Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 OCT 10: A Fine Finish

It's the final weekend before Election Day, and all candidates are trying to be on their best behavior. In fact, this could be a big day for taxi drivers -- so candidates can avoid disqualifying themselves with embarrassing car wrecks or double-parking.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Columbus mayoral candidate Zeph Baker confirms his campaign had to pay a fine, for not filing a disclosure report on time. Candidates have to file reports at the Election Board office every 90 days - which makes that board tougher than Columbus Council, which only expects a budget proposal once a year.

Zeph Baker told your blog he doesn't know how big the fine was, for missing the deadline for a third-quarter financial disclosure. The city election website doesn't have any of the, uh, "fine details" concerning violations. But I'd guess the price is about the same as driving too slowly on the highway.

Zeph Baker assured me his third-quarter financial disclosure report is now submitted. Trouble is, the election board still hasn't posted it. How are we supposed to know if other Columbus ministers have rallied around his bid for mayor? Am I supposed to park my car outside ten different churches today, to find out for sure?

I actually called Zeph Baker Friday to get his side of another election story. Someone finally sent me one of those "inside" mayoral campaign e-mails that's caused a fuss elsewhere on the web. Did a Baker adviser issue a "do not trust" list of African-American residents who support Teresa Tomlinson? And beyond that, would it be any different than a Republican list of Democratic Party donors?

Zeph Baker says the "do not trust" e-mail did NOT come from his campaign, and was NOT "disseminated to the public." I think that means the "Street Committee" at The Courier didn't get the e-mail in time for its last edition....

Some people are trying to turn the "do not trust" list against Teresa Tomlinson. The e-mail forwarded to me claims Tomlinson campaign manager Tollie Strode never contacted Zeph Baker's campaign about the list, despite Strode's statement otherwise. Then the message uses words such as "Ku Klux Klan" and "demasculation" - so it's no surprise it's from someone with "howling" in her name.

Teresa Tomlinson personally returned our voice mail about this Friday evening, and insisted Tollie Strode did contact Zeph Baker's campaign about the list. She noted it came from Vincent Watkins -- an adviser to Baker's bid who built his campaign website, and also is helping a candidate for judge in Atlanta. The more places to get help with traffic tickets, the better....

But Teresa Tomlinson admitted she didn't want to answer detailed questions about the "do not trust" list. "Call me a nerd," she said -- but she'd rather focus on "more substantive" issues. Take the 35 percent of Columbus's land mass which Tomlinson calls "unused or underutilized." I assured her I was in no position to buy any of it right now.

In fact, Zeph Baker also is more interested in other things besides lists of names. Baker told me he's moving past that, to focus on campaigning in all parts of Columbus. Baker explained when you're in a race, you "never look back." He needs to tell that to some of the Southeastern Conference football players who trash-talk, when they're about to score touchdowns.

Zeph Baker is optimistic about Tuesday's outcome, based on what he called "extremely high numbers" from campaign phone calls. His staff apparently is getting more positive responses than negative ones. I didn't ask Baker if the staff is keeping a separate "do not trust" list, of callers responding with racial slurs.

Teresa Tomlinson says his campaign also has done some telephone polling. But she admitted to me such polls "only show what the people you called think." Tomlinson stopped short of claiming the backers of her opponents are not thinking.

The biggest "October surprise" in this final campaign weekend may involve the Georgia Lieutenant Governor. An ethics complaint filed in Atlanta claims Casey Cagle had an affair with a campaign worker, and paid her $200,000 in campaign money. Cagle and his alleged adulteress call the claim false. But if anyone spots Gloria Allred at the Atlanta airport, please contact us....

We'll have more campaign fun and games Monday, then take our traditional "day of silence" for Election Day. Let's see if anything else is making news in the meantime:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported a squirrel knocked out electric service for 5,000 customers in Phenix City. It saddens me that they've joined with the wrong crowd - stealing copper instead of nuts.

+ Auburn's football team stayed unbeaten by mauling Mississippi 51-31. Perhaps "Ole Miss" needs to adjust that mascot again - to Black and Blue Bears.

+ Florida edged Georgia 34-31 in overtime, in their annual Jacksonville showdown. I'm surprised no company has stepped in to change the nickname of this rivalry. You know, something like "The World's Largest Outdoor Snapple Party."

+ Instant Message to everyone I heard yelling "woo-hoo" from downtown Columbus Saturday night, as I jogged on the Phenix City Riverwalk: You were so loud that I'm assuming you had to be hollering about college football, instead of Halloween.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

30 OCT 10: Our Benediction?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

"A good name is more to be desired than great riches." When a political candidate begins a commercial with those words, it might not seem unusual. But when a candidate points out it's a quote from the Bible, that's different - and it's a reminder we're in the "Bible Belt," not the Washington Beltway.

That verse from Proverbs 22 is mentioned in one of the newest campaign ads by Georgia gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal. It's an ad that comes across like the "closing argument" of a long debate - where the attacks and lampooning stop and the candidates make one last appeal for your vote. Remember my sincere TV face, not the one with critical words plastered across it.

Deal's opponent Roy Barnes has a similar "closer" commercial on TV, where he sits at a desk. If you look carefully, there's a Bible on the desk - and a smaller book on top of it. Could he possibly have a "concealed-carry" weapon hiding in there?

(As it happens, Proverbs 22 also has been quoted by a local candidate in recent days. Theresa Garcia mentioned it to deny rumors that she's been writing the "Truth About Teresa" blog concerning the Columbus Mayor's race. Garcia is running for director of a soil and water conservation board - so obviously she's against all forms of pollution.)

Roy Barnes doesn't quote the Bible like Nathan Deal does - but I imagine somewhere at the "Roy 2010" headquarters, staff members are mocking Deal's reference to Proverbs 22. The Republican nominee is losing his riches to help his family. And they want the Georgia Ethics Commission to check that "good name" stuff, too.

Christian values also have come up in last-minute Congressional ads. Have you seen the Calhoun County farmer who calls Rep. Sanford Bishop a "God-fearing Christian"? Of course, Republicans wish Bishop would remember another verse in Proverbs 22 -- about borrowers becoming "servant to the lender."

Then there's the radio message I heard Friday promoting Congressional challenger Mike Keown. The Baptist minister is endorsed by the "Faith and Freedom Coalition" - a project started by Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed. It gives Sanford Bishop a nine-percent score on ten big issues. That's so low, I'm amazed Bishop hasn't been stripped of his title as a church deacon.

There's another "F-word" on my mind this weekend, besides faith and freedom - one I think candidates and campaigns on all sides need. I read in a Christian magazine today is National Forgiveness Day, culminating an entire month with that theme. If you didn't know this day existed -- well, I forgive you right now for that.

A "Pledge of Forgiveness" associated with this day challenges you "to forgive others, forgive myself, and ask for forgiveness each day." The middle of those three points clearly is the easiest - especially after you've just opened the package of chocolate chip cookies.

The timing of National Forgiveness Day is amazing to me. Wouldn't it be great if the political candidates used this day to forgive their opponents, and seek forgiveness for campaign claims that "bear false witness"? Then simply run the "closing argument" ads until Election Day, and a lot of annoyed TV viewers will be a lot less angry.

But the dilemma with forgiveness is that other people usually want you to go first -- and they want it on their terms, before they return the favor. I heard a pastor say earlier this year you shouldn't forgive someone unless they say, "I repent." That phrase is used about as often in political campaigns as "my opponent is right."

Even the church association where I worship is having a problem with forgiveness right now. Ministers are divided over the association's future direction. Some leaders have been forced to resign, others have left in a huff - and if the group didn't have a doctrine against military service, a few members might be praying for a coup.

So even church organizations could benefit from this National Forgiveness Day. But I want to focus on the candidates, since they're seeking and getting all the attention. Will they commit to forgiving each other, and asking for it themselves -- even if loudmouthed opponents verbally slap you in the face, anyway?

