November 2005 Archives

Know what you're signing. There are reports that Tulsans for Badder Government, the elite bunch pushing for diluting representative democracy in Tulsa, are obtaining petition signatures under false pretenses:

A person went to the post office and a petition was presented for him/her to sign. The top petition page was for the TABOR (Tax Payer Bill of Rights) and all indications were that was the petition being signed. HOWEVER, THE ACTUAL PETITION WAS FOR THE COUNCILOR AT LARGE PROPOSAL. That, folks, is lower in life forms than dung beetles. So, if you are asked to sign a petition, just refuse unless you read everything completely and know for a fact exactly what you are signing.

In addition to being so low, get this; the people asking you to sign the petition, may be breaking the law. Title 34, Oklahoma Statute 3.1, says signature collectors must be citizens of the State of Oklahoma. Violations of that statute can be fined $1000.00 plus 1 year in jail for each offense. Two of the signature gatherers were from out of state and ran away when asked to provide identification.

Remember, a valid petition will always have the gist of the petition on the page you're signing. Be sure you can see and read the whole page before you sign. If you are presented with the at-large councilors petition, ask to see the petition gatherers' ID.

Please report any sightings of the at-large councilors petition to the Tulsans Defending Democracy website -- what day, what time, where, and, if possible, the name of the petition gatherer. Also let TDD know if you've been contacted in any other way about the petition -- a letter in the mail, a phone call, a poll.

Hat tip to MeeCiteeWurkor and Citizens for Fair and Clean Government.

When someone has a metabolic disorder, their cells can't properly process certain building blocks of food -- a certain kind of protein, for example. Instead of being metabolized into other chemicals that are useful to the body, the substance builds up as a poison, potentially causing high blood acid levels, mental retardation, or even death. With medication and diet, a metabolic disorder can be managed and the damaging effects averted in most cases if the disorder is identified early enough.

Within the first day after a baby is born, a nurse will prick his heel, take a few drops of blood and put it on blotter paper, and send it off to a state lab to be tested for some relatively common metabolic disorders, like PKU. Every state mandates such a test. Most parents probably aren't aware it's even been done, much less why. (Here's a table in PDF format showing which states require newborn screening for which conditions.)

But there are dozens of other metabolic disorders for which screening isn't required. Oklahoma requires screening for only two of 20 "core" metabolic conditions, and only one of 25 secondary target conditions.

I know a boy who has a rare metabolic disorder that wasn't caught by the state-mandated screening. As a toddler, he could get a simple cold and wind up in the hospital with high blood acid levels and dehydration. It took a couple of years before his parents finally found a doctor who thought to check for a metabolic disorder. Today this boy is a bright, healthy, athletic teenager. Specialists were able to teach him and his parents how to control and monitor his condition with diet and medication. They could have been spared a few terrifying years if expanded metabolic screening had been available and if they'd known about it.

The March of Dimes website has information about newborn screening tests. The National Newborn Screening Research and Genetics Center has a list of commercial and non-profit labs that will screen for 30 or more additional conditions for as little as $25. You send off for the kit before the baby is due to arrive, you give it to your pediatrician, and they have the sample drawn shortly after your child is born. You drop the completed kit in the envelope with a check for processing and wait for the results.

(Before you send off for a kit, though, check with your hospital or pediatrician. They may already offer expanded newborn screening.)

I'm not a fan of state mandates, but this is such an inexpensive way to prevent serious mental and medical problems, I wish Oklahoma required expanded screening for all newborns, as many other states now do.

But don't wait for the state. If you're expecting, or know someone who is, get a kit and have the wee one screened.

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Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican from California, resigned today and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion. (Here's the AP story. Hat tip to Dan Lovejoy.) Cunningham took $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for steering defense contracts to certain contractors. (I haven't been able to find out yet how he, as an individual congressman, was able to make that happen, but if he was, that needs to be fixed.)

What I find interesting is the method used for one of the larger bribes. Mitchell Wade, head of a defense contractor called MZM, purchased a home from Cunningham for $1.675 million, then sold it a year later for $975,000. The Realtor who set the price for the sale by Cunningham to Wade was a campaign contributor to Cunningham. That amounts to $700,000 in Cunningham's pocket that wouldn't show up as a payment or a gift, even though that's exactly what it was.

Remember Speaker of the House Jim Wright? As a source of extra income, he compiled and published a vanity book of speeches and notes called Reflections of a Public Man, and to help him get around limits on outside income, groups would buy crates of the thing, and then warehouse them or throw them away. If I recall correctly, there were no limits on book royalties for House members, but there were limits on speaking fees and other sources of income, intended to prevent the use of such fees as a way to influence a congressman. Wright resigned as Speaker and from Congress in 1989 under that ethical cloud.

Two points to make:

(1) The more power is concentrated in any one individual to direct public money for private profit, the more likely bribery becomes. Procurement procedures with checks and balances may take more time and cost more money, but they discourage this kind of abuse.

(2) Bribes aren't given as bundles of cash in a brown paper bag anymore. If you see a government official consistently steering business to a handful of close associates, and you're looking for a quo to go along with a quid, you ought to look at any opportunity to render payment to a public official (home sales, salaries, services rendered) and see if that payment is in excess of market prices or customary rates.

That's no bull

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If you still have confidence in Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune's choices when it comes to our new arena and arena management, you need to head over to MeeCiteeWurkor's place and read how LaFortune punted away a major-league Professional Bull Riders event by insisting on scheduling a competing minor league bullriding event immediately before the PBR's scheduled and publicized event. PBR suggested some compromises, including rescheduling the minor league event after the PBR event, but LaFortune wouldn't budge. So we lose an event that "generated the highest gross ticket sales in the 41-year history of the Tulsa Convention Center," -- and we lose it to Oklahoma City, of course.

Here's the press release with all the details.

It's strange that LaFortune was even involved in a decision about events at the convention center.

Notice that Bob Funk, president of Oklahoma City-based Express Personnel was trying to do something nice for Tulsa:

"I asked the PBR a year ago to take a chance on Tulsa," said Bob Funk, owner of Express Sports. "I wanted another stop in Oklahoma. I knew Tulsans would support major league bull riding. I am stunned to learn the city had opted to enter into an agreement with a minor league competitor."

So don't expect Mr. Funk's help in landing future sporting events for Tulsa. Why should he bother? He had teamed with Jeff Lund of the Tulsa Oilers to put this together. Lund has to be wondering about his continued use of the city's facilities, when he could just as well move his team to the Fairgrounds Pavilion, with better parking and a size closer to the usual Oilers crowd.

iMonk's Confessional

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A couple of weeks ago I linked to Michael Spencer's essay "With Regrets, All My Love," in which he let us look over his shoulder as he wrote to his wife and children with regret about the way his pursuit of the ministry had hurt their life as a family. (Please don't bother trying to find it; it's not there.1 Actually, it is there, but password protected. Go to his home page and e-mail him if you want access.) I just linked to it, without comment, but I linked to it because I thought it had some important things to say about vocation and family.

For his openness, Spencer has been hammered by some of his fellow Christian bloggers. One jumped on a comment he made on another blog, on an unrelated issue (the "Emergent Church" movement), writing, "[Y]our hatred of the Christian life (starting with your own) disqualifies you from being a reasonable commentator." "With Regrets, All My Love" was the smoking gun. The same blogger wrote in a later comment, "It is my contention that because Mr. Spencer hates his life as it is, and hates the church which caused his current life, his opinions about the state of the church and church culture are suspect."

We Tulsans hear that sort of thing all the time, don't we? "Because you've voiced your frustration at the way the poor leadership of Tulsa's establishment has damaged our city's beauty, history, safety, and economic viability, you are disqualified for reasons of being a naysayer, a grump, a negativist, from voicing your opinion on city policy. Only contented people may offer criticism."

Without wading into the whole ugly argument, which I spent way too much time reading this afternoon, I will say it reminds me of what sharks do when there's blood in the water.

I for one am glad that Michael bothers to write the occasional confessional essays. For those of us who aren't perfect (and acknowledge the fact2), it helps to read that someone else has had the same struggles and trials and that nevertheless God hasn't given up on him or vice versa.

Michael has helpfully collected links to about a dozen of his confessional essays, including one about coming to terms with his dad's depression, and one about his marriage after 25 years.

Michael's writing reminds me a lot of Mike Yaconelli's essays in the Wittenburg Door, a magazine I discovered and read in college. The Door and Martin Luther, between them, helped me believe in Christianity when I could no longer place my confidence in the hothouse variety of the faith taught by our college campus ministry.

The victorious Christian life. The Spirit-filled life. Entire sanctification. Promise keeping. Covenant faithfulness. In a state of grace. The vocabulary changes from one century to another, from one denomination to another, but the illusion persists that we can make the brokenness go away while we are still in this flesh. And the corollary is that if I still see brokenness in my own life, I must not belong to Christ. And that notion drives some to denial and some to despair. We are taught to give our testimonies -- before Christ I was a mess, but now Jesus is on the throne of my life and all my dots are neatly lined up. You can get the impression that Jesus is only for those who can do a thorough job of cleaning themselves up and keeping themselves tidy.

I'm glad that there are writers like Michael Spencer who remind us that God still cares about us and even uses us in our brokenness.

Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent. It's one of the two penitential seasons in the church year. As we prepare to celebrate the Light entering the world, we need to prepare our hearts to appreciate that Light by considering the darkness that is in the world and still in our own hearts. It ought to lead us to give thanks for the First Advent 2000 years ago and to long for the Second Advent, when sin and death will be no more, and every tear will be wiped away.

Those of you who have managed to conquer your sin and weakness on your own, I don't imagine Advent and Christmas will mean much to you.

1It's too late to say they're sorry. How would he know? Why should he care?
2Confessing guilt for petty annoyances doesn't count. "Why, of course, I acknowledge I'm still a sinner. Sometimes I forget and leave the seat up, ha, ha."

UPDATE 11/28: Dan Paden at No Blog of Significance and Joel at On the Other Foot.

Signs and wonders

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Tom Baddley has some new content up at Lost Tulsa: the old Abundant Life Building near 16th and Boulder (the windowless building with the white and gold diamond shapes), Eastland Mall, Rose Bowl, and pedestrian tunnels in downtown Tulsa. Be sure to click on the photos to see the full photo set for each entry.

Dwayne, the Canoe Guy, has recently posted some photos of great neon signs from OKC, Tulsa, and Springfield, Missouri, including the Brookshire Motel, and the Woodland Shopping Center and Desert Hills Motel. (He also posted pictures and instructions for cooking turkey in a trash can.)

No entry about lost and forgotten places would be complete without checking in with Kevin Walsh, who set the standard for local history websites with Forgotten NY. He's under contract and working on a Forgotten NY book, due out next fall from HarperCollins. He's keeping a diary of the process.

I'm looking forward to the book, and it's interesting to learn what's involved in producing a photo- and map-intensive book. For a long time, I've wanted to do a kind of time capsule book of Tulsa in 1957, back when we called ourselves "America's Most Beautiful City." I'd like to use maps and photos to give the reader a sense of what it would be like to take a time machine back to when Tulsa still had a lively downtown, back before expressways, back when Tulsa was still a fairly compact city, but the thought of creating the maps and locating and acquiring the rights to contemporary photos has daunted me.

I was very sad to read of the intent of the Sand Springs Home, the charitable trust created nearly 100 years ago by industrialist and philanthropist Charles Page to care for widows and orphans, to demolish the 87-year-old dormitory building. They plan to build a rec center in its place.

It looks to be a big and sturdy old building, and it's a building that means a lot to the kids who grew up there.

Trustees are saying that the cost of renovation would be astronomical, and they wouldn't know what to do with the building anyway. The fact that they don't cite even a ballpark cost for renovation tells me that the trustees never considered it. I'm sure they haven't looked into "mothballing" the building -- even if you don't have an immediate use for a historic building or the means to do an immediate renovation, you can spend considerably less money to secure a building and prevent deterioration until you're ready to do something with it.

At some point, and I keep thinking the day is finally near, there will be a consensus that preservation is a good and worthwhile thing among the Oklahomans who have the wealth and power to do something about it. Hopefully that will happen before too many more landmarks fall to the wrecking ball.

MeeCiteeWurkor grew up in the Home's Widows' Colony and has much more to say about the situation, and he links to a web page for Home alumni, which has an online petition you can sign, asking the trustees to spare the building.

Thursday's Whirled reported that the losing team in the "competition" to run the new downtown Tulsa sports arena and the convention center feels cheated and wants to know how to file a formal protest. You'll recall that the decision to hire SMG was made a mere 24 hours after the competitors made their presentations. SMG was picked because their estimate of how much money the arena could make was higher than Global Spectrum's. Never mind that SMG's fees are higher than Global Spectrum's would have been.

Just think about that: They won the contract because they made up a wildly optimistic number. It didn't hurt that SMG had done consulting work for Tulsa Vision Builders and that Bart Boatright, the program manager for Tulsa Vision Builders, was responsible for recalculating the financial estimates from the bids for presentation to Mayor Bill LaFortune.

To Global Spectrum: No, there is no way to submit a formal protest. King Willie the Weak had final say, and it appears he already had his mind made up before you even had a chance to be heard. The only recourse would be the courts.

When Bill LaFortune was arguing that the City should pay Bank of Oklahoma $7.5 million that the City doesn't owe, he claimed that not paying the money would make Tulsa look unfriendly to business, and companies wouldn't want to come to Tulsa. But it's these questionable deals we're seeing at the City and the County that will deter companies from wanting to do business with local government, perhaps even from coming to Tulsa at all.

It costs a lot of money to put together a proposal for a government contract. Companies make the effort because they believe their proposals will be considered fairly. If the job always goes to the firm with the political connections, other companies won't bother bidding, and that means higher costs for the taxpayer. Worse than that, if Tulsa gets the reputation of being a city where you have to pay to play, like some sort of banana republic, then even companies that don't do government business will choose to locate elsewhere.

Need Santa?

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Since retiring in January, my dad has been letting his beard, which is nearly all white, grow out to what is now an appropriately Santaesque length. He intends to put it to good use by making appearances around Tulsa on behalf of jolly old Saint Nick this Christmas season.

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He wore a hat and a red turtleneck on Halloween and had fun inducing cognitive holiday dissonance in the neighbor children. ("Trick or treat.... Santa?!?") He now has the suit and boots, too. When shopping for the suit, one store clerk enthused, "You've already got the beard, and you won't need padding, either!" (She didn't get the sale.)

Dad is an affable, grandfatherly sort, which he comes by honestly, inasmuch as he is a grandfather of five.

He's already got one gig. We were at an event last Saturday at a major Tulsa cultural institution and he struck up a conversation with the Claus-in-residence. Dad learned that the gentleman would necessarily be away from his post the following weekend, so Dad gave him his business card, and a couple of days ago got the call to fill in on Saturday and Sunday.

If you need a right jolly old elf to grace your Tulsa-area Christmas event, give David Bates a call at 230-6258 or e-mail him at bateswd@yahoo.com.

Readings for thanksgiving

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Rather than repeat myself, here's a link to an entry from last year, with links to some readings appropriate for Thanksgiving, including accounts of the first Thanksgiving, every presidential Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Wall Street Journal's traditional reprinting of "The Desolate Wilderness" and "The Fair Land".

Betcha didn't think I could work the word "rhinotillexomania" into an Urban Tulsa Weekly column about how much the downtown sports arena is going to cost us, did ya?

Also in the new issue of UTW:

G. W. Schulz has a very funny take on local news and the November ratings sweepstakes. He challenges TV station problem-solvers with a really hard math question. And he names names: What TV newsreaders are speeding through your neighborhood and endangering your children? Tune in at 10!

Barry Friedman has some meditations on cartoon plagiarism, cow tipping, and whether Bill LaFortune thinks the doctrine of the deity of Christ is a petty matter.

For the Thanksgiving Day cover story, Katharine Kelly asks, "Why aren't we happier?" Possibly because we're having turkey instead of Billy Sims Barbecue, which she also reviews in this issue.

Finally, UTW wants to provide Christmas gifts for 100 of the 1,200 kids in foster care in our area. Click here to find out how you can help between now and December 5. Of course, the best gift of all would be to adopt a child in permanent foster care, and each issue of UTW spotlights children waiting for a home.

Pick up a copy today!

UPDATE: Bobby has a helpful set of footnotes for my column.

A real hatchet job?

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So says Steve Roemerman after visiting the one in Indianapolis, and he's right. He's right about this, too:

Instead of trying to convert into something else, Tulsa should hold fast to the things that are uniquely Tulsan. [Councilor Chris] Medlock believes that Tulsa should focus its strengths, and I believe he is right. I have always been impressed with Tulsa; how it uniquely combines family values, with art and culture. What better way to express those strengths, than with an excellent childrenís museum?

There have been a couple of attempts -- Hands On, which was in FlightSafety's old building on 38th Street west of Memorial back in the early '90s, and the Harmon Science Center at 41st and Hudson. We never visited the Harmon Science Center -- they publicized the fact that the center was only open to school groups and since our only child at the time was younger than school age we never got to go. Within a few years the doors were shut.

There are some great children's museums and museums with kid-oriented exhibits within a short drive of Tulsa. There's the Omniplex in Oklahoma City, the Sam Noble museum on the OU campus, and the Jasmine Moran Museum in Seminole. Wichita's Exploration Place -- which is on and partly in the Arkansas River -- has a fantastic room devoted to aviation and another devoted to weather. Little Rock has a good kids museum covering science, history, art, and nature, next to their River Market.

The Tulsa Zoo, the Oklahoma Aquarium, and the Tulsa Air and Space Museum each provide some hands-on exhibits in their field of expertise and they try to present exhibits in a way that is accessible and interesting to children, but it would be nice to have a museum that brings different fields of learning together under one roof.

For all the focus on attracting and retaining young professionals -- and that is important -- Tulsa should build on its strengths, too. Many of my contemporaries spent their twenties and thirties on one of the coasts, but when it came time to raise a family, they swam upstream back to Tulsa.

Like the linkblog?

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Now that I've had the linkblog -- that list of short takes on stuff I've found on the WWW -- up for about a month, I'm curious to know what you think of it. Useful? Distracting? Too tiny to read? An indication that BatesLine has jumped the shark?

If you're wondering where the stuff that scrolled off the bottom went to, you'll find an archive of all previous linkblog entries here. At some point, I'll probably set up monthly archives.

WWJHMD?

