Friday, April 30, 2010

30 APR 10: Green Cops

When Columbus voters approved the "streets and safety" sales tax, they were promised several new police beats. City parks are being watched. The Riverwalk is being watched. And now we know an overlooked part of town is being watched - even though it's the section most likely to have everyone paying big money for home security systems.

WRBL revealed Thursday night Mayor Jim Wetherington called Police Chief Ricky Boren in late March about radar checks on River Road. That started a chain of events which led to regular police patrols of Green Island Hills -- the neighborhood where the mayor happens to live. Hopefully the security staff at Green Island Country Club didn't feel insulted by this.

Apparently some Columbus Police officers are claiming the mayor ordered the police chief to begin police patrols in his neighborhood. The evening news showed a whiteboard indicating radar checks on River Road should end, with Green Island Hills patrols replacing them. So? The new "greenhorn" officers should be in a fitting location....

But Mayor Jim Wetherington says the speculation is inaccurate. Yes, he called Chief Ricky Boren in March about River Road radar - but it was because five officers were watching drivers. The mayor says that's "not acceptable" anywhere in Columbus. In Atlanta, the limit is triple team coverage - at least for radio traffic reports.

Jim Wetherington seemed stunned by the accusation that he ordered police patrols in Green Island Hills. But the mayor noted he never sees a squad car on patrol in his home neighborhood. Of course, gangs may have spread the word a former police chief lives there.

The mayor says he was unaware his call to the police chief was interpreted to mean an end to traffic watches in one section of Columbus. In other words, he wanted a River Road radar reduction -- but NOT a rancorous run-off from River Road radar.

Mayor Jim Wetherington insists he did NOT ask the police chief for a focused patrol of Green Island Hills. But Chief Ricky Boren says that neighborhood came up in the late March conversation - and apparently it was NOT to begin plans for the mayor's retirement party in December.

The police chief explained he receives requests on a "very routine" basis about increasing patrols in various Columbus neighborhoods. But I'm sure Ricky Boren would admit a request from the mayor is far from routine. It's a bit like a grade-school teacher requesting a student to stop throwing paper wads.

But Chief Ricky Boren admits the mayor had a good point in his March phone call. He says officers don't have to sit still for an hour or two, pointing radar guns toward passing cars on River Road. Of course, some officers might prefer that - especially if Golden Donuts and the CVS Pharmacy at Manchester Expressway could switch places.

The police chief explained River Road can be monitored through "moving radar." I guess that involves special speed-check equipment inside a squad car. The only other thing which comes to mind for "moving radar" is what the meteorologists show on TV every night.

This story about Green Island Hills police patrols left one question in my mind. It turns out that wealthy corner organized a "neighborhood watch" program three years ago - about three months after Jim Wetherington became mayor. He was simply too busy cutting ribbons to spend much time at home.

At least Green Island Hills now has the same kind of police presence that Cusseta Road has. And now I'm even more likely to drive my 16-year-old car through that neighborhood. An officer could stop me to ask why I'm there, before any nosy residents call for him.

Let's try to sort fact from fiction about other Thursday news....

+ The Columbus Chamber of Commerce held an information fair at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for soldiers and families moving to Fort Benning due to base realignment. If you're reading this blog in Fort Knox and wondering why I wasn't there.... well, sometimes my "information" gets under the skin of other people at the fair.

(WRBL reports 80 percent of all home sales in east Alabama these days are to military personnel. Now there's a statistic for keeping criminals on the Columbus side of the river....)

+ Veterans Memorial Middle School held a "reality fair," including local homeland security personnel. Aw, c'mon - this is 2010, not the first season of "COPS." Shouldn't a reality fair include "Real Housewives" from Atlanta? Or at least Tori Spelling?

+ The Georgia General Assembly ended its 2010 session by approving a ban on "texting while driving." Anyone caught checking the Internet while behind the wheel will be fined 150 dollars. So please save some money - and print out our daily blog entries, to read while you drive to work.

(The Georgia legislature also approved a so-called "road kill bill." It would let you keep a bear or deer, if you run over one on the highway. You probably shouldn't report striking a squirrel - because you'll be suspected of erratic driving.)

+ The Southern States Athletic Conference opened its baseball and softball tournaments at South Commons. The closest school to Columbus appears to be Auburn University-Montgomery - but it doesn't sound quite right for fans to stand up and yell, "War Senator!"

+ St. Louis lathered Atlanta 10-4 in National League baseball. Atlanta comes home with a nine-game losing streak - and a few fans wondering if the Bobby Cox retirement party can't be moved up a few months.

+ Instant Message to Louisiana oyster harvesters: Admittedly I don't eat your product. But maybe there's a marketing opportunity here. Talk about how crude oil on oysters will make them slide down your throat more easily.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Why would someone write us from Arizona?....

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

29 APR 10: Café de Mojo

Boy, did I feel old Wednesday evening. WTVM showed a report on the new "Internet Café" at Spencer High School. I still get confused by those places being called "media centers" instead of libraries....

The library at Spencer High is called the "Cool Wave Café" these days - and it has much more than books. Perhaps the biggest surprise was seeing staff members brewing coffee for students. Friends in my old high school had trouble even getting a cup of coffee from the cafeteria line -- because that unhealthy drink was for teachers only.

The Cool Wave Café staff not only serves coffee to Spencer students, but cups of Hawaiian Punch. The first time a sophomore spills that cup next to a bookshelf, everything is bound to change.

But wait, there's more! The Cool Wave Café has replaced some of the typical library desks and wooden chairs with futuristic-looking round tables and backless stools. Either a librarian media specialist went to Ikea in Atlanta with a big gift card, or these furnishings were donated by a failed downtown nightclub.

Toni Webb was shown as one of the "media specialists" at Spencer High School. Aw, c'mon - you can't have that sort of vague-sounding 1990s title at an Internet café. How about a book-ista?

But anyway: Toni Webb says the Cool Wave Café approach has made the Spencer High School media center a much busier place. Not only are there drinks, but laptops where students can learn computer skills such as Dreamweaver and "Fireworks." Take that, Phenix City Central - Spencer likes Fireworks, and doesn't save them for football season.

Spencer students apparently can also check out iPods from the Cool Wave Café. At my Wednesday night poker tournament, I sat next to a man who appeared to have a glowing iPod strapped to his arm. But for some reason, it didn't work right - and I confirmed to him the screen didn't show his heartbeat.

Toni Webb says monthly checkouts from the Spencer High School, uh, café have jumped 14-fold. She thinks that's partly due to the addition of newer books, replacing copies from the 1950s. Wait a minute - something's out of place here. Where's the Kindle corner?

This sounds like a creative way to get high school students interested in computer programming and reading. But I spotted a couple of problems with this approach. For one thing, older books still can have value - I mean, besides selling them on eBay.

When the Columbus Public Library moved from Wynnton Hill to Macon Road five years ago, I mourned the fact that many helpful old reference books disappeared in the transition. College libraries don't tend to discard them - at least not until Google scans them for its big book project.

And I was surprised to find Spencer High School students could buy Snickers bars and Skittles bags at the Cool Wave Café. Isn't the federal government trying to eliminate the availability of junk food in public schools? Shouldn't an Internet café be specializing in apples?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Columbus State Uuiversity's leadership closed Wednesday. Seven out of 11 voters say the President and Provost should resign, after the Faculty Senate's "no confidence" vote last week. If you're wondering about the scientific accuracy of that poll.... well, we don't have much confidence in that, either.

Imagine if every boss in Columbus had to face this sort of thing. How many managers could survive a no-confidence vote, if their employees.... oh wait. The bosses would rule they've lost confidence in their workers, and the unemployment rate would jump.

I'm admittedly trusting the news media to be right, with these other Wednesday notes....

+ A blog reader directed us to a recent Bloomberg interview with Synovus Chief Executive Officer Richard Anthony. The reader suggested Barclays PLC might be interested in taking over Synovus. But Anthony says his company aspires to take over failing small banks in Georgia and Florida -- putting a little more meat on his mid-sized fish in the food chain.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue visited Harris County, and indicated he'll sign a bill requiring pickup truck drivers to wear seat belts. Just because the truck is "Ram tough" doesn't mean young adults have to act tougher.

