Friday, April 29, 2011

29 APR 11: Party Like It's 1997

The scenes of destruction from Alabama and Manchester Thursday were numbing and sad. But I'm trying to look on the bright side - as today marks an anniversary for me. If only I could mark it with a royal procession in London, and the taking of a princess....

Today marks 14 years since I moved from metro Atlanta to Columbus. People like to ask what brought me to Columbus in 1997. The answer's simple, really - my car.

But seriously: it was a new job in local television which brought me two hours down the interstate from College Park to Columbus. The move followed two trips for interviews and a "scouting trip" to look for a place to live. I could have wound up in an apartment near Fox Elementary School - but some landlords simply don't allow waterbeds on the second floor.

Instead, I've lived in the downtown area for 14 years - and I'm thrilled to report my landlord has NOT increased my rent in all that time. Then again, he hasn't needed to raise it. When the landlord makes you pay for water and cable television, his costs are practically set.

I had no utilities on my first day in town, so I spend my first night 14 years ago dining at McDonald's and sleeping at the Heart of Columbus Motel. It was on Veterans Parkway downtown, where EconoLodge is now - and my one-bed room cost 25 dollars. I'm not sure that can get you a room at the Salvation Army nowadays.

The 11:00 p.m. newscasts on that Tuesday night provided my first taste of Columbus media. "I did not say that, Wayne Bennett!" Robbie Watson said in a semi-scolding way at the start of the sports report. Karyn Shipman co-anchored the "Nightside" news then - and for all we know, someone may be lobbying her now to come back from St. Louis and replace Kurt Schmitz.

That news team's competition in 1997 consisted of WRBL's Brad Means and Amanda Rosseter. Means eventually was fired, and moved to Augusta. Rosseter worked in other cities, before settling down to work for an Atlanta hospital. And weathercaster John Bateman looked to me like he was stood outside in the rain before every newscast.

Even though I arranged for utilities to be turned on during that first week, my apartment was in the dark for two days - helped only by outdoor lighting nearby during the evening. That's not really possible in 2011, with no baseball team named the RedStixx playing at Golden Park anymore.

Only out of desperation on Thursday, 1 May 97 did I try flipping switches in my kitchen breaker box - and then the electricity came on. Then came Saturday morning, and a severe thunderstorm almost knocked it right back off again....

Someone challenged me online recently to compare how inflation has affected my bills in recent years. So Thursday night I found a box of checks from 2001. Yes, I still have checks going back decades. The moment you throw them away is the day the credit report bureaus demand them in an investigation.

I found not only has my rent not increased in 14 years, but my Columbus Water Works bill is lower now than in April 2001. It's dropped from $26.12 then to $20.15 this month. And imagine if I switched to bottled water, instead of drinking from the tap....

The United Cities Gas bill in April 2001 was $33.14. This month Atmos Energy charged me almost 39 dollars, or about 17 percent more in ten years. I probably reduced my inflation by switching some cooking to a microwave oven -- which explains why the Georgia Power has almost doubled.

My car today is the same one I drove into Columbus in 1997. That humble Honda has a lower insurance bill now than it did 14 years. A change in insurance companies helped with that. And I'm not sure who told my current company my car's distracting radio doesn't work anymore.

I didn't have Internet service when I moved to Columbus in 1997. The personal computer I had was a gift from a friend in metro Atlanta -- a Compaq "portable" with the weight of a suitcase at the airport. I still have that computer as a collector's item, and tell young people it's so old the MS-DOS for word processing is really an "uno."

When I moved to Columbus in 1997, I had no idea I'd still be here in 2011. There was no real long-term plan to leave town. Things simply happened along the way which have kept me here for 14 years -- and have had me blogging about them for more than eight. Now will some nice blog reader please match the salary I was offered in 1997? Plus a little for inflation?

Back in the present, here's a check of what happened Thursday....

+ Three days of construction work ended at Ninth and Broadway, to smooth the railroad track at that intersection. The timing of this work seemed peculiar - since construction from Friday to Sunday could have kept downtown thugs away.

+ The station van of WGSY-FM "Sunny 100" was displayed on Veterans Parkway downtown -- flipped upside down. It's supposed to be a visual reminder not to drink or use drugs while driving. But a few of us wondered if Clear Channel Radio was about to turn over its on-air personnel again.

+ Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill allowing local-option Sunday alcohol sales in stores. There's still no word about when Columbus Council will discuss putting the question on the ballot, and which Councilor will make the proposal. Did they draw swizzle sticks at that executive session the other day?

+ CBS News showed a viral video from Atlanta of a police officer and a customer fighting inside an IHOP restaurant. Really now - every booth ought to have several syrup bottles, so there's plenty for everyone.

+ The Atlanta Hawks eliminated Orlando from the N.B.A. playoffs 84-81. The Hawks advance to play Chicago, beginning Monday. And if they're smart, they'll show former Kansas star Kirk Hinrich plenty of video of the Jayhawks defeating Memphis's Derrick Rose in the 2008 championship game.

+ The Atlanta Falcons traded higher in the N.F.L. draft order, then chose Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones will run routes with former Alabama-Birmingham receiver Roddy White - the closest these schools have come on a football field in many years.

(Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the top draft pick, selected by the Carolina Panthers. One draft analyst says a big concern for Newton will be "his lack of humility, and his big ego...." If that's true, he should forget about football and join the Donald Trump presidential campaign.)

+ Instant Message to the "Clue Crew" of Jeopardy: Did I read this correctly online - you say Lucille Ball auditioned for a lead role in "Gone With the Wind"? Imagine if she had been selected. We could have seen Ball try to stomp out the Tara plantation fire with bare feet.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

28 APR 11: Born in the U.S.A.?

Hello, my name is Richard - and I'm a United States citizen. I can prove it. Well, I think I can prove it. Some people might not accept it as proof. If they weren't in the delivery room with the doctors 52 years ago.... well, even though they wouldn't have been allowed in the delivery room 52 years ago....

I pulled out my birth certificates Wednesday, and I'm posting them for public display today. If the President of the United States has to do it, everyone in the country should follow his.... oh yes, I said certificates. Plural. Go ahead and start the rumors about my having a split personality.

But first: President Obama surprised a lot of people Wednesday, by unveiling the "long form" of his birth certificate from Hawaii. The President told reporters he wanted to end "sideshows" about the issue. Isn't it comforting to know some people consider questions about the U.S. Constitution a sideshow?

Within minutes, alleged Presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested he was the one who made President Obama release the long form certificate. While Trump cautioned the document needed reviewing, he declared: "I am really proud." Some days not even Trump Tower can contain that man's ego....

I hate to burst Donald Trump's balloon, but I have my own theory about why the long form certificate came out. Several state legislatures have bills requiring Presidential candidates to present such documents to be on the 2012 ballot. Remember the bill State Rep. Richard Smith says he co-sponsored by mistake? [6 Mar] It died in a Georgia legislative committee before Trump could claim he created it.

Besides, what about the other people who made the birth certificate a big issue for years? I wondered Wednesday about Orly Taitz, the attorney who represented Fort Benning soldiers who didn't want to go to war. Can she appeal now to get her contempt of court fine back?

Plenty of journalists also thought about Orly Taitz, and inundated her office with phone calls. She's still skeptical about the long form certificate, saying President Obama's father is listed as "African" in race and not "Negro." The fact that Barack Obama Sr. was born in Kenya couldn't possibly have anything to do with it....

Another question from Wednesday's "big reveal" is whether anyone's presidential campaign will be helped or hurt by it. Roy Barnes released more financial documents last year than Nathan Deal, yet Deal won the Georgia Governor's race. And come to think of it, a birth certificate was about the only thing Wayne Anthony did NOT request from the Teresa Pike Tomlinson mayoral campaign.

So now it's my turn for full disclosure - and my storage box actually contains two birth certificates. The more ceremonial one is from the hospital where I was born in August 1958. It's signed by the hospital superintendent, "Sister Rita Louise." If there's no last name, skeptics probably would conclude she's a secret informer for the Kansas City Mafia.

