May 2004 Archives

Congressman Tom Cole is pushing for $8 million in federal funds to build an interchange on I-35 just north of the Red River to provide more direct access to the Chickasaw casino. There is an exit a mile south, and there isn't anything else near the casino requiring an interchange. Seems to me the Chickasaws should have bought land nearer an existing interchange if they wanted better access.

OkieDoke has a few thoughts on the matter, and here's a link to the Daily Oklahoman story (free registration required). Cole sees no problem with asking the government to fund this, and doesn't consider this a question of promoting gambling:

The congressman said he understands many Oklahomans might have qualms about using federal money to benefit a casino. He said he doesn't know of any similar, federally funded project in Oklahoma, but said there are precedents in other states.

"I look at it as not taking a stand on gaming ... and in the past I've not been particularly supporting of gaming, but I look at the economic factor," Cole said. "There's no question that when we legalized horse racing in Oklahoma, we became a Class II (gambling) state."

Now, pay close attention to this line:

Cole said he was comfortable securing the money because "we build roads for industries all the time" and because "it isn't costing the taxpayers of Oklahoma a dime."

Yep, Tom, money just grows on trees in Washington. They harvest it from the slopes of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

That kind of sentiment is why so many conservatives were rooting for Marc Nuttle to prevail in the 2002 4th District primary, and why many of us were disappointed with J. C. Watts' last minute announcement that he would not be running. The conventional wisdom is that Watts had tipped off Cole to his plans long before he made them publicly known, giving Cole, who ran Watts' campaigns, a huge headstart over any other candidate.

Cole's attitude is all too prevalent in Washington, as Tom Coburn illustrates in his book Breach of Trust. Coburn recounts the budget battles of his years in Congress, fighting against members in his own party who put their own reelection prospects ahead of the best interests of the country. It's why we never had a real budget surplus, and why discretionary spending continues to climb, despite the Republicans' ten years in the majority. Even if you don't care for Coburn's positions on social issues, you should read his book to understand how the budget game is played.

I'm supporting Tom Coburn in the Republican primary for Senate. I trust him to do the right thing, and to help stiffen the spines of his brother Republicans to do the right thing, too. My sense is that Kirk Humphreys is cut from the same cloth as Tom Cole. Without a doubt, Humphreys is a better choice than Brad Carson, and if Humphreys is the Republican nominee he'll have my full support. And I'm much happier to have Tom Cole in Congress than a Democrat alternative. But our nation needs more people like Tom Coburn in Congress.

The truth about Al Gore

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Following the former veep's recent speech, Frank J. presented an assortment of "Fun Facts about Al Gore." Here's a selection:

* His programming was specifically for him to be a politician. Now that he no longer is one, he's gone rogue.

* If you turn on a microwave while Al Gore is near, he'll suddenly start singing showtunes.

* Al Gore spent most of his vice presidency trying to keep Clinton away from his daughters.

* The only way to destroy Al Gore is to get him to chase you under a hydraulic press. It's best to keep in memory all the nearest hydraulic presses before hand.

Go read it all. And here's Frank J.'s guide to his best stuff.

When Mayor Bill LaFortune took office two years ago, Tulsans expected changes, particularly among the heads of city departments. You would expect the mayor in a strong-mayor form of government to be able not only to set policy but to be able to appoint department heads who would effectively and enthusiastically carry out the mayor's policies.

To date there haven't been many changes. It turns out that civil service regulations make it rather complicated for a mayor to control who runs city departments. Unless he wants to go through civil service proceedings, a mayor is pretty much stuck unless the department head retires. This wasn't a problem for Rodger Randle -- as the first mayor under the new form of government, he got to appoint all the department heads. Susan Savage was Randle's deputy and presumably was content with the leadership she inherited, and if not, during her 10 years in office nearly every post became vacant and she had the chance to choose a replacement.

With Bill LaFortune, we have the first real change in administration under the new form of government and for the first time can see how the rules hamstring a new mayor's ability to implement the platform that got him elected. There was some talk about amending the charter to improve the situation, but nothing was done about it during the last charter change evaluation in 2003.

Now Mayor LaFortune has the chance to name a City Attorney. The City Attorney is one of the most powerful and least accountable public officials in the city. The office is defined by charter in Article III, Section IV. Title 19 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances fleshes out the City Attorney's powers and duties. The City Attorney's duties are diverse grouping together in one office anything in city government related to the law -- prosecuting violations of municipal law, providing legal advice to the Mayor and the City Council, representing the City in court, ruling on the legality of ordinances approved by the City Council.

On a number of occasions, these diverse duties have turned into a conflict of interest. For example, when the Mayor and Council are at odds over an issue, the City Attorney must provide legal advice to both sides, which is impossible. If the Council has concerns about the legality of the City Attorney's actions, the City Attorney has the authority to prevent the concerns from being pursued.

The Council sought to have the power to hire its own attorney, answerable only to the Council, but that would require a charter change. Instead, they were assigned an attorney out of the City Attorney's office, nominally working for the Council, but ultimately responsible to the City Attorney. That interferes with the principle of the separation of powers, and the ability of the Council to legislate and exercise oversight of the executive branch.

Given the diverse legal functions involved, it would make sense to amend the charter and establish several independent offices -- a City Prosecutor, a City Council Attorney reporting to the Council, an attorney reporting to the City Auditor, and a City Solicitor reporting to the Mayor and handling lawsuits. Until the charter could be amended, a similar de facto arrangement could be accomplished by appointing a City Attorney who is committed to allowing the City Council attorney to function independently, with as little input and control as possible from the City Attorney.

Interesting item in Friday's Whirled: The Oklahoma Municipal League and "others involved in Oklahoma's $1 billion-a-year municipal bond industry" are seeking to eliminate the requirement for local governments to report legal fees and other costs related to bond issues to the state's bond oversight council. The requirement has only been in effect for a year, but its detractors call it burdensome and intrusive. Seems to me that such information would serve as a resource for citizens to compare the bond issue arrangments made by different local governments to see which cities are making the most efficient arrangements. It could create pressure for more local governments to open the bidding on bond-issue services, as I urged last fall, rather than give sweetheart deals to politically-connected firms. I can't understand why the Oklahoma Municipal League would oppose that kind of reform.

The City Council last week voted to accept the donation of the huge neon Meadow Gold sign, which will be removed from its current location (to be torn down for yet another 11th Street car lot). The committee overseeing the $15 million in Vision 2025 funds allocated to Route 66 has recommended spending $30,000 toward the estimated $60,000 required to dismantle and restore the sign. Nearly $9,000 has been raised from individual contributions, and $15,000 in National Park Service grants, with more grant money being sought.

This is money well-spent.

Yes, you read that correctly. The voters approved money to make Tulsa's stretch of Route 66 more of a tourist draw. It certainly has that potential, as next week's International Route 66 Festival demonstrates. There is international interest in the old road. People make their way from Europe and Japan and drive the road from one end to the other, seeking out old diners, motels, tourist traps, and the scenery of the American west. A few years ago, a group of Norwegian motorcyclists spent the night in Tulsa during their run down Route 66. The oldest site on the web about Route 66 is based in Belgium. Here's one attempt at explaining the road's international appeal:

Chick Kirk, a volunteer with the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, cited a fourth reason for the highway’s appeal, especially to foreigners:

“It symbolizes the American Way of Life.

“A nice young man from France told me that travel bureaus all over Europe have posters celebrating Route 66 as the authentic America — the U.S. equivalent of cobbled stones as opposed to the autobahn.”

Since the museum opened Oct. 25, 1995, visitors from 42 foreign countries have signed the guest book. Zimbabwe, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Zaire — all are represented. But most foreign pilgrims come from Japan or Western Europe.

“Three weeks ago,” Kirk said, “a Japanese man bought $500 worth of Route 66 mementos in our gift shop. When I asked him why, he said he’s building a gas station/soda fountain in Tokyo. Its theme: the American Way of Life.”

Museum volunteer Francy Williams recalled two men from the Netherlands who had biked all the way from Chicago to Victorville, “without a flat tire.”

According to Betty Halbe, a third volunteer, “Germans bring their cars over here, drive Route 66 and then ship their cars back home.”

For Route 66 cruisers, Tulsa could either be a brief pit stop or a place to spend a day or two exploring. The key is what we do with the historic assets that remain along the old highway. Buildings and businesses that might be considered hopelessly tacky in another context are exactly what Route 66 cruisers are hoping to find. Neon -- the bigger and gaudier the better -- is an important element of that. We need to take good care of what remains.

Back in 2000, I served on the research committee of the Convention and Tourism Task Force. The committee was stripped of most of its duties and reason to exist early on, when the Chamber Pots running the show realized the committee was full of arena skeptics. Toward the end of the task force's work, after another committee came up with a list of projects, our committee was given the job of figuring out how to pay for it. Bob Lemons, from the Mayor's office, warned us that we were not permitted to debate the merits of any of the projects. We were only allowed to decide which funding approach to recommend. The project description for a proposed Route 66 item (which was dropped from the final version) called for some of the funds to be used for "demolition and clearance," but no money at all to be spent on restoration and preservation. There was talk of turning Route 66 into a tree-lined boulevard, which would miss the whole point of Route 66. I'm pleased to see that the committee handling this Route 66 project is of a different mindset.

Oklahoma Boast and Roast

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This coming Friday and Saturday will be the first-ever "Oklahoma Boast and Roast", sponsored by the Tulsa County Republican Party. It's a satirical revue written from a conservative perspective, poking good-natured fun at both Democrats and Republicans (but especially Democrats). It's an answer to the annual Tulsa Press Club Gridiron, which has a decidedly left-wing slant.

The shows are June 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Hall of the Tulsa Convention Center. Tickets are $15. Proceeds will benefit the Tulsa County Republican Party and the Blue Star Moms, an organization that sends care packages to the troops overseas. You can buy tickets online, in person at Tulsa GOP headquarters (1503 S. Denver, 627-5702), or at Steve's Sundries at 26th & Harvard.

We celebrated a friend's birthday Saturday night at the Spotlight Theatre on Riverside Drive for the weekly performance of "The Drunkard" and Olio. Our party consisted of six grownups and four kids from three to seven. We all had a great time.

Is there anything else in the USA quite like this show, which has been running continuously for over fifty years? Lots of cities have ballets and opera companies, but I don't know of any other place where this sort of Americana is on display on a weekly basis. I'd think foreign visitors would especially enjoy this show. Seeing "The Drunkard" goes on my list of things to do with out-of-town guests.

