Wednesday, March 03, 2010

3 MAR 10: Two-Month Time Warp

An east Alabama blogger complained awhile back that Phenix City voters seem to keep putting the same people in pubic office, to keep fouling things up. I responded by disagreeing with that view. It's really two different groups of people -- and they're being elected back and forth every few years.

An example of that "shift change" occurred at Tuesday's Phenix City Council meeting. TV reports claimed the council voted to bring back the Downtown Redevelopment Authority board. Which was strange - because I didn't recall the city ever doing away with it. And if anyone missed it, certainly our mysterious Phenix City snail-mailer would have complained to us.

The Ledger-Enquirer interviewed the chair of the Phenix City Downtown Redevelopment Authority only ten months ago [20 May 09]. And in February of last year, Mayor Sonny Coulter repaid a $25,000 loan from the authority for demolishing part of the Riverview Apartments. Repaying a loan only to put the loaner out of business sounds like that stagecoach robbery in the "Yella Fella" commercials.

A deeper online search Tuesday night explained what's really going on. Four Phenix City Councilors voted last month to put themselves on the Downtown Redevelopment Authority board, expanding it from five members to nine. Board chair J.W. Brannen told the Ledger-Enquirer he didn't think that was legal. For one thing, who's going to pay for a bigger conference table?

J.W. Brannen noted at the time his term as chair of the board expired in February. He predicted he would be replaced. Tuesday's Phenix City Council vote left that decision to the city manager - and the school superintendent probably would suggest Brannen has a tape rolling, if Wallace Hunter calls him at home.

There was speculation in January the Downtown Redevelopment Authority board might be dissolved. While I didn't attend Tuesday's meeting, that certainly appears to be what's happened - and the Council intervention two months ago might be called a D.R.A.-run.

WTVM reported the Phenix City Council vote was unanimous, and Mayor Sonny Coulter claimed it will "put everything back the way it was before." Yet WLTZ reported the mayor did NOT vote to reinstate the D.R.A. Board -- so which "before" do we mean here? Late last year? Late January of this year? Or way back when Jeff Hardin was mayor -- around 2008?

So the Phenix City Council essentially put a board out of business, and now is resurrecting it. This is what happens when Phenix City has no nightclubs regularly booking magic acts....

The Phenix City Council approved two "volunteer" members for the new D.R.A. Board Tuesday. Three others are upcoming -- and we're left to wonder if any Councilors will volunteer themselves. That certainly would ease Jimmy Wetzel's concern that Councilors don't hang around City Hall enough.

(I know a Columbus church which went through something like this several years ago. The Regional Pastor shut down the congregation due to low membership and other issues, then reorganized it weeks later. Several people decided NOT to roll the dice on the second coming, and moved to another congregation.)

While some might consider this move a coup, others might argue Phenix City needs a new Downtown Redevelopment Authority Board - because downtown isn't redeveloping very much. It's now more than nine months since the Broad Street StreetScape work ended. Yet the only new business seems to be another restaurant in an old building.

There's still a master plan posted online for redeveloping the Phenix City riverfront. It was proposed by a nonprofit group called "East Alabama Riverfront Development." Chair Sammy Howard happened to serve on the old D.R.A. Board -- so it's a good thing the master plans didn't include a statue of him.

Tuesday's Phenix City Council meeting also included an award presentation to firefighters, for collecting money to fight muscular dystrophy. They were given the "Golden Axe Award" -- which sounds like something Columbus State University also could earn, if it cuts spending in the right places.

Speaking of which, that's where our review of other Tuesday news begins:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported C.S.U. submitted a budget-cutting proposal which includes the firing of tenured professors. Today's career expo on campus is coming at exactly the right time....

+ The next step in base realignment was announced, as the U.S. Army Armor and Cavalry Museum began moving vehicles from Fort Knox to Fort Benning. A new building is planned for it next to the National Infantry Museum - and they may not stop adding museums on South Lumpkin Road until Denny's comes back.

(The new museum proved to be a problem for two TV stations. Journalists on WLTZ and WTVM kept pronouncing it the "Calvary Museum" - as in the name of a church. But some congregations can seem like museums, because they're so quiet during a service.)

+ TSYS announced it's now handling credit card processing for First National Bank of Omaha, Nebraska. Hmmmm - that explains why our blog records show we had several visits from Omaha the other day. In fact, the count from there almost matched the number from India.

+ Sam's Club confessed to WTVM it made a mistake last weekend, and put diesel fuel in its premium unleaded gas tanks. Now Cadillac drivers REALLY know what it's like to drive a BMW....

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths hosted "Snake Eyes" casino night at the Civic Center, raising money for the Children's Miracle Network. No, your poker-playing blogger did NOT attend. If I won too much money, the hockey players might have roughed me up.

+ Spencer High School's second-round boys' basketball playoff game was postponed until tonight. The reason was snow, which fell on opposing school Blessed Trinity in Roswell. Apparently no one at that school watched Olympic curling, to learn how to brush the snow away.

+ The Columbus State women's basketball team lost to Clayton State 65-64 in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference tournament. Cougar Coach Jonathan Norton now has a big decision to make - can he coach the men's team next season as well?

+ Instant Message to the Daniel Appliance driver I spotted on Wynnton Road the other day: I can understand why you got out at a traffic light, and closed the small door on the right side. But why didn't you close the tailgate while you were at it? Isn't a washer or dryer more likely to slide out there?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Thursday will need to be an off day for us. We plan to be back Friday. And daily blogging may diminish over the next few weeks, due to our annual Serious Spring Cleaning and other tasks.)

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