Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30 JUN 09: Last of the Mohican

As I drove into the business parking lot Monday, something clearly was missing. Where was "Indian Joe" - the life-sized Native American statue, bound to a chair and gagged? Was this statue moved out of Columbus, so no one could accuse Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation graduates of involvement in the coup in Honduras?

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The Indian Joe mascot is about to disappear for good from a longtime Columbus business. Victory Pawn and Trading Post on Victory Drive is going out of business, and will close 15 July. I suppose it's either that, or change the name to "Defeated Pawn."

Victory Pawn has been in business at several stops on Victory Drive more than 30 years. But store employees told your blog Monday the latest move turned out to be a fatal one. The shop shifted to the old Action Marine building near Rotary Park, after a November 2007 fire. Maybe if the Action Marine sign still wasn't posted outside....

But wait, you may be saying - aren't pawn shops supposed to be thriving during a recession? And isn't Columbus South in a renaissance? The Victory Pawn staff says it hasn't been true there. Business never rebounded from the 2007 fire - or as one woman put it, too much money was going out the window and not enough was coming in. You'll notice the Georgia Lottery never seems to have this problem.

Victory Pawn staff member Bonnie Alford gave another clue to the business's dilemma, as she talked with someone on the phone. "We're exactly 2.1 miles west of the old location," she said slowly. That old spot still has a Victory Pawn sign - and customers at the Candlewood Hotel about to open next door will be disappointed to find they can't get cash for an extra night.

Bonnie Alford blamed the lack of business on "lots of dummies who don't know east from west, and north from south." She added some customers consider the 2.1-mile move a very long distance. And you thought gas prices had been dropping over the last few days....

So if you want bargains, Victory Pawn may be the place to go for the next 15 days. "Everything must go," signs on the window declare. What sort of things?

+ Several pairs of boots - which look like soldiers gave them up after their final tour of duty at Fort Benning.

+ A shelf with small television sets. But you'll have to go to another pawn shop to find converter boxes, to make them work.

+ Possibly a couple of school buses. They're parked on the fenced-in grounds next to the building. And since neither say "Muscogee County" on them, apparently they aren't stolen.

But Bonnie Alford told me there's one item at Victory Pawn which is NOT up for sale - the statue of Indian Joe. She admits several customers have inquired about buying the bound and gagged mascot. I sincerely hope those married men consulted their wives first....

So where was Indian Joe Monday? He wasn't kept inside Victory Pawn, and Bonnie Alford assumed store owner Rick Johnson had taken it away for the weekend. Perhaps Johnson's trying to arrange for the statue to make guest appearances at Westville.

Someone stole Indian Joe from the front of Victory Pawn in July 2000, and it became a major news story. But the statue mysteriously returned to its spot three days later. To this day, we don't know what sort of Fort Benning training exercise required it.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A reader wants us to go back to that phone call Columbus Police officer J.D. Hawk made to a Georgia state trooper....

Hey Richy Rich; Did Officer Hawk get a ticket when he was speeding to his home because it was on fire, and a distance away? Seems like someone said his kids were there and he wanted to protect them!!! If this is true, one must wonder why he even got a ticket considering the emergency. Regarding the tape, Seems to me Hawk was saying the incident would be embarrassing to law enforcement and not that he was threatening the trooper [or whoever he was] with [embarrassing] personal retaliation. One must wonder if the trooper did give a ticket for speeding when a law officer's house was on fire, was that trooper was impeding the rescue of the officer's children???? Play It Again Sam!

J.D. Hawk explained in Recorder's Court in January 2008 there was a fire in the kitchen at his home, and his 13-year-old daughter was there alone [4 Jan 08]. That's why Hawk was driving 103 miles per hour on Manchester Expressway. But we never heard of serious damage to the home or harm to the daughter - so apparently Columbus fire units won the race.

We've never posted the voice mail recording to trooper J.D. Perry, because it would consume a lot of disk space and require editing out some personal information. So Monday night, we pulled out the recording and transcribed it. With a phone number left out, here's what J.D. Hawk said:

This is Captain Hawk from the police department. I'm calling in reference to that citation that's being rescheduled for the third of January, in which I am now being held in contempt of court. I think you might want to talk to me prior -- unless somebody told you not to talk to me, regarding the judge. But -- I don't have a problem with the citation, but I do have a problem with the "contempt of court," since I was instructed NOT to be in court, and the only way I'm going to defend myself is have to bring some stuff out which is probably going to embarrass you and the court, IN court, and go public.

So.... you know, I'd like to try to resolve this contempt issue in advance, but if you don't want to talk to me, I have no choice but to bring it out in public. So you can beep me at 706-xxx-xxxx, if you'd like to talk with you prior to this. And I don't want to talk about the speeding charge, but the contempt charge. Thank you. Bye-bye.

J.D. Hawk did NOT say the contempt of court defense would embarrass law enforcement - but that specific trooper, as well as Recorder's Court. If someone discovers the Recorder's Court judge that day was Mark Shelnutt....

Some more speeding tops our review of the Monday headlines:

+ WXTX "News at Ten" reported fast drivers on Celia Drive have become such a problem that one telephone pole has been knocked down three times this year. The answer to this should be obvious - consult a bowling pin factory about making a special pole.

+ "Miss Georgia 2009.2" Emily Cook accepted the keys to a new car, which she'll drive for the next year. Pageant officials breathed a big sigh of relief when Cook did NOT give back the keys, and announce her resignation.

(The Ledger-Enquirer reports Emily Cook accepted the Miss Georgia crown Sunday, while wearing a T-shirt and shorts. So? I've seen Olympic swimmers accept gold medals wearing less than that.)

+ WLTZ reported Fort Benning Staff Sergeant Michael Johnston was named the Army's Drill Sergeant of the Year. Johnston appears on a giant screen at the National Infantry Museum, telling visitors over and over that he's a soldier first. Talk about an annoying lobbying tool....

+ Auburn University officials admitted they're adding hundreds of new security cameras across campus. They won't say how many, or where they're going -- but I assume one will be hidden in the visiting team's locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

+ Former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford made his campaign for Alabama State Senate official, after doing everything but that in Phenix City in May. Ford says he'll run as a Democrat against Myron Penn. With his career party shifts now listed as D-R-I-D, you might say Ford has shifted back into first gear.

+ Alabama Congressman Artur Davis removed a campaign web site survey on improving the state, after the legalization of marijuana received the most votes. This may explain why Georgia's Governor still has NOT revealed that "Sonny Do" list from 2006.

+ The evening news revealed former Harlem Globetrotters player AJ Stallworth is bringing an expansion basketball team to Columbus next winter. The team in the American Basketball Association is called the Columbus Life. The Life?!?! OK, which local church provided the money for this team?

+ Instant Message to WBFA-FM "98.3 The Beat" and WFXE-FM "Foxie 105:" Aw, c'mon - two different candlelight vigils tonight? In different parts of Columbus?! At the same time?!?! I didn't realize the death of Michael Jackson was such a competitive business.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

29 JUN 09: Power Lost, Power Gained

Instant Message to the man who encouraged me to "see a fireworks show" for Independence Day: Done. I accomplished that Sunday evening, when lightning flashed all around my home....

Parts of the Historic District were without power for nearly three hours, due to an intense thunderstorm. I'm not sure if a severe thunderstorm warning ever was issued for Muscogee County, as it was in Russell County. But if your electricity goes out and you're a blogger without a working laptop, it's really severe to you.

The power outage affected parts of Fourth Street from Broadway to Veterans Parkway. It shut down the Circle K near the Civic Center, which is one of the leading stops in Georgia for selling lottery tickets. If a lack of electricity stops a lottery, you wonder how the colonies were able to keep them going about 200 years ago.

The boundary line for the power outage was Fourth Street, as the Columbus Civic Center's bright marquee kept running as usual. It's promoting a "Ladies Night Out" in August, with three groups I've never heard of before. At least the men are fully clothed in the photos....

