The Bird-Bridge connection

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I think Tulsa Whirled editorial page editor Ken Neal would feel better if he added some fiber to his diet, but it would make all of us a bit poorer not to have him cranking out his weekly column of crankiness. His latest spleen-venting on Sunday has this simple headline: "NIMBY."

A well-heeled, noisy group of Not-In-My-Backyard citizens continue to insist that candidates for public office pledge to oppose a bridge across the Arkansas River at Yale Avenue in far south Tulsa.

Their latest targets are the candidates for the District 3 county commissioner post and House District 69 in the Jenks area.

In the commissioner race that likely will be decided in the Republican primary July 25, only Clay Bird, the former deputy mayor seeking the post, has resisted.

But, like town drunks, his opponents, Bill Christiansen, Jerry Smith and Fred Perry, have "taken the pledge," more or less agreeing to check their brains at the courthouse door.

The bridge opponents have gotten three of the GOP candidates in the House race to sign. But Darrell Gwartney and Jeff Jordan refused to cave in to the anti-bridge pressure.

Did you spot a couple of glaring errors? It's Fred Jordan who is running for House District 69 (HD69) and refused to sign the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition pledge. I have no idea who Jeff Jordan is. And the County Commission District 3 (CCD3) race will be decided by Republican voters -- no Democrat filed for the seat -- but it likely won't be decided on July 25. With four veteran campaigners in the race, I would be surprised if anyone managed to clear the 50% hurdle. It's more likely that the race will be settled in the August 22 runoff.

I wasn't too surprised that Clay Bird supports the bridge. He once said that he considers himself a national Republican but a local independent, and thought the "Chamber, Developers, and Establishment Party" was an apt name for the kind of local party he wishes he could join. He never seemed to have much patience for the concerns of neighborhood groups or the questions of skeptical councilors. He worked to delay passage of the City of Tulsa's first ethics ordinance. I'm not too shocked that he would be at home with a cozy deal like the one Infrastructure Ventures Inc. (IVI) made first with the Tulsa County Commissioners and now with the City of Jenks.

But I learned something today that does a better job of explaining Clay Bird's support for the south Tulsa toll bridge. In fact, it might explain why he is even running for County Commission.

Backing up a bit: Clay Bird was a real estate appraiser during his term as City Councilor from 2000-2002. He chose not to run for re-election, and he took a position on the staff of Mayor Bill LaFortune, serving the entire four years, winding up as Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff. After LaFortune's defeat, Bird stayed on for about a month to help new Mayor Kathy Taylor with the transition.

On May 14th, the Whirled ran a story about Bird's departure from the Mayor's Office. It said that his last day at City Hall was April 30, and it strongly implied that he had yet to find a new job:

He's packing up his experiences, including helping with the mayoral transition, to take with him.

Former mayoral chief of staff Clay Bird said the past four years working for Bill LaFortune was a lesson in the good, the bad and the politically ugly.

Bird, 44, said he plans to take those lessons with him into his next career endeavor, whatever that may turn out to be....

For the past month, Bird said he has concentrated on the transition with new Mayor Kathy Taylor. His last day at City Hall was April 30.
Bird said he thinks he has a lot to offer his next employer because he has job experience in both the private and public sectors. He was a city councilor before joining the mayor's staff and was self-employed as a property appraiser.

Stories during and right after the June 5-7 filing period referred to Bird as a former city councilor and mayoral aide. No mention was made of any new employment.

The first mention of a new job for Bird was in the July 9 Whirled story about the CCD3 primary.

Bird, 45, became the CEO of Energy Reclamation LLC after leaving his post in the Mayor's Office this year. The company promotes enhanced oil recovery technology.

Bird views the commission post as an administrative position and believes that his experience as a city administrator sets him apart from other candidates.

So sometime between May 14 and July 9, Clay Bird became CEO of Energy Reclamation LLC. The company's website says that it was founded in 2005. The site is promoting new technologies for recovery of crude oil from old deposits.

Our technology involves in-situ generation of CO2 to recover trapped residual oil from reservoirs.

Briggeman's patented technology allows for a method of reducing the viscosity of heavy crude oil by injecting an exhaust gas into the oil.

