July 2004 Archives

David Szondy has been watching the Democratic National Convention and, in his August 1 entry, has concluded that the race is now Bush's to lose. Kerry can't embrace his Bush-hating base without alienating undecided voters, doesn't have the economy to run on, and is in an untenable position regarding the War on Terror:

What I came away with from in Kerry's speech is a man who would indeed defend his country, but only in extremis and for whom 9/11 is a tragedy rather than an atrocity. His strategy for the war on terror will likely be that he will continue to help Iraq, but will undertake no new military initiatives or stand up to the French. He will instead quickly and quietly relegate the war to the back burner. "War" will become a rhetorical word and it will be a matter for diplomacy and law enforcement. We will see the odd special forces raid; a missile strike or two; deference to Chirac; embracing of the UN; all sorts of new commissions, committees, and conferences; resolutions and treaties aplenty will be signed; but the end result will be a Munich Accord with the Axis in return for promises to behave so that the West can return to the status quo of the past five decades. Meanwhile, the terrorists and their sponsors will do as they please knowing that no one will seriously bother them.

What I see is basically this: assuming that nothing new happens in the next four years (no new strikes against the Axis or spontaneous regime changes), if George Bush is re-elected we will face a ten to one chance of a major terrorist strike against the west. By that I mean one where we lose 50,000 people in an WMD attack (If we take out Iran or North Korea the odds shoot to a hundred to one). If John Kerry is elected, we face even odds of getting hit. This is because, whatever his failings, Bush knows that we are in a real war with real villains who want us dead or enslaved and our enemies know that Bush will kill them. Kerry gives the impression that they are just a problem to be managed, and that is an impression that is one of dangerous folly.

With this in mind, all Bush has the initiative. All he has to do is speak honestly about what he believes, what he has done, and what he will do and the electorate will have a fair measure of the man. With Kerry you have a man who is without the support of his very antiwar supporters if he speaks true, will not fight if he is false, and would hit soft either way.

Read it all, then go enjoy some of the light-hearted stuff in the archives.

Tulsa Area Preservation Society held another protest Wednesday outside the Skelly Building, one of two buildings which the Tulsa Whirled plans to demolish later this summer. (I couldn't manage the time away from work this week, unfortunately.) Protests are planned every Wednesday from 11:30 to 12:30 through August to call attention to the planned demolition, to try to get the Whirled to consider alternatives, and to encourage finding a way to stop the continued conversion of Tulsa's downtown to asphalt parking lots.

A participant in the TulsaNow forums asked whether last week's protesters tried to get a meeting with the Tulsa Whirled before setting up the picket line. The answer was no, but representatives from the Tulsa Preservation Commission had already sought an audience with the Whirled. They were allowed to meet with an administrative aide, and each question was met with the reading of a prepared response.

In light of over $200 million in public investment in downtown, it's reasonable for Tulsa's citizens to feel some "ownership" over our center city, and to place the "burden of proof" on someone who wants to tear down yet another downtown building. Here's the case made by Whirled executive editor Joe Worley (how about that -- Whirley of the Whirled!) in last Thursday's paper:

"The Skelly Building was in disrepair when we bought it in 1993," Tulsa World Executive Editor Joe Worley said.

The building lacks proper sprinkler and fire systems and needs a new roof and an updated heating and cooling system, he said.

"It would cost millions of dollars to make the necessary improvements, and given the amount of vacant office space downtown, this just does not make sense," Worley said.

No one is asking the Whirled to renovate these buildings today. No one is asking them to add to the surplus of downtown office space. We're simply asking the Whirled not to tear them down. It is possible to stabilize a building and "put it in mothballs" for future usage. The buildings serve a purpose just by being there, as a part of downtown's streetscape. That block is one of the few remaining downtown without any surface parking. Tearing that building down devalues all of downtown.

I am pretty certain that the Whirled did not seek the advice of local preservation experts before deciding on demolition. Tulsa's preservationists are not unreasonable people, and if a building is too far gone to be saved, they aren't afraid to say so, as in the case of the buildings demolished in 2001 by Arvest at 6th & Main. But in this case, they have brought the plan to demolish the Skelly Building to national attention, and have tried to meet with the Whirled to suggest alternatives.

An architect posting to TulsaNow's forum under the handle "booWorld" has an alternative proposal for the Whirled to consider:

I wrote a lengthy letter to the World yesterday. I requested that the former Froug's site at 3rd & Main be developed with retail space at sidewalk level facing both streets. It seems as though World Publishing could build a few private parking spaces below the retail area with their new thermal plant tucked behind.

The best use for the Skelly would be residential. Keeping the spaces open and "raw" without expensive finishes would help in keeping renovation costs under control. It is most likely that one or two exit stairs would need to be built in order to meet minimum fire codes.

I like the creative approach to preserve street-front retail, while still meeting the needs for parking and the thermal plant.

In the same topic, he offered some informed comments on the International Existing Building Code and how that affects what can be done with the Skelly Building.

Urban Tulsa gave the first protest some extensive coverage, with this story by Hilton Price, which includes an interesting quote from Clayton Vaughn, head of the Tulsa Historical Society:

“We are interested in the preservation and documentation of buildings of historical value in the community.” Vaughn said. “We are asking for support in the form of private and public partnerships, revolving purchase funds, and tax incentives.”

Revolving purchase funds have been used by preservationists in other cities as a way to protect endangered buildings by purchasing them, then selling them to someone who will restore or adaptively reuse the buildings. The proceeds from the sale of one building goes to buy the next endangered building. I'm not sure if he's saying Tulsa has such a fund, and it needs funds, or that we don't have such a fund at all yet.

State and federal tax credits may be available for restoration -- a downtown Shawnee hotel (this one) is being restored with this kind of help, and it was used in the renovation of the old Tribune Building as apartments.

Taxes may be part of the push to tear the building down, despite alternatives to meet the Whirled's desire for parking. Property taxes are assessed on the value of the land plus the value of the improvements. If you remove the improvements, you remove the value, and you remove that amount of the property tax assessment. Because this building is lumped in with the rest of the Whirled's property on the western half of that block, it's impossible to tell exactly how much the Whirled would cut their taxes by tearing down the building. Funny, though, that the same paper that continually urges us to pay more taxes to build up our city is willing to wreak destruction in order to cut their own bill.

Urban Tulsa also has a feature by Dave Jones of the Tribune Joneses about the folks who own the shoe repair store in the Skelly Building, the only tenants that remain. Good story about some fascinating people, but at the beginning of the story he displays the same defeatist attitude that has brought downtown to its current state of demolition.

UT also reports on the drive to get funding to turn a Brady Village warehouse into a center for contemporary art. Architect Kathleen Page calls this a form of positive preservation -- finding a use for a building now, before demolition is even in the picture.

“There is a mindset that empty land is more valuable than old structures,” says Page. “It all has to do with the fluctuation of land value, building value, and renovation costs. But instead of waiting until someone purchases the building and tears it down, then saying ‘Oh, that’s awful,’ the city could step forward and insure that the Brady Mathews building is retained under the ownership of someone who has a dedicated purpose for it.

“We really see this as a positive form of preservation. Once the cycle of demolition gets started in older areas of the city such as this, it’s really hard to come back and reverse it. We’re trying to stop that process before the building becomes endangered.”

Page says the expansive two-story concrete warehouse—complete with high ceilings and clean, unadorned lines—is an ideal art studio. She stresses that the site is also a perfect link between our revitalizing downtown district and the burgeoning Brady Village area. “If this building is not developed for a civic purpose,” she says, “if someone were to tear it down and make it a parking lot, it would simply continue the unraveling—the destruction—of our downtown building core.”

The east half of this building is proposed as loft/studio space, and they sought some of the city's downtown housing funds, but were turned down by the Tulsa Development Authority's committee in favor of a proposal for apartments in the Philtower.

Finally on this topic, a reader makes an interesting point: The Whirled claims that there is a wall between the business operation (Whirled Publishing Company) and the editorial content of the paper (the Tulsa Whirled). If that's so, why was Tulsa Whirled Executive Editor Joe Worley speaking on behalf of Whirled Publishing Company on this issue?

Crabby exit


State Rep. Wayne Pettigrew surprised a lot of people when he dropped out of a runoff in his race for re-election. Marian Cooksey, formerly an aide to Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, finished less than 100 votes behind the incumbent, taking 44% to his 46% with the balance going to a third candidate. Pettigrew had frustrated leaders in his own caucus in recent years, splitting from most other Republicans with his support for the expansion of gambling. He also stirred up controversy with his support for flying the battle flag of a Confederate Cherokee regiment to replace the Confederate flag as one of Oklahoma's 14 flags on display at the State Capitol, with his attempt to regulate tribal membership, and his push to raise fuel taxes.

I'm writing all this just to give me an excuse to quote the following from the Whirled's story, which made me laugh out loud.

In stepping down, Pettigrew cited the demands of his growing business and his family, and the "sinister" campaign waged by his opponent, or at least by his opponent's supporters:

The lawmaker said Cooksey may not have known everything door-knocking backers were telling constituents, but criticized her for aligning with those "violently opposed" to him.

