Wednesday, November 17, 2010

17 NOV 10: Red Zone in Green Island

After more than 13 years in Columbus, it finally happened Tuesday. I took a hard left turn off River Road, and entered a neighborhood I'd never visited before. You can tell from this post I made it out alive - as not a single resident of Green Island Hills reported me for trespassing.

Yes, I finally drove through arguably the wealthiest neighborhood in Columbus - and in fact, I parked my humble Honda at Green Island Country Club. It's a good thing my forest green sportcoat was the next one in my suit rotation, so I could fit right in....

I was invited to Green Island Country Club by blog reader and Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire. The Muscogee-Harris Republican Women held their monthly luncheon there Tuesday, featuring four candidates in the Columbus city runoff. Since the room was full, I assume there was no line downtown for early voting.

Jerry Luquire paid for my luncheon ticket - but there was a price to pay when the luncheon ended. An ally of Zeph Baker tried hard to get me to declare I support Teresa Tomlinson in the mayoral runoff. Regular blog readers know I do NOT endorse any candidates. In fact, that's probably why none of them ever have advertised here.

I waited for Zeph Baker to finish chatting with the Republican women before approaching him for a couple of questions. But insurance agent Dan Menefee intervened, saying Baker had to leave -- and insisting this blog has been leaning in favor of Teresa Tomlinson. Really?! I called Tomlinson "wonky" months before she called herself a nerd [18 Aug].

(At first Menefee thought I might be "Paul Olson's buddy." No, I am NOT Bert Coker. I don't own a cowboy hat - and I wasn't even tempted to buy one when I lived in Oklahoma for three years.)

Dan Menefee said I should "reserve comments until the final election" in two weeks, and be neutral in the meantime. As we both left, I was told he's the cousin of Fox NFL Sunday host Curt Menefee. But on this day, he might as well have been related to a host named Chelsea -- because he was quite the "Handler."

As it happened, I sat at a luncheon table with Teresa Tomlinson, husband Trip and Council runoff candidate Judy Thomas. But they can verify - I did NOT coach them in anything they should say to the Republican women.

(All non-members at the luncheon were asked to stand and introduce themselves. After the Tomlinsons and Thomas spoke, I noted I do my "running" on the Riverwalk.)

Teresa Tomlinson told the luncheon there's a difference between running for the Columbus mayor's office and governing. She said a mayor should have a "broad vision." If Tomlinson thought that phrase was a coded message to a women's group, I saw right through it.

Teresa Tomlinson returned to her theme of putting underutilized land on the Columbus city tax rolls. "I invite you to drive to Terminal Court; I invite you to drive to Cusseta Road," she told the Republican women. Many of them probably would keep the windows rolled up and locked well before getting to those places.

But Teresa Tomlinson seemed to overstate a point, when she suggested there's a connection between underperforming schools and income levels. We've noted in the past how the neighborhood grade school for Green Island Hills falls short of adequate yearly progress. Are buses sneaking down before sunrise, to send children along Standing Boy Road to Harris County?

During a question period, Teresa Tomlinson rejected accusations that she's a liberal Democrat. She jokingly said some have compared her to "wild-eyed liberals like Zell Miller." Uhhhh - last time I checked, Miller was still a Democrat. And he's never taken back his support of the Georgia Lottery.

Zeph Baker actually spoke first to Tuesday's luncheon. He marveled at the Republican women giving him seven minutes for remarks, saying that's the most time he's had in about a year. Why, this is approaching sermon-length for a minister like Baker....

Zeph Baker says Columbus needs more police officers - but he wants them "off of the highways and into our neighborhoods." Soldiers who race down Interstate 185 into Fort Benning at 5:30 a.m. have found their mayoral candidate.

Yet I heard one Teresa Tomlinson supporter admit Zeph Baker was right, on another public safety issue. Baker said the Marshal's Office should stick to its job of serving court papers, and stop writing traffic tickets. Now you know why Marshal Greg Countryman endorsed someone else in the runoff....

P.S.: If you're like me and have never visited Green Island Hills, it's much like the rest of Columbus in some ways. The streets only have two lanes -- and garbage trucks can bring traffic to a halt at times. This truck on Green Island Drive actually was collecting large tree limbs. They must have been rejected for a hand-crafted corporate table.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The candidates in the Columbus Council Post 9 runoff also spoke at Tuesday's luncheon. We'll focus on them in an upcoming post.)

E-MAIL UPDATE: We traveled to Green Island Hills with one particular question for the mayoral candidates. It was provoked by a lengthy letter from a civil rights activist, which we're admittedly trimming a bit....


Whether you call it the plantation mentality or a dictatorship, what the mayor is doing is still all the same a disgrace. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance has appeared before Columbus Council twice now asking mayor and council to bring in the GBI to take a look at the Columbus Fire & EMS based on complaints that were submitted in a December 2008 Fair Treatment Report (Grievance) filed with Human Resources Director Tom Barron by Columbus Fire & EMS Battalion Chief Janice M. Bruner alleging theft for the purposes of pay, among other complaints relating to policy. The question of theft has not been properly examined or addressed, nor was Columbus Council even aware of these events until brought to their attention by Georgia State Conference NAACP President Edward Dubose and me at council.

