Wednesday, January 30, 2008

for 31 JAN 08: HEADACHE #101

Undaunted by our recent posts, an in-depth investigation of Hurtsboro will come out tonight after all. This blog has NOT been interviewed as part of it. So we'll see if we're going to be ambushed, and declared a big joke - which is kind of what we try to be, anyway....

"Hurtsboro Headache" is the title of a special report being promoted by WRBL. In a way, I can relate to that title. Over the last 13 months, we've received more news tips about problems in Hurtsboro than we have anything else. But then again, 99 percent of them have come from the same person - and about the only uplifting things he's sent us have been country songs.

The commercial promoting "Hurtsboro Headache" promises Tim Reid will be "demanding answers" about all sorts of issues in the town. Given all the issues that were mentioned, there may not be time in the 11:00 p.m. news for any other stories....

Perhaps Tim Reid will touch on some of these new complaints from Hurtsboro. We've had no response to some of these from Union Springs city officials, so we bring out an e-mail from last week today:

Sir Richard:

It seems almost routine; that newscasts air coverage of police officers who are in trouble. These allegations, accusations, and convictions range the gamut - everything from drug trafficking and child molestation to homicide. I guess that it should be no surprise; that town's like "Hurt'sboro who employ cast-offs from other departments, and make inadequate background checks end up with individuals that are less than worthy!

Recent disclosures by THE BLOG OF COLUMBUS and WTVM reveal some very disturbing facts about our interim police chief. His past conduct hardly behooves the requisites for a police officer. And that is only half the story. His conduct in "Hurt'sboro is under ongoing investigation.

As if to add insult to injury - the town employs another reject from Union Springs, (to be fair I must admit, that "Hurt'sboro and Union Springs have bounced officers back and forth like ping-pong balls) Our "patrol" officer; Fuesal Turner, was discharged from USPD for putting city gasoline in his girl friend's automobile. His alibi was ridiculous!

There's been a shake-up at the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The new monitor is painfully aware - that "Hurt'sboro hasn't anted up the $10,000.00 it signed for, but she intends to collect it.

In closing- ADEM has finally had enough, and has scheduled a hearing later this month in regard to the unsanitary conditions at our "dump" on River Street.

Constable R.J. Schweiger

We mentioned "Jake" Turner's record of three speeding tickets earlier this week. If the Constable didn't drive so slowly through Hurtsboro, the police department would have room to floor it some more.

We always have new people discovering this blog, so we should explain some of these gripes. R.J. Schweiger says Hurtsboro was supposed to provide matching funds to receive state grant money for a new City Park But grant writer Bob Corwin told us last May that's not true [14 May 07]. So perhaps this $10,000 can wait on a resident winning the Georgia Lottery.

Hurtsboro has had plenty of problems with garbage in the last year. I'm not sure if the Constable or someone else reported the city.... well, is it a landfill? I can't believe it's really called a "dump" - since that term used to be reserved for big cities, such as Chicago.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management hasn't returned our calls about the trash situation in Hurtsboro. So ADEM joins the Union Springs Police, the former employer of Hurtsboro Mayor Sandra Tarver-Yoba - and plenty of attractive women I knew years ago.

Here are some of the Hurtsboro issues WRBL promises to address in its special report, and what we already know about them:

1. WHERE'S THE MAYOR? Sandra Tarver-Yoba's phone number isn't listed in the AT&T directory. In fact, an acquaintance of hers tells me she no longer works in Hurtsboro - and if the Tarver Beauty salon won't take her, that's not a good sign.

2. POLICE SERVICE. At least we've learned Hurtsboro still has some. The officers have been busy doing close-up surveillance work down Main Street.

3. TRASH UNCOLLECTED. At least Hurtsboro residents have waited only for a couple of weeks at a time. Naples, Italy has had garbage piled on the sidewalks for months - and that country is considered romantic.

A revised schedule means an early deadline for a couple of days, so we'll stop here and close with some Instant Messages....

+ To all the advance voters who have marked ballots for John Edwards and Rudolph Giuliani: How are you feeling right now? A bit like someone who urged Fred Thompson to run for President last year?

+ To the Georgia Transportation Task Force: Aw c'mon -- you want a one-cent sales tax, too? Between your proposal, the Muscogee County School Board and Mayor Wetherington, it's no wonder Mike Huckabee's "national sales tax" plan has become ignored.

+ To David Seagraves at Sumter Regional Hospital: Really now - do you HAVE to lay off those 31 employees? Can't you put them to work on a demolition or rebuilding crew?

+ To Donald Johnson of Phenix City: That was an impressive display on WLTZ -- your eight years of aluminum can tabs, attached in a chain! But if you actually keep track of which years you collected which tabs, that's a bit over the pop top for me.

+ To the Columbus High School volleyball team: That's a nice billboard on Wynnton Road, celebrating your state championship. I'll assume some friends of Mayor Wetherington paid for that one, too - but you should have called Carver High, about being part of their parade.

+ To KCSP Radio in Kansas City and KLWN in Lawrence, Kansas: PLEASE fix your online streaming audio. I was forced to listen to the Kansas-Kansas State basketball game through Kansas State broadcasters - and they're simply SO biased....

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.89 a gallon at Petro, Brown Avenue and Cusseta Road.... Publix two-liter sodas for 50 cents.... FREE tennis balls, left sitting around the Columbus State University courts after practice most days....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Friday's entry will be posted around 8:15 a.m. ET.)

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1299 (+ 52, 4.2%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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It looks like my raising coin laundry is raising the prices for washers. The one-dollar stickers were removed when I was there late last week. But I still was able to get the machines working with four quarters - thanks to some creative pushing, and scrambling the quarters into seemingly the lock-safe combination.

BLOGGER BEGGAR #2 (of 2008): The man walked up to me at the wall of driers on South Lumpkin Road, for a short and to-the-point conversation.




"What do you need it for?" Too wordy. I should have simply asked why.

"Something to eat." Now this is 21st-century begging, from one man to another -- with so few words that we could have text-messaged each other just as easily.

The man looked like he could have needed heat, as well as eats. He wore two coats - a winter coat in its proper place, and what looked like a burgundy blazer over his head. Those economic stimulus checks from Washington could buy a lot of wool winter hats.

"Let's go," I told the man and directed him toward the coin laundry door. This was risky, since I had a full load of clothes in a dryer. I've often wondered if beggars show up at laundromats to lure me outside in mid-load, so a second person can move in and steal my dress shirts.

But on this day, I did NOT think something was up. This man's appearance and language skills made me think he was somewhat mentally disabled. You might say he was acting "slow" too well to be acting.

The closest restaurant at the strip mall where I do laundry is a new Korean place called the "Sonny Diner." I made sure it accepted credit cards, because I try to avoid simply giving money to unknown beggars - and this restaurant showed no sign of a dollar menu.

The Sonny Diner was empty at about 11:30 a.m., save for a staff member talking with a supplier. Unsure if a server would come out to help us, the beggar and I sat down at a booth with nice water glasses. But there was no water pitcher on the table -- better for handling a drought and a nice tip.

"How long have you done this?" I tried to ask the man. "How long have you been begging?" Either his answer was so mumbled I couldn't understand it -- or my question was so complex that it might also have stumped Jessica Simpson.

After waiting a moment for help, I decided the place to be served was at the cash register in the back. The beggar walked there with me, and I asked about the "American lunch" offered on the door. The Sonny Diner also offers a "Korean lunch" - the difference apparently being that one serves meat loaf, and the other comes with rice.

The American lunch seemed to be a $5.95 special - but instead, the woman at the cash register handed me a pamphlet menu. "Can you read this?" I asked the beggar as I passed it on. He indicated he could - which was remarkable, considering part of it seemed to be in Korean.

In only a moment, the beggar pointed to what he wanted - "yellow croaker" for $13.95. With tax and tip added at the register, his one-dollar request wound up costing me 17 times more than that. This is why I didn't apply to become Atlanta Falcons general manager.

I explained to the woman at the register that I was buying for a beggar, not for me. She said it was very nice for me to do that -- but I was NOT rewarded with a mint, like Sonic might have done.

Since I still had clothes spinning in a dryer, I said goodbye to the beggar and went back to the coin laundry. Thankfully, no items were missing. In fact, that was an improvement from two weeks before - when I somehow wound up one green sock short.

