July 2008 Archives


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Robert N. Going likes what he sees in Oklahoma's junior senator:

I think I have a new hero, a United States Senator who believes in requiring politicians to justify their spending of your tax dollars, who kept his term limit pledge when he went to Congress, who intends to do the same in the Senate, doesn't ask for or get earmarks, is beholden to no one and votes his conscience, Senator Doctor Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The man has tied the Senate in knots by following their rules. He's put holds on every questionable bill he can get his hands on. See David Keene's background piece in The Hill.

At the time Keene wrote, he fully expected that the good old boys of both parties would squash Coburn like a bug when the "Coburn Omnibus Bill" (designed to logroll enough pet projects to guarantee 60 votes) came to the floor. Lo and behold, the Republicans stuck together and only 52 Senators voted "Aye".

What Going and other limited-government conservatives love about Dr. Tom are the very qualities that frustrate his colleagues:

Tom Coburn's Senate colleagues don't know quite what to make of the doctor from Oklahoma. Many of them find him personally likable, but they can't understand why he seems to want to change the way the exclusive club to which they all belong has been doing business for so long.

And what's worse, they have no way of controlling the man. Coburn (R) left the House in 2000 after three terms there because he had voluntarily term-limited himself, and he says that he'll retire from the Senate after two terms there to go back to practicing medicine in Oklahoma. What that means, of course, is that he won't be around quite long enough to chair an important committee even if the GOP should retake the Senate at some point -- and that, therefore, he doesn't have to watch his manners lest party leaders squelch his ambitions.

Moreover, since he finds earmarks morally objectionable, his colleagues can't control him by cutting off funds for a library or parking garage back home and instead have to either confront his arguments or find a way around him. That was a lot easier in the House because there isn't all that much a lone congressman can do to derail spending programs there, but the Senate actually empowers folks like Coburn, who are willing to forsake the comity of the club and rely on the body's rules to get their way.

We need more people like Coburn in government, people who aren't bound by ambition or fear or social ties from doing what's right. If District 2 voters have the good sense to elect Sally Bell to the County Commission, we'll be closer to that goal here in Tulsa County.

Watch Sen. Coburn's blog to follow his crusade against indefensible federal spending.

MORE: Via Jill Stanek, The Hill reports that the Senate Ethics committee is pressuring Coburn over continuing to deliver babies pro bono. The pretext is that, now that the formerly public Muskogee Regional Medical Center is a private institution, Coburn delivering babies there constitutes an endorsement of that particular hospital.

Coburn spokesman John Hart agreed to discuss the issue only after The Hill contacted his office several times over the past two weeks. He called the Ethics panel's logic "absurd" and its argument "inane."

"Just as parents don't choose him hoping to sway his vote, parents don't choose to receive his services at a particular hospital because Dr. Coburn has somehow endorsed that hospital because he is a senator," Hart said in a statement e-mailed to The Hill. "The committee has shown us zero empirical evidence to back up its flimsy claim.

"Has Sen. Leahy provided an improper endorsement to Warner Brothers for appearing in Batman?" Hart asked. "Will millions of Americans now see Batman not because it features stars like Christian Bale or the late Heath Ledger, but because Patrick Leahy, a distinguished United States senator, has offered his illustrious endorsement to this motion picture?

"If Sen. Coburn can only deliver babies for free at a public hospital, shouldn't Sen. Leahy only be allowed to donate his notable thespian skills to a public entity like PBS?"...

Hart estimates that Coburn has delivered dozens of babies since last receiving an ultimatum from the Ethics panel in 2005. Coburn has received no compensation for his work and paid "tens of thousands of dollars" out of his own pocket for medical malpractice insurance and other costs related to his medical practice, Hart said.

Other physicians in the Senate, such as former Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a heart surgeon, voluntarily gave up their medical practices when they joined the Senate.

Coburn, however, wants to remain a true citizen-legislator and has long argued that the Senate should allow him to keep serving his patients because he plans to return to the practice when he leaves the Senate in 2016, consistent with his pledge to serve only two terms. He would like to keep up his medical skills if he is going to continue being able to earn a living in his chosen profession.

Frist, by contrast, had no plans to return to his practice when he retired from the Senate. ...

"The parents of babies Dr. Coburn delivers don't choose him hoping to sway his vote, and they never have," Hart said. "In the 10 years Dr. Coburn has provided free healthcare to his neighbors while serving in Congress, the Ethics Committee has never pointed to a single conflict of interest. No lobbyist or any individual has ever attempted to infiltrate his medical office under the guise of an invasive medical exam to discuss Senate business."

Coburn's work as an obstetrician was controversial during his House career, but the House allowed him to continue to practice and make enough money to cover his medical bills. When he joined the Senate, the Ethics Committee issued him a letter prohibiting him from practicing medicine.

Hart also made note of the timing of the press's interest in this story. The Ethics Committee sent a memo to Coburn in May, but it has only become public in the past two weeks during the battle over the Tomnibus bill.

Stanek writes, "Were Tom Coburn aborting babies free instead of delivering them free, there would be no investigation; there would be an awards ceremony. This is ridiculous on so many levels, not the least of which is the Democrats' disregard for the poor, unless they control the dole so as to get the credit."

Most elections I'm used to a mixed bag of results -- some encouraging, some discouraging. Once in a great while -- 1980, 1994 come to mind -- everything goes the way I hope.

This comes close to being one of those nights.

82% of Republican voters said yes to Sally Bell and "enough already" to County Commissioner Randi Miller. While I expected a win, my guess was 57%. There's a certain constituency who will vote for the incumbent no matter what. Bell's win is certainly due to disgust with Miller, but the size of the win demonstrates that voters see Bell as a credible prospect for County Commission. That ought to help her raise money and volunteers for the November general election, which will be tough, but it's looking more and more feasible.

We're nearly at 100% of the vote, and it looks like Dana Murphy has won a close Republican primary against State Rep. Rob Johnson for the right to challenge appointed Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, a Democrat. Dana is a wonderful person, she is extremely qualified for this job, and she has the integrity to do the right thing regardless of the pressure from special interests. A cynic would say that combination is political poison, but it's nice to see a good guy finish first for once. Again, it'll be tough to beat an incumbent, but Murphy is more qualified than Roth for the job (she worked for the OCC for five years, he's been there less than one), and she has been in three statewide elections. Roth has never run statewide.

In District 35, we're headed for a runoff, as expected, between Cason Carter and Gary Stanislawski. There's only a 268 vote gap between the two -- Carter 44%, Stanislawski 40%. It's likely that Jeff Applekamp and Janet Sullivan took more support from Stanislawski than from Carter -- Applekamp comes from the southern end of the district, and Sullivan, like Stanislawski, attends Victory Christian Center.

No surprises in the Republican primaries for U. S. Senate and the First Congressional District: Jim Inhofe and John Sullivan prevailed easily over perennial candidates.

I was surprised that the anointed Democratic challengers to Inhofe and Sullivan won by relatively slim margins over very underfunded opponents. Georgianna Oliver beat Mark Manley by only 55% to 45%, and Democratic turnout in the 1st District was half of the Republican turnout, which reveals a lack of enthusiasm for the recently relocated Mrs. Oliver. State Sen. Andrew Rice managed less than 60% against a perennial candidate.

I was pleased, but not at all surprised, to see Dan Newberry win his Senate District 37 primary by such a large margin. He's been walking the district for a year or more. He's got a good headstart on reclaiming the district for the Republican Party.

John Trebilcock won over his primary challenger by a two-to-one margin. I'm told the over-the-top attacks by his opponent turned off a lot of voters.

Elsewhere in Oklahoma, the Chambers of Commerce and the old Cargill machine attempted to defeat State Reps. Randy Terrill and Mike Reynolds. Terrill won renomination with 75% of the vote. Reynolds's race was closer -- 55-45. Disgraced former Speaker Lance Cargill was a consultant to his opponent's campaign.

In Oklahoma County, District 2 County Commissioner Brent Rinehart got a bigger percentage of the vote than Randi Miller -- all of 21%, and that in the face of financial scandal and national notoriety for his amateurish cartoon campaign piece. But he still lost big, and Brian Maughan came close to winning outright with 47% of the vote. Maughan will face J. D. Johnston in a runoff. I know Brian through state Republican Party events, and I'm happy to see him well on his way to a seat on the County Commission.

My take on the two Northside Democratic House primaries: All of the candidates are pretty far to my left on state issues, none of them are pro-life, and none of them will have a Republican opponent in the fall, so in a sense, it doesn't matter who wins. But Christie Breedlove, running in HD 72, has been a tireless worker for Roscoe Turner, one of the good guys on the City Council, and we're often on the same side of local issues, so I'm happy to see her move forward to a runoff.

I was also happy to see Jabar Shumate prevail in a tough primary against Kevin Matthews in HD 73. Nothing against Matthews, but I appreciated Shumate and Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre taking the political risk to support the New Hope Scholarship program, which would have given partial tax credits for donations to scholarship funds to pay for at-risk students to attend private schools. It was a modest school choice bill, but one opposed by a core Democrat constituency -- the teacher's union and other elements of the education establishment -- so Shumate and Eason-McIntyre deserve praise for putting their constituents' best interests above political expedience.

It's just really nice to know that I don't have to take down any yard signs tomorrow, because all my candidates made it to the next round.


I thought I heard a big flushing sound yesterday.

Irritated Tulsan has a career possibility for the soon to be former commissioner.

740 KRMG's Joe Kelley has video of the real reason Randi lost in a landslide.

Michelle is OK with low voter turnout, and she has some advice for John Trebilcock's opponent:

John Newhouse found out tonight that you should run on something besides a mistake your opponent made over a year ago, and has asked forgiveness for. Trebilcock won with about 65%.

This post will remain at the top of the blog until the polls close.

I'll have five choices on my ballot in the 2008 Oklahoma primary election; here's how I plan to mark it:

U. S. Senator: Sen. Jim Inhofe
U. S. Representative, District 1: Rep. John Sullivan
Corporation Commissioner, Short Term: Dana Murphy
State Senator, District 35: Gary Stanislawski
Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2: Sally Bell

If you're a Republican in Senate District 37, I encourage you to vote for Dan Newberry, a solid conservative and a hard-working campaigner. I think he has the best shot at recapturing the seat for the GOP in November.

If I lived in House District 98, I'd be voting for John Trebilcock. John has hit a few bumps in the road, but he's been a solid legislator, and I appreciate his courage in standing up to the Cargill machine at the Capitol.

Here are some links that may be helpful as you go to vote:

Oklahoma State Election Board website
Complete list of candidates for state and federal office
Unofficial election results

Oklahoma Ethics Commission
OEC public disclosure system
Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports and data

Tulsa County Election Board website
Complete list of Tulsa County candidates
Precinct locator
Sample ballots by party and precinct

League of Women Voters Tulsa 2008 election information and voters' guide
Oklahomans for Life candidate survey

MORE: Irritated Tulsan has a motivational poster for voters in County Commission District 2. (Also, he reports that Yaw Eno has been cut down in its prime.)

Terry Hull of Terra Extraneus, an Oklahoma City-based blog about the law, is looking for other Oklahoma "blawgs." So far he's found six -- five based in OKC, but only one based in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Family Law Blog by Dan Nunley.

I have a blawg in my blogroll that Terry hadn't yet encountered: Opinions from Oklahoma & the Northern District: Legal Decisions from Oklahoma State and Federal Courts. 28 entries were posted there between June and December of last year, but nothing since then.

A blawg can be a way to promote both your own practice and a broader understanding of the law, not by offering specific legal advice, but by explaining legal issues you encounter in your practice in terms that are understandable to lay people.

If you're an Oklahoma attorney actively blogging about legal issues, drop by Terra Extraneus and leave a comment.

If you're an Oklahoma attorney interested in blawging and you need an example to inspire you, I'd encourage you to check out Likelihood of Confusion, an award-winning blog about copyright, trademark, and intellectual property law by Ron Coleman. Ron is general counsel of the Media Bloggers Association, and he was a tremendous help in my dealings with the Tulsa World.

Click the link to see a scan of Karen Keith's pre-primary contributions and expenditures filing for Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2. Karen Keith, a Democrat, has no opposition in the primary, but will face the winner of Tuesday's Republican primary between challenger Sally Bell and incumbent Randi Miller.

Karen Keith raised $73,392 between Feb. 28 and July 15, 2008, of which $16,574 was in amounts of $200 or less. She has spent $42,471 -- an astonishing amount given the lack of a primary. Most of that has gone to indirect costs: $17,900 was spent on outside consultants, $5,000 on "copyrighting" [sic -- probably means copywriting], $4,365 on staff labor, $850 for logo and artwork, $900 on a website. (Hosting is relatively inexpensive, so I assume most of that cost is for a consultant to design and launch the site.) Facilities cost -- utilities, rent, phone, water cooler, alarm monitoring, moving -- total about $4,300. Only about $5,000 has gone into direct voter contact -- mail pieces, phone calls, and materials for door-to-door campaigning.

