June 2008 Archives

I very nearly turned my column this week into a sociological study of the denizens of Tulsa's Money Belt and how their behavior is shaped by peer pressure and fear of ostracism. In connection with the Great Plains Airlines bailout, I was thinking about a friend who asked me if my life insurance was paid up and another friend who told me a qui tam taxpayers' demand would never succeed in a Tulsa County courtroom, because no judge would dare cross the powerful entities who were pushing for the City's taxpayers to pay $7.1 million that it did not owe.

I was also thinking of the many times someone would tell me how they opposed this or that initiative or would confirm some speculation of mine about skulduggery in local government. He would be happy to tell me all this privately, but wouldn't dare go on the record: "I have to make a living in this town."

It brought to mind a story by cartoonist Walt Kelly. In 1955, Kelly published the seventh collection of his strip Pogo and the third book which consisted of entirely new material. The Pogo Peek-A-Book included a story called "The Man from Suffern on the Steppes or 1984 and All That: A Russian Tale of Madisonav." In one comic story, Kelly managed to spoof suburban commuters, Madison Avenue, and the Soviet Union.

In the run-up to the Vision 2025 vote, I emailed a series of panels from the story to a fellow TulsaNow board member. I was frustrated by the reluctance of some TulsaNow board members to say publicly what they were saying privately about the flaws in the package that the County Commissioners were putting before the voters. About a draft statement from the board, I wrote, in a July 12, 2003, email:

I have a lengthy comment, in a separate message, about the second draft, but for now, I will let Pogo and Howland Owl speak on my behalf. This is from the Pogo Peek-a-Book (1955), from a story called "The Man from Suffern on the Steppes", about ad men in the USSR. The ad exec (Howland) is having a subversive conversation with the train stationmaster.

Translator's note -- "gummint" == "government"

Lately, a lot of things remind me of one Pogo comic strip or another.

Here is the excerpt:


The next day I sent the following email to the TulsaNow board:

NOTE: I wrote this last night, but network problems prevented sending it until now. Please forgive the length. Indirectly, it addresses some of what Jamie said in his recent message. This morning I had breakfast with someone I was meeting for the first time -- young, energetic, deeply engaged in the community, although a fairly recent arrival -- who, unprompted by me, made very similar observations.

I continue to prefer L___'s original draft, enhanced by specific enumeration of our principles. R___ and W___'s version reads too much like a "vote yes" pamphlet, even if that wasn't intended. Below (far below) is my attempt at a rewrite, which attempts to express the concerns that were voiced without taking sides. I think we ought to explicitly say that we are choosing not to endorse or oppose, rather than allowing people to read in what they like. I also think we should be explicit and honest about the problems we have with the process and its product.

To use the terms of the Pogo cartoon I sent earlier, let's speak our criticisms openly and plainly, not into a bag and disguised as praise. We don't live in the old USSR. We shouldn't be afraid to utter mild criticisms of Tulsa's politburo and nomenklatura. And yet fear is precisely what I detect beneath the surface: Fear of ostracism, fear of exclusion, fear of economic consequences.

This may be a bit impolite to say, but it's there beneath the surface and ought to be dealt with openly. Some of our group work for organizations which are funded by supporters of this package. Others aren't personally dependent, but are involved with organizations that need the funds that the package supporters can offer. Others need the goodwill of city government to conduct business and make a living. Some of us have even been paid to facilitate and promote the vision process and to work for the "vote yes" campaign. Beyond the financial considerations, many members of our group move within a narrow circle of social and organizational connections -- a virtual "small town" within the city, focused on the arts and other non-profit organizations, centered around Utica Square and chronicled by Tulsa People and Danna Sue Walker. As in any small town, some opinions are acceptable and some are not, and speaking your mind risks ostracism.

To those of you who fall in one of these categories (which is very nearly all of us): You have made a valuable contribution to TulsaNow and to the dialog thus far. I don't wish to discount your input regarding this statement, I don't doubt your sincerity, and I appreciate the desire to "make lemonade out of lemons," as J___ put it. But I know how this town works, and you may be feeling the pressure right now to make certain people happy. I ask you to consider that your situation may be leading you to swallow your disappointment and smile for the cameras, rather than speaking openly about both the pros and cons of this package.

The people pushing this package, particularly the sports arena, are bullies. They want what they want, and because they have money and power, they think they have a right to bulldoze anyone who stands in the way. (Why they don't use all that money to build an arena themselves, rather than taxing the food, medicine, and electricity of the working class for it, is an interesting question.) After the 1997 election, an opposition leader was fired from his job with a downtown company, solely because of his opposition. In 2000, the bullies used implicit and explicit threats to silence opposition to "Tulsa Time" and to shut off public debate. Although I am (I thank God) not dependent on local moguls for my income, as an opposition spokesman, I felt the effects as well -- They tried to sway me with a board appointment, there was an attempt to undermine the Midtown Coalition, and they got their revenge on Election Day 2002. (That wasn't just about "Tulsa Time"; it was also because of my support for a meaningful neighborhood role in planning and zoning, something else the bullies don't want. )

The bullying has already begun for 2003. The bullies threatened the Mayor that they would withhold "vote yes" campaign funds if the arena was excluded or made to stand alone on the ballot. They have sent subtly threatening letters to both the Democratic and Republican Party chairmen. Elected officials who opposed the package were afraid to vote their conscience, afraid to speak, afraid to stand alone. Elected officials, holding the power we have granted them, talked of their decision as if they were helpless victims. A university president told me he would have liked to split his project off from the arena, but he wasn't in a position to speak out. Citizens expressing legitimate concerns are labelled "grumps" and "whiners" by the monopoly daily newspaper. The bullies are sending signals that anyone who fails to endorse the package can have no role in deciding how the money will be spent, should it pass (even though it's public money). The image they wish to project is that no respectable person would say a word against this package, much less vote against it. It appears that they will again try to cut off debate -- the Mayor has already backed out of a scheduled joint appearance on OETA with me.

As important as walkable neighborhoods and lively urban centers are -- and I do believe they matter -- I don't believe our city can flourish until we are capable of having a mature public conversation about such an important issue, without threats and arm-twisting. As long as the bullies run the show, we will not have grassroots-based planning; we will not have land use policies that encourage walkable neighborhoods and enlightened development; we will not have a workable historic preservation system; we will not progress in any way, if it means that the bullies must yield control. As long as the bullies are in charge, every vision process will end the same way -- whatever the structure, whatever the process, they control the final decision.

How can we advance the dialog about our city's future, if we are afraid to speak freely?

How many visionary civic and business leaders, with bold ideas for Tulsa's future, have been beaten down and have given up? How many have been co-opted? How many have decided to take their energy and vision to a city where it will be nurtured and appreciated? Perhaps this is why Tulsa is in the doldrums and doesn't seem to be moving forward. These bullies won't lead, don't have any visionary ideas and don't want any, but they refuse to yield the levers of power. Perhaps the most important thing we can do for our city is to throw off this oppressive pall.

Giving a bully what he wants only encourages him. The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him. Not violent confrontation, but a refusal to back down, to give in. It can be as simple as saying no: "No, I will not be mean to Susie just so I can be your friend." "No, I will not give you my lunch money." "No, I will not move to the back of the bus." "No, the emperor is not wearing a beautiful new suit of clothes." "No" is a powerful word, and it becomes more powerful as more people speak it together. It can stop a bully in his tracks.

Some of us have observed that Tulsa's power structure is teetering on the edge of collapse. The Chamber is falling apart. Once dominant companies have fallen on hard times. Perhaps a little resistance will be enough to demolish the whole rotten structure. I don't know that I care so much whether this tax wins or loses, but I want to see Tulsans stand up to the bullies and break their stranglehold on progress.

I'm not asking you to come out and oppose this package, unless you want to. I'm simply asking you to say publicly what you think about it, pro and con. If you think the process stunk to high heaven, but you still plan to vote for the package -- fine, but be willing to say both things. Don't spin it to appease the bullies. The city body politic isn't a draft horse, to be fitted with blinders and a bit, and steered to a destination. Tulsans should be treated like free men and women, grown-up enough to weigh pros and cons and come to a decision.

I'm also asking us, collectively, as TulsaNow, to call the bullies' bluff. Say what you think people need to hear. Insist on public, frequent, and fair debates. Expose underhanded pressure tactics. If you're told to shun people who take a different viewpoint, refuse. If you're threatened with ostracism, or worse, go public. Insist on treating everyone involved in the debate with respect. If we stick together and do this, it would represent a real step toward maturity as a region.

Michael Bates

This Old House, the pioneering PBS series on home restoration has saluted Tulsa's Brady Heights neighborhood as one of the best places in the country to buy an old house:

Brady Heights existed before Oklahoma was a state. The area, originally known as the Silk Stocking neighborhood, saw hard times before making a comeback in the 1980s. Now on the National Register of Historic Places and just blocks from downtown Tulsa, Brady Heights is adjacent to the Tulsa branch of Oklahoma State University and encompasses an eclectic choice of housing, populated by a diverse mix of owners and renters. Four churches and an active community group that helps older residents take care of their homes provide the social glue....

Tate Brady, an early city booster and real estate entrepreneur as well as the neighborhood's namesake, built his mansion here in 1907. You'll also find bundles of bungalows and Foursquares built between 1900 and 1924, along with Colonial Revival, Folk Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, Craftsman, Italian Renaissance Revival, and Prairie School houses.

The neighborhood, which covers Denver and Cheyenne Avenues between Marshall St. and Fairview St., just north of the Inner Dispersal Loop, is listed by the "This Old House" site as one of the best for old-home buyers who are first-time buyers, retirees, "city slickers," those interested in craftsman houses, and those looking for an older home in the midwest. You can find a simple bungalow in the neighborhood for as little as $40,000.

Via Preserve Midtown, which notes:

Those homes that are sometimes referred to as "eyesores" do have great value with some time and effort put in to make them shine like they did when they were new.

Homes like this were built with care and with the intent of having them last for a century or more.

Houses of similar style and vintage could once be found all the way east to Detroit Ave. But the city promised the University Center of Tulsa 200 acres for its campus, and during the '90s the land south of Emerson Elementary School was bought up by the Tulsa Development Authority and the homes demolished. Footings, staircases, and other remnants are still visible.

Brady Heights has an active neighborhood association, is listed on the National Register for Historic Places, and has historic preservation overlay zoning, meaning that exterior modifications have to be reviewed for appropriateness by the Tulsa Preservation Commission, in order to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood and protect the investments made in restoring these homes.

Congratulations to a transplanted Tulsa couple who received well-deserved national recognition for promoting Route 66. Ron Warnick and Emily Priddy were honored last weekend at the 2008 National Route 66 Festival in Litchfield, Illinois.

Ron received the "Person of the Year" award for his blog, Route 66 News, a clearinghouse for news from Chicago to Santa Monica and everywhere in between along the Mother Road.

Emily was selected by author Michael Wallis for the inaugural Wallis award for (as she put it) "for being a noisy writer/photographer/firebrand." Denny Gibson put it another way: "In [Wallis's] description of the award, he used the words talent, energy, and passion and those certainly apply to the first Wallis 66 award winner, Emily Priddy."

As he describes in an entry earlier this week, Ron saw a need three years ago and stepped in to fill it, creating a central clearinghouse for news from the highway -- positive and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs restoring a piece of roadside history and local officials getting clueful about the tourism value of the highway, alerts about endangered properties, happy news of festivals and foreign roadies here to encounter Americana firsthand, sad news of the passing of Route 66 pioneers and Route 66 landmarks.

Through Route 66 News, historic highway lovers learned of the impending doom of the El Vado Motel and were able to communicate with Albuquerque's city leaders to help them understand the value and significance of the property as a historic asset. Route 66 News notified us of the tragic fire at the Rock Cafe, helping to rally support for clean up and restoration.

Ron's reflection on winning the award is worth reading. He writes about how experiencing Route 66 changed his life, why he started Route 66 News, and why he chose the blog format for the site:

Route 66 News was never intended to be a blog. But the more I investigated the Internet avenues available, it became clear that blogging -- with its ease of writing stories, its archives and its multimedia capabilities -- was the way to go. So here we are, in the blogosphere.

The winner of the Will Rogers award this year is another Route 66 internet pioneer. Swa Frantzen of Belgium launched his Historic66.com website in 1994, which has to make it one of the oldest sites on the World Wide Web still in operation. Looking in vain for the kind of turn-by-turn guide needed to tour the decommissioned highway, he created one of his own, a resource for his fellow archaehodophiles the world over.

Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott sent his District 2 constituents an explanation of the legal situation in which the councilors found themselves Thursday night, when they voted to appropriate money from the sinking fund to pay the settlement in the Tulsa Industrial Authority / Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust lawsuit (money that will ultimately go to the Bank of Oklahoma):

There's some misunderstanding about the Council's vote regarding the settlement of the Great Plains lawsuit. We probably should have made it more clear at the meeting.

The City Council did not vote to approve the settlement. We had no authority to either approve or reject the settlement. It had already been done and it was totally out of our hands. The Mayor had already approved the settlement and, on Thursday, it was submitted to the Judge and he approved it. On Thursday afternoon the settlement was filed as a judgment against the City of Tulsa. All of that was done by the Mayor, under her authority as chief administrative officer of the City. The settlement was approved and entered as a judgment before the Council even met on Thursday evening.

The only thing which we did on Thursday was state whether there is sufficient money in the Sinking Fund to pay the settlement. The Finance Department informed us that there is and, based upon that, we had to vote to say, "yes, there is sufficient money."

Legally, we had no choice but to vote 'yes'.

After the Finance Department informed us that there is sufficient money in the Sinking Fund to pay the judgment, if we had voted 'no', we would have been sued, just for voting 'no'.

We had no vote, no say whatsoever, regarding the settlement. The Mayor entered into the settlement agreement without Council approval and it was approved by the Judge before the Council met last night.

The article in the Tulsa World is a little bit confusing. But, the subject is a little confusing.

It says that the Council voted to "have property taxpayers pay the BOK." That's more or less accurate, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

The City's Sinking Fund is used to pay judgments against the City. Once the settlement was filed as a judgment, then, by law, the Sinking Fund had to be used to pay the judgment Money is paid into the Sinking Fund from the City's portion of property taxes. So, it's true that property taxpayers' money will be used to pay the settlement. But, that's because the settlement was filed as a judgment against the City, and the Sinking Fund has to be used to pay judgments, and property taxes are used to put money into the Sinking Fund.

The article also says that the Council voted on "whether to appropriate the money from the sinking fund." Again, that's more or less accurate, but it doesn't tell the whole story, either. By law, the Council had to vote on whether there is sufficient money in the Sinking Fund to pay the judgment. At the meeting on Thursday, the City Finance Department informed the Council that there is enough money in the Sinking Fund. Once the Finance Department told us that, we had no choice but to vote, "yes" and approve paying the judgment out of the Sinking Fund. We had no choice in whether to 'appropriate money from the sinking fund.'