After the ballots are counted and the campaigning ends, candidates often talk "coming together" - as a city, state or nation. But history shows that seldom really happens, as party divisions reemerge. May at least one candidate think deeply about this day, and apply the advice of Jesus: "Forgive and you shall be forgiven." Maybe not until Judgment Day, but someday....

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Friday, October 29, 2010

29 OCT 10: The $6.2 Million Man

Well, well - there was Rep. Sanford Bishop in Columbus Thursday, handing over a giant-sized multimillion dollar check. One big "money bomb" deserves another, I suppose....

But Sanford Bishop's big check was NOT presented in the lobby of WTVM. He presented $6.2 million to the founders of a Columbus health clinic, so it can build a big new building. This probably surprised people for a variety of reasons. Bishop did NOT pay off his bill for a recent medical procedure -- and none of Bishop's relatives seem to work there.

Valley Healthcare Systems plans to expand its services, in a new larger building on Benning Drive. A statement from Rep. Sanford Bishop's office says one new service will be an on-duty pharmacist - an announcement that might have CVS wondering why they built a new store on South Lumpkin Road.

I went to Valley Healthcare's old building on Benning Drive several years ago, to take advantage of free service on "Take Your Loved One to the Doctor Day" [21 Sep 05]. That small clinic was moved to North Lumpkin Road, before the Baker Village Apartments around it were demolished. That clinic also came down, like someone inhaling a lot of second-hand smoke.

While evening newscasts focused on Valley Healthcare's expansion plans, much more obvious sides of the story were completely ignored. For one thing, the $6.2 million check is in the form of federal "stimulus" money. You may have thought the stimulus projects were over. But they seem to be like other stimulating things - such as Cialis, for "when the moment is right."

I checked the White House economic recovery website Thursday night, and found this isn't the first stimulus award for Valley Healthcare. It received about $226,000 last year to add four new jobs - but as of the middle of this year, only the "Centralized Patient Scheduler" and "Medical Biller" had been added. Those aren't necessarily the employees that sick people with low incomes want to see.

Valley Healthcare received a second stimulus grant of about $500,000 last year - and a report on that project indicates it initially was going to include planning for a new Columbus clinic. But it notes: "We requested that funding for the construction project for Columbus be eliminated...." The focus went to a Talbotton clinic - one of the few buildings there not targeted by arsonists lately.

But check the White House recovery map for Columbus carefully, and you'll find no dot showing $6.2 million for a third Valley Healthcare project. And the website doesn't mention this new building gaining approval at all. Did Sanford Bishop hand over a check for money the federal government doesn't.... oh wait. That's how deficit spending works.

Perhaps you also noticed the timing of Rep. Sanford Bishop's handover. It came only five days before Election Day - and if you're in a tight race for re-election, it's a good idea to start the gift-giving well before December.

The statement about the stimulus check for Valley Healthcare was posted on Rep. Sanford Bishop's Congressional website, not his campaign site. But let's be honest -- this is a case of the "power of incumbency." Opponent Mike Keown can't go around handing out six-million dollar checks -- well, not unless the church he pastors has a huge building fund.

Critics might say the big check for Valley Healthcare is an attempt by Sanford Bishop to buy re-election. But what are the outside groups such as American Crossroads doing, with their big TV commercial campaigns? At least Bishop's name will be on the ballot next Tuesday, not theirs....

Speaking of TV commercials: Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Mike Thurmond finally put one on Columbus television Thursday - declaring he'll be "a Senator on our side." Someone needs to tell Thurmond that slogan hasn't helped WRBL moved into first place.

Instant Message to Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle: WHAT attack ads by your opponent? I haven't seen Carol Porter's commercials on television at all. But then again, she IS female - and I don't watch "The View."

E-MAIL UPDATE: Moving on to sports other than politics, a reader makes a prediction about a disgruntled high school football star....

I bet by next Monday we see where Fannin from Harris County has moved to a small pvt.prep school on the back side of the Virginia..Then come fall he appears at play football...

I only make bets on poker nights, and try to avoid using real money when I do it. But my prediction for LaMichael Fanning is a little different: he'll wind up at a junior college in Virginia, hoping to rebuild his football career the way Jasper Sanks did several years ago. Fanning might even see Jarvon Fortson there.

Harris County High School's Athletic Director told the Ledger-Enquirer if LaMichael Fanning wants to come back to the football team now, it's too late. He's missed too many practices this week -- and unless your last name is Favre, that normally means you're off the team.

But LaMichael Fanning told he had a meeting scheduled Thursday with Harris County head coach Tommy Parks to "clear everything up" and "get back on the team." There was no word Thursday night about how that went. Fanning may have been forced to drive to Starr's Mill tonight on his own, for a unique form of "game-time decision."

By the way: how can Harris County High School afford to have a fancy new scoreboard with dreams of a video screen? Kinnett Stadium should be in line for one, thanks to the school district sales tax. But McClung Memorial Stadium still doesn't -- so this could be the big-money media event Mike Keown has been looking for.

And speaking of ESPN's website:

Columbus got a nice little shout-out this week from columnist Pat Forde in his weekly Forde-Yard-Dash:....

We're mentioned right at the end of the column.

Forde wound up staying overnight in Columbus, because Lee County motels were full for the Louisiana State-Auburn game. Now if Forde would kindly use his influence to lobby ESPN to put a major-college bowl game here....

Some more football tops our check of other Thursday news:

+ Fort Benning's Third Brigade horsecollared Columbus State's club team 29-13, in the first-ever Doughboy Classic. From what I saw on TV, Benning looked a lot like a college on game day. Tents were set up for corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola. But I didn't see any soldiers on the sidelines, daring to act as cheerleaders.

+ Hardaway handled Houston County 34-14, to clinch its first high school football playoff berth in 11 years. Do you think the coaches played the Prince song in the locker room, "I'm gonna party like it's 1999"? And did the players laugh at it, for sounding clunky and out-of-date?

+ WLTZ revealed the field at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium is repainted for every home game, with up to 250 gallons of paint. I didn't realize Cam Newton runs so fast that the old paint flies off behind him.

+ Columbus Police told WTVM the Family Dollar store at Veterans Parkway and River Road was robbed - and the crooks even stole money from a ten-year-old child. That's certainly a mean thing to do. And sadly, it might inspire some "trick-or-treaters" to get even on adults this weekend.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: It's our policy to be politics-free on Election Day - so if you have a last-minute comment or concern, send it quickly.)

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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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© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

28 OCT 10: You Dropped a Bomb on Me

Let's see if I have the count correct. Four different groups are running political ads against Sanford Bishop. Two groups are running ads against Mike Keown. And it's enough to make TV viewers run to the bathroom during every commercial break.

In yet another sign that Rep. Sanford Bishop is in a close re-election race, the conservative group American Crossroads began running ads against him Wednesday night. That's the political action committee created by Karl Rove. You may think he's egotistical - but remember, he could have named this pre-Republican committee Red Rover.

The anti-Bishop commercial is part of a six-million dollar nationwide media blitz by American Crossroads. In political language, a media buy that large is called a "money bomb." At the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, that phrase probably applies to base realignment.

CBS News reports the American Crossroads blitz is focusing mostly on U.S. Senate races. But if that group spent time to prepare a "money bomb" commercial opposing veteran House member Sanford Bishop, that seems like a bit more than collateral damage.

The American Crossroads commercial predictably tries to connect Sanford Bishop with President Obama, saying he voted for the "failed stimulus bill" in a time of high unemployment. Karl Rove clearly haven't seen our new bike trail across Columbus - so long that you have to labor to go from one end to the other.

The American Crossroads ad focuses on federal spending. But it stops short of doing what other commercials have done, and does NOT mention Sanford Bishop's "financial aid" for his relatives. Perhaps that's understandable - since Karl Rove served a President who had help from a Presidential Dad.

The "Americans for Tax Reform" already were running a TV commercial against Sanford Bishop. It wasn't posted online Wednesday night, to refresh my memory about exactly what it says. I guess that means my memory is growing as blurry as.... oh wait, that's another group's attack ad.

