Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 NOV 10: Room for Board

A Phenix City court hearing Monday may have been more historic than we realize. Poet Robert Frost coined the phrase, "Good fences make good neighbors." Then an insurance company gave us the phrase, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." A Russell County Judge had to decide which point of view is right.

Judge Al Johnson issued a permanent injunction, barring the Phenix City Council from interfering in the business of the Phenix City School Board. So he came down on the side of Robert Frost - which only makes sense, because relations between both sides were frosty already.

Judge Al Johnson ruled there's nothing in the Phenix City Charter that allows the City Council to get involved in school district business. He particularly ruled the City Council cannot replace school board members until the board members' terms expire. The firing of some football coaches at mid-season does NOT make this legal.

But the judge went on to rule Phenix City School Board members can be impeached during their terms. Alabama state law on impeachment must be followed - and in a Mobile case several years ago, that meant the District Attorney had to take the board member to a grand jury. Sheriff Tommy Boswell showed over the weekend he can move a lot faster than that....

Judge Al Johnson also advised the Phenix City Council to file an Alabama Open Records Act request, instead of attempting to subpoena school board financial records. The results still could be released the same way - through what Board of Education employees probably are calling "Wetzel-Leaks."

Monday's ruling means Phenix City School Board President Frankie Horace can keep the title for now. He refused to step down when the city council tried to remove him in late September. Two other board members were changed by the council this year - but this attempted third strike turned out to be a foul ball.

Frankie Horace told reporters after the hearing he believes Phenix City can move forward - but he says the school board can't move together with the current city council. Not when the council is looking for a school bus, to shove board members under it....

School Superintendent Larry DiChiara admitted it was a "sad day" for Phenix City. He says the city council harmed his reputation by airing several accusations involving him and his wife [6 Oct] - adding, "If you stand up to them, you get trashed." So DiChiara apparently opposes that new landfill, too.

Early TV reports indicated the Phenix City Attorney was largely satisfied with the court ruling. But during an afternoon news conference, Jimmy Graham said the City Council could vote to appeal the decision at its next meeting. Next year's Iron Bowl in Auburn could be preceded by an Iron-Wills Bowl in Montgomery.

Jimmy Graham explained the Phenix City Charter gives the city council oversight power over all appointed boards - and in Phenix City, the school board is appointed instead of elected. To make peace, maybe both groups should go to Chattahoochee Valley Community College and take classes together. In micro- economics, maybe -- but certainly not micro-management.

A side issue developed Monday night in online discussions on this case -- as some people said the Ledger-Enquirer didn't send a reporter to the court hearing. This complaint seems a little unfair. Shouldn't the Citizen-News be allowed to break a story once in a while -- even if its next issue doesn't come out until Thursday?

Some TV reports suggested the spat between the Phenix City Council and School Board began with the request for school district documents. But regular blog readers know this stew pot has been approaching a boil for more than a year. The "fireworks" simply have moved from the football stadium to downtown governmental buildings.

We're politics-free when it comes to Columbus today, so let's move on to other "Cyber Monday" news deals....

+ Muscogee County Judge Bobby Peters told WRBL a Phenix City attorney practiced law without a Georgia license, and filled out fraudulent divorce papers for several couples. Elliot Vogt could be disbarred, because he's accused of forging the signatures of several judges. If the signature says "Judge J.R. Allen," be suspicious.

+ Albany Police reported a man broke into a Nissan dealership after hours, then stole a car by driving it through a window off the showroom floor. I don't think the "sign and drive" offers are supposed to work that way....

(Police say the thief was arrested in Early County after the car ran out of gas, and he begged people for money to fill it up. The lesson here is obvious - if you're going to steal a car from a dealer showroom, check the mileage stickers first.)

+ A University of Alabama employee was fired, for playing two unauthorized songs at Bryant-Denny Stadium before last week's Iron Bowl. One of the songs was "Take the Money and Run" - which for some reason people are taking as a slap at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. It could have been advice for Alabama running back Mark Ingram, you know.

+ Columbus State shocked Shorter in women's college basketball 66-51. The visiting team was undefeated - but a Shorter shortfall means Shorter's long run is no longer.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus Public Works Department: How about adding a few recycle bins along the Riverwalk, next to the trash cans? It would be environmentally sound, forward-thinking -- and I wouldn't have to carry 20-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola all the way home to claim the "My Coke Rewards" points from the caps.

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: Five will win, five will go down. Will we have a runoff night on the town?....

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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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, November 29, 2010

29 NOV 10: The Time of the End

Take a deep breath -- the long run is almost over. What started as a political marathon turned into a sprint. Then it went into a four-week runoff. And if Tuesday night's returns lead to a recount, we could be down to a crawl.

This yard sign may be a sign of how long the Columbus city election has lasted. It's looked like this for more than a week, in front of a house on Warm Springs Road -- selling not only Teresa Tomlinson, but a washer and dryer. It's clearly different from earlier signs calling Tomlinson a Democrat. But where's the evidence of money laundering?

Since I have no room where I live for a washer and dryer, I didn't go to the door of this home Sunday to ask about the double-layered sign. But I noticed there's a large caricature of Betty Boop near the door - so I don't think the owner supports Teresa Tomlinson for feminist reasons.

Thousands of people have voted early for Tuesday's Columbus city runoff. Elections Director Nancy Boren has told me the large turnout is not surprising, considering the mayor's race is on the ballot. Why, even Zeph Baker made sure his ballot was filed well ahead of the deadline.

Two seats on Columbus Council also will be decided in the runoff. The overlooked race has been District 3, where incumbent Julius Hunter is challenged by Bruce Huff. Huff is a mortician, who has received campaign donations from at least three funeral homes -- so you might say they're embalming fluid brothers.

Julius Hunter put a large ad in the Columbus Times two weeks ago, listing what he's done on Columbus Council. Among other things, he "sponsored the ordinance creating Public Safety Advisory Committee" -- the committee the Ledger-Enquirer recently noted hardly ever meets. Maybe Hunter should have appointed himself a committee member.

Then there's the citywide Post 9 Council seat, between Travis Chambers and Judy Thomas. Thomas has made a big deal about an endorsement from Mayor Jim Wetherington -- yet to my knowledge, no one has asked if Thomas was the one who misplaced the mayor's audit of Columbus Fire/EMT.

Travis Chambers admitted recently at a Green Island Country Club forum his wife didn't want him to run for office. But he says one of his children praised him in recent weeks for running a clean campaign. That really shouldn't be surprising - since Chambers is a real estate agent, and clean houses are much easier to sell.

Regular blog readers probably can guess what's coming next -- the election eve "pop quiz" about your campaign knowledge. Since the runoff ballot is short, our list of questions is shorter as well....

1. Which candidate for mayor has talked about having a Columbus Councilor become a "pro forma" member of the Muscogee County School Board? Does this candidate follow Phenix City news, to realize how explosive that could become?

2. Who are the candidates on the statewide runoff ballot for the Georgia Supreme Court? How many people outside the Columbus city limits even know that race exists?

3. Name the Columbus Council candidate whose TV commercial includes an endorsement in Spanish. Does the candidate lose votes with that ad, because no owners of Chinese restaurants appear?

4. Name the candidate for Columbus Council who has a law office in Phenix City. Explain why that candidate hasn't offered to put Phenix City out of its misery, by proposing a bi-city merger.

5. Which candidate for mayor has claimed to run a campaign based on "dignity," not "mudslinging?" Does that candidate realize slinging mounds of dirt at ground-breaking ceremonies is part of a mayor's job?

6. Which Columbus Council candidate admits she hugged her opponent at a recent civic club meeting? Would that action have disqualified both candidates 40 years ago?

7. Who is the candidate once honored by the Georgia General Assembly for being "regional mortician of the year?" Will his election make Columbus Council meetings even more deathly boring?

8. Name the only Columbus Councilor who ran unopposed for re-election this year. Should Wayne Anthony advise him NOT to run for mayor in 2014, since Anthony himself was unopposed in 2006?

-> We've turned around a recent slump at Columbus-area poker tournaments. Read about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: This is actually postal mail, from a former Phenix City Utilities Director....

