July 2007 Archives

Michelle sees something amiss with all the getting ready for company in advance of the PGA:

Okay, let me get this straight - we don't have the money to fix our streets or hire enough police officers, but we have the money to take police away from their main job (fighting crime) to direct traffic around Southern Hills for the PGA? Does anyone else believe that our mayor is all image and no substance? We want to look good for Tiger, Phil and their crowd, but who cares about the people that live here day in and day out? I guess we don't matter.

Steve Roemerman has posted some photos that his great-grandmother sent to his grandfather while he was in the South Pacific as a Seabee during WW II. They're pictures of Roemerman Feed & Implement in Blakesburg, Iowa. He also has photos of the remodeling of old Eastland Mall.

Mad Okie's front end is out of whack:

and I can't afford to fix it because of all the taxes I'm having to pay... but at least we have water in the river!

That's the reality of the situation. our "leaders" have thrown so much money around trying to find a "quick fix" that they have neglected the basic needs of the city. Roads and Cops. So what is their plan? Throw money into the river... literally.

Will Tulsa approve of it? Probably, for some reason we have either given up, or we have bought their lies... hook, line and sinker.

The truth is we have already approved a tax for the river in Vision 2025. If we don't hold them to what we voted for, then they will be emboldened to do whatever they please with the money we entrust to them.


Jeff Shaw has his own take on the new "I Am... Tulsa" ad campaign. And he's set up a website for his portrait photography business.

Roemerman and meeciteewurkor have been having fun with Photoshop and Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, but the first photo in this entry is no fake -- there really was a FSBO sign on the reception desk at the Mayor's office. Mee has Kathy as Borg queen with her new Borg cube City Hall, and the Mayor keeping the Council in line.

Tulsa Chiggers is hosting a Blog Reader Survey for his readers.

(The BatesLine blog reader survey is still open for a few more days too. I'll be giving away at least two $10 Amazon gift certificates selected at random from those who have participated. Thanks to all who have done so already.)

This comment on an earlier entry by S. Lee was so well-made that I thought it deserved spotlighting here:

Rather than be accused of a being a "nay sayer" (which, as we all know, is almost as bad as being a fan of Ann Coulter), I would suggest using Cleveland, OH as an example of how buying stuff does not constitute economic development. Cleveland is a great example of a city population that was sucked into to voting for tax increase after tax increase to pay for stuff that would magically transform the city into greatness. Instead, all they got was rapid population loss, high taxes, and a crime rate even higher than Tulsa's.

Much of what is being hustled to Tulsa voters and the method of hustling looks like Cleveland deja vu all over again. Take a look at Cleveland's web site. If stuff was what made a city, then Cleveland ought to be solid gold. But it ain't. People are moving out of Cuyahoga county over to Lorain county ... where the taxes are lower (probably crime too). Brothers and sisters, can I have a Homer Simpson "Doh!"

Note a web page about living downtown; and (egad!) a waterfront project.

I've read comments about how full the Arkansas river has been lately, and wouldn't it be nice if it were always like that. I wouldn't know since you can only see the river from a very, very small part of Tulsa where I've not taken the time to go so I can see a river. Wow! A river! I'm sure I missed out on the thrill of my life -- but I sure have seen a lot of bad roads. I'll trade some better roads and lower crime for a sandy river (that I don't often see) any day, any time.

It might be interesting, at one of the county meetings, to get a show of hands of how many people know what kind of convention center and city offices Charlotte, NC has. How many people at the meeting care about what other stuff Charlotte has bought lately? If they got a job offer in Charlotte, would they be asking what kind of stuff has Charlotte bought lately; or would they be more interested in mundane things such as transportation, crime rate, and schools?

Some folks are just so stinkin' boring.

It's been a while since I've been to Cleveland, but I attended two weddings in Cleveland and a third in Canton back in the early '90s. I remember going with some friends down to the Flats and eating at (ho hum) TGI Fridays on a Friday night. (It was May 1992 and the night of Johnny Carson's last tonight show.) The Flats is a former industrial / warehousing area on the banks of the Cuyahoga River which was converted into an entertainment district, much like Bricktown in Oklahoma City or Laclede's Landing in St. Louis. I was surprised to read not long ago that the Flats are now under re-re-development.

Potter thoughts

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Last night I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of the seven-book series. Wow. All I will say at this point is that I am very impressed with the way J. K. Rowling tied everything together. There's a depth here that I've never seen in recent children's literature, with many echoes of classical literature.

I went looking for serious online discussions about plot points and literary allusions. Initially, I found some blogs that were inhabited by "fanfic" types -- people who will take a science fiction or fantasy universe and extend it with their own stories. Some of them were rather upset with the way things turned out -- not so much the main conclusion of the book but the fact that the romantic couples they had been cheering for didn't come to pass.

I found better. Here are some links that will be of interest to fans of the series, but only if you've already finished the book, because they are full of spoilers.

First, Rowling has given an exclusive interview to NBC, and you can find it on the MSNBC website. They've cut the interview into a couple of dozen separate stories all linked from that page. Now that the final book is out, Rowling is very happy to clarify plot points and to tell us about details that for various reasons were left on the cutting room floor. (For example, she "knows" much more about the futures of the various characters that she left out of the epilogue, which she didn't want to become too unwieldy.) At some point in the future, she plans to take her notes and publish a definitive encyclopedia of the Harry Potter universe.

Second, Entertainment Weekly did an entire issue about the final book release, including an interview with the actor who plays Harry in the movies about his reaction to reading the final book.

I found both of these via an unofficial but well-designed fan site called The Leaky Cauldron.

I finally found a couple of sites providing some serious literary discussion of the series and the final book, delving into structure, literary technique, and classical and religious allusions, from a Christian perspective: The Sword of Gryffindor by Travis Prinzi and Hogwarts Professor by John Granger. Prinzi is a Presbyterian and is getting a graduate degree to become an English teacher. Granger is an Orthodox Christian and a Latin teacher.

Granger wrote a book, Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, and you can find brief descriptions of those five keys here. With the release of Deathly Hallows, he has posted a series of 25 thought-provoking discussion questions; I'm starting to go through them with my son as a starting point for our own discussions.

Both Prinzi and Granger started out as "Harry Haters" before becoming fans of the series. In an interview, Granger tells how he first encountered the books:

I read the first book in order to explain to my oldest daughter, who had been given a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, why we don't read serial trash like this. I assumed it was something like Goosebumps. I didn't know anything about Christian objections to the book. I read it – and loved it. Ms. Rowling is a classicist and an acerbic critic of Muggledom. The alchemy and profound Christian imagery of the books I thought (and still think) were wonderful and edifying.

County Commissioner Randi Miller has scheduled her one and only public meeting on the $282.25 million river tax plan for tomorrow -- Sunday, July 29, at 2 p.m., in the at the east end of the QuikTrip Center (formerly known as the IPE Building and as the Expo Center). That probably means it's in the cafeteria building, a smaller brick building attached to the east end of the bigger structure.

The information was in Saturday morning's Whirled, buried on page A17, in the least read edition of the paper. That's a good way to make sure that, say, county employees know to show up, but citizens with questions and concerns don't get the word.

There will be three other meetings on the topic, all hosted by County Commissioner Fred Perry. Here is the complete list from the Whirled:

Sunday: 2-4 p.m. at the east end of the QuikTrip Center (formally known as the Exposition Center) at Expo Square; Commissioner Randi Miller will give a PowerPoint presentation.

Monday: 7 p.m. at Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 E. 93rd St; discussion hosted by Commissioner Fred Perry.

Tuesday: 7 p.m. at the CityPlex Towers, 81st Street and Lewis Avenue, on the second floor of the atrium building; discussion hosted by Perry.

Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Central on Main, 210 N. Main St. in Broken Arrow; discussion hosted by Perry.

Come and make your voice heard. Word is they'll vote on putting the tax on the ballot on Thursday.

If I'm able to go, I have two three things to tell the county commissioners:

(1) They promised to construct two low-water dams and to improve Zink Lake as part of Vision 2025, and they promised that the projects on the ballot would be fully funded before any new projects are considered. They need to keep that promise and fund the construction of low-water dams and Zink Lake improvements from Vision 2025 money. It's wrong for the County Commissioners to make us tax ourselves twice to get what we've already paid for.

(2) It is irresponsible for the County Commissioners to send a tax hike to a public vote when they haven't given due consideration to funding these projects without a tax increase.

(3) If the County Commissioners say they can't find a way to fund the low-water dams with Vision 2025 money, they are saying that there isn't enough money in Vision 2025 to complete all the promised projects.

MORE: Ken Neal's Sunday Whirled column is already on the web. Neal praises Commissioners Fred Perry and John Smaligo for having become more open-minded about tax increases and accuses City Councilor John Eagleton of trying to delay river development for many years. And Ken's notion that borrowing against future revenues would be like a second mortgage is just plain wrong. Tulsa County has been borrowing against future Vision 2025 revenues all along, with the intention of completing all projects in the first half of the 13 year period of the tax.

STILL MORE: TulTellitarian, writing at meeciteewurkor.com, has been crunching numbers, too. He makes some different assumptions but comes to the same conclusion: There's enough money in Vision 2025 to pay for the low-water dams and Zink Lake work that was promised, enough even for all the essential pieces of the new proposal. (By the way, he used Google Documents to embed spreadsheets in the blog entry. For that reason alone, if you're interested in web technology, it's worth clicking through to see how that works.)

Yes, I know it's Dfest weekend, with bands playing on 13 stages in the Blue Dome District until 2 a.m., but if your tastes run more retro than metro, you won't be left out.

Saturday morning from 8 to 10 on KXBL 99.5, legendary country DJ Billy Parker will be playing two hours of western swing and truly classic country.

Then Saturday evening from 7 to 8 on KWGS 89.5, you can hear music historian John Wooley spin his favorite western swing discs on "Swing on This." John's show is followed at 8 p.m. by two hours of "Big Band Saturday Night."

But if you want to hear live western swing the way it should be swung, you need to head down Route 66 to Bristow. Bob Wills' Texas Playboys will be performing at 8 p.m. at the National Day of the American Cowboy in Bristow's City Park, joined by Billy Mata and Richard Helsley of the western swing band The Texas Tradition (Here are directions to the park.) The Playboys' performance caps a day of events in Bristow, starting with a 10 a.m. parade, a chuck wagon lunch at 1, and a concert beginning at 7 with David Ingles and His Cowboy Band.

Here's a minute-long clip from a performance earlier this month: Bob Wills' Texas Playboys performing "A Big Ball in Cowtown," featuring a steel guitar solo by Bobby Koefer.

Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller held a press conference today to explain why she absolutely has to have a higher sales tax rate in order to build the low-water dams that she promised would be built by the existing Vision 2025 tax.

Miller was responding to a proposal by Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, who called for paying for river plan implementation from the existing Vision 2025 sales tax, asking voters to extend that tax if its necessary to complete the projects, rather than increasing the tax rate.

I made a similar proposal in this week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly. Tulsa County voters were promised three river related projects as part of Proposition 4:

Construct two low water dams on Arkansas River the locations of which will be determined in the Arkansas River Corridor Plan -- $5.6 million

Zink Lake Shoreline Beautification -- $1.8 million

Design and construct Zink Lake Upstream Catch Basin and silt removal -- $2.1 million

Last week on KFAQ, Vision 2025 project manager Kirby Crowe said of these funds, only $275,000 has been spent, to cover the cost of environmental paperwork that must be completed prior to constructing the dams. The rest, he said, is "unspent and protected."

