Thursday, March 27, 2008

Albany Beat

Downtown cleanup a joke?
Crime is so rampant in inner-city Albany , we can’t help but question the sincerity of city leadership’s call on the new Code Enforcement Department to single-handedly reverse downtown blight by requiring property owners to improve dilapidated properties. Take the area of North Monroe and West Residence avenues, for example. This week, three side-by-side-by-side residences – from 408 to 412 W. Residence – remain a haven for drug-dealers and dogfighters despite all the tough talk from the city. “My tenants are moving out. They are so scared. And when I call the police, they do nothing. They’re probably scared, too,” said Barbara Beauchamp, who owns rental property in the area. A stabbing occurred in the neighborhood last weekend, and a maintenance worker witnessed a man fleeing a burglary scene, but the police refused to question the man because “they said they didn’t see him break in,” Ms. Beauchamp said. At 412 N. Monroe , the residents have been evicted because of the unsanitary conditions of the home; yet, on Wednesday, at least 10 tenants remained. “Now, that’s ridiculous,” Ms. Beauchamp frustratingly said.Indeed.

Whoops, again, at Cooper
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is voluntarily recalling tens of thousands of tires made in Albany for manufacturing defects. The company told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it will recall more than 48,000 light truck tires sold under more than 20 brand names, including Cooper Discoverer, Wildcat and Wild Country. Concerns with sidewall separation prompted the voluntary recall. A similar Cooper tire recall was held eight months ago.

Central Monitoring coat tally: 1,702
As it turns out, Southwest Georgians still had plenty of coats in their closet after Central Monitoring’s 2007 coat drive netted 2,218 coats. Another 1,702 coats were collected in the Albany alarm monitoring and installation company’s 2007-08 One Warm Coast drive. Albany ’s 11 fire stations and many businesses, churches and organizations participated in the now-annual endeavor. The coats were taken to the Food Bank of Southwest Georgia , which distributed them to member agencies.

Big Loser in Albany
Poppi Kramer from the NBC hit “Biggest Loser” Season 3 is coming to Albany . Ms. Kramer continued on her journey to lose weight after being sent home, losing half of her body weight, and has been proclaimed the season’s “At-Home Winner.” As the keynote speaker, Ms. Kramer will help culminate the Albany-Savannah weight loss challenge at 6:30 p.m. April 3 at the Government Center , 222 Pine Ave. Nearly 50 families participated in the Albany-Savannah challenge to lose weight, lower cholesterol and blood-pressure levels, and incorporate exercise into their lifestyles.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Albany Beat

Malone: Chip off block

On July 18, 2005, Reginald “Reggie” Harris, Jr. was an athletic and active 14-year-old boy who broke his leg when he attempted to jump over a ditch. Today, because of medical practice, Reggie is an amputee; Harris’ family successfully claimed that Sumter Regional Hospital staff ignored repeated complaints that the boy couldn’t feel or move his toes.

Harris, of Americus, will never play football gain or otherwise have opportunities that otherwise would have been afforded to him. Due to having being represented by of the best plaintiff’s attorney firms in the United States , though, Harris will have the financial wherewithal to have a decent life. Last week, Harris and his family were awarded $24 million in a Dougherty County civil suit against Sumter Regional and two co-defendants.

Hiring Malone Law, the law firm of famed Albany native Thomas W. “Tommy” Malone and his son, Adam, was a brilliant move for the Harrises. Indeed, Tommy Malone’s patient, steadfast tutelage of his son is paying big dividends for the Malone family – and their clients.

After learning how to try cases in the district attorneys' office during law school, Adam Malone has used that experience to distinguish himself in the courtroom. His first trial resulted in a $760,000 jury verdict for permanent injuries suffered by a 9-year-old girl who was hit by a truck when the insurance company offered only $75,000. Since then, Adam Malone has continued to obtain numerous substantial recoveries many of which reach into the millions of dollars depending upon the severity of the injuries for victims of medical negligence, automobile and tractor-trailer wrecks, and other events arising out of negligent or careless conduct.

