Monday, June 30, 2008


" I fear the local newspaper is becoming an anachronism," a woman told me over the weekend. If the woman is using a big word like "anachronism," I doubt she's someone who would leave a comment in the "Sound Off" section.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog has been told one of the best-known names at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer will leave the newspaper's staff this week. Kaffie Sledge's last day apparently will be Friday -- so please, can we all get along at Thunder on the Hooch?

Perhaps without even trying, Kaffie Sledge has become one of the most divisive people in Columbus. Some people agree with her columns in the Ledger-Enquirer. Other people can't stand them, and by extension can't stand her. I'm not sure anyone has arranged peace talks between Sledge and Doug Kellett yet.

Yet also perhaps without trying, Kaffie Sledge has become one of the most public voices for the African-American community in Columbus. Even though the Columbus Times is free, that doesn't mean a lot of Euro-American people drive south of Airport Thruway to pick one up.

Kaffie Sledge also has upset some people by taking liberal views on issues. A good number of Ledger-Enquirer readers want everyone on the paper to be just like them - and they somehow think Tim Chitwood and Brad Barnes actually are.

But before the Columbus right-wingers organize a victory dance, be advised - we're also told Kaffie Sledge is being offered a "retirement package" similar to what Richard Hyatt received. That means Sledge may keep writing occasional columns for the Ledger-Enquirer. Or she could go into complete obscurity, and take the open Editor position at The Courier.

We're also told the same sort of retirement package is being offered to veteran Ledger-Enquirer reporter Mick Walsh. This is apparently his last week on the staff as well. Put all these retired reporters together, and the Gallops Senior Center might have the best newsletter in town.

The retirement packages are part of a company-wide belt-tightening by McClatchy newspapers. Yet on my May vacation, I reviewed two McClatchy papers in Missouri and saw no sign of the serious cuts being made in Columbus. Why, the Kansas City Star still could afford color pictures on the front page....

The departure of these veteran reporters has some Ledger-Enquirer readers concerned. The woman who said "anachronism" over the weekend also expressed concern the Columbus daily newspaper might go out of business someday. Is this really possible? And without the paper, could WLTZ still be the "most powerful news source in the Chattahoochee Valley?"

(Some companies might not mind if the Ledger-Enquirer went out of business. Paper towel sales would soar, for lining the bottoms of bird cages.)

Here's hoping the Ledger-Enquirer doesn't go out of business completely. For one thing, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution bailed out of Columbus a couple of years ago. For another thing, Boy Scout paper drives will lose a lot of money.

>> Our latest blog deals with Columbus poker, and the interesting things that happen there. Try the all-new "On the Flop!" <<

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION about Columbus Council meetings ended Sunday - and 10 out of 12 voters oppose the proposal to limit how often members of the public can speak. So if you watch CCG-TV on a regular basis, it's up to you to press the mute button.

Councilor Red McDaniel's proposal would limit public speakers at Columbus Council meetings to one appearance per month. One e-mailer prior to our poll suggested the speaking time limit be cut from five minutes to two. This would be roughly the same as a trim from "Open Mic Night" at The Loft to an American Idol audition.

Several people commented during our poll that it's all about Columbus Council hearing from the people they're supposed to serve. Of course, there are other ways for the public to express their views. But for some reason, the Fraternal Order of Police removed those billboards with Councilors' phone numbers.

One commenter actually accused Columbus Council of desiring "to dictate, rule and control the population, money and future of Columbus." Now that seems a bit harsh. We could have Zimbabwe's government running the city - then everyone would have been chased down with chainsaws, and forced to attend the Aflac Outdoor Games.

Another voter called Columbus Councilors "very rude" during public speaking time -- adding: "They stop listening AND caring after five minutes." Perhaps all the candidates in this election should be tested for attention deficit disorder.

Then there was the voter who admitted some public speakers "talk about the same stuff over and over again" - but added: "A lot of information has come from people going before council.... that I wouldn't have known about otherwise." For instance, countless law school students have been helped with their homework by Paul Olson citing state statute numbers.

We don't often have three Big Blog Questions in a row - but right now we do. The current commercial on TV compels me to do it. The Fourth of July feud at Fireworks Outlet (check the bottom ad at our link) simply must be resolved. You know, before it gets too explosive....

Now let's check a small stack of weekend news headlines....

+ The Aflac Outdoor Games concluded at South Commons. Yet for some reason, the event's web site has not posted any results. Do we really have to watch ESPN in October, to find out who cooks the best barbecue plates in Columbus?

(Stihl saws were a big sponsor of the Aflac Outdoor Games - so big that a small plane flew the company's logo around South Commons for hours. Maybe by next June, "Mike and Mike in the Morning" finally will have their own blimp.)

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue issued a statement of mourning on the death of UGA VI - the University of Georgia real-life bulldog mascot. All the tributes for this dog leave me asking a question. Did the Georgia baseball coach know UGA VI was sick? And if so, why didn't he mention it in a motivational speech to help win the College World Series?

(UGA VI is being buried today at Sanford Stadium in Athens -- which strikes me as fascinating, because I have yet to hear anyone suggest burying Vince Dooley or Larry Munson there.)

+ Instant Message to the Piggly Wiggly store on River Road: Have you changed your photocopied ads at the entrance yet? I mean, Kinko's is NOT that far away -- and I'm probably not the only one who was disappointed this weekend to find a gallon of milk cost $1.10 more than expected.

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: Yet another local media departure.... someone making quite a career change....

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 784 (- 32. 3.9%)

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, June 29, 2008


"Choosing a college can be a BIG decision." So said the electronic sign outside Beacon University on Veterans Parkway Saturday night. At least the administrators are making things a bit easier in Columbus - by going out of business.

If you haven't heard, Beacon University made a stunning announcement Friday - that it will shut down after the next academic year. So when the speakers at the 2009 commencement say it's "not an ending, but a beginning," feel free to laugh.

Beacon University officials will explain their situation in detail at a Monday afternoon news conference. But the news release Friday reportedly had the words "financial crisis" at the top. Of course, anyone who's 30 days behind in paying the mortgage right now probably is using those same words....

It was merely Beacon College when I moved to Columbus 11 years ago - and it had no campus at all. Beacon was located in a small building, attached to a church on 13th Avenue near the old Lewis-Jones grocery store. I went there one evening, and left convinced that Beacon only held "classes" on Wednesday Bible study nights.

But Beacon grew to university status, and moved into a multistory office building on Veterans Parkway eight years ago. So couldn't it put some offices up for rent, to help pay the bills? Or does a Christian university really need that many prayer closets?

I visited Beacon University a few times in recent years -- using its religious library to sort out some Bible questions. I hope the reference books are donated to a place where they're still accessible. And no, the central Columbus library does NOT count -- since many of its religious reference books somehow vanished between the Bradley Library and Macon Road.

Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer said Beacon University will NOT accept any more new students. Yet the electronic sign didn't indicate that Saturday night, and the Beacon web site hasn't been updated to say that. You can e-mail "admissions" - but if you get a security warning from PayPal in reply, don't touch it.

I didn't realize until I read the newspaper article that Beacon University had bought the old El Carrizo restaurant site down the street on Veterans Parkway. It planned to move the campus library there - and hopefully keep the flavor of the old management, by offering courses in Spanish.

I also didn't realize that Beacon University recently added former Muscogee County School Superintendent Guy Sims to its staff. You'll recall Sims left the local United Way to help low-income people in Columbus - and now he again is close to becoming one of them.

But it still seems stunning to me that a Christian university in a "Bible belt" city would have financial problems, and even go out of business. Aren't local churches willing to help Beacon out? Or does it cost that much to hold a week of vacation Bible school nowadays?

Assuming Beacon University actually folds, it has some assets to sell. WBUE-FM is a low-power radio station, but still should attract some buyers. And there's that old-fashioned bus parked in front of the office building - which Country's Barbecue can add to its collection on Broadway.

But there's one other option that Beacon University doesn't seem to be considering. Why not simply raise tuition? That seems to work for public universities across Alabama. The Auburn trustees approved a 12-percent tuition increase Friday - which I think is more than the increase for football season tickets.

BLOG UPDATE: The field is now set for the upcoming Columbus elections - and you'll be pleased to learn everybody loves two Columbus Councilors. Glenn Davis and Evelyn Turner Pugh are unopposed for another term. Davis is especially thankful, because he won't have to add to those $22,000 in campaign debts.

Only one candidate for Muscogee County School Board will be unopposed in November. Robert Varner of Synovus will replace Fife Whiteside - and with his financial background, maybe we'll finally learn exactly how much the new administration building costs.