I don't think you can call yourself a Tulsan if you haven't been to see "The Drunkard" at least once. The audience Saturday night was a diverse bunch -- small kids, teenagers, young adults, and older folks. It's a great evening out for a group of friends, for families. Is it corny and old-fashioned? Yes, but that's what makes it fun and special.

The pre-show fun began at 7:30 with an old fashioned sing-along -- the lyrics are in the program -- songs like "Sidewalks of New York," "Bicycle Built For Two," "K-K-K-Katy," "Shine On Harvest Moon." At 7:45, the curtain went up, and we were instructed in the proper way to cheer and boo in a melodrama.

"The Drunkard" is an old-fashioned temperance melodrama in three acts, based on the 1854 novel Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There, depicting the misery and degradation caused by alcohol. Deadly earnest when originally written and later performed as a play, the Spotlighters play it for laughs, with plenty of slapstick, asides, and opportunities for heartily booing the villain and cheering the hero.

Between acts the sing-along continued. During one scene change, one of the characters, the bumpkin Sample Switchel, came out to tell a few jokes, but his timing was thrown off by a little boy, about five years old, with a big laugh -- something tickled his funny bone and he couldn't stop laughing, and before long everyone was joining in.

Between "The Drunkard" and "The Olio", free coffee and cookies are served, and the cast mingles with the audience. "The Olio" is a variety of acts, changing from week to week. In between acts, out-of-town visitors were recognized -- Australia and the Netherlands were represented this week -- and those with birthdays were invited up on stage, serenaded, and presented with a commemorative coffee mug. This week's olio acts included a solo from "Les Miserables", last year's Miss Tulsa performing a jazz tap dance, and a third-grade boy with a big voice, singing "What a Wonderful World" and "You've Got a Friend in Me". The show closed with the patriotic monologue, "The Old Man and the Flag". Veterans in the audience were recognized and applauded, and we all stood and sang "God Bless America". It was about 10:30 when the evening came to an end.

As I understand it, everyone involved is a volunteer. Receipts and donations go to cover expenses -- including keeping this art-deco building up and running -- and beyond that for scholarships for aspiring performers. The Spotlighters also produce Children's Theatre -- "Ramona Quimby" will be performed the last two weekends in June, and "Treasure Island" is slated for August.

It was a relaxing, fun evening for the whole family. Check it out.

New media gets respect

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The King of Fools has been granted press credentials for the Texas Republican Convention. Congrats to the King and we'll look forward to experiencing another state's convention vicariously.

Here's his account of the senatorial district convention he attended back at the end of March.

I note that he is raising some money from his readers to offset the costs of traveling to the State Convention, in anticipation of the live-blogging he plans to do from the convention and he's gotten a good response so far. You suppose someone headed to the National Convention might ought to try that?

Remembering the Great War

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Instapundit links to a length and fascinating story by Jack Neely in the Knoxville Metro Pulse about Knoxville and its people in the Great War and the war's aftermath. A few excerpts:

Americans first regarded it as one of those stubborn, creaky old European conflicts that flared up in the Old World every now and then like the shingles, in which old men with peculiar hats and baroque motives would order slavish troops onto the field to whale away at each other for the old routine of glory and slaughter....

Knoxville's reaction to the war:

Patriotic optimism was overt; negative newspaper stories about the war effort were rare. But in some cases the war’s effects were disheartening. For more than half a century, Knoxville had been proud of its German population. Over the years, several German-born men were elected to City Council. A downtown Lutheran church conducted services in German. In the 1890s, the city had elected a German mayor, Peter Kern, of Heidelberg. The German society, Turn Verein, hosted popular dances and festivals.

But now the Germans were no longer the Germans; in newspaper headlines and in common conversation, they were the Huns. During the war, some East Tennesseans of German heritage changed their names to make them sound English. Knoxville’s German community has rarely gotten together to publicly celebrate itself since. ...

On Armistice Day:

It was a wild day. Most businesses were closed, and even the stoic farmers on Market Square shut down early. Max Finkelstein put up a sign on the front door of his clothing store: “Closed For Joy.” The newspapers published Extras, hawked in the crowded streets, where horns, gunfire, cowbells, and firecrackers made things noisier than some battles, and multiple effigies of Kaiser Bill and Crown Prince What’s-His-Name sustained all manner of insults. Reporters found it remarkable that even middle-aged women were openly cussing, shouting “Damn the Kaiser!” right on streetcorners. All over town, Wilhelm was wishfully dragged, burned, beheaded. Some 10,000 gathered at Wait Field to burn phony kaisers. The only live European known to be in Knoxville that day was one unaccountably errant French officer wearing the blue uniform of the 171st French Regiment. Local women mobbed him with kisses, as if he were liberating Knoxville itself.

Go read the whole thing. There's an interesting bit about the origins of Memorial Day which was started in Knoxville by a Union widow. Then there's this 1919 event, which puts Tulsa's own troubles two years later into perspective:

Knoxville’s postwar months also brought unexpected anti-black sentiment. For half a century, Knoxville had regarded itself a model city with regard to race relations.

The summer of 1919 would become known as Red Summer due to a rash of race riots, some of them provoked by the image of black veterans returning from war. Though the military was strictly segregated, and returning black troops were not feted nearly as extravagantly as returning whites, some were offended to see them wearing the same uniforms as whites, and to see them being hailed as heroes. Also, the Red Scare manifested itself in the South chiefly through rumors that the Bolsheviks were stirring up blacks into revolution.

Knoxville’s own crisis came late that summer, when a frustrated lynch mob and a confused detachment of guardsmen laid siege to a largely black downtown neighborhood. Several were killed, some of them by machine-gun fire with a new weapon developed for combat in Europe. The military enforcement of a post-riot curfew was disproportionately harsh on the black community.

Black historians cite World War I as the end of the years of prosperity and trust between blacks and whites in Knoxville. There followed a black exodus. The city had once been almost one-third black, but the minority percentage of the city’s population slipped below 20 percent.

Thanks again to Instapundit for the link.

If you're not in northeastern Oklahoma for the entire month of June, you're missing out on a lot:

The International Route 66 festival is in Tulsa this year, June 10-13. Should be a great party, and a great way to learn about this important pathway through 20th century American history.

Bartlesville's annual OK Mozart festival marks its 20th anniversary from June 12-19. The family concert this year features the author of the "Hank the Cowdog" books and a performance of Carnival of the Animals. There are chamber performances, piano concerti, and the outdoor concert at Woolaroc. You could even sneak in a side trip to the wonderful Kiddie Park.

Then there's Light Opera Oklahoma, the annual festival sponsored by the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, this year featuring "HMS Pinafore", "Three-Penny Opera", and "Guys and Dolls". The fun lasts all through June, and includes a couple of road performances of "HMS Pinafore" in Okmulgee and up Route 66 at the beautiful Coleman Theatre Beautiful in Miami.

Why spend June anywhere else?

Perhaps the longest-distance link to this website comes from TulipGirl, who writes from Kyiv, Ukraine. I've recently added her to my blogroll, along with the blog of her husband. His blog is called Le Sabot Post-Moderne.

In real life they are John and Alexandra Bush, who also are church planters with Mission to the World (almost typed "Whirled" there, out of habit) in Kyiv, Ukraine. They both write about culture, politics, theology, and family issues. TulipGirl's earlier site Me and the Boys has some material you shouldn't miss, as well.

The Bushes have some strong opinions, learned in the School of Hard Knocks, about Gary Ezzo's not-so-wise "Babywise" approach to infant feeding and childrearing. TulipGirl has a whole category devoted to the topic, and she wrote an article called "Confessions of a Failed Babywiser". Upon learning that Ezzo's books were available in Russian, she had her article translated and posted it on the blog (start here and work backwards).

She also mentions that Tulsa's own TulsaKids magazine won an award for investigative journalism for their July 2003 articles about Ezzo and "Babywise".

When we were expecting our first child, we were encouraged by testimonials from several friends -- intelligent, devoted Christians all -- to make use of the Ezzo approach to infant feeding and discipline. Without getting into details, I regret that we followed their advice, and I would warn parents away from it. It is overly rigid, and encourages an adversarial relationship between parents and children. While Ezzo is right to encourage firmness, he discourages natural parental tenderness. There are lots of good links on tulipgirl.com that will expose you to alternative approaches (and here and here), advocated by equally intelligent, devoted Christians who believe that Christian parenting should reflect the gracious example of our Heavenly Father.

(And here's a link to what Focus on the Family has to say about Ezzo's material.)

Ecce blogroll

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You may notice the blogroll to your right is a bit longer than it was. I've added a bunch of sites. Some are Oklahoma bloggers, some mostly write about faith, some about politics. Some are frequently updated, some only rarely. Some descriptions, in alphabetical order:

Al Mohler is President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a leader of the movement to recall Southern Baptists to their deep roots in Reformation theology. His blog mostly consists of longer essays on faith and culture.

C-Log is the weblog of townhall.com, a website which features an exhaustive roster of conservative columnists.

Dave Schwenk is pastor of a PCA congregation in Claremore, Oklahoma. Some years ago, he and I got to know each other as fellow students in the seminary extension courses offered by our church. He doesn't blog often -- but he does come up with some interesting links, like this entry about the USDA's nutritional database, free for download.

Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and columnist. He's on hiatus from the blog and the show for a couple of weeks, but he's thoughtfully left us a New Visitors' Guide to the Blogosphere pointing us to the blogs and news sources he visits regularly. I have never heard his show -- he's not on in Tulsa -- but James Lileks has a weekly call-in to the show and occasionally serves as guest host, so it must be worth listening to.

Kevin McCullough is a conservative Christian radio talk show host based in NYC, who blogs about politics and culture.

I'm out of gas -- I'll cover the rest in some later entry.

As always: I don't agree with or even approve of everything I read on the blogs I link to, but they're worth a look -- some daily, some now and then. Some day, I'll categorize them. Use your judgment. Your mileage may vary. Parental guidance suggested.

Instapundit links to this New York Times article about obsessive blogging.

The constant search for bloggable moments is what led Gregor J. Rothfuss, a programmer in Zurich, to blog to the point of near-despair. Bored by his job, Mr. Rothfuss, 27, started a blog that focused on technical topics.

"I was trying to record all thoughts and speculations I deemed interesting," he said. "Sort of creating a digital alter ego. The obsession came from trying to capture as much as possible of the good stuff in my head in as high fidelity as possible."

For months, Mr. Rothfuss said, he blogged at work, at home, late into the night, day in and day out until it all became a blur - all the while knowing, he added, "that no one was necessarily reading it, except for myself."

