Archive for August, 2009

Common Cause Columbus to Hold Forum on E-SPLOST

August 8, 2009


So far, I know of no organized resistance to the proposal to raise sales taxes in Muscogee County by a penny for capital improvements for the school system.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be, but you would have thought it would have raised its head by now.

Maybe it will happen when the Common Cause forum on the SPLOST is held next month,  on Thursday, September 3rd, at the Columbus Public Library at 6 p.m.  Common Cause Columbus Chair Alton Russell says that MCSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews will be on hand to take questions.

“She and any pre-determined opposition group will be given time for opening remarks, written questions from audience, and then, open mike questions.”

He adds, “The forum is open to everybody in the Columbus community.  This is an opportunity to ask questions and understand all the reasons for voting for the SPLOST and reasosn not to vote for it.”

Lowest Chattahoochee River Flow on Record this Summer

August 6, 2009


It’s hard to believe, but, even though we are not in a drought and have had a lot of rainfall,  the flow of the Chattahoochee River downstream from the Atlanta area has been the lowest on record this summer.   That’s what former Columbus Water Works Director, and defender of downstream Chattahoochee River interests Billy Turner tells me. 

Billy Turner, former Columbus Water Works Director, Columbus, GA

Billy Turner, former Columbus Water Works Director, Columbus, GA

It has happened because the Corps of Engineers is holding back water at Lake Lanier and West Point in order to store more water in anticipation of a future drought, he says.

But, since the Corps is under court order to keep flows strong enough to satisfy Florida’s need for fresh water to flow into oyster beds in Apalachicola,  how can the Corps hold the water back?

“Because,” says Turner, “the Flint River is supplying enough flow for Appalachicola right now.”

What does this low flow mean for downstream communities?

“The main problem with the Corps reducing flows is that a certain amount of flowing water is needed to assimilate the waste-water discharges at each of these cities and plants,” he says, adding, “These flows were designated in wastewater discharge permits by the respective states and if the appropriate levels of flow are not provided the potential for poor water quality in the streams exist which could impact the ecology. The option to having the appropriate flow is higher levels of wastewater treatment which is very expensive.”

In a meeting in Columbus yesterday, Govenor Perdue, who is trying to unify all sections of the state in face of a federal court ruling that, in three years,  Atlanta can’t take any more water from Lake Lanier,  assured Turner and other business and political leaders that the state is not just concerned with Atlanta’s needs.  According to a Ledger-Enquirer story,  neither Represntative Debbie Buckner nor Turner were convinced.  “I don’t think we came together today,” Turner said. “There has got to be more discussion. What is the deal Georgia has in mind?” 

He had told me erlier, “Georgia will continue to fight for Atlanta’s water needs requardless of the concerns of Columbus and our neighbors. It would be a great step if Georgia would provided a balanced support for all Georgians which could keep us on the same side in the Court actions. To date State government has only shown concern for Atlanta.” 

Turner is a prime leader in a suit filed against the Corps of Engineers demanding that an adequate downstream flow be maintained.


Go to the National Infantry Museum at Least Once by Yourself

August 5, 2009


The National Infantry Museum is surpassing number of visitors expectations.   Since the museum opened in June,  80, 322 people have visited the facility, according to Sonya Bell, Administration Services Manager,  National Infantry Foundation.  I’ve been three times. Wonder if they counted me every time. 

Huey Helicopter,  Vietnam war exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Huey Helicopter, Last Hundred Yards Vietnam War exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Even though I have been, as I said, three times, I plan to go a few more.  One day’s visit is just not enough to take it all it.  The first time you go through you get an overall impression,  but it really doesn’t sink in until you go through it again.  For one thing, the first time you don’t stop and read all of the information that is offered,  and, like a good movie – and the place is loaded with interesting combat newsreel footage –   you miss a lot detail.  One of the reasons you don’t stop and read everything is, when you are going through with other people. you tend to do it faster.  Nobody wants to hold the rest of the group back.  So, even though it’s enjoyable to do it with others,  I recommend that you also do it by yourself.

