Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Tuesday was one of those days - no, I mean one of THOSE days. You're in trouble before you even get out of bed in the morning. Then it seems like you climb out of bed, and find yourself in the middle of an Ultimate Fighting Championship battle royal for the rest of the day....

Because Tuesday was one of THOSE days, we were not really able to develop a main topic in depth. So instead, we'll offer little bits about several Tuesday things:

+ An accountant did an audit for the city, and suggested to Columbus Council it set up an anonymous tip line to report fraud. I'm not sure this is really necessary - because sometimes WRCG's "Talkline" works the same way.

The accountant's audit apparently found questionable financial practices at the Columbus Civic Center. WRBL's web site reports a renter received some kind of deep discount last September, without the City Manager approving it. Hmmmm - how many burly WWE wrestlers showed up at the Civic Center office with Vince McMahon?

+ Columbus Council also reviewed several mid-year budget requests. The Police Department needs several new squad cars. The Sheriff's Department would like more money. And the natural gas bills for recreation centers suddenly jumped this week.

+ Meanwhile, WRCG "Talkline" host Robbie Watson is openly wondering on the air why Mayor Jim Wetherington hasn't started the promised reforms and housecleaning at the Government Center. Now now, Robbie - he's only been on the job four weeks. Alabama's Governor has to wait all the way to March, before the legislature convenes this year.

+ There might have been an illegal member on Columbus Council this month, had the election turned out differently. Candidate Geraldine Hollins might have been under investigation, because she's accused of owing back property taxes. The better for doing undercover checks of the city finance department, you know....

Muscogee County Tax Commissioner Lula Huff told WXTX "News at Ten" Geraldine Hollins owes about $1,000 in property taxes. Hollins denies she owes anything -- and she might be wondering why Nathan Suber is spending his free time going after her.

Does this property tax bill matter? Yes, it actually does - because Columbus Council candidates are supposed to promise they don't owe any back city taxes. If Geraldine Hollins knew she owed back taxes and lied, she could be prosecuted. You might be able to lie to the voters, but you really shouldn't to the Election Board.

+ Just in time for the Super Bowl, an Alabama House committee proposes creating a class of "super-drunks." If your blood alcohol level is .15 or higher, the penalties would be tougher. But I fear this title would send a wrong message -- and more young adults would try flying off rooftops.

+ The OneGeorgia Authority awarded its development grants for this year. One of them goes to Plains, to renovate the town's aging sewer and water system. One of my co-workers thought Plains was getting the money to help restore Jimmy Carter's reputation, in the wake of that new book.

+ What's this strange story I'm hearing about why Phil Carter was dropped from Bill Heard Chevrolet commercials? The rumor going around is that Carter was fired for using the phrase "out the wazoo" too much. Maybe the managers think "out the kudzu" sounds more Southern.

+ A non-profit group began a four-week series of beginning dance lessons downtown, focusing on the "Argentine Tango." Personally, I consider the salsa less expensive - both the dance and the dipping sauce.

+ So the schedule is out for the 2007 Tour de Georgia bike race - and while one day will begin in Thomaston, Columbus is left out again. Those horror stories about Columbus Park Crossing traffic are scaring all sorts of people away.

+ Reports from the Midwest suggest Auburn will open the football season next September against Kansas State. I'm a loyal Kansas grad - and I think there are at least two orange shirts in my dresser....

+ Instant Message to the person who sent e-mails about a supposed contractor at Fort Benning, then apologized after learning the information was false: Next time, learn a lesson from local banks. It's called "free checking."

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


No, not THE "second coming" - THEIRS. Monday marked the second appearance of SOA Watch protesters in Columbus in three months. The turnout was much smaller than in mid-November - which is strange, considering more people are likely to see your signs on a Monday in the middle of downtown.

After a short march and rally on 12th Street, 16 SOA Watch protesters went inside federal court for trial. They were convicted of illegally crossing onto Fort Benning during last November's demonstration. If they had shown up a couple of weeks later with Christmas trees, they would have been welcomed with open arms.

(A few of the SOA Watch protesters actually did some more demonstrating over the weekend, in a "Festival of Hope." You may have the picture in Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer of people demanding U.S. soldiers come home from Iraq. Some business owners along Victory Drive may join them in a few weeks.)

A federal judge sentenced many of the SOA Watch trespassers to 60 days in federal prison. But if I heard the news correctly, the guilty can report to prison anytime they please. This might actually increase the protest next November - with homeless people joining, to get some warm winter shelter.

One of the SOA Watch trespassers was a repeat offender, and was sentenced to six months in prison. Either this person is very committed to the cause, or he actually thinks the prison food is pretty good.

But one West Virginia woman actually left jail, when her court hearing ended. She had been locked up in the Muscogee County jail since the November protest, refusing to post bail. So she effectively already served her prison sentence - and now you wonder if she's been doing double duty, as an informant for the Prison and Jail Project.

One of the SOA Watch protesters sentenced to 60 days for trespassing was Josh Harris. He said outside court he could not believe he's facing federal prison time for "a peaceful and nonviolent protest." Then I guess Harris won't mind if someone peacefully and nonviolently steals his identity, or hacks his computer.

The SOA Watch group contends it actually can spread its message against Fort Benning's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation while in prison. If you think about it, that's not so far-fetched. The protesters have all day to write letters of complaint to members of Congress.

If you're not familiar with that message, SOA Watch claims WHINSEC at Fort Benning trains mean, brutal Latin American leaders. Yet here's the strange thing - I don't think Venezuela's Hugo Chavez ever went there.

Of course, Fort Benning denies the old School of the Americas or the relatively new Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation train people to be cruel oppressive dictators. And besides, why would they need to do this? Any Army or Marine private can learn about this sort of treatment at boot camp.

I didn't think of this until Monday, but have you noticed SOA Watch makes two appearances in Columbus a year -- while "God Bless Fort Benning" only has the November event? Maybe next year, the pro-military group will organize a counter-event for the "Festival of Hope." Perhaps they can reserve Ruth Ann's restaurant for breakfast, so the protesters have to eat at big corporate Burger King.

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus Police announced an arrest Monday, in the "potbelly robber" case. Jason Smith is charged with holding up several convenience stores over the weekend. If Smith did it, he should have worked on that waistline by attempting to flee on foot.

Now let's check other news from one of the coldest days of the winter....

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to pay $19,000 to the city of Columbus, to cover years of unpaid landfill fees. Superintendent John Phillips explained the school district never received a bill. And then he wonders why some parents don't seem to care about their children's grades....

+ Former Muscogee County School Superintendent Guy Sims resigned as President of the Columbus-area United Way. Sims says he plans to work on ways to fight poverty in Columbus. Apparently he's decided the first step is to join the poverty rolls, by giving up an income.

+ The Columbus Community News reported a home on Waterford Road recently was sold for $830,000. We mention this as a public service to local Girl Scouts, who are looking for the best streets to sell cookies door-to-door.

+ The 14th Combat Support Hospital returned to Fort Benning, after a year of service in Afghanistan. In fact, the unit arrived on post earlier than scheduled - so someone must be listening to those "bring them home now" protest shouts.

+ The Georgia General Assembly marked "Israel Day." Why do I have this strange feeling we won't see an "Iran Day" for a long time to come?

+ Northside pulled a surprise, by winning the Muscogee County High School boys' swim meet. Of course, it might have been an even bigger surprise if Jordan and Kendrick High had shown up with teams....

+ Instant Message to Locos Grill and Pub: Thanks for the late dinner Monday night. And I'm sorry I left you at halftime of the Kansas-Nebraska game. But my beloved Jayhawks were grinding the Cornhuskers 43-16 at the time -- and none of your other TV sets showed the Miss America pageant.

COMING SOON: Can you listen in, on a closed-door meeting?....

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Monday, January 29, 2007


We return today to the little town with the big controversies. Yes, we're heading back to Hurtsboro - the town in Russell County where everybody seems to know everybody else, and that may not always be a good thing....

When last we stopped in Hurtsboro [22 Jan], a local business accused Russell County Constable Robert Schweiger of trying to get his wife fired from the business because their marriage collapsed. Others even claimed Schweiger is trying to get the town government dissolved. That quickly brought a reply from the Constable:

"I say there Richard!"

It didn"t take you very long to discover the vicious attitude that the citizens of "Hurt"sboro adopt when you question their activities! I respect your good judgement in stepping out of center ring! I only hope that you can be reached with breaking news and worthwhile items on upcoming Mondays!

I knew that the "mare" had received that "park" grant - but there's still a little matter of matching funds that has to be hurdled. Columbus has plenty of problems with crime on their Riverwalk, I wonder who would feel safe in a park in "Hurt"sboro.

