April 2004 Archives

Remembering Nancy Apgar


Tulsa lost a treasure last week. Nancy Apgar, longtime leader in the Brookside Neighborhood Association, passed away Friday. There will be a memorial service today at 11 at 1st Presbyterian Church, downtown, 7th & Boston.

Nancy came from Philadelphia to Tulsa with Cities Service in the '70s, and after her retirement in 1984, she began a sort of second career as a community leader and neighborhood activist. She was one of the founding board members of the Brookside Neighborhood Association, which was formed in the midst of a zoning battle in 1991. Over the years she served the association as Vice President for Zoning and as President, and I believe she served continuously on the board of the association from its founding. Since Brookside joined the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations in 1999, Nancy served as Brookside's representative on the Coalition. The Mayor's Office for Neighborhoods recognized her service with a "Picket Fence" award, and in 2002 she was recognized as a Community Hero by the City of Tulsa.

Nancy was one of the most effective neighborhood advocates I've ever seen. She did her homework on an issue, and when she spoke, she presented the case simply and effectively. She kept her cool under fire. She was persistent and direct, but never impolite.

Some self-interested parties like to characterize neighborhood advocates as knee-jerk naysayers and anti-business NIMBYs. Nancy Apgar didn't resemble that caricature a bit. Nancy built good working relationships between the Brookside Business Association and the Brookside Neighborhood Association. She understood that the neighborhood consists of the businesses and the residents together and that the presence of each enhanced the other. The residential area forms a big part of the customer base for the business district, and the pedestrian-friendly shopping district is a big part of the appeal of the neighborhood as a place to live.

Nancy also understood the importance of boundaries and balance between the two aspects of the neighborhood. She picked her battles carefully, and when she got involved in a battle, it was because she saw a threat to that balance. That's why she worked against commercial encroachment into the residential area, worked against turning Brookside into a concentrated nightclub district, and worked for enforcement of the noise ordinance. For the benefit of the neighborhood, she also worked against widening Riverside Drive and for a traffic light at 41st Street and Riverside, allowing neighborhood residents safe access to River Parks.

Nancy kept her ear to the ground, and if she got wind of plans for a new development, she'd do some digging and get in touch with the developer. Wise developers would seek her out long before seeking city approval for a zoning change. She would prefer to work with the developer to accommodate neighborhood concerns while allowing the project to meet its objectives, rather than have to oppose the whole project. If you comb through the minutes of the TMAPC and the Board of Adjustment, you'll often find Nancy expressing her support for a zoning change and praising the applicant for addressing the neighborhood's concerns.

In 1999, when then-Mayor Savage announced funding for infill development plans for three neighborhoods, Nancy successfully pushed to have Brookside included in the process, and then participated in the planning process over the next few years, along with business leaders and city planners. The Brookside plan has been adopted, and implementation is just beginning. The plan was all about how to accommodate new growth and development while protecting the aspects of the neighborhood's character that make it a desirable place to live and have a business.

It was my privilege to know Nancy and work with her. We first worked together on the Albertson's zoning battle and as members of the initial Brookside Neighborhood Association board. We lost touch for a few years after I bought a house and moved out of the neighborhood, but connected again through the Midtown Coalition. Nancy's reports on events in Brookside were a feature of nearly every Coalition meeting. She was an encouragement to me in many ways and was kind enough to endorse me and to contribute to my 2002 City Council campaign. At the same time, she wasn't shy about letting me know if she thought I was off base -- always plain-spoken, but never impolite.

The headline on the business section of Sunday's Whirled read "Booming Brookside". Nancy Apgar has had a major part in laying the groundwork for that boom.

There's talk of placing a statue in memory of Nancy in Brookside, perhaps something like one of the NatureWorks animal bronzes in River Parks. If this is done, the plaque should include the Latin motto, "Lector, si requiris monumentum, circumspice" -- reader, if you seek her monument, look around you.

Orthodox dreams


One of the lovely things about my room at the Hampton Inn in East Aurora is the Sony Dream Machine -- a twin-alarm clock radio and CD player. The alarms are easy to set. It has a "nap" function -- you can set an alarm for so many minutes from now, rather than having to do the math in your head.

Back home, my children listen to CDs as they go to sleep. Joseph sometimes listens to Love-A-Byes, a sweet collection of lullabyes filled with lyrics about parental love and God's watchful care. He's been listening to it since he was small. We managed to find a CD copy before our cassette wore out. Other times he wants to hear Riders in the Sky, or part of one of the Gospels (from a CD set of the NIV), or some soft classical strings. Katherine likes the Wiggles' "Go to Sleep, Jeff".

I don't do this at home -- maybe I should, but at the hotel each night I drift off to sleep and wake up to music of my choosing. It settles my brain and blocks out any stray noises from the hallway, the air conditioner, or the micro-fridge.

On this trip, that music is Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers, or All-Night Vigil, performed by the Robert Shaw Chorale. It is beautiful a cappella music for mixed chorus. Rachmaninoff's harmonies and embellishments are built around ancient Russian chants. The lyrics are from the Psalms and the Orthodox liturgy. Years ago, the Coventry Chorale performed several selections from the work, in Russian. As we worked on pronunciation, we had opportunity to read through the lyrics in English. The texts are filled with the glory of Christ, the Victor over Death. Here is a link to texts and audio files of another recording of this work. And here is a review of a performance of the work.

Here is an English translation of one of my favorite movements from the work, Voskreseniye Hristovo videvshe

10. Having Seen the Resurrection of the Lord

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ,
let us worship the holy Lord Jesus,
the only Sinless One.
We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ,
and we hymn and glorify Thy holy resurrection,
For Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee;
we call on Thy name.
Come, all you faithful,
let us venerate Christ's holy resurrection.
For, behold, through the cross
joy has come into all the world.
Ever blessing the Lord,
let us praise His resurrection,
for by enduring the cross for us,
He has destroyed death by death.

During my week-and-a-half trip to western New York, I had last Sunday afternoon off to roam a bit. I spotted a marked scenic route on the AAA map about an hour east of Buffalo -- Letchworth State Park, near Perry, New York. After a morning storm, the day was perfect. I headed east on US 20A, past countless dairy farms, over hills and through deep valleys. The terrain reminded me of the Ozarks. The approach into the town of Warsaw is so steep that heavy vehicles are required to exit the main road into an area that looks like a weigh station, but the only thing there is a large sign mapping the road ahead, showing where the steep grades and curves are, and reminding truckers to use low gear and conserve braking capacity.

Warsaw, the seat of Wyoming County, is a pretty little town. I spent some time walking around and admiring the neatly kept craftsman-style and late Victorian homes before grabbing a late lunch at the local Chinese buffet.

If I had known how amazing Letchworth State Park would be I would have headed straight there. The name doesn't do it justice. It really ought to be called "Amazingly Beautiful Gorges and Waterfalls State Park". But the name is a fitting tribute to the man who bought the land about 130 years ago, worked to restore it to native condition, then donated it to the state of New York in the early 20th century.