Already, Adam Malone has obtained several jury verdicts in excess of $1 million; the Harris verdict is his – and one of Dougherty County ’s – largest. Meanwhile, Tommy Malone’s largest verdict is a $45 million in a medical malpractice award in 1995 in Fulton County for a case in which he represented parents’ claims for medical expenses for their child, and for loss of services and the child’s claims for future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income.

Adam Malone serves in various leadership capacities with the State Bar of Georgia and holds office in several nationwide legal organizations. He is the president-elect of the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, an invitation-only organization of elite trial attorneys. Adam is also on the Board of Governors for the prestigious Belli Society, a charitable organization that promotes the study of law by funding research, conducting lectures, seminars, and publishing legal articles. He also serves as an officer in the Professional Negligence Section of the American Association for Justice.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Albany Beat

When laws don’t matter
When Police Chief James Younger refuses to enforce laws including red-light violations, littering and jaywalking, is he violating his oath of office? That's what some disgusted Albany Journal readers are asking after the newspaper reported last week that the Albany Police Department apparently does not write tickets for running red lights unless the violation causes an accident. “How in the world can you protect the citizens if you do not enforce the laws? At what point do we say that speeding is not worth enforcing?” Great questions, we think. Too bad the police chief and his boss, City Manager Alfred Lott, won’t provide the answers or the associated public records – even when state law compels them to. (Younger is still refusing the Journal access to red light tickets his officers have written.) The Journal received considerable feedback about this story – fully supportive except for an anonymous assertion without documentation that Albany police do write some red-light tickets when accidents aren’t involved. If that’s the case, our story was incomplete because of the police chief's and city manager's failure to do their jobs; that is, to produce public records or otherwise answer our inquiry. Still, if the story contained an inaccuracy, we want to correct it. So, Younger and Lott, we again ask you, “How many red-light tickets did the city write during 2005, 2006 and 2007?” The answer is a matter of public record; let us see it.

Congressman from Albany ailing
Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, an Albany native, is recovering at home after a successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from a salivary gland. “I am very blessed because, although rare, this cancer was determined to be localized,” the 61-year-old Chicago Democrat said in a statement Sunday. The surgery was performed at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Rush was born in Albany and left as a youngster when his family moved to Chicago . A former Black Panther, Rush has represented Illinois ’ First District since 1993, having once defeated a young Congressional challenger named Barack Obama.

Fighting school vouchers
State Sen. Michael Meyer Von Bremen is standing admirably against the notion of allowing parents to bail their children from sinking public schools by issuing them vouchers to attend another school – even a private institution. The Albany Democrat says student with higher test scores would be the most likely to leave failing schools. “These schools will go into a rut they will never get out of,” he said. Meyer Von Bremen lost his argument: The measure passed the Senate 32-21.

Columbus without baseball?
Tim Heller is trying to sell the professional baseball team that made a brief touch down in Albany before moving to Columbus . Heller’s sale of the Columbus Catfish, formerly the South Georgia Waves, must be approved by the South Atlantic League and Minor League Baseball. If the sale is approved, the team may move to a new ballpark in Bowling Green , Ky. The South Coast League of Professional Baseball, which owns the South Georgia Peanuts and three other teams, has its eyes on putting a team in Columbus if Heller’s sale is consummated. The Waves played in Albany in 2003.

Jackson: Water fight over

Bainbridge water-rights activist Dr. Oscar Jackson, whose advocacy positive impacted watershed stretching to Dougherty County and beyond, say he’s hanging up his hat because he’s tired and his health is bad. The popular-yet-tenacious 81-year-old retired dentist recently lost a battle to convince the city of Bainbridge not to hire Albany ’s William G. “Jerry” Usry, who has been busted for ethics violations, as a state lobbyist at a rate of $6,000 per month for four months. “Many will think the recent differences I had with the City of Bainbridge for hiring the individual they did as a lobbyist was the main reason for my termination in the water matter. It was not," Jackson told the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight newspaper. "The mayor assured me he (Usry) would not be doing this kind of activity regarding water resources.”

