February 2006 Archives

24 hours have passed since the filing deadline for pre-primary ethics reports and still no report from Republican mayoral candidate Randi Miller. Two possibilities come to mind:

Possibility 1: The report would undermine her team's claims of her candidacy's strength. Miller sold her supporters on the notion that she had the best shot of knocking off LaFortune. If total dollars raised and funds remaining show that she doesn't have any traction, that undermines her claim to be the "stop Bill" candidate. The lack of media buys, direct mail, and direct phone would support this theory.

Possibility 2: The report would show contributions from the Good Ol' Boy network, contributions that would be hurt any support she has with the grassroots. There are names of frequent city donors that don't show up on any of the other disclosures -- maybe they'll show up on hers.

But this is all speculation that could be cleared up if the Miller campaign would just submit their C-1 form. Even though the clerk's office is closed until morning, they could scan the report and post it on their website.

Don McCorkell is holding a 1:30 pm press conference, Kathy Taylor is holding a 2:30 pm press conference. I'm told that, at a Democrat candidate forum today, she deflected a question about the issue, and then stormed out of the room as soon as the event was over.

The BOk bunch, at-large

| | Comments (2)

More analysis tomorrow, but I had to get this table up where you could see it. As I looked through the C-1 forms filed by Tulsa city candidates, I kept seeing some of the same names over and over again. Almost as if this group of contributors were coordinating their efforts. So I made a table to show certain contributors and the campaigns they helped. The candidates, districts, and parties are on the left side, the contributors are along the top. Here are the names and affiliations of the contributors:

  • George Kaiser, chairman of Bank of Oklahoma
  • Bank of Oklahoma Financial Corp PAC
  • Robert C. Poe, former president of the Tulsa Metro Chamber
  • John Brock, wrote fast-tracked Tulsa Whirled guest opinions in support of at-large councilors and having the city give $7.5 million to BOk to repay money the City doesn't owe
  • Oklahoma Realtors PAC
  • Arthur H. "Chip" McElroy, II, president, McElroy Mfg. Co., and chairman of Tulsans for Better Government, the group backing the at-large supercouncilor proposal
  • John and Mary Ann Bumgarner -- involved in development of the 15th & Utica Arvest Bank
  • Howard G. Barnett, advocate of at-large supercouncilors, named by LaFortune to his "Citizens Commission" studying city government
  • Art Justis, former City Councilor for District 6 -- the $1,000 shows up on his campaign filing as a contribution to David Patrick's campaign, but Patrick didn't disclose the contribution
  • Jay Helm, American Residential Group
  • Leonard and Patty Eaton -- backers of the at-large councilor proposal

That last row is for Grow Tulsa PAC, 20 E 5th #1500, which received $5,000 each from Barnett, Kaiser, and BOk PAC, and $1,000 each from C. Arnold Brown, Dave Presley, and Reuben Davis. All their contributions came between January 31 and February 10, and they list no expenditures. In block 3 on the form, Office Sought, is filled in with "Councilors." Evidently this will allow them to channel more money to favored council races during the last week before the primaries.

There are more interesting items -- I'm just scratching the surface. Particularly with the first five columns, it looks a lot like a coordinated council-packing effort. These donors only gave to these candidates -- no variation in other races. It's as if they've put together a team, a slate of candidates.

How did Jack Henderson get on the list? Possibly because he is a shoo-in for re-election, and they wanted to get on his good side.

DistCandidateKaiserBOk PAC PoeBrockRealtor PACMcElroyBumgarnerBarnettJustisHelmEaton
1Henderson (D)500500500
2 Prather (R) 1000 1000 600 1000 1000 3000 1000
3 Patrick (D) 1500 1000 800 1000 1500 1000 3000 1000
4 Wing (D) 600 1000 500 250
5 Martinson (R) 1000 1000 700 500 2000
6 Buchert (R) 1000 1000 700 1000 1000 250
7 Zarley (R) 500 1000 500 500
8 Christiansen (R) 1000 1000 800 1000
9 Stava (R) 1000 1000 900 2500
M LaFortune 1000 2000 1000 3000 3000 2500 2500
M Taylor 2500 2000 5000 5000
GROW TULSA PAC 5000 5000 5000
If you want more, tune into 1170 KFAQ tomorrow morning from 6 to 7. I need some sleep! UPDATE: Here are links to the Tulsa World's stories on campaign contributions, with lists of contributors: Most candidates. Randi Miller and other late filers.

You all remember the amazing mess that followed the 2000 general election in Florida? Questions about allowing military absentee ballots, the allegedly confusing Votomatic ballots, and the improperly punched votes -- hanging chads, pregnant chads, dimpled chads. The battle over the recount reached the U. S. Supreme Court.

The final official margin was 537 votes out of 6 million votes cast. That was the difference between a Bush presidency and a Gore presidency. It was a vivid object lesson of the principle that every vote matters.

That's why people get so exercised about vote fraud. I want to do all we can to ensure that only eligible people vote, that an eligible voter votes only once, and only in his place of primary residence, and that his vote counts exactly once. Whatever it takes within reason to make that happen -- showing ID at the polls, better optical scanning machines (but never, never, NEVER, an all-electronic system -- there has to be a voter-marked paper ballot), even purple dye on the thumb.

A fraudulent vote isn't a victimless crime. Like counterfeit currency, a fraudulent vote dilutes the value of every other vote.

Matters of life and death, war and peace, thrift and profligacy can hang on one vote per precinct. If only eligible voters had voted in Florida in 2000, what would have been the outcome? Would Bush have one by a bigger margin? Would Gore have won?

One form of vote fraud to which Florida is especially susceptible is dual-state registration. Florida has plenty of snowbirds who winter there and summer in New York, the Midwest, whereever home used to be. Dual-state residents are anxious to establish Florida residency because of the tax benefits, particularly the lack of a state income tax.

Registering to vote would help establish you as a resident of Florida, but you might not think to delete your registration in your old home state. In August 2004, the New York Daily News did a computer analysis, matching New York City voter registration records against the entire state of Florida and found 45,882 apparent matches.

Dual registration is fine, as long as you only vote in one state.

Officials in both states acknowledge that voting in multiple states is something of a perfect crime, one officials don't have the means to catch.

If you are caught, it's "a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine."

When the story broke on Friday about Kathy Taylor's dual homestead exemptions, I wondered about dual registration, too, so I called the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. I was told that Lobeck was still on the rolls, but not Taylor. An anonymous e-mail said I got the wrong answer, and I thought that it was possible the woman on the phone didn't understand me or I her.

Over the weekend I remembered: I have Florida voter registration and history data on my computer from a project I helped with a few years ago. I don't have data directly from the county election board, but the Republican National Committee collects voter registration records from every jurisdiction in the country, standardizes addresses, matches names with phone numbers, and takes 50 different data formats and rearranges all the records into one standard format. The Democrats do the same thing. It's all to help candidates figure out how to get their message directly to the most frequent voters.

The data I have was processed by the RNC in the summer or fall of 2002, long before running for mayor was even a gleam in Kathy Taylor's eye. It shows that she and William Earl Lobeck, Jr., were registered to vote at 704 Royal Plaza Drive, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 33301. Taylor registered to vote in Broward County, Florida, as a Democrat on February 5, 2000. That info is copied by the RNC directly from the original registration record. Her registration number is listed as 10391553.

The local election board also tracks each election in which a voter casts a ballot -- school board, city elections, runoffs, etc. The RNC doesn't preserve all the voter history information, just the records for major elections, like presidential preference primaries, state primaries, and general elections. Taylor's record shows that she voted in person in the 2000 Florida presidential preference primary, and by absentee ballot in the 2000 general election.

I also have voter registration records from the Oklahoma State Election Board, going back to May 1998. Taylor's voter number is 720088835, she registered to vote on October 2, 1988, and the records from the election board's December 2001 data show that she voted in person at what was then Tulsa County precinct 70 in the 2000 general election. (Precinct boundaries were redrawn in spring 2002; precinct 70 was teleported to east Tulsa, and old 70 was split between two neighboring precincts. Taylor and Lobeck are now in precinct 73.)

If these records are accurate, Kathryn L. Taylor committed federal voter fraud by voting twice in the same election, in an election and a state where every vote mattered.

I suspect I'm not the only one who has been able to dig up this information. Others with more time on their hands may be able to verify all this directly with the Tulsa County and Broward County election boards.

UPDATE: 12 pm, 2/28: Don McCorkell is holding a 1:30 pm press conference, Kathy Taylor is holding a 2:30 pm press conference. At a Democrat candidate forum today, she deflected a question about the issue, and then stormed out of the room as soon as the event was over.

Today at five was the effective deadline for the pre-primary ethics reports for Tulsa's city election. Four of the five leading candidates for mayor filed their reports -- Randi Miller missed the deadline. (If rumors of the latest SoonerPoll/Whirled poll are accurate, she's no longer a factor in the primary, and after Sunday's revelation, she may have given up the race.)

I'll do more in-depth analysis later, but here's a quick rundown:

Brigitte Harper raised $1,555.00, spent $1,384.48.
Bill LaFortune raised $309,514.61, spent $275,352.98.
Chris Medlock raised $28,268.07, spent $23,934.01.

Kathy Taylor raised $464,904.00, spent $406,762.30.

I saw McCorkell's report, which was in the $800,000 range, but somehow when we were making copies we missed it. (The McCorkell campaign should feel free to e-mail me a copy directly. :) )

There's an interesting recurring group of contributors that ties a bunch of the Council candidates together. It's like a repeat of two years ago, when a collection of F&M Bank board members backed a certain group of candidates, but this involves a bigger bank.

More later tonight, and you can hear me each morning through the election from 6 to 7 a.m. on 1170 KFAQ. Tomorrow morning we'll be talking about council races in districts 1, 3, and 6, plus any interesting scuttlebutt from the mayoral race.

On their 10 o'clock newscast, KTUL reported about today's rally in support of Tulsa's police that "a local radio station and Mayor Bill LaFortune organized the event." (Emphasis in the original.)

Of course, LaFortune had nothing to do with organizing it. KFAQ set up the whole thing, with the help of Chief Dave Been (before LaFortune put him on administrative leave), the police auxiliary, the FOP, and with the financial support of Rich and Cartmill Insurance.

I saw LaFortune today as he arrived late, after the color guard, the national anthem, and the tribute to fallen officers. He stood surrounded by staffers on the ground near the southeast corner of the stands, chattering away through the speeches. When Chief Been was recognized and applauded, LaFortune did not applaud. He slipped away right at the end and managed to avoid talking with citizens who might take issue with his mistreatment of the Chief.

A news report can shape perception through interpretation, selective reporting, choice of descriptive terms, but this was a flat-out lie, a lie designed to cover up Bill LaFortune's contemptuous treatment of Chief Been and the entire Tulsa Police Department.

UPDATE: A reader informs me that KOTV led their 10 o'clock report with a story on the rally, gave KFAQ credit for setting it up, interviewed Michael DelGiorno, and gave Chief Been a lot of attention.

UPDATE: Here's an audio clip of the KTUL report (300 KB MP3). Have an airsick bag handy when you listen to it.

I guess they got impatient for the candidates to start slinging mud at each other, so the Tulsa Whirled launched the first salvo. Although there have been whispers and talk among supporters of the candidates, so far we haven't had mudslinging robocalls or attack ads coming from the campaigns.

This morning's Whirled has a front-page, above-the-fold story about some of the rumors floating around the Mayoral campaign. Bill LaFortune is said to have been offered a job at OU-Tulsa, as a way of getting him out of a job he couldn't handle and out of a re-election race he couldn't win. Randi Miller is accused of having an "unprofessional relationship," during her time on the Council, with assistant public works director Mike Buchert, husband of District 6 challenger Theresa Buchert.

There's something about Don McCorkell and a state water board contract with a power plant he helped start. The story about Kathy Taylor's dual homestead exemptions in Florida and Oklahoma finally made the Tulsa Whirled, two days after the Sun-Sentinel had the story.

For Medlock, they rehashed the story about his falling one class short of having an MBA and the complaint by Joe Conner that Medlock was trying to force him out of the District 5 special election. (Those links will take you to BatesLine entries on those two topics.) You knew there wouldn't be anything new about Medlock -- any dirt that they could have smeared him with would have been used during last year's attempt to recall him.

The "scandal" involving the power plant McCorkell once owned seems like a stretch, based on how it was presented. It's not surprising that the Whirled stayed away from McCorkell's involvement in Great Plains Airline, because of the paper's own major holdings in the airline.

Rumors about a job for LaFortune have been floating around for a long time. Certain Republican elected officials are said to have been disappointed with his performance and concerned about losing the Mayor's seat back to the Democrats, so they've been trying to find him a graceful way out. LaFortune's early departure from the District Attorney's job to a private law practice provided a basis for thinking it could happen again.

Given that this article was the first mention in the Whirled of Kathy Taylor's dual homestead exemption, a story that broke on Friday, I have to wonder if the point of the mud-slinging story was to minimize the impact on their favorite candidate, by including this story, which is based on confirmed facts, in a story about whispering and mudslinging, and by taking a swipe at each of the major candidates. (To my mind, the most damaging thing in the Sun-Sentinel story wasn't the back taxes and penalties, but the statement of Mr. Kathy Taylor that he considers himself a Florida resident. That didn't make the Whirled.)

I was surprised that the Whirled published something about the Randi Miller - Mike Buchert relationship. I've been hearing rumors about it for a few years now, and it's considered common knowledge around City Hall. It was common enough knowledge that, according to the Whirled, Buchert's boss, Public Works director Charles Hardt, reassigned some of Buchert's duties:

"There were concerns with his professionalism as it dealt with the council and Miller, and I informed the mayor about the reassignment," Hardt said.

Buchert's statement and that of his wife strongly suggest that there was something inappropriate going on:

"This is a personal matter. This is a matter that has been reconciled and placed in the past. My wife and I have been married for 31 years and, if I have anything to say about it, will be married for the rest of our lives. The past is the past, we have moved forward," he said.

Theresa Buchert, who is a Republican candidate in the City Council District 6 race, said their marriage, like many, has had its ups and downs, but this issue with Miller has nothing to do with her or what she can bring to the City Council.

