saturday's newspaper came out -- yet you'll probably notice a connection:


Why does it seem that no reasonable concerts occur in Columbus? I know there is some history behind this reason, but I am wondering why I've seen more acts come to towns with half the population of Columbus. Is there really some ban on pubic fun or something?

This could be a great political platform for any potential wanna-be candidates. Now this is an issue worth discussing!

Just thinking out loud,


So in other words, this e-mailer is saying the concert scene in Columbus is m-m-bad.

At first I thought "m" had misspelled a word, and was asking about a "ban on PUBLIC fun." But then I remembered that legendary night when Bobby Brown was arrested (ahem)....

The main question in this message begs a question in response -- what is a "reasonable" concert? Plenty of famous names have been booked at the Civic Center over the years, from Alabama to Bob Dylan to Hilary Duff. A concert with country singer Trace Adkins has just been announced for November 2 - but if he shows too much skin, we could have a Trace Arraign-ment.

The next big concert at the Civic Center will feature the Commodores, on the night of the Morehouse-Tuskegee football game October 7. Most of the fans under 40 probably will drive across the river -- to the big Club Roc "after-party."

The RiverCenter also has brought a variety of well-known musical acts to Columbus. Wayne Newton will perform there in mid-October - and I'm old enough to remember when Top 40 radio stations played "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast."

And don't overlook other concert locations in the Columbus area. The Phenix City Amphitheater has hosted singing legend B.J. Thomas this year. And Lynyrd Skynyrd performed at Fort Benning Saturday night - although singing "I'd be free as a bird" doesn't quite apply to soldiers with two-year commitments.

I've heard various theories about why Columbus doesn't attract bigger concerts. There's the "Atlanta's only two hours away" theory. There's the "we're not a college town" theory. And maybe deep-down, more people in this city are thrilled by the changing buffet at Golden Corral.

The thoughts of "m" were reinforced by Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer, which reported Riverfest has been canceled for 2007. Yet the Riverfest sign was still outside the Historic Columbus Foundation building on Broadway Saturday morning - so there apparently was no rush by angry residents to demand this change.

Riverfest brought big-name performers to Columbus for years - from James Brown early in this decade, to The Dixie Chicks before they became national stars. But then, maybe that's part of the problem. Brown was locked up for years, and plenty of veterans now want The Dixie Chicks kicked out of the country.

Civil rights groups sparked a firestorm last year, by calling for a boycott of Riverfest because of the Kenneth Walker case. The boycott was called off at the last minute, after it was rejected by even African-American members of Columbus Council. But now I have the feeling that Pastor Wayne Baker will somehow declare victory during his church service today.

It turns out Riverfest attendance has been declining for some time, dropping 70 percent in the last five years. Some complained about the lack of parking. Others said it was too noisy, and too much of a bother. And you should have heard what people said OUTSIDE the Historic District....

One area blogger warned about the trouble with Riverfest a month ago, and suggested it move to land along the Chattahoochee River around Port Columbus. There would be open space, but also potential problems. For instance, you'd have to guard that ship under restoration carefully - so no one borrows the wood for their barbecue cooking.

When I came to Columbus nine years ago, the city had two outdoor music festivals a year. Uptown Jam on Columbus Day weekend disappeared a few years ago. Now Riverfest is at least on a sabbatical, and may be gone for good. The only option left may be to hold "Family Day on the Park" over several days in June - and actually make it diverse.

It's interesting that the Riverfest announcement came only days before the opening of The Greater Columbus Fair. Will the news of a sabbatical inspire more people to attend the fair this coming week? And can "Pig Out" possibly replace the "Pig Jig" - without people in a Bible Belt city spreading curious rumors about it?

But back to our e-mail: Can Columbus city candidates really make the lack of "reasonable" concerts a campaign issue? Especially when the RiverCenter and Civic Center strive to act like private entities, separate from city government? Besides, at this point I haven't even heard Keni Thomas endorse a candidate for mayor.

Now for some other foliage we collected on the first day of fall:

+ Which Columbus man is telling people the Eddy Middle School fire on the night of the School Board Bible vote was no coincidence? He's calling it "a sign" of something. If every high school student takes this elective course, they might be learning under temporary tents.

