June 2006 Archives

If you're going to design a computer system that controls every aspect of a house's operation by voice command, maybe you should find a more reassuring name:

HAL software taps the power of your existing PC or PC device to control your home. Once HAL is installed on your PC, it can send commands all over your house using the existing highway of electrical wires inside your home’s walls. No new wires means HAL is easy and inexpensive to install.

HAL’s voice interface makes HAL easy to use. The user may pick up any phone in the home, press the # key, and then tell HAL to dim the dining room lights or close the garage door. It’s a two-way conversation, with HAL confirming that it has, indeed, performed the requested action.

HAL turns your PC into a personal Voice Portal. Is there an easier way to turn on the front door lights when you’re returning home late at night than to call ahead and tell HAL, "Turn on the front door lights"? With HAL, any phone -- anywhere in the world -- enables you to step inside your home and control it as if you were there. And you can ask HAL to read you your E-mail, give you a stock quote or a sports score or a TV listing -- because HAL automatically harvests Internet information for use when you want it.

Hopefully, this HAL isn't too intelligent. Can't you imagine? You're coming home in zero-degree weather in the dead of winter:

"Open the garage door, HAL."

"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

(WAV file via moviesoundclips.com.)

This HAL (not the fictional, sentient, and murderous HAL 9000) has received some national attention for its use by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" as a way of making homes more livable for those with physical handicaps.

HAL (the initials stand for Home Automated Living) offers an add-on to give the system a more human-sounding voice than the standard package. Four voices (combinations of male or female, British or American) are available, with more planned for the future. Maybe they'll offer celebrity voices at some point.

Wouldn't it would be cool, if a bit creepy, to have Douglas Rain's voice responding to my request to dim the lights? Or Stephen Moore: "Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to turn up the thermostat. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cause I don't."

I'd be even happier if HAL answered the phone with "KXXO, good evening."

BONUS LINK: The Case for HAL's Sanity. This writer claims that the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't go insane; he committed premeditated murder. Isn't that reassuring?

David Wayne, the Jollyblogger, has an interesting entry, "On Thinking New Theological Thoughts." He cites the late Presbyterian theologian John Murray, no liberal or modernist he, who writes of the need for each generation to deal with the issues of the day in the light of Scripture. While the ancient creeds and Reformation confessions are a rich heritage and are not to be set aside, we can't rest on our theological laurels. Murray wrote:

When any generation is content to rely upon its theological heritage and refuses to explore for itself the riches of divine revelation, then declension is already under way and heterodoxy will be the lot of the succeeding generation.... A theology that does not build on the past ignores our debt to history and naively overlooks the fact that the present is conditioned by history. A theology that relies on the past evades the demands of the present.

Note that he is not saying that we should regard the old confessions as mere historical curiosities, as most of the liberal mainstream denominations do, but we need to apply the truth of the Bible to modern concerns that weren't on the radar in 325 or 1647, while building on the foundation laid by those earlier generations. New problems, new theological movements, new technologies need to be addressed in light of the timeless Word of God. Principles that were held by all respectable members of society four hundred years ago, and thus did not need to be affirmed in a confession, are now up for debate, and the church needs to take a stand.

Occasionally a conservative denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America will adopt a position paper -- for example, on the role of women in the Church. (Here's a repository of position papers adopted by American Presbyterian denominations, including a fairly comprehensive collection of position papers from the PCA and from the RPCES, a separate denomination that merged into the PCA in 1982.)

Only very rarely, however, will a conservative denomination modify the church's basic confession. There are very high hurdles to prevent such an action from being taken lightly. In the PCA it amounts to an amendment of the denomination's constitution, and the process is analogous to amendment of the U. S. Constitution, requiring adoption by the General Assembly followed by ratification by three-quarters of the presbyteries. So while theological statements are issued from time to time on various subjects, rarely are they made a part of the denomination's standards and made binding on ministers, elders and deacons.

I appreciated this statement from David Wayne:

It is proper to examine the older statements to see if they erred in their exegesis. It is also proper to examine them to see if the framers brought presuppositions to the table that skewed their understanding. In my own Reformed tradition this has happened. A case in point is the change in the Westminster Confession's position on the pope being the anti-Christ.

I would add the unbiblical practice of infant baptism in Reformed churches as an example of a doctrine that was shaped by the political realities of the 16th century. The Reformation succeeded then where earlier reform efforts failed because of the support and protection of civil governments. Dukes, princes, and city councilors were deciding matters of theology. Reform could only go as far as the civil magistrates were willing, and they were not willing to abandon the idea that everyone within their jurisdiction was born into and subject to their established church. Once it was decided to retain the practice, it took about a century to develop the theology to construct a theological rationale for it which was more or less consistent with Reformed soteriology. (I need hardly add that this is an area where I take exception with the doctrine of the church to which I belong. It's my prayer that some day this will be revisited, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Ultimately, the infallible, inerrant Word of God is the standard by which all creeds, confessions, sermons, liturgies, and pious opinions must be judged. That's the meaning of sola scriptura. Semper reformanda means the work of "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" is never done.

BONUS LINK: The 1647 text of the Westminster Confession of Faith with notes showing amendments adopted by various presbyterian bodies in the United States. For example, most churches have dropped the "Pope is the Antichrist" clause, and take a different view of the involvement of government in church affairs than the Westminster Assembly, which was convened by the English Parliament in 1643.

Jim Beach's appointment to the Board of Adjustment is on tonight's Tulsa City Council agenda. You can read my reasons for opposing this appointment in my June 15th column. Despite reports that at least six and as many as eight councilors will vote no, Mayor Kathy Taylor is determined to get her way. The BoA is the guardian of the integrity of our land use regulation system. If you want to keep the BoA free of conflicts of interest, if you want the BoA to continue their recent practice of sticking to the law when granting variances, you need to be present tonight and voice your concerns to the City Council. The meeting starts at 6, and the appointment will be early in the agenda.

UPDATE: The Beach nomination will NOT be on tonight's Council agenda.

UPDATE 2: The nomination could still be discussed tonight, if even one Councilor objects to removing it from the agenda. If you can be there at 6, just to be on the safe side, please do.

City Councilor John Eagleton is putting on a free Independence Day veterans barbecue lunch at Memorial High School: "All Tulsa area veterans, any Service, any War, any Theater of Operation." Visit his website for details. I plan to be there to help cook and serve. If you're a veteran, you won't want to miss this event in your honor.

Our pretty flower

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Here's a photo of our almost-six-year-old, taken back on Easter Sunday.

