May 2006 Archives

Viva Casa Viva


At the end of last September, Tulsa's Casa Bonita closed its doors, but only because the space was to be leased to the founder of Casa Bonita, Bill Waugh, for a new Casa Viva restaurant. Same concept, same decor, and the original ownership.

The restaurant reopened this Monday, and tonight, as a belated end-of-the-school-year treat, our family had dinner there.

Everything had a bright new coat of paint, but otherwise it is the same place, with the same basic menu. The system is slightly different; you pay when order, as you come in, which makes putting a tip on a credit card, a bit awkward, and makes it impossible to add something later (e.g. deciding you want a soda in mid-meal).

They are still working out some kinks with the system. They forgot to put guacamole on my all-you-can-eat dinner. There was some confusion at the order pickup window. We got hold of some sticky silverware, which was promptly replaced. When there were problems the staff were prompt and polite in fixing them. Everyone enjoyed their food.

After dinner, we walked around to look at the other rooms. It looks like they may have reopened some eating areas that had been closed, including the old jail. Here are my two big kids in front of the Treasure Room.


We played some arcade games, then went back to the old cantina for the magic show. We finished up at the arcade. My five-year-old liked the alligator-slapping game and the dragon-stomping game. (I helped on the alligator game, and we set the high score.) The nine-year-old played the Star Wars podracer game a couple of times. I played Centipede, and my wife had a try at Skee-Ball.

All told, we were there about two-and-a-half hours, and it was a fun evening for the whole family.

...playing Sudoku on my new Treo, that is. Andrew Gregory has created a very nice, very easy-to-use Sudoku game that runs on Palm OS PDAs. You can play this version without using the stylus -- with just the five-way cursor and the numeric keypad. It's addictive.

So is TROGDOR!, one of the Shockwave Flash games on The Homestar Runner Wiki has TROGDOR! tips, including a way to get 27 extra lives. But it doesn't matter how many lives I start with, I can't make it past level 26. Anyone know what the trick is?

This Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3, the Tulsa Boy Singers will perform their spring concert. The program includes classical selections, such as Mozart's Laudate Dominum, and more modern pieces, including several songs from the musical Camelot.

The concert on both nights begins at 7:30, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati, in downtown Tulsa. Admission is FREE, but donations are gratefully accepted, and CDs of the Tulsa Boy Singers will be on sale.

My son started singing with the group in the fall, and he has enjoyed it completely. It has been a great learning experience for him, not only for vocal skill and musical knowledge, but for self-discipline.

TBS always puts on a great concert -- it's well worth your time this Friday and Saturday evening.

An edited version of this piece was published on May 31, 2006, in Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web, with hyperlinks to related articles, on August 18, 2010.

"No man's property is safe while the legislature is in session." So goes the old saying, and it very nearly held true this year, as two bills at the State Capitol, SB 1324 and HB 2559, threatened property values by trying to undermine local control of zoning and historic preservation.

But HB 2559 died in conference committee, and SB 1324 emerged last Tuesday only to be blown out of the water by a humiliating vote of 42 to 3 in the full State Senate.

We've been following these bills for about six weeks, ever since historic preservation groups sounded the alarm. We've learned several lessons in the process.

The first lesson is that if you care about your city, the State Legislature deserves every bit as much scrutiny as City Hall. In Oklahoma, municipalities are creatures of the state, limited to the authority granted them by the Oklahoma Constitution and Statutes. A lot of good work locally could be undone at the state level.

Lesson two: It's very hard to get a clear idea of where a bill stands. Striking the title, shell bills, committee substitutes, riders -- there are so many different ways to derail or completely change a piece of legislation. We've only begun to get an education in the legislative process as it is practiced in Oklahoma City. Don't assume that you get it just because you watch C-SPAN as your daily soap opera; Oklahoma's procedures and traditions are very different from those of Congress.

Lesson three: Legislators are forced to consider an incredible amount of legislation each year - thousands of bills and resolutions are introduced, and hundreds make it to the floor for debate and a vote. They can't possibly give each bill the attention it deserves.

Consequently, they put a lot of trust in their colleagues and in lobbyists to decide whether a bill deserves scrutiny. In the case of HB 2559 and SB 1324, the bill's sponsors - Sen. Brian Crain and Reps. Ron Peters and Jeannie McDaniel, all from Tulsa - told their colleagues that the provisions weren't controversial at all.

The same message was carried by lobbyists Karl Ahlgren and Russ Roach, representing the interests of "Utica Partners". Roach used to live in Swan Lake, a zoned historic preservation neighborhood in midtown Tulsa. Nowadays Roach lives south of Southern Hills Country Club, living large and milking his connections to his former colleagues for all their worth. He seems to have forgotten the challenges faced by homeowners in older parts of Tulsa.

Until preservationists got wind of the bill, and word spread to neighborhood associations, city councilors, and others concerned about urban planning and zoning policy, legislators weren't hearing any message to the contrary. SB 1324 passed unanimously the first time through in both houses.

How did ordinary Oklahomans turn a unanimous vote in favor to a nearly unanimous vote against? We became aware of the legislation and understood its implications, and then we expressed our concerns to our representatives. Once we educated the members of the House and Senate about the problems with the bill, that tipped the balance in the right direction.

While I'd hope that our legislators would be inclined to vote against any measure they haven't had time to study, it's our job to keep an eye on the bills that are introduced and to lobby just as hard as hired guns like Russ Roach.

One more lesson to learn: There are elected officials that desperately need to be replaced, but it's likely that most of them will get free rides to re-election when the filing period closes on June 7.

Ron Peters, who represents House District 70 in midtown, is one of those who need to go. Off the record, his Republican colleagues will tell you that he is one of the least cooperative, least trustworthy, least principled members of their caucus. They'd be happy to see him go.

Peters was one of a half-dozen Republicans who broke with the party to support the lottery and the introduction of full-fledged casino gambling, with all their accompanying social ills.

SB 1324 and HB 2559 are not his first assaults on homeowners' rights and local control of land use issues. In 2005, Peters and Crain co-authored HB 1911.

In addition to the Board of Adjustment provisions that made their way into SB 1324, the earlier bill would have removed notice requirements for property owners within a redevelopment (i.e., urban renewal) district. Owners would not have had to be notified about public hearings regarding redevelopment plans affecting their property. It also would have removed a requirement for redevelopment plans to be approved by the City Council.

Peters hasn't had a challenger since he first won the seat in the 2000 Republican primary. A conservative Republican challenger could unseat him, if only one would step forward.

It must have surprised some of her constituents that Jeannie McDaniel, a Democrat who represents House District 78 in the northern part of midtown, would have supported a bill undermining historic preservation zoning. After all, she was head of the Mayor's Office for Neighborhoods under Mayor Susan Savage, and she did a great deal to help neighborhood associations organize and help them deal with City Hall bureaucracy.

But residents of central Maple Ridge will remember how, in 1999 and 2000, McDaniel and the Savage administration worked to undermine their efforts to get historic preservation zoning for their neighborhood, which is arguably Tulsa's most historic neighborhood without that protection.

McDaniel was not only out of step with this land use bill, she was one of only five state reps to oppose SB 1742, the pro-life legislation which makes crucial information available to women in crisis pregnancies. The bill takes concrete actions toward the stated goal of making abortion rare (as in Bill Clinton's phrase "safe, legal, and rare"), by giving women solid alternatives to killing their unborn children.

McDaniel represents quite a turn to the left from her predecessor, pro-life Democrat Mary Easley, who voted for SB 1742 in the State Senate.

McDaniel won by only 24 votes over Republican David Schaffer, and she faces a tough challenger in Tulsa police officer and Republican Jesse Guardiola. Guardiola has been campaigning hard for over six months.
The only other Tulsa state representative to oppose this year's landmark pro-life legislation was Democrat Darrell Gilbert, who represents District 72 in north-central Tulsa. Gilbert, a former Republican, hasn't had a general election opponent since his first race in 1996, and hasn't had a primary election opponent since 1998.

Our list of elected officials who deserve a strong challenge would not be complete without mentioning Tulsa County Commissioners Bob Dick and Wilbert Collins, both up for re-election this year. In previous columns, we've documented their aversion to competitive bidding and their disdain for the concerns of Tulsa homeowners.

Collins has a challenger, Owasso State Rep. John Smaligo. Both of Democrat Collins's previous wins have been very narrow, and his district, which includes north Tulsa County and east Tulsa, is becoming increasingly Republican.

Bob Dick got a free ride four years ago, and so far he has not drawn a challenger. City Councilor Bill Christiansen has been rumored as a candidate, but it hasn't been clear whether he would oppose Dick or whether Dick would retire and anoint him as his successor. Christiansen would be better on the south Tulsa bridge issue, but otherwise he wouldn't be much of an improvement.

Christiansen may be waiting to see how much damage there is from the FAA investigation into allegations of anti-competitive practices at Jones Riverside Airport, practices that are alleged to have helped his Christiansen Aviation at the expense of competing fixed-base operator Roadhouse Aviation. The FAA report was due out at press time.

Whatever Christiansen decides to do, Tulsa County needs someone to run for Commission District 3 who will work to make county government more open and efficient, someone who will give deference to city government, rather than engaging in empire-building at the County Courthouse.

You may be used to waiting until Election Day to pay attention to these races. But if you want a real choice to available to you on the ballot, you need to do some homework between now and June 7.

If you're reading this, you're obviously intelligent and concerned about good government. Take a close look at your elected representatives, and consider whether you should step forward and challenge them. Or perhaps someone you know would be the perfect candidate.

Competition is a good thing. It gives us a chance to replace those officials who need replacing and helps those who survive a challenge to get back on the straight and narrow.

Someone needs to provide that competition. That someone could be you.

MORE ON SB 1324 and HB 2559:

Our church sponsors a chapter of Reformed University Fellowship at the University of Tulsa, and as a result we've had an influx of college age, young singles, and young married couples into our congregation. (RUF is the collegiate ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative evangelical denomination.)

Along with the new people, the RUF connection has brought new songs into our worship service, or, more accurately, new tunes to old hymns by writers like Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, John Newton, and Augustus Toplady.

The tunes can be found in the RUF Hymnbook. The RUF Hymnbook Online Hymn Resource provides PDF lead sheets, guitar chord sheets, lyric-only sheets (for overhead projectors), and brief demos (usually a verse and a chorus) in MP3 format.

Kevin Twit is the composer of many of the new tunes, and the RUF Hymnbook Online Hymn Resource is a part of his website, Indelible Grace Music. Twit has a blog on the site as well, and one of his recent entries is "Thoughts on writing a new tune for a hymn text."