"It is seven days before a major primary election, and Tulsa has been in turmoil for how many years? People don't know how to effect change without getting dirty," she said.

As I mentioned, I've been hearing about this for years, and while this would normally just be a sad personal matter, there are public policy implications. Just the fact that the relationship was considered common knowledge, even if the rumors were false, could have had an effect on Randi Miller's performance as Mayor.

Charles Hardt is nearing retirement, and Buchert would be in line for that job. If Mayor Randi Miller promoted Buchert, people would assume it was because of their relationship; if she passed him over, despite his qualifications, people would assume that she was trying to avoid the appearance of favoritism, because of their relationship. It would be a no-win situation for both of them, and for the City. And can you imagine the strained interpersonal dynamics with Miller as Mayor, Mike Buchert as Public Works director, and Theresa Buchert as a City Councilor?

Fortunately, that outcome isn't very likely. Miller was running third even after the FOP endorsement and before this story came out, and Jim Mautino, whom Buchert is challenging, is very popular in District 6, surviving recall with the support of 70% of the voters.

The other public policy concern is blackmail. An official with something to hide might make a decision or avoid a decision in order to pacify someone who has an interest in city policy and information about the official that could be damaging. An official fearing for her reputation will have a hard time being bold in the face of harsh opposition.

Miller was pretty tough when she first came on the Council in 2000, and she was willing to buck the Mayor and the city establishment when it mattered, but over time she seemed to become more interested in going along to get along. Lately there's been a fearfulness about her.

For example: Back in 2003, after Miller and the other County Commissioners voted to put Vision 2025 on the ballot, with the arena and higher education funding in the same ballot item, I called her to express my disappointment. I had been working with her and other Republican leaders the day before, trying to get a fair and logical breakdown of the package into individual ballot items, with the arena standing alone. She expressed agreement with us, but in the County Commission meeting she did nothing to try to amend the four-item package that the Dialog/Visioning leadership put together.

When I called to ask why she didn't act to change the package or to vote against the flawed package, she told me that "they" would have "crucified" her. I assumed she was just worried about a negative editorial in the Whirled or campaign contributions going to an opponent for her 2004 re-election bid, and the worry seemed disproportionate to the threat. When I started hearing the rumors about her extracurricular activities, her fear of "crucifixion" seemed much more rational.

Miller's unconventional living situation only makes appearances worse for her. From the Whirled's February 12 profile story:

In St. Croix, the couple found the schools were not strong, so Miller decided to move back to Tulsa with her children while her husband remained there.

"It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was important for our kids," she said, adding that they see each other regularly.

Miller's move back to Tulsa happened before she ran for City Council in 2000. It's not hard to understand that a family might endure a few months' separation when Mom and the kids move back for schools and family, while Dad looks for a new job in Tulsa and wraps things up at his old job. It is hard to imagine keeping the family split for six years for the sake of either career or schools.

While Miller has a lot of family here to help out, it still can't be easy to be both a public official and practically a single mom. Nor can it be easy to be between six and twelve years old, with Dad 2000 miles away and Mom busy with civic stuff. It's hard enough on my family for me to be as involved as I am, even though I rarely travel on business.

Was it right for the Whirled to report on this situation? When a damaging rumor is common knowledge among insiders, has some substance behind it, and can affect a candidate's performance and decision-making in office, shouldn't voters have the chance to know what the insiders know and to weigh the information? Would it be better to keep voters in the dark until it's too late to make a difference, as the Whirled did with Randy Sullivan's divorce and departure from District 7 or with the scandal surrounding former State Rep. Chad Stites?

As painful as this must be for Randi and her family, I think the Whirled made the right call in this case. What do you think?

All the dirt that's fit to print

|

Yes, I've read the front page story in today's Whirled about the dirt being peddled on various candidates. Yes, I have something to say about it, and have already started writing, but I won't finish it until this afternoon.

Smoke on the Water

| | Comments (1)

You'll find a lot of patriotic and conservative sentiments expressed in country and western music. As a rebuttal to a metroconservative who bemoans conservative celebration of the culture of the common man (think NASCAR, Wal-Mart, and Blue Collar Comedy), Clinton W. Taylor presents, on the American Spectator's website, a selection of 15 "great country songs with great conservative ideas."

As his number one selection, Taylor, once a DJ at KMAD, the "Greatest Little Station in the Chickasaw Nation," picks the song Smoke on the Water. This isn't the Deep Purple song of the same name. This one was recorded in 1945 by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and a year before that it was a hit for Red Foley. It was written by Zeke Clements and Earl Nunn.

Of this politically incorrect song, with its references to "heathen gods," Taylor writes:

If you ever set out to find out just what it would take to get yourself excommunicated from the Unitarians, I bet playing this song while you did it would help.

Here's a link to the original lyrics for Smoke on the Water, including the fierce second verse that Taylor mentions was dropped from the Bob Wills version.

(If you come back here in a day or two, you may be able to hear a bit of the song. UPDATE: As promised, for a limited time, a very low-quality 350 KB MP3.)

(If this is correct, the twin lead guitarists on that song are Jimmy Wyble and Cameron Hill.)

Country and Western is music for grownups. It's about the only current genre where you'll find songs about responsibility, fidelity, love of country, parenthood, old age, and the consequences of folly.

Taylor's description of his number 15 song reminded me of another song that deals with fidelity. A little over a year ago I first heard a Randy Travis song called On the Other Hand. The song's point of view is that of a married man who is very tempted to stray, but he musters the strength to stop and leave before he goes too far. Here's the chorus:

On the other hand, There's a golden band
To remind me of someone who would not understand
On the one hand I could stay and be your loving man
But the reason I must go is on the other hand

When I first heard that song, I was struck by the contrast with a pop song that dealt with a similar temptation -- the Beatles' Chains, by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. In Chains, the singer's love for his girlfriend binds him from going after the desirable girl to whom the song is addressed.

But in On the Other Hand, there's no hint of chains of love binding the singer to his wife -- he sings of passion that has died. Instead of being bound by emotion, he's bound by the objective fact of his vows before God and man, symbolized by that golden band on the other hand. Instead of passion being trumped by stronger passion, as in the Beatles' song, here you have passion being subjected to duty by an act of the will. And that is very much a conservative idea.

Helping Susan Cowsill

| | Comments (1)

This is going to be a departure from BatesLine's usual content, the sort of thing that Mister Snitch calls a long-tail post. Google seems to treat this blog pretty favorably, so I'm hopeful that this entry will be found by Cowsills fans as they search the net.

In the linkblog a few days ago, I made mention of the woes that have recently befallen The Cowsills, a the late '60s pop band that also happened to be a family. The band consisted of four brothers, their mom, and their little sister Susan.

(Hollywood saw the TV potential of the group, but after the fashion of the time that potential was translated into a situation comedy based on their story, featuring professional actors miming to music. Nowadays, the Cowsills would have been made the stars of their own reality series.)

The Cowsill family has lost a lot in the last few months, starting with Hurricane Katrina. Barry Cowsill, in New Orleans when the storm hit, was missing until January, when his body was identified.

Susan Cowsill and her husband made it out of New Orleans in time, but with nothing but their pets and the clothes on their back. Their priceless family archives were lost to the storm.

Then, a week ago, as family and friends gathered in the family's hometown of Newport, R.I., to remember Barry, they learned that oldest brother Billy had died at his home in Calgary.

Susan Cowsill has a connection to Tulsa. Susan sang backup and harmony vocals with Dwight Twilley's band, going back to the '80s, and she lived in Tulsa for a time. She was here last August performing with Twilley, not long before Katrina hit.

(YouTube has a music video, "Some Good Years," a song the regrouped Cowsills recorded in the early '90s. The video was part of a tribute to Barry, and it features clips from the Cowsills' American Dairy Association commercial, a 1967 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and TV appearances with Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Buddy Ebsen, and Mike Douglas. Even if you aren't a fan, if you fondly remember variety shows of the era, you'll enjoy the trip down Memory Lane. Hat tip to the Dawn Patrol.)

Susan Cowsill could use your help in a couple of ways. She and her husband lost everything to Katrina. Back in September Dwight and Jan Twilley began collecting funds to help with basic needs, and in an e-mail a couple of days ago, Jan Twilley confirmed to me that there is still a need and they are still accepting donations. You can send donations to:

Susan Cowsill
c/o Jan Twilley
4306 S. Peoria Suite 642
Tulsa, OK. 74105-3924

The Cowsill family also hopes to replace some of the memorabilia that was lost to the storm. Through the Cowsills Archive Project, the family is asking for fans to share their Cowsills memorabilia by uploading photos and scans. They would also welcome any memorabilia you can bear to part with to help rebuild the family's collection.

I only learned about The Cowsills in the last year or so, so I can't claim to be a longtime fan, but I was touched by this story of loss upon loss -- and its contrast to the happy innocence you'll see in that video -- and I wanted to let people know how they can help. I'm hopeful that Cowsills fans will come across this entry, spread the word, and help in any way they can.

It's the golden age of the autodidact.

An increasing number of universities are making course materials available online for free. The materials can't be used for course credit, but they are available for one's personal enlightenment and enrichment. Two institutions where I gained some higher learning offer online course material.

First, there's the MIT OpenCourseware program.

For example, the Urban Studies and Planning department offers materials from well over 50 undergraduate and graduate courses, with syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes, and assignments. Their introductory course, 11.001J, looks like an excellent, well, introduction, to the history, terminology, and trends of urban planning.

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department offers everything I took in my undergraduate program, including the four foundational courses taken by all Course VI undergrads (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Circuits and Electronics, Signals and Systems, Computation Structures); Artificial Intelligence; Automata, Computability, and Complexity. They even have Strobe Lab, including the required lab experiments (student must supply own stroboscope, rifle, ammunition, and target objects).

Back in the early '90s, our church offered extension courses from Covenant Theological Seminary, and I took about a half-dozen until our church dropped out of the program. Covenant, in St. Louis, was founded in 1956 as the seminary of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), a denomination which, through a couple of mergers, became part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which denomination the seminary now serves. (There's a newer EPC, founded in the 1980s, which has no connection with the earlier denomination.)

Anyway, Covenant Worldwide offers materials from the 20 courses that would constitute the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program if you were taking the courses on campus. For each course there is lecture audio in MP3 format, plus lecture notes in PDF format, and a list of recommended reading materials.

I can highly recommend Ancient and Medieval Church History and Reformation and Modern Church History, both taught by Prof. David Calhoun. One of my fond memories about his lectures is that he always began with a prayer written in the age he is covering in the lecture.

The Francis Schaeffer course is interesting, too -- not only because it's about the background, life, and work of the renowned evangelical writer, but because the milestones of his life were the milestones that shaped modern evangelicalism, from the fundamentalist/modernist controversy in the '20s, through the break between separation-minded fundamentalists and evangelicals in the '50s, to the beginnings of Christian political activism in the late '70s.

I've never heard his lectures on theology, but Robert Peterson served as pulpit supply at our church during two periods when we were between pastors, and he's a wonderful teacher. His course, Humanity, Christ, and Redemption is online.

Many thanks to TulipGirl for the tip.

The Dishonorable Bill LaFortune continues his campaign to trash an honorable police chief and to try to rescue his foundering campaign for re-election. The mayor who told us "more police officers means more arrests means a higher crime rate," who appears to be campaigning on a promise NOT to add more police officers, has to discredit the police chief any way he can, because the police chief has straightforwardly said that more officers are needed.

Now LaFortune has handpicked an investigator who will likely give LaFortune the report he wants about Chief Dave Been's "outrageous" delay in presenting him an interim report about the SWAT team. Even if Frank Hagedorn doesn't tell LaFortune what he wants to hear, the investigation's deadline falls conveniently after the primary election. Why not let the auditor or the Council handle the matter, since LaFortune's judgment is at question, too?

What else has Weak Willy been up to? He's claiming that Been tried to shut down the serial rapist task force back in December. The reality is that under police contract rules and under a consent decree, police officers on a special task force have to be given the chance to go back to their normal assignments after 60 days. The 60-day deadline was approaching in mid-December, and Been was working to keep the task force going while still complying with the FOP contract
and the court order. In fact, the task force continued its work, although ultimately the break in the case came from a Crimestoppers tip.

This morning on KFAQ, Been said that he raised this issue in a staff meeting in December, and when the Mayor showed up 30 minutes late, he explained the issue again for the Mayor's benefit. I remember Been giving that same explanation on KFAQ in December, when Michael DelGiorno asked him about rumors that the task force would be shut down.

For all the talk about division in the police department, 200 FOP members turned out for its emergency meeting last night, and they gave a 100% vote of confidence to Chief Been. (Public safety unions don't always back their bosses. Sometime around 1990, the Firefighters' Union voted to censure then-Fire Chief Tom Baker for failures of leadership. That was despite the fact that Baker had once been head of that union.)

LaFortune, as usual, won't face the music on his decisions. He sent Clay Bird to talk to the police officers about the action against Been. Bird claimed that LaFortune misspoke when he said he wasn't aware of the consultant's review of the SWAT team, but the correction of the record only came out when LaFortune's signature surfaced on the authorization for the study.

And as the timeline has emerged, it appears that Been only had the interim report for one business day before he spoke to Bird about it, and it was in Bird's hands the next day, as soon as Been was back in Tulsa from a conference in the Oklahoma City area. Bird then apparently sat on the report for two days before notifying LaFortune.

Meanwhile, LaFortune is trying to take credit for the biggest police academy class in history, and trying to make voters forget that it followed two years of no academy at all, because Bill LaFortune put other priorities ahead of public safety.

Tulsans need to show their support for Chief Been and the Tulsa Police Department. We ought to be supportive always, but they need our support especially since we have a Mayor who obviously holds the force in contempt.

The FOP Auxiliary has asked Tulsans to show their support for Chief Been today by driving with headlights on. And on Sunday from 2 to 3 p.m., a rally in support of the police force, which had already been scheduled, will be held at LaFortune Stadium, on Hudson (halfway between Yale and Sheridan) between 51st and 61st. Both are important ways to let those who put their lives on the line for us know that we appreciate their service.