+ My pastor at church warned more wars have started in the fall than at any other season of the year. He cited the start of World War II, when Germany invaded Poland. But then he noted the invasion occurred September 1, 1939 - so maybe the first day of autumn was three weeks earlier that year.

(If this comment by my pastor is true, it finally explains a couple of things - the U.S. attacks on Iraq in January 1991 and March 2003.)

+ A "gas war" developed in LaGrange, when a new station marked its grand opening with a sale price of $1.89 a gallon. The lowest price I'm seeing in Columbus is $2.18, at Fuel Tech on Milgen Road - so a round-trip in an S.U.V. actually might be worth the drive.

+ The Liberty Theater opened a two-weekend run of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls." How many Fort Benning soldiers are embarrassing themselves, by showing up at this production with dollar bills to throw?

+ The Northern All-Stars Little League team was honored again -- this time at the Buffalo-Auburn football game. So their appearances are spreading outside Georgia?! When is Kyle Carter going to appear on the cover of "Tiger Beat" magazine?

+ The Georgia Bulldogs rallied in the fourth quarter to edge Colorado 14-13, and stay unbeaten. It's hard to believe the Bulldogs were so psyched out by what "Ralphie" the Buffalo might have left on the field.

(Colorado is now 0-4 on the season - and it began with a loss at home to Division 1-AA Montana State. I won't be surprised if Colorado changes things next year, and opens with Hannah Montana instead.)

+ Instant Message to Captain Tom's Buffet on Macon Road: I see from your sign that you're "under new ownership." But does this mean the business name will change? Will it become Captain Abdullah? Or Captain Kwame? Or Captain Pedro?

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Friday, September 22, 2006


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

Did you miss this year's International Day of Peace? It was Thursday - allowing some Muslims to rest up for Friday's day of rage against the Pope....

Northside Elementary School in Opelika marked the International Day of Peace by planting 300 pinwheels in the ground. At first this sounded strange to me, but then I saw it on TV. They were toy pinwheels -- not what some of us call pecan swirls.

A TV newscaster saw the "pinwheels for peace" and said in response, "If only it were that easy." Indeed. In this day and age, some grownups might get into an argument over which direction the pinwheels should be turning.

Let's consider some of the current tension points around the world. There's Muslim vs. Roman Catholic. The U.S. vs. Venezuela. Israel vs. Iran. And the biggest one in this country in the last 48 hours - "C.S.I." vs. "Grey's Anatomy."

Election years tend to bring out tension points at the local and state level as well. There's Democrat vs. Republican. Congress vs. the President. The folks in power vs. the outsiders. And I keep waiting to see an attack ad by the "Public Safety Officers for Truth Committee."

Is there a way to bring all these feuds to an end? Can we finally "all get along," as Rodney King put it 13 years ago? Can the day come when Jerry Springer only needs to appear on television during "Dancing with the Stars?"

I believe the answer is yes - but the answer involves something much bigger than One Columbus, the Carter Center or even the United Nations. It involves a ceremony I'm celebrating this weekend, which the Bible describes as a "Feast of Trumpets." It's on the Jewish calendar as Rosh Hashanah - although someday if Rush Limbaugh keeps it, he might change the first name....

The Feast of Trumpets marks a time when end-time trumpets will sound, marking the return of Jesus to Earth. He plans to intervene, to bring peace to this world - and the Bible indicates he'll enforce it with a sword. Let's face it: world leaders won't be scared into submission or surrender if He carries dozens of pinwheels.

Former President Ronald Reagan actually was right, when he talked about achieving "peace through strength." But in the end, our military strength won't achieve it. After all, the leader of Hezbollah bragged Friday about having 20,000 rockets - which in the eyes of Israel makes him the Hez-bully.

(Not to mention the spiritual leader of Iran - whom I've heard a few ministers call the Ayatollah Kha-meanie.)

Back on September 11th, I suggested you consider how the fight against terror finally will end. I'm persuaded it will end only when Jesus comes to MAKE it end. And even then, I doubt everyone will like it -- especially considering what happened to Him the first time He showed up on Earth.

If you're like the recent e-mailer to our blog who only recently started daily Bible readings, I suggest you check Zechariah 14, Matthew 24 and Revelation 19. Parts of those chapters speak about the dream of the Feast of Trumpets. You might be so comforted and pleased by what you read, you'll go out and celebrate - maybe by buying a big bag of Bugles.

