Wednesday, April 06, 2011

6 APR 11: A Power Play Goal?

Last year's Columbus mayoral campaign had dozens of forums and debates -- and not one of them invited me to be a panelist/questioner/judge. I had the perfect question ready to ask, too. If you're elected mayor 2 November, should the city manager start e-mailing resumes 3 November?

In reality, the Columbus mayor has no authority to fire the city manager. But that could change in the next couple of years. Tuesday's Ledger-Enquirer reported a charter review subcommittee is discussing whether the mayor should have the power to fire not only the city manager, but the Police Chief and Fire Chief. Your vote for mayor could throw out more rascals than ever.

The current city charter states the Columbus mayor can "recommend the removal of the city manager and the city attorney." It's up to Columbus Council to decide whether or not to fire them. This way more people share the blame - a bit like the Butler basketball team in the NCAA men's final.

But the proposal in the charter review subcommittee would let the mayor directly fire the city manager, city attorney and public safety chiefs. A majority of Columbus Council could override that decision. But let's face it - you don't see METRA riders demanding bus drivers change their routes.

There's a big difference between recommending the removal of a high-ranking city official and actually doing the removing. The charter review subcommittee in effect is deciding whether the Columbus mayor should treat the city manager like a high school senior or a middle school newcomer.

Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson has contended all along her office has more power than some people think. But surprisingly, she's NOT embracing this proposed charter change. Tomlinson explained it's not good for a new mayor to make wholesale changes in personnel. This explains why President Obama kept George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense. Nobody else, but him....

Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson added the current format of "recommending" changes in key city positions requires her to build a consensus with Columbus Council. Translation: four or five smoke-filled rooms, instead of one with loud arguments.

Those comments may not settle the charter review question, but they suggest something else is settled. The new Columbus Mayor is satisfied with her city manager. After all, the 90-day probation period for Isaiah Hugley ended a few days ago....

Any proposed changes in the Columbus city charter would be subject to voter approval in a referendum. That vote probably won't occur before next year, so there's plenty of time to sort through the arguments - but I'll note one thing. If the subcommittee's idea was on the ballot in Venezuela, the State Department probably would condemn it once a week from now on.

Oh yes - if the Columbus mayor really has so much power, why is it taking so long to nominate a new Parks and Recreation Director? Aflac might select a new "duck voice" in a lot less time, and despite having thousands more candidates.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Tuesday's admission about popcorn at the "picture show" brought a little skepticism....

I think that the info given you from a Carmike rep was a little "off base". The chain has changed names over the years from Martin Theatres to Carmike. When Carl Patrick ( Mikes Dad ) was CEO and the Beverly Theatre was operating in the Columbus Square Mall, Real butter was used on the popcorn there. Other theatres called theirs Buttered, but legal advice caused the term to be changed to Buttery Flavored.

Being associated with all the theatres in this area permitted me to eat lots of free popcorn over the years. That ended over 20 years ago, and at that time I believed that Theatre popcorn was the best you could get. Still do, although I haven't been inside a Movie Theatre since then.

I really enjoyed what you wrote about the butter.

Don P.C. Al.

Carmike Cinemas has existed since 1982. I moved to Columbus in 1997, so I can't speak for what happened before then. But if real butter leads to nasty-tasting popcorn, we may have uncovered a hidden reason why Columbus Square went out of business.

A place which longs for Carmike to come back to town tops our review of other Tuesday news....

+ The Phenix City Council approved two appointments to the school board. One of them is Eddie Lowe, who was removed by the council while serving as President last May. I admittedly didn't attend the council meeting - but this vote leads me to conclude Jimmy Wetzel must have been absent.

(Mayor Sonny Coulter said the council and school board will make a renewed effort to work together. Translation: we've officially reached the point where Phenix City Councilors are thinking about next year's city election.)

+ WLTZ also reported the Phenix City Council is considering new rules for yard sales. You could only hold them twice a year for three days at a time, after obtaining a free city permit. Mayor Sonny Coulter said some people are setting up tables in their front yards every weekend. High gas prices have made trips to the Lee County Flea Market cost-prohibitive.

+ WTVM reported Columbus Regional Healthcare produces $916 million in revenue each year. The good news here is that city funding for The Medical Center can be eliminated. The bad news is that even with the "great recession," too many Columbus residents keep getting sick.

+ A Floyd County, Georgia father was placed on probation and fined $300 for giving his son a tattoo. Eugene Ashley did it when the boy was three years old. So what's the official minimum age to start redneck training -- five or six?

(Ashley admitted he was drunk, when he tattooed the letters "DB" on his son's shoulder two years ago. If Ashley had been sober, things might have been different - and "Bud" would have been tattooed with the proper spelling.)

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