October 2005 Archives

A quick family update

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I doubt too many of you read this blog to find out what's going on with my family. If you don't, click the TulsaBloggers link over on the top right. If you do, it's been a while since I've written anything family-related, so here's a little update:

The nature sanctuary that is our backyard currently features a small tribe of mourning doves, a couple of frisky squirrels, a cardinal couple, a blue jay couple, and a cottontail rabbit, who has dug his own entrance under one of the gates. We usually see the bunny along the back fence near the miniature rose bushes, but sometimes he hangs out by the front of the house.

A week and a half ago, my son found a monarch caterpillar and put him in the house in a critter keeper. A couple of days later, the caterpillar (which he named "Catty") took a notion to suspend himself from the roof of the cage and proceeded to turn into a chrysalis -- lime green with a band of black and sparkly gold. It will be exciting to watch it unfold, so to speak.

The boy (9) is finishing up his assignment for nature studies -- a collection of 15 bugs -- insects or arachnids -- with common and scientific names. In September and early October, he and his classmates would be out on the playground after school with nets, capturing moths and butterflies.

This fall he joined Tulsa Boy Singers. He opted to do that over any other extracurricular, and he really enjoys it. They're preparing for an evensong service and a Christmas concert.

The girl (5) is in her first year of real school, although it's still pre-K, and she likes it. She even likes the little bit of homework they do.

We went to the HallowMarine event at the Oklahoma Aquarium on Saturday. Local businesses and organizations had tables around the exhibits where they gave out candy. The boy went as the Grim Reaper; the girl as a fairy princess with butterfly wings.

I've been redoing the floors in the kids' rooms, with help from my dad and my father-in-law. We're taking out the carpet to help with allergies. The wood was in good shape, just needed cleaning and sealing. I did the second of the two rooms this weekend, and the rest of the family escaped to my parents' house to avoid the fumes from the polyurethane.

So we were all over there this evening as trick-or-treaters came by. My dad was wearing a red shirt and a red hat. Since retiring in January he has grown a full white beard and is letting it grow out as much as possible so that he can be St. Nick for various events. It was fun to hear the children come to door and exclaim, "Trick or treat, uh, um -- Santa?"

Before it got too late, we got the girl ready, and I took her up and down the block so she could collect candy along with compliments on her costume. Real old-school trick-or-treating -- door-to-door, after dark, in the neighborhood. (Before we left, she objected loudly to wearing a fleece jacket under her wings and over her leotard, but she asked for it about halfway down the block.) The boy had a low-grade fever, so he stayed in and played a computer game. He seemed quite content with the situation.

That's all for now.

Greg Bledsoe put together this list of the members of Tulsans for "Badder" Government (Greg's name for the bunch behind the at-large council scheme), what they do or did, and where they live. The number at the beginning of each line is the council district in which that person lives -- 0 means that person doesn't live in Tulsa. (I've added a few details, and cleaned up the formatting.)

9 - Chip McElroy, 1964 E. 45th PL -- CEO McElroy Manufacturing, supporter of Mayor Lafortune, hosted campaign kick-off rally, Trustee Univ. of Tulsa.

9 - Ted Sherwood, 3802 S. Delaware Av -- trial lawyer.

9 - Len & Patty Eaton, 2617 E. 26th PL -- Len, former Pres/CEO BOk, Patty former Water & Sewer Commissioner under at-large system, ran unsuccessfully for Mayor as independent in 1986 against Tom Quinn and Dick Crawford.

2 - Howard Barnett, 6742 S. Evanston, just south of SHCC -- former chief of staff to Gov. Frank Keating, investment banker, managing director of TSF Capital, LLC.

0 - David Riggs, N. of Sand Springs, Osage Co., not a resident of Tulsa -- trial lawyer, former representative from Sand Springs, partner in the Riggs Abney law firm, which represents numerous government entities, mainly Tulsa County related: Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, Emergency Medical Services Authority, Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, Tulsa County Juvenile Trust Auth.

9 - Robert LaFortune, 4444 Oak Rd -- former Mayor under at-large system 1970s, uncle of present Mayor and on his campaign committee.

9 - Ray & Nancy Feldman, 2120 E. 46th St. -- Ray lawyer, Nancy
activist

2 - Tom Hughes, 6887 S. Evanston Av, just south of SHCC, Dist. 2 -- CEO Hughes Lumber, Member Tulsa Metro Chamber Board.

9 - Jim Hewgley Jr., 2454 E. 30th, -- former Mayor under at-large system, member LaFortune reelection committee.

2 - Norma Eagleton, 3210 E. 65th St, next to SHCC, Dist. 2 -- lawyer, former Corporation Commissioner, former Finance Commissioner under at-large system, on board of Tulsa Co. Juvenile Trust Auth, along with Jack O'Brien; the authority is represented by Riggs Abney law firm.

9 - Paula Marshall-Chapman, 2427 E. 41st, CEO Bama Pies, Trustee Univ. of Tulsa, Member Metro Chamber Board, Co-Chair Finance, LaFortune reelection committee, contributed $5000 to pro-recall group.

9 - C.S. Lewis, III, 2932 Woodward Blvd. -- lawyer Riggs Abney law firm, which represents numerous government entities - mainly Tulsa County related, former OU Board of Regents and former general counsel and member of the Executive Committee of the Metro Chamber.

9 - Dewey Bartlett, Jr., 50 Woodward Blvd. -- President, Keener Oil, District 9 City Councilor, 1990-94, unsuccessfully ran for Mayor against Susan Savage 1994 & against Tom Adelson, State Sen. Dist. 33, 2004.

9 - Sid Patterson, 2642 S. Columbia Pl, former Street Commissioner under at-large system in 1950s and 1970s, founder and first president of Up with Trees.

9 - Rob Johnson, 2539 S. Birmingham PL, lobbyist, Public Opinion, Inc.
(http://election.sdrdc.com/cgi-bin/ok97/lbforms04/L03333/5043/), represents Tyson Foods & others, former State Representative, Dist. 71 (overlaps much of Council District 9).

9 - Kathy Taylor, 2805 S. Columbia PL, lawyer, current Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce & Tourism, married to William Lobeck, CEO Vanguard Car Rental, former CEO Thrifty-Dollar Car Rental, both are Trustees of the Univ. of Tulsa.

9 - Joe Coleman, 2645 E. 41st, former Street Commissioner under at-large system and Architect, supporter of Tulsa Project 2001.

7 - Jack O'Brien, 5926 E. 53rd St., Dist. 7, former Finance Commissioner under at-large system, 1960s and 70s, member with Norma Eagleton on Tulsa County Juvenile Trust Auth., which is represented by Riggs Abney law firm.

2 - Randi Miller, 6924 S. 32 W. Ave, current Tulsa County Commissioner, former City Councilor, Dist. 2.

0 - Chad (Charles Hughes) Moody, (Jr.), 10914 S. 188th E. Ave., Broken Arrow, former Asst. Dist. Attorney under Tim Harris, attorney at the law firm of Rodolff and Todd.

Note that with four exceptions, everyone lives in District 9 or in the same square mile as Southern Hills Country Club, which is in District 2. Two members live out of the city, one member lives in District 7, and then there's Randi Miller, who lives west of the river. I've heard that Commissioner Miller has withdrawn her support for the plan, which makes sense because the at-large scheme would make her native westside irrelevant in both district and citywide elections. The westside population would amount at best to only a third of a district if the number of districts is cut to six.

Of the names on this list, Len and Patty Eaton, Norma Eagleton, and Tom Hughes each have a son who was a classmate of mine at Holland Hall (Alex, Rick, and Jeff, respectively), and Chip McElroy was in that same class at HH through 6th Grade -- he finished up at Edison. (Chip and I were also in the same Cub Scout den.)

I'm disappointed to see Dewey Bartlett Jr.'s name on the list. He was a neighborhood-friendly city councilor during his time in office. Under the plan he supports, his Bartlett Amendment would never have passed. It requires that any significant widening of Riverside Drive to be submitted to the voters as a separate ballot item. Perhaps he now deplores his own Council legacy.

Notice that this group includes Rob Johnson, a lobbyist for one of the companies responsible for chicken poop in our water supply. Perhaps he considers defending Tulsa against water pollution an example of narrow-minded, parochial politics.

Pedicab on the river

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Did you know you can hail a pedicab in Jenks? Golzern Pedicabs will take you from the Jenks Riverwalk to nearby Jenks locations -- you name the price. How do they make money? Apparently from special events and selling advertising on the attention-getting vehicle. (Found via Tulsa Indy Gazetteer.)

Greetings from Oklahoma

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I first became aware of Bear Family Records a year or so ago, as I looked at the list of Texas Playboys albums for sale on Amazon. At the top of the list in terms of price and quantity was a box set called "San Antonio Rose" featuring 11 CDs, one DVD, and a hardbound book, retailing for about $300, and containing just about everything Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys recorded from the beginning until 1947, when the band left Columbia Records. Browsing the catalog at Barnes and Noble, I noticed that earlier this year Bear Family issued a second box set, "Faded Love," covering the rest of 1947 through Bob Wills' last recording in 1973 -- 13 CDs and one DVD. It also runs about $300 retail.

Bear Family has a reputation for scouring the archives for hidden treasures, including alternate takes and unreleased music, to produce the most comprehensive collections imaginable. Their latest releases include a 7-CD set of the Everly Brothers from 1960-1965, a collection of 200 versions of the German song Lili Marleen, and the latest in a series of DVDs from the 1950s Los Angeles-based country music TV show, "Town Hall Party."

Another new release from this fall is "Greetings from Oklahoma," one in a series of discs of songs that mention the state or places in the state in the title. So far they've also covered Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Hawaii, and Alabama. A writer for Bear Family Records (based in Germany) explains the rationale behind the series:

States have separate identities that help Americans distinguish themselves from one another. When 'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno happens to mention the name of a state during his nightly monologue, it's usually followed by scattered but wild cheering from the audience. Everyone understands. That noisy response is telling millions of people, "I'm from there! I'm so proud of being from Tennessee or Alabama or Virginia that I'm sitting here shouting and applauding like a fool." Being proud of where you come from is a passionate business and sometimes that pride just can't be contained by national borders. This series is all about regional pride ("I'm an American, hell yes! But I'm also a Texan!").

(In light of that, I'm amazed that "You're from Texas" didn't make it into the Texas collection.)

The Oklahoma disc includes well-known songs like Bob Wills' "Take Me Back to Tulsa," Hank Thompson's "Oklahoma Hills," and Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee." There's "The Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma," one of my favorite Sons of the Pioneers songs -- I think I first heard it on a late '70s Oklahoma tourism commercial. (The tourism department also used an instrumental version of "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" around the same time -- a pretty tune, but you don't want potential visitors to think of lunar landscapes when they think of your state.) And the collection includes Leon McAuliffe's version of "Tulsa Straight Ahead." Tulsa has those two songs on the album, but Oklahoma City only gets one mention, tied with Muskogee, Henryetta, and Moffet. The collection has both kinds of music -- country AND western -- no Gene Pitney, Eric Clapton, or Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Mayo Meadow neighborhood blog

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The newly reborn and expanded Mayo Meadow Neighborhood Association -- bounded by 21st Street, Pittsburg, the Broken Arrow Expressway, and Yale -- now has an online presence at tulsamayomeadow.blogspot.com. It's a blog, as you might have guessed from the URL, and that's a quick way to establish a web presence and begin to build content. David Hamby did a great job of getting it up and running.

The most recent entry is about the association's next general meeting on November 15.

Tulsans?

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Tulsans for Better Government, the campaign to emasculate representative democracy in Tulsa, has a website. Who registered the domain?

Registrant ID:5256203-SRSPLUS
Registrant Name:Straxis Straxis
Registrant Organization:-
Registrant Street1:11236 S. Mulberry Lane
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Jenks
Registrant State/Province:OK
Registrant Postal Code:74037
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.9187608800
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:info@straxis.com

Nice to know the folks from Jenks are so interested in Tulsa's form of government.

Meanwhile, a commenter over at MeeCiteeWurkor's place makes a good point about the effect of the at-large council scheme:

If this idea goes through rich citizens will have bought a third of the votes on the council PLUS have their own council district vote. They would only need two of the six districts to vote with the at-large members to over-ride the other four districts.

