Chattahoochee Chatter: 2014 mayoral race may have begun

April 24, 2013 

Let's start this edition of Chatter with a little politics.

Did we see the first salvoes of the 2014 mayoral election fired across Mayor Teresa Tomlinson's bow Tuesday night?

During Columbus Council's public agenda, Zeph Baker was the last of five residents to voice concern over the recent happenings in the Liberty District-Booker T. Washington Apartments saga. Much more than the four before him, he leveled his sights squarely on Tomlinson, who you should recall handed him his hat and raincoat -- 68 percent to 32 percent -- in the 2010 runoff that gave her the mayor's chair.

Baker said that in 27 years -- since he was 10 years old -- he has never seen a mayor "interfere with the process" of an issue coming from a board or commission to Columbus Council for a vote.

He was referring, of course, to the mayor's vocal support of the Housing Authority's plan to rebuild the aging BTW Apartments, à la Ashley Station and Arbor Point, while relocating about 100 public housing units to the area around the Liberty Theatre.

"I say this because I really would like for you to continue to be unbiased, and not necessarily take a side before a case or an issue gets to (council)," Baker said. "Because in taking a side, you really do kind of violate the trust that the city and citizens have put into you. There's an obstruction of the public trust, an obstruction of the public process."

Then he started naming names.

"We never had (Mayor Jim) Wetherington step down and interfere with the process, to take sides on an issue. We never had (Bob) Poydasheff in his four years, Bobby Peters in his eight, Mayor (Frank) Martin or Mayor (James) Jernigan to interfere with the public process," he said.

When Baker was done, Tomlinson -- who on occasion has risen to such bait -- simply said, "That concludes our public agenda."

The agenda may have concluded, but the race might have just begun.

•••

Muscogee County School Board meetings start with a group of students leading the Pledge of Allegiance and explaining the Character Education Word of the Month. Monday night's presentation from Wesley Heights Elementary School was as impressive as the others, but the ending sure was a step up.

The students introduced themselves with: "Hello, my name is … and I'm a … -grade scholar."

Yep, not "student" -- but "scholar."

Like their school's name implies, they certainly set the bar high at Wesley Heights -- and we applaud that mindset.

•••

The search for a director of Columbus State University's Cunningham Center for Leadership Development has hit the reset button as one of the four finalists is no longer in the hunt.

Columbus native Lt.

Gen. William B. Caldwell recently accepted the job as president of Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.

The other three Cunningham Center finalists are retired Gen. James C. Yarbrough, retired Gen. William T. Wolf and Dr. Christopher Shove, a military social scientist and college professor from Missouri.

All four were interviewed more than two months ago. The job was vacated when Carmen Cavezza retired Jan. 1.

Since Caldwell dropped out, the search committee has revamped the job description and put it back in the hands of the search firm, said CSU Vice President for Advancement Alan Medders.

"We were hiring to replace Carmen," Medders said. "We are looking at it a little differently. We are looking for someone who is doing leadership development as a practitioner right now."

No timetable has been set to find a replacement.

Caldwell seems pleased with his new post.

"I'm honored to have been selected for this prestigious position, and to carry on a proud 134-year tradition of excellence here at Georgia Military College," Caldwell said of his appointment. "After nearly 37 years of leading America's incredible men and women in uniform, I understand how important it is to produce leaders with a strong, 21st-century education."

Caldwell will leave his current Army post as commanding general of United States Army North (Fifth Army) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, this summer.

•••

Quick question: Did you feel free from the taxman on April 18?

We didn't think so.

But that's the day that the Tax Foundation calculated as the moment -- Tax Freedom Day it's called -- that the average American has earned enough to theoretically pay their federal, state and local taxes for the year.

In case you're wondering, that's 108 days into 2013. And it's five days later than in 2012.

But don't get too giddy just yet. A Tax Foundation study has calculated that the budget deficit Americans find themselves in will call for even more financial sacrifice -- or pain.

The additional $833 million just to get us through the end of this fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, will push Tax Freedom Day -- theoretically -- to May 9.

Look on the bright side. That's only two weeks away.

Chatter will leave you to ponder that depressing news.

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