Having read in last Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer (page A-7) of a proposed "ordinance" on "First Reading" as relating to the issuance of 15 million, 375 thousand dollars ($15,375,000.00) in "Water and Sewer Revenue Warrants, Series 2010-A", it would be appreciated by myself and other "interested" citizens as to what the intended purpose of this approximately fifteen and a half million dollar issue (actually a tax increase!) represents.

I am sure "debt refinancing" is included, but where are the remaining monies to be spent??? I am aware of the wastewater plant "upgrade", but it in no way approaches this figure. Also, are all planned projects located within the "utility jurisdiction" of Phenix City as opposed to areas where water revenues are reserved for Russell County Utilities or the Ft. Mitchell Water Authority??

Since we (Phenix City) are one of the few cities in Alabama not government by an "independent" Utility Board, all utility activities, including spending and "debt creation" (issuing bonds) are dictated by five (5) politicians. The people of Phenix City deserve to know what these "politicians" intend to do with the $15,3750,000.00.

Also, we are yet to hear of bid results or requests for proposal documentation on the $5 million ($5,000,000.00) water meter exchange "project". In this case, the purchase of new water meters surely falls under the auspices of the Alabama "bid laws". Was this bid procedure followed??

The people of Phenix City will be responsible for the repayment of this "borrowed money". It would certainly be appreciated if the public was informed of the intentions of these five politicians and how they intend to spend $15,375,000.00 (not including interest over 25-30 years) of the taxpayer's money. We are anxiously awaiting their response!


Greg Glass

Isn't it obvious what the Phenix City Council wants to do with all those millions? Sue the school board and buy out the Superintendent's contract....

But seriously: Councilor Jimmy Wetzel told me Sunday night about $14 million of the bond money indeed will be used for debt refinancing. Wetzel says interest rates have dropped from 4.65 percent several years ago to the two-percent range. And thankfully, no banks have sent foreclosure notices to Phenix City Hall.

Jimmy Wetzel says about one million dollars in "new money" from the bond issue is being used for three water line and repaving projects. One of them is almost finished on 14th Street downtown -- where about 80 years ago, water lines were buried 14 feet deep. The better to keep water pure from all the Phenix City sinfulness above it....

Jimmy Wetzel adds the other repair work is planned on the length of Summerville Road to the Lee County line, and on Stadium Drive in the area of Railroad Street. So all this work is within the Phenix City limits, a long way from Fort Mitchell -- and you'll notice none of those roads lead to the proposed landfill.

There are interesting side stories on both sides of this letter. The feud between the Phenix City Council and School Board goes back to court today. Jimmy Wetzel told me the key issue is whether the city can subpoena the school district for financial records. He couldn't say much more, since it's a legal matter - so yes, there ARE times when Wetzel knows how to keep his mouth shut.

Then there's Greg Glass, who left Phenix City government under a cloud and then filed the seemingly customary lawsuit. Glass told me Sunday the lawsuit was dismissed because a six-month "statue of limitations" had run out. But now he's being encouraged to run for local office in 2012 -- so we'll see if the Glass house dares to throw any more stones.

An East Alabama item tops our check of other Sunday news....

+ Two Russell County Sheriff's officers and a Phenix City police officers were suspended without pay. Sheriff Tommy Boswell says they assaulted a suspect Friday night. This was news to me for a very different reason - because Boswell had dropped out of sight for so long, I thought he'd already left office.

+ WTVM showed a commercial for "95.3 the Ride," a radio station I thought had moved to 106.9 FM in September. The way PMB Broadcasting has moved stations and formats around in the last year, there could be a strategy here -- like produce stands rotating their stock.

+ The Atlanta Falcons got by Green Bay 20-17, clinching a third consecutive winning season for the first time in team history. If Coach Mike Smith can keep this up, he might be in the running to become head coach at Georgia.

(Quarterback Matt Ryan told Fox Sports after the game he still doesn't feel like the Falcons have played a "complete game" this season. What does he want - the defense scoring safeties every week?)

+ Instant Message to Payless Shoes: You gave us the abbreviation "BOGO," right - buy one get one? How about a promotion where you buy one only, then get half-off the other? You know, the "BOO-HOO" sale....

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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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, November 28, 2010

28 NOV 10: Cam-Back of the Year

"Did you see Auburn-Alabama yesterday?" a man asked me as I picked up dinner Saturday night. I'd paused for a moment near the door to check a TV screen, where Wisconsin players celebrated winning a game with 70 points. With that high a score, it obviously was football and not Big Ten basketball.

This question allowed me to explain my unique Iron Bowl experience. Regular blog readers know I keep a seventh-day Sabbath, which began with the Friday evening sunset at 5:35 p.m. ET. At 5:34, Auburn's Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass to tie the game at 27-27 -- and at that moment, I turned off the TV and turned up Christian radio. The game was tied, and "blessed are the peacemakers."

"Everyone in Alabama would be happy for the next year," I told the man as I explained my decision -- but of course, I knew better than that. I heard enough of the Auburn and Alabama radio broadcasts to realize that -- with enough whine to make me wonder why Anheuser-Busch was selling beer during commercial breaks.

So I didn't stick around for Auburn's extra point after the tying touchdown, which turned out to be the winning point of Iron Bowl 2010. Auburn rallied from a 24-0 deficit to edge Alabama 28-27 - and if Cam Newton can wipe out a deficit like that, he should skip pro football and run for Congress.

It was fascinating to use multimedia options to follow Friday's Iron Bowl. The Auburn broadcast on WVRK-FM "Rock 103" was about six seconds ahead of WRBL's television signal. The Alabama broadcast on WIOL-AM was choppy, barely audible and 15 seconds behind television. And CBS apparently was listening to WIOL, because we never saw the actual kickoff.

The Auburn broadcast booth was disgusted with a first-quarter personal foul on defensive lineman Nick Fairley. Alabama went on to score a touchdown on the drive, and analyst Stan White blamed it on a referee officiating "based on the newspapers." Well, the papers ARE as "black and white" as the referee's shirt....

But Nick Fairley atoned for his "two-stomp" penalty by forcing and recovering a fumble in the second quarter, and Alabama's Mark Ingram fumbled another potential touchdown through the end zone. The Crimson Tide missed an opportunity to completely bury Auburn - and now will have to hope the NCAA changes the outcome in 2012, after an investigation.

So Auburn football fans woke up Saturday with two incredible dreams come true. Yes, they came from behind on the road to edge Alabama - and even better, someone found a way to beat Boise State.

While Auburn advances to next weekend's Southeastern Conference championship game, there was speculation Saturday the offensive coordinator might be leaving. Gus Malzahn's name emerged as a candidate to become head coach of Vanderbilt - where many of the students come from families so wealthy, they don't need go-betweens getting big bucks for them.

The big rivalry weekend continued Saturday night, with Georgia outlasting Georgia Tech 42-34. But when Georgia fans write messages of encouragement online along the lines of "Let's be bowl eligible," you know the season isn't quite right.

Georgia kept taking leads all night, including a 21-14 lead in the second quarter on a touchdown pass to Shaw High School graduate Bruce Wiggins. Yet Georgia Tech kept fighting back -- not with a Wiggins, but like Weebles.

The funniest radio moment of the weekend for me came in the fourth quarter, with Georgia driving downfield with a 35-34 lead. Scott Howard yelled, "Ealey is gonna score! Tech wasn't expecting it!! - only to be corrected by the understanding that Georgia Tech allowed a touchdown on purpose to get the ball back. Georgia Tech players show their superior intellect again....

But Georgia's defense intercepted a pass in the final minute, to secure the Bulldogs' ninth win over Georgia Tech in the last ten games. Both teams can go to bowl games - and ESPN apparently has reshuffled the lineup so Georgia Tech can enjoy something Georgia fans have come to dread: a trip to Shreveport, Louisiana.

ESPN showed actor Samuel L. Jackson on the field in Athens, wearing Georgia attire. If any celebrities were rooting for Georgia Tech, I missed them - but then again, all the Georgia Tech grads probably were busy counting their income from "Small Business Saturday."

And I'm told Carver High School running back Isaiah Crowell was at the Georgia Tech-Georgia game, wearing Bulldog attire. Does that mean Georgia leads in the recruiting drive for Crowell? And should we assume Crowell ran all the way to Athens, with strength left over from Friday night's playoff game?