COMING SUNDAY: Memories of a media pest.... and a new issue in the mayor's race....

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Thursday was another beautifully sunny day in Columbus - and that was the problem. I had to drive east to get to work, at about 7:45 a.m. That's right after sunrise - and part of me wanted to drive west around the entire world instead.

With the sun rising at about 7:30 ET, the morning rush hour brings what the late Atlanta traffic reporter Keith Kalland called the "sunshine slowdown." And with the autumnal equinox coming tonight around midnight ET, it's even worse - as the sun rises directly in the east, not slightly north or south. The people who plotted downtown Columbus long ago actually had their directions right.

My first reminder of this actually came Tuesday evening. I took an evening jog shortly after 7:00 p.m. - and the sunshine slowdown was in the other direction, as I ran due west. I should have pulled my sunglasses out of my car at the start, to deal with this. But I'm a guy - so I don't run with a map, either.

The bright sunset especially caused a challenge when my running course took me across the Dillingham Street Bridge. I could barely see in front of my feet - and I felt like I was truly having a "Stevie Wonder moment."

"Limited visibility!" I called out to two people I passed while jogging on the Dillingham Street Bridge sidewalk. With my head down due to the sun, I had enough vision in front of me to see those people standing at the side. I suppose I could have joined them - but running in place for 20 minutes until the sun sets would look silly.

But as soon as I'd crossed the Dillngham Street Bridge and Railroad Street in Phenix City, I was too tired to run and dropped to a walk. Yes, I did it to myself - a case of "psunshine psych-out."

A couple of things are different, of course, when it comes to driving into the sun. My sunglasses are on. My car visor is down. And I'm smart enough to stuff the car insurance and registration cards in the passenger side visor, so they don't fall down nearly as often.

Yet a due-east sun still can be challenging for a morning driver, even with several kinds of shades. Enough glare can reflect from a street to slow me down. And once I feel my way to a traffic light, I start playing "peek-a-boo" - to see the signal without also seeing sunspots.

One recent morning, I was eastbound at an intersection with two traffic signals. I focused intently on the right one, waiting for it to turn to green - and almost never noticed the other one had changed, so I could make the left turn I wanted to make all along.

It's at a season like this when I'm especially thankful to the courteous drivers who leave their lights on while heading away from the sun. It helps avoid wrecks with drivers like me, who face the sunshine slowdown. They're like little NASA satellites, trying to reach Pluto to see if it's really a planet.

Yes, I know - the Southern sunshine has its advantages. For instance, it helps me save money on laundry day. My hard-to-dry items go atop the back seat of the car - and in a few weeks, I save enough quarters for a package of cookies at the vending machine.

And yes, I know - I'll be longing for that sunshine come January. But then, the morning drive will be a bit more challenging. Not only will the sun rise around 7:45 a.m., but I may have bits of unremovable ice on my windshield. It's a little bit of Aspen, Colorado - and that's more than enough for me.

So please be patient, if you're driving around me between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning right now. I'm not really a "senior citizen" yet. I'm merely practicing for it - but at least I think of you enough to use my turn signals.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: Several men were in a business office Thursday, talking about the next Atlanta Falcons game.

"Abraham is questionable. Hartwell is questionable...."

"And the signing of Morten Andersen is VERY questionable."

The Thursday news may have raised some questions as well:

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a list of Georgia city manager salaries. The LaGrange City Manager earns more than $140,000 a year -- at least $25,000 more than Columbus's Isaiah Hugley. Hugley's salary was NOT published, perhaps to save the city some embarrassment....

(In fact, the city managers in Valdosta and some Atlanta suburbs are paid more than Isaiah Hugley - and even paid more than Governor Perdue. So will this quiet the complaints about Mr. Hugley's recent raise? Or do the critics want his pay tied to the price of gasoline?)

+ WRBL reported the Georgia Department of Revenue has ordered cab companies to charge sales tax on every ride. The "taxi tax" was not enforced since the 1940's -- which probably will inspire bills to expand next summer's sales tax holiday from four days to four years.

(But wait, there's more! Taxi companies have to pay retroactive sales taxes, all the way back to the forties! You wondered how Governor Perdue was going to fulfill that promise about ending income taxes for older people....)

+ The Georgia Ethics Commission ruled the Mark Taylor campaign can spend $35,000 in donations from Carl Gregory car dealers for now. At this point in the race, of course, all campaign donations are under a 60-day warranty.