That seems to be the idea.

UPDATE: A reader did some googling and found that that Jenks address belongs to Jeffrey Beasley, president of Straxis Technology LLC. He gained recognition back in May for being one of the top five fundraisers in the second week of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's annual Resource Campaign. Straxis joined the Chamber in April, and Jeff Beasley is the "crew leader" for the Policy and Governance committee of TYpros, the Chamber-controlled knockoff of YPTulsa, the independent young professionals' organization. (The co-leader of that crew is Michael Willis, who serves on Mayor Bill LaFortune's staff.)

UPDATE 11/2/2005: Jeff Beasley emails to say:

Please update your blog to accurately reflect our companies address and location.

Straxis Technology, LLC
507 S. Main, Suite 400
Tulsa, OK 74103
p. 918.585.6900

I'm glad to post the additional information, but I didn't post anything inaccurate. What you see above was the current domain registration record for tulsansforbettergovernment.com when I posted this entry on October 29. And here is the current domain registration record for straxis.com:

Straxis 11236 S. Mulberry Lane Jenks, Oklahoma 74037 US

Registrar: DOTSTER
Domain Name: STRAXIS.COM
Created on: 12-FEB-02
Expires on: 12-FEB-12
Last Updated on: 17-SEP-04

Administrative, Technical Contact:
, jeff@jeffbeasley.com
Straxis
11236 S. Mulberry Lane
Jenks, Oklahoma 74037
US
918-760-8800

Domain servers in listed order:
NS1.STRAXIS.COM
NS2.STRAXIS.COM

I'm glad that Mr. Beasley has decided to relocate his business to downtown Tulsa, and I note that earlier today -- 6:35 a.m. local time! -- he updated the domain record for tulsansforbettergovernment.org to reflect the new address.

Domain ID:D107914061-LROR
Domain Name:TULSANSFORBETTERGOVERNMENT.ORG
Created On:21-Oct-2005 12:05:53 UTC
Last Updated On:02-Nov-2005 12:35:41 UTC
Expiration Date:21-Oct-2006 12:05:53 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:TLDs L.L.C. d/b/a SRSPlus (R78-LROR)
Status:CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Status:TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Registrant ID:5256203-SRSPLUS
Registrant Name:Straxis Straxis
Registrant Organization:-
Registrant Street1:507 S. Main Suite 400
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Tulsa
Registrant State/Province:OK
Registrant Postal Code:74103
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.9185856900
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:info@straxis.com

Presumably he'll get around to updating the address on his company's domain record at some point.

The Jenks address appears to be a home address -- a JEFFREY S BEASLEY was registered to vote at that address as recently as last year.

Link blog

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My blogging has slowed down considerably of late -- busy with work, home improvements, and family -- and I'm feeling the need to reserve what little creativity remains for the weekly column. When I do surf the web, I find plenty of noteworthy stuff, but I don't necessarily want to write a dozen entries that say little more than "hey, this was interesting." So partly to address that, but mostly to gain some hands-on AMP (Apache/MySQL/PHP) experience, I've put together a linkblog -- a list of recent links of interest, with just a timestamp, a title, and a URL, plus maybe a one-sentence comment. You will see the most recent 10 links below the masthead on the homepage. It should be operational within a few hours, and it'll give you a reason to stop back by more often.

Ooops.

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I noticed I had double-posted a couple of entries, which sometimes happens with Movable Type, and in my zeal to fix the problem I deleted the copies that had comments attached. If I can recover the comments, I will. My apologies.

UPDATE: Comments rescued.

The rainbow coalition

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I want to apologize for suggesting that the backers of the plan to cut the number of Tulsa city council districts and add at-large districts is not a diverse group. Now that I've seen a list of the steering committee, I see that it includes both people connected with Holland Hall and people connected with Cascia Hall.

Here's the list of names, from today's Tulsa Whirled story:

The group's advisory board comprises [committee treasurer Len] Eaton's wife, Patty Eaton, a former Tulsa water commissioner and current member of the city's water board; Howard Barnett, former Gov. Frank Keating's chief of staff; former Mayor Robert LaFortune; former Mayor Jim Hewgley; Norma Eagleton, a former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner and former Tulsa Airport Authority member; former Councilor Dewey Bartlett Jr., the president of Keener Oil & Gas Co.; former Street Commissioner Sid Patterson; Paula Marshall-Chapman, the chief executive officer of Bama Cos.; Tom Hughes, the owner of Hughes Lumber; and the lawyers David Riggs, C.S. Lewis III and Ray Feldman and his wife, Nancy Feldman, a former professor at University of Tulsa.

Clearly District 9 is not content with having two councilors already -- they want five.

Mad Okie has a report from his neighborhood meeting, and it provides some useful perspective on the airport noise abatement issue and a rebuttal to those who blame the homeowners for being there in the first place.

Dave Schuttler has video of the meeting and a map showing noise contours around the airport.

A word about blog comments

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Before you read any of the rest of this, I want you all to know that I appreciate those who take the time to comment here and via e-mail. I'm grateful for your feedback, both positive and negative.

Still, comments here aren't a free for all, and I want you to know why.

For the first year and a half of BatesLine's existence I didn't have comments enabled. I encouraged readers to drop me an email if they had something to say, or to participate in the forums at TulsaNow.org or LivingOnTulsaTime.com. In explaining why, back in December 2003, I echoed the reasons of group-law-blogger Eugene Volokh, and added that I'd rather encourage participation in established forums about Tulsa politics rather than dilute the discussion further. Volokh's concerns about reputation and time resonated with me. I don't have time to play comment cop, and yet I can't simply allow comments to become an open forum. Comment spam is too prevalent, and while I don't mind polite disagreement, there are some comments that I just don't want using my bandwidth.

I first enabled comments following the Whirled's legal threats against me back in February. At various times I've required all commenters to be registered with TypeKey, allowed everyone to post immediately, or combined TypeKey with moderation, which is where things stand now. If you have and use a free TypeKey login, your comment is online automatically after you post it; otherwise, it's held for my decision to "approve" it for posting or not.

I put "approve" in quotes because I don't necessarily approve of the sentiments expressed in the comments that I allow to appear.

My criteria for choosing which comments will appear and which won't are entirely arbitrary and capricious. I observed one blogger attempt to establish an objective basis for editing or deleting comments or banning commenters, and she seemed to spend a lot of time defending her decisions. I'm not going to go down that road. If you feel unjustly censored, you are free to start your own blog.

If you don't see a comment of yours appear, it may be that I haven't seen it yet, as I only check a few times a day. It may also be that I saw it and decided not to publish it. If that happens, it doesn't mean that I won't publish another comment of yours, or that I'm upset with you; I just decided not to post that one.

I am unlikely to publish a comment if it is wildly off-topic, is inflammatory in tone, uses vulgar or profane language, or is a personal attack on me or my friends and allies. If I think a comment is going to cause things to get ugly -- even if the commenter had no such intention -- I will probably not publish it.

So far I have been pretty liberal in allowing straying from the topic of the original post -- no longer. If there's a subject you think I ought to address, instead of posting an off-topic comment, drop me a line at blog -AT- batesline -DOT- com. I may or may not respond -- don't take it personally if I don't -- and I may or may not get around to addressing that topic. This is my personal blog, not a forum or message board. There are some good message boards and forums out there which provide for more interactive discussion and the opportunity to raise whatever topic you please, and the best thing about them from my perspective is that someone else is responsible for moderating them.

Other bloggers are much tougher on this issue than I am. My friend Scott Sala of Slant Point became fed up with spam and has disabled comments and trackbacks completely. Phillip Johnson has some characteristically blunt comment rules. My favorite is rule no. 1:

Don't expect me to reply to your comments. If I feel strongly, I might reply in a blog entry. If I have time to waste, I could even post a comment of my own every now and then. (No promises on that.) But don't look for me to mud-wrestle with critics in my own blog-comments.

Rule no. 4 should be heeded, too:

Don't feed the trolls.

I don't intend to preach about this often, but I thought it would be useful to let you know my perspective on comments. Again, I do appreciate those who comment here, as well as those who just read.

The new issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly is now online, and my column this week is about "Tulsans for Better Government" and the initiative petition this group has launched to reduce the number of City Council districts by three and add three at-large seats.

By the way, the link at the top of the homepage labeled "This week's column" -- http://www.batesline.com/utw/utcolumn.html -- will always redirect you to the latest column. Feel free to bookmark it or add it to your blogroll.

At-large councilors

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An edited version of this piece was published in the October 26, 2005, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web October 27, 2009.

It's been a tough couple of years for Tulsa's traditional political establishment. The bunch that for years has had control over city government - a group I call the Cockroach Caucus, after their aversion to the light of public scrutiny - saw their grip on public opinion beginning to slip.

Despairing of their long-term chances to regain full control of city government under the current rules, they've got a scheme to change the rules so that money will count for more than grass-roots support. The plan is to dilute geographic diversity on the Council and guarantee that big money will control at least a third of the city's legislative body.

Last Thursday, a group calling themselves "Tulsans for Better Government" filed an initiative petition to reduce the number of Tulsa City Council districts to 6 and to create three at-large "supercouncilor" seats.

The group is headed by Arthur H. "Chip" McElroy II, whose company played host to Bill LaFortune's re-election announcement. The three supercouncilors would be elected citywide to four-year terms, beginning in 2008, while the six district councilors would continue to serve two years at a time.

The idea has been pushed enthusiastically by the Tulsa World editorial board, distraught by their fading influence over city politics. (The World routinely waits three weeks before publishing a letter to the editor, so it's telling that the paper fast-tracked a Sunday "Readers' Forum" guest opinion in support of the campaign just two days after it was launched.)

After the 2004 elections, the Council had, for the first time ever, a majority of members that were elected contrary to the endorsements of the Tulsa World and the money of the developers' lobby. In four contested primaries and four contested general elections, reform-minded candidates received 59% of the vote to 41% for the World's endorsees.*

The empire struck back in May of this year, with Bill Martinson replacing Sam Roop in a special election. But Martinson won with only 29% of the vote, aided by the unusual structure of a special election. The result gave the anti-reform bunch an apparent majority in the short term, but they can't have been encouraged about the long-term prospects of maintaining control.

The results of July 12 had to have been a shock to the Cockroach Caucus. Despite a year-long barrage of criticism from the Tulsa World and now-retired radio host John Erling and a well-financed and relentlessly dirty campaign against Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, the two survived a recall election by overwhelming percentages.

What has become apparent is that, in a district race, feet on the ground - enthusiastic volunteers willing to go door-to-door on behalf of a candidate - can beat money and a monopoly daily newspaper. With passionate grass-roots support, a candidate can get a message out to counter direct mail, robo-calls, and the potshots taken on the news and editorial pages of the World. Tulsa's Council districts each have a population of 43,000, still small enough to be reachable by grass-roots methods.

It really seems to frighten the Cockroach Caucus that there are four councilors who don't feel the need to grovel before them for campaign money. In the past, the occasional maverick would rise up and challenge business as usual at City Hall, but the old guard was always successful in isolating them and either defeating them or wearing them down into submission. Councilors Medlock, Mautino, Turner, and Henderson are all men of devout Christian faith. They are willing to risk their political careers to do what they believe is best for the city, and they are confident that in seeking what is right, they will have the support of their constituents. And they've stood by each other through thick and thin, thwarting the old divide-and-conquer strategy.

By making three of the council seats citywide, money comes back into the picture. TV and radio advertising come into play, and for that you need plenty of campaign cash. Grass-roots campaigns can succeed at that level - Tom Coburn and John Sullivan beat elite-supported candidates at the congressional district and state levels - but are much harder to pull off.

Not only would big money have the best shot at winning the three at-large seats, but the process of consolidating nine districts into six would allow the Cockroach Caucus to eliminate the incumbents they hate the most by throwing them into the same districts as other incumbents.

North Tulsa would go from two councilors to one, putting reform Councilors Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson into the same district. West Tulsa's concerns would be drowned out under the plan - its population currently makes up half of District 2; under the new plan it would only be a third of a district.

