Monday, January 31, 2011

31 JAN 11: The Rest of the Story (Maybe)

A TV game show of my youth ended every afternoon with host Tom Kennedy declaring: "It's not what you say that counts - it's what you don't say." Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer brought a startling reminder of that. Many hidden pieces in a big Columbus controversy suddenly came together - and showed big-city dailies sometimes still can put small weeklies in their place.

The front-page story "Gaymon's Ghost" revealed many things we didn't know before about the President of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and his "tablecloth joke." For instance, we learned....

+ The man portrayed as Mike Gaymon's victim is NOT demanding his resignation. In Tom Wyatt's words, "I'm not driving that train." So does that mean there's railroading here -- by somebody?

+ Wyatt was arrested on contempt of court charges in 2009, because he didn't pay traffic fines. Perhaps even judges in black robes scared him by this point.

+ African-American elected officials met on the matter two weeks ago, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Now we know they're still a "minority," because they didn't have enough members to require a public meeting.

+ The man who organized a silent protest outside a Chamber of Commerce meeting says he accepts Gaymon's apology. Ronzell Buckner plans no more protests - but if that changes, he'd better make them noisy so we know.

For those who hadn't heard about the tablecloth incident in 2008, the Sunday newspaper article provided a complete in-depth explanation. But for those of us who have watched this fuss build since October, it was eye-opening. And serious questions now have to be turned toward The Courier - which looks more slanted than the hill down Steam Mill Road to Buena Vista Road.

We should give The Courier credit for breaking the news of the "tablecloth joke," after it was hidden almost two years. It also was first to publish an interview with Tom Wyatt, in last Thursday's edition. The Ledger-Enquirer found Wyatt in Florida - so that exclusive interview wasn't hidden very well.

I find it very hard to believe The Courier would NOT ask Tom Wyatt if Mike Gaymon should resign. After all, it asked Georgia NAACP President Ed DuBose that question. So why didn't Wyatt's claim in the Ledger-Enquirer of no "vendetta" against the Chamber of Commerce become part of The Courier's story? Did he simply give the wrong answer?

The front page of The Courier's latest issue asks "our African-American elected officials" where they stand. Yet those officials had met ten days earlier, and their concerns apparently led Chamber Chair Carmen Cavezza to urge a public apology statement from Mike Gaymon. The so-called "Voice of the Minority Community" in the masthead looked like the quote one line below about a "lack of knowledge."

To be fair, The Courier's news staff doesn't seem to be much larger than this blog -- so details of stories can be missed. But this is looking like a case where a newspaper hasn't said everything it knew, because some facts got in the way of its agenda. Who would have thought to put Wane Hailes and Andrew Breitbart on the same media list?

Some supporters of The Courier have wondered why the Ledger-Enquirer took so long to report on the "tablecloth joke." Perhaps the daily paper was waiting to assemble all the facts first, while the weekly released a few bits and pieces each issue as they surfaced. It's a bit like using waterboarding, versus filling a swimming pool.

Debating which journalistic approach is better is a bit like comparing white and dark meat apples and oranges. But in the Mike Gaymon case, the Ledger-Enquirer certainly comes across as looking more "fair and balanced." Wow -- I've done it again, now comparing Tim Chitwood to Bill O'Reilly.

The Courier clearly has changed in the last couple of years from a "news" paper to an opinion journal on crusades. You may recall before Mike Gaymon, there was the fuss over where Piggly Wiggly placed its advertising. It may not stop until someone in The Courier's watch list makes page one of The Joint.

Newspaper crusades certainly aren't new -- and they aren't done simply by weekly tabloids. Remember how The New York Times went after Augusta National Golf Club several years ago? Last time I checked, the club was still men-only. The Masters was still a major golf tournament. And Martha Burk was last seen turning her pointing finger toward Tiger Woods.

But crusades reach a point where you either achieve your goal or you don't. Now that we know The Courier's goal is NOT the goal of the originally offended employee, should the newspaper defer to that employee and back down? Or is it hoping for someone to smuggle out Mike Gaymon's joke book?

If there's any comfort for The Courier in all this, at least it's staked out a position as a more probing African-American paper than the Columbus Times. I don't think the Times has mentioned "Gaymon's Ghost" at all - especially if it didn't receive a news release from the Chamber of Commerce to copy and paste.

And at least The Courier's publisher is on the latest list of "50 Most Influential African-Americans" in the area. Yes, Wane Hailes is on a list compiled by his own paper. I've never thought about awarding a Burkard Award to myself....

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: The writer in our Sunday Soapbox subject saw a need for self-correction, after reading what we wrote....

Sir Richard:

Touche! Your obsession for proper spelling and my propensity for making such errors gives you another literate victory! I DO proof-read everything I write; but I guess that my dimming eyesight isn't adequate enough to scrounge out difficult words like "weesel" I will try to improve.

I also admit to a bit of confusion as to whom is appealing What on the School Board issue. It's hard to identify the players without a scorecard, And I really don't know "Who's on First." And, if I remember correctly - all I predicted - was that there would be an Appeal.

Now, about the Public Audit. In my extensive search for that elusive document; I learned through a conversation with Alabama's Chief examiner, that the requirements call for the audit to be kept in a public institution such as the library; or it can be filed with the Examiners as a matter of convenience for the public.

BUT! It is to be presented to the Council and spread upon their minutes Those minutes are available through the Open Records Act.- Any gaps in procedure should show up there.

Ho-Hum! That's enough of the humdrum. I'm a lot more interested in Arthur Sumbry.

R.J. Schweiger

That "W-word" truly is a difficult one - because careful readers will notice Robert Schweiger misspelled it again.

Considering you can't even find the city charter at the Phenix City-Russell County Library, I seriously doubt you'll find an audit of the city finances there. Maybe that's why the city makes sure its share of the expenses are paid [15 Oct 09] - it keeps the complaints heading in the other direction.

A group of e-mails is being held until phone calls can be made about them. So let's check other news items from a marvelous January weekend:

+ WRBL reported Judy Wilkinson's appeal of the "Mimosa Madam" case was turned away by the Citizens Police Review Board. This news may stun a lot of people, who never knew there was a Citizens Police Review Board. Former mayor Jim Wetherington certainly knew how to hide that one.

(Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson admitted he's annoyed at Judy Wilkinson for flaunting her arrest by selling "Mimosa Raid" merchandise. He says alcohol is the biggest drug problem law officers face. Yet Robertson apparently hasn't convinced the police chief to set up "beats" outside liquor stores.)

+ A woman was arrested at the LaGrange bus station on charges of attempting to ship more than 30 pounds of Ecstasy pills to Columbus. Some of the pills were shaped like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Couldn't those turtles simply add a little more oregano to their pizzas?

+ Former President Jimmy Carter told his Sunday School class in Plains that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak probably will have to leave office. I'll only say this about what's happening in Cairo - the Egyptian unrest really sphinx.

+ ESPN The Magazine predicted Carver High School running back Isaiah Crowell will finish second in the 2014 Heisman Trophy voting. Talk about going out on a limb! This assumes Crowell will have something go wrong, to stay in college four years....

+ The Atlanta Falcons coaching staff helped the National Conference win the Pro Bowl game 55-41. The NFC intercepted passes throughout the first half - making me wonder who was the idiot that thought Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning should be all-star quarterbacks.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

30 JAN 11: Sumbry Offenses?

A few people were waiting for the next eruption in Phenix City politics. But I don't think anyone expected it to be announced by the new Russell County Sheriff. After two weeks in office, Heath Taylor's looking like a latter-day Albert Patterson - and his office is safely at the edge of town.

Sheriff Heath Taylor announced the arrest of Phenix City Councilor Arthur Sumbry on felony charges. A Russell County grand jury suspects he forged documents, then perjured himself by lying about it in court. Was the "Street Committee" at The Courier tipped off to this? Sumbry somehow missed its "Most Influential African-Americans" list.

