Tuesday, August 31, 2010

31 AUG 10: In the First Place

A former U.S. First Lady gave the kickoff speech Monday night, at this year's Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum. Compare that with last year, when the only female speaker was NBC News reporter Norah O'Donnell - and the NBC station didn't even bother interviewing her.

Laura Bush spoke at the Columbus Trade Center's Leadership Forum dinner. This year's event is sold out, and apparently had a waiting list. So if The Cannon Brew Pub had more customers than usual wearing suits, that might explain it....

I'm presuming the former first lady spoke on some aspect of leadership. But I'm not sure exactly what, because the late-night newscasts didn't air any clips from her speech. WRBL only mentioned a reference to a Laura Bush bobble-head doll -- which I guess is a nice alternative for people who didn't want to buy her book in the lobby.

Laura Bush began her Columbus trip by signing copies of her book at Barnes and Noble. It's called "Spoken From the Heart" -- as opposed to Dick Cheney's memoirs, which would be called "Surgery ON the Heart."

Laura Bush arrived at Barnes and Noble to sign autographs at 12:00 noon. But some people lined up outside the store at 4:00 a.m. This shows you a difference between the political parties. Republicans line up before dawn to meet famous political names. Democrats tend to do that when a new gadget from Apple goes on sale.

WTVM spotted a leader of the Muscogee County Young Republicans in the line outside Barnes and Noble. But I can't help wondering if any political candidates showed up. Republicans could have used a quick endorsement soundbite - while Teresa Tomlinson could have attempted to prove she really is nonpartisan.

Laura Bush also reportedly stopped by Dinglewood Pharmacy during the afternoon. WRBL claimed she did NOT eat a scrambled dog, but Secret Service agents with her did. The reason for this should be obvious. The agents didn't know what in the world a scrambled dog is, and had to make sure it's not poisonous.

But back to Monday night's speech: I can remember when Richard Hyatt used to post frequent updates on the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum on his website. That hasn't happened in a couple of years. Are the forum organizers restricting extensive quotes now? Is there some rule that says fiscally-minded leaders make you buy the DVD?

To be fair: the Columbus State Cunningham Center has a YouTube channel, where you can see several speeches from last year's Leadership Forum. Some young people may gain insight in how to lead. Then all they'll need to do is marry into the right Columbus families.

The Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum continues today. What do you know - one of the speakers is the President of Columbus Bank and Trust, who happens to be Blanchard's son Billy. Smart leaders know how to stay within their expense budgets....

We have much more on Laura Bush ahead - but first, let's check a Monday news summary which seemed to be filled with weekend follow-ups:

+ An online posting claimed several Columbus State University students have been suspended from a dorm, after Sunday's shooting incident in a parking lot. Campus police now say several shots were fired, and one apartment building was placed on lockdown. College students probably wouldn't mind if that lock-in occurred right before finals.

+ Authorities revealed one of the suspects in the "beauty parlor poker" case is Jimmie Hooks III -- the director of the Aaron Cohn Youth Detention Center.
Playing teenagers for cigarettes may have given him good practice for big-time cash games....

(Another suspect in the case is a volunteer coach with the Georgia Blazers basketball team. I'll avoid any comparisons to "Rec-Gate" -- but point out this is what happens when senior centers only offer canasta and bridge.)

+ Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter admitted to WRBL he had knee surgery last January. Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington also required knee treatment this year - so the Fort Benning Commanding General had better be ready to take full control of this area.

+ The Northern All-Stars returned home from the Little League World Series, to a celebration in the Shaw High School gym. Take that, Bobby Howard - and go help Peach Little League improve their program, so you can host a big party for them next August.

(The Northern players signed autographs for hundreds of fans. But Troy Gilliland confessed he didn't sign his entire last name. Even at an early age, some pitchers learn how to take shortcuts.)

+ WTVM reporter Elizabeth White gave birth to her second child. The baby girl was born less than 72 hours after White reported on a stun gun incident at a Chambers County Wal-Mart store. Get the story first, and the powdered milk second....

-> Our recent poker tournaments have been challenging, in ways other than the game. Read about them at our other Blog, "On the Flop!" <-

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: We followed Laura Bush quite a bit, when we wrote LaughLine for a national audience. Here's a sample of it....

1 AUG 00: Monday night's [Republican convention] session was marked by a speech by George W. Bush's wife. Laura Bush used to teach second grade, and she said her husband "spends every night with a teacher." By comparison, President Clinton has spent a lot of nights with students.

(Maybe the teacher should give Mr. Bush some lessons in world affairs?!)

Mrs. Bush reflected on her childhood, saying her father "bought her an education policy." Apparently her Dad was a member of the National Education Association - which spends money all the time for Democrats to do that.

Laura Bush encouraged parents to read to their children, saying television doesn't teach language skills. "It's just background noise," she declared. Then how have so many children learned the bad words on "South Park" and pro wrestling shows?

Mrs. Bush ended by saying she hopes to see a female President someday. Somewhere in Philadelphia or Washington, Elizabeth Dole must have felt like breaking a pencil in two.

22 JAN 01: One pre-inaugural event featured Laura Bush at a salute to U.S. authors. Since she's a Republican, this was a bit surprising. We expected a salute to the publicity agents instead....

Mr. Bush introduced his wife at the salute to authors by saying: "Her love for books is real, her love for children is real, and my love for her is real." Please note the President did not say HE loves books -- and if it's about some other country, we KNOW he doesn't pay much attention to it.

We were surprised to learn former librarian Laura Bush sorts her books at home by the Dewey Decimal System! [True/AOL News Ticker] Some of us were tired of Hillary Rodham Clinton as First Lady - but are we replacing her with a Martha Stewart clone?!?!

26 FEB 01: Former President Bush spent the weekend in Kuwait, joining in the country's celebration of liberation. The current President might have joined his Dad, but Laura Bush couldn't check the maps out from the Presidential Library....

21 MAR 01: First Lady Laura Bush also attended the East Room event. The President remarked his wife ">always makes sure my tie lies straight." [AOL News Ticker] Compare this with President Clinton - who always made sure his lies were tied straight.

(It's a good thing Mrs. Bush is there to straighten out the President's ties. Now if she can straighten out some of the words that come from his mouth....)

21 JAN 02: First Lady Laura Bush will speak today at the Atlanta church which the Martin Luther King family called home. Remember when Mrs. Bush said she'd be a "behind the scenes" first lady, compared with Hillary Rodham Clinton? We're starting to wonder why she's not Secretary of Education....

First Lady Laura Bush marked the [inauguration] anniversary by donating last year's inaugural ball gown to the Smithsonian Institution. Should we read a hidden message into this? Either she's not expecting her husband to win a second term, or she's gaining more weight than we know.

24 JAN 02: First Lady Laura Bush wears contact lenses. And you thought she only became wide-eyed when her husband mispronounced words....

20 MAY 02: First Lady Laura Bush is in the final days of a trip to Europe. It's her first trip overseas without her husband since they entered the White House -- which may explain why we've Vice President Cheney in public more often lately.

The next "Newsweek" magazine claims Laura Bush took SO MANY bags on her European trip that the contents of each bag are kept in a computer. We know about the first lady's love of libraries, but does she have to personally give them away at every stop?

Laura Bush took daughter Jenna with her on the European trip. [True/Inside Edition] Jenna jumped at the chance to go - if only because the legal drinking age in much of Europe is below 21.

22 MAY 02: President Bush begins a trip to Europe, by flying to Berlin. At the same time, Laura Bush ENDS her own 11-day trip to Europe. Isn't this how the rumors started about the Clintons' marriage?

10 SEP 02: First Lady Laura Bush reflects on last September 11, in an interview on today's "CBS Early Show." She says one lesson of that day is for people to think about their families. If you've noticed, twin daughters Jenna and Barbara have been in a LOT less trouble since that day.

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

30 AUG 10: Dawg Walkover

In a way, the early exit of Columbus Northern from the Little League World Series was good for me. It allowed me to take a long Sunday road trip without feeling guilty about missing something - and without having to search frantically for a portable TV set to watch in the car, while I was driving down the interstate.