Here's what the website's "People" page says about CEO Clay Bird:

After a spirited recruiting campaign Energy Reclamation LLC. signed their number one choice for CEO, Mr. Clay Bird. During a brief, but intense, courting Mr. Bird researched, reviewed and interviewed everyone and every aspect of the company. While making his decision he met several times with Dr. Bakhtiyarov, the World's foremost expert on EOR, who had only recently endorse the technology. Mr. Bird also met with the University of Tulsa's highly respected research people to better understand the technology and to help validate his decision to join the company. Although Mr. Bird has limited expertise in the oil industry he has proven "Fortune 500" skills. Prior to being named CEO of Energy Reclamation, LLC, Mr. Bird served the City of Tulsa as Chief of Staff/Deputy Mayor, overseeing a workforce in excess of 4,000 employees with an annual budget of nearly half a billion dollars. Mr. Bird is well respected in the community for his faith, demeanor, management style and leadership skills.

Nothing on the website or elsewhere indicates when Bird was named CEO. The customary announcement press release doesn't appear anywhere on the web, not even in the Whirled's archives. But from the other articles, it must have been in that two month window between May 14 and July 9.

So this is a new company promoting an emerging technology, and you'd think that the investors would expect this coveted CEO to focus his attention on building the company. I know a number of people who have been involved in technology startups, and it is an 80-plus-hours-a-week all-consuming job.

You wouldn't think the investors would allow their new number-one-choice-for-CEO to spend his time running to be elected to another full-time job. If successful in his run for County Commissioner, Bird would only be able to give them six months as CEO, and he would be able to give the job his full attention for only the four months following the runoff.

So why would the investors in the company allow this key employee to start moving toward the exit as soon as he took the job?

The answer may be at the bottom of that same "People" page. Scroll all the way down and you'll find:

Howard Kelsey is a life long Tulsan, continuing the nearly half century Legacy of the family owned, highly respected Kelsey Company. Educated at Northeastern University and University of Tulsa, Howard processes a keen mind along with an eye to detail. Howard is involved with several of the Iconic features in the Tulsa and surrounding area.... Being a former Director of a State wide organization has increased Howard's networking talents, along with being the Company pilot which increases our mobility.

A June 10, 2006, Whirled story about Energy Reclamation LLC identifies Kelsey as a "principal of the company."

Can you name another company of which Kelsey is a principal? IVI, the company that wants to build the south Tulsa toll bridge, the company that made the very lucrative non-competitive deal with Tulsa County to finance the bridge, and which now has a similarly lucrative non-competitive deal with the City of Jenks.

And if you're trying to get that bridge built, what could be more important than having your own man on the County Commission? It might be important enough that you'd be willing to give him a job and a title so that he could make ends meet until he takes office and starts drawing a county paycheck.

If that's what is going on here, it wouldn't be the first time something like that appeared to be happening. In April 1993, Frank Keating joined Gary Richardson's law firm as a senior partner and at the same time said he was considering a run for Governor the following year. Questions were raised by his opponents about whether Keating was earning his keep or whether he was being "kept" -- paid for working while running full-time for Governor. In 1998, when Keating bypassed more experienced attorneys to appoint Gary Richardson's son Chuck to replace Bill LaFortune as DA, some people saw it as payback for Richardson's support of Keating.

One difference between Bird's situation and Keating's is that Keating would have brought relevant experience and a great deal of prestige to Richardson's firm. You could make the case that just having the name Keating on the shingle benefitted the firm financially. It's much harder to make that case for Bird as CEO of a high-tech energy startup.


Paul Tay said:

Put the two campaign signs, BIRD and Roop, next to each other and whatdoya git, if you drive too fast?

Don said:


About Clay Bird!

I live in the district Clay Bird once so called “served” as City Councilor. Interesting fact about Clay Bird, is Clay Bird is ALL ABOUT big business and special interest groups in order for his selfish gain in politics.

Remember the rezoning fiasco of children’s medical center? At this time it’s a moot point of whether it was the right decision or not to rezone the property. I don’t feel we will truly know for at least 5-10 years after the highway expansion is complete.

What Clay Bird did was violate his responsibility as councilor. We the majority of the neighborhood told him for months and months we did not want the property zoned commercial. Only a handful of residents on Hudson St. backing up to the property, who received drainage improvements and a tall fence along with the neighborhood association board whose biggest decision each month is to decide what restaurant to hold their meetings wanted the property zoned commercial.