But if you want to make a difference for our police force, you need to do more than drive with lights on and go to a rally. You need to help elect candidates who will give make funding the police department a priority and who will also do the right thing on important issues like zoning and land use and putting Tulsa's interests first.

There are only 10 days left until the election, and these candidates aren't well funded. They won't have the Tulsa Whirled's help in getting their message out, but their opponents will.

While more voters -- like those of you who are reading this -- are getting perspective on city issues through alternative media, most of the most faithful voters still name the Whirled or local TV news as their principal source of information about local politics. Most voters don't listen to KFAQ, don't read the Beacon or Urban Tulsa or Tulsa news blogs, and don't participate in the TulsaNow forum. How will these voters hear the other side of the story unless you help take it to them?

I urge you to call one of the campaigns below today and offer as much of your time as you can between now and the elections. Maybe that's just an hour tomorrow afternoon, maybe it's a couple of hours a day. Every campaign will have people distributing flyers and calling voters and putting out signs. They have work to be done, and they need people more than anything else. Money is needed, too, to pay for last minute mailers and other means of getting the message to voters.

In most cases, these candidates don't have paid help or even full-time volunteer help to handle all the details of a campaign, so they're having to be both candidate and campaign manager, while balancing that with duties at home and at work. John Eagleton is not only campaigning, he's having to keep up his law practice and be Mr. Mom to his sons while his wife has been called up by the Navy for active duty. Rick Westcott has been representing clients in jury trials this week, some of them out of town. Maria Barnes had the flu and was under doctor's orders for bed rest for 10 days.

The races below are the most strategic and most in need of volunteer support.

Chris Medlock for Mayor, 269 - 2822, or stop by HQ at 69th and Canton (north of 71st and Yale QuikTrip)

Rick Westcott, District 2 Republican, 639-8542, e-mail rick@rickwestcott.org

Roscoe Turner, District 3 Democrat, 834-7580

Maria Barnes, District 4 Democrat, 510-5725

Al Nichols, District 5 Democrat, 663-9432

Jim Mautino, District 6 Republican, 437-2642

John Eagleton, District 7 Republican, 496-0706/584-2002, or meet at 62nd and Irvington at 9:00 a.m. Saturday

Cliff Magee, District 8 Republican, 747-1747

Is Democrat mayoral candidate Kathy Taylor a Floridian or an Oklahoman? The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports that Kathy Taylor and her husband Bill Lobeck claimed homestead exemptions in both states:

The chief executive of one of the nation's largest car rental companies and his politician wife owe more than $130,000 in back taxes and penalties on their Fort Lauderdale waterfront mansion because they claimed homestead exemptions both here and in Oklahoma, according to the Broward Property Appraiser's Office.

The bill being sent to William Lobeck and Kathryn Taylor is the largest levied since Property Appraiser Lori Parrish launched her fraud investigation unit a year ago. Lobeck is the head of Vanguard Car Rental, which moved its headquarters from Fort Lauderdale to Tulsa in 2004. Taylor stepped down as Oklahoma's commerce secretary earlier this year and is running for mayor of Tulsa.

The couple owns a $2.9 million home on a finger isle off Las Olas Boulevard and an $8 million home in Tulsa. Under Florida law, property owners may claim only one homestead exemption and it must be on their primary residence.

Lobeck said Thursday he has asked his lawyer to discuss the matter with the county and he will pay any additional taxes he owes. He said he had considered himself to be a Florida resident. ...

Broward property records indicate Lobeck applied for the tax exemptions in Fort Lauderdale in 1998, while Oklahoma records obtained by Cacciatore show homestead exemptions for the couple there dating back to 1999.

To confirm Lobeck's claim to Florida residency, I called the Broward County election board and confirmed that Bill Lobeck is still registered to vote on Royal Plaza Drive, Ft. Lauderdale, with a date of birth that matches his voter registration record in Oklahoma. (The clerk wasn't able to find Kathryn Lobeck or Kathryn Taylor as a currently registered voter there. I didn't ask, but I wonder if they keep records of when someone is removed from the rolls.)

So where is home for Kathy Taylor? Records of her federal campaign donations in recent years show her sometimes listing a home address in Oklahoma and sometimes listing a home address in Florida. If he's a resident of Florida, and she's a resident of Oklahoma, that means we have two mayoral candidates who don't live within a thousand miles of their spouses. (Randi Miller's husband lives in St. Croix, Virgin Islands.)

UPDATE: KOTV.com had this headline on their home page earlier today: "Florida appraiser: Tulsa mayoral candidate owes back taxes..." When I first clicked on the link, it lead to an AP story on that topic. Now it leads to a story on rules for Oklahoma's "racinos." And now the headline is missing from their site. Is someone at KOTV trying to shield Taylor from embarrassing news?

The AP story is still on KTUL's website.

UPDATE from Mickaël Lucchini, KOTV's webmaster, at 1:31 pm:

From the News Room: we had to put this story offline because of AP restrictions (Tulsa World has online exclusivity).

Also, a mistake has been made and the link to the downed "Taylor" story has been assigned to the "Racinos" story. We are correcting this at the moment.

I replied letting him know that KTUL still had the story up.

UPDATE from Mickaël Lucchini, KOTV's webmaster, at 1:46 pm:

From the News Room: following discussions with the AP, KOTV.com has been authorized to publish this story. The direct link is http://www.kotv.com/main/home/stories.asp?whichpage=1&id=99528

(UPDATE: There's also a February 28 forum for District 2, Rick Westcott v. Paul Prather, at Webster High School at 7 pm.)

The two City Council seats that cover most of midtown are up for grabs, as Susan Neal and Tom Baker are not seeking re-election.

District 9 has a Republican primary on March 7 between Jeff Stava and
Cason Carter; the winner will face Democrat Phil Kates on April 4.

District 4 has a primary for both parties -- Rick Brinkley vs. Kent Morlan in the Republican primary; Maria Barnes vs. Jack Wing in the Democratic primary.

On Tuesday, February 28, there are candidate forums scheduled for both districts. If you time it right, you might be able to attend both.

District 9:

Where: Wright Elementary School, 1110 E. 45th Place (one block west of Peoria)
When: 5:30 pm to 7 pm
Sponsored by: Brookside, LewisCrest, Maple Ridge and Ranch Acres Neighborhood Associations
Contact: Herb Beattie, co-president, Brookside Neighborhood Association, 749-4586, herb.beattie@sbcglobal.net

District 4:

Where: Wilson Middle School Cafeteria, enter on 12th Street between
Columbia and Delaware
When: 7 pm to ?
Sponsored by: Renaissance Neighborhood Association. The meeting will
also feature a presentation on changes to the TU master plan
Contact: Eric Gomez, president-elect of Renaissance Neighborhood Association, 378-0992, egomez@tulsarealtors.com

The latest Urban Tulsa Weekly is online and has the first installment of the primary election preview, including an overview of what's at stake, the questionnaire we sent to city candidates, a preview of the charter amendment on the March 7th primary ballot (Independents can vote, too!), and stories on the District 3 Democrat primary, and the Democratic and Republican primaries in District 4. The story on each race includes candidate names, addresses, websites, and phone numbers, so you can get in touch, ask tough questions, and offer your help.

Next week's issue should have my stories on the rest of the races. The full text of the candidate responses is not yet online, but I'll link it from here when it is.

My op-ed this week was inspired by a form letter we received from District 4 Democratic candidate John "Jack" Wing. I take apart the conventional wisdom on Council "bickering" (as expressed in Wing's letter) as a way to explain my endorsements in each Council primary, as well as the Republican primary for Mayor.

Primaries are important. As I wrote, "If you let others weed out candidates in the primaries, you may find that they've left you with a choice between two candidates with different party labels but equally unacceptable views on how to run City Hall." Since so many races will be won, or all but won, in the primary, I've made endorsements in each of the primary races. Even though I'm a Republican, it matters to me as a Tulsan whether good men like Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson win their nominations.

My endorsements for their respective nominations (please note that this does not guarantee an endorsement in the general election):

Mayor Republican: Chris Medlock
Mayor Democrat: To be announced
District 1 Democrat: Jack Henderson
District 2 Republican: Rick Westcott
District 3 Democrat: Roscoe Turner
District 4 Republican: still undecided -- Rick Brinkley is a good man; I'm slightly leaning to Kent Morlan for his awareness of city issues
District 4 Democrat: Maria Barnes
District 5 Republican: no endorsement; Greg Madden is worth a further look
District 5 Democrat: Al Nichols
District 6 Republican: Jim Mautino
District 7 Republican: John Eagleton
District 8 Republican: Cliff Magee
District 9 Republican: Cason Carter

See the column for the reasons why in each race. These good folks could use your help during these last 12 days of the campaign. Call or e-mail and volunteer.

Terry Simonson, in a column that seems to have been written before the FOP announced their endorsement, and long before Bill LaFortune's bizarre action to place Police Chief Dave Been on administrative leave, wants the police rank and file to go beyond issuing an endorsement and to get active on behalf of their candidate.

I'd add only that the candidate the officers ought to be getting behind is not the one their leadership endorsed. When there was an opportunity to shift funding away from gilding the lily at the Fairgrounds and building a new golf cart barn at LaFortune Park, and toward beefing up Tulsa's police force, Chris Medlock took a political risk to propose a way to increase funding for the police department, while Randi Miller opted for protecting the County's sales-tax turf over protecting Tulsans against crime. When "4 to Fix" renewal was being considered by the County Commission, Randi Miller could have shown leadership, could have said the cities need this money more than the County does, but she didn't.

On the subject of bloggers in print: As proud as I am to write for UTW, another blogger's exciting achievement today puts that into perspective. Congratulations to Dawn Eden on her first-ever byline in the Wall Street Journal, a review of the book Fired!, by Annabelle Gurwitch.

(Now that I think about it, the blogger achievement mentioned in the previous entry really puts everything into proper perspective.)

Phoebe Gleeson is live-blogging the home birth of their fifth child. Click that link for the play-by-play, and send some prayers and good wishes their way.

UPDATE: The stork's done landed, and brought little Beatrice Anna. Congratulations, to Phoebe, Sean, and the whole bloglomerate on your beautiful baby girl. (Did you really post to your blog a mere seven minutes after giving birth? Wow.)

Commenter clinic

| | Comments (3)

Rush Limbaugh isn't the founder of the syndicated talk radio genre -- Larry King should get the credit for that -- but he has set the standard in many respects. I don't listen often any more, but I always enjoyed it when he took the time to explain why he ran the show a certain way and how his rules contributed to the success of the show.

A lot of talk show hosts focused on the callers and measured the success of the show by the number of people wanting to talk. Rush pointed out that there were far more listeners than callers, and that the show was for the listeners. Callers had no right to bore or irritate his listeners to the point of provoking them to tune out.

Rush has always made it clear that his show is about what he thinks, and the callers' role is to interact with the issues he raises. Callers who want to talk about a different topic are turned away (except on Fridays, when he allows more leeway), and callers have to be able to make their point succinctly. Dissenting views are welcome, but you're expected to be polite and engage in a conversation, not a shouting match. It's his show, his rules, and he's built a substantial audience by running it his way. Those who want to do things another way are welcome to start their own radio show and build their own audience.

I haven't done this consciously, but Rush's approach seems to have shaped my approach to running this blog. It is after all BatesLine, and it's about what I find interesting and what I think about it. This is my blog, not a bulletin board or a forum. Comments, even dissenting comments, are welcome, but try to stay on topic and keep it polite. As it's my place, I am the arbiter of what is on-topic and what is polite. Those who want to do things another way are welcome to start their own blog (much easier than starting your own syndicated radio show) and build their own audience.

I've written previously about my comment policy, and in that entry you'll get a general idea of what I will and won't approve.

In the last week I've declined to approve seven comments.

Five were from a frequent commenter here. These comments made some interesting points, and even included compliments for me, but they went way off-topic, and some were also quite lengthy. A comment like that can kill a conversational comment thread or trigger a flame war that has nothing to do with the blog entry at hand.

The other two were from someone who had never commented before, writing under the pseudonym Tommy, with the e-mail address ConcernedTulsaVoter@yahoo.com, and an IP address of 68.229.243.88, which is a Cox cable internet address. ConcernedTulsaVoter@yahoo.com later e-mailed me to ask why I hadn't posted his comments.

I referred him to my comments policy, which he misread, responding by e-mail from 65.69.103.194 (assigned to semgrouplp.com):

I see; so you don't post any dissenting opinions. Maybe you should put some kind of disclaimer on the comments form so people don't waste their time.

In fact, after I replied to his first e-mail, it occurred to me that it would be helpful to provide a link to my entry about comments. I had already added it to the template and rebuilt all the individual entries before I received that second e-mail.

Although my general rule with comments I reject is "never apologize, never explain," I think it would be useful to take a closer look at these two comments, because they illustrate how to make an interesting point in a rude way. Rush Limbaugh used to do "caller clinics" -- he'd take an unscreened call and explain the call's good and bad points to help listeners understand the screening choices he makes.

In that same spirit, then, here we go with a BatesLine "commenter clinic." Let's start with the first comment from "Tommy", posted to the entry about "planned shrinkage":

According to La Semana del Sur, Casa Laredo is closing its long-time location at 41st and Peoria. From other sources I've heard the move is to make way for the expansion of Wild Oats Market. The cool news is that they plan to build a new location next to the Hotel Savoy near 6th and Peoria (recently redubbed the Pearl District), near the Village at Central Park. It's a real vote of confidence for the 6th Street corridor and could encourage more new businesses to spring up in the area. (I seem to recall that Chimi's original location on 15th Street -- where Kilkenny's is now -- was a catalyst for new business activity on Cherry Street in the early '90s.)

From La Semana Del Sur:

[Democrat mayoral candidate Kathy] Taylor did not shy away from questions regarding her donations to Republicans, saying, "There are times, both in business and in politics, when you need a seat at the table," describing her contributions to members of the opposing party as a method of facilitating dialogue rather than an indication of ideological support.

"Facilitating dialogue." Also known as "buying access"?

We've got a makeshift blogger's row here at the back of the OSU-Tulsa auditorium for the mayoral candidate forum sponsored by TulsaNow and the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. Bobby of Tulsa Topics will be liveblogging the event, and David of Our Tulsa World is videotaping the event. I'll be here for the opening statements, but I then have to skedaddle.