When traffic to the blog, greg.abstract.ch started to rise, he began devoting half a day every day and much of the weekend to it. Mr. Rothfuss said he has few memories of that period in his life aside from the compulsive blogging.

He was saved from the rut of his online chronicle when he traveled to Asia. The blog became more of a travelogue. Then Mr. Rothfuss switched jobs, finding one he enjoyed, and his blogging grew more moderate.

He still has the blog, but posts to it just twice a week, he said, "as opposed to twice an hour." He feels healthier now. "It's part of what I do now, it's not what I do," he said.

I like that line -- "capture as much of the good stuff in my head in as high fidelity as possible".

Dale Amon, on Samizdata, reports that he's coming from Northern Ireland to Oklahoma City to attend the National Space Society's 2004 Space Development Conference , which starts tomorrow. Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, Chair of the Aerospace States Association, is one of the scheduled speakers, as is Fred Haise, the lunar module pilot on Apoll 13.

It's being held at the Clarion Convention Center, at I-40 and Meridian west of downtown, which is a small convention center with no attached arena. And that goes to show you don't need a big arena and convention center to draw international visitors to an important convention.

Fellow Pogophile and blogger Dawn Eden was saluted at the end of Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show last night as one of the former Florida congressmen's favorite blogs (transcript here, scroll to end), alongside blogosphere luminaries like Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, our sex scandal blogger story may have left some of you asking, what's a blogger?

Well, mom and pop, a blogger is one who blogs. Speaking "Electric Company" style, our guests for that segment keep a political diary online. It's called a Weblog. Take the words Web and log and it becomes Weblog. But since kids don't have a sufficient attention span to piece two syllables together, the terms has been mercifully cut down to blog.

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY's favorite blogs include Wonkette.com and Gawker, of course, InstaPundit, Dawn Patrol, AndrewSullivan, and the ArmedProphet. And the keepers of these blogs mix news stories with political viewpoints and personal stories, which really make blogs most interesting. And most blogs are updated daily using software that allows nimrods with little or no technical background, i.e., me, to update their blogs on a daily basis.

Now, if you haven't checked out blogs or this crazy Internet thing, I highly recommend it. I hear it's real big with the kids.

Congratulations to Dawn, who turns out a thought-provoking essay nearly every day, and has been certified by another Oklahoma blogger as an enigma:

Anyone that can mercilessly (and justly) skewer Hugh Hefner, relate personal stories about her friend, the panhandling music editor/heroin addict, thoughtfully compare clinical and situational depression, discuss Philip K. Dick's influence on G.K. Chesterson (and Orson Welles), tell a story (an application lesson actually) about working the basement of Warner Communications, and pepper the whole page with references from the scripture (KJV no less!) all on the same page is an enigma. Now what would you guess that person does for al living? Theology professor? Maybe Comparative Lit? Or Anthropology? Nope. Music Historian and author of the headline "Hurt in the Line of Doody."

By the way, the beginning of the Scarborough quote refers to a U. S. Senate staffer who was fired for using Senate computers to post to her blog about moonlighting as a prostitute. I guess it's sweeps month, so the only way blogging will make the TV news is if sex is involved. Dawn Eden writes about sex, too, but she shuns pop culture's glamourization of casual sex for insight into the real consequences of treating those made in God's image as mere implements. And she's called attention to Planned Parenthood's website for teenagers, which puts the lie to PP's rhetoric that they seek to help teens make responsible decisions.

Redrawing the USA

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Incoming Signals links to a proposal for reforming the Electoral College by redrawing state lines so we end up with 50 states of equal population, thus reducing the slight edge given to small states in the allocation of electoral votes. (It would also mean the end of small-state powr in the Senate.)

I remember being fascinated, as an eighth grader, by the entries in the People's Almanac about alternatives for subdividing the United States. One plan, by geographer G. Etzel Pearcy, split the US into 38 states, with lines drawn to keep metro areas within a single state. Pearcy believed there would be less government spending by reducing the number of state governments. He also believed that uniting each metropolitan area within a single state would simplify providing services on a regional basis -- the sort of thing now routinely accomplished through multilateral agreements between states, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

I won't ridicule these efforts -- I spent a fair amount of time the summer after my eighth grade year devising my own plan. As I grew older, I came to appreciate the fact that states under our Constitution are not meant to be mere administrative arms of the Federal government, even if they often take that role. And despite the metropolitan identity that may cross state lines around major cities, those state lines mean something after existing for hundreds of years. Different laws have been in place and those have affected how people live and how people think about themselves.

The author of the Electoral College reform plan suggests redrawing state boundaries after each decennial census to retain equal population. This would put an end to the ironic observation that the U. S. Senate races are more competitive than House races, and therefore the make-up of the Senate better reflects changes in public mood because you can't gerrymander state lines.

Here's another effort at redrawing state lines for equal population, using existing state boundaries as much as possible.

Reflections in d minor links to a very link-intensive blog called Incoming Signals. The blogger, Christopher Bahn, describes himself as a "chronic websurfer." A typical day's entry includes a half-dozen or so links with at most a sentence of descriptions. He links to an incredible variety of material: Donald Duck builds an atom bomb. Elsa Lanchester puts on her "Bride of Frankenstein" makeup. Old disease names and their modern definitions. Abe Vigoda's reactions to a sneak preview of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

This blogger seems to love maps, a passion I share. Here's a recent entry with several map-related entries.

And then he's got a categorized collection of older links, including a link to a list of Dewey Decimal System categories.

You could get seriously lost on the Internet with this blog as a starting place.

No surprise that the Whirled would heap praise on departing City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter. It was under her leadership that the City Attorney's office intervened in the 71st & Harvard F&M Bank zoning case, putting forth a far-fetched opinion regarding the deadline for protest petitions that contradicted the plain language of the city ordinance. (The publisher of the Whirled is the chairman of F&M Bancorporation.)

I am informed by a reliable source that the following sentence from Saturday's paper is misleading:

In January, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris ruled that a dispute over legal bills for work on the black officer's discrimination suit did not violate the state's budget laws.

Rereading the Whirled's story from January 10, it appears that Harris is saying only that the city only paid the Atlanta law firm what it had contracted with the firm to pay, and in that regard the law wasn't violated. The problem is that the law firm believed the city owed it for the additional work Rupp Carter had authorized beyond the contracted amount, and the firm sued the city to recover that additional amount. That was the issue raised by some city councilors in 2002 -- by obligating the city for money that had not been authorized, Rupp Carter had violated the Municipal Budget Act. In the end, the City had to pay $625,000 to settle the lawsuit. Perhaps because it is a legal settlement, it technically doesn't count as payment for unauthorized services, but that is effectively what that amount represents.

We understand that the OSBI report spells all this out and makes it clear that Rupp Carter is not blameless in her handling of the matter. We also understand that Rupp Carter's resignation comes within a day or two of renewed efforts to seek the release of that report.

It would be easy for public officials to let the matter go, as Rupp Carter is no longer going to be a city employee. That would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. Pursuing justice in the matter could deter future City Attorneys from treating the public and their elected officials with contempt. And not dealing with the outgoing City Attorney could come back to haunt us. So many Tulsans were relieved to see Susan Savage apparently leave public life, only to be appalled by her resurrection as Secretary of State. It would be a shame if, by failing to drive a stake through the career of Savage's jogging buddy, city officials allow her to "fail up" into a more prominent and influential position, after her legal advice cost the city and its taxpayers so much.

The budget mess at the Tulsa County Courthouse is just starting to get interesting. County Commission Chairman Randi Miller is asking the State Auditor's office to find out where the projected surplus went. It's being called a transition audit -- rather like counting the money at the end of a cashier's shift so the next cashier starts clean. Wayne Carr had announced on April 29 that he is retiring after 25 years for health reasons. It was Mr. Carr's budget projections that led county officials to believe they would have a lot more money to spend than they actually did. Word is, though, that Commissioner Miller was pushing for an external audit even before Carr announced his retirement.

The County's internal auditor for the last two years, Clarence McClain, quit Thursday and was quoted by county fiscal officer Wayne Carr as saying it was a choice of hitting somebody or leaving.

It's tough to piece all this together, because Tulsa County budget info is not available on the Internet.

Think back to the Vision 2025 campaign last summer, when we were told that we should have confidence in the County's ability to manage a billion dollars because of their sound fiscal performance in the past. We were reminded that Tulsa County was untouched by the County Commission scandal back in the '80s.

A fine day

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This was a lovely day that deserves a quick recap.

Actually, it began last night, when I caught a toad for Joe to take and display with his project. There weren't any out earlier last night, and we wondered if we would have one at all. But there he (or she) was, and I put him in a small critter keeper. Before I gave him a bit of foliage and some water, I dropped in some crickets and watched him pick them off in rapid succession. Wow!

This morning, Mikki's mom fixed some breakfast for us. Joe and I caught some baby toads and Mikki collected some tadpoles from the pond. We got it all loaded up and into the classroom. We swapped the toad and the tree frog. We thought they both might fit in the big critter keeper, but the toad was quite upset about being held against his will, and we were afraid he'd inadvertently hurt the frog with all the leaping about. The frog, by contrast, was quite calm, clinging to a branch or the plastic side of the keeper with his sticky toes. Between the display, the big keeper with the toad, the medium keeper with the tree frog, and the little special cricket keeper, which also held the three baby toads we caught, and the mason jar full of tadpoles and pond water, Joe's desk was rather full. There was a near disaster when one of Joe's classmates tried to turn the big keeper to see the toad, and it nearly sent the small one to the floor.

So Mikki and I and Grandma settled into the auditorium, while the students got ready to present the musical "Oliver!"

Just before the program is to start, Joe rushed in, teary eyed. Some of the baby toads had died and the crickets were eating them. I head with him to the classroom, rescued the surviving baby and put him in with the tree frog. It is unclear whether the crickets killed the baby toads or were just enjoying a stroke of luck. Joe settled down and seemed OK as I headed back to the auditorium.

The first graders were in the chorus for "Where Is Love?" and "Food, Glorious Food!" Students from the upper grades (mainly 5th & 6th) had the lead roles, with some amazing singing, particularly from the girls who played Rose and Nancy. Even the 1st graders sang with strong voices and were mostly on pitch.

Joe enjoyed preparing for the role, singing the songs -- his ability to stay on tune is developing nicely -- and tearing up and mucking up some too-small pants for his orphan costume.