The grand jury accuses Arthur Sumbry Sr. of putting a notary public seal on a false signed warranty deed, then testifying the person who signed the deed was in his presence. The old church phrase "with you in spirit" apparently doesn't count in a civil trial....

Sheriff Heath Taylor says his office started investigating Arthur Sumbry Sr. last October, because the Phenix City Police feared examining a Councilor would be a conflict of interest. Somewhere in Columbus, Tony Adams is wondering why he didn't apply to work in Phenix City in the first place.

The Ledger-Enquirer went to its archives, and found Arthur Sumbry Sr. was convicted in two trials 30 years ago. One of those convictions was for perjury as well - which raises the old question of why more politicians aren't prosecuted for forgetting their campaign promises.

(Arthur Sumbry Sr. received a pardon for those convictions in 1982. Talk about a quick turnaround! His record was cleared almost as quickly as it took to test Carlton Gary's DNA.)

We did our own archive check Saturday night, and discovered Arthur Sumbry Sr. also was arrested in 2005. That case involved writing a bad check for $7,200 [12 Apr 05]. I never heard how that case was settled - but Sumbry still serves on the Phenix City Council, so perhaps business at his mortuary picked up.

So Arthur Sumbry Sr. has a record of 1-2 when it comes to arrests. If he's convicted on these felony charges, will it be "three strikes, you're out?" Or will Sumbry become the next state legislature campaign issue for Johnny Ford?

If Arthur Sumbry Sr. is cleared of the felony charges, he may have more questions to answer. One critic of Phenix City government has sent me a series of accusations, and added more in a message sent Saturday night. But that critic didn't send anything in advance about the felony case - and some of the latest accusations would require a photographer from TMZ to prove.

If you're wondering why I refer to the Councilor as Arthur Sumbry Sr., it's because there's also a "Junior." His son nicknamed "Pee Wee" is the Russell County Coroner. If the father has to give up a Phenix City office, the son is waiting to replace him - and the son's controversial mini-hearse could become an SUV again.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: Phenix City politics already were going to be in our spotlight, due to two e-mails from the former Constable of Hurtsboro. This one reached us first....

Sir Richard: How sweet it is when you begrudgingly pass a kind word my way. It really makes life worthwhile. You probably don;t remember - but you hinted that I might be blessed with ESP in one of your BLOGS a few weeks ago. I'm not equipped with any ability to peer into the future, it's just that.any moron (of which I am one) could read the script as written for "Hurt'sboro, and its judicial cronies. But enough of that. After a busy day in Phenix City; I turned to the news as displayed on the pages of the good ol' L-E! Right there on the front page - just as I had predicted - was the news that the Phenix City School Board was appealing Good Ol' Judge Johnson's ruling against them. I will make another prediction. THEY WILL PREVAIL! When you take it to the Court of Civil Appeals - you are walking with the big dogs; fellows like Mayor Tapley and Judge Johnson need to stay on the porch.

R.J. Schweiger

I used the phrase "prophetic gift," not ESP [20 Dec 10] -- although I'm sure some people in Hurtsboro could benefit from the Enrichment Services Program.

Trouble is, the Ledger-Enquirer's article of last Wednesday was NOT about an appeal by the Phenix City School Board. It said the Phenix City Council was appealing a court ruling, which actually was in the school board's favor. So I'm not sure if Robert Schweiger actually predicted that, or he's developing dyslexia.

This case involves Judge Albert Johnson's ruling in November that the Phenix City School Board is independent, and immune from a city investigation. I'm admittedly not a judge, but my reading of Article 9.07 of the city charter this past week showed the city can "inquire into the conduct of any office, department, board or agency...." Yeow -- I'm sounding like Paul Olson.

Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara told the newspaper the city's court appeal will use up money which could "be spent in a much wiser way...." Such as a possible retirement party for Councilor Sumbry....

Within 24 hours of that first e-mail, Robert Schweiger wrote us again - with the title "POP! Goes the weasle" (yes, he spelled it that way)....

Sir Richard:

I do wish you had paid more attention to my decade old complaint about missing Annual disclosures - before you started chasing your tail - 'Round and 'Round the chicken coop. For your information, it matters little what the City Charter includes. It's a matter of State law.

Here in Alabama Title 11 Sec. 43-85 covers the issue in full detail. You can rest assured, that Georgia's Code covers the requirements almost verbatum.

"Hurt'sboro has been playing "Hide and Seek" with the citizens of the Town, the Russell County District Attorney, and the Examiners of Public Accounts for four (4) years. There hasn't been an audit since 2003. Fortunately, all the sought for documents we have a right to examine would be on the ground level floor if they even existed. I'm not capable of competing in a staircase marathon.

I hope you find what you are seeking in the immediate future - but don't be too surprised - if it doesn't exist. There are many unanswered financial questions in "Hurt'sboro, and it seems that they will never be answered. I hope you fare better than I have in uncovering the facts that you seek.

R,J. Schweiger

Strange but true -- I did a Bing search Saturday night for "Alabama Title 11 Sec. 43-85." But what I found at the top doesn't seem to have anything to do with the state law....

Eventually I found the section of the Code of Alabama dealing with annual reviews of city financial records. But it says nothing about where that review is to be kept for public inspection. That's the issue Phenix City government critics are raising -- and the ground floor of City Hall wouldn't qualify, because the City Manager's office isn't there. To get the freshest air, you have to climb the mountain.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

28 JAN 11: Out of the Zone

When it comes to the routines of weekday mornings, I'm very old-school. I turn on the radio for breakfast, instead of television -- because a TV news anchor might say, "Look at these pictures!" and I'll spill my cereal hurrying over from the kitchen table.

One of my morning radio options has been missing for several weeks -- and as of Thursday night, I still had no explanation for it. WIOL-AM 1580 is silent. This January, Davis Broadcasting can get away with that. When Alabama played for a national football title last January, it would have been a scandal.

Yes, I know - WIOL has a simulcast of "The Zone" at 95.7 FM. But I can't pick up that station in my corner of Columbus. WRLD "Boomer 95.3" drowns it out - and that station has oldies music, but no old-timers' games.

So where is WIOL-AM? I've called Davis Broadcasting twice in the last couple of weeks seeking an answer. The first time I called, I seemed to stun the receptionist when I said AM 1580 was off the air. But then again, that woman probably is one of the reasons why WFXE "Foxie 105" tops the ratings.

Twice I've been transferred to the programming department of Davis Broadcasting with my question about WIOL-AM. My voice mail message Thursday was not returned. But at least that's an improvement from a week earlier, when the voice mailbox was full and I couldn't leave a message at all.

Perhaps it's just as well that WIOL-AM is silent these days. It didn't show up in the fall Columbus radio ratings, which came out this week. The FM station showed up for the first time in 18 months - which is strange, since that could mean more people listened to Alabama football games after the Crimson Tide started losing again.

Football doesn't seem to be the radio ratings magnet you might expect in Columbus. WDAK's fall ratings dipped a bit, despite Atlanta Falcons games. And WVRK "Rock 103" had the biggest ratings drop of any station, even though Auburn had a perfect football season. You simply don't tick off rock music lovers on the Georgia side of the river....

There's little change at the top of the fall radio ratings. Foxie 105 is in first place as always. WBFA "98.3 Da Beat" advanced from third place to second. WCGQ moved up to third - but please don't be confused. The billboard on Wynnton Road praising owner "Jimbo" Martin refers to 60 years of age, not 60 percent of the audience.

Only two of the six AM radio stations in Columbus showed up in the fall ratings. The switch of "The Ride" to WRCG's stations didn't provide... well, you know.... a booster seat.