College football season started early for me, as I traveled to Athens for a women's soccer game. It was a lovely.... what? What are you saying? Well, most of the world calls soccer "football." Of course, players hit the ball with their heads about as often as U.S. football players actually hit the ball with their feet.

I went to Athens because Georgia was hosting my alma mater, Kansas. The last time Kansas brought a soccer team to this part of the country, the Jayhawks edged Auburn 1-0 in overtime [20 Sep 04]. And the last time I watched a K.U. team play in person, it was the men's basketball team which won a national title [19 Dec 07]. Put me together with another Kansas team, and a new dynasty might start.

The Kansas-Georgia game was played at a complex in Athens that's been dubbed "Soccer City, UGA." I get the feeling it's going to last longer than Columbus's Zoo City U.S.A....

With no traffic delays at all, I arrived 40 minutes before kickoff. Women's soccer games have free admission at Georgia, as they do at Auburn. And the parking lot had plenty of open spaces - which is good, because no homes are nearby to charge ten dollars for space on the front lawn.

The Georgia softball stadium is next door to the soccer grounds - and it was unlocked, allowing me to stroll around the warning track. The stadium managers apparently have connections with Golden Park, because the scoreboard clock showed the wrong time.

Several soccer fields also are near the main stadium. This allowed me to watch Kansas warm up. The Jayhawks looked sharp to me, after a season-opening win Friday over Eastern Kentucky. But then again, maybe players in eastern Kentucky work on soccer skills by kicking tin cans of baked beans.

I didn't realize until I arrived at the game that Georgia actually was hosting a women's soccer doubleheader. The first game was ending, with North Carolina-Greensboro unsettling Utah 1-0. Now that's the Utah team Nick Saban wants to put on his schedule....

About 20 Jayhawk fans joined hundreds of Georgia supporters in the crowd. One of them was a Fayetteville, Georgia dad whose daughter was recruited by Kansas as a goalie. It appeared Kaitlyn Stroud might go to Minnesota, but that school sent a two-line rejection notice by e-mail. And I thought Sarah Jessica Parker had it bad on TV, with that breakup by Post-It note.

The Georgia soccer team took the field with a "Dog walk," much like area football teams have. They did NOT walk past a Bulldog statue under the bleachers which faces midfield. At least I'm assuming that's a statue - and they haven't run out of crypt space for dogs at Sanford Stadium.

So how did the Kansas-Georgia game go? Uhhhhh -- how about all the clouds and rain we had in Columbus over the weekend? Wasn't the weather.... huh? What are you saying again? OK, if you insist:

10:00 IN: Georgia is controlling the early play, winning nearly all the balls in the air. A couple of Jayhawks are acting like they're playing dodgeball.

The Bulldogs gain several early corner kicks - which are marked by the public address system playing a drum roll. Fans in the stands respond by stomping the metal bleachers. If not for that, you might mistake the crowd for library science majors.

15:00 IN: With the game scoreless and play continuing, it's time for the first sponsored "T-shirt toss" of the day. A young man walks in front of the bleachers and throws them - instead of using one of those launchers, which might hurl shirts into the parking lot.

21:00 IN: Georgia's hard work is rewarded, as forward Ashley Miller kicks in the first goal of the game. Coach Steve Holeman replaces her with a substitute a couple of minutes later - almost like it's fourth grade, with every player getting a chance to score.

(Please do not confuse Georgia's soccer coach with the Atlanta Hawks radio announcer. The Bulldogs have Steve Holeman. The Hawks have Steve Holman - and the Hawks have the man much more likely to get upset at officials.)

33rd MINUTE: Kansas gets a shot on goal. Sadly, it's the first one of the day - while Georgia has about eight. The Bulldogs were well on the way to a perfect game.

36th MINUTE: Susannah Dennis scores for Georgia, to make it 2-0. Oh Susannah, I want to cry for thee....

The Kansas fans justifiably have very little to say. I try to start a couple of "Rock Chalk" chants without success. One man below me keeps saying, "Come on, girls" - seemingly not realizing this is WOMEN'S soccer at the collegiate level.

HALFTIME: Georgia goes to the clubhouse with a 2-0 lead. The Dogs are dominating - ahead 12-2 on shots and 7-0 in corner kicks. But the foul count is even, so you can't blame even the referee for this.

While Georgia goes to the clubhouse, Kansas players remain at their bench throughout the halftime break. Perhaps there's no room for them, with a four-team doubleheader. Or perhaps it's a "teaching moment" straight out of the Bear Bryant days.

I go to the stadium concession stand at halftime, and find that's where you get to make up for free admission. A small bag of popcorn costs $2.50. A souvenir Georgia cup full of soda costs four dollars. About the only food discount came when the staff looked for the loudest fan, to deliver a pizza.

I return to my seat with a souvenir cup of Diet Coke and a small bag of popcorn, which I actually put on a credit card. I offer my theory to the fellow Jayhawk fans for the halftime score -- Kansas simply isn't used to playing on Eastern Time.

Children get to take the field during the halftime break. A young female goalie was busy during the first half along the sidelines - and seemed to be the only security guard on duty. Even more shocking, Georgia hasn't even planted hedges along the fence.

56th MINUTE: Georgia's Susannah Dennis pads the lead to 3-0, after a sequence of passes as well-executed as you'd see at the World Cup. At this point, the Bulldogs look like Spain - and my old college might as well be the Faroe Islands.

74:44 IN: A Kansas defender falls to the field with cramps, stopping the game. This puts the Kansas score sheet at cramps 1, corner kicks 0.

80:46 IN: Kansas goalie Kat Liebetrau misses a couple of high balls in her direction, leading to a fourth Georgia goal. Kaitlyn Stroud and her father may have made a wise college choice after all.

87:50 IN: A Georgia player is left unmarked, deflects the ball off Liebetrau's chest and kicks in a fifth goal. The Dogs clearly chased down this Kat and wore her out.

Georgia wound up crushing Kansas 5-0 - and clearly the better team won. The final shot count was 26 to four. Yes, I drove six hours round-trip to see my Jayhawks take FOUR shots on goal! Would someone in Lawrence please upgrade the club ice hockey team?

-> A little piece of bread crust keeps stealing the show at our local poker tournaments. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Back in U.S. football, the TV news lets you vote on the high school "play of the week." We may have the first complaint of the week....

How unsportsman like to run up a high school football score 63 to 0..You can give me every excuse you can think of,but nothing justifies that score..I wonder if the winning coach thought about trying some 50 yard field goals or putting in the JV team..Come on ,give the kids a break...

I asked about this online Sunday, and one man told me Carver's junior varsity DID play in the fourth quarter against Spencer - and scored 22 points. Imagine what could have happened if the Carver players still attended that run-down old high school.

But one comment left at the Ledger-Enquirer website claimed Carver was passing the ball with a 35-0 second-quarter lead. The fact that the pass followed three Isaiah Crowell rushing touchdowns apparently was beside the point....

Let's shift now from sports to Sunday news, starting with an item which led to a desperate request for me to track down information:

+ A Columbus State University spokesman told your blog a "person of interest" was being questioned, for firing a shot outside the Courtyard I apartments. John Lester said a campus alert was NOT issued because no one was injured, and there was no threat or risk to students. That's also why no alerts are likely during next year's NCAA rifle championships.

+ Columbus Police made several arrests, after finding an alleged illegal poker game inside a Buena Vista Road beauty salon. The "cutting" may change after dark from hair to decks of cards....

+ Northern Little League announced a welcome-home event will be held for the Southeast Regional champions tonight at Shaw High School. Let's all remember the lessons from four years ago - by having someone bring a stop light, to end the speeches by politicians at two minutes.

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 533 (- 38, 6.7%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

29 AUG 10: Yes, Ministers

This year's election leaves no doubt that Columbus is still a "Bible Belt" city. Two of the four candidates for mayor list their occupation as "minister." Of course, that means they can work as mayor from Monday through Friday - then write a sermon Saturday night to deliver on Sunday morning.

We're finally ready to review what ministers and mayoral candidates Wayne Anthony and Zeph Baker said on WDAK's "Viewpoint" a few days ago. Both men described themselves as "conservative," with Anthony adding he's a religious conservative as well. Anthony must preach from the New Testament constantly - since it's on the right-hand side of the Bible.

