Airports update: $100,000 for what, exactly?

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A reader calls my attention to an odd situation: The Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust (TAIT) has authorized $100,000 to pay the Pray Walker law firm to defend it in the lawsuit filed against TAIT by the Tulsa Industrial Authority (TIA) over the convoluted land deal designed to fund Great Plains Airlines. But it doesn't appear that Pray Walker has done anything in the case -- it hasn't even filed an appearance on behalf of its client or an answer to the claims of the plaintiff. Another very strange aspect of a very convoluted and fishy situation.

How convoluted was the land deal? As it was explained to me, the City, TIA, and TAIT all exceeded their authority in the way the deal was structured. They would have gotten away with it if Great Plains had succeeded, but it went belly-up with $7 million due on a loan from the Bank of Oklahoma, a loan that was backed by 30 acres of Air Force Plant No. 3, a facility with surrounding land that was transferred from the City to TIA. TAIT promised TIA that if Great Plains defaulted, TAIT would buy the 30 acres for whatever amount was still owed on the loan (no independent assessment was sought to determine if the price was fair), and TAIT intended to pay for the land by asking the FAA for an increase in passenger facility charges, under the guise that the 30 acres was being acquired for future runway expansion. The FAA saw through the whole thing (Acrobat Reader required), denied the request, and said you can't use passenger facility charges to subsidize an airline. The attorney who structured the deal and advised both parties, J. Richard Studenny, was finally sacked and is a defendant in TIA's suit.

Great Plains was a bad deal set up by Tulsa's politically connected, including the Tulsa World, which owned a significant amount of stock in the airline, but didn't disclose the fact at the time it was editorializing to urge Tulsa's City Council to put a city asset up as collateral for a loan to the airline.

For those of you just beginning to learn about Tulsa politics as background to the Tulsa World's legal threats against BatesLine, Tulsa Today published an analysis piece a few weeks ago that ties it all together -- the Great Plains Airlines deal, the way the Chamber of Commerce handles economic development funds, the development lobby, the effort to recall two Tulsa city councilors, and the Tulsa World's hostility to conservative Republican officials who seek to implement the principles they ran on.

You can read more in my archive of entries about Great Plains Airlines and other aspects of the mess at Tulsa's city-owned airports.

The Tulsa Beacon has a front page story this week with details of the reply from the FAA to the City of Tulsa about discriminatory practices at Jones Riverside Airport. The FAA believes that allegations of discrimination are well founded -- allegations that Councilor Bill Christiansen, who owns an FBO at the airport, has used his public office and connections with a member of the Tulsa Airport Authority to get special treatment with regard to leases and access and to implement airport rules that discriminate against his only competitor. Mayor Bill LaFortune has until March 14th to respond -- with action, not just promises -- or Tulsa may lose federal airport funds.

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It looks as though the Special City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, August 9th at 11:30 a.m. will be interesting. Unfortunately, I'm sure all the good "juicy" parts will be held behind closed doors in executive session. The topic of... Read More


louielouie said:

For those of you just beginning to learn about Tulsa politics as background to the Tulsa World's attempt to shut BatesLine down,

newbie here.
i knew about the whirled trying to pull the plug on TFEI web hosting of medblogs links to the whirled and their letter to batesline. didn't know about them trying to shut batesline DOWN.

While I don't doubt that the Whirled's intent was effectively to shut BatesLine down, at least with regard to criticism of the Whirled, that wasn't their stated intent, and I've replaced the phrase with something more precise. You're correct that they did try to shut down TFEI's site. As far as I am aware they haven't contacted my hosting provider, but it may be that my provider treated the threat like the garbage that it is and rejected it without troubling me about it.

louielouie said:

it was not my intention to be pedantic, simply an attempt to get up to speed.
from what i have seen of your site, you are to be commended for the manner in which you have conducted yourself in this kerfuffle with the whirled and removed the basket from covering the light.
as for myself, i no longer have a bird, therefore, do not require a subscription to the whirled.

David S. said:

Could the $100,000 be a payoff for getting Doverspike to do what they want when he is appointed to the EDC?

Jeff Shaw said:

I find the fact that to date, TAIT has yet to file an answer very interesting. I just did a brief review of the OSCN docket for CJ-2004-6124. The Petition was filed 10/1/04, there was an entry of appearance on 10/25/04, and then nothing. Under the rules you have to answer within 20 days. If you file an entry of appearance with reservation of time, you get 20 more days. That's 40 days, and we are way past that deadline, which would have been sometime in December. Unless something happened that I am not aware of, this is extremely odd.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 21, 2005 12:55 AM.

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