A second smaller "certificate of live birth" apparently was obtained by my parents in 1963, when I was four years old. It's much like the one President Obama released Wednesday -- except Hawaii's form had a line allowing for the mother to work outside the home. Hawaii clearly has more Democratic liberals than Kansas.

The certificate of live birth is certified and notarized by the Kansas State Board of Health - and still has raised marks from the notary seal. Donald Trump's investigators should go to the White House and ask: where are the bumps?

(I never looked closely at the small birth form until a few years ago - and I choked up a little when I saw one box. My mother lost two fetuses before giving birth to me. My parents never mentioned that before they died, but they called me "number-two son." Calling me "quattro" would have raised too many questions.)

So the birth certificates are out -- and the way things are going, maybe they should stay out. Maybe I should carry them everywhere I go, like a driver's license. After all, an immigration bill is on the Georgia Governor's desk -- and if he signs it, I'll have to prove I'm a U.S. citizen or risk deportation to Mexico.

As all this was on my mind Wednesday, I was reminded of something I saw Tuesday at the Government Center news conference. A "Freedom Shrine" on the Plaza Level displays copies of historic U.S. documents. President Obama's birth certificate could be the first one to appear there - especially since few remember what Woodrow Wilson said in his 1913 inaugural, anyway.

BLOG UPDATE: I went out again Wednesday to cover a news story - but this one was different and downright strange. It started with a phone call to the Russell County Court Clerk's office, to ask where "Judge Johnson" holds his hearings. The old courthouse on 14th Street is fenced off for renovation - as if the new Phenix City Tea Party might stage a sit-in inside.

The staff told me Judge Johnson holds hearings at 1000 Broad Street. So at 2:15 p.m. I parked at the Russell County Government Center to attend a 2:30 hearing - except there were no signs to lead me to a courtroom, and the chair at a big reception desk was empty. With no one to check my bag, it felt a bit like an airport in the 1990s.

A little wandering around led to a sign: "Family Court, Judge David Johnson, Second Floor." So up the elevator I went, even though I was looking for Judge Albert Johnson. Certainly they'd share the same robe closet, to save space....

I found David Johnson's courtroom, but Albert Johnson's name was nowhere to be found. Then a familiar-looking man came by, suggesting Albert Johnson was in another building and I should go back downstairs to find out where. Who could have guessed an angel would look like Ronnie Reed?

Down the side stairs I went, and a woman was back at the reception desk. She recommended I drive to the Courthouse Annex across 14th Street from the fenced-off courthouse. Thankfully it was only 2:20 - and it wasn't a big shopping day at the downtown Phenix City Piggly Wiggly.

Up the hill I drove, parking on the west side of the Courthouse Annex building. I walked to the south doors, which were locked - then walked around to the east door, which was locked. Upon walking to the north side, a sheriff's officer stopped me. Those doors seemed too weary and run-down to trigger security alarms.

"2:30 hearing, Judge Albert Johnson," I said quickly to the officer - only to be told the only judge holding a court session inside that building was George Greene. Maybe the receptionist also was "green," but with a different spelling.

"Which Johnson do you want?" the officer asked me.

"Albert, Albert, Albert!" I hadn't realized Russell County has two judges with the same last name. In Columbus, the Hugleys scatter their government jobs a bit more widely.

The officer directed me back down the hill, to another Courthouse Annex on Seventh Avenue - the place where I reviewed judicial records on a computer last week. So at 2:28, I ran back to my car and hustled back down the Broad Street hill. At least gravity could work as a speeding defense now.

I parked at my third Phenix City building in 15 minutes, went into the lobby - and a security guard escorted me up stairs to Judge Albert Johnson's second-floor courtroom. But there was a new problem: there was NO 2:30 court hearing. If these judges somehow operate on Central Time....

A woman met me in a hallway, surprised that I was there for a 2:30 court hearing which wasn't happening. "Which case are you here for?" she asked. A long pause followed -- I guess because I assumed Russell County court employees get the same e-mail pleas and complaints I do.

"Robert Schweiger and the City of Hurtsboro...." I told the woman. Thankfully, she knew what case that was.

"They canceled the hearing. The case was continued until July." The very thing Schweiger didn't seem to expect from Judge Albert Johnson happened?! Did Johnson have a sudden doctor's appointment or something?

This news was a surprise to me - but a follow-up question was not. The woman said Judge Albert Johnson declined to recuse himself from Robert Schweiger's rehearing, in a complaint against Hurtsboro's use of city gasoline taxes. So Schweiger has three months to review books on proper courtroom etiquette....

I recounted for the woman all the stops I'd made to reach the courtroom hallway. "It isn't really funny," she said, "but we get cases like this every day." The Russell County Courthouse renovation can't get completed soon enough -- so the county can move on to changing worn-out carpeting from misguided visitors.

So I hurried to three different buildings, ostensibly wound up with nothing - and the infuriating thing is that all my rushing could have been prevented. Look at the e-mail we received Wednesday, hours before the scheduled court hearing:

"SiR" Richard:

I hope you are a better poker player - than prognosticator! As of 11:00 a.m. your time, I'm "Happy as a clam!"

R.J. Schweiger

I had no idea what Schweiger meant by that. For all I knew, he might have found a new way to have the Hurtsboro Mayor arrested.

This situation is remarkably similar to what President Obama did Wednesday. If Robert Schweiger had fully disclosed why he was happy, I could have saved a change of clothing and afternoon schedule - not to mention burning $3.63-per-gallon gasoline trying to find a court hearing which never happened. Maybe he wanted me to go on a wild goose chase, to see how long his puppet strings extended.

Russell County Court rules do NOT allow discussions of pending cases over the phone - so I couldn't call in advance Wednesday to see if Robert Schweiger's hearing was still on. I had to get in the car and try to track it down. And unlike "The Amazing Race," I seriously doubt I would have won a million dollars for succeeding.

I've wondered lately if Robert Schweiger is trying to "use" this blog, much less this blogger. After Wednesday's search for something Schweiger probably knew I couldn't find, I'm going to do something I haven't done in years: penalize a blog writer. Two e-mails sent by Schweiger since Sunday will NOT be posted. There's no great harm there -- since they said nothing positive about Hurtsboro, anyway.

Blog tipsters in general need to stop assuming I'm smart enough to solve their puzzles. State your tips plainly, please. Name your names. Tell the whole story. Otherwise, I could get things very wrong - which come to think of it might be a hidden goal behind it all.

Wednesday's two big local stories were nothing to joke about - so let's see what else was out there....

+ Columbus Police told the Ledger-Enquirer someone tried to roll four coils of copper past the checkout lane of Lowe's without paying for them. Officers quietly describe the suspect as a real "basket case."

+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson called a special Columbus Council meeting for Friday morning, reportedly to present her budget proposal. The mayor apparently didn't have it ready Tuesday - perhaps because not enough campaign donors could be found to balance a possible deficit.

+ Former Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin told WLTZ's "Calvin Floyd Live" he does NOT plan to run for city office next year. Hmmmm - I guess Sammy Howard is next in the rotation....

+ The Alabama Senate approved a bill removing racist language from the state constitution. One section still allows for segregated schools - and sometimes I think a few Russell County School Board members quietly want that option to come back.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus EMA office: Are you still planning to take part in that "Shake Out" drill on earthquake preparedness today? Some residents might be shaken up already, from all the severe storms.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

27 APR 11: Forward Roles

A large NAACP logo was ready to display inside the Government Center Tuesday. But there was no way to hang it on the Plaza Level lectern. And leaning it against the stand wouldn't have looked right - since so many people were talking about moving forward, not backward.

Several local African-American groups announced plans to "move forward" with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. The fact that Chamber President Mike Gaymon spoke at the news conference means he's escaped with his job. The fact that no one wanted to bring up Gaymon's recent controversy suggests all sides have buried the.... uh, tablecloth.

Mike Gaymon admitted at the NAACP news conference fewer than five percent of the Chamber of Commerce's members are "African-owned businesses." Before you rush to conclusions about his organization, keep something in mind. Gaymon didn't reveal what percentage is African-American-owned.

