Friday, May 13, 2011

13 MAY 11: Too Many Stars?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our apologies for the delay in today's post. Our blogging partner had the longest maintenance problem we've ever seen it have.)

Some things in the Columbus area run in cycles. Gas prices reach a peak, then go back down. Peachtree Mall adds a few stores, then loses a few stores. And we shouldn't have to point out Sonny Coulter coming and going as Phenix City mayor....

An old idea was recycled at a Columbus Council budget hearing Thursday: eliminating the Muscogee County Marshal's Office. Before we examine the details of this idea, we should note one thing - if Councilors can engage in recycling, so can you.

With Columbus Council staring at a smaller city budget for fiscal 2012, some residents apparently have suggested the Marshal's Office either be eliminated or combined with the Sheriff's Office. Hopefully someone is keeping score, to see how many of the people making this suggestion are facing subpoenas.

When WRBL promoted this story Thursday afternoon, I took a guess about which Columbus Councilor was leading the driver to end the Marshal's Office. Wow, was I wrong! It was NOT Red McDaniel - and come to think of it, he'd probably want things combined with Columbus Fire/EMT instead.

The Columbus Councilor proposing the elimination of the Muscogee County Marshal's Office is Jerry "Pops" Barnes. Talk about irony -- as Barnes unseated Nathan Suber, who led the last campaign to end the Marshal's Office at the turn of the millennium. Is Suber spiking those Krispy Kreme doughnuts somehow?

Jerry Barnes explained the Marshal's Office and Sheriff's Office should be combined because Columbus has "two organizations doing what one organization can do." Based on this reasoning, WRBL and WLTZ should announce a merger of their news departments sometime this weekend.

Jerry Barnes insists he has "nothing against the Marshal." But the Marshal saw things differently Thursday, as Greg Countryman told Councilors the criticism of his office smelled of politics. This is why cleaning crews need to spray air freshener in the Council meeting room after every session....

But to be honest, Greg Countryman has taken several steps with the Marshal's Office to score political points. He's shown off patrol cars with specially-equipped rumblers. Countryman also set up the Junior Marshal program for young people - so big that it's gained not only its own office on Wynnton Road, but an investigation of alleged scandal.

(Countryman also can show evidence he's saved the city money since taking office - since you don't have to pay a penny to feed a robot mascot.)

Marshal Greg Countryman also argued all uniformed officers should be "out there fighting crime," because the Columbus crime rate is so high. Of course, several Marshal's officers moved there from Columbus Police - so every time they pull someone over for a speeding ticket, it's a little like homecoming weekend.

Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson admitted Muscogee County is one of only two Georgia counties to have an elected marshal. But she called the proposed consolidation a "political football," because all arms of Columbus public safety are working well together. That's what happens when most of the top law officers endorse the same woman for office.

In a way, Greg Countryman has a vote of the people on his side. A referendum on abolishing the Marshal's Office failed in 2000. Besides, Countryman was unopposed the last time he was on the ballot -- and Sheriff John Darr's attempt to start a "Rising Stars" program looked like it came directly from Countryman's journal.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION wants your opinion on this issue. Should the Marshal's Office be either eliminated or consolidated? Or should Greg Countryman's officers have the thrill of serving eviction notices all to themselves?

-> Sunday night's big online poker game left us with a wide range of emotions. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Sure enough - I crossed paths again Thursday with the beggar outside Little Joe's Package Store on Sixth Street [9 May]. Part of me wanted to walk a different direction from Veterans Parkway, but my conscience about the mid-April encounter wouldn't allow it. Give me credit for at least having a conscience....

I explained to the man that I misstated my financial situation in the prior meeting, and actually had change in my pocket. So to make up for it, he received the change in my pocket THIS time - all of 11 cents. He thanked me for it, and didn't ask for anything more. He probably was too deeply in shock.

Let's check other comings and goings from Thursday....

+ Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the "billboard bill," expanding the cutting of trees to display signs along highways. Critics say that will end any plans for Streetscape work on Veterans Parkway between Fourth and Eighth Street. But look on the bright side -- Trees Columbus can post signs pointing to nice displays of nature on Front Avenue.

+ WLTZ showed a party at Fox Elementary School, marking ten years since it merged with Bibb Elementary. I can't help wondering if TSYS will do something similar in the months ahead - to celebrate being separate from Synovus Financial, should it go into bankruptcy.

+ Columbus routed Ringgold 7-3 to advance in the Georgia high school baseball playoffs. Ringgold was badly damaged by the late-April tornadoes, so the Columbus Sports Council arranged lodging for the visitors while Northside High School's coach provided meals. But you'll notice coach Bobby Howard only let Ringgold have one win in the series.

(Kyle Carter clubbed three home runs in the win. But a Ringgold batter smacked a homer onto the Columbus High School roof - as if he's trying to share the pain of what happened at home.)

+ Glenwood pasted Pike 4-0 to win the AISA state baseball title. The Gator baseball team has won three state championships in a row, to match the softball team. I think that means when the players date each other, they'll go Dutch.

+ Chicago knocked the Atlanta Hawks out of the basketball playoffs 93-73. Atlanta lost in the second round for the third year in a row - which makes me uncertain about whether coach Larry Drew will want his son "Drew II" to join the team or not.

+ Instant Message to whomever is behind 1-800-411-PAIN: Welcome to Columbus. Love your "salsa jingle" on Spanish-language radio in Orlando. So which station are you targeting for having programs originate from the "1-800-411-PAIN Studios?"

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Did my reply of last Sunday satisfy "Brother Love?" You'll read his answer....

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