I think Dan Paden has this exactly right:

The real issue when it comes to the hard-core homeless is this: a sense of independence carried to an almost pathological extreme, such that eventually, one has no friends, no relatives, no support network, or at least none of these that are willing to help. Imagine, you who belong to a thriving church, who thrive on close family connections, being out of work and not having anyone who will tip you off to an opportunity in their company, no one who will recommend you to anyone, no one who will take phone calls for you, no one who will so much as let you sleep in their garage while you beat the streets looking for work--and that you'd rather have it that way than put up with the way that they want you to do things, rather than have to listen to their advice.

Social capital may be more important to survival and success than financial capital. I think about all the help we've had over the years from family, friends, fellow church members, and political allies.

For example, we have in our home an impressive amount of baby clothing, equipment, and toys for which we didn't pay. Some of them were gifts, but most of them are loaners. There's a $200 baby hammock -- never would have spent the money for it, but someone in our church had one, their baby had grown out of it, and they were happy to lend it to us for a few months. When our baby has grown out of it, we'll give it back, and the owners will likely pass it along to another church family with a new baby.

You don't get that kind of help unless other people feel they know you and can trust you, and you build that kind of knowledge and trust by being faithfully and consistently involved with other people over a long period of time, helping others with what you have to offer.

In order to build social capital, you have to do some things even when you don't feel like doing them. You have to avoid speaking your mind when it might be hurtful. You have to try not to burn bridges, even when you really want to. And when you do screw up and burn bridges, you try to rebuild them, even if it means eating your words.

I'm reminded of C. S. Lewis's depiction of the Grey Town in The Great Divorce. Because its residents could build a new place to live just by willing it into being, people would part company over the most minor offences, moving further and further away from each other. No interdependence, no community, complete autonomy. (The Grey Town, as it turned out, was Hell.)

So said the Lord through the prophet Amos, and although the context is about the nation of Israel's walk with God, the verse has often been applied to marriage and friendship, and even business partnerships.

New York City radio talk show host Kevin McCullough asks an interesting question on his blog: Would you marry, or have you married, someone who holds radically different views on politics and culture? Click through that link -- Kevin would like to know your answer to that question.

Here's my perspective:

I can see political opposites being attracted to one another, but I can't see someone who is passionate about his political values and committed to bringing them to fruition yoking himself to someone who is just as passionate about the opposite values. I think it would even be asking for trouble if someone passionate about politics married someone noncommittal on the subject.

Before I met my wife, I had a mental list of a few must-haves and show-stoppers in a potential mate. Among the must-haves: It was essential that she be an evangelical Christian and a political conservative. I had been active in pursuit of my political and spiritual values, I expected that to continue throughout my life, and I thought it would be important for my wife to be pulling in the same direction.

My wife wishes I were less busy than I am, but she is very accommodating and patient of my various civic involvements because she agrees that what I'm working for is important.

I'm not sure which would be worse for someone like me -- to be married to someone actively working to defeat what I'm trying to accomplish, or to be married to someone who thinks politics is just dumb.

This practice seems to be on the rise: When a seat in the state legislature is about to open up, potential candidates move into the district. They don't have any particular attachment to the area. They just have aspirations of serving in the legislature, and they will move wherever they need to move to have a shot at winning.

In Britain, there's no requirement for a Member of Parliament to live in the constituency he represents, but in America there is a strong tradition of geographical representation. We want our representatives to be "one of us" -- someone who has lived among us, shops where we shop, drives the same streets, and knows how the laws he considers affect our neighborhoods.

While Oklahoma law only requires six-month residency before filing for state legislature, most voters would prefer to see a longer commitment to the district before entrusting someone with representing them in Oklahoma City.

It's been clear since June 2004, when District 69 State Rep. Fred Perry drew no opposition for re-election, that District 69 would be an open seat in 2006. Perry would reach his term limit and would be ineligible to run for re-election.

Bobby at Tulsa Topics did some research at the Tulsa County Election Board and discovered that of the five declared candidates to succeed Perry, three of them have moved into the district since that time.

Going back through my voter registration CDs from the state election board, I was able to find a few more specifics.

Sydney Fred Jordan, Jr., first registered to vote in Tulsa County on June 17, 2004. His wife, Kyndra Brooke Jordan, registered to vote in Tulsa County on the same day. Prior to that he was registered to vote in Osage County, at the same address as his father. Records from March 2004 show him registered Republican, but "inactive", which means he had not voted in the previous four years.

Jordan had registered to vote in Osage County in February 1992, shortly after his 18th birthday. Some time between September 1999 and April 2000, he changed parties from Democrat to Republican. I have voter history records going back to May 1994, and he is not credited with having voted at all from that time through his move to Tulsa County. Since registering in Tulsa County, Jordan has been a fairly regular voter.

Darrell Lee Gwartney first registered to vote in Tulsa County on July 15, 2005. His wife, Deborah Lanelle Gwartney, registered to vote in Tulsa County on the same day. Prior to that they had been registered to vote in Rogers County, east of Owasso, since August 1994.

Jeff A. Applekamp has been registered to vote in Tulsa County since 2000, but he changed his registration to 7402 S. Lewis Ave. in November 2005. That address appears to be an apartment complex. Prior to that he was registered (as Jeffrey A. Applekamp) at 2712 W. 66th Pl., which is in House District 68. His wife, Laurie Renee Applekamp, was still registered at 2712 W. 66th Pl. as of May 8.

Bobby also checked land records and noticed that Applekamp closed on property in the Wind River subdivision near 121st and Riverside on January 27, 2006. He still owns the home at 2712 W. 66th Pl. Bobby didn't mention whether that home still has a homestead exemption.

It would appear that Applekamp rented an apartment in the District just in time to make the six-months deadline, but that he and his wife still live in District 68.

The other two candidates? The earliest registration records I have go back to May 1998. Christopher Scott Medlock was already resident and registered at his current address. Lisa Renee DeBolt was registered at 121st Street in Jenks at that time.

An edited version of this piece was published in the May 24, 2006, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web July 3, 2010.

Flunking the Yellow Pages Test

By Michael D. Bates

When he was Mayor of Indianapolis, Stephen Goldsmith had a simple test for whether city government ought to be performing a service or whether it should be left to the private sector:

"Look at the city's yellow pages. If the phone book lists three companies that provide a certain service, the city probably should not be in that business, at least not exclusively."

Using the Yellow Pages Test, Goldsmith cut hundreds of millions in city expenses, money that was then spent on city improvements. City government focused on the tasks that only it could provide. Dozens of functions were completely turned over to the private sector or contracted out. In order to keep a task in-house, a city department had to compete successfully on cost and quality with private providers.

Goldsmith's example is more often applauded than followed. Oklahoma politicians have been all too anxious to get into businesses like entertainment, resorts, and commercial aviation, providing public funds to help private enterprises that are in competition with other private businesses.

These interventions are always justified as essential to the public good, but instead they always seem to drain money away from the basic functions of government.

On Sunday, May 14, the Oklahoman reported that the $27 million in transferable state tax credits used to finance Great Plains Airlines was coming out of fuel taxes, money that would otherwise go to replace

Oklahoma's roads and bridges. Rather than fund the rehabilitation of 90 bridges or the resurfacing of 135 miles of highway, Oklahomans are paying for a failed airline that never got close to its stated purpose of providing air service between Oklahoma and the coasts.

(Don't go looking for that story in the Tulsa World, whose parent company was a major investor in the failed airline.)

With that lesson on the front page of the state's biggest paper, you'd think it would deter the Legislature from making the same mistake again.

Instead, there's a push to approve $30 million in state tax credits for redevelopment of Grand Lake's Shangri-La resort. Earlier this session, a bill containing the credits stalled in the House, but they may be inserted into the massive budget and tax cut bill.

There's no question that Shangri-La is not much of an attraction any more. My wife and I spent our fifth anniversary there 12 years ago and were so bored with the place we left early to visit Buffalo Ranch and the Precious Moments Chapel.

Backers of the plan claim we need a revived Shangri-La to compete with convention centers and resorts in other states. It seems more likely that it would compete for convention business with city-owned convention centers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and with tribal and privately-owned facilities like the Cherokee Resort in Catoosa and Tulsa's Renaissance Hotel.

Left to its own devices, the free market would be unlikely to pick the southern end of Monkey Island for a major resort. Shangri-La is nearly as inaccessible as its literary namesake. It's over 80 miles away from the nearest commercial airport, and there's only one two-lane highway leading to it.

By now, GOP leadership in the House should have poured cold water on the plan, but they have remained silent. Perhaps they're concerned about protecting the bill's sponsor, Doug Cox, a freshman representative from Grove serving a traditionally Democratic district.

House Republicans should be more concerned about protecting a reputation for common sense and integrity. That will do more in the long run for maintaining their majority and building popular support for their platform than meddling in an area that should be left to the private sector.

Closer to home, there was much ado last week about the city's meddling in the competition for local entertainment dollars.

Last Thursday night, the City Council authorized payments to the Tulsa Oilers hockey team, the Tulsa Talons arena football team, and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

Former Mayor Bill LaFortune changed the formula for splitting concession revenues with the Oilers and Talons. As a result, each team will receive more money back in concession revenues than they paid in rent, about $20,000 more for the Talons and $50,000 more for the Oilers.

The PRCA and Professional Bull Riders (PBR) are each getting a $50,000 sponsorship payment from the city.

During Thursday's Council meeting, Council Chairman "Landslide" Bill Martinson called the payments corporate welfare and said they were offensive. That's ironic: The same Bill Martinson now fretting about $100,000 was just a few months ago pushing to have the city bail out Bank of Oklahoma to the tune of $7.5 million for the bad loan it made to Great Plains Airlines, a loan for which the city has no liability.

The Tulsa World's Friday front-page graphic painted a distorted picture of the payments to the teams by omitting the money the city received in concession revenues from the events. Between rent and concessions, the city made $187,952 from Oilers' games and $63,409 from Talons' games. That's after paying the teams their share of concession cash.

The real question, one the monopoly daily paper doesn't want to address, is whether the city makes enough money from these events to cover the expense of operating the facility. Conventions and major concerts might bring in a significant number of out-of-town visitors, so that theoretically, the increased sales tax revenue from those visitors would offset any operating loss.

But the Talons and Oilers draw mainly from the local area, so the revenues need to be enough by themselves to cover the expenses. Otherwise, we'd be better off keeping the place closed.

LaFortune was quoted in the World as defending the deals on the grounds of quality of life: "Professional teams in our city are absolutely critical to our city's economic well-being."