The park encompasses the gorge of the Genesee River. At places the walls are 500 feet high. The river goes down three waterfalls -- the Middle Falls has a 100 foot drop. Further down river, Wolf Creek drops from the western rim of the gorge through a narrow, twisting gorge of its own, down several stages of waterfalls to the river 200 feet below. Nearby viewing areas give you tantalizing glimpses of part of the Wolf Creek falls, but there is no place to stand to see all of it at once. Down below on the river I noticed some kayakers and rafters who had stopped for a few minutes to rest and look.

At the lower falls, you can take steps down to a viewing area only about 20 feet about the river. There's a footbridge to a walkway on the east bank of the river. The east bank path was treacherous. I had to walk around a three-foot high chunk of ice and snow -- protected from the sun -- and in the process slipped and fell. I thought I was walking on mud, but it was mud and slippery chips of shale on top of a nine-inch thick pad of ice which covered the entire walkway. I recovered and made it safely back to the car, thence to Inspiration Point and views of the middle and upper falls.

As I looked at the upper falls, I started thinking about the gospel chorus based on Revelation 4:11 -- "for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." What an amazing thing that God, who lacks nothing, nevertheless takes great enjoyment in creating and looking upon such beauty.

I drove off into the setting sun, listening and singing along with "Best Loved Hymns", an album by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, with beautiful arrangements that go from quiet a cappella to triumphant brass. A lovely Sabbath break from the grind.

Buffalo roaming


I had this notion that I'd have plenty of time for blogging during my recent business trip, without the responsibilities of home for a week or so. Instead, I've worked some 10- to 12-hour days, and the last thing I felt like doing once I got back to the hotel room was thinking and typing. Often, being back at the hotel room just meant a chance to use the high-speed Internet connection to get more work done. Some lengthy e-mail replies to friends were started but never finished.

So there are all these random thoughts in my head -- about baseball, nightlife, Fisher-Price, foliage -- we'll see how many I can get typed on the flight back home.

A week ago Friday night I attended the Buffalo Bisons' season opener at Dunn Tire Park in downtown Buffalo. It was a beautiful evening, and I managed to walk up at game time and get a ticket on the front row near third base -- apparently a lone seat in between two blocks of season tickets. The park is about 15 years old, designed by HOK in a way that fits its downtown surroundings. It seats about 20,000, biggest park in the minor leagues. When the park first opened, the Bisons had a string of six straight years drawing over a million fans a year. Opening night drew over 17,000 and badly overloaded the concession stands -- some of my neighbors would go for food or beer and disappear for three innings. Somehow, as I came in, I found the only concession stand with a short line. Got a beef-on-weck sandwich (along with horseradish packets, of course) and a big Diet Coke and I was set for the game.

Good reading elsewhere

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There's a lot to be said, but not enough time to say it. I am cramming in a lot of activity during a week back at the ranch-style home, which isn't leaving much time for the blog.

So as not to leave you without reading material, let me highlight a few blogs of interest:

The OkiePundit comments on Citgo's departure and the failures of the city and state economic development efforts:

On the Oklahoma side - the new Henry Administration quickly replaced most of the state's economic development professionals with international experience with personal friends with marginal experience in economic development. When Henry came to office the Commerce Department had one expert on CITGO and she was let go.

On the Tulsa side the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce failed to develop a relationship with CITGO's Venezuelan leadership - in part because the Chamber has no international professionals on staff - not one.

Okiedoke posts a regular roundup of Okie blogs.

Last week Bitweever gave us a peek at the azaleas in Woodward Park.

Dustbury is always worth a read.

Let's go RINO hunting


Today there's an election in Pennsylvania -- a Republican primary for U. S. Senate between incumbent Arlen Specter and Congressman Pat Toomey. Latest polls show the race even, so it's all down to which side will turn out their voters.

Conservatives everywhere have the chance act today to shape the future of the American judicial branch. If Specter is renominated today and reelected in November, he will become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the power to derail conservative, pro-life judicial nominations.

(Recalling that local political divisions don't fall along national partisan lines, I recognize that some of my Tulsa readers, who are allies on local issues, might think giving Specter the power to derail conservative judicial nominations is a good thing. It's nice that we can work together on areas of agreement, despite passionate differences on other important issues.)

Those of you who follow national politics will remember Specter's many betrayals of conservative principles. If you need reminders, follow this link for a list of National Review Online articles about the man. Or read this one from yesterday.

If you've got even a few minutes to make some calls, send an e-mail to electtoomey@yahoo.com and they will send you a script and a list of phone numbers. Polls in Pennsylvania close at 8 p.m. Eastern time (7 p.m. Tulsa time), and the Toomey campaign plans to call until the polls close.

Long distance calls are cheap, especially if your cell phone plan includes free long distance. My AT&T calling card from Sam's Club is less than 4 cents a minute -- for less than a meal at McDonald's I can encourage 100 voters to get out and vote for Pat Toomey.

Some Buffalo-area political notes:

New York takes a different approach to local school funding. A school board approves a budget, and calculations are done to figure out the property tax adjustment needed to bring in the required amount of money. Citizens vote on the budget in mid-May. If the budget is rejected, the board can make a second proposal. If that one fails, the board "would be forced to adopt a contingency budget." Thursday's Buffalo News had a story on suburban Orchard Park, where the school board president announced he would campaign against the 9% budget increase which was adopted by a 4-3 vote, because of the impact on taxpayers with fixed incomes. The board president had proposed a 6% increase. Here's the element of this story that will be familiar to Tulsans: board members on the winning side of the vote insist that the board president should support the adopted budget:

"I'm not going to comment on other board members, but they know how they should act, " said Joseph F. Bieron.

Jacqueline J. Paone, executive director of the Erie County Association of School Boards, said the law does not prevent a board member from campaigning against a budget, though such a situation is rare.

"When a school board makes a decision, regardless of what the vote is, the intent is the entire board would then support that decision," she said. "Does that happen all the time? No. But that's the advice we always give."

If a board member thinks a budget is bad enough to vote against, it only makes sense for him to try to make the same case to the electorate. Some people want to treat a school board or a city council as if it were like a president's cabinet, where members serve largely at the president's pleasure and together represent the president to the public. You would expect a cabinet to discuss policy options behind the scenes then unite behind whatever course of action the president chooses.

But a school board or a city council is a legislative body, and its members are individually responsible to the constituents who elected them. Insisiting on institutional solidarity will usually result in the betrayal of the interests of the voters.

Indian casinos are much in the news here. The Seneca Nation, which developed a casino in the old convention center in Niagara Falls, NY, plans to build one east of the airport in Cheektowaga. (And you thought Oklahoma was the only state with interesting Indian place names. Up here, they've also got Gowanda, Tonawandas -- North and plain, Lackawanna -- maybe they can borrow one from Tonawandas.) Buffalo pols are frustrated because they thought they helped push through the state gaming compact which authorized a casino in the Buffalo area. City officials thought they had a promise that the casino would be in the city limits, preferably in downtown. The Senecas point out that the compact wasn't that specific, and that they couldn't find a place in the City of Buffalo to meet their requirements. City officials are threatening lawsuits. A better approach might be to trademark the city's name so that the Seneca Nation can't use it in the name of the casino. If they want to call it "Seneca Buffalo" casino, they'd have to put it in Buffalo. Otherwise they'll have to hope people can remember where Cheektowaga is.