WSTH-FM again lagged behind "country cousin" WKCN "Kissin' 99.3." If you asked me what radio station will make a change next, I'd guess it's "South 106.1" - perhaps adjusting its music to "classic country." That means older tunes, with a steel guitar you actually can hear.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The target of Mike Gaymon's "tablecloth joke" finally spoke out Thursday. Tom Wyatt told The Courier after the 2008 incident at the Rivermill Event Centre, he was no longer invited to Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce administrative meetings. Wow -- who knows what Gaymon wore at those things?!

The Courier's crusade against Mike Gaymon continues in the latest issue, with four separate articles about the "tablecloth joke" and reactions to it. This tops the "Eco Latino" part of the paper -- which has two articles. Period.

I'm going to hold a couple of e-mails for our "Sunday Soapbox," and move on to the rest of Thursday's news:

+ Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren admitted to WRBL the Riverwalk is NOT safe after dark. Boren said a tight budget is delaying the launch of a Riverwalk patrol unit with ATV's. A tight budget - when the Local Option Sales Tax has a surplus of four million dollars?! How many fire trucks do we anticipate will break down?

+ WLTZ reported an early-morning fire damaged the downtown Columbus law office of Donna Nix. Thankfully, her office is next door to Fire Station #1. Well, maybe I shouldn't say "thankfully" - because with $85,000 in damage, Nix might sue the firefighters for responding too slowly.

+ A Fort Benning sergeant appeared in federal court on charges of taking explosives off-post to his home. But I was struck by the officer's attorney. Does it help the cause of a supposedly "clean-cut" soldier to have a male lawyer with a ponytail?

+ The SunTrust Bank branch near Cross Country Plaza celebrated the retirement of Mary Sue Battastini, after 56 years of service. Think for a second about that. When Battastini started working in banking, a dollar could buy you ten cups of coffee - instead of a quarter-cup at Starbucks.

+ A group of Auburn University students staged its annual outdoor display of the national debt. A few students walking by that huge number probably thought Cam Newton had signed a pro football contract.

+ Instant Message to all the people scoffing at the new ice rink in South Commons: Check the weekend sports schedule. The National Hockey League All-Star Game is in Raleigh. The U.S. Figure Skating Championships are in Greensboro. If North Carolina can become a national center of ice sports, why can't we?

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,104 (+ 42, 4.0%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

27 JAN 11: Read the Instructions

If you want good exercise, there's nothing like walking up several flights of stairs. I've done it at Phenix City Hall three days in a row. And before the critics of city government start spreading rumors - I did NOT do it because the elevator is broken.

I've traveled to Phenix City Hall every day this week because of a resident's complaint. Is the city violating its own charter, by not having one particular document in the City Manager's office? Alabama's new Governor might demand that document be a copy of the Ten Commandments....

The issue raised to me (actually one of many) involves Article 3, Section 20 of the Phenix City charter. It states the Council will bring in a "qualified general public accountant" at the end of each year, to examine city financial records. The accountants probably call it a good warm-up for tax season.

But here's the reason for my visits: The Phenix City charter adds the results of the accountant's annual review must be "placed in the office of the City Clerk and the office of the City Manager." That way the public can examine it - starting with competing accountants, looking for mistakes to mention in "attack ads."

The complainer said the 2009 review of Phenix City's financial books is not available, and thus violates the city charter. This raises a different question, of course - how many residents go to City Hall and ask to look it over? Aren't they more likely to hunt down old Central High School yearbooks?

But armed with this complaint, I decided to check Phenix City Hall. When I asked for the "audit review" at the City Manager's office Monday morning, the receptionist told me the City Clerk would have it. That's the second floor, not the third floor. At least my breath recovered by the time I was told that.

Down to the second floor I went, only to be told the audit review should be in the City Manager's office. Besides, a receptionist told me, the Phenix City Clerk was out sick. In fact, Charlotte Sierra apparently has had the flu for days -- so her virus germs could be all over the paperwork.

Come back tomorrow, I was told Monday -- so I returned to Phenix City Hall Tuesday. The City Clerk was still out sick, but the third-floor receptionist had a message for me from City Manager Wallace Hunter. No, he did NOT accuse me of being a stooge for the school board....

I was told the audit review was not available because Phenix City officials are allowed to examine a draft of it, then return it to the accountant for final revisions. That final document apparently still hasn't come back. And apparently the city budget is so tight that staff members can't afford to make photocopies of the draft.

So the audit review is a work in progress - and come to think of it, that seems a little strange. We're talking about Phenix City's 2009 records here, not 2010. If it takes more than one year to finalize a review of one year's financial records, does that mean the city is spending too much?

But one other issue nagged me about all this. Was the complainer quoting the Phenix City charter accurately, or only a part of it? That led to Wednesday's third trip to City Hall - after a phone call to the Phenix City-Russell County Library, to learn it does NOT have a copy of the charter on file. The library can be trusted with women's magazines, but not this....

The Phenix City charter was available for checking at the City Manager's office - and Article 3, Section 20 does mention city audits being kept at that same office. It says nothing about a process involving drafts and revisions. But then again, the copy I read also puts a limit on the mayor's salary at $1,000 per month.

Since I had the Phenix City charter handy, I read it completely to check on other issues. Article 3 mentions the Council's power to appoint the school board, but it says nothing about removing members. Article 9 adds Councilors can investigate the school board, even to "subpoena witnesses" and "administer oaths." Superintendent Larry DiChiara should be thankful Jimmy Wetzel hasn't read that part yet.

BLOG UPDATE: So I was studying in the computer room Wednesday night when the phone rang - and it was Mayor Teresa Tomlinson! And I hadn't even called her office during the day! This is the stuff that could spark tabloid rumors....

The mayor called to correct something which led to our main Tuesday topic. Teresa Tomlinson denied telling WRBL the city faced a "crisis" with its budget. She then e-mailed me her "budget guidance statement" which says: "In a time when cities across the country are in financial crisis, Columbus, Georgia has maintained a prudent course." So put that bad word back on Hurtsboro.

Mayor Tomlinson said several retired city employees had come to her, expressing concern about that word "crisis." I didn't realize this blog had so many older readers - so maybe I don't need to explain the jokes about old newspaper cartoons anymore.

At that point, I asked the mayor a probing question. Would she take the Rush Limbaugh approach of years ago -- and say we don't have a budget crisis, we have a problem? The staff at Fox News Channel ought to love me for that one....

"I prefer to call it a challenge," Mayor Tomlinson answered. So it's still a "C word" - and if you want to donate to this "Columbus Challenge" as much as you did to build the RiverCenter, she'll gladly accept it.

Teresa Tomlinson added there's a "possibility - in italics" (yes, she asked for that) that the fiscal 2012 budget could have room for growth. She says it depends on what actuaries tell her in coming weeks. Translation: The mayor still is NOT driving a fully-loaded Ford Focus.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION put Teresa Tomlinson on top again, when it closed Wednesday night. The mayor and her husband led the voting for the top "power couple" of Columbus. In fact, I only remembered to close the poll after she called - so I couldn't even congratulate her for winning.

Our absurdly non-scientific one-week poll ended with Trip and Teresa Tomlinson atop the table, at 32 percent. Second place was a tie at 20 percent between Mr. and Mrs. Sanford Bishop and Mr. and Mrs. Ricky Boren. Critics of one still haven't presented enough evidence of corruption to the other.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The "strip mall" discussion on Moon Road continues today. Apparently we had the shopping center right. But....

Richard ..Did you go to the Knology strip mall during rush hour?..Try about 8AM or 5:30 PM...Thanks for giving it a try..You were just lucky at the time you went..You should have played poker that day and used that luck to win some cash..

I was there at around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. That qualifies as "rush hour" in a lot of cities -- and people stuck on 13th Street downtown at 4:30 p.m. probably would say Columbus counts.