Isaiah Crowell picked up 305 yards and five touchdowns as Carver cruised past Thomasville 40-14 in the Class AA quarterfinals. Clearly Crowell has recovered from his mid-season injury - and just in time for more college coaches to watch him in action.

There doesn't seem to be much going on this holiday weekend besides football. But here's what we found....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported "Black Friday" began with police escorting some customers out of the Columbus Park Crossing Wal-Mart. The customers reportedly were fighting at midnight - which may show how realistic some of those video games have begun.

+ A 2009 video clip from a Lanett worship service went viral on several religious blogs - especially blogs which make fun of Christianity. The way this preacher shouts and jumps onto pews, he may have given the halftime pep talk to the Auburn football team.

+ Instant Message to Mayor Jim Wetherington: I heard on WTVM you're turning 73 today. Please let us know as soon as possible which runoff candidate sent you the biggest birthday cake.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're politics-free even on runoff election days, so send your closing comments about the races by this evening.)

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: 640 (- 61, 8.7%)

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

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

26 NOV 10: Burning Without and Within

So how was your Thanksgiving? It could have been a disastrous holiday for one Columbus chef. He almost missed a project he had been working on for weeks - and it was NOT because key ingredients were locked up, because The Fresh Market was closed.

Jamie Gruber is becoming known in Columbus for his Thanksgiving Day effort to help needy people. A crew largely consisting of volunteers delivered about 1,000 free meals around the city Thursday. In fact, so many groups delivered free meals that I suspect some people are set through next Monday....

But after weeks of preparation, Jamie Gruber almost wasn't around to see Thursday's deliveries. That's because the executive chef at The Market on First Avenue received serious burns Wednesday, when something in an oven exploded. The next time you order blackened seafood at a restaurant, remember -- it could affect someone's health insurance rates.

Jamie Gruber says he spent six hours in the emergency room Wednesday being treated for first, second and third-degree burns. After other chefs read this news, Gruber might have to spend the next six weeks enduring flambé jokes.

What would you do on a holiday, after spending six hours in the emergency room? Jamie Gruber says he didn't want to stay away from his Thanksgiving Day project. He was at The Market Thursday morning with a bandage on his right arm that almost reached his elbow. He didn't even use one of those "Ove' Gloves" to disguise it.

(It reminds me of something my longtime pastor said to a singles Bible study years ago about Kentucky Fried Chicken. "Colonel Sanders wouldn't let himself be licked.")

The desire to give back to the community drove Jamie Gruber to start his Thanksgiving Day giveaway in the first place. Two years ago, he fed about 260 people. This year, some military veterans were added to the meal list -- as if the American Legion hall only serves beer and soda during football games.

The staff of The Market made an open appeal for volunteers last week, so I went to the restaurant Thursday morning to help. I was directed to a table with several radio personalities. Someday I'll figure out what makes me such a celebrity magnet....

PMB Broadcasting personalities such as Ed Bostic, Al Haynes and Terry T. helped pack foil pans with food and deliver them to needy people. I didn't see Bear O'Brian there -- which leads me to guess the food didn't come from Piggly Wiggly.

Volunteers were directed down two food lines, to have Thanksgiving food pans filled. At the end of one line stood Teresa Tomlinson -- and no, she did NOT wear a campaign button or shirt. But if your pan didn't have a large enough slice of turkey, you now know which candidate to support in next week's mayoral runoff.

(If Zeph Baker was involved in some kind of Thanksgiving Day service project, no one told me about it. Of course, the holiday is a perfect time to catch up on your campaign paperwork....)

Almost all the food deliveries were on their way within 90 minutes of the starting time. As far as I know, the workers did NOT receive their own pans of food to take home. I think the plan was to take extra food to The Salvation Army - although The Market might have a few surprising lunch-hour bargains today.

Jamie Gruber's effort was one of several across Columbus to provide Thanksgiving Day meals to needy people. So imagine my surprise to drive across Manchester Expressway at mid-afternoon, and find a man with a shopping cart and a sign in the center traffic island. Didn't he know about the free food at shelters? Or is one of the few people with no headaches about preparing leftovers?

-> We've turned around a recent slump at Columbus-area poker tournaments. Read about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BIG PREDICTION: Instead of telling you what I think about the big college football games this weekend, I've turned again to my next-door neighbor. His predictions are spontaneous and unrehearsed -- but remember, his preferences in the midterm election only went one-for-three. And anyone who took his 20-dollar bet on the Georgia-Auburn game would have enjoyed some nice wine with Thanksgiving dinner.

Iron Bowl Friday has Auburn putting its undefeated record on the line at Alabama. I could point out today is also the National Day of Listening - but I doubt any football fans in that state really will.

(So what would be more appropriate for Alabama fans to throw at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton? Fig Newton bars - or packs of phony 100-dollar bills?)

The second big game is Saturday night, with Georgia Tech visiting Georgia. Apparently the Bulldogs still can qualify for a bowl game, by beating the Yellowjackets. I thought a win over Idaho State didn't count - but maybe that was part of a secret deal to add Boise State to next year's schedule.

If Georgia tops Tech, both universities will end the year with 6-6 records. Since Georgia State ended the year at 6-5, could Coach Bill Curry claim to have the state's new football powerhouse?

Now let's see what else had our attention on Thanksgiving 2010....

+ Outgoing Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington told WTVM he has "no regrets" about his four years in office. A few civil rights activists have only five weeks left, in their attempt to give him some.

+ The Southern Poverty Law Center warned it may sue the city of Birmingham next week. The organization claims students are punished with pepper spray, even if all they do is talk excessively. Uh-oh - I fear this news will give some husbands the wrong idea for year-end gift shopping.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths busted Augusta 4-1. A hockey game on Thanksgiving Night means only one thing - turkey bowling season on ice officially is underway.

+ Georgia lost its first men's college basketball game of the season. Notre Dame downed the Bulldogs 89-83 in double overtime at the "Old Spice Classic" near Orlando. If Old Spice is sponsoring this, one team ought to follow the example of that sexy spokesman and play without shirts.

+ Instant Message to Pastor Jamie Sanks of The House of God on Flat Rock Road: First of all, having a TV set in that 20-foot-high shed seems like cheating to me. Secondly, climbing a pole for charity has been the official gimmick of MyChurch for a couple of years.

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: 701 (+ 17, 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, November 25, 2010

25 NOV 10: Thanksgiving Buffet

Instant Message to all the activists who make a big fuss about saying "Merry Christmas": Where have you been this week? Where is your outrage toward the people who call this day "Turkey Day?" After all, the national independence day of Turkey was in late October....

Here's hoping you have a happy Thanksgiving Day - and realize it's supposed to be about a lot more than eating turkey. Or football games. Or parades. No, this is NOT a sneaky advertisement for Carmike Cinemas.

We've decided to borrow from some area restaurants on this Thanksgiving, and offer you a buffet of various topics to chew on. It's admittedly a non-traditional menu. And if you feel guilty about dining on all this for free, I think the base price at Callaway Gardens is $29.95....

1. CAMPAIGN CASSEROLE. What do candidates do when Thanksgiving falls less than a week before the Columbus city runoff? Do they dare take a day off from vote-hunting? Do they find a way to deliver turkey dinners to low-income neighborhoods - using campaign leaflets to line the bottom of the boxes?

Zeph Baker joined the line for advance voting Wednesday at the Columbus Public Library. Teresa Tomlinson cast her vote Tuesday - once again reinforcing the mayoral runoff stereotypes: she over-achieves to show up everybody, while he shows up late to avoid bullies.

Zeph Baker's campaign box truck was parked Wednesday night at the Gentian Boulevard Burger King. That made his name visible to advance voters at the Cunningham Center, and potentially visible to Friday morning shoppers at Peachtree Mall. I assume Baker made a deal to buy Whoppers for his staff - or does the "more with less" candidate only buy Buck Doubles?

Both runoff candidates received live one-on-one interviews this week on WTVM. Teresa Tomlinson said her success in carrying precincts in north and south Columbus on Election Day "will forever change this city...." Well, unless she loses those same precincts next Tuesday....

Zeph Baker declared during his interview he has "more support than ever," then went on to say: "I've done all that I was asked to do." Uhhhh - I'm still waiting for him to return a couple of messages from last week.