(Columbus Police had to direct traffic at the corner of "Fourth and Fourth," because the stop light in front of the Civic Center was out. Even the officers have to practice for next week's playoff game.)

The power outage occurred at about 6:25 p.m. ET, as I was eating dinner. My dinner was heated in a natural gas oven -- making me wonder why the "gas light" idea never has been brought inside. It's not like kerosene lantern makers have the power to complain anymore....

The outage was accompanied (and probably caused) by fierce lightning in the Historic District and downtown area. It came one day after I heard some men at church wonder why humans can't harness the power of lightning as an energy source. My own theory on this is that scientists saw Ben Franklin try it, and decided it wasn't worth sacrificing their lives.

As lightning flashed and thunder roared with the power out, there wasn't much I could do. I didn't pick up the phone to report the outage, because I might be electrocuted. I didn't take a shower, because I might be electrocuted. So I read the Bible for a while - presuming God wouldn't zap me for that.

Eventually the thunder dissipated, and I called Georgia Power customer service. If you didn't know, everything is automated - even the computer voice providing information about your problem. It only figures that the electric company would find a way to use plug-in robots.

The Georgia Power voice told me crews were already working on the problem, and hoped to have it resolved by 8:45 p.m. I told that information to nearby neighbors - including the ones with no phone service, who might not even notice an electric outage unless there was a big game on TV.

Darkness approached, and I decided to lie in bed and wait for the power to come back on. I can do this without a working alarm clock - because my answering machine always repeats my recorded message when it comes on. It's only slightly less jarring than a clock's buzzer.

The repair crew missed its target time, but the power came back on at 9:15 p.m. One of my neighbors was concerned about her food spoiling in the refrigerator - but since I kept my door shut 99 percent of the time, everything seems to be fine. And it's Georgia Power's loss that I only ran my air conditioner for 90 minutes on a 95-degree day.

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of lost power, Sunday brought stunning news from the Miss Georgia pageant. Kristina Higgins gave up the crown she won less than 24 hours before. I thought the show "Queen for a Day" went off TV 40 years ago....

Kristina Higgins explained she could not meet all the obligations of Miss Georgia, because she works as a middle school special education teacher. Talk about a lack of respect for teachers! If Higgins was a principal in Auburn, she could have taken a six-week leave of absence to appear on "Survivor."

Sad to say, in 2009 we had to be a bit skeptical of Kristina Higgins's explanation. So we checked the usual online hideaways for scandalous pictures. But a Myspace Music page says Higgins sings Christian music, and has released her own album. Hmmmm - did she say the wrong thing last week about traditional marriage?

Kristina Higgins also has a Twitter account, which doesn't even mention the Miss Georgia pageant. But it has this curious April message: "On my way to enlighten young children's minds. Haha...." That "haha" is a bit like a car horn on the highway. Are you happy to see me, or mocking my slow driving?

Here's the more curious thing: this was Kristina Higgins's third attempt at the Miss Georgia title. She was second runner-up two years ago. If that led to her middle school teaching job, becoming Miss Georgia might lead to an even better and more flexible job. You know, like the Atlanta Falcons dance team....

Kristina Higgins's decision means first runner-up Emily Cook becomes Miss Georgia. It also means Cobb County's candidates swept the awards this year -- Miss Georgia and "Outstanding Teen." So all the people who make fun of Marietta's "Big Chicken" should shut up until next June.

Emily Cook told the Sunday evening news she'll delay a year of law school at the University of Georgia to serve as Miss Georgia. She can afford to do this, where Kristina Higgins cannot - because Cook's crown and law degree should combine to make her an expert legal analyst on Fox News Channel.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Now to an unusual sign of the times....

What is with that peeping tom sign on Junaluska Dr.? I have not seen anything about it in the news.

That warning sign actually was on TV news a week or two ago, after being mentioned at Richard Hyatt's web site. People in the Mohina Woods subdivision are concerned about a convicted voyeur, who's back on the streets after serving his sentence. So what he have here is a neighborhood "watcher watch."

Meanwhile, the conversation continues between a couple of readers about a former police officer's list of "bad cops:"

We don't need to call Sherlock Holmes on this one- Boren is neither accused, nor guilty of a crime, but is the object of a vendetta- establishing the modus operandi of the complainant He attempts to embarrass the Chief of Police, ad nauseum. Ad litem.

Solution: A new Modus Vivendi for the Complainant.

Suggestions: 1. Get a sex change. Real men do not whine and complain to the media over hurt feelings.

2. Role Play as the Police Chief solving all internal and external cases of police corruption.

3. Move to a place where you like the Police Chief.

4. Reenact these troubling situations at a local drama club.

5. Learn to pout silently.

Oh dear - so much Latin here. No, this e-mail did NOT come from the Josh McKoon State Senate campaign.

As for the list of suggestions - what do you mean, real men don't "complain to the media" when their feelings are hurt? How quickly we forget such interviews, in an election off-year.

And as for suggestion #4 -- isn't there now a "Sherlock's Mystery Dinner Theatre" for cases like these? If it can do a show called "Spy Games," it can create a play about drunk police officers at a restaurant. The audience would love to join in playing "Spin the Taser."

We'll get to a couple of other e-mails another day - but now let's check other items from a busy Sunday:

+ Lee County Sheriff's officers accused four young Phenix City men of stealing items from more than 100 cars. I may never try to sell music out of my trunk at the Lee County Flea Market again....

+ The Christ Community Church broadcast on WBOJ-FM included a testimony from the owner of the Columbus Marco's Pizza restaurants. Scott Dickey admitted when he travels on business to Las Vegas, "I can't get out of there fast enough." That's strange - since all the Miss Georgia contestants want to go there, to compete for Miss America.

+ The Macon Coliseum hosted a Jehovah's Witnesses convention especially for Spanish-speaking members. I'm not sure why the Witnesses didn't return to the Columbus Civic Center this year -- unless they were concerned Mark Shelnutt might welcome them to town, too.

COMING SOON: Is something missing at the new museum? We took a tour to find out....

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© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

28 JUN 09: Beat (With Words) Cops

Can you believe we're approaching one year since Columbus voters approved the "streets and safety" sales tax? I'm starting to see a difference around town. In fact, I used that new sidewalk up Tenth Street from Bay to Front Avenue Saturday night - and it certainly beats jogging on the street.

Several people have sent us e-mails in recent days about the Columbus Police. We planned to address them even before Saturday night's news focused on the "Call to Talk" meeting with the police chief and sheriff. Amazingly, Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr talked about a deadly shooting four years before Ralph Johnson would have.

Police Chief Ricky Boren faced questions at Fourth Street Baptist Church about an incident you might consider old news: the speeding ticket for officer J.D. Hawk, and his phone call to the home of the state trooper who pulled him over [8 May 08]. Civil rights leaders want Hawk punished for that phone call - which tells you he's not like that Chicago hockey team. You know, the "Black Hawks...."

Ricky Boren told the forum he was NOT the only one to determine J.D. Hawk's phone call was NOT intimidation. He said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reached the same conclusion, as did the F.B.I. The state trooper's only remaining option may be to appeal to The Hague, and somehow declare that phone call a war crime.

The Georgia NAACP called in March for the Georgia Attorney General's office to investigate J.D. Hawk's phone call [22 Mar]. Aw, c'mon - Thurbert Baker never had time to review the Kenneth Walker case, and that left a man dead.

(But hmmm - would Thurbert Baker take the Georgia NAACP up on that request, since he's now running for governor? If enough Caucasian police officers are punished, African-American voters might forget what Roy Barnes did with the state flag.)

If state trooper J.D. Perry really wants to punish J.D. Hawk for that phone call, it seems the only way to do it is through a civil suit. But Perry asks for trouble if he does that. First of all, he might lose. Second of all, Hawk might actually reveal that embarrassing information about Perry he mentioned over the phone.

