Friday, March 05, 2010

5 MAR 10: Cut-Down Day

People who spend all their time in one neighborhood sometimes forget how big Columbus is. From where I live, U.S. 80 at the Talbot County line is a 30-minute drive away - and Upatoi seems like a community which should be a suburb of Geneva or Talbotton.

The Muscogee County Election Board ignored complaints about longer drives Thursday, and voted 3-1 to consolidate voting precincts. The current 48 should turn into 28 by the July primary. And let's see -- if past elections are any indication, wouldn't only the top four advance to a runoff?

The NAACP mounted a protest of the precinct consolidation over the last month. About the only thing that seemed to accomplish was a promotion for Columbus chapter President Marcus Hunter. WXTX "News at Ten" showed his title on the air as City Manager.

Marcus Hunter argues the reduction of 20 precincts will cause a hardship for African-American and Hispanic voters. Statistics indeed show people in those ethnic communities are less likely to own cars -- yet a large majority of them do. This year's elections could start a true grass-roots movement for car pooling.

But the Muscogee County Elections Board offered a table of how far voters would have to travel, under the consolidation. In only one case is the distance more than three miles. Do some ethnic communities really own cars so old that they can't travel that far?

Jerry Laquire with the Georgia Christian Coalition mentioned another voting option to WTVM. He said people can vote by mail within 45 days of an election. Really? Even when a runoff falls three weeks after a primary election? Then voters would feel pressured into spending extra money on next-day delivery.

(Laquire apparently was referring to the absentee voting procedure -- but the 45-day rule seems to apply only to military and overseas voting. Precinct consolidation probably already occurred in Iraq, if soldiers are in double-bunk beds.)

Marcus Hunter also complained the Elections Board made up its mind on consolidation, even before the recent forum at the Columbus Public Library. That's strange -- I don't recall the NAACP complaining about members of Congress doing that, before last summer's town hall meetings on health care reform.

I suspect Marcus Hunter and civil rights advocates are most irked by the fact that a majority of the Muscogee County Elections Board is African-American. Executive Director Nancy Boren added one board member also belongs to the NAACP -- but of course, that member's car might have broken down driving to chapter meetings.

The Elections Board claims consolidation will save Columbus city government more than $100,000 - and long lines will be prevented by "express polls." We're waiting to see if that means you're limited to voting for 12, 15 or 20 candidates.

It's now up to the Justice Department to approve the precinct consolidation. Georgia NAACP President Ed DuBose told WRBL he'll contact Washington today to lobby against it. Considering what's happened with "voter ID" in Georgia, DuBose might as well start at the top next time.

I'm doing an unusual "stand-up" comedy act Saturday, and you're invited to see it! A potluck dinner and "fun show" will follow a worship service at United Church of God-Columbus. It all starts at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, next door to Lumber Liquidators.

BLOG UPDATE: We may not know why the president of a TSYS branch in Arizona left, but we now know who's replacing him. Mark Pyke is the new president of TSYS Acquiring Solutions - moving from a similar title at a branch of Bank of America. So we can say Pyke hasn't quite peaked yet.

But lo and behold, TSYS executives in Columbus may have something new to worry about....

So if you were an investor in TSYS, then somebody wants to hear from you . . . now that's a new bird, it's called a "whistle blower" .
. . rgds/veeresh Malik

(your New Delhi correspondent.)

Malik refers to an investigation launched this week by an Atlanta law firm. It wants to know if TSYS violated federal securities law, with some statements it made between July of last year and January. Maybe that's why TSYS spokespersons still haven't returned our calls -- they might say something which puts them in prison.

We left a message with Holzer Holzer and Fistel in Atlanta about this investigation, but there was no response Thursday night. This sounds like an effort to gather angry shareholders for a class-action lawsuit against TSYS -- a bit like those TV commercials by law firms seeking users of Vioxx. But shouldn't TSYS critics call Ken Nugent, since he's right there downtown?

TSYS stock took a three-dollar dive early this year - and CNBC spotted a large amount of trading in the stock on one day in late January. But that might not necessarily mean something illegal or irregular occurred. Investors might have decided Aflac has a better-looking logo.

We hope our New Delhi correspondent provides cricket updates in the weeks ahead. Now let's quickly check other items from the last couple of days....

+ AT&T asked the Georgia Public Service Commission for permission to stop distributing phone books in Columbus, unless people ask for one. So it's "your world, delivered" - simply not on paper.

(AT&T explains this move would save the company money. But what about the schools which earn money every year from recycling old phone books? Moms and dads can't prepare cakes for bake sales all the time, you know....)

+ A new report found Columbus now is within federal air quality standards. Yeah, right - release this report just in time for spring pollen season.

+ Columbus State University students staged a "sit-in" at the library, to protest possible cuts in college spending. Well, it was supposed to be a sit-in - but for some reason, all the TV coverage showed people standing while they signed petitions.

(One C.S.U. student complained there's a lot of campus apathy about issues such as the college budget. See what happens when the men's basketball program has losing seasons?)

+ Meanwhile, GPB Radio reported the state budget crunch could end funding for 4-H programs. You'd think lawmakers could compromise a little here - maybe reducing it to 2-H.

+ WRBL reported the price of Florida tomatoes has more than doubled for some downtown Columbus restaurants. You'd think they could beat that - oops, I mean beet that, as in a substitute.

+ Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal postponed his resignation from next Monday to the end of March. He apparently doesn't want to miss an upcoming House vote on health care reform - so he can stick Democrats in Washington with one last raw Deal.

+ The Birmingham News revealed tax returns filed by Larry Langford show the former mayor went to Victoryland and another Alabama electronic bingo hall -- and won 555 jackpots over three years. If Langford is that lucky, why didn't he win at his federal corruption trial?

(On one day at Victoryland in 2008, Langford hit the jackpot 36 times and won more than $96,000. Now I'm starting to understand why Milton McGregor shut down the greyhound racing along with Quincy's 777 - you simply can't get rich quick betting on dogs.)

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) brought the final roundball night at Beard-Eaves Coliseum in Auburn.. The Tigers topped Mississippi State 89-80 - yet the highlights showed empty seats. So come November, the new Auburn Arena may have empty seats which shine even more on television.

+ Instant Message to Troy Public Radio's Ralph Black: What do you mean, Thursday was a "slow news day?" And why would you say that in the middle of a newscast? Maybe you should go outside and actually find some news, instead of repeating what the Associated Press sends you.

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