Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 NOV 10: Travails with Farley

Tuesday's Columbus Council meeting dealt with issues of fire and water. The water announcement could have sparked a fire under some people - and the fire matter was so hot, not even the mayor could throw cold water on it.

The main event was another request from local ministers for an outside review of Columbus Fire/EMS. It stemmed from a complaint by former Battalion Chief Arnold Farley. He says he was forced to take a demotion before he retired two years ago. Now he knows how Hillary Rodham Clinton feels....

Arnold Farley says his trouble with Columbus Fire/EMS began when he refused to shift one paramedic to a different fire station, and moved another one instead. At this point, the evening newscasts failed me - because I don't know why Farley made that decision. Was one paramedic in the middle of a diabetes test or something?

Arnold Farley says he was suspended and demoted purely due to race discrimination. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance took his side - and Fourth Street Baptist Church Pastor Johnnie Flakes claimed Columbus Fire/EMS has a "plantation mentality." No, it was NOT a comment in favor of South Georgia quail hunts....

Some Columbus Councilors objected to the phrase "plantation mentality," and Johnnie Flakes apologized for it. But Mayor Jim Wetherington refused to give ground, saying he will NOT order a state investigation of Columbus Fire/EMS. He sees no need for "mid-course corrections," after last week's election - especially after seeing the sign pointing to that rest stop.

Arnold Farley went farther after pleading his case to Columbus Council, telling WLTZ the entire city needs an outside investigation. I assume NCR did that, before deciding to build a plant here last year....

Fire Chief Jeff Meyer made a rare comment to reporters, saying the "Farley fire fuss" (gotta have a catchy name, you know) is all a matter of misinformation. Meyer said it would be better for both sides to "sit down and talk through the issues." Arnold Farley DID talk, though -- standing, and with TV cameras rolling.

This actually wasn't the first time Arnold Farley has complained publicly about Fire Department discrimination. An online search Tuesday night found a 1996 meeting with then-Fire Chief Wayne Collins. Farley was a Sergeant then. Yet he reached his goal of Battalion Chief in 2008. Farley did it twice, due to the demotion -- but still, that probably made history.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar -- yeah, you're right. Before we heard about Arnold Farley, there was Columbus firefighter Janice Bruner [13 Oct]. Local activists finally found a Battalion Chief who could complain without breaking a confidentiality agreement.

This appearance by a second African-American Battalion Chief clearly was an attempt to show a pattern of discrimination. Yet the most visible Columbus Fire/EMS official in recent months has been African-American Fire Marshal Thomas Streeter. If he can watch his mouth until a new mayor takes office in January....

Columbus Council showed some sympathy for Arnold Farley, by approving a resolution to put Fire/EMS on a regular schedule for city audits. Maybe the next one actually will be released to the public, instead of sitting at the bottom of a pile in the mayor's office.

Oh yes, the water: Columbus Water Works President Robert Tant announced monthly bills will go up about $1.85 per month, beginning in January. He explained the price increase is due in part to people conserving and using less water. So if I run my shower non-stop seven days a week, will my water bill drop to zero?

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E-MAIL UPDATE: The fault finders are in full force in the Columbus Mayoral runoff. This question came Tuesday....

Hello Mr. Burkard,

Well I see that Mr. Baker has finally filed his campaign disclosure reports but should we question that none of his reports have been notarized? A notary is not required if the reports are submitted electroniclly but his reports are hand written so that can;t be electronic. Have you noticed this and do you know if a notary is a requirement or a option?


D. King

Yes, a notarization is required - but the answer for Zeph Baker's latest reports is more complex than that. Jeanette James at the Columbus Election Office told me Tuesday a notary seal does NOT have to be on every document, as long as one notarized signature is on file. Yes, Baker found time to submit that sometime in the last year.

Jeanette James added the September and October campaign reports for Zeph Baker were filed electronically Monday. If they look handwritten to you, maybe his campaign has more computer know-how than you think.

But this isn't stopping other people from going after Zeph Baker....

Subject: Council Comedy - A non-musical tragedy

Let's see: who do we support in the Mayor's Race:

Candidate Z - can't handle one employee - his bookkeeper left town and Z did not know she could be replaced - Yet he would supervise 2,800 city employees?

Candidate Z - can't account for where his campaign money came from or where it went...for two years...or most recent campaign since July. Yet he would oversee a $275,000,000 budget? Sounds like he's the perfect replacement in Parks and Rec - he has the inexperience!

Candidate Z - calls press conference...promises media Big News - says he has endorsements from his previous opponents...step up Mr. Anthony and Mr. Olson.....(off camera; Wayne! Paul! Where are you?) They don't show. This man can't organize a 3 man press conference. How will he handle the Council, City Manager, Staff....hello?

Breaking News Z announces his opponent has bullied Olson and Anthony into not showing up at his party!

The Comedy Channel now plays an hour from each Council Meeting; let's don't make it two!

Jerry Luquire

The Comedy Channel?! Why would they show Columbus Council meetings on Australian television? And besides, I think it's Jim Wetherington in the middle at meetings right now.

The campaign manager for mayoral candidate Paul Olson confirmed what we suspected Tuesday. WLTZ reported Olson has reservations about Zeph Baker's delays with financial reports. Baker called it all a "dead issue" - but some people seem ready to compare him to Bruce Huff. You know, the mortician running for Council....

Since no one submitted alleged scandals about Teresa Tomlinson Tuesday, we'll move on to some of the other news:

+ Columbus Police reported someone broke into the Homeless Resource Network office on Second Avenue. The items stolen included 400 METRA bus tickets - which may qualify as the biggest jump in METRA interest in several years.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Columbus church pastor Marshall McGill waved a badge and shouted profanities at a driver last week. McGill serves as a chaplain for the Muscogee County Marshal's Office - but for all we know, McGill may have carried that badge because his church has openings on the ushers' board.

(People with long memories will remember former Marshal Ken Suddeth caused controversy by giving honorary badges to his friends. When Greg Countryman took office, he recalled the badges and started handing out other gifts -- but I think Marshall McGill is a bit too old to be a Junior Marshal.)

+ WTVM interviewed the "hottie cop" (OK, that's my name for her) on the Protect Columbus recruitment billboards. It turns out she's a divorced mother, who finds the dating scene awkward because she's a police officer. Apparently "NYPD Blue" isn't shown on cable TV anymore, to offer her guidance.

+ A survey crew began probing the ground at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, looking for signs of graves from an old cemetery. Instead of digging, the crew used a rolling radar device above the ground - the sort of thing another crew might use at Port Columbus, to declare the museum is full of ghosts.

+ Philips Arena in Atlanta was packed for the "Seize the Day" motivational rally. The speakers included Sarah Palin and Bill O'Reilly - which leads me to conclude CNN managers did NOT buy a block of tickets.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths announced its scheduled home game on 17 January has been moved to the 25th. Awww - no hockey game on Martin Luther King Day?! Now thousands of Caucasian people in Columbus really won't know what to do....

+ Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik told reporters the latest accusations about quarterback Cam Newton are "frankly.... garbage." Then he wondered aloud, "Is there a wizard behind the curtain?" Hmmmmm - is that the new nickname for Florida's Urban Meyer?

+ Instant Message to RiverTown Church: I've been meaning to mention your monthly promotional brochure. We really went back to Standard Time last Sunday - so maybe you should add to the series "12 Things God Hates About Church" a line about being truthful.

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