August 2005 Archives

UPDATE 9/6/2005: Bobby has reorganized and purged Tulsa Topics, so with his permission, I've taken his audio of the speech, reduced the fidelity to radio quality to get the size down, and uploaded it here (4 MB MP3).

UPDATE 9/7/2005: Bobby has reposted the groundbreaking audio in both MP3 and streaming format here.

And don't miss the commentary on the groundbreaking and Tulsa's downtown revitalization strategy from Oklahoma City bloggers Charles G. Hill and The Downtown Guy.

If you thought that the proponents of Vision 2025 have come to a more balanced, nuanced view of the arena's role in Tulsa's future, you need to listen to the speeches from today's groundbreaking of the new downtown sports arena. To listen to John Erling (the MC) and Bill LaFortune speak, you'd have thought the New Jerusalem just descended from the heavens. (Emphasis added by me in the quotes below.)

Erling's opening:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to a very historic day in the life of our city, Tulsa, and our county, Tulsa County. To paraphrase, this is the day the taxpayers have made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Today is the day that the result of two government entities, coming together for the common good of the region known as Vision 2025, and we are here, in ceremony, to honor the wishes of our citizens, that we break ground to build an events center that will not only be a gathering place, an entertainment venue, but also because of its design and renowned architect, a reason to make Tulsa a point of destination....

So there's no reason to come to Tulsa until the arena is finished?

Now Mayor Bill LaFortune worked tirelessly with the leadership team and County Commissioner Bob Dick to present the Vision 2025 project to the public, and the arena is the centerpiece of that project, which was approved September 9, 2003.... The vision has always been to create an icon for the community, a center that will be the signature piece of artwork recognized throughout the world.

Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune took the occasion to chastise those who voted against the arena. His tone was defensive and defiant, completely out of place for a celebratory event. It reminded me of some of Bill Clinton's more petulant performances. Here's one segment. Not only does he dismiss those who opposed Vision 2025 as "content with the status quo," but seems to be saying that Vision 2025 is all about grinding other medium-sized midwestern cities in the dust. And, yes, in another Clintonian touch, it's for the children....

John Erling certainly touched on this, but today would not be possible without the efforts of thousands, literally thousands of Tulsans. First and most important, the citizens who voted yes for Vision 2025. They recognized that we had to do something big and bold to move Tulsa forward. They recognized that Tulsa had to build, invest, invest in our infrastructure, to remain competitive with similar cities. They recognized, those citizens who voted yes, that Tulsa had to build to provide facilities that would serve as the foundation for Tulsa's future economic growth. Those citizens, with their foresight, recognized that Tulsa had to build facilities and amenities that would serve us for decades to come. For us, but most importantly as I said -- and we should never tire of this theme -- for our kids and our grandkids, those same citizens rejected the negativism of some, those same individuals who were content with the status quo, content to go by decade after decade with no major public facility improvement, all the while watching almost every other comparable city, including Oklahoma City, move past us, leaving us in their construction dust.

But today I say to you: No more! No more to Oklahoma City, no more to Des Moines, no more to Omaha! Tulsa is alive and well!

"Fie upon you, Des Moines and Omaha, and fie, fie upon you, Oklahoma City! Your vaunted convention centers will be brought low and shall be no more! Not one stone will remain standing upon another. Your downtowns will run with blood! We will loot your concert tour dates, kill your men, enslave your women and children, and sow your fields with salt. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings! Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

Look back over that quote. What a paltry vision: Remain competitive with similar cities by building an arena. Nothing about developing our workforce, encouraging risk-takers to start new businesses, accommodating the needs of the elderly and disabled, rethinking our approach to urban design. Nothing about becoming a great city, just making sure Cher has a place to perform when she brings her Frankensteinish carcass to town.

Notice too how LaFortune denigrates the billions of dollars Tulsans invested in streets, sewers, and public schools through the third-penny sales tax and city and school general obligation bond issues in the decade before Vision 2025. Because that money paid for lots of small improvements, and not a single major facility improvement (that always translates to "new arena"), that investment, supported by those of us who opposed Vision 2025, doesn't count.

And notice that this arena isn't just going to be a nice place to watch a ball game. According to Bill LaFortune, it's the foundation for Tulsa's future economic growth.

Later, LaFortune goes into full hyperbolic overdrive. Uniter, not divider, that he is, he takes another slap at people who disagree with him:

But what about one of the greatest coalitions ever built? We've heard from of our perennial negative voices that we claim to be coalition builders but we're not, and we're afraid they might have been asleep during the Vision 2025 process. And what has now been a coalition building effort recognized nationally by the US Conference of Mayors and the coalition for most livable communities, Vision 2025 was unprecedented anywhere, anytime in the United States of America. Where else -- you name it -- where else and when could you have an occasion which cities, mayors, city managers, city councils, the county government, chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations, and so on, all came together united behind a single vision, a single plan. I call that a coalition, a major coalition never before seen....

LaFortune went on to compare Tulsa's situation before Vision 2025 to Washington and the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

County Commissioner Bob Dick spoke next and delivered a speech that was more what I would have expected on such an occasion: focused on the positive, not an opportunity to take a swipe at one's rivals.

Matrix President Steve Alter was the next speaker. He congratulates the city on doing such a diligent job selecting the construction team. He knows the city was diligent because it selected his team. And he joins in on the hyperbole:

I'd like to say how proud we are to be part of this and what a diligent process the city and county went through, the leadership team, the design review committee, the oversight committee, in their selection of the team to do the most important and the largest project in the urban core ever....

Larger and more important that the Williams Center? That was six blocks, not four.

Later, Alter picked up on LaFortune's idea of the arena biz as a zero sum game.

The challenge was provide a catalyst that puts Tulsa back on the map for major events and stops them to going to all of the cities that Mayor LaFortune mentioned. We not only will have an events center. We will have the greatest architectural events center and a new paradigm in events centers and arenas in the nation.

We have to stop those events from going to all those nasty cities that dare not to be Tulsa. It's not enough that Phish comes to Tulsa. We have to stop Phish from going to Des Moines. Maybe if we design the arena like a Roach Motel -- artists check in, but they don't check out.

It was entirely appropriate to celebrate the groundbreaking, but it would have been better to celebrate and appreciate it for what it is -- a nice place to see a game or a concert -- rather than insist that it is a magic totem that will transform the city's economy. I'd prefer to believe that the Mayor and the others were being disingenuous in ascribing supernatural urban healing powers to the arena. I'd hate to think they really believe this building is the key to Tulsa's future.

We're coming up on the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack on America. As a way of remembering those whose lives were lost on that day, and those who, on behalf of our freedom and security, have paid the ultimate price since then, Tulsa will mark the date with a service of remembrance, featuring the performance of Mozart's Requiem. This solemn and moving setting of prayers for the dead, Mozart's last composition, will be performed at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati, downtown Tulsa, on Sunday, September 11, 2005, beginning at 8:46 a.m., the time when the attacks began.

This continues a tradition that began in 2002, when Tulsa was part of the Rolling Requiem -- performances of Mozart's Requiem in every time zone around the world, each beginning at 8:46 a.m. local time. In 2003 and 2004, Tulsa continued the observance on its own with Faure's beautiful Requiem.

Admission is free, and while you may miss Sunday school at your own church, the performance will be over in time for you to make your 10:30 service. It's important to remember, and I hope you'll be in attendance.

This is happening awfully close to my next birthday and my dad's next birthday. Hint, hint.

(More here.)

Karol, a Russian immigrant herself, notes that there are now more abortions than live births in Russia each year and says that "Russians are the only people I've heard actually be pro-abortion and unapologetically so." She reports some jaw-dropping conversations that reveal an amazingly casual attitude toward abortion among her Russian friends and acquaintances.

By the power of Surr-Vey

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Our City Council is going to wish they had this Thursday night:

City Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet

(That's an Onion article: Nothing objectionable in it, but the same isn't true for the rest of the site.)

Sunday's Whirled had a front-page article about the city's plans for downtown east of Detroit and south of the Frisco tracks. (I know, I know -- it's been Burlington Northern for a long time now, but doggone it, the Saint Louis and San Francisco Railroad laid those tracks in 1882 and determined the cockeyed orientation of downtown Tulsa. I'll still call them the Frisco tracks, so as to differentiate them from the Katy tracks and the Tulsa Street Railway tracks.)

This 115-acre area, prospectively titled the East Village, was the subject of a redevelopment contract between the Tulsa Development Authority and DESCO, a St. Louis-based big box retail developer. The deal quietly expired without any progress. Now Mayor Bill LaFortune is in discussions with some private groups about redevelopment plans, which may involve a soccer or baseball stadium. The Whirled quotes the Mayor as saying, "The primary thrust of the redevelopment projects we're in discussion with will have the end result of the new urbanism concept for this city that we don't have now."

To be fair, the Mayor acknowledges that a stadium shouldn't be the focal point of the redevelopment:

LaFortune said any sports facility that is part of the redevelopment discussion "is more of a secondary theme to the primary theme of multi-use development. A stadium, whether it be soccer or minor league baseball, would be woven into the fabric of that project."

LaFortune said everyone has seen the success that downtown stadiums can bring to revitalization.

"We've seen it in city after city after city," he said. "The major difference of any discussions now regarding any professional sports is that it is not the No. 1 focus as it has been in the past."

City after city? Where, exactly, have downtown sports facilities sparked downtown revitalization? Not the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Not any of the sports facilities in downtown St. Louis. Where there has been revitalization around a sports facility, there are other attractions in place. I think the canal has had more to do with the liveliness of Oklahoma City's Bricktown than the Bricktown Ballpark or the Ford Center. If an attraction is going to make a difference, it has to be something that you can enjoy at any time, not just on certain scheduled occasions. The canal provides a promenade -- a place to stroll along, to see and be seen. The sports facilities bring people into the area to see Bricktown for the first time, but that only makes a difference because first-time visitors can see that there are lots of people who are enjoying themselves outside of the sports facilities.

A couple of things bother me about this news item. One is the hope placed in a sports facility, or any one big thing, to revive downtown. Another is the focus on finding one big developer to fix up the whole area.

It has taken fifty years to reduce downtown Tulsa from its glory days to its present state. This process has been helped along by expressway construction, urban renewal, skyscraper construction (and the increased demand for parking), and plenty of well-meaning revitalization attempts.

We won't erase half a century of mistakes overnight. The best examples of revitalization in Tulsa are along 15th Street and along Peoria, and in each case it has been a process of more than 20 years, beginning with some pioneers who saw potential in the old commercial buildings of Cherry Street and Brookside. The best city government can do is provide encouragement and remove obstacles.

  1. Treat the conversion of downtown into a parking lot as the shame that it is. Call a summit of office building owners, downtown pastors, city and county officials, and the leaders of OSU Tulsa and TCC, and work out a way to meet parking needs and expansion needs without ever more demolition.
  2. Improve connections within downtown. At long last, fix and reopen the Boulder Avenue overpass. Make the Denver Avenue viaduct and all the overpasses more comfortable and less forboding for pedestrians. Create a direct route connecting 3rd and Main in the downtown core with Archer and Main in Brady Village -- even if it means tearing down some ugly modern buildings.
  3. Keep the street grid open. Don't close any more streets, and open some to complete the grid, like Frankfort between 1st and 2nd, Greenwood between 3rd and 5th, and 5th between Frankfort and Kenosha.
  4. Insist that OSU-Tulsa build out its campus in an urban fashion. OSU-Tulsa has their land because the City of Tulsa condemned it for them. The City should strongly encourage OSU-Tulsa to remediate, and not repeat, the isolated suburban mall design of its current campus.
  5. Improve connections between inside and outside the Inner Dispersal Loop for drivers and pedestrians.
  6. Remember that retail follows residential. Encourage the urban pioneers who are already creating living spaces downtown and find out what obstacles are standing in the way of others following in their footsteps.

You'll find a very intelligent discussion of downtown revitalization happening at the TulsaNow forums.

Did you know "Steel Guitar Rag" has lyrics? And in German, no less.

(When I get around to renovating this blog, I'm adding a linkblog sidebar for just this sort of find.)

UPDATE: This is Leon, if you didn't know. And if you didn't know, I hope you don't claim to be an Okie!

Overblown

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I took down the entry called "Overblown Coverage," which linked to David Szondy's satire of news network hurricane coverage. Although the target of the satire is the news media, not the victims of the hurricane, it seemed insensitive to leave it up.

MeeCiteeWurkor has an entry about how you can help the hurricane victims.

Charter amendment status

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I attended Thursday night's Tulsa City Council meeting, when they once again went through the list of proposed charter amendments, and the public had the opportunity to comment. Here are some points I made and some I intended to make, but cut for the sake of time:

Councilor Bill Martinson had complained at Tuesday's committee meeting that the list of amendments needed to be "whittled down". He particularly wanted to get rid of the requirement for a councilor to resign if he ceased to reside in his district. (It's worth remembering that the backers of absentee Councilor Randy Sullivan, who would be affected by the amendment, also backed Martinson.) Recall that in 2004, Oklahoma voters had nine state questions plus as many as six offices on the ballot. One might disagree with the outcome, but Oklahomans were able to handle the complexity just fine. As in 2004, if all the remaining charter amendments are put to a vote, some, like the residency requirement, will be no-brainers, others will be controversial, but we can trust the voters.

