December 2003 Archives

Floyd Estes Bates, RIP

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Yesterday afternoon we laid to rest my Grandfather's next youngest brother, who died early Sunday morning in Nowata. Floyd Estes Bates was born on October 3, 1920, in Welch, Oklahoma. He joined the Army when he turned 18, served with the 127th Infantry in New Guinea, and left the service in 1946 as a Staff Sergeant. He was a Purple Heart recipient -- twice wounded in combat. He married Susie L. Smith in 1947 -- she passed away this October. After the Army, Floyd was an oilfield worker and a member of the Pipefitters' and Welders' Union.

Floyd was sent off with a graveside service at Ball Cemetery near Childers, east of Nowata. The service reflected his life and loves. It began with a banjo and harmonica version of "Under the Double Eagle", followed by the Texas Playboys "Faded Love", played on a portable CD player.

A travel guide to heaven

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National Review Online has a great interview with the author of A Travel Guide to Heaven. DeStefano is not writing some New Age nonsense that sprang full-grown from his own imagination. He is attempting to present orthodox Christian doctrine about heaven in a manner accessible to mainstream readers. When asked when and why he decided to write the book, here's his reply:

Fair zoning lawsuit update

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A reminder: The lawsuit for fairness in zoning cases is going forward, and your help is needed for the suit to succeed. Donations are needed to cover legal costs, and volunteer help is needed to handle a variety of details. To donate to the cause, write a check to Zoning Alert Watchman Committee, and mail it to:


Ms. Mona Miller
7211 South Gary Place
Tulsa, OK. 74136

For more information, call Mona at 492-1481.

On the political front, we are still looking for good candidates to run in many of the City Council districts, and the filing period is just two weeks away. Good candidates who are already in the race, like Councilor Chris Medlock, former Councilor Roscoe Turner, and John Eagleton, will need a lot of volunteer help and financial help to prevail.

To help make the case to the broader public, I'd like to collect stories of problems with the zoning and planning process in Tulsa. Whether you were an applicant or protesting an application, if you experienced a situation that seemed unfair or absurd, please drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com and tell me all about it. Please include as many specific details as you can, particularly the location involved, the date of key hearings or events, and the case number, zoning number, or PUD number as appropriate. And let me know if I can use your name, or if you'd prefer to remain anonymous. Real-life experiences can help make the case for reform better than dry analyses. Thanks for your help.

DVD compatibility

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Over on Full Moon Blog, Saif is having trouble finding a cheap DVD player that can handle VCDs. When I was researching DVD players for Christmas 2002, I found a website called dvdrhelp.com, with reviews of hundreds of DVD players, searchable by compatibility with different formats. Compatibility lists are based on actual user experience. There are also reviews, so you can learn crucial details -- for example, the color of the serial number sticker on one model is a clue to whether the unit will support MPEG-1 video.

We have a cheapo APEX which will display family photos (JPGs) off of home-burned CD-Rs with no problem.

The impression I have is that the more expensive the unit, the fewer formats it supports. The basic decoding technology will handle just about anything, but it costs the manufacturer to build in the technology to filter out anything that isn't a real commercial DVD.

Sad news in Sunday's paper (jump page here): The University of Tulsa plans to replace yet another Route 66 landmark with empty space.

The Metro Diner is not historic, but it still matters. I remember when it was an Arby's, in the late '70s, and I'm told it was a gas station before that. The Diner was created in the early '80s in the style of old Route 66 diners, and it became an instant tourist attraction. It gives Route 66 tourists exactly what they hope to see (and eat) along the old highway. Its brilliant neon sign is compensation for the many other spectacular neon signs along Route 66 in Tulsa that were demolished along with the establishments they pointed to -- like the Will Rogers Motor Hotel and the Villa -- or replaced with backlit plastic signs.

Losing the Metro Diner will hurt our city's drive to capitalize on our Route 66 heritage, just as we prepare to host an international Route 66 convention and have voted to spend $15 million in taxpayer dollars to enhance our appeal to Route 66 tourists. We want to encourage others to rehabilitate businesses that are still standing and to build new facilities that revive the look of long-gone roadside establishments. But allowing TU to knock down Metro Diner will have a chilling effect on anyone considering private investment along the old highway.

The chill will be even worse if the City uses eminent domain to acquire the property on TU's behalf, as it has done for TU in the past. Why fix a place up if some politically-connected institution can use government muscle to take it away from me and tear it down?

If TU had acquired all its land from willing sellers, you could make the case that we have no place telling this private institution what to do with its own land. But TU has gained so much property through the unconstitutional use of eminent domain for private benefit, the least we should expect is that TU use its land efficiently. Instead we see this ill-gotten land taken up with surface parking lots (TU has no multilevel parking) and suburban-style apartment complexes. Now they want to use four blocks for nothing but a clear view to 11th Street.

TU claims it is doing this for aesthetic reasons -- to create a visual entrance to campus from 11th Street. Of course, they could have created such an entrance along Harvard, but chose not to. By pursuing this course, TU is also doing a disservice to its students, killing the only commercial properties within easy walking distance from campus. Why not create a "campus corner" commercial development on the north side of 11th Street? Leave Metro Diner alone and encourage other businesses to locate nearby to serve the student community.

The Whirled praised TU's plan on Friday's editorial page, as usual innocent of the idea that there might be two sides to the story. The editorial writer praises TU for improving the surrounding neighborhoods, by which I guess the writer refers to the demolition of most of the surrounding neighborhoods. The homeowners that remain live in perpetual fear that TU will take their neighborhood next, with the City's blessing and active assistance.

The Whirled editorial also emits this howler:

TU also retains its roots in buildings such as Kendall Hall, McFarlin Library and Sharp Chapel.

Kendall Hall is a great example of TU's disregard for its roots and history. The first building on campus, it was demolished in the early '70s -- the cupola is all that remains -- and replaced with a modernist monstrosity.

Perhaps the folks hosting next summer's Route 66 festival and the folks overseeing the Vision 2025 money for Route 66 could have a word with the TU folks and help them understand the serious damage they're about to do to Tulsa's Route 66 prospects.

Bleg: Stratton Taylor letter

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(Note: A "bleg" is a blog entry that involves begging for something. "blog" + "beg" = "bleg".)

My searching has been in vain. I would like to read the letter to trial lawyers from Oklahoma Sen. Stratton Taylor (D-Claremore), which brought a response from the Wall Street Journal editorial page (reprinted in Sunday's Whirled). Having read responses from the Tulsa Whirled, Brad Henry, Boy Governor, and the Claremore Daily Progress (which writes that Taylor has nothing for which to apologize and his critics are hypocrites), I wanted to read Taylor's letter for myself. If anyone can assist me with this, e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. Also, let me know if you have a better link to the WSJ editorial. I'd prefer to link directly to their site, but cannot find the editorial there. [UPDATE: An Alert Reader has provided the requested link to the WSJ article. Thanks. Still looking for Taylor's letter.]

I noticed something strange about the Whirled's Monday editorial, linked above. They have this to say about the former leader of the State Senate:

State Sen. Stratton Taylor has written a shameful, self-serving letter to national trial lawyers inviting them to bring lawsuits in "friendly" Oklahoma.

It's not the first time the longtime senator has used his position of public trust to feather his own nest. He ought, at the very least, to resign his position in the Senate.

They say it's not the first time, but I scanned the Whirled's archives and could find no previous occasion on which the Whirled criticized Taylor for using his position of public trust to feather his own nest. The Whirled reported Taylor's legal work for the chicken industry's defense against the City of Tulsa's lawsuit, but there was no editorial denunciation or call for resignation. Strange too that the Whirled editorial board criticizes Taylor for taking campaign funds from the hog industry -- I'm not aware that the Whirled has condemned the hog industry or its practices. They certainly don't have a problem with business interests giving campaign dollars to influence public policy: They've never said an unkind word about the contributions of F&M Bank officers to city council candidates in the 2002 elections, or the heavy giving by development interests in city races.

But for real amusement, click on the links to read the Claremore paper's defense of their hometown boy. Here's a sample, from the newspaper that touts its connections with Will Rogers:

When Wall Street, Republican legislators, state chamber of commerce and the Daily Oklahoman all jump on Claremore's Sen. Stratton Taylor at once, be assured Taylor is probably protecting the best interests of the average citizen.

Taylor was hotly attacked by this coalition of partisan forces for offering his law firm s service to Texas trial lawyers who face new, severe and untested limits on the amount of money they can recover for injured clients.

While Oklahoma has clamped down on torts, the workers compensation rates north of the Red River are markedly less than those in Texas. This happened under Senator Taylor's legislative leadership.

In a letter to Texas attorneys, Taylor simply outlined the advantages of his highly successful law firm and suggested that Oklahoma law was more open to equity and fairness than Lone Star justice....