All this brings us to the police e-mail. Our first message continues a topic which really began last Sunday. A reader vented here about the Columbus police chief. Then another reader demanded more details on Monday. Today comes the response:

I will admit I hate Chief Ricky Boren because he is a two faced liar politician. The only way he will do anything as Chief is if he is embarrassed into doing it. When I complained about how we had NO PLAN for a school shooting incident, he got off his b**t and did something about it....15 years after Columbine. Its just one more example of how he just doesn't care. He is riding out his time until he retires and could care less about what happens at the Columbus Police Department. I have been saying it for almost 5 years now and I will say it again...the Columbus Police Department is hiring less than qualified people in an effort to fill the uniforms. Chief Borens plan to "fill the uniforms" wasn't supposed to be a problem until after he retired. Well apparently its biting him in the b**t now, sooner than he thought. I won't list any names just yet, but here are some examples of what the city is hiring:

1. A group of Officers in uniform got drunk at a restaurant and skipped out on the bill.

2. An Officer was hired after being arrested for a family violence offense and now has done enough during his probationary period to be fired and arrested for various city ordinance violations, but that isn't going to happen due to who he is related to.

3. An Officer is currently working at the department after being arrested for DUI, but others have been fired for the same offense.

4. An Officer is currently working at the department after his ex-girlfriend called the Police on him on more than one occasion for several family violence offenses that would have landed the average citizen in jail with a STEEP bond and a restraining order. He was never charged after a female Lieutenant made a "command decision."

5. An Officer is currently working at the department who committed a FELONY by giving out information obtained from NCIC/GBIC. Other Officers in the state of Georgia have been arrested and are serving time for this offense.

6. An Officer is currently working at the department after being arrested for shoplifting.

The list goes on and on.

To provide full disclosure, we should add this writer probably also dislikes the police chief because the chief fired him last year. Misery loves company, you know - even on the unemployment line.

This e-mail almost implies Chief Ricky Boren didn't want the one-percent sales tax approved last July. As I recall, he supported Mayor Jim Wetherington in getting it passed. Boren could have pulled a Bob Poydasheff, and hidden in an office saying "no comment."

Several of the cases listed here are mysterious and new to us, but one already has made the news. At last report, Corporal Roderick Winston was on administrative leave - and the charges go beyond drunk driving to speeding. But what if he's found not guilty? How crowded do we want the NAACP news conferences to be?

(We must note Roderick Winston is the widower of Shirley Winston - the officer who died on duty in 1990, and now has a city park named after her. We don't know if that explains how his case is being handled. But at least that should stop any rumors that "big tobacco" is involved.)

By the way, before you write us -- yes, we know it's only been ten years since the Columbine High School killings. If this e-mailer can't get a big historical detail correct, maybe some of the offenses on this "rap sheet" were settled five years ago.

Now for Columbus Police in training to do the right thing - but what kind of right thing?

Hi Richard:

I know this is shameless but I simply couldn't resist....

Columbus Officers Train to Combat Litter

It's good to know after all the recent news that the Columbus Police department's cracking down!

Yes, a group of local law officers attended a workshop Friday on "Litter Enforcement Training." Who knows how many discarded cans of energy drinks could lead to high-speed chases?

To be fair, not only Columbus Police officers attended Friday's litter workshop. Members of the Marshal's office were there as well. You may see some of them out along Interstate 185 today -- scouting out a mile to adopt, so the Junior Marshals can pick up trash twice a year.

But the workshop leaders who came to Columbus from Keep Georgia Beautiful make a valid point. Why are so many people uncaring, and toss things like cigarette stubs out their car windows? It's almost as if they want state prison crews to work extra-hard.

Here's one last e-mail involving police, which came from outside Columbus:


I came across your blog from 11/30/07 today and it prompted me to write you and see if you might be able to give me an update on some old Columbus news..

It's pure nosiness on my part, but I used to be very good friends with one of James Burns' daughters in Florida when her dad was murdered in 1992. It was a very difficult time for the family as you can imagine and we would follow the story in the newspaper as best we could. At the time, I recall that the GBI was very closed mouth on information given to the family amid questions that Mrs. Burns (the widow) might even be the prime suspect (a ridiculous notion, if you knew her). I read references to the police "bungling" the investigation, but never see anything further for clarification..

Just my curiosity, but I am wondering whatever became of the case, etc..

Thanks for any light you might be able to shed..

Bob Burns.

(no relation)

Lt. Lynn Joiner with Columbus Police told me there's a "cold case investigator" assigned to matters such as the killing of Superintendent Burns. We hope to talk to that investigator this coming week to learn more details -- such as whether the case has been offered to that CBS police show.

. Lynn Joiner noted there's no statute of limitations in Georgia on murder cases. That allowed for an arrest earlier this year in the Curry family killings from 1985. There's also no statute of limitations on appealing murder cases -- as Carlton Gary knows all too well.

Superintendent Burns was killed before I moved to Columbus. I've heard stories from time to time about police mishandling the case, but people making that claim never have explained to me what happened. Let's clear up one other rumor, though -- I do NOT think this case is connected to that other shooting of a "Mr.
which gained national attention.

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BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Boo-hoo - we were wrong again about the Miss Georgia pageant. Kristina Higgins won the title at the RiverCenter Saturday night. She's "Miss Capital City," while our choice Kristen Little is "Miss Georgia State University." Well, at least both are in Atlanta....

Now a quick check of other weekend news:

+ Which man preached in a Columbus church that the late Michael Jackson "accepted Satan's ways"? And added Elvis Presley did the same thing? Someday I'll find that Bible verse which condemns shaking hips back and forth.

+ Organizers of the "Columbus Tea Party" held what they called an "emergency protest" outside the Government Center, over a bill in Congress concerning global warming. Apparently it was an emergency because the warming really is happening, and the high temperature Saturday was 96 degrees F.

(The protesters are especially upset over a "cap and trade" section of an energy bill. This seems curious to me -- since basketball and football teams make trades to stay under the salary cap all the time.)

+ WRBL reported the Columbus Civic Center has a new five-year food agreement with the "Boston Culinary Group." That's nice, I suppose - but I think Columbus residents would be more thrilled if we had a Boston Market restaurant.

(The new food agreement means the Civic Center will have its first full-time chef. Maybe a nicer pre-game meal for the Columbus Cottonmouths will mean fewer brawls during games.)

+ Fort Benning held an Independence Day party and fireworks show - one week before Independence Day. It's not quite like opening Halloween costume shops in August, but they're heading in that direction....

+ The Columbus Lions confirmed they're playoff-ready by flattening Fayetteville 44-25. Schedules printed at the start of the season indicated the Lions would be in Charlotte this weekend - but apparently the version showing the Carolina Speed came out too speedily.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

27 JUN 09: Bad, Good or In Between

(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.)

We checked the news sources carefully Friday, both on TV and the web. We wondered if the events of Thursday would prompt any candidates to change their plans. But so far, NO one in our area has announced he or she is running for King of Pop.

I wondered for years where Michael Jackson gained the "King of Pop" title. Then CNN reported Thursday night the phrase came from Elizabeth Taylor. Perhaps she never came to Columbus - where plenty of people considered Royal Crown Cola the king of pop.

The sudden death of Michael Jackson is inspiring a wider range of reactions than you might think. Callers to WFXE-FM Thursday night offered sympathies and condolences. Then Friday, talk show host Glenn Beck on WDAK called Jackson "a freak." And unlike that old soul tune, he was far more than a "freak of the week."

A mix of memories come to mind when I think of Michael Jackson. There was the day I spoke up in a cable TV newsroom: "Lisa-Marie Presley confirms she married Michael Jackson."

"No way!" a woman sitting next to me said. Then she saw the breaking news on her computer screen seconds later. Prowling around the California state news wire gave me an edge of about 15 seconds.

