November 2003 Archives

One of the irksome things about the Council's discussion of the zoning protest process -- the ability of neighboring property owners to force a Council supermajority requirement to enact a zoning change -- is the insistence that the law is vague or unclear, which was unfortunate for the neighbors, but them's the breaks. Part of the confusion claim regards the deadline by which petitions must be submitted for consideration -- three days before the planning commission hearing, or three days before the City Council hearing. There's talk of rewriting the ordinance to clarify the issue.

This is a crucial issue, because in their evaluation of the petitions submitted in the F&M Bank / 71st & Harvard protest, INCOG planning staff rejected anything submitted after three days before the planning commission hearing. The neighborhood submitted amended petitions at least three days prior to the City Council hearing.

Here is a reading comprehension test.

Below is the text of Title 42, Section 1703, paragraph E of Tulsa Revised Ordinances. (To read it in it's full context, click here.)

E. City Council Action on Zoning Map Amendments. The City Council shall hold a hearing on each application transmitted from the Planning Commission and on any proposed Zoning Map amendment initiated pursuant to Subsection 1703. B. The City Council shall approve the application as submitted, or as amended, or approve the application subject to modification, or deny the application. Prior to the hearing on the proposed rezoning ordinance before the City Council, the applicant shall remit to the office of the City Clerk a publication fee, said fee to be in accordance with the schedule of fees adopted by resolution of the City Council of the City of Tulsa. In case of a protest against such zoning change filed at least three days prior to said public hearing by the owners of 20% or more of the area of the lots included in such proposed change, or by the owners of 50% or more of the area of the lots within a 300' radius of the exterior boundary of the territory included in a proposed change such amendment shall not become effective except by the favorable vote of three-fourths of all the members of the City Council. Ord. Nos. 17689, 18465, 18641

Here is your comprehension question: The phrase "said public hearing" refers to which public hearing?

A. The Spanish Inquisition.

B. Lee Harvey Oswald's arraignment.

C. The hearing of the zoning case by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, in accordance with precedents from Minnesota, Tannu Tuva, and the court of Captain Kangaroo.

D. The hearing of the zoning case by the City Council

30 seconds.... Time's up!

Here's how to score your answer:

If you said A, B, or C, congratulations!!! You have the necessary mental agility to serve in the City Attorney's office! When confronted with a legal situation that may inconvenience a politically-connected business, you need creativity to make that inconvenience go away! It takes imagination to read into the text ideas that aren't really there. Good work!

If you said D, so sorry! You are a legal literalist. You are cursed with the ability to see things as they really are. You naively believe that words mean things. Pathetic, really.

This news is from early last week, but in the interest of completeness, here it is. The Mayor has named two oversight committees, with more to come. The first committee is for oversight of all Vision 2025 projects that will be built and managed by the City of Tulsa. The second committee is specifically to oversee the design and construction of the new arena. You can follow the link, but here's the list for your convenience:

Vision 2025 Oversight Committee
Charles Hardt, Tulsa Public Works director

Steve Sewell, Tulsa deputy mayor

Mike Buchert, Tulsa Public Works assistant director

David Patrick, Tulsa City Council chairman

Mike Kier, Finance director

Willie George, pastor of Church on the Move

Karen Keith, Tulsa Mayor's Office

Charles Norman, Norman, Wohlgemuth, Chandler & Dowdell law firm

Rex Ball, retired Tulsa architect

Larry Silvey, retired, OU Tulsa

Bob Smith, Poe & Associates.

Events Center Design Committee

Karen Keith, Mayor's Office

Joan Seay, TulsaNow

Wayman Tisdale, Tisway Productions

Suzann Stewart, Tulsa Metro Chamber Convention and Visitor's Bureau

John Scott, Performing Arts Center & Maxwell Convention Center

Linda Frazier, Tulsa Arts Commission

Tulsa City Councilor Tom Baker.

Some positive elements: I'm very glad to see two TulsaNow leaders on each committee. Larry Silvey, Rex Ball, Linda Frazier, and Joan Seay will add some fresh thinking and will challenge conventional wisdom. (Last year, Joan led a group which researched best downtown revitalization practices in other cities. Linda Frazier was also a part of that group. You can read their report here.)

Much trumpeting about Boeing's announcement that, if Boeing decides to build the 7E7, their Tulsa facility will get work building leading edge parts for wings, creating about 500 jobs. (Here's the Whirled's front page, story continued here.)

It's good news, if it happens, although a key qualification lurks at the end of the story:

Asked if Boeing's commitment to Tulsa meant the 7E7 was a "go," [Boeing spokesman Lori] Gunter said such an assumption was "premature."

"These are the decisions that have been made," Gunter said. "The board will look at the market interest and the business case we have. There are still a lot of decisions to be made about the airplane. It's too early."

The story reports that elected officials are claiming that this is another positive result of the Vision 2025 tax, which goes into effect January 1. At the same time, they say that the $350 million incentive package that was on the Vision 2025 ballot is only for the final assembly facility, if we get it. Still, officials are quoted as saying that Tulsa's willingness to tax themselves is why Boeing is bringing the jobs here.

I'm assuming that Boeing makes rational business decisions based on maximizing shareholder value, not based on sentimental reasons. Steve Hendrickson, a local Boeing exec, gave these reasons for the work coming to Tulsa:

"We do comparable work here in Tulsa on the (Boeing) 737, 777 and 747," Hendrickson said. "We got this work because of our hard-working and talented employees, the quality of the work we do on existing programs and the affordability" of Tulsa-produced components, he said.