Last Friday was a nice day for a ride so I ventured over to Montgomery! Before I left - the halls were echoing with the same questions I've been asking here in town. The petition for help is being taken under advisement and we should get a reply in just a few days!

I apologize to you Sir Richard. I should have forewarned you about the treatment that Megan Bradley (WRBL) Lily Gordon (Ledger/Enquirer) and Mitch Sneed (Opelika News) received when they came here for a story! Just like the fisherman's worm it's a no win situation!

The man who lays down with dogs

Constable R.J. Schweiger

Well, hold on here - only one of the Hurtsboro residents I called really could be described as "vicious." Some were polite in their remarks to me. Others chose to say nothing, which is their choice. And thankfully, no one showed up at my door in the last week with a search warrant.

(I couldn't help noticing while the Constable called his critics "vicious," there's one thing he did NOT call them -- liars.)

If you're new to all this, Sandra Tarver is the Mayor of Hurtsboro - the title R.J. Schweiger is misspelling on purpose. They've clashed a time or two, both at City Hall and in court. Schweiger says it's a fight over access to public records -- but court records show they've also had a small claims court dispute. It shouldn't be so tough to pay the prevailing Office Depot rate for copies.

I don't recall hearing anything about Hurtsboro needing matching money, to accept a state grant for new park equipment. But if so, what a wonderful opportunity to bring the town together and raise the money! Simply bring in mediators from Phenix City, to decide whose name belongs at the top of the memorial plaque.

But I do know something about crime on the Columbus Riverwalk - and I'm sorry to disappoint R.J. Schweiger, but it doesn't happen all that often. I've jogged on the Riverwalk hundreds of times in nearly ten years, with a good number of those runs occurring after dark. Yet to my knowledge, no one's chased me with a knife or box-cutter so far.

Why should someone NOT feel safe in a Hurtsboro park? We're talking about a small town of less than 1,000 people here. And unlike Lumpkin, I don't even think Hurtsboro has a library where gangs can organize drug deals.

It's not clear to me what this "petition for help" is from Constable Schweiger. But people in Hurtsboro are telling me he files complaints with Alabama state agencies about any violation he thinks he sees. When the state transportation department is called about a business being too close to a road, that's pretty picky....

But it's also apparently par for the course, when it comes to Hurtsboro's Constable. One business owner called your blog in the last week, openly suspecting R.J. Schweiger is trying to drive him out of business. Either that, or Schweiger wants to make sure all local attorneys have a regular income.

The latest complaint from Constable Schweiger reportedly was filed with ADEM - Alabama's Department of Environmental Management. He apparently suspects an illegal open dump is being kept in one part of Hurtsboro. Based on the perspective Schweiger has offered to me, it's a wonder he doesn't want the entire town declared an open dump.

Well, check that - in a way, Constable Schweiger IS arguing that. He sent me a ten-point list of problems in Hurtsboro, which was submitted to the Russell County District Attorney last July. Put together, Schweiger calls them "a formula for apocalypse!" Yet almost seven months later, the Alabama National Guard seems to be heading for Iraq instead.

We've also heard again since last Monday from someone in Hurtsboro who dared to take on R.J. Schweiger's e-mail drive of recent weeks:

....You seem to have your finger on the pulse of this town, and you have given a correct diagnosis.....there are a lot of grumpy old men, and they are not very amusing. In fact they are quite nasty.....and vendictive. Maybe they could be productive if they put that much energy into doing something to help the town like the recent grant.

Have you ever seen Jim Carey do Fire Marshall Bill? This was a parady that he did on Saturday Night Live. Hurtsboro has Constable Bob....but he is not funny at all.

Hurtsboro has a functioning Volunteer Fire Department that is fully funded by grants J.H. Bazemore is the Chief and he is doing a great job getting grant money so that the department can buy new trucks and keep up it's building. There are a lot of positive things that you can write about in Hurtsboro and I think you should dedicate at least one positive story about Hurtsboro in your Monday blog. Why not start with our Fire Department. We respond to a lot of calls each month from house fires to medical calls and it never fails that someone is available to respond no matter what time of day or night it is.


A "concerned" citizen

Let's do a fact-check first: Fire Marshal Bill actually was a character on the old Fox series "In Living Color." Imagine if Hurtsboro had a working Fire Marshal - would the Constable be allowed to sleep on his dogs at night?

There are some people in Hurtsboro who want me to take this feud involving Constable R.J. Schweiger to another level. They want me to call his ex-wife, who lives well out-of-state -- and they have even supplied me with her phone number. If I ever drive to Hurtsboro, I'm not playing poker with anybody in town....

But really now -- why should I turn this town squabble into a family feud, involving Constable Schweiger and his ex-wife? Shouldn't they settle these disputes in a proper, 21st-century way? I mean, WXTX shows "Divorce Court" five mornings a week.

Since this concerned Hurtsboro citizen nominated the Fire Department, we'll let that endorsement stand. But I'd point out there are plenty of other volunteer fire departments doing important service, across the Columbus area. If some of them respond to a fire and fail to be mentioned by name on the news, they'll quickly point that out....

We'll keep these "Hurtsboro Mondays" going as conditions warrant. And to be honest, there isn't much else to talk about on this Monday....

+ Columbus Police reported a Spectrum store on Miller Road was robbed. The suspect is described as a man in his forties, with a "potbelly." If you commit armed robbery, you deserve to be described this way - since I haven't heard "potbelly" applied to anything other than pigs in years.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer included an insert ad announcing electronics recycling at Wal-Mart next Saturday. But the address listed in the ad was the abandoned store on Airport Thruway. So let's see - you pile up dangerous metals at this old store, then sell it to the highest bidder?!

(We called the Wal-Mart at Columbus Park Crossing about this ad. The Sunday staff didn't know where the recycling point actually will be -- but I'm guessing you can rule out a hush-hush meeting at the city landfill.)

+ Two local religious radio broadcasts amazingly focused on the same Bible passage, from Genesis 18. Hal Brady at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus declared Sarah laughed from disbelief and joy. The Pastor of New Hope Revival Center in Smiths Station declared Sarah a deep-down liar "from her bowels." It's now up to my own Pastor to break this tie....

+ Georgia leapt past Louisiana State in the men's basketball standings, by winning 57-54. Levi Stukes scored the winning three-point basket in the final second - leading me to wonder if Coach Dennis Felton has his own definition of a "Levi's Call."

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Planning Department: I had to wait for a second green light the other afternoon at Fourth and Veterans Parkway. This is simply ridiculous and unacceptable. When do you plan to widen THAT intersection -- this time to about eight lanes?

Today's main topic was based on blog readers' tips. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers 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, January 28, 2007


I have seen the future - and it is filled with spam. In fact, you can expect to see spam for at least the next 31 years. But I am NOT suggesting you try to keep a can of Spam luncheon meat stored in your pantry that long....

SPAM-A-RAMA: I discovered the future of e-mail spam the other day, right at my own computer. You may have noticed our "Burkard Bulk Mail Index," which counts the number of spam messages in my InBox. The B.B.M.I. number has dropped by several thousand in recent months -- leading me to wonder if the senders were investing in TV infomercials instead.

I normally never look at the Bulk Mail part of the InBox, but a hunt for one particular message made me go there. That's when I was stunned to discover I had e-mails dated "January 2038." And none of them seemed to be from Governor Sonny Perdue, promoting long-term care again.

What stunned me even more was how "future spam" overwhelmed the Bulk Mail box. I had to plow through more than 1,000 items from the next 31 years, to reach messages from this month. If only some of them had titles naming the winners of future Super Bowls or Presidential elections....

Based on the top page of the Bulk Mail box, "replica watches" will be popular items in 2038. It's enough to make me hold onto my current ones until about 2025, then sell them as collectibles on eBay.

(Please note these are "replica" versions of Rolex and similar watches. Maybe the spammers are predicting by 2038, the high-end companies will be bought out by Wal-Mart.)

So why would e-mails from 2038 be reaching me in 2007? Have the online stores somehow figured out when my current watch batteries will die?

I have my own theory about these e-mails dated 2038. Spam messages in the B.B.M.I. are automatically purged, if they're more than 30 days old. So the spammers somehow are putting dates on them far in the future, to get around the 30-day time limit. It's sort of like the landfill tipping fee mess in reverse....

Another advantage of putting the year 2038 on your e-mail is that it goes to the top of the list. It shows up on the first page of messages, even above the current ones -- which makes it a much more likely candidate for deletion.