Many of the amendments are not new, but have been proposed before. It's just that previous councils have declined to send them along for the voters' consideration, and so there's a significant backlog. Next March it will have been 10 years since any charter amendments have been sent to the voters. (Here is the list of all amendments since the adoption of the 1989 charter.)

Here's the list they were working with on Thursday (PDF file), with the longer, earlier list following. I'll use the numbering from that first page in my comments below.

Three items have to do with residency: 1a, 1b, 6.

The charter frequently uses the term "qualified elector" as a qualification for office, and in Article XII that term is defined as "a registered voter of the City of Tulsa, registered to vote as provided by the laws of Oklahoma." Unfortunately, this doesn't mean you actually live in Tulsa. As long as you live in a place when you register to vote, it's OK, under Oklahoma election laws, to keep your registration there, even if you move away. Item 1a would add the requirement to be a resident to the definition of "qualified elector."

Item 1b would require appointees to authorities, boards, and commissions (ABCs) to be qualified electors residing in Tulsa for a period of 90 days. Item 6 would require a councilor to live in his district and to resign if he moves out. If you're an elected or appointed city official, you ought to forfeit that office if you don't live in the city. If you're elected or appointed to serve a specific district, you ought to forfeit that office if you no longer live in the district. Here in America, we value geographical representation.

Items 1a and 1b were previously sent to the City Attorney for an initial draft. Thursday night, the Council voted 7-1 to send on item 6. The lone dissenter was Bill Martinson.

Item 4 would establish a time frame of 60 days for the Mayor to make appointments to ABCs. The Mayor can ask for an additional 60 days with Council approval. If the appointment still hasn't been made after the extension, the Council would be allowed to fill the position. This is necessary because under state law, the current appointee continues to serve after his term expires, until a replacement is approved. As things are today, if a Mayor wants an ABC member to remain, but doesn't think he can get Council approval to reappoint him, he can simply delay bringing the member up for reappointment, allowing the member to continue to serve and effectively bypassing the wishes of the Council. Terms expire periodically so that the Council and Mayor can decide whether an ABC member is representing the best interests of the City of Tulsa. This amendment would ensure that members of ABCs have a mandate from the people we elect to represent us. Item 4 was approved for an initial draft on August 18.

Item 5 would authorize the City Council to hire its own attorney independent from the oversight of the City Attorney. This is an item that I proposed at least five years ago. If checks and balances are to be effective, the legislative branch needs independent advice from an attorney whose sole responsibility is to serve the interests of the City Council. This is especially important when the Council and Mayor are at odds. Item 5 was approved for an initial draft on August 18.

Item 7 has to do with city election dates. There are only five or, rarely, six weeks between the city primary and the city general election. A state law passed this year (HB 1378) requires that there must be at least 35 days between the primary and the general election. We will meet that requirement in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 using our current election dates, so I'm not sure why the City Attorney is saying we may be forced to move the primary to an earlier date. If we do move election dates, moving the primary closer to New Year's would be the wrong approach. Move the general later in the year, or, my favorite option, move the whole election cycle to the fall of odd numbered years. It would be better for grass-roots campaigns if the elections could be conducted when there are more hours of sunshine and warmer weather for knocking on doors. It would be better for all campaigns if the month of December didn't fall in the midst of prime campaign season. Item 7 was approved for initial draft on August 18.

Items 3 and 10 require supermajorities for zoning changes in certain circumstances. Item 3 is the same proposition that was supposed to be on the April ballot (but the dog ate someone's homework), requiring a 3/4 supermajority to approve a zoning change if affected property owners or neighboring property owners got sufficient signatures a protest petition. Passing this would bring Tulsa back in line with state law and with our ordinance, which the City Attorney ruled a violation of the Charter. The only outstanding issue was whether to enshrine the minimum percentages for a protest petition in the Charter, and the consensus seemed to be to do so. Item 10 would impose a supermajority for any zoning change to property under Historic Preservation zoning. I'm concerned about unintended consequences with this one, and I'm not sure about enshrining a particular zoning overlay district in the Charter. Item 10 was approved on August 18 for initial draft. Item 3 we still have from when it was approved for the ballot this spring.

That leaves us with the two recall items, items 2 and 9. I refer you to my thoughts on reforming recall from a couple of days ago. Councilor Tom Baker brought forward a proposed amendment for the recall process, which was presented only after the public comments were over, so we neither saw it nor were able to comment on it. In any event, it was approved by a 7-to-Martinson vote for an initial draft by the City Attorney.

I left before item 9 -- complete removal of the recall provision from the charter -- was voted on. It failed to advance by a 4-4 vote, with Christiansen, Henderson, Mautino, and Turner voting yes, Baker, Martinson, Medlock, and Neal voting no. Medlock's vote was a bit of a surprise, but he expressed concern about voter confusion if two separate recall propositions -- mending it and ending it -- are on the ballot. Personally, I think the voters can handle it, and I'd like to see it move forward.

By the way, my nine-year-old son was with me for the whole two hour meeting. His GameBoy didn't work, but he sat there very quietly and patiently. I'm very proud of him.

A stroll down Memory Aisle

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The writers of history concentrate on Great Events, Great Movements, and Great Men. Even in recounting our individual stories, we focus on the milestones -- graduated from high school, graduated from college, got married, had kids. The ordinary stuff of everyday life is taken for granted as we live through it and usually forgotten, although it seems to linger in the back of our brains.

One of the wonderful things about the World Wide Web is that it provides a home for commemorating things that would never be enough to warrant an encyclopedia entry, a monument, or even a brief mention in a book.

One such site is called Tick Tock Toys. It is devoted to child-targeted consumer culture from the Baby Boom era -- the late '40s into the early '70s. Powdered drink mixes, fast food, candy, comic books, theme parks, breakfast cereals (and the promotional items placed in the boxes) -- they all find a home here.

Remember Funny Face powdered drink mix? Remember Choo-Choo Cherry, Jolly Olly Orange, Goofy Grape, Loud Mouth Lime? Here's a list of all the flavors, linked to pictures of the packages.

Remember Burger Chef? There was one in Tulsa on 41st Street just west of I-44, where the Whataburger is now. There used to be an old Burger Chef long closed, but still standing along North Peoria. We used to stop at the one in Springdale, Arkansas, about halfway to Grandma's house in Mountain Home. Before they repainted the IPE Building (sorry, Expo Building), it looked like a great big Burger Chef, with its orange and turquoise colors. Tick Tock Toys has a collection of ephemera from Burger Chef and other fast-food restaurants -- pictures of burger boxes and wrappers, employee manuals, cups, and kids meal toys. (Here's another site with great photos of Burger Chef stores.)

Browsing through Tick Tock Toys will inspire exclamations of, "I had one of those!" If I'm ever up for Senate confirmation, this may come up, so I'll just 'fess up now: I was a member of the Banana Splits Fan Club, had the Banana Splits Fan Club kit, including secret decoder, and actually organized a neighborhood chapter.

Hat tip for the Tick Tock Toys link to Mister Snitch!, a blog mainly about Hoboken, New Jersey. The blog's name is a tip of the hat to Hoboken history -- the name of a gossip column that ran in the Hoboken Pictorial once upon a time. It's thanks to this entry by Mister Snitch! back in May that this BatesLine entry is the number one Google result for the phrase "local-blog Instapundit". Mister Snitch! encourages other Hoboken and New Jersey bloggers by posting regular round-ups, much like our own Okiedoke does for Okie bloggers. That's not all he writes about -- here's an interesting recent entry called, "What is the proper role of government in the economy?"

A spot of whimsy

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Caren Lissner has several chuckle-worthy items. (In the last one, the chuckle's at the end, but the rest of the entry is pretty interesting, too.)

Mena Trott, of Six Apart, the company responsible for the software that runs this and many, many other blogs, has a clever slideshow: "If Bloggers Had Been Around through History". (Via Vidiot.)

Remember the screen captures from a Chinese edition of "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith," in which the subtitles were translations back into English of a translation into Chinese? More screen caps have been added -- a total of 62 by my count, and there's a mirror copy of half of the screencaps available here. (Hat tip, again, to Vidiot. My comments linking the original entry, here. Jeremy, the blogger who started this, has an interesting entry about a visit to a seafood market and restaurant in Ningbo.)

Somewhat related: I just came across a quote of my daughter's, dated 12/29/2003, which I jotted down at the time. At age three, she picked up on her older brother's enthusiasm for all things Star Wars. For a while she refused to wear anything described as cute, because Jedis didn't wear cute things. She was also in the midst of being potty-trained (not training the potty, Caren), and said, after being told to try to use the potty, "Jedis do NOT go to the bathroom."

Michael Moore. Fat farm. "Camp Granada" parody. Huffington's Toast. You know you want to read it.

Karol isn't predicting who the Republican nominee will be in '08, but, blogger enthusiasm notwithstanding, she says it won't be Rudy or Condi. Go read why, and read her insightful list of the eventual nominee's defining characteristics.

Karol links to Patrick Ruffini's latest straw poll. He's added two twists to the previous poll. In addition to a ballot of likely candidates, there's a second ballot, with some unlikely but popular choices -- Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and Fred Thompson. You indicate whether you'd vote for one of the four over your initial pick, if you had the chance. He's also asking for your state and is presenting results by state. Patrick is also tracking results by referring blog, but I notice that neither BatesLine nor Karol's Alarming News show up in the stats for the previous straw poll, even though we both had it linked. Ruffini has posted his analysis of the initial results for the new straw poll.

Patrick also has been analyzing detailed presidential results, and has a map showing the change in the Bush vote between 2000 and 2004 in each municipality in New Jersey. The cool thing is that he overlaid the map on Google Earth, so you can see aerial view colored with the results, and get a sense of the types of places where Bush gained and lost. The most interesting trend: The wealthier a township, the more likely a swing away from Bush from 2000 to 2004.

Political analyst Michael Barone is now a blogger, and he's categorized the congressional districts where Bush gained and lost the most between '00 and '04. Barone calls Oklahoma's rural 2nd, 3rd, and 4th districts, where Bush did much better in '04, "Zell Miller districts."

One of the darkhorses in the Ruffini straw poll is Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who got a favorable mention here a while back. A couple of weeks ago Fayetteville, Arkansas, blog Overtaken by Events reported that Huckabee, along with many other Arkansas pols, protested loudly against an immigration raid at a poultry plant in Arkadelphia. Huckabee said the calls to his office were running a thousand to one against his position, but does it take more courage to defy popular opinion or the interests of the state's biggest business interests?

A bouncing baby blogger

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Congratulations to Marsupial Mom, who gave birth to a boy yesterday. Swamphopper of The Rough Woodsman is the proud papa. Now they just need to come up with a Little House on the Prairie-themed pseudonym for the new addition -- on their family blog (Little House), the three girls are known as Mary, Laura, and Carrie.

Her most recent non-baby-related entry is this one, the third installment of her spiritual journey, which tells how they came to visit and ultimately join a Reformed church. We're very glad they did, because it's how we got to know this wonderful family.

I've added two new entries to my list of those who blog about Tulsa news. Joe Kelley, the new host of the KRMG Morning News, has started writing about local topics on his blog, The Sake of Argument. (UPDATE: I originally mentioned a second Tulsa blog here. See below for why it isn't mentioned here anymore.)

In the bigger blogroll, I've added Urban Elephants, the creation of my friend Scott Sala, whom I met at last year's Republican National Convention, where he was a credentialed blogger. Scott, whose personal blog is Slant Point, began blogging mainly about national politics, but he saw a niche to be filled in the coverage of New York City politics from a Republican perspective. Urban Elephants is a blogging community, organized similarly to RedState.org, with individual blogs, from which the best entries are promoted to the main blog. I'm pleased to see a focus on involvement and action -- there's a calendar of Republican events, including campaign volunteer opportunities, and a list of declared Republican candidates with links to their websites. In a heavily Democratic city, where Republicans can easily feel isolated and unable to make a difference, it's a great idea to use blogs to bring together a community of Republican activists. Best wishes to Scott and the rest of the herd, and I look forward to seeing the impact they make on this fall's New York municipal elections.

UPDATE 9/10/2005: I have dropped a blog called "Republican Vet" from the blogroll, at least for now. I checked that site today -- all past entries have been purged, and there seems to be a dispute going on between the owner of that blog and other bloggers, with accusations of impersonation, among other things. It's hard to tell who's who, and rather than get involved in sorting things out, I'm simply dropping it off the list.

The group Oklahomans for Safe Roads and Bridges is using misleading language in its ads to urge voters to pass a gas tax increase on September 13 (State Question 723):

”Every eight days, fourteen Oklahomans die in part because of Oklahoma’s crumbling bridges and bad roads. One of them will be a child.”

Can you find the clinton clause? The words "in part" allow them to use the total annual number of fatalities on Oklahoma's highways and bridges. Joe Kelley spotted this and has the details on his blog, The Sake of Argument.