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Found on a MySpace blog during a Technorati search for "Tulsa", this is from Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck:

Another word for dependent is burden, and that term better describes these parents' perception of the children who rely upon them for mobility. Mothers often derail their careers so that their children can experience a life beyond the backyard. The role of journalist, banker, or marketing director is exchanged for that of chauffeur, with the vague hope that their career will resume when the last child turns sixteen; thus the term soccer mom -- a distinctly suburban euphemism. The plight of the suburban housewife was powerfully conveyed in a letter we received in 1990 from a woman living outside of Tulsa:

"Dear Architects:

"I am a mother of four children who are not able to leave the yard because of our city's design. Ever since we have moved here I have felt like a caged animal only let out for a ride in the car. It is impossible to walk even to the grocery store two blocks away. If our family wants to go for a ride we need to load two cars with four bikes and a baby cart and drive four miles to the only bike path in this city of over a quarter million people. I cannot exercise unless I drive to a health club that I had to pay $300 to, and that is four and a half miles away. There is no sense of community here on my street either, because we all have to drive around in our own little worlds that take us fifty miles a day to every corner of the surrounding five miles.

"I want to walk somewhere so badly that I could cry. I miss walking! I want the kids to walk to school. I want to walk to the store for a pound of butter. I want to take the kids on a neighborhood stroll or bike. My husband wants to walk to work because it is so close, but none of these things is possible. . . And if you saw my neighborhood, you would think that I had it all according to the great American dream."

TRACKBACKS:

See-Dubya, out on the Left Coast, says we should count our blessings:

You live in one of the greatest little cities in America, lady. I’d love to have your problems. I’d be up at Grand Lake this weekend, buzzing around in my bass boat with the rich people. I’d go all Lileks on one of the most beautiful Art-Deco downtowns in the country. I’d take my kid to the JM Davis gun museum or Woolaroc or Gilcrease or Philbrook or out to wander around in some little brick downtown with an Indian name like Warneka or Beufala that still has its feed stores right there on Main Street....

I can walk three blocks to a grocery store here, too, and it’s a fancy-pants rinky-dink Whole Foods knockoff that’s never open when I need it. Safeway is two miles up a commuter-jammed highway. I could walk to church, but to find one that actually believes in the Trinity requires a five-mile trip in the family truckster.

Charles G. Hill, down at the other end of the turnpike, sees a lot of walkers in his neighborhood, but not a lot of kids:

And I don't expect this to change any time soon: if you're buying a house in town and you've got school-age kids, your friendly agent will steer you away from my neighborhood, despite its manifest advantages, because it's in an urban school district and you can't possibly want that.

(My apologies for not having trackbacks turned on, but I got tired of deleting 40-60 spam trackbacks a day, and my old spam-deterrent techniques were no longer working. As soon as I get MT 3.2 installed, I'll turn them back on. In the meantime, I'll manually add trackback links as I find them or if they're e-mailed to me at blog at batesline dot com.

This is one of the best photos yet of our nine-year-old, taken as his official baseball photo. (I cropped it to just his head for the website.) Kevin Bender, a dad at our school, took the team and individual photos this year.

jdrb-baseball2006-head-50pct.jpg

Good looking kid, isn't he?

NOTE: The information below is for the 2006 election. The details for the 2010 Tulsa County and Pawnee County judicial elections may be found by following this link.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices.

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions of equal population, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

(CORRECTION: I'm told that the electoral division are not in fact of equal population. The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. There will be a general election contest for Tulsa County Associate District Judge between Caroline Wall and Dana Kuehn. Pawnee County Associate District Judge Matthew Henry was re-elected without opposition. (He was probably helped by all that free publicity from his Bible commentary.)

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. Several candidates for District Judge currently serve as Special Judges.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine:

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2006 Elected by General 2006
1 Shaffer1 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
2 Harris Tulsa Co. ED 3   Tulsa Co. ED 3  
3 Smith Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
4 Peterson1 Tulsa Co. ED 4 Yes Tulsa Co. ED 4 ? 2
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 McAllister Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Thornbrugh Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5 Yes
9 Morrissey Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
10 Frizzell3 Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
11 Nightingale Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Shallcross Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
14 Gassett Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.
2 Three candidates in this race; if none of them receive more than 50% in the primary, there will be a runoff.
3 Judge Frizzell was nominated by President Bush to the Federal District Court and withdrew his candidacy for re-election.

Although all 14 offices are up for election this year, only five offices are contested, and only two of those will be on the primary ballot.

Only one of the five offices elected by electoral division is contested this year. Jim Caputo, the municipal judge for Collinsville, Special Judge Damon Cantrell, and David Blades are seeking the post being vacated by David Peterson. The approximate boundaries of the district are all of Tulsa County north of 66th St. N.; east of Sheridan between Admiral and 66th St. N.; Memorial to 193rd East Ave. between Admiral and 31st; Memorial to 129th East Ave., between 31st and 61st. To know for sure which electoral division you live in, use the precinct locator at the Tulsa County Election Board website.

Passing judgment

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I'm working on a column about our local slate of judicial candidates. Most sitting district judges drew no opposition, but there are five contested district judgeships in District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee counties) and a race for Tulsa County associate district judge.

Only two of the races have more than two candidates. These will be on the primary ballot, with the top two candidates going on to the general election.

DISTRICT JUDGE, DISTRICT 14, OFFICE 4
(replacing David L. Peterson)

David Blades, 44, 4740 S. 90th E. Ave., Tulsa
James M. Caputo, 47, 9304 E 126 St. North, Collinsville 74021
Daman H. Cantrell, 46, 8757 N. 97th E. Ave., #1117, Owasso 74055

DISTRICT JUDGE, DISTRICT 14, OFFICE 10
(replacing Gregory K. Frizzell)

Deirdre Dexter, 50, 620 Valley Drive, Sand Springs 74063
James W. Dunham, 53, 7640 S. Oswego Place, Tulsa 74136
David C Youll, 43, 2404 West C Street, Jenks 74037
J. Anthony Miller, 49, 1709 S. Carson Avenue, Tulsa 74119
Mary Fitzgerald, 54, 2729 E. 22nd St., Tulsa 74114
Steven E. Hjelm, Sr., 42, 9010 S. Darlington Ave, Tulsa 74137

Frizzell had filed for a new term, but on Wednesday of the filing period he got the word that President Bush was nominating him to the Federal District Court, replacing Clinton appointee Sven Erik Holmes, who retired to go to work for KPMG.

Most voters don't feel like they have enough information when they vote for judge. There are restrictions on the way a judicial candidate can campaign. Judicial candidates can't talk about anything that might come before them as a case.

I do think it's fair game, however, to ask about the influences that shape the thinking of the candidates, their judicial philosophy, and their character.

So I'd like to know what you know about these men and women -- their ideological leanings; personal, political, and religious associations; anecdotes that reveal something of their character and temperament. Some of these people have already served as special district judges or municipal judges -- perhaps you've witnessed them in that role.

In a departure from my usual policy, I will assume you want to remain anonymous unless you specifically authorize me to quote you by name. Send any info to blog AT batesline DOT com. Although I will keep you anonymous in my column, it's important that I know who you are, so please provide your real name. If you'd prefer to speak to me by phone, please provide your phone number to me by e-mail along with the best times to call. Thanks.

