Thursday, June 03, 2010

4 JUN 10 (final): Chicken Dance

Without even planning it, this blog was in a race Thursday afternoon. Could I post my thoughts about Chick-fil-A's new sandwich before the Ledger-Enquirer posted.... uhhhh, well.... posted my own thoughts about the same sandwich? The newspaper could beat me to my own story....

Little did I know when I arrived at the Wynnton Road Chick-fil-A for lunch Thursday that a full team from the Ledger-Enquirer was there for the same purpose. We were all over the introduction of the new spicy chicken sandwich. All of us had printed out invitations for a free sandwich, to be a "Spicy VIP." The paper at the library to print the invitation cost ten cents, but that's OK.

Ledger-Enquirer photographer (and former co-worker elsewhere) Joe Paull was there, getting people's reactions to the spicy chicken sandwich. He stopped at my table and recorded my opinion - so thus we had the race. I didn't think to take a camera, to snap a picture of the sandwich. My priority was on eating, not developing a breaking food story.

So what did I tell Joe Paull? I noted I was eating the spicy chicken sandwich without any beverages. I'd heard reviews from other people that the spiciness wasn't too hot. Yet this was a foodie's version of flying without a net....

I told Joe Paull and my Chick-fil-A server I liked the spicy chicken sandwich, because it didn't go all the way up the temperature scale. The heat was on, but without overwhelming the flavor of the food. And, I added, no torch of fire came out of my mouth with every bite.

The sting of the spicy chicken sandwich only came at the end - what I think B. Merrill's calls "backfire." But the heat still wasn't too bad. Certainly not in June, when the sun shining on my car was much more of an attention-grabber.

As I finished the last bite of my spicy chicken sandwich, I mentioned another member of the Ledger-Enquirer's coverage team - the one who REALLY made me wish I had my camera....
"Tell Sonya Sorich she needs to bring the curls back," I told Joe Paull. Her hair was so straight Thursday, it was like she was expecting the humidity to make things right naturally.

So with that, my comments to the Ledger-Enquirer were complete -- and I felt challenged. Would the newspaper post my video comments about spicy chicken sandwiches first? In fact, I gave my opponent a big advantage. I had another Chick-fil-A to visit -- going after two for the price of none.

My next stop was Peachtree Mall -- as I had used a different e-mail address to gain a second reservation for a free spicy chicken sandwich. Chick-fil-A didn't seem to have a rule online against this. And in the world of a single blogger, I think this qualifies as "team coverage."

While Chick-fil-A on Wynnton Road was crowded inside and out during the lunch hour, the smaller Peachtree Mall location offered special extras the stand-alone store did not:

+ A special "Spicy VIP" line, where the restaurant manager was at the register. Since his picture was on the invitation, this was a perfect way to prevent forgery.

+ The manager personally serving me in a separate Spicy VIP dining area. Well, as opposed to the food court.

+ Complimentary soft drinks, with free refills. No one ever mentioned that on Wynnton Road -- as if you had to pay for the fire extinguisher to go with the spicy food.

+ A souvenir bag of red goodies, to remind me regular sales of spicy chicken sandwiches begin Monday. The meat is a little redder than the regular Chick-fil-A sandwich - but packets of red ketchup won't disappear on it.

The curious thing was that Peachtree Mall's spicy chicken sandwich seemed a bit hotter than the one on Wynnton Road. Perhaps that was a "psych job," resulting from having free drinks. Or perhaps I didn't cover the meat enough with my packet of mustard.

I returned home from my "progressive lunch," wrote the first part of this blog entry - and was thrilled to see I'd beaten the Ledger-Enquirer in the race to reveal my comments. As they might say in British elections, I was "first past the post."

(Let the record show I purchased brownies at both Chick-fil-A locations. Otherwise, a guilty conscience would have overwhelmed my usual instinct to be a cheapskate.)

Reservations for the final two days of the spicy chicken promotion are all gone at Columbus and Phenix City Chick-fil-A's. But there's a great alternative today - as it's National Donut Day! Krispy Kreme is giving away one free donut per customer. Dunkin Donuts will give you one with a beverage purchase. And Golden Donuts will return to being the low-price leader Saturday.

BLOG UPDATE: "What part of the building had fire damage?" I asked the server at Lil Kim's Cove on First Avenue before Thursday night's poker tournament.

"None of it," the woman answered. "The Columbus media got it wrong again!" That odor of smoke Tuesday night must have come from all the customers puffing on cigarettes.

The server agreed two homes down the street from Lil Kim's Cove were the target of an arsonist, but NOT her club. "They just threw us in there," she said. Either that, or the managers didn't want fire investigators to stumble upon any illegal card games.

In the media's defense: if Lil Kim's Cove had no fire damage, Columbus Police could be wrong as well. Reporters tend to get their information on cases like this directly from police reports. At this kind of club, stray disposable lighters on the ground could be as common as beer bottles.

If Lil Kim's Cove really has no fire damage, at least one of the arson-related charges against Keith Tew may have to be dismissed. But he still faces several others. And when I walk past neighbors in my apartment complex right now, I automatically put both hands up.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We compared the "Rec-Gate" case Thursday to the police investigation of the Columbus Fire Department two years ago. That brought this response....