In another editorial they absolve the Whirled from involvement in the conspiracy against Taylor. They must not have read Monday's paper.

For more amusement, search the Daily Progress' site for the word Stipe, and read as they fall all over themselves mourning for the loss of this great humanitarian.

Found this via Lileks: A collection of 365 audio clips, one for every day of 2003. These bits and pieces form no coherent pattern, except that they are all amusing. Here are some examples:

The links above will remain active, but the MP3 files they link to will vanish on January 5, so visit soon. There are ways to get to the MP3s after the 5th, explained on the main page linked above. Because you don't want to miss hearing, one more time after all these years, that '70s public service ad about VD (as we called it the olden days), a tune that will burrow its way into your brain like a T. pallidum bacterium. "Veee Deee... is for ev'reeebuddee!"

A very Lileks Christmas

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James Lileks' Bleat returned from a brief hiatus earlier this week with notes on his family's Christmas observances. From Monday, about his three-year-old's dance recital:

There’s a vast difference between remembering Dad coming to your recital and being Dad at the recital. The first is a memory that dead-ends with you; the latter connects you to him and to all the kids and dads to come.

From Tuesday, the Christmas lights bus tour from hell:

We went up Portland, which had no lights, turned to Chicago, which had fewer. Our host told us that we’d do Minnehaha parkway, which was no doubt blazing with lights, then tour lovely Summit Avenue in St. Paul, where the plutocrats’ mansions would no doubt dazzle the eye; then the Lakes in Minneapolis, then home. ...

Summit had some lights, but by then people’s expectations had been raised too high. We wanted to see floodlit spectaculars complete with a dozen elves with perpetually-firing Roman Candles implanted in their buttocks. ...

Nothing so improves a dreary experience like the realization that it will yield a story we can embellish. Give us five years, and the bus will be pulled by donkeys, the temperature in the minus 20s, the liquor nothing more than paint thinner and windshield-wiper fluid.

From Wednesday, a shopping trip to the oddly-quiet Mall of America, and thoughts on '30s, '50s, and '70s nostalgia:

It is every generation’s duty to ridicule the music and fashion of the generations that follow, but I am happy to live in an age when I know my judgments are not colored by creeping codgerism but empirical truth. Today, for example, I saw a kid I went to junior high school with – and by that I mean I saw a note-for-note version of the nightmare styles of 1973. Leather choker. Big mop of curly untamed hair. Burnt-umber T-shirt hanging over baggy jeans. Unkempt and goofy. ...

We’ve had 30 years to study these fashions, and the results are conclusive: they suck. They don’t make anyone look good. They are particularly injurious to someone whose face is dotted with the Vesuvian boils of adolescence. I know it’s a played out meme, but please: we need "80s Eye for the 70s guy. Someone shave these mutts and put ‘em in Ray-bans and Izod just so they realize there are alternatives to looking like a roadie for the Foghat “Fool For the City” tour.

And today's entry, with a nice early '60s view of Southdale, the First Shopping Mall, decked out for Christmas, links to a couple of worthy charities, and outtakes from the Christmas card photo shoot. The final page has the final version of the card -- very cute -- and an intriguing link about which more in the next entry.

I don't have the energy at this late hour to take apart Janet Pearson's condescending, simplistic, and one-sided column in Sunday's Whirled about zoning controversies. The column is little more than a dressed-up presentation of the views of Jerry Lasker, director of the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), whose planning staff were behind the successful (and unlawful) effort to invalidate the protest petition against the rezoning of 71st and Harvard.

It's apparent she only has second-hand knowledge of neighborhood complaints about Tulsa's zoning process, filtered through the perspective of the people who run the zoning process and are quite pleased with it. Her treatment of the subject would have benefitted from some conversation with actual neighborhood leaders like Brookside's Nancy Apgar, Mona Miller from 71st & Harvard, or Maria Barnes from Kendall-Whittier.

Here are a few excerpts and my comments:

Few happenings at City Hall generate more controversy than zoning cases. Each year there are usually several big zoning fights, as well as countless smaller ones that don't make headlines but still make enemies.

Several recent cases -- notably the Wal-Mart grocery store proposal for 41st Street and Harvard Avenue -- are cases in point.

Interesting that 71st & Harvard doesn't get an explicit mention. Could it be because the rezoning benefitted a company with close connections to her employer?

Residents have a good point: Developers and their representatives usually do have the upper hand because of their experience and superior knowledge of the zoning process.

No, Janet, real residents will tell you that developers have the upper hand because the system is slanted in the developer's favor. The 71st & Harvard neighbors demonstrated a sophisticated awareness of the zoning process when they presented a protest petition to the City Council, which under the law raises the bar to require supermajority approval for rezoning. INCOG staff and the City Attorney's office responded to this "superior knowledge" by changing the rules to invalidate their petition.

But homeowners could improve their chances of altering proposals and even prevailing in the end by doing a little homework. In the Wal-Mart case, it was evident some had done their research.

The subtext here: "The system is just fine. Neighborhoods can prevail, if they will only do their homework. The 71st & Harvard neighbors lost, not because of a slanted system, but because they didn't do their homework. Poor stupid neighbors."

Study of land-use issues should begin even before buying property. "If you're looking to buy a house, look at the neighborhood. Look at the zoning in the area. Go to the planning commission office to see if there are uses other than residential approved for the area," recommends Jerry Lasker, director of the area planning agency INCOG, which includes the local zoning department, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission....

"Also, look at what's across the street," he continues. If there is more intense development -- busy commercial or retail businesses, for example -- nearby, then there is a good chance pressure will grow in that area for more such development to occur.

Homeowners would do themselves a favor if they familiarize themselves with two important documents: the comprehensive plan and the development guidelines. There are other documents that are valuable to review also: protective covenants, subdivision plats, even the zoning code itself.

All the "homework" that Pearson recommends (really Lasker through her) was done by people in the 71st & Harvard area. They looked at the existing zoning -- residential. The looked at the comprehensive plan -- low-intensity residential. They looked at nearby development -- all residential for at least a mile in each direction. Previous proposals for commercial development had been turned down. The neighbors had good reason to expect that the site would remain residential. None of it mattered, because power trumps law when it comes to land use regulation in Tulsa.

That's enough for now -- but there's plenty more to rebut. Lasker defends the practice of ignoring the Comprehensive Plan, rather than amending it to reflect changing conditions, and says that infill development doesn't have to be consistent with existing development -- in fact you should expect it to be inconsistent and more intensive. Lasker even tries to wrap INCOG's policies with the mantle of "smart growth".

The more I mull it over, the more this column looks like damage control, trying to paper over the serious issues raised by the 71st & Harvard case, trying to take the wind out of the sails of efforts to challenge the current stacked zoning process in the courts and at the ballot box. If you haven't yet, go back and read my entry on the lawsuit, with excerpts and a link to the full text, and be amazed at the creative efforts expended to deny property owners due process.

I was out of town last Thursday when the Council finally considered the 41st & Harvard rezoning request for turning a residentially zoned area into a Wal-Mart neighborhood market. (Whirled coverage begins here, continues here.) This was yet another case where the INCOG planning staff and the Planning Commission recommended a zoning change out of accord with the Comprehensive Plan. The fundamental issue here is not whether or not Wal-Mart is a good company, but, as in the 71st & Harvard and Bell's cases, whether the Comprehensive Plan is a worthless document or a way of ensuring orderly development and redevelopment, protecting property owners against arbitrary and capricious zoning.

In the end, the Council (all but David Patrick) did the right thing by voting this down 8-1, but in doing so, several of them reversed themselves on the principles that guided their 71st & Harvard decision. In the earlier case, Councilor Tom Baker claimed that it wasn't his place to question the judgment of INCOG's planning professionals or the volunteers who serve on the planning commission. But in voting against Wal-Mart, Baker went against both groups, who recommended approval.

In the short time I've been back, I haven't had time to watch the tape yet, but it will be interesting to see how some of the Councilors justify this flip-flop. Perhaps Wal-Mart needs to do a better job of spreading money around during campaign season. Wal-Mart may have grounds for a lawsuit.

I'm pleased the Council voted as they did, but I don't think they deserve a lot of praise for their decision. This should have been a slam dunk. It never should have gotten past INCOG's zoning staffers, much less the TMAPC, and the fact that it did should raise questions about the people serving in those capacities.

Tulsa's land use planning system is still broken, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Santa Dick?

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At a City Council meeting I attended a week and a half ago, there was a presentation to honor public officials and others connected with a charitable program called "Angel Bear". Clint Walden, who runs the program, gave one of the awards to County Commissioner Bob Dick, referring to the commissioner as a kind of Santa Claus to all of Tulsa County because of Vision 2025.

Hmm. Imagine if Santa Claus operated like the Commissioner. A child climbs up on Santa's lap:

"Ho! Ho! Ho! What do you want for Christmas, little girl?"