Good workers, relatively low wages, and experience in working on comparable components. Nothing about financial incentives.

The only way the Vision 2025 tax would have influenced Boeing's decision is if Boeing had some assurances that some of that money would come their way.
And in fact, it could.

Web world roundup


The CounterRevolutionary features New York Times articles saying that America is losing the peace, occupation is failing, and the enemy didn't have the weapons we thought they did. Of course, these articles are from 1945 and they're about Germany. Interesting reading -- start here and keep scrolling down. (Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

Little Green Footballs linked this story of Palestinian family life a few days ago:

Rofayda Qaoud - raped by her brothers and impregnated - refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the unwed teenager a razor with which to slit her wrists. So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder. ...

Killing her sixth-born child took 20 minutes, Qaoud tells a visitor through a stream of tears and cigarettes that she smokes in rapid succession. "She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."

And in India, the Scotsman reports that affluent urban families are adopting what was once mainly a practice among poor rural families: female feticide and infanticide.

A new report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has revealed that the practice of female foeticide, in which an unborn baby is aborted or killed at birth simply because it is not a boy, is now spreading from India's poor and rural classes to affluent urban families.

The report said that far from helping women win equality, increased affluence had brought little change, and that sex discrimination had in fact spread through all levels of Indian society. And it is estimated there are between three and five million girl babies, born or unborn, "disappearing" each year.

India has a shocking history of child-killing due to gender, but the tradition has largely been among the uneducated and rural classes. However, the new figures reveal that the sharpest fall in the number of female babies being born is now in Delhi. ...

The methods used in the past to get rid of unborn or newborn girls have been varied and shocking. Opium has been used as well as over-salted milk, which causes a slow and painful death in a baby. Midwives have also been known to hit newborn girls over the head or throttle them.

Anyone care to argue that all cultures are morally equivalent?

Councilor Randy Sullivan was in the news recently in connection with the 71st & Harvard rezoning. He made the paper again yesterday, over a zoning change that he opposed earlier this year, an opposition that had costly consequences for a new private school. His bizarre behavior in this case raises serious questions about his fitness for office.

Sullivan, who represents near south Tulsa, was one of those who led the charge for the controversial rezoning of 71st & Harvard. He was a major recipient of funds from F&M bank officers and won an early endorsement from the Whirled, which is owned by the chairman of F&M, Robert Lorton. At the October 30th council meeting, at which the neighborhood's protest petition was discussed, he voted to cut off debate before the shenanigans of INCOG and the City Attorney's office could be fully aired. Then he voted to invalidate the neighborhood's petition, even though it met every legitimate legal test. He took several opportunities to carp at his colleague Chris Medlock without adding anything substantive to the discussion. He also made some bizarre comments about being under a tub. Finally, he voted for the rezoning, in violation of the Comprehensive Plan.

I first met Randy Sullivan when we appeared as City Council candidates to speak to a Republican club. I asked him why he decided to run for Council, and his answer shaped my opinion of him, and that initial impression has been confirmed time and again. He told me that he and former Councilor (and prominent Chamber Pot) John Benjamin had been lounging in a hot tub while on a skiing vacation in Colorado (Aspen, if I remember correctly), and Benjamin encouraged him to run. Initially, he planned to run against Todd Huston, but then found out that Todd Huston wasn't his councilor, so he switched to run for the seat being vacated by Clay Bird. That gives you an idea of how engaged and concerned he was about city issues before plunging into politics.

As I said, there was a situation a few months ago when Mr. Sullivan actively fought against a very minor land use change. This case pitted him against the formidable Charles Norman, the man who wrote Tulsa's zoning code as City Attorney. Sullivan persisted in his lonely crusade against the change, despite the absence of objections from anyone else, baffling long-time observers of zoning issues.

The best paper airplane


Every semester, grade school students at Regent Preparatory School do a semester project. Students pick a subject that interests them, do some sort of activity related to that interest, and then put together a visual presentation about what they did.

Joseph is doing his first project this year, and he chose paper airplanes for his topic. When I was in Savannah, I found a great book called Amazing Paper Planes, by Edward Hui, and brought it home as a gift for Joe. A couple of weekends ago we built and tested most of the patterns in the book, all of which can be made from a single sheet of paper, and most of which require no cutting or taping. The book includes explanations of the aerodynamics of paper planes, and, crucially, how to diagnose problems with a plane's flight and make appropriate adjustments.

The star performer was the paperang, a craft that looks more like a hang glider than a traditional paper dart. Released (not thrown) from about 6 feet, the plane swoops down then glides along inches above the floor before coming to a landing. It can do some fancy flying when launched like a boomerang.

The author now has a website devoted to the paperang design, where you can view instructions and construction photos. For a fee you can download a printable version. All you need is a sheet of paper, a pair of scissors, and a stapler -- one staple in the middle to hold it together.

UPDATE 1/3/2006: Corrected author's name.

Hard drive crash


Bloghosts had a hard drive crash about 3 a.m. this morning just a few hours after I submitted a couple of lengthy entries, representing a lot of work. I am hopeful that at least a couple of you out there visited the blog between that last submission and the server crash and either saved the entry or still have it in the cache of your browser. I'm looking for anything more recent than "Council to punt?" -- e-mail it to blog at batesline dot com.