Mr. Burkard,

Community activists did object to the mayor assigning Columbus Police Department to investigate the Zachary Allen case, at least this activist did. I put my objection and suggestions in writing to mayor and council. Gary Allen is a Columbus councilor, as we all know. The investigation should have been conducted by an outside agency, which I believe should have been a criminal investigation. The issue was a certain report was not released to the victim's lawyer. That report just happen to have falsely stated the drug test was negative. However, Zachary Allen's drug test indicated he did have drugs in his system. Those facts alone cost the taxpayers plenty dollars when the lawyer got finished, I am sure. The lawyer said he thought the City was negotiating in good faith. The mayor also had a well-known personal relationship with Chief Meyer, a family like relationship. With the mayor being Public Safety director he could call for an investigation. You can furthermore be sure the mayor's office did not leak information to the news media about Fire Fighter Allen. There was no rush to judgment on Jeff Meyer by our mayor or council. Tony Adams, on the other hand, the mayor was in such a hurry he refused to wait for him to officially respond to the audit, an audit by the way that indicated no missing funds but areas of needed improvement. Isn't that the reason for an audit?

The mayor took it upon himself to call an investigation within 72 hours of Council secession where everyone pretty much agreed to wait until Tony Adams had the chance to respond to the audit. The council works for the mayor, or so it seems.They have given him carte blanche for nearly 4 years. Tony Adams was denied due process with the deliberate leaking of the audit to the Ledger. May Wetherington further violated his right to due process by not even waiting for the June 8th deadline to answer the audit to expire. The mayor has in effect purposely placed an even greater burden on Director Adams, as he is having to answer the audit and fill Open Records Act requests. All this is going on while his good name and reputation is dragged through the mud. That demonstrates the urgent need to keep this story hot in the public. The thing about Pandora's Box is when you loose the contents, it is too late to cry then.

Finally, there should have been an investigation of the Department of Fire & EMS, even a criminal investigation back in 2008. The facts supported that much. The CPD never should have been assigned the duty. Department personnel admitted they did not inform anyone the drug test was positive. Why? There was no addendum report submitted to the record. The female Sergeant that filled out the report could not have been the only signature required. She definitely should not have been the only one initially punished. Chief Meyer went as far as to claim to the media the finding of cocaine in Fire Fighter Allen's system was considered medical information. I wonder what page says that in the City Employee Handbook. That must be in the special copy for department managers who report directly to the mayor. My goodness!

It was a whole year before the public heard about any of this "cocaine crash" stuff and the resulting falsified report. Even if there was no cover-up, it sure worked out well for somebody. Don't you think? Jeff Meyer was never a target of the investigation. He was insulated in more than one way. Now Tony Adams would be wise to hire a slew of attorneys when he is looking right down Jim Wetherington's double barreled determination to make him some sort of public sacrifice to improve his tarnished image behind the pulling the radar on River Road news story on local television. The mayor was embarrassed on local TV and Tony Adams' name is all on NPR. Mr, Adams would never get the benefit of the doubt or support from the mayor Chief Mayor received. The mayor is publicly saying it is not a criminal investigation while doing everything in his power to convey to the public that Tony Adams has committed a crime. Actions speak louder than words, but only if a person wants to hear them.

Just my take based on the known facts.

God bless,

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

Mayor Jim Wetherington may have a "family-like relationship" with his fire chief. But I've seen Jeff Meyer so little in recent news coverage of big fires that I'm wondering if he's busy baby-sitting the mayor's grandchildren.

(If other people want to review the fine points of the Zachary Allen case, you can use the search box at the top-left corner of our blog. But we only mentioned it a few times - as Brother Love apparently was not a regular blog reader then.)

The mayor's response to "Rec-Gate" may have been forced by the Ledger-Enquirer receiving a copy of the Parks Department audit. Some readers no doubt wanted quick action - and in 2010, Columbus is becoming a city where that sometimes actually happens in city government.

Governmental audits can be conducted for all sorts of reasons. We checked the Georgia State Auditor's web site Thursday night, and found a recent "performance audit" of a program in the state insurance department. Come to think of it, the audit of Columbus Parks Department never mentioned how well the basketball teams perform on road trips.

The news media attention turned Thursday to the Columbus city auditor, as opposed to the audit. WRBL reported one of John Redmond's sons was fired from a Parks Department job for mishandling money. But that happened in 1998. Isn't that a long time to hold a grudge - much less for Redmond's son to be unemployed?

After a mix of food, fire and feuding, let's quickly finish. Here are other items from Thursday....

+ WTVM reported the Phenix City Council voted to hire J.W. Brannen as a special economic coordinator. Brannen claimed several months ago the Council was trying to eliminate a Downtown Redevelopment Authority he chaired. Now he ought to be happy - because he has power largely to himself.

(J.W. Brannen's office will be in a rundown brick bank building at the corner of Dillingham and Broad Streets. We noted in 2005 current Mayor Sonny Coulter was the real estate agent attempting to sell that building. Since Coulter voted against hiring Brannen, that building may show up this weekend on Craigslist.)

+ Georgia's Governor signed a bill requiring people to wear seat belts inside pickup trucks. The state legislature resisted this change for years -- but apparently that look is no longer considered cool in country music videos.

+ Provisional ballots were counted in the Republican primary for Alabama Governor. Robert Bentley is in second place by only about 200 votes, but he declared:"If you have one more vote than your opponent, you've won...." Will someone kindly tell Mr. Bentley in this case, it only means you're in a runoff?

+ The University of Southern California agreed to let former Carver High School linebacker Jarvis Jones transfer to another school. Jones was held out of spring practice due to a neck injury -- which is different from new USC coach Lane Kiffen being a pain in the neck of other teams.

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UPDATED 4 June/1:02 am....

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