Yet I intentionally do NOT delete anything in the Bulk Mail box anymore. It's more interesting for me to see how many spam messages pile up, and see if the total reflects some sort of hidden statement. The B.B.M.I. is starting to climb back, after dropping about 75 percent in the fall -- so maybe spammers were distracted by football season.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Back on the nicer side of the InBox, this news item reached us before the Friday afternoon news mentioned it:

Wal-Mart For Lease?

I drove by the old Wal-Mart on Airport Thruway this morning and saw a sign that said "BUILDING FOR LEASE - Call 479-204-0271" and was completely turned around. After contacting Travis at Wal-Mart Realty it looks like their marketing department or who-ever is in charge of signage mistakenly put up a BUILDING FOR LEASE SIGN on the road and the building.

Attached is the reply from Travis.


We are tearing it down. The sign shouldn't have been put up, and is being removed today or tomorrow. Thanks for the inquiry.

Travis L. Rodgers

Real Estate Manager

The now-empty Wal-Mart and Sam's Club on Airport Thruway are turn into a new Wal-Mart SuperCenter over the next few months. Given what happened to the old Circuit City down the street, it's a wonder the realty office wasn't overwhelmed with offers from church pastors.

Wal-Mart Realty told WRBL they didn't know who put up the "building for lease" sign on Airport Thruway. Maybe it was a disgruntled employee at Target.

Our Instant Message from Friday also brought a comment - but not from the place where we sent it:

Last summer a friend had her debit card kept by the cashier at Fire House..By 10AM the next morning more than $2000 had been charged on it...The criminal was caught on video at sub store and other young friends were caught on video using the card at Wal Mart in Phenix City...So arrest....Fire House did "fire"her

Hmmm -- so you're saying the Firehouse sandwiches aren't the only things which are "fully loaded"?!

Here are other things to chew on, from the weekend news:

+ Fort Benning's Third Brigade engaged in training drills in California. WRBL's Chris Sweigart wrote on his "HammerSlogger" blog that reporters from France are watching the training as well. So where do they post notes for the Iraqi insurgents to study?

+ Local JROTC units held a combined ball at the Trade Center. They should be thankful no khaki green buses were parked outside, to take them to work at Fort Benning.

+ The Columbus NAACP spent a second day renovating the Spencer House on Veterans Parkway downtown. President Bill Madison said the historic home should be turned into a museum about local African-American education. If it gets as few visitors as the Ma Rainey Museum has a block away, they might be able to share a single staff.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths pounded Pee Dee 6-3 on "NASCAR Night," featuring a guest appearance at the Civic Center by Richard Petty. I assume any players who wound up in fights were given Goody's headache powders in the penalty box.

+ Instant Message to One Way Deliverance Ministry on Martin Luther King Boulevard: About your sign outside that says "JESUS IS LO" - uhhhh, does that mean God the Father is higher?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.98 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... mushroom swiss burgers for 99 cents at Checkers on Buena Vista Drive.... and no N.F.L. games on TV, so football widows can reclaim their husbands....

COMING MONDAY: Not just Monday.... it's a Hurtsboro Monday!....

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Friday, January 26, 2007


When I was young, my first successful efforts at talent shows involved impersonations. Believe it or not, I imitated the strange singer Tiny Tim -- wearing a wig, carrying a ukelele and singing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." In grade school. And even more amazing in 2007 - no one came after me with slurs about my sexuality.

Then in junior high school, I became a big fan of ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell. His voice was easy for me to imitate. And I knew enough big words that I could baffle even grownups from time to time with what I said.

How big was my support of Howard Cosell? When a Kansas City public television station held its annual fund-raising auction, one item on the block was a Cosell-autographed pair... of underwear. I was actually the second-highest bidder, but the top bidder backed out -- so I claimed a truly unusual collectible, years before people put pictures of Jesus on toast.

Howard Cosell died several years ago, so my pair of autographed undies continues to increase in value. But I can still imitate him fairly.... well, I'll let you decide if it's fairly well or not. Cosell is this week's voice, in our Saturday series on how sportscasters might broadcast the return of Jesus Christ. As even Cosell would point out -- obviously, this one is much more hypothetical than usual.

COMING SUNDAY: Wal-Mart admits to a big mistake....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, 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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Thursday, January 25, 2007

for 26 JAN 07: WAL- TO WALL?

"Congested Park Crossing" is how one East Alabama blogger is describing the shopping area around Whittlesey Boulevard these days. Reports in the newspaper and on TV are adding to that reputation. It's almost tempting to adapt the Yogi Berra line, and suggest people stop shopping there anymore until it's less crowded.

But some of us are undaunted by all these reports. I went to the Columbus Park Crossing area Thursday - a morning which focused on food, and featured my first trip to the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter. You may be amazed to learn I made it home by 12:15 p.m. And none of the frozen foods melted badly at all.

What's that you're saying - I went to Whittlesey at the wrong time? You say I should go in the late afternoon, when there are more cars? No, I actually went at the RIGHT time. Maybe it's time you changed your schedule habits - or convince the boss to let you work later every evening, to miss the crowds.

My original plan was to visit the Wal-Mart SuperCenter Friday afternoon, on my usual grocery day. But I moved it up, because another invitation for a free breakfast came in the mail from Sam's Club. It was the second free meal in nine days - putting my church congregation to shame, for only having potluck dinners once a month.

The Sam's Club "Business Event" occurred from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. So not wanting to appear too greedy, I arrived around 8:45 a.m. - and followed hardly any cars down Whittlesey Boulevard and into the parking lot. There wasn't even an SUV driver around, showing off his horsepower by racing around me.

(By the way, I noticed a METRA bus stop on Whittlesey Boulevard at the side of Sam's Club. So you don't have to add to a crowd of cars to shop there. In fact, this is one "business club" a METRA rider actually might find affordable.)

The Sam's Club parking lot seemed much emptier from a week before - and the store certainly was, in terms of customers. The prices didn't appear to have changed in nine days. So maybe I wasn't the only one who showed up last week for the free samples of cheesecake.

There were some discoveries at Sam's Club which I didn't notice the first time around:

+ Bill Heard Chevrolet sells cars at a ten-percent discount. This apparently gives the company the right to put large four-by-fours by the door, despite a clear "no parking" sign.

+ A couple of tables had displays of "water shorts." Some of us can remember when these things were called swim trunks.

+ The spice aisle has a "Canadian Steak Seasoning." I've never heard of a Canadian steak, and the ingredient list didn't mention maple at all. So is it made with ground-up hockey pucks?

I decided to buy something at Sam's Club this time, so I wouldn't be a complete moocher. That's when I realized something I hadn't noticed last week: the cashiers don't put what you buy in bags. There were empty boxes piled up around the checkout lanes -- making Family Dollar stores look upscale by comparison.

The free continental breakfast at Sam's Club also was "downsized" a bit from the week before. There were honey buns and cinnamon rolls, but no muffins. Maybe the early crowd read this blog about the chocolate chip muffins [18 Jan] and beat me to them.

An extra honey bun "for the road" was put in my used chocolate bar box with a giant bag of tortilla chips, and a small promotional Sam's Club "goodie bag." I received one of these last week as well, so let's compare....

+ Last week: Three pens (one a permanent marker), a "purple glue stick," a sheet protector, a mid-sized note pad, two sheets of matte photo paper, a travel-sized package of Kleenex - and a Rubbermaid spatula. I guess they want me to write down my recipes, stick the recipes in the sheet protector, then take pictures of the cakes I bake.

(Why does anyone need a PURPLE glue stick, anyway? If you can see the color of the glue after doing the work, isn't that a sign of trouble?)

+ This week: Two pens (one a permanent marker), a regular-colored glue stick, a CD-Rom for making labels, a refrigerator magnet promoting canned foods, a sample of disinfecting wipes - and a "Commercial Cleaning Sample Kit." Now I have some heavy duty degreaser. All I need next is a box of fried chicken.

Next stop: no, NOT the Wal-Mart SuperCenter next door. A couple of other tasks awaited me - and after a free breakfast, it was only fitting that I go to Beacon University to study someone's questions about an article I wrote on gluttony.

By following the arrows in the Sam's Club parking lot, I was able to get out on Whittlesey Boulevard fairly easily. There's only one main entrance with a traffic light to the "Wal-Mart complex." That's been good enough on U.S. 280 in Phenix City for nine years - so Columbus shoppers should realize it only SEEMS as big as a mall.

After an hour in the books at the Beacon University library and another errand on Weems Road, it was finally time to shop at the new Wal-Mart. The traffic reaching the store still wasn't that bad. In fact, the clogs came from confused drivers ignoring the arrows in the parking lot and going the wrong direction.