Bigger districts are also easier to gerrymander, and with all the support for this effort coming from the Midtown "Money Belt" - that band of affluence stretching from Utica Square to Southern Hills - don't be surprised to see the new lines drawn so that nearly every district includes a Money Belt precinct. That's a time-honored technique used at the state legislative level to allow the affluent to represent working class citizens without having to actually (ick!) live among them. Diversity of representation, the reason we went to districts with the new charter in 1989, would disappear.

Supporters of at-large councilors make the bogus claim that "ward politics" are damaging the city. They say that district councilors are focused on the parochial concerns of their constituents at the expense of the best interests of the city as a whole. But if you look back at the most controversial issues of the last two years, they've been citywide issues. Great Plains Airlines and airport operations, creation of a city-focused economic development policy, oversight for funding to the Chamber of Commerce, fairness in the zoning process, north Tulsa County annexation, the water line to Owasso and the reappointment of two suburbs-focused members of the city's water board, the IVI toll bridge - in each case the councilors under attack by the World-led establishment have been seeking the City of Tulsa's best interests, in many cases where they conflicted with the interests of the suburbs.

Councilors Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, and Turner are each devoted to the needs of their own constituents, but they've also worked together to ensure that the citizens of the historically neglected east, west, and north sections of our city receive the city services they are owed.

And that seems to be what really bugs the bunch behind the at-large council proposal. It's the Money Belt denizens backing this plan that tend to take a parochial view, seeing Tulsa as a small, close-knit, fabulously wealthy town centered on Utica Square. Neighborhoods like West Highlands and Garden City, Rose Dew and Wagon Wheel, Sequoyah and Suburban Acres may as well be foreign countries to them.

We finally have a critical mass of councilors who believe that city government should serve all Tulsans, not just a favored few, and it is shaking up the cozy worldview of the old elite. The forces behind at-large council seats used their years in power to lead Tulsa to its current state of declining population, rising crime, and an economy still dangerously dependent on a few key industries.

The Cockroach Caucus has run this town for years, but it is out of ideas, out of energy, and very nearly out of power. The "Tulsans for Better Government" is the elite's final desperate attempt to keep city government in their grasp.

I feel certain that the people of Tulsa will tell them, "No thanks, the city belongs to all of us now, and we intend to keep it that way."

* NOTE: I've only counted elections where a Whirled endorsee faced a reformist opponent. The Democrat primary in District 3 and Republican primaries in District 7 and 8 decided the winners of those seats. Jack Henderson won a contested Democrat primary in District 1 and handily defeated token opposition in the general election. Districts 2, 4, 5, and 6 had seriously contested general elections. I've left out District 9 entirely - the general election pitted incumbent Republican Susan Neal against incarcerated Independent Paul Tay.

Judge Rebecca Brett Nightingale will hear arguments today on the County's motion to dismiss the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition's lawsuit against the three County Commissioners. The suit alleges that Commissioners violated state law in approving the contract with Infrastructure Ventures Inc., in which IVI will build a bridge across the Arkansas River and maintain, operate, and collect tolls on it for seventy-five years. The STCC would like supporters present in the courtroom -- Room 708 of the Tulsa County Courthouse, 500 S. Denver Ave., at 1:30 p.m.

I'm sure judges are able to filter this out, but I wonder if it ever crosses a judge's mind in a suit like this that the County Commission is her landlord and controls the funding for courthouse improvements. That may be why STCC wants a crowd there, so she can see that the suit matters to a sizable block of voters, too.

A report from my friend Dave in south Florida:

Hurricane Wilma has left South Florida a real mess. We don't have water pressure (!) or electricity. We do have a phone line, which I am using for dial up, and I can recharge my laptop battery using a power inverter and our minivan (until it runs out of gas...).

Pray for water to come back on, for school to start up again (so our girls will have something to do!), and for gas stations. If we can get these, we can fake the rest.

Praise God no one was hurt here. Our patio screen was half ripped away; when it went, it took a gutter and fascia with it. Other than this, and one cracked roof tile, our house is OK. There is major damage in our neighborhood, many houses with significant roof damage and some major tree roadblocks.

Ruth is bailing water out of the swimming pool to flush toilets. Now we really feel like Beverly Hillbillies!!

Could have been much worse, but no water pressure is no fun.

UPDATE: Dave was excited to report that he could run his DSL modem off of the power inverter, too. No running water, no electricity -- but he has broadband!

There at the last

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Today I came across this heartwarming, bittersweet account by western swing fiddler and vocalist Jody Nix of the 1973 recording of the album "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys: For the Last Time," an album that Joel of On the Other Foot has rightly judged "duff-free."

Tulsa City Councilor Bill "29%" Martinson took a lead role last Thursday night trying to fend off an audit of fuel flow records for fuel sellers at Jones Riverside Airport -- a group that includes Councilor Bill Christiansen, who, like Martinson, was helped into office by Bixby resident and former Tulsa councilor John Benjamin and political consultant Jim Burdge, who were also actively involved in the recall against Councilors Medlock and Mautino.

Martinson argued that the airport investigation was about Great Plains Airlines, and what did fuel flow fees at Jones Riverside have to do with Great Plains? Dave Schuttler of Our Tulsa World has compiled a helpful video to remind Councilor Martinson of what he learned about the investigation at Council committee meetings in the recent past.

Dave also has a link to the documents filed with the Federal Aviation Authority regarding Roadhouse Aviation's complaint against the Tulsa Airport Authority -- including responses from the City of Tulsa. (Roadhouse is Christiansen's competitor at Jones Riverside.)

And he has video of Martinson claiming that fuel-flow fees -- about $774,000 -- weren't important because they were "only" 3% of TAIT's total revenues for 2004. And this guy is touted as an accountant?

Three Republicans have already declared their intentions to seek office: Councilor Chris Medlock, Mayor Bill LaFortune, and former Republican Party Vice Chairman and District 11 State Senate nominee Brigitte Harper. Councilor Bill Christiansen is widely expected to run, as long as his Benjamin'n'Burdge stablemates on the Council (Randy Sullivan and Bill Martinson) can fend off an audit comparing the actual records of fuel purchased and sold at his Jones Riverside Airport business to the fuel flow fees paid to the airport authority.

Despite the widespread disappointment in Bill LaFortune's performance as mayor -- less than 40% support for reelection in his own party according to the latest SoonerPoll.com survey -- no Tulsa Democrat has seized the opportunity to challenge a vulnerable incumbent. That says a lot about the weakness of the Democrat bench in Tulsa. It may also indicate that the Democrats who would have a shot at winning are too dependent on the same oligarchy that seems content with keeping LaFortune in place.

The name of Don McCorkell, former state rep, has been floated as a great Democrat hope. McCorkell is an attorney, but if the online court records are accurate, he doesn't seem to have practiced in about 15 years.

What has McCorkell been up to? In 1996, he finished second to humorist Jim Boren in the Democrat primary to face Jim Inhofe's first Senate reelection bid. In 1997, he was a lobbyist for CFS. He was an early investor and member of the Board of Directors of Great Plains Airlines, buying 10,000 common shares for $10 in December 1998, another 95,000 shares for $95 in October 1999, and 790,478 shares for $790 in May 2000, for a total of 915,478 common shares, about a sixth of the total. On July 1, 2000, he became one of the first four preferred shareholders in Great Plains, purchasing 11,676 preferred shares for $35,028, coincidentally the same number of shares and the same date as Steven Berlin and Great Plains Chairman David A. Johnson. (Steve Turnbo was the fourth of the first four. Berlin and Johnson also each bought 790,478 common shares in May 2000.) He is listed as a 1999-2000 registered lobbyist for the Tulsa Industrial Authority, which is mixed up in the mortgaging of Air Force Plant No. 3 for Great Plains financing. The listing indicated he terminated his lobbyist registration in that period.

Because of his service on the Great Plains Airlines Board of Directors, he and fellow board members have been personally sued by William Stricker, from whom Great Plains bought Ozark Air and its aircraft in March 2001.

It's been rumored that McCorkell is one of those who received in payments for services rendered to Great Plains more than he invested in Great Plains, but we'll have to wait until the records are released until we can know for sure.

Lately he seems to have been interested in multi-level marketing, which seems to be a good fit for anyone involved in the Great Plains deals. Anyone able to convince an entire state legislature to part with $30 million for a risky airline venture can probably talk people into being MLM downlines. He was or is president of something called Casafina International LLC, which was launched in October 2003. Here's the plan for CasaFina associates, and here's his letter to prospective vendors. Here's a bit of pre-launch hype.

Rodger Randle won his 1988 race for Mayor by holding meet-the-candidate coffees in living rooms all over town. If McCorkell runs, will he be the first candidate to use in-home "business opportunity presentations" as a campaign technique?

At least one group of Democrats seems despondent over the lack of someone credible to carry the Democrat banner next spring.

Lifeboat scenario

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Tom Ascol, at Founders Ministries Blog, writes from the southwest coast of Florida about a dilemma which would break the heart of any booklover: A hurricane is coming; which books do I save?

Where'd I go?

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Blogging has suffered as I've been busy with my job and, at home, sanding floors and painting walls. I will be on in the morning at 6:10 on 1170 KFAQ with Michael DelGiorno and Gwen Freeman, talking about the proposal to restructure the Council with three at-large councilors and Tulsa County's history of sole source contracts, which was the subject of my column in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly.

My colleagues at TulsaBloggers.net have been keeping up with issues around town, and fellow Okie bloggers from down the turnpike -- Charles, Dwayne, Jan, Dan and Angi, and Mike of Okiedoke -- always have something worth reading.

Dwayne's got some great sign photos from OKC, and Route 66 in Tulsa, and Signs of Tulsa has some new entries, too.

If that isn't enough, there's a big ol' blogroll on the right side of the page for you to explore. Have at it!

Getting caught up on local news:

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruled against Homeowners for Fair Zoning in their suit against the City of Tulsa and F & M Bank. (Here is the OSCN case file. The decision itself doesn't appear to be on the web, but you can view it as a 500KB PDF file here. The PDF appears to have been prepared by the Court of Appeals using a scanner. Someone should let them know that you can create a more useful and compact PDF file if you do it directly from Microsoft Word.) Analysis as I have time later.

Bleg: Carpet hauling

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If someone in the Tulsa area with a pickup wants to make a few bucks, we have a carpet that needs hauling off.

We're pulling the carpet out of the kids' rooms. We donated the carpet and pad from one room to Habitat for Humanity's ReSTORE. It was in pretty good shape -- no pets or smokers in our house -- and we'd planned to do the same with the carpet from the second, bigger room, but we don't have anything big enough to haul it in. Habitat can pick it up -- on November 12th. We called the H.O.W. Foundation. They'll do the job, for pay -- on November 1st.

If you can bring the truck, we can help you load the truck and will lead you over to the ReSTORE, just a few miles from our house, to help unload it. We'd like to get this done today before 4, if possible, otherwise we have to wait until Wednesday when the ReSTORE is open again.

The carpet is rolled and tied up, 13' 3" long, and about 18" in diameter.

Feel free to post a bid in a comment, or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com, if you want the job. If you've got an alternative suggestion for disposing of the carpet, that would be welcome, too. (Polite suggestions only, please.)

UPDATE: Someone doing tree work across the street had a big trailer and was able to take the carpet for us.

The Tulsa City Council voted tonight to set new election dates for the 2006 election season, in order to comply with new state laws designed to put enough space between primary and general elections to accommodate military absentee voters. The primary will be March 7th, general will be April 4th. These dates are closer together than the original dates, but by moving our dates to March and April, Tulsa qualifies for the same exemption that allowed Oklahoma City to keep their dates as is. Filing period will be Monday, January 9, through Wednesday, January 11.

(UPDATE: Fixed general election date, per comment from City Attorney Alan Jackere.)