By the way, you'll notice that two of the campaigns for Office 10, J. Anthony Miller and Dierdre Dexter, have placed ads on BatesLine, as has Lt. Governor candidate Scott Pruitt. I'll take the opportunity to say that my allowing an ad to run doesn't constitute an endorsement from me. While I wouldn't accept every political ad that is placed (forget it, Hillary!), if a candidate is in generally in line with my views, I would let it run.

The final report from Tulsa's Citizens' Commission on City Government is the topic of this week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly. The commission, appointed by then-Mayor Bill LaFortune last December, finished on schedule, made some constructive recommendations, including a recommendation against adding at-large seats to the City Council.

You can find the full text of the Citizens' Commission on City Government report on the Tulsans Defending Democracy website.

Also in this week's UTW, Ginger Shepherd covers the new Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, downtown revitalization in Muskogee, the recently passed City of Tulsa budget, and the sweet no-bid contract Murphy Bros. got to continue to run the Tulsa State Fair midway.

The story quotes Jerry Murphy, owner of Murphy Bros.:

Murphy added, “why would you fire someone that is doing a good job?” and been doing it for a long time?

In fact, the midway has been a disappointment for a long time, and Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (TCPFA -- the fair board) members owed it to the public to see if another operator couldn't bring better, more reliable rides for better prices, but instead they continued the Tulsa County practice of awarding contracts to insiders without competition. Jerry Murphy's wife, Loretta Murphy, contributed $5,000 to the mayoral campaign of County Commissioner Randi Miller, who is also a member of the TCPFA and voted to approve the contract with Murphy Bros.

An edited version of this piece was published in the June 21, 2006, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web August 2, 2009.

At-large barge runs aground

By Michael D. Bates

Over the next four weeks, between now and the state primary election, this column will focus on the statewide, legislative, county, and judicial races that will be on the July 25th ballot.

Before we launch ourselves headlong into state politics, let's get caught up on a city issue that we've been following for over half a year: the Citizen's Commission's recommendations for changing the City Charter.

Back on June 9, the Citizens' Commission on City Government wrapped up its work and issued its final report. This was the panel which was established last December by then-Mayor Bill LaFortune just as an initiative petition seeking to replace three City Council districts with three at-large supercouncilor seats stalled for lack of popular support and was shelved.

It appeared to many opponents of at-large supercouncilors that this commission was another means to push the measure through: Get the idea endorsed by a blue-ribbon panel so as to pressure the Council to put the idea on the ballot.

It didn't turn out that way. The commission's final report makes it clear that most of its members oppose any change to the structure of the City Council. A few supported the idea of adding at-large or super-district seats to the Council, without reducing the existing number of districts. (At the meeting I attended, the only commissioners to express support for the idea were Realtor Joe McGraw and attorney Steve Schuller. Schuller replaced at-large Council advocate Howard Barnett when he stepped aside to begin his run for State Treasurer.)

The report cited three reasons for keeping the Council structure as it is: the numerical reality that at-large seats would dilute district representation; the "racial divides that still afflict" Tulsa (which was a major reason for moving to district representation in 1989); and the sense that the division that provided a rationale for at-large councilors wasn't really a structural problem, but a function of the people in office at the time.

In this Sunday's edition of the monopoly daily paper, Ken Neal, a vocal opponent of any degree of popular sovereignty and a leader in the call for at-large councilors, did his best to spin the report his way, claiming that the commission "put aside the contentious question of district versus at-large councilors," when in fact they dealt with it quite decisively.

You can read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions - there's a copy posted at tulsansdefendingdemocracy.com.

The commission did recommend three charter changes: non-partisan elections, making the city auditor an appointive office, and moving elections to November in odd-numbered years.

Changing the election date, something proposed in this space last December, seems to be the most broadly supported and simplest change, one that would be worth putting on the ballot at the earliest opportunity, perhaps this November.

The move would give new elected officials nearly half a year to find their way around City Hall before the budget cycle begins. Under the current calendar, a draft budget is due within weeks of the inauguration. Had there been a longer lead time this year, it would have given Councilor John Eagleton, who ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism, more time to build support for keeping the growth of the city budget within the rate of inflation. Under the pressure of time, most councilors felt the need to swallow whatever was proposed.

Fall elections would also mean better weather and more daylight hours for face-to-face, door-to-door campaigning, and avoiding the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

The Council that sends this to the voters will have to sacrifice three months of their term, which would likely end in January instead of April. That might be the only thing that might prevent this proposal from moving forward right away.

The matter of non-partisan elections will take longer to sort out. The commission recommended the change, calling party politics a distraction and an impediment to unity, but they couldn't reach a consensus on how to implement the change, and there were even a few dissenters who prefer no change at all.

It was noted that a few members "embraced" my proposal for "multi-partisan" elections, outlined here in the April 5 edition, which would leave party labels in place, encourage the formation of locally-focused political groups, and make a candidate's local affiliations evident to the voter on the ballot. However much we desire unity, there will be factions - it's a function of human nature - and our system should acknowledge and accommodate that reality.

The strongest recommendation was to have the City Auditor appointed by and accountable to an audit committee whose five members would be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.
The report claims, "No longer subjecting the auditor to periodic elections, the task force believes, would safeguard the independence and integrity of the audit office." Quite the opposite: An elected auditor is accountable only to the voters, while an appointed auditor would be dependent on the goodwill of people handpicked by the Mayor, the head of the executive branch of government, the principal object of the auditor's investigations.

Overall, the report was thoughtful, deliberate, and didn't overreach. On two issues, civil service reform and city/county consolidation, the commission felt it was "ill-equipped to make major recommendations." Where there were conflicting views on a recommendation, the report makes that plain.

Why did things turn out so well, contrary to the expectations and fears of many? The members of the commission heard and heeded those concerns, and worked diligently to allay them.

While most commissioners didn't come in with years of city government dealings to shape their understanding of the issue, they weren't about to be led by the nose. It was apparent that most of these busy leaders were doing their own study and research, seeking out different perspectives, filling in the gaps in their own knowledge of Tulsa's governmental history and alternative ways to organize City Hall.

They sought out different perspectives for presentation at commission meetings.

It didn't hurt that, under re-election pressure, LaFortune nominated members of Tulsans Defending Democracy, the at-large opposition group, to the commission. One of those commissioners, Jane Malone, gave powerful personal testimony of the impact that diluting district representation would have on racial equality in Tulsa.

There was one significant shortcoming in the process: The commission's meetings were all held during normal working hours, making it difficult for citizens with full-time jobs to attend and participate during opportunities for public comment.

Co-chairmen Ken Levit and Hans Helmerich did a fine job of running the meetings and focusing the issues. Their innate intellectual honesty and appreciation of the gravity of the task deserves a good deal of credit for the positive outcome of the commission's work.

Congratulations to them and the commission members for a job well done.