2. LEFTOVER HASH. Dozens of Fort Benning trainees have been digging into that for several days in Opelika. WTVM reported Wednesday some expensive military equipment apparently was hauled away by a trash truck, and now is at a Lee County landfill. The Navy normally has to do the diving, not the Army.

Fort Benning officials won't reveal exactly what was hauled away to Opelika. But the search ended Wednesday, apparently without the equipment being found. It's now up to the professionals at finding lost military valuables - the staff of Wikileaks.

3. RUSSIAN DRESSING (DOWN). Columbus Police officers are receiving national attention, in the wake of SOA Watch weekend. The "Committee to Protect Journalists" is calling for an internal investigation into the arrest of a Russia Today news crew. This group doesn't know Columbus very well. The only time police do that anymore is when an officer helps with a bank robbery.

Assistant Police Chief Charles Rowe told the Committee to Protect Journalists the Russia Today crew was arrested after not heeding a police order to disperse. The news crew may argue in court it misunderstood the order - and no one was carrying a purse.

At least the Committee to Protect Journalists talked to a Columbus Police officer about what happened last Saturday. The Russia Today website's reports on the arrests don't have the police side of the story. And as any viewer of Fox News Channel will tell you, merely telling one side of a story is simply wrong.

4. HOT BREAD. If you want to spend some, several familiar Columbus stores are open today. For the first time, Sears is open on Thanksgiving -- in case the man of the house needs a big Craftsman tool chest to get the turkey fryer to work.

If you forgot some key dinner ingredients, the new Save-A-Lot store on Hamilton Road tells me it will be open today from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This reminds me of the Thanksgiving Day in metro Atlanta when a guest preparing the meal had me drive to the grocery store at least three times. We didn't know back then about the plague of attention deficit disorder.

And I believe we noted here several years ago that Thanksgiving is the best day of the year to shop at Wal-Mart. The grocery aisles are practically empty in the early afternoon. But then again, the year I discovered that was the last time the Atlanta Falcons played a Thanksgiving Day game.

5. POUND CAKE. We go to the icebox InBox for this - a response to our Tuesday check of incoming Muscogee County School Board member Beth Harris....


Since you could not seem to find Norma Harris' NOTICE OF CANDIDACY AND AFFIDAVIT, I thought that I would send it to you - it is posted on-line.

You also might be interested in the Georgia Code related to fraudulent statements on a sworn document:

Georgia Code - Crimes and Offenses - Title 16, Section 16-10-71

(a) A person to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered or who executes a document knowing that it purports to be an acknowledgment of a lawful oath or affirmation commits the offense of false swearing when, in any matter or thing other than a judicial proceeding, he knowingly and willfully makes a false statement.

(b) A person convicted of the offense of false swearing shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.

It is interesting that Ms. Harris verified to you that she did indeed commit a criminal offense.


Jim Pound

PS - I'll save you the question. Yes, Brinkley is my much better half.

Hold on -- not so fast here. The notice filed with the Muscogee County Election Board says Beth Harris has been "a legal resident of the State of Georgia for 22 consecutive years." Her family might have owned property in Georgia while she lived in Nebraska. And you thought the only "snowbirds" to visit Columbus were college students building houses....

Any investigation of Beth Harris's sworn statement may come down to one key word - "knowingly." Did Harris forget the eight years she was a registered voter in Phenix City? Did she think the years when that city dominated area Little League baseball was simply a bad dream?

6. YOUNG CHEESES. They were scheduled to appear Wednesday night at the Columbus Civic.... oh wait. That's a rapper named Young Jeezy. And his show was postponed, anyway. Never mind.

7. CHOCOLATE BITES. We thank a "sweet" sweets shop in Daytona Beach for providing a funny fact sheet about chocolates during our recent vacation. For instance, did you know....

+ If you eat a chocolate bar before each meal, you'll take the edge off your appetite - and you'll wind up eating less.

+ Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices and strawberries all count as fruit. So you can eat all you want.

+ If melted chocolate is all over your hands, you're probably eating it too slowly.

+ If you're not sure how to get several pounds of chocolate home from the store on a hot day, don't take any chances. Eat it all in the parking lot.

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: 684 (+ 12, 1.8%)

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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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

24 NOV 10: You, Me and a Blog Makes Three

Teresa Tomlinson had to open her big mouth, didn't she? She called the "Truth About Teresa" blog "completely defunct" on television - and a new post appeared there within six hours. At least we know that blogger wasn't interested in "Oprah's favorite things" on the other channel....

But as the Columbus mayoral runoff approaches, another blog seems to be on the minds of both campaigns - and it's (blush) this one. It's led to something I never expected in an election. I had to give both campaigns a free opportunity to critique this blog. Would they praise me or razz me? And would either side offer me a job as Press Secretary?

This all started last week, in the wake of our trip to a mayoral forum at Green Island Country Club. A supporter of Zeph Baker called me two days in a row about it -- so I decided to visit his office and let him have at me. This is different from other election years, when campaign aides actually offered me an interview with their candidate.

Dan Menefee says his college-aged daughter was stunned to read online that her dad was "bullying." But as we noted last week [18 Nov], that was The River City Report's wording and NOT mine. "I just want the facts," Menefee told me. Maybe I should add emoticons to mark where the punch lines begin.

"I'm thankful that you corrected that," Dan Menefee continued - saying some people "throw rocks and hide their hands" online, with misinformation some readers might "believe.... as gospel." I think that means you can take Menefee off the list of "Truth About Teresa" suspects.

Dan Menefee actually called this blog "great," and told me: "You're gonna be somebody...." Hmmmm - I might need to call LeBron James and ask him who I should be....

The meeting with Dan Menefee (mostly about the blog) lasted about 35 minutes. Before I left, I explained I'd have to give Teresa Tomlinson's campaign an equal opportunity to critique my work. After all, Menefee wanted things to be evenhanded. It's like "turning the other cheek," except a different person slaps you the second time.

To my surprise, a message left at the Teresa Tomlinson campaign number was returned by the candidate herself. But sadly, it came while I was out jogging. I suppose I should invest in a cell phone, and carry it when I exercise - but heavy breathing during political interviews might be misunderstood.

Teresa Tomlinson offered her critique in exactly the 60 seconds my answering machine offered. She also called the blog "great," and said she takes any critical comments "with a grain of salt." Tomlinson probably depends on her food preparation staff to add more for flavor.

While some people describe Teresa Tomlinson as a "bully" in the mayor's race, she did NOT tell me to stop blogging. Her campaign wasn't the one which called me to lobby for changes in wording. And as of Tuesday night, Bill O'Reilly has yet to send "ambush journalists" to my door to ask questions.

It also turns out Teresa Tomlinson personally returned my phone call, while a couple of messages left last week at Zeph Baker's campaign office have brought no response at all. Tomlinson has been so "hands-on" in dealing with campaign issues that the mayor's office might have fewer positions by next November.

The outgoing Columbus mayor was given one last chance to endorse a successor Tuesday. But Jim Wetherington still declined - telling WXTX both runoff candidates "have a special relationship with the people." I'm not exactly sure what that means. Maybe they didn't giggle out loud at any silly questions during public forums.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on the mayoral runoff had a blind close Tuesday night - and for the second time in 14 months, a last-minute rush of votes put Zeph Baker on top. He finishes with 59 percent of the vote, leading 32 percent for Teresa Tomlinson (20-11-3). Don't worry, Baker voters - the Tomlinson campaign has NOT called me yet to demand your names.

One comment in our horrendously non-scientific poll took Teresa Tomlinson to task for proposing a "sunset" amendment to the property tax freeze. It's something she's actually proposed for months [18 Aug] - but how would residents protest it? People like iced tea, but they usually don't freeze it.

-> We had a character-testing moment at the poker table the other night. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

OUR TEXT FOR TODAY: We're not sure we should agree with this, but we couldn't help noticing what a Columbus man named Matt posted online Tuesday....

"I see that North and South Korea has decided to join in on Rivalry Week."

Let's see what made news closer to home....

+ Columbus Police arrested a man on charges of abusing the 911 system with constant calls. Officers say the last straw for William Parrish came when he called for an ambulance at 14th and Veterans Parkway, then told paramedics he was having "suicidal thoughts." Really now - the Taco Bell value menu isn't THAT bad.

