Friday, December 17, 2010

17 DEC 10: White Fright

It's a story I admittedly was willing to let others cover. It's a minefield of a story - and humor blogs shouldn't be about dangerous minefields, should they? After all, I have enough trouble at my computer becoming an "expert" Minesweeper.

But two elements converged Thursday, to lead me into a whirlwind involving the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. For one thing, Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose told "The Courier" Chamber President Mike Gaymon should resign or be ousted. This may seem surprising, considering City Manager Isaiah Hugley appeared on WDAK's "Viewpoint" several times a year.

Edward DuBose says during a recent meeting with Mike Gaymon, the Chamber President admitted putting a tablecloth over his head two years ago to scare an employee. Gaymon described it as a joke, but DuBose and other African-American activists compare it to the Ku Klux Klan. I'm suddenly thankful I don't use tablecloths, and my only bed sheet is orange.

Edward DuBose also wants Mike Gaymon to step down from the city Crime Prevention Commission, because the tablecloth prank made Gaymon look like a Ku Klux Klan member. After all, not even the National Alliance has proposed bringing in a Klan rally to scare criminals away.

African-American activists say the target of this "tablecloth terror" in 2008 was Chamber of Commerce employee Tom Wyatt. Yet Wyatt kept working with the Chamber until earlier this year - and actually appeared on Viewpoint in September of last year with Gaymon. Was Wyatt threatened with a "Jail and Bail" charity arrest if he didn't cooperate?

Mike Gaymon reportedly told Edward DuBose during their meeting he is NOT a racist. Of course, how many people have you met in 2010 who admit they are? A woman at my Thursday night poker tournament used that very "I'm not racist against black people" line - and she's an African-American woman.

This brings me to the second element which led me to focus on this fuss -- a Thursday e-mail from a regular Courier columnist, which actually was in response to our Wednesday topic:


Despite what a lot of people may might think, credible civil rights leaders and community activists show up at council on serious issues, not specifically to make Jim Wetherington's day miserable. Jim Wetherington was not such a priority in our lives we went out our way to run down to council to attack him. We never put the mayor on the spot, he put himself on the spot by not being fair and consistent. We challenged him to be a mayor for all the citizens of Columbus and to show every citizen they mattered and he, of his own volition, miserably failed the challenge. Those that are satisfied with him as mayor are just as satisfied with Wetherington adamantly denying anything we supported as concerned citizens as much as they are satisfied with whatever else he may have done during his term as mayor. That tells you just about all you need to know and exactly where Wetherington was governing from and who he was working to please. Politically he was right-wing conservative. He is not much of a modern day Democrat.

The only thing we should celebrate about him is the fact that he is gone and we do have another chance to build a more cohesive community if we take advantage of it.

What Wetherington has done to damage this city with the racial division and the distrust he worked to make so much greater in this community, that all will hunt this city long after he is gone. His infamous legacy is going to hang over this city like a dark cloud of evil until a fair and just administration erases altogether the very memory of a Mayor Jim Wetherington. However, you can be sure that with Pops Barnes and Judy Thomas on council you have not heard the last of Jim Wetherington and his loyal sidekick Frank Myers, which means we all still have plenty of work to do. Moreover, you will have plenty of material for daily entries on your blog of humorous comments regarding current events. Some might call that a win-win for everybody. I don't think I exactly agree with them on that, but it is what it is.

Did I hate Jim Wetherington the man? Not hardly. I would not urge anyone to hate Jim Wetherington or anyone else. As a decent human being I would not work with anyone who did not understand the current conditions or our struggle any better than that. It is not about hating, but exposing the hate on both sides and defeating that hate by elucidating the facts and telling the unadulterated truth evey time ou. Hate cannot be justified or taken lightly. It is deadly. If we hate we lose. That is the first lesson I learned and that is the first lesson taught by the Grassroots Unity Movement For Change.

Keep up the good work. I can appreciate the fact that you allow every person their unedited say, and that you will on occasion take up the challenge to go digging for more information. A lot of people in this town will not follow through on investigating the story for fear of what they might find and who they might find it out about. The Courier news story about Columbus Chamber President Mike Gaymon putting a white tablecloth over his head to scare an African American employee is a good example of my point. Establishment or mainstream media is yet to report one word one way or another. The River City Report linked to the story, but personally questioned if publisher Wane Hailes had lost his mind. Other than that, I believe you at least alluded to it once on your blog. That has been all she wrote around here on the controversial issue. That is all that has been heard and probably all that will be heard from other than the aforementioned news media sources.

Just my thoughts.

Take care,

Brother Love, Director

Grassroots Unity Movement for Change

I'm not sure if C.A. Hardmon planned it this way, but his last paragraph provoked me to contact the Chamber of Commerce office. After all, I'm not really sure if this blog qualifies as "mainstream media" or not - even though I live a few blocks from a main stream, and run on the Riverwalk often.