+ The Washington political satire group "The Capitol Steps" performed in Opelika. I wish I could have seen what they did with this week's United Nations events -- maybe like having the President of Iran try to convert the President of Venezuela to Islam.

+ WLGA "CW-66" was off the air for hours during the afternoon and evening, showing only a test pattern. Well, I'm presuming that's what happened. Either that, or it was the most bizarre info-mercial for "Streambox Transport" I've ever seen.

(Oh no - do you think the viewers of Pastor Leroy Jenkins poured their vials of "miracle water" on the WLGA tower, trying to get him back on the air?)

+ Georgia Tech was victorious over Virginia in college football 24-7. But you couldn't hear the game on Columbus radio - because the station which used to carry the Yellowjackets has become "Viva 1460 en Espanol" since last season. Maybe I should check there this weekend, for Columbus State women's soccer games....

+ Troup County spanked Spencer in high school football 49-25. They played at McClung Memorial Stadium, and I could hear the Spencer band from the Chattahoochee Promenade about eight blocks away. If they didn't have Riverfest in the Historic District, someone there might have called police about a noise ordinance violation.

+ Instant Message to the RiverCenter: Please tell whoever does your TV commercials to listen to Georgia Public Broadcasting. The woman on radio says opera singer Frederica "von STAH-duh" is appearing next weekend. Your TV voice incorrectly says "von STAHD." Opera divas have canceled shows over things like that.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006


Something simply didn't look right. When I saw the latest campaign commercial for Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, it seemed unusual - but at first I wasn't sure why. Maybe it's because I keep waiting for ads which go way beyond Mark Taylor walking backwards....

Then Wednesday, it finally hit me. The new "Sonny-Do" campaign commercial looks different, because of Sonny Perdue's wife. Mary Perdue has a very different look, compared to when she moved into the governor's mansion in 2003. Before you jump to conclusions - no, I did NOT receive any botox prescriptions anonymously in the mail.

What Mary Perdue has changed for this election year is her hairstyle. She's now flowing at the shoulders, which is quite a change from a few years ago. The first lady's web page shows how she looked in 2003 - which I'm tempted to say was something Melissa Ethridge might find attractive.

Think back four years, and you'll probably have a hard time remembering how Mary Perdue looked during that campaign for governor. After all, Sonny Perdue was such an underdog that even he didn't receive much publicity. Why, Roy Barnes's dog seemed to show up more in TV commercials.

Online evidence indicates Mary Perdue started growing out her hair early this year. A February photo from a Republican women's conference shows a slightly longer look. And in an election year, I suppose the last thing the G.O.P. wants is a candidate's wife accused of loving short cuts....

It's common for political candidates to have consultants, advising them about everything from their speeches to their clothing. Do you think some Republican advised Mary Perdue to change her hairstyle, to look more feminine in this campaign? Is this really where the phrase "Sonny 'do" came from?

Mary Perdue's not the only person making a hair adjustment in this election year. Did you notice at Tuesday's Columbus Council meeting, incumbent candidate Nathan Suber seemed to be growing a beard? He could be imitating what hockey players do during the playoffs - you don't shave until you either win it all, or get eliminated.

On the other hand, Councilor Mimi Woodson seems to be going in the opposite election. She trimmed her hair a couple of inches several weeks ago. But she's unopposed for another term in November - so you might say the hair pressure is down for her.

What's that you're saying? What do you mean I'm making a big campaign fuss over nothing, by analyzing candidates' hair? I'd argue recent election history shows otherwise -- but to be honest, all the style changes haven't seemed to hurt Hillary Rodham Clinton's career.

BLOG UPDATE: Here's a follow-up to Monday's topic, which is the focus of our current Big Blog Question. The Can Man apparently DID show up and take the beer cans away from my apartment complex. But that pile of tires is still along the Riverwalk - so apparently South Commons needs a Rubber Maid.

Not much thrilled us from the Wednesday news (as you already might have guessed from our main topic), so let's cut things short today and send some Instant Messages:

+ To the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Wednesday's front page with the headline "EXPOSED" was a good start. Now all you have to do is reduce the size of your pages, and you'll be a real tabloid.