+ The Georgia Supreme Court ruled defendants have the right to an interpreter during criminal trials, if they have trouble understanding English. OK - then how about an interpreter for jurors, to explain some of the legal mumbo-jumbo?

+ WDAK's Viewpoint focused on the United Way campaign, and mentioned a rap video prepared by CB&T employees. It gets a little violent at the end - as if the workers don't know some of the money could go to the Hope Harbour shelter.

(Yes, I noticed - the rap video has nothing but Caucasian employees. But look at it this way: they were trying to raise M's-n-M's in cash.)

+ WTVM showed the local chapter of Omega Psi Phi presenting boxes with Thanksgiving meals to ten local families. That's a nice thing to do every year - but did I see Rice Krispie Treats in those boxes? Is that really a more nutritious dessert than pumpkin pie?

+ The Raycom News Network reported the University of Alabama has given more than 500 "Iron Bowl" tickets to state officials, including legislators. State Senator Billy Beasley says he plans to attend Friday's game - and that pharmacist could come in handy, if Auburn's Cam Newton makes the Alabama defense dizzy.

+ Instant Message to the owner of this Hyundai parked along First Avenue: I hope you don't mind the color change it's had over the last couple of days. But I don't think you're the reason why Columbus Council voted Tuesday night to change parking rules in the Historic District.

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: 672 (+ 21, 3.2%)

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

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

23 NOV 10: Phenix City Bypassed?

Advance voting opened Monday in the Georgia runoff election. But some people are stirring up issues from races which should have been settled three weeks ago. And no, Columbus restaurants are NOT begging winners to take the oath of office by their cash registers....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: "There's nothing to challenge," says incoming Muscogee County School Board member Beth Harris. But other people don't think so - claiming Harris put false information on sworn documents filed with the Election Board. Come to think of it, attorney Orly Taitz is about due to visit Columbus again.

Beth Harris won the School Board District 8 race by 113 votes over Brinkley Pound. Then Pound left a mysterious message on her campaign blog, saying she knew "many facts that, if publicly discussed, would have probably had the race end with a different outcome." That could have meant Pound checked Harris's Facebook page for spelling errors....

But now some of those "facts" are coming out, and Elections Director Nancy Boren revealed some of the accusations to your blog Monday. She received an e-mail claiming Beth Harris declared herself a 22-year resident of Muscogee County, yet registered to vote in Alabama in May 1994. See what a difference it makes, after a university wins a national football title?

The main accusation is that Beth Harris filed a sworn affidavit claiming to live in Muscogee County 22 years, but she had children attending Phenix City Intermediate School during that time. Of course, Harris might have had homes on both sides of the river - making a year in Phenix City schools somewhat like a student exchange program.

(Harris's sworn affidavit may be on file with the Election Board, but I was unable to find it online Monday night. Her campaign financial reports are posted online - and the only thing there which shocked me is that Harris's real first name is Norma.)

Nancy Boren told me even if Beth Harris filed a false statement about her past, that does NOT affect her election three weeks ago. Boren says Harris met the qualifications of living in Muscogee County for the past year, and living in District 8 for six months. I think this is the same reasoning Auburn football fans are applying to Cam Newton....

But Nancy Boren added if Beth Harris knowingly filed a false sworn statement, that would NOT be an Election Board matter. That's an issue for the District Attorney's office - and given the way that office has handled some matters, a definitive answer might not come before Harris runs for re-election in 2014.

A staff member at the Muscogee County District Attorney's office told me Monday she does NOT know of any current complaints or cases involving candidates in this year's election. That news probably will bring a bigger sigh of relief from Zeph Baker than Beth Harris....

So what does Beth Harris have to say about all this? She admitted to me Monday she lived in Phenix City for "a little while" - and also lived in Nebraska for three months. The Kansas native in me can't really blame Harris for not staying there very long.

Beth Harris insists she's lived at her current home in District 8 for at least six years. That's why she told me "there's nothing to challenge" about her residency - and Nancy Boren at the Election Board agrees. So this entire fuss could be a reason to review the Muscogee County Schools' geography curriculum.

Beth Harris seemed surprised by my questions Monday -- wondering why all of this was being asked after the election, not before. I guessed the reason might involve the Columbus Mayor's race, and how it's dominated local discussion. You'll notice Council runoff candidates Bruce Huff and Julius Hunter haven't been invited on any evening newscasts lately.

Another question comes to my mind: who's making these accusations about Beth Harris? Brinkley Pound assured me in an online message it's NOT her. "I am NOT challenging the winner's residency or her election," Pound wrote. "The voters have elected the person they felt was best qualified for the position." Well, maybe - or in Columbus, they may have decided Harris was more of a Democrat.

Brinkley Pound admits she knew for months that facts on Beth Harris's affidavit were "false." But she decided to run "a positive campaign for public office." In other words, School Board District 8 could have become a much uglier race than it was. And you know what -- maybe that's why the news media largely ignored it.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We asked Beth Harris about another matter involving her past Monday. We'll focus on that in a future post.)

There was also a surprising follow-up Monday to the election in East Alabama. Rep. Lesley Vance of Phenix City switched parties, announcing he's now a Republican. Vance confessed to WRBL he did it primarily to maintain clout in the legislature, since Republicans are taking control in January. Now THIS is the political move that should have taken place at a Waffle House.

As for the Columbus runoff races: the mayoral candidates were busy Monday. Zeph Baker and Teresa Tomlinson joined in forums on WLTZ's "Rise-N-Shine" and the Ledger-Enquirer's website. And in a major development, WLTZ woke up one of its reporters to cover the TV appearance.

We're planning to say more about the race for mayor Wednesday - but now let's check what else we've discovered lately:

+ A temporary restraining order was issued against the Phenix City Council, so it can't interfere in Phenix City School Board business. A full hearing on their feud is planned in court next Monday - but why issue a restraining order during Thanksgiving week? Does Councilor Jimmy Wetzel plan to hand out "Turkeys of the Year" awards?

+ A former Aflac employee and several customers pleaded guilty to federal charges, in an attempt to bilk the insurance company out of one million dollars. The scammers filed bogus claims after staging fake car wrecks, and even pretended to go into comas. They may have known about Four Loko before anyone else did.

(The terms of the scammers' sentences include prison time, and a lifetime ban on applying for Aflac insurance. Shouldn't they also endure a face-to-face meeting with the Aflac duck? The duck could punish them with pecking on their clothes - or perhaps something messier.)

+ WTVM reported one of those controversial full-body security scanners is on order for Columbus Airport. Fort Benning soldiers probably won't mind them - but a few might be asking if they're on order at any Victory Drive nightclubs.

+ The "Business First" website reported Columbus now has close to 192,000 residents. The population has grown by about 5,000 people in the last three years - and if President Obama gets reelected to keep the Third Brigade at home, we might hit 200,000 yet.

+ A drive down Wynnton Road revealed the old Sno-White laundry building near Tenth Avenue is being bulldozed. It probably was a bustling business in years gone by - but now, Sno-White is a dwarf of its former self.

+ Georgia football coaching legend Vince Dooley spoke to the Columbus Quarterback Club. Dooley told WTVM colleges such as Georgia State are adding football programs because they provide "a culture...." And you thought the Columbus State RiverPark campus took care of the "culture" stuff....

+ The Columbus State men's basketball team conquered Carver Bible 84-62. It must have been Carver Bible, even though the uniforms said simply "Carver" on them - because I think most of Carver High School's basketball players are committed to the football team until the playoffs are over.

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: 651 (+ 21, 3.3%)

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, November 22, 2010

22 NOV 10: Two for Nine

It may go down as the "money" photo of the Columbus 2010 election. But I missed it, and I suspect almost everyone else in town did. Two candidates reportedly HUGGED each other at a Rotary Club meeting two weeks ago! And it wasn't because Dubose and Carol Porter were crying about their losing campaigns.

Judy Thomas says she and Travis Chambers hugged, when they saw each other at the Rotary Club. They're the two finalists for the citywide Columbus Council Post 9, and it was their first meeting since Election Day. If these were candidates for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, Dale Peterson might have pointed his shotgun instead.

