Archive for December, 2009


December 28, 2009

You won’t find “yearender” in the dictionary. It’s a term used by broadcasters for reports and documentaries at year’s end to feature the big stories of the year.  That’s what this podcast does, except, being a blog, it get’s personal.

Just click on 2009 YEARENDER

The Landings Sets a Fine Example for Other Shopping Centers to Follow

December 22, 2009


Not only the Christmas decorations impress me, but the whole artistic, and creative approach of The Landings.  It’s more than just concrete, asphalt and stores.   It’s trees, and shrubbery, and sculptures…and, for Christmas…

the Budweiser Clydesdales in person!

And a real, working carousel.

Of course, the best example of what can be done with shrubbery, trees, sculpture, sidewalks, streets, fountains is downtown Columbus; however, that’s a different ball game.  Tax dollars are involved in that show.

Experiencing Rails to Trails

December 20, 2009

Milton Jones, retired Columbus attorney and state legislator, sent us this email.  I think he has some good advice.

By Milton Jones

I know you are aware of the fact that the “Bike” (I put it in quotes for I think many more will walk it than ride bikes) Trail is nearing completion.  There are portions of it which for all practical purposes are already complete, one stretch being from Hilton Avenue to CSU property on  the east side of I-185.  Jeanette and I have walked this section and it is stunningly beautiful.  You owe it to yourself to do so if you can, for I think you will be really impressed.

You can park in the back lot of Hardaway High and access the trail going either way right where it crosses Armour Avenue.  Or, there is a cul-de-sac on west side of Armour where you can park close to Armour Avenue.  Either will put you within 20 or 30 yards of the trail.  Either way you go, either east to just across the I-185 old railroad bridge and back, or west down to Hilton Avenue and back, is about a 20 – 25 minute leisurely walk, and it is spectacular.  Even in the middle of the city, you will think you are in  deep woods.  There is a barrier or screen of trees and vegetation along both sides that with very few very short stretches completely obscures the residences and apartments from the trail. 

 In many areas, the trees are so large they create a canopy effect.  And, the walking is easy.  The trail is paved with a “soft” low impact asphalt type substance and smooth.  (I hope it is recycled tires but do not believe it is)

It is a great way to spend a few minutes close to home, and get into deep woods.

Do it.  You will be glad you did.


Public Hysteria Rocked Columbus During the Stocking Strangling Murders

December 16, 2009

The Stocking Strangler stories sent Columbus  TV news ratings through the roof. The newscast I was anchoring, the 7 p.m. on WRBL, which was then easily the dominant newscast in the Chattahoochee Valley, got its highest ratings ever.  But, I wanted it to end.  I wanted the perpetrator of such heinous crimes to be caught and for it to be over.  High ratings didn’t compensate for the toxic atmosphere in the community at the time.

The Columbus area was in a state of hysteria.   Not only elderly women – all of the victims were elderly women – were terrified, but so were their relatives and friends.  Burglar bars were installed all over town, but especially in the Wynnton area.  Children insisted that their mothers who were living alone move in with them. Some did. Some didn’t.  

This hysteria caused a great deal of anxiety for one young man.  The son of a  prominent TV personality was rumored to be a suspect.  I would get nasty calls from people about it. “You know who is doing this and you’re just covering it up!” one woman told me on the phone.  I didn’t know any such thing.  It got so bad that Police Chief Curtis McClung,  in a talk to the Rotary Club of Columbus,  said  the young man was not a suspect.  Turns out that he was out of town when some of the murders occurred.  It really took a toll on him.  He later told me how traumatic it got for him.   

Covering the Stocking Strangling story sent me to the hospital.  I got so upset when I couldn’t get any information at the scene of one of the attacks, that I evidenced heart attack symptoms.  My photographer, alarmed at my symptoms, urged me to go to the emergency room.  I did and was admitted to cardiac care.  The Ledger-Enquirer ran a story that I was being treated for a heart attack.  That generated a slew of get-well cards that I appreciated, but it turned out to be hyperventilation.  Coincidentally, one of the detectives on the case was also admitted the same day for the same problem.