+ WRBL showed a protest outside the LaGrange Daily News by a "Patriots" group. Members are upset with the newspaper printing a "White Tea Party" cartoon which included a Ku Klux Klan hood. I guess I'd better stop repeating my joke about an environmental split in the movement - you know, the Green Tea Party.

+ Dee Armstrong officially joined the WLTZ news team, launching a new feature report called "Fixing It." Given the way she left WTVM, this new job may be how she's fixing her savings account -- not to mention her account balances with discrimination attorneys.

+ Columbus whipped Woodward Academy in high school baseball 13-2, as various reports revealed Coach Bobby Howard will retire after this season. As I recall, Howard stepped away from Columbus baseball once before - so striking out on his own this time would be only strike two.

+ Columbus High senior Amanda Massengale signed a letter of intent to play two college sports. She'll not only run cross-country for St. Andrews College of North Carolina - she'll also be on the college equestrian team. It's comforting to know Massengale can run for help, if her horse ever falls in a ravine.

+ Instant Message to Paul Olson: Are you really sure you want to enter the crowded Columbus mayor's race? Right now, all the local candidates for State House and Senate have no opposition -- and you'd probably annoy them every bit as much.

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© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

28 APR 10: The Eagle Has Re-Landed

Maybe all Columbus Airport needed was a name change. Take a "Metro" away, and new airlines seem to come our way....

City officials announced Tuesday Columbus Airport will add a second airline, with two more flights per day. It's actually the return of American Eagle, which left Columbus more than ten years ago. Now that's what I call a long delay in a round-trip flight.

American Eagle is the smaller regional carrier of American Airlines. Flights from Columbus will go to American's hub at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. So don't be surprised if Columbus Airport adds a store selling cowboy hats.

The addition of American Eagle ends years of effort by Columbus Airport to offer something besides Atlantic Southeast's 100-mile shuttle service to Atlanta. Considering ASA had 13 late departures in February with an average delay of 80 minutes, the airport shuttle vans sometimes seem like rocket ships.

Columbus Airport Manager Mark Oropeza said luring a new airline to a city is like attracting a mid-sized business. Considering the airport can't even get a cinnamon roll stand to open there, you can imagine how hard this process was.

Mark Oropeza adds once you fly from Columbus to Dallas-Fort Worth, you can connect to a variety of cities on the West Coast. I expect many St. Francis Hospital employees will fly to Los Angeles -- hoping to get cast in a movie musical based on that YouTube video.

American Eagle will begin flights between Columbus and Dallas-Fort Worth 15 July. But you can book a flight online right now (ahem, please finish reading this blog first) -- and WRBL reported 47 people did it Tuesday afternoon. We hope those Columbus Chamber of Commerce members realized the Texas Rangers won't have a home game until the 22nd.

But as always, the issue for many people is whether they'll save money by flying from Columbus to Dallas-Fort Worth. So we pretended to reserve a round-trip for mid-July online Tuesday night, with a typical Saturday night layover. Trust me from experience - if you have to drive on the L.B.J. Freeway in Dallas, you'll need that Saturday night to recover.

We discovered one surprise in the American Eagle reservation process, which might annoy some travelers. Request a weekday morning flight from Columbus, and you'll be offered a departure time of 4:05 p.m. In fact, that's the only listed departure time - so the "two daily flights" may go side-by-side, like the Blue Angels.

But anyway: our total price with tax for a Columbus-Dallas round-trip was $398. A similar American Airlines flight between Atlanta and Fort Worth would cost you $345.40. Or you can leave Montgomery on American Eagle at three different times of day for $299.40 -- and win even more savings by stopping at Victoryland on your drive home.

Columbus is part of a major expansion of service by American Eagle. Flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Myrtle Beach began earlier this month, and service to Augusta will begin in June. But poor Macon still has no airline service at all - and the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany counts UPS shipments on its flight schedule, as if I should stuff myself in a box.

American Eagle reportedly decided to return to Columbus because of base realignment. Here's hoping those small planes have plenty of cargo space for inflatable rafts and kayaks.

Let's see what other news was flying around Tuesday, in a spring breeze....

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington presented his final city budget proposal. WRBL reports it includes a one-time property tax rollback of about 30 million dollars. This mention of rollbacks has me wondering if the mayor's next job will be door-greeting at Wal-Mart.

+ The Columbus Board of Health voted to increase the fees for inspections of swimming pools and spas. It's either that or... well, you know.... the board might go under financially.

+ WTVM showed a cup-stacking contest by teachers at South Columbus Elementary School. They hopefully took that challenge seriously -- because if the school district has to lay off personnel, jobs could be waiting for them at restaurants.

+ The Georgia House gave final approval to a bill requiring students to study the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Maybe now we'll settle whether you're supposed to pause for a breath between "one nation" and "under God."

+ Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks announced if he's elected Governor, he'll disband the state anti-gambling task force. Considering Sparks's campaign manager resigned last week after a drunk driving arrest, maybe the hot new sin will be alcoholism.

+ Hardaway opened the men's high school soccer playoffs by overwhelming Ola 7-2. Ola?! This was more like "hasta la vista, baby"....

(Evan Scott dominated the game, by scoring six of Hardaway's seven goals. I know three goals in hockey are called a "hat trick" - but saying a high school athlete scored a "six-pack" might give teenagers wrong ideas.)

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

27 APR 10: Now Entering the Ring

What do you know - not all Georgia state offices were closed Monday after all. The Secretary of State's office was open in Atlanta, and it had plenty of visitors. Of course, that could have been because political junkies had nowhere else to go....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Qualifying week opened Monday for Democrats and Republicans seeking political office in Georgia. And you may be surprised to learn a local wrestling coach filed to run for Congress. Beware this candidate's briefcase - it could be loaded with something other than brochures.

Frank Saunders is the head wrestling coach at Chattahoochee County High School. But he lives in Midland, which puts him in Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's district -- and also leads me to think one of his big campaign issues will be lowering the cost of gasoline.

"Most people don't even know who their Congressman is," Frank Saunders told your blog Monday night in his first campaign interview. He's really not in a position to teach high school students that detail, either. Saunders teaches special education and mathematics - but if he's elected, his skills with negative numbers will come in handy at budget time.

(Saunders does NOT teach Latin. The campaign web site he's developing simply looks for the moment like he does....)

Since Frank Saunders is a teacher, he's obviously making education a main campaign issue. He suggested Rep. Lynn Westmoreland wants to eliminate the federal Department of Education, and privatize schools. You certainly don't hear about teachers taking no-confidence votes at Brookstone School.

Frank Saunders says it seems like "everybody is blaming education" for our national problems. He rejects the calls for mass firings of teachers, and claims school districts are doing that to "hire them back for less money." Of course, some would say that approach has kept United Airlines in business....

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland "seems like he wants to cut everything," Frank Saunders told me. Well, yeah - the incumbent is a Republican. If not for worried mothers, Republicans would be running with scissors all over Washington.

On the other hand, Frank Saunders supports more funding for "green jobs" such as wind and solar power. And on top of that: "We need more troops. How's that for a Democrat?" Saunders may be a first-time candidate, but he must be getting good coaching from Rep. Sanford Bishop's staff.

Frank Saunders explained his years in Chattahoochee County schools have shown him Fort Benning families can be strained by multiple deployments overseas. He says if the U.S. is serious about fighting terrorism, it needs a larger military -- and we now know it should be at least 82,000 acres larger.

Some people might know Frank Saunders as something other than a wrestling coach and a teacher. He's played rock music at local events such as the old God Bless Fort Benning. So I suppose a term in Congress would complete a strange kind of career grand slam....

"I spent the first part of my life trying to be Bob Dylan," Frank Saunders told me. He wrote political songs such as one against the American Medical Association called "Fast Food Slow Death." I suppose that beats the alternative - waiting 45 minutes for a lamb chop which gets stuck in your throat.