In my column, I point out that these dams were promised as a part of Vision 2025, and that County Commissioners committed to completing all the projects as promised, and as quickly as possible. (I do find it interesting that neither of the two Whirled stories, about Eagleton's idea and Miller's response, mentions that construction of the dams were promised as part of Vision 2025.)

Matching funds or not, County officials made a commitment to complete the projects that were promised. In a July 23, 2003, story in the daily paper about the potential for revenues to exceed expected project costs, County Commissioner Bob Dick said that the Vision 2025 package was structured to be sure that no project would be left incomplete. Commissioner Dick was quoted as saying, “I think the worst thing you could do is promise you are going to build something and then not have enough money to build it.” So any surplus was intended first to be used to finish the promised projects.

Miller claims that we can't predict if there would be enough surplus, and if there is any, it's already been promised to the suburbs for unspecified projects.

But I'm told that no such projects have been approved by the Tulsa County Vision Authority and no such commitment was made. Mayor Taylor denies that any such promise was made. Such a promise would directly contradict something Miller was quoted as saying later in the interview:

The commissioners' primary responsibility is to ensure that the Vision 2025 projects promised voters are delivered, she said.

And that means building the low water dams and refurbishing the Zink Lake dams has to come before any new projects are undertaken.

In fact, the ballot resolution makes a formal commitment to that effect:

While the cost estimates shown above are believed to be accurate, it must be recognized that the exact cost of each project may vary from the estimate shown. It is the intention of the Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County, Oklahoma, that all projects shall be completed as funds are made available. If the Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County, Oklahoma, determines that all of the projects listed above will be completed with existing and projected funds and that excess funds will be available for additional projects, such excess funds shall be expended for caputal improvements for community enrichment (which does not include appropriation of any such funds to any other entity for such purpose), as determined by a public trust having Tulsa County, Oklahoma, [and all Tulsa County municipalities], as its beneficiaries.

Emphasis added. No new projects until all the listed projects are fully funded to completion.

Miller also claims that we can't get to any of the surplus money until near the end of the tax period, around 2015 or so. But as she knows, Vision 2025 is not a pay as you go project. She and her fellow commissioners have issued revenue bonds, borrowing money against future revenues so that the projects could be completed early, long before we raise the revenue.

I don't know how much has been borrowed all ready, how much has been spent, and how much is committed in the near term, but if the river is a priority, I'm sure some projects can be delayed to so that money already in hand could be used to start work on the dams. I'm sure more could be borrowed against anticipated Vision 2025 revenues. If John Piercey doesn't think he can do it, perhaps we could put the financing out for competitive bidding and find someone who can make it happen without charging us an arm and a leg.

Interesting: According to this, the river projects and all other Vision 2025 projects should have been funded in the second bond issue. The first bond issue was for $242,150,000:

Program manager Kirby Crowe said officials plan to have just one more bond issue to fund the rest of the Vision 2025 projects.

The Arkansas River projects, Broken Arrow's funding for downtown and neighborhood beautification, construction costs for the downtown Tulsa arena and renovation of the Maxwell Convention Center -- as well as the rest of the funding for projects that were only partially funded in the first bond issue -- are anticipated to be funded in the second.

Here's Randi Miller from June 2005:

While they aren't ready to act on projections for what the 13-year, sixth-tenths of a penny sales tax will bring in, Commissioners Bob Dick and Randi Miller both believe the Arkansas River is a likely candidate to see additional funding.

"It's too soon to start spending money above those things that have already been identified," Dick said. "But there's one real easy one, to say if we do have that, I think a high priority would be on the river."

The $5.6 million allocated in Vision 2025 for river projects only pays for a portion of two low-water dams. It is supposed to be used along with federal funds, but Miller said officials may need the extra money to make sure the dams get built.

"If there's any money that's available, in my opinion because we do not have enough for the dams, then I'm going to go with river development," she said.

From the same article, John Piercey provides an early estimate of a surplus and is game to try to make it available early:

Vision 2025 financial adviser John Piercey, a senior investment banker with Capital West Securities, said that virtually all of of the $65 million surplus will be collected in 2016 and 2017.

"The question becomes: Is there a way to have those funds early? We're working on that," he said.

And as recently as this January, Piercey said:

"It looks like they'll (local officials) be able to deliver everything they promised to voters, and then some."

Make it so.

TAKE ACTION: If you want County Commissioners to keep their promise and fund the low-water dams from the Vision 2025 tax, you need to let them know. The vote to put a new tax on the ballot could come as early as next Thursday. Here are phone and e-mail contacts for each:

District 1, John Smaligo: jsmaligo@tulsacounty.org, 596-5020

District 2, Randi Miller: rmiller@tulsacounty.org, 596-5015

District 3, Fred Perry: fperry@tulsacounty.org, 596-5010

An edited version of this piece was published in the July 25, 2007, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The edited, published version of the piece is online, but badly formatted. Posted on the web November 3, 2012.

Out of Whole Terry Cloth
Simonson says, but it ain't necessarily so

What would you think of a merchant who sold you something, then told you you'd have to pay for it again to get what you've already paid for?

When Tulsa County voters approved Proposition No. 4 of the Vision 2025 sales tax, they approved $9.5 million to pay for the following items, spelled out very specifically in the ballot resolution passed by the Tulsa County Commission:

Construct two low water dams on Arkansas River the locations of which will be determined in the Arkansas River Corridor Plan -- $5.6 million

Zink Lake Shoreline Beautification -- $1.8 million

Design and construct Zink Lake Upstream Catch Basin and silt removal -- $2.1 million

Now Terry Simonson, the chief deputy and mouthpiece for Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller, is trying to convince Tulsans that we need to raise our taxes again to get what we thought we had already paid for. County Commissioners are likely to vote August 2 to put a $282 million sales tax increase on an October special election ballot.

Last week in UTW, Simonson tried to persuade readers that the line items you see above (and which you can see for yourself by following the Proposition #4 link at http://www.vision2025.info/newsletters.php) weren't really there.

Simonson wrote, "Though some may believe that Vision 2025 included funding to build a series of low water dams on the Arkansas River, this is not the case."

Simonson went on to claim that the $5.6 million was spent on "the study and environmental analysis by the Corp [sic] of Engineers." He correctly notes the amounts for the two improvements to Zink Lake, and claims that, "All of these are completed or, substantially engaged."

Simonson repeated these assertions last Wednesday morning, July 18, on 1170 KFAQ. Morning co-host Chris Medlock, who was on the City Council when Vision 2025 was put to a vote, called Simonson on his erroneous information, pointing to the official ballot resolution and promotional articles published in the daily paper at the time.

For example, on August 24, 2003, the daily paper published a column by editorial writer Julie DelCour, intended to deflect criticism that Vision 2025 neglected the public's interest in Arkansas River development. Taking up most of the front page of the Sunday opinion section, DelCour's piece was accompanied by full color illustrations showing a river full of water and mixed-use development on its banks. The caption on one drawing read, "Passage of Proposition 4 would provide funds to 'prep' the river for future, expanded uses."

Official campaign literature and other stories at the time hammered home the idea that a "yes" vote on Vision 2025 would put water in the river and make it suitable for the riverfront development that Tulsans were demanding.

Kirby Crowe, the project manager whose job is to track Vision 2025 funds and to make sure they are spent as promised, called KFAQ during Simonson's interview and told listeners that of the $9.5 million designated for dams and lake improvements, only $275,000 has been spent. That's a far cry from Simonson's claim that the projects were "completed or substantially engaged."

According to Crowe, none of the money for shoreline beautification and silt removal has been spent, in part because the master plan came up with a better approach to silt removal involving modifications to the Zink Lake Dam.

Crowe said that Phase 1 and 2 of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan was funded by municipalities and private contributions, not by the Vision 2025 sales tax. The $275,000 was to fund the Phase 3 work on environmental paperwork for the low-water dams, a necessary prerequisite for construction.

The remaining $9,225,000 for those three line items, Crowe said, is "unspent and protected."

Simonson claims that Hurricane Katrina siphoned off the hoped-for federal matching funds that would have paid for the dams. But Katrina didn't hit until September 2005, almost two full years after the Vision 2025 vote.

The real reason we didn't get the matching funds was reported by KOTV before the Vision 2025 vote even took place. The cleanup of the environmental disaster at Tar Creek, in the Tri-State mining area north of Miami, Okla., was using all Corps of Engineers funds available for Oklahoma.

Had our congressmen put river improvements ahead of Tar Creek remediation, it would have been like buying yourself a boob job and a tummy tuck when your kid needs chemotherapy.

Matching funds or not, County officials made a commitment to complete the projects that were promised. In a July 23, 2003, story in the daily paper about the potential for revenues to exceed expected project costs, County Commissioner Bob Dick said that the Vision 2025 package was structured to be sure that no project would be left incomplete.
Commissioner Dick was quoted as saying, "I think the worst thing you could do is promise you are going to build something and then not have enough money to build it."

So any surplus was intended first to be used to finish the promised projects. Already, the Tulsa County Vision Authority, a seven-member body made up of the three County Commissioners, the Mayor of Tulsa, and three suburban mayors, has authorized $45.5 million in additional funds for the BOk Center and improvements to the Maxwell Convention Center.

Vision 2025 revenues are running well ahead of projections. If you were to take the roughly $54 million in actual revenue over the last 12 months, project it out over the remaining nine-and-a-half years, assuming a modest 2.5% annual growth rate, and add it to what has already been collected, the Vision 2025 tax would raise a total of $768 million, a surplus of $233 million.

Subtract out the extra money for the arena and convention center, and there is still a surplus of nearly $188 million, far more than we need to fund the two low water dams and the improvements to Zink Lake that were promised to Tulsa County residents if they approved the Vision 2025 tax.

While I'd like to see the Vision 2025 tax ended as soon as possible, the Tulsa County Commissioners have a moral obligation to complete promised projects. It would be far preferable to use an existing tax to complete those projects than to force voters to approve a new tax increase - one likely to be renewed ad infinitum - in order to get what they thought they had already paid for.

The rest of the projects in the proposed $282 million tax package, such as the downtown-to-river connection and the pedestrian bridges at 41st and 61st, are city-specific. Each city along the river could choose to fund those improvements - or not - based on their priorities. Tulsa's city leaders might decide that our appalling violent crime rate or the atrocious condition of our streets deserve more direct attention.

It's essential that the land acquisition for riverfront development be left to the cities. There is a real danger that City of Tulsa residents could vote for this package expecting that money to be spent toward riverside commercial development in Tulsa, only to have it designated instead for a suburban project.

Between the items already promised in Vision 2025 and the items that are specific to individual cities, there's nothing left that needs to be funded through the County. The only reason for the County Commissioners to put a tax on the ballot this fall is if they are intent on expanding their burgeoning empire.

I shouldn't be too hard on Terry. He's just saying what he's been paid to say. During his appearance on KFAQ he frequently reminded us that he wasn't around when the decisions regarding Vision 2025 were made, and he urged us to let go of the past and look to the future instead.