We've promised to tell you what the Post 9 runoff candidates said last week at the Muscogee-Harris County Republican Women's luncheon. Neither Travis Chambers nor Judy Thomas claimed to be Republican. In fact, they're SO nonpartisan that neither candidate has been endorsed by Zeph Baker or Teresa Tomlinson.

Real estate agent Travis Chambers received the only spontaneous applause of any candidate at Green Island Country Club. It came when he said recreation centers should become "life centers," teaching young people to "get the earring out of your ear." Apparently not many Republican women are married to jewelers....

Travis Chambers indicated other aspects of public safety should take priority over the new Crime Prevention Commission. He recalled riding with a police officer as part of Leadership Columbus, watching the officer chase and stun-gun a suspect - and then asking, "How much money do you make?" Chambers clearly wants a spot on the Council Budget Committee.

In fact, Travis Chambers seemed quite money-conscious during his remarks at Green Island. He recalled working at Goodwill Industries for $16,500 a year, then at TSYS for $19,000 a year -- and apparently Chambers left Goodwill in a good mood, because I've never received any e-mails from him.

"No one gave Travis Chambers nothing," the candidate bluntly told the luncheon. Statements like this are how you can spot a candidate for Columbus Council from a candidate for Muscogee County School Board....

By comparison, Judy Thomas gained fame over the last four years as a top assistant to Mayor Jim Wetherington. In fact, she told the luncheon she only missed three Columbus Council meetings in three-and-a-half years. She may have better notes on Paul Olson's "public agenda" comments than Olson himself.

Judy Thomas's resume includes several years as a grade school teacher. She still has connections in education, as campaign disclosure reports show at least seven donations from managers of the California Teachers Association. It's about time recreation centers added some beach volleyball courts....

One of Judy Thomas's big concerns is how the "streets and safety sales tax" is allocated. She says Columbus Councilors made three attempts this year to tap into the 70 percent allocated for law officers, and use that money for other purposes. I guess salaries for softball umpires and youth football referees really don't count.

Another main issue for Judy Thomas is the Columbus Drug Court program. She told the luncheon 45 percent of its graduates do NOT return to a life of crime. Thomas did not say how many former drug abusers stop short of a complete turnaround - for instance, by becoming pharmacists.

A check of campaign financial documents shows Travis Chambers has a donation from Marshal Greg Countryman. Judy Thomas has a donation from Sheriff John Darr. The tie-breaking vote belongs to Police Chief Ricky Boren, but he apparently hasn't given money to anyone.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We mentioned Sunday a new Alabama State Senator is taking the oath of office at both a McDonald's and a Burger King. One reader took issue with our calling that a "fair and balanced" approach:


I think you're slippin'. Tom Whatley taking an oath at a McD's and then a BK might be "fair", but there's no way it's going to be a balanced meal.


John D Carmack

Well, yeah -- I see your point. But I'm actually surprised we didn't hear any complaints about Whatley discriminating against Waffle House.

-> We had a character-testing moment at the poker table over the weekend. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

OUR TEXT FOR TODAY: It's our first in a long time -- and we defer to the husband of one of our nieces, who posted this over the weekend:

"Dear Brain, My job is hard enough as it is, please no more Four Loko. Thanks, Heart"

Thank YOU, Ryan -- and now let's wrap up some weekend news:

+ An annual survey by CQ Press ranked Columbus the 23rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the U.S. Metro Columbus is worse for crime than Houston, Baltimore and Birmingham. So there's an obvious question to ask - when are we getting our own season of "COPS"?

+ Columbus Police told WRBL two more SOA Watch protesters were arrested, for climbing a fence onto Fort Benning. Officers say the number of demonstrators was down about 2,000 this year. But in a way, SOA Watch is saying police tried to reverse that trend - by putting five undercover officers in the crowd.

(The suspects arrested Saturday were in Recorder's Court - including the news crew from Russia Today. SOA Watch claims their bail was set ten times higher than normal. But in the news crew's case, there may be confusion - because no one exchanges Russian rubles for U.S. dollars in Columbus.)

+ Carl Edwards won the NASCAR season finale in Miami. This gives Aflac Racing back-to-back wins to close the year, after a season-long drought -- a condition that might be called pair-a-duck-xical.

+ The Atlanta Falcons stopped St. Louis 34-17, and are tied for the best record in pro football at 8-2. Or as they might say around Auburn, barely good for fifth place in the B.C.S. standings.

+ Connecticut crushed Georgia Tech 71-51, to tie a record for women's college basketball. The Huskies have won 81 games in a row - which is getting close to matching how many months in a row WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" has led in the radio ratings.

+ Instant Message to METRA: I saw the two buses which stopped at the Frank Chester Recreation Center Sunday afternoon -- the ones filled with police officers. When was the last time even one of them rode a bus while on duty?

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: 630 (- 29, 4.4%)

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, November 21, 2010

21 NOV 10: Oath-Meal for Breakfast

The Georgia State Capitol is known as the "Gold Dome." The Alabama Capitol doesn't have anything like that. But members of the next Alabama legislature are trying to make up for it -- by promoting golden arches.

Tom Whatley already has taken the oath of office, to become an Alabama State Senator. But did you see where he had the ceremony Friday? Not at a county courthouse or City Hall -- but at a Phenix City McDonald's! I must have missed the big endorsement by Mayor McCheese....

Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer reported Tom Whatley took the oath of office while people sat around the McDonald's on Stadium Drive eating breakfast. What must the customers have been thinking, when Whatley walked in with a Bible and a Russell County Judge? Some might have thought Fred Phelps had staged a coup, and become President.

The TV news reports about Friday's ceremony failed to ask the obvious question. Why become a State Senator at a McDonald's? If you're taking the oath as Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, this might make more sense....

Tom Whatley explained to the newspaper he's conducting an oath-taking tour at east Alabama restaurants because "breakfast groups" are where he began gaining support. When he's not busy with Alabama Senate business next year, I can see Whatley writing a sequel to "The Breakfast Club."

Tom Whatley promises not to forget the breakfast restaurant crowd, while serving in the Alabama Senate. But isn't he asking for trouble with this approach? Some of us remember the Presidential candidate who accused his opponent of learning about world affairs at the International House of Pancakes.

If you think State Senator Tom Whatley is jumping the gun with this oath-taking extravaganza, he's not. A check Saturday night revealed Alabama state lawmakers take office at 12:00 midnight after their election. So Whatley might as well have driven to McDonald's on the night of 2 November, and taken the oath in the drive-through lane.

Tom Whatley's first stop on the oath-taking tour was Chappy's Deli in Auburn. After the McDonald's ceremony, his third and final stop will be a Burger King in Alexander City - so this Republican is taking pains to be "fair and balanced" when it comes to eating out.

But somebody's got to ask it -- is it really proper for a new State Senator to take the oath of office in this way? I don't recall any Republican cynics in Georgia warning Roy Barnes would become Governor at a Burger King.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I expect lawmakers to take office in a bit more dignified way than this. Tom Whatley is opening the door for all sorts of jokes about Alabama stereotypes - even if he didn't go all the way, and recite the oath at Mike and Ed's Barbecue.

(If Whatley really wanted to make a point about what Republicans plan to do with their new majority in the Alabama Senate, he could have ordered a McDonald's Value Meal for everyone in the house.)

What if other elected officials follow Tom Whatley's lead? Should Rep. Lesley Vance hold his oath-taking ceremony inside his funeral chapel along U.S. 280? And should he make it a "theme day," by inviting Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry to join him?

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

BLOG UPDATE: Helicopters have been hovering over the south side of Columbus this weekend -- in fact, flying over my home several times. I assume officers are watching the SOA Watch protest. It's either that, or the Bill Gaither "Homecoming" concert has become a bigger act than I realized.

Columbus Police reported at least 22 people have been arrested so far at the SOA Watch protest. The protest website claims members of a "Russia Today" news crew were arrested while recording police actions. But as of Saturday night, Russia Today had not posted anything confirming that - so perhaps negotiations are in progress with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

SOA Watch claims some people were arrested at random without reason. But the Ledger-Enquirer quoted Police Chief Ricky Boren as saying a march up Fort Benning Road went beyond a designated "protest zone," and protesters loitered outside a Circle K store. They missed a golden opportunity to pick up the last cans of "original formula" Four Loko.

