Thursday, April 30, 2009

30 APR 09: Clear-Out Channel

I should have smelled trouble when I turned on the radio Wednesday morning. The newscaster on WDAK's "Morning Show" was Wes Carroll - as in the Editor-in Chief of The Edge Magazine. The most traditional news outlet in Columbus had stooped to using the man behind "C-Town Hotties."

For all I knew, usual WDAK news anchor Chris Weber might have been sick. But as the day went on, I learned otherwise. A radio news web site revealed Weber had been dismissed, in another large nationwide job cut by Clear Channel Radio. Yet for some odd reason, a Columbus TV newscast reported on the layoffs first.

Chris Weber used to be the weather anchor and "third voice" on WDAK's Morning Show, with Scott Miller and Val McGuinness. But then McGuinness was fired in February 2008, and Weber became the news anchor. Now he's also been fired -- and Miller is trying as hard as he can to avoid reading news headlines.

People who dial around the radio know Chris Weber was more than a news anchor on WDAK. He co-hosted the "High Noon Sports" talk show on WSHE with retired baseball coach B.R. Johnson. I found out about the firing too late in the day to check that program. And the WSHE web site doesn't even admit that station carries Duke and the Doctor.

(The ironic thing is that Val McGuiness's voice still can be heard throughout the day on WSHE, promoting "Southern Gospel" music.. Moving to the PMB stations apparently does NOT prove you're a backsliding sinner.)

Chris Weber's face was quickly removed from the WDAK web site. But things were different with another big-name Clear Channel layoff. The blog of "Incognito" remained at the web site of WBFA-FM "98.3 The Beat" Wednesday night. I guess it's like his blog says -- loyalty is everything.

Incognito reportedly lost his night shift at The Beat - but I suspect he'll be able to find work somewhere else. After all, if you're REALLY "incognito" no one will ever know you worked in radio.

Clear Channel wasn't the only business which announced local job cuts Wednesday. The Columbus Cessna plant will lose about 90 employees at the end of June -- and production of the Columbus jet is being suspended. Maybe if it was being made in Columbus and not Wichita, Kansas, more local companies would order it.

But not all the economic news was bleak Wednesday. Mike Gaymon with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce rejoiced as.... hey, wait a minute! Why not have Gaymon read the morning news on WDAK? He already hosts a weekly talk show. Let's hear him promote some projects in President Obama's stimulus plan.

But anyway: Mike Gaymon announced a telemarketing firm called Prosperity America is opening a call center near Fort Benning. The company plans to hire 300 people -- but will do it by hiring about 25 workers every three months. Prosperity America calls it a "start-up." Skeptical consumer groups might call it multi-level marketing.

Prosperity America Chief Executive Fred Landrum he wants to give telemarketing jobs to local disabled veterans and military spouses. He suggested the alternative is moving those jobs to Pakistan - where the big bad Taliban wants to create even more disabled U.S. veterans in the months ahead.

(Come to think of it, Chris Weber might want to take a resume at this weekend's Prosperity America job fair. Telemarketing is a bit like radio, you know. Employees take calls from the public, sometimes give away prizes - and they can show up for work in T-shirts and shorts during the summer.)

Now a few other quick items from a day when the news didn't inspire us much....

+ Columbus city officials told the Ledger-Enquirer last week's tornado destroyed more than 250 trees. But that's not all bad news. If those trees are handled properly, natural gas bills across the city could drop sharply next winter.

+ The American Lung Association issued a report on air pollution, and gave Muscogee County an "F" for high ozone levels. From 2005-2007, Columbus had 17 "orange alert" days. Now hold on a minute - are they sure those weren't simply Auburn University alumni meetings?

+ WRBL showed highlights from the first day of a college baseball tournament at Golden Park. The Southern States Athletic Conference wanted to hold its tournament at a neutral site. Columbus seems like a good choice - since I doubt most residents even can name half the teams in the conference.

+ The Atlanta Hawks humbled Miami 106-91 in Game 5 of their pro basketball playoff series. When Miami star Dwyane Wade injured his head in the first quarter, the Hawks radio announcers declared he likes to "go Hollywood" from time to time. So much for those guys ever appearing in Wade's T-Mobile commercials....

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: We catch up on some mail we've overlooked for a few days....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 581 (+ 19, 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

29 APR 09: Uneven Dozen

Today marks 12 years since the last time I drained my waterbed. And it was such a challenge to drain the waterbed that I hurried to a hardware store for missing tools shortly after sunrise. I simply wasn't overweight enough to sit in the middle, and get the process started.

The waterbed had to be drained because a moving crew was coming to my duplex in College Park - moving me here. Yes, today is my 12th anniversary as a Columbus resident. I don't count the four weeks my new apartment sat empty, even though the landlord required me to pay rent on it.

It was a new full-time job that brought me to Columbus. These days it's a part-time job, as I've tried to launch other careers in the last decade. Sad to say, all those dream careers have floated away like fishing boats launched into West Point Lake.

I really didn't imagine 12 years ago that I'd still be in Columbus today -- and other things have surprised me, because they haven't changed. For instance, I'm still driving the same humble Honda. But its usual great gas mileage has slumped badly in recent weeks - because a sticking odometer shows I'm driving fewer miles.

When I came to Columbus 12 years ago, the old Baker High School was being used as a middle school. A couple of years later, students moved to a new school - and the way things are going, that new school will become outdated before the old one ever is used again.

Yet another new idea for the old Baker High building came forward Tuesday. A 1945 Baker graduate plans to go before Columbus Council Thursday, suggesting the city buy the building for use as a veterans' health clinic. The Muscogee County School District doesn't seem to like that idea - and now may be waiting for the right offer from a fancy restaurant chain.

Another old building which surprisingly is still standing is a brick structure on the northeast corner of Dillingham and Broad Streets in Phenix City. Not even the move of Russell County offices to the modern building next door has brought it down. And you know officials quietly were upset when last week's tornado somehow missed it.

Plenty of other things in Columbus remain the same today, as they did 12 years ago. There's still "Sunny 100" and "Rock 103" on the radio - and WOKS-AM still seems to play the same blues songs that it did in 1997.

But of course, plenty has changed in our area over the last dozen years. Columbus Park Crossing has developed as a major shopping center. Broadway has developed into a popular entertainment spot. And even on the radio - well, have you noticed Troy Public Radio now plays music during its news updates?

Thanks to high-definition broadcast TV, the last year has brought a great deal of change in what I can watch. I'm up to nine different channels - including my choice of weather with jazzy music or dull computerized voices.

(I'm counting WLGA-TV in those channels, even though its digital signal apparently going full-power until June. Its standard signal remains strong where I live - and as of this week, watching black-and-white reruns of The Andy Griffith Show at 7:00 p.m. seems more authentic than ever.)

I only realized the other day that I've been blogging for more than half my years in Columbus. That means you can look up other 29 April entries, and check more memories of my arrival here. You can also decide if this blog has become funnier with time, or if I've simply become more bitter and surly.

Enough of this Memory Lane stuff - since come to think of it, that nightclub has disappeared since I arrived in Columbus. But anyway, let's move on to the Tuesday news....

+ Columbus Water Works released surveillance camera video of last weekend's big tank rupture. It didn't seem to show anyone causing the spill. But conspiracy theorists will claim some runaway barge driver was on the other side, trying to repeat New Orleans in 2005.

+ Columbus Technical College was placed on lockdown, after someone in Columbus phoned a threat to a state education office in Atlanta. Campus officials indicated they know who made the threat, and it's NOT a student. Hmmm -- maybe some staff member became fed up with the vending machines.

+ Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents told the Ledger-Enquirer they're still investigating the Junior Marshal's office. That's funny -- The Courier's "Street Committee" declared three weeks ago the probe was over, and "many will be left with egg on their faces...." Who needs to hit the shower first?

+ WLTZ visited the Columbus Public Library, and noted job-seekers can use computers there for free. Uhhhhh - aren't the computers at the Columbus Career Center downtown free as well? Or are the library computers better, because you can also try out for an online poker career?

+ St. Luke United Methodist Church hosted a luncheon with the author of the book "Manners That Sell." The book's main point is that proper etiquette can improve your business. Judging from recent e-mail here, a working microwave oven for cold fries also would help.