In the audience: 212 people, filling most of the seats.

On the dais from the audience's left to right: Prophet Kelly Clark, Bill LaFortune, Kathy Taylor, Randi Miller, Don McCorkell, Chris Medlock, Benford Faulk, and P**l T**.

Rich Fisher from KWGS is the moderator.

What follows is very rough notes.

Opening statements:

Clark: Starts by quoting John Locke and John Stuart Mill. If democracy is at stake, your freedom is at stake. "Don't let it slip into F-A-S-C-I-S-M."

LaFortune: Acknowledged wife, thanked sponsors. Want to build on economic momentum, finish what we started. All the projects that are in or right around downtown -- almost $250 million through Vision 2025. We had a downtown that had not had any public improvements for three decades, four decades.

Taylor: Talked about Governor Henry's EDGE -- last time she was in this auditorium. "I was a business leader." Business leadership is absolutely transferable to government. Talks about historic preservation, Main Street programs increasing retail, is happening in Oklahoma City (Capitol Hill, Stockyards City), same thing can happen in Tulsa. Support form based zoning. Preserve our history. Preserve our arts.

Miller: We need leadership, we need a plan, we need a direction. Mentioned her turns as chairman of council, county commission. Cites crime rate, ninth worst streets. Need quality of life, low crime, good infrastructure. Need a leader who will make tough decisions. Completely avoided topics of the forum.

McCorkell: Says he won KWGS Haiku contest two years ago. Cites Jane Jacobs and Richard Florida. Wife serves on AHCT board. Cites legislative experience. Proud that his subcommittee was first to fund Main Street program. Had to seek financing out of state because Oklahoma is too dominated by those interested in preservation of capital not the creation of capital.

Medlock: Staunch defender of neighborhoods. Trained to be a strategic planner. We have good first tastes of planning: Brookside, Kendall-Whitter, 6th Street. We need plans and an administration that has the discipline to stick to that plan. Council came together to support a replacement of our 30-year-old comp plan. Realities of retail -- 30 years ago Frougs, Anthony's -- today, it's big box stores, and no one wants to live next to big box stores.

Faulk: In auditing/accounting business for many years. Moved to Tulsa in 1974. Illegal immigration may not seem like the mayor's job, but since the state and federal government won't do anything about it.

T**: "I am the poster child for all things weird Tulsa." Talked about street sign law, putting signs. "I didn't mean to be infamous. I didn't mean to be arrested." Good to be out of jail -- no need to put your head next to the toilet unless you hear the slogan "I'm excited" one too many times. (Got a laugh.) "Show me the plan. Show me the plan. Show me the plan."

Downtown attractions:

LaFortune: Cites making arena a work of art, master linkage plan, Kanbar/Kaufman's vision for 5th Street corridor from Denver to Cincinnati.

Taylor: Recognize that we have three college campuses in downtown. Encourage businesses to have outdoor venues.

Miller: Downtown Tulsa has to grow.

McCorkell: Need to understand the concept of critical mass. Jenks as an antique capital works because there's more than one antique store. Arts district needs 15-20 galleries. Guerrilla tactics -- build housing for OSU professors here, so they'll have take the bus to Stillwater to teach, rather than Tulsa students to travel to take classes.

Medlock: Chicken and egg situation. We have sidewalks, but there's nothing there. Having people live in the IDL is critical. Current downtown housing efforts are focused on luxury end of the market. OSU-Tulsa is key. Multi-family housing for students in walking distance of Blue Dome district.

Faulk: A little seed money is OK, but developers should repay it if they succeed. Arena is a nice thing to have, but we can't afford to maintain and operate.

T**: "Popsicle test" -- ran out of time.

Clark: Build a business friendly downtown. Free parking for downtown. Bring in world largest shopping mall. Monorail system, subway.

Gotta run -- more later

This should be very interesting:

Mayoral Candidate Forum

Tulsa Now and the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa will co-host a Mayoral Candidate Forum on Tuesday, February 21.

This event is open to the public, and there is no charge to attend. It will be held in the auditorium at OSU Tulsa. Arrive between 5:00 and 5:30 for complimentary refreshments in the lobby. The forum will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The topic of the forum will be:

Creating a Dynamic Urban Core: Why it’s vital to the Region

UPDATE: Before you read the news stories below, here are two primary documents:

Mayor Bill LaFortune has placed Police Chief Dave Been on administrative leave, claiming that Been withheld a consultant's report about the department's SWAT unit.

KOTV is reporting:

Police Chief Been sent us a statement that says in part, "Mayor Bill LaFortune was fully informed of the audit and approved the contract." He said he received five copies of the report on February 10th and gave them to the SWAT team's chain of command to review. He said the report was common knowledge within the department and was delivered to the Mayor's chief of staff immediately when it was requested on February 15th.

This seems like a very disproportionate response, and you have to wonder: The FOP didn't endorse LaFortune. Without directly calling LaFortune a fool or a liar, Been has been on the radio saying that, yes, more police officers would actually reduce crime and make Tulsa a safer place. Meanwhile LaFortune has been trying to sell the idea that "more police officers mean more arrests mean a higher crime rate," that we have an adequate number of officers for a city our size. This looks like retribution by LaFortune against a department that won't play with make-believe with him.

Over on the TulsaNow forum, a forum participant calling himself "ChazInTulsa" says Been was on KRMG radio this morning, and when asked for his endorsement, Been said that he can't get involved in politics, but the FOP speaks for him.

(Here's a link to the KRMG clip, in Windows Media format, courtesy David Schuttler.)

It is interesting that LaFortune would be so swift in taking action, when you remember how he dragged his feet in dealing with leadership failures at the airport, failures that jeopardized Tulsa's federal funding.

In case you've missed hearing about it, this Sunday, 2 p.m., KFAQ is holding a rally in support of Tulsa's police officers at LaFortune Stadium, between 51st and 61st on Hudson Ave, just north of Memorial High School. This has suddenly become an even more interesting event than it already was.

meeciteewurkor has some thoughts and interesting comments here.

And I thought I heard Terry Simonson calling in to KFAQ's Dillon Dodge show, and if I understood what I heard correctly, he seemed to think that some person or persons in the Police Department who wanted to push Been out of the way, and they convinced LaFortune that he could regain support among police officers by getting rid of Been.

UPDATE: Dan Paden comments:

Of course, I don't know. If the Mayor is really justified in his actions, you have to feel a bit sorry for him, 'cause it sure looks like he's behaving like a spoiled, petulant child. And so close to the primary, too. Surely he's smart enough not to do something like this unless he has to.

On the other hand, I guess there's always the possibility that he really isn't smart enough not to behave like a spoiled, petulant child just before the primary. I know what that's like. Done it enough times m'se'f. Behave that way, that is, not that I've ever been in a primary election.

If I had read this week's UTW when it first came out, I would have known about Dwight Twilley's free Friday night gig at Boston's and a series of lectures about the renowned British author and Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society. Friday night's sleet, snow, and extreme cold probably would have kept me home anyway, but at least I would have known and could have told you all about these opportunities.

(There was an odd juxtaposition in the print version. The notice about Ahlquist's lectures was nestled between a couple of large display ads for -- well, let's just say the spot on the page would have been better suited for a meeting notice for the American Chesty Morgan Society. Readers who avert their eyes from ads featuring scantily clad models might have missed it, but you can avoid that problem by reading the events calendar online.)

There's a lot going on around Tulsa, and you'll find nearly all of it -- lectures, plays, concerts, art exhibits, craft workshops, poetry slams -- announced each week in the events listings of Urban Tulsa Weekly. Don't wait until you've missed half the week -- pick it up on Wednesdays! It's free!

In the meantime, don't miss the current issue. My column this week is about the collective rump-smooching that took place at the Tulsa Real Estate Coalition (TREC) mayoral forum, an event from which Republican candidate Chris Medlock was excluded. (You'll find video of the forum and of many other candidate events over at David Schuttler's Our Tulsa World blog.) And Barry Friedman mentions the ORU campaign e-mail scandal at the end of this week's Double Take on the Sooner State.

By the way, UTW is to blame for my blog silence the last few days, as I've been preparing content for this week's city primary election preview issue. Candidates provided some thoughtful responses to a challenging questionnaire, and I think you'll find the results enlightening.

Iconic Tulsa

| | Comments (8)

One of my Urban Tulsa Weekly columns was about the idea of the new downtown sports arena as an "icon", and what it means for a building to be iconic:

An icon is a symbol. In the computer world, it’s a small image that has enough detail to help you remember what program that will be launched when you click on it. In religious terms, it’s an image of a saint, depicting details of the saint’s ministry or martyrdom which identify the saint and remind the viewer of his or her story. For both meanings of the word, an icon is supposed to bring to mind the thing or person being iconified.

When you see an “iconic” structure, you immediately know its location. Think of the U. S. Capitol; the domes of the Kremlin; Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament; the Colosseum; the Parthenon; the Statue of Liberty; the Eiffel Tower; the Gateway Arch; the Leaning Tower; the Pyramids.

Television shows and movies use iconic structures to set the scene without a single word. An iconic structure works because it is distinctive and it connects with a famous location. The less famous the place, the more distinctive the structure needs to be to work as an icon. Like it or not, Tulsa’s most iconic structure is the Golden Driller. It works because people still associate Tulsa with oil. The American, if it’s ever built, could be an icon for our state because people associate Oklahoma with American Indians.

Proving my point unintentionally, the Tulsa Whirled's website has been running an online poll, asking readers to pick their top four Tulsa scenes out of 16. The winning scene will be used on the box of a Monopoly-type game called Tulsa on Board, which is being developed by Leadership Tulsa. The text of the poll reads:

As a sponsor, the Tulsa World will provide artwork, but we need your help. The box should visually reflect what it means to live in Tulsa; and we thought who would know better than Tulsans themselves?

As I write this, the top vote-getter among the photos is the Golden Driller (816 votes), followed by the Cain's Ballroom (673 votes), an aerial photo of downtown, with the refineries, the river, and the setting sun in the background (619 votes), and Art Deco (529 votes -- the photo is of the Boston Avenue Church tower). The "iconic" arena is in 6th place, but well back of the leaders, with only 341 votes. (The Philtower was 5th, with 445 votes.)

Steve Patterson of Urban Review - St. Louis posted an entry recently about that city's '70s plan to "deplete" much of the older sections of northern St. Louis. The idea was to write off parts of the city for lost, discourage new investment in those areas, and provide a minimum amount of services for those remaining, until they all die off or move away. A quote from the plan:

Efforts must be made to adjust services and public investments so as to provide for those who are remaining in these areas. Yet these efforts should be pursued without encouraging new investment until the City determined that Redevelopment can and should begin.

Steve links to this item on PubDef.net, which in turn links to this 2002 article: "Quiet Conspiracy: The Team Four Plan and the Plot to Kill North St. Louis". The Team Four Plan was an update to the City of St. Louis' comprehensive plan, and it recommended the demolition of 70,000 homes in the predominantly African-American part of the city.

The plan was drafted in response to a 1973 RAND Corporation study that predicting that the City of St. Louis would no longer be the commercial hub of the metro area and the city should accept its fate as just another municipality among many. The cause for this decline?

The report largely blamed federal government policies for the City’s fate. Very similar to what was happening at the same time in New York City, the report said that highway construction, federal home mortgage programs, and property tax incentives all encouraged the exodus of people and commerce from the City into suburban areas.

Any of this sound familiar yet, Tulsans? (A related side note: I was at a political event a few weeks ago and met Tom Kimball, the head of economic development for Owasso. He told me that right now, about half the population of the metro area lives within the City of Tulsa, and half without. He said that it's natural for the center city to become an even smaller proportion of the metro area, and pointed to St. Louis as an example. I thought, but didn't say, that Tulsa tripled its land area in 1966 precisely to avoid getting hemmed in by its suburbs. I forget the exact number he quoted me, but I believe he suggested that Tulsa shouldn't complain about ending up at around a quarter to a third of the metro area population.)

In an update, PubDef.net links to this 2004 story about city planner Rollin Stanley. A couple of points caught my eye. St. Louis' 1947 comprehensive plan called for demolishing "a large swath" of the most urban part of the city and rebuilding it with suburban-style homes. The other is the amount of distrust between the African-American community and City Hall because of plans that called for the neglect and demolition of their neighborhoods.

The idea of depleting parts of St. Louis was a popular urban "revitalization" strategy, even though it sounds more like death by exposure than healing and restoration. Another term for the idea is "planned shrinkage," described in this article by Gregory Heller, as applied to a neighborhood in New York City:

Like others in the South Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn, this district [Manhattan's Lower East Side] was generating very little tax revenue while costing the city great expenses for social services. These neighborhoods were an economic drain on the financially troubled city. Planned shrinkage, a policy conceived by Roger Starr in 1966 and officially implemented during his tenure as Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development under Mayor Abe Beame in 1976, was a way to expedite the "death" of these troubled neighborhoods to make way for their eventual redevelopment (Wallace and Wallace, 1998, p. 18-19, 24-25).

Insurance and mortgage company redlining, withdrawal of city services, cutting back on code enforcement and police patrols, no new investment in streets and public amenities -- all resulted in vacant buildings, followed by urban renewal condemnation and demolition of blight, followed by site assembly for new private developers. Heller says that Mayor Rudy Giuliani halted the city's collection of land for redevelopment and began to get the property back into the hands of the private sector.

(Again, I'm reminded of complaints by northside Tulsa leaders about the amount of land the city has accumulated and seems to be just sitting on.)

I don't have the time or energy right now to connect all the dots. The articles I've linked will give you a sense of some of the currents of thought in urban policy since World War II, currents that affected every major American city, and not in a good way. They'll also give you an understanding of the roots of the suspicion that many north Tulsa residents have about the substandard housing initiative and other revitalization plans. Food for thought.

Tulsa reading elsewhere

| | Comments (6)

I was on the radio with DelGiorno this morning, and we discussed the mayoral race, today's school board elections, and the ORU campaign e-mail scandal, among other topics. You can catch the repeat on the web at 9:40 a.m., 1:10 p.m., 4:40 p.m., and 8:10 p.m.