"When you go to bed with those people, you get their crabs," Pettigrew said at a state Capitol news conference.

Most people would have gone for the "lie down with dogs, get up with fleas" metaphor, but evidently Mr. Pettigrew's mind runs in different circles.

Never forget


Charles Johnson has posted a slideshow of images from September 11th. We all need a reminder of what is at stake. Charles's blog will give you daily reminders, with news of islamofascism around the world -- make it a regular stop as you surf the web.

Maybe we should lobby to have Charles speak at the Republican National Convention.

Convention wishes

| | TrackBacks (1)

There's a teleconference for Republican National Convention delegates on Monday night. It's good timing: Watching this week's Democrat convention has got me thinking about our shindig in a month's time. Here's my wish list:

  1. No lame pop music from the '70s (or any other decade). Aging boomer Democrats look awkward enough boogying on the convention floor -- imagine how goofy Republicans will look. Let's go for traditional upbeat patriotic music instead -- John Philip Sousa is timeless.

  2. Get rid of all the milquetoast moderates they've got lined up for the prime time speeches, and give the podium to eloquent, passionate leaders who can make the case for the Republican platform. The supplemental list included some improvements, like Colorado Governor Bill Owens, but more could be added. Now that he's our Senate nominee, Tom Coburn would be a great choice. So would Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Herman Cain would be terrific; even though he didn't win his race, he's got a future in politics. Michelle Malkin offered some suggestions on her blog.

  3. And why not show off our party's deep bench? Put the spotlight on up-and-coming stars now serving in state legislatures, county courthouses, and city halls. I'll bet the state chairmen would have some suggestions. From Oklahoma, I'd suggest Speaker-to-be Todd Hiett and State Rep. Pam Peterson.

  4. Let's have at least one real debate -- a decision for the delegates to make where the outcome isn't predetermined. I suggest a debate about the 2008 nominating process. I believe the process is broken -- not counting incumbents running for reelection, we haven't had a nominee with the enthusiastic support of the grassroots of the party since 1980. (Counting incumbents only takes us up to 1984.) Republicans haven't won a majority of the popular vote in a presidential election since 1988, when we were helped immensely by an incompetent Democrat nominee running on a platform of "competence, not ideology". 1988 happens to be the year that Oklahoma and many other states switched from caucuses to primaries, as part of the push for Super Tuesday. The system we have gives all the delegates to a candidate who can manage the slimmest of margins in the early primaries, and the field is cleared within a week or two as everyone scrambles to jump on the bandwagon of the inevitable winner. I'd like to debate a national rule that would nullify any state rule binding a delegate to vote for a particular candidate. Whether or not there's agreement with my diagnosis, the debate is worth having. What better way to demonstrate that the Republican Party is responsive to the grass roots?

  5. Highlight the War on Terror every night. Remind the delegates and the viewers what is at stake. Give people a vision for the long road ahead and why we must take it. Remind people what happened on September 11th, 2001, and also the terrorist strikes that led up to it -- the '93 WTC bombing, the bombing of the American embassies in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, all the way back to Iran's seizure of American hostages in 1979. Help people understand that a strong defense is not enough; we must take the fight to the Islamofascists. We also need to emphasize the progress we're making. Maybe someone could arrange for Hopper Smith to speak to the convention via satellite from Afghanistan.

In a time of war, a time when so much is at stake, we don't need a big party choreographed to the music of Kool and the Gang.

Unfair to Humphreys?


UPDATE 8/15/2005: Welcome, Buzzflash readers. This blog is mainly about local politics in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Particularly if you're from this neck of the woods, I invite you to visit the home page for the latest entries. To learn more about the author of this blog, read the profile published last month by our local alternative weekly paper, Urban Tulsa Weekly.

A friend who supported Kirk Humphreys expressed disappointment in a couple of things I wrote in my election night report. He felt I was suggesting that Kirk Humphreys's supporters (including him) were only backing him out of a desire not to miss the bandwagon, and he took great exception to my use of the phrase "purveyor of filth laid low" in my description of the reaction of supporters at Coburn's watch party to the surprisingly low numbers posted by Humphreys. He felt that the comment showed bad judgment and that it was beneath me to write so about a godly man who had a lot of supporters.

Regarding the bandwagon comment: Certainly there were many people who truly believed that Kirk Humphreys was the best man for the job. But there's no question that a bandwagon effect was in force, and although there was a long way to go until the primary, a lot of political folks seemed to feel a lot of pressure to get on board. When Coburn entered the race, I'm sure a lot of Humphreys' backers continued to believe Humphreys was the best man for the job, but others who had committed publicly to Humphreys felt regrets for their early commitment, but stuck with it nevertheless. I'm sure that a lot more Humphreys supporters felt regrets over the last week -- Ron Howell even said as much on KFAQ Monday morning.

As to the "purveyor of filth" comment, the ads from the Humphreys campaign over the last week were filth. They were a distortion of Tom Coburn's record by taking votes out of context -- the sort of dirty pool I expect from Democrats, as when they attack a Republican for voting against a bill falsely labeled with the term "civil rights". It's one thing to say, as Humphreys had been doing throughout the campaign, that Tom Coburn doesn't play the Washington game and doesn't bring home the bacon to Oklahoma. That's a fair criticism, although it didn't appear to resonate with the voters. It's another thing to say, as Humphreys' ads did, that "we can't trust Tom Coburn in time of war." And as we were reminded at the beginning or end of each commercial, Kirk Humphreys approved each one of those ads.

Then there's the push poll that attempted to paint Coburn as a hypocrite on the abortion issue, because he twice performed surgery to save the life of pregnant women, resulting unavoidably in the death of the unborn children. Suggesting that somehow that makes Coburn an abortionist is filth.

There were plenty of comments at the Coburn watch party expressing some pleasure that Humphreys' attacks backfired on him so strongly, although the sentiment was far outweighed by pride at the resounding vote of confidence in their man. And so I wrote what I did.

Through the campaign, I resisted any urge to trash Humphreys (or Anthony or Murphy, even). When I learned about kirkisajerk.com, I considered mentioning it in the blog, with appropriate disclaimers, simply because it was out there and, as a new phenomenon, of interest to people who follow Oklahoma politics, but in the end I decided I didn't want to be associated with the site in any way. I did write about my disagreement with Humphreys on the Bass Pro Shops subsidy, but that was as negative as I got, until last weekend, when I had had my fill of Humphreys' attack ads. Until last week, I felt I could support Humphreys wholeheartedly if he won the nomination, and I said so.

Like you I had the impression that Kirk Humphreys is a godly man, and I was impressed with his personal involvement in missions and his support of the Billy Graham crusade. I don't know the man's heart; I can only gauge his character by his actions. None of us will achieve perfection in this life, and we progress in sanctification at different rates and in different phases. Whatever part of his character told him it was OK to launch last week's attacks in order to prevent an outright Coburn win is a part that obviously needs further refining. An apology for those ads would be a good start (and it might blunt any effort by Carson to use the same attacks). I can't accept the notion that he is not ultimately responsible for the ads. If he caved in to pressure from his advisers to run the ads, it doesn't speak well for the strength of his backbone.

Two years ago, I watched the same team of consultants, in support of former Humphreys aide Jeff Cloud's candidacy for Corporation Commissioner, trash the reputation of Dana Murphy, in order to stop her from winning the primary outright, and then to defeat her in the runoff. Dana is one of the most Christ-like people I have ever encountered in politics, not to mention the most qualified candidate for the job, and they savaged her for the sake of winning, for the sake of ensuring that every statewide elected Republican official was one of "their people". Humphreys was close enough to that race -- he endorsed Cloud -- and engaged enough in Oklahoma politics that he should have anticipated pressure to slam Coburn unfairly and should have been ready to resist it.

Politics does indeed happen, and it can get nasty. As a card-carrying Calvinist I believe in the reality and persistence of the sin nature. Politics were bound to get nasty in the Republican party, notwithstanding the strong Christian element present, because we're all human and subject to pride, envy, sloth, lechery, gluttony, and the other two deadly sins I can't remember right now. Still, I had hoped we wouldn't have the depth of nastiness we saw from the Humphreys campaign these last two weeks, from Wortman's campaign, and two years ago in many of the statewide primaries. It is a shame, a blight on the party.

To all the disappointed Humphreys supporters: You have my sympathy. I know how bad it hurts to lose, and it's bound to hurt worse with your candidate finishing the way he did. I appreciate Kirk Humphreys making an endorsement first thing this morning, and I hope you will follow his lead and help Tom Coburn defeat Brad "Son of Synar" Carson in November.

Catching up


Way behind where I should be -- I need to tell you all about Monday night's City Council event at the Fairgrounds, catch you up on the Skelly Building situation, and report on my visit to Tuesday's Board of Adjustment meeting, as well as give you some more analysis of the situation in the Oklahoma Republican Party. And at some point I want to share some pictures and stories of our family vacation to Texas and my week in Montreal at the beginning of this month (with some lessons about urban design learned in both places). Your patience is appreciated.



