Thursday, July 31, 2008


"Hot Tip" declared the title of an e-mail we received Wednesday. So? It's the end of July. Lots of things are hot, if they're not left in the shade....

But no, this Hot Tip was political in nature:

Richard, Someone called me yesterday to tell me that the Probate Judge of Lee Cty, AL (Bill English) has ruled that the Democratic candidate for Commissioner of District 3 (the Smiths Station area) does not live in District 3 and is therefore disqualified. According to the info provided me, this candidate has voted in District 3 for the last 18 years and was not told when he qualified to run for office that his address was not in District 3. He qualified for this position several months ago and has been campaigning. I was told that the Probate Judge will allow someone else to take his place on the ballot if they come forth by Aug lst. Otherwise I suppose the Republican candidate automatically wins. You may want to check this out even though my sources are generally quite reliable.

I wonder why this did not come up earlier. Did the Republican candidate request an investigation or did the Probate Judge just decide to investigate? Why was it not noticed when he gave his address on the day he qualified? Has he been voting in the wrong district for 18 years? And if so, how many others are also voting in the wrong districts? Or maybe it doesn't matter until you decide to run for elected office.

This Hot Tip reached us before 12:00 noon, and we tried to confirm it as best we could. We called the Lee County Probate Judge's office -- but after reaching the assistant to ask for Bill English, his phone simply rang and rang. You'd think one of Alabama's fastest-growing counties would have purchased some answering machines by now.

A verbal message left for the Probate Judge never was returned Wednesday afternoon, so we tried another approach. With no candidate's name to go on, we called the Lee County Democratic Chair -- but at our post time, she also had not returned our message. The Barack Obama campaign puts out political fires much faster than this....

A man answered the home phone of Lee County Democratic Chair Patsy Boyd Parker. When we mentioned the Hot Tip, he told us: "That's going to be a newspaper story...." OK - so why can't you tell a blogger? Is the Opelika-Auburn News buying the silence of politicians?

We also called the Lee County Board of Registrars about this issue. But the staff knew nothing about the fuss, and referred us to the Probate Judge. This board apparently sticks to.... well, to registraring....

With three main doors closed for information, we had to wait on the newspaper to explain what really happened. A story posted Wednesday night confirmed John Johnson of Salem has withdrawn from the Lee County District 3 Commissioner race, because he's actually in District 5. It's yet another example of what can happen when men refuse to look at maps.

(Hurtsboro Constable Robert Schweiger seemed to suspect the same thing about his opponents for Russell County Commission in June. But then again, he only told me that after he decided against endorsing either of them in the runoff.)

John Johnson filed for Lee County Commissioner in April. He says he did everything right - until Probate Judge Bill English called him and said county officials had made a mistake. We don't know if Johnson offered a little (ahem) choice English of his own, in response....

John Johnson says he's knocked on a lot of doors in Lee County District 3. Now he's concerned other candidates will get the surprise phone call he received, unless something is done. Trouble is, Alabama's Attorney General usually intervenes only after people vote - and Johnson was an unopposed Democrat in the primary.

The Opelika-Auburn News story does not answer some of the questions in our Hot Tip. For instance, we don't know who alerted the Probate Judge to the boundary question. I'm guessing it's a recent Auburn University graduate, who had to find some way to justify a geography degree.

It's also not clear if Lee County Democrats will be allowed to find a backup candidate, to run against Republican Gary Long in District 3. If the deadline really is the end of the week, voters in this district could have a true choice in November - the Long or the short of it.

We'll see if anyone bothers calling us back about this mess. Remember, Columbus Council candidate Bert Coker didn't return our call for a week -- and the more officials learn about our blog, the more challenged they are to develop an official statement that's joke-proof.

So while the Hot Tip cools down, we'll see what else grabbed our attention Wednesday:

+ Our "Burkard Bulk Mail Index" went above the 1,000 mark for the first time since late February. Either the U.S. economy is starting to turn around, or spammers finally have figured out a tricky new foreclosure scam.

+ Columbus Police announced several arrests, for theft from a Dolly Madison warehouse on Andrews Avenue. Among other things, the suspects are accused of stealing numerous cupcake pans. If you're going to try to sell counterfeit Twinkies, I think you need a lot more than this.

(Police say stolen cupcake pans and "sweet roll screens" were worth several million dollars. The people who did this deserve to go to prison - to cool off on their own personal wire racks.)

+ The Phenix City Police training facility was named after City Manager Bubba Roberts. He certainly deserves this honor - considering how many Russell County officers he's chased away from the grounds in recent years.

(WRBL showed a sign at the facility, which says: "TRAIN OR DIE." At this time of year, countless football players are doubting whether there's really a choice between the two.)

+ Georgia state officials announced some highway construction will be suspended for the next four days - because of the sales tax holiday. Aw, c'mon! Are that many Fort Benning soldiers really planning to drive to Peachtree Mall?

(WXTX "News at Ten" found a woman who drove from Barbour County to Columbus a day early, to "scout out the stores" for the sales tax holiday. I assume she needs that big savings to pay for the gasoline she burned making two round-trips.)

+ A dead body was found inside the restroom of a Delta Air Lines flight, after it landed in Atlanta. That's shocking and sad - but it could have been much worse. If a second dead body had been found, Delta would have imposed a 50-dollar surcharge.

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 1030 (+ 42, 4.3%)

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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Wednesday, July 30, 2008


All right, you serial business burglars - Columbus Council has had enough! It approved a resolution Tuesday, allowing the city to begin hiring 100 new police officers immediately. The next time you break into a restaurant at 1:00 a.m., you might find an off-duty officer making extra money by cleaning up the kitchen.

Columbus Council decided not to wait for the one-percent sales tax money to start rolling in next year. The members want the process for hiring officers to start now. And who knows - if the 100 additions bring things under control, each Councilor might wind up with an officer of his/her own.

So where will the city get the money to begin hiring police officers early? The Columbus Council resolution permits the use of several million dollars from the recent Continental Carbon lawsuit. The Phenix City company couldn't keep its dirt under control - so now it will help Columbus do it.

(Are you noticing this, Fort Benning? Foul up too many "controlled burns," and Muscogee County Schools could get the money for several new buildings.)

Police Chief Ricky Boren says the current vacancies on the force will be filled first. It was surprising to learn Columbus is down to only three openings. But is that because Mayor Jim Wetherington is impressing so many candidates -- or because the Georgia unemployment rate is suddenly so high?

Chief Ricky Boren explained the quick authorization will NOT mean he'll be in a rush to add 100 new police officers. He says all candidates have to undergo a series of checks, including a psychological assessment. If only the voters could give political candidates the same sort of thing....

Add a required stint at the police academy, and 100 newly-hired officers in Columbus might not be patrolling the streets for 12 to 18 months. So Columbus Council has a little time to figure out where the get the money for all those new patrol cars.

If you think Columbus is the only city which has faced police staffing problems, consider Atlanta. A five-year audit revealed Tuesday shows that city's police force typically has 200 vacant positions. We hope the Republicans who oppose "big government" walk Atlanta's streets with smiles on their faces....

The audit also shows about 20 percent of Atlanta's police officers have left the force in the last two years. So Columbus officers may move to Atlanta for higher pay -- and only then they hear about the Fort Benning recruiters offering even pricier jobs in Iraq.

Then there's the interesting story from Tuesday involving Phenix City Police. Marcus Phillips was sentenced to ten years in prison for breaking into the police headquarters evidence room and stealing items - not once, but twice. What went wrong the first time? Did his legal counsel suggest he needed a search warrant?

Prosecutors say Marcus Phillips used a simple screwdriver to break through four doors, and enter the Phenix City Police evidence room. Police assured reporters they have now improved security. Break through one door and you'll hear a threat from the City Manager - then with the next door, you're threatened by the mayor.

>> Our newest blog already has readers in several states (and now even Israel) thinking about poker and more. Visit "On the Flop!" <<

BLOG UPDATE: Bert Coker finally responded Tuesday night to the message we left him about his campaign signs [22 Jul]. He did NOT declare me the "Idiot of the Week" - not even for last week. So if no one claims the title by Thursday night, we might open the floor for nominations.

In fact, Bert Coker told me he's partly responsible for the end of the "disclaimer rule" on campaign signs. He was so annoyed by a Bob Poydasheff for Mayor sign being planted in his yard that he complained to the state about it - and then Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker decided the rule no longer applied. So Baker's "tough as nails," but not as tough as yard stakes.

