Wednesday, April 07, 2010

7 APR 10: Gimme a Hug-ley

"I see them at every corner I turn." So said a Columbus African-American leader Tuesday about the local police. And in an unusual turn of events, it was NOT a complaint -- or even a threat to demand a federal civil rights investigation.

The comment about Columbus Police on every corner came from the City Manager. Isaiah Hugley was the subject of a wide-ranging interview Tuesday on WDAK radio's "Viewpoint" - the sort of extended interview I haven't heard him give in a long time. It was good practice, for convincing the next mayor he should keep his job.

But the City Manager defended how Columbus Police handled the "mimosa-gate" case at Formal Elegance bridal shop last November. He said officers followed Georgia state law when it comes on alcohol licenses, instead of making an exception for a business owner. Hugley added the state law has NOT changed - but did NOT say how hard he's lobbied his wife about it.

On another public safety issue, Isaiah Hugley assured listeners Columbus Police will be well-equipped to keep the new Fall Line Trace trail safe. He said each officer patrolling the trail will have a squad car, a trailer, a bicycle and an ATV. Hmmmm - he said nothing about them having guns or handcuffs....

The City Manager explained patrol officers can use those various items, based on where an emergency occurs along the Fall Line Trace or Riverwalk. But I think there's a loophole in this system. What if a criminal is fleeing on a mountain bike? Are undercover agents planting hidden steel traps in the woods?

It takes money to fund all these things, of course - and Isaiah Hugley said he's confident Columbus will meet its budget projections by the end of the fiscal year in June. While he didn't come out and say it, the City Manager hopes the budget will be "in the black." Southerners hopefully know by now that can be a good thing.

But the City Manager noted he does NOT expect Columbus to wind up with extra money, to replenish city reserves. And the next city budget will need more money for its self-funded health care plan. So much for dreaming the health care reform act had a hidden "medical stimulus" section.

Because funds are still tight, Isaiah Hugley admitted most "one-time requests" from Columbus city departments for next fiscal year probably will be denied. Of course, there could be exceptions. For instance, if you've found another big company to move out of Ohio....

Another big topic during the WDAK interview was Columbus garbage collection. The City Manager admitted a proposal to cut back to once-a-week pickup has been.... well, he didn't say it was tossed in what guest host Becky Gordon called "the big hole." But it might as well be there.

Isaiah Hugley explained once-a-week trash collection would save a little money. But he's seeking a two-dollar increase in monthly fees instead, because reduced garbage service is not popular. Everyone who voted for the public safety sales tax set this precedent, and I hope they smile when future water bills come.

The City Manager gave one example of how garbage collection costs have increased. An entry-level garbage truck driver was paid $20,000 nine years ago, but now is paid $28,800. We especially post this for new TV reporters in Columbus - to give you an idea of how much your bosses really think you're worth.

Isaiah Hugley admitted trash fees would have to jump much more, if not for prison labor. Is it time to save even more money, and let inmates drive the garbage trucks? Let's face it - they're not the best vehicles for attempting a high-speed getaway on Veterans Parkway.

Those of you who have given up on Columbus radio missed an informative 40 minutes with the City Manager. It also included Viewpoint's guest host finally admitting something regular listeners have known for years - regular host Mike Gaymon from the Chamber of Commerce doesn't ask very tough questions.

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OVERHEARD OVER HERE: An 87-year-old man is enjoying lunch at the church building, and revealing details of a confession he made to the Pastor's wife.

"I told her I've had one affair in my life. And it lasted for 64 years."

Let's review other affairs of interest (not necessarily romantic) from the Tuesday news....

+ The Phenix City Council approved money for two new athletic buildings on the grounds of Garrett-Harrison Stadium. They'll cost about $1.2 million, should be ready for the start of football season - and finally give the Central High School Booster Club a place to store its fireworks.

+ The President of Chattahoochee Valley Community College asked Phenix City Councilors to reduce the speed limit to 50 miles per hour at the campus entrance. The entrance on U.S. 431 currently is posted at 65 -- which is really more fitting for technical college students, testing how well their auto repair projects worked.

(Dr. Laurel Blackwell admitted CVCC faculty and staff members want the speed limit at the entrance reduced to 50 miles per hour. But most students really are NOT asking for it. Of course they're not - they want to race away from boring lectures and final exams as fast as possible.)

+ WLTZ unveiled a revamped 7:00 p.m. newscast. It doesn't replay the "6:00 Report" anymore -- and the later newscast now is called "Alabama First News," loaded with stories about that state. Columbus residents either should watch at 6:00, or give a lot more money to GPB so "Lawmakers" can last year-round.

+ Instant Message to WTVM's Cheryl Renee: Congratulations! I heard you announce your engagement at the end of Tuesday's 5:30 p.m. news. So when can we start voting online for your wedding dress?

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