Thursday, February 04, 2010

4 FEB 10: Columbus Consolidated Precincts

What's going on here? I thought Columbus was supposed to come out of the recession before the rest of Georgia, and earlier than most of the country. Yet Wednesday brought word of another possible downsizing. And when the Election Board of city government actually wants to downsize, you know times are still tough.

The Muscogee County Election Board meets today, to consider combining several voting precincts. There were 48 in the last general election. The proposal would make the new number 28. Yet somehow I have the feeling the vote totals still will be announced as slowly as ever.

Nancy Boren with the Election Board says the proposed consolidation actually originated with the Muscogee County School District. School officials are concerned about keeping students safe while polls are open. We certainly don't want youngsters in public schools walking past voters wearing "Intelligent Design is right" T-shirts....

A little merging already takes place in Muscogee County elections. A couple of precincts have been combined at Wynnton United Methodist Church, as well as the Columbus Public Library. Today's proposal would increase that trend, and actually put four current precincts at the main library. If this doesn't boost sales at the library café, I'm not sure anything will.

But the Georgia NAACP President is skeptical about this proposed consolidation. Edward DuBose told the Ledger-Enquirer he'll ask the Justice Department to delay approving the change until "several town hall meetings" are held across Columbus about "potential hardships." Hmmmm -- as I recall, that approach didn't stop the school sales tax from passing.

Edward DuBose fears consolidation will make it more difficult for low-income voters, as well as "the minority community." Has he checked the Census Bureau's latest population report? It shows EVERY ethnic community in Columbus is a minority now, since none has a majority -- so maybe this move eventually will mean no one will vote at all.

(Of course, Edward DuBose could have another concern on his mind. Increased difficulty in getting to the polls could mean more attention for his friends at the Urban League, who offer rides.)

Several questions came to my mind about this proposal, beginning with Edward DuBose's concern. Is this an evenhanded merger, in terms of the notorious "Macon Road divide?" That answer is no, as only five of the 19 consolidations on the list are north of Macon Road. A merger of Waddell and Fort seems to bridge north and south - a single concession to One Columbus.

Yet all 19 proposed consolidations involve precincts adjacent to each other. People won't have to drive from one end of Columbus to the other to cast a vote. They can save that concern for transferring their children to better high schools....

A combining of precincts raises the vision of longer lines at the polls on Election Day, like Smiths Station High School had several years ago. Election Board officials promise this will be prevented through "express polls" - whatever that means. Maybe sample ballots from the Democrats and Republicans will be accepted as legitimate substitutes.

And about that concern over secure schools for children -- has the Muscogee County School District forgotten something? Columbus has dozens of new police officers now. Two more sales tax votes go by, and some people tend to forget....

(In fact, where is the outrage from the Fraternal Order of Police about this change? The precinct at the F.O.P. lodge would be moved to St. Mark United Methodist Church. The chances of getting "law and order" candidates elected clearly will go down.)

Several of the combined precincts under this proposal would be in churches which happen to operate day care programs, and even Christian schools. The church leaders don't seem to be complaining about voters causing child safety issues. They could be simply following the dictionary, and putting "pray" before "prey."

-> Monday night is becoming a big poker night for us. Check why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: At last we turn to the two e-mails which required follow-up phone calls on our part. Last week a resident of India led us to a "golden parachute" plan for TSYS executives [25 Jan]. That reader now writes again, to clear up a section which puzzled us....

Good evening! So this is what happened at TSYS's subsidiary in India, which I used to head - after TSYS took over in November 2008, they tried to "adjust accounts, kind courtesy Bob Philbin and Eric Craig. Next, they tried to push, err, slighty "incorrect" insurance payments, over-invoiced stuff. Some more of the same, remember your physics classes in school, that's also called "syphon". Anyways, things went from Cadillac to Betsy, and pretty soon it got down to the usual e-mail wars, and then the auditors in India stepped in.