Mike Gaymon said new collaborations and "cooperative spirits" are planned, to include African-American membership in the Chamber of Commerce. But the only specific thing announced during the news conference was a "diversity summit" later this year. WTVM's televised "One Columbus" forums must not be Caucasian enough.

State Representative Calvin Smyre disclosed plans for the diversity summit - adding he'd like a job fair to go with it. Smyre apparently is so busy doing legislative business in Atlanta that he's missed several Columbus and Fort Benning job fairs already this year.

Rep. Calvin Smyre had his own admission to make at the news conference. He said many small businesses in Columbus are undercapitalized, adding: "We don't have nearly the number.... of minority-owned businesses that we want to have. And part of that is our collective fault." Why hasn't Georgia Freight offered itself to the highest bidder, anyway?

Rep. Calvin Smyre praised Columbus as a "rich community. It's rich in diversity. It's rich in race. It's rich in gender, age, socioeconomic status...." And apparently getting richer financially by shopping at so many thrift stores.

Calvin Smyre offered special thanks at the news conference to one of Mike Gaymon's toughest accusers of recent months. Smyre said he had several discussions with C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon of the Grassroots Unity Movement for Change. Smyre added Hardmon made a "silent effort" - which I suppose is true, since he made all his accusations in writing in The Courier.

Calvin Smyre said C.A. Hardmon was "under the weather," and had to miss Tuesday's announcement. But I talked afterward with Wane Hailes of The Courier, where the "Brother Love" commentaries appear. Hailes agreed with the tone of the event -- that it's a "time to move forward." Translation: his next crusade may be ready for publication next week.

(Wane Hailes showed up at the news conference with several copies of his police mug-shot tabloid, The Joint. Didn't last week's edition of The Courier feature the new African-American Senior Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce? Deidre Williams was on hand, and could have autographed front pages on the spot.)

Columbus NAACP President Nate Sanderson called and emceed the news conference, saying the controversy surrounding the Chamber of Commerce President has tested "the very fabric of our community...." Hmmmm -- was that a cotton tablecloth on Mike Gaymon's head that night?

Nate Sanderson went on to praise Mike Gaymon as a "wonderful servant leader." That was the moment when I truly wished "Brother Love" had been in the building -- since he made the Chamber of Commerce President look at least like an old-time master, not a servant.

Those words led to an obvious question, which I asked at the end of the news conference. What about Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose's call for Mike Gaymon to resign or be ousted? [17 Dec 10] Columbus chapter President Nate Sanderson answered he was speaking for himself -- which is amazing, since the last chapter President was often unable to get a word in.

As you might have guessed, Edward DuBose was missing from Tuesday's news conference. It also was noteworthy that no Columbus Councilors were on hand, even though an organization of "minority elected officials" reportedly agreed on everything. Come to think of it, maybe that's why Harp Poydasheff was considered for city lobbying work....

I also asked Mike Gaymon what lessons he's learned from the uproar of the last several months. He gave a vague answer about learning from everything - and quoted a Bible verse: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" In fact, the news conference opened and closed with prayers. Maybe President Obama needs to do that in public, to silence his critics.

Mike Gaymon could have unveiled this new spirit of cooperation on his WDAK talk show several hours earlier. Instead, Gaymon showed signs of his old self on "Viewpoint" - interviewing Office of Crime Prevention Director Seth Brown, without disclosing he serves on the Crime Prevention Board. At least Gaymon isn't giving away Apple iPods on TV.

One man sat up-front at the news conference without saying a word. He's the man some credit for bringing reconciliation between the African-American community and Mike Gaymon -- Chamber of Commerce Chair Carmen Cavezza. If he could bring peace in this dispute, maybe Cavezza should make a few weekend trips to Hurtsboro.

Let's check what else happened Tuesday....

+ City Manager Isaiah Hugley recommended Dr. James Worsley from the Charlotte area become Parks and Recreation Director. Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson told WRBL Worsley faces a "rebuilding" job - as if the Georgia Blazers basketball team bent all the rims, to protest Tony Adams's guilty plea.

+ Columbus Water Works admitted it's paid a $150,000 state fine because of recent sewage leaks into the Chattahoochee River. A spokesman told the Ledger-Enquirer the fine was negotiated down by one-third. Who could have imagined District Attorney Julia Slater would have such wide-ranging impact?

+ Synovus reported a first-quarter loss of more than $93 million. That amount was better than experts expected - but that old commercial about "money coming out the wazoo" still fits.

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College held an open house for its new nursing instructional building and performing arts center. The building is opening nine months later than scheduled - as if nurses should have been trained early in the task of wrapping things up.

+ Minnesota radio sales representative Dan McKeague was named the new voice of the Aflac duck. I wondered about the wisdom of selecting a Northerner as the voice - but then I realized duck season probably comes early to Minnesota every year.

+ WLTZ and Keep Columbus Beautiful presented a "Community Green" award to the Columbus Lions. Aw c'mon - just because the players don't damage real grass inside the Civic Center?!

+ Instant Message to whomever sent me a letter with the words "Official Obamacare Survey" on it: I haven't opened it yet. But I'm going to take a wild guess and assume you're a Republican. No properly-trained Democrat would dare call it Obamacare.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.62 a gallon at Crown on the Phenix City bypass, next to The Red Barn... Baskin-Robbins "31-cent scoop night" from 5:00-10:00 p.m. (a benefit for firefighters).... and Robert Schweiger leaving Russell County court grumbling, after today's hearing....

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

26 APR 11: Right Power

In January we asked a Big Blog Question about which is the number-one "power couple" in Columbus. But maybe we didn't define "couple" properly. I was thinking about married couples - but there can be others. For instance, Columbus could use a big-time wrestling tag team.

A new "power couple" downtown came to my attention only Monday night, but apparently has been around for a couple of months. It combines two of the best-known names in local politics -- but not in the way you might think. It's like people thinking the 14th Street Bridge was closed because President Philip Tomlinson is a cousin of the mayor....

Seth Harp's law office on Second Avenue used to be known as Harp & Associates. Now it's called Harp Poydasheff. Even the firm's initials indicate how High-Powered it is.

The "Poydasheff" in Harp Poydasheff is NOT the former Columbus Mayor, but son Robert Poydasheff Jr. While he has a law degree, a recent Ledger-Enquirer column notes he used to work at Synovus. Another local name jumps the Synovus ship, before it sails for somewhere like Charlotte.

Former mayor Bob Poydasheff still has a law office, and it's practically next door to Harp Poydasheff. But the elder Poydasheff has admitted to me he's in semi-retirement. He'll prepare a will for you - and he might actually witness you signing it, since the chances of you outliving him are pretty strong.

The Harp Poydasheff website emphasizes work on family law, as well as "trust and estate." But another line mentions "governmental affairs" - and that's where some Columbus residents wonder if the trust should end.

The newspaper column noted Harp Poydasheff has approached Columbus city officials about doing lobbying at the Georgia Capitol. The reported price of that work: $20,000. Yes, I know the legislature only is in regular session 40 days a year - but gas prices keep going up.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley reportedly gave the offer from Harp Poydasheff serious consideration. It's easy to understand why. Hugley's wife may be the "Queen of the Legislature" (as declared by The Courier) - but the kings these days are Republicans like Harp and Poydasheff.

But I was more curious about Harp Poydasheff becoming a candidate for top "power law firm" of Columbus. Making a list of these candidates can be a challenge, because plenty of unknown attorneys can buy full-page ads in the Yellow Pages....

The law firm which comes to mind first for "power" in Columbus is Hatcher Stubbs. Its ad in the phone book lists "estate planning, real estate, corporate banking" at the top - but government watchers know the firm's hands are involved in many local projects. Two attorneys are on the Charter Review Commission, and I doubt they're proposing ways to add city employee pensions to wills.