I handled "Factoids" for CNN Headline News at the time - and found out weeks later when Michael Jackson married Lisa-Marie Presley in the Dominican Republic, a "Justice of the Peace" performed the ceremony. The celebrity couple paid him 50 dollars to do it. You'd think they would have thrown in an autographed album or something....

The church groups I've attended over the years were as mixed about Michael Jackson as I was. Songs such as "Bad" and "Human Nature" didn't seem to reflect godly themes. Yet one congregation couldn't stop dancing to "Billie Jean" after a spring dinner - including a delighted church pastor, who might have stopped that after the child molestation complaint came out.

Michael Jackson tried a lot of things in his 50-plus years - but do you remember his short fling with religion? He spent some time with the Jehovah's Witnesses, and reportedly did some witnessing in a shopping mall one weekend. This is one time I actually wish the Jehovah's Witnesses convention was in town, to find out what led to Jackson leaving.

But here's the most foreboding thing for me about this week's news - I was born 25 days before Michael Jackson. So when I awoke early Friday to a bit of pain in my chest, I actually wondered if my death would get as much coverage on the evening news.

Michael Jackson's death is a reminder that no one knows how long they have to live. A current Christian song puts it well: "I guess we're all one phone call from our knees." In fact, I was there recently - but I make sure to spend time on my knees BEFORE the call comes. If you do that, the blows of life can be easier to bear. Even the final blow can be less of a knockout punch.

Several people who called "Foxie 105" the other night said they're praying for Michael Jackson's family. That's a nice thing to do. But don't forget to pray to God all the time. The Biblical book of Philippians says you should "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." To borrow from a Jackson album, let God write "HIS-tory" in you.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: The e-mailer who claims to have a police "rap sheet" answers a reader's challenge....

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Friday, June 26, 2009

26 JUN 09: Staying Power?

It's the middle of summer vacation -- but Thursday brought surprisingly good news about public schools in east Alabama. But no, that good news was NOT a unanimous decision on the Russell County Superintendent....

The news came from a new "Education Week" report on high school graduation rates across the country. Believe it or not, Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara says his district placed in the national top five. Yet he did NOT call on residents to celebrate the ranking by approving a new school sales tax.

The latest senior class included in the Education Week study was 2006. Almost 69 percent of Phenix City's students that year graduated on time. OK, Glenwood School - how did YOUR senior class do? And please separate the "couldn't afford tuition" group from everyone else.

The graduation rate in Phenix City has shown a sharp increase in recent years. In 2002 the rate was 38.5 percent. In 2006 it was 68.9 percent. Assuming this trend line has continued, everyone in Central High School's class of 2010 could take a fleet of buses to Auburn University.

The high national ranking sounded downright remarkable - but then I listened carefully to how Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara explained it Thursday night on WLTZ. It was a top-five ranking in "exceeding expectations," not the graduation rate itself. So Central High School apparently were praised for not being as stupid as the stereotype-makers thought.

Education Week's report includes not only the senior class graduation rate, but a "district performance score" for doing better or worse than expected. There's a mathematical formula on the web site for how that expectation is figured - as opposed to simply polling 100 cynical bloggers.

Auburn city schools also won praise from Education Week - as the 2006 high school graduation rate was 84.4 percent. Of course, Auburn schools have enjoyed a reputation for years of being much better than average. Only this past spring did that reputation finally reach the high school baseball team.

But the Education Week study is not so kind to Georgia's public schools. Only about 56 percent of eligible high school seniors graduated in the latest reporting year - and only Nevada's percentage was lower. Now I'm really wondering about the University of Georgia hiring the University of Nevada's men's basketball coach.

In fact, Education Week reports Muscogee County's graduation rate in 2006 was a lowly 48.3 percent. That's down from 53.1 percent in 1996, and a full 20 percentage points below Phenix City. Who could have imagined this? Cross the 13th Street Bridge into Alabama, and the teenagers become 20 percent smarter.

Yet the Education Week "district performance score" for Muscogee County is 112.9 - so the graduation rate is about 13 percent better than expectations. Based on my math, that means only 43 percent of the high school students in Columbus are expected to graduate. It also might mean we need several more skateboard parks around town.

The Education Week report includes another statistic which could surprise you. More than 60 percent of the students in Muscogee County and Phenix City public schools are African-American. Yet majority-Caucasian Russell County schools have the lowest graduation rate of all. To borrow from Dr. King, let us not judge by the color of one's skin - but the content of one's brain.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Someone actually noticed our big milestone of the week. At least someone wrote us about it....

Dear Richard,

Congratulations on 2,000 blog posts! Your site continues to be daily reading for me.

I wanted to let you know we have launched my official campaign website, www.joshmckoon.com. I hope you will share that with your readers and let them know that is where they can go online to find out more about my positions on issues facing the Georgia General Assembly. We hope to add more content in the coming months, including position papers on issues and more of my speeches on various topics of public interest. My speech to the Columbus Georgia Tea Party is available there as well as other information about the campaign.

I hope you will take the time to review the site yourself and I look forward to any feedback on issues you or your readers would like to share with me.



Hmmmm -- if Josh McKoon is asking us to post an e-mail about his campaign web site, does that mean he can't afford to buy any ads yet?

Since we were double-dared invited, we checked the Josh McKoon campaign web site Thursday night. It lists five main issues in his State Senate bid - and in a stunning surprise, not one of them mentions adding park land in midtown Columbus.

The Josh McKoon web site also invites you to a campaign fundraiser next Monday evening. Trouble is, it's in Atlanta - and on the 27th floor of a midtown skyscraper. Yes sir, we like our officeholders to be down-to-earth local folks....

Let's take one more message, about last weekend's big events:

Richard, I was driving down Victory Dr last Thursday afternoon and noticed a commercial lawn service had many employees cutting grass on the city right-of-way and picking up litter there and in the median on Victory Dr. I realize the cleanup was probably due to the 2nd Grand Opening of the Infantry Museum the next day and the AFLAC Games that weekend, both taking place in that general area. My lst thought was that the city waited rather late to clean up that area as many out of towners had already arrived. Also, I thought that cleanup was usually done by city workers or prisoners. So my questions are: why did the city wait so late to do the cleanup and how much did the city spend on the contract for this private company to do this work? And was this contract put out for bid? In some foreign countries that I've lived in property owners are required to keep the public area in front of their property clean. That sure would save the city government a lot of money especially now when tax revenues are down. Just curious

I see no problem with cutting the grass on the eve of a big event. It's a bit like Fort Benning soldiers getting their haircut on the afternoon before a big inspection.

The new Columbus city budget taking effect next week includes $2.4 million for "landscape and forestry." A search of the city web site found grass cutting historically has gone through a bidding process, when it comes to clearing lots. And besides, prisoners probably aren't allowed to work outside in the afternoons at this time of year. They could claim heatstroke, and sue the city for millions.

I've noticed a private company doing landscaping work along the Riverwalk for months, while I've been out jogging. In fact, at this time of year it's a race for me to get outside and exercise before the work crew starts blowing dirt and grass clippings into my lungs.

We're holding two more e-mails for the weekend - but in the meantime, let's check other Thursday news:

+ The Columbus NAACP held a rally at the Government Center in behalf of convicted killer Troy Davis. But from what I saw on TV, the attendance was less than 15 people. That's what happens when the NAACP holds an event at the same time and place as a Sheriff's Department blood drive.

+ Federal health officials announced Muscogee and Sumter County have the first cases of "swine flu." That's OK - as long as the count stays at H-1-N-1, Ill-1.

+ Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told National Public Radio he's not sure "hate crime" discrimination still occurs today against women and homosexual people. Perhaps his next trip to Russell County should include a stop at the Shelter for Battered Women....

+ WFXE-FM called off its usual evening programming, to play music by the late Michael Jackson. They even played "The Girl is Mine" - perhaps marking the first time Paul McCartney has been heard on "Foxie 105" in decades.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We wrote plenty of jokes about Michael Jackson over the years -- but this isn't the right time to bring them out. We might in a few days.)