Wayne Anthony points to his Columbus roots. In fact, he says he grew up on a farm in the north side of town. Anthony probably still can take you to the subdivision under construction there....

Columbus Councilor Wayne Anthony is one of several candidates who thinks a "sunset" provision should be put on the city property tax freeze. It almost sounds unnatural, doesn't it? If the sun sets, a thaw will happen....

Wayne Anthony noted Columbus residents have supported the property tax freeze for years. But he listed five groups of people whom he claims are harmed by the rules -- including me, even though I rent an apartment. About the only people who seem to benefit are Alabama residents, because they pay no state property tax at all.

Viewpoint host Mike Gaymon asked Wayne Anthony to list his top campaign issues. Anthony gave three - then minutes later declared education "number five." Somehow issue number four got lost. Maybe it was that issue's bye week.

Zeph Baker also is a Columbus native. He told WDAK he's voted on "both sides of the line" in elections. In Baker's case, that's a bit like hockey - jumping from Democrat to the Independent "neutral zone" two years ago.

Zeph Baker claimed Columbus has "missed a lot over the last eight years." Host Mike Gaymon didn't follow up by asking what the city's missed - and I wish he had. Columbus has gained base realignment, NCR and three Wal-Mart SuperCenters. Does Baker know something about Magic Johnson Theatres?

Zeph Baker is trying to stand out from the mayoral pack with some thought-provoking proposals. He mentioned on radio Columbus Council should have an "ex-officio member" on the Muscogee County School Board. Apparently Councilors don't have time to watch the replays of board meetings on CCG-TV.

(Host Mike Gaymon DID follow up that one, asking if Zeph Baker would support an ex-officio member of the school board on Columbus Council. "Great idea," Baker answered - reminding us again that the Chamber of Commerce sometimes acts as ex-officio leader over the entire city.)

After hearing this interview, I was left with the impression Zeph Baker is filling a niche the other three mayoral candidates aren't. Not racially - but by being friendly and folksy. Bobby Peters, Bob Poydasheff and Jim Wetherington all came across as down-to-earth "everyman" mayors. Baker presents himself the same way - although as a minister, he probably wouldn't buy you a drink at the bar.

But Zeph Baker has a couple of speaking habits which might annoy some people. He said "absolutely" several times during the radio interview, even when the question wasn't yes-or-no. Sometimes you can say "absolutely" absolutely too often....

The four mayoral candidates have about nine weeks left to make their points. Their big event this coming week will be an evening forum on live TV at the RiverCenter. If one of the four shows up late, you know downtown parking will become his or her top issue.

BLOG UPDATE: Has Columbus recovered from the heartbreak yet? From the Northern All-Stars losing that big lead? Of being eliminated from.... oh wait, I forgot. The first big high school football night occurred only hours later.

Hawaii won two in a row over Northern, to knock Columbus out of the Little League World Series. Friday's final score was 12-5 - and somewhere, a former college quarterback named Colt Brennan had to be smiling.

Northern jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Waipahu, Hawaii -- but the game turned when a Hawaiian player tried to steal second base in the third inning. The umpire called him out, but a video challenge determined he was safe. Call the video judge "four-eyes" if you wish - but at least he relied on four camera lenses.

After a couple of close calls, Waipahu's batters finally rattled Northern star pitcher Jacob Pate. From there, the hurling fell apart - as I counted four Hawaii players hit by pitches in two innings. People who didn't know better might have thought the Hughston Clinic arranged this.

I went to Loco's on 13th Street, presuming I'd join a Friday afternoon crowd watching the Northern Little Lagers Leaguers. But I found only a few people sitting in booths, and a half-filled bar. When the Peach Little League fans don't rally around Northern, has One Columbus really arrived?

Did WRBL know Northern would be eliminated from the Little League World Series? Sports anchor Stuart Webber was back in Columbus Friday night, after spending several days in Pennsylvania. If this station can do big stories on possible local conspiracies, I can start one back at them.

The Northern All-Stars are staying in Williamsport for today's final game. When they come home Monday, should they get a big welcome-home celebration? The 2006 world champs received a party which filled the Civic Center, despite a lightning storm. The 2010 regional champs may have to settle for photo shoots will all the candidates for mayor.

-> A little piece of bread crust keeps stealing the show at our local poker tournaments. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: "I've got 100 dollars, says Tiger Woods doesn't win!" the man hollered as soon as he stepped outside around 8:00 a.m. Saturday. His comments seemed to be aimed at anyone in earshot -- but especially toward someone near the street.

"I whupped your a** when you were a young man, and I'll whup your a** again as an old man!" he says later in his speech.

Eventually he's satisfied and walks back inside -- but then a neighbor offers a suggestion. "Next time you step outside, start by saying good morning."

Now that we've updated baseball and golf, let's check other weekend items....

+ Saturday's rain-cooled high temperature in Columbus was 88 degrees F. For the first time that I can recall since May, I went all day without turning on the air conditioner. I hope that doesn't bring out those sniffing dogs from Georgia Power, to investigate what happened.

+ Phenix City Police arrested a female school employee, on charges of sending "sexually inappropriate" material to a child over the Internet. C'mon, folks - young people know how to spell Katy Perry's name, without any help from grown-ups.

+ Carver clobbered Spencer 63-0 in their annual "Heritage Bowl" high school football rivalry. The start of the game was delayed by lightning - forcing some concerned fans back to their metal grills in the South Commons parking lot.

+ Georgia running back Washaun Ealey was suspended for next weekend's opening game, after he was arrested in Athens. The charges include "hit and run" - while Coach Mark Richt actually wants Ealey to run, get hit and then keep running.

+ The 30th annual Midnight Express run was held in Midtown. There's a reason why this run does NOT take place on Broadway. Too many customers on a Saturday night at midnight would try to jump into the field, causing hundreds of runners to trip and fall.

+ Instant Message to U.S. Senate candidate Mike Thurmond: I almost forgot - we missed you at Thursday night's Columbus State University forum. You were scheduled to appear, you know. And as Georgia Labor Commissioner, you should realize that missing an interview without explanation probably will cost you the job.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: A football road trip.... although some people won't really consider it football....

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 571 (- 58, 9.2%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

27 AUG 10: Yaks From the Back

"There's nothing more critical than the upcoming election," Columbus State University President Timothy Mescon said Thursday night as his campus hosted a candidate forum. By the end of the evening, I was ready to declare him wrong. Some political supporters are more critical -- and they'll mutter their criticism to anyone who can hear it.

While the Columbus mayoral candidates were the centerpiece of Thursday night's forum, candidates for Congress inspired the most passion from a packed Cunningham Center audience. Some said "amen" when Mike Keown spoke. Others applauded loudly when Sanford Bishop spoke. And Frank Saunders spoke for so long, the emcee couldn't shut him up. [True!]

I sat in the next-to-last row at the Cunningham Center, recording events as Mr. Ordinary Blogger Guy. But that was difficult during the Bishop-Keown debate, as a woman behind me made audible comments almost every time Sanford Bishop spoke. It was almost like she was providing instant analysis and a translation to Republicans wearing special headphones.

When the forum ended, I had to know who was the "backbencher" causing such a racket. Jan Ammons of Marion County left no doubt -- she can't stand Rep. Sanford Bishop, and thinks he's turning our country "socialist." I didn't ask if Republican minister Mike Keown would turn us more congregational or presbyterian.

"Here's your chance to tell him yourself," I said to Jan Ammons minutes later in a Cunningham Center foyer. Sanford Bishop stood about ten feet away.

"I refuse to talk to him," she answered. "I've tried to talk to him at town hall meetings - but he's made even doctors feel like cr*p." If that's true, Columbus Regional may be announcing a lot more mergers in the next few weeks.

I tried to tell Jan Ammons her comments from the back row distracted me - but to be honest, I don't think she cared. Ammons calls Sanford Bishop a "liar," and wants to tell the world so. At least Rush Limbaugh would play a Democrat's audio clip uninterrupted once, before talking it down.

It's one thing to support your candidate, and even consider another candidate the scum of the earth. But when you talk over a candidate so much that others can't hear the candidates and evaluate for themselves, you've crossed a line and become disrespectful. Maybe that's why the woman sitting next to Jan Ammons wanted to talk with someone else when the forum ended.