Reports are that the casino has done nothing for hotel occupancies in Niagara Falls, NY. Ontario has a competing casino across the river with slightly lower minimums, along with a better view of the falls and a range of tourist attractions from natural beauty to businesses that would be equally at home on Highway 76 in Branson. The Ontario casino is sandwiched between Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not, Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, a Hershey Store, a Coca-Cola Store, and is just a few steps away from the gorge's edge. The New York casino is in a dead part of downtown Niagara Falls, surrounded by surface parking lots, apparently the result of earlier urban renewal efforts.

The cheapest blackjack table is CAN $15 in Ontario; US $15 at the Senecas' casino. That's a lot of money to bet on the turn of a single card, and it reflects the difference between a state-enforced gambling monopoly and the free market that exists in Nevada. In Nevada, you can sit down at a $2 minimum table with a $50 bankroll -- what you might otherwise spend on an evening's entertainment -- and play for a long time. That makes it easier for people to play without going over a prudent limit. In New York, you can lose it all in four hands -- if you're going to play for an hour or so you'll need to be prepared to lose a lot more. I suspect that the high minimum casinos attract more local compulsive gamblers and not the casual players from out of state that you would find in Vegas or Mississippi -- the kind that actually bring money into the state. If Oklahoma's going to open the door to gambling, we ought to allow free competition (with appropriate regulation), not a state-sponsored monopoly.

I've spent a lot of time in Hampton Inns over the last year -- one in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia, one a block away from Main Street in East Aurora, New York, and one next to an Autoroute in the industrial and office park wasteland north of Montreal's Dorval Airport. Driving around downtown Buffalo, I noticed a new Hampton Inn at the corner of Delaware and Chippewa, in the heart of a lively entertainment district. These hotels were all built in the last few years.

What is striking about the Hampton Inns built in urban areas is how well adapted they are to their surroundings. The technical term for this is "sensitive infill". I wonder whether this is a strategic choice by the hotel owners or by the chain, and to what degree local zoning regulations mandated design choices.

Julie DelCour's Whirled column


I have only this much to say at the moment:

Yes, I read it. Someone e-mailed it to me Sunday morning.

When I saw it, I sighed. It deserves a thorough rebuttal, because it is hogwash, but I determined I was not going to let the Tulsa Whirled spoil my Sunday. I will get to it, but not now.

All right -- just this one point:

This past election voters, for their own reasons, turned out two incumbents, Art Justis and David Patrick.

Here is an analysis of the politics of the new City Council, and Ms. Del Cour can't be bothered even to speculate on why these two Councilors were turned out of office. (And a third, Baker, nearly was ousted.) The whole election turned on issues of fairness and openness, particularly with regard to land use planning, points that were hammered in the alternative media. Of course, the F&M Bank rezoning -- remember that the publisher of the Whirled is the Chairman of F&M Bancorporation -- was the symbol of the badly slanted approach the previous Council took to such issues.

That's all for now.

A name for this bunch


I have struggled with what to call this cluster of special interests which has been trying to run the City of Tulsa without public input, and preferably without public debate. The "Developers, Chamber, and Establishment" party was one awkward attempt at labeling them. I've used the term "bad guys" as shorthand -- not very descriptive. Trying to label them by referring to the F&M Bank rezoning controversy is problematic, because it was just one skirmish in an ongoing struggle.

But now a name suggests itself, thanks to the revelation about this City Council working group which has been discussing strategic public policy issues behind closed doors. Disdain for public debate and public scrutiny is the defining characteristic of this faction. When the Whirled complains that the new Council is going to be contentious, they mean that the Council will debate the issues in view of the public. The heart of John Benjamin's complaint about Chris Medlock's vote against Randy Sullivan for chairman -- his vote and Jim Mautino's shattered the illusion of unanimity, revealing a difference of opinion that shouldn't be aired.

They don't like the light of public scrutiny, so they conduct their business in the dark. But just because we can't see what's going on, it doesn't mean that they aren't there, contaminating public policy out of sight.

Why don't they like the light? Here's a link to reputable 2000 year old opinion on the subject. They know they aren't serving the interests of all Tulsans. They're serving the interests of a favored few, but they don't want us to know that.

I hereby dub this faction of Tulsa politics the Cockroach Caucus.

At present, there are two councilors who are definitely aligned with the Cockroach Caucus (Sullivan and Baker). Two of the Cockroaches (Patrick and Justis) were eliminated in the election.

Another two (Christiansen and Neal) that have shown some independence in the past, and seem to have good motives, but based on their vote on the Council consensus last Thursday and other actions and pronouncements, they also seem to have aligned themselves with the Cockroach Caucus. Let's hope that changes.

I will take nominations for an appropriate name for the good guys, the faction supporting fairness, openness, and running the city in the interests of all Tulsans. The winning suggestion will win praise and accolades on this website.

There was an amazing revelation in last Thursday's Tulsa City Council meeting, during the debate over the Council consensus affirming the zoning protest petition process, the deadline prior to the Council meeting, and the supermajority requirement. A Council committee is discussing important issues of public policy in closed meetings which are unannounced, a blatant violation of the spirit of the Open Meetings Act, even if it barely falls within the legal requirements.

Councilor Tom Baker revealed that a "working group" is reviewing development issues, as part of an ongoing process relating to his "Compendium of Needs" concept, a bureaucratic, numbers-driven process for strategic planning that Baker pushed through during the previous Council term. Councilor Medlock interrupted to ask Baker who is serving on that working group. Baker replied that he, Randy Sullivan, Bill Christiansen, and David Patrick had been on the working group, but Sam Roop had been invited to take Patrick's place. Roop quickly interjected that he had only been to one meeting.

Further digging revealed that Susan Neal had previously been a member of the group, apparently rotating off in favor of Sullivan. She has been one of the most vocal supporters of Baker's planning process.

Do you spot a pattern? Baker, Sullivan, Christiansen, and Patrick all received campaign contributions from Joe Westervelt, the contentious planning commission chairman. Neal received a contribution from Westervelt in the 2002 election; she didn't need to raise money for this year's race. These five, plus Art Justis, received contributions from F&M Bank board members in the 2002 election. All of them were endorsed for election by the Tulsa Whirled. This little clique is presuming to develop a strategic plan for the Council while hiding from public scrutiny.

Four is the magic number. It's the largest number of councilors that can meet without forming a quorum and triggering the requirements of the state's Open Meetings Act. This working group has been meeting for the past year, in lieu of the Budget Committee, one of the standing committees listed in the Council rules.

The meetings of this working group have not been announced. The agendas are not posted. They are not open to the public. They are not even open to all members of the Council.

This working group has met with the presidents of the local universities, and with area school superintendents. More recently, Josh Fowler, the lobbyist for the development industry, was present at a discussion about land use planning and zoning.

This is part of a broader pattern of hiding information from the public which characterized the Class of 2002. It's the way the Whirled and the Chamber like to do business. The pre-meeting is another example. I am sure that new majority on the Council will work for fairness and openness.

By the way, they meet at lunchtime on Tuesdays. I can't be there, but maybe someone else would like to show up with a camcorder.