+ Atlanta edged St. Louis in major league baseball 2-1. Former Russell County High School star Colby Rasmus started for the Cardinals, and confessed to WRBL he prefers major league ball because he travels on planes instead of buses. Apparently Rasmus hasn't been on any flights with turbulence yet.

+ Auburn trampled Troy in college baseball 26-6. Now if the Auburn football team can be dared into a game against Troy, to match that score....

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Kelly O'Connell: You can keep doing that midday webcast as long as you wish - where your face is right up against the web-cam at your computer. A couple of times Tuesday, I almost thought you were ready to kiss me.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.81 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... 31-cent ice cream scoops from 5:00-10:00 p.m. at Baskin-Robbins downtown.... and old-timers' day at Thursday's Columbus Council meeting, with both Bert Coker and Paul Olson speaking....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 562 (+ 23, 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

28 APR 09: The Frozen Fountain City

So you thought things were getting warmer in Columbus. Monday's news told us otherwise. Columbus is now a city in a freeze - and it's a little suspicious that it happened as "Disney on Ice" left town.

Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley confirmed the government is under a hiring freeze until the end of June. Republicans across the city heard this news and said, "What took them so long?!"

The City Manager explained a hiring freeze was imposed because tax revenue took a big drop in February. WRBL reported one part of city sales taxes was down nearly 30 percent from last year. I never imagined an extra day for leap year would make such a big difference....

Isaiah Hugley says overall, Columbus city revenue is down seven percent from last fiscal year. It's a bit hard to feel sorry about that when your retirement plan's revenue is down about 25 percent.

But there's one area of city government that is exempt from the hiring freeze. Guess which one. Yup, the police department. Let's hope some of these new officers have backgrounds in sewer repair -- because we might need them there.

The "streets and safety" sales tax money from January is not included in the city's monthly revenue reports, because it was not part of the budget for this fiscal year. Officials seem to be making extra-sure that money is kept separate. Why, it's probably not even kept in a box inside the police evidence room.

The City Manager hinted the city hiring freeze could continue beyond the end of June. He says much depends on the revenue reports for March and April. But please, do NOT attempt to go out and buy something with a backdated check.

Isaiah Hugley says the city's financial approach right now is one of "precaution," as opposed to panic. If you see a city official doing the opposite, please let us know. For instance, if they're standing in line for Mega Millions tickets today....

The news about a hiring freeze makes the next Columbus Council meeting on Thursday a bit more interesting. Mayor Wetherington is scheduled to unveil his budget proposal for fiscal 2010. Will he call for any city programs to be cut? Will city employees be asked to clean their own restrooms, so prison inmates are free to install street lights?

BLOG UPDATE: Our apologies to the man who urged us to go to federal court Monday, to get details on the Ritmo Latino raid. Any ol' journalist can pick that up. But there was free chicken out there, waiting for the taking - and a single guy's gotta do what a single guy's gotta do....

So in the 1:00 p.m. hour, we drove to the KFC in downtown Phenix City. Our goal was to take advantage of the offer of one free piece of grilled chicken. But the staff admitted to a long line it was out of grilled chicken. So our plan to "unthink" turned out to be unlucky.

The woman at the 13th and Broad Street KFC offered an alternative: one free piece of original fried chicken. That didn't thrill several people in the line, but we took advantage of it. Only when we returned home, out box had a leg which looked like it came from Chicken Little.

Undaunted in our grilled chicken hunt, we drove across the river to the downtown Columbus KFC. While the Phenix City location had a long drive-through line, the parking lot at Ninth and Veterans Parkway was practically deserted. But we know this neighborhood, and suspected the KFC might have been held up again.

Much to our surprise, the downtown Columbus KFC wasn't even selling grilled chicken. "You can get it anywhere but here," the woman behind the counter said. If all else fails and the grilled version somehow gives people swine flu, part of the restaurant chain still will survive.

We walked to our car empty-handed, but laughing at this adventure. This promotion was turning into a Kentucky Fried Nightmare. And I couldn't believe Chester's Barbecue was the only restaurant allowed to have grilling smoke close to the Government Center.

Our third try for grilled chicken turned out to be successful. There was plenty of it waiting at the KFC on South Lumpkin Road. The server even offered to add a biscuit for only 50 cents. Wow - she out-lowballed me for a cheap lunch.

We took out free grilled chicken home, and found it had that slightly-blackened taste you expect from something on a grill. But how did wind up nearly as greasy in our hands as KFC's fried chicken? Is this "Earth Day" chicken -- marinated in recycled oil?

Oh yes -- meanwhile back at the courthouse, Jose Ricci joined a brother and sister in entering NOT guilty pleas. They're accused of using the Ritmo Latino club to launder cocaine money. That accusation sounds strange, doesn't it? Powder cocaine is very white to begin with....

The evening news revealed Jose Ricci's brother Diego is currently in prison in Texas. He was found guilty last year of "possession of an illegal substance, with intent to deliver." Wow - possession alone isn't enough in Texas?! You have to take business away from Federal Express?!

Let's see what else we can deliver from the Monday news....

+ A statewide tour stopped in Columbus, promoting motorcycle safety awareness. At first I admittedly misunderstood this, and thought it was simply about "motorcycle awareness." I'm very aware of motorcycles - especially when they race up the bridge outside my bedroom window in the middle of the night.

+ The manager of Valley Lanes in Phenix City said looters have stolen bowling balls and bowling pins since last week's tornado. Police are on the lookout for people practicing spares in their driveways.

+ Christian radio station WFRC-FM spent an eighth day off the air due to tornado damage. If WFXE "Foxie 105" was able to get back on the air in only two days, does that mean this storm was NOT an "act of God?"

+ The latest Columbus TV switch became official, as The CW network moved to WLTZ's 38.2 digital channel. WLGA TV-66 showed a variety of replacement shows - including a dumbed-down version of "Deal or No Deal" at 5:00 p.m. Yes, it's dumbed-down. The names of models are attached to the briefcases.

(Did I see it right - WLTZ celebrated the launch of The CW by bringing two Spencer High School cheerleaders into the studio? Let's be thankful they did NOT recreate a scene from "Sex and the City.")

+ The Atlanta Hawks mashed Miami 81-71 to even their N.B.A. playoff series. But Hawks announcer Steve Holman stole the show again on WEAM-AM, suggesting the referees were getting phone calls from the league office to be biased toward Miami and Dwyane Wade. Holman probably spends his off-seasons working on political "truth squads."

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 539 (+ 20, 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

27 APR 09: Stars, Bars and Old Scars

A man called me at home, asking what was the holiday we "promoted" at the bottom of Sunday's entry. He was concerned, because he has banking to do today. I told him I expected local banks to be open. Even though it's a Southern kind of day, banks based in downtown Charlotte don't really count as Southern.

The official holiday marked in Georgia and Alabama today is Confederate Memorial Day. It's marked on different Mondays in different places across the South. It's that lack of unity which should tell you why the South is unlikely to rise again.

Tempers have risen this year, as Confederate Memorial Day approached. An Auburn City Council member became so annoyed by little Confederate battle flags at a cemetery last week that he pulled several of them up from plots. You might be critical of that - but hey, at least he stopped at removing the flags.

The man who pulled up the Confederate flags is something more than an Auburn City Council member. Arthur Dowdell comes from a family of civil rights activists, so he's sensitive to signs of racism. But I wouldn't call him hypersensitive -- because he's not boycotting Auburn football for hiring a white head coach.

Arthur Dowdell told WRBL African-American people who visited Pine Hill Cemetery in Auburn were upset about seeing signs of "racism and the KKK." It's a wonder he hasn't organized protests outside country music radio stations....

Arthur Dowdell promises to seek an Auburn City Council resolution banning Confederate flags in public places. He explains we're "one nation under God with one flag, and that's the United States of America flag." You can take Dowdell off the guest list for any Cinco de Mayo parties next week.

Members of the Daughters of the Confederacy say they meant no harm with their little battle flags. One said it's all about honoring "forefathers who fought for our country...." Uhhhh - whose country? It's like a recent passenger in my car, who said Abraham Lincoln was "not our President" long ago. I had to remind him to speak for himself, because I'm from the North.

