Sunday, January 31, 2010

31 JAN 10: Missing Mouths

When a "Top Ten" list comes out, where do your eyes usually go? Most people want to know who's on top. But sometimes missing names at the bottom are more noteworthy. Now don't get ahead of me here - today's topic is NOT North Carolina basketball....

A missing name stunned me Saturday night, when I reviewed the new Columbus radio ratings. The fall report lists 18 radio stations, including a few in Atlanta and Auburn - but WRCG was nowhere to be found. Did the last listeners to leave turn off what's left of the transmitter?

WRCG tried to rebuild a long-lost audience during the fall ratings, by starting an FM simulcast in mid-October. Yet the ratings report doesn't even mention that. That's the problem with "double or nothing" bets....

The only conclusion you could draw from the fall radio ratings is that WRCG has no listeners at all. No one is listening to Neal Boortz's rants against President Obama. No one needs Clark Howard's consumer advice. And no one really cared about Georgia Southern football last season.

But I faced a problem in getting answers to my radio ratings questions. Schedule restrictions required me to interview a manager with PMB Broadcasting Friday afternoon - after he saw the advance ratings numbers, but before they went public. So my knowledge of WRCG's disappearing act matched its rating: nothing.

Joseph Brannan with PMB Broadcasting did explain the addition of Spanish music on WRCG on Saturdays. He said "Poder Latino" is part of an agreement for WBOJ-FM to become "88.5 the Truth," replacing WTMQ. You'd think the Christian station would allow a little Spanish music - but it barely plans Jaci Velasquez songs.

Joseph Brannan assured me WRCG will carry Atlanta baseball games on Saturdays this coming season as usual, overriding Poder Latino. And yes, the broadcasts will be in English - even though the team has at least ten Hispanic players on the current 40-man roster.

It should be noted WRCG switched back to English Saturday night, to broadcast the Columbus Cottonmouths' 2-1 loss to Mississippi. But wouldn't you love to hear a fast-talking Spanish soccer announcer call a hockey game? People who heard "gol-gol-gol-gol-gol!" might assume he's shivering from being too close to the ice.

(That broadcast also revealed something I didn't know. Former WDAK Morning Show co-host Chris Weber now is working behind the scenes at WRCG. He's joined Val McGuinness at PMB Broadcasting. Now all that remains is for Scott Miller to rejoin them....)

Speaking in general, Joseph Brannan says he's satisfied with how PMB Broadcasting did in the fall ratings. He says the stations held steady from the spring report, but are up from a year ago. Wall - that's not exactly what I saw Saturday night. WKCN "Kissin' 99.3" held steady. WCGQ went up from spring to fall. And WRCG seems to be up to nothing.

The number-one station in the fall radio report is no surprise at all. WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" was first again -- and fellow Davis Broadcasting station WKZJ-FM tied for second. The age to make this switch must be 28, because Alicia Keys songs already are on "K-92.7" and she turned 29 the other day.

The biggest loser in the fall radio ratings seems to be WVRK-FM. "Rock 103" has lost more than one-third of its listeners in the last year -- which tells me Auburn football coach Gene Chizik still has to rebuild some confidence with fans.

There's no sign from the radio ratings that last summer's "big switch" in TV news partnerships made a difference. Well, except for one thing. Unless listeners are saying Rock 103's Chris Chaos ought to take WRBL meteorologist Bob Jeswald outside one afternoon, and lock him out during a thunderstorm.

WBOJ's fall rating went down a bit, in the final months before "The Truth" switched dial positions. We'll have to wait until later this year to see how the new WLTC "Lite FM" fares against WGSY "Sunny 100." With Donny Osmond battling John Tesh in the middle of the day, it's a bit like corn syrup versus maple syrup.

A different sort of media note begins our review of other weekend news:

+ Congratulations to WTVM's Zaneta Lowe, on the birth of a baby boy! I'm told the child is named Wade Wilson Lowe - which shows football runs in this family's blood, since the boy is named after a retired journeyman quarterback.

+ WTVM reported several west Georgia homes are candidates to appear on "Extreme Makeover Home Edition." If they don't start with the historic paint-peeling Spencer House downtown, someone should launch an investigation.

+ The Alabama Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments this coming week on whether state troopers can raid Victoryland. Owner Milton McGregor has one advantage in this dispute over Country Crossing in Mobile. He can unleash greyhounds all over the grounds, to prevent agents from removing bingo machines.

(I'm not sure why Governor Bob Riley suddenly has gone on the warpath against Victoryland. Where was he the last seven years? Are that many state lawmakers staying at the Oasis Hotel, while the legislature's in session?)

+ More rain and drizzle fell on Columbus, forcing Chattahoochee Valley Community College to cancel its opening baseball games of the season. At last there's some sense in the sports world! Playing college baseball in January is about as silly as playing a Super Bowl one week before Valentine's Day.

+ Plans were announced for a statue of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, outside Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. And you thought people don't worship football in the South?! I can't wait to see the fans leaving roses there on Memorial Day.

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) found Georgia's men losing at South Carolina 78-77. Gamecock fans apparently did NOT storm the court to celebrate the win - as if we needed more proof Georgia's basketball program lags behind Kentucky's.

+ Instant Message to whomever sent the latest e-mail about Cascade Hills Church: I'm sorry, but I cannot touch your accusations. This matter involves a death, and other blog readers have told me death is nothing to joke about [10 Dec 09]. Maybe the Ledger-Enquirer's crime blogger will consider it a crime against humanity.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 405 (+ 12, 3.1%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

30 JAN 10: Project Rebound

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

A friend of mine wrote online recently she's preparing a "Kindle room" in her home. No, not a kindergarten -- a Kindle room. I'm old enough to remember when these things were called studies or libraries....

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not ready to read e-books. Regular books with pages are good enough for me. You can underline key points, jot down notes along the way - and verify quotes to your friends, without having to worry about a battery dying.

Last Friday night I tried an unusual rebuilding project with one of my books. The book is only 15 years old, but I've worn it out so much that some pages have come completely loose. Yes, I consider this book a real "page-turner" - especially since some people want you to turn the pages back and forth constantly.

The first step was to make the pages as flat as possible, so they could all stick together. Since the front two-thirds of the book was fine, I used two rolls of tape to weigh down the back section. I suppose I could have used something heavier - but sitting on the pages would have made the rest of the process very awkward.

With the pages flattened, the back cover was placed on top -- and then the converted redneck in me came out. I used several strips of overlapping duct tape to bind things together. Imagine my surprise to learn the next day at church that duct tape comes in designer colors now - perhaps even a matching brown.

What 15-year-book did I consider worthy of this much care and attention? A hardbound New International Version of the Bible. The last two decades have brought eye-opening doctrinal changes and challenges in my Christian walk - and this "good book" received a good workout. If I hadn't dropped it off the bedside a couple of times, it might be in better shape....

That two-thirds of the Bible in good shape -- that's called the Old Testament. I hear local ministers complain often about others who ignore or throw out that section. Yet in the past two months, my pastor has asked the congregation to turn to the New Testament 22 times out of 28 - so Jesus still seems to come before Moses.

I used to take this hardbound Bible to church every week - but I stopped doing that in 2001, because I could tell it was weakening. I have an NIV Study Bible especially for services. And in the wake of this week's State of the Union speech, I'm now prepared to follow Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. If a preacher goes off-course, I'll mouth the words "simply not true."

But now that you've seen this, I have to ask - what shape is YOUR Bible in? Have you worn it out, the way I have? If you study it for guidance and wisdom on a daily basis, you might. If you only use it to cover an annoying coffee ring on the living room table, you probably won't.

In a way, the Bible is like a lot of other books. It's only valuable and worthwhile if you open and read it - and the Bible especially is valuable if you apply what it says. Read a portion of it, if you haven't in awhile. It might, uh, kindle something good inside you.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 393 (- 30, 7.1%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

29 JAN 10: Walk Both Ways

Thursday's high temperature in Columbus was a sweet 66 degrees F. - while my old home city in Oklahoma endured freezing rain and snow. After all these years, it might be time to put my giant snow shovel on eBay....

The weather has been nice for outside work this week, and a crew in the Historic District has been doing exactly that. New sidewalks and curb-cuts have sprung up all over the place in recent weeks. Maybe this explains the riding lawn mowers I saw two weeks ago [13 Jan] - clearing the ground for construction.