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It's a better question to ask than WWJD, according to a blogger who calls himself Father of Eleven:

One day I was out in a boat with the twelve (my wife and the eleven kids) when a storm came up. Seeing the ship starting to flounder and the panicked look on the faces of the twelve, I said "What would Jesus do?" Of course, remembering a story from Sunday School, I did exactly what Jesus did in a similar situation, I stood up in the bow of the boat and rebuked the waves. Suddenly a large wave crashed over the bow knocking me into the water and nearly swamping the boat.

This blogger, a former Tulsan, built his own family football team in part via adoptions, and he presents some theological insights drawn from his experiences with his adoptive kids. This, for example, about the two teenage boys they adopted from Russia, where children in the orphanage have two career choices -- the Army or the Mob:

One day we were talking about the future, and we were talking about what they were going to do. They kept asking about what the American Army was like. I kept explaining to them that "if" they went into the Army it would be like so and so. The word "if" kept confusing them. Suddenly it dawned on them what I was saying; they were not required to go into the Army. They began to realize that, with their new father, not only had their present life changed, but their future as well. They suddenly had a new hope in life.

I found Father of Eleven's blog via this comment on an entry at Phil Johnson's Pyromaniac about Mardel's, the local Christian superstore:

Mardel's always seemed a metaphor for the state of Christianity today. 50,000 sqft of store space and three shelves of theology, half of it bad.

(The next time Phil Johnson comes back to Tulsa and strolls through Mardel's doing running commentary, I want to tag along.)

Father of Eleven calls his blog Nihilo, the ablative case of the Latin word for nothing. He explains why in his initial entry:

So what is this Blog really about. It is more about the God who created everything out of Nothing. The God who has brought a man who hated Him and hated children to be raising eleven children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Talk about creating something out of nothing.

A reader writes to say that City Councilor Tom Baker announced at a Democrat fundraiser over the weekend that he will be running for Mayor. My correspondent linked to this BatesLine entry about Baker from the 2004 Council elections and indicated that his stump speech this weekend was along the same bureaucratic lines. Whatever his virtues, Baker is, to quote myself, "a bureaucrat to the core." In describing his modus operandi, I wrote:

Another key bureaucratic skill is the ability to make decisions in a way that avoids accountability for the results. A proven technique for achieving this is to develop a process involving quantifying the intangible and unquantifyable, then putting the numbers through complex formulas, and hallowing the result as Vox Dei. This technique dates back at least as far as Aaron at the base of Mt. Sinai: "While I may or may not personally have chosen a golden calf as an object of worship, it emerged from our board-certified, ISO-9000 compliant process of evaluating this nomadic community's quality of life, to which all stakeholders previously agreed, and so we must all accept the result."

I've been told that Don McCorkell, another Democrat running for Mayor, has a bit of a charisma deficit. Perhaps Baker has been asked to run in order to make McCorkell look like the love child of JFK and Bill Clinton by comparison. It's interesting that the same entity -- called "Gear Up" -- registered both bakerformayor.com and donmccorkell.com back on October 8, using the phone number for directory assistance in San Francisco (415-555-1212). The domains aren't just parked either. On November 7, both domains were pointed to domain name servers at aquesthosting.com, a North Carolina based hosting firm.

Maybe this is going to be a pro-wrestling kind of primary, a staged fight that will keep McCorkell in the news during the fireworks of the Republican primary between LaFortune, Medlock, and perhaps two or three others. Baker could take potshots at the Republicans (to be duly reported and editorialized by the Whirled), while McCorkell accentuates the positive and keeps from sullying himself with negative campaigning. Baker loses graciously with the promise of his dream job in the McCorkell Administration: head of the process to develop the process-development process.

I went to a presentation this afternoon at Central Library about the digital version of the Sanborn fire maps. These are maps that were created for fire insurance purposes from before the turn of the 20th century through the 1960s, showing details of each structure -- number of stories, footprint, building material, and sometimes the name or type of business. It's a valuable resource for trying to reconstruct what was where at a given point in time.

Tulsa City-County Library card holders have access to fire maps for Oklahoma online, from anywhere on the Internet, via this link. If you're not in a library, you'll have to log in with your last name and library card number.

I've got an idea for a series about lost downtown Tulsa, going block by block, telling what was on each block over the years before it was turned into asphalt. These maps, combined with city directories, will be a valuable resource. Just so no one else claims it, I'll give you my working title: "If Parking Lots Could Talk."

Conspicuously absent

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A couple of my Tulsa Blogger colleagues (Steve Roemerman, Mad Okie) noticed that Councilor Bill Christiansen, who is said to be plotting a run for Mayor, was absent from Thursday night's meeting, which was chock full of controversy. Christiansen avoided going on the record for or against allowing city employees to unionize and avoided voting on a couple of key charter change proposals -- protecting historic preservation zoning and reforming the recall process.

Councilor Roscoe Turner surprised a lot of people with his vote the other week against a charter provision to require a councilor to resign if he moves outside his district and again this week with his vote against recall reform. There was a silly rumor going around that Turner swapped his vote on the requirement to live in your district for a vote from Randy Sullivan (the Councilor who doesn't live in his district) to support unionizing city workers. I found that rumor incredible: Turner has enough honor not to make that kind of deal, and enough sense not to trust Randy Sullivan to keep that kind of deal. (On Thursday, Sullivan voted against allowing city workers to unionize.)

I saw Councilor Turner a few days ago and asked him about his vote on the district requirement. He pointed out that state law already authorized the Council to expel a member who moved outside the district, but there needed to be a complaint from a District 7 resident before they could investigate and act.

(I wrote about the relevant statutes back in January when the Whirled finally acknowledged that he no longer lived in the district. Bubbaworld disagrees with my analysis and makes a pretty convincing case that if you moved often enough, the City Charter allows you to run for Council in any district. I could run in District 6, since I was a qualified elector there from 1981 through 1988, and in District 9, since I was a qualified elector there from 1988 through 1993.)

I'm hoping that Councilor Turner was making a tactical move in his vote against recall reform. It couldn't win last Thursday -- Sullivan, Neal, Baker, and Martinson were all against it, so at best it would have been a 4-4 tie, with Christiansen absent -- but Turner's vote against allows him to bring it up at the next meeting for reconsideration when Christiansen is present and will either send the measure on to the voters or at least put Christiansen on record opposing recall reform.

Basil of basil's blog has been doing blog interviews, two a week for the past couple of months. Readers submit questions, the subject blogger has about a week to reply, and then Basil assembles and posts the interview. Here's the page with the list of interviews done so far and the schedule for future interviews.

I've volunteered for an interview. Basil is receiving questions for me through next Saturday, November 26, so click on over and ask away.

"4 to Tweak" debate

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A few days ago I wrote that the people pushing for the new $62 million Tulsa County sales tax didn't seem to want to participate in today's debate at the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club (TCRMC). Late in the day Thursday, Commissioner Randi Miller decided she would make herself available to debate Councilor Chris Medlock after all.

A large crowd filled The Fountains Restaurant's largest dining area today. As people signed in and paid for lunch, each paid-up member of the TCRMC ($20 / year) was given a copy of the official sample ballot for a straw poll to be taken at the end of the debate.

I'm not going to try right now to provide a detailed account of the debate. Neither debater overwhelmed the crowd. Miller relied on a PowerPoint presentation during her 10 minutes. Medlock had written a speech and pretty much put on his reading glasses and read it; he was much more effective during the rebuttal and Q&A when he was speaking extemporaneously.

During Q&A I asked Commissioner Miller why the County couldn't use its use tax to finance the most critical need (juvenile justice center and courthouse improvements). It would supply about $4 million a year under the lower rate that would be in effect if the new "4 to Fix" tax fails. The use tax paid for renovation of the Pavilion and other fairgrounds improvements.

Miller asked me where my use tax numbers came from. They are from the Oklahoma Tax Commission's monthly sales tax reports, which you can find on their website. I took the 18 months from the March 2004 through August 2005 reports. (Because of reporting deadlines, the March 2004 report was the first report with the higher county tax rate after the Vision 2025 tax went into effect.) In those 18 months, Tulsa County collected $7.3 million in use taxes. Adjusting that number for the use tax rate without the 1/6th cent "4 to Fix" tax (use tax rate can only be as high as the sales tax rate), and for a year rather than 18 months, it comes to $4,075,528.30. The County's Proposition 1 is for 12% of the projected $62 million total -- that's $7.4 million, which the use tax could cover in a little under two years. Why not reprioritize that money, spend it on the courts and justice system instead of on improving the fairgrounds, which is already in wonderful shape?

58 TCRMC members voted in the straw poll. The "no" side prevailed on all four propositions -- ranging from a 58-42 margin for Proposition 2 (parks) to a 51-49 margin for Proposition 4 (roads). (You'll find the ballot resolutions for the four propositions here.)

I was surprised not to see any "vote yes" brochures. Someone had printed up copies of my Urban Tulsa Weekly column on the topic, and someone else made some "vote no" yard signs.

Mister Snitch!, a Hoboken, NJ, based communications consultant, has posted a response to my Urban Tulsa Weekly column about faith and political courage. It's an interesting perspective, coming from someone who has worked with Blue State politicians.

When I've finally caught up on sleep, I'll respond to his post and the earlier responses to my column, which you'll find here.