But the Americans for Tax Reform have become an indirect target, in attack ads against Congressional challenger Mike Keown. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee claims an A.T.R. pledge signed by Keown could send thousands of jobs to China and India. As we all know, it's far better for West Point to steal automotive jobs from South Korea....

ABC News did a fact check of the national commercial campaign Wednesday night, and concluded the accusation about the "taxpayer protection pledge" is false. But it's part of an even larger money bomb - $21 million by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Maybe it's time to reword the national anthem to mention "the bombs bursting ON air."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's website shows only one "targeted race" in Georgia - and it happens to be the one with Sanford Bishop. Mike Keown's campaign clearly has made the Democrats nervous. Not nervous enough to bring in President Obama for an inspection of Fort Benning, but nervous....

Throw in negative ads by the National Republican Campaign Committee against the incumbent, and I'm almost left wondering why the Sanford Bishop and Mike Keown campaigns bother to run commercials at all. They could save their money for something far more useful - but I suppose only the Democrat would spend money to hire more staff members.

All the outside money in a tightly-contested race is providing a windfall for Columbus TV stations. But is it a good thing for organizations based in Washington to enter a local campaign in this way? After all, pro hockey leagues officially outlawed bench-clearing during fights years ago....

If negative ads have you disgusted with all the candidates, the Georgia Christian Coalition may agree with you. It announced Wednesday there will be NO Georgia "Voter Guide" in churches this weekend, because it opposes the positions of all the candidates for Governor. Of course, the Coalition's REAL candidate isn't running - unless Jesus comes again next week.

Lest we forget Alabama: a lawsuit was filed Wednesday claiming Robert Bentley should be disqualified from the Governor's race. Jimmy Blake told Raycom Media Bentley never disclosed "in-kind contributions" from the Alabama Education Association -- so he wants a judge to do something unkind, and stop next week's vote completely.

That's probably more than enough politics for one day. Let's see what else made news Wednesday....

+ Columbus tied another record, with a high temperature of 89 degrees F. The morning low was the highest on record, at 75. Clearly this is a case of "cause and effect" - with hot air from all the candidates producing the warming trend.

+ Columbus Police reported a woman was arrested for dancing "completely nude" at the Carousel Lounge on Victory Drive. In other words, she was topless - and she'd better not try to explain that it's (ahem) Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

+ Columbus city officials revealed more details about the fate of former Assistant Parks Director Cammie Currie. The move to the Civic Center is considered a demotion, with a $6,200 pay cut. But that's OK - it means more money for the Georgia Blazers, as basketball season starts.

+ WTVM reported Harris County football star LaMichael Fanning has quit the team, after being suspended last weekend. Fanning is rated among the top ten high school defensive tackles in the country, and has verbally committed to playing college ball at Alabama. Now I fear Nick Saban will verbally tell him to get lost.

+ The Atlanta Hawks opened their new season by mashing Memphis 119-104. Larry Drew won his first game as the Hawks' coach - but we don't know if he Drew-up plays at the sideline during timeouts.

+ Instant Message to WTVM: I noticed Colonial Bancshares was unchanged AGAIN, in Wednesday night's stock listings. Considering BB&T took over Colonial 14 months ago, maybe the change should come from your side.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

27 OCT 10: Barnes-Storming

Tuesday was the Democrats' turn to hold campaign rallies in Columbus -- but the Republicans may have wound up gloating. The G.O.P. tour bus seemed to run well when it came to town Monday. The top Democrat's school bus was in the shop for repairs - a bus which probably was built with union labor.

Roy Barnes made it on time to Columbus Technical College for his campaign rally - and he timed it perfectly for a live interview during the 6:00 p.m. news. WRBL asked Barnes about his "Make Georgia Work" tour. But the reporter also dared to ask why his big prop didn't work....

Roy Barnes explained he arrived in Columbus by pickup truck because his yellow school bus sprang a leak during Monday's rain, and "made a terrible noise." He stopped short of comparing that noise to Nathan Deal's campaign commercials.

(We should note there are conflicting reports on Barnes's mode of transportation. WLTZ's "11 at 11" claimed the candidate rolled up in his yellow school bus - even though the video showed him climbing out of a black pickup. Black and yellow ought to look different in high-definition.)

Despite the change of transportation, Roy Barnes turned around and made a campaign promise about school buses. He told supporters he wants all Georgia school buses to have air conditioning. I'm not sure when that became a more urgent accessory than seat belts.

Yet is this a good sign for a gubernatorial candidate -- to have his school bus break down seven days before Election Day? Shouldn't someone with the political experience of Roy Barnes have a backup school bus ready for moments like this?

Oh yes - Roy Barnes would want me to talk about his big campaign issues. He says Georgia can put more people to work by giving Georgia companies first preference in the bidding process. If Barnes lived in Phenix City, at least one member of the City Council might call that nepotism.

Roy Barnes dismissed as "ridiculous" the claim by Nathan Deal that the "Roy 2010" campaign was first to turn the gubernatorial race negative. Has Barnes forgotten those commercials from August, where someone was looking for Deal's hidden tax returns in a basement? Or did he already apologize for that ad, the way he's supposedly apologized for everything else?

WXTX mentioned one poll Tuesday night, showing Nathan Deal ahead of Roy Barnes in the Georgia Governor's race by six percentage points. This admittedly is surprising to me, since Deal hasn't pulled out the last-minute secret weapon which worked so well for Sonny Perdue - a 2001 version of the state flag.

I watched the TV coverage of Roy Barnes's Columbus rally carefully - but I saw no sign of any mayoral candidates there. Teresa Tomlinson's critics probably will say she coordinated the timing of Barnes's visit, so he showed up during a Columbus Council meeting.

Local Democratic leaders actually had two events to attend Tuesday. The Ledger-Enquirer reported several officials gathered earlier in the day to endorse Rep. Sanford Bishop for re-election. It's a lot easier for state lawmakers such as Debbie Buckner and Calvin Smyre to do that when they're unopposed next week.

As for the mayoral candidates, they held yet another forum Tuesday on WFXE-FM "Foxie 105." Wayne Anthony and Teresa Tomlinson agreed for a change, as both opposed giving subpoena power to the Public Safety Advisory Commission. Zeph Baker sounded like the only candidate who actually would try to find that commission, and see what it's been doing.

Mike Gaymon of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce hoped to have the mayoral candidates on WDAK's "Viewpoint" one more time before Election Day, but that dream now appears to be lost. Gaymon didn't even provide equal time Tuesday for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Thurmond to respond to Johnny Isakson. But then again, Gaymon may have bigger things on his mind right now....

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: It's not easy to be a traffic reporter, when you only post one blog entry a day. This reached us Tuesday morning...

Hi Richard

The reappearing sink hole has gotten large this morning in front of Shoney's on the infamous Phenix City Bypass- the access road has been closed due to this sinking situation.

Gasp -- now this is potential trouble! I recalled the sinkhole that overwhelmed almost the entire Shoney's parking lot in 1999. It swallowed former Mayor Jane Gullatt's car, while she was inside eating lunch. Did some customer go through the breakfast buffet five times Tuesday, then try to do jumping jacks to work it off?

I grabbed my blog camera and raced to the scene ran a couple of errands -- then drove to Phenix City to see how bad things are. I suppose this earns me the title "sinkhole chaser." Except you don't have to chase a sinkhole -- it simply sits there....

Here's what I found during the noon hour near U.S. 280 and Sportsman Drive. Yes, part of the north access road was blocked off. But the hole is east of Shoney's, away from the parking lot - and certainly not large enough to swallow a car. The restaurant was open for lunch. And hundreds of Phenix City residents' plans for Thanksgiving are safe - for now.

Yet I found something online Tuesday which puts this hole to shame even more. Tifton, Georgia saw its own sinkhole develop in a Shoney's parking lot several years ago. It still isn't repaired - and that hole now has its own Facebook page with more than 1,000 friends. Maybe this is a rivalry waiting to happen. Or maybe Shoney's should explain who came up with this strange publicity idea.