We'll get to other e-mails Friday - but now let's review the midweek news:

+ Rain ended in Columbus, as the high temperature reached 50 degrees F. CBS News reported the state of Georgia has spent 90 percent of its ten-million dollar budget for snow removal. So if you're planning a weekend trip to Panama City Beach, please bring back two buckets filled with sand.

+ Muscogee County School District officials told WRBL two parents have been caught cheating on "residency affidavits," attempting to get their children into better schools. I assume the guilty parties are fathers - since they're much more likely to use the "I don't use maps" excuse.

+ It was moving day at Fire Station #2, as the old building closed after more than 62 years of service. OK, Firehouse Subs - it's time to put some money where your mouths are, and open a new location.

+ Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced he's creating a "Commission on Improving State Government." Step one: raid all casinos, to save the state money for continually calling up the National Guard.

+ WTVM found a 2004 Auburn University football "championship" ring at Northside Pawn. A player on the team pawned it about six months ago. Either he's desperate for money, or he had a job interview scheduled at the University of Alabama.

+ Carver High School running back Isaiah Crowell dropped Auburn from his list of college choices. It's apparently down to Georgia and Alabama - so if you see a young man running on the 14th Street Pedestrian Bridge next Wednesday, it could be Crowell illustrating his decision.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) saw Old Dominion down Georgia State's men 51-48. The fact that I'm mentioning this game should tell you what a slow night it was....

+ Instant Message to Jeryl Carter: I can only imagine the grief you've had to endure for 15 months. But to tell the Ledger-Enquirer, "It kind of irked me. It kind of got to me...." - well, throwing a chair in court almost makes that the understatement of the year.

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: Something's missing at a Columbus business.... and some of the employees don't even seem to know....

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,062 (+ 36, 3.5%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26 JAN 11: You've Won a New Car?

The main event Tuesday at the Government Center was a chair-tossing courtroom fight. But I missed the drama on the upper floors -- and when I showed up, I spent my time probing around the basement. There's a big difference between a blogger and the elite news media, you know....

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Teresa Tomlinson tells your blog she's taking a tight budget personally, and NOT driving a city-issued car for now. We learned this Tuesday in response to an e-mail question....

Can anyone confirm that the new Mayor had the city purchase a Ford Focus for her city car? I was told that there is a fully loaded one in the parking garage in her space???

If she isn't doing any budget changes mid year, and she was elected mid year , shouldn't she have to wait for a car??? Unless Wetherington put in an allowance for her. Then again, I didn't know that a car was part of the deal. Only life time health insurance.

Before I called the mayor's office for an answer, this obviously called for on-scene investigative research. And because it was raining Tuesday morning, I could put on a trenchcoat and look like Peter Jennings.

But my walk around the Government Center's basement parking garage didn't solve the questions. I couldn't find a marked parking spot for the mayor - which could be a security precaution. Columbus Councilors have individual names above parking spaces, but an evening meeting meant all of them were empty. Former baseball player Glenn Davis might arrive three hours early for warm-ups.

Beyond that, I didn't see any Ford Focuses in the parking garage -- fully loaded or otherwise. So I.... oops, wait a minute. If you have more than one of those cars, do they become Foci?

So before law officers came up to me and asked why I was wandering around the parking garage, I went home and called the mayor's office. After explaining the e-mail question and waiting a moment, I was surprised to be transferred directly to the mayor! It took more than three years before Jim Wetherington found me worthy of this.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson settled the rumor quickly - no, she is NOT driving a new Ford Focus. In fact, she's driving a four-year-old car. I won't say which make or model, again for the sake of security - but it's a step above a Focus. She was a lawyer long enough to afford something better than that.

But then Teresa Tomlinson volunteered more information than I expected. Yes, a city-issued car is part of her "compensation package" as mayor - but she's been asking if she really HAS to take one. If Tomlinson doesn't want it, she could simply autograph it -- and then an online auction might help balance the city budget.

Some city officials are trying to convince Mayor Tomlinson she should drive a city car. She explained it's a matter of insurance liability, in case she's in a crash while making a public appearance. Of course, this means some people will watch Tomlinson's next budget proposal for a new "chauffeur" position.

Mayor Tomlinson said she will NOT take a city car until she takes her "little calculator" and figures out a fiscal 2012 city budget. Wow, look at that - another change from prior mayors. The last two were so old, they needed calculators displaying big numbers.

I checked the city website Tuesday night, to see what other perks the mayor receives. The office has a budget of about $359,000 this fiscal year, but there's no breakdown of that amount by salary and other categories. Do you think Jim Wetherington drove Ford when he was mayor - only it was a police-issue Crown Victoria?

As for Tuesday night's Columbus Council meeting: Councilors were told the chair of the Charter Review Commission does NOT want the meetings televised. He believes the group will work more effectively that way - and we all know how well that worked when Cam Newton lost his football eligibility for a day.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tuesday's InBox offered a different view on a quote we heard on the TV news Monday night....

I think the man's comments about the project to widen Moon Rd referred to the traffic in front of the strip mall that contains the Knology building ...You take your life in your own hands when you exit that area onto Moon Road..

Wow -- this meant on-scene research project number two. If this keeps up, I may start keeping my gasoline receipts as a business expense.

I drove to J.R. Allen Parkway and Moon Road Tuesday afternoon, and assumed this is the strip mall the reader is describing. There's a restaurant and a day spa here, along with a Chevron Food Mart and a liquor store. The traffic wasn't that bad -- as only one car passed me in the one-lane exit ramp, with two more passing in the shoulder before I could turn left.

We also received these encouraging words Tuesday:

Sir Richard: It's been often quoted - "That you can run, but you can't hide!" There are many more sayings that could be cited - but there's no need to expound. Richard. You are the best source of news for miles around; and I take a lot of pride in recognizing that fact a long time ago. I'm certain that many others have similiar sentiments.

Yesterday's BLOG furthers my point. The Ledger-Enquirer is a joke! The TV outlets are just a step behind! PLEASE take the small step needed to make your BLOG newsworthy as well as humorous. It will be a giant leap in news coverage for local mankind.

I do hope that some of your other readers will echo my sentiments in your BLOG in the very near future.

Let's contort what one of our President's once said "Ask not - what to do with this BLOG - ask yourself; what can this BLOG do for its readers!"

R.J. Schweiger

I knew Robert Schweiger was a former Constable in Hurtsboro, and a one-time candidate for Russell County Commission. But I never expected him to be a confessed contortionist.

Hmmmm -- what small steps can I take to "make your blog newsworthy?" I could spend all day sitting by the computer, listening to Columbus police scanners. But when an emergency call came, I'd probably be in the middle of a winning poker hand and lose everything.

Thanks to all of you who write us. And in response, I'll write about Tuesday's news a little more:

+ Informed sources at WTVM revealed Andrew Wittenberg will move from weekend duty, to anchor the 5:30 p.m. news. It's not clear what this will mean for current 5:30 anchor Cheryl Renee. Maybe she's planning a dream honeymoon, which will last much longer than expected.

(One source says Katherine Kington will become the new weekend anchor at WTVM and WXTX. This could mean the end of Sunday Sports Overtime - if Derek Kinkade's analysis of bowling highlights this past weekend didn't already accomplish that.)

+ Columbus Police arrested a burglary suspect, who reportedly crashed a pickup truck through the front window of G&J Outfitters on Hamilton Road. You know it's not your day when you back the truck in to make a quick getaway, and you still get caught.

+ A member of the Jefferson County, Alabama Commission challenged a critic in the State Senate to a duel of sorts. George Bowman admits 200 years ago, he might have taken on Scott Beason with pistols -- but now he wants a chess match. Aw, c'mon! This is Birmingham, not Boston - let's get you two inside a pro wrestling ring.

