Tuesday, October 13, 2009

13 OCT 09: Big 12 Conference

Now, now -- don't get ahead of me after reading that title. Today's entry will NOT mention the obvious and wonderful fact that my alma mater Kansas still has an undefeated football team. It will NOT hyperactively gloat about how the Jayhawks have a better record than Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Troy - and I admittedly didn't bother to check Jacksonville State.

The Big XII "Big 12" in our focus is a list on today's Columbus Council agenda. City Manager Isaiah Hugley led an effort to develop a "wish list" of items for next year's Georgia General Assembly to consider. Of course, Columbus has an advantage other cities don't - as the City Manager can hand that list personally to a state legislator at the breakfast table.

The number-one item on the city's legislative agenda is a bill to ban "texting while driving." We're talking here about sending and receiving text messages. If city officials really want to get serious about this, distracting texts would be removed throughout Columbus - instead of adding signs pointing toward the National Infantry Museum.

The proposed resolution would support legislation banning text messaging while driving a car or truck - as well as "reading/sending e-mail." I'll take this moment to thank Columbus Council for stopping short of opposing blog-reading.

But here's the strange thing about this proposal - Columbus Council wants a state law banning texting while driving, while it hasn't bothered passing a specific CITY rule against it. Or is this one of the things the Crime Prevention Director is supposed to suggest?

Item two on the Columbus Council legislative agenda is a limit or ban on tree removal along the sides of Georgia highways. The city wants to restrict the clearing of trees for displaying billboards and signs. Thankfully, the Ledger-Enquirer doesn't need so many trees for printing newspapers these days....

A curious item supported by Columbus Council would change the rules for publishing the minutes of a governmental meeting. All the city would have to do is post video of the meeting online within seven days. I suppose this saves paper - but it increases the possibility of angry citizens punching holes through their computer screens.

In what could be a major change of thinking, the legislative wish list supports a study of a light rail line between Columbus and Atlanta. When Bobby Peters was mayor, he openly doubted many people would be interested in rail service. But I think that was before the Columbus Chamber of Commerce moved its headquarters to an old railroad depot.

Another Columbus Council wish list item comes from Municipal Court Judge Stephen Hyles - to make his office nonpartisan. This actually could inspire Haywood Turner to run for the position again. He's served as both a Democrat and a Republican, so he could try for the hat trick.

Then there's a longstanding request to allow Columbus Council to adjust the salary of the Muscogee County Marshal. It would be set at "80 percent of the base salary of the Muscogee County Sheriff," but allow for cost-of-living increases. So Greg Countryman eventually could wind up earning more than John Darr, and not have to run for mayor to do it.

(We searched around the city web site Monday night for the current salaries of the Muscogee County Sheriff and Marshal, but we couldn't find specific numbers. If there was some kind of discrimination there, undercover officers would have made an arrest by now.)

This proposal in effect says the Muscogee County Sheriff's job is 25 percent more important than the Marshal's job, at least in terms of pay. It also could explain why Greg Countryman started a Junior Marshal's program, but has nothing for seniors.

BLOG UPDATE: The "Wall Street Journal Report" broadcast on WDAK radio noted Columbus, Ohio hasn't had a Columbus Day parade in more than ten years. So we're not alone in giving Christopher Columbus a bit of a cold shoulder - and come to think of it, both cities are repeating 15th-century history all over again.

-> Our latest poker night had a thrilling and happy ending. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Monday's complaint concerning a certain "city on the Plains" brought a response all the way from Norfolk, Virginia....


I hope you'll allow me to respond to the person who was critical of Auburn being mentioned in local newscasts.

As someone who spent six years working in Columbus television and radio, I can assure the reader there is no Auburn bias in local media. There is no conspiracy. There is no financial gain for anchors or meteorologists to mention Auburn on the air. However, an extra ten bucks here and there would have been nice, given the peanuts many of the local media folks work for. Ha!

The bottom line is simple. Auburn/Opelika is frequently mentioned because approximately 40 percent of the population in the local viewing area lives in East Alabama, many of them in or very near to Auburn. It would be foolish to ignore that many people in your news and weather coverage. Of course, that area is also home to the largest university in the viewing area. It's not a state versus state thing. We're all in the same "metro" area. Auburn people are more than our neighbors... they are part of the community.

This is an argument that pops up a lot in local media, when there is not one main population core around a large downtown area. H**k, there are seven similarly sized cities in the area I live in now. There's always someone complaining we pay too much attention to one over another. Don't even get me started on covering severe weather in one city when it's bright and sunny in another!

Thanks for letting me vent, Richard. Hope all is well for you in Columbus... and say hi to the folks in Auburn too! :)

Blaine Stewart

Morning Reporter | Weather Forecaster

WTKR NewsChannel 3 | Taking Action, Getting Results.

Blaine can explain this all day long if he likes - but I doubt it will silence the grumblers about local media coverage. I've taken calls over the years from people who seemingly think Columbus news departments can do separate newscasts for every county - when they often struggle to put on one 6:00 newscast for everybody.

By the way, I never realized the Norfolk "Tidewater" area has the same local rivalries that Columbus and Opelika-Auburn seem to have. Why, it's Newport News to me....

We now have TWO other e-mails which need researching. So we'll be busy on Tuesday - but in the meantime, let's see what made news on Monday:

+ Muscogee County School District officials began moving into the new administration building on Macon Road. One official told WRBL he appreciates finally being able to have a paved parking lot. Wow - we'd only heard people complain about how fancy the building is.

+ The Georgia NAACP announced Columbus's Edward DuBose was reelected state President. It's hard to imagine DuBose not being involved in a civil rights campaign. In fact, some of us can't even remember what DuBose did BEFORE he got involved with them....

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths held their first pre-season practice session at the Civic Center. Their first exhibition game is Friday night - so if some people at the skateboard park looked unusual last week, they could have been hockey players in training.

(After nearly 15 years in Columbus, I keep waiting for a wealthy benefactor to buy the Cottonmouths a private jet for flying to road games. I'm sure Coach Jerome Bechard would get over the "Snakes on a Plane" jokes after awhile.)

+ Instant Message to CNN: I've been meaning to tell you how much you made me laugh the other day. It was your headline at the bottom of the screen: "Obama Nobel Peace Prize win polarizes Web." President Obama probably would polarize the World Wide Web if he changed how he ties his necktie.

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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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