The dryer didn't cost me much money, which made up a little for what the beggar needed. But before I started the car to drive home, I had to check inside the Sonny Diner door again. I was relieved to see the beggar still there, staring outside. Hopefully his food came - and hopefully he didn't have to hand it over to a supervisor, who wanted big bills instead.

This makes four encounters with beggars at my regular laundry in the last 11 months - and not one of them asked for money to wash or dry their clothes. It's as if they know laundry customers are easy targets. We bring cash, after all - since the washer prices haven't been jacked up enough to require credit cards.

Hey wait, you may be asking -- did we overlook something here? This is our SECOND beggar of 2008?! Well, yes -- as I was waiting until I had a second one to bring up a rather dull first one....

BLOGGER BEGGAR #1: "Do you have a cigarette?" asked another man a few weeks ago. This was in the parking lot of a restaurant on Buena Vista Road -- and he gave the universal hand-signal for a cigarette: two fingers together, going back and forth from his mouth. If he had puckered his lips, that might have qualified as a kiss.

"I don't smoke," I answered the man -- and I certainly don't want to. Not when I can go for three-mile twilight runs before dinner, as I did on this Saturday night. The result is a healthier body, cleaner lungs - and until a more conventional beggar comes along, a fatter wallet.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Shame on us for thinking the Muscogee County School Board was the only "fight zone" in Columbus. This message reached us Tuesday afternoon....

well, well..............the article about the fight in Searswoods was astounding enough....but now less than 30 minutes ago at 4:00 ...traffic on Double Churches and Whitesville had to stop for an enormous fight at the Summit on the corner that ended up rolling into the street and people running towards it from all directions and fists flying as well................massive..............................and sad................what is going on?????

High school kids or older............too big to be from the Middle School across the street....

It sounds like an old-fashioned rumble broke out after school Tuesday. But before we blame the students - were any hockey players making an appearance at that convenience store?

The location of this brawl is what surprises me the most. You don't expect Double Churches and Whitesville Roads to be the scene of a fight like this. These students apparently forgot the lesson of last August - by not staging this fight at Brookstone School.

Another reader wants to comment on the Georgia Supreme Court's decision against Mario Navarrete - still guilty of murdering Fort Benning Specialist Richard Davis:

I asked Cilla McCain about this latest development. She wasn't at all surprised but actually disappointed, saying that "A new trial may have corrected some of the injustices related to the first one" Her book is in editing now but she doesn't have the exact publishing date. When that information is available it will be posted on her agents site The documentary is moving along, but has been slowed down somewhat by the writer's strike.

james b.

You may recall McCain has been writing her own story on the Richard Davis case, independent of the movie "In the Valley of Elah." Who knows -- If the two had joined forces, people actually might have watched the movie.

Isn't it strange that a documentary on the Richard Davis killing is being delayed by the Writer's Guild strike? All the producers have to do is pay royalty fees to Ledger-Enquirer reporters....

Now let's see what people reported on, in Tuesday's news:

+ Columbus Council heard a presentation on how crime has dropped in the Hilton Heights area, since a "neighborhood watch" program began. If this trend continues, the residents might even persuade Hilton to put a hotel there.

+ WRBL reported accused Columbus police impersonator Mike Nelms also got in trouble a few weeks ago, for impersonating a cable TV worker. So who apprehended Nelms first - police detectives, or the "Scooby-Doo" gang which likes DirecTV?

+ The Hogansville City Council held a closed-door meeting on the future of its police chief. A fired dispatcher claims Guy Spradlin sent her sexually suggestive text messages through a city phone. This shows why you have to be SO cautious with acronyms - and type "BFF" very carefully.

+ Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia told the PBS "NewsHour" the economic stimulus bill proposed by President Bush is "strategically surgical." I didn't realize that many doctors had incomes low enough to qualify for rebate checks....

(True confession: I'm personally torn on this economic stimulus question. My brain tells me the rebate checks won't do much to prevent a recession, and will only increase the national deficit and debt -- but my wallet is screaming, "Bring it on.")

+ Carver High School football star Jarvon Fortson revealed to WRBL he visited Florida State University last weekend. Fortson verbally committed to Auburn months ago - so what will he do on signing day next Wednesday? Will it come down to whether Auburn has another trace of snow in the next week?

+ Jordan escaped its first loss of the year in boys' basketball, winning at Spencer 73-71. Shame on the Green Wave - for following the example of graduate Cathy Williams, and trying to cause upset across the school district.

+ Instant Message to the leadership of the Georgia House: Did I hear it right - you have a "Doctor of the Day" for every session?! Was this inspired by that fistfight in the Alabama Senate last year?

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: If we don't hear from Union Springs, some "further accusations" will go public....

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1247 (+ 53, 4.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Next week's "Super Tuesday" primaries may not settle the party nominees for President. But it might inspire a law which a lot of Georgians will like. It might even produce new jobs for the state - if you don't mind an increase in the number of telemarketers.

Georgia Senate President Eric Johnson called Monday for a ban on almost all "robo-calls" - phone calls dialed by computer, where you hear nothing but a recorded message. Few things in this life are more humiliating than to say "Hello, hello" to a voice which isn't paying any attention to you.

Eric Johnson's proposal may be inspired by the Super Tuesday presidential campaigning. Someone has been making "robo-calls" challenging the reputation of Georgia Rep. John Lewis. I can't believe that many survivors of the Selma bridge march have died....

Eric Johnson notes Georgia was a leader in establishing the "do not call" list - but it's now been superceded by the federal list. This ban on robo-calls might do something the federal telemarketing bill does not. It might even bar political campaigns from calling you.

Eric Johnson's bill would require live people to be on the line for almost all phone calls in Georgia. But he admits he does NOT want to ban all automated calls -- as he sees a need for some exceptions:

+ Schools calling about children. Did schools really make calls like this years ago - before there was so much pressure for high test scores?

+ A doctor reminding you about an appointment. This proves the optometrists have some strong lobbyists in Atlanta....

+ Employers calling workers. If they've already fired the person asking why you're late for work, you might well be next.

I haven't received any campaign calls concerning Super Tuesday, from either computers or humans. But I think State Senator Eric Johnson has a great idea here -- and I speak as someone who had a high school summer job as a telemarketer. The bosses didn't like it, when I started cutting the price of portrait plans in a desperate bid to get sales.

. An end to robo-calls in Georgia should reduce the number of nuisance calls I get each week. The most annoying ones don't allow you to press a button on your phone, to be removed from the call list. At least you could let out a little frustration....

What sort of robo-calls do you get? A few offers keep reaching my phone, over and over again:

+ An already-approved platinum card, with an $8,000 credit line. They never offer me one in other colors, like teal blue.

+ A "final reminder" that my car's service warranty needs to be extended, in case I didn't receive the reminder in the mail. When your car is almost 14 years old, you know something's suspicious.

+ An "important message for septic tank owners." In my apartment in an urban neighborhood, that message is full of.... well, this IS a G-rated blog....

BLOG UPDATE: "We called him Jake," a man at the Union Springs Police Department said Monday when we called to ask about one of its former officers. You have to admit that Jake is a much easier name to pronounce than Fueasel....

We called Union Springs Monday in hopes of confirming further accusations against current Hurtsboro police officer Fueasel Turner. Neither the City Clerk nor the Police Chief returned our messages -- so this small town may not have received word yet about what a blog is.

Speaking of Hurtsboro, here's a reply to our main topic of Monday:

I would like to clear up one or two things that were relayed to you incorrectly. I HAVE NEVER BEEN EJECTED FROM ANY BUSINESS IN "HURT'SBORO!! I've simply boycotted them! Those reports are stoked by chagrined business owners who I supported with sizeable cash purchases for a decade or more! If you can locate anyone in "Hurt'sboro or anywhere else that I have cheated or left with unpaid bills "Let them speak now; or forever hold their peace!" For your information; I do business INSIDE the bank on a regular basis. The reason I was at the bank the other day was to provide security. I do this on a regular basis because the city fails to see that an officer is present (or even available) at critical periods of the day! I have an arrangement with the Russell County Sheriff - a deputy steps in, when I can't be there.