Wow! No one predicted such a big win, but there it is -- 61% for Tom Coburn and clear sailing into the general election. I'll look forward to seeing the county-by-county breakdown. The heavily Republican midtown precincts I checked tonight -- including four within walking distance of Humphreys' Tulsa HQ -- gave Coburn three times as many votes as Humphreys.

I stopped by the Coburn watch party, just missing the candidate as he headed off to Muskogee to finish the evening. The mood among Coburn supporters was one of pride in such a big win, but with an undercurrent of satisfaction to see the purveyor of filth brought low.

There was a lot of amused comment when Humphreys praised Coburn in his concession speech -- tonight he says Tom Coburn is a good man, 24 hours ago he said we can't trust Tom Coburn. Humphreys is through, politically, not because of how badly he lost, but because of his decision to distort Tom Coburn's record in order to win. As I said Monday morning on KFAQ, Humphreys not only shot himself in the foot, he blew his foot clean off.

There's a lesson here about not jumping on the bandwagon. The reason so many Republican politicians endorsed Kirk Humphreys so early in the campaign was fear of being the last to join the Humphreys team. If he's going to be the Senator, you want to be able to remind him that you were with him from the beginning. But inevitability isn't what it's cracked up to be, and the people who held off on endorsements until the full field of candidates was in place are looking foresighted right now. It would be nice if the lesson would take hold and persist through the 2006 governor's race and the 2008 presidential primaries.

It was interesting to see in the SurveyUSA poll that Coburn did nearly as well among voters who describe themselves as "pro-choice" as voters who take the label of pro-life. Coburn is known for his principled stance on social issues, but clearly his principled stance on fiscal policy has won him admirers who disagree with him on other points.

I was amazed at Mike Mazzei's strong win in Senate 25. I really had the impression that Loudermilk, Gorman, and Hastings had all run strong races as well -- they were impressive in the candidate forums I attended. Mazzei began knocking on doors in his district about a year ago, with the aim of reaching every Republican household twice before the primary. Those who spent time in the south Tulsa neighborhoods in that district were not surprised -- you saw Mazzei signs in yards, everyone else's signs on the right of way.

Dan Sullivan had a very strong showing in House 71, although a 100 votes shy of an outright win. There's some talk that Misti Rice, who finished a distant second, may follow Cathy Keating's classy example and step aside to prevent a runoff, giving Dan a running start at Democratic incumbent Roy McClain.

Very happy to see John Wright returned to office and Sue Tibbs with a big primary victory. They're both solid and articulate conservatives and we need them as leaders as the House transitions to Republican leadership.

I was pleased to see David Schaffer's solid win in House 78. I've gotten to know David over the last few months, and he will make a great legislator. He's a solid social and fiscal conservative, with some ideas for making Oklahoma a better place to do business. He'll be up against Jeannie McDaniel, a close associate of former Mayor Susan Savage, and still on the City of Tulsa payroll in the Public Works department. Jeannie served up Jeff Platter on a platter. Platter had a clever slogan ("let a Platter serve you"), but it was impossible to read on his eyewatering yard signs. This district is evenly split in terms of voter registration, so this will be a closely-watched race.

Belated note to Tim Gilpin -- consultants say a mustache loses you about 6% of the vote. (A beard only costs you 4%.) That's about the margin of victory for Tom Adelson. My gut tells me that Gilpin did better in the blue collar part of the district, while Adelson prevailed in the blue-blood precincts. It will be interesting to see if the results validate the gut feeling. The result is probably a disappointment for Dewey Bartlett, who probably would have picked up a lot of Adelson's support had he lost. Still, Dewey won big and he's got a great shot at winning in November. Nancy Rothman seems to have spent a lot of money on yardsigns at the last minute. I wonder how many candidates get into the race thinking all they need to do is show up at candidate forums and put out yard signs.

I could write more, but I'm tired.

During the Route 66 Festival, we took advantage of the open house at the Mayo Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to see a display of photographs and architectural drawings of Tulsa buildings, including an impressive large aerial photo of downtown Tulsa in 1952. We learned later that Route 66 photos from Beryl Ford's collection were in another part of the building, and I think Mr. Ford himself may have been there.

Thanks to a link on the Mayo Hotel's website -- and it's a great website -- I discovered their gallery which includes photos of many of the Route 66 images and artifacts that were on display, as well as photos of the hotel and the hotel's history. The only complaint (a minor one) is that the amazing detail of that large 1952 aerial photo can't quite be captured in the photo of the photo.

Many of the Route 66 photos are of all sorts of buildings, not just landmarks, so you can see what you would have seen at say, 11th and Rockford in 1949.

A hearty salute to the owners of the Mayo for the restoration work they've done, and for a wonderful website that makes some of Tulsa's history readily accessible.

Last poll before the real one


SurveyUSA released its final tracking poll for the GOP Senate race, and it's pretty surprising. Dr. Stones has commentary.

After the dust settles, I want to look deeper at all this talk about the "GOP establishment". But here's a taste: The GOP "establishment" isn't in control of the official GOP machinery. The state chairman and vice chairman are independent of this establishment, and the same is true of the Tulsa County elected party leadership. So that should send us on a hunt for some center of power beyond the visible and obvious.

The only poll that matters is happening now. Go vote.

Some computer conundrums


Usually, I'm the guy people ask for help with their home PCs, but lately I've run into a few strange things, and for all the googling I've done, I can't figure out what's going on.

1. A Dell Inspiron 4000 laptop, running Windows XP Home, will freeze up for minutes at a time. Everything stops -- the clock stops updating, the video screen freezes, keystrokes and mouse inputs are ignored. The display stays on, unchanged. If the disk access light is on, it stays on; if off, it stays off. Eventually, it seems to come back to life. I thought it might be CPU throttling -- slowing the CPU to keep the temperature down -- but the CPU is staying cooler than 45 degrees Celsius. The computer is not just busy -- if it were busy, then the keys I type would be buffered and displayed when the CPU yields time to other processes, but in this case the keystrokes are lost. It's as if time stops and the CPU is in suspended animation. It isn't consistent -- it's very bad some days and hardly happens other days. Seen anything like this before?

2. At home we have a remanufactured Dell Dimension 2400, which we bought from the Dell Outlet online for pretty cheap. This too is running Windows XP Home. The kids use it, so we've tried to run some of their older games. The games from Broderbund won't run unless we set them to run in Windows 95 compatibility mode. The games will then run, but the video display for all programs appears upside down as long as one of the games is running. Stop the game and the video returns to normal color depth and resolution and is back to right-side up. Anyone seen anything like that before? The monitor is about 10 years old, a NEC Multisync 4FGe.

3. Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2002 was interfering with the Internet. I had to reinstall Norton Anti-Virus, and apparently it reinstalled NIS 2002 at the same time. It had an effect on my ability to view websites with anti-bandwidth-theft devices installed. Sites like Ephemeral Isle and AllahPundit are set up to prevent other sites from linking directly to their graphics -- a graphic can only be viewed if the referrer is a page on the same site. With NIS 2002 installed, even though not activated, I could not see the graphics on the pages on these sites. After I used Symantec's removal tool to get rid of NIS 2002, I could see the images. Oddly enough, I still can't do a live update for Norton Anti-Virus from that machine, although it gets further in the process than it did when NIS 2002 was still installed.

If anyone has a lead on an explanation for what I'm seeing, please drop me a line. Thanks in advance.

By a 5-3 vote last Thursday night the Council established an investigation of airport operations. Henderson, Medlock, Turner, Roop, and Mautino voted in favor; the usual members of the Cockroach Caucus (Baker, Sullivan, Neal) voted against, seemingly on the grounds that it would be effective at uncovering wrongdoing. Bill Christiansen expressed his support of the investigation but abstained -- his business is an airport tenant. If you don't believe elections make a difference, look at that list and realize that the vote would have failed if David Patrick and Art Justis had been reelected instead of Roscoe Turner and Jim Mautino.

The Mayor's response has been interesting. Not long ago he had threatened to veto the investigation unless the Council passed his annexation plan. Now he says he's fully committed to the investigation and has his own fraud investigator looking into it, and he wants to see coordination and cooperation between the Council's investigation and his own. A cynic might wonder about the commitment of someone who was willing to treat an investigation into fraud, waste, and abuse as a bargaining chip. An even more cynical cynic might wonder if the purpose of hiring an investigator and asking for cooperation was to be able to learn where the investigation was headed and to tip someone off before the investigation gets too close.

In any case, the Council's investigation will move forward. The question now is who will make up the committee. I would hope for a lineup of Roop, Medlock, and Turner. Medlock in particular has the kind of analytical mind and an eye for spotting patterns and connections that the investigation will need. He will not shy away from asking tough questions and cross-examinination, as we saw in the F&M Bank hearing. I don't know how much confidence I'd have in an investigation that didn't include him.