+ To the staff at St. Elmo Elementary School: I think it's finally time to do it. Cash in on all the publicity over that new doll, and make "Tickle Me Elmo" your mascot.

+ To the landscaping crew I saw working on the Riverwalk Wednesday evening, between Golden Park and the Civic Center: Didn't I see you there just last Saturday night? You're trimming the grass twice in four days -- in September? Now I'm wondering if President Bush is about to come to town....

+ To the Bob Riley for Governor reelection campaign in Alabama: What do you mean, Lucy Baxley "failed to do her job" by not casting a State Senate tie-breaking vote in April? Is your staff really doing ITS job, by not bringing up the vote for five months?

+ To the Atlanta Falcons: Are you kidding?! Was the best kicker out there really 46-year-old Morten Andersen? Was Mick Luckhurst too busy with British TV sportscasts, to come out of retirement?

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006


The Phenix City Council went against the advice of its police chief Tuesday, and approved a "liquor and dancing" license for the new owner of Club Roc. Who knows -- If the council had left the liquor part out, things might have been different.

Phenix City Police Chief Brian McGarr said Misha Simmons should be denied a liquor license for Club Roc on the 280 Bypass. With a last name like McGarr, you'd think he'd get his way on Talk Like a Pirate Day....

Brian McGarr suggested to WRBL Misha Simmons's application to buy Club Roc may be misleading. The police chief suspects Simmons is getting her financial backing from the former owners of The Fire House on Sidney Simons Boulevard. And here's the ironic thing - Club Roc is near a building which used to be a "Sportsman's Mall" for hunters.

Brian McGarr noted Misha Simmons actually used to work at The Fire House, which was shut down by court order last month. So the police chief suspects she's merely a "front" for other people in control -- but this is an election year, so we're getting used to that sort of thing.

If Misha Simmons spoke in behalf of her application, it wasn't shown on TV. But outside the Phenix City Council meeting, attorney Tommy Worley said the city had no legal reason to deny her a liquor license. That doesn't seem to stop the Chattahoochee County Commission....

Phenix City Councilor John Storey agreed with Misha Simmons and her attorney. Storey said there's nothing the city legally could do, to stop Simmons from buying Club Roc and having a liquor license. So apparently the council can't ask the Alabama Attorney General to intervene anymore.

The Phenix City area has tried to "Roc" with entertainment spots before. How many of you remember the "Rock-a-Moly Café" on Highway 80? I heard nice reviews about that restaurant in the late 1990's, but it closed before I ever stopped there to eat. All the barbecue joints ganged up on it, I guess....

The Phenix City Council promises to watch Club Roc very closely, under its new ownership. Some of us already have been doing this - but I suspect the council members are all in bed when WLGA shows "Street TV" late on Saturday nights.

"Street TV" has been taped at Club Roc the last two weekends, featuring a rising rapper named "Yung Joc." Hey, even I can write words for this:

He's Yung Joc and he's at Club Roc

And we hope nobody there's hiding a Glock.

'Cause you might send people in a panic down the block - sayin' Whoa! Whoa!

Meanwhile, Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell didn't have things much better Tuesday. The county commission divided on whether his entire staff should receive a 20-percent raise. If this gets turned down, the deputies should keep one thing in mind - the Chattahoochee County Police Chief is hiring a new force from scratch.

Russell County Commissioner J.D. Upshaw told WRBL the sheriff should have asked for staff raises year by year, instead of requesting 20 percent all at once. Maybe Tommy Boswell watched too many ESPN SportsCenter reports on pro football players....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tuesday's topic about Muscogee County Schools allowing Bible classes brought this response:

I think the Bible elective is a great idea. I'm a fairly recent product of the schools, so let me mention that (1) I had to learn about the pillars of Islam in my 7th grade world history course, and (2) my 12th grade world literature course spent as much time on Gilgamesh as it did on the Bible. I think our curricula are ridiculous anyway; with so much world history to learn, why as a 7th grader, did I have to learn about the Nok salt-trading peoples of Africa, but nothing about the Hebrews?

Political value judgments are clearly driving the selection of subjects to study, not an abstract idea of what is most impactful or worthy to teach.

Given that the selection is political, our elected officials should have influence over the curriculum, rather than some education bureaucrat. Thus, I think a state legislative proposal together with confirmation by the local boards is legitimate, regardless of motivation. Unfortunately, as a practical matter, states like California end up dictating the content of the entire nation's textbooks, which I think has led to many of what I see as problems.