Also tonight, the Council voted 4-3 to conduct fuel-flow audits to determine whether some aviation fuel vendors at Tulsa's airports have been underreporting sales to avoid paying the city all the fuel-flow fees they owe, in accordance with Section 203 of Title 1 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances. Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, and Turner voted yes, Martinson, Sullivan, and Neal voted no, Christiansen recused himself (his business sells aviation fuel at Jones Riverside Airport), and Baker was absent. Without a fifth vote, the motion failed. I have been hearing rumors about this for several years. If true, the city is being cheated out of fees that we are owed, and we have to wonder how the Tulsa Airport Authority managed not to notice for so long.

An edited version of this piece was published in the October 19, 2005, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online.

How Good An Ol' Boy Are You?
Tulsa County's aversion to competitive bidding might very well be shortchanging taxpayers
by Michael Bates

Smokey Robinson's mama told him, "You better shop around," and that's good advice, especially when a big commitment is involved. Tulsa County's Commissioners seem to avoid shopping around as much as possible, and their reluctance to put contracts up for competitive bid is one of the central issues in the controversy over the proposed toll bridge in south Tulsa County.

Tulsa County's long-range street and highway master plan shows a bridge crossing the Arkansas River from 121st and Yale in Tulsa south to the undeveloped western fringes of Bixby. Transportation planners say the bridge won't be needed for another 10 years, but a private company, Infrastructure Ventures, Inc. (IVI), has made a deal with Tulsa County to build it as a toll bridge now and give it to Tulsa County.

In return, IVI would receive 100% of tolls for the first 10 years and 85% for the next 65 years. IVI would operate and maintain the bridge, but Tulsa County would handle law enforcement, ice removal, and traffic signals. Although it's been described as a private toll bridge, IVI needs Tulsa County to use its power of eminent domain to acquire the land, and the bridge will be owned by Tulsa County.

That may sound like a good deal, but the Tulsa City Council passed a resolution expressing their opposition, and more than 5,000 citizens--including Mayor Bill LaFortune and every councilor except Tom Baker and Susan Neal--have signed a petition against the bridge deal. Last Thursday, the executive committee of the Tulsa County Republican Party took the unusual step of passing a resolution opposing the bridge deal.

Over the years, far south Tulsa voters have provided a reliable base of support for tax renewals and bond issues, but there are rumblings that they'll oppose the County's attempt to renew its '4 to Fix the County' sales tax in December because of the County/IVI bridge deal. Concern about the traffic impact of the bridge on two-lane Yale Ave. initially mobilized opposition among south Tulsa residents, who proposed realigning the bridge to connect to Riverside Drive--thus the name of the opposition website, movethatbridge.com.

What ought to concern all Tulsa County taxpayers is that the IVI bridge deal is the latest in a long series of high-dollar county contracts that were negotiated with a sole source, rather than put out for competitive bid. Here are just a few examples:

In 1997, the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (TCPFA) made a deal allowing Ralph W. Jones to build a hotel on the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, and giving him exclusive rights there for 25 years. The TCPFA board is made up of the three County Commissioners plus two appointees, Jim Orbison and Bob Parmele. Jones had been campaign manager and a major contributor for County Commissioner Bob Dick's 1994 campaign for Mayor of Tulsa. The opportunity was not put out for competitive bids, and no other proposals were considered.

In August 2000, the TCPFA entered into a three-year, $540,000 contract with Public Affairs Group LLC to lobby for state funding for the Fairgrounds. Public Affairs Group LLC was a partnership between Claudia Tarrington, Bill LaFortune, and John Nicks. The opportunity was not put out for competitive bids, and no other proposals were considered.

From 2002 through 2005, Cinnabar Service Co. was the sole source for appraisals and other services for the County's expansion of O'Brien Park. Cinnabar's owners are Bob Parmele and Bill Bacon, who, along with builder Howard Kelsey, are also the principals in IVI.

In October 2003, following the passage of Vision 2025, the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (TCIA) took steps to borrow money against future Vision 2025 sales tax revenues so that projects could be built faster than a pay-as-you-go approach would allow.

The TCIA, whose board consists of the three County Commissioners, voted to enter into negotiations with Leo Oppenheim and Co. and Wells Nelson and Associates to handle bond underwriting for the half-billion in revenue bonds that would be issued, and with the law firm of Hilborne and Weidman to serve as bond counsel and with Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison, and Lewis to serve as special contracts counsel. Fees for the entire investment team on the initial bond issue of around $250 million were estimated to be between $687,500 and $3.4 million.

Leo Oppenheim and Co. was affiliated with Bank of Oklahoma, and their lead bond advisor was John Piercey, who has been the sole source on many county bond issues over the last 20 years. County Commissioner Dick described Piercey to the Tulsa World as a "dear friend."

Orbison is Jim Orbison, mentioned above as a member of the TCPFA. Wells Nelson and Associates is affiliated with F & M Bank and Trust Co. Although school districts and local governments routinely use competitive bidding for bond underwriting contracts, advertising opportunities nationwide via publications like The Bond Buyer, Tulsa County and its related authorities rarely put bond services up for competitive bids.

The TCPFA is currently in the process of negotiating a five-year extension of their contract with Murphy Brothers for the Tulsa State Fair midway. Murphy Brothers has had the contract since 1971; it has never been competitively bid.

The proposed IVI bridge is the latest example of Tulsa County's aversion to competitive bidding. After 2 1/2 years of private discussions between individual County Commissioners and IVI principals, the Commission discussed the bridge deal for the first time at a public meeting in February 2005. On June 14, the Commission unanimously approved the contract. Two of the commissioners, Randi Miller and Wilbert Collins, have testified that they reviewed no documents other than the executed agreement prior to voting to approve the contract.

Effectively the deal provides that IVI will receive $658 million, according to an independent financial analysis, as compensation for building and operating a publicly-owned bridge over the life of the contract. The same financial analysis, conducted by George K. Baum and Co., shows that the County or the City could build the bridge itself, financing the bridge with revenue bonds. Under that scenario, the toll could be lifted after 30 years or the excess revenue could be used to fund other public infrastructure.

To cite this list of sole-source contracts is not to say that any laws were broken (although that has been alleged in the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition lawsuit against the County Commissioners), or that the people who were awarded the contracts were incapable of doing the work. But sole-source contracts rarely serve the best interests of the public. Competitive bidding opens opportunities up to all businesses, not just to those with political connections. Competitive bidding means the public gets better services, better rates, or a better return on their investment in public facilities.

Take the midway, for example. The Tulsa State Fair attracts nearly a million people each year, and there are dozens of companies in the outdoor amusements business who would be interested in reaching that market. Competitive bidding could mean more rides, a better variety of rides, better reliability, and a lower price per ride, all of which would serve the fair-going public. It could also mean a better share of the revenues for the TCPFA, money that could be used instead of sales tax funds to pay for Expo Square improvements, and that would serve every Tulsa County taxpayer.

In the past, Commissioner Bob Dick has defended sole-source contracts on two grounds. Regarding the Vision 2025 bonds, Dick told the Tulsa World that there was a "great deal of value with having a team that understands the government they are serving." On the exclusive deal for the fairgrounds motel, Dick said that because a businessman came to them with the idea, it would have been unfair to solicit bids from other businesses, "to use entrepreneurs' ideas against them." The same rationale has been used for not soliciting other proposals for a south Tulsa bridge.

If a contractor approached me with a proposal to add a room to my home, would I have a moral obligation to use that contractor? Of course not. Any reasonable person would see if there were other contractors who could provide better value. Even if Commissioner Dick feels obliged to the company who came forward with the idea, he and his fellow commissioners should feel a greater obligation to the taxpayers who elected them, who have entrusted to them hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues and public assets.

The County Commissioners are asking the voters to renew the "4 to Fix the County" sales tax in December to generate $62 million. Why should we, when the County Commissioners have blithely left 10 times that much money on the table in this controversial toll bridge deal?

Retrieved from the Internet Archive.

Two more for Lt. Gov.

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Last week Speaker of the House Todd Hiett announced that he is running for Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. This morning at 10 at the Renaissance Hotel in Tulsa, State Sen. Scott Pruitt will be announcing his run; and State Sen. Nancy Riley will announce her candidacy on Monday at noon, at the triangle in downtown Sand Springs. All three are good folks. It's amazing that no candidates have emerged from the OKC metro area yet.

The incumbent, Mary Fallin, is running for U. S. House District 5, trying to succeed Ernest Istook, whose decision to run for governor set the dominoes in motion.

Can your walls talk?

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HGTV is putting together a new season of "If Walls Could Talk". The producers contacted me because they are looking for owners of homes in Tulsa with interesting histories.

Have you renovated a historic home and made startling discoveries? If so, we want to talk with you.

For the new season of If Walls Could Talk, Home & Garden Television is looking for energetic homeowners who have dramatic stories to tell about their historic homes.

If Walls Could Talk explores the man homes across the country that have intriguing pasts, and profiles passionate homeowners who make surprising historical discoveries while researching and restoring their homes.

If you want to participate, send an e-mail as soon as possible to Jaime Levi of High Noon Entertainment at jlevi@highnoonentertainment.com with the following info: Year and style of home; historic discoveries found in the home and on the property (artifacts, architectural features, etc.); brief history of the home; names and ages of people living in the home; and contact info -- name, daytime phone number and/or e-mail address.

Better shop around

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The new Urban Tulsa Weekly is out. My column this week is about the proclivity of Tulsa County Commissioners (as commissioners, and as board members of various trusts) to grant sole-source contracts, a practice which doesn't serve the best interests of Tulsa County's taxpayers. The IVI bridge is just the latest example of the County Commissioners choosing not to shop around for the best deal.

G. W. Schulz covers the controversy over the airport noise abatement program, which happens to involve Cinnabar, a company headed by some of the same folks who head up IVI. David Schuttler was interviewed for the story -- he's chronicled the shoddy, but expensive, work done by Cinnabar's subcontractors on his home.

If you have ideas you'd like to see me cover in future columns, please post them here as a comment, or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. Thanks.

Joe Kelley is a quick learner:

I have an interesting challenge on my radio show. My interview segments vary in time from 90-seconds to about 5 minutes. Therefore, I have the responsibility of pulling answers out of my guests as quickly and efficiently as possible, lest I run out of time. I avoid niceties and small talk and get right to the heart of my questions. Yet, some guests, particularly politicians, understand that with my show and other LIVE radio and TV shows (like Meet the Press, et al) if they talk with long enough rhetoric, they can avoid actually answering the question at hand. In essence, they filibuster me; or, in sports terminology, they run out the clock.

What inspired this epiphany? Joe interviewed Mayor Bill LaFortune about the movement of Vision 2025 funding from the convention center refurbishment to the construction of the arena. Joe is very diplomatic about it all, but he's not going to let anyone off the hook.

Now, I don’t want to accuse the good Mayor of filibustering me, but I can tell you that he provided far more extraneous information and far less relevant information then I needed and my listeners deserved.

I will implement a new policy on my show henceforth: when the clock runs out without the requisite answers, I will kindly ask that the guest hold on and will record the rest of the interview with them during the commercial break for later playback. Let’s just call it "overtime."

Joe goes on to mention the impact of the hurricanes on the cost of a minor construction job at his house and wonders about the impact on the cost of the arena.

It's no wonder the Mayor would try to run out the clock. He and he alone had the final say on the choice of the arena location (which affected the cost of land acquisition and utility relocation), the choice of architect (and by choosing a starchitect, he pretty much guaranteed a very expensive arena), and the allocation of the $183 million between the arena and the convention center. The county had no role in any of those decisions, and neither did the City Council.

Shouldn't we figure out how much this arena is going to cost and go back to Tulsa's voters and ask, "Do you still want an arena at this price?" before we sink any more money into this pit.

Nice of him to pitch in

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An exclusive, positively retouched photograph:

LaFortune hauls cash

Of course, this photo is utter fiction. If it were real, you'd see him hauling the cash in the other direction.

Ron W. at Route 66 News has posted the first in a series on the Vision 2025 Route 66 project. He points out that the $15 million in Vision 2025 for Route 66 dwarfs the federal $10 million fund.