There have been some calls to exclude Roop and Turner from the committee since they voted for the city's support of the Great Plains deal. I don't see that as a problem, and I'd be concerned that they would be replaced by other councilors who won't be as determined to get to the bottom of things. Roop and Turner believed at the time that Great Plains would be a good thing for Tulsa; they realize now something went terribly wrong and so they support the investigation, which will not, in any event, be limited to the Great Plains deal. In no event should a councilor who voted against the investigation be made a member of the panel -- I would be concerned that said councilor would obstruct rather than aid the investigation. And keep in mind that the Council will only be investigating -- any leads on criminal activity would be forwarded to the appropriate prosecutor.

Why bleep?


Okiedoke wonders why people would use a service like Clean Flicks to edit the bad stuff out of the movies they rent for home viewing:

A company called CleanFlicks is taking movies and editing out all graphic violence, nudity, profanity, and sexual content.

What I don’t get is why folks who are offended by immorality in certain movies want to rent those movies in the first place.

I think I can offer an example. Last night, my wife and I went to see "The Terminal", which stars Tom Hanks as an eastern European tourist who gets stuck for nine months in the international lounge at Kennedy Airport because of a coup in his home country and an inflexible bureaucrat here. It was the kind of movie my wife and I seem to gravitate toward -- a quiet little movie about a fish out of water, and the comedy inherent in cross-cultural encounters. Afterwards we both agreed it was a great choice.

Thinking back on the movie, it occurred to me that there were only two reasons to rate the film PG-13. The flight attendant, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, talks about her long-term affair with a married man (art imitates life!); you don't see anything untoward on screen, but I guess that would count as an adult theme. She also makes use of some barnyard epithets which aren't integral to the plot -- you could have easily substituted minced oaths without losing anything. It was pretty close to being a film the whole family could enjoy together, but I certainly don't want to expose my kids to bad language anymore than necessary. I don't want them growing up thinking this is the way grownups normally speak to one another.

I sometimes think they throw in a little garbage to prevent a film from being rated G, for fear of losing at the box office. I give David Lynch, of all directors, credit for letting "The Straight Story" (another film we enjoyed) keep its G rating, and not dirtying it up to get the PG.

That's the point of CleanFlicks: There are movies that come pretty close in their original form to being something that the whole family could enjoy together, and with a little editing they are. It would be better if modern filmmakers learned to exercise the kind of creativity that their predecessors of 50 years ago did -- getting the point across without resorting to foul language and gratuitous sex and violence.

The Tulsa City Council is sponsoring a public meeting, Monday night, July 26, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, in the Expo Building at Expo Square. (Translation for old timers: in the IPE Building at the Fairgrounds. Use the main entrance behind the Golden Driller.)

The announcement says:

The City Council is seeking citizen comments relating to the three elements of the general development process:

(1) site development - infrastructure
(2) site development - zoning
(3) permitting

There will also be a report and discussion regarding the Mayor's task force on the Vision 2025 neighborhood fund.

All the items are important, and if you're concerned about zoning and neighborhoods, you need to be there and be heard.

That last item corresponds with the money that was included as a part of Proposition 4 last September. Here's the language from the ballot resolution, with the neighborhoods part emphasized:

Downtowns/Neighborhoods Fund: 90% allocated to local governments on a per capita basis to promote community beautification and economic vitality of our downtowns including streetscaping, pocket parks, fountains, and downtown housing and 10% allocated to local governments on a per capita basis to support neighborhood enhancements including signage, neighborhood entranceway/gateways and neighborhood assessments projects: $30,000,000

The City of Tulsa has about 70% of Tulsa County's population, so the City should have about $18.9 million for downtown projects (over and above the arena, Jazz Hall of Fame, and other projects that target downtown), and about $2.1 million for "support[ing] neighborhood enhancements".

The neighborhood assessment process is an idea I submitted to the Dialog / Visioning "leadership" committee, and I was a part of a team of people that made a presentation to the Dialog / Visioning "leadership" committee about Downtowns and Neighborhoods.

The idea is a shameless copy of a process that has been used successfully by Kansas City, Missouri. It is a grass-roots approach to understanding the state of a city and what it most needs to become a more livable and a better place. They divided the city into about 150 neighborhoods, and over the course of four years, the City held a Saturday morning workshop in each neighborhood. The purpose of each workshop was to assess the state of the neighborhood, its assets and challenges, and to develop a to-do list of most desired improvements.

Each workshop brought together homeowners, business owners, and representatives of other stakeholders in a neighborhood, such as schools and churches. A city planner would spend about six weeks in advance of the workshop gathering demographic information, preparing maps and other materials, and getting the word out to the neighborhood. The workshop involves six steps:

1. Defining the neighborhood -- coming up with a descriptive slogan; marking a map to identify landmarks, activity centers, paths, districts, barriers, and features.

2. "If I could fix one thing" -- brainstorming about the neighborhood's problems.

3. Neighborhood assets -- identifying places, people, skills, history -- any feature that adds value to the neighborhood.

4. Facts about the neighborhood -- a review of census data and other government statistics to help understand the nature of the neighborhood.

5. Describing the neighborhood -- classifying it as one of four basic types (developing, stabilization, conservation, redeveloping).

6. Making my neighborhood better -- brainstorming specific actions to address the challenges already identified, and then categorizing the actions as things the neighborhood can do for itself, things that can be accomplished with a partner -- like a business or non-profit organization -- and things that require the help of city government.

The result of the workshop is compiled into a report which the neighborhood gathers to review about six weeks later. This link will take you to the full list of reports. Here's a report on a suburban area built in the '70s. Here's one on a 1920s neighborhood with a neighborhood shopping street (like Cherry Street), residential areas, and a university. Here's a neighborhood with a mixture of well-maintained houses, but many neglected properties, a neighborhood that needs to redevelop.

Tulsa has done something similar but more detailed and in depth in a small number of neighborhoods. Sometimes called "small area plans" or "infill studies", they've been done for the Charles Page Boulevard corridor, Kendall-Whittier, the area near 11th & Yale, the 6th & Peoria area, Brady Village, Brookside, and Crutchfield, among others. These plans are well done, and are valuable, but they do require a lot of time and labor, and so only a small part of the city has been studied in this way. The Crutchfield plan (a 45 page PDF document) was just approved by the City Council, and it's a great example of residents, businesses, and various city agencies cooperating to address a neighborhood's problems while preserving what is good about the neighborhood. But it took a long time to put it all together.

That's where the Kansas City approach can complement what we've been doing in Tulsa. The detailed studies are valuable, but most of Tulsa's neighborhoods won't get any attention at the rate we're going. In about four years, with about $2 million in funding, Kansas City covered every part of the city, giving everyone a chance to evaluate the state of their neighborhood. Through this process, the city has a detailed list of what needs to be done. The reports are used by planning staff to prioritize capital improvements, evaluate applications for federal development grants, and review zoning changes. More detailed plans might be drawn up for a neighborhood if the neighborhood assessment identifies the need.

So this is what that ballot resolution is referring to with the term "neighborhood assessments". The idea was warmly received by the Dialog / Visioning leadership team, and Mayor LaFortune in particular said that we should do this. In presenting it to the Dialog / Visioning team, I made it clear that it could be funded, as in Kansas City, with existing revenues. Kansas City didn't treat this as an additional project but as a new way of doing business. It will be interesting to see Monday night if the City Council will ensure that the idea is implemented as promised.

Gerald Dyer for State Senate


On our visit to Miami (My-am-uhhh, that is) back in June to see HMS Pinafore at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful, it was fun to see campaign signs out for Gerald Dyer, a candidate for the Republican nomination for State Senate District 1. Mr. Dyer was pastor of our church when my family moved to the Tulsa area in 1969, and it was he who baptized me in 1972. He went on to serve as a pastor in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and Miami, and then as the head of the area's association of Southern Baptist churches.

As you will see on his website, he is a solid conservative who knows, and is known by his district. He'll be a great state senator, and if you live up in the northeast corner of our state, I hope you'll give him your vote on Tuesday.

One of Kirk Humphreys' many underhanded attacks on Tom Coburn is that Coburn is a hypocrite on campaign finance reform because he took money from the Club for Growth, which also ran ads in support of Coburn. Either Humphreys doesn't have the intellectual powers to draw careful distinctions or else he's deliberately distorting the truth in hopes of stopping Coburn from winning an outright majority on Tuesday.

Club for Growth is not a PAC that was started to promote the interests of a certain industry or labor union or foreign country. Club for Growth has this to say about itself:

Our members help elect candidates who support the Reagan vision of economic growth through limited government and lower taxes.

Here's how the Club works for you to make your political contributions count:

1. Join now -- it's free!

2. Get our MEMBERS ONLY recommendations on the best candidates in the most important House and Senate races in the country.

3. Contribute to the candidates you like best through the Club for Growth -- and 100% of the money goes to the candidate's campaign. You can contribute to several candidates online or off without having to go to the mailbox, find addresses for candidates, or write multiple checks.

