Wednesday, June 01, 2011

1 JUN 11: Honeymoon's End

In 2011 terms, what a Columbus Council committee did Tuesday was like a session on Facebook. Councilors had a choice of adding or deleting "friends." And let's face it - deleting a friend simply is NOT a very friendly thing to do.

In classic college terms, it was "add-drop day" for the proposed city budget. The Columbus Council Budget Review Committee decided to add several things Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson wanted dropped. In fact, it's tempting to borrow from a classic New York tabloid headline - but the committee stopped short of telling her to drop dead.

Mayor Tomlinson wanted to cut $300,000 from the city subsidy for Port Columbus. The budget review committee decided to cut only $50,000, matching what the naval museum recommended. It's the biggest win for pirates around here since Chattahoochee Valley Community College last reached the national baseball playoffs.

Mayor Tomlinson wanted to cut the city subsidy for public golf courses. The budget review committee restored that subsidy - rejecting the mayor's warnings that such a golf approach would leave the city budget in the deep rough.

Mayor Tomlinson wanted to save more than $300,000 in city money by reducing garbage collection to one day a week. The budget review committee said no, preferring to keep twice-a-week pickup. The heat wave with highs in the mid-nineties has come at a terrible time for the mayor....

If all that wasn't enough, Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr called a news conference Tuesday to declare he opposes any consolidation of his department with the Marshal's Office. Darr said the departments have separate duties to fill. And besides, it gives Columbus an extra chance of winning medals at the Georgia Police and Fire Games.

Put it all together, and Tuesday may have been the roughest day Teresa Pike Tomlinson has had since becoming mayor. I say "may have been" because I'm not sure when the concept of a Butler's Pantry restaurant on Seventh Street was abandoned for "Vintage 222."

(There's only one thing which could have made Tuesday worse for the mayor - but I have received NO new e-mails from Tollie Strode.)

Mayor Tomlinson tried to make her case to reporters after the five-hour budget meeting. She told WRBL the budget review committee added almost two million dollars in spending, and in the process would reduce the city's reserve fund to 65 days. This is only daring SOA Watch to hold a longer protest in November....

The mayor added she wasn't surprised by Sheriff John Darr's support of Marshal Greg Countryman and opposition to a merger. But she still hopes Columbus Council will approve $70,000 to study of how much might be saved. It's a new twist on economic theory - you have to spend money to save money.

But Mayor Tomlinson admitted to WLTZ there may not be room in the city budget for an outside assessment of a public safety merger. So she plans to proceed with an "internal assessment." Come to think of it, the new mayor hasn't taken one step toward replacing the city auditor....

The mayor invited residents to attend one last public hearing on the proposed city budget, during the 14 June Columbus Council meeting. We'll see if more people are there holding up one finger for garbage collection, or the Columbus High School state baseball title.

Perhaps Columbus city officials are overlooking a way to bring in extra revenue. Look at what WXTX put on the screen Tuesday night during the 10:00 p.m. news -- a Ford logo with the time and temperature. Not in a corner of the screen, but practically in the middle. Why not have Council meetings sponsored? Start with Sanctuary bookstore sponsoring the invocation....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Another budget decision was made Tuesday, about an item mentioned in this message from Monday -- a message which sent us backpedaling to last week's Columbus Council meeting. Does all that make sense?

I was watching the video of a meeting of the Council where Hughley stuck his foot in his mouth again..Councilman Allen was asking him about the Marshall's Office wanting to purchase a $25,000 pursuit car.Allen first said that was not part of the job description of the Marshall's office.Then the discussion got around to the Marshall spending $25,000.Hughley said he was an elected official and he could spend his budget without permission of the Council..THEN Hughley said if a pothole appeared and needed fixing he would contact Councilman Allen before it was fixed..Then Hughley said the whole discussion had gotten into the political issue about the Marshall's office purpose.He tried to deflect his thoughtless statements away from himself and back on Council...Then the Mayor said the State Attorney Gen.had made a statement that e-mail votes by a Council was an illegal closed meeting.Pop Barnes jumped on this quickly that the Council should have been made aware of this edict..THe Mayor and the City Manager both said they would have been notified when it became official..Barnes stated that they needed to know this even if it was not official. Then Hughley wanted to get into a discussion trying to cover his back on that one also...What is going on down there?..If Hughley tried those moves in the professional world plus his loss of a very large sum in collections he would be fired...Here are pats on the back for Allen and Barnes for not sitting back and taking it from Hughley.

The budget review committee decided Tuesday to keep money for not one Marshal's Office pursuit car, but two. If that doesn't get apartment freeloaders to run away from the complex, I don't know what will.

The budget review committee faced a question of paying for Marshal's Office pursuit cars or police body armor - and councilors decided to fund both. All public safety officers might find that body armor handy, if this means streets aren't paved with Local Option Sales Tax money.

A road trip along with other Tuesday activities left me little time to find the moments from the 24 May meeting where these incidents occurred. But I noticed Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson allowed a Marshal's deputy to response to Tollie Strode's cost analysis, even though he wasn't on the agenda. When Mayor Jim Wetherington pulled that trick, some people nearly considered it treasonous.

While Columbus Council meetings can be viewed online by anyone, there's a flaw in the format. People can't shuffle back and forth through hour-long clips, to track down specific items they want to review. It's like sitting through a 500-mile car race, waiting to see a crash on the final turn.

Let's finalize this entry with a glance at other Tuesday events....

+ Auburn Police reported a Wal-Mart store was evacuated and closed for several hours Sunday night, after two men tried to start a fire in one aisle. I suppose these guys are planning ahead - but there must be a better way to check the warmth of sleeping bags.

+ Bruce Lee presented his final forecast at WTVM. This means we can crown Derek Kinkade the winner and undisputed champion of Wynnton Road weather.

(I admittedly overlooked the news that veteran reporter Lindsey Connell left WTVM last week. If I heard correctly, she's moving to Kansas. I knew there was something I liked about her....)

+ Columbus spanked Spalding 19-9 in six innings, to win the Georgia AAA high school baseball title. That's two in a row, and 11 in the last 30 years - but it's too bad Columbus Council still hasn't found money to post signs at the city limits for Carver's state football title.

+ Golden Park was unavailable for the AAA high school final round, because it's hosting the National Club Baseball Association World Series. Florida State remained alive by topping Texas Tech 6-5. But should F.S.U. win today - and risk not having players available to pinch-hit during its NCAA regional Thursday?

(The NCBA tournament must be a bigger deal than I thought. TIC Federal Credit Union never sets up an automated teller next to the ticket window at college football games.)

+ The National Hockey League confirmed the Atlanta Thrashers will move to Winnipeg, Manitoba for next season. I attended the first-ever Thrashers game -- a preseason win over Nashville at the Columbus Civic Center in September 1999. For the Georgia state bird to fly north for the winter makes absolutely no sense.

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