Tuesday, July 05, 2011

5 JUL 11: This Way or No Way

The stairways on the north and south sides of the Government Center look nice. Sometimes they remind me of what Sylvester Stallone would run up and down in a "Rocky" movie. And if the power ever fails at the Springer Opera House, the north stairs can turn into amphitheatre seating for spontaneous performance art.

But don't bother climbing those stairs to get inside the Government Center. As of today, there's only one public way into the building -- under the stairs on the Ninth Street side. The East Wing entrance is permanently closed to the public. The attorneys with offices on Second Avenue probably could use the extra exercise from walking around.

People have used the East Wing entrance for decades because the tag office is located on that side of the building. Now people who want to renew license tags will have to enter on the south side, then walk through part of the parking garage -- being reminded of the nice free spaces they could have if they ran for Columbus Council and won.

Muscogee County Sheriff's officers say the East Wing entrance was closed primarily as a security precaution. Major Randy Robertson explained there have been a couple of emotional moments recently in Government Center courtrooms. I've seen them at the Tag Office, too - from two-year-olds throwing tantrums in line.

As you might guess, some people are upset by the closing of the East Wing entrance. Several disabled people told WRBL it's an extra inconvenience -- and one woman declared, "There's not that much crime here. We're not Atlanta." This may be the nicest thing Police Chief Ricky Boren has read all year.

When the new and improved Government Center security entrance was under construction two years ago, then-Mayor Jim Wetherington made sure there were special parking places and entryways for the disabled. Perhaps the Sheriff's Office should consider reopening those, before someone rams a power wheelchair through a door.

(Government Center employees still can enter through special side doors. That's one perk the city auditor apparently has yet to uncover.)

But there's another reason why the East Wing entrance is closing - and I can't help wondering if that's the real reason. Officers admit with only one security entrance, five bailiffs can be reassigned. And that means the Sheriff's Office can save $150,000 -- money the mayor could send right into the garbage bin budget.

By comparison, City Hall in Phenix City seems to get by without a formal security entrance at all. The only precautions I've seen are the use of locked doors leading to offices on the second and third floors. The better to prevent fights between City Councilors and the School Board, I suppose....

There should be one other benefit from closing the East Wing entrance. I've mentioned here how desperate drivers become, when they want to park on Second Avenue across from the Government Center [21 Apr]. The surprise mid-block turns may end now -- especially if those five bailiffs are reassigned to traffic enforcement.

Some people have one less reason to visit the Columbus Government Center this week. This evening's "Proclamations Day" meeting of Columbus Council has been canceled. I'm not sure why the mayor would have second thoughts about proclaiming this Friday Cow Appreciation Day.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: You may have noticed a "Blog Cash Counter" at the bottom of our posts for a few days. It's because of a project I've been asked to do throughout July -- keeping track of every time I spend cash, as opposed to using checks or credit cards. For those of you who are big spenders, cash is the stuff which usually has pictures of Presidents on them.

A survey company sent me a diary a few days ago, for recording all my cash purchases. It's easy to do, since I make only one or two purchases a day. But I'm already wondering if I'll have enough space, because my cash spending tends to be small. Two trips a day to a vending machine is turning into one line -- which makes me feel a bit less guilty about what I'm buying.

(I've been offered the opportunity to fill out diaries before. But the offers came from TV rating companies -- and when I worked with TV stations, I was disqualified from filling them out. That's not true right now, though. So one of these days, I could be Teresa Whitaker's worst nightmare.)

You'll see our running Blog Cash Counter throughout the month, as I keep track of my spending. But the diary asks me to play by "Price is Right" rules. By that, I mean rounding off prices to the nearest dollar -- as opposed to getting a pet spayed or neutered first.

-> There was an inspiring moment the other day at poker's biggest event. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: How quickly I forget! As I went through the archives preparing today's topic, I discovered I predicted Michaela Lackey would win last year's Miss Georgia pageant [16 Jun 10]. I was wrong then - but Lackey won THIS year's pageant. I should stop by some churches, and claim to have "the prophetic gift."

Let's wrap up other items from Independence Day 2011....

+ Columbus Police estimated 30,000 people attended the grand finale fireworks of "Thunder on the Hooch." Take that, Kurt Schmitz! A big crowd showed up at WTVM's big event, anyway - and I don't think the station offered fancier prizes for winning the watermelon-eating contest.

+ Students at the Springer Opera House summer drama camp held their annual holiday parade on Broadway. A few children walked down the sidewalk on stilts - perhaps dreaming of the day when they can play Sarah Jessica Parker's role on "Sex and the City."

+ Instant Message to the Country Corner convenience store in Thomaston: I saw that poster near the door the other day. Really now - why would anyone make beer out of fat tires? Wouldn't the bits of rubber floating on top of the glass taste weird?

Our count of unique visitors in the first half of 2011 was up 25.5 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: 737 (+ 13, 1.8%)

BLOG CASH COUNTER: $10.92 (Up $1.31)

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.

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