After the two-hour long play, there was a slideshow saluting the school's faculty and founding parents. Then we filed out to view student artwork and semester projects and have cookies and punch. It was interesting to see the variety. Here are some of the projects Joe's classmates did: Soaking human teeth in Dr Pepper for up to ten days to see how DP affects a tooth. (Note: Be sure not to remove your gums before drinking soda pop. Also, be sure not to let soda pop soak on your teeth overnight.) Going on a fossil hunt with dad. Planting a garden. Observing and photographing backyard wildlife. Assembling a complicated Star Wars Lego kit. Building wooden dinosaur skeletons. Writing a book imagining visits to different countries. Building a wooden toy car.

Patriotism was on display. A Lego Statue of Liberty. One boy's project consisted of a videotape of him, in an Uncle Sam-like costume singing a mnemonic song about all 50 state capitals. Another student wrote about a great heroic uncle who had been a WW II combat pilot in the Pacific, then went MIA, evidently shot down, giving his life for his country about a month before the end of the war.

One student's semester project involved visiting a Shriner's Hospital. For treatment. Puts it all into perspective, doesn't it.

Mikki and Joe returned the critters to the house, then they and Katherine and Mikki's mom headed to Casa Bonita for lunch. I went to the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club luncheon to hear candidates for local State Senate seats -- two candidates in Senate 33, five in Senate 25 (formerly 51), and one running in Senate 39. In all three cases, the incumbent is term limited. No actual legislators at lunch -- they're all down at the State Capitol for the end of session rush.

We turned the critters loose this evening after taking some photos. Spur of the moment, I suggested that we take the kids to the Admiral Twin Drive-In to see "Shrek 2". We weighed the likely sleepiness and crankiness tomorrow against the fun of doing something spontaneous. It was a great time -- the evening was cool, with a nice breeze, we all enjoyed the movie, and it was fun to pull a happy surprise on the kids. Joe didn't figure it out until we were in line to get in.

I remember seeing my first PG movie at the Admiral Twin. It was "Young Frankenstein", on the east screen. I got a big, big 7-Up and nearly drank myself sick. I laughed at all the silliness, but I remember overhearing some remark from mom about jokes going over my head.

And so to bed.

Word has reached me that Tulsa City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter has submitted her resignation effective July 1, and will be spending most of the next month using accumulated vacation time. This is great news for our city, and a great opportunity for Mayor Bill LaFortune.

Rupp Carter, appointed to the City Attorney's office by former Mayor Susan Savage, had a knack for getting the City into expensive legal trouble. The list of decisions which either got the City sued or could have is a long one: handling of outside legal support in the Black Officers' lawsuit, the 71st & Harvard ruling against the neighborhood's protest petition, allowing ex-Councilor David Patrick to remain in office despite the fact that he had not been lawfully elected to a new term, speaking to the press about election allegations against Councilor Roscoe Turner. The City Attorney's office under her direction always seemed to be working in the interests of some person or persons other than the ordinary citizens of this city.

Some City Councilors tried to give her the heave-ho a few years ago, when she authorized additional legal services to be performed by an Atlanta law firm in the Black Officers' lawsuit, without obtaining budget authorization for the expenditure, in apparent violation of the Oklahoma Municipal Budget Act. She dodged a bullet at the time, and those Councilors, who were doing their job to hold a city officer accountable for the expenditure of taxpayer money, were roundly condemned by the Tulsa Whirled and the rest of the Cockroach Coalition. There is word that an OSBI investigation of Rupp Carter indicates that those Councilors were correct, and that the possible release of that report was a motivating factor in her resignation.

When I and many others supported Bill LaFortune for Mayor, we never expected him to agree with us on all points, but we did expect him to clean out certain holdovers from the previous administration who had been leading our city down the wrong path. We haven't seen much action in that regard, but Rupp Carter's resignation is a great opportunity, and who is appointed by the Mayor to replace her will speak volumes about his direction for the remainder of his term.

Lynn at Reflections in d minor calls our attention to a delightful website called Tales of Future Past. If you've been wondering why 21st Century Man isn't whizzing about cloud cities with atomic-powered jetpacks, you need to pay this site a visit.

The site's creator, David Szondy, also has a blog, called The Ephemeral Isle, which some days has a Bleat-like recounting of the days events, sometimes a photo or illustration with a new caption.

Here's a bit from his May 1st entry:

I read an article a while back with the headline “Are Men Obsolete?” I didn’t give it more than a second’s glance. It was the sort of piece that editors run every couple of years in the misguided belief that it’s sensational instead of fatuous. I’ve been reading that sort of thing about men, pubs, PCs, Western civilisation, white men, white Europeans in particular, and the human race in general over the past thirty years and they all have the same tone. Some tidbit of information about parthenogenesis, we-based applications, wine bars, immigration, or even the weather was the turning point that would herald the extinction of the item in question with the writer, in a fit of revealing wishful thinking, implying that no great loss would be involved. Normally, I don’t give any thought to this sort of boilerplate journalism, except that I couldn’t help thinking that the answer to “are men obsolete?” is: “Not as long as women keep moving house.”

Start there and scroll down. Don't miss "Famous Last Moments" or "Religion Moves with the Times".

Tony Randall, RIP

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Sorry to learn of the passing of Tony Randall. I grew up watching and enjoying his work in "The Odd Couple", knew of his ties to Tulsa, and more recently enjoyed his cameos on Letterman and marveled at his late-in-life virility.

There are some intriguing details in the obituaries. He was married to his first wife for 54 years (although some sources say 50). That's remarkable for anyone, much less for a famous actor. She died in 1992, so if the first number is right, he married at age 18, in 1938. Three years after his first wife's death, he, at age 75, married a 25-year-old and became a father for the first time, siring a boy and a girl.

He was born Arthur Leonard Rosenberg in Tulsa in 1920. The obits say his father was an art dealer. I wonder where they lived. He was growing up in the midst of Tulsa's first boom -- what must that have been like! And what was it like to grow up Jewish in Oklahoma in those days?

I found this brief reminiscence about Tulsa's cultural life.

Tulsa TV Memories has his Central High School yearbook photo.

I found this quote from a 1997 commencement speech he gave at Centenary College:

“You must find-each and every one of you – something in life to do that you love, that you love blindly. And you must work yourself to death at that,” he said to applause.

A tree frog in our backyard

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A happy providence tonight: We bought some "critter keepers" from the pet store so Joe could capture a toad and display it as part of his semester project. When we began to get the biggest keeper ready for use, Joe noticed a crack in the bottom corner. It was too late to return it, and Joe refused to put a toad in the smaller container -- not enough room to hop, he said; it would slam into the side. So we would wait to capture a toad until tomorrow night.

After family prayers, Mikki put Katherine to bed, and then she, Joe, and I went into the kitchen to get Joe his medicine. Mikki spotted it first -- a tree frog on the door to the porch. We had never seen a tree frog at our house before. I took the smaller keeper out the front door and around the house and caught him. So assuming Joe can catch a toad tomorrow night, he will be able to illustrate vividly the similiarities and differences between frogs and toads.

And speaking of crawly things, The Rough Woodsman has a link to a fascinating photo blog about insects and pond life in Stephens County, Oklahoma. Check out Insect Journal.

Broken Arrow's City Council meeting (tonight at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 200 S. First Street in BA) ought to be interesting.

Many people have marveled that Broken Arrow appeared to have landed a Bass Pro Shops' Outdoor World without ponying up the millions of tax dollars that Bass Pro has successfully extracted from other cities looking for a way to hook tourists. A couple of recent news stories reveals that not only are Broken Arrow citizens financing the deal in some way, the City of Tulsa may have been instrumental in helping Broken Arrow get Bass Pro.

On Thursday the Tulsa Beacon published an allegation that City of Tulsa officials did not actively seek to encourage Bass Pro Shops to locate within the city limits, instead allowing Broken Arrow to snag the big outdoor retailer.

The businessman who brought this story to the Beacon alleges further that this was a payback for Broken Arrow's support for Vision 2025.

There had been speculation in March 2003 Bass Pro locating on the east side of downtown Tulsa, as part of the proposed East Village development or near Mathis Brothers furniture, northwest of 71st & 169, and then we heard nothing else about Bass Pro coming to Tulsa.

Conversely, Broken Arrow made a lot of noise during the Dialog / Visioning process about getting a 20,000 seat arena either built in Broken Arrow or on the line between Broken Arrow and Tulsa. That issue went away, the arena was slated for downtown, and Broken Arrow leaders were fully on board with Vision 2025, despite the fact that Broken Arrow, like Owasso and other suburbs, would be a donor city -- each city collecting more for the Vision 2025 sales tax over 13 years than it would reap in projects.

An investigation by the Tulsa Beacon has uncovered what seems to be a back-door set of dealings that directly cost the city of Tulsa a $500 million development in exchange for support for last year’s Vision 2025 sales tax increase.

A local businessman said Tulsa “gave the cold shoulder” to Bass Pro so the giant sports retailer would locate in Broken Arrow – instead of East Tulsa – as part of a deal to win support for the Vision 2025 election.

The businessman, who fears repercussions if his name is revealed, said the dealings involve county officials, city officials in Broken Arrow and Tulsa, chamber officials in both cities, developers, commercial realtors and financial interests.

Here’s how his scenario unfolds:

• Tulsa special interests wanted an arena built downtown with county tax money. Broken Arrow officials wanted the arena built in Broken Arrow or between Broken Arrow and Tulsa.

• In order to secure the Broken Arrow vote, Tulsa officials secretly agreed to not actively pursue Bass Pro. Broken Arrow officials wholeheartedly supported Vision 2025 and all four propositions passed in Broken Arrow.

• Officials from the Tulsa Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce dismissed the importance of the location, claiming it is a “regional” organization, not just for the city of Tulsa.

• Tulsa officials told Bass Pro they wanted the gigantic retail center in downtown Tulsa and that Bass Pro must build an adjoining four-story parking garage. Bass Pro requires a lake and financial concessions and quickly dismissed building in a downtown site.

• Real estate interests failed to tell Bass Pro about an ideal site in East Tulsa, near 145th East Avenue, close to Interstate 44.

• Bass Pro typically looks for $10 million to $30 million in local incentives – including free land and subsidized rent. According to a Feb. 15 story in The Buffalo (New York) News, Oklahoma City leaders offered $17.2 million to attract its Bass Pro Outdoor World. Bossier City, La. paid $32 million for a parking garage, road and parking upgrades. Norfolk, Va. offered $10.8 million to land Bass Pro. “Yeah, it seems everybody wants one in their back yard, but they don’t come cheap,” said Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch.