"I want a dolly, and a Wiggles CD, and a wagon, and candy."

"Ho! Ho! I'll be happy to bring you a big-screen TV and a new car stereo! Maybe I'll give you a dolly, too! (But no CD, wagon, or candy -- I know better than you do what you need.) You just need to bring me part of your allowance every week for the next thirteen years. I'll borrow money against your allowance and pay interest to my dear friends. I'll buy the home entertainment center from some other dear friends -- it may cost more than other places, but what's a few more dollars to someone like yourself. What do you mean you don't want a home entertainment center, you little anklebiter? It will grow our economy, put cranes in the air, and It's For The Children."

Funny how Republicans used to complain that Democrats were establishing their "compassion" credentials by spending other people's money. Now it seems that at least some Republicans are gaining a reputation for generosity for being generous with our tax dollars.

In the midst of preparing for the citywide rally for fair zoning last Monday, there was news in the Bell's roller coaster case (jump page here) which was discouraging at first glance. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed last year's District Court ruling in the neighborhoods' favor, but it appears that the Appeals Court slipped on a couple of points, and there is still good reason to believe that the neighborhoods will prevail.

The Bell's case is another zoning-related lawsuit which arose because the zoning authorities ignored the law in favor of a powerful special interest, in this case the County Commission's desire to make more revenue from Expo Square regardless of the impact on surrounding property owners. At stake is whether the Comprehensive Plan represents a commitment on which property owners can depend, or just a load of promises not worth the paper they're printed on.

A quick recap: Back in December 2000, the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (aka the Fair Board, consisting of the three county commissioners and county cronies Jim Orbison and Bob Parmele) granted Bell's a new lease which would allow Bell's to expand west of the park all the way to Louisville Avenue, and make it possible for them to build a new 100 foot roller coaster just west of Zingo. Although concerned neighbors proposed several alternatives that would allow Bell's to expand into the interior of the Fairgrounds, away from residential areas, the Fair Board ignored the concerns and approved the lease. The discovery that part of the land actually belonged to and was in the city limits of Tulsa (a water tower used to stand there, on one of the highest points in Midtown) forced Bell's to redesign the coaster to fit within county-owned land. In September 2001 Bell's announced that the redesigned coaster would go 12 feet underground, and except for the 88-foot-high peaks, much of the coaster would be underground or enclosed to mitigate noise. In October 2001, the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment (whose members were appointed by the County Commissioners) voted 3-2 to grant a special exception, required to allow a roller coaster to be constructed on agriculturally-zoned land. (The Tulsa County BOA had jurisdiction because the Fairgrounds is not within the corporate limits of the City of Tulsa.)

Neighboring homeowners immediately appealed the decision in district court, and in August 2002 Judge David Peterson granted summary judgment in favor of the neighbors. Both sides agreed that the land was designated in the Comprehensive Plan for low-intensity use, and that a roller coaster could not be considered a low-intensity use. Judge Peterson pointed to Oklahoma Statutes and case law which require BOAs to comply with the Comprehensive Plan in granting or rejecting special exceptions and variances.

I wrote about the case back in June 2003, when Bell's attorney Roy Johnsen finally appealed the summary judgment. On December 9th the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the summary judgment, which means that the case will be returned to district court for a full hearing before the judge.

From the newspaper story, it appeared that the Appeals Court was rejecting the notion that the Comprehensive Plan must guide Board of Adjustment decisions, even though a couple of Oklahoma Supreme Court rulings have established that principle, based on the state statutes governing county zoning. But I later learned that the Appeals Court may have misinterpreted some of the information presented to the District Court. In addition, the statute on which Judge Peterson relied in his ruling was not addressed by the Appeals Court at all.

The homeowners have several possibilities before them which would allow them ultimately to prevail. They are in the capable hands of zoning attorney Randall Pickard. I would love to see this go on to the state Supreme Court -- this case and the 71st & Harvard case would demolish the notion, which seems to be conventional wisdom among INCOG planning staff, planning commissioners, and most of the City Councilors, that there are no limits on their discretion to change zoning.

By the way, the Mid-Town Neighborhood Alliance, which was formed to fight the special exception, is still in need of funds to handle legal costs. You can find an appeal letter here and a contribution form and instructions here. Even if you don't live in the area, this group is fighting for your rights as property owners, and they deserve your support.

71st & Harvard lawsuit filed

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A petition was filed Thursday in district court regarding the rezoning of 71st & Harvard and the unlawful invalidation of the homeowners' protest petition. The zoning protest process -- designed to protect property owners against rezoning that threatens the value of their property -- is the focus of the lawsuit, not so much the rezoning itself. As Mona Miller, a leader of the homeowners' group, has said, if the process had been fair when the rezoning was approved, they would have been disappointed but would have accepted the result.

INCOG staff and staff from the City Attorney's office went to great lengths to ensure that the homeowners' petition would not succeed. Lest you think these homeowners are just sore losers, you need to read the chronicle of unfair treatment contained in the petition, which is on the web in PDF format, courtesy homemyhome.com. In the extended part of the entry, I'll include excerpts from the petition, but the petition itself is 19 double-spaced pages, an easy read, and will give you a complete understanding of the issues.

With that here are some excerpts:

Yes, I believe you are...

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I was in western New York on business for a couple of days last week, and drove past a sign for this establishment. It's interesting how your brain parses words:

amigonelogo.jpg

Hats off!

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Puzzled by pork-pies? Baffled by berets? Wondering how to measure your head? All is answered at hats-online.com. If you can't remember the difference between a homburg and a derby, or are looking to buy a top hat or a newsboy's cap, this site looks like a good resource. No idea if this is a good place to buy from, but it's an interesting browse anyway.

Saddam's head on a platter

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Possibly the best use of Photoshop to commemorate the capture of Saddam:

It makes a nice bookend to this photo from 1975, when Chirac took Saddam on a tour of a French nuclear reactor:

saddam-and-chirac-75.jpg

Nice eye contact. You can almost hear "Some Enchanted Evening" playing in the background.

The authoritative source for news about the war on terror is the oddly-named Little Green Footballs blog. Scrolling back a few days you'll find excerpts from and links to dozens of news stories and columns about Saddam's capture, as well as Israel's ongoing fight against Palestinian terrorism. Recent entries will point you to Iraqi and Iranian weblogs. I won't attempt to reproduce what LGF proprietor Charles Johnson has accomplished. I'll just encourage you to surf his way on a regular basis. And if you appreciate the service he provides, you can hit his Amazon and PayPal tip jars -- donations allow him to spend less time on web design (his real job), and more time providing his comprehensive news service.

lgf-logo-button-small.gif

Our man in Cairo

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Meryl Yourish links to no-holds-barred interview with U. S. Ambassador to Egypt David Welch by a panel of Egyptian journalists. Welch not only defended U.S. policy in the region but politely challenged the assertions of the Egyptians. At one point in the interview, a journalist brings up the "humiliating" video of Saddam Hussein getting a dental exam:

[Welch:] With respect to the display of Saddam Hussein, can I be honest with you here? I am stunned that you would say this. I did not see any problem with his treatment whatsoever. What is wrong with a medical examination?

Shukrallah: But why the medical examination on TV?

Welch: Give me a break, folks -- this guy is an unbelievable war criminal. He did not deserve dignified treatment; he did not give any of his victims dignified treatment.

Shukrallah: Torture torturers and assassinate assassins...

Welch: He was not tortured. He is receiving medical examinations. Look at the facts. That was a DNA test. Had he not been put on TV, it would have been said that we did not have him... There was a prominent Al-Jazeera journalist who was on TV yesterday saying it was not Saddam Hussein.

Shukrallah: Still, this does not prove anything. The object seemed to be to just humiliate him.

Welch: He is now a prisoner and he will be dealt with as a prisoner.

Khalil: Then why were the Americans up in arms when the Iraqis showed US POWs on TV? You said POWs should not be treated this way. Why are you doing that now -- isn't he a POW?

Welch: Yes, there is a difference. Look at Saddam Hussein. I cannot believe you guys are defending this guy.

Shukrallah: We don't accept it, and if you've been reading the Weekly carefully, you'd have found out that we never found it justifiable that someone who is arrested for the most heinous terrorist acts in this country should be mistreated or tortured. And if you've read the Weekly you would have seen how much the Weekly has exposed and given coverage to a whole range of mistreatment and abuse.

Human rights conventions are very clear on this. The criminality of a criminal does not justify his abuse and mistreatment by a state, or this would mean that we would say goodbye to all human rights and all due process of law. Americans should hear themselves talking -- you are flaunting the very principles on which the American Revolution was based.

Welch: There is a basic difference in the facts. Implicitly, your position is that we are abusing this person, and I say we are not. So we have a difference of views. You interpret videoing while he's getting his teeth checked as abuse, and I don't.