Frank Saunders is pleased health care reform will require restaurant chains to post the calorie counts of their food. I should have asked how certain chains are going to accomplish that. Consider Sonic Drive-Ins, with menu boards on either side of your car. Either those boards will have to become much larger, or you'll need a magnifying glass to read the calorie numbers.

Frank Saunders says the Chattahoochee County School Superintendent gave him permission to run for Congress. He won't have to take a sabbatical from teaching to campaign. But Saunders probably will need someone to mow his lawn this summer - because he'll need to be on the road every weekend.

Frank Saunders doesn't expect any Democratic opposition in the Georgia primary. But he's not afraid of bucking what some political watchers consider a year for big Republican mid-term gains. Saunders hopes people will "listen to my message, and not the D beside my name." He believes that letter does NOT stand for a doomed democracy.

Given his background, I was ready to consider Frank Saunders one of those "fill-the ballot" candidates. But after talking to him, this high school teacher sounds serious about what he's doing. And since Saunders coaches wrestlers, he certainly knows how to twist people's arms.

Another Muscogee County political newcomer qualified for Congress Monday. Medical supply company owner Rick Allen is running as a Republican against Rep. Sanford Bishop. I didn't have to check online to know Bishop is seeking reelection - because he sent a Congressional newsletter to my mailbox.

The strangest campaign story Monday involved a candidate who was barred from the ballot. Republican Party leaders refused to let Roy Boyd file for Governor, because he refused to sign a party loyalty oath. I thought Republicans were supposed to be the people who trust the private sector -- while opposing unnecessary extra layers of bureaucracy.

-> Some days at the poker table are better than others. Read about one extreme at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Monday's visit to one flag made a reader think about another....

Hey Richard. Your mentioning of the old state flag with the Confederate "Battle Jack" on it along Hwy. 520 brought to my memory of the "real" Confederate flag that flies everyday on a pole at the corner of Talbotton Rd. and 12th St. in front of Buck Ice & Coal. No one ever mentions or notices it because it is the "real" flag not the one associated with all the controversy. Ride by there and check it out. It's been there for years! Larry

Yes, I'm aware of that flag. In fact, we mentioned it here on Confederate Memorial Day last year [27 Apr 09] -- the flag which properly should be called the "stars and bars." Nowadays, that phrase tends to be the job assignment for Hollywood photographers.

Let's see what else made news on Confederate Memorial Day - and I had to spell "Confederate" for a local library employee, because she was unfamiliar with the word:

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to eliminate five class days and ten work days from the next school year. By doing this now, administrators have more than 11 months to turn this problem into a CRCT math question.

+ Phenix City Police arrested two people on charges of stealing construction materials from the new Smiths Station High School. If the lesson isn't clear by now, here it is - try to sell hot copper, and the coppers will be hot on your trail.

.+ The Troup County Sheriff's Department announced it's creating a text-alert system for possible emergencies. Well, OK - but they'd better not text me while I'm driving, or they might wind up sending extra messages due to crashes.

+ Columbus and Phenix City leaders officially announced plans for downtown whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River. WRBL reported once "Ready 2 Raft 2012" work is finished, an estimated 188,000 visitors will come here for rafting each year. Buy your vending machines with air hoses now, before everybody else has one.

+ Authorities reported 127 drunk driving tickets were issued at Talladega during the NASCAR weekend. The way the race finished, Jeff Gordon probably wants Jimmie Johnson's breath checked next weekend.

+ Country music star Taylor Swift gave a surprise performance at Auburn University. It was the end of an online campaign by two students who wanted Swift to give them a hug. After failing to win anything at the Academy of Country Music Awards, Swift needed to start her career comeback somewhere.

+ Instant Message to Kendrick High School baseball coach Michael Peek: I don't know who your pitcher was in Monday's loss to Troup County. But I think he should have been your catcher - because he was about as big as some playground backstops.

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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Monday, April 26, 2010

26 APR 10: Old Inglorious?

If you have Georgia or Alabama state business to do, don't bother doing it today. This is a state holiday - Confederate Memorial Day. Is it mere coincidence that a new movie premiered over the weekend called "The Losers?"

As a native Northerner, I admittedly have little passion for this Southern-style holiday. But please do NOT call me a "Yankee." I grew up in Kansas City, where baseball fans never could stand that New York team with the big payroll.

Drive down Highway 520 from Columbus toward Albany, and you'll see a six-story-tall reminder that you're in the old Confederate territory. This old Georgia state flag is next to a house in rural Webster County. I actually pulled over and took a picture of it the other day - and thankfully, no one with a shotgun hurried out to confront me.

The flag on this pole between Richland and Weston used to be the Georgia state flag. But the presence of the Confederate battle emblem caused controversy, as some people considered it racist. Had Auburn City Councilman Arthur Dowdell known about this flag a year ago, he might have driven to Webster County and pulled it down personally.

A sign posted next to the flag explains it's on donated land, as a tribute to Civil War fighters from Stewart and Webster Counties. So it's apparently a private display - except it's in a very public place. Thousands of drivers pass that flag every week. But there's no parking lot next to it, and critics driving 65 miles per hour can't spit at it very easily.

For those who might be new to the area: in the last decade, that Georgia flag was changed twice. The first change was made by then-Governor Roy Barnes, working with State Representative Calvin Smyre. Does anyone still have that flag, which included small-scale versions of five previous ones -- prompting some of us to name it "Six Flags Over Georgia?"

The decision to change the 1956 Georgia flag earned Roy Barnes a "Profile in Courage" award from the John F. Kennedy Library. But he wound up losing the 2002 election to Sonny Perdue - so you'll understand if Barnes avoids that subject, as he campaigns this year.

Some hardline Southerners still haven't forgiven Sonny Perdue, for ignoring a 2002 campaign promise to put the 1956 flag on the Georgia state ballot for a referendum. Instead, the Governor offered his own compromise flag design. Voters approved it, then reelected Perdue -- so 140 years later, the Confederates were still outgunned.

But the Sons of Confederate Veterans aren't surrendering yet. They hope the approaching 150th anniversary of the Civil War will allow them to present "the true history of the war" - complete with what they call "real Georgia flags" along major state highways. So should the other side demand statues of Abraham Lincoln be placed alongside them?

(I think the "true history" they want to teach involves the Civil War being about Southern independence, instead of slavery. Such a campaign actually might be more successful today - especially if the Confederates could convince all the Southeastern Conference football players to fight on their side.)

Governor Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation declaring this month "Confederate History Month" in Georgia. But some historians say it was as flawed as a controversial declaration in Virginia, because it never mentioned slavery. Maybe that's why I couldn't find it Sunday night at the governor's web site - someone pulled a General Sherman.

But what does it say when Port Columbus has nothing scheduled to mark Confederate Memorial Day? It's the Civil War naval museum, after all. You'd think the curators would have some kind of celebration - if only to test that phrase about even bad publicity beating no publicity at all.

The Muscogee County School Board could have voted to give students Confederate Memorial Day off. But one of the three state-ordered furlough days was scheduled instead for this Friday. That way, staff members going without paychecks won't feel as inspired to call for secession from the rest of Georgia.

Fort Benning planned to hold a "Salute the South" celebration over the weekend at Uchee Creek. But it was rained out - so countless Confederacy lovers had to settle for listening to South 106.1 FM.

-> We could have won $1,000 in a local poker tournament over the weekend - but we didn't even show up. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Albany State won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference softball title at South Commons Sunday. The Rams felled Fort Valley State 6-4, on a "walk-off home run" in the seventh inning. In a championship game, I think it's more like a jump-up-and-down home run.

But I'm wondering if the final game really was played in Columbus. The SIAC web site claims there was a two-hour rain delay in the second inning. I live practically at the other end of South Commons, and the sun was out all day. There was either one incredibly isolated shower, or the sprinkler system broke.