As a transplanted Kansan, I find problems with both sides of this debate. For one thing, Arthur Dowdell had the gumption to say people who want to commemorate history "should do it on their own private property." Is that where Auburn holds Black History Month events in February? The big Columbus breakfast is at the Trade Center, not Isaiah Hugley's house.

On the other hand, would we be having this debate if the Daughters of the Confederacy planted the FIRST official flag of the South? Not the battle flag, but the "stars and bars" - the flag that flies outside Buck Ice facing Talbotton Road. It was ignored for years by nearby residents of Peabody Apartments. But then, they probably didn't know any better....

The trouble is that when I did a Google image search for "Confederate flag" Sunday night, the controversial battle flag dominated. Only two times in seven pages of searching did the "stars and bars" come up. One of them was on a web site of the state of Oregon - where they're admittedly a long way from the action, so they might take time to think a little.

For lack of a middle ground, Arthur Dowdell's actions don't seem to have many supporters right now. Even African-American Rep. Artur Davis told the Opelika-Auburn News he opposed the removal of the flags. Dowdell seemed unimpressed by that -- perhaps because Davis is running for Governor, and needs every vote he can get.

Auburn Mayor Bill Ham issued a statement calling the flag flap a matter "between private citizens." But some people say Councilman Arthur Dowdell desecrated grave sites, so he should be arrested. For one thing, where do you draw the line? Can Auburn football fans remove University of Alabama logos from floral displays?

Thanks to the Internet, Arthur Dowdell's actions have gained international attention. And no thanks to the Internet, a New Jersey man is talking about organizing a Ku Klux Klan protest in Auburn. This could be one time when the closure of textile mills along Interstate 85 turns out to be a blessing....

By the way, would you know where to find a Confederate War Memorial in Columbus? If you think it's at the Port Columbus museum, you're wrong. It's rather unusual for a Southern historical site - because when it comes to the Civil War, it actually attempts to be fair and balanced.

The real Columbus Confederate War Memorial is a pillar in the middle of Broadway, in the Historic District. I've never heard of anyone holding an event there, either for or against the Confederacy. For all I know, nothing is planned there today for Confederate Memorial Day. Maybe it's because most people have reached a stunning conclusion - the South lost, and it's time to move on.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tim Chitwood has Monday Mail, while we have Monday meals....

Hey Richard,

Here's a topic for your blog of Columbus. I noticed that although the economy is bad that the local resturants are still booming. Maybe that is why the local places aren't worried about doing the best in the customer service area. They should realize that due to the fact that there are so many places to choose from that they should still be competitive. Eventually people, even here in Columbus, are going to watch their wallets and want to make a trip out to eat worth it. Here are a few places that I have visited recently and what I noticed happened each time I went.









This wasn't on just one occasion, but every time I went with my family. And waiters/waitresses wonder why people don't tip anymore!! Maybe people can warn me of the problems with other places. When I go to a drive through and they ask to take my order I bite my tongue to keep from telling them I will take whatever I end up with.



Wow - and I thought my occasional restaurant reviews were tough. This family made a list, checked it twice, sent it to us, and it's not very nice.

I hardly ever eat fries anymore, but I agree that they're not much fun unless they're warm. So why don't people make this same complaint about potato chips? I can't believe they taste better, simply because they have ridges.

None of the restaurants mentioned here match the one we plan to review shortly. But we thank you for writing, and move on to some Sunday highlights:

+ The "Disney on Ice" weekend concluded at the Columbus Civic Center. At least this year's show was less sexist. Little girls could dress up like princesses - but I'm not sure how little boys could dress to look like the characters in "Cars."

+ Brad Keselowski was the surprise winner of the NASCAR race at Talladega. He did it by bumping the Aflac car of Carl Edwards, which went airborne and crashed sideways into a fence at the finish line. NOW let's see how serious Aflac is about paying supplemental insurance....

(Seven fans were injured, when debris from Carl Edwards's car went flying into the grandstand. But of course, other fans seized the moment - picking up parts to have them autographed by drivers, then sold at flea markets.)

+ "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" showed a recent renovation for a family in Montgomery. In a stunning move, the lumber for the home was tinted blue. Was "YellaFella" called back to Rotwood, to make a sequel movie?

(Because the family lost a daughter to a drunk driver, part of the Extreme Makeover project involved displaying wrecked cars outside the Montgomery Biscuits baseball stadium. If this display was set up at Talladega, some race fans might bow down and worship it.)

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.87 a gallon at Milgen Food Mart (near the post office).... FREE grilled chicken all day at KFC (one piece per customer).... and sales of antiperspirant going up, as sales of deodorant go down....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 519 (- 39, 7.0%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

26 APR 09: Rolling Near the River

At church this weekend, I mentioned my tornado "miracle" to several men. But then someone asked a question which surprised me. "Was that a tornado that hit J.R. Allen Parkway?" I hadn't heard of one - unless this man was having a strange flashback to March 2007.

The man said he saw a caved-in steel wall along J.R. Allen Parkway as he drove to church. Only when I went online Saturday night did I understand what happened. It wasn't a tornado, but what the President of Columbus Water Works compared to a "tsunami." If any homes or cars were damaged, that spelling could change to sue-nami....

Robert Tant confirmed a Columbus Water Works tank had a huge rupture at the North Treatment Facility before dawn Saturday. Six million gallons of Chattahoochee River water spilled out. Yet the spill went in a strange direction -- because shouldn't all that water have flowed down River Road?

Instead, the big spill apparently went south and west from the North Treatment Facility. Witnesses told the evening news they saw a rush of water on Moss Drive. What a shame - all that water, and not a single kayaker in the neighborhood to take advantage of it.

Robert Tant with Columbus Water Works said the rush of water caused an avalanche of mud to drop on J.R. Allen Parkway, near Lake Oliver. And some of us figured the old bluff-side homes in Bibb City would go over the edge first.

The big spill even left muddy debris in the parking lot of the newly renovated Lake Oliver Marina. But let's be honest - that will remove the "too clean" odor, and probably give it a proper fish smell.

So what caused the watery mess along J.R. Allen Parkway? Columbus Water Works isn't sure, but President Robert Tant does NOT think anyone intentionally made the tank rupture. So please stop the rumors about lower sales of Callaway Blue....

Yet in recent years, there have been concerns about terrorists possibly attacking water treatment plants. Most of the warnings have involved sneaky spies with poisoned powder - not something along the lines of teenagers misfiring BB guns.

Robert Tant says it will take days to clean up the damage from Saturday's spill. Then the giant water tank will be rebuilt -- perhaps this time with an emergency box nearby, containing three rolls of Bounty paper towels.

This is the latest in a series of recent headaches for Columbus Water Works. First came sewage spills from spring rains. Then came the emergency sewer line work on Cherokee Avenue. Now a water tank has burst. It's all enough to drown out the critics of fluoride in the drinking water.

BLOG UPDATE: Uh-oh -- Jose Ricci may be in trouble again. F.B.I. agents raided the Ritmo Latino nightclub on North Lumpkin Road, which he reportedly partly owns. The club is shut down this weekend - so the only place in the neighborhood to get good "salsa" is around the corner, at Café La Vaca.

The ownership papers for Ritmo Latino list three men with the last name Ricci as the owners. It's not clear if any of them were arrested in Friday's raid -- but what we may have here is an embarrassment of Riccis.

. The F.B.I. isn't explaining why it staged the raid, and may not reveal it until a Monday afternoon hearing in federal court. The TV news spotted several boxes of papers being removed -- but I didn't notice any boxes of illegal Cuban cigars.

One news report claimed Jose Ricci does NOT have a criminal history -- but blog readers know better. Last year we revealed details of Ricci pleading guilty to "theft by taking" charges, for stealing $150,000 from the Columbus Civic Center [11 Sep 08]. That case was local, not federal - so here's hoping he didn't repay the stolen money with counterfeit bills.

An assistant District Attorney told your blog last September a "deferred sentencing" plan for Jose Ricci wasn't working, so prosecutors wanted a new sentencing hearing to put him in jail. Ricci hadn't paid his $95,000 debt to the Civic Center in cash, so instead he might pay a "debt to society" at 25 cents for each lawn mowed.

We learned about the Ritmo Latino raid too late on Friday to call the District Attorney's office, to get an update on the Jose Ricci case. Of course, the federal raid is out of their hands. Considering Ricci's 2007 attorney was current Municipal Court Judge Stephen Hyles, that might be better for everybody.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: In the parking lot of a Midtown restaurant, a mother is talking to a child.