• Broken Arrow officials initially said those incentives would be provided by private sources. A source told the Tulsa Beacon the May 11 bond issue in Broken Arrow had “hidden money” for Bass Pro. The $53-plus million bond issue has land acquisition under a large category that adds up to more than $5 million. The language on the ballot does not specify what land will be purchased or how much paid for the land or its location. The Tulsa Beacon source said the land in question is for the new convention center and is priced at “double of its market value.”

• Broken Arrow officials have not announced that public money would be spent on Bass Pro. The May 11 $53 million bond vote was promoted with the slogan, “Build a Better Broken Arrow Without Raising Your Taxes!,” according to campaign literature from the Build a Better BA Committee, Russell Peterson, chairman. The passage of the bond proposals would not raise city property taxes, as other existing bonds are being retired. This is the first city bond election since the year 2000, when a $27 million package was approved by voters. If the issue failed, taxes in Broken Arrow would automatically go down.

Sunday morning, the Broken Arrow Daily Ledger added to the story, with its front page headline, "City involved in loan for Bass Pro." The City of Broken Arrow made a late Friday announcement -- that's when you release news you hope will be ignored. It was also conveniently released after Broken Arrow's bond issue election last Tuesday:

Details lacking in the initial announcement by the City of Broken Arrow that Bass Pro Shops would be locating here are now being made known.

The city announced late Friday, through a press release, that Bass Pro Shops' Outdoor World will be constructed on 19.15 acres donated to the City by developer Phil Roland. The store will be the anchor tenant for Roland's Stone Wood Hills, a combination residential/business development.

"While initially it was thought that the City would not be involved with any loan to Stone Wood Hills to construct the store, the City has since learned that construction can only proceed with the City's involvement because the City will own the 19.15 acres upon which the store will be built," Friday's press release states. City Council will review Stone Wood Hill's donation of land and the funding of this project at its Monday meeting.

A single paragraph in Friday's press release dealt with the city's financial involvement in bringing Bass Pro Shos to Broken Arrow. City officials said when they announced March 18 bass Pro Shops would be locating in Broken Arrow, that no incentives had been offered.

However, Friday's releae states, "... such incentives were part of the City's role in bringing the store to Broken Arrow."

Friday's release also states details of the city's involvement were not available at the time of the public announcement, but does not explain why they were not available.

The remaining eight paragraphs of Friday's release described the benefits the city, businesses and residents can expect from landing the popular retailer, already quoted in earlier articles.

The Daily Ledger doesn't exactly connect the dots, but the next story down on the front page says that BA's budget will be up 26% over last year for a total of $127,361,979 -- that's 1/4 of the City of Tulsa's annual budget. What's in the increase?

Acting City Manager Gary Blackford noted, "The primary reason for the increase is because this budget includes issues related to Bass Pro in the amount of $12,900,000, an increase in various capital project funds related to bond issues approved previously, an increase in the transfer to the general fund and the requirement to include group health and life insurance ($4.3 million) which has not been required in the past."

[Emphasis added.]

The article lists other items for the agenda:

Resolution No. 378 - authorizing issuance of the city's sales tax revenue note, series 2004 in the amount of $4 million -- will be discussed. The resolution would waive competitive bidding and authorize the note to be sold on a "negotiated basis."

Passage of a second resolution (No. 379) would clear the way for the city's acceptance of an assignment of lease (with options and contracts) between Stone Wood Hills Business Park and Bass Pro Outdoor World.

If the council approves Ordinance No. 2626 (corrected) the director of public works would have "certain powers" to purchase supplies, materials, equipment and contractual services for a period "not to exceed June 30, 2006 and to exempt such purchases from competitive bidding..."

Competitive bidding waivers are a great way for government officials to reward their friends, and may be a way, in this case, of hiding subsidies provided to Bass Pro.

The Tulsa Whirled reported on a March 15th City Council meeting (jump page here) authorizing the Mayor of BA to negotiate an economic development contract. The motion was passed following an executive session. The question is whether the Council misused executive session to hide from the public any obligations it was undertaking on behalf of the public to lure Bass Pro Shops.

There's a tangled web that's been woven. I appreciate the work the Tulsa Beacon and the BA Daily Ledger have done so far -- I hope they'll continue to pursue it.

Toad surfing

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We are working on the seven-year-old's spring project. At his school, 1st through 4th graders do an individual project each semester, giving them a chance to explore an area of interest in depth and then put together some sort of display to explain it to classmates and parents. Last semester Joseph did the aerodynamics of paper airplanes. This semester, it's toads.

While looking up some info on the web about toads, I found a few interesting items:

Here is an exposé of a three-headed frog story that made the British tabloids this March. The author of the page says it looks like three frogs in amplexus -- a mating ball -- and quotes someone saying that during amplexus frogs and toads secrete mucus to make them stick together better. The same page has a link near the bottom to an amazing little film. Do not follow that link if work somewhere with amphibian employees, as it may tend to create a hostile work environment for them.

Another link on that page leads to this fascinating diary of life in a garden in Aldershot, Hampshire, England. One section of the diary tracks the lifecycle of frogs and newts in the garden pond. There are some astounding photos of frog embryos. And the proprietor of the site is kind enough to tell us how he managed to take those amazing pictures. Elsewhere on the site is a webcam installed in a birdhouse, which has been watching a nest of Great Tits -- the babies are about two weeks old.

A lot of chat the last few days about Sen. Jim Inhofe's outrage over the outrage [sic] over abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. (For comments on National Review's "The Corner" start here, then scroll up for more.)

All this has reminded me how annoying it is to hear politicians claim, in reaction to some event, to have emotions that they obviously don't possess. Genuine emotion is accompanied by physiological phenomena -- your pulse races, your blood pressure goes up, you get goosebumps. But many politicians seem to have the same level of personal experience with emotion as Data from Star Trek. And just like Data, these pols seem to be programmed to mimic emotions as a way to set the humans at ease. Data's programming seems to be superior to that of these elected officials, who appear to be running beta versions of Genuine People Personalities.

So, Senator, are you really feeling the emotions you find it politically expedient to profess?

"appalled" -- Did all the color go out of your face?

"horrified" -- Did the hair stand up on the back of your neck?

"shocked" -- You sure seem talkative and coherent for someone in shock. Shouldn't you have mouth agape, drooling?

"angered" -- Face flushed? Vein in temple throbbing? Jaw clenched? No? Then you're not really, are you?

"saddened" -- I took a good look at your face, and it was impossible to trace the tracks of any tears. You haven't even had a good sniffle about it.

"disgusted" -- Show me the airsick bag.

The honest, all-purpose statement would be something like this:

Jaded cynic that I am, I am generally pretty numb, particularly when it comes to human suffering, but I confess to be inwardly gleeful at the discovery of the "silver bullet" that will bring down the Bush presidency. But so as not to offend against the quaint folkways of the American people, I will pull a frowny face and talk about how it makes me sad and angry.

Dawn Eden relates a jaw-dropping encounter with Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule.

I was introduced to the gaunt, aged legend by another scientist, who proceeded to tell Watson about his biomedicals company, which funded work in the genetics field.

Watson interrupted him: "Is your company geared towards research or service?"

The scientist paused for a second, taking in the unusual question. "Research," he answered.

"That's the problem with these companies today!" the Nobel laureate erupted. "Everyone's doing research in genetics and nobody's doing service. Because it's too controversial"—he sneered—"to help mothers so that they can give birth to healthy babies. ...

"They say I'm a killer," Watson went on, his tired eyes taking on fire. "It's those right-to-lifers."

"They say I'm a killer," he repeated, "and everyone's afraid of offending them." He was still looking at the other scientist. The scientist, whom I know didn't share his views, maintained an attentive silence—partly, I believe, out of gentlemanly respect, and partly out of not wanting to put gasoline on a fire.

But I had nothing to lose. So I took a deep breath, adjusted my jaw so it was back in line with my upper lip, and said, in the gentlest voice I could muster, "I'd love to know more about why you feel that way, as I'm a right-to-lifer myself."

Watson looked me in the eye and told me he was qualified to advocate in favor of mothers choosing to abort "unhealthy" children because he wished he could have aborted his own son, who is mentally handicapped.

He went on, unprodded, to say that he was an "unbeliever," so he was sure he would have had no moral qualms about killing his own child.

Just to clarify, by "helping mothers have healthy babies", he means helping them kill babies with the wrong genes.

Charles G. Hill comments:

If there's a Deep Truth here, it's this: doing good things, even great things, doesn't assure you a position on the side of the angels.

Wednesday night I stopped by an open house at Tom Coburn's Tulsa campaign headquarters in Eton Square at 61st & Memorial. The candidate himself was there, mingling and chatting with us.

I was impressed by the folks who turned out. It wasn't a huge crowd -- I don't think they gave the event a lot of publicity -- but the people in attendance were the sort of grassroots Republican activists who provided the manpower and commitment for past upset victories over "anointed" candidates. Many of those present worked for John Sullivan in his special election win, and some were involved back in 1980 when a little-known State Senator from Ponca City came from nowhere to become a U. S. Senator.

The crowd even included some staffers who work for Republican elected officials who have endorsed Kirk Humphreys (and now may be wishing they hadn't).

At Saturday's Republican state convention, Don Nickles acknowledged the three main candidates to replace him, and the effect was like an applause-o-meter, with Coburn getting the loudest, most enthusiastic response, followed by Anthony, with Humphreys getting a subdued cheer.

There is no doubt that the grassroots activists are passionate about Tom Coburn. The question will be whether Coburn's campaign can effectively organize and mobilize these people to win over the vast majority of non-activists who will show up in large numbers for the July primary. Humphreys had a lot of young people working for him at the state convention, stationed at nearly every door, handing out stickers, bottled water, and "Candy from Kirk". (I had the sense, though, that a lot of these attractive young folk were involved in the Humphreys campaign because of all the other attractive young folk who are involved. Kind of like a teenage boy joining a church because the girls in the youth group are cuter than the church his folks go to.) Bob Anthony's daughters appeared to be everywhere as well. Coburn's people seemed to be fewer in number and mostly stayed close to their table.

The Coburn campaign is looking for Tulsa volunteers, and they'll be having a volunteer training seminar this Saturday, May 15, from 10 am to noon in the East Atrium of Cityplex Towers, 81st & Lewis. Call Regional Director Derek Sparks at 918-294-8352 for info or visit www.coburnforsenate.com

A great quote from urban observer Jane Jacobs, who has a new book out, and whose Death and Life of Great American Cities will get a "BatesLine Bookshelf" entry one of these days:

New York still has so much pizzazz, because people make it new every day. Like all cities, it’s self-organizing. People looking for a date on Third Avenue make it into a place full of hope and expectation, and this has nothing to do with architecture. Those are the emotions that draw us to cities, and they depend on things being a bit messy. The most perfectly designed place can’t compete. Everything is provided, which is the worst thing we can provide. There’s a joke that the father of an old friend used to tell, about a preacher who warns children, "In Hell there will be wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth." "What if you don’t have teeth?" one of the children asks. "Then teeth will be provided," he says sternly. That’s it—the spirit of the designed city: Teeth Will Be Provided for You.