We tried to spread the word about the SIAC softball finals - yet the official box score showed the championship game had an attendance of 331. I'm not sure that crowd matched the combined number of musicians in the Albany State and Fort Valley State marching bands.

The Ledger-Enquirer again failed to mention the SIAC softball finals, while an update on "The Amazing Race" was considered breaking news. And WTVM's "Sunday Sports Overtime" didn't even rate it worthy of the "Hot or Not" segment. If the tournament isn't hot and isn't "not," what is it -- lukewarm or nonexistent?

Now for a quick pepper game through other Sunday news....

+ St. Elmo School held an open house to mark its 80th anniversary. Its proper name these days is "Center for the Gifted" - which explains why no one announced a big financial gift, to improve the quality of instruction.

(Isn't it nice to see after eight decades, teachers are still stoking their own version of a St. Elmo's fire?)

+ Ben Holden wrote his final column as Executive Editor of the Ledger-Enquirer. While Holden is moving a new job at the University of Nevada, his wife will remain at a Columbus law firm - providing him constant updates on every questionable move District Attorney Julia Slater makes.

+ Kevin Harvick won by a nose, in the 499-mile stock car race at Talladega. The finish made history as NASCAR's first race with not one "green-white-checker" finishes, but three. If these guys can't drive one lap without crashing into each other, maybe it's time to crack down on speed limits.

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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Sunday, April 25, 2010

25 APR 10: SIAC Sounds of Silence

The Columbus Lions played indoor football Saturday night and won. The Columbus State baseball team wrapped up its home season during the afternoon with a win. But have you heard about the other big local sports event of the weekend? The organizers are trying desperately to spread the word - by using the loudest loudspeaker they can find.

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference softball tournament is scheduled to conclude today at South Commons. That's the league which includes Tuskegee and Morehouse, Fort Valley State and Albany State - match-ups which bring big crowds to Columbus during the fall, but seem to get lost once the pro basketball playoffs start.

Organizers of the SIAC softball tournament apparently are trying to make it a celebration. The lights were on at Golden Park Friday night, while someone talked loudly on the public address system. Since no games were scheduled there, I suppose that's where the female athletes could meet their boyfriends -- and "stretch a single into a double" in a different way.

The loud-voiced announcer could be heard from South Commons Saturday morning as well. He echoed across the Historic District, after the early-morning rain stopped. I don't know if anyone crossed the street from the Booker T. Washington Apartments to watch the softball games -- at least to claim a free softball from a home run.

But here's the problem: the SIAC softball tournament has been underway since Thursday morning. Yet I didn't even know it was happening in Columbus until WRBL mentioned it during the 6:00 p.m. sports Friday night. Could the public address system possibly have been broken for a day-and-a-half?

If that's not enough, search for "softball" at the Ledger-Enquirer web site. As of Saturday night, there was NOTHING mentioning the SIAC tournament. That NFL draft coverage on ESPN must be more compelling than I realized....

But wait, there's more! The SIAC web site notes the conference softball tournament is in Columbus "for the second consecutive year." Do you recall any local media coverage of this event LAST year? These "fast pitch" teams couldn't have been that fast, getting in and out of town.

It's not clear who should get the blame for this lack of publicity. The Columbus Sports Council probably played a role in bringing the SIAC softball tournament to town. Yet you won't find any banners promoting it at South Commons - nothing even on the Civic Center's electronic sign. It's as if the "S" in SIAC stands for Secret.

Maybe local booster clubs are partly to blame as well. The Southeastern Conference held its softball tournament at South Commons in the late nineties -- and it had a lot more media coverage than the SIAC tournament is receiving. Tuskegee's marching band needs to come to Columbus, and go through "spring drills."

Perhaps if Columbus State had a team in this softball tournament, more Columbus people and reporters would care. But that doesn't prevent the Leadoff Classic from gaining plenty of media coverage in February at the same location. And have you noticed this year's SIAC tournament has won the contest for bringing the most rain?

Longtime residents recall when local leaders tried to make Columbus a "softball capital." A Division II conference tournament could help restore that dream -- yet practically all local reporters don't seem to care. It's no wonder Columbus often ranks near the bottom, in rankings of top sports cities. Columbus High School baseball is more of an image-saver than you might think.

As for the SIAC tournament: a semifinal game between Fort Valley State and Kentucky State is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. ET. The starting time was moved back one hour, because of concerns about stormy weather. Come to think of it, maybe that's why the tournament is getting little publicity - because churches might protest Sunday games before 12:00 noon.

-> Does this blog scare you? One man said he was scared of us, at our latest poker night. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of sports, WRBL's Stuart Webber took note of our Friday correction about directions from Huntsville to Auburn....

Haha well clearly geography is not one of my strengths, for some reason I thought it was in South Alabama. Probably because the day before I was looking at a map in the Biloxi area trying to find where Spanish Fort was. Noted for future reference!


Biloxi?! You mean you didn't look for Spanish Fort, Alabama on a map of Spain?!

Another reader offers thoughts on our current BIG BLOG QUESTION:

As we closely watch one of our favs, R. H. [Rear Highness] Mirabeau with baited breath, we wonder what is all the fussin bout?

The Ivory Tower Guys get to go to school for 6-8 years after high school, and then they take a job teaching half nekkid kids who want an "A". There is more sex tween them tower tenured and them half nekkid kids than in most large farm yards. And, if knock-your-sox-off crazy ain't enough, some of them teachers are social-ists, or was that supposed to be social-iffs?

"Professors" are 15 min. late to class, and when they arrive they discuss pizza for the rest of the hour. They have favorites and work their agenda on the naive, creating a new surety in the unsure. Often times their political leanings are off mark with Ward Churchill-esque diatribes, Cloward & Piven advocacy, or just straight out defenses of atheism without tolerance for alternate views - none of which are related to the subject matter they are supposed to be teaching. Their advocacy for the fringe is a way for them to foist their ideology upon the unsuspecting for a semester at a time. If they are successful, they will weave their ideology into the consciousness of their young charges.

We are unsure about what Mescon wants, but what we want is:

1. No tenure- tenure is the enemy of accountability

2. Teaching accountability through 4 equally weighted factors:

a) publication

b) peer review

c) student performance and survey

d) classroom evaluation by unannounced faculty visits from other departments/admin

3. No dating between faculty/staff and students

4. Pay docked for missed classes, beyond allotted sick days

5. Student complaints filed through ethics committee at Board of Regents level

There's an old joke about some of this, you know -- that college classrooms are the only places where students don't mind if they don't get their money's worth.

As I recall, most of my college instructors were conscientious about making it to class. I don't remember any of them discussing pizza at length. But then again, I took classes in journalism and religion - not home economics.

.I thought I'd spotted a major error in this e-mail - but an online check found "Ward Churchill" is accurate. This is referring to a controversial former professor in Colorado, and NOT the legendary British Prime Minister. The fact that both men met ignominious ends to their careers is only a coincidence....

And yes, I agree with the proposal to ban faculty-student dating. When I attended college, the competition from other male students was tough enough.

Thanks to all of you who write - and now let's review (without any peers) other weekend items:

+ Helpful rain fell on Columbus, with more than 1.5 inches recorded at the airport. But which upset hockey fan posted a threat on Twitter to blow up a Montgomery TV station, for interrupting the game for storm updates? I understand that fan faces arrest - and it probably will be more than a ten-minute misconduct penalty.

+ Baker High School graduates had their final class reunion, before the old school along Victory Drive is torn down. They probably could have sped up the demolition process, by chipping away souvenir bricks.

+ The Kiwanis Club of North Columbus held its annual "Cannonball Run" for charity. But if contestants aren't allowed to speed, what's the point? People can drive slowly to spot landmarks simply by looking for a storefront at The Landings.

+ An Albany TV station stopped using paper scripts for newscasts. The news anchors now use iPads on the set - and I assume the reporters are barred from doing stories about the decline in Georgia timber prices.

+ The Atlanta Falcons drafted Kansas wide receiver Kerry Meier. After choosing that Missouri player in the first round, it's nice to see this team is fair and balanced.