To see if you have the entries in your cache, try these addresses:

If it comes up with a page, instead of a 404 error, you've got one of the lost entries.


UPDATE: Found two of the entries in cache and have reposted them, and should be able to reconstruct the third soon.

Council to punt?


I hear that, rather than propose reforms and clarifications to the zoning protest process, councilors are lining up to punt the whole issue back to the TMAPC. The proposal will be on the agenda Thursday night. The proposal would direct the city clerk's office to provide packets of information about the rules for filing a zoning protest as they have been applied, and then would ask TMAPC to study amending the process, and report back to the Council when they're good and ready -- no deadline. And to give the issue back to the TMAPC? The TMAPC is stacked with people who want to be sure that a protest can never succeed.

Clearly, most of the Council wish this issue would go away. They hate having to choose between the big donors who fund their campaigns and the people who vote for them. Punting the issue back to TMAPC would give these councilors some political cover with their constitutents, without them having to do anything that would actually help their constituents. They're hoping the TMAPC doesn't report back until after the next election, if ever.

Let's show up Thursday night and hold their feet to the fire. Let them know that a vote for punting to the TMAPC is one more vote against fairness, against homeowners, against neighborhoods.

The neighbors are restless


Monday night's meeting of neighborhood leaders was a great success. I'm only getting time now to write about it. I had to leave the meeting early to get to a Coventry Chorale rehearsal (our concert is Friday night at 7:30), then home to do bills, get a bit of sleep, then work (including a work meeting), a TulsaNow leadership meeting, and the Midtown Coalition meeting. Then some family business to take care of, and now finally a minute or two to blog before I pitch forward and fall asleep with the laptop as a pillow.

About 130 people from about 40 neighborhood associations gathered Monday night to discuss the 71st and Harvard / F&M Bank rezoning case, the hear about the legal process ahead, and to consider what can be done politically to address the way homeowners have been mistreated, not only in this case, but in countless zoning cases over the years.

Among the crowd were two current councilors (Medlock and Christiansen), two former councilors (Turner and Huston), and several potential candidates for council, including John Eagleton, who will be running for District 7, whether Randy Sullivan runs again or not, and Roscoe Turner, who will be running to recapture District 3 from David Patrick.

It was said several times that the anger over this issue is not about losing a zoning case, disappointing as that was, but over the illegal lengths to which officials went in order to disqualify the neighborhood's protest, stripping them of an important legal protection against arbitrary rezoning. I'm sure the councilors who supported this and the Mayor felt that the anger would soon subside and the issue would be forgotten. The fundamental unfairness of the process, and the unwillingness of most of the councilors and the Mayor to stand up for fairness won't soon be forgotten.

A leader from the 71st & Harvard area made one of the best points of the evening -- if this is the way zoning laws are enforced, we'd be better off without them. They provide only the illusion of protection to property owners.

I spoke for a few minutes about the political situation. There's no point in having rules unless you have honest, fair, and just rulers to enforce them. We need councilors who won't pass the buck. I called attention to the Chamber's infill report, and their radical plan to remake Midtown Tulsa, without regard for the people who have already invested in homes and businesses in their targeted areas. Zoning and planning were the stealth issues in the 2002 council campaign, with councilors and candidates targeted for defeat for being concerned with the impact of zoning changes on neighborhoods. In 2004 we can make these issues front and center. I warned the audience to expect fair and honest candidates to be trashed by the Whirled -- expect it and take it with a grain of salt. The Whirled will trash these people because of their positions on development and neighborhoods, but the Whirled will find was to marginalize them without raising these issues. I called for neighborhood leaders to find good candidates and support them with money and time.

After I finished and headed back to my seat, someone argued that the real problem is not with the Council, but with the TMAPC, and we need to work with the Council to bring about reform. I replied that if the current bunch undertakes reform we won't be happy with the results, and that we need to clean house first.

Councilor Medlock spoke of efforts to clarify the ambiguities in the zoning protest process. He was hopeful that even councilors who opposed the neighborhoods on this issue would support a modest reform to set out more clearly the standard a protest must meet. Medlock was praised by several of the speakers for his leadership on this issue.

I'm told that at the end of the meeting there was great support for moving ahead with legal action against the City and for taking political action. Several people commented about how hopeful the meeting made them feel. Me too.

Neighborhood leaders from across the city are meeting tonight (November 17), 7 p.m. at the Embers Restaurant, 81st & Harvard. The meeting is to discuss the 71st & Harvard rezoning case. Attorney Louis Bullock, who may be handling a lawsuit on behalf of the neighborhood, will be present. We'll also be talking about political strategy -- how to replace the buck-passing councilors who approved this with more fair and thoughtful Tulsans on the City Council.

Even if you aren't particularly interested in the 71st & Harvard case, the issues at stake -- how we do planning and zoning in Tulsa -- affects homeowners in every part of the city. You can make a difference. Please join us tonight.

Taxing de-light


We told you so, but the Whirled affirms it this morning (jump page is here). The increase in sales taxes to pay for "Vision 2025" will apply to gas and electric bills as well as retail sales. Municipal sales taxes have applied to gas and electric for some time, but state legislation this year clarified that county sales taxes apply too.