The North Columbus Wal-Mart is laid out similar to the Phenix City SuperCenter. But while Phenix City has a Blimpie restaurant tucked in the back, North Columbus has a McDonald's right up front by a main door. So if you shop for groceries on an empty stomach and buy more than you planned, you only have yourself to blame.

One advantage of the North Columbus Wal-Mart is that more traditional "grocery store" items such as detergent and candy are on the food side. They're in the center area in Phenix City. But as a result, there are more food aisles in North Columbus -- and they seem to be narrower, to make drivers complaining about Whittlesey Boulevard traffic feel right at home.

(A convoy of three shopping carts passed me in one narrow aisle - and I told the man pushing the third cart it's good to have drafting partners, like at the NASCAR races.)

Another disadvantage of the new Wal-Mart is that the aisle signs above the food section are parallel to the aisles. In most grocery stores, they're perpendicular. So if you get distracted by a whining two-year-old in a cart, you might miss what you're after.

But while the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter has thousands of items, I met one customer who was frustrated. "You know how an item is advertised, and then you go to the store and they don't have it?" a woman told me after surveying a wall of crackers. Oh yes, I know - and Rachael Ray should call the managers about those missing flavors of Wheat Thins.

The Wal-Mart "Food Center" had customers on a Thursday morning, but wasn't really crowded. The wait to check out wasn't very long at all. It confirmed a "grand opening" lesson I learned long ago in another city - good things come to those who wait a day or three.

But the new Wal-Mart may be complicated for drivers the first few times, in terms of exiting. A couple of stop signs around the Sam's Club gas station could back people up, as everyone tries to figure out whose turn it is. Well, the courteous drivers will try to figure it out - while regular users of J.R. Allen Parkway may ignore the stop signs and plow right on.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Meanwhile, back at the Phenix City Water Works....

The little birdie has mentioned that the money deal is more close to 41 million instead of the 22 million that was realeased, someone should read the fine print on the deal

The writer didn't say who this "little birdie" is. Is that what people call the East Alabama Journal now?

I'm not sure if this e-mailer supports the Phenix City-Russell County-Fort Mitchell water deal or not. If this information is true, Phenix City stands to make even more money from a merger than first reported - and that wall of condos along the river might wind up taller than the Government Center after all.

It finally was mild enough to jog by the river Thursday - and here's what else happened while we did:

+ The Georgia Department of Transportation held a public hearing on widening Interstate 185, from Saint Mary's Road to Fort Benning. This is needed because of BRAC - you know, the "troop surge" Columbus actually supports.

+ Third Infantry Division commander Rick Lynch warned the fight against terror will go on several more years. He claimed soldiers and their families are NOT complaining about the continued battle. It looks like Cindy Sheehan can't get a meeting with him, either.

+ Former Columbus TV newscaster Alicia Smith was named a morning news anchor in Detroit. If she thought she covered plenty of crime news here....

+ A national survey rated Hughston Orthopedic Hospital the best facility in the country for hip replacement surgery. It's enough to make you stand on your feet and shout, "Hip?! Hooray!"

+ The Northern Little League All-Stars were honored by the Georgia state legislature, for winning the World Series. WRBL reported the players autographed baseballs for each House and Senate member. Somehow I thought a career in government and "public service" worked the other way around.

(A newspaper headline about the Columbus Little League World Series win is on display at the state Capitol - next to part of a two-headed cow. I knew Northern's success last year was unbelievable, but this is a bit too much....)

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue told GPB's "Lawmakers" it will "take a lot of persuasion" to get him to sign Sen. Seth Harp's bill on Sunday alcohol sales. But Harp told WRBL Perdue has promised NOT to veto his bill. So is someone not telling the truth here? Or is Harp offering Perdue some land in Harris County?

+ Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman accused predecessor Nancy Worley of writing state checks one day after the inauguration last week. Worley says she was simply wrapping up state business, and calls Chapman "paranoid." And you thought it was strange for Jim Wetherington to be at the mayor's office in late December?!

+ Instant Message to Firehouse Subs at Cross Country Plaza: First of all, I could walk across the parking lot to Subway and get the same sandwich for $1.50 less. Secondly, your price board should tell me mushrooms cost 30 cents extra. And third, your "hook and ladder" sign needs a third definition - for what Boise State did in that bowl game.

COMING SOON: A new way to make this blog much funnier....

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Have you received any mail from Georgia's Governor lately? I did this week - and it was quite a surprise, because I didn't donate a penny to Sonny Perdue's reelection campaign.

I had no idea why Governor Perdue would send me a letter on official state stationery -- and at first I thought it was a form I'd need for my taxes. But a short letter from the governor was inside, saying he was introducing a new program called "Own Your Future." This was also a surprise, because it did NOT give Mr. Perdue's secrets to buying land.

The real point of "Own Your Future" is to encourage people older than 45 to plan for long-term care. So I guess this letter means from now on, no one will tell me I have my whole life in front of me.

The Governor's letter suggests Own Your Future is a combination state-federal project. But the logo of the Department of Health and Human Services is all over it. After all, if Georgia can't afford to pay for PeachCare, how can it afford all the retirees fleeing here from Florida?

In fact, the online information about Own Your Future is part of a federal web site. But the home page asks if I heard about the campaign through a letter from my Governor. This smells like a conspiracy to me - but then again, we still have a Republican President for at least two more years.

The letter from Governor Perdue explains long-term care in terms of needing help for "such routine tasks as bathing or dressing." I had trouble dressing way back in my high school years -- because my classmates made fun of my multi-colored sneakers a lot.

The Governor makes a good point when he writes many people fail to plan adequately for long-term care. A pamphlet with the letter warns long-term care expenses can be "very expensive." I never realized some nursing homes could be in cahoots with oil companies....

The Own Your Future letter urges me to write, call or go online to order a free long-term care planning kit. The kit includes an "audio CD" about preparing for the future - which has me wondering how visionary this campaign is. A good number of older people still haven't moved beyond cassette tapes.

The more I think about long-term care planning, the more guilty I become. I was offered a free burial plot years ago, and took a cemetery up on it. But that was in College Park, where I don't live anymore - and for all I know, future growth near the Atlanta Airport may have my plot under a hotel basement.

I also took advantage of a couple of offers for "accidental death insurance." They were free $1,000 policies -- and they were offered by Rich's Department Stores and SouthTrust Bank. I'm not even sure $1,000 would cover a trip down from Kansas City for my older brother to pick up my casket.

I bought a "Will Workshop" CD-Rom a couple of years ago and started filling in the boxes and lines. But then my old computer crashed and died. If I can outlive a hard drive, is this will kit really necessary?

It IS necessary, of course - but the Will Workshop made me stop and think at the section on disposing of personal possessions. You should I trust with certain valuable items? Who in my family would grasp the significance of my souvenir Columbus Riverdragons mini-basketball - which only needs one right signature to become an eBay treasure?

It's dangerous to put off updating your will, since no one really knows when (ahem) it will take effect. But my last version from the early 1990's gives money to a church congregation which I don't think exists anymore - and to a woman in California who would have to explain to her husband and two children why I would have "surprised" her like this when she was single.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now from someone older to someone younger....

Remember the young boy kidnapped from the bus stop in MO.?...I pass by a little one waiting alone,in the dark,at the edge of woods...MCSD says they can't correct bus stops..The lonely little kid told me the bus stops at the end of his driveway at a stop sign ,but the driver said he can't open the doors..He has to follow "orders" so, the little guy has to walk down a dark st with dogs barking at him,stand on a corner that backs up to woods and wait and wait in the dark...I wish every parent who has this problem would call RIchard Curry ,director of transportation ,at MCSD..He's in the book under MCSD..

I would wish something else for this boy - that a parent would be with him at the bus stop, or at least within eyesight. You'd think a working mom or dad's employer or supervisor would understand, and allow a few extra minutes in the morning for this. Just shorten their lunch hour to match what school children have.

(The idea of parents watching children at bus stops could require a bold move for some modern families. They actually would have to meet their neighbors, and try to work together with them.)

Oh, those streets with barking dogs! I used to walk with care around them when I was young - and my bus stop was one block from my house. I didn't know which one to root for one day, when several from around the neighborhood swarmed together for an after-school fight. But I fear some junior high school bullies quietly took notes on it.

Speaking of standing outside in the dark, let's review some Wednesday news headlines....

+ WRBL reported Uptown Columbus Inc. wants to end all outdoor music on Broadway at midnight. Any "whistling in the dark" would be left to business owners and investors.