It really is a tremendous history lesson for everyone, but  you do have to take your time to let it soak him.   As I said,  I’ll be going back.


August 3, 2009


I was 14 years old, a doorman at the Bradley theater in downtown Columbus, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and  three days later, when one was dropped on Nagasaki.  I don’t remember where I first learned about it,  but I do have recollections of the screaming headlines in the Columbus Ledger and Enquirer newspapers.  I don’t think I fully grasped the lasting effects of those blasts at the time,  just that I, like everyone else I knew, was glad that the U.S. had the weapon and not the other side. 

Atom bomb blast at Nagasaki, Japan,  August 9th, 1945 (Photograph by the U.S. Army Air Force)

Atomic bomb mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, Japan, August 9th, 1945 (Photograph by the U.S. Army Air Force)

I do remember exactly where I was and what happened six days after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, because that was when Japan surrendered,  ending the most destructive war in history.  I was on duty at the Bradley.  It was the only time I ever recall that a feature film was stopped for an announcement.  A slide came up on the screen saying that the theater was going to broadcast a bulletin from WRBL.  The projectionist connected the sound system to the radio station and we heard the announcement that Japan had surrendered and the war was over.  People cheered, of course,  then left.  The theater became virtually empty.

We could hear the mill whistles blowing and horns honking on Broadway outside the theater.  Though on duty, we just couldn’t stand it any longer,  and went out on the street to see what was happening.  Cars were circling Broadway bumper to bumper,  horns blaring away,  and the sidewalks were full of excited smiling people, and, though Columbus had no skyscrapers from which to throw confetti,  people adjusted by tearing strips off of newspapers and tossing them in the air.  The sidewalk was littered with paper.

I knew of no one at the time who said we should not have dropped the bomb.  It ended the war, and that was justification enough. Our servicemen and women would be coming home.  Besides, after four years of anti-Japanese propaganda in movies,  radio programs, magazines and newspapers,  most people had no love at all for the Japanese.  It wasn’t until later when we saw newsreels in theaters of the human suffering, mainly civilians, including children, that we started to comprehend the moral dilemma of the event.  Still, as President Truman had said,  dropping the bombs ended the war and saved possibly a million American lives and millions of Japanese lives that would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. Estimates of the time it would take to win the war without dropping the bombs ran from six months to two years. 

Col. Paul Tibbets waving from the Enola Gay, 1945 (Photo by the U.S. Army Air Force)

Col. Paul Tibbets waving from the Enola Gay, 1945 (Photo by the U.S. Army Air Force)

Once, when Colonel Paul Tibbets,  the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima,  came through Columbus to see some old friends in the 1980’s, he gave me an exclusive interview, which aired on WTVM.  I had to promise not to reveal the location of the interview  because  Tibbets did not like for people to know his whereabouts since he could attract anti-nuclear bomb demonstrators.  

Once the interview started,  he told me, if I remember correctly,  that the crew had been told it had a special bomb on the plane, but only he, his co-pliot,  and the scientist aboard the plane who came along to arm the bomb in flight, knew what kind of bomb it was.  The rest of the crew didn’t know until they saw the mushroom cloud.  

How did he live with the knowledge of knowing the bomb killed about 140,000 people, most of them civilians?  He said that he was doing his job, and that he agreed with President Truman that it would end the war and save many more lives. 

Tibbets achieved the rank of Brigadier General before he retired in 1959.  He died in 2007.

Though there has been great proliferation of nuclear bombs in too many countries for comfort,  none has been used in war since the United States dropped them to end World War Two.  So far,  even the nationalistic fanatics have not dared use one.   The balance of nuclear terror has held.  Nobody would win in a nuclear exchange;  the world, we are told, would become uninhabitable.   The danger, however, is still very much with us.