That's a very high overhead operation, and it shrinks her fundraising advantage considerably. A grassroots candidate backed by passionate volunteer workers and advisers could match her voter contact effort with only a fraction of the budget.

Here are Keith's top donors. Spelling as on the form, parenthetical remarks are mine. I will add other donors of more than $200 as I have time, later. All donors of any amount are listed, in alphabetical order, on Keith's C-1 filing.

$3,000 - Amos Adetula (Wilson's BBQ),
$2,750 - Sharon King Davis
$2,500 - Gary Burton
$1,500 - Patrick & Peggy Keith (Bixby), Robert & Roxana Lorton (publisher emeritus, Tulsa World), Danny & Betty O'Brian (Randi Miller's biggest donor)
$1,250 - George & Edwynne Krumme
$1,000 - Tom & Sue Bennett, Pat & Margaret Cremin, John & Kelsy Eakin, Jim & Sally Frasier, Greg Gray & Sharon Bell, Clydella & David Hentschel, Just Progress, George Kravis, David Sharp, Sid Shupack

Mr. O'Brian appears to be hedging his bets.

There's an exciting lakeside community planned for Oklahoma, unlike anything in the state, but hopefully a model for many more to come. New urbanist city planner Andres Duany has been hired by former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphries to plan Carlton Landing on 1600 acres beside Lake Eufaula. The result of a design charrette -- a kind of brainstorming session -- was presented earlier this week in Oklahoma City.

Duany planned the Gulf Coast town of Seaside, Fla., turning that tiny piece of the Redneck Riviera into a popular resort town and generating similar developments all along that stretch of the Florida Panhandle's shore.

As Seaside was, Carlton Landing is family-owned land that has never been developed.

Instead of the usual resort community pattern of only residences along winding roads, Carlton Landing will have a heart, right on the shore, with shops, dining, recreation facilities, and even a chapel. The 1600 acres will be home to about 2500 people -- not high density, but more dense than a typical lakeside development. Duany has almost complete freedom to set design and development standards -- there are no existing land use rules to work around.

From a fleeting glimpse of a map in this slideshow from the charrette (about 2:14 into the video), it appears the Carlton Landing property is centered around the marker on this map:

View Larger Map

I've had my differences with Kirk Humphries, but I admire him for doing something different and daring with this land. Instead of, say, asking taxpayers to spend $600 million create a vibrant community out of the middle of a river, he's making it happen with his own money and land. A couple of years ago I suggested that the folks behind the Channels could do the same thing right here in Tulsa:

Tulsa Stakeholders, Inc., (TSI), the group led by John-Kelly Warren of the Warren Foundation which is proposing The Channels development, has a commendable desire to create a thriving, pedestrian-friendly urban place in Tulsa. So instead of asking the taxpayers to spend $600 million to build three tiny islands on which a walkable community can be built, why doesn't TSI create or restore a walkable community on land that already exists, and thus encourage the creation of this kind of neighborhood all over Tulsa?

(It may be cheeky for me to tell TSI what to do with their money, but since they're telling us taxpayers what we should do with ours, turnabout is fair play.)

TSI could demonstrate that traditional neighborhood development will succeed, even in car-bound Tulsa. They could use their deep pockets and risk tolerance to blaze a trail for more risk-averse conventional developers.

Building a traditional mixed-use neighborhood on taxpayer-subsidized islands would send the message that such developments are too fragile to survive in the free market.

Building or restoring the same kind of neighborhood with private money on private land would set an example that other developers could follow with confidence.

There are many opportunities for TSI to do pioneering work in this area. They could build a New Urbanist community on undeveloped land somewhere in the metro area. They could incorporate walkability and mixed use into the Warren Foundation's own developments (e.g. the Montereau retirement community).

TSI could do some of the exciting infill development recommended by the East Tulsa Community Plan (http://www.cityoftulsa.org/Community/Revitalization/EastTulsa.asp), helping to knit together a lively international district and creating a walkable center for a vast swath of car-bound suburbia.

Perhaps the most strategic investment TSI could make would be in the Pearl District (aka the 6th Street Corridor); on the charitable side, its assistance could fund implementation of the stormwater project for the three-square-mile Elm Creek basin.

This would take land out of the floodplain, making restoration and infill practical. Full public funding for the plan--about $35 million to create stormwater detention ponds and to link one of them to Centennial Park by a canal--is at least a decade away.

Fixing Elm Creek not only helps 6th Street, but it would improve drainage in the Gunboat Park and 18th and Boston areas. (Elm Creek flows underground through both neighborhoods, emptying into the Arkansas River at 21st Street.)

On the private side, it could set an example for other developers by doing some quality infill development and restoration in accordance with the Pearl District Infill Plan (http://www.cityoftulsa.org/Community/Revitalization/6thStreet.asp). No need to use condemnation to assemble vast tracts of land--restore some existing buildings to their former glory, or build new brownstones on already vacant lots.

TSI's leadership would make it safe, maybe even fashionable, for other investors to get involved in the district and to create walkable places in other parts of the metro area.

The revival of the Pearl District would strategically patch a hole in Tulsa's original urban fabric, reconnecting centers of activity--downtown, Cherry Street, Kendall-Whittier, TU, and the Utica medical corridor--which are quite close to each other but which now seem miles apart. And it would make it possible for more Tulsans to make walking a part of daily life, not a specially scheduled activity.

Through private action to create or restore a walkable neighborhood, TSI would send the message, "Come on in, the water's fine," to Tulsa's developers. It might not be as splashy as islands in the river, but such a project would create ripples that would spread far beyond the riverbank, making all parts of our metro area healthier, livelier, and more attractive as a place to live, work, and play.

Gary Stanislawski is not at all bothered that his principal rival in the SD 35 Senate race received a certain endorsement:


The Whirled editorial board endorsed former City Councilor Cason Carter.

Stanislawski, a financial planner and Jenks school board member, has been endorsed by incumbent Sen. Jim Williamson, who is leaving the legislature because of term limits, and by the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly. Stanislawski is an ORU alumnus, an active member and sometime Sunday School teacher and officer at Victory Christian Church, and served 8 years in the US Air Force.

Here's what I had to say about Mr. Carter about a year ago, right after the vote on buying One Technology Center as a new City Hall:

Taylor's over-the-top speech should have been greeted with howls of derision. Some councilor should have told her, "Madame Mayor, come back to talk to us when you can do so without insulting our intelligence."

Taylor claimed that the consolidation of city government offices at OTC would be the "key that will unlock the revitalization of downtown."

Four years ago, we were told that the new downtown sports arena was going to be the key to revitalizing downtown. Before that, we were told that the key was the Inner Dispersal Loop, the Williams Center, the Civic Center, putting the pedestrian mall in, and taking the pedestrian mall out.

It's as if we have a junk drawer full of house keys, skeleton keys, car keys, diary keys, piano keys, and plastic baby toy keys, and our civic leaders are trying them at random until they find one that works.

Taylor also told the Council that the OTC purchase would accomplish "transformation for our souls." I kid you not -- she really said that. Maybe it's because OTC looks like a crystal. Or perhaps Taylor has been reading The Secret.

Our current City Hall is ugly, and moving to OTC would give a boost to the Blue Dome District, but the deal isn't all that. Only the very gullible would buy the fake-it-'til-you-make-it hucksterism in Taylor's claim that going into debt to buy OTC would "change the trajectory" of our city.

And speaking of Cason Carter, he too professed faith in the transformational power of One Technology Center. I'm not sure whether he said that because he truly believes it or because he was trying to please Mayor Mommy by echoing her words.

Carter plans to run for State Senate District 35 next year, but anyone who spouts such nonsense doesn't have any business handling taxpayer dollars at City Hall, much less the bigger bucks at the State Capitol.

Cason is intelligent, a likable guy, and conservative on social issues. Many people I respect are supporting him. But he played it safe during his two years on the Council, taking care never to offend people who might be able to finance his next step up the political ladder. If someone isn't willing to take political risks and offend powerful special interests at City Hall, it's hard to believe he'll suddenly develop that level of courage at a higher level of government.

DISCLOSURE: Early in the campaign, having already decided by process of elimination that I would not be supporting Mr. Carter or Mr. Applekamp, I did some paid computer work for the Stanislawski campaign. This blog entry is at my own initiative, prompted only by a mention of the flyer on Chris Medlock's show. (Medlock was endorsed by the Whirled in his first State House run in 1994, which he lost to Fred Perry, another conservative who was proud not to be endorsed by the Whirled.)

MORE: This endorsement won't help Cason in Brookside:

"As a private developer looking to invest in Tulsa, Cason Carter was extremely helpful. He put me in contact with neighborhood leaders and was able to help facilitate a project that will be a great benefit for Tulsa."

John Gilbert
Senior Vice President Bomasada Group, Inc.

On Wednesday, July 23, District Judge Linda Morrissey denied motions by the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Mujib Cheema, and the North American Islamic Trust to dismiss Jamal Miftah's lawsuit against them. Miftah is suing Cheema, IST, and NAIT, as well as several other individual leaders in IST for assault and battery, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Earlier this year, Judge Gordon McAllister granted several motions to dismiss, but gave Miftah's attorneys 20 days to present an amended petition. It was this amended petition that was the subject of the latest motions to dismiss, which were denied.

We will keep you posted on developments. Here is a link to BatesLine's Jamal Miftah category, where you can catch up on the dispute between Miftah and IST regarding IST expelling him over his op-ed condemning terrorism in the name of Islam.

DOCUMENTS: Here are some of Jamal Miftah's court filings in this case:

  1. June 22, 2007: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Original Petition
  2. October 30, 2007: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Response to Motion for Dismissal
  3. April 2, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Amended Petition
  4. May 15, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Motion for Continuance
  5. June 9, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Response to Motion for Dismissal

Reading the amended petition, item 3 above, will get you up to speed on the incident that prompted the lawsuit. The response to the motion to dismiss the amended lawsuit, item 5 above, is the plaintiff's explanation for why the mosque and the national entities that own it have been named as defendants in the suit.


See-Dubya updates readers at Michelle Malkin's blog, with a reminder of some of the threats that have been made against Miftah. Readers there have posted some words of encouragement for him in the comments.

See-Dubya links to this Hot Air video report about Miftah by counterterrorism reporter Erick Stakelbeck, from February 2007.

Howie at My Pet Jawa links the story, too.

Gates of Vienna has excerpts from the amended petition summarizing what happened to Miftah as the result of his op-ed. The excerpts also speak of Miftah and other members of the mosque raising concerns, earlier in 2005, about the lack of transparent accounting practices at IST, involving cash payments to outside organizations. The Gates of Vienna blogger writes: "It's good to know that someone is using one of ISNA's preferred weapons against them."

This post is a reminder to me to write a check to the ethics commission and get it mailed.

When the Oklahoma Ethics Commission called me back about my request for scans of the Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner race contributions and expenditures reports, I was told to mail a check for $1 for each page requested, and when they received the check, they would mail me the copies. I pointed out to Merlyn Rios, the clerk who handles these requests, that the purpose of filing these forms was to inform the public of the contributors to a candidate and to do so early enough to provide the media and the voters time to analyze the list and take it into consideration come election day. Waiting on the US Mail would slow the process down considerably and might mean voters wouldn't get the information in time to make use of it.

I asked to speak to Merlyn's boss about a waiver of fees or e-mailing the information to me. She transferred me to Patti Bryant. Patti agreed to authorize Merlyn to fax the information to me on the promise that I would mail a check. The fact that I am in media did not entitle me to a fee waiver. The fee is set by the Ethics Commission.

Given the history of county courthouse corruption in Oklahoma, I understand why the ethics law doesn't make a county official the repository of ethics filings, although it would be easier for voters to access the information if they could see it at the county election board.

But it seems to me that the purpose of the law is defeated by the way the commission is handling these documents. They should simply scan these documents upon receipt and post the resulting PDF on their website. Better yet, they should include county candidates in the same searchable database used for state candidates. I could see charging a fee for dredging out and copying old filings, but not for filings in current races.

So far, BatesLine is the only Tulsa media outlet to publish the contributions and expenditures reports for the District 2 County Commission Republican primary. (Here is Sally Bell's report and my analysis. Here is Randi Miller's report and my analysis. Tomorrow I should be able to scan and post Karen Keith's report.) The daily paper doesn't seem interested, and the report filing deadline comes too late for Urban Tulsa Weekly's last issue before the election.

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This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is mainly devoted to an endorsement of Edmond attorney/geologist Dana Murphy for the two-year term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Murphy is running against State Rep. Rob Johnson in the Republican primary, and the primary winner will face Jim Roth, who was appointed by Gov. Brad Henry to fill the vacancy left by Denise Bode's resignation.

Dana Murphy (danamurphy.com) served for five years as an administrative law judge for the OCC, presiding over more than 5,000 cases, weighing evidence and testimony and making judgments, and acting as a gatekeeper over the issues that would be decided by the three commissioners. If elected, Murphy would have no need for on-the-job training.