+ Columbus Police announced the arrest of Ricky Carter on charges of breaking into 47 cars. You'd think someone with this sort of habit could find gainful employment - maybe inspecting trade-ins at a used car lot.

+ A Georgia Senate committee chair proposed putting Seth Harp's proposal on Sunday alcohol sales in a "summer study committee." There's nothing quite like studying alcohol during summertime - at the lake, in the backyard, next to a grill....

+ Georgia collared Kentucky in men's college basketball, winning 78-69 in overtime. But Kentucky still leads the all-time series 106 games to 22 - so maybe Bulldog Coach Dennis Felton can turn this win into a lifetime contract.

+ But Georgia Tech lost at Maryland 80-65. The Yellowjackets have lost 16 games in a row on the road - which is embarrassing, because not even the Atlanta Hawks do that anymore.

+ Instant Message to anyone selling satellite or cable TV sports packages: Sorry. Wednesday night I tuned in to Kentucky-Georgia, Georgia Southwestern-Columbus State, Vanderbilt-L.S.U., Tennessee-Mississippi, Florida-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Northwestern, Illinois-Chicago-Wisconsin-Green Bay, Missouri-Colorado, Pittsburgh-Cincinnati, Virginia-North Carolina State, DePaul-Georgetown AND hockey's All-Star Game. It's called AM radio.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas falls to $2.01 a gallon at Summit, 22nd Avenue and Victory Drive.... Chips Ahoy cookies for one dollar a box at Walgreens.... FREE dirt, if the Civic Center staff will tell you where they put it after the monster trucks left town....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, 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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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Columbus Council made some big decisions on priorities Tuesday. A new ice rink is in. A new indoor swimming pool is on hold. And if there's any way to slow down the buildup at the city landfill to make extra money, so much the better....

Columbus Council voted unanimously to commit money to a new ice rink. It will be attached to the Civic Center, either on the east or west side. Some of us wouldn't mind if it was on the south side -- to put it above the Riverwalk, so melting ice can cool joggers like me during summer.

The extra ice rink in South Commons has been discussed for years. It will give the Cottonmouths a place to practice, when the Civic Center is booked for other events - although you'd think roller skates in the parking lot at 10:00 a.m. would work about as well.

Columbus Civic Center manager Dale Hester sees a pot of gold in the new ice rink. He believes money can be made from rentals for parties and other events. It might even work as an "overflow room" for Civic Center events with big crowds - so maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses can get their convention finished in one weekend.

Dale Hester says the Civic Center lost thousands of dollars in youth hockey rentals over the last couple of weeks, because the floor was covered with dirt for other events. Excuse me, but I don't buy this logic. In bigger cities, the arena crew could dig up the dirt on Sunday and replace it on Friday morning - and I don't think Columbus is that low on prison inmates.

(And besides, why wouldn't groups be interested in renting the Civic Center with dirt on the main floor? An off-season bicycle motocross festival might be a lot of fun.)

Along with the ice rink, Columbus Council committed to a "skate park" in South Commons. No one answered the important question on my mind about this. Will the Christopher Columbus statue be moved off the Riverwalk, so skateboarders can keep jumping off it?

Space for the skate park actually was cleared and graded a couple of years ago. It's along Fourth Street next to Golden Park - on land WRBL showed as the former home of the "navel museum." If more people had known belly buttons were displayed there, the crowds might have been bigger.

But Columbus Council decided to delay a commitment for a new swimming pool, until more meetings are held on the idea. That's what happens when the decision comes in January, and not July....

The Columbus Council delay was a bit surprising, because there's actually been an online campaign promoting a new indoor swimming pool. It's called "Columbus Citizens for a Natatorium." Please don't confuse this with one of those Sunday nature programs at Oxbow Meadows - when it becomes a GNAT-atorium.

The "cc4natatorium" web site posted an alert urging supporters to contact Councilors and the Mayor's offices before Tuesday's meeting. Columbus Council decided to get more public input first -- which seems to mean they don't consider the swimming pool idea all wet completely.

The pro-natatorium group is using a moneymaking argument as well. It says an indoor "aquatic center" could be rented by private swim clubs, rehabilitation centers and Special Olympics. And if it's put in the right place, Talbot County residents could drive in and fill buckets with water the next time their service breaks down.

The pro-natatorium web site notes the Columbus Hurricanes swim team has to use the downtown YMCA for practice in the winter, whenever it can be scheduled. It's the only large-sized indoor swimming pool in town. They simply don't make the baptismal pools at Baptist churches big enough.

The pro-natatorium web site takes the Muscogee County School Board to task, for ruling out an aquatic center next to the Columbus Public Library. It argues the district has gym and fields for other school sports. Well, not quite. The swimmers should try playing football at Carver High - and figure out where ten yards of the field disappeared.

The group in favor of the aquatic center plans to advance its cause with "I.O.U." bracelets, similar to the yellow ones for fighting cancer. But you wonder why the supporters don't go after private donations and gifts for a natatorium, instead of relying on the city. Wouldn't it only make sense for backers to "pool" their resources?

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of South Commons, we walked around Golden Park the other day. The section of the outfield wall which collapsed from a storm last August has been rebuilt [26 Oct 06]. Where there once was a hole, there's now solid brick - but we admittedly did NOT try any kick-boxing techniques to test it.

It appears the grass and warning track inside the outfield wall at Golden Park has been restored as well. The field seems all set for another of those parties celebrating the Northern All-Stars Little League team.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Two Tuesday tidbits brought comments from readers. We start in East Alabama:


Funny you should mention the Lee County Detention Center being named the "Jay Jones Jail." The administration section of the new jail will be named the "Sheriff William S. Jones Center."

The center is named for Sheriff William "Buck" Jones. He was shot and killed in the line of duty June 29, 1932, while checking on a reported homicide in Opelika. As far as Jay knows, he is not related to the former sheriff.

Just thought I'd pass that tidbit along!


Do you mean to tell me - no, I really shouldn't write this - that 2007 marks the 75th anniversary of Buck shot?

Now for a reader who seems addicted to oil:

I have seen gas at a few places in alabama (Opelika and Smiths Sation) below the $2 mark this week and Georgia is above the $2 mark.

check this link on CNN - it is updated several times a day during the Stock market hours.

On that page look just below the Blue bar and click on OIL - this will take you to commodites.

Look what Unleaded gas is selling for Februray deliveries - gas prices are usually changed about 5 to 6 days after a change is noted on OIL Deliveries. Yeah I know, slow to change when it goes down and very fast when it goes up.

Now look at these places for Gas Prices in the Southeast.... it could be worse - look

The e-mail included links to lists of the lowest gas prices in several states - then to lists in California, New York and Hawaii, where prices are much higher than in Columbus. You almost wonder why those states aren't asking for help from the President of Venezuela.

The CNN link shows oil futures prices jumped Tuesday, to more than 55 dollars a barrel. The increase was blamed in part on the federal government deciding to expand its "Strategic Petroleum Reserve." You know where this fuel is going, of course -- to fuel rumors about an attack on Iran.

Sorry, Hurtsboro - we meant what we said about "Mondays only." Your e-mails will have to wait, while we check other news from a chilly Tuesday:

+ St. Luke School held a special evening called "Parent University." It seemed to attract a big crowd - so few moms and dads said "P-U" to this idea.

(Based on the school's web site, Parent University had seminars on a wide range of education-related topics. I guessed mothers and fathers might have to write an essay, to post in the classrooms.)

+ WRBL showed a groundbreaking ceremony in Valley, for the new "Fob James Drive Lifestyle Center." Some of us can remember when these things were called subdivisions....

+ Instant Message to President Bush: I confess -- I wasn't planning to watch your State of the Union speech Tuesday night. I had something much more important on the schedule. But for some reason, WSHE-AM didn't broadcast the first part of the Alabama-Auburn basketball game.

(WSHE joined the game in progress, about 30 minutes after it started. I wondered if Auburn Network President Mike Hubbard had arranged a delay in the tipoff, as a favor to his fellow Republican.)

+ As for the game: Auburn assaulted Alabama 81-57. Somebody's gotta ask it - why is a ranked team like the Crimson Tide playing so badly on the road? This makes three huge conference losses in a row, away from Tuscaloosa. If I didn't know better, I'd think Mike Shula drives the basketball team bus.

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: A letter from the Governor.... directly to me!....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, 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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Monday, January 22, 2007



What? What? This question was asked of me as I walked into a supermarket on South Lumpkin Road Monday afternoon - and surprisingly, it did NOT come from a one-year-old baby.