We didn't vote on whether to use money from the Sinking Fund to pay the judgment. By law, that's where the money has to come from. All we did was say that there is enough money in the Sinking Fund to pay it.

If we had voted "no", then the Bank of Oklahoma, or the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, or one of the other parties to the lawsuit, would have filed a separate law suit against the City Council, seeking a Write of Mandamus. That's an Order from the Couettlert which commands a public body or a public officer to do something that they have a legal duty to do. In this case, they would have won and the City would also have had to pay their attorney fees which they incurred in pursuing a Writ of Mandamus.

Last night, I explained my misgivings about the settlement. I am against the settlement at this point in time.

As I said, naming the City of Tulsa as a defendant in the lawsuit was just an expedience to put the City in a position where we could legally settle the lawsuit. Previously, when the City wasn't a defendant, there were attempts to persuade City officials to pay for the settlement. That would have been illegal, because we weren't a defendant. Naming the City as a defendant was just a method to put the City in a position to pay for the settlement.

But setting that aside and just looking at it as a straight-up lawsuit, settlement at this time is far, far premature.

I don't think the lawsuit and the claim of "unjust enrichment" against the City had any merit. I would never advise a client to settle immediately after being named in a lawsuit. I'd have gone through the discovery phase and, hopefully, reduced the settlement amount by showing that my client had the stronger case.

But, we weren't given that opportunity.

I hope this explanation helps. If you still have questions, please give me a call or send me an e-mail.


I appreciate Councilor Westcott's perspective and am glad to know he opposes the settlement. The question now is whether he and the other councilors will do anything to halt the settlement or, failing that, to impose some penalty on Mayor Kathy Taylor for her rash action against the best interests of Tulsa's taxpayers.

The council should also seek full public disclosure of the decision-making process -- why the rush, who stood to suffer if the June 30 deadline wasn't met, who met with whom? And the financial and contractual arrangements between the parties should be fully disclosed as well. Why was a BOk attorney acting as the attorney for the Tulsa Industrial Authority in this lawsuit? Has TIA already repaid BOk, or will they now repay the bank? Was there legal action by BOk against TIA?

In the long run, we probably need a charter change to require council approval on legal settlements or contracts above a certain dollar value. No one should be committing that much city money unilaterally.

Comments from elsewhere on the web about the City of Tulsa's payment of a $7.1 million Great Plains Airlines debt it did not owe:

KFAQ's Chris Medlock was a City Councilor the last time someone tried to get the City to pay for the Great Plains mess. Here's what he had to say when the news of the bogus lawsuit and settlement emerged on Wednesday:

Word is that Friday morning she will meet with the Tulsa City Council in a special meeting to inform them of the deal. She will be using her full authority to bind the city to a contract, so she can act without the approval of the City Council.

On Thursday Medlock spelled out whythe Council's hands were tied

This surveying of the Sinking Fund is considered to be a "ministerial" action which a previous City Attorney, Alan Jackere told the Council when I was a member, that the council is duty bound to certify the figures, if they are true....

The last time the council voted down a "ministerial" action was when it voted not to approve the plat for the F&M Bank that was eventually built at 71st and Harvard. When the Council took that action, F&M filed suit against the councilors individually, threatening their personal assets. Since it took a majority of councilors to deny the plat, a majority of the council were named in the suit. As such, no majority of the council could be mustered to vote to give the councilors [me included] the legal services of City Legal. As such, each councilor was forced to hire their own counsel.

On his Thursday show, Medlock played audio from that morning's TAIT board meeting in which board member Dewey Bartlett credited Mayor Kathy Taylor with working out a settlement with the Bank of Oklahoma. In other words, she wasn't responding to someone suing the City; she was the driving force behind adding the City to the lawsuit.

Steve Roemerman attended Thursday's Council meeting and has photos. He reports that Taylor was unwilling, as she has been throughout her term of office, to face the public or the Council and answer for her decisions:

That leads us to last night's Council meeting. Mayor Taylor showed up for her Mayor's Report, and gave a quick explanation of why Tulsa had to pay this money. She said "This lawsuit has been following Tulsa for years." This is not entirely true because Tulsa was not part of this suit until recently...June 25 recently! Unless 1 day = over a year somehow, "years" is not how I'd put it...The truth is that Tulsa, and the Mayor's office in particular, have been following this suit for years, eager to give BOK money that we don't owe.

When she was finished, Taylor abruptly left, basically telling the Council that a lawyer would answer any further questions they had when it came time to vote on the release of the funds. She did not stick around and listen to the gallery of concerned citizens who went to the trouble of coming down to the council, she left!

Taylor, BOK, TAIT, and their lawyers say this is a good deal for Tulsa. I'm not entirely sure I buy that. If it were, this deal would have been made in the light of day, and there would have been no rush to push it through, in just 3...THREE short little days. I call Shenanigans!

Given the rush to get this done right before the end of a quarter and the end of the City's fiscal year, you have to think some executive at the Bank of Oklahoma would have been in legal jeopardy without this settlement.

Dave Schuttler provides a refresher course on Great Plains with video from the last push to settle this in 2005. In one video, Medlock said instead of preemptively bailing things out, we should let it go to court and have people testify under oath. He mentions handwritten notes from then City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter about the lien on the "collateral" -- Air Force Plant No. 3 -- when the VP of BOk asked for the original paperwork, she wrote that all she had was a forgery.

In another video on that same entry, Jim Mautino mentions being called to the office of Stan Lybarger, president of BOk. Mautino took city attorneys Larry Simmons and Drew Rees with him to the meeting. Lybarger told them that he had twice turned down the Great Plains loan, but relented because then Mayor Susan Savage gave him "assurances." This would be the same Savage who gave "assurances" to the City Council at the time that transfering AFP3 to the Tulsa Industrial Authority would not expose the City to any liability in the Great Plains financing deal.

(Related to that, following Thursday's pre-meeting, Councilor Bill Christiansen -- who, as an airport tenant, recused himself -- pointed out to me that we don't know to what degree BOk may be culpable in this loan default.)

In another video from 2005, Medlock talks about then-Mayor Bill LaFortune relenting from his push to pay off BOk. He also talked about the odd legal arrangements in the TIA-TAIT lawsuit.

And here is video from last night, featuring north Tulsa businesswoman Sharla Walker, who speaks about the immorality of give BOk $7.1 million when north Tulsa needs police, pools, groceries; Jack Henderson explaining why he could not with clear conscience vote for this giveaway. Henderson said he was sick and tired of people being afraid to go to court.

Schuttler writes:

There was plenty of upset citizens attending the council meeting and plenty of other worthy statements and I'll get more out into the internet with time. I think the best way for everyone to voice the opinions now is to cancel your Bank of Oklahoma account. Don't worry they can afford it and it won't hurt them much and you might not get that dirty look the next time you pull out your BOK card. Mayor Taylor will hopefully disappear soon now that this deal is done. Then again she might have more deals ahead but Mr. Baker leaving this week might be a sign of something but then again who knows until the day before.

I hope Mr Turner was correct about the OIG [FAA Office of Inspector General] coming back with tonights deal. Especially since the city still owes 70 plus homeowners their easements after the FAA decision about the money spent by Cinnabar, after the airport officials told them to stop working on those houses when funding ran out. Time will tell and much more money will be spent.

Schuttler also announced a Mayor Taylor sign contest. Steve Roemerman has Taylor holding a $7 million check made out to BOk. That's XonOFF's entry up above.

Finally, here's an analysis of the situation by
Friendly Bear on TulsaNow's public forum:

The promoters of Great Plains Airlines, who have all left town by now, had pitched their "Direct Flights to the Coasts" deal to 2nd tier cities like Wichita and Tulsa.

All the other cities had the sense to turn them down.

Then, the promoters used a network of gifted grifters to garner $30 million in State Tax Credits courtesy of their lobbyist Martha Erling Frette.

Then, got TAIT to pledge 22 acres of land right in the heart of the airport to the bank.

Then, in exchange for $600K in free advertising, they made World Publishing Co. the largest equity owner of GPA, despite today's Tulsa World's repeated Half-Truth that World Publishing only owned 3% of the shares.

PREFERRED shares are not counted the same way as the common stock.

Repeat: The World Publishing company was the single largest equity owner of the airlines. And, that ownership interest bought GPA many, many favorable "news" articles right up to the point when the airline crashed.

WHY didn't anyone exercise some adult leadership over the promoters when the first planes they acquired, they leased two airplanes that were incapable of flying non-stop to either coast.

THAT was a serious RED FLAG.

In a Banana Republic like Tulsa, a few immensely rich families like the Lortons, the Helmerichs, the Kaisers, the Warrens, the Siegfrieds, the Flints, the Rooneys, and the Schusterman's have an influence far, far in excess of what is healthy for what we mistakenly persist in calling our "democracy".

It isn't really a democracy.

It is a Banana Republic.

It only has the edifices of a democracy:




These ruling Oligarch families select our political leaders, the Mayor and a majority of our city councilors.

Their paid paladins like Cameron and Reynolds populate our city boards, commisions and authorities (like TAIT, TMUA, TARE, TIA, TDA, etc.), doing their bidding, and breaking our backs with bad, bad deals like the Trash-to- Energy Plant, clean water piped at cost to subsidize development of our suburbs, Great Plains Airlines, an arena sole-sourced to the Flint-Rooney Oligarchia Familias, etc., etc., etc.

Very scarily, they also select our District and Federal Court judges.

Newly appointed Federal judge Gregory Frizzell is Senator Inhofe's "dear" friend.

Really scary if you are foolish enough or unlucky enough to have a legal tangle with the local Oligarchia Familias.

Their wholly-owned District Judge Jane Wiseman, took all of FIVE minutes to rule that a log-rolled 2003 Vision 2025 ballot, that figuratively sugar-coated voter rat poison, was actually not a log-rolled ballot.

Don't believe your eyes. Believe the judge.

Dear Judge Wiseman's reward:

Shortly thereafter, rewarded with a state Appellant Judgeship.

Welcome to the Banana Republic of Tulsa.

I hope Tulsans will show up at tonight's City Council meetings (at 5 in room 201 of the City Hall tower and 6 in the Council chamber) to voice their objections to Mayor Kathy Taylor's capitulation in the Great Plains Airlines lawsuit and to urge councilors to reject payment of the $7.1 million settlement to Bank of Oklahoma.

You know how think-tanks and political action committees put out report cards? They base their "grades" of legislators on certain key votes, which are usually announced in advance.

I'm announcing today that tonight's vote on authorizing payment of $7.1 million from the sinking fund is a report-card vote. I consider this vote a test of a councilor's integrity and political courage. I will weigh this vote heavily when considering whether to endorse that councilor's ambitions for re-election or higher office. I won't say a "yes" vote is an automatic disqualification, but a councilor who votes "yes" will have to redeem himself in some spectacular and sacrificial way in the future to earn my support. I prefer to support only those candidates who have demonstrated backbone and a willingness to do the right thing in the face of pressure from the wealthy and powerful.

It was illegal three years ago for the City to intervene and pay off the debt which is not owed by the city, but by a bankrupt airline and secured by a trust; the City was not a part of the lawsuit. Adding the City to the lawsuit on a bogus equitable claim of "unjust enrichment," a claim easily defeated because the City of Tulsa was not enriched, unjustly or otherwise, doesn't make paying that $7.1 million any more legal. It only adds conspiracy to misappropriation of funds.

The City of Tulsa doesn't owe this money to BOk, and paying it is against the law. The Mayor and the City Attorney and any councilor that votes in favor of tonight's resolution will be personally exposed to a qui tam action filed by taxpayers under 62 O.S. §372 and §373.

The law provides for a triple penalty. For authorizing the unlawful transfer of $7.1 million, Mayor Taylor would have to pay $21.3 million. She might have to sell her house and park her Bentley at a trailer park for a place to live. Or perhaps she can camp out in her Learjet.

If you're having trouble understanding why this payment is immoral and illegal, follow me in this thought experiment.

Imagine I'm having coffee with Mayor Taylor one day, and she remarks, "You seem sad, Michael. What's wrong?"

"I lent someone $7,000 to help start a new business. The business went broke. I sued the guy, but he doesn't have any money. Another guy cosigned the loan and pledged some collateral, but it turns out he doesn't really own the property, so he can't cover the loan either. I should have known the collateral wasn't his, but I didn't think about it before I lent him the money. Anyway, looks like I'm out seven grand."

"I think I can help you, Michael. Just add the City as a defendant to your lawsuit."

"But the City isn't involved...."

"Doesn't matter. You're my friend, and I can help you. Just file an amended petition against the city, cite any old grounds -- make something up. I'll direct the City Attorney to settle out of court for the full amount. The Council will have to approve taking the money out of the sinking fund, but they're pushovers. They don't like to give the newspaper an excuse to call them bickering obstructionists."

"Won't that raise our property taxes?"

"You know, Michael, it's just pennies per taxpayer, and you're such a valuable asset to our community, you deserve it."

Do you believe that would happen for someone like me? Would it be just? Would it be legal? Of course not. But that's exactly what Kathy Taylor is doing for the Bank of Oklahoma, but for $7,100,000 instead of $7,000.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor appears to be colluding in a lawsuit against the financial interests of the citizens of Tulsa. She is probably doing this to cover the posterior of the BOk executives responsible for making this bad loan. (As bond trustees for TAIT, BOk was well aware -- or should have been -- of the covenants and restrictions on TAIT's assets and income.)

Tulsa taxpayers have already suffered financially from Great Plains. The transferable tax credits used to finance the airline were repaid to the state treasury through our gasoline taxes, meaning less money to fix our roads and bridges. BOk purchased $18 million worth of those tax credits from Great Plains for $15 million. $3 million in free money -- sweet.

Most councilors will find it very hard to vote no. That's why I consider this vote a measure of integrity and political courage.

David Patrick, Bill Martinson, Dennis Troyer, Bill Christiansen, and G. T. Bynum all received contributions from BOk officers this cycle. Those who were on the ballot in 2006 (all but Bynum) also received BOk backing then. Jack Henderson received $1,000 support from George Kaiser and BOk Financial Corp. PAC during the 2006 cycle, but BOk VP Dan Ellinor backed Henderson's opponent Emanuel Lewis this time around. Only Rick Westcott, John Eagleton, and Eric Gomez do not appear to have received any BOk-related contributions, and in fact, Kaiser and BOKF PAC backed Eagleton's and Westcott's opponents in 2006, and Kaiser contributed to Gomez's opponent this year.