Safer than a known way


This poem was a favorite of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The opening four lines were used by her husband, King George VI, to open his Christmas address to the nation in 1939, just a few months after the start of World War II.

"The Gate of the Year" by Minnie Haskins 1908

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention."

Fallen flake


National Review's The Corner linked to the website of an idiosyncratic magazine called "The Believer". Not a religious website, I'm not sure how to characterize it. They have regular features on power tools, motels, and mammals.

The motel section included an article on the Snow Flake Motel in St. Joseph, Michigan, which was designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright by William Wesley Peters, Wright's son-in-law, and built in 1962. The motel is built in the shape of a snow flake and looks like no other motel you've ever seen, inside and out.

My friend Rick Koontz and I ended up spending the night there in the middle of our 1988 "Rust Belt" tour, a week-long swing through the Great Lakes states, taking in five major league baseball games in six days. (One of the motivations was to visit the old ballparks before they were gone forever. Funny to think that the newest one we visited -- Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati -- is gone too.)

After an early departure from a Chicago White Sox game in the original Comiskey Park (we were thrown out for complaining about drunken floozies spilling beer on us), we started out for Detroit. If I recall correctly, we were ready to find a place for the night, saw the sign advertising the motel and decided to stop. It was a bit down-at-the-heels then, but it seems that matters have gotten worse, and the owner, a Mr. Patel (really), despairs of attracting the investment needed for a first-class restoration.

Jet Set Modern has some good photos. So does the website of the motel, which has an aerial photo. If you're flying into Chicago from the northeast, look out the window as you approach Lake Michigan. It's easy to spot.

A two-newspaper town


I'm still up here in East Aurora, New York, east of Buffalo, where the daffodils are just starting to bloom.

I just spent a pleasant hour at Tony Rome's Globe Hotel, which is not a hotel at all, but a restaurant in what was an inn for a century or so. Over a prime rib dinner and a Guinness (which really is good for you), I perused the two weekly newspapers which compete for the patronage of the 6,000 or so residents of East Aurora, and the 30,000 more who live in the surrounding townships, a semi-rural area on the eastern edge of Erie County.

The East Aurora Advertiser is an independent broadsheet paper, in operation since 1872. Its publisher channels the ghost of Millard Fillmore at the 13th president's annual birthday bash here.

The East Aurora Bee is part of a chain of tabloid weeklies circling Buffalo.

Both papers devote a lot of space to detailed coverage of various town, village, and school board meetings in the area, along with local columnists and civic events. Can you imagine it? Two different detailed accounts of the village council meeting. You might actually gain some perspective.

Zoning and budgets seem to get a lot of attention here. East Aurora's village council passed a budget that won't require raising property taxes for the coming year. The board almost deferred the vote, because there was a question about whether the work session qualified as a public meeting under the state's Open Meetings Law. According to the story, the Advertiser's publisher has "criticized local officials for improperly condeucting business behind closed doors." (Imagine, a newspaper publisher who wants public officals to have their debates in public!)

The village board is also considering a moratorium on the development of gas stations and automotive businesses. This was prompted by a convenience store company buying a commercially-zoned house two lots behind an existing Main Street location, deeper into the neighborhood. The broader concern is about homes which are zoned commercial and could be converted to any commercial use, no matter what the context is. They may convert these homes to "residential-commercial" zoning which would allow small offices, but not gas stations. There's also talk of a moratorium on auto-related businesses and drive-throughs on Main Street. The village board's attitude is interesting, because they seem to place preserving the character of Main Street and the neighborhood above the value of new development, and they don't seem to be concerned about being sued for changing the zoning after the property has been bought by a commercial interest.

The Bee covered most of the same stories, complimenting the accounts in the Advertiser. The Bee does not have much content online, but they do have a very long page of police blotter entries, taken from all of the chain's papers, with links to the best of the blotter for each of the past eight years. The blotter page in the paper itself runs with the following disclaimer:

The Bee's police blotter is a sampling of unusual, sometimes humorous calls received by the police department. It is not intended to be a complete record of all incidents reported.

Some recent entries in the blotter:

Authorities were called to settle a dispute in which the daughter of an East Aurora woman alleged her mother read her diary.

Three pudding containers were thrown at a residence on Osgood Avenue, damaging a shutter.

Read on for more....

Tulsa made a list of nine most livable large cities, a designation awarded by Partners for Livable Communities. The website for the "Most Livable" program is mostlivable.org.

Mayor LaFortune said yesterday, "There's no doubt Vision 2025 was the reason that Tulsa received this award."

We passed Vision 2025 seven months ago. The tax went into effect three and a half months ago. How has Vision 2025 tangibly affected the livability of Tulsa in that time? I'm not asking about the effects we were promised or the effects we hope for. I'm asking about real, tangible changes.

Here are the changes I know about: The tax rate is higher. Bank of Oklahoma and F&M Bank get to handle a lot of bond business. The Program Management Group has a big contract to provide overall management. That's about it. The rest is all talk until the facilities are complete and open to the public. That's when we can judge if our quality of life has been improved by this $535 million tax increase.

But as nutty as it sounds, the Mayor may be right about why Tulsa got this recognition. A quick glance at the criteria reveals a focus on process, rather than actual results. This award may not be so much for livability as it is for using certain strategies and processes which the organization believes may ultimately lead to livability. I guess it's harder to fit "One of the Cities Embracing Certain Processes and Strategies That We Believe May Ultimately Lead to Livability" on a trophy.

The full description of each city is embargoed until April 20, but here's the excerpt they've posted about Tulsa to tide us over 'til then:

The City of Tulsa through its Economic Development Commission has partnered with the Tulsa Metro Chamber since 1977 in marketing and advertising programs with economic development and convention and tourism strategies. The EDC oversees a portion of the 5% room tax collected by the city, and uses those monies to provide promotion and attraction, retention and recruitment through a contract with the TMC to provide economic development services and a convention and visitors bureau.

The Chamber raises additional funds for those areas through an annual resource campaign directing cash and trade to offset budget to programs, as well as membership dollars and other private business partnerships.

A future program of the Chamber includes developing a privately financed economic development opportunity fund to utilize in expanding current attraction and retention efforts.

How does the fact that the Chamber handles economic development contribute to the quality of life? Having good jobs would contribute to the quality of life. Having a certain approach to funding and managing economic development activities would only affect my quality of life if it results in good jobs.

If you're rating livability itself, you'd be looking at crime rate, climate, affordability, recreational opportunities, quality of education at all levels, and the friendliness of the people -- all factors which affect how pleasant it is to live some place. I wouldn't expect that list to change much from year to year.

The proof is in the pudding.

or ever had one, you will appreciate this account of the aftermath of a Durham Bulls game from Silflay Hraka:

We then departed, this time to the wails of Ngnat, who felt she had been promised a balloon animal at some point in the evening, and was not shy about letting the world know that she had been damnably cheated.

For two solid blocks she alternately sobbed, then wailed "I-hi wa-hant a-ha ba-loo-hoon an-i-mal-hal!" to the world.

It was her first public tantrum. It was great. I took pictures, though she took to hiding behind her mother in order to prevent me from doing so.

The louder she wailed, the harder it became for SW and I.

Not that we were upset. Far from it. It was all we could do to hide our giggles from her.