I guess I can hype this as our BLOG EXCLUSIVE of the day, since the big newsrooms ignored it. Let's see what else they followed Tuesday....

+ Columbus had a record-high temperature of 88 degrees F. My car owner's manual recommends I run the air conditioner ten minutes a week "during the off-season" - but what do you do when there's NO off-season?

+ A Muscogee County grand jury decided NOT to indict controversial former Columbus Fire/EMT employee Zach Allen on rape charges. The alleged crime occurred in 2007 - so why did this case take so long to reach this stage? Was Ken Hodges too busy running for Georgia Attorney General?

(The son of Columbus Councilor Gary Allen still faces drunk driving charges from 2008. Come to think of it, Allen raised his hand at last weekend's prayer rally when a minister asked for people who "know a drug addict" - and police standing at the side did NOT come over to take names later.)

+ Columbus Police told WTVM five people were arrested on charges of printing counterfeit 20-dollar bills at the Days Inn on Macon Road. This is what happens when travel websites refuse to post our city's motel rates....

+ Columbus Council held its final meeting before Election Day. Mayor Jim Wetherington issued a proclamation declaring "Nation of Islam Muhammad Mosque #96 Day" in Columbus. You can get away with that in Columbus, when you're less than three months from leaving office.

(Talk about throwing a potential time bomb into the mayor's race! Where do the candidates stand on this? Do they support special honors for Muslim congregations -- especially in a "Bible Belt" city next to Fort Benning? Will anyone dare bring it up, and risk having Bill O'Reilly call for a boycott?)

+ Fort Benning held an "uncasing" ceremony for the Third Brigade's colors, formally concluding the latest deployment to Iraq. I guess I should start doing something like this, when I come home from vacation. In fact, some men in Atlanta already beat me to the idea....

+ Instant Message to whomever named Thursday's football game between the Third Brigade and Columbus State University's club team the "Doughboy Classic": Yes, I know - it's the stadium name. It's the Army tradition. But we ARE in 2010. Someone's bound to make a wisecrack about the linemen taking jobs at Pillsbury....

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

26 OCT 10: Bus Lines

And down the stretch they come - candidates racing to be seen everywhere they can, with only one week remaining before Election Day. If you have some chores to do around the house this week, try calling a few campaign headquarters.

Georgia Republicans brought their slate of state and Congressional candidates to Columbus Monday. They arrived at Lakebottom Park by bus for a rally. You could tell right away the economy is still weak - since candidates in the past have held last-minute "fly-arounds" at airports.

The Georgia Republican tour is led by Senator Johnny Isakson - although he probably doesn't need to be part of this tour. You know a candidate is a shoo-in for re-election when the Democrats haven't even bothered to find any dirt about you.

But that's certainly not the case with other Republican candidates in Georgia. Attorney General nominee Sam Olens is the target of an unusual Democratic Party website which declares him a "big government liberal" - and even has a picture of a donkey. Are they trying to defeat Olens, or persuade him to switch parties?

(Monday's media coverage from Lakebottom Park didn't show any Columbus civil rights leaders rooting on Olens. I thought they might show up, since they're so opposed to Democrat Ken Hodges. I can't believe the presence of a Republican "posse" would scare them away.)

Coming into 2010, the main concern for Georgia Republicans was keeping the Governor's mansion. Nathan Deal was part of Monday's bus tour. But have you noticed Republican incumbent Sonny Perdue practically has been out of sight? Where's the ceremonial passing of the "Sonny Do" list?

Nathan Deal dismissed accusations in a Roy Barnes "attack ad" that he tried to gut Georgia's rape shield law. Deal noted he has three adult daughters and four granddaughters. That's nice - but Brett Favre has a wife and two daughters, and look at what he's been facing lately.

Nathan Deal called the rape shield accusations a "distraction" from the main issues in the Georgia Governor's race. But then he turned around and said Roy Barnes was part of a Georgia Bar Association panel which proposed the rape shield changes in the first place. What we all could use right now is a shield from mudslinging....

But here's what puzzles me about Monday's rally. If the Republicans gathered at Lakebottom Park, why did I find G.O.P. "door hangers" on the sidewalk hours later near the new South Commons ice rink? The last big event I recall there was Sunday's Arthritis Walk - and I don't recall Nathan Deal and Johnny Isakson promising to find a cure for that.

WRBL spotted two candidates for Columbus Mayor at the Republican rally - Wayne Anthony and Paul Olson. Don't you wonder if both men went up to Nathan Deal, and tried to impress him by saying they switched parties first?

While the Georgia Republican Party bus tour rolls on, the Democrat running for Governor brings his own bus to Columbus today. Roy Barnes is going around the state in a yellow school bus - which admittedly seems hard to believe. A "trial lawyer" like Barnes ought to realize those buses are unsafe without seat belts.

Roy Barnes is scheduled to appear at a dinner-hour rally at Columbus Technical College. I haven't heard whether any other Democratic candidates are traveling with him -- or whether Teresa Tomlinson will campaign on the other side of Columbus, to prove once and for all how nonpartisan she is.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: One Muscogee County School Board candidate apparently continues to have problems with social media....

I came upon Mark Cantrell's Facebook page last night and saw that he had down loaded a multitude of pictures of "old Columbus" scenes.

Every one of the pics were downloaded from a web site named Gone and Almost Forgotten Georgia [29 Dec 06] which is owned Janice Page.

When I commented on his (Cantrell) page and asked if Jan knew he had downloaded the pics, he immediately shut down his Facebook page.

Basil Woodard

The page wasn't exactly shut down when I checked it Monday night. It's now locked for "friends only." And the way things are going, he might be too busy to accept new friends until late next week.

I noticed Mark Cantrell changed his Facebook campaign page, after we mentioned several grammatical errors in his biography [12 Oct]. I only discovered Monday night that his school board opponent has a separate Facebook campaign page. Brenda Storey lists so many Christian-oriented interests and activities, it's a wonder she doesn't promote home schooling.

Another reader is stuck on car stickers:


You mentioned "PC" in your latest, but you didn't mention "personal computer". I think you need to correct your correction!

Of course, if you publish this email, you might have to give equal time to the Mac crowd. ;->


John D Carmack

Well, OK -- but why would someone put "PC" on a car to promote which computer they own? In Columbus, police might think they've found a distracted driver with a laptop in the passenger's seat.

With a pre-emptive apology to fans of golf champion Paula Creamer, let's see what else made news Monday....

+ A line of thunderstorms dropped nearly an inch of much-needed rain on Columbus. I'm a little surprised the puddles didn't have a silver tint -- as dust washed off so many cars and umbrellas.

+ Richard Hyatt's website reported Cammie Currie has escaped firing, and taken a sidestep away from the Parks and Recreation Department. The former assistant to Tony Adams now works at the Columbus Civic Center -- where someone with the initials C.C. certainly should feel more comfortable.

+ Columbus Police reported a teenager was found walking in his underwear at the Eagle Trace Apartments. The teen claimed robbers stole almost all his clothes. Did police happen to ask if the teenager made a bet on the Auburn football game?

+ The Chattahoochee Valley Library System began a three-day system upgrade. No books or recordings can be checked out until Thursday. Yet for some reason, Books-A-Million is NOT taking advantage of this by holding a half-price sale.

+ WTVM reported Auburn University students rolled Toomer's Corner TWICE over the weekend - first after the Tigers beat Louisiana State, then again Sunday night to celebrate the top Bowl Championship Series ranking. Imagine how messy things could become if the volleyball team gets hot.

+ Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart spoke to the Columbus Quarterback Club. Smart told WTVM his players have to improve in stopping the run, tackling and stopping the pass. About the only area Smart did NOT mention for improvement is grade point averages.

+ Instant Message to whomever is spreading rumors about the Columbus USO office: Enough already! The man called me from Washington to deny his granddaughter is on the payroll. He says she only volunteers there a few hours a week. And as for the other stuff.... well, there's a difference between a humor blog and "The Smoking Gun."