Nyier Abdou: Whether or not you want to call it abuse, there certainly is a distinction between showing somebody in this manner and showing them in a more dignified way. I think what makes people angry is that the US fails to see how this kind of imagery will inflame people, and that they do it anyway, and that's what really makes people angry. It is a misunderstanding of what is going to convince people.

Welch: I think your moral compass has gone crazy. I think you should be looking at the Iraqi people and their reaction to this. Your reaction puzzles me to be honest. Can we move on because this is boring...

There are several more exchanges just as lively. It's good to know that the US is represented by someone who isn't inclined to diplomatic weasel words.

Clayton Cramer links to an amazing speech by bestselling author Michael Crichton to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, on September 15, 2003. Crichton says that modern environmentalism is a religion, the "religion of choice for urban atheists". Here are a few choice quotes:

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden? ....

How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction....

Flight's 100th

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I observed today's centenary of controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight by flying, and passing through the world's busiest (and nicest) airport. In an era when air travel is in decline -- ever more inconvenient and uncomfortable -- it was nice that my centennial flights were relatively comfortable and trouble-free. No one in the next seat on both flights, and lots of leg room on the A319. There were the usual annoyances with flying a segment on a commuter airline -- gate-checking the rollaboard, then waiting in the cold for it to be returned, walking 100 yards in the cold from the plane to the gate. I find I have to reorganize my carry-on bags three times -- once to smooth passage through security (laptop out and ready to inspect), once for the commuter jet flight (no valuables or fragile items -- the laptop specifically -- in the gate-checked bag), and once for the big jet flight (stuff I wanted handy under the seat, the rest in the overhead bin).

I flew United for the first time in ages. Service was great. The ticket agent saw that the delay of the first leg of the flight might prevent me making the connection, so he reserved a spot for me on a later backup flight. Boarding was smooth. The A319 had good music on the headsets, or I could watch a Frasier episode. The seats have adjustable headrests.

Funny that both my flights on this centennial day were on foreign-built aircraft -- a Canadair Regional Jet and an Airbus A319, made in French-speaking Canada and in France, respectively.

I refer to O'Hare as the world's best airport. When my wife worked for Sabre, then part of American Airlines, we did a lot of standby travel and spent a lot of time waiting for flights in airports all over the country. O'Hare's tree layout makes it quicker to go from one gate to another. The semi-circular layout used at DFW guarantees a long walk for most passengers. In algorithmic terms, the time to go between any two gates at ORD is O(log n), at DFW it's O(n).

If I had to pick a place to get stuck, I'd pick O'Hare any time. It seems more spacious, less crowded, even when it's busy. Atlanta is crazy, especially near the nodes where the terminals connect with the interterminal train. Getting around DFW is all about dodging the carts, which have to be made available because it is so far between gates. DFW always seems to have spillover into the main corridor -- seldom see that at ORD.

ORD has more amusements. The Chicago Children's Museum has an exhibit and play area in Terminal 2 that is a great place to take the kids to while away hours and burn energy between missed standby flights -- lots of steps to climb, slides to slide on, big vinyl-covered foam blocks to stack (pretend cargo), knobs to turn, and buttons to push. (But they seem to have gotten rid of the cool Sears Tower made of Legos.) In the United terminal (Terminal 1), there is a replica life-size brachiosaurus skeleton.

ORD has made their restrooms the envy of the airport industry. I remember during my student days, flying through ORD, that the restrooms were tiny, crowded, and smelly. Over time they've opened things up, gotten rid of the entrance doors, to make it easier to navigate with luggage, and installed all manner of automatic conveniences. With the exception of shutting the stall door, you could get through a visit to the restroom without touching anything other than your own person, which is a good thing with all the wild viruses that must pass through O'Hare from all corners of the globe. What genius came up with automatic toilet seat covers?

Of course, airport comforts don't have much to do with aviation per se, but isn't it amazing that flying is so reliable and so routine that we can afford to be more worried about whether the seatback fully reclines than whether a part will fall off the plane.

We descended from bright sunshine through a thick layer of clouds, emerging a few thousand feet above the ground as fat snowflakes blew past. In the dim late afternoon, the woods were monochromatic -- black leafless trees, adorned with white snow, not a splash of color to disturb the view. Then suddenly, there's the airport. 100 years after Kill Devil Hill, I thank God for the Wright Brothers and how their invention brought the world closer together. I also thank God for whoever invented ILS and anti-icing systems and made it possible to land a plane safely in a snow storm.

P.S. The Smithsonian, from 1914 to 1942, tried to discredit the Wright Brothers as the first flyers, in favor of the Smithsonian's own Samuel Langley. In 1914, they went so far as to reconstruct Langley's failed machine of October 1903, modify it significantly, and flew the modified aircraft, allowing the Smithsonian to make this claim:

In 1918, Zahm had Langley's Aerodrome restored to its 1903 condition and put on display in the museum with the label: "The first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight. Invented, built, and tested over the Potomac River by Samuel Pierpont Langley in 1903. Successfully flown at Hammondsport, N.Y., June 2, 1914." An audacious claim, to say the least. Indeed, "it was a lie pure and simple," writes Fred Howard in "Wilbur and Orville." "But it bore the imprimatur of the venerable Smithsonian and over the years would find its way into magazines, history books, and encyclopedias, much to the annoyance of those familiar with the facts." The lie lasted 25 years. Angered at the Smithsonian's refusal to retract its statements even in the face of published articles describing Curtiss's modification of the Aerodrome, Orville Wright sent the 1903 Flyer to the Science Museum in London in 1928. In 1942, a new Smithsonian regime finally retracted its Aerodrome claims and privately acknowledged wronging the Wrights.

It's a fascinating story.

UPDATE: In honor of the day, here is the FAA-annotated version of "High Flight".

The agenda for Thursday night's City Council is up, and there could be fireworks aplenty.

Early in the program, the Mayor's appointees to the Vision 2025 sales tax overview committee will come before the Council. The appointees are David Paddock, Kevin Crosser, John Benjamin, Tony Ringold, Fred Ramos, Liz Hunt, and David Elsworth. David Paddock is immediate past president of Brookside Neighborhood Association. Liz Hunt is current president of Tracy Park neighborhood association. Fred Ramos is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is a resident of Jenks.

Then there's John Benjamin, former City Councilor. Benjamin was the point man for "It's Tulsa Time" -- the 2000 attempt to raise sales taxes for a new sports arena. He's responsible for encouraging Randy Sullivan to run for council in 2002. He is a true-blue Chamber pot. His endorsement of Terry Simonson did a lot to alienate grass-roots Republicans from Terry's 2002 mayoral campaign. Having him on this committee is like the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

I don't know the other three at all. I am told that at the Council committee meeting, all but one of the seven indicated that they were enthusiastic supporters of all four propositions.

Then Monte Dunham is being reappointed to the City Board of Adjustment -- the Board that considers special exceptions and variances from the zoning laws. Mr. Dunham is yet another example of the dominance of development and real estate interests on boards dealing with zoning and land use planning. He's also an example of how not much seems to have changed since Mayor LaFortune was sworn in on April 1, 2002. The same people as before are in charge of the departments and sitting on various boards and commissions.

After that you've got the 41st & Harvard rezoning case -- another controversy involving the conversion of residential to commercial (a Wal-Mart neighborhood market) contrary to the Comprehensive Plan. Here's an earlier entry explaining the case. In this case, the planning commission voted 5-4 to recommend approval -- a very slim margin indeed. The neighbors who are fighting this would appreciate your presence and support Thursday night at 6 pm at City Hall. If you can't be there, drop your councilor a line at distX@tulsacouncil.org, where the X is your district number (1 through 9).

Then the Council may be voting to override a veto for the first time in history over the issue of managing the City's use of cellphones.

Be there if you can, otherwise catch it live on C-SPAN Thursday night at 6 p.m., or on Cox Cable 3 Saturday morning at 6 a.m.

Boeing made it official yesterday -- the final assembly facility for the 7E7 will be in Everett, Washington, where Boeing can take advantage of existing facilities and an existing workforce to build the new aircraft.

We never really had a shot, except in the minds of local boosters. No analysts from outside Tulsa listed us among the finalists, although Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor claims that we were one of three finalists.

Meanwhile, public officials here are in full spin mode, claiming that Tulsa's Vision 2025 vote is why Boeing plans to locate 500 jobs for a 7E7 leading-edge assembly plant. But as we heard when the 500 jobs were announced, Boeing is bringing those jobs because of our workforce, and the fact that Boeing's Tulsa facilities are already engaged in similar work on other Boeing aircraft, not because of any Vision 2025 money. Our public officials repeatedly promised that the tax would only go into effect if Boeing brought the final assembly plant here, so Boeing shouldn't get any Tulsa County funds.