Read the whole thing. There's a sweet picture of Ngnat in mid-wail. And the story has a happy ending.

I noticed yesterday morning that the rental car didn't have an ice scraper and snow brush. The reason I noticed yesterday morning is because there was a half-inch of wet snow on the car.

Today's Council action


I miss all the fun, lately. The City Council had a busy agenda today.

Roscoe Turner was sworn in, to resume his service as a City Councilor, in what I am told was a very emotional ceremony.

Sam Roop presented his proposal for rotating the chairmanship of the committees. Roop's proposal is an alternative to Randy Sullivan's attempt to install his cronies as permanent chairmen, the incident that launched Thursday's meeting boycott. I'm told that members of the minority party sat in stony silence and made no comment during the presentation.

A lovefest greeted Paula Marshall-Chapman's reappointment to the Economic Development Commission. Mayor Bill LaFortune attended the meeting with the Bama Pie chief, an unusual move that may have been intended to ward off any tough questions about oversight of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's stewardship of the City's economic development funds. In any case, that was the effect. Or perhaps the controversy over the committee chairmanships drained councilors of the desire to open another can of worms.

Bill Christiansen wanted to focus on the District 3 election irregularities, but other councilors pointed out that the problems are more widespread, and there was sentiment for a full council investigation. Acting County Election Board Secretary Shelley Boggs was expected, but was not present for the discussion. Council staff was asked to research the chain of responsibility at the election board and the process for selecting a new secretary to replace Scott Orbison, who passed away Saturday at age 85.

I didn't hear anything about the discussion of the proposed amendment to the taxicab ordinance. The driver who took me to the airport this morning (in a very well-maintained vehicle, I might add) thought it was a bad deal for the small operators. He was interested to hear that the discussion would be open to the public; he thought he might go and bring some colleagues along.

Spring rerun


Traveling north from Tulsa in April is like hitting rewind on the Earth's orbit and going back a month and a half. Once again today, I found myself leaving Green Country at its most glorious to experience the tentative beginnings of spring in western New York State.

When I arrived a week ago, there were still icicles dangling from north-facing eaves, patches of snow covering deep green grass, and, at the edges of parking lots, four-foot high piles of grey ice, reminders of knee-deep snow falls from two months ago. Snow had fallen Palm Sunday weekend, and we got a few flurries early Good Friday morning. But Maundy Thursday afternoon was sunny, and I enjoyed a free hour to wander the streets of East Aurora. The trees were still bare, but crocus could be seen in every lawn.

Heading from the airport to the hotel, as I turned onto Transit Road this afternoon, I could see that spring had truly arrived: Salvatore's Italian Gardens had removed the classic cars on display from their winter cocoons of plastic shrinkwrap. The cold rain over the weekend had been warm enough to dissolve the last of the slush piles. A few buds can be seen in the trees. Spring is here, again.

It's impossible to link directly to this, so you'll have to take my word for it. There are several interesting items on the committee agendas for Tuesday:

In the Public Works committee meeting, which convenes at 8 a.m.:

8. Discussion of Council rule changes on Committee chair/co-chair assignments. (Roop) 04-159-1

This ties in to Roop's objection to Chairman Randy Sullivan's attempt to grab power and seat his cronies as permanent committee chairmen, able to control the agenda and debate at these important meetings.

There's a special council meeting at 9:00 a.m.:

Official Certificates of Votes for special election held April 6, 2004, concerning the election of a Councilor for District 3; Council to acknowledge receipt, canvass, and direct the certificates to be filed with the City Clerk. 04-150-1

In the Urban and Economic Development committee (10:00 a.m.):

1. Paula Marshall-Chapman - Reappointment to the Economic Development Commission; term expires 12/31/06; (5/5 meetings). 03-363-2

This is the reappointment of a former Tulsa Metro Chamber chairman to the committee which is supposed to oversee the Chamber's handling of the hotel/motel tax money we pay them to handle our city's economic development efforts. This would be an excellent opportunity to ask about the Committee's oversight activities -- for example, whether there are any -- and to get an assessment about the Chamber's responsiveness to any concerns that have been expressed. We've paid the Chamber a pile of money -- over $60 million -- and for the price we've lost tens of thousands of jobs. I hope some Councilor asks Ms. Marshall-Chapman what she hopes to do with a new term on the Committee to ensure that Tulsa is getting its money's worth?

4. Rezoning application Z-6936 requested by J.D. Berray to rezone property located at or near the SE/c of E. 3rd & S. Kenosha (Owner: Berray/Manlove/Harrington) from IM to CBD. (TMAPC voted 6-0-0 to recommend approval) (CD-4)(PD-1) [UED 3/13/04] 04-140-1

This is an important step forward for the hearty residents of a small block of lofts near 3rd and Kenosha, an area targeted by the Tulsa Project for a soccer stadium. A lot of folks talk about downtown housing, but these people have invested their own money and their hearts in a growing neighborhood. The current industrial zoning no longer makes sense, and a change to "Central Business District" zoning would remove some roadblocks to residential reuse of these historic buildings.

10. Proposed amendments to TRO, Title 36, relating to taxicabs and paratransit vehicles. 96-7-4 (UED 4-13-2004)

From what I've heard, this seems like an effort to squeeze small taxi operators out of business by requiring them to buy new vehicles every few years. The issue should never be the age of the vehicle, but the condition. Why impose a greater cost burden on an already struggling industry?

11. Discussion regarding municipal election process. (Christiansen) 04-160-1

No idea what Bill Christiansen has up his sleeve on this one. Hopefully, the committee will review the research I did revealing five precincts where there were significant discrepancies between votes cast and voters who signed in for the City Council primary on February 3rd. I stand ready to testify, Mr. Chairman.

All Council committees meet in Room 201 of City Hall and are open to the public.

The four Councilors who skipped last Thursday's City Council meeting will hold a press conference at City Hall, exact location TBA, at 1:30 p.m. Monday, April 12. Here's the press release:

Tulsa City Councilors to Hold Press Conference

Four Councilors Will Address Recent Events Prompting Lack of Quorum at Last City Council Meeting

Tulsa, OK, Monday, April 12, 2004: The four Tulsa City Councilors who missed the first council meeting of the newly elected City Council will hold a press conference today at 1:30 PM. The conference will be held at the Tulsa City Hall, 200 Civic Center Plaza (room to be announced by Noon).

Newly elected Councilors Jack Henderson of District 1 and James Mautino of District 6 will join District 2 Councilor Chris Medlock and District 5 Councilor Sam Roop, in addressing the events that led up to their actions, why they have remained silent until now, and what action they plan to take in the coming days.

The Councilors have agreed not to speak to the media about the specifics of their proposal until the press conference. Councilor Chris Medlock will fulfill a previously scheduled interview on radio station KFAQ at 7:10 AM, but will only address general issues surrounding the controversy.

Roscoe Turner will hold a press conference at 11:00 am Monday, at Rose Hill United Methodist Church, 749 N. Louisville Ave. (four blocks east of Harvard on Independence St, which is a few blocks north of Admiral Place). Here's what Steve Denney has to say in the news release. (Steve was one of the attorneys addressing the voting irregularities which occurred in the original primary election.)

