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.)

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