But Commissioner Randi Miller, whose water he is carrying, was around then, voted to send Vision 2025 to the voters, and campaigned for its passage. She of all people has a personal obligation to ensure that the projects that she and her colleagues promised, the projects that were approved by the voters, are delivered without burdening her constituents with higher taxes.

And Miller needs to make sure her spokesman has his facts straight before sending him out to flack for her tax hike.

J. & M. at the Texas Cowboy Reunion paradeAs exciting as it was to see our 10-year-old win the Harry Potter costume contest last Friday night (thanks, Dawn -- we think so, too), we were even more excited and proud about something he accomplished earlier this month.

Right before Independence Day, we drove down to Stamford, Texas, to visit my wife's relatives there -- her dad grew up on a cotton farm northwest of town, and she still has a few aunts and uncles around.

At the same time, Stamford was hosting the Texas Cowboy Reunion, four days of activities including the world's largest amateur rodeo, a grand parade on the 4th of July, nightly western dances, chuckwagon barbecue dinners, and a fiddle contest.

We watched the fiddle contest when we were last there for the TCR, and when we began making plans for this visit, my son decided he wanted to enter. He's only had a year of classical violin training, but his performance piece for last fall was the fiddle tune "Old Joe Clark," and like the rest of the family, he loves western swing music. Once his spring performance was out of the way, he began working up a few more tunes.

IMG_2488We were six hours into the drive to Stamford when we realized that all of us had forgotten to bring his fiddle. We had music and a stand, but no instrument. The boy was heartbroken. The next day, my wife called the contest organizers and someone that her family knew to see about borrowing a fiddle for the contest.

He had been used to playing a half-size, and the size affects your finger positions. Suzanne Walker, who used to teach, had a quarter-size she could lend him, along with a book of fiddle tunes. Ray Clark of Tru-Sound Studios downtown lent him a full-size, painted silver. Neither were exactly what he was used to, so he practiced with both to see which would be the easier adjustment to make. In the end, he felt more comfortable with the full-size. He learned from his great-uncle that for the contest he'd need to play two breakdowns and a waltz. He didn't have a waltz, so in two days he learned "Streets of Laredo" from Mrs. Walker's book. He knew the song from years of listening to Riders in the Sky.

For the next couple of days, he worked in practice time in between the TCR parade, a night at the rodeo, a visit out to the old farm, a look at the artifacts in the Texas Cowboy Museum, games of Chinese checkers and Wahoo, and one delicious home cooked meal after another, each one featuring fresh peaches from the farm. The temperature was in the mid 80s all week, unseasonably cool for Texas in July, and we've never seen the fields so green.

At one point in all the practicing, I told my wife she needed to quit stopping him when he slipped up. It was more important for him to have the confidence to recover and keep going after a mistake.

All hat and no cattleSaturday morning came. It was not a huge field -- only four entrants in the under-18s class. Two were older teens, both excellent fiddlers, and there was another boy about our son's age. There were about 100 people in the audience. Former Congressman Charlie Stenholm was the MC, telling old jokes to break the tension and fill time as each fiddler got ready to play.

J. and K. with Charlie Stenholm at the Texas Cowboy Reunion fiddle contestOur boy was sixth to play: "Bile Them Cabbage Down," "Streets of Laredo," then "Old Joe Clark," which he had relearned with double-stops (playing two strings at once for harmony). He got a bit lost on the first one, but recovered, restarted, and got through it. The waltz was solid, and the final breakdown gave him a strong finish. (You can see his performance on Google Video.) Our son was the only one to play without a rhythm guitarist accompanying him; guess I'm going to have to learn to play.

When the judging was over, our son finished third in his class, behind the two older teens, one of whom won the playoff to be grand champion. The third-place finish was good for a $25 prize. After the contest, all the fiddlers gathered up front for a jam session, playing songs like "Maiden's Prayer" and "Faded Love." Since he doesn't know that many songs yet, the other musicians kindly let him call a couple of tunes: "Cotton Eyed Joe" and "Little Liza Jane." We celebrated with an authentic chuckwagon lunch before setting out for Tulsa.

(By the way, the prize money was donated by the local Wal-Mart, which also covered the entrance fees. Wal-Mart helped us out again later that day: When the van lost a tire tread south of Chickasha, just after 8 p.m., my wife called and asked if they could stay open late and sell us a new tire, as we couldn't drive home on the compact spare I'd installed. They were very nice about it, and we made it home that night, albeit later than planned. Paul Harvey likes to say that if you've got a Wal-Mart in your hometown, you couldn't ask for a better neighbor. Mom-and-pop stores might dispute that, but there's no question that Wal-Mart, along with the good people of Stamford, made our 07/07/07 a lucky day.)

Our son still has a lot to learn about fiddling, but we're proud that he persisted in the face of some setbacks and kept his composure in front of a big audience. It was satisfying, too, that he now has a stronger connection to his roots in Texas cotton country.

I've posted a whole pile of pics of our trip on Flickr, including as many blurry rodeo pictures as a person could want. There are also some shots of our brief browsing stop in Archer City, Texas' version of Hay-on-Wye, home of Larry McMurtry's multi-building Booked-Up bookstore and the movie theater that inspired The Last Picture Show.

Toddler and peachesThere's a separate set (for the historians among you) of photos of documents and artifacts from Stamford's museum, including pages from the 1940 town directory, a 1950 semi-centennial book about the town, a 78 rpm disc of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys performing "New Spanish Two Step," and a scrapbook presentation (a low-tech Powerpoint) that the Chamber of Commerce made in 1923 in their unsuccessful bid to become the site of Texas Tech.

I've also posted some video of the calf scramble at the rodeo. They let all the children 12 and under into the arena, then let loose some calves with ribbons tied to their tails. The kids who manage to grab a ribbon win a prize. My 10-year-old had done it three years ago; this year he was joined by his six-year-old sister. After it was over, I asked them about the experience and got reaction from the toddler, too. For more flavor of the event, here's someone else's video from the wild mare race at the 2006 TCR rodeo -- teams of three cowboys catch, saddle, and ride a wild mare to the other end of the arena and back.

Still catching up from various travels and other family events, I noticed I hadn't gotten around to linking my current Urban Tulsa Weekly column or the one from last week.

Last week's column dealt with specifics of the proposed $277 million county sales tax increase to fund low-water dams and other enhancements along the Arkansas River, in particular, how the proposed plan deviates from the official Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan.

But I had a couple of other matters to deal with before I jumped into the river. Faithful readers will recall that I was quick to distance myself from the text that was placed over my July 4 column. As soon as I could, I posted a comment on the article itself and here on this blog:

I want to remind readers that I do not write the headlines or [subheadlines] for my columns, and I do not agree with the harsh, sarcastic tone of the [subheadline] written for this column. I am grateful for the willingness of George Kaiser and other Tulsa philanthropists to contribute to the well-being of this city, and my suggestion that direct investment may be the best way to make the river the kind of place Tulsans want to enjoy is a suggestion made in earnest.

That wasn't the only problem I had with how my writing in that issue was edited: The beginning of my response to a letter to the editor about an earlier column was changed, setting a more pompous and pugnacious tone than I had intended. Again, I noted the differences between what I wrote and what was published in a comment on the paper's website and here at BatesLine.

To make sure that those who only see the column in print were aware of all this, I addressed both concerns in the July 11 column. When the paper came out, I had to laugh when I saw the headline:

Headlines Are Attention-Getting Devices
Otherwise, scholarly, well-researched opinion pieces might go unnoticed

Touché. The anonymous copy editor who wrote that headline is absolutely right.

A reader here asked, "Is there some journalistic justification for having an editor put words in the mouth of the columnist? I'd think that columnists, over the years (decades) would have protested loudly enough to end such a practice."

I've known of writers flying off the handle, even quitting, over headlines or edits to their pieces. I can't say I was happy when I saw how my work was edited that week, but having had a friend who was a copy editor gave me some perspective.

I met blogger Dawn Eden during my trip to the 2004 Republican National Convention, when she was a copy editor for the New York Post. In fact, that was the week she learned of winning a state Associated Press award for the headline "HURT IN LINE OF DOODY," which graced a story about a city employee injured by an exploding toilet.

Meeting Dawn put a face and a personality behind the clever, punny headlines for which New York City tabloids are renowned. I learned that copy editing is more than fixing typos; it also involves framing a story so that the newspaper reader will notice it and read it. The ability to concoct an eye-catching headline on deadline is a gift that not many writers have.

I remember, too, the saga of the following January, just before her visit to Oklahoma, when an edit Dawn made to a story about in-vitro fertilization enraged the reporter, who, despite Dawn's apologies, set out to get Dawn fired, not so much for the edit as for the staunchly pro-life content of her personal blog.

While I think the writer's reaction and the Post publisher's handling of Dawn's situation exceeded reasonable disciplinary action and entered the realm of religious persecution, I can now better empathize with the writer. When words appear under my byline, they are identified with me, and they speak for me, whether I wrote them or not. I don't appreciate having my name associated with opinions or attitudes I don't share. An attention-getting headline or a punched-up lede may draw a reader in to see what I have to say, but if it goes too far, a reader may conclude immediately that I'm an arrogant jerk with nothing to say worth reading and turn the page.

(I am an arrogant jerk, but I'd prefer to let my own words convict me on that charge.)

One of the lovely things about a blog is that everything here (except for the comments) is mine -- my words, my opinions. Also, my factual errors (like calling a subheadline a "tagline"), my misspellings, my inconsistent application of style rules, my homely layout, and my boring headlines. For better or worse, there's no editor to get in the way.

But when you're assembling the work of multiple contributors into a single publication, someone has to layout the pages, put the ads in place, write headlines, subheadlines, pullquotes, and captions, and turn those diverse contributions into an attractive and cohesive package.

I appreciate what copy editors do. I'm grateful when they fix my typos, add transitional sentences when I lurch too quickly from one idea to another, and make me look smarter, Charlotte's Web style, by putting brilliant headlines over my words. And when they get carried away, I'll handle it as I did this time -- let the readers know of the discrepancy and mend fences with the individuals who might have been offended by what someone else wrote under my name.

In a previous entry I mentioned a new book of historic photos of Tulsa, and one photo in particular of a tree-shaded Art Deco cafe that looked very inviting. It was a photo of Frank's Pig Stand, 1437 S. Boston Ave., and it was still there in 1957, but not any more, of course. Here's the picture I saw, from the Beryl Ford Collection, dated approximately 1947:


Frank's Pig Stand, Tulsa

Here are some other photos of Frank's:

Same time as picture above, from the south
A wider view of the north side, winter/early spring
A wider view of the south side, winter/early spring

Those photos are on the Tulsa Library's website. I am happy that the Beryl Ford Collection is on the web, but I wish higher-resolution scans were available -- there are fascinating details that are visible in the originals that you can't make out at the resolution on the library's website. I also wish there were a geographical and temporal way to browse. Flickr would handle multiple resolutions for each photo and provides a very slick way to map each photo. The Google Maps API adds a temporal dimension -- you can add a year slider to a map and set up a start and end date for each object, so that the objects appear or disappear depending on the point in time you've selected.

First thought when I read this was, "This makes sense." Instead of demolishing the Maxwell Convention Center arena, they're going to keep it in place and instead expand the exhibit hall to the north into what is now a surface parking lot between 3rd and 4th, Houston and Guthrie.