>> How did things go for us at Thursday's poker night? The answer's waiting at our new blog -- "On the Flop!" <<

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Again this year, I misfired in predicting the Miss Georgia pageant. Miss Augusta did NOT win Saturday night - but at least she won a preliminary event Friday night. Can I declare myself ten-percent right?

Your new Miss Georgia is a Columbus woman. Chasity Hardman is the daughter of Impact Center Pastor Ann Hardman - so maybe it's no coincidence that her church moved to Victory Drive awhile back.

But Chasity Hardman did NOT compete as Miss Columbus - she was "Miss Capital City." It's an open secret that Miss Georgia hopefuls enter multiple pageants, looking for a win anywhere they can. It's tempting to compare it with singles nights at nightclubs....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Why so many infomercials? We asked that question Thursday, and the station we asked it about offers an explanation....

Richard: We will continue to show the White Springs TV network soon. Over the last few weeks the trees around our transmitter site have grown significantly and are now causing a problem with our satellite reception of White Springs. (Blocking the Satellite signal) We hope to have this fixed soon. Thanks for Watching.

Mark Snow

Columbus 11 Television

MD Broadcasting

Wow -- fast-growing trees can affect a TV station? I guess weekend rain to alleviate a drought can be bad after all.

I think we've run out of updates, so let's check other weekend headlines:

+ The Chevron station at 13th and Veterans Parkway blasted through the four-dollar gasoline ceiling in Columbus, pushing its price for regular unleaded up to $4.10 a gallon. Yet for some reason, I didn't see a long line of Cadillacs and limousines filling up there.

+ The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final appeal of the Continental Carbon pollution case. This should settle the issue once and for all - the only "carbon nation" people in South Columbus want is a return of the old RC Cola plant.

+ The web site of meteorologist Mark Prater confirmed he's left WLTZ, and will begin working at a Birmingham TV station Monday. This must have confused the moving company - being told to send the van to Iowa, several hundred miles away from Columbus.

+ The Aflac Outdoor Games opened in South Commons. From what I'm hearing, the crowds are good and people are enjoying it. But if no Georgia Power employees are climbing those tall poles, do we REALLY know who's the fastest?

+ Former "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard was married in suburban Birmingham. If I'm not mistaken, he's the first "Idol" champion to become married - and if Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood would like to be next, please click on the "write me" link below.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: Big news about a familiar local name, which might lead some people to celebrate.... but don't do it too soon....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 816 (+ 26, 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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Saturday, June 28, 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.)

The letter was postmarked 16 June - so that made the item inside the envelope even more puzzling. It was a Father's Day card, apparently mailed the day after Father's Day. Some places take Army Day more seriously than others....

But wait a minute - a Father's Day card?! Sent to me?! I'm not a father. I'm not even a Larry Bird dad - if you remember all the years when he denied having a daughter out of wedlock.

"A wish for my brother," the card says in front with a picture of a dog and sports equipment. Inside it reads: "Hope your Father's Day is filled with everything that you enjoy!" Well, I did go out and whack a racquetball. If a dog had chased me while I was running, I would NOT have enjoyed that.

So who sent this after-Father's Day card to someone who's not a father? Not my older brother, who gave away his last daughter in marriage in May. It was my younger brother - or at least someone who signed the card with his name. No, he's not THAT wealthy that secretaries do the signing for all his important documents.

I should explain - my younger brother doesn't know any better. Donald doesn't know if I'm a father or not. He probably doesn't even know I'm related to him. When I visited him in May, it was our first face-to-face meeting in three years. And all he did was stare at me a bit - perhaps because I woke him up from an afternoon nap.

This isn't a matter of adoption, but of retardation. Donald has been mentally disabled from birth. My parents placed him in a neurological institute when he was about four years old, because he was too difficult to handle -- and he remains there today, about 40 years later. I've lived in seven different cities in that time, so in one way he's more stable than I am.

Donald couldn't walk when he entered the institute -- but the staff somehow taught him to do it. This was a such big deal that I skipped school for a day, to join the family at a ceremony celebrating the accomplishment. But Donald doesn't walk today -- allowing the people pushing him in a wheelchair to get all the exercise.

Yet Donald has left the institute for some surprising road trips. I mentioned in January that his unit was bused to see Kansas play in a football bowl game in Texas [4 Jan]. As long as the group wore blue shirts and waved pompons with the proper colors, most TV viewers probably never noticed the difference.

I could focus on why Donald might be mentally disabled -- such as my father's occasional drinking, my mother's years of smoking or something else. But my visits with him look toward the future. I tell him of the wonderful things ahead for him -- even though he apparently can't hear, and doesn't understand.

I tell Donald that God will give him healing someday, so that his brain will be made normal. How can I say that? Because the Bible says in Revelation 20 that all of the dead will stand before Jesus and be "judged according to their deeds." The institute's staff has given Donald a good deed to do -- even if it's only pressing a button to welcome people to a work area.

I refuse to believe the common idea that Donald is doomed to burn "you-know-where" because he didn't accept Jesus in this life. In his current condition, he can't accept Jesus -- not unless someone presses a yes-or-no button for him at a church service, and I don't see in the Bible where that's legal.

My Bible shows from II Peter 3 that God wants "all to come to repentance." If Donald can't because he doesn't know how, I believe God will show mercy in such cases -- and heal him so he CAN know how. And I suspect at that point, Donald won't be surrounded by agnostics and atheists calling him silly.

Admittedly, my talks with Donald about these things are in effect talks with God. They're statements of faith, and I pray my understanding is right as I state those words. Without that faith, Donald's time on this planet is essentially meaningless - and our family has been going through the motions, in the name of a less-than-perfect life. The Bible says God's way is perfect. May he make my brother that way someday.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: Who's getting a free pass, in this year's local elections.... and who cracked the four-dollar ceiling in a big way....

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 790 (- 40, 4.8%)

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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Friday, June 27, 2008


Columbus Fire investigators ruled Thursday a fire at the old Swift Mill on Sixth Avenue was accidental. In a way, that was a relief - as there are too many laid-off mill workers who could be considered suspects.

But the investigation revealed something surprising. Shortly before the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon, part of the mill was being used for training with smoke bombs. If a company can do that, why doesn't someone renovate the entire mill for paintball and skateboarding?

The smoke bomb exercise was conducted by a local company called National Security Associates. Its web site promises to provide "technical and tactical counter-terrorist training...." Critics will say it's simply advancing the Columbus "police state" several blocks northeast - and before long, METRA bus drivers will be uniformed.

National Security Associates has a location in Cusseta which it uses for training. Based on the company's web site, the staff might want to "stand down" one week soon - for training in how to properly spell Cusseta.

The NSA training site in Chattahoochee County is next to Fort Benning - and it sounds a lot like a proposed development which has caused debate in Marion County. It has a building for shooting practice, as well as seven different ranges. Why, I think it has almost as many ranges as the Columbus Sears store.

NSA offers to do security training at all kinds of locations around the world, from apartments to casinos. Based on what I saw at a Kansas City casino in May, a team could fire smoke bombs all day without most slot machine players noticing.

That sort of remote training apparently brought NSA to the old Swift Mill - but that didn't please workers in nearby offices. One of them told WRBL Thursday her staff should have been told about the smoke bomb work. After all, the health effects of second-hand smoke have been known for years.

But Columbus Fire Marshal Thomas Streeter said security training occurs in run-down mills all the time, and the companies are NOT required to tell anyone what they're doing. If they told all, Iran would know how to move its nuclear secrets before Israel launches its.... oops, please ignore that last sentence....

I can understand why the people in nearby offices would want to know about smoke bomb training. But shouldn't this standard apply to everyone? The Port Columbus staff needs to pass out warning flyers around South Commons, before firing those old cannons.

The owner of NSA indicated all was well when his company's training mission ended. But an explosion was reported at Swift Mill around 4:30 p.m. So this was one time when the company was happy to end a project with a whimper, not a bang.

The Columbus Fire Marshal decided the Swift Mill fire largely had another source - sandblasting in another part of the building, which ignited cotton dust. This happened only months after that deadly sugar dust explosion near Savannah. It's enough to make some people run out this weekend, and buy several cans of Pledge.

>> How did things go for us at Thursday's poker night? The answer's waiting at our new blog -- "On the Flop!" <<

BLOG UPDATE: Thursday's qualifying at the Muscogee County Election Board brought a couple of familiar names. Sheriff Ralph Johnson filed for re-election. So did Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh - who has to be thankful her husband's race for State Senate will be over in mid-July, so she won't be torn about which campaign event to attend.