"I'm about to put you in a headlock."

A man walks out, hearing only this. "See what happens when Mom watches Smackdown on Friday nights?"

The mother replies: "I was thinking about a figure-four, but he's a little too young."

Now let's grapple with some other weekend headlines....

+ Columbus had its warmest day of the year, with a high of 88 degrees F. Yet why did I see two children playing in a Front Avenue fountain, before 10:00 a.m.? I can't believe they were trying to beat the crowd.

+ Columbus Police arrested two inmates who walked away from a work detail at Double Churches Park. Shame on all of you who heard about Little League games at the park with police protection, and thought teams from Pioneer had shown up.

+ The annual Broadway Springfest was held downtown. There was music, dance, crafts displays - and for the first time, a "Scavenger Hunt" at Broadway stores. So who found the most pictures of Mayor Wetherington?

+ Lee County Schools announced Wacoochee Junior High should reopen 4 May - more than two months after it was damaged by a tornado. Students spent two months sharing space at Smiths Station High School. The fun is almost over for Smiths Station sophomores - as they'll have to return to being the picked-on ones.

+ The Columbus Lions lost to Fayetteville 41-37, as a last-second drive was broken up by defensive back J.R. Hair. I never would have imagined that even an indoor football game would come down to somebody having a good Hair day.

+ The Atlanta Falcons used their top draft pick to take Mississippi defensive tackle Peria Jerry. It looks like Tom's chips has found the perfect spokesperson....

+ A mixed martial arts card in Auburn featured quadriplegic Kyle Maynard. He went the distance, but lost a judges' decision to Bryan Fry. I will resist the strong temptation to say Fry had a leg up throughout the bout.

(Isn't this former high school wrestler in the wrong sport? Kyle Maynard shouldn't be in mixed martial arts. He should be some pro wrestler's midget sidekick - and pick on somebody his own size.)

SCHEDULED MONDAY: It's a holiday for some people, but maybe not a happy one....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 558 (+ 9, 1.6%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

25 APR 09: The Boy in the Bubble

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following 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 warning siren sounded, and the meteorologist on TV said it was time to head to "that safe place." The last several months have proven one thing - that safe place is no longer your retirement savings plan.

But the place where I live has no basement, and is set up so there isn't even that recommended "interior hallway." So I knelt down next to a metal wall heater in the living room, facing the TV set. If a fundamentalist pastor had come to the door at that moment, he might have convicted me of idol-worship - even if the "idol" was a color radar screen.

Then the news anchor mentioned early reports of a tornado hitting Valley Lanes in Phenix City -- and that didn't seem right. I live within two miles of that bowling center, and it wasn't even raining. If sirens hadn't sounded, I might have gone to bed and decided the "slight risk" mentioned Saturday night was right all along.

Then the news team left the air to take cover. There's now scary YouTube video of why they sought shelter. Yet I was left with nothing but the radar sweeping around. Things suddenly were quiet - almost TOO quiet. No noticeable rain. Hardly any wind. Not even the sound of lightning. Maybe it was a surprise hurricane, and I was in the eye of it?!

A look at the TV radar showed plenty of rain and storms across Columbus - but the screen was clear in my neighborhood. If I didn't know better, I might have thought those 60 new police officers had scared the storms away from downtown.

Then came a call to go on emergency duty - and it rained a little as I hurried to the car. Only as I started driving north toward downtown did I start to see trouble. A couple of small limbs could be driven over, but what was that thing knocked down next to the Springer Opera House? For once, people knew better than to blame the "ghost of the Springer."

I apparently drove over tornado damage on my way to work, and never realized it. Lights were out along 11th Street, 13th Street and Veterans Parkway. For once I longed for a car with those ultra-bright headlights - which for once might have made other drivers think I'm a rap star.

Columbus Police stopped me at 13th and 13th, explaining trees were down in the Lakebottom area. So I circled back to Tenth Avenue via 14th Street, went south to 11th Street, and went up Wynnton Road from there. I didn't see much damage on that route. And there weren't many cars, so I could drive slowly in the passing lane of traffic without upsetting anyone.

The only "damage" I received from last Sunday night's storm was a couple of brief power outages. One of them turned off my computer, but I have a backup power cord for moments like that. And I didn't lose any parts of Monday's blog entry, because I was saving my work often. "Jesus saves," so why shouldn't I?

Only about five blocks from my home, downtown Columbus buildings had tornado damage. Yet I was spared, and I've been thankful to God all week for that. It's as if God inflated some kind of giant dome around my neighborhood to protect it. Now if we can figure out how to arrange that on Leadoff Classic weekend....

Do I deserve God's protection, because I believe in Jesus or attend a certain church? Absolutely not. Two years ago, a couple attending the same association as mine died when a tornado struck their home in the Oklahoma panhandle. The "tornado chasers" who followed it sadly sound more interested in the tornado's shape than the people in its path.

I'm thankful for God's protection when it comes. Several verses in the Psalms describe God as a "shield." Psalm 84:11 even calls Him "a sun and shield" - although Southerners admittedly are more likely to thank God for sun in January than in July.

Yet Hebrews 11 reminds me believers also sometimes go through trials and tragedies. God can allow rough moments to come, but He's also merciful enough to end those moments when the time is right. That takes faith and trust in God. The atheist is left to grit his teeth, and somehow blame the words "In God We Trust" on our money.

As I started writing this Friday morning, WYFK-FM played an orchestral version of a tune some know by these words: "Miracles, miracles, that's what life's about. Most of you must agree if you've thought it out." For me, the past week included a miracle. May you be thankful for yours. And may you follow Psalm 119:114 - making God your "hiding place and shield." There's ultimately no safer place to be.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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.

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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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

24 APR 09: Poorer and Wiser

So what do you think - did the RiverCenter give Synovus Financial a rental price break, to host Thursday's shareholders meeting? Or did one of the Synovus executives pay the bill out of his big salary?

The mood may have been on the grim side at Thursday's Synovus shareholders meeting. After all, the company had just reported its third quarterly loss in a row. Dreaming of a fourth-quarter comeback didn't work for Auburn football fans last year.

Synovus Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Anthony admitted to the evening news many shareholders are "not happy." For one thing, the company's annual report shows a net loss last year of $584 million. And imagine if Columbus had any casinos within a short driving distance....

Chairman Richard Anthony's letter in the annual report attributes much of last year's big losses to $480 million in "goodwill impairment charges." I'm not sure Goodwill Industries would want to be associated with Synovus right now, no matter what the amount.

The page of "financial highlights" also shows the number of Synovus "team members" dropped by 509 people last year. Many CB&T customers probably didn't notice this - unless they went to the bank on their lunch hour, and found only one teller on duty.

The theme for Synovus in its annual report and meeting was on an "F-word" - and perhaps surprisingly, it was NOT failure. "We're focused," says the cover of the 2008 annual report. Keep putting an attractive female employee on that cover every year, and plenty of single guys will be focused as well.

In fact, a few lines in the Synovus financial highlights give reason for shareholder optimism. The company's total assets increased by 8.2 percent last year, to nearly $36 billion. So Synovus doesn't need to put a billboard atop its headquarters and sell advertising toward the 13th Street Bridge quite yet.

Another area of focus for Synovus is efficiency. Richard Anthony writes, "We expect to implement approximately 700 ideas by late 2010." If not for what President Obama said Thursday, lower ATM fees would still be idea number 995.

But Richard Anthony fears Synovus will keep losing money for the rest of this year. That news prompted a key credit bureau to lower its rating on Synovus Thursday - and as a result, the company's stock price dropped almost 20 percent. Are any Carmike Cinemas executives still around, to help guide their neighbors through this?

Synovus may be losing money, but documents for Thursday's shareholders meeting showed Chairman Richard Anthony had compensation of almost $1.3 million last year. Before you critics say he didn't earn that large sum of money - are you buying any Mega Millions tickets today?

One Synovus "open letter" for stockholders explained Richard Anthony's compensation last year was down 61 percent from 2007. Wow -- if Anthony played major league baseball, his record still might have earned him a raise.

