Thursday, May 31, 2007


At first, the idea which reached us by e-mail seemed absurd:

Maybe we should sue those S GA counties for letting their smoke excape.

But then I found out Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington had called a Wednesday afternoon news conference about the smoky air - so I thought maybe the "Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Georgia" had changed its focus.

A wind from the southeast blew a lot of smoke from the South Georgia wildfires across Columbus Wednesday morning. It seemed like the worst day of all so far. In fact, it was SO SMOKY....

+ A few people who went to college at Tennessee started singing "Rocky Top."

+ Old-time politicians became confused, and tried to broker deals on the sidewalk.

+ Smokey Bones Bar-B-Q employees went outside with "to-go" boxes, trying to seal up as much as they could.

+ Transplants and tourists from Los Angeles said, "Wow, this feels just like home."

+ People who had kicked the cigarette habit went outside one more time, knowing they had cover.

And it was SO SMOKY that Mayor Jim Wetherington actually issued a "smoke alert." He assembled city leaders for a news conference, to give residents advice on what to do. For some reason, they did NOT suggest everyone gather in a park with fans, to blow the smoke in a different direction.

Columbus Health Director Dr. Zsolt Koppanyi advised people NOT to jog outside when it's so smoky. I'm not sure why he's saying this. It's not like the smoke smells like grilled hamburgers or something....

City Planning Director Rick Jones expressed hope the smoky condition does NOT count against Columbus's "air quality index," in terms of pollution violations. Add the smoke days to the recent pollen days, and state officials might order everyone to start riding bicycles.

Columbus Fire Chief Jeff Meyer admitted emergency calls for "difficulty breathing" have increased in recent days. This problem probably occurs in waves during the week - with the highest number coming on Tuesday and Friday nights, as the Mega Millions numbers are announced.

The Fire Chief went beyond the smoke, to the overall drought conditions. Jeff Meyer warned drivers NOT to park on grass, because a hot catalytic converter or tailpipe might spark a fire. All you beer can throwing fans at East Alabama Motor Speedway should note that, too....

Wednesday brought news about the drought as well, as Harris County banned all outdoor watering. There's no better time to have a "sun room" or porch - and if your foundation is loose enough, there might be cracks to plant a garden.

Harris County will have to buy extra water from Columbus Water Works for the time being. I guess that's what Phenix City is doing as well, because I haven't heard of any water restrictions at all there. With Georgia's tough rules on outdoor watering, the grass truly is greener on the other side of the Chattahoochee.

We mentioned the other day that one local church pastor is blaming the regional drought on Atlanta not repenting of its sins. This pastor actually went farther, and said the Orlando area needed to do away with some parades. He didn't say which ones - but officials might want to ban next year's Mardi Gras right now.

I'm trying to find an optimistic side in all the smoke and dryness. For instance, have you considered....

+ Smoke in the air is keeping the temperature down. I haven't turned on my home air conditioner so far this year. And if Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupts again, I might not need it at all.

+ Brown lawns mean fewer lawn mowers are running - and greenhouse gases from the engines are going down, to balance out the smoke.

+ Dying grass should mean no "rough" on the golf course, helping players shoot record low scores.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The last push is on, in the fight over what should be around the Columbus Public Library. It includes this e-mail:

Mr. Burkard:

I am a longtime reader of your blog and find it is part of a resource that is becoming rarer all the time in our community, an outlet for truly local news.

I am writing in response to your 30 May 2007 blog entry that discusses in part the ongoing controversy surrounding the Library.

I wanted to try to get a few facts out there to your readership which will hopefully better explain the current controversy, that seems to have many folks confused.

The group I am affiliated with, the Education Park Coalition, which was formed almost one year ago, has stood since its inception for development of the 23 acres behind the Columbus Public Library into a park. The Muscogee County School District originally agreed with this view, as evidenced by their adoption in 2001 of the Robert A.M. Stern plan to develop a 15 acre park with a parking lot on the 23 acres behind the Library.

Somewhere along the way Midtown, Inc. got involved and wanted to develop portions of the 23 acres as residential development. The Coalition strongly opposes residential development on land paid for by the public for a public purpose and because a park was promised to the citizens of Columbus in the runup to the November 1999 SPLOST election.

Now the Library Board has submitted a list of expenditures totaling around $6 million. None of that money, not one dime, not one penny has been earmarked to be spent to develop the 23 acres as a park. That is exactly the same as the original $5.4 million list. That is why the Coalition remains opposed to the list.

You have no doubt heard talk of Midtown's "Blue" Plan and our "Stern" plan and other plans. The effect of adopting the list now before Council would be to have a "Black Top" plan, that is the broken construction fencing and cracked asphalt on the 23 acres will remain exactly as they are, until the School Board sells off the property to an out of town developer.

Many have said that adoption of this list is in no way tied to Midtown, Inc. However I can report to you that Midtown, Inc. representatives are calling the four Councilors who said "no" to the List yesterday and pressuring them to change their votes. Also, I have attached an e-mail sent out by Midtown, Inc. on Friday of last week urging support of the List. Why else would Midtown, Inc. support the List other than it brings them one step closer to their goal: residential development by private developers on public property paid for by the citizens of Columbus?

Not to overwhelm you with information, but I am including below some additional information that you may find useful as this story continues to develop, including the e-mail from Midtown, Inc. I mentioned above:


Fast Fact 1: The Library List does not guarantee that $1 of the $6 million being spent will be used to tear up the asphalt behind the Library and replace it with greenspace and a park. $500,000 will be spent improving the existing landscaping in front of the Library. $1.3 million will be spent on a Children's area immediately behind the Library. And $600,000 has been earmarked to be spent "around the Library". But this does nothing to insure that the asphalt will be torn up and replaced with greenspace and a park on the other 23 acres.

Fast Fact 2: A compromise proposal was prepared for submission to the Library Board. It would have reduced the total spent on books from $2.5 million to $1 million, as was originally agreed to by the Library Board Facilities Committee in its February List (see attached February 2007 Library List), and it would have reduced the total on the Children's area from $1.3 million to $500,000 as originally agreed to by the Library Board Facilities Committee in its February List (see attached February 2007 Library List) and added the new $600,000 line item to a new $2.9 million + interest income line item which would read, "Monies to be spent developing the remaining 23 acres of the Library Site in accordance with the plan submitted by the Robert A.M. Stern architectural firm and adopted by the Muscogee County School Board on August 20, 2001."

Fast Fact 3: The Library Board did not even allow discussion of this compromise proposal, stating that the $5.4 million list had already been transmitted to City Council.

Fast Fact 4: This compromise would fully fund all critical needs of the Library outlined in their original List and fund $1 million for books that was never promised and fund $500,000 for a Children's area that was never promised while keeping the promise of tearing up the asphalt and placing alongside the Library greenspace and a park.

Fast Fact 5: If you vote "no" on this Budget Amendment, we will have the opportunity to present this compromise that represents a win-win solution for all involved. If you pass the Budget Amendment, we will have missed the opportunity to develop the 23 acres and it will most likely be sold off by the School District as "surplus" property....

Thanks for your time and attention regarding these matters.


Josh McKoon

Before we get to Mr. McKoon's points, I didn't realize outlets for "local news" were becoming scarce around here. The Ledger-Enquirer has more local news on its front page now than ever before - well, unless something important like Hogzilla II comes along.

So the proposed park around the central library wouldn't completely be a park?! Using the numbers Josh McKoon cites from the 2001 plan, one-third of the land in question would become a parking lot. It may not be a "black top" plan - but it would be as black and green as a Philadelphia Eagle uniform, so maybe we should name it after Rod Hood.

I think Midtown Inc. became involved in this issue when the Muscogee County School Board asked Teresa Tomlinson to hold community forums about the library land. She reported more people preferred a "hybrid" approach to the land than any other option, while the park idea had the most negative comments [25 Jul 06]. So should the city live up to a promise most people don't like -- like sales taxes in general?

If Josh McKoon thinks Teresa Tomlinson and Midtown Inc. somehow "packed the meetings" on the library land last year, he'll have to prove it. Tomlinson told reporters last summer she was surprised by the negative reaction to a proposed park. And that was back when we had plenty of rain, to make the land green.

And if the Library Board's proposal for the 23 acres leaves the land as little more than "cracked asphalt," why did Columbus Council approve about $600,000 on Tuesday for landscaping on the property? I can't imagine that much money would be needed to paint new white stripes....

Josh McKoon's letter clearly reflects suspicion and distrust -- with Midtown Inc. primarily, and the Muscogee County School Board after that. For instance, he wants a written guarantee that asphalt will be torn up. This man has a great future working for the Better Business Bureau, investigating contractors.