A second challenger emerged Thursday for Red McDaniel's Columbus Council seat, when Steve Miller filed for office. With a name like that, he could get lots of votes. But personally, I grew tired of his band playing "Fly Like an Eagle" when I was in college.

Muscogee County School Board member Patricia Hugley Green received opposition from realtor Mary Walker. There's already a James Walker on the board, who's running for another term. Put two Walkers on the same board in Columbus, and most people automatically will assume they're as married as the Hugleys.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our mention of Columbus gas prices Thursday brought a note from the suburbs....

Mr. Burkard,

Just so you know, the Castle station just south of Smiths Station always has fuel priced a few cents lower than places in Columbus. And it is not an Ethanol mix. Two other places in the area with prices that beat Columbus are the station on the Phenix bypass (just south of Arbys) and the Castle Fuels at the intersection of US 431 and hwy 165, just south of CVCC.

And,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I love your Blog. D. Whitley

Phenix City

Thank you, D. -- and I've found gas stations across Lee County have beaten Columbus's lowest price in recent months. I guess the oil companies are running scared, from that little school in Salem with algae fuel.

Now for other Thursday short subjects....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported there's a new bronze cougar on the Columbus State University campus. But the artwork was a bit disappointing - because the cougar's face doesn't look like outgoing President Frank Brown at all.

(The cougar outside the Lumpkin Center cost Columbus State $13,000. But remember, you college pranksters - it's bronze, not gold. You can't haul it down the street to that jewelry shop and hock it for extra money.)

+ Friedman's Jewelers at Peachtree Mall went out of business. That's a shame for shoppers - because now there's one less place at the mall to trade in your gold, to buy a nice suit at Dillard's.

+ Hurtsboro Constable Robert Schweiger appeared on the noon news, promoting a weekend horse show at Austin-Sumbry Park in Russell County. He's so involved with horses that it doesn't seem right to call him a lame duck.

+ WLTZ continued a week-long focus on Eufaula, which happens to be sponsored by "Eufaula, Alabama." I guess this explains why Wednesday evening's lead news story was the Shorter Mansion -- which is only 124 years old.

+ WRBL announced morning news anchor Tammy Terry had a baby boy. Congratulations to both of them -- and it's comforting to know the baby will match his mother's schedule, by waking up in the middle of the night.

+ Instant Message to North Korea: OK, I guess I'll follow the President's example. In one of this blog's first entries in 2003, I declared war on you. You've made no effort to ban me, or fire missiles toward Columbus. So let's call it a temporary cease-fire.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 830 (- 36, 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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Thursday, June 26, 2008


You may not know this, but a sneaky little secret is scattered throughout the Columbus Historic District. Not all the homes have been on those spots more than 100 years. Plenty of sunny 95-degree summer days simply have worn them down, to look that way.

An old house from the 1850's was moved into the Historic District Wednesday. Well, half of it was - because I found only part of it sitting on a lot in the 600 block of Broadway Wednesday night. Maybe the other half was used by a contestant in the Miss Georgia pageant, for a dramatic reading.

A woman with the Historic Columbus Foundation told WLTZ the house had to be cut in two, because it was too wide to move in one piece. And you thought obesity was only a modern-day problem....

The news report didn't explain how the old house was cut in two. Did some experts have to make an evaluation, as gem experts do with a diamond? Or was this home used as practice for this weekend's Aflac Summer Games?

The roof of the house needed to be removed as well, so it could pass under traffic lights on its way to Broadway. You know, solar panels could be put on this home to make it energy-efficient - but the Historic Columbus Foundation has a lot more clout around here than the Sierra Club.

This large old house was moved to 625 Broadway from 1055 Brown Avenue. It sat vacant for the last five years -- mainly because the Habitat for Humanity houses nearby were much more affordable.

It happens that the house's new location on Broadway also has been vacant for years. We noted here four years ago that an apartment building on that lot was bulldozed, only weeks before Riverfest [26 Feb 04]. And I've never seen any Columbus State University art students use it for touch football games.

Apparently Aflac was involved in the movement of this house from Brown Avenue to Broadway. I'm not sure why it's involved - especially when Elena Amos's old home atop the parking garage remains more noticeable.

The TV report noted this makes about 30 old houses in the Historic District which have been moved there, thanks to the Historic Columbus Foundation. Yet something seems missing in all this. Couldn't one of the shut-down Krystal restaurants be brought in, so residents have a place to eat dinner?

The Historic Columbus Foundation hopes to find a buyer for the new/old house on Broadway. Of course, that will have to take place after the two parts are put back together - or is this a new approach to the concept of a down payment?

(And how do you put a "house divided" like this back together? Will there be an open-air or glass-covered courtyard between the sections? Or does Home Depot some kind of industrial-strength Krazy Glue for a project like this?)

Whomever buys this house in the 600 block of Broadway should have no problem finalizing the details of it. The lot happens to be located between two law offices.... [true!]

Wednesday was a different sort of moving day for some people in Phenix City. They moved from the old brick Frederick Douglass Apartments to new housing - apartments with modern-looking siding and cable TV hookups. Hopefully residents are being told which channel shows reruns of "The Jeffersons," since they feel like they're "movin' on up, on the east side."

BLOG UPDATE: Someone's plea in the comments section of our current Big Blog Question was answered Wednesday. A challenger filed for Gary Allen's Columbus Council seat. There's no word yet on whether the challenger is a disgruntled firefighter....

Clint Perkins entered the race for Gary Allen's District 6 Columbus Council seat. The phone book shows someone with that name at a Midland address - but when we dialed it Wednesday night, we heard a "disconnected" message. Being disconnected with the voters never works at election time.

With two days left in qualifying week, several big names apparently have yet to file their papers. Sheriff Ralph Johnson hasn't. Councilor Glenn Davis hasn't. And independent state House candidate Zephaniah Baker may be waiting for a shuttle bus, to take him to the state Capitol in Atlanta.

Now let's see what else caught our eye Wednesday....

+ Which member of the WRBL news team lined up in the left-turn lane at Ninth and Veterans Parkway - then went straight ahead when the light turned green, instead of turning? You were "on my side," and then you cut me off.

+ Gas prices continued a slow decline in Columbus, with two stations near the Civic Center falling to $3.89 a gallon for regular unleaded. To the guerrilla groups in Nigeria, I beg you - quit destroying those oil pipelines, and go back to sending e-mail scams.

+ Muscogee County Assistant Superintendent Robin Pennock gave a farewell interview to WRBL. She said the school district reflects the community, because it has "high standards." There, you see - the new administration building HAS to cost as much as it does.

+ Uh-oh - my choice for Miss Georgia failed to win on the opening night of preliminaries. One winner was Miss Cobb County, who has a health condition called scoliosis. And even more impressively, she's probably one of the few contestants who can spell that word.

+ WWCG TV-11 spent a second day showing nothing but infomercials, instead of its usual classic movies and old cartoons. And here's the most curious thing -- Jessica Simpson's Proactiv Solutions ad still looks like it's about ten years old.

+ Macon radio station WMAC suspended morning host Shayne McBride, after he was arrested for possessing marijuana. The audio knobs on a radio console are called "pots," but I don't think he needed to be reminded of that after hours.

+ The University of Georgia announced its "Research Foundation" will buy a commercial TV station in Toccoa. I can remember when that station had prayer times on Saturday evenings. Now that may be replaced by Georgia fans praying for sports victories.

+ Fresno State stunned Georgia 6-1, to win baseball's College World Series. Oh well - at least Georgia won national titles this spring in men's tennis and women's gymnastics. Maybe next spring, the local sportscasts actually will give them as much attention.

+ Instant Message to the crew building the Riverchase Drive exit off U.S. 80 in Phenix City: Wow - you're getting finished six months early?! Can you head down to Broad Street, and show those workers how it's done?

COMING SOON: How I spent my stimulus check in one fell swoop.... and one of the strangest greeting cards we've ever received....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 866 (+31, 3.7%)

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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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The Georgia Lottery held a celebration in downtown Atlanta Tuesday, to mark its 15th anniversary. So why didn't it give the gamblers a gift - and have the number 15 come out during Mega Millions?

For those who may not know, the Georgia Lottery was the idea of Zell Miller. He ran for Governor on the promise of a lottery - and not only was he elected, the lottery was approved in a referendum. This is one of the few issues where Miller has NOT publicly changed his mind in this decade.

Zell Miller promised money from the state lottery would be set aside for education - and Georgia lawmakers have not tampered with that promise. The lottery web site boasts about $9.9 billion has been collected for pre-Kindergarten programs and HOPE college scholarships. And you've noticed the two national sports titles Georgia has won so far this spring, right?