Sir Richard; you probably recall, that our grocery store closed because of armed violence and no police protection in "Hurt'sboro. It looks like the grocery is going to reopen under new ownership soon. Perhaps the town can struggle back on to its feet! I'm certain of one thing! The new owner will be the beneficiary of better security than has been provided by "Hurt'sboro's inadequate system!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

To my knowledge, the only bank in Hurtsboro is a branch of Auburn Bank. So where are the two police officers when it's open - guarding against looting at the grocery store, while it's under renovation?

But uh-oh - have we been probing the Hurtsboro police a bit too much? I'm hearing an in-depth investigation of the interim police chief was in the works, and we beat the investigators to it. Now that study may be abandoned, revised, restarted - or Hurtsboro will be ignored, making the Constable even more annoyed.

E-MAIL UPDATE: While we were desperately seeking Kerry Washington in Sunday's entry, one reader was distracted by something else....

Richard, I was shocked to read that campaign materials were for sale at the Barack Obama headquarters in Columbus. I've been collecting such things for years but all of mine were free. Would anyone be interested in purchasing a large poster of Senator Gary Hart for President? I got that one when he spoke at Columbus College years ago. It would seem that would be quite a collector's item now.

And not being able to find a babysitter did not deter my daughter from voting in the last presidential election. She stood in line for over three hours with her less than three month old baby in a stroller!

Member of the Columbus Blog Fan Club

To clarify one detail - the "Obama Store" at the Liberty Theatre last week was several blocks from the local campaign headquarters on Third Avenue. Friday's unsold items probably were returned there. And with giant banners being stolen, they might have actually been carried in a trash bag.

We suggest this reader get his/her campaign poster autographed by Gary Hart, while he's still alive and able to do it. If that fails, a poster signed by Donna Rice might be even more valuable - not to mention question-raising.

And hey - do you mean this blog now has a Fan Club?!?! They like me! They really like me!! If Barack Obama's campaign can sell T-shirts for 20 dollars, I can sell a Blog-shirt for.... well, wait. Let's sell out the CD's first....

But I digress: Advance voting opened Monday for the Georgia presidential primary. The line at the Columbus Public Library was lengthy at times, and Election Board Director Nancy Boren admitted a statewide network went off-line for 30 minutes. In parts of Kenya, this could have been led to ransacked neighborhoods.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION closed Monday night, with our voters divided. Five of you say the Columbus city survey for the "Vision 2028" meetings is biased in favor of development. Four of you say it's not. And a larger number may have longed for a third option - going back to how Columbus looked in 1988.

We've jumped all over the place today - and we're not through yet, as there are other Monday headlines to check:

+ Former Columbus police officer Brad Nelms was arrested, on charges of impersonating an officer. WRBL reported Nelms claimed to be a drug officer working SO undercover that he didn't carry a badge. Isn't this a bit like a musician claiming to be so good, he doesn't have to rehearse?

+ Talbotton City Council member Fred Cotton was sentenced to several weekends in jail, for speeding and drunk driving. It's nice to see Talbot County's law-abiding citizens have something fun to do on their weekends for awhile....

+ This year's class of SOA Watch protesters was sentenced in federal court. WRBL showed a banner made by the protesters, declaring they're "guilty of telling the truth." Someone from the Ledger-Enquirer should have bought that banner, to display in the lobby.

+ The Georgia Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Mario Navarrete, for his part in the killing of Fort Benning Specialist Richard Davis. Any hope Navarrete had of joining Tommy Lee Jones at the Oscars is out the window.

+ Auburn police reported vandals went for damaging joy rides on the grounds of two golf courses. Imagine the celebration, if Tiger Woods had won in a sudden death playoff....

+ WLTZ commentator Al Fleming called for a return to the days when Muscogee County School Board members were selected by a grand jury. Now that's the way to restore trust in the school district - have a secret group of people select the decision-makers.

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: President Bush delivered his final State of the Union speech Monday night. Our old service LaughLine covered his first one, 30 Jan 02:

President Bush went to the Capitol Tuesday night for his "State of the Union" address. He talked about the fight against terrorism around the world, and the challenges facing the U.S. But he never took a stand on what many of us considered the biggest breaking issue of the day - pink, purple or aqua M-and-M's.

President Bush said the "State of the Union" has never been stronger - even though "our country is at war...." He called it a "war" so many times that those "unlawful combatants" in Cuba must have wondered what THEY were in.

President Bush noted the presence at the Capitol of Afghanistan's interim Prime Minister - as well as the "Minister of Women's Affairs." Somewhere in the hall, Hillary Rodham Clinton thought to herself, "I can't wait to add that Cabinet position."

Despite the toppling of the Taliban, President Bush warned 100-thousand terrorists may be scattered around the world as "ticking time bombs." And imagine what might happen if Mike Tyson ever becomes a boxing coach....

President Bush said terrorist camps remain in operation in more than a dozen countries. He did NOT name them - but wherever they are, those camps had better turn into "bed and breakfasts" in a hurry.

(President Bush cited a few groups as supporting terrorism. But let's face it, he's going to have a challenge getting the Palestinian group "Hamas" to become "no más.")

President Bush mentioned three countries which have the potential to become part of an "axis of evil" - North Korea, Iran and especially Iraq. Yes sir, it looks like his dad DID help write that speech....

President Bush estimated the fight against terrorism is costing the U.S. government 30 million dollars a day. We'll see if THIS finally brings Anne Nicole Smith to her senses.

President Bush honored two female flight attendants, which helped stop accused "shoe bomber" Richard Reid last month. Did anybody check them afterward -- to see if Gary Condit tried to shake their hands?

President Bush told Congress the enemies of the U.S. were "as wrong as they are evil" to presume last September that the country was "weak and materialistic." That's strange - we thought the President READ all those stories about Enron.

President Bush summed up his economic improvement plan with one word: "Jobs." He could have stopped right there, and saved the government money for speechwriters.

Did you catch the "Bush-ism" during the President's speech? We had to hear it twice to be sure. The President told Congress, "Let's pass AN stimulus package." Either someone typed in an extra letter, or Ann Curry of "The Today Show" is about to change jobs.

(Great moments in TV news: a station in our town began the late news Tuesday night with the State of the Union speech - and words on the screen promised: "REMEMBERABLE Quotes." We don't recall President Bush ever stumbling like that....)

President Bush expressed support for extended unemployment benefits. Members of Congress applauded this enthusiastically - especially since some of them could be unemployed after the November election.

The President asked Congress to approve new rules for retirement savings and pension plans, so employees won't lose all their money if a company fails. He thought about asking for its approval "without delay" - but the "Lay" stepped down as Enron's C-E-O last week.

President Bush said tougher disclosure rules are necessary, to make sure companies operate at the "highest standards of conduct." This shows the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Many Democrats would try to outlaw shredders.

President Bush singled out his wife as a woman who "brings calm in a time of crisis." This apparently indicates she was in the room when Jenna and Barbara tried to explain their run-ins with the law.

President Bush declared the national creed had changed since the September skyjackings. "If it feels good, do it" is out. "Let's roll" is in. Sorry, Mr. President - but BOTH those lines could get romantic teenagers thinking the wrong way.

President Bush challenged every U.S. resident to commit two years or 4,000 hours of their lives to serving their neighbors and their country. What worries us is that our next-door neighbor actually heard that speech - and now she'll expect us to drive her all over town.

President Bush announced a new "USA Freedom Corps," to help with crises at home and acts of compassion abroad. The President apparently plans to expand Americorps, the Senior Corps and the Peace Corps. That way, he'll develop what's known in politics as a "corps constituency...."

Talk about changing times in Washington! First lady Laura Bush reportedly invited the President of the Teamsters Union to attend the State of the Union speech. This way, James Hoffa couldn't be kidnapped without hundreds of witnesses.

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1194 (+ 39, 3.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, January 28, 2008


As far as we know, the Hurtsboro City Council has yet to call that special meeting about the Interim Police Chief and his history of speeding tickets. But keep in mind, this is a slow-paced rural town. The regular monthly meeting might be considered special.

The man who first complained to city officials (and us) about Hurtsboro's Interim Police Chief is complaining again. He passed along to us a letter to the mayor:

Mayor Tarver:

I'm certain, that you are aware that Hurtsboro's interim Police Chief has acted in a irresponsible manner in the past, and was discharged from the Union Springs Police Department before you hired him. And, since you were with him on one occasion when he became vulgar and abusive; you are also cognizant of his unprofessional behavior as Hurtsboro's Police Chief..

