2006-12-31

Copper thefts

There has been a whole lot of copper stolen this year in Athens. Here are some recent examples reported by the ACCPD:

  • Oct. 18 or 19: $1000 worth of copper pipes stolen from a house under construction by White Oak Homes on Idlewilde Drive.
  • Between Oct. 31 and Nov. 29: $7500 worth of copper wiring stolen from a location on Danielsville Road.
  • Dec. 4: A man on Epps Bridge Parkway saw three individuals taking copper wire from a wooded area on his uncle's adjacent property. He blocked their vehicle with his, and they were charged with attempted theft by taking and criminal trespass.
  • Between Dec. 12 and 13: $900 worth of copper wiring was taken out of three apartments at the Oakwood Forest complex on Fourth Street (along with seven air conditioning units from another location on the property). A suspect's vehicle was identified.
  • Dec. 13 or 14: $2300 worth of copper wiring was stolen from a house under construction on Bridgewater Circle.
  • Between Dec. 16 and 17: Eight houses under construction by Starr Home Builders on Katydid Drive and Bridgewater Way were burgled of $2800 worth of copper wire.
  • Between Dec. 12 and 26: An Altarstone Drive property had copper pipe stolen along with a refrigerator, carpeting, and two air conditioning units, a total value of $3130.

2006-12-05

Davison and Girtz at the 8E's Lounge

This is the first time I voted for a mayoral candidate who won. Heidi Davison thanked her supporters and pledged to do her best again for the next four years.

Heidi Davison

Kelly Girtz had to miss his opening day of commissioner training because that was today and he wasn't elected until today. The state is used to having partisan county commission elections that get decided by the general election.

Kelly Girtz

He thanked his supporters for electing him commissioner in District 9 and encouraged everyone to stay involved with their community.

2006-12-01

Funeral for habeas corpus

Funeral for habeas corpus

Just after noon at the Tate Center Plaza the Campus Greens began a funeral march for the writ of habeas corpus. It proceeded to the Arch with students carrying a fake coffin labeled "R.I.P. OUR FRIEND HABEAS CORPUS" and a banner that said "REPEAL THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT." They sang and chanted phrases like "Where have our rights gone?"

Funeral for habeas corpus

Computer science professor Dan Everett participated in the march wearing a black robe. Law professor Donald Wilkes joined, too, but wearing his trademark red Bulldogs tie and fedora. The campus was busy as this must have been a time for class changes. On the way up Sanford Drive, a man in a ROTC uniform said about someone, "That guy doesn't deserve freedom." I wondered aloud, "Does he even know what habeas corpus is?" A woman in the march agreed with my sentiment and said that many people will probably have to look up the term.

Funeral for habeas corpus

For those that forgot their Latin legal terms, the device of the writ of habeas corpus gives prisoners the right to be brought before a judge and have the government justify his or her imprisonment. The U.S. Constitution says that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 2. The Military Commissions Act is a brand new law that is supposed to "authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war." Military Commissions Act of 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-366, 120 Stat. 2600. This act was brought about because the Bush administration opposes the necessity of bringing a military combatant held in a place like Guantanamo Bay before a judge. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that military commissions could potentially satisfy this right to be brought before a judge, but at that point the procedures in place were inadequate under the Constitution. See Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S. Ct. 2749, 165 L. Ed. 2d 723, 74 U.S.L.W. 4579 (2006). So what is the controversy? Some believe that habeas corpus can only be satisfied through an Article III court, and others believe that the Military Commissions Act goes too far and allows the violation of international law. Most importantly, it has been explained to me that the Act actually makes habeas corpus unavailable to non-citizen combatants -- even while that status has not been finalized.

Funeral for habeas corpus

The group stayed at the Arch for a couple of minutes and then marched south to the President's Club Garden at Old College. Professor Wilkes delivered a "funeral oration" for habeas corpus, or rather a lecture about the history and importance of habeas corpus. He said that the right is a "palladium" and a "bulwark" of civil liberties. He said that he has researched this doctrine extensively, going as far as to study the original parchment bearing the English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. He went on to say that no other president has done as much to erode civil liberties as George W. Bush, and -- Wilkes is a controversial figure, mind you -- he said that Bush's gravestone will bear the epitaph "Here lies a war criminal." But he expressed optimism that the 110th Congress will curtail some of the changes that Bush has championed.

