Archive for July, 2009

Mayor Wetherington Will Vote for School SPLOST

July 29, 2009


 Rotarian Dr. Philip Schley, Chair of the Muscogee County School District Board of Education,  stood up during the question and answer session following Mayor Jim Wetherington’s talk to Columbus Rotarians and asked how the mayor was going to vote on the school SPLOST.  

“Richard [Bishop of Uptown Columbus]  asked me about that this morning, and I told him I hadn’t decided, yet.  But,  I am going to vote yes.”  He explained that was slow to respond because Columbus voters approved of his SPLOST for public safety and street improvements, and he didn’t want to become known as the mayor who is an expert on taxes.  “But, I am going to vote yes.  BRAC is going to mean we need more classrooms.  I am  not, however, going to campaign for it.” 

Jim Wetherington, Mayor, Columbus, GA, J. Robert Jones, Presdient, Rotary Club of Columbus

Jim Wetherington, Mayor, Columbus, GA, J. Robert Jones, President, Rotary Club of Columbus

The mayor gave a “state of the city” speech to members of the Rotary Club of Columbus in which he reported that his goal of 100 new police officers has almost been reached.  He said Columbus is fairing better than a lot of cities during these economically tough times,  that some are on the brink of bankruptcy,  but things are looking good for Columbus, with NCR bringing 800 new jobs to the city when its atomatic teller machine factory opens,  and all of the new jobs that the buildup at Fort Benning will bring.  He also mentioned that two new fire stations are being constructed,  and two police precincts will be opened, one at the new CB&T branch on Buena Vista Road, and another one in North Columbus in the vicinity of Veterans Parkway and Williams Road.

I asked him about all of the talk about his not running for reelection. He smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t know…age is catching up to me.”

Yes to School SPLOST, but with Reservations

July 28, 2009

 I’ll probably vote for the SPLOST for Muscogee County School District schools, but not because I am happy with the way things are going in our schools. 

The money is basically going for building new schools and upgrading old ones.  With 4,000 new students expected to put a strain on the system when BRAC is fully deployed,  yes,  it appears, we are going to need more classrooms. 

However, it also appears we are not efficiently using the ones we already have.  For instance, I am told that there are now 900 students attending Jordan High.  At one time,  Jordan had the largest student body of any high school in Georgia, more than 2,300 students.  (It also had the only state STAR student ever produced by a MCSD school. Full disclosure: I graduated from Jordan in 1948. No, I was not that STAR student by a long shot.  Alexander Hunter won that honor in 1965.)   All of that unused space and portable classrooms are having to be added at Hardaway High because of  the students from underachieving schools being transferred there.  The No Child Left Behind federal law made this possible.

I guess we can’t blame parents for wanting their students to go to a school with a better academic record, but you have to ask,  why are the students at some schools doing so poorly?  The answers are myriad, I suppose. However, one of the main ones is the way school districts are set up, and the effects of magnet schools.   You send all of the kids whose parents are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to a few schools and all of the more affluent kids to a few other  schools,  just exactly what do you think is going to happen? Well, it’s happened.

Yes, it appears the Muscogee County School District is a mess, but there are high hopes that new Superintendent Susan Andrews is going to turn that around.  SPLOST supporters are pushing that idea. But, she still has to answer to the school board.  I’m told the board is following her lead, but she really hasn’t been in the saddle long enough to know if that is going to hold up.

Meanwhile, I plan to vote for the penny-per-dollar sales tax for the schools.  BRAC simply means we have to have more classrooms.  That can’t be denied.  Still, I would like to see better use of the space we already have, but I realize that would take some major political changes.

Lake Lanier is Up, but Down, and the Center of a Political Storm

July 26, 2009

When I recently drove across the Buford Dam, which backs up the waters of Lake Lanier,  the lake looked pretty full.  It’s 5.35 feet below full pool level.  Compared to record low levels caused by the the 2007 drought,  it looked full. 

Lake Lanier, view from Buford Dam RD,  Buford, Georgia

Lake Lanier, view from Buford Dam RD, Buford, Georgia

That impression has to be tempered with the fact that the lake is dropping again, releasing  a lot more water than its collecting from its watershed. In fact, it is down about a foot from June. 