This letter does not address one point a Library Board member mentioned on TV the other day. She said the Library Board's mission is to operate libraries, not maintain parks around them. Perhaps the park maintenance could be contracted out - but then this would probably turn into an immigration debate as well.

Josh McKoon's official title in all this is director of the Education Park Coalition. But this long and impassioned debate leaves me asking one unspoken question. Given McKoon's other local title -- is Teresa Tomlinson a Democrat?

BLOGGER'S NOTE: We don't have the space to post Josh McKoon's attached letter from Midtown Inc. If you'd like to review it, e-mail us and we'll pass it on.)

We have blog readers at Midtown Inc., so I somehow doubt we've seen the last e-mail on this topic. While we wait for more, let's check other midweek headlines:

+ The Sin City Inquisition and Bar-B-Q blog in East Alabama posted an admitted "rumor" of a settlement between WTVM and Cable TV of East Alabama. I hope that blog didn't hear from the same person who claimed a Kroger store was heading for Ladonia [7 Feb] - because I'm still waiting on that one.

+ Winn-Dixie announced it will rebuild its tornado-ravaged Americus store. The company tried to make the decision a mystery. But when you call a news conference with two corporate officials AND the mayor present, either you plan to rebuild - or your company is being run by the producers of Punk'd.

+ Columbus State canned Cal State-Los Angeles 9-4, to advance to the Division II World Series championship game. C.S.U. will take on Tampa for the title Friday night - and if Tampa's players have been watching videos of the Devil Rays, the Cougars should have no problem.

+ Instant Message to WRBL: Don't laugh too much at that other station's problems. I heard a church pastor advise people in a sermon NOT to watch your new show "Pirate Master" tonight. Take the lying and the stealing scenes out, and maybe he'll change his mind.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


It appeared Tuesday's Columbus Council meeting would settle the months of debate about land around the central library. In a way it did -- but in a way it didn't. And in its own way, that fact sums up much of the debate over the library in this decade....

Columbus Council voted 5-4 in favor of the Library Board's budget plan, for "greenspace" around the main library. That's a simple majority of the members who attended - but not a majority of the entire council. Doesn't it figure? City government often turns something "simple" into something complicated.

The Library Board budget plan needed six votes to pass or fail. It didn't happen because Councilor Red McDaniel missed the meeting -- so yes, something "Red" stands in the way of something green.

WRBL broke down the vote on the Library Board budget by Council members. The NO side against greenspace included Gary Allen and Glenn Davis -- because if Columbus Park Crossing stores have to look like they're in a park, the central library should as well.

But Gary Allen and Glenn Davis were joined on the no side by Councilor Mimi Woodson - making an interesting mix of the north and south side. And Jerry Barnes, whose district seems to include the library, is against greenspace. I say "seems to" because those city annual reports with district maps never include landmarks to figure them out.

The people who want a park to surround the central library have one extra week to persuade the pro-greenspace councilors. But they have a big problem - because the supporters now include Mayor Jim Wetherington. If Red McDaniel comes back next week and votes no, the mayor would break a 5-5 council tie in favor of greenspace. And he also knows how to call police, if lobbyists make harassing phone calls.

Mayor Jim Wetherington admitted Tuesday he's in favor of the Library Board budget for greenspace, if only because he wants the long debate settled. He's apparently grown tired of seeing the issue come up over and over on council agendas - which makes you wonder how the mayor can stand all those city budget hearings.

In other Columbus Council news Tuesday, City Manager Isaiah Hugley announced two million dollars in uncollected landfill fees will be written off. I can't say they're being "dumped," because I think the price would increase to $2.1 million.

And WRBL reported Columbus Council approved a raise for city paramedics. Their pay will skyrocket upward from $8.84 an hour to nine dollars - and you know what that means. Chili nights at the station now can include chips AND crackers.

Before you dismiss that 16-cent raise for Columbus paramedics, keep something in mind: over a 40-hour work week, that comes to an extra $6.40. Why, that's almost enough to buy a complete dinner at Zaxby's.

A concerned Columbus Council observer called me Tuesday, to ask where Paul Olson's been. He's apparently missed the last two meetings - but then again, perhaps he's preparing a lawsuit claiming Mayor Wetherington's budget proposal violates 35 different Georgia state laws.

BLOG UPDATE: The Tuesday evening news followed up on our Blog Exclusive from last Friday, about "Tropical 88.5." One organizer of the new Spanish FM radio station revealed it won't go on the air until December. Well, I suppose we're more likely to want something warm and tropical then....

WTMQ-FM plans to broadcast from a building on South Lumpkin Road, putting it in the heart of the "Hispanic zone" in Columbus. By comparison, WHAL "Viva 1460" is in the Clear Channel building on 13th Avenue - where you're most likely to find Hispanic people doing landscaping work at the nearby Country Club of Columbus.

WTMQ developer Carlos Huertas said Tropical 88.5 will have more than salsa music. He explained it will have educational aspects, so the Hispanic community can learn about the U.S. and the overall Columbus community can learn about Hispanic life. This sounds like a good idea - teach Columbus State University's beginning Spanish course.

E-MAIL UPDATE: What was that old Linda Ronstadt song....

Please stop already with the "news" from Hurtsboro! Your blog is advertised as being about Columbus. I can take an occasional reference to Hurtsboro, but not every week!

Oh yeah - that song was "Hurts-So-Bad."

A plea like this begs for THE BIG BLOG QUESTION, so it's now set up for you to vote. Should our "Hurtsboro Mondays" end, after some four months? Should they continue? Or do you prefer our third option, to have even more Hurtsboro items here - so maybe we'll get a nice deal on a house from a Hurtsboro real estate agent?

The poll is open until next.... well, you know, next Hurtsboro Monday. Now let's check other headlines from your basic back-to-work Tuesday:

+ Congressman Sanford Bishop declared he does NOT plan to challenge Senator Saxby Chambliss in the 2008 election. For one thing, it's been so long since Bishop debated anyone that he'd probably have to start practicing right now.

+ The Georgia Water Council held a town hall meeting at Columbus State University, on how to share the state's water supply. OK, here's my idea -- next time I cook pasta, I'll pour the cooking water in the apartment complex courtyard. The lawn will get an extra bonus, from traces of iron and thiamine.

+ A truck full of fresh produce flipped over on Interstate 85 in Lee County during morning rush hour. Traffic was backed up for a couple of hours - as some drivers were simply too picky in choosing which green beans they wanted.

+ Instant Message to Cable TV of East Alabama: There's an easy way to resolve this fight, you know. Keep WTVM and drop Bravo. The people most likely to watch Bravo are also the people least likely to admit it publicly in Phenix City.

COMING SOON: An experiment in doing things the "right" way....

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Roszell Gadson admits he's ready for a break. He graduated from college in 1993, and has been "going non-stop" in television news ever since. It's too bad no one would give him time off for vacation....

Roszell Gadson's "break" began over the holiday weekend, as co-workers bade him farewell from WXTX "News at Ten." It turned out his final newscast actually was Friday night - but Deborah Singer was off on Friday, so she offered final words on Thursday. If she suggested any places to find work, they apparently haven't panned out yet.

Roszell Gadson says he's ready for some time away from television news -- but he adds he's working with his agent on a couple of new job possibilities. I thought the first one would occur Monday night. But for some reason, he was NOT one of the judges at the Miss Universe pageant.

The farewell event for Roszell Gadson was a Saturday night dinner at the Olive Garden, in Columbus Park Crossing. Gadson brought along a friend named Ilka, who moved to Columbus from Germany in 1985. She seems to have adjusted well - as she drank peach tea with dinner, instead of asking for a big stein of beer.

Ilka makes trips back to Germany about once a year - and she tells me our immigration issues are small compared with what Europe is facing. Germany is coping with newcomers from Albania, as well as Muslim countries. Let's be thankful that so far, the Germans have resisted the urge to take an "old-school" approach - and invade all their neighbors.

Saturday night is the busiest night of the week for almost any restaurant. The farewell party was overlooked by the Olive Garden staff for about 30 minutes, after the first few people arrived. Maybe it was because a couple of Fort Benning groups were in uniform, waiting for dinner -- and even these days in Columbus, soldiers tend to receive a lot more respect than journalists do.

A tag team of Olive Garden servers took good care of Roszell Gadson and his friends, once enough seats were arranged. The surprise star of the table was morning news anchor Cheryl Renee, who was praised by the servers for handling everybody else's "corny jokes." It's a good thing I didn't leave a blog business card for them....