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I suggested this four years ago -- but minus the building a new arena part. If the point was to improve our convention facilities to appeal to conventions, that could be done without a new 18,000 seat arena, which only might be useful to a handful of conventions that would actually want to meet in Tulsa. Tulsans could have been given two independent choices on the ballot in 2003 -- whether or not to build the arena, whether or not to improve the convention center.

Second thought was that this makes the BOk Center even more of a white elephant than it already was. This move is bound to increase the operating deficit on the combined center.

The reason for this proposal has nothing to do with the pointlessness of the BOk Center. The theory is that we'd have a better shot at the Big 12 Basketball Tournament if we had two arenas in close proximity, one for men's games, one for women's games.

It is possible that the old arena might host other events that would otherwise have to go to the Mabee Center, the Pavilion, the Reynolds Center, or the UMAC.

Even though the old arena is more appropriately sized for minor league sports, expect the convention center management to force the Talons and the Oilers to play in the BOk Center to reduce the number of open dates on the new arena's calendar.

Someone needs to keep a running tally of how many days the BOk Center has an event and how many days the old arena has an event, and what the attendance is at each. We can then use those stats to decide whether it might be more economical to mothball the BOk Center.

Accio book!

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Harry Potter contest, Midtown Tulsa Barnes & Noble I'm live blogging from the 41st and Yale Barnes and Noble, where about an hour ago my son won first place in the Harry Potter costume contest, entitling him to be one of the first seven in line to buy a book when the clock strikes twelve. He was up against some tough competition. It didn't hurt that he had been Harry Potter for Halloween, so we already had the robes and the glasses, and he and his mom had a pretty good idea of what was involved in dying his hair.

Harry Potter and DumbledoreAll of us were here for the first three hours of the party. My wife took the little ones home after the contest. There are a lot of people here, but not so many that you couldn't move around. I spent most of my time keeping the toddler entertained in his stroller, trying to keep him arms' length from all the books. We looked at a beautiful new book of historic Tulsa photos, including many from downtown's heyday. (There's a picture of a tree-shaded art deco cafe that once stood between 14th and 15th on Boston; wish I could just step into that photo.) The toddler was worried when I put on a set of headphones in the music department, but enjoyed taking all the "Cars" DVDs off the shelf as he made his "b-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-m" car sound.

While we roamed the aisles, the big kids had their picture taken with the advertising board for the book, listened to a classical ensemble play movie themes, watched a magic show, and listened to a bit of the live feed from the B&N on New York's Union Square, where the narrator of the audio books was giving a reading.

J. as Harry PotterWhen the toddler and I grew weary of steering between shelves and people, we strollered down to Reasor's -- I bought him a banana and some cookies and got myself a Coke Zero.

When I told a co-worker how we'd be spending our evening, she told me that she was allergic to hype. Normally, I am, too. But it's fun to be part of a kind of mass event, in this day of hundreds of TV channels and millions of websites.

And as mass events go, this one isn't bad. It marks the end of an excellent series of children's fiction, and there's been a minimum of standing in line.

Of course, it helps when your son is a powerful wizard.

UPDATE: They had the seven winners line up at the registers about 5 minutes before the boxes could be opened. We watched them open the first boxes, and my son got his book right at 12:01. I threw in a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. We paid, left triumphant, and headed to Shades of Brown for something to drink. I read the first couple of chapters to my son there. (We read the first book together, before he zoomed ahead of me and worked through the remaining books in short order.)

One of my favorite columnists, Paul Greenberg of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, remembers editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette, who died last week in a car accident. Greenberg ponders the state of editorial cartooning and relays a pointed quote from Marlette about his profession.

Doug Marlette wasn't just a newspaper cartoonist but a newspaper critic in his way. In his memory, the rest of us in this business would do well to keep in mind some criticism he offered in an interview with Jeff MacNelly's daughter, Kristy Shumaker, when she interviewed him in 2003:

"We've bred this generation of Eddie Haskells, parent-pleasers, suck-ups, careerists that's hurting cartooning as well as newsrooms.... The irony is, readers are falling away, and newspapers can't figure it out as they reward blandness, homogenize the product, dull it down and drain all the humanness out of it."

Newspapers have a lot of competition these days, and have had since radio and television preceded the Internet on the scene. But we have no more serious threat than our own, fatal craving for respectability. Especially when it swells into pomposity. Or a fearful neutrality, as if we were afraid of taking sides. Doug Marlette didn't have any problem along those lines; he was willing to offend all sides.

Here's trusting that Doug Marlette isn't resting in peace at all, but still giving the haters hell.

Tulsa has plenty of pomposity, but the Whirled participates in it when it should be puncturing it. Someone once said that a newspaper's job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Sad to say, Marlette's final employer has been getting that backward for the better part of the last 102 years.

Alas, I didn't have a sitter, so I had to miss out on Tuesday night's Absolute Best of Tulsa (ABoT) party at the Petroleum Club. I didn't find out until tonight, when I finally had a chance to pick up a copy of the latest issue, but I won an Urby this year. Urban Tulsa Weekly readers have named me Best Blogger in the 2007 Absolute Best of Tulsa awards. Thanks to everyone who voted for me.

For the record, I didn't vote for myself. I voted for Mee.

MORE: Here's a link to a PDF of the 2007 Absolute Best of Tulsa special section.

Here are a couple of new blogs dealing with specific aspects of public policy in Oklahoma:

Two Tulsa attorneys Matthew B. Free and J. Spencer Bryan have set up a blog called Opinions from Oklahoma & the Northern District, providing summaries of and links to recent decisions by the Federal Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma and the appellate courts of the State of Oklahoma. They also have a useful set of links to court websites and other online legal resources, including nationally-known legal blogs.

Their most recent entry is about the Oklahoma Supreme Court's denial of certiorari in the lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma Education Association and the Jenks, Foyil, and Western Heights against the state legislature:

The plaintiffs alleged that the legislature thereby deprived school children of a constitutional right to a uniform opportunity to receive a "basic, adequate education according to standards set by the legislature, and deprived school districts of the ability to fulfill their constitutional and statutory duties to meet "contemporary educational standards established for every child."

In a nutshell, the OEA and the Jenks school board wanted the courts to take over the state education system and force state taxpayers to fork over another $4 billion.

And government-funded education -- and the seemingly insatiable appetites of school administrators at every level of government -- is the topic of another new blog. I've been the recipient, along with every reporter in Tulsa covering the education beat, of many an e-mail from Stan Geiger. His columns by e-mail were always well written, well reasoned and full of tempered outrage at the tax-funded education establishment. After getting a few of these e-mails, I strongly encouraged him to start a blog: Rather than lobby media people to cover the issues that concern you, become a part of the new media and make your analysis directly available to the public.

At last Stan has a blog, and he's writing about city and county politics as well as education at all levels.

You'll find both linked in the sidebar, and links to new posts will show up on my NewsGator page.

As I've mentioned briefly, last month I visited Britain with my son, who was part of the Tulsa Boy Singers' first international tour in many years. The boys performed at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, at York Minster, and at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, in London ("the Actors' Church"), and they also sang a couple of anthems in Durham Cathedral, near the tomb of English church historian St. Bede. The tour also took us to Stirling and Oxford.

The photos I took of the Tulsa Boy Singers' tour are up on Flickr. I used Flickr's very cool map feature to pin down the locations of each photo as best I could. You can click "Map" on an individual photo page, and it will show you where it was taken.

I also took video of at least one anthem at each performance, and these have been posted at Google Video. I was using the Canon S3 IS to shoot both stills and videos, and it's not the easiest thing to hold still for long periods. Someday, when I find a decent video editing package, I'll edit a slide show of still images over the shaky and jerky parts of the video.

Here's video of two of my favorite anthems -- Thomas Tallis's "O Nata Lux and Richard Farrant's "Lord, for Thy Tender Mercies' Sake" -- in the north transept of York Minster, the largest Gothic church north of the Alps.

TBS is always looking for new singers. If you have a son eight years or older who loves to sing, learn more at tulsaboysingers.org. You'll find phone and e-mail contact information on the website.

This may look like a souvenir from my recent trip to Britain with my 10-year-old for the Tulsa Boy Singers choir tour, but it's not, although the trip reawakened an interest in it.

IMG_2583

This is The London Game, a strategy game based on a map of the London Underground. The object is to be the first to travel to six tourist destinations and return to your starting point at one of London's main railway stations. There are "hazard" cards that either delay you or allow you to delay another player. Each "souvenir" card has a drawing and a description of the point of interest and the name of the nearest Tube station.

I remember playing this game with a friend of mine when we were probably 10 or 11. His family subsequently put it in a garage sale or otherwise disposed of it. I had always thought it would be a fun board game to have.

Three times in the past I've been to the London Transport Museum gift shop in Covent Garden, and three times I've balked at paying the asking price, not to mention wondering if I had room and sufficient spare weight in my luggage for the box. Last month, the museum shop had a special edition in a metal box for the low, low price of 25 pounds sterling -- about $50, and too dear for me. Once back home, I checked eBay and found a copy of the 1972 edition. I was the only bidder and price and shipping combined came to $15.

While my wife and our 10-year-old went to hear Weird Al Yankovic in concert last Friday, and after I put the 18-month-old to bed, the six-year-old and I played the game a couple of times. We opted not to use the station blocking rule and instead concentrated on getting familiar with where everything is on the board and how the basic rules work.

We added a rule that you have to say the name of each station as you pass through it. I figure it'll help the kids learn to pronounce Gloucester, Leicester, and Tottenham correctly and how to interpret a map and plan a route, and we'll all build a mental map of London which will come in handy when we go back as a family someday. There have been a few changes to the Tube map since 1972, but not many to the central London section that makes up the game board.

London Game closeup

We had fun playing it, and we each won a round. I'll have to try the more cut-throat version, where you can block stations to delay your opponents, with the 10-year-old.

Thomas Sowell aims his laser-like brain at the situation in Iraq and how political decisions led to the current messy situation and how stateside political pressures are about to make things worse.

Here's the heart of the column:

Nations cannot be built.

You can transplant institutions from one country to another, but you cannot transplant the history and culture from which the attitudes and traditions evolved that enable those institutions to work.

It took centuries for democracy to evolve in the Western world. Yet we tried to create democracy in Iraq before we created the security — the law and order — that is a prerequisite for any form of viable government.

Having made democracy the centerpiece of the reconstruction of postwar Iraq, Americans have been hamstrung by the inadequacies of that government and the fact that our military could not simply ignore the Iraqi government when its politicians got in the way of restoring law and order.

People will support tyranny before they will support anarchy. Both can be avoided by creating an interim government based on competence, rather than on its being an embodiment of democratic ideals.

Sowell gives several examples of nations that weren't at all democratic 50 years ago but are there now or are at least headed in that direction.

Hong Kong under British rule is an example of how a society can have freedom and stability without democracy. Hong Kong was ruled from London, and the residents of the Crown Colony had no say in their laws or leaders at all until the last few years before the handover to China. But life, liberty, and property were protected by due process of law. If you entered into a contract, you knew it could be enforced. Economic activity was generally free from heavy-handed regulation. The colony thrived and was an enclave of liberty.

It was a mistake for US politicians to hold elections and create a new Iraqi government as quickly as it did. And before anyone blames the neo-cons, the idea that free and fair elections are all you need to create a free society has a long pedigree, going all the way back to Woodrow Wilson. The notion that occupation should be brief, and that elected locals should be put in charge as soon as possible, is an article of faith in Western foreign policy that dates back to the decolonization movement that followed World War II.