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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: 935 (+ 14, 1.5%)

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, October 25, 2010

25 OCT 10: Tag, You're Not It

The Saturday night run was magnificent - 3.7 miles, my longest non-stop run since the opening weekend of 2009. Part of it took me down Broadway, where I hope I didn't spill sweat drops on any of the couples drinking beer on the sidewalk.

After the run was over, I drove to pick up dinner. But only a few blocks from home, I had a big surprise. Blue lights of a Columbus Police car suddenly flashed behind me. I thought I was carrying corn on the cob, not crack cocaine....

I pulled to the side of Veterans Parkway as soon as the blue lights came on. "I have no idea what I did wrong," I said to myself. For instance, I was within the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit. Did a taillight go out on my humble Honda - joining the cassette player and the odometer?

I pulled out my driver's license and insurance card, and rolled down both side windows a bit. The last time a law officer pulled me over was on Interstate 40 in western Arkansas [30 May 05], and the state trooper went to the passenger's side to avoid passing traffic. This Columbus Police officer apparently was thinner.

"That won't be necessary, sir," the officer said as I reached my identification out the window. Uh-oh - maybe he already knew I was that blogging guy asking questions about the mayor and his alleged godson....

"My Taginator misread your license plate as a W, instead of an M," the officer explained. That certainly can make a big difference -- as big a difference as waking up or making up with the one you love.

"A Taginator? I've never heard of that," I said in response. The police officer didn't explain what it was. Perhaps new officers have to learn how to hold it right side up?!

Obviously a Taginator had to be something which reads license plates - but what, exactly? An online search Sunday didn't help me at all. Taginator is a registered trademark - but for a graffiti removal product. I know my car needs washing, but it doesn't look THAT bad.

All I can guess is that "Taginator" is police slang for something which compares license plates with a law enforcement database. Apparently someone with a tag number close to mine is wanted for some reason. But the officer didn't hint at what it might be. I played "don't ask, don't tell" with him, presuming that's the latest guidance from federal courts.

One thing which might have confused the Taginator is the fact that my car is so old, it still has a six-character license plate. Newer tags in Georgia have moved on to seven characters. And sometimes I think the people with mysterious "vanity" plates might be the strangest characters of all.

-> Thursday night marked a milestone for us, when it comes to Columbus poker. Follow how we're doing at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: While I'm free and clear in the eyes of police, a reader is pointing the finger over something I wrote Sunday....

Richard…the crack about "special treatment at Howard Johnson's"…in reference to the Heath Jackson stickers…really? You're better than that. Come on!

Ed Bostic

Boomer 95.3

Well, OK -- I did have an internal debate over that one. But some of the sticker abbreviations on cars can leave you taking guesses about their meaning. A "PC" sticker can refer to Phenix City, Panama City, the Progressive Conservative party in Canada - or even a reminder for all National Public Radio employees.

With apologies to all who might have been offended, let's see if we can do better with Sunday's news:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported nine leaders of Columbus nonprofit organizations have six-figure salaries. It turns out Muscogee County School Board member Cathy Williams earns more from NeighborWorks Columbus than Teresa Tomlinson did at MidTown Inc. Adele Lindsey will be sitting by her phone today, for an endorsement from Wayne Anthony.

+ The "Truth About Teresa" campaign blog came back from days of a "reboot," claiming the Ledger-Enquirer's review of nonprofit pay missed the point. It contends Teresa Tomlinson promised to take no salary from MidTown Inc. at all, then did so in 2008. So which candidate for mayor will be the first to make that same promise - to pour that salary into that new natatorium?

+ Wachovia Bank signs disappeared across Columbus. All Georgia branches officially become part of the merged Wells Fargo today - and I hope they've moved beyond using that stagecoach to transfer funds.

+ The annual fund-raising Arthritis Walk took place in South Commons. WTVM showed signs reminding us that even dogs can develop arthritis. They might not see the same commercials for Arthritis Pain Formula on Animal Planet, but still....

+ A White County, Georgia couple reported finding a small buffalo in their swimming pool. Aw, c'mon - how can there be buffalo on the loose in Georgia? Did one escape from Ted Turner's backyard?

+ Auburn jumped to number one in the Bowl Championship Series rankings. Given what's happened to top-ranked teams the last three weekends, the University of Mississippi probably will hire extra field security for next Saturday's game.

+ The Atlanta Falcons gave up a big lead in the third quarter, then rallied to sink Cincinnati 39-32. The Falcons won despite Cincinnati's two famous receivers. Chad Ochocinco now has his own breakfast cereal - while Terrell Owens must have been the inventor of the time out.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Cottonmouths: I'm not sure what you mean by "hockey with a new attitude." But after being outscored 10-3 on opening weekend, maybe it's time to review the old one.

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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: 921 (+ 13, 1.4%)

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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Sunday, October 24, 2010

24 OCT 10: Men's Morning Out

"My stomach was in knots," the man told me Saturday morning. Now what would you guess brought this on? An upcoming wedding? A big college football bet? Or had a local candidate finally realized he'd made a big campaign mistake - by daring to criticize Mayor Jim Wetherington?

The answer was none of the above. Charles Lawhon was describing his emotions five minutes the start of his big Saturday event - a men's prayer rally at Lakebottom Park. After weeks of promotion, Lawhon didn't see many men gathered around. But he didn't have to worry - plenty of guys showed up at the last minute, after sleeping in as long as possible.

About 80 men eventually gathered at the Lakebottom Park bandshell for an hour of prayer focusing on various Columbus needs. Even a few women showed up - which was OK, because no one brought up that mess at Midland Middle School....

Charles Lawhon first told me about his vision for this men's prayer event in August. He said God gave him a vision of men standing around the Lakebottom Park football field. That didn't quite happen Saturday - so perhaps city schedulers put football "Pee Wees" before praying people.

But the bandshell worked well for music by Columbus worship leader Jonathan Moore. His wife Lisa usually sings with him, but she was absent for some reason. I can't imagine a doorbuster sale at Kohl's would be that much more compelling....

One of Charles Lawhon's announcements promoting "A Call to Prayer" promised NO politicians would speak. That turned out to be true Saturday, even though a few elected officials and candidates on hand. Several local ministers led the group in prayers - but hmmmm, the two ministers running for mayor were noticeably absent.

Mayor Wetherington, Police Chief Ricky Boren and Councilor Gary Allen were among those praying at Lakebottom Park. At one point, all the men were asked to place their hands on the local leaders to "pray over them." But don't worry -- about five police officers stood off to the side, ready to intervene.

(Yes, that picture looks like someone put his hand right on the police chief's face. A few civil rights activists missed the opportunity of a lifetime here....)

The man who led the prayer for elected officials noted an election for Columbus's next mayor is approaching. "You've already chosen him for that office," he prayed in faith. Him?! Uh-oh - Teresa Tomlinson could be in a little trouble.

At my regular worship service later in the day, a man asked about the racial mix at A Call to Prayer. It appeared the crowd was about two-thirds Caucasian. But an African-American minister described it as a "rainbow" of people - and he did NOT poll the crowd about their sexual orientation.

The hour of prayer admittedly had a few challenging moments for me. One prayer asked for forgiveness upon criminals - but I've heard one local pastor say criminals will scoff at you for forgiving them if they haven't repented. Not to mention have their attorneys say nothing wrong happened in the first place....

Another man asked the group to "pray crime down." I hope I heard him right -- about praying it down IN Columbus, not ON it.

A Call to Prayer had an emotional ending, when Brian Hite of WBOJ-FM "88.5 the Truth" was asked to speak. Hite noted Heath Jackson was murdered only a few blocks from Lakebottom Park in September. And he offered "HJ" stickers for anyone interested in paying tribute to him. Who knows - it might get you special treatment at Howard Johnson's.