In addition to her time at the OCC, Murphy has worked as a petroleum geologist and an oil and gas attorney. She did her undergraduate work in geology at OSU then went on to get a law degree at Oklahoma City University....

I first got to know Dana Murphy during the 2002 campaign. Impressed by her credentials, I was glad to have the chance to serve in a very minor role on her team. I became even more impressed by her character, as I saw how graciously she dealt with slimy attack ads and a slim runoff defeat.

I'm proud to call Dana a friend, and in the intervening years, I've come to have an even greater appreciation for her character....

Sally Bell raised $13,321.36, of which $3,021.26 was in amounts of $200 or less. Bell reports spending $10,848.99, of which $10,191.56 was spent on "general advertising," $336.93 on printing, and $320.50 on miscellaneous expenses. Here is a scan of Sally Bell's contributions and expenditures report.

Here's the list of contributors. Spelling is as on the form. Parenthetical comments are mine:

$2,500 - Jeff and Kathy Rogers
$1,500 - Sally and Robert K. Bell, Jr. (the candidate and her husband)
$1,000 - Will and Willma (Wilma) Arnold, Jeffrey A. and Kathryn K. Weaver, Sharna P. and Steven (Stephen) Bovasso (realtor and anesthesiologist)
$500 - Gary and Jan Phillips (owners of Fantasy Island Amusement Park, Beach Haven, NJ), Sandra and Stephen Rodolf, Janis Curry, Greg and Carol Owens (KMO Development Group), Lloyd Noble II trust
$300 - APA (Alphonse Pierre) Vorenkamp
$250 - Donald and Laura Lehman, George S. Sharp (Sharp Mortgage Co.)

Other thank the Bells and Lloyd Noble, I didn't instantly recognize any of these names, and my various search efforts aren't turning up much. I'm guessing that most of these people are personal friends of the Bells. None of them appear to have any dealings with county government or the Fairgrounds. If you have more info, drop a note in the comments.

MORE: I spoke to Sally Bell's son Robby Bell this morning, and he confirmed my impression. Jeff and Kathy Rogers' oldest a child is a classmate of Robby's youngest. Jeff has a medical supply business. The Arnolds are old friends of Bob and Sally Bell. The Weavers have a son who was a classmate of Robby's oldest son; they have a business that makes canopies for businesses like gas stations. Stephen Bovasso has been a friend of Robby's since 4th grade. The Phillipses are long-time friends of Bob and Sally Bell, and they were part of a group of couples who went on motorcycling excursions together. I was out of time to go down the whole list, but that covers all the big donors.

When city employees have their travel to conferences and meetings covered by a third-party -- e.g., a foundation or the Tulsa Metro Chamber -- there has to be a vote by the council to accept the travel donation. Steve Roemerman wonders why the same wouldn't be true of Mayor Kathy Taylor donating a ride to a City Councilor on N227KT, her Learjet 31A -- the most recent example being Taylor giving a lift to Councilor David Patrick so he could vote for her downtown ballpark assessment district.

Instead of being more open about the use of her personal aircraft to further her political goals, Taylor has made it harder to track where her jet has been. I can't think of any security or safety reason to withhold that information, particularly if it were delayed by, say, a day. Taylor is a public figure. In the interest of transparency in government,Taylor ought to release monthly flight logs -- where her plane has been, who was on it, and what was the purpose of the trip.

MORE: Chris Medlock learns that the jet belongs not to Kathy Taylor as an individual, but to a Nevada corporation and considers the ethical implications:

The actual owner of the jet is 1132 Investment Co. As the graphic below shows, this is apparently not an Oklahoma corporation, but rather one from Nevada....

Let us further assume that, as the name implies, the company is a for-profit venture. What then makes the use of this jet to fetch loyal councilors any different than if American Airlines had sent a jet up to get Patrick? In both instances, you would have a jet owned and operated by a out-of-state corporation, flying across state lines for the express purpose of bringing a vacationing elected official back home for a key vote.

When I was a city councilor, we were not allowed to accept gifts in excess, if memory serves me right, of $50. By her own admission, Taylor gave Patrick something [a quick and timely trip home] that was far in excess of $50, unless you don't think $4,500 in jet fuel and hours on the road don't rate....

Patrick was not in Colorado on official business. He was there on a semi-vacation tending to private property he owns there. It cost him his own money to get to Colorado, so any expense saved in getting back from private activities is a net benefit to his personal wealth, hence a gift! Or are they telling us that Taylor then spent an additional $4,500 to fly him BACK to Colorado after the meeting?

In a later entry, delving further into this Nevada corporation, Medlock congratulates Taylor on structuring her assets and income to avoid taxes.

Medlock also provides us with the State of Arkansas's policy on a public official accepting a ride on a private jet.

MORE: Steve, a member of the City of Tulsa's Sales Tax Overview Committee, shares the highlights from the July 2008 report.

Today I received a call from Merlyn Rios at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, saying they had the pre-primary contribution and expenditure (C-1) reports for Randi Miller and Karen Keith for Tulsa County Commission District 2. I'll post Karen Keith's report later; since she's not a primary candidate (she's the only Democrat to file for the office), it's less urgent.

Here is Randi Miller's pre-primary C-1 form. Miller raised $39,500, of which $2,700 was in contributions of $200 or less. Miller reports spending $33,935.60, of which $25,500 has been spent on radio and television. Note that the report is incomplete, as Miller did not list the date on which each contribution was accepted.

In this morning's debate on 1170 KFAQ, moderated by Pat Campbell, Miller said, "Every person that is mad at me, they have an agenda." And she referred to this group of people who don't like her as "special agenda citizens."

It's interesting: When Campbell asked Miller to name her biggest contributors, she mentioned Danny O'Brian and Joe Robson, but she didn't mention George Kaiser, who gave the same amount as Robson ($2,500) and has an instantly recognizable name. Nearly every voter would associate the name of the wealthiest man in Oklahoma with last fall's river tax package, for which Randi Miller was head cheerleader.

(You can listen to the podcast of the 1170 KFAQ Sally Bell - Randi Miller debate here. The podcast of this afternoon's round-table discussion of the debate with myself, Chris Medlock and Charlie Biggs is here.)

The list of contributors, people who like her enough to give her lots of campaign money, sure looks like a list of "special agenda citizens" to me. Many have some connection to last fall's failed county sales tax increase for river-related projects. One is a fairgrounds tenant (maybe two). Here's the list, by largest amount first. Spellings are as they are on the form. Parenthetical notes are mine.

$5,000: Danny O'Brian (P. O. Box 698, Sand Springs, executive of Cust-O-Fab)

$2,500: George Kaiser, Joe Robson

$2,000: Chet Cadieux (QuikTrip), Emmit Hahn (Chili Bowl promoter), Larry Edwards (see below)

$1,500: Jay Helm (American Residential Group)

$1,000: Tom Maxwell (Flintco), Brad Smallwood, Mark Tedford, Henry Zarrow, Tom Kivisto (formerly of SemGroup), Stacy Schusterman, Keith Bailey, W. R. Lissau, Walt Helmerich, Dennis Hall, Lynn Mitchell (of the Jenks River District), Stuart Price (Bill Clinton crony and one-time Democratic nominee for Congress)

$500: Hasting Siegfried, Art Couch (roads contractor), John Walker, Scott Morgan, Ray Morgan, Darton Zink, Tom Golden, Albert Kelly, Montie Box (Sand Springs real estate mogul)

$300: Rick Huffman (Branson, Mo.)

$250: Ken Levit (George Kaiser Family Foundation), Mitch Adwon, Jono Helmerich, Guy Berry, John Gaberino, Stephen Franklin, Jim Spoan, Mike Kimbrel (Jenks River District).

I was puzzled about the $2,000 contribution from "Larry Edwards." There is someone by that name who was was chairman of Global Power Equipment Corp., a company that went through Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2006, emerging in January 2008.

But then I noticed that "Larry Edwards" is next to "Emmit Hahn" at the very end of the list. I found the following info on the "about" page of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals (emphasis added):

Two weeks after Christmas, the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals arrives like a gift from Santa Claus. In the Oklahoma metropolis of Tulsa, "Santa" is Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards, organizers of the four-night race meet since its 1987 inception.

Hahn and Edwards lease the IPE Building Expo Building QuikTrip center from the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (of which Miller, as county commissioner, is a member) every January to run midget cars around an indoor dirt track.

Given that Hahn's first name was misspelled or mistranscribed, it's not hard to imagine that a handwritten "Lanny" became a typewritten "Larry." The names on the contributor list are not sorted by name or amount, so I suspect they are sorted in the order the contribution was received. Since Hahn and Edwards are listed together, it may be that they contributed on the same day. If the filing were complete, with a date for each contribution, it would be easier to know for sure.

So instead of getting $5,000 from Big Splash owner Loretta Murphy (who apparently doesn't have that kind of money to throw around any more), Miller is getting money from another Fairgrounds tenant, split up perhaps to make it seem less obvious.

MORE: A reader notes that Jono Helmerich is chairman of the Friends of the Fairgrounds Foundation and Tom Maxwell and Darton Zink are members of the board. The same reader notes that the notary public who notarized Miller's form is Ella McKenzie, Miller's taxpayer-funded secretary. Either she had McKenzie notarize it on county time or on her own time, and I'm not sure which is worse. She already had her chief deputy handle some legal business for her on his lunch hour. (I wonder if Miller has a flower fund.)

Also, in the comments, Tasha points out that contributor Rick Huffman is the fellow who built Branson Landing and proposed a similar development for Tulsa's west bank.

Strategic Vision polled 1200 Oklahoma voters for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Here is the executive summary:

This scientifically representative poll of 1,200 likely Oklahoma voters measures public opinion on a wide range of K-12 education issues. The underlying theme of the Friedman Foundation's Survey in the State series is to measure voter attitudes toward their public institutions, leaders, innovative ideas, and the current K-12 power and priority structure.

In particular, Oklahomans have shared with us their views about "school choice" in the forms of taxcredit scholarships, school vouchers, charter schools and virtual schools. Results imply that voters like the idea of customizing the school selection process in a way that best meets the needs of a child and his or her family. So how high is the support for school choice reforms? Percentages favoring tax-credit scholarships, school vouchers, and charter schools are consistently in the 50s--generally and across nearly all subgroups.

In some cases, favorability to a particular school choice reform reaches the 60s. For example, 60 percent of African-Americans favor a scholarship granting system funded through business tax credits; 63 percent of African-Americans like charter schools; and 63 percent of Hispanics favor "allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds."

School choice is not a partisan issue among voters in Oklahoma. Favorability spans political parties and political self-identification. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans favor publicly funded scholarship granting systems (through business or individual tax credits), school vouchers, and charter schools.

Proportions are very similar across these subgroups on school choice-related questions. In some cases, support is extraordinarily high: 61 percent of Democrats favor tax-credit scholarship legislation; 60 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Independents favor a scholarship granting system funded through individual tax credits; and all three political groups are more likely to vote for rather than against a candidate who supports a tax-credit scholarship policy.

A total of 1,200 phone interviews were conducted by Strategic Vision, between April 25 and April 27, 2008. The margin of error for the full sample of likely voters is ± 3 percentage points; the margin of error is higher when considering the response percentages for a given demographic subgroup.

Key findings include:

  • About two-fifths of Oklahoma voters are not satisfied with the state's current public school system--41 percent rate Oklahoma's public school system as "poor" or "fair." Excluding the one of five voters who are undecided, this proportion rises to 51 percent.

  • Nearly two out of three Oklahomans are content with current levels of public school funding. A large majority of voters (64 percent) say Oklahoma's level of public school funding is either "too high" or "about right." At least 67 percent of the poll's respondents underestimate the state's actual per-pupil funding, which suggests that the funding satisfaction level is probably a conservative figure.

  • More than four out of five Oklahomans would prefer to send their child to a school other than a regular public school--only 17 percent say a regular public school is their top choice. This low figure is consistent with what we have learned from previous state polls asking the same question, most recently in Idaho (12 percent), Tennessee (15 percent), Nevada (11 percent), and Illinois (19 percent).

  • Oklahoma voters value private schools--they are more than twice as likely to prefer sending their child to a private school over any other school type. When asked "what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child?" 41 percent of respondents selected private schools. This finding is consistent with other recent state polls asking the same question: Idaho (39 percent), Tennessee (37 percent), Nevada (48 percent), and Illinois (39 percent).

  • Oklahomans like having a range of schooling options. Majorities express support for school vouchers (53 percent) and charter schools (54 percent), with many also open to virtual schools (40 percent), even though nearly a third of respondents stated they "have never heard of virtual, cyber, or online schools." School choice is not a partisan issue among likely voters. There is solid potential for building bridges between Democrats (D), Republicans (R), and Independents (I). Voters who identify themselves differently in terms of political affiliation are likely to have common views on various school choice reforms and policies spanning charter schools (D: 52 percent | R: 56 percent | I: 55 percent), virtual schools (D: 38 percent | R: 40 percent | I: 42 percent), school vouchers (D: 53 percent | R: 54 percent | I: 53 percent), or a generic public-funded school choice system (D: 55 percent | R: 53 percent | I: 56 percent).