Minor league sports are really just one entertainment option among many in this city, competing with night clubs, restaurants, and movie theaters for the disposable income of Tulsa residents. There's no more justification for subsidizing them than there would be for a city-funded Western Swing band. (Actually, the latter would be far more likely to bring in outside tourist dollars.)

There's something else ironic about Martinson's fussing about corporate welfare. The amounts in question are three orders of magnitude smaller than what we're spending on the new arena - around 100 grand compared to $200 million. Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Ordinarily, a private business has to pay for a place to conduct business. You might buy or lease an existing building, or you might build something new, but the cost of a place is part of the cost of doing business. If you're leasing, your rent is paying for the landlord's cost of building and maintaining the place.

But in all the financial projections for the new arena, the cost of construction is left out of the picture. If we exceed all reasonable expectations, we may cover the costs of operation, but there's no expectation that taxpayers should recover the funds we spent to build a place for sports teams and musical acts to make money. If anything is corporate welfare, that surely is.

Taxpayers don't build movie theaters or dance halls, and there's no reason we should be funding a location for entertainment options that compete with those private businesses.

I received a couple of interesting letters over the transom today.

Remember the million bucks or so Kathy Taylor spent on her own campaign for Mayor? Turns out she didn't contribute to her own campaign. Instead, she lent money to her own campaign, and she and a friend are sending out letters asking Tulsans to help pay her back.

Several people who supported one of Taylor's opponents received a letter from Joseph L. "Jody" Parker, Jr., Taylor's campaign chairman. That link will take you to a PDF image of the letter; here's the text:


May 18, 2006

Dear _______

First let me thank you for your commitment to Tulsa and its future. You are one of a handful of people who make financial commitments to candidates for public office. Without your support our system would surely falter.

I would like to ask you to consider making a contribution to Mayor Taylor's campaign fund. As her campaign chairman I am responsible for reducing the deficit in her campaign account which arose because of her sizeable loan to the campaign.

Kathy will serve our community steadfastly and is already working tirelessly to improve Tulsa. She believes deeply in Tulsa's potential. It is my hope that she will not have to focus on campaign funds and be distracted from important city business.

I would like to thank you in advance for considering a contribution to the Taylor for Tulsa campaign. The citizens of Tulsa owe you a debt of gratitude for your efforts on behalf of their city. Any amount you could send would be greatly appreciated.

Warm regards,
Joseph L. Parker, Jr.

This letter from Taylor herself, on campaign letterhead, was received by someone who supported her campaign:

May 22, 2006

Dear ______

I truly cannot thank you enough for your past support.

It is a privilege and honor to have become the 38th Mayor ofTulsa. From the beginning of this campaign, we shared a common vision to Make Life Better. I deeply believe in the potential of this city. I believe in our hard working city employees, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our citizens. I look forward to bringing fresh leadership to City Hall.


As you clearly know, this past race was fast and furious. Your past support allowed me to have the proper resources to win this most important race. As with many campaigns, we still have a few loose ends to tighten up. I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm asking you to consider sending another contribution so we can finish this cycle and start working on the true needs of the city. I realize that I am asking a great deal. Please consider matching your previous donation or any amount you can send would be greatly appreciated.


These past few months have been extremely exciting. We have made historic gains here Tulsa. [sic] The stakes had never been higher and we did a fantastic job. Again, I want to thank you for your friendship and support over these past few months, it means so much to me to know I can count on you.

With sincere thanks,
Kathy Taylor

Gotta love how she capitalizes "Make Life Better" -- I'm surprised she didn't put a ™ next to it.

From these letters I gather that Kathy Taylor is the only creditor to the Taylor for Tulsa campaign. If so, that means that any amount contributed to Taylor for Tulsa will wind up in Taylor's personal bank account.

Something else that seems funny: Parker suggests that Taylor will be distracted from her mayoral duties if she can't raise the money. And Taylor herself seeems to say that she can't start working on the "true needs of the city" until she's been paid back for her loan to the campaign. It's hard to imagine that someone with a $25 million house and a multi-million waterfront house in Florida would be worried about getting back a million. Is she not as well off as she seems? Is she worried she won't be able to fill the Lear Jet's fuel tanks? Maybe she should reconsider not taking her salary.

In any event, there's something to be said for contributing to someone who's already won the election -- no worries that your contributions will go for naught. In fact, a post-election contribution could open some doors, in accordance with a principle she articulated during the campaign to the local bilingual weekly La Semana del Sur:

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.

So there you have it, Tulsans. You can Make Life Better™ for yourselves. If you were so foolish as to support one of Taylor's opponents, you now have the opportunity to make amends, to "facilitate dialogue" and acquire "a seat at the table," while relieving the Mayor of distracting financial anxiety.

(Added retroactively on June 3, 2006, to complete the column archive.)

This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column is about corporate welfare, connecting the dots between news that the Great Plains Airlines tax credits are being repaid with money that should be repairing roads and bridges, an effort to extend similar tax credits for the restoration of Shangri-La resort on Grand Lake, former Mayor Bill LaFortune's favorable concessions deals for the Tulsa Talons and Tulsa Oilers, and the biggest example of corporate welfare around -- the $200 million BOk Center.

This just in: This afternoon the Oklahoma Senate voted down SB 1324, 3 votes to 42. Only three senators voted yes: Brian Crain (R-Tulsa; the bill's author), Patrick Anderson (R-Enid), and Ted Fisher (D-Sapulpa). Glenn Coffee (R), Judy Eason-McIntyre (D), and Mike Morgan (D) were absent. Everyone else voted against.

Thanks to all who called, e-mailed, and faxed to express your opposition. And thanks to the legislators who responded to our concerns, took a closer look at the bill, and rejected it.

TRACKBACK: Charles G. Hill comments on the bill and its defeat: "Tulsa's historic zoning is a plastic latch: it's there, and it makes a satisfying click sound, but sooner or later you know it's going to break."

Good news! Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has signed SB 1742, a pro-life bill which passed the legislature overwhelmingly. Here is the way Oklahomans for Life describes the bill:

The bill contains funding for alternatives to abortion, provides information about where a woman could get a free ultrasound, tells her about the pain a baby 20 weeks or older might feel during an abortion, provides for the consent of a parent before a minor’s abortion, and makes it a crime to kill an unborn child in contexts other than legal abortion.

According to the Tulsa Whirled's website, Gov. Henry said, "Senate Bill 1742 includes measured restrictions on abortion.... This legislation strikes a reasonable balance on a contentious issue."

The bill does nothing to hinder women who want to get an abortion, but it does ensure that they get information about what is going to be done to them and their unborn child when it can still make a difference. The time to face the ugly realities of abortion is before the irrevocable choice is made, not years later, when nothing can be done but weep over what was destroyed.

The bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the legislature: 84-5 in the State House, 38-8 in the State Senate. Nearly all of Tulsa County’s legislative delegation voted for the bill, Democrats and Republicans alike. The only exceptions: Democratic State Sens. Judy Eason-McIntyre and Tom Adelson, and Democratic State Reps. Jeannie McDaniel and Darrell Gilbert.

Eason-McIntyre and Adelson won’t face the voters until 2008.

McDaniel, who represents House District 78, is the successor to Mary Easley, a staunchly pro-life Democrat who moved up to the State Senate. In 2004, McDaniel won her first term in the closely-divided district by 24 votes.

Police officer Jesse Guardiola, a Republican, is challenging McDaniel this year. Not only will he be helped by McDaniel’s out-of-step vote on SB 1742, but also by her co-authorship of HB 2559, one of the bills that would have interfered with local control of zoning. Guardiola has been actively campaigning for about six months; he came by our house during this last weekend's unseasonably hot weather.

Gilbert hasn’t faced a Republican challenger since his first election in 1996 and hasn’t been on the ballot at all since the 1998 Democratic primary.

Here's a link to the Senate vote. In addition to Adelson and Eason-McIntyre, Bernest Cain, J. Berry Harrison, Cal Hobson, Mike Morgan, Jeff Rabon, and Jim Wilson, all Democrats, voted no. Connie Johnson (D) and Stratton Taylor (D) were not present. Everyone else voted yes.

Here's a link to the House vote. In addition to McDaniel and Gilbert, Debbie Blackburn, Mike Shelton, and Barbara Staggs, all Democrats, voted no. Absent were Bill Case (R), Ryan Kiesel (D), Ray Miller (D), Paul Roan (D), Joe Eddins (D), Al Lindley (D), Bill Nations (D), Opio Toure (D), Chris Hastings (R), Mike Mass (D), Greg Piatt (R), and Ray Young (R). Everyone else voted yes.

More thoughts on this tomorrow.

This morning, SB 1324, a controversial bill that would interfere with local control of zoning and land use, has been signed out of conference committee and is on its way to a final vote in both houses. Because developers no longer control Tulsa's City Council, they are now using this bill to bypass the City Council and to have state legislators from Slapout and Bugtussle determine our local zoning policy.

It is time to get on the phone to your State Representative and State Senator and urge them to vote against this bill. Legislators have been misled to believe that this bill isn't controversial. If they're to be convinced otherwise, they need to hear from you right away.

It's worth noting that Gov. Henry vetoed a bill last year (HB 1911) that had almost identical language.

To find your State Representative and State Senator and their e-mail addresses and phone and fax numbers, click this link and enter your address in the form.

You can also reach any State Representative through a toll-free number, 1-800-522-8502. The main switchboard at the State Senate is 1-405-524-0126.

Previous BatesLine coverage of this bill and HB 2559, which contained similar language:

HB 2559: Attacking local control of zoning
Legislature interferes in local control of land use -- HB 2559 and SB 1324
Call your State Senators today -- kill SB 1324
SB 1324, HB 2559, Susan Neal, and non-partisan elections
SB 1324 is still lurking

In Urban Tulsa Weekly:

April 27, 2006
May 11, 2006
May 18, 2006


Homeowners for Fair Zoning letter in opposition to SB 1324
Chris Medlock's letter in opposition to SB 1324 to State Senators

Some sad news from Sooner psephologist R. Keith Gaddie: Shutdown

I’ve been having service provider problems with, and have decided to shut down the website. Professional demands at the University and in my other research and consulting leave insufficient time to maintain the site.

I’ll still be writing from time to time for and the Oklahoma Gazette, and bugging the activists on their discussion boards, but the time has come to commit to the "next project," which means another book.

My thanks to the 150,000 people who made almost two million visits to the site in two years. For the reporters and consultants who used the site, you can still reach me through the university (405-325-2061 or rkgaddie at ou dot edu). Everyone else, keep working hard for a politically transparent, informed Sooner Politics.

Keith Gaddie
Professor, Department of Political Science
The University of Oklahoma

Keith's site was a great resource for news during the 2004 campaign, and it will be greatly missed. As he comments elsewhere on the web about Oklahoma politics, I'll be sure to let you know.