Bert Coker says Thurbert Baker cited a ruling on a similar law in Ohio, in explaining his decision to allow campaign signs which merely name candidates. Coker still wonders what an Ohio ruling has to do with Georgia election laws. And wait till the couples who want homosexual marriage contact the Attorney General's office, and bring up Coker's comments.

Now let's pull up stakes on that topic, and consider other Tuesday news:

+ Barbara Gauthier of Cleveland was named the replacement for Dee Armstrong on the evening TV news. Gauthier is a Waverly Hall native who once was an anchor for BET's Nightly News - back when news reports on BET meant something other than rappers on "106 & Park."

(Isn't this amazing? A TV station was able to fill one of the most powerful local media positions in only a few weeks. Maybe the Muscogee County School Board should call those bosses, and find out how it's done.)

+ Aflac Chair Dan Amos co-hosted CNBC's "Squawk Box" for the second time. If Amos keeps this up, he might become Barbara Gauthier's co-anchor in a few years....

(Synovus Chairman Richard Anthony again appeared with Dan Amos, and said home equity is a banking problem in parts of coastal Florida. It almost makes you wonder if real estate agents there know where the first hurricane will strike.)

+ The Ledger-Enquirer's banner front-page headline declared: "Families Want Registe Found." Wow, that's a surprise! You mean the Kilgores and Newtons don't want Michael Registe to be swallowed whole by Caribbean quicksand?

+ WLTZ reported the Windsor Hotel in "Your Hometown, Americus" is holding a contest to rename the Grand Dining Room. Let's see - given our current inflation problems, how about the Five Grand?

+ Speaking of which: the Alabama Beverage Control Board revealed alcohol sales are up nine percent this month, compared with last July. Let's all be thankful that driving is down, at the same time drinking is up.

+ The organizers of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame announced rap star Ludacris will be inducted in September. For him to enter any hall of fame at the age of 30 is simply.... uhhhhh, well, you know....

+ Atlanta's baseball team traded first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels. With Nomar Garciaparra already playing for the Dodgers, fans of Georgia Tech baseball will be staggering to work every morning from now through mid-October.

+ Instant Message to Muscogee County Tax Commissioner Lula Huff: Aw, c'mon - you're sending out property tax bills on the weekend of the Georgia sales tax holiday?! Is this what happens when you're unopposed for re-election?

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 988 (+ 51, 5.4%)

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, July 29, 2008


That was the question Monday at a meeting in Phenix City. And the people in the room seemed ready for TV. After all, one of the people around the table appeared to be Shelby Guest from the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau - and she's already on TV every Friday.

The Phenix City Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting, to get ready for a big appearance on regional cable TV. In fact, downtown Columbus could have been on national cable Monday - but no Atlanta station came down with the F.B.I. agents for that announcement about Michael Registe.

Comcast Sports Southeast plans to televise a high school football game from Phenix City's Garrett-Harrison Stadium in three weeks. This is the same cable channel which is presenting back-to-back nights of "Major League Lacrosse" this week - so you have an idea of how desperate the managers are for something better.

CSS plans to show an exhibition game between Carver and Phenix City Central on August 21. But I didn't realize until Monday that showing the game on cable TV will cost more than $25,000. You'd think someone would build a more fuel-efficient production trailer....

CSS plans to sell about $10,000 in ads for the game at Phenix City Central. But another $18,000 in ads have to be sold in Columbus and Phenix City. And that could be a challenge, when you're competing with youth league baseball teams raising money for the regionals.

Victor Cross of the Phenix City Chamber of Commerce is optimistic about this opportunity. He says the August 21 game will put the city on display across the Southeast. As long as CSS promises not to show any clips from "The Phenix City Story," this should be nice.

But the skeptical side of me can't help wondering how effective this opportunity will be. For one thing, the CSS "Regional High School Football Schedule" from last year shows three games were presented from Greenville, South Carolina. Was anyone locally moved to travel to Greenville - unless you wanted a really conservative sermon at Bob Jones University?

Keep in mind that Carver-Phenix City Central will NOT be a regular-season showdown - but an exhibition. CSS is missing the Carver-Spencer rivalry which counts in the standings by a week. And the new lawn at McClung Memorial Stadium will never look greener.

On top of that, consider the sports competition that night. The Olympics still will be underway on NBC. Fox is showing a pre-season NFL game. And do you REALLY think the club down the street from my home will move up poker night to Wednesday for this?

Perhaps this exhibition game is a test by CSS, to see if there's a market for weekly local high school football games on cable TV. The network shows games "on demand" in areas such as Atlanta, Chattanooga and Tallahassee - which means they're pay-per-view. In Columbus, that might work on a really rainy Friday night....

You may remember when the old TV-16 showed regular-season high school football games - NOT live, but usually one to three days later. Of course, nowadays things are different on that channel. WYBU shows tape-delayed church services all the time instead.

Speaking of high school football, did you hear about the award Valdosta received Monday? ESPN named it the winner of its "Titletown USA" contest. That fact that Valdosta State graduate Amanda Kozak nearly won the Miss America title two years ago had to be the difference.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Another event in Phenix City brought a comment Monday -- and no, it wasn't that big church conference....

Richard, I'm not really surprised to hear that a local Christian radio station was promoting the Freddie Hart show as Freddie has been primarily recording gospel music for the past 20 years. And the Band "Whiskey Bent" was not an opening act but played after Freddie Hart. There were two opening acts - Garrett Miles and Tresa Street. There was a large crowd present in the amphitheater however there were some empty seats. I thought that was sad considering Freddie calls Phenix City his hometown. Concert Attendee

This explains why we haven't heard much from Freddie Hart recently, other than his local appearances. He's 81 years old now - and a man that age singing lyrics like "Easy Lovin' /So Sexy Lookin'" might be reported to the authorities.

I was stunned to learn online that Freddie Hart is not only a country singer, but "a master of karate." How many people would have guessed this? And he didn't even sing the old country song, "Tokyo Oklahoma."

Let's rosin up the fiddle now, and have a "foggy breakdown" (without the mountain) of other Monday news:

+ We finally found the campaign documents of "Be Smart Vote No LOST" at the Muscogee County Election Board web site. As of June 30, the opponents of the one-percent sales tax question had no contributions and no expenditures. That may not seem very effective - but keep in mind, every penny of that was tax-free.

+ WRBL showed Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce motoring around the Government Center on a scooter. Pierce says she can get 100 miles per gallon on it. Of course, election opponent Reba Rae will ask for equal time - and show how she can do even better by walking.

+ The "Princeton Review" ranked the University of Georgia on the top ten of "party schools," at number seven. Florida is number one this year - so apparently mass celebrations in end zones in Jacksonville don't count.

(For some odd reason, the Princeton Review's list of the 138 "Best Southeastern Colleges" does NOT include Columbus State University - but DOES include Minnesota and Utah. Should we assume a Florida graduate was assigned this geography problem?)

+ Atlanta's baseball team put pitcher Tim Hudson on the disabled list, and the Journal-Constitution reported elbow surgery could put him out for the year. The way things are going, Hudson will beat the rest of the team to that by about two months.

+ Instant Message to Blue Bell ice cream: About your commercial asking, "What if they started making shorter rulers?" - I think the President of Iran already counts as one.

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 937 (+ 54, 6.1%)

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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Sunday, July 27, 2008

for 28 JUL 08: LOVE OF 53.3% OF THE BRETHREN

Instant Message to First Presbyterian Church: I couldn't get to your Sunday service. So about that title on the sign, "Scattered, Covered, Smothered" - did you serve waffles before or after the service?

I was busy at a different church service Sunday, where the main course was what some ministers like to call "Roast Preacher." Only for a change, this meal took place in the sanctuary - without waiting for the lunch table at Applebee's or Shoney's.

As we were first to post around 3:00 p.m. Sunday, weeks of controversy ended at First Baptist Church of Phenix City. Members voted to retain long-time Pastor Eugene Langner, Jr. The official announced vote was 112 to 98 - which will help in figuring next year's budget, as the board can expect approximately a 47 percent drop in income.

The vote came at a church conference after the morning worship service. A presiding deacon asked "members of the press" to leave the sanctuary when a motion on terminating the pastor came up. I was the only one who stood and left, probably to the surprise of the worshipers around me. They'd never expect someone in the news media to wear a sportcoat and tie to church, much less open his own Bible.

(TV news crews didn't show up until the church conference was well underway. But where was the Ledger-Enquirer's Allison Kennedy? Are religion reporters required to take Sundays off, to save money?)