Mayor Jim Wetherington had taken it upon himself to conceal all of this information from council and the citizens of Columbus, along with the numerous audits that had been conducted by John Redmond. A City Ordinance clearly stated the Internal Auditor/Compliance Officer was subject to mayor and City Council and that the final audit reports are to be submitted to mayor and council concurrently. There is no ambiguity therein. If you do not fully comply with a City Ordinance you are breaking the Law. That even goes for the mayor. Jim Wetherington broke the Law when he hid those 25 audits locked away in a file cabinet in his office. He violated a city ordinance.

When Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh requested all the audits during a council secession, she had to make the request 3 times to the mayor and then was ignored altogether for 30 days. Mayor Pro Tem Pugh was never provided copies of the 25 audits until the Courier/Eco Latino ran a story exposing that the mayor was ignoring her requests....

Jim Wetherington operates with impunity in this town. Oh, you say you need more proof? Fine! Let us take a good look at the November 9th council secession and the exchange between the delegation of clergy, community activists, and concerned citizens. The delegation was scoring points and making cogent arguments concerning the issue never once mentioning race. Lo and behold who mentions race, just as he did when the ministers appeared in September, Mayor Wetherington. Do not take my word, check the video. The mayor brings up race to the ministers and points to Pops Barnes as a victim of race being maliciously interjected into the debate to do harm. Then the mayor quickly dropped back and asked Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Meyer to come up in the middle of the ministers' presentation and, get this now, tell the council and public about why Battalion Chief Arnold Farley was forced to leave the department after 27 years of exemplary service. He wanted the chief to openly discuss a personnel matter.

Retired Chief Arnold Farley had appeared before council just 2 weeks before and presented them a packet of evidence supporting the complaints and allegations that had been revealed by Battalion Chief Bruner's grievance. Chief Farley had challenged the council to call up Chief Bruner to answer questions and to call for a GBI investigation of Columbus Fire & EMS. So 2 weeks later what does our distinguished mayor publicly try to do to this 27 veteran of the Fire Department, he calls up Chief Jeff Meyer to discredit him. Actually, the mayor asked the Fire & EMS chief to violate the law and subject the CCG to a huge civil lawsuit that the city would not have had a hope or a prayer of defeating in court. Chief Meyer could not publicly bring up that personnel matter. The mayor knew that, but did not care one bit about the law or liability to the city. He just wanted to win or appear to win the fight for his friends and supporters, which it is how it has been all along with Jim Wetherington, win at all cost. The mayor was playing boss....

City Attorney Clifton Fay did not say a word when it was called for him to do so. He did not even initially try to stop the mayor or Chief Meyer. Chief Meyer had to ask the city attorney to do his job and tell the mayor he was wrong. That is how absolutely scared all these officials are of Big Jim Wetherington. They are so scared they will stand by and see the law violated, see others harmed, and see citizens disrespected all because the mayor wants to win at all cost. Chief Meyer knew the mayor had recklessly thrown him under the bus and would not bring up the personnel matter even after the mayor prompted him the second time to discredit retired Battalion Chief Arnold Farley....

The mayor smugly declares he only has a month and a half. He fails to realize that is the same month and a half we have to do whatever needs to be done.

Thank you,

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon may not be pleased with what I heard from the Wetherington wanna-bes. Teresa Tomlinson told me she'd conduct her own personal review of Columbus Fire/EMS in 2011 -- and will NOT commit to anything beyond that. She'd rather pour local cold water on the controversy, than ship any down from Atlanta.

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." Does this explain why Piggly Wiggly only sells whole wheat pancake flour at Columbus South stores?

I don't dare guess what C.A. Hardmon has in mind by doing "whatever needs to be done." But since Columbus Council didn't meet Tuesday, he's down to three regular meetings before Jim Wetherington leaves the mayor's office. Maybe Hardmon expects Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to slap Columbus one last time, by calling for a tourist boycott.

Let's see what else was worth a double-take Tuesday:

+ The Phenix City Council approved plans to expand the city landfill. WRBL reports the local NAACP opposes this expansion - showing someone has the courage to stand and challenge Southern white trash.

+ WRBL reported on plans for LaGrange Town Center - a new development along Interstate 85 which will include an outlet mall. City officials may have forgotten about the old outlet mall in Opelika, which only has a few occupied storefronts now. Or they may be thinking Kia executives won't know any better, and fill the center with South Korean imports.

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College split a basketball doubleheader. The women's team is 5-0, the men are 0-5 -- and the men hopefully will understand why the women want to date baseball players.

+ Georgia's men corralled Colorado 83-74, in a game with more than 50 fouls. If I didn't know better, I would have guessed this was a fundraiser for the Fraternal Order of Police.

+ Instant Message to Kate Middleton: Really now - what does he have that I don't? Well, I mean other than the palaces. And the crown jewels. And probably a faster Internet connection....

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