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....

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