Yet all that boasting made another news item from Atlanta Tuesday quite surprising. The Southern Education Foundation reported pre-Kindergarten programs are NOT available for about 45 percent of Georgia's four-year-olds. But don't feel sorry for those poor youngsters - they're giving "GPB Kids" an audience during the day.

How can this be - that 45 percent of Georgia's four-year-olds are NOT enrolled? Why, this seems to show pre-K is not O-K....

The report indicates 63,000 Georgia youngsters have no access to pre-Kindergarten, and funding for the program has not increased much in recent years. I guess this means more money is going to HOPE scholarships. At least, I hope it's for HOPE - and not for staff salaries.

Muscogee County's pre-K enrollment apparently is lacking as well. Spokesperson Valerie Fuller told WXTX "News at Ten" the school district hopes to add extra classes soon at three grade schools. Maybe it's in a bidding war for teachers, who also want to be Phenix City swimming pool lifeguards.

I checked the Muscogee County School District web site Tuesday night, and found several grade schools have no pre-Kindergarten classes at all. Britt David doesn't. Edgewood doesn't. And amazingly, Martin Luther King School doesn't - although the old 30th Avenue Elementary is listed with three. So which part of that school kept the old name?

The development of pre-Kindergarten classes may have put some Georgia parents in an ethical dilemma. If you oppose a lottery for religious reasons, do you enroll your child in pre-K for the promised educational benefits? Or do you decide things already are hopeless, and start home-schooling at age three?

I know one church-going Muscogee County mom who had no qualms about enrolling her children in pre-K. She said something to the effect that other people provided the money for it. I'm not sure that logic would work if gang leaders provided the money....

But don't look at me - I haven't provided one dollar in 15 years for the Georgia Lottery. It's my longstanding policy NOT to gamble. Welllll -- except when the casino cancels the poker tournament, and you feel like you wasted gasoline for two trips.

In fact, I made it a point in the mid-nineties to avoid any gas stations with lottery games. That approach became almost impossible - but hold on. Come to think of it, there's still one station in Columbus which doesn't sell those tickets. The Dolly Madison thrift store is loaded with Twinkies instead.

As it happened, summer exams ended Tuesday for some Muscogee County students. They had to take remedial courses and a second round of tests, after scoring poorly on them in the spring. Which means those students were in-CRCT....

Many Georgia students still struggle with test scores, and the high school dropout rate remains among the highest in the country. So can we really say the "education lottery" has succeeded after 15 years? Many parents probably would answer yes - because they're now off the hook for their children's college tuition.

>> Our poker adventures now have a blog of their own. Visit the all-new "On the Flop!" <<

BLOG UPDATE: The Muscogee County Election Board tells us no one filed campaign qualifying papers Tuesday. We were not told which staff member succeeded in "Plan B," and won the office card game.

But there was action in Atlanta, as Columbus attorney Gil McBride filed papers to run for the Superior Court Judge position Kenneth Followill is vacating. That means McBride will face Alonza Whitaker in November - and it appears this race is too close to call. That's because neither attorney has a big ad in the Yellow Pages.

Now let's talk about other Tuesday topics....

+ The Russell County School Board approved four-day work weeks for all employees during July. If we aren't careful, this trend is going to become habit-forming - and we'll need to come up with about 40 new national holidays to mark on Mondays.

+ A comparison on the evening news found Piggly Wiggly had the lowest average grocery prices in Columbus, with Wal-Mart second. Piggly Wiggly is probably the most entertaining place to shop as well - because Bear O'Brien makes customers sound silly when he gives away prizes over the store radio.

(This comparison confirmed what I'd already concluded from years of grocery shopping. But my secret spot for even better "store-brand" prices is Target. If PetSmart would kindly move to Midland, so we can have a full-fledged supermarket....)

+ The longstanding sign for WPNX radio on Wynnton Road finally came down, replaced by one for WBOJ-FM "103.7 the Truth." Clear Channel moved away from that location several years ago, and dropped those call letters for 1460 AM years ago as well. It must be easier to change music formats than large signs.

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley showed off the state's new postage stamp. He declared the flag on the stamp the "most beautiful flag" of any state, because it symbolizes what many Alabamians stand for. Sure it does - a big red X against lotteries, Northerners, and in some places honest elections.

(Oh wait - Governor Riley called it a "Saint Andrew's cross" on that flag. And Saint Andrew supposedly was killed by crucifixion. Boy, I hope the Alabama Ku Klux Klan doesn't hear about this....)

+ University of Alabama linebacker Jimmy Johns was arrested in Tuscaloosa on charges of selling cocaine. He's been suspended from the school, kicked off the football team - and I'm not sure even Erin Andrews of ESPN will want to interview him about it.

+ Fresno State pulled even with Georgia in the College World Series, winning 19-10. This was a bit embarrassing - since Fresno State scored nine more points than Hawaii did in the Sugar Bowl.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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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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, June 23, 2008


It's a rare day when a politician refuses to comment on an issue - and even rarer when a former politician refuses to do it. After all, the former official is less likely to be sued for not fulfilling a promise....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: "I will not answer that. I will not answer that." Those were the stunning words of former Columbus mayor Bob Poydasheff Monday, when your blog asked if he supports the one-percent city sales tax question. It's not like we asked him to pick the winner of the Miss Georgia pageant.

It seemed like a simple, almost softball question - does the former mayor back the LOST question? Yet Bob Poydasheff's decision not to answer that question actually raises more. For instance, is he practicing neutrality for an upcoming vacation in Switzerland?

Bob Poydasheff explained his silence by saying it's his policy NOT to comment on the actions of a sitting mayor. Well, OK - but I thought the entire Columbus Council approved the LOST issue. Maybe I should have asked if he agrees with Mimi Woodson's statements about it.

If this question had been put to Bob Poydasheff's predecessor in the mayor's office, the answer would have quite different. Bobby Peters endorsed a proposal along the lines of the 2004 LOST question -- and Peters went on to win a testy race for Superior Court Judge. But then again, I guess we expect Judge Peters to be unbiased and neutral now....

Could memories of the November 2004 LOST issue explain why Bob Poydasheff is so quiet now? That 60-percent vote against that one-percent sales tax happened while Poydasheff was mayor, and surprised a lot of people. Perhaps he's a student of history - and knows how it can repeat itself.

On the other hand, maybe Bob Poydasheff is laying low on purpose. Mayor Jim Wetherington could be waiting for a dramatic moment to bring him out of hiding, for a statement of endorsement. If it worked for Barack Obama during the Presidential primaries....

As for the people actually speaking out about the LOST, "Yes for Public Safety" put its first commercial on TV Monday. It's a ten-second appeal from Mayor Jim Wetherington - but the camera was so shaky, you have to wonder if a little of the sales tax money can be used to buy a tripod.

The "Yes for Public Safety" web site is now fully loaded. One page answers a puzzle we mentioned here Monday - explaining Georgia law exempts hotels, motels and car dealers from local option sales taxes. So if the LOST passes, busloads of people could come here from Macon to shop at the Jay Auto Mall.

While the "Yes for Public Safety" billboards feature a police officer and a firefighter, the web site is dominated by pictures of Mayor Jim Wetherington. His political reputation certainly is on the line three weeks from today - but can you really become a lame-duck mayor, in the second year of a four-year term?

The opponents of the LOST expressed their view on WRBL Monday afternoon -- but Paul Olson had so much to say, Phil Scoggins couldn't even ask him a second question. And then Olson considers politicians fast talkers?!

If I understood Paul Olson correctly, he said two local sales tax should be allowed to expire this year -- and the effect would be a $72 million "economic stimulus" for Columbus. As if all those additional pennies are going to fill our piggy banks next January....

Paul Olson also warned part of the street improvements under the one-percent sales tax question will remove rail lines downtown. Olson says we'll need those rail lines "if we have a depression." Yeow - we're not even officially in a recession yet, and Olson sounds like he's rooting for $200 oil.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We actually called Bob Poydasheff Monday about a completely different topic - one brought up by a blog reader:

Richard, In yesterday's blog [20 Jun] you mentioned "keys to the city" which reminded me of something I overheard at the Grand Opening of the new USO last Saturday at the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel on Victory Drive.

I happened to overhear former Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff tell someone that he had recently given a "key to the city" to the Atlanta developer of the hotel because he thought he deserved one. My question is : Does a former mayor have the authority to continue giving keys to the city of Columbus? By the way the current mayor was not in attendance at the ceremony. Do you know if Mayor Wetherington was invited, did he decline an invitation or did he have another commitment? Eavesdropper

Bob Poydasheff says yes, he can do what he did. He told me there's no "specific protocol" on keys to the city, and he took several keys with his name on them when he left the mayor's office. Uh-oh - I hope this doesn't lead to a police raid across Second Avenue, toward his law office.