Elsewhere at City Hall:

Last week we wrote about the controversy over Mayor Taylor's appointment of Jim Beach to the Board of Adjustment. The groundswell of opposition to the appointment from neighborhood leaders expressed itself in a letter to the City Council and the Mayor, calling on the Mayor to withdraw the appointment.

Beach's appointment was scheduled for a vote at last Thursday's City Council meeting, but Mayor Taylor, apparently aware that she lacked the five votes needed for approval, asked the Council for a delay.
The letter, sent by a bipartisan group of neighborhood association leaders and community activists, refers to Beach as an "insider in an insider's game." In addition to the concerns about conflict of interest on specific cases where Beach's employer, Sack and Associates, is a part of the development team, the letter mentions the possibility that Beach may have an inherent conflict of interest under the Oklahoma Constitution on every case, because his employer is a contractor to the City.

The letter urges the Council to research the conflict issues thoroughly before considering Beach's appointment, rather than dealing with them after Beach has been confirmed.

The neighborhood leaders aren't likely to back down. It will be interesting to see whether Taylor insists on pushing ahead, no matter how fierce the opposition.

The national assembly Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) has authorized congregations to use alternative names for the Holy Trinity in worship:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The divine Trinity — "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" — could also be known as "Mother, Child and Womb" or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend" at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church's national assembly.

Delegates to the meeting voted to "receive" a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won't be required to use them.

"This does not alter the church's theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership," legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday's debate on the Trinity.

Evidently not one to be content with half-hearted heresy, Josh Trevino has further suggestions, including:

  • Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern
  • Rock, Paper, and Scissors
  • Moe, Larry, and Curley

Pejman Yousefzadeh chimes in at Red State. Here's a sample:

  • Alvin, Simon and Theodore
  • Tinker, Evers and Chance
  • Dewey, Cheatham and Howe

He also suggests "Sonny, Michael, and Fredo," but I think "Vito, Michael, and Tom Hagen" makes for a better parallel.

Nearly all of the Presbyterian Churches in Tulsa are a part of the PCUSA. Christ Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). I usually describe it as the Bible-believing Presbyterian denomination (as opposed to the liberal mainline denomination).

While the PCA (which has its General Assembly this week) has its lively theological debates, they are well within the scope of the Westminster Confession, the historic standard of Presbyterian belief. There are 27 overtures on the agenda -- many dealing with presbytery boundaries and committee structure -- but the big theological issue at this year's GA will be whether the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue / New Perspectives on Paul understanding of covenants and justification are within the bounds of PCA doctrine.

I know a lot of good, devout Christian folk who belong to PCUSA congregations, and there are PCUSA congregations that are, by and large, faithful to the Scriptures. When the northern and southern mainline churches reunited in the early '80s, there was a period in which congregations could withdraw and align with another denomination, without forfeiting their church buildings, which are owned by the denomination, not the individual congregation.

That grace period has long since ended. It would be a huge sacrifice for a congregation to leave the PCUSA, but the level of nonsense seems to grow year after year.

UPDATE: Tom Gray, pastor of Kirk of the Hills in Tulsa, one of those faithful Bible-believing, gospel-preaching congregations in the PCUSA, has been blogging the PCUSA General Assembly. One of the commenters below mentions passage of the PUP report -- "Peace, Unity, and Purity." Gray says of the report's adoption:

The PCUSA rejected clear, important Biblical injunctions on sexual behavior in order to adjust to our culture’s standards. "Sola Scriptura" has become "Via Vulgaris."

A bit further on:

I had the chance, following the vote, to visit with many people in the various conservative renewal groups. Some are claiming "victory," since there was a minor alteration in one paragraph, and because the GA did not strike down G-6.0106b (the "chastity and fidelity" clause).

On the first they are, I believe, deluded. The whole point of the PUP report has been to start a new "experiment" in being the church; an experiment that allows for the ordination of practicing homosexuals and, inevitably, the encouragement and endorsement of same-sex marriages. On the second, retaining G-6.0106b is irrelevant since local option negates it.

His description of the committee that reviewed the PUP report will tell you a lot about the forces that have control of the denomination. Here are his notes of comments made by committee members about the notion of allowing local option ordination standards.

In a comment on that post, Gray echoes the concern I had (which, thankfully, didn't come to pass) about the commission that was reviewing Tulsa's City Charter. It's a common disease of committees:

What I find most frustrating here is that commissioners (some) tend to want to be "nice" and go along with what is presented to them. Because the average member (commissioner) is not highly Biblically literate, thery are vulnerable to "experts." Combine that with the "niceness" factor and we have a high speed slippery slope.

He elaborates on this in a later entry:

I have deep reservations about the committee process at General Assembly. When commissioners first arrive they are instructed as to how to work in the committee. This is done, in my experience, through a process where the commissioners are repeatedly enjoined to suspend their previous opinions. The upshot of this, particularly for vulnerable commissioners, is the sense that opposition to what someone else says is in bad taste.

He goes on to describe the "discernment" time that the Ecclesiology Committee went through before starting its work. Here is part of what the leader of that session said:

"One of the ways to know the opening of God is when there is energy; when there is freedom, openness and freshness. Another is in that neutral place, letting go of agenda or outcome. Imagine one of the options open to you and imagine going down that pathway." [Letting go of agenda is what the "standard" commissioner preparation tries to accomplish. Is it a bad thing to have a strong opinion? Why?—Tom]

I suspect that the experts aren't letting go of their agendas, but they want these lay people to feel that they are following the Holy Spirit by turning off their brains and letting themselves be swayed by emotional arguments.

(I can't help but think of the application of this to Tulsa's city government. Debate is called bickering by the Whirled and their allies. People with strong opinions are dismissed as naysayers. All of this is to clear the ground for their agenda to be enacted.)

Here is the result of that mental clear-cutting:

The committee members were asked to share what they felt during the discernment time. ...

Another young woman said an image of a music class came to her. "I’ve taken music theory this year, and we learned about dodecaphonic music... you basically throw the notes down on the floor to make your original theme, and then create a piece using only those themes. I personally disliked that part of music theory because I like to pick my pitches... We were all worried about it, but when I stepped back, the piece was beautiful. That is what we are going to do in this committee. It will come out as whatever God intends and we will go home happy because it all works out."

A convocation of evangelical PCUSA congregations, the New Wineskins Initiative will be held at Kirk of the Hills July 19 - 22. It looks like the embryo of a new Presbyterian denomination. They would do well to learn from the mistakes and successes of the PCA, which was founded in a similar way by existing congregations leaving what was then the PCUS (the southern Presbyterian Church).

OKRA endorsements

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The Oklahoma Republican Assembly, affiliated with the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, held an endorsing convention last Saturday at the State Capitol. Here is a link to the list of OKRA's 2006 nominees.