The curb-cuts came first in my block - added at the corner closest to my home in late December. They even have bumps on them, which I presume are for the vision-impaired. The bumps didn't work very well in scraping mud off the bottom of my sneakers.

This week, the sidewalks came - with heavy machinery digging a path from the church next door to the corner nearby. I have NOT tested it with a jog yet. The concrete needs a couple of days to set, you know....

The sidewalk work also includes Fifth Street west of Veterans Parkway, as well as the 500 block of First Avenue. For some odd reason, the construction crew seems to have flattened the historic marker for "The Folly" house - even though the new sidewalk is several feet away from it. That's supposed to be its name, not an insult....

You'll notice the construction crew has spared no expense on this project -- even setting up a portable bathroom on a First Avenue street corner. If I didn't know better, I'd think a revival of Riverfest is about to be announced.

People living outside the Historic District might consider this a waste of money. But it actually makes the neighborhood appear more logical. For some reason, a sidewalk has extended all the way down the east side of First Avenue for years - but on the west side, it stopped at Sixth Street. You would have heard more about this if the NAACP office was on the west side of the road.

The same thing is true along Fifth Street. The south side of the road has a sidewalk extending past Broadway, while the north side does not. So city workers are simply following the Fox News Channel example - making the walkways fair and balanced.

I couldn't find a construction worker Thursday, to tell me if federal stimulus money is being used on the sidewalks. I'm going to assume the answer is no - since giant signs with President Obama's name on them would be posted if it was.

Another possible reason for this work involves residents of The Ralston - trying to get them to ride motorized wheelchairs on the sidewalks of the Historic District, instead of rolling down the street. But the law allows motorized chairs on streets. And it must feel a bit like a 1950s convertible, having the open-air feel of the wind blowing through what's left of your hair.

While the sidewalks are being built, Columbus Water Works has a separate project underway in the Historic District. WTVM showed off a new robot Thursday with a small camera attached. It can be dropped into water lines to check for damaged pipes -- not to mention obtain an accurate rat count for the upcoming Census.

Speaking of walkways: have you heard about the contest to name the "rails to trails" path across Columbus? The winner receives $500 and a new bicycle. But given the way federal money is being used to prepare the path, Columbus Council may face a lot of pressure to name it the Obama-bahn.

-> Why are we taking a small bottle of hand soap to our poker nights these days? Read the surprising answer at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: Chattahoochee Valley Community College students may have their library back before long. A CVCC spokesperson told me Thursday Owen Hall should reopen in two to three weeks. It's taken about eight months to fix a leaky roof - and I assume also find enough paper towels to dry off the carpeting.

With more rain reportedly heading this way, let's see what else we had to bring in from the porch Thursday:

+ An early-morning fire damaged a home on St. Mary's Road. One resident told WRBL his 108-year-old grandmother was lifted outside to safety. If a woman of 108 can survive this without having a heart attack, she needs to share her dinner menu with the rest of us.

+ GPB News reported Rep. Debbie Buckner is proposing a statewide ban on all outdoor watering between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. We have one big year of rain, and some people get overconfident about global warming....

+ Synovus Financial reported another quarter of losses, and a total loss for 2009 of $1.7 billion. Sometimes I wonder if the critics who want the city of Columbus to abandon Synovus and its bank are related to bankruptcy attorneys.

+ Open Door Community House held its annual resource expo for homeless people. They received information about applying for jobs. They were offered a free lunch. And they did valuable networking, about the proper amount to ask strangers for lunch these days.

+ The Republican candidates for Alabama Governor held a public forum in Opelika. WTVM's new reporter declared Tim James wants to focus on jobs once he "gets to Birmingham." If that's really where James plans to go if he becomes Governor, he needs to focus on education instead.

(I fear this reporter made a big mistake - by taking the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Alabama" too literally. Just because "in Birmingham they love the Governor" does NOT mean his mansion is there.)

+ Columbus State split a basketball doubleheader with Lander. The men won 69-61, scoring the first 14 points of the second half. Lander was SO COLD that I thought the game was sponsored by Buck Ice.

(WRBL spotted the head coach of the Kendrick girls' basketball team attempting a half-court shot. Sterling Hicks could have won 100 dollars - but instead, he'll have to watch his undefeated team do it the right way during the playoffs.)

+ Mississippi's men mowed over Auburn 84-74. Auburn radio announcer Rod Bramblett said it could be a "statement game" - but I fear the statements made by many Tiger fans would have to be censored from the air.

+ Instant Message to the Georgia AAA: Did I hear it right - you're operating a "Tow to Go" program for drunk drivers on Super Bowl Sunday? But it actually starts tonight?! How rowdy do you think New Orleans Saints fans really are?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/LATE JANUARY 00: There's a curious proposal in Georgia's state legislature about a common Southern plant. You could be fined if you don't keep the kudzu off your neighbor's property - and you even could be put in jail for a year! Kudzu is known for growing out of control. So if this passes, Georgia soon could have the tallest fences in the country!

Another proposal, from Georgia Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor, would help people on welfare - by giving them CARS, to get to jobs! Didn't he read that study about Atlanta having some of the worst traffic jams in the country?

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: We do things by the book (as opposed to the Kindle)....

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 423 (+ 6, 1.4%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

28 JAN 10: Test No-Drive

"Chances of winning a Toyota Camry: 1:20,000." So said the paper on the desk Wednesday, inside one of the Jay Auto Mall dealers. When the dealership is Jay Mazda and not Jay Toyota, that's the first clue something suspicious could be underway....

Several Toyota models are NOT being sold for a while, due to concerns about gas pedals potentially locking. They include "select Camrys" sold since 2007. Hopefully the sales staff did not select the wrong one, and make it a grand prize in a giveaway.

I'm hearing there were questions Wednesday about whether the Jay Auto Group would have to cancel a promotion in the used car department. The grand prize: a Toyota Camry - perhaps with a revised government rating of 25 miles per HOUR in the city, instead of gallon.

But never fear, sweepstakes fans -- the general manager of Jay Auto Group's used car department assured me the Toyota Camry being given away is NOT among the suspended models. "I wouldn't do something like that," David Sasser said. OK, if you say so - but some of us still have a case of Bill Heard on the brain.

David Sasser was stumped when we asked for details about the car being given away. Yes, it's a Toyota Camry - but he couldn't remember if it's a 2007, 2008 or 2009 model. Huh? Not a 2010? Well, this contest IS from the used car department....

David Sasser added only two or three cars on the Jay used car lot are affected by the big Toyota recall. That probably means he's overstocked with Pontiacs and Saturns, which you'll never see again.

The Jay Auto Group actually has two giveaways underway right now. I took advantage of a mail promotion Wednesday to visit Jay Mazda, in hopes of winning a new car. I wound up taking home a five-dollar Wal-Mart gift card - but compared with Bill Heard Chevrolet a few years ago, I didn't have to spend six dollars on certified mail to get it.

A Jay Toyota manager told WTVM Wednesday night no customers have returned their cars so far, because of the big recall. Of course, they could be waiting for Saturday morning when they're less likely to coast their way into crashes.

For some reason, WRBL only talked with Carl Gregory Honda about the Jay Toyota recall. That's a little bit like calling Georgia pecan growers, to see if they're still celebrating last year's problems at Peanut Corporation of America.

By the way -- Instant Message to Randy Lajoie: When did you move from Gateway Lincoln-Mercury to Legacy Chevrolet? Did Emanuel Jones hire you to babysit his little girl, while the Georgia Senate is in session?

-> Why are we taking a small bottle of hand soap to our poker nights these days? Read the surprising answer at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Were you impressed by a baseball legend endorsing a candidate for Columbus Council? I'm not sure one reader was....

Dear Richard;

Suber has Aaron, and Aaron has the town hall screamer!

You noted that Nathan Suber had Hank Aaron batting for him ...

Did you know that Hank Aaron is the Campaign Chair for the guy who made national headlines screaming at a transportation Town Hall?

Hank Aaron is Campaign Chair for Rep. David Scott who represents the area south and west of Atlanta. We attended some of the town halls and the one in which David Scott did the screaming should make anyone think twice before approaching him.

Additionally, one with Hank Johnson looked to have panthers patrolling outside the building with tons of fake grass roots support. They had thousands of "your pants fall down" types. It was hel**d just near Cynthia McKinney Blvd. east of Atl.

