Birney Imes: Honeybees and politicians

April 26, 2009

Birney Imes - birney@cdispatch.com

 

It was an urban sound, a distant clanging coming from the direction of the port. But standing in the backyard on a recent morning, tea in hand watching the bees begin their day, the noise caused me to flash back to a morning seven or eight years ago in Manhattan''s Flower District. 

 

In this concentration of retail and wholesale flower shops around Sixth Avenue in the upper 20s, plants of all shapes, colors and sizes line the sidewalks and hang from wire frames overhead. Pedestrians in this part of town walk through fragrant tunnels of just watered flowers. A beautiful, colorful and unexpected oasis in a sea of mayhem.  

 

The morning fairly sparkled -- I''m not sure what time of year it was; maybe the fall. It was cool. All around, you could hear voices conducting business in a less frantic tempo than in other parts of the city. Like me and my bees on the morning in question, we were subdued by Mother Nature''s glories. 

 

It is the busy season for bees. Flowers are blooming and there is nectar to be collected. Once the day warms and the sun hits the hives, they are off to points unknown; it''s all business. MUW President Claudia Limbert claims to have been visited by my girls in her garden six blocks away. Girls only, mind you. The boys (drones) aren''t good for much other than mating, and if so blessed with the opportunity, die promptly afterward. Otherwise the drones hang around the hive gossiping and eating, while the girls do all the work. Women, for some reason, smile knowingly upon learning that bit of beekeeping lore. 

 

Over the weekend Elaine Hegwood called to say she had spotted a swarm of bees attached to the face of a tombstone. Elaine was among a group of volunteers cleaning up Friendship Cemetery on Saturday. On Sunday I found the bees huddled on the grave of Jacob Swoope Moore (b. Oct. 10, 1870, d. Dec. 21, 1910). Wonder what happened to Mr. Moore in his 40th year? No doubt he would have enjoyed the idea of someone scraping bees off his tombstone in the pouring rain a century later. 

 

As I write this, Jacob''s bees are busy making honey. Perhaps I should leave a jar on his grave. Incidentally, honey -- still edible honey -- has been found in the tombs of the pharaohs. 

 

Monday evening a swarm of candidates for the upcoming city elections gathered at the Municipal Complex for a forum. Much of what they had to say was predictable: The incumbents touted their experience and the challengers made arguments for change. 

 

Ward 2 incumbent Susan Mackay was impressive. It''s been awhile since I''ve seen Susan in action, but Monday night she was poised, knowledgeable and well spoken. Many of the candidates cited drainage as our most chronic problem. Sixty to 80 million dollars to correct, Mackay said. "It''s going to take a bond issue." 

 

Ward 3 aspirant Charlie Box was also well-spoken and self-assured. In his previous gig as YMCA director, Box was an innovative and energetic consensus builder. He offers a formidable threat to incumbent Gene Coleman, who when talking about his qualifications said something I wish more politicians would ascribe to. "This is not an ''I'' job," Coleman said. Hear, hear. 

 

Most of the candidates wallowed around when asked if they would support a smoking ban: "I don''t smoke, but ...," they would begin. Brother. To their credit, Box, Mackay and Joseph Mickens, who is challenging Mackay, were forthright in their support for a smoking ban. Secondhand smoke is as bad as firsthand smoke, Mickens said. 

 

Kabir Karriem, who is angling for Jay Jordan''s Ward 5 seat, was the only candidate to go on the attack. "Ward 5 has suffered with neglect," he said. Karriem, former radio talk show host and Leroy Brooks protégé, accused Jordan of being inaccessible. "You need a councilman you can put your hands on," Karriem said. 

 

"More streets have been paved in Ward 5 than any other," Jordan countered later. 

 

Ward 6 challenger Bill Gavin offered a rare breath of fresh air. A businessman with 32 years of teaching experience, Gavin was the only candidate to speak about vision. He''s taking on incumbent Jerry Kendall. 

 

"Sorry people, it''s all about quality of life," Gavin said, referring to Severstal and Paccar employees who have chosen to live in Starkville. "Most of our problems can be cured by one thing: money," he said. "We''ve got to look for innovative ways to bring money into this community." 

 

"I believe in Columbus," Gavin ended. 

 

Yes, drainage is important. So is annexation. So is making our streets safe (and pothole free). But the main thing -- and those infrastructure items play into it -- is making this a place where people who have a choice want to live. 

 

You make Columbus a place where intelligent, innovative people want to live, and the honey will follow. 

 

Write or phone Birney Imes at The Commercial Dispatch, 516 Main St., Columbus, MS 39701, 328-2424, or e-mail him at birney@cdispatch.com.

Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.