A surprise guest at the farewell dinner was WRBL reporter Tim Reid. It turns out he worked with Roszell Gadson in South Bend, Indiana several years ago -- and he did NOT bring a resume, to hand over to somebody.

We hadn't eaten at Olive Garden in a few years, so we tried something a bit offbeat on the menu -- "Chicken Giardino." It's a big plate of cut-up chicken pieces, bow-tie pasta and a wide range of vegetables. If it hadn't been such a large portion, I might have thought I was seven years old all over again.

The Chicken Giardino is a tasty and filling value at $10.75. Add to that the much-promoted Olive Garden "bottomless bowl of salad" - which was so big, some people in our party thought they had to eat it all at one sitting. Sometimes, it helps to pay attention to commercials....

Roszell Gadson received a big surprise at the end of the dinner - as the Olive Garden servers gathered around to sing to him, and present a chocolate ice cream dessert. It might as well have been his birthday. And since we couldn't understand what the staff sang, maybe they thought it really was.

We wish Roszell Gadson well, after his three years with WXTX News at Ten. He was there from the very opening night. It was a wise move for his station to hire a "Roszell" which people couldn't possibly confuse with the late Rozelle of WRBL....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Since we took Monday off for Memorial Day, we're staging "Hurtsboro Monday" one day late - and for a change, we begin with a message that's NOT from an elected official:

Hi Richard,

I am a regular reader of your blog, and of course, a regular reader of "Hurtsboro Mondays". I just have a comment to two about Constable Schweiger's comments to your blog.

One, why stoop to name calling? As in, calling the Mayor 'the mare'? VERY professional of him.

And the other comment: Constable Schweiger would be taken far more seriously in a lot more circles if he dropped the name calling and could spell correctly. It's very difficult to take someone seriously when they have so many spelling errors of common, everyday word and contractions!

Faithful reader,

Jennifer M.

R.J. Schweiger might HAVE to do the name calling himself -- because constables probably don't earn a big enough salary for "public relations assistants." He can't afford someone like Tony Snow to do it for him.

As for the spelling errors: as you may have noticed, most of the time we post 'em like we get 'em at this blog. We firmly believe you can learn something about people by the way they write. For instance: if half their words are numbers, you know they're addicted to text messaging.

Months ago we declared the Constable a "Hurtsboro correspondent" - but his latest e-mail may prompt a revision of that title:

As recently as last Teusday, I walked into the office of The Executive Editor of a local newspaper. The publication in question is in a transition phase; and I'm sure that my interruption wasn't well taken.

This Editor had written a piece in a prior edition asking for volunteer correspondents to provide "good" news throughout Russell County.From past experience,(I contribute regularly) it is difficult at best to get any submission in print. Perhaps that will improve.

I did indeed try to pass on some information that concerned everyone in Russell County. I was quickly silenced! I must be losing my "poker" face; because the Editor surmised that I was upset. But, after more than three years of struggle to gather something good to write about - it's hard to remain stoic!!

It's ironic that a correspondent from Hurtsboro called just as I was leaving (I heard the phone ring) to offer in her words "Oh, there's plenty of good things going on in Hurtsboro!" This volunteer has written a column for another local weekly for years. I will let the readers of future columns evaluate their substance!

The final three paragraphs of that particular column were the most disturbing to me. First of all - I am not on a witch-hunt. I simply seek out facts, and the facts indicate that there's little to cheer about in Hurtsboro. I have tried to encourage the citizens to get involved - I've given more than one opportunity to criticize me and to take a leadership role. So far, there's been no takers!

I agree with the Editor that it's EVERYONE'S responsibility and obligation to make good news happen.

I look forward to the day that I can write this headline. HURTSBORO - IT'S A NICE PLACE TO LIVE!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

It seems to be the habit of columnists to submit a short bio in italics beneath their published opinions I will take that same liberty.

R.J Schweiger is a Russell County Constable, who lives in Hurtsboro He came to Alabama from Illinois in 1989. He is an alumnus of TUOHK (The University of Hard Knocks) and has been a free-lance writer for almost 50 years. His articles and opinions have been circulated and read around the world. He can be reached at

We took a liberty and added the italics on our own, since the messages we get from the Constable tend to be in plain text. But please note: he spelled italics correctly. He did NOT capitalize them, as if they're from Italy.

I'm going to guess Constable Schweiger paid a visit to the Phenix Citizen-News. But when an officer of the law walks into any editor's office unannounced, it's bound to leave the editor a little concerned -- especially if that editor has spent any time in Russia, China or Venezuela.

I'm not sure what is this "information that concerned everyone in Russell County." The Constable may have passed it on to the newspaper, but he apparently didn't pass it on to me. Has everyone in Hurtsboro except the mayor decided to put out their trash late again?!

The thing about focusing on "good news" is that it can be quite subjective. I worked at a Kansas City radio station which aired "good news" newscasts three times a day. When Cheryl Teigs made a modeling appearance in town, the single guy in me covered it because it was VERY good news.

It's clear Constable Schweiger has trouble finding good news in Hurtsboro these days. I'm not sure when the city election will occur, but perhaps then he'll find some - if someone runs against the mayor.

Now let's check some other highlights from a long holiday weekend - and we hope it was enjoyable for you:

+ Which area high school had a last-minute graduation fuss - because one of the top ten seniors was told to sit in the second row, not the front row where the top ten students traditionally sit? Was some music awards show consulted, about how to resolve this?

+ Phenix City Councilor Ray Bush announced a petition drive to change the form of government now has 500 names. That's enough to put the issue on the ballot - and we'll see if it's enough to launch an old-fashioned "" web site.

+ A Sunday drive downtown found someone driving an old car with crude signs urging me to "write in Bagley for President," so we can "annex Mexico." Suppose he wins and the U.S. does this. Wouldn't we have to go on from there - to Panama and Guatemala? Or is his real goal a nuclear war with Venezuela?

+ The Mattress Factory posted signs indicating it's going out of business. So where is the new "Valley's home of a good night's sleep?" We know it's not the pavement under the Second Avenue Bridge....

+ The Saturday Ledger-Enquirer decided the big story of the day, worthy of a three-column headline with a large page-one picture, was "HOGZILLA II." It probably sold a lot of papers - but I have to ask: was the alternative top story Rosie O'Donnell?

+ Columbus State stayed unbeaten in the Division II World Series by edging Angelo State of Texas 5-4. C.S.U.'s Rodney Rutherford made the difference by hitting a three-run inside-the-park homer, when an Angelo State outfielder crashed into the fence and dropped the ball -- which certainly had to be an Ange-low.

+ The Columbus Catfish sank Savannah 2-1 in 14 innings - and as I walked by Golden Park before sunset after the game, the sprinklers were on inside Golden Park. I guess that's an "activity essential to daily business" exception [8 May]. But a lack of grass on the infield doesn't stop the softball players....

+ Instant Message to everyone in Atlanta: If you would please repent of your sins, we might get some rain around here. I heard a church pastor say that over the weekend - which in a way made me feel good, because it let me off the hook.

This blog has thousands of visitors each month, from people in Columbus and around the world. 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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Friday, May 25, 2007


An old cliche (are there really any new ones?) says "everything old is new again." That certainly can be true in broadcasting - although I'm still waiting for 24-hour disco music to make a comeback on radio....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog has learned a radio station which faded away ten years ago is planning a comeback. It's moving from AM to FM, will provide the Columbus area a second station in Spanish and will have no commercials. Perhaps that last item is why it failed on AM in the first place.

You may remember "Radio Continental," which was on 1270 AM from 1993 to 1997. The Spanish music it played faded away - and then that dial position became Contemporary Christian, then Big Band and "easy listening," then ESPN Radio sports talk. It's currently WSHE, playing "Southern Gospel" music as if it's repented of backsliding about eight years ago.

The people behind Radio Continental are preparing to return to the air, taking an open FM dial position. It will be called "Tropical 88.5" - and if enough of the Columbus area becomes tropical, it will be one more sign of global warming.

The new FM station is taking the old Radio Continental call letters of WTMQ, and already has set up a web site. Since it's a non-commercial station, it has a bank account established for donations. The donation phone number on the web site led to Wachovia voice mail -- so we don't know yet if this Spanish-language station is accepting pesos.

Yet while WTMQ has a Columbus bank account, I'm not sure anyone in Columbus will be able to hear the new station on FM radios. The station is licensed to Lumpkin, and a coverage map I saw online doesn't even show the signal hitting Fort Benning. Will homes along Victory Drive suddenly have 40-foot-tall antennas?

But of course, this IS the Internet age - and the WTMQ web site allows you to listen to the station online. There's no music playing right now, and the web site gives no clue about when the station will go on the air. So perhaps "Tropical 88.5" is waiting for the high temperature to stay above that level.