Now there are audits, and then again there are audits. This one has to do with the audit required by Indian and American tax law, which the Indian auditors, B.Bhushan & Co., refused to sign. There were issues, and that's one of the reasons that some quick footwork was needed overnight, end October 2009, and I really don't know what KPMG signed on. There were so many other audits.

There was also an enquiry for an internal audit, Ronnie Barnes, Esq., presiding, which went on another route.

Must be an interesting place, Columbus, but surely in due course the truth will out. Buried deep, no doubt, but can be found.

9 million bucks can make people do anything, no?

Veeresh Malik

New Delhi,


So I guess the issue here is whether TSYS finagled some finances with physics. I admittedly never took a physics course. I'm even reluctant to watch that TV series "The Big Bang Theory."

Call the main TSYS phone number, and you can be transferred by voice mail to "TSYS India." But our message asking about recent audits did NOT bring a reply by Wednesday night. Wow - Indian residents who work as telemarketers can call me, but I can't call them back?!

I'm left unsure about whether Veeresh Malik is telling the truth here or not. An online search for that name led to a Vice President of the TSYS subsidiary Infonox -- but also to a New Delhi-based journalist. I might need to double-check his name in early April, to see if I'm being fooled.

Our other e-mail takes us back to Columbus South....

Richard, Do you know what is going into the building on Victory Dr which was used for years by the local veterans organizations? It's the building which was the Georgia Welcome Center prior to use by the veterans' groups. As I recall the state of GA leased the building to the vets groups for $l. a yr. The building's condition deteriorated. A couple of months ago I noticed the veteran's organization was moving out. Since then it appears a great deal of work has been done on the building. Who's moving in and where did the veteran's group move to?

We truly stumped the panel with this one. The Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't know. The staff at the current Georgia Welcome Center doesn't know. A Chamber of Commerce spokesperson doesn't know. And the Disabled American Veterans lodge didn't return our message - which could mean the members were unloading a moving van somewhere.

Lisa Hughes at the Georgia Welcome Center told me Wednesday the old center along Victory Drive was built around 1940. She says the building "had its issues" before the new center along Interstate 185 opened in 1988. Hmmmm - is that where the ghosts were before Port Columbus was built?

Let's see what other news was welcomed into my home on Wednesday....

+ Sirens sounded across Columbus to mark the main drill of Georgia's severe weather awareness week. Yes, I took part in this - but critics might say I was half-hearted. I knelt under the breakfast table, without taking my bowl of corn flakes.

+ The Georgia Lottery announced a child at Sumter County Primary School is the one-millionth pre-Kindergarten student. So what do the child's parents win - 100 dollars of Fantasy Five tickets?

+ The Associated Press reported Johnny Ford's "march on Montgomery" to support Victoryland attracted about 250 people. If the shutdown of electronic bingo games really puts 2,000 jobs at risk, shouldn't the number of marchers have been higher? Or were laid-off workers on the overnight shift sleeping in, anyway?

+ More than two dozen area high school football players made college commitments on National Signing Day. The most impressive signing to me was Phenix City Central quarterback Darren Daniel, who's going to Stanford. If he doesn't wind up in pro football, he could be ten years away from running for Phenix City Council.

(The most puzzling thing on WTVM's list of signees was that Troy University was absent. They'll never get the honor of playing back-to-back GMAC Bowls at this rate.)

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Columbus State's men mopped up by Montevallo 92-86. The Cougars faced last week's Peach Belt Conference player of the week -- and Gerald January surprised everyone, by playing well beyond his month.

+ Instant Message to the mysterious Phenix City snail-mailer: I'm sorry, but you have me baffled. Online records show the last two city council meetings have NOT discussed buying softballs at all. Perhaps you should take your accusations to the council in person -- but of course, that would be playing hardball.

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/4 FEB 00: "Willie B," the best-known gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, died the other day at age 41. A memorial fund has already been set up, to set up a statue in his honor. So if anyone asks: "Willie B. remembered?" You can answer: "Yes. Willie B will-be." (No, the statue will NOT be stuffed!)

By the way, will believers in reincarnation attend the memorial service? They might sing: "Que sera sera - whatever Willie B. will be...."

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