Bob Poydasheff says the key to the city for the developer of the Victory Drive hotel was the first he's awarded since leaving office. So at least he's handling these keys responsibly. Former Marshal Ken Suddeth seemed to spread honorary badges from coast to coast.

Bob Poydasheff says that key to the city was awarded at the opening of the USO office on Victory Drive 14 June. A woman in Jim Wetherington's office told us Monday that opening was NOT on the mayor's schedule. So we don't know if he was invited, or if the invitation got lost amid all those federal stimulus checks.

We broke a very different story about Bob Poydasheff last year, when he was hospitalized for a broken hip [14 Aug 07]. Poydasheff assured me Monday he's much better now, and is walking around without a cane. What he's using instead to prevent downtown carjackers, he didn't say.

>> Our poker adventures now have a blog of their own. Visit the all-new "On the Flop!" <<

BLOG UPDATE: To bring this all full-circle, one of Bob Poydasheff's opponents in the 2006 mayoral race is running for office again. LOST opponent Bert Coker filed qualifying papers for Columbus Council Monday. So he won't be a write-in candidate this time, as he was in 2006 - and supporters won't have to worry about that "e or u" question.

Bert "Cowboy" Coker isn't settling for one of the smaller districts in Columbus. He filed for District 10 - the citywide at-large seat held by Skip Henderson. So it's Skip and Bert, eh? They sound like they could be executive chefs at Waffle House.

Bert Coker wasn't the only outsider to file documents for Columbus Council Monday. David Yarbrough will challenge Red McDaniel in District 8, on a platform of revitalizing midtown. If that's his goal, Yarbrough needs a nickname like "Greenspace."

Another interesting filing moment occurred when Norene Marvets qualified for the school board seat Joseph Roberson is giving up. Marvets's husband filed the papers in her behalf, because she was starting a three-week road trip to Utah. This will have to change if Marvets is elected - because only the school superintendent takes odd-looking vacations like that.

Norene Marvets has gained the backing of former school board member Owen Ditchfield. This must mean Ditchfield will not try to regain the seat he lost four years ago - and he can stick to the Fort Benning schools where he's worked for years.

A news release promoting Norene Marvets notes she serves on the school district's "Sex Education Advisory Committee." She also teaches "religious education" each morning to high school students -- which indicates she takes the idea of penance seriously.

Enough politics already - let's see if anything else made news Monday:

+ Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin admitted the "streetscape" project on Broad Street is $600,000 over budget, and will NOT be finished as planned by the end of September. This cannot be what Hardin had in mind - to have that construction work staring at drivers, as they head to the city election in August.

+ Muscogee County Schools Transportation Director Russell Curry warned high fuel prices may mean fewer "fan buses" going to events next term. Car pooling worked when I was in high school -- and sometimes the mothers even drove our debate team to tournaments.

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution rated the highest-paid executives in Georgia. Aflac's Dan Amos placed fifth this year - so the shareholders hopefully won't mind another vote on compensation next spring.

+ WLTZ reported the Columbus Catfish have rescheduled the rained-out "Bark in the Park Night" for 12 July. If rain falls then, I suppose the team could have Three Dog Nights....

+ Georgia edged Fresno State 7-6 in the first game of the College World Series finals. Georgia is 4-0 in the tournament, and has only played four games in ten days. Wow - even the National Basketball Association settles four-game sweeps faster than this.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The jokes for today have concluded, but you're welcome to keep reading for thoughts about one more Monday news item.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: It was sad to hear Monday morning about the death of George Carlin. He had some funny jokes over the years - but if you wonder if he was an inspiration for this blog, I'd have to say no.

The reason involves the very things George Carlin will most be remembered for - the "seven dirty words" he dared to say during performances and in albums. To this day, I don't know what those seven words are. And I don't want to know them. I don't need dirty language to carry on a conversation, or even write a blog -- not even the "four-letter words" TV has permitted for decades.

Maybe I'm wrong about this, but we all seem to have personal boundary lines when it comes to the words we use. Only minutes before I learned about George Carlin's death, I heard Dr. Laura Schlessinger on WDAK prod at a caller for referring to "the birds and the bees." "Can you say sex?" she asked -- proving even some conservatives have their own version of politically correct speech.

George Carlin openly admitted he felt it was his duty as a comedian to find those boundary lines, and go through them. In doing that, he pointed out a basic difference between liberal and conservative views about life. The former want to test and break through barriers. The latter want to build up and protect them.

As George Carlin admitted in a comedy bit I heard Monday on NPR, there are millions of clean words in English you can say - but seven you supposedly can't. Yet some people are not satisfied with the millions, including some they've probably never even tried to use. It's like the classmates of mine in school, who said they took other languages merely to learn the "swear words."

From time to time we've posted above our title a quote from Groucho Marx: "If you have to be dirty to be a comedian, you're not a comedian." George Carlin could be funny without being dirty -- but many times, he chose to be dirty anyway. And in doing so, he inspired more than the Chris Rock style of comedy. I fear he also inspired dirty-talking "radio stars" such as Howard Stern and the Greaseman.

I write this as someone who grew up hearing "blue language" on a regular basis from one parent, and occasionally from the other. I resolved in my youth NOT to use words like that, and I still don't today. Call me old-fashioned and out of touch if you wish -- but consider George Carlin's legacy as you do. Do YOU want to be remembered for generations to come by the dirty words you said?

Part of today's entry was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 813 (+ 27, 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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OK, I guess I'm not supposed to call them that. But a procession of contestants begins parading downtown today -- people with definite stands on issues, looking for strong showings of support and affection. And across First Avenue from the Election Board office, the Miss Georgia preliminaries will start as well.

This is qualifying week for nonpartisan candidates in this year's Georgia elections. This includes the independents, as well as the people running for Columbus Council. And we all know the council candidates are independent - as long as you ignore the attorneys and business owners donating them money.

A couple of people already have announced they're running as independents. Sheriff Ralph Johnson has done that ever since taking office -- so for him, Independents' Day comes even earlier than the party at Fort Benning.

The other announced independent in Columbus is Zephaniah Baker. The son of Pastor and civil rights activist Wayne Baker is challenging state Representative Calvin Smyre. But by running as an independent, he risks being considered strange by some voters - perhaps even half-baked.

Some people have accused Zephaniah Baker of acting more like a Republican than an independent, seeking G.O.P. supporters in his campaign. I think Muscogee County Republican Chair Josh McKoon even showed up at Baker's kickoff announcement. But then again, Calvin Smyre is a Democrat -- so McKoon is content with an A.B.C. approach: Anybody But Calvin.

Five Columbus Council seats are at stake, as well as four seats on the Muscogee County School Board. This year it's the even-numbered Council districts and the odd-numbered school board districts. Whether you consider the councilors evenhanded and the board members odd is up to you.

Two school board members already have announced they're NOT seeking another term -- Joseph Roberson and Fife Whiteside. You have to admit, campaign signs with the phrase "Fife for Six" wouldn't be as catchy as four years ago....

The Columbus Council race already has seen one candidate announce he would NOT run -- only to take it back, then take it back again. Don't be surprised if Red McDaniel goes to Jeremy Hobbs's home this week and asks: "Is that your final answer?"

Remember the groundswell around town two years ago for change in Columbus Council -- including letters to this blog? I haven't heard much of that this time around. Maybe it's because the people who wanted more attention paid to public safety got their wish - and some of them now have been reprimanded, or worse.

So we'll see who files papers to run for.... what? What's that you're asking? You want me to mention those other contestants, across First Avenue? You say they're more interesting? Well, I'm not so sure about that. If someone has a picture of Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh in a swimsuit, we could do a comparison....

This year's Miss Georgia pageant has 38 contestants from across the state. Well, I think they're all from across Georgia - but then I checked the list, and there's a "Miss Music City." I didn't realize the state legislature wanted to move the Tennessee boundary that far north.

It's become a custom for this blog to predict a winner of the Miss Georgia pageant. Sometimes we come very close, while sometimes we're way off. And sadly, the women we pick never contact us to say thanks - so we could invite them to a one-on-one dinner.

It's challenging to pick the winner of Miss Georgia, because all the pageant's web site gives you for guidance is pictures of the contestants. We don't know their "platform" issues of concern. And we don't even know if they plan to wear platform shoes, with their evening gowns.

BIG PREDICTION: This is a close call, but I'll pick Miss Augusta (Laura Stone) to win the Miss Georgia pageant. Miss Rome is second on my scorecard, followed by Miss Elliottia - and she might have placed higher, if "Elliottia" was easier to pronounce.

