Friday, July 31, 2009

31 JUL 09: Not a Light, But a Lyte

It's amazing, but it's true. Since I put small sacks of food in the trunk of my car late last year for needy people, the number of beggars I've met has dropped dramatically. I really don't think you can smell a sealed can of vienna sausages from 100 yards away....

BLOGGER BEGGARS #3-4: After a three-month dry spell, we encountered two beggars in Columbus in a 30-minute span this week. Beggar #3 caught our attention while we waited for a traffic light to change at Cusseta Road and Benning Drive. At least he didn't pretend to be like a group I met in Toronto, which tried to wash my windshield like a NASCAR pit crew.

The beggar was across Benning Drive, holding what looked like a bottle of laundry detergent. "Can you give me a cigarette?" he asked - as if he needed a backup way to remove an ugly stain from a dress shirt.

"I don't smoke cigarettes," I told the beggar. "They're not good for you." At that moment the light turned green, I turned left to move along - and the man was left to improve his lungs by walking on without nicotine.

A few minutes later I stopped at Cross Country Plaza, to buy a couple of items at Publix. This parking lot attracts more beggars than you might realize -- and it did long before the Columbus Public Library opened, so you can't blame it on people with overdue books.

As I approached my car with two items from Publix, Beggar #4 stopped me with a lengthy story. "I just started a job at Fort Benning," the man explained, "but my car broke down. It's being repaired at White Automotive...." a repair shop several miles down Macon/Wynnton Road. And the man was too big around the waist to receive a military discount.

The car repair was costing this man all his money - yet that wasn't all to his story. "My wife and I are staying at the Efficiency Suites," he said. "My wife's pregnant." Oh no - did this man actually decide from my sweaty T-shirt and shorts that I was an obstetrician?

Thankfully, the beggar needed something else for his pregnant wife. "She's dehydrated, and her doctor says she should drink something called Pedialyte." My bag contained skim milk and diet cola - but this "lyte" beverage was completely new to me. For all I knew, it could be a low-calorie drink for low-impact walkers.

Clearly my "beggar bags" with meat and juice wasn't going to answer this beggar's need, so it was decision time. "We'll go inside, and I'll buy you the Pedialyte," I said -- hoping we wouldn't wind up in the aisle with beer and wine.

I put the milk and soda in the trunk of my car, and walked with the beggar back inside Publix. "I've never shopped for this sort of thing before," the apparent first-time father-to-be told me.

"I've never shopped for it, either," I answered. This moment wasn't quite right for an episode of "Two-and-a-Half Men," but it was close.

We walked to the aisle with baby items -- and after a little searching, I found the giant bottles of Pedialyte on a top shelf. The beggar was about to ask women in the aisle for assistance when I found it. To his credit, the man didn't proceed to ask the women for help in buying towels.

Pedialyte actually is a drink to help children recover from diarrhea and vomiting. But the beggar insisted a doctor recommended it for his pregnant wife. At least the doctor didn't suggest she eat Gerber baby food as well....

I used a credit card to make my second Publix purchase in five minutes - two one-liter bottles of unflavored Pedialyte. As the beggar took the bottles, I stuffed the receipt in my pocket and walked out the door. That way, he couldn't turn around to ask for a refund -- or possibly make an exchange for unflavored bottles of whiskey.

As I drove home from Publix, the questions started filling my mind. Did this beggar know something I didn't about Pedialyte? Could it possibly contain some measure of alcohol, or an ingredient for a "high?" After all, it must have been on a top shelf for a reason. Yet the checkout woman never asked for my identification - perhaps presuming gray hairs were sufficient.

But as I kept driving, I ruled out that theory. Why would you put alcohol in a children's medicine? Besides, Pedialyte already recommends keeping a separate bottle of alcohol in the medicine cabinet. It's rubbing alcohol for sterilization, but still....

Some online searching at home led to two possible explanations for the beggar's need. He could have been telling the truth all along, as a family of doctors recommends Pedialyte for pregnant women. One member of that family appears on the TV series "The Doctors" - but it seems they're often too distracted by sex topics to get into this issue.

On the other hand, I also found web sites where people confess they drink Pedialyte to recover from hangovers. This beggar was walking slowly, but he wasn't stumbling around the store -- and he was able to say "Pedialyte" without spitting on me.

Now that we've given you a surprise health lesson, let's move on to some Thursday news headlines:

+ Fort Benning officers showed off a new hand-held security scanner, which can check visitors at the gates. WRBL reported it can scan the license plates of every state - except Georgia. It's nice to see one state government still believes that Biblical "mark of the beast" language.

+ Columbus State University staged a security drill, in case someone with a gun ever tries to go on a rampage inside a building. If all else fails, the C.S.U. Police will be happy to call for backup snipers from Shooters down the road.

+ A Randolph County, Georgia judge ordered the school superintendent and the school board chairman jailed four days for contempt of court. I suspect an appeal is planned - since teachers only face three days of furloughs.

+ The Georgia "sales tax holiday" began. But this year, teachers were NOT provided with gift cards from the governor for school supplies. Apparently Sonny Perdue decided it's improper to provide "Sonny Money" from a rainy-day fund.

+ Lanett Mayor Oscar Crawley announced the Municipal Airport will receive $24 million in federal grant money for improvements, including a longer runway. And amazingly, the city was NOT required to rename the airport Kia International.

+ Two DeKalb County, Georgia police officers were placed on leave. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports they're accused of running a criminal background check on President Obama from a patrol car. Aw, c'mon! Is that the only remaining way to verify where he was born?

+ Instant Message to President Obama and his staff: Why stop there? Why not have all sides in the health care debate gather at the White House for beer? Or would the American Medical Association object, citing potential liver damage?

SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK: Expect the unexpected.... that's all we're saying for now....

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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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© 2003-09 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

30 JUL 09: 222 Take Two

A car slowed to a stop in the Historic District Wednesday, but two people inside were left disappointed. "We're not open yet," a man on the sidewalk told them. But please don't get the wrong idea - not that many people are searching for new defense lawyers, to file civil suits.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: A cozy restaurant should reopen in the Historic District today, after being closed for several months. Café 222 on Seventh Street has a new owner who plans to make some changes, including evening dining on weekends. At least there will be available parking then - because the Columbus Career Center a block away will be closed.

"I just love this place," Auburn native Mike Vance told me during the lunch hour Wednesday. His new venture offers a great deal to like, as Café 222 dates from the 1890s - back when the Historic District's homes were modern enough to qualify for Architectural Digest magazine.

When your blog reviewed Café 222 four years ago [22 Nov 05], we noted some of the unusual furnishings. For instance, historic books lined the restaurant walls -- and come to think of it, this may explain why the Columbus Public Library's reference collection looked very different after moving east from Wynnton Road.

But business apparently went bad for Café 222 early this year. I was surprised when I walked by it several weeks ago - because not only was the restaurant closed during the noon hour, but an Easter menu was posted near the door. When that's on display in the middle of June, you've gone beyond "historic" to out-of-date.

Mike Vance hoped to reopen Café 222 before today, but he faced a couple of delays. One involved hiring a kitchen and wait staff. Then a Health Department inspector had to arrive, to approve the restaurant for operation. If the fried chicken and baked chicken get mixed up, that's potential trouble.

Mike Vance's vision for Café 222 is to become "a bit more upscale," while lowering the prices. That sounds like a contradiction - until you remember it could be the only way for parts of the housing market to make a comeback from the recession.

Another of Mike Vance's big ideas is to open Café 222 beyond breakfast and lunch. He told me he plans to open the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights, with a live guitar player. Plenty of Columbus State University music students living nearby would be glad to play for tips.

In fact, Café 222 might draw a good crowd of Columbus State fine arts students - but they'll have to be persuaded to head south to Seventh Street, instead of north on Broadway. Maybe if the management made a cooperative agreement on its "wine list" with Little Joe's package store one block away....