  • More than half of voters are favorable to a tax-credit scholarship system. When asked "if a proposal were made in Oklahoma to create a tax-credit scholarship system," 54 percent say they favor a scholarship system funded by business charitable donations. A slightly higher figure (57 percent) say they favor a scholarship system funded by individual charitable donations.

  • Likely voters view recent tax-credit scholarship legislation positively--58 percent say they are favorable to such school choice legislation. Majorities cut across Democrats (61 percent), Republicans (55 percent), and Independents (53 percent).

  • Oklahomans are more likely to vote for a state representative, state senator or governor who supports a taxcredit scholarship system. Nearly twice as many voters say they are "more likely" (21 percent) rather than "less likely" (11 percent) to vote for such a candidate. Independents are nearly five times more likely to vote for a person supporting tax-credit scholarships (23 percent vs. 5 percent).

  • Knowledge about school vouchers is at a low baseline in Oklahoma--there is an information deficit about this type of system reform. Although a majority of Oklahoma's likely voters (55 percent) said they were either "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with school vouchers, there is still a lot of potential for educating citizens on the issue. This figure is comparable to what has been measured in other states such as Idaho (59 percent), Tennessee (45 percent), Nevada (55 percent), and Illinois (51 percent).

Read more about the battle for school in Oklahoma at the Choice Remarks blog.

Earlier today I spoke to Merlyn Rios at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Merlyn is the person who answers the phone when you "press 1" to request information about a campaign filing.

County elections are governed differently than state and municipal elections. Like municipal elections, they come under the Public Subdivisions Ethics Act. Like state elections and unlike municipal elections, county candidates file their C-1 (contributions and expenditures) reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Unlike state elections, county elections aren't covered under electronic filing requirements, so you've got to call or drop by the Ethics Commission office at the State Capitol to pick up a copy of a county filing.

So I called the Ethics Commission and spoke to Merlyn. I asked her about the required pre-primary C-1 filings for Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2. Pre-primary filings were due yesterday.

(The law -- 51 O. S. 315 (A)(5) -- actually says the filing is due 10 days before an election, but because that always falls on a Saturday, the paperwork is considered on time if it's submitted by close of business on the next business day, which -- barring a holiday -- is the Monday eight days before election day.)

I asked specifically about filings for Sally Bell and Randi Miller, the candidates in the Republican primary. After putting me on hold to check, Merlyn told me that the Ethics Commission had received Sally Bell's report but had not received the required report for Randi Miller's campaign.

I asked her a second time specifically if Randi Miller's C-1 had been submitted to the Ethics Commission. Merlyn confirmed that it had not.

For the record, here is Sally Bell's pre-primary C-1 filing. If someone wants to mail me a copy of Randi Miller's report, I'll post it here. (UPDATE 7/23/2008: Here's an analysis of Randi Miller's C-1 report, submitted a day late, with a link to a scan of the report.)

MORE: Rick Bjorklund is suing the fair board for wrongful dismissal, Miller for defamation.

Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller was a no-show tonight at the After Five Republican Women's Club debate between her and Republican challenger Sally Bell. Miller committed over a month ago to participate in the forum, but she decided at the last minute to bail. I'm not surprised -- the more Miller opens her mouth, the more votes she loses. Her only hope is that her well-funded campaign consultants are able to craft a new, false image of her using ads.

The media was there to cover the event. KJRH Channel 2 (Cable 9)'s Casey Roebuck was there, but I'm told that the station would only have run a story if Miller had appeared. Without both candidates present, the station won't even run the story that Miller bailed out. I'm disappointed but not surprised. Since Glenn McEntyre's departure from KJRH, KOTV News on 6 seems to be the only TV outlet aggressively covering the County Courthouse. Maybe 6 will run a story about Miller's cowardice. (UPDATE: News on 6 did cover the no-show.)

I've seen that before -- during Vision 2025 and other campaigns, neighborhood groups and broadcast outlets let the more cowardly side dictate coverage: If one side didn't show up, the debate wouldn't happen. To their credit, KRMG insisted that their Downtown Kiwanis Club Vision 2025 debate would happen whether the vote yes side was there or not. The "yes" consultants relented and sent someone to represent their side.

We shall see what happens on Pat Campbell's show Wednesday morning at 8. I won't be shocked if Miller comes down with an acute attack of laryngitis. If she does show up, I think Pat would be smart to invite KFAQ afternoon host Chris Medlock in studio to help ask the questions. Medlock was endorsed by Miller to succeed her on the City Council, and if memory serves Medlock endorsed Miller in her race for County Commission. You have to have dealt with Randi for a while before you can see through her sympathy ploys and spin.

Unfortunately for Randi, I think Pat's already beginning to catch on. After two years, 740 KRMG's Joe Kelley is still a relative newcomer to Tulsa, and he certainly seems to "get" Miller. She's running out of media people to bamboozle.

UPDATE: Pat Campbell took some exception to what I wrote in the fourth paragraph above. He had Elvis Polo give me a call at about 6:30, and we spoke on air at 6:40. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify, and I'll link to the podcast when it's up. (My wife told me it took her two readings to get my point, so I wasn't as clear as I could have been.)

As I told Pat, my remarks were a commentary on Randi Miller's slipperiness, not on his astuteness. She will defend herself in a way that seems reasonable, unless you happen to remember the relevant contradicting fact. As well-studied as Pat is -- and the time he takes to study up on the issues is evident every day -- you almost need an encyclopedic memory to be able to pull out the relevant fact. I have no doubt Pat will be able to build that encyclopedia of local political knowledge over time, but it does take time. I mentioned Medlock as a resource because, having lived through and been politically active through the relevant history, he's already got those facts on tap.

MORE: Here's the link to the podcast of my conversation with Pat Campbell. During the first part of the hour, Pat clears up some misconceptions about how he plans to conduct the debate between Bell and Miller. I take extreme exception to the statement made on the podcast page that my comments above "insinuate that Pat is a little 'slow.'" Once again, the issue isn't Pat's astuteness -- of which there can be no doubt -- but Randi's slipperiness. No disrespect was intended, and I took pains to explain that on air this morning and in my update above.

AFTER FIVE CLUB PRESIDENT RESPONDS to "Steve" who called to defend Miller's absence in the first part of the 6 a.m. hour linked above:

What a turnout we had last night at the After Five Republican Women's Group! I hope everyone enjoyed the forum and welcome everyone back on the 3rd Monday of each month.

Unfortunately, there were some negative comments about our group made on the Pat Campbell radio program this morning by a caller that I feel need to be addressed.

After Five, as a chartered club by the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women, does not and cannot take sides in a GOP primary. This has been stated in the monthly newsletter as well as announced at each primary forum we have held.

At last night's meeting I thanked Dan Newberry, Jan Megee and Sally Bell for fulfilling their commitment to the group and was disappointed that Randi Miller accepted another invitation canceling her appearance. The invitation for all of these candidates was extended on June 17. They all accepted immediately. We apologize that so many turned out to see the forum only to be disappointed that both commission candidates were not there. We only found out Friday evening (3 days prior). We tried to work with Commissioner Miller on timing to see if she could attend both events, as a couple of the other candidates did, however, it didn't work out.

This group is committed to treating all candidates with respect. Realizing crowd emotions can run high in these types of contested races, the officers of the group wanted to be sure it was conducted in a professional manner. Questions were taken from the audience IN WRITTEN FORM ONLY. The questions were not edited, in fact, one question was critical of my husband's radio station. It was asked as written. There were charges of planted or slanted questions being asked of Sally Bell. That is not true. Club officer & Tulsa County Chair, Joy Mohorovicic asked all of the questions written by the audience. We gave no one instructions except we didn't want speeches, we wanted questions.

We were accused of being a special interest group. Yes, we are! We are a Republican women's group. A diverse group of active Republican women who work in campaigns, fund campaigns and promote Republican ideals. In a primary, we often do not support the same candidate, but respect each other's efforts and come together in the general election to elect Republicans. That's the special interest we serve ... the Republican Party.


Cheryl Medlock

President, After Five Republican Women's Group

It's worth noting that "Steve," the caller defending Miller's absence from the After Five forum, said that Dan Newberry was at the Tulsa County News forum. He was also at the After Five forum. If he could do both, why couldn't Miller?

One lot at a time

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Steve Patterson of Urban Review STL suggests an alternative to the failure of downtown redevelopment projects to get off the ground:

Acres and acres sit idle on the edges of downtown awaiting promised new development. On the South edge we have Ballpark Village and just North of America's Center and the Edward Jones Dome we have the Bottleworks District. Both have made news over the past few years, lately for not going anywhere....

The surrounding blocks could have been developed without taking this one block from the owner. But assembling larger and larger tracts for larger and larger projects is what proponents say must be done to get development. Judging from the broken sidewalks and vacant blocks of land think perhaps it is high time we questioned this practice.

Granted creating the ideal urban building on a single narrow parcel surrounded by vacant blocks is going to be an island for a long time. Development does have to be large enough to build both excitement and a sustainable level of visitors.

An alternative to the single developer mega-project is to create a zoning overlay district that outlines the urban design qualities that future buildings must have. This allows different property owners to participate in the redevelopment. It also allows the business owner to build their own structure without being tied up in an increasingly complicated and difficult process of financing the mega-project.

This city was built one building at a time -- each fitting into the grid. I think we need to return to such a scale to finish filling in the gaps in our urban fabric.

Here in Tulsa, the "donors" for the proposed downtown ballpark want to monopolize the surrounding land, squeezing out a small, local development company that had already been working with the TDA on the half-block northwest of Archer and Elgin. With enforced design guidelines for new downtown development, you could have multiple developers and the result would be a diverse but harmonious whole, likely more interesting and enduring than any project a single developer would put together.

As Steve Patterson says, "This city was built one building at a time." A healthy downtown, self-sustaining over the long haul, will be rebuilt and restored the same way.

Tonight, the two Republican candidates for Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner, incumbent Randi Miller and challenger Sally Bell, will meet in a debate during the regular monthly meeting of the After Five Republican Women's Club, at Marie Callender's on 51st Street east of Harvard. Dinner begins at 5:45; the program begins at 6:15.

Bell and Miller will debate each other on the Pat Campbell show on 1170 KFAQ Wednesday morning at 8:00.

Elvis Polo has an entertaining and enlightening talk show every Saturday night from 6 to 9, but as an extra special treat, he's invited my son Joe to bring his fiddle to the studio and play the bumpers into and out of the commercial breaks during the first hour, from 6 to 7. Tune in to 1170 to listen live, or check the weekend shows podcast page later to listen on demand.

Here's Joe's performance at last month's Skiatook Bluegrass Festival. (He did even better at the Texas Cowboy Reunion, but I haven't got that uploaded yet.)

Backing Joe up is Eldon Combs, from Lowell, Ark., on upright bass, and Scott Pendleton on rhythm guitar.

MORE: Here's the podcast from Saturday night.

I'm very happy to pass along the news that friend and top talk host Kevin McCullough is back on the air with his pale Stephen Baldwin (the conservative Baldwin brother). Baldwin/McCullough Xtreme Radio launches tonight from 8 - 10 p.m. Tulsa Time (9 - 11 Eastern) on 21 stations from Cape Cod to St. Augustine, FL, from New York City to Salt Lake City:

New York City - AM 970
Washington DC - AM 580
Salt Lake UT - AM 820
Jacksonville FL - FM 91.9
Charlotte NC - AM 960
Richmond VA - AM 580
Newark NJ - AM 970
Virginia Beach VA - AM 1010
Trenton NJ - AM 970
Greensboro NC - AM 830
Hartford CT - AM 970
Winston-Salem NC - AM 830
Cape Cod Mass - AM 970
High Point NC - AM 830
Roanoke VA - AM 910
Hackensack NJ - AM 970
St Augustine FL - FM 103.7
Danbury CT - AM 970
Statesville NC - AM1400
Mocksville NC - AM 1520
Bridgeport CT - AM 970

You can also listen online via Blog Talk Radio.

Here's what Kevin says we can look forward to:

Here's part of what we're hitting on tonight - so be by the radio:

1. If the top song in the country (especially for those 15-34 female) is, "I kissed a girl and I liked it..." we'd sort of love to get your idea as to WHY it is number 1. Some say it's due to the fact that society and culture have pushed the envelope right over the cliff. The pressure to be funky - the influences of where it comes from and how we respond to it...

2. Brooke Barrettsmith (www.brookerocks.com) is a rising star in the music world. Her new single "Farewell" has been climbing charts. She will join us LIVE to tell us the story behind the song. You may remember Brooke from American Idol season 5 - the most talented Idol class ever.