Quick Tulsa links

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Steve Roemerman was at Tuesday night's meeting about the IVI toll bridge -- has a good summary of the controversy here.

Meeciteewurkor is having another contest -- come up with the funniest (but still decent) answer for what the P. J. stands for in Tulsa Whirled reporter P. J. Lassek's name. For extra credit, write a typically slanted Whirled City Hall news article, then write the Ken Neal editorial founded on that article.

Debate dodging

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At about 3:21 PM, I received an email from Club for Growth, the pro-fiscal responsibility pressure group:

[Club for Growth President] Pat [Toomey] will be on the show, NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, tonight on PBS. We hope you can tune in because he was originally scheduled to debate Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, the head of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

This is the same RINO organization whose members are blocking budget cuts from passing the House and the same group that once received a big check from George Soros. Unfortunately, Ms. Resnick backed out of the debate. We guess it's tough to defend RINOs.

This came about an hour later:

Well, it looks like Pat won't be on Jim Lehrer's TV show tonight after all.

The TV producers for the show simply couldn't find a RINO who was willing to debate Pat so they decided to scrub the segment all together.

Shame on the Republican Main Street Partnership for not being willing to defend their pro-pork position in what would have probably been a friendly venue. But more shame on the producers of News Hour for caving into their manipulations. Cowards who are afraid to defend their policies count on this kind of reaction by debate organizers. Can't have a fair debate without both sides, so the side that is afraid to debate finds one excuse after another to avoid sending someone, and the organizer feels compelled to cancel the debate to avoid a one-sided presentation.

For an example of the right way to respond, look at the way KRMG handled a similar situation with the 2000 "It's Tulsa's Time" arena sales tax vote. The proponents refused to make someone available for a debate on KRMG, but KRMG determined to go ahead with the scheduled debate with or without a "vote yes" representative. In the end the "vote yes" side sent someone.

Don Burdick is doing the right thing, too, regarding this Friday's debate on the December 13th vote on a new five-year round of sales tax -- $62 million more for Tulsa County Commissioners to spend.

Don is president of the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club. Over a month ago, he scheduled this debate for their November luncheon, and he asked me to speak on behalf of the opposition. He asked County Commissioner Bob Dick to speak for the proponents, but Dick refused when he learned it would be a debate. Dick also it was sub dignitate sua for him to debate a non-elected official. So City Councilor Chris Medlock was brought in for the opposition.

Things get a bit confused, but my understanding is that at this point Dick dropped out and the "vote yes" side substituted County Commissioner Randi Miller. Then they told Don that Medlock shouldn't debate for the "vote no" side since he's running for Mayor. The vote yes consultant helpfully suggested someone else to argue for the opposition. Their ideal choice for someone to face in a debate was unavailable.

Don Burdick declined to let the proponents dictate who they'd be debating against. As things now stand, Commissioner Miller revealed last Thursday that she is unable to attend, and the consultant says no one else can come. Burdick is going ahead with the program, even if only opponents make themselves available to speak. And he's going ahead with a straw poll on the county sales tax, open to club members only, with the results to be made public.

Good for Don. But what does it say about our County Commissioners that they are unwilling to make the case for the $62 million they want from us?

In this week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I review what happened with Bill LaFortune's plan to have the city pay off the $7.5 million owed by Great Plains Airlines to the Bank of Oklahoma, and ask some questions that need answering.

The cover boy this week is my friend Jamie Jamieson, developer of the Village at Central Park. Jamie was interviewed by Gretchen Collins about exciting developments in the 6th and Peoria area (soon to become known as the Pearl District).

All that and much more in the November 17 issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

I've added a couple of photos to the entry about Friday's lecture on the life and music of Bob Wills: my five-year-old, in her western skirt and boots, with Ray Benson and Jason Roberts of Asleep at the Wheel. She enjoyed the lecture, and that evening when we listened to my new Bob Wills CDs, she recognized the songs she had heard Ray and Jason play that morning.

Discoshaman is back

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Discoshaman, who thrilled us a year ago with live blogging from the Orange Revolution in the streets of Kiev, has been on hiatus for a while, but is back blogging at Le Sabot Post-Moderne and at a new blog, Religion of Peace?, which has the subhead, "Ignore the corpses behind the green curtain." It's also described as "One-stop shopping for War on Terror news." Here's his introductory post.

Dave Schuttler has posted some video highlights from last Wednesday's town hall meeting at Martin East Regional Library with Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock. I was there and thought they both did a great job of answering questions about the third penny, "4 to Fix the County," economic development, and the various airport issues. Watch the videos and see for yourself.

Medlock will be speaking Tuesday night, November 15, at Rudisill North Regional Library, which is at Pine Street and Hartford Ave (1520 N Hartford). The program is scheduled to run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The real GOP

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I've been remiss in linking to this week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly. It's a look at what makes the Republican Party tick at the local level -- really just scratching the surface, with more to come in future columns.

This week's cover story by G. W. Schulz is fascinating, a real page-turner -- the story of Freddy Salazar, a man of many hats, an inventor who challenged Proctor and Gamble on a patent and won, while he was in prison doing time for drug trafficking.

All that, plus coverage of theater, live music, movies, restaurants, sports -- in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

In order to better accommodate some of my other obligations, my weekly slot with Michael DelGiorno on KFAQ is moving, at my request, to Tuesday mornings in the 6 o' clock hour.

(I was gratified to hear that at least one listener was concerned enough to complain to the station when he didn't hear me this morning as usual. Sorry for not giving everyone advance notice.)

Missing the Brady boat

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Michael Sanditen has an interesting comment on a previous entry about how Tulsa's leaders missed the opportunity to spur on development of the Brady Village arts district, capitalizing on our unique heritage. What he's advocating is a good example of "urban husbandry", a term coined by Roberta Brandes Gratz to describe the antithesis of the big project approach to revitalization. Urban husbandry looks for places where there is already investment, interest, and activity, and makes small, strategic public expenditures to help remove obstacles and encourage what the private sector is already doing. I encourage you to read Michael's comment -- click here -- and to reply with a comment on that entry, if you're so inclined.

Vote for the elephant

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Aaron.cc is creating a Deck of Bloggers, sort of like the deck of cards created for the bad guys in Iraq, but with good guys (bloggers) instead.

The ladies at Elephant in My Coffee, which includes Greta "Hooah Wife" Perry, are in the running for the hearts suit, and they'd appreciate your vote -- you can vote for them here. If you have a blog, you can also vote for them by trackbacking to that entry.

Took a couple of hours off work today and went with my wife and five-year-old daughter to a special hour-long program at the Performing Arts Center about the life and music of Bob Wills, featuring John Wooley, a writer and music historian, and Ray Benson and Jason Roberts of Asleep at the Wheel.

Wooley gave a brief historical sketch of Bob Wills' life and career and of the origins of Western Swing music. He gave his working definition of Western Swing, which he said he's still refining: Jazz improvisation, on top of a dance beat, done with instruments associated with cowboy or hillbilly music. I think that about captures it.

Then Ray Benson and Jason Roberts came up, acoustic guitar and fiddle in hand, respectively, and Benson talked about how the musical drama "A Ride with Bob" came to be, and recognized playwright Anne Rapp, who was in the audience. Benson asked rhetorically why the emphasis on Bob Wills -- there were a lot of great Western Swing bands and musicians back in the '30s and '40s. The answer is the spark, ambition, and charisma that Wills brought to the music, and "A Ride with Bob" attempts to give the audience a sense of the man as a performer. At one time, the Texas Playboys was the number one dance band in the country. Benson said that Grammy producer Pierre Cossette said that Wills had more charisma than anybody else he ever worked with.

In the play, Jason Roberts, who has been playing fiddle with Asleep at the Wheel for about 10 years, plays Bob Wills in his prime. Benson and Roberts talked about and played four songs: a fiddle breakdown, "Ida Red," "Faded Love," and "San Antonio Rose." We got to hear the close family resemblance between the old fiddle tune "Nellie Grey" and "Faded Love." You could hear folks in the audience softly singing along on "Faded Love."

They took questions at the end. I asked where we could hear live Western Swing music between visits from Asleep at the Wheel. Someone mentioned that Tommy Allsup and Leon Rausch would be performing in Muskogee on December 30. I'll have to miss it -- we expect to be performing "Bottle Baby Boogie" around our house about then -- but it should be great. Rausch sang with Wills and played bass fiddle in the latter part of Wills' career, and Allsup produced and played bass on the album "For the Last Time." Benson mentioned that there was a Western Swing newsletter -- he probably meant this one. (Afterwards I met a couple with the band Cow Jazz -- they're based and do their performing in the DFW area.) Wooley reminded us that he has a show every Saturday night at 7 p.m. on KWGS 89.5, called "Swing on This."

My daughter got to shake hands with Jason Roberts, who said he had a little girl about her age, and she got her picture taken with Jason and with Ray Benson. (UPDATE: I've added photos, after the jump.)

As we emerged from the PAC, schoolkids were beginning to line the street for the Veterans' Day parade. I wish a lot of them had been inside to hear the music and learn about part of Oklahoma's musical heritage, the music that helped their great-grandparents keep smiling through hard times.

