Friday, January 07, 2011

7 JAN 11: Statues of Limitations

The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce holds its annual "stakeholder" meeting today. This year's location is the National Infantry Museum - not a good spot for anyone who might want to challenge President Mike Gaymon. Rep. Sanford Bishop held a town hall meeting on health care reform there in 2009, and look at what resulted from that.

To borrow from one of the "I Am the Chamber" billboards, the Chamber of Commerce has its fingerprints in all sorts of local projects. The newest one is a proposal for a Public Art Ordinance in Columbus. The annual "Arts in the Park" day at Lakebottom isn't enough for some people....

The Chamber of Commerce introduced this idea last week on its blog. It's based primarily on the artwork set up on Broadway in recent years by Uptown Columbus. I admittedly sometimes imitate the sculpture of the girl with her arms outstretched, hoping for rain - except I stop there at the end of long jogs, so my head is wet from sweat already.

The Chamber of Commerce notes many cities are known to tourists by "a single piece of art." For instance, how many people would think of Marietta, Georgia without its "Big Chicken?" The people who promote Gainesville as "Poultry Capital of the World" must broil every day about that....

The proposed Public Art Ordinance would require part of the cost of new Columbus buildings or renovations be set aside for artwork. Many large cities have done this for decades -- and even require some of the work be done by local artists. In Columbus, some people also would demand the paint come from Wynnton Hardware.

But before artists throw their easels into the air, there's a small catch to this idea. The Chamber of Commerce wants some kind of "oversight" set up, so there's "excellence" in projects funded by the Public Art Ordinance. I can see it now before Columbus Council - a Statue Statute.

The Chamber of Commerce wants some kind of Columbus Art Board because of the fuss several years ago over a planned sculpture in front of the Columbus Public Library [28 Oct 05]. If intelligent employees in the library system couldn't get that right, who would be chosen to make these decisions in 2011? Teachers chosen at random from Columbus Museum field trips?

What surprises me most about this concept is the organization that's proposing it. The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce is in effect endorsing an "art tax," with some sort of new quasi-governmental body to oversee it. Those sound like the very things Mike Gaymon opposes - at least when they're proposed by President Obama.

And while Public Art Ordinances seem to work in other cities, would local artists and Columbus State University art students like the requirement of a city board approving their projects? Especially if board members consider Kadie the Cow the standard for "public art" in Columbus now?

The way the Chamber of Commerce describes this idea, even the site of today's stakeholder meeting might be affected. The large "Follow Me" soldier in front of the National Infantry Museum could have required approval from a city board. But of course, a couple of stern speeches by Jim Rhodes would have settled that debate quickly....

If you stop to take a close look, there's plenty of public art scattered around Columbus now. One side of Martin Luther King Boulevard has a series of storytelling paintings about children's softball called "The First Pitch." But I fear so many drivers hurry down that street that it's more like a fast-pitch strikeout.

-> 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: Our qualms about Wednesday's main blog topic continue to bring reactions from readers....

Hi Richard,

I read your blog everyday to keep up with what is going on in Columbus and I like the fact that you add humor to the news. I hope that you never stop. I have been reading your blog for many years now and I hope to continue to read what you have to say, the facts on the news, your opinions, and your humor. Keep us the good work!

Laura in Florida

Bless you for those kind words! Many events in the news could use a lighter touch. But I suppose I broke with that tradition last August, when I ate massive meat during the "Big Blog Burger Blowout."

Armed with that encouragement, let's add some humor to the Thursday headlines....

+ A farewell dinner was held for outgoing Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell. For some reason, this tribute was held in downtown Columbus. Maybe Boswell plans to go on deer-hunting trips with former Mayor Jim Wetherington.

(Somebody's gotta say it - Phenix City needs a conference or convention center, or it's going to keep losing events and money across the river. Remember the Alabama Farmers Federation conference at the Columbus Trade Center last summer? I'm sure it would be happy to provide tractors for the ground-breaking ceremony.)

+ LaGrange Police searched for a man who robbed the CVS pharmacy on Greenville Street. WLTZ noted that pharmacy is located across the street from police headquarters. Don't they have sharpshooters stationed on the roof for moments like this?

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported local Habitat for Humanity Director Chris Cason apparently was forced to resign in late November. No one wants to discuss publicly what happened - but this happened before the December cold wave made "sweat equity" more difficult to produce.

+ WTVM aired a report on plans to upgrade several rundown-looking Columbus neighborhoods. But silly me - I saw the title "Five Facelifts" on the screen and thought Heidi Montag had something to do with it.

+ Fort Benning announced plans for an online "Facebook town hall meeting" next Wednesday, to discuss base realignment issues. If that many soldiers are gathered in one part of Facebook, I shudder to think how violent the Mafia Wars game will become.

+ Georgia Governor-Elect Nathan Deal began moving his belongings into the governor's mansion in Atlanta. Based on what we learned about his family's finances during last year's campaign, a couple of round-trips with a full car should do it.

+ Miss Georgia Christina McCauley arrived in Las Vegas for the Miss America pageant. McCauley has been named a finalist for the "quality of life award." I'm going to assume this is NOT because of that pageant pajama run in downtown Columbus last June....

+ WXTX reported the Auburn University football team is under a nightly curfew until Monday's Bowl Championship Series title game. I thought this was merely for rest and discipline - but then I learned Alabama Coach Nick Saban is going to the game, as part of ESPN's coverage.

+ Instant Message to everyone this may concern: Because of my Sabbath commitments, I turned down an offer to attend tonight's NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet - and I'll also skip Saturday's "Day of Service" promoted by Josh McKoon and Wayne Anthony. Call me an equal opportunity nay-sayer.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A civil rights activist helps launch something new here....

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