I stopped the walk just outside the door, and turned toward a middle-aged man holding a metal cane. His voice was hesitant, so he had to repeat himself. "Wawa? Are you Barry Young [not the real name]? You used to do the lights?"

"Go back to the beginning," I said to the man to be sure I understood him. "Wawa?" This could have meant many things....

+ He could have been a beggar, asking me to give him some water. Don't supermarkets have drinking fountains in the back corner anymore? Or is that dangerous, without some anti-bacterial soap present?

+ He could have been asking for a ride -- but people in the Florida panhandle call the town of Wewahitchka "Wee-wa" for short.

+ The real longshot possibility: he thought I was a distant relative of Barbara Walters - or even Elmer Fudd.

"I thought you were Barry Young," the man explained. "I used to work with him years ago."

"And he did the lights?"

"Yeah." I had visions of this man hanging strings of lights on the Riverwalk in November.

"Where?" I asked the man with a cane.

"Over at The Forum." He pointed north - but he stumped me. I'd never heard of The Forum. At least not in Columbus. But I seriously doubt he meant the old hockey arena in Montreal.

"He did the lights at The Forum and said 'wa-wa' when he moved them," the man said shuffling his hands back and forth like he was at a control panel. "So we called him Wawa." At least he didn't say anything involving the word "crack."

At last I had an explanation - but by this point, the man with the cane realized I was NOT Barry Young. "I thought you might be him, after all these years. I'm not a crazy man." OK, I'll take his word for it. But with a nickname like that, maybe Barry moved out west to Walla Walla.

You probably don't care about the milk and sweet rolls I bought inside the supermarket - so we'll move on to other Monday highlights:

+ The late news noted the official Columbus temperature has not dropped below freezing in 43 days. I hope our readers in Malibu and Phoenix who saw snow are jealous.

+ The 598th Maintenance Company held a deployment ceremony at Fort Benning. Soldiers leave next week, for what an Army statement calls "southwest Asia." Have things become so touchy that the government is afraid to call it Iraq?

+ The staff of Mario's Italian Restaurant on Broadway complained they've been unable to open some evenings, because the sidewalk part of the Streetscape project still isn't finished. I think the staff simply needs to be more creative. Pour some food coloring on the mud, decorate the orange barrels, then declare a "Pompeii volcano" night.

(Uptown Columbus President Richard Bishop promises the Streetscape work on Broadway will be completely finished by summer -- just in time for the next police crackdown to scare beer-drinking customers away.)

+ Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington had a busy day - cutting the ribbon for the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter on Whittlesey Boulevard, then cutting the ribbon for the reopened Sandwich Shanty downtown. I hope he had time to rest, between those events....

+ Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones showed off a newly-expanded detention center. When it opens in May, criminals will be assigned to various "pods" inside the center - so even behind bars, inmates can experience podcasts.

(For some reason, Lee County calls it a "detention center." Maybe years from now, they'll officially name it the Jay Jones Jail.)

+ The Plains City Council asked the city attorney to investigate whether sagging "low-rider" jeans can be outlawed. City officials fear the clothing will distract tourists visiting the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. Besides, statistics show inflation did NOT drop while Mr. Carter was President....

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, requesting Congress approve $131 million in federal money for the PeachCare program. It's at moments like this that some Republicans wonder if Perdue really converted to their party.

+ San Diego Padres baseball player Mike Cameron was the guest speaker at the Kendrick High School football banquet. Yes, I know Cameron grew up in LaGrange. But a baseball player, speaking at a football banquet?! Isn't this a bit like Zell Miller speaking at a Republican party convention?! I mean.... oh wait....

+ Miami police confirmed Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will NOT face criminal charges, for that water bottle seized at the airport. This marks Vick's first post-season victory since the 2004 divisional playoffs.

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Phil Scoggins: You didn't have to fill your gas tank for $2.16 a gallon, you know. The price was as low as $2.03 on Victory Drive Monday - and your staff could help improve the Columbus South economy while it's there.

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Did you hear the good news about Hurtsboro? The Russell County town is receiving a state grant of more than $125,000 for new park equipment. I had to learn this from the Friday evening news - because no one in Hurtsboro seems to be sharing good news like this with me....

I've learned more about Hurtsboro since the first of the year than I ever expected to know. In fact, I've learned some things that I'm not really sure I want to know. Some of these things would make a great prime-time TV drama - except "Desperate Housewives" already beat me to it.

If you've been following along in recent weeks, you may already know what's coming. We've heard again from the Russell County Constable who lives in Hurtsboro. I hesitate to write that he "serves" Hurtsboro, because many residents don't seem to think he really does.

Since our last focus on Hurtsboro four days ago, Robert Schweiger has sent us two e-mails and a "snail mail" about the town. It's now reached the point of naming names and making personal accusations -- and what makes this even more amazing is that the election ended two months ago.

We're choosing to edit some of Robert Schweiger's first e-mail, for reasons we'll explain below:


I certainly am glad that I'm a contributing factor in your circulation! I'm a firm believer that Publicity is PUBLICITY even if it's inaccurate.

There's only one thing that concerns me! In the past, when I contributed to newspapers or appeared on TV they covered their posteriors or other parts of their anatomy with disclaimers or by requesting my sign-off. Now, I wouldn't want anyone to give you any skewed information - so why don't you come to either end of this ol' hoss - and ask me! My life is an open book!

But, if you like diversity - here's the names of four businessmen in "Hurt'sboro; who will give you an earful!.... I look forward to a rebuttal phase! I've tried to get these guys to a public forum on previous occasions - They and the City officials opted to spread propaganda and boycot those gatherings!

One more thing and I will leave it at that. The "Concerned" Citizen [17 Jan] said that I spouted "venom!" I prefer to call it "Truth" serum!

The man that lays down with dogs!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

If this Constable is suggesting "any publicity is better than no publicity," he needs to send note of encouragements to Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

R.J. Schwieger indeed named four Hurtsboro businessmen -- but I'm not going to do it here. The reason: one of them threatened to "come after" me if his/her name appeared here. Yes sir, those little towns can be very friendly places....

Because R.J. Schweiger named four names in Hurtsboro, I made several phone calls Friday afternoon which I absolutely did NOT want to make. I tried to call the people to get their side of the story -- realizing some of them might hear the name "Schweiger," and start calling me names other than Richard.

But before I picked up the phone, R.J. Schweiger's "snail mail" reached my box. It had seven photocopied documents, listing ten specific complaints against Hurtsboro's government and other accusations against several residents. If everything he wrote is true, the Alabama state grant money for park improvements might wind up putting rusty basketball goals in the middle of an open dump.

I was unable to reach one of the four people R.J. Schweiger listed. Another politely declined to comment. A third made the threat to "come after" me, saying: "I'm fed up with that man." This is where a caller to "Rise N' Shine" awhile back had a good idea - put all these people in a professional wrestling ring.

The wife of one Hurtsboro business owner was willing to talk with me - and she had plenty to say. Renee Williams says her husband hired R.J. Schweiger's wife to work at a convenience store. Then the Schweigers' marriage fell apart - and the Constable reportedly tried to have his wife fired for stealing store money. But the only thing reportedly missing was the Constable's love life....

Store owner Gary Williams was named in R.J. Schweiger's documents - because of a polygraph report. The Constable came to Columbus in 2004 and passed a test, regarding whether Williams threatened him. But Schweiger ought to know those exams are NOT allowed in most courts - and they certainly didn't help Anita Hill years ago.

Renee Williams confirmed something R.J. Schweiger wrote longhand on his polygraph document - that her husband served a five-year prison term for drug running. But she says Gary Williams has kept himself out of trouble since 1999. Well, except when the Constable tries to stir up some FOR him....

Gary Williams and R.J. Schweiger wound up in court over a dispute - and Williams' wife says Judge Michael Bellamy found nothing worthy of a conviction. But he reportedly told the men to stay as far from each other as possible. In a town of about 700 people like Hurtsboro, this might require careful scheduling of gas tank fill-ups.

Hurtsboro has three police officers, and the documents indicate Constable Schweiger doesn't like at least one of them. A letter from an Alabama state commission notes an officer was terminated in October 2004, because the police chief didn't require him to take a recertification course. But after the course was taken, the officer came back -- when he could have moved to Columbus for a big raise.

I could go much farther with this, but let's sum things up to this point. Several people in Hurtsboro made it clear to me that their Constable is nothing to be proud about - and is angry to the point of being a local embarrassment. "Grumpy Old Men" tend to be funny only in the movies, you know....