Now, to complicate matters even further,  a federal judge, as you probably know, has ruled that Metro Atlanta doesn’t have the right to take water from the lake,  and will have to stop in three years unless Congress passes a law changing the designated purpose of the lake,  flood control and generation of hydroelectric power. 

The judge’s ruling is being hailed as a great victory for Alabama, who wants the water to cool a nuclear power plant, and Florida, who wants a good flow to protect its oyster crop at Apalachicola.

That ruling, however, is a disaster for the Atlanta area, and, some believe, since the Atlanta economic engine is so important to the state, the rest of Georgia has to be very concerned.

There is another reason a lot of  us wanting Metro Atlanta to have the water it needs, relatives who live there.  I took a look a the lake Sunday because I happened to be visiting my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, and my two  grandsons, Ben and Chris. They live in Cumming, which is no distance at all from the lake.

Being a downstream Columbusite, I want a good, steady Chattahoochee River flow for our area,  and I can sympathise with Alabama and Florida,  but I am still concerned about the Atlanta area.  It is the economic engine that drives this state, and it’s our state’s big league city.  Besides that, like me,  just about everyone in Georgia has a relative or friend who lives in Metro Atlanta.

What to do? What to do?

Governor Perdue is taking legal action, and has asked the states two Republican Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, to go to work to get Congressional approval of a law that allows Atlanta to take water from the lake.  The say they will.

Some are saying that, instead of relying on that approach, the state should start developing alternative sources for the water, things like more resorvoirs and getting Tennessee to allow Georgia to take some its water from the Tennessee River,  a part of which might actually be inside the Georgia state line.  That assumption is being protested by folks in Tennessee.

There is a lot of blame to go around in this water mess.  Many political leaders have basically ignored the problem for a long time.  They might like to continue to ignore it, but they can’t.  It has reached the crisis stage.

The Chattahoochee Choo Choo

July 24, 2009

Pardon me,  boy,  is that the Chattahoochee Choo Choo?  That’s what GIs at Fort Benning named the narrow gage railroad trains that served the post from about 1919 to 1946.   Chattahoocheee Choo Choo is, of course, a play on the Glenn Miller 1940s hit “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” If you want to see the Army’s railroad in action, just click on the clip below, which was saved and put on YouTube by my old friend and fellow broadcaster John Gilbert.  It’s 16mm silent footage, so you might want to play a CD of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”  while you watch it. John writes that he rescued the film from a dumpster.  Whoever threw it away just didn’t understand the historic significance of such things. 

Jack Pezold on the Sale of CSG Aviation to Columbus Metropolitan Airport Commission

July 23, 2009

I asked Columbus businessman Jack Pezold  how he felt about the Columbus Airport Commission buying the CSG Aviation fixed base operation from his company for $1.8 million.  “It’s like broadcasting, Dick. We are better off out of it,” he said with a smile in his voice.  At one time he owned WXTX, channel 54, and, at one time, I anchored the news on a number of stations in Georgia and South Carolina, including WRBL and WTVM in Columbus.

He told me that part of the deal will be the use of a hangar for a number of years, and he will continue to provide a charter flight service.  However, his three charter planes are no longer based in Columbus. They are operating out of the Tallahassee, Florida airport.  He says he gets a better deal on property taxes there, plus a lot of business,  because Florida State University and the Florida State Capitol are located there.  His planes will, however, be available for Columbus charter flights.

Starting August 1st,  the airport commission will operate Flightways Columbus, which will replace CSG Aviation.

Airport Commission Hopes to Increase General Aviation Business by Taking Over Its Fixed Base Operation

July 22, 2009


CSG07 22_1171

The Columbus Metropolitan Airport Commission will take over operation of the airport’s fixed base operation starting August 1st.  The commission is paying Pezold Air Charters, LLC, $1.8 million dollars for the facility.  The name of the facility will be changed from CSG Aviation to Flightways Columbus.  Pezold, says the commission, will continue to offer charter service at the airport. 

Just as CSG did, Flightways Columbus will offer fueling services, parking for home-based and transient users, hangar space, and will have a repair service.

According to the airport commission’s news release, Chair Sherry Goodrom says, “With this acquisition, the Airport Commission hopes to increase general aviation, which will in turn increase the airport’s economic impact on the city.”

