August 2008 Archives

I was having lunch and writing outside The Bad Waitress, a cafe at 26th & Nicollet in Minneapolis, when the wind blew the umbrella down on my head. There's still a strong wind blowing outside here in the Twin Cities, but it's nothing compared to what's about to hit the other end of the Mississippi River.

Earlier this afternoon, the Republican National Convention media office announced that Monday's convention proceedings will be limited to the bare minimum required to establish the convention and lay the ground work for the official nomination of John McCain and Sarah Palin for president and vice president.

At the recommendation of Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican National Convention announced substantial changes to the convention's program and actions being taken to help with Hurricane Gustav relief efforts. On Monday, all program activities beyond the official business that must be conducted in accordance with party rules will be cancelled. Among the other actions announced today are the formation of the Affected States Working Group, the establishment of an Affected States Information Center, and the chartering of a DC-9 to transport affected delegates.

Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain 2008, announced that the upcoming Republican National Nominating Convention is making serious revisions to the convention program and surrounding activities. Davis said, "We are deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of the residents of the Gulf State region. Our top priority is to assist those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav. This is not a time for politics or celebration; it is a time for us to come together as Americans and assist the residents of the Gulf States."

Davis also discussed what the changes in the program will mean for the nomination process. "In order for the Republican Party to officially exist and for Senator McCain to qualify for the ballot, we are - by law - required to conduct specific official business. At this point, our program on Monday has been scaled back and will only include what party rules governing the nomination of our candidates for president and vice president require. We will perform the official business as required. In addition, we have set aside time to make delegates and Americans watching our proceedings at home aware of what they can do to assist in relief efforts designed to help those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav."

Davis concluded: "At some point between Monday and Thursday evening, we will convene once again to complete the activities needed to qualify Senator McCain and Governor Palin for the ballot in all 50 states. Beyond that, all we can say is that we will monitor what is happening and make decisions about other convention business as details become available."...

The convention program has been altered in response to the situation developing in the Gulf States region. However, the convention will still take place. According to party rules, it is necessary for the convention to proceed in order to ensure that the party is able to place its candidates' names on the ballot in November.

On November 9, 2007, pursuant to the rules adopted at the 2004 National Republican Convention, the party issued the call for its convention. The call requires that the convention meet on Sept. 1, 2008. The session must be convened no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. Under the current party rules, this is the only method by which the party may select a candidate for President and Vice President.

This raises some interesting questions about the necessity and duration of national party conventions. Their four-day length is a relic of a time when delegates actually had decisions to make and time to deliberate them.

Friday's Republican National Convention rules committee meeting heralded major changes in the way Republicans will select a presidential nominee in years to come, although exactly what those changes may be are yet to be determined. The primary process was one of several thorny issues debated in a six-hour meeting by pairs of representatives from each state and territory.

Several attempts have been made in the past to reform the primary process, to address front-loading and to have a process long enough that the flaws of a candidate have time to surface. Such a proposal would normally pass through the permanent Republican National Committee (RNC) rules subcommittee, then through the RNC as a whole, then through the convention rules committee, then through the convention as a whole.

Reform proposals in the past have been killed by the presumptive nominee's campaign team, either at the RNC stage or the convention rules committee stage. This is for two reasons: (1) The nominee wants to avoid any substantive debate at the convention, because it keeps the convention from being a coherent, four-day infomercial for the nominee and his platform. (2) Any modification to the primary calendar is bound to make some states very unhappy, and some of those unhappy states may be swing states. Better to punt the problem down the road.

The Democrats are doing just that. Their rules committee, co-chaired by former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters, recommended the establishment of a "Democratic Change Commission" which will examine the primary schedule (and how schedule violations are enforced), the role of superdelegates, and the conduct of caucuses (caucus presidential preference votes are binding in the Democratic Party). The committee will be appointed by the DNC chairman, will convene in early 2009, and will submit a report back to the DNC by the end of the year. The DNC will then debate whether to adopt the plan for the 2012 election cycle. The plan was approved by the Democratic delegates last week in Denver.

That approach has not been an option for Republicans, as only the quadrennial convention has the power under the party rules to change the rules. This year, however, the rules committee approved, with the blessing of the McCain campaign, an amendment that authorizes a commission to study the primary schedule and to report back to the RNC by the summer of 2010. The RNC would then be authorized to vote up or down on the recommendation (no amendments), and if it passes by a two-thirds margin, it becomes a part of the rules. This approach is similar to that used for military base closures -- the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission makes a recommendation and Congress votes up or down on the recommendation as a whole.

This commission proposal will come before the convention for approval on Monday embedded in the rules committee report. The rules report is usually accepted, without debate, by a voice vote of the delegates. Blink, and you'll miss it.

This commission proposal is a major departure from Republican tradition, which holds that only the convention can change the rules, a fact often repeated by the rules committee veterans who opposed the change.

The composition of the RNC is very different from that of the national convention. Every state and territory has three members on the RNC -- chairman, national committeeman, national committeewoman. The size of the delegations to the national convention are weighted by population and by the state party's success in winning support for Republican candidates. This makes the national convention far more representative of the party as a whole, while the RNC gives undue influence to officials from unsuccessful, small-state party organizations. Texas, Massachusetts, and the Northern Marianas are all equal on the RNC. An RNC vote on the commission proposal which weighted votes in accordance with national convention delegate strength would be more representative of party sentiment.

A long-time RNC member told me that the two-thirds hurdle would be easily surmounted by a commission report with powerful backing. Assuming a Republican is in the White House, the President has only to send one of his minions to the RNC with the message, "The President wants this approved," and two-thirds of the RNC members will fall right in line. (Think back to the RNC's approval of Mel Martinez as chairman.)

Commission opponent Morton Blackwell from Virginia said during the rules committee debate that the Democratic "flexibility" on rules leads to intraparty struggles that purport to be about high-minded principle but are, in reality, about prospective presidential candidates trying to gain an advantage. And as we saw last week, even when Democrats change their rules late in the game, they still don't enforce them -- Michigan and Florida delegates were seated at the convention.

I'm told that the commission proposal was not approved by the RNC's permanent rules committee or by the RNC as a whole. Instead, it was brought as a floor amendment on Friday by Ron Kaufman, the RNC committeeman and rules committee member from Massachusetts. RNC members who might have opposed the idea didn't know about it in time to alert their convention rules committee members or to organize opposition in advance of the committee meeting.

There were enough dissenters on this issue that there may be a minority report, which would be presented to the convention for a vote prior to the majority report. Bettye Fine Collins, a rules committee member from Alabama, was circulating a minority report petition, which would needed 28 signatures to meet the 25% requirement to be presented to the convention. I heard tonight that she had 26, but the number slipped to 25. It's likely that pressure is being applied to rules committee members behind the scenes to keep this issue off the floor.

Even if the minority report gets the signatures, there's no guarantee that it will get a hearing or that it will be handled in accordance with parliamentary procedure, which would require the delegates to deal with the report of a committee minority before they address the majority's committee report. The most important work of a convention happens in the first few hours on Monday afternoon, when the credentials, rules, and platform committee reports are heard. The chair rushes through the agenda as quickly as possible, while the delegates are still dazzled at being on the floor of the convention. If some attentive delegate were to try to raise a point of order, the only chance of getting a hearing is if someone turns on the delegation's microphone.

Expect this major change to fly through right under the radar on Monday.

Minor changes to the primary calendar

The rules committee made changes to the primary calendar over and above the creation of the commission. The recommendation from the RNC to the rules committee would have put the official primary start date on the first Tuesday in March, except for New Hampshire and South Carolina, which would have been allowed to hold a primary as early as the first Tuesday in February.

The change would have penalized more than 20 states which had moved their primaries into February. Committee members from two of those Tsunami Tuesday states, Oklahoma chairman Gary Jones and Tennessee national committeeman John Ryder, proposed a simple amendment to move those dates back by a month. The amendment passed, but a later amendment adjusted the exception to make the third Tuesday in January the earliest primary date for New Hampshire and South Carolina.

These calendar changes would be superseded by anything that the primary process commission comes up with, assuming the RNC votes to approve it.

There was an interesting proposal to discourage but allow February primaries and to help lengthen the primary season by making it harder for one candidate to roll up a huge lead during that month. Under the proposal, primaries held before the first Tuesday in March would have to allocate delegates proportionally -- no "winner-take-all." The motion failed overwhelmingly. Opponents argued that the national party shouldn't impose proportional representation on the state parties.

Military participation in delegate selection

A proposal to guarantee members of the military the right to participate in the delegate selection process drew opposition from rules committee members concerned about logistics and legal exposure. Military personnel are already guaranteed the right to vote in a presidential primary, and most states have special provisions for getting absentee ballots to and from military personnel stationed overseas.

Caucuses and conventions are a different matter. With few exceptions, Republicans don't do anything meaningful to bind delegates at their precinct caucuses. They may hold a straw poll, as they do in Iowa, and the results may boost the profile and fundraising efforts of the straw poll winner, but the straw poll results have no bearing on who is elected to represent the state at the national convention and which presidential candidate those national delegates will support. A small number of Republican caucus/convention states do bind delegates based on a precinct caucus straw poll -- Kansas and Montana come to mind.

(The Democrats are different. Presidential preference polls conducted at precinct caucuses are considered a "first determining step" toward binding delegates to presidential candidates, and the delegates to the next step in the process -- county or state conventions -- are allocated in proportion to the support for each candidate at the precinct level.)

Even though caucuses and conventions rarely bind delegates, they still, in most states, play a role in determining who will represent the state at the national convention, where delegates not only vote for a presidential and vice presidential nominee, but for the rules that will govern the party for the next four years. (In a few states, like Illinois, primary voters vote directly for delegates and alternates.) Because the caucuses and conventions are part of the "process... for selecting delegates," simply giving the military the ability to cast an absentee ballot in a straw poll or a presidential primary is not sufficient to meet the requirement in the proposed rule.

For example, Oklahoma binds its delegates based on the statewide and congressional district primary vote. This year, Mike Huckabee won two congressional districts and six delegates, while John McCain won three districts and the statewide vote to get 32 delegates.

Although all these delegates were bound to McCain or Huckabee, there was still a mighty struggle at each of the congressional district conventions and the state convention as Ron Paul supporters tried to elect delegates from among their number in hopes of influencing the platform, rules, VP selection, and possibly even the presidential nomination itself. (See my April 16 Urban Tulsa Weekly column, "Paul Plot," but please note that since that column was published, I have resigned from both the state and county GOP executive committees and no longer hold any party offices.)

The delegates to Oklahoma's district and state conventions were chosen at the county conventions, and the county delegates were chosen at the precinct caucuses.

So the process of selecting delegates and alternates in nearly every state involves face-to-face meetings in living rooms, school auditoriums, and convention halls. How, practically, do you include active-duty military stationed half a world away in making these decisions?

Two solutions come to mind that would allow greater military participation in the process while meeting the logistical concerns of party officials' concerns. Here's the original language of the proposed amendment:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall guarantee the right to vote in that process, by absentee ballot, of individuals who are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

One way to allow military participation while retaining the face-to-face qualities of caucuses and conventions would be to authorize a "Republicans Deployed" delegation at the national convention. The members would be selected at caucuses held at bases around the world.

There may be problems with this idea. Active-duty military aren't free to come and go as they please, so it might not be possible for the delegates elected by Republicans Deployed to travel to the national convention. I also don't know to what extent active-duty military can participate in partisan political activity, beyond casting a ballot. Do we really want soldiers at a forward base in Afghanistan arguing with each other over a platform plank or who gets to be chairman?

Another approach would avoid those obstacles: While a deployed soldier or sailor wouldn't be able to attend a precinct caucus or a district convention back home, he could be allowed to vote in elections for delegate and alternate. This would require candidates for delegate and alternate to file well in advance of the district or state convention, rather than filing the morning of the convention as is sometimes done, so that absentee ballots could be sent to deployed members of the military who request them.

How would runoffs be handled? The same way states like Arkansas are already handling military votes in state primary runoff elections: With "instant runoff" ballots, where voters rank their preferences. In Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District, we've been using that voting technique to elect delegates and alternates since 2000.

Given the hour they had to deal with the issue, the rules committee only managed to come up with a compromise that turned the "shall" to a "may" and added a few more qualifiers:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates may use every means practicable, in the sole discretion of the state party, to encourage active military personnel the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

The compromise satisfied state party leaders, concerned about how to implement the proposed mandate, and McCain campaign officials, who wanted to avoid the embarrassment of the appearance of a rules committee vote against our troops overseas, but it did nothing to address the original concern.

In its one-day meeting, the rules committee simply doesn't have enough time to work through a four-year backlog of reform ideas. But meeting longer than a day has its own problems. Many committee members are ordinary delegates, elected by the members of their state delegations, who take extra days off from work and pay for some extra pre-convention days in a hotel so they can participate.