3. Kevin McCullough will go see it! But Stephen Baldwin has refused to see the newest Batman movie 'The Dark Knight'. The character of The Joker as played by Heath Ledger is a large part of the reason why. Some think Jack Nicholson intimated some sort of supernatural involvement with evil when he played the role years ago in the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton version. As you may know Heath Ledger committed suicide shortly after finishing work on film. Upon hearing the news Nicholson could only reply, "I warned him." We'd like to know whether you think Heath's death was influenced at all by supernatural evil. Which also begs us to consider how we intersect with the supernatural on a daily basis.

4. Music Guests tonight feature: Brooke Barrettsmith, Jonas Brothers, Pillar, Demi Lovato, Tenth Avenue North, Leona Lewis, Natalie Grant, and Duffy!

We'd like to thank our sponsors for making it all happen: Christian Values Network, Compassion International, GLYBooks.com, and Hit Me Energy Shots.

You can get a sense of the entertaining way Stephen and Kevin deal with serious issues by heading to the BMXRadioNow website and listening to their conversation with KISS's Gene Simmons about merchandising and child-rearing.

Drummer Johnny Cuviello and steel guitarist Herb Remington wrote and recorded this song as part of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys way back in 1947 -- with Johnny's drum solos alternating with a catchy steel melody. Sixty years later, last October, on Johnny's 92nd birthday, they played it again at Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe in Austin, Texas. Go, Johnny, go!

MORE: Here's a number from a 1964 Texas Playboys TV appearance in Dallas -- Joe Andrews sings "You Can't Break a Heart," a release on the Longhorn label:

Earlier I posted two other videos from this same TV appearance: Billy Jack Wills singing "Rockabye Baby Blues" and Luke Wills singing "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

Back in May, I wrote about a store soon to open on Brookside called Ida Red:

Just across from the Coffee House pushcart, Jim and Alice Rodgers of Cain's Ballroom had a booth to promote their new Brookside venture, Ida Red, named in honor of the famous Bob Wills tune (which in turn inspired the Chuck Berry hit "Maybelline").

Ida Red, at 3346 S. Peoria, will be an outlet for Cain's concert tickets and merchandise, gifts, and CDs by local musicians. At the booth they had on display some of the 28 flavors (at least) of premium brands of soda pop they plan to offer at Ida Red, along with cupcakes and free wi-fi. (Hooray for free wi-fi!)

The Rodgers family has already achieved great things with the House that Bob Built on N. Main St. Cain's Ballroom has been beautifully restored, with its facilities modernized in a way that respects its rich history. It consistently ranks in the top 50 in ticket sales for club-sized venues worldwide.

Ida Red has its grand opening celebration tonight and tomorrow night with live "red" music both nights at 8 p.m. Tonight it's Red Alert. Saturday night it's the Red Dirt Rangers. Kids are welcome. As the song says,

Hurry up boys and don't fool around.
Grab your partner and truck on down.

For something to do after the party, get on your bike and ride to Circle Cinema. The midnight movie this week is Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, a classic 1985 cult comedy directed by Tim Burton.

MORE: Local artist Amby has custom totes and artwork for sale at Ida Red.

I can't let this entry go by without a performance of the song "Ida Red." Here's Elana James and the Continental Two -- that's Tulsa's own Whit Smith on guitar and Jake Erwin on upright bass.

Last night KOTV's News on 6 ran an investigative report into Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller's attendance record. (On that page you'll find a link to the video version of the report.) Among other stats, KOTV confirmed something I reported in my July 9 column: that Miller had missed 29 of 33 TMAPC meetings when she was an ex officio member of the commission.

This morning 740 KRMG's Joe Kelley interviewed Miller, devoting more time than he usually has to ask some probing questions. I like the way Kelley gives her a chance to tell her side of things, but at the same time he politely but pointedly calls her on some inconsistencies and gaps. I think that's the right balance. (Here's a direct link to the streaming audio of the interview.)

Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller has been on the radio asserting her veracity in her dispute with fired Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund. He says she told him to get Big Splash water park's problems "off the radar," which he then did by not pressing park owner Loretta Murphy (a Miller campaign contributor) for payment, so that Murphy wouldn't have to seek financial relief in a public meeting. She (Miller) says Bjorklund is lying. (Here's a link to KFAQ's Pat Campbell's July 15 interview with Bjorklund and here's his July 16 interview with Miller. On the July 16 Chris Medlock show, County Commission candidate Sally Bell replied to Miller's statements and also spoke about her platform and philosophy of government.)

Miller is not helping her case with the glossy four-color campaign mailer she just sent to voters in her district. While she doesn't outright lie, she presents the facts in a misleading manner. For example, from the leftmost panel:

A Proven Leader

Randi Miller is an effective and dynamic Tulsa County Commissioner -- elected twice by her colleagues to serve as Commission Chairman.

Technically, that's true, but the County Commissioners rotate the chairmanship each year. Miller has served six years, so, as one of three commissioners, serving as chairman for two of those six years is just the normal rotation of the job. It's no indication of her effectiveness or dynamism.

It's strange that this is the only "accomplishment" this six-year incumbent would cite.

But here's the big whopper, from the rightmost of the four panels:


Dedicated to Families

Randi Miller is married and has three children and two grandchildren....

Again, technically, Randi Miller is still married to her husband Gary. But on May 15, 2007, she filed for divorce from her husband, a fact that came to light in a KOTV investigation of her chief deputy, Terry Simonson, and his continuing his private law practice while also drawing a full-time salary as a county employee. Miller's divorce case was listed as one of several, filed after Simonson joined the county, in which Simonson was an attorney of record.

(Simonson said that he entered the case during his lunch hour and only to notify the court that Randi Miller wouldn't be there to make a scheduled court appearance to watch a video about helping minor children cope with divorce. He withdrew formally from the case on March 14. About the rest of his caseload, Simonson explained that he was using his own time on evenings and weekends to complete legal work to which he had already committed himself.)

The divorce is not yet final, so technically, Randi Miller is still married. Her presumably-soon-to-be-ex-husband does not appear in the family portrait on the cover of the mailer, which includes her three children, her grandchildren, and her son-in-law and daughter-in-law, but she is wearing a ring on her left ring finger in all the photos where it would be visible.

The issue is not that she has initiated a divorce or whether she or her husband is to blame for the failure of their marriage. It's that she's trying to sell herself to the voters by creating a misleading image with her mailer.

Why does this remind me of what Miller told KOTV's Emory Bryan about the misleading Our River Yes flyer that went to Broken Arrow voters?

A dispute over advertising for the river tax is heating up in Broken Arrow. City leaders there say their voters are the targets of false advertising. The flyer in question doesn't say Broken Arrow is going to get a riverfront development, though it clearly shows one, and the picture is titled Broken Arrow Riverfront. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports that flyer was mailed to voters in Broken Arrow.

Some of Broken Arrow's community leaders believe the flyer is a false promise from the River tax campaign.

"And it gave the impression that we are going to get a riverfront development out of the river tax which is not true, it's very misleading," Broken Arrow Mayor Wade McCaleb said.

The flyer went to voters in Broken Arrow last week, and includes a picture titled "Broken Arrow Riverfront." But there is no money in this river tax to build what's shown in the picture.

"There is no plan to do anything after this tax unless we pass another tax," McCaleb said....

Broken Arrow's elected leaders are united against the tax and they believe supporters are trying to fool voters with the flyer. River tax supporters absolutely deny any attempt to mislead, and will not acknowledge the picture could be confusing.

"Do you see how that is misleading?" News On 6 reporter Emory Bryan asked Commissioner Miller.

"No, because it not once says this is what is going to happen," Miller responded.

(Here's the video of the KOTV story about Randi Miller and the misleading Broken Arrow mailer.)

So... the flyer never once said that she wasn't in the process of getting a divorce, so in her mind it's not misleading to say she's married.

Well, OK then.

MORE: Randi must have some big money behind her; now she's running radio ads. One of the lines from the ad nearly sent me through the roof: "Standing strong, even if it means standing alone." If there's one thing that has marked Miller's time on the County Commission, it was her refusal to stand alone. She refused to be the lone vote against the logrolled Vision 2025 ballot or against putting Boeing corporate welfare on the ballot. She refused to be the lone vote against giving insiders sole-source contracts for Vision 2025 management, legal work, and bond sales and managements, contracts that dealt with over half a billion dollars.

The ad also touts her vote (eight years ago on the City Council) against the Great Plains Airlines deal and claims that she said no when "an amusement park" asked the county for a "bailout." There's another distortion. Bell's never asked to be bailed out. Through their final year on Expo Square, Bell's continued to pay more rent and commission to Expo Square than the Drillers and Big Splash combined. Oddly, while taking credit for saying no to Bell's on her radio ad, she was bemoaning the fact, in her interview with Pat Campbell, that she was being unfairly blamed for a decision that was made by the entire Fair Board.


Chris Medlock answers Randi Miller's lament.

KFAQ's Pat Campbell asked listeners Thursday morning why Randi Miller was being singled out for blame about Bell's eviction. I e-mailed Pat with a link to the KOTV investigation from last fall. (Here's the text version of the story about Bell's Amusement Park and Randi Miller.) I also pointed him to my column about why Randi Miller needs to be retired, in last week's UTW. Here's the rest of what I wrote to him:

1. She's one of only two fair board members who were on the board when Bell's was evicted who are still on the board. The board consists of the three county commissioners, plus two appointed citizens. Of her two fellow commissioners at the time, one was defeated for re-election (Wilbert Collins) and one did not run for re-election (Bob Dick). One of the two appointed commissioners, Clark Brewster, was up for reappointment and County Commission chairman Fred Perry opted to appoint someone else. The only other remaining fair board member from that time is attorney Jim Orbison.

2. She took a leading and visible role in defending the decision to evict Bell's. She told the media that Bell's wasn't a viable business and was unsafe. (Meanwhile, Big Splash was behind in rent, and, according to Rick Bjorklund, Miller was telling him to keep Big Splash off the radar.) If you go back to stories in the World and on local TV, you'll find Miller speaking on behalf of the county and the fair board about why Bell's couldn't be allowed to stay.

3. She received campaign money from Loretta Murphy, owner of Big Splash. Loretta is the wife of Jerry Murphy, who owns Murphy Brothers, which has a contract to provide the Tulsa State Fair midway. Loretta Murphy made maximum campaign contributions of $5,000 each to Miller's 2006 mayoral and 2004 county commission campaigns. Shortly after Miller received the Murphy donation to her mayoral campaign in early 2006, Miller pushed for granting a new 10-year contract to Murphy Bros. for the midway. The contract was sole-source -- no competitive bidding. Rick Bjorklund, an associate of the Murphys from Wisconsin, was hired by the fair board later that same summer. That fall, Bell's was evicted.

During the state fair, Bell's and the Murphy midway competed for ride revenue. To give you an idea of how much money the fair generated, Bell's received about a third of its annual revenue during the 10 days of the fair. While Murphy had some rides that Bell's didn't, I always steered my kids to the Bell's rides, because they were a local business and the rides were permanently installed, not moved in just for the week. With Bell's gone, the Murphys get all of the fair ride revenue. The Murphys also received, in their new 2006 contract, first right to occupy the Bell's property if it became vacant.

The treatment of Bell's is only one reason people don't trust Randi Miller. While she was a fairly conservative city councilor, as a county commissioner she fell in love with corporate welfare, tax increases, and questionable public-private partnerships with county insiders. She pushed a $350 million corporate welfare package for Boeing, to be funded by a sales tax increase. She was ready to back a $600 million plan to build islands in the middle of the Arkansas River and did back a $282 million river tax which was defeated by Tulsa County voters.

Over the last month, the Austin-based opinion research firm Collective Strength has been polling Tulsans, conducting in-depth interviews with about 90 civic leaders and elected officials and then did a thousand-person telephone poll, using U. S. Census data to stratify the results. The aim was to create a "values framework" for the Comprehensive Plan process -- to find out what Tulsans of all areas, races, and income levels are worried about and what their priorities are for the city, and to use that information to be sure that there isn't a disconnect between the concerns of Tulsans and the outcome of the planning process.

A "prefinal" version of the research presentation has been released. The PLANiTULSA prefinal research presentation, a 204 KB, 48-page PDF, includes both the Powerpoint slides and the notes, which includes some of the "crosstabs" -- how respondents in different parts of town and of different races answered the questions. There are a lot of specifics I'd like to bring to your attention, but for now, I just want to make it available for you to peruse. Later this month, we should see a full data dump released to the public.

On Tuesday morning, KFAQ's Pat Campbell interviewed Collective Strength's Robin Rather about the results of her polling. It's an informative interview: Pat asks great questions, and Robin has solid answers, presenting a good summary of the most important findings from the survey. They discuss the highest priorities -- the consensus over a "basic services agenda," starting with streets -- and the recurring concerns about the disconnect between ordinary Tulsans and our leaders and about the dominance of wealthy and powerful interests in local decision-making. It's also interesting to hear Pat and Robin exchange personal observations about Tulsa, as both of them are new to the city.

After I heard Robin's presentation of her preliminary findings last month, I borrowed a dental metaphor head planner John Fregonese used and wrote in my June 25 column, "Rather is tapping Tulsa's teeth, and her probing has hit several sore spots."

