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.”