Chattahoochee Chatter: Changing yet staying the same

March 26, 2014 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That old saying applies to a number of things, and in this week's Chatter, we're referencing Phenix City politics …

During the Phenix City Board of Education's work session Tuesday evening, interim superintendent Rod Hinton declared "politicking" won't prevent him from "putting the right people in the right place" and "doing the right thing the right way for the right reasons" to move the school system from "very good to great."

"Now the rubber is fixing to really meet the road," he said about possible changes in the central office.

"… I have made no final decisions. I've got a bunch of scenarios. I'm going to go through interviews and looking at every position and every possibility, and I'm going to try to do what's best for kids, but I've got some people getting nervous. I've got some people talking to y'all (board members) as individuals. I've got one person that's been talking to city council members about what their job is and there's going to be change, even though no decision has been made, and politicking to make sure that their position is not impacted.

"And I'm going to tell you something: I have no patience for that. … So all this political BS can stop right now, and you can spread that any way you want to. … I know who's talked to who. I've been in this community a long time. People still don't get this. There's not much going on around here I don't know. I've got a deep street committee in all sections of this community. Nobody on this board has tried to influence me, and even the politicians that have been talked to have not tried to influence me, and I respect them for that. Playing political games is not the way to do it, and we're not doing it that way in Phenix City, Alabama, anymore."

After the meeting, Hinton wouldn't name names, but he said the politicking employee is a central office staffer who "senses that they're going to be moved to a different position." Hinton also emphasized no school board member or city councilor has put any pressure on him involving any decision.

•••

Speaking of change …

It was a light moment recently during an otherwise tense child molestation trial.

Superior Court Judge William Rumer was in the courtroom with attorneys from both sides. The jury had long been dismissed for the day and the judge was going over the instructions he would give jurors the next day.

The attorneys and the judge's law clerk were looking at computers when Rumer excused himself and went into chambers.

He returned with three books.

Rumer, in his 60s, then looked down at the much younger attorneys, cracked a smile, then a joke.

"These, young lawyers, are law books," Rumer said. "You may have heard something about them."

Everybody laughed, but the lawyers quickly returned to their computers.

•••

Sometimes you just have to do things the old way …

Last week, while Mayor Teresa Tomlinson was holding one of her quarterly Let's Talk with the Mayor public forums at Gethsemane Baptist Church, someone was outside putting Colin Martin for Mayor fliers on the windshields of all the cars.

That's not exactly preaching to the choir.

•••

Someone who isn't exactly "politicking" for a job right now is Eugene White.

By the way, when the April 14 application deadline arrives for folks to become Phenix City's next superintendent, don't expect native son White's name to be in the batch.

Last year, the retired Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent was looking to work closer to his hometown and applied for the superintendent jobs in Muscogee and Lee counties, but he wasn't granted an interview.

The Lee board hired Mac McCoy from Commerce, Ga., in April, and the Muscogee board hired David Lewis from Polk County, Fla., in July.

In September, White became interim president of Martin University, the only predominantly black college in Indiana.

Two months later, he agreed to a five-year contract with the Martin board.

Reached at his Indianapolis office Tuesday, White told Chatter he won't apply for the Phenix City opening. "This will keep me busy for a while," he said.

•••

It's spring and the air is thick with pollen getting in your eyes and nose. But don't be surprised if those seasonal irritants are accompanied by wafting smoke.

That's because Fort Benning's "controlled burns," presumably aimed at preventing raging wildfires across the installation's 182,000 acres, remain a perpetual program.

The post's public affairs office has issued media alerts for at least eight days of burning so far this month. And if past history is any indication, there will be plenty more such days this spring and summer.

So if you see flume of smoke in the distance or a gray haze on the horizon or simply take a sniff of air and find that it's rather unpleasant, never fear. It's Fort Benning fire-starters hard at work.

Not that they don't try to contain the acrid air, as they did on Tuesday.

"The Directorate of Public Works is conducting controlled/prescribed burns in the northwestern and eastern portions of post training areas today," the post PAO said in an alert.

"Winds are predicted from the northwest and will keep smoke away from most sensitive areas. Community members may, however, notice some smoke near these areas today."

The alert noted that aside from general wildfire prevention, firebreaks are set up around military training ranges and sites to keep exploding rounds from sparking breakaway blazes.

So, in essence, putting up with the smoke is the smell -- we mean price -- of freedom. Just don't get too choked up on that notion.

•••

As the clock struck 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Columbus Council's chambers, there was a paucity of councilors on hand. Only five of the 10 elected officials had made it to their regularly scheduled meeting.

Judy Thomas, Glenn Davis, Evelyn Turner-Pugh, Mimi Woodson and Skip Henderson were there, but there was no sign of Pops Barnes, Mike Baker, Gary Allen, Bruce Huff or Red McDaniel.

The problem with that is that for council to take any action, there must be a quorum of at least six members present.

At about 5:45, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson finally gaveled the meeting to order and said they would proceed with those items that didn't require a vote -- things like the invocation, Pledge of Allegiance and a report from the local legislative delegation, freshly returned from the Gold Dome.

Finally Barnes straggled in, followed a while later by Huff, so council was able to take action.

And they proceeded to take votes on two key issues: two-way traffic downtown and whether or not there will be a restroom anywhere near the Frank Martin Bridge.

Yes, they voted, but both votes were inconclusive, so the items will have to be brought back in April.

Pops and Bruce might as well have stayed home.

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