I hope Tulsans will use these findings as the starting point for some honest community dialogue. I'm concerned because I'm already hearing that city officials are asking the planning team to downplay the widely-held concerns that the wealthy and powerful will wield too much influence over the plan and its implementation. I've been told that local officials wanted to downplay the poll result that Arkansas River development was a high priority for only 31% of those polled. (In north and east Tulsa, it polled as a high priority for 22% and 20% respectively.)

I didn't catch this, but someone told me that at last night's TulsaNow event, Fregonese glossed over the final two "worries" about the disproportionate influence of the wealthy and about Tulsa's leaders being out of touch with the needs of the citizens. This same person said he inquired of a city employee about this and was told that there was concern that raising these issues would "open Pandora's box."

It's about time we did.

After the jump, a few key summary slides from early in the presentation:

Thursday night the Tulsa City Council will consider a rezoning application for a block-sized, four-story apartment building at 39th and Rockford, in the area designated as residential in the Brookside Infill Plan, which has been incorporated into the City's Comprehensive Plan.

(This should be a link to the Council's "backup packet" for the Bomasada rezoning, but it's not. This is the second time a link from the Council's online agenda has led to the wrong material on this particular item -- it happened when the zoning request appeared before the Council Urban and Economic Development Committee. We need legislation that gives online public information the same importance as info posted on the bulletin board outside City Hall or in the legal notices in the paper. If the complete information isn't posted, the agenda item can't move ahead.. As it is, it's too easy to conveniently make a mistake and avoid making public info as available as it should be.)

My "op/ed extra" column this week in Urban Tulsa Weekly was about the proposed apartment superblock, which is a test of the Council's willingness to adhere to the Brookside plan and the credibility of all citizen participation in land-use planning, a salient question as we approach citywide planning workshops in September for our new Comprehensive Plan:

Whether you live in Brookside or not, all Tulsa property owners have a stake in the outcome, as it will show whether this City Council will stick with or set aside the development standards that were negotiated by homeowners, business owners, and developers and formally adopted by the city. Consistent application of the rules is the issue at hand....

In conducting in-depth interviews for Tulsa's new comprehensive planning effort, the public opinion research firm Collective Strength found a recurring theme: "Fatalism about lack of zoning and code enforcement and special favors for the wealthy." Approval of this development would only reinforce that well-founded cynicism and would undermine optimism that a new comprehensive plan would be fairly applied to all.

Brookside plan participants put in a great deal of time and effort. To set the product of that effort aside will chill enthusiasm for participating in future planning efforts. If all that negotiation and compromise comes to nothing, if the developer is always going to get his way, why bother?...

The ripples from their decision will extend far beyond Brookside. The new comprehensive planning effort, PLANiTULSA, will have its first public workshops in September.

If the council shows respect for the Brookside planning process by voting down the Bomasada development, it will signal to the public that they can have a positive and long-lasting impact by participating in PLANiTULSA.

If they set the Brookside plan aside for the developers, it will feed public cynicism about public land use planning and discourage participation from the very activists who have the most insight to contribute to the new plan.

Choose wisely, Councilors.

Brookside neighborhood advocate Laura Collins sets out the sound planning case against the Bomasada development. (I've added emphasis here and there.)

TO THE COUNCIL: The Village of Brookside Neighbors immediately surrounding 39th and Rockford, as well as Brooksiders in the area and other citizens of Tulsa who are friends of Brookside and have an interest in the precedent this proposal presents are in support of redevelopment as long as it is appropriate to the individual neighborhood. The Brookside Infill Task Force Redevelopment Restrictions specify the scale, rhythm, height and (width) open space requirements for redevelopment. We welcome Bomasada to present a design of dwelling which is compatible with these guidelines. Some would like to portray us as "anti-progress" or "against development". Nothing could be further from the truth. We have watched the subject property continue to decline under the ownership of Perry Properties and have wondered why the city, if feeling now that it is such a "blight" -- as was described by Roy Johnson and at least two of the TMAPC panelists during the May 21st hearing ----- which lasted nearly 10 hours!


  • The neighborhood infill restriction on height, for example is 35 feet. Bomasada asked for and recieved a variance on height of 48 feet, with a maximum of 49' 4" additional height in order to 'screen A/C units on roof". On the Rockford side, which they claim will be 35 feet, they were granted a setback variance of 16 feet (from the street) and an additional 3' 8" in height -- again for hiding the A/C units on roof. Why such a difference in additional height the two requests? Is the setback measured from the curb or the centerline? This would make the building way too close to the homes across the street. What is the city average or guideline for setbacks? How can a building this mammoth in scale look 'in scale' with the homes near it so close to the street?
  • Additionally, the Brookside Infill Plan clearly states that "monolithic forms that dominate area or disrupt vision should be avoided". This particular design chosen for Brookside is a clear example of everything the task force was attempting to prevent from being placed in Brookside . Again, how can this type of design look as though it is harmoniously 'in scale' with the one story homes across the street from it to the east?

1. Bomasada has numerous design models to choose from.... Our neighborhood association and petition group were not asked which design we felt fit our neighborhood. Bomasada V.P. chose it for us. It does not conform to the Infill Task Force Plan's restrictions on: Density, Scale, Open Space or Height. Most notably, it is a solid 'wall' of construction with very little if any visual break and negative space or green space as seen from the renderings provided us by the developer.

2. The infrastructure will not support this development without improvements. Will the city do this work now / during the development's construction or after the development has been in place? What is the cost to the city?

3. Are sidewalks planned around the perimeter of the property by the developer? Or are we really going to let them off the hook with a nominal waiver fee and make the city do it ten years from now? The neighbors do not want to wait 5-10 years for a sidewalk to be REPLACED.

4. Parking for the apartment -- for guests. At last hearing, they are providing 25-57 guest parking spaces for a 240 one and two bedroom apartments on three heavily traveled streets. Will parking be allowed on 39th or Rockford for guests? We hope not, as it will not be conducive to pedestrian safety.

5. Traffic study was not completed. How can we build without a plan for impact on neighboring streets and residential safety? Children walk to school (Eliot) and catch buses there -- while Rockford is already a busy street when school is open. What precautions will the city take to ensure the safety of neighborhood children? 4-way stops? Traffic signal at 41st and Rockford? Speed humps on Rockford? 39th? More police to catch speeders and stop sign runners?

6. Flood plain and environmental impact. Can we count on the city and the developer to avoid any increased stress on our storm water and sewer systems? Are they separate or combined systems?

7. Pedestrian-friendly access on and off the apartment property for the tenants into the Old Village Shopping Center? If not, why not? These are young professionals you are marketing to. Many of them will no doubt have bicycles and want this amenity.

8. We are generally disappointed with the lack of communication and respect shown us by the developer. Our inputwas really not sought out. There was never a specific meeting held for neighbors within 300 feet of the property by either the developer or the BNA. We therefore had to seek information, call for meetings, canvasse the area alone and in the end, we are portrayed by those in favor of this project (some members of the Brookside business community) as "anti-development" -- which couldn't be farther from the truth.

9. We look forward to redevelopment of this property. It obviously has not been properly maintained by the owner (Perry Properties) and the city was either unaware of the situation or never took any strong stand on enforcing the improvement of the property which the city now refers to as 'blight' at 39th and Rockford.

We have said all along ---- we look for a development from Bomasada that compliments our neighborhood design and is built within the zoning guidelines, taking into account safety and user-friendly priniciples and amenities for both the future enclave tenants and the surrounding homeowners and neighbors. All parties involved in the decision making process --- including our city leaders --- should feel a shared ownership of the neighborhood improvement project and forge a future partnership in goodwill, respect and teamwork ... embracing a shared vision for this amazing and very liveable section of the City of Tulsa.

We ask that our concerns for safety and the quality of life for our neighborhood residents already living in Brookside are remembered as you do the work of deciding to approve or disapprove, and work out the details of this new development positioned in one of Tulsa's most desirable and historic areas.

Many thanks to the readers of Urban Tulsa Weekly who have, for the second year in a row, voted for me as Tulsa's Favorite Blogger in the Absolute Best of Tulsa readers' poll:

Michael Bates, Urban Tulsa Weekly's own uber city news geek and pundit extraordinaire, is the man. With his encyclopedic knowledge of Tulsa's history and of the inner workings of city and county government and his piercing insight into the goings on of the city's elite, his weekly columns are often a source of both dread and delight to local leaders. The man is a machine, though, so a weekly column is hardly enough of an outlet for him to say all that he has to say, nor for readers to get their regular fix of his words and wisdom. So, there's always his blog at Batesline.com.

Congratulations to Tulsa World music writer Jennifer Chancellor for getting a "close call" in this category. Although many editors and writers at the daily have blogs, Jennifer is one of the few who is really taking advantage of the medium, updating on a near-daily basis. Most recently she's been posting lots of photos and video from Rocklahoma. I shall have to work much harder if I want a threepeat. (Or maybe lobby to have a separate category for music bloggers.)

I was also happy to see a win in the coffee house category for one of my favorite hangouts, the Coffee House on Cherry Street, with Shades of Brown, another favorite hangout, as a close runner-up. The two coffee houses set the standard not only for good coffee but for community gathering places.

(Note to PLANiTULSA team -- as part of your outreach to Tulsa's young people, hold some "bull sessions" at these coffee houses. Just plan to show up, hang out, and expect to have some great conversations about the city's future.)

I was also happy to see Callupsie win in the Local, Indie Produced Album for their recording debut:

No other established band in Tulsa is as hard-working as Callupsie. And their particular brand of indie jazz-punk is one of the most unique sounds to emerge from the city in quite some time. Produced by Stephen Egerton over just two sessions (the entire album took a total of several days to record), the debut is a ridiculously catchy collection of pop tunes (pop in the best sense) that is just waiting to be played on college stations across the country. To boot, they're four of the nicest musicians you'll ever meet. You all chose well on this one.

The ABoT issue includes some of the more interesting "fill-in-the-blank" responses to questions like, "If I were mayor," and "You are so Tulsa if you..."

My favorite: "If I were mayor... I'd build the Golden Driller a girlfriend." I know just the girl. She's somewhat older, but a lot better looking than the old roughneck. She's "The Goddess of Oil", a 1941 sculpture by Tulsa World staff artist Clarence Allen. The plan was to erect a 40-foot version of the sculpture at the next International Petroleum Exhibition, but the outbreak of World War II got in the way. The model was 19-year-old Marjorie Morrow. Although the full-sized version was never erected, the original sculpture stayed in Morrow's family, and her grandson, muralist William Franklin, hopes to see the original artistic vision realized. You can read all about it and donate to the project at goddessofoil.com.

It's just under two weeks until the state primary election, and a number of organizations are out to help you make up your mind by asking candidates for their positions on key issues.

Oklahomans for Life has responses from state and federal candidates to a 12-question survey dealing with the issues of abortion and euthanasia, and in ways that are likely to come before Congress and the State Legislature.

It's disappointing that so few Democratic candidates bothered to respond to Oklahomans for Life. The usual excuse is that the survey responses will be used against them by Republican opponents, but that doesn't explain why Democrats don't respond even when no Republicans are running -- e.g. House Districts 72 and 73.

Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, July 15, at 6 p.m. TulsaNow is sponsoring a public event at the OSU-Tulsa Auditorium which is intended to help Tulsans understand what the comprehensive plan update is all about and how they can participate in the process. John Fregonese, head of the planning team handling the update, will be the main speaker, and there will be opportunities to ask questions. Here's the press release:

TulsaNow Invites Citizens to Get Involved and "Think Big"

Citizen Input Key to Success of Comp Plan Update

If you think the term "Comprehensive Plan" sounds like a boring document created by bureaucrats in the basement of City Hall, then you haven't met John Fregonese. As the lead consultant to Tulsa's PLANiTULSA project, Fregonese stresses that all great plans begin by engaging the community. PLANiTULSA will be about "implementing the community's vision," and the process starts with a basic question: "What do people want?"

TulsaNow believes that citizens are eager to get involved and share their thoughts. They just don't know it yet.

That's why TulsaNow will host a public event called "PLANiTULSA: Think Big! (Dreamers Wanted.)" Speakers will include John Fregonese of Fregonese Associates and Gary Reddick of Sienna Architecture Group. The event will take place from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15 at the OSU-Tulsa Auditorium, located at 700 N. Greenwood on the campus of OSU-Tulsa. The event is free and open to the public.

The purpose of the event is to help Tulsans understand the importance of the comprehensive plan, and how they can play a role in shaping Tulsa's future.

According to Sarah Kobos, President of TulsaNow, "Whenever I talk to people about PLANiTULSA, the first thing everyone says is 'Now, what exactly is the comprehensive plan?' Once you explain it, they get all excited. Most people have opinions about what Tulsa needs, or how to make Tulsa better, but nobody ever asks them what they think. We want people to understand that they can get involved in PLANiTULSA and really make a difference. Every voice counts."