Yep, Suber has Aaron, and Aaron has the town hall screamer.

The video clip has "screams" in the headline -- but after watching it, Rep. David Scott sounded more loud and firm to me. That was NOT a Howard Dean holler, which for some reason automatically disqualifies you from ever holding political office again.

So is Hank Aaron endorsing screamers across the board? If anyone hears Nathan Suber shouting at the top of his lungs about Jerry Barnes, please let us know -- it might be ear-Pop-ping.

Some might call Rep. David Scott a screaming Democrat - but I want to know who is the "howling Democrat." The Courier claims this is a local woman, who plans to unseat every "black incumbent Democrat" who refuses to support Zeph Baker for Mayor. The newspaper doesn't seem to know who she is - but maybe we should follow the noise at next month's Madea performance.

Now we'll attempt a quieter tone of voice, in reviewing other Wednesday news:

+ Part of the Riverwalk was covered with water downtown, for the seventh time in ten months. City workers told WRBL each flooding of the walkway costs $6,000 for repairs - which makes me even more thankful the sewage spills have been happening at Oxbow Meadows.

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported State Senator Ed Harbison never took five required state furlough days last year. Harbison says he asked to take the days, but legislative staff members apparently never processed them. Do you think Harbison asked on a day when the staff members were on furlough themselves?

(I thought state lawmakers had part-time government jobs in the first place. Why don't they take care of "furlough days" by reducing the length of the legislative session? Oh wait, I should have known the answer - lawmakers would have to give shorter speeches in an election year.)

+ GPB Radio revealed Exide Technologies has plans to add 200 jobs at its Columbus battery plant. It all depends on a new research lab near Atlanta, which is developing batteries for hybrid cars. I've wondered why they don't focus on solar-powered batteries - but of course, then all the rain started falling.

+ Administrators told THE 5:00 News Muscogee County Schools have a six-percent truancy rate. There's an easy way to reduce this number to zero - by skipping over those missing children during the census.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer covered the final day of use for the old downtown Columbus YMCA on 11th Street. A new building on First Avenue opens next Monday - and I sincerely hope the grand opening does NOT include a line of middle-aged men doing the "Y-M-C-A" dance.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) saw Florida fly past Georgia's men 87-71. If I heard the radio broadcast correctly, Mark Fox picked up his first technical foul as Georgia head coach in the second half -- so that works about as well as putting black helmets on the football team.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/28 JAN 00: Two minutes into Thursday night's speech, [President] Clinton declared: "The State of our Union is the strongest it has ever been." So why did he speak for 87 MORE minutes after that?

Then it was time for the Republican response. Thankfully, it did NOT last 89 minutes. They realized the "hard working American people" that politicians love so much have to get some SLEEP before working on Friday!

(Of course, the Republicans weren't stopped about 120 times for APPLAUSE, either....)

Senator Susan Collins of Maine said one Republican goal is to "let people create what they can dream." Just think: next season there could be about 15 Super Bowls....

COMING SOON: A form of "urban renewal" comes to my block....

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 417 (+ 13, 3.2%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

27 JAN 10: On to the Next Case

Years of debate about one piece of Columbus property appeared to end Tuesday. But then a man walked in and tried to start a new discussion - if not about that property, perhaps another one. It's almost as if that man has been spending his free time watching TV soap operas....

The main event of the afternoon was a news conference by the plaintiffs in the Education Park Coalition lawsuit. News releases promoting this promised "the next step" in the process. But when the plaintiffs smiled and held hands instead of carrying protest signs, I could guess the outcome.

The Education Park Coalition members announced "unanimous support" for the Memorandum of Understanding unveiled last week [21-22 Jan]. The lawsuit demanding a park on land south of the Columbus Public Library will be dropped, once all local officials vote their approval. Hopefully all the paperwork can be recycled as easily as that asphalt....

Speaking for all the other plaintiffs, Lucius Morton praised attorney Josh McKoon for working on behalf of the Education Park Coalition "pro bono." Since McKoon is a Republican, he's especially pro-Rep. Mary Bono.

Josh McKoon admitted to reporters he was "pleasantly surprised" to see a settlement worked out among all the various parties. There was the Education Park Coalition, city officials, the school board, the library board - and you'd think Trees Columbus would have demanded a minimum number of pine seedlings.

Your blog actually attended this news conference, since Josh McKoon sent a personal e-mail invitation. So I asked Lucius Morton if he was disappointed the final Memorandum of Understanding never mentions the word "park." If I understand his answer, the greenspace is as good as a park if the city spends enough "green" on it.

Exactly when it appeared the news conference quietly would wind down, a surprise guest piped up. Veterans activist Jim Rhodes was standing among the reporters -- and he asked the plaintiffs to help find property for a veterans' center in Columbus. Surely Rhodes doesn't think they're going to call for that thing to be built at the library's back door....

Jim Rhodes says the Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for land to build a veterans' center. He was concerned by the Ledger-Enquirer report Tuesday of an agreement to tear down the old Baker High School, which was suggested last year as a possible a V.A. hospital. Rhodes is as stunned as I am by this - two Columbus land swaps being worked out in the same month.

The latest land swap involves the Muscogee County School District and the Columbus Housing Authority. The district will receive land in the new Baker Village II Arbor Pointe development for a new school. The Housing Authority will gain the old Baker High School building -- and apparently that board is in no mood for brownstone condominiums along Victory Drive.

This land swap answers my recent question about why Carver High School students won't be moved into the old Baker High building, while a new Carver building goes up. That landmark appears doomed to destruction - and maybe then Waffle House will launch the big Columbus South dining boom.

Back at the news conference, Jim Rhodes was left disappointed. The Education Park Coalition plaintiffs indicated they could do nothing to help him. If Rhodes suggested building a V.A. hospital with ten acres of grass around it, the response might have been different....

There were a couple of other familiar faces at Tuesday's news conference. Land swap dealmaker Frank Myers stood in the back, saying nothing. And Columbus mayoral candidate Zeph Baker was on hand -- working the room as best he could, and perhaps dreaming Baker Middle School can be renamed to add a Zeph.

Zeph Baker told me he was glad to see the "special interests did not prevail" in the greenspace settlement. We'll see if he's right about that in a couple of years - when businesses start requesting permission to hold company picnics on the lawn.

Columbus Council approved the Memorandum of Understanding for greenspace at Tuesday night's meeting. The Muscogee County School Board is expected to do the same at a weekend retreat. Then Josh McKoon tells me about 18 months of work is planned to transform the land south of the main library - so instead of ugly asphalt, library visitors can view ugly front end loaders.

-> Why are we taking a small bottle of hand soap to our poker nights these days? Read the surprising answer at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our InBox was not a pleasant place Tuesday. One reader didn't think much about the day's main topic....

Well, Richard, a mildly amusing reportage of the SOA trial and sentences. But it's not really a funny matter. Trouble with so many of you Americans is that, for you, someone protesting about something you support or feel indifferent about is a wacko, terrorist, nutjob - I'm not really up with your slang terms - but someone who exercises their right to freedom of expression aginst something you disagree with (abortion?) is some sort of hero. Not expressing myself very clearly here!

Truth is the US has exported terror - yes, terror - by training paramilitaries etc from many repressive regimes around the world. No, I don't need the SOA to tell me that.

And what's so funny about the SOA Watch people being old?

Perhaps, for all your apparent worldliness, you don't realise or don't care that the US is a greedy, malicious, smug, hypocritical power crazy force in the world. When I was in the US recently, got talking to a business consultant guy who told me he is Republican by nature but had come to understand why so many people in the world hate the US because his wife is German and she had 'enlightened' him. Perhaps you could broaden your horizons a little.

Oh, by the way, and it's irrelevant really, I've nephews who are US citizens, having been born there.

Happy blogging


Cornishman may not believe this, but I've found humor over the years with protests on all sides of the political spectrum -- even the Tea Party gatherings of recent months [16 Apr 09]. Drives on both the left and right sides of the road risk going over the edge, and rolling me over with laughter.

Cornishman didn't tell me where he lives, but it's clear what he thinks about the U.S. We're terror-promoting, greedy, malicious and power-crazy -- and I shudder to think how this reader would describe Iran and North Korea.