I only heard the "leave" part, so I went out to the lobby area -- and with the top of the church sanctuary's back wall open, I was still able to hear the entire conference. As I noted when the choir sang, First Baptist of Phenix City has acoustics which simply are too good....

"I'm sorry," said a Mr. Adams who watched me walk out to the lobby. He didn't think the deacons running the church conference had the right to order me out. But I've been in denominations where even worship services are considered "private," and you need an invitation to attend. The ministers preached for America to repent, but wouldn't let Americans inside to hear it.

But when voting time came, deacon Steve McGarr came out to the lobby and asked me to step out of First Baptist Church. Trouble is, another member had talked with me minutes before - and said the Phenix City Police Chief had decided I could legally wait in the lobby. A chief named Brian McGarr?! Hmmmm -- sometimes it's good for families to worship together.

It turns out First Baptist Church of Phenix City has a number of powerful members. Police Chief Brian McGarr attended Sunday's service. Former Mayor Sammy Howard chairs the Stewardship Committee. And mayoral candidate Gene Oswalt openly asked me if I belonged in the building during the conference. At least he stopped short of calling me Idiot of the Week.

"I thought I saw Councilor [Ray] Bush in the choir," I said to a man leaning on a cane in the lobby during the church voting.

"He is," the man answered. "Not much of a Councilman...." I didn't dare ask about Bush's singing voice.

But anyway: the events leading up to Sunday's vote on Pastor Eugene Langner Jr. began long ago. During the church conference, the wife of a First Baptist Church deacon confessed she and her husband decided to leave months ago. But then they apparently started building evidence for removing the pastor - as if their pew was simply too comfortable.

A group of deacons met two weekends ago, and sent a letter to Pastor Eugene Langner asking him to retire. He never responded, and that led to Sunday's church conference motion on his termination. The motion did NOT mention the word "firing" - since the Baptists tend to reserve fire primarily for Satan and sinners, and no one really called the pastor either one.

But before Sunday's church conference, a group of upset First Baptist Church members raced to Russell County Court and tried to stop the vote. A judge ruled Friday church bylaws were being followed. I'm not sure if the ultimate "church law" was followed, and the pastor was declared a false prophet.

The drama behind this vote inspired me to dress up for church Sunday morning, and attend First Baptist Church of Phenix City for the first time. The church's web site indicated Saturday night there were services at 9:30 and 11:00, so I arrived around 10:30 -- to find no early service at all. But then again, the church "news" section didn't mention a vote on firing the pastor.

As I waited for the 10:45 a.m. organ prelude to begin, I heard one woman in the sanctuary tell another: "He controls everything in this church. The money...." I wasn't sure if she was talking about the pastor, the disgruntled deacon - or if this was where Sammy Howard gained his experience with financial matters.

A man who gave the invocation at the worship service hinted at the mood. He prayed for "healing on every heart...." Trouble is, too many times anger results from a troubled brain....

Several First Baptist Church members showed up wearing light blue ribbons, and stickers saying: "Thy will be done -- Jesus Christ." Those were the supporters of Pastor Eugene Langner -- but I'm sure if the color blue meant anything. No one brought up Presidential politics in the discussion at all.

Critics of the First Baptist Church pastor claimed the church is dying, as income declines. Yet when offering time came, the plate never came down my row. Don't blame the Pastor for this - talk to the ushers.

(A young man next to me offered to take the money in my hand, which I was ready to donate. But I put it in my shirt pocket instead. For all I knew, he could have a visiting spectator like me -- and the dollar bill would have bought him a bottle of soda after the service.)

When the time came for the sermon, Eugene Langner did NOT sound like a pastor who was preaching to save his job. But when he began by mentioning "precious memories" of 25 years at First Baptist Church, part of me wondered if he was going to surprise everyone and announce his resignation. But this IS Phenix City, where calls for resignations often are ignored.

Eugene Langner noted he's spent the "larger portion of my adult life" as First Baptist Church Pastor. But then he went into his message on "The Temple of God" from Mark 10 - and he noted when it comes to the church, "self-interest is not limited to the first century." Which is why I didn't take any CD's to sell in the parking lot....

Pastor Eugene Langner warned against using the church for political gain, business networking or ego-building. Do that, he said, and "you rob people of an opportunity of an encounter with God." To Langner's credit, he never prayed for God to send lightning down on the deacons who wanted him fired.

When the traditional Baptist invitation came at the end of the service, the closing song lasted much longer than usual. Several people came forward to hug Pastor Eugene Langner - and he seemed to fight back tears at times, as if some expected it to be his farewell sermon. Instead, the "Men's Breakfast" Wednesday morning at Hughston Memorial Hospital will double as a victory party.

Pastor Eugene Langner quietly exited "stage left" from the sanctuary, as the church conference after the service began talking about his future. I have no idea where he went from there - whether into his office to pray, or down the road to Summerville Baptist Church to drop off a resume.

The majority of the members who spoke at the conference backed the pastor, and opposed the motion to terminate him. One woman read a poem of tribute she wrote for Eugene Langner years ago - and when she was applauded for it, the presiding deacon warned: "Hold any outbursts.... this is a Christian meeting...." Clearly this was NOT a Pentecostal meeting.

One of the First Baptist Church deacons admitted the call for termination was a "drastic motion." Eugene Langner would have been required to clear out his office immediately, move out of the church parsonage within 30 days - and I'm not sure he even would have been given a photo album of the members as a parting gift.

One supporter of the termination motion compared it to a sports team. He said if First Baptist Church of Phenix City isn't growing, you don't fire the team - you replace the coach. Given all the off-season arrests of Alabama and Georgia football players, that could be changing....

The deacons who called for the termination accused Pastor Eugene Langner of being controlling, and insisting on having things done his way. So?! That approach has made Donald Trump a reality TV star.

One speaker related how the pastor "berated publicly.... in front of others" a former music minister. In fact, the current First Baptist Church music minister reportedly plans to quit in the wake of Sunday's vote -- so apparently his grade for Eugene Langner is an F-major.

But the pastor had plenty of defenders during the hour-long discussion. A couple of them admitted THEY were guilty of not following Eugene Langner's example, and visiting people in need. And in the wake of this weekend's political accusations, visits to Martin Army Hospital could reach an all-time high this week.

Other speakers said a 25-year pastor shouldn't be rushed to termination in the space of two weeks. To quote one member: "You don't just up and throw somebody out overnight...." Unless, that is, you're an Auburn University trustee who has a problem with the football coach....

Then there was the young woman who stood up and declared: "It's really stupid that we're all doing this.... childish, actually." She said members who think they "own their pew" and don't like the pastor should leave the church. That woman may have grasped the sermon about Jesus cleaning the temple better than anyone else.

Some people think the decision to retain Pastor Eugene Langner came down to older members vs. younger members. In fact, one adult at the conference claimed teenagers were "recruited" to attend the meeting and back the pastor. That'll teach the deacons to schedule their vote for the Sunday after a "Youth Bible School" week - because revivals can still happen.

In fact, a check of the First Baptist Church web site Sunday night left me wondering if younger members had hacked it. Six months' worth of sermon recordings which were online Saturday night disappeared -- replaced by a simple home page saying "Imperfect Youth" have a voice. I thought the point was to let the pastor keep having his....

The fact that only 210 viable votes were cast by members may prove one of the critics' points. Phenix City First Baptist Church has been around for more than 125 years - yet in attendance, it may have dropped to fourth or fifth.

It seemed very clear as I left Sunday night that a big split is coming at Phenix City First Baptist Church. It was evident in some of the passing comments I heard from members - like the man who quipped: "I've never been in a church with so many devils."

Then there was the couple in the parking lot which admitted it was displeased with the vote to keep the pastor. "We'll be gone," the wife told me.

"There are plenty of other Baptist churches in Phenix City," I noted -- and the husband agreed.

"I might just turn Methodist!" the woman firmly declared. She'll be disappointed if she does - because I grew up a United Methodist, and that denomination does NOT change pastors based on membership votes.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION dares to ask what you think of this drama. Should church members have the right to fire their pastors? Is the minister to blame if a congregation doesn't grow? Or do the members simply need to do something new and creative - like allowing choir members to play tambourines?

There was other news Sunday, outside the church building....

+ Columbus Police reported someone broke into Mike and Ed's Bar-B-Q on Veterans Parkway, and stole more than $500 worth of food from the freezer. C'mon, buddy - you could have moved your NASCAR-watching party to a sports bar, and no one would have objected.