I've never been to a Promise Keepers rally, so I can't compare Saturday's prayer event for men with that. But the praying seemed more emotional than I've felt at National Day of Prayer programs. Perhaps that's because Charles Lawhon attends an Assembly of God, while Baptists organize the National Day of Prayer event in Phenix City. Some Baptists might even have stopped Jonathon Moore's guitar....

I went to Lakebottom Park primarily to pray on a Sabbath morning -- so I didn't take a camera or recorder. The pictures and video from A Call to Prayer are NOT my own. If something more humorous in the news had occurred this weekend, I might have focused on that -- but sadly, the Kansas football team keeps losing.

Now that I feel "prayed up," let's get caught up on other weekend news:

+ Nancy Boren with the Muscogee County Election Board predicted to WRBL there's a "99 percent chance" of a runoff vote at the end of November. Isn't that news we've all been waiting to hear - four more weeks of attack ads?!

+ Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr showed off patrol cars which have been converted to run on "propane autogas." The conversion costs $6,000 per car - and it's paid for by the "streets and safety" sales tax. Did you realize your public safety money was going for this? Instead of "boys in blue," some of it is burning bright green.

+ Port Columbus hosted the "Southern Pirate Festival." What does a Southern pirate sing? "Yee-haw-haw and a bottle of Jack Daniels."

+ WTVM covered the grand opening of the new Outside World store on Broadway. The owners picked a perfect time to open this - as some SOA Watch protesters will prefer sleeping bags and tents to staying in nice motels.

+ WRBL showed a rerun of "Two-and-a-Half Men" Saturday at 11:00 p.m. So for now, the return of weekend news is on Sundays only - and if the managers drop the 11:00 Friday night news, we'll know the station now is run by Seventh-Day Adventists.

+ Auburn remained undefeated in college football by lathering Louisiana State 24-17. Cam Newton is now the second Southeastern Conference quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season - and somewhere in Denver, Tim Tebow is claiming he taught Newton everything he knows.

+ Georgia conquered Kentucky 44-31. The Bulldogs suddenly are within a half-game of the S.E.C. East lead -- and the scheduling of that Idaho State game in November to assure a winning record looks brilliant.

+ Instant Message to Major League Baseball: Talk about a perfect World Series match-up for this election year! It's George W. Bush's old team versus Pelosi-Ville.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: Who or what is a "Taginator?" I had a close encounter with one....

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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: 908 (+ 42, 4.8%)

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, October 22, 2010

22 OCT 10: Why Me? Why Now?

The weather forecast at 12:00 noon Thursday was calm and peaceful - what I've heard someone this week call a "nice fall-like day." Except we've been IN the season of fall for a month....

But then WTVM's Bruce Lee had to spoil things for me. A new tropical storm had formed in the Caribbean, which is likely to become a hurricane -- and he seemed to emphasize its name: "RICHARD." Broadcasting simply isn't supposed to single me out like this.

If that wasn't enough, Bruce Lee warned Tropical Storm Richard could build into a hurricane this weekend. Now hold on here! I've never even drunk a Hurricane, so how could I be declared one?

I'd forgotten Richard was on the list of Atlantic tropical storm names for this year. And besides, R is so far down in the alphabet that the odds are against the formation of Tropical Storm Richard. It also works against getting calls from the single women who list male friends on their Blackberries.

Admittedly there have been moments in my life when I've acted a bit like a hurricane. Take the day I stormed into a Kansas City news conference and slammed a microphone on the speaker's stand, scattering several others. I don't remember why I was enraged or what the news conference was about - but 30 years later, I hereby finally apologize to all the reporters I upset that day.

(Considering the times I whined when my older brother beat me at Monopoly, he'd probably say I'm more like a storm siren than an actual storm.)

But I seldom drive as fast as a hurricane-force wind, which is 74 miles per hour. If it happens, it's either because I'm not paying close attention on the highway - or the speedometer on my 16-year-old car is back on "intermittent."

In any case, it's too late for me to file an appeal with the National Weather Service to change the name of this tropical storm. I'll simply have to deal with this storm named Richard, and the side effects it will have on me - such as plenty of hot air from friends making fun of my name.

A few factors are working in my favor with this storm. While it's forecast to build into Hurricane Richard, it appears on track to hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula first. If all the Mexicans would please "Spanish-ize" this storm and call it Ricardo, it won't sting quite as much.

The long-range forecast also calls for the storm to weaken over Mexico, and diminish to a tropical depression by Tuesday evening. Tropical depressions officially do NOT have names - which is weird, because I'd be more depressed if a storm named Richard stayed strong and caused a lot of damage.

But it's too early for forecasters to, uh, forecast what will happen if this storm system reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Since part of Columbus is in a moderate drought right now, rain from a tropical system would be welcome. So I hope Richard remains on the modest side - well, both the storm and myself.

By the way, I double-checked the hurricane prediction by those "experts" in Colorado Thursday night. Their latest update called for 18 named Atlantic storms this season - and Richard is number 17. They predicted ten hurricanes, and Richard would be number ten. It's almost as if the scientists paid someone to fly over the Caribbean and dump growth hormones on clouds.

-> Thursday night marked a milestone for us, when it comes to Columbus poker. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: We focused Thursday on the Georgia ballot questions. But a reader in metro Atlanta indicates we came up with a wrong answer to one of them....

Good morning,

I hope you are well. I work for Taxpayers for Energy Efficiency, a group running the educational campaign on Amendment 4.

Amendment 4 works differently than Amendment 3--which is a pay as you go structure. Amendment 4 places the financial burden on the energy companies doing the retrofitting, and they are only paid out of direct savings on the state's utility bills. There is no additional cost to the taxpayer--and we can't dip into the state budget for more funds. If the work performs well--the contract gets paid, hence performance contracting.

We would love the opportunity to work with you on a story on Amendment 4. I've attached today's press release on this Amendment and an op-ed that appeared in the AJC by Clark Howard.

Thanks so much and have a great day!


Rebecca DeHart

Steel Cut Strategies, LLC

The financial burden may be on energy companies, with vendors guaranteeing payments. But the ballot summary prepared by state officials says Amendment Three "authorizes.... state governmental entities to incur debt" in energy efficiency contracts. Will alternative energy companies stay in business long-term? Or will they evaporate, the way solar panel makers did 30 years ago?

Meanwhile, WTVM made Amendment Two a top story Thursday night. Reporter Curtis McCloud was live outside St. Francis Hospital, calling it a "trauma center" -- except it's really only an emergency room, while The Medical Center is a state-designated trauma center. The next "trauma" may come when Columbus Regional calls the newsroom to point that out.

We'll take a break from the local election activities today, and check other Thursday items....

+ The Columbus Black and Minority Chamber of Commerce announced new officers, including two Caucasian subcommittee chairs. Does this confirm Columbus has no "majority race" nowadays? Or is someone going to accuse the mayor of using the new police officers to shut down African-American business owners?

+ Columbus Police reported a man bit a police officer on the arm three times, during a traffic stop on Cusseta Road. This should prove once and for all how much Cusseta Road needs restaurants.

+ Richard Hyatt's website spotted former Georgia House member Charles Thomas at the Columbus driver's license office -- only Thomas was working there, as part of a prison sentence. Alabama legislators should pay attention to this. Take too much money from gambling lobbyists, and you could trade playing cards for identification cards.

+ Phenix City officials held a public forum on plans to repave and stripe Summerville Road. I think a few extra stripes should be painted on that winding road - to create lanes for "X Games" events such as downhill skateboard racing.

+ Troup County trounced Shaw 26-7 in high school football, as Charles Flowers beat the team he used to coach. Flowers told WRBL his team knew about the connection, and trained extra-hard this week. Of course, all Flowers had to do was show off a state championship ring....

+ Carver remained unbeaten by crushing Kendrick 47-0. The game indicated Carver Coach Dell McGee may have learned something from his early-season critics -- as star running back Isaiah Crowell never played a down.

+ Instant Message to all Columbus gas stations which increased prices ten cents a gallon this week: Really now - you cannot convince me your gasoline is refined in France.