But Mike Vance made clear to me that for now, he's only operating Café 222. He said he's been asked to take over the affiliated Rothschild-Pound Inn down the street, but he's not prepared to take that step yet. With the tourism industry still recovering from recession, owning an Inn still isn't quite.... well, in.

Downtown dining may be showing signs of life. I was surprised recently to find Minnie's Uptown Restaurant on Eighth Street now is open on Sundays. Yet Chester's Bar-B-Q decided to close on Saturdays -- so pork may be out, and fried chicken is in.

But not all is well in the Columbus restaurant business. WXTX "News at Ten" reported Wednesday night Destiny Dogs near Victory Drive will close for good this weekend, after two break-ins in the last two weeks. Hot dog stands should NOT require guard dogs to protect them.

BLOG UPDATE: The debate about a city Crime Prevention Director kept bubbling Wednesday. Crime Prevention Task Force Chair Frank Myers told WRBL the alternative would be the status quo - "crime prevention in name only." If Myers isn't careful, next week's "National Night Out Against Crime" could turn into a night out against him as well.

The "politicizing" of crime prevention may be happening, even before Columbus Council votes on a new director. Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman said Wednesday the Crime Prevention Office would deny his department needed people. Last July Countryman asked for 26 new deputies -- but he couldn't even get CB&T to provide free space for the Junior Marshal's office.

Speaking of which: Wednesday's revealed Phenix City will receive federal stimulus money to pay for four new police officers. LaGrange will receive four new officers as well. But the federal government apparently decided Columbus doesn't need any stimulus money for officers - especially if they'll be guarding the new NCR plant.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: We took a provocative question to the beer-loving opponents at our Wednesday night poker table. "If President Obama invited you to the White House for a beer, would you go?"

"I'd go," one young man answered. "I'd like to date Michelle Obama."

So much for hypothetical questions - now to more real news headlines from Wednesday:

+ The new school year opened in Chattahoochee County. Yes, school opened on 29 July - even before the four-day "back to school" sales tax holiday began. I guess the strategy is to make families buy supplies in Cusseta, by giving them as little time as possible to drive to Peachtree Mall.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported several Muscogee County School Board members have offered to take a pay cut, in conjunction with a teacher furlough. You'll have the ask the board why they didn't think of this, before approving the new administration building.

+ Dick McMichael's blog reported Mayor Jim Wetherington plans to vote for the school sales tax in September. But the mayor told the Columbus Rotary Club he will NOT campaign actively for it. He'll apparently leave that touchy education subject to the new Crime Prevention Director.

+ Aflac announced it will buy Continental American Insurance for $100 million. It's the first business takeover in Aflac history - and hopefully the company has enough reserves to avoid paying a large duck bill.

+ Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin issued an order for his staff to take three furlough days this fall. Is this really setting a good example? If farmers took three furlough days at harvest time, their crops might be ruined.

+ WTVM finished a series on the 1999 U.S. Little League baseball champions from Phenix City. Team member Alex Acuff is now a Columbus State University cheerleader - which still requires good fielding skills, when a young woman is tossed high into the air.

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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, July 29, 2009

29 JUL 09: One for the Money

The people of Columbus have spoken in online polls -- not once, but twice. And for the moment, a majority on Columbus Council seems to be ignoring them. If the council was discussing health care reform, this might get very ugly....

Columbus Council decided Tuesday night to advance a proposed city Crime Prevention Director from "first reading" to "second reading." In city government, that means a proposal is succeeding. At the doctor's office, this could mean the staff is trying to prevent a malpractice suit.

But the decision on first reading came after a two-hour public hearing -- and it came with at least one Columbus Councilor absent. That's what happens when you schedule this important hearing at the same time as Columbus Woodbats "Fan Appreciation Night."

The former baseball player was NOT absent from Columbus Council - and it was Glenn Davis who said he wanted more discussion on the Crime Prevention Director's position, with everyone involved. It may be time to check the restaurants at Davis's hotel investments, to make sure he doesn't violate the Open Meetings Law.

Glenn Davis expressed concern a city Crime Prevention Director might become a political position. But there's another way to look at this. If online rumors about the mayor are true, Davis may be saying this because HE wants a higher political position.

Mayor Jim Wetherington's Crime Prevention Task Force attended the Columbus Council public hearing. Chair Frank Myers told WXTX "News at Ten" after six months of work, it's time the effort had a director. And as of Tuesday, Brett Favre finally may be available to fill that role.

The Crime Prevention Task Force offered recommendations in five different areas. Among them....

+ Upgrading recreation centers, so they stay open later during the school year. Library employees can simply drive there, after closing their branches early.

+ Enforcement of a late-night juvenile curfew. This curfew took effect in Columbus several years ago - but teenagers apparently don't party on Broadway anymore, where the officers are.

+ A program at Columbus Technical College to train jail and prison inmates for the workplace. Trade in that switchboard at the culinary department for a giant meat cleaver.

+ City assistance in the creation of neighborhood watch groups. As if Columbus Police officers don't do that now, through their "Crime Prevention Unit?" And will people still want to form those groups, after what happened with Henry Louis Gates?

The task force report admits "there is much duplication of 'crime prevention' efforts in our community...." Yet that's the very problem some people have with creating a city Crime Prevention Director. Duplication of work simply would move up the flowchart - and whose office would be closer to the mayor, anyway?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. People from around the world are visiting "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: An updated list of "adequate yearly progress" high school transfers left one reader unimpressed:

If Columbus High was forced to take a share of the transfers all the other high schools would not be adding portables..It is time the all magnet school idea was put aside..It is costly and is causing non magnet students in that attendance area to be bussed all over town..I realize CHS is the showcase of the county,but times are hard and crowded conditions brought on by a federal law is interfering with the education of non magnet kids..Get real MCSD board and do what is right for ALL high school students..

With Kendrick High School added, the number of students transferring to Hardaway and Northside this coming term is now above 400. Yet how can we be sure Columbus High School would NOT need portable classrooms? And in that school's neighborhood, the only good roomy place to put portables might be in Lakebottom Park.

You could blame the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act with making some Muscogee County high schools crowded. But base realignment is liable to make them crowded over the next couple of years, anyway. And dropping magnet schools might risk a violation of another federal law - or have we forgotten the one about racial segregation?

Let's see what else attracted our attention Tuesday....

+ The Hurtsboro City Council had a special meeting on its budget deficit. Mayor Rayford Tapley told WRBL the books can be balanced if garbage fees are increased. Then former Constable Robert Schweiger probably challenged the mayor to drive the garbage truck himself.

+ The owner of the Goo Goo Car Wash chain appeared on WDAK radio's "Viewpoint." Lamar Beck started in Columbus, and now has car washes as far away as Las Vegas -- perfect for cleaning your car before your wallet is cleaned in the casinos.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported accused attorney Mark Shelnutt turned down a plea agreement in May. Now he's scheduled for trial in November, and in the process he's showing his religious background. Shelnutt is a United Methodist - and a Baptist attorney wouldn't dare gamble like that.

+ Authorities in Birmingham announced two arrests in a plot to sell counterfeit cigars. I'm not sure how you counterfeit a cigar - well, unless these were novelty cigars which you probably shouldn't light....

(The Jefferson County Sheriff says many of the bogus smokes were labeled as "Swisher Sweets." I've never understood why someone would give a cigar that name. Doesn't it sound like something you should use to clean a toilet bowl?)

+ The Columbus Woodbats finished their regular season by assailing the "Awbil Royals" from metro Atlanta 13-3. I guess the visitors spell their name this way because the "Awful Royals" have been in Kansas City for years.

+ The Auburn Plainsman reported Auburn University has reached a deal with "Tailgate Guys" to provide food and tents outside Jordan-Hare Stadium. You can reserve a top-quality tailgate party before every home football game for $4,275. [True/Associated Press] Of course, at that price you might try building a shed on your parking space and living there 365 days a year.

+ Instant Message to the University of Alabama student body: What gives? The latest "Princeton Review" ranks Georgia fourth on the "party school" list, while you've dropped out of the top ten. You guys are taking football MUCH too seriously again.