What we should have done is to treat Iraq and Afghanistan as trust territories -- not owned like a colony, to be exploited for its resources, but held in trust for the peoples of those nations, governed by the US with a view to their long-term interests. Democracy would come eventually, but not until the rule of law was well established.

Sowell's assessment of the problems with too quickly reestablishing a democratic form of government doesn't mean that he supports leaving now, and he makes a pointed diagnosis of the intentions of some members of Congress:

What has gone right is that the Iraq war is already over. Our troops won it. But our politicians may once more lose the peace — and with disastrous consequences for us and for the world.

Peace has not been achieved in Iraq, though pacification continues — always at a cost in American lives — and shows signs of progress, much to the dismay of those who have bet their political future on an American defeat.

Defeatists have not yet had the courage to directly ensure defeat by cutting off the money to continue military operations in Iraq.

That would be taking responsibility for the defeat. What would serve their political purpose better would be to legislate preconditions for the spending of military appropriations that would make defeat inevitable, but let it be seen as Bush’s defeat, not theirs.

Bartlesville Playground Kiddie Park Little FireballGood news: I mentioned that we drove by the Bartlesville Playground -- the Kiddie Park -- this last Saturday to see how it was affected by the flooding of the Caney River, the worst since 1986. KOTV is reporting that they're in the process of cleaning and repairing everything and have hopes of reopening by August 1.

The Kiddie Park holds a special place in my memory -- as a small child, I lived about two blocks away -- and now it's a special place to my children as well. I remember taking our oldest there when he was barely three, watching him riding in the boats, pulling the rope to ring the bell, and remembering what it felt like to be there when I was his size. The toddler is big enough to ride this year, and I know he'll love it too.

A couple of summers ago our family visited my wife's uncle and his family in Little Rock. He raises AKC Registered German Shepherds on a farm north of Little Rock. His dogs have been trained for police and drug work, home and family protection, and as companion animals for the elderly and disabled. We spent time around some of the dogs at their city house and the puppies out at the farm. They were sweet-natured and affectionate animals.

My wife's uncle has just learned that he won't be able to care and train the dogs for a while. His family is looking to sell the puppies they have as quickly as they can. The puppies are around six to seven months' old.

If you are interested in purchasing and could provide a good home for a German Shepherd with these qualities, please contact me by e-mail at blog -at- batesline -dot- com. Please DO NOT use the contact information on the farm's website at this time.

This is how he describes his dogs' heritage and character:

When we bought our breeding stock we required the following:
  1. Temperament. The dog must be gentle and loving to all members of the family especially children.
  2. Courage. If the dog senses that you are in danger it must get between you and that danger and do what is necessary to chase it away and not follow it after it runs away.
  3. Size. We did not want giants, but we wanted large dogs that can do their jobs.
  4. Conformation. We required that all dogs have excellent conformation by a German judge.
  5. Color. We have about all German Shepherd colors except white.

Here's how he describes the training program:

  • All puppies are born in someone's home
  • Puppies are handled daily to imprint a good temperament and trust
  • The dogs are worked with daily to develop courage, love and trust
  • The dogs are developed to be loving family pets and strong protectors

No home protected by one of his dogs has ever been burglarized, and no owner has ever been injured by an intruder or the dog.

If you have a good home for a loyal canine companion, please send me an e-mail ASAP at blog at batesline dot com.

Along the Del Rio sector of Texas's border with Mexico, the Customs & Border Patrol is actually prosecuting illegals who immigrate for economic reasons, and they're finding it makes it easier to spot and deal with those who immigrate for nefarious purposes. According to Chief Agent Randy Hill:

“Our number one priority is protecting our border from terrorists, then criminal aliens, and third drug interdiction. What Operation Streamline has done is removed the ‘clutter’ of economic refugees from our primary mission. When we relieve ourselves of dealing with a large influx of economic refugees, it allows us to concentrate on border security priorities,” he said.

“Economic refugees” in the Del Rio sector are mostly Mexican and “Other Than Mexican” or OTMs, illegally entering the country looking for better paying jobs and opportunity. The CBP uses the term “economic refugee” to differentiate between a unarmed, non-dangerous illegal alien and what they call a “criminal alien,” or an illegal alien with a criminal rap sheet in the U.S. or some other country. Operation Streamline has reduced the flow of economic refugees to almost a trickle. Apprehensions for the Eagle Pass area of the sector are down a whopping 77 percent this fiscal year. Across the sector, apprehensions are down 61 percent this year.

Illegal entry comes with a sentence of two to four weeks in jail, followed by deportation. Re-entry after deportation is a felony and could bring a sentence of up to two years. Those arrested are fingerprinted, and a background check is done. They appear before a Federal judge within three days of arrest.

You're probably wondering what I was wondering -- you mean that wasn't already being done? Here's the typical sequence of events prior to Operation Streamline:

  1. Apprehension in the field.
  2. In-process at CBP field office.
  3. Suspect given a future court date for removal purposes and the defendant signs a promise to appear. Defendant released on own recognizance into the U.S. if OTM. Most Mexican nationals were transported and released in Mexico. Most OTM defendants were never seen again.
  4. Prosecution was reserved for violent offenders, gang members, suspected narcotics smugglers, and those with a history of repeated immigration offenses.

(Via MamaAJ in the comments at Hot Air.)

I came across an item about Tulsa-based blogs while looking for info about Tulsa's Coliseum -- the stories were on the same page in the April 2007 Tulsa People.

Writer Andy Wheeler mentions this blog and two others: Indie Tulsa, which spotlights locally owned businesses and Alternative Tulsa, an left-leaning anonymous political blog. Included in the list of blogs is a non-blog, the Voices of Tulsa forum, founded and run by MeeCiteeWurkor.

It looked like they intended to do a monthly feature of Tulsa-related web links, but I don't see that it continued in more recent issues.

But there was this piece, in their Tulsarama-themed June edition, showing how the price of a home, a gallon of gas, college tuition, a postage stamp, and a movie ticket had changed since 1957. Family income rose faster than the official rate of inflation, and University of Tulsa tuition rose at five times the rate of inflation. (A year at TU would be $4,334 today if it had kept pace with the cost of living. Instead it's $20,669.)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics online Consumer Price Index calculator, 100.00 in 1957 has the same buying power as 735.54 in 2007.

One of my earliest blog entries was about a brief visit four years ago to Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas, on the way home from seeing my cousin graduate from Lawrence High School.

Kiddy Land, Independence, Kansas

Last Saturday, my uncle was celebrating his 50th birthday, so I drove myself and the toddler north, stopping in Riverside Park for a couple of hours on the way up. (There were also the requisite Sonic stops -- three in all.) We spent some time looking at the animals in the Ralph Mitchell Zoo (did you know porcupines could climb?), letting the toddler explore Kiddy Land, a nursery-rhyme themed playground created by the local Lions Club, walking through the big kids' playground, admiring the statue of a corythosaurus (a bit of Forgotten New York from the 1964 World's Fair), riding the carousel (still just a nickel) and the train (only a quarter), and envying the crowds cooling off at the city's water park.

FUN-FUL ladder casts shadows, Riverside Park, Independence, Kansas

In that earlier entry, I described in detail the wonderful old-fashioned playground equipment, much of it bearing the FUN-FUL brand. These are playground pieces you don't see in parks anymore for fear of litigation. This time I took photos and posted them on Flickr.

FUN-FUL slides, Independence, Kansas

I should note that it was a pleasant surprise that we were able to ride the train and carousel. That was the last Saturday afternoon for the carousel and train to be running; the weather is getting too hot. I believe they still will run on Sunday afternoons, but the rest of the week only from 6:30 to 9:30.

Our route took us through the area along the Oklahoma-Kansas border that was so badly flooded only a week ago. Johnstone Park in Bartlesville was closed, but people were at work in the Bartlesville Playground (the Kiddie Park) getting it cleaned up. (The park was not yet open for business.) Highway 123 between Bartlesville and Dewey is flood-prone; the old KWON studios were built on stilts. A big tent, the kind used for outdoor sales or wedding receptions, was set up in front of the old radio station, and the stain from the flood reached at least two feet higher than where the roof met the sides -- probably 10 feet above the ground. Mud stains on the trees lining the highway told the same story.

Further north in Kansas, we could see where flood waters had matted down corn fields. The east side of Coffeyville, which we passed through on the way home, nearest the Verdigris River, was like a ghost town. Only the lights along the main road were lit; all other buildings were dark, and the flood stain reached five or six feet up the sides of the buildings.

We also took a detour into Chanute on the way home, in search of a place to buy gas and rest for a minute or two. I was surprised to see how lively the downtown was at about 11:00 p.m. The center of activity seemed to be Fire Escape, a spacious and inviting Christian coffee house on Main Street. (Had I not had a sleepy toddler, I'd have dropped in.)

Some years ago, the Kansas highway department rerouted US 169 to bypass most towns between Coffeyville and Kansas City. They did such a good job, it's often hard to know when you're passing a town. Chanute signed its own business route to help travelers find their way off the main road, through town, and back to the highway.

The toddler slept for the first half of the trip home, but he stayed awake after we stopped. We listened to Bob Wills, and I passed him back his water cup, Pringles, and rolls that my uncle sent home with us.

I'm going to repeat a question I asked after our drive through Kansas four years ago:

I am a proud Oklahoman, and yet I can't help but notice a quality and pride in these Kansas towns that I don't see in towns of similar size in Oklahoma. These Kansas towns seem to be surviving and thriving, while many similar towns in Oklahoma are on the wane, with Main Streets falling into disrepair, storefronts vacant or filled with sub-optimal uses and public spaces showing signs of neglect. The pride I've observed in Kansas I've also seen in many parts of Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Illinois. What accounts for the difference?

What do you think?

MORE: FUN-FUL playground equipment was made by General Playground Equipment, Inc. of Kokomo, Indiana, a successor to the Hill-Standard Company of 116 Fun-Ful Avenue, Anderson, Indiana. Here's the story of one man's effort to save a spiral slide in Burlington, Iowa, that was made by the company and which had been installed in the 1920s.

I just came across a blog called Medicine Park Posts, which is devoted to the historic resort town of Medicine Park, Oklahoma. The town was founded 99 years ago and is a few miles north of Lawton and Fort Sill, and just east of the entrance to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. The town sits in a shady valley along Medicine Creek and is famous for the number of buildings made of cobblestones. It's a pretty place, and it reminds me a bit of Luckenbach in the Texas Hill Country. The people there seem very serious about making it a destination once again while preserving its history.

Medicine Park Posts has the happy news that the old Medicine Park Music Hall is open for business once again and serving food, with plans to offer live entertainment in the near future. (They serve cheddar-garlic biscuits -- reason enough to stop in.)

For newcomers to town, this post explains the etiquette of small-town covered dish suppers.