By calling itself "Tropical 88.5," I'm assuming this new station will play mostly salsa and merengue dance music. WHAL-AM "Viva 1460" tends to play Spanish pop songs, and even mixes in a little English. But Kanje West's rap during Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" is only one song.

If the new FM station's signal has trouble reaching Columbus, Viva 1460 probably has nothing to worry about. But I'm hoping to hear Tropical 88.5 in town, because my Spanish music taste is more on the salsa side. The music can be hot, but please keep my tortilla chip dip to mild.

BLOG UPDATE: Our 6 May entry mentioned the problems a Columbus homeowner had with renovation work by Liftech. Our entry apparently rocketed to the top of the Google chart, and brought us two more complaints. The first came by e-mail several days ago:

I was searching "Liftech" and yours was the first on the list (3:12 PM CST May 18th). I had just left the BBB site and they said 7 but, they had been settled. I would sure like to meet the "7" and review their complaints. After a bit more consultation, I will probably be filing one myself. Their salesman, Rodger, has a "silver tongue"! This man could sell a large bottle of laxative to a person with a severe case of diarrhea and have him believe it would relieve him. He'll say that the cracks will close when the house is leveled but, fails to mention the new cracks that will appear and a good possibility that your house may separate from the foundation almost the full length of 1-2 sides. The "lift holes" were only a few feet deep and what dirt wasn't spread down the sides, to obviously hide some of the lower cracks was piled over the holes with the idea that the rain would settle it back level ... not! House definitely not level, 1+" in areas. I believe they must have come from the Carolina's where the "Tip Off Artists" come from and rip people off on driveways and siding jobs.

I'd rather you hold this letter for a bit, IF you think of running it. I would like to know if you got anything from any of those who filed complaints. I can definitely guarantee a better letter when I see what they plan to do. I'm 64 retired/disabled and served the public for 40+ years running an auto repair shop. I could never stand a liar and a thief. This is probably being done on every job they do and, if it is, they need to be stopped and each job checked for quality.


Jim Kimbrough

Little Texas


If you'd like to look at the present "mess", I'll be glad to give you directions.

I'm assuming Jim's "7" refers to complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau office -- and not some quality ranking, like on "Dancing with the Stars."

I have NOT made the trip to the Lee County community of Little Texas, to see Jim Kimbrough's house. But he makes it sound like Liftech looks at cracks the way other people do opportunities -- when one closes, another opens.

It's a shame that Mr. Kimbrough's home isn't level. And assuming what he wrote is true, it's also a shame that the Liftech staff isn't "on the level" either....

We decided to post this letter today, because someone else has complained to us about Liftech. A man on Sue Mack Drive called the other evening, claiming the company did $100,000 worth of work on his house - but didn't do the job right. Now he might feel like he's come face-to-face with Sue Mack poison.

The man named Roger told me Liftech began a three-part renovation project on his home last September. The crew reportedly declared the work finished in late December, even though his roof was damaged. Roger says he wanted a new "sunroof," but done the proper way....

Roger apparently has filed a civil suit against Liftech - and he's wondering if other people have had problems with the company, so they can join forces in a combined case. If you have, e-mail the blog with a phone number and we'll pass it along to Roger. If you're an attorney looking for a cut of the settlement, we make no such guarantees.

There's one other rumor involving Liftech which we need to clear up. Columbus attorney Alfonso Whitaker told the blog Thursday he did NOT drop Liftech as a client, because of all the customer complaints. While he no longer represents the company, he said: "I think it was mutual...." So they went separate ways - a bit like those floors and foundations....

Alfonso Whitaker explained he's no longer an attorney for Liftech because he couldn't provide the proper amount of time to serve the company properly. This could mean Whitaker is busy with other clients. Or it could mean Liftech needs a large-sized team of attorneys from Atlanta.

Now for other accurate facts (and possibly misleading punch lines) from the Thursday news:

+ The Muscogee County Library Board leaned toward turning land around the central library into greenspace. Republican Party Chair Josh McKoon told WRBL he's not satisfied, and will urge Columbus Council to require a park on the land. Excuse my ignorance, but what's the difference between greenspace and a park? Does the Library Board want to buy artificial turf?

+ Roszell Gadson anchored his final newscast on WXTX "News at Ten." I'd take what co-anchor Deborah Singer said, and go one step further - he's probably the most good-looking male news anchor in Columbus. If Phil Scoggins simply would drop those glasses....

+ The "Cash Flow Generator" seminar came to Columbus, promising tips on making big money through buying and selling real estate. Isn't it a little late to learn how to ruin people's life savings, through sub-prime mortgages?

+ The Opelika City Schools ended their year, with officials saying a "character education" program at Opelika High School has improved behavior. I guess the two children caught carrying guns at other Opelika schools should learn to turn them over to police politely.

(If character really is improving in Opelika schools, why did the district create a "safety committee" with proposals for school uniforms and mesh book bags? Did "belt" somehow become a character word of the week - and if so, how?)

+ Instant Message to Golden Corral: I'm assuming your new "Greenhouse Select" salad bar does NOT include broccoli. After all, we all want to avoid those greenhouse gases....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Because of Pentecost Sunday at church and the Memorial Day holiday, we're going to take a three-day weekend off. We hope YOU have a nice one, and will come back when blogging resumes on Tuesday.)

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


That was the big announcement from the Columbus Airport Commission Wednesday. It was surprising that they didn't fly down quarterback Chad Pennington and a few New York Jets cheerleaders, to make it a complete celebration....

Airport Commissioner Don Cook told WRBL Delta and Atlantic Southeast Airlines will switch from turboprop planes to jets in the next few weeks. Do you realize what a big deal this is? Columbus Metropolitan Airport will finally enter the 1970's.

(Looking at it another way: right now the closest "jets" to the Columbus Airport are the engines at the Pratt and Whitney factory - and the sports teams of South Georgia Technical College in Americus.)

And here's the even more amazing thing: Don Cook says Delta and ASA are making this upgrade to jet planes while lowering the price of flights. He noted a flight from Columbus to Atlanta now costs between 50 and 100 dollars - as if people simply fly from Columbus to Atlanta. The price of gasoline for the interstate drive isn't THAT expensive yet.

I checked a well-known travel web site Wednesday night, for flights to my hometown of Kansas City. A midweek round trip would cost $274 from Atlanta, $282 from Montgomery, and $335 from Columbus. How did Montgomery get such a price advantage - by being in the Central time zone?

Don Cook says ASA's switch to jet planes should result in more efficient service. He adds service should be faster as well - and I suppose that extra five minutes walking through the Atlanta concourses could come in handy.

The switch to jet engines could mean an even bigger gain. Don Cook says it will play a key role in bringing American Airlines to the Columbus Airport. Things right now are at the point that for many local men, "American Airlines" means you have a pair of aces in your poker hand.

Don Cook says a decision is expected by July about whether American Airlines will begin service to Columbus. But he declared: "They are doing everything they can.... and we are doing the same...." So if you see executives on both sides holding candlelight dinners at Bludau's, please understand....

All in all, Don Cook seemed much more optimistic Wednesday than the last time I saw him on TV. Back in February, he complained to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue that ASA's service was poor [4 Feb]. You don't think there's a mysterious line in the state budget about "jet education," do you?!

When I moved to Columbus ten years ago, the airport had three airlines. Currently it stands at one. But we shouldn't worry too much. Federal officials warn the Atlanta area will need a second airport in about 20 years, and we'll be ready.

Now let's adjust our seats to an upright position, to check other Wednesday headlines:

+ Columbus city swimming pools opened for the summer. I saw TV coverage of this, and was stunned -- because the water levels have NOT been lowered by one to two feet because of the drought.

+ Valley, Alabama canceled a fireworks show planned for this weekend, because of the statewide fire alert. If we don't get some rain soon, "Wanda the Bang-Bang Lady" in Russell County may have to put on a Western outfit and fire toy pistols.

+ Farmers in every Georgia county except one were allowed to begin applying for federal disaster assistance, from the early-April freeze. The exception is Clay County - where I guess all those gas-guzzling drivers have produced the worst example of global warming in the state.

+ The LaGrange Daily News reported on a teenager who organized the first "World Finger Jousting" tournament. It had about 15 spectators, eight contestants and three trained referees. When a high school junior draws better numbers in LaGrange than I did last year with a statewide frisbee tour, I know I was in the wrong business.

+ A federal judge in Atlanta sentenced former Coca-Cola secretary Joya Williams to eight years in prison, for attempting to sell Coke's trade secrets to Pepsi. If only she'd offered them to the National Enquirer or the Drudge Report....