He got a copy of the "Vision 2025 Route 66 Enhancements and Promotion Master Plan of Development," which included a marketing survey to find out what would make Route 66 in Tulsa County a draw for tourists:

One thing that stuck out in the survey results is that a “generation chasm” may hamper future interest in Route 66. Anyone born after the final baby-boom year of 1964 "sees this highway as an old, worn-out piece of technology," the report said. So Littlefield and Vision 2025 figured they had a tough job on their hands — make Tulsa’s Mother Road appeal not only to more receptive folks like baby boomers and hardcore Route 66ers, but also spark interest to the more skeptical, young, tech-savvy travelers.

Most of the guidelines he quoted from the plan make sense, but this one worried me: "Make it hip — in the era of iPods and blogs, Route 66 desperately needs a cool factor."

The impression I get is that the folks who prepared this report don't understand the idea of a niche attraction. Route 66 is never likely to be a mass appeal attraction. The way to approach it is to make it a high-quality, must-see attraction for enthusiasts, but make it accessible to interested outsiders. If you take the other approach -- dumb it down for people who don't know and don't care about 66 -- you won't create anything interesting enough to make it worth the enthusiasts' while to stay the night and spend money.

Here's another important point. We shouldn't trying to market Route 66 as a whole, but the unique roadside features of Tulsa County's stretch of road. Route 66 is over 2,000 miles long, with a lot of variety along the way. What can we do to highlight the unique landmarks on our stretch of road?

Ron W. promises more installments to come.

UPDATE: Part 2 is online.

David Sucher at City Comforts, the blog, reminds us that there is a better alternative to eminent domain for dealing with blight -- nuisance abatement. If a property is blighted in the literal sense of the word, require the owner to clean it up, or clean it up for him and send him the bill.

We already do this to some extent -- the city will mow the grass on an untended property then bill the owner, for example. This alternative wouldn't satisfy some public officials, because the aim of some urban renewal is not to clean up blight, but to get ownership out of the hands of one group of owners into the hands of another, and "blight" is defined broadly enough to make this possible.

In the previous entry, Sucher calls attention to a new meaning for the word "persuade":

Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy has said that eminent domain is an important tool. The city used the threat of eminent domain to persuade Pittsburgh Wool Co. to make way for an expansion of H.J. Heinz Co. facilities, which were later purchased by Del Monte Food Co.

The city was persuasive in the same way that a man with a gun at your head is persuasive.

No confidence in LaFortune

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A poll of 500 likely Republican voters taken by SoonerPoll.com, commissioned by KOTV and the Tulsa World, shows Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune has the support of less than 40% of likely voters in his own party. There were as many undecided as supporters of LaFortune, and 37.1% of likely voters in his own party don't approve of his performance.

These are startlingly bad numbers for an incumbent Republican, and they point to either a primary defeat for LaFortune or a loss in the general election. GOP voters are notoriously loyal to their elected officials, and having less than 60% support in your own party would be a danger sign; less than 40% is a catastrophe. I can't think of a Republican incumbent at any level who survived to reelection with less than 40% party support four months before an election. Even George H. W. Bush's numbers were better than this.

Here's the KOTV story on the poll. KOTV and the Whirled have conflicting reports of Chris Medlock's approve/disapprove numbers -- the Whirled has it at 38.6% approve, 34.5% disapprove; KOTV reverses the numbers. Either way, Medlock has a tall hill to climb. It's interesting that he has about the same approval numbers as Bill Christiansen and Randi Miller, and much higher disapproval numbers, but has two to three times the support for Mayor. That suggests that Medlock's support base is pretty solid.

More analysis later.

I thought there was something funny about the numbers being bandied about for the cost of building the new downtown sports arena and upgrading the convention center. The ballot resolution for Proposition 3 of Vision 2025 (PDF) included this item:

Tulsa Regional Convention/Events Center, including Convention Center modernization, land, design, and Events Center construction -- $183,000,000.

It wasn't split out between the arena and the convention center in the ballot resolution, but contemporaneous news coverage consistently cites $125 million as the budget for the arena and $58 million for the convention center upgrade. For example, here's Julie DelCour in the August 3, 2003, Tulsa Whirled:

A 1-cent sales tax proposal before voters Sept. 9 includes construction of a $125 million, 18,000-seat events center and a $58 million modernization of the Tulsa Convention Center.

In June 2004 I cited the $125 million number for the arena to compare it to the costs of the arenas to be visited by the city's oversight committee.

Medlock quotes the same numbers -- $125 million for the arena, $58 million for the convention center -- from an August 17, 2003, news story in the Whirled.

The numbers are different now. From Friday's Whirled:

In 2003, voters approved $183 million to construct the arena and make improvements to the convention center. Cost estimates were $141 million for an 18,000-seat arena and $42 million to add at least 10,000 square feet of space and a ballroom to the convention center.

That's $16 million that had been allocated to the convention center toward modernization and a new ballroom. That's 27% of the original budget for the convention center, shifted to pay for our iconic arena. Who made the decision to shift that money? Who gave approval? Now Mayor Bill LaFortune is looking for another $3 million to pay for extra wind resistance for the arena's unnecessary big glass wall, and it looks like that will come out of the convention center as well.

For years we've been told that Tulsa needs to modernize and expand its convention facilities in order to be able to attract more lucrative events and bring outside dollars to Tulsa. Now it appears the Mayor's committee is going to shortchange the facility. A new grand entrance, designed to line up with 5th Street, is going to be put on the back burner. There's talk that the Mayor will try to sneak convention center improvements into the next Third Penny, rather than pay for them with Vision 2025 money as promised. And that means less money for critical capital improvement needs.

A longtime convention center observer told me that the worst-case scenario is that they don't have the money to convert the old arena into something else. Then the old arena -- which is the right size for most events that might be held in the new arena -- would take business from the new arena, but the city would still have pay to operate both. Think about it. Imagine that you run the arena football team, which averages about 5,500 fans a game. Would you rather pay less to hold the game in a smaller facility where the crowd fills more than three-fourths of the seats, or pay more to hold the game in a big facility where the crowd fills a third of the seats?

Is it too late to cut our losses with this arena design? Can we pay Pelli, send him away, and bring in someone who will give us a classy, art-deco-inspired facility, built with sturdier and less-expensive materials, a facility with some street-level retail, so there's some activity when there isn't an event underway? And will someone please tell us who shifted the $16 million?

The Tulsa Beacon has more (link good for one week only).

Reason Las Vegas!

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Reason knows how to throw an urban policy conference.

The Dynamic Cities Conference is November 4-6 at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and it will feature convention center expert Heywood Sanders, urban critic Joel Kotkin, Logan Darrow Clements, who's behind the plan to protest Kelo v. New London by condemning Justice Souter's home and turning it into the Lost Liberty Hotel, columnist Christopher Hitchens, X Prize winner Burt Rutan, and a dozen or so editors, writers, and scholars from the Reason Foundation and Reason, the magazine. Comedian Drew Carey will speak at the opening reception.

The Reason Foundation is a libertarian think-tank, and the conference program begins with the question, "How do policies based on freedom and choice make a city great?" Here are some of the topics on the agenda:

  • Misguided Megaprojects: Drawing lessons from downtown revitalization efforts, sports stadiums, and convention centers
  • Command and Control. What happens when urban planners and meddlers ignore what people want and stifle innovation?
  • Trains, Buses, and Automobiles: Are governments offering transit to accommodate people’s choices or control them?
  • The City: The evolution of cities and meaning of urban life
  • The Evolution and Economics of Gaming in Las Vegas…and throughout America
  • Kelo Backlash: Public and political reaction to a devastating Supreme Court decision on property rights
  • What can Las Vegas teach liberals and conservatives who fear and loathe it?
  • Prague’s Dazzling Diversity: How Europe’s urban jewel is threatened most by its “protectors.”
  • Rescuing Failed Urban Schools

It looks like it will be a terrific conference, full of ideas that need to make their way back to Tulsa. But, of course, that can only happen if someone goes out there from Tulsa to cover it. Between registration, hotel, and airfare, it would cost about $1,000 to go.

On a completely unrelated note, I just realized that when I reorganized my template a couple of weeks ago, I neglected to include the PayPal donation button, which looks like this:



It's up again as one of two ways -- advertising through BlogAds is another -- to support hosting and research expenses for this site.

If you're looking for an excuse to keep your kid off an amusement park ride:

RideAccidents.com is the world's single most comprehensive, detailed, updated, accurate, and complete source of amusement ride accident reports and related news. The site includes a record of fatal amusement ride accidents in the United States since 1972, and, for the past six years, has recorded all types of accidents, including many from outside the United States. The number of injuries and fatalities recorded at this site does not reflect the total number of injuries and deaths that have occurred as a result of amusement ride accidents.

There's a special section on carnival workers and background checks.

Speaking of great food in out of the way places, roadfood.com's Michael Stern was in Tulsa earlier this week and stopped in at the White River Fish Market at 1708 N. Sheridan in Tulsa. Here's his review.

The gumbo there is a favorite of ours. My wife and I first had it at the store's booth at the Tulsa State Fair years ago. It was especially chilly and damp that day, their booth was outside on the midway then, and a big cup of gumbo really warmed us up. The restaurant is just a mile west and a few blocks south of the Tulsa International Airport terminal, so it's a convenient place for a good meal going to or from the airport. (Take Virgin St. from the airport to Sheridan, and keep an eye out for J. Paul Getty's little house on the south side of the street as you get close to Sheridan.)

White River is the 12th Oklahoma restaurant reviewed by the Sterns, and the first one in Tulsa.

Oh, and fish from White River were used on "Wheel of Fish," one of the innovative local programs in Weird Al's movie "UHF".

More new Tulsa bloggers

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First up is a blog that isn't new, but is new to me. Eddie Huff, whom I know from the Executive Committee of the Tulsa County Republican Party, has a blog of political commentary called New Black Thought, which has been up and running for about a year. His latest entry takes aim at critics of President Bush's nomination of Harriett Miers to the U. S. Supreme Court. Eddie is also part of a group blog called the New Underground Railroad, with the slogan, "Leading Blacks to freedom from the bondage of psychological slavery."

Brian C. Biggs, son of Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs, has a shiny new WordPress blog.

Ramblings from a Born and Bred Okie is another newly-minted blog. Blogger Michelle had some nice things to say about this site and some thoughts on local politics.

And via Steve Roemerman, I've learned about a two-day old blog devoted to capturing Tulsa's distinctive signage -- Signs of Tulsa. If you love classic neon signs (calling Dwayne!) you'll find this site exciting.

Visit these bloggers, and give them some encouragement.

Save the El Vado!

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Ron at Route 66 News has been covering the proposed rezoning and demolition of the El Vado Motel in Albuquerque, built in 1937. Albuquerque planning staff are recommending against the rezoning and demolition, which is a hopeful sign, but Route 66 aficionados are urged to send comments to Albuquerque's planning commission.

Ron also links to an Albuquerque Journal column from 2003, praising old motels, outlining the history of roadside accommodations, and spotlighting the history of three classic motels in the city.

At least in Albuquerque, it appears that city officials understand that you can't promote Route 66 unless you preserve roadside businesses. People drive old 66 for the chance to see and stop at, maybe even stay at, motels and cafes and service stations from the heyday of the highway. Tear them down in your city, and your city becomes less compelling as a place for 66 fans to spend time.

Here in Tulsa, I am hearing that most of the Vision 2025 Route 66 money may go to a new museum/roadhouse at 12th and Riverside, rather than to promote the preservation of authentic Route 66 landmarks, like the Rose Bowl, or the tourist courts way out on 11th Street, or classic neon signs. As others have already suggested (I believe Mad Okie did, for one), put the city's Route 66 museum in the Rose Bowl.

My latest Urban Tulsa Weekly column is up -- Far From the Madding Crowd. It's about a walk downtown along the reopened Main Mall, through the Great Wall of Williams, by the first downtown pocket park, and into the so-called East Village.

Elsewhere in this week's UTW, G. W. Schulz has a story about Tulsa convention center economics, a follow-up to his story from March.

Pick up a copy at fine establishments all over Tulsa.

UPDATE: Jamie Pierson, my favorite blue-haired Brookside barista, has a couple of thoughts on downtown Tulsa history prompted by the article, which she's posted on her new blog. One of the thoughts has to do with her grandfather, Jimmy Saied, who opened his music store downtown in the '40s, then moved to 33rd and Yale in the '60s.