Recorder's Court will hold a special Sunday afternoon session, to process the protesters arrested Saturday. You get the feeling SOA Watch and Columbus Police arranged this in advance - and if everyone cooperates, the 3:00 p.m. hearing will end so everyone can get home to watch the Atlanta Falcons game at 4:00.

As SOA Watch supporters marched and protested Saturday, the Columbus VFW lodge on Victory Drive served a "welcome-home" luncheon to members of Fort Benning's Third Brigade. Is that timing coincidence - or could we have the roots of another counter-rally forming here? After all, retired General Jerry White is going to have a lot of free time next year.

Here's what else seemed interesting on the weekend before Thanksgiving:

+ The Saturday high temperature in Columbus was 74 degrees F. The afternoons are drop-dead gorgeous - but I wish the weathercasters on TV would stop saying it "feels more like spring than fall." I thought spring and fall were supposed to be about the same.

+ Which radio announcer said on the air if you don't attend the Heath Jackson tribute concert at Calvary Baptist Church tonight, "You're gonna be kicking yourself in the b**t"? And he said this on a Christian radio station? If he had cited a verse from the King James Bible, it might not have sounded so shocking....

+ Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire told your blog his group plans to start a live daily radio talk show, based in Columbus. All he apparently needs is a radio station to be the base of operations - so the sooner Dr. Laura Schlessinger makes one last gaffe to be removed from WDAK, the better.

+ The Columbus Parks and Recreation housekeeping became complete, as former Assistant Director Cammie Currie was fired. The Ledger-Enquirer reported Currie accuses city officials of harassing her, because of her "perceived whistle blowing." I thought that's what recreation people are supposed to do at times - you know, blow whistles during basketball games.

+ The first-ever College Hockey Clash began at the Columbus Civic Center. Alabama clubbed Clemson 5-3. Georgia Tech shut out Georgia 4-0. And Georgia fans tried to confiscate all the videotape, so it couldn't be played for the Georgia Tech football team this coming week.

+ Chick-Fil-A announced its Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome next September will feature Boise State against Georgia. This is the game thousands of Southeastern Conference football fans have been waiting to see. But considering Boise State plays home games on blue artificial turf, wouldn't a game in the "Bluegrass State" of Kentucky make more sense?

+ Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy held a final-round interview for a Rhodes Scholarship, but was NOT selected. Maybe if McElroy had found someone in Mississippi, to lobby for a $100,000 payoff....

+ Instant Message to the After 5 sports bar on Reese Road: You're going to change your name, right? I mean, the sign outside says you're opening now at 4:00 p.m.

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: 659 (- 69, 9.5%)

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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Friday, November 19, 2010

19 NOV 10: Where's Your Puppet?

Of all the times NOT to have my blog camera! I drove to 13th and Veterans Parkway Thursday, and found a woman sitting on the ground playing a guitar - in the center traffic island. It's one thing to promote the arts in downtown Columbus, but this may be going too far....

I quickly realized what that woman with the guitar meant. For one thing, the SOA Watch protesters had started arriving in Columbus. For another thing, this woman didn't have a city map - so she didn't realize the median on Broadway is a lot wider, and even has an open-air stage.

If I hadn't been running errands, I might have pulled over and walked onto the island to ask that woman some questions. The obvious first question - why play guitar in the middle of Veterans Parkway? Did this SOA Watch protester want to get arrested early, to see if the Muscogee County Jail conditions have improved?

(While a man stood next to the woman on the island, I didn't notice a bucket with them -- so I don't think they were taking donations for their bail.)

I found a better explanation for the concert location Thursday night. The woman must have been waiting for a "Conference Against Militarization" to open at the downtown Quality Inn. If she's really serious about this, she'd better not play any Guns-N-Roses songs....

SOA Watch weekend had an earlier start than ever -- not only with that conference, but a Thursday afternoon march down 23rd Street. This "puppetista" parade seemed a bit out of place to me. After all, they missed the new rails-to-trails path by five blocks.

But the SOA Watch events have moved well outside the Columbus city limits. Some protesters will join the American Civil Liberties Union today, for a vigil at the Stewart Detention Center near Lumpkin. Accused illegal immigrants are held there, but the vigil's theme is: "No one is illegal." The protesters had better not try that line on the family of Lauren Burk....

If you think all SOA Watch produces is a lot of noise, you might want to visit the Columbus Trade Center today. Believe it or not, the protesters promise to hold a "silent auction."

As usual, the main event of SOA Watch weekend will be a two-day rally outside the main entrance to Fort Benning. The protest website indicates the biggest name on the program is Bob King, the new President of the United Auto Workers. If someone parks a Ford outside the Kia plant in West Point and spits on the ground, it probably will be him.

(WRBL's report from Fort Benning Thursday night indicated fencing was up at the main gate. Someday I'll find out whether the fence from the Greater Columbus Fair is simply moved down the road a few miles.)

We seem to hear every November about how SOA Watch weekend is a boom for the Columbus economy, as hotels are filled and restaurants are busy. So I hope the protesters aren't surprised this year to find Columbus runoff candidates joining them - handing out business cards, and suggesting they do this twice a year until Congress gets the message.

If you're new to the area, the goal of SOA Watch is to shut down what it considers the "former School of the Americas." Fort Benning insists the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is NOT a replacement for the school. But then, the organizers of "God Bless Fort Benning" denied they were responding to SOA Watch - so denial seems to have no boundary lines here.

Columbus residents looking for alternatives to SOA Watch weekend have plenty to choose from. In fact, they began Thursday night....

+ Country singers Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean performed at the Columbus Civic Center. If those performers think about playing songs at the SOA Watch rally, their agents only need to say two words - Dixie Chicks.

+ A Bill Gaither "Homecoming" concert of gospel music is planned in South Commons tonight. These singers and SOA Watch really have things in common. They all want peace - but the Gaither Vocal Band is looking a little higher than the Pentagon to find it.

+ The Columbus Youth Football League "Peanut Bowl" has expanded to two days, Saturday and Sunday. Have these games been slowed down by "television time outs," too?

+ The first-ever "College Hockey Clash" brings four teams to the Civic Center. If that's not a contrast to those peace-loving protesters, I don't know what is.

-> A long dry spell at the poker table ended for us Thursday night. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: People are still talking about our trip to Green Island Hills. Or in this case, about what a candidate said there....


I read this on your blog [17 Nov] regarding comments mayoral candidate Zeph Baker made at a political forum held by a Republican group in Green Island Hills:

I couldn't ask Zeph Baker about Columbus Fire/EMS, of course -- and a late-afternoon message left at his campaign office was not returned. But Baker told the luncheon Columbus has been "held hostage" by unnamed groups which appeal to "white guilt."

Zeph Baker is certainly entitled to his own opinion, but I was thrown totally off by the "white guilt" comment.

White guilt refers to feelings of guilt said to be experienced by "white people" when they consider present or past wrongs committed by their ancestors against "non-white people".

White guilt is said to result in a feeling of lost moral authority on the part of whites so that they feel uncomfortable discussing issues of race and are very anxious to avoid being seen as racist.

So goes the definition. I had to look it up to be sure.

I myself do not notice any signs whatsoever of "white guilt "in Columbus. Georgia. As a community activist I have encountered a lot of things in Columbus that relate to attitudes concerning race and racial prejudice, white guilt is not one of them. If Columbus is being "held hostage" by anything connected to race or racism it certainly is not "white guilt." You just do not find a whole lot of white people, if any, in Columbus carrying around white guilt for the wrong done to non-whites. I would think the only feelings of guilt a white person or any other person would have are feelings of guilt for wrong they have personally promoted, supported, or took part in. That white guilt thing is pretty much myth in these parts. But it would be very interesting to know the names of those groups Reverend Z. Baker feels are holding this city hostage and appealing to the white guilt. Then, again, perhaps I just do not understand what Z.B was saying or trying to say.

BTW, did not intend anything of a threat of violence in my remarks regarding the time the mayor has left being the same time we have to do whatever needs to be done. As IMA President Dr. Harry McCall told mayor and council on November 9th, I am non-violent. Non-violent direct action is our approach to overcome and defeat social injustice and discrimination. That was what Dr. MLK, Jr. taught in his words, deeds, and actions. What we are worried about are the people that are on the receiving end of injustice that do not agree non-violence is the best approach to put a quick end to what goes on.