Shouldn't but might, thanks to loopholes in the ballot title -- Boeing's facility doesn't have to be the final assembly plant; no minimum number of employees added. County Commissioners could use the leading edge assembly plant to trigger the 0.4% sales tax, and give themselves a revenue stream for all sorts of projects, without further voter approval. If the Commissioners intend to be true to their word -- no tax without a final assembly plant -- they will take the next opportunity to repeal the Boeing sales tax so that it can never be triggered.

State officials are still refusing to tell us what incentives they offered Boeing in our name and with our tax dollars. Even the total value of the package has been kept secret.

Those districts belong to us

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I've been thinking about redistricting reform lately. (Redistricting fascinates me because it combines three of my favorite subjects -- politics, number-crunching, and maps!) With term limits kicking in, and the possibility of a change in control in the state legislature, this may be the optimal time to reform the system that has given us ridiculous gerrymanders which work against representative democracy.

So please indulge a bit of retroblogging -- here's an op-ed piece I wrote back in 1991, calling for reform of our state's redistricting process. From the May 31, 1991, Tulsa Tribune:

Beef Baloney

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In one of my first entries, I lamented the decline of locally produced television. So I was thrilled to learn about a new locally produced half-hour comedy program called Beef Baloney, which airs on Fox 23 every Saturday night (actually Sunday morning) at midnight.

Tonight's episode was all about politics. They had a man on the scene at the Democratic debate in Stillwater, talking to the activists and to several of the candidates. Presidential candidates aren't quite sure how to respond to a reporter who says he's from Beef Baloney.

They did a hilarious parody of the Vision 2025 ads. This was an ad for Vision 2026, a tax initiative to stimulate the local production of comedy -- it's for the children.

Then there was an instructional video for politicians -- how to disengage from a conversation with a voter. It's a five step process, evidently, involving a pat on the arm, a point of the finger, mutating into a wave and a thumbs up. After explaining each step in slow motion, Beef Baloney then presented film of an actual politician executing the maneuver to perfection -- Joe Lieberman, as he backed away from the Beef Baloney reporter.

Most of the remainder of the program was taken up debates and commercials in a fictional mudslinging local campaign.

Support local comedy and tune in. This episode will air again Friday and Saturday nights at 2:30 am and Wednesdays at midnight on channel 71.

Why no comments?

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Some people enable comments on their blogs; others don't. Little Green Footballs allows comments -- and the proprietor spends a lot of time dealing with malicious posters. InstaPundit doesn't, nor does the group blog known as the Volokh Conspiracy. Recently Eugene Volokh explained why he's made that choice, giving three reasons, all of which make sense to me.

The first is aesthetic -- the blog is a coherent product produced by himself and the team he has assembled.

It would annoy me a lot if this coherent product also included some postings that I very much dislike, from people whom I never explicitly invited. Even if people didn't think less of me for those postings, it would still bother me. Maybe this isn't entirely rational; many esthetic preferences aren't rational. But it is pretty strongly felt, as are many writers' and editors' views about "their babies."

The second reason has to do with reputation:

Rightly or wrongly, consciously or not, some people's perception of the blog and its bloggers will be molded by what the commenters post as well as by what the bloggers post. Some people will infer (not implausibly) that because (A) some dreck is posted, (B) I have the power to delete it, and (C) I don't delete it, therefore (D) I must agree with it or at least not entirely disagree with it.

The third reason he gives is really a result of the first two -- no time to be the enforcer, to monitor comments and protect the quality and reputation of the blog.

I'm swamped as it is, and I don't have the time to deal with all this. "What time?," people ask. "Just enable them and leave them be." Yeah, right. Someone is going to start spamming the comments.... Someone else is going to start a flamewar. Some jerk is going to decide that he violently disagrees with me -- or, worse yet, that he agrees with me -- and chooses to express himself in terms that are hard to just ignore. As I mentioned in the second point, the reputation of the blog will indeed be on the line.

I'll add one more reason why I don't enable comments -- there are already some great message boards which deal with Tulsa issues, and the software makes it easier to read, post, and navigate. TulsaNow's forums and a new site, Living On Tulsa Time, both use the Snitz message board software.

As expected, the City Council voted to approve Councilor Randy Sullivan's resolution to have the TMAPC study ways to keep the rezoning of 71st & Harvard's southwest corner from setting a precedent for similar rezoning on the other three corners. The item was discussed in committee, but added last minute to Thursday night's agenda. I got word of the meeting late that afternoon. Neighborhood activist Herb Beattie and I spoke to the Council.

I laid out the points I mentioned here in a previous entry, and added this point. There is no way the Council can avoid setting a precedent for the other corners. Its approval of the F & M Bank rezoning has already set a precedent. Suppose a developer applies for a zoning change to the northeast corner to build an office building of similar size to the F & M facility. If the TMAPC or Council rejects that rezoning, the applicant is sure to take the matter to district court and is sure to win his case against the city. Approving an office rezoning on one corner and not an another would clearly be regarded as "arbitrary and capricious", and the court would reverse the decision. The big campaign contributions given by F & M board members to councilors would be an issue in the case -- the clear motive for granting special consideration to one rezoning applicant.

I was pleased to see that my soundbite made the Whirled's coverage. I called the resolution "a cynical exercise in political posterior coverage."

Herb Beattie spoke next, calling the proposal meaningless and saying that it missed the point. If the councilors really wanted to understand the concerns of homeowners, they should attend Monday night's neighborhood rally, 6 p.m., at Wright Elementary School.

In the end, the council voted 7-1 (Williams was absent) to approve the meaningless measure. Randy Sullivan said his motive wasn't political, he just wanted to protect the neighborhood. (Of course, he didn't support neighborhood protection when it really mattered.) Councilor Susan Neal couldn't see the harm in passing the resolution. I offered to explain, but she wasn't interested. Sam Roop agreed with Herb that the resolution was meaningless, but said he would end up voting for it anyway.

That left Chris Medlock, bravely standing alone on principal, refused to go along with this sham, although he didn't say anything as undiplomatic as that. He deserves the enthusiastic support of homeowners across Tulsa in his re-election bid.

I hope you're making plans to join us Monday night at Wright. Doors open at 5, there's a press conference at 5:30, and the rally proper at 6. Attorney Louis Bullock and neighborhood leader Mona Miller will be speaking -- and I'll get to say a few words as well. Be there, invite your friends, and let the powers-that-be understand that Tulsa homeowners expect fair treatment in the zoning process. Let's demonstrate our strength with our numbers.

Who will design the arena?

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A couple of weeks ago, Jack Blair posted a very helpful guide to the firms competing for the job of designing and engineering the new downtown sports arena, complete with photos of work done by these firms and his own thoughts on who would produce the kind of arena that will be an asset to downtown, not an eyesore. He obviously put a lot of effort into collecting the information -- go check it out.

And elsewhere, Jack suggests we look to our past -- the old Coliseum -- for inspiration.

I didn't want the darn thing, but at least we can build something nice.

Even McDonald's can blend in

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Saw the following recent post (about halfway down) by Keith Mooney in one of the Tulsa Now forums:

After being out of town for a few months, I was really disappointed to see that generic looking McDonald's being built on the sw corner of cherry and peoria. What nimron allowed that to happen? It totally disgraces the character of the neighborhood. Who allowed that to happen? Whoever it was, they were on some sort of sedative when they allowed that plan to go through. It's not that I'm annoyed that is was a McDonald's, but surely someone could have designed a McDonald's that would have blended in with the neighborhood, although we have the Whataburger and Long John's across the street that are eyesores just as well. But still, Cherry Street could be so much nicer if we had developers who would keep in mind the integrity and architecture of that corner. To the poster who posted that Cherry Street and Brookside are lost causes, well I disagree. These are small neighborhoods, not mega entertainment districts (i.e. OKC's Bricktown or Dallas' WestEnd), But surely from now on, we need to be more stringent as a city regarding architectural and aesthetic developments being constructed in these otherwise charming neighborhoods. But that McDonalds is a total waste of space and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Many people have expressed surprise that a garden-variety McDonald's could be built in a historic, traditional, pedestrian-oriented shopping district, next to two historic neighborhoods. Folks who have visited historic districts elsewhere have seen chain stores and restaurants redesigned to fit in with the existing architecture, and they are surprised that that doesn't seem to happen here. I remember on a trip to Germany finding Mickey D's in the heart of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a beautifully preserved walled city. But the McDonald's, right on the market square, was in a historic building, with signage adjusted so it didn't stand out like a sore thumb. (No drive-thru, of course.)

At 15th & Peoria, you could have had a lot worse than McDonald's, by right. You could have a giant windowless metal barn topped by an enormous sign, because the parcel is zoned CH -- commercial high-intensity. CH zoning was applied to most of the shopping districts in Midtown, even though high-intensity is not an apt description for the small shops and cafes you find in this areas.