The Chamber of Commerce's official position on the tablecloth prank is "no comment." One source explained that's because it's a "personnel matter," and Tom Wyatt no longer works for the Chamber. In fact, he's seemed to be so quiet in all this that rumors might start of a financial settlement with the city.

One source at the Chamber of Commerce described the tablecloth terror story as ridiculous. "It's lived past its life," I was told - adding I should "question the source" of the articles. Translation: if it's shaped like a tabloid and smells like a tabloid, it must be a tabloid.

But all this was said before I discovered Thursday's issue of The Courier. Assuming the men who met with Mike Gaymon quoted him accurately, the "source" to be questioned might be Gaymon himself. The Chamber's annual stakeholder meeting is coming up in mid-January -- but Gaymon may have outsmarted everyone, by having a Fort Benning general nearby as guest speaker.

To borrow from another article in The Courier's latest issue, this fuss could be a case of "how you see it vs. how we see it." An old children's story should remind us that differing points of view can be partly right - and also partly wrong. Are the people who want Mike Gaymon removed for (at least) bad judgment the same people who wanted Rep. Sanford Bishop reelected?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION puts this issue in your hands. Should the Chamber of Commerce Board remove Mike Gaymon for putting that white tablecloth over his head to scare an African-American employee? Or is this simply a case of a local executive doing something stupid? You'll notice all those hockey fights didn't stop Jerome Bechard from becoming coach of the Cottonmouths.

E-MAIL UPDATE: On to the next controversy - or perhaps some would call him the next rabble-rouser....

Sir Richard:

I do indeed appreciate your accurate reviews of the ongoing problems in "Hurt'sboro. I certainly understand your position in trying to verify my claims and I understand the difficulty you face in getting answers from the "Hurtsboro officials. I've been there and done that!

I have to have them arrested or take legal action to wring any paperwork out of them - and I'm billed for the documents they reluctantly produce.

I am not going to burden you with a long list of things that are just wrong - but the Town's employees have gone without a paycheck for almost two weeks.

The Mayor serves in absentia due to (either real or imagined) ill health and relies on tight lipped Court Clerk (Jim Baxley) to cover for him. But, as you suggested in today's BLOG; I don't intend to abandon the chase or follow any false trails.

I will keep you informed if you are interested.

Perhaps it IS too late to hope for peace in "Hurt'sboro this year, But I'm an old Chicago Cubs fan - just wait until next year.

R.J. Schweiger

"That is a lie," the Hurtsboro Town Clerk told your blog Thursday. And no, I did NOT ask her to name Robert Schweiger's favorite baseball team.

Kimberly Key admitted Hurtsboro city workers received paychecks late - but one day late, not "almost two weeks." Key assured me the payroll is up-to-date. Hurtsboro's critics probably would say hardly anything else in town is.

(I admittedly didn't ask about Mayor Rayford Tapley's health. If he's read what Robert Schweiger has written here recently, it certainly can't help his blood pressure.)

More personnel matters top our check of Thursday news....

+ Columbus Mayor-Elect Teresa Tomlinson named three members to her office staff. Before you ask: yes, there IS a racial mix. But I noticed all the aides are female. Maybe Tomlinson plans to improve the economy by bringing a "Real Housewives" show to the Government Center.

(The next mayor's Executive Assistant will be Judy Tucker, who worked alongside Tomlinson at MidTown Inc. Remembering one issue during the mayor's race, it's nice to know Tucker finally will be paid for her work.)

+ A compromise was announced on future controlled burns at F.D.R. State Park. State experts will conduct fewer burns, and stage them away from nature trails. This way, no one will confuse Pine Mountain with one of the Smokies.

+ The Alabama Legislature concluded a special "pre-session" by approving seven ethics bills. Until now, lobbyists were allowed to pay lawmakers 250 dollars a day. One new rule changes that limit to 150 dollars per year. Won't this tempt lawmakers to loosen state gambling laws - so they can play slot machines to restore their lost income?

+ Huntsville scored two goals in the third period to conquer the Columbus Cottonmouths 4-2. The game was delayed 90 minutes because the Huntsville team bus broke down. I'm sure this was resolved quickly, when a Havoc player punched the proper engine part.

+ Former LaGrange High School football coach Steve Pardue was named running backs coach at Kentucky. In fact, Pardue was in Lexington last weekend wearing Kentucky garb - so now I'm even more convinced Carver running back Isaiah Crowell is committing to Georgia.

+ Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton announced he'll donate his "appearance fee" from David Letterman's talk show at an Auburn grade school. Newton received only 200 dollars for reading a top ten list this week. But the only other way Newton's father could get a payday in New York was with Jimmy Fallon's show, even later after midnight.

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