And you know what? Based on the Constable's second e-mail to me in recent days, he might just agree with all his critics:

In review of the occurances in "Hurt"sboro over the past three years - I've come to wonder - who is the brilliant strategist at City Hall? Or are the maneuvers therin just the knee-jerk reactions of the shamed!

Either way; they have avoided facing up to the issues by simply not responding or diverting public attention to the shortcomings of any accuser!

I plead guilty to being their principal challenger! And, although I have been demeaned in almost every possible way - I intend to continue questioning the actions of the Mayor and Council, until there's some straight answers!

Perhaps it's presumptious for me as an individual to challenge city leaders - but it is my right as a taxpayer.and believe me, I intend to exercise that privelege!

A recent headline [8 Jan] informed of the troubles of one "Hurt"sboro councilior, and if the authorities continue to dig for facts (I've many in hand) there will be more names added to the list. It's time to face the music in this old town!

My quest for justice has been labled a "Witch Hunt" by the folks at City Hall. But now, their false lables and thinning smoke screens have begun to fail! It will be interesting to see what transpires; when the truth finally comes out!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

There was something familiar to me in this second message -- and Sunday night it finally occurred to me. This is the sort of speech Venezuela's President could give at the United Nations.

Some people in Hurtsboro suspect R.J. Schweiger wants the town dissolved by Russell County because he hates many local leaders. Others think he's simply losing his wits with age -- as if when his wife left him, she took the rocker he was on.

If Hurtsboro is as troubled as R.J. Schweiger claims, I wonder why he doesn't run for Mayor as the man to "clean up the town." That way we'll know if the people are on his side. But then again, maybe he hasn't run because he already knows the answer....

Whether the Constable is a crusader, a clown or a little bit of both, one thing has become clear in the last three weeks: Hurtsboro is too well-named. A number of people are hurting psychologically and emotionally, and some may actually be threatening to hurt each other. I'm not sure all the issues in this town could be solved by a giant meeting with Dr. Phil McGraw.

If anyone wants to continue this, uh, discussion, I'm willing to keep it up. But from now until further notice (unless there's big breaking news), we're going to limit the Hurtsboro updates to Mondays. This little town will have its own day of the week - and for a town with 0.4 percent of the population of Columbus, that's pretty big of me.

Now let's all go back to our corners, and consider some weekend news from outside Hurtsboro. In places such as -- hey, maybe Columbus:

+ The Wal-Mart store on Airport Thruway closed, in preparation for today's grand opening of a SuperCenter on Whittlesey Boulevard. One woman complained to WRBL the final day didn't have many good sales. I have two words for this woman - try Parisian.

+ An online check confirmed Bear O'Brien has left WSTH-FM "Rooster 106," to become a morning radio host in Montgomery. O'Brien also was the "in-store radio" voice of Piggly Wiggly supermarkets. This move makes sense to me - since Bears, Roosters and Pigs only seem to mix in Chinese calendars.

+ The Montgomery Advertiser web site showed pictures of a Saturday parade, marking the 200th birthday of Robert E. Lee. About 150 people marched in the parade - and apparently none of them were from the Ku Klux Klan.

+ The "New Hope Revival Center" broadcast on WSHE-AM featured a pastor sharing his recent "vision" of tanks rolling in dusty hills. A voice from the tanks told the pastor, "We're going to secure the border." Then the phone line to the church service was disconnected TWICE for several minutes - so why is Mexico's government so concerned about this man?

(The Smiths Station pastor went on to say the protesters of President Bush's recent trip to Fort Benning were "stupid," because the President probably never knew they were on Victory Drive. He added he prays for soldiers overseas every day - but if they don't know he's doing it, where does that put him?)

+ ESPN reported the bottle seized from Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick at the Miami airport did NOT have traces of marijuana after all. In fact, it had NO illegal substance at all - so Vick must have used one very old tea bag.

+ Instant Message to the National Football League: OK, I'll make an exception -- this time only. I won't make fun of the Super Bowl taking place in February this year. Considering the coaches who won Sunday, it's only fitting to have this year's game during Black History Month.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007


Uh-oh - seven months of investigating at Fort Benning have ended with the arrests of alleged illegal immigrants. Some of them could face felony charges. For instance, if the word "Jihad" is in their names....

The clamp came down this past week at the Fort Benning gates, by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents. Even this far South, you have to watch out for ICE in the winter.

Federal agents made 21 arrests of possible illegal immigrants, who apparently were doing construction work at Fort Benning. These suspects may not realize there was a legal way around all this. Simply do a different kind of "work" -- by enlisting and doing a tour in Iraq.

The U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers actually is in charge of Fort Benning construction work. The Corps explains it hires contractors, and it's up to the contractors to hire legal workers. So in a way, this is a case where the Army says: "Follow THEM."

Fort Benning officers say illegal immigrants can get past security checkpoints and onto post, if they're in a car where one person has legal identification. This is the most unusual spinoff of "Safety Cab" I've ever found....

But Fort Benning promises rule changes are coming later this year, to more closely check the identification shown at its gates. For instance, a system of badges is planned for contractors. Now THAT should settle everything! Just ask the Muscogee County Marshal how easy a badge system can be.

Only WRBL's web site has mentioned the national background of the illegal immigrant suspects. It shows they're from Mexico, Guatemala and Italy -- yet I'm still a bit concerned. Is there a security hole here, which could allow potential terrorists onto Fort Benning? To hear Hugo Chavez talk, not everyone coming to this country from Venezuela nowadays might be a baseball player....

Even further: does news of this crackdown open a door for other people to invade Fort Benning? The SOA Watch protesters might quit coming to town aboard charter buses, and simply use a convoy of mid-sized cars.

There are other loopholes which terrorists could exploit to enter Fort Benning, which are even more obvious. But maybe I'd better stop here, and NOT list them. I might be accused of aiding "the enemy" - although a spike in readers from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would inflate my ego a bit.

(I'll only drop this hint -- if Columbus city workers don't need that fence around the Second Avenue bridge, it might look nice and useful at the end of Saint Mary's Road.)

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: Two young women had just finished a discussion with Columbus Police officers. They walked into a South Lumpkin Road business, ready to talk about it -- but in a quiet tone of voice.

"We were in that Cuban grocery store, and they accused her of stealing some water without paying for it. We offered to go to the back to have them search her, but they wouldn't.... I think it was a race thing, 'cause I've got money, honey."

Maybe it's more than a race thing -- because the grocery stores near these women are Mexican and Puerto Rican, not Cuban.

We'll let the police sort that out, while we send some Instant Messages....

+ To The Courier newspaper: If your "Street Committee" really thinks REGINALD Pugh is a Columbus Councilor, it's seriously lacking in "street cred."

+ To whomever put up posters on Victory Drive saying, "Chill Will, the Poor People's President": Is that what they're calling Mr. Clinton now?

+ To the Lee County Commission: Did you forget it, too? I didn't realize until late Friday night that Friday was the 200th birthday of Robert E. Lee. But there were no celebrations - not even by Lester Maddox's relatives.

+ To Hyundai of Auburn: Aw, c'mon - what do you mean, your mailing "will be your only notice!!"? I've seen your grand opening commercial on TV at least once....

+ To John Sumner, the general manager of Bill Heard Chevrolet: What happened to Phil Carter? His jackets were a lot more interesting to watch in commercials than yours.

+ To Carol Johnston of the Auburn University fisheries division: That was fascinating! You recorded fish underwater, making noises to attract mates during breeding season. The next time I'm around single women, I guess I'll actually speak up a bit.

+ To the Northern Little League All-Stars: What a surprise - seeing you bag groceries Saturday at a Winn-Dixie store! As I recall, Kurt Warner's sports career went in the other direction....

+ To Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick: How could you? I mean, you should know the law as well as anybody else! You should have known 20-ounce bottles can't be carried aboard airplanes these days.

+ To the man who was sitting at the edge of the road outside Port Columbus Friday, wearing a western hat: I guess someone already told you, didn't they? The Pro Bull Riding was in town LAST weekend.

COMING MONDAY: Did I say this Hurtsboro thing was getting very ugly? Just you wait....

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Friday, January 19, 2007


(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.)

The Biblical book of Revelation says when Jesus comes back, "every eye shall see Him." I heard a minister say years ago this will be possible because the return will be televised live on CNN. Then I'd joke with friends in Atlanta that the smaller cable channel where I worked would miss the big moment -- because we'd probably be in a commercial break.

(That statement was not entirely fiction. Next week will mark 21 years since the Challenger space shuttle -- and while CNN showed it live, CNN Headline News was in a pre-set commercial break at 11:38 a.m. ET. Television news can be a lot like real estate: timing is everything.)