Thanks to Marvin Olasky in World Magazine's blog who linked to an entry on Blog9 which linked to the New Yorker's Talk of the Town item on Jane Jacobs.

And here is a link to blog9's account of Jane Jacobs' recent talk promoting her new book.

Black Box Voting

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There's a website devoted to concerns about electronic voting. BlackBoxVoting.com tracks news stories about the all-electronic voting systems that have been introduced in recent years. It's ironic that these systems, introduced in response to problems with paper ballots in the 2000 elections, may be even more susceptible to fraud and tampering. The website includes a free PDF version of a book on the subject. The introduction provides this definition of black box voting:

Black Box Voting: Any voting system in which the mechanism for recording and/or tabulating the vote are hidden from the voter, and/or the mechanism lacks a tangible record of the vote cast.

Oklahoma's voting problems have to do with who is allowed to cast a ballot, like the recent Tulsa City Council primaries in which hundreds of voters were given a primary ballot for the wrong party. Oklahoma's vote counting mechanism itself is very solid, particularly since there are physical ballots, which the voter personally marks and examines. If touchscreen voting is used it should produce some sort of marked paper, which the voter can examine and verify that it reflects his intent. This paper would be deposited in the ballot box and would be available for use in a recount.

A number of experts have called for states to require that voting machine vendors release the source code for the programs that control the machine, so that flaws, backdoors, and other vulnerabilities could be uncovered and corrected.

Odd polling trends: UK

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Website PoliticalBetting.com reports on an interesting little adjustment made by polling agency Populus, which signals a major shift in public attitudes toward the parties. The latest Populus poll of the British electorate puts the Conservatives ahead of Labour by 4% -- 36 to 32, Labour's lowest percentage in years, with 22% going to the Liberal Democrats, a party that runs to the left of Tony Blair's New Labour.

The raw numbers gave the Conservatives a 6-point advantage over Labour, but Populus adjusted Labour's numbers up by 2 points. Here's why:

Early last year, after a short period of neutrality, the spiral of silence reversed itself. Polls began to find that the proportion of former Labour voters saying that they didn’t know how they would vote next time began to climb, while the proportion of Labour supporters saying that they were sure to vote began to fall. Pollsters have been adjusting Labour’s poll support upwards to take account of this growing number because all empirical data tell us there is about a 60 per cent probability that, however reluctantly, if they vote at all they will end up voting Labour again. Without this adjustment the Conservative lead in today’s poll would have been 2 per cent higher. SO in place of Shy Tories we now have Bashful Blairites, people unwilling to admit to pollsters or their friends that they still support the Prime Minister. Once so fashionable, new Labour has now gone out of fashion. This is very difficult to reverse.

My guess is that this is due to Blair's support of the US position in the war on terror, which has been attacked fervently by the arbiters of popular culture. Backing Tony isn't cool any more. A few years ago, in the latter days of John Major's reign, voters supporting Conservative policies were embarassed into silence by sex and financial scandals involving Conservative MPs.

A question: Is the "spiral of silence" a factor in American politics? How would you adjust a poll result to account for it? I'm guessing that it varies state to state, but generally the effect would reduce stated preferences for Republicans.

All pollsters make adjustments, in part because people aren't always honest with pollsters, for various reasons, in part because a variety of factors (time of day, weather, age of respondent) can skew a voter's willingness to respond. The website for Populus has a frank and fascinating discussion of how they arrive at their adjustment factors.

3. The logical way to try to make sure a poll sample is politically representative is to ask those polled how they voted at the last election and compare what they say with the actual result – a known fact about the political views of the country as a whole that serves as a benchmark, so that if the voters who have been surveyed for the poll prove to be politically unrepresentative, the whole sample can be made representative by weighting it to the election result. For the first few months, Populus polls for The Times were, therefore weighted to the actual result of the last election.

4. But the detailed data of Populus polls bore out research at previous general elections, and surveys re-polling the same people during the course of a Parliament, all of which have shown that when asked after a general election how they voted, a lot of voters – possibly as many as one in five – don’t recall correctly: they may lie, or want to be seen to have backed the winner, or are correcting their past vote to match their future intention, or they may simply forget.

The likeliest date for the next British election is believed to be 05/05/05. Another interesting fact, cited in the PoliticalBetting.com report, is that the Tories will need a 7% popular vote edge over Labour in order to win more seats than Labour. It has mostly to do with the presence of a third major party, which tends to split opposition votes. This is another reversal from the '80s and '90s, when the same phenomenon worked in the Conservatives' favor.

Odd polling trends: USA

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Over on WSJ's "Best of the Web Today", James Taranto asks why Kerry isn't gaining ground on Bush despite "right track/wrong track" and approval numbers that would normally mean trouble for an incumbent.

Yesterday he found answers in some other poll numbers -- very low "strong support" numbers for Kerry among his own supporters (38% vs. 68% for Bush), and an indication that the Democrats are overplaying their hand (60% of voters think Rumsfeld should stay on the job). And there's a great Kerry quote that illustrates the personality problem he has with voters.

Today Taranto presents some readers' explanations for the phenomenon. Here's a sample from Ray Newton:

I think that you are missing one important point on the polls. If a pollster asked me if I approve of the job Bush is doing I would have to say no. Too apologetic, not strong enough.

Do I approve of his handling of Iraq? Again no. Need to get tougher.

Do I approve of his handling of the economy? Again no. Too much spending. Too much appeasing the Dems. Tax cuts must be permanent.

For all of these reasons Kerry is a much worse choice. That is why polling can be very confusing. When you disagree, they never ask if you tend more towards the right or the left.

Taranto breaks the last six elections involving an incumbent into two categories -- in 1972, 1984, and 1996, where the incumbent was a polarizing figure with strong opposition from the other party but solid support in his own party; in 1976, 1980, and 1992, where the incumbent was not as polarizing a figure, but had unenthusiastic support from his own party, and was challenged for the nomination. Incumbents in the first category won landslide victories, incumbents in the second category all lost. Taranto puts W. in the first category and says that this election comes down to Bush vs. anti-Bush, and if you're not already a Bush-hater, it's unlikely that anything is going to happen in the next six months to make you one.

Here's a link to the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General report on the Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust's stewardship of federal funds. You've read the Whirled's summaries, now go read it for yourself.

Thanks to Home, My Home for the link.

A different airport mess

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A caller to KFAQ Tuesday morning mentioned another mess involving the Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust (TAIT), which is documented on the "Home, My Home" website. The "Home Not Quiet Home" section covers the Tulsa Airport's noise abatement program.

The caller to KFAQ alleged that the TAIT received federal funds to pay for noise abatement work south of the airport all the way to 31st Street, but no work has been done south of Admiral, leaving the caller wondering what happened to the rest of the Federal grant money.

The proprietor of "Home My Home" lives in one of the homes that is supposed to be soundproofed as part of the program. He documents the sloppy work that has been done, and says that there is no effective oversight, and no recourse for homeowners if work is not acceptable. The company running the program is the same company hiring the subcontractors.

The program, called Home Quiet Home, is administered by Cinnabar, a company that specializes in handling eminent domain acquisitions for local government. The co-owner and president is Bob Parmele, who is well-connected to Tulsa County government. He is a member of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (the Fair Board) and is a former member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. His executive VP is Terry Young, former Mayor, and former managing director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

An interesting piece in the latest The New Republic about globetrotting evangelist K. A. Paul:

Over the past two decades, Kilari Anand Paul, a self-described "Hindu-born follower of Jesus," has cultivated a peculiar specialty as spiritual adviser to the scum of the earth. Liberia's Charles Taylor, Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein are among the more infamous butchers to talk with Paul about the moral implications of running a brutal, repressive, and occasionally genocidal regime. In fact, Dr. Paul, as everyone calls him (thanks to an honorary degree from Living Word Bible College in Swan River, Manitoba), has counseled scores of corrupt political leaders at all levels of government, as well as warlords, rebels, and terrorists from Mumbai to Manila to Mogadishu. By Paul's estimate, he has gone mano a mano with the leaders of every significant terrorist and rebel group in the 89 countries where his ministry operates. ...

But, despite such high-profile interventions, Paul remains virtually unknown in the United States--and the anonymity is driving him crazy. It's not that he craves public acclaim, says Paul (though quite clearly he does). It's that GPI's humanitarian work--aiding disaster victims and supporting thousands of orphans and widows throughout the Third World--costs money, and the United States is where the money is. But it's hard to raise cash when no one has ever heard of you. ...

Americans tend to prefer their humanitarian and spiritual leaders humble and self-deprecating, à la Jimmy Carter or Billy Graham. Paul, by contrast, is so desperate to convince you of his influence that he can come across as either a liar or a crank. ...

By all accounts, Dr. Paul's overseas peace rallies are sights to behold. Most take place in Africa or India, where villagers stream in from around the countryside to see, as one Indian paper put it, "the mesmerizing evangelist," who has become a minor celebrity across much of both continents. A "small" rally is defined as an audience of 10,000 or 20,000. Large rallies stretch upward of a million. (GPI claims its largest was three million attendees at a 2001 event in Lagos, Nigeria.) Surrounding the speakers' podium, on which Paul is joined by local politicos and traveling dignitaries, bodies crowd together in a sea of humanity. "I hesitate to tell people how big these crowds are, because they can't comprehend it," says Texas oil billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt, who served as co-chair of GPI until recently. Until you see the crowds yourself, you assume the numbers are inflated, agrees Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who traveled to India with Paul in January 2002. "But there were maybe seventy-five thousand, a hundred thousand," Huckabee says of the rally he attended. "I'm not sure I ever saw that many people except at a major football game."

Very interesting to read of this man and his cultural dilemma -- how do you win the support of Americans when the way you talk about yourself pegs the finely-tuned B.S. meters of most Americans. American evangelicals are accustomed to hearing "evang-elastic" accounts of ministry success, which they credit in inverse proportion to the size of the claim.

The same article links to an earlier TNR story about India's untouchables, and the troubles they face if they convert from Hinduism to a religion that will treat them like equals.