>> Our poker adventures now have a blog of their own. Visit the all-new "On the Flop!" <<

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION changed Sunday evening -- and our non-scientific poll found 59 percent of our voters oppose the one-percent city sales tax question (7-10). Maybe if some money had been promised for scientific programs....

Our result is similar to a survey WRBL did on its web site this past week. It also found a majority of online voters are against the LOST question. So supporters may need to get those commercials out quickly - and of course, avoid any mention of the yes vote being a "LOST cause."

The only person to leave a comment on our poll raised a series of objections, including one which we didn't quite understand. It implied the sales tax question would give one Columbus Councilor "outrageous tax breaks." What does Mayor Wetherington need to do - pick the spots for new fire stations, by throwing darts at a city map?

The commenter even suggested a recall drive might begin against Mayor Jim Wetherington, because a law officer used swear words toward opponents of the sales tax question. I'm still waiting to see the threatened recall petitions against a couple of Muscogee County School Board members - for simply doing their duty, and casting votes.

The comment went on to declare the Government Center a "new police state." I'm not sure Mayor Wetherington is to blame for that. My calendar shows the September 11 attacks occurred five years before he took office.

Our new B.B.Q. deals with an issue currently before Columbus Council, which an e-mail last week brought up. Should there be limits on how often citizens can speak before Columbus Council? And what about those of us who have never spoken there - can we have "rollover minutes," to talk as long as we wish?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Sunday topic brought a message from that local baseball blogger....

Thanks for the link. I do appreciate it.

Regarding the building of a stadium, I'm not opposed to it. Heck, living west of the Chattahoochee means I wouldn't have to pay for it. Except if they charge to park there.

But about the stadium, I don't think it would solve the problem.

Don't get me wrong, I think Golden Park will not draw a new team. Heck, it didn't draw the Catfish (nee Waves); they could have easily ended up in Macon -- where they would have drawn better. But the SAL liked Columbus for its history (an original member of the Southern League).

Anyway, Golden Park has outlived its usefulness. But if the city built a new park, I'm of the opinion that, following an initial surge of "newness," it wouldn't draw any more folks than Golden Park.

My reasoning: if someone wanted to go to a baseball game in Columbus, they'd go.

That's not to say that the city wouldn't get use of it. They could bid to host various baseball venues, such as state tournaments, college conference tournaments or championships, regionals, or championships (other than Division I, in Omaha for 25 years more).

So, while I'm not opposed to a new stadium -- I'd actually enjoy it, I think -- I do not think it will solve the problem. The current stadium isn't the problem, it's an excuse. The problem is that people don't care enough about baseball to support a team.

Anyway, thanks for putting up with this. And,yes, "How 'bout them Dawgs!"


Wow - people in Columbus "don't care enough about baseball"?!? I don't think Basil should wear a name tag around the upcoming Little League All-Star tournaments.

By the way, the Columbus Catfish couldn't play Sunday against Charleston. Saturday's suspended game and the scheduled evening game both were rained out. At least you can't blame it on masses of upset fans crying on the field.

One other e-mail must be held, until we do some research. So let's do a quick check of other Sunday news:

+ Who sprayed blue graffiti on one of the doors of the old Baker Middle School? It wasn't done quite right - because buildings scheduled for demolition are supposed to have a "D" on them.

+ Several Marion County residents told the evening news they oppose a planned military training center along the Fort Benning boundary. The residents fear the center will be too noisy. If only more tanks came equipped with silencers....

+ WRBL noted Phenix City's public swimming pools still haven't opened for the summer, because of a lack of lifeguards. Don't you pity the children there? The only place where they can have "horseplay" is around horses.

+ Instant Message to Morgan Tsvangirai: Let me get this straight. You praise your political supporters in Zimbabwe for being courageous, in the midst of violence - then you pull out of the presidential runoff, five days before the vote? Whose seized farm have you been guaranteed to take over?

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© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008


Saturday night's Columbus Catfish game was suspended by rain, and will be completed this afternoon. Several fans brought their dogs to "Bark in the Park" night - and at least the dogs wound up with free water.

After months of speculation, it's now official - the Catfish will leave Columbus at the end of this season. The owner is moving the team to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Shouldn't a city with this name be required to get a Pro Bowlers Tour event first?

A nice new $25 million stadium is being built in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the Catfish. In fact, an online "name the team" contest already is underway. Aren't the "Kentucky Catfish" good enough for this area? Or are they looking for something along the lines of chicken?

Some of us suspected months ago that the Columbus Catfish were about to leave town. For instance, a camper-trailer has been parked outside Golden Park on the third-base side since April. [true] I have no idea who parked it there. But now I'm watching to see when the U-Haul truck will be parked next to it.

But some fans were stunned to hear the news about the Catfish moving away. One of them said on TV the other night, "Columbus is baseball!" Well, of course it is -- only Little League, high school and college games attract much bigger crowds.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley assured WRBL a number of minor league teams already have expressed interest in moving to Columbus, and replacing the Catfish. He apparently did NOT say which ones. If any of them are currently in the Pacific Coast League, I'd be very skeptical.

Columbus's biggest baseball blogger "Basil" notes a new minor league plans to start play next year - the Atlantic Coast League. But I'm not sure we want to be involved with that. I've heard of too many athletes developing A.C.L. problems....

. Attendance has been the biggest problem for Columbus minor league baseball in recent years. Friday night's game with fireworks attracted 1,630 fans. But "Thirsty Thursday" with one-dollar beer only brought out 1,097 -- and since I was at poker night across the street, I can tell you the tables were NOT that crowded.

We noted last September that the turnout at Golden Park was lousy, even as the Columbus Catfish raced to a South Atlantic League championship. The ballpark has an 82-year history. But when it doesn't have the fan support of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, it may stop being "historic" - and simply become old.

I'll dare to ask it: should Columbus do what Bowling Green is doing? Is it time to build a new baseball stadium -- on the north side of town, in the J.R. Allen Parkway area? That may be where the fans are, around Northern Little League and Shaw High School. For many of them, South Commons has become downright uncommon.

A good place for a new baseball stadium could be around one of the big retail developments. My home town of Kansas City, Kansas has developed a popular minor league team in recent years, in an area with all kinds of shopping and restaurants. But then again, it has something else Columbus lacks - a big NASCAR track.

Of course, Columbus city officials might not want to bring up this idea right now. They're having enough trouble persuading voters to back the one-percent sales tax question. If the people are reluctant to approve safe streets, a place for baseball players to be safe at home could be impossible....

Speaking of baseball, how about those Bulldogs! Georgia advanced to the College World Series finals Saturday, by stopping Stanford 10-8. It could be an all-Bulldog final series, should Fresno State beat North Carolina today -- although part of me suspects Fresno's dogs only nibble on California lettuce and raisins.

>> Our poker adventures now have a blog of their own. Visit the all-new "On the Flop!" <<

BLOG UPDATE: So whatever happened to Hurtsboro? A public hearing on revoking the city's charter was supposed to take place Monday - but now it's been delayed until 21 July. In Hollywood, they call this sort of thing a "slow dissolve."

The supporters of eliminating Hurtsboro announced the delay at a Friday news conference. That group has hired Tommy Worthy as its attorney - so apparently members consider him more Worthy than the city's current mayor.

The Friday event may have marked Robert Schweiger's first public appearance since losing the primary election for Russell County Commissioner. The lame-duck constable actually told WRBL things in Hurtsboro "are getting better." Why do I suspect the election made his e-mails to us stop in recent months - not the good news?

Skeptics might say Robert Schweiger dreamed of a back-door coup -- trying to get the city government of Hurtsboro dissolved, so he could then oversee it as county commissioner. But it now appears he'll be without an office come January. And he still hasn't endorsed anyone in the Democratic runoff, in hopes of getting a paving contract or two.

Some people in Hurtsboro say dissolving the town is NOT the answer to its problems. Gregory Smith told the evening news the local citizens must resolve Hurtsboro's issues, not Russell County. Trouble is, the citizens elected to resolve those problems have been busy working out of town....

Let's see what else has come to mind this weekend....

+ Saturday's high temperature in Columbus was 90 degrees F. So in the evening, I turned on my air conditioner for the first time in four days. If you want Cape Cod weather in June all the time, you'll simply have to move there.

+ Thunderstorms knocked down limbs in parts of Russell County. But on Friday afternoon with a sunny sky, a sudden swirl of wind ripped part of the roof off a Fort Mitchell house. OK, which smart aleck drove by with the Oreck vacuum cleaner?