At least one Synovus shareholder didn't buy the corporate spin. The Ledger-Enquirer quotes him as saying Synovus needs to make changes at the top, or it will go the way of AIG. Oh goody - executives going on expensive retreats to Las Vegas.

This critic called on Synovus to expand its board of directors, and add more independent thinkers. At least half the board is made up of Columbus business executives. To look at the list, the "independent" in the bunch is that management school dean from far-northern Syracuse University.

Yet there was no shareholder revolt at the Synovus meeting. The board of directors were approved for another term. So much for the argument that Democrats are the only ones mindlessly following their leader....

-> We couldn't play poker Thursday night, but our blog about it goes on. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Synovus has its critics, and so do we....

Richard, I was also disappointed that you talked to an ex-employee of Cable TV of East AL about the increase in basic cable rates and the distribution of The Citizen [15 Apr]. It would be much more interesting and informative to hear what the management of both have to say. And an explanation why they don't offer a senior citizen's discount like some other cable companies do.

Craig Howard (son of former mayor of Phenix City & long-time friend of owner Roy Green) was co-host along with former radio Talkline host Russ Hollenbeck of an early morning call-in talk show on Cable TV of East Alabama (7-8 a.m.) for 3-4 months. The show started with great fanfare but as soon as the hosts criticized the actions of the new Mayor of Phenix City and the new Council the plug was immediately pulled on the show. Neither the station or the newspaper gave any explanation as to why the show was pulled. Craig Howard was then out looking for another job. Russ Hollenbeck is still with ctvea, filming the various city council and county commission meetings.

And as for the newspaper subscriptions why do those who pay for cable receive the newspaper (without supposedly paying for a "subscription") and those who don't subscribe to cable don't receive it unless they pay the $20 per yr subscription price.

And remember they had a very visible billboard near the Walmart SuperCenter for months bragging about the number of subscribers to their paper. If they have so many subscriptions I wonder why they have recently cut the number of pages of the paper in half.

It certainly couldn't be because there's not enough news.

As your other e-mailer noted Mr. Green is in his 90's so he probably is not overseeing the day to day operations of either business.

To be honest, we didn't realize Craig Howard was a former employee until we called him last week. He had contacted us privately several weeks before - but now we understand why he didn't invite us to make a guest appearance on TV.

We found out Thursday Russ Hollenbeck has another role with Cable TV of East Alabama. He's the official "voice mail voice" when you call the office. Amy Overton apparently has a voice for newspapers....

As for the questions raised by this e-mailer - I'm afraid I have to disappoint again. We called Cable TV of East Alabama Thursday and left a message for a manager, but it was not returned. But you can tell the operation is run like a business - from the fact that the audio from Fox News Channel has replaced "on-hold music."

Now for a quick scan around the dial of other Thursday news....

+ The Dillingham Street Bridge reopened for drivers during the evening, after being closed part of the day. It turns out the closure was due to tornado damage on the Columbus side, as a crane was needed outside the C.S.U. Corn Center for Visual Arts. All the corn harvesting equipment apparently is busy in Florida.

+ WRBL reported Fountain City Coffee will close its shop at The Landings, and have only a single location on Broadway. There's an easy way to explain this. Visitors to The Landings who want an expensive "fix" use the drive-through lane at Buford's Brownies.

+ Wal-Mart showed off its renovation project at the Buena Vista Road store. We're told brighter paint and wider aisles are coming by June -- but NOT a Super-Center. That Winn-Dixie manager next door must have some powerful friends in Arkansas.

+ Instant Message to Al Haynes: That was you, wasn't it? The man I saw parking that fancy "95.3 The Ride" Corvette at a strip mall on Wynnton Road. The man who was supposed to be on the air at WBOJ "103.7 The Truth" when you parked that car. How are you able to sneak away for a lunch break, when John Tesh at Sunny 100 can't do it?

COMING SOON: A restaurant review that has me simply asking for trouble....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 611 (+ 18, 3.0%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

23 APR 09: Safety in Numbers?

Attention, Columbus-area commuters: The Dillingham Street Bridge is closed today. Signs downtown Wednesday night warned of it -- except the narrow signs spelled the bridge "DILINHAM." One little apostrophe can save this city from a lot of embarrassment....

I'm not sure why the Dillingham Street Bridge is closed, but I assume it has something to do with Sunday's tornado. Several businesses at the Phenix City end of the bridge were damaged -- yet I wonder how many officials secretly were upset to find that old brick building next to the new courthouse was still standing.

Several business owners along Dillingham Street are concerned about looters - but they say Phenix City Police have been very helpful. Officers have been stopping several times a day for security checks. Given what we've heard about area police, officers may come back this weekend for a different kind of check - getting paid to remove debris.

Isn't it nice to see this concerted effort by Phenix City employees? Well, maybe not. Before the tornado struck, a letter landed in our postal box:

What in the world is going on with our city government?

The other day 5 (yes 5) firemen came to my business to do a facility inspection. They were being transported by 2 (yes2) vehicles, a truck and a fire engine (yes a fire engine).

How many vehicles are assigned to the fire department?

Are they aware of the cost of gasoline? Years ago a single individual in a small pick-up performed these functions. Who is responsible for the management and oversight of daily operations in the city of Phenix City?

13th Street Businessperson

Oh dear -- sometimes guests show up, and you get caught without enough soda in the office refrigerator.

Thanks to the Phenix City government web site, we can answer one of these questions. It indicates as of 2007, the fire department utilized 13 different vehicles as "apparatus." If they ever borrow the Muscogee County Marshal's new robot dog, the department will advance all the way up to one "gizmo."

Our businessperson apparently was visited by 25 percent of Phenix City's fire engines, as well as one-third of the other fire vehicles. But hey, maybe it was a slow day. Fires probably are less likely to start when houses are soaked from rain.

The five Phenix City firefighters are out of a full-time force of 61. So there should have been plenty of others waiting at stations for fire calls -- and probably watching poker tournaments on cable television while they waited.

(I didn't realize until I checked the web site that Phenix City's fire department has nine "Suppression Captains." And critics call Columbus officials totalitarian....)

Then again, this businessperson IS on 13th Street. That's a main thoroughfare in Phenix City, and a fire on that street took out Tyler's Restaurant several months ago. We don't want visitors from Auburn and Tuskegee thinking main streets are used for Fort Benning drills.

(Or maybe all the fire vehicles stopped at this business on the way to Broad Street - to practice for that big parade to mark the end of Streetscape.)

As for the cost of gasoline: it's currently about half the price of last April. But since Wednesday was Earth Day, the writer may have a point here. Five crew members in a fire engine would be a great example of car pooling.

Which person is responsible for all of this? In Phenix City, I'd imagine that's the City Manager - and Wallace Hunter was Fire Chief before becoming City Manager. So this inspection is almost as surprising as Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington supporting more police officers.

By the way, the "13th Street Businessperson" is the mysterious person who's sent typewritten letters to us before about Phenix City government. In a P.S., he/she asked for an update on the city's $7.85 million bond issue [24 Mar], but no one at City Hall has called us back. That's one kind of fire the Columbus mayor's office knows how to put out -- a firestorm of online rumors.

We'll try to stick to the facts, as we review Wednesday's headlines:

+ Columbus Police released their annual list of the most dangerous intersections. Macon Road and Interstate 185 was at the top, while Gateway Road and Beaver Run has jumped to third. It must be because frustrated shoppers are discovering stores all around Wal-Mart have shut down already.

+ WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" returned to the air, as its storm-damaged tower was repaired. This had to frustrate the competition at Clear Channel. Now "98.3 The Beat" will go back to simply being, well, beat.

+ Local television sources told your blog David Spunt worked his final day as a reporter at WRBL. He's reportedly taking a job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana - so at least for Columbus, it appears Spunt is spent.

+ Aflac unveiled a new corporate marketing campaign, assuring customers: "We've got you under our wing." Uhhhhh - so when did the duck lose the other one?

(Aflac is coupling this slogan with details about itself, known as "Aflacts." We'll see if MetLife or GEICO takes this on, claiming the Columbus company really Afflicts.)

+ Ken Hodges announced he'll run for Georgia Attorney General next year. Yes, it's the same Ken Hodges who was the special prosecutor over the Kenneth Walker case. There's a good reason why after leaving office in Albany, his private law practice jumped all the way north to Atlanta.