SB 1324, the controversial bill that would interfere with local control of land use issues, is going to conference committee. Here is the list of conferees:

Senate (from Thursday's Senate Journal:

Brian Crain (R-Tulsa)
Earl Garrison (D-Muskogee)
Charlie Laster (D-Shawnee)

House (from Friday's House Journal):

Ron Peters (R-Tulsa)
Bill Case (R-Midwest City)
Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City)
Mark Liotta (R-Tulsa)
John Carey (D-Durant)
Wes Hilliard (D-Sulphur)

Contact these legislators and let them know that you want this bill killed. It's an unwarranted intrusion into local control of local issues, and the legislature needs to let city governments work out matters of zoning, historical preservation, and urban conservation for themselves.

This has nothing to do with a Grove, Oklahoma, legislator's plan to get $30 million in state tax credits to redo Shangri-La resort on Grand Lake.

Mary Weiss, lead singer with the '60s girl group group that just coincidentally happened to be entirely staffed by the distaff (don't say "girl group" around Mary) the Shangri-Las, has signed with Norton Records for her first solo album.

Norton's website has a lengthy and fascinating interview with Mary Weiss, who talks about their hits (e.g, Leader of the Pack), recording sessions, the rigors of touring, their fellow musicians (like James Brown and the Zombies), going from obscurity to sudden fame, and how it all dissolved in a mess of lawsuits. Start with that link and follow the links at the bottom of each page to read the whole thing.

(Hat tip: Dustbury's 3WC linkblog.)

Former City Councilor Chris Medlock announced today that he will be a candidate for State House District 69, a seat currently held by Fred Perry, who has reached his term limit. The district overlaps with the eastern portion of the City Council district he represented, and extends west of the river to include Jenks and Glenpool.

Lest you think this is a whim, Chris has aspired to serve in the legislature for a long time. His first run for public office was for this very seat, in a special election in 1994. This is the first time the seat has been open since that time. When he first ran for City Council in 2003, he had in mind serving the remainder of that term, one additional term, and then running for House 69 when Fred Perry hit his term limit.

His plans took a detour last year. He successfully turned back the recall attempt, then was urged to challenge Bill LaFortune for Mayor.

After four elections in a little over three years, it would be understandable if he and his family chose to take a break from electoral politics. But it's likely that whoever wins the primary in this heavily Republican district will go one to win the seat and serve 12 years. That's a long time to wait for another chance.

I think Chris would make an excellent legislator. The Republican caucus needs more members who will keep it committed to conservative and free-market principles.

Chris Medlock understands that being pro-business means providing an environment in which all businesses can thrive, not making special deals for special interests. The fact that Republican leaders haven't declared the plan to give $30 million in tax credits to redevelop a lakefront resort (Shangri-La) dead on arrival tells you that we need more Republican legislators who can recognize, expose, and block deals like that.

The fact that SB 1324 and HB 2559 have gone as far as they have is an indication that we need legislators with city government experience, who will protect cities from the impositions of state government. And even during his mayoral campaign, Chris was talking about the importance of Tulsa and Oklahoma City legislators working together to develop an urban policy for the state, to better serve the needs of our largest cities.

Chris Medlock would be a great choice, and he has my support.

The charter review commission that Bill LaFortune put in place last December following the failure of Tulsans for Better Government's supercouncilor initiative petition is nearing its scheduled conclusion. I spoke at last Friday's meeting at the invitation of Co-Chairman Ken Levit. This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly has my report on the meeting and the kind of recommendations the Citizens' Commission on City Government is likely to make. (For a complete picture, don't miss Bobby's entry at Tulsa Topics, which contains audio of my presentation and TU Professor Gary Allison's remarks.)

My column also includes an update on SB 1324, the bill that would interfere with local government control of Board of Adjustment appeals and enforcement of design rules in historic preservation and neighborhood conservation districts.

(By the way, on Wednesday the State Senate officially rejected House amendments to SB 1324 and requested a conference committee. Conferees have yet to be named.)

This issue also includes a Ginger Shepherd profile of new District 7 Councilor John Eagleton. (Previous issues featured District 2 Councilor Rick Westcott and District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes.)

Eagleton tells how he came up with the idea that would use a south Tulsa toll bridge and a nearby TIF district to fund improvements to the roads leading to the bridge and to cover the shortfall in the BOk Center arena, while giving BOk the financing for the bridge in exchange for dropping their lawsuit for the $7.5 million owed by Great Plains Airlines and guaranteed by the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust:

He said he came up with the idea while sitting in a Creek County Court for a docket call. The docket that day was six to seven pages long, and he was bored while he waited to be called. He counted the ceiling tiles, his mind was wondering and then he "was hit like a bolt of lighting" with the idea.

Whatever the merits of Eagleton's idea, that's certainly a more constructive and acceptable way to beat boredom in a Creek County courtroom than other methods that have made the news.

This issue also includes coverage of Mayfest (also here), a continuation of the summer events guide, and a ballot for the 2006 Absolute Best of Tulsa awards.

UPDATED on October 26, 2017, to replace dead links with Internet Archive Wayback Machine links and to add direct links to audio of my remarks and Gary Allison's remarks. Here is audio of a comment by Greg Jennings with further comments from me about giving the voters a meaningful choice, the possibility of party endorsements, the 1991 Louisiana election, and the reality of local factions that don't line up with national parties. Here is a direct link to former Councilor Chris Medlock's remarks. And here is a direct link to the Urban Tulsa Weekly 2006 Absolute Best of Tulsa paper ballot. A tip of the hat to Bobby Holt for recording the hearing, posting the audio files, and doing so in such a way that the Internet Archive could grab them.

A friend of mine seems to be a magnet for political survey calls, and she makes a point of e-mailing me when a new one comes in. This one is fascinating. Here's her verbatim account of the call:

Call early this evening, which I cut short after 15 minutes, and told we were only half-way through. He said he wasn't allowed to tell from where he was calling (I asked), yet chuckled somewhat knowingly to some answers. But then, maybe he called other KFAQ listeners...

First 3 questions dealt with approval or not of 1-City Council 2-County Commission 3-mayor

Next several dealt with city heading in right direction, view of city (small regional like Wichita, Springfield, etc.), large regional (KC, San Antonio, JAX !!!), large national (Dallas, NYC, Seattle), international (Paris, etc.) Unbelievable...Then asked if Tulsa was any of the aforementioned in its glorious past.

Should Tulsa be known for something i.e.. energy rather than oil OR something like an Eiffel Tower, St. Louis arch, Golden Gate Bridge (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!)

Then it got into pushing the need for younger residents, higher-paying jobs, downtown dev. to fight crime, things to do in Tulsa, city center more imp. than the burbs, utilizing the river...

RIVER-the main point of the call-need for development to combat all the problems of the city.

Vision of restaurants, parks, recreation...making a lake with an island in the middle with housing for 10k residents, sailing, concerts. A very large canopy (LANDMARK LIKE THE EIFFEL TOWER-NOT MAKING THIS UP!!) Great detail on the canopy over the island which would keep temp to 80 in the summer, warm in the winter, put Tulsa on the tourist map...

TAXES-how much would I be willing to pay? Another penny on the salestax or $140 (not sure may have been $114) on each 100k of assessed value of property.

At this point he lost me & I was late leaving, so thanked him and said good-bye. Hope someone tapes the whole interview for you. There were voices in the background going over the same questions.

Caller ID: out of area

So -- whoever is behind the call was testing the water for higher taxes to pay for doing something dramatic with the river.

Here's an idea -- stop work on the arena, use that money to pay for river development infrastructure (low water dams, bank stabilization, etc.), and leave the skeleton of the arena as a monument to politicians and special interests who pushed their own vision and pushed the people's vision off into the distant future.

(By the way, if ever you get a survey call on political subjects, write down all the details you can and e-mail them to me at blog at batesline dot com. It's a good way to get an early warning of the trends that are headed our way.)

American Restaurant: Mr. Swiss

American Restaurant: Mr. Swiss,
originally uploaded by nickgraywfu.

Found this photo on Flickr next to one of a beef on weck sandwich. We used to have Mr. Swiss here in Tulsa -- there's a former Mr. Swiss building on the south side of 31st Street just west of Mingo. (I think it's a used car dealership now.) Click on the picture to see a bigger version.

About a week ago, it caught my eye as I was headed east on 11th, just east of Harvard: A portable sign with just three words on it: BEEF ON WECK. It was in front of The Right Wing, a restaurant that specializes in Buffalo-style hot wings.

Those three words won't mean much to most Tulsans, but I took a number of lengthy trips to Erie County, New York, a couple of years ago, where beef on weck is the true local specialty, more so than spicy chicken wings.

Beef on weck is thin-sliced roast beef, served on a kummelweck roll -- a bun encrusted with coarse salt and caraway seeds, with a bit of a glaze to it -- with a bit of juice either on the sandwich or on the side. In a fine Buffalo-area tavern (like the Bar-Bill Tavern in East Aurora) you'll find a pot of prepared horseradish at the table for your sandwich.

I had seen beef on weck on only one other Tulsa menu: that of the ultra-elegant, whiter-than-white Table Ten in Brookside. It was $10, if I recall correctly. (It no longer seems to be on the menu.)

This Monday I saw the doctor for the bronchitis that had been dogging me for several days. His office was near 11th and Utica, just a couple of miles from The Right Wing. It was a perfect opportunity and a perfect reason to have my first beef on weck in two long years -- nothing like a sandwich piled high with horseradish to cut through all the gunk.

It took a while, but it was worth the wait. My only complaint -- I was given a very small cup of horseradish -- nowhere near enough to get some with every bite. I'll remember to ask for more next time.

There is something about the blending of the flavors and textures. I think that coarse salt on the bun is the key.

Here's a recipe for converting kaiser rolls to kummelweck. And here's a paean I wrote to beef on weck back in February '04.

An edited version of this column appeared in the May 17, 2006, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is no longer available online. Here's my blog entry linking to the article. Posted online October 26, 2017.

Charter change commission winding down

The blue-ribbon panel assembled to consider radical changes to Tulsa's form of government is winding down its work and appears ready instead to make a set of more modest but constructive recommendations.

Last Friday, May 12, I spoke at the invitation of the Citizens' Commission on City Government about my idea of multi-partisan elections (described in my April 6 column) and the related concept of instant runoff voting (described in my March 9 column).

I have been skeptical of this commission, which was established by Mayor Bill LaFortune last December after the petition drive in support of at-large councilors failed to gain traction. LaFortune handpicked the commission members and set the ground rules without consulting with his fellow elected officials. It seemed to be another means to advance the notion of at-large councilors.

