Thursday, May 20, 2010

20 MAY 10: Aggie Get Your Gun

Before we get to our main topic, we should mention Wednesday night's breaking news in Columbus. The old Baker High School caught fire at sunset, and ended with extensive damage. It's too early to know how the fire started - so please don't assume the Muscogee County School Board found a creative way to save on demolition costs.

Former Columbus South Inc. leader Reggie Richards already was talking Wednesday night about turning the Baker High School bricks into some kind of memorial. She complained to WRBL the Muscogee County School District wouldn't let alumni have school chairs. That would have been interesting - to see how many graduates still could fit comfortably in them.

AND NOW.... for our main topic -- as the countdown stands at 12 days before the Alabama Primary. Apparently all the candidates in East Alabama feel confident that they can win - since none of them have come to this blog, desperately begging me to do exclusive interviews.

There still aren't many Alabama Primary political ads on Columbus TV. But one commercial posted online has gone viral in the last few days, with more than 74,000 views on YouTube. That means it's either brilliant, controversial - or has a cat playing a piano.

The one-minute ad features Alabama Agriculture Commissioner candidate Dale Peterson talking tough, as he climbs off a horse. He declares, "I've been a farmer, a businessman, a cop, a Marine in Vietnam." Apparently he's running for Agriculture Commissioner because Troy King wouldn't give up the Attorney General's job.

Dale Peterson declares "thugs and criminals" have kept you from knowing the Alabama Agriculture Commissioner is responsible for five billion dollars. Wow - I've never heard that kind of label put on political reporters in Montgomery.

Dale Peterson goes on to complain his opponents for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner are stealing his yard signs, when they should be doing something about "illegals bused in by the thousands." He makes a good point - the candidates should suspend their campaigns, to stop every bus heading down Interstate 85.

But Dale Peterson doesn't stop there - calling Republican challenger Dorman Grace a "dummy" for admitting on Facebook he received campaign money from industries he would regulate. At least Grace is smart enough to lock his Facebook account, so you can't see what he admitted without becoming his "friend."

If all that isn't enough, Dale Peterson pulls out a rifle near the end of his TV commercial -- promising, "I'll name names and take no prisoners." Not even "YellaFella" Jimmy Rane carries a gun, and he chases stagecoach bandits.

As you might guess, Dale Peterson's commercial has provoked all sorts of reactions. I can't say it's "sparked" reactions, since Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks is running for Governor....

But anyway: Dale Peterson earned an appearance this week on Glenn Beck's radio talk show. Beck called the commercial "the best TV spot I have ever seen" - which is amazing, because Peterson never puts down President Obama once.

Other people are aghast at Dale Peterson's approach to a TV political ad. Peterson told Glenn Beck he's received complaints from "left-wing liberals" who live outside Alabama. And if they come to Alabama before the primary, I'd recommend they NOT enter the state on a bus.

One humor web site rolled out a parody of the commercial Wednesday, with even (ahem) tougher language than Dale Peterson uses. Peterson's two Republican opponents apparently did NOT pay for it. One of them is too busy trying to top Peterson, by displaying a rifle and hunting gear on his home page.

Republican opponents Dorman Grace and John McMillan have NOT responded online to Dale Peterson's provocative commercial. They may be hoping it flames out by primary day -- or hoping the Alabama Tea Party focuses all its attention on candidates for Congress.

But while the tough talk and rifle get the attention, I'm not sure anyone has fact-checked Dale Peterson's statements. While income from Alabama farms totals five billion dollars, the Alabama Agriculture Department's budget this fiscal year is only 40 million. The only way Peterson would "control" five billion is if he seized every farm is fears is going out of business.

And another thing - why do candidates for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner see the need to carry shotguns with them? Hunting is handled by a different state agency. But then again, Dale Peterson may be planning to make personal arrests of cattle rustlers.

It seems to me John McMillan and Dale Peterson are displaying weapons because they're Republicans - and guns matter a lot to Republicans. The advice in that old Broadway tune "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" went the way of Ethel Merman....

Dale Peterson made this striking comment in his Glenn Beck interview: "Those who control the food control you." So when Alabamians begin voting in two weeks for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, they'll apparently vote for someone more powerful than the Governor - and even more powerful than the Anti-Gambling Task Force Commander.

As for another Alabama Primary race -- Instant Message to gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne: What do you mean by, "As a conservative, I'll clean up Montgomery"? Isn't the current Governor conservative? Or are you saying he's spent too much time cleaning up Macon County?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Check what's happening at "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Wednesday's look at the city audit of the Parks and Recreation set off someone who's written us several times recently....

Isn't the purpose of Government to provide public order and safety?

Our city wants to decrease garbage collection/increase fees, while we, as a city pay for basketball players' trips to Las Vegas, golf courses, tennis courts and natatoriums. $100,000 for trips!