I was struck by the ages of the SOA Watch trespassers because I can remember when protest marches were a young person's "thing," as in 1970-era "things." They were the activists who warned us NOT to trust anyone over 30 or 40 - so now that they're protesting at 60 or 77, I guess the only people left to distrust are nursing home residents.

As for broad horizons: I've traveled outside the U.S. four times. I don't recall anyone in Canada, England, France or the Netherlands telling me they hated my country. The closest thing I heard was "gringo" - and that was at a church convention in Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. commonwealth.

Now let's rewind farther back. The reader who wrote us about Monday's main topic isn't finished....

Dear Richard,

I know it is your job to joke and poke fun, but my following quote bears out in your own link on board member listings:

"CB& T has their own form of predatory conduct by taking advantage of the city leadership, controlling important city boards, buying control of candidates, housing city reserves, and getting all possible city tax abatements---- "






This e-mail included the full list of board members, but I'm editing out the names because I don't think every single member works for Columbus Bank and Trust or Synovus. Last time I checked, the only "liquid assets" Billy Turner handled involved Columbus Water Works.

Since our writer seems compelled to hijack a TSYS topic to attack CB&T, we asked two political candidates Tuesday whether they could be bought by big bank bucks. State Senate candidate Josh McKoon told me he'll be an "independent conservative voice," whose vote cannot be purchased. Of course, your campaign donations can help McKoon buy many votes of his own....

(Before McKoon's opponents write me -- yes, I'm aware the group he represents held its news conference in the main library's Synovus-CB&T Room.)

Compare Josh McKoon's answer to what we heard from mayoral candidate Zeph Baker. His reply to the CB&T question sounded somewhat familiar - and if I had attended Baker's news conference last week launching his campaign, I think I would have heard the very same soundbite.

We thank our readers and writers from far and near - and now let's see what else made news Tuesday:

+ Nathan Suber officially announced he's running to regain his old Columbus Council seat. The rally included an endorsement by Suber's uncle, who happens to be Atlanta baseball legend Hank Aaron. I think Aaron's appearance was a reminder that Suber served three previous terms - so a win in November would be a four-bagger.

(TV reports indicated Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman supports Nathan Suber - which is amazing, since Suber wanted the Marshal's Department abolished during the 1990s. If I was Sheriff John Darr, I'd get the Powerpoint presentation justifying my budget ready now.)

+ Columbus Council approved new rules for "doggie day care" centers near residential neighborhoods. A maximum four dogs will be allowed to run outside at one time - which means the Civic Center still can host concerts by Three Dog Night.

+ Dee Armstrong ended 19 months of local TV limbo, by appearing in a WLTZ promotional ad. Armstrong will host a station-sponsored talent contest Friday night in Auburn. Then perhaps she'll appear on Rise-n-Shine, to hold debates on health care with Dr. Jan McBarron.

+ WBOJ-FM "88.5 the Truth" had its weekly Teen Advisors night - including a man who was given the nickname "Cumulonimbus." Don't you dare tell that guy Charles Darwin was right....

+ Kendrick remained unbeaten in girls' high school basketball, by lashing LaGrange 86-39. Then LaGrange remained unbeaten in boys' basketball, by topping Kendrick 53-49. There ought to be a tiebreaker after a night like this - like maybe a tug-of-war between the cheerleading squads.

+ A Georgia House member proposed a constitutional amendment, to legalize gambling on horse races. Henry Geisinger says race tracks in rural areas would produce jobs. And imagine how hat sales could skyrocket, if Callaway Gardens held Steeplechase races for an entire month.

+ Instant Message to WTVM's Dave Platta: It's one thing to tell me former Alabama defensive star Terrence Cody weighs 370 pounds. But did you REALLY have to show him during the dinner hour without a shirt on? With those dangling.... wellll, uhhh.... with Heidi Montag's worst nightmare....

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/27 JAN 00: Dennis Rodman has been spotted partying at Super Bowl Week events in Atlanta. Trouble is, it's SO COLD there that he can only show PHOTOS of his tattoos....

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© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

26 JAN 10: Don't Do the Crime If....

Members of SOA Watch made their annual follow-up trip to Columbus Monday. Long-time residents know what that means. The march is downtown, not down Fort Benning Road. It goes to federal court, not the main gate. But this year one thing was different -- as Ruth Ann's Restaurant couldn't reopen in time to get a big breakfast crowd.

Four members of SOA Watch were scheduled to appear in federal court, for illegally crossing onto Fort Benning last November. Trouble was, Michael Walli of Washington, D.C. never showed up and now faces arrest -- which means Walli season is underway up north early this year.

The SOA Watch web site claims Michael Walli "consciously chose to not return for his trial...." Maybe this is a two-pronged protest -- not only against a Fort Benning school, but those high airline baggage fees.

The big news from Monday's federal court hearing is that the three trespassers received longer sentences than in recent years. They'll spend six months in prison instead of three -- and those criminals should be thankful Judge Clay Land wasn't doing the sentencing, or they might be away for years.

(Imagine if Orly Taitz had known about this SOA Watch court appearance. She might get the protesters to argue the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is unconstitutional, because Barack Obama is Commander-in-Chief.)

An SOA Watch ex-con line-crosser from recent years told the TV news she was "devastated" by Magistrate Mallon Faircloth handing the three trespassers maximum sentences. Faircloth plans to retire later this year - so he could be going out with a gavel-bang.

Trespasser Nancy Gwin tried to look on the bright side - saying the prison time is an opportunity to extend her "witness" against WHINSEC. This raises a fascinating question. Do prison inmates who meet these protesters ever join SOA Watch rallies, after they finish their sentences? Or do the inmates consider them just as crazy as many conservatives do?

Convicted priest Louie Vitale told WLTZ his decision to cross on Fort Benning property last November was "really free speech." Of course it was - much like the people who rob banks really are trying to "end welfare as we know it."

Then there's Texas trespasser Ken Hayes, who admits he attended SOA Watch weekend for 13 years before deciding to cross onto Fort Benning. This is why that big March revival in Auburn with Billy Graham's grandson needs to be more than a one-time event....

What struck me most about this year's trespassers was their ages - as the youngest suspect in court Monday was 60. So maybe they shouldn't be surprised by Judge Mallon Faircloth's longer sentences. They actually might be old enough to know better.

(Then again, if these trespassers are getting more cantankerous with age, why can't their magistrate be?)

The leader of SOA Watch apparently was absent from Monday's court hearing. But you can join Roy Bourgeois in March on a one-week trip to El Salvador, where his group will ask that government to end its use of WHINSEC to train soldiers. I'm sure Cuba and Venezuela would be thrilled to gain their business.

-> Why are we taking a small bottle of hand soap to our poker nights these days? Read the surprising answer at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Monday's TSYS topic ticked off one reader....

Dear Richard, Thank you so very much for your unwavering devotion to truth and integrity. We expect to hear new news from you- and You deliver with a punchline.

The following golden parachutes are bolstered by the business we as a city do with the company and tax abatements they as a company get from the city/county government.

When we focus in on the issue of city reserves we learn the 30+ million of reserves used to be much more in the Poydasheff era. We need larger and not smaller reserves. Too many city handouts, too many entitlements, too many recreational facilities on the tax dollar.

Who holds the reserves? CB& T. What do they pay the city?

Who knows as they refuse to divulge that information.

But, when we try to get between the reserves and the CB & T control of it we learn quickly we will be penalized in one way or another.

CB & T has their corporate leadership in leadership advisory roles to the city of Columbus. They back particular candidates, and contribute large sums of money to their campaigns.

What candidates are not owned by CB&T?

Those are the candidates we should vote for, unless, of course the power mongering CB&T execs have hedged their bets, as they do in the tight races, when they are the major contributors for both or all opponents in a particular race....

CB& T has their own form of predatory conduct by taking advantage of the city leadership, controlling important city boards, buying control of candidates, housing city reserves, and getting all possible city tax abatements----

ALL while they are busy firing low level employees and taking huge benefits, stock options and salaries.

Are the CB&T, etc. gang, good citizens of Columbus?

What do you mean, too many city recreational facilities in Columbus? The city actually sold one of its parks in recent years - which I didn't realize until the old Belvedere Park recently became a crime scene. The church which owns that property now really needs to convert that unlocked restroom building into a prayer closet.

On top of that, TSYS executives might challenge being lumped together with Columbus Bank and Trust. A recent annual report declares: "On December 31, 2007.... TSYS became a fully independent company.... Transactions with Synovus and its affiliates are no longer considered related party transactions." At least not until the Riverwalk is connected between 12th and 14th Streets.