UPDATE: Mayor Taylor was present at the beginning of the meeting, but scrammed before this item came up. The resolution passed by a 5-2 vote. Eagleton, Westcott, Martinson, Patrick, and Gomez voted yes. Henderson and Troyer voted no. Christiansen, as an airport tenant, recused himself. Bynum recused himself, I presume because his grandfather, Robert J. LaFortune, is on the board of BOk. (A grandfather is within two degrees of consanguinity, the standard for the City of Tulsa ethics ordinance.) The "emergency clause," which would cause the payment to be authorized immediately rather than in 30 days, received a 5-2 vote as well, but needed 6 votes to pass.

Eagleton and Westcott objected to the settlement that the Mayor had reached, but they had been advised by the City Council's attorney, Drew Rees, that authorizing payment of the settlement from the sinking fund was a "ministerial" duty, and they had no discretion in the matter. Voting no could subject them to personal liability. (This two-page document from Pennsylvania has a good, brief explanation of ministerial act.)

Rees told me after the pre-meeting that the councilors were not putting themselves at risk of a qui tam action by voting for this, because they had no discretion. Only the official who had the discretion to agree to a settlement involving an unlawful disbursement of funds would be subject to qui tam.

I still would have voted no, despite the risk, and would have asked my fellow councilors for a resolution to seek an injunction against the Mayor's settlement. I don't know if it is possible to enjoin payment of the settlement at this point, but the Council ought at least to express their disapproval formally, perhaps with a censure resolution.

See below for updates, including audio from my interview on KFAQ today and the request for action and the resolution that the City Council will consider tomorrow night.

You may have thought the Great Plains Airlines fiasco was far behind us. Three years ago, then-Mayor Bill LaFortune tried to convince the City Council to pay the Bank of Oklahoma the $7 million (plus) owed by the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust as a result of their complicated (and illegal) financing deal for the bankrupt airline. LaFortune backed down because of a City Attorney's opinion that the City was not liable for the money and paying a settlement would expose the City's elected officials to a qui tam suit from taxpayers, making them personally liable for misappropriation of funds and subject to removal from office. (My Urban Tulsa Column from November 17, 2005, goes into all the gory details.)

But BOk is coming after your tax dollars once again. Today in District Court, the Tulsa Industrial Authority filed an amended petition in its lawsuit CJ-2004-6124, adding the City of Tulsa as a defendant on the grounds of "unjust enrichment." This equitable claim, I am told, creates an excuse for Mayor Kathy Taylor to say that the City is at legal risk for this debt and therefore the City could legitimately pay it. Rather than vigorously defend against this claim and see if it will hold up in court, Taylor wants to short-circuit the legal process, wave the white flag, and hand over the money. Our money, to be specific.

In 2005, the request to the City Council to repay the debt was preceded by a PR campaign, including an op-ed by John Brock in the Tulsa World. This time, they're trying to sneak it through. Here's what's on the agenda for tomorrow, at the Thursday, June 26, 5 p.m., pre-meeting of the Tulsa City Council:

1. Resolution authorizing payment in full of a judgment settlement, from surplus monies in the Sinking Fund for Case No. CJ-2004-6124: Tulsa Industrial Authority (TIA) vs. Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT), City of Tulsa, et al. (Emergency Clause) 05-916-10

And on the 6 p.m. regular meeting agenda:

3. b. [Mayor's Items] Resolution authorizing payment in full of a judgment settlement, from surplus monies in the Sinking Fund for Case No. CJ-2004-6124: Tulsa Industrial Authority (TIA) vs. Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT), City of Tulsa, et al. (Emergency Clause) 05-916-10

There had to have been a lot of coordination between the Mayor, the TIA, and the BOk to make all this happen so quickly. The resolution authorizing payment couldn't go forward until the City was added as a defendant to the lawsuit. Isn't it nice to know our Mayor is assiduously looking for ways to give our tax dollars away to private interests?

"Surplus monies in the Sinking Fund" doesn't mean we have extra cash laying around. It means your property taxes will go up to pay for this, as is the case for all judgments against the City.

Reading the definition of unjust enrichment, it's hard to see how the City could be found liable:

1. Was the defendant enriched?
2. Was the enrichment at the expense of the claimant?
3. Was the enrichment unjust?
4. Does the defendant have a defense?
5. What remedies are available to the claimant?

The City wasn't enriched. That should end the matter right there.

In a nutshell, here's what is happening: BOk made a bad loan to finance Great Plains Airlines. GPA went bankrupt, but BOk still wants to recover its money. On August 7, 2006, BOk sued PriceWaterhouseCoopers, for professional negligence. The case was settled out of court within the month.

TAIT doesn't have to resources to pay back BOk, nor does TIA, so BOk is hunting around for someone with deep pockets to hold liable. That would be the City of Tulsa.

Why won't BOk just write this off as a bad lending decision on their part? It may be because the corporation and its officers would be liable under FIRREA, federal lending regulations put in place following the collapse of the Savings and Loan industry. S&Ls used federally-insured funds to make bad loans to insiders. When the borrowers defaulted and the S&Ls folded, the taxpayer was left holding the bag.

Even though it appears that BOk officials ignored plenty of warning signs, they approved the loan and did not call it when GPA's financial problems surfaced. Nevertheless, they want the taxpayer to wind up holding the bag.

One more thing: Shouldn't the public have time to examine this deal before the Council approves it? And shouldn't we know how much of the loan BOk has recovered through the bankruptcy court, the PriceWaterhouseCoopers lawsuit, or other means?

MORE: I've found some web references to laches as a defense against claims in equity, a category that includes a claim of unjust enrichment. Wouldn't waiting four years after filing the initial lawsuit constitute laches?

More on equitable remedies from Wikipedia:

Equitable principles can also limit the granting of equitable remedies. This includes "he who comes to equity must come with clean hands" (ie the court will not assist a claimant who is himself in the wrong or acting for improper motives), laches (equitable remedies will not be granted if the claimant has delayed unduly in seeking them), "equity will not assist a volunteer" (meaning that a person cannot litigate against a settlor without providing the appropriate consideration e.g Money) and that equitable remedies will not normally be granted where damages would be an adequate remedy.

AUDIO: I was on KFAQ's Chris Medlock Show this afternoon, along with Medlock's fellow former councilors Roscoe Turner and Jim Mautino. All three were on the City Council in 2005 the last time a mayor tried to pay off BOk. Here's Hour 1 and here's Hour 2.


Here is the backup material for the item on the Council's agenda. First, the Request for Action from interim City Attorney Dierdre Dexter to pay $7.1 million from the sinking fund :


CONTACT NAME: Deirdre O. Dexter (ga)
ADDRESS: City Hall, Room 316
TELE: 596-7717



Re: Tulsa Industrial Authority v. Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, City of Tulsa, et al. CJ-2004-6124

The Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust and City have agreed to settle the above case. In the lawsuit, Plaintiff TIA, by and through Bank of Oklahoma as attorney-in-fact, alleged that TAIT breached an obligation to purchase property from TIA and alleged a claim of unjust enrichment against the City of Tulsa. Plaintiff's Second Amended Petition seeks, as of March 31, 2008, the amount of $11,648,294.00 plus additional accrued and accruing interest and costs. It is anticipated that the parties' settlement will be approved and a Journal Entry of Judgment will be filed on Thursday, June 26, 2008. At that time, a copy of the Judgment will be provided. Attached for Council and Mayoral approval is a resolution authorizing payment from the sinking fund. If the Judgment is not entered, no action will be requested.


FUNDING SOURCE: $7,100,000.00 Sinking Fund

It is the recommendation of the Legal Department that the Finance Department be directed to make a wire transfer
from funds available in the Sinking Fund in payment of this judgment.

REQUEST FOR ACTION: All department items requiring Council approval must be submitted through Mayor's Office.

Council review and approve the Resolution authorizing payment from the sinking fund. Mayor approve and direct that Finance to make a wire transfer in the amount of $7,100,000.00 to the Bank of Oklahoma, attorney-in-fact for Tulsa Industrial Authority.

Dexter was previously employed by Frederic Dorwart Lawyers. The firm is the legal counsel for Bank of Oklahoma Financial Corporation. Dorwart is also the attorney of record for the Tulsa Industrial Authority for this lawsuit.

And here is the

resolution the City Council will be asked to approve tomorrow night:



WHEREAS, on the 25th day of June, 2008, in Case No. CJ-2004-06124, filed in the District Court in and for Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma, the Tulsa Industrial Authority, Plaintiff, and the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust, Defendants, agreed to a settlement in the sum of Seven Million One Hundred Thousand
Dollars and No Cents ($7,100,000.00), representing principal judgment, interest, and costs, which settlement has been approved by the court; and

WHEREAS, it appears from a survey of the Sinking Fund that there is a surplus of cash and investments in said fund, over and above accrued liabilities and statutory obligations, which would allow the City of Tulsa to pay said judgment in full, including court costs and interest thereon; and

WHEREAS, it is desirable and in the best interest of the City of Tulsa to make such present payment out of the Sinking Fund, and thereafter reimburse the Sinking Fund from subsequent tax levies, as provided by 62 O.S. § 435.


Section 1. That the City Clerk and the City Treasurer of the City of Tulsa be, and the same hereby are, authorized to consummate and complete the payment of said judgment by making a wire transfer from the Sinking Fund: To the BANK OF OKLAHOMA, NA, Attorney in fact for Plaintiff, in the sum of Seven Million One Hundred Thousand
Dollars and No Cents ($7,100,000.00), the same representing the full amount of the judgment, interest, and
costs now due and owing to the Plaintiff in the lawsuit identified above.

Section 2. That the City Clerk and the City Treasurer of the City of Tulsa be, and the same hereby are, authorized and directed to properly advise the Tulsa County Excise Board by appropriate reports, of the prepayment of said judgment in order that said Board may include said prepaid judgment as a necessary and lawful expense of
the Sinking Fund of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for which appropriate tax levies may be made to replenish said Sinking Fund, as provided by the provisions of Title 62 of the Statutes of the State of Oklahoma.

Section 3. That an emergency exists for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, by reason whereof this Resolution shall take effect immediately upon its adoption, approval, and publication.

Note the assertion that the settlement has already been agreed to. Note also that the money we spend out of the sinking fund is replenished by increasing property taxes on City of Tulsa property owners.

And what's the emergency? What is the danger to the public peace, health, and safety if the City Council votes no? Does it have to do with the end of the financial quarter and the end of the fiscal year?

107-year-old C. Yardley Chittick is the oldest living alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Class of 1922) and of his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. Earlier this month, the Boston Globe covered Chittick's return to Phillips Andover Academy for his 90-year reunion, the first alumnus in the school's history to reach that milestone.

After Andover, Chittick went to MIT, where he majored in mechanical engineering, was a low-hurdle track champion, and a proud member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. (The oldest living brother in the fraternity, he donated his membership pin to the Beta Theta Pi archives last year.)

After graduating in 1922, Thomas Edison offered him a job, but he turned it down, thinking it would be more fun to work for a company that manufactured golf clubs. When the Depression hit, he went to law school, passing the bar in 1934. He practiced until he was 85.

A great-grandfather of six, Chittick said yesterday that he does not really have any secrets to longevity. He sailed for much of his life, exercised regularly, and played golf well past his 100th birthday, the Concord Monitor noted in 2005.

He never smoked and drank in moderation - a screwdriver every night with dinner was reportedly his libation of choice.

Now residing in an assisted-living facility in Concord, N.H., Chittick makes his breakfast and lunch each day and dresses for formal tea each afternoon. He still plays the mandolin, and is known to break into the song "Take me back to Tech" when speaking in front of large groups, said his son, 80-year-old Charles Y. Chittick Jr., who was among the four generations of family present for the event yesterday.

At ΒΘΠ's 2006 national convention in Toronto, Chittick was called to the podium, where he spoke briefly then sang the MIT Fight Song, aka Take Me Back to Tech." Click here to listen to an MP3 of Chittick speaking and singing the MIT Fight Song. According to an e-mail from Bob Ferrara of MIT's alumni office, Chittick repeated the feat at last July's convention in Boston, and plans to do it again this summer in Dallas.

Here's another version of the MIT Fight Song, all but the first verse, sung by a half-century worth of alumni of MIT's a capella male choral group, the Logarhythms:

I spoke tonight at the Florence Park Neighborhood Association's meeting about neighborhood visioning and planning. The meeting was held at the Tulsa Little Theater, and it was great to get another look at the wonderful job that Bryce and Sunshine Hill have done in restoring that cultural landmark.

I also learned tonight that alongside the many active neighborhood associations in the area, there's an active business association -- the College Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals (CHAMP), representing a variety of businesses located between and on both sides of Lewis and Harvard Avenues, 11th and 21st Streets.

CHAMP has a well-organized website at collegehillmerchants.com. The members' page has business card type ads for each member, with links to webpages. There's a page with printable coupons, too.

I hope the idea catches on and helps knit together the whole area, including the surrounding neighborhoods, into a cohesive district that can work together to conserve and improve itself, with residents supporting the businesses and the businesses providing useful services and good value for the residents.

In my talk, I noted that Brookside residents regard Peoria as its heart -- one neighborhood joined together by the commercial strip down the middle. In CHAMP's area, residents tend to look at commercial streets like 15th and Harvard as boundaries that divide one neighborhood from another. As Florence Park Neighborhood Association works on its neighborhood vision, it should see its neighborhood as inclusive churches, shops, and offices as well as houses. The traditional neighborhood commercial buildings along 15th should become the heart of the community, a gathering place. A partnership between CHAMP and the surrounding neighborhood associations is the key to making that happen.

(Thanks to the CHAMP website, I learned about a deli called Ella's that has free wifi, sandwiches named for jazz musicians, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights. I shall have to give them a try.)

(Note to self: Start adding links to neighborhood and merchant associations to my sidebar, and add the Tulsa Little Theater blog to my blogroll.)

I hear these stories all the time -- stories about minor disasters and expensive mistakes at the City of Tulsa Public Works Department. The stories don't reflect badly on the citeewurkors but on the managers and policy makers further up the hierarchy.

I haven't had time to chase any of these stories down, but I hear them over and over again. At the very least, they are widely believed, and if they are local urban legends, it's probably in the TPWD's interest to provide documentation to debunk them.

The story I heard tonight involved a manhole cover on N. Sheridan near King St. Heavy rains were causing a sanitary sewer backup, actually lifting the cover up and allowing raw sewage to run out. The brilliant solution to this problem was to weld the cover to the manhole. So instead of the overflow pressure lifting the cover above the street, the pressure broke the street.

I have heard about the collapse of a city water storage tank on the hill west of the Port of Catoosa. I have heard about a pump station failing catastrophically because it was pushed beyond its rating to get water up the hill to the storage facility on Turkey Mountain.

I have heard of streets sinking several inches due to subsurface voids; the problem is "corrected" by topping up the resulting sinkhole with paving material.

I've heard about lousy water pressure from many people in the area around the Fairgrounds. The topological divide separating the Arkansas River drainage basin from the Verdigris River basin runs roughly northwest to southeast through the Fairgrounds, making it a logical site for a water tower. The city used to have a big water tower at 21st and Louisville. What tower is serving the higher elevations of midtown these days? Could that explain the lousy water pressure?