Tonight at the Tulsa City Council meeting at 6 p.m. you'll have the opportunity to voice your thoughts on the list of proposed amendments to the Tulsa City Charter. The initial working list is here (PDF format). From that list, items 3, 4, 8, 12, 14, and 17 are off the table -- that covers nonpartisan city elections, adding councilors at-large, making the City Attorney's office either elected by the public or jointly appointed by Mayor and Council, term limits, removing department heads from civil service protection, and changing to a council/city manager form of government.

Good news: One item that didn't make the cut at last week's meeting was reinstated for discussion this week -- requiring a councilor to live in the district he represents. This ought to be a no-brainer, and I think voters will be shocked to learn that this requirement isn't already in the Charter.

I was at Tuesday's committee meeting at which the proposed amendments were discussed. Regarding reform of the recall process, the council seemed to divide into three groups: (1) those who wanted the recall process completely removed, with the possibility of bringing it back at a later date after it had been thoroughly studied and reformed; (2) those who want to leave the recall provision in place, but reform it now; and (3) those who want to do nothing now.

I had the opportunity to speak and proposed a compromise between positions (1) and (2), for which Councilors Medlock and Christiansen expressed support. The Council could put two questions before the voters -- an outright repeal and an amendment of the existing process. If voters approved both questions, the repeal would supercede the amendment, which would be moot. Even if voters defeated the repeal, they might still approve the amendment, which would be preferable to leaving the current system in place, with all the ambiguities and problems unaddressed.

Reform of recall should address three aspects of the process:

(1) The number of signatures should be standard across all districts. Under the current process, the number of signatures is based on turnout in the last general election, which means it will be different depending on whether the previous general was a high turnout mayoral election or a lower turnout, council-only election. Under the current system, it isn't clear how many signatures are required if an official was elected without facing a general election opponent. We should standardize either on a percentage of registered voters or on a percentage of the number of votes cast in the previous regular mayoral general election.

(2) How the signatures are verified needs to be clarified, so we avoid the semantic games that were played in the recall of Councilors Mautino and Medlock. Make it clear that the signatures are to be compared to the signatures in the official voter registration records, regardless of whether the signatures are contained in books or on cards. The charter amendment could specify a particular standard for signature verification or could direct the Council to adopt a standard.

(3) If an official is removed from office by recall, there ought to be an election to replace him, regardless of the time remaining until the next election. Under the current system, the replacement would have been chosen by election or appointment, depending on when the vote was certified and the vacancy officially existed. Another approach to this problem would be to make one year before the next general election the last permissible date to hold a recall election.

More later on the other proposals.

I've been playing around with the Live365 online music service. In exchange for free registration, you get access to hundreds of individually programmed stations. There are some stations available only to paying premium customers. I've sampled traditional country, '80s New Wave (the soundtrack of my high school and college years), '60s oldies, among others.

Live365 now offers a weekly podcast, spotlighting an independent music label. This week's "SPOTcast" consists of three tracks from artists on Digital Musicworks International. The first single is "Better Watch Out," lead track from Tulsa power-pop artist Dwight Twilley's new album, 47 Moons. I wrote last week about Twilley's two free concerts in Tulsa, this coming Friday and Saturday. If you want to get a sense of the Twilley sound, you can download this "rockabilly-fueled romp," plus songs by DMI artists Redlightmusic and Headrush, via this link (15MB MP3 file).

There's a bit on the podcast, about 10 minutes in, about what makes DMI special: They don't manufacture and ship CDs. All their sales are through online music stores. The customer saves money -- an album costs $10 instead of $16 or more -- and the artist gets paid more than in a normal record deal.

Indy info

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Mad Okie was recently at a convention in Indianapolis, a city that Tulsa's arena pushers have cited as a model. He observed some factors that make the sports and convention facilities work in downtown Indianapolis, factors that aren't present in Tulsa.

So what is this fatal flaw? Location, Location, Location! Anyone who looks at the map of where the arena is going to be located will notice the complete lack of anywhere to grow anything, how is this supposed to “grow” downtown? Where is it supposed to grow?

While in Indy, the Colts had an exhibition game, people walked from the parking garage, over a block to grab a bite to eat, then over to the game... 5 blocks maximum worth of walking, there is nothing that will promote that form of behavior at the [Tulsa] arena's location.

He also notices some differences with parking in downtown Indianapolis. Read the whole thing.

More on Moog

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Thanks to reader Don Hellwege for sending along a link to a interview with Bob Moog on NPR's Fresh Air, recorded in 2000. The program includes a medley of music using the synthesizer and a demonstration by Bob Moog of how various modulations and transformations are applied to a tone to produce the sound of a plucked string. Moog talks about how he got started working with electronics and about working with dad in the basement workshop. Moog also plays the theremin and describes how it's played. I enjoyed listening to it.

Procrastination

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I have a pile of interesting local stuff to write about, and I am dealing with the pressure by writing about anything but.

Unsynthesized appreciation

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Bob Moog, inventor of the synthesizer, died on Sunday at the age of 71.
Charles G. Hill marks his passing with a couple of comments from those who recorded with the instrument in the 1960s.

At some point in my late pre-adolescence, I talked my parents into doing a Columbia Record Club 12-albums-for-a-penny deal. Two of the selections I chose were Switched-On Bach by Walter (as she then was) Carlos and Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog. ("Semi-conducted by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Shepherd.") The latter album included three Spanish-themed pieces by French composers ("España" by Chabrier, "Malagueña" by Lecuona, and "March of the Toreadors," from Carmen by Bizet) on one side, and Ravel's "Bolero" on the flip side, complete with synthesized applause at the end. For a good part of one school year, I drove my parents nuts by playing "España" -- every morning, all six glorious minutes of it -- as my wake-up music on my little JCPenney turntable. Scoff if you will, but it was my introduction to classical music. (This page has links to MP3s of "España" and "Malagueña".)

The instrument was still in its infancy when that album was recorded, in 1973. Every note had to be laid down separately and none of the instruments sounded quite like the analog instruments they sought to imitate. But that was part of the charm.

In the four decades since the first synthesizer made its debut, synthesizers have gone from analog to digital and come ever closer to perfectly imitating the sounds of vibrating brass and catgut. Families who would never have the space or room for a piano can buy an inexpensive keyboard that produces excellent sound. Bob Moog, who started out building theremins, returned in his later years to designing analog electronic instruments, including a new theremin and a new version of his Minimoog. The strange new sounds that were produced in pursuit of reproducing old sounds have proven to be interesting in their own right, and no doubt you can buy a digital synthesizer capable of almost perfectly imitating a Moog analog synth.

Mu.Nu blew

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No Ace of Spades fix today. All attempts to access Munuvian blogs get this message:

Hi munu fans.

The munu server has blowed up. The various problems we've been having with spam floods and denial-of-service attacks and getting Farked have been real, but the reason they were killing the server was an intermittent drive failure.

That failure is no longer intermittent.

Our last full offsite backup was yesterday, so this could have happened at a worse time. I'm working on recovering any updates from the last few hours, and after that I'll be bringing things up on our backup server. This may take a few hours, so please bear with us.

(Yes, we have mirrored disks. If one of them had simply failed outright, this wouldn't have been a problem. Instead, it's gone completely mad, generating spurious errors and generally screwing things up.)

Update 16:13 AEST: All user files and critical system files are on the backup server, and I'm attempting to bring it up to date with rsync. I've logged a request for the faulty drive to be replaced; at this point we don't have much to lose even if they get it wrong and pull out the good drive...

Pixy Misa
munu System Administrator
admin -at- pixymisa -dot- com

The first sentence of that notice reminds me of a favorite Pogo comic, from Feb 5, 1955:

My powerful brain is blowed itself up!

I'm backing up mine (my site, not my brain) tonight -- how about you?

(My apologies. That's not a great scan, but the scanner AC adapter blowed itself up a few days ago. Blowed itself up real good.)

Watts out. Who's in?

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Got a comment wondering if I'd be writing about the decision of former Congressman J. C. Watts, Jr., not to run for Governor of Oklahoma. I heard Watts on KFAQ this morning. He cited family as the main reason for his decision, wanting to be a part of his kids' lives. He's also discovered that there's a life beyond politics. He seems to be keeping plenty busy.

I am an Oklahoma Republican, I think Brad Henry is leading the state in the wrong direction (to the extent that he is leading at all), and I would dearly love to see him defeated in the 2006 election. I'm sure many Republican activists were very sad to hear J. C.'s announcement, believing that he was the only possible Republican candidate with the name recognition and charisma to defeat Brad Henry.

Of course, in 2002 the Republicans had a candidate with great name recognition and charisma, in the person of Steve Largent -- although you could argue that a QB for the Sooners (during the Barry Switzer glory days, no less) is better known statewide than a Golden Hurrican wide receiver, even if the latter is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Barry endorsed Brad Henry in 2002. Would he have stayed on the sidelines if Brad's opponent had been one of his former players?) (Watts is listed as one of the legends of the Canadian Football League.)

So who's in the race? Oklahoma Republicans have a deep bench -- plenty of sharp, intelligent, articulate elected officials -- but who wants to challenge an incumbent with such a high approval rating?

My state senator, Jim Williamson, announced his candidacy back in the spring. Williamson, an attorney, served as Senate Minority Leader during the previous legislature. He's been a leader for the pro-life cause and was instrumental in getting this year's landmark legislation passed. He's not yet well known, but those who know him hold him in high regard. (His campaign website is under construction.)

The only other announced candidate is Bob Sullivan, Jr., who was appointed Oklahoma Secretary of Energy by Gov. Frank Keating in 2002. I saw him, but didn't have the chance to talk to him, at this month's Tulsa County Republican Men's Club luncheon. He has a few things on his campaign website, which is actually a Blogger-hosted blog with a domain name redirect. Give him points for ingenuity and frugality -- that's a quick and cheap way to get content up on the web. Bob Sullivan is, as far as I know, no relation to John, Dan, Randy, Ed, Andrew, or Gilbert O', none of whom are related to each other, as far as I know.

House Speaker Todd Hiett is in his last term in the legislature and running for statewide office would be a natural next step. He's been doing plenty of fundraising and working to raise his profile among Republican activists. Being a rural Republican -- he's a dairy farmer -- is a great combination for a statewide race. Theoretically, he'd run as well as Republicans normally do in the cities, but do better in the small towns than a city Republican would. He is awfully young. (I.e., he is younger than I am.) He may choose to aim for a downticket office and wait his turn for a shot at the Governor's mansion.

There's talk about Gary Richardson, the spoiler in the 2002 race, getting in again, this time as a Republican. He shouldn't waste his time or money. You don't spend all your time tearing down the Republican nominee and then come back for years later and get to be the nominee. We haven't forgotten.

Politics1's Oklahoma page also lists Broken Arrow Sen. Scott Pruitt as a potential candidate. He ran a respectable race but finished third in the 2001/2 special primary to replace Steve Largent in Congress. Pruitt would have a strong supporter on Tulsa radio: KFAQ morning host Michael DelGiorno was on Pruitt's campaign team in 2001, and the two are good friends.

Will Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin get back in the governor's race? As in 2002, she looked ready to jump in, but backed out as a presumptive favorite appeared ready to run. She could probably outlast Good Guy George Nigh if she stays in her current office. She's had some high-profile moments as President of the Senate, forcing some issues to the floor that the Democrat majority would rather not confront. Her decision to back out of the 2002 race created the political equivalent of what KRMG traffic reporter Doc Nelson used to call a "three-car Rocky," as Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau-Wynn backed out of running for Lt. Gov. to run for re-election, facing former State Rep. Tim Pope, who got in the Labor Commissioner race thinking it was an open seat.

Anyone else come to mind for governor? For downticket offices? Post your ideas in the comments.

At last Thursday's Tulsa City Council meeting, a list of charter changes was on the agenda and about half of them were dropped off the list. The Council is deciding which proposed charter amendments will be presented to the voters at next March's general election. Further discussion of the list is on the agenda for tomorrow's Urban and Economic Development Committee meeting, 10 a.m., in the Council committee room on the second floor of the City Hall tower. If there are items on the list that you want the chance to vote on, or items that were dropped that you'd like brought back for further consideration, be there tomorrow if you can, and plan to be there Thursday night when the list is back before the full Council.

Here's the list of proposed charter amendments that emerged from last Tuesday's Council committee meeting and was discussed at last Thursday's regular Council meeting.

I was disappointed at the decision to drop the residency requirement (item 9). That ought to go without saying in a representative form of government, but since we have a councilor (Randy Sullivan) who lives outside the district he purports to represent, apparently we need to spell it out, and provide a process for determining that a member no longer resides in his district and declaring the seat vacant. (In fact, there is already such a provision in state law, but since it requires the Council to act against one of its own members, and there is room for interpretation in any conflict between state law and city charter, it's best to spell out the process in the charter.

I was also disappointed at the decision against the idea of removing city department heads from civil service protection. If government is to be accountable to the voters, the mayor has to have the ability to bring in a department head who will cooperate with his proposed reforms. It's pathetic that in a so-called "strong mayor" form of government, the Mayor can tell the voters, "Sorry, I wish I could make the changes in Department XYZ that I promised in the election, but the department head doesn't see things my way, and there's nothing I can do about it." The President gets to choose the heads of Federal departments with Senate approval; why not let the Mayor choose the heads of city departments with Council approval?