+ Instant Message to the man who suggested we "pick up the pace" a bit in our blogging: OKHow'sthis?Isthatbetternow?

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: We try to satisfy a "disappointed" reader....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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.

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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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

22 APR 09: Where's Jimbo?

The e-mail had a title involving "Christmas" and came from an address with "animal story" in it, so I almost dumped it as spam. But then I took a closer look....

Have you ever given a Christmas gift that was a picture of yourself?

Has anyone ever noticed the number of pictures of the mayor in the government center? There are big ones, small ones, air-brushed ones! here are at least 17 in one room! That room where he shows off his pictures looks like a self-designated memorial to himself. What was he thinking? Does it strike you as just a bit self-centered? It reminds me of the totalitarian states, like Iraq, where the leader put up his picture as the national symbol! I bet the mayor gives pictures of himself as Christmas gifts!

Now now - let's calm down a minute. Someone named a street after Bob Poydasheff while he was Columbus mayor. That hasn't happened with Jim Wetherington yet. But then, someone may be saving that honor for a new police precinct.

I wasn't sure what this reader was talking about. So Tuesday, I went on a "scavenger hunt" of sorts at the Columbus Government Center. How many pictures of Mayor Wetherington would I find? Is he staring at visitors around every turn, giving the impression that all 100 new police officers look exactly like him?

So I wouldn't give myself away, I didn't even carry a wallet with me. I entered the Government Center on the east side. No pictures of the mayor were visible at the security checkpoint -- but then again, is his signature on all city employee ID badges?

Our picture search proceeded from there....

+ Tag Office: Mayor Wetherington appears on three small pictures, in a display showing the opening of the temporary tag office at Fort Benning last year. One picture is blurry, and skeptics might argue it was stuck on the photo with Krazy Glue.

But the bulletin board with the pictures is at the back of the Tag Office line. People looking forward to the pay windows are unlikely to notice it. They're more likely to watch the overhead TV monitor - which was showing CNBC Tuesday, not the greatest moments of the mayor's inaugural address.

A quick glance down the pay windows finds no sign of Mayor Wetherington's picture. But I can't see the floor behind the windows, where he might stare up at all the transactions.

+ Property Tax Office: No pictures are noticeable on either side of the hallway. Maybe the walls are as frozen as the assessment rates.

+ Elevators in the tower: No pictures there. In fact, the list of offices merely says "Mayor's Office" on the sixth floor. Several judges are named - proving city government may indeed have checks and balances.

+ Courtrooms on the tenth floor: No picture is in the foyer - but I'm not really surprised. Mayor Wetherington is obviously the "order" side of Law and Order.

"Do you have a domestic case?" a bailiff quietly asks me at the door to Courtroom 3. This is the only point in the search where I reveal what I'm doing. I don't want people thinking I'm doing something crazy and weird, you know....

The bailiff assures me there's NO picture of Mayor Wetherington on the walls of the courtroom. If you want to see a mayor there, show up when Judge Bobby Peters is presiding.

+ Sixth floor: A tall figure stands to my right, greeting a group of children. Now this is.... oh wait. That's no picture. It really IS the mayor.

I hasten to the elevators, before Mayor Wetherington in his reception area is distracted by me. But I notice a large picture on the wall of that area, showing the RiverCenter. Isn't that amazing? You'd think there would be a picture of the Public Safety Center.

+ Tower Plaza Level: It's an off day for Columbus Council, so that room is dark. But I recall my last visit to chambers, for a trash collection hearing last summer. Mayor Wetherington was absent - and so cardboard look-alike was set up in his chair as a replacement.

I walk around to the other side of the Plaza Level, and seem to hit the jackpot. A bulletin board on the elevator wall is filled with 17 pictures of Mayor Wetherington. But I can't tell for sure if the biggest one is airbrushed. On this day, "airbrushing" better fits what happened to my hair while walking outside in the wind.

But notice a couple of things about this display. The theme is "Service Above Self," and features the mayor giving awards to other city employees instead of accepting them. One award went to Civic Center Marketing Director Robin Walker - probably for her reputation of doing TV commercials in only one take.

The other thing about this display is its location. It's in a room commonly used for news conferences and big city events - but all the seats are turned in the opposite direction of the bulletin board. So everyone in effect would turn their backs on the mayor 17-fold. So challengers in next year's city election are more likely to use that room, not less.

With the big prize found, we ended our image search -- and we concluded this writer is exaggerating things a bit. Mayor Jim Wetherington's picture is NOT lurking around every turn, as if he's Saddam Hussein. And if his staff really wanted to show him off, they'd follow the example of Cleveland and cover one side of the Government Center with it.

By the way: no, I've never given a holiday gift showing my own picture. I know better than that. People are likely to find a heavy bar of fruitcake much more valuable.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Let's take one more message, about one of our Tuesday topics....

THe new (if it happens) library hours really makes more sense...My guess is that 99% of the people there earlier and later are there to hangout..THose working mothers who drop their kids off in the summer for the library to watch over will just drop them to sit outside until the library opens..You do know that kids are dropped with brown bag lunch to spend the day?.Moms have been told this will not work..I think DFCS should be called and kids taken into custody after a warning. I go about once a month,never on Sunday because of roving bands of loud teens who hangout. When I do go the same straggley long haired unkept man is always sitting upstairs in the same chair facing the outside front of the building.He is aways reading the paper or a book and bothering no one..I have also seen in nearly the same area a lady helping adults learn to read.It is heartbreaking to see nicely kept people reading children's stories and stumbling over the words...I just want to tell them all "God Bless."

I love the Columbus Library and remember the first book I ever checked out over 50 years ago.

There's one advantage to dropping off children at the library for the day. It's a lot less expensive than dropping them at the mall bookstore.

I've never run across those "bands of loud teens" at the Columbus Public Library on Sunday afternoons. Maybe it's because the main library now encourages them to show up on Friday afternoons for "music, games and fun." For instance: can you name that rap song from the first four syllables?

A couple of other mailbag items will be kept for another day. But thanks to all who write - and now let's see what made news on Tuesday:

+ Columbus city crews were able to clear away storm debris and reopen 13th Street. Sunday's tornado knocked over so many trees that next year's "Arbor Day" may be extended to two weeks.

+ WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" was off the air for a second day. But Davis Broadcasting played announcements on its other stations, promising it will be back soon. If the company really was concerned about this, the WEAM-AM afternoon sports talk show would change its name from "In the Zone" to "In the Fox Hole."

(We dialed around a bit, and found WFRC-FM also is off the air. That's the Family Radio station at 90.5 FM, whose president is predicting the world will end in October 2011. So part of me wonders why they'd even bother trying to restore the signal....)

+ St. John A.M.E. Church on Steam Mill Road announced Pastor Jeremiah Wright will appear at a revival in two weeks. Those of you who prepared for Wright before he canceled last May must be thrilled by this - and your protest signs probably haven't faded very much.

+ The Phenix City Council approved an exception to its new public smoking rules. An exception was granted to bars - as if the smell of cigarette smoke will hide how diluted the beer is.

+ Ben & Jerry's on Veterans Parkway held its annual "Free Cone Day" giveaway. Talk about brash confidence - the news release actually admitted the ice cream chain has done this for 31 years.

+ Instant Message to Jimmy Dean: I'm sorry to hear your home in Virginia caught fire. But I can't help wondering - how did it smell?

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 579 (- 16, 2.7%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

21 APR 09: Go Away Mad-ison

Have you seen the British comedy on public TV called "Keeping Up Appearances?" That title came to mind Monday involving a Columbus organization. Actually, it could apply to almost any organization. The only ones which seem to mind displaying "dirty laundry" are the ones arresting drug-runners.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: A Columbus NAACP official stopped keeping up appearances Monday, revealing to your blog that Bill Madison's recent resignation as President was NOT due to his wife's health after all. The real reason was a different kind of sickness. Madison may have been sick and tired of the chapter's executive board....

Returning a call we made about Sunday's topic, Columbus NAACP Secretary Tonza Thomas told us Bill Madison really stepped down to protest next week's move of the headquarters back to First Avenue. Thomas admitted the overall chapter membership is divided right now. Of course, it would take only one silly act by a law officer to bring them together again.