There's no doubt that the rules of the Republican Party are in need of review and reform. There has to be a better way than, on the one hand, handing the issue over to an unelected commission and, on the other hand, restricting debate and discussion to one day every four years.

MORE: National Review's Stephen Spruiell covered the rules committee meeting and posted several entries in NRO's "The Corner" regarding the debate over military participation in delegate selection: post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4.

For my liveblogging notes from the committee meeting see these entries:

Rules committee: A Republican commission on the primary/caucus process
Rules committee: Palin applause, long-distance caucusing
Rules committee: Primary calendar changes
Rules committee: Palin buzz

You may also be interested in my coverage of the 2004 convention -- scroll down to read my posts about that year's rules committee deliberations.

There. I had that headline ready to go, and by golly, I'm going to use it. (Dawn Summers already won the Sarah Palin punny headline contest: "Palin Comparison.")

I was excited this morning to hear the buzz about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as I hadn't been hearing her name in the last week or so. Palin is both a good choice and a brilliant political move.

As a political move, choosing Palin helps McCain reach out to independent voters and Democrats. Some, particularly Hillary PUMAs, will like her because she's female. Others will appreciate her hard work in rooting out political corruption in Alaska. It warmed my heart to hear her say the phrase "good ol' boy network."

At the same time, Palin fires up the conservative base. Time magazine has posted a McCain campaign report that they raised $3 million between when the announcement was made and 6 pm today. She's a hunter, she's a homeschooler, she supports domestic oil exploration. She's pro-life -- not just a theoretical pro-lifer, but one who chose life when she learned her fifth child, a son, would have Down Syndrome.

My only worry was how well she'll make the jump from small-state politics to the national stage, but when I think of the depth of corruption she had to face in the Alaska government, I think she's ready for anything. True, she was a beauty queen, but she knows how to throw an elbow under the basket, too.

Other reactions:

Rod Dreher: "Whatever crossover appeal the Palin pick may or may not have, McCain has just energized the base going into his convention -- and, I think, beyond. Next week in St. Paul is going to be a lot different than a lot of us thought it would be."

Dustbury has a photo of her as a high school basketball player who led her team to the state championship.

MORE: My friend David Russ from Coral Ridge Ministries let me know about a three-minute "Learn2Discern" video they did recently about two families who chose life for their unborn children who had Down Syndrome. One of those families is the Palin family.


UPDATING this post continually.

A proposal has been brought to amend Rule 10. It would set up a commission that would report back to the RNC at some later date, and then the RNC would have to approve any changes proposed by a 2/3rds vote.

Morton Blackwell is speaking in opposition. Democrats, he says, have bitter struggles over rule changes by the DNC between conventions. Those fights are set in terms of principle, but they are always to advantage one candidate over another. He doesn't believe the decision should be entrusted to the RNC, even by a supermajority. "RNC meetings are, almost without exception, entirely scripted.... It is not a deliberative body."

A speaker from Rhode Island points out that it's the fear of the shadow of disagreement at the convention that has pushed the issue of reform further and further back.

The Arkansas committeeman points out that the RNC chairman would appoint nine of the 15 members of this committee. The RNC would not be able to amend the recommendation of the committee -- just an up-or-down vote to adopt by a 2/3rds majority.

Maine committeeman -- the Democrats will make their decisions "confident that we have tied our own hands and are unable to respond strategically."

Nebraska committeeman -- We don't need another committee to tell us we need to make a change. We've had changes proposed over and over again, only to arrive at the convention to have the nominee's representatives kill it. [That last happened in 2000.]

[There's a simple solution: Rules committee members could have the backbone to tell the nominee/president to get lost.]

This sets up a supercommittee that transfers the authority that you have been given by your states to make recommendations to the entire convention. Let's not follow the flip-flopping Democrats who tinker with the rules between meetings.

Clark Reed, Mississippi: "Thank God we don't have the flexibility the Democrats have."

Ohio committeeman: Has been an opponent of "flexibility" but supports this proposal. Commission would expire summer of 2010. Gives Republicans the flexibility to negotiate with the Democrats [whose commission runs through calendar year 2009]. 38 states have indicated they'll move to the first permitted primary date. The commission could bring all the stakeholders to the table.

Helen Blackwell, Virginia: "They didn't elect me to come here and pass off my authority to some other commission that hasn't even been appointed yet.... We need to roll up our sleeves and do our work."

Utah committeeman: In support. "We should not be afraid" to allow the duly elected RNC to conduct the affairs of the party.

[The problem with leaving this to the RNC is that the RNC is weighted toward weak Republican parties in small states, since every state has three members, regardless of the size of the state or the strength of the party.]

The motion passed by a show of hands, although the hands were not counted. One southern committeewoman indicated that there would be a minority report to the convention on this issue. McCain's operatives aren't likely to be happy with that outcome, as it means substantive debate during the convention. The signature of 28 members of the rules committee is required to move a minority report forward to the convention as a whole, where it will be debated alongside the majority report.

With that, the first section, Rules 1-11, is complete.

The next item would delete Rule 13(A)(2), the closest thing Republicans have to superdelegates. Morton Blackwell -- who reminds that he was Goldwater's youngest elected delegate in 1964 -- says his aim has always been to ensure the flow of power in the party remains from the bottom up, so he wants "all the national convention delegates to be elected contemporaneous to the presidential campaign."

The Indiana committeewoman reminds that the reason for this rule is to free up delegate seats for people other than RNC members. This is especially important for small delegations. The committeewoman from the Virgin Islands spoke in opposition for that reason. They have only six delegates other than the three

South Dakota committeeman says he felt uncomfortable being an automatic delegate, and received criticism in his state for qualifying automatically rather than going through the process like everyone else.

Missouri committeeman was the original proponent of the amendment in 2000. "The idea was to open up the opportunity for other grassroots workers to have the privilege and have the experience to come as delegates to the Republican National Convention."

Washington committeewoman points out that these are not "superdelegates" but are in fact bound by the rules of their respective states.

Mississippi committeeman Clark Reed reminds that the RNC committee members are elected four years before the convention. He says this is a slippery slope toward elected officials and other party officials being made automatic delegates.

Chairman stepped down from the chair to speak against the amendment. There hasn't been a slippery slope. By having RNC members as delegates, it frees up 168 seats for grassroots Republicans.

Blackwell's motion failed, but he's making another motion -- delete 13(A)(2) but increase the number of at-large delegates from 10 to 13. Chair ruled it out of order.

Now back to rule 15: A minor amendment passes to allow N.H. and S.C. to go on or after 3rd Tuesday in January rather than just "after."

Another amendment: Any delegate selection prior to the first Tuesday in March must be allocated proportionally.

Blackwell considers proportional representation a "pernicious" practice, considers imposing PR on early states an imposition. Rep. Backus agrees that we shouldn't dictate to the states.

Ryder of Tennessee: Purpose of proportionality amendment is to "extend the primary calendar by making it impossible for any state to be determinative of the outcome prior to March 1."

Rule defeated overwhelmingly.

Florida proposal would penalize early states by losing voting delegates but not delegates. Seconded by Michigan. Looks like it will fail.

There's a Maryland motion to allow states to use alternates to fill convention committee slots if no delegate of the proper sex is available. For example, suppose only two women delegates from a state are available to come to the convention city a week early to serve as committee members. Under current rules, the state's female seat third committee would go vacant. Under the proposed amendment, a female alternate could fill that spot. The motion passed, 45-33. The chairman noted that this might have the unintended consequence of reducing the pressure to elect women as delegates.

A proposal to amend rule 41 from Ron Kaufman of Massachusetts passed overwhelmingly. It went by very quickly, but it had something to do with when the rules committee could be consider constituted.

2:50 pm: Just had the final vote on the full committee report.

The committee will reconvene on September 1, River Center Ballroom A, during the opening session of the convention, roughly about 2:30 pm. Once the convention approves the permanent organization of the convention, the rules committee will be officially elected by the convention, and can officially vote to approve this rules recommendation.

Everything stopped here at the Rules Committee meeting as we watched Fox News coverage of John McCain's introduction of his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Much enthusiasm here.

Following Palin's speech, we recessed for lunch, allegedly until 12:20, but it's 12:47 and only now are most of the committee officials back on the dais.

The issue on the floor before the VP announcement was the following amendment to Rule 15:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall guarantee the right to vote in that process, by absentee ballot, of individuals who are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Now that we're back in session (12:50), the committeewoman from Alabama is proposing a substitute amendment:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates may use every means practicable, in the sole discretion of the state party, to encourage active military personnel the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

This seems to satisfy everyone. State party officials were concerned about how you include someone who has been deployed in a caucus, where meeting face-to-face is the whole point. And if you can't accommodate them, what kind of legal and credential challenges are likely to occur? McCain officials will be happy that there won't be a vote on record rejecting a rules amendment about expanding military participation in the political process.

The motion passed overwhelmingly, and we're moving on to other amendments to Rule 15.

Oklahoma GOP chairman Gary Jones along with Mr. Ryder of Tennessee (didn't catch his first name) succeeded, by a vote of 67-31, in passing an amendment to a change to the primary calendar proposed by the Republican National Committee. The RNC proposal would have allowed only New Hampshire and South Carolina to hold primaries prior to the first Tuesday in March. Jones pointed out that this would put many states which are currently in compliance out of compliance. The two committee members from Michigan, one of whom is a state senator, spoke to the difficulty of negotiating with a legislature under mixed control to change the primary date. Under Jones's amendment, NH & SC can go any time after the first Tuesday in January; everyone else can go from the first Tuesday in February onward.

We've had the call to order by Chairman Alec Poitevint, the invocation and pledge of allegiance here at the Republican National Convention Rules Committee meeting. Gary Jones and Mary Rumph are here representing Oklahoma. (I was pleased to see that conservative activist icon Morton Blackwell is here again, representing Virginia.)

I'm hearing a lot of buzz about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's pick for VP. We'll see. The chairman of the Rules Committee said that they'll halt the meeting and let everyone watch McCain's announcement in Dayton when it happens.

There was a minor delay in being admitted. The communications staff hadn't showed up with the press credentials list yet, but they let me show my convention credential letter and signed me in.

There are six big screen TVs hanging above the room, showing the chairman or whoever is speaking. Media and guests are segregated from the committee by a three-foot-high blue curtain running the width of the room. Two thirds of the press/guest area is roped off as "McCain Staff Seating" -- at least 100 chairs, although only nine people are sitting there. About 12 people are over in the remaining third of the media/guest area. I don't see anyone else who looks like media.

The room is lit brightly, as they're recording the meeting with four cameras.

They are going section by section, and then rule by rule, asking for committee amendments to the rules. Most are technical in nature -- a comma here or there. If someone has an amendment to a rule, they're to speak up when the applicable rule is called.

We have our first amendment, from Louisiana, to rule number 5, and from Kentucky to rule 7, and Louisiana again to rule 9, to Massachusetts to rule 11. That's all for the first section. They will deal with this section before moving on to the next.

There will be a proposal relating to the primary schedule, setting a March start date for all but New Hampshire and South Carolina. (In the Republican system, national delegates don't get bound until district or state conventions, so precinct caucuses aren't considered "the first determining step" as it is for the Democrats.) Oklahoma GOP Chairman Gary Jones, who is also a member of the rules committee, is concerned that states who moved their primaries to February under the current rules, as Oklahoma did, will be penalized, as it would be up to the legislature to adjust the date.

LINKS: Here are the rules as adopted by the 2004 Republican National Convention..

UPDATE: As of 9:39, Rules 1-9 and Rule 11 have been closed to further amendment. Only two amendments from the floor were successful. An amendment by Mary Rumph of Oklahoma and seconded by Morton Blackwell of Virginia, requiring RNC subcommittee meetings to open with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, passed by about a two-thirds margin. The only objection came from an Indiana RNC member who thought it was superfluous, as every RNC subcommittee meeting she'd ever attended has opened in that way. A technical correction to rule 7 (adding a comma to terminate a dependent clause) was passed as well.

Rules committee preview

| | TrackBacks (1)

This morning I'll be in attendance at the 2008 Republican National Convention rules committee meeting. Back in April the Republican National Committee's rules committee endorsed a new primary schedule for 2012. The schedule would formally recognize the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa and New Hampshire, with South Carolina and Nevada permitted to follow closely thereafter. The remaining states would be grouped into four "pods," one of which is specifically for small states and territories. Each of the four pods would be given a starting date for their contests, and the pods would rotate position with each presidential election.

The full Republican National Committee should have considered the issue at their meeting earlier this week. That body and the convention rules committee are both dominated by small states, which have an equal vote in those bodies to large, heavily Republican states. Stay tuned to this blog all day Friday for the latest developments.

"No, no, no!"

| | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

Am I the only one who, when Barack Obama concluded his acceptance speech with the words, "God bless the United States of America," mentally heard his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, loudly contradict that sentiment?

No, TGOV hasn't figured out how to do this, but David Schuttler has. If you're away from a Cox Cable equipped TV and want to watch tonight's City Council debate over the Papa Bear ($2 billion) and Mama Bear ($451 million) street plans, tune into his live video feed page.