That's all the time I have to write about this tonight, but I hope you Tulsans will take an interest in this, attend the meetings if you can, watch it on TGOV 24 if you can't be there in person, and make your opinions known. The issues up for debate are there for a reason. The right amendments will help us have a city that is run for the benefit of all Tulsans, not just a favored few.

Leon Russell's in town

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I was looking at a listing of music acts performing in Tulsa in the next few months and discovered that the legendary Leon Russell is performing at this weekend's Full Moon Biker Rally at Eagle's Nest near Keystone Lake.

As I mentioned earlier, another Tulsan and legend of '70s rock, Dwight Twilley, is performing two free concerts in Tulsa this weekend. Twilley's first album was recorded for Russell's Shelter Records and Russell produced and played on several of Twilley's singles. The event poster mentions "special guests." You don't suppose Mr. Russell might drop in, since he's in the neighborhood?

Last Tuesday there was a discussion in the Tulsa City Council committee meeting about the lack of a firm cost estimate on construction of the new downtown sports arena and the lack of a business plan to account for annual operating revenues and costs.

Assistant Public Works Director Mike Buchert told the Whirled that the city is relying on the feasibility study done by Conventions, Sports, and Leisure prior to the Vision 2025 sales tax vote. That study is dated March 23, 2003.

Here's how the story in the Wednesday Whirled characterizes the study:

The study by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International determined that Tulsa's market can sustain an 18,000-seat arena, allowing it to operate in the black by up to $1.2 million.

This was based on the arena hosting about 138 events and drawing 570,000 spectators annually. Such a scenario would bring in up to $4.6 million in revenue to offset about $3.4 million in expenses.

Buchert said there are no plans for additional studies.

"Everything has been based on that in terms of planning the efficiencies of the arena."

The single biggest revenue line item is premium seating -- $1,667,000 per year. CSL assumes that the arena will be able to sell 20 luxury suites at $32,500 and 2,000 "club seats" at $1,100 each annually for 40 minor league hockey and arena football games. This represents a premium -- over and above normal ticket prices -- of $26,164 per luxury suite and $572 per club seats. The revenue estimate also includes $250,000 per year for naming rights.

Are these estimates reasonable? I have my doubts that so many companies and individuals will be willing to pay for premium seating for minor league sports. But even if the predictions are fulfilled, the assumption is that all premium seat revenues will go toward annual operating costs. If those revenues are instead pledged against the cost of construction, the arena will have an annual deficit of $481,000.

What about annual revenue for naming rights? Based on a survey of recent naming rights deals, we'd be doing well to get $500,000 a year in a multi-year deal -- 15 years seems typical. Once again, if we pledge the entire $7.5 million toward construction, none of it will be available for operations. That means the $250,000 CSL figured in toward annual operating revenue. Combined with the shortfall if premium seat revenues are diverted to construction, that would make the annual deficit $731,000.

There are a couple of other factors that CSL couldn't have known about that city officials should take into consideration.

In March 2003, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate went for $33.55. On Friday, August 19, 2005, the price was $65.35. CSL estimated annual utilities costing $600,000. If oil prices have nearly doubled in little more than two years, does that estimate still make sense? And what impact will a doubling of oil prices have on construction costs?

The other factor: Casinos. Although Indian gaming was a growing industry before the November 2004 election turned bingo halls into full-fledged casinos, it has exploded in the months since then. March 2003, the date of the feasibility study, was early enough in Brad Henry's term as governor that no one, not even CSL, could know if the expansion of Indian gaming had the legislative support to go forward, much less popular support for passing a referendum. There's anecdotal evidence that gaming is hurting the restaurant business, and if so, it's more likely to affect other leisure spending. A 10% drop in minor league sports attendance would mean a $320,000 drop in arena revenues, based on CSL's sensitivity analysis.

We don't necessarily need a new study done from scratch, but at the very least, city officials should examine the assumptions that went into the CSL bottom line and ask if those assumptions are still valid. If more accurate assumptions show a shortfall in the construction budget or the operating bottom line, it's time now to figure out how to close the gap.

We've all marveled over the detailed satellite photos available with Google Maps, but wouldn't it be even more useful to be able to see a street the way you'd see it from the ground?

Amazon thinks so. Via King of Fools, we learn Amazon's beta version of A9 maps is online, and for select cities and streets, you can view street level images of both sides of the street. For example, here's the 1400 block of SW 8th Street in Miami, aka Calle Ocho, the heart of Little Havana. (I'll explain why I picked that spot in another entry.)

One of the King's commenters couldn't see much value in this feature, called "blockimages," but I can imagine all sorts of uses. Suppose you're booking a hotel in a city you haven't visited. You could use blockimages to see what the surrounding neighborhood looks like. Or you've got to go between two places that are within walking distance; A9's blockimages will help you know if the path between the two places is really walkable.

I plan to use this feature to show you examples of good and bad streetscapes, the difference between places that are active and vital and places that are dead. Some may object that these photos only show what can be seen at street level, but for the purpose of illustrating good urban design, that's really all that matters.

Urban Tulsa Weekly writer G. K. Hizer has had it with hyper-optimistic predictions of what the new arena will do for downtown Tulsa:

Ground breaking is finally scheduled for later this month, and the spin doctors have been working overtime to remind everyone what a great thing we’ve got coming. Details of our urban savior center are finally being released, and I’d have to say that I’m thoroughly under-impressed.

Hizer points out that the arena might get one conference basketball tournament a year. The rest of the year the arena will host minor league hockey, minor league basketball, and minor league arena football, none of which have been packing people in.

But we'll be getting all the big concerts, right?

Now, as a music fan, I at least wanted to believe the arena would attract some major acts to town. When the details finally came out, what did we get? End-stage seating for 14,000. Not that there are very many acts actually touring arenas these days, but you do realize that those that do are looking for 18,000 seat capacity and up, right?

When Tulsa's arena does start hosting concerts, we'll be competing with Oklahoma City's Ford Center for tour dates. Hizer says the Ford Center has only hosted 15 concerts so far this year, and only four over the summer.

Hizer isn't happy about the selection of a starchitect either:

Instead of an arena designed to complement the classic architecture of downtown Tulsa’s more valuable skyline pieces like the Mayo and Atlas buildings, we’ve got to have something bold – something artistic.

What we get is a sweeping piece of art that sticks out like a sore thumb. This arena would fit in better on the south side of town, to go with ORU’s Jetson’s-style “futuristic” look.

I have to agree with him, and at this point I have to eat a bit of crow. When the selection of Cesar Pelli was announced, I was pleased, because it was a break with the pattern of giving contracts to major donors to the "vote yes" campaign. Tulsa architect Gary Sparks was a $10,000 contributor, the highest-level of donor to be passed over for Vision 2025 work. His pay-in-hopes-of-play notwithstanding, based on his past efforts, I think Sparks would have produced a design more in keeping with Tulsa's architectural heritage.

I had hoped that starchitect Pelli would have been held in check by the some of the members of the oversight committee who understand New Urbanism and the importance of building in a pedestrian-friendly way. Did anyone tell Mr. Pelli, "We're sorry, sir, but that just isn't the sort of thing we were hoping for"? Did anyone ask him to make provision for retail space along the street frontage? Did anyone say we'd like the building to add to our downtown collection of art deco masterpieces? Perhaps the oversight committee was too awed by Pelli's starpower to dare suggest that he should subordinate his personal vision to the vision of Tulsa's citizens.

Back to G. K. Hizer: As a contrast to the grandiose plans that are supposed to turn our city around, he calls attention to the Living Arts of Tulsa Center, which is one of many groups working to make Tulsa a more interesting place. By itself, it may not have much of an impact, but entrepreneurs and small arts organizations can have a big cumulative impact.

He hints at the contrast articulated by Roberta Brandes Gratz in Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown: Project Planning vs. Urban Husbandry. Project Planning is popular with politicians. It's flashy, it's big, it's expensive, and a big project usually involves imitating something that seems successful in another city, without understanding the factors that made it successful there.

Urban Husbandry requires not so much money, but more patience and care, and there aren't as many ribbon-cutting opportunities. It involves identifying and nurturing small positive developments and slowly rebuilding the intricate connections between buildings and streets and people which create a vital, interesting urban place. You can read the intro to Gratz's book online, and you should, if you're interested in revitalizing downtown Tulsa.

(You can also read Gratz's speech to the Congress for New Urbanism, which is a kind of synopsis of her book, in PDF format.)

Mike of Okiedoke has posted the nominations for the inaugural Okie Blog Awards. Voting is open from now through September 3, but, just like the Academy Awards, only active bloggers are allowed to cast a ballot.

I'm honored to have been nominated by my blogging peers for Best Blog and Best Political Blog, although I doubt I'll win in either category, given the competition. In fact, I predict that in years to come we'll be referring to the trophies as Chazzes whatever the plural of Chaz is.

Carry-ed away

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The history lesson this week at Audience of One was about
temperance activist Carry A. Nation, which gets Brian to musing about America's love/hate relationship with alcohol.

In the entry following that one, Brian, a middle school administrator, writes what he'd like to put in the annual start-of-the-school year letter to parents, about grades, homework, projects, and behavior.

That's right, its not all about the grade you get. This isn't high school and you aren't polishing a transcript to show off to colleges. At this age it is about learning skills and establishing habits that will carry you through those high school and college years. Organization. Prioritizing. Goal setting. Finding your passions. Learning social skills. How to make sense of a mass of information. Of course you want your child to make good grades. So do I. But what we both should really want is for him/her to LEARN. Its not the same thing. If you focus on learning the grades will take care of themselves.

Read the whole thing for more wise words.

A taste of the tropics

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More about our Florida vacation:

After snorkeling in Key Largo, we spent the night in Florida City, at the southern end of Florida's Turnpike. We got around in time to go on a nature walk around the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park. The ranger who normally gives the tour couldn't make it, but his substitute did a competent job. We spotted a couple of small gators and saw a gator's nest. Joe tried his uncanny baby gator call, but it didn't bring Mama Gator running. We spent some time at the main visitor's center, then on our way back to Florida City we stopped at the famous Robert Is Here fruit stand, which sells exotic fruits both fresh and preserved in every way imaginable (chutney, jam, jelly, preserves, relish, butter, curd, marmalade, salsa). Signs tell you the name of the exotic fruit and try to describe the flavor in terms of more common fruits. (You'll find two of the fruits we saw, sugar apples and dragonfruit, on this WFMU blog entry about tropical fruit.) We bought some fresh pineapple and had them cut it up, then sat down at a picnic table to share it, along with a guanabana milk shake and a key lime tart. We bought a bunch of apple bananas, too, but we were told they weren't quite ripe. (When they were they were wonderfully sweet.)

Fresh pineapple brought back memories of my summer in Manila. One of the things I most looked forward to after the smog and swelter of the city was enjoying a wedge of pineapple that had been chilling in the refrigerator all afternoon.

After grabbing a quick lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon indulging my curiosity about urban redevelopment in Miami, before heading north to the Orlando area. More about that in another entry.

Once again I've gone overboard opening new tabs in Mozilla, but my excess is your gain, dear reader. Some items of note, in no particular order:

  • Allen of Acorns from an Okie reports that Frontier City closed three hours early on Tuesday for no apparent reason other than the park wasn't full enough and wasn't making enough money. Very unexpected from an amusement park which is part of the world's largest amusement park chain and is right next door to the chain's world HQ in Oklahoma city.
  • Dawn travels to the northern reaches of flyover country and visits the Mall of America, explores the Minneapolis skyway, and attends a wedding at a St. Paul library. She also tells of the removal of a superfluous tooth. They don't call her the blogosphere's single-and-still-living-at-home answer to Erma Bombeck for nothing. (They don't call her that, but you should read her stuff anyway.)
  • Joel of On the Other Foot posted a touching tribute to his late grandmother on what would have been her 95th birthday. She was a preacher's wife, not much of a cook, but hospitable and never weary in well-doing. Of her generosity, he writes, "no baby was ever born in our church that didn't get a crocheted blanket." (I know how special that is: My little girl is very attached to the pink crocheted blankie made by her Great Aunt Bea.) When you visit that link, be sure to read some of his favorite posts. A couple of them have to do with a newspaper's hounding of a local politician, apparently driven by the newspaper's owners' other business interests. (By the way, Joel, feel free to move me into the "Prods" section of your blogroll!)
  • Tim Bayly writes that just as a taste of a homegrown tomato spoils you from enjoying the hard, tasteless storeboughten variety, so an encounter with a church that follows the "old paths" -- right preaching of the Word, right administration of the sacraments, and right exercise of church discipline -- may spoil you from feeling at home in a congregation that lacks the marks of a true church. (If Tim should write a book on the topic, he should call it Secrets of the Vine-Ripened Church.)
  • If you need motivation to acquire and enjoy some genuine homegrown tomatoes, read columnist Paul Greenberg's paean to an Arkansas variety of Lycopersicon esculentum: "Like life itself, the Bradley County Pink is perishable, but a joy while it's here."
  • Here's another Greenberg summer classic, updated for 2005: "Fifty Ways to Beat the Heat." I can testify to Number 20 -- Ray Winder Field in Little Rock is a grand old ballpark, a great place to watch baseball.
  • Three more interesting items from BaylyBlog: The use of zoning and other municipal regulations to harass churches; the history of William Tennent's Log College, predecessor to Princeton Theological Seminary, and the beginnings of a new school designed to train pastors in the tradition of the Log College, in the context of the local church; and thoughts on the decline of evangelical Christian colleges and the handful still worth considering.