Funeral for habeas corpus

Elizabeth Bishop sang a song about preserving civil liberties to the tune of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Funeral for habeas corpus

Professor Wilkes explains habeas corpus in the Flagpole.

(Please keep your comments on this article civil and academic, and there is no need to analyze federal policy in excruciating detail.)

2006-11-25

Supermarket turnover

This is only recent history, but I was thinking about the number of grocery stores that have closed down in Athens in just the last few years, usually replaced somewhere else but still causing suburban eyesores and inconvenienced customers.

Winn-Dixie stores at the Willowood, Alps Road, and Homewood shopping centers have all closed down. The Alps Road site was replaced by a Kroger with a new building on the same spot, but this Kroger was essentially a move by the West Broad Street Kroger which closed and left space now occupied by the Omni Club gym. The Willowood area is still served by the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Lexington Road (which may have eroded Winn-Dixie's sales).

Bell's grocery near Willowood closed down and its building was demolished to make way for Lowe's Home Improvement.

Harris Teeter at Beechwood (across from the Alps Road Winn-Dixie) also closed, and although the immediate area is now just served by one store rather than three, the west side of town is now served by a new Kroger and Wal-Mart Supercenter in Oconee County on Epps Bridge Parkway.

The Bi-Lo stores were replaced by an outfit called Southern Family Markets, but they soon closed the South Milledge Avenue location. That closure leaves a gaping hole in grocery market coverage. The Homewood closure also seems to an inconvenience, according to a writer of a letter to Flagpole. I suppose this is all a result of tight margins and tight competition. Businesses must make good decisions to stay in business, but neighborhoods suffer the externalities of losing a convenient store and having a new abandoned eyesore nearby.

Our planning process should encourage the rebuilding of current shopping centers and discourage landlowners like Wal-Mart from allowing them to stay empty. Of course, Athens-Clarke is a small county, and if we say no then the grocers, retailers, and developers go to Oconee County where they say yes. But how long will Oconee County encourage this kind of growth?

2006-11-22

The Bamboo That Owns Itself

Jonathan Railey remarked about this Grady Avenue bamboo stand last week in his article on the Georgia Guidestones in Flagpole. He was speaking of "roadside oddities of peculiar origin that dont really fit with their surroundings in any conventional way," placing this bamboo in a category with the Georgia Guidestones, the Iron Horse -- and the Tree That Owns Itself.


Bamboo

So this bamboo is considered an Athens landmark. It needs a name. Maybe it should be the Bamboo That Owns Itself, or even better -- the Bamboo That Owns Its House, considering its dimensions. It's a landmark connected to an Athens institution since it is in front of a house owned by Michael Stipe (I'm not sure which one).

Perhaps it is an invasive species, but I sure would love to have some in my backyard to keep out trespassers. Invasive species are often grown intentionally but carefully tended to. I was warned not to plant English ivy, for instance, but I decided to plant it anyway and keep it cut back when it finally grows. If this bamboo was grown to give privacy it probably backfires by attracting attention. (You know, bloggers with cameras, tipped off by Flagpole writers...)

2006-11-14

Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread is the soup kitchen for the needy operated by Athens Urban Ministries at the Oconee Street United Methodist Church. For many years they have served lunch on weekdays, and nowadays they serve breakfast too. According to an article last year on Online Athens, they also now offer sack lunches on Saturdays and sack suppers on Sundays, and they don't require proof of eligibility to serve. When the guests show up for lunch they are given numbers, and numbers are called out as plates are served and seats are vacant. Members of several area churches volunteer to staff the kitchen, and it appears that their friendly efforts are much appreciated. It gets called a soup kitchen, though I haven't seen soup served there. They serve things like macaroni-and-cheese and ham, and the food looks a lot healthier than what I often eat for lunch. As you would expect, the guests are different kinds of people with different backgrounds. Some are regulars while others show up when their finances are in a pinch; some are homeless, some are not; some are jobless, some are not. Perhaps I'll learn more about the operation of this place.

2006-11-03

Lay off the narcotics

Someone tried to obtain oxycodone with a fake prescription yesterday from CVS Pharmacy at the Beechwood Shopping Center, according to Athens-Clarke County Police. This pharmacy had been alerted by another pharmacy, so they called the police when this person showed up. He was still in the pharmacy when they arrived, so he was arrested.

I used to work as a store clerk at that CVS, and I was aware that the pharmacists were on the lookout for forged prescriptions. One time a forger got away when they called the police because he or she saw them come through the front door before the pharmacist could talk to the police and identify the person.

