Archive for January, 2009

You Gotta Watch Them!

January 29, 2009

They are very busy spending your money, deciding who gets it,  and who doesn’t.  They also determine a lot of other things in your life and a lot of them just love it when you don’t pay attention to what they a re doing, because what they do may be very much in their financial and political interests, but certainly not yours.  I am of course talking about your representatives and senators in Atlanta.  (Washington, too, but that’s another story.)

Meanwhile, I’ll pass along a website to you that may help you keep up.  My Harris County friend Joann Locascio alerted me to this website and I am passing it along  to you.  You might want to add it to such sources as the fine GPTV Lawmakers program,  and others.

Rails to Trails Moving Along

January 29, 2009


Making room for Rails-to-Trails, removed ties at Burger King on Warm Springs Road

Making room for Rails-to-Trails, removed ties at Burger King on Warm Springs Road

 Rails to Trails is edging closer to reality.  Rick Jones, Columbus City Planner,  told members of the Coalition for Sound Growth that the rails and ties have been taken up, and that the company charged with the removal is paying $500,000  for them.  Bids on construction will be let next month.  He thinks construction can start in May and hopes the trail may be opened early next year.

This news was greeted with enthusiasm by the Collation since the more people who use their bikes to get around the less pollution their cars will add to the air problem in Columbus.  One Coalition member told me after the meeting that she plans to ride her bike the whole 11 miles from Psalmond Road, where she lives, to her job in downtown Columbus.   She said she looks forward to it.

Jack Lockwood, Coalition for Sound Growth, Spencer Environmental Center, Columbus, GA

Jack Lockwood, standing, right top, Coalition for Sound Growth, Spencer Environmental Center, Columbus, GA

And speaking of riding your bike to work,  Jack Lockwood of Environmental Health – West central Georgia District – asked everyone to help promote “Bike to Work Day”  on May 15th.  Can’t you just see those hundreds of bikes parked in the AFLAC and TSYS parking lots!  bike-to-eork_0804

I can remember when I rode my bike darn near everywhere.  I was eleven-years-old and lived in downtown Columbus, which was really jumping with a lot of cars back then so we mainly rode on the sidewalks,  and nobody complained.  After all,  you had to ride on the sidewalks when you “threw papers” on front porches, which everybody had then.   My Columbus Ledger route was on 2nd Avenue.

I remember one Boy Scout bike trip that was 28 miles roundtrip, but that one was on the roads that had some pretty steep hills.   I was sore in unmentional places for days.  I am sure 28 miles is nothing to today’s riders.

Should Columbus Sell Water to Metro-Atlanta?

January 28, 2009
WATER TO SPARE - Front Avenue fountain, Columbus, GA

WATER TO SPARE - Front Avenue fountain, Columbus, GA

Let’s face it,  Lakes Lanier and Alatoona  are not able to supply enough water for  Metro-Atlanta to maintain its rate of growth.  Should it be able to take the water from the rivers below Atlanta?  I’ll tell you what retired Columbus Water Works Executive Director Billy Turner says about that,  but first,  a look at what brought on the conversation. 

Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Sam Olens is proactive in dealing with the water shortage problem in the Atlanta area,  and is concerned about cities downstream like Columbus.   That’s what he told Rotarians as he talked about a number of issues that affect both Cobb and Muscogee Counties.  He is a major player on the Metro North Georgia Water Planning Council.  He says he may run for governor if the state doesn’t properly address the problem,  as well as others like transportation, which he considers critical.

He said he knew that people in Columbus are not happy with the way the Atlanta area has not been responsible in returning clean water to the Chattahoochee,  but he pointed out Cobb County has spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading its water treatment system,  and that Gwinette County has the best sewage treatment plant in the state.

He was quite proud of Cobb County’s toilet rebate program.  The county pays rebates of $100 to people who convert their old 8-gallon to  1.28-gallon toilets.  Toilets are the single largest user of water in a household, using 45 percent.  He is big on water conservation as an answer to the water problem.

Billy Turner, Sam Olens, Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner, Sam Olens, Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner doesn’t think conservation,  while helpful, can come any where near solving the problem.   He offered to meet with Chairman Olensand discuss his ideas later.  Olens said he would like that.

Later, Billy told me while Cobb County has made great strides in improving its sewage treatment facilities,  it is just one county in the 16-county Metro Atlanta area.  He said the big problem downstream isn’t how much water Metro-Atlanta is taking out of the watersheds,  it’s how much it puts back in.  He said there are a million septic tanks in the area.  Not only do they return water extremely slowly to the streams,  under draught conditions, he maintains, the water is lost because of evaporation and hard, dry soil.  Sewer systems with water treatment plants are the answer to that,  but it is a very expensive answer that doesn’t interest a lot of developers.

Another big problem is inter-basin transfer.  It’s already happens as some Metro-Atlanta areas take water out of one water shed and return it to another.  In other words, water taken from the Chattahoochee can be returned to another river.

