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."

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