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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