Notable endorsements in contested Republican primaries: John Sullivan for re-election in the 1st Congressional District, Kevin Calvey for the 5th Congressional District seat, Bob Sullivan for Governor, Scott Pruitt for Lt. Governor, Dan Keating for Treasurer, Tahl Willard for Insurance Commissioner, Joe Lester in Senate 36, Chris Medlock in House 69, Tim Harris for Tulsa DA, Brian Kuester for DA of Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Adair Counties, Anna Falling for County Commission District 1, and Fred Perry for County Commission District 3.

They also made endorsements in District Court races. In District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties), they endorsed Tom Thornbrugh for re-election to office 8, Dierdre Dexter for office 10 (held by Gregory Frizzell, who has been nominated to the Federal bench), Jonathan Sutton to office 13, and Dana Kuehn for Tulsa County Associate District Judge.

I was told by someone who participated in the convention that Instant Runoff Voting was used in the process. Local Republicans started using that method for the selection of national convention delegates and alternates at the 1st District Republican Convention in 2000 and again in 2004; it's nice to see the practice spread.

At a time when you get the impression that all the talk about fiscal restraint is only lip service, this should help restore your faith that some of these politicians really mean it. State Rep. Mark Liotta set out two years ago to find a way to boost state spending on roads and bridges without raising taxes. At long last Liotta's plan is expected to pass as part of the budget plan on the agenda for this week's special legislative session:

Two Years of GOP Road Work More Than Doubles Investment to Fix Crumbling Infrastructure OKLAHOMA CITY (June 19, 2006) – A state budget framework agreed to last week will invest more than $3 billion additional dollars to fix Oklahoma’s crumbling roads and bridges over the next decade – a top priority for House GOP leaders this year.

“This is the most significant improvement in road funding in state history,” said Rep. Mark Liotta (R-Tulsa), the House GOP leader who crafted the Oklahoma’s Road to the Future plan. “Over the last quarter century, our state’s investment in roads has remained flat and our roads have suffered. But in just two short years, the new Republican majority in the House has made roads and bridges a top priority.”

Without a tax increase, the state budget agreement announced last week will expand the state’s annual roads budget from $200 million to $470 million each year when fully implemented. County road money will also double, from $85 million to $170 million every year.

“The most significant aspect to this plan is that we did not tie the money to a list of political projects,” said Liotta. “No specific projects are named. We leave those decisions to our state road professionals who know the needs of the system. We have significantly eliminated the politics in road building.”

The funds accelerate a Republican program to improve Oklahoma’s roads first passed last year. And earlier this year, Republican leaders achieved $125 million for emergency bridge repairs across the state. The new money will come on top of an extra $111.8 million provided for road maintenance and bridge repair during the 2005 legislative session.

Under the Republican plan that is part of the state budget accord, the total amount of new road money guaranteed over the next several years will increase from $170 million to at least $270 million. The plan also includes a $70 million annualization of the debt service on bonds that the Department of Transportation has been forced to pay in the past out of maintenance funds.

All fuel tax dollars from gas and diesel currently funneled into the state’s general revenue will be redirected into a new high priority state bridge fund to address critical bridge projects.

“The taxpayers want to know that their fuel tax dollars are being applied to critical road needs. With this plan we are well on our way to achieving that goal,” Liotta concluded.

Fuel taxes going to pay for roads and bridges; no earmarking or "demonstration projects" (aka pork barrel); more money for maintenance; all without a tax increase. Good news all the way around.

How will the Whirled editorial board, a fervent backer of the failed plan to increase the fuel tax, spin this? Look for the following thought in an upcoming editorial: "That's good, but just think what we could accomplish if only we raised taxes."

UPDATE: I sent a question to Rep. Liotta: Doesn't this just
mean less money in the general fund for tax cuts or other spending priorities?

Here's his response:

Of Course! Road funding has been flat for over 25 years. It has literally remained at around $200 million over that period, which means road funding has been cut every single year. Nearly every other area of state spending has received massive increases over the same period. Concrete, rebar and right-of-way all cost more every year. We have not built a road in Oklahoma with appropriated state dollars in years. They have been built either with federal funds matched with toll road credits, or bond issues (a very expensive method). This has endangered our ability to receive federal matching funds and left critical maintenance undone (again, an expensive way to operate). In fact, if we had not increased road funding last year in my sub-committee, we would no longer be eligible for federal matching by 2009. So yes, I am re-establishing roads as a high priority because they have been neglected for so long, and yes, that means less money to waste on nonsense. It's time somebody stood up for roads and bridges. I know it sounds simplistic but, what good are the best schools, hospitals, and businesses if you can't get there?

Bill Lobeck, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor's husband, filed suit on April 26 against Lori Parrish, the Broward County, Florida, Property Appraiser; Judith M. Fink, Broward County Tax Collector; and James Zingale, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Revenue.

The lawsuit seeks to recover the $133,826.93 that Lobeck paid in February when the Broward County Property Appraiser sent him a letter stating that he was not entitled to a homestead exemption for his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, waterfront home because he had such an exemption on his home in Tulsa. Lobeck claims that the Florida house was his permanent residence, and that he was entitled to a homestead exemption.

Below are PDFs of Lobeck's suit and the answer from defendant Lori Parrish.

Lobeck's complaint (300 KB PDF file).

Response by Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish (500 KB PDF file).

First consonants!

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My five-month-old boy is very talkative, but until recently all the noises have been vowel sounds -- coos, creaks, squeals, and squawks, but not a single plosive or stop.

But yesterday, on Father's Day no less, he looked at me and uttered "da!" followed by a lot of other noises. I tried to get him to say it again, but instead he regaled us with the first consonant he mastered, the old bilabial fricative. I'll try not to take that as personal commentary.

Cute five-month-old baby

State your name

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On Friday, I went to the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club luncheon to hear various county, legislative, and judicial candidates introduce themselves. (I attended, but didn't buy lunch, because the meeting is still at the Radisson, which is run by Jon Davidson, who chaired the recall effort against Republican City Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock.)

Each candidate had two minutes to speak. We heard from most of the candidates for Judicial District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties), Offices 4 (north Tulsa County and a bit of the City of Tulsa) and 10 (the whole district). We heard from candidates to replace Sen. Scott Pruitt in Senate District 36 and Rep. Fred Perry in House District 69. Nearly all of the candidates for County Commission Districts 1 and 3 were there.

Most of the candidates made the most basic political mistake: They forgot to say who they were and what they were running for. The MC briefly mentioned each candidate by name to call him or her up to the podium, but by the time the candidate had finished speaking, I had forgotten who it was. The judicial candidates were especially bad about this. Lots of pronouns -- I did this, my career, my family -- but no names. The political candidates usually remembered to work in their name and office at least once at the beginning and once at the end of their two minutes.

Another curious omission came from House District 69 candidate Darrell Gwartney. Gwartney mentioned spending most of his career in public school administration, mentioning being an administrator in the Broken Arrow school system, but he never mentioned his lengthy and most recent assignment as superintendent of Catoosa Public Schools, from 1992 to 2003. He was assistant superintendent at Catoosa from 1990 to 1992.

It was a productive day, 'though you'd never know it by visiting here.