Benson was on KFAQ with DelGiorno this morning, broadcasting over the "sacred frequency" that carried Bob and Johnnie Lee Wills for many years. They talked about the lack of a Western Swing Hall of Fame, something that belongs in Tulsa. (For reasons I don't understand, no Western Swing artist has ever been inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.) The presence of such a facility would be a draw for a niche tourist market -- attractive to a small but intense fan base. There would be good synergy between Western Swing tourism and Route 66 tourism -- transplanted Okies provided a fan base for the music in 1940s California. And a Western Swing museum would be a resource to get the music into the schools, where it could be introduced in the context of Oklahoma history and modern musical history.

I'm glad the PAC set the program up, but I wish more people had gotten the word. There was plenty of space for more, but because they mentioned limited seating and the need to call ahead to reserve a seat, I had the impression it was a much smaller room and would fill up quickly, an impression reinforced when I called Thursday to reserve seats and was told that there were only a few left. I would have spread the word if I'd known the room was so big.

It was a nice start to a day that ended with family, a cake, candles, ice cream, and two CDs: "For the Last Time" and "Tiffany Transcriptions No. 2."

From Rich Kienzle's liner notes to "Boot Heel Drag: The MGM Years" -- a great 2-disc collection:

Bob [Wills], hip enough to conceive an unconventional salute to the older set, asked Cindy Walker to write a song with this title. "I thought he meant one of those (sentimental) things like 'Darling, when your hair has turned to silver... don't be ashamed," Walker recalled. "So when I said, is this what you mean? Bob said, 'No I don't mean anything like that. I mean DON'T be ASHAMED of your AGE! I'm talkin' about people late in life that have done everything, so don't be ashamed -- you've had it all.' I thought about it a little and I finally got the idea." Wills's reaction to the finished tune was succinct. "Yeah," he replied, "that's exactly what I mean."

Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age

(By Bob Wills and Cindy Walker. Recorded 10/30/47. Features Tommy Duncan on vocals, Eldon Shamblin on rhythm guitar, Tiny Moore on mandolin, Joe Holley on fiddle.)

Don't be ashamed of your age.
Don't let the years get you down.
That old gang you knew
They still think of you
As a rounder1 in your old hometown.

Don't mind the grey in your hair.
Just think of all the fun2 you've had
Puttin' it there.
As for that old book of time
You've never skipped a page3
So don't be ashamed of your age, brother.
Don't be ashamed of your age.

Listen, Mr. Smith, Mr. Brown,
Don't let your age get you down.
Life ain't begun
Until you're 40, son.
That's when you really start to go to town.4

Don't wish that you were a lad.
Why, boy, you've lost more gals5
than they've ever had
And, listen, you've graduated
From that ol' sucker stage6,
So don't be ashamed of your age, brother.
Don't be ashamed of your age.


Notes:
1I used to be rounder than I am now, but otherwise, no.
2That was fun?
3I was prematurely responsible and went through my first mid-life crisis at age 29. Now I'm hoping for a headstart on my Second Childhood.
4Boy, I sure hope so.
5Only if you count the ones I never had in the first place. Only ever had the one, and I haven't lost her yet.
6Boy, I sure hope so.

From a reader who was at today's Council Committee meeting, at which a resolution was to be considered, opposing the proposal to dismember three council districts and replace them with three supercouncilor seats elected citywide to four year terms:

The Jackal is up to his dirty tricks again. The resolution was pulled from the agenda by Susan Neal because [City Attorney] Alan Jackere called giving his opinion that they were not legally able to vote on a resolution that might affect the outcome of an election. How interesting considering that the Council just passed a resolution last week to support the school bond vote. Oh, the irony of it all!

Can't vote on a resolution that might affect the outcome of an election? In the first place, an election hasn't even been called, and they've only begun to collect petition signatures. Second, as my reader points out, just last week they endorsed the school bond issues, which was intended to affect the outcome of Tuesday's election. And I seem to recall that the Council voted back in 2003 to endorse Vision 2025. Third, what is the controlling legal authority for Jackere's advice? Did he dig out another obscure citation from some obscure jurisdiction -- Nunavit ice fishing regulations, perhaps? Hoyle's rules for canasta? And, finally, every vote the Council takes could have an impact on the outcome of an election. It's a political body, for Pete's sake!

Would Jackere allow the Council to vote on a resolution that expressed opposition in principle to the idea of at-large seats for the council? That wouldn't be about any specific proposal that is now or will be before the voters.

What happened is apparent: Poor Susan Neal doesn't want to go on record supporting this proposal, even though she almost certainly supports it, and her district is the base for most of the support. Or perhaps she's trying to protect potential mayoral candidates Tom Baker and Bill Christiansen from having to go on the record in support. So rather than say she doesn't want to go on the record, she gets cover from Jackere. This bunch is all about shielding public officials from accountability to the voters for their views and actions.

The following press release announces the formation of a group to oppose the plan to dismember three Tulsa City Council districts and replace them with three seats elected citywide:

Tulsans Defending Democracy

"that we here highly resolve... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish...."

Abraham Lincoln, from the Gettysburg Address, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

A Bipartisan group from all parts of Tulsa will announce its formation and its plan to defend democracy. The group will work to preserve fair representation and will fight the ill-conceived petition drive to create 3 At-Large City Councilors with four year terms. Ordinary citizens will have their City Council representation diluted by reducing council districts from 9 to 6 unless this undemocratic plan is stopped.

Where: Embers Restaurant, 81st and Harvard, 9 am, Thursday, November 10, 2005.

For More Information:

herb.beattie@sbcglobal.net  Herb Beattie    749-4586  Dist. 9 
mruouthere@sbcglobal.net Mona Miller 496-1481 Dist. 2
bbrdarrow@cox.net Becky Darrow 369-4487 Dist. 8
rpearcey@mac.com Ray Pearcey 853-1726 Dist. 4

Former Democrat state representative, Great Plains Airlines board member, and multi-level marketing maven Don McCorkell has sent a letter asking for the help and advice of his friends and allies as he decides whether to run for Mayor of Tulsa. Here's the letter as a 400 KB PDF file. The way I read it, he's all but decided to make the run.

I have not made a final decision about the race. I will decide after I have the opportunity to personally visit with individuals like yourself that take an active role in our city. Frankly, I would have no interest in wasting time and resources on small thinking or small challenges. Life is too short for that. I believe the friends urging me to run for Mayor of Tulsa are correct in their assessment that this community, not only needs, but also wants some bold and imaginative leadership. I believe that I could play a role in providing such leadership.

Why he's voting no

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Mike Mansur, who blogs at meanderingaphorisms.blogspot.com, writes regarding tomorrow's school bond election:

I got into an argument this past weekend with a gentleman who was furious that I would vote against the proposed school bond election that is being held tomorrow. He said I was dooming those children to a life of poverty.

You can read his response here.

Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino will speak and field questions at a "town hall" meeting this Wednesday, November 9, from 6 to 8 p.m., in the auditorium of Martin East Regional Library, 2601 S. Garnett Rd. Topics will include the December 13 vote on a new county capital improvements tax, the City of Tulsa's "third-penny" sales tax for capital improvements, due to expire next summer, proposed charter amendments, and other topics pertaining to city government.

Tomorrow during the Tulsa City Council's 10:00 a.m. Urban and Economic Development Committee meeting, Councilors Jack Henderson and Jim Mautino will present a resolution against the at-large councilor proposal being pushed by Tulsans for Blue-Blood Government:

9. Resolution against the proposed initiative petition which seeks to replace three City Council positions elected from specific election districts with three City Council positions elected for the entire city. (Henderson/Mautino) 05-1536

I'm sure Councilors Henderson and Mautino would appreciate support from the public at this meeting.

Some other items of interest, at the 8 a.m. Public Works Committee meeting:

12. Resurvey of screen wall, sign, and trees at Wind River Development on 121st St. between Delaware & Yale Avenues. (Christiansen) 05-1383-2

13. Council discretion and authority with regard to proposed Yale bridge development project. (Christiansen) 05-779-5

14. Discussion with Administration regarding events center naming rights agreement, convention center improvement funding, and any change from the public presentation to voters in the allocation of Vision 2025 funds between the events center and convention center improvements. (Medlock) 05-1533

15. Update from Administration on the status of the Ethics Advisory Committee described in the ethics ordinance. (Turner) 05-1314-2

16. Allowing non-supervisory employees to unionize or bargain collectively. (Turner/Henderson) 05-1486

That item 12 is connected to the bridge issue -- the pro-IVI people have said they can't move that bridge because it would interfere with the Wind River upscale housing development underway at 121st and River Road.

Also, the first item on the 10 a.m. agenda is interesting:

Charles R. Ford - Appointment to the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA); term expires 7/31/08; (replaces A. Adwon). [UED 11/8/05] 05-1406

Adam Adwon is the brother of Mitch Adwon, a close advisor to Mayor Bill LaFortune. Mitch Adwon is said to be involved with the backers of the proposed soccer stadium development in the "East Village" section of downtown. Since TDA-owned land would be involved in any such deal, this looks like a move to eliminate a potential conflict of interest.

Adam Adwon's replacement, Charles R. Ford, is the former State Senator for District 25, representing far south Tulsa and Broken Arrow until he was term-limited for the 2004 election. (It was called Senate District 51 prior to the 2002 redistricting.) Ford lives a couple of blocks east of Southern Hills Country Club. Ford is a distinguished public servant, but he represented and lives in a suburban part of the city. Given that TDA deals with property in the older, urban part of Tulsa, it would make more sense to appoint someone who actually lives and works in Tulsa's urban core.