+ Congressman Sanford Bishop and state Rep. Calvin Smyre organized a dinner at Green Island Country Club, to honor Miss Georgia Chasity Hardman. Smyre indicated this was done because Hardman is from Columbus. But she won the crown as "Miss Capital City" - so shouldn't this minister's daughter be required to ask publicly for forgiveness?

+ Instant Message to Publix stores: Why don't you follow the example of Kroger, and remove jalapenos from your produce section? Then we could all say Publix pulled pecks of problem peppers....

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 883 (- 18, 2.0%)

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.

UPDATE 1....

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Sometimes it's good news when something goes down. For instance, gasoline prices in Phenix City have dropped to around $3.76 per gallon. Phenix City hasn't been this far ahead of Columbus on a trend since Wal-Mart started opening SuperCenters.

But there are also times when something goes down, and it's bad news. Columbus has plenty of those cases to consider this weekend - beginning with education. A state report shows 21 Muscogee County schools failed to make "adequate yearly progress." They include Carver High School - which must mean final fours in football and boys' basketball are still not enough.

In fact, five of the eight Muscogee County high schools fell short of adequate yearly progress. For those of you who might go back to these schools in two weeks -- yes, that's more than 50 percent.

The three high schools which actually made adequate yearly progress are Columbus, Hardaway and Northside. And you have to wonder how Hardaway escaped, with all those soaking-wet students going to and from portable classrooms with ruined notebooks.

(High schools in the "suburbs" didn't fare much better. Chattahoochee County, Harris County and Talbotton-Central all fell short of adequate yearly progress. You can try to outsmart the test by running away, but the test still might be smarter than you.)

The grade schools falling short of adequate yearly progress are scattered all over Columbus - from South Columbus to River Road. Even Downtown Elementary missed A.Y.P., and it's a "magnet academy" in "core knowledge." Apparently that knowledge has to go beyond what the letters in TSYS mean.

The fact that three-eighths of Muscogee County schools fell short (21 out of 56) ought to be a major topic at the next school board meeting. But then, at least two board members are "short-timers" - not to mention becoming a bit short-tempered at what other board members are doing.

This large number of A.Y.P. misses also should be a top priority for the next Muscogee County school superintendent. Now if the consulting firm will go out and find one, instead of impressing board members this week with a survey of likes and dislikes....

The local "down news" began even before the adequate yearly progress came out. Synovus Financial reported its second-quarter net income was down 89 percent from last year. Yeow - I don't think even the Columbus Catfish has had a decline this steep.

Synovus is like many banking companies -- hit hard by high numbers of home foreclosures, especially in metro Atlanta. And the numbers could have been even worse. Let's be thankful Atlanta's baseball team had so many injuries, and called-up minor leaguers needed places to live.

Yet Synovus stock closed Friday above nine dollars a share, and nearly two dollars above its 52-week low of 15 July. I need to start paying closer attention to what the Bradley-Turner Foundation is buying and selling....

Then there's the earnings report from Aflac. Its total revenues in the second quarter were up 15 percent from last year, yet Chairman Dan Amos admitted sales in Japan were weak. Sometimes being "up" can still be "down" - whether you're in business, or strolling on Broadway.

Aflac is trying to keep a positive image about things. The company is showing off the new look of its NASCAR racer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. But if that duck isn't wearing a crash helmet, he's simply asking for trouble....

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BLOG UPDATE: "C'mon, Idiot of the Week! Bring it over here." So declared the cashier at a Weems Road bread store Friday afternoon, after seeing the "Idiot of the Week" Award pinned on our shirt. At least I was smart enough to buy a discounted apple pie for 29 cents.

We told that cashier what we told several other people over the last couple of days - if a candidate for Sheriff is going to name us Idiot of the Week, we're going to wear it openly on our shirt. Just like a true idiot should....

"And I'm sure you're proud," the cashier said. Welllll - I'm not sure I'd go that far. I try to stay humble about awards like this. So I won't talk about the soda I spilled in a bag, the plastic hook I broke changing shower curtains - and all the other things which could put me in the running for this coming week.

We even the Idiot of the Week Award to church this weekend. The Bible study teacher called us "I.O.W." for short as we left. And you know what? Put "award" on the end of that abbreviation, and I become Mr. IOWA. I'm not heaven....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for two contrasting views of our award. The first comes from the man who pinned it upon us last Thursday....

Richard, I apologize for the comment, calling you the Idiot of the Week, that was a-bit harsh, but after all you and some your contributors have called me worse things. "tit for tat".

Very well, I accept that apology. But oh boy - I was looking SO forward to putting that title on our masthead.

But hold on here - a different blog reader actually congratulated us:

Congrats on winning "Idiot of the Week". There was some stiff competition from the likes of Christian Bale, John Edwards and anyone who writes at the Huffington Post.

This should open doors to you should you decide to run for congress or apply for a management position somewhere.


Wow - I defeated "Batman!" In a way, this makes me the Bert Coker of Gotham City....

Don't worry, Paul - I do NOT plan to run for Congress. Incumbent Sanford Bishop would be all over me in a hurry. For instance, I haven't visited a hospital with wounded soldiers in several months.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: A mother and son are walking down an aisle at Wal-Mart, and the boy speaks the words which are currently on so many people's minds.

"When does football start? I'm really bored."

Only five more weeks, college football fans - but we have this weekend news to mention in the meantime:

+ The new Columbus USO office held a "Christmas in July" party for soldiers. Why is it always Christmas? Why isn't it "Valentine's in September," for instance? Do the composers of those schmaltzy December songs really neat a summertime boost in royalty checks?

+ An executive with the Eufaula Heritage Association told WRBL rumors of the Shorter Mansion's imminent closing are NOT true. This should be easy to understand: if tourists keep visiting Shorter, it will stay open longer.

+ Phenix City native Freddie Hart came home, to stage a country music concert at the Amphitheater. I looked from across the river, and the crowd didn't appear that big for the opening acts. Maybe if the city had named some streets after them, too?!

(It was strange to hear an announcer on WBOJ-FM "103.7 The Truth" promoting Freddy Hart and his warm-up acts. You never expect someone at a Christian radio station to talk in positive tones about "Whisky Bent.")

+ Southeastern Conference football "Media Days" ended with journalists predicting Auburn and Florida will win the division titles. Florida was selected over Georgia in the east, even though some experts think Georgia will contend for the national championship. Is it too late for Georgia to put Hawaii on the regular-season schedule?

+ The Atlanta Falcons opened training camp in Flowery Branch. Every player who could identify the new head coach without a name tag was allowed to run two fewer laps.

+ TMZ captured former Falcons running back Jamal Anderson being helped out of a Los Angeles nightclub, appearing very drunk. Isn't he celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Super Bowl appearance a little early?

+ Instant Message to Northside Pawn Shop in Phenix City: Do you really mean to promote that on your electronic signs? Do people really need to know you have AK-47 rifles in stock? I mean, hunting season is still about two months away....

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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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Friday, July 25, 2008


After five-and-a-half years of blogging, someone in Columbus gave us an award for our efforts Thursday. It truly was unexpected, truly left us humbled - and unlike the Leonard Leavell Award from the Columbus NAACP, it wasn't even misspelled.

What is this award? It came via e-mail from a candidate for Muscogee County Sheriff....

Richard, Congratulations' you have just the Idiot of The Week Award, for your information it is not a requirement for campaign candidates to place disclaimers' on the political signs or campaign materials anymore. This law was repealed by the State Attorney Generals office, again you need to get your facts straight before put out erroneous information out your blog.

The facts we stated here Tuesday regarding Bert Coker's Columbus Council campaign signs used to be accurate. But a woman at the Muscogee County Election Board confirmed to us the rules changed a few years ago. Too bad sign-watcher Paul Olson didn't call a news conference to announce this, and declare some kind of victory.

So the laws on Georgia campaign signs have changed, and we apologize for not knowing that. But still, this was a first for us - receiving an award from a political candidate. Who knows how many officeholders in Columbus quietly have considered us an "Idiot of the Week," but simply never told us so?

(Regular readers know we hand out "Burkard Awards" here every 1 January. But in all the years, I've never given one to myself. That would be the height of egotism - and didn't Sigmund Freud write something about Idiots and ego?)

If we're going to have an award-winning blog, we might as well.... oops, I'd better be careful. This man has shown even one wrong word about him can be upsetting -- and he didn't say I "won" the Idiot of the Week Award, did he? Perhaps I'm running unopposed this week....