Live from Lamoni

| | TrackBacks (1)

I'm on my way north to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. I stayed last night in Lamoni, Iowa, just north of the Missouri border. I've been spending most of the morning writing at the Linden Street Coffee House, a very comfortable place in the downtown of this small college town.

IMG_0031

As I worked, I was overhearing an Obama campaign intern and his supervisor looking at how to generate voter lists for grassroots campaigning. Both Iowa and Missouri are key swing states; Missouri is considered a bellwether -- almost always the candidate who wins Missouri wins the White House.

MORE: If you're headed down I-35 and need a coffee break, I heartily recommend Linden Street Coffee House, which is about 2 miles west of the interstate on US 69 (South). During Graceland College's school year, it's open from 7 am 'til midnight most days. (It opens at noon on Sundays, stays open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday nights.) Summer hours are 8 am to 9 pm most days, noon to five on Sunday.

I learned about Linden Street via IndieCoffeeShops.com.

"Let the rush begin"

| | TrackBacks (0)

I received an e-mail earlier this week from my college fraternity, Xi Chapter of Zeta Beta Tau, about their upcoming rush week activities.

Saturday: All-you-can-eat steak and lobster dinner and a casino night.

Sunday: Building potato guns, canoeing on the Charles River.

Monday (Labor Day): Paintball, barbecue, geocaching.

Tuesday: Bowling, go-kart racing.

School starts on Wednesday, but they will have an event each night, and then a Boston Harbor cruise to a 19th Century fort on Georges Island on Saturday and a picnic at Larz Anderson Park on Sunday.

During rush week, fraternities entice freshmen to visit with fun activities and the best food they'll eat all year. This gives the freshmen a chance to get to know the brothers and vice versa, to figure out whether a potential member is a good fit with the house.

Reading about rush week brought back a lot of happy memories.

Way back in 1981, I arrived on the MIT campus the night before the beginning of what was then officially called "Residence/Orientation Week," but was unofficially known as rush week. During R/O Week, you met your adviser, registered for classes, and picked a place to live, either entering the dorm lottery (as about 2/3rds of the freshmen did) or pledging a fraternity or joining an independent living group (as the remaining third did). To join a fraternity, you had to receive a bid. There was also an "activities midway," where you could learn about clubs and musical groups and sports teams. All this took place before the start of classes.

Over the summer, I had received an official residence book from MIT, with a page about each of the 33 fraternities, ILGs and a couple of pages about each of the dormitories, and a map in the middle showing how they were scattered throughout MIT's campus, Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, and beyond.

Some fraternities (not "frats" -- you wouldn't call your country a...) held summer rush parties in cities where they had a cluster of brothers -- our house usually had one in Boston, one in Chicago, and one in LA. Most houses sent out postcards advertising rush week activities. When the booklet I ordered from The Sporting News about baseball scorekeeping arrived in the mail, my mother assumed it was a particularly offensive fraternity brochure. On the cover, in big letters, was the title: HOW TO SCORE.

After flying to Boston on Braniff and catching a shuttle to campus, I spent my first night at MIT in a gray, dismal cell dorm room in East Campus, my temporary assignment. It was like an SRO apartment -- there was a sink and a mirror in the room. The dorm was quiet -- dorm residents weren't required to come back for R/O week. I was alone, just me and the clock radio, tuned to WEEI 590, the news station. I was homesick to the point of tears.

(Earlier that night I had eaten a cafeteria dinner at Lobdell Dining Hall with three other freshmen, one of whom was named Greg Lobdell -- no relation.)

The next morning, I was surprised to discover that the bathroom on our floor was co-ed. I learned this as I was about to go in for a shower, only to hear a female voice declare, "I'll be out in a minute." Had I misread the sign on the door? I retreated to my room. No one had instructed me on the etiquette of co-ed bathrooms, and rather than risk an embarrassing breach of protocol, I skipped the shower and washed up at the sink in my room as best I could.

If memory serves, we had adviser meetings later that day to get acquainted and to start the process of signing up for classes. There was an R/O edition of The Tech to read, replete with ads for fraternity rush events. (There was also an ad for the whizzy TI-59 programmable calculator, featuring Bill Cosby in academic regalia.)

That afternoon was the freshman picnic. The picnic was held in Killian Court, a broad lawn surrounded on three sides by the original 1916 campus buildings. According to The Tech's report, we ate roast beef, corn on the cob, watermelon, and ice cream, mingled with fellow frosh, and then listened to speeches, including addresses by Dean of Students Shirley McBay and President Paul Gray. (At MIT, the joke went, the skies are gray, the buildings are gray, even the president....) Banners were unfurled from the roof of Building 10, behind the speakers. One of the banners, which didn't completely unfurl, was supposed to read, "This to MIT. Collect and third number calls will not be accepted at this number." (That was the message the phone system played to outside callers.)

While our attention was directed in the opposite direction, fraternity upperclassmen lined up across the open side of the court. At the end of the picnic, the president of the interfraternity council declared the beginning of rush, and the upperclassmen rushed in to shanghai freshmen to their parties and activities. While I had a list of houses in mind, the onslaught threw me into a state of confusion, so when an upperclassman named Scott Fulks came up and invited me to ZBT, I said yes, having forgotten that I had pretty much eliminated the house as being too far off campus. Scott conducted me to a waiting car, already packed with other freshmen, which took us up Memorial Drive, across the BU Bridge, west on Commonweath Ave. alongside the "B" Line streetcar. A U-turn at the Brighton Ave. bend brought us to Naples St. and the colonial facade of ZBT at 58 Manchester Road, Brookline. I was ushered up the steps and into the house, where I signed in at the front desk.

ZBT's special event was an excursion to Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park just across the state line in New Hampshire. I was hesitant; I had planned to visit several different fraternities that evening. I later learned that this was part of the game -- keeping freshmen out on activities for as long as the rules allowed gave a house a better shot at finding and getting their choice of freshmen.

My seatmate going up to New Hampshire had been a sophomore named George. He was a talkative fellow with wire-rim glasses and a tidy little mustache. He told me all about the house and the brothers. Later another brother apologized that I had to sit next to George and told me I shouldn't believe anything he said. I seem to recall he left the house and possibly MIT as well after about a year.

It was a fun evening. Canobie had a great wooden coaster. I recall riding it with a senior named Bill Rubin, who, with his bushy black beard, curly hair, and receding hairline, looked more like a middle-aged professor than a college student.

I was invited to spend the night at ZBT, and someone drove me by the dorm to pick up a change of clothes. I didn't spend another night at the dorm.

It was only as an upperclassman that I learned how much went on behind the scenes. Brothers had vacated some of the second-floor rooms for freshmen and were sleeping on floors and in the basement. Being invited to stay over meant you were a prospect.

While freshmen slept upstairs, the brothers cleaned the house and then met in the basement to go through the log of freshmen who had signed in, soliciting appraisals from those who had talked to each one. Brothers were encouraged to keep a small notebook handy and after a particularly interesting conversation to make some notes, discreetly, to bring up in discussion that night. Eddie Beauchemin, who was in the class ahead of me, always had the most detailed notes. If no one else could remember a freshman, Eddie would.

Upperclassmen didn't get much sleep during rush week, particularly those who ran the front desk and the back room, part of a bigger IFC operation to track the whereabouts of all freshmen and the house's own efforts to find and bring back freshmen that were regarded as good prospects for membership. (Stephanie Pollack's column in the post-rush edition of The Tech from that year is a good description of an upperclassman's experience of rush week.)

After a short night of sleep, upperclassmen were supposed to be showered and shaved and ready to schmooze before the first freshman came downstairs for breakfast.

After a Saturday morning made-to-order breakfast, I asked to be taken to one of the houses that I had on my list to visit -- Epsilon Theta, a co-ed house and the only other MIT residence in Brookline.

To be continued....

BatesLine reader Jimmy Hamilton has noticed something strange in the list of Oklahoma lottery winners:

I normally don't care much about what goes on with the lottery, but found it interesting that a trust had claimed the most recent jackpot: Specifically, the Zorro Trust.

That name rang a bell, so I started to research it online. I quickly remembered why it was familiar. The Zorro Trust belongs to Jeffrey Epstein. I don't know how familiar you are with Jeffrey Epstein, but he is (was) a billionaire money manager who is close friends with many high-profile politicians (like Bill Clinton) and cultural elite, was a major investor and former employee of the troubled Bear Stearns hedge fund, and most recently was convicted of soliciting [details of immoral and illegal behavior snipped in the interests of decorum -- see the Wikipedia entry if you must know], for which he is currently serving 18 months in prison. There's much more, but that should give you an idea, if you weren't already aware.

My question is if the Zorro Trust that claimed the lottery prize is, in fact, the same Zorro Trust owned by Jeffrey Epstein. If so, I find it a strange coincidence that someone involved in the Zorro Trust, which allegedly doesn't have any clients that aren't billionaires, would end up with an Oklahoma Lottery Ticket, purchased at a convenience store in Altus, worth $85 million.

Is this the same Zorro or some other swashbuckling trust?

City administration officials declined to accept the recommendation of the City Auditor's office to use a process to select an economic development contractor, rather than continuing to renew the Tulsa Metro Chamber (officially the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce -- MTCC) automatically each year. The auditor's recommendation was one of six findings in this audit of the Chamber's compliance with their economic development contract with the city for Fiscal Year 2007.

It's unclear who wrote the administration's response to the audit, but the response sets up a vicious circle. First, here is audit finding 1:

SUMMARY:

It has been a long tradition, dating back to the early 1900's that the City has contracted with MTCC for economic development purposes. City management generally uses a contract awarding methodology prescribed by executive order for selected consultants. However, this type of methodology is not applied when awarding the economic development contract. Without exploring available options for the economic development contract or using the established contract methodology, there is less assurance the value of the services provided is equivalent to the amount of funding expended.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Stakeholders should use an established contract methodology or contract selection criteria for selecting future economic development contractor(s). Continued funding of MTCC may be the best option available, but without exploring other options, stakeholders cannot be sure.

The administration's response:

Decline. While the processes outlined in the recommendation are sound, until potential alternate providers are identified the use of those processes will be ineffective.

The auditor points out the obvious in a response to the response:

AUDITOR COMMENT:

Decline of the recommendation accepts risk that alternative providers may not be identified and funding expended may not maximize service provided.

In other words, until the city sets criteria, issues a request for proposals, and indicates a willingness to look at other providers, it's unlikely that other providers would emerge to compete with the Chamber.

The auditor, in finding 2, also recommended adding quantifiable performance standards for the economic development contract -- to have a way to measure the outcomes achieved by the contractor.

In finding 3, we learn that the Chamber isn't reporting expenditures on a quarterly basis as required by its contract:

The MTCC contract requires performance reports be submitted 30 days after each calendar quarter and 60 days after the end of the fiscal year. MTCC submits performance reports and marketing plans timely and includes all of the required information, with the exception of budgetary versus actual expenditures data. MTCC senior management stated they did not include the actual expenditures versus budget because it was never required in prior contracts.

Finding 4 reveals that when the Chamber can't find private sponsors for a marketing activity, they just hit up the city for the difference:

MTCC prepares a marketing plan of City funding for proposed activities during the contract period. Some of the proposed activities also involve private funding obtained by MTCC. The marketing plan is provided to the City contract administrator who uses the marketing plan for review of reimbursement requests from MTCC. If MTCC is not successful in securing enough private funding for an activity, they may use funds from other projects to fund the activity. When these changes occur, the City's contract administrator only learns of the change when reimbursement requests for an event are received. For example, in the FY07 marketing plan, $10,000 was earmarked as the City's portion for the LPGA Tournament and $15,000 from private partners. MTCC was unsuccessful in securing sufficient funding from private partners, so the City paid $25,000.

Internal Auditing reviewed the marketing plan and discovered several mathematical errors and some activities listed twice. The contract administrator does not review or verify the plan for accuracy. The contract administrator uses the marketing plan for review of reimbursement requests from MTCC.

Finding 5: The Chamber didn't meet its goal of 300 new sales, contacts, and leads. They only made it to 260. (How hard is it to generate leads?)

Finding 6: The City needs someone with a background in economic development and convention and visitors services to oversee this contract. The auditor notes: "Although MTCC submits performance reports they are not reviewed to ensure performance measures are being met."

If we insist on making economic development a tax-funded activity, the City ought to follow the auditor's recommendations: objective performance measures, ongoing monitoring of performance throughout the year, and a process to allow competition for the economic development contract.

Two Tulsa area legislative seats are up for grabs today. Term limits have ended the legislative careers of State Sen. Jim Williamson (R) and State Rep. Darrell Gilbert (D). The two seats are heavily partisan -- the winner of the runoff is guaranteed the Senate 35 seat and all but guaranteed the House 72 seat. (Lawrence Kirkpatrick, a perennial candidate, will be on the general election ballot as an independent.)