-> A strange thing happened when we went all-in at last Thursday night's live poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The Columbus NAACP has called a late-morning news conference downtown, to announce "a collaborative effort" with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce to "move our city forward." Based on the events and news of recent months, I assume the purchase of new tablecloths is NOT one of them.

The Chamber of Commerce hired an African-American woman last week as a Senior Vice President. Deidre Williams's focus will be on "small business" - but clearly a bigger message is being sent here. If Mike Gaymon is smart, he'll assume Williams is wearing a hidden microphone at all times.

As it happens, the Chamber of Commerce began a week focused on small businesses Monday evening. WRBL reported one of the firms receiving an award was Country's Barbecue. I'm stunned by this - considering that restaurant chain still refuses to serve chicken and dumplings 12 months a year.

I'm holding a couple of e-mails until a pending news story occurs. So let's see what other tasty topics have come our way in recent days....

+ Which East Alabama doctor offers to pray with major patients before operations? Then leads the operating room staff in a "circle of prayer" as well? Doesn't he realize church pastors who emphasize "faith healing" won't know what to make of him?

+ While downtown Columbus stayed dry, evening thunderstorms left extensive damage in the Crystal Valley neighborhood. Trees were knocked down in a mobile home park - and if that doesn't persuade the convicted sex offenders living there to straighten up their lives, I don't know what will.

+ Phenix City Police told WTVM a suspected drunk driver crashed into the KFC on Broad Street, then waved a gun. I assume the officers grilled him - and even threatened to "fry" him.

+ The Drudge Report posted a headline about the start of "military patrols" downtown, and questioned the use of the title "courtesy patrol." Someone needs to tell Matt Drudge these soldiers were NOT entered in the Best Ranger competition.

+ Evening newscasts talked about the return of the noisy "13-year cicadas" to the Columbus area. Hmmmm - these must be different from the "17-year cicadas." The ones we mentioned on this blog only two years ago [17 Aug 09]. If all these bugs ever learn how to read calendars, we're in big trouble.

+ Instant Message to WTVM: Let me get this straight. You're giving away an "Apple a day" starting Thursday afternoon. Then Thursday night, you're presenting a "special report" on amazing things my iPhone can do?! Can we also expect a Lee Brantley editorial condemning Google and Microsoft for trying to conquer the world?

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

for 25 APR 11: Site Unseen

Several years ago a blog reader offered me an unusual gift - the domain names of two websites, including one with my name on it. While I appreciated the offer, I turned it down for numerous reasons. Sites can have a number of hidden costs - and the fee for a server "host" can be heavenly high.

But recently another offer came, declaring a website already was created in my name. And this offer came from a branch of the U.S. government. You'd think the F.B.I. would be a little better at undercover operations than this....

But seriously: the offer came from the U.S. Postal Service. It obtained my name from a business mailing list, even though my LaughLine subscriber humor service was sold nine years ago. And since everything was done online, I only needed the Postal Service to deliver checks - preferably checks bigger than my monthly bills.

"It's easy for your company to try Flat Rate shipping," the snail-mailed offer from the Postal Service said. I could send envelopes "to any state for just $4.95." I try to write jokes which are lighter than that -- at least in postage.

The mailing offered me a free "Priority Mail Flat Rate Shipping Kit." The Postal Service would send me four envelopes, four boxes and a shipping guide. But that's really no big deal, because I could order more shipping supplies online for free. Do that enough times, and I might have enough boxes to move to a nursing home someday.

But of course, the stunner was the fact that the Postal Service prepared a website with my name on it. All I'd have to do to access it is scan a "QR Code with your smartphone." I'd seen these fuzzy-looking boxes before, but didn't know what they were. Does this mean we can eliminate bar codes once and for all as being "the mark of the beast?"

(Yes, I've blurred out part of the QR Code box. Some people with smartphones might be smart alecks to boot, and try to exploit me.)

So what did the Postal Service have waiting for me at my very own, personalized website for Priority Mail? I finally called it up Sunday afternoon - and to be honest, it was disappointing. Yahoo Mail at least would have the courtesy to put "Hi, Richard" on the main screen....

The Priority Mail website didn't even have boxes filled in with my name and address, for ordering the free shipping kit. I suppose that could be a security precaution. Hackers would have to know the name of my business, before sending a shower of boxes large enough to fill my front porch - much less send labels separately, suggesting I move to Alaska.

One cool thing about the Priority Mail website was a "Virtual Box Simulator." I could use a webcam, to see if certain items fit in a "Flat Rate Box." This is why U.S. students are losing the worldwide race for mathematics skills - hardly anyone seems to own rulers or measuring tape.

So I thank the Postal Service for this opportunity - but I really don't see a need for Priority Mail envelopes and boxes. After all, hardly anyone has ever sent mail to me that way. The highest-priority item this blog ever received was an envelope accusing attorney Mark Shelnutt of crimes -- and someone dropped that off at my front door for free.

Now without paying a single penny for postage, let's check some weekend news:

+ Fort Benning "Courtesy Patrols" began late-night work in downtown Columbus. There was no word Sunday of any serious crime on Broadway. But I'm wondering if the uniformed patrol workers passed any nightclub's dress code.

+ Online reports indicated a television executive wants to do a series called "Real Housewives of Fort Benning." It could be hard for this concept to compete with "Real Housewives of Atlanta" - unless two of the women compete against each other to make designer berets.

+ Peach Lanes hosted the United States Bowling Congress national college championship. Fresno State won the men's team title, sweeping the final round series against Webber International. Considering how famous that name is in bowling, this had to be an upset on the order of Boise State winning a big bowl game.

(The USBC tournament was recorded, and will be shown on ESPN-2 in mid-May. When I was young, the Governor of Kansas had a front-row seat to Pro Bowling Tour final-round games. In Columbus, we might do well to have Councilor Glenn Davis throwing out the first ball.)

+ Instant Message to anyone having Georgia or Alabama state business to do today: Sorry, you'll have to wait. It's Confederate Memorial Day - and this year I would point out my home state of Kansas has lasted 150 years, or 146 more than the Confederate Navy.

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© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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24 APR 11: The Lone Ranger

"They're making a killing in there, buddy!" a man said to me Friday afternoon as he walked out of an office. Considering it was a court clerk's office, I reminded the man it would be quite a violation for them to be murdering people.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: I went to the Russell County Court Clerk's office to check on a reader's latest message to us. Maybe it's time to put a standard headline on all his messages: Hurtsboro still isn't perfect....

"Sir" Richard:

Here's a little something for your Sunday readers.

After making several unsuccessful attempts to stop Mayor Tapley from abusing his powers of office, I managaged to get him into Circuit Court with Judge Johnson presiding. It only took about ten (10) minuets for Judge Johnson to (a) threaten me with going to jail. (b) dismiss my complaint, and (c) assess me with all costs; including attorney's fee

He denied my motion to Strike the fees. So unless I was prepared to cough up $5,600.00 dollars I had no choice but to Appeal. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed Johnson's order with instructions.

Judge Johnson couldn't wait to establish a date for rehearing. As of today the case is set for rehearing next Wedneday (4-27-11} and Judge Johnson has given no indication that I'm going to get a Continuance.

My lawyer has moved to another part of the State and has withdrawn from the case. I have no prospect of getting legal representation in Russell County. No attorney is going to stand in front of Judge Johnson and tell him that I'm right, and he is wrong.

Today I filed a Motion to Recuse and included a list of all the things that Judge Johnson has done. I'm sure I'm not going to get any more action on this motion, than I have on the previous submissions - and I'm prepared for the worst. But, I assure you my good man; this issue will not die on the floor of Judge Johnson's Court

R.J. Schweiger.

Robert Schweiger begins this story in June 2010 -- but case CV 09-339 (mentioned in a different e-mail to us this past week) actually started months earlier. It's the former constable's most recent attempt to get court intervention in Hurtsboro city government. But so far, the only "cavalry" to come has been a fleet of Russell County garbage trucks.

This case actually dates from December 2009, after Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley was indicted by a grand jury and opened the results of a city audit. Robert Schweiger apparently reviewed the books, then took issue with the city using gasoline tax money to pay an $8,260 bill to a Tuscaloosa engineering company. I never realized Schweiger was such a loyal Auburn fan....