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: 704 (+ 19, 2.8%)

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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Thursday, June 25, 2009

25 JUN 09: Three Eyes, Not Blind

First there was Columbus Police at "Family Day in the Park." Now Russell County has its own way to get an overhead view of events as they happen. Our local government agencies are only about 15 years behind the TV "skycams," but they're trying....

The Russell County Commission watched a new surveillance device in action Wednesday. The Homeland Security Department used state grant money to purchase the "CAM-V." No, I don't think you operate it with a keyboard by pressing CTL-V.

The Houston company which sells the CAM-V says surveillance cameras can be raised 23 feet in the air, to watch over a wide range of activities. The device can be used for governmental projects. Or companies can use it to watch for thieves at construction sites - so cops can capture copper-nappers faster than they can learn to say the phrase, "Cops can capture copper-nappers."

The CAM-V can lift as may as four cameras. The model displayed for the Russell County Commission seemed to only have three - which again will lead critics to say Russell County is one camera shy of a full load.

(But at least Russell County is willing to spend a little money on this device. The alternative is to hope for a good satellite photo from Google maps at exactly the right moment of the day.)

Russell County Homeland Security Director William Alexander explained some of the ways the CAM-V might be used. For instance, the cameras can watch for signs of life after a natural disaster -- which means the device could be rented by Auburn University for some football games this fall.

But William Alexander also admitted the CAM-V could be used for law enforcement surveillance. For instance, it might be set up at the Russell County Sheriff's Department shooting range -- to catch Phenix City police officers trying to have some fun without permission.

The use of the CAM-V brings us back to a Bugs Bunny quote we mentioned in May: "Didya ever have the feeling you was being watched?" [27 May] This contraption is a new way for Russell County authorities to monitor what you do - although so far the video is NOT going on cable TV, the way Bear O'Brian's radio studio is.

I've heard plenty of people warn in recent years that surveillance equipment such as the CAM-V can intrude on your right to privacy. But it amazes me how often I've heard church pastors complain about that sort of thing. You'd think those ministers would realize Someone (ahem) is watching over them all the time now - and probably more closely than the Russell County sheriff.

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

BLOG UPDATE: Take that, you scoffers! Our pick for the Miss Georgia pageant won a preliminary round Wednesday night. Kristen Little led her group in the evening gown competition. Tonight her group wears swimsuits - while somewhere on Victory Drive, a nightclub owner ponders how to reenact this change without the 24-hour delay.

WRBL's web site is offering live streaming video of every night of the Miss Georgia pageant. Aw, c'mon - for an event like this, a little web-cam simply isn't enough. Single guys like me want to see attractive young women in high-definition.

Now for other items, from a Wednesday which admittedly didn't inspire much humor....

+ Fort Benning changed commanding generals, with Gen. Michael Ferriter taking charge. Gen. Michael Barbero will take over multinational military operations in Iraq -- so he's taking careful notes on his move out, to help thousands of soldiers overseas do the same.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site revealed Mark Shelnutt delivered welcoming remarks during the recent United Methodist Church conference at the Columbus Civic Center. Shelnutt did this several weeks after his federal indictment - which may again prove the most-quoted verse in the Bible really is, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

+ WXTX "News at Ten" showed a project by Auburn University architecture students, which turns cargo containers into modular homes. This is a creative approach - and homeowners might be able to make extra money, from people who mistake their house for a self-storage center.

+ Alabama State Treasurer Kay Ivey toured the state, announcing she'll run for governor next year. Personally, I don't think she has much of a chance. I base this on that classic December song "The Holly and the Ivey" - where the holly always wears the crown.

+ Instant Message to WLGA-TV: Have you considered putting your late-evening programming from the "Artists and Fans Network" on a second digital channel, and showing it around the clock? Or have you decided Country Music Television will file suit to keep your station off cable TV, and you'll lose?

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: 685 (+ 22, 3.3%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

24 JUN 09: Sparkle Plenty

Am I missing something here? Independence Day is only ten days away, yet I still haven't seen any commercials for fireworks stands on TV. If I find out Wanda the "Bang Bang Lady" laid off the "Boom Boom Lady," it's really going to hurt.

The first fireworks show of the season was staged in Columbus Tuesday. It admittedly wasn't a very big one, as it was set up by the Georgia Fire Commissioner and a deputy fire chief. They apparently didn't even jazz it up, by exploding watermelons.

The Ledger-Enquirer reports the "fireworks show" at a Columbus fire station consisted of the lighting of four sparklers. This sounds perfect for 4 July, if you have the budget of the Columbus Woodbats....

While sparklers are legal to light across Georgia, other kinds of fireworks are not. Bottle rockets are illegal. And you should leave the "cherry bombs" for some wild ice cream float at Sonic.

If you're caught shooting off illegal fireworks in Georgia, you could be fined $1,000. But here's the thing - most of the time, aren't the fireworks faster than the law officer? Police would have to drive by at the right moment. And they'd have to determine the cloud of smoke is from firecrackers and not a barbecue grill.

Georgia Fire/Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine urged Columbus residents NOT to buy fireworks in East Alabama. He explained most of the items sold there are illegal to shoot in Georgia. Translation: he's running for Governor, and concerned about sending tax dollars out of state.

Yes, I know John Oxendine came to Columbus wearing his "Georgia Fire Commissioner" hat. But let's be honest here - he's an announced candidate for Governor, and considered by some people the current Republican front-runner. And on a tour like this, his commissioner's hat doesn't cover his candidate's face.

John Oxendine admits he opposed the legalization of sparklers in Georgia several years ago. But now he considers them a "safer alternative" to other fireworks. If he backtracks on something like this, should we trust him on bigger issues? Would Oxendine's support of firearms somehow widen to include firecrackers?

(If fireworks really mattered that much to John Oxendine, they'd be part of his 12-point "Contract with Georgia." But they're not - as he merely settles there for building new water reservoirs, to handle the damage.)

To be fair: the John Oxendine campaign web site does NOT include his Columbus trip to promote fireworks safety. But perhaps it's no coincidence that the web site also does NOT mention expanding the state budget for public safety personnel, to handle the damage.

P.S. If our title today sounds familiar, you may be showing your age. "Sparkle Plenty" is a longtime character in the Dick Tracy comic strip, who married Tracy's son. Any resemblance to the marriage of Nancy and Ricky Boren is purely coincidental.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: Here's a comment ripped from the Tuesday news headlines....

Hi Richard:

Uptown BID Boss doesn't know about the shooting and robberies that happened Saturday night in Uptown until contacted by a news reporter Monday afternoon. He say's "We didn't have any problems with our six security officers down there." How can six police officers patrolling a street full of drunks not identify any problems the entire weekend?

Just wonderin'

Well, let's check that quote from Mr. BID again. He didn't have any problems with the six security officers. Other people downtown were the problem.

But other officers may be coming to the aid of the Business Improvement District officers. The Tuesday evening news reported the Columbus State University Police is increasing patrols downtown. And if that doesn't make things safe, they'll really get serious - and send in Columbus Police officers.

An even more recent crime seems to have downtown business owners especially concerned. A woman was robbed as she left Phenix Finance Monday afternoon, reportedly by men who tried to offer her books. Be suspicious of anyone who can't find Judy Bugs down the street.

The manager of Phenix Finance suggested the city put "cameras on corners" downtown. Uhhhh - doesn't Broadway already have that? They're between the traffic lights at several intersections. If police isn't going to use them to catch speeders and red-light runners, we might as well go more upscale.

Now for other notes from the Tuesday news....

+ The high temperature in Columbus dropped a little, but still was 95 degrees F. St. Francis Hospital reports several people have been treated for heatstroke -- while countless men dream of getting to a golf course for a different kind of "stroke" treatment.

+ Harris County businessman Earl Davis joined the crowd of candidates for Vance Davis's state House seat. The way this is going, District 129 will wind up with 129 candidates.