Now, it seems, that your Police Chief has taken offense with me! He has used vulgarity and verbal threats in an attempt to halt my inquisition into his actions. Yesterday (1/23/08) he followed me for no reason, bumper to bumper around town while I conducted my daily business. Our first contact was at the bank ( where I was stationed to make sure there were no problems at closing) and where there is never any evidence of local police presence!

Next, he followed me bumper to bumper (without flashing lights) to Williams Store where he pulled up beside me and took my picture on his cell phone. Finally, I called a friend to act as an escort, and we proceeded west on #51 to N. River street and turned east at the old County shop. The procession traveled south on Rte.#51 (again bumper to bumper) through town on Main street and Christian finally broke off the slow speed chase at the four way stop by the deer processing plant.

If I recall, one of Marvin Christian's past digressions was a short lived menacing charge. Believe me - if this type of conduct continues, he will be facing another like charge!

Mayor Tarver it baffles me why you and possibly the Council allow city employees to run amok and without restraint or supervision. Don't you realize that; as the Chief executive of the town you are morally and fiscally responsible for their actions? I guess you will have to learn the hard way.

Constable R. J. Schweiger

I'll repeat to the Constable what I said to that woman outside the Liberty Theatre the other day - welcome to the paparazzi.

Perhaps Marvin Christian followed R.J. Schweiger around Hurtsboro to see if the Constable is really the troublemaker some Hurtsboro residents claim he is. I've heard one critic say Schweiger has been kicked out of nearly every business in town. He was "AT the bank" - but the Constable never says he went inside.

(By the way, this seems to answer a question I've been asked several times in the last year - exactly what the Constable is supposed to do. He's apparently filling security gaps for the Hurtsboro police. So why do some critics not consider their "homeland" very secure when he's around?)

While the Interim Police Chief took the Constable's picture, Marvin Christian apparently never arrested R.J. Schweiger. And Schweiger will be relieved to know that the cell phone pictures were NOT posted on YouTube, when we did a search there Sunday night.

(And at least Marvin Christian only pulled out a camera phone. I know some people in Columbus who wish law officers would stop at that - but I shouldn't be bringing up Kenneth Walker and his friends.)

As long as the Constable goes about his errands in a proper way, why should he fear the Hurtsboro Police Chief following him around a bit? You'd think he'd be happy that a squad car actually is running for a change, with a law officer out on patrol during the day.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Marvin Christian is one of two officers on the Hurtsboro Police Department. So what about the other one? Some digging by your blog has found that officer has a police record of his own, including a fine paid only last year. But at least he's "second in command" - with three speeding tickets, compared with the interim chief's six.

The other Hurtsboro officer is Fueasel Turner - and Alabama court records indicate he paid speeding fines in Macon County court in 2003, 2004 and 2007. The 2003 case included a guilty plea for "attempting to elude police." If you can't outrun 'em, I guess you join 'em.

The court records took some sorting out, as there actually are arrest reports for TWO Fueasel Turners in southeast Alabama. An earlier one ran up six speeding tickets from 1993 to 2002, and even was arrested in some kind of sewage case. So perhaps it's like the Dale Earnhardt family -- with the torch passed to a new fast generation.

The most recent speeding ticket for Fueasel Turner cost him a 40-dollar fine last April. That may not seem like much - but Hurtsboro probably pays its police officers much less than even Columbus does. So Turner may be sharing Marvin Christian's camera phone, as he follows City Council members around town.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Is anyone reading this blog at WRBL? We'll see....

Kaffie Sledge ,of the Ledger,needs to be awarded the Golden Apple educational award for standing up for the children of go girl....

That award usually is given to a teacher -- but I can already hear many of Sledge's critics, who claim all she teaches is racism.

We also have a comment today on the great campaign banner hunt in Columbus:

Other uses for Obama sign:

Trim it down to read:

Rack Bama,,,Bar Bama...It will probably show up at an AU football game...

Hmmmm -- I'm not sure if that lets the other campaigns off the hook for the banner theft. Has Tommy Tuberville endorsed a candidate yet?

While presidential candidates kept campaigning Sunday, we noticed other things going on....

+ The new Rigdon Road Elementary School held an open house. Principal Phyllis Davis claims the old school had two restrooms, while the new one has 23. I wish someone had asked her if one of those restrooms was attached to her office....

(The new Rigdon Road school also has "smart boards," which I guess are the 21st century replacement for chalkboards. But at least we've moved beyond the pesky matter of black and white there.)

+ The Columbus Symphony Orchestra presented a family concert based on a "Lemony Snicket" story. I can remember when critics considered that children's series too violent -- but consider the alternative. Your family could have gone to the RiverCenter last Thursday for the opera "Tosca," and its commercial showed someone being stabbed.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths lost to Jacksonville 4-3 in a shootout. It followed an end-game and overtime period with so much action, WEAM-AM announcer Mike Vee said it happened "faster than I can call it." If you can't stand the speed, go call a baseball game....

+ Basketball's Atlanta Hawks lost at the final horn to Portland 94-93. To use those scoreboard abbreviations, ATL played POR - but it didn't play poorly.

+ Instant Message to Richard Hyatt: Our best wishes, as you begin your final week at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. If the newspaper really cares about you, your final column before retirement will be available online - without anyone having to register their name to read it.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEK: A total stranger comes to me, with a simple one-word request....

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! 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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008


Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary Saturday night. Hillary Rodham Clinton was second. And as for third-place John Edwards - would you like to come back to Americus, and try that stump speech again?

The Barack Obama campaign is trying hard to win Democratic votes in Columbus. On Friday, it brought a bit of Hollywood to town - with appearances by actress Kerry Washington. After playing a temptress last year in the movie "I Think I Love My Wife," you'd think Washington would endorse Bill Clinton's candidate.

Kerry Washington was seen with almost all the major presidential contenders in recent months. But it was clear from a luncheon at the Liberty Theatre that she's taken a stand for Barack Obama. Yet please don't misunderstand - Washington is NOT borrowing from another movie, and declaring him The Next King of America.

Kerry Washington says she grew up in a "politically active family," so campaigns like this matter to her. She recalled working on the 2004 campaign in Florida, where anonymous callers spread lies about people being able to vote from their homes by phone. This is for President, folks - not American Idol.

Kerry Washington is SO into politics that she told the Liberty Theatre luncheon at one point: "What we're eating is politics...." I should have asked what the luncheon menu was - to see if Democrats eat chicken, while Republicans eat steak.

Kerry Washington told the Liberty Theatre audience if our country was a true democracy, "Election Day would be a national holiday" - but because it's not, people who "can't get a babysitter" are unable to vote. Someone had to tell Washington after her speech that a full week of early voting opens Monday in Columbus.

Kerry Washington explained she supports Barack Obama because he'll stand up to big corporations, such as the prescription drug industry. This apparently means when President Obama visits the doctor, he won't ask about all those drugs we're told to ask about on TV.

From where I stood outside the Liberty Theatre annex door, almost everyone in the audience was African-American. But the Barack Obama luncheon had a couple of major European-American backers - Teresa Tomlinson of Midtown Inc. and Cathy Williams of the Muscogee County School Board. If Williams backs Obama, maybe he's NOT a big-spending Democrat.

But spending was encouraged at a makeshift "Obama Store" just inside the luncheon door. T-shirts backing the candidate cost 20 dollars -- and if you simply wanted a Barack Obama sign for your yard, it cost eight dollars. Critics may call Democrats socialists, but at election time they're as much into capitalism as anybody.

(If a yard sign costs eight dollars, what about that Barack Obama banner which was stolen from the Columbus headquarters on Third Avenue? That might exceed the limits for small claims court.)

I was hoping to get a brief interview with Kerry Washington at some point in the day, but the organizers of the discussion at Columbus State University told me her schedule there was too tight. It turned out there was no time after the Liberty Theatre luncheon, either - as handlers said she had a "live interview at 1:00." In this race, Foxie-105 must have more clout than Fox-54.

As Kerry Washington left the luncheon to head for Columbus State University, a few fans were able to stop her for autographs and photographs. And there I was, waiting on her -- snapping pictures of a good-looking single Hollywood actress, standing less than 15 feet from you. Wow, being a member of the paparazzi can be fun....