Robert Schweiger filed suit seeking a "cease and desist" order against Hurtsboro for using city gasoline tax money in this way. He argued the funds are supposed to be used for road projects - and to him, road design and surveying doesn't count. Schweiger probably could have called dozens of critics of the Phenix City "Streetscape" as supporting witnesses.

By the time Robert Schweiger dragged the Hurtsboro Mayor to court in June 2010, Russell County Judge Albert Johnson had dismissed the indictment [2 Dec 09]. Court records show Johnson warned Schweiger at one point NOT to keep bringing up that dismissal, or he'd be jailed. Sometimes I wish sportscasters faced the same punishment for whining over and over about bad calls.

We noted last month an Alabama appeals court found in Robert Schweiger's favor and ordered a rehearing of his case [20 Mar]. But now Schweiger has lost his lawyer, as Scott Crouse has moved to the Huntsville area. I'll assume Crouse was told where to check online for regular updates....

Yet when Scott Crouse filed his motion to withdraw from the case, he wrote Robert Schweiger "has obtained alternative counsel." Did Schweiger have someone else in mind? Or is HE really the "alternative" - an old-school version of that rock band Rage Against the Machine?

So now Robert Schweiger indicates to us he has no attorney for Wednesday's rehearing. I probably should require him to buy advertising space, to make such a public appeal for legal counsel - since this is supposed to be a humor blog, not a poor man's version of Craigslist.

(A man actually suggested last year I start a "clean" Columbus version of Craigslist, with some of my music on the home page to welcome visitors. But many big-name local websites already offer classified ad listings -- and it's easier to beat the Ledger-Enquirer to news about local media than someone's discounted 2002 Toyota.)

The court records show Hurtsboro Mayor Rayford Tapley hired the son of legendary Tuskegee civil rights attorney Fred Gray to be his attorney. So why can't Robert Schweiger find a similar big name - perhaps in Columbus? Frank Martin and Stacy Jackson are always looking for a case that would put their faces on TV....

Robert Schweiger attached with this e-mail his list of reasons why Judge Albert Johnson should recuse himself from the case. One issue is that Johnson took six months to bring his 2009 complaint to trial, but provided same-day service when the Hurtsboro Mayor sought a motion to postpone the rehearing in March. Maybe it's easier to postpone hearings when the docket is so filled with them.

But when the gasoline tax lawsuit originally was filed, Judge George Greene recused himself because he's a friend of Mayor Rayford Tapley's mother. That seemingly would leave Michael Bellamy as the only Russell County judge who could hear Robert Schweiger's case -- and Bellamy ruled against Schweiger in a 2008 small claims case [21 Mar 08]. Schweiger might as well drive directly to Montgomery.

Some of you may be wondering after all these years whether Hurtsboro has any good things at all. It's not that I'm not trying to find some. When I called City Magistrate Jim Baxley this past week about garbage service, I asked him what else was going on in town. "The sun came out today," was his answer. In a town the size of Hurtsboro, that could be a big story.

Oh yes -- about the man claiming the Russell County Court Clerk was "making a killing": he walked out after paying a $181 fine for driving 13 miles over the speed limit. He clearly wanted sympathy, but I told him that's why we should all be careful when we drive. If I said I actually try to stick to the speed limit, I would have looked SO condemning.

Our count of unique visitors is up more than 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

22 APR 11: Gilley As in Guilty?

Well, well -- I guess some big dreams for Phenix City can be tossed into the dumpster once and for all. Such as that condominium skyscraper which would have overlooked the Chattahoochee River at 14th Street. All the rafting enthusiasts with wet feet would have ruined the lobby, anyway.

The Associated Press reported Thursday night developer Ronnie Gilley will plead guilty today, in a federal probe into gambling and bribery. The appearance in federal court is scheduled for sunrise in Montgomery - so Gilley may be sharing a prison cell with Richard Scrushy by lunchtime.

Ronnie Gilley got in trouble with the law over his efforts to open the Country Crossing complex in Dothan. It included a "bingo pavilion," which former Governor Bob Riley concluded was illegal gambling. Can someone please bring Riley to Columbus, to have him evaluate the "business centers" which offer sweepstakes games?

Ronnie Gilley has been accused of trying to buy votes from Alabama state lawmakers, to get laws passed to benefit Country Crossing. This allegedly occurred after Gilley ran for Congress in 2008 -- when he didn't do a good enough job of buying votes through TV commercials.

But Ronnie Gilley could have had a place in Phenix City history as well. His real estate company proposed building the Phenixian in the summer of 2006 -- a housing and retail complex taking advantage of the 14th Street pedestrian bridge. You may have noticed how well that went. The bridge now is closed, for improvements funded by government stimulus money.

The Phenixian proposal evaporated in recent years, due to a slow and complicated effort to get federal approval to develop the land. But Gilley never made the decision to abandon the project official - by bringing good friend George Jones to Phenix City to sing, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."

Ronnie Gilley's grand plan was for a chain of electronic bingo pavilions across east Alabama. One was proposed along U.S. 431 in Phenix City, in a complex including some kind of sports facility [29 Oct 08]. St. Francis Hospital could have had a much more local "Derby Day" fundraiser every May.

The website for Ronnie Gilley Properties used to have details on many of these things. But now it offers little beyond a home page. Gilley's "BamaJam" music festival in Enterprise, Alabama apparently will NOT be held this June - since Gilley has been in a jam session with the law for months.

Country Crossing closed its doors in January 2010 -- but its website promised Thursday night the complex is "reopening" this year. Either Ronnie Gilley is going to accomplish this by selling the project, or he's going to have the most powerful remote control switch in Alabama.

If Ronnie Gilley pleads guilty today, where does this leave Milton McGregor of Victoryland? He's awaiting a federal trial in June on similar charges. And his development was put on the public auction block in Tuskegee this week because it owes more than one million dollars in property taxes. None of McGregor's aides apparently have won a Georgia lottery jackpot yet.

-> A strange thing happened when we went all-in at Thursday night's live poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: "Al from Dadeville" called Paul Finebaum's sports talk radio show again Thursday. But this time, Harvey Updyke admitted he really did NOT want to make the call. So did someone hold a can of herbicide to his head, and force it?

Harvey Updyke stopped short of admitting on the air that he poisoned the Toomer's Corner oak trees in Auburn. But he fears he's going to prison for that act, and Updyke said he does NOT want the trees to die. Wow, Updyke should have called Paul Finebaum one day later - since today is Earth Day, after all.

Harvey Updyke apologized on the air to his children and the University of Alabama - but NOT to Auburn University or its fans. Once Updyke does his time, he could go to work for that Alabama law firm which sued Taco Bell.

Harvey Updyke went on to insist he was attacked and injured Wednesday behind an Auburn gas station, after making a brief court appearance. Trouble is, women who could see the scene of the attack from their porch told WTVM they saw nothing of the kind. Hmmmm -- did Bobby Lowder buy their silence?

Instead of offering compassion to Auburn fans, Harvey Updyke ended his radio interview by saying, "Roll d**n Tide." Considering his case is pending in Lee County Court, that plea deal his attorney wants had better include a jail cell in Birmingham or Huntsville.

Meanwhile, Auburn University fans rolled a different oak tree near Toomer's Corner Thursday night. It was in honor of the equestrian team winning a national championship. While the riders were there, their horses were absent - and imagine the (ahem) tribute to Harvey Updyke they could have offered.

Let's circle back toward Columbus now, to review other news from the last couple of days....

+ A group called "Restore Honor of Columbus" staged a one-day campaign to provide canned goods to Valley Rescue Mission. I'd never heard of this group before. Perhaps it was inspired by Glenn Beck, and is warming up for a petition drive to recall Congressman Sanford Bishop.

(The canned food drive was organized through the first confirmed case of a "flash mob" in Columbus. For those of you older than 50, a "flash mob" does NOT refer to newspaper photographers outside the courtroom at the Michael Curry trial.)