+ The Lee County School Board reviewed bids for a new high school in Smiths Station. Officials were stunned to find the bids were millions of dollars under budget. Only one business was disappointed by this - as Long Buildings hoped to be the discount builder of last resort.

+ WRBL visited the Village at Westgate subdivision in Fort Mitchell, where a neighborhood group has formed to provide activities for teenagers. The report showed a basketball court, sand volleyball court and baseball diamond -- all empty. Perhaps the family with the X-Box is away on vacation....

+ Instant Message to the driver I saw pulled over by a police officer on Wynnton Road: You understand why he was suspicious, right? It's one thing to have a temporary "dealer tag" on your used car. But in June 2009, it's another thing to have the tag say "Bill Heard."

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: 663 (+ 14, 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

23 JUN 09: Owen No!

It's a big day for this little blog - as we post for the 2,000th time! OK, admittedly it's not as earth-shaking and huge as that announcement by "Jon and Kate" on cable TV Monday night, but still....

(And this is certainly NOT a thrilling day for critics of this blog. They're the ones asking: "Why 2-K?")

We pondered what to do to mark blog post #2,000. We could have been historical or self-congratulating - but then Monday evening, some breaking news reached us by e-mail:

was there when they came out of the meeting to close the library for up to 3 months because of needed roof repairs.

This is the library at Chattahoochee Valley Community College. So don't worry, Columbus parents - the magician who plays the banjo still will be at the central library today.

The web site of Chattahoochee Valley Community College confirms the library known as Owen Hall was closed to the public Friday afternoon. The announcement does NOT give a date or time for its reopening. But don't be surprised if the student "scavenger hunt" at the start of fall semester has shingles on the list.

Regular visitors to Owen Hall may not be surprised by this shutdown. Parts of the library seemingly have been roped off for years, including a center staircase on the main floor. When beauty pageant contestants can't even pose for pictures on the stairs, they MUST be dangerous.

Sections of the second floor at Owen Hall have been blocked off from time to time, apparently due to a leaky roof. At least that's what I assumed. I can't imagine the library staff would keep students away from the religious books....

(That reminds me of something - who was the smart aleck who developed the special sorting system for college libraries? The one that's so different from the Dewey Decimal System? Is it only coincidence that religious books are found under the code letters B-S?)

But I digress: Chattahoochee Valley Community College has set up what it calls "limited library services" at Brassell Hall. But other services apparently are being moved off-campus - perhaps to the Phenix City Library. Once students learn they can play Wii games at the Phenix City Library, CVCC may have to add more than a new roof.

Troy University has a campus across the street from Chattahoochee Valley Community College, but they've shared library resources at Owen Hall. Who knows - this closing may open the way for students to loiter at the Troy campus bookstore.

The roof repairs at Owen Hall only add to a busy construction season at Chattahoochee Valley Community College. You may recall work began on a new Instructional Center in March. It's nice to see the construction crew will be able to make extra money during the lunch hour....

I know a good bit about Owen Hall because I've visited it several times over the years. It once had (and still may have) the only free-to-use typewriter of any area library. For someone with uncooperative computer printers, it came in handy for typing labels. And some college instructors may have used it as a prop in American History classes.

BLOG UPDATE: The race for Vance Smith's Georgia House seat keeps becoming more crowded. The Ledger-Enquirer reported Monday Steve Earles will run. Earles owns a salon in Pine Mountain, and serves on the state "Professional Licensing Board of Massage Therapy." I can't wait for the campaign debate, when Jerry Luquire asks how many times Earles has stopped on Victory Drive.

Now before we start planning our next 1,000 blog entries, let's see what else made news Monday:

+ The high temperature in Columbus again reached 98 degrees F. WXTX "News at Ten" interviewed a young woman who has an ice cream truck parked along Whitesville Road. There's a potential punchline here about single guys ordering two scoops, but I refuse to go there.

+ Columbus Police speculated someone may have driven a stolen car into the lake at Carver Park. It's either that, or someone panicked when their engine overheated....

+ The Americus Times-Recorder reported someone has padlocked Sumter County's "Boom Boom Room." But strangely, all public agencies deny they did it. Maybe the club owner decided neighbors were tired of worrying about crime - and might attempt one themselves.

(I'm simply stunned that Sumter County has a Boom Boom Room. The one in Columbus became so notorious that Fort Benning still bars soldiers from going there - and changing names a couple of times hasn't been enough to change it.)

+ WLTZ's evening news included a report on the combined weddings of 20 Fort Benning couples -- nine days after the ceremony. Nine days later?! Did they have to wait for the wedding photos to come back from Rite-Aid?

+ Instant Message to the supporters of convicted murderer Troy Davis in Savannah: Assuming this case ever is resolved, do you plan to sell those "I Am Troy" T-shirts to college students in Alabama?

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's 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: 649 (+ 16, 2.5%)

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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

22 JUN 09: Ladies' Nights

Instant Message to all single men in Columbus: Be on your best behavior for the next several days. About three dozen of the most attractive and eligible women in Georgia are in town. And I don't think you'll find them hanging around smoky bars -- because they could be busy in front of mirrors.

I'd almost forgotten it was time for Miss Georgia week. But the weekend news showed this year's contestants at the RiverCenter for an "orientation" meeting. This seemed strange to me, because I don't think orienteering qualifies as a "talent."

Preliminary pageant rounds begin Wednesday, leading up to the crowning of our new Miss Georgia next Saturday night. That's how they like to say it, you know - "OUR new Miss Georgia." But of course, you have about as much say about that as most Iranians do about their President.

The Miss Georgia pageant is connected with Miss America. But there's no sign from the web site that Miss Georgia is borrowing some of the recent Miss America gimmicks -- such as a TV "reality show" with viewers voting on golden sashes. Why, the contestants might not even stop for breakfast at Golden Donuts.

Even though the Miss Georgia pageant is tied to Miss America, this year's event comes in the wake of the controversy involving Miss U.S.A. contestants. Miss California stood up for traditional marriage, finished second and now has lost her state title. The pageant winner was.... uh, well.... does anyone remember who she is?

One big difference between Miss America and Miss U.S.A. is that Miss America contestants openly have "platforms" they support. For Miss U.S.A. contestants, "platforms" are more likely to refer to the shoes they wear with evening gowns.

We checked the platforms of the Miss Georgia contestants Sunday night, to see if any is daring to go where Miss California-USA had to tread. The answer - no, not really. Let's face it: they're not supposed to think about becoming MRS. Georgia until after their one-year reign is over.

The closest platform to the marriage question appears to be that of Miss Presidential Pathways. Courtney Piedrahita's issue is: "Building Families; Building Futures; Giving Children Opportunity Through Adoption." That could raise questions about who should be allowed to adopt - whereupon Piedrahita will turn to her talent and play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."

The woman who becomes Miss Georgia 2009 will have a tough act to follow. Columbus resident Chasity Hardman was first runner-up at the Miss America pageant last January. After five months, she's still waiting for someone to find a hidden Facebook page showing winner Katie Stam smoking marijuana.

(Which reminds me: have you seen Miss Georgia's mother lately? As in Bishop Ann Hardman's Sunday morning "Impact" program on WLTZ? I've never seen a church pastor with long hair stretching almost to her waist -- and she isn't even preaching sermons on resisting temptation.)

BIG PREDICTION: We've come close here a couple of times, but never picked the Miss Georgia winner. Yet we remain undaunted -- and after looking over the contestants, the woman who jumps out at me is "Miss Georgia State University" Kristen Little. In fact, I wouldn't mind if she jumped out toward me anytime this week.

BLOG CORRECTION: A blog reader set us straight Sunday, about why our online searching for "Jerry Laquire" didn't turn up much. It's because we've misspelled his last name for years, and it's really Luquire. Oh dear, our apologies -- because that means we've probably mispronounced it wrong all this time as well.