So what did Sanford Bishop and Mike Keown actually say? Keown said when it comes to job creation, "Alabama's killing us right now." At least, I think he was talking about job creation - not football recruiting.

Sanford Bishop responded by saying the Georgia Legislature hasn't done enough to provide incentives for new business. Keown happens to be a Georgia House member - so this race could come down to the classic of which came first: the nation or the state?

In his closing statement, Mike Keown suggested he has trouble sleeping at night because he fears what Washington politicians might do. So when that much-discussed phone call comes at 3:00 in the morning, Keown may want President Obama's answering machine to be on.

Sanford Bishop talked in his closing statement about working with "435 other members of Congress." Uhhhh - aren't there really 434 other members? In the House only, not counting the Senate? I thought this Congressman was a careful number-cruncher....

That wasn't the only slip of the tongue at Thursday night's forum. Nathan Deal had to correct himself, after starting to say he was the Democratic nominee for Georgia Governor. Well, he HAS switched parties once....

(Did you know there's still an African-American candidate in the Georgia Governor's race? I didn't know until Thursday night. He's Libertarian John Monds - who's the current President of the Grady County NAACP. Don't you wonder if Edward DuBose knows as much about Monds as he did Shirley Sherrod?)

But the biggest gaffe of Thursday night's forum came not from a candidate, but debate moderator Chuck Leonard. He tried to end the mayoral section of the forum before Zeph Baker could give a final 30-second rebuttal to a question -- and before anyone could give closing statements. I know the Little League game was close at that point, but really....

Yet that moment of confusion produced the most surprising moment of the mayoral forum. It was Paul Olson who spoke up for Zeph Baker, noting Baker still had a 30-second rebuttal coming. After all the complaints about Olson being domineering, this was a gracious moment -- but then again, Baker isn't a current Columbus Council member.

Then there was the opening comment by Teresa Tomlinson that Columbus has "a broader community than ever." Considering who used the word "broader," I was reminded of an old country song -- especially the refrain....

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce helped organize the forum, and the chamber seemed to write all the candidate questions. Only one came close to touching this week's Parks and Recreation headlines, by asking about restoring faith in city government. Since two of the four candidates are ministers, I'd think the invocations at Council meetings are safe for a while.

All in all, it was an interesting and informative evening at Columbus State University. It wasn't quite the cable TV shouting match I expected - but it was worth changing my weekly Thursday night routine to attend. If only the catering crew had left snacks in the foyer after the forum, and not simply before it....

Earlier in the day, mayoral candidate Wayne Anthony held an official "campaign kickoff" party at his headquarters on Wynnton Road. I fear Anthony didn't learn a key lesson from Bob Poydasheff four years ago. Poydasheff also launched a campaign in August - and discovered starting late doesn't finish you great.

And The River City Report discovered someone is tampering with Teresa Tomlinson yard signs - adding the word "Democrat" to them. The mayor's race is nonpartisan, but we noted here Monday Tomlinson received a campaign donation from the local Democratic Committee. It could be worse, though - someone else could add the words "Mama Grizzly."

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Because of our candidates' forum coverage, our closer look at radio remarks by Wayne Anthony and Zeph Baker will be delayed until this weekend.)

E-MAIL UPDATE: Many people are talking about this week's "Rec-Gate" arrests. Here's the first comment to reach our InBox....

I would just like to comment on the ordeal going on with parks and rec and i find it quite sad that the city of Columbus is allowing this to happen to great person in Tony Adams he has done a lot for the youth for all surrounding areas and i can't see anything wrong with helping the children that need help. I don't see Tony driving in a Hummer Benz or in a big house in Green Island so if money was taken for personal gain i missed it. He is the same person i met 15 years ago with the same goal in mind and that's to keep the youth in positive activities. I just hope the people of Columbus doesn't let what certain people say about Tony change their opinion of him he is great person with a big heart for the youth of our city and surrounding areas. I say to Tony keep your head up and prayers out to you for justice.

To be honest, I'm not sure where Tony Adams lives. He's not listed in the Columbus phone book. But his Comer Gym office is a lot closer to Green Island Hills than Shirley Winston Park is.

To be fair, I'd like to thank city workers for some surprising improvements at Benning Park. One of the two racquetball walls received a new coat of paint this week, and a gaping hole in a fence on the other court is now repaired. If it took two arrests of Parks Department employees to make this happen, I can deal with that.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on the best big burgers in Columbus was closed blindly Thursday afternoon - and Red Robin is your choice. The restaurant at Columbus Park Crossing received two of the five votes. But if only five votes were cast, maybe more vegetarians are reading this blog than I realized.

One reader left a comment warning about all big burgers: "I know you are a runner but I don't think that's going to save you from clogged arteries." Don't worry - our Big Burger Blowout was a one-week-only event. I'm now back to substituting ground turkey for beef in pasta dishes - and I'm certainly thankful right now I don't mix a cream sauce with eggs.

Now let's catch up on news headlines from the last couple of days....

+ Columbus Northern lost to Hawaii 7-4 at the Little League World Series, forcing a win-or-go-home rematch today. Coach Randy Morris said his team "lacked intensity." That's what happens when players get "hired" on an off day to do sports reports for TV stations.

(One evening newscast actually tracked down and interviewed the girlfriends of several Northern players. Is this WTVM, or TMZ?)

+ Columbus Police opened their new East Precinct, sharing a building on Buena Vista Road with a Columbus Bank and Trust branch. We exploited for laughs analyzed this arrangement when it was announced last year [22 Jul 09] - but considering a downtown bank was robbed later in the day, this could become commonplace all over town.

+ Columbus State University announced record enrollment for the fall semester, with more than 8,400 students. Isn't it amazing what a change in the university's website name can do?

+ Automotive News claimed the Kia plant is adding workers for a second production line. Hyundai reportedly will shift production of the Santa Fe from Montgomery to West Point - once again disappointing officials in the capital of New Mexico.

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced 7.5 percent proration for schools. The way school budgets have been cut in recent years, math teachers should have no shortage of "story problems."

+ Auburn University began airing TV commercials selling basketball tickets to the new "Au-Rena." Yes, Auburn is promoting basketball season before the start of football season. If I was football coach Gene Chizik, I'd be a little concerned about that....

+ The high school football season opened with Phenix City Central shellacking Shaw 29-7. If Central can score this many points all season, the booster club won't have to worry about shooting fireworks at Garrett-Harrison Stadium - because they'll be redundant.

+ Atlanta Motor Speedway general manager Ed Clark told WDAK radio there's already a line for campground space - and the NASCAR races there don't happen until next weekend. We again have proof that the inhalation of fuel fumes can be addictive.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus chapter of the American Red Cross: I understand you held a "Heroes Luncheon" Thursday downtown. Did you go all the way with this, and serve hero sandwiches?

SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK: A LaughLine flashback about a famous visitor who's coming to town....

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 629 (+ 19, 3.1%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

26 AUG 10: 30-Feet-High Heels

When I was young, the backyard at home had the perfect dimensions for a small-scale football field - but a couple of ground rules would get in the way. A telephone line stretched overhead near midfield. Any passes hitting that phone line would NOT qualify for "do-overs" - so Southwestern Bell sometimes was a defender's best friend.

The old homestead came to mind in a strange way Wednesday, after I watched a news report on crime concerns in one Columbus neighborhood. An activist in East Highland told WTVM if you see pairs of shoes hanging from overhead wires, it's a sign of drug activity. Ohhhh - so it doesn't mean someone set a distance record on their morning jog?

The TV report showed one location in East Highland with several pairs of dangling shoes. But I've seen scattered pairs overhead in many parts of Columbus, including one a short walk from my home. When I've seen them, my first question obviously was "why." The second one was "how" -- since it takes a pretty good arm to throw sneakers 30 feet into the air.

A public radio news report several years ago referred to a pair of dangling shoes. A young person interviewed for the story admitted putting them up there -- but as I recall, the girl said she did it merely for fun. I suppose it beats using old shoes as makeshift boxing gloves, in pretend street fights.

So what is the truth about this? The answer is as simple as a search of "urban legend" websites - but the answer there can be complicated. Snopes shows there are several explanations for dangling shoes. They include drug-dealing, fun-seeking children - and even teenage boys (ahem) making love. It's either throw your shoes or toss your underwear....