  • Ate a polish sausage with sauerkraut in the parking lot of Lowe's after picking up supplies for the day's chores.
  • Bought gifts and a card for my dad for father's Day.
  • Installed new valve and supply line in the master bathroom's toilet tank.
  • Installed new doorknob on the kitchen half-bath door.
  • Installed new digital thermostat.
  • Listened to five-year-old read the last of the second Dick and Jane compendium.
  • Read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the nine-year-old.
  • Listened to the five-month-old blow raspberries.
  • Took a nap listening to the rain and the rumbling of the late afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Blogging. Still TBD.

There are a few new items on the linkblog. Be sure to check that out.

Beach-ed appointment

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This week's column in UTW is about Mayor Kathy Taylor's first batch of appointments to city authorities, boards, and commissions (ABCs), particularly the appointment of Jim Beach to the Board of Adjustment, a move that has drawn opposition from neighborhood leaders and may provoke the end of Taylor's honeymoon. Taylor's appointment of Steve Berlin, a Great Plains Airlines board member, to the TARE board is also controversial.

Yesterday, long after I filed the story, I got word that the Taylor administration had pulled Beach's appointment off of this Thursday's Council agenda, and in fact it is missing from the online agenda, while the other appointments are still present.

Someone has said that any appointment to the Board of Adjustment is bound to be controversial, and that's true. You're almost certain to upset either the development lobby or the homeowners' groups. You have to choose which group you want to please and which group you want to anger, and Kathy Taylor has chosen to please the development lobby and anger neighborhood leaders with her first pick. That says a lot about the direction of her administration.

Also in this week's issue is Ginger Shepherd's story about the planned cleanup of Tent City, an unauthorized campground for the homeless between the north bank of the Arkansas River and the levee, west of downtown.

Shepherd also has a story about former Councilor and mayoral candidate Chris Medlock and his campaign for State House District 69.

Remembering Jane Jacobs

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Jane Jacobs, the urban observer who helped blow away the cobwebs of urban planning dogma so that we could see what really makes a city work, passed away in April. My Urban Tulsa Weekly column last week was a salute to Jane Jacobs, highlighting three lessons from her landmark 1960 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, one of my favorite books.

Also of note last week: Jamie Pierson's first column for UTW, in which she recalls a suburban Tulsa upbringing, gives thanks for her midtown-based young adulthood, and gives a tongue-in-cheek call for deannexing everything south of I-44.

Gibson guys

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It has been a busy few weeks around our house, as school-related activities lingered on into the first couple of weeks after the end of classes, even as summer activities have already begun.

My nine-year-old son and I spent last night camping at Paradise Cove in Sequoyah State Park on Fort Gibson Lake with five of his classmates and their dads. My son got to ride with a couple of the other dads on Sea-Doo, and he spent a lot of time waist-deep in the lake, fishing.

At about 9:30 last night, I thought we were done for the day, ready for bed. My son wanted me to read another chapter of the second Harry Potter book to him, and we were getting ready to do that when someone starts a campfire. So we roast marshmallows. One of the other dads read a story from a missionary book and a chapter from Jim Stovall's book The Ultimate Gift.

So now we're done for the night, yes? No. It was time to set out the jugs. My son and I could either go out right then -- it was nearly 11 -- or we could wake up in the middle of the night to check and rebait the lines.

With jug-fishing, you take a heavy plastic bleach or detergent jug (well-rinsed and with the lid in place) and tie a length of string to the handle and a weight at the other end. For each weight we used half a brick, with a wire twisted through the holes to provide a handle for tying the string. A couple of shorter lengths of string are tied in between the jug and the weight, and a hook is tied to each of the shorter lengths. The string was just ordinary nylon string, like kite string, rather than fishing line.

We went out on that first run with two other dads and two other kids. We took the boat to the other side of the lake, then one of the other dads unwound each jug line, baited the hooks with perch and minnows and set it out. There was a full moon and it was nearly calm, so it was a nice night to be out on the water.

We were back in the tent at about midnight. I must have slept well, because I'm told there were some loud late night partiers nearby, and I never heard them.

This morning, we had a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and fried potatoes, cooked over a Coleman stove. Before breakfast, while I slept, my son did some more fishing along the shore. We packed up around 10 to head across the lake to Taylor Ferry Marina. A couple of the dads had Sea-Doos, and kids took turns going for a ride and fishing from the dock.

We all had lunch in Wagoner at Runt's BBQ. I had the pork tenderloin sandwich, which was much like the porkchop sandwiches you can get at the Tulsa State Fair. Someone had the catfish sandwich -- two enormous cornbread-coated filets on a bun. My son pronounced the chopped beef delicious.

After lunch we parted ways. My son and I headed to the town of Ft. Gibson to see the old stockade, which is a 1930s recreation of the 1820s frontier fort. (It would be fun to visit during one of their encampments, when re-enactors spend the weekend dressed in period uniforms.) The later fort buildings, which date from the 1840s, are still standing. I believe the town is the oldest continuously-settled place in the state.

In downtown Fort Gibson they were having their annual classic car show. My son said his feet were tired, and he didn't want to stop, but once we started looking around he was glad we did. We saw everything from a Model T to a Mazda Miata: a Dodge Dart Swinger, lots of Chevy Bel Airs, a 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood, a Willys Jeepster, Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs. We both goggled at a T-Bird with an amazing sparkling golden-green paint finish. (I think I had a Hot Wheels car that was just that color.)

So that was our weekend, or the first part of it, at any rate.

It was the close to a busy week, which is partly why I haven't written much here.

I fielded a lot of phone calls during and right after the filing period from candidates and prospective candidates. I was happy to see Bob Dick stand down and to see State Rep. Fred Perry enter the District 3 County Commission race. Cliff Magee, who ran a strong race for City Council earlier this year, and would have been another excellent candidate for the seat, filed on Wednesday, but has withdrawn his name from the ballot and has endorsed Fred Perry.

I was also happy to see former Tulsa City Councilor Anna Falling enter the District 1 County Commission Race. I got to know Anna when she beat me in the 1998 District 4 Republican primary, and we worked together during her term of office. I'm told that Tracey Wilson, another competitor for that seat, is the leader of the homeowners' association in unincorporated north Tulsa County. I don't know Tracey, but I have a great deal of respect for the other folks I've met from that group, who worked to stop annexation of their rural area.

On Tuesday, our part of midtown, near the Fairgrounds, was hit by the early morning microburst. We were without power for about seven hours, and we lost a few tree limbs, but we were relatively unscathed. Two of our neighbors had oak trees just fall over. One of the trees fell onto grass, but the other fell into the house and the next door neighbor's house, and when the roots popped up, they pulled the water line up, too.