If Columbus is not already a tinderbox, some leaders and concerned citizens in the African American community are doing what their very best to prevent it from becoming one and to keep sparks from setting the tinderbox it off. Unfortunately, all the effort being put forth is ignored or misunderstood. Too late is going to be just that---Too late.

Have a nice day.

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

Hmmmm -- maybe I have a bit of "white guilt" deep inside me. After all, I felt compelled to post Brother Love's prior lengthy messages verbatim.

Both candidates in the Columbus mayoral runoff answered questions from the public Thursday on WFXE-FM "Foxie 105." I didn't know about this forum and missed it - but WLTZ reported someone asked about department stores not stocking enough Pampers. I don't even think San Francisco has an ordinance regulating that yet.

With a red flag warning hereby posted over our "tinderbox," let's see what else lit my fire on Thursday....

+ WXTX reported National Infantry Foundation Director Jerry White will step down at the end of the year. He spent so much time and effort building the National Infantry Museum that part of South Lumpkin Road might as well be nicknamed the "Great White Way."

+ Wells Fargo brought its trademark stagecoach to St. Mary's Road Elementary School, and presented several checks to local charities. Hopefully the children were taught something I misunderstood when I was a boy - that Wells Fargo is NOT the name of a Western movie hero.

+ The Kia plant in West Point announced plans to hire 1,000 more workers. If this means a third production line, West Point clubs might begin offering karaoke 24 hours a day.

+ A Phenix City couple received a makeover on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Ty Manns was panned by "style expert" Carson Kressley for wearing flip-flops with socks. Aw, c'mon - we're talking Alabama here. Do you really want his feet to get sunburned in July?

(Wife Mia Manns was fond of T-shirts and sweat pants - what Ty calls "Alabama sexy." It's nice to know he's not distracted by the cheerleaders' outfits at college football games.)

+ An attorney for Cam Newton and his family declared he's "one million percent confident" the Auburn quarterback took no money from anyone. Well, OK - but I've heard women tell Maury Povich they're "one million percent sure" who the father of their baby is, and they're only about half-right.

+ Alabama tuned up for the Iron Bowl by jumbling Georgia State 63-7. Georgia State ends its first season of college football at 6-5 - which for the moment is a better record than Georgia and Georgia Tech. So it's no wonder only Alabama is brave enough to put the Panthers on the schedule.

(Georgia State fans in Columbus had to be disappointed by something beyond the score. WIOL AM-FM didn't drop the Alabama broadcast early for a change.)

+ Instant Message to former Carver High School receiver Jarmon Fortson: Not again! First Florida State dropped you. Now you've been suspended from playoff action at North Alabama, because you cut classes!?! What are you trying to be -- the next Randy Moss?

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: 728 (+ 22, 3.1%)

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

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

18 NOV 10: Bent Out of Shape

Did you ever have a day when you felt like Gumby? Wednesday was one of those days for me -- pushed and pulled by people in a couple of ways. It was almost like an old pop song from the 1960s....

Perhaps not surprisingly, the pushing and pulling resulted from our first-ever trip to Green Island Hills. But the surprise was where it started -- this Wednesday morning masthead at The River City Report. I usually send Robbie Watson a courtesy preview of my main topic of the day. But I wrote "scolding" about what happened Tuesday - and she turned it into something scalding.

The headline alleges Dan Menefee "bullied" me at Green Island Country Club, when I tried to ask Zeph Baker a few questions after the Republican women's luncheon. Perhaps he was being protective - but bullied?! He didn't order me to leave the building -- not the way another mayoral candidate did [3 Nov].

(Yes, I know what some of you are saying. You consider the "popular" part of that headline an exaggeration, too. But Alexa shows this blog's "traffic rank" is higher than the websites of Richard Hyatt and "Newsradio 540" WDAK - maybe because I actually offer traffic reports once in a while.)

A headline above all that said something to the effect of: "Why this man should NOT be mayor" -- and linked to this blog. I wrote it Wednesday and I'll write it again: I do NOT endorse any candidates. That headline may be The River City Report's opinion -- with Teresa Tomlinson now off the hook for selling a house to the outgoing publisher of the Ledger-Enquirer.

That online discovery in the morning led to the second pull of the day. Dan Menefee phoned me during the lunch hour, wondering about The River City Report's headline. I told Menefee what you've just read -- but he wanted me in his office that very afternoon. Not even Mayor Jim Wetherington has demanded that of me.

Dan Menefee went over the Tuesday and Wednesday blog posts while on the phone with me - saying Zeph Baker cannot oppose an expanded Muscogee County Jail, because a federal agreement requires an expansion. When my attempts at punchlines are taken this seriously, it shows I've had an off night of writing....

What I was trying to say is this: I thought the Muscogee County Jail already made criminals "as uncomfortable as possible" - by being so crowded. Zeph Baker talks about turning up the heat a little earlier. And like home air conditioning in early May, it probably will cost us all a little more.

Dan Menefee went on to say of the Green Island Hills luncheon: "Jerry Luquire has you in his pocket...." I noted I've written jokes in the past here about the Georgia Christian Coalition President. I could have also mentioned how Robert Schweiger jokes continued, after the then-Hurtsboro Constable sent a donation to become a "blog patron." You'll note he hasn't written in a long time....

(Oh yes - you can become a blog patron, too. Free lunches last for a little while, but PayPal accounts can last much longer.)

I used the moment to ask Dan Menefee a couple of questions relating to the Zeph Baker campaign. He didn't know the answers - and calls to the campaign office later in the day again brought no response. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs at least makes up some kind of soundbite, on the spur of the moment.

So the pushing and pulling goes - and admittedly it's not always comfortable. But at times like Wednesday, I step back for a moment and marvel at it all. This little blog has come a long way in eight years. When mayoral candidates return my calls and civil rights activists of all skin colors unload their concerns, it's actually humbling -- except I'm smart enough NOT to run for office myself.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on the citywide Columbus Council runoff ended Wednesday afternoon. Judy Thomas claimed two-thirds of the 15 votes in our shamefully nonscientific poll. Travis Chambers received three votes, barely beating "None of the Above." So how many of those votes came from Mayor Jim Wetherington's office?

The mayor's office actually is the topic of our newest question. Once again, "None of the Above" is an option along with the two runoff candidates. And if you're reading this blog in Alaska, the proper spelling of the last name in the comments section is Murkowski.

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

BLOG CLARIFICATION: Apparently they're talking about two landfills in Russell County, not simply one. WTVM explained Phenix City Council approved an expansion to an existing landfill. But a public hearing was held Wednesday evening on plans for a new landfill in south Phenix City. For once, the south side would get something new and current - only the latest waste products.

Developers say they listened to earlier protests, and moved the proposed Russell County landfill three-fourths of a mile farther west. That would put it nearly two miles from the Chattahoochee River - and make it even harder for Continental Carbon to drop off black dust which otherwise would cover Columbus.

The landfill developers also promise to bar household garbage from the new site - only allowing "natural" waste such as wood and metals. But South Phenix City activists told WRBL there could be soil damage, and the area still would be a "dump." Why not do what Columbus does - and buy a lot of green tarp to surround the site, so no one can tell the difference?

Now let's discard the rest of Wednesday's headlines....

+ WRBL revealed this weekend's episode of "Undercover Boss" will take place at a Subway restaurant in Auburn. At last - we might catch Jared ordering a sandwich that's high in fat.

+ TMZ tried to connect a million-dollar donation to Auburn University by Victoryland owner Milton McGregor with the Cam Newton investigation. That's exactly what Alabama needs - a surprise appearance during the second quarter of the Iron Bowl by the Anti-Gambling Task Force.

(A defense attorney says McGregor never contacted Newton, or anyone related to the investigation. But don't be surprised if this report makes McGregor's legal fees go up a little.)

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) saw Georgia Tech's men return to form, by assaulting Albany 78-51. The New York university's nickname is the Great Danes - but on this night, the only person worthy of that title was tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

+ Instant Message to Loco's Bar and Grill: I think you're innocent of all wrongdoing. But I'm glad you only have two metro Columbus locations - as opposed to those Four-Loco's in other places.

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: 706 (+ 18, 2.6%)

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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