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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: 866 (+ 21, 2.5%)

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, October 21, 2010

21 OCT 10: Six Questions, One Percent

With so many candidates and so many commercials on both sides of the state line, it's easy to ignore other important election issues. For instance: which candidate for Columbus Mayor will be the first to act on that controversial audit - and pledge to build shuffleboard courts at senior centers?

Blog readers actually have other issues on their mind, and they're e-mailing us about it. We heard first from a candidate for Georgia State Senate, who amazingly did NOT want a free plug for his campaign:

Richard, Dick & Richard,

I am writing all of you as proprietors of websites that are viewed by a lot of people in our area. I am hoping you would be willing to do a post on the Constitutional Amendments and the Statewide Ballot Question on this year's ballot. An alarming number of voters have no idea these are on the ballots and a number of "early voters" have expressed surprise and concern to me that they got into the booth, voted and then found all of these items which they did not know anything about and had to abstain from voting or vote "no" on everything in some cases.

I would be glad to send each of you a description of each question that I think more fairly covers it without taking a position of "Yes" or "No" on each.

Let me know if you are interested and I will send it on. If any of you have thoughts on how we can get this in front of more people please let me know.



Before you get wrong ideas -- I believe Josh McKoon also sent this e-mail to Dick McMichael and Richard Hyatt. It does NOT mean I have multiple personality disorder.

Columbus city government wants you to know about these five amendments and one "ballot question." There's a link on the city website to a ten-page summary of the issues, prepared by Georgia state officials. The Democratic Attorney General and Republican Secretary of State worked together on this -- showing there may be hope for consensus after all.

Amendment One would allow Georgia courts to enforce contracts which could wind up "encouraging a monopoly," or wind up "defeating or lessening competition." So if you want to play Monopoly at Burger King as well as McDonald's, it might lose on appeal.

But look at the way Amendment One is worded on the ballot: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?" Well, who said this makes the state more economically competitive? Economists can't even agree on whether we're out of a recession.

An Athens newspaper doesn't seem to like that wording, either. An editorial in the Banner-Herald describes Amendment One as "a cynical attempt to manipulate the results...." It's a bit like putting Roy Barnes's job creation count next to his name on the ballot for Governor.

Amendment Two has received the most attention during the campaign season. You may have seen TV commercials promoting this plan to create a "trauma trust fund," and pay for 14 more trauma care hospitals. Right now there are none between Columbus and Thomasville - proving Phoebe Putney in Albany doesn't have as much clout as its critics say.

Columbus Regional is listed as a supporter of this proposal. The Medical Center is a pediatric trauma care center - so Amendment Two could mean two steps up the ladder.

Supporters of Amendment Two are honest enough to admit how the trauma trust fund would be funded - with a ten-dollar increase in car registration fees. When the ballot question refers to "certain passenger motor vehicles," be certain it applies to you.

Georgia Amendment Three involves state road construction contracts. The Department of Transportation could sign multi-year agreements, while only budgeting for one year at a time. But the way the state budget has looked lately, Georgia might risk leading the country in "roads to nowhere."

Amendment Four would do the same sort of thing in long-term state contracts involving energy conservation. While the question says this will provide for "guaranteed cost savings," the fine print shows state agencies could incur debt. So "going green" could send Georgia deeper into the red.

Amendment Five seems simple enough: can owners of "real property" in industrial areas be allowed to remove the property from that area? It's about time we allowed mobile homes to be truly mobile....

But the summary by Georgia state officials reveals Amendment Five only applies to Chatham and Jeff Davis Counties. So the Columbus Chamber of Commerce might encourage a "No" vote, to give us a sales point over Savannah.

There's also a "ballot question" for Georgia voters. It proposes to exempt "inventory of a business" from state ad valorem taxes. I don't mind this, if it means department stores bring back those semiannual inventory sales....

Another reader is interested in a proposal which isn't on a ballot, but could be on voters' minds right now - federal taxes:

Thsi spells trouble for the working people

This "Debt Free America Act" claims we can wipe out the national debt and end individual income taxes in seven years, simply by adding a one-percent fee on all financial transactions -- from buying a soda to selling stock. If that's really possible, let's add another one percent and conquer Afghanistan once and for all.

The Debt Free America Act was proposed this year by a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania -- but a campaign aide to Rep. Sanford Bishop didn't seem thrilled about it Wednesday. Travis Worl brought up the word e-mailers absolutely never want to hear: Snopes.

While the Debt Free America Act is real, it never moved out of any House committees this year. And a Snopes check shows it's been proposed constantly since 2004, with no success - which seems to make it the Democratic Party's answer to the "FAIR Tax."

We called the Mike Keown campaign Wednesday for a comment on the Debt Free America Act, but our message was not returned. The staff obviously is busy with another idea - the "Free Georgia of Bishop" Act.

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

BLOG UPDATE: Wayne Anthony is turning up the pressure in the Columbus Mayor's race. Richard Hyatt's website reports Anthony now wants Teresa Tomlinson to release a list of every financial transaction involving MidTown Inc. I think the strategy is to keep Tomlinson so busy looking for papers that she has no time to campaign.

A statement from the Wayne Anthony campaign claims Teresa Tomlinson is guilty of "overreaction" to last week's questions about MidTown Inc. financial records. But isn't a request for every donation and expenditure over three years an overreaction in the other direction? Or is Anthony trying to prove his list of "House of Heroes Supporters" is bigger?

Teresa Tomlinson told The River City Report Wayne Anthony should ask MidTown Inc. for all those financial records, not her. Anthony answered he went to the MidTown Inc. board of directors months ago - but the media "sat on it" and didn't bring up the issue since August. Those Parks and Recreation officials simply were too entertaining....

Mayoral candidate Paul Olson made a logical-sounding suggestion at Tuesday night's forum. Teresa Tomlinson should release the MidTown Inc. financial records - and so should Wayne Anthony, with records from House of Heroes and the Pastoral Institute. Olson apparently stopped short of demanding Zeph Baker release his church's list of tithe-payers.

Wayne Anthony claimed afterward he's "never been paid a dime" for years from House of Heroes. Federal tax records we reviewed Wednesday night indicate that's accurate, with no salary reported since 2002. Anthony must be a sharp financial planner -- because he's made his Columbus Council pay stretch very well.

Meanwhile, Wednesday was a down day for the "Truth About Teresa" blog. All posts were removed, except for a statement that "we have had some new people join the TTAT team who have a better grasp on web design." How those new skilled people found such an anonymous blogger is a mystery to me....

Let's see what else had our attention Wednesday:

+ ABC News showed video of Alabama state legislators playing golf during a national conference in June. The outing in Louisville was funded by gambling lobbyists, and occurred at the very hour the conference was discussing ethics. So if there's a bill next year to restore the Birmingham Turf Club, you'll know why.

(ABC News reviewed state ethics laws, and found lobbyists can give Alabama lawmakers $250 per day without filing a report. I wondered where the legislature came up with all that money for district grant projects - not to mention the lawmakers' nice new suits.)

+ WRBL added sound effects to its newscasts - such as a "whoosh" when an anchor's name appears on the screen. If they keep doing that with Bob Jeswald's name, I'm going to assume the forecast calls for a windstorm.

+ WTVM showed a culinary arts show at the Trade Center. It had everything from food vendors to a high school cooking contest - but thankfully, no one stooped to the Nickelodeon level and served spaghetti tacos.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Public Library: You're going to be fair and balanced, right? I mean, next Wednesday you're having a program called "Come Meet a Muslim." So why not bring back that teenager you suspended, for "Converse With a Christian"?

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! 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: 845 (+ 20, 2.4%)

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, October 20, 2010

20 OCT 10: Tuesday Night Titans

Talk about a big doubleheader day - not in baseball, but in politics. First there was a debate with candidates for Georgia Governor in Albany. Then came a debate with the candidates for Alabama Governor in Auburn. Once again, Columbus feels minor-league - by only having city candidates at the library.