Oddly, the Whirled story suggests that the extra $32 million raised by the tax on utilities wouldn't have to go into the Vision 2025 pot, but instead could be applied to the operating deficit of the county jail.

This is the second extra tax increase tied to Vision 2025. Back in October, the County Commissioners approved a use tax increase to correspond to the sales tax increase approved by voters. The use tax increase applies to items purchased out of state and brought into Oklahoma, but it's only enforced against businesses.

On Thursday Mayor Bill LaFortune approved the rezoning of 71st & Harvard for F&M Bank. Although the Mayor was in town Thursday, his deputy Steve Sewell signed the ordinance in his stead. One City Hall observer who contacted me noted that there's an emerging pattern of the Mayor delegating the approval of controversial items -- the Mayor had Sewell sign off on giving a big chunk of taxpayer money to the Tulsa Metro Chamber for "economic development" activities during the Vision 2025 campaign, bypassing the Economic Development Commission.

Whether that's true or not, both the Mayor and the majority on the Council have engaged in buck-passing on this issue. Councilor Tom Baker told a gathering of neighborhood leaders that it wasn't his place to question the judgment of the City Attorney's office and INCOG planning staff. And now the Mayor is saying it's not his place to scrutinize the decision made by the City Council.

To which I say, why the heck did you bother running for office? We elect a City Council to act in part as a check on the unelected bureaucracy and on the Mayor's office. Councilor Baker, did you think that being a City Councilor was just a nice way to get some supplemental retirement income and health coverage for your declining years? Do you resent spending time studying and debating these important issues? Is that why you voted to cut off debate before any significant discussion had taken place?

And Mr. Mayor, where does the buck stop in your administration? Yes, it would be unprecedented for a Mayor to veto a zoning ordinance, but given the unprecedented amount of controversy, didn't you owe your constituents the courtesy of examining the issue independently? Shouldn't you be looking into questionable behavior by your legal department, which threw out a lawful protest petition? And with the threat of a major lawsuit looming, shouldn't you at least give the protestors a hearing? And if you're going to approve it, why not sign the thing yourself?

The property owners protesting the rezoning are planning an appeal, not only for their case but for the sake of homeowners across the City who have been mistreated time and again by the zoning process. Neighborhood leaders from across the city are invited to attend a meeting this Monday night, 7 p.m. at the Embers Restaurant, 81st & Harvard. Attorney Louis Bullock, who may be taking the case for the neighborhood, will be present. The meeting will not only cover the legal process, but will focus on political strategy, because the legal problem could have been avoided with more fair and thoughtful Tulsans on the City Council.

Too many of our councilors seem to be time-servers and buck-passers: Their mantra is "Don't rock the boat, do what the big shots tell us to do, don't think any original thoughts." Follow that path, and they can get the campaign contributions to keep drawing salary and benefits without having to break a sweat or strain the brain. We need to re-elect hardworking thoughtful councilors like Medlock, Roop, and Christiansen, and elect more like them to replace the councilors who just want to be bumps on a log.

Vision 2025 bonds to be issued


Saturday's Whirled has a story (starts here, continued here), about the Tulsa County Industrial Authority issuing about $240 million (possibly as high as $275 million) in revenue bonds, borrowing against the additional 13 year sales tax Tulsa County will begin collecting on January 1. According to the story, nearly every Vision 2025 project will receive partial funding. Receiving full funding: parks, community centers, trails, and infrastructure for the American Indian Cultural Center and the Owasso Medical Complex, higher ed projects (except Langston), Morton Health Center. Other projects, including the convention center and arena, will receive partial funding for engineering studies, architectural work, and site acquisition.

The Oklahoma Aquarium "project" is the one item that will be pay as you go, since that project is really just paying down that facilities debt.

Meanwhile, it appears that actual river development is still years away:

The Arkansas River projects are on hold until the results of a first-phase river study, overseen by the Indian Nations Council of Governments, is complete in May.

Jerry Lasker, executive director of INCOG, said the first phase will determine the location of the low-water dams and identify development areas.

The second phase of the river study is due in May 2005 and will provide more details on the course of riverfront development.

World (not the Whirled) has a blog


World Magazine -- the news-weekly that covers world news with wit and insight from a Biblical worldview -- started a blog about a week ago. The effort is headed by Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky. World had previously introduced a regular "BlogWatch" column, reporting on the blogosphere.

In introducing the blog, World makes the point that many of the main voices in the blogosphere are either left-leaning or libertarian, so in coming from a socially conservative perspective they'll be filling a niche.

They appear to be using Movable Type, which is good, and unlike most corporate media blogs, they have comments open -- we'll see how long that lasts.

(I have considered opening comments on this site, but I don't have the time to play comments policeman. Instead, I encourage discussions about Tulsa issues to head over to the forums at

One of the items they cover that escaped my notice: Planned Parenthood has had trouble finding a general contractor for their new building in Austin. They got the story from WSJ's James Taranto's Best of the Web, but World linked to the current day's column, rather than to the permalink containing the story of interest. A common beginner's mistake.

My only gripe is that this appears to be a group blog, but there is no indication of authorship on the entries. Part of the fun of other group blogs, like National Review's The Corner and the Dallas Morning News editorial board blog, is the give and take between different perspectives. Hopefully we'll see some of that on World's blog as well.