Snopes even has a military theory behind the high-wire shoes - that soldiers throw boots high in the air when they complete basic training. But if that's true, shouldn't the National Infantry Museum have dozens of boots suspended from the ceiling?

(There's also an explanation involving ranchers leaving boots on fence posts - but that's really more of a rural legend, and this is an urban topic.)

Another website dealing with urban legends quotes police in Arizona, who say there's NO connection between crime and high-wire sneakers. The news of this week may require adjusting that -- because Columbus Police think they found a connection between crime and basketball sneaker contracts.

While electric companies in Arizona may remove several pairs of shoes from power lines each week, that doesn't seem to happen in Columbus. One pair of sneakers hung suspended above Talbotton Road for years, near Jordan High School. Perhaps teachers are waiting for a graduate to come back to town for a ten-year reunion with a guilty conscience.

So I'm sorry to disappoint East Highland crime-fighters - but what you've heard about sneakers over your heads may be incorrect. When it comes to shoes on power lines, there's clearly no sole explanation....

While we're here, let's dispose of a much newer urban legend. Someone is spreading the claim online that the calendar arrangement for this month won't happen again in August for 823 years. WDAK's Morning Show mentioned it Wednesday - apparently without running it past Richard Hyatt, who would have been around the last time it happened.

This claim about the five Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays of August sounded absurd - and indeed it is. Look up a "perpetual calendar" online, click on 2010, then click the "back" arrow on your browser. My calendar showed "visited link" colors for not only 2010, but 2021 and 2027. This month's arrangement will recur then -- in 11 years, not 823. Hopefully the person who started this rumor doesn't prepare taxes.

-> A little piece of bread crust keeps stealing the show at our local poker tournaments. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: A defense attorney in the "Rec-Gate" case accused Columbus city officials Wednesday of attempting to "taint the jury pool." Shaevon Thomas said this after appearing on WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" - and as we all know, a live interview on the top-rated radio station in town cannot possibly taint jurors.

Shaevon Thomas asked why Mayor Jim Wetherington hasn't called a news conference, to praise accused Parks Director Tony Adams about the good things Adams has done for Columbus youth. Thomas may not realize Wetherington is a former police chief - so he wasn't trained to look for law-abiding citizens.

We did an online check, and found the Columbus Parks Department received a proclamation from Mayor Wetherington in April 2008. Admittedly that wasn't a news conference - but it was presented during a Columbus Council meeting, which CCG-TV rebroadcast for a week. Paul Olson can confirm that, because he probably watched the meeting four times.

If Shaevon Thomas really thinks Tuesday's police news conference and mayoral speech will bias a jury against Tony Adams and Herman Porter, he must be new to Columbus. High-profile finger-pointing doesn't work here. All Thomas has to do is call Mark Shelnutt's law office.

Tony Adams's name and picture were still on the Columbus Parks Department website Wednesday night, since he's only suspended and not fired. WTVM reported the department currently is overseen by Assistant City Manager Lisa Goodwin - which seems strange, since Parks and Recreation has an Assistant Director. Has Cammie Currie withdrawn any money from banks lately?

I found one positive note at the Parks and Recreation website. Columbus soon will have a "disc golf" course at Flat Rock Park - something that's long overdue here. I've thrown on a course at Lake Olmstead in Augusta, which offered good exercise and great scenery at no charge. It won't be quite the same in Columbus - since we don't want frisbees hitting whitewater rafters.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: Fight night at Columbus State.... well, sort of....

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 610 (+ 20, 3.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

25 AUG 10: Rec-Gate Jail Bait

Tuesday might be remembered as Demolition Day in Columbus. The Northern All-Stars tore up another opponent. Wreckers began tearing down Carver High School. And police ripped into the reputation of the Parks and Recreation Director more than anyone expected....

Columbus Parks Director Tony Adams and a member of his staff were arrested on three charges relating to the "Rec-Gate" audit of their department. Adams had been suspended with pay. Now the City Manager says he'll be suspended WITHOUT pay - yet Adams's title has yet to change to Sorta-Kinda Parks Director.

The second suspect arrested Tuesday was Herman Porter, who oversees the Innovative Sports Program. To hear Police Chief Ricky Boren explain it, Porter may have been innovative in other things - such as evading taxes.

The Columbus Police Chief says Tony Adams and Herman Porter created a private bank account for handling money from Nike to the Georgia Blazers basketball program. The Chief contends the money should have gone into a city bank account instead - because for one thing, Nike might have been interested in providing outfits to bicycle patrol officers.

That private bank account for Nike money reportedly was opened in 2005 - and just happened to close in May, after the Parks and Recreation Department audit was released by the Ledger-Enquirer. Of course, that doesn't really prove anything. Tony Adams and Herman Porter simply may have realized they needed money to pay defense lawyers.

Chief Ricky Boren announced three counts against Tony Adams and Herman Porter:

+ "False writings and fraudulent documents...." You'll notice the city auditor was NOT indicted on this charge - at least not yet.

+ "Conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision." I didn't really expect this until mid-October - with anonymous political fliers left on cars in Midtown.

+ Tax evasion - which is a misdemeanor count, not a felony. After all, we're talking AAU basketball here. A scandal in the Alabama football program certainly would be a felony.

Defense attorney Stacey Jackson insisted weeks ago there was NO contract between Nike and the city of Columbus [15 Jul]. Chief Ricky Boren seemed to agree with that Tuesday, but indicated there should have been one. Isn't this amazing? Give him 100 new officers, and the police chief suddenly takes the side of big government.

Stacey Jackson told WRBL people should NOT rush to judgment about the accused Parks Department employees. For one thing, he's challenging the police chief's view that the Georgia Blazers is a Columbus city basketball team. After all, few people thought the old Riverdragons were....

Tony Adams and Herman Porter were arrested at the Public Safety Center, while Columbus Council held an executive session on the mayor's "personnel matter" at the Government Center. Shame on Jim Wetherington for this. He should know "bait and switch" stunts are unethical at stores.

The mayor defended his decision to seek a Parks Department audit, during a speech at the regular evening Council meeting. Jim Wetherington said local tax money was spent on young athletes who live outside the city. Does he really want the Georgia High School Cheerleading Championship to leave town?

But Columbus Council passed new rules Tuesday to clean up the city audit process. The auditor will have to give three days' notice to Council, the mayor and City Manager before an audit begins. Last-minute lobbying to add The Courier and the Chamber of Commerce did not succeed.

Tony Adams and Herman Porter were free on bond Tuesday night. But a guilty verdict on the two felony charges could put them in prison for as long as five years. Hmmmm - has anyone ever made a basketball version of "The Longest Yard"?

There's another amazing case of deja vu here, related to the Columbus Northern appearance in the Little League World Series. Remember what happened during the 2006 title run - when Judge Haywood Turner was arrested on the J.R. Allen Parkway? [27 Aug 06] The arrest of another city official may be the good-luck charm Coach Randy Morris has waited to see.

-> A little piece of bread crust stole the show at our Monday night poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus kept cruising at the Little League World Series Tuesday. The Northern All-Stars humbled Hamilton, Ohio 6-0 -- and if Columbus, Ohio had made the tournament, the incentive for a blowout win would have been even bigger.

Three Northern players hit home runs in the win, while Troy Gilliland pitched a six-inning complete game shutout. You'll forgive Gilliland if he ignores the high school coaches at the World Series, and looks for someone from Troy University....

Northern is one win away from the U.S. championship game, with two chances to get it. The next game is Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. ET, which is almost the same time as a big political forum at Columbus State University. The candidates for mayor should NOT assume the audience is cheering for them.

Do you know what Randy Morris does, when he's not coaching Northern in the Little League World Series? I found out Wednesday he's a distributor for Little Debbie snack cakes -- so he was used to a "Star Crunch" even before any of his players became injured.

Because of Tuesday's two big stories, our top item in the news summary seemed to be overlooked by almost everyone....

+ GPB News reported Muscogee County schools won part of Georgia's "Race to the Top" grant for select districts. If the federal money is divided equally, Muscogee County could receive $7.7 million. If it's divided by Governor Sonny Perdue, Muscogee County might have to settle for $1,000.