Surely they wouldn't bring a stage show about Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys all the way from Texas to Tulsa and stop short of the Mother Church of Western Swing, would they?

Of course not. Here's today's e-mail from the fine folks at Cain's:

There will be an after party / show with the Red Dirt Rangers, members of the Stragglers and a few members of Asleep at the Wheel at the Home of Bob Wills, the Cain's Ballroom... For more information on this, please visit www.reddirtrangers.com or www.cainsballroom.com. Tickets will be available at the door that evening.

According to the Cain's Ballroom website, tickets will be $10 at the door, doors open at 7:00. Now, the performance at the PAC starts at 8, so I don't imagine the afterparty will start until... after that.

I just had a look at the Tulsa Public Schools bond issue, which will be on the ballot this Tuesday.

There will be four propositions on the ballot, with names that suggest coherent groupings: building improvements ($116.4 million); library books, library materials, and building additions ($9.7 million); textbooks, classroom learning materials, and technology ($29.6 million); transportation ($6.5 million). That's a grand total of $162.2 million, or about $1,000 per student per year over the next four years. That money is over and above the operating budget of approximately $6,000 per year per regular student and $13,000 per year per special education student.

When you look at the details, they've made it very difficult for taxpayers to prioritize one kind of spending over another. Included in the building improvements package is money for artificial turf and other stadium improvements and money for renovating all middle school pools. The library and classroom packages combine one-time expenditures for capital improvements -- building additional library space -- with money for recurring operating expenses, like licenses for online research services.

Once upon a time, school bond issues were for building new school buildings or major renovations on existing buildings -- things with lifespans measured in decades. For the last 10 years or so, schools have been allowed to use bond money to fund textbooks, software, computers, and other equipment with a short lifespan, things that really belong to the operating budget.

It is important to maintain what we have and to expand facilities where it's needed, but it would be considerate of the school board to distinguish between absolute necessities and "nice to haves" when they come to us for funding.


Fellow Okie blogger Sean Gleeson has developed an online Texas Hold 'Em game for cable superstation TBS. It's called Very Funny Texas Hold 'Em. If you've flipped through the cable channels at 3 a.m. and found nothing on but Celebrity Poker Death Match, or if you've been perplexed by a Dawn Summers blog entry full of terms like flop, check, and river, and wondered what all that is about, click that link. There's a section of the game that explains the rules very clearly. (Sean's game cannot help you if you are perplexed by any other Dawn Summers blog entry.)

The game is For Entertainment Only -- no actual money changes hands, so there's no risk except your time and attention. Check it out.

I'd like to see Sean merge this with his Autorantic Virtual Moonbat.

(UPDATED to remove the parenthetical remark at the beginning of the entry, which was written before I had heard about the tornado in southern Indiana Sunday night.)

Cool photos of our town

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Jim Heskett, a blogger now residing in Boulder, Colo., recently came back to Tulsa and elsewhere in Oklahoma for a visit and is posting photos. You'll find them in his October and November archives. I especially liked the shot of the River Parks fountain in this entry -- you will, too.

Tulsa blog roundup

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A look at what's new from bloggers who blog about Tulsa politics:

Mad Okie sees Tulsa at the crossroads. The Oklahomilist elaborates on the idea:

This is not about liberal or conservative issues. It's not even about Democrats and Republicans, since it is apparent that the same elitist mindset governs many PTB regardless of party.

It's about transparency in government. It's about trust. Explanations. Consultation. It's about equal opportunity, in advance. It's about keeping first things first. And first things for a city should be good streets, safe homes, good schools.

Anything that takes away from priorities, or that diminishes trust and transparency should be fixed, if possible. If it cannot be fixed it should be isolated and avoided. And the public should know why.

Both pieces are well worth reading.

Steve Denney at HFFZ urges a no vote on 4 to Fix the County and has Mona Miller's speech to the City Council on the charter amendment regarding zoning protest petitions requiring a supermajority council vote on zoning changes.

TulTellitarian says the boards of Tulsa Airport Authority and Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust ought to resign.

Chris Medlock, Tulsa City Councilor and Republican candidate for Mayor, has several recent entries on developments at City Hall regarding the haste with which the management team was selected for the new Tulsa arena (less than 24 hours after the interviews were held) and the interesting link with Bill LaFortune's former boss; corrects a Tulsa Whirled article about the vote on a charter change regarding zoning protest petitions, and corrects TulTellitarian's blog entry (mentioned above) about his status on the Council's airport investigation committee (he's never been chairman or vice chairman, and the committee no longer formally exists); wonders about the connecton between Bill LaFortune's insistence on limiting the ethics ordinance definition of a conflict of interest to two degrees of consanguinity and the fact that his uncle, former Mayor Bob LaFortune, sits on the Bank of Oklahoma board of directors; and a couple of conflicting quotes from the Tulsa Whirled a week ago on the value of the arena to Tulsa's prosperity.

Dave Schuttler (Our Tulsa World) has the news that Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn will be on Meet the Press Sunday morning. If you miss the show, you can subscribe to the podcast -- Dave has the link.

Bobby at Tulsa Topics has video up of the meeting on plans for I-44 widening.

Chimchim has some thoughts about downtown redevelopment:

To me the argument is: Where is downtown going to find its life? its energy? The days of dreaming that huge oil companies be attracted to downtown Tulsa, and will rain down sacks of gold coins on to DTU and the chamber of commerce are over. Those organizations need to wake up and realize that it's 2005. They need to see what's REALLY around them -- a vibrant, energetic, creative class of diverse citizens who are PASSIONATE about downtown and all the beauty and potential it holds -- and embrace that. welcome it with open arms.

Steve Roemerman was having fun with anagrams awhile back. Did his anagram for "Tulsa World" inspire Don Danz's adjustment to the paper's logo? It does look a bit sallow, doesn't it?

(Comments disabled for this entry since I'm linking to others rather than posting my own thoughts.)

Metamorphosis

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Today our little chrysalis changed color from bright green to almost black, which means a newly minted monarch butterfly is about to emerge. I've set up my son's Digital Blue microscope to take a frame every 10 seconds, so that we can capture the emergence even if it happens when we're asleep.

That's the exciting news from here. That, and I am now the third member of my family to get the cold that's making the rounds.

UPDATE: Exclusive video! It's grainy, it's out of focus -- limitations of the camera -- but here is time-lapse video of the butterfly emerging from its chrysalis (5MB AVI file). The time-lapse was a frame every 10 seconds; the video plays back at 15 frames per second, so we slowed time down by a factor of 150. If I had to do it again, I'd use a much smaller delta t. The actual emergence took about five minutes -- only about 2 seconds of the time-lapse video.

Steve Roemerman has been blogging about plans of the convenience chain Kum and Go to put a new store on the west side of Riverside at 101st Street. What little private development we have on Tulsa's side of the river turns its back to the river, unlike Jenks Riverwalk Crossing which takes advantage of its location. The two restaurants just north of the Creek Turnpike were built as if the river didn't even exist -- cookie cutter designs with the front toward the street and the grease pit and the dumpster toward the back -- toward the river. Steve points out the riverfront is a limited resource, and it seems a waste to use it in this way.

Oklahoma City has land use regulations in place to protect areas of the city that are important to its appeal to tourists and locals. One special development district is called the Gateway area, and it covers the intersection of I-35 and I-44, around the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Remington Park, and the Omniplex, an area that acts as OKC's front door from the northeast. Other special districts include Bricktown and Stockyards City.

If we're going to get the most out of the piddly amount of Vision 2025 money designated for river improvements, Tulsa needs land use standards so that development along the river doesn't detract from the river's natural beauty, doesn't act as a wall between the riverbank and the rest of the city, but instead helps to link the two.

Now it's all $183 million?

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Dave Schuttler caught this on the City of Tulsa's redesigned website:

The heart of Vision 2025 centers on our $183 million BOK center. Tulsans and visitors alike eagerly await the completion of the new center -- Cesar Pelli's newest masterpiece. Groundbreaking was August 2005.

$183 million was the amount designated in Proposition 3 of the Vision 2025 sales tax election for the new arena and the upgrade of Tulsa's city-owned convention center -- $125 million for the arena, $58 million for the convention center upgrade. It's already been noted that Mayor Bill LaFortune has shifted $16 million away from redoing a facility that brings in new dollars from visitors to building one that simply redistributes the discretionary spending of Tulsans. Is this a subtle way of telling us that he decided to use all $183 million for the arena?

And as for the heart of Vision 2025 centering on the arena, that wasn't the way they sold the package. If anything the "events center," as it was euphemized during the campaign, was downplayed in favor of the university funding in the same proposition and the promise of jobs from a new Boeing facility.

To no one's surprise, Mayor Bill LaFortune selected SMG to manage both the new downtown sports arena and the convention center.

SMG is a joint venture of the Hyatt Hotel Chain and ARAMARK Corporation. The company manages 156 facilities worldwide, including 63 arenas and 44 convention centers. One of the arenas they manage is the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. So when a major concert tour is going to make one stop in Oklahoma, you won't have a competition between the two cities to get the show -- instead SMG will decide, based on their bottom line.