Tonza Thomas showed surprising openness, sharing details with us about the Columbus NAACP's current condition. For instance, she admitted the original plan for the 100th anniversary "Freedom Fund" banquet was to sell tickets for 100 dollars. But with times tight, they were marked down to 70 dollars -- and they might have even played 1979 disco music during cocktail hour.

But Tonza Thomas also admitted the Freedom Fund banquet did NOT sell out in February. Far from it, in fact - as 300 of the 680 seats at the Trade Center went empty. It's as if Bill Madison announced plans to bring a new minor league baseball team to Columbus.

Do some math, and you'll see the Columbus NAACP lost thousands of potential dollars from the Freedom Fund banquet. On top of that, Tonza Thomas indicated the chapter never really budgeted for the new headquarters on Third Avenue - an office with apparently much higher rent. Attorney Gary Bruce next door apparently isn't "good guy" enough to help neighbors with expenses.

Tonza Thomas revealed by moving back to the old duplex in the 500 block of First Avenue that it shared with a loyal bookkeeper, the Columbus NAACP will pay only $1,200 a year in expenses. The house/office in the 900 block on Third Avenue cost about $9,600 in expenses - which makes the south side of Ninth Street look like the wrong side of the railroad tracks.

Tonza Thomas told me the money savings will rescue some of the Columbus NAACP's community goals. The chapter's online agenda (which admittedly has Bill Madison's name all over it) says one project is the creation of a 100-member marching band. That's the way to liven up those news conferences outside police headquarters.

But is the Columbus NAACP membership united behind this move? "Of course not," Tonza Thomas answered. Yet so far, there's no word of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition offering discounts for transferred memberships. That idea works really well for drug stores, you know....

Tonza Thomas contends the Columbus NAACP move to Third Avenue 14 months ago was "a mistake," and the move back to the duplex is for good. I can almost hear members who are ministers, as they preach sermons supporting the move - telling congregations to return to their "First love."

Given what Tonza Thomas told us Monday, some recent actions by Bill Madison might be seen in a different light. Remember when Ronnie Reed invited Madison to speak at a Russell County Commission meeting? [15-16 Jan] If high school baseball players can move there from Columbus to seek stardom, so can civil rights leaders.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: The InBox had a message Monday morning, which shared our sentiments very well:

I hope everyone who reads the blog in Columbus is ok after the tornado Sunday night..I would like to say what a first class job Channel 9 did of covering the storm all the way up until they took shelter and then after the storm...Thanks for a job well done!!

One man told me when the TV station crew sought shelter for about ten minutes and left a quiet radar screen on the air, it felt very strange. I can see why. With no other stations doing live weather updates, it must have seemed like Columbus in 1949 - or maybe rural Chattahoochee County a couple of weeks ago.

Meteorologists confirmed Monday an "EF 2" tornado swept across parts of Phenix City and Columbus. Before you ask - no, this scale was NOT invented by the E.F. Hutton brokerage firm.

Let's all be thankful that no one was hurt from the tornado. But did you see the massive damage at Valley Lanes in Phenix City? Shame on the man who tried to tell me the tornado landed in lanes 8 and 9 -- thus leaving a 7-10 split.

It wasn't clear Monday night whether Valley Lanes would be rebuilt. One person told me bowling centers can cost $24,000 per lane to build. At prices like that, they're not "alleys" anymore.

The tornado snapped a radio tower, knocking WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" off the air. There was no word Monday night about when it will be back on the air - so the staff winds up taking "spring break" after all the fans at Golden Park did.

Today's Ledger-Enquirer reports the tornado destroyed the football press box at Pacelli High School, and damaged the baseball scoreboard. But the good news is that Pacelli lost the big game with Brookstone last October -- so the Broocelli Jug didn't have to be moved to a secure undisclosed location.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We have a personal storm story to share, but we're going to hold it for this weekend.)

BLOG CORRECTION: Aflac's move to #152 in this year's Fortune 500 list actually was a jump of 13 places, instead of three. No one ever said white DUCKS couldn't jump....

A few other things made news Monday, after the storm passed:

+ Chattahoochee Valley Library System officials revealed they're considering a reduction of hours to cut costs. The main library on Macon Road would be open only from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday - which is really going to change some plans for working mothers this summer.

+ Jonathan Norton was named the new women's basketball coach at Columbus State University. Norton's teams qualified for the NAIA national tournament the last three years at Berry College in Rome - which in the classic words of comedian Garrett Morris means they were "Berry Berry Good."

+ Instant Message to Wane Hailes: That was me. I'm sure you were wondering. I was the white guy who stopped by your office Monday, to pick up your current issue of "The Courier." I wanted to see if you already had the details on the NAACP story. No, I was NOT spying for Piggly Wiggly stores.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 595 (+ 26, 4.6%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

20 APR 09: Rails to Trellis

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Today's entry was almost completely written before Sunday night's dangerous and damaging storms moved through. Consider this a break from the weather coverage of the day - and we might get into the damage in our Tuesday entry.)

Being a former President can have its privileges. About six months ago, Jimmy Carter and his friends were allowed to enjoy a "sneak preview" meal at a nice new restaurant in Americus. This can't be easy for the Secret Service agents guarding Mr. Carter. Can they eat more than him, and explain they have to stay in "training table" shape?

I have no connections at all with the Carter family - but the other night, I was invited to try that same restaurant. Trellis is located on Georgia Highway 27, east of downtown Americus. In fact, there's no overhead sign to tell you it's coming -- and you have to appreciate a restaurant staff that's down to earth.

You open a 12-foot-high glass door to enter the lobby of Trellis. That should give you some idea of how fancy this restaurant is - not to mention how confident the management is that another tornado isn't coming.

The dinner menu at Trellis has an elegance to it, but the choices are limited. In fact, it filled only one page while the wine list seemed to fill two. Should we be suspicious of a restaurant which operates this way? Do they want you to get so light-headed that you can't taste the food?

But you don't have to drink wine to enjoy an evening at Trellis. A "tea box" was brought out, for someone in our group who preferred that with dinner. Some Democrats might find that ironic - the ones who thought last week's "tea party" was more like whine, and a little cheesy besides.

Back to that dinner menu: Trellis offers seven or eight dinner entrees, with separate appetizers. The menu includes quail, which is only fitting since Americus has an annual quail hunt named in honor of the late Griffin Bell. Why a bell tower isn't also named after him, I have no idea....

I started dinner with a Trellis green salad, which happened to include "pine nuts." I asked our host if they tasted like wild hickory nuts, and he seemed thoroughly stumped. Our quickly people forget those old Euell Gibbons commercials -- which believe it or not sold breakfast cereal.

The Trellis "catch of the day" sounded good to me on this night. It was a trout topped with some kind of sauce I didn't understand, but included tomato slices and peas. It was nice, flaky and tasty -- not to mention a sneaky way to get your vegetables.

The server at Trellis promised "orzo pasta" with the trout - and it certainly fooled me. It looked like yellow rice, and tasted much that way. Only as I wrote this Sunday night did I discover that it really was pasta. The staff did NOT dip into the "ouzo" when it offered me orzo.

While Trellis is a six-month-old restaurant and has a modern feel in decor and music, it also has an old touch which seemed out of place. Our group was seated next to windows which reminded me of a 1950s-era school. They allowed us to watch the kitchen staff at work - and the sight of someone wearing a New York Yankees cap probably would startle Southerners.

The entrees at Trellis are priced in the 15 to 22-dollar range. That probably puts this restaurant on the scale of the Americus Windsor Hotel, which has rated well in national travel guides. Trellis is worth a short drive after a visit to Plains -- especially if you don't care for the peanuts there.

The man who invited me to dine at Trellis talked about doing it again "before it closes." Here's hoping it doesn't. All in all, this restaurant is on a par with the finest dining Columbus has to offer. You might even be enlightened enough to go to a dictionary, and look up what the word trellis means.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Columbus dining closed late Sunday - and when it comes to barbecue, 13th Street is number one with our voters. It gained twice as many votes as any other restaurant, but still only had 29 percent of the vote. So for all we know, most people may consider 13 th Street the unluckiest place in town.

A four-way logjam developed for second place in our survey. Country's received 14 percent, as did Ed's of Phenix City and Mike & Ed's of Columbus. And it's noteworthy that Macon Road Barbecue received enough "write-in" comments to match those three. People somehow have found it, even though it's actually on Avalon Road.