Learn more about PLANiTULSA and the Comprehensive Plan Update: www.planitulsa.org

If you plan to be involved in planning Tulsa's future, plan to attend this event tomorrow night at 6.

We were driving south from Ballinger, Texas, on US 83. It was about time to stop and stretch our legs anyway, when I saw a skinny brown and white sign -- an official -looking, state-placed sign marking a recreational or historic feature -- that said "Indian pictographs." I stopped some yards further down at what I thought was a historical marker. (It was a dedication plaque for the 1930s bridge over the Concho River.) On a whim I turned around and turned in at the sign.

The road was a winding gravel ranch road which led to a small house. We passed a couple of bison along the way. My expectation was a 10-minute stop and a look at a some faint paint marks on rocks. The Paint Rock pictographs turned out to be much more.

Ranch owner Fred Campbell came out of the house to meet me. He told me about the tours, and we discussed the logistics of bringing along a 2 1/2 year old along a 1,000-foot-long trail. He offered to lead us down to the start of the trail -- we in our minivan would follow him in his small utility truck -- then I could drive the utility vehicle along the trail with the toddler on board, while the rest of the family walked along beside him. (Visions of piloting a stickshift on a bumpy, twisting trail filled me with fear, but I agreed anyway.)

The ranch, we learned, had been in his wife Kay Campbell's family since her grandfather settled there in the 1870s.

The house turned out to be a very nicely appointed visitors center. A couple of persian cats and a border collie roamed the shady yard. Inside, Fred demonstrated how the Indians used rocks like hematite to make paint, explained some of the symbols we would see and the lore behind them, and showed us a time-stamped video of "daggers" of light crossing certain pictographs on the solstices and equinoxes, indicating that the rocks were used as a kind of calendar.

Then Fred got into his utility truck with the two big kids riding shotgun, while we followed in the Odyssey. He led us through a gate, past some of his angora goats, down to a flat camping ground between the Concho River and the limestone bluff on which the pictographs appeared. The 1,000 foot trail was a level path along the base of the bluff, easy to navigate. We stopped briefly at about a dozen stations along the bluff, as Fred pointed out and explained some of the most interesting of the pictographs. The pictographs were easy to make out.

Back at the visitors' center, we paid for the tour ($6 each for adults, $3 each for children), picked out some postcards, and chatted with Fred, as we took a final pit stop before getting back on the road. (The visitors' center has very nice restrooms.)

(Fred told me an interesting story about meeting the Duke of Wellington, who invited him to his Spanish estate to discuss its suitability for raising angora goats. The Duke was affable, but his wife was standoffish as soon as she had been introduced to Mr. Campbell. On the last day of the visit, the Texan learned why -- Lady Wellington told him she was descended from Clan McDonald, which had been massacred by the Campbells of Argyll at Glencoe in 1692. For his part, Fred apologized for what happened three hundred years ago, but pointed out that he hadn't been there. Old grudges die hard over there.)

As we got into the van to leave, Fred gave the kids some small rocks of the type used to make paint. While it wasn't in our plan for the day, all five of us thought the Paint Rock Pictograph site was a very worthwhile and fascinating detour.

To arrange a tour, phone 325-732-4376, or write:

Fred and Kay Campbell
Paint Rock Excursions
Box 186
Paint Rock, TX 76866

This Google map shows directions from the town of Paint Rock ("A") to the visitor's center ("B"). The loop in the road about 1500 feet west of "B" is the at eastern end of the pictograph-covered limestone bluff (which looks like a thin white road), but you may only go there as part of a tour.

View Larger Map


An American Profile article from February 2008 about the Paint Rock pictographs will give you an idea of what happens on one of their tours:

Kay Campbell, 80, walks along a dusty trail on her central Texas ranch, leading a tour group of school children. She stops along the way to point out dozens of crude drawings painted on a rock bluff overlooking a once popular American Indian campground. Ranging from a few inches to several feet in size, the rock art is the legacy of American Indian tribes that roamed the area centuries ago. Some of the drawings--animals, human figures, weapons, stars and suns--tell stories that experts can decipher, while others remain mysterious, vague communications from cultures that existed some 200 to 500 years ago....

At the beginning of each tour, she scrapes hematite rock, mixes the red shavings with water, and uses this to paint symbols on her arm. A retired school teacher, she uses "show and tell" to demonstrate the process by which American Indians made the paint that they used to fill in designs etched by flint. "I try to show how people lived thousands of years ago and how they wrote history without letters or words," she says.

This brief 1999 press release by archaeastronomer R. Robert Robbins of the University of Texas explains what has been observed, with photos showing the interaction of sunlight and pictograph on the solstices.

An article on the Concho Valley Archaeological Society website tells what has been found in excavations on the plain below the decorated limestone cliffs.

Bob Anderson, a gourmet garlic grower and amateur astronomer, has written about the astronomical features of the Paint Rock pictographs. He believes some of the drawings depict the spring sky, widely-observed supernovae, and an eclipse.

This article is about visiting the pictographs on the winter solstice.

Here's A January 27, 2008 San Angelo Standard-Times story, in which Fred and Kay talk about the Sims/Campbell ranch.

The pictographs are just across the Concho River from the town of Paint Rock, population 300, seat of Concho County.

Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is a tradition. (So went a saying that was common around my college fraternity house.)

Two years in a row now, our minivan has suffered a flat tire as we returned home from a trip to Texas. Last year, the tread came off of our left rear tire while on the H. E. Bailey Turnpike south of Chickasha. The Wal-Mart tire store stayed open a bit later and replaced our tire for us, allowing us to make it back to Tulsa that night.

This year we were on our way back, coming up I-35 from San Antonio, where I had been on business, bringing the family along from our trip to Stamford. We stayed overnight in Denton, and the following morning my wife noticed the right rear tire had gone flat. (I was too busy congratulating myself on a good job repacking the back to notice the flat.)

While I put the temp spare on and rearranged the back of the van to accommodate the flat, my wife called tire stores. We wound up at Discount Tire, 2245 S Loop 288, just off of I-35E. The LaQuinta gave us an extra half hour in the room so the rest of the family could stay cool while I changed the tire.

Discount Tire took care of us in just over an hour, during which time we had lunch at the Burger King next door, which had a huge indoor play area. The tire had a leak, which they were able to fix. When the manager handed me my keys and my bill, I saw that the total was $0.00.

"No charge? That was a lot of time and effort for no charge."

"I'd tell you to keep us in mind when you need tires, but you're not from around here. But we'll be in Oklahoma before long."

Discount Tire is in 22 states. There are four locations "coming soon" to Oklahoma City: I-240 & Shields, Kilpatrick Tpk & Penn, 10800 N May, and 8268 NW Expressway.

The Denton location of Discount Tire deserves praise for showing kindness to travelers who were very unlikely to become customers.

Belated congratulations to Tulsa's Emma Jane Pendleton, 14, who took first place in the Patsy Montana National Yodeling Championship, and to her younger sister Marina, 13, who took second. The two sisters are also top fiddlers; Emma Jane is the reigning Oklahoma Junior Fiddle Champion and won the junior championship at the Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest.

Here's a Tulsa World slideshow featuring Emma Jane Pendleton singing Patsy Montana's million-selling hit "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart."

We saw the Pendleton family a couple of weeks ago at the Skiatook Bluegrass Festival, where the two girls both won prizes in the Youth Fiddle competition. Emma Jane won first and Marina won second in the 11-15 and took first and third in the open category (if I recall correctly). Their dad, Scott Pendleton, played rhythm guitar for all the contestants. My oldest son was in the competition as well. The Tulsa World posted a slideshow of photos from the contest, which includes interviews with the Pendleton sisters, my son, and Claremore fiddler Jordan Flippo.

The Pendletons' next performance is Tuesday, July 15, at 7:30, in downtown Sand Springs at the Triangle Park. You'll enjoy hearing this multi-talented musical family perform.

(Corrected, July 18, results of the Skiatook context.)

In this week's UTW, I review the record of Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller and endorse Sally Bell as her replacement.

Since writing that piece, fired Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund has been pointing the finger at Miller regarding the decision to hold the Big Splash rent check.

According to the daily paper yesterday:

Rick Bjorklund, who was fired as president and CEO of Expo Square, said Thursday that he was instructed by County Commissioner Randi Miller to keep Big Splash Water Park's financial troubles "off the radar."

The fair board last week voted 4-0 to terminate Bjorklund after it was discovered that a check for half of the water park's 2006 rent had gone uncashed for a year and that it had yet to pay its 2007 rent. In addition, Big Splash's outstanding 2007 balance was never listed specifically on the financial reports presented to the fair board.

Bjorklund said Miller, who was fair board chairwoman in 2007, spoke to him about the Big Splash situation in about June of that year.

"The conversation (with Miller) was, 'Ease up on them and get it off the radar,'?" he said.

Bjorklund said he told fair board members about Miller's instructions during the executive session held to determine his fate.

"I turned to Randi and I said: 'You had given me instructions, Randi, to get it off the radar screen, and we did that.'?''

Miller denies Bjorklund's claim, but what he says makes sense. If Big Splash's financial troubles became public, it would show her to be inconsistent, making her look foolish or even evil for using Bell's business plan as a pretext for evicting them from the Fairgrounds. She had a vested interest in keeping Big Splash's financial problems "off the radar."

MORE: Responding to questions and comments from readers here and on the UTW story:

I was asked about my reference to "irregularities in [Miller's] personal life." In my column, I chose not to go into the specifics that the Tulsa World reported in a February 26, 2006, story headlined "Mayoral Mudfight," but you can read them at that link.

William Franklin posted a lengthy comment at UTW claiming that Bell's Amusement Park was in a state of terrible disrepair when it was evicted. His memory doesn't match with mine, and I think the Bell family did a fine job of keeping the park going when so many family-owned amusement parks in this region have closed, and despite the constraints of their location. They made do while continuing to be Expo Square's biggest rent-payer, and never asked for a taxpayer subsidy. (They were granted an extension in paying rent in the late '90s, but they made the payment with interest above prime rate.)

I took my kids to Bell's at least a couple of times each summer, and we steered them to spend their Tulsa State Fair ride tickets there, instead of on the midway. While the park was not up to Disney standards, it was at least as well-kept as Frontier City (which took my 10-year-old to in 2006), and I had no problem letting the kids on the rides or riding them myself.

Bell's had been making annual improvements to the property. The park introduced a new drop ride in (I think) 2005 and in 2006 had finally reached agreement with the neighborhood on adding a new roller coaster.

The possibility of a new coaster and a themed park first came up in 1998, not in the 1980s as Franklin asserts. Robby Bell and then Expo Square CEO Pat Lloyd made presentations to the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations that year about the future plans for the park and Expo Square as a whole.

The plan had Bell's expand all the way west to Louisville Ave., with parking for Bell's to the north, and a new main entrance on the north side of the park. The westernmost area was to be quieter uses (concession areas, souvenir stands, kiddie rides). We were shown sketches that had been done for Bell's by an amusement park consultant with a boomtown theme.

In December 2000, the Fair Board granted a lease for Bell's to expand to the west and add a roller coaster. The coaster's construction was held up by a lawsuit from the neighborhood challenging the County Board of Adjustment's decision to grant a special exception for the coaster.

It's true that the miniature golf course was no longer maintained. It was to be the site for the new coaster, once a compromise had been reached with the neighbors. There had been two courses when I was a kid. A single course was created out of the western part of both courses sometime in the late '80s or early '90s to make way for picnic pavilions for corporate events and group parties. I loved playing the course as a kid, but at some point, as mini-golf lost popularity in general (I can only think of one surviving course in Tulsa), I'm sure it became uneconomical to keep it open.

I suspect the reason Bell's didn't first think of building a coaster in that part of the property was because they intended to double the park's footprint and were granted a lease to build the coaster on land to the west, so there would have been no need to reuse existing park land.

The Fair Board could have solved the problem much sooner had it allowed Bell's to expand to the interior of Expo Square, rather than forcing any expansion to be toward the neighborhoods. Neighboring homeowner Scott Trizza proposed at the time that a new coaster could be placed north of the IPE Building, screened off by the building from the neighborhoods.

Attorney Frederic Dorwart sent an e-mail today to fellow downtown property owners defending the use of a downtown assessment district to fund a new downtown Driller stadium. (You may recognize Dorwart's name as he represented Tulsa Industrial Authority in its Great Plains Airlines-related lawsuit against the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust. Dorwart is also the attorney for the Bank of Oklahoma.) I won't introduce him further because he does that himself in his opening paragraphs.

July 8, 2008
From: Fred Dorwart

As some of you know, I own Old City Hall located at 124 East Fourth Street. I have been providing legal services, without charge, to the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor's Office to effect the exciting opportunity which the proposed Downtown Stadium and associated amenities in the Brady and Greenwood Districts presents.

Mr. Morlan's email contains five errors. I felt it important for you to know the facts when you decide whether the proposed Business Improvement District is in the best interests of all of us committed to a vibrant Downtown Tulsa. The five facts are as follows.