+ Florida flummoxed Georgia in men's college basketball 104-91 in double overtime. Bulldog broadcaster Scott Howard said the Gators had "a little more juice" in the second overtime. Since they're from Florida, this probably shouldn't have been a surprise.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's "tip." To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,026 (+ 34, 3.4%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

25 JAN 11: The Big C

This new Columbus mayor is proving to be hard to categorize. Only days after acting like a Republican and refusing to make any midyear budget adjustments, Teresa Tomlinson sounded like a Democrat Monday. After three weeks in office, she declared a crisis.

WRBL quoted Mayor Teresa Tomlinson as saying the city of Columbus faces a budget crisis. She said this at the first meeting with city department heads on the fiscal 2012 budget. All those directors fit comfortably in a room at the Trade Center - so it's too bad that building was booked solid on Inauguration Day.

Mayor Tomlinson advised department directors the next city budget will be a "maintenance" budget, not a "growth" budget. In other words, alteration shops can expect a booming business in the next several months - with apologies to uniform supply stores.

The mayor indicated NO money will be available for capital projects next fiscal year. That's why the City Manager's wife is serving in the Georgia House, anyway - getting projects approved at the state capital.

Mayor Tomlinson opened the door for more city fee increases. She said building permit fees are "outdated" by about 25 years. Of course, the Columbus Tea Party would take that to mean the fee should be zero....

If that's not controversial enough, city officials hinted surplus money from the "streets and safety" sales tax might be moved to other city departments where money is tight. The last thing Columbus needs is to have Council agendas printed on cheap newsprint that curls up at the corners.

Yet Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr noted Monday night he was supposed to gain 78 new officers from the local option sales tax. Darr says so far, he only has six - and I can't help wondering if a police academy reject was arrested recently at Steak 'n' Shake.

City officials say Columbus is using six million dollars in reserve funds to meet the fiscal 2011 budget. The new mayor does NOT want a repeat of that next fiscal year. People in Atlanta already are concerned about what can happen when a "pool" drops too low - and they've probably stocked up on bottled water, should it happen again.

On top of that, sales tax collections in Columbus are down about three percent this fiscal year. So much for any more sales tax holidays - we might face winter storm "make-up days" with double taxes instead.

Mayor Tomlinson said the hiring of new city employees will be "discouraged." Translation: by June, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin may be running almost every agency in town.

But the point which stood out for me Monday was the declaration of a "crisis." Political nitpickers know that's a touchy word with many people. Republicans challenged President Clinton's claim of a "health care crisis" in the 1990s - and of course, that's when Rush Limbaugh became the official national arbiter of whether we have a "crisis" or a "problem."

And what will soldiers heading for Fort Benning from Fort Knox think, when they learn they're moving to a city in crisis? Will they be so concerned that they live outside the Columbus city limits? Or will they take comfort in knowing Fort Benning has a top Marksmanship School?

If Columbus city officials are serious about saving money, they might want to examine the Phenix City School District. WLTZ reported Monday night the schools have reduced their energy bills $800,000 over the last two years. How DO they recycle the hot air uttered at city council meetings?

An e-mail related to the city budget reached me Monday, but I saw it too late to make calls about it. So that goes on the "to-do" list, while we check other headlines....

+ Columbus Police told WLTZ an officer caught two men making a cocaine deal in a restroom at the Uptown Tap. This is what can happen when bars don't sell Four-Loko.

+ WRBL interviewed a man who said Moon Road and Veterans Parkway should have been widened years ago, before "that strip mall" opened. I've never heard Columbus Park Crossing described as a "strip mall" before. But then again, maybe that man has money invested in Peachtree Mall.

+ Victoryland owner Milton McGregor asked a federal judge for a separate trial in April on corruption charges. The current plan is for several suspects to be tried together - but a dog track operator like McGregor realizes you're less likely to win a big combination bet.

+ Georgia House Speaker David Ralston explained why he and his family took a trip to Europe over Thanksgiving, which was funded by a lobbyist. Ralston called it a fact-finding trip about European railroads. If he can get lawmakers over their fear of riding MARTA trains, maybe it was worthwhile.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer website reported Logan's Roadhouse on Manchester Expressway has closed temporarily. There's some sort of trouble in the restaurant's pipes. I want trim steaks, but that doesn't mean you should pour excess fat down the drain.

+ A Montgomery law firm filed a class action lawsuit against Taco Bell, claiming the restaurant chain's "beef" really includes a lot of fillers. Taco Bell spokespeople deny their advertising is misleading - but don't you wonder where that talking Chihuahua went?

+ Instant Message to Captain D's on the 280 Bypass in Phenix City: About that sign, "$2.99 WORLD'S GREATEST SAND" - well, your price probably DOES beat a round-trip to Panama City Beach.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 992 (+ 37, 3.9%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

24 JAN 11: Nixed in the Shuffle?

"What do you need?" I asked the man who called Sunday night. The man answered he didn't "need" anything. He should have sounded thankful for that, not mock-offended....

But anyway: the caller thought I should look into the executive job changes announced by the Ledger-Enquirer Sunday. One round of complaints over the weekend was not enough - we need to bash newspapers by the stackful.

One of the people listed in the Ledger-Enquirer's reorganization is part of our current BIG BLOG QUESTION - but most of the other names probably are unfamiliar. Entertainment reporter Sonya Sorich was given the new title, "Audience Engagement Coordinator." Her blog about dating had led readers in that direction for years.

But the caller wanted to call attention to someone missing from the Ledger-Enquirer's list. He thought it was noteworthy that Dusty Nix's name wasn't there. With Kaffie Sledge and Richard Hyatt seldom writing columns these days, Nix is one of the few targets cynical newspaper readers still have.

If I understood the caller correctly, he wondered how Dusty Nix feels to be "left out" of a big story about the Ledger-Enquirer's editors -- since the caller says Nix has left big stories out of the newspaper for years. I probably should have asked which stories were missing. But I suppose every Blog Exclusive here adds to the score.

I told the caller Dusty Nix's picture was part of the online version of the story, which I read as I finished Sunday's blog post. His picture was there, but the text didn't mention him -- which admittedly puzzled me at the time. I couldn't imagine the Ledger-Enquirer website turning into a form of Venezuela's government.

But when I double-checked the online story Sunday night, Dusty Nix's picture was removed from the rotation of editors. His name wasn't added to the text. So the picture may have been a mistake. If Nix had become the Columbus media version of Keith Olbermann, no one had told me.

Dusty Nix's Sunday commentary was posted as usual on the Ledger-Enquirer website. So apparently he remains the newspaper's Opinion Page Editor. And come to think of it, the original article was about promotions in a reorganization. It wasn't about which employees were staying put. So if Nix was offended, Tim Chitwood also should be offended and not have a column today.

To be honest, I've been more concerned about another journalist in recent days. Where did Cacky Catlett go? She disappeared from WLTZ's newscasts over the last few weeks - almost as if she became lost in a snowdrift on the way to the studio in Iowa.

The end to my questions came Sunday night, as I found Cacky Catlett has moved to a TV station in Wilmington, North Carolina. Too bad she isn't in South Carolina - where there could be a classic meeting of Cacky and Cocky.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President now has issued a written apology to all members. Mike Gaymon writes his "tablecloth joke" of 2008 "has caused much discussion, hurt feelings and concerns." He didn't write "protest," but people who check local news media at all probably already knew that.

Richard Hyatt's website reports Mike Gaymon sent the apology Friday at the urging of new Chamber Chair and former City Manager Carmen Cavezza. Cavezza has received a top award from One Columbus [19 Jan 07] - and now he has the early lead for the 2012 Martin Luther King Unity Award.

Mike Gaymon's apology letter maintains his intentions with the tablecloth over his head in 2008 "were 100 percent pure," with no racial intent or malice meant at all. I'm guessing that means at least one civil rights leader will dismiss the letter as 100-percent bunk.

I'm not even wearing a hat on my head, as I write about other weekend news....