(Perhaps we should have seen this coming: the Falcons' web site is selling official "draft hats." It won't be long before sports bars do the same thing -- except they'll pour draft beer into hats.)

+ Instant Message to Little Joe's Tax Service on Sixth Street: Please note what day of the year this is. I think it's safe to bring the snowman down from your roof now.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: A controversial flag along the side of the road....

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: 581 (+ 6, 1.0%)

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, April 24, 2010

24 APR 10: Walled World

(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.)

The evening was cool, but comfortable and clear. It was a great night for members of one Columbus church congregation to gather for a special dinner, at one of the nicest restaurants in town. Take that, you skeptics -- you can do that once in a while, even if you tithe.

One couple in the congregation waited for other members to arrive - but then the wife noticed someone who looked familiar. It was a man who attended church with her years before. They recognized each other after a moment -- but they didn't do that "holy kiss" thing mentioned in the Bible. The woman's husband might have taken exception to that....

The familiar-looking man also was at the restaurant for a special dinner -- and in fact, he was sharing it with members of his current church group. It turned out both dinner parties were celebrating the same event on the religious calendar. For one night, the wait staff really had to be on its best behavior.

The familiar-looking man went on to join his group. And the husband and wife eventually found their dinner-mates, waiting in a different part of the restaurant. Some of these places need to learn from the Trade Center. If specials can be posted on chalkboards in a restaurant lobby, so can dinner groups and where they're hiding.

I was in the dinner party with the husband and wife, and knew more about the familiar-looking man than anyone in the group. Several blogs have documented he's one of the top leaders of a small denomination, which expects Jesus to return in May 2012. But the group is NOT so strange that it expects Jesus to visit the Mayans first.

Because I follow some church groups' activities on the Internet, I was able to tell the group about the man's denomination. I mentioned some of the predictions its top leader has made -- such as nuclear explosions along the Gulf Coast. Nearly two years after they were supposed to occur, the biggest explosion is still an offshore oil rig catching fire.

But at the end of the evening, I was saddened as I considered what had happened. The two dinner groups attend spinoffs of the same religious organization. They kept the same religious event in the same restaurant at the same time - but they were divided. And not even moving the kitchen out of the way would have helped.

No one ever suggested the two religious groups combine for dinner. And I probably didn't help matters, by spilling the beans about the other group's curiosities. We believe it's all about truth, you see - and shouldn't the association which makes the fewest mistakes in public win?

I can't believe God was pleased with what happened in that restaurant. After all, the Biblical book of Ephesians talks about "the unity of the spirit.... one Lord, one faith, one baptism...." Of course, that last one disappeared when somebody started sprinkling water on babies....

All sorts of things can cause division in a church group. Sadly, the association I'm attending has had a rough couple of weeks -- because a Council of Elders with oversight powers demanded the association's President resign. Some people are on the Council's side. Others are on the former President's side. And the next foot-washing service is more than a year away.

Long-time blog readers know I left that association for a year. Not because of who was in charge, but because of some things the association was teaching. People and leaders change all the time -- but if you change what the Bible says, you're asking for trouble. I'd rather people dance the twist than twist the Scriptures.

I long for the return of Jesus Christ, to set all things right on this Earth. It seems to me part of that job will involve setting the world's churches right - because a lot of contradictory teachings and doctrines will have to be resolved. It could be like a "closest to the pin" contest at a golf tournament. But I hope the losers won't be sent.... well, you know.... down the hole.

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© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

23 APR 10: Mess-Con 2010

So did you do anything special Thursday to mark Earth Day? It's obvious Columbus State University faculty members did. Most of them pulled their lofty-thinking President back down to earth.

President Timothy Mescon received a 62-percent "no confidence" vote from the C.S.U. Faculty Senate. If Mescon was a Prime Minister in Canada or Europe, this vote by a parliament would bring immediate national elections. In Columbus, most residents probably will think the rebellious faculty should find jobs at "Cal-Berkeley."

The news was even worse for Columbus State Provost Inessa Levi. The Faculty Senate handed her a 77-percent "no confidence" vote. But no, Levi will NOT have to change her title to Con-vost.

Leaders of the Faculty Senate accused Columbus State's President of making too many impulsive changes. I'm not sure that's completely a bad thing. After all, C.S.U. gained a national champion in air rifle a few weeks ago - so fans didn't have to wait for the baseball playoffs.

Timothy Mescon also was accused of being too confrontational with Columbus State faculty, on issues such as tenure. I thought the old college phrase was "publish or perish" - not "publish or punch-out."

Timothy Mescon insisted Thursday the message of the no-confidence vote came through. He says he'll get more Columbus State faculty involved in decision-making, and slow down the process of change. Maybe Mescon now remembers his official inauguration as President came months after he took office.

As part of the adjustment, the Columbus State President recently agreed to undergo coaching in good management techniques. Step one: stop getting your management ideas from reruns of "The Office."

But what really is Timothy Mescon's future at Columbus State? He asked the Georgia Board of Regents to postpone a vote on his contract until the no-confidence balloting ended -- but he said Thursday he wants to stay at C.S.U. The Roman Catholic Church might resolve this by shuffling Mescon over to Augusta....

Only hours after the vote totals were announced, Columbus State University held an annual awards banquet. The Ledger-Enquirer reported one award went to Burger King franchise owner Marvin Schuster. He could have told President Timothy Mescon that "have it your way" refers to the customers, instead of the man in charge.

I wonder if this is a case where someone went through "culture shock" moving from the big city to Columbus. Timothy Mescon's last position was at Kennesaw State University, in a bustling Atlanta suburb. Columbus tends to be a bit slower in its pace - well, unless you're driving over the Veterans Parkway bridge to get to an appointment downtown.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION wants to go outside the faculty ballot box on this. Should Columbus State's President and Provost resign, in the wake of this no-confidence vote? Or should Mayor Jim Wetherington go to C.S.U. to determine if they're as "salvageable" as the Fire Chief was a couple of years ago?

Some of us remember when Auburn University's faculty had spats with the President on a regular basis, yet the leaders stayed around for several years. The complaining seems to have stopped since Dr. Jay Gogue took charge. Or does Gogue keep reminding the faculty that their complaints could hurt in recruiting football players?

-> Does this blog scare you? One man said he was scared of us, at our latest poker night. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The Columbus corporate tour moved to the Trade Center Thursday, with the annual meeting of Synovus shareholders. Unlike the TSYS meeting Wednesday, WLTZ reported every seat in the hall was filled. I think this is a rare case where a full house does NOT mean your team is winning.

Synovus Chief Executive Officer Richard Anthony told one concerned shareholder his salary currently is frozen. That shareholder actually suggested a pay cut to $250,000 - but that person apparently was wise enough NOT to suggest that money turn into a bigger dividend check.

Yet after the meeting was over, Richard Anthony spoke optimistically. He told WRBL Synovus might be able to purchase some banks next year. The banking company has had plenty of practice lately -- buying back foreclosed homes in Atlanta.

E-MAIL UPDATE: First I misstated the date of one Columbus Councilor's next election. Then I said he had opposition. And now comes this....


Once more we might want to retract. I will not face Red McDaniel in 2012. If McDaniel does not run and retires after this term...the Yes, I will run. Red has too many friends throughout his district that know he will always do what's right for them. As far as the garbage collection fee's, I would think it's probably due to the Summer months ahead and Red knows we need more pickup during the hotter days, plus fuel costs will be higher for citizens as well as you can see the gas prices continuing to rise daily. Now is not the time to be putting more rate hikes on the citizens. The citizen has given a great deal over the past two years by voting in the LOST and the SPLOST. Best not to push the issue right now.

Well I'm off the Houston. Have a great week and keep up the wonderful and most entertaining fun in the morning Blog of Columbus.

Jeremy S Hobbs

Chairman and Founder

The Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation, Inc.