But if we're going to have this title, we might as well spread the news all around Columbus. So we prepared a sticker declaring ourselves "Idiot of the Week" - since we never bothered to develop a budget for yard signs, advertising such things.

We had several errands and events on the schedule Thursday. So we wondered how Columbus residents would react to someone wearing an "Idiot of the Week" title on his chest. Would they ask questions? Would they take one look at us, and automatically agree?

1:10 p.m.: At Tenth Avenue and Wynnton Road, someone in the car next to us seeks our attention. "How do you get to 431?"

The man probably couldn't see our sticker - and at a traffic light, there's really no time to explain that we're the Idiot of the Week and shouldn't be helping him. But our cars are pointing eastbound, so even I can handle this one.

"You need to go back to Alabama. You're going in the wrong direction." The passenger doesn't seem to know where the bridges are across the Chattahoochee River, so I name a couple of crossing points before the light turns green. But I'm the Idiot of the Week - so I have no city maps in the car to offer him.

1:20 p.m.: We visit the Columbus Public Library to check out an item. A couple of people in line seem to see our sticker, but no one speaks up about it -- even though it's a perfect moment for a beggar to ask for 50 cents in gas money.

1:45 p.m.: We have three bags of paperboard and white paper to recycle on Martin Luther King Boulevard. As we return to our car, a woman parked next to us in a white Mazda needs guidance. "How does this work?" With so many dumpsters and stacks of items around, it can look like leftovers from a flea market.

I tell the woman about what I did with the white paper and paperboard - but she's brought plastic to recycle. That's done somewhere else, at the Goodwill center on Tenth Avenue. But as I explain, I stop: "I really should be disqualified from helping you, because I've been declared the Idiot of the Week."

"So I see," the woman says as she looks at my sticker. But she keeps asking, anyway -- as if any old Idiot is better than no help at all.

I finally tell the woman I'm heading to the plastic recycling center next. She's happy to hear that, and follows my car down Tenth Avenue to Goodwill. Yes, a total stranger is following the admitted Idiot of the Week. And you wondered where the show "Desperate Housewives" gained its name.

I dump my large bag of plastic in the Goodwill bin, and the woman steps out of her white Mazda with three bags of plastic items. "Do you have to sort them by any particular number?"

"I think they prefer 1's and 2's, but you can dump it all and let them sort it out." The center staff probably will call me an idiot, for giving them extra work to do.

"Thanks for all your help!" the woman says. Isn't it amazing - I label myself the Idiot of the Week, and suddenly two people need advice from me? Maybe if I walked around wearing a graduation cap, everyone would leave me alone.

3:10 p.m.: Talking by phone with a woman in California about a completely different project, I mention the Idiot of the Week title and the events so far. "If you're taking advice from an Idiot of the Week," she asks with a laugh, "does that make you the bigger idiot?"

5:10 p.m.: It's running time, but I do NOT wear the Idiot of the Week sticker outside for the jog. The reason: I wrote the sticker like an idiot - and failed to use an ink pen which is sweat and water-resistant.

8:30 p.m.: Thursday night is poker night at Lil Kim's Cove - and we know our sticker will get as much action as a pair of jacks in the hole. Only on this night, we had to fold a pair of jacks because other players had something better....

"You're not an idiot," the director of poker night says after we explain why Mark LaJoye passed the Idiot of the Week Award onto us. "You didn't know." Later in the evening, two other poker players would declare another man an idiot - after we hit a straight on the river, top his two pair and leave him cursing in disbelief.

A man wearing Auburn gear also asks about our Idiot of the Week Award from Mark LaJoye. "You know what I'd tell him?" he says. "Kiss my f**king big a*s." This "poker ministry" thing I'm trying still has a long way to go.

"That's an insult," the Tiger fan continues.

"But he could be right," I answer. "We're all idiots, when it comes to something." The Auburn man agrees with that reasoning. We'd probably both be in trouble if we were asked to count from one to ten in Chinese.

A man named Bill sits immediately to our left at the poker table - and when we mention the award came from Mark LaJoye, he asks whom we're backing in the Sheriff's race. "It makes no difference to me," I answer. That comment may win me an Idiot of the Week Award from the other two candidates.

"That Johnson is crooked," Bill then tells me.

"He is?"

"I know he's crooked."

"How do you know that?" We should note this is the same man who declared on a poker night last year that the Cash 3 lottery game was fixed.

"You want the inside sources?" Bill promises to tell me more later - but that never happens. That's the problem when your main source goes bust early, and you keep playing to the end of the final table.

Three big pots in a row come our way, and we carry a huge stack of chips to the final table. "You must not be an idiot," the director declares - and he repeats that conclusion when we go home with a second-place finish and a ten-dollar prize. Maybe this is where the idea of "good cop bad cop" started.

The week doesn't end until Saturday evening, so we'll update our Idiot of the Week celebration as conditions warrant. In the meantime, let's try to sum up the Thursday news accurately....

+ The owner of Millie's Market announced he's putting the South Lumpkin Road business up for sale. Lefty Incarnacion says business has dropped 60 percent since the Independence Day shooting. Now I feel guilty - because maybe those robbers stole the Lance cookie ten-packs I couldn't find there last week.

+ An Opelika firefighter was arrested on charges of selling counterfeit DVD's. Authorities say he even sold them from a fire station - which seems like the silliest way to offer "hot-selling movies" I've ever heard.

(For some reason, the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control department was part of this investigation. Perhaps it intervenes when someone tries to sell DVD's with country music stars.)

+ Waves created by Hurricane Dolly damaged a beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Hopefully no trees were knocked down in the process - or else you'd have an unusual case of Dolly-wood.

+ Day two of Southeastern Conference football "Media Days" in Birmingham featured a lawyer serving a subpoena to Tennessee head coach Philip Fulmer. I don't understand this at all. Shouldn't losing a home game in the conference be a more serious offense, as opposed to one at Alabama or Auburn?

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's.... uhhhh.... well, a tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation 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: 933 (+ 35, 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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Thursday, July 24, 2008


First came the online ad, on the state Labor Department web site. Then came the hiring of a consulting firm. Now the Muscogee County School Board has a new offer of help, in finding a full-time Superintendent. And thankfully, it does NOT come from Sister Doreen -- the palm reader in Russell County.

WRBL reported Wednesday the Columbus Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter, offering to help in the Superintendent search. Speaking personally, I think Mike Gaymon's corny humor would liven up the school board meetings....

It turns out the Columbus Chamber of Commerce likes to be involved in this sort of search. A spokesman says members were part of the hunt for Columbus State University's new president this year. So it's no wonder a business school dean won the job.

But the Muscogee County School Board decided to select its last superintendent without the Chamber of Commerce's help -- and John Phillips turned out to become a Georgia School Superintendent of the Year. The fact that he left town for hunting trips in the Rockies weeks before Thanksgiving break was simply a personal quirk.

Why does the Columbus Chamber of Commerce want to be involved now? Executive Russ Carreker explained one of the Chamber's top concerns is "workforce development." In the next couple of years, that will mean developing top-quality hammer-swingers to build base realignment homes.

When I first heard the news report about the Chamber of Commerce's letter to the school board, I was a bit surprised. I wondered if the Chamber is trying to put a corporate "seal of approval" on a new superintendent -- or perhaps pay for the criminal background checks on the finalists.

But the skeptical side of me sees something more in this offer to help. Another top concern of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce is making sure the city has a good image. Some people don't think the current school board is presenting that. Of course, others might say a divided and bickering board is downright refreshing in a normally buttoned-down Columbus.

Keep in mind what State Senator Seth Harp said several months ago - that officials in Washington were stunned by the Muscogee County Schools spending so many millions of dollars for a new administration building. That's not a good "selling point" for the Chamber of Commerce, in promoting Columbus. Unless, of course, a big new aquarium can be installed in the lobby....

Perhaps the Columbus Chamber of Commerce wants to play peacemaker, and resolve differences inside a divided school board. A possible school sales tax extension could hang in the balance - although many people seem to have concluded that tax is going the way of the old Rigdon Road School. As in torn down....

Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce simply wants the superintendent search settled as soon as possible. A member of the school board's consulting firm said Wednesday it hopes to have a new superintendent on the job by "next July at the latest." Next July?! Do all the board members want one-month tryouts for the top job, too?

But there's one thing which could be delaying everyone's plans on finding a new superintendent - the upcoming school board elections. If several incumbents are voted out in November, the whole dynamic and atmosphere could change. And if the Chamber of Commerce dares to endorse the outsiders, we know it will.