My fellow TulsaBloggers have been busy with coverage of city politics -- a lot of material you need to read. MeeCiteeWurkor has a merged feed of headlines from all our blogs, with the latest headlines at the top, and going back about a week. It's a very handy way of making sure you don't miss anything. A selection:

David Schuttler catches Kathy Taylor in some myth-making about her name and her background. Was it really a financial struggle to be Dollar Thrifty's general counsel? Something doesn't add up. And Tulsa Chigger says the image being crafted in Taylor's campaign ads doesn't match up with reality.

Joe Kelley challenges the Whirled's claim that politicians are trying to buy south Tulsa's votes by opposing the toll bridge.

A graphic designer tells Steve Roemerman that Bill LaFortune's campaign font is round, soft, and weak.

Dan Paden is wondering about the motives of our candidates for city office, particularly the wealthy ones, and he takes a look at his trusty reverse barometer for electoral guidance.

Completely non-political: Don Danz has found an Olympic use for those blasted AOL CDs.

Whirled hires Marlette

| | Comments (7)

Let's all give a big Tulsa welcome to the Tulsa Whirled's new editorial cartoonist, Doug Marlette. I have to say I'm impressed that the paper was willing and able to hire a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, even though they won't be paying his full salary -- and even though he won't be coming all the way to Tulsa.

According to his bio, his most recent employment has been with the Tallahassee Democrat and yet his home is in Hillsborough, North Carolina. He is moving to Oklahoma to take this position with the Whirled, but not to Tulsa: According to the Democrat's story on Marlette's departure, he'll also be a lecturer at the University of Oklahoma and will live in Norman. (The Whirled's introductory article overlooked that detail.)

It will be interesting to see if he continues to focus mainly on national and global news. If he does delve in to local and state politics, I hope he doesn't rely on the Whirled's coverage alone as the basis for his cartoons.

I invite Mr. Marlette to explore the BatesLine archive about his new employer, with special attention to the international ridicule that befell the Whirled after its attempt to intimidate me and other critics of the paper. That last link will give Mr. Marlette a good introduction to the way the Whirled wields its influence in local politics -- and a clue as to why the Whirled continues to lose favor and circulation.

Marlette's new boss, editorial page editor Ken Neal, writes:

One of the factors in Marlette's selection is the fact that he is not partisan or convinced that one group or another has a lock on "truth." His cartoons reflect a healthy distrust of government and public life, regardless of the affiliations of public officials. That is often hard for readers to remember when their favorite is portrayed unflatteringly.

Hopefully, Mr. Marlette will include within that "healthy distrust" the ownership and editorial board of the Tulsa Whirled and their favorites in local government.

Some interesting faith-related items from the blogroll:

Swamphopper wonders about the latest release from some prominent evangelical leaders (including Purpose-peddler Rick Warren) calling for an end to global warming:

These are the questions going through my mind today: What will the evangelical church look like ten or twenty years from now? What happens when the gospel becomes an occasional sermon slipped in among series of social topics, "conservative" or "liberal" ones? What happens when the gospel, the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected, becomes a side note rather than the main theme of worship?

Dan Paden has a review of By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Tom Nettles begins with the origins of the Baptist movement in 17th century England and traces the influence of what is commonly called Calvinism through the Baptist history in America. Dan mentions that the book traces the decline of the doctrines of grace in the Southern Baptist Convention from the 1920s. I wonder if it deals with the influence of E. Y. Mullins, identified by Harold Bloom in The American Religion as steering the Southern Baptist Convention in a Gnostic direction, a direction that prevailed until the conservative resurgence of the 1908s and 1990s.

The Internet Monk says that "Romeo Is Better Off Dead":

As best I can tell, romance is our poor imitative version of the love of God that is ours in the Gospel; a kind of minor league salvation story for people who need to be “saved” from being alone and unloved. What the love of God in the Final Word, Jesus the messiah and mediator, is for us infinitely and perfect, romance imitates and celebrates imperfectly, and often, tragically.

His thoughts on romance haven't been formed in a vacuum:

It is hard for me to explain what the accumulated experiences of thirty years of listening to teenagers will do for one’s view of romance. Perhaps it is best expressed in what I might say about my own children. I would pray for them the deepest experiences of sacrificial, passionately humanizing love for another person, but I would never, ever wish upon them the kind of intoxication of mind and emotions that could make life, friends, family and all other experiences worthless in comparison to the attentions of the beloved.

Is rekindling romance the way to heal a wounded marriage? iMonk thinks not and explains why. Read the whole thing.

There's been a lot of discussion about the remarks of a guru of the Emerging Church Movement. Brian McLaren wrote, in an article on pastoral response to homosexuality, "Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say 'it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.'" David Wayne has links to the initial article and the responses it generated, along with his own thoughts:

I am certainly not laughing at anything Brian McLaren has said and appreciate his pastoral passion. But in telling pastors they need to respond pastorally to the homosexual question he isn't telling them anything they haven't always been doing. Pastors have been responding pastorally as long or longer than french fries have been being made out of potatoes. What he seems to be suggesting is that we go beyond tolerating, loving, accepting and caring for the person, to being more tolerant of the sin itself.

Doug Wilson thinks that McLaren's handwringing over the issue is about "lusting after respect from the world, which they will not give to you unless you are busy making plenty of room for their lusts."

On a related note, Al Mohler responds to a New York Times column by Dan Savage, who says that Christians are foolish to want homosexuals to "convert" and enter into straight marriages, predicting that "if every gay man became ex-gay tomorrow... millions of straight women would wake up one morning to discover that they had married a Jack or an Ennis." Mohler says we should thank Savage for what he wrote, because it's a reminder of "the deceitfulness of sin, and its ability to imprison us. We need to be reminded that this is true for all humanity, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike."

We need to be reminded that sexual desires (call them an orientation, profile, or whatever) are deeply rooted in our own sexual selves, with some parts consciously known to us and other parts unknown. We need to be reminded that the sin of homosexuality seems especially (though not uniquely) prone to hold its victims in bondage.

But, beyond all this, we really need to be reminded that we really do believe that the Gospel can and will completely transform sinners, and that the Holy Spirit does perform His work of sanctification within the life of the believer. And this means that we really do believe that homosexuals can come out of the sin of homosexuality by God's power.

Finally, Bowden McElroy has a thorough roundup on the controversy at the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board. I haven't followed the matter closely, but it seems to be about the validity of baptisms performed in non-Baptist churches, something I remember from my Baptist upbringing as a matter of dispute. (If you're wondering, that's the "xenobaptism" mentioned in the title. It means "foreign baptism" and has nothing whatsoever to do with Xenu or body thetans.)

(If you wish to comment, please join the ongoing discussions at the blog entries linked above.)

I'm looking through some background info on a story that's in the news, and I could really use the assistance of someone who can look at SEC filings and decisions and boil it down to layman's language. Drop me an e-mail at blog AT batesline DOT com. Thanks.

Bruce Niemi is one of three candidates for the board of Tulsa Technology Center. He wrote to respond to my comments about Tulsa's forgotten election -- this Tuesday's school board elections and Tulsa Tech board election. I promised that if school board candidates had some information they wanted to get to the voters, I'd post it here. Here's the question I asked:

For Tulsa Technology Center candidates: Tulsa County has a community college with four campuses, campuses for state universities (OSU, NSU, OU, and Langston), two major private universities, satellite campuses for at least three other private colleges (St. Gregory, Oklahoma Wesleyan, Southern Nazarene), and a plethora of private technical schools, such as Spartan School of Aeronautics. In the midst of all these opportunities for post-high-school education, what should Tulsa Technology Center's mission be? What is TTC's niche?

Here is Bruce Niemi's response, in full:

Michael,

Thank you for your coverage of the TTC school boad election and for the opportunity to comment on the questions you raised concerning TTC role in education. Career and technical education is a hybrid system in Oklahoma. Our state is unique because of a “dual” system that places TTC and other area technical institutes under separate governance from other public educational institutions.

Academic high schools are a part of the K-12 common schools system, while public higher education is overseen by the chancellor and Oklahoma State Board of Regents for Higher Education. This dual system was established in 1966 with the passage of an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution authorizing joint cooperation between common school districts for careertech education. The Oklahoma measure was a part of a federal vocational education initiative to fund training for scientific technicians in the wake of Sputnik and efforts to reduce chronic unemployment due to automation and rural poverty. Today, TTC serves over 5,000 full-time high school and post-secondary students in a variety of programs ranging from culinary arts to CISCO networking.

When I turn on daytime television, however, I am amazed by the number of commercial spots for private vocational schools. I have also followed the trend by universities such as Phoenix, Southern Nazarene, OCU, and St. Gregory’s moving into this market. If TTC is doing its job then why all of the competition?

Like many government agencies, TTC has not been telling its story to the public. Why isn’t TTC doing as effective a job at marketing its programs? Why is it when my daughter wanted to become a licensed massage therapist did she have to attend a private school to get this training at three times the tuition? TTC has a Business and Career Development Division that is geared to offer short courses, serving over 155,000 enrollees per year. This BCD division should receive greater emphasis to provide flexible, anytime/anyplace career education.

My reason for entering the TTC School Board Election is to improve access to career and technical training for the Tulsa County workforce. The voters of Tulsa County need accountability, transparency, and accountability for the people in the governance of our technical school system. Tulsa Technology Center spends $65 million per year received from federal and state sources, plus local property tax funds paid by Tulsa County taxpayers, which constitutes about 80 percent of the District’s revenues. These revenues should be used to help our young people find real opportunities for gainful employment in our community by the time they graduate from TTC.

Immediately north of Lemley Tech campus at the Broken Arrow Expressway & Memorial is a bus transfer station. The bus station is set back from Memorial Drive behind an abandoned car dealership. Between the bus station and the campus is a 15-foot chain link fence with no gate. So if a student must rely on public transit and disembarks at the station, he, or more likely she, has to walk all the way around the abandoned car lot and down Memorial to get to class. That fence is a symbol of the difficult access our kids, our veterans, and our underprivileged have to our tech school system and its programs and to do something about it is why I am running.

We can begin to accomplish improved academic accommodation through career counseling in cooperation with area public school districts to connect with children beginning in elementary school. I advocate a Tech Prep and Career Clusters program beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school, linking academic subjects to occupational training programs that include not only introductions to technical subjects, such as the sciences, engineering and information technology, but also the arts, business and the professions, as well as studies on the critical impact technological developments have on our society. I support a Tulsa Technology Center District Plan for establishing a technical high school and operating it in conjunction with the Tulsa Public Schools.

I support Tulsa Tech leading an economic development initiative for incorporating entrepreneurship skills training in all its trade and technical curriculum. So many students graduate from programs that are well suited to pursuing meaningful careers in small business enterprises that, armed with fundamental business skills, Tulsa Tech graduates can go out and create their own enterprises and significantly add to Tulsa’s economy. Why continue to crucify our youth on a Cross of Aimlessness? Tulsa Tech must also create a facilities-based, small business incubator program - as a number of other technical schools in Oklahoma have already done - on its campuses to assist both its graduates and other local entrepreneurs in getting a “head start” in business.

We must work to make Tulsa Tech a more active player in providing a seamless transition for students going from academic high schools through the tech school system and into degree-granting higher education institutions.

Tulsa Tech must do its part to support our Iraq Troops. I propose an immediate program of career and technical training provided free of charge to veterans of the Persian Gulf War II. We have an obligation to help our returning servicemen and servicewomen to readjust to civilian life after serving In Harm’s Way. An investment in veterans’ education can only reap dividends for the next generation.

Finally, we can pay for these new technical and vocational education programs without raising taxes by keeping a watchful eye on current expenditures and getting funds from the innovative sources that are out there for the asking.

I hope that this answers some of your concerns

Bruce Niemi

Thanks to Bruce Niemi for such a thoughtful answer. If any of the other candidates wish to respond to my question, e-mail me at blog AT batesline DOT com.

I received an urgent prayer request from Israel this morning. Herbby and Anne Geer, representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention in Israel, have been denied visa renewals, an unprecedented act by the Interior Ministry:

This past week, we have been told by the Ministry of Interior, here in Israel, that they will not renew our A3 visa, and they have requested that we leave the country. They have refused to give a reason, namely, they don't have a legal one. Never in the history of the Southern Baptists has a visa been denied. We are here because of a historical right (Baptists were in Israel pre-1948), and also because of the Law of Status Quo (Israel and the US have an agreement which allows the exchange of Religious persons between the two countries).

Such a move by the Ministry of Interior would be precedent setting, one we can't allow to happen. It could impact the whole Christian community within Israel.

On Sunday, the Lawyer for the Southern Baptists and our business manager will approach the offices responsible for the decision to deny our visa.

We ask you to pray on this day: pray that the Lord would reverse the decision.

I received this message from Phil and Heidi Litle, friends from college who are also in Israel on Southern Baptist visas, working with the Christian community in Haifa.

I suspect this change has something to do with the political situation leading up to the March 28 parliamentary elections there. The voting system is an extreme form of proportional representation, and it often results in very small but very intense parties holding the balance of power as a major party tries to build a ruling coalition. Often the ultra-religious parties wind up holding all the cards, trading their support for key cabinet posts, such as the Ministry of Interior, which deals with immigration and religious regulation.

These ultra-religious groups want Christianity out of Israel. They are especially angry about Christian groups who provide help to Jews who have immigrated to Israel from the old Soviet Union. Their opposition has kept many Christian workers out of Israel. Nevertheless, until now, the Israeli government has "grandfathered" the visas that were allocated to Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christian groups prior to independence in 1948. The decision not to renew the Geers' visa reveals that the respect for precedent is gone, and that puts the presence of every foreign Christian worker in jeopardy.

Please pray, and contact your congressman and senators and express your concern.

To get a flavor of the Geers' work in Israel, here's a story from the Anniston, Alabama, Star about their involvement in the Maccabiah Games.

A bouquet of Valentines

| | Comments (1)

Jan, the Happy Homemaker, has been posting more vintage Valentines from a scrapbook she acquired a while back. You can find them in her February and January archives. (You'll find more Valentines and other ephemera from the scrapbook in her January 2005 and February 2005 archives.)