If you have been reading the vicious articles that the Tulsa World has been running against newly elected Councilor Roscoe Turner, you must realize the degree to which the paper is upset about having a Councilor it doesn't control replacing David Patrick as District 3 City Councilor. The World's articles have implied that Mr. Turner is guility of "election crimes." The "crimes" that Mr. Turner appears to be accused of are a minor misdemeanor which remains uninvestigated and uncharged. We believe that the District Attorney's office will find no merit to the charge and will decline to file. Other Council candidates have done exactly the same thing Mr. Turner did, i.e., witness a voter's signature. It seems more than passing strange that no other candidates were mentioned in the news article and that the World implied that Mr. Turner was accused of a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Help us break the misinformation and intimidation factors generated through the World's articles by appearing and supporting Councilor Roscoe H. Turner at his press conference

Let me highlight the last part -- this is an opportunity to show your support for Roscoe. Your presence is requested at this event.

By the way, Roscoe officially became Councilor-elect at 5 p.m. Friday when the deadline for requesting a recount or contesting the election passed without a challenge from lame duck Councilor David Patrick.

Who is John Benjamin?


Saturday's Whirled article (jump page here) covering the missing Councilors (let's call them the Rebel Alliance, just for fun), quoted extensively from some joker named John Benjamin. Here's part of what he was quoted as saying:

"I blame all of this on Councilor Medlock," Benjamin said. "He needs to examine his motive.

"Everyone in the business community has been calling me wanting to know what's going on. This is embarrassing."

Sullivan is a "little hyper, but he's a good guy. He's fair and objective," said Benjamin, who was Sullivan's campaign manager.

"Chris Medlock has been a dissident ever since he got on the council. He's a troublemaker. He does it in front and behind the scenes. I've told him this," Benjamin said.

"He has to learn to be a team player and how to compromise, or he will never be an effective councilor."

Benjamin said the councilors apparently were making a big deal out of the chairmanship, which "is really just a traffic cop at the council meetings. We purposely didn't put a lot of extra power in that position."

Benjamin said he is surprised at Roop's behavior -- "It's not like him to act this way."

He said it was very irresponsible for the council newcomers to get into a fray when they hadn't even attended one meeting or learned the system.

Who is this guy?

The secret of Stonehenge


Fellow Okie blogger Bitweever links to an amazing account of a retired Flint, Michigan, carpenter who may have rediscovered the techniques that enabled to construction of large stone structures like Stonehenge and the pyramids. Extraterrestrials are not involved in the process.

W. T. Wallington's website has pictures and diagrams of the technique, and there's a six-minute video segment from Discovery Channel Canada showing him single-handedly standing a 19,200 pound concrete block.

In his own words:

I found that I, working alone, could easily move a 2400 lb. block 300 ft. per hour with little effort, and a 10,000 lb. block at 70 ft. per hour. I also stood two 8 ft. 2400 lb. blocks on end and placed another 2400 lb. block on top. This took about two hours per block. I found that one man, working by himself, without the use of wheels, rollers, pulleys, or any type of hoisting equipment could perform the task.

He and his son moved a 15-ton, 30' by 40' pole barn 200' using 40 manhours of labor. He has plans to test his technique as it might have been applied to the construction of the pyramids.

Erich von Däniken, phone your office.

"Good guys walk out"


That was the headline on this entry in National Review's "The Corner". I didn't imagine National Review would take note of a local story -- the absence of four Tulsa City Councilors from last night's meeting, the first one to be held under Randy Sullivan's chairmanship. Sure enough, it was about something else.

Four members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission walked out of the Commission's monthly meeting when the chairman refused to permit a discussion of the staff director's attempt to reorganize the agency, a move the dissenting members say was not authorized by the commission. The item goes on to present remarks from each of the four commissioners who walked out, explaining their rationale.

I suspect a similar motive -- the chairman's high-handed treatment of members -- was behind the absence of Jack Henderson, Jim Mautino, Chris Medlock, and Sam Roop from Thursday's City Council meeting. The Whirled story on the event mentioned a dispute at Tuesday's Council committee meeting over new Chairman Randy Sullivan's intent to appoint a permanent chairman over each committee, rather than share the chairmanship as had been done in the past.

The Whirled reported that Roop objected to the new policy, which would be a change from the Council's traditions. Roop voted to uphold Council tradition on Monday in allowing Sullivan to become chairman, despite questions about Sullivan's character and fairness, so Roop must have felt betrayed by Sullivan's rapid abandonment of settled practice.

Another possible motive -- an unwillingness to proceed with Council business until Roscoe Turner is officially seated and the Council's ranks are complete. This was the motive Jim Mautino cited, when asked by the Whirled about his vote against Sullivan for chairman -- he thought the Council should wait a week until the special election results were in, out of respect for the voters of District 3. Instead, not only was lame duck Councilor David Patrick allowed to vote in the selection of a chairman, he was allowed to preside, and he even nominated the vice chairman. Traditionally, the Council Secretary presides until a chairman is elected.

Whatever the rationale, the missing councilors owe the public some sort of explanation, otherwise they leave it to the rest of us to speculate, and they allow the Whirled to put its own unsympathetic construction on the situation. The dissenting members of the Civil Rights Commission set a good example to follow. If these Councilors want to issue statements, I will be happy to publish them in their entirety, unedited.

The Truth in Small Things


I really need to curtail my surfing and get some work done or at least some sleep, but I should let you know that Dawn Eden has written a series of excellent, thought-provoking essays called "The Truth in Small Things". She's on the sixth installment, and I suspect that there is more to come. You can find all of them in the April archive of her blog, the Dawn Patrol.

Here's a highlight, from her third essay:

As for myself, I'm thirsty all the time. I'm also hungry—I can never understand those people who claim that they "forget to eat." But when I read the Scriptures, I realize that I am not hungry enough.

"He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation" (Psalm 107:35-36).

What does this tell us?

You could say that it means God feeds the hungry, which He does—the next verses say He gives them fields to plant and that he allows their cattle to increase. But there's another meaning in those verses, one which gives me pause:

There is a condition for living in the city of God. And that condition is hunger.

It doesn't say, "God takes the satisfied people and sets them up so they can stay satisfied." It says, "He maketh the hungry to dwell..."

That hunger is a figurative hunger—the same hunger that Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount, when he blesses "they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matthew 5:6).

When you are hungry, really hungry, it's hard to think about anything else. Likewise, hungering for righteousness means not being able to rest until your hunger is satisfied. As Augustine wrote of God, "Our hearts are restless until we find rest in You."

Today I am going to practice an exercise. Whenever I feel hungry or thirsty, before I fulfill that need, I am going to get in touch with it and try to imagine, just for one moment, how much I really need God for everything in my life. Because "in Him we live and move and have our being," yet "His footsteps are not known." He is so omnipresent that it is possible to go through the day without sensing his presence.

Hunger—real spiritual hunger—is a gift. Cherish it.