I keep hearing rumors that, despite a consent decree to fix our sanitary sewage system in the 1980s, we still have overflows and backups that can contaminate homes, parks, and streams. The people who tell me this think maybe we need the EPA to come back to Tulsa and check into the health of our sewer system.

The common theme seems to be planning and engineering failures. As I said, I haven't confirmed any of these stories, but they're out there, and they raise doubts about trusting the TPWD with a couple billion dollars. This is why we need a top-to-bottom audit of the department, with whistleblower protection, whether Director Charles Hardt wants it or not.

Via Green Country Values, I learned that the Oklahoma Publishing Company, which publishes the Oklahoman, has launched a website with information on elections for federal and state offices called ElectOK.com. Enter your address, and get a list of federal and state races on your ballot, with a page for each candidate to outline a platform, and post blog entries, photos, and video. As far as I can tell, it's a free opportunity for candidates to reach the voters.

At the bottom of the "about" page is an informative disclaimer that spells out OPUBCO's wide reach:

ElectOK is a product of OPUBCO Communications Group, a division of The Oklahoma Publishing Company, a 104-year-old privately held corporation based in Oklahoma City, with current interests in media, hospitality, minerals, communications, technology, securities and real estate development, among other ventures. OPUBCO Communications Group publishes a statewide daily newspaper, The Oklahoman, with distribution in all 77 Oklahoma counties. In addition to The Oklahoman, and the state's most trafficked local websites, including NewsOK.com, Wimgo.com, JobsOK.com, HomesOK.com, CarsOK.com and BedlamNation.com, OPUBCO Communications Group owns and operates The Oklahoman Direct, the largest full-scale standard direct mail provider in Oklahoma. OPUBCO Communications Group is also the publisher of many free distribution publications and magazines including: LOOKatOKC, a young reader tabloid; Viva Oklahoma!, a Spanish-language news tabloid; Make and Model, a car buyers guide; Central Oklahoma Homes Magazine, an upscale homebuilders magazine; HomesOK Extra, a real estate tabloid; JobsOK Extra, a recruitment tabloid; and most recently Recreational Rides, a monthly niche product that focuses on outdoor recreation.

(Wouldn't it be interesting to know details on, e.g., OPUBCO's involvement in real estate development? And whether that affects the Oklahoman's coverage of, e.g., zoning issues?)

Blogger Steve Roemerman receives regular updates on the city's finances and the state of the local economy in his role as a member of the City of Tulsa Sales Tax Oversight Committee. Today he has posted Tulsa's sales tax stats and economic indicators for the most June 2008, showing sales tax revenues up 3.8% over the previous year. Good news, but the Consumer Price Index has gone up 4% over the last year. Visit Steve's blog for more info.

Will Ferrell has a TV ad for Mr. Spriggs Barbecue in Midwest City, Okla., as his video pick of the week:

Usually even a good commercial makes me think "Yeah, right. Of course you're saying that. You wanna sell your thing." This video makes me want to move to Oklahoma and eat Mr. Spriggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Taco Bell fourth meal. Enjoy the joy.

That smooth voice you hear belongs to Cameron Dukes:

Cameron Dukes, simply known as Cam amongst friends, defines the word "smooth" with his relaxed mixture of R&P(Rhythm & Praise) and Rap. His debut album "Just Listen" is filled with a message of purity, hope and God's love, challenging the listener to make Godly decisions in life.

An Italian blog had this to say about the commercial:

Se passate per Midwest city, non potete non andare da Mr. Spriggs, il grande mago del barbecue. Ciò che però fa ridere di questo filmato, non è Mr. Spriggs in se stesso, ma il modo in cui il suo locale viene promosso.

In pratica sembrerebbe un classico videoclip di Mario, R. Kelly, o di qualche musicista di colore, R'n'B di classe insomma, ma invece di parole d'amore, ecco parole focose, carnali, per un barbecue insomma.

Instead of words of love, words of fiery meats, of barbecue in short.

(Via The Lost Ogle.)

It's becoming more and more evident that favoritism is at work on the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, and that a tenant's status has more to do with skill at spreading around campaign money than the merits of the situation. The issue of the business plan, cited by County Commisisoner Randi Miller as the reason for evicting Bell's Amusement Park after half a century, always seemed like a pretext; now we can say with certainty that it was.

The Big Splash water park, a Fairgrounds tenant since 1984, had a slide collapse last summer. In December, inspectors from the State Labor Commissioner's office ordered rotting timbers on the slide structure to be replaced before the park opened for the 2008 season. A June inspection revealed that the repairs had not been made, yet the slides were opened anyway. The slides were shut down for repair and are now open again.

Bell's was evicted from the fairgrounds after the 2006 season, just as they finally had the go-ahead to install a new roller coaster. Because the decision was announced after the season, Tulsans never got a chance to say goodbye. The Bell family had to rush to dismantle and salvage as much as they could in hopes of reopening somewhere else; one more season could have made an orderly transition to a new location possible. When asked why Bell's couldn't have been allowed even one more season, Miller responded with claims that the business plan was inadequate, hinting about safety concerns, although there were no inspection reports indicating a problem.

Big Splash has had two documented problems in a single year, yet I don't hear Randi Miller or anyone else on the Fair Board calling for an end to Big Splash's lease.

Miller received maximum $5,000 campaign contributions from Loretta Murphy, owner of Big Splash, for Miller's mayoral and county commissioner races. As far as I know, the Bells never gave campaign contributions to county officials.

Murphy's husband Jerry owns Murphy Bros., which the Fair Board (of which Miller is a member) granted a 10-year contract to run the Tulsa State Fair midway. There was no competition for the contract.

Irritated Tulsan comments on the story, connecting the dots. I.T. also calls attention to comments posted by Loretta Murphy on the KOTV comment board:

I usually do not comment on such ridiculous statements but I cannot pass these by without stating some facts. First and foremost, I cannot believe people can assume such mean and hateful thoughts about other individuals they do not even know. Jerry Murphy, my husband is a kind and caring person who has always tried to help others and be a man of integrity. He was not handed money, he made his by working long hours, day in and day out and making many sacrifices to be a successful businessman. He started out at a young age and earned everything that he has, no one gave him anything. He has been stereo-typed because of the kind of work he chose. The ones who have wrote these mean accusations do not know my husband or neither do they know any thing about who we are. The reason our world is in such turmoil today is because people choose to hate without knowing why.
I am proud of the fact that I have had the opportunity to manage and help grow Big Splash over the past 10 years. My children have grown up here and my daughter Amber now manages the park for me. She and all of our children love and care about Big Splash. Our number one concern is the safety of our customers. We have done so much over the years to protect each and every patron that enters our park. Big Splash is a challenging business because of weather issues which shorten our already limited season. Schools resume session in the middle of August which also hurts our attendance. This makes it difficult to add new attractions, but we have tried to totally revamp a Tulsa favorite. We know that we are here for the families and we receive tremendous support from our season pass holders. It hurts me to feel that people would think that we would jeopardize anyones safety.
This is for everyone that I have not covered in the first two statements. Most of the negative things that have been posted in this forum have been for political gain or are people that support the Bell family. It was no ones fault that Bell's contract was not renewed except for Bell's themselves. Imagine how the county would be run if Sally Bell is elected County Commissioner.

Bubbaworld is on the story, too:

That the folks at Big Splash were, according to the state, content to put at risk the lives of their patrons could and should give those patrons cause for alarm.

Hopefully the state will be keeping an even closer eye on Big Splash and its operators.

And maybe it is time that Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller starts demanding to see the "financial plan" of the folks that own Big Splash Water Park which has a history of not paying its water bill on time and of endangering its patrons.

Oops, also forgot.

Commissioner Miller will never speak ill of or demand anything of anyone named Murphy.

It's only folks with the last name of Bell that get that get the "Miller treatment"...

And Bubbaworld comments on Loretta Murphy's excuses for not replacing the rotting timbers earlier:

Of the failure to replace rotten support beams discovered by state inspectors in December and discovered still rotten during a June 3rd follow up inspection which resulted in the state shutting down the attractions Murphy said:

"We had done many things in the park to provide what we felt like was additional safety to our patrons. And, it was a couple of items on the list that we missed. It was an overview on my part."

Murphy went on to say:

"I would say it was just an oversight on my part. It's my fault that I didn't take it as serious as the Department of Labor did and I apologize for that."

At least Murphy eventually managed to sort out the meaning and usage of "overview" and "oversight", however her downplaying the seriousness of the inspectors findings is alarming.

When are we going to hear from County Commissioner Miller about this? Will there be any penalties, any repercussions?

RELATED: During Miller's tenure, Expo Square has been in the process of being purged of attractions for locals in favor of shows and events that mainly draw visitors from out of town. While bringing in outside dollars is good for the local economy, an Expo Square exclusively devoted to that aim will be bad for the fairgrounds in the long term. Evicting Bell's eliminated local visits over the course of the summer and reduced the number of people who attended last fall's fair. The Drillers' departure would get rid of another quarter-million local visits to Expo Square. I'm not sure what the status of the Flea Market is, but if they are operating, I'm sure the moving around has cost them customers.

You could argue that it was Tulsa County voters' first-hand exposure to the state of the fairgrounds that led them to support funding for improvements in two 4 to Fix the County votes and in Vision 2025. They came to go to Bell's or for the Flea Market and saw that we needed new barns and to improvements to the midway and the IPE (QuikTrip) building. With fewer reasons for ordinary Tulsa County taxpayers to visit Expo Square, it may be much tougher to convince them to approve more tax dollars for future improvements.

It happened in Bartlesville, but the lesson applies everywhere: You can't expect people to adapt and reuse your historic buildings or build high quality new construction which fits in a historic area if you allow someone to throw up a metal building in the midst of it:

In November 2007, Shelby Navarro, Tulsa architect who is currently involved with an investment group re-developing 70 buildings in the Pearl District of Tulsa, and J. Elliot Nelson, owner of McNally's [McNellie's] Pub in Tulsa and of other pubs and restaurants in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City, came to Bartlesville at Clyde Sare's invitation. They toured the BRTA [Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust Authority] buildings at Second Street and Keeler Avenue with the idea of developing them and other buildings downtown into a dining/entertainment/retail complex. Mr. Nelson was already committed to installing a pub at the Pioneer Building on Dewey Avenue.

After the BRTA overturned the Design Review Committee's decision regarding construction of a metal building in the Downtown District, Mr. Rankin and his associates, as well as Shelby Navarro and J. Elliot Nelson, decided to put their plans on hold. They were concerned that such lax enforcement of design guidelines would be harmful to future investments. In Rankin's words, "There needs to be a stable environment to protect the investors who risk their capital in a historical district."

Emphasis added. At least Bartlesville has a Design Review Committee, but it doesn't do much good if they override the rules and allow incompatible design and cheap, throwaway buildings.

Friday night, with the two older kids at sleepovers, we went out to eat with just the two-year-old along.

For quite some time, I'd noticed a place advertising a soul food buffet in a tiny storefront on the north side of 21st, east of Memorial. It's only open Thursday through Sunday, but the timing finally worked for us to give it a try: Joyner's Home Cooked Food Restaurant.

It's a small place, neatly turned out in black and white with red accents. The stereo played solo piano covers of favorite big band tunes and pop standards from the '40s and '50s -- "April in Paris," "I Only Have Eyes for You." We were greeted by owner Jesse Joyner, who visited with us and the other customers and was a pleasure to talk with.

You can order a la carte or from the buffet. The buffet works like this: You order two meats, which are prepared fresh. When your meat is ready, you go to the buffet of side items and pick out three to start with, plus a bread. You can get as many refills on side items as you like. The buffet also includes dessert.

I had two ribs and a rotisserie chicken leg quarter, with greens, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and cream gravy, and cornbread. My wife had the catfish, chopped brisket, blackeyed peas with okra, greens, and macaroni and cheese, which had more flavor to it than you'd normally expect from mac and cheese. For dessert I had chocolate cake and my wife had a slice of strawberry bundt cake with a lemon glaze. (Sadly, they had already run out of the peach cobbler and the pecan pie.) Everything was delicious and very obviously homemade. The two-year-old enjoyed his kid's basket -- two big chicken tenders, with french fries, a roll.

Joyner's, at 8151 C2 E 21st St., is open Thursday and Friday evenings from 5 to 9 pm, Saturday from noon to 9 pm, and Sunday from 1:30 to 7:30 pm. On Sundays they put meat on the buffet along with the sides, so you simply go through the line as soon as you arrive. On the flyer for Sunday buffet, it says, "We promise to get you in and out." The phone number is 918-622-5003.

Here is the menu for Joyner's Home Cooked Food Restaurant as of June 20, 2008.

Here's a link to Katherine Kelly's Urban Tulsa Weekly review of Joyner's from March 2007. Last August, the Tulsa World's Scott Cherry included Joyner's on a comprehensive list of great locally owned "hidden gems". (That's worth bookmarking.)

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I wrote about a tour I was given a few weeks ago of Tulsa's BOk Center arena, scheduled to open this fall. Far from winning me over, the tour convinced me that by foregoing the "iconic" approach to architecture we could have had, for an amount closer to the original budget, an arena that would make a positive addition to downtown's urban fabric.

In the column, I mentioned another Cesar Pelli public facility with a curved, "iconic" glass wall. That's the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton, Ohio. The Schuster Center opened in 2003; construction began in 2000. The Rike Building, a handsome seven-story Sullivanesque department store built in 1911, was demolished to make way for the Schuster Center. Before:

After, from about the same angle:


You can see the transformation from good urban form which works well at a distance and up-close at pedestrian scale to a building that is somewhat interesting at a distance but monotonous up close. You would have been able to peek in the display windows of Rike's; the reflective glass on the Schuster Center won't let you see inside.

If you want to take a virtual Google Street View stroll past the Schuster Center, as I suggest in my column, start here and head west on W 2nd St.

There's a nice story on KOTV.com about Michael Sager's 1st Street Lofts, scheduled to be ready for occupancy this fall. Michael gave me a tour during the Blue Dome Arts Festival, and I wrote about some of the interesting ways he is adapting this old building; KOTV's Steve Berg reports on many of the same features, which you can see by clicking the video link at that story.

More McMahan fallout

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Mike McCarville helpfully reminds us of convicted felon Lori McMahan's defense of her husband, convicted felon and disgraced former State Auditor Jeff McMahan, during McMahan's re-election campaign against Republican nominee Gary Jones:

"But I'm not going to sit by and let Jones drag a courageous, honest public servant through the mud with appalling lies and outlandish innuendoes. It would be almost impossible for me to respond to them all, but here are Gary's five most shameful lies, along with the truth."

McCarville notes that those shameful lies "formed the basis of the federal charges against her and her husband, and their convictions on conspiracy and bribery counts."