Other cities expect better and they get it, because they set their expectations in writing, in the form of design requirements. Design requirements are used in residential and commercial areas to maintain the character of an area, without imposing the more stringent standards of historic preservation. Design requirements are a component of "neighborhood conservation" or "urban conservation" ordinances. Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Little Rock are just a few among many cities in our region and nationally which have enabled the creation of conservation districts.

Meanwhile, Tulsa lags behind. Conservation districts were considered by Mayor Savage's 1999 Infill Task Force. INCOG planning staffers even had a draft neighborhood conservation district ordinance for the task force to consider. In the end, the concept was watered down by the members of the development community who dominated the task force. I recall one developer saying that national chains would not want to locate in Tulsa if we imposed any sort of design requirements. This is baloney -- as the experience of other cities demonstrates -- and it reveals a lack of confidence in Tulsa's desirability. If a company wants to target a given neighborhood because of its demographics and spending patterns, they will be willing to adapt to meet the requirements for the location they want. It is certain that they will build their cookie-cutter standard design, unless there is some requirement to do otherwise.

Here is a page that tracks news stories about urban design guidelines.

Howie Carr, scourge of hacks

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Looking for some other stuff on the web, I came across something about Howie Carr.

Howie Carr is a favorite of mine. Howie is a columnist for the Boston Herald and a radio talk show host. Oddly, I don't remember reading him during my time in college. I became aware of him a couple of years later, during the 1988 presidential campaign. Howie was doing the rest of the country a great service by telling the truth about Michael Dukakis' maladministration of Massachusetts, at a time when PeeWee (as Howie calls him) was running on a platform of "competence, not ideology". Howie exposed the reality behind the "Massachusetts Miracle", called attention to the frantic financial fudging that was going on to avoid Massachusetts showing a deficit a month before the election. A friend bought me a mail subscription to the Herald, and I had a great time reading Howie's hilarious dissections of Bay State politics.

Howie's central focus is on government corruption and cozy deals, reporting things that the political "hacks" (a favorite word) would just as soon keep quiet. Howie doesn't just talk about what other people report. He does his own digging and comes up with the documentation. He regularly calls attention to ex-legislators and relatives of politicians who have landed cushy high paying jobs in the state bureaucracy, reporting their salaries and job "responsibilities". Many of Howie's columns feature info from the "hack hotline" -- whistle-blowing reports from government employees.

Oklahoma 2004 election schedule

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In case you hadn't heard, Oklahoma's election calendar, which has been more or less unchanged for decades, has undergone a makeover for 2004, moving the presidential preference primary, filing period, primary, and runoff about a month earlier each. The legislature approved the changes in this year's session. The earlier presidential primary date (a week after New Hampshire) has actually put Oklahoma on the radar for the Democratic presidential candidates. The earlier regular primary and runoff is designed to provide sufficient time for sending out and receiving overseas military absentee ballots between the runoff and the general election.

By the way, the ballot for the presidential primary is set, and you can see the list of candidates here. The only surprise entry on the Democrat side is Lyndon LaRouche, while someone named Bill Wyatt has filed to run against President Bush in the Republican primary. The primary coincides with Tulsa's municipal primary, normally a very low-turnout affair in non-mayoral years. The coincidence could have an impact on a couple of Council races in heavily-Democratic north Tulsa -- the race to replace Joe Williams in District 1, and the rematch between David Patrick and Roscoe Turner in District 3.

Mark your calendars for 5:30 p.m. next Monday evening, for a citywide rally in support of fair zoning. It will be a chance for ordinary Tulsans show their opposition to the manipulations used recently to deprive property owners of their right to protest a zoning change.

The politicians would like to think we don't care about this issue -- we don't care enough to fight the issue in court or at the ballot box. Let's show them they're wrong.

The rally will be at Wright Elementary School, on 45th Place west of Peoria. Doors open at 5, with the meeting beginning with a press conference at 5:30, followed by a few speeches.

This next city election, less than two months away, ought to be about development and zoning issues. These issues are crucial to our quality of life and our city's future. We shouldn't let the big shots keep these issues out of the spotlight. Please join us on December 15.

A 71st & Harvard update: There is a move afoot to mollify the protesting homeowners, avert a lawsuit, avoid negative publicity for F&M Bank, and diffuse a mounting political backlash against the six councilors (Sullivan, Baker, Patrick, Justis, Williams, and Neal) who voted to discard the homeowners' lawfully submitted protest petition.

District 7 Councilor Randy Sullivan, F&M's point man on the City Council, is shopping a proposal to provide some assurance to the homeowners that F&M's zoning change will not set a precedent for similar residential-to-non-residential changes on the other three corners of that intersection. What he is offering amounts to a band-aid to heal a stab wound that he inflicted.

A resolution was on the Council agenda last Thursday night, brought forth by Sullivan without any prior consultation with Councilor Chris Medlock, who represents most of the affected area. Click the "read more" link for the full text and commentary.

Shame on me. Shame on all of us. School board filing period was last week, Monday through Wednesday, and I forgot to remind you about it. I knew it was coming up soon, sometime in December, but forgot it was the very first Monday, and this year, that was December 1st. (I did mention it a couple of months ago, however.)

So last Thursday the Whirled published the list of candidates who filed for school board seats in Tulsa County. Of the 18 seats on the ballot, 13 drew only one candidate. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall a Whirled story announcing the beginning of the filing period.)

The Tulsa district has two seats out of seven up next February. One seat is contested -- incumbent Cathy Newsome faces challengers Betty Pelton Morrow and Claudia L. Brown-King. In the other seat, Ruth Ann Fate is reelected to her third four-year term without opposition. (She beat Marilyn Wigger in 1996 and Dennis Dowell in 2000.) Most of the suburban districts have five members, each serving a staggered five-year term.

While ignorance of the law is no excuse, the school board election system in Oklahoma seems designed to keep the school board election process out of the public eye and insulate the schools from the democratic process. Filing takes place during the busy Christmas season, after the regular election date has come and gone, when ordinary people and the news media are paying attention to other things. Elections are in February, and the campaign is conducted during a season when early sunsets and cold temperatures interfere with door-to-door campaigns. Terms are long, making board members less accountable to the public. And it is impossible, because of staggered terms, to throw all the bums out. I often get the impression that school board members are more interested in representing the administration's views to the public, than holding the administration accountable on behalf of the public.

I offered my idea for school board accountability and taxpayer empowerment a few months ago -- elect the full school board, in partisan elections, every two years. For now, I guess we'll just have to put up with a school board that has no problem with French classes that don't teach French.

If candidates in the contested school board elections would like an opportunity to air their views publicly, please drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com. I'd like to do my part to give voters an informed choice.

Boeing to build 7E7 in Everett

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The Seattle Times is reporting that Boeing will build the 7E7 in Everett, Washington, picking that city over three finalists, all southern cities near the ocean:

The Boeing insider, who has provided accurate information about key 7E7 decisions in recent months, said Everett was chosen over three other finalists, all in the Southeast: Kinston, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Mobile, Ala. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The 7E7 team's analysis showed that the cost of operating in Everett, though higher than in the other cities, was competitive because of the $3 billion 7E7 tax incentive passed by Gov. Gary Locke and the state Legislature in June.

With that incentive package, the difference in cost between Everett and Kinston, the lowest-cost city, narrowed to about $300 million over 20 years, a number dwarfed by the estimated $7 billion to $10 billion cost of developing a new airplane.

The source goes on to cite non-economic reasons for the selection. Selecting a non-union site would hurt Boeing in negotiations with unions at its other facilities. And leaving Washington would alienate Boeing's allies in Washington's congressional delegation, who are especially important now because of the recent allegations of unethical behavior by Boeing officials, which are jeopardizing a plan to have Boeing build new tankers for the US Air Force.

Here's a link to the Seattle Times archive of stories about Boeing.

We should know for sure on December 15, when the Boeing board meets to discuss whether to move forward with the 7E7 and where the final assembly plant will be built.

If Tulsa doesn't get it, Tulsa County taxpayers should demand that the County Commissioners to act swiftly to repeal the tax authorized by Proposition No. 1 on the Vision 2025 ballot, so that the 0.4% cannot be activated under any circumstances, no matter how contrived.

Mayor wields the veto pen

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For the first time in his administration, and only the second time since the current form of city government was adopted, Mayor Bill LaFortune has wielded the veto pen. He chose not to exercise this power in the 71st & Harvard rezoning ordinance, even though the ordinance was passed by a narrow 5-4 vote, was opposed by his own appointee to the planning commission, and was accomplished by neighboring property owners being illegally deprived of recognition for their protest, thus triggering yet another civil liberties lawsuit against the city. No, in that case, the Mayor chose to defer to the prerogatives of the Council.