4. Your contribution is combined with thousands of other Club members for maximum impact!

In other words, they find principled candidates committed to sound fiscal policy, endorse them, then encourage their members to donate to their campaigns. Club for Growth has encouraged challengers to Republican office-holders who truly are RINOs (Republicans in name only) when it comes to federal spending and tax policy. Tom Coburn should be proud to have the support and recognition of Club for Growth.

And Kirk Humphreys should be ashamed of trying to paint such a distorted picture of Tom Coburn. He knows better. Someone suggested he was a good man receiving some bad advice, which suggests that he's easily manipulated by the unscrupulous and too weak to control his own campaign. I don't have a problem with negative campaigning that paints an honest picture. I object to campaign ads which take the facts out of context.

I guess it was easy to promise a positive campaign when he felt sure he was going to win. If Kirk Humphreys had been willing to lose gracefully, he would have had a future in Oklahoma politics, maybe as a candidate for governor, maybe as a congressman or even a senator. Not now. He's dead politically. What a shame.

Here are links to media coverage of Wednesday's protest:

KTUL Channel 8

KOTV Channel 6

The Whirled its own self (look way down at the bottom of the page)

The Daily Oklahoman.

The TulsaNow forums have photos here but there are bandwidth issues, so the photos may not be visible at certain times. They should be mirrored elsewhere at some point.

Another TulsaNow forum topic asks what can be done long term about downtown demolition. And yet another topic reveals the result of an attempt by the Tulsa Preservation Commission to try to meet with the Whirled's management:

Representatives of TPC met with an administrative aide. The response to each of their questions was the reading of a prepared statement.

The discussion is just getting started. And the best way to be part of it is to head over to the TulsaNow forums. Anyone can read what's there, but you must register (pseudonyms allowed) to post.

With the advent of e-mail, it is not unusual to see a letter in a newspaper responding to a news story from a day or two before. Not in Tulsa. The Whirled, for whatever reason, won't publish letters until the relevant story is good and cold -- at least two weeks after the event or story that the letter addresses, long after the story has migrated from their website to their website's archives or from your coffee table to the recycling bin.

As a public service, I am publishing this excellent letter, which I received today, from a Cushing resident in response to the Whirled's plans to tear down the Skelly Building. He submitted it over a week ago, but it has yet to be published.

July 13, 2004


It is with dismay that I read about the Tulsa World’s decision to take a chain saw to Tulsa’s and Oklahoma’s history by demolishing the Skelly building in favor of a parking lot.

One of the reasons cited was code restrictions and the age of the building , built in the 20’s. May I remind you that the Philbrook was built in the 1920’s? The White House in Washington DC is older still. Ways were found to keep them as part of our history and heritage. Down the turnpike Oklahoma City’s Bricktown is made up of buildings this age or older. And this venture has made positive repercussions nationwide.

In my hometown of Cushing a 1920’s American Legion group has found a way to rehabilitate their structure which was built in 1924.

At a presentation sponsored by the Tulsa Architectural Foundation earlier this year noted economic developer/historic preservationist Donovan Rypkema stated after a fly-over of Tulsa proper that even taking into account Tulsa’s wildest growth projections another 40 years could pass without the need for another parking lot.

I have long thought of the Tulsa World as a calm voice of reason. But this
decision is one of the most distasteful I have seen in recent memory.

Laura Bush is seen on television telling us to ‘save our history’. All across the country we see grass roots effort to save, restore and celebrate our past. Small Oklahoma towns such as Newkirk and Perry have made national waves with their preservation efforts.

Surely Tulsa can do better than this.

The decision to take a wrecker ball to the Skelly building is sad indeed. Each time a bit of history is wiped away in such fashion it creates another disconnect between generations. Nothing left to remember, nothing left to build a dream on.

Just a nice place to park your car.


Rick Reiley

Good stuff, and thanks to Mr. Reiley for sending it along. From his e-mail address, I gather that he is involved in the "Main Street" program, which has been used effectively to restore buildings and reviving downtowns in Oklahoma's small cities, and has even been used in three different districts in Oklahoma City -- Stockyards City, Capitol Hill (south OKC), and Automobile Alley. Tulsa's leaders have never bothered with it.

Interesting to read that he regarded the Whirled as the calm voice of reason. A lot of people have that impression until they find themselves involved in an issue and learn that the Whirled is hiding behind that calm facade to promote the self-interests of the Whirled and its allies in the city establishment. That "distasteful" decision to which he refers is characteristic of the way the Whirled operates. You may recall the Whirled's even more consequential decision in 1992 to refuse to extend their joint operating agreement (JOA) with the Tribune. The two papers could have gone on indefinitely with the old arrangement, but the Whirled wanted and got more money and a monopoly on print media. Meanwhile Tulsa lost the many benefits of having two independently owned daily newspapers.

The Whirled's demolition plans are helping more Tulsans see the Whirled as it really is.

On the picket line


It's been a while since I joined a protest, but there I was, with my seven-year-old son, on the sidewalk in front of the Skelly Building at 4th & Boulder, along with the hearty souls who organized the protest on the TulsaNow message board.

We brought some signs with us:

Enough asphalt already! Stop tearing down Tulsa! [With a wrecking ball demolishing the letter "a" in Tulsa.]

$200 million of public investment in downtown -- and this is the thanks we get?

Tulsa Whirled has no faith in downtown's future

Knocking down history is not an "improvement"

Downtown's future? Acres of parking, but nothing worth parking to see.

Someone else took the prize for a clever slogan:

Tulsa World's
Vision 2025:
Asphalt parking lot

KRMG, KJRH, and KOTV all covered the story, as did Urban Tulsa. The Whirled sent city reporter Brian Barber out to talk to us, and later on his colleague P. J. Lassek came out to say hello. The organizer had me do much of the talking -- I have some recent experience with that sort of thing.

It was a hot morning. We showed up about 9:30. Neptune74137 and sgrizzle -- that's the handles they use on the TulsaNow forums, don't know if they'd want me to use their real names -- were already on the corner. Neptune74137 was the principal organizer of this event. When my son and I left about 11 there were about a dozen folks on the corner (a few were sympathizers who weren't carrying signs). We got thumbs up from passers-by -- no negative responses. At one point, while the Whirled and Urban Tulsa reporters were there, a police officer pulled up onto the sidewalk in his Cushman cart. He was cordial, wished us well; he advised us not to keep anyone from entering or leaving the building.

One of our number was familiar with the downtown parking situation, and he pointed out that the parking garage just across 4th Street from the Skelly Building is now open for daily parking -- it isn't fully used by people paying by the month for parking. We could look up and see that the upper level and part of the next level was vacant, at least along the 4th Street side. Surely the Whirled could work with available existing parking facilities to meet any need for customer parking.

There was some conversation about restoring older buildings. The Ambassador Hotel was in terrible shape, nearly ready to be demolished, when Paul Coury restored it as a top-of-the-line hotel. The consensus was that the Skelly Building couldn't be as bad off as the Ambassador was.

I'm hoping for at least enough coverage of the event to raise awareness. During my runs for City Council, I talked to plenty of people who were dismayed at the continued demolition of downtown and wished that something could be done about it. There are steps our Council should take, but what is more urgently needed is a change in attitude, especially among Tulsa's business leaders, from a culture of demolition to a culture of preservation. If someone with influence and money were willing to advocate for preservation, that could do a great deal of good.

As we walked back to the car, we peeked in the window to the basement of the Mayo Hotel, which is currently being used as a very nice covered parking garage, while the 1st and 2nd floors have been restored as a banquet facility. I know of another building -- I think it's the old Renberg's building on Main between 3rd and 4th -- that is used as a parking garage. It's well concealed -- the entrance is on the alley. Couldn't the Whirled do the same thing with the Skelly Building? The first floor or basement could be converted to parking, while the rest of the building is mothballed until it becomes valuable for office, retail, or residential use.

There are ways to preserve and reuse these buildings -- the Whirled has the money, they just need the will and the imagination.

UPDATE: Preservation Online -- the web edition of the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation -- published a story about the Skelly today. Here's the link.

(Don't forget this morning's protest! 9 a.m., 4th & Boulder.)

The Tulsa Whirled's plan to demolish the old Froug's Department Store at 3rd & Main, to replace it with heating and cooling equipment for the rest of the Whirled's complex, is a slap in the face of Tulsa's taxpayers, who were told that reopening the Main Mall was necessary to encourage new residential and retail development. The Whirled endorsed the plan to reopen Main to traffic as a way to revitalize downtown. Reopening 3rd to 4th cost $1.3 million. Reopening 4th to 6th will cost about $4 million.

This entry is not going to include a lot of analysis. I want to provide a history of the effort to revitalize this part of downtown, particularly what the Whirled, public officials, and civic leaders had to say about it.

Back in the mid-'70s, Tulsa followed the lead of a lot of other cities in closing off what was once our main shopping streets to traffic. It was a mistake, and it choked off what business there had been on Main Street. Shortly after we completed our mall, other cities began to remove theirs. In some notable cases, like Chicago's State Street, reopening to traffic led to restoration of buildings along the street and businesses moving into once vacant buildings.