Three Raycom Media stations organized Tuesday night's Georgia gubernatorial debate. But some people were annoyed because Libertarian candidate John Monds was excluded. He lives closer to Albany than the other candidates - and he's probably the least likely of the three to write off the travel cost on his tax return.

Because of another commitment, I could only watch about the first 20 minutes of the telecast. I turned the TV off as candidates Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal were about to ask questions of each other. This made it a BYOB debate - bring your own balls of mud.

Thankfully, the candidates for Georgia Governor wasted little time in the debate reinforcing topics in their recent campaign ads. I presume they wanted to prove they really did approve those messages.

Democrat Roy Barnes began by saying the Georgia Governor's race is "not about Roy Barnes or Nathan Deal or Washington, D.C." So either he wants me to vote for John Monds, or I want a list of everyone he plans to appoint.

Roy Barnes said Georgia added 230,000 jobs while he was Governor from 1999 to 2002. But Nathan Deal answered Georgia had the largest job loss of any state during that term. Maybe all those added jobs were in flag-making....

Republican Nathan Deal declared his campaign ads have been focused on issues, while Roy Barnes's ads have been "totally negative from the very beginning." I don't think that's true - but there have been so many absurdly negative commercials since July that I don't remember them now.

(Hmmmm - maybe that's why campaigns run "attack ads" so often at this time of year. They've learned a lesson from television newscasts: bad news sells.)

Roy Barnes brought up the candidates' income tax returns, asking how Nathan Deal could pay only two percent in federal tax on about $400,000 in gross income. Deal could shut up Barnes on this issue easily - but he hasn't brought forward any charities which received tens of thousands of dollars.

Nathan Deal responded by claiming no one accused him of "anything negative" until he announced he was running for Governor. Really? Were the Democrats THAT delighted to see him switch parties?

The only question I heard directly relating to Columbus was about plans for high-speed rail lines across Georgia. Nathan Deal said a line between Atlanta and Columbus was worth studying, but noted rail lines don't tend to be profitable. For saying that, Deal can expect his own section soon on the website of Republican rail-lover Paul Olson.

Roy Barnes answered the rail question by saying all forms of transportation are subsidized by the government to some extent. Now will Columbus Council kindly spend more money on the airport, so flights cost less to Dallas?

Roy Barnes scored the quote of the night when he said of legislation in Congress: "I'm tired of the nuts on both sides." I think this was his sneaky way of endorsing Rep. Sanford Bishop for re-election....

A clip on the late-night news showed Nathan Deal seemingly calling for the release of money from special state funds. He said it's time to "tear down the silos" - which doesn't seem like a wise thing to say in a region known for cotton and peanut farming.

Roy Barnes denied he's running for President. Yet Nathan Deal tried to link him to President Obama, saying the President appears on some Barnes fliers and is endorsing Barnes in computerized phone calls. Of course, Deal has no such dilemma - as I haven't seen Governor Sonny Perdue campaign for him at all.

As the Georgia debate concluded, the debate between Alabama's candidates for Governor began at Auburn University. WTVM called it on the screen a "gubernational" debate. I thought the "Guber-Nationals" referred to a drag racing event in Dothan....

The Auburn debate was the final scheduled meeting between Democrat Ron Sparks and Republican Robert Bentley. Do you realize if Bentley and Roy Barnes both win, the two governors in this area will have matching initials? And since my initials are R.B., the Blog Exclusives should come more often than ever.

I didn't watch the streaming video of the Auburn debate, but news reports indicate Ron Sparks accused Robert Bentley of "flip-flopping" on several issues. So? Gulf Shores still is looking for any visitors it can find with flip-flops....

Robert Bentley explained while he supports an end to Alabama's state sales tax on groceries, he opposed a bill along those lines in the legislature because income taxes for small businesses would have gone up. Bentley seems to come from the George W. Bush school of economics -- cut a tax, even if the state bleeds red ink.

Robert Bentley warned the Ron Sparks campaign has substantial donations from "gambling interests." Hmmmm - maybe Bentley is the one who should be concerned. Don't gambling houses know how to figure the odds of success in their favor?

The most stunning campaign quote of the day may have come from outgoing Governor Bob Riley. Troy Public Radio quoted him as saying the candidates to replace him are NOT spending enough money on campaign advertising. Somehow, I think the viewers of Columbus television newscasts would disagree with that....

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BLOG UPDATE: Back at the Columbus mayor's race, the Teresa Tomlinson campaign has posted a list of donations from her family's charitable fund. It's a three-page document - except the last two pages are virtually blank. Perhaps the "Truth About Teresa" blog will accuse her of writing with invisible ink.

"The Wade H. and Teresa Pike Tomlinson Fund" lists nearly $42,000 in grants made so far this year. None of them went to churches, as the anti-Tomlinson blog suspected. In fact, the biggest gift of $10,000 went to PAWS Humane - and we all know how many animal rights activists are liberal Democrats, don't we?

The list of grants from what we'll call the Tomlinson Fund also includes $1,000 paid in June, for the annual "Black History Observance Breakfast." But hold on - didn't that breakfast take place in February? A quick online check seemed to explain the delay. The fund had to wait until Aflac stock hit its low for the year.

The Teresa Tomlinson campaign probably could ignore the pokes by "The Truth About Teresa." But the posting of these records tells me Tomlinson is at least a little concerned about them. If things get really uncomfortable in the next 13 days, she might ask where Wayne Anthony's financial reports on the House of Heroes are.

Meanwhile, the four mayoral candidates had another forum Tuesday night - this one sponsored by MidTown Inc. Apparently the Columbus Public Library security was enough to protect Wayne Anthony from angry members throwing books.

Teresa Tomlinson was targeted by other candidates over one MidTown-related issue. Has she promised to run the city of Columbus the way she did MidTown Inc.? Tomlinson says no. Her opponents say she used words to that effect. All I remember is how Wynnton Road has flowers, while people in other neighborhoods apparently can't afford a seed packet.

Let's have one more political item, as we wrap up other Tuesday topics....

+ WDAK's "Viewpoint" interviewed Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson by phone for almost 20 minutes. But host Mike Gaymon made no mention of Isakson's election opponents, and didn't even promise an interview with them is coming. Clear Channel Radio may have decided the only people who want to hear Mike Thurmond listen to WBFA-FM "98.3 The Beat."

(Gaymon often says the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce does NOT endorse candidates. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce certainly is doing it, including a TV commercial praising Alabama Congressman Bobby Bright. At this time of year, a pat on the back could mean there's money in the other hand.)

+ The River City Report discovered an online campaign to build a defense fund for Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt. The fund has a seemingly incomplete address, and an online check showed the creator of the website is remaining anonymous - so it's nice to see the Teresa Tomlinson blogger is branching out.

+ WTVM revealed the husband of Assistant City Manager Lisa Goodwin is a longtime Columbus Police officer. Shouldn't this fact quiet the critics, who claim police couldn't be trusted with the Parks and Recreation audit? Or has Mr. Goodwin been treated like one of Charlie's Angels, and spends all his time as a school crossing guard?

+ Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor met with Columbus police officers. TV newscasts noted Tampa's crime rate has dropped 56 percent in the last seven years. But Castor has been Police Chief for only one year, and an assistant for the rest -- so she could be like Ray Goff replacing Vince Dooley as Georgia football coach.

(Mayor Jim Wetherington told WRBL he's staging his "swan song" by inviting Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor to meet with officers. Oh dear - someone needs to remind the mayor Columbus is all about ducks.)

+ Jim Morpeth of Country's Barbecue gave a lecture to business students at Columbus State University. Step one in lowering expenses: show the same TV commercials with hat-changing and "chicken and dumplings" every year for more than a decade.

+ An Acworth, Georgia family received a monthly electric bill mistakenly totaling $1.016 billion. Yes, BILLION. I know some people prefer a cool house during the summer, but this is ridiculous....

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: Two e-mails suggest some other election issues to examine....

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