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Albany Beat

Doing things downtown
Between his smarts, his energy and his charisma, has any newcomer on the public’s payroll in Albany ever made as a big of an immediate impact as Don Buie, the Albany Dougherty Inner City Authority’s downtown manager? “I came here to do things … I didn’t come to Albany to fail,” Buie recently told the Albany Herald. “I promised everyone I would hit the ground running … and I will keep doing that – not matter who is involved in the process. Maybe forever – or until the people in charge run me off.” Buie’s sincerity and candor is definitely a far cry from Albany City Manager Alfred Lott (who says he is Buie’s boss, but isn’t); indeed, he enthusiastically volunteered into the night working the gate at the Mardi Gras festival. That’s a Lott better than we’re used to.

Big spill on Westside
The Albany Public Works Department averted a major sewer spill after pump failures at lift stations on Gillionville and Walnut roads. About 700 gallons of untreated wastewater was released Feb. 28 from a manhole at Westwood Apartments at Oglethorpe Avenue and Lennox Drive , and about 2,500 gallons of wastewater flowed from an Elm Street manhole into a detection pond at Gordon Avenue and Westtown Road . A jet vacuum was used for several days to retrieve the wastewater.

Top Goobers
Albany ’s professional baseball team has two new head honchos. New South Georgia Peanuts General Manager Deanna Davis arrived in town last week from Frederick Keys, where she served as assistant general manager for ticketing and operations. She replaces fired general manager Keith Michlig, who last week took the post as Georgia Southwestern University ’s sports information director. This week, the Peanuts replaced Wally Backman, the controversial, hot-headed Peanuts field chief and former major league manager who resigned after the season, with assistant coach Buddy York. Backman now coaches the independent Northern League Joliet Jackhammers. The Peanuts are one of four teams remaining in the South Coast League of Professional Baseball, a non-Major League-affiliated baseball organization that debuted in 2007.

Democrats: Securing incumbency
Democratic Party of Georgia leaders must be feeling desperate; they are breaking rules and principles of decency by no longer offering voter information to Democratic challengers of Democratic incumbents. The party’s shameless decision, in addition to violating its bylaws, makes it harder for incumbents – even awful ones – to be challenged by fellow Democrats. To boot, the party is losing money it raises by selling voter files.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Albany Beat

Goddard Dispute Continuing
Albany taxpayers are ultimately going to pay a big price in the Matty Goddard case, which is still under deliberation; it’s just a matter of how much it’s going to cost us. It was nearly 2½ years ago that then-Civic Center director Goddard got the worst performance evaluation in world history from City Manager Alfred Lott – a score of 0 out of 100. With the next-worst score of all 900-plus city employees was about 45, Ms. Goddard, according to Lott -- who was new to town and barely had even introduced himself to Ms.Goddard -- was about as effective in her job as a corpse. Naturally, Ms. Goddard was soon fired without being given the standard performance improvement plan required in city of Albany human resources policy. Ms. Goddard sued, claiming she was treated unfairly because of her gender, age and her race. (She and Lott are both African-American.) Instead of taxpayers footing the bill for Lott’s policy-breaking City Commission-influenced ouster of Ms. Goddard, it only seems fair to that Mayor Willie Adams and Commissioners Bob Langstaff and Tommie Postell donate their recently enhanced salaries for the cause. It is those three who called for and have celebrated Ms. Goddard’s ouster, saying the end was justified by the means.

In Dougherty, it’s … Romney?
Maybe February will hold a different story, but as of a few weeks ago, the Barack Obama money train hadn’t hit Southwest Georgia – or any other area of the state outside of Atlanta , for that matter. Indeed, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had raised more money ($5,600) than any of his foes from either party through Feb. 1. That compares to $818,793 that Obama had raised in Fulton County ; $36,450 Republican candidate Rudy Guliani had raised in Chatham County ; and $27,000 and $19,730 former Democratic candidate John Edwards had raised in Muscogee and Clarke counties, respectively. In the counties contiguous to Dougherty County , the leaders were: Republican John McCain, Mitchell ($5,100), Lee ($750) and Baker ($51); Terrell, Republican Ron Paul ($2,763); and Calhoun, former Republican candidate Fred Thompson ($300). Grady is among 26 Georgia counties in which no presidential candidates reported collecting any money.