If anyone from TMZ is reading this: Kerry Washington was gracious enough to sign a few autographs, and she posed with fans for a couple of pictures. Her handlers made sure one was taken with luncheon organizer Dr. Robert Wright -- which could set up a future appearance at Columbus Technical College, discussing film processing or something.

A few people had camera phones out and clicking as Kerry Washington headed to her handler's car. And as we left, a woman was irritated -- because a guy was snapping pictures of HER, taking pictures of the star. To which I remarked: "Welcome to the paparazzi."

So what about the Republican candidates for President? The only activity I've seen in Columbus so far is a large Ron Paul billboard on Veterans Parkway, near Manchester Expressway. Paul has a small, loyal following -- but so far, no one has brought him up as the great G.O.P. compromise candidate.

A bit of politics tops the other weekend headlines as well....

+ The Courier reported District Attorney Gray Conger is considering a campaign for district judge. At least we know he'd be impartial - since he's been both a Democratic and Republican prosecutor.

+ Edward DuBose returned to Columbus, to be inaugurated as Georgia NAACP President. It was a bit surprising to see DuBose NOT donning an honorary bright-yellow jacket.

+ Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle called for an easing of state water restrictions. One proposal would let you water your lawn, if you pass an online conservation course. And how are enforcers supposed to know for sure who passed it -- by hacking into their computers, to drain their personal data as well?

+ A lack of running water led to an early dismissal at Muscogee Elementary School. So one school was leaking natural gas Friday, while another school lacked water?! Maybe Keep Columbus Beautiful should stop the crepe myrtle planting at Spencer High.

+ Jordan knocked off Northside 88-70 in a big local boys' basketball game. WRBL showed a big crowd on hand, which was good to see - but then again, the only good alternative for local sports fans was watching figure skaters fall down on NBC.

+ In other sports news, Miss Georgia Leah Massee finished in the Top 16 at the Miss America pageant. One of Massee's relatives made news in Las Vegas, by criticizing the pageant's effort to make fun of its longtime image. You can spot the pageant contestant who spent too much money on hairspray....

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Steve Garrett: You've been on the air so much in the last month - yet you're still simply a "forecaster," not a meteorologist? Do you have to pass a CRCT exam this spring, too?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The jokes for today have concluded, but you're welcome to read on for some other thoughts from the weekend.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: Saturday marked the funeral of Mildred Upshaw. She died Tuesday, as a cold wave covered Columbus - after living outside without a home for more than 40 years. Upshaw somehow survived the 1985 single-digit chill, and the 1993 "Storm of the Century." But at age 79, her warm heart may have finally run out of internal heat.

Mildred Upshaw was known in parts of Columbus as "the pigeon lady," because she took time to feed them A relative told Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer she was NOT mentally ill - at least, no more than the rest of us. I suppose the rest of us are stupid enough to be addicted to natural gas heat, and willing to pay higher rates to use it in January and February.

Mildred Upshaw came up at the church congregation I visited Saturday. A woman quoted from an old newspaper article, in which a writer called Upshaw "one of the most intelligent people I've ever met." That quote struck me as bizarre. If Upshaw was so intelligent, why was she not smart enough to come in from the cold?

(During the discussion, I also learned the "buggy man" of Veterans Parkway and Airport Thruway was hospitalized from this past week's cold wave - and reportedly is having both his legs amputated. Assuming the public pays his bill after the items in his overflowing cart are sold, our tax dollars or medical bills may pay for his new motorized wheelchair.)

Mildred Upshaw talked in that old newspaper article about having a relationship with God -- and a Bible was found at the spot where she died. Yet her life reminds me of some Bible verses, which may sound tough but are well stated. One says some people may have a zeal for God, but "not according to knowledge." Another notes some people are "ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth."

The woman who brought up Mildred Upshaw at church expressed hope that the "pigeon lady" will find the home with God that she wanted. I don't rule that out - but I hope other homeless people learn a lesson from this. There's nothing in the Bible which says you HAVE to do without the basics of life, such as shelter and food. After all, Mother Teresa provided such things - but didn't go without them herself.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: A local elected official feels like he's being watched....

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, January 25, 2008


(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.)

From time to time we're asked to alert you to upcoming local events. Here's one, for those who might be interested:

Hello Richard,

Here is some info you may either want to include or check out for your blog!

On Feb 6 at 7 pm, celeb attorney and author John Mayoue will be speaking and conducting a book signing at the Columbus Park North Barnes & Noble (5555 Whittlesey Blvd). It will be a sort of "how-to" session on emerging from a divorce financially and emotionally intact - particularly interesting in light of Britney Spears' upcoming custody hearing.

FYI: Mayoue has represented Jane Fonda in her divorce from Ted Turner, David Justice in his divorce from Halle Berry, and Marianne Gingrich. His current roster incldues Chris Rock, and P.Diddy, among others. Also, all proceeds from his book go to benefit Camp Sunshine, a facility for children with cancer.

If your readers would like more information, they may call Jennifer at 706-653-7880.

Hope this is helpful!

Sarah Meyers

Excuse me for asking a silly question. But if you needed to recover emotionally from a divorce, would you turn to a lawyer? They're known for providing legal counsel -- but the other kind?!

It's one thing for an attorney to have big-name clients. But to have them as the result of failed marriages makes for a sad roll call. It's a bit like being the agent for several of the baseball players listed in George Mitchell's steroid report.

Yes, I can hear some of you already. I'm a single guy -- so I shouldn't be commenting on marriage, much less divorce. But my parents divorced during my senior year of high school, after 26 years of marriage. Records show they stayed together during my teenage years mainly because of me - which seems to make them a bit more honorable than Britney Spears and The "Diddy-Daddy."

Divorce attorneys make their money cleaning up the damage from a failed marriage - and sometimes writing books about how they do it. But isn't there a better way to handle this? People already are trying to do this with the AIDS virus, and even children's cancer. It's called prevention....

Divorce prevention can occur when a marriage is "on the rocks," as Hollywood tabloids used to call it. But it actually should begin before the marriage happens. It's about making a plan to succeed -- and I really don't think that should include a "pre-nup" agreement.

Before brides and grooms race to the altar, they should slow down and think about what they're about to do. Numerous agencies offer premarital counseling, as do some churches. Counselors might spot some things the couples haven't considered. Even some large and important things - like which way you unroll the bathroom tissue.

The group Orleans had a hit song around 1980 called "Love Takes Time." The pain of a divorce can linger for an even longer time. My Bible shows love is much better, and is what God is all about. Shouldn't that be where our emphasis should be? After all, the only country known for a "Day of Hate" was Cambodia under Pol Pot.

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! 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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25 JAN 08: FABULOUS 50

"We started cutting into the cat...." No, not the cake - the CAT. A guest speaker talked about cat-cutting Thursday, at the first event marking Columbus State University's 50th anniversary. What better way to spend your lunch hour....

The woman who brought this up was Marlene Melvin, who was invited to speak at the kickoff event for C.S.U.'s golden anniversary. She was one of 31 people in the first graduating class of 1960, and was asked to go through what she called "the museum of my memory." Based on some of her comments, it turned out to be a bit like "Ripley's Believe It or Not."

Marlene Melvin said a reproductive sciences class found a pregnant cat in an alley one day, and decided to experiment with it. She told a crowd moved from the C.S.U. clock tower to the Davidson Student Center: "My job was to hold the cup...." Now now - don't get wrong ideas, you urology students....

Marlene Melvin explained she held a cup over the pregnant cat's mouth, so it could breathe. That's when she uttered the line that had some spectators rolling their eyes with disbelief: "We started cutting into the cat." Trouble is, Melvin's cup slipped - and the cat "died on the operating table." It's a wonder an animal rights activist didn't scream at that moment and rush the platform.

Marlene Melvin said after the death of that pregnant cat, the local humane society made sure no more experiments were conducted with live animals. This may explain why no real cougars prowl around, at Columbus State University sports events.

Marlene Melvin also recalled the first student function at the old Columbus College in 1958 - a "Harvest Hop" with lots of straw. I should have asked her if anyone twisted that straw, to make it look like a noose.

Then there was the early Columbus College float in the Bi-City Christmas Parade - and the male student who suggested to Marlene Melvin that a Santa Claus be put on it, to hand out beer to children. Does this explain why I didn't recognize any of the 31 names in the first graduation class?