Check the list of Columbus city boards, and you'll find NONE of the top five TSYS executives we mentioned Monday are there. Perhaps they're too busy trying to gain new business, such as an agreement announced last week with Caterpillar Financial Services. So take that - a tractor for all you de-tractors.

Let's see what else made news on a modest Monday:

+ Fire destroyed a vacant home on Sesame Street in Columbus. There was no immediate word on a cause - but I'm hearing a green monster was seen dragging a trash can away from the scene.

+ Former prosecutor John Tyson was named the new director of Alabama's anti-gambling task force. After hearing Tyson talk tough against some recent rulings on electronic bingo machines, Governor Bob Riley had better not make any more wagers on college football games.

+ Columbus High won both the boys' and girls' city high school swim meets. If I saw the highlights on WTVM correctly, one Columbus girls' relay team defeated another school by more than a lap. Do roller derby rules kick in then, with the team getting a bonus point?

+ Faulkner State chopped Chattahoochee Valley 61-56, in men's junior college basketball. We overlooked CVCC Coach Richard Mahone winning his 600th career game the other night. He has four times as many winning nights as Jay Leno did at 10:00 p.m.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/26 JAN 00: The Super Buildup for the Super Bowl continues in Hot-lanta.... The Rams and Titans will NOT wear U.S. flags on their helmets Sunday. Jesse Jackson wanted flags displayed, to protest Confederate symbols on the Georgia state flag. The NFL explained that the Civil War ended 135 years ago!

The NFL also argues the flag makes a "political statement," that should NOT be on uniforms. Nice of the league to think about the Elian Gonzales case....

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Monday, January 25, 2010

25 JAN 10: The 9.6 Million Dollar Man

Now now -- don't get the wrong idea from our title. We are NOT announcing a big cash giveaway for blog readers. We can't afford that these days. In fact, I thought I was splurging the other day when I spent 50 extra cents at the supermarket for a small fruit pie.

But other people have big bucks on their minds right now. I heard from one over the weekend - someone who apparently reads this blog in India. Of course, it wound up in our Spam e-mail. But no, it was NOT from an earthquake survivor trying to export three million dollars.

We mentioned last Thursday that TSYS expects to reduce its workforce by five percent this year. That led to this "outsourced" response:

And this is what the bosses at TSYS would offer themselves in case they got, errr, re-organised:....

Philip W. Tomlinson/$ 9,628,575

James B. Lipham/$ 3,644,207

M. Troy Woods/$ 7,883,336

William A. Pruett/$ 4,120,725

Kenneth L. Tye/$ 4,827,824

Have a nice day, y'all

Incidentally, the auditors they have in India refused to sign the "accounts".

Best/Veeresh Malik

New Delhi/India

We confirmed Sunday night that link is legitimate - from a page buried deep in a TSYS proxy statement filed last March. The five executives would get that combined 30 million dollars only if a "change of control" takes place. At this point, the Chinese government is only upset with Google....

The totals listed in the e-mail reflect total compensation. The proxy statement shows they're based on three times the TSYS executives' base salary. In the case of Chief Executive Officer Philip Tomlinson, that base at the end of 2008 was $840,000. With that salary, he'd better have his own corner booth for lunch at Country's downtown.

The proxy statement also notes top TSYS executives are required to own a lot of TSYS stock. For instance, Philip Tomlinson has to own enough stock for five times his base salary. Trading opens today with TSYS stock at $14.69 - so if you're a Columbus resident who does NOT a share of TSYS, I figure Tomlinson already owns it for you.

In case you don't know which executive is which: Philip Tomlinson is TSYS Chairman and C.E.O. James Lipham is C.F.O. M. Troy Woods is President and C.O.O. William Pruett is C.C.O. And Kenneth Tye is C.I.O. The workers being trimmed are simply C.O.'s - cut out.

(Before rumors start - no, I do NOT think Conan O'Brien will be hired by TSYS as Team COCO.)

But I admittedly don't understand Veeresh Malik's line about TSYS having auditors in India. The proxy statement I reviewed indicates KPMG conducted the company's independent audit last year. If the number-crunchers were in New Delhi, that seems about as independent from Columbus as you can get.

TSYS actually has employees located far from Columbus. As of Sunday night, the corporate web site showed job openings in Cyprus and Dubai. Of course, you'd have to be careful in Dubai about saying "T.G.I.F." to people - because they might expect an A instead.

But I digress -- our Indian reader has found five very nice "golden parachutes" waiting to be deployed, in case a major change occurs at TSYS. But c'mon now. Isn't this Columbus company stable? The day someone takes over TSYS is the day the New Orleans Saints go to the Super Bowl, and that will never.... oh wait....

If you don't have a job with this sort of golden parachute, the Georgia Lottery is about to offer a new temptation. Tuesday is the deadline to submit a home video promoting the arrival of Powerball in Georgia. If you think "Powerball" involves Columbus High School baseball players hitting home runs, you need to travel around more.

The Georgia Lottery will begin selling Powerball tickets next Sunday. The twice-weekly drawings will be added to the twice-weekly Mega Millions drawings -- so your dream of a fancy retirement home overlooking Lake Harding can be destroyed four times in five nights.

Our thanks to readers near and far who find these interesting tidbits - especially since we didn't find much in the Sunday news:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer web site reported St. Matthew Lutheran Church voted against separating from its denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA recently decided to allow homosexual ministers. I'm sorry, but I think this misinterprets the Bible - especially that verse in James about people with "gay clothing."

+ Author and magazine writer Gay Talese held a question-and-answer session at the Columbus Public Library. I'm a bit surprised this didn't inspire a protest march. After all, they brought a well-known "Gay" person to Columbus - and on a Sunday after church at that....

+ Georgia Tech flopped at Florida State in men's basketball 68-66. It was curious at one point to see both teams huddling side by side in the free throw lane. If the football teams huddled that close to each other, someone probably would have started a fight.

+ WLGA tried to show the Auburn-Kentucky women's basketball game, but a passing storm kept the screen dark for minutes at a time. Considering Kentucky won 68-50, they might as well have shown infomercials as usual.

+ Instant Message to Coach Charles Flowers: C'mon, admit it - you called Indianapolis Sunday night, didn't you? You called former Shaw linebacker Philip Wheeler and asked about Super Bowl tickets, didn't you?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/25 JAN 00: And it was SO COLD in Atlanta over the weekend that the city had damaging ice storms. SO COLD.... it was colder than John Rocker's humor.

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.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 378 (- 21, 5.3%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

24 JAN 10: Lies, More Lies and the Weather

This may be showing my age, but I'm old enough to remember when CBS aired the game show "To Tell the Truth" every afternoon. I also remember the summer day in 1968 when it was interrupted for a special report, as the Soviet Red Army stopped the "Prague spring" rebellion in Czechoslovakia. I didn't like the interruption then -- but now I realize CBS was showing AND telling truth.

But sadly, the news in recent days has featured plenty of stories about lies. The biggest one in Columbus involves a 14-year-old girl, who claimed she was kidnaped and harmed while walking to a school bus stop. It sounded like a copycat crime - but now we're told it was more like copying another student's test.

To be honest, something in the back of my mind wondered if this claim was for real. It seemed too much like another kidnaping of an East Columbus Magnet Academy student one week earlier -- and someone was already under arrest in that case. Criminal gangs may not be smart, but they're probably also not stupid enough to try that stunt twice.

Police Chief Ricky Boren told reporters several points in the 14-year-old's story "didn't add up" -- and when officers went back to the girl, she admitted she made it all up. If the goal was to have a neighborhood watch group named in her honor, I don't think it will work.

(The girl's parents apparently didn't know she was lying, either. And let's face it - one week simply isn't enough time for the family to book an appearance on The Maury Povich Show for polygraph tests.)

The Columbus Police Chief knew about this before Thursday night's community meeting at a church. But Ricky Boren told WLTZ he didn't reveal the teen's admission there because he didn't want to take away from the meeting's purpose. Wow - withholding somewhat good and potentially relieving news?! I thought only liberal news reporters did that....

Chief Ricky Boren explains the two kidnaping reports have helped bring an east Columbus neighborhood together. It's certainly prompted many Columbus parents to warn their children about "stranger danger." May those same parents remember this, when they're shopping through the classified ads for a used car.

