Thursday, September 17, 2009

When in Rome...soaking up Albany, Georgia #1: The Jet Dragster

They say, when in Rome you've got to do as the Romans do. I think we miss out on a lot of life's richness when we don't do that.

Actually, when I toured Rome, Italy with my wife a few years ago, I ate some things I wouldn't step on at home. They turned out to be delicious, of course. I managed to put quite a few pounds of culture on these Georgia bones while I was over there.

It turns out you can get cultured right here in Albany, Georgia if you stop and look hard enough. Some culture won't even cost you any poundage.

I intend to post some things every now and then showing things that make the Albany, Georgia area unique to highlight our local culture. Someone once told me marketing is all about differentiation, i.e. promoting what makes you different than everybody else. Here's my first stab at it:

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me and my son to join him and his son at the Albany Dragstrip. Although I've lived in Albany for 30+ years of my life, I had never been.

It was quite an experience, especially considering it was only $10 per adult and free for children.

We saw/felt a jet car 30' away do the 1/8 mile @ 209 mph in 3.77 seconds. A video is below.

They don't do that in Rome...

What is up with these 7 year criminal background searches?

I read something interesting from the FOX 31 website the other day regarding the ASU professor who was arrested for an alleged sexual assault. Fox 31 reported that ASU issued a statement that says something to the effect of "that in accordance with the Albany State University and the Georgia Board of Regents policies, an employment history background check is run on all applicants for a minimum of seven years." That is verbatim from FOX 31, and not necessarily verbatim from ASU.

As you may recall, it was a 7 year background check that failed to reveal Don Buie's prior conviction. FOX 31 News reported that this ASU professor who was arrested has two prior convictions -- one from the Atlanta area dating back to the 1980's for the solicitation of sodomy, but it was given first offender treatment. The most recent conviction was in Virginia in 2001, a misdemeanor for sexual battery.

Does anybody out there have a copy of the Georgia Board of Regents policy pertaining to background checks?

I am still trying to get a handle on exactly how far back the city should be going in doing its background checks...other than the obvious "as far as it can."

The Heritage House $16 Million Grant Application

I have had some inquiries about the Heritage House $16 million Grant Application.  I want you to know that I asked staff many questions during the city work session about any potential liability the city would have should this thing go south.  Here's what I was told by the director of the City of Albany's Community and Economic Development (or the "CED", a department of the city).

So far, the CED has only assisted the applicant with applying for the grant.  Staff time has been spent on that.  The applicant could not submit the application without CED approval due to the nature of this particular grant.

FYI, the city finance director tells me that CED funding comes 100% from outside sources like the state and federal government.  It is a 100% grant-funded city department.  It's budget has shrunk from $3.5 million in 2007/2008 to just over $2 million today. 

The CED director also told me that if the Heritage House grant were approved, a percentage of the grant would be paid to the CED to be sure the grant receipient complied with HUD regulations.  To secure that compliance, the CED would hold a second lien on the property.  I was told neither the CED or the city would be on the hook for any grant money.

Although it sounds like there MIGHT be no harm in the CED assisting with the grant application, I received some information about the architect and the property owner today that really concerns me.  Below is the email I just sent to staff and my fellow commissioners regarding this issue:
From: Bob Langstaff, Jr. []

Sent: Thu 9/17/2009 5:02 PM

To: Howard, Jon;; Hubbard, Dorothy; Gurr, Morris; Marietta, Roger; Postell, Tommie; Adams Jr., Willie; Lott, Alfred; Taylor, James

Subject: Heritage House grant project


Several commissioners expressed concern about the above grant project at the least board meeting. I received some information that concerned me. Before staff spends anymore time with the project I request that some due diligence be conducted into the backgrounds and experience of the architect, the owner, and the holding company (“Greenbriar Holdings”???).

Attached are some downloads of fi.fa’s. against a Mr. Rivers and/or a Mr. Comeau in Muscogee County. I pulled these up in just a few minutes. There may be others. I just think there should be some further inquiry before too much staff time is invested. Thanks.


My contact info

An Albany citizen called me today to get some information, and to thank me for the information published on this blog. However, she pointed out that my contact information is not readily apparent. Good point.

I can be reached by phone at 229-343-7617.

I can be emailed at

Arthur Williams/Chris Pike Elections Challenges

I have received a few calls about the Arthur Williams and Chris Pike Election challenges. For those who are interested, the election board will consider the challenges on Monday, September 21, 2009 at 4:00pm and 4:30pm in Rm 120 of the Government Center located at 222 Pine Avenue, Albany, GA.

My understanding is that Arthur Williams' challenge against Chris Pike will be heard at 4:00pm, and Lon McNeil's challenge against Arthur Williams will be heard at 4:30pm.

I do not really understand Arthur Williams' challenge against Chris Pike. My understanding is that Chris Pike qualified before the deadline passed.

With respect to Lon McNeil's challenge against Chris Pike, the challenge centers around a law passed many years ago. I believe it was sponsored by Albany's own Doug Everett who now serves on the Georgia Public Service Commission. The point of the law was to prevent those who don't pay their taxes from holding public office. Who can argue with that?