+ Instant Message to the caller who claimed if I dialed the Columbus NAACP voice mail number, I would hear the word "struggle": Yes, you're right - the message ended with, "The struggle for justice continues." But what about the sentence before that? "Keep your head to the sky, and he will support your feet." I didn't realize Bill Madison could do that.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: New complaints about a Columbus company....

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Columbus Council approved plans Tuesday for the next big "Streetscape" project. If you thought the work on Broadway was annoying, just wait until crews start working on Veterans Parkway - which actually is used by a large number of cars every day.

Trees Columbus officials outlined plans to improve the middle of Veterans Parkway, between Fourth and 13th Street. The biggest change would be the addition of a median with trees - and if they're like the trees along downtown Atlanta streets, they'll need changing every ten years because exhaust fumes will kill them.

Parts of Veterans Parkway in the "streetscape zone" actually have medians already. In other cities, it's called a "median strip" -- but in Columbus, the ones on Victory Drive with such a name would only make single men snicker.

Downtown sections of Veterans Parkway with medians with grass or bushes - but Trees Columbus apparently wants trees there instead. If you still needed evidence that President Bush is a "lame duck," there it is.

But some business owners along Veterans Parkway are concerned about the medians. They fear they might lose money, because drivers won't be able to make left turns in the middle of the block. If they ran body shops or wrecker services, this might be logical....

One beauty shop owner along Veterans Parkway expressed concern the addition of trees in the median might make it harder for customers to find her business. The answer to this seems to be easy - make the beehive hairdos that much higher.

But some locations are thriving in the parts of Veterans Parkway which already have medians. People are able to get to the Mildred Terry Branch Library without much difficulty, and plans are in the works for expansion. Maybe more businesses should offer free computers for listening to rap music.

Columbus Council didn't mind approving this streetscape plan because it won't cost the city any money. It's being paid for by a state grant, as well as Trees Columbus. But I wonder if Columbus Police might object to all the trees in the middle of Veterans Parkway - since they'll give panhandlers places to hide.

The streetscape plan for Veterans Parkway also means the removal of billboards along the roadsides. One of them at Eighth Street says El Carrizo restaurants are "just ahead." I'm not sure when "just" started meaning halfway across the city....

So where does Trees Columbus plan to stop with this streetscape work? First Broadway, then Veterans Parkway beginning next year - but if it dares propose trees with medians on Whittlesey Boulevard west of Columbus Park Crossing, the group might lose almost all its donations.

A scenic place leads off our look at other Tuesday news:

+ Georgia state officials announced several state parks will close two days a week, to save money. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Providence Canyon State Park originally was on the list, but officials changed their minds. Perhaps they were concerned tourists who walk in Sunday afternoon might wind up stuck until Wednesday morning.

+ A southeast breeze spread smoke from the Georgia-Florida wildfire across the Columbus area. For some people, the layer of smoky haze was a bother. For the people who live close to barbecue restaurants, it was simply another day.

+ Several law enforcement agencies announced more than 120 arrest warrants, at the end of a ten-month drug operation. For those of you who complained to your neighbors that nothing was being done about drugs in the neighborhood - how do you know one of those neighbors wasn't an undercover officer?

+ WRBL reported the amount of money in the Columbus city general fund is up six percent this year. This is due in part to $19,400 in fines for false alarms - and imagine if that included the people spreading wild rumors about the immigration bill.

+ The Georgia Public Policy Foundation honored Rigdon Road, Benning Hills and Dimon Elementary Schools as "no excuses" schools. You'd think every teacher in the district would know better than to buy the "dog ate my homework" line....

(By "no excuses," the Georgia Public Policy Foundation means these schools excelled despite having a large number of low-income students. But all that could change next school year - once the deep discounts end, and Chapman's goes out of business.)

+ Columbus High School blitzed Blessed Trinity 13-1 and 10-1, to advance to the AAA baseball semifinals. Blessed Trinity will seek penance, while Columbus seeks pennants.

+ Instant Message to Wyeth Laboratories: What's this new pill you just had approved - Lybrel?! The one they say promises "an end to periods"?! What will we writers use instead -- nothing but exclamation points?!?

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Uh-oh - it's becoming increasingly clear that someone will have to pay for base realignment at Fort Benning. And that "someone" well could be you and me, in the form of higher taxes. Explain to me again how this "volunteer army" works?!

On Monday, Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley became the latest area official to suggest a sales tax increase might be needed to deal with BRAC. Yet he called it a "last resort" - a comment which might disqualify him from the John F. Kennedy "Profiles in Courage" award/

City Manager Isaiah Hugley's first resort is to obtain federal grant money for additional police and EMS personnel. If he thinks Congress is going to provide that - well, has he noticed all the trips Muscogee County Superintendent John Phillips has made to Washington? So far, all Phillips has brought back is a frequent flier discount voucher.

(Some cynical bloggers would point out federal grant money comes from federal tax dollars. But if Columbus gets some of them back, isn't that sort of like a tax cut?)

The City Manager already has done the math - and Isaiah Hugley says a one-cent local option sales tax would bring Columbus city government 34 million dollars a year. But hopefully city officials have learned a lesson in recent weeks. We demand at least two acres of green space around the Fort Benning main gate.

But the Muscogee County School Board may beat the city to a tax hike. It held a public hearing Monday night on a property tax millage rate increase of 2.75 percent. It would be the first such increase in more than a decade - something I think only John Wells is old enough to remember.

Muscogee County and other area school districts expect base realignment at Fort Benning will bring 10,000 new children to this area. To borrow from that documentary shown in Columbus the other night, you could call them BRAC Brats.

It was actually Phenix City's school superintendent who was first to propose a "BRAC bump" in taxes. Larry DiChiara says new construction already is underway in his district, including one project at Central High School. If you build it, they might vote yes....

More money for schools seems understandable - but a higher sales tax to pay for police officers?! When soldiers and their families are the ones moving to the Columbus area? I haven't heard of any moves to build new bars and nightclubs along Victory Drive.

BLOG UPDATE: Former Fort Benning Commander Paul Eaton appeared on the PBS "Tavis Smiley Show" Monday night. This makes two Columbus-related guests in three weeknights. Former Mayor Bob Poydasheff must be wondering where he went wrong....

Retired Major General Paul Eaton appears in one of the "VoteVets" commercials opposing the President's policy in Iraq. Eaton claims President Bush ignored advice from commanders such as himself, about the risks involved with an invasion. So why didn't that hurt morale in 2003, while Congressional debate supposedly is hurting it now?

Paul Eaton revealed to Tavis Smiley he might consider running for public office someday - but he's not "considering it actively" right now. In other words, more people need to tell him they're tired of Columbus Councilor Mimi Woodson.

E-MAIL UPDATE: One writer is in a mood to celebrate....

YEA...Columbus just might have another sports national winner..CSU baseball is headed for the college world series..

First Glenwood won a state high school baseball title in Montgomery. Then Russell County finished second there. Now the C.S.U. Cougars are heading for Montgomery as well - and I hope someone with the Columbus Sports Council worked out a long-term motel deal for all of them.

Add to that list the C.S.U. softball team finishing third in the national Division II championship -- and Columbus and Pacelli High Schools play in Georgia quarterfinal series today. What is it about the Columbus area, which makes us so powerful with bats and balls? I can't believe good-quality footballs cost that much more....

We had another e-mail about Hurtsboro, but that will wait until our next Hurtsboro Monday (which next week might be adjusted). Now let's check other items from Canada's Victoria Day holiday:

+ A number of Columbus gas stations lowered their prices BELOW three dollars a gallon. A Spectrum in my neighborhood went down from $3.03 to $2.96 - which means it's probably getting a running start for a boost to $3.20.

+ Swift Spinning Mills was sold to Blackstreet Capital, a private equity fund based in Maryland. The company is being sold by Marubeni Corporation of Japan - so all remaining World War II veterans in Columbus now can rest in peace.

(I didn't realize until I saw the news release on this sale that Swift Spinning produces yarn for Tommy Hilfiger and Sears products. So why are Hilfiger's items so much more expensive? Is his yarn delivered in an armored truck?)

+ Auburn University showed off its new "Tiger Transit" bus system. Students now can track their bus's progress by using a GPS tracking device -- and they can time how late to sleep, with split-second accuracy.

+ The Montgomery Advertiser reported the city's first Hooters restaurant will open Wednesday. It's hard to believe Montgomery did NOT have one until now. The fear of Roy Moore must be stronger than I realized.

+ Instant Message to Jordan High School: I admit I haven't been keeping track - so how did you wind up with someone in tonight's final round of "American Idol?" Has Ryan Seacrest been pronouncing the name correctly?