Leading a Cross-Centered Life


A failure to focus on the Cross of Christ, to "preach" to ourselves the good news of God's forgiveness and acceptance of us in Christ, can lead to busyness or to introspection. I realize I don't measure up to God's standards, and it is easy to look to my performance as a way to affirm my standing before God. Or at the other extreme, I can withdraw into introspection and self-pity, despairing of fellowship with God and finding other ways to comfort myself. That's the gist of an excellent essay by Jay Wegter:

Certain temperaments are prone to specific departures from cross-centeredness. The “catalytic extrovert” has a personality that makes things happen. He shies away from introspection. He seldom retreats into the “grey castle of self.” He prefers to manage his dereliction (depravity) by performance, production, and by the generation of massive amounts of work.

The extrovert’s problem is harder to see than the person’s who is neutralized by condemnation. Yet the extrovert’s deviation from cross-centeredness is just as real – he may be operating by law, not grace.

By contrast, the person laboring under a yoke of condemnation feels that heaven is staring at him in one large cosmic frown. Thus he retreats into the grey castle of self and attempts to comfort his soul with sensual things justified by self pity.

Having lost sight of the cross, he does not entertain high prospects of the Lord’s desire to meet him and commune with him. Comfort from the Lord seems light years away.

From John Owen's The Things of This World:

Whither so fast, my friend? What meaneth this rising so early and going to bed late, eating the bread of carefulness? Why this diligence, why these contrivances, why these savings and hoardings of riches and wealth? To what end is all this care and counsel? "Alas!" saith one, "it is to get that which is enough in and of this world for me and my children, to prefer them, to raise an estate for them, which, if not so great as others, may yet be a competency; to give them some satisfaction in their lives and some reputation in the world." Fair pretenses, neither shall I ever discourage any from the exercise of industry in their lawful callings; but yet I know that with many this is but a pretense and covering for a shameful engagement of their affections unto the world. Wherefore, in all these things, be persuaded sometimes to have an eye to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Behold how he is set before us in the gospel, poor, despised, reproached, persecuted, nailed to the cross, and all by this world. Whatever be your designs and aims, let his cross continually interpose between your affections and this world. If you are believers, your hopes are within a few days to be with him forevermore. Unto him you must give an account of yourselves, and what you have done in this world. ...

Labor continually for the mortification of your affections unto the things of this world. They are, in the state of corrupted nature, set and fixed on them, nor will any reasonings or considerations effectually divert them, or take them off in a due manner, unless they are mortified unto them by the cross of Christ. Whatever change be otherwise wrought in them, it will be of no advantage unto us. It is mortification alone that will take them off from earthly things unto the glory of God. Hence the apostle, having given us that charge, "Set your affection on things above, and not on things on the earth," Col. 3:2, adds this as the only way and means we may do so, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth," verse 5. Let no man think that his affections will fall off from earthly things of their own accord. The keenness and sharpness of them in many things may be abated by the decay of their natural powers in age and the like; they may be mated by frequent disappointments, by sicknesses, pains, and afflictions, as we shall see immediately; they may be willing unto a distribution of earthly enjoyments, to have the reputation of it, wherein they still cleave unto the world, but under another shape and appearance; or they may be startled by convictions, so as to do many things gladly that belong to another frame: but, on one pretense or other, under one appearance or other, they will forever adhere or cleave unto earthly things, unless they are mortified unto them through faith in the blood and cross of Christ, Gal. 6:14. Whatever thoughts you may have of yourselves in this matter, unless you have the experience of a work of mortification on your affections, you can have no refreshing ground of assurance that you are in anything spiritually minded.

Link via The Threshold, and its page of links on the godly life.

Surfing around I found an interesting website, spiritualdisciplines.org. The site's proprietor, Don Whitney, is a frequent guest speaker at churches and conferences, and he has come up with a list of 10 questions for a conference planner to consider, in order to insure that they are treating the meeting's guest speakers with courtesy and consideration. In church settings, guest speakers aren't usually compensated as professionals, paid for their time or expertise, which makes it all the more important to ensure that their expenses are covered and their basic needs are met. Here's his introduction, and a sample of the 10 questions:

Those with little experience hosting guest speakers may be unaware of some of the courtesies their guests will appreciate. Because of my frequent travels as a guest speaker, I'm sometimes asked for tips on showing hospitality to other visiting speakers. Answering these questions will help you excel in this sort of hospitality....

Are you prepared to offer several restaurant options?

Just about everyone has likes and dislikes. You may be planning on going to your favorite local seafood restaurant, for example, but not know that your guest doesn't like or is allergic to seafood. If you plan for your guest to eat a complimentary breakfast served in his hotel, ask if it is sufficient. The quality of these varies widely, and nearly all supply nothing but carbohydrates, something your guest may be trying to minimize.

I found Whitney's website through the links page of Grace To North America, a ministry which works to facilitate planting churches which are faithful to the Reformed doctrines of grace. The links page is going to be worth exploring further: It includes links to online repositories of the works of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon and to a host of other soul-provoking articles.

And I found Grace to North America through Founders Ministries, an organization devoted to "encourag[ing] the return to and promulgation of the biblical gospel that our Southern Baptist forefathers held dear."

Grasping at straws


I am almost speechless. Now the Whirled is calling for the County Election Board to find some pretext to avoid certifying the results in the City Council District 3 election. They are trying to goad the District Attorney into prosecuting Roscoe Turner in hopes of getting the seat vacated and getting a new election. Pretty amazing, considering the way the Whirled pooh-poohed the massive irregularities in the original primary -- irregularities which did affect the outcome of the vote.

Overlooked by the Whirled writers -- none of the 11 voters involved in these alleged irregularities had their votes counted. There was no impact on the outcome of the election.

The Whirled is desperately trying to keep the Council in control of the Councilors that they have on a leash. Why is unknown, but they have something they want this Council to do, and if they can even delay Roscoe Turner taking office, they'll have the majority they need to push it through.

Today's editorial is just one more reason to cancel your subscription, as if you didn't already have enough.

No harm, no foul


Well, well. The Tulsa Whirled is going to rage, rage against the dying of the light, apparently. With Roscoe Turner's victory, their clique no longer has control of the City Council, but they aren't going down without a fight. Thus the story on this morning's front page (jump page here ), screaming about voter irregularities, and whispering threats of felony charges.

(Interesting how the Whirled avoids giving any details on the front page, because the details show how minuscule this story is.)

Two allegations have been made involving eleven people who attempted to cast absentee ballots. One doesn't involve any violation of the law, and the other only became a violation in the last eight months. There is no indication that Roscoe Turner's campaign set out to get the votes of ineligible people counted, and in fact none of these 11 people who tried to vote had their votes counted.

Senate 18 results


Mary Easley got a bit of a scare. She should have won handily in her son's old district, but she won by only 350 votes over Jeff Johnson, a political novice. Congratulations to Jeff on running a strong race against big odds.

So the Republicans have not gained any ground in the State Senate, but the vacancy in Mary Easley's House seat presents an opportunity to Republicans. The GOP's Frank Pitezel held the seat for many years. Pitezel was beaten by Bruce Niemi in 1990. The district was redrawn in 1991, and Flint Breckenridge beat Niemi to take back the seat for the GOP in 1992. In '96, Mary Easley outworked and outhustled Breckenridge to win by only 2% (300 votes). No one has come close to beating her since then, even though Republicans and Democrats are nearly even in registration and turnout.