Needless to say, I'm disappointed with last night's results, but I'm going to save most of my commentary for my column, and I've got some family-related entries I want to post. I'm not so much disappointed in the vote to buy OTC as in the reasons the councilors gave for voting yes. In the end, costs only mattered to one councilor: John Eagleton. In this vote, and in previous votes on the budget, he seems to be the only one who thinks through the full financial implications of his decisions. Councilor Cason Carter's solution only protects the City on the income side, and that not completely, as a master leaseholder could very well go bankrupt, leaving the City holding the bag. Councilor Bill Martinson's worse-case (not worst-case) estimate still uses Staubach's S.W.A.G. for the cost of current operations, not the City's actual expenditures, which would be a findable number that would have given them a firm basis for knowing the bottom-line impact on the City's general fund. It is disturbing that they would go ahead without those numbers.

For more commentary and sound bites from the meeting, you can download the podcasts from this morning's KFAQ Mornings show. Gwen Freeman and Chris Medlock talked over the Council's decision during the pre-show and in hour 1. During hour 2, they spent a segment with the Thomas More Law Center discussing government accommodation of Muslim rituals, then spent the second segment talking with me and Aaron Griffith about the vote on purchasing One Technology Center. In hour 3, I had a few more things to say, and we took calls from listeners.

The City Council meeting will be on again on TGOV -- Cox Cable Tulsa channel 24 -- at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.

A week or so ago, I e-mailed Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn through his website regarding the Copyright Royalty Board's decision to raise royalty rates on Internet webcasters, retroactive to 2006, a decision that endangers small Internet-only broadcasters as well as on-line streaming of over the air content (e.g., WFMU). His reply is below. I appreciate the fact that Sen. Coburn has obviously examined the issue and given it some thought:

Dear Mr. Bates,

Thank you for contacting me with your support for the Internet Radio Equality Act of 2007 (S. 1353). I appreciate your input.

On March 9, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) issued a decision that establishes a statutorily mandated standard for royalty rates for commercial and non-commercial Webcasters. The new rates represent an extension of the "willing buyer/willing seller" standard. Under the CRB decision, Internet Webcasters must pay an annual non-refundable $500 fee for a set level of listening hours. Moreover, both commercial and non-commercial Internet Webcasters will be charged 8 cents per song retroactively back to 2006, with the rate gradually climbing until 2010.

The new rate does not include a special exception for small Webcasters. The CRB considered a small Webcasters proposal where the fee structure would be based on total revenues. The CRB rejected the proposals because:

"[S]mall commercial webcasters focus on the amount of the fee, rather than how it should be structured, is further underlined by the absence of evidence submitted by this group to identify a basis for applying a pure revenue-based structure to them. While, at times, they suggest that their situation as small commercial webcasters requires this type of structure, there is no evidence in the record about how the Copyright Royalty Judges would delineate between small webcasters and large webcasters."

As you know, the Internet Radio Equality Act would essentially nullify the CRB's March royalty rate decision and would allow the Internet Webcasters to choose from two payment standards: either 7.5 percent of total revenues received by Webcasters during that year that are directly related to the provider's digital transmissions of sound recordings or 33 cents per hour of sound recordings transmitted to a single listener.

It is my understanding the U.S. Court of Appeals has been asked to review the CRB's decision. I would like to wait until the courts have reviewed the decision before considering legislative action on this issue. I instinctively believe in free markets and competition and a level playing field for all types of radio broadcasts. Government intervention deters risk takers, hoards financial resources and interferes with the efficient allocation of resources. With that said, I believe the best solution to this problem would be for Webcasters to negotiate directly with sound recording copyright owners.

Internet radio, particularly small Webcasters, provide another format for the public to access free music, news and public safety information. I understand the substantial harm these new royalty fees will cause many small Webcasters and that they could potentially put them out of operation. I would like to see a solution to this problem that will allow Webcasters of all sizes to continue streaming their broadcasts over the Internet.

I will closely monitor this issue with your views in mind. Again, thank you for writing me. Should you have any additional concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Tom Coburn
United States Senator

TC: swm

Ron of Route 66 News evaluates one of Lady Bird Johnson's legacies:

But the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which restricted billboards along our nation’s highways, proved to be damaging to Route 66 businesses when they were struggling to survive amid the continuing rise of the interstates.

These Mother Road businesses were struggling enough against the chains. Restricting the use of billboards — a crucial advertising tool — made it harder....

[R]ich and powerful companies managed to skirt the law, while many mom-and-pop businesses didn’t have the influence to so.

From family trips back in the early '70s, I remember the stark difference between driving the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes and the Indian Nations Turnpike. The Turner and Will Rogers were built in the '50s and had many signs (evidently grandfathered) pointing to nearby Route 66 businesses like the Thurman Motel, Buffalo Ranch, and the Lincoln Motel, along with the requisite notice to save your appetite for a free 72 oz. steak dinner in Amarillo.

The Indian Nations Turnpike, built after Ladybird's Law, had no signs. This meant there was nothing to entice a passing traveler to venture off the highway, no indication that, for example, the McAlester exit could lead him to a land of hearty Okie-style Italian food. A traveler wouldn't know anything about available service stations or accommodations that might be just a few hundred yards away from the turnpike.

For kids, the Highway Beautification Act meant no practical way to play the Alphabet Game.

At some point, states began posting official exit services signs, with little logos to notify the traveler of available restaurants, gas stations, and motels. Of course, this favored the chains as well: An out-of-state motorist would know exactly what to expect from seeing a McDonald's or Cracker Barrel logo, but a logo isn't enough for a local cafe to tell you about its chicken fried steaks and pies.

(Then there was the case of the Okie Gal Restaurant in California, which wasn't even allowed space on the exit services sign because the highway department deemed "Okie" a derogatory term.)

Ron praises Lady Bird's work on behalf of wildflowers, as does Joshua Trevino, writing at National Review Online. You could see the wildflower and anti-sign initiatives as consistent, both favoring the natural over the man-made, but there is also something contradictory about them: Wildflowers are a kind of rebellion of local color against the monotony and standardization of a perfectly green, perfectly manicured right-of-way. But ads along the highway are also a splash of local color, a hint about the distinctive qualities of the next town and the people who live there.

Marvin Olasky mentions in passing another example of the damage caused by "beautifiers":

Coney Island, part of New York City, is famous in American literature and film. In "The Great Gatsby," Gatsby invites Nick to go to Coney Island, and in Clara Bow's 1927 silent film "It," the neighborhood's amusement park is practically a co-star. After 1950, though, waves of officials such as New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses looked down on the "tawdry" amusements that characterized the boardwalk area. They pulled strings to substitute tawdry housing projects that became gang havens.

Coney Island went through bad decades, but even bureaucrats can't take away the ocean, and the beachfront location has inspired some entrepreneurs to ignore planners' sandcastles and attempt to develop new small businesses and privately owned housing.

Tulsa has had its share of destructive "beautifiers": The barrenness of the Civic Center, the Williams Center, and the OSU-Tulsa campus parking lots are their legacies.

Tonight at their regular 6:00 p.m. meeting, the Tulsa City Council will decide whether to authorize the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority (TPFA) to borrow the money -- $76 million -- to buy One Technology Center and to pay for consolidating city offices in that building. Because the financing will be sole-source -- seller-financed -- it will require seven affirmative votes from the city council to pass.

Proponents of the move talk about how a shiny new City Hall would improve the image of the City of Tulsa. I agree that the image of the City is important, but the true image of the City isn't shaped by the appearance of city government's headquarters building, which few of Tulsa's nearly 400,000 residents and few of our visitors will ever see.

The image of Tulsa's city government is not to be found in the City Hall building. Our citizens and visitors see it in our crime statistics, in the smoothness (or lack thereof) of our streets, in whether our pools are in good repair and open for use, in whether our building codes are enforced, in whether our parks are mowed. The public interacts with city government on our streets and in our parks and neighborhoods, and those places, not City Hall, shape their perception of Tulsa as a place to live, visit, and do business.

This deal should be measured by one standard: Will it leave the City with more money or less money available to fund the basic functions of city government?

Based on the numbers in the Staubach Company's report and the analysis of those numbers by Councilor Bill Martinson, there is a high risk that the move will leave the City of Tulsa with less money for police and parks and streets. If one of the current tenants leaves or even reduces its presence, if we are unable to find a replacement tenant who will pay the same price, if rental revenue is less than debt service on the loan, the City will have to make up the difference out of its operating budget. This deal would make the City of Tulsa a competitor in the commercial real estate industry, rolling the dice in a risky business, and using our mortgage money to place the bet.

To shift metaphors, this deal is a house of cards, and if any one of several contingencies fails to occur, the whole thing collapses.

The only facts that matter are these numbers -- how much it costs to operate our current facilities, how much it will cost to operate One Technology Center, how much it will cost to repay the loan on OTC, and how much we are likely to be paid in rent from third-party tenants.

The Council has not been given a full and detailed accounting of the cost of operating our current facilities. This information is surely available in our accounting system -- how much we pay custodial staff, how much we spend on utilities, the cost of repair projects -- based on actual expenditures over the last few fiscal years. Instead, Staubach prepared a sheet estimating cost per square foot for broad categories -- utilities, repairs, security, etc. -- and then multiplied by the sum of those per square feet numbers by the size of our buildings. The $24 million claimed as deferred maintenance costs are buried somewhere in Staubach's per-square-foot figures.

The Council has not been provided with a list of deferred maintenance items, the cost of each one, and the likelihood of needing to fund those items in the near future. Each such item should have a basis of estimate, explaining the work to be done and the manpower and material required. Instead, in response for their request for a detailed list, the Council was given the names of the items and a single number covering the cost of all of them.

With this lack of detail, it would be easy for Staubach to pick numbers for estimates that would make staying in the existing facilities seem to be more expensive than moving. And don't forget that Staubach gets paid more if the deal goes through, so they'd have an incentive to make the existing facilities look as expensive as possible.

The Council should not approve this deal without an accurate apples-to-apples comparison of costs showing that the move will be less expensive in the near term.

MORE: Jeff Shaw has a better idea for One Technology Center.

Laugh of the Day: "'I'm going to live in Tulsa the rest of my life,' [Kathy] Taylor says." Home is where the homestead exemption is.

The news is depressing, so let's turn to music for some relief.

Ever wondered how virtuosi like Herb Remington, Leon McAuliffe, Santo and Johnny, Noel Boggs, and Bobby Koefer tease those sweet sounds out of their steel guitars?

Steel guitarist Rick Alexander has posted a series of song and technique videos on YouTube demonstrating the non-pedal steel guitar -- sometimes called lap steel or console steel. Instead of having a series of pedals to alter the pitch of the strings, non-pedal steel guitar usually has multiple necks -- sets of six or eight strings, tuned differently -- enabling the player to switch between keys without retuning the instrument.

All the videos are shot from above, so you get a good view of what he's doing with his picks and steel bar, and in the instructional videos he carefully explains every move he makes.

Here's the eight-minute course intro -- Steel Basics 101:

And here's Rick playing a Hawaiian number, "Song of the Islands":

Rick Alexander has teamed up with Texas Playboy Herb Remington to produce "Tuff Fun Tab," a book of 12 songs hand-annotated with Herb's chords and tablature and accompanied by a CD with two versions of each song -- one with Herb on steel, and one with backup only by Rick's band. It includes "Steel Guitar Rag," "Maiden's Prayer," "Love Me Tender," and "Song of the Islands."

This little detail from the Wikipedia bio of the Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny, made me smile:

When they were very young, their dad was drafted into the Army and stationed in Oklahoma. There (on the radio) he heard this beautiful music. It was the sound of the steel guitar and he wrote home to his wife and said "I’d like the boys to learn to play this instrument."