By the way, Mayor LaFortune said at his re-election announcement that if our arena had been in place, Tulsa might have gotten the refugee New Orleans Hornets instead of Oklahoma City. Remember that Katrina hit less than two months before the first game of the NBA season. There were other venues that competed to be the Hornets temporary home, but Oklahoma City a key advantage -- very few events scheduled over the course of the six-month NBA season. The calendar was already mostly clear; a few minor-league hockey games had to be moved to accommodate the Hornets schedule, which has already been set to synchronize with the rest of the league. So if we want a management company who can keep the arena empty most of the time, ready for when Montréal's dormant volcano erupts and forces the Canadiens to find somewhere else to play hockey, we've got the right team.

I sent out an all-points bulletin to fellow faith-n-politics bloggers, asking for their reflections on my column in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly, "Of Faith and Political Courage." As I spot responses, from them and from other readers, I'll link to them here.

Rick Westcott, a Republican running for Tulsa City Council District 2, wrote about another aspect of faith and political courage:

I also think that a personís faith gives them a sense of identity which helps ground them in times of trouble. Because I know who I am in Christ, who God made me, because I know He has a plan for me, it gives me a sense of identity that isnít shaken by those who might attack me. I donít need the external validation that some seek from others.

The other side of that same coin: I have known elected officials overawed, absolutely dazzled, because now important and wealthy people would return their phone calls and invite them to their homes. That shouldn't be true of someone who believes she's a child of the King of Kings. (For that matter, even someone who doesn't believe that, but has a proper regard for the people who elected her to office, should consider her position as elected representative as impressive as the wealth of any one constituent.)

Dan Paden, of the badly misnamed No Blog of Significance, asks and answers a broader question:

What sort of belief-system should be preferred in our government's office-holders? The atheist's? The relativist's (by this, I mean all relativistic religions,such as Hinduism, Buddhism, "New Age," Paganism and Neo-paganism, etc.)? The Jew's, or the Muslim's? Or the Christian's?

He examines how different worldviews would affect one's approach to government, then brings out some relevant quotes from America's Founding Fathers about the kind of belief system they thought was necessary to the system of government they designed.

Eric Siegmund of Fire Ant Gazette has some kind words for me and this blog and writes:

Michael's column is worth reading whether you care anything about Tulsa politics or not. It contains some universal truths about why Christianity and politics can mix without diluting the former or distorting the latter. If nothing else, perhaps it will give some critics of "religious politicians" a better understanding of why many of those politicians are not hesitant to refer to the role that faith plays in their lives...and politics.

manasclerk says that living within a faith community that holds its members accountable makes a difference, and draws a contrast between Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton in that regard.

Red Bug at Tulsa Chiggers compares the situation on the Tulsa City Council to power politics at work on a non-profit board.

Sean Gleeson has posted two responses in a planned series of three entries on faith in the public square: God and Bates in Tulsa, The Fool's Heart Inclineth to the Left. UPDATE: The third installment of the trilogy is up -- The New Devouter -- in which he says that I got it backwards, and he may have a point.

PCA pastor David Bayly, who has some personal experience with faith and boldness in the public square, writes:

Michael's vision of Christian action in the political sphere is both bracing and realistic--bracing because it is realistic in its view of the centrality of faith to action. In a Christian world where what matters politically is usually numbers and pragmatism, Bates speaks Christian realism: faith, not numbers, not connections, not wealth, is power.

Also linking: Caffeinated Musings.

I'll update this entry as I spot more responses to the column. Email me at blog AT batesline DOT com, if I've missed yours. And at some point soon, I'll actually respond to some of the responses.

Bobby of Tulsa Topics also runs his neighborhood's blog -- Lewis Crest News -- and he's got some good news up about the I-44 widening. After worries that 51st Street between Lewis and Harvard would be turned into an eastbound-only service road, ODOT's latest plan, unveiled at a public meeting to night, has 51st remaining as two-way street, but with an additional turn lane. Good news for the homeowners and businesses on the south side of 51st. Businesses on the north side of 51st will still be wiped out when I-44 is widened, and there's still no timeline for when that will happen.

Bobby promises video and more details from the meeting later on Tulsa Topics.

I understand the desire to complete six-laning this stretch of road, but I don't understand why it should take priority over an even more heavily-loaded, dangerous stretch of I-44 -- the four miles in east Tulsa between the junction with I-244 west of 145th East Ave and the junction with Oklahoma 66 east of 193rd East Ave. Through traffic can easily bypass the section of I-44 in midtown Tulsa by taking I-244, which is wider, newer by about 20 years, and much less heavily loaded. But the east Tulsa segment, the most heavily traveled highway segment in Oklahoma, is almost unavoidable. (The Creek Turnpike is an alternate route, albeit a circuitous and expensive one.) Six lanes of westbound traffic from OK 66, I-44, and US 412 funnel down to two. From the other direction, four lanes from I-44 and I-244 merge into two. A traffic accident can paralyze the road for hours. Traffic coming from the west on I-244 can't spot a backup until it's too late to exit

If it were up to me, I'd make an upgrade of the east Tulsa segment top priority, and swap signs between I-44 and I-244. Make the newer, wider, better road the designated route for through traffic.

Don Danz laments that he's been tardy in blogging about our monopoly daily newspaper, but more than makes up for it with a new logo design for the Whirled.

No time to comment at length, but I want to call your attention to Joe Kelley's latest entry: "Downtown Takes Another Hit." In light of layoffs at two major downtown Tulsa employers, he questions all the effort and money put into downtown revitalization.

I think we do need a downtown and strong neighborhoods surrounding it, because we need at least one truly urban section of the city -- a place with a mixture of uses, a place where car-free living is possible.

The focus on downtown as office park -- build huge office towers, then tear everything else down to provide enough parking for the tenants of the office towers -- is one of the things that has killed downtown. Perhaps the recent discouraging developments will change the way we look at downtown revitalization for the better.

An edited version of this column appeared in the November 2, 2005, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is available online via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. My blog entry linking the column is here, responses from other bloggers are linked here and here. Posted online October 6, 2017.

Faith and political courage

by Michael Bates

It's been just over a week since "Tulsans for Better Government" launched their initiative petition to change the Tulsa City Charter to cut the number of City Council districts from nine to six and to add three super-councilors, to be elected citywide for four year terms. Already there's a strong backlash: An opposition group is getting organized, and it's drawing support from across the political spectrum. The Tulsa County Democratic Executive Committee has already issued a formal statement opposing the at-large councilor scheme, and grassroots Republicans are pushing for their party to come out against it as well.

Like so many other local issues, it doesn't divide along party lines. Instead you have certain privileged interest groups pushing for it, and ordinary Tulsans, concerned about fairness and equal representation in government, pushing back. Of the 22 members of the advisory board for Tulsans for Better Government, 18 live in the wealthy sections of Council District 9 or right next to Southern Hills Country Club in District 2. District 9 already has two City Councilors living within its borders -District 7 Councilor Randy Sullivan has lived there for nearly two years, preferring not to live among the people who elected him - but apparently that isn't enough for these people.

Of all the provocative things I wrote in last week's column on this topic ("Seeing the Light on City Charter"), this sentence has provoked the most comment: "Councilors Medlock, Mautino, Turner, and Henderson are all men of devout Christian faith."

The statement was in the middle of a paragraph about how these four reform-minded councilors have withstood relentless pressure from the defenders of the status quo. All four have said publicly and privately that their faith in Christ has sustained them through all the trials they have faced.

Over on my blog, batesline.com, Michael Sanditen commented that my statement was "off base and makes you appear a bigot. I will remind you that without the Jews in Tulsa, this town would be extremely pitiful. They are the quiet givers, the anonymous ones, many more than just the Kaisers, Schustermans, and Zarrows!" I'm amazed that the statement, intended as a compliment to the four councilors, would be read as an insult to adherents of any other faith. I concur that the contribution of the Jewish community to the prosperity and welfare of Tulsa far outweighs its numbers, but that has nothing to do with what I wrote.

Other commenters objected to any mention of religion in this context. One wrote, "Whether these men are Christian is irrelevant. Whether these men can perform their duties as city councilors is much more important." Another said, "Religious persuasion (or a lack thereof), for me, is not a litmus [test] for the qualifications for public service. I don't need to know what faith these Councilors follow to know that they are good men.... I hope you will realize bringing religion into the debate will most likely divide us more than it unites us."

I think I understand the root of their objections. If you think of faith as just professing agreement with certain doctrines, then what I wrote would be irrelevant to the discussion. If you confuse faith with religion, then you might well wonder what a Councilor's position on the propriety of infant baptism, which foot to lead with when genuflecting, or whether musical instruments have a place in worship has to do with his performance in office.

But faith is more than reciting a creed or performing certain rituals. Faith involves confidence and trust. During a worship service you profess certain things to be true about God's nature and character. During the rest of the week, your true faith - what you really believe about God and his dealings with you and the rest of the humanity - becomes apparent in the way you live your life, and particularly in the way you deal with adversity.

For that reason, what an elected official really believes about God's nature and character affects how he conducts himself in office. Someone who has genuine confidence and trust in God as He is revealed in the Bible will have courage and persistence in the face of discouragement, danger, hostility, oppression, and injustice. From the Torah, he knows that God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt, made a way of escape through the Red Sea, provided food for them in the wilderness, and settled them in the Promised Land. In the prophets, he reads of God's hatred for injustice, favoritism, and false dealing.