McCarville also has a poll on his homepage, asking whom Gov. Brad Henry should appoint to replace McMahan. Jones is leading the pack with 50%, followed by Robert Butkin with 17%.

Butkin, a former State Treasurer and a Democrat, left to head up the University of Tulsa's law school, then resigned from that post last year to help out with his family's oil and gas business. Butkin cleaned up an extremely tarnished State Treasurer's office and built a reputation for competence and integrity. He would be an excellent choice to finish out the Auditor's term. But Butkin and his wife have three small daughters, and it's unlikely he'd be willing to go back to commuting between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, even if only for two years.

If the Governor is set on appointing a Democrat, another possibility for a caretaker to finish out the term would be Tulsa's own City Auditor, Phil Wood. Wood set a standard for openness, taking the initiative to launch the first website for city government documents and information on his own dime and doing his own web programming. Although he's a loyal Democrat, he operates his office in a non-partisan fashion. As with Butkin, the big question is whether he'd be willing to commute to Oklahoma City.

Jones remains the best choice to complete McMahan's term -- he has demonstrated strong popular support in two elections and is willing and able to do the job.

McCarville reports rumors that Antlers banker Steve Burrage is a leading candidate for appointment as Auditor. I know nothing about Mr. Burrage, but my first thought was, Didn't Gene Stipe and Steve Phipps have an abstract company in Antlers?

Michelle Byte has started a blog to track the auditor appointment: appointgaryjones.blogspot.com.

Hulu.com, NBC Universal and Fox's webcasting site, now offers 18 classic Three Stooges short subjects from 1933 to 1936 featuring Larry, Moe, and Curly.

Even if you're not a fan of slapstick comedy, "False Alarms" is worth watching if you're fond of 1930s city streetscapes. It appears that some of the scenes were filmed on location (Wikipedia says on the streets of Hollywood), and you'll see some wonderful old commercial buildings (many of them Art Deco), and streetcars play a key role in the plot.

In 2002, Gary Jones, a Certified Public Accountant, ran for State Auditor. He received 48.5% of the vote, losing to Jeff McMahan, a man with no education in accounting, by about 30,000 votes. We now know that Jeff McMahan won that election in part because of massive amounts of illegal campaign money, including $157,882 from Steve Phipps, a business partner with Gene Stipe in abstract companies regulated by the State Auditor's office.

In 2006, Jones ran again, receiving almost exactly the same share of the vote. In the weeks leading up to the election, Jones not only called into question McMahan's competence, but he began to sketch out the connections between McMahan, Steve Phipps, Gene Stipe, Francis Stipe, a dog food factory, and grants and loans orchestrated by certain Democratic legislators. It was a complicated story, too complicated to convey to the voters in a way that had impact. (As in 2002, Jones didn't have any coattails from the top of the Republican ticket.)

Jones continued to follow the money, and eventually the Feds did, too. McMahan and his wife, Lori, were convicted in federal court for bribe-taking and conspiracy. The shady dealings that Jones had uncovered were confirmed by Phipps's testimony and affirmed by the jury.

Jones's tenacity in pursuing corruption in state government, at the risk of being accused of sour grapes or obsession, is just the quality we need in a State Auditor.

I've read comments here and there that Jones is a party hack, because he's served for several years as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. Chairing a political party is a tough, thankless job, and it's unfair to dismiss someone who has been willing to serve in that role as a "hack."

I remember when Jones first decided to run for chairman. Chad Alexander had resigned following the disappointing 2002 results. As a statewide candidate, Jones, from rural Comanche County, saw how the city-oriented Republican Party had failed to connect with rural voters, despite the conservative values that they share with the GOP. His motivation for seeking the chairmanship was to fix that, and the increasing success of the party in electing legislative and county officials in once-solid-Democrat districts is testimony to his success.

After winning election to a full term as chairman in 2003 and then re-election in 2005, Jones stepped aside to again pursue the State Auditor's Office. Many Republicans, disappointed with the performance of his successor, Tom Daxon, urged him to seek the chairmanship again, and he defeated Daxon at the 2007 state convention.

Gary's bluntness, persistence, and analytical skills have been a great help to the GOP, but those qualities would be put to even better use in the pursuit of waste and fraud in state government. By appointing Gary Jones to fill the vacancy left by McMahan, Gov. Brad Henry would be proclaiming that the era of insider dealing, bribery, and corruption is over in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Election Board yesterday voted 3-0 to deny a challenge to the candidacy of Dana Murphy for Corporation Commissioner. The challenge had been filed by Rob Johnson, Murphy's Republican opponent, on the grounds that Murphy's filing papers were invalid. At the direction of the State Election Board Secretary, Murphy had signed her name as she wished it to appear on the ballot. (She had signed her name the way she normally would on legal papers, with her middle initial.)

Johnson did not appear at the hearing.

In her press release, Murphy addresses another attack launched against her by Johnson:

Republican Corporation Commission candidate Dana Murphy was vindicated by the State Election Board's ruling on Monday morning striking down opponent Rob Johnson's challenge to keep her name from appearing on the ballot.

"This is a victory for common sense government and the people of Oklahoma," said Murphy. "This challenge over such a trivial issue as amending my name to appear on ballot as Dana Murphy instead of Dana L. Murphy is an example of wasting taxpayer money and the Election Board's time. It is disappointing that my opponent would stoop to such political pettiness."

"I trust Oklahoma voters not to be tricked by such political gamesmanship and that they will look at a person's true qualifications and commitment for the job. Instead of touting any meaningful qualifications of his own for this office, he seems to spend his time trying to smear me in the press."

While Murphy has been traveling around the state talking about her exemplary qualifications for a seat on the Corporation Commission and her vision for Oklahoma, opponent Johnson and his campaign aide Trebor Worthen, have resorted to the slimiest of tactics, bringing up Murphy's 1993 divorce.

"They have attempted to use divorce filings from one of the saddest times in my life to contend I'm unethical or worse. I have never been convicted of any of the crimes or unethical acts Worthen and Johnson claim. There is nothing in my divorce decree or any other court decisions that proves their claims," said Murphy.

"As anyone impacted by a difficult divorce or lawsuit understands, what is alleged in various pleadings and what is ultimately ruled on by a judge in a final order are often worlds apart. If Johnson cannot tell the difference between allegations made in a case and evidence needed to prove a case, he clearly didn't learn much in law school nor is he prepared to deal with the complex decisions on utility rate cases or oil and gas cases or other Commission cases."

Murphy challenges Johnson to stop hiding behind his consultants' statements and campaign propaganda and debate the issue at hand--serving on the Corporation Commission.

"In the legislature, laws are passed by a large group, but a Corporation Commissioner stands out as one among three for every decision made. Voters and reporters should be asking him, and any other candidates, what qualifications, experience and attributes make them the candidate best prepared to serve all Oklahomans," she said.

"I will debate Rob Johnson any time and place on the important issues at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission affecting Oklahomans," said Murphy. "I look forward to public opportunities to allow the voters to directly compare our credentials and experience for this very important job."

"My record speaks for itself. I've spent my entire adult life getting the education, developing the skills and gaining the experience and knowledge needed to serve as your Corporation Commissioner. I am the best qualified candidate, Democrat or Republican."

In addition to hearing over 5,000 cases as an administrative law judge at the Commission, Murphy has also testified as a geological witness and presented cases as an attorney before the Commission. Murphy is a fifth generation Oklahoman and currently runs a successful oil and gas law practice in Edmond.

The same attack regarding her divorce filings was attempted by her Republican opponents when she ran for Corporation Commissioner in 2002. There was nothing to it then, and there still isn't.

Worn out

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I have several new entries in work, but I'm too beat to finish any of them. It was a fun weekend, but a long one. On Saturday morning, my oldest son was one of a number of Barthelmes Conservatory students to perform in a program for the OK Mozart festival in Bartlesville. While the students performed, I minded the youngest son, walking up and down the ramps and stairs at the Bartlesville Community Center, buying a snack at the gas station across the street, and talking a walk past First Baptist Church (where I went to church when I lived in Bartlesville 40 years ago), the Price Tower, and Robert Indiana's big 66 sculpture.

After a quick lunch at Arby's (where we learned that the manager, recently relocated from Kansas, was a music aficionado who hadn't yet learned about OK Mozart), we headed west, via Pawhuska, Hominy, and Cleveland to the Pawnee Bill Ranch for the big Pawnee Bill Wild West Show. The show happens the last three Saturday nights in June, a recreation of some of the acts that were included in the show that toured the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The show included trick riding and roping, dramatizations involving Cossacks and Mexicans and stagecoaches and cowboys, Indian dancing, and some slapstick comedy. Before the show, there are reenactments and music up on the hill, the museum and mansion are open, and there's a barbecue supper, as well as a variety of pushcarts. We all had a great time. The show itself starts at 7:30 and ends about 10. Pawnee is an hour west of Tulsa via the Cimarron Turnpike.

Sunday, we had lunch at Delta Cafe, then the big kids and I spent three hours cutting up fallen limbs and dragging them to the curb. Then we went over to my dad's house, and I helped him with the roof of a new storage shed while the kids and their cousins helped to paint the shed. We ate hamburgers and watched "The Best of Mike Myers" on TV.

I still had a column to finish, so I got up at about 3:30 a.m. and headed to IHOP. After a full day of work, I attended the initial meeting of the PLANiTULSA partners -- very interesting, more about that in my column next week -- then came home to the family.

So that's all i can give you tonight.

Lawrence Spivak, who founded 'Meet the Press,' told me before he died that the job of the host is to learn as much as you can about your guest's positions and take the other side. And to do that in a persistent and civil way. And that's what I try to do every Sunday. -- Tim Russert, in a 2007 interview with Time.

Tim Russert, NBC newsman and host of Meet the Press since 1991, died suddenly today of a heart attack, age 58. His willingness to ask tough questions (politely) of anyone on any side of an issue will be missed.

Dawn Summers writes:

I loved him when I was younger because he was an openly devout Catholic in the public eye, which was rare for anyone but Kennedys, and all the rarer for a broadcast journalist. During the "Election 2000″ I never missed Meet the Press, not ever....

I've grumbled at him in recent months for what I thought was unfair Clinton bashing, but I cannot imagine the next four months of "Election 2008″ without him. Heaven help those who are left with George Stephanopoulos to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Commenter Rawlins at Crunchy Con:

Tim Russert always managed to make journalism seem fair, literate but not elite, manly (if you're a man and he was and I am), important, even elegant. How I cannot imagine. It's just that when you contrast him with the others on Sunday morning news network TV, you got George Stephanopoulos who always seems slick but a pinch oily...and Chris Wallace who feels oily and a pinch slick. Then there are the other network guys....... Couric, Gibson. Williams being the best but there too, no Tim Russert.

I loved Tim Russert's apparent love for his Dad. His book regarding is required reading for men who need to learn what it is to be a role model. Even as a non-Dad. To bear the thought of facing this fall's election without Tim Russert is like having potted ham at Thanksgiving. I don't mean to lionize the guy, but this one really was an example of all-America at its best....

MORE: In the Wall Street Journal, Bernard Goldberg writes that Russert's perspective on media bias set him apart from most of his colleagues:

Tim was a big proponent of diversity, but he wanted to go further than the usual stuff. "I am for having women in the newsroom and minorities in the newsroom -- I'm all for it. It opens up our eyes and gives us different perspectives. But just as well, let's have people with military experience; let's have people from all walks of life, people from the top-echelon schools but also people from junior colleges and the so-called middling schools -- that's the pageantry of America . . . You need cultural diversity, you need ideological diversity. You need it."

Tim understood that without that kind of diversity, journalism would be in trouble. He knew it wasn't good for journalism or America if almost all the people reporting the news lived and worked in the same bubble.

"There's a potential cultural bias. And I think it's very real and very important to recognize and to deal with," he told me. "Because of backgrounds and training you come to issues with a preconceived notion or a preordained view on subjects like abortion, gun control, campaign finance. I think many journalists growing up in the '60s and the '70s have to be very careful about attitudes toward government, attitudes toward the military, attitudes toward authority. It doesn't mean there's a rightness or a wrongness. It means you have to constantly check yourself."

"Why the closed-mindedness when the subject comes around to media bias?" I asked him.

"That, to me, is totally contrary to who we're supposed to be as journalists. . . . If someone suggested there was an anti-black bias, an anti-gay bias, an anti-American bias, we'd sit up and say, 'Let's talk about this, let's tackle it.' Well, if there's a liberal bias or a cultural bias we have to sit up and tackle it and discuss it. We have got to be open to these things."

But there are times when an American journalist has to be biased:

We ended our conversation that day with an exchange about the criticism he took from some on the political left for wearing a red, white and blue ribbon on his lapel when he interviewed Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 16, 2001. He told me a good friend of his died at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and that the friend's family had asked if he would wear the ribbon, "and I never thought for a second about it."

"I want a debate about national security and who defines national security," he said. "I understand all that. But in the end, you have to make judgments, and on that day I made a judgment that five days after the most horrific event of my lifetime and of my journalistic career, that for me to say to the country I too am part of this, I too have experienced this gut-wrenching pain and agony, and I too have enormous remorse and sympathy, with not only the people who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the field in Pennsylvania, but all of us -- we're in this together. This isn't covering Democrats and Republicans or the Bills versus the Redskins; this is us. The Taliban doesn't believe in the First Amendment."

"But what about those who say journalists shouldn't wear red, white and blue ribbons, that by doing that somehow you're taking the government's side in some debate or another," I asked him.

"It is imperative," he told me, "that we never suggest that there's a moral equivalency between the United States of America and the terrorists. Period. I'll believe that until the day I die."

ONE MORE: From the New Yorker:

With the help of his staff, Russert was especially good at arming himself for an interview by compiling a politician's previous statements in all their contradictions. Google was his tool and Gotcha his game. But it was Gotcha at its highest form. Russert's gift was to employ his bluff, nice-guy, good-son Irish Catholic upstate persona ("Go Bills!") to offset the avidity with which he would trip up his interlocutors. Arianna Huffington, who once called Russert a "conventional wisdom zombie," was among the many critics who pressed him to go much further, but Russert, more than anyone with a remotely equivalent job, did not back off easily, whether it was with Dick Cheney, in 2002, peddling nonsense about Iraq or with Al Gore, in 2000, trying to ease his way out of a line of questioning on abortion:

RUSSERT: When do you think life begins?

GORE: I favor the Roe vs. Wade approach, but let me just say, Tim, I did--

RUSSERT: Which is what? When does life begin?

GORE: Let me just say, I did change my position on the issue of federal funding and I changed it because I came to understand more from women--women think about this differently than men.

RUSSERT: But you were calling fetuses innocent human life, and now you don't believe life begins at conception. I'm just trying to find out, when do you believe life begins?

GORE: Well, look, the Roe vs. Wade decision proposes an answer to that question--

RUSSERT: Which is?