(To take part in Race to the Top, Muscogee County schools agreed to a merit pay system for future teachers. I was going to suggest they have incentive clauses, like pro athletes have - but then I remembered those news stories about principals kissing pigs when students read a lot.)

+ WTVM showed a new learning project for children downtown. "If I Had a Hammer" lets students build sections of houses. The recruiting for Habitat for Humanity "collegiate challenges" is starting earlier than ever.

+ ABC News revealed first-graders in Moody, Alabama schools are required to take trash bags to class. This may sound primitive - but think about it a second. There's no envy over which student has the fanciest backpack.

+ Bill Ham was reelected mayor of Auburn by a four-to-one margin. That's really no surprise - since most Alabamians can't get enough ham at breakfast and dinner.

(The turnout was light for a special City Council election in Opelika. One man told WLTZ it's because people are "tired of voting" this year. You never hear this excuse on American Idol.)

+ Supporters of electronic bingo announced plans for a Saturday march to the Alabama State Capitol. If they really support these games, the marchers should line up in groups of five rows - with five people in each row.

(Saturday happens to be the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Would any gambling supporter dare bring up the part about checks marked "insufficient funds?")

+ WFXE-FM midday DJ Vicki James admitted to WTVM she's "very single." Maybe that's why Foxie 105 moved her away from the morning show. James lost a lot of potential dates, because she had to be in bed by 9:30 p.m.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus city "sign crew": Thanks for restoring that knocked-down Oglethorpe Bridge sign to its proper upright position along U.S. 280. Hopefully no drunk golfers will come by and remove it again.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We had planned to mention the appearances of two more mayoral candidates on WDAK's "Viewpoint" today. But because one of them has a death in the family, we are putting a "48-hour hold" on that story.)

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 590 (+ 21, 3.7%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

24 AUG 10: Little League, Big Fuss

It seemed to me the Little League World Series schedule-makers had their priorities right Monday night. Have Columbus Northern play its game at 6:00 p.m. ET -- so it would end in time for the boys to watch the Miss Universe pageant at 9:00.

But weather was the winner in Williamsport Monday night, as Columbus's Little League game against Hamilton, Ohio was rained out. They'll restart from the beginning today at 4:00 p.m. ET - waiting until Columbus Council finishes the potentially extra-long meeting on that personnel matter.

Troy Gilliland threw 23 pitches for Columbus in a rain-shortened first inning. Coach Randy Morris apparently will make him the starter again today, but local sports fans shouldn't worry too much. The last time a Columbus game in Williamsport,Pennsylvania was rained out, the outcome was pretty good - as Northern won the title one day later.

A good crowd showed up at the Carmike 15 theatres to watch the Little League action on a giant movie screen. There were cheerleaders in uniform, and even contests for fans to win prizes. About the only thing missing was a surprise return by the big blue mascot of the South Georgia Waves.

The second World Series trip in five years has allowed some old Little League issues to resurface. Someone noted online the other day Columbus High School coach Bobby Howard is in Williamsport - and I mentioned the criticism in 2006 about Howard going on playoff trips to recruit players [14 Aug 06]. I might as well have called the National Infantry Museum a cheap amusement park....

One of the gentler online responses claimed two other local high school baseball coaches are also in Williamsport. The Northside and Shaw coaches reportedly are with Bobby Howard. But I doubt that will shut up the critics - who now will change their complaint to, "If you can't beat him, join him."

There's one big difference between 2006 and 2010, when it comes to Bobby Howard. He's now retired from the Muscogee County School District, serving as Columbus High School baseball coach on his own time. Besides, the Northern Little League "fall ball" tryouts aren't until next week.

(Other Howard defenders pointed out Columbus is a magnet high school. OK, that's true - but I thought the "magnet" was for liberal arts, not baseball-hitting.)

WTVM noted the Northern players have yet to attend school, so today marks 12 days of missed classes. Yet an instructor at Midland Middle School said the team is learning valuable lessons from being in the public spotlight. Maybe so - but Lindsay Lohan seemed to forget those lessons over a few years.

The Northern Little Leaguers are making friends with players from other World Series teams. Because of different languages, communication with Japanese players is accomplished through hand signals. If the dormitory food is good, make the safe sign....

I was reminded Monday night of one other difference between the two Northern World Series trips. Have you noticed Mayor Jim Wetherington hasn't made any wagers with mayors of other Little League teams - the way Bob Poydasheff did in 2006? The current mayor obviously doesn't want to leave office handcuffed by his own vice squad.

-> A little piece of bread crust stole the show at our Monday night poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Change is coming to Columbus libraries next week - and Monday we learned the change is spreading from there....

The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries decided to raise its Library card fee's pretty fast. If you call - they say "If you live in the surrounding area, you're not affected by the increase - outside the surrounding area you card fees will $35 starting Sept 1 for a 2 year period. So - I asked what the surrounding area, basically, is if you Do Not live in Muscogee County - you will be affected by the increase.

Then off to the Phenix City library to see if it has affected them, to their surprise - No one had called them from the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries about the increase, nada. Well, now the Phenix City Library has signs on the Door saying that they have an Increase on Library cards as well to the amount of $35 for out of Russell County residents, only a $2 increase for Lee County Residents.

What was up with the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries system for not mentioning it to Neighboring Library's about the rapid increase. Were they trying to set them up? Does the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries believe that they do not have to communicate with any one anymore? I did hear that there was an understanding with Columbus and Phenix City Libraries about not considering the residents from either Muscogee or Russell out of the area and being exempt from high Library Card fees?

I think the "surrounding area" of the Chattahoochee Valley Library System means the branches in Cusseta and Lumpkin. Harris County is part of a different system - and since it's closer to West Point, you're probably more likely to find books in Korean there these days.

The Phenix City-Russell County Library website confirms it's instituting its own 35-dollar annual fee for out-of-state residents next week. Some of us expected an orchestrated price hike for Labor Day weekend - but at the gas station, not the library.

To clarify part of the e-mail: Alabama residents living outside Russell County will have to pay five dollars per year for a library card. That beats the Columbus Public Library, which will make Harris County residents pay 35 dollars. Of course, Harris County residents can afford that extra cost. People living in nice homes north of the Lee-Russell County line clearly can't.

But who said the Chattahoochee Valley Library System had to notify Phenix City's library about a fee increase? They're in different states, might not lend library books to each other - and those Phenix City fans of reading ought to know how to scan through a daily newspaper.

By the way, the Columbus Public Library unveiled a new recording studio Monday. It's intended for making recordings which benefit vision-impaired people - and I can't wait for Stevie Wonder to use it for a future album.

Let's see what else we recorded on our computer, from the Monday news....

+ WRBL brought back its "Midday" news, after an absence of more than a year. But if Tammy Terry has to do the news AND the weather, the station's news budget still may be at the brink of foreclosure.

+ River Road Pharmacy opened a new building, on the site of the building destroyed by arson last fall. I assume the staff is selling nothing hotter than a muscle wrap.

(Poor WRBL - its Midday news showed the name of the building as "ROVER Road Pharmacy." The grade school down the street doesn't even have a dog for a mascot....)

+ The U.S. Justice Department approved Georgia's current election identity check system. Secretary of State Brian Kemp seemed pleased by this -- but don't you think his staff is double-checking the details? If an office run by Democrats approved this, Roy Barnes may have found a loophole around the rules.

+ The Carver and Spencer High School football coaches announced beginning this weekend, their annual rivalry game will be called the "Heritage Bowl." If Legacy Chevrolet can sell enough cars by next August, the name could change again.

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: That special Columbus Council meeting + two more mayoral candidates on radio + Little League baseball = one busy day....

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 569 (+ 22, 4.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

23 AUG 10: The Season of Giving

If anyone has done a formal poll on the Columbus Mayor's race, I haven't seen it. And I know better than to trust online polls -- even the one I posted several months ago. For instance, whoever set up a current poll at The Courier's website somehow didn't realize Paul Olson is running....

All four candidates for mayor have submitted campaign finance reports for the first half of this year. These reports raised some eyebrows four years ago, when Jim Wetherington received a donation from a Victory Drive nightclub. Yet you'll notice several of those clubs continue to make the crime report - so does that show how ethical and upright he is?

