Tuesday, July 07, 2009

7 JUL 09: Millions LOST

Talk about a stunning announcement! Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington said Monday he expects a major shortfall in revenue from the "streets and safety" LOST sales tax -- the tax which took effect only six days ago. Did that many people stay away from the holiday weekend sales?

Mayor Wetherington told WLTZ the city expects a five-million dollar shortfall from the new one-percent sales tax. The goal was $36 million in revenue. If only $31 million is coming in, the 100 new police officers may have to get used to riding around Columbus on bicycles.

Mayor Wetherington explained the slow economy has led to a shortfall in city sales tax revenue. City Manager Isaiah Hugley has noted in recent months, the overall revenue has been down about 30 percent from 2008. And you wondered why so many police officers were patrolling Interstate 185 last weekend....

Don't blame a lack of tourists for the drop in sales tax revenue. Peter Bowden with the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau said the number of visitors should be about even with 2008. OK - but how many Jehovah's Witnesses brought coolers, and are eating in the Civic Center parking lot?

The news report didn't explain what Mayor Jim Wetherington plans to do about this five-million dollar LOST budget gap. Will Columbus have to settle for 80 new police officers, instead of 100? Or will some public works employees get in their trucks, and find badges making them sheriff's deputies?

The comment from the mayor appeared on TV as a public hearing was held on one LOST project - the city's plans to widen Moon Road. Apparently that work is still on, despite the five-million dollar budget gap. If it wasn't, someone would have started singing "How High the Moon."

The city plans to start widening Moon Road in the next few weeks - beginning with an expansion to four lanes north of J.R. Allen Parkway. Once again, southsiders get the raw end of the deal....

The biggest debate at the forum apparently was about widening Moon Road south of J.R. Allen Parkway next year, from Whittlesey Boulevard roughly to Miller Road. City officials decided to adjust that section from two lanes to three - providing drivers late for work with a lot of temptation.

Some people who live along Moon Road want the southern section widened to four lanes, or even five. But one man opposed any widening at all, saying it will invite more traffic on the street. Someone should tell that man there's wide-open evidence to the contrary on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

While the city may be short on money for public safety, the public safety personnel have been busy raising money on their own. Columbus firefighters are on their annual campaign to "fill the boot" with donations to fight muscular dystrophy. Doesn't it make you wonder where the SECOND empty boot is? Did some fire captain retire, and take one home as a souvenir?

On top of that, the phone rang at home Monday night about the annual Fraternal Order of Police fund-raiser. Apparently the LOST revenue won't provide enough money for programs to keep young people away from drugs. Either that, or the director of the new city Crime Prevention office needs to come from the F.O.P. - complete with its checkbook.

A money matter tops our check of other Monday news....

+ The Josh McKoon campaign for State Senate announced it's already raised nearly $44,000. That's nice to know - but if McKoon is as true-blue hard-core Republican as he claims, he'll only spend $5,000 and give back the rest.

+ The owner of the BMW Social Club in Opelika announced he's closing the business, after two shootings in four months. I'm a bit surprised it didn't close because conservatives staged a protest, demanding it be named after a U.S. car company such as Ford.

(But then again, I read online Monday night that the Warner Robins City Council has suspended the license of the "Cadillac II" nightclub. It's enough to make the Sputnik Bar near downtown Columbus sound innocent.)

+ The Columbus Lions advanced in the indoor football playoffs by felling Fayetteville 45-36. The Lions beat Fayetteville three times in a four-week span - which may go down as the most unusual "three-and-out" in football history.

(The Lions will be at home for a semifinal game next Monday night against Reading, Pennsylvania -- except WRBL spelled it Redding, as in California. Someone there needs to go to "PlayDate Columbus" and review the Monopoly board.)

+ Instant Message to our mysterious Phenix City "snail mailer": If you're going to ask Alabama Attorney General Troy King to investigate a city council member, shouldn't you help King a little - by naming the council member? It might save some time and money....

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: A "Bang Bang Lady" leftover....

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