In 1996, the City included, in that year's third-penny tax package, $1.1 million to "update and repair" the Main Mall, according to a January 10, 1996, story in the Whirled. In all that package was to include $13 million in funding for downtown improvements.

By October 27, 1996, the plans had changed and the final amount for downtown improvements was $8.5 million. Here's how Whirled editorial writer Janet Pearson described the plan in that day's edition:

Main Mall will get a face lift too, though not a radical one. Main Street would be reopened between Third and Fourth streets, but the pedestrian mall would remain in place between Fourth and Sixth streets. Barriers, berms and other structures that give the appearance of being hiding places will be removed and landscaping changed to make the mall a more open, lighter and more inviting place. Bartlett Square would not be changed.

In 1998, Downtown Tulsa Unlimited formed a committee and worked with a consultant to look at options for reconfiguring the Mall. The committee chose an option that would open the rest of Main Street to traffic.

In a June 24, 1998, editorial, the Whirled said:

I'll accept this:

"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."
You are Augustine!
You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them. Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are you?
A creation of Henderson

Hat tip to Just Believe.

Oddly pleasant, as I walked through the Tulsa International Airport late Friday night, to be able to put two quarters into a paper box and pull out a copy of the latest Tulsa Beacon, with the headline, "Feds will help with local airport probe." This story and the other above-the-fold story ("Councilor thwarts annexation") tell the tale of a City Council majority that is working to protect the city's investments, despite the sniping of the Whirled and other establishment voices.

The Council will likely move ahead with its own probe of the airport, with assurances from the U. S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General (OIG) that the Council's investigation will not be a hindrance, but will be welcome. The City has interests in the operation of Tulsa's airports that aren't matters of federal concern, and the OIG appears to be eager to pass along information about matters that fit this description. (Jim Myers of the Whirled's Washington bureau wrote about this last Wednesday -- jump page here.)

The Beacon's story has a very concise and comprehensible explanation of the land transaction that the OIG is interested in:

The City of Tulsa transferred 344 acres of land adjacent to the airport to the TIA so that TIA could use the land as collateral for the loan to Great Plains. On December 21, 2000, the Bank of Oklahoma and TIA entered into a loan agreement to issue two revenue notes of $15 million each. TIA then provided a loan totaling $30 million to Great Plains.

Also on December 21, 2000, the Bank, TIA, and Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust [TAIT] signed a separate “support agreement” in which the airport agreed that if Great Plains defaulted on its loan, the airport would purchase the property for an amount equal to the outstanding debt owed by Great Plains plus any other unpaid amounts due under the loan agreement (i.e., interest and collection costs, attorney fees).

In 2001, Great Plains paid back one of the $15 million revenue notes using state-issued tax credits. Since the agreements were signed, the bank has disbursed $8.25 million to Great Plains from the second $15 million note. The remaining $6.75 million was held in an escrow account to protect the Bank’s interest in the loan. Under the terms of the note, Great Plains was required to make monthly payments until December 21, 2003, at which time it was to have paid the outstanding loan amount in full.

On the annexation issue, there was and still is potential for a compromise that will protect the City's investments without trampling on the property owners who don't want to be annexed and without committing the city to expensive infrastructure improvements. Unfortunately, rather than working toward that compromise, Council Chairman Randy Sullivan went back on his word and put the item on the agenda when one of the councilors opposing annexation was scheduled to be out of town. Although Sullivan's proposal would not have annexed all of the north annexation area, it would have created a wide enough fenceline to allow forced annexation after November 1 (the deadline created by new state law), and it would have committed the City to building infrastructure in the area even before it is annexed. (For whatever reason, the proposed ordinance is not accessible online.)

There is an area we should consider annexing or leaving Tulsa the option of annexing forcibly at a later date, and that's the Cherokee Industrial Park, which represents a significant investment by the City in infrastructure. We also ought to consider annexing (with landowners' permission) a strip along US 75 where commercial development would be encouraged. That's the kind of development we need to boost city sales tax receipts. Housing and industrial development will only help the city to the extent that it indirectly encourages retail development. These facilities don't generate sales tax -- industrial facilities may generate some use tax receipts -- but they do generate property tax, which would mostly go to help the schools in Owasso and encourage more people to live and shop in Owasso.

We missed the chance to annex a commercial area at the principal highway entrance to Tulsa -- I-44 east of the Turner Turnpike gate. Owners would have preferred to be taken into Tulsa if they had to be annexed, but instead Sapulpa lassoed the area with its fenceline and recently annexed it, prompting a group of property owners to sue Sapulpa.

Berryhill residents reportedly would prefer to be in the City of Tulsa rather than in Sand Springs -- we should take advantage of that willingness while we can.

The date and time has been set, Wednesday, July 21st, 9 a.m., at 4th and Boulder. Bring your own protest signs. The media has been notified. If you are tired of seeing downtown Tulsa turned into one big parking lot a building at a time, be there. Keep an eye on the TulsaNow forum for more details and any change in plans that may occur.

Protest the Whirled!


A protest is brewing against the Whirled's planned demolition of downtown buildings (which they call an "improvement"). Click here to see what's been discussed so far.

This quote hits the nail on the head:

Since when was tearing down an historic building a downtown "improvement?"

I'll let you know when the protest date is set.

Also on the Southern Appeal blog, we are given a peek (words and pictures) inside Abu Ghraib's prison and the "death row" used during Saddam's reign:

When it was time for the prisoners to die they would be lead down the above corridor, past an open room used for the harvesting of body parts, so they could see what would ultimately happen to them, into the above room with the concrete loft. This is the room where the prisoners were hung. Ropes were attached to the two metal hooks fastened to the ceiling so that prisoners could be hung two at a time.

Why dwell on this? It's to remind us for years what we all knew about Saddam's WMD program but seem to have forgotten lately:

The above pictures and description are not intended to titillate but rather to show the depraved nature of the Saddam regime. Keep in mind, as you ponder these images, that, prior to the invasion, the landlord of this hell on earth had failed to account for nearly four tons of VX nerve agents, Growth media for 20,000 liters of biological warfare agents, 15,000 shells for use in biological warfare (some of which have been recently found) 6,000 chemical warfare bombs, and the tools with which to reconstitute his nuclear program. According to the terms of the cease fire to Gulf War I, to which Saddam agreed, the burden was on him to establish that he destroyed the aforementioned weapons. His defiant refusal to do so demonstrated his consciousness of guilt. Simply because we have not found all of these weapons nicely arranged in a convenient location does not mean that they did not exist.

Remember Saddam expelling the weapons inspectors? And when the inspectors were allowed back in, their movements were restricted and they were prohibited from interviewing government scientists alone? Saddam had something to hide -- otherwise why risk the punishment he ultimately received?

The coalition was right to go to war against Iraq, and the world is safer because there is one less government working to develop WMDs, one less government acting as a state sponsor of terrorism, one less government supplying WMD technology to terrorists.

Cain rising


As Tom Coburn heads for what could be an outright primary victory at the end of this month, another principled conservative in on the rise in Georgia. Herman Cain, former president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza, is rising in the polls in his race to succeed Zell Miller in Georgia and has front-runner Johnny Isakson running scared. Over on the Southern Appeal blog, there's a post that neatly captures why conservatives are so excited about his candidacy. He's a straight shooter, "a conservative 'Bullworth' candidate who tells voters... exactly what he believes." And what he believes is grounded solidly in conservative principles, on social issues as well as economic issues. The link will take you to a couple of extended quotes from Cain's speeches and website which will give you a flavor. Cain and Coburn will make a great team, and conservatives ought to do what they can to make sure both win their nominations this month and are elected in November. (Remember even if you can't vote or pass out flyers, you can give money through his website.)

Like the Oklahoma race, the conservative favorite started as an underdog. Unlike the Oklahoma race, the establishment favorite in Georgia is a social liberal, which should make the choice for Georgia voters even clearer.

Thanks to NRO's Corner for the link.

Humphreys support soft in OKC?


Dr. Stones the psephologist (aka Keith Gaddie) has reliable word that former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys is losing ground in his home turf -- the heavy GOP precincts in northern OKC and Edmond. Surveys of likely voters show Humphreys at 37%, Coburn at 35% and Anthony at 8% with 20% undecided. The same poll by the same group in the same precincts had Humphreys at 53% three weeks ago.

The good doctor concludes:

In the end, the problem for Kirk Humphreys may be that, while he was a great mayor and is considered by the people I speak with to be a great guy, he is not coming across to Oklahoma Republicans as the type of senator they want to have in Washington.

As I wrote before, Republican voters may like Humphreys, but they admire Tom Coburn. And I think there is something of the wheeler-dealer in his visage and voice that may, at a subconscious level, make the land deal issues raised by Anthony seem credible. He can't help the way he looks and sounds, but it's just the way he comes across.

By the way I misspelled Kirk Humphreys' last name in an earlier post. My apologies to both Mr. Humphreys and Mr. Humphries. And the other Mr. Humphries, too.