We looked through the campaign finance reports Sunday night, beginning with Paul Olson. You know, the man who brags online he's "not controlled by special interest money." Almost three-fourths of his "contributions" consist of Olson loaning money to his own campaign - so I guess this means he's self-controlled.

The only famous name on Paul Olson's contributor list is Paul Voorhees, the owner of Ranger Joe's. Olson is a retired military man, of course - but is he suggesting today's military isn't that special?

Paul Olson also has financial support from the owner of City Cab Company. That explains the bumper sticker I saw on one of those red taxis Sunday. Even in a nonpartisan mayor's race, Olson is now the "red" candidate.

By comparison, the campaign report filed by Wayne Anthony is much more star-studded. His 17-page list of donors includes Dan Amos of Aflac, Steve Melton of CB&T, several members of the W.C. Bradley/Turner family - and based on this list, apparently Paul Pierce of the Springer Opera House now can be considered "old money."

Someone told me months ago Wayne Anthony would be the "business candidate" in the mayor's race. I counted $5,000 in contributions from Aflac executives alone. And to balance any alleged "fat cats," there's a donation from Dr. Jan McBarron of Georgia Bariatrics.

The Wayne Anthony contribution list also includes newly-appointed Judge Bill Rumer and Muscogee County School Board Chair Philip Schley. Did the envelope with Schley's check mention anything about the school district changing classroom hours?

But the $55,000 in donations to Wayne Anthony's campaign is puny, compared with Teresa Tomlinson. She reports contributions of nearly $145,000 through the end of June. And you thought no one was prospering in this economy....

The mayor's race may be nonpartisan, but Teresa Tomlinson has a $500 donation from the Muscogee County Democratic Committee. I found no such donation for any candidate from Muscogee County Republicans - but then again, they're trying to spend every dollar they can to unseat Sanford Bishop.

A side-by-side comparison of the financial reports is eye-opening in one way. Several Columbus executives are splitting their ticket - giving to both the Wayne Anthony and Teresa Tomlinson campaigns. Synovus executive James Blanchard gave $500 each way. If they wind up in a runoff, Blanchard may have to flip a credit card to choose a favorite.

That leaves the campaign report of Zeph Baker - and despite all his billboards around Columbus, he reported practically the same amount of contributions as Paul Olson. He's raised less than $30,000. You'd think someone named Baker would be better at raising things than that.

Zeph Baker's financial report includes a donation of supplies from former Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison. And Baker's minister/father Wayne was nice enough to make a donation. I'd expect dear old Dad to give more than $100 - but maybe this is on top of the new car as a high school graduation gift.

Zeph Baker's financial report contains perhaps the most jaw-dropping donation of all. He received $2,400 from "Bermuda Tan, Inc." on Veterans Court. Really now - a tanning salon endorsing Zeph Baker?! I never quite thought of One Columbus working this way....

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: There's still time to vote in our Big Blog "Burger Blowout" Question - and today, a reader seems to explain a vote for "Other"....

Best burger in town is B Merrill's cheese burger,but first you have to have an order of the best chicken wings in town..No biddy wings and drums,but real chickens cooked perfectly...followed by the best burger ever...

Wow -- I didn't know the B in B. Merrill's stood for "burgers." I've heard much more about the chicken at that restaurant. And no, I do NOT mean the manager who chickened out of having a restaurant on Manchester Expressway.

Now let's check some weekend leftovers, which are dominated by education:

+ Several sources tell your blog Chattahoochee Valley Community College will miss the scheduled September opening of its new Instructional Center. The ribbon-cutting may not come until December - and the blame is placed on last year's heavy rains. If the new building trained engineers instead of nurses, things might have moved along faster.

+ Columbus State University held its annual freshman convocation. C.S.U. is overlooking a way to draw a big crowd for this event - by merging it with Tuesday's foam party.

+ WXTX showed the Spencer High School marching band holding a fundraising concert, in the parking lot of the Airport Thruway Wal-Mart. Aw, c'mon - Airport Thruway?! I realize the Buena Vista Road store is Kendrick's turf. But how did the Hardaway band let this group slip in?

+ The annual "Heroes Read" event was held at the Columbus Public Library, with books read to children by soldiers and firefighters. The Government Center could use an event like this - with the mayor reading the results of the Fire/EMT Department audit.

+ The first "BarkWorld Expo" concluded in Atlanta - a conference focusing on social media and animals. As if Twitter wasn't enough?! What are they planning next - Fishbook? An expanded version of "Digg" for dogs?

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 547 (- 30, 5.2%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

22 AUG 10: Down for the Count

Saturday morning walks can lead to the most surprising discoveries. Over the years I've come upon a couple of credit cards, a ski cap with eye-holes cut through it - and once I passed a man who claimed he was trying to get to Panama City. At least he was walking south, which is the right direction....

But what I found on the ground around 9:00 a.m. Saturday tops all those things. Someone apparently knocked over a sign marking the Oglethorpe Bridge and Chattahoochee River, leaving it sprawled on the pavement at Fourth and Broadway. It appeared to be in one piece - so there was no "sign" of a struggle.

The two-part green sign is supposed to be above Fourth and Broadway -- facing westbound traffic on U.S. 280. My first thought was that a mobile home knocked it down. Those things get a "wide load" escort on highways - but this clearly was one time when wider was NOT better.

But the more I look at that picture, the less convinced I become of my theory. Shouldn't there be a big dent in that sign, to indicate a collision? Do you think a Columbus State fraternity organized a scavenger hunt which was too challenging?

I knew better than to call 911 about a knocked-down highway sign. So I called 311, the Citizen Services number - but I had to leave a message, because the office is closed for the weekend. Even stray sharks in the river would have to wait until Monday morning....

Next I called the main phone number for Columbus Police - and on Saturday morning, that number is answered by the Robbery and Assault Division. I suppose a knocked-down highway sign could qualify as an assault. After all, the vehicle which struck it must have a battery.

I told the officer who answered the phone about what I'd found. He promised to report it to a "sign crew." We'll see how long it takes for that crew to show up. When I reported the possible ski mask to police as a possible clue to a crime, it sat on the ground for weeks.

When I stepped out for my Saturday night run, the highway sign had been moved completely off the street -- but it still was flat on the sidewalk. So come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't be bringing this up today. I might encourage college students to go "shopping" for free and distinctive wall decor.

Assuming a wide load knocked down the Oglethorpe Bridge sign, it's only one of several recent examples I've seen of drivers behaving badly. A man Friday morning was heading south in the northbound lane at the Brown Avenue Bridge. The good news (I suppose) was that he was on a bicycle. The bad news is that he was talking on a cell phone....

No, I'm not kidding - a bicyclist was on a cell phone in traffic! At least he made it a "hands-free" device. Simply balance the phone on your left shoulder, then lean your head while you pedal.

And I'm sorry, but I caught a Columbus Police officer violating traffic rules Saturday night. The driver of car #731 (a Chevrolet Impala) was in a left turn lane on Victory Drive, with NO turn signal blinking. If he'd been on the J.R. Allen Parkway this weekend, he would have received a ticket. In Columbus South, it must be Operation a Little Tolerance.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The reader who called Thursday to report Mediacom Cable had removed WTVM called back Friday, and admitted the station was back a few hours later. "I guess I made a fool of myself," the caller said. Anything for the cause of comedy....

Let's see what else is worth a laugh or two this weekend:

+ Saturday's high temperature in Columbus was 99 degrees F. If local school districts really thought starting the year earlier would bring fall weather earlier, it isn't working.

+ Columbus Northern handled Hawaii 6-2 in the opening game of the Little League World Series. I didn't watch the game, but people who did say the Northern players acted in a classy way after the win. Apparently they kept the pictures of Colt Brennan getting sacked in the Sugar Bowl in the clubhouse.

(People who tuned in WTVM early for the Little League game reportedly saw an infomercial for some kind of sex enhancement product. Yeow - even the Starship store has enough taste to avoid posting signs rooting on Northern.)

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Mayor Jim Wetherington has called a special Tuesday meeting of Columbus Council. He'll only say the reason involves a "personnel matter." Uh-oh - I hope Tony Adams hasn't been at the Little League World Series, selling Nike baseball jerseys.