Meanwhile, it appears that our beloved Mayor, Bill LaFortune, has adapted one of those vintage Valentines to send his own heartfelt message.

TREC forum video

|

David Schuttler has posted the rest of his video of Monday's Tulsa Real Estate Coalition forum, from which Councilor Chris Medlock was excluded. Be warned -- the files are quite large. The opening remarks by TREC Chairman Brian Hunt aren't in those videos, but you'll find that in David's earlier posting.

A vision is a "compelling description of your preferred future," not a collection of public construction projects. This week's column is about comprehensive planning and developing a real vision for Tulsa's future. Tulsa's comprehensive plan is about 30 years old, but the process to get a new one is underway. Kansas City redid theirs in the '90s, and they have an ongoing effort to implement it. Dallas has unveiled a draft comprehensive plan with a strong theme of making more of Dallas pedestrian-friendly. Tulsa could learn a lot from these cities, but the scorched-earth approach of the development lobby may stop Tulsa from having the kind of visionary leadership we need.

I first learned about the Dallas plan thanks to this topic on the TulsaNow forum.

Some supplemental links:

The report of Comprehensive Plan Process Task Force: transmittal letter, draft report, and draft process.

Tulsa City Council's resolution adopting the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan Process Task Force.

ForwardDallas, Dallas's comprehensive planning effort.

ForwardDallas's draft comprehensive plan documents.

The urban design element of ForwardDallas (14.5 MB PDF).

Dallas Morning News (free registration required) story on the plan: "Pedestrians, not cars, star in draft of plan, but code changes sought"

Dallas does moratoriums, too. One example: building permits and certificates of occupancy within 1000 feet of a section of Fort Worth Avenue were halted for four months, to allow time for a development study to be completed. This is much stricter, although shorter in duration, than the eminent domain moratorium being proposed for Tulsa.

The big infill development battle in Dallas has been over McMansions -- tearing down smaller homes in older neighborhoods and building houses that fill their lots and dwarf neighboring homes. Here's a blog devoted to the fight against McMansions. (In Tulsa, it's been more typical to replace a sprawling ranch home on a multiple-acre lot with several multi-story houses.)

DallasBlog.com is an interesting community blogging effort at creating an alternative news presence online. I intend to explore it further.

Here's the home page for FOCUS Kansas City.

Hanson blogging?

| | Comments (3)

I was checking Technorati for references to Tulsa and found what purports to be the online journal of Isaac Hanson, and that led me to the online journal of his brother Zac, and the online journal of his other brother Taylor. They have a band.

It is entirely possible that none of these sites are authentic, although they don't have the marks of a parody site. For one thing, Isaac and Taylor have only made one entry each; Zac hasn't posted anything. If these are authentic, they're awfully revealing.

Just found a fairly new and interesting Oklahoma blog called Terra Extraneus. In addition to commenting about politics and religion, Terry Hull is surveying the Blog Oklahoma blogroll and dubs me "the standout among the 'Bs' of Oklahoma bloggers." Thanks!

I've added Terra Extraneus to the blogroll, and I look forward to future installments on Oklahoma bloggers.

All the attention is going to the city elections, but several area districts have an election for school board coming up on Tuesday, February 14. One of those seats is on the Tulsa School Board: Incumbent Matthew Livingood faces challenger Frances Skonicki. There's a three-way race for seat 4 on the Tulsa Technology Center board: John Bernardine, Bruce Niemi, and Robert Price. (You old-timers know it as Vo-Tech.) And there are board races in Skiatook, Sperry, and Owasso.

If you need help understanding why school board elections are important, read Tulsa Chigger's report on this Monday's Tulsa school board meeting, dealing with charter schools. The attorney for Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) argued that the charter school's act is unconstitutional. In Oklahoma, charter schools -- schools that are governed by a board of parents but funded by the state -- are under contract to the local school district. TPS has been very uncooperative with charter schools, and on Monday the board nearly made life even more difficult for Tulsa's three charters by reducing the contract renewal period from three years to one year. TPS, which calls itself the "District of Choice," offers parents a choice between eight non-performing high schools (the ninth has a selective admission process), and is doing its best to eliminate the option of a charter school. Tulsa Chigger notes that the Oklahoma City school district has been much more accommodating, and they have 10 charter schools in operation.

Operation: Information asked candidates to respond to 17 questions and they've posted the responses. That questionnaire page also has a contact phone number for each candidate. Feel free to call those numbers; when I ran for office, I was excited to get calls from voters who wanted to ask me about the issues.

As in the past, if you're running for school board and have some info you'd like to get out to the voters, e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com, and I'll publish it.

There are a couple of questions I wish had been on the survey.

For Tulsa school board candidates: Do you pledge to be as accommodating and supportive as possible to existing and new charter schools?

For Tulsa Technology Center candidates: Tulsa County has a community college with four campuses, campuses for state universities (OSU, NSU, OU, and Langston), two major private universities, satellite campuses for at least three other private colleges (St. Gregory, Oklahoma Wesleyan, Southern Nazarene), and a plethora of private technical schools, such as Spartan School of Aeronautics. In the midst of all these opportunities for post-high-school education, what should Tulsa Technology Center's mission be? What is TTC's niche?

Even if you don't have kids in school, even if your focus is on the city elections, you should care and you should vote in the school board election. Tulsa's school board needs a complete housecleaning. The board members seem to regard themselves as boosters serving the administration, not as watchdogs serving the taxpayers and parents and holding the administration accountable. Although there are good teachers in the system, the district's fad-driven approach to education isn't working. Parents perceive the school system bureaucracy as unresponsive to their concerns, and it's driving young families out to the suburbs. If we want to retain and attract families to the City of Tulsa, the Tulsa school district needs to be the District of Good Choices, not the District of Hobson's Choice.

To find out which school district and board election district you live in, here's the Tulsa County Election Board's precinct locator. (Unfortunately, it doesn't report Tulsa Technology Center board district.)

Friday is the last day to register to vote for the March 7 Tulsa city primary election.

Friday is also your last opportunity to change parties, should you want to vote in a particular primary -- something to consider, since in many districts the primary is the election. In Districts 2, 7, and 8, the council race will be decided by Republicans only; in District 1, the decision belongs to the Democrats. There will be a general election in 3, 6, and 9, but 3 is a heavily Democratic district, 9 is heavily Republican, and the Republican primary in 6 is a key battle for the reform alliance, as the good ol' boys want to oust Jim Mautino.

There are primary battles in both parties for the Mayor's race. I know that grass-roots Democrats feel strongly about helping McCorkell beat Taylor, but reform-minded voters may want to cross over to the Republican primary to help Chris Medlock, who has been leading the charge for reform at City Hall for the last three years, and actually has a track record on city issues.

Although you can register at tag agencies and other government offices, if it were me, I'd go straight down to the Tulsa County Election Board, 555 N. Denver, to make sure that the application doesn't get lost in the mail.

A proposal for a one-year moratorium on the use of eminent domain for economic development will be before the Tulsa City Council this Thursday night. (Click here for a PDF of the proposal.) The resolution would establish as the "policy of the City of Tulsa" the implementation of a "one-year moratorium on the use of economic development against the will of the property owners." This policy would "extend to the fullest extent possible as allowed by law to the City of Tulsa, its agencies, boards, authorities, and trusts."

Last summer's Supreme Court decision in the Kelo v. New London case woke Americans up to the misuse of government's condemnation powers. The word "blight" could be defined as anything different than what a politically-connected developer wants to build in the targeted area. Although local governments have for years been using condemnation to serve the interests of private businesses and organizations, most property owners were unaware of it, unless they'd personally been affected by it. What was shocking was that the Supreme Court would uphold what seemed to be an obvious violation of the Fifth Amendment. Americans got the message: "My home is my castle, unless the city thinks it can boost tax revenues by taking it away from me."

Legislators across the country have responded with proposals to limit how states, counties, and cities may use the eminent domain power. Here in Oklahoma, State Rep. Mark Liotta and State Sen. Brian Crain are sponsoring such legislation, but it likely won't be approved until the end of session in late May, and wouldn't go into effect until November. It would be a tragedy if, in the meantime, homes, business, or churches are taken by condemnation under conditions that would be illegal a few months later.

That's where a moratorium comes in. That long Latin word seems to confuse folks like non-Councilor Randy Sullivan. Maybe it sounds to him like crematorium or mortuary, but it has nothing to do with "killing" eminent domain permanently. Moratorium is from the Latin word morari, which means "to delay." The proposed moratorium would delay the use of eminent domain for economic development under certain conditions for one year, to give the legislature time to put some protections for property owners into place.

Here's what the proposal would not do:

  • It would not stop the use of eminent domain for acquiring land for publicly-owned facilities like streets, schools, arenas, and parks.
  • It would not permanently end the use of eminent domain for economic development. The moratorium would only delay such takings for a year, giving the legislature time to decide what restrictions on the practice are necessary to protect property owners.
  • It would not prevent or delay the use of condemnation to remove structures that are a danger to health and safety.
  • It would not prevent or delay the city from acquiring land for economic development from a willing seller.
  • It would not prevent or delay the use of condemnation with the property owner's consent in order to deal with title, easement, or probate problems.

Mayor Bill LaFortune opposes any moratorium, calling eminent domain an important tool for cities. It is indeed a tool. A crowbar is also a tool, but it makes all the difference whether I use it to pry off your hubcap to help you change your tire or to crack open your door to steal your jewelry or to bash in your head. This moratorium doesn't mean we're throwing the tool away; we're just going to avoid using this tool in potentially damaging ways until we have some clear guidance on its proper, moral, and just use.

This resolution is a reasonable and measured response to the Kelo decision and the state legislature's initiatives. Tulsans concerned about protecting our property rights (especially the rights of the "little guy") ought to be at the City Council meeting tomorrow night, February 9, 6 p.m., to show your support.

UPDATE (2/9/2005): The Council approved the resolution by a 6-2 vote, with a couple of fixes to minor scriveners' errors. Henderson, Medlock, Turner, Martinson, Mautino, and Christiansen voted yes; Sullivan and Neal voted no; Baker was absent. Steve Roemerman has more analysis of the vote and its political implications. He notes that two City Council candidates spoke in support of the moratorium: Rick Westcott, running in the Republican primary in District 2, and Al Nichols, running in the Democrat primary in District 5.

Jane Jacobs is one of my heroes, my city planning guru. If there's one book I wish every city official would read, it's her Death and Life of Great American Cities.

There's an excellent introduction to Jane Jacobs' life and work over on 2Blowhards. It not only gives you the basic bio, but it puts her life in the context of the post-war, government-driven, in-the-name-of-progress madness that destroyed so much of our nation's urban fabric. Reading this article will help you understand why so many "revitalization" attempts not only failed but actually made things worse.

If you're a Tulsa voter, and more importantly if you're a candidate or a reporter or a leader in Step Up Tulsa! or a participant in Leadership Tulsa or on the board of the Tulsa Metro Chamber or in the leadership of the Tulsa Real Estate Coalition, if you have the notion that all urban critics are cranky naysayers, you need to read this, preferably with an open mind. Even if you can't manage an open mind, read it anyway. It still might help.

Hat tip to David Sucher's City Comforts Blog.

TRACKBACK: Forrest Christian at Requisite Reading links to a post from his archive, about the application of Jacobs' urban observations to the office environment, and the importance of relationships with "weak ties" to innovation.

Video clip from TREC forum

| | Comments (4)

David Schuttler has posted the first video clip from the TREC forum. It doesn't include any of the candidate responses, but it has the opening remarks from Brian Hunt, chairman of TREC, the questions that were put to the candidates, and Hunt's closing remarks.

In his opening remarks, Hunt clearly implied that Medlock's exclusion was because TREC feels they already know his answers, and they don't want to hear them. I guess the development lobby are concerned that the four candidates who kowtowed to them weren't strong enough to debate the real Chris Medlock; they could only manage a debate against a straw man, TREC's distorted caricature of Medlock's views.

The decision to exclude Medlock was so politically stupid that I imagine that those responsible will be punished by TREC's puppetmasters for their mistake. Hunt mentioned in his opening remarks that this wasn't intended to be a public event, but it had become newsworthy. Traditionally, the development lobby did its work behind the scenes, and tried to keep issues of development and zoning out of the public debate. Had TREC chosen to invite Medlock to participate, the debate probably would have remained under the public's radar. As it is, Tulsa's voters now know there is a powerful special interest group at work in this election, a group that doesn't want Tulsa to have a Mayor who stands up for Tulsa's best interests.

I stopped by the "Realtor Reality Check" rally for Chris Medlock, held across the street from the Southern Hills Marriott, where the Tulsa Real Estate Coalition was holding its candidate forum, from which TREC excluded Medlock. I had to leave at 5:30, but I'm told the crowd grew as more people had time to arrive after work. Mad Okie has photos and a description of the event. That's Councilor Jim Mautino's wife Bonnie holding a sign that says, "Bixby has a mayor, Jenks has a mayor, Owasso has a mayor. Tulsa needs a mayor, too!" Mad Okie's got a bunch more worth reading, plus some funny stuff.

I was downtown right about sunset and drove down Main Street, where two of the last remaining small commercial buildings are fenced and awaiting demolition -- 417 and 419 S. Main. The buildings belong to one of the partnerships formed by Maurice Kanbar and Henry Kaufman to acquire buildings in downtown Tulsa. Remember my half-joking worry: What if these guys buying all these old downtown buildings were really demolition enthusiasts? Well, it looked as if the first visible work to be done on the historic downtown properties they had acquired would be to tear down two buildings for parking. Some preservation-minded folks got their concerns back to Kaufman, who issued a two-week stay of execution. (Maybe this was some sort of hazing ritual, forced on Kaufman and Kanbar by the local good ol' boy network. "Y'all have to prove you're real Tulsans by tearing down historic buildings for parking.")

Here's the start of a TulsaNow forum topic about the buildings; the topic goes on for four pages. The southernmost of the two buildings has special memories for me: I did my month-long high school internship there when it was Channel 41, a news-talk TV station that had just gone on the air. (You'll find my memories of KGCT on Tulsa TV Memories.)

