15 JUN 10: Trouble, Right Here in River City
How timely the commercial was, during Monday night's late news - a message about next season's "Broadway on Broadway" series at the RiverCenter. But how sad that the schedule does NOT include "The Music Man." One of Monday's news items would have fit perfectly - trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool.
The Ledger-Enquirer website had "Breaking News" Monday about Muscogee County Prison inmates shooting pool. They were doing it at Comer Auditorium - which of course raises plenty of questions. For one thing, were these inmates Columbus residents or out-of-towners?
A newspaper reporter happened to be inside Comer Auditorium, and snapped a cell phone picture of two inmates at the billiard table. In the wake of "Rec-Gate," the reporter must have had goose bumps on his or her skin at that moment. Had Tony Adams walked into the room and shaken hands, his fate would have been sealed.
But instead, a prison guard walked over to the reporter - explaining the prison inmates were on a break from work. Well, that's a relief. If their job involved testing the sturdiness and viability of city recreation equipment, that might have been more controversial - because 11-year-olds could do the same thing for free.
So what were the prison inmates supposed to do at Comer Auditorium? City Public Services Director Gary Stickles said their job was to count the auditorium's ceiling tiles, and determine which ones need replacing. This is what happens when you're in a heat wave and there's not much grass to cut.
City Manager Isaiah Hugley told the Ledger-Enquirer prison inmates are allowed to take breaks, while on work crews. But he didn't think it was appropriate for inmates to play billiards during their breaks. For one thing, aren't pool cues potentially lethal weapons?
As we said, this story raises plenty of other questions. Comer Auditorium happens to be where the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department has its offices. Was a newspaper reporter there to get an "ambush" interview with Director Tony Adams? Or had someone told the reporter the city auditor was coming, and a boxing match might break out?
And oh yes - this billiard game was posted by the Ledger-Enquirer as "breaking news." I think this annoying trend can be traced to Nancy Grace on cable TV. A police officer could say "I don't know" about a missing woman, and Grace would declare that a breaking news development.
Then there's the matter of prison work crews. At least a guard was nearby, watching the inmates - although part of me wondered if he planned to play the billiard winner next....
I jogged by the Civic Center one morning last week, and noticed a woman outside the front door seemingly asking an inmate on work duty for advice. The inmate had a leaf-blower, and I saw no guard in sight -- unless the guard was working undercover with the contractors building the new ice rink.
This story shows prison work crews do a lot more than cut grass in city parks and empty trash at the Government Center. They count ceiling tiles, too - which might qualify inmates for Census work after they're released from prison.
We'll see if this blossoms into the next big city scandal. In the meantime, let's check other Monday news (breaking or not)....
+ The high temperature in Columbus reached 97 degrees F. At least a brief shower fell on my neighborhood during the afternoon - even though it was SO brief that it merely increased the humidity percentage by ten.
+ The Muscogee County School Board held a work session on demolishing the old Baker High School. The demolition was planned even before the recent fire - yet it still will cost more than $400,000. Apparently an "all you can haul" promotion with Baker alumni taking souvenir bricks has been ruled out.
(The school board also heard a proposal to expand the Columbus High School gymnasium. Oh no - please don't tell me the baseball team wants to play in a domed stadium.)
+ Fort Benning began a series of public hearings on its planned expansion. One resident of Omaha told WTVM he's concerned about the noise from training exercises. After all, the only time Omaha has a loud noise is when a speeding motorcyclist races through town.
+ A federal judge sentenced Michael Walli to six months in prison, for trespassing onto Fort Benning during SOA Watch weekend last November. His case was heard months after the others because he skipped the first trial - and because people up north consider June the peak of Walli season.
+ President Obama visited south Alabama, and encouraged tourists to do the same despite the big oil spill. For one thing, there may no better time to get a lube job for your car....
+ Clemson edged Alabama 8-6, to advance to baseball's College World Series. It's probably just as well -- because some smart aleck in Omaha, Nebraska might have asked why the Crimson Tide haven't added an oil-black streak to their uniforms.
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