This is curious, since Hobbs sounded like he was declaring himself a candidate in February [21 Feb]. After reviewing his video clip again Thursday night, Hobbs did include an "if" about McDaniel possibly not retiring. But Hobbs also said he'd be "generating support for City Council in 2012" - so watch for his face in the background of many more Teresa Tomlinson campaign videos.

But wow -- is this blog really "the most entertaining fun in the morning"?! Has Bear O'Brien stopped telling jokes on the radio completely?

Let's see what other fun and games happened Thursday....

+ Jay Stetzenmuller added to his automotive empire, by announcing he'll buy Columbus Motor Company. The folks at Uptown Columbus must be thrilled by this - because Stetzenmuller soon may leave the area with a second empty storefront, to match Jay Suzuki.

+ The March unemployment rate in Columbus fell below ten percent -- all the way to 9.9 percent. The Chamber of Commerce kindly asks you NOT to apply "Price is Right" rules in this case. You know, rounding off to the nearest dollar....

+ Supporters of whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River held an evening rally in Heritage Park. Matt Swift of the W.C. Bradley Company told WTVM if all goes well, the river will be ready for rafting in 2012. If not, it still will be simply water under the bridge....

+ The Alabama Legislature ended its 2010 session, with no House vote on an electronic bingo amendment. This means all the candidates will have to take a stand on the issue this spring -- and I can't wait to hear candidates for Agriculture Commissioner reveal if they're for or against gaming machines with lemons and cherries.

+ The Georgia Bulldog spring tour brought football coach Mark Richt and men's basketball coach Mark Fox to Columbus. Dozens of fans lined up to get Richt's autograph, while asking Fox whether he coached the offensive or defensive line.

(Mark Richt told WTVM the Georgia Bulldogs will have 29 practice sessions before their first football game in September. He's already counting them down in late April?! Oh well - I suppose some women already are counting shopping days until Christmas.)

+ The Atlanta Falcons selected Missouri linebacker Sean Witherspoon as their top draft pick. Well, uh, OK - this Kansas graduate might be able to adjust to that. As long as radio play-by-play man Wes Durham doesn't keep bringing it up....

+ Instant Message to WRBL sportscaster Stuart Webber: I'm sorry to do this to you again - but if a high school basketball player in Huntsville commits to playing college ball at Auburn, he will NOT be "heading north" to play. If he does, the other Tigers had better meet him outside Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym.

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: 644 (+ 24, 3.9%)

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, April 22, 2010

22 APR 10: Makers, Takers, No Earth-Shakers

Dawson, Georgia will have its annual "tour of homes" a week from Saturday. In Columbus, the annual "tour of corporations" began Wednesday. Three big local companies have their shareholders' meetings in a two-week span. Is it simply coincidence that all three follow the income tax filing deadline?

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: As we were first to report Wednesday morning, TSYS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Philip Tomlinson had breaking news at his company's shareholders meeting -- a new bank signing. Bridgewater Bank based in Calgary, Canada is now a TSYS client. Perhaps this will lead to a visit by Calgary's most famous resident -- or will Jerome Iginla be too busy with hockey next fall to help the Cottonmouths?

We went to the TSYS shareholders meeting to resolve questions from another country. Regular readers will recall a New Delhi man sent us several e-mails recently. They first noted "golden parachutes" for corporate executives [25 Jan], then accused TSYS of "cooking the books" in its Indian operations. The only cooking I saw Wednesday involved sausage biscuits in warming trays in the lobby.

Veeresh Malik admits he's pursuing a race discrimination complaint against a branch of TSYS, over his departure from the company last year. But he expected "some good questions" would come up at the shareholders meeting about the financial records in India. Malik may be stunned to learn India never came up at all. The C.E.O. was more focused on Omaha, Nebraska....

The only question from the floor at the TSYS shareholders meeting was a perennial classic: will our dividends increase? Philip Tomlinson said there's no plan for that in the near future. But he noted the price of TSYS stock is showing "a little progress," trading above 16 dollars. Take the profits and run at your own risk.

It was left to your blog to ask the tough questions - and we wanted to ask them to the TSYS Chairman. But after checking, Director of Communications Cyle Mims said Philip Tomlinson had a busy schedule for the day. Maybe next week, we could ask him. The new openness by Carmike Cinemas executives has yet to spread two blocks up First Avenue.

But Cyle Mims was willing to answer our questions - even though he couldn't answer most of them. Mims isn't sure why an Atlanta law firm is looking for TSYS shareholders, who might know about violations of federal securities laws. Mims doesn't know if it relates to events in India or not. If it does, a case this vague really belongs in The Hague....

I asked Cyle Mims about the sudden departure recently of Robert Philbin, the President of TSYS Acquiring Solutions in Arizona [26 Feb]. He "resigned to pursue other interests," Mims answered. Of course, "other interests" can range from retirement on a golf course to fleeing the F.B.I.

Your blog apparently was the only news outlet to attend Wednesday's TSYS shareholders meeting. Cyle Mims told me the Ledger-Enquirer's business reporter "had another story to cover." I didn't realize the fallout from Kate Gosselin leaving "Dancing With the Stars" would be that great....

(Before TSYS calls to complain about that photo - I took it before the shareholders meeting began. That should be exempt from the company prohibition on cameras. And I absolutely took no pictures of the catered food in the lobby, to tip off the Aflac meeting planners.)

TSYS Chairman Philip Tomlinson announced KPMG had been approved by more than 98 percent of shareholders as the company auditor. But when Tomlinson referred to KPMG as "our friends," a shareholder next to me whispered a good point. That description "doesn't sound like independent auditors, does it?"

(I should note here that while Philip Tomlinson led the shareholders meeting, Columbus mayoral candidate Teresa Tomlinson was nowhere to be found. I don't think the two are related -- and the meeting rules didn't even allow anyone to display a sign.)

Philip Tomlinson summed up 2009 for TSYS with two words: "Good riddance." He said the credit card industry essentially has been "dead for 18 months, minimum." Of course, paying for mandatory health insurance in coming years could change all that....

Yet Philip Tomlinson noted TSYS had first quarter profit which was ten percent above 2009. "One quarter doesn't make a trend, but it's encouraging," the Chairman/CEO said. Atlanta baseball fans need to remember that, every time Jason Heyward hits a home run.

Philip Tomlinson says TSYS is trying to diversify beyond credit card processing, to offer services closer to customers and merchants. He called them the "makers and takers." Exactly which group is which can be left for a debate around Labor Day.

Philip Tomlinson noted Fortune magazine listed TSYS among the most admired U.S. companies for the second year in a row. He said that's impressive considering "we don't advertise." Apparently the two TSYS "partners in education" schools in Muscogee County don't count as free ads.

The only real surprise for me at the TSYS shareholders meeting was that a man led an invocation, praying "in the name of Jesus." Considering TSYS has branches in Muslim and South Asian countries, that prayer is potential trouble -- but then, the only people dressed in "special garb" were teenagers leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

There was also this surprise outside the TSYS building -- an ambulance, which was parked on the grounds throughout the shareholders meeting. Talk about being overly cautious! No one applauded the announcement about a new customer in Canada, much less fainted.

One other question came up, as Cyle Mims escorted me to the TSYS lobby. What does the company do with the Mott House - a historic home which was preserved, as the company built modern office buildings all around it? Mims says it's empty, and speculated the structure might not be stable. So it's a lot like the credit card industry has been....

So TSYS put its best face forward, and ignored the complaints of a complainer half-a-world away. But the man in New Delhi won't go quietly, hinting on his blog TSYS and "Somali pirates" may have something in common. Maybe they both have prominent places at casinos - only TSYS handles automated tellers there.

The Columbus corporate tour continues today, with the annual shareholders meeting of Synovus Financial. That conference will take place at the Trade Center. I'm skipping that meeting, since no one in India has raised complaints about Synovus. Plenty of foreclosed home owners may have, but that's different....

Because of our special coverage, an e-mail we received Wednesday is being held for another day. Let's quickly wrap up other Wednesday news:

+ Benny Parker announced he'll run for Julius Hunter's seat on Columbus Council. The Ledger-Enquirer reported Parker ran for Council and lost in 1983. Some inferiority complexes can take a long time to heal....