A Google search for the Georgia House candidate under the name "Jerry Laquire" brought a suggested alternate last name "Lequire." But Google didn't suggest "Luquire" - nor did it indicate he might be loquacious.

Our search with a proper spelling brought better results Sunday. Jerry Luquire apparently still has a Columbus book publishing business, and actually tried his hand at blogging back in March. His latest post guessing Seth Harp would NOT run for statewide office turned out to be wrong. But then, Luquire is running for Georgia House, not End-Time Prophet.

A campaign opponent emerged for Jerry Luquire Sunday. Colin Martin announced he'll run for the soon-to-open House District 129 seat. Martin once won a "Burkard Award" for being our best blog competition [1Jan 07] -- but he's been on the losing side of so many local sales tax votes that he might avoid that issue completely.

The Ledger-Enquirer checked its records, and found both Jerry Luquire and Colin Martin have run for Columbus Council and lost. Does this mean Glenn Davis gains the title of "kingmaker" in this race? Or will he settle this over lunch with Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Sunday's rant against the Columbus Police Chief provoked a response in our InBox....

Is your recent letter writer just trying to undermine Columbus?

In response to your letter writer who wrote:

"Chief Boren is a sorry Police Chief. He says that he will not tolerate Police Officers breaking the law, but yet I have a list of officers who have broken the law and have been allowed to resign WITHOUT prosecution. Some even still working on the force. You are so full of cr*p Ricky!"

It is amazing that anyone can criticize the Chief of Police with supposed unnamed lists of police officers, who have allegedly committed crimes. The writer says some CPD officers who had alledgedly committed crimes resigned without prosecution, and further states that other officers who committed crimes are still allowed to work at CPD.

Should we believe a person with such a wild claim and yet no names & crimes listed to support the claim? Shouldn't the person state some means of his knowledge or state something to validate his claims? Usually, evidence is accepted as proof of crimes. May we please ask your letter writer:

What crimes were committed, who, dates, and how do you know this?

Several people have said that they think if he cannot answer these basic questions he should not publish such accusations. If, however he has legitimate reasons to make the accusations, then he should state them, and provide proof, otherwise it makes him look like a person who wants to smear the Chief of Police without cause or reason.

You're welcome to ask -- and we'll see if this accuser wants to name names publicly. Otherwise, this may be one of those undercover police operations. Against the chief, but still undercover....

We've been given the name of one accused police officer in recent weeks -- someone who to our knowledge has NOT been arrested. But top police officials would NOT comment, when we asked about that case. Either we all should wait for the trap to be sprung - or the accusers should form a car pool for District Attorney Julia Slater's next trip to Macon.

Now let's see what other items are left over from Father's Day weekend....

+ The Muscogee County School Board discussed imposing harsher penalties for students who take cell phones to school. Huh?! Didn't this board hear about the Iowa teenager who won $50,000 as our National Texting Champion? Do we really want to restrict "blackberry" access to Callaway Gardens field trips?

+ The National Infantry Museum reported about 7,000 people attended Friday's grand opening ceremony. That means "Family Day in the Park" Saturday won the attendance race by about 3,000. Maybe if retired General Colin Powell had brought along someone to rap the national anthem....

+ The Aflac Outdoor Games concluded at South Commons. My morning run/walk took me through that area - and when I saw a couple of emptied sports drink bottles and a big can of energy drink in the parking lot, I couldn't help wondering if they were for the dogs.

(Contestants from New Zealand finished first and second in the "Timbersports" competition. For this outcome to occur in Columbus is a little embarrassing. Next year's Aflac Outdoor Games should feature "controlled burning," so Fort Benning personnel can win.)

+ The morning workout also took me past Golden Park - where a man was sleeping on the sidewalk next to the ticket window. I know the Woodbats are playing well, but I didn't know they were playing before sellout crowds.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 12.5 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: 633 (- 20, 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.

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

21 JUN 09: Talking vs. Doing

Imagine if Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck stepped away from the radio microphone - and instead of criticizing the government, they actually tried to become part of it. It sounds absurd, I know. I suspect most right-wing talk show hosts are conservative because their substantial bank accounts are at risk from liberal tax plans.

But suddenly a veteran Columbus talk show host is willing to jump the moat, and enter politics. WRBL reported the other night that Jerry Luquire plans to run for a Georgia House seat that becomes vacant this week. At least we'll have a candidate who's used to giving speeches before large groups of people - only this time he'll actually see the people.

Not counting the September school sales tax vote, this is supposed to be an "off year" for Georgia elections and political races. But that changed this past week, when Rep. Vance Smith was named Georgia Transportation Commissioner. He'll surrender his House seat, because it's hard to lobby yourself for road work in your district.

Rep. Vance Smith is giving up a seat which stretches from northwest Columbus across Harris County to the LaGrange area. At first glance, it seems to be a safe Republican seat - and the candidate who puts the most pictures of President Obama next to his opponent may be most likely to win.

Jerry Luquire makes occasional appearances on WLTZ's "Rise N Shine." But long-time Columbus residents remember him as the former fill-in host of WRCG's "Talkline." That means Laquire is likely to win the endorsement of Doug Kellett - which Kellett could promote on radio stations in Charlotte and Salt Lake City, but not around here.

Jerry Luquire also hosted an evening call-in talk show on TV-16, back when it was WCGT. Even though he comes across as a right-wing conservative, his show vanished when Christian Television Network bought the station. Maybe that's why Luquire is running - he has to win a seat to get a show like Ed Harbison's "Public Agenda."

We were surprised to do a Google search for "Jerry Laquire," and find very few mentions of him. In fact, there are more links to old blog entries than anything else. Talk about laying low, to wait for the right moment to enter politics....

But we mentioned Jerry Luquire here a number of times, when he was a TV talk show host. That's because he said a number of outlandish things on the air -- things which a campaign opponent could throw against him. For instance:

+ Luquire dismissed Atlantic hurricanes as "little," several weeks before Katrina hit New Orleans [1 Jan 06]. I suppose that means he'd support bills putting skyscraper condos on Jekyll Island.

+ Luquire accused Rep. Calvin Smyre of promoting disunity, in the wake of the Kenneth Walker shooting [16 Dec 03]. Imagine the fights they could have over where to improve Veterans Parkway.

+ Luquire reportedly spent an entire evening mispronouncing the first name of U.S. House candidate Dylan Glenn [11 Aug 04]. Josh McKoon should be thankful he's already committed to a State Senate race.

BLOG UPDATE: Are retired generals allowed to cry? Jerry White choked back tears, as his long dream became reality -- the grand opening of the National Infantry Museum's centerpiece exhibits. White told WLTZ it was his "happiest moment." If only The Fife and Drum restaurant served "happy meals" to go with it.

A crowd estimated in the thousands attended the grand opening ceremony for what we've dubbed NIM-SCAPP (fixing our hyphen). The ribbon was cut by Rep. Sanford Bishop with a bayonet, while Mayor Jim Wetherington stood behind him. Of course, the mayor would have used nothing more lethal than a Taser.

Former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell was the guest speaker at the grand opening. He told reporters the National Infantry Museum is unique, because it honors the individual soldier. And unlike that memorial in Washington, these soldiers actually are known to somebody.

WRBL noticed an appearance at the grand opening by three "USO Liberty Bells" from New York. Why didn't someone tell me those attractive young women were coming? I might have rented a soldier's outfit for the weekend.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: The weekend crime report didn't get overlooked by one reader....

I think I seem to remember "someone" predicting that lowering the standards of the Police Department would lead to problems. Hmmm..who could it have been?

Chief Boren is a sorry Police Chief. He says that he will not tolerate Police Officers breaking the law, but yet I have a list of officers who have broken the law and have been allowed to resign WITHOUT prosecution. Some even still working on the force. You are so full of cr*p Ricky!

This message included an online news story about the arrest and firing of two Columbus police officers. One reportedly was flown back to Georgia from "military leave" and duty in Iraq. When Baghdad suddenly seems like a refreshing change of scenery, is that a good sign or a bad one?