So what Council action was egregious enough to get the Mayor to whip out his veto pen, sans Liquid Paper? A 9-0 vote by the Council to require by ordinance that cell phone expenditures be accounted for by department, rather than as a single budget category. The Council's proposal, initiated by Bill Christiansen, is a sensible measure. It is too easy to hide unnecessary expenditures in one big government-wide budget item. By having each department responsible for its own cell phone expenses, each department has an incentive to control its own cell phone usage. The Whirled story quotes Christiansen drawing a comparison to copier usage:

The contract to build the most expensive item on the Vision 2025 ballot -- the new downtown sports arena and convention center expansion -- will go to a team of two local construction companies (jump page here) who were represented on the Dialog / Vision leadership team and were among the most generous contributors to the vote yes campaign. Manhattan Construction contributed $25,000 to the campaign, and Manhattan's chairman, Francis Rooney, was on the leadership team. Flintco contributed $21,500 to the campaign, and Flintco's president, Tom Maxwell, was on the leadership team.

Manhattan and Flintco, teamed up as "Tulsa Vision Builders", were selected over Tetra Tech, which has a Tulsa office, and Turner Construction, of Arlington, Virginia. Some will argue that this represents a promise kept -- to use local suppliers to the greatest extent possible. It should be remembered, however, that several other local companies were filtered out in the first round. No public reason was given for eliminating these other Tulsa companies -- there was some mention of a point system -- although it certainly set things up nicely that among local companies only this team of politically-connected firms made it through to the final round.

There is no question that Manhattan and Flintco have been involved in some significant arena and stadium projects over the years, and worked together to complete the dome on the State Capitol. There is no question that they have the expertise to carry out the project. The question is whether the best and most cost-effective team was selected, or whether favoritism played a role.

It all seems too cozy. These two major construction companies get a seat at the table, as part of the leadership team, with a voice and a vote as a "vision" is defined for the Tulsa metro area -- an opportunity denied to representatives of small businesses, neighborhoods, churches, colleges, and schools. Perhaps not coincidentally, the leadership team concludes that major construction projects are what Tulsa most needs for improving its quality of life. And then the companies that are most generous in helping persuade the public to part with their tax money are rewarded with the biggest piece of the pie. They will recoup their campaign contribution many times over.

The next big decision is to choose an architecture and engineering team. Looking again at the list of contributors, the biggest donor who has yet to receive a return on investment is architect Gary Sparks, whose firm gave $10,000 to the vote yes campaign. Sparks does have experience in the field -- he designed the expansion of Gallagher-Iba, coming up with a very creative solution which left the heart of the legendary fieldhouse intact while expanding up and out to double the number of seats, from 6,300 to about 13,000. (Perhaps that could be done here -- save the cost of acquiring additional land.)

I'm betting that Sparks will get the nod.

A shot across the bow of the City from 71st & Harvard homeowners, via their attorney, Louis Bullock. The next to last paragraph is a great summary of the case:

The lawsuit soon to be filed will also seek remedies for the City's violation of the Constitution of the United States. In violation of the due process clause of the Constitution, my clients were denied a hearing or any semblance of fundamental fairness. The rules of the process were continually changed to fit the goals of F&M Bank and its supporters in City government. The clear objective of a majority on the City Council was to deny these citizens their right to fairness and to petition their government; they acheived that objective. In short, my clients were steamrolled to serve narrow economic and political interests.

This is an issue that has already affected homeowners in many parts of the city, and anyone could find themselves in the same situation -- seeking fair treatment from the City and being denied. (You can find out how to help by clicking here. The neighborhood you save may be your own.)

You can read the whole letter by clicking the next link.

A hymn for Advent

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Coventry Chorale is rehearsing for a traditional Advent Service of Lessons and Carols at Grace Episcopal Church in Ponca City. (5 p.m., Sunday, December 14.) Tonight we rehearsed a hymn for Advent that was new to most of the singers but was well-received for its text and lyrics.

Here is the first verse:

The people who in darkness walked
have seen a glorious light;
on them broke forth the heav'nly dawn
who dwelt in death and night.

It is a metrical paraphrase of Isaiah 9:2-7 by John Morison (1749-1798), set to the tune Dundee, from the Scottish Psalter of 1615. The text, as altered in the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal, is here. An evidently older version, perhaps closer to the original, is in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal. The original seems to be here, in the Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases. (CyberHymnal also has that version.)

What I like about this song is that it is truly a hymn for the Advent season, not just a Christmas carol we sing early. It is a paraphrase of a prophecy of the coming Messiah. It expresses a central theme of Advent -- the contrast between the darkness and light -- between the darkness of mankind's rebellion against God and the light of Christ, which has pierced the darkness. Each night as our family lights the Advent candles we read the passage from Isaiah 9, as part of a devotional prepared by our pastor. Now we can sing it as well.

Advent is mostly forgotten or observed as an extended Christmastide. Traditionally, Advent was a penitential season, like Lent, signified by the liturgical use of purple, in contrast to the white of Easter and Christmas. Advent is a time to reflect on our own brokenness and sinfulness, to renew our yearning for redemption and reconciliation with God, a time to retrospectively look forward with the saints of the Old Testament, longing for the redemption which came in Christ's first advent, and a time to look forward to the consummation of all things and our ultimate deliverance from sin and death at our Lord's second advent. Advent is a time to build up an appetite, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, so that we can properly appreciate our hunger's fulfillment in the miracle of the Incarnation.

A bit of Internet serendipity:

The news reached me that longtime BBC weatherman Michael Fish was being put out to pasture for the sin of being almost 60 and not at all telegenic. I remember watching his nightly forecasts during business trips to the UK.

The article was an op-ed piece by Conservative MP Boris Johnson, who referred to Fish's "sex maniac's moustache".

It may have been his permanently bashful air. It may have been his sex maniac's moustache. Perhaps it was something to do with the way he goggled at the camera in the manner of a rattled maths master asked at the last minute to give out the prizes. It may have been the colossal Britishness of Fish, not just evinced by his constant talk of weather, but his faint air of apology for the frost and the drizzle and the general damp. It may have been the unremitting politeness with which he broke the bad news about tomorrow's downpour, like a man in the Tube, reluctantly tugging your sleeve to announce that you are treading on his toe.

The piece goes on to present some interesting stats on weather forecasting -- you would attain a 76% accuracy rating if you always predicted that tomorrow will be just like today. (That may be true in England. I doubt it's true in Oklahoma.)

I only vaguely remembered what Michael Fish looked like, and couldn't imagine what kind of mustache fit that description (Daliesque? Fu Manchu? Toothbrush?), so I googled his name and found a photo here, along with a bio. (That link no longer works, but here is a gallery on Michael Fish's own website, showing the evolution of his facial hair over the decades.) Further googling led me to the lyrics to a song by Rowan Atkinson in praise of Mr. Fish.

[Rowan] Atkinson: Michael Fish, quite simply the most charismatic figure in the history... of entertainment.

[Angus] Deayton and Singers: He tells it straight... to the nation... every night... he's an inspiration... He tells the truth...

Atkinson: He does, he tells it to you, he tells it to you.

Deayton and Singers: Monday to Friday...

Atkinson: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and sometimes Saturday and Sunday.

Deayton and Singers: His moustache... is always tidy...

The site with the lyrics looked interesting -- a tribute to something called "Chart of the Flops", which appears to have been a radio program similar to Dr. Demento. Here is the list of songs that made the chart in its 10 year history, with lyrics for many of them. Included are Dr. Demento standards and classic American novelty tunes like "Fish Heads", "Monster Mash", "Hello Mudduh", "Der Fuehrer's Face", several selections each from Weird Al, They Might Be Giants, and Tom Lehrer, along with their counterparts from across the pond -- Monty Python, Peter Sellers, the Goons, the Goodies.

One of the songs on the list was "The Highway Code" by the Master Singers, which is apparently the British rules of the road set to music. I have not hear that, but years ago I heard another one of their songs on Dr. Demento -- "Weather Report", which was a weather forecast set in Anglican chant and sung to perfection. (It may not sound much to you, but it had me laughing.) I googled the Master Singers and found this <"https://web.archive.org/web/20040426083634/http://textstyle.ca/blog/archives/000452.html">blog entry, which contained a link to an MP3 file of "Weather Report".

Both "Highway Code" and "Weather Report" hit the British charts in 1966. The songs were produced by George Martin, who also was producer for the Beatles. One website (which has a good description of Anglican chant) says that the Master Singers later became the King's Singers (who have a new Christmas album), but I see nothing on the King's Singers website mentioning that, although the group unofficially began at Cambridge a year before the two singles reached the charts. But this page says the group consisted of four teachers from Abingdon School, and that they backed Peter Sellers on a cover of the Beatles' "Help!"

I had googled this before, but had always come up empty in the past. Which brings us back to the weather and Michael Fish, which is what started me down this path.

Go and have a listen to the weather report.