Speaking of the Dallas Morning News blog, editorial board member Rod Dreher, formerly of National Review, is going on vacation, and Ann Coulter is taking his place as guest blogger. Should be worth watching.

Just to be clear, World Magazine has no connection with the Tulsa Whirled, and they don't share the Whirled editorial boards whirledview at all.

Dyn-o-mite on the right


Had no idea comedian Jimmy Walker (JJ on "Good Times") was a conservative, but here he is, defending Rush Limbaugh's comments about Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb and citing other examples of racial politics in the NFL.

And here's a page of opinions on his website about the death penalty, the state of stand-up comedy, Trent Lott, reparations. Elsewhere on the site, it mentions that he's been hosting talk radio shows alongside his stand up work. Interesting.

Presidential fundraising maps


Andrew Sullivan links to this fascinating map, showing the balance of contributions to Republican and Democrat presidential candidates by three-digit zip code region. You can also look at the same data by state and by county and see for each candidate where their money is coming from -- just use the pulldown menu to change candidates. Elsewhere on the site are rankings showing who's pulling money from the grassroots and the fat cats. Bush draws well from both grassroots -- measured by the number of small donations -- and fatcats. Lieberman and Kerry have the wealthiest donors on average.

So far most of the money donated from Oklahoma is going to Democrats, particularly Lieberman, Dean, and Edwards.

Lileks is unimpressed with the World's Greatest Deliberative BodyTM:

The spleen, she hurts. I think it had to do with listening to the Senate debate, if that word applies, and wondering: are they always this banal? This condescending? Are bloviating prevarications the rule rather than the exception? In short: is the world’s greatest deliberative body really filled with this many dim bulbs, card sharps and overstroked dolts who confuse a leaden pause with great rhetoric? If everyone in America had been tied to a chair and forced to watch the debate Clockwork-Orange style, we’d all realize that the Senate is just a holding tank for people whose self-regard and cretinous reasoning is matched only by their demonstrable contempt for the idiots they think will lap this crap up.

Unicameral house! Two year term! One term limit!

And I thought the City Council was bad enough.

Nat Hentoff, civil libertarian and columnist for the Village Voice, is weighing in on media coverage of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. He has pronounced the media guilty of "journalistic malpractice", mischaracterizing her condition and uncritically siding with her husband, who wishes her dead. And he says that the support for her cause from disabled-rights groups has gone unreported in the mainstream media:

For 13 years, Terri Schiavo has not been able to speak for herself. But she is not brain-dead, not in a comatose state, not terminal, and not connected to a respirator. If the feeding tube is removed, she will starve to death. Whatever she may or may not have said, did she consider food and water "artificial means?"

One more bit of self indulgence and then back to real bloggage. Me at age 6 days, courtesy Mom, who brought it with her when she took me to lunch today:

Judging from the hairy legs beneath me, that would be Dad holding me, so Mom's taking the picture.

Four-Oh, continued


A dear friend and regular reader of this blog thought I needed to lighten up, so she baked me a cake, a cut-up cake just like the one I had when I turned three -- a hobby horse, complete with coconut frosting for fur and Life Savers polka dots. (Baker's Coconut published a booklet of cut-up cake plans -- very popular in the early 60s.)

The earlier entry was a bit gloomy, I suppose. Really, life is pretty good, and I have plenty of blessings to count, two of whom you see in the above photo, and another one is holding the camera.



Permit me a bit of introspection. At nearly this very moment two score years ago, I emerged from the womb, was slapped on the rump, and proceeded to empty my bladder on the obstetrician. (You try riding around for nine months without a potty break.) Some might suggest that my response to an apparent insult to my person established a pattern that continues to this day.

My fifth birthday party featured an American flag cake. The frosting on the field was so deep blue that it prompted worried calls the following morning from the mothers of my friends. One of my birthday gifts was a ride on a Santa Fe train from Bartlesville to Copan.

Taxpayer abuse down the 'pike


Charles at has notice of a rally to protest the opening of Bass Pro Shops in Oklahoma City, a facility built with $17 million in public money. Mayor Kirk Humphreys, a candidate to replace Don Nickles in the U.S. Senate, strongly supported the subsidy plan as a way to build an attraction that would bring tourists and revenue to the city.

Moshe Tal, who has sued the city over the Bass Pro Shops deal, had his canal front property -- property he planned to develop -- taken from him, ostensibly for public purposes, but later sold to another private developer.

It could happen here, and in some instances already has.

No Federal elections this year, and only a handful of governor's races on the ballot, but many cities around the nation hold their municipal elections in the fall of odd-numbered years. (A good time of year for elections, but it appears that a proposal to move Tulsa's elections to the fall won't be on the ballot anytime soon. Instead we may end up with an early January primary and campaigning during the Christmas season. Bleah.)

It's interesting to see how many of these local elections turned on questions of development and growth, dealing with the nitty-gritty of zoning codes and land-use plans. Here in Tulsa, such issues have not been a major factor in city elections, at least not in terms of open debate -- but development interests have funnelled huge amounts of campaign dollars to favored candidates, and the Tulsa Whirled has managed the trick of endorsing candidates based on their redevelopment philosophy without actually mentioning the issue on their editorial page or in their news coverage.

But elsewhere in the country these issues loomed large and were given significant coverage in the local press.