The unnamed juvenile who claimed the second kidnaping now is under arrest -- charged with "making a false report." If TV weather forecasters faced this sort of charge, they all might be arrested at least once a year....

Was I the only person in Columbus who felt cheated by Saturday's weather? The forecasters called for a partly sunny day, with a high temperature approaching 60 degrees F. Instead it was cloudy, with the temperature never topping 50. And Derek Kinkade's prediction that things would get warmer through the night doesn't count after 11:00 p.m.

For days it appeared Saturday evening would be warm enough for outdoor running. But instead, I was left disappointed - stopped by weather or other events for the ninth Saturday night in a row. It's almost enough to make me demand the "rails-to-trails" course have a dome and climate controls.

Of course, there's the biggest national liar of the moment - former Presidential candidate John Edwards. He denied cheating on his wife, then admitted it. He denied fathering a "love child" from adultery, but now admits he did. If President Obama appoints Edwards a national "climate change czar," I'd invest in heaters instead of air conditioners.

Sad to say, John Edwards has taken the stereotype of a lying politician to a completely new level. He took it one step beyond former President Clinton - who somehow had enough character and ethics to avoid going too far with Paula Jones.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: This reply to Friday's main topic might relate to our main one today....

Richard, You quoted Owen Ditchfield as saying six hotels have recently opened in Columbus South or are under construction. Was that an exaggeration? The Suburban Extended Stay opened on Victory Dr way over a year ago, the Candlewood Suites opened on Victory Dr very recently and the new Holiday Inn Express will open within days on Victory Dr at the site of the old Denny's Restaurant. Those are the only ones I know of. Where are the rest? And a very reliable source (a hotel owner) told me recently that the occupancy rate of hotels in Columbus right now is too low and that most of them are just barely breaking even. This person told me that they really don't need any more hotels in Columbus or they will all go broke. And the Ft Benning newspaper reported recently that the Army plans to build an approximately 1000 room hotel on Ft. Benning soon. If that happens can you imagine how low the occupancy rate will be in the Columbus hotels? Most active duty, retirees, Dept of Defense civilians on TDY and their families will want to stay on post because of the lower room rates, better security, and closer proximity to the Infantry Museum, commissary, Ft. Benning Mall, etc. I've also talked to some individuals who have stayed in hotels on the south side who have regretted their decision to stay there because they've had to drive to the north side where the chain restaurants are to eat. That is also a major problem in booking conventions for the hotels on the south side. Other than McDonalds and Burger King can anyone name a franchise restaurant that has opened on the south side in years?

After further review of the town hall video, Owen Ditchfield (at the start of the second clip) dropped only one other name -- a Hampton Inn, on the grounds of the National Infantry Museum. We know no one would dare build a motel on the grounds of Port Columbus, because ghosts might infest it.

(But down the road and across Victory Drive from Port Columbus, there's Value Place. The value apparently is so good, the hotel can't afford a listing in the AT&T Yellow Pages....)

Since you also asked for names of Columbus South restaurants: Sonic and Checkers opened on Victory Drive in the last five years or so. The only Huddle House in Columbus is located near the Dolly Madison bakery. And don't overlook Saxby's on Buena Vista Road -- which might as well be a sit-down restaurant, because you usually have to wait awhile for dinner.

Now let's state some truthful events of the weekend (with our punch lines thrown in), beginning in Columbus South....

+ Business executive and former Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot visited Fort Benning. Perot reportedly made a major donation to build the National Infantry Museum, but I don't recall a media event being called in his honor. Maybe planners rejected Perot's suggestion to fill the museum with pie graphs.

+ Edward DuBose returned to Columbus, to be inaugurated for a third term as Georgia NAACP President. This news probably shouldn't surprise anyone - since Republicans are more likely to call for term limits.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported a security guard was robbed at the Trade Center. Apparently this happened in the early morning, before the annual Health and Fitness Expo -- so we can't blame this on a doctor demanding a co-payment.

+ Columbus Police reported a man was assaulted during a three-day drinking binge. If he drank malt liquor, things might have been different -- because they used to say Old English 800 is "The Power."

+ WTVM showed video of people practicing medieval maneuvers of some sort in Lakebottom Park. Does this mean we're getting a Medieval Times dinner theater? Or is this the best the Georgia Renaissance Festival can do for a winter training camp?

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) found Georgia's men surprising top-ten Ten-nessee 78-63. In a 48-hour span, Georgia defeated Tennessee in men's basketball, women's basketball and swimming - so that finally might make up for the loss in football.

+ Instant Message to Wane Hailes: A friend of mine can't believe your latest issue of "The Joint" contains 12 pages of local mug shots. How many did you have BEFORE all the new police officers were hired?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/24 JAN 00: We were at the checkout of a well-known department store that begins with "K." Behind us, a man held a little boy upside down and shook him a bit, saying, "Give me the money. Give me the money." We reached a quick conclusion.

"I.R.S. agent?"

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Friday, January 22, 2010

22 JAN 10: The South Could Rise Again

One of the first rules I learned about Columbus television news involved directions. I was told you do NOT refer to the "north side" or "south side" of Columbus on the air. It was a touchy subject with some people, I was told. I guess that all changed when the Muscogee County schools dared to open an East Columbus Magnet Academy.

The so-called "north-south divide" was the focus of a town hall meeting at the RiverCenter Thursday evening. Business owners and supporters of Columbus South talked about improvements in their side of the city - but if the goal really was "One Columbus," shouldn't residents of Green Island Hills have received equal time?

Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman admitted during the town hall he doesn't like to say he's from South Columbus. He prefers to use the phrase "Greater Columbus.... because all of Columbus is great." Of course, Trim Down Columbus is trying to move that in the other direction....

Former Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff revealed Fort Benning officers had to be told several years ago to stop denigrating "Columbus South." I don't understand why they had to be told that. Those officers might have been sincerely convinced the Platinum Club on Manchester Expressway had hotter dancers.

But the focus of the town hall was on the effort to improve Columbus South. Former Muscogee County School Board member Owen Ditchfield said six new motels are either open or under construction -- and amazingly, not one of them is offering a "honeymoon suite" for newly-married soldiers.

Many people say the comeback of Columbus South is tied in part to the National Infantry Museum. Owen Ditchfield said someone from Walt Disney World even stopped there recently, to check the museum's operations. Based on my trip to Orlando last summer [6 Aug 09], the main goal probably was to see which place has the better "Fife and Drum" restaurant.

A couple of soundbites played during the town hall addressed why many people consider Columbus South a high-crime area. One person traced it to the opening of Peachtree Mall, when rumors developed that Columbus Square Mall had a crime problem. Apparently that rumor was false - because they're not building a new police precinct in the library greenspace.

Another video clip had a woman tracing the image problem all the way back to the Civil War - and the notion that north is good, while south is bad. There might be some truth to this. The north sides of Atlanta, Dallas and Pensacola historically have enjoyed higher incomes and fancier stores than the south sides. But then, no one tends to talk up NORTH Beach in Miami....

But let's face it - Columbus Park Crossing and all its stores were put where they are for a reason. Developers said that's where the growth of the city is, not to mention the money. Columbus South is NOT going to match that reputation simply by staging news conferences with big lottery winners.

Nice new apartment complexes near Buena Vista Road and Cusseta Road are fine. But it seems to me the "big box" stores won't take an interest in Columbus South until they see more upscale families living there. I don't think Bob Poydasheff has even moved to the street named after him a few years ago.

(One person at the town hall pointedly asked why Mayor Jim Wetherington doesn't go to restaurants in Columbus South for lunch. Maybe he's trying to set a good example for the rest of the city - by saving on gas, and eating at a Burger King or McDonald's closer to the Government Center.)

The people of Columbus South had some trouble telling their stories, because WTVM had "technical difficulties" for several minutes during the live town hall meeting. I really don't think it's fair to call this the Baker Village curse....

(To be honest, WTVM is the only station in Columbus which can put on such a town hall meeting these days. WLTZ might try to fly all the local leaders to Davenport, Iowa.)

As for the competition: Midtown Inc. had a networking lunch Thursday, which focused on restoring old neighborhoods. That part of town doesn't have to worry about building new motels. The issue there Thursday involved criminals using the current motels as a parking lot for stolen cars.