Happy reading!

Servo noter

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Is there no end to the helpful information on the Internet?

If your enjoyment of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) is hindered by a failure to understand the cultural references in the wisecracks hurled at the screen, take heart! Visit The Annotated MST, which to date has annotations for 32 episodes.

And if you've never seen MST3K, you might want to check out this site.

Free Twilley!

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I have a bit of strange serendipity to report. This is going to seem like a pointless ramble, but it's going somewhere.

I was having a look yesterday at this amazing multimedia blog called Bedazzled, which features rarities from '60s and '70s pop music and pop culture -- outtakes, demo discs, and an early form of music video called Scopitones. The latest entry has four MP3s of the Bacharach/David tune "The Look of Love" -- an instrumental by Burt Bacharach, and vocal performances by Dusty Springfield, Isaac Hayes, and the Zombies. Be warned that you'll come across vulgar language -- particularly in the blog entries about the TV reality show "Big Brother" -- but there are some amazing finds, like this Rice Krispies commercial from 40 years or so ago. And how can you not like a blog that calls attention to its email link with a photo of Ernie Kovacs as Percy Dovetonsils?

So anyway, I'm scrolling through Bedazzled and find an entry with a demo by the Dwight Twilley Band, which was "[r]ecorded on 4 Track above Bill Pitcock's dad's Electrical shop."

I read this and wondered why the reference, without introduction or explanation, to Bill Pitcock, news co-anchor, with Clayton Vaughn, for Tulsa's KOTV Channel 6 in the '70s. (Tulsa TV Memories has a couple of photos of him here.) After some further web research I determined that Bill Pitcock IV played lead guitar with the Dwight Twilley Band and that the electrical shop where they recorded the demo belonged to his granddad, Bill Pitcock II. I concluded that TV anchor Bill Pitcock must have been III. The Bedazzled entry was evidently referring to Bill IV.

I remembered some years ago coming across Pitcock Electric, on Evanston Ave. just north of 15th Street, marvelling to see a commercial building in the midst of single-family homes and wondering about if there were any connection to the news anchor. So between appointments and events, I drove by to see if the building was still there. The shop appears to be gone, although there is still a large two-story garage/shop standing at the back of the lot. The sign is still there, but painted over, although you can still make out some of the letters through the white paint.

I drove a couple of blocks west to the Pie Hole Pizzeria to buy a slice of pepperoni and check my e-mail (they have free Wi-Fi). As I entered I saw a poster advertising a couple of free concerts later this month by... Dwight Twilley.

Now, I should admit at this point that until a few months ago, I had no idea who Dwight Twilley was. An aficionado of the power pop genre who was coming to visit Tulsa asked me if Dwight Twilley still lived here. My first thought was, I wonder if he's related to Howard Twilley, the all-star receiver for the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the Miami Dolphins. I am and have been woefully ignorant of the local pop music scene, both past and present. Once in college, when I booked a round trip ticket back to Tulsa, the travel agent enthused about guitarist and songwriter J. J. Cale; I returned a blank look.

You can get caught up, as I did, on Dwight Twilley's career with this detailed bio on his website. The band (Twilley, Phil Seymour, and Bill Pitcock IV) had a top 40 hit with their first single, "I'm on Fire," released in 1975.

Dwight Twilley will be performing in Tulsa on August 26th and 27th at The Venue, 18th Street and Boston Avenue -- doors open at 9 p.m. The concert is free but donations to the Children's Rights Council will be gratefully received. The poster bills the concert as "a Filmed and Recorded Retrospective Event," with "All the Hits" and "Special Guests." For fans of Twilley, power pop, or the Tulsa music scene of the '70s, it sounds like it will be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event.

Mike of Okiedoke has initiated the first-ever Okie Blog Awards. Today is the last day to submit your nominations in 12 different categories. You must be an active blogger to make a nomination, to vote, or to be nominated -- "active" is leniently defined as having made at least one post in the last 60 days. I've submitted my nominations. Voting will commence on August 20. Click here for official rules and instructions.

I'm looking forward to seeing who is nominated, as I'm sure to learn about some great blogs I haven't yet come across.

I know this is smarmy, but I have to share it with you, my valued readers.

The numbers prove it: BatesLine is one of the best advertising buys on BlogAds. $10 a week buys you access to the eyes of over 1,000 daily unique visitors -- that's 14 cents per 100 unique visitors. Your best value is three months for $45 -- a mere nickel for every 100 unique visitors. And your ad won't just appear on the BatesLine homepage -- it will be seen on all category, monthly, and individual entry archive pages, so you'll reach those who come to BatesLine via search engines or links from other sites.

Thanks to this blog's focus on Tulsa politics, BatesLine is an even better value for Tulsa-based advertisers, who know that savvy Tulsa readers look to BatesLine to know what's going on in their hometown.

Jack Lewis has compiled tables for blogs which offer BlogAds and use Sitemeter -- comparing cost per 100 unique visitors for weekly, monthly, and quarterly ad rates.

Advertising on BatesLine using BlogAds is simple and inexpensive. Click here to learn more.

That's about all the self-promotion I can manage. I need a rest.

Homestar Runner wiki

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What do you do when you see your kids cackling over a Strongbad email episode featuring Homestar Runner spitting Teddy Grahams at the ceiling for fun, and you want to see it for yourself, but you can't remember the name of the episode?

Visit the Homestar Runner wiki, where you'll find a searchable database of scripts of all the H*R animations.

The web is too cool.

P.S. The episode in question is "Couch Patch" -- wiki entry is here.

Via OKC's Downtown Guy, I learn of a blog devoted to downtown Tulsa. Not too many entries so far, but it looks like the blogger (who chooses to remain anonymous) has begun posting in earnest again since mid-July. Perhaps some traffic and positive comments will encourage him or her to post more frequently. I've added the blog to my list of Tulsa news links.

Also, Downtown Guy has an article by urban critic Joel Kotkin, who has his doubts that loft living will ever be as popular as some anticipate, but writes, "the right policy and reasonable expectations could transform parts of downtown [Los Angeles] into an exciting, slightly offbeat alternative community amid L.A.'s vast suburban archipelago."

Just before that sentence is an interesting observation: "Even so, don't count on downtown L.A. becoming another Soho. It may never fully compete with the Miracle Mile, West Hollywood, Pasadena or the beach as an urban lure. These areas have fewer dead spots created by freeway ramps, parking lots and government buildings. They offer more attractive pedestrian streetscapes and more places to go." Think how that applies to Tulsa. Tulsa's leaders ringed downtown with freeways (I heard someone today liken the Inner Dispersal Loop to a noose), leveled buildings for entire blocks of surface parking, and replaced market-driven diversity with superblocks of government-imposed sameness. The interesting streetscapes are in areas that government largely neglected -- places like Cherry Street and Brookside.

Via The Basement comes a link to a kind of McDonald's fan blog called McChronicles. The writer obviously loves Mickey D's and expresses disappointment when he sees one of their stores fail to be all it can be. His first entry, from January:

I LOVE McDonald's ... and I HATE McDonald's. This blog will chronicle this love:hate relationship. It will include thoughts, experiences, and information regarding how McDonald's created an awesome brand - and how they seem to be systematically destroying it "Billions and Billions" at a time. It also breathes life into the notion that there is hope to resurrect the once-great image of McDonald's.

I too have a love-hate relationship with McD's, tending more toward love these days.

The summer of '84 I worked at the Catoosa McDonald's when it first opened. I remember coming home every day in my crimson polyester uniform, which was impregnated with the odor of grease and onions. Sometimes I worked the cash register, but most of the time I was on the quarter pounder grill. I learned two things that summer: (1) Eat the fries first. They put them in the bag last because they cool off the quickest. (2) A Quarter Pounder is a better value than a Big Mac. A Big Mac has two 1/10th pound patties -- same patties used in regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers -- and a half-inch of lettuce. Besides the meat advantage, the Quarter Pounder's two slices of cheese help glue the thing together, making it less likely to fall apart if you're eating it while driving. (Not that I would recommend such a practice, of course!)

We ate at McDonald's quite a bit during the driving parts of our recent Florida trip. One of the advantages is that we always knew what we would order. The kids always want Happy Meals -- plain cheeseburger for one, chicken nuggets for the other -- with Apple Dippers (peeled apple slices with caramel dipping sauce) instead of fries, and chocolate milk. (The older one will take a soda if he can talk us into it. Sometimes he can.) If we're eating in, the grownups get grilled chicken salads, which are quite good. I tried to be very clear about our order, and to make sure that it was correctly repeated back to me, but every time, no matter whether we ordered at the drive-thru window or in the store, the Happy Meals came with fries, and we always had to ask again for the apples. This streak of spud luck followed us to Perkins, a sit-down family restaurant, when our four-year-old wanted broccoli with her lunch (really!), and they brought her fries instead.

I like the new look of the stores. I call it technogoogie -- a 21st century update of the coffee shop modern look (aka Googie architecture) from the '50s, but without so much orange and brown. (Or avocado or harvest gold!) Most of the remodeled stores have wide screen TVs, usually playing Fox News or CNN, and most of them also have Wayport Wi-Fi. (SBC Yahoo DSL subscribers can access McDonald's Wi-Fi through the FreedomLink service for an extra $2 a month.)

During our trip to Little Rock, while my wife and mother-in-law were at a luncheon at the Governor's Mansion, I kept the kids busy while I worked at a McDonald's on Markham in west Little Rock. I positioned myself outside the door to the play area, where I could see them, but didn't have to listen to the racket. They kept amused with the climbing equipment, the video games (free!), and the air hockey table. Everyone was happy.

I never would have guessed, back in 1984, that I'd ever be able to say this, but McDonald's is my kind of place.

Today at a noon press conference on City Hall Plaza, Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock announced that he will run for Mayor in the 2006 election, and Rick Westcott, chairman of Tulsans for Election Integrity, announced that he would seek to replace Medlock as City Councilor for District 2. Medlock was joined by his wife, his mother, and his niece, and by former City Auditor Ron Howell, who endorsed Medlock's candidacy.

Medlock emphasized his intention to build a solid team to run city government and said he would pursue a nationwide search for a certified city manager to oversee day-to-day city operations. Medlock announced several policy initiatives he would pursue if elected Mayor. (Click the link to see the list.) Included is a call for Tulsa voters to reject renewal of the county's 2/12-cent capital improvements tax ("4 to Fix the County"), which expires in 2006, and instead offer city voters a chance to approve the same amount as a city tax to fund Tulsa's police and fire departments.

Rick Westcott, an attorney, announced his intention to run for the District 2 seat during the special election to replace Randi Miller in 2003, but he stepped aside in favor of Chris Medlock. Westcott has been active in the Tulsa County Republican Party ever since as a member of the Executive Committee and as Chairman of the Platform Committee for the 2005 County Convention.

I've gotten to know both of these men pretty well, and I'm happy that Chris is running for Mayor and Rick for Council. Tulsa would be blessed to have both of them serving us as elected officials.

Below is Rick Westcott's announcement press release, which will tell you more about his background and his views on the issues. (If you're seeing this from the homepage, click the link to read on.)

Some Bob Wills links

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It's fun sometimes to try out the searches that lead people here and see where else they lead. A search for "Bob Wills music clips" led me to a Google directory page for the King of Western Swing, and that led me to:

You'll find more Bob Wills links in this entry from the 100th anniversary of his birth.

UPDATED 8/20/2005 with contact information for Jason Aamodt, the attorney in the class-action lawsuit against AEP/PSO.

Tonight's meeting regarding AEP/PSO's "vegetation management" policy drew about 200 homeowners to the Whiteside Park gym. There was a little personal irony in the locale -- two years ago, in the midst of a two-day-long power outage, we held my son's seventh birthday party in that same gym, a welcome relief from the lack of air conditioning at home.

We heard from some of the homeowners who organized the meeting, the attorney representing homeowners in a class action lawsuit regarding AEP/PSO's tree-trimming policy, Mayor Bill LaFortune, AEP/PSO's local distribution manager, a spokesman for the Corporation Commission, and AEP/PSO's local forestry supervisor.

That last speaker seems to be the key person to contact if you're having a problem with tree-trimming crews overstepping their bounds, doing damage to your property, refusing to clean up, or causing other problems. Here is his contact info:

Richard Bewley
Certified Arborist
Forestry Supervisor
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
212 E 6th St
Tulsa OK 74119-1295

work: 918-599-2636
fax: 918-599-2300
cell: 918-231-0039
rdbewley@aep.com

There seem to be two factors contributing to the wanton removal and improper cutting back of trees by AEP/PSO -- AEP/PSO's interpretation of a Corporation Commission rule, and AEP/PSO's management of their tree-removal subcontractor, Asplundh.