I met another blogger this evening, while waiting in line at the drugstore. A friend from church came up to say hello, and mentioned that she and her husband enjoy reading my blog. The fellow in front of me overheard and asked what blog, and when I told him, he said he'd just come back to Tulsa from NYC, and he'd heard of BatesLine from a fellow blogger back there -- Scott Sala, of Slant Point and Urban Elephants. (I mentioned Scott in this week's Urban Tulsa cover story about local news bloggers.) What a small world!

The blogger I met is Earnest Pettie, who blogs as The Idea Man. His latest idea: issue tax refunds as debit cards, tied to an account that accrues interest on the remaining balance of the refund.

The Tulsa Real Estate Coalition (TREC), a collection of metro-area real estate and development special interest groups, including several that funded the recall effort against Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino, are holding a mayoral candidate forum Monday night at the Southern Hills Marriott hotel. They've invited LaFortune, Miller, McCorkell, and Taylor, but have excluded Medlock, even though he had four times the support of Miller in the last public opinion poll. Brian Hunt, chairman of TREC, was quoted in Friday's Tulsa Whirled as saying, "There are 12 people in the mayoral race, and our leadership decided there was only time to hear from those who could receive an endorsement," coalition Chairman Brian Hunt said.

I think that quote contains a Freudian slip. The official line is that Medlock is not "a leading candidate," but the polls belie that, and to his credit, the Whirled's Brian Barber mentioned their poll showing Medlock well ahead of Miller. The statement above reveals the real issue -- TREC wouldn't give Medlock their endorsement even if he were the prohibitive front runner.

Some members of TREC don't like Medlock because he believes in putting Tulsa's interests first, encouraging new development and redevelopment within the city limits of Tulsa, rather than using the City of Tulsa's resources to accelerate growth in the suburbs. (Note that that doesn't mean Medlock wants to or thinks he can stop growth in the suburbs. It means he wants to apply Tulsa's resources to Tulsa's interests first.) The developers that control the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa are heavily invested in the suburbs and don't want Tulsa to be run by leaders who put Tulsa first.

By way of response, the Medlock campaign is going to hold a rally across the street while the forum is underway:

The TULSA REAL ESTATE COALITION didn't invite Chris to participate in its Mayoral Candidate Forum to be held on Monday, Feb. 6th. So we're going to hold a rally ACROSS THE STREET! Come help us give the Real Estate Coalition a 'reality check.'

Where: 2352 E. 71st Street (Block west of 71st & Lewis)

When: Monday, Feb. 6th from 5 PM to 6:30 PM.

Bring a positive attitude and let's have some fun showing these folks who the "front runner" really is!

On a personal note, I'm disappointed to see Brian Hunt involved in this. I first met him when he and his wife lived in the Lewiston Gardens neighborhood in midtown. If memory serves me correctly, they were supporters of Anna Falling, an early reform-minded councilor who was trashed by the good ol' boy network. Time changes everything.

I tried to call Brian on Friday, when I learned of the news, and I left a message. He hasn't called back. I wanted to ask him some questions for a column I will be writing about this:

  1. How was this decision reached? What individuals constitute the leadership that made this decision?
  2. What specific votes or actions disqualify Medlock from receiving TREC's endorsement?
  3. Does TREC have a platform or a statement of legislative goals with regard to City of Tulsa policy?
  4. Is the debate open to the public? To the press? To all members of the organizations that participate in TREC?
  5. Have the candidates received questions in advance? If so, what are they?
  6. Who will decide on the endorsement?

There's a discussion about TREC's snub over on the TulsaNow forum. Someone wrote, "The group knew that they weren't going to endorse Medlock because of his history of attacks on developers, so why bother to invite him to a meeting about who they were going to endorse?" I responded with a challenge:

History of attacks on developers? Name even one. I realize your characterization is considered the conventional wisdom, but there's no substance to it.

Too many good people -- Bonnie Henke and Betsy Horowitz are a couple of good examples -- have been smeared as anti-growth and anti-development when all they were after is a consistent application of the rules, and some serious thought about whether the current set of rules and plans best meet our city's needs.

It's a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of Tulsa's old guard that the best argument they can muster is to shriek "Anti-growth! Anti-developer! Ward politics! Naysayer!" like some deranged mynah bird. This move [TREC's action] is another example of their approach to public discourse -- stick your fingers in your ears.

The rally would be a great way to remind the TRECkies that Tulsa wants a Mayor who puts Tulsa first, a Mayor for all of Tulsa.

Pagoda placemat

| | Comments (6)

The Pagoda was one of Tulsa's oldest chop suey houses. (They had a great sign -- anyone have a photo of it? And anyone know where the restaurant was located between 1930 and the construction of the Bellaire Shopping Center at Skelly Drive and Peoria?) (UPDATE: Here's the Pagoda sign; thanks to Richard Hedgecock for locating it on the web, and Mike Ransom for posting it, as part of a collection of Tulsa motel and restaurant postcards.) It was a favorite place for my sister and her high school boyfriend. I ate there a couple of times myself, but my palate had already been spoiled by the more authentic (and spicier) Chinese fare I enjoyed in Boston. My recollection is that all the Pagoda waitresses were little old white ladies in muu-muus.

At a coffee house recently, I spotted a Pagoda placemat, folded up and sticking out of a book on the shelf. Here it is. Click on it for a larger image.

Any memories of the Pagoda, or other Oriental restaurants from Tulsa's past?

UPDATE: In the comments, Bobby transcribes the text of the placemat, which he finds appropriate to election season: Confucius speaks of honor and public officials.

Justis undone

|

Former District 6 City Councilor Art Justis was caught removing campaign signs belonging to his successor, Jim Mautino, who beat Justis two years ago in a stunning grass-roots-driven upset. A police report has been filed. (And Bobby has created a "wanted" poster.) Justis signed the recall petition against Mautino last summer.

As someone on the OKDemocrat message board pointed out, it's strange that a Democrat (like Justis) would be removing a Republican's signs before a Republican primary, unless he's trying to help Mautino's Republican opponent. That would be Theresa Buchert, wife of assistant Public Works Director Mike Buchert. Theresa Buchert helped Art Justis in his campaign against Jim Mautino two years ago, lending her name to a "Republicans for Justis" newspaper ad. Buchert made a promise not to run against Justis in 2004; he planned to step aside and support her run in 2006. Jim Mautino came along, and District 6 voters decided they were ready right then for strong representation for the district's interests at City Hall.

I have information -- cannot disclose the source, but it is utterly reliable -- that the same forces that are supporting Buchert in the Republican primary are also supporting David Patrick's attempt to defeat incumbent Councilor Roscoe Turner in the District 3 Democratic primary. Responding to Justis' and Buchert's mutual collaboration, Steve Roemerman, a dedicated Republican precinct worker and campaign volunteer, observes: "At the local level, party does not matter. Ideology matters...."

I am also hearing that Buchert supporters are telling District 6 voters that she'll be able to get more done for the district because she's married to the assistant director of Public Works. If I read the City Charter correctly, Theresa won't even be able to tell Mike to take out the trash or take the bus to work, much less which street to fix, if she's elected to the Council. From Article 2, Section 19:

The Council and Councilors shall not give orders to any subordinate of the Mayor, either publicly or privately; provided, the prohibitions of this sentence shall not apply to the City Clerk and the City Attorney. Violation of this Section by any Councilor shall constitute willful maladministration and be sufficient grounds for removal from office as provided by the laws of Oklahoma.

That's serious stuff. The whole point of having a professional civil service is to avoid even the appearance that maintenance and construction of basic infrastructure is subject to political pressure. There's already suspicion that Public Works' actions regarding a sewer main for a new subdivision in east Tulsa had nothing to do with the merits of the project and everything to do with the desire to hand a defeat to Mautino not long before the election.

Jim Mautino is the first real representation District 6 has ever had, and I believe the voters in east Tulsa understand that. Back before the 2004 election, I wrote about Jim Mautino, why I thought he'd be a great councilor, and why it was time to retire Art Justis. I stand by every word I wrote.

LaFortune's union label

| | Comments (2)

Why are the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) and the Building Trades Council supporting Mayor Bill LaFortune's, instead of backing one of the Democratic candidates. According to John Wylie, posting as "lakeleader" over at the OKDemocrat bulletin board, the unions don't trust Taylor or McCorkell:

LaFortune has offered some kind of guarantee which these unions do trust about use of union workers on the city projects LaFortune backs. That means jobs for union workers. They also recognize the other GOP contenders as jokes.

So they hold their nose and vote for LaFortune. In return, they believe they will get the jobs their members so badly need.

LaFortune is guaranteeing the use of union workers on city projects? Is that promise that he can keep, legally? And if he can, is that a promise that will endear him to Republican voters?

MORE: MeeCiteeWurkor has more on why certain unions are endorsing LaFortune, but not all.

Tulsans for Better Government (TBG), the group promoting a petition to dismember three Tulsa City Council districts and adding three supercouncilor seats (to be elected citywide to four year terms), filed ethics reports with the City Clerk's office, as required by state law. As of December 31, 2005, the group has accumulated $66,350.00 and has spent $18,882.14. Given that they suspended the petition drive on December 5, it will be interesting to see what they do with the remaining money.

Here is the list of donors disclosed on those forms, in descending order of amount contributed:

Date Name Address Amount
12/30/2005 Tulsa World P. O. Box 26750, OKC 73126 $10,000.00
11/30/2005 George Kaiser Family Fndtn 7020 S. Yale, Tulsa OK 74136 $5,000.00
12/16/2005 Ram Energy 5100 E Skelly Dr, Tulsa OK 74135 $5,000.00
11/9/2005 Anchor Stone Company 2021 S. Lewis, Tulsa OK 74104 $4,000.00
10/18/2005 Howard G. Barnett 6742 S Evanston, Tulsa OK 74136 $3,000.00
10/18/2005 A.H. McElroy, II 1964 E 45th Pl, Tulsa OK 74105 $3,000.00
10/31/2005 Hughes Lumber Company P.O. Box 2220, Tulsa OK 74101 $3,000.00
11/16/2005 Ruth K. Nelson Revocable Trust 1350 S. Boulder, Tulsa OK 74119 $3,000.00
11/16/2005 Mike D. Case 4200 E. Skelly Drive, Tulsa OK 74135 $3,000.00
11/30/2005 Leonard J. Eaton, Jr. 2617 E 26th Pl., Tulsa OK 74114 $3,000.00
12/16/2005 Robert J. LaFortune 427 S. Boston, Tulsa OK 74103 $2,500.00
11/22/2005 Coury Properties 201 W. 5th St, Tulsa OK 74103 $1,500.00
10/31/2005 Ted Sherwood & Associates 15 W 6th Suite 2112, Tulsa OK 74119 $1,000.00
11/4/2005 Capitol Club Tulsa OK $1,000.00
11/4/2005 Joseph McGraw 10900 Louisville, Jenks OK 74137 $1,000.00
11/16/2005 MidFirst Bank PO Box 26750, OKC OK 73126 $1,000.00
11/16/2005 Jack and Maxine Zarrow 2660 S. Birmingham Pl., Tulsa OK 74114 $1,000.00
11/16/2005 Philip C. Lauinger, Jr. 320 S. Boston, Tulsa OK 74103 $1,000.00
11/16/2005 Robert A. Franden 525 S. Main, Tulsa OK 74103 $1,000.00
11/22/2005 GBR Properties, Inc. 6660 S. Sheridan, Tulsa OK 74133 $1,000.00
11/30/2005 Frontier Energy Services LLC 4200 E. Skelly Dr, Tulsa OK 74135 $1,000.00
11/30/2005 Richard Minshall 2444 E 26th Pl., Tulsa OK 74114 $1,000.00
12/16/2005 Stephen J. Heyman 3200 First Place Tower, Tulsa OK 74103 $1,000.00
11/16/2005 Midwesco Industries P. O. Box 3445, Tulsa OK 74101 $750.00
11/16/2005 BHC Pipe & Equipment Co. P. O. Box 701166, Tulsa OK 74170 $500.00
11/22/2005 Ranch Acres Wine & Spirits 3324 A E. 31st, Tulsa OK 74135 $500.00
11/16/2005 Donald B. Atkins 1406 S. Terrace Dr., Tulsa OK 74104 $300.00
11/22/2005 James M. Hewgley, Jr. Trust 427 S Boston, Tulsa OK 74103 $300.00
11/16/2005 Paula Marshall-Chapman P. O. Box 4829, Tulsa OK 74159 $250.00

No time to analyze this, but feel free to comment on who gave, their connections with various interests, and their possible motivations.

ORU really in for it now!

| | Comments (11)

The rumors are true. Oral Roberts University government professor Tim Brooker sent an e-mail from his university e-mail address, recruiting students to work for Randi Miller, the candidate for Tulsa mayor who has been endorsed by ORU president Richard Roberts. Steve Roemerman, himself a graduate of a Pentecostal-affiliated college, obtained and has posted a copy of Brooker's e-mail. What is striking is the tone of the e-mail. Brooker isn't telling the students about an opportunity to work for a candidate; he's challenging them to prove that ORU is a mighty political machine:

Our ORU reputation has been challenged!!! President Roberts has thrown his support behind Randi Miller for Mayor of Tulsa. The opposition has been quoted as saying that "ORU is a paper tiger" and "they can't deliver what's needed to win this race.". Well guess what, we need to show them just what we CAN deliver.

Am I misremembering, or didn't Roberts state that he was endorsing Miller in his capacity as a private individual only, and not as president of ORU?

And who's the "opposition" to ORU of whom Brooker speaks? TU? Valparaiso? IUPUI? Or does he mean that Bill LaFortune or Brigitte Harper or Chris Medlock is opposed to ORU in some way?

There's a fib here in his claim of opposition trash talk. Every one of the Republican candidates has immense respect for ORU as an institution and for the energy of the ORU students who volunteer for campaigns. I've worked alongside ORU student volunteers and have been very impressed. (These students had volunteered as individuals, not as part of some faculty-orchestrated mobilization.)

The e-mail goes on to direct volunteers not to the Miller campaign HQ off-campus, but to the ORU government department office to sign up to help.