>> Our newest blog has readers in several states thinking about poker and more. Visit "On the Flop!" <<

E-MAIL UPDATE: A message reached us Wednesday which seemed a bit fractured....

Good morning , I am a concerned citizen. Wondering why certain people cant remeber certain laws and regulations. I suppose you NOW remember nobody has to put a disclaimer on their campaign signs... Funny how the community finds out about the kind of SMART PEOPLE that are ahead of the community. Maybe you should be more interested in finding out about dirty candidates that are having signs removed and thrown away for their own advertising space. As if Columbus was'nt big enough they have to follow Mr. LaJoye around. Once again this is a concerned citizen entitled to my own ridiculous opinion.

Of course you're entitled to a "ridiculous opinion." When we're writing late at night and growing tired, we sometimes have to settle for ridiculous jokes.

Is this writer saying there's no longer a law requiring disclaimers on campaign signs? We looked up the Georgia State Code on elections Wednesday, and it says a name and address is required for "any literature in connection with any political campaign...." Of course, some people think "literature" applies more to John Gresham novels than yard signs.

If this writer has evidence of local campaign signs being thrown away, I'll be happy to consider it. But keep something in mind - if the discarded signs endorse Reginald Pugh for State Senate, that's probably within the law these days.

Now let's see what other signs of the times we found Wednesday....

+ A morning storm dropped nearly an inch of additional rain on Columbus. If this keeps up, our area could be a peacemaker in the tri-state water fight - because all the river water we don't need will flow down to those mussels in Florida.

+ The funeral service for former Columbus NAACP President Leonard Leavell was held in Brunswick, Georgia. But did you see what current chapter President Bill Madison held in his hands on WRBL? The annual "Leonard Lavell Award" - with the last name misspelled on it! [True] Maybe this group needs more awards for educational success as well.

+ WRBL's late news showed a photo of the incoming leader of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation - and labeled him the "New Commandment." If he's really taking that title, maybe a priest like Roy Bourgeois will like WHINSEC at last.

+ St. Francis Hospital announced it's won an award for reducing the number of surgery infections to zero. Isn't this amazing? Somebody's actually handing out awards to people who wash their hands on a regular basis.

+ Southeastern Conference football "media days" began in Birmingham. About 700 journalists have credentials for this event, including WLTZ sports anchor Jeremy Moss. Talk about a surprise! A trip "down South" for Moss normally might stop at St. Louis.

+ Instant Message to the guy who's yelling at the top of his lungs in the latest Bill Heard commercial: Did you ever stop to consider something? Maybe you're the real reason why those car lots in other cities are being sold.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.77 a gallon at Crown/Busy Bee on Crawford Road in Phenix City.... "The Romantic Hours" at 9:00 p.m. ET on Troy Public Radio.... and back-to-school sales slowing to a crawl, as shoppers realize the sales tax holiday is only a week away....

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 898 (+ 19, 2.2%)

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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Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Don't you love our Columbus Council? Only one week after a long controversy ends at the polls, a new one officially begins. It's almost like CCG-TV is showing a version of Univision's telenovelas.

The new touchy topic which officially launched Tuesday was one that an e-mailer here suggested some time back. The city Public Services Department called for a cut in garbage collection from twice a week to once a week. I'd think opponents of the so-called "police state" in Columbus would like this -- because guards watching over prison inmates wouldn't show up as often.

Ron Smith with the Public Services Department told Columbus Council a cut to once-a-week trash collection would save the city about $670,000 per year in fuel bills. Are you critics of Hurtsboro's city government paying attention? All those weeks last year with no garbage collection may have balanced the town budget.

Ron Smith estimated the typical Columbus garbage truck burns as much as 50 gallons of fuel each day. And let's face it: garbage trucks aren't built with the concept of "miles per gallon" in mind. If they were driven at an optimum speed of 40 miles per hour, too many inmates would be unable to keep up -- and the number wandering the streets would jump.

Ron Smith explained by cutting trash collection in half, the city can keep monthly garbage fees where they are now. So Columbus garbage service would be handled a bit like ice cream cartons at the supermarket....

The trash talk discussion began quickly, in reaction to this proposal. Some people complained they have too much garbage now, and it simply has to be collected twice a week. This is what happens when the city landfill operates on "banker's hours."

But others said more people in Columbus need to practice recycling and composting, instead of leaving all their trash in a garbage bag at the curb. Some of us have been recycling for years. But composting?! Hmmmm - maybe that pile would drive the roaches out of my kitchen at last.

Then there were the people who took the debate in unexpected directions. "They want that other one percent," one man said of the trash proposal - as if the city is setting residents up for yet another sales tax vote, to replace the one for Muscogee County schools that's scheduled to disappear. After all, those improved streets won't look nice if stacks of trash bags are along them.

Another man gave me a short history lesson in Columbus garbage. He said city officials proposed this cut to once-a-week pickup during the 1990s. But too many people complained about the idea, so it was.... well, we thought it was put on the scrap-heap. But maybe it really landed in the blue recycling bins which were surfacing around town.

This man said Columbus kept twice-a-week trash pickup, after residents protested - but an extra garbage fee was added to the monthly water bill. He suggested if service is going to be cut in half now, the monthly fee should be emoved. This seems about as likely as the Ledger-Enquirer cutting its price, for printing fewer sections.

Yet is Columbus spoiled, when it comes to garbage collection? A quick check Tuesday night found Atlanta, Auburn, Harris County and Macon all have once-a-week service. Are residents actually going to argue that Columbus is twice as trashy as those places?

E-MAIL UPDATE: We still haven't heard from Bert Coker about Tuesday's main topic, but we heard from someone else....

Richard, I have a large collection of photos of poitical signs from previous elections that are missing the "disclaimer" (Paid for by.......). I always carry my digital camera with me and make it a point to photograph political signs. The problem with so many of our laws, rules, regulations, etc. is that there is often no consequences for failure to follow them. Every candidate should be given with their qualifying papers a list of all the rules, guidelines, etc. along with the consequences for not complying so there could be no pleading of ignorance. If disqualification was a consequence there likely would be more compliance.

I also would like to see on the ballot for each office "None of the above". I feel certain "None of the above" would win many elections. It might be costly to the taxpayers but I think the end result would be better candidates. So often you hear voters talk about "voting for the lesser of two evils".

Wow - disqualification?! That threat doesn't seem to have worked with Atlanta baseball manager Bobby Cox.

There's one U.S. state where "none of the above" appears on ballots. Nevada added the option to all elections 32 years ago, yet a web site supporting the idea doesn't indicate any case where that option came in first. Not to mention who would have given the victory speech....

Another reader seems to speaking for a group, but I'm not sure which one:

Hello All;

What we want, and have wanted for at least 5 years, is this: A new severe Conflict of Interest Law with very stiff penalties.

We will not support local Ethics Commissions with or without subpoena power. Even if the local Ethics Commission was chosen by the Grand Jury, the Ethics Commission would be comprised of either private citizens who would not be prepared to conduct investigations or by skilled trial attorneys who have severe partisan bias. We oppose a new layer of government. It is totally unnecessary! There are some good politicians. Are you surprised to hear that? Yes, there are, however they, too, would be subject to partisan inquiry, with their spouses, children, and friends subpoenaed.

We do not want Ken Starr playing out across the land.

Private citizens are not trained to do investigations and those who are trained- the partisan attorneys of the world--- should not be doing ethics investigations of their political opponents with subpoena powers, under the auspices of impartial government investigations. AGAIN, We do not need a new level of government. The present Secretary of State's Ethics Commission is sometimes capable of carrying out the finance and regulatory requirements for a campaign, but they are generally either quite inept, or perhaps, just partisan placeholders, otherwise. What is needed is not investigative bodies outside of normal government but good laws to stop conflicts of interest and abuses of power. We will actively fight a local ethics commission.

We call upon all activists to work toward the goal of a stringent Conflict of Interest Law with stiff penalties for violations.

We absolutely do not want private citizens acting in official investigative capacities for which they have not been trained, or partisan attorneys conducting biased investigations that disrupt and ruin lives.

We do want a new stringent Conflict of Interest Law with stiff penalties for violations. With a new Conflict of Interest Law, a person has either violated it or he has not violated it. The law can be used to correct violators. We do not need a local Ethics Commission with police investigative and subpoena powers pulling blue dresses out of every closet.

Thank you,

Deborah Owens

This e-mail may disappoint a few people in Columbus. The way Josh McKoon went after State Senator Ed Harbison in recent weeks, he could have been running for Ken Starr's old job as special prosecutor -- or maybe persecutor.