Because the vacancy in House 78 comes so late in the year, the vacancy will not be filled with a special election -- it will be decided through the normal election process. I'll be following this one with interest, since I live in the district. With the right candidate, this could be one of the seats that puts the Republicans in the majority in one house of the legislature, for the first time since the election of 1920.

Roscoe wins!


The final results are in, and Roscoe Turner won handily over David Patrick to reclaim his old seat on the Tulsa City Council.

This creates a pro-taxpayer, pro-ordinary-Tulsan majority on the City Council, a coalition that brings together east, north, west, and southwest Tulsa and crosses party and racial boundaries. I don't have the actual vote totals -- I'm in upstate NY and there aren't any numbers available on the web -- but this result will boost our coalition's vote totals to near 60%, a landslide by any measure.

The question is whether these five councilors will be able to stick together and act as a majority, setting the agenda for the next two years, or whether the remnant of the "Class of '02" -- the four remaining Councilors who were recruited to serve the interests of the downtown elites -- will leverage their strong cohesion and be able to wield an effective majority by prying loose one of the other five from issue to issue, keeping the good guys on the defensive.

Mind you, that "Class of '02" is not a monolithic group: Bill Christiansen and Susan Neal have supported homeowners' interests on a number of issues, and Christiansen's initiatives on cost containment and efficiency at City Hall have been positive. They voted against F&M's rezoning at 71st & Harvard, and they did not take campaign money from F&M board members, unlike the other four members of their coalition.

Then you've got the "Gang of Four" -- they took thousands of dollars in campaign funds from F&M Bank board members, and they voted to silence homeowners when that issue came before the Council last fall. Two of the Gang have now been defeated. The remaining two extremists are now in charge of the City Council -- Randy Sullivan as Chairman and Tom Baker as Vice Chairman. As I've written, this shouldn't be, tradition notwithstanding. Randy Sullivan has made it clear he will not be an impartial moderator, and instead he is working to ensure that only his allies become presiding committee chairmen, a violation of the tradition of sharing committee chairmanships among several members. This move will give the "Class of '02" full control over the Council's agenda. Sullivan was given an inch, and he is taking a mile.

The war has been won, but the occupation is going to be a challenge.

Opening day


Yesterday was the first game for my son's Little League team. He's starting "coach-pitch" -- the next step up from T-ball -- in which the batter is pitched to by his own coach. Joseph got a hit in each of his three at-bats, scored two runs, three RBIs. Two of his hits were rockets down the left field line. In his first time up, he made it to second but didn't see the signal to hold up (the runner in front of him was holding at third) and he got tagged out. On his third at-bat the ball scooted all the way to the left field corner -- and he made it all the way around, driving in two runners. He was thrilled, and I was very proud.

I am even more pleased that he is enjoying the game. So far in his time playing sports, he has had great coaches who have done a great job of balancing learning, playing hard, and having fun.

My own Little League experience, in third grade, was no fun. The team (the Holland Hall Hawks) was no good, and I was so bad I had to play right field on a lousy team, if I got to play at all. I wanted to quit, but my folks made me stick with it, as they should have done. I remember being really hungry most games and chewing on the leather strings on my mitt. My grandmother enjoyed the games -- we were funnier than the '62 Mets. We almost won a game against Paul Revere School, a school on the northeast corner of 51st & Lewis that had no playing fields. The game was played at Heller Park, if I recall correctly. The coach promised us a soda if we won. They came back to beat us in the last inning. The experience soured me on competitive sports for a long time and had me believing I'd never be any good at sports.

Anyway, I'm glad Joseph is off to a much better start. Who knows what the future will have in store for him?

Yesterday's new edition of Tulsa Beacon has put into print (link will only last a week) my entries about discrepancies between voters signed in and votes cast in the city primary election and my analysis of the cause of the problems. It's the lead story. Thanks to Charlie Biggs for spotlighting batesline.com and my efforts on this story.

The Beacon now has TV listings and coupon ads, so you have even fewer reasons to keep reading the Whirled. Stop at a local QT and buy a copy.

Will Patrick have a vote?


You have to hand it to our City Attorney's office. They are constantly coming up with clever ways to get the City sued.

Their latest effort involves City Councilor David Patrick, who will only be a City Councilor until 2 p.m. Monday, when the two year term he won in 2002 expires. The City Attorney's office has concocted a case for allowing Patrick to continue to serve and vote as a Councilor until the winner in next Tuesday's special election is certified, even though he was never certified as the victor, and the election was thrown out by the court. This maneuver would allow him to vote in Monday's meeting to select a new chairman and vice chairman -- and his vote could be the deciding one.

If Patrick exercises his alleged voting rights, there will almost certainly be a lawsuit against the city, filed by a constituent of District 3, who would be misrepresented by having him stay in office when he has not been duly elected. A mess would be avoided if Patrick would voluntarily refuse to assume the privileges of office until the election results are conclusive.

Putting the losers in charge


There's change in the air down at the Oklahoma State Capitol, with the realization that this may be the year that the voters elect a Republican majority to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The outcome of a handful of races will have momentous consequences -- who will be Speaker, who will chair the committees and thus control what legislation is heard and what is ignored. In turn, the Speaker has power to appoint members of state boards and commissions. In a sense you're casting two votes when you vote for a state legislator -- who will represent you locally, and which party will set the agenda and run Oklahoma. It's reasonable that the majority party, representing the majority sentiment of the voters, should have that kind of power, with due consideration for the rights of legislators in the minority party, who after all represent the same number of constituents as the legislators in the majority.

There's change in the air, too, at Tulsa's City Hall, the result of the ouster of an incumbent in District 6, the near defeat of an incumbent in District 4, and the uncertain result in District 3. Add to that the resounding reelection of a couple of councilors who were labeled by the downtown elite as troublemakers and targeted for defeat. The result is very different from that of two years ago. But that difference may not be reflected in the leadership of the incoming Council.

If the Council follows tradition, two Councilors who were on the losing side of this election will be chosen as Chairman and Vice Chairman next Monday, at a meeting following the new Council's swearing-in. The tradition alternates between parties each year, moves the Vice Chairman up to the Chairmanship and takes the most senior member in a party who hasn't yet been the Chairman as the new Vice Chairman. This year that means District 7 Republican Councilor Randy Sullivan would become Chairman and District 4 Democrat Councilor Tom Baker would become Vice Chairman.

Although the Chairman of the City Council isn't as powerful as, say, Speaker of the House, he presides over the meetings, sets the agenda, and makes appointments to special task forces and committees. For example, the Tulsa City Council was given two places on the Dialog / Visioning leadership team, and then-Chairman Bill Christiansen appointed himself and Susan Neal. A chairman who is philosophically at odds with the majority of the Council would make life miserable for everyone, particularly if he were inclined to use his power to inflict misery on those who disagree with him. At the least, we need our Council leaders to treat every member with fairness and respect, and to be in tune with the concerns of ordinary Tulsans.

So by what measure do I define Sullivan and Baker as both being on the losing side? I'm not talking about the fact that the Republicans increased their majority from five to six. As I've written before, the issues that really matter in Tulsa politics don't line up well with national party divisions. So which side won the 2004 city elections?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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