Clearing the back blog


A variety of things on the web over the last little while that you may find interesting:

Russ McGuire reports that there is a free Internet service to help you keep track of how your Congressman is voting. It's called VoteNote -- follow the link, plug in your zip code, and they'll send you a weekly e-mail with information on votes cast that week.

Clayton Cramer calls our attention to the blog of Michael Williams, who blogs thoughtfully about all sorts of subjects, including the theology of the Matrix series, the racism of the abortion industry, the shifting political winds, and space elevators. And I really like the design of his site, especially the look of the blockquotes.

The Washington Times has published a series of three excerpts from Georgia Sen. Zell Miller's new book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat. The excerpts are titled "How Democrats lost the South", "Able Democrats, but left-wing all the way" (about the presidential contenders), and "In pursuit of an American Churchill". The latter article includes this excerpt from his speech to the Senate on the Iraq war:

"A few weeks ago," I said, "we were doing some work on my back porch back home, tearing out a section of old stacked rocks, when all of a sudden I uncovered a nest of copperhead snakes.

"I know the difference between those snakes that are harmless and those that will kill you. A copperhead will kill you. It could kill one of my dogs. It could kill one of my grandchildren. It could kill any one of my four great-grandchildren.

"And you know, when I discovered these copperheads, I didn't call my wife Shirley for advice, like I do on most things. I didn't go before the city council. I didn't yell for help from my neighbors. I just took a hoe and knocked them in the head and killed them — dead as a doorknob.

"I guess you could call it a unilateral action," I said. "Or pre-emptive. Perhaps if you had been watching me, you could have even called it bellicose and reactive. I took their poisonous heads off because they were a threat to me. And they were a threat to my home and my family. They were a threat to all I hold dear. And isn't that what this is all about?"

Best of RWN Interviews


Over on RightWingNews they've got selected quotes from this year's best interviews, with links to the interviews. The list includes Milton Friedman, David Horowitz, Walter Williams, and Mark Steyn, the "one man global content provider". A sample:

"When I bought my home in New Hampshire, I asked the local police chief (it's a one-man department) about what I should do in the event of an attempted break-in. He said, "Well, you could call me at home. But it'd be better if you dealt with it. You're there and I'm not." The British police would rather die than admit that. So, instead of prosecuting the burglar, they prosecute the homeowner for "disproportionate response". You're supposed to wait until the burglar has revealed his weapon before picking yours. "Ah, forgive me, old boy, for reaching for the kitchen knife. I see you've brought not a machete but a blunt instrument. Be a good sport and allow me a moment to retrieve my cricket bat from under the bed, there's a good egg." This is insane, but, despite the visible deterioration of civic life in even the leafiest suburbs and villages, the British show no sign of rousing themselves to do anything about it." -- Mark Steyn

Once again Councilors Joe Williams, David Patrick, Tom Baker, Art Justis, and Randy Sullivan cast a vote against fairness in the zoning process. That makes four votes each against fairness and for special interests for Patrick, Baker, Justis, and Sullivan, in just two council meetings. (Unlike the others, Williams voted to allow the debate a week ago to proceed.)

This Thursday night the Council again voted 5-4 on the second (and final) reading of the zoning map amendments for 71st and Harvard, allowing a bank and office park on land that has been for many years zoned residential and designated residential on the Comprehensive Plan. All this over the objections and formal protest of nearby residents.

I've been told that Councilor Williams was reconsidering his vote, but at the last minute, after strolling into the meeting with Randy Sullivan, he reverted to his particular plans. Once upon a time, he was a reliable vote for fairness in zoning matters. To see him acquiesce so readily to this sham of a process makes some wonder what is motivating him these days.

Now the Mayor will get the zoning amendment and has 15 working days to veto it or sign it. (The law will go into effect unless he acts to veto it.) He admits that he hasn't fully studied the issue, and has said that he wants to stay out of this, but perhaps with some encouragement he will change his mind. Please contact the Mayor ( and encourage him to examine the case carefully and put Tulsa city government on the right side in this dispute. Even though it will probably go to court either way, the Mayor's decision will establish which side will have the burden of proof and will bear most of the cost.

County assessor maps


The Tulsa County Assessor's office has online maps showing school districtboundaries and municipal boundaries. More impressive is the collection of maps showing subdivision boundaries, lot and block numbers, and lot dimensions. Each square mile is an Adobe Acrobat file.

It's nice to have those maps there, but I'm really impressed with SAGIS, the Savannah Area Geographic Information System, which allows for zooming in and out, and you can click on a lot and find out who owns it, what it's worth, how big the lot is, how it's zoned, and even who the city alderman and county commissioner are for that location. Another click takes you to the property card, with the physical characteristics of the buildings on the property. You can control layers of information on the map, and see property lines and zoning lines overlaid on an aerial photo. This is a great tool for property owners and potential buyers and investors. I hope we can get something like this for Tulsa very soon.

Elephant on the run


A reader writes:

I have heard more than one person comment that it is not surprising that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have not been found, considering the difficulty Oklahoma law enforcement has had in finding suspected killer Scott Eizember in Bristow. It occurred to me that the difficulty capturing Eizember not surprising when one recalls that it once took an entire summer to capture an escaped elephant in Oklahoma.

Does anyone else remember this? To the best of my recollection, it was the summer of 1977, or thereabouts. I don't remember if the elephant escaped from a traveling circus, or from the one that used to winter near Hugo. I do remember a summer of scattered elephant sightings. At one point the elephant was actually surrounded, then managed to escape and disappear again.