I like to think Mr. Farina was listening to this guy over KVOO -- from "Steel Guitar Rag" to "Sleepwalk" in one generation.

Sad news. Tulsa World editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette was killed this morning in a single-car accident in Mississippi when the car in which he was a passenger hydroplaned and struck a tree. Marlette had previously been with the Charlotte Observer, the Atlanta Constitution, and Newsday, and the writer and artist for the comic strip Kudzu, a gentle satire of Southern small-town life. According to a story on the World's website, he was returning from his father's funeral in North Carolina and on the way to visit friends in Oxford, Miss.

Marlette began drawing for the World in February 2006, and he was a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he lived.

Condolences to his family and his colleagues at the World.

MSNBC.com has the story of the completion of Boeing's first 787. It worth looking back four years ago to when Tulsans were told that this event might happen here.

Back in 2003, as part of Vision 2025, Tulsa County voters approved $250 million in loans and $100 million in grants to Boeing to try to lure the final assembly plant for the 7E7 (as it was then known) to Tulsa. The local $350 million package was on top of a secret amount of state incentives. Although the Boeing corporate welfare tax was a standalone proposition, the urgency of Boeing's decision (which was ultimately announced in December 2003) was used as a pretext to put the "Vision" tax package on the ballot, including the twice rejected arena. The Boeing proposal lent a thin veneer of plausibility to the claim that Vision 2025 would fix our unemployment problem in the short-term, even though the jobs that had been lost -- over 20,000 high-tech telecom jobs -- wouldn't have been replaced if Boeing had brought 800 factory jobs to town.

Lacking a deep-water port, direct Pacific Ocean access for aircraft components being shipped from Japan, and a corps of tens of thousands of experienced Boeing assembly workers, Tulsa was never a likely site for a Boeing final assembly plant, but the slight possibility served the interests of those who wanted at long last to get their new downtown arena. Tulsa County residents were worried about the future of Tulsa's economy, and 60% were willing to "do something" -- anything -- in hopes it might help, so they voted for all the propositions without considering the long term effects of a large, mostly empty arena on already strained city budgets. The outrageously large subsidy per job and the unlikelihood of the subsidy winning Boeing's heart didn't make a difference to a majority of the electorate.

Today MSNBC had a very thorough front-page report on its website about Tulsa and illegal immigration. The story, "Tulsa in Turmoil: The Illegal Immigration Wreck," originated with an email from Rogers State University political science professor Gary Rutledge, an east Tulsa resident who wrote msnbc.com about a traffic accident involving an apparent illegal immigrant and about the massive changes in his part of town:

For Rutledge, a car accident personalized the issue. He and his wife were waiting in their pickup at a traffic light one evening when they were hit from behind by a vehicle traveling about 30 miles an hour. They were not badly hurt, only stunned.

More shocking, though, was what they heard from the police officer who responded to the accident: The other driver, a young Hispanic man, did not speak English, did not have a driver’s license or insurance. The officer suspected the man was an illegal immigrant, Rutledge said, but he did not check his immigration status because such inquiries weren’t allowed in misdemeanor cases.

Before taking the other driver to jail, Rutledge said, the officer told him he should just go home and forget about it.

“He said, ‘We do a lot of this kind of thing and we can tell you that there's not much to be done about it,’” Rutledge recalled.

It’s not clear what happened to the suspect after that. Tulsa police were not able to locate an accident report on the incident.

But officers said that the maximum penalty the man could have faced for driving without a license, a misdemeanor, would be 30 days in jail. Driving without insurance is only a ticketable offense.

Rutledge said he was floored by the experience. Not only would his own insurance company have to absorb the cost for repairing his truck, but the other driver was soon going to be back on the streets.

“It was … a feeling of helplessness,” he said. “There's no recourse, there's nothing to do.”

The MSNBC.com report also covers the passage of HB 1804, the application by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office to participate in the Federal "287(g)" program allowing local law enforcement agencies to place immigration detainers on suspected illegals, the efforts of U. S. Rep. John Sullivan to boost immigration enforcement in Tulsa, and the City Council's resolution demanding immigration status checks on those arrested by Tulsa Police officers:

Sullivan, among the Republicans strongly opposed to President Bush’s immigration reform bill as too lenient, also was behind the city’s move to crack down on illegal immigrants.

At his urging, Tulsa’s City Council passed a resolution in May that requires police officers to determine immigration status of “all suspected illegal aliens'' encountered in the course of their regular duties — a significant hardening of the current policy under which only those arrested on felony charges are checked.

The police chief is opposed to the measure, as is Tulsa’s Democratic Mayor Kathy Taylor, who is engaged in a bitter political battle with Sullivan.

Sullivan charges that Tulsa has become a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants under Taylor’s watch because they are usually not reported to the federal immigration officials when they commit minor crimes.

He also argues that by getting police involved in reporting immigration violations, the city will be able to demonstrate the need for an ICE office in Tulsa....

Taylor has refused to sign the council’s resolution and instead issued a “policy clarification” stating that police need only ask about immigration status for felony cases or misdemeanors that result in a trip to jail.

By the way, the Sheriff's Office learned today that they have been accepted into the 287(g) program. Deputies and detention officers will be undergoing training beginning at the end of August. The program will be fully in place by the end of September.

Toward the end of the story, there was this about the Cinco de Mayo protests:

Already, when some 1,500 mostly Hispanic demonstrators marched in East Tulsa on May 5 to protest HB 1804, they encountered an unexpected counterdemonstration, including members of Outraged Patriots and the Tulsa Minuteman Project, one of four organizations in Oklahoma listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “nativist extremist" organizations that target immigrants with their anger, not just immigration policy.

Police were watching the march and counterdemonstration and managed to keep the two sides apart. Only epithets and few eggs were hurled.

The counterdemonstration was widely publicized, announced on radio, and press-released to local media. It was scheduled to begin four hours before and end one hour before the start of the the pro-illegal-immigration demonstration. This is the first I have heard about eggs being thrown by either side.

I've met several members of the Tulsa Minuteman Project and have been to one of their meetings. I haven't seen or heard anything nativist, anti-legal-immigrant, or anti-Hispanic. The only anger I heard -- very mild anger at that -- was directed at the public officials who refuse to enforce immigration laws.

It's always fascinating when you get civic and business leaders speaking more candidly than they normally would in public. Back in February, the Journal Record published a transcript of a panel discussion concerning Arkansas River development in Tulsa.

It was the Square Feet Real Estate Roundtable, and the discussion involved Steve Walman of Walman Commercial Real Estate Services, Gaylon Pinc, an engineer formerly with INCOG and now with PMg, William B. Smith, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association and president of Hydropower International Services International Consultancy, Susan Neal, from Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor's staff. The roundtable was moderated by Bob Parker, vice president of retail leasing and marketing with GBR Properties.

Walman has been involved in two riverfront developments: Riverwalk Crossing on the Jenks side and King's Landing on the Tulsa side. He expressed a sense of betrayal about Vision 2025:

I think the problem I have right now, and for a lot of Tulsans is, in Vision 2025 I voted for a river and I got an arena. I sat three years ago with a city hydrologist when we were doing Riverwalk and considering King's Landing and I said, 'Listen, with $27 million of private money going on this river, it's imperative to know when this low-water dam's going in that was the No. 1 priority of Vision 2025 and is so critical to the catalyst that's going to come.' And we were never sold the reality of the process. As simplistic as my mind works, I think a lot of people thought that 2025 was going to get a low-water dam. What that did was pay for a plan to get a low-water dam and for the last three years we've been told all the reasons why it's not happening.

I don't care for the reasons why we don't get it done. I voted for it. I won't vote for another thing before that low-water dam gets built. And I don't think any Tulsan will. Remember how long it took to get 2025 passed? Nobody had faith that somebody can pull that off. Until we pull that off, I don't think anybody's going to have faith that we're going to do anything else.

Maybe that's cynical business, but every week I've got $27 million worth of shopping centers on a sandbar. And I was told three years. This is a Tulsa problem, not a personal agenda issue. If in 2025 you'd said this is a 10-year process and you don't have the money, it's going to require a lot of these things and there's federal mandates, I'd put a dollar down 2025 wouldn't have passed.

Steve, some of us tried to point out that Vision 2025 was all about the arena, and there wasn't much river funding in the package, and the river funding that was there was contingent on federal funds that were unlikely to materialize. That last point was the subject of a report on KOTV. Not many people listened.

According to Gaylon Pinc, the arena is still getting in the way of river development (emphasis added):

There were two low-water dams envisioned in 2025, but a third of the money that was budgeted, if you will, was hoping that the feds would provide the other two-thirds, with our congressional delegation as powerful as they were. The election has turned that upside down. We will no longer have as much power and influence as we would have, and Congress did not act in time to pass the legislation that would have benefited us.

And then, when the overage went to the arena, that was very disappointing, because early on the overage (referring to Vision 2025 tax revenue rising beyond projections) was really talked about going to the river. And that would have made up the gap. And it's a severe gap. We don't have enough money in Vision, if we used all the money to build even that one south low-water dam. So we need more money from the public to do that, and if we don't get that, it will be much longer than that three-year process that it would take to get it permitted, designed and then start construction.

I am very hopeful, and I will remain optimistic that we will get that money because the public wants river development. I would hope they would understand enough to know the money was short to begin with and we will need more. And all the things that caused the multimillion-dollar overage on the arena - concrete, steel, electrical, manpower - will plague us on the low-water dam costs, too. But we have a couple of years to get to that point.

But Pinc says the money is already there to fix an immediate problem -- the Zink Lake Dam (emphasis added):

The Tennessee Valley Authority is working with the Corps in finding ways to improve dam safety. Zink Dam is a killer dam; firemen, policemen, rescue folks hate it because it is so inviting. So we have Vision money to improve Zink dam and add safety, actually reface the weir downstream. Along with that we have the opportunity to do a whitewater park launching from Zink Lake, and the plume that would also double as a fish passage.

Pinc also talked about the environmental obstacles to a 71st or 81st Street dam and to many possible development sites:

The corridor master plan really only has eight potential dam sites, all of which could be feasible. Some have more challenges than others, such as the ones downstream of I-44 and 71st Street and 81st Street have a Tulsa wastewater plant upstream. No way can you build a dam where it's dominated by wastewater. So, at some point Tulsa might want to think about moving that plant that's past its day.

You know, there are major projects that could hinder riverfront development in certain corridors and that 71st corridor is one of those areas. With Helmerich Park (just south of 71st) the public owns a lot of land, there's a lot of land for development, but the bio-solvents facility across river takes away a lot of developable land for a public use that's probably no longer appropriate for that type of urban setting. But it takes a couple hundred million dollars though to move those facilities to a less visible public location. So who's going to put up that money? It's going to take higher water rates, sewer rates, to do that, but that is going to be an obstacle.

Here's Susan Neal on how Riverwalk Crossing falls short of the ideal of riverfront development (emphasis added):

But it's interesting to me how the community defines riverfront development. If they define it by Riverwalk, which is a wonderful project, acceptable to most people - well, that's different from what many of us around Tulsa County view as real riverfront development, which actually lets you interact and recreate with the river. And that's what makes it costly. If you are dining, you are dining on the river. It's not just a restaurant that you look out and you can see the river. And I think that if it were easy, it would have already been done. But until we can play on it and interact with it, walk alongside it, have a dinner beside it, navigate it on a boat and fish on it, I think we are missing the boat on riverfront development.