+ What's this I'm hearing about someone stealing rims off a car on the 280 Bypass in Phenix City - and doing it at mid-morning in "broad daylight?" At least the criminal had enough brains not to risk leaving a flashlight at the scene.

+ Columbus Police announced six arrests of business people, on charges of selling alcohol to minors. WRBL reported one undercover arrest was made at the Pussy Cat Lounge on Victory Drive. If the federal government can force "Joe Camel" into retirement to protect youngsters, maybe it's time this club called itself "Cougar Town."

(All the arrests were made in the area of Victory Drive and South Lumpkin Road. A police spokesman indicated the vice squad received complaints from there. So does Columbus South have more unethical business workers - or does the north side have fewer blabbermouths?)

+ A crowd estimated at more than 70,000 celebrated at Auburn University, to celebrate the Bowl Championship Series title. Yet even though admission was free, there were empty seats in the upper deck of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Some fans should have been more optimistic, and scheduled their RV repairs for February.

(WTVM revealed Auburn kicker Wes Byrum skipped the celebration, to play in a college all-star game. I think that means he's a business major - attempting to sell himself to pro football teams.)

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) saw Alabama's men outlast Auburn 68-58. Tiger Coach Tony Barbee summed up the story of his team's season: "We can't score." That's apparently true, both inside and outside Auburn nightclubs.

+ The RiverCenter presented the musical production "Drumline Live." I'm not sure it's a good idea to present this on a Sunday night - because some people still will have their ears ringing at work on Monday morning.

+ Instant Message to the Springer Opera House: OK, you're showing "Dracula." So why aren't you going all the way with this - and holding a blood drive before the show?

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 955 (- 25, 2.6%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

23 JAN 11: On the Paper

Be honest now - have you ever met anyone who said he really, REALLY like his daily newspaper? I can think of a couple of exceptions. The newspaper's employees - and businesses with big advertising budgets, so they can keep the investigative reporters quiet.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: Today we have a series of complaints about the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. The first one may be a jolt when you see it....

I want to vent my disgust with the Ledger for publishing the picture in the obituaries of what looks like a deceased child.The infant has medical equipment covering his face with tubes coming from his mouth..I'm disgusted with the Ledger for publishing the picture and more disgusted with the parent for displaying this very sick child.

Have you noticed the quality of the newsprint has changed? The pages will not fold with the creases..The corners roll down so much it is hard to hold the paper up to read..The Ledger has been in my home over 50 years and I am hurt by how much it has changed.Perhaps if they added the police blotter,marriage license applications and divorces the numbers would pick up..People like to read that kind of news

I'll get to the first "vent" a little later -- but let's focus on the materials. Could it be that Columbus actually has something worth MORE than the paper it's printed on?

Since I normally only check the Ledger-Enquirer's website, I went to a public library Friday and took a recent newspaper off the stack. Sure enough -- the top corner of page one was curling in a bit. And it did NOT appear to be a promotional stunt to bring curling to the new South Commons ice rink.

The bottom corner of page one is even worse, in terms of curling. The Columbus Public Library is climate-controlled -- so you can't blame this on the humidity in July, much less January.

But move away from the front section of the Ledger-Enquirer, and things are different. The first page of last Tuesday's legal notices was flat and fine. Of course, that could have been very different at the offices of foreclosure attorneys....

I opened the sports section of this edition, and admittedly found the crease of the pages uneven. But look on the bright side - at least this reader isn't complaining about the newspaper's ink sticking to his fingers.

So what's going on here? The Ledger-Enquirer's parent company has its own mill in Washington state for making newsprint. Maybe the trees in the Pacific Northwest had as bad a year in 2010 as the entire newspaper business....

Plenty of smaller newspapers have rundowns of marriage license applications, divorce filings, and even parents who "have named the baby." For now, the Ledger-Enquirer seems content to stick to a Sunday section of wedding and engagement announcements -- which I admittedly should check more often, to confirm who's off the market.

Let's take one other e-mail about a local institution -- the Columbus Cottonmouths:

I went to the Hockey game Friday evening and thought I could get a seat where I would liked to have watched the Game like before. I asked the window teller about where I would to purchase a seat for and she replied to me "what price range" - I said the cheapest and before I could get another word in - a ticket came out and she said $12 dollars please.

I went to find where the seat was and it was for the other side of the building, up against a concrete wall with railings on it, only could view from half to one end of the rink - come on people, is the way people are treated at the Civic Center. They tell you where you want to sit.

There were plenty of seats all around, this is complete B.S.

You have to be ready when you go to a hockey game. The action comes quickly, even at the ticket window.

Pick up any Cottonmouths schedule, and you'll find the lowest ticket price is now 12 dollars. That's for an Upper Level seat, which supposedly offers you "a great view of the entire arena." Perhaps the emphasis there is on "arena," as opposed to the ice.

Yet the Cottonmouths reported their largest crowd of the season Friday night, as 4,858 saw a 7-3 blogging flogging of Fayetteville. So what brought out the huge crowd? The annual teddy bear toss? Or "Guns and Hoses Night," with fans trying to become extra friendly toward public safety officers?

The Cottonmouths followed up Saturday night with a 6-3 lashing of Louisiana. After a dreadful 0-5-1 start to the season, the Snakes suddenly have won five games in a row and ten of their last 13. Maybe the prolonged cold weather has convinced this team it's really hockey season.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The jokes for today have concluded, but you're welcome to read on for a bit more about our main topic.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: If anyone expected me to write jokes about that Ledger-Enquirer obituary, they don't know me very well. It saddens me to read about the death of a seven-month-old baby. And since the boy's funeral service occurred Friday, I didn't consider it appropriate to ask grieving relatives why they didn't have a better picture to offer the newspaper.

I read a comment Saturday night that the child's picture was "horrible and very disrespectful." That person suggested a picture could have been taken after nurses removed the breathing tubes. Perhaps so - but at that point, wouldn't the boy actually be deceased? Would that have been more fitting?

After reading the short obituary, there's much we don't know about this baby. For all we know, he could have been sick from birth -- and the picture in the Ledger-Enquirer could be the best one the parents ever had of him. If they submitted it to the newspaper, would the staff have only added to their grief and agony by turning it down?

I attended the funeral of a four-week-old "preemie" girl in 2006. Much of what I wrote then [17 Jun 06] probably can apply to this seven-month-old boy as well. If you want to express "disgust," that is your choice. I choose to offer sympathy to the family - and the hope that someday their little man will be resurrected to a much better, even eternal life.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 980 (+44, 4.7%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

22 JAN 11: Brother Against Brother?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

At first glance, you'd think people would be relieved and happy by what Robert Bentley said this week. He wants to be the Governor of everybody in Alabama -- but he's NOT everybody's brother. That sort of tangled relationship should be saved for jokes about the Ozarks.

But Governor Robert Bentley caused a nationwide stir, even before taking the oath of office. He told an Inauguration Day worship service in Montgomery people who haven't accepted Jesus Christ as Savior are "not my brother, not my sister." At least he didn't conduct an altar call during the service, to fill staff positions.

Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League objected to Robert Bentley's comments. The Alabama Governor then apologized, after a meeting in Birmingham with people from many faiths. But fellow Baptists with Bentley say he had no reason to apologize -- and a few probably prayed for God to give him a gift of healing, to make health care reform null and void.

If there's one thing on which all sides should agree, it's this - Governor Robert Bentley's remarks were divisive. The groups who objected would say that's bad. Bentley's supporters would answer no, it's Biblical - because Jesus Christ came to divide people. If He created the "Continental Divide," dividing groups of humans is no big deal.

As it happens, I've been doing some in-depth Bible study lately on the subjects of division and separation. That's because the church association I attend has undergone a major split in the last six months. About one-thirds of the ministers left to start a new denomination -- but most of them are too conservative to call it an economic stimulus program.