New CEO at MagGregor
Albany ’s MacGregor Golf Co. has appointed Michael J. Setola as its new president and CEO. Setola, who replaces former company head Barry Schneider, most recently served as president of Oxford Industries, an apparel business whose brands include Tommy Bahama. “He is a proven leader with extensive industry experience and expertise, in addition to being a proficient strategic planner,” Greg Norman, the company’s chairman, said of Setola. MacGregor, which was founded 109 years ago, creates golf equipment including MACTEC drivers and Bobby Grace putters that are marketing under the MacGregor brand. The company says it generates about $150 million in annual revenues.

Morgan: Fast times ahead?
Veteran Albany-area race car driver Donnie Cheney is building a speedway on Georgia 45 three miles north of Morgan and 20 miles west of Albany . Cheney says that his Calhoun County Motor Speedway will be three-eighths of a mile, similar to the Talladega Short Track. A contractor, Cheney owns the land, which he says is too poor to grow pine trees. Cheney hopes to have the track open this summer.

Live marathon coverage
Cumulus Broadcasting’s Mix 107 WEGC-FM will have street correspondents reporting live during Saturday’s Snickers Marathon Energy Bar Marathon. How fun! The station will broadcast party and dance music – live from downtown with Bobby Powell, and live from the station’s studio with Jay Wachs and Jazzmine Phoenix. Downtown merchants will serve as street correspondents by calling the station throughout the marathon, which begins at 7 a.m. And until noon, the station will be heard at various points along the marathon route.

Albany Marine on the tube
U.S. Marine 1st Sgt. William E. Bodette Jr., who is stationed at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, is scheduled to appear and commentate on Battle 360, a 10-part series on the History Channel. The series airs begins Friday and ends May 2; it airs at 10 p.m. Filmed by Flight 33 Productions in Hollywood , Calif. , Battle 360 is a series of stories about the World War II aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Bodette also was featured in a History Channel program, “Shootout: The Hunt for Bin Laden.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Albany Beat

A costly question
Inadvertently, I seem to have cost Dougherty County taxpayers lots of money -- $266, to be exact. On Feb. 16, we asked why the Board of Education discussed the hiring of a consultant in executive session. Although the elected school board members who were the targets of our question, the school system’s attorney, Tommy Coleman, went to work – on our dime. He billed his bosses (aka us taxpayers) for 2.8 hours of work at $95 an hour for working on what he described in his billing report as “an open records matter” doing such tasks as making three calls to the Journal. As it turns out, Coleman says that although transportation consultant Rick Wheeler’s title is “consultant”, he actually is a part-time employee; as such, the discussion about Wheeler’s hiring in an executive session was proper, the attorney said. We’re sorry, taxpayers. If only I would’ve known … Oh, heck, I still would have asked the question. But should you have to pay for it?

Is ATI’s former chief a blogger?
If so, he’s pretty doggone mad. Someone identifying himself as Ken Weaver – the same name as Albany Tomorrow Inc.’s recently ousted CEO -- went off on ATI board member Emily Jean McAfee and Albany Area Chamber of Commerce CEO on the community Web blog “Wake up, Albany , you are being run by imbeciles,” the blogger said. Weaver has not returned out telephone call seeking an interview.

A glowing recommendation
An Albany lobbyist who has been busted for ethics violations will make $24,000 consulting for the City of Bainbridge for four months. William G. “Jerry” Usry was recommended by state Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) for the gig as a state lobbyist providing consulting on municipal affairs. It’s no wonder that Bulloch gave Usry a good word; Usry donates mightily to Bulloch’s campaign fund and has reported that he has bought Bulloch meals, as well. In July 2007, Usry was fined $15,000 for violating the state’s Ethics in Government Act by being compensated for lobbying without being registered with the State Ethics Commission and, thus, without filing expenditure reports. Usry, who has since registered as a lobbyist, also is heavy contributor to the campaign fund of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany.