There's no good reason for Brooker to goad his students into working for one particular candidate for mayor. Each campaign would provide students with useful grass-roots campaign experience. All of the Republican candidates are social conservatives, in line with traditional Judeo-Christian values. They all respect ORU's role in the community, and all three who have been elected officials have worked to help ORU with its city-related needs, like improvements on Fred Creek.

The only reason for Richard Roberts to throw his official weight behind one candidate is to try to establish himself as boss of a political machine. Somehow I don't think the little old ladies who sent in their seed-faith offerings to build ORU had that in mind.

I'd expect ORU to make Brooker the scapegoat in this matter, but I can't imagine that a professor would send that sort of e-mail without the approval and knowledge of his superiors.

Who are these two men who have bought over a quarter of downtown Tulsa's office space? How did these two Blue Staters come to have an interest in this city in the reddest of Red States? David Lloyd Jones, formerly the Tulsa Tribune's Rambler, spoke to Paulette Millichap, a founder of Council Oak Books and a long-time friend of Maurice Kanbar and Henry Kaufman, and to Ray Feldman, a Tulsa attorney and friend of Kaufman. Jones's story, in the current Greater Tulsa Reporter, is the most complete explanation I've seen of the personal connections and ideas that brought these paradigm-shifting building buys to fruition. (Hat tip to MichaelC from the TulsaNow forums for spotting this article.)

The latest issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly is online, and for the first time, I've written the cover story, a feature story about Tulsa's news bloggers, with sidebars about what blogs are, the history of news blogging, a sampling of other local blogs, and how you can start your own blog -- it's free and easy. I'm grateful to my fellow Tulsa news bloggers for providing such interesting responses to my questions -- sorry I couldn't include more detail.

There's one correction I need to make: Bobby Holt wrote to remind me that it was Paul Romine who set up the Tulsa bloggers e-mail group, not Bobby. I regret the error.

My op-ed this week revists the question of public investment in downtown. With private investment in downtown growing, conditions have changed, and we need to rethink our decade-old approach.

Over at the TulsaNow forum, there's a lively discussion about the current state of Urban Tulsa Weekly, led off by someone who says it's turned into a "right-wing rag." Agree or disagree, you might enjoy jumping into the discussion. I've posted a few comments there myself.

TRACKBACKS: My friend Scott Sala, whom I mentioned in the story, blogged about it at Urban Elephants NYC. And the Blogging Journalist, who covers the relationship between blogs and mainstream media, linked to the cover story.

Best Posts of 2005You have some great reading ahead of you. Mister Snitch! has published a collection of the Best Blog Posts of 2005.

I participated in the compilation, going back through the blog entries I found linkworthy over the course of the year. It looks like most of those I nominated made the cut, and there are several I remember reading but neglected to nominate. You'll find plenty of Oklahoma-based blogs in the mix.

Mister Snitch! put a lot of work into categorizing and describing each of the links. Click through and you'll find blog entries that are heartwarming, gutwrenching, heartbreaking, breathtaking, and milk-through-your-nose funny.

The entry also includes a FAQ explaining the methodology and premise behind this effort.

I'll be leaving the "Best Posts of 2005" button up in the sidebar to make it easy to find.

is really, really interested in BatesLine today -- 16 visits! Tell Mickey I said, "Howdy!"

Miller backs out of debate

| | Comments (4)

Citizens for Fair and Clean Government is holding a candidate forum this Saturday night from 5 to 9 at Rudisill Regional Library, 1520 N. Hartford. This morning there was this report on their blog:

Joshua [Kennedy, Executive Administrator] over at Randi Miller’s headquarters initially accepted our invite to the Saturday night Debate/ Town Hall meeting. They asked for a list of questions that were to be asked, we told them it would be moderated questions from the audience. They immediately stated they were sorry but Randi had a previous appointment for that time slot. Question? Did Randi get cold feet at the prospect of having to answer some tough questions or did she really have a prior appointment? You decide.

Maybe she's going to be washing her hair that night.

UPDATED at the request of Joshua Kennedy, Executive Administrator (see comments).

This situation regarding South Tulsa Citizens' Coalition (STCC) spokesman Michael Covey and the fundraiser he's holding for City Councilor Bill Christiansen just gets smellier and smellier. I'm now in receipt of six nearly identical e-mails from the same IP address, but with different "from" addresses and sender names. It has Jim Burdge's sloppy, slimy fingerprints all over it. Burdge is campaign consultant to Christiansen and was involved in the campaign to recall Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino, an effort which involved slimy fake newspapers ("The Tulsa Tribunal") and deceptive phone messages the night before the election.

(UPDATE: The IP address from which the e-mails originated, 67.67.27.34, is part of a dedicated block of IP addresses registered to Syntroleum. There may be no connection, but Michael Covey's wife Carla is an executive with Syntroleum.)

The e-mail accuses me and others of attacking Michael Covey and being motivated by hatred of Bill Christiansen. I don't believe what I have said or written constitutes an attack on anyone. I have no personal animosity toward Bill Christiansen. I disagree with him on many matters of public policy, and while we have on occasion been on the same side of an issue, on balance I think his continued presence on the City Council is bad for the City of Tulsa.

Here's what all the fuss is about: I published an entry on Saturday evening reflecting my personal observation of the south Tulsa toll bridge proposals put forward by Cliff Magee and Bill Christiansen earlier in the week. (Magee's plan was released on Monday, Christiansen read his, in the form of a resolution, at Thursday's Council meeting.) That same evening, I received some perturbed e-mails from STCC webmaster Dave Wolfard and Michael Covey. Wolfard's e-mails were more hostile in tone. Covey's were more polished and professional, but nevertheless included the demand that I remove what I wrote from the site or else publish his argument against Cliff Magee and in support of Bill Christiansen in full "as soon as possible." Covey stated, in response to my question, that I could consider his e-mails as an official communication of the STCC. His two e-mails were sent between 10 pm and midnight Saturday, less than six hours after I published my entry.

The vehemence and speed of the response to my entry caused my antennae to go up. I was already aware that Covey was holding a fundraiser for Bill Christiansen, and it seemed strange to me that a group as large and diverse as the STCC -- a coalition of a couple of dozen homeowners' associations -- would be able to formulate an official response to my article within four or five hours of its posting. I decided that before taking any action I would confirm with some other officer of the STCC whether Covey's e-mails to me had in fact been cleared with the STCC board as official communications. Because Covey's e-mails came in late Saturday evening, I couldn't call anyone at that hour to verify them with anyone else.

On Sunday afternoon, Chris Medlock and I spoke to Ron MacLeod, STCC president. I had called Medlock, who has worked closely with STCC and is familiar with their structure, to ask who to contact, and Medlock suggested setting up a three-way call so we could talk to MacLeod at the same time. Although we each had our own concerns to address with MacLeod, it was useful for both of us to be in on the call, because it allowed me to hear what Medlock actually said to MacLeod, which is quite different than what Covey claimed, on KFAQ Monday morning, that Medlock said.

In response to my question, MacLeod, president of STCC, said that he had not seen the article I had posted here and had not seen the two e-mails that Covey sent me on Saturday, which were supposedly official communications from the organization. (I just looked back at both e-mails, and MacLeod had not been copied on either one.)

For the record, Medlock did not (as claimed on KFAQ by Covey, who was not a part of the phone call) try to swap support for Christiansen's bridge resolution for the STCC's endorsement in his mayoral campaign. He made it clear that he understands their neutrality in upcoming city elections, as they'll have to work with whoever is elected, but he pointed out that having the organization's spokesman hold a fundraiser for a candidate gives the impression of an endorsement by the organization. Medlock also told MacLeod about how other councilors seemed to regard Christiansen's resolution, that they would rather not see Christiansen back on the Council, because of his votes on issues other than the bridge, and were not going to be inclined to back a resolution just to aid his re-election effort.

(This just came to mind: A City Council can't bind future councils. What good does it do to pass a non-binding resolution when any city action can't possibly happen until after the election, at which point we will have at least four new City Councilors and possibly a new mayor? Wouldn't it be more useful to get as many council and mayoral candidates as possible on record in support of the STCC's position?)

Regarding the Mayor's race, Medlock simply asked for the opportunity to make his case directly to the STCC membership, either at a membership meeting or via their mailing list. He explicitly said he wasn't asking for any special treatment -- he would be happy for all the mayoral candidates to have the chance to communicate with the STCC membership -- but in light of his efforts on behalf of the STCC's cause he thought he deserved a chance to ask directly for the support of the STCC's members.

Late Sunday evening I received another e-mail from Covey, expressing dismay that I had checked with the organization's president regarding his e-mails. This reaction only served to increase my sense that something fishy was going on. If he really had been authorized to issue those statements on behalf of STCC, why should it bother him that I tried to confirm their status with the president of the organization?

After Covey's appearance on Michael DelGiorno's Monday morning show, I phoned in to relate the above events in my usual monotonous tone. There was no ranting or attacking of Mr. Covey or anyone else, just puzzlement over the intensity of the push to get me to remove what I had written.

Later on Monday, I received a puzzling e-mail complaining about what DelGiorno, Medlock, and I "did" to Covey on DelGiorno's program. It was apparent my correspondent hadn't actually heard the show himself; Medlock was not on the show at all on Monday.

Monday night I began to detail all this for publication here, but had to stop because it was getting late, and I had to be up early for my regular slot on KFAQ. (I still want to publish all the e-mail traffic, but before I do, I am going to remove or hide e-mail addresses -- I don't want anyone's personal e-mail address to become fodder for the spambots.) I posted that I wasn't ready to post anuthing yet. Over the course of Tuesday I received a couple of more e-mails from Dave Wolfard -- one quite lengthy, another that simply said, "I hope that your post is not ready because you are researching the facts and not simply because you are trying to find a way to justify your political position." (No, Dave, it wasn't ready, because I have a full-time job, a wife recovering from C-section surgery, and three kids to help take care of, and I do want to take the time to be careful and fair about how I communicate.)

One of the other accusations made in tonight's e-mail barrage is that Medlock and I "had Delgiorno berate" Covey on the air. No one had to prompt DelGiorno to say what he did about Covey's support for Bill Christiansen.

Remember that Christiansen is suing DelGiorno and Journal Broadcast Group (KFAQ's parent company) over DelGiorno's comments regarding the FAA investigation of complaints that the Tulsa Airport Authority has discriminated in favor of Christiansen's business at Jones Riverside Airport. Christiansen's suit looks very much like a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation -- a SLAPP -- a tactic used by public officials to silence their critics. Christiansen has been accused of using his position as a City Councilor and his relationship with a member of the Tulsa Airport Authority board to enhance his own business situation and to put obstacles in the way of his competitors. The FAA is still in the process of conducting its investigation, and they've called the City's attention to several concerns and have asked the City to either change or justify certain practices.

It boils down to this: KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno show has provided a platform for grass-roots organizers all over the city to bypass traditional media and get their message out to a wide audience. In particular, DelGiorno has supported STCC's efforts to communicate their concerns about the south Tulsa toll bridge. Not only has he given their spokesman, Michael Covey, the opportunity to speak on the air, DelGiorno has been an advocate against the insider bridge deal.
I think it's fair to say that, although Covey's skills as a public speaker are considerable, KFAQ has exposed those skills to a broader audience than any other medium.

Covey, in "gratitude" for DelGiorno's support on this issue and the exposure he's received through DelGiorno, is holding a fundraiser to help re-elect Bill Christiansen, the man who has filed a lawsuit that threatens to shut down DelGiorno and KFAQ as a voice for reform and clean government. Can you understand why DelGiorno might feel used? Can you understand why he might be provoked to anger? Can you understand why he no longer wants to provide Covey with a platform?

Dave Schuttler received a copy of the e-mail Covey sent me late Saturday night, and he noticed something interesting. Covey wrote:

While I cannot speak to other issues involving Councilor Christiansen, I can say that Councilor Christiansen has unequivocally supported the citizens of the City of Tulsa on the Bridge.

Schuttler reacted to that quote and another statement by Covey taking issue with Cliff Magee being new to the bridge issue:

It seems that Mr. Covey didn't like the fact the Mr. Magee wasn't knowledgeable on the bridge issue. But he has no problem claiming that he himself is not knowledgeable about Christiansen and his problems with the FAA or the lawsuit against MDG and KFAQ.Now Mr. Covey will hold a fund raiser for Christiansen without knowing anything more about him than that he will back a resolution on the bridge?

As I said on KFAQ, holding a fundraiser for a candidate is about the strongest endorsement you can give him. Covey's claim of ignorance about Christiansen's complete political record and the situation at Jones Riverside Airport is either disingenuous or an example of extreme political tunnel vision.

One more thing: The suspect barrage of e-mails accuses me of pushing my own personal and political agendas. I'm also told that a seldom-visited website (I assume seldom, because the site's stats aren't open to public view -- embarrassingly small, perhaps?) has accused me of spinning for a particular mayoral candidate because I'm desperate for a job.

My only interest in local politics is as someone who has lived in this city most of my life, who owns a home in this city, and who works in this city. I want to see honorable, wise, intelligent people elected to office, to see our government work to serve all the people of Tulsa, not just a favored few. I am tired of seeing local government ignore the basics and spend money in ways that do nothing to improve the local economy or the beauty of our city. I'm tired of ward politicians like Bill Christiansen who do just enough to keep their own constituents happy, but who undermine important reform efforts that would benefit the entire city.

The results of the elections will have absolutely no financial impact on me. I have a full-time private-sector job with a Tulsa-based company that has absolutely no dealings with local government. The job pays well -- not Sam Roop money, but plenty for our family's needs -- and has excellent benefits, and I have a great deal of respect for the company's leadership and my fellow employees. The company has been very helpful in dealing with some issues involving benefits and our family's new addition. As honored as I would be to be asked to serve in a mayoral administration, I won't be leaving my current job. I owe it to the company to give them a return on the investment they've made in me, and I owe it to my family to earn a living in a more stable environment than the political realm. Paid public service -- either as an elected or appointed official -- is years, maybe decades, in the future for me.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2006 is the previous archive.

March 2006 is the next archive.

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

Contact

Feeds

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

Support BatesLine

Show your appreciation and help fund hosting and research expenses:

Official PayPal Seal

Enjoy affordable and reliable hosting with Bluehost and support BatesLine at the same time -- click here!