I've been reminded the common cliche in December about Jesus coming to bring "peace on earth" is a bit misleading. Luke 12 quotes Him as saying He came NOT to bring peace, but division -- or as another translation puts it, "dissension." Jesus can divide families even more than a second computer in your home....

Long ago, Jesus even divided Jews - since Revelation 5 indicates He was born into the "tribe of Judah." A few accepted Jesus as the Savior sent from God, and that's how the "Christian Church" began. But I've found even in the church, divisions still happen about 2,000 years later. They'd be easier to handle if God simply struck down the "wrong" groups with lightning bolts.

I've prepared a detailed article about how God and Christ can be dividers, which was rushed out to the web late Friday night. You're also invited to consider a Bible-based analysis of who qualifies for the title "brother" in a spiritual sense. You may find Alabama's Governor leaned so far to the right that he was only partly right.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 936 (- 79, 7.8%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

21 JAN 11: Freezer Queen

The new mayor of Columbus continues to defy the stereotypes. Teresa Tomlinson announced Thursday she will NOT give city departments any extra money this fiscal year. Doesn't she realize Democrats are expected to overspend lavishly, and put governmental bodies in debt?

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson could have made "budget adjustments" in the middle of the fiscal year. But she decided against it, because the city is "relying on general operating reserve funds" now. If you're calling up the reserves, you know the economic battle is intense....

Teresa Tomlinson told WRBL she decided against budget adjustments, even though some unnamed city departments hoped for a "little extra gravy." Those department heads should have realized the Butler's Pantry was known for sandwiches, not mashed potatoes.

But we found out Thursday Teresa Tomlinson freezes more than city budgets. The River City Report posted details of a radio interview, in which the mayor reveals she freezes new shoes. Huh?! I'd expect members of the Columbus Cottonmouths to say this, but not a mayor....

Teresa Tomlinson explained to WFXE-FM "Foxie 105" she fills "Ziploc bags" with water, puts them in new high-heel shoes, then puts the shoes in the freezer overnight. The mayor says it leads to pain-free shoes that "fit perfectly." And on a July afternoon, a walk outside probably feels extra peppy.

(I tried an experiment similar to this last summer, on trips to the supermarket. I took off my hat when I walked inside, then placed cold and frozen foods inside my hat until I reached the checkout lane. A cool hat smelling like ground turkey beats a warm hat smelling like sweat anytime.)

The Foxie 105 interview introduced a side of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson which never came up during last year's campaign. She declared herself a "funk queen" who enjoys dancing to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. NOW we learn this! We could have had "Dancing With the Candidates," matching Tomlinson against Zeph Baker's electric slide.

Mayor Tomlinson added her idea of a "last meal" would be quite Southern-style - fried chicken, macaroni with cheese and collard greens. Isn't this amazing? Compared to what her restaurant served, Tomlinson would have to eat out elsewhere.

The new mayor apparently offered only one complaint during her radio interview. Teresa Tomlinson says she buys six sticks of lipstick at a time, because her favorite always seems to be out of stock. Wow -- I thought the caller who complained to Tomlinson about a Pampers shortage had it bad [19 Nov 10]....

(Comments like this one will start political rumors, you know. Is Teresa Tomlinson stockpiling lipstick, for a future campaign against Sarah Palin?)

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: We had a strong response to the opening day of our latest BIG BLOG QUESTION - but also a bit of a complaint....

How could you leave off the power couple list..Mr.and Mrs.Danny Amos..??

There's an "other" line in our "power poll," if you want to write in the Aflac chief executive and his wife. But remember, her name is spelled Kathelen - NOT Kathleen. The better to guard against identity thieves, I suppose.

While our poll goes on, so does the news of the day....

+ Our exclusive Burkard Bulk Mail Index closed above the 1,000 mark for the first time since March 2009. I suppose this is a sign of economic recovery. Either that, or all the serial spammers are finishing their prison terms.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer revealed Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly has been demoted and taken a pay cut, after a drunk driving arrest in December. District Attorney Julia Slater said firing Kelly would have been "a knee-jerk reaction" - apparently along the lines of seeking capital punishment.

(Kelly reportedly admitted to a police officer in December he shouldn't have been driving drunk - and also admitted he was an assistant prosecutor. It's once again proof that alcohol works better at revealing the truth than hours of waterboarding.)

+ WTVM reported the Harris County Sheriff's Office is replacing its fleet of Ford Crown Victorias with Chevrolet Tahoes and Ford F-150 pickup trucks. I can understand the Tahoes - but why F-150's? Wouldn't a suspect simply jump out of the truck bed, once a deputy starts driving him to jail?

+ WRBL reported the Eufaula School Board will allow students to take cell phones to schools, beginning in February. But students will need a teacher's permission to use them during class hours. We have to protect our teachers from appearing in embarrassing YouTube clips, you know....

+ Auburn University announced students will be allowed on the field, for Saturday's football championship celebration. But like the ban on live television, I suspect there's a catch to this. For instance, a "no-knives" rule - because square feet of the Jordan-Hare Stadium turf can make the university hundreds of dollars at auction.

+ The Auburn men's basketball team fell to Florida 45-40, while the Lady Tigers topped Mississippi State 45-41. If the women are scoring more points in a game than the men, it may be time to open the men's team to all comers.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ: Aw, c'mon - "Manhunt Monday" already sounded silly enough. But "War Eagle Weather"?! That's like the Atlanta radio station which used to have "Tomahawk Traffic," even when the baseball team was in the middle of a ten-game road trip.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Comments about an apology, and a complaint about an obituary....

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,015 (+ 42, 4.3%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

20 JAN 11: Lindsey Creek International Raceway

"No, no. The light's red," I said out loud at a downtown Columbus intersection Wednesday night. But the bicyclist to my right didn't seem to care. He turned left from Broadway onto Ninth Street. The fact that he was bicycling south in the northbound lane of Broadway should have tipped me off to that.

Lots of Columbus travelers seem to be in a constant hurry - whether on a bike or something bigger. And I was surprised to learn Wednesday it's now being tolerated more in Columbus. The speed limit across most of the city on Interstate 185 has jumped from 55 to 65 miles per hour. And amazingly, it's NOT because Jim Wetherington is no longer mayor....

The Ledger-Enquirer reported the Georgia Department of Transportation made the decision to increase the speed limit on I-185. A GDOT spokesperson says the limit should have been 65 all along. Hmmmm - do you think it was another one of Governor Sonny Perdue's plots to keep Columbus from progressing?

In fact, GDOT apparently is increasing the speed limits on interstate highways in cities across Georgia. This puzzles me for several reasons. For one thing, it could become tougher than ever to be a "Super-Speeder" with those increased fines.

The speed limit on J.R. Allen Parkway has been 65 miles per hour for years. I've wondered at times how a city the size of Columbus could have that, because I thought 55 was the federal limit inside metropolitan areas. I guessed the difference was because the parkway is U.S. 80, NOT an interstate - and that it stemmed from the days when no one thought of exiting at Bradley Park Drive to shop.

But an online search indicated states can set up their own speed limits for interstates in urban areas. The slowest is 50 miles per hour in Hawaii - where the idea of an "interstate highway" is even more absurd than putting that title on I-185.

One source I checked shows Georgia's speed limit for urban interstates has been 65 miles per hour since 1996. So why did the state transportation department forget that for 15 years? After all, many Columbus drivers apparently forgot it - albeit in the other direction....

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren says he wanted the speed limit on I-185 to drop to 55 miles per hour at Airport Thruway. But GDOT is allowing traffic to go 65 miles per hour all the way south to St. Mary's Road. Beyond that is Victory Drive and the Fort Benning gate - and soldiers have to start thinking about obedience at some point.

(I've related in the past how drivers heading toward Fort Benning on I-185 during the 5:00 a.m. hour traveled much faster than 55 miles per hour. It's as if soldiers in training are making up for driving slow-moving tanks all day.)