You're invited to hear me sing this weekend! I'll be part of a worship service at the United Church of God of Columbus. It starts Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, next door to Lumber Liquidators.

BLOG UPDATE: Our thanks to the mayor's office for sending us a copy of the "Memorandum of Understanding" Thursday, dealing with land south of the main library. My main concern actually was that members of the public were unable to review it -- and some of them might have an interest in understanding it, too.

After looking carefully over the three-page memorandum, I couldn't find the word "park" anywhere in it. Instead, it has words such as seeding, landscaping and "beautify." Usually the only "P-word" politicians try to avoid is pork-barrel spending.

Meanwhile, attorney Josh McKoon tells me the plaintiffs in the Education Park Coalition have called a follow-up news conference for next Tuesday. If you walk into the Columbus Public Library and find papers ripped to shreds all over the lobby, you'll know what the plaintiffs said.

Let's see what else was growing, on a wet and mild Thursday:

+ Shawn Skillman presented his final sportscast on WRBL - only five hours after introducing his successor, who was live at the Civic Center. For a little while, I actually thought the station had stumbled upon enough money to hire a second sports reporter.

(Skillman is returning to his home state, for a new job in Columbia, South Carolina. We'll know in the next few days whether he's part of a package deal, to become the new sidekick of Conan O'Brien.)

+ Troup County High School announced plans to hire Charles Flowers as head football coach. Flowers claimed two months ago he was retiring from coaching. It's now clear he meant the baseball version of "retired" - where you can come back up in one or two innings.

(In fact, the Citizen-News of East Alabama revealed several weeks ago that Flowers was a finalist to coach Phenix City Central. So truly this Flowers is a hardy perennial....)

+ Managers announced the name Columbus Metropolitan Airport is out. The new name of that place where airplanes take off and land is Columbus Airport - without the Metropolitan. Take that, Phenix City and Waverly Hall! This is our airport, so go build one of your own....

(Columbus Airport Manager Mark Oropeza admitted to WTVM his complex has a "leakage problem," when it comes to airline passengers going to Atlanta. A leakage problem?! He makes it sound the Honor Flight last year showed the need for the airport to sell Depends.)

+ Several local ministers announced a new child safety program called "East Columbus Clergy at Work." Parents are urged to drop off their children at churches, if they cannot be taken to school. Why haven't churches done something like this before? Have pastors waiting at the end of class, to get those evolution lessons out of their minds.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths felled Fayetteville 2-1. The Snakes tried several stunts to make sure fans received more for their money. The beers cost two dollars, the hot dogs cost one dollar - and goalie Ian Vigier made 54 saves.

+ Georgia topped Tennessee in women's basketball 53-50. Shouldn't the university go ahead and name the court at Stegeman Coliseum after women's coach Andy Landers? If that honor hasn't been given to Hugh Durham by now, he'll probably never get it.

+ Instant Message to John Edwards: Best wishes with that mercy mission to Haiti. But you really ought to become a professional poker player - because you've now proven you can lie and bluff with the best of them.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip 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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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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

21 JAN 10: Park 'n' Deck

Another televised diversity forum is planned this afternoon, to help build "One Columbus." If the Columbus Mayor, Muscogee County School Board, Muscogee County Library Board AND Josh McKoon can work out a tentative agreement on something, the dream of One Columbus actually might be possible.

The Mayor, School Board President and Education Park Coalition attorney announced a long-awaited compromise on land south of the Columbus Public Library. They released a "memorandum of understanding" - which perhaps the developers can celebrate by building a MOU-nd on the site.

If Columbus Council and the school board approve, several acres south of the main library will be turned into what leaders call "greenspace." But hold on here -- didn't the Education Park Coalition want a PARK on that land? Is it finally settling for something less, with a different name? Or is there a quiet deal to name the space Josh McKoon Park, during his campaign for State Senate?

I'd love to look over the M.O.U. and answer these questions. But as of Wednesday night, it had NOT been posted on any local government web site. This was another part of the Education Park Coalition's complaint -- that promises of a park may or may not have been put in writing. I don't think those plaintiffs even will settle for a text message on cell phones.

TV reports on the M.O.U. couldn't even agree on how much land is involved. WTVM said it was 14 acres. WRBL claimed it was 20 acres. And some Library Board members probably lobbied for a "three-acre wood," to honor Winnie the Pooh.

The blog of Dick McMichael (who serves on the "Friends of the Library" Board) says the city of Columbus will pay for the land improvements with 1999 special sales tax money. The amount comes to exactly $1,050,412.46 - which hopefully doesn't forget to add 2010 special school sales tax money.

The M.O.U. also includes a land swap on the property in question. The Muscogee County School District will give the city nine acres. The city will give the school district five other acres. I'm not sure which side gets the administrative assistant to be named later.

The city will use its nine acres to build a natatorium for swim meets, a center for citizen services and a parking garage. So that should.... hey, wait a minute! A parking deck?! It had better be painted as green as the lawn around it....

The school district's five acres may not be used to build anything. Even though a movie theater once stood on that land, the Ledger-Enquirer reports part of it is in a flood plain. So shouldn't that land have been set aside for the natatorium all along?

(Come to think of it, there could be a productive use for those five acres. Does Albert Paley still want to list a Columbus sculpture on his resume?)

Josh McKoon sent us pictures last year of the abandoned parking lot south of the Columbus Public Library. That area is destined to become green - replacing what WTVM's Cheryl Renee called Wednesday a "sea of pavement." If 20 acres makes a sea, then the lake at Cooper Creek Park should permit speedboats.

School Board President Philip Schley assured one TV station the asphalt to be removed is recyclable. That's nice to know - since that means the city won't need to spend extra money to fill potholes from the recent cold wave.

Mayor Jim Wetherington promises the finished landscaping will be "first-class," with sidewalks connecting several buildings in the library area. Uh-oh, here we go again - sidewalks amid "greenspace." Next thing you know, that land will host "Rails to Trails II".

Dick McMichael's blog reveals a man who played a key role in working out details of the M.O.U. - attorney Frank Myers. He's increasingly coming across as a powerful behind-the-scenes player in Columbus projects. If Myers wants to sue me for writing that, he also should sue the mayor for bringing up his name.

You're invited to hear me sing this weekend! I'll be part of a worship service at the United Church of God of Columbus. It starts Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, next door to Lumber Liquidators.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The message title said "S S." But Wednesday's comment was NOT about the Nazis....

Sonya is a pretty girl- "Hair and Make-up" is what the old crowd used to do. A diamond in the rough goes to waste.

Aw, c'mon -- give Sonya Sorich a break, will ya?! She's not on WLTZ anymore. She's a full-time newspaper reporter again -- and she's not doing the sort of political commentary that earns you a trip to the makeup room before appearing on Fox News Channel.

We referred to Sonya Sorich's blog Wednesday. Read it carefully, and you'll conclude she's dating fellow Ledger-Enquirer reporter Alan Riquelmy. Link to each other's blogs on a regular basis, and it's a clue they're linked in other ways.

Let's see what else made news on Penguin Awareness Day -- and if you're not aware, they play hockey in Pittsburgh:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported interviews have begun for the new Director of Crime Prevention. The mayor is joined by four other people in conducting the interviews - and in a major surprise, none of the four is named Mark Shelnutt.

(WLTZ reports the city received about 80 applications for Director of Crime Prevention. This could make it extremely tough for Mayor Wetherington to hand-pick the person critics say he really wanted three months ago.)

+ TSYS announced it expects to lay off five percent of its employees this year. Then hours later, the Georgia Department of Labor reported statewide unemployment climbed in December to 10.3 percent. We'd like to see TSYS have a record-setting 2010, but not quite this way.

+ The Phenix City Council approved a loan of more than three million dollars, to pay for several projects. One of the items is improved locker rooms at Garrett-Harrison Stadium. Oh no -- I hope no one damaged them by shooting off fireworks....

+ A truck filled with gravel tipped over on Victory Drive at Interstate 185. Fort Benning Military Police moved quickly to clear the road for drivers - such as the soldiers who own Hummers, and dreamed of practicing off-road maneuvers.

+ The Alabama House voted 95-3 to ban texting while driving. If you're caught doing it once, you'd be fined 25 dollars. If that's all the punishment will be, plenty of drivers probably will respond by writing "LOL."