At the beginning Clay sided with the majority. But, during the course of the event, slowly Clay starting moving toward the fence and eventually jumped over to the other side. The Hillcrest side! I know how it happened. Just look at the players. Charles Norman, the attorney for Hillcrest worked in the same law office with Bill LaFortune. I can hear the phone call now. “Hey Clay, Charles Norman here, “If you will side with Hillcrest and swing the other council votes, when Bill gets in the mayor’s office he’ll get you a job on his staff.” And so it came to be and we had four years of Clay Bird as the hand picked puppet of Mayor Bill. By the way, about 3-6 months before the council hearing and the end of Clay’s term he told us he would not seek re-election as he was leaving politics to go back to his former vocation of land appraisals.

We the majority of the neighborhood residents told Clay Bird, on several occasions, this form of government is a republic and that he worked for us. Yet he chose to ignore us. Only two councilors did not side with the council majority, Roscoe Turner abstained and Todd Huston voted nay.

This proves you cannot trust Clay Bird in any business transaction or government position.

Wow, is there ANYTHING in this town that isn't connected to some kind of GOB network?

In the commissioner race that likely will be decided in the Republican primary July 25, only Clay Bird, the former deputy mayor seeking the post, has resisted.
I like the way Ken Neal says that Clay Bird is "resisting" the "noisy group of citizens".

Just imagine what our GOB's could accomplish without all these pesky little creatures we call "citizens"!
Ken Neal does not have an "opinion" column, he has an "agenda" column, and he should be ashamed of himself.

susan said:

The Tulsa World would be much better off if they would choose Michael Bates for their Opinion Editor.
Ken Neal's column is dreadful to read. He is also very liberal and writes as though Jesus Christ has no presence within his heart or life.

Dan Hicks said:


Monday, as I was listening to KFAQ, I heard one of Clay Bird's ads that refers to him as a conservative. Although I like Clay, he is NOT a conservative!

I met Clay years ago at a Tulsa County Republican Convention and agreed to help his campaign for city council because he promised me that he was against any new taxes. As sooner was he elected, his position changed and he supported Susan Savage's 250 Million Dollar "Tulsa Time" TAX. You and I fought that one and, with a little help from Steve Largent, it was defeated.

As Bill LaFortune's right hand man, Clay campaigned for the Billion Dollar "Vision 2025" TAX. He was also one of those who advised LaFortune to stay away from the Michael DelGiorno program.

I find it interesting that Clay now wants to exploit DelGiorno's audience and fool them into believing that he is a conservative.

If you think HIGHER TAXES is conservative, then I suppose Clay Bird is the man. But you'd better keep one hand on your wallet at all times.

After hearing Clay's ads, I plan to spend every waking hour from now until election day helping Fred Perry win the County Commissioners race. On July 25, VOTE FRED PERRY!

Dan Hicks

Paul Tay said:

HA! That's funny, Susan. Da Whirled needs Bates like Santa needs a Cadillac. Bates and the rest of us owe our existence, our self-importance, to Da Whirled. Without which, we really would have NOTHING to grouse about EVERYTHING wrong with dis CRUMMY town. Tip: QUIT READING DA WHIRLED.

As for all the geniuses running in this and every election, the ONLY special interests you need to suck-up to are the TAXPAYERS. Tip: QUIT PLAYING US FOR IDIOTS.

What am I missing, people? It ain't rocket science that requires a MIT graduate.

Anne said:

Regarding Ken Neal’s editorial aptly titled NIMBY and referring to the ‘bridge opponents’. Thank you for the compliment Mr. Neal. Of course we are NIMBIES. Why else does anybody take on a cause but for the fact that it directly affects the quality of life where they live, their neighborhood, their homes and quite literally, their backyards.

Neal writes that the South Yale crowd (and it is a huge crowd) ”browbeats” candidates, developers, and bridge backers. I believe it as an exercise of one’s First Amendment right to free speech, the press, to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Surely he doesn’t have a problem with that does he?

Sir Edmond Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We aren’t about to do nothing and just let the developers and bridge backers browbeat us into submitting to their curious agenda that the bridge must connect to Yale - especially since it is not affecting their ‘backyards’.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 18, 2006 12:11 AM.

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