Get your kicks

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Ron W., a frequent commenter here, has now started his own blog: Route 66 News, which he describes as a "clearinghouse of news and events pertaining to historic Route 66, the Mother Road." He's been up less than a week, but already has a lot of great content, including a list of links to 239 Route 66 attractions and websites.

There's an important breaking news item: Western Swing band Cow Bop will be performing at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Thursday at 7.

Dining out sans attitude

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Some sound advice from Jessica, who is fed up with restaurants that are so successful they no longer care about their customers:

I urge you all to help support those accomodating restaurants that may not have the most accomodating locations. Step outside of the neighborhoods you generally frequent. There are some gems out there that need the financial support way more than these other places. Do your research on Chowhound, like I do on a daily basis. You will be rewarded with a great meal, and probably at a lower cost. Plus, you can be a tourist in your own town.

A lot of Tulsa diners are stuck in the 71st Street rut, but there are plenty of great locally-owned places that can give you a great meal and great service for a reasonable price. Many of them are off the beaten path because they're new and the owners were looking for the least expensive storefront they could find as a place to get started. Keep an eye peeled for them, and givem them a try.

Tolerance?

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Over at Alarming News, guest blogger Candace (another brilliant Republican blogger I had the privilege of meeting during last year's Republican National Convention) tells a story of a party, and how the guests respond when they learn that one among them is Different. Be sure to read the whole thing, and the comments, too.

Also on Alarming News, Karol has a great post on how Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's support for his colleague, Republican but social liberal Arlen Specter, is costing him support from conservatives as he faces reelection next year: "But the Santorum lesson is one that should be heeded by conservatives abandoning their principles to make nice with the party. Yes, conservatives will most often vote Republican but all it takes is a pro-life Democrat and a Republican seen as lacking a backbone, and the conservative vote can not be assured."

Starting from Philippians 3:13-14, Eric Siegmund writes, "God's grace is often poured out on us via the ability to forget." For me, wince-inducing memories of failures and embarrassments are more vivid than memories of successes and triumphs, so this is a form of grace I can use. As a formerly teetotaling Baptist (now a Reformed Baptist attending a Presbyterian church who can still count the number of alcoholic beverages I have in a given year on my fingers), I note this with some hesitation: God sometimes provides this grace in liquid form, although I have not personally used that method to avail myself of the grace of forgetfulness.

You'll find many more thoughtful and funny entries over at Eric Siegmund's Fire Ant Gazette.

Our Tulsa World has video excerpts of key moments from last Thursday's Tulsa City Council debate on allocating money to acquire Great Plains Airlines bank records, with handy descriptions. (Here are more excerpts.)

There's also a preview of Tuesday's Council Committee meetings. Public Works Committee meets at 8 and will deal with the airport noise abatement program. At 10, there's an item on allowing public discussion of the information gathered by the Council's airport investigation, and Baker wants to talk about his proposal to avoid accountability for making a controversial decision set up a charter review commission.

Sequelitis

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You've probably noticed the new LaFortune for Mayor logo and slogan -- "LaFortune continued." Over the transom comes the first ad test using the new slogan:

lafortune_part_deux.gif

Effective? What do you think?

Who's picking up the Bill?

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It was the end of today's Republican barbecue, and I walked down the hill toward the pond to round up my kids and get them into the car. As I did, I noticed Mayor Bill LaFortune and his wife Kathy about to get into a big, beautiful, new silver SUV, a Dodge Durango. (Yeah, it's got a hemi.) What caught my eye was the Crown Bristow dealer's tag still on the tail of the vehicle -- no permanent tag yet.

The managing partner of Crown Bristow is Henry Primeaux, who used to own Crown Auto World, a major collection of dealerships near 46th and Sheridan in Tulsa. ("Sam's is still next door." Remember?) Primeaux also is co-operator of the Tulsa Talons Arena Football 2 team. Primeaux is on Bill LaFortune's re-election campaign committee.

Several possibilities came to mind. The LaFortunes may have bought or leased the Durango, or the campaign may be leasing it, but if so, why not buy or lease it from a dealer based in the City of Tulsa instead of 40 miles away? Or, Primeaux may have provided the vehicle as a loaner for the campaign or for the Mayor's personal use -- either way, there are ethics reporting requirements that would need to be met.

That the LaFortunes would buy such an expensive new vehicle seems doubtful, given this story: Sunday's picnic featured an auction, and several of the items auctioned were lunches with an elected official, with the elected official paying. Organizers tried to get both declared Republican mayoral candidates to participate. Councilor Chris Medlock agreed to treat the winning bidder to a meal. Mayor LaFortune insisted that the auction organizers find a restaurant that would feed him and the winning bidder for free. The organizers tried but couldn't find a place willing to "comp" the Mayor, so they dropped both mayoral candidates from the list of lunches to bid on.

UPDATE Monday 10/10/2005: The Crown Bristow Durango was spotted and photographed in the Mayor's parking space at City Hall.

UPDATE Thursday 10/13/2005: I was imprecise in my use of the phrase "dealer's tag": I was trying to describe the temporary, cardboard tag featuring the dealer's logo, mounted in the space where a permanent license plate would go, not a permanent plate with the "DEALER" designation on it, which is for vehicles retained by a dealership for its own use. "Temporary tag" would have been a better choice of words. Also, it was not my intention to suggest any wrongdoing or impropriety on the part of Henry Primeaux or his business. I've been told that the SUV was sold to Bill LaFortune's father at a normal market price. If an in-kind contribution had been made to the campaign, the burden would be on the campaign, not the donor, to make the necessary ethics disclosures.

Today's Whirled featured a "Readers' Forum" guest opinion by John Brock. While normal readers' letters are left to languish for three weeks before being published, this item was rushed to the head of the line. Brock defends World Publishing Co.'s investment in Great Plains Airlines as a gift, with no expectation of return.

Brock also raises an issue that, as far as I can remember, hasn't been aired in the pages of the Whirled, although it has been the subject of a lot of buzz around town: Repayment of the loan from Great Plains Airlines to the Bank of Oklahoma, which was guaranteed by the Tulsa Industrial Authority, using city-owned Air Force Plant No. 3 as collateral. Mr. Brock wants the City of Tulsa to repay the loan, evidently out of the general fund.

The city of Tulsa's contribution was the guarantee of a loan by Bank of Oklahoma. It's now time to make good on that guarantee and pay off the loan. The city put up property at the airport as collateral. BOK made that loan based on its concern for our city and its faith in the integrity and honor of the City Council, not because of the collateral.

A minority of the city councilors does not want to honor that commitment. The excuse is that BOK knew or should have known that the commitment of the City Council could not be trusted, and therefore BOK doesn't deserve to be paid.

This is very strange. How does Mr. Brock know all this? It hasn't been the subject of any public Council meeting of which I'm aware. Was it discussed in a Council executive session, and has Mr. Brock been made privy to what should have been a secret discussion? Have there been private meetings between councilors and bank officials to which Mr. Brock has been tipped off?

It's strange, too, that Brock would call on the City to repay the loan right away, when the owners of the airline -- World Publishing Company, Steve Turnbo, Don McCorkell, Margaret Erling Frette, among many others -- have the collective wherewithal to repay $7 million. Why would BOk, ordinarily a good corporate citizen, demand that the city empty more pools, close more rec centers, take more cops off the street, so that it can get it's money back right now, when it could instead go after the deep-pocketed owners of Great Plains Airlines who stood to profit if the airline had been a success?

If all these investments had been intended as a gift, as Brock alleges, why would these people accept equity? Brock says, "World Publishing Co. invested with no real expectation of profit." That would mean that they never expected the airline to succeed in its mission to provide a needed service. If the airline had succeeded in its mission -- provide non-stop air service from Tulsa to the coast so that Tulsa is more attractive to business -- then new businesses needing that direct air service would have sprung up in Tulsa, and those businesses would have required more direct air service, filling the planes and making the airline profitable.

If WPC and all these lobbyists, PR flacks, and other eminentoes believed that such an airline could never make a profit, then why did they work so hard to convince state and city officials that this airline would bootstrap Tulsa's economy and thus was worthy of public subsidy? There was nothing in the plan for ongoing public subsidy of operations cost, was there? Eventually the airline was supposed to be able to make a go of it on its own.

One more question about repayment of the loan: The matter is in bankruptcy court, and I presume BOk is one among many creditors. Why should they get to go to the head of the line for repayment? Just because they have the political clout to bully the City Council into repaying them? Thursday night, the Cockroach Caucus councilors were uniformly saying not to spend money to acquire Great Plains bank records, because we should wait for the Bankruptcy Court to take care of it for us. Why not wait until the Bankruptcy Court says it's BOk's turn to get its money back? Why not see how much the Bankruptcy Court can recover from sales of assets? Were there preferential transfers made prior to Great Plains declaring bankruptcy? If money from preferential transfers is recovered by the Bankruptcy Court, perhaps it can help repay the BOk loan.

In response to a speaker at Thursday night's Council meeting, who claimed that no one made any money off of Great Plains Airlines, Councilor Jack Henderson pointed out that all that money went somewhere.

One more thing that doesn't add up: Why is Brock concerned about "a minority of the city councilors"? If they are only a minority, Brock will get his way and BOk will get their money very soon. What are he and the Whirled worried about?

If you need a reason to care about Great Plains Airlines, and getting to the bottom of where the money went and making the shareholder agreement public, here it is: You are either going to have to pay more in taxes or make do with less service from the City of Tulsa in order to pay back this loan, unless those who stood to profit take their lumps and pay the debts their company incurred, rather than doing the equivalent of walking out on a restaurant check.

Dan Paden has his own excellent take on Brock's op-ed.

Mister Snitch asks, "What happens when liberalized eminent domain laws meet corrupt politicians?" And he has the answer, by way of recent example.

Raise New Orleans?

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On my list to read later: An article from American Heritage's Winter 1990 issue about the raising and rebuilding of Galveston following the 1900 hurricane that destroyed the town.

Hat tip to David Sucher of City Comforts Blog, who has an entry about using structural fill to raise part of the sub-sea-level portions of New Orleans. There are a lot of interesting comments on that entry, including the idea of making New Orleans an urban Venice, dealing with the continued setting of the city, and learning from other raised cities, like Seattle.

Lazy Tulsa update

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I've got to be up early this morning, so I'm going to be lazy and point you to some good blogging elsewhere. I'm going to be so lazy, I'm going to link to home pages, not individual entries:

MeeCiteeWurkor -- some great blogging about the upcoming Mayor's race.

Chris Medlock's MedBlogged -- speculation about whom the Democrats will run for Mayor and responses to the latest Whirled spin.

Our Tulsa World is covering the airport investigation -- including a look back at an earlier Council debate on the issue -- and the IVI toll bridge.

Steve Roemerman is cooking chili and swooning over a frequent Council speaker.

Bobby of Tulsa Topics has some envy-provoking photos of snorkeling in Cozumel.

Red Bug of Tulsa Chiggers is writing about LaFortune's reelection bid, the OU suicide bomber, and how the education lottery lost the word "education".

Visit the Tulsa Bloggers page to see the latest contributions by bloggers who follow Tulsa news.

If you like good barbecue, you can try some of the best I've ever had and help a good cause this afternoon.

It's a fundraiser for the Tulsa County Republican Party at Brush Creek Farm, 10900 S. Louisville Ave., in Tulsa. The event is from 2 pm to 6 pm. The cost is $25 per family, or $10 per adult, $5 per child, six and under free.

The food alone -- Eagleton Bros. Barbecue -- will be worth the price of admission. John Eagleton, who is running for City Council District 7, is an excellent barbecue chef. I'll be one of several honorary Eagleton Bros. for the day, assisting John at the smoker.

Besides great food, you'll have the chance to meet many Republican elected officials and lots of rank-and-file Republicans who share a passion for politics.

Come join us, and if you see me, be sure to come up and introduce yourself.

Bid the midway

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Last night my son and I went to the Tulsa State Fair. We spent some time in the Just for Kids attraction in the old Youth Building: He worked with the hands-on science exhibits, he built with wood planks, and we watched a fun science demonstration.