Other people may be disappointed by the claim that "private citizens are not trained to do investigations." The latest edition of the Yellow Pages has six agencies offering to do exactly that - and by the way, none of them have the name "Blog of Columbus" anywhere on them.

Now for a quick sweep of other Tuesday news....

+ Afternoon and evening thunderstorms dropped more than an inch of rain on Columbus. I'd rather see 0.99 in the rain gauge than 99.0 on the thermometer any day.

+ Mead Westvaco employees in Cottonton held meetings on whether to set a strike date. But did I hear it right - they met at a nice Columbus hotel?! If the proposed pay increase is really that lousy, shouldn't they have met in a corner booth at Krystal?

+ The Ledger-Enquirer's web site reported Bill Heard is selling dealerships in several cities, but apparently NOT in Columbus. This is either a move to stay afloat in a declining economy - or a move to stay one step ahead of the law.

+ Warner Robins American eliminated Columbus Northern from the Georgia Little League baseball playoffs 2-0. It was an unusual meeting of the last two Little League World Series champions. Why this didn't appear live on ESPN Classic, I don't quite understand....

+ Instant Message to the children I saw outside the Space Science Center, apparently firing homemade rockets into the air: Do you have a concealed carry permit for those things?

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 879 (+ 50, 6.0%)

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, July 22, 2008


Monday's recount didn't change much in the Muscogee County Coroner's race. Bill Thrower still won, but by only 211 votes. Ricky Weeks only came one vote closer from last Tuesday. Oh well -- maybe some rock band will visit the RiverCenter, and need Weeks's EMT skills on tour.

Have you noticed it didn't take long for the signs to change? Only one week after the Georgia primary, campaign signs already are out promoting the November vote. It's almost like the Halloween decorations going on display, right after the school year starts....

One Columbus Council candidate was busy in the last few days, setting up yard signs. Bert Coker is placing them all over town, because he's challenging Skip Henderson for the citywide District 10 seat. In fact, Coker already may have topped his budget for yard signs opposing the one-percent sales tax.

But uh-oh - take a closer look at Bert Coker's campaign signs. There's something missing, that's supposed to be there. It's the fine print about who paid for the sign - but then again, Coker seems to be distrustful of fine print when it comes to city government.

Georgia law states all campaign advertising must mention who paid for it. Paul Olson used to have election-year field days over this detail. He'd file complaints about violators, get his name in the newspaper - and as I recall, more often than not the violating candidate still won.

Paul Olson was the one who taught me this rule about campaign funding fine print, thanks to all the complaints he filed. So I'm a bit surprised I beat Olson, in publicly pointing out the problem with Bert Coker's signs. A violation is a violation, whether we're in July or October. I mean, this is politics -- NOT pro basketball.

Paul Olson and Bert Coker worked together on the unsuccessful drive against the one-percent sales tax. So you'd think Olson would have told Coker about the problem with his illegal personal campaign signs. But then again, maybe that's why the final main speaker against the sales tax was Ed DuBose....

This campaign sign problem is on top of the failure by Bert Coker to file campaign reports with the state for "Be Smart Vote No LOST." But to be fair, a friend pointed out to me Monday that group might not be violating state rules after all. Maybe the No side didn't raise the minimum 101 dollars.

We wanted to ask Bert Coker about his signs, the No side's finances and more - but his line was busy when we called Monday afternoon, and a message Monday night was not returned. Maybe he was too busy preparing a speech for today's Columbus Council meeting, demanding the new sales tax be immediately revoked.

Even if his signs are illegal, Bert Coker's promotional blitz seems to show he's serious about his Columbus Council campaign. Skip Henderson actually might have to do more than coach youth sports teams this fall. He can make billboards, putting his smiling handsome face side-by-side with Coker wearing a cowboy hat.

>> Our newest blog already has readers in several states thinking about poker and more. Visit "On the Flop!" <<

E-MAIL UPDATE: Sunday's small effort to set a political campaign straight brought a quick response....


I appreciate your constructive criticisms and spell checks, who knows we might even have a cup of coffee together one

Perhaps so - but hopefully the write-in candidate for Sheriff won't mind if I order a different drink. I've never been a coffee drinker. And the people who have to drink hot coffee at this time of year are merely proving how addictive it really is.

Speaking of hot things, let's review the Monday talking points....

+ Columbus had its hottest day of the year, with a high of 99 degrees F. It was SO HOT that some members of Fort Benning's Third Brigade turned on air conditioners for the first time since returning from Iraq.

+ The Muscogee County School Board gave final approval to district leadership for the coming months. Dr. Peggy Connell will be "superintendent of the month" for August. Dr. John Phillips returns for September through November. Then December could be offered on eBay, to raise money lost from the expiring school sales tax.

(The school board also voted to demolish the old Rigdon Road Elementary School. There's only one appropriate way to do this - take your time, and tear it down year-round.)

+ The firing of Hurtsboro's Police Chief finally was confirmed in no uncertain terms. A municipal court clerk told WRBL Marvin Christian was "terminated" at the last city council meeting. So why was that so hard for the Mayor to say? It's not like Christian was sent to Alabama's electric chair, after his arrest.

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced a new web site to promote car-pooling by state employees. I can't wait to learn who shares a ride with the Governor - and whether everyone has to be a Republican to ride with him.

+ Yahoo Sports reported Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Childress has been offered a 20-million dollar contract from a team in Greece. If Childress thinks Atlanta basketball fans are tough, just wait - when you're in Greece, you're likely to face a lot of heat.

+ Instant Message to the "Tomato Girl" in the Jay Auto Mall commercial: Have you changed your name, in light of the recent food scare? Should we call you the "Strawberry Girl" now?

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 829 (+ 25, 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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Monday, July 21, 2008


The last time I drove down Manchester Expressway, a sign outside Shogun said the restaurant would reopen soon. You may recall it was severely burned by a fire last July. I'm not sure if it took that long to rebuild the building - or to get worker visas for the Japanese chefs.

Columbus has several other Japanese restaurants, of course. Shogun opened a new location at Columbus Park Crossing. Fuji isn't too far away. Then there's a longtime restaurant you may have forgotten - Mikata at The Landings. It sits between Mediterranean Café and Ben's Chop House, from east to west. Which is strange, because you'd have to go the opposite direction to experience those cultures for real.

This weekend marked my first visit to Mikata, and it was an interesting amalgamation of east and west. It starts in the lobby, with what I think was supposed to be a Japanese-style version of classical music playing in the background. I eventually decided it was Mannheim Steamroller -- which can sound like everything from Oriental to Celtic, depending on what you're drinking.

Our group had the typical Japanese steakhouse experience, sitting in a room around two heating tables. I joked to people around me that the arrangement looked like a made-for-TV poker room - only the workers stacked up rice, instead of chip stacks.

(We are saying nothing more about this group, because several members specifically asked NOT to be mentioned here. And here's the amazing thing - not one of them is running for political office.)

Dinner at Mikata is served in several courses. Ours began with a very nice small bowl of mushroom soup, in what tasted like beef broth. They gave me a soup spoon, so I used it. After all, we weren't sitting on the floor....

The second Mikata course was a basic mostly-lettuce salad, with honey-mustard dressing. At this point, our chefs came out and began their show with the main dishes. We apparently had to trust an unseen apprentice with shredding the lettuce properly.

No Japanese steakhouse dinner would be complete without a display of fire. The chefs prepared the heating tables by pouring what someone in our group called "five-dollar vodka" on them. That may explain the lack of an aftertaste on our rice.

The staff actually seemed to be from Japan -- because they understood what I meant when I said "konichi-wa." That word for "hello" will remain with me, because the late Lonnie Jackson often said it. But please don't ask me to recite the cleanup month pledge....

(My longtime pastor once asked a hibachi chef if he was really Japanese -- and discovered the man was Korean. I wouldn't dare ask that kind of question. If you walked into El Vaquero and asked about the staff members' nationalities, they might run out the door in fear.)

We ordered teriyaki chicken, cooked "medium." Others in the group asked beef medium-well - which our chef translated as "no moo." I wondered about that retired baseball pitcher's last name....

Our plate was filled one step at a time - first with grilled rice, then cabbage that we mistook for noodles, followed by vegetables and the chicken. The chicken was so sweet that we didn't need the two sauces in tiny cups on the side. Did we hear someone say a sauce came from Ginger Lake?!