Anyone else recall this?

There are several amusing ironies surrounding the Council's approval last Thursday of rezoning for 71st & Harvard. Tom Baker, Councilor for District 4, was one of the staunchest supporters for the rezoning, voting the wrong way three times: to suppress debate, to reject the petition from neighboring property owners, and to approve the rezoning itself, despite its violation of the Comprehensive Plan.

Two days later Baker held a five-hour-long district planning session for selected neighborhood presidents. One wonders at the point of investing time developing a plan and providing neighborhood input to a public official who has only 36 hours earlier voted to ignore an existing plan and ignore organized, overwhelming neighborhood input.

Dear Mayor LaFortune,

Tuesday morning on 1170 KFAQ, Michael DelGiorno asked you if you would consider vetoing the zoning amendment sought by F&M Bank at 71st & Harvard. You paraphrased his question as asking if you would repeal the amendment, which was approved by a 5-4 vote of the City Council last Thursday. It will not become law without your approval. You said that this was a decision for the professional planners, the planning commission, and the Council, not for you as Mayor. While I appreciate your deference to the legislative branch of city government, I am writing to remind you that you have the power to veto this ill-advised amendment to our zoning ordinance, and to persuade you that it would be in the best interest of the city and of your administration to do so. By vetoing the amendment you would demonstrate your administration's commitment to fairness -- everyone plays by the same set of rules.

Hiding the agenda

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I was asked whether a Tulsa Metro Chamber committee report on infill development (posted here, comments here) was formally adopted by the Chamber or by any governmental body. I don't know that it has or hasn't, but in a way, it doesn't matter, because the ideas contained in it are already guiding the practice of land use regulation in Tulsa, in a piecemeal, evolutionary fashion, while its more radical concepts are on the wishlist of many influential people and institutions.

When I ran for City Council in 2002, I submitted to an interview by David Averill and Julie DelCour of the Tulsa Whirled Editorial Board. Given my opposition to "It's Tulsa's Time", I figured a new downtown arena would be the dominant topic. Instead, they were most interested in my positions on three issues. First, they wanted to know my position on abortion. I told them I am pro-life, and that I believe that we have an obligation to protect innocent, defenseless human life. They told me not to worry and that the Whirled sometimes endorses "anti-choice" candidates.

The second key issue was whether I approved of the use of government condemnation to "assemble" land for private redevelopment. Clearly they supported the notion. I told them I felt it was an abuse of the power of eminent domain. And they wanted to know where I stood on the six-laning of Riverside Drive, a pet project for them -- I oppose it because of the effect on the park and neighborhood, and said so.

Official area code maps


See a strange area code on caller ID? The website of NANPA (the North America Numbering Plan Administration) is the place to search for information about area codes, find up-to-date area code maps for North America, and up-to-date info on recent and upcoming area code splits, and on the dialing rules in each area. Where can I use 10-digit dialing? Where must I dial all 10 digits?

Remarkably, 13 states -- mostly in the Mountain West and in New England -- and DC still are managing with a single area code.

And here's a site with the history of area code numbering. Oklahoma became a two-area code state when 918 was created in 1953 (mandatory in 1954). The rationale behind the original numbering -- most populous areas got the fewest pulses -- New York had the most favorable area code, then Chicago and Los Angeles.

Shepherd's Historical Atlas


The University of Texas has a wonderful online collection of maps, both current and historical. One of the treasures to be found is the complete contents of Shepherd's Historical Atlas -- both 1923 and 1926 editions. I remember time spent poring over these detailed maps, marveling at the complexity of pre-unification Germany and wondering about the claims of the 13 colonies to western territories. (And Jefferson's proposal to organize the Northwest Territories as 10 states. Interesting that the proposed state of Metropotamia today has one of America's highest concentrations of Mesopotamians.)

Thoughtful, humorous, nostalgic, ironic -- is one of my favorite places on the web.

Some Lileks highlights I meant to link to last week:

On Monday, a tribute to Chernobog, the demonic figure in the "Night on Bare Mountain" sequence of "Fantasia". The links at the end about Chernobog's animator are interesting to follow, as is Lileks' explanation why "Night on Bare Mountain" is a more appealing piece of music than "Rite of Spring", another piece featured in the original "Fantasia":

An earlier entry contains a report on infill development by a Metro Tulsa Chamber committee. Here's how it fits into the bigger picture.

Infill development is often controversial, because it involves changing the use or size or appearance of an already-developed area. It puts at risk the investment made by neighborhing property owners -- good infill can enhance property values, bad infill can destroy them.

The bottom line for some developers is this: We should be able to build anything we want, tear down anything we want, anywhere we want. We want government to clear away any obstacles that stand in our way, including existing zoning laws. If a a property owner won't sell us property we want to redevelop, we expect government to declare the property as blighted, seize the land (paying "compensation" or course), and sell it to us. This document says that this is the only way our city can move forward economically, the only way Tulsa can halt the decline of retail in Tulsa caused by new retail development in the suburbs, the only way Tulsa can halt the decline of sales tax revenues.

Neighborhoods are unfairly identified as an obstacle in this document, a barrier to new retail and residential development in Midtown. Government is identified as a tool to be used, gearing deparments, boards, and commissions to "fulfill the mission". To gain the cooperation of the citizens, they must "become terrified of continuing the status quo".