The commission’s news release says, “While the general public is generally concerned with with passenger traffic, general aviation is a huge part of air traffic. General aviation’s 131,607 active airplanes form America’s largest source of air transportation.  General aviation flies 166 million passengers every year, making it America’s largest ‘airline.'”

Mark Oropeza, Airport Director, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Mark Oropeza, Airport Director, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Airport Director Mark Oropeza says Flightways Columbus will be managed by Jeff Kohlman on an interim basis.  He is with Aviation Managament Consulting Group which will assist the Commission during the transition period.

Romance of the Rails

July 20, 2009

Some people satisfy their love affair with trains by building elaborate model train layouts.     

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Bryson City, NC

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Bryson City, NC. It has one of the largest collections of Lionel model trains in the United States.

Others go on vintage train excursions, and some take trips on Amtrak trains.  But, there is a very special group. They buy and renovate private railroad cars.  That is a very expensive proposition, but a Columbus couple has done just that.

Let me tell you about Borden Black and Nelson McGahee.  Borden’s last name is actually McGahee, too, but she goes by Borden Black when she wears her journalism hat.   Nelson is a civil service employee at Fort Benning.

He is also a total railroad buff, and, since Borden is married to him,  so is she.  They are so much into it, they have been restoring a 1925 Pullman private car for years.  I asked Borden for a picture of it and she sent the one below.  For this picture, she changed the color of the paint job to what it will be before they actually hook it to a train.  This color is the way it looked originally, she said.

Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car, Charolette, NC.

Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car, Charlotte, NC.

Pending a federal inspection,  they plan to couple the car to a special train of 23 private cars that an Amtrak engine will pull from Washington D.C. to Cape Canaveral, ending up in Savannah for the The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners National Convention on November 5.   Want a ride? They’re selling tickets for day trips.  They’ll run between $290 and $390 (that includes the $90 fee for joining the private car owners’ association) for different legs of the trip.  You can learn more by emailing Borden and Nelson at  They can seat nine people and serve them breakfast and lunch. 

Dining room on the Dearing,  Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car

Dining room on the Dearing, Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car

 Borden says she’s going to do the cooking.

Walter Cronkite and Me

July 18, 2009

I learned of the death of Walter Cronkite when Phil Scoggins called me to ask if I would give him an interview to run on the 11p.m. news on WRBL.  I immediately said, “Yes.”  I was honored to do the interview.

As I told Phil in the interview, my television news career and Walter Cronkite’s started about the same time. He took Douglas Edwards’ place on CBS-TV and I took Glenn Broughman’s place on WRBL-TV, the station that carried the CBS Evening News. 

At that time,  television news reporting was not entertainment oriented.  Dignity and style prevailed.  News was, and still should be, a serious business.  He built a tremendous amount of trust over the years nationally, and I did my best to do the same thing locally. 

I only saw him in person once.  All of the network big guns converged on the Radio and Television News Director’s Association Convention at Miami in the early 1970’s.   I was WRBL Radio and Television news director, as well as anchor of the evening news, at the time.   The network news anchors came to rally America’s news directors in the fight to show President Nixon and Vice President Agnew that they could not harness and intimidate the media.  Their attacks failed as both of them were forced to resign for other reasons.

I was actually on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite only once. A Fort Benning soldier refused to wear his uniform as a protest against the Vietnam War.  I interviewed him and CBS ran that interview.  The CBS News Southern Bureau chief told me Cronkite said he liked the interview.  Coming from Walter Cronkite, that meant a lot.  

People are saying that he was the “gold standard of broadcast journalism,” and that he was “the most trusted man in America.”  They are also saying that no one today can match the credibility he achieved.  I agree. He was not flashy. He was not Hollywood handsome. He was avuncular, and apparently that’s what America wanted because many millions of them watched him for 19 years on CBS.  When he said, “And that’s the way it is, ” they believed him

Michael Bishop: New Gun Bill Violates States Rights

July 17, 2009

My good friend, respected teacher, and award-winning  author of a number of books,  Michael Bishop, who lost his son Jamie to the mass murderer who took 32 lives at Virginia Tech in 2007,  is urging us to contact our U.S. senators and urge them to vote against an amendment that will allow people to carry concealed weapons from one state into another.