I don't drive on Interstate 185 very often. But the higher speed limit will allow more freedom for me -- because I'm admittedly a weirdo behind the wheel. Yes, I actually think the speed limit signs are supposed to be obeyed.

The higher speed limit still could be a challenge for my humble Honda. It's up in years, and takes a little time to move up in the gearbox to speeds such as 65. You know it's an old car when you say on uphill grades, "I think I can, I think I can...."

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION thinks about the police chief, and relates to one of Wednesday's news items. Which husband and wife do you consider the top "power couple" of Columbus? Six candidates came to my mind. And if someone writes in State Senator Josh McKoon's name, I want the scoop on whom his girlfriend is.

-> Our other blog has Martin Luther King Day in mind (among other things). Read why at "On the Flop!" <-

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: Two men are talking at church about their gardens, and how they recently killed deer which wandered onto their property. A third man hears it all.

"Well, I didn't kill anything this past week."

One of the gardeners disagrees. "You killed a lot of time, didn't you?"

Please spend a few more seconds considering other Wednesday news....

+ Your blog confirmed the Columbus Career Center has reduced its hours. It's now open eight-and-a-half hours per day, instead of nine-and-a-half. If the local unemployment rate drops to 7.5 percent, another hour could be dropped.

+ Aflac Chief Executive Officer Dan Amos told WTVM his insurance company is 50 percent larger than Allstate in "market capitalization," and three times bigger than Delta Air Lines. Isn't this amazing? Columbus has a "duck" that's bigger than a jet plane.

(Bigger in market capitalization? I thought Aflac changed its name away from five capital letters....)

+ Ticket sales began for this year's St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. Teresa Tomlinson actually did buy a ticket, after country singer Randy Owen did - but WTVM's 5:00 p.m. news showed her title as Governor, not Mayor. Isn't it a little early to start political rumors for 2014?

+ Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter announced Troy University will play its spring football game at Garrett-Harrison Stadium in mid-March. If Troy can pay the stadium rent, surely the Phenix City School Board can do it....

(Troy's "Sound of the South" marching band even is coming to Phenix City, to take part in a parade. And who knows -- perhaps the tubas will be used to break ground on Troy's promised downtown Phenix City campus.)

+ The Georgia Historical Society marked the 150th anniversary of the state's secession from the union, by unveiling a marker in Milledgeville. The society kept this event so quiet that Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose was in Columbus trying to help Carlton Gary.

+ Alabama Governor Robert Bentley apologized for stating Monday his only "brothers and sisters" are people who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Bentley told reporters he'll work for Alabamians of all faiths. Somewhere east of Birmingham, former Chief Justice Roy Moore wrote Bentley off as a spineless coward.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Georgia Tech's men wiping up Wake Forest 74-39. The Yellowjackets are now 9-8, and may be turning around their season. Wake Forest is so bad that it seems half the team actually came FROM a forest.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 973 (+ 41, 4.4%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

19 JAN 11: How Do You Like Me Now?

If you're one of those people who thinks nobody ever wins online giveaways - think again. A big winner received his prize in Columbus Tuesday. And since the winner is a law enforcement officer, the odds of anyone scamming him seem awfully low.

The Muscogee County Marshal's Office received new state-of-the-art uniform shirts -- and it's all because a deputy entered a Facebook drawing. Authorities did NOT reveal if that deputy was doing undercover work in the "Mafia Wars" game.

Marshal's Sergeant Rick Bowers joined in a contest last November to "like" Blauer Manufacturing's Facebook page -- and his name was drawn as the winner. We're told it was a random drawing. But people jealous of the Marshal's Office probably started rumors of a Bowers-Blauer conspiracy.

The prize for every officer in the Muscogee County Marshal's Office as a "Blauer Supershirt." That's strange - I looked at the video, and didn't see a giant S on any chest.

What makes it a "state-of-the-art" shirt, much less a Supershirt? A Blauer Manufacturing manager explained it's more comfortable, and has all sorts of fancy

+ Reflective material, so deputies can be seen. The savings in duct tape purchases should be obvious.

+ Hidden pockets. They're perfect for holding items such as stun guns - and for suspects to annoy deputies, by poking fingers to rip them during arrests.

+ What WLTZ's website calls a "deploy on demand scotch light." I have no idea what that means - and presume some law officers would trade it after hours for an on-demand light scotch.

But what strikes me is how the Marshal's Office won these Supershirts. Who would have guessed law officers receive special marketing offers on Facebook? I figured the real "friends" officers want to meet online are child porn traffickers they can bust.

Plenty of businesses see Facebook as a promotional tool. WLTZ's 6:00 p.m. news rewards a "Facebook Friend of the Day" with a free dinner. That may sound good -- but imagine if commentator Al Fleming still ran his own nightclub.

I'm admittedly wary of online giveaways, because the person doing the real "giving away" might be myself - handing over everything from cash to personal identity information. It's probably to my loss. One of my e-mail accounts shows I've won six different international lotteries for more than five million dollars in the last two weeks -- not to mention that ATM card from the United Nations.

-> Our other blog has Martin Luther King Day in mind (among other things). Read why at "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The Russell County Sheriff's Office opened its Hurtsboro precinct Tuesday. It's a mobile unit set up downtown, and will be staffed by one deputy -- which means in a major surprise, the Hurtsboro Police still has more patrol cars.

Sergeant Darryl Powell of the Russell County Sheriff's Office told WTVM the precinct in Hurtsboro is NOT part of a plan to eliminate the town's police force. Powell's apparently leaving that task for now in the hands of the criminals....

Darryl Powell added Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor wants to open a similar new precinct in Fort Mitchell. The circumstances there are very different from Hurtsboro. It's a community with lots of growth - and soldiers who might get annoyed if a constable starts complaining too much.

We stick with Russell County crime, as we start our Tuesday news review....

+ Phenix City Police announced three city utility employees have been arrested on charges of stealing copper. They're accused of taking the metal from a city building within eyesight of City Hall - but of course, other city employees have been too busy watching the school board office.

+ The Columbus Charter Review Commission held its first meeting at the Trade Center. The TV news showed glasses of iced tea on the tables - so I guess the commission has all the money and time it needs.

(The Ledger-Enquirer website posted the current city charter, which has 94 pages including footnotes. It indicates the mayor and Council members cannot be removed through a public recall petition - it takes an eight-member Council majority. So Jim Wetherington only needed three friends to fight off all the upset civil rights leaders.)

+ The Muscogee County School Board selected Cathy Williams as its new Chairperson. She stakes a claim to being one of the "power couples" of Columbus, as husband Chuck Williams is an editor at the Ledger-Enquirer. Maybe that's why the newspaper website mentioned the vote Tuesday night, while TV newscasts didn't.

(The school board also voted to make up two days lost to last week's winter storm. A five-day weekend for President's Day will be shortened to four - and I hope that won't drive any more furniture stores to launch "quitting business" sales.)

+ Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed an executive order ending the anti-gambling task force. That sigh of relief you heard came from Lee County governmental offices - because now they can accept those wager payoffs from Oregon, for last week's football game.

+ The Columbus Lions announced the signing of kicker Austin Miller - a soldier on active duty at Fort Benning. We won't have to wonder about his motivation during games. He'll see a lieutenant's face on every football.

+ Alabama upset Kentucky in men's college basketball 68-66. The Crimson Tide let a 20-point lead slip away at home - but amazingly, the basketball team showed more backbone than the football team.

+ Instant Message to Auburn University: What do you mean - no live television Saturday?! Don't you want everyone to enjoy the national championship celebration at Jordan-Hare Stadium? Or do you need to sell a lot of DVD's to pay Coach Gene Chizik that bonus money?

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 932 (+ 31, 3.4%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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