I was interviewing a police official one day when he shared with me the strain that  it was putting on him.  The public pressure on the police department to put a stop to the killing was very intense.  He opened his desk drawer, reached in and pulled out and showed me a bottle of  Valium, the most used tranquilizer of the time.

When the murders stopped,  I was quite happy to go back to lower ratings.  It was an exciting story to cover, but excitement is not necessarily a good thing.

Penny Leigh Short Leaves Us

December 14, 2009

We have lost another Columbus TV icon. Penny Leigh Short died Sunday of a heart attack. She was 66 years old. She came to Columbus in 1962 after growing up in West Frankfort, Illinois, and going to high school and college in Naples, Florida

While Penny and I were on competing newscasts for a number of years, we ended up together at WRBL for a few years. She was in sales at WRBL. Though competitors for a while, we were always friends. The sunny personality we saw on the air when she did the weather was the same sunny personality we experienced off the air.

She worked for WTVM, WLTZ and WRBL, and for about 12 years at Jay Auto Mall. She is survived by her husband, Ted Short, three children and two grandchildren. Ted tells me there will be a celebration of life event to honor her memory. He will announce the time and place later.

We’ll miss Penny and her sunny personality.

Cool Cruise – Part 7: Rocking and Rolling at Sea

December 13, 2009

As I woke on the morning of our last full day at sea,  I felt the ship rolling. Curious as to why, I pushed back the drapes of the cabin’s window and gasped an unprintable word – this is a G- rated blog – at what a I saw. 


Then it occurred to me that the noise I was hearing through the double-pained glass was the wind howling. I turned on the cabin TV to the ship’s channel where I learned that we were in a force 8 gale.  That means the wind was blowing from 39 to 46 miles per  hour.  

I have been in rough seas before.  I made two North Atlantic crossings back in the 50’s when I was in the Army. We had a pretty good storm on one of them.  The ride on the troop ship was more exciting because there is a big difference in a relatively small troop ship without stabilizers and a 105,500 ton, 12-deck tall cruise ship that has state of the art stabilizers.  

A lot of soldiers on that troop ship got demonstrably seasick.  Fortunately, I wasn’t one of  them. In fact,  I actually enjoyed going on deck for some fresh  air and feeling the sea spray on my face.    One sight I’ll never forget was when I went to the head on the fantail of the ship.  As the fantail went up and down like one end of a seesaw, the water in the toilets – there must have been at least 20 of them in a row – shot up like fountains. 

 On the Carnival Triumph we had expected the day at sea steaming from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York City,  would be fun, with ballroom dance lessons,  delicious food, an afternoon tea,  the chance to lose some more money in the casino,  and the passenger talent show in the big lounge.  

 You should have seen the ballroom dance class  trying to do cha-cha steps with the ship rolling that way.  I tried it for a little while, but decided that at my age I wouldn’t want to fall on a hard dance floor.     

Carnival Triumph back in the calm waters at Pier 88 in Manhattan following the 7-day cruise. That barge on the side is refueling her for her trip to Norfolk, Virginia, then a cruise to Miami, and finally back to her home port of New Orleans.

 As the ship pulled into New York Harbor the next morning, all was calm again.  Getting off the ship was a lot easier than getting on with not as many security hoops to jump through which made lines to the customs stations short.   

Wending our way through downtown Manhattan via 42nd Street and Broadway on the way to La Guardia and the flight back to Atlanta.

  We got to enjoy the bus ride down Broadway and 42nd Street and Time Square back to La Guardia Airport.  I reflected that was a good way to experience downtown Manhattan.  You got the ambience without having to get involved with the throngs on the sidewalks or the pushing and shoving of what must have been a million people in Times Square.    

Greystone at Inverness Apartments, Columbus, GA.

Now that I am back home I am seeing more beautiful fall leaves than I saw anywhere in New England and Canada, and the main reason for going in mid-October was to see those leaves.  The rest of the adventure made up for it. 


Autumn leaves on the Riverwalk, on the overflowing Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA

Josh McKoon Defends Opposition to MCPEC

December 2, 2009

Josh McKoon, Columbus Republican leader, candidate for Georgia Senate District 29

Columbus attorney Josh McKoon sent me and Richard Hyatt an email defending the Muscogee County Republican Party’s opposition to spending more money to build the new Muscogee County School District administrative building.  McKoon, who is running for the State Senate District 29 seat, is the former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party. 