That's the one thing about Columbus barbecue that probably makes newcomers laugh. Several restaurants are named after streets, but aren't actually on those streets. Take 13th Street Bar-Be-Que, which is in the 1300 block of Seventh Avenue in Phenix City - yet its Columbus location is north of Airport Thruway, and left 13th Street years ago. It's as if the owners knew Loco's was coming....

Now for other Sunday developments:

+ The annual "Fortune 500" list of the biggest U.S. companies came out. Aflac gained three spots from last year to number 152, even though its profits dropped 23 percent. Sometimes that duck can fly, even when others around it are sinking.

+ Organizers told WXTX "News at Ten" about 45,000 people attended the Sticks Country Music Festival in Auburn. An event this successful probably will be back at Parker Hill next year - and before long, the staff will have skyboxes made of Sticks.

+ ABC News visited a factory near Atlanta which produces ammunition. Demand has been strong for two months due to a nationwide bullet shortage - so yes, we can say the ammo business is going great guns.

+ Georgia's contestant reached the semifinal round at the Miss USA Pageant, but Lilburn's Kimberly Gittings fell short of the top ten. Yes, I'll confess it - I watched. A single guy can dream, can't he?!

+ Instant Message to Atlanta Hawks radio announcer Steve Holman: You haven't changed a lick, have you? The referees are still conspiring against the Hawks. The star on the other team (right now Dwyane Wade) is still getting practically every break. That's why I want to spell your last name Home-man.

COMING THIS WEEK: A reader gets inspected, and doesn't seem at all pleased about it....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 569 (- 34, 5.6%)

ONLINE LOTTERY WINNINGS: $9,415,757 (details upcoming)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

19 APR 09: Progressing Back to Go

"FOR RENT" says a sign on Third Avenue this weekend, outside the Columbus NAACP headquarters. Such a nice gesture - offering inexpensive housing in a tight economy.

But that sign actually as an indicator of tough times for the civil rights organization. The Columbus NAACP is moving out of its Third Avenue headquarters, only 14 months after its grand opening. Apparently there's no wrongdoing involved here, because the leadership would be walking around with picket signs by now.

Remember when the Columbus NAACP opened its new Third Avenue office last year? President Bill Madison had to assure midday TV viewers he was smiling about it [13 Feb 08]. I'm not sure I even saw Madison smile after Barack Obama was elected President....

But Bill Madison announced his resignation as Columbus NAACP President 1 April, citing an ailing wife. Now the chapter is moving back to its old office, in an old duplex the Historic District on First Avenue. I'm not sure if there's a connection there - but they didn't even stay in the new office long enough to name it in Madison's honor.

The Columbus NAACP is trying hard to put the move back to First Avenue in a positive light. Call the chapter office and a message says, "Pardon our progress." Skeptics might say it's NOT progress to return to where you started. I assume none of those skeptics are urging Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis to run for the state legislature.

Your blog has seen a clue as to why the Columbus NAACP is moving back to First Avenue. An e-mail from the branch office says: "Due to the current economic hardships, our branch has experienced a dramatic drop in donations." This could change in the months ahead - as African-American people discover President Obama can't end discrimination all by himself.

Is there a connection between the drop in donations and the move away from Third Avenue? We called the Columbus NAACP office Friday, but our voice mail message was NOT returned. Compare that with the Phenix City NAACP President, who openly talked when we called him at home. Of course, he probably had no idea what this blog is....

New Columbus NAACP President Marcus Hunter plans to meet the news media on moving day 1 May, to explain where the chapter goes from here. Is it a mere coincidence that this is occurring on May Day?!

The big fund-raising event for the Columbus NAACP is the annual banquet in February. This year it marked the national organization's centennial, so you'd think interest would have been strong -- but 100 dollars a plate is even higher than a dinner at Bludau's.

By the way, the message at the Columbus NAACP branch office phone invited us to a statewide job fair in Atlanta this Wednesday. It mentioned nothing about an evening on the branch's calendar for this weekend -- the naming of "100 People of Status." Oh well, they'll probably all be at upcoming fund-raisers for Rainbow/PUSH and the Urban League.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: There's more today on the recent "synergy" between newspapers and cable television in east Alabama:

"Sir" Richard:

I may not be doin' much 'Writin' but I am Readin' your BLOG every day.The writers comments on CTVEA & THE CITIZEN were especially interesting to me..And your "visit" with Craig Howard jarred old memories!

It's true that both the cable system and the "newspaper" are co-owned by Mr. Roy Greene.Mr. Greene has long been an enterprising individual in this area and for my part - I like the man!

My first association with Mr. Greene was in the sporting dog area. I carried the elderly gentleman on several quail hunting trips; and he offered me employment (as a dog trainer) more than once. That was several years ago, and I have had little contact since then..

It's my feeling that although he does own both the TV cable company and the Newspaper - he no longer has his hand on the throttle.

Craig Howard and Amy Overton (the editor of the citizen) are employed by Mr. Greene because of Mr. Greene's loyalties to past associates.They are both losers!

I've dealt with both, and it hasn't been easy.Overton once told me "Don't come in here with any more bad news about "Hurt'sboro." And, Craig Howard was afraid I would overshadow him because of the promotions I created were getting attention.

He does run a series of shows with local "celebrities" that go hardly noticed. I was on one of these programs when I ran for County Commissioner - it was a call-in show, but the phone never rang - and as far as I could determine no one was watching!

Good ol' Craig claims that he has 20,000 subscribers, But as far as I can tell I'm the only one time paying ($20.00) subscriber in "Hurt'sboro He and Overton do "stuff" the post office boxes here in town.. And the citizens "stuff" The waste paper basket in the lobby before they leave the building.

Its been my long standing belief; that the reason East Alabama has not flourished is because we have to rely on the media in Georgia to cover our news events. We have no radio stations. We have no TV stations. We have no daily newspaper. So we are left to the designs of people like Craig Howard and Amy Overton

.It's too bad that Mr. Roy Greene is no longer the man I once knew. I'm sure he wouldn't condone what is going on at CTVEA or The Citizen!

Constable R.J. Schweiger????

Memo to self: Call Robert Schweiger before contacting anyone in east Alabama. That way, you can add a question about when they became a loser and why.

Apparently we didn't make clear last Wednesday that Craig Howard is NOT with Cable TV of East Alabama anymore. If he's such a loser, how did he get a new job in such a tough economy -- and NOT preparing tax returns?

Simply because TV and radio stations have "call-in" talk shows does NOT mean they take calls. For instance, Rush Limbaugh and Jim Rome sometimes have 90-minute monologues to finish first....

Now for a quick check at other weekend items:

+ Our best wishes to Juvenile Court Judge Aaron Cohn, whom we understand now requires a pacemaker. Yet he's still behind the bench at age 92 - waiting for that phone call from New York to succeed Judge Judy on TV.

+ WRBL reported Columbus city crews tracked down the source of the recent Teak Drive flooding. Fishing line apparently clogged a drain. Those of you who went fishing at that watershed now know those were beavers you were chasing in the water.

+ The Hughston Clinic marked its 60th anniversary, with a celebration along Veterans Parkway. Dozens of employees were relieved when no one announced Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital in Phenix City would be downsized, to remove the word "hospital."

+ More than 30,000 country music fans attended the inaugural Sticks festival near Auburn, which featured Trace Adkins and Julianne Hough. By comparison, the Columbus Civic Center presented a George Jones concert - which made South Commons REALLY look like the "sticks."

+ The Columbus Lions kept rolling, demolishing the D.C. Armor 76-6. It was Military Appreciation Night at the Civic Center - and Fort Benning soldiers probably felt strange, rooting against a lot of Armor.

+ Alabama and Auburn held "A-Day" spring college football games. Auburn's offense scored six touchdowns, and won 57-31. Alabama's Crimson team defeated the White team 14-7. And the most important score for planning fall ticket sales was Alabama 84,000 fans to Auburn's 45,000.

+ Instant Message to the new Shark's Fish and Chicken downtown: Your chicken tenders put Zaxby's to shame - but you're right when you say it's "not a fast food restaurant." When the lowest-priced item for adults on the menu is five dollars, that's not fast-food at all.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 18 percent so far this year! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, 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: 603 (- 51, 7.8%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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