Chamber wants to remake Midtown


All of the talk about "vision" over the last year was focused on building publicly-funded capital improvements, but a real vision should deal with the big picture -- what do we want Tulsa to look like, what do we want our own neighborhood to be like, and what do we need to do now to achieve that goal. Can Tulsa once again have a fair claim to the title "America's Most Beautiful City", a title we claimed in the 1950's? How we handle land-use regulation and planning today will determine if that goal will be achievable 20 or 30 years from now. It's a topic that deserves the attention of every concerned citizen.

Last week's 71st & Harvard zoning vote was just one skirmish in a decades-long struggle, largely conducted behind the scenes, between competing visions of the future development of Tulsa. Only one side appreciates the reality of the struggle and seeks to wage the war in a coherent, organized, and well-financed fashion, even as they seek to keep the public from noticing that the war is underway. The other side has a few people with an appreciation for the big picture, but most of the warriors show up for their local battle, then disperse once the battle is over, sometimes achieving a tactical victory, but never strategically positioned to acheive the objective.

A document has recently surfaced revealing the vision of politically-connected developers and the Chamber of Commerce and their "battle plan" to achieve their aims. Last week I was given a copy of a report generated back in January 2003 by a committee of the Tulsa Metro Chamber regarding infill development. "Infill development" means redeveloping already developed areas, or developing undeveloped spots in the midst of existing development. It contrasts with the kind of development that has characterized Tulsa for since WW II -- converting farmland into subdivisions and shopping centers.

Infill development is often controversial, because it involves changing the use or size or appearance of an already-developed area. It puts at risk the investment made by neighborhing property owners -- good infill can enhance property values, bad infill can destroy them.

I'll save extended commentary for a separate entry. Here are some key points that the committee makes in its report -- my paraphrase, but their ideas.

* There's a crisis because the suburbs now have retail, and suburbanites don't have to come into Tulsa to do their shopping. Sales tax revenues in Tulsa may not recover when the economy does. This threatens our city's ability to provide basic services.

* We need to build new attractions, and all of them should be in downtown Tulsa. We think housing downtown is a silly idea. No one wants to live there.

* Neighborhood empowerment and historic preservation zoning is an obstacle to achieving our aims.

* Commercial zones in midtown are too narrow for us to build cookie-cutter suburban stores in Midtown neighborhoods (and we don't know how to build anything else). So we should widen these zones and designate them specifically as redevelopment targets.

* We need more high rises, so we should "assemble" much of Brookside between Riverside and Peoria (through government condemnation) to allow high rises to be built there.

* We need to scare the voters into going along with this approach.

The text of the report is linked below, in the extended part of this entry. I plan to post the actual image of the report, including appendices -- when I do, I will link it from here. Please read it through, and if you don't like the vision it outlines, get involved in electing councilors who will support a better, inclusive vision that will preserve and enhance our city's beauty.

Caffé Bona


Had lunch at Kim Long's today and as we were driving away I noticed a newly opened Internet cafe on the north side of 81st, east of Memorial, advertising free wireless Internet access. It's called Caffe Bona. I didn't stop in today, but will be interested to check it out at some point. It's hard to imagine an Internet coffee shop working as a place you reach by car -- perhaps they'll draw clientele from the apartment complex within walking distance.

With a name like Caffe Bona, I'm guessing the place is run by Julian and his friend Sandy, filling in between acting engagements.

(I'd be interested in knowing how many Tulsa readers have any idea what that last paragraph is all about.)

UPDATE: Since no one e-mailed to say, "I get it! Ha, ha!", I'll explain myself in the extended entry below.

Despite the wonder about a wireless internet cafe in a suburban context, I am thrilled that someone is opening such an establishment in Tulsa, and I wish them all the best. I really enjoyed the Internet cafe I frequented in Savannah, and I hope the idea spreads quickly to Midtown and Downtown.

Once upon a time, Tulsa schools taught foreign language by actually teaching it. A reader writes:

Dear Mr. Bates:

I found your October 8 essay, "How to Teach French without Actually Teaching It," funny but depressing.

I'm writing because I hope you can help me figure out how to get some information on past language instruction in Tulsa. I attended Fulton Grade School and Skelly Junior High in the sixties. We were the first class to go all the way through Skelly, and I got excellent language instruction there. I studied French and, when I moved on to Palo Alto, California, for high school, I was so far ahead of my class there that the teacher gave me an independent study.

I wondered if you knew what the Tulsa system in the sixties was called, or if you knew anything that had been written about it. We approached language in multiple ways that my child's teachers seem to find very implausible, and I'd like to be able to show them some literature on it. I seem to remember reading in the Tulsa papers that foreign languages were a bit of a showpiece in the school system.

Briefly, we did it all. From the very beginning, we spoke the language in the classroom. We practiced saying "dialogues" with one another, and wrote and practiced our own dialogues using the words we were learning. We also read simple texts from the very beginning. We took "dictation" from the teacher, writing down what she said. In addition, we went to language lab once a week. By our second year, we were writing and performing plays in French. It made the memorizing a thousand times easier because we internalized the structure of the language, its connotations, its pitch, etc.

If you know how I could find written information about the Tulsa schools' language instruction in the sixties, I'd appreciate your help very much.

Can anyone who was around back then help this reader? Drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com, and I'll pass it along to her. Thanks.

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