9 JAN 11: The Sunday Soapbox
When he left the WRBL sports desk last January, Shawn Skillman marveled at how much writing I do every day for this blog. He makes a good point -- but at least when I have to leave a group of friends, they don't have to remind me: "Don't forget to write."
Today we begin a new blog feature called.... hey, that title above is a good one: The SUNDAY SOAPBOX. This will be a place for long-form e-mails we receive from time to time, a bit like the Sunday opinion section of the newspaper. And if I can come up with good punchlines, you'll get "Sunday Funnies" at no extra charge.
One e-mailer in particular provoked me to start this new feature. It happened because of this reply to the inauguration of the new Columbus Mayor....
One early challenge for Teresa Tomlinson may involve demands from civil rights activists for an outside investigation of Columbus Fire/EMS. I asked her about that in November, before the runoff forum at Green Island Country Club. She said much of the complaining stems from a "distrust" of Jim Wetherington's leadership. We'll see if Tomlinson changes that today - perhaps by asking the activists to bring refreshments. [3 Jan]
With all the attention that has been brought to the matter and the factual evidence that has been revealed to the public, I do not see how any mayor, new or old, could refuse having an independent agency investigate the allegations of fraud that local civil rights activists have brought to light regarding Columbus Fire & EMS Chief Jeffery A. Meyer and events officially reported to Mayor Jim Wetherington by Battalion Chief Janice M. Bruner in December 2008. Much of the complaints stemmed from Jim Wetherington refusing requests to bring in an outside agency to investigate. The complaints and the distrust of Jim Wetherington stemmed from the obvious cover-up he was leading to protect Chief Meyer. Those complaints were about blatant double standards and bias.
Mayor Wetherington was not consistent in his handling of the Junior Marshal''s Program, where he and council were going to call in GBI to investigate the Muscogee County Marshal and Municipal Court Clerk, or in the handling of the Park and Recreation case, where Wetherington was so overzealous he called in police investigators before there was evidence of any criminal wrongdoing. However, when it came to the Columbus Fire & EMS the mayor''s answer to everything brought to light was that he believed every word Jeff Meyer told him about the entire situation. Chief Meyer was instantly afforded preferential treatment and protection by Mayor Wetherington when his decisions and actions in the other cases demonstrated a complete rush to judgment and a predetermination by the mayor that all the individuals associated with the other cases were guilty of criminal conduct. The mayor was deliberating retaliating against and targeting African Americans within the CCG because civil rights and other community activists had constantly brought forth discrimination issues regarding the administrative practices of Muscogee County Prison Warden Bill Adamson and Columbus Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Meyer. I am talking about a tit for tat situation. The mayor did not see right and wrong, he saw Blacks going after Whites.
In my opinion, and I think the facts support my conclusion, Mayor Wetherington was carrying out his own little racial vendetta hiding behind the cover of the Office of Mayor. The mayor was not out to protect the city of Columbus, actually I believe he wanted to racially divide this city; he was out to protect certain employees and destroy the professional and political careers of some particular CCG elected officials and employees. If the activists distrusted Mayor Jim Wetherington it is because he earned it over and over again fair and square. His entire administration and leadership style harked back to 1950s Jim Crow. Wetherington had a fundamental issue with independent thinking African Americans. He was a product of his segregationist time and it came out.
We gave him the benefit of the doubt and supported him for mayor in 2006. As soon as he took office he showed us he was not worthy of our trust or support. The only good thing Jim Wetherington did besides leaving elected office and public life was to force the good citizens of Columbus, Georgia to come to grips with the fact that right here right now we still have big problems with race relations, especially when it comes to equality and respect.
Jim Wetherington woke us all up and told us in no uncertain terms we are in big trouble. There is no doubt now that we have a long and difficult road ahead of us. Mayor Tomlinson is correct in that government cannot fix the race relations problems in this city or any other city. However, good government with a concerned and competent leader at the helm can help facilitate fixes and it can set the tempo to bring about more involved and concerned citizens and thereby greater community cohesion. Tearing down the racial barriers and bridging the racial divide in this community will not really be all that hard. The hard part is finding understanding people with the courage of their convictions who are willing to fight the good fight to bring about the much needed change of direction that will serve and benefit the whole of Columbus and make this city a better place in which to live. The thing is, you first have to be honest with yourself and others about our current circumstances and conditions, want to do something to make it all better, and then do your dead level best to see the good things you decide to do through to fruition.
I believe Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is the best beginning for a new and improved more inclusive Columbus. If she at all lives up to her own swearing-in speech everything is going to be all right. I know I will be doing everything in my power to make her an overwhelming success and the most memorable mayor the city has ever had. I am asking all the citizens of Columbus to invest in a better today and a better tomorrow by getting behind Mayor Tomlinson and help her help us. We needed her and she threw her hat in the ring and came out the victor. She now will need the people and we should be there to help, aid, and assist her in any way we can so that we all cross the finish line together as Team Columbus. This is a mayor we can all be proud of with a vision for a Columbus we all can be proud of, plus she has the spunk and the smarts to make things happen in a big big way. Now who could ask for any more than that or top it? We are in good hands with Mayor Tomlinson.
