Wednesday, July 15, 2009

15 JUL 09: The Prevent Defense

Today marks one year since Columbus voters approved the "streets and safety" sales tax. And after one year, the steamroller of momentum for Mayor Jim Wetherington may be slowing a bit -- which is too bad, because you need a good steamroller to pave some of the streets.

Columbus Council put the brakes on one of the local option sales tax projects Tuesday - the creation of a city Office of Crime Prevention. The office was merely delayed, not defeated. So Mayor Wetherington cannot run to the police chief, and claim he was robbed....

The proposal before Columbus Council was to allocate $60,000 to pay for a city Crime Prevention Director. But several Councilors wanted to know exactly what that director will do. After all, don't some police officers engage in crime prevention now? Why else would you take a wrecked sports car to a high school during prom season?

The Columbus Council agenda actually gave an outline of what the proposed Crime Prevention Director would do....

+ Seeking grant money from other places, and developing a process to apply for grants from the city. This makes crime prevention a bit like Columbus Water Works.

+ Coordinating crime prevention programs with local law enforcement and the Muscogee County School District. The city which gives free bike helmets to children soon could give "The Club" to teenage drivers.

+ Planning crime prevention activities with the "Mental Health Court." Presumably special luncheons would NOT include Crazy Bread from Little Caesar's Pizza.

But Councilor Gary Allen apparently spoke for several others, by saying the city should "wade in" to the matter of a Crime Prevention Director instead of jumping in. I could understand that approach in some cases -- but it's not like this director will try to break up a cocaine ring.

Mayor Jim Wetherington told Columbus Council he did NOT propose an Office of Crime Prevention simply to have an office. That's true, of course -- because he really proposed that office last year to gain sales tax support from local ministers.

Mayor Wetherington added he's promised Columbus Council any money spent on crime prevention will "come back to you" - as in Columbus residents. Hopefully home insurance agents heard that, and plan to lower their rates accordingly.

But Mayor Wetherington admitted after the meeting a lot depends on what the new Crime Prevention Director would propose. He added the recommendations could include the creation of new jobs or recreation programs. Let's face it - table tennis paddles are a lot less dangerous than baseball bats.

By the way, the Columbus Crime Prevention Director will report to the mayor - NOT the police chief. Is this a good idea? And is it good that the 100 new police officers will focus on hammer locks of suspects, instead of arm-twisting them to avoid breaking the law?

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BLOG UPDATE: When we had a Big Blog Question in April to find the best barbecue restaurant in Columbus, we left one prize-winning location out - a location that's going for another big honor today. No, they are NOT finally revealing the winners of the Aflac Outdoor Games grilling contest.

. A sign on the door of Chester's Bar-B-Q downtown urges people to vote for it online today, in the "Hoodie Awards." Those are the prizes awarded by the nationally-broadcast Steve Harvey Show, heard in Columbus on WAGH-FM "Magic 101.3." Chester's might be one of the few local restaurants which still allows you to wear hoodies inside.

Chester's won the Hoodie Award for "best barbecue" two years ago. But recent changes have me wondering about the restaurant's future. As of this weekend, the Veterans Parkway location will be closed on Saturdays -- while Mike and Ed's up the road has expanded to Sunday service. In the barbecue business, where there's smoke, there's money.

Now for other tasty treats from Bastille Day 2009....

+ A pre-trial hearing for accused attorney Mark Shelnutt brought the discovery that federal agents recorded an interview with Shelnutt without his knowledge. In fact, an agent apparently lied to Shelnutt about it. And as we all know, you don't lie to criminal attorneys - because they have such a standard for integrity and truthfulness.

+ Former Constable Robert Schweiger told the late-night news he wants the Russell County District Attorney to investigate missing gasoline tax money in Hurtsboro. Schweiger also said.... hey, wait a minute! Didn't Schweiger write us last week, promising we'd be the first to know about breaking news? Maybe he considers this another one of those "rumors."

+ The Georgia Department of Education released its "adequate yearly progress" report. It shows 30 percent of Muscogee County's schools failed to make the A.Y.P. standard, including six out of eight high schools. Does the principal of Rigdon Road School have to go to Carver High, and show how to hold a pep rally for high test scores?

(Overall, the Muscogee County School District fell short of adequate yearly progress. But Schley County schools met A.Y.P. - which might motivate school board member Philip Schley to check there for long-lost relatives.)

+ Columbus Council decided against revoking the liquor license of The Dawg House on Warm Springs Road. The manager admitted to WLTZ she didn't maintain good records about food and alcohol sales. I'd suggest for starters, this restaurant no longer serve beer-battered shrimp and onion rings.

+ A competing Columbus blog revealed conductor George Corradino will retire this weekend from the Bob Barr Community Band. This opens the way for a new Bob Barr to take charge - assuming the former Georgia Congressman has nothing better to do.

+ The Columbus Woodbats mashed Macon 7-2. WRBL interviewed longtime Golden Park public address announcer Steve Thiele in the press box. Did you know he works in front of a computer screen? If the players have to swing wooden bats, Thiele should be required to use an old-fashioned scorebook.

+ Instant Message to Trinity Temple: I don't get it. Your upcoming "purity weekend" conference costs 25 dollars for men - but only ten dollars for women?! Are you implying something here? I doubt men in Columbus would pack nightclubs after midnight if all the dancers acted like "Bruno" in that movie.

COMING SOON: There's something important I've been keeping from you.... and it finally might be time to reveal it....

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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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