Marlene Melvin lives in south Alabama today, and admitted she had her doubts about attending the golden anniversary reunion for Columbus State University. She feared the event would be for old folks - only to have a four-year-old grandson remind her: "You ARE the old folks."

In fact, Marlene Melvin had not returned to Columbus State University since she graduated in 1960. She was impressed by how things have changed since the first fall semester at the old Shannon Hosiery Mill. Today C.S.U. has about 7,600 students - and much of the Riverpark campus is still in an old mill.

Columbus State President Frank Brown invited Bo Callaway to the platform as well, for Thursday's golden anniversary kickoff. Callaway was on the Georgia Board of Regents when the college became part of the state university system. So why isn't there a garden on campus, named after him?

After the story about cutting a cat was finished, it was time to cut a cake. Two big ones were prepared to mark Columbus State University's golden anniversary. But it was a standard white cake with white icing - because the price of gold is way up there these days.

We thank the blog reader who alerted us to free cake - but that wasn't the half of it. The refreshment tables included hot apple cider, flatbread wraps with turkey, and decorative nacho chips with salsa. But the organizers made one big mistake. The nacho chips were red, gold and green with no C.S.U. blue corn in sight.

(I was even able to get seconds - which led me to think Thursday's "Homeless Resource Fair" may have been at the wrong place.)

The golden anniversary celebration continued all afternoon at Columbus State. Students were invited to Woodruff Gym, for a 1950's costume contest. Women wore poodle skirts - and hopefully did NOT feel tempted to go looking for pregnant poodles.

The afternoon also included a groundbreaking ceremony for Columbus State's next building - the "Schuster Student Success Center." If you can say that five times fast without a slip, you're a success in language arts courses.

I'm not sure why Columbus State University needs a Student Success Center. Does this mean the graduates of the last 50 years were NOT successes? Or is this like the Academic Success Center - and it's really for college students on probation or parole?

The party doesn't stop at Columbus State University today - as a Hollywood actress is coming to campus. Kerry Washington will join in "a discussion on Barack Obama." Considering the fliers promoting this are paid for by the Obama presidential campaign, I'm assuming everyone is expected to talk nicely about him.

BLOG UPDATE: The final vote was taken Thursday night, to build the Muscogee County School District's new administration building. The school board voted 5-4 in favor of a bond issue, worth as much as $18 million. If the board had voted no, a wonderful mathematics lesson would have been lost.

WRBL's late news broke down the 5-4 school board vote. The supporters included Patricia Hugley Green - which could set up an interesting competition with City Manager Isaiah Hugley. Both the city and school district will want approval of one-cent sales tax questions. If voters support only one, will the Hugleys quietly hand over money to each other?

Superintendent John Phillips denied claims that the high cost of the central administration building has cost the school district, in terms of voter trust. He said everything promised in recent school sales tax issues has been done -- and besides, only a handful of people still have the list of projects from the last issue, anyway.

But school board member "Fife for Fighting" Whiteside warned if the district can't keep its recent commitments, voters won't commit more school sales tax money to them in the future. And if the critics are as numerous as they claim to be, the next major high school expansion in Columbus may be at Pacelli.

School board member Cathy Williams also opposed the bond issue, saying the district should NOT go into debt to pay for a new central administration building. More government officials in general could learn a lesson from my Thursday nights at poker tournaments. If you run out of chips, you go bust and can't play anymore.

It happens that a poll released in Atlanta Thursday found 52 percent of Georgians are dissatisfied with public schools. Wow - I never realized that many districts are planning new central office buildings.

A strange thing happened earlier in the day, at the site of the new administration building. A driver veered off Rigdon Road, and crashed into a giant hole where the Sears Automotive Center used to be. You may draw your own comparisons, with the amount of debt in the bond issue....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our comment about the new "Back to the Grind" coffee stand in the Bibb City neighborhood Thursday brought this....

You fail to understand the "cultish" nature of the StarBucks movement. Just any ole coffee shop will not do. It would do Bibb City some good, Starbucks people like loft apartments. They go hand in hand. Soon more high tech industries will be able to relocate to Bibb City because of the Starbucks as well.

Ohhhh -- so it's the Starbucks chain that's the cult here?! I thought there was a general addiction to coffee. I've attended church with people who simply had to drink a hot cup before the service, even when it's 98 degrees in August.

But there's a good point here, about "Starbucks people" liking loft apartments. Yes, they DO go hand-in-hand. In fact, it's more like hand-over-fist - as both require a good deal of disposable income.

WLTZ reported Thursday was the most depressing day of the year -- but we found other things which might cheer you up:

+ The Muscogee County Schools called off classes at Kendrick High School today, due to a natural gas leak. It doesn't help that the Academic Success Center has all the available space heaters for awhile....

+ An Alabama state board fired Southern Union State Community College President Susan Salatto. She was cited for 20 different policy violations. And if the baseball team can't compete with Chattahoochee Valley Community College, something simply has to change.

+ The annual "One Columbus" dinner honored Aflac's Dan Amos for promoting diversity in the workplace. Amos said he doesn't like to take a "cookie-cutter mentality" when it comes to employees. The use of a duck in Aflac's commercials should tell you that....

+ Georgia Corrections Commissioner James Donald told a legislative budget hearing the state will need 15,000 new medium-security prison beds by 2015. I'm sorry, but I'm not donating mine - because I still consider waterbeds very comfortable.

(James Donald said the Georgia prison system needs to separate prisoners - between "those we're afraid of, and those we're just mad at." Is there really a difference between the two? Plenty of workers get mad at their bosses - but they're also afraid they'll be fired.)

+ Georgia flattened Florida in women's basketball 82-55. It was the 700th career win for coach Andy Landers - so he should watch his mailbox for a proclamation from Pat Robertson, officially admitting him to The 700 Club.

+ Another women's basketball game found Louisiana State stopping Auburn 79-59. It was billed as "Cram the Coliseum Night" in Auburn. But so many seats were empty or blocked off by curtains that the only thing "crammed" might have been popcorn in boxes.

+ Instant Message to former Mayor Bob Poydasheff: It was good to see you downtown the other day! I saw you walk across Second Avenue toward the Government Center, simply holding that cane instead of using it. But it's too bad I didn't have my camera out - so show you jaywalking in the middle of the block.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Oh no - an e-mail brings up Britney Spears!....

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1431 (+ 38, 2.7%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008


If you didn't go to the library Wednesday to check newspapers, don't worry. The e-mailer who loved a recent comment in the Ledger-Enquirer will save you a trip:

The Oscar for best Sound Off goes to... To finish off the MCSD zillion dollar administration building a sculpture out front of...A 50ft Phillips Screw.... Is this to honor John Phillips or Phillip Schley?????...Maybe a 2 headed Phillips Screw...

Well, I suppose it beats a giant bottle of Phillips Milk of Magnesia....

This e-mail reached us several hours before the bombshell school news of the day - that Muscogee County School Superintendent John Phillips will retire by August 1. Perhaps a school board member told him that was the only way to get the new central administration building named in his honor.

It actually was a two-part bombshell, as Deputy Superintendent Robin Pennock revealed she will retire later this year as well. So the Muscogee County School Board will have two openings to fill -- assuming the critics don't persuade members to use the deputy's salary to buy a couple of new portables.

In a resignation letter released Wednesday, Superintendent John Phillips calls his years in Muscogee County "the capstone of my career." Aha! Columbus residents thought there was something unusual about him - and now he's made that reference to the University of Alabama.

Dr. John Phillips expressed a desire to keep contributing to public education - but said he needs to "rebalance my commitments" to spend more time with his family. That's not the rebalancing I was hearing complaints about. It was more along the lines of less to build a personal bathroom, and more to fix a boiler room.

An overlooked section of the resignation letter is worth noting. Dr. John Phillips admits he has "other opportunities, both in the public and in the private sectors...." So which upset school board member recommended him to become President of Columbus State University?

Well, hold on - WRBL reported Wednesday night that John Phillips and Robin Pennock plan to work together as educational consultants. They could stay in the Muscogee County school system and do that. That's what a graduation coach or a counselor does....