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Columbus State losing two games to Georgia College and State University. The women lost 53-45, and missed their first 13 shots. They stunk up the place worse than coach Jonathan Norton's bare feet on the sidelines.

(Then the C.S.U. men lost 63-61 on a buzzer-beating three-point shot. During the final seconds, a musician at the Lumpkin Center played "Eye of the Tiger" - which proves someone needs to write catchy songs about cougars.)

+ The Auburn men's team won its first conference game, licking Louisiana State 84-80. The official attendance in Baton Rouge was 9,445, yet Auburn radio announcer Rod Bramblett called it the smallest L.S.U. crowd he'd ever seen. Maybe the fans in purple shirts need to move around a little more during games.

+ The Georgia Southern men's basketball team was placed on two years' probation, for an ethics violation involving student testing. First of all, the team didn't make the playoffs in either of the last two years. Second of all, it's Georgia Southern - where an N.I.T. appearance stands for "Now we're In a Tournament."

+ Instant Message to WLTZ: Wow! When you show Duke-North Carolina State in prime-time, and don't even move the game to channel 38.2, that tells me something. Jay Leno's ratings in Columbus must be worse than I thought.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: gas for $2.59 a gallon at Crown, Dillingham and Broad in Phenix City.... Lay's Stax potato chips for 99 cents at Walgreens.... and more visitors to Columbus, saying the weather reminds them of Seattle....

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/21 JAN 00: Today's deep question: Why doesn't the "Official Airline of the Super Bowl" fly TO the Super Bowl?!?!

LaughLine confirms Southwest Airlines has NO service to Atlanta, where Big Game XXXIV will be played next weekend.... In fact, it never has! The closest city Southwest serves is Birmingham -- 150 miles away. What are this weekend's winners going to do.... take a long bus ride to the game? (Not to mention N.F.L. executives.)

(Hey, Greyhound! You ought to call the league and work out an endorsement package! And all four remaining teams are a one-day bus ride from Atlanta, so it could happen....)

Maybe the airline's ads should change to say, "You are now free to move about SOME of the country."

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 409 (+ 13, 3.3%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

20 JAN 10: One vs. 100

The news apparently was out for a while, but I didn't realize until Tuesday that the Columbus Lions are moving to a different league this year. The American Indoor Football League is out. The Southern Indoor Football League is in. But somehow, I suspect fans trying to wave the Confederate battle flag indoors still will be kicked out.

The Columbus Lions have held open team tryouts for years - but WRBL reported Tuesday on a new twist in that idea. A fan actually can become a member of the team for one home game. And you don't have to wait for the players to stage a wildcat strike, in a pay dispute.

Columbus Lions Coach Jason Gibson explained the Southern Indoor Football League has expanded rosters, allowing 23 players per team. Gibson doesn't think he needs 23, so one roster spot will be turned over to a fan. If Cessna Aircraft had taken this approach, Columbus still might have a plant.

The "Ninth Man" idea for the Columbus Lions actually borrows from what Texas A&M did for years - have a "walk-on" fan run down the field on kickoff coverage. Then again, some would say it borrows from the way Chris Redman went from insurance sales to starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons....

So, you might be asking, what's the catch here? It turns out there's a big one. Coach Jason Gibson says the walk-on fan has to sell 100 tickets to a Columbus Lions game. At Texas A&M, all you had to do was excel during a week of practice - and I don't even think you had to sell programs outside the stadium.

When I saw this story, I couldn't believe it. Why should I have to sell 100 tickets to "win" a chance to be on the Columbus Lions' roster? Last time I checked, marching band members weren't kicked off the squad if they failed to sell band candy....

It's commonplace in professional sports for players to get "comp tickets" for family or friends, even for road games. If Jason Gibson is going to be fair about this, shouldn't ALL the Columbus Lions be required to sell tickets? After all, I can't name a single Lions player with the "star power" to get me to buy a ticket - and Troy Bergeron still hasn't come back from Atlanta.

But to be honest, the Lions have been a "pay-to-play" team in other ways for years. If you want to join the main roster, there's a tryout in mid-February - but you have to pay a 55-dollar registration fee. I could run in a 5,000-meter race and get their same T-shirt for one-third of the price.

Women even had to pay a 25-dollar fee two weekends ago to audition for the "Lady Lions" dance team. Some might complain this is gender discrimination, but keep something in mind. The Lady Lions aren't supposed to wear pads on the field.

Perhaps these added costs are the price of having a minor league football team in Columbus - but I've never heard of the Cottonmouths doing something like this. Of course, the Cottonmouths and Lions have some differences. Any ol' Joe can run down the field on a kickoff. Very few people in Columbus could do it on ice skates.

Yet the 100-ticket rule hasn't stopped one man from gaining a guest spot on the Columbus Lions roster. The first ordinary fan to play this coming season will be Tires First employee Wes Hargrove. WRBL showed him working out on the McClung Memorial Stadium field - but for obvious reasons, he did NOT to go through the tire-running drill.

Wes Hargrove will go through the full week of practice, before the first Lions home game in.... uh.... well, when WILL that first home game be? The Southern Indoor Football League has an online countdown clock to opening night 20 March. But a schedule which was supposed to be posted three weeks ago still is missing. I hope this isn't the same group running the Columbus Life basketball team....

You're invited to hear me sing this weekend! I'll be part of a worship service at the United Church of God of Columbus. It starts Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, next door to Lumber Liquidators.

E-MAIL UPDATE: I'm admittedly baffled by some of this, but we heard Tuesday from a former WTVM sports anchor and radio talk show host....

Happy Anniversary Richard! Can I have my Falcons Super Bowl program back? HA HA. I was trying to snap up some Alabama memorabilia on Ebay for my family members and I had no idea how much some of that media stuff sells for. I've been thinking about you though. Every time I see a game program sell for 100 dollars on ebay and every time I hear that song by the Tin Tins (sp?)

They call me Staceee, maybe JoLisa, they call me Watkins...that's NOT my name. that's not my name. They were on Saturday night Live . It sounds better in my car. Who else thinks of you at midnight Saturday Richard? Only real friends.

Wishing you 10 more years of success,


I must confess to Robbie Watson that I haven't watched Saturday Night Live in years. I settle for the clips on Sunday night newscasts, which for some reason are considered news items.

Robbie's last message to us [10 Dec 09] was more scathing than this one -- and along those lines, she'll want to know I turned down a potential blog exclusive Tuesday which dealt with a murder case. My loss could be Sonya Sorich's gain....

Let's check other Tuesday items which fell within the readers' recommended boundaries:

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to allow the Superintendent to choose companies for new school construction. The idea of an "architectural pool" was scrapped - perhaps out of fear a selected firm actually might build a swimming pool.

+ Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr told WRBL he supports a proposal to ban "texting while driving" across Georgia. It's scary to think how many e-mails he'll get about that today - saying nothing but MYOB, GAL and ST*U.

+ The "Politics-1" web site (which kindly lists this blog) listed Columbus-area State Rep. Debbie Buckner as a "potential candidate" for Georgia Lieutenant Governor. Who fed them that rumor -- relatives of Danae Roberts, who are trying to get her to move back home?

+ Three people staged a protest outside the home of Auburn University President Jay Gogue, claiming there's race discrimination when it comes to pay. First of all, does Auburn have the money for every campus employee to match Gogue's salary?

(And second of all: they couldn't get more than three people to show up?! Hundreds protested Tommy Tuberville's resignation in 2008 -- and as I recall, that didn't succeed.)

+ Port Columbus officials told WTVM the Civil War naval museum will begin holding "ghost tours" year-round. Oh please - don't give the baseball teams at Golden Park any ideas....

+ Instant Message to PMB Broadcasting: I have a better idea. Put Bob and Sheri back on WCGQ-FM in the morning, move your new morning host "Elvis" to WLTC-FM to go with Donny Osmond, then bring back the Beatles-era oldies music.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/20 JAN 00: It's another sign of the Internet times. Plans were announced Wednesday for a NETSCAPE MasterCard! We can imagine the sort of special features it will have:

+ The card won't expire. Instead, it will "time out." (Or maybe disconnect!)

+ Its ATM network will have a unique feature. Insert the card, and the buttons will allow deposits, withdrawals, and "reloads."

+ Card discounts will be available at supermarkets, but only on certain items - such as Java, and specially-marked "applet turnovers!"

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 396 (+ 16, 4.2%)

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.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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