(1) The Corporation Commission proposed and the Legislature approved a rule requiring vegetation management on a four-year cycle, meaning that at least once every four years, every wire would be checked and kept clear from vegetation. AEP/PSO has taken that rule and decided to trim every tree so that it will be at least four years until it could grow back into the lines. In most cases, that means removal if it's in the utility's easement. Everyone besides AEP/PSO thinks the utility has misinterpreted the rule in a way that reduces its costs.

(2) Asplundh, AEP/PSO's tree-trimming contractor, has 145 work crews operating in the Tulsa area. These are supervised by 8 AEP/PSO foresters (5 of whom are certified arborists) -- these 8 foresters audit the work done by the 145 crews. The Mayor said that he observed trees trimmed carefully on one block then butchered the next block over. Quality seems to vary widely from crew to crew, and with only eight overseers, it would be hard to catch a crew that is doing a poor job. Now that we know who is in charge of vegetation management, homeowners can call Mr. Bewley to report any problems with tree-trimming crews.

(There were complaints that in some of Asplundh's crews, none of the workers spoke English, making it impossible for homeowners to communicate their concerns to the crew, and there was some speculation about the legal status of many of the workers.)

Know your rights regarding tree removal, and if the work crew isn't respecting your rights, call Mr. Bewley and let him know.

Meanwhile, there is a class-action lawsuit pending against AEP/PSO. The attorney, Jason Aamodt, said that they would seek an agreement with AEP/PSO for a 30-day moratorium on tree removal to prevent further destruction of our urban forest while these issues are worked out.

Mr. Aamodt is collecting complaints about AEP/PSO's tree trimming and removal. His contact information:

Jason Aamodt
Miller Keffer Bullock Pedigo
222 South Kenosha Avenue
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74120
(918) 584-2001
(918) 743-6689
jaamodt@mkblaw.net

There was some discussion of burying the lines. AEP/PSO has a pilot program in east Tulsa, using directional boring to minimize disturbance of the surface. They're spending about $1 million on it. It's estimated to cost $600,000 per mile to put a power line underground. AEP/PSO has proposed to the Corporation Commission that they bury the lines, but of course they've also proposed the corresponding rate hikes to cover the cost.

We've already had an Asplundh crew in our backyard, last year, and I think we had one of the better ones. They were careful in their trimming, only removed trees that really needed to go, and they were kind enough to trim some branches around the drop to our house, even though they aren't required to do that. We were sorry to lose the shade -- even more sorry this year, as the weeds love the extra sunlight -- but the trees we lost were fast-growing volunteers: an elm and a couple of hackberry trees. If AEP/PSO had enough arborists to keep a closer eye on the subcontractor, and if it were easier for customers to register complaints, it would go a long way toward reducing ill-will.

Arena naming rights survey

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Found on a website called Revenues from Sports Venues, the naming rights for arenas and stadia around the country, what was paid for the rights, and the length of the agreement. (That's an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.)

The nearest comparable arenas are the Ford Center in Oklahoma City and Alltel Arena in Little Rock. Alltel bought its rights for $7 million for 15 years, while the Ford Center naming rights went for $8.1 million for 15 years. The best deal I could find for an arena without a major league team was the $14 million Qwest paid for 15 years' naming rights at Omaha's arena.

Tulsa Chiggers has some analysis of the report that dozens of schools in Tulsa have made the federal "needs improvement" list. 38 schools within the Tulsa district are on the list, including seven of Tulsa Public Schools' nine high schools made the list, and an eighth high school (Memorial) is likely to make the list next year. If your child's school is on the "needs improvement" list, the school district is required to offer you the choice to transfer your child to any other school in the district, but that isn't much of a choice if nearly every other school in the district is on the same list.

The entry on Tulsa Chiggers has links to the report for Tulsa Public Schools. The gateway to reports for every district in Oklahoma is here.

"Red Bug" writes that it's time to drain the swamp at Tulsa Public Schools. It's my impression that TPS, still the largest single district in the state, is bound up in bureaucracy and too ready to adopt the latest educratic fad. The board seems to believe that its job is to act as cheerleaders for the administration, rather than as watchdogs. The students of the district would benefit from more charter school opportunities, but the district administration and board have resisted charter schools every step of the way.

To get a flavor for TPS's current educational philosophy, read this entry from October 2003, in which a TPS French teacher explains to a parent why, a month into the school year, the class has not yet learned any actual French. Of the teacher's email, I wrote: "This isn't the raving of some rogue teacher, imposing her own nutty ideas on her defenseless pupils, but a teacher trying to do what her school district has trained and instructed her to do. This is the 'Tulsa Model for School Improvement.'"

TPS is a significant obstacle to new development in north, west, and east Tulsa, and it's an obstacle to keeping families with children in midtown. If our city leaders are concerned about maintaining and growing the tax base in the City of Tulsa, they should work with our state legislators to expand school choice for children in the Tulsa district. The rest of us, the voters in the Tulsa district, need to start recruiting and preparing candidates to run for school board, candidates who will advocate for charter schools and for traditional, successful approaches to teaching. The filing period is in December.

In the meantime, keep an eye on Tulsa Chiggers for coverage of Tulsa Public Schools.

We have a digital camera that takes great pictures, but we have had so many mechanical problems with it that I'm sorry we bought the thing.

We had been putting off the purchase of a high-quality digital camera for some time, thinking that we weren't quite to the point where what we wanted in the way of quality would be available in our price range. We had a less-expensive Kodak, the CX4300, a starter camera given to us by my in-laws -- no optical zoom, very limited exposure control, and a significant delay between pressing the button and capturing the image, but it was a digital camera nonetheless.

I took a closer look at digital cameras just before Christmas and found that there were a number of very good cameras in the $300 range. The Kodak DX7440 received high marks, and it boasted a 4x optical zoom, a built-in lens cover, a larger than normal screen, and the ability to capture QuickTime movies. So I bought one for my wife for Christmas.

We discovered the first shortcoming as soon as we opened the box -- it uses a special rechargeable battery, not AAs. I'm not sure how I missed seeing that in all my research, but I did.

As soon as we had to remove the battery to recharge it, we discovered a second shortcoming -- the camera cannot remember the time with the battery out. I would have expected a small power source to keep the clock running, or at least enough capacitance to maintain the current time while the battery is being changed. Instead, if you simply remove the battery for a second, the date reverts to 1/1/2004.

Within a month, that was the least of our problems with the battery. I was replacing the battery after charging it, and the plastic piece inside the compartment that holds the battery in place just broke off. There was no fixing it. I had to send it back to the factory for warranty repairs.

Shortly after getting the camera back, the lens cover, which automatically deploys and retracts when you turn the camera off and on, started sticking. Sometimes it would stick open, sometimes it would stick shut, or partly shut. Usually a nudge with the edge of a fingernail was enough to make it open all the way.

During out Florida vacation, the lens cover started working reliably again. Hooray! Then, the night before we drove to Orlando for our days in Disney World, the flash select button and the shutter button stopped working. Everything else works -- the viewscreen, the menu and review buttons, the USB interface, the zoom -- but I can't make the thing take a picture. Changing batteries had no effect.

I had brought along the other, cheaper Kodak digital as a backup, but when I took it out of the bag, the battery cover popped off and wouldn't go back on. You remember building Revell models? Where you had all the little plastic pieces connected to a plastic framework, and you had to carefully twist back and forth to free a piece from the framework without damaging it? Remember how the plastic connection turned white just before it separated? That's what one of the two little pegs that hold the battery cover in place looked like. I might have rigged a fix, but I could just imagine the batteries sproinging out at inconvenient moments. So during our two days at Disney we relied on our good old Canon EOS Rebel 35mm, with no way to tell if we got a good shot or not.

The sad thing is that the DX7440 really takes great photos. The presets -- e.g., for bright beach scenes, backlighting, fireworks -- really work well.

I'd love to hear from other DX7440 owners: Are we to be plagued with problems forever? Or are we just unlucky?

... is this.

Counting the arena cost

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For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. -- Luke 14:28-30

The Whirled reported today that ground breaking for the arena will occur on August 31.

The budget for Tulsa's new downtown sports arena is $141 million. Land acquisition, which is now complete, cost $10.6 million, leaving $130 million for design, engineering, utility relocation, and construction. There's ample reason to believe that amount of money won't be enough, but exactly how much the arena will cost still isn't known. The arena's blueprints won't be ready until December, and only at that point will it be possible to say, with some degree of accuracy, what this thing will cost. And if the cost exceeds the Vision 2025 funds that have been allocated to the City of Tulsa for that purpose, where will the rest of the money come from? Shouldn't we have answers to these questions before we start construction?

Jim Hewgley III, the former street commissioner who oversaw the last expansion of the Tulsa Convention Center in the early '80s, has said that there are three things the city needs to have in hand before we proceed with construction: warranty deeds for all the land, blueprints, and a turnkey contract. That last item means we've got an agreement with the builder that says we'll pay you so much for a building that meets our specifications and is complete by a date certain -- we turn the key in the lock and it's ready for use.

The Mayor and others have said that any gap between $141 million and the actual cost of construction can be closed by selling naming rights and premium seating -- club seats and luxury boxes. But during the campaign to pass the sales tax to pay for the arena, we were told that premium seating revenues would go toward operation of the arena and possibly result in an operating surplus. According to the numbers in the feasibility study by CSL, if premium seating revenues are diverted away from operations and toward construction costs, the arena would have an annual operating deficit of $1.6 million, which would come straight out of our city budget for public safety and streets. Before we build this thing and start paying to keep it open, shouldn't we know where we'll get the money to cover the operating deficit?

In other arena news, Tulsa Front Page, a new weekly newspaper, has a couple of cover stories about the arena. (The stories aren't online.) One story features quotes from concert promoter Larry Shaeffer, who says the arena won't be enough to revitalize downtown on its own, but it will "probably help some people redevelop downtown." He goes on to say that it won't be enough to bring in a few big name acts a year; the arena management will "need to get things in there that nobody's thought of."

Another story has this gem from Mayor Bill LaFortune: "Cesar Pelli's masterpiece will serve as an irresistable attraction to our city.... People will come from all over to see this arena and its design." I'm hoping that's just garden-variety boosterism speaking, because an arena, even a starchitect-designed arena, won't be a compelling reason for anyone to visit our city.

The front page photo has this caption: "Cathy Boatright, along with her sons Davis and Bryant, examines a scale model of Cesar Pelli and Associates' design for the new downtown Tulsa arena. Boatright and her sons, who attend Metro Christian Academy, gave an enthusastic thumbs-up to the final design." Their approval shouldn't be too surprising -- Cathy is the wife of Bart Boatright, the project director for the arena.

A faithful five for Sunday

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A few faith-oriented links for your Sunday reading:

Catholic Seminarian Dennis Schenkel is back from his intensive language course in Guatemala. Browse back through his archives for accounts and photos of his travels. There's an entry from a couple of weeks ago about why Evangelicals are having success in Central America at the expense of Catholicism, which has been the predominant religion in the region going back to its colonization by Spain. It's interesting to read about this phenomenon from the perspective of "the other side". The most persuasive explanation came from one of the commenters: It's a matter of spiritual vitality. Success in evangelization depends on knowing and loving Christ.

Matthew has gone back to Ohio to see his grandfather, who is facing death:

More than this, I will be about the work of the LORD - serving my family in the most loving way I know: by bearing witness to the Truth, giving reasons for the Hope that I know, and fighting for my grandfather’s Soul with all that I am capable. Though his Salvation is my desire, I know the battle is the LORD's - and it is by the Grace of GOD that one comes to Faith, not my clumsy speech.

Now at his life's twilight, my dear grandfather is clinging so fearfully to his life - under the horrible distress of a great dread that he can scarcely understand in total, but still knows well enough within his heart. Despite a long life lived without knowing Christ, he knows that beyond the veil lays something he does not wish to face.

Please remember Matthew and his grandfather in your prayers.

Steve Camp has recently been added to my blogroll. He's a contemporary Christian musician, which might lead you to expect little of substance, but you'll find a great deal of depth. He's a Calvinistic Baptist, and he takes a contrarian view of Christian political involvement, saying that "evangelical co-belligerence" amounts to watering down the gospel for the sake of building alliances to fight temporal political battles. He writes today:

People who champion evangelical co-belligerence will never win the culture wars, though they might improve them some. But they will have failed miserably by sacrificing the gospel message, sound doctrine, theology, the church, and the biblical duties that the Lord has called us to all along “for a piece of political pie” with the reward of temporary fame, increased fortune and the still unrealized fantasy of a moral Christianized world without Christ and His truth at the core.

I'd like to believe that Camp is working with outdated information about the aims of Christian leaders who are engaged politically. 20 years ago, it seemed that some Christian political leaders believed that political victories could transform society. I think Christian engagement in the culture war today is aimed at protecting the innocent, particularly the unborn, and protecting religious liberty, not at achieving the transformation of society through legislation. You may not agree with Camp, but you'll find what he has to say worth your attention.

Continuing with the topic of Christian political involvement, George Grant has a fascinating and lengthy biographical sketch of William Wilberforce, the Member of Parliament who strove for 50 years to pass legislation abolishing the slave trade. One of those who encouraged him to remain in politics and persevere in pursuit of this goal was his pastor, former slavetrader John Newton.