I'm a member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club, and this is our big week -- the Miss Oklahoma Pageant, which the club has sponsored since the 1960s, providing the manpower for the event and raising the scholarship money that will be awarded to the winners. On Monday, at our regular weekly luncheon, we hosted all 44 contestants, along with the contestants in the teen pageant. I sat at a table with Miss NSU, Miss Skiatook Area, and Miss Claremore -- it was the first time competing for Miss Oklahoma for all three, and for Miss NSU it was the first year she had competed in any pageant. (The other two had competed in Miss Oklahoma-affiliated local pageants before.)

Also at our table was Miss South Oklahoma City Outstanding Teen -- one of the teen pageant contestants. Every contestant has to adopt a "platform" -- a cause to promote, and hers was one of the more interesting. Miss South OKC's adopted cause was the Ophelia Project, an effort to deal with relational aggression, a kind of bullying that can be even harder to take than physical aggression.

Early Thursday morning I did my little bit for the pageant, delivering several dozen donuts and sausage rolls from the good folks at the 44th and Memorial Daylight Donuts store to the ORU dorm where the contestants were staying, delivering them before the ladies were up for breakfast. I guess when you're in the midst of the competition a few donuts aren't going to spontaneously add dimples to your thighs.

My kids had Vacation Bible School this week, and my wife helped watch the workers' babies in the nursery. The two big kids had swim lessons in the afternoons, too. My son had an end-of-school class swim party. My daughter spent Friday with Grandma, playing and baking. Both kids went with Grandma and the cousins on Tuesday to see "Over the Hedge", but the theatre's copy of the movie had broken!

The baby is smiling more and more, laughing and squealing, and even coughing for attention, a trick he picked up during a recent cold. If he's sitting on someone's knee, he will rock back and forth when he hears music he likes. At last Friday's Tulsa Boy Singer concert, he started rocking during several songs and every time people applauded. When he started getting a bit vocal himself, I took him outside and for a walk with his stroller. We walked up to 2nd and Cincinnati and watched the bicycle race. He finally dozed off as we arrived back at Trinity, and I watched the end of the concert from the narthex as he snoozed in the stroller.

By the way, even though I haven't been blogging much, I have been adding a link or two every day to the linkblog -- that's an easy way for me to call attention to something I found interesting, without making me feel like I need to write a novel about it.

An edited version of this piece was published in the June 7, 2006, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The edited, published version of the piece is online in the Internet Archive. Posted on the web September 17, 2013.

Remembering Jane Jacobs
By Michael D. Bates

"This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. It is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new principles of city planning and rebuilding, different and even opposite from those now taught in everything from schools of architecture and planning to the Sunday supplements and women's magazines.... It is an attack... on the principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding."

She was labeled a naysayer and an obstructionist, anti-growth and anti-progress. She had no training in city planning or architecture, but she challenged the professionals and the experts. In the mid-'50s, when her neighborhood was threatened with demolition by New York's orgy of expressway construction, she and her neighbors fought back and won. Their victory opened the door for the economic resurgence of the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan.

She transcended political boundaries. In the late '60s, she and her family left the United States for Toronto to keep her son out of the Vietnam War draft, and yet two of her books were listed among the hundred best non-fiction works of the 20th century by the conservative fortnightly National Review.

What Jane Jacobs had was a keen eye for detail, a gift for description, and a stubborn determination to see streets, neighborhoods, and cities as they really are, not distorted through the lens of academic theory. It is that quality that makes her landmark book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, still fresh and relevant nearly half a century after its publication.

Her death on April 25, at the age of 89, brought to an end Jane Jacobs' long and productive life. She deserves to be remembered, and so do her observations about what makes a city a safe and pleasant place to live and work and, just as important, an incubator for new businesses and new ideas.

Here are just three of the lessons she taught, lessons that many of Tulsa's leaders have yet to learn:

1. Believe your eyes, not your theories:

Jacobs' ideas about cities ran counter to the accepted wisdom of city planning, which she considered a dangerous kind of quackery, as apt to kill the patient as heal it: "As in the pseudoscience of bloodletting, just so in the pseudoscience of city rebuilding and planning, years of learning and a plethora of subtle and complicated dogma have arisen on a foundation of nonsense."

Planners clung to their dogma, regardless of its real-world effects: "The pseudoscience of planning seems almost neurotic in its determination to imitate empiric failure and ignore empiric success."

Jacobs wrote of a friend who was a city planner in Boston, who told her that the North End, the old Italian district with its chaotic tangle of narrow streets and untidy mixture of homes and businesses, was a dreadful, crowded, unhealthy slum that needed to be cleared. And although he concurred with her observation that the neighborhood was a lively, pleasant, and safe place, an observation backed up by low crime and mortality rates, he chose to believe the negative view of the neighborhood dictated by accepted planning theory.

Here in Tulsa there seems to be a reluctance to catalog and acknowledge the planning failures of the last fifty years. Perhaps it is because many of the responsible decision makers of the '60s, '70s, and '80s are still living and still influential. But until we are willing to admit that following the fads of the past - urban renewal, superblocks, pedestrian malls, urban expressway loops - caused more damage than good, we will remain susceptible to ignoring reality and uncritically embracing the next fashionable concept.

2. The safety of a city is a function of its design:

Jacobs saw, in the traditional urban neighborhoods that had escaped dismemberment by urban renewal and expressway construction, a complex organic system that planners tamper with at their peril.

The mixture of residences, jobs, and shopping gives people a reason to be on the sidewalks, coming into or through the neighborhood from early in the morning until late at night. That, combined with buildings that overlook those sidewalks, creates a kind of natural surveillance - a phenomenon she called "eyes on the street." She wrote, "No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down."

Contrast that with a typical 1970s Tulsa subdivision. The neighborhood has sidewalks, but they don't lead anywhere you would need to go. The houses turn a blind eye to the street; living rooms look out on the back yard, with no windows facing the street. It doesn't matter how many street lights you put up; if no one needs to be walking down the street, and no one can easily look out to observe the street, you have only managed to create a well-lit workplace for vandals and car thieves.

3. Old buildings matter:

"Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings... but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings."

Think about the most lively and interesting places in Tulsa, the kind of places you'd take a visitor for a night on the town: Brookside, the Blue Dome District, Brady Village, Cherry Street, 18th and Boston. Each of those districts had an abundance of old buildings, buildings that are for the most part unremarkable. But those buildings provided an inexpensive place for someone with a dream to start a new business.

You might have seen the same kind of vitality develop in the south part of downtown, with business springing up to serve the tens of thousands who attend classes at TCC's Metro Campus or participate in activities at the downtown churches, but so many of the buildings have been taken for parking by the churches and by TCC that a prospective business owner would be hard-pressed to find a location.

"As for really new ideas of any kind - no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be - there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

Time and space allow us only to scratch the surface of Jacobs' wisdom here. You will have to read The Death and Life of Great American Cities for yourselves to see what she had to say about why some parks are lively and safe and others are dull and dangerous, why certain areas become magnets for used car lots and other unattractive uses, how to accommodate cars without killing an urban neighborhood, and how to keep a successful district from self-destructing.