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 550 (+ 16, 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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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

28 JUL 09: School Surprise

If you didn't know better, you might think the Georgia High School Association is starting a poker tour. School boards are looking at the schedules, then telling teachers: "We shuffle, you deal."

The Muscogee County School Board did its own shuffling of the calendar at a special meeting Monday. Three "in-service" days for teachers were moved, because of possible state-ordered furloughs. Countless students were left disappointed -- the ones who hoped the start of the school year would be moved back, beyond a week from Thursday.

The original Muscogee County school calendar included in-service days in late October, mid-February and mid-March. But the school board voted Monday to combine those three days at the start of winter break in December. It won't quite be the sales tax holiday, but Peachtree Mall could have some extra open parking spaces.

Muscogee County Superintendent says she expects the December in-service days to disappear completely today, when the Georgia Board of Education votes on mandatory furloughs. Governor Sonny Perdue has recommended three furlough days for teachers - instead of saving state money by following Sarah Palin's example and resigning his office early.

The Georgia Board of Education has to approve a change in state rules, which require teachers to work 190 days. Critics will say this rule already gives teachers 14 weeks off in a calendar year - but they should remember something. Furloughs would give teachers extra days to listen to right-wing radio talk shows.

The in-service shuffle will NOT change the calendar year for Muscogee County students. But even before the school board's special meeting Monday, our InBox had a different scheduling idea:

The Ledger Enquirer reported Peach County Schools are going to a 4 day school week..They plan to add time to each of those 4 days to make up for the time lost..The plan calls for a savings of $400,000 in utilities and transportation..

I wonder if the Muscogee County board has looked at this plan? State technical schools are using this short week now as part of the educational budget reduction.

I assume the third "off day" under this idea would be Monday. Thursday afternoon pep rallies before a Friday night football game simply wouldn't provide the same momentum.

The school board might well look at a four-day week before long -- as Superintendent Susan Andrews told reporters the state wants cuts in transportation spending as well. But there are other ways to save in this area. For instance, having high school students push their school bus would save fuel AND provide wholesome exercise.

One of the Columbus TV stations had an online poll Monday on switching to a four-day school week. If I heard correctly, most voters like the idea. But then again, maybe those votes came from drivers dreaming of fewer slow mornings in school zones.

If you ask me, the Muscogee County School Board missed a golden opportunity here. Shouldn't the teacher furlough days be scheduled for mid-September - so parents become so annoyed with having their children at home, they'll vote for the school sales tax?

The Muscogee County School Board happened to discuss furloughs as the district's new teachers began two days of orientation at Midland Middle School. The district web site says one goal of the orientation is to explain "the 'culture' of our system." Hint: you'll find it at Columbus High School and Wynnton Arts Academy.

By the way, Governor Sonny Perdue also wants Georgia public schools to cut their nursing budgets. This is the closest Perdue has come yet to accepting health care reform....

On the Alabama side, THE 5:00 p.m. news showed summer marching band practice at Smiths Station High School. Musicians are preparing for football games and parades - and I assume at some point, they train in the fine points of selling band candy.

Now let's ring the closing bell, and clear our desks of other Monday news....

+ Federal Judge Clay Land postponed the start of the Mark Shelnutt trial until the Monday after Election Day. State Senate candidates now will be busy at local libraries, searching for any newspaper picture they can find showing Shelnutt next to an opponent.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported former Columbus Councilor Nathan Suber has filed papers to run for office next year. But which office? Will Suber take on Jerry Barnes a second time? Might he run for mayor? And would Suber dare challenge State Senator Ed Harbison, without any help from Josh McKoon?

+ The Alabama Marine Police revealed 33 arrests were made during Saturday's "Aquapalooza" concert on Lake Martin. Several people were arrested for boating under the influence - which seems strange to me, since David BUI wasn't even on the program.

+ Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama ended the grandstanding suspense, by declaring he'll vote against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. His announcement is likely to change as many Senate votes as a rejection by the hosts of "The View."

+ The Southeastern Conference announced a new agreement to keep the football championship game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome through 2015. So much for the idea of playing the game every other year in New Orleans - which I haven't heard Nick Saban mention since he stopped coaching a team near New Orleans.

+ The Indy Racing League announced it will hold a "Grand Prix of Alabama" race next year. The site will be a six-year-old track in suburban Birmingham - NOT in Talladega, where too many race fans would have trouble pronouncing Prix correctly.

+ WLTZ showed part of the Fort Benning Third Brigade's recent training program in California. One exercise includes hundreds of "role players" pretending to occupy an Iraqi town - and some of the actors are native Iraqis, who may be waiting for their "big break" in a Michael Moore movie about waterboarding.

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Ashley Ball: How did you get away with that? I mean, posting a Twitter message on your station's site saying you'd be watching Stephanie Tiso on WLTZ? Is there yet another media crossover coming -- or have you found a new job?

COMING SOON: A man asks for a form of baby food.... except his baby isn't born yet....

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 534 (+ 13, 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, July 27, 2009

27 JUL 09: First, Alive, Local

What a difference one year can make. On this day a year ago, TV cameras waited outside a Phenix City church for the results of a dramatic vote. One year later, TV cameras were missing - and church members brought their own cameras. For smiling at each other, not spying on each other.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: First Baptist Church of Phenix City held "Pastor Appreciation Day" Sunday, complete with anniversary cakes and a dinner after the service. One year earlier, such an event would have been unthinkable -- as dozens of members seemingly wanted a Pastor Depreciation Day, to trade him in as inexpensively as possible.

Pastor Eugene Langner Jr. told your blog he never saw so much "meanness and evil" as he did in the weeks leading to last July's vote on his ouster. This indicates to me he turns off the TV set during prime-time.

Eugene Langner added some of the people who showed up for the big vote last July at Phenix City First Baptist "hadn't been here in 20 years." I tried to crack a joke about an unusual homecoming service, but he seemed to disagree with that....

Another Phenix City First Baptist minister told me opponents of the pastor tried to pack the pews for last summer's big vote. People reportedly were pulled out of nursing homes and hospitals to appear at church. Someone should have told the ministers that - at least so they could have extra anointing oil ready.

We were invited back to Phenix City First Baptist for what one member called "Independence Day," to see how things had changed. The first obvious change was a lack of "pew-packing." We could have had a front-row seat at the worship service - except we heard a minister say years ago how nice it is to save that row for latecomers.

In contrast to last July, the focus was positive at Sunday's Phenix City First Baptist worship service. Only one thing might have made critics of the pastor uncomfortable - a musician on the platform. I noticed he warmed up for the service by playing the bass line of Michael Jackson's song "Beat It."

The Chairman of Phenix City First Baptist's trustees called it a "very happy day," but his opening remarks were NOT filled with boasting. Dr. David White said the congregation last summer had become "complacent.... self-centered.... lazy in our faith...." It's one thing to rest in the Lord on the Sabbath, but being lazy apparently is something else.

Dr. David White noted Phenix City First Baptist Church has added 33 new members in the last 12 months. But ministers admitted to me afterward about 100 members left, in the wake of the vote to keep the pastor. So this church appears to be about two months ahead of the rest of the U.S., when it comes to having a recession.

We noted here last July how many famous names attended Phenix City First Baptist [28 Jul 08]. I'm told former mayor Sammy Howard left the church as a result of the pastoral vote, as did former councilor Ray Bush. But former police chief Brian McGarr remained, and helped in the kitchen with Sunday's dinner - ready to detain juvenile delinquents trying to steal early dessert.

Dr. David White told the congregation the budget at Phenix City First Baptist Church is now "stable." The ushers made sure of that Sunday - as unlike last July, the offering plate actually came down my row.

The trustees' presentation ended with the congregation of Phenix City First Baptist giving Pastor Eugene Langner a standing ovation. And I didn't notice anyone standing up to walk out, either....