One day I was asked to be ready to call the police on a forger, and I was to ask them to come to the back door in order to be able to surprise the suspect. We had a code prepared: The pharmacist would announce through the intercom, "Customer service on line four." Yes, just like in Chuck Palahniuk's book "Choke," there actually are secret codes given over intercoms.

Well, nothing happened that day, so I didn't get to see any action. Not needing police action in your store is a good thing, though. However, a couple of weeks later a pharmacist really did announce, "Customer service, line four." I called back there and asked if they needed help, and they said no. It turns out there really was a line four, and it really needed customer service, even though I thought there were only three lines.

I imagine it's pretty hard to get narcotics with a forged prescription. The doctor has to write some kind of Drug Enforcement Agency number on the prescription for certain drugs, so there might be a lot of clues for a pharmacist to check.

2006-09-24

We saw The Tempest

We saw "The Tempest" performed by the Town and Gown Players last night. I must say it was a piece of work. It was visually impressive in several aspects. There was a lot of action that was underscored by a lot of attention to lighting changes. There was one set with sloping surfaces, platforms, a cave, and a wicked-looking tree. There was a lot of attention to stylish costumes, and of course the spirits had colorful face paint and unitards. See the T&G photo album for an idea.

I must say, though, that I couldn't follow much because the play wasn't in English. Shakespeare wrote his plays in Elizabethan, and that's basically another language. Methinks ye yeasty rump-fed foot lickers acquainted well with Shakespeare didst follow the plot. Some of us on the front row were relieved to find out during intermission that we weren't the only idiots when we started talking about the story, and some people didn't return after intermission.

What was the music like? Glad you asked. Certain parts of the play were sung a cappella according to tunes written by Will Riley. Will explained that another major part of the adaptation was abridging it down to two acts with many characters cut out. The original play would be six hours long.

There will be four more shows Thursday through Friday, and they are two and a quarter hours long.

2006-07-29

Oconee Hill Cemetery

Whenever you read about the historic Oconee Hill Cemetery in the local newspaper or a UGA website, one glaring fact is omitted:

Visitors are not welcome.

I continue to collect the stories of encounters at the cemetery. The overseer is said to rudely confront anyone that visits, even if they have a relative buried there. He also tells them that the cemetery is "private property," despite the fact it is publicly owned.

I'm assuming that the trustees of the cemetery have the right to limit access, and I understand that their policies are driven by the need to control the horrendous level of vandalism that the place has suffered, activities which hurt families with relatives buried there and deprive our community of historic items. However, it is not a good idea to be rude to the members of your community.

This has prompted me to begin looking into the history and management of this public cemetery, a place that is a public resource and not private property. I also hope to figure out how to find the charter for the board of trustees. If anyone has any information, please share it here or send me an email.

Comments received

Dean Maddox: I, too have attempted to visit a gravesite in Oconee Hill Cemetery and was turned away by the caretaker. He wasn't rude or gruff but he did tell me that the cemetery was private and he wouldn't tell me the location of the grave I was looking for. If this really is a publicly owned cemetery, Board of Trustees or not, they must allow access to the public. The older section is in great disrepair. I understand the vandalism concern but just how many vandals do you think would ask for directions for a specific grave? If anyone knows where Coach Wally Butts, Coach Bill Hartman, and Crawford Long are, I'd be grateful. I live in Savannah but I visit the cemetery every time I'm in Athend. I just drive in and I never get a second look. I guess he thinks I know exactly what I'm looking for.

rh: I visited the Oconee Hill Cemetary recently, or should I say attempted to visit? The sexton was extremely rude and hostile. I was driving to a gravesite when he approached me and bombarded me with a million questions. I felt disrespected because his tone of voice was very threatening. I do believe the graveyard needs an attendant to watch out for any inappropriate behavior or vandalism but to harass relatives and visitors is extemely disrespectful. He had a very belittling tone and even used profanity. I will speak to the board of tustees asap. I was told that Robert E. Gibson could be contacted about these matters.

2006-07-04

Lawn Chair Brigade and elected officials on bikes

At long last, we went to check out the Independence Day parade put together by the Green Acres and Crestwood neighborhood. I finally got to see the wacky lawn chair brigade, and we were pleasantly surprised to watch States McCarter and Heidi Davison ride by on bicycles. The ABH reports that the parade ends at the neighborhood pool, so now we know why they carry lawn chairs down the street.