+ Kia announced it will build the 2012 Optima at its plant in West Point. That's likely to mean more jobs for the Columbus area - but that's admittedly an Optima-stic view.

+ Albany officials reported the city has 23,000 free-roaming cats. OK, but look on the bright side - Albany residents can feel comfortable leaving cheese uncovered on kitchen tables.

+ The Columbus Lions outlasted the Alabama Hammers in Huntsville 80-55. Coach Jason Gibson clearly is smarter than I am - because if I had Hammers, I'd hammer them in the morning.

+ Instant Message to the Los Angeles Dodgers: Now I'm convinced your team has financial problems. The powder-blue uniforms you wore in Thursday's 5-3 win over Atlanta look like they were borrowed from the Kansas City Royals.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

21 APR 11: Space Invaders

If history repeats itself, the next few days will be downright dangerous for me to drive. I had collisions during "Passover week" in 1990 and 1994, leaving my cars a total loss. When you're in two collisions on the same afternoon at opposite ends of the same interstate entrance ramp, you know it's not your day.

History almost did repeat itself Wednesday, while I drove on Ninth Street downtown. My car was in the right lane heading west. A pickup truck was in front of me in the left lane - and that driver suddenly decided to swing to the right, as he made a surprise left turn. Some of you have wondered why Columbus is experimenting with roundabout intersections....

I hit the brakes as soon as I noticed what the pickup driver was doing, and that probably prevented a collision. After that driver made his left turn, I was left shaking my head -- and I noticed a couple of witnesses on the sidewalk seemingly doing the same thing. This would NOT be a recommended way to win new blog readers.

I never had a good look at the pickup driver. But his/her motive for the left turn clearly was to claim an open parking space -- in the middle of the block, on the opposite side of the street. It's a "hard left" which might be hard to explain to police after a crash.

For years I called Atlanta the "creative driving capital of the world." But there's one move Columbus-area drivers do more than I ever saw in Atlanta -- that mid-block turn to claim a parking space on the other side of the road. It's Ninth Street near the Government Center, not an aisle near Macy*s at Peachtree Mall.

You're most likely to find this mid-block left turn around the Government Center. I've seen several southbound drivers on Second Avenue spot an open parking space on the northbound side, and abruptly go for it. The fact that most probably are stopping to get license tags renewed makes the move even more thought-provoking.

(This is not merely a Columbus phenomenon. During the same drive Wednesday, I saw a northbound driver in Phenix City pull the same mid-block stunt on Broad Street. At least that turn was within walking distance of police headquarters.)

I grew up in a metropolitan area much bigger than Columbus - but mid-block turning to claim an open parking spot was something my family never did. Of course, this was a much more old-fashioned era. All the downtown streets required parallel parking, with no needle-threading diagonals -- and you actually had to turn the steering wheel with your own hands to park the car.

If you wanted a downtown parking space in my family, you drove around until you found one on your side of the road - even if that meant going a few extra blocks, or even going around the block. A little extra walking didn't hurt us. At least, I don't think it did - unless the reasons for the walks contributed to my mother having ulcers.

Part of me wants to say the mid-block turning for parking spots is a sign that some people still consider metro Columbus a small town. In Dawson or Talbotton, you probably can get away with a driving stunt like that. But Columbus is much larger - and the downtown area is filled with law offices where attorneys want to win big injury judgments.

But wide turns are a problem in other parts of Columbus. Stop at many major intersections with at least four lanes of traffic, and you'd better expect drivers to turn left into the far right lane. It's almost like all the drivers have NASCAR training, and they swing out wide to avoid any loss of speed in the turns.

-> Our Wednesday night poker tournament had an entertaining moment -- sort of. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: The Columbus news media were so focused on crime stories Wednesday that our exclusive on the Hurtsboro garbage decision went as untouched as.... well, enough about the stalled trucks. Here's a comment you probably expected would come....

"Sir" Richard:

CONGRATULATIONS! Once again you have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt; that you ARE the most astute journalist in the local media!

However; I would like to clear up a general misunderstanding. I have no axe to grind with the Town of "Hurt'sboro - it's my home.

My intentions, from the very beginning, were to clean up Town Hall. I intended to use every tool availabe toward that goal - and if the Town fell along the way - it would have to be considered collateral damage. So far, the Town remains as a chartered municipality - and I hope it will remain so in the future.

I can't say that I'm rejoicing over the Town Council's long overdue action in regard to garbage pick-up, But I'm pleased to see that they finally acted in the best interest of "Hurt'sboro's citizens.

I told you that I was operating under a self imposed gag order. I didn't disclose what items I'm keeping under my hat at the present time. Believe me! There's much more to come!

Be patient my good fellow! You are first in line for another "exclusive."

R,J. Schweiger

Aw, c'mon -- if I'm "the most astute journalist" in Columbus, why did the phone calls about William Calley's big 2009 speech go to Al Fleming and Dick McMichael?

For Robert Schweiger to hope Hurtsboro will "remain" a chartered town is quite a change. After all, he went to court three years ago in a failed attempt to dissolve the town [19 Aug 08]. Several city officials and law officers may have disappeared quietly, but Hurtsboro somehow still goes on.

(Hmmmm -- has Robert Schweiger been sharing some beverages with Jimmy Wetzel lately?)

As for that court case Robert Schweiger wanted me to check: it wasn't in last week's edition of The Citizen. Requesting the records at the Russell County Courthouse would cost me money -- and require me to go into deficit spending for the year, since this blog currently has no 2011 income. If it's wrong for politicians in Washington to run up red ink....

Here's one more e-mail, about one of the Columbus criminal cases:

After reading the front pg Ledger article about the 3 young players from Carver who stole things from the GA locker room I'm stumped..Did McGee of Carver or Richt of U GA say that stealing,"is part of growing up."..If McGee said that he needs a slap on the wrist from MCSD(that is all they would do ) and if Richt said that he needs to apologize to U GA...How dare a person who is suppose to be a role model for young men make an excuse for a crime. I'm embarrassed for Carver,MCSD and U GA..When I saw where McGee said they would miss "some" Carver football games next yr I knew winning was more important than character..

The way the newspaper sentence is worded, Carver High School football coach Dell McGee was quoting Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Check the arrest records of Georgia football players over the last couple of years, and you'll understand why Richt has a lot of knowledge in this area.

Dell McGee has suspended the three accused Carver football players for five games next fall. But he admitted to the Ledger-Enquirer they might be kicked off the squad for good. That decision could be up to the Muscogee County School District's discipline tribunal -- a group whose names are almost as well-known as the Georgia offensive line.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

20 APR 11: Hauled Off

A lot of interesting things have happened in Columbus over the last few days. But the chance to break news is too good to pass up, even if it's from another nearby city. Until someone recommends a good "journalism detox" treatment, I may stay this way....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: After years of difficulties, the Hurtsboro Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to let Russell County take over garbage collection. The switch apparently will take effect immediately -- and hopefully the city's trash trucks will be towed to an impound yard, so thieves don't strip all their parts away.

The Russell County Water Authority now will oversee trash collection in every part of the county outside the Phenix City limits. Roger Connor with the Water Board told your blog Tuesday it won't cost much more to add Hurtsboro to the pickup schedule. After all, it's only one square mile - except e-mails to us make Hurtsboro seem to have more corruption than Chicago.

Russell County trash trucks already were scheduled to visit Hurtsboro today, for the third Wednesday in recent weeks. Roger Connor confirmed the city garbage truck broke down again -- and so did a backup truck. As older people at church love to say: "It's going around...."

Hurtsboro residents reportedly have received free garbage collection. They already receive water through the Russell County Water Authority. From what I found online Tuesday night, residents will have to pay only an extra "garbage deposit" of $17.50. That deposit is refundable - so if Ronnie Reed ever becomes county commission chair, Republicans will have extra moving money.

Hurtsboro Town Magistrate Jim Baxley told me Tuesday night's vote to give up local garbage collection was 4-0. One Councilor was absent - and we sincerely hope her vehicle isn't broken down for the next several weeks as well.