"Thank you for being you," Pastor Eugene Langner said in response. Then during his sermon, he noted how some members had engaged in "sacrificial giving" during the last 12 months - while others took on "multiple positions." Yes, it IS possible to count the offering after teaching a Sunday School class.

The sermon for Pastor Appreciation Day was about "Life Changing Moments" - and Pastor Eugene Langner clearly indicated the vote on his tenure last summer was one of them. He recalled the church had an emotional service that July evening, where things began to change. But at this point, the offering envelopes have NOT been revised to say "Rebuilding Fund."

The worship hour with your blogger being invited to join in the covered-dish luncheon. As one member put it: "Follow the chicken smell; we're a Baptist church...."

(We should note for full disclosure that we DID give an offering, DID eat lunch with the congregation - and a minister at Phenix City First Baptist humbled us by becoming a "blog patron" with a financial donation. If you think all Baptists lack a sense of humor, it's time to think again.)

We left with the feeling that First Baptist Church of Phenix City is a peaceful place again. Eugene Langner Jr. begins his 27th year as church pastor, and a check of a church hallway shows that's far longer than his recent predecessors. But one question remained, which we admittedly didn't pursue. Can you really play shuffleboard on a church gym floor that's carpeted?

Now let's see what else made news over the weekend....

+ Area law enforcement officers began a seven-day crackdown called "Take Back Our Highways." Which leads me to ask - who has them now? It's not like I'm seeing NASCAR pit crews and drug dealers at every exit ramp along Interstate 185.

+ Gas prices in parts of the Columbus area jumped by ten cents a gallon, with a low price of $2.25 per gallon at Marathon on Summerville Road. OK, OK - maybe the minimum wage should have stayed where it was.

+ A documentary was shown at the Columbus Public Library on local civil rights history. The film is titled "Can Two Walk Together?" If only two people had done that 50 years ago, the civil rights movement still would be lagging across the South.

+ Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama announced he's made a decision on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor - but will NOT reveal it before Tuesday's committee vote. Aw c'mon! Based on everything I've heard, an "aye" vote on the nomination will be the first positive thing Sessions has said about her.

+ The Chattahoochee Shakespeare Company presented a matinee performance of "The Rocky Horror Show." I assume this production includes the "time warp" dance - which for most older people means something they do at Westville.

(If you think it's strange that a "Shakespeare Company" is presenting Rocky Horror, consider this. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery has been presenting a play about Bear Bryant, and I haven't heard any complaints about that.)

+ Instant Message to the young man I saw in a yellow shirt on South Lumpkin Road the other afternoon: Really now - I don't think the center of the four-lane road is reserved for people on roller skates.

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 521 (- 37, 6.6%)

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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Sunday, July 26, 2009

26 JUL 09: Rainbow Stew

Several e-mails in recent days have had two very different subjects, but one thing in common. They deal with what newspapers like to abbreviate as "GLBT" issues. If you think that's shorthand for the Harlem Globetrotters, we invite you to pause a moment and look up the real meaning.

Both subjects involve Columbus institutions, but one seems much more serious than the other. We'll start with that one, from the director of a local charity. Jeremy Hobbs's Better Way Foundation is seeking sponsors for an HIV/AIDS Run/Walk in September. One request for 50 dollars reportedly brought this response:

Mr. Hobbs,

We will not be able to provide financial sponsorship this year. I do wish you all the best in this very worthy cause. Thanks for contacting us.

Marion Scott

Uh-oh -- turning down Jeremy Hobbs can be risky business. He knows how to send e-mails. He loves to speak before Columbus Council. And it's about time for him to start spreading rumors about running for office in 2010.

Jeremy Hobbs took the e-mail route in responding to this rejection notice. We've condensed slightly a message to seemingly everyone in his address book:

I simply wanted to forward this thread between our organization The Better Way Foundation, Inc. and Marion Scott of Columbus Regional Healthcare. I find this to be an insult to every person living with HIV and AIDS here in Columbus Georgia. Not only do the majority of the people living with HIV and AIDS receive care through Columbus Regional Healthcare, but also use the Medical Center as a majority for their hospital needs.

So, Columbus Regional can find every book Columbus produces and every billboard to advertise on and every other Charitable Organization to give to but when it comes to HIV and AIDS, they can't muster up $50.00 for an incredible sponsorship package deal to show the people living with HIV and AIDS that this community cares and supports them. But instead I have to tell them that the people they give all their money to and their insurance pays out to can't give a little bit back to them. This is unacceptable.

I ask each of you to forward this entire email trail to everyone you know and to let them know this is why HIV patients do not come forward to groups and meetings and partake in life saving exercises like stress therapy, nutrition, exercise because companies add to the social stigma that AIDS is nothing to be supported. And that is why, because of this ignorance Columbus and the South as a whole have more people becoming infected, living and dying with HIV and AIDS than any other region of the country.

Hobbs may have been insulted -- but at least Scott called his cause "very worthy." Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh might have played the song "You Don't Know Me" and lampooned it.

We should note the 50-dollar sponsorship offer for the HIV/AIDS Run/Walk seems to be a discount price. Your blog has seen one request Jeremy Hobbs sent several weeks ago, which had a "standard sponsorship rate" of 75 dollars. Maybe Columbus Regional is holding out to get ten big banners along the course for 25.

(In a similar e-mail specifically sent to Marion Scott, Jeremy Hobbs indicated the Country's "Midnight Express" fundraiser race charges $3,500 for a sponsorship. But that event has been around for years - and as they say, you have to Run/Walk before you can simply run.)

"I have nothing to say about that" is all Marion Scott would say Friday, when we asked her for a comment on this issue. The Columbus Regional spokesperson knew Jeremy Hobbs was spreading e-mails about her. But maybe she knows something we don't - and Scott Ressmeyer has volunteered to take a second motorcycle ride.

But late Friday, Jeremy Hobbs spread another e-mail - admitting he's apologized to Marion Scott for what he wrote before. Here's a condensed version of the follow-up:

For those who know me personally, know I'm very passionate about HIV and AIDS and those like me who live with it every day. I took the news badly and took it personally because this fight is personal for me and 1600 others living in the Chattahoochee Valley. And as you will see below, I did send a letter of apology to Marion Scott this morning. My re-action was shall we say a poor choice, because I should have stepped away from it for a moment and cooled off before pushing the Big Red Button calling on an Airstrike via the Internet against Columbus Regional. Columbus Regional has been a great steward to this community and has literally saved lives through generosity, love and compassion.

As I get older, I must learn to govern my passions better. I just took that news as a devastating blow to the HIV Community only because it meant we wouldn't have the sponsorship of the major medical branch of Columbus Georgia and show to public that Columbus Regional was behind us every step of the way. It hurt because I knew for sure in my heart Columbus Regional would be there for us. But this economy has crippled the tallest figures in our city, our state, and all throughout our nation.

Wow - a leader using the word "apology." We're still not sure if President Obama has used that word in the last week....

At least Jeremy Hobbs stopped short of calling for protests outside The Medical Center, or a boycott of Columbus Regional. Other local activists would have called news conferences to rush this issue onto the TV news -- then quietly settled things behind the scenes, hoping no one would notice.

By the way, a search of the Columbus Regional web site for "HIV" and "AIDS" was surprising. Only a few items came up - one of them the Community Health Pharmacy inside the Health Department. It may be the only place in that part of town serving cocktails. The cocktail of AIDS drugs, I mean - while the Hitch N Rail Tavern down the road only has beer.

Now to that other GLBT e-mail topic - and it's about a TV commercial which we admit stunned us when we saw it:

Has someone's name affected someone's personality? Have you noticed that the head of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Mike Gaynor- Gaylor or gay something, is being depicted as a fairy in a Columbus Chamber of Commerce commercial? They have placed the Gay man's head on a cartoon fairy body and he flits around advertising "Chamberland". Exactly what are they advertising? Gaydom? Has anyone considered the happy impact such a GAY commercial will have on Columbus? Okay, So I get it, he wants to come out of the closet, but does he need to pull the Chamber of Commerce with him?