Assuming Jesus's return from heaven is televised live, someone probably will be offering narration of the big event. So I started wondering this week - what would happen if well-known sportscasters were on the air in Jerusalem, watching it? This would certainly be the biggest comeback they've ever witnessed....

Thanks to the Internet, we can give you our own idea of what sportscasters might someday say. We'll do that in several upcoming Saturdays - and our first choice is inspired by the news this week that Don Sutton is moving from Atlanta to baseball's Washington Nationals. Who will say "That's right, Skip" to Skip Carey now?!?!

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The annual "One Columbus" recognition dinner was held Thursday night at the Columbus Trade Center. People who didn't know better about this group might have been disappointed - because tickets cost 40 dollars, not one.

Two people were honored at the banquet, for their efforts to promote "One Columbus." The "Unity Chalice" went to former City Manager Carmen Cavezza - who, from what we can tell, turned his back on the unpaid landfill fees of all ethnic communities.

I suspect Carmen Cavezza received the award for much more than his work with the One Columbus organization. His promotions of assistants at the Government Center led to Isaiah Hugley becoming the city's first African-American City Manager - and ensured someone would replace the Doziers as the city's most powerful political couple.

The other award at the One Columbus banquet was given to a Hardaway High School student. Philandria Williams won an essay contest, and summed up her submission this way: "If everyone was the same, the world would be a boring place...." And imagine the long line you'd face at McDonald's to buy dinner.

According to the One Columbus web site, the theme of Thursday night's banquet was "Building Bridges, Connecting People." This theme came very close to occurring in real life this week - but Mayor Wetherington prevented the handcuffing of homeless people under the Second Avenue bridge.

The overall goal of One Columbus is to promote and improve race relations. You can see and hear the impact of this effort all around town. For instance, Davis Broadcasting now has TWO radio stations where you can hear white announcers and singers.

One kind of "bridge-building" One Columbus praises is a program which might be called "pulpit swap," where ministers in different parts of town trade churches for a week. Yet I suspect even this has his limits. I doubt many rabbis would let firebrand Baptist evangelists come in and give a sermon.

One Columbus already seems to be taking bold new steps in 2007, to promote racial harmony. Did you notice tickets go on sale Saturday at the Civic Center, for a performance by Blue Man Group?

But the last year brought a few setbacks in the effort to build One Columbus. WRBL dropped an African-American morning news anchor. WRCG dropped its African-American co-host on "TalkLine." And I'm still waiting for the Cottonmouths to announce a "minority set-aside" program.

This week's issue of the Columbus Times came out Thursday, with an interesting column along the lines of One Columbus. It urges African-American people to stop using the "M-word." The M stands for "minorities." Shame on you old-time Southerners, who thought it stood for "Master."

The author of this column makes a good point, because Census Bureau numbers show there is NO majority ethnic community in Columbus right now. Each group makes up less than 50 percent of the population. So if there's any such thing as a "race war" in this city these days, it's happening in obstetrics offices and delivery rooms.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Someone in East Alabama has a lot on his/her mind - and for a change, Hurtsboro has nothing to do with it:

Phenix City Council Approves Widening of Stadium Drive

if I heard it right, the bids are not even to go out until late this year and work starts sometime in 08, buy that time -all of those new houses up on the hill should have been built and wondering on who(m) pushed to have the intersection redone...?

While listening to the news about Gov. Inauguration speech - the word Alabamians sure sounded a lot like ALIENS - maybe some UFO sightings in the speech would put it into perspective..

I say Alabamians should be replaced with Alanbaman's - more fitting for us Alabama Aliens

Mayor Hardin was on TV trying to explain his version of the water deal, saying mis info has been spread about what the deal really is..I watch and listened to it and could not understand it.

If I have told correct- that Phenix City water is trying to sell 1/3 to Fort Mitchell water and 1/3 to Russell county water and the 2 will have to come up with around 24 million dollars to give Phenix city and then Phenix City will be able to tell Fort Mitchell water and Russell county water what to do in their own territory..This is where that wrongful annexation to Phenix City is popping up. Will others tell me if this is Correct and if this not right - Please someone with the facts say it anit' so...

Seems that the east of river news paper agree's with many, that news on the west side of the river only needs a small section to be delivered mid week to us and no charge for the news. Does someone still live in the Smiths Station area work at the newspaper with a high ranking editors spot- you knowz - the one that keeps the news out of the paper. Yes, there Deadly car wreacks, house fires, disputes with guns, killings, robberies and unbelievable acts by elected officials,,does it make the news,,only when the east side of the river s low on reports to announce..

Well, at least I THOUGHT this had nothing to do with Hurtsboro. But then I started reading all the problems in that last paragraph -- and I wondered if the armed gangs had moved.

I would hope the widening of Stadium Drive is due to complaints by ALL drivers, and not only developers. After all, that street connects Garrett-Harrison Stadium with Phenix City Central High School - and some of those football linemen are pretty wide-bodied nowadays.

But we should note at a Thursday work session, Phenix City Council discussed a shortage of money to pay for improvements on Broad Street. That's a "streetscape" project where the road would be narrowed - and digging up those extra lanes to move them to Stadium Drive can't be cheap.

That's an interesting idea, for changing the name of an Alabama resident. Why, people with Irish heritage should have their own name - O'Bamas.

Let's try to sort out this "mini-water war" again. Phenix City, Fort Mitchell and Russell County would form a joint "water authority," each with one-third control. So Phenix City would not necessarily tell Fort Mitchell what to do, nor could Fort Mitchell necessarily tell Phenix City what to do. Think of it as a small-scale version of the United Nations Security Council.

I think the free "small section" newspaper this writer is describing is the East Alabama Journal, which is printed by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. It's competing against the Phenix Citizen-News, which costs 50 cents. So the question is whether Phenix City and Smiths Station are "four-bit" towns or not.

We're holding one other e-mail for another day - mainly because I want to take a break from the Hurtsboro debate. If "One Columbus" ever wants to expand to nearby towns, this would be a great place to start....

So let's call the roll of other Thursday news items:

+ Columbus Planning Director Rick Jones told WRBL a lack of investment capital is delaying the construction of a new marina. OK, Al Fleming! You've complained about this for years. Now put some of that nightclub money where your mouth is -- and maybe they'll name the marina in your honor after all.

(Rick Jones added construction of a "rails to trails" path should begin by summer. Eventually it will extend from the 14th Street Bridge downtown to Psalmond Road - making future Country's Midnight Express runs longer and more challenging than ever.)

+ Harris County School Superintendent Susan Andrews said the proposed Georgia education budget includes money for a third middle school. It would be built in Cataula - and maybe it should be a geography magnet school, dedicated to keeping Cataula on Georgia state maps.

+ A report from the Alabama Department of Education warned 16 percent of Russell County High School freshmen are projected to drop out in the next four years. Apparently no projections were made about the high school faculty doing the same....

+ Synovus reported its fourth-quarter earnings were up 28 percent from the year before. Yippee! The new "CB&T of East Alabama" in downtown Phenix City will have even fancier couches than I imagined....

+ A Georgia Public Safety official admitted to state lawmakers the State Patrol cannot fill its openings for troopers. Five graduates of last year's "trooper school" already have resigned - and if the patrol would kindly hand over those names to Mayor Wetherington, he'll track them down with nice contracts.

+ Time magazine announced its Atlanta bureau will close, in a wave of staff cuts. So how much champagne did they drink Thursday evening at "Columbus and the Valley?"

+ King Ford in Valley joined the infomercial wave, by selling cars for 30 minutes on WLGA TV-66. But the folks there have a long way to go to match the quality of Rivertown Ford in Columbus. "Bubba" in his overalls needs a supporting cast of people in funny outfits.

+ Columbus State men's basketball coach Doug Branson kicked three players off the team, for some kind of improper conduct. One of them is top scorer Alton Hart, who fractured an ankle last weekend - so he couldn't possibly have been caught in the wrong dance club.

+ Authorities at the Miami airport said they seized a water bottle with a secret compartment from Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick -- and the bottle had residue resembling marijuana. I knew the Falcons' season had gone to pot, but this is ridiculous....

+ Instant Message to the St. Luke United Methodist Church Fitness Center: Trust me from my own observations -- if someone has tuned one of your televisions to show the Weather Channel non-stop, he's NOT watching for the weather. He's probably sinning, by lusting after the good-looking meteorologists.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: We start a new series about a big upcoming event.... and you'll need your speakers on for it....

This blog had more than 28,000 visits in 2006, from people in Columbus and around the world. To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, 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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