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....

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