UPDATE: You can hear the current shipping forecast -- one is included in the Master Singers' version -- at the BBC weather website, which has a map explaining what Forties Cromarty Dogger Fisher German Bight means. Link courtesy Two Chaps Talking, who say: "Listening to the Shipping News on a short wave radio, or indeed via their website, is a rare delight and should be enjoyed regularly for its calming effect."

UPDATE again: Fixed a link above, which was to a blog category rather than the permanent link to the blog entry. Also, someone reported to me he clicked on the link for the MP3 file and was greeted with a very rude ad about body part enlargement. I double-checked and nothing like that happened to me -- I suspect the computer he's using has some spyware on it, or else the previous site he visited "respawned" and popped up a window as he left it. Anyway, please know that I will not deliberately link you to something rude, so if something like this happens to you, please e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com and let me know.

Yet another UPDATE: A thoughtful reader from the UK has sent a link to an MP3 of "The Highway Code" by the Master Singers. Be aware that these files may disappear at any time, and be considerate of the bandwidth of those who are hosting them. Another reader, with an e-mail address from the Royal College of Music, writes:

Actually, two of the Master Singers (including Geoffrey Keating) were teachers at Cheadle Hulme School, Cheshire. They were there by 1965. Geoffrey Keating moved on to Millfield in 1970. They may all have been at Abingdon before 1965, I suppose. Members of the Master Singers and the King Singers were friends (a Cambridge connection probably), and the Kings Singers came to sing at Cheadle Hulme, but I don't think that there was any overlap in membership. The Master Singers were a few years older than the first Kings Singers, as I recall.

One more UPDATE (1 October 2004): A reader points out, correctly, that this isn't plainsong at all, it's Anglican chant, which is harmonized, while plainsong is unison.

Another UPDATE (26 September 2006): On the anglican-music mailing list earlier this year, John Botari believes he has identified the three chants used for "Weather Forecast":

I once took the trouble to figure out which chants were used for The Weather Forecast; there are three of them (sung A-B-C-B-A).

Here's what I came up with:

A - George Mursell Garrett (1834-97)
The only place that I could find this one was
at #268 in the ECUSA Anglican Chant Psalter,
in Ab. (Certainly *not* where the Mastersingers
found it!)

B - W. Taylor
Found (in Db) at #232 in The Parish Psalter
with Chants
(ed. Sydney Hugo Nicholson), or
(in D) at #129 and #335 in the Oxford Chant
Book No. 1
.

c - Stephen Elvey (1805-60)
Found (in G) at #116 in The Parish Psalter,
or (in F) at #9 and #342 in the ECUSA Anglican
Chant Psalter
.

Yet another UPDATE (7 May 2007): Helen Keating, wife of Geoff Keating, one of the Mastersingers (using her spelling), has written me with the definitive account of the Mastersingers, the Highway Code, and the Weather Report.

MORE, MORE (30 October 2008): Brien K. Meehan has produced a printable transcription of the Mastersingers' Weather Forecast with words and four-part music.

UPDATED broken Michael Fish-related links on 17 August 2015, thanks to the Internet Archive (to which you should donate).

A neighborhood weblog

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Lewis Crest Neighborhood Association, which is southeast of 51st & Lewis, has set up a Movable Type-powered weblog for announcements of interest to the neighborhood. This is a great idea, and I'm pleased to see that this site helped to inspire this development.

With some template manipulation and creative use of categories, Movable Type could be adapted for use as a general-purpose content management system, an easy way to set up and maintain a website.

Speaking of categories I'm thinking it's about time to revise my category structure, and specifically to add some hierarchy to the Tulsa category -- with zoning and Vision 2025 as a couple of subcategories. If you've got suggestions for organizing the site, let me know at blog at batesline dot com.

Evangelicals at MIT

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A major part of my college experience was my involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical interdenominational outreach to college students. The Sunday's Boston Globe has a story on the growth of evangelical groups at Harvard, MIT, and other Boston campuses.

There are 15 evangelical Christian fellowship groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone. This is a pretty stunning development for a university where science has always been god, where efficiency and rationality are embedded in the DNA of the cold granite campus. Hundreds of MIT students are involved in these fellowships -- blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, especially Asians. Some of the groups are associated with powerhouse national evangelical organizations, like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Others are more home-grown. Either way, the ranks are multiplying. ...

And somewhere along the way, evangelical Christianity -- which a generation earlier had been a mark of embarrassment, a sign that you had checked your brain at the gate -- became not just tolerated but cool.

You can see this in the throngs of students from around Boston who cram into Harvard's Science Center on Friday nights to sing, "We are hungry for more of You/We are thirsty, oh Jesus." The event is called RealLife Boston, which is Campus Crusade's name for its 500-student Boston-area ministry, and the SRO crowd is made up of well-built athletes, attractive faces, even artsy types with chin hair and trendy black glasses. The emcee is Aaron Byrd, an easygoing junior from Abilene, Texas, who plays safety on the Harvard football team.

Sounds like the evangelical groups are approaching or surpassing the level of 20 years ago, when I was on campus.

It's an interesting profile, from the Globe's left-wing, secular perspective, but fairly balanced nonetheless.

(Link via Instapundit.)

UPDATE 6/2/2005: I'm sure the article is long-gone from the Globe's website, but you can still read it here, on the website of Brian Ellis, a CCC staffer based in Cambridge.

The neighborhoods surrounding 71st & Harvard are going forward with a lawsuit regarding the way their zoning protest petition was handled by INCOG planning staff, the City Attorney's office, the City Council, and the Mayor. This lawsuit is not really about the zoning case itself, but about the way this protective law has been stripped away, denying due process to all property owners. Here's a message from the homeowners, seeking your help in restoring this protection for your property values.

Due to the re-zoning of 71 and Harvard and the unfair and illegal handling of protest signatures, we are appealing to District Court to consider Equal Rights for Homeowners. The actions of various entities clearly subverted the intent, as well as the letter of state law that allows for homeowners the right to protest such matters. The people's distress goes far beyond the zoning change. There is an outrage over the basic loss of the right to petition. If enough people will pull together, we will be able to cover the legal costs without putting the burden on just a few. Already we have four lawyers who are donating their time to this lawsuit. If you agree with the value of this lawsuit, please help by donating whatever amount is comfortable. Checks need to be written to: Zoning Alert Watchman Committee Please mail to:
Ms. Mona Miller
7211 South Gary Place
Tulsa, OK. 74136

Need more information? Call Mona at 492-1481

Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Remember - your neighborhood or your corner could be next. We need to protect this basic right to express opposition.

Today's news next week sometime

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Sometimes I don't get around to writing about something for a week or so after it happens. I have good excuses -- a full-time job, family responsibilities, civic involvement. This blog is not a paying gig: Although some donors (four, actually) have contributed enough to pay the hosting bills for a couple of years, it isn't so much I could quit my job and do this full-time.

The Whirled has no such excuse -- they're paid to cover the news -- and yet they frequently defer stories on City Council committee or regular meetings until the next Saturday. This last Saturday they published a story about a Council meeting that had occurred nine days earlier. (Jump page is here.)

In the past I've been told that even if the reporter files the full story the night of the Council meeting, but it's often drastically cut short or omitted entirely by the editors for space reasons.

That excuse made sense when newspapers were merely ink on paper, but with unlimited space available on the web, it no longer holds water. Why not provide the full story when it's filed, as a "web extra", thus adding value for your subscribers? An Internet news site has the ability to marry the immediacy of radio or television -- "news when it breaks" -- with the detail that only the written word can offer.

The story itself is a pretty fair explanation of the issues surrounding the zoning protest petition. The only glaring omission is a list of the "city officials" who invalidated the 71st & Harvard petition -- a list that would have to include INCOG staff, City Attorney's office staff, and the six city councilors (Baker, Justis, Neal, Sullivan, Patrick, Williams) who voted to accept INCOG's invalidation. It's odd, though, that the Whirled would delay running it, and then wait until the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, a day when not as many people are reading the paper, I suspect.

The highlight of the story was news that Mayor LaFortune had signed the 71st & Harvard rezoning, but his signature was covered with correction fluid (no brand specified), and Deputy Mayor Steve Sewell's signature was superimposed on it. To be fair, the Mayor has taken ultimate responsibility for approving the rezoning in radio interviews, even though it's his deputy's signature. But the use of White Out or Liquid Paper on an official signature provides opens a window onto the decision-making process on the 11th Floor of City Hall. (And I wonder if a signature over a whited-out signature is valid. I'm pretty sure you couldn't do that on your closing documents when you buy a house.) When did the Mayor first sign the document? When was it whited out? Who decided to white it out? When was it signed by Sewell? What brand of fluid was it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Back online

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Had a nice couple of days out of town (in Branson, of all places), then a couple of days back here catching up on work and other chores, thus the lack of activity on the blog. Lots to get caught up on.


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