As far as the fact that Metro-Atlanta simply can’t continue its growth rate depending on its current water supply, Turner says it’s going to have to  get it from other places than Lake Lanier and Lake Alatoona.  Where?  Well, how about Columbus?  We have plenty of water,  even during draughts.  Turner says he wouldn’t object to selling water to Metro-Atlanta,  if  “they pay enough for it.”

How about Rail, Chairman Olens?

January 27, 2009

  Columbus has its transportation problems,  but they are minuscule compared to those in the Atlanta area,  and to those driving to and from the Atlanta area,  which includes a lot of Columbus people, including me.  Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens,  as we said yesterday,  is so concerned about the problem, he says, he may run for govenor if the state legislature doesn’t address the problem.  When he spoke to members of the Roatry Club of Columbus, he didn’t mention the governor part,  just the transportation crisis.

One thing he wants is for the state to route pass-through trucks around Atlanta,  and send them though other sections of the state.   He knows this can mean new highways,  but he thinks these highways can help development in other areas of Georgia. 

I brought up the construction nightmare on I-85 around Newnan, telling him that I no longer plan to use I-85.  The last time I went to Atlanta I decided to come back on Georgia 85 and was glad.  Even if it was mainly two-lanes,  it was still a much more pleasant drive.

“I noticed you said nothing about rail in your talk today,” I told him.  “Everything I read about it says that rail is the most efficient way to transport masses of people.”

“I wasn’t sure that people in Columbus, or other parts of the state were interested or ready to talk about rail.”

Chairman Sam Olens, Cobb County Board of Commissioners; William Buck, Rotarian

Chairman Sam Olens, Cobb County Board of Commissioners; William Buck, Buck Ice and Coal Company, and Rotarian; Rebecca Hardin, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and Rotarian

Among Rotarians involved in the after-the-speech conversation was William Buck who said,  “It would be great if we could take a train to Atlanta for $3  the way we did years ago.”

Olen said,  “You may as well make it free as to charge $3,”   but he realized we are interested.  Of course,  that one-way $3 was on the Man O’ War that went into service right after World War Two.  Factoring in inflation, that $3 would be about $25 now.   

“Are you for rail? I asked  him.

“Well, yes ,  but it is very expensive to build.”

“Pouring millions of tons of concrete or asphalt is also very expensive.  Why not just switch that money to rail?”

“I have said more than once that I would like to see light rail built in my county.”

For some reason, the legislature just won’t seriously consider mass transit, preferring to pour billions into adding lanes and building more highways.  It’s hard to change old habits, I guess.

Another big issue to Cobb County is water,  or, I suppose more accurately, the shortage of it, and what to do about it.  Former head of the Columbus Water Works Billy Turner talked with Olens briefly about that,  and said he would like to discuss it more, and Olens said he hoped they would.  Billy talked a lot about it with me.  We’ll look at that one tomorrow.  



Why Did Cobb County’s Sam Olens Come to Columbus?

January 26, 2009

Rob Doll, of Rob Doll Nissan,  former chairman of the Muscogee County Republican Party,  invited Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens to speak to the Rotary Club of Columbus.  Rob told me he that he did not bring him to Columbus because he might run for governor, especially since he has already decided who he is supporting, and it’s not Chairman Olens. He just thought he would make interesting speaker about mutual problems facing Cobb and Muscogee Counties.  He was right. It was an interesting talk, and I’ll get into that tomorrow.

  Being a broadcast journalist for about 50 years,  I have to confess to being somewhat of a cynic – certainly a skeptic; therefore,  when a  Cobb County official comes to Columbus to make a speech,  my first thought is that he must be running for governor. 
Sam Olens, Chairman, Cobb County Commission, Rotary Club of Columbus Speaker, Columbus Conventionand Trade Center                                               Sam Olens, Chairman, Cobb County Commission, Rotary Club of Columbus Speaker

The fact is Chairman Olens is considering a run for governor. He told me that he doesn’t have a burning desire to do it,  that he is quite content to work for the people of Cobb County,  “but if the legislature fails to act on the transportation plan and fails to act on other cirtical problems in the state,  I will seriously consider running for governor.” 

Frankly. I share his feelings about his concerns.  Not that I have decided that he is the one to fix things – I hardly know him – but the inaction of the legislature to address these critical issues during this grave economic time is not only irresponsible, but, as I have said before, immoral.

Tomorrow we’ll get into what he told Rotarians.

Obama Doesn’t Break TV Record for Inaugurations, but …

January 22, 2009

  President Obama didn’t,  according to Nielsen ratings – Live Feed has a good story on it –   set a new United States record for viewers of an inauguration,  coming in second to President Reagan’s 1981 inauguration.  Nielsen reports Obama got 37.8 million viewers.  Reagan got 41.8 million in 1981.  (That dropped to 25.1 million for his second inauguration in 1985.)