Last Thursday's Whirled editorial, "Wise counsel", continues the editorial board's campaign against thought, diligence, and research by Tulsa's elected officials. As I noted during the Council campaign, a lobotomized monkey is the Tulsa Whirled editorial board's gold standard of quality for elected officials. To clarify, this hypothetical lobotomized monkey would have some sort of remote control implant, with the controls over in the Whirled's bunker on Main Street. (Take a look at the Main Street frontage of the Whirled's building, and tell me that it wasn't built to create a defensible position against an uprising by peasants with pitchforks.)

To the extent that a City Councilor or County Commissioner approaches that level of thoughtless obedience, the Whirled editorial board praises the official as "thoughtful", "intelligent", "wise", "a voice of common sense". And to the degree that an official displays independent judgment, asks questions, or requests further research, the official is labeled by the Whirled's spinners as "a naysayer", "anti-progress", "contentious", "difficult".

And so we have the Whirled's praise of County Commissioner Wilbert Collins, who spoke at a Council committee meeting Tuesday, calling the councilors "selfish" for not wanting to use Tulsa's sales tax dollars to facilitate the growth of a city which competes with Tulsa for those same sales tax dollars. As suburbs like Owasso grow, they not only capture retail dollars that their own residents used to spend in Tulsa, they snag shoppers coming from the surrounding region, who find they no longer need to drive all the way into Tulsa to shop at major retailers like Lowe's. While suburban sales tax receipts have begun to recover, the City of Tulsa's receipts are still down from previous years, the result of suburban competition. This will continue to create pressure to spend third penny dollars on operating expenses and potentially to increase taxes to pay for capital improvements.

Rich Lowry had a great piece a few days back on National Review Online about how congressional gerrymandering is eroding democracy by making more and more congressional races uncompetitive.

With the help of district lines sometimes so tortured that they look like works of abstract expressionism, incumbents have increased their reelection rate from 92 percent to 98 percent. That is a marginal-seeming but significant change. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato has a feature on his website tracking close congressional races. In 2002, it followed the "Nifty 50," the 50 most competitive races. This year it features the "Dirty 30." "And we had to stretch to get to 30," says Sabato.

Eighty-one incumbents ran unopposed in 2002, according to the Center for Voting and Democracy. In 350 of the 435 congressional races, the winner won by more than 20 percent. The center projects an even less competitive congressional cycle this year. This means representatives increasingly operate without the factor that tends to force them to be representative — the fear of defeat.

Lowry goes on to cite other advantages of incumbency, and the difficulty of finding challengers to go after incumbents with such strong built-in advantages. He also recalls the way Democrat majorities in most state legislatures used their power in the '80s and '90s to try to ensure that majority of support for Republican policies didn't translate into a majority in the House of Representatives. That may explain why Republicans were able to reclaim the Senate in 1980, long before they conquered the House -- you can't gerrymander state lines. The Republicans' 1994 victory was not only the result of Clinton's unpopularity, but interpretations of the Voting Rights Act that resulted in drawing snake-like "majority-minority" districts, putting blacks, the most reliably Democrat demographic, in concentrated districts, pulling them out of districts where they had combined with white Democrats to keep southern seats in the Democrat column.

Lowry's conclusion:

States should adopt objective criteria for the drawing of districts, including contiguity and compactness that will limit somewhat the ability of the parties to play games. Bipartisan commissions should be given a significant role in drawing district lines. In Washington state, such a commission has created generally competitive districts so even a speaker of the House (Tom Foley) has lost a race there in recent memory.

The goal should be to make it possible for most people to vote in a congressional election that matters. What a concept.

As we've seen in Oklahoma, the problem extends to the drawing of legislative boundaries. We have absurd gerrymanders like Senate District 18, which runs from Grand Lake to 21st & Sheridan in Tulsa, evidently drawn that way to help Kevin Easley build support for the GRDA job and to ensure that his mama would have a good shot at succeeding him in the State Senate. Another goofy district is House 41, which is 80 miles long and six miles wide, stretching from Enid to Oklahoma City.

It's important for legislatures to take up this issue now, long before it's time to redraw the lines in 2011.

Iowa's approach is worth a close look. They have detailed information on their redistricting website.

Their legislative service bureau uses computers to develop a plan, on which the legislature can only vote up or down. The Iowa redistricting process has certain features to avoid gerrymandering:

Credit where due: Three front-page stories in three days in the Whirled about the federal investigation of the Tulsa Airport Authority and the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust (TAIT). While most of the investigation is complete, it appears they are still looking into the airport's dealings with Great Plains Airlines. In particular, the feds are examining a "convoluted" deal set up to allow the TAIT to provide financial assistance Great Plains, despite the federal ban on airports subsidizing airlines. Tulsa used Air Force Plant No. 3 as collateral for a loan to Great Plains. Great Plains is now bankrupt. The TAA applied to the FAA for authorization to raise passenger fees, and it appears that this increase was intended to pay off the loan when it appeared that Great Plains might default. This would also be a violation of federal regulations.

One of the more interesting tidbits from Friday's story by Jim Myers:

Investigators are also examining what appears to be an attempt to keep the public in the dark about certain discussions.

The source said investigators believe that notice requirements of a public meeting in December 2002 were waived so there would be no advance notice of the session.

They believe that meeting was called to discuss several aspects of the financial backing for Great Plains.

Just another example of the way the Cockroach Caucus prefers to do business.

I appreciate the Whirled running these stories prominently. It's interesting that the coverage is being handled by their Washington reporter, rather than the city reporters that would ordinarily handle it.

It's also interesting to look back at the Whirled's coverage from January and February 2003, when Mayor LaFortune and Senator Inhofe first requested that the Department of Transportation's Inspector General conduct an investigation. The newspaper stories focused on critics of the call for an investigation, and suggestions that it was all about politics and sour grapes. Looks like the call for an investigation was well founded, and credit to the Mayor and the Senator for pushing ahead with it despite the potshots.

In the meantime, Tulsa does have a daily non-stop flight to and from Newark, offered by Continental Airlines, and made possible by the advent of regional jets which make it cost effective to provide service on lower-volume routes. But for frequent flights to the coasts, drive a hundred miles to the east to XNA (Northwest Arkansas Regional), see the famous Highfill Tower, and jet away non-stop to Los Angeles and New York. The difference, sad to say, is that there's heavy demand for non-stop flights from the coasts to Bentonville, thanks to Wal-Mart, but not so much for Tulsa.

Learned recently that a new couple in our church are bloggers too. The husband posts as "swamphopper" on The Rough Woodsman, a group blog about culture and politics. Mrs. swamphopper is the proprietoress of Marsupial Mom, and together they write Little House. He's a public school high school English teacher, and she's at home with their three little girls. Here's a link to their bio. I'll look forward to getting to know them through their blogging and in person at church on Sundays, too.

Apropos of Mother's Day, here's a bit of a Marsupial Mom entry titled "Connection or Correction?"

Amanda's mom understood she needed to connect with Amanda rather than just correct her. In too many families it plays out a lot differently: Child feels bad. Child misbehaves. Mom yells and punishes. Child feels even worse. Child misbehaves again. Mom gets really frustrated and yells even louder. Child feels really bad now. Dad comes home and hears about how bad the child was that day. Mom escapes to the mall, the library, the coffeeshop, etc so she can feel better. Child still feels bad. Rinse and repeat.

How many times have my own children had a bad sad mad day and I offered only correction? Too many for me to be harsh toward to other moms who do the same thing, but I am growing and learning. My kids need to be corrected every day, but the correction is received a lot better when there has been a good connection.

Go read the whole thing.

On to New York!

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This has been in the works for a while, but I hadn't wanted to say anything until it was official. On Saturday, I was elected by the Oklahoma Republican Convention as one of 23 at-large delegates to this year's Republican National Convention. The at-large slate, which was nominated by the state party's Executive Committee, includes Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, State Representatives Odilia Dank and Fred Perry, and a few other officials, but most of the delegates are grass-roots volunteers.

In addition to the 23 at-large delegates, each of the five congressional district conventions elected three delegates. The state chairman and Oklahoma's two representatives on the Republican National Committee round out the delegation. Except for those three officials, there's an alternate for each delegate. Councilor Chris Medlock will be serving as an alternate.

Republicans seeking a place on the Executive Committee's slate had to send in an application listing our involvement in the party. A couple of Saturdays ago, the Executive Committee conducted brief interviews of the 49 people who applied to serve as delegates or alternates. There were three more applicants than places, so a few folks were disappointed.

One of those who didn't make the cut sought to be elected by the full convention. Richard Engle, who had served as a delegate and alternate to previous conventions, was nominated "from the floor" for alternate. He circulated a nominating petition and received 100 signatures to qualify, and so his name appeared on the ballot along with the 23 people nominated by the Executive Committee. The state convention delegates could mark up to 23 names on the ballot, and it took a while to count the votes, although most people voted for the Executive Committee's slate. Engle lost and declared it a defeat for the grass-roots, but the reality is that the party leadership -- coming out of the grass-roots and elected by the grass-roots -- and a majority of the 772 state convention delegates didn't vote for him. (In most counties, the only qualification to be a state convention delegate is to be a registered Republican and to sign up and be willing to spend a beautiful May Saturday indoors listening to political speeches. A few small counties sent "closed" delegations, meaning the county convention elected a fixed number of delegates to represent the county at the state convention.

This will be my first time to a national convention. Even though my mind has already been made up for me on the most important vote -- I'm bound to vote for the winner of Oklahoma's presidential preference primary -- we'll also be considering the party's platform and the rules by which the 2008 presidential nominating process will be conducted. I expect to be writing a lot about this as the summer unfolds.

The process of developing an Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan continues this week with three "workshops" -- tonight, Wednesday, and Thursday. Here are the details from the e-mail notice:

The next series of public workshops has been set for Tuesday through Thursday, May 4 - 6th. The location of these Public Workshops will be in Suite 110, 201 W. 5 th Street, Tulsa. These offices are located on the first floor of the 201 Executive Center, where the INCOG offices are located. Parking is available in the surface lot directly west of the building or at metered parking on the street. (meters are not enforced after 5:00 p.m.) The public is invited to attend these workshops from 5:00 - 7:30 p.m. at your convenience any or all of the three nights listed. The format will be informal, similar to the Open House format used in our March meetings. No survey will be used in this set of meetings. Since you attended one or more of the Open House meetings held in March, you are encouraged to attend these workshops to provide your additional input or to assist in reviewing the work provided by Carter - Burgess.