Michael and Jeri Bishop at their son Jamie's memorial stone, Virginia Tech, Virginia

Michael and Jeri Bishop at their son Jamie's memorial stone, Virginia Tech, Virginia

He said proponents claim this is a states rights measure, when it is just the opposite.  It would mean that a federal law would override state laws on concealed weapons.

“The gun lobby is attempting to force our communities to permit untrained and dangerous individuals from other states to carry loaded, hidden handguns in public,” Michael writes.   

He also says, “Legislation has now been introduced as Amendment No. 1618 to the defense authorization bill (S. 1390) by Senator John Thune (R-SD) and the Senate will vote on it on Monday evening, July 20.”

He says the Senate will vote on it Monday so you need to call your Senator now.  It doesn’t matter that it is the weekend; you can leave a message on his or her answering machine. It’s numbers that count.

“If you are a Georgian, please call both Senator Saxby Chambliss (202-224-3521) and Senator Johnny Isakson (202-224-3643) and urge them to stand up to the gun lobby on this issue, at least, and to prove that they are not entirely in its pocket. Let them do something to promote the safety of all this nation’s citizens and not simply to appease that portion of the gun crowd that thinks carrying in bars and volatile athletic venues, among other places, is just hunky-dory. If you live in another state, please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard TODAY at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your own senators.”

I called my senators.

George Corradino Retires from the Bob Barr Community Band

July 15, 2009


George Crradino conducting the Bob Barr Community Band, Springer Tehater, Columbus, GA

George Crradino conducting the Bob Barr Community Band, Springer Opera House, Columbus, GA

What a way George Corradino picked to debut on Facebook.  In his very first message he tells us he is retiring from the Bob Barr Community Band.  

George – if I wanted to get formal I would say Dr. Corradino, but I have considered him a friend for 40 years so I guess I’ll say George – came to Columbus at the suggestion of Bob Barr.   George left as an assistant band director at Auburn to become director of the Columbus High School Band.

This is all very personal for me since the late Bob Barr was my band director and had a lasting, and positive, affect on my life.  I was the first person he selected to be the band’s drum major. After I graduated in 1948, the band continued to grow and he took it to great heights, doing well in a band contest in Chicago and winning one in New York.  My late nephew Jack Gibson played in George’s Columbus High Band and George had a tremendous affect on him. My late sister Betty, Jack’s mom, told me that the only thing that kept Jack in Columbus High and got him on track to being a good student was George Corradino and that band.  Jack went on to get his PhD at the University of Alabama, and was Vice President of Development for Kennesaw State University when he died.  Kennesaw State  named a building for him, Gibson Hall.

When Mr. Barr – he’ll always be Mr. Barr to me – died in the late 1980’s, George headed up the Jordan Alumni Bob Barr Band to play a half-time show at a Jordan-Columbus game in honor to the memory of his friend and fellow band director.  Jordan alumni who had played in a Bob Barr Jordan band came from all over the country to play in that half-time show.  It was a very moving event.

That band morphed into the Bob Barr Community Band, with the big difference being that you don’t have to be a Jordan grad to play in it.  George has led that band for most of its 20 year’s existance.  I emceed the band’s very first half-time show and first concert and, at George’s request,  the 20th anniversary concert.

As well as leading the Columbus High, HardawayHigh, and Jordan High bands – he filled in for six months when Mr. Barr left until Jordan found a new band director – he played with a number of Columbus dance bands, including the 17-piece Cavaliers, which he now also leads.   

George Corradino playing a solo with the Columbus Community Orchestra at Hardaway High School, where he ad been that school's first band director, Columbus, GA

George Corradino playing a solo as guest artist with the Columbus Community Orchestra at Hardaway High School, where he had been that school's first band director, Columbus, GA

He is a very generous person.  For instance, he has played solo performances at many funerals, and not just for Columbus musicians but others as well.   He loves music, and he loves musicians, and he deserves all of the admiration that the community can give him.  His contributions to the area are enormous, and that includes his educational contributions. He was the director of the Muscogee County School District music program for years.

Thanks, George Corradino, for what you have done for music and musicians in our area.