In her resignation letter, Deputy Superintendent Robin Pennock notes she's worked in education more than 37 years. She writes about seeking "new things, from scuba diving to teaching...." But if her first job was teaching U.S. history, what's really new about that? It sounds like Pennock dreams of becoming a substitute teacher in Key West.

The twin resignations were offered to the Muscogee County School Board privately, after Tuesday night's board meeting. Superintendent John Phillips may have wanted to avoid his announcement receiving a standing ovation from the Columbus NAACP.

School Board Chairman James Walker praised Dr. John Phillips for being responsive to board members. When someone told Phillips he couldn't have that communications director with a $300,000 Russell County home, he withdrew the position - well, for a couple of years.

Even school board critic Cathy Williams had nice things to say Wednesday. She said John Phillips and Robin Pennock "brought passion" to local education, and "moved the district forward." He didn't move it south toward Spencer High School, but it moved forward....

But others were in no mood to be compassionate. "Good Riddance, Dr. Phillips" read the title of an e-mail sent around the city by Columbus Council candidate Jeremy Hobbs. He claimed the Superintendent "ruined all trust the city has in this school board." So why isn't Hobbs running for the board, as some suggested last year he do? Most voters probably know the the Council doesn't run the school district.

School board member Philip Schley told WRBL he was "disturbed" by the Superintendent's resignation - and he claimed it was because two other board members "badgered and harassed him for months on end." So? That sort of treatment didn't stop President Bush from running for a second term.

Philip Schley might want to get used to public badgering - because he's already getting some, such as the e-mail above. I'm hearing there might even be a recall campaign against him. After all, if he's not in Schley County where he belongs....

After thinking it over, I can understand why the Muscogee County Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent would leave together. A new Superintendent will want his or her own top assistants. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue probably wanted that - and yet Mark Taylor wound up running against him in 2006.

But let's face it -- the timing of these two resignations does seem a bit suspicious. It follows a lot of debate about the cost of a new administration building. The way it looks now, the plaque in the foyer is more likely to have the name of Seth Harp than John Phillips.

So who should replace Superintendent John Phillips in Muscogee County? The school board doesn't have to look far for some worthy candidates....

+ Guy Sims is still in town, spending his days helping low-income people. A $12 million cut in the cost of an administration building would buy a lot of meals.

+ Thomas Hackett used to be Phenix City's Superintendent. He's currently on the Columbus State University faculty - and he's had plenty of time to memorize the names of all the Muscogee County high schools.

+ Frank Brown is retiring from Columbus State University at the end of June. He could trade jobs with John Phillips - and it could become a reality show called "Supt-Swap."

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of Frank Brown, a golden opportunity awaits all of us today....

Don't miss free cake at CSU tomorrow [Thursday] at 12:30 at the clock tower, free refreshments at the groundbreaking of the Schuster Student Success Center and free cupcakes at 5:00 at the Center for Commerce and Technology.

Woo-hoo - free food! All I have to do is stop at Publix for some samples first, and I'll have a complete lunch.

These events at Columbus State University are part of the kickoff of C.S.U.'s 50th anniversary celebration. Local churches have been asked to join the party, by ringing their bells during the afternoon. You'll understand if some hardline Baptist churches don't participate - the ones who think public colleges teach evolution everywhere, even in French class.

BLOG UPDATE: WLTZ reported Wednesday night that someone stole a giant banner from the Barack Obama campaign headquarters on Third Avenue. Was this some kind of hijinks by the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign? Or did a homeless person downtown need something to stay warm and dry?

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is apparently the first presidential candidate to run a TV commercial in Columbus. The ad presented Wednesday night shows Obama talking about universal health care, and bringing soldiers home from Iraq. But amazingly, he never once calls Bill Clinton an annoying liar.

(It's comforting to hear Barack Obama hear at the start of the commercial that he approves of the message. Considering he's the only person who speaks in it, anything less would cost him votes.)

Now for other Wednesday discoveries....

+ The metal under the 13th Street bridge was painted on the Phenix City side. I know this because the Phenix City Riverwalk had a crude blockade set up at the bridge -- with what looked like plastic hoses on either side. I decided to limbo instead of high-hurdle, and kept on jogging.

+ Automated Door Ways opened a new office in the Bibb City neighborhood. It's located in what used to be an A&P supermarket - which reminds me of what my Mom used to say about that chain, when she worked there in the 1940's. She claimed the initials really stood for "Aches and Pains."

(A Bibb City store owner who calls herself the "Junk Lady" told WRBL the neighborhood needs a Starbucks. She apparently hasn't noticed a new drive-through coffee shop called "Back to the Grind" in the 4400 block of Second Avenue - but then again, it's so small that it looks like it was assembled by Action Buildings.)

+ A Georgia legislative hearing considered the new technology of "brain fingerprinting" for finding criminals. The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation admitted he has doubts about its effectiveness. For one thing, no evolution supporter has shown evidence that fingers grow from brains.

+ The Atlanta Falcons hired Mike Smith as their new head coach. Smith moves from Jacksonville -- so Byron Leftwich might be the starting quarterback next season after all.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Lions: Did I hear the TV news right -- that it costs local athletes 55 dollars to try out for the team? If they make the team, do they get a rebate after the first game? And do you beat the federal government, by including interest?

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1393 (+ 42, 3.1%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Columbus Council? Simply too dull. Russell County Commission? Too many members ailing. No, the place to turn for an exciting governmental meeting these days is the Muscogee County School Board. Anyone might show up to complain -- including the board members.

Take Tuesday night's school board meeting. There was Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison, talking about the African-American employees who are suing the school district over retirement plans. Based on the late TV newscasts, he did NOT thank the board for making schools so nice for any incoming students from Jena, Louisiana.

Some school board members told Bill Madison it's up to the Georgia Legislature to change the rules for school retirement plans. So any lawsuit against Muscogee County Schools might bring a dramatic moment in the courtroom -- with district attorneys pointing toward Atlanta, as the real culprit.

But these days, the big issue for the Muscogee County School Board is something members approved several months ago. The planned new central administration building came up again Tuesday night -- even though a special meeting on that topic has been called for Thursday night. So it was a little like pro wrestling, teasing the next main event....

School board member Joseph Roberson suggested further action on a central administration building be stopped for now. He noted a growing local buzz for denying Muscogee County schools a special sales tax, if the $25 million building is built. How about a compromise - a smaller building, but with portables set up around it?

(Columbus Council candidate Jeremy Hobbs is trying to spark an online campaign in favor of a city sales tax, and against a school sales tax. He calls it "Give a Penny, Take a Penny" - which is easy to say, when you would wind up with some control over the pennies.)

Muscogee County school officials tried to assure the audience that their priorities are really in order. They said no students are lacking textbooks, while work proceeds on the administration building. Of course not - because that was last year's crisis, which this year it's the heating system....

A student at the Academic Success Center for high-risk youth told me Tuesday the building has lacked working heat since December. He said teachers have set up space heaters in classrooms. In other words, conditions are perfect for teaching early U.S. history.

The student also claimed the Academic Success Center's computers started malfunctioning, after the space heaters were set up. I faced something like this when I was in high school. Our science class turned on all the hot plates for an experiment, and several classrooms lost power. [True!]

An official with the Academic Success Center confirmed part of this story to WRBL - but said a boiler actually went out last week, not last month. Time flies, when you're not in a Youth Detention Center....

But back to the board: Muscogee County school officials say education is NOT being overlooked, as work proceeds on the central administration building. Oh really?! When are environment clubs making field trips to the ruins of the Sears store, to look for recyclables?

The Muscogee County School Board will meet Thursday night on the "Educational Services Center" - and whether to issue bonds for the $12 million or so needed to match the building's design. Some of us wonder if the money might be raised faster, through buying stocks which hit new lows Tuesday.

And what's this I'm hearing about the school district possibly being reported to the Georgia Attorney General? One woman is filing "Open Records Requests" for all sorts of details about the administration building project, and not receiving immediate answers. But then, we all know how responsive Thurbert Baker has been to Kenneth Walker's supporters....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We're going to have to start reading the Ledger-Enquirer's editorial pages, because people keep writing us about them....

ok......I have finally seen the best reply, comment, whatever you want to call it ....the remark in Sound off in todays paper regarding an artwork being a Phillips Screw.......That one should win every award possible!!!