One former Columbus officer is accused of changing the identification number on a stolen motorcycle. The other is accused of joining in a scheme to falsely report a different stolen motorcycle, to gain insurance money. Those bikes may hide well in traffic, but not other places....

By our count, five Columbus police officers have faced trouble with the law so far this year. One lost her job for actions before joining the force, and one apparently remains on the job after a DUI arrest. Does this mean Chief Ricky Boren is getting tough with violators? Or does it mean officers need yet another big raise, because they're more tempted than ever to break the law?

Let's see what else is making news on a busy Father's Day weekend....

+ The Saturday high in Columbus was 98 degrees F. Days like this make me wonder whatever happened to the old pop music group 98 Degrees - and if a reunion tour would require changing the name to 100 Degrees, to allow for global warming.

+ An estimated 10,000 people defied the heat to attend "Family Day in the Park" at Cooper Creek Park. But did you see on the evening news what Columbus Police brought - a portable tower, to watch over the event? I guess it's not police intimidation until they open the tower windows and throw out tear gas canisters.

+ Standard & Poor's lowered the credit rating of Synovus Financial to "junk" level. That's strange, considering a stock analyst from SunTrust raised Synovus from "neutral" to "buy" only days before. Is this some kind of stunt to make SunTrust's stock price double by mid-July?

+ Auburn University trustees voted to raise in-state tuition six percent. The money will pay for a new "health and wellness center" - as if a center on living within a budget wouldn't be more appropriate.

+ The Columbus Woodbats' Saturday night game at Golden Park was canceled, because the opposing team didn't have enough available players. I thought this was a "summer college league," where keeping up your grades didn't matter.

+ Instant Message to WHAL-AM and WEAM-AM: It's Friday night. The Woodbats are playing at home. The Lions are playing at home. And you two "sports radio" stations are offering talk shows from hundreds of miles away? Both teams probably would pay you right now, for a little nice publicity.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 12.5 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: 653 (- 29, 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.

CORRECTION 1/11:05am

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Friday, June 19, 2009

19 JUN 09: Forward March

Talk about a big and busy weekend in Columbus! A new museum officially opens during the morning. A weekend of "outdoor sports" begins in the afternoon. Yet the event likely to draw the biggest crowd will have the least amount of parking.

Let's take the events in order - beginning with today's grand opening of the National Infantry Museum. Well, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. Well, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park. Welllll.... maybe we should create a good Army acronym, and call it NIMS-CAPP.

The museum complex actually opened in March. Then retired General Jerry White grumbled attendance was low. That may explain all the promotional hype for today's grand opening. There's a special section in the newspaper, an hour-long special on TV tonight - and I'm a bit surprised there won't be a military parade down South Lumpkin Road.

The main museum is what actually opens today. Other sections have been open since March, such as the IMAX Theatre - so if you can't attend today's ceremony, the footage from WLTZ's high-definition cameras may be shown there next week for six dollars a ticket.

Project managers admitted to WLTZ Thursday the National Infantry Museum had to do its own version of a "big switch" during construction. It switched from analog video to digital - although you'd think an analog TV showing soldiers trudging through Vietnam would be much truer to the era.

(Which reminds me: did you see WRBL's live report from the museum Thursday night? It was sent over the Internet via Skype - but the video quality was so poor, I was left thinking Skype rhymes with cheapee.)

The guest speaker at the National Infantry Museum's grand opening is retired General Colin Powell. Hopefully his visit includes a drive down Colin Powell Parkway in Phenix City - where the locals can point to everything that's changed in recent years. Most of it was due to the April tornado, but still....

At my Thursday night poker game, I asked the table if anyone planned to go to the National Infantry Museum grand opening. No one seemed interested, and one man said he'd wait because today would be too crowded. It wasn't too crowded to have eight players around a poker table, but that's another matter.

The museum staff promises to have shuttles and trams available, to transport people from overflow parking lots to the grand opening ceremony. Shoppers who expect such things at Columbus Park Crossing simply will have to walk for a day.

Peter Bowden of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau told WRBL the city is trying to promote the National Infantry Museum as a tourist attraction. It can be used for military reunions, wedding parties - and I can't wait for them to borrow an idea from Port Columbus, and hold a weekend Humvee show.

After you walk around the National Infantry Museum, you can head to South Commons for the start of the second annual Aflac Outdoor Games. I'm not sure exactly when cooking barbecue chicken became a "game," but that's beside the point....

One highlight of the Aflac Outdoor Games will be "timbersports" events, which will be recorded by ESPN and shown later in the year. One of these events is the "Hot Saw Competition" - and if it's not kept in the shade, any saw is likely to be hot this weekend.

The schedule for the Aflac Outdoor Games also includes daily demonstrations of something called "flyball." This obviously was a concession to displaced softball players, who had their league seasons disrupted.

The Aflac Outdoor Games even has a guest appearance by "Bob and Sheri" from WCGQ-FM. After all those years on the radio, it's nice to see they're finally making a public appearance in Columbus - after hiding from all those offended church pastors.

So which event is likely to draw the biggest crowd of the weekend? I'm guessing it will still be Davis Broadcasting's "Family Day in the Park" Saturday at Cooper Creek Park. Before Aflac brought in "agility dogs," this event had people calling each other "dawgs."

Family Day in the Park is so huge that businesses near Cooper Creek Park have to make special preparations for it. A few charge exorbitant parking fees, to make extra money. And one year, I noticed Shooters on Milgen Road was closed - perhaps out of fear "gangsta rappers" might show up.

True confession: I'm not familiar with the star acts scheduled for Family Day in the Park. One of them is named Twista - so I'm assuming he/she/they will be introduced by meteorologist Bruce Lee.

The other events happening in Columbus this weekend will have a hard time competing with all this. The Lions have a key indoor football game. The Woodbats are playing at Golden Park. And hopefully local dads won't mind if their children don't remember Father's Day until Monday.

But it occurred to me that city planners are missing a golden opportunity here. Shouldn't some of the weekend events be combined, to maximize attendance? For instance, have infantry soldiers chant in cadence during the log rolling contest - or have the "agility dogs" run through a shooting range for the Army marksmanship unit.

BLOG UPDATE: Hooray! Nearly a week of "scanning and rescanning" finally brought success Thursday night. My HDTV finally found WTVM's digital signal. Maybe some key component had to melt when the temperature topped 95 degrees F.

The return of WTVM means all the wandering TV stations in the area have come home to my digital set - except Georgia Public Broadcasting. Children relying on over-the-air television in Columbus South might grow up thinking the "Cookie Monster" is hiding at the Lance Foods plant.

Now that we've looked ahead to the future, let's look back on some Thursday news headlines:

+ Rep. Vance Smith of Pine Mountain was named Georgia's new transportation commissioner. Do you realize what this means? Within five years, Smith's influence could widen Interstate 185 to six lanes throughout Harris County.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported construction work has been suspended at the new Rob Doll Nissan location on Whittlesey Road. Doll explains the delay is due to lengthy negotiations with Nissan's financing company. If someone suggested Doll hire Bill Heard's legal team, this could be real trouble....

(Radio ads during the spring indicated the new Rob Doll Nissan would be open about now. But Thursday. the Rob Doll web site only said "soon." Regular car-buyers know this approach as the stare-down.)

+ A judge in Birmingham ruled former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy owes shareholders nearly three billion dollars, due to fraud and mismanagement. Since Scrushy still is in federal prison, shareholders may have to settle for receiving compensation in cigarette packs.

+ Instant Message to the city crew which put up a "MEN WORKING AHEAD" sign at 12th and Veterans Parkway: I only have one word to say to you - sexist.

COMING NEXT WEEK: An election "off-year" suddenly is on, and could get wild.... and this blog marks another milestone....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up more than 12.5 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: 682 (+ 22, 3.3%)

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

© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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