It’s a bit long so I am not going to post the whole email, but you can read it by clicking on the “comment” button. 

Here are some excerpts: 

The points that at least I and the members of the Muscogee County Republican Party who approved a resolution opposing the expenditure were trying to make were #1)–the School Board should be held to its word as provided in the plain language of the 2003 SPLOST, #2)–that if monies over and above the $12.3 million had to be spent, that the School Board should have to ask voters to approve such an expenditure and #3)–that in the absence of seeking voter approval that the School Board at least seek public input before committing such a large amount of taxpayer money to a project.   

It seems that at a time when unemployment is at 10%, when schools are suffering from overcrowding and teachers are having to be furloughed due to plummeting revenue at the state and local level, that it might have been the prudent course of action for the MCSD to have held on to that borrowing capacity and perhaps built a more modest building that could have been expanded as times, and sources of revenue, warranted. 

He also defended the Taj Mahal comparison: 

The reason I think so many latched on to the term Taj Mahal was not only to reflect the extraordinary price tag of the building, but also of the attitude expressed by the majority of the Board that public input or approval of the additional money was irrelevant and unnecessary.  Who knows if the MCSD had made the case to the people as to why the additional funds were necessary, the public might have approved it, as they did with the 2009 E-SPLOST.

MCPEC is Nice, but Not Opulent

December 1, 2009

Dr. Philip Schley, MCSD Chairman of the Board

When I approached the Muscogee County Public Education Center building, Dr. Philip Schley had just walked outside for a little fresh air before he participated in the dedication ceremonies in the lobby.  I looked up at the entrance to the lobby and said, “It doesn’t look like the Taj Mahal to me.”

He laughed and replied, “No. There is not a foot of marble in this building.”

Muscogee County Public Education Center, Columbus, GA

He’s a retired urologist – he still holds his license and does some pro bono medical work -and the chairman of the Muscogee County School Board.   Public education in Columbus is his passion.

“Why is the building sitting so close to the road?” I asked.

“You can blame me for that. I wanted it on the road so people would see it.”  He wanted them to see it and think about the school system when they rode by on Macon Road. He added, “And I got a lot of grief for it.”

He is in a controversial position.  All school board members are. It goes with the territory. Tax dollars are involved, a lot of them.  It cost a little more than $15 million to build MCPEC.  Add furniture, etc. and it tops $22 million. That’s just about half of what those opposed to the building projected it would cost, he told me.

Northside High School Singers

Also, the future of this area is involved. What can be more important to the future of Columbus than its public education system?  It is a system that now has about 32,000 students, and that is about to increase as BRAC brings more troops, support personnel and their families to Columbus.

Fort Middle School Ballet

School Board member, and supporter of building MCPEC, John Wells said, “This is the face of public education in Columbus, and it will be for at least the next fifty years.”

Dr. Susan Andrews, Superintendent, MCSD

Dr. Schley, in his remarks to those gathered for the dedication ceremonies,  had praise for recently appointed MCSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews’ leadership, and he said he thought the new administrative headquarters would help her in her quest for excellence for the system.

All of the former living superintendents were there for the dedication, and they were all enthusiastic and pleased with the new building.  Guy Simms pointed out that it makes it easier for the public because now all administrative services are in one building and not spread out over different areas of the city.

Along with others on hand for the open house, I checked out some of the building. It’s nice, but certainly not opulent.  I asked former Superintendent John Phillips, a big player in getting the building built, where the tomb of the third wife of the Shah Jahan, who had the Taj Mahal built in 1632, was located, referring to the complaints that Columbus didn’t need a Taj Mahal.  He smiled and said, “And where are the gold faucets?”  Some opponents had warned that the building would be furnished that opulently.   It’s not.

Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews' Office

The building does have some architectural style.  Dr. Schley and Dr. Susan Andrews both remarked that some people think it looks like a building in Washington, D.C. , and they were both pleased with that comparison.