In Senate 35, former Tulsa City Councilor Cason Carter received 45% of the primary vote to 41% for Tulsa resident and Jenks school board member Gary Stanislawski. Three other candidates finished in single digits. Stanislawski has been endorsed by Sen. Jim Williamson and the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly. Carter has outraised and outspent Stanislawski, but both candidates have had ads on radio, something of a novelty for a state legislative race. As I said before the primary, I'm voting for Gary Stanislawski. (Having already decided to support him, I had the opportunity to do some computer work for him early in the campaign.)

Stanislawski's campaign manager Josh McFarland was on the Chris Medlock show on 1170 KFAQ yesterday, answering the negative ads being mailed out by Cason Carter. Medlock, like me, lives in Senate 35. He says this is a race between a candidate driven by principle (Stanislawski) and one driven by the bottom line (Carter), which would explain why the grassroots are lining up behind Stanislawski and the Chamber / Money Belt types are backing Carter.

In House 72, Seneca Scott finished first in the primary with 42% of the vote; Christie Breedlove finished second with 28%. That's a tough gap to overcome in a runoff, but Breedlove has the advantage of being not only a lifelong resident of the district, she lives in a more typical part of the district. (Scott, a Jenks High School graduate, lives near TU, in the small section of the district south of TU.) She has been endorsed by State Sen. Judy Eason-McEntyre and City Councilor Jack Henderson and former Councilor Roscoe Turner.

Runoffs often have rotten turnouts. If you live in either of those districts, please be sure to turn out to vote.

Mobile blogging test

| | TrackBacks (0)

This is a test....

Except for having to remember the filename of the photo I wanted to upload and having to both attach the file and manually insert the code in the post entry and the double-posting, everything worked just fine.

I'm amused / distressed that mobile blogging apps haven't advanced much since the last time I attended a national political convention.

Some wise words in a letter from retired architect Bob Sober to the members of the Tulsa City Council, regarding the proposed Tulsa Stadium Improvement Trust indenture, on the Council's agenda for Thursday night:

Councilors,

The Mayor has asked you to approve the Trust Indenture in this Thursday's Council meeting in one more artificial self-created emergency. Once more you have been set up to overlook the obstacle, this time possibly depriving the public of a new ballpark, stalling the revitalization of downtown and possibly causing the Drillers to move to Jenks. Please, don't fall for it this time.

Take the time necessary to assure that the Tulsa Stadium Trust is really a Public Trust, designed to fairly represent the people. At this point, the Trust has the appearance of a private business disguised (in name only) to look like a Public Trust. The representation of the members and the length of the terms assure tight control of a small group of donors for the first twelve years of its life. This is very important when you consider that all of the decisions concerning the development of the property surrounding the ballpark will be made and committed to bricks and mortar during this period.

Please consider that the following scenario built on both fact and personal opinion:

Faced with the possibility of the Drillers moving to Jenks, the Mayor attempted to find a location in Downtown to keep the Drillers in Tulsa and use the ballpark in conjunction with the Arena to revitalize downtown and stimulate housing and retail growth. The City picked-up the options for the failed attempt to develop a Wal-Mart in the East Village and began negotiations with the Drillers to locate the ballpark in Downtown Tulsa. Frustrated by the sellers inability to establish a purchase price (due to internal lawsuits), the Mayor looked for alternative locations. Turning to her planning consultant for advice, the Mayor selected the current proposed site in the Brady/Greenwood districts. This location is well suited to support the aggressive Brady "Arts" District revitalization effort already underway by the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) and the conceptual plan to use light rail to solve transportation problems and stimulate high density growth nodes. Like any development deal there are a myriad of problems to solve. First is how do you assemble enough land to construct the ballpark and provide parking (assuming that a ballpark surrounded by parking is appropriate in a downtown location). The solution is to connect the ballpark to the proposed light rail (only one block south) so that existing parking around the city can be used to serve the ballpark. This allows the ballpark to be surrounded by mixed use development, instead of pavement, and furthers the revitalization of the area. This is a beautiful solution and a wonderful service to the citizens of Tulsa. Disappointed by the pace of redevelopment around the new Arena, the Mayor decides that the City should take responsibility for the development of the property around the Ballpark. Creating a special zoning district was inadequate for her vision, the City needed to own the property to assure that the development is family oriented and provides a proper connection to the proposed light rail. This creates two additional problems. First, it doubles the cost of the project from $30M to $60M, second, the property must be assembled (this was already accomplished at the East Village site).

My issues with the Trust Indenture begin here.

Evidence that the City and the donors took the task of assembling the property very seriously is the July 7 meeting of the Brady District Property owners where in the presence of high ranking members of the administration Mr. Boylan stated the eminent domain would be used to acquire property from owners not willing to sell. Possible additional evidence is the termination of the exclusive negotiation agreement between the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) and Novus Homes, LLC (Novus) an action resulting in a lawsuit and allegations of violations of the City's Ethics Ordinance. Both of these acts are aggressive unfriendly acts of the City threatening the use of its authority to overpower the individual in "the best interest of the City" to assemble the property necessary to support the Mayor's vision. None of this heavy-handedness was required at the East Village location because the land was assemble by a private developer without the threatening power of the City. This property was assembled the "old fashioned way" with and interested buyer and a willing seller. Is it fair to assume that the ballpark in the East Village was to be a private development, the way it was in Jenks, since no trust proposal was considered and no public money was requested? If so, the authority to threaten property owners unwilling to sell came with the discussion of establishing a Public Trust. I don't believe a Public Trust, with 50% of its members not from the donors group, would endorse these actions.

Creating an assessment district including all property owners in the Inner Dispersal Loop (IDL) became necessary to fund acquisition of the property surrounding the ballpark and improving this property in preparation for family oriented mixed-use development. Leasing this property to developers is a very creative method of maintaining the ballpark and surrounding area and assure the vitality of the area for the next 30 years. My hat is off to the Mayor and donors.

Who will develop this property? Obviously, this will be determined by the Trust. Why should these decisions be limited to the Mayor, five donors committing at least $2M to the project and one IDL property owner? Why do the donors have 12 year terms? This has the appearance of a private business using the authority of a Public Trust to threaten and tax property owners. What is to prevent the donor controlled Trust from using Public money to purchase and enhance the value of the property surrounding the ballpark, then lease it back to them selves to develop projects to recover their donations (making the donations an investment not a gift)? This is an appropriate strategy for a private business not a Public Trust. If this is what the City and donors wish to accomplish then they should raise an additional $30M, assemble the property without the authority if City government and run this business as they wish. If the donors are truly making a gift to the City, then create a trust that is dominated by IDL property owners that are not donors nor at businesses dependent on members of the donors group. Please consider a Trust with 15 members (mayor, 7 donors and 7 IDL property owners that are not donors nor at businesses dependent on members of the donors group) with 3 year terms. This is very consistent with existing City Trusts, Commissions, Authorities, etc.

In the recent survey of Tulsa citizens conducted by Collective Strength as part of PLANiTULSA it was discovered that people in Tulsa are worried:

"That those with money have too much influence."

"That city leaders don't understand their needs."

and the key themes from in depth interviews were:

"Well intentioned 'oligarchy' is out of touch."

"Fatalism about lack of zoning and code enforcement and special favors for the wealthy".

The current Trust Indenture supports and perpetuates these concerns. Please reject this agreement and construct in its place one that fairly represents in word and spirit the intention of a PUBLIC Trust.

Thank you,

Bob Sober

Sober was appointed by Mayor Kathy Taylor to chair the PLANiTULSA Advisers and Partners, the steering and community outreach committees for the effort to create a new comprehensive plan for Tulsa. Public confidence in fairness and openness is crucial to the success of that effort. The manner of putting together the ballpark deal undermines that confidence.

Any stadium trust should be limited in the indenture to improvements to blocks 23, 24, and 45, and lots 4, 5, and 6 of block 46 of Tulsa's Original Townsite -- the area between I-244 and Archer, Elgin and the buildings on the west side of Greenwood which survived urban renewal.

It would be simpler just to put the downtown ballpark under the aegis of the existing Tulsa Public Facilities Authority, which manages the Maxwell Convention Center, build it with the assessment and lease funds, and let the donors do their own thing with their own money in the open real estate market.

From the Tulsa Preservation Commission blog:

Please join us Wednesday, August 27th for a Community Workshop to shape and evaluate Tulsa's Historic Preservation Strategy.

This public workshop will be from 5:30 - 7:30pm in the new City Hall, 175 E. 2nd Street, 10th Floor South conference room (map it). On-street parking at meters is free after business hours. Please use the 2nd Street entrance.

Your insights and vision for preserving and enhancing the historic character of Tulsa would be appreciated. We hope to see you there!

For more information, call 918-576-5669. Please feel free to share this invitation with your friends and colleagues.

With the comprehensive plan update underway and national attention on Tulsa's historic assets, thanks to the upcoming National Preservation Conference being held here in October, this may be the moment to make preservation a priority in Tulsa.

RELATED:

Steve Patterson reports that a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation is joining the City of St. Louis and the State of Missouri in a SLAPP suit against two preservation activists who filed lawsuits in an effort to save a 100-year-old building in downtown St. Louis.

Following some links from Brandon Dutcher's blog, I came across the blog of the Absalom family. Alex and Hannah Absalom and their three boys moved from Sheffield, England, to the Oklahoma City area in 2007, where Alex joined the staff of Bridgeway Church.

It's always interesting to see your own culture through new eyes, especially when those new eyes are connected to a frank and funny voice. The Absaloms are immersing themselves in local culture and reporting their reactions on their blog. Here are a few of the experiences they've had so far:

Home appliances:

We now own a washing machine and dryer that are large enough to wash not only all of our family's clothes in one go, but also the children too. However those machines are topped by our new fridge/freezer, which comes complete with a whizzy dispenser on the front that makes three varieties of ice and a colony of penguins on the second to bottom shelf.

Upon hearing our report back after a hard day in Lance & Stacy's pool, Joel's summary was "Why is everything in America so large, especially the people?".

Pedestrians:

Joel came dashing in to find me the other day.

"Daddy! Daddy! For the first time I've just seen someone actually walk past our house!"

In a later entry, they are stopped and interrogated by a man with a "huge handlebar moustache, worthy of Asterix the Gaul" who found their strolling on a country lane highly suspicious.

Public transport:

We must have driven the best part of 1000 miles in the last 6 weeks (for our European readers: it's a very scattered city!), but that was the first time I'd seen a regular bus running....

I've done a little research and it turns out that the buses run on just a couple of routes, themselves selected by a strange process that defies natural logic for where they should start or finish. Bus usage is also not helped by the way that the bus stops are camouflaged in a manner that would impress Jack Bauer.

The Wildlife Expo:

There was an unwritten dress code that involved checked (plaid) shirts, old baseball hats and anything with something printed on it indicating support for either John Deere, the U.S. military or huntin', shootin' or fishin'. A few of the experienced types managed all three at the same time, receiving many sartorial nods of approval....

Thus it turned out that the wildlife in question was there to be fished, hunted, shot, eaten or stuffed. All very interesting for something that was being run by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and "a coalition of conservation organizations". Clearly here the word conservation has a different meaning to the sense in common usage in the rest of the world.

OU football:

The referees - all seven of them - originate from English Morris Dancing, since they tuck their trousers into their socks and throw handkerchiefs into the air whenever they are excited. Locally this is called throwing a flag, but really it's a hankie.

Silver Dollar City and a timeshare presentation in Branson:

Branson is a town that has grown up entirely, and I mean entirely, around the entertainment business. In many ways it is a Mid-West/Bible Belt version of Las Vegas. This means that the overarching Vegas theme of entertainment-around-gambling is replaced by entertainment-around-God'n'country. Thus you have shows full of country music, 60s tribute bands, country music, crooners, country music, dancers (less can-can, more line-dance) and cutting edge comedy, if your edge was cut in the 1940s. Did I mention they also like country music a great deal?

Mall walkers:

Instead of enjoying such risky things as grass, fresh air and the sun, they instead choose to exercise by marching briskly around the shopping mall. Now this might make sense if Oklahoma City was labouring under 2 feet of snow or a 40C heatwave, but yesterday was 14C, dry and a very pleasant day. However, the big scary outside doesn't have such basic fundamentals as seats every 50 yards, five fast food outlets and exactly the same experience every time.

The ice storm:

People have seemed remarkably stoical and positive. From the various conversations we've had in shops and our neighbourhood, as well as through the church, there is what we Brits would call the Blitz spirit shining through! People have been helping each other out and sharing homes and resources, and so far we've not had stories of people dying through lack of care from others....For lighter distraction we've also enjoyed the antics of the local weathermen, with each channel outdoing the other with their forecasts. The local stations even have special little logos and stirring music to go with reports, and we have rolling lists on screen of cancelled events and closed schools, businesses and churches (this being the South).

