Wednesday, May 19, 2010

19 MAY 10: Parks in a Wreck?

"I didn't know the tickets were that expensive," I yelled Tuesday night to a man sitting on top of a charter bus in South Commons.

The man may have heard that sort of thing before. "You don't know how cheap bus drivers can be."

The bus driver was sitting above the right-field fence at Golden Park, on the opening night of yet another college baseball tournament. Five teams are competing in an NAIA Opening Round group. The Columbus group is the only one with no local team competing - as Columbus State apparently was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament too late.

That bus driver apparently didn't know he could have strolled inside Golden Park and watched the game for free. All he had to do was walk around the ballpark - as a gate was wide open near the left field bullpen. And the crowd was so tiny, he probably could have driven home with a souvenir foul ball.

I admittedly didn't walk to Golden Park to watch a baseball game. I wanted to take a photo of the scoreboard, because it illustrates what a new city audit has concluded - there are questions and irregularities in the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. And the questions go far beyond a trivia tournament at a senior center....

Can you spot what's wrong with the baseball scoreboard? It was renovated during the winter, but it says "Columbus Park and Rec". Check the city website, and you'll find it should say "Parks." Despite the demands of critics, Columbus still has more than one....

On top of that detail, there's the Golden Park scoreboard clock - which has been stuck for months. Perhaps it's on a waiting list to be repaired, whenever experts figure out why the Millennium Clock downtown quit working years ago.

Columbus Parks and Recreation apparently can't even afford "welcome" banners for the NAIA baseball tournament. One would fit perfectly over this sign, installed by the "RedStixx family" before the minor league team left town. That was way back when people knew which family actually owned the team.

Yet despite these discoveries, the city audit found Columbus Parks and Recreation has at least $100,000 to spend on AAU basketball teams. They go on road trips across the country - and some just happen to be coached by Parks Director Tony Adams. This could pave the way for Mayor Jim Wetherington to be a part-time police officer next year.

The audit recommends city funding for AAU basketball road trips be eliminated, with funding "by a non-governmental source." Uh-oh - this could be trouble. Quality time spent on the practice floor will be lost, because players will be begging for money outside grocery stores.

The 28-page audit didn't mention Golden Park at all, nor the badly peeling paint on the Frank Chester Park racquetball courts. But it made other interesting discoveries....

+ Employees at Shirley Winston Park were caught eating hot dogs and candy, which apparently were taken from the concession stand without payment. The punishment for taking candy bars should be at least 100 Grand.

+ None of the senior centers offer shuffleboard. And even worse, children at a church near my home had to draw their own 20-square hopscotch path on the sidewalk - with chalk.

+ Most Columbus public tennis courts are free to use, while Atlanta and Montgomery charge at least three dollars an hour. I thought Columbus was too traditionalist to allow "free love" like this.

Mayor Jim Wetherington told WRBL Tuesday he's troubled by the results of the Parks Department audit - especially the amount of money spent for out-of-town basketball trips. If the Columbus Sports Council can bring three baseball tournaments to town, Tony Adams ought to be able to arrange a "stay-cation."

It was the mayor who asked for the eight-month Parks Department audit - but the reason behind it may surprise you. Jim Wetherington wanted to be sure the department would handle crime prevention money properly. I won't be surprised if the mayor goes to Golden Park, and tries to talk runners out of stealing bases.

Isn't it amazing that even with the mayor's request for a Parks Department audit, it all comes back around to crime prevention? When the mayor marks Disability Day at the Government Center, there might be a special "click it or ticket" reminder for wheelchair users from The Ralston.

-> 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: A Columbus civil rights activist sent us a lengthy message Sunday. Tuesday he sent two more, which we're combining....

Mr. Burkard,

You know, I did ask you if you worked for WTVM. That was the last info I received, and the lawsuit was last year.And I didn't call you a racist. Any person that knows me will tell you I don't have a problem speaking my mind. I am no more shy with my words than you are with yours.

I made a comparison about what you said and what I said in the Courier/Eco Latino and the difference in reaction. Councilor Pops Barnes has no fear of going on live TV calling us all racists. I thought you might find that somewhat interesting or humorous.

That was a good observation on your part about my beginning to write for the Courier/Eco Latino. However, it was not the Blog of Columbus that launched my writing career with the Courier/Eco Latino. I had already been asked. But you could say that the Blog of Columbus was privileged to an early draft or a preview of my work. You might say what I read from Josh McKoon on your blog helped me make of my mind about starting a column.