First of all, his name is Mike Gaymon. The last part of that last name can balance out the first part, and keep him a balanced man.

"There will be NO coming-out party at Chamberland," Chamber of Commerce spokesman Michael Dunbar assured your blog Friday. But I think he wants people to come out TO Chamberland - which is the theme of this year's Chamber Business Expo in mid-August. By the way, the sponsorship rates there make the Better Way Foundation an ever better deal.

The Chamberland theme clearly is modeled after Disneyland - with the Columbus Trade Center divided into sections, somewhat like a theme park. Trouble is, this is still the closest thing the Columbus area has TO a theme park....

Michael Dunbar called the e-mail we read to him "so humorous." But he admits he was a "bit paranoid" about the idea of Mike Gaymon appearing like a fairy in a commercial, so he had the Business Expo committee show it to Gaymon first. "He thought it was a riot," Dunbar says - stopping short of comparing it to a "Stonewall riot."

But Michael Dunbar admitted our phone call was the second the Chamber of Commerce has received about Chamberland having some kind of homosexual overtone. He suggested the questioners find something else to be concerned about - perhaps like lobbying the White House to allow federal stimulus money for the NCR plant.

Let the record show Chamber President Mike Gaymon is a married man with three daughters. He's also mentioned on his weekly WDAK talk show that he's a "preacher's kid." So in his vocabulary, an "outing" probably still means a weekend picnic in the park.

Hopefully we've resolved any lingering rumors -- but I must admit this has raised a related question. Did this kind of misunderstanding force Gayfers department store to sell out to Dillard's several years ago?

Let's move on now to some weekend headlines:

+ Columbus Urban League Reginald Pugh told WRBL his agency will lose state funding in September because African-American elected officials have abandoned him. Pugh claims it's retaliation for his two campaigns against State Senator Ed Harbison. So how did City Manager Isaiah Hugley outvote all the other members of the United Way board, which also cut its funding?

(WRBL checked United Way evaluation reports on the Urban League, and volunteers gave the agency much lower scores this year than in recent years. Maybe it's time to check the bus giving free rides to the polls, and change the shock absorbers.)

+ The minimum wage went up to $7.25 per hour - and Jim Morpeth of Country's Barbecue told the 5:00 p.m. news all workers deserve it. Political wonks across the city heard that, and marked him down as a potential candidate for the Georgia Legislature.

(Those of you critical of the higher minimum wage should stop and think a minute. Which event brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse - the minimum wage going up last July, or investment banks not marking down mortgage rates in September?)

+ Low-income children in Columbus received free school supplies at the annual "Kits for Kids" giveaway. After all these years, are they still giving youngsters #2 pencils? Hasn't some psychologist come forward to warn that number could hurt their self-esteem?

+ Wire services reported Pratt and Whitney may move some of its aircraft work from Connecticut to Columbus. Oh goody - now we have two big projects worthy of federal stimulus money.

+ Lake Martin was filled with boats for the first-ever "Aquapalooza" concert. The crowd could have enjoyed free food with the free country music - but professional bass fishermen decided to have a tournament somewhere else.

(For some reason, Alan Jackson was the top act at Aquapalooza. You'd think Kenny Chesney would have been there - since he's the guy who sings "When the sun goes down, over the water....")

+ Which Sumter County farmer/rancher had several cows get loose near a Wal-Mart store the other day? I'm told the animals roamed around the parking lot - but it's not clear if they ever found a Chick-Fil-A restaurant.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ News: Wow, did you scare me for a minute! I saw your interview with a 100-year-old great-grandmother Friday night, and thought she was your latest "Ambush Makeover" winner.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: We're invited back to the scene of an ugly debate....

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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 (- 55, 9.0%)

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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Friday, July 24, 2009

24 JUL 09: A Message to Michael

TO: Mr. Michael J. Registe

AT: Muscogee County Jail, Columbus, GA


I see your long road trip ended Thursday. Normally I would write something like "welcome home" - except you didn't really receive much of a welcome, and those words might spark a boycott by the Fraternal Order of Police.

But then again, your return to Columbus DID receive a welcome of sorts. Two TV stations were live at the airport. They didn't do that when the Little League World Series champions flew back to Atlanta three years ago. But then again, they had flown to see the team in Pennsylvania - while no station bothered flying to St. Maarten to talk with you.

Yet there didn't seem to be a big crowd of citizens waiting for you at the Columbus Airport. Perhaps that's because most of them agree with this e-mail, which was waiting for us Thursday morning:

At last Michael Registe,the "perhaps" killer of 2 young men in Columbus will be returned today..Chuck Leonard said Channel 9 got the info from the mother of one of the young men..The Columbus Police need to be proud of a job well done..They never gave up!!..They did the same with an arrest in the Curry case..

You'll be saddened to learn the Columbus NAACP has yet to say one word in your favor -- nor has President Obama.

You probably didn't see it, but law officers held a news conference Thursday evening about you. F.B.I. agents were there. The Columbus Police Chief was there. But the Convention and Visitors Bureau was NOT there, to make an appeal for reciprocal tourists from St. Maarten.

I know what you're probably thinking - but no, I am NOT interested in serving as your defense attorney. There are far more qualified people in Columbus than I, who would be glad to help you. But did someone at the jail tell you one of those lawyers is busy right now -- trying to avoid prison himself?

The biggest question I have is this: why would you leave Columbus during July to spend about two years in the Caribbean? It's every bit as hot and humid there during summer. And Dutch is probably a tougher language to learn than Spanish. For instance, say "links" in St. Maarten and most people will think you want to turn left.

A lot has happened in Columbus while you've been away. So I thought I'd fill you in on some of the things you've missed....

1. The police department has hired 76 new police officers. No, Chief Ricky Boren did NOT thank you during the news conference for inspiring that.

2. Muscogee County has changed District Attorneys. If you knew anything about the new one, you might not have needed that promise to avoid a death penalty trial.

3. The local narcotics task force now has its own helicopter. But apparently you knew that -- because you fled so far away from Columbus, it took a chartered airplane to bring you back.

4. A new TV news department has started. In fact, their microphone was at Thursday's news conference - but apparently the things said there won't be considered newsworthy until 6:00 tonight.

5. The best-known car dealership in town has gone out of business. Bill Heard was accused of bad things, like you are -- yet he still hasn't been arrested.

6. Another local car dealer declared some people consider the Columbus Airport "unsafe." So it's no wonder you fought extradition for a year, and needed F.B.I. agents around you on the tarmac.

7. A fancy new building has been going up on Macon Road, near the Columbus Public Library. It may look like a courthouse for your trial, but the only complaints it will hear involve teachers who reportedly can't do their job.

8. The local drought officially has ended -- the drought a local church pastor blamed two years ago on Atlanta embracing the homosexual lifestyle. To this day, he has yet to mention what the city did to bring rain back.

9. A local high school has won a state football title. I think I now know the reason there are no signs at the city limits about it. The mayor wants to spend money on a Crime Prevention Director first, to make sure that sign isn't stolen.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance. Granting me your first U.S. interview might be an interesting blog exclusive. But don't give it to that author of "The Big Eddy Club" - because he hasn't helped Carlton Gary get out of prison at all. Regards....

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 613 (+ 13, 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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Thursday, July 23, 2009

23 JUL 09: Let It Rest

There was only one big errand for me to run Wednesday -- and I didn't run to do it. Instead, I walked several blocks. Well, check that -- I trotted a little to cross Eighth Street, because Minnie's restaurant has SO much traffic around noon.

I find myself walking a lot more these days - and it's not because my humble Honda is 15 years old and refusing to work. That's happened a couple of times in recent months, because a button in my brake system broke. My taillights kept glowing after I turned off the ignition -- proving sometimes "letting your light shine" can leave your battery drained.

The walking has increased because many places I need to visit are within a 15-minute stroll of my home. They include the Columbus Career Center, the Government Center, my main place for playing poker -- and one of these evenings I might just walk inside Golden Park to watch the Woodbats, instead of walking around it for exercise.