I really shouldn't point out when the opposition is making big mistakes, but I will anyway. Tom Adelson, Brad Henry's Secretary of Health, and a Democrat candidate for Senate District 33, seems like a thoughtful guy, even if he is to the left of most Oklahomans. He has some lovely glossy campaign brochures. But it's been interesting to watch his well-financed campaign mess up a couple of fundamentals.

The first was the yard signs. The most important thing on a yard sign is the candidate's last name. You want to emblazon it in the visual memory of every voter, so he'll remember it when he goes to vote. Tom Adelson's signs are elegant, green and gold on white (two colors is pricey), with a capital dome dominating the sign. But his last name is tiny, especially on the standard sized yard signs. You could be forgiven for thinking that these signs were advertising yet another roofing company.

The second slip is the campaign's contact list of likely primary voters. We've received two calls from the campaign asking for our support. Not only do we not have any Democrats in our house, we don't even live in Senate District 33. Our phone number has been ours for over 10 years, so it's unlikely they called us thinking they were reaching a Democrat in the district who recently had that number. As people move (often without re-registering at the new address) and change phone numbers, a certain amount of errors are to be expected, but I can't think how this one would have been made unless something was really messed up, which could mean that a lot of Adelson's huge pot of money has been spent getting his message to people who can't vote for him.



Blogging has been lax and infrequent the last two weeks because of travel. First a week with the family in West Texas and San Antonio -- every day started early and ended late. After about 36 hours back in Tulsa, I was in a plane to Montreal, on business -- the days are still long, but oddly not as tiring as the family vacation was.

One of the many pleasures of travel is scanning the radio dial and comparing the selections to what's on back home. The other afternoon, coming back from lunch, I heard what I thought might be singing in Portuguese at first, but later identified as Italian. It was a music program -- American and British pop songs from the '60s, but sung in Italian. The intro to one of the songs was big, brassy, and orchestral, with an oohing and ahhing choir in the background and I expected to hear Dusty Springfield belting out her hit, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me". Instead it was some man singing the same song in Italian. It was strange but fun to listen to hear familiar tunes and unfamiliar words, but over too soon as I arrived back at the workplace.

(UPDATE: Further Googling reveals the song was originally written in Italian, then translated to English.)

The radio station is CFMB, and they aren't all Italian all the time, but seek to cater to the 30% or so of Montreal's population that are neither native Anglophones or native Francophones. They broadcast each week in 23 different languages, some for as little as 30 minutes, but how wonderful to be able to tune in and hear your native tongue and news from home even for a short while each week. And even if you don't know the language, it's a joy to hear the "music" of different languages -- each one with its unique rhythm and intonation.

Barry Friedman does some legwork in this week's Urban Tulsa, talking to the committee that toured arenas last month to get ideas for Tulsa's new downtown arena. If the name weren't already taken, we could write a book called See, I Told You So. It's a bit late for someone else to take up the points we made during last summer's sales tax campaign, but we're happy to see someone else asking skeptical questions.

By the way, I don't disagree with the trip to look at the arenas or with the number of people that went. If we're going to do this -- even if it won't work and we don't need it -- we need to do it right. We need to build something that we can be proud of, that will serve our needs for a long time into the future, something that could at least marginally help encourage new life in downtown.

Friedman also talks with a concert promoter, Johnny Buschardt, about Tulsa's need for a big arena:

“I mean it’s a great idea, but does Tulsa need it? Not even remotely,” he says. “This is a waste of money.”

For Buschardt, who brought in Sinbad to the Union High School Auditorium last October and produced the Jay Leno benefit at the Mabee Center in June, the issue isn’t just one of perception, it’s one of numbers.

“Oklahoma City already has a 20-thousand seat arena. And they don’t have another 11-thousand seat place (The Mabee Center)ý down the street the way Tulsa will.”

Further, if the point of the new arena is to attract big name talent, Buschardt believes it won’t be as easy as it seems.

“Only a handful of artists can fill 20-thousand seats,” he says, “and they’re not playing cities with 300-thousand people, like Tulsa,” citing that Rod Stewart sold fewer than 10-thousand at the Ford Center.

“Take an artist like Eric Clapton. He’s not going to play both cities,” Buschardt continues, adding that in his opinion Clapton couldn’t sell out both venues on successive nights even if he did.

As to the contention that once the Tulsa arena is built, it, and not OKC, will be the venue of choice in Oklahoma, Buschardt is less sanguine.

“Obviously, you want a transition like that, but artists are not going to be swayed solely by the fact than you have a new venue. Oklahoma City has ties with Clear Channel Communications (the biggest tour promoter in the country), a bigger population than Tulsa, downtown development, and other things going for it, as well.” ...

Saying that Tulsa is a 2nd-leg town (meaning that it would never get, for instance, Simon and Garfunkle on their initial tour), Buschardt believes that Tulsa would be better off working with the existing venues in town, most notably, the Mabee Center, which artists seem to love for a variety of reasons, most notably, its acoustics.

“You want to build upwards of a 20,000-seat arena for an area that has 300-thousand people. That means you expect one out of every 15 Tulsans to come to your event? Not going to happen.”

Buschardt really should use the metro population of 800,000 for a point of comparison -- that means one in 40 Tulsans, but that's still a huge proportion, and how many acts will be able to attract such a broad audience willing to pay the premium prices a big name can demand?

Friedman also raises the number of arenas already in Tulsa's inventory -- with the new one we will have 50,000 seats versus 77,500 in the Los Angeles metro area -- and the half-empty arenas that witness first- and second-round NCAA basketball tournament action.

Of course, the article veers from the facts it presents and concludes that the new arena is bound to have a positive impact on downtown. It quotes Cesar Pelli, the new arena's architect as saying, "I saw all of the empty parking lots and thought it was such a pity." The empty lots are a pity, but a new arena isn't going to prevent more of them from being created. In fact, unless Tulsa acts to protect the investment we've made to try to recreate a dynamic urban downtown, we may see more buildings come down to provide convenient parking for the arena, rather than visionary reuse of older buildings.

The Tulsa Whirled 'fessed up in Sunday's edition, owning up to plans not only to demolish the nine-story Skelly building for a small parking lot, but also to demolish the old Froug's Department Store building at 3rd and Main for a heating and cooling system.

The demolition of Froug's will mark the destruction of one of the last remaining retail spaces on Main Street of any size. In 1998, Cathey's Furniture (8th to 9th on Main) was pulled down and more recently three two-story buildings, built in the late 1910s, on the west side of Main north of 6th Street, were demolished by Arvest Bank. Both demolitions were for the purpose of creating surface parking. Another two small buildings on the east side of Main between 4th and 5th will be torn down for no good reason -- for another worthless plaza.

Main Street was once the principal commercial street of our city, but we blocked it off with the Williams Center, malled it, de-malled it, and our city's culture of demolition resulted most of its buildings being pulled down. Where there were department stores, now we have holes in the ground. Grand theatres gave way to parking garages.

During TulsaNow's bus tour of Oklahoma City back in 2002, I asked then-Mayor Kirk Humphreys about the urban conservation districts that were set up in Bricktown and other areas in and near downtown OKC. These districts set design requirements for new construction, and if memory serves me, they also place some restrictions on demolition. I asked the Mayor how they convinced developers to go along with restrictions on what they could do with their property. He said (paraphrasing here) that the City pointed out how many millions of dollars the City had invested in that area, and that it was reasonable for the City to take steps to protect its investment.

Tulsa's taxpayers have or will soon pour over $200 million into downtown Tulsa -- the arena, convention center upgrades (including some 3rd penny projects in addition to Vision 2025), removing the Main Mall and Bartlett Square, funding downtown housing initiatives, streetscaping, a new Central Library (if their bond issue passes).

The Tulsa Whirled strongly supported the reopening of Main Street to vehicular traffic. They told us that we had to reopen the Mall to traffic in order to encourage residential and commercial development. It is a shame and an outrage that fronting Main Street -- newly reopened at great taxpayer expense -- will be a big air conditioning system where a department store once was. Our city leaders need to take action now to prevent the Whirled from devaluing the taxpayer's investment in Main Street and downtown.

And what greater waste than to demolish tens of thousands of square feet that could be reused and redeveloped to create maybe a dozen parking spaces, just so the Whirled's executives don't have to cross the street. Don't believe it when they say it's for the customers. They could easily make arrangements with the lot across the street or the new city-funded structure a block away. They could validate parking.

The Whirled's publisher says this demolition represents the Whirled's commitment to downtown. The Whirled appears to be committed to the idea of downtown as just another suburban office park. As with TCC and its parking land grabs, downtown would have a better chance of becoming a real downtown again if the Whirled packed up and moved rather than tearing down more buildings. But of course, the Whirled doesn't really care about downtown or about Tulsa, as it proved when it refused to renew the joint operating agreement with the Tribune in 1992. The Whirled cares about its own business interests and those of its cronies. That's all. Nothing illegal about that, but you may want to take the Whirled with a nine-story tall grain of salt.

