Tuesday, June 09, 2009

9 JUN 09: Park, Put It In

It's nice to see the Georgia Supreme Court is concerned about saving energy. When Columbus city attorneys showed up in Atlanta Monday, the court had a ruling in another case waiting to hand them at the door.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the city of Columbus, and in favor of the "Education Park Coalition." You may remember this group, which wants land behind the Columbus Public Library turned into a park. Right now it's a big slab of asphalt, with some weeds - yet for some reason, children aren't staging bike races there during the summer.

Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote for the court, but stopped short of declaring there has to be a park behind the library on Macon Road. I think that means she's still in the running for future U.S. Supreme Court openings - because an "activist judge" would have ordered the park built, and even shown up with a shovel.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled on the narrow issue of whether the Education Park Coalition can sue the city of Columbus, over the use of sales tax money around the library. Judge Doug Pullen and the state appeals court said no. The state's highest court decided that was an error -- so now the coalition can resume regular meetings in a big booth at Country's Barbecue.

The question in the case was whether the Education Park Coalition had to prove in advance that the city of Columbus acted "ultra vires." That's a fancy Latin legal term for going "beyond its powers" - and is NOT about sending a powerful e-mail virus to coalition members' computers.

The Georgia Supreme Court decided Columbus city officials can be challenged in a lawsuit, about whether they "failed to perform their public duty" with the land behind the main library. For some, that means a park. For others, it means "greenspace." At this moment.... well, at least the weeds are green.

The court ruling says judges such as Doug Pullen should NOT make rulings on the facts of a lawsuit, before that suit goes to trial. This clearly means it should be left to the attorneys. And I think this is one situation where a "smoke-filled room" still is allowed under Georgia's smoking law.

Trouble is, a spokesman for the Muscogee County Library Board indicated on the evening news the park matter already has been haggled by attorneys - for hours. Now it could happen all over again, with a lawsuit by the Education Park Coalition still possible. And on top of that, coalition attorney Josh McKoon is declaring himself a State Senate candidate today - so that pavement could become a Georgia state park.

As for that other case: the Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments Monday about a Columbus city lawsuit against Hotels.com . It's another case where a web site is accused of keeping some of the city hotel-motel tax charged to customers. If you think the city is upset, imagine what that web site might do to the housekeeping crew.

An attorney for Hotels.com actually admitted in court some hotel-motel tax is kept by the web site. He explained it's a "service charge." Didn't you wonder how those discount travel sites made any money? It either was that, or the web sites installed those in-room refrigerators with three-dollar cans of soda.

-> Our poker games are moving online, sometimes with dramatic results. Check what's happening at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION about Phenix City's big pay raise ended Monday afternoon, with 91 percent of our voters saying the mayor and council should be recalled (10-1). We don't know who cast the vote against it - but perhaps that Councilor will admit to it at next week's meeting.

A reader suggested "recall should be initiated" after the Phenix City Council voted to give itself a 133-percent raise in late May, while doubling the mayor's salary. But former Hurtsboro Constable Robert Schweiger left a comment during our poll, suggesting recalls are NOT possible in Alabama. Given Schweiger's record in Hurtsboro, he's probably tried it and knows for sure.

We found a commentary from the Birmingham News which indicates Robert Schweiger is correct. Alabama's constitution prohibits recalls of any elected official, from the Governor down. So if you're really upset with the Phenix City Council, open your computer calendar right now and make a note to yourself for August 2012 - because admit it, otherwise you'll forget.

But another voter responded it would be "heresy" to recall the Phenix City Council. "This is small town, Sin City, Alabama, USA - a place where history comes alive." Or in this case, it's "what progress has preserved" with hyperinflation figured in.

Our new Big Blog Question is a battle of the O'Brians. With WKCN-FM "Kissin 99.3" talking about putting streaming video on Cable TV of East Alabama, we wonder if morning star Bear O'Brian is funnier than new "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brian. It's a bit like our old poll for the best hair in Columbus, only in a different direction....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our "Monday movie" mention brought this message....

Why hasn't the new Star Trek movie run at the Imax yet. I bet that would draw a crowd.

It's not clear why it hasn't appeared yet, but the IMAX box office told me Monday "Star Trek" is coming soon. An employee did NOT have the date at hand. But perhaps the "Monsters and Aliens" have to settle their little dispute first.

Now let's see what else was in the Monday news....

+ Author Cilla McCain announced her book "Murder in Baker Company" about the killing of Fort Benning soldier Richard Davis will be released next 1 February. A book with this sort of subject matter can't be easy to promote. You want it to appeal to readers, while you probably hope the killers don't appeal in court anymore.

+ Phenix City Police reported someone stole a backhoe from a construction site, then removed an ATM from the Wachovia bank downtown. Aw c'mon, folks - that new NCR plant won't begin production for several months.

+ The Columbus Water Board held a closed-door discussion on the River Road holding tank collapse. The cause of the crash apparently has been determined, but it's NOT being released until legal settlements are finalized. Uh-oh - does that mean a security dog was a little too lively around a panel of switches?

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced he'll begin a trade-related business trip later this week. The final stop will be Australia -- and hopefully one of Riley's aides will remind him the Outback Steakhouse was created in the U.S.

(Governor Riley's delegation will travel first to France, for the Paris Air Show. The Alabama group will have a challenge - because Parisians will expect it to top the amount spent by President Obama's family.)

+ Members of football's Atlanta Falcons visited Fort Benning, and dined with some of the soldiers. That's a nice thing to do - but don't you wonder if any soldier dared to suggest a Falcons player imitate Pat Tillman?

+ Instant Message to WLTZ's Jeremy Moss: Wow, I think congratulations are in order. The other TV stations were without their regular sportscasters Monday night - but I admit I didn't see your part of the newscast. Did you make sure there were highlights from that St. Louis mixed martial arts card, which I'd never heard of before?

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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.

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