We've followed Hurtsboro's problems with garbage collection for nearly four years. Both city trash trucks were broken down then as well [21 May 07] -- so we can rephrase an old Southern proverb: What doesn't go around doesn't come around.

There's one man in Hurtsboro who probably rejoiced at Tuesday night's vote. In fact, his latest e-mail to us led us to this story....

"Sir" Richard:

I'm working under a self-imposed gag order at the present time. But! That doesn't mean that nothing is happening in the ol' town of "Hurt'sboro! .No Siree!

But! If I were an industrious blogger - I would talk to Roger Conner at the Russell County Water board. That board is responsible for garbage collection in all of Russell County, except "Hurt'sboro. It's rumored that is about to change.. .

Then - if I was really curious ( as the CITIZEN seems to be) I would look into the circus in Russell County Circuit Court titled CV 09-339 (ask for Jony) That's a real knee-slapper.

Finally - I would chat with "Hurt'sboro Council Person Donna Moss. She can be reached at Perry's Hardware during business hours.

Now once again; I've promised my self that I wouldn't speak in person about these matters, but the unbridled curiousity of a Bogger is beyond my control.

By the way -- at this writing - there's TWO FULLY LOADED garbage trucks sitting on Main Street in "Hurt'sboro. Neither are operable. Ah! The sweet essence of Spring.

R.J. Schweiger

The former Constable sent this to us last Saturday morning, as severe weather moved into the area. He apparently needed the right atmosphere for writing such a foreboding message.

My efforts to review what The Citizen of East Alabama wrote was stymied Tuesday. A special religious festival kept me busy all day, and the only library which was open after sunset didn't have the newspaper. Chattahoochee Valley Community College needs to add a cable TV screen somewhere on the main floor.

The Citizen doesn't help its cause these days by lacking a functioning website. I don't think the Myspace page counts, because it hasn't been updated in two years. If Bill Heard Chevrolet still ranks among your top friends, the page needs about as much fixing as a Hurtsboro garbage truck.

But anyway: Robert Schweiger has been on a long campaign to get the town of Hurtsboro dissolved by any means necessary. Tuesday night's vote to end local garbage collection moves him one step closer to that goal. What will the former Constable do next - try to get himself appointed police chief?

So it feels good to be an industrious.... hey, wait a minute! If Robert Schweiger is "under a.... gag order," why is he still writing messages to a blog? Why, that makes almost as much sense as releasing a 2011 pro football schedule while the players are locked out.

That takes care of the breaking news outside town. Now let's get caught up on several days of Columbus conversation....

+ Three Carver High School football players were arrested and suspended from the team, for allegedly stealing items from lockers at the University of Georgia. When the UGA police chief visits Columbus on a "recruiting trip" instead of head coach Mark Richt, that's not a good sign.

(One of the suspects is a star defensive back. There's a time and a place to impress recruiters with a "pick-six," but stealing six iPods is the wrong approach.)

+ Fort Benning agreed to begin providing "Courtesy Patrols" for soldiers in downtown Columbus on weekends. Doesn't this sound a little familiar? Didn't Fort Benning have MP's downtown several years ago? Wouldn't a better answer for some of the soldiers be to set up a permanent "octagon" fighting ring in the middle of Broadway?)

+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson held her first "Let's Talk" community forum on Forrest Road. WRBL reported one citizen expressed concern about noise and drinking on Sundays at Carver Park. We may have found a prime spot for rallies for and against that Sunday liquor referendum....

+ The Columbus Tea Party had a "rally and planning program" at the main public library. The group did NOT hold a tax deadline day rally outside this year - as if all the members e-filed and held a Facebook chat instead.

+ Former WTVM meteorologist Kurt Schmitz launched his own Facebook page, promising notes about the weather and other things. Schmitz explained to a commenter he can obtain a lot of data for making forecasts from the Internet. Trouble is, so can the rest of us....

(How interesting to see comments from WRBL's Bob Jeswald on Kurt Schmitz's page - but none from WTVM employees. If this happened in a fundamentalist church, it might be called a cult.)

+ Phenix City Council voted unanimously to put limits on yard sales. Residents now will have to obtain free permits, hold no more than two yard sales per year and only have them for three days at a time. In other words, the days of imitating J.D. Kinder's Furniture and Georgia Freight are over.

+ Aflac C.E.O. Dan Amos told the Ledger-Enquirer a new voice for the duck commercials should be named sometime next week. Is it possible that the staff is conducted a criminal background check - on a new duck?

+ Columbus clobbered Russell County 8-1 in high school baseball. The game was suspended in the fifth inning, after Russell County Coach Tony Rasmus and some players reportedly had a heated argument with the umpires. Perhaps Rasmus actually did what so many players have threatened to do - he took his balls and went home.

+ Instant Message to "All Things Considered" listeners on National Public Radio: Yes, I'm the person who was mentioned on the air Monday afternoon. Apparently I was the first listener to send a correction, for using music from the wrong soap opera in a story on the cancellation of "All My Children." But that does NOT mean I know exactly how many times Erica Kane has been married.

Our count of unique visitors is up more than 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 920 (+ 49, 5.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

18 APR 11: It's In the Bags

They were scraping Sunday, and I was scraping with them. Except they were doing it inside stock cars at Talladega, while traveling more than 180 miles per hour. I was doing it to metal shelving in the kitchen at a speed of.... well, at least I was sitting down like a NASCAR driver.

Victory came Sunday afternoon in my annual Serious Spring Cleaning - the event that reaches practically every square inch of my home, and ends with a final trash bag being deposited in a mystery location. This year I only had to make a short walk with that bag. If you want to search beyond that, you'll need your own fingerprint duster.

The five-week-plus cleaning marathon always begins in the bathroom - and it really should resume there, after I catch my breath. A big wasp apparently decided to check how clean my window was. Instead, the wasp found it's quite opaque - and it really can open and close to crush insects.

The bedroom is where I decided this was the year to do some major moving. The waterbed stayed where it was, since there's only two or three feet of room on either side for adjusting it. But one big side item was removed - an item used for years to hang clothing. That's simply not what an electric typewriter was built to do....

I inherited a Smith-Corona electric typewriter with insertible ribbon cartridges sometime during the 1990s. It was helpful for me for a few years, but then remained in its case as the computer era came. When the correction cartridge starts shedding, you know spring is in the air.

So this year, the typewriter went to the kitchen - and this past week was donated with other items to Valley Rescue Mission. My old non-electric Royal typewriter remains in the bedroom. If all else fails, I can use that for writing - and then I guess I'd post blog entries on a bulletin board at the Government Center or something.

The computer room/business office/mancave has become the most challenging room for cleaning. All sorts of papers and collectibles are kept there - such as the program from January 2007 reminding me Jim Wetherington had an "inauguration" as Columbus Mayor. Teresa Pike Tomlinson had a "swearing-in," but she did have one more name.

The biggest change this year in the computer room/business office/mancave was forced on me by a power outage. My old Radio Shack answering machine decided to blink continuously, and not take any more messages. The mini-cassettes I bought weeks earlier to tape messages suddenly had no use - since they simply won't fit in my living room boombox radio.

A trip to Kmart on a Monday morning allowed me to buy a new cordless phone-digital answering machine combo. This upgraded my level of personal communications to approximately 1998.

The days I gained by quickly cleaning the bathroom were lost in the computer room - but thankfully the living room cleaning went relatively quickly. But critics probably would say I cheated, because I never opened the doors of a floor-level record cabinet filled with LP's and old magazines. If I never opened them for a year, cobwebs can't possibly form - right?

A dual cassette deck which used to be in the living room was moved out this spring. It stopped working properly a couple of years ago, as if it knew I'd brought a portable mp3 player into the house.

Thanks to an expansion of the rules at the city recycling center on 22nd Avenue, I was able to drop my old cassette deck and answering machine in a bin there. That's where I also left the shell of my first eMachine computer, purchased from Office Depot in April 1998. The hard drive is still in my custody - as if city recycling workers are smart enough to be hackers on the side.