This little detail in the piece's introduction of Gaylon Pinc raises all sorts of questions:

When Tulsa County took over that guidance role from INCOG last year, Pinc moved to PMg to continue his participation in the next phases of river studies.

This is no reflection on Pinc, who simply moved where he needed to move in order to stay involved with a project he cares about. But who decided that INCOG would be relieved of its involvement in the plan? Did City of Tulsa officials agree to the change? And when was there a competition to decide who would provide engineering services to the County for the river plan?

Very cool! INCOG now has, on its website, color-coded maps showing zoning classifications, covering Tulsa County and neighboring sections of Creek, Osage, Rogers, and Wagoner Counties.

It's all in PDF, so you will need Acrobat Reader. You'll also need broadband: The files appear to be quite large. Start with the index map, which shows county boundaries, municipal boundaries, major streets, and the township and range grid. Click on the place of interest, and a detailed PDF for the six mile by six mile township will appear.

Township boundaries run along 186th St. N., 126th St. N., 66th St. N., Archer St., 61st St. S., 121st St. S., and 181st St. S. Range boundaries run along 273rd West Ave., 177th West Ave., 81st West Ave., Peoria Ave., Mingo Rd., 193rd East Ave., 289th East Ave. Each map includes about 1/8th of a mile of overlap, so, for example, you can see both sides of Peoria through Brookside, even though Peoria is a boundary between map sections.

Here's the detailed map covering most of midtown.

The detailed map shows streets, lot boundaries, and zoning boundaries and is color coded for major zoning classifications -- green for agricultural, white for single-family residential, brown for multi-family residential, gray for industrial, red for commercial, yellow for office. Blue dashed lines indicate planned unit developments (PUDs), green dashed lines mark overlay districts, such as historic preservation districts. Labels show the legal zoning classification (e.g., RM-3, CS, IM, CBD), which will vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Of course, what you can and cannot do with a piece of land is affected not only by the underlying zoning, but also by any zoning overlay that may exist, the conditions and development standards attached to a PUD, if any, and any special exceptions or variances that may have been granted by the Board of Adjustment; you'll need to visit the INCOG offices to see the detailed records. But for most purposes, this will give you a clear and detailed picture of how our city can be built and rebuilt. The maps are current as of June 2007.

Next on the online wishlist: The comprehensive plan -- even though we're going to replace it, it would be helpful to have the current plan online, including detailed small area plans and master plans covering places like TU, the hospitals, and the Fairgrounds.

While we're wishing, maybe someday Tulsa County could have real estate records available online, navigable via a map. Sure, you can get to them when the library is open, but even then it isn't a user-friendly system. I've heard the reasons why not from our Tulsa County officials -- too expensive, privacy reasons, etc. But the website of Oklahoma County Assessor (and former Republican state representative) Leonard Sullivan provides access to records through a map viewer. Zoom in and click on a parcel, and it shows you who owns the land, how much it was assessed for, the physical description, the legal description (subdivision, block, and lot). A second click, on the account number, brings up a history of transactions, photos and sketches (used by the assessor to evaluate the size and condition of the house as part of assessing its value). Another click takes you to a list of comparable properties or a list of recent sales in the subdivision. It's all a matter of public record, everything the County Assessor's staff uses to do their jobs, and the Oklahoma County Assessor is making it as accessible to the general public as it is to developers and real estate professionals. The only flaw I can spot is that zoning information doesn't appear to be included. If Oklahoma County can do it, surely we can do it in Tulsa.

UPDATE: Commenter JW raises "the BS flag" on Tulsa County officials' cost objections to online land records:

This is nothing more than short sightedness and someone protecting their fiefdom. The state of Oklahoma offers tons of assistance to get counties land records online in a GIS web mapping application. INCOG and Yazel don't have a leg to stand on. Data can be obscured to protect privacy....

The data is already stored in GIS format. All they need is $800 in hardware and $0 in software to make it available online. Their excuses are borderline lies.

Another commenter makes the point that Tulsa County's data "is already made available and used daily by realtors and sites such as Zillow." Currently, a substantial fee has to be paid for access to the county data.

Here's Zillow's page for 2811 S. Columbia Pl., the 18,610 sq. ft., three-story, seven-and-a-half bath home of Mayor Kathy Taylor. If you enter a CAPTCHA code, you can see recent sales and tax data for the property. Zillow doesn't include ownership information, transactions other than sales, or data on non-residential property.

My new UTW column is up, despite the holiday, and it's a first look at the new river tax proposal. A closer look at details will come in a later column; this is a big-picture analysis of the concepts and the politics of the situation.

I want to remind readers that I do not write the headlines or taglines for my columns, and I do not agree with the harsh, sarcastic tone of the tagline written for this column. I am grateful for the willingness of George Kaiser and other Tulsa philanthropists to contribute to the well-being of this city, and my suggestion that direct investment, rather than matching contributions, may be the best way to make the river the kind of place Tulsans want to enjoy is a suggestion made in earnest.

MORE: Last issue OSU political science professor J. S. Maloy wrote a response to my column about Greenwood, its post-riot recovery and its destruction by urban renewal. In this issue, my reply appears, in which I set out the sources on which I relied, should he want to verify what I wrote.

My reply was edited somewhat. Specifically, a different first paragraph was substituted for what I wrote, setting a more pompous and pugnacious tone than I intended. Here is my original first paragraph:

I'm always pleased to know that someone has given one of my columns a close and critical reading, as OSU Political Science Professor J. S. Maloy has done with my column on the rise and fall of the Greenwood district. This aspect of Tulsa history is important but overlooked, so I welcome his interest. I empathize with his disappointment that so little of Greenwood remains. My column was an attempt to use available evidence to explain why things are the way they are.

The rest of the piece appears unchanged, except for a mention of St. Monica's Catholic Church in a list of things that are still standing in "upper Greenwood" -- the few blocks of Greenwood just south of Pine.

NOAA flooding maps

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We're hearing reports of moderate to severe flooding north and east of Tulsa. If you're wondering whether you'll need an ark to complete your Fourth of July travel plans, you can ask NOAA.

The website for the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service has a national map showing all active flood gauges and their current state. Purple means major flooding, red is moderate. Click on the national map and you'll see an area map, and you can then click on an individual gauge to see the flood level in recent days and the predicted level over the next few days. Here's the map for the Tulsa area.

The gauge for the Caney River at Bartlesville shows that the river has crested at 21.45 feet, more than 8 feet above flood stage, but is still about 6 feet shy of the record October 1986 flood. If you'd planned to visit the Kiddie Park, you might want to phone ahead.

Here's a map for NOAA's Arkansas-Red Basin River Forecast Center, which will give you a sense of the extent of flooding around Oklahoma and neighboring states. Not only is there some major flooding in southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma, but also in southwestern Oklahoma and Wichita Falls, just across the Red River in Texas.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol posts road closings due to weather, or you can phone (405) 425-2385 or (888) 425-2385. There are a number of warnings and closings in Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa counties.

Plaza sweet

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To go back to an entry from last Tuesday, if Tulsa's Civic Center Plaza is a bad example of a public space -- in fact is one of many examples of failed plazas that can be found across the country, even in major pedestrian-friendly cities like Boston -- what makes for a good public space?

Back in the 1970s, architect Christopher Alexander and his team set out to identify successful design patterns in the construction of homes, neighborhoods, and cities. One of the patterns was called "Small Public Squares":

A town needs public squares; they are the largest, most public rooms, that a town has. but when they are too large, they look and feel deserted.

The solution was to keep the square to a maximum width of 70 feet. A square could be any length, but the width should be "smaller than you would first imagine." I've seen wider public squares that are successful -- for example, most of Savannah's squares are about 180 feet across on the narrow side, but the space is shaded by tall live oaks, broken up with grass, paths, fountains, and statuary, and every point in the square is with in eyeshot and earshot of the nearest street.

During our trip to Britain, we came across one very lively public square in the City of Durham. On Saturday afternoon, it was packed with people visiting market booths in the square and visiting the shops along the square and in neighboring streets. There was a small teacup ride for children. You could buy candy floss and other treats. The square, about 90 feet wide and 150 feet long, was defined on two sides by buildings with storefronts and the other two sides by narrow streets (at most 15 feet across), with buildings and storefronts on the other side.

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Once again I'm later than I should be in getting this linked....

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about the special Council meeting held on Saturday morning, June 23, to discuss Mayor Taylor's plan to move municipal offices from the current City Hall and other locations to One Technology Center at 1st and Cincinnati. Originally planned to be an executive session, councilors (with my encouragement) chose to discuss as much of the proposal as possible in open session and to defer any confidential matters until the end of the meeting. The meeting left councilors more doubtful than ever about whether the move would be good for city finances in the near term.

I left one interesting facet of the discussion out of the column: Councilor Martinson said he didn't think the Staubach Company had given due consideration to two other options for consolidating city offices: build-to-suit on land already owned by the City or by the Tulsa Development Authority, or a purchase-leaseback arrangement, whereby a private investor would take on the risk of finding tenants for the extra space in the building.

A possible location for build-to-suit would be on TDA-owned land near the Hartford Building between 1st and 2nd, Greenwood and Hartford. Martinson pointed out that a building custom-made and right-sized for city purposes, including requirements for easy public access to certain offices, might well be less expensive, and would be less risky, than a deal that required the city to attract and keep tenants for excess space.

A Whirled story about the plan quoted Martinson's analogy illustrating the problems with buying more building than we need:

"A gallon of milk is a lot cheaper per ounce than a quart. But if you only need a quart and the rest of it goes sour, you've ended up paying more money than what you really needed for the amount of milk you're going to consume."

"Village Sunday"

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Sorry for the recent silence. The 24-hour bug that has been going around town hit our family, too. The toddler had it on Tuesday night, his big brother and sister and mom got it Thursday night, and I had it Friday night. Saturday was a day of quiet recuperation -- everyone was past the worst, and we all lazed around, read, and watched TV.

On YouTube, I just came across a 1960 documentary about Greenwich Village, narrated by author and raconteur Jean Shepherd (the writer and narrator of the classic movie "A Christmas Story"). "Village Sunday" follows a white-gloved young matron from uptown as she explores the Village on a sunny September Sunday afternoon. She stops by a folk music jam session at the Circle in Washington Square, sits for a portrait at a sidewalk art show, negotiates a cobblestone street in heels, tries an Italian sausage at the Feast of San Gennaro, and has listens to a beat poet in a coffee house.

(Mild content warning -- there is some Picasso-type nudity painted on the walls of the coffee house toward the end of the film.)

As I watched the film, it occurred to me that this was the Greenwich Village that Jane Jacobs and others were working so hard to save. Jacobs began work on The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1958, and it was published in 1961. (Over the same period, a strongly anti-urban comprehensive plan for Tulsa was under development.)

Here's one more YouTube video for your enjoyment. Earworms are nothing new. The Hut-Sut Song was a hit in 1941 (you can hear an instrumental version in one of the kitchen scenes of "A Christmas Story"), with its peppy melody and mangled Swedish lyrics. This soundie spoofs the song's infectious quality and features the King's Men, a quartet who performed regularly on the popular "Fibber McGee and Molly" radio show.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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