Hole in one for Albany
Albany will host the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s men’s golf championships for three years beginning this year. “We truly believe the City of Albany and the Recreation and Parks Department have all the necessary tools to make it an annual signature event,” conference commissioner William L. Lide said in a recent letter notifying the city that its bid had been accepted. Albany State University is an SIAC member.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Albany Beat

Albany’s future mayor
Here’s a politician who could someday be Albany’s mayor – if only he lived here. Augusta state Sen. Ed Tarver, a Democrat, wants to make it illegal for Georgia General Assembly speakers to lie – unless the speaker is a state representative or senator. Tarver produced is proposing a law that would require an oath from the presenter of “any oral evidence in support or opposition of any legislation or request for appropriation to a committee or subcommittee of the General Assembly. The penalty would be a fine of up to $1,000 and five years in prison – unless you’re a General Assembly member. Recently, Albany Mayor Willie Adams told a City Commission visitor, “I’m a liar,” when the visitor confronted him about not telling the truth.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Albany Beat

Super Tuesday 101
The Dougherty County School System had its game on in preparation for Super Tuesday. For one thing, its 3,000-plus third- through fifth-graders participated Monday in a mock presidential election, and the participants proudly sported official Georgia voter stickers for the remainder of the school day. Before Tuesday’s primary elections, the same students learned about the history of voting in America , qualifications for candidacy, and about the issues facing our country. It’s a civic lesson that increases the chances of those children becoming better citizens. And here’s icing on the cake: Dougherty High School administrators provided space and support for a voter-registration drive at the school. As a result, 65 new voters are now on the rolls.

When severing doesn’t warrant a severance
An Albany Tomorrow Inc. board member says that she and her colleagues erred in hiring Kenneth Weaver, who resigned last week as CEO. Emily Jean McAfee told WALB-TV that she and board Chairman C.W. Grant came to that conclusion, and that Grant shared that perspective with Weaver, who then submitted his resignation. In particular, Ms. McAfee said, Weaver’s shortcomings became clear through his inability to recruit retailers. Unlike Albany City Manager Alfred Lott, who recently forced his finance director to resign after three months on the job, Ms. McAfee and her fellow ATI board members opted not to award a severance package to Weaver as a reward for his three months of service.

Voter disenfranchisement?
A workers’ vote Tuesday at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Albany created some controversy. An employee told The Albany Journal that rules have been put in place by some – but not all -- supervisors for the Findlay, Ohio-based company wherein employees must take time off and that they could lose their perfect-attendance status simply by casting a ballot. Let’s hope that didn’t actually happen.

Humble disassociation
Sometimes, your alma mater – or at least some people connected with it -- lets you down. That happened with many University of Alabama alumni in the 1980s when a classy and successful coach was run out of town by a redneck contingent, and that’s also what is happening to Albany teacher Laura Swette-Bridges’ alma mater, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota . Since November, there have been at least 19 reports of swastikas showing up in public places at the college. “I have always, secretly, felt a little smug to have come from a part of the country that was more enlightened and had people with more important things to do than worry about race,” Ms. Swette-Bridges wrote in Wednesday’s St. Cloud Times newspaper. “As an example to my young students, I have a desktop full of stuffied huskies ( St. Cloud ’s mascot) and university mugs … I am not faced with the sad realization that I am embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with this memorabilia.”

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Albany Beat

Rock, Roll and Run
Problem solved: Downtown Albany ’s signature weekend finally has an all-encompassing moniker: “Rock, Roll and Run.” The Mardi Gras events begin at noon Saturday, March 1 with live music, food, arts and crafts vendors, a car show and a BBQ cook-off sponsored by the Shriners. Kids’ activities including face painting, jumpy houses, a petting zoo, train rides, rock climbing, and games with prizes. Live bands will continue rocking the stage until midnight. Info: 434-8700.