I believe Tulsans want downtown to be a real downtown again. A real vision for downtown should address parking issues, demolition, historic preservation and design guidelines. It is completely reasonable for the city to tell landowners, we've done our part, now you do yours. But that will only happen if the City Council takes the initiative. Dear Councilors, the Whirled already doesn't like you -- what have you got to lose?

The TulsaNow forum discussion about the Tulsa Whirled's plans to demolish the old Skelly Building at 4th & Boulder is evolving into a broader discussion of the gradual conversion of downtown into a suburban office park. Some of the talk is about legally constraining further demolition -- a moratorium on more surface parking lots, or tax rates that disadvantage demolition, but it's tricky to do this in a way that doesn't invoke the notion of a "taking" under the 5th Amendment and thus require compensating the landowner. Preservation easements have been used successfully with willing building owners -- the building owner signs over certain rights to a private organization, while retaining ownership of the building. This is mostly done as a tax-deductible donation, although sometimes the easement will be done in exchange for payment.

One of the writers on the forum ("Average Joe") wonders what book Tulsa's leaders are using for revitalizing downtown. It seems to recommend the following steps (my comments interspersed):

* Tear down historic structures, especially multi-story buildings that add density to the streetscape, for parking lots. That parking lot architect might turn out to be just as famous as the architect who designed the building you just hauled off to the landfill.

* Spend $183 million on a new arena away from any nightlife already happening downtown. If possible, build it smack up against the post office, city hall and social services. It'll be a big draw. All the vagrants will add "urban character" to the experience.

* When installing new sidewalks and lighting in your downtown districts, take care to avoid installing lighting in the entertainment district next to the jail, bail bondsmen, homeless shelters, and social services.

* Cut the local police force to the bone. Citizens enjoy the excitement of fending for themselves.

* Allow a bridge over railroad tracks to deteriorate to the point of having to close it. Leave it barricaded for years, with no plan to repair it in sight. This is most effective if said bridge would conveniently connect your new arena parking structure to an entertainment district and concert venue.

Guests to our arena would prefer to walk through the dark Denver viaduct, with its high walls that cut off any escape route from danger, past bail bonds shops and rescue missions to get to the Brady District. Or better yet, they would enjoy crossing railroad tracks at night and past the scene of a recent homicide.

* Plant lots of Bradford pear trees along your narrow downtown sidewalks, even when trees aren't historically accurate. Bradford pears are an important choice for plant material due to their low, wide, squatty shape and weak wood. Nobody wants to see the front of those buildings (and the businesses in them) anyway. Dodging fallen limbs is fun! And the dense shade cast they cast is particularly useful in turn a poorly lit sidewalk into a pitch-black tunnel at night. The 10 days that Bradford pears are in bloom will make up for the other 355 days a year.

Not to mention the trees' appeal as latrines for grackles.

* Move the Chamber of Commerce out of your historic Art Deco Chamber of Commerce building - but leave up the sign. Nobody wants to be able to find your C of C anyway.

* And finally, whenever possible, fill your downtown with drive-thru branch banks and flat parking lots for churches and community college students. Downtown should just be suburbia without the grass!

The real problem in Tulsa, one which laws and financial incentives cannot fix, is the absence of a preservation mindset among the city's leading families, developers, and property owners. The instinct in Tulsa is to tear down and build new, rather than adapt and reuse. In some cities, where the preservation mindset is dominant, you'd be cast out from polite society if you tore down a building for a parking lot. If we had the preservation mindset in Tulsa, we'd be able to pass laws to protect Tulsa's architectural history, but then if we had that mindset, laws wouldn't be necessary.

Beyond the issue of preservation, there's a lack of appreciation in Tulsa for the little buildings that form the connective tissue of the urban fabric. Most of downtown Tulsa's one to four story buildings have been torn down for parking lots. Downtown Tulsa has become a sea of isolated nodes of activity separated by vast parking lots.

In contrast, look at San Antonio, which still has a large and widespread stock of such buildings downtown, despite rising land values and demand for parking. These low-rise buildings provide pedestrian-friendly links between the Riverwalk and the Alamo and Market Square.

(A side note: I've been to San Antonio very recently, and I think the city may have more art deco buildings than Tulsa does. That's if you only count the buildings that haven't been torn down -- Tulsa may prevail if you count demolished buildings.)

As a first step toward making things better in Tulsa, we ought to make sure we do something useful with the $18 million set aside for downtown Tulsa from Vision 2025. Planting more pear trees, installing glare-producing acorn lights, and building brick sidewalks isn't going to fix what's wrong.

But more than that, Tulsa's powerful few need to get the vision of real downtown revitalization and historic preservation. Then they need to lead by example.

The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas is hosting an exhibition from the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Called "The Living Room Candidate", it's a collection of TV ads for presidential campaigns going back to 1952. You don't have to go to New York or Dallas to see the exhibit. It's online here.

There are reports that the Tulsa Whirled plans to demolish a historic nine-story building at the northeast corner of 4th and Boulder. Why? For a parking lot of course. Another stinking downtown surface parking lot. I guess the new municipally funded parking lot soon to open two blocks away is too far to walk. Memo to Whirled -- real downtowns are designed for walking, not for park-at-the-door convenience.

Apparently, Whirled staffers have been made aware of the plan to demolish the building, but of course the Whirled hasn't reported on its plan to destroy more of downtown's architectural heritage and urban fabric.

If true, it's one more sign that the Tulsa Whirled really doesn't care about downtown's well-being. There is speculation that the folks running the Whirled don't really care if the arena is successful at revitalizing downtown -- all they need is for the opening of the arena to create enough of a speculative bubble in land prices so they can cash out and move to the suburbs. At that point downtown can go to pot, from that perspective.

The building in question was HQ for the Skelly Oil Company. Three floors were added in 1928 -- the addition was designed by famed architect Bruce Goff.

A downtown that is two-thirds asphalt parking lot is not a real downtown.

In the same vein, I was disappointed to read that TCC has promoted its new president from within. I guess we can expect TCC's slash-and-burn approach to student parking to continue.

UPDATE: Corrected typo -- location is 4th & Boulder.

The Wilson Research poll commissioned by Congressman Ernest Istook is out, and it confirms what many have thought -- Tom Coburn is the Republican Party's best shot at holding the Senate seat being vacated by Don Nickles. The poll has Coburn in a statistical dead heat with Brad Carson, while in head-to-head matchups Carson beats Bob Anthony and Kirk Humphreys handily. The three Republicans all do about equally as well in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th congressional districts, but it's in the 1st and 2nd districts that Coburn outclasses the other two. OU Professor Keith Gaddie notes in his analysis:

Dr. Coburn runs slightly stronger than the other Republicans. His major impact, though, is in weakening the core support for Rep. Carson. The net effect is a nine-point improvement over the Anthony/Humphreys matchups against the likely Democratic nominee. ...

The Coburn candidacy has the peculiar effect of both emboldening base Republicans while also competing for swing voters. This is intriguing, given the strong preference for Coburn first among conservatives.

All over northeastern Oklahoma there are people who were helped in some way by Tom Coburn or his staff during his six years in Congress. A lot of those people are Democrats. My grandfather, a lifelong Democrat, was appointed by Coburn to a veterans advisory committee, and he became one of Coburn's supporters. Voters that would be a slam dunk for Carson against Humphreys or Anthony will have to at least think about their choice if Coburn is on the ballot.

Add to that the fact that conservative Republicans are excited about the chance to send Coburn back to Washington. They may like Humphreys and Anthony, but they admire Tom Coburn. Many Tulsa area Republicans have followed his career, and the constant criticism he endured from the Tulsa Whirled, but they will get their first chance to vote for him this month.

Congressman Istook promised to make the results public, and he has. You can read the questions, see the summary results, and the crosstabs, which break down the sample and compare answers from different questions -- it's all on soonerpolitics.com. Plenty to pore over. Thanks to Congressman Istook, Wilson Research, and Professor Gaddie for this important contribution to the Republican decision-making process.

NOTE: Started this last week. Wanted to add photos, but it was not to be -- haven't had time to edit them down to a reasonable size.

Thursday afternoon (June 17) I took off work and we drove up old 66 to Miami to see Light Opera Oklahoma's road performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore". Yes, we could have seen it in Tulsa, but I have always wanted a look inside Miami's Coleman Theatre Beautiful and thought it would be wonderful to see a performance there.

First stop was the Blue Whale in Catoosa. I remember a field trip to Hugh Davis's ARK (Animal Reptile Kingdom) as a second grader at Catoosa Elementary School, and after the whale was built and opened to the public, I remember our family going to swim there. You can't swim there any more, but the Davis family has opened the whale and the grounds to the public for looking around and picnicking. Joe and I climbed up the ladder into the top of the whale to look out the portholes. The souvenir stand was closed when we visited -- they sell blue whale souvenirs and sets of old postcards from the roadside attraction's heyday in the '60s. I was pleased to see how well-kept the place is.

About this Archive

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

June 2004 is the previous archive.

August 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]