Wednesday, October 28, 2009

28 OCT 09: Boom 95 - or Less

What's going on here? Some people in the South are objecting to the shooting of fireworks at a sports event, even though there's a permit to light them. If not for fireworks nights, the stands at Columbus minor league baseball games would be even emptier than they are now....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The President of the Phenix City Central Booster Club confirms there's been tension with some city officials about fireworks displays at high school football games. But Chris Blackshear told your blog Tuesday the fireworks have NOT been banned completely. In fact, the next round could come at a City Council work session next Monday - verbally only, I hope.

Chris Blackshear has been the sideline radio reporter for Troy University football for years. He noticed the special effects college teams do after scores, and thought they would be a great addition to Phenix City Central home games. Blackshear wisely resisted the alternative - because scantily-clad dancers on the field would bring back too many bad Phenix City memories.

The Phenix City Central Booster Club didn't have a lot of money, so Chris Blackshear decided to purchase fireworks for two October home games. He says he followed all the rules - getting permission from the police chief, fire chief and Alabama Fire Marshal's office. Trouble is, he apparently failed to get permission from residents near the stadium.

Chris Blackshear says he was approached after the 2 October fireworks display from unnamed "members of the city council." At least one claimed to have received complaints about the noise - even though Blackshear says there were only short blasts before and after the game, as well as after Phenix City Central touchdowns. And Central didn't even come close to the 61 points it scored against Smiths Station.

Chris Blackshear would not reveal which Phenix City Councilors approached him - but one specifically promised to oppose any more fireworks at games unless the Booster Club could "tone down the boom." Some people in Phenix City apparently have moved to the complete opposite of "Pump Up the Jam."

But Chris Blackshear says fans at Garrett-Harrison Stadium love the fireworks displays, and even donated money to the Booster Club for a third night of the blasts during October. Besides, he says two Phenix City Councilors attended the 2 October game when the fireworks were introduced as a surprise. Did they already have earplugs, to sit next to the marching band?

(Blackshear noted the son of City Manager Wallace Hunter plays on the Central football team. Hunter used to be Phenix City Fire Chief - which may explain a scary Senior Night video saluting starting players, which Council members might not want to see.)

Phenix City Central will have a home playoff game 6 November, and Chris Blackshear hopes to achieve a compromise on the fireworks fuss by then. He told me he's talked to Mayor Sonny Coulter in recent days, as well as the main Councilor who voiced an objection. I forgot to ask if anyone uttered the phrase, "Boom goes the dynamite."

Chris Blackshear told me his first goal at next week's Phenix City Council work session will be to "understand their concerns." He didn't seem certain Tuesday about exactly what they were. I'd guess the surprise debut of the fireworks is one issue - with nearby residents fearing Fort Benning had moved a live-fire exercise across the river.

Chris Blackshear knows something about Phenix City government, since he once served on the Planning Commission. But he admitted to me he's frustrated that city officials are debating fireworks at football games, instead of local jobs. If Blackshear could buy the fireworks inside the city limits, he'd have it both ways.

So which Phenix City Councilor came up with that phrase, "tone down the boom?" We called two members late Tuesday for a comment, but neither returned our messages. Maybe they were out of town on business - working out a deal for something bigger with Fireworks Outlet in Seale.

We also called Phenix City Fire Marshal Kris Kennedy, who said rumors of a decision to ban fireworks at football games are "absolutely incorrect." But Kennedy admitted she had no knowledge of this issue - which proves football players aren't the only ones skilled at making "end runs."

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. People around the world visit "On the Flop!"<--

BLOG UPDATE: The big vote came Tuesday night at Columbus Council, and.... well, maybe it wasn't really that big. WXTX "News at Ten" decided the top story of the night was the premiere of a documentary about Michael Jackson. A dead king trumps a living Big Chief?!

The Crime Prevention Director's position is NOT dead, but it again fell short of a Columbus Council majority. Five Councilors were for it. Four were against it. And absent Gary Allen needs to explain to his bosses exactly when these council meetings happen.

Mayor Pro-Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh explained she's in favor of crime prevention, but is NOT convinced a director's office is needed to achieve it. Did Columbus Council have this same debate years ago, about creating a Mayor Pro-Tem office?

Councilor Jerry Barnes said outside the meeting he's tired of months of "waffling" on the Crime Prevention Office. If all else fails, Barnes will set up crime prevention displays inside all fire stations.

Mayor Jim Wetherington isn't giving up on the Crime Prevention Office, but he's delayed another vote on it indefinitely. He was annoyed that some Councilors wanted to set up a Crime Prevention Board, without a director. Maybe if he changed the title to czar....

If you're looking for a 2010 campaign issue, mayoral candidate Wayne Anthony voted for the Crime Prevention Office. Rumored candidate Skip Henderson voted against it. And Teresa Tomlinson will take any seat on a Crime Prevention Board she can find.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION is back with a requested question, somewhat tied to Tuesday night's Council vote. Should all local incumbents on the 2010 ballot be voted out of office - both Council and School Board members? We should note one Council member is a rumored candidate for Mayor. So Skip Henderson may use your vote to "walk the plank" to jump to the top of the ship.

Let's see what else fell around us Tuesday, besides a lot of rain:

+ TV journalist Susanna Avery told your blog the Columbus Times was wrong in its most recent issue - and she is NOT becoming a news anchor at WTVM. In response to an e-mail question, Avery theorized the newspaper confused her appearance at a recent event with Greg Funderburg. Why, of course -- since the two look so much alike.

(Avery actually anchors "The Benning Report" on CCG-TV, with news items about the Army. Ask her about "bric-a-brac," and she might explain the difference between the National Infantry Museum and base realignment.)

+ RiverCenter Executive Director Enoch Morris revealed on WDAK's "Viewpoint" the late entertainer Robert Goulet required two dressing rooms for his performances -- and one had to be exactly like Goulet's living room. It makes me wonder if the staff rolled in a Char-Broil grill, to take the place of a fireplace.

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley praised a Jefferson County judge's ruling that electronic bingo games really are illegal slot machines. Riley declared simply pressing a button for a six-second game is NOT real bingo. Alabamians running fantasy football leagues should be concerned, because they might be next.

+ WRBL played a video clip of Auburn football coach Gene Chizik, in which he reveals receiver Kodie Burns lost two teeth in the loss to Louisiana State. John Madden coined the famous football phrase, "One knee equals two feet." Now we know two teeth equal a third loss.

+ Instant Message to GPB News: Wow, your Twitter feed surprises me right now. From listening to the radio, I'd think all the news in Georgia had stopped until your pledge drive was over.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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