That notion, you'll be pleased to know, is all but dead. In a straw poll taken at the end of the meeting, only two commissioners, realtor Joe McGraw and zoning attorney Stephen Schuller, supported any form of at-large membership on the Council.

McGraw said that he wants someone on the Council representing all of Tulsa, not just special interests. Reuben Gant, head of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, replied that no one will have the best interests of all Tulsa at heart. Victory Christian Center pastor Sharon Daugherty pointed out that Mayor is there to represent the whole city.

Commission co-chairman Ken Levit said that a move to a mixed district and at-large Council might have been workable when the current City Charter was written, but having gone to a district-only Council, any addition of at-large members would be "wrenching" and would dilute the "representativeness" of the Council.

Nor is there any sentiment for switching to Oklahoma City's form of government, where the Mayor is just an at-large member of the Council and the city would be run by a professional manager. Chris Medlock's view seems to have prevailed: The problem wasn't with the organizational chart, and if we want someone with city manager credentials to oversee city operations, the Mayor has the power to make that happen.

One of the commissioners raised the idea of giving the Mayor a vote on the City Council, so that someone with a whole-city perspective would have a voice in their decisions, but it didn't gain any support. Anyway, doesn't the Mayor have more power to represent the interests of the whole city with a veto over the Council's decisions than with one voice and vote out of 10 as a Council member?

The commission's thinking hasn't gelled on the issue of partisanship in city elections, beyond a general agreement that something needs to change.

Some commissioners seem to like the idea of a blanket primary, with all candidates on the ballot, labeled by party. National party labels may not tell the whole story, but, as Daugherty said, they give some insight to the voter.

Others, like Gant, say there's no room for partisan politics in local government.

Commission member Sandra Alexander spoke of her frustration as a Republican living in heavily Democratic Council District 1. She said that in five of the eight elections under the 1989 City Charter, she has not had a say in who would become her city councilor because the race was decided in the Democratic primary.

Someone proposed that we keep the current system, but if all the candidates who file are from one party, move the contest to the general election and let everyone vote. But that doesn't solve the problem for Alexander. What if, as often happens, all the viable candidates are from one party and someone from the other party files on a whim? In that situation, the real contest would still take place in the primary, and voters from the other party would still be left out.

I presented my multi-partisan solution - all candidates on the same ballot, each bearing a ballot label indicating endorsement by party or local PACs, and using Instant Runoff Voting to ensure that the winner is the candidate backed by the majority of voters - at the beginning of the meeting, long before the commission's discussion took place.

The more I listened to their concerns, the more convinced I was that the multi-partisan, instant-runoff approach solves all the problems they're trying to solve. I hope they'll give it a closer look.

There are three other issues that are likely to appear in the Commission's final report: whether the City Auditor should be appointed, civil service management, and the election calendar.

This last issue, which I raised in this space last week, came up during a meeting between Levit, his fellow co-chairman Hans Helmerich, and Mayor Kathy Taylor. Taylor had less than a month after her swearing-in to submit a budget to the Council. Because the budget cycle can't move, moving the election cycle would be the only way to relieve the pressure on newly-elected officials.

Former Councilor Chris Medlock spoke in support of elections in the fall of odd-numbered years. A fall election would provide better weather and longer daylight hours for door-to-door campaigning and might boost turnout, because the election would come at a time of year when people are accustomed to vote. Levit thought this might offset the drop in turnout likely with non-partisan elections.

The entire commission will meet with Taylor in the near future, then will meet in executive session to draft a final report, with an aim to finish work as planned in June.

SB 1324 in conference committee

An update on the zoning legislation we've been following:

Last Tuesday, May 9, I spoke to State Sen. Brian Crain, the author of SB 1324 (see last issue), the bill that would restrict the freedom of municipal governments with regard to Board of Adjustment appeals and enforcement of design guidelines (the sort found in historic preservation districts and neighborhood conservation districts).

Crain told me that the bill was headed to conference committee. (As of Friday, there was no reference to the bill going to conference or any conferees being named in either the House or Senate journal.) Crain said that the companion bill, HB 2559, was dead.

The Mid-City Advocate, a weekly serving central Oklahoma City, an area with many historic preservation and neighborhood conservation districts, featured the two bills on their front page. The paper gave Crain's rationale for SB 1324:

"What we're concerned about is providing flexibility to cities and towns with zoning codes. What we have now is an inability to redevelop some existing areas because the zoning codes are so inflexible. They don't allow city councils to make any variances. So the first part of the bill allows communities more flexibility in zoning, and the second part just clarifies that if you have to appeal from the board of adjustment, you go to district court."

Crain's explanation is at odds with the actual language of SB 1324, which appears to take enforcement of design guidelines away from design review committees, such as the Tulsa Preservation Commission, whose decisions can be appealed to the City Council, and to give that power to the Board of Adjustment, whose decisions could only be appealed to District Court, under the other provisions of Crain's bill.

Given Crain's rationale, one might think that elected officials from cities across Oklahoma were begging for this bill. I asked Crain if he had sought input from any members of Tulsa's City Council about his bill. He told me that he had not.

If you don't live in a historic preservation district, you may not feel threatened by this bill, but it sets a dangerous precedent. Someday the legislature may decide to nullify a part of the zoning code you depend upon to protect your property value. Do you really want legislators from Bugtussle and Slapout to decide Tulsa's zoning policies, or do you want decisions about local policy to be made locally?

Call the State Capitol and let your state senator and state representative know what you think about this bill.

Swamped and exhausted


I am still recovering from bronchitis, which has been dogging me since the end of last week. The antibiotic seemed to keep me tossing and turning. (I'm sure reading the side effects didn't help -- "tendon rupture"?) I was back at work today, but I'm still behind on responsibilities at home and at work.

In the meantime, check out the latest entries to the linkblog (top of the page). Or read the latest headlines from other Tulsa bloggers.

Bobby has audio of last Friday's meeting of the Citizens' Commission on City Government, including my presentation, a presentation by TU Law Professor Gary Allison, and remarks by Chris Medlock. Was the Tulsa Whirled there to get the story? No, but Tulsa Topics was there.

(Urban Tulsa Weekly was there, too. You can read my take on the meeting in the issue that hits the streets in the morning.)

Bobby also keeps a linkblog, and one of his recent finds is this piece in the Muncie, Indiana, Star-Press, an interview with Brookside neighborhood leader Herb Beattie about how to deal with AEP's tree-trimming program.

Chris Medlock has a new entry about Vision 2025 eminent domain in Sand Springs, and some salient facts that the Tulsa Whirled omits.

From the blogroll:

Julie R. Neidlinger has a hilarious Mother's Day video and links to more work by Barats and Bereta. Julie also has some music recommendations: Philip Glass and Samuel Barber.

Marsupial Mom breaks her self-described "blog-slump" with a tale of her most embarassing moment ever.

Wanna buy some movie theatres in western Oklahoma? One is a twin drive-in, another has three screens and a luxury apartment. Okiedoke found the listings on eBay.

If you have trouble finding your way around the tidy Cartesian grid that defines Tulsa's street network, imagine learning your way around an ancient, complex, and chaotic street network, and keeping that map entirely in your head.

From the Transport for London website:

All licensed taxi drivers in the Capital must have an in depth knowledge of the road network and places of interest in London - the 'Knowledge'. For would be All London drivers, this means that they need to have a detailed knowledge of London within a six mile radius of Charing Cross. Suburban drivers need to have a similarly detailed knowledge of their chosen sector.

From a PDF document about the Knowledge of London examination system:

In order to complete the Knowledge you will need to know any place where a taxi passenger might ask to be taken and how to get there. To do this you will need to know all the streets, roads, squares etc. as well as specific places, such as parks and open spaces, housing estates, government offices and departments, financial and commercial centres, diplomatic premises, town halls, registry offices, hospitals, places of worship, sports stadiums and leisure centres, stations, hotels, clubs, theatres, cinemas, museums, art galleries, schools, colleges and universities, societies, associations and institutions, police stations, civil, criminal and coroner’s courts, prisons, and places of interest to tourists. Such places are known as ‘points’.

How do you organize all this information in your brain? You learn 320 "runs", divided into 20 lists of 16 runs. A run connects two major points, and you learn the route from one end to the other, the reverse route (which may differ because of one-way streets and turn restrictions), all points of interest along the way, and all points of interest with a quarter-mile of each end point.

After an introductory talk, you have six months to learn the first 80 runs, then you go through a self-assessment, just to see if you've got the hang of it. You have another 18 months to learn the remaining 240 runs. Then there are four stages of oral examinations, each of which may involve multiple exams before advancing to the next stage. According to Transport for London:

On average it takes an All London applicant 34 months to learn the Knowledge and pass through the examination process, 26 months for a suburban applicant.

Small wonder that that London cabbie was able to keep his composure when he unexpectedly found himself being interviewed on TV about an Internet intellectual property case. (Hat tip on the cabbie story to The Dawn Patrol.)

Michael Cook has discovered the joys of a certain variety of unsolicited commercial e-mail (aka spam):

One feature of the genius of Dickens was the names with which he christened his characters -- Wackford Squeers, Ebenezer Scrooge, Wilkins Micawber and the like. But spammers have out-Dickensed Dickens. In the past week, I have received spam advertising mortgage schemes, drugs and Rolexes from:

Sport P. Fundamentalism
Interrogation C. Samoset
Magnus Tobechi
Besieger O. Permafrost
Snowflake E. Catalpas
Typewriter U. Furze
Elmo Pendleton
Malachi Patterson
Ducat T. Diphtheria
Discountenanced S. Terminable

There’s a sort of lunatic vitality in these names. Only someone with an iron will could avoid opening an email from Mummification K. Sitar.

(Found via the Curt Jester.)

I've written twice before about this type of spam. Back in March 2004, most of the mail I received with such interesting sender names seemed to be promoting Russian businesses.

The names in the From line are wonderful -- Stying K. Purgative, Mustered O. Behemoths, Headwaters I. Evidence, Circularizing T. Integers, Disassemble H. Imps, Rallies Q. Stratification, Accretions G. Recital -- they are obviously not names, but they have the rhythm of names, reminiscent of the sort that Barry Took and Marty Feldman cooked up for sketches on "Round the Horne", like Isambard Mousehabit and J. Peasemould Gruntfuttock. (Or the Li'l' Abner character, Jubilation T. Cornpone.) So we know the spambot writer is evil, but has a sense of humor.

In that same article, I described the technical rationale behind the use of such strange names, and the means by which spammers were hijacking computers around the world to send their messages.