+ Columbus Police reported a drunk driver crashed his car through a door of the Warm Springs Road fire station. At least EMS technicians were on duty, to make sure the cause wasn't diabetes.

+ NorthStar Community Church went to a Phenix City Chevron station, and pumped gas for two hours at 25 cents off the usual price. Church members can expect a series of messages on stewardship in a few weeks....

(Cascade Hills Pastor Bill Purvis tells stories of how he used to drive down Interstate 185 late at night with filled gas cans. He's stop at a car along the roadside, offer free fuel -- then try to convert the driver. And this was the era before that sort of "conversion" meant buying a hybrid car.)

+ The Space Science Center on Front Avenue marked its 12th anniversary, with a visit by former astronaut Story Musgrave. He was the first astronaut to drink Coca-Cola in space - which finally explains why the center doesn't have Tang anywhere in its name.

+ Davis Broadcasting held its annual "Family Day in the Park" at Cooper Creek Park. Police say there were hardly any incidents this year - which could mean several more Peachtree Mall shops are about to close.

+ A tree company showed up at Toomer's Corner at Auburn to do work on the oak trees. A horticulture expert explained the trees have been "under stress" in recent years - which means they have something in common with Auburn's new baseball coach.

(So what are Auburn University students supposed to do, to protect the trees at Toomer's Corner? Will they be limited to single-ply toilet paper this fall?)

+ Instant Message to Wane Hailes: What's this rant about in your latest issue of The Courier - expressing frustration with people not showing up to work on time for the "Brother Man?" Does this have anything to do with the fact that Kirsten Barnes has disappeared from the Editor's title?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.90 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... the blueberry pancakes at Ryan's weekend breakfast buffet.... and loitering enforcement increasing around the RiverCenter, as Miss Georgia week begins....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 829 (- 79, 8.7%)

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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Friday, June 20, 2008

20 JUN 08: THE BIG 4-0

No, we're not talking about my age today. But part of me wishes I was. At the place where I'm attending church these days, the options for dating would be much more interesting....

The 40 which gained my interest Thursday came from a health screening team downtown. The workers told me I now officially have a 40-inch waist. Oh dear - that means several pairs of shorts and slacks have NOT shrunk in the wash after all.

The big discovery came when I stopped by the "Take Care" health bus parked next to the Columbus Urban League office. Before you get wrong ideas about this event - no, Reginald Pugh did NOT stand outside the bus holding State Senate campaign flyers.

The Take Care mobile clinic is a partnership between Walgreens and the National Urban League. That's evident by the big Urban League logo at the back entrance to the bus, where you sit to wait for testing. Come to think of it, people at the back of that bus are NOT made to feel guilty by watching old films of Rosa Parks.

Even though I arrived around 12:00 noon, I didn't have to wait long for the free health screenings. This surprised me a bit - because I figured the lunch-hour crowd at Minnie's Uptown Restaurant across the street would want to get checked before eating, for better results.

The first check involved a simple needle-prick of my finger, for a blood test. But the staff member admitted she had trouble getting the blood, because it was on the thick side. Some scientists don't believe the phrase, "Blood runs thicker than water" unless they see it personally.

The blood was taken to figure my glucose level -- and the good news was that it was on the low side. That means no risk of diabetes. It also means there was no sign of the chocolate chip cookies I nibbled before leaving home.

The next booth inside the Take Care bus measured my blood pressure. But it was done in a way I don't recall seeing before. The staff member stepped away, and the wrap around my arm inflated and deflated on its own. The inventors of air bag technology apparently needed some extra money.

My blood pressure is in the acceptable range, which means I don't have hypertension. But here again, timing was everything. If a beggar had stopped me outside the bus, demanding two dollars for lunch....

Then I was given a device to hold at an arm's length in front of my body. I think it was used to figure my "body mass index" - because no sets of letters ever came up for an eye exam, and I didn't notice any car thieves.

The last screening required me to roll down my left sock halfway, and stick my foot in a measuring device. I'm not sure what was the point of this - especially since no water squirted out for a foot-washing.

At the front of the bus came the printout of my results. My body mass index wound up in the "overweight" range. But much to my delight, my cholesterol level was 171 - below the danger line of 200. So please don't tell the staff, but I walked home and ate more chocolate chip cookies.

And believe it or not, my 40-inch waist was considered good in the eyes of the clinic staff. That's the top end of the "goal" circumference for men. Maybe so - but buying larger slacks and shorts will make my chest of drawers only more overstuffed.

I picked up a Walgreens gift bag at the end of the screening. Inside were coupons and samples for everything from vitamins to nicotine gum - and a bottle of "Boost Glucose Control" nutritional drink. It reminds me of the church elder who once handed out those drinks at a disaster site and asked himself, "What is Boost?!" But it makes more sense to me than calling a laundry detergent Cheer.

E-MAIL UPDATE: I stumbled upon the health screening bus, as I was walking to the Government Center to follow up a Blog Exclusive from February....

I am interested in the disposition of the case against Ron Harris. I can not find any information past March of this year. What has happened ?


We checked court records Thursday, and found nothing beyond 12 March. That's when the former Little League board member waived an arraignment, on charges of sexual exploitation of a child. If only he had merely waved at children in the first place....

In the last two days, we've phoned both the District Attorney's office and the lawyer for Ron Harris. Neither side has called us back. That could mean a legal settlement is in the works. Or it could mean both sides have slam-dunk cases, and they're afraid they might blurt out the name of a surprise witness.

THURSDAY NIGHT IS POKER NIGHT: Through everything from four 2's to a well-timed bluff, I hit a personal record high of 115,000 chips at Lil Kim's Cove. But my big lead evaporated and I finished out of the money in third place. Now I know how Rocco Mediate felt the other day....

(One bizarre hand at the final table found three different players making a full house -- and two of the three wound up being knocked out. The only other place to see that many full houses in the same place is to check out DVD's of the old TV comedy at the library.)

Now for other items of note, from a comfortable final full day of spring....

+ WRBL reported Columbus Council will NOT meet the next two weeks. Well, that's one way to shut up the chronic talkers - from the mayor on down.

+ Columbus Police reported a city garbage truck driver was arrested on marijuana charges. Thaddeus Scott allegedly was caught with two bags of pot in his pocket. Certainly the city can afford a better truck deodorizer than this.

(Police suspect Scott may have sold marijuana to prison inmates, who work on trash pickup crews. This may explain why other inmates do lawn mowing and landscaping work -- they have to learn "weed" is bad.)

+ WRBL reported 52 people were arrested in Columbus, as part of a nationwide criminal crackdown dubbed "Operation Falcon." With a name like this, Michael Vick's prison term cannot end soon enough.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer warned bogus e-mails are being spread around Columbus, claiming someone ran over a cougar at Fort Benning. If it had happened closer to Columbus State University, I might have believed it....

+ Columbus State University announced a donation of 60 new pianos to the Schwob School of Music. If my math is right, the foundation making this gift is in line to receive 5,280 keys to the city.

+ Troy Public Radio's "Community Focus" interviewed Auburn marathon runner Heather Walker. She competed at the Olympic trials in Boston in April, and was a bit fearful of running alongside Joan Benoit Samuelson. Walker says she didn't want to trip a marathon legend - even though that sort of thing made Zola Budd famous years ago.

+ Instant Message to Pastor Eddie Wren of Butler First Baptist Church: Did I hear you right - that every time "strong drink" is mentioned in the Bible, it's in negative terms? Then don't stop with the package liquor vote in July. Try to get caffeinated coffee banned, too.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 908 (+ 29, 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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Thursday, June 19, 2008


"Are you trying to feed my habit?" the guest of honor asked someone across the table.

"Which one?" I asked in interruption.

"My margarita habit," the woman joked. And to think that she said this on a Wednesday night, when she was far from El Vaquero.

That exchange occurred during a farewell dinner for Priya Aujla. Wednesday marked her final evening on TV news in Columbus, as she's moving to North Carolina. This is called working your way up - at least up the east coast.

But the problem is that Priya Aujla will NOT be working right away. She hopes to be hired by a couple of TV stations in Charlotte - but for the moment, she's unemployed. And she doesn't exactly have the muscles to get a part-time job with a NASCAR pit crew.

Priya Aujla chose to move to Charlotte primarily for love. Her boyfriend lives there. And if a woman is going to become married, the "Queen City" is probably a fitting place....

It's not that unusual for TV reporters to move from Columbus to Charlotte. Tracy Flanagan did it in the late nineties, and Patty Pan did it a few years ago. They simply waved as they drove by the Atlanta TV stations - because they both wound up working at WAGA. [True!]

