Tuesday, January 04, 2011

4 JAN 11: Time for T.T.

Shame on me for being so formal. I forgot when a Columbus Mayor takes office, it's NOT called an inauguration. It's a "swearing-in ceremony" - as if the organizers presume most of the residents don't know how to say inauguration, much less spell it.

The Monday evening ceremony making Teresa Tomlinson the first female mayor of Columbus clearly seemed to have a logistics problem. Two overflow areas were needed inside the Government Center for spectators who couldn't fit inside Council Chambers. Emcee and former campaign manager Tollie Strode called it a "seating adjustment." The Fire Marshal probably called it the law.

While other journalists seemed content to watch the swearing-in ceremony on CCG-TV, I walked up the avenue from my home to attend in person. There's no better event for networking with powerful people, for meeting with Columbus movers and shakers - not to mention the nice snack table with sandwiches, appetizers and brownie bites.

I arrived at 4:40 p.m., 20 minutes before ceremony time. But the seats inside Council Chambers already were reserved for "dignitaries." That meant elected officials, Teresa Tomlinson's family, the wife of recuperating former mayor Jim Wetherington - but not a group of Buffalo Soldiers in uniform. One of them
showed his amazing courage, by having the nickname "Chickenman" on his leather vest.

So we were left to watch the swearing-in ceremony in the Plaza Level lobby on a big TV screen. Teresa Tomlinson didn't receive as much applause there as she did inside Council Chambers. This group seemed too dignified to applaud a TV showing - meaning they're well above the crowds at many movie theatres on a Saturday night.

I sat next to St. Luke United Methodist Church Pastor Hal Brady, who wondered why a bigger facility wasn't used to hold everyone. I noted the RiverCenter could have been available, and recalled Bob Poydasheff had his mayoral reception in a room at the Trade Center [6 Jan 03]. Brady guessed the organizers wanted things "tight" - perhaps so close that the city would have to come together.

Veteran Columbus attorney Milton Jones began the ceremony by comparing it to the first meeting of a consolidated city government 40 years ago this month. He considers Teresa Tomlinson every bit as history-making, calling the new mayor a "force of nature." Yet for some reason, the Hardaway High School Jazz Band never played "She's Like the Wind."

Chief Judge John Allen administered the rather-wordy oath of office to Teresa Tomlinson. But first he admitted she's a close friend, and called her the "right person" for upcoming "exciting times." By "exciting," Allen must be putting board meetings on Ninth Street above bar crawls on Broadway.

The new mayor then gave an 11-minute speech, which had a little something for everyone. She included a reference to building a temple on Mount Zion - then turned around and discussed Columbus's future with two mentions of the word "evolution."

Teresa Tomlinson declared Monday it the "beginning of a new era" in Columbus, as a "subtle yet seismic shift" occurred - a new "coming of age." Translation: the days of folksy Southern mayors are over. Don't you wonder what Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter thought of that, sitting inside the chambers?

Teresa Tomlinson said voters rejected "the politics of distraction and mindless destruction" in the November election. This probably marks the last time she'll refer to the blog "The Truth About Teresa" for the next four years....

Teresa Tomlinson called for a city government's that's proactive instead of reactive - so the city "recognizes potential issues and mitigates them before they explode on the front page of the newspaper." Is that why Tomlinson reportedly started work Monday by meeting with the city auditor at the Muscogee County Prison?

I don't mean to quarrel with other local websites, but Teresa Tomlinson's speech DID mention the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. The other speakers on the program forgot to introduce Commanding General Robert Brown. The camouflage on his Army uniform simply worked too well.

Teresa Tomlinson called for the city to tap the expertise of people from outside the "corporate track," including transplants from other cities - and even "talented individuals with youthful transgressions in their past." There might be a place for that financial document scofflaw Zeph Baker yet....

Then came the big surprise near the end of Teresa Tomlinson's address. As she encouraged Columbus residents to "become engaged" in the community, one of her suggestions was: "Join a blog!" Woo-hoo! For one moment, Tomlinson and I seemed to have something in common -- an old television theme song moment.