See the lawn chair brigade video or browse the photo album with photos of the parade.

2006-04-12

Bob Barr summary

I went to listen to Bob Barr yesterday, and I will give you a little summary of the points I took from his talk. He said there are certain important roles for international organizations but the United Nations goes much farther than necessary. He said that George H. Bush set a bad precedent when he sought UN approval for military action in the Persian Gulf since the US should seek approval for such things and that the UN shouldn't be in that role. The UN's committee that is trying to legislate on gun control was originally supposed to be temporary but has become permanent, and the UN charter doesn't authorize that sort of effort. That committee's goals, of course, conflict with American principles on civil liberties concerning how the Second Amendment rights give tangible expression to our rights to own property and ideas plus our right to privacy. Barr mentioned Ayn Rand's idea that the basis for civilization is in property, and he said that John Bolton caused quite a stir when he told the UN that the US believes that gun ownership is a civil liberty and is not interested in their gun control goals.

He argued that the UN is stating its gun control goal is really to stop illicit arms trade but that there are more sensible ways of doing so. A major way to hurt that trade would be to have member countries enact strict controls on exports and imports, the kinds that the US
uses, but the members are not interested in doing so, especially since China and eastern European countries are the ones supplying arms to rogue regimes. Those regimes are not using US weapons. Furthermore, the kinds of problems that come up in rogue regimes are caused by the disarming of the populations in the first place.

I asked him what kinds of trends he sees in our own Second Amendment policy because how we react to the United Nations will certainly depend on our own policy at the time. He said that he sees more and more ignorance about Second Amendment issues, especially among young people, a trend that is related to the increasing urbanization and suburbanization in our country. He also sees more and more disinterest among members of Congress in learning about the issues. He also said that a hot topic now is legislation that began in Oklahoma prohibiting employers from banning guns from their employees' cars in publicly accessible parking lots. A proposal like that came up in the Georgia General Assembly this year but it was wisely tabled so that an improved proposal can be made again.

2006-01-07

Election year stunt, or good policy?

If you’ve been following the Banana-Herald and the traffic on some of the other local political blogs, you’ve probably seen the news about Mayor Heidi Davison and the new local poverty task force. The ABH implies that the Mayor’s sudden devotion to ameliorating poverty may just be an election year stunt. Over at AthPo, I’ve been sitting on this story for about a day, thinking things over.

For what it’s worth, I’ve seen plenty of elected officials pulling out election year stunts, but this seems a little different. And, call me naïve, but I’m not ready to call shenanigans on Heidi just yet.

Say what you will about her, Heidi is a dedicated public servant, and her heart’s in the right place. She ran for and won the Mayor’s race in 2002 with a passion for making Athens a better place and a vision for what Athens could be. We don’t agree with a lot of the positions she’s taken, most notably on rental registration, the smoking ban, the downtown Big Brother cameras, and funding local mass transit, but we would also point out that there’s not much else you can do sometimes when your Commission is dominated by the likes of States McCarter, Tom Chasteen, and a handful of other like-minded souls.

Besides, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, politically speaking, to tackle poverty in an election year. Any discussion of poverty in Athens is going to eventually lead to a discussion on racial issues as well, given the fact that the vast majority of impoverished people in Athens are not white. While lots of us would like to see a frank, open, and long overdue discussion about race in Clarke County, none of us are running for anything.

Another factor to consider is timing. It would be pretty difficult to get the timing right on using something like this to help Heidi out in a run for re-election. The poverty task force toothpaste is out of the tube, but if she hypothetically announces a run for re-election too soon, then everybody and their impoverished brother will call shenanigans. Announce too late, and everyone’s forgotten about the task force anyway.

I’d like to suggest that the announcement of the poverty task force is just motivated by realism. Assuming that poverty has been a priority for the Mayor all along (I suspect it has been), is it so far outside the pale to think that it might have taken three years to get something like this set up?

The worst kept political secret in Athens is this:

When it comes to anything outside of downtown, Five Points, or Boulevard, very few local leaders on the Commission or the Chamber give a fat rat’s ass. (Remember the North Athens Fire Station?) That explains the glacial pace at which the local business community and most of the local government deals with issues outside the upper middle class neighborhoods. It might also explain why it’s taken three years of her term for Heidi to get the ball rolling.