Thursday, May 27, 2010

27 MAY 10: The Centers of It All

It's been a landmark in downtown Columbus for about 40 years. In fact, it's practically the only skyscraper downtown has. So it's sad to think the Government Center may be on the downward slope toward the wrecking ball -- although an implosion might give our city big national TV exposure.

Why am I sounding nostalgic about the Government Center? Because of the news Wednesday that Columbus Council will move its meetings out of the building. The vote was 6-4 to hold future meetings at the planned Citizen Services Center near Macon Road -- proving those commercials promoting Midtown Inc. really work.

The Citizen Services Center will house not only Columbus Council meetings, but several city offices and the new natatorium. So if the city is drowning in red ink, that will be easier for the City Manager to illustrate.

The Ledger-Enquirer reports the new Citizen Services Center will honor the late Mayor J.R. Allen. But of course, the November election could change all that. If Teresa Tomlinson becomes mayor, a statue outside the building saluting her as a Midtown pioneer.

Councilor Gary Allen (the son of J.R.) says he supports moving the meetings to Midtown because it's a "more centralized location." Of course, he lives on the north side of town. Every mile of driving he saves is valuable -- even if it's only five miles for every round-trip.

But Councilor Red McDaniel said moving city meetings away from downtown Columbus is "stupid." He may have a good point there. After all, there are a lot more bars within walking distance of the Government Center, for having a "spin room" after meetings.

I wondered Wednesday night how many other cities have done what Columbus is about to do. A check of 12 other major Georgia cities revealed ALL of them have City Council or Commission meetings at their "City Hall" building, or something with a similar name. They certainly don't meet in buildings where lost swimmers could wander into the audience.

If Columbus Council wants to move to Midtown, why not save the city a little money - and hold meetings in the fancy new meeting room of the Muscogee County School Board? I can't recall the last time the two bodies held meetings on the same day. It didn't even happen when the groups disliked each other.

I think it was Tim Chitwood who first raised the idea of moving the "center point" of Columbus government from downtown to Midtown. The shift of Columbus Council meetings is another major step toward doing that - on top of the central library and the Public Education Center. Not to mention the fact that Publix refuses to open a supermarket on Broadway....

But how far should this shift to Midtown go? Should new courtrooms be built on Rigdon Road, to cut down the distance to Rutledge State Prison? Or would that spark such a big shift of law offices that half the homes in the Historic District would be vacant?

You really could blame the U.S. Postal Service for starting the shift away from downtown. I'm not sure when the main post office was moved to Milgen Road. But the person who made that decision clearly sent a warning message to Columbus - because now local mail will be processed far down U.S. 80, in Macon.

That was the other big shift of Wednesday - the Postal Service confirming most of Columbus's mail processing will move to Macon in July. The exception will be large bulk mail items. People still can specifically request Columbus postmarks - but I doubt any Italian-American people bother to do that around Columbus Day.

Postal officials say 14 Columbus jobs will be reassigned, with the shift of mail processing to Macon. American Postal Worker Union members complained to WRBL some employees will be forced "to change positions." If they're sitting down at work instead of standing, you'd think they wouldn't object.

The postal workers' union warned in March a shift in Columbus mail processing to Macon will mean slower service. The Columbus Postmaster claims service actually will be faster, since Macon is a regional hub. We'll know which side is right if thousands of Columbus credit card statements suddenly have late fees.

A move back to Columbus tops our check of other Wednesday news....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer website reported the old Lewis-Jones supermarket on Hamilton Road will reopen this summer as a Save-A-Lot. That chain once had a store on the Phenix City bypass - and when it closed in 2003, an employee promised me three new Columbus stores were planned [2 Apr 03]. The company must have decided it wanted to save a whole lot more.

+ Muscogee County Schools wrapped up the term - and WRBL showed the final day of class before Carver High School is bulldozed. Students wrote messages on the brick walls, and were allowed to take home ceiling tiles as souvenirs. In other words, the old Carver wound up with the image most Columbus residents had of it all along.

(It was also the final day of class at Benning Hills Elementary, before its merger with Muscogee. But I disagree with the reporters who called it the "final day ever." Couldn't Benning Hills reopen, once base realignment is complete? Or are parents in that neighborhood so angry that they plan to buy the building and start home-schooling?)

+ The schedule was announced for the AAA high school baseball finals. Ringgold will face Columbus Saturday at the high school's Randy Jordan Field. The risk of visiting fans adding letters to the Golden Park signs was too great....

+ Alabama assailed Auburn 7-1 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament. The grounds crew in Hoover is changing the team logos behind the plate after every game. Well, I assume that's how it works - as opposed to winning Crimson Tide players stomping the Auburn logo beyond recognition.

+ Instant Message to the CW Network: Are you paying attention to what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico? There could be a new reality show there - America's Next Top Kill.

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