+ Georgia Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond declared himself a candidate for U.S. Senate. Something about this doesn't seem right. Shouldn't the Labor Commissioner allow an unemployed person to run for that seat first?

+ Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told National Public Radio he wants a Supreme Court nominee with a record of objectivity and fairness - and someone who is NOT a politician. Given the current political climate in Washington, Sessions knocked down the number of eligible candidates nationwide to about five.

+ A proposed constitutional amendment on electronic bingo in Alabama was withdrawn from the House schedule, and could be dead for the year. State Senate candidate Johnny Ford arranged another "justice and jobs" rally in Montgomery. In Alabama, those words refer to gambling - while in other states they're reserved for keeping schools open.

+ WXTX news anchor Semone Doughton showed a video clip of the moment she became engaged. It happened last week during a vacation in France, halfway up the Eiffel Tower. I'm not sure that could happen this week - not with that volcanic ash cloud keeping so many people grounded.

+ Auburn University head football coach Gene Chizik appeared at a Columbus boosters meeting. Chizik said he'll decide on a starting quarterback based on his own timetable. If the announcement comes in the middle of June, we'll know which player's relatives organized the best fan page on Facebook.

+ Instant Message to everyone who can't believe Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games: Check the commissioner's background. Roger Goodell's father was a Republican U.S. Senator. His wife is a Fox News Channel anchor. If Goddell had his way, the NFL Network probably would show "Law and Order" reruns.

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: 620 (+ 20, 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, April 21, 2010

21 APR 10: Starting With a Bang

It was about 8:55 a.m. ET when Tuesday's morning run began. I really should have run later in the day - around 1:00 p.m. That's when a rainstorm soaked me, while I was outside. But trying to jog home from the convenience store while holding a 32-ounce cup of diet soda simply is too awkward for me.

The morning running course took me down the Riverwalk, between Golden Park and the Civic Center. And that's when I heard them - two noises echoing off the trees on the Phenix City side of the Chattahoochee. Compared with fireworks nights, the reverberations weren't very loud at all. For all I knew, they could have marked the shotgun start of an Oxbow Creek golf tournament.

It wasn't until two hours later that I learned what those noises were. Two sonic booms echoed across Columbus, because the space shuttle Discovery was returning to Earth and landing in Florida. The booms were heard across a wide area of the Southeast - anything to gain popular support for full funding of NASA.

One online comment I read indicated the sonic booms "shook the walls" at Columbus Technical College. Hmmmm - come to think of it, do they offer courses in soundproofing rooms?

Discovery's landing was postponed a day due to weather problems. The Mass Media provided some warning that the space shuttle might fly over Columbus Monday. But I guess I missed the warnings about Tuesday's flyover. And if the Space Science Center didn't hold a special breakfast watch party, with free ear plugs....

People who didn't know better probably never would have guessed a space shuttle flew over Columbus. It would be more logical to blame those two sonic booms on other things:

+ A typical live-fire exercise at Fort Benning -- only with the government of Micronesia quickly surrendering.

+ The "Boom Boom Lady" at Fireworks Outlet winning a bet over the "Bang Bang Lady."

+ A Sonic Drive-In serving its one-millionth Columbus customer.

+ Middle school students trying out the Port Columbus museum cannons, then claiming the ghosts did it.

+ WRCG finally holding the grand opening party for "Boomer 106.9" FM.

+ Columbus Cottonmouths Coach Jerome "Boom Boom" Bechard having a farewell party.

+ Columbus Police finally using its ultimate top-secret "crime prevention" tool -- a tank.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you may not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG CORRECTION: Oh dear - we may have too much election-year fever. This e-mail came early Tuesday....

According to your blog today, you have written, As it is, McDaniel is up for re-election this year. That is not accurate. McDaniel's term end in 2012. Believe me, I am on top of that date. You might want to change your blog.

Jeremy S Hobbs

Chairman and Founder

The Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation, Inc.

Yes, Hobbs ought to know -- because he plans to challenge Red McDaniel for his Columbus Council seat. And he can't raise money for a 2010 campaign right now, since he's too busy raising money to save his foundation.

Yet this correction raises a question. Why would Red McDaniel care about delaying a Columbus Council vote on higher garbage fees until after the November election? Is McDaniel offering this to protect other Councilors, who actually will be on the ballot? After all, Mike Baker has to start speaking up for himself sooner or later....

Meanwhile, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham announced Tuesday he'll run for a fourth term. I assume he's the favorite - since it's awfully hard to persuade Southerners to give up their Ham.

Now that I've learned my lesson in consulting the city election web sites first, let's check a Tuesday with plenty of other topics:

+ Kris Kennedy was named Phenix City's first female fire chief. She'll keep the Fire Marshal title as well for now - and we hope the combined positions will provide Kennedy enough income to celebrate at a more upscale hair salon.

(City Manager Wallace Hunter is giving up the Fire Chief position, but he told firefighters he'll remain "just a phone call away." You'll recall the Phenix City School Superintendent learned that lesson the hard way one night last year....)

+ Three inmates escaped from the Harris County Jail, stole a county commissioner's car - and according to WRBL, someone left blood stains on clothing at a Columbus dry cleaners. If that's not enough, the three didn't leave any instructions on how much starch to use on their jail uniforms.

+ Phenix City Police told WRBL a burglar stole jewelry and electronics from the Kmart on U.S. 280. If he was trying to avoid the store's "blue light specials," he might face a very different one....

+ The Columbus State University Faculty Senate began a two-day "no confidence" vote on the President and Provost. The Ledger-Enquirer's web site reported President Timothy Mescon voted on this question - but no journalist was there to ask whether or not he's confident about the outcome.

+ Aflac's web site was nominated for a Webby Award. It could be named the top site for insurance services - as long as Flo from Progressive doesn't scare the duck away with that price gun.

+ The Georgia Public Service Commission approved a request from AT&T to end annual home delivery of Columbus phone books. Schools which earned money recycling those books are going to be upset. But at least no one can blame AT&T anymore, for shredding books to cause all that yellow dust in the spring.

+ WTVM/WXTX news anchor Jason Dennis revealed online his News at Ten co-anchor Semone Doughton is engaged. It's a sign of changing times in Columbus that he had to post a clarification later -- explaining Doughton is NOT engaged to Cheryl Renee. [True!]

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College won its 20th baseball game in a row, edging Andrew 6-4. For those of you knew to the area, Andrew College is located in Cuthbert - and its team nickname is NOT the Wittenbergs.

+ The Atlanta Hawks took a two-game lead in their first-round playoff series, mashing Milwaukee 96-86. For some reason, WIOL/WEAM-AM did NOT carry the Hawks radio broadcast. C'mon, guys - Steve Holman probably won't start whining about the officiating until the second round.

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Phil Scoggins: I saw your old videotape of a Columbus Astros game Tuesday night - but what was that mascot on the third-base line? It looked like a duck. And if it was, the Amos family at Aflac should have paid team owner Dayton Preston a nice royalty check.

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: 600 (+ 19, 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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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

20 APR 10: Tight Squeezes

Drive on highways in other cities, and you'll discover Columbus is rather roomy when it comes to entrances and exit ramps. But someday I'll figure out why drivers line up in the right turn lane, to make a left turn from Macon Road to Interstate 185. Get in the left lane from the start, and you'll at least feel superior.

Tightness was on display in two different Columbus locations Monday night. We'll start with traffic, and a public hearing on the future of Whittlesey Road. The meeting was held at Northside Chapel - which ought to hold services during morning and afternoon rush hours, so people can stop and repent of anger while waiting in long lines.

While the Whittlesey Road area has grown a lot, the street itself remains a narrow two-lane road between Veterans Parkway and Whitesville Road. Clearly this section of this pavement has not been feasting on Bruster's Ice Cream or T.G.I.Friday's dinners....