The principles Jacobs drew from her observations are timeless because they are grounded in unchanging human nature, although the application of those principles will vary from one place to another. Would that every City Councilor and every planning commissioner would read and ponder Jacobs' works.

As Tulsa revisits its Comprehensive Plan for the first time in 30 years, as we consider moving from use-based to form-based planning, we have the opportunity to align our practices with those timeless principles, so that once again our urban core can become a lively and dynamic engine for the culture and prosperity of our city and our region.
Jane Jacobs showed us the way. Perhaps, a half-century later, Tulsa is ready to follow her path.

Getting a free ride

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The following statewide and Tulsa-area Democratic candidates are currently without a challenger. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. today.

  • Sandy Garrett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Mary Easley, State Senate District 18
  • Lucky Lamons, State House District 66
  • Darrell Gilbert, State House District 72
  • Jabar Shumate, State House District 73

Additionally, Doris Fransein, the District Judge who bizarrely reversed herself on the Tulsa City Council District 5 voting irregularities case, has yet to draw an opponent for her re-election. Unlike appeals court and supreme court judges, who face a yes-or-no retention ballot, district judges face contested elections, so in order to get rid of a district judge, someone has to run against her or him.

Also yet to draw an opponent: Ron Peters, from State House District 70, one of a handful of renegade Republicans who supported the lottery and the expansion of casino gambling, and the sponsor of a number of developer-backed bills intruding on local control of zoning and land use regulation. He hasn't had a challenger since 2000.

Greg Peters, son of Ron, is running for the open District 74 house seat, which covers Owasso and Catoosa, but Greg Peters has drawn a primary opponent, David Derby, and there are three Democrats and an independent in the race.

To my surprise, only one candidate, Weldon Watson, has entered the State House District 79 race, an open seat now held by Chris Hastings, who is leaving because of term limits. That's a very Republican district, so I'm surprised more candidates haven't seized that opportunity. (UPDATE: Deborah Davis, also a Republican, has now filed for that seat.)

Caroline Wall, one of the candidates for Tulsa County Associate District Judge lists, 500 S. Denver Rm 633, as her place of residence. I guess she loves her job -- that is a room in the Tulsa County Courthouse. Seems to me another candidate could contest that declaration of candidacy.

Tulsa County filings as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. I have been hearing of at least three candidates with previous campaign experience (two of them prior office holders) looking at the District 3 county commission race now that incumbent Bob Dick has withdrawn from the race.

COUNTY ASSESSOR

Jack Gordon, 4151 E. 46th Place, Democrat, Tulsa, OK 74135, 03/17/1950

Ken Yazel, 9914 So. 87th East Ave, Republican, Tulsa, OK 74133, 02/27/1945

COUNTY TREASURER

Dennis Semler, 10624 E 100th St. S., Republican, Tulsa, OK 74133, 09/04/1956

COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 1

Wilbert E. Collins, SR., 1447 North Elgin, Democrat, Tulsa, OK 74106, 04/08/1941

Tracey Wilson, 5419 E 96th St N., Republican, Sperry, OK 74073, 10/23/1959

COUNTY COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 3

William L. Christiansen, 5106 E 86th Place, Republican, Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947

(Our District Attorney serves only Tulsa County, but nevertheless he's considered a state officer, and filing is handled by the State Election Board. Tim Harris has filed for re-election, and he is being challenged by Republican Brett Swab.)

Dick out

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Bob Dick announced earlier today that he will not file for re-election as Tulsa County Commissioner for District 3.

Who will step in?

Candidate filing

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Here, from the Oklahoma State Election Board, is the list of candidates who have filed for statewide office, Congress, state legislature, district judges, and district attorneys, updated in near-real-time.

My column this week in Urban Tulsa Weekly looks back at the Oklahoma legislative session just ended and the state election filing period next Monday through Wednesday, June 5 through 7.

SB 1324, the bill that would have interfered with local control of zoning, was dealt a humiliating 42-3 defeat in the State Senate, while its sister bill HB 2559 died in conference committee. SB 1742, a landmark pro-life bill, won by overwhelming margins in both houses and was signed by the governor. The legislators on the wrong side of those issues deserve special scrutiny as they face re-election this year, but they won't get any scrutiny unless they have an opponent.

In particular, District 70 Representative Ron Peters and District 72 Darrell Gilbert haven't faced opposition in six years and eight years respectively, and I'm hoping someone will step forward to challenge each of them.

District 3 Tulsa County Commissioner Bob Dick has yet to announce his plans, and it's beginning to look like Dick is trying a J. C. Watts-style handoff to his handpicked successor. You'll recall that Watts announced at the last minute in 2002 that he wouldn't be seeking re-election to Congress. Candidates that might have run for that open seat were caught flat-footed, but Watts' political consultant and chosen heir, Tom Cole, had advance knowledge of Watts' plans and was ready to run right away.

Speculation is that Dick's chosen successor is either Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen or former State Sen. Jerry Smith. The district covers the southern part of midtown Tulsa, south Tulsa, Broken Arrow, and Bixby. (Click here to see a map of the Tulsa County Commission Districts.) The district is heavily Republican, and there has to be some man or woman of integrity and wisdom among the tens of thousands of registered Republicans in the district who would be willing to step forward and serve as a candidate.

Given the huge pot of money under the control of the Tulsa County Commissioners -- well over half a billion in Vision 2025 money, plus Four to Fix the County tax dollars, plus millions more money available to lend in their role as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority -- and the County Commission's propensity to avoid competitive bidding, we need to clean house at the County Commission. Having Bob Dick or his handpicked successor in office is not an acceptable result.

If you are considering a race for any of those seats, or would like more information about being a candidate, I'd be glad to talk with you. Drop me an e-mail at blog at batesline dot com.

UPDATE: The Whirled is reporting that Bob Dick is running for re-election and Bill Christiansen plans to challenge him. Not much of a choice. With the fans of insider deals splitting their votes between Christiansen and Dick, a conservative reformer could easily gain enough primary votes to make the runoff and then win the runoff. (That's more or less how Tim Harris came out of nowhere to win the DA's office back in 1998.)

East Tulsa neighborhood activist Jennifer Weaver has been keeping a close eye on Eastland Mall and its owner Haywood Whichard, an out-of-state investor who has a reputation buying distressed shopping malls and sitting on them until they're condemned for redevelopment.

There is a move afoot to rezone the mall from CS to IL -- light industrial. Jennifer has been trying to find out what is in store for Eastland Mall and has a detailed report on Meeciteewurkor's blog.

Jennifer says we need a comprehensive plan for Eastlamd Mall. In fact, on Wednesday the TMAPC took a bus tour (click for PDF of tour route) of the five-square-mile area included in the East Tulsa Neighborhood Plan. The plan covers US 169 to 145th East Ave, 11th Street to 31st Street. The plan is complete, but has not yet been adopted by the TMAPC or City Council as an official part of the City's Comprehensive Plan.

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