The Georgia Clean Air Campaign ought to be pleased with my decision to park the car. It held a program for Columbus businesses Wednesday about ways to "go green." But there's no word about whether Spencer High School's principal was persuaded to drop the word "Wave" from the nickname.

Wanda Jenkins with the Clean Air Campaign told WTVM more businesses need to think environmentally because "Columbus is faced with air quality issues...." For instance, everyone should recycle their phone books properly - because this could reduce the amount of yellow "pollen dust" in the spring.

The Clean Air Campaign cites Aflac as an example of an environmentally conscious business. Did you realize Aflac's employees travel an average 18.5 miles per day to work -- one-way? More executives must live in Harris County and Smiths Station than we realized....

The Clean Air Campaign reports dozens of Aflac employees now are part of carpools. They've reduced the amount of Columbus air pollution by more than five tons per month. But isn't there a "down side" to this for Aflac? Less air pollution could mean fewer people developing cancer, and needing that special insurance.

(The Aflac case study also claims carpooling has "significantly reduced" the amount of traffic congestion around Aflac's headquarters. I'm not sure the businesses belonging to Midtown Inc. really are pleased about that....)

Perhaps because of Aflac's effort, Columbus has yet to exceed federal air quality pollution standards this year. This is even more amazing, when you consider how much rain we've had this year. Aren't people mowing their lawns more often? Or do prison inmates practice a form of "carpooling," too?

Wanda Jenkins says there are other things businesses can try to be more environmentally conscious:

+ Tele-working. Oh no - I get enough computerized sales calls on my home phone already.

+ Alternative scheduling. Troy Public Radio started doing this a few weeks ago, by airing music from "The World Café" five nights a week.

+ Compressed work weeks. Everyone finished with their daily job duties should leave the office, and play Spider Solitaire on their home computers.

+ Sending customers "e-statements," instead of printing and mailing them. Of course, you know who will have to do the printing if there's a discrepancy.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Sometimes walks can happen when you least expect them....

Hospitals! First Do Not Harm?

Last week when I was at a Columbus Hospital standing in an exam room about to put on a gown- nurse threw open the door, revealing my all-together to the men in the hallway- screeching- "We have to evacuate- come on- get out now!"

Thinking this was somewhat of an inappropriate joke, I took my time, only to incur the wrath of the nurse who returned to tell me in her heavy Euro-accent "GET OUT NOW"!

We, meaning Me, and all of the other Old People there, went down flights of stairs and were hurried to the middle of a parking area. It was about 99 degrees. We all stood around looking at each other, as nurses tried to attend those who might need help in the heat.

I wonder if the rest of the hospital was evacuated as only our area seemed to be evacuated to that part of the parking lot.

Since we were not allowed to use the elevators we have to wonder what in the world they did to get those patients with knee and hip replacements out of there. I was expecting that big nurse, who was double my size, to break out a window and toss those old guys downward toward a trampoline. Stay Well Columbus, before you get tossed out a window by Brunhilde.

Hmmm .... fire drill?

Which local hospital had this strange situation? Amy Adams with St. Francis Hospital told me Wednesday her center has had NO evacuations in the last two weeks. Columbus Regional didn't return our message. And would this reader really want to admit all this, after spending time at West Central Regional?

Let's assume for a moment this evacuation occurred at The Medical Center. Columbus fire crews are called there often on false alarms. All it takes is one child being rolled past an alarm box, and not wanting to undergo surgery....

Now to last Thursday's blog entry, titled "Where Is the Outrage?" A reader responds....

A lot of People in this town are outraged with what is happening to Mark Shelnutt..

Gina Colbert

Apparently that issue will be left for a federal jury to decide in the months ahead. But we would note one thing -- no one has reported seeing Shelnutt in District Attorney Julia Slater's office lately.

Let's see what else had our attention in the middle of the week:

+ The Eufaula Tribune reported the end of the U.S. 431 widening project through Russell County has been postponed again. It won't be finished until next May, because some kind of mudslide occurred south of Glenville. That settles it - someone in Fort Mitchell needs to open a 24-hour ATV park.

+ The Russell County Commission approved the purchase of four "dashboard cameras" for Sheriff's Department cars. Top officers say the cameras will keep officers safe. And on top of that, Sheriff Tommy Boswell can donate unneeded recordings to his buddy George Jones for use in country music videos.

+ Southeastern Conference football media days began in suburban Birmingham. Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino told reporters he knows the Razorbacks will be better than last year. Of course, Petrino knows this because he actually has stayed in Arkansas to coach for a second season....

+ Instant Message to Harris County Commissioner Charles Wyatt: Let's go back to something you said on TV Tuesday night - that you're "a person that nobody really liked" for most of your life. Then how in the world did you get elected? Did your wife do all the campaigning for you?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.23 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... FREE Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in Phenix City from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. ET (one per customer).... and half-price sales on swimwear, with school starting in two weeks....

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 600 (+ 21, 3.6%)

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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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

22 JUL 09: Columbus Blue and Trust

Why didn't someone think of this before? The Columbus police chief announced Tuesday the department will put a new precinct inside a bank. Hopefully the local option sales tax revenues will be stored there -- so officers can borrow from a famous bandit and say: "We're at the bank because that's where the money is."

Columbus Police will set up an East Precinct next year at a new Columbus Bank and Trust building on Buena Vista Road, near Wal-Mart. And here's the amazing thing - CB&T will pay to build it. The recession must be over in Columbus, when a bank doesn't have to ask the government for a bailout.

CB&T will charge the city one dollar a year, to have a police precinct in its new branch. Mayor Jim Wetherington paid the dollar personally at a news conference - potentially fouling up every audit of sales tax records for July.

Police Chief Ricky Boren said the new East Precinct will be the base for at least 25 new police officers, along with a Command Sergeant. If anyone tries to rob the CB&T branch attached to it, he'll instantly win our award for Dumbest Criminal of the Year.

The idea of neighborhood police precincts in Columbus really isn't new. Several officers have been stationed at the Frank Chester Recreation Center on Benning Drive for years. Well, at least patrol cars have been parked there - but officers apparently never noticed gangs tagging the walls of the racquetball courts across the driveway.

City officials revealed another new precinct is planned in north Columbus, in the area of Williams Road and Veterans Parkway. So who would like to build that precinct? Would there be too much controversy if it shared space with Dunkin Donuts?

This kind of public-private police partnership admittedly is new to me. The Atlanta Police have "mini-precincts" at shopping centers such as Underground and Lenox Square. But I think the malls were there before the precincts were - and I doubt any of the officers acted like Kevin James in that "Mall Cop" movie.

But an online check Tuesday night showed Atlanta Police have a new mini-precinct on the grounds of a hospital. We noticed there's still no law office on the grounds, for faster filing of malpractice suits....

There are two schools of thought when it comes to a partnership like this. The city will save sales tax money, by having a bank pay for a precinct. Columbus Bank and Trust also will save money - because it won't have to hire security guards for one branch.

But I can hear the skeptics now, calling this a "sweetheart deal." They'll ask if Columbus Bank and Trust will get special treatment in police investigations -- especially considering corrupt former police officer Shatoya Wright once was a teller at Wachovia.

We searched online to see if other cities have police precincts in banks, or attached to them. We didn't find any - but we were surprised to find Phoenix has six precincts. Columbus is a much smaller city, yet apparently soon will have at least four. So is crime in Columbus that bad? Or does Phoenix have fewer traffic jams than visitors have claimed it does?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION about public safety closed Tuesday night - and nine out of ten voters say Columbus does NOT need a city Crime Prevention Director. In light of Tuesday's news, maybe CB&T President Steve Melton can do it in his spare time.

One voter in our non-scientific poll wondered if the Crime Prevention Director might be "used as a political weapon" to "circumvent the normal police investigatory process." I'm not sure how someone focused on prevention would get in the way of investigations -- unless he shows up to talk drug dealers out of a sting operation.