Then again in March 2005, I blogged about the latest batch of funny-name spam, having a bit of fun with some of the stranger combinations.

I've had trouble finding out more about this particular variety of spam, and I think it's because no one has given it a name. Henceforth, I dub this phenomenon "Jubilation T. Cornpone spam," in honor of the military hero of the town of Dogpatch, the comic-strip character whose name resembles the names found in these unsolicited commercial e-mail messages.

Maybe if we all call it by the same name, we can track down the person or persons responsible for all this spam and bring them to account. At the very least, I'd love to have their name-generation algorithm.

A tad triumphalistic?

| | Comments (7)

This morning I was on KFAQ to talk about SB 1324, but before we got to that subject, Gwen Freeman mentioned Carlton Pearson's new TV ads, which straightforwardly proclaim his embrace of universalism -- the doctrine that all are saved from God's wrath, whether or not they repent and believe in Jesus Christ. In that context, I said this:

I'm happy to say that because of [Carlton Pearson's] heresy, my son's school has a new campus. Regent Preparatory School has bought the old Higher Dimensions campus on South Memorial... So we've got a nice new big campus with some wild space, ponds, and woods, and it's going to be a great place for a school, and we owe it all to Carlton Pearson being a heretic.

It was said in a jocular tone of voice, and it provoked laughter from Gwen Freeman and Ron Howell, who was her sidekick this morning.

I got a call later from someone who had heard about the remark second-hand and was concerned that it might reflect badly on the school.

I want to make it clear here that I do not represent Regent Preparatory School in any way. My only affiliation with the school is that two of my children are students there.

For its first six years of existence, Regent has been a tenant of Central Assembly of God, which is located in the old Bates Elementary School building near 51st and Memorial. It has been a good location, but the classical Christian school has been searching for a permanent place where it can settle in and expand. At one point three years ago, Regent was poised to purchase the old Children's Medical Center facility on I-44 between 41st and Yale, but the effort was thwarted by then-City Councilor Randy Sullivan. (That area is now home to a Best Buy and a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.) This new campus is an answer to many years of prayers.

I don't mean to be ungracious to Carlton Pearson, whom I met during the 2002 mayoral campaign. But Pearson turned his back on the historic Christian faith by embracing universalism. As a result, many of his church members left, and many of his fellow pastors and evangelists do not wish to give him a platform at their revival meetings and conferences for his false doctrine.

This decline in popularity, stemming from the rejection of truth and the embrace of falsehood, led to the financial decline of the church and the necessity of selling their facility near 91st and Memorial. The remnant of his church now worships Sunday afternoons at Trinity Episcopal Church.

For a minister of the gospel to turn his back on the truth and lead others astray is a grave thing, and I take no joy in it. Nevertheless, it is a happy thing that, as a consequence of one man's rejection of the truth, a school that is committed to the truth and is grounded in sound Christian doctrine now has a campus that will enable it to grow and to thrive.

Please join me in urging our State Representatives and State Senators to kill SB 1324, which would infringe upon local control of zoning and land-use decisions. The bill is still alive. Its author, Sen. Brian Crain, tells me that it is headed for conference committee, although I find nothing in the House or Senate Journals online to indicate that this step has officially been taken, and the conferees from each chamber have yet to be named.

This bill has its roots in the frustration of one developer, John Bumgarner, who didn't get everything he wanted as quickly as he wanted when he built a bank and parking lot that encroached upon a historic preservation overlay district and resulted in the demolition of three contributing homes to that district. He knew what the rules were when he bought the land, and he could have chosen to develop within those rules. By seeking a zoning amendment, he should have been open to the possibility that his request would be denied or accepted only on certain conditions. Had he been willing to compromise with the concerns of homeowners, who have their own investments to protect, he would have been able to start building much sooner.

But rather than work in a spirit of cooperation, he has sought to have the rules changed, not by our local legislature, who is in the best position to strike the balance between competing interests in the overall best interests of Tulsa, but by state legislators from Oklahoma City, Altus, Slapout, and Bugtussle. I was disturbed to learn that no Tulsa city councilors were consulted about this bill at any point in the process.

The threat is twofold. First, that other provisions of our zoning code would effectively be voided by legislative action -- possibly the provisions that you rely upon to protect the value of your home or business. Second, there is a continuing threat to historic preservation districts and urban conservation districts (OKC has the latter; Tulsa doesn't), because it appears to take design review out of the hands of the committees established for that purpose and gives it to the Board of Adjustment, then requires that all appeals of those decisions must involve expensive attorney's fees.

Please call your state legislators today and urge them to kill SB 1324. There is nothing in the bill worth salvaging.

To repeat from an earlier entry:

To find your State Senator and his e-mail address and phone and fax numbers, click this link and enter your address in the form.

I'd also encourage you to contact Sen. Brian Crain, the Senate sponsor of the bill, and respectfully register your concerns with him. Sen. Crain is a Republican representing near-eastern Tulsa. He has been a champion of homeowners' rights with regard to eminent domain, and I think he'll come down the right way on this if he understands our concerns.

To see the status of this bill and find links to the text of the bill, visit this page and enter "SB 1324" (without the quotes) in the "Measure Number(s)" box. Here is a Rich-Text Format file with the House-amended version of the SB 1324. If the Senate accepts it, it goes to the Governor.

So it would seem from Doug Marlette's latest cartoon in the Tulsa Whirled.

I shouldn't be too hard on Mr. Marlette. Since he doesn't live here, he can't be expected to be too familiar with local geography.

For cartoons by a long-time Tulsa resident, pick up one of these.

Somewhat related: On Sunday, Julie Del Cour wrote this:

Every five years for the past quarter century, the city of Tulsa has offered voters a deal: If they approve a third-penny sales tax the city will keep chipping away at capital needs.

"Chipping" is the operative word. Even with regular bond issues and renewal of the third-penny four times, the city has about $4 billion in unmet capital needs. Theoretically the city could dedicate its total budget for the next seven years to those needs and still not catch up.

It's funny: The amount of unmet capital needs has been $4 billion as long as I can remember, at least going back to the 1999 bond issue. If we've been "chipping away at it," shouldn't it be getting smaller? Between two bond issues and two third-penny renewals since then, plus Vision 2025 (which mostly unded one of the biggest single items on the list, the arena) we've funded roughly $1.4 billion dollars in capital needs, if memory serves me correctly.

I've got a lot in my backblog, but I also have a cold, so I won't be writing any more tonight. Here's what I hope to get to in days to come:

  • A tribute to songwriter Cindy Walker, who died in late March;
  • A tribute to urban critic Jane Jacobs, who died a week or so ago;
  • A personal response to a recent flurry of articles about Christianity and contraception, including one about a Protestant couple (Sam and Bethany Torode) who rejected contraception, wrote a book about it (Open Embrace), but now have become Orthodox and have rethought their earlier rethinking of the issue;
  • Recent changes to the Tulsa Whirled's web policy;
  • Sen. Tom Coburn's brave and relentless battle against pork-barrel spending;
  • Family news, including my daughter's wonderful school program last Friday and a cousin's wedding at Woolaroc;

and much, much more, particularly on the national and international scene, which I've neglected of late.

This week's column covers three topics: (1) An update on the status of HB 2559 and SB 1324, the bills in the Oklahoma legislature which would dictate local zoning and land use policy from Oklahoma City; (2) Mayor Taylor's hiring of former City Councilor Susan Neal; (3) the topics under serious consideration by the Citizens' Commission on City Government, including non-partisan city elections.

Since the story was filed, I've learned that HB 2559 is dead, but SB 1324 has gone to conference committee and is still very much alive. I spoke yesterday to State Sen. Brian Crain, the Senate author of the bill, who believes that the provision requiring Board of Adjustment appeals to go directly to District Court is merely a clarification of existing law. He directed me to 11 O. S. 44-110. I mentioned that Tulsa's City Attorney office had said that Tulsa could change its zoning ordinance to allow certain BoA decisions to be appealed to the City Council, and that such a change was discussed by the previous City Council.

The other part of the bill amends 11 O. S. 44-104, and it appears to put design guidelines (such as those in use in historic preservation and neighborhood conservation districts) in the control of the Board of Adjustment, rather than special design review boards:

[The Board of Adjustment shall have power to] Hear and decide proposals for accessory elements associated with an allowed building use, where appropriate general performance and design standards have been established which promote greater economic value and provide a harmonious relationship with adjoining land uses by ordinance or by administrative rule or regulation. Such proposals and performance or design standards may include, but are not limited to, such accessory elements as sound, building material, runoff, lighting, visual screening, landscaping and vehicular considerations;

I understood Crain to say that that language was intended to give cities the flexibility to enable infill development, and that it was crafted with the help of INCOG staff. Crain said he was open to suggestions for clearer language.

While I am sure of Sen. Crain's good intentions, I don't see an urgent need for either provision. Unless cities are complaining that they are unable under present law to add flexibility to the zoning code, leave well enough alone. While Tulsa does need infill development, local government is best suited to design rules that will balance competing concerns and ensure that the investments of homeowners and developers alike are respected.

Your calls to state representatives and state senators are still needed to stop this bill, which I believe would set a precedent for further legislative interference in local zoning.

On the matter of the City Charter, I'll be speaking Friday afternoon at the invitation of the Citizens' Commission, mainly to address the issue of partisanship. Here's my column on the idea of multi-partisan elections, an alternative to the non-partisan concept. I hope also to get in a plug for Instant Runoff Voting, which we need already, but we'll need it more if we move toward any system in which primaries are eliminated.

An edited version of this piece was published on May 10, 2006, in Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web, with hyperlinks to related articles, on August 18, 2010.

We're now a month past the city election, and it's time to follow up on a few stories that we've been watching.

* * *

First, let's look to the State Legislature, where Tulsa's development lobby has taken its battle to regain total control of zoning and land use planning. HB 2559 has been sent to conference committee. The bill, sponsored by three Tulsa legislators (State Reps. Ron Peters and Jeannie McDaniel, and State Sen. Brian Crain), would interfere with local control of the zoning process, requiring appeals to Board of Adjustment (BoA) decisions to go directly to District Court and making it easier to remove lots from historic preservation districts (and ensuring the eventual erosion of these districts to non-existence).

The companion Senate bill, SB 1324, is awaiting the Senate's consideration of House amendments, but it appears to be on hold while HB 2559 is in conference. SB 1324 includes a section that would give the BoA oversight of design guidelines, which would affect historic preservation districts and Oklahoma City's neighborhood conservation districts. Combined with the BoA appeal requirement, it would make it tougher to enforce these zoning provisions which aim to preserve the character of a neighborhood. It's likely that this provision will be included in the conference negotiations over HB 2559.