+ WRBL reported a Columbus Fire/EMT crew went diving in the Chattahoochee River. Among other things, the crew found a grocery cart and a bicycle. C'mon folks - you can get flat bicycle tires fixed or replaced.

+ The Springer Opera House closed Tenth Street downtown, for a block party promoting the upcoming season. There's a real Alabama leaning in the coming months. There's "Bear Country" about football coach Bear Bryant - and "The Full Monty," which I assume is about the state capital.

+ The mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama told NBC News his city's tourism business is down 70 percent this month. There's only one good way to resolve this - have BP hold its next shareholders meeting on a Gulf coast beach.

+ The Columbus Civic Center announced it will host the Southeastern Conference hockey tournament next February. It's about time the SEC had hockey teams - since football teams don't seem to play junior varsity games anymore, and those linemen need practice.

(The Civic Center also will host a four-team college tournament in November. Boston is famous for the Beanpot Classic - so shouldn't Columbus call its event the Grits Games?)

+ Instant Message to The Fresh Market on Bradley Park Drive: Now that I've toured your store and seen things such as purple potato chips, I have only one thing to say. The new Save-a-Lot store on Hamilton Road can't open soon enough.

The Blog of Columbus had nearly 25,000 unique visitors in the first half of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 577 (- 56, 8.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

20 AUG 10: War or Peace?

A couple of commitments kept me busy for much of Thursday. When I came home in the evening, someone had left a startling message on my answering machine. A media feud which I thought was settled reportedly was on again. And it had nothing to do with news anchors preparing spaghetti in a shopping center parking lot.

"Mediacom has stopped showing WTVM" was the message on my machine. Really? Only two weeks ago, I was told the cable company and the TV station had settled their contract dispute in the nick of time [8 Aug]. Are too many commercials appearing now for Knology and Charter?

I brought up the telephone claim at my Thursday night poker tournament, and a second Mediacom subscriber confirmed what the caller said. He told me WTVM was gone, and a message on the screen claimed it would only be restored if 20,000 people called to demand it. But we must note he was playing poker - so he could have been bluffing through his teeth.

Let's face it - a 20,000-call goal for restoring WTVM to Mediacom Cable is a very high standard for Columbus. WLTZ is on a campaign to have 5,000 Facebook friends, and it was barely above 1,000 Thursday night. Even the appearance of Greg Funderburg on the list isn't attracting many turncoats.

Yet the story became muddled later in the evening, after I made an online appeal for reports from Mediacom subscribers. One person told me WTVM was on as usual in prime-time. But that could have been part of Mediacom's plan. Wipe out the ABC affiliate completely, and fans of "Wipeout" will call to complain.

Hoping to get a definite answer, I called Mediacom's toll-free number - and wound up at a "virtual call center" in Illinois. Don't ask me what makes it a "virtual" call center, instead of a real one. Maybe the woman who took my call was on a cell phone at dinner.

After several minutes on hold, the woman in Illinois gave me the Macon Road address for Mediacom's Columbus office. I'd have to go there personally to get an answer, because she had no local phone number. Yeow - even WTVM's Lee Brantley puts his office number on the screen.

This response raised another obvious question. How can Mediacom get 20,000 calls demanding the return of WTVM, when there's no local phone number for making the demand? Is there going to be a traffic jam on Macon Road today - especially from relatives of Northern Little League players, fearing Saturday's big game will be replaced by infomercials for WalkFit?

A recent online message from Mediacom confirmed it's in a tense dispute with all Raycom Media stations over transmission fees. It even suggested contacting members of Congress, to have the federal government intervene. I'm sure all cable TV subscribers would appreciate a stimulus check in the mail....

It was WTVM which alerted us to the Mediacom mess with on-screen messages during newscasts [29 Jul]. No such messages appeared during the late-night Thursday newscasts, and Mediacom never was mentioned on the air. Of course, we now know that could mean an out-of-court settlement was reached in a big lawsuit.

So as we post this, there's admittedly some confusion about where things stand between Mediacom and WTVM. And you may have to stand in line at their lobbies today, to know if the Northern Little Leaguers will be held as virtual hostages this weekend.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: We now return to our Big Blogger Burger Blowout - and we should note our week of hamburgers included two days where we paid for cheeseburgers at traditional fast-food restaurants. Checkers for one dollar impressed me more than a McDonald's mid-week 69-cent special. It seemed to have more meat, although I didn't remove the buns and pull out a ruler for measuring.

BIG BURGER #3: RUBY TUESDAY. Three days after our second stop, our last birthday burger coupon was turned over at Peachtree Mall. I've eaten at that Ruby Tuesday several times - the last time being a Thanksgiving Day when the restaurant didn't serve turkey, as if Piccadilly Cafeteria had exclusive rights to it.

Ruby Tuesday had the most formal atmosphere for eating burgers. At 4:00 p.m. on a Thursday, I was escorted to a booth with dim lights and dark hardwoods -- far from the big-screen TV at the bar. That's too bad, because I went prepared to watch ESPN instead of the drink menu on the table.

I selected the $9.49 Boston Blue Burger, which shaped up to be the tallest burger of the bunch. After all, its toppings include onion straws -- and if they were stacked too high, I might be fighting bad breath for 24 hours.

The Boston Blue Burger won the contest for thickest meat of the three, bulging off the side of the bun. I didn't quite need a knife and fork to eat it. Those onion straws were flat, like a slice of onion -- and thankfully the diet cola I drank with a straw was NOT flat to match.

The Boston Blue Burger had crumbles of blue cheese (as opposed to "bleu cheese" on the Red Robin menu). The alleged "Boston barbecue sauce" didn't seem to clash with the cheese -- but then again, how many people think of Boston when it comes to barbecue? Is that the secret to their baked beans?

With a birthday coupon, a full "to-go" cup of soda and a tip, the Ruby Tuesday dinner cost me $4.56. The price was a virtual tie with Fuddruckers and Red Robin, but the size of the burger impressed me more. It's no wonder the rivals at the food court sell nothing closer to a burger than a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We knew our Big Burger Blowout would bring a response from hungry readers. Here's the first one....

At Fuddruckers use the pump cheese on your burger...also the salmon burger there is good..a little spicy...but lots of flavor

I didn't check the fine print on the Fuddruckers coupon, but I think the salmon burger is included in the birthday special. I tend to save fishy sandwiches for trips to the coast -- although I'd be wary for awhile of any Gulf coast sandwich cooked in "natural oils."

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION invites you to keep the discussion going. Which restaurant gets your vote for the best "big burger" in Columbus? We admittedly are NOT including the famous Ranger Burger in this poll. That's in Cusseta -- and we don't want a burger which could leave your substantially heavier car dragging on the pavement through Fort Benning.

Here's a little more to chew on, as we head toward the weekend....

+ The Columbus Housing Authority announced it's considering renovations at the Booker T. Washington Apartments. Step one: metal detectors at the entrances to every building - with loud alarms alerting people to the thugs carrying guns.

+ Phenix City Economic Development Director J.W. Brannan told WRBL the site of the once-promised Phenixian condominiums will be offered to the highest bidder. So instead of a high-rise housing development along the Chattahoochee River, we could see tall cups of Starbucks coffee.

+ Georgia gubernatorial candidates Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal both said they oppose a planned Islamic center near "Ground Zero" in New York. OK - but why did anyone even ask them that? Can the Governor of Georgia change a zoning decision in New York City? Are Barnes and Deal also going to predict the Pacific Ten Conference football champion?

+ The Columbus Northern All-Stars were part of a parade in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, leading to the Little League World Series. Coach Randy Morris told WDAK his players did some kind of "dance" for ESPN's cameras. Uh-oh - now Evangel Temple might not give the team a bus ride home from the Atlanta airport.

+ New England expunged Atlanta in pre-season football 28-10. When the Fox announcers talk at length about the Chicago Bears quarterback who isn't even at the game, you know it's not much of a game....

+ Instant Message to my pastor: I know what you said in a recent sermon -- but I did it Thursday night! It's possible! I opened a Stax can, and ate only ONE Lay's potato chip. The secret is flushing away the great taste with a bottle of water.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation or submit a comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 633 (+ 19, 3.1%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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