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....

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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....

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