This remark apparently was in Monday's newspaper, and it was NOT posted Monday night. I checked the Ledger-Enquirer's web site Tuesday, and met a new obstacle. You're now required to register with a "new system." Those wealth-building systems in TV infomercials usually don't work - so why should this?

The registration page includes a question asking how much money I make a year. It makes you wonder if my answer will determine whether my home page shows a list of stock prices or revival meetings.

But anyway: I registered with the Ledger-Enquirer web site - and the "Sound Off" section had comments from Sunday and Tuesday, but NOT Monday. So you'll have to go to a library and find an old-fashioned newspaper to understand this message about a "Phillips Screw." Maybe someone actually a positive comment -- you know, a + sign on top.

And the presidential primary campaigning in Columbus now is officially underway - as this e-mail/ad reached us:

The Columbus Obama campaign opened a headquarters at 905-3rd Avenue on Saturday. Scores of supporters braved the cold and rain to celebrate and to hear Congressman Sanford Bishop make a rousing speech. Canvassing and phone calls are underway, and more volunteers are welcome. Folks can buy bumper stickers, yard signs and buttons at the headquarters and get all sorts of Obama information. Thanks.

Bebe Bahnsen

We mentioned the opening of this office last Thursday, two days before the official big event. But about this "canvassing" - will putting up tents around Columbus really bring more votes?

Speaking of the 2008 election, your blog has discovered former WXTX news anchor Roszell Gadson is entering politics -- sort of. He's the press secretary for Alabama Congressional candidate Craig Schmidtke. Huh -- not a presidential candidate?! After all, that primary is four months earlier.

There's a hint of politics in other news items from Tuesday:

+ Assistant City Manager David Arrington gave Columbus Council an update on how money from the 1999 sales tax vote is being spent. Spending in several areas is well under the budget - yet the city is lacking seven million dollars for a planned natatorium. Maybe if local swimmers started selling special bikinis, encouraging you to "cover the gap...."

(David Arrington added the groundbreaking for a new skate park near Golden Park could occur any day. I have no problem with this, as long as the construction workers wear helmets and elbow pads at all times.)

+ A high-ranking member of Zimbabwe's parliament spoke to the Columbus Kiwanis Club. David Coltart said his country faces a humanitarian crisis in several areas -- but I never heard him blame it on President-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe. Of course, he might be in Columbus on a quiet shopping trip for a home in exile.

+ Veteran TV anchor Hugh Downs appeared at a St. Francis Hospital banquet. When Downs hosted "20/20," he seemed embarrassed about his years as host of the game show "Concentration." Yet nowadays Downs appears in infomercials - so perhaps he's had to forfeit too many gifts.

+ Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for "In the Valley of Elah" - the fictional movie based on the murder of Fort Benning soldier Richard Davis. If he actually wins the award next month, Carmike Cinemas might actually be forced to show that movie in a local theater.

+ The director of Georgia's Pardon and Parole Board admitted to Columbus State Rep. Carolyn Hugley that 16 percent of all parolees are unemployed. You'd think some of them could have been put to work finding legal places for convicted sex offenders to live....

+ GPB's "Lawmakers" reported Georgia state purchasing cards have been used to buy all sorts of curious things - including services at the "Psycho Clown Tattoo Parlor" in Texas. There must be a less expensive way to draw new district maps than this....

+ The New York Fire Department was barred from the St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah. Organizers said the firefighters have hurt the parade's reputation, by throwing beads at spectators. We certainly don't want anything to distract visitors from the real purpose - getting drunk along the riverfront.

+ Instant Message to the Fraternal Order of Police: Whom will you support for President now? With Fred Thompson pulling out Tuesday, the real "Law and Order" candidate is gone....

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1351 (+ 43, 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


A series of public meetings begins in Columbus tonight, to engage in what the city calls "visioning." Is this going to be like that IBM commercial - where people lie down on the floor to do some "idea-ting?"

Six hearings will be held over 21 days, to help update the city of Columbus's "Comprehensive Plan." Officials want to prepare a blueprint through 2028 -- enough time for yet another Clinton to campaign for President in Georgia. Chelsea, I mean....

The city has set up an online survey, for people to offer input on Columbus's future. But you can't find it from the city web site, and I found it only through a link WRBL mentioned the other day. The survey takes an estimated 10 to 15 minutes to fill out -- once you take that long finding it on the Internet.

The introduction to the online survey says Columbus's population is expected to jump 18 percent in the next 20 years, to about 225,000 people. But the rate of population growth in the city has been slowing since 1970 - so how many more rounds of base realignment are we expecting?

The online survey has a mix of open-ended questions and ratings. The first question asks you to write what you like most about Columbus. Feel free to mention this blog there - it'll make us feel good.

The survey also asks for three things you'd like to change about Columbus. No, I don't think they're looking for names of city officials....

The ratings section of the survey lists a variety of community topics, and asks if you consider them high or low priorities. Do you care more about controlling crime, improving schools or economic development? But the survey doesn't seem to let you list which one should be accomplished first.

A couple of items in the ratings section might raise your eyebrows. One asks where you rank an expanded bridge over the Chattahoochee River. Would this mean a wider J.R. Allen Parkway, all the way to Phenix City? Or would there finally be a place to park on the Dillingham Bridge?

Another asks if you care about continuing local festivals "such as Riverfest." Considering this went out of business last year, I think I know how that one will wind up....

Some people who have seen this visioning survey are suspicious of it. Local activist Deb Owens has e-mailed city officials, asking 12 specific questions - including: "Has survey been reviewed by appropriate peers for efficacy, and bias?" It's almost like Columbus is trying to make prescription drugs.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION is by request, and based on these suspicions. Take our quite simple one-part survey, about whether the city's visioning survey is biased in favor of development. If we have to take the results of this survey to a local accounting agency for authentication.... oh please, that'll cost us money....

By the way, a check of the city's web site Monday night found a different visioning process for Columbus, but from the past. Remember "Vision 2005," which was developed in 1998? Some of the items in the executive summary still haven't quite been met:

+ "New carriers, routes and services" at the airport. The staff is still waiting for a simple Starbucks.

+ Developing bicycle, bus and trolley systems. That "train station" Burger King near Peachtree Mall looks more lonesome every day.

+ Creating "pocket parks in Uptown Columbus." Is that what we're going to call those roped-off outdoor dining areas on Broadway?

BLOG UPDATE: Jacksonville clobbered Columbus 4-0 in hockey Monday night. And sure enough - the Martin Luther King Day hockey game included three fights in the second period. If the Cottonmouths play this holiday game next year, all the players should be required to attend a memorial service first.

Meanwhile, the Cottonmouths released Ki Hoon Han Monday. The history-making player from South Korea was let go, after a five-game tryout. Hopefully he won't take his helmet and skates to any Kia career fairs.

Let's see what other biscuits landed in our basket on M.L.K. Day....

+ A holiday program for young people at St. James A.M.E. Church featured former "Saturday Night Live" comic Finesse Mitchell. If he's in Columbus for King Day, he may still be a "Not Ready for Prime Time Player."

(I'm not sure how the church arranged for this celebrity to make a guest appearance in Columbus. The board may have recalled an old commercial - that sometimes you need a little Finesse, but sometimes you need a lot.)

+ WLTZ showed a weekend organizational meeting by the group Common Cause. How surprising to see Dick McMichael and Al Fleming sitting side-by-side at the meeting -- and even more surprising to see neither of them writing notes on reporter's pads.

+ Sumter County commissioner Al Hurley had his downtown Americus clothing store seized by the state, because he's delinquent in paying taxes. Hurley told the Americus Times-Recorder he likes to let customers buy clothes on credit - so if he goes to them "hat in hand" now, they might wind up wearing it.

+ National Public Radio reported on efforts to restore the forgotten town of Flat Rock, Georgia. The town east of Atlanta hasn't been on an official state map in almost 150 years. They'd better not try to develop a Flat Rock Park, or the city of Columbus might sue.

+ Instant Message to Joche's Tax Service: What do you mean, you have "more than eight locations" in our area? Does the ninth one double as a barbecue pit or something?

(And another thing - if you're saying "more than eight locations" in your commercials, are you putting numbers like that on people's tax returns?)

This blog had more than 43,000 visitors in 2007 -- up 53% from 2006! To advertise to them, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1308 (+ 46, 3.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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