Thursday, August 06, 2009

6 AUG 09: Schoolhouse Idle

We feel compelled to put business before pleasure today, and lead off with Wednesday's big "Idol" items. Paula Abdul declared she will leave American Idol after eight seasons. Many fundamentalists who check their commandments often are encouraging all the other judges to do the same, so idol-worship in our country ends.

Muscogee County Schools also made "Idol" news Wednesday, only they seemed to spell the word differently. Officials announced today's first day of class will include a "no idling" policy. And I thought the text voting deadline passed before the next school day starts....

Oh wait - this is different. The new "no idling" policy applies to vehicles running idle outside schools. Parents will be asked to turn off their car engines before and after class. This may sound harsh, but remember one thing -- the school district could be trying to restrict parents' cell phone usage, too.

Muscogee County School executive Myles Caggins told WTVM the new policy was worked out with the Clean Air Campaign. If car engines are kept turned off outside schools, less pollution is produced from exhaust. The health benefits from this should be obvious. For instance, cross-country runners this fall are expected to break every school record.

Myles Caggins suggested the no-idling policy also makes economic sense. You won't burn fuel while waiting on your children after school. Save that slow burn for the day the report card comes....

Yes, Muscogee County school buses are included in the new no-idling policy. Regular blog readers will recall this issue came up last year, when someone drove by the RiverCenter during a field trip [17 Apr 08]. With school funds tight, fuel burning clearly is now a.... well, you know.... a front-burner issue.

Myles Caggins explained school buses need to run idle for three to five minutes after a trip, to avoid damaging diesel engines. It's a bit like runners "cooling down" after a workout - although I wonder at this time of year how much cooling midday joggers really do.

We learned about this policy too late Wednesday to see if METRA is doing something similar. This week marks one year since two METRA drivers admitted to this blog they were told to let their buses run idle for more than three hours [3 Aug 08]. As far as we know, that admission didn't leave the drivers idle - as in fired.

The Clean Air Campaign's efforts seem to be working in Columbus. The city still has yet to exceed federal air quality standards this year. Atlanta has had ten ozone limit violations - but city officials there will be glad to trade that ozone with the Florida panhandle, in exchange for more water from Lake Lanier.

Did you know there's already at least one "no idling" sign posted in Columbus? It's at the top of the old amphitheater above the Riverwalk at Sixth Street. The sign also says loitering is banned - so you can't even turn off your car engine to get out and chat with somebody for awhile.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A reader takes us back a couple of days, to Verification Day....

I took my son to verify at a local high school with a string of new portables..He had to report to his homeroom to pick up his schedule. His homeroom was one of the new portables.There was no electricity so,no AC, no lights and no desk.It was like being in a sardine can in a microwave oven.I have to remind myself that school starts Thursday.

Hopefully your son learned a valuable lesson from this. Stay in school under these conditions - because if you drop out and become a construction worker, the only thing you're likely to gain is sunlight.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: We returned to Columbus reality Wednesday afternoon, from a 48-hour getaway to Walt Disney World in Florida. Well, check that - we actually were away from home two minutes longer than 48 hours. That'll teach me to drive home via Cordele and Americus, and get behind slow-moving farm equipment.

The idea of visiting Disney World developed months ago, when Disney executives announced anyone can receive free admission to any theme park on their birthday this year. Since the one-day pass price jumped from 79 to 83 dollars the other day, I saved a lot of money. And when you eat a big breakfast before entering the park, you save even more on food.

Before anyone gets wrong ideas: I tried to make the Orlando trip as low-priced as possible. Most of the money I spent was in the form of traveler's checks stashed away several years ago. And I played NO poker on the way home in an attempt to get my money back. North Florida is so sleepy, the poker room doesn't open until 11:30 a.m.

There's much to mention about the Orlando adventure, and we'll get to that in the days to come. But a few things I saw on the trip to Walt Disney World's Epcot Center reminded me of home:

+ The Fife and Drum Tavern in the American Adventure section (left) serves turkey legs and popcorn. No wonder some visitors to the National Infantry Museum are stunned by the restaurant menu.

+ The one-day Disney World parking fee was 12 dollars. The next time someone complains about paying two dollars to park at a South Commons special event, they'll get no sympathy from me.

+ Interstate 75 near Orlando takes you through Marion and Sumter Counties. Yet for some odd reason, the folks in Florida pronounce Lake Buena Vista a little differently.

We'll share much more about Disney World another day - but we're not The Blog of Orlando, so let's wrap things up with more local headlines:

+ Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley told WTVM city financial records will be opened to the public within 30 days. At last city critic Robert Schweiger will be satisfied and happy -- well, until he finds a police car parked in the wrong spot or something.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue visited Columbus Technical College, to meet with local leaders about water. Perdue suggested Congress intervene, and grant the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to allocate water. The governor is suggesting this because a good Christian man like himself dare not invite the Alabama and Florida governors over for a beer.

+ Governor Perdue also set 3 November as the special election date for the local State House seat vacated by Vance Smith. Trouble is, WLTZ's newscasts declared it the seat of "Vance Brooks." Wouldn't that be a bit more like a stretcher?

+ The University of Alabama revealed four football players had been dismissed for violating team rules. Wow - I didn't know they were so tough on having Facebook friends from Auburn.

+ Instant Message to Hardee's: I'll respond to your latest TV commercial simply with this - Fries. French Fries. What's the big difference?

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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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