Wanted, You
Speaking of Rock, Roll and Run, Albany needs you to be a member of the Support Team during the second annual SNICKERS® MARATHON® Energy Bar marathon, half marathon and Fun run; the Regions Bank Bike Race Weekend, and all the festivities taking place downtown on Saturday, March 1. Volunteers will receive a free T-shirt and a ticket for the Mardi Gras Street festival. Road marshals, in particular, are needed, and Central Monitoring will honor volunteers with a thank-you shindig March 18 at the Flint RiverQuarium. To volunteer, sign up at the Albany Chamber of Commerce or at www.

UGA Library support
Harold R. Hudgens Jr., an Albany resident and University of Georgia alumnus, and an Albany couple have teamed up to support the school’s Map Library. A regular user of the Map Library, Hudgens is raising awareness of the library’s important role. Meanwhile, wildlife watercolor artist Rena Divine and her husband, William T. Divine Jr., a former University System of Georgia Board of Regents member, donated four artist's proofs from Rena's series, “Plantations of Southwest Georgia.” In the early 1980s, former Georgia Gov. George Busbee presented Rena's print of brown thrashers, Georgia 's state bird, to dignitaries.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Albany Beat

Holy Smoke!
Local and state arson investigators say they don’t buy the Rev. Joseph Howard III’s contention that his Metropolitan Baptist Church was torched by racists; rather, they say that Howard did the dirty deed. Howard was arrested Friday and charged with New Year’s Eve arson, which destroyed the church sanctuary, causing an estimated $150,000 in damage. Citing Howard’s “vision and commitment,” U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in 2003 helped Howard’s Trinity Community Development Corp. receive $3.975 million for 49 senior citizen apartments. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department grant was Trinity CDC’s first. Bishop added at the time: “I was pleased to support this grant application.”

Purple Heart to Lex
Albany ’s most famous military working dog is getting a new pendant for his collar – a Purple Heart. The recently retired German shepherd, which was wounded during combat in March in Iraq , will be honored during a ceremony on Feb. 16 at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach , Fla. Based at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Lex was serving alongside Cpl. Dustin Lee, a canine handler from Quitman, Miss., when the two were targeted during a mortar attack. Lee, 20, died from his wounds and his parents adopted Lex upon the dog’s retirement in December. Info: Four military dog handlers and three military working dogs have been killed in action during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Albany Beat

Banishment to be banned?
Albany Mayor Willie Adams’ insistence that three-time drug offenders be banished from Dougherty County is being ignored by Chief Dougherty Superior Court Judge Loring Gray, who refuses to hoist our problems on another community. Besides, doing so may soon be illegal. The Georgia Supreme Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of banishment as it contemplates a Douglas County case in which a convicted stalker is prohibited from living with every Georgia County except Toombs while on probation.

High on … dung?
Hopefully you’re not eating, but you need to know this: Without question, the grossest thing you’ll ever read in this newspaper; Folks, drug addicts are getting high off on excrement. That’s right; they take raw sewage (it may or may not be their own), and they inhale it. Yep, effluent has street value. No dung. A respected local narcotics investigator told us about jenkem, this not-necessarily-so-new drug that is suddenly the topic of water cooler fodder in narcotics divisions throughout the country. Yep, the Apocolypse just may be here. But you needed to know.

Coat drive in final push
Got one warm coat to donate? Central Monitoring is wrapping up its second annual One Warm Coat drive, which benefits clients of agencies served by the Food Bank of Southwest Georgia . New and gently used coats are being collected through Jan. 31 at these and other locations: Any of Dougherty County’s 11 fire stations; Central Monitoring, 522 Pine Ave.; Regions Bank; Security Bank; Albany Bank & Trust; AmerisBank; WALB-TV; WFXL-TV; The Albany Herald; and the Albany Mall’s University Gifts & Apparel. Also, coats will be collected at the King Day Celebration on Monday at the Albany Civic Center . Info: 434-1176.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Albany Beat

Bishop, Bowling Big; Taylor Not
Georgia Trend magazine has left the “Big Guy” off its 2008 most-powerful list. Georgia ’s leading magazine and politics and the economy says U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, who calls Albany and Columbus home, and Annette Bowling, the Albany Advocacy Resource Center executive director, are among Georgia’s most 100 influential residents. Notably not on the list is a former perennial Georgia Trend honoree – former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor of Albany.