I think the best rationale for having the Bible course gets lost between the "churched" and the secularists, who might oppose it for differing reasons. The Bible has had a tremendous impact on civilization, and it is frequently cited or referenced in other literature. As someone who grew up relatively "unchurched," I am unfamiliar with many of the so-called famous stories or passages from the Bible, so I am at a disadvantage, even now in professional school, when references come up. I am an editor at a scholarly journal, and recently I have been editing several articles with Biblical citations.

I know some claim that this will (or should) lead to teaching of the Koran or Zoroastrian texts. If the demand is there, go ahead.

Coincidentally, I have begun to read the Bible daily, and I wish I had started years ago.



You might have guessed Thomas edits a "scholarly journal" from this e-mail, without his even saying so. I'm so impressed by it, I'm putting the Wikipedia link here right now - because readers probably will need it to look up some of his big words.

The only high school class I recall from my youth which utilized the Bible was Humanities, in my senior year. We read the book of Job, then the Archibald MacLeish modernized version called "J.B." Without giving away my age, this was years before James Brown started hosting football pre-game shows.

I admittedly never heard of Gilgamesh in high school -- nor did I learn about the "Nok salt-trading peoples." Were they the ones who invented the Nokia phone?

(C'mon now, admit it -- where else in the blogosphere will you find the "Nok salt-trading peoples of Africa" and rap lyrics about guns in the same post? More schools should start using this blog as an educational tool....)

Thomas is probably right, when it comes to large states such as California having a large impact on school textbooks. But look on the bright side - more children can spell Schwarzenegger correctly than ever before.

It's interesting to me that a "scholarly journal" would be publishing articles with Biblical citations. The way some preachers talk these days, a reference to Scripture might even be rejected by "Christianity Today."

Now for some other loose, uh, Rocs we picked up Tuesday:

+ A search of old Chambers County records revealed Cusseta, Alabama has been an incorporated city for 150 years - but no one ever knew it! [True/WXTX] And then people in Tallassee get upset over new companies ripping the floors out of old mills?! There might be a gold mine hiding down there, to save the city....

+ Columbus Juvenile Court Judge Aaron Cohn was named to the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame. I didn't realize he played tennis at the University of Georgia long ago. And I guess the selection committee didn't know, or else they wouldn't have waited until he was about 90 years old to select him.

+ Former local high school baseball star Adam Coe was named the "Gulf Coast League Braves" Player of the Year. Now I finally understand why Coe made that transfer from Columbus High to Russell County High. He was practicing for all those promotions through the minor leagues.

+ Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville held his mid-week news conference. But did I hear him right - did he say the Tiger offense is not "a rolling ball of butcher knives right now"?! What low-budget horror movie did he rent from Blockbuster?

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue announced a new web site where you can submit ideas for him to work out over the next four years. It's called "" - which makes me wonder why his wife doesn't give him that same sort of list on weekends.

(The web site even shows some ideas already submitted to "SonnyDo." How many Democrats do you think are filling out the suggestion box, and urging him to buy more land near Orlando?)

+ Georgia gubernatorial challenger Mark Taylor called for the death penalty, for repeat felony sex offenders. If any men are stupid enough to visit that house in Fortson a second time to meet a teenage girl, we probably shouldn't wait to see if it's a misdemeanor or a felony.

+ Instant Message to the group of young women I saw posing for pictures at Ninth and Front Avenue: I hope you understand why I asked that question Tuesday night. If I hadn't, you might have been the best "reverse beauty pageant" look-alikes I'd ever seen.

People across metro Columbus and around the world read this blog every day. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Maybe the Muscogee County School Board came up with the wrong combination Monday night. Maybe members should have bought 2,710 new Bibles - to find out once and for all how conservative the current U.S. Supreme Court is.

But no, the Muscogee County School Board didn't do that. It voted 7-2 Monday night to allow the teaching of elective high school courses about the Bible. They'll teach about the Bible in history and literature - but not in music, because choir teachers sneak that part in during Christmas programs.

Assistant Superintendent Robin Pennock says the elective courses will focus on the Bible as "a document, not a sacred text." So it's a bit like the way many high school students treat their "alma mater" song....