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly I considered Oklahoma's just-concluded legislative filing period and the decline in number of candidates filing, explaining the deterrents to running for state legislature.

Steve Fair, a Republican Party official in southwestern Oklahoma, wondered about a related topic, the early departure of many House Republicans:

Why are so many Oklahoma GOP House members leaving office before they are termed out? There are a variety of reasons, but here is my "spin" on why a record number of Republican members are bailing in 2008.

Some Oklahoma House Republican members are leaving because they are young and ambitious. They are chasing the dollar or the next rung on the political ladder. Those members have never been dedicated to helping Oklahoma move forward and their departure will not leave a ripple in the political pond. Their selfishness and "me first" attitudes have not endeared them to the GOP grassroots or to Oklahoma voters as a whole. That may partially account for their early departures, but a more likely factor will be their own selfish interests. Twenty years from now their impact in the legislature will be little more than a notation in the Oklahoma Political Almanac. They ran for office because it looks good on their resume. They could care less about the issues or the average Oklahoman- it's all about them.

Other members are leaving because they have become disgusted with the process. After serving in the minority for the early part of their tenure in the House, optimism was high in 2004 when the GOP gained a majority. These "gray hairs" thought they would be called upon for advice and counsel, but instead many were passed over for newly elected, younger, more aggressive members. The new leadership rebuffed their experience and ability to work across the aisle with their Democrat counterparts in a gracious manner.

The situational ethics practiced by the new "principled" leadership was inconsistent with what was being press released to the public. The older members concerns on how business was being conducted was ignored and berated. The new GOP mandate was not working for the benefit of Oklahoma, but staying in power and increasing the number of "R"s. Any and all campaign methods- right or wrong- was on the table, if it won elections. Seeing no real difference in the policies and actions of the new GOP leadership and the old Democrat leadership, these members opted to leave early. Their departure is not a positive one and their experience will be missed.

He doesn't use the name "Lance Cargill," but the former Speaker and his posse fit the description of the young, aggressive, and ambitious. The Republican caucus and the House as a whole are better off without them.

At the end of my column, I wrote, "Even if we don't raise their pay, we ought to pay our respects to those who are willing to serve us in the legislature. When a candidate comes knocking on your door this summer and fall, give him or her a few minutes of your time, listen, ask questions, and treat the candidate with kindness and respect. It's the least you can do for someone willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of serving you at the state Capitol."

Fair says that in exchange for their hard work, candidates should be able to expect from the voters engagement in the process, attention to the issues, civility, and the absence of vandalism, harassment, and dirty tricks. Fair points the finger at inattentive voters for the influence of money in politics (emphasis added):

Money and media have always driven politics but in the past twenty-five years that has escalated to new heights. It's not uncommon to see Oklahoma state legislative candidates now raise and spend six figures to run for an office that pays $38,500 annually. Some blame the big donors, the Political Action Committees, the lobbyists, and special interest groups for the infusion of money into the process, but are they really to blame? The real culprit is the average citizen and/or voter who for a variety of reasons have stopped taking equity in his government. Indifference or only causal knowledge of what is going on in your government leads to "defining" by candidates- both of themselves and their opponents. Elections are now won on popularity and not on issues.

In a survey conducted by Harvard University, one candidate describes campaigning in the 21st century like this. "I've been actively involved in politics for over 19 years now. I've even run for public office. Getting voters to even pay attention to government for 5 minutes is a struggle. Most citizens get their information from either sound bites from the propaganda machine that some people still naively refer to as the media and others get it twisted from others without checking the facts. Dealing with the average voter is like dealing with a dyslexic hyperactive kid on drugs." In the same survey, a voter says the greatest cause for voter apathy is people feel politicians promise the world and then forget their promises once elected to office. That's why it's important to know the facts and not just base your vote on a clever jingle, logo or commercial.

Sometime this past winter (judging from how low the sun is in the sky and the presence of piles of ice storm debris in many photos), Google sent its 360-degree car mounted camera around Tulsa, taking street view photos of nearly every street. (Hat tip to Steve Roemerman, who to a Street View of his old house with his truck parked inside.

Street View images are more recent than Google's satellite view: The satellite still shows the old Mayo Meadow Shopping Center, while Street View shows Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. Bell's Amusement Park is still there on the satellite image, but the replacement slab of asphalt shows up in Street View.

If you were wondering what was there along I-44 before ODOT bulldozed it, Street View can help (at least until they return for another pass). Here are the Monticello Apts. near 51st St and Birmingham Ave. And here's the entrance to Dick Gordon's guitar studio at 51st & Trenton.

(Too bad they didn't have Street View when Beryl Ford started collecting photos.)

There are all sorts of oddities that turn up. So far this is my favorite: The Street View of Cain's Ballroom shows people in sleeping bags lined up for tickets to some concert.


The folks over at TulsaNow's public forum are having fun spotting interesting street scenes and speculating on when the photos were taken. User PonderInc wants to know, "So, can we pay them to come back to Tulsa in April and May, when everything's blooming and green?!"

UPDATE 2009/10/12: Commenter Lacee Galloway writes:

Actually. This picture was taken on November 11, 2007. I know this because I am IN the picture. It was the day of a Hanson concert at the Cain's venue. My sleeping bag is first inline.

You'll notice a new BlogAd -- a group calling for passage of reauthorization of the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The original PEPFAR was passed in 2003, a five-year, $15 billion program targeting treatment and prevention with measurable standards and results. I decided to let it run.

The ad is critical of a "handful of senators" blocking action on the $50 billion PEPFAR reauthorization. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is one of the seven with a hold on the bill, but Coburn has his reasons:

While both the House and Senate reauthorization bills more than triple funding from $15 billion over five years to $50 billion, they irresponsibly simultaneously eliminate the critical priority of funding on treatment that characterizes the current program, and expand the focus and scope of this HIV/AIDS program to an unaccountable menagerie of loosely related development and poverty programs....

The current Senate reauthorization bill:

* Eliminates the requirement for providing life-saving treatment.
* Triples the funding, but only increases the treatment target by 50%.
* Diverts funding from the poorest and neediest countries to richer countries with space exploration and nuclear programs, including Russia, China, and India;
* Expands the scope of the bill from HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care to include every poverty and development program under the sun, such as: agriculture, schools, legal aid, gender empowerment, lobbying, microfinance, sanitation, and community food aid (as opposed to just critical nutritional support for patients on anti-HIV medications)
* Doubles the U.S. contribution to the U.N. affiliated Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria despite the Fund's drug quality problems, administrative corruption, and ability to bypass U.S. laws and policies on abortion, needle exchange, and prostitution/trafficking.

Senators Coburn, Demint, Burr, Vitter, Chambliss, Bunning and Sessions wrote Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, asking him to protect their rights to object to movement of the House or Senate global AIDS reauthorization bill, which turns the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from a succesful, $15 billion program to care and treat people with AIDS in the poorest countries into a $50 global development slush fund.

Coburn's Save Lives First Act of 2008 (S. 2749) would require at least 55% of global AIDS funding to go to treatment, at least 5% to rapid HIV/AIDS testing, and at least 25% of that 5% must go to countries that screen all patients of publicly-funded facilities for HIV/AIDS, including pregnant women and newborns. The bill also sets a treatment target of 7 million people, a testing target of 1 billion tests, and a target of testing every pregnant woman and newborn in countries receiving AIDS funds.

The findings of the bill note that two doses of nevirapine, an antiretroviral drug that costs $4 per dose, will prevent the transmission of HIV from a pregnant mother to her infant.

America's AIDS funding should go to save lives, not to facilitate the growth of NGOs and government bureaucracies or to fund "missionaries" to evangelize in these countries on behalf of secular western cultural values. If you do click the ad to the petition, please use the message box to urge support for the Save Lives First Act of 2008.

The loser team

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Joel at On the Other Foot uses the occasion of a Moses Lake Pirates game -- "a kind of a Z-league semi-collegiate baseball team" -- to reminisce about his own baseball career:

I don't know if other guys my age remember these, but the league usually had a "loser team" with really patient coaches so that the kids who hadn't a hope of being any good on the field could still play. (Sort of a Bad News Bears without Tatum O'Neal and with less skill.) Not surprisingly, I was on that loser team every year. (Bernie Leingang and Pastor Sid Cox, if you ever Google your names and run across this, thank you for coaching us. You guys had patience that would make Job look like a crankhead.)

I know about the loser team. I was on the loser team for my one and only year of Little League. I was so bad I played right field -- when I played at all -- on the loser team.

My school had two teams. The boys on the good team started playing in 2nd grade. They formed another team in 3rd grade -- the Holland Hall Hawks.

Holland Hall's old campus at 2626 S. Birmingham Pl. ("Eight Acres") had a football field that became two diamonds during baseball season. The good team -- someone out there is bound to remember the team name -- played on the diamond at the north end. It was called Fenway Park because the back wall of the gymnasium dominated the view toward left field.

The Hawks had the south diamond, nearer to 27th St. It was known as Wrigley Field because of the ivy growing in the ditch on the far side beyond left field.

We never won a game. The last game of the season, we came close to beating a team from Paul Revere School, a school that didn't even have its own playing field. (The game was played at Heller Park.) Our manager, Doss Briggs's dad, promised us a soda if we won, and we had a lead for a time, but blew the lead in the late innings.

My grandmother, who later in life would be a devoted fan of the hapless Chicago Cubs of the 1970s, loved to watch us play. She laughed as we watched butterflies, picked dandelions, chewed on our mitts, threw the ball past each other, and reacted belatedly to any ball that came our way.

Broadway extension

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My blogpal Anna Broadway has her first book out: Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity. It's an entertaining read, especially for those who grew up in the same evangelical subculture that shaped Anna's view of the world. The heart of the book is the conflict that arises as she moves out of that hothouse environment and into the Big City. The resulting collision of values helped to demolish her inadequate, sometimes idolatrous, notions of sex, love, romance, and marriage, making it possible to rebuild on a firm, God-centered foundation.

Last week, Carla Hinton, religion editor for the Oklahoman, interviewed Anna and wrote an insightful account of the conversation:

The book "Sexless in the City" is lighthearted enough that it should keep the reader laughing and wondering what Broadway is going to say next. The humor does not hinder or water down her thought-provoking message for singles attempting to maintain a chaste lifestyle in a society that says the very idea of chastity is crazy and out of touch with reality....

"I really hope that it raises questions about what the basis of our identity is," Broadway said of the book.

"You know, when I started the book, I would say I was closer to the perspective I describe in the prologue -- of being torn between wanting to serve God but thinking that sex is the ultimate experience in life. So, in other words, if I was chaste my whole life and died without having sex, I pretty much thought, even if I hadn't admitted it to myself, that I was going to die with an unfulfilled life.

"But in the course of having the blog and writing the book, I've come to realize that that's only true if my identity is rooted in my sexuality and if I believe that my sexuality is the most important part of me.

"But if my identity is based on something else, then I can have a fulfilled life no matter if I ever marry or not. My fulfillment is not dependent on the number of lovers or sexual experiences I have. I really hope that is the message people can take away from the book, regardless of whether they share all of my values or not, that they find hope in that -- that who we are as people doesn't have to be just limited to and defined by one part of us."

That same link includes a brief audio interview.

I was happy for Anna's book to get coverage in Oklahoma, but I also came away very impressed with Carla Hinton. She comes across as not only knowledgeable but also understanding of the people and ideas she writes about. That's not always true of the religion writers in the mainstream media.

Carla Hinton's Religion and Values blog is a place where she can offer more personal reflections than would be appropriate in a news story (for example, this item on her love of Vacation Bible School), provide links and additional context (e.g., this item relating to a story about bloggers who write about the Southern Baptist Convention, and summarizing reader reaction to a story (such as this entry about a story on tithing). It's a good example of a reporter using a blog to complement her reporting.

I've added three more blogs by and about Oklahoma to my blogroll. You'll see new entries from these blogs pop up on the powered-by-NewsGator blogroll headlines page. (I'm thinking it may be time to break out the Okie blogs to a separate page. What do you think?)

Random Dafydd (that's the Welsh version of David) grew up in Tulsa but now lives in Bartlesville. His blog covers Tulsa history, ancient manuscripts, and many other topics. Here are a couple of his recent historical entries: Tulsa before the railroad: Taylor Postoak Home and Tulsa Architecture, Hooper Brothers Coffee. The latter entry includes photos of the historic building on the edge of downtown at Admiral and Iroquois.

Green Country Values, which covers politics and regional events. Here's an entry about a trip last Saturday to the Lavender Festival and Stone Bluff Cellars. Blogger Jenn also has the scoop on U. S. Rep. John Sullivan's Private Property Rights Protection and Government Accountability Act, which addresses eminent domain abuse in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision.

Finally, Save ORU chronicles the rebuilding of Oral Roberts University's finances and credibility. reacts to the AP report of declining enrollment:

It's something that should have happened long ago, after years of struggling with a crushing debt and a corporate culture of fear, Oral Roberts University has another major hurdle to overcome. Since its beginnings, ORU has taken on the role of a "surrogate parent/guardian" for its students. Whether you were 18 or 40 -if you lived in the dorms -you had a curfew and an RA telling you to clean your room. Adding insult to injury, it cost you a pretty penny too, and up until 2001, you had to wear business attire to attend classes.

With tuition costs soaring and more students footing the bill for their own education, they want to be in control of their college experience. ORU has improved over the years with the adoption of more customer-service oriented approaches, but the recent scandal has made many of the most forgiving students and parents take a step back and ask "what am I really getting for my money?"

(I found that last blog via Club Fritch, the blog of two ORU graduates, Ryan and Gillian (Rowe) Fritzsche, who are now in the film industry. They have a category called ORUgate.)

If you have a blog that you think would be of interest here at BatesLine, drop me a line at blog at batesline d0t com.

So says the presumptive Republican nominee for President in his first general election ad:

RELATED: U.S.News and World Report has posted John McCain's first-hand account of his 5 years as a prisoner of war, originally published in its May 14, 1973, issue, just two months after he regained his freedom.

On page 14 of 17, McCain describes the use of high-level antiwar statements by the North Vietnamese government to torment their American prisoners.

This was the most effective propaganda they had to use against us--speeches and statements by men who were generally respected in the United States.

They used Senator Fulbright a great deal, and Senator Brooke. Ted Kennedy was quoted again and again, as was Averell Harriman. Clark Clifford was another favorite, right after he had been Secretary of Defense under President Johnson.

When Ramsey Clark came over they thought that was a great coup for their cause.