Devon spire

| | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (1)

Oklahoma City bloggers are agog at the unveiling of Devon Energy's plans to build the state's tallest building. Steve Lackmeyer, who blogs about downtown OKC development for the Oklahoman, has been covering the story extensively. Some of the land in question is owned by the city's urban renewal authority, which voted yesterday to approve the plan. The tower will be 54 stories, 925 feet tall, the 21st tallest building in America. At the moment the state's two tallest buildings are in Tulsa -- the Bank of Oklahoma Tower at 667 feet and the central tower of Cityplex (née City of Faith) at 649 feet.

Over at TulsaNow's public forum, some participants are feeling tower envy, wishing for some deep-pockets oil company to build some new skyscrapers in downtown, but we have to recall that Oklahoma City took a pass, for the most part, on the building frenzy of the late '70s, early '80s oil boom. While OKC's tallest building is of that era, the next tallest is from the '30s. From the late '60s to the early '80s, Tulsa built five new skyscrapers: Fourth National Bank (now Bank of America), Cities Service Building (now 110 W. 7th), 1st National Bank (now First Plaza), the BOk Tower, and the Mid-Continent Tower -- the addition that stands beside and is cantilevered over the original Cosden Building at 4th and Boston.

There are rumors of even more tall towers in Oklahoma City, and some OKCers are giddy at the thought of "filling the gaps in the skyline."

The thing about filling those gaps is that the new skyscrapers have to touch the ground at some point, and how these towers meet the street is what matters most to downtown's vitality. It may look beautiful from five miles away, it may have a great view from the top story, but how does it look to someone walking by on the street?

David Sucher is fond of saying, "Site plan trumps architecture."

Putting it yet another way, what happens more than 30 or so feet off the sidewalk is of only secondary importance.

The important thing it to create an urban, walkable space at sidewalk level by following Sucher's simple Three Rules -- build to the sidewalk, make the building front "permeable" with doors and windows you can see through (no blank walls or mirrored glass, and, preferably, with spaces that are open to the public along the street, such as storefronts), and put the parking behind the building.

It took a while to find a site plan of the Devon building; Doug Loudenback has it. The building will be on an existing 2-by-2 superblock, just north of another 2-by-2 superblock where Myriad Gardens is located. A public park will occupy the southwest corner of the site. A six-story building will be connected to the tower by a rotunda. There will be retail in the six-story section, but it's unclear if it will be accessible along the exterior of the building. Only a small portion of the six-story section will front the street; the tower itself will be surrounded by a moat.

Somewhere I saw it mentioned that this building will anchor Harvey St. as a north-south axis which will ultimately connect the downtown core to the North Canadian River's shore. In fact, Harvey will remain closed through this superblock, a missed opportunity to correct a planning mistake from the past. Like the Williams Center in Tulsa, it will act more as an obstacle than a link.

Some things I wrote elsewhere about Devon's plans:

On TulsaNow's public forum, I had this initial reaction:

I don't care about how far this thing sticks up as much as I care how it meets the street. I haven't seen pictures yet, but the descriptions indicate some sort of plaza and moat. A work of high art rather than a working part of a walkable urban streetscape. Bleh.

We got our allotment of skyscrapers in the '70s and early '80s. Oklahoma City built a few towers during that period, but none as tall as Tulsa's.

Tulsa would be far better off to fill all our parking lots with four-story buildings -- storefronts on street level, offices on the second level, apartments on the third and fourth floors -- than to build even one new skyscraper.

Tulsa's skyscraper boom may have satisfied some corporate egos, but it hastened the conversion of downtown from a real downtown to an office park. Buildings that used to house people and small retail were cleared away for the towers and for the parking that the towers required.

In response to a comment that you can build towers and pay attention to the street at the same time, I wrote:

Yes, you can, and it was done all the time before WWII -- e.g., the Empire State Building has street-level retail -- but I'm hard-pressed to think of an example from the last 40 years of a skyscraper that conforms to the Three Rules for generating urban places....

No one else could think of one either. It sort of goes against the starchitect code of honor -- you have to put a plaza around your masterpiece, create some distance between the street and the building so people are able to see more of it and admire it. Plazas -- unless they are surrounded on all sides by some sort of wall to create a kind of room -- don't work well. They are rarely done the right way in America. They may look nice as you drive by at 30 mph, but name me one plaza in Oklahoma where people choose to linger.

I posted this comment on an entry at Steve Lackmeyer's blog about the possibility of other towers in downtown OKC.

What happens at street level is far more important to the long-term health of downtown than how tall the buildings are. Go ahead and build a skyscraper, but make sure you don't clear out block after block of three and four story buildings to make room for the parking. Make sure the ground floor relates well to the street, with human scale elements, like street-fronting retail space.

Tulsa's 1970s skyscraper binge hastened downtown's conversion from a traditional mixed-use downtown to a 9-to-5 office park. We're only now starting to recover, with the renovation of the handful of old low rise buildings that weren't razed for the sake of parking.

TRACKBACK: Steve Lackmeyer responds with a post called "Blank Walls," which mentions urban critic William Whyte's observations of Oklahoma City in the early 1980s. Whyte's ideas influenced pioneering Bricktown developer Neal Horton. Quoting Whyte from a 1983 article in Time:

"The Blank Wall is on its way to becoming the dominant feature of many United States downtowns," Whyte complained. "Without the windows or adornment to relieve their monotony, the walls are built of concrete, brick, granite, metal veneer, opaque glass and mirrors ... designed out of fear - fear of the untidy hustle and bustle of city streets and undesirables - the walls spread fear."...

"By eliminating the hospitable jumble of shop fronts, restaurant entrances and newsstands, the walls deaden the very city the buildings claim to revitalize."

(This appears to be the Time story: "Drawing a Blank Downtown" by Wolf von Eckhardt, which quotes Whyte and mentions a collection of his photographs illustrating the problem.)

Steve has photos of Leadership Square and the Pioneer Telephone building, which illustrate the point about blank walls, and there is a thoughtful discussion underway in the comment section.

John Hart, communications director for Sen. Tom Coburn, released this statement earlier this afternoon:

Dr. Coburn is honored to have the opportunity to speak at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, September 2. Dr. Coburn was invited to speak early in the process but wasn't listed on the initial schedule because he was working to resolve scheduling conflicts surrounding a family wedding. Although the program has not been finalized, his remarks will likely focus on earmarks, wasteful spending and the need for real reform in Washington.

After the RNC released their initial list of speakers yesterday, Club for Growth expressed disappointment that prominent fiscal conservatives, active in the battle against government waste, were left off of the list. Coburn was one of several Republican elected officials mentioned in the Club for Growth's statement:

With the recent publication of the GOP Convention lineup, the Club for Growth was disappointed to see the absence of the party's most steadfast elected economic conservatives.

With the Republican Party's brand in shambles, it is important for the Party to showcase those leaders who are currently in office fighting to preserve the limited-government, free-market principles the GOP used to stand for.

In the Senate, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint have waged a two-man war on wasteful spending. In the House of Representatives, conservative leaders like Jeff Flake (AZ-06), John Shadegg (AZ-03), Jeb Hensarling (TX-05), Mike Pence (IN-06), and Paul Ryan (WI-01) have never wavered in their commitment to free-market principles and have been major players in the Republican Study Committee. And of all the Republican governors in the country, Mark Sanford of South Carolina has the strongest record of fighting for limited government and economic freedom.

Michael Steele, former Lt. Governor of Maryland and currently chairman of GOPAC, was on the Chris Medlock show on Tuesday lamenting the fact that Republican ideas were polling well, but the Republican "brand" wasn't. The GOP needs to send the message that the earmarkers and appropriators are on their way out (e.g. Ted Stevens and Don Young of Alaska) and fiscal conservatives are rising in prominence and influence.

See below for information about BatesLine's coverage of the national conventions.

I just got this by e-mail, the initial list of speakers for the four days of the Republican National Convention. I'm not sure why this isn't posted on the official convention website, where I could just link to it, but it isn't, so here's the whole thing:

For Immediate Release Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Contact: Joanna Burgos
(651) 467-2728

"Country First": 2008 Republican National Convention to Highlight
Service, Reform, Prosperity and Peace
Convention Announces Program Themes and Speaker Lineup

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The 2008 Republican National Convention today announced the themes and preliminary lineup of speakers for the program of events that will run Sept. 1-4. The convention's overall theme, "Country First," reflects John McCain's remarkable record of leadership and service to America. Each day of proceedings will center on a touchstone theme that has defined John McCain's life and will be central to his vision for leading our nation forward as president.

"Our convention will showcase a cross-section of leaders who will highlight John McCain's long commitment to putting our country first -- before self-interest or politics," said McCain 2008 Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker. "The speakers will address John McCain's unmatched record of service and sacrifice for America, and his vision for moving our nation forward to keep us safe and get our economy back on track."

The roster of speakers announced today includes John McCain, Mrs. Cindy McCain, 10 current and former Republican governors, five current and former U.S. Senators and two well-respected businesswomen. Their remarks will echo the themes that have been selected for each of the convention's four days: service, reform, prosperity and peace.

"We are excited to announce this slate of speakers, each of whom shares John McCain's love of country and commitment to serving a cause greater than one's own self-interest. Their remarks will be a testament to Senator McCain's unparalleled record of service and sacrifice for America and his readiness to lead as commander in chief and move America forward," said Maria Cino, president and CEO of the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The program of events is as follows:

Monday, Sept. 1
Service

"Love of country, my friends, is another way of saying love of your fellow countryman."
--Sen. John McCain

John McCain's commitment to his fellow Americans, a commitment forged in service to his country, is one of the defining hallmarks of his life. Monday's events will highlight John McCain's record of service and sacrifice and reflect his commitment to serving a cause greater than one's own self-interest.

Speakers will include:

* U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.)
* Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.)
* Vice President Richard B. Cheney
* First Lady Laura Bush
* President George W. Bush

Tuesday, Sept. 2
Reform

"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and correct them."
--Sen. John McCain

John McCain's life is a testament to the fundamental truth that every American can be a force for change. A restless reformer who has dedicated his career to taking on special interests and the status quo, John McCain will deliver the right kind of change and reform to meet the great challenges of our time. On Tuesday, the convention program will underscore his vision of a government that is transparent, principled and worthy of the American people it serves.

Speakers will include:

* Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
* Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.)
* Former Gov. Tom Ridge (Pa.)
* Gov. Sarah Palin (Alaska)
* Gov. Jon Huntsman (Utah)
* Rosario Marin, California Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency and former Treasurer of the United States
* Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.)
* Gov. Linda Lingle (Hawaii)
* Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (Md.)

Wednesday, Sept. 3
Prosperity

"America's best days are still to come."
--Sen. John McCain

The American story is one of perseverance. Even in the face of tough times, the ingenuity and spirit of the American people has ushered in a new era of prosperity. Wednesday's program will focus on John McCain's plans to get our economy back on track and continue our long tradition of meeting the challenges we face and using our prosperity to help others. The day will conclude with an address by the vice presidential nominee.

Speakers will include:

* U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.)
* Meg Whitman, National Co-Chair for McCain 2008 and former President and CEO of eBay
* Carly Fiorina, Victory '08 Chairman for the Republican National Committee and former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
* Former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.)
* Mrs. Cindy McCain
* Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.)
* Republican Party's Vice Presidential Nominee

Thursday, Sept. 4
Peace

"Our next president will have a mandate to build an enduring global peace on the foundations of freedom, security, opportunity, prosperity, and hope."
--Sen. John McCain

John McCain understands the challenges that America faces in the world and the sacrifice necessary to defend our freedom in a way that few others can fathom. Thursday's events will reflect his vision of an America in pursuit of peace and seen as a beacon of goodwill and hope throughout the world. The evening will close with John McCain accepting the Republican Party's nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

Speakers will include:

* Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.)
* Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.)
* U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.)
* U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.)
* John McCain

In the coming days, the 2008 Republican National Convention will announce additional speakers and program details.

About the Republican National Convention

The 2008 Republican National Convention will be held at Saint Paul's Xcel Energy Center from Sept. 1-4, 2008. Approximately 45,000 delegates, alternate delegates, volunteers, members of the media and other guests are expected to attend the convention. Minneapolis-Saint Paul is expected to receive an estimated $150-$160 million positive economic boost from the four-day event. For more information about the 2008 Republican National Convention, please visit our website at www.GOPConvention2008.com and join our social network sites on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

It's hard not to look at the list of speakers as the VP short-list, particularly as you get later in the week.

Yesterday the Democrats released their list of speakers for next week's convention. While nearly all of the Republican speakers are elected officials, the Democratic list includes heads of key Democrat constituencies: the heads of the AFL-CIO, the Illinois SEIU, two biggest teacher's unions (the NEA and the AFT); the head of Planned Parenthood of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America (née the National Abortion Rights Action League).