Resisting the urge to sing "The Way We Were," I spent the last week or so cleaning the kitchen. That means everything in the kitchen. Let the record show this year's Tipping of the Toaster ceremony occurred on a Thursday morning at 6:20 a.m. - turning it upside-down on the floor to get the crumbs out.

The toaster took me more than 30 minutes to clean Sunday. I wanted to make sure every last bit of crumb and leavening was out. Yes, I realize some of my friends consider that a very silly approach - but I save 12 to 15 dollars, by not throwing away a toaster every spring.

The last item in the house to be cleaned this year was the stove. For the first time I can remember, I used the "warm oven" approach to save time - spraying the cleaner on after reheating pizza slices for lunch. I realized the Little Caesars "heat sheet" wasn't tough enough to keep potentially poisonous gases from getting onto my meal.

So the cleaning is complete - but there are plenty of things to reset, after moving them to finish the cleaning process. Maybe this year the paperwork on my computer room floor will find a proper place in the coming weeks. If I can only make room behind the cushion of the center lounge chair....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll take Tuesday off to mark the start of the Passover/Unleavened Bread season. Regular blogging should resume Wednesday.)

Our count of unique visitors is up more than 22 percent from 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 871 (- 60, 6.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

17 APR 11: Begs on Broadway

The Saturday night plan already had me heading for downtown Columbus. That was true even before this e-mail came Friday:

I just heard on the radio that the Downtown Night Life Association is hosting a Bar Crawl Tonight. Seems like they would have had enough of the crawling around after last weekend.

I didn't come across any crime on Broadway Saturday night. But I encountered something nearly as controversial, which soon could be a crime - and the only "crawling" involved an animal with four legs.

BLOGGER BEGGARS #1-2 (of 2011): "WOOF!" exclaimed a large dog as I walked by Saturday night at 11th and Broadway. I stopped to make sure it was on a leash, and heard a young man sitting on a bench correct it. The last thing he wanted was a violation of the city noise ordinance.

I started on my way - but now the young man had a question, which I had to hear three times to understand. "Can you help us get something to eat?" The man had a girlfriend alongside him, along with the dog. Was this animal trained to be a "first alert" warning system?

I held something to eat in my hands, having walked out of Momma Goldberg's Deli moments before. This was my first-ever trip to "Momma G's," and it was a busy spot at 9:15 on a Saturday night. But the sauce on my Turkey Delite sandwich seemed overdone - as if I needed to be reminded of the rainstorm at 5:00 a.m.

But anyway: I didn't have the cash to go back to Momma Goldberg's and buy dinner for two more people and a large dog. But help was waiting in my car trunk, so I motioned the group toward my car one block away. I parked on First Avenue, presuming it would be easier than searching for an open space on Broadway - not to mention fewer blood stains.

"My name's Gideon," the young man said as he caught up with me, leaving the girlfriend and dog back at the corner. "We just got to town." So much for my theory that the dog was a response to last weekend's violent crimes. It wasn't even a pit bull, which would have impressed the nightclub crowd.

"Do you know of any shelter which serves dinner later than the Salvation Army?" Gideon asked me. I admitted I didn't know the meal times for Valley Rescue Mission. I'm thankfully not that desperate for an extra-extra-low value menu these days.

Gideon correctly guessed I'd been exercising earlier. "You're a fast walker," he told me. That actually was by design - because I know from experience that helping one beggar tends to bring others out of hiding. For all I knew, Gideon's gal back on Broadway could have been sending signals to a network of friends.

(One memorable late Thursday night in Atlanta, I helped one man who said he needed transmission fluid. In the process, nine more came to me within 15 minutes -- needing everything from a quarter for a pay phone to drive-through food at Taco Bell. Even before "Fourthmeal," I was providing fifths and sixths.)

"I don't have anything for your dog," I admitted to Gideon as we reached my car. "I've never come across a beggar with a dog before."

"I have plenty of food for the dog," Gideon answered. This brought the walk to a sudden screeching halt. But after thinking a moment, I realized Gravy Train probably isn't recommended for grown-ups.

"You have food for the dog, but not for you?!"

"I make sure my pet is fed." Even if he and his girlfriend have to beg like animals for other people's crumbs....

"If you can't afford dinner, maybe you should give up the dog," I told Gideon. "Do you think animals are more important than humans?"

"Of course not," Gideon said -- thus proving he wasn't a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Gideon explained he couldn't give up the dog because it's willing to be a companion and show him love. I decided not to pursue that reasoning any farther. But somehow I don't think the House of Mercy keeps a kennel on the side for people in this situation.

Longtime blog readers know I keep "beggar bags" in my car for cases such as this. I pulled out two of the three in my trunk and gave them to Gideon. Then we both went on our way -- and I drove home without going back to Broadway, to see if someone else had smothered the girlfriend with "Momma's Love."

Under the proposed Columbus panhandling ordinance, what I encountered Saturday night would become illegal. Gideon asked for help well after the 8:00 p.m. nightly deadline, and his girlfriend made it an illegal "group beg." I hope these rules are posted in plain sight at the Greyhound bus station, so all the other newcomers know.

But I'm only counting Gideon as one beggar, since the girlfriend never spoke up. The first beggar to cross my path this year actually happened three weeks ago near the bus station. A man crossed Veterans Parkway as I walked home after leaving my car at a repair shop. I suppose I should have disqualified him on the spot for jaywalking....

That man said he needed 85 cents for bus fare, to get to the Veterans Administration clinic on 13th Street for a ride to Tuskegee. Trouble was, he stopped me at around 9:30 on a Sunday morning - and METRA doesn't run on Sundays. He wanted the money on Sunday for a Monday morning bus ride. Considering he was walking, he could have reached the clinic in a day.

Since I try to avoid giving money to strangers without accountability, this situation required some long thought. I finally offered to give the man a ride to the clinic, if he showed up at my door several blocks away at sunrise Monday. The beggar seemed to accept that -- but he never showed up on Monday. Maybe he received 85 cents from someone else. Or maybe he already was working on Tuesday's excuse.

An e-mail candidate for the Sunday Soapbox had to be held, because it requires verification calls. So in the meantime, let's check the weekend news....

+ A confirmed tornado hit the Harmony Church area of Fort Benning, damaging cars and ripping the wall off a vacant dormitory. WXTX reported severe weather even delayed the second day of the Best Ranger competition. Aw, c'mon - I thought these were tough soldiers.

(Tornado sirens sounded in Talladega - and NASCAR fans camping at the Superspeedway reportedly cheered. Those fans are not only sick, but lacking in smarts. An EF-1 tornado has winds as high as 110 miles per hour - nowhere near as fast as the stock cars in today's race.)

+ The line of storms left the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn covered with hailstones, only hours before the "A-Day" spring football game. I assume the baseball team was summoned to toss them all into trash cans....

+ The Atlanta tabloid "Creative Loafing" presented Rep. Kip Smith a "Golden Sleaze Award" from this year's Georgia legislative session. Smith was, uh, honored for proposing a three-percent city or county "tourism tax" to bring in new attractions. The idea died in committee - so the old rumors about Disney taking over Callaway Gardens will linger at least one more year.

+ The Columbus Lions mauled Mobile Bay in indoor football 106-35. Apparently the most dramatic moment of the evening at the Civic Center occurred before the game - when Columbus State University theatre students presented "Charlotte's Web."

+ The Atlanta Hawks surprised Orlando 103-93 in the opening game of the N.B.A. playoffs. How sneaky of Hawks coach Larry Drew - having his team go on a losing streak at the end of the regular season, to throw the Orlando scouts off the track.

+ Instant Message to the person who used the severe weather in Columbus to post the online question "WWKD?": Ooooo -- shame on you. But I would think Kurt Schmitz had a basement in his home ready.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our next post will not occur until our annual Serious Spring Cleaning is completed. We hope this will occur at our scheduled time Monday, but we make no guarantees.)

More than 54,700 unique people visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 931 (+ 26, 2.9%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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