After years of study and property negotiation, the city of Columbus finally appears ready to widen that section of Whittlesey Road. But planners say that will mean road closures and detours in the months ahead. In other words, this is the big break Peachtree Mall has been waiting to see.

From what I heard on the evening news, Bradley Park Drive will be a major detour route during the construction. That street actually intersects Whittlesey Road twice, but "The Brad" is a narrow winding road of its own east of Whitesville Road. Any openings on the office complexes may be gobbled up by liability lawyers.

A manager of the Bruster's stand on Whittlesey Road told WRBL construction will be going on within a few feet of his door. He's concerned the Whittlesey widening work will cost him business. But he should look for the marketing opportunity here - and note how authentic his "rocky road" ice cream really is.

(Oh yes - there's a tongue twister to use in impressing your friends. Tell them the "Whittlesey widening work is wonderful" several times.)

A potentially more troubling tight spot was examined Monday night by the Muscogee County School Board. Superintendent Susan Andrews offered ideas for cutting the district budget another four million dollars this fiscal year. If this budget has to be chopped any further, the professionals at Burt's Butcher Shoppe may have to do it.

Even more challenging is a call from the state to reduce the Muscogee County school budget 18 million dollars next fiscal year. Money apparently cannot be moved over from last year's sales tax vote for new construction -- which could mean once a new Carver High School is built, it won't be used nearly as much as the old one.

The list of possible budget cuts proposed Monday night includes an end to year-round school in Muscogee County. Only two schools have that schedule now -- and this is why GPB added that 24-hour digital children's channel, anyway.

Superintendent Susan Andrews also suggests combining Benning Hills and Muscogee Elementary Schools.. She suspects enough staff members would retire to avoid layoffs. So far, no one is daring to call the new school Muscogee Pension Magnet Academy.

The Superintendent also proposes shuffling school start times, to eliminate the need for five bus drivers. Middle school students would be in class until 4:20 p.m. - which could cost "General Hospital" a large number of potential new viewers.

Superintendent Susan Andrews admits she's asked Mayor Jim Wetherington to have the city pick up the salaries of school crossing guards, to save the school district more than $400,000. This actually could make the city money. Simply put a small microphone on the guards' lapels, and hide police cars around the corner from every crosswalk.

The list of proposed budget cuts say nothing about Muscogee County school arts programs. But there was a rally at the Georgia state capitol Monday by people who oppose the planned elimination of the Georgia Council of the Arts. How can you use Photoshop on your computer, when no one knows how to take photos anymore?

Some people are very concerned about yet another round of Muscogee County school budget cuts. Dick McMichael wrote on his blog Monday it "places our country at risk." Yet his own headline on the item misspelled it "Muscogee County School DICTRICT" - and when he was in school, I think that would have simply cost him a perfect score.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you may not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG CORRECTION: Now this is a first - a reader correcting us about a wild hog....

I THINK SHE NAMED THE PIG"PANSIE"....I could be wrong!

After reviewing the video, we indeed pinned the wrong name on that hog Sunday. Our apologies to caretaker Cheryl Doyle. Things might have been different 50 years ago -- as animal lovers would have been inspired by Miss Patsy's Playhouse.

Now to other important concerns (at least for some people) which made news Monday:

+ The Columbus Election Board web site posted a "declaration of intent" by Paul Olson. That means he plans to accept contributions in a campaign for mayor -- and he'll be so busy with his own financial records that he won't be able to challenge violations by everyone else.

+ Funeral home operator Bruce Huff officially launched his campaign for Council District 3, challenging Julius Hunter [19 Jan]. If Huff gets elected, Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower might want to clear out his Tuesdays -- you know, the Council meeting days.

+ WTVM reported Columbus Councilor Red McDaniel wants the proposed increase in city garbage fees tabled until after the November election. As it happens, McDaniel is up for reelection in November. If he makes voters pay more to take out the trash, they might send him to the curb in the process.

+ Columbus and Phenix City marked one year since a devastating tornado. WTVM reported the tornado-damaged Valley Lanes in Phenix City will NOT be rebuilt. So the local library's Wii game days may have to be adjusted, to allow beer sales in the parking lot.

+ Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson donated $200,000 to the Chattahoochee Valley Community College baseball program. In exchange, CVCC retired Hudson's old number 18 and put it on the Howard Lake Field wall. If five more CVCC players would follow Hudson's example, Phenix City residents would have a new lottery combination to try.

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: 581 (+ 26, 4.7%)

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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Monday, April 19, 2010

19 APR 10: Concern at the Corner

It's becoming a bit like Festivus in my part of town -- with an "airing of grievances" happening outside my window every weekend. It didn't last long Saturday night, compared to the week before. So maybe the guys in my complex are learning to control their beer consumption a little better.

But down the street from where I live, the situation is more concerning. A carjacking occurred the other morning within one block from my home. Police say it happened at 4:30 a.m., while I was sleeping. And whoever did it must be a pro - because a honking horn at that hour should have awakened me.

For some reason, the corner where that carjacking occurred has been a crime scene several times before....

+ A Fort Benning soldier was mugged near that corner last November, at around midnight. I'm not sure why a soldier would be there at that late hour - unless he seriously lost his way heading to his car, after an evening at Lil Kim's Cove.

+ In May 2008, someone set fire to a car on Fifth Street. Two cars were torched on Front Avenue in the Historic District as well. I don't recall anyone ever being arrested - or whether the makes of cars had just finished first in a NASCAR race.

+ A man was shot near that corner on a late night in 2006 [23 Nov 06]. This is why I don't like to hear people refer to some of the homes in the downtown area as "shotgun houses."

After the 2006 shooting, I deliberately avoided running through that intersection for awhile -- even during the day. I could go down Broadway instead of First Avenue without any difficulty. Criminals seem to have avoided Broadway in recent years -- as if they all joined in attacking the former school superintendent.

We've written here for years about some of the curious people who show up in my neighborhood. Perhaps it started years ago with rumored drug houses across the avenue. I don't hear those rumors anymore -- even though a probation office has opened down the street from those houses.

But a carjacking in my neighborhood is something new. I suppose I'll need to move my car a little faster through stop signs now -- even though I hardly ever drive at 4:30 a.m. The Atlanta rush hour may start that early, but the race to work at Fort Benning usually waits until after 5:00.

What concerns me is that all these crimes occurred within four blocks of the Government Center. I haven't heard about the Historic District becoming one of those new police beats, but maybe it should be. Since the neighborhood also happens to be sprinkled with law offices, witnesses to the "Miranda rights" readings would be in abundance.

Another occasional crime zone on the other side of downtown made the Sunday crime report. Columbus Police say a homeless man was attacked and robbed by other homeless people near the 14th Street Bridge. There's simply no good place to make change late at night, when someone finds a ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk.

May we all drive and walk with care this week - as we carefully consider this Sunday news:

+ WTVM's web site reported Russell County Sheriff candidate Heath Taylor hosted a barbecue in Seale. For some reason, I didn't hear the event mentioned on the evening newscasts - so either Taylor needs to promote free food giveaways better, or people feared he was offering meals from the county jail.

+ Fort Benning Commanding General Michael Ferriter went to Columbus Airport, to read a book about snakes to children. I can understand why the airport wouldn't show the movie "Snakes on a Plane," but I'm not sure this is much better.

+ First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Episcopal Church held a combined worship service. During the live WRBL telecast, Presbyterian Pastor Charles Hasty called it a "reunion" - well, at least until the leaders have a meeting to determine what the order of hymns should be.

+ The annual "River Blast" weekend concluded at Port Columbus. The event included the firing of the museum's historic cannons, as well as a classic car show - with potential backfire explosions almost as loud and scary.

+ Leesburg, Georgia native Luke Bryan was named Best New Artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards. So much for Leesburg becoming the wealthy upper-class suburb of Albany....

+ Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger was kicked off the team by Coach Mark Richt. The redshirt freshman was arrested in south Georgia last month on charges of underage alcohol possession - and this decision shows there's a big difference between a Mettenberger and a Roethlisberger.

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: 555 (- 36, 6.1%)

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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