First, owners who have homestead exemptions will not be assessed. The Mayor and her advisors engaged in a careful weighing of the equities in establishing the manner in which the assessments would be levied. Many argued that to the contrary, but the Mayor determined it was important to all downtown property owners to encourage homestead ownership; consequently, the proposed Improvement District will not assess homestead owners. If you are a homestead owner and received a notice, the notice was in error. The adoption of the Improvement District includes a provision by which any erroneous notice may be corrected. Some confusion may exist because the existing Improvement District (which terminates June 30, 2009) does not exempt downtown residential property with a homestead exemption.

Second, property owners who are not homesteaders will pay only their proportionate share of the land square footage; the balance will be allocated to the homesteaders and exempt. For those property owners who are not homesteaders, the annual assessments Mr. Morlan states below would mean a studio unit has 1400+ square feet, a one bedroom unit 1,700+ square feet, a two bedroom 2,000+ square feet, and a townhouse 2,500+ square feet. I guess that's possible; you would know.

Third, only the downtown services assessment ($0.022 per square foot annually or only 34% of the total) will increase with inflation and that increase is capped at 4%. If services are to continue, the services should not be eroded by inflation. The assessments for the stadium and related facilities (66% of the assessment) will not increase with inflation. In fact, it is possible that the construction portion of the assessments may be paid off prior to the thirty year authorized period, depending upon how downtown Tulsa develops over the next several decades.

Fourth, the experience of many cities across the country demonstrates that an investment in downtown recreational facilities will dramatically increase your property values. The Downtown Stadium will be the third leg of Downtown success, leading the way with the BOK Center and the refurbished Convention Center.

Fifth, the construction of the Tulsa Downtown Stadium is authorized by Section 39-103 of Title 11 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The Business Improvement District has been carefully thought out. The Mayor has done a terrific job of balancing the equities to let Tulsa take this next big step forward. The Mayor and her advisors have spent substantial amount of time visiting with downtown property owners impacted with the new assessment and at this time the Mayor has support from over 50% of the downtown property owners on the proposed assessment.

Each of us must decide. Please decide based on the facts. Personally, I strongly support this initiative.

As I wrote in Urban Tulsa last week, I like the idea of the Drillers downtown, and the proposed location is an excellent choice. It helps connect activity centers downtown that are currently detached from one another. I like the idea of financing it using an assessment on direct beneficiaries rather than a tax on the general populace. I just wonder about the equity of the assessment on very distant property owners.

A couple of weeks ago the Land Use Prof Blog had a post about the challenges of infill development and about how Tulsa is dealing (or failing to deal) with them:

One of the dilemmas of infill -- allowing new construction in an already developed area -- is that it often upsets the expectations of landowners and residents concerning the land use and density of the community. Whether it is allowing stores in an area that has been exclusively residential, or allowing larger houses in a neighborhood of one-story ranch houses, infill often faces strong local opposition, or at least local skepticism. And political scientists tell us that legal efforts often fail if they offer, on one hand, broad but thin public benefits (as some infill does, by counteracting sprawl) and, on the other hand, narrow but concentrated costs upon citizens (such as those owners whose expectations may be upset) who fill tooth and nail against the plan.

I think the prof (Paul Boudreaux of Stetson University) has overlooked a significant factor in this cost-benefit analysis. There is also a narrow but concentrated benefit to developers who want to plop suburban-style development into popular traditional neighborhoods. The benefit to developers of this particular kind of infill is more concentrated than the cost to the broader group of property owners in established neighborhoods who want infill development to be harmonious with existing development.

Most of Tulsa's infill development is not increasing residential density, but merely house size. The QuikTrip at 21st and Harvard has been described as infill, but it's really dedensification -- two retail spaces and six living units will be replaced with a slightly larger version of the existing QT store.

The prof's specific comments about Tulsa:

Tulsa, Oklahoma, is currently undergoing such a debate. In the face of a variety of infill plans, the city has proposed authorizing some "neighborhood conservation districts," which would give some power to neighborhoods to regulate their land use. Some see this as a means of controlling unwanted infill; others see it as an odious regulation of private property. Whither infill in Tulsa? Not surprisingly, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission stated last week that it is in no rush to change its policies with regard to infill. Stay tuned ...

The prof mislabels some of the players. The city as a government didn't propose NCDs; neighborhoods did with the support of one (now former) city councilor. Still, it's an interesting perspective on an interesting blog about urban planning.

In a more recent entry, Boudreaux calls attention to infill in Philadelphia, where a project called Infill Philadelphia hopes to breath new life into old neighborhoods by adapting existing buildings to modern expectations.

I am very proud to announce that my son finished second Saturday in the 18-and-under division at the Old Timers Fiddle Contest at the 2008 Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford, Texas. His prize was a $50 bill, presented to him by the event's MC, former Congressman Charlie Stenholm. He performed Cotton-Eyed Joe, Tennessee Waltz, and Faded Love. I heard a number of people in the audience humming along on that last number. He has only been playing violin for two years, and he's made great strides since last year's contest, when he placed third.

As I told him before his performance, however the contest turned out, we already know he's a much better fiddler than he was a year ago. I hope to post video later in the week. (Internet connectivity here is rather limited.) One of the senior contestants, Bonnie Workman, complimented him afterwards and encouraged him to keep going, even though he didn't win. She told him it takes heart to be a fiddler, and she could hear it in his music.

He had the novel experience of being recognized today. He was wearing a distinctive hat, which made a difference, but a couple of people stopped him when we went back for the cowboy poetry performance that afternoon -- a young man told him he was in awe of his fiddling ability. He was recognized again at a dance at Old Glory that evening. We just happened upon the event - a Czech polka band playing under an open-air pavilion to a crowd of about 50.

Abilene TV station KRBC was covering the fiddle contest and interviewed my son. Click that link to see the video.

There may not be a better place to experience old time Texas than Stamford, Texas, at the annual Texas Cowboy Reunion.

Just now getting around to linking this one: Last week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly was a summary of the first meeting of the PLANiTULSA Advisers and Partners, which featured presentations by lead planner John Fregonese and two members of his team, Robin Rather and Jon Roberts. (Here is a 4 MB PDF of the Fregonese and Roberts presentations.) PLANiTULSA is the City of Tulsa's first comprehensive planning effort in a generation.

In the column, I analyzed the composition of the 35-member Advisers group -- the inner circle of citizens who have been appointed by Mayor Kathy Taylor to oversee the work of the planners. Of that number, I identified 20 as registered Democrats, 10 as registered Republicans, and of the Republicans, they were all either connected with the development industry (6), leaders in TYPROS (2), or in academia (2). Of the 66 Partners (the "hoi polloi"), 22 are Republicans and 41 are Democrats. There are a few rabble-rousers amongst the Partners, but there is still a bias toward developers, the Mayor's political allies, and the non-profit sector.

Here is a map showing the residential locations of the Advisers (red "A") and Partners (blue dot) (click to enlarge):


You'll notice that most of the red As (Advisers) and blue dots (Partners) fall along the Money Belt line. If you were to overlay the map on a map showing results from the 1997 Tulsa Project or 2000 "It's Tulsa's Time," you'd see that nearly all of the dots and As fall into the precincts that voted yes on both. This is the part of town that feels plugged in, that feels its voice is heard, that feels it runs city government. I'm concerned that the marginalized areas of our city aren't represented in any significant numbers on these oversight committees.

MORE: Here's the article by Brian Ervin which I mentioned in the story. And mark your calendars for July 15: TulsaNow is hosting a forum at which John Fregonese and members of his team will be explaining how the comprehensive plan process works and presenting the results of their research to date.

Irritated Tulsan weighs in on the Big Splash rotting timbers & held checks scandal and Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund's firing by the Fair Board.

I'm not defending Bjorklund, but I do believe he is a political scapegoat. Instead of creating controversy, it appears Miller wants to create the impression she fights it.

Bjorklund's termination places Miller further from the Bell's and Big Splash controversies.


She would probably say "no," but the rest of Tulsans born with heads would disagree.

This years Tulsa State Fair theme is "We're on a Roll."

Bjorklund is out.

Miller is on her way out.


[Big Splash owner and Miller campaign donor Loretta] Murphy hopes "no," but the rest of Tulsans ... you know the rest.

Maybe this year's Tulsa State Fair theme should be, "Heads Will Roll." The rolling starts July 29th when Republicans will deny renomination to Miller and choose Sally Bell as their standard bearer for County Commission District 2. Who better to zealously root out cozy, insider deals at Expo Square and the County Courthouse than someone who knows how county government works and who has suffered greatly as a result of county insider deals?


Sally Bell was on the radio Wednesday morning with KFAQ's Pat Campbell. Hit that link to listen to the podcast of their conversation.

Sally Bell's son, Robby, was on the Chris Medlock show Wednesday afternoon for the full two hours. Robby talked about the situation at Expo Square, the future of Bell's Amusement Park, and a bit about his mother's campaign for County Commission. The show was packed with callers expressing their best wishes for the park and the family. Click these links to listen to the podcasts of hour 1 and hour 2.

Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund was fired today, as the scandal involving special treatment for Loretta Murphy's Big Splash continues to grow. Big Splash's annual rent payment to Expo Square of $130,000 was due last October; it still hasn't been paid. An rent check from 2006 of $68,000 was held by Expo Square and hadn't been cashed. This came on top of Big Splash reopening this summer without replacing rotting structural timbers on its slide tower, as mandated in December by a State Labor Commission inspector.

The Murphy family seems to have been receiving special treatment for years. As I noted when Expo Square evicted Bell's Amusement Park:

You'll recall that a Loretta Murphy gave $5,000 to the Randi Miller for Mayor campaign. Loretta Murphy owns Big Splash water park, another Expo Square tenant. Her husband Jerry Murphy owns Murphy Brothers. Shortly after Loretta's donation to Miller, the Fair Board awarded Murphy Brothers a non-competitive 10-year contract to provide the Tulsa State Fair's midway. Murphy Brothers might be happy just to have Bell's gone, so that all the State Fair-goers will have to ride their midway rides.

We learned later that Murphy Brothers' contract gave them the right to put rides on Bell's footprint if Bell's ever vacated that property.

Some have speculated that Rick Bjorklund's hiring in 2006 was itself a favor done by the Fair Board for the Murphy family. Bjorklund had dealings with the Murphys at some of his previous jobs.

Bubbaworld points out that throwing Bjorklund under the bus doesn't fix the problem. The problem is with the Fair Board (Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority). County Commissioner Randi Miller was on the board when Bjorklund was hired and has received maximum donations from the Murphys for her mayoral and county commission races. She was the lead spokesman when the board decided to evict Bell's Amusement Park. The Fair Board failed to supervise Bjorklund and failed to verify that one of Expo Square's biggest tenants was paying its bills. You'd think someone would notice a $200,000 hole in the receipts.

Firing Bjorklund may have been the first step to cleaning up the mess at Expo Square, but the next step is for District 2 Republican primary voters to fire Randi Miller on July 29.

A Fourth of July celebration, St. Helena Island, S.C. (Library of Congress collection)

A few weeks ago I suggested that the Beryl Ford Collection of historic Tulsa photos would benefit from the kind of user interface offered by Flickr:

The ideal online presentation of the Beryl Ford Collection would have several characteristics, taking advantage of Web 2.0 technology:
  1. Each photo available in a range of resolutions, including the highest resolution possible -- at least 600 dpi.
  2. Searchable extended descriptions and tags.
  3. The ability for archive visitors to add comments (memories associated with the photo, historical details) and to add descriptive tags to aid searching.
  4. The ability for archive visitors to attach notes -- highlighting certain details in the photo that might otherwise be overlooked.
  5. The ability to search by geography -- to zoom in on a map and see photos in and around a particular location.

I learned today that someone already had this idea: The Library of Congress. In January, the LoC launched a pilot project, posting photos from their archive on Flickr. Flickr's "The Commons" project now includes four other archives: The Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum, the Powerhouse Museum (Australia), and the Bibliothèque de Toulouse.

The Commons project has two main objectives:

  1. To increase access to publicly-held photography collections, and
  2. To provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge. (Then watch what happens when they do!)

In a FAQ about the LoC's Flickr pilot program, they give the reasons the LoC is doing this:

  • To share photographs from the Library's collections with people who enjoy images but might not visit the Library's own Web site.
  • To gain a better understanding of how social tagging and community input could benefit both the Library and users of the collections.
  • To gain experience participating in Web communities that are interested in the kinds of materials in the Library's collections.

Each of the LoC's photos on Flickr includes catalog information, with a link back to the image's home on the LoC website, where higher-resolution versions of the images, including the original, uncompressed TIFF scans can be viewed and downloaded.

So far, the LoC has posted about 4,000 photos on Flickr, including a set of 4x5 color Kodachrome images from the late '30s and early '40s and a set of Bain News Service photos from the 1910s. The Bain photos have very little information attached, and the LoC is hoping to learn more about the people and places depicted through comments and notes posted via Flickr.

Flickr's The Commons seems like a perfect match for the Beryl Ford Collection.

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