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Monday, May 21, 2007


We're now at four months of Hurtsboro Mondays, and topics and comments about the town keep coming our way. It's reaching the point where we wonder if a Chattahoochee Valley Community College instructor will use the town, to teach drama students how to write soap operas.

The number-two city in Russell County made the late TV news this past week. And as it did, the elected official who watches Hurtsboro was writing us anew:


Here in "Hurt'sboro the underpaid (sometime unpaid) city workers are expected to move mountains of garbage on a weekly basis to a landfill. Sometimes they succeed - sometimes it goes rather badly. The poor fellows are expected to perform this unsavory task with worn-out trucks that are financed far beyond their worth.

This week disaster struck!!! both trucks went down - and a rented dumpster at the citie's "Open" dump (that's a no-no) was overflowing!!! The result was garbage that was placed curbside early Monday morning, and waste from a restaurant that was set out Saturday at noon went uncollected until very late Wednesday evening!

How could this happen? It's simple.Although city officials were apprised; they took no steps to address the problem. The citizens, as is their wont sat placidly by while the piles of refuse mounted.

"Somehow" FOX 54 and CH> 9 got "wind" of the mess and sent a camera crew to our town.They were fortunate enough to locate our mare at a social function and she commented (off camera) that the sneaky citizens had put that garbage out after the routine pick-up just to embarrass her!!

Well. Whatever. There was a great deal of scurrying well into the evening Wednesday evening.

The mare still has problems though - two fully loaded inoperable garbage trucks are sitting at our dump site and next week's routine is rapidly approaching!

Oh Well! That's the way we operate in "Hurt'sboro!!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

At least Hurtsboro has city workers who collect the trash, as opposed to Columbus. The town must not have enough jail inmates to do the job for free.

If Hurtsboro's city officials "took no steps to address the problem," how did the garbage get collected Wednesday evening? Did some Union Springs trash truck driver happen to pass the restaurant, and smell a chance for extra money?

Hurtsboro's Mayor may have given the TV stations an "after the deadline" garbage excuse, but she told a different story to the Opelika-Auburn News. Sandra Tarver-Yoda said she called Sunflower Waste last Tuesday to request the city's rented dumpster be replaced. So in Hurtsboro the slogan may be, "One call, one day, that's all."

Mayor Sandra Tarver-Yoda told the newspaper no one ever called her about the lack of garbage pickup, while the acting City Clerk received one complaint. That's the thing about living in a small town like Hurtsboro . People come to expect things to move slower -- and even the mayor uses that against the people as an excuse.

While many people in Hurtsboro seemed to be patient with the garbage situation, Constable R.J. Schweiger apparently was not. In fact, I understand HE was the one who alerted the TV stations to the situation last week. I'm starting to wonder if he's the only person in town with Internet access.

So as a new week begins in Hurtsboro, so does a new drama. Can the city find a way to repair the trash trucks, so garbage can be collected? What will be done if that doesn't happen - especially since all of Alabama is now under a fire alert?

The "bulletin" about trash service actually was the second e-mail we received last week from the Constable. R.J. Schweiger was quick to respond to last Monday's interview with a consultant to Hurtsboro -- but as is our policy, we're removing phone numbers of third parties and editing one profanity:

Sir Richard:

Your latest BLOG reinforces my belief that you should never dignify accusations with a response!!

Bob Corwin's feeble attempt to justify what he's doing in "Hurt'sboro is laughable!! And, his threats at litigation and inflicting bodily harm (thumping my head) unveils the propensity of those in "charge" in this old town to resort to violence. First, there was Gary Williams, then "Judge" Ken White, and now, Bob Corwin!! Perhaps the "Park" is a good idea - it could provide an arena to further the violence that simmers here!!

As I've done before, let me edit some of Corwin's (perhaps intentional) erroneous responses.

The statement that no matching funds are requred is false. At this time the Dept. of Economic Development is willing to accept a written committment - but at the end of the day the city will owe $15,000.00 * Johnny Streeter....

The required bidding process should be interesting - since there's no actual blueprint - or description of a proposed pavillion.

Mr. Corwin took exception to my description of the park site - I did the best that I could - with the information at hand. "Somewhere in "Hurt'sboro south of the railroad tracks. So help me; that's the description in the Enviormental Review Repot!! And, if you care to verify my facts - a portion of the area IS in a flood plain. * Chance Corett (Homeland Security)....

Mr. Corwin is correct - I did send photo's of the disgusting mess that already exists at the "Park" site. If that's what it takes to get a grant; I've got plenty more of; potholed streets, empty stores, junk police cars, and an open dump. That surely will turn the trick!!

Oh yes! I admit to being a "troublemaker" if that description is of someone who asks legitimate questions and expects honest answers. And as far as making a difference (either good or bad) it's been an exercise in futility.

The people in "Hurt'sboro are either tired, afraid, or just don't give a d**n!!!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

. Yeow - what sort of violence could a Russell County Judge threaten to do to the Constable? Providing legal assistance without a license doesn't seem like a death penalty case to me.

The Opelika-Auburn News had a story on the park improvements this past week as well. Before we go further, I should point out that I know no one at that newspaper. I've never even subscribed to that newspaper. If that will keep a conspiracy theory from starting, so be it....

Friday's newspaper noted the city of Hurtsboro is "contributing" $15,000 to the park improvement project. The article didn't call it "matching funds." And since the Alabama state grant is for about $128,000, that amount from the city is about as much of a "match" as I am for America's Next Top Model.

The $15,000 from the city of Hurtsboro apparently will pay for a pavilion, since it wasn't on the list of items Bob Corwin mentioned to me. The Opelika-Auburn News called it a "picnic pavilion," which seems to include barbecue grills. Disgruntled CharBroil employees might be willing to donate some of their own....

I'm a bit surprised R.J. Schweiger had a problem putting a street address on the park in question. Or is the Constable implying Hurtsboro's planned improvement is literally on the wrong side of the tracks?

In fact, the Opelika-Auburn News put an address on the park project. If the Constable's taking notes on our blog, and we've come to think he does - it's called Main Street.

But another part of the park address is quite an eye-opener. The newspaper says it's "behind the Junior Educators of Tomorrow building." That means it's behind a business operated by the mayor! So we may not have any problem finding the dedication plaque....

The newspaper report on the park project said Hurtsboro has hired an engineer for the work, and is considering an architect. Now hold on a minute - maybe you need an "architect" to build a picnic pavilion. But couldn't you simply make a shopping trip to Lowe's?!

As for the Constable's three theories on the people of Hurtsboro - I'm reminded of an old slogan for Atlanta: "The city too busy to hate." Maybe Hurtsboro is the town too busy commuting to notice anything is wrong.

Meanwhile, a new "snail mail" from Russell C. Ounti has reached our mailbox. He challenges our own conspiracy theory of last Monday, explaining he sends Constable R.J. Schweiger a copy of everything he sends us. OK, we'll accept that - especially since it would cost Columbus Police a lot of time and money to dust the letters for fingerprints.

Mr. Ounti's latest letter begins: "NAUGHTY! NAUGHTY! It isn't nice to try to unmask a willing contributor." Maybe not - but even those Washington Post reporters years ago knew who "Deep Throat" was.

The letter asks why we haven't tried to learn the identity of other e-mailers about Hurtsboro. To clear up any confusion: we DO know their identities - but they asked to remain anonymous, because they feared some sort of retaliation by Constable Schweiger. Maybe they'd be asked to fix the city trash trucks or something....

As for someone's effort to launch a blog about Hurtsboro - it may be down for the count. We couldn't call it up again Sunday, instead seeing a "404 not found" error. How annoyed must the city of Atlanta be, about having its area code applied to something like that?

I heard somewhere recently the typical blog writer stops writing a blog after about three months. So be careful -- people like me who have been at it more than four years might be obsessive-compulsive....

BLOG UPDATE: I'd like to take some space today to thank all of you who offered kind words and prayers over my recent health problems. A doctor confirmed this past week I had "walking pneumonia." It's a bit strange that one symptom of walking pneumonia is (ahem) having runs in the bathroom....

The persistent coughing practically has stopped, and I'm spitting out grunge nowhere near as much as I did a few weeks ago. Besides, I'm tired of cleaning my plastic cups which doubled as spittoons - so now I settle for spitting in the nearest sink.

There's still a touch of fluid in my lungs, which is noticeable when I first try to speak. After I clear my throat, everything seems to be fine. So if it sounds for a moment like I'm talking from the bottom of a swimming pool, please understand....