By the way, I will be traveling to St. Paul to cover the Republican National Convention for UTW and this blog. Four years ago I went to the RNC as a delegate; this year I'm going as a credentialed member of the media. You can expect to see new blog posts several times a day during the convention, as well as articles in the following week's addition of UTW. At least one blog post each day will include multimedia -- video and audio of interviews with nationally prominent political and media folks as well as members of Oklahoma's delegation.

It's a great opportunity to advertise on BatesLine, because the number of page views tends to go up the more frequently I post; readers check back more often and have more chances to see your ad. (8,000 page views is typical for a weekday, but it nearly doubles when I'm covering fast-breaking developments.)

I also received credentials for the DNC, but budgetary constraints preclude attending both conventions. (It's one thing to be able to write about politics; it's another to track down freelance opportunities to sell that writing.) I will still be writing a story for UTW about the Tulsa Democrats who are going as delegates, and of course I will be commenting here on the proceedings. If you're going to Denver for the convention, I would love to hear about your convention experience and your thoughts as events unfold -- drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com and let me know how to keep in touch with you.

A few days ago on the linkblog, I linked to Brandon Dutcher's story of a surprising word of reassurance in the midst of tremendous stress, out of the blue in the middle of a sermon:

"Who has chest pains?" he asked. "Stand up."

I was somewhat taken aback, yet I stood up because, indeed, for about a week I had been having some pain on the right side of my chest, the cause of which was unclear to me. Since the pain wasn't severe, I had pretty much dismissed it as a nagging inconvenience that would go away soon enough. It certainly hadn't been on my mind during the service. But as I stood there, this man, his face and his voice exuding genuine compassion, said to me something altogether unexpected: "Don't worry. You'll be able to get all your work done."

Until that moment, it hadn't even remotely occurred to me that stress and worry could be the source of the pain, but in an instant it became clear. Then began to wash over me an overwhelming realization that God really does love me and is intensely concerned with my well-being. Even amid my disobedience ("Be anxious for nothing"), here was Almighty God--who was, after all, quite busy running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments--taking the time and the initiative to attend to one redeemed sinner in Nowata, Oklahoma.

As I sat down I tried to maintain my composure, but this realization was simply too much. I spent the next several minutes in that rickety little church weeping, as God's love--how to put this?--poured over me like warm oil. And he wouldn't let up. He just kept telling me how much he loved me and how he didn't want me to worry.

Michael Spencer is very open on his Internet Monk blog about the challenges and discouraging circumstances in his ministry and his personal life. That openness sometimes brings him "encouragement" from readers of the sort Job received from his "friends." (I've been guilty of offering that kind of encouragement in his blog comments.) On Saturday, Michael wrote about two examples of genuine encouragement from surprising sources. He concluded with this reflection on discouragement:

There is discouragement in my world, but if I am honest, most of it is smaller than I make it. I am the one who amplifies it most of the time.

As I've learned to listen more and more to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I'm learning that Jesus was very dependable when he taught us that the Kingdom of God is upon is. Right here, right now, close by.

I choose to not see it because I am lobbying for that most destructive of emotions: self-pity. Jesus is reminding me that there is sufficiency in the love he extends, and the love he places around us. That love comes in thousands of different ways in a day.

The problem is that I don't expect it, don't listen or look for it, don't live in expectation that his gracious love will meet me throughout the day.

Lamentations 3:22-24 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

Saturday night, I drove the family to Bartlesville, to the Kiddie Park. It's one of my favorite places, where I get to watch my children have fun on the same rides that delighted me forty years ago. The two-year-old rode everything he could (except the roller coaster), and this year he liked it all. The almost-eight-year-old is almost too tall for many rides, but she was able to join her little brother on the ferris wheel, the pirate ship, the airplanes, the trucks, the boats, and the bumper cars. We all rode the train and the carousel.

The twelve-year-old can only ride the same rides the grown-ups can, so he brought along the juggling sticks he bought the day before to keep him occupied and walked around the park practicing tricks. He was already pretty good at it. Toward the end of the evening, an older boy walked by, said, "That's awesome, dude," and handed him a dollar. His first tip, and he wasn't even trying!

Before we left for Bartlesville, my daughter's Sunday School teacher called to remind us that she needed to review Psalm 121, as the class would be reciting it during the morning service. So as we prepared to head home from Bartlesville, I looked up the Psalm on my Palm, and handed it back to her so she could practice as we traveled. As she recited, we each had opportunity to ponder the Psalmist's words:

I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

MORE: David Rollo wrote to remind me that Thomas Matthews, the late sacred music composer, organist, and choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Church, wrote a setting of Psalm 121, which was included on the Coventry Chorale's CD of Matthews' anthems. Here it is:



(Download 850 KB MP3)

UPDATE: There's a sweet song about the Kiddie Park that they play over the loudspeakers at the end of the evening. There's a page on the Kiddie Park website where you can read the lyrics, read the story of the song, and listen to it.

Summers come and children grow And life goes on you see But time stands still in Bartlesville Where the last train ride is free

The last time someone tried to rezone the southeast corner of 41st & Harvard, for a Wal-Mart neighborhood market and gas station, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission approved the application by a slim margin, and the Tulsa City Council turned it down by an 8-1 vote, with only David Patrick voting in favor. Patrick lost a Democratic primary election to Roscoe Turner shortly thereafter.

Now Patrick is back on the Council and developers' attorney Charles Norman is back with a new application for developing that corner, where there are two houses and a vacant field used as a Christmas tree lot each winter. It is a two-fold application -- a request to rezone some multifamily residential (RM-2) and light office (OL) areas to commercial (CS) and a Planned Unit Development, which rearranges the permitted uses for a larger area, currently zoned CS at the corner, surrounded by OL, RM-2, and RS-1 (very low density residential). It's on the August 20, 2008, TMAPC agenda.

A PUD allows mixing and rearranging different kinds of zoning, but you have to work with the zoning that exists. That's the reason for seeking the rezoning as well as the PUD; the developers need more CS-zoned area to accommodate their commercial buildings. Currently only about 1/16th of the land is zoned CS. The development is described as mixed use, but it seems to be entirely commercial.

Nearly half the land in the PUD is zoned RS-1. How will they use the RS-1 land that they rearrange? They'll use it for parking and landscaping. In Tulsa, a PUD allows a developer to take a small piece of commercially-zoned land and turn it into a much larger commercial development.

The INCOG staff's analysis acknowledges that this proposed development is NOT in accord with the Comprehensive Plan, which designates part of the area for medium-intensity residential and part for low-intensity residential.

The new development involves four smaller buildings, rather than one big store. The PUD application says that only the building closest to 41st and Harvard will be an all-night operation -- a drug store. The three buildings nearer the surrounding property will have to be closed between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

I have not heard whether the neighborhood groups which opposed the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market will also oppose this development.

From "Floyd," on TulsaNow's public forum, regarding the Trust Indenture for the Tulsa Stadium Trust:

Sigh.

If they had just decided to build a stadium and then created a set of special design codes for the stadium district, they could be moving dirt soon. But they can't help themselves from overreaching, can they. And it always ends badly.

I want to know who drafted this thing and why they thought it would fly. I wonder if this was even a unique document or if it came from some kind of template that wasn't tailored to this kind of purpose. 12 yr terms? For the donors? Really?

After Mayor Taylor's confused, tearful performance in front of the TDA, I'm convinced she's not the one actually orchestrating this whole deal. Can anyone tell us who, ostensibly even, is the public face of the ballpark master plan?

I had the impression that BOK President Stan Lybarger was heading this up, but he hasn't really been a public face on the issue. It is interesting that no one showed up at that TDA meeting to speak on behalf of the ballpark donors (other than Mayor Taylor, of course -- and the three board members who didn't recuse themselves but should have).

Another example of the overreach is the TDA's premature termination of their exclusive negotiating period with Will Wilkins and Novus Homes, to which Floyd alluded. Late last week, carltonplace had this to say on TulsaNow's public forum about the frustration many downtown boosters and ballpark backers feel about the Novus Homes situation (reformatted slightly for readability):

The ballpark is not a done deal, the Novus project could have been had the TDA not changed their mind and pulled the offer to Novus in favor of reserving that property for the ball park donors. This action by the TDA whose members are comprised of volunteers that work for companies on the donor list rubs people the wrong way for the following reasons:

1. Frustrated Development: We are begging for downtown development but there is a perception that building in downtown (and dealing with the TDA) is too difficult. That perception now is now reality in many people's minds.

2. Ethical Concerns: Choosing one's employer over this developer whether real or imagined feels wrong.

3. Transparency: Why can't the ballpark and the development work together? Why won't anyone give a valid reason why they can't. Feels like back room politics

4. Treatment:Why did they leave Novus hanging so long and let them continue to spend money and jump through hoops if this final action was what they've intended since the ballpark announcement?

5. History:This isn't the first time that the TDA has acted this way toward a potential buyer. Its no wonder they can't sell and develop a downtown property. What are they holding onto them for? Why did they start empire building? What happened to Jones Lang Lassalle?

The New York Sun reports that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign has confirmed that the Illinois Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA), which, as an Illinois State Senator and committee chairman, Obama voted to kill, had the same language as the federal bill which Obama claims he would have supported. The federal BAIPA passed the U. S. Senate by a 98-0 vote in 2002. The Illinois bill was killed in the Health and Human Services Committee after it was amended to include the same "neutrality clause" contained in the federal law.

Sen. Obama appears not to have gotten the memo from his campaign staff:

The dispute flared again last week when a leading opponent of legalized abortion, the National Right to Life Committee, posted records from the Illinois Legislature showing that Mr. Obama, while chairman of a Senate committee, in 2003, voted against a "Born Alive" bill that contained nearly identical language to the federal bill that passed unanimously, including the provision limiting its scope.

The group says the documents prove Mr. Obama misrepresented his record.

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported "was not the bill that was presented at the state level."

His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law. Those concerns did not exist for the federal bill, because there is no federal abortion law.

Sevugan's statement makes the eleventh reason Obama or his surrogates have given for his vote against protection for infants who survive an attempted abortion.

Jill Stanek, the Illinois nurse who pushed for the bill because she witnessed infants being shelved to die after surviving an abortion, writes:

While the Obama campaign tonight finally admitted Obama has misrepresented his Born Alive vote all these years, it had the audacity to offer a ludicrous excuse, an excuse Obama himself contradicted only 24 hours ago, as he has for years, that "I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported."

(Hat tip: Dawn Eden.)

MORE: Via Kevin McCullough, Rick Warren wasn't satisfied with Barack Obama's "above my pay grade" answer to Warren's question, "At what point does a baby get human rights?"

No. I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, 'Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out' because if I was wrong then it had severe implications to my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.

Warren also challenges the notion that evangelicals are leaving behind the issue of the sanctity of human life:

That's why to say that evangelicals are a monolith is a myth, but the other thing is that you've been hearing a lot of the press talk about 'Well, evangelicals are changing, they're now interested in poverty and disease and illiteracy, and all the stuff I've been talking about for five years now. And I have been seeding that into the evangelical movement and it's getting picked up and a lot of people are talking about doing humanitarian efforts. But I really think it's wishful thinking on a lot of people who think they're going to drop the other issues. They're not leaving pro-life, I'm just trying to expand the agenda....

Don Surber says "above my pay grade" was a "staff sergeant's answer to a general's question."

Not only that, it's a staff sergeant's answer to a "Why?" question. The staff sergeant would be able to answer a "When?" question. "Above my pay grade" means the establishment of that policy was made by a Higher Authority; I can't change it, but I can tell you what it is, and I can carry it out. That makes me wonder just what Higher Authority set the policy that Barack Obama is following. I'm pretty sure that on this issue, for Obama, the Higher Authority isn't the God addressed in Psalm 139.

STILL MORE: Get Religion is a blog that examines the mainstream media's coverage of religion. Terry Mattingly notices that Warren asked Obama a political/legal question regarding recognition of human rights; Obama's defenders in the commentariat are treating it as a moral/religious question.

After meeting a friend for a chat and a beer at Lola's after work today, I decided to take advantage of the clear, warm (but not hot) evening and went for a walk through the Brady District.

Heading up Main Street I passed The Marquee (located between the Tulsa Violin Shop and the White Rabbit Deli, in the former location of Mooch and Burn) and the House that Bob Built, the legendary Cain's Ballroom. Reading the posters, I noticed that two wonderfully fun and talented musical acts, both with unique sounds, will be in town over the next week.

Friday night at 9, The Marquee will host Brave Combo, the New Wave polka band from Denton, Texas. Here's how they describe themselves:

Succeeding in its first mission, Brave Combo is America's premier contemporary polka band, and a Grammy winning one at that. In the same breath, to name some but hardly all of the colors found on Brave Combo's musical palette, one can describe them as a groundbreaking world music act, a hot jazz quintet, a rollicking rock'n'roll bar band, a Tex-Mex conjunto, a sizzling blues band, a saucy cocktail combo, a deadly serious novelty act, a Latin orchestra, and one of America's dance bands par excellence. It's all in a night's music for Brave Combo, often in a synergistic fashion that includes everything from klezmer surf rock to rocking cha cha to what The Washington Post calls "mosh pit polka," as well as to the hokey pokey and the chicken dance. And zyedeco, acid rock, Muzak, bubblegum, cumbia, classical, and the twist, to still not exhaust the list. This plethoric multitude of musical styles and flavors is frequently mixed, matched, and melded, into delicious, new concoctions by an imaginative team of musical gourmet master chefs.