Finally, David Bayly has banned the use of historical pejoratives in his church office. He says that calling someone a "Donatist" or a "gnostic" doesn't engage the issues at stake and doesn't win arguments.

AEP/PSO, our local electric company, is seeking Corporation Commission approval for a new policy that would allow them to remove any tree within 15 feet of the centerline of their easement. Reports are that they've already begun implementing this in some midtown Tulsa neighborhoods.

Oakview Estates Neighborhood Association (that's 38th Street between Delaware and Lewis) has organized a public meeting on the plan this Tuesday night, August 16th, at 6 p.m., at the Whiteside Park recreation center on Pittsburg Avenue north of 41st Street. Representatives from AEP-PSO and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, members of the Tulsa City Council, and state legislators are expected to be in attendance. You'll have an opportunity to learn the details of the plan, ask questions, and voice your opinion. For more information, contact Lloyd Prueitt of the Oakview Estates Neighborhood Association at 747-9596.

One of Tulsa's finest attributes is our canopy of mature trees, particularly in the older neighborhoods of Midtown Tulsa. It immediately strikes the eye when you see the city from the air. Unfortunately, we're also a city with above-ground wires for electric, phone, and cable, and those beautiful trees threaten continuity of service, especially when the wind blows the way it did this afternoon. A power outage is a mild inconvenience for most of us, but a deadly threat to some, particularly during extreme temperatures. AEP/PSO naturally wants to reduce the number of outages and the cost of restoring service, and they don't want to have to keep going back to trim the same trees. Neither do they want the expense of burying lines.

(Anyone else remember that one of the big selling points of the new Gilcrease Hills development, when it opened in '69 or '70, was that all utilities were underground? And if you need a reminder about how ugly overhead lines are, take a look at the new Arvest Bank building at 15th and Utica -- the lines run right in front of the new building, about halfway up.)

These trees help clear the air and keep the city cooler than it would otherwise be. AEP/PSO's interests have to be balanced against the need to maintain this important civic asset.

AEP/PSO does have the right to remove trees within its easement, but the typical easement is 7.5 feet either side of the line. As a homeowner, you have the right to have a tree outside that easement, and AEP/PSO can't remove it without your permission. Back in March, I published notes from a meeting about your rights regarding AEP/PSO and tree removal.

If you love Tulsa's urban forest, I hope you'll show up Tuesday night to learn about AEP/PSO's proposal and voice your opinion on it.

Memorial Bible Church, on 61st Street east of Memorial, will host a rally celebrating this year's passage of significant pro-life legislation -- an informed consent law, a parental notification law, and a law concerning unborn victims of crime. The event is from 2 - 5 p.m., Sunday, August 14, and many of the legislators involved in the passage of this legislation will be in attendance. The Tulsa Beacon has details.

The passage of these bills demonstrates that it does matter who gets elected to the legislature and which party controls the legislature. None of this would have happened if the Democrats still ran the State House. Despite the large number of pro-life Democratic voters and pro-life Democrats in the legislature, in the past, the Democrat legislative leadership bottled up pro-life legislation in hostile committees. This year, the Republican leadership in the House took the initiative, and with the help of a handful of pro-life Democrats in the Senate, Senate Republican leaders were able to get the bill through the legislative process, bypassing the committee of virulently anti-Christian Sen. Bernest Cain.

This is an achievement worth celebrating, a reminder that progress is possible in politics. Hope to see you there.

Robby Bell, third-generation owner of Bell's Amusement Park, was on KFAQ with Michael DelGiorno yesterday morning discussing the probable move of the 54-year-old park from the Tulsa County Fairgrounds to about fifty acres on the west bank of the Arkansas River in Jenks, just south of the Oklahoma Aquarium and the Creek Turnpike. I think this is a positive development for Bell's and nearby neighborhoods, and the only negative is that apparently Zingo, their 60-foot-high wooden roller coaster, won't be moved to the new location.

Bell's is currently on about 10 acres, which they lease from the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (also known as the Fair Board) for a percentage of their revenues. About 7 years ago, Bell's began to seek an expansion to take in 10 more acres to the west, all the way to Louisville Avenue, an area that is currently parking for Bell's and the Fairgrounds and provides a buffer for the neighborhood. Bell's wanted to add a new 100-foot-high roller coaster, sitting parallel west of Zingo. Neighboring homeowners objected, and proposed that the Fair Board allow Bell's to expand into the interior of the Fairgrounds, north of the IPE Building, rather than toward the neighborhood. The County never gave that idea serious consideration, as it conflicted with their plans for the fairgrounds. (Rather than encourage passive uses around the perimeter of the Fairgrounds as a buffer to the surrounding neighborhoods, the County's master plan puts greenspace in the interior of the Fairgrounds, and pushes more intensive uses to the perimeter.

Bell's ultimately did receive the go-ahead from the Fair Board and received a special exception from the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment to build the coaster. That decision was overturned in district court in 2003 in a summary judgment for the neighboring plaintiffs by Judge David Peterson, on the grounds that the County BOA exceeded its authority by granting a special exception not in accord with the Comprehensive Plan for the area, which called for low-intensity development. Last year, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed Peterson's decision, saying the BOA had the authority to grant a special exception contrary to the comprehensive plan, and the case was remanded back to district court.

Even if Bell's were ultimately to expand all the way to Louisville Avenue, at twenty acres they still wouldn't have enough space to become the kind of regional attraction they aspire to be. For comparison, here are the sizes of some other amusement and theme parks:

Joyland Amusement Park, Wichita, 50 acres
Frontier City, 55 acres
Silver Dollar City, 61 acres
Canobie Lake Park (New Hampshire), 65 acres
Disneyland, 85 acres
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, 107 acres
Worlds of Fun, 175 acres
Six Flags over Texas, 212 acres
Sea World San Antonio, 250 acres

Bell's started out in 1951 as a modest collection of kiddie rides. Zingo was its first major ride, opened in 1968, but with a court order (still in effect) prohibiting operation past 9 p.m. Over the course of the '70s, the log ride, a dark ride called Phantasmagoria, and Himalaya were added transforming the park to something approaching its current configuration. While neighbors had reconciled themselves to the existence of the park under its current constraints, they regarded the expansion plan, particularly the creation of a new, taller coaster, as a violation of promise inherent in the Comprehensive Plan amendment, adopted in 1984 and still on the books, which set aside the west section of the Fairgrounds for low-intensity development. That Comprehensive Plan amendment was an attempt at striking a balance between the interests of neighboring property owners and the County's desire to maximize its revenues with ever more intensive uses, and it was reasonable for homeowners to expect that it would be followed.

Bell's move to Jenks won't be a revenue loss to the City of Tulsa -- the Fairgrounds are unincorporated territory and not subject to city sales tax. It is a shame that we can't find a place for Bell's on Tulsa's stretch of the river. I seem to recall that at one point, south of 71st Street on the east side of the river was a possibility. If they make the move, I hope the park will be designed to connect with the river and nearby attractions. It would be nice if the park were set up somewhat like the boardwalk amusement parks you find along the East Coast, with a public promenade along the river, connecting to the aquarium and the Jenks Riverwalk. Someone might have dinner at the Riverwalk, stroll down to Bell's, then decide to ride a couple of rides. It would be a wasted opportunity if they fenced the place off completely, made it accessible only from an inland parking lot, and made the admission fee so high that dropping in to ride just a couple of rides would be impractical. The Jenks Riverwalk is a good example of what good riverfront development should look like; hopefully other developers will follow its lead.

Walken across America

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Christopher Walken, the actor, plans to run for President in 2008, and he has launched a campaign website. Is this a self-indulgent publicity bid? Is there some depth to his political thinking, or is he just another celebrity with an inflated sense of self-importance? This quote from his bio may be a clue:

Having residences both in rural Connecticut and upper-west Manhattan, he sees that all walks of life are becoming disgruntled and apathetic towards the American government, and feels a duty, as a child of the American public, to restore the peace, prosperity, and greatness of the United States.

Yes, you'll meet all walks of life in the Upper West Side and among the Connecticut country estates of the wealthy. He forgot to mention that he sometimes travels to Los Angeles and flies over the great heartland of our country, occasionally looking out the window for a second or two.

He stakes out positions (pretty much the mainstream media consensus positions) on only three issues (campaign finance reform, stem cell research, and military spending), but Ace has gleaned some additional platform planks from the characters he's played in the movies.

Breathing through a tube

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Written August 6, 2005

I'm quite proud of myself and my nine-year-old boy. We went out today on a boat from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida, to White Bank Reef, and snorkeled for the first time.

Joe is quite comfortable swimming underwater with a snorkel mask on his face. He does it in the neighborhood pool back home, and he did it a lot at the beach in Fort Lauderdale earlier in the week. I, on the other hand, don't like water on my face at all, and I certainly don't like being in water that's deeper than my neck. But because I try to be a good dad, and I knew Joe would love to see a coral reef first hand, I suggested that we go, while my wife and four-year-old went on a glass-bottom boat tour.

We slathered on sunscreen, I rented a mask and flippers (he had his already), and we rode out with about thirty others on the El Capitan to a spot five miles out. Joe struck up a conversation with a family from Las Vegas that had been snorkeling many times before. I wasn't sure what to expect on the boat, but we were able to stay dry and in the shade for the ride to and from.

The water was pretty calm. Getting into the water was no big deal -- we didn't have to fall off backwards like scuba divers. Joe quickly spotted a barracuda beneath us -- we were told they enjoy the shade of the boat.

We followed the other divers out to the reef, maybe thirty yards from the boat, a mountain of hard and soft corals, brain corals and fan corals. We saw plenty of sergeant major fish -- so called for their yellow and black stripes -- and saw several more barracuda, including one that seemed to come quite close. Joe saw a yellow stingray.

We had to go back to the boat twice. The first time I had trouble with sea water getting into my mask, and to tell the truth, I noticed myself getting slightly panicked. Back at the boat, I put more Vaseline on my mustache (to make for a better seal with the mask there) and tightened it, and added some air to my snorkel vest. I did a better job at keeping calm and taking deep breaths and started to relax and enjoy what I was seeing beneath the waves. The second trip back was because Joe's life vest was riding up on him and he was having a little trouble staying afloat. He wanted to ride back on my back, but I couldn't hold him and me both up. We made it back all right, the guide adjusted his vest and we went back in, but stayed a bit closer to the boat this time.

At length, I found myself more comfortable with my face in the water and breathing through the snorkel than trying to hold my head above the surface. I started to take my time going from place to place. The only thing I allowed myself to be paranoid about was knowing Joe's location at all times.

We just beat a thundershower as we returned to the dock. We met up with Mom and little sister and Joe announced that snorkeling was "Awe. Some."

We queued up for dinner at the famed Fish House, but there was a long wait, so we bailed and headed for Ballyhoo's, near mile marker 97. AAA Tourbook said it was where the locals ate. The food was great, although not as inexpensive as the AAA Tourbook had led us to believe.

We drove a little ways further down US 1, just for the heck of it, listening to some Beach Boys tunes. Joe spotted an enormous lobster statue next to a tourist trap. The store was closed, but we stopped to get a photo of the lobster.

As I say, I'm very proud of Joe and for myself. There was a time when trying something this new would have been avoided at all costs. There was a time when we would have given up at the first sign of trouble. Instead, we stayed with it, and when something didn't seem quite right, we kept our heads, made adjustments and kept going. We lived out the immortal words of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Don't panic. Also, always know where your towel is.

One of the delightful surprises of our recent vacation was the unexpected upgrade of our rental vehicle. We'd booked a minivan, but Dollar was out of them when we arrived at FLL past midnight, so they issued us a blue Dodge Durango SUV. (Yeah, it's got a hemi.)

In exploring the controls, I noticed the magical alphanumeric sequence "MP3" on the CD player. I just happened to have, in the case with CD-Rs of data for work, a couple of CD-Rs with a compilation of '60s music, including the entirety of King Of The Surf Guitar: The Best Of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, plus several subtropical songs by Santo and Johnny (including a nice cover of "Harbor Lights" and a long version of "Sleepwalk"), and a few Jan and Dean tunes. The kids loved the Dick Dale album, and the four-year-old asked to hear "the surfing music" again and again. She also objected loudly when the Dick Dale music gave way to the opening bars of Gene Pitney's "Town without Pity" -- the next folder in sequence on the CD. (I know, I know. The self-pitying lyrics are ludicrous, and what self-respecting girl could love someone singing such whiny lyrics with such a whiny intonation, but you have to love the saxophone solo, and the song is sufficiently over the top to have some camp value. Plus I can't hear the song without thinking of John Belushi singing it in an SNL sketch about Indira Gandhi losing an election to an Untouchable -- who turned out to be Dan Aykroyd playing Robert Stack playing Eliot Ness. But I digress.)

So the rapid-fire picking of Dick Dale and the sultry slide of Johnny Farina's steel guitar formed most of the soundtrack of our tour of the land of swaying palm trees and crashing waves.

Most of the soundtrack, but not all, as the vehicle had another nice surprise -- Sirius satellite radio, which has an excellent "standards" channel playing music from the Great American Songbook.