Legislators have gotten an earful about these bills from neighborhood association leaders and historic preservation activists over the last two weeks. We'll see if the voice of the people is enough to overcome the loud voice of campaign contributions from builders' PACs and individual developers. One encouraging sign: State Sen. Randy Brogdon, a former Mayor of Owasso, and one of the most principled members of the State Legislature, has come out in opposition to the bill.

The local monopoly daily weighed in with an editorial on the bill, predictably siding against local control of land use decisions. The editorial set forth a false alternative: Do you want zoning decisions made by professionals or by politicians?

In fact, the BoA is not made up of professionals. It consists of five private citizens, nominated to the board by the Mayor for three-year terms and confirmed by the City Council.

And although much of what the Board does is cut-and-dried, there is a strong subjective element to the approval of special exceptions, where the Board's role is more legislative, rather than "quasi-judicial." Neighborhood compatibility is involved in special exceptions, and it would be reasonable to provide a level of review that doesn't require the expense of hiring an attorney.

Whatever the merits of changing the BoA appeals process or changing historic preservation rules, the issue should be debated and decided locally - a point the World's editorial avoids. The bottom line is that the World and the development lobby don't want land-use decisions made by a body that they don't control.
Keep calling the State Capitol. Our legislators need to get the message - keep local issues under local control.

* * *

Mayor Kathy Taylor is being lauded for reaching across partisan lines to hire former City Councilor Susan Neal, a Republican, to serve on her staff as a legislative and education liaison. Neal and former Council colleague Tom Baker were Taylor's first two permanent hires.

The reality is that, when it comes to local political factions, Neal's hiring doesn't cross any ideological boundaries at all. Neal is very much a part of the Midtown Money Belt faction that crosses national party lines and includes Taylor, Baker, and former Mayor Susan Savage. She and Baker were the Tulsa World editorial board's favorite councilors. The pair was nicknamed Bakerneal by their colleagues for voting in lockstep.

Although she worked for a Republican congressman a decade and a half ago, Neal is considered a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by most local activists. As a councilor, she would show up at the annual Tulsa County Republican Convention just long enough to wave when the elected officials were introduced.

I'm only aware of one occasion where Neal took a discernibly Republican position on an issue: She voted twice against allowing more city employees to unionize. Then again, that's a position many Money Belt Democrats share, including Mayor Taylor and former Mayor Savage.

Her appointment as a legislative liaison is ironic. In choosing a liaison, you want someone who has the respect of those you're going to be lobbying.

Neal's ties to Tulsa's mostly-Republican legislative delegation are rather tenuous. When Republican elected officials gathered in late 2004 to announce their opposition to the recall of two Republican city councilors, Neal was nowhere in sight. Of the local delegation, she's known to have a good rapport with only Ron Peters and Jeannie McDaniel, both of whom sponsored the aforementioned HB 2559, working to keep a reform-minded City Council from exercising local control over zoning.

Neal isn't Taylor's worst choice for a liaison to the City Council - that would have been Baker - but she comes close. She wasn't highly regarded by the reformers on the Council, a perspective that now holds a solid majority on that body. During Council debates, Neal would try her colleagues' patience with her lengthy soliloquies on the agony of decision-making, complete with sighs and anguished facial expressions. Her wilderness wanderings invariably led her to whatever position the Tulsa World editorial board favored.

I received a good deal of flack for endorsing Bill LaFortune against Taylor in the general, after working for his defeat in the Republican primary. I was accused (ironically, by someone married to a member of Taylor's campaign staff and transition team) of selling out for a chance at an unpaid appointment to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC); others said I was acting out of pure Republican partisanship.

I wrote at the time that a chastened LaFortune was Tulsa's best chance for City Hall reform. The primary result opened LaFortune's eyes. The voices he had dismissed as a fringe group turned out to represent a broad, bipartisan, and geographically diverse coalition that prevailed in most of the contested council seats and, if it hadn't been for Randi Miller's spoiler role, would have taken him out in the primary.

Taylor obviously hasn't had that wake-up call yet. Taylor's choice of Baker and Neal confirms my suspicion that she will do nothing to challenge the City Hall status quo. If you were a Medlock or McCorkell voter, if you're from north, east, or west Tulsa, she won't be listening to you. She appears to be encasing herself in a Money Belt bubble, where she can remain uncontaminated by the concerns and opinions of the rest of Tulsa.

I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Taylor's appointments to expired terms on the TMAPC, the BoA, and Tulsa Airport Authority will be very telling.

* * *

Speaking of partisanship and city government, this Friday I will be speaking about non-partisan municipal elections to the Citizens' Commission on City Government, a body appointed by former Mayor LaFortune to study changing the City Charter. I'll be presenting the alternative of multi-partisan elections, which I described in this space back in April, and advocating for instant runoff voting, which I wrote about in March.

The Commission is meeting at the TCC West Campus (a strange venue - it's not within Tulsa's City Limits) on Friday at 1:30pm.

I've been hearing that the two recommendations most likely to emerge from the commission are non-partisan elections and appointment of the City Auditor. The commission has been told in no uncertain terms that the addition of any number of at-large or supercouncilor seats would provoke a Federal Voting Rights Act case because of the diluting effect such a move would have on minority representation. (Attorney Greg Bledsoe, representing the group opposing at-large councilors, set out the legal issues in great detail. You can read his testimony in detail at

Non-partisan elections would deprive voters of useful information in the voting booth. My alternative, spelled out in full in my April 6th column, would put all candidates on a single ballot, giving every voter a choice of every candidate. But rather than concealing the reality of factions and interest groups by stripping the ballot of any partisan labels, my idea would allow both national party labels and the names of locally-based political action committees to appear on the ballot, so that voters would know how the candidates line up on local issues.

Instead of pretending that these divisions don't exist, let's make them apparent.

One issue the commission should examine, but hasn't: Moving city elections to the fall of odd-numbered years. It would give candidates more daylight hours and better campaigning weather, and it would give new officials a full six months to find their way around City Hall before the next budget cycle begins.

The City Auditor's post has worked well for decades as an elected post. If it must be changed to an appointed position, let the Council make the appointment, not the Mayor. Above all, the Auditor should act as a check and a watchdog over the executive branch of government, which the Mayor heads. Many Tulsans were uneasy enough with the idea of a mayoral staffer running for City Auditor this year; imagine if Bill LaFortune had been able to appoint Michael Willis directly to the post.

The commission will wrap up work and issue their recommendations in June. I doubt the new Council will do anything with them right away, given the other issues on their plate. At the earliest, the commission's ideas may be given a hearing as part of the usual charter review cycle which will begin in the summer of 2007.

Third-penny roundup

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Tomorrow Tulsa votes on a new one-percent sales tax, a tax that will stay in effect until it raises nearly half a billion dollars. I'll be on KFAQ, starting at 6:40 (a bit later than normal) for my usual Tuesday slot, then joining a panel discussion about the tax after the 7am news.

Here's a link to a 19-page PDF with the official ordinance containing the approved lists of projects.

I haven't had much to say about this one. My preferred solution -- 18 month extension to finish unfunded 2001 sales tax projects -- was passed over by a rush of deal-making by the last council. There are plenty of needed projects, but there's a lot that doesn't seem worthy of the third-penny, which was originally envisioned as a tax devoted to long-term capital improvements -- not computer equipment, not "rolling stock" (e.g., police cars), but things with a life span of 20 years or better.

If it failed, it wouldn't be the end of the world. The new mayor and council could put together a new package focused more on necessities, less on frills. It would mean a couple of months with a lower sales tax rate, rather than a seamless continuation of the same rate.

In the course of putting together my own roundup, I came across Steve Roemerman's comprehensive aggregation of third-penny sales tax stories, which he started collecting back in September.

Here's what other Tulsa bloggers are saying about the issue. I won't duplicate Steve's excellent effort, but I will pull out a few quotes of note.

Mad Okie says send it back to the drawing board:

If this proposal was about infrastructure and roads I wouldnt even be typing this, but its about repairing pools we cant afford to fill, improving roads & parking for an arena we cant afford to build, its for repairing a roof on a convention center that Vision 2025 is supposed to fix.

Voting this penny down will not destroy Tulsa, but it will show that you are not a sheep willing to be herded around by your city masters.

Bobby Holt
has a problem with the priorities, not with the penny:

I'm not against the 3rd Penny Sales Tax. My problem is the priorities that management, our elected officials, set. Every capital project can be categorized as either "needs" or "wants" and the current capital project listing for this 3rd penny is full of both. Basic needs of a city, public safety, roads, water, and sewer should take the largest chunk out of this tax. If not, our elected officials have their priorities askew.... So once again Tulsans have what appears to be a quickly thrown together package with a hefty list of "wants" attached to it.

Red Bug of Tulsa Chiggers writes:

Somehow over the decades this penny has been hijacked in usual fashion by those not so concerned with our crumbling infrastructure, but for a hodgepodge of porcine projects.

Our streets are a disgrace. Anyone with any reasoning knows that we need a major emphasis on improving streets. Yet this third penny gives only a token amount to street projects. My problem is not with the third penny so much as the priority of projects and what the projects themselves represent.

If, by some miracle, this tax is defeated, it only means we are telling politicans we don't like this plan, roll up your sleeves and give us another practical choice.

Dan Paden wonders how we afforded streets and police and fire protection and water service thirty-some years ago on a sales tax rate half of today's:

Oh, I remember the bad old days, back when I was a kid. Sales tax was only about four and a half cents on the dollar. Of course, we had no police, no fire department. No streets. No safety and no security. No city-county health department.

What? You don't believe that? But if we had all that, back then, at about four cents on the dollar less than we are paying now, what's all the extra money been for?

Buying votes, of course. If you're as sick of it as I am, then I encourage you to vote no on the Third Penny as well.

MeeCiteeWurkor hints at his preference.

Dave Schuttler reminds us that we still have a choice.

Regarding the second item on the ballot, which would add temporary hangars for the American Airlines maintenance base, Bobby has a link to a Daily Oklahoman article about an aerospace analyst who calls attention to the changing aircraft maintenance business and the risks of cities investing in that industry:

American Airlines is the only domestic airline that continues to do its own aircraft maintenance and is expanding operations to take on the work of other airlines. In the last few years, several U.S. airlines have been liquidated or filed for bankruptcy. Other airlines have continued to send their maintenance and repair work to outside contractors in the United States and around the world.

"This is a high-risk business," said William Alderman, president of Alderman & Co., a Connecticut-based aerospace and defense investment banking company. "Projects like this where state and local governments have invested money have been a complete disaster."