And, the Muscogee County School Board wanted a multi-million dollar office suite, and got it, and now they are canceling the adult high school.

Is it time to take inventory of our core values?

Why is this city always raising taxes and fees, and discussing cut backs on necessary services? As our taxes and fees are increasing our reserves are decreasing. How could that happen?

Could it be because we have become a Socialist Municipality?

Tennis courts, golf courses and swimming enterprises should be privately held businesses. Our city government has no purpose in running businesses. Yes, large recreational facilities like tennis courts, golf courses and natatoriums are businesses. Or, have we gotten to the point that we actually think they are government?

They are touted to decrease crime. Perhaps, but at what price? How much do we have to spend? Where does the spending end? But, don't other things decrease crime as well? I think we should find a cheaper and more American way of decreasing crime, like by stimulating the American Dream, through understanding that hard work leads to Horatio Alger success.

Why not sell those big businesses? Let them make money for us by bringing in tax revenue.

If the tennis courts, golf courses and natatorium became private businesses couldn't they, as businesses, still decrease crime?

We have unrealistic expectations of government when we plan government taxes toward what should be non-governmental uses of tax dollars. Big governments rob people of their idea of self development and self sufficiency. Government dependency is the opposite of freedom. Don't we Remember: America, Land of the Free!

Smaller governments create safer economies and more entrepreneurial inspiration. Entrepreneurial enterprises create jobs and more taxes, not less. Jobs decrease crime!

Self-sustaining bureaucracies grow and create ever increasing taxes and debt, and taxes and government debt decrease the value of our dollar. We create chaotic declines in the value of the dollar when we increase the size of government. Smaller governments create MORE jobs, and decrease crime.

If we want to do our part to improve the U.S. economy, we need to sell the city's non-government enterprises, and let them build our reserves with increased tax revenue.

Let's get our core values back on track by allowing the American Dream to succeed.

Let's stop being a Socialist Municipality and start practicing fiscal responsibility.

To be honest, I don't normally describe tennis courts and golf courses as "private businesses." In the area where I grew up, they were called country clubs.

The city of Columbus budgeted nearly $1.4 million in fiscal 2008 for Bull Creek Golf Course. Revenues from the course gave the city a net gain of $1,700. Privately-owned courses probably would figure out a way to make more money. Maple Ridge requires an "initiation fee" starting at $150 -- but there might be some strange ritual involving plaid slacks.

But we should remember the voters approved sales tax money years ago, which will be used to build a natatorium in Midtown. Perhaps this reader wants the sales tax refunded instead - but really now, how many people do you know who've saved all their cash register receipts over the last five years?

Hopefully this reader is taking advantage of the Columbus Council budget hearings, to do some more direct lobbying. Another review meeting is planned today at the Government Center -- and I'm sure Paul Olson will be there with his calculator, to offer assistance.

There's also the new Crime Prevention Commission, which held another meeting Wednesday. The "Victory Coalition" of Columbus South leaders explained how the group could use some grant money. But Mayor Jim Wetherington seems skeptical about giving the coalition money - since IMAX movies only can get you so far.

Somehow I suspect we'll see more e-mailed economics lessons this summer. But in the meantime, let's check other Wednesday news....

+ Columbus Police told WTVM they arrested several people on charges of running a "drug house" across the street from Benning Hills Elementary School. Suddenly the Muscogee County School Board looks like a team of geniuses....

+ City Manager Isaiah Hugley gave WRBL a second correction on how much last week's "reverse 911" alert calls cost. Now we're told the calls cost 55 cents per household PER YEAR - instead of 55 cents each. Mr. Hugley might need to see an optometrist, to better read that fine print.

+ The Destiny Dogs hot dog stand reopened on Andrews Road, nine months after shutting down on Victory Drive after a series of break-ins. Customers now have to walk to a window to place their order - thus burning off approximately two percent of the calories in a typical hot dog.

+ The federal government proposed fines of more than $130,000 against Sewon America, which provides parts to Kia. Inspectors say the LaGrange part plant failed to provide workers with adequate protection for their hands -- although it did allow the softball players an unusual way to break in new gloves.

+ The "Phoenix New Times" reported an Albany man racked up $2,390 in unpaid cell phone bills - by using the Social Security number of LifeLock's chief executive. Yes, the same number the C.E.O. displays in his commercials. Was this some kind of racket - with the executive paying a "million-dollar guarantee" to himself, through shareholders?

+ Mars donated a concession stand to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus. OK, there's your "land of the free" private enterprise at work - complete with candy bars encouraging local young people to become obese.

+ The Columbus Civic Center announced this weekend's "Night of Champions" boxing card has been canceled. The promoter blamed slow ticket sales - not to mention potential competition, if an argument at the Booker T. Washington Apartments gets out of control.

+ Brookstone's baseball team advanced to the state high school semifinals by hammering Holy Innocents 13-3. Innocents?! This seemed more like divine wrath....

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