Let's lock up the police jokes now, and see what else made news on Tuesday....

+ The low temperature in Columbus broke a 62-year record, at 61 degrees F. It was SO LOW that Columbus State University art students said "cool" to each other, and were NOT talking about artwork.

+ Harris County Commissioner Charles Wyatt withdrew a proposed resolution to stop buying General Motors and Chrysler vehicles. Wyatt says he's upset with the federal government intervening with those companies. I assume he also voted against using county money at the Northwest Harris County Industrial Park -- since after all, some of the Kia suppliers are from Asia.

(Emanuel Jones staged a protest outside the meeting with several Legacy Chevrolet employees. But if that little girl from the commercials wasn't there, can you really trust what they say?)

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue called on public school teachers to take three furlough days between now and December. I know the state budget is tight - but won't this simply encourage high school students to organize "senior skip days" next spring?

+ A new splash park opened across the street from the Phenix City Library. There goes the "quiet, library zone" sign business....

(The splash park was built by Central High School graduates, who raised about $50,000 in private donations. Given what our "snail mail" tipster in Phenix City has sent us recently, these young adults need to reveal what is the park's "net present value adjusted for savings.")

+ Retired General Jerry White told WTVM the National Infantry Museum has welcomed 55,000 visitors since its grand opening last month. The museum's web site invites you to rent its World War II-era chapel for weddings. You'll only need twice the normal number of fresh-cut flowers, to overcome the musty odor.

+ A pharmaceutical group began running TV commercials praising Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, for supporting biomedical research. Trouble is, Isakson probably wishes big drug companies would deliver medicines in F-22 Raptor planes.

+ WLTZ's newscasts presented the first in a series of local "ambush makeovers." Oh please - don't tell me that's the real explanation for John Beard's bald head.

+ Instant Message to Carver High School football coach Dell McGee: Don't you have bigger issues right now, besides the University of Georgia withdrawing a scholarship? You know, like the sales tax vote for a new high school in eight weeks? Or the lack of a sign at the city limits marking your team's state title - 19 months ago?

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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 (+ 17, 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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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

21 JUL 09: Fees Up. Fed Up

"Would you like to sign our petition?" the woman behind the convenience store counter asked me Monday. In July 2008 there might have been no hesitation -- but gas prices are well below four dollars a gallon now.

This petition was about a very different subject. It demanded an end to "high credit card fees." For the Circle K store in my neighborhood, it's a rather surprising topic. Customers might use credit cards to fill their gas tanks, but the people spending "30 smokes" for a carton of smokes tend to use cash.

I wasn't sure what was behind this petition, but I learned the answer online Monday night. Circle K stores have joined a campaign started by 7-Eleven against high credit card fees for businesses. Of course, this all could be a promotional stunt - to set an annual percentage rate of 7.11 percent or something.

Convenience stores are protesting higher "interchange fees" imposed by credit card companies for transactions. The money is split several ways, but most of it is paid by a business's bank to a cardholder's bank. So if you have a CB&T credit card, use it downtown and demand a discount.

These fees were NOT included in the credit card reform act, which the president signed earlier this year. So there's now a bill in Congress to limit the interchange fee as well. Convenience stores such as Circle K argue it will lower prices - which is strange, because 16-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola still cost 99 cents Monday compared with $1.19 at Publix.

On the other hand, major banks and credit card companies claim a limit on interchange fees is really an attempt by convenience stores to increase their profits. As if two-liter bottles of soda and overpriced doughnuts didn't give them enough already....

Circle K isn't the only local business caught up in this. TSYS boasts its services include "clearing and settling merchant transactions." I found NO online statement Monday night explaining where TSYS stands on limiting interchange fees - but the two Circle K's around 14th and Veterans Parkway might want to keep the petitions hidden.

As I said, I didn't understand all this when I walked inside Circle K Monday. So I offered an answer to the credit card fee petition question that the employee never could have expected: "That's not really my issue." For one thing, a big Thirstbuster cup in the summer only costs 84 cents with tax.

"All my credit cards have no annual fees," I told the woman. If they add a fee, I simply stop using them. If I can track those businesses down, you'd think a big corporation like Circle K could.

The last time a company tried to tack an annual fee on one of my credit cards was Shell, about 15 years ago. So I gave their card up - since I come to Shell for answers, not a club membership.

My answer of misunderstanding didn't end there. "I pay all my bills in full on time, so I don't have any fees." Maybe I should have publicized this about a year ago -- and Synovus's real estate department might have hired me.

So I passed on the Circle K petition, largely out of ignorance. If you see one of these petitions at a convenience store, you now know the details behind it. The signatures are probably going to members of Congress - with no secret plot to put you on a mailing list for discount cigarette offers.

-> The last two days have been downright remarkable for us at the online poker table. Find out why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Monday topic was so meaty, a reader wants to chew on it some more....

I have always been afraid to buy frozen meat from the side of the road..What if it has been allowed to thaw and then been refrozen..What if when you thaw it you get an unusual odor..How do you get your money back from a traveling meat salesman?

These are good points I admittedly hadn't considered. But there's an easy cure for steaks with an unusual odor -- extra coats of barbecue sauce and black pepper.

Now for some news dessert, from a third consecutive mid-July day when the air conditioner was kept turned off:

+ The Muscogee County School Board approved tough new rules for students using cell phones. A district news release notes elementary school students cannot carry them at all. Huh?! How else are fourth-graders supposed to stay up-to-date on the Cartoon Network's programming?

+ A variety of blogs confirmed former President Jimmy Carter has issued a statement separating himself from the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet the Albany Herald indicates he still taught Sunday school in Plains this past weekend - so Secret Service agents are still doing a great job protecting him.

(The blog buzz about this separation started with a column Mr. Carter wrote in the Australian newspaper "The Age" - where people really would be part of the Southern Hemisphere Baptist Convention.)

+ One-time Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick officially was released from federal custody. There's speculation Vick might play this fall in the new United Football League -- and we all remember how Herschel Walker made the United States Football League the success it is today, don't we?

+ Instant Message to the Space Science Center: You disappointed me Monday. I mean, no big event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing?! Not even a contest to have young people do a moon walk - Michael Jackson's or otherwise?

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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 (+ 17, 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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Monday, July 20, 2009

20 JUL 09: Meat on the Street

It's common across the country at this time of year to see fruit and vegetable stands along the side of the road. I recall one Saturday afternoon years ago, when a stand remained open along Moon Road after a winter ice storm. I didn't stop to check, but maybe it sold frozen foods.

But this year, the fruit and vegetable sellers suddenly have some competition. Other people are parking along Columbus roadsides, selling meat. And why not? A balanced diet is very important - although I haven't found anyone parked along the highway selling loaves of bread.

Have you seen the meat-sellers, with their signs saying things like "TEN STEAKS FOR 25 DOLLARS"? Admittedly I haven't stopped to ask how they do it. For all I know, they could be "hamburger steaks" - and a nice name for frozen patties you put on the grill.

The steak-peddling went to the next level this past week, when a man knocked on my door during the afternoon. His T-shirt said something like "Steve's Steaks" - and yes, he was selling steaks door-to-door. I don't even recall a Future Farmers of America chapter in Oklahoma trying a fund-raiser like this.

The salesman said he had boxes of ribeye steaks in his truck, and I could buy one for 25 dollars. This was downright remarkable - as I've never heard an ice cream truck roll up my street. Someone must have done research, to learn my neighborhood has more disabled and retired men than happy children.

"Do you like a good steak?" the salesman asked me. Yes, I do for special events - but I don't buy boxes of them at a time. In fact, I seldom buy more than one a year at the supermarket. They cut into the budget to buy other important items - such as burritos and chocolate chip cookies.

"I'm just trying to make a living.... trying to get the word out about my business," the man told me. Yet he didn't do what church groups with Krispy Kreme doughnut boxes do on weekends. They actually bring the food to your door, to enhance the sales pitch --- or should we say with doughnuts, to add to the temptation.