Alderman pointed to the United Airlines maintenance center in Indianapolis, where the state invested millions to get the center, only to have it shut down leaving workers without jobs. Oklahoma City was among the cities competing for the airline's maintenance facility in 1991. Losing the bid for the facility caused city leaders to put together the MAPS sales tax program.

An island in the jet stream


I was invited to speak tonight to the monthly meeting of the Layman-Van Acres Neighborhood Association. Layman Acres and Van Acres subdivisions make up the quarter-section just southwest of Pine and Mingo, just east of Spartan School of Aeronautics' Pine Street campus, and not far from the flight path of Tulsa International Airport's main runway. "Pressed on all sides" is a good phrase to describe the neighborhood's situation. Although you'd think they'd be in the airport noise abatement area, the neighborhood is like an island, with the noise contours just missing the area.

Spartan's expansion is a concern, as noisier activities involving engine maintenance and testing may be moving from the original Spartan campus west of the airport terminal to the Pine Street campus just west of the neighborhood. This is despite deed restrictions (covenants) on Spartan's property which should prohibit the noise. The problem with a covenant is that the only way to enforce it is to hire a lawyer and go to court; it's a private contractual matter, not a matter of public regulation.

Three other Tulsa bloggers were there as well: David Schuttler, who lives a half-mile or so to the west and has documented his neighborhood's problems with the airport noise abatement program; Paul Romine, who owns a home in the neighborhood; and Bobby Holt, who is (among other hats) president of Lewis Crest Neighborhood Association. Local media was one of the topics that came up during questions and answers, and it was a reminder to me of the thorough work the three of them and the other Tulsa bloggers did covering the recent city election campaign.

Tomorrow morning at 8, the neighborhood's situation is one of only two items on the City Council's Public Works committee agenda. Here's hoping the neighborhood's residents get the attention and relief they need.

I am definitely not talking about Tulsa's sales tax vote.

This Tuesday, Merle Haggard's 1971 album, A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills), is being re-released on CD, in tandem with his 1976 release It's All in the Movies.

Haggard's tribute to Wills is credited with a revival of interest in Western Swing music, and it marked the first reunion of Wills sidemen from the '30s, '40s, and '50s, a chance to hear these virtuosi on modern recording equipment. This album includes Johnnie Lee Wills on banjo, Eldon Shamblin on electric guitar, Johnny Gimble and Joe Holley on fiddle, Alex Brashear on trumpet, and Tiny Moore on the "biggest little instrument in the world" (mandolin -- amplified, of course). The success of this album paved the way for the recording of the legendary For the Last Time album two years later.

Last week, I checked out the library's copy of the earlier CD release, and if you'd been in our house late Friday night, you would have heard me singing along (a bit too loudly), as I worked on finishing the transfer of BatesLine to a new server.

One thing sadly missing from the library's copy were the liner notes by country music historian Rich Kienzle. Kienzle's notes are always interesting reading -- another good reason to pick up a copy of the upcoming re-release.

The relentless flood

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Freshly relocated to the new hosting provider, my domain didn't have Spam Assassin turned on at first, and the spammers didn't seem to have any problem tracking my domain to its new home. I activated Spam Assassin around noon Saturday. In the ensuing 12 hours, I received over 1350 spam e-mails. Spam Assassin caught over 1250, with no false positives; the remaining messages fell below the threshold.

What the spammers are doing now borders on a distributed denial-of-service attack. Since people are being more careful about putting full e-mail addresses where the spambots can harvest them, spammers are now taking known domain names and matching them with a long list of possible usernames, hoping to hit a working mailbox. While it's good to see Spam Assassin's accuracy and effectiveness, it's disturbing to think how often the SMTP server is getting hit and to think how that may be interfering with the delivery of legitimate mail and the overall performance of the server. However good my spam filters are, the mail server has to handle every single message just to find out i it's legitimate.

For the first two years or so of's life, I took advantage of the "catchall" e-mail account. If I had to give an e-mail address to register for a website, I'd make up a username, but wouldn't create a POP3 account for it, knowing that any e-mail -- mainly periodic ads -- to that address would wind up in the catchall mailbox. Now these legitimate e-mails are swallowed up and almost unnoticeable in the volume of spam I receive. The "catchall" account is almost useless, and I've had to create a forwarder to redirect e-mail to each of those registration addresses to a mailbox.

If I had been keeping up with the latest news at the Spam Huntress' blog, I would have known that it was time to give up on catchall e-mail. I see intriguing mentions of a way to reject spam before it even reaches the mail server....

Mysterious California investors are buying historic office buildings... in downtown Oklahoma City:

California investors bought First National Center on Friday in a fast deal that could turn what many see as an albatross around downtown’s revival into a “crown jewel” in time for the state’s centennial.

It was a $21 million cash transaction, said Tim Strange of Sperry Van Ness, which handled the sale of the largest office complex downtown.

The buyers, who were not revealed, have no connection to Oklahoma, he said. Nonetheless, the deal could hit Oklahomans in the heart if the Californians are successful in resurrecting the capital city’s downtown landmark.

“Plans are to bring it back to its former glory as the crown jewel of downtown Oklahoma City. To fill it up - and dress her up and take her to the ball. Have a centennial ball in the Great Banking Hall,” Strange said.

Here's a photo of the Great Banking Hall

My first thought when I read about this at Dustbury was, "Hey, these had better not be our Californians!"

But our guys -- Maurice Kanbar and Henry Kaufman, who have purchased over 25% of downtown Tulsa's office space, with plans to create housing, retail, and art galleries -- don't fit the description in the Oklahoman story, as they have ties to the state, through their Tulsa buying spree. Kanbar's ties go back at least as far as his purchase of Tulsa's Council Oak Books.

So maybe this is the new California trend. Somewhere in Malibu, at a cocktail party, someone is going on about the office building he bought that cost less than his beach house, and someone else tops that with the tale of the gem he bought for less than his Lamborghini. As California trends go, at least it's constructive.

If you can read this....

|'re seeing BatesLine on its new server.

It may take a while for mail servers to catch up with the move, so don't be surprised if any e-mail sent to me today goes missing.

In transition


I'm switching over to a new hosting provider later tonight, so you may experience some outages and weirdness as it takes DNS some time to catch up with the new location.

Bold vision?


This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column takes a look at the ideas produced by Step Up Tulsa and asks whether a committee of committees can produce a truly "bold, shared vision for the future of the Tulsa region" and a strategic way to spend the $2 billion held by the Tulsa Community Foundation. You'll find my suggestion at the end of the column.

And you'll find the Step Up Tulsa website by clicking on that link.

I am worn out -- I've been up since 5 a.m. and going without a stop -- so I don't have much to say, but my fellow Tulsa bloggers do:

Several bloggers responded at length to Ken Neal's Sunday column in the Tulsa Whirled, which called for raising taxes to cover the cost overruns of the BOk Center:

And the BOk Center made the cover of the latest Tulsa Inquiry.

MeeCiteeWurkor has Mayor Kathy Taylor's e-mail to city employees about her proposed budget and a response from an anonymous city employee.

MeeCiteeWurkor also has photos and a thoughtful entry about Monday's immigration protest at City Hall.

Tulsa Topics' Bobby was at the City Hall event, too, and has photos, including a panoramic crowd shot.

David Schuttler was at the anti-illegal-immigration rally at 21st and Garnett and has posted his mixed feelings about what he saw and some photos of the event.

Mad Okie has a question about mass healing services: someone said to me a long time ago, "If they really had the gift of healing why aren't they down at the hospitals using their gift instead of making a stageshow out of it?"

Good discussion follows in the comments.

In the "Photo Fun" corner, Mad Okie has some truth-in-advertising billboards and bus benches, and Chris Medlock features State Rep. Ron Peters on an SB 1324-themed DVD cover. Nice midriff, Ron.

Red Bug at Tulsa Chiggers hosted a neighborhood crime awareness meeting in his home and writes about what he learned.

I caught the tail end of the Homeowners for Fair Zoning meeting tonight, after my son's baseball game. Former City Councilor Jim Mautino is the new HFFZ president. Other past, present, and future Councilors there: former District 2 Councilor Chris Medlock, District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes, and possibly-future District 5 Councilor Jon Kirby.

Kirby told me that Martinson has asked for a rehearing of the voter irregularity case, rather than signing off on the judge's order for a new election. Martinson, as the incumbent, will continue to serve until the revote is finally held. It may not happen until the July state primary date.

UPDATE, Tuesday, May 2, 2006: SB 1324 is on the Senate calendar again today, so evidently they didn't get to it in yesterday's session. If you haven't yet, call, fax, or e-mail your State Senator about this bill. In the comments to this entry, you'll find a message from Preservation Oklahoma about the damage this bill would do to historic preservation and neighborhood conservation zoning.

UPDATE, Tuesday afternoon: No action on SB 1324 today. It is still on the calendar, but it is not on tomorrow's agenda. I spoke with someone in the clerk's office, who confirmed what is shown on the calendar and agenda correctly. If you haven't contacted your State Senator, please do so.

The details are here, but this post is just a reminder to call your Oklahoma State Senator today and ask him or her not to agree to the House amendments on SB 1324. SB 1324 is one of a pair of bills (HB 2559 is the other) which constitute an unwarranted interference in local control of zoning and land-use planning.

HB 2559 is likely to die, but SB 1324 is one step away from the Governor's desk, and that step is likely to be taken this week, possibly this afternoon. The last hope is to convince the Senate not to agree to the amendments to the bill that were approved by the House. The bill is on the calendar for the Monday, May 1, session of the Senate, which begins at 1:30 p.m.

SB 1324 passed unanimously in both houses. The legislators I've spoken with say they green-lighted it because they were told by the bill's sponsors that no one objected to it. Legislators have an incredible number of bills to consider, and in the absence of visible, vocal opposition, they're likely to believe a colleague who says that a bill isn't controversial.

That's why it's important for your State Senator to hear from you this morning that you do have a problem with SB 1324.

To find your State Senator and his e-mail address and phone and fax numbers, click this link and enter your address in the form.

I'd also encourage you to contact Sen. Brian Crain, the Senate sponsor of the bill, and respectfully register your concerns with him. Sen. Crain is a Republican representing near-eastern Tulsa. He has been a champion of homeowners' rights with regard to eminent domain, and I think he'll come down the right way on this if he understands our concerns.

To see the status of this bill and find links to the text of the bill, visit this page and enter "SB 1324" (without the quotes) in the "Measure Number(s)" box. Here is a Rich-Text Format file with the House-amended version of the SB 1324. If the Senate accepts it, it goes to the Governor.

About this Archive

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

April 2006 is the previous archive.

June 2006 is the next archive.

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