Brother Love, Director
Grassroots Unity Movement for Change
Wow -- C.A. Hardmon is living up to the Burkard Award he won last weekend, isn't he?
Richard Hyatt's website reported Mayor Teresa Tomlinson started her first day in office last Monday at the Muscogee County Prison, joined by the city auditor. That seems to tell us two things: the prison is her top priority -- and the city auditor's job is safe for at least a few weeks.
This e-mail admittedly left me a bit puzzled. There's a "long and difficult road ahead" in terms of race relations -- yet bridging the divide "will not really be all that hard"?! It's as if Teresa Tomlinson showed up at the Government Center driving a tricked-up Jeep.
That's not the only message C.A. Hardmon sent this past week. He'd probably prefer we put the second one first -- as this Friday morning e-mail offered a developing "Enough is Enough" story:
You might want to go by this event today host by the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. The Columbus Chamber has thus far refused to apologize publicly or otherwise, to the community at large for Mike Gaymon's recently reported reprehensible conduct they steadfast claim to have been a joke and a personnel matter.
After today the Columbus Chamber will know there are people in this community that are highly offended by their refusal to respond or even acknowledge that the conduct was insensitive, to say the least, and demonstrated poor leadership on Mike Gaymon's part and immaturity.
Hoping this issue will go away and dismissing it as a Wane Hailes Courier/Eco Latino vendetta is not going to fly with the people. Caucasians as well as African Americans and Latinos are not at all pleased with this incident or the Columbus Chamber's lack of response and publicly taking of personal responsibility.
The Columbus Chamber has deliberately chosen to totally ignore the whole situation and the pain the discovery of the unacceptable conduct and inappropriate actions, actions that no matter how you try to explain them away there is a racist connotation to the so-called prank.
Mike Gaymon's conduct with a white tablecloth over his head in an attempt to frighten an African American employee is and affront to our city. Either this conduct represents Columbus and the Columbus Chamber or it does not. So far the Columbus Chamber Board of Directors has no demonstrated leadership nor do they seem to have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and admit Mike Gaymon was wrong and his conduct terribly insensitive and disrespectful.
There is talk that with the BRAC coming in there should be a letter writing campaign to warn the Department of Defense of the adverse racial climate Fort Bennning soldiers will be exposed to moving to Columbus. Mike Gaymon and the Columbus Chamber are evidence in proof. There may be citizens here they are not concerned, there may be those that are willing to dismiss the protest and public outcry, primarily from the African American community. All that may be true, but what is equally true is the the with Fort Benning being our neighbor the DOD will not take this poor behavior and lack of response lightly.
The DoD is going to be concerned and they will take action and demand some remedy be applied to this situation.
Bottom line, if we want a new Columbus we are going to all have to do our part and make some tough decisions.
The Columbus Chamber can't duck and dodge on this one. Things will only get worse if they do.
It's a good thing I didn't try to go to the Chamber's "stakeholder" meeting - because I would have wound up in the wrong place. Several people noted I posted an incorrect location Friday. My apologies for not placing the meeting at the RiverCenter - and if you want to fire me as a blogger for being stupid, so be it.
This notice reached me before dawn Friday, but I never saw it until the Chamber of Commerce meeting was over. I never turned on my computer until the Friday errands were finished. I had groceries to buy - not to mention my reservation for a free spicy chicken biscuit at Chick-Fil-A.
Thankfully, other news media covered the Chamber of Commerce meeting - well, really the protest outside it. WTVM counted 11 people quietly holding signs, calling for Mike Gaymon's removal as President. That's not a very large number. SOA Watch can bring in twice that many protesters on a single bus from Massachusetts.
It appears the Grassroots Unity Movement for Change did NOT organize the Chamber of Commerce protest. Seafood restaurant owner Ronzell Buckner says he did it - and if he smells something fishy with Mike Gaymon, it might be worth paying attention.
Inside the RiverCenter, Mike Gaymon gave his first public explanation of what happened in November 2008. Yes, he put a white tablecloth over his head in a late evening - intending to imitate a ghost as a prank. But Gaymon says when he learned an African-American co-worker was upset, he personally apologized. No one apparently asked if all the tablecloths have been removed, instead of Gaymon.
The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors clearly is buying Mike Gaymon's explanation, as opposed to Brother Love's. Outgoing Executive Chair Richard Anthony says the 2008 incident was misinterpreted. But you'll notice the Chamber hasn't organized any masquerade balls recently.
If the Defense Department is so concerned about Mike Gaymon's actions, why was the main speaker at Friday's stakeholder meeting the commanding general of Fort Benning? General Robert Brown didn't cancel his appearance, and The River City Report indicates several soldiers joined him. Come to think of it, maybe that's why the protesters were so quiet....
The good news for Ronzell Buckner and his group is that Columbus has two "chamber" organizations. There's also a Columbus Minority Chamber of Commerce, which put its focus on a Saturday Legislative Prayer Breakfast in Atlanta. The next few weeks will tell whether any members prayed for a mass walkout by the Greater Columbus Chamber Board.
SCHEDULED MONDAY: What we never knew about "Mimosa-Gate".... and my next-door neighbor's big B.C.S. prediction....
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