We wandered along the midway looking at the rides, my son trying to figure out how to allocate his ride tickets. He decided he'd rather spend them in Bell's Amusement Park, there on the fairgrounds, since he knew which rides he liked the most. (For the record: Super Round-Up, Pharaoh's Fury, the Scrambler.) I was happy for the ticket revenue to go to Bell's instead of Murphy Bros., the company that's had a sole-source contract for the midway since 1971.

According to Susan Hylton's report in the Tulsa Whirled, Expo Square chief Denny Tuttle is in the process of negotiating a five-year extension with Murphy Bros. on their midway contract, which has never been competitively bid. If our County Commissioners were really looking out for the best interests of taxpayers and fairgoers,
they'd go through a competitive bidding process. Once again this year, many Murphy Bros. rides weren't ready to run at the beginning of the fair because of equipment problems or failure to pass inspection. Last night -- a week into the fair -- we noticed there weren't as many rides as in previous years, and several Murphy Bros. rides were out of order.

A competitive bidding process gives us a chance at a midway vendor with a better safety and reliability record. It could also get us better ride rates. Most rides for big kids and grownups cost $4 or $5 each.

Food vendors and hawkers of miraculous kitchen gadgets are all subject to competition at the fair, but the midway contract grants one vendor a monopoly on a big chunk of real estate in the heart of the fairgrounds. There at least ought to be competition when the midway contract is granted.

The citizens of Tulsa County ought to wonder why so much county business -- who handles a half-billion in revenue bonds, who gets to build a hotel on the fairgrounds, who gets to build a toll bridge across the Arkansas River, who handles land acquisition -- is just given out to favored vendors.

Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune announced today that he is running for re-election. The announcement occurred on the shop floor at McElroy Manufacturing, and the press release only went out early this morning. I should have pictures and video for you later today.

Who was there? Only one other elected official, Sheriff Stanley Glanz. Nearly every member of the Mayor's staff. A small group from the Firefighters Union, who are supporting LaFortune's reelection. A few business folks: Henry Primeaux, Jono Helmerich, and Chip McElroy, head of McElroy Manufacturing. Bill's uncle, former mayor Robert LaFortune. Employees, wearing new McElroy T-shirts, were gathered around the periphery of the area where the announcement took place.

Who wasn't there? City councilors, state legislators, county commissioners, the Mayor's wife and children.

The Mayor's speech consisted of a series of statements beginning with the phrase, "I'm excited." He was interrupted by applause once, when mentioning that Sheriff Glanz was back in control of the Tulsa County jail. Only about half of the McElroy employees applauded when everyone else did.

There was a barbecue buffet set up for employees and guests.

If it hadn't been for the people who were paid to be there, I don't think there would have been much of a turnout.

The Tulsa City Council will vote tonight at their regular 6 p.m. meeting on whether to authorize the funding to copy Great Plains Airlines bank records as part of the investigation into that airline. Great Plains says the city can have them, but only if they pay for the cost of making the copies. The Tulsa Whirled and its allies want the investigation to stop. If you think it's important to know where tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies went, make plans to be present and tell the Council what you think.

More at HFFZ.org.

Over 20 tabs open in Mozilla, and I'm feeling guilty about not sharing all this bloggy goodness with you. No commentary, just links to stuff worth reading. Here goes:

Eric Siegmund takes apart a silly National Newspaper Week ad which calls letters to the editor "the original Web Blog". Saving me the trouble of commenting, Charles G. Hill has exactly what I would have written -- something I actually did write in a similar context last year -- and compares the count of "letters to the editor" (aka comments) published on Dustbury to those published by the Daily Oklahoman. (By the way, the Whirled's letter lag is now closer to three weeks. Last Sunday there was an op-ed by an editorial writer in response to letters in that same edition, letters which were written prior to the gas tax vote.)

Mister Snitch! links to Jay Rosen, who says that the New York Times has abdicated its place as the Paper of Record. Snitch disagrees with Rosen's conclusion that the Washington Post has taken its place and has an interesting metaphor for the position that the MSM is in.

Blogging counselor/pastor Bowden McElroy has some challenging observations on what it takes to make a marriage work, along with some of his recent web finds of interest.

Lots of good stuff on JollyBlogger -- I don't even know where to begin. Are Calvinists saved? John Calvin on beauty. An intro to theonomy. An intro to postmillenialism. (Did you know that many Bible-believing Christians don't believe in the Left Behind / Scofield Bible / "Thief in the Night" concept of the end times?) And an appreciation of one small piece of M. Scott Peck's writing. And the one that really got my attention, "We don't always have to ask questions of conscience," which deals with the issue of how a Christian should spend money and time and calls to mind the notion of "terminal thinking" and "relational thinking" that was drilled into me in Campus Crusade.

(I said no commentary, didn't I? Sorry.)

If you're testing to see how your site deals with different user agents or copes with referral spam, wannaBrowser is a very cool tool.

Some other useful links on referrer spam and using Apache's .htaccess file to deal with it: fighting referrer spam by restricting IP addresses, a comprehensive guide to .htaccess, how referrer spam works and how to fight back, a sample .htaccess file, and why using .htaccess to fight referrer spam is futile.

Ronnie Barker, a British comedian who specialized in sketch comedy and was star of a couple of classic sitcoms, has died. The BBC has a collection of Ronnie Barker's best lines, including these fake news items:

The man who invented the zip fastener was today honoured with a lifetime peerage. He will now be known as the Lord of the Flies.

The toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.

(That last one reminds me of a certain award-winning headline.)

And that's goodnight from him me.

The Technorati tags for this entry are going to be a mighty strange collection indeed.

Life of Reilly

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Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I started reading John Kennedy Toole's hilarious novel A Confederacy of Dunces, set in New Orleans in the early '60s. (It's on the bookshelf at Double Shot Coffee.) The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an unforgettable character, a medievalist out of place in modernity who records his blasts against his times in crayon on Big Chief tablets, and as I read the novel I felt sure that if the book were set in our time, Reilly would be a blogger. (This is pretty close to how I'd imagine a Reilly blog would read.) I could imagine Reilly being evacuated from New Orleans and winding up in the planned refugee housing at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in southern Oklahoma and blogging about his encounters with this strange culture. It's even funnier to imagine Reilly, rad-trad Catholic that he is, taking refuge at Beal Heights Presbyterian Church in Lawton, and encountering its Truly Reformed blogging pastor, John Owen Butler. (His blog is called "OK Calvin" with good reason.)

Finally someone with some imagination (not to mention theology and geometry) has provided us with Ignatius J. Reilly's reaction to the disaster. Matt Evans of the Morning News has discovered a letter from Reilly to President Bush, proposing that he take over as head of FEMA:

Sir, I must reprove you now with sharpness!

You have allowed matters here to degenerate most abysmally in the watery wake of the Hurricane named Katrina. The levees are broken and our cities washed away. We have, as I once wrote in Working Boy, “gone from the vortex to the whirlpool of despair…New Orleans, a [once] comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive,” now stagnates in putrescence. The air is filled with the puling of women and children. Degenerates and drug addicts rule the day.

Worse, the statue my fellow citizens once erected on Canal Street in my honor now languishes begrimed and deliquesced from the dark floodwater onslaught!

He has some proposals for action which may be of interest. I notice he doesn't say anything about all those waterlogged buses. He had a bad experience on a bus once and would be only too glad to tell you about it. In excruciating detail.

How not to do infill

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In last week's Urban Tulsa Weekly, I wrote about the Brookside Infill Plan and how it's being used to guide zoning decisions to ensure that new development enhances and reinforces the character of that urban, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The Brookside Infill Plan is only advisory, unfortunately, but there is a consensus on the planning commission and council to abide by it when considering zoning issues in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Brookside is, thus far, unusual in having a plan that defines neighborhood compatibility in such detail. There are many commercial strips around Midtown's historic neighborhoods that are vulnerable to incompatible redevelopment. One potential threat is on the Board of Adjustment agenda for next Tuesday.

The True Value hardware store at 17th and Harvard has closed. It was an old-fashioned neighborhood hardware store. Like most of the other buildings in that neighborhood commercial district, the store's front door and display windows come right up to the sidewalk, with parking to the side. The shopping area serves Florence Park to the west and Sunrise Terrace to the east, both neighborhoods built in the '20s and '30s.

The BoA is being asked to grant a special exception to redevelop the site as a car wash. The BoA must take neighborhood compatibility into account when considering a special exception. Going from a business that has only two auto entrances interrupting the sidewalk to a business that has at least twice as many driveways and more frequent auto traffic will change the block from pedestrian-friendly to an obstacle course for pedestrians and will undermine rather than enhance the character of this neighborhood shopping area.

Tulsa doesn't have many of these pedestrian-friendly commercial districts, and we need to protect the few that remain. Ultimately, we need zoning provisions that define where these districts still exist and that set guidelines for new development. For now, we need to ask the Board of Adjustment, next Tuesday at 1:00 in the Council room at City Hall, to deny this special exception.

My latest column for Urban Tulsa Weekly is online, and in honor of National Newspaper Week, I've written about our city's monopoly daily newspaper, the Tulsa Whirled.

The column is about the investigation into Great Plains Airlines, and why the Tulsa Whirled seems so intent on halting that investigation before we know how the airline spent over $30 million in public investment. If you've been trying to understand what the Great Plains fuss is all about, this column is a good place to start, if I do say so myself.

Also in this issue, G. W. Schulz delves into the politics of distributing Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars and other federal funds to local non-profits. G. W. provides the background to the recent controversy over the city repaying grant money to the Feds. And Barry Friedman has some doubts about those estimates of the New Orleans Hornets' economic impact on Oklahoma City.

You can find Urban Tulsa Weekly at finer dining establishments and smart cafés all over Tulsa.

By the way, I've added a blog category to collect each week's announcement of my latest column and thus serve as a sort of column archive.

Fun timewasters

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Sobics School, a Korean educational company (as nearly as I can tell), offers a couple of very addictive Flash games which are similar in some respects to Super Collapse -- clicking on groups of blocks to make them disappear. Both feature very cute 3D characters that make baby noises. I spent more time than I care to admit playing Game 02, which is a bit more fun than Game 01. You'll find links to the two games here, and the menu for the "Fun" section of the website here.

Via Mister Snitch, who says Game 02 "may be the most addictive game ever."

If you prefer your Flash games in English, try Big Idea's collection.

Here's another good reason to clean out your blogroll from time to time:

Last year sometime I blogrolled a blogspot blog called The New York Minute, which was at thenyminute.blogspot.com. After a few months the blog went away completely -- 404 -- but I neglected to remove it from the blogroll. I noticed there was a "recently updated" star next to its name, and went there to find it had been restarted by someone called "Mask Man". The entries are random paragraphs out of an encyclopedia. Mask Man's blogger profile shows he has eight Blogger blogs, and each one has the same sort of content. The most recent entry on each has a comment with links to a Halloween costumes website.

What's the strategy? Find abandoned blogs that are still linked by other blogs, claim them, add enough content to avoid easy detection as a spam blog, then put the spam links in the comments, so the search engine bots will find them.

How to fight this?

If you have a blogroll or a list of links on your site, clean out the dead wood from time to time.

Regular maintenance is especially important for those who manage alliance blogrolls, where one person controls a blogroll that is displayed by each member blog. For example, there are the three on my sidebar -- Wictory Wednesdays, League of Reformed Bloggers, and Blogs for Terri. The blog I mentioned above is on the Blogs for Terri blogroll, which means it's linked from hundreds of blogs. According to Technorati, it has 334 links from 209 sites.

If you're deleting your Blogger blog for some reason, I suggest you then recreate it, with zero entries, so that no one else can claim the name for nefarious purposes. (If you are deleting your Blogger blog, you should back it up as it appears on the web, and export the entries, too. I think you can also export comments, and I believe that paying Haloscan customers can export their comment data as well.)

(UPDATED with a bit more info on 10/5/2005.)