Doors open at 8, all ages are welcome, admission is $10.

Now the show I'm really, really excited about: Hot Club of Cowtown will play Cain's second stage next Thursday night at 8.

Hot Club of Cowtown is Whit Smith on guitar, Elana James on fiddle, and Jake Erwin on bass. This trio brings together the sound of Django Reinhardt's Quintette du Hot Club de France and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys at their swingingest -- as they sounded on the mid -40s Tiffany Transcriptions.

(Of course, you don't have to cover too much distance to bring those two sounds together. Curly Lewis, fiddler for the Johnnie Lee Wills band, has said that all the western swing fiddlers tried to sound like Stephane Grappelli, Hot Club de France's legendary jazz violinist.)

Hot Club of Cowtown is just brilliant. Here they are, from just a couple of weeks ago, performing "Chinatown":

Tickets are $14 in advance (Starship, Reasors, and, of course, Ida Red), $16 at the door. All ages admitted. Doors open at 7. Cain's is a (hooray!) smoke-free venue.

MORE: Here's a Brave Combo video -- a polka version of The Doors' "People Are Strange":

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is an expansion upon my blog entry from last weekend about the efforts by "not-in-my-back-yard" downtown interests to relocate the homeless and indigent away from downtown.

Coincidentally, in this same issue there's Brian Ervin's profile of Steve Whitaker, head of John 3:16 Mission. Here's how he describes the work of John 3:16 Mission.

"The people that I take care of live by the law of the streets, and the law of the streets is very much Darwinian in that it is the strongest that survive," said Whitaker. "But, the John 3:16 Mission is part of God's peaceful kingdom. We're here to love those people back to wellness--to create a loving, caring, nurturing environment for people that are addicted or mentally ill or homeless just by bad luck, to get back on their feet and find their life again."

John 3:16 Mission has had its own encounter with the downtown NIMBYs (emphasis added):

A pervasive attitude of "Not In My Back Yard" is behind efforts to derail his planned expansion of the 56-year-old Mission, he told UTW.

The city's Board of Adjustment granted permission for the expansion in February, but a group of downtown businesses and residents have appealed the decision in the courts.

Their position is that the Mission and other services in the area are attracting the homeless and drug-addicted and threatening the safety and success of ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

But, Whitaker said it's downtown itself that's attracting them, and that without the Mission and other services to the needy, they would have nowhere else to go, and would be a much more visible problem than they are now (See "No Rest for the Weary" in our Jan. 24-30, 2008, issue at www.urbantulsa.com for some of the early details).

"There is an assumption that this clustering of services in downtown Tulsa is harmful, but people have forgotten history. They've forgotten what happened almost 20 years ago when there was a move afoot to put John 3:16 and the Day Center and the Salvation Army and the jail all in the same area," he said. Whitaker said downtown urban settings, and not services for the homeless, are what attract homeless people: the alleys provide places to sleep and hide and dumpsters to dig through for food or other salvageable items.

"A walkthrough of every city's downtown in America will prove that they are homes for homeless, and if this city's not proactive about treating its homeless population, then all of our dreams for an entertainment district are going to be spoiled, and homelessness will be a true blight then," he said.

(The profile is well worth reading -- covering Whitaker's background in North Tulsa, his martial arts training, how he came to be involved at John 3:16, and his thoughts on homelessness in Tulsa, racism, and the north/south divide.)

In my op-ed, I call attention to a New York City organization called Common Ground which helped reduce the homeless population in Times Square by 87% in two years, not by shipping them out to suburban subdivisions in Queens or Bergen County, but by providing "supportive housing" for them in a renovated hotel in the heart of the Theater District, where they have access to jobs and transportation:

Acquired by Common Ground in 1991, the Times Square is the largest permanent supportive housing project in the nation. A once-stately neighborhood fixture that had fallen into serious disrepair, Common Ground carefully preserved the building's historic character while redeveloping it into housing for 652 low-income and formerly homeless individuals and persons living with HIV/AIDS.

The Times Square combines permanent affordable housing with a range of on-site social services provided by Common Ground's social service partner, the Center for Urban Community Services. Individualized support services are designed to help tenants maintain their housing, address health issues, and pursue education and employment. On-site assistance with physical and mental health issues and substance abuse is available to all tenants, six days a week. Property management services, including 24-hour security, are provided by Common Ground's affiliated not-for-profit property management company, Common Ground Community.

Common Ground's Tenant Services staff offers programs and activities to enhance a sense of community, e.g., a six-week financial literacy workshop, a community health fair, and workshops covering topics such as portrait drawing and cooking. Common areas include a garden roof deck (available for rent to the public); a computer laboratory; a library; an art studio; a medical clinic; 24-hour laundry facilities; a rehearsal space featuring floor-to-ceiling dance mirrors and a piano; and an exercise room.

Richard L. Jones has posted a lengthy comment on my article from his perspective as a pastor who works with the homeless downtown. It's worth reading in its entirety. It includes this funny, pointed analogy:

And to the "powers that be" in Tulsa, when are you going to follow the lead of successful cities that have centralized services for the homeless, and begin to provide real solutions to the problem instead of trying to shuffle them around the city like spreading the peas out on your plate that you didn't want to eat so it that looks like you did?...

Instead of kicking the homeless when they are down, let's all work together to help bring them some dignity and assistance in getting the help they need to break free from the cycle of despair. Basic human services and health care in a more centralized environment would be a good place to start.

I had been planning on writing a column about the various streets proposals -- Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear -- but each week a bigger and more urgent issue cropped up.

I've got worries about all the packages, but especially about the big one -- a 12 year, $2 billion commitment. Supporters of the big package say that the other plans won't get the job done and won't bring our street conditions up as far and as fast as the big package.

I finally sat down tonight and looked at the project list and allocations for the $2 billion package. I'm bothered when I see a nine-digit dollar figure with no explanation for how that number was derived. For example: $221,500,000 for "street maintenance" to include "vegetation / mowing; snow and ice removal; graffiti abatement; pavement crack and joint sealing; permanent pavement patching (6 crews); special projects; street milling; street paving crews." There's another $128,100,000 for traffic engineering, $32.2 million for street-related administration, and $8.8 million for engineering services and inspection. That's just the operational part of the package -- a mere 20% of the total.

That's as far as the numbers are broken down -- the draft I have doesn't tell how much of that $221.5 million is for graffiti and how much is for "special projects" or what those special projects might be. Somewhere there must be a spreadsheet that has an estimate for each line item and a basis or formula that explains how each estimate was derived. How much of each number is for manpower and how much is for material? What inflation factors have been included? How many miles of street milling do we get for whatever share of $221.5 million is allocated to that purpose? Are general and administrative costs factored in?

Over the years in my day job, I've been involved from time to time in putting together proposals, including some for the DOD. Some of these have been "unsolicited" proposals, where the customer has expressed some need but hasn't laid out detailed requirements. It's similar to what city officials have done in response to the expressed concern about the condition of our streets. You develop a recommended solution and provide a price for that solution.

A big project will be split into major line items and sub-items, and each item is split out into many small tasks. You estimate man-hours for each of those small tasks as well as cost of the materials you'll need to do the job and any work you'll need to contract out to someone else. For each estimate of hours or other costs, there is usually some amount of backup material, a basis for the bid, such as a quote from a vendor or actual hours for a similar task on another project. All those little numbers are rolled up, weighted for projected inflation if the project is likely to stretch out over several years, and the project's fair share of the overhead costs for running the company (e.g., paying the salaries of the payroll clerk and the HR director and paying the electric bill).

Something like that kind of cost estimation must have been done for this package, and if it wasn't it should have been. If it exists, it ought to be made available for the public to see. Those are awfully big numbers for big tasks that are hard to estimate. It would be reassuring to see the little numbers for the little tasks that were rolled up into those big nine-figure numbers.

Bill Kumpe was at the THA meeting today regarding the proposed facility at I-244 and Yale to replace the Downtown YMCA residence and has an eyewitness report. Here's an excerpt:

The class distinction between the people supporting the project and the people was striking. Almost all of the people supporting the project are professionals or wealthy donors. There are no such facilities located in THEIR neighborhoods. When was planned at 10th and Utica, the homeowners there killed it. On the other hand, most of the people opposing the project don't have a lot of options. Everything they have is tied up in their home and any reduction in its value will simply mean that they have to live with the consequences or let it be foreclosed since nobody in his right mind is going to buy a home near a homeless shelter. In effect, the people with money to live in a neighborhood without this type of facility are telling them that they will live with this problem and take the resulting financial hit as well.

The sheer arrogance of these people is stunning. They may actually succeed in getting the facility built. But, it will not be the wealthy donors running for election next time around. There was recall talk all over the room. Every city councilman who supported this project will hear about it again. There are about twenty thousand people in the affected neighborhoods and given the turnout at today's meeting, I would estimate that about ten thousand of them are hopping mad at Mayor Kathy Taylor, Ruth Kaiser Nelson, the City Council and anyone else remotely associated with this project. This is the type of political affront that does not go away and somebody, probably the elected officials and city employees who made it possible, will pay the price since they are the only people the voters can access.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, when he is crowned in two weeks as the Democratic presidential nominee, will be distinguished as the first major party nominee to oppose restrictions on infanticide.

Before Obama came to the U. S. Senate, that body approved the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), legislation that affirmed the personhood of any baby that managed to be born alive in the process of an abortion. Surely even a supporter of abortion rights would acknowledge that once a baby is alive and separate from its mother, the only rights that matter are the baby's rights.

You might call it the Gianna Jessen bill. Jessen survived an attempted saline abortion. Once she was born, no further attempts were made to kill her, and she received medical treatment (the attempted abortion left her with cerebral palsy and other medical problems) and ultimately was adopted. But not all abortion survivors receive the same respect. Babies who survive abortions are sometimes denied medical treatment and left to starve to death.

Jill Stanek was a labor and delivery nurse in an Illinois hospital when she discovered that unwanted babies who survived abortion were being left to die in the hospital's soiled utility room. When the hospital refused to correct the situation, she took it public and began advocating for state and federal laws to protect babies who survived abortion.

When BAIPA came before the U. S. Senate in 2002, before Obama came to that body, the bill passed 98-0. Not even the most ardent abortion advocates opposed the bill.

The Illinois version came through the legislature when Barack Obama was serving as a state senator and as chairman of the Illinois State Senate's Health and Human Services Committee. It never reached the floor, because Obama and his fellow Democrats killed it in his committee.

Obama has tried to explain his vote by saying that the bill considered in Illinois didn't have a key clause that was present in the federal BAIPA bill. But researchers have found records from Obama's committee that show the two bills were nearly identical, and in fact he voted to amend the bill to include that key clause, before voting to kill the bill entirely.

Jill Stanek has a summary of Obama's involvement in killing the Illinois bill.

New documents just obtained by NRLC, and linked below, prove that Senator [Barack] Obama has for the past four years blatantly misrepresented his actions on the [Illinois] Born-Alive Infants Protection bill.

Summary and comment by NRLC spokesman Douglas Johnson:

Newly obtained documents prove that in 2003, Barack Obama, as chairman of an IL state Senate committee, voted down a bill to protect live-born survivors of abortion - even after the panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion. Obama's legislative actions in 2003 - denying effective protection even to babies born alive during abortions - were contrary to the position taken on the same language by even the most liberal members of Congress. The bill Obama killed was virtually identical to the federal bill that even NARAL ultimately did not oppose....

Documents obtained by NRLC now demonstrate conclusively that Obama's entire defense is based on a brazen factual misrepresentation.

The documents prove that in March 2003, state Senator Obama, then the chairman of the IL state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, presided over a committee meeting in which the "neutrality clause" (copied verbatim from the federal bill) was added to the state BAIPA, with Obama voting in support of adding the revision. Yet, immediately afterwards, Obama led the committee Democrats in voting against the amended bill, and it was killed, 6-4.

The bill that Chairman Obama killed, as amended, was virtually identical to the federal law; the only remaining differences were on minor points of bill-drafting style.

Via Dawn Eden, who asks pro-life bloggers to call attention to the story, since the mainstream media probably won't. Ed Morrissey has more at Hot Air.

The agenda for tomorrow's Tulsa City Council Urban and Economic Development committee includes a discussion of a draft of the Tulsa Stadium Trust indenture, the Title 60 Trust that will get to spend the money raised by the downtown assessment district the Council approved last month. The proposal creates a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees, five members of which will be major donors to the ballpark. Trustees will serve 12 year terms and can only be removed by court action for malfeasance. (Three years is a standard term for members of public trusts.)