The politician who believes in the God of the Bible knows that he is in office not because of his brilliant campaign strategy, but because God put him there; in Psalm 75, he reads that "promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another." He reads Jesus' parable of the talents and knows that he is accountable first to God for what he does with the office which has been entrusted to him. He reads Mordecai's appeal to Esther and knows that he too is where he is "for such a time as this" - that it is not by accident that he is in office at this particular moment. There is something to be accomplished now, not put off until after the next election.

The usual pressure tactics won't succeed with the politician who reads and believes the Epistle to the Philippians. He turns his anxieties into prayers to his all-sufficient Father. You can threaten his job or his wife's job, but he reads that God will supply all his needs. You can threaten him with removal for office, but he is learning, with Paul, to be content in any situation. You can threaten his reputation and position, but he is a follower and servant of Christ, who forsook his heavenly throne, "made himself of no reputation, and took upon [himself] the form of a servant." You can threaten his life, but he knows that "to die is gain" - the worst you can do is send him on to his heavenly home earlier than he expected. He expects to share in the sufferings of his Lord, but also in his Lord's resurrection.

If you're a Councilor steeped in Scripture you aren't going to be deterred when a big donor threatens to fund your opponent, when someone from the Chamber or the Home Builders corners you to cuss you out over a vote, or when the World does another front-page hatchet job on you.

History is filled with men and women whose faith gave them the courage to persist in the political realm. One example: William Wilberforce, a member of the British parliament in the early 1800s, was driven by his faith to push first for the abolition of the slave trade, then for the abolition of slavery itself. His faith sustained him through the18 years it took to accomplish the first aim and another 15 years to accomplish the second. He spent most of those years as one lonely voice trying to overcome apathy and the opposition of powerful commercial interests.

There are and have been courageous politicians who are not Bible-believing Jews or Christians, and they draw their strength from other wells. But the Scripture is a deep well from which to draw.

Please understand that I am not talking about the sort of politician who wears his religion on his sleeve, who flits about from one megachurch to another, more in search of votes than spiritual nourishment. And I'm not talking about where a politician stands on any particular issue, although a worldview shaped by Scripture is bound to affect one's platform. I am talking about men and women who have learned through hardships, setbacks, and disappointments that the God of the Bible is still present and is worthy of their complete trust.

We say that we are weary of run-of-the-mill politicians. We are tired of compulsive people-pleasers who can't make a decision and stick with it. We are fed up with officials who abandon reform at the first sign of resistance. We have had it with "public servants" who seek only to serve themselves. If we want elected officials who are fearless to do what is right, we ought to look for men and women whose character has been shaped by confidence in a God who is bigger than any adversary they may face.

The latest issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly is out, and my column this week is a response to some comments objecting to my reference in last week's column to the Christian faith of the four reform-minded city councilors. An excerpt:

I think I understand the root of their objections. If you think of faith as just professing agreement with certain doctrines, then what I wrote would be irrelevant to the discussion. If you confuse faith with religion, then you might well wonder what a Councilorís position on the propriety of infant baptism, which foot to lead with when genuflecting, or whether musical instruments have a place in worship has to do with his performance in office.

But faith is more than reciting a creed or performing certain rituals. Faith involves confidence and trust. During a worship service you profess certain things to be true about Godís nature and character. During the rest of the week, your true faith--what you really believe about God and his dealings with you and the rest of the humanity--becomes apparent in the way you live your life, and particularly in the way you deal with adversity.

For that reason, what an elected official really believes about Godís nature and character affects how he conducts himself in office. Someone who has genuine confidence and trust in God as He is revealed in the Bible will have courage and persistence in the face of discouragement, danger, hostility, oppression, and injustice.

That's the gist of it; go read the whole thing, and feel free to post a comment.

Earlier in the week, Steve Denney of HFFZ posted some worthwhile thoughts on the matter:

To challenge a vested, powerful and ruthless political/financial machine is tough, thankless and risky work. A brief review of the personal attacks, including a lawsuit, that the Reform Councilors have had to endure should quickly disabuse anyone of the notion that they have been basking in power and glory at Tulsa City Hall. It is something beyond ourselves, religious faith, belief in the rule of law, a sense of fairness, or perhaps all three together that draw an individual to the cause of balanced representative government.

UPDATE: I've posted some responses from the blogosphere in this entry, and I'll add to it as more come in.

Today the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) is to consider recommending to the City Council the adoption of the 6th Street Infill Plan as part of the Comprehensive Plan. The TMAPC meets in the City Council chamber at 1:30 p.m. today.

The 6th Street Task Force has been working on this plan for over five years, and they're looking for support today. Prominent zoning attorney Charles Norman is leading a last-minute effort, just discovered on Tuesday, to get the TMAPC to delay approving the plan. If you can be at the meeting and speak in support of approving the neighborhood task force's efforts, it would be a big help. Here's an action alert about the meeting from TulsaNow president Rebecca Bryant. TulsaNow's website also has a 10 MB PDF version of the 84-page 6th Street Infill Plan available for download.

The task force brought together residents, business owners, and other neighborhood leaders to create a vision for how the area should redevelop. Here's the group's vision statement:

To reinvent the art of city life in Tulsa. To develop from the grass-roots an urban neighborhood that is diverse, intriguing and charming; that adapts to the new realities of the 21st Century and has the character, humanity and convenience of the best, traditional cities; that offers a radical and attractive alternative to suburban living; where it is possible to work, play and shop without recourse to a car; where neighbors work to foster good schools and safe, attractive streets and civic spaces; and where a vibrant, civic environment is matched by enlightened public policies. To do all this before it is too late.

That's the sort of neighborhood I had in mind when I wrote, in my Urban Tulsa Weekly column on walkability and disability:

Most of Tulsa is designed for the private automobile, but there ought to be at least a part of our city where those who canít drive, those whoíd rather not drive, and those whoíd like to get by with just one car can still lead an independent existence. At least one section of our city ought to be truly urban.

The first infill plan adopted was for Brookside (subject of my Urban Tulsa Weekly column a few weeks ago). Brookside was already attracting interest for infill development long before its infill task force was convened. The 6th Street corridor is a very different neighborhood. It is bounded by expressways on the north and west and split by the MKT railroad tracks. My great-grandmother lived at 1202 E. 1st St. in the 1940s; Paul Harvey grew up on 5th Place in the 1910s and 1920s. Some of the once-residential area near the expressways has redeveloped as light industrial, and along the railroad tracks it's been industrial for much longer, but some of those older sites are now vacant. There are stormwater flooding problems -- Elm Creek is one of the last creek basins in the city that hasn't had any improvements.

There are plenty of positive developments. The Village at Central Park -- the neotraditional townhouse development west of Peoria on 8th -- is coming along nicely. There will soon be a new senior citizen center in Centennial Park, next to a new, beautifully landscaped lake, which will help the stormwater problem. A 75-year-old apartment building has been converted into a boutique hotel called the Hotel Savoy. Family and Children's Services has a beautiful new red brick central office building right next to the Village at Central Park. The American Lung Association of Oklahoma is in the process of restoring the Fire Alarm Building -- an art deco gem -- for their headquarters. (You can see restoration photos here.)

These pioneers, along with homeowners, small businessmen, churches, and other institutions in the area are hoping for high-quality redevelopment that will create a walkable neighborhood.

Mr. Norman, I am told, is representing the Indian Health Center at 6th and Peoria. They want to close a street west of their property, and for that reason they want to delay approval of the plan; the task force report favors maintaining the street grid.

I hope the TMAPC will ignore the last-minute attempt to derail this five-year effort. If you care about quality redevelopment in Tulsa's core, I hope you'll be there in support of the plan.

UPDATE: The plan was approved unanimously. Tulsa Topics was on the scene, and Bobby has a summary.

Paul Ford writes on two different kinds of distraction, one good and one not so good:

But when wide distractions are available I avoid the narrow distractions, and those are the useful distractions. Let's say you're thinking hard about a concept--say, kittens. Kittens are young cats. They have paws and they are sometimes friendly. Your stepmother, you remember, didn't let you have a kitten. Why was that? Was she allergic, or did she really just hate you? Now, that's something worth thinking about. A concept worth exploring. That's a narrow distraction, a good distraction.

But with a wide distraction you think about kittens and all of a sudden your email pops up and you're thinking about Viagra, and about how horrible the world is and how it's filled with rapacious greedy spammers. You're not able to think about kittens any more so you check out the news to find out that China has a manned space program. Click. And that peak oil is a real problem and we might be living in an age where electricity becomes prohibitively expensive. Click. And that Apple just released a new iPod again, and everyone is all aflutter. There's really no way to bring all of that back to kittens. You've been broadly distracted. You might as well play some solitaire and go to bed.

In another article, he writes about how he copes with the temptation to broad distraction from his computer -- he uses Word Perfect for DOS and a little electronic keyboard that does nothing but store the text that you type for basic composition and editing.

And lately Iíve been working hard to become more productive. Iíve started quit every application that isnít relevant to the issue at hand and tried my damnedest only to allow the good distractions to come in the door, rather than to let the broad, wide world in at all times. I try not to multitask when I can help it. I think of this as "Amish Computing." You push the worldly things away because they distract you from your goals.

I actually came across these a few days ago and was going to post something about them, but I got... well, you know.

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

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