Chopsticks are optional with dinner at Mikata. We were handed a set, and tried to use them for the first time in several years. But when the chicken pieces hit our plate, the sticks soon were set aside - and without Chef Lee walking over, like he does with the CB&T President in that commercial.

After dinner, the Mikata staff served us ice cream for dessert. But a few people in our group were disappointed, because there was only vanilla - and it was only ice cream, not sherbet. You'd think a Japanese restaurant might have a "green tea" flavor....

Mikata serves a full four courses, but it's a touch on the pricy side. Vegetable dinners cost ten dollars. My teriyaki chicken cost $13.95. And some items on the menu were in the 28-dollar range - as if they were keeping up with the Chop House next door.

But with soda and a tip, my dinner at Mikata cost 21 dollars. I suppose that's not bad, considering what I've heard about inflation and fuel costs hitting restaurants hard. Who knows how much it costs to fly in vodka from Tokyo?

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: The church school teacher gushed about how spiritually overcome she sometimes is while she's driving. "I might be raising my hands, singing a song, driving on the wrong side of the road...."

"Yes," a class member responded. "And if you raise your hands, you might wind up on the wrong side of the road."

Now let's get on the right side of some weekend news developments....

+ A public auction sold off the remaining furniture from Raymond Rowe's "1200 Store for Homes" downtown. What a turn of events - as furniture once displayed in High Point was removed at a low point.

+ The evening news showed a big pile of debris in the middle of the Columbus Civic Center. The building will be closed for two months, while a new floor and refrigeration unit are installed. Then hopefully the debris will be stored for future use -- either at the skate park, or the next motocross competition.

(So does this mean this year's International Festival at the Civic Center is canceled? It's usually held in August, after all. And it seems too large to fit in the parking lot of an International House of Pancakes.)

+ Bruster's shops marked National Ice Cream Day by offering 99-cent cones. This shows how inflation is still a problem in our area - because the high temperature was only 97 degrees F.

+ The Northern Little League All-Stars stayed alive in the Georgia state tournament by mauling "Masters City" of Augusta 19-7. Aw c'mon - Masters City? Too many people outside Georgia would think that refers to Amsterdam.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.93 a gallon at Petro, Andrews Road and Brown Avenue.... "happy hour" drinks for half-price at Sonic from 2:00-4:00 p.m.... and large numbers of people applying to work at Buck Ice....

SCHEDULED THIS WEEK: Did a local candidate make a big boo-boo? (No, Mark LaJoye, it's not you.) We'll show you the evidence....

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 804 (- 29, 3.5%)

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, July 20, 2008


Some people simply can't believe it. I sometimes go running on the Riverwalk - after dark?! They consider it a dangerous thing to do. But they forget something - at least I'm running. That advantage works in cartoons, against coyotes.

Saturday twilight runs have become a habit for me, and are normally my strongest runs of the week. But this weekend, there admittedly were some unexpected dangers. Not from criminals, but from creatures. And for a change, NOT from dogs - as a 95-degree hazy July "dog day" even had them hiding under the porch for shade.

The first attack came 0.7 miles into my run, east of the Civic Center -- when a little bug flew up, and right into my mouth. I'm not sure what sort of bug it was. But it was NOT a firefly -- because then I would have had enough warning to turn my head.

I'm not one for eating insects, especially when I'm jogging. So I quickly coughed and spit it out, as best I could. That's one nice thing about the Riverwalk - it's OK to spit on the grass next to the river. Doing it indoors on gym walls is very different....

At about 1.1 miles into the run, it felt like I ran through a small swarm of tiny flying insects. At least I was able to shut my mouth for a moment, to prevent another surprise snack. But they should have seen me coming - and I rarely run faster than a ten-minute mile these days, so they had time to move.

On to Rotary Park we went - and at about 1.3 miles in, a larger insect tried to fly inside my nose. It hit between my nostrils, seemingly too big to fly into one or the other. If I'm suddenly this popular, maybe I should have been running past nightclubs on Broadway.

I'm assuming the insects made me a target because I wore a bright white T-shirt. It couldn't be because of my smell - because my sweat tends to repulse people. Take the restaurant which suddenly was closed, when I stopped there for dinner after the run....

The final score was 2.4 miles of non-stop running Saturday night. For a steamy July night, that was OK - especially with the annoying obstacles I faced along the way. But things could have been worse. There was enough light left that I missed running over a (ahem) dog deposit.

My running courses haven't brought me in contact with any Chattahoochee River alligators yet. But a couple of weeks ago, a jog at 8:30 in the morning led to something I hadn't seen on the Riverwalk before - a two-foot-long snake, lounging across my lane. It was easy to hurdle. I leave the big stomps for large cockroaches in the kitchen.

So before Mayor Wetherington begins allocating those new police officers to the Riverwalk, maybe he should send some animal control officers there first. Or at least send a police crew armed with bug spray - which could scare away criminals, who think it's mace.

>> How did our Thursday poker night go? Read the answer at our newest blog, "On the Flop!" <<

E-MAIL UPDATE: The Sound Off section of the newspaper must be full, because readers are writing us about it. For starters....

There was a letter to the editor in the Ledger that did not have correct facts..The letter stated that MCSD had made the choice to drop the graduation exam for end of course test..Both of those test are state mandated. However, in 2010 the graduation test will be dropped by the state...

Wow - and I thought the only misleading letters to the Ledger-Enquirer came from the atheists.

Another e-mail takes issue with the front page of the paper:

I was very disappointed in the Ledger's choice of pictures for the front of Saturday's paper..Showing 2 children wading in the river is so so dangerous..Even adults do not wade in the river especially below the dam..Did they already forget the two little brothers who drowned in the river earlier in the summer? Instead of making photos the photographer should have been dialing 911.

I didn't see this picture -- but how do we know adults weren't close by, watching the youngsters? And if Ledger-Enquirer carriers can stop burglars, how do we know this photographer didn't have a life preserver in his other hand?

But this e-mail does have a point - as a Fort Benning soldier died a few years ago, after stepping into the river near the 13th Street dam. The Phenix City riverbank has been officially off limits to Benning personnel ever since. And I don't think they even let the Best Ranger contestants compete on the Alabama side of post.

And Friday's mention of new web sites brought yet another message from the write-in candidate for Muscogee County Sheriff:


I'm obviously not one of your biggest fans that's pretty evident in your writings about me, but that's the beauty of being protected by the 1st Amendment. As far as your background check is concerned you checked out clean, God forbid, we sure wouldn't want any of those facts about Zimbabwe's budget mixed by your by your rhetoric would we, since you like putting a twist on everything written to you.

Now now - we strive to stay neutral around here. We didn't endorse anybody or any issue in the Georgia Primary last week. And if Democrat John Darr would come out of hiding, we might have some things to write about him.

But wait a minute - did this candidate for sheriff actually run a background check on me? Does this make him the candidate of the "police state," as another web site claims Columbus is becoming? Should all local business executives get caught up on their alimony payments before November?

By the way, we checked Mark LaJoye's first Friday News Summary on his web site. It had nothing about Zimbabwe, but we'll quote from part of it: "The residents of Muscogee County have stated to me that they have a reel concern with the leadership that currently runs the Sherffs Office...." A few people reading that would be concerned about something else - a campaign team not using Spell-Check.

Thanks for all your e-mail, and now let's quickly do our own version of a news summary....

+ The Muscogee County Election Board accepted 13 additional provisional ballots, and heard a complaint about the State Senate race. Reginald Pugh was accused of conducting campaigning last Tuesday while too close to a polling place. Please suspend all handshakes at the 150-foot mark....

+ Campaign reports filed in Washington showed Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions's account is larger than Democratic challenger Vivian Figures. In fact, it's larger by a margin of 234 to one. TV viewers in Montgomery this fall may see nothing but alternating ads for Sessions and Barack Obama.

+ The evening news reported legal papers have been filed to delay a public meeting on dissolving Hurtsboro for a second time. This matter could be postponed long enough for every city official to be arrested, not simply the police chief....

+ The Liberty Theatre hosted the second annual Columbus "Hip-Hop Summit." In other cities, there are variations on this. Knoxville, Tennessee holds an event on how to properly deal with children - the "Pat Head Summit."

+ Instant Message to Cascade Hills Pastor Bill Purvis: Isn't your church Baptist anymore? You're apparently speaking in this weekend's video against "mainline denominations" with watered-down beliefs - and around here, Baptist is about as mainline as it gets.

In the first half of 2008, our number of unique visitors jumped 23 percent from last year. To advertise to our readers, 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: 833 (- 37, 4.3%)

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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