(While waiting in line for the Enchanted Tiki Room show at Disney World, listening to what sounded like Martin Denny's "Quiet Village" on the PA system, I realized that we should have had some '60s exotica to fill out our Florida playlist -- that, and some Jackie Gleason Orchestra.)

When we picked up the car, I assured my wife that if we'd rather have the minivan, Dollar would exchange it when one was available. After I discovered the MP3 player and the satellite radio, I told her there was no way we were turning the Durango in, 18 MPG and $2.50 gas notwithstanding.

For the record, the soundtrack for last year's family vacation through Texas was "No!" by They Might Be Giants.

Another way the web is changing the way products are sold: Matt Galloway doesn't care for Microsoft's name for its new version of Windows. The problem is that the name "vista" is so generic, it makes it difficult to use analytical tools like BlogPulse to track web interest in the product. Matt notes that Microsoft benefits from its unique corporate name but tends to give its products generic names, while Apple has a generic corporate name but unique product names.

Matt also has some interesting things to say about word-of-mouth marketing and how traditional marketeers still don't get it.

Howard Molson's got a new shovel!

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Remembered this today, for no particular reason, and got a laugh out of it. It's from "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite," an episode of Ripping Yarns, a mid-70s British series written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones of Monty Python's Flying Circus. When Eric's family runs away from home, his neighbor, Mr. Bag, must tell Eric the awful truth:

Well... look, Eric, it's like this... there are some people in life who are... you know -- interesting people -- good company, fun to be with... the kind of people who, when you meet them on the street, your heart lifts and you say to yourself: "Ah! There's old So and So! Isn't it grand to see him!" People who make you glad... people who make you fell that life's worth living... Well, you're not one of them, Eric.

During my absence, the rest of Tulsa's budding local-news-blogging community has been busy, and there are some exciting developments. The local blogger segment that KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno did a week ago has stimulated an effort to work together in a more formal way. Bobby of Tulsa Topics has set up a Tulsa Bloggers aggregation page, presenting excerpts from the latest five entries from eight blogs that focus on local news. This gives you a quick way to see what's new around Tulsa. There is also a BlogDigger group page and XML feed that combines all eight blogs into a single feed.

One of those blogs is brand new. David Schuttler, who has written and posted video and images about the airport noise abatement program and other local issues on his Our Tulsa World website, now has a blog on the site.

If you're someone who blogs about Tulsa news and wants to be included in the aggregator, email MeeCiteeWurkor at gmail dot com.

Home again

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We arrived back at the house at about 11:30 last night after 11 days in Florida. We spent the first week with my in-laws in a timeshare condo on Fort Lauderdale's beach, snorkeled in Key Largo, paid a brief visit to Everglades National Park, then spent two packed days in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

This morning was the first morning I slept in since the first day of the vacation. My wife grew up taking beach vacations in Delaware, and it was her family's tradition to go to the beach in the morning before it gets too hot, napping in the afternoon, then going back in the early evening. So we were up by 7:30 nearly every morning, and while everyone else napped, I caught up on work assignments. After bedtime, it was back to work to get daily reports done and try to get some blogging done. The Disney days eliminated nearly all time and energy for blogging.

I might have live-blogged the vacation, but I don't like advertising the fact that I'm out of town. Perhaps decreased frequency of blogging is the modern equivalent of letting newspapers pile up on your porch. I did write a few entries to be posted when I came home.

It was a good vacation. We didn't get much rest, but we made a lot of memories. I hope to share some of those memories with you, mixed in with the backlog of the stuff I normally blog about.

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Shut out again yesterday on blog time. When I have time to tell you what I've been up to, you'll understand. I expect to return to a normal blogging routine tomorrow. In the meantime, be sure to visit the many fine bloggers on my blogroll, to the right.

San Francisco investor Maurice Kanbar has bought six historic buildings in downtown Tulsa, including some art deco gems, like the Adams Hotel. KOTV has the story. I'll see what I can learn about Mr. Kanbar and report back later.

Life continues to intrude on blogging time. I hope to have time and energy to post more tonight. In the meantime, check out the links on the right-hand side.

UPDATE: Kanbar invented the D-Fuzz-It sweater comb among many other things. I found one connection Kanbar has with Tulsa. His memoir, Secrets from an Inventor's Notebook, was published by Tulsa's Council Oak Books.

A reader who lived in SF until a few years ago writes: "Mr. Kanbar is a friend of Michael Savage's. I remember Savage interviewing him years ago in SF, before Savage's show was syndicated. I also remember reading articles about him in the SF Chronicle. He is a good guy and a very interesting story."

OKC's Downtown Guy has two entries (here and here) with details from the KOTV and Whirled coverage of the sale. DG asks, "Could Maurice Kanbar be the first outsider to truly recognize the potential in Vision 2025 and Tulsa's attempt to revive its downtown?" Maurice Kanbar will be the first anyone, insider or outsider, to make a major investment in downtown since the Vision 2025 vote. We didn't see the same immediate outpouring of private investment that OKC did after MAPS was passed. I think the difference comes down to two things -- the economy was much better in the early '90s in OKC than in 2003 in Tulsa, and MAPS had far more for downtown than just an arena. Given the buildings he bought, I suspect Kanbar is an art deco lover, and that may have as much as Vision 2025 to do with his purchase decision.

Charles G. Hill writes: "Preservationists have had a tough time of it in Tulsa lately; with Kanbar apparently on their side, the balance of power could well tip in their favor. And about time, say I." And in comments on that entry, McGehee wonders if the Whirled has anything to do with this. Apparently nothing at all; if they did, demolition would be involved. You can see the kind of architecture the Whirled prefers here. (The center building is the Whirled's. The one to the right was demolished for an HVAC plant.)

That's the promise, for an area that will eventually cover 72 square miles. G. W. Schulz has the scoop on for-profit wide-area WiFi for Tulsa in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly.

That could be a good deal, if some sort of roaming privileges come with it. With SBC DSL, you have access to the dialup network as a backup, or when traveling, and for an extra $2 a month, you can connect at WiFi-equipped McDonald's, Barnes and Noble bookstores, and UPS Stores. If you're tethered to the home area, you're losing one of the advantages of wireless computing.

We saw the IMAX version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with our two kids (9 and 4) and some friends -- a couple and their daughters, aged 7 and 4. Worth seeing in the theater, worth seeing in IMAX -- I wouldn't say that about too many films. Way better than the '70s version with Gene Wilder.

Favorite kid reaction: When Willie Wonka orders the Oompa-Loompas to roll Violet Beauregard to the juicing room after she has turned into a giant blueberry, my four-year-old called out, "Oh, man! I do not want to see this part!"

Trust fund follow-up

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I've received a few comments on my earlier entry about trust funds and their impact on Tulsa's economic development in general and downtown redevelopment in particular.

What I wrote was conjecture -- just me thinking out loud -- and so I'm happy to hear from people with experience in these matters to fill in the sizeable gaps in my knowledge on this subject. I'll add that I may have misunderstood or mischaracterized what I was initially told on the subject.

I certainly did not wish to belittle -- as one reader seemed to think I did -- what Brady Village property owners have already done to try to create an arts, entertainment, and loft district. I do think it's fair to point out that the area hasn't yet reached critical mass, and it's worth asking what the obstacles are. The whole point of what I wrote was that it may not be the fault of the property owners that more isn't happening, that they may be constrained by the terms of the trusts that own the property. Likewise the lack of available venture capital may not be because Tulsa's wealthy are risk-averse, but because they don't have full discretion in the use of their wealth.

I should elaborate on the point about a trust only taking a paper loss if they should sell downtown property at market value. An accountant friend said such a transaction would be a real economic loss. As the situation was explained to me, some of these properties came into the trusts as the result of bankruptcies during the early '80s when downtown property values were much higher than they are now, perhaps much higher than they are ever likely to be. Under those circumstances, an individual owner might decide that the market value is unlikely to approach the book value in the forseeable future, and it's worth having the cash to be rid of the property. The impression I have is that a trust is often not free to make the same trade-off.

I continue to welcome more input on this, and I especially appreciate the leads to more information, which I'll pursue as I have opportunity.

P.S. Real life has intruded on available blogging time in a big way -- but not in a bad way -- during a week when I thought I'd have more time than normal to write. Thus the lighter than usual blogging, which is likely to continue for a while.

KFAQ blog roundtable

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This morning KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno hosted a roundtable of bloggers who blog about Tulsa politics. Here are links to help you find the three gentlemen who joined me on the air this morning:

Steve Roemerman blogs at Roemerman on Record.

Paul Romine (Mad Okie) blogs at Living on Tulsa Time.

David Schuttler has a website called Our Tulsa World, subtitled "Not the Lortons' World."

Go check them out, and encourage them to keep up the good work.

I mentioned a while back that the three families who are contributing $1 million to the construction of "The American", 176-foot bronze statue of an Indian proposed for Osage County, are also major landholders in the Brady Village area of downtown Tulsa.

Brady Village, bounded by the Frisco tracks, I-244, and Denver Avenue has the potential to become Tulsa's Bricktown. Like Bricktown, it's across the tracks from the downtown office district. For years it was allowed to moulder unnoticed, home to rescue missions, warehouses, and light-industrial facilities. But the area was also home to two significant and venerable entertainment venues -- the old Municipal Auditorium, now known as the Brady Theatre, and Cain's Ballroom. For the most part, the area had been ignored by urban renewal programs, so apartment buildings and commerical buildings were still standing, available for occupation by businesses needing a cheap place near downtown to get started. Some pioneering Tulsans were attracted by the potential of the area and moved in with art studios, lofts, nightspots, and offices.

Still, Brady Village seems somewhat stuck, unable to move to the next level. For example, despite a number of plans for the vacant land northeast of Archer and Elgin, nothing has happened. Some proposed loft projects have failed to get off the ground.

I've been told that the Oliphant, Mayo, and Sharp family trusts own most of the land in Brady Village, and that because the ownership is scattered across the country, in some cases, it's difficult to get all the owners in agreement to sell or lease property, and thus a lot of property sits idle. Thus my comment earlier that it would be better for Tulsa if the aforementioned families were to invest their million dollars in developing Brady Village.

A reader contacted me to let me know there was another obstacle to development. The trust-owned land is on the books at a value much higher than its market value. If it were sold at market value, even a very good market value, the trust would experience a loss on paper. Many trusts have provisions requiring fiscal prudence on the part of the beneficiaries, so such a sale would either be prohibited under the terms of the trust, or, if the sale were carried out, would trigger a forfeit, and the trust would be taken from the beneficiaries and given to charity. The land is unlikely to change hands until market values rise enough to approach the book value, which would require a downtown land boom like we haven't seen since the '70s.

It's likely that the same trust provisions prevent the families from doing anything too daring or innovative with their land, beyond collecting rent on existing structures. If this is true, then I can understand why these trusts seem to be sitting on their land. I can also understand why there would be such interest in any public improvements -- like a new arena -- that has the potential to bring up property values sufficiently to allow the trusts to sell off their holdings. Under this theory, they're not looking to make a killing, they're just looking to get out.

In the lead-up to the Vision 2025 sales tax vote, I wrote:

Many observers have noticed that Tulsa doesn't have many risk-takers these days. We have the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of risk-takers and wildcatters, but they keep their trust fund money in safe investments.

That may have been unfair, if it's the case that these "trust fund babies" are forbidden from making risky investments. That may explain why so much money is poured into ever-bigger homes, rather than, say, venture capital for high-tech firms trying to get started here.

Please indulge me in some thinking out loud.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the risk-takers who built this city nearly 100 years ago are suffocating its continued growth and development? In their admirable desire to provide for their descendants, to protect their progeny from financial predators and their own carelessness and stupidity, have they inadvertently squelched any spirit of adventure that might have been passed on through their genes?

I'd like to hear from readers who are beneficiaries of trust funds, particularly old Tulsa money trust funds. Am I painting an accurate picture? What kinds of restrictions apply to your trust fund? Feel free to post a comment, or e-mail me if you'd prefer to remain anonymous.

If trust fund restrictions are holding Tulsa back, we need to get a handle on the problem and see if there is a creative way to unlock the potential for the benefit of the beneficiaries and the city of Tulsa.

Tulsa blogger Matt Galloway has a lengthy, fascinating, and instructive entry on trendsetters, the adoption of new technology, and how to reach the people who are the trendsetters. The Influentials who set the trends are increasingly resistant to traditional marketing approaches, but guess what? The Influentials are blog readers and blog writers.

Why is it that, when Dawn Summers writes about traveling somewhere, whether to LA or New Jersey, it reads like one of the lost books of Homer's Odyssey? (Or would, if the Odyssey were laugh-out-loud funny?)

CFCG to focus on ABCs

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Citizens for Fair and Clean Government, the organization formed as a counter-recall movement targeting Mayor Bill LaFortune and the City Council's Cockroach Caucus -- Tom Baker, Bill Christiansen, Susan Neal, and Randy Sullivan -- has decided to drop the pursuit of a recall against those five officials and instead focus on reform of the authorities, boards, and commissions (ABCs) connected with the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County. meeciteewurkor has the CFCG press release.

This is a welcome development. A lot of power is in the hands of ABCs, and they don't get as much scrutiny as they deserve.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2005 is the previous archive.

September 2005 is the next archive.

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