However,  a lot of people watched the Obama inauguration on the Internet this time,  which didn’t exist in 1981.  That audience wasn’t factored into the ratings,  but was huge, with CNN, FoxNews, and MCNBC setting streaming records.  So it’s possible if that is factored in, Obama did set a new record.

Columbus’ Obama Supporters Lunch, Watch and Cheer as Barack Obama Becomes President Barack Obama

January 20, 2009

  About 150 Barack Obama supporters, including four tables of members of the Muscogee County Democratic Party,  gathered to view and celebrate the inauguration at the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Luncheon at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center today. The luncheon was sponsored by Working Excellence Ministries Inc.

Democrats at Columbus Inaugral Celebraiton Luncheon, Columbus Convention and Trade Center

Democrats at Columbus Inaugural Celebration Luncheon, Columbus Convention and Trade Center

  There were speeches, live music, lunch, but most of all sharing the joy of seeing Joe Biden sworn in as vice resident and Barack Obama as president.

MSDP Vice-Chair Dr. John Van Dorn joins in the flag waving as Barack Obama becomes President Barack Obama,  Columbus Convention and Trade Center

Muscogee Democratic Party Vice-Chair Dr. John Van Doorn joins in the flag waving as Barack Obama becomes President Barack Obama, Columbus Convention and Trade Center

What a Picture Says

January 19, 2009

  As I looked at the picture in the Ledger-Enquirer Sunday of Columbus High students getting ready to board their bus to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for their flight to Washington for the Obama inauguration,  I was struck with the fact that most of the students were white.  Another thing also stood out.  The blacks in the group were not all standing together;  they were sprinkled throughout the  group.  They were not separate.  They were simply a part of the group.

Such incidents give us hope that the dark days of racial prejudice and hatred may,  for a large part,  be on the way out.  The election of a black American president is an enormous event.  He could not have been elected without a lot of whites and other ethnic groups voting for him since the black population is only about 12 percent of the American population.  Maybe change is indeed here.

Obama’s Phrase Challenge

January 19, 2009
U.S. Senate

President Elect Barack Obama, courtesy: U.S. Senate

When Barack Obama makes his inaugural address Tuesday,  will he have a phrase that will compare with the impact of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s phrase about  fear?  Some are saying that president-elect Obama is being sworn in at a time very similar to 1933 when President Roosevelt rivited his audience to their radio’s with his inaugural speech sentence, ” The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

 President Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inaugral speech probably comes in second to FDR’s “fear” sentence, or ties with President John F. Kennedy’s “ask not” for second. 

 Lincoln said, “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Kennedy’s most famous phrase is,  “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” 
A report in the London Telegraph says President-elect Obama’s inaugral speech will harken back to Kennedy’s “Ask not…” appeal for shared reponsibility for getting the nation back on track.
President Jimmy Carter delivered no catchy, timeless line in his inaugural address.  I suppose his brave,  but futile, call for Americans to sacrifice for the common good,  is as close to one as he got.  He said, “So, together, in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best.”  That one went over like a lead balloon because America was in no mood to  sacrifice, individually or otherwise.  Carter’s greatest communication problem was that he couldn’t resist telling Americans the truth whether they wanted to hear it or not..

His successor, President Ronald Reagan, who understood the value of telling the American people what they wanted to hear,  only had one line in his inaugral that is remembered by a lot of people,  “Government is not the solution to our problem.”  But, guess what, he also had a stimulous package.  It was called the Emergency Jobs Credation Act, but it only cost taxpayers $9 billion. It’s not unusual for a president to say one thing and do another… just like the rest of us.

Obama is going to have a hard time coming up with anything that resonates like the Roosevelt “fear” phrase, which is probably the best known phrase of any president’s inaugural address.  However, there is a chance he will come up with a lasting line, because he,  like Roosevelt and Reagan,  is very good at oration, and he writes a lot of his own material, we’re told.  We’ll find out Tuesday.

Obama Inauguration Probably Will Set TV Rating Record for Inaugurations

January 18, 2009

It is a pretty safe bet that the record for the largest world-wide TV audience for a presidential inauguration  will be made Tuesday when Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th United States President.   The first presidential inauguration to be telecast was when Harry Truman was sworn-in in on January 20, 1949. 

No doubt the audience for the swearing-in of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 was much larger than the Truman inauguration.  In 1949 television stations were confined to the country’s largest metropolitan areas.  WSB-TV in Atlanta, which went on the air on September 29, 1948,  was one of those early stations that carried the Truman inauguration.  But 1953 was the year that television  truly went country-wide when the medium-sized markets got their licences,  which, no doubt, greatly increased the TV audience for the Eisenhower inaugural.

It will be interesting to see how the Obama ceremony will compare to the largest television audiences in history.  Wiki-answers reports that the largest world-wide TV audience ever was the 2.5 billion who watched Princess Diana’s funeral in 1996.  The second largest was the 500 million worldwide that watched the first moon landing in 1969.

The 1949 inauguration was probably seen by as many people in movie theaters as on television.  Here is one of those newsreel reports on YouTube.