(In fact, one Charlotte station on Priya Aujla's wish list is the current home of longtime Columbus sportscaster Bruce Snyder. It would have been only fitting if his last words on leaving town were, "Seeeee yaaaaa!")

Priya Aujla hopes to ultimately be a TV reporter in Florida, since her family lives in the Orlando area. "I have to be near a beach," she said. Hopefully she's practiced one key position for any reporter there - leaning on one foot, as a tropical storm blows through.

Please correct me if I'm wrong - but is Priya Aujla the first "Indian-American" TV reporter in Columbus? Her name reflects a family background from India. Before you ask -- no, I've never asked if her parents run a motel.

One other note about Columbus television emerged from the Priya Aujla dinner. WRBL apparently is going back to part-time sports coverage, as Jack Rodgers is being dropped. Considering Rodgers also works at a local hospital, he's used to seeing surgical cuts like this....

I'm being told WRBL will only have sportscasts five days a week, on the days when Shawn Skillman is working. As for those other two days - well, isn't WLTZ's Jeremy Moss available on weekends?

This reduction will mean Columbus will have one TV station with a full sports staff, one with a one-person staff, and one with its reporter located in Iowa. If anyone asks you to explain the difference between NCAA Division I, II and III, point out this example.

BLOG UPDATE: Richard Hyatt's web site is filling in more details on the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and its stand on the one-percent sales tax question. He says the alliance isn't exactly urging a yes vote on the question - but agreeing "not to oppose it." That's a noticeable difference. It's like a father "not opposing" his daughter's marriage to the dropout flipping burgers for a living.

Mayor Jim Wetherington reportedly promised the I.M.A. he'll create a citizen's committee, to offer advice on crime prevention. So don't be surprised if the number of street dances in Columbus suddenly jumps this fall.

Let's see what else made news on Wednesday....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was a downright comfortable 88 degrees F. With low humidity, it was a refreshingly nice day -- and when you can make it all day in June on one bottle of water, that's refreshing.

+ The evening news took a close look at Rivertown Ford's promise of "88 cents per gallon gas" if you buy a car. The deal only lasts until the end of the year, and the dealership pays you in cash for the gas. What a wonderful way to encourage one-tank local vacations....

+ WRBL reported the new U.S. 80 interchange for Phenix City's Hughston Hospital could be ready by late July. Those workers had better hurry - because we don't want that exit to open, and lead to a shut-down building.

+ WLTZ reported the Phenix City Streetscape project is being delayed by materials found in the ground under Broad Street. Construction crews say the "dirt is bad," and needs to be replaced by "good dirt." Those "Sin City" vices of the 1950's extended even deeper than I thought.

(You may recall work was stopped on a Phenix City industrial park last year, because its dirt was bad as well. Apparently there are some things that Miracle-Gro cannot improve.)

+ The annual Rod Hood Football Camp opened at Kinnett Stadium. It happens to have been moved because McClung Memorial Stadium's field has been torn up for resodding. Hmmmm - do you think someone will borrow from the new Yankee Stadium, and bury a Carver High School jersey at the 50-yard line?

+ The evening news reported the Columbus Sports Council is making a bid for the Southeast headquarters of Little League baseball. One requirement is that a host stadium have two acres of land available, for ESPN vehicles. How many Cadillacs do these major league players-turned-analysts drive?

+ Instant Message to Columbus Technical College: Wow - your first class of respiratory care students had a perfect graduation rate?! That's enough to make every member of the faculty breathe easier.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 879 (+ 16, 1.9%)

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, June 18, 2008


Wow - Mayor Jim Wetherington must be quite a salesman. He persuaded a Columbus civil rights group to change its mind Tuesday on a big issue. If Bill Madison of the NAACP had changed his mind, it would have been the most shocking development in Columbus since last year's tornado.

The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance went to Columbus Council, and announced it was against the one-percent "streets and safety" sales tax. I'm not sure why the group opposed it. I haven't heard of any sheriff's deputies raiding church services with subpoenas in years.

But something changed by the end of the day. Mayor Jim Wetherington met with leaders of the I.M.A., and then it announced it now is FOR the sales tax. This is astounding, since ministers ought to know those Bible verses about wavering and being double-minded....

This is the same alliance which compared local law enforcement to the Taliban, after the shooting of Kenneth Walker five years ago. But now it's siding with a "law and order" mayor, in favor of a sales tax for public safety. In fact, this conversion happened so suddenly that you wonder if some people in the room started speaking in tongues.

Mayor Jim Wetherington reportedly convinced the I.M.A. to change its opinion, by promising some of the sales tax money will be used for crime prevention. But c'mon - was it really THAT easy? Or did the mayor show the ministers some old business cards, from his time as headmaster at Calvary Christian School?

Mayor Jim Wetherington may have faced an even tougher "sell job" Tuesday night, when he spoke to a meeting of Muscogee County Republicans. An early deadline prevents us from mentioning what happened there. But let's face it - Republicans support tax issues about as often as Auburn football fans find something nice to say about Nick Saban.

People on both sides of the sales tax question (and our current BIG BLOG QUESTION) announced plans to get organized Tuesday. Mayor Jim Wetherington will appear in TV commercials paid by the group "Yes for Public Safety." Hmmmm -- does this mean they're against that 30 percent for street improvements?

A "sneak preview" commercial shown on the evening news included a web site address. But when we checked it Tuesday night, a "coming soon" message was posted -- along with silhouettes of four scattered people and an empty chair. The steering committee needs to spend some of its funds on a better digital camera....

On the other side, two regular critics of city government announced their own committee. It's called "Be Smart, Vote No LOST." So if they're anti-LOST, does that mean they're the found?

One leader of the "Vote No" group is Paul Olson, who also opposed a one-percent sales tax question in 2004. Voters agreed with Olson then [3 Nov 04] - yet the city somehow has found money to provide public safety workers with raises. Columbus is yet another city saved by Wal-Mart....

Paul Olson is joined on the anti-tax side this time by Bert "Cowboy" Coker, the former write-in candidate for mayor. If everyone who voted for Coker in 2006 votes no in July.... well, they might feel like they stood in the path of a cattle drive.

Bert Coker argues the sales tax is "regressive." He also claims a no vote will allow a current city sales tax to expire, so Columbus residents will have more money in their pockets. Trouble is, the 30 extra cents I'd have on grocery day won't even buy a pack of chewing gum anymore.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tuesday's message comparing a proposal before Columbus Council to the "Nazis" brought a quick response....

Limit someone to once a month to confront Council.

It is something like that on the west side of the River when Councilors/Commissioners have a 2 minute limit for a Citizen to Complain or Compliment on what is going on.

This message was titled, "Once Is Enough" - but I had to laugh when I found it was sent to our InBox twice.

If you think about it, even a two-minute complaint to officials is a long time. In pro basketball, coaches can get a technical foul after about 15 seconds.

Muscogee County Republican Chair Josh McKoon came out Tuesday against the proposed "once-a-month" rule for speaking to Columbus Council. He told WRBL it goes against the concept of a "redress of grievances." But McKoon already seems to know there are other ways to accomplish that - like all those lawsuits to get a library park.

So did anything happen outside the Government Center Tuesday? Why yes, as a matter of fact....

+ WLTZ reported coyote sightings have increased in the Maple Ridge neighborhood. In a way, I'm not surprised by this. They're simply after all those roadrunners on the J.R. Allen Parkway.

+ National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" went to Eufaula, to interview Barbour County Chief Deputy Eddie Ingram. He's been dubbed the "11-million dollar man," for seizures of money and drugs along Alabama highways. And you thought only Tommy Tuberville was deserving of that title....

(Eddie Ingram revealed part of his strategy for finding criminals along U.S. 431. He says where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour, most drivers travel 75. People driving at the speed limit or slower are considered suspicious. If obedient drivers are getting pulled over, Barbour County has moved beyond Judge Roy Moore.)

+ WRBL reported "Miss Georgia" Leah Massee was stopped by law officers in Tennessee, on suspicion of driving a stolen car. It was a mix-up, involving a vehicle identification number. But I think Massee would have had a much prettier mug shot than Mindy McCready.

+ Georgia School Superintendent Kathy Cox urged local districts to open their 2009-10 terms later in August. It's not to save energy, but to allow difficulties from student re-testing to be resolved. Never mind the long hot summer -- some children must be facing a long HARD one.

+ University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham was named a finalist for college baseball's player of the year. He seems to be doing much better than that other Beckham - and he doesn't have to worry about a wife named "Posh" being surrounded by the paparazzi.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, 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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 863 (+ 27, 3.2%)

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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