Wednesday, May 12, 2010

12 MAY 10: Ken or Cannot

When reporters follow political candidates around, the candidates probably don't mind. When a group of protesters follows them around, it might be a different matter. One candidate in Columbus Tuesday was trailed by such protesters - and for a change, it was NOT the Tea Party. Scoffers might say they were more like chocolate milk....

Ken Hodges held a media event at the Government Center, pumping up his campaign for Georgia Attorney General. A banner hung behind Hodges proclaiming he's "a prosecutor, not a politician." OK - then why is he having media events at the Government Center?

The Ken Hodges campaign trumpets the fact that he was named Georgia District Attorney of the Year in 2002, while serving in Dougherty County. But then came the events of 2004 in Muscogee County - and critics wanted to award Hodges a D, without the A.

Ken Hodges's work as a Special Prosecutor over the Kenneth Walker case provoked the protesters. As soon as his media event ended, the Georgia NAACP held a news conference in the same place opposing his campaign. It's nice to see the NAACP practicing energy savings, by not making reporters drive across town.

Georgia NAACP President Ed DuBose said Ken Hodges "may be a good person," but he lacks a track record worthy of the Attorney General's job. Isn't this amazing? DuBose is sounding like some Senate Republicans....

Another NAACP official was even more blunt about Ken Hodges -- so blunt that WRBL censored one of his words, referring (ahem) to using the restroom. Just because a word is in the King James Bible does NOT mean TV newscasts are comfortable using it.

The Georgia NAACP still hasn't forgiven Ken Hodges for refusing to take the Kenneth Walker case to a second grand jury. Hodges admits he made a mistake by not swearing in then-Deputy David Glisson. Some civil rights leaders may have made up for that, by swearing in private.

But here's the thing - the Ken Hodges media event included an ethnically mixed group of supporters. I admittedly didn't recognize the African-American people standing around him. But then again, I didn't expect William Howell or Brother Love to be there.

Ken Hodges has been endorsed for Attorney General by former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young. Ed DuBose says he plans to contact both of them and "educate" them about the Kenneth Walker case. But Young endorsed Hodges last August [18 Aug 09] - so DuBose must be waiting for accreditation from the state.

Ken Hodges says he's willing to meet with NAACP officials -- but he claimed he was unable to attend a candidates' forum Tuesday night. If that 2004 grand jury met in private, Hodges wants his inquisition held the same way.

Meanwhile, a candidate for Alabama Governor has answered our challenge and put a campaign ad on Columbus television. Former two-year college chancellor Bradley Byrne lets his wife do the talking. I know at least one local pastor who would call that "milquetoast" - even before the debate turned to Alabama agriculture.

But another news item Tuesday made even more people angry, so let's begin the news summary there:

+ I received my first official "reverse 911" alert by phone, warning about possible razor blades on Columbus playgrounds. You're asked to use caution until an "all clear" announcement is issued -- and no follow-up call came Tuesday night. Not even televised coverage of tornado warnings extends to a second day.

(Were you impressed by how Columbus TV reporters dramatized the story Tuesday night? WRBL's Meredith Armstrong went down a slide live. And WTVM's Lindsey Connell sliced through her script with a razor blade - which tells me if she ever leaves television news, she has a great future selling Ginsu knives.)

+ Columbus city officials announced the "Hope for Haiti" campaign raised nearly $33,000. What they did NOT announce is how all donors were put on the mailing list of CARE - a relief agency that's now sending regular mail appeals and making telemarketing calls. It's nice to CARE, but it's a challenge to become CARE-free.

(Have you seen the "Dance for Haiti" video Columbus city employees did? Mayor Jim Wetherington and City Manager Isaiah Hugley move around a little. Elections Board Director Nancy Boren moves around a lot. But thankfully, the 100 new police officers are too focused on their jobs to appear in it.)

+ Peter Bowden with the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau told WDAK's "Viewpoint" the mayor recently went to Washington, to lobby about unpaid hotel-motel taxes by travel websites. Some sites want a federal law declaring them tax-exempt. OK -- then I want my rooms declared tax-deductible donations to nonprofit charities.

+ Columbus Airport showed off a large new device for scanning luggage. Please don't tell me the airport is going to follow the example of the airlines, and charge an up-front scanning fee....

+ A public forum was held at Benning Hills Elementary School on a possible shutdown, to merge with Muscogee Elementary. Several parents say Benning Hills is one of the better schools in the district. But let's face it -- "The Hills" started going out of style when Lauren Conrad left.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer eased my concern of last week, by presenting its annual Page One Awards to high school seniors. The science prize went to Phenix City Central's Nick DiChiara. Hmmmm - might his father be the school superintendent? And might he know a secret formula to make fireworks for the Booster Club?

+ The Georgia Board of Regents voted to increase tuition at public colleges across the state. Columbus State University students will have to pay $200 more this fall - which at today's prices computes to about four college textbooks.

+ The Opelika-Auburn News reported 11 custodians at Auburn University are losing their jobs, because the new Auburn Arena doesn't need as many janitors as Beard-Eaves Coliseum. This admittedly puzzles me - because I thought they hired that basketball coach from El Paso to win games and draw bigger crowds.

+ Instant Message to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School: Did I hear it correctly on the news - you consider Lakebottom Park a "field trip?" Would a visit to the low-priced movie theater at Peachtree Mall be considered a day on the town?

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