The man ad-libbed for a while - and when he finally stopped, I gave him a short history lesson. Someone else came to my home years ago selling steaks. But it was a woman at the window, claiming she had just received her steaks at nearly 2:00 a.m. [12 Sep 05]. So at least the delivery times have improved, by reducing shifts.

The steak salesman was puzzled by that true story. But he wasn't ready to accept Excuse #2: "I don't own a freezer." I have a refrigerator-freezer - but the top part is dominated right now by items costing one dollar or less. A "mini" pizza from Piggly Wiggly is enough of a dinner for me.

The salesman insisted he could make room in my small freezer, and stack the steaks for me. Hey, there's an idea for the next Aflac Outdoor Games - steak-stacking. How many can you fit on a plate, without burning your hand or having them topple onto the lawn?

The sales pitch came down to Excuse #3, and this time I meant it. Because of my present situation, I really can't afford to buy boxes of steaks. "I'm on a ground turkey budget," I told the man. And I have yet to find a box of Ribeye Helper at the grocery store.

For some people in my neighborhood, a box of ribeye steaks might be a good value. A couple of men cook outside on grills once or twice a week. But I don't own a grill, and have never even taken a picture of the men cooking out - to borrow from that old Duran Duran song: "Grills on Film."

-> Sunday was a very good day for us at the online poker table. Find out why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: Richard Hyatt's web site declared Sunday this blog "drew incorrect conclusions" about today's switch of TV and radio partnerships. If I was in charge of North Korea, I might declare this a provocation dangerously approaching all-out war.

Richard Hyatt explained Clear Channel Radio in effect fired WTVM. The managers apparently were upset with the TV station reporting on the last round of Clear Channel layoffs [30 Apr]. At least the radio group was consistent. Don't report on my firings, or I'll fire you as well.

I'll assume Richard Hyatt's explanation is right, since he still appears on Clear Channel's WDAK two days a week. But it's also a bit strange, since that station is filled with right-wing talk show hosts who oppose any muzzling of free speech. Well, at least until a Democrat says something against Ronald Reagan or some other improper thing....

Let's see what else caught our eye Sunday, on National Ice Cream Day:

+ Columbus had a record-low morning temperature of 62 degrees F. Now I look brilliant for neglecting to pull the ice scraper out of the car back in April.

+ The "Friends of Libraries" in Columbus wrapped up their annual book sale. The "area's only local weekend newscast" reported sales this year totaled more than $5,000 - and that total should be recorded in a ledger book, which is autographed and put on sale next year.

+ The Montgomery Zoo held "Animal Enrichment Day." The Montgomery Advertiser explained that meant the animals received special foods. Zoo visitors had to settle for enriched hot dog buns at the concession stand.

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 545 (- 30, 5.2%)

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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Sunday, July 19, 2009

19 JUL 09: Wires Crossed

Check some national directories of radio stations, and you might be surprised by what you find for Columbus. For instance, Chuck Leonard has been listed in recent years as the News Director at WGSY-FM "Sunny 100." Most of the time, the news was directed a couple of miles via computer lines from a TV station.

That long relationship is over as of this past week, as the connections change for Columbus's top two TV stations and radio groups. WRBL announced Friday it's starting a media partnership with the Clear Channel stations -- and Jennifer Serda will replace Chuck Leonard on Sunny 100 Monday morning. This seems like a trade of cute one-liners for - well, someone who's cute.

WRBL also announced the Sunny 100 morning show with Ed Bostic and Jennifer Serda will have live streaming video. Well, at least one of these two knows how to put on makeup for a TV camera....

But the impact of this partnership will extend far beyond Sunny 100. WDAK "Newsradio 540" is also a Clear Channel station, so the source of much of its news will change to WRBL as well. Now you'll actually have to turn on the television to hear "News Leader 9 Morning."

WDAK and WTVM had a longtime media relationship, but it slowly eroded. WDAK stopped simulcasting the 5:00 p.m. TV news. And after Brian McClure moved to Tampa, WDAK stopped airing Bruce Lee's morning weather forecasts. I'm not sure why, since they seemed every bit as accurate as before....

In fact, this change of TV partnerships really could be trouble the next time severe weather breaks out. WDAK and WVRK "Rock 103" simulcast live weather updates from WTVM in recent months. Now they're aligned with a station which has no weekend newscasts. More people than ever will be praying for storm-free Sundays.

So what will Chuck Leonard do with his spare time in the mornings? We found the answer online Saturday night. He's joining David Lee's morning show at WIOL-FM -- which could mean "95.3 The Ride" now will have a backseat driver.

Twitter messages posted by the WTVM News Director confirm that station now has a media partnership with the PMB radio stations. That includes not only The Ride, but WRCG -- where simulcasting the TV newscasts actually might bring some listeners back.

The Twitter messages also indicate WTVM will replace WRBL on the Davis Broadcasting radio stations. I assume this means you'll hear Cheryl Renee in the morning on WFXE-FM "Foxie 105." After what Chuck Leonard reportedly said about Barack Obama last November, he might have a hard time getting past the Davis Broadcasting lobby.

The only commercial radio station in Columbus which seemed unaffected by all this is WBOJ "103.7 The Truth." The Christian station gets its morning news from WLTZ. But then I heard Lee McCard promise something new Monday morning - which could be a new media partner, or could be Catholic priest Thomas Weise leading the rosary.

This crossing of TV and radio paths is quite a switch -- but it's unclear to me who moved first to start all this. In terms of news coverage, PMB and Davis Broadcasting seem to be trading up. Clear Channel seems to be trading down. But given the recent staff cuts at Clear Channel, maybe we should be thankful WDAK still has a morning news reader at all.

But this "big switch" also is a reminder of a sad trend in Columbus radio. No station really has an in-house news department anymore, so they rely on television stations for their news. I'd call Dave Bender with GPB Radio an exception, but the salsa music next to his FM station keeps distracting me from hearing him.

We shouldn't overlook the local media outlet with no current partnerships at all. The Ledger-Enquirer has had arrangements with WTVM and WLTZ in recent years. But WRBL and the Opelika-Auburn News are owned by the same company -- and WLGA's only daily newscast seems to be "Access Hollywood."

Now for other quick notes from a splendid summer weekend....

+ Columbus Planning Director Rick Jones told WRBL the next Streetscape project will begin within 30 days. This work will be on Veterans Parkway between Eighth and 13th Streets - which makes me wonder if Ruth Ann's Restaurant has looked into any northside locations.

+ Opponents of the Obama administration held an "Instant Tea Party" downtown, opposing proposed health care reforms. So where are the demonstrations by people supporting these reforms? Are there parades in the hallways of The Medical Center?

+ The first orientation was held at the new Phenix City School "Freshman Academy." Our Phenix City snail-mail writer claims he was "astounded" by how much of the academy funds were spent on athletics. But repetitive weight training can teach valuable mathematics skills.

(Superintendent Larry DiChiara told WXTX "News at Ten" the new academy will "protect freshmen" as they transition into high school. Protect them?! Maybe a better answer is to have a police officer at Central High School, checking for sophomore bullies.)

+ Former Tuskegee University defensive back Terrance Stringer led a youth football camp at Smiths Station High School. Stringer was on the New York Jersey Giants' roster last season, but currently is a free agent. This is one strange way to make a resume tape -- by dominating receivers half your size.

+ Auburn University announced several football reserves were dismissed for violating team rules. If the Tommy Tuberville pictures aren't out of the lockers by now, it's simply too late.

+ Atlanta's baseball team retired the number of pitcher Greg Maddox. They never did this for Phil Niekro - but then, Maddox didn't have any knuckleballs bounce all the way to the backstop.

+ Instant Message to Tom Watson: I'm rooting for you at The British Open today. Because you're from the Kansas City area, like me. Because you're older than 50, like me. And because you don't look like you're 59.... uh, I'd better stop there.

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! 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: 575 (+ 16, 2.9%)

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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