Robin Pennock assured the Monday evening news the goal of the Bible elective courses is "not to indoctrinate" students. The firebrand preachers who want that to happen will have two options - put tracts on high school student's windshields, or move to Iran.

But not every member of the Muscogee County School Board was ready to approve a Bible elective. Joseph Roberson wanted the vote postponed -- yes, Pastor Joseph Roberson of South Columbus United Methodist Church, and "Getting on Top of Life" radio. Maybe he's concerned about other members standing on top of Bibles, to win reelection.

Joseph Roberson explained he wanted a vote delayed until the Georgia Board of Education develops a curriculum for teaching Bible courses. Now hold on -- who says you need a curriculum for such things? Some church pastors get into their pulpits, and say whatever they think the Holy Spirit is instructing them.

It turns out the lack of a state curriculum will mean Bible elective courses won't be offered in Muscogee County until next school year. The Georgia Board of Education hopes to have a curriculum ready by February 1 - as soon as it decides whether or not to open such discussions with a prayer.

Joseph Roberson also wants a "citizens' panel" appointed to oversee how the Bible is taught in Muscogee County high schools, and who is teaching it. A vote on that is planned at the October meeting. If panel members start calling themselves disciples, look out....

Brenda Storey voted with the school board majority for a Bible elective. She says such courses in high school will add to a teenager's "depth of knowledge." But we won't really know for sure, unless someone develops a new version of the S.A.T. - the Scripture Aptitude Test.

But board member Patricia Hugley Green sees potential trouble down the road, with allowing the Bible as an elective high school course. She fears a lot of lawsuits are coming - and based on the federal trial I covered last year, they won't use a Bible to swear in any witnesses.

I have my own question about the Bible courses, but in a very different direction. What if Muslims want elective courses based on the Koran? If the school board or state legislature turns them down, wouldn't that become a religious discrimination suit? And let's not forget those Wiccans who love Harry Potter....

Meanwhile, the Muscogee County School Board also approved almost $150,000 to replace almost 2,700 missing textbooks. I fear some students are getting a very wrong message from this - but enough about Monday night's fire at Eddy Middle School....

E-MAIL UPDATE: One of the messages we posted Monday receives a follow-up on Tuesday:

Brent pointed out missed fees from the landfill and installment fines (not sure what that was referencing).

Don't forget about the alarm permit fees and threats to charge for non-emergency calls from alarms.

Really enjoy the blog


Thank you for pointing out one part of the e-mail we did NOT point out. Sometimes, even humor bloggers get stumped for good jokes about landfills.

Is Bruce suggesting the city of Columbus isn't keeping track of how many false alarms public safety workers answer - so potential fines are being lost? There's a simple way to back-check that. Simply ask the annoyed neighbors how many happened.

Now for other short shots from an occasionally stormy Monday:

+ Kohl's began airing TV commercials announcing its Columbus grand opening will be Thursday, October 5. I'm assuming the department store already cleared this date with the Northern All-Stars Little League team....

+ WLGA-TV 66 began airing shows from the new CW network. They include shows which used to appear on WBG-15, from "The Daily Buzz" to "Will and Grace." What will NBC-38 do with that cable channel - show Al Fleming commentaries around the clock?

(WLGA has gone all-out for "The CW." To borrow from sportswriting legend Red Smith: When it's 11:30 at night and "Sex and the City" has replaced faith-healing Pastor Leroy Jenkins, a revolution has occurred in Columbus television.)

+ A maintenance worker with the Bainbridge, Georgia Housing Authority claimed last Friday's Mega Millions jackpot. After taxes, he'll take home $66 million - and hopefully before he quits that job, he'll buy a fleet of nice new lawnmowers for whomever replaces him.

+ Instant Message to Saint Luke United Methodist Church: Just so I'm clear - what is "The MC?" Is that your Ministry Center? Is it hip shorthand for Methodist Church? Or has M.C. Hammer been hired as a youth pastor?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gasoline falls to $2.24 a gallon at Spectrum, Fourth Street and Second Avenue.... milk for $2.50 a gallon at Publix (probably ending today).... FREE music video shoot at 6:00 p.m. ET tonight at Cascade Hills Church (200 volunteers needed; no Bible verses to memorize)....

People across metro Columbus and around the world read this blog every day. To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 7565 (+ 213, 2.9%)

If you mention this blog in public, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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