When it comes to exercise, the last few weeks have felt like I was learning to run all over again. A breakthrough came Saturday night, when I jogged more than 1.6 miles non-stop. If I can keep this up, no one will be able to accuse me of running Fat Boy's Farmers Market.

I strongly believe the church congregation I attend has been passing this problem back and forth for months. A husband and wife in their seventies developed it first. Then a father did (but his wife and children didn't). And this weekend, we learned a preschooler is sick with viral pneumonia -- which really is turning into very old-monia.

There's one unexpected fringe benefit to having health problems. Telemarketers hang up on you right away. The other night, someone called from the Fraternal Order of Police:

"Can we count on you for some support?"

"I can't afford it right now."

"As little as 19 dollars?"

"Well, I have about 700 dollars in health bills...."

Click. It's as if the telemarketer thought I'd pass on my pneumonia over the phone.

As I pray for the healing to continue to completion, let's complete this entry with some Sunday news highlights:

+ The annual "Arts in the Park" event at Lakebottom Park had a record 70 booths. If the organizers aren't careful, police are going to start calling it "Family Day in the Park training camp."

+ The evening news reported the Georgia Forestry Commission has cut more than 200 jobs since 1991. To which the Garden Club of Georgia said, "So? How many trees have they cut?"

+ Columbus State's baseball team advanced to the Division II World Series, by winning two games over Mount Olive College of North Carolina. Perhaps we should have seen this coming - that Mount Olive would wind up in a pickle.

(So Columbus State has made the national championship tournament in both baseball and softball! That probably doesn't happen very often. It's a bit like North Carolina in men's and women's basketball - although the C.S.U. coaches don't face calls for their firing if they fall short of the final round.)

+ Masters champion Zach Johnson won the AT&T Classic golf tournament near Atlanta. He prevailed in a playoff against Ryuji Imada, who wore an Aflac cap and carried Aflac gear. Imada hit his second shot into the water - as if he expected the Aflac duck really would come to his rescue.

+ Instant Message to the man who left a message on my answering machine Sunday morning: No, I didn't forget. Yes, I watched the finals of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. And yes, I noticed how NBC paid much more attention to Shannon Elisabeth losing in the semifinal round than the two men at the last table.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


"How are you today?" a woman asked as I walked into a store the other day. I was OK. The doctor had just told me so, saying I "had my color back." Since the doctor is African-American, she was in a position to know.

But it quickly became clear I would NOT be the focus of this short shopping trip -- as the woman in the back of the store then said something about square dancing. I didn't even walk inside wearing blue jeans.

I know some things about square dancing, from the one-week "intensives" we did in the gym during grade school physical education class long ago. In fact, it could come to mind if you head east on 11th Street from downtown toward the foundry and Wynnton Road. You'll have to turn a "grand right and left."

"He can't do square dancing," the woman said of an older man nearby. Then she proceeded to show me his steps - one step to the side, then a slow step back.

"It's like basketball," I suggested. "He's keeping the pivot foot."

The woman who worked at the store was a bit amused by this - but said, "He doesn't play basketball. He's too short." Have THAT many people forgotten the Spud Webb years with the Atlanta Hawks?

The man who couldn't square dance disappeared to a back room of the store - so now the female employee started working on me. "Woodpeckers talk to me," she said. "Do you believe that?"

If this was Wild Birds Unlimited, that comment might have made sense. But I was inside a bread store on Warm Springs Road - and I was starting to wonder if this woman had put some strange topping on her English muffin.

"I don't know," was my answer to the woman's question. I didn't expect any questions about woodpeckers at a place like this. And my knowledge about woodpeckers was limited to the old cartoons with Woody.

"They talk to me every day," the woman continued - apparently trying to goad a response from me. But she actually was distracting me from finding something to go with my two loaves of whole-wheat bread. Thankfully, I had enough fiber in my being left over from breakfast to keep my mouth shut.

"And they love coconut doughnuts," the woman went on. Good -- that was one item NOT to consider buying.

"There it is," the woman pointed as I reached her checkout stand. A framed photo of a woodpecker was on the wall behind her. I didn't notice any pictures of family members - so perhaps you can conclude which one visits her more regularly.

"Now do you believe me, that they talk to me?"

"I don't know," the journalist in me answered. I'd have to personally hear this to know for sure. And I admittedly was trying to cut the discussion short, in case the woman had another pressing topic waiting to bring up -- like daylilies.

"Here he is with the doughnuts." The woman had a couple of loose photos by the cash register -- and sure enough, doughnuts were on the ground next to a woodpecker. How that bird stayed slim and trim, I'm not really sure.

"I think God sends him every day," the woman continued. Maybe God's sending me something similar to that - yet I keep killing the cockroaches in the kitchen.

By now I'd signed the credit card statement for my two loaves of bread and a small apple pie. But the employee was dominating the discussion so much, I decided to be humble. "Anything else?" I asked without moving for the door.

"Yes" - and the woman reached under the counter. She pulled out two folders with about 20 more woodpecker photos. Rather surprisingly, a membership card in the Audubon Society was nowhere to be found.

"You know what the woodpecker says?" I still hadn't committed to the woman's question, so she finally offered what apparently was her punch line. "He says caw, caw, caw." So much for a "Ghost Whisperer" spinoff show....

At this point, another customer thankfully had reached the cash register. "Have a wonderful day," the cashier said - and I was dismissed. I kept my best poker face, and walked out the door - resisting the urge to double-sashay.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tavis Smiley's interview with the author of a book on the Stocking Strangler case brought a response Saturday - not so much toward Smiley, but what we wrote about him:

Read your comment on the Big Eddy Club. But you did not refute one fact that was in the book you only made light of it, what questions would you ask Mr.Rose?

Surely you can do better than that


Hope Is Not A Strategy

But Then Again........

I Might be Totally Wrong.

To be honest, at this point I wouldn't be ready to ask David Rose any questions. I haven't read his book. I wasn't in Columbus when the Stocking Strangler killings and trial happened. And I don't have a staff of researchers, like I would have guessed Tavis Smiley would use to help him prepare.

(And to be even more honest, I'm not much of a book reader. I find myself too busy to sit down with such things, and give them my full attention. There's work to do, a daily blog to write - not to mention my recent in-depth Biblical analysis of what an "everlasting covenant" is.)

I don't know if Richard Hyatt knew the PBS interview was coming, but he wrote a column in Friday's Ledger-Enquirer taking issue with some of David Rose's facts. Hyatt noted Calvin Smyre is a banker, not a lawyer. And Hyatt revealed First Presbyterian Church's attendance is lower than Rose claims in his book - which must have been humbling to church Pastor Charles Hasty.

Speaking of church, we also received a message about our thoughts on the late Jerry Falwell:

I taught a student from the ghetto who was trying his best to reach some goals in life...He got a scholarship to Liberty Baptist graduated then stayed on to work for Rev.Falwell. This young man who could have become another prison statistic instead became a good husband and Christian man..I got the nicest letter from Rev.Falwell telling me that this throw away kid appreciated the encouragement I gave him...Hats off to Rev.Falwell..You might not always agree with his religious view,but he did educate many of American's lost generation...

At the church I attend, I was a bit surprised that Jerry Falwell's name did NOT come up this weekend. One man talked at length about a week-long radio series James Dobson did, on the threat of radical Islam. And our sermon was about the adultery commandment -- which of course meant Bill Clinton received a mention.

Now for other things which came up, on a picture-perfect spring weekend:

+ Which attorney in the Historic District had his large wooden sign flipped over in the front yard? How nasty a divorce case must that have been?

+ Several Columbus gas stations held tough, and kept their prices below three dollars a gallon. They include Raceway on Victory Drive, BP across from the Civic Center, and Summit at 15th and Veterans Parkway - where I'm surprised some radio station didn't park a van outside to take credit for it.

+ The President of Costa Rica announced he no longer will allow police to be trained at Fort Benning's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Instead, Costa Rican poker star Humberto Brenes will lead officers in "psy-ops" techniques such as dancing, wearing funny hats and attacking with toy animals.

+ The trustees of Lyman Ward Military Academy in Tallapoosa Academy decided to keep the school open one more year. If enrollment doesn't show a significant increase, cadets will be urged to drive to Fort Benning and head directly into basic training.

+ The Springer Opera House announced its 2007-08 schedule. One play is "Enchanted April," about four women on vacation in Italy. It opens October 18 - allowing flag-waving veterans five months to organize a picket line.

(I've heard of "chick flicks" at the movies, but what do you call a production like this? I don't think "broads on the boards" would be quite appropriate....)

+ The Challenger Space Science Center showed a movie outside at sunset. When I jogged by, only about 40 people were watching on the lawn - indicating next time, the staff needs to sell bags of popcorn on the side.