A dignified inauguration ceremony then took a curious turn toward stereotyping - as the new mayor was presented was several roses. Somehow, I don't recall anyone giving flowers to Jim Wetherington when he took office four years ago.

Emcee Tollie Strode also had flowers prepared for Trip Tomlinson, and declared the mayor's husband the "first gentleman" of Columbus. Strode was right - it DOES sound better than "first dude."

The inauguration was finished in about 30 minutes, and the "after-party" reception began on the Plaza Level. As Teresa Tomlinson posed for pictures (here with Rep. Calvin Smyre), it was time to look for other famous faces in the crowd. We found....

+ Zeph Baker! "This is all about Teresa," he kept telling me -- saying he wanted to personally congratulate her. I'm not sure if that means he ever called Tomlinson to concede the 30 November runoff.

(Baker told me he's returned to working with Spirit-Filled Academy, which is adding two new grade levels. The people suggesting he run for Muscogee County School Board should remember that. He hasn't dared to apply for charter school status yet.)

+ Another defeated mayoral candidate, Wayne Anthony. He thanked me for my support. I didn't bother telling him about my lack of a voting record.

+ Calvin Floyd, fresh from his first day hosting a 12:00 noon talk show on WLTZ. Wife Nan confessed he was up "around 5:00 a.m." After all those years dealing with the alarm clock at 4:00, learning to sleep in takes some practice.

+ Almost the entire Phenix City Council. I told Mayor Sonny Coulter there was a quorum present in the Government Center -- but he assured me there are enough council meetings already.

Lest I forget: beverages were served at the Government Center reception. But which one was more appropriate for this new mayor - sweet or unsweetened T.T.?

-> 2011 is off to a good start in the poker room (real and online). Follow what's happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: And now for something which was NOT served at Teresa Tomlinson's reception....

Richard, I'm not sure if anyone has informed you that the term "cat head biscuit" refers to the size of the biscuit. Back in the day, the bigger the biscuit, the more that your stomach was full until you were called in for lunch. My paternal grandmother definitely made only cat head biscuits and they were indeed as large as a cat's head! My Dad told me that she not only always made them large but also made plenty. He said that there was nothing any better than when he came home from school in the afternoon and a few cold "cat head" biscuits were on stove and he would get a nice, juicy tomato and head out the back door to sit and have a small feast until dinner was ready. I was in a revival service many years ago when the evangelist asked from the pulpit if anyone knew what the term "cat head" biscuit referred to. He knew the answer and he was going to use it as a reference for his message that evening but I fail to remember what the comparison was. Hope this clears up this old saying!


If this keeps up, someone's going to suggest cat head biscuits be served at the Korea House restaurant.

(And related to this: why doesn't the Buckhead Grill on Armour Road include deer meat on the menu?)

Now for a quick stroll through the rest of the Monday buffet....

+ Columbus Police searched for a man who has tattoos on his forearms. WXTX reported one forearm says "get," while the other says "money." How many title pawn shops must be on this man's resume?

+ A man was arrested on charges of running an illegal nightclub at the Sierra Palace building, next door to the Liberty Theatre. He reportedly demanded a cover charge at the door, and served alcohol without a license. In other words, Ma Rainey could have walked there after a concert and felt right at home.

+ WTVM revealed Semone Doughton won the station's unofficial "race to the altar." She became married Saturday in Hawaii - yet somehow has NOT sold her pictures to tabloid websites, the way Valerie Bertinelli and Shania Twain probably did.

+ Auburn University's football team flew to Arizona for next Monday's Bowl Championship Series title game. WRBL showed one of the team buses to the airport was set aside for defensive players. I guess that means the shock absorbers and tires were specially adjusted to handle extra weight.

+ Instant Message to Columbus State University: About that banner I saw on a tennis court fence saying "I chose Division II" - did the athletes really choose it? Or was it more a case of, "I'm taking Division II because otherwise there might be no scholarship at all"?

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: Is Phenix City accepting a bad deal to get new jobs? We ask a city official....

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