The previous workshops were based upon site inventory and analysis, looking at existing conditions that affect master plan issues. This set of workshops will begin to lay out the ideas and concepts that were received at the previous workshops. The Carter - Burgess design team will be working during the day, presenting their progress during the 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm timeframe, and then will start the next day with the input received the previous night.

The email lists Gaylon Pinc, Manager of Environmental and Engineering Services, as the point of contact for more information. His e-mail is gpinc@incog.org and his phone number is 918-584-7526.

The email included a summary of input from the previous meeting, which you can read below. People seem to want some small-scale retail development -- to get something to drink or a bite to eat, rent some rollerblades or a bike -- but nothing so large or obtrusive that it degrades the natural beauty of the river and its banks. The kind of boardwalks you find in old beach resort towns in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland might provide a model for the sorts of businesses a Tulsa boardwalk could have, though not as large-scale, and obviously ours wouldn't be geared toward swimming and sunbathing. Many boardwalks back east include very small amusement parks, with rides geared toward 12 and under. Small galleries might be a good fit, too. The point is to have enough interesting things to draw a critical mass of people, which is really at the heart of what Tulsans are seeking when they talk about development along the river. They want a pleasant place to walk alongside a lot of other people. They want the sort of experience you get at Mayfest available all year long or at least from spring through fall.

In the book A Pattern Language, architect and urban planning theorist Christopher Alexander and his co-authors identified a development pattern they named "Promenade" and defined as a public place where you can go to see people and be seen. Shopping malls meet this need, but imperfectly as they aren't always open, they are closed off from the outdoors, they are isolated from the rest of the city, and they are only successful if visitors are spending more time buying in the stores than promenading along. (Follow those links to get to a summary of the book, including a description of each of the identified patterns, with related patterns hyperlinked to each other.)

There has been a lot of news recently relating to Tulsa's rapidly-growing suburbs, and it points out the importance of keeping an eye on suburban governments. Decisions made in Owasso City Hall and Broken Arrow City Hall will have a huge impact on our metro area's quality of life for years to come. And it's important that those officials are held accountable for how they're managing the Vision 2025 county sales tax dollars they receive.

As it is I have my hands full trying to keep up with goings on at Tulsa's City Hall, so I'd like some help in keeping up with the 'burbs. If you've got something the public needs to know, drop me a line at blog at batesline.com. I'll be happy to credit you by name or keep you anonymous -- I'll credit you by name unless you tell me to withhold it.

And if you'd like to start a blog of your own to cover your city's politics, e-mail me and I'll be glad to pass along some tips for getting started.

Broken Arrow to rezone?

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The City of Broken Arrow has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the "analysis/update/modification" of its zoning ordinance. This is a great opportunity for Broken Arrow to address its continued rapid growth in a way that serves the interests of homeowners, business owners, and developers alike.

The current zoning ordinance was passed in 1989 and is described as "Euclidean", which means it follows the pattern set early in the last century by Euclid, Ohio, of defined zones which segregate uses. Broken Arrow has 25 zoning districts, plus the Planned Unit Development overlay. This approach to land use regulation has fallen from favor in recent years, as it discourages the creation of walkable communities, discourages creative mixed-use developments, and typically ignores issues of scale and design which have a greater impact on compatibility between adjoining uses. In short, Euclidean zoning, as typically applied, is a tool that is inadequate to the task of creating livable communities. It "protects" property owners against land uses that pose no real dangers, while allowing land use practices that degrade adjacent property values and quality of life.

There are a number of innovative land use planning firms, like Duany Plater-Zyberk, who specialize in helping cities rewrite their land use regulations to be more effective at achieving each city's desired future. Let's hope some of them go after this contract. Tulsa's leaders should keep a close eye on this.

The RFP includes some interesting background info on Broken Arrow's development. Within its fenceline, BA has nearly as many square miles in Wagoner County as in Tulsa County (51 vs. 53). And the RFP mentions that BA was little more than a small town surrounded by ranches until the Broken Arrow Expressway was built -- an early example of tax dollars subsidizing suburban sprawl.

A friend sends along a couple of Chicago Tribune articles (free registration required) about Paducah, a small city (27,000) on the Ohio River in western Kentucky. The city is providing incentives to encourage artists to relocate in and revitalize a struggling older neighborhood. So far they've spent $600,000 on direct incentives, are spending another $1.2 million on infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood, and they claim to have seen $7 million in private investment by the artists themselves.

(Here's a link to another article about Paducah on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's website which doesn't require registration.)

The inspiration was Paducah's Artist Relocation Program, which has exerted the same magnetic pull on others who've dreamed of living, working and, most importantly, owning in a neighborhood of like-minded residents. In 2 1/2 years, nearly 40 people have moved here to transform a beat-up area of homes known as Lower Town into a blossoming art colony.

The newcomers have come from as far away as San Francisco and Massachusetts to take advantage of incentives making it easy for them to buy old houses -- at dirt-cheap prices -- to turn into studios and galleries. Almost to a person, these painters, sculptors, muralists, printmakers and jewelers say they never, ever pictured themselves moving to Kentucky.

Broken Arrow bonds

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Not even a year since the Vision 2025 tax increase was passed and Broken Arrow is already going back to their taxpayers for more. A week from Tuesday, Broken Arrow voters will vote on four general obligation bond issues -- that means they'll be repaid by an increase in property tax rates -- totalling $53 million. Projects include street widening (about half of the total), police and fire facilities, a $6.5 million convention center, and park improvements.

Actually, they're saying the property tax rate will not go up, because previous bonds are being retired, so the increase in rates for these new bonds will be offset by a decline in rates for bonds that have been paid off.

You can see the ordinance spelling it all out here. Note that, unlike the Vision 2025 ballot items, the language specifies "not to exceed" amounts. Also unlike Vision 2025, the money can only be spent on the specified projects -- overages and modifications aren't an issue.

I find this interesting because, after all the alarmist noise of the Vision 2025 campaign -- "if we don't act now, the sky will fall!" -- here is an election less than a year later involving the same types of projects funded under Vision 2025, but without a net increase in taxes.

I'd be interested in hearing from Broken Arrow readers with an opinion on this package.

Funnelling into Owasso

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Another interesting controversy this week, complete with machinations by the city legal department, disagreement between the majority of the Councilors and the Mayor, and ties to Vision 2025. I'd like to try to sort it all out for you, but that's more than I've got time for at the moment. This sort of thing is right up my alley, but the day job and family life have been eating into blogging time -- that's why I haven't had anything to say about this so far.

I'm told that six councilors were ready to reconsider last week's vote to fund engineering work on the water line to Owasso -- Henderson, Medlock, Turner, Roop, Mautino, and Christiansen. I will save the technicalities of why that vote never happened for another time, in order to keep this entry focused.

One of the concerns expressed is that Tulsa's taxpayers would be subsidizing the growth of Owasso in a way that will ultimately hurt Tulsa's tax base. Not only would new retail development in Owasso allow residents to keep more of their spending local, it would capture dollars from shoppers who live north and east of the city. Instead of coming on into Tulsa to shop, they would be able to find everything they need in Owasso.

This is, in fact, Owasso's economic development strategy:

Owasso has a unique alignment of several area highway transportation systems. As a result, it is a collection point for over 312,000 consumers in a 4,309 square mile area. The area has an average household income that exceeds $52,000 per year. ...

The Owasso funnel area is comprised of Skiatook, Sperry, Nowata, Hominy and Pawhuska to the west; Coffeyville, Caney, Bartlesville, Oologah and Collinsville to the north; and Claremore, Catoosa, Pryor, Vinita and Chelsea to the east. ...

Consumers traveling from these geographies to reach Tulsa area attractions, such as shopping and the airport, funnel through Owasso.

Now, while some of this doesn't stand up to close scrutiny (Nowata is not to the west), the basic funnel theory is valid, and it will have an impact on Tulsa's city finances and economy. For years, Tulsa, as the metropolis, has collected a relatively high percentage of sales taxes from non-residents. In the '60s and '70s, the near suburbs had little in the way of retail. Owasso had a little grocery store, a Tastee Freeze (featured in the film The Outsiders), some filling stations, and maybe a few other cafes. It was a bedroom community for aerospace workers.

These small towns turned into suburbs as more and more Tulsans chose to live there and commute to jobs in Tulsa. They were joined by newcomers who had lived in suburban towns elsewhere. Eventually, retail sprang up to serve the residents, and over time some of these towns developed a critical mass sufficient to turn them into employment centers in their own right.

To some extent, the City of Tulsa has facilitated this process since the '70s by building infrastructure -- streets, water lines, sewer lines and treatment plants -- to make it easier to live in the suburbs. In the '30s and '40s, Tulsa used its access to plentiful water from Spavinaw to coerce surrounding areas into annexation -- out of city customers paid higher rates than customers in the city limits. That's why Dawson, Highland Park, Red Fork, and Carbondale are no longer separate cities, and why we don't have enclaves like The Village.

As this process has developed, Tulsa lost customers to the suburbs -- suburban residents could find more and more of what they needed close to home. But you still had to come to Tulsa for big stores and malls.

Regional retail centers -- power centers, malls, department stores -- are the next phase. Now these growing suburbs are strategically positioned along major routes into the city -- Sand Springs to the west, Jenks and Glenpool to the southwest, Bixby to the south, Broken Arrow to the southeast, and Owasso to the north. They are already capturing customers from the rest of northeastern Oklahoma with their new big box stores -- you don't have to come all the way into Tulsa to shop at a Wal-Mart Supercenter or a Lowe's anymore. Verily, verily, I say unto you, when you see a Best Buy in Owasso, or a Barnes and Noble in Broken Arrow, the end is near for the City of Tulsa's metropolitan sales tax advantage. (And there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth at City Hall.)

What does this mean for city finances? Already the third penny sales tax has ceased to be strictly for long-term capital improvements. About half of it now goes to fund operational expenses -- things like equipment purchases, which can be loosely classified as capital expenditure, but don't fit the intent for the tax when it was first enacted. That trend will continue and likely accelerate. When all three pennies go to short-term and operating expenses, where will the City get the funds for real long-term capital improvements? The passage of Vision 2025 closed off the possibility of raising sales taxes again in the short term.

One answer is for Tulsa to turn the funnel effect to its own benefit, making use of prime locations along the major approaches to the city which are in Tulsa city limits. Some officials developers believe the answer is to turn Midtown into a suburb, which would (for reasons to be spelled out another time) hurt Tulsa's economy and public finances by destroying one of the City's only competitive advantages.

About this Archive

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

April 2004 is the previous archive.

June 2004 is the next archive.

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