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

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The British do obituaries better than anyone else. Far from foisting the duty off on entry-level reporters, British newspapers seem to put their best writers to the task of remembering the recently departed. Even if you've never heard of the deceased, the obituary will draw you in with vivid detail and anecdote. It's not unusual to see an obit of someone who was never particularly famous, but nevertheless lived a fascinating life. For example, today the Telegraph has obituaries of Kenneth Swan, proprietor of a cruise line that featured on-board lectures on ancient history, Steve Marcus, saxophonist with Buddy Rich's band, and American playwright August Wilson. The death of the chemist who invented Valium provides occasion for a glimpse at the societal impact of anti-anxiety drugs.

As distinctive as British obits are, I never expected to read a death notice as blunt as the Telegraph's post-mortem of American pop-psych author M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled:

Its opening sentence, "Life is difficult", introduced a tome which argued, uncontentiously and sensibly, that human experience was trying and imperfectible, and that only self-discipline, delaying gratification, acceptance that one's actions have consequences, and a determined attempt at spiritual growth could make sense of it. By contrast, Peck himself was, by his own admission, a self-deluding, gin-sodden, chain-smoking neurotic whose life was characterised by incessant infidelity and an inability to relate to his parents or children. "I'm a prophet, not a saint," he explained in an interview earlier this year....

Latterly he suffered from impotence and Parkinson's Disease and devoted himself to Christian songwriting, at which he was not very good.

He married Lily Ho in 1959; they had three children, two of whom would not talk to their father. She left him in 2003. He is survived by his second wife, Kathy, an educationalist he picked up, while still married, after a lecture at Sacramento, and by his children.

(Hat tip to Joey McKeown.)

You can find Telegraph obituaries here -- free registration required.

Joe Kelley on the IVI bridge

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Joe Kelley has posted a lengthy analysis of the IVI Bridge issue. I appreciate the time he's taken to get a grasp of the issue and to "show his work" -- not only to come to a conclusion but to tell the rest of us how he reached it.

I don't have time for a point-by-point commentary, so I'll just point you to it, and encourage you to join in the discussion over there.

Live giant squid photographed

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Wow.

While giant squid have been snagged in fishing nets, and dead or dying ones have washed ashore, expeditions have repeatedly failed to photograph a live one in its natural habitat, the inky depths of the sea.

But in an article to be published Wednesday in a leading British biological journal, two Japanese scientists, Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori, report that they have made the world's first observations of a giant squid in the wild.

Working some 600 miles south of Tokyo off the Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the Ogasawara Islands, they managed to photograph the creature with a robotic camera at a depth of 3,000 feet. During a struggle lasting more than four hours, the 26-foot-long animal took the proffered bait and eventually broke free, leaving behind an 18-foot length of tentacle.

Hat tip: Eve Tushnet.

So Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland thinks there are only five people who object to Infrastructure Ventures Inc's cozy deal with Tulsa County for a toll bridge across the Arkansas River? You have a chance to prove him wrong tonight.

If you have yet to sign South Tulsa Citizens Coalition's petition against the IVI bridge, stop by 101st and Yale between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm this evening.

Don't know why, but I kept thinking of this bridge deal when I was watching "Casino" Friday night....

Did Wilson Busby, an attorney retained by the City Council for their investigation into Great Plains Airlines, violate the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct by talking to the Tulsa Whirled about private conversations with members of the Council's investigation committee?

An attorney pointed me to Oklahoma Statutes, Title 5 (Attorneys and the State Bar), Chapter 1, Appendix 3-A, which is the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.6 (Confidentiality of Information states, in part:

A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client consents after consultation, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, and except as stated in paragraphs (b) and (c).

The exemptions involve the client expressing intention to commit a crime or a court ordering disclosure.

Then there's this statement in the comments on the rule:

The requirement of maintaining confidentiality of information relating to representation applies to government lawyers who may disagree with the policy goals that their representation is designed to advance.

If Busby's remarks to the Tulsa Whirled are indeed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, he could be reprimanded or disbarred.

Wish I could've been there. It was a big New York City blogger party Friday night, organized by Karol Sheinin of Alarming News, and there were a lot of smart, witty bloggers there that I met during last summer's Republican National Convention.

One of those smart, witty bloggers who was there is blogger and radio talk show host Kevin McCullough, and he had a conversation with fellow smart, witty blogger Scott Sala of Slant Point about how the blog world has changed since the frenzy leading up to last year's elections and what it means for the future of blogs:

I could feel Scott's pain when he said it, "It's like people are now reading the four or five big blogs and since the bigs aren't linking to us anymore - it's made me try to redefine my niche."

So what did he do - he started something brand new, more focused, more directed. (Urban Elephants) It's a complete start-over in Scott's case... but it has a specificity to it that makes it a great product for a more defined audience.

And in the end - I believe this is what will happen in a way that is not dissimilar to what happened to broadcast media. More channels brought more opportunities to target viewers. The more specific a channel is the more its audience relates to it in a strongly personal way. (This is why - all talent elements being equal - a talk radio station - will do better with a local talent as opposed to someone syndicated.)

I think Scott's observation about finding a niche is exactly right. My traffic is actually up over last year, thanks in part to the Tulsa Whirled's short-sighted decision to threaten me over linking to their website. I think most of it, though, is because there's a lot of room for growth in the niche I occupy. I mainly write about Tulsa, and there are a lot of Internet users in Tulsa that are just starting to discover blogs. My blogging and my political involvement gave me enough local visibility and credibility to give me opportunities on the radio and now as a columnist in an alternative weekly, which raises my visibility further and brings more people to the blog.

It's funny: I don't regularly read most of the big blog dogs that Kevin mentions in his entry. I used to, but it seems that ever since I created a special sidebar section for "News Blogs, Frequently Updated" I stopped checking them as often as before. Instead I find what they're saying via the lower-ranked bloggers that I read more often. I find myself more often exploring the sites of other bloggers who have linked to me, or who have written on some of the same topics, or bloggers that I've met in real-life, like Kevin and Scott and Karol.

The Tulsa Whirled had a front page story Sunday featuring comments from attorney Wilson Busby and former City Councilor Sam Roop, who is now an aide to Mayor Bill LaFortune. Busby was retained by the City Council for their investigation into the Tulsa Airport Authority, which also covered publicly-subsidized Great Plains Airlines. Busby was hired on the recommendation of Roop. A thread connecting the two men is political consultant Jim Burdge, who managed Roop's campaigns for Council and who shared an office with Busby. Burdge also managed campaigns for Bill Christiansen and Randy Sullivan, and he worked for the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004, the group that sought to recall Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino.

The two associates are accusing Medlock of trying to turn the airport investigation into some sort of witchhunt. Busby claims he saw Medlock pose like a bear and demand "red meat". When I read that, I couldn't help but think of Tim the Enchanter, in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," warning the knights of the killer rabbit: "Death awaits you all, with nasty big pointed teeth!"

Why would Roop go after Medlock? Roop's boss would lose his job (and so would Roop) if Medlock's campaign is successful.

The story was clearly timed to stop the Council from going forward with a subpoena of Great Plains Airlines bank records. You would think that, if the Whirled were confident that there isn't any damaging information in the records, they would say, fine, go ahead, which would allow them to issue a big "see, I told you so" after the fact. Instead, the Whirled is in full attack mode to stop the subpoena.

Dan Paden picked up on the Whirled's attempt, once again, to mislead its readers by publishing that its parent company, World Publishing Co., owned only 3% of the total shares of stock in Great Plains Airlines. As I pointed out nearly a year ago (and thanks, Dan, for the link), WPC had owned a majority of preferred shares and a majority of the equity, based on the price at which the shares were sold. It's interesting, too, that the story failed to point out that WPC chairman and CEO Robert Lorton gave $2,500 to the campaign to recall Medlock and Mautino.

What we don't know, but should know, considering that our tax dollars and public assets were put at risk for this venture, is the terms of the shareholder agreement. That would tell us how preferred stock and common stock shareholders would have split up any profits -- specifically, how much of the profits would have gone to WPC. WPC, as a shareholder, must have a copy of the shareholder agreement, and it would clear up a lot if the Whirled would make that information public.

But instead of opening up and supplying information, the Whirled is attacking those who are seeking information.

In the meantime, those who loaned money to Great Plains Airlines based on the city's guarantee want their money back now that Great Plains is bankrupt. There's a persistent rumor that the Bank of Oklahoma and the Mayor's office tried to work out a deal to take arena naming rights in repayment for the loan. Another possibility is that the City would repay the money -- about $7 million -- comes out of the City's general fund. That hits basic public services, and it would hurt. Instead of hurting all Tulsans in this way, wouldn't it be fairer for BOk to go after the public officials who sold them on this deal? Or perhaps the bank records will show that funds were paid to favored vendors rather than being available to repay lenders? If that's the case, shouldn't BOk go after that money?

MORE: Comments on the story from Dan Paden and Chris Medlock.

A bomb went off outside the OU-Kansas State game at about 8 p.m. on Saturday. Here's the official statement from the University of Oklahoma. Sunday's Daily Oklahoman reports that the bomber and sole victim was Joel Henry Hinrichs III, a junior. A cache of explosives was found at Hinrichs' apartment. Although the initial press release mentioned that a second bomb was found and detonated, OU is now saying that it was not a bomb, just a "suspicious object."

It's interesting that for a photo of the bomber, the Oklahoman published "a mugshot... provided by the FBI." So the FBI was already tracking this guy?

Norman photojournalist Lam Lamphear heard the explosion from his home a mile away and was on the scene soon after. He isn't buying OU's version of events. Via Dustbury. In a comment on that entry, Mike Swickey links to this collection of media reports, images, maps, and observations on the bombing.

"Shining": happy people

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Here's a trailer for a recut, warm, family-friendly version of "The Shining".

Here's the blog of the creators of that one, plus two more. The new "West Side Story" didn't turn out so happy. Unison rhythmic movement: Choreography, or the tragic effect of widely-dispersed neurotoxins?

Via Mr. Snitch!

Someone sent me this actually retouched photo of last week's Tulsa City Council committee meeting.

neallassekhatchet.jpg

The hatchets weren't really there, except in a metaphorical sense.

At that meeting, Councilor Susan Neal attacked (verbally) Councilor Chris Medlock for wanting to subpoena Great Plains Airlines' original bank records. Her personal cheerleader, Tulsa Whirled reporter P. J. Lassek, is sitting behind Medlock and to the left. Medlock's offense? He wants a full accounting of the tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that went to Great Plains.

Our Tulsa World has a larger, easier-to-view video of Neal's attack and P. J.'s pom-pom shaking for your viewing pleasure.

A note from the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition about the proposed IVI toll bridge:

Dear STCC Supporter:

We thought you may want to know that County Commissioner Bob Dick called a meeting with a select few of our elected officials on Thursday, September 29th regarding the proposed toll bridge. Commissioner Dick invited City Councilors Bill Martinson, Randy Sullivan and Tom Baker, Bixby Mayor Joe Williams, Jenks Mayor Vic
Vreeland and Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune and his chief of staff. City Councilor Bill Christiansen (whose district the proposed toll bridge will be in) was not invited, but attended anyway. Commissioners Miller and Collins did not attend.

It is STCC's understanding that Commissioner Dick invited only certain city officials to this meeting as to not trigger the Open Meetings Act. Once again, more meetings regarding the proposed toll bridge without public input and behind closed doors.

During the meeting, Commissioner Dick made the following comments .....

- The proposed toll bridge must be constructed at its current location because various individuals and entities had bought land counting on the toll bridge to go in at its current location.

- IVI and/or the County is willing to give the City of Tulsa a piece
of the pie in order to get the bridge constructed. No specific numbers were discussed however.

Jenks Mayor, Vic Vreeland commented that STCC is a group of only 5 people and that STCC does not represent the number of people that it purports to represent. (He obviously has not been to any of our meetings.)

It is STCC's understanding that the basic tone of the meeting was "what can IVI and/or the County do to get this toll bridge pushed through?"

The meeting concluded with Commissioner Dick agreeing to come back to
the table at a later date with the specifics of the deal the County and IVI are proposing. STCC encourages you to email or write the elected officials and advise them not to be persuaded by Commissioner Dick and IVI's tactics. An attachment is included with this message with all of their email addresses. Please let them know that you know what is going on and it is not acceptable.

Thank you once again for your continued support.

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

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