As far as the Street Committee goes, I don't per se write the SC. Neither does publisher Wane Hailes write the SC. The people write the SC. They might give us the info or email it, or call it in. We might hear that it is a hot topic in the community with the people. We try to make sure is as truthful or on the money as we possibly can for the benefit of the community. What you and your audience would probably appreciate is that we add the humor to the Street Committee.

BTW, we have heard that the SC has enlighten some city department heads as to what was going on in their own departments. The Blog of Columbus has probably done a similarly service on occasion in the community.

So the SC is a lot like what you do with the Blog of Columbus. You tackle serious issues of concern, and you add in a little humor to lighten the mood. Some will like it and some will not. That's just the way of the world.

I did not expect you to post the news release. But I thought you and your audience might find the letter interesting and informative.

I never saw any comments on the Blog of Columbus pertaining to the lawsuit attorney J. Frank Myers III filed against us. Maybe I just missed it. It was a First Amendment issue and I thought it should have been taken very seriously by all the media in Columbus. I believe it was done to silence critics and to intimidate us. I take your word for what you said.

But if bloggers duck lawsuits and allegation of racism, I am in the wrong business writing for a newspaper. LOL!

There's no problem here. I hope you don't think there was....

I forgot another point you touched on. Thurbert Baker. Take my word. If you were thinking it is about race, and one might very well assume you were insinuating that as much as you assumed I was in my email to you. If you were, rest assure it is not, speaking for the Movement. I don't speak for anyone else. But if you asked me, I would tend to think Thurbert Baker has about as much chance of being governor of Georgia as I do. In fact, I might have a better chance. I would think the others feel they don't have to waste resources on Thurbert Baker.

Ken Hodges has a much better chance of being elected in the Democratic primary than Baker. I am just glad Baker made it easy for us by stepping down from AG. His ego and political ambition is doing the job there for us. And Baker is not running as the best friend Black people could have or a champion of civil rights.He knows it would not work if he did.

If you read the letter other blogs did pick up and post around Georgia, you know why Hodges deserves not to be AG.

As far as our group being all African American and Hodges' being diverse. I hope my email explained that one for you. We can't make White join any cause, but that does not mean the cause is not righteous or worthy. It indicates more to me that we are still divided here in Columbus. When a person's life does not matter to fellow citizens, for whatever excuses they can manufacture in their minds, you have a city with serious issues. and maybe not just about race.

If anyone decides to sue you about what you write, don't know if you are liberal or conservative leaning, but I would try the ACLU. The First Amendment is big with them. And I am sure of the Courier/Eco Latino would be in your corner, too.

God bless,

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

Maybe I need to stop writing this blog late at night. It doesn't help you get to sleep when a blog reader sends advice about to handle lawsuits.

I admittedly don't read The Courier much these days, because the places I normally visit don't offer it. The newspaper's web site doesn't post the Street Committee's discoveries -- but then again, when was the last time you found a working laptop computer lying on the street?

While Georgia gubernatorial candidates Roy Barnes and David Poythress are already running campaign commercials, I haven't seen one for Thurbert Baker. Maybe he's waiting until the July primary draws close. Or perhaps he's following his practice of earlier campaigns - looking for Caucasian people to do the talking on camera for him [29 Oct 06].

The latest evidence of a divided Columbus was part of WTVM's news Tuesday evening. A parent at Benning Hills Elementary School claimed it's being closed because it's "on the wrong side of town." Muscogee County School officials denied it. But since the Evening High School also is closing, it appears the "right side of town" has shifted from Macon Road to Manchester Expressway.

Let's try to sort out the right, wrong and in-between from other Tuesday news....

+ Columbus city officials revised the cost of last week's "reverse 911" alerts about razor blades at playgrounds. WRBL now reports they cost about 75 cents a call, instead of 55 cents. Someone at the Government Center needs to look into those AT&T bundling plans for telephone and Internet service.

+ WTVM reported a Carver High School teacher has been dismissed, after a student recorded him using obscene language in class. Trouble is, the student who recorded it might be suspended as well - because he violated the district cell phone policy. This is why I think the cell phone policy is too strict. It leaves the impression every teacher deserves a Golden Apple Award.

+ A Jefferson County, Alabama geometry teacher was placed on leave, because of how he tried to teach students about angles -- by pretending to shoot President Obama. I didn't realize billiard tables were still too controversial to discuss there.

+ Columbus High School's baseball team swept Cartersville, to advance to the state semifinals. But Brookstone faces a decisive third game today against Holy Innocents - a school which sounds like something Burt Ward should have said on the old "Batman" TV series.

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