He gave Richard Nixon credit for decisive but unpopular actions that brought the North Vietnamese government to the negotiating table in October 1972, leading to a cease-fire and the release of POWs:

I admire President Nixon's courage. There may be criticism of him in certain areas--Watergate, for example. But he had to take the most unpopular decisions that I could imagine--the mining, the blockade, the bombing. I know it was very, very difficult for him to do that, but that was the thing that ended the war. I think the reason he understood this is that he has a long background in dealing with these people. He knows how to use the carrot and the stick. Obviously, his trip to China and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Russia were based on the fact that we're stronger than the Communists, so they were willing to negotiate. Force is what they understand. And that's why it is difficult for me to understand now, when everybody knows that the bombing finally got a cease-fire agreement, why people are still criticizing his foreign policy--for example, the bombing in Cambodia.

Speaking of mocking climate change alarmists, Oklahoma voters couldn't do better than to re-elect global warming skeptic Jim Inhofe to the U. S. Senate. His first TV commercial doesn't deal with the issue, except indirectly by celebrating Inhofe's renowned stubbornness and how that quality has served the interests of Oklahoma taxpayers:

I don't know for sure, but I suspect the road he's walking down at the end of the ad is the abandoned, two-mile-long section at the western end of the Will Rogers Turnpike, which was rerouted several years ago to connect with the Creek Turnpike.

Ocean City, Maryland, seems to mock climate change alarmism in its bid to draw tourists to its famous boardwalk this summer. In a funny ad which uses retro elements like test patterns, animated space graphics like something out of a Harvey cartoon, and the shimmy and chatter of a scratchy 8 mm instructional film threading through a school projector, Mayor Rick Meehan advises tourists to book their Ocean City vacations now, in light of a recent study predicting that our oceans will evaporate in a billion years as the earth moves inexorably toward the sun.

Found via Todd Seavey (suffering in New York through near-hundred-degree heat, evidently in a building that doesn't have air conditioning), who initially identified the beach resort as the Ocean City in New Jersey, America's Greatest Family Resort. I have happy memories of the OC in NJ. I spent the summer of 1982 there on a summer project on a leadership training / beach evangelism project with Campus Crusade for Christ. It's worthy of a retro-journal entry of my own some day.

Doug Loudenback has a post from a month or so ago featuring beautiful vintage postcards of Oklahoma City. Mixed into the pastel tinted images of Prairie Commercial, Sullivanesque, and Art Deco buildings was a fact that should make you gasp:

[The Kingkade Hotel] survived until the 1960s-1970s Urban Renewal era when 447 buildings were destroyed by the Urban Renewal Authority and another 75 more by private owners.

That may be hard to believe, but when you look at a satellite view of OKC, it makes sense. Four blocks cleared for the Myriad arena (Cox Business Center), another four for a massive parking deck, another four for Myriad Gardens, one for Stage Center. I would guess that the two blocks (maybe more) just north of the Cox Business Center were also urban renewal zones. Seven blocks were run through with I-40. I don't know if Doug's number includes Deep Deuce (OKC's version of Greenwood) the area cleared for I-235, or the research park just east of I-235.

Oklahoma City urban renewal was an insane master plan conceived, I'm ashamed to say, by an MIT alumnus, I. M. Pei.

Tulsa's leaders weren't any wiser than Oklahoma City's, just less ambitious, with much of the demolition being accomplished by private, rather than public interests. But Tulsa government did enough damage clearing away buildings that were nicer and more substantial than those you'll find in the Blue Dome District, demolishing nearly all of Greenwood, and blitzing the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the central business district.

Just received this press release from Dana Murphy, candidate for the unexpired term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Murphy is by far the most qualified candidate in the race, by virtue of her service as an administrative law judge at the OCC and her training as a petroleum geologist and an attorney working on oil and gas matters. Her primary opponent is challenging her filing on some very slender grounds.

Note the reference in the next to last paragraph to campaign consultant Fount Holland. We've noted Holland's unfair political attacks on Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris; Holland was the consultant for Harris's opponent Brett Swab. I am sad to see Holland again using his considerable skills against a solid conservative and highly qualified Republican candidate for office.

(Oklahoma City, OK) Oklahoma Corporation Commission candidate Dana Murphy says the attempt by Rob Johnson and his campaign consultants to challenge her filing for office is nothing more than a desperate attempt to create something out of nothing.

"Rob Johnson and his consultants are grasping at straws because he can't challenge my qualifications. If you watch the video of my filing, you will clearly hear the Election Board clerk ask me if I wanted to be listed as 'Dana L. Murphy' or 'Dana Murphy'. I advised him 'Dana Murphy', he requested that I sign 'Dana Murphy' and I did. The Election Board clerk then scratched out the 'Dana L. Murphy' signature."

Murphy also stated that "In addition to this clarification, he also requested that I add either short or long term with the Commission office to the form and I added short term."

Murphy believes this ploy is just more evidence of the lackluster campaign on the part of Rob Johnson. "He has no hands-on, working experience at the Commission and little, if any, knowledge and background in matters regularly decided by the Commission affecting Oklahomans every day."

Conversely, Murphy possesses the best qualifications of any candidate for this office. She spent almost six years as an Administrative Law Judge at the Commission hearing over 5,000 cases; she owns her own energy law practice and she worked as a geologist in the oil patch for ten years. Murphy has also represented clients before the Commission and testified as an expert geological witness in cases at the Commission.

"Johnson's only apparent claim to fame is that he is a two term state legislator and worked as a congressional aide/gopher. His campaign is already stalling. This is his feeble attempt to cloud the fact that he has no qualifications for this office."

Murphy believes this to be a diversionary tactic used by Johnson's consultants before and currently in use in other races. Johnson, his consultant Fount Holland and former Representative Trebor Worthen, who is working on his campaign, are no strangers to controversy and the use of old guard politician "smoke and mirrors" tactics.

"For me, it's about serving my fellow Oklahomans. They deserve the very best," added Murphy. "What our state doesn't need is more self serving politicians who are more interested in serving themselves than serving our state."

For what it's worth: While we lost massive tree limbs during last Sunday's hurricane-force winds, our Dana Murphy yard sign stayed in place. I've known Dana for six years, and that's an apt metaphor for her character.

UPDATE 2008/06/09: The press release mentions video of the filing. This 12 minute report shows each of the three candidates filing and then speaking to reporters -- first Rob Johnson, then appointed incumbent Jim Roth, then (about eight minutes in) Dana Murphy, showing the interaction with the election board clerk that the press release mentions.

Hidden streams

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Every city has them: Small creeks and streams that have been converted into culverts and buried beneath streets and buildings. The bend in the San Antonio River that became Paseo del Rio narrowly escaped being converted to a storm sewer in the 1930s. Two recent blog entries highlight underground streams in two of the world's greatest cities.

Strange Maps has a map and descriptions for London's lost rivers, 15 streams that flow into the Thames, including the River Fleet:

The Fleet flows under King's Cross, which was originally known as Battle Bridge, after a place where Queen Boudicca is reputed to have fought the Romans. It ends in the Thames under Blackfriars Bridge. The river gave its name to Fleet Street, which in turn became a collective term for the British press, as most newspapers had their offices there. It almost gave its name to a tube line, but since its opening coincided with the Queen's silver jubilee, the Fleet Line was named the Jubilee Line. On a quiet moment in front of the Coach and Horses pub in Ray Street, Farringdon, you can still hear the Fleet's flow through the grating.

And Ace has this item about fishing in the basements of Manhattan buildings, where there is access to streams that were long ago covered over:

It seems that the many rivers and streams that flowed through Manhattan before it was turned into a vast concrete jungle could not simply be paved over. Those waterways had to be diverted and channeled underneath the buildings that now tower above them.

Here in Tulsa, there are several buried streams in downtown and midtown, including Elm Creek, which runs from the western part of Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, to Centennial Park (where it is in the open briefly), then underground through the Gunboat neighborhood and the 18th & Boston area to its outlet beneath the east end of the 21st Street bridge. (There was a proposal to reopen Elm Creek near 18th & Boston about 15 years ago as a riverwalk promenade, and the Sixth Street Task Force has proposed reopening the creek as a canal down the middle of 6th Street.) Cat Creek runs under Archer downtown and empties into the Arkansas River beneath I-244. Mill Creek, in the eastern part of Midtown, is underground until it reaches McClure Park.

Check the traffic before you get on the highway with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) traffic camera website, Oklahoma Pathfinder (oktraffic.org).

Tulsa has cameras at major freeway junctions: I-44 and the Broken Arrow expressway, BA & US 169, I-44 & I-244 (west side and east side), I-44 & 169, I-244 & 169, southeast and southwest interchanges of the Inner Dispersal Loop, plus 71st St & 169, I-244 at 25th Street on the west side, the BA at 129th East Ave, and I-44 at Elwood. The camera locations are displayed on a map; you select a location, then select which of two to four directions you want to see. This will be very helpful for routing around snarls, particularly at locations like eastbound I-244 at I-44, where a severe backup can catch you after there's no way to get around it.

UPDATE: 5:28 PM: Brian Barber's comments (a second one explained that copy editors write the headlines, not the reporters) have vanished from the website.

The headline read "Public works audit angers councilors".

The headline doesn't seem to fit Brian Barber's story, and in fact, Barber objected to it by posting a comment on the web version of the article:

Tulsa World Staff Writer Brian Barber, (6/5/2008 8:27:36 AM)

I disagree with the headline that was placed above my story. While comments at the meeting were direct, no one was angry.

Good for Brian. Writers need to speak up when headlines distort the reader's perception of the story. Given the Whirled editorial board's disdain for the City Council, it's easy to suspect a deliberate decision to use the headline to cast the Council in a bad light, when it's Public Works director Charles Hardt who comes across in the story as defensive and shifty.

Barber wrote a solid story that explained to the reader not only what was said, but the dynamics of the discussion between the councilors and Hardt.

Hardt had told the Council that the long-awaited audit of his department would be a self-audit.

The self audit will start in July and last about a year, with the organization's representatives on site to oversee the process.

The areas to be examined include service delivery, effectiveness and accountability, management and administration, teamwork, staff pride, interdepartmental coordination and planning for the future.

Several councilors are quoted in the story expressing concern about Hardt's announcement:

"I disagree with us calling this an audit," Councilor G.T. Bynum said during this week's committee meetings. "In my opinion, an audit necessitates some form of independence.

"I think what's planned will have great benefit, but I do think we need an independent audit of the Public Works Department."

Councilor Jack Henderson said that over the years he's been in office, many people have called for a public works audit.

"But I know this isn't what they had in mind," he said.

There are stories out there about a collapsed and unusable water reservoir tank, about pump stations destroyed because of overpressure required by a poorly planned system, about favoritism toward certain developers in the planning of water and sewer projects, about collusion among local contractors resulting in higher prices. I've been told that Public Works has ways of "hiding" money -- not for personal enrichment, necessarily, but to be able to shunt funds between projects without getting the politicians involved.

Many people have been calling for a full and independent financial audit and a full and independent performance audit of the Public Works department, chief among them former Councilor Jim Mautino. An internal self-audit will not provide the degree of scrutiny needed to find and correct problems and build public confidence in the department.

Hardt's reaction to the councilors' concerns:

Hardt grew somewhat defensive with the talk of an independent audit.

"If you want an audit that looks at the books and financial transactions, that's not what this is," he said.

"This is more of a performance audit that looks at how we deliver service, whether we're effective and whether there are ways we can improve.

"But if you really want to know whether we did something wrong, I think you need to hire a head hunter or a witch hunter and get on with it."

Bynum said he doesn't think an independent audit should be viewed as something to expose "any perceived wrongdoings."

"I simply think there would be some value in it," he said.

Hardt said he's been through such audits before that were wastes of time.

"I've found that you have auditors who have no knowledge or understanding of what the engineering world does and no clue as to what our objectives are," he said.

"This is a far more meaningful process than having an audit firm that doesn't understand one thing about constructing something but tells us how we should have done it. That's awfully irritating."

A member of the city Auditor's Office stepped forward during the meeting and suggested that the process should be called a quality assurance review, rather than an audit.

Exactly right. A quality assurance review measures performance against the department's own rules, procedures, and goals, but it doesn't examine whether the rules, procedures, and goals are appropriate or effective.

A real audit process needs to create a secure environment for employees to speak out about problems they've observed. A citeewurkor needs to be able to say, "We've always done it that way, but { it's always seemed fishy, it never made sense, it seems wrong } to me," without fear of retribution. PW is a big department, and it would be easy for someone to shape rules and procedures in a self-serving way without being obvious about it. (Self-serving doesn't necessarily mean lining one's own pockets. It could also involve power or personal comfort.)

Shirley Bassey and the Propellerheads provide the classy soundtrack for this See-Dubya-produced video:

But I'm thinking I've heard this song before.

Flip-flopping anti-war Ivy-league snob with a lovable (not) wife, who wants to appease Iran (or does he now?), and who has tight, deep connections to the anti-American radicals sixties and seventies?

(Gotta love the growl in Shirley's voice when she sings "history repeating".)

We're now five hours away from the close of Oklahoma's filing period for the 2008 elections, and I'm still seeing way too many seats with unchallenged Democrats; for example, 2nd District Congressman Dan Boren, and Tulsa-area State Reps. Jeannie McDaniel (HD 78) and Eric Proctor (HD 77).

A couple of months ago, as youthful and not-so-youthful Ron Paul supporters were seeking to become delegates to the Republican National Convention, they asserted that they were engaged with the Republican Party for the long haul, and some expressed interest in seeking state and local office. I heard rumors that one young Ron Paul supporter planned to challenge Lucky Lamons in HD 66, but I haven't seen his name on the list of candidates yet.

So far, I've only noticed two RP backers who have filed for office, and both of them have been engaged in the political process for many years. Dr. Mike Ritze, a Broken Arrow physician whose "US out of UN! UN out of US!" sign graced 101st Street for many years, is running for HD 80, a seat being vacated by Ron Peterson. Ritze was chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party from (if memory serves) 1991 to 1993. And Sally Bell is challenging Randi Miller in the primary for the Tulsa County Commission District 2 seat.

So where are all the young activists who were energized by Ron Paul's presidential run? Challenging a Democratic incumbent would give them a platform to air their issues and an opportunity to build valuable campaign experience, name recognition for future campaigns, and credibility with Republican old-timers. And there's always the possibility that, catching a secure incumbent off-guard, they might win.

Rather than composing a 1000-word comment complaining about this blog entry, why not spend the hour and a half to drive to the State Capitol to throw your hat in the ring?

UPDATE: Gary Casey, 32, has filed to challenge Democratic State Sen. Tom Adelson (SD 33). Casey sought to be a delegate at the 1st District Republican Convention and through the State Executive Committee. Of the Ron Paul supporters seeking to be a delegate, he was one of the most well-received by the non-Ron Paul supporters. I'm happy to see Gary taking up this tough challenge.

UPDATE 2: No RP connection, as far as I know, but Jay Matlock, who sought the Republican nomination for Tulsa City Council District 4, has filed to run against Democratic State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (HD 78). This would be a better fit for Matlock; his motivating issue was education, and he can do more about that in the State House than he could have in the City Council.

