Friday, August 14, 2009

14 AUG 09: Station With No Break

As they used to say on the crime drama "Dragnet," the story you're about to read is true. A name has been changed to protect the.... well, wait a minute. The name that's been changed here is the location of the crimes - and some residents don't consider that place so innocent at all.

It's been two years since the Ashley Station apartment complex opened along Talbotton Road, replacing Peabody Homes. Nice-looking edifices replaced old-fashioned brick and mortar - but the main goal was to replace the image of a high-crime neighborhood with something more positive. Force bad guys to move out, and they might come back like repentant prodigal sons.

But one resident complained Thursday night the goal of Ashley Station has NOT been achieved. In fact, she told WTVM crime seems worse now than it did in the Peabody Homes days -- as if Mr. Peabody from the cartoons came along, and turned on the "Wayback Machine."

The latest crime complaint at Ashley Station occurred Wednesday. Columbus Police say two brothers drove into the complex and slightly wounded two other men with gunshots. Yet this case illustrates one good thing about Ashley Station: The Medical Center is less than one mile away.

The Ashley Station resident on the TV news (sorry, I didn't catch her name) said crime at the new complex tends to be unpredictable. She claimed at Peabody Homes, trouble was confined to specific areas -- and even then, there was no police precinct on the scene to keep the troublemakers confined.

The resident added there's a movement underway to make the Ashley Station apartments a "gated community." The Columbus Housing Authority would have to approve that -- and that might create problems. Why should Ashley Station have a special amenity that Green Island Hills doesn't even have?

Yet another of the goals at Ashley Station was to have an open community - with none of the metal fencing Peabody Homes had. It's hard to call it "public housing" when access requires a private code or pass-card.

At the very least, Ashley Station residents want the Columbus Housing Authority to improve security at the complex. It's not yet clear if that will be one of the promised new police beats -- or if that decision depends on how many residents are beaten.

An e-mail to this blog two years ago declared Ashley Station a "social experiment," because it consists of mixed-income housing. [19 Mar 07] It's hard to say how many residents have six-figure income, and how many are below the poverty line. But then again, Columbus State University sociology students could figure it out - by counting parked cars and people at Talbotton Road bus stops.

If the Columbus Housing Authority hoped Ashley Station would revitalize the Talbotton Road area, it hasn't really happened yet. The only grocery store in the neighborhood is a small former IGA. The only new "businesses" seem to be offices for medical professionals. And I've heard no one propose turning the ruins of the Jordan Mill into a strip mall.

And what does the situation at Ashley Station mean for the next big Columbus apartment renovation project? The first phase of the Arbor Pointe Apartments is now leasing, on the site of the old Baker Village. Some former residents may be inspired by the "Pointe" in the name and trade in their guns for switchblades.

Perhaps there's a deeper lesson in the news report about Ashley Station - that changing the outward appearance of a neighborhood doesn't change internal problems and conditions which lead to crime. They may have developed a patch for quitting smoking, but I haven't heard of one to remove lung cancer.

-> It's been an inspiring and dramatic last few days for us at the poker table. Read all about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: The arrest of the Hurtsboro Mayor brought a message Thursday - and no, NOT from that former Constable....

The Citizens of Hurtsboro have the right to public records. When government officials will not provide them as prescribed by law, the democratic process can be subverted.

He has a point. Americans have rights to public records.

In the larger context of First Amendment Rights the public has access to records and when public officials deny that right they should be held accountable, NO?

Yes, accountability matters. But keep in mind the circumstances here. A local activist who probably never misses a city council meeting is asking for minutes of those meetings. Even on a retirement check, I'd think Robert Schweiger could afford a notebook or cassette recorder.

We also noted Thursday the charge against Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley is NOT failure to provide records -- it's tampering with them. I wouldn't want to be the Columbus man doing a six-year audit of the city finances right now. He might want to leave the results on the City Hall doorstep late at night, before anyone can arrest him as well.

Mayor Rayford Tapley called an urgent work session of the Hurtsboro City Council Thursday night. He told WTVM the reason involved a depleted general fund, and a lack of money to meet today's city payroll. We're waiting to hear if he gave a "farewell until my jail term is over" address.

Before we bid farewell for the day, let's see what else made news Thursday:

+ THE 12:00 noon TV newscast interviewed parents parked outside three schools in the Northside High cluster. Some said they have to wait 30 to 45 minutes in the afternoon to pick up their children. The people selling Sunday Ledger-Enquirers on street corners are missing out on big bucks here.

+ The Associated Press reported an Alabama House member was marked as voting for a proposal at the special session - when he was really 150 miles away at home, due to sickness. So? If TV stations can do online polls about all sorts of things, why can't lawmakers click on a mouse and vote from their bedrooms?

+ Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik declared Chris Todd will be his starting quarterback. Former starter Kodie Burns is being moved to wide receiver - and somewhere in Memphis, Columbus native DeRon Furr may be wondering if he moved about 400 miles too far away.

+ The athletic director at Fort Valley State University told the noon news construction on a new campus football stadium should end this weekend. It's actually the same field, but expanded to have three times more seating - so there finally should be room for fans of both the football team and the marching band.

+ Instant Message to whomever spray-painted the words "GRIND HERE" on a pedestrian bridge along the Riverwalk: I assume you're talking about skateboarding - because I don't recall Starbucks ever setting up coffee stands along the Riverwalk.

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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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