+ The Russell County Soccer Club held an equipment collection drive, for soldiers in Iraq. Hopefully people won't confuse this with the Russell County High School baseball team - which was kicked around like a soccer ball in the third game of the 6A finals.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: The Hurtsboro debate turns downright trashy.... and we'll postpone the health update till then....

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Friday, May 18, 2007


The fuss about the book "The Big Eddy Club" went national Thursday night, when author David Rose appeared on the PBS "Tavis Smiley Show." Smiley called it an "acclaimed" book -- which shows he hasn't met Mayor Jim Wetherington yet.

David Rose said he expects a decision "any day" from Columbus federal court, about a key new piece of evidence in the Carlton Gary case. At issue is whether a "bite cast" from one of the "Stocking Strangler" victims matches Gary's teeth. And some of us thought a "bite cast" was what many radio news reports had become....

David Rose accused current Muscogee County Judge and former District Attorney Doug Pullen of urging a dentist to lie, and claim the bite cast from a Stocking Strangler victim had been destroyed. But in reality, the dentist had passed it on to the County Coroner -- who apparently pulled a Quincy, M.E. and wouldn't let evidence die.

David Rose believes Carlton Gary was convicted of murder in 1986 not so much by the evidence, as by the "weight of prejudice." That weight of prejudice still surfaces at times today. But enough of the jokes about Kirstie Alley....

Recent arrivals in Columbus may not realize Carlton Gary was NOT the first person arrested in the Stocking Strangler killings. David Rose says another man was arrested and confessed - but later, he also confessed to killing President Kennedy in 1963. Nowadays, that man still might go to prison for wasting a police officer's time.

David Rose says the fingerprint evidence against Carlton Gary is "deeply suspect," and a purported confession written from memory by a Columbus police detective hours later "wouldn't stand up in a British court." Of course, some British things wouldn't stand up in U.S. courts - such as attorneys wearing white wigs.

David Rose noted Federal Judge Clay Land is a great-nephew of Carlton Gary's trial judge, John Land -- and John Land's father led a lynch mob in Columbus in the early 1900's. Talk about a family conspiracy -- or maybe guilt by DNA chain....

So did Tavis Smiley challenge any of David Rose's claims about the Carlton Gary case? Not in the least. He let Rose tell his story, with no critical words at all. Maybe that's why ABC doesn't even consider Smiley a news analyst anymore.

(At least Tavis Smiley sounded like he read "The Big Eddy Club" - which puts him one step ahead of Larry King.)

Tavis Smiley called the Carlton Gary case "compelling" - but if he's evenhanded, he ought to let the prosecution and police side of the case on his talk show to respond. Even Rush Limbaugh talks a phone call from a Democrat once in a while....

By the way, did you know Carlton Gary once played in a band with Ike and Tina Turner? David Rose revealed that tidbit during the Tavis Smiley interview. Maybe the prosecutors realized that, and tried to send him "Rollin' Up the River."

BLOG UPDATE: Thursday was a historic day in Columbus for several reasons. The price of gasoline hit a milestone record high. A radio station cut the price by a record low amount. And a traffic jam developed downtown during the morning rush hour, with most drivers probably not having the slightest idea why.

The record came early in the morning, when several Columbus gas stations moved the price of regular unleaded above three dollars a gallon. This was certainly one time when a "three" was NOT on anybody's side - except the oil companies, maybe....

In my neighborhood, a popular convenience store jumped from $2.88 a gallon to $3.03. Last week's big 12-cent jump was reduced some during the weekend - and now stores have come back and gone 15 cents higher?! Are they imitating the troop surge in Iraq or something?

It's at times like this when I feel smart for buying and driving compact cars since 1990. Your impressive SUV with a vanity license plate may outrace my humble Honda up a hill - but when I see you at a couple of gas stations, I'll wave while driving by.

Of all the days for the three-dollar barrier to fall in Columbus, it was the day that Davis Broadcasting started a big promotion. A mystery location was selling gas to the first 50 customers for $1.05 a gallon - as in Foxie 105-FM. Here's hoping we never reach the point where WDAK does this, with a discount price of $5.40.

You had to listen to WFXE at 7:00 a.m. to find out where the mystery gas station was. And when the location was announced as the Chevron at 13th and Veterans Parkway, it did two things. It gained "Foxie 105" a lot of free attention. And it made a crowded crossroads of downtown Columbus something close to Atlanta's downtown connector.

I had forgotten about the $1.05 gas promotion, but it suddenly occurred to me as I headed for work by turning onto Veterans Parkway at Ninth Street. I found myself in a long slow line of cars heading north. For a moment, I thought there was a wreck up ahead - but then I realized the radio station was living up to a nickname: "Foxie 105 Jams."

WRBL later reported the northbound traffic on Veterans Parkway was backed up nine blocks, to the Civic Center. This usually occurs only for southbound traffic, heading to a big college football game like the Fountain City Classic. The only other time it might happen northbound is if Columbus Water Works decided to go out of business.

(No, I didn't wait in line for a chance at $1.05 gasoline. After all, I had to get to work. And I'm still early in the gas tank I pumped last Friday, at $2.76 a gallon. Those country car dealers were right after all - you can drive a little, and save a lot.)

Give Davis Broadcasting credit for coming up with a promotional stunt with a lot of public interest, and showing why Foxie 105 is the top-rated radio station in Columbus. But was 13th and Veterans Parkway really the right place for this - especially during morning rush hour? Wouldn't the stations on Cusseta Road cooperate?

Davis Broadcasting isn't stopping there, promising another mystery gas special today on WKZJ "K-92.7." This time, the cut-rate gas price will be 92 cents a gallon -- which is only fitting for a radio station which bills itself as "old school."

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for a reminder that if you want to do a good deed, someone may be watching....

AboutColumbusGA : Message: Re: Georgia Prayer Center- Talbot Resource Center

Why is this woman so worried about the Georgia Prayer Center in Talbot County that is trying to start up a food pantry for those people in their time of need and to help make their lives a little easier and better. I thought that was what she was so proud of in Talbot County.

The Prayer Center's letter in the newspaper stated that their food pantry would not be Opened until August, so what is her problem. This is a mission that is badly needed for Talbot County.

I'm merely linking to the message board item in question, since I'm not allowed to quote from it here. But the woman who oversees that message board is very nit-picky when it comes to people and groups following rules. She's still trying to track down the names of everyone who's ever served on Muscogee County Library Board committees.

One big concern expressed on this message board is the naming of elected officials to the food pantry's Board of Directors. Let's face it, this IS Talbot County - where some people might keep a can count by district, and put a new meaning on the Winn-Dixie "Even It Up" campaigns.

Another message board concern involves the nonprofit status of the Georgia Prayer Center's food pantry. The founding minister apparently is asking for contributions, when proper documents haven't been filed with the state yet. Some ministries would call this a "seed faith" gift - only they'd promise you houses or cars in return.

Keep in mind what happened a year or so ago, when a nursing home for veterans was proposed in Talbot County. The more nearby residents learned about it, the more they opposed it. So it's not merely resistance to a food pantry - people in Talbot County might have problems with a full-fledged supermarket.

This message board overseer wants every detail of the food pantry in order right now, since the founder already is asking for contributions and plans a kickoff prayer event this weekend. If the minister isn't careful, he'll be quoted that Bible verse about God "declaring things not yet as though they already are...."

A prayer-related topic begins our look at other news from Thursday:

+ A federal judge in Atlanta ruled Bibles CANNOT be made exempt from sales taxes. The Georgia General Assembly voted to do that several years ago - perhaps forgetting another verse which says, "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's."

+ Ground was broken at the Port Columbus museum for a large restored Civil War-era ship, called the "Water Witch." I'm a bit surprised Southern Baptists didn't set up a picket line along Victory Drive....

(You can help raise money for the Port Columbus Water Witch project, by purchasing a plank for 100 dollars. But many people in Columbus may feel more at home driving down the road to Long John Silver - where you can buy several chicken planks for less than ten.)

+ The Garden Club of Georgia warned the official state tree might have to be changed. It fears climate change and warmer temperatures will kill all the live oaks. So? Just change the name to dead oak, and add to the history....

+ The Columbus State softball team lost to Lock Haven 3-0. The Cougars face an elimination game today against the C.W. Post.... well, what IS this team's nickname? The Toasties?

(So you don't get confused: C.W. Post College is the Old C.W. WLGA TV-66 is the New CW.)

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A personal health update.... and a woman who says birds talk to her....

This blog has thousands of visitors each month, from people in Columbus and around the world. 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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