UPDATE 3: Nathan Dahm, 25, a Ron Paul supporter who has commented here on occasion (and at length), has filed for the open HD 75 seat. And Les White, 34, a leading Paul organizer in Oklahoma, has filed for the HD 45 seat in Norman. And "Orat" has posted a 170-word complaint about this blog entry.

It's a great privilege for Tulsa to host this year's National Preservation Conference, to be held in October, and it's a great opportunity for Tulsans concerned about historic preservation, adaptive reuse, sensitive infill, neighborhood conservation, art deco architecture, and urban design to raise local awareness on these issues. Here's an opportunity to get involved:

The final Local Advisory Committee meeting for the 2008 National Preservation Conference will be held on Thursday, June 19, 4:30 - 6:00pm, in the Manchester Room at the Doubletree Hotel Downtown, 616 W. 7th Street.

Anyone who is interested or in any way involved in the conference should make plans to attend! Representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be discussing conference program highlights, marketing, and volunteer opportunities.

If you plan to attend, please call (202) 588-6100 or email conference@nthp.org by Friday, June 13.

Moving west across Cincinnati Ave. from our previous installment, Block 107, we come to Block 106 of Tulsa's original townsite, 2nd to 3rd Street, Boston to Cincinnati Avenue. This block isn't asphalt, but it is radically different than it was as recently as 1970. Part of the Williams Center superblock complex, Boston Avenue was closed north of 3rd Street. The Williams Center Green replaced the street between 2nd and 3rd, along with part of the adjacent blocks. The rest of Block 106 is now occupied by the Performing Arts Center, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the nearby Bank of Oklahoma Tower and the World Trade Center. While the PAC has an attractive frontage on 3rd, it presents a blank wall along Cincinnati, and a small stage door entrance on 2nd. (How much better it would have been to adapt one of our glorious movie palaces as a performing arts center and to have left this block as it once was.)

Here's how the block was laid out in the late '50s and early '60s. As before, the image is from Sheet 21 of the Sanborn fire insurance map, last updated in 1962, with my notations in red indicating businesses that were listed in the 1957 Polk City Directory for Tulsa. Click on the thumbnail to pop-up the full 1900 by 1900 image.

Block 106, Tulsa Original Townsite, 2nd to 3rd Streets, Boston to Cincinnati Avenues

The 3rd Street frontage is dominated by the 10-story R. T. Daniel Building and the 13-story Hotel Tulsa; in between was a three-story building that was the original home of Saied Music Co. Note that both skyscrapers had multiple storefronts at street level.

By 1957, we're already beginning to see the erosion of downtown's urban fabric for parking. Between 1939 and 1957, a quarter of the block, and more than two-thirds of the frontage on 2nd Street has been reduced from two or three story buildings to asphalt, leaving the two remaining buildings on 2nd rather forlorn.

The population in 1960 was 21 (Census Tract 25, Census Block 57).

Now for some photos -- I will add more as I find them. There are so many photos of the Hotel Tulsa that I will put them in a separate entry at a later time, but here is a good shot of the Hotel Tulsa that shows some of the rest of the block:

(Photos from the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

Hotel Tulsa, looking to the northwest from 3rd & Cincinnati

Here's the north side of 3rd between Boston and Cincinnati, showing the R.T. Daniel Building in the foreground, the Hotel Tulsa in the background, and the building where Saied's was located in between:

Tulsa, north side of 3rd between Boston and Cincinnati, R.T. Daniel Building, Hotel Tulsa, Saied Music

More photos after the jump.

Found on the OKDemocrat message board:

RELATED: The official list of Oklahoma's delegation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, listing each delegate and the candidate to whom each is pledged.

U. S. Rep. John Sullivan drew one opponent in the first day of filing: Georgianna W. Oliver, 41, 1244 E. 26th St, a Democrat. You haven't heard of her, but I'm told that she has the money to self-finance a campaign.

Any time I wonder about someone with a D after their name on the ballot, I visit the OKDemocrat forum to see what the scuttlebutt is. Apparently, she goes by the nickname Buffy, and she hasn't lived in Oklahoma for a long time, and perhaps has never been a 1st District resident. Here's what one OKDemocrat user, andypot, has to say:

I remember Georgianna "Tankersley" White Back in the Day - we were Jr. Aides on "The Hill"...Tankersley was an LA on Congressman Bill Brewster's staff & me on Synar's. She was quite the rising star: Like a female LBJ. She was an OSU grad and Sapulpa Chieftain moved to the Big City. She liked to drop a lotta names of the rich and/or powerful at OSU or wherever she went. She of course took that instinct with her to the congressional staff. Georgianna had the rep of doing "anything to get ahead" including being a [word that looks like an anagram for "self-starter"?] to get to the top.

Don't go screaming carpetbagger just yet. If you're gonna raise hell about G. Buffy Tankersley White Ridenhour Oliver, then NY Sen. H.R. Clinton shoulda run in Arkansas. Buffy's been a registered voter in Tulsa County for 4.5 months. According to Federal election law Ms. Oliver can run for Congress anywhere she wants, by Gawd! Running for state or county office is another matter and that's why "Tankersley" declined The Tulsa Country Club's invite to run against Randi Miller or for the State Senator in South Tulsa. The real question is why? Georgianna has a very ill, elderly hub who is gettin' treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston. She's also the non-baby momma of a young Russian boy. Shouldn't Buffy be Takin' Care of Bidnez at the hospital beside hubby instead of gallivantin' around CD1 makin' trouble for Sully? How's about bein' a PTA volly at some high dollar private school that young Ivan attends rather than goin' to Demo political functions? Otherwise Buffy, bombs away.

(The "Tulsa Country Club" is a reference to the local wealthy Democratic establishment.)

It's filing period in Oklahoma, today, Tuesday, and Wednesday, for state legislature, congressional offices, county offices, and two seats on the Corporation Commission -- a regular election to a full six-year term (Jeff Cloud, elected in 2002, is the incumbent), and a special to fill the unexpired term of Denise Bode (incumbent Jim Roth was appointed by Brad Henry to fill the term).

This page on the election board website will show filings for everything except county offices. Highlights so far:

Sen. Jim Inhofe drew his expected Democratic opponent, Andrew Rice, plus two primary opponents, perennial candidate Evelyn Rogers from Tulsa (following in her mother Tennie Rogers's footsteps) and Dennis Lopez from Thackerville.

Three of our five congressmen have drawn one opposite-party opponent apiece, but none have drawn primary opposition. Dan Boren (D-CD 2) and Tom Cole (R-CD 4) are so far unopposed.

Filings for legislature are pretty thin. Judy Eason McIntyre (D-SD 11), Tom Adelson (D-SD 33) and Brian Crain (R-SD 39) are unopposed so far. No one has yet filed to replace term limited Jim Williamson (R-SD 35), although several candidates have declared. No one has filed in SD 25 either, although incumbent Republican Mike Mazzei is expected to do so. In SD 37, Nancy Riley, who ran as a Republican last time and changed parties two years ago after running for Lt. Governor as a Republican, is running as a Democrat. Former City Council aide Jan Megee has filed as a Republican to oppose her. (Republican Dan Newberry is also expected to file.)

In Tulsa area State House seats, Republicans Sue Tibbs, Rex Duncan, Pam Peterson, Fred Jordan, Ron Peters, Dan Sullivan, and John Wright, and Democrats Lucky Lamons, Eric Proctor, and Jeannie McDaniel are so far unopposed. Only one candidate has so far filed to replace Ron Peterson in HD 80, in southeast Tulsa County: Dr. Mike Ritze, a former Tulsa County Republican chairman (c. 1991). It's a heavily Republican seat and was hotly contested last time the seat was open.

Republican Speaker Chris Benge has drawn a primary opponent, Brian Jackson, 25. Owasso Republican first-termer David Derby was rumored to be stepping down, but he filed for re-election, along with two primary opponents. Two Republicans have filed to replace departing Republican Dennis Adkins in HD 75, Greg Chapman and Dan Kirby. Weldon Watson (R-HD 79) has drawn a Democratic opponent, Chad Hawkins. Incumbent John Trebilcock (R-HD 98) will be opposed by Democrat Greg Frederick, 32.

Democrat Jabar Shumate will face Tulsa Fire Department Administrative Chief Kevin Matthews in north Tulsa's HD 73. Shumate has been one of the strongest supporters of school choice measures in the Democratic caucus.

Two Democrats, Christie Breedlove and John Slater, have already filed for HD 72, Darrell Gilbert's open north Tulsa seat, and it's expected to draw several more. But a strong Republican candidate, Mary Nichols, 59, has filed -- the first time in about a decade that the GOP has contested the seat. Perennial mayoral candidate Lawrence Kirkpatrick will be on the ballot as an independent.

The severe straight-line winds Sunday morning shook loose limbs that were damaged by December's ice storm. Along with 80,000 other PSO customers we lost power -- in our case, for about eight hours. An oak tree dropped a huge limb on our deck; the deck appears to be unhurt, but a lamppost next to it was snapped off at its base. Another large limb split off from a hackberry, resting on the roof until I could get some major branches lopped off and shove what was left off of the roof.

The oak lost some major branches during the ice storm, and the damage to the hackberry on Sunday was enough that both will likely have to come down. (Any suggestions for a good tree service?)

At least we won't have to pay to have the debris hauled off. The successful tree debris removal program that operated following the ice storm is being revived. Here are the details from the Mayor's office (emphasis added):

Tulsans who have tree limbs and other greenwaste to dispose of in the wake of this weekend's storms have three options for disposal.

They can take limbs and other yard-wastes to the City's greenwaste recycling site at 10401 E. 56th. Street North. The site is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on official City of Tulsa holidays. Tulsans can also pick up free wood-chip mulch there for landscaping and gardening use.

Anyone dropping off tree limbs, grass clippings or other yard wastes should have a recent City of Tulsa utility bill to show, or have a drivers license with an address within the city limits.

Residents can also tie tree trimmings into bundles no more than four feet long and weighing no more than 50 pounds and place the bundles by their trash containers for pick-up by refuse collection crews on regularly scheduled collection days.

A third option is waiting for a City crew to pick up limbs stacked by the curb. Citizens will have until June 15 to drag limbs to the curb. Beginning Monday, June 16, Public Works crews will make one sweep through the entire city looking for and collecting tree limbs at the curbs.

Citizens do not need to call the City to request pick-ups. Crews will make a pass down all streets to look for limbs placed properly near the curbs.

Limbs should not be stacked on top of or too close to utility meters, telephone or cable switch boxes, mail boxes or fences. They should be close to, but not in, the streets, so that crews can access the debris piles with mechanical grappling equipment.

You may have noticed an addition to the header. There's a subtitle -- "Tulsa straight ahead" -- and next to it, on the home page, is a little button. Press the button, and you'll hear Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys perform a tune of that title, written by one of McAuliffe's fiddlers, Jimmy Hall, on the band bus coming back from Wichita. (That's Hall on the vocal, too.)

Here are the lyrics:

There's a detour sign
o'er a road that winds
out on the broad highway.
But the place for me
is the sign I see:
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

There's a railroad crossin'
and the bus a-rockin',
just takin me away.
Well, I'll pass the time
'till I see that sign,
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

Gonna settle down
when I reach that city fair.
I'm homeward bound,
and I know I'll soon be there.

Where the tall corn grows
and the black oil flows
in old O-K-L-A
In the middle of it all,
I hear that call,
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

Gonna settle down
when I reach that city fair.
I'm homeward bound,
and I know I'll soon be there.

Now there's no use talkin'
'cause I'll get there walkin'
if there's just no other way.
'Cause I read that sign
on the old state line,
T-U-L-S-A, straight ahead!

I've decided to adopt the song as BatesLine's theme song and the title as the site's motto. (I even asked to use the phrase as the name of my weekly column in Urban Tulsa Weekly, but they prefer the more generic "Opinion/Editorial.")

The phrase can have dual but complementary meanings. By itself it suggests our city progressing in the right direction. It can also refer (as it does in the song's lyrics) to Tulsa as a desirable destination, "that city fair," a great place to live.

While many people seem to think I'm all about opposing progress, my aim has always been to encourage genuine progress that improves our quality of life and helps us reclaim the title of America's most beautiful city. In that pursuit, I won't hesitate to oppose the detours, diversions, and dead ends that are often touted as the only way to move forward. It's my hope that this site and my writings elsewhere will help move Tulsa straight ahead.


Over the transom late last week, I received a copy of a scathing letter, dated May 23, written by Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson to Stan Lybarger and Mike Neal, Chairman and CEO, respectively, of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. Martinson, who has headed up the Council's effort to develop a financial package for fixing our streets, was responding to a May 22 letter from Lybarger and Neal to the City Council, urging them not to set a streets funding election for July 29, the date of the Oklahoma primary election.

In the extended entry, you'll find the text of the Chamber's letter (the part I have at least -- from Martinson's reply, there seems to be at least one page missing from the copy of the Chamber's letter I received), followed by Martinson's reply.

A few highlights from Martinson's letter:

Setting aside the condescending tone of your letter for a moment, it conveyed a serious lack of understanding as to the development and status of the Council's proposal to fix Tulsa's streets....

Your contempt for Tulsa's City Council was apparent in your comments. To assume that the Council and City staff would advance an initiative of this magnitude to the voters and ignore fundamental due diligence and statutory requirements is arrogant and absurd. Several of your other bullet points revealed an appalling level of ignorance....

I must admit that I found your comment about ROI on campaigns rather amusing considering your recent track record. Your temerity to condescend to the Council on voter behavior, when by definition, each City Councilor has a better record with the voters than the Chamber, again demonstrates an incredible level of arrogance. We have scheduled public meetings and will have programs on TGOV and information available on our web site to share the results of our research and present our plan. The process has been, and will remain, transparent. I have great faith in the voters, if they are given the facts and have an opportunity to make an informed decision. You may consider it a novel approach, but I would rather tell the citizens the truth and let them decide rather than attempting to manipulate the outcome.

Congratulations on your success in Oklahoma City to secure $25 million in funding for low water dams on the river. I believe we all support river development and welcome the day when you feel the same passion to convince the Tulsa delegation to support our transportation system....

The Chamber appears fixated on glamour and glitz to enhance economic development....

I had hoped that this initiative to fix our streets would be an opportunity to heal the community. I believe the Council, administration, and citizens are prepared to face the issue and am disappointed that the Chamber feels threatened with that initiative....

It's my understanding that there has been some conciliation between Martinson and the Chamber. Hopefully, the Chamber understands that a well-designed package focused on infrastructure rather than a glitzy, expensive campaign, is what will win over the voters, regardless of when the package is on the ballot.

I admire Martinson for standing up to the Chamber's arrogant attitude. That's the kind of leadership that the Gang of Five demonstrated and that we still need from the City Council.

(UPDATE: I received the missing bits of the Chamber letter and have incorporated them below.)

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

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