The City Council should demand full public disclosure of the entire ballpark development deal -- pledged revenues, planned expenditures, who has been promised what piece of land -- prior to taking any action on the trust, and the trust indenture should require shorter terms, nomination of all trustees by the Mayor, and a provision to remove trustees by action of the City Council.

I'm beginning to think the better way to handle the ballpark is to make it fully private. Let the ballpark donors come to the TDA with a development proposal for the proposed ballpark site and put the proposal through the standard process. They wouldn't get the downtown assessment district money, but they don't really need it. They have enough donations lined up to pay for a quality 6000-seat ballpark. Then they can own it and run it as they see fit.

Shahadi must go

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

When a mayoral appointee to a city authority, board, or commission behaves badly, it's rare that our elected officials have an immediate opportunity for corrective action.

Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) board member George Shahadi has been nominated by Mayor Kathy Taylor for another term. His renomination comes before the City Council Urban and Economic Development Committee tomorrow (August 12) at 10 a.m., in Room 201 of old City Hall. (Here is a link to Shahadi's resume.)

Last Thursday, Shahadi voted to prematurely terminate the TDA's exclusive negotiating period with Novus Homes LLC concerning the half-block west of Elgin Ave. between Archer and Brady Streets. The exclusive negotiating period was set to expire on September 4. Instead, when the TDA tract across the street began being discussed as a ballpark location, TDA and city officials began stonewalling Novus Homes' attempts to move their negotiations forward.

Shahadi should have recused himself as soon as the agenda item. He is the director of real estate for the Williams Companies, and his employer is in the group of donors seeking to gain control of the land surrounding the proposed location of a new Drillers Stadium. Shahadi stated at the meeting that he had no obligation to recuse, since his employer was seeking this control for the public good and not for its own profit.

Nevertheless, there's a clear conflict of interest because Shahadi's employer has an interest in the same property about which TDA had promised good-faith negotiations with Novus Homes. Under the circumstances, Shahadi can't be expected to be impartial in weighing the TDA's interests and the public interest in fair dealing versus his employer's interest. The fact that he can't perceive an obvious conflict is reason enough for the City Council to deny his reappoinment.

There are more conflicts coming, because the biggest piece of property in the ballpark puzzle is also owned by the TDA. Employees of Williams and Bank of Oklahoma shouldn't be sitting on the TDA when decisions are made as to the contract terms for the land.

The City Council has an excellent opportunity to take a stand for fairness and openness in government. They have an immediate chance to redress the injustice done to Will Wilkins and Novus Homes at last Thursday's TDA meeting. They need to thank Mr. Shahadi for his service to date and ask Mayor Taylor to send them a replacement nominee.

MORE: Retired architect Bob Sober sent this letter to the City Council:

City Councilors,

On Tuesday morning you will consider the re-appointment of George Shahadi to the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA), please consider the following:

During the TDA meeting last Thursday the 120 Lofts project was discussed extensively. Mr. Shahadi was asked to recuse himself from the discussions and vote, to which he refused. Mr. Shahadi is the Director of Corporate Real Estate for Williams Companies. Williams is one of the listed donors to the ballpark stadium and the eventual public Trust. As you know, the George Kaiser Foundation is attempting to purchase the properties surrounding the ballpark for the yet to be formed "ballpark" trust. The property planned for the 120 Lofts development was identified as one of those desired by the trust. Since Mr. Shahadi's employer has an interest in the disposition in this property, Mr. Shahadi had a clear conflict of interest. Voting members of the TDA should recuse themselves when presented with a real or perceived conflict of interest.

It would be a disservice to the citizens of Tulsa to re-appoint an individual unwilling to take seriously the trust of this council and refrain from influencing the decisions of the TDA when he can not possibly be objective. With direct ties to a donor that will have significant impact on one of the largest public investments in downtown Tulsa and the disposition of surrounding lands for future development Mr. Shahadi can not possibly serve the TDA without impacting his employer. Furthermore, any redevelopment in this area will have a direct impact on the value of the surrounding property. The Williams Companies, being one of the largest property owners in the vicinity to the proposed ballpark, could gain significantly by influencing the decisions of the TDA through their Director of Corporate Real Estate, Mr. Shahadi. Please, do not re-appoint Mr. Shahadi.

Thank you,

Bob Sober


Over on Choice Remarks, the blog of Oklahomans for School Choice, I've linked to a clip from the classic British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister, in which the PM and his cabinet secretary argue about whether parents should have the right to choose where their children go to school. It's a brilliant spoof of the typical arguments of school-choice opponents.

Be sure to check out the Choice Remarks home page, which today includes an item that proves satire can't outdo educratic reality: The Broward County, Fla., school board chairman supports making it a felony to lie about your address for the purposes of school enrollment, saying, "There shouldn't be school shopping."

RELATED: I received an e-mail from someone who has heard that seven of the Tulsa school district's nine high schools will be on the No Child Left Behind "needs improvement" list this year. The only two off the list are Washington and Edison, and as a magnet school, Washington doesn't accept NCLB transfers. Edison parents are worried about overcrowding. More charter schools and tuition vouchers and scholarship fund tax credits would relieve the pressure on Edison and make living in the Tulsa school district more attractive to families with children.

Ruth Kaiser Nelson was, for all practical purposes, my first Latin teacher. When I was an eighth-grader, our scheduled teacher, Bill Bippus, took a semester's leave of absence, and Mrs. Nelson taught us instead. Because the class occurred during the girls' PE period, it was an all-boy class, and Mrs. Nelson, the mother of three boys and a girl, did a fine job of keeping us in line, but also keeping us amused, and giving us a good start in the language.

I'm sure Mrs. Nelson is familiar with this sententia sapiens: Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi. Literally, it means, "What is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to the ox." It is a justification for double standards for the wealthy and connected versus the hoi polloi. The standards which apply to the commoner should not bind the plutocrat.

At Thursday night's City Council meeting, homeowners from the neighborhoods near Admiral and Yale came to protest the location of a 76-unit home for the chronically homeless, some of whom are currently housed at the downtown YMCA, some of whom are mentally ill. The large apartment building is part of the Building Tulsa Building Lives (BTBL) initiative. The Ruth K. Nelson Revocable Trust is listed as one of the initiative's principal partners, along with the George Kaiser Family Foundation (Mr. Kaiser and Mrs. Nelson are siblings), and the Tulsa Housing Authority, a public trust of which Mrs. Nelson is the chairman.

According to the Tulsa World report, Mrs. Nelson characterized the concerns of neighboring homeowners as typical NIMBYism:

Neighbors typically have a "not in my backyard" response, she said.

"If we were to move all of these facilities to places where no one would protest, they would be in the middle of nowhere," she said.

"Isolated people would not have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and become productive members of society."

The site was selected because it is relatively close to downtown, where many social service agencies are located, is next to a bus route and has stores nearby that residents can walk to, Nelson said.

The concern for isolation is touching, but she is making these people more isolated than they already are. At the Y, they are downtown, "where many social service agencies are located." She's moving them four miles from those services on the west side of downtown.

At the Y, they live a block away from a bus station that gives them access to 20 bus lines which will take them directly to shopping, jobs, doctors, parks, and services without needing to transfer. Four of those lines provide night time service to hospitals and schools for shift work and night classes. She wants them to live where they'll have only a single bus line, and they'll have to wait around and transfer at the downtown bus station to get anywhere else in the city. They won't have any access to nighttime service.

At the Downtown Y, they have the library and the County Courthouse across the street and the State Office Building and a hospital just a few blocks further west. Riverparks is about a mile to the south. There are a half dozen churches downtown. Social service agencies are just a few blocks north. There aren't any groceries nearby, but there are a few convenience stores not too far away, there are many nearby places to eat, at least at breakfast and lunchtime, and the bus can take them to their choice of grocery stores. They won't even have to walk far to see the Eagles or Celine Dion at the BOK Center. walkscore.com gives the location a rating of 89 -- "very walkable."

At Yale and Admiral, there is a Sonic across the street, a nearby QuikTrip, and it's about three-quarters of a mile to the Piggly Wiggly. The nearest library is in Maxwell Park, about a mile away, and it's only a small branch in the middle of a neighborhood. There's a bar just two blocks away, right across the street from a plasma center. Dong's Gun Store is about six blocks away -- handy for those who are hearing voices in their heads.There are a few churches down Yale. 10 S. Yale has a walkscore.com rating of 45 -- "car dependent."

Moving residents of the Downtown Y to Admiral and Yale will make them more isolated than they are now, not less. So why are these mentally ill, semi-homeless people really being moved out of downtown? Because downtown property owners and the BOK Center management and Downtown Tulsa Unlimited are NIMBYs. They don't want these people in their backyard. They even say so on their "Building Tulsa, Building Lives" website:

The opening of the BOK Center and other Vision 2025 projects are important components in securing the economic future of downtown Tulsa. But before downtown can become the vibrant destination it has the potential to be, developers and investors must be assured of its inviting and family-friendly environment.

Eliminating homelessness will attract further development and investment to downtown.

But it's OK for George Kaiser and Jim Norton and Kathy Taylor and Twenty-First Properties and SMG to be NIMBYs. If your place cost $200 million, you're allowed to say, "There goes the neighborhood," even if that $200 million came mostly from the taxpayers. If you have a nice little 1,000 sq. ft., $60,000 house, that you paid for yourself you're not allowed to say that. You know: Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi.

(What's funny is that the neighbors that seem to be a problem for the BOK Center were there before the site was selected for the BOK Center. A number of us pointed out that between the jail, the bail bondsmen, the homeless shelters, the Y, the Sheriff's Office, and the Courthouse wasn't the smartest location for the arena -- maybe they should put it closer to existing entertainment districts on the other side of downtown -- but someone with influence has land along Denver just north of the south leg of the IDL, so that's where the arena went. Is it fair to be a NIMBY about neighbors who were there before you moved in?

According to the World, "After listening to the protests, Councilor John Eagleton said people can try to push such a project out of their neighborhood out of fear, but that doesn't make it right." Shouldn't he have been saying that to the downtown interests who want to clear the homeless out of downtown?)

The residents who spoke at the meeting were treated with a great deal of condescension. They were told that their fears were unfounded, abhorrent even, a sign of moral inferiority. The residents of this new facility will not pose a threat to their safety or their property values, thanks to new programs and new methods for helping these people become productive citizens again.

But if these new programs and methods are so effective, wouldn't they work just as well in a remodeled facility downtown, with the added bonus of keeping these people in familiar surroundings and connected to job opportunities and services and transportation? The fact that Mrs. Nelson and her brother and DTU and Mayor Taylor and SMG are so anxious to get these people away from downtown suggests that they don't really believe in the efficacy of their methods.

And the argument about having to demolish the Y residence doesn't hold any water. I suspect they could add sprinklers and remodel the building to meet fire code for much less than the $17 million in private pledges and state grants that they're spending on the Admiral and Yale facility.

But BTBL backers don't have to be consistent or logical or reasonable to get their way with city government, and they can be NIMBYs if they want to: Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi.

Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi works with exclusive negotiating periods, too.

If you're Kathy Taylor, of course you should expect Tulsa Drillers owner Chuck Lamson to honor his exclusive negotiating period with the city, and even to extend it if need be. I'm sure she'd be teary and outraged if Lamson had terminated the exclusive negotiations a month early to go flirt with Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland again. But how dare lowly entrepreneur Will Wilkins expect the Tulsa Development Authority to honor their commitment to an exclusive negotiating period! How dare he rally public support to try to prevent the TDA from breaking their word! Only wealthy and connected and powerful people have a right to expect such commitments to be honored.

(From the World: "Exclusive negotiations preclude the team from entertaining other offers...." Not if you're the TDA, they don't.)

Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi.

But that's an ancient pagan thought. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob insists on a single standard for all:

You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

MORE: David Schuttler says that Councilor Eric Gomez's comparison of the Treepoint Apartments in his neighborhood to the proposed I-244 and Yale facility is apples and oranges.

What a day. We learned a lot.

We learned that when the Tulsa Development Authority approves an exclusive negotiating period, it's not necessarily exclusive -- they'll shove you aside if a more powerful suitor comes along -- they may not negotiate in good faith, and the period may be terminated at any time. (The TDA's exclusive negotiating periods are neither exclusive, nor negotiating, nor a period. Discuss.)

We learned that Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor is on the verge of a crackup, perhaps because of the pressure of holding together a crumbling behind-the-scenes ballpark financing deal by publicly screwing over a small businessman who is offering the very kind of creative, urban residential and retail development everyone says we want downtown. She knows full well how bad this looks, but I'm guessing that if she were to stand up for what's right, she'd have to renege on some secret promise that was made concerning the Lofts @ 120 parcel of land. One thing was clear from Taylor's teary appearance: Whoever's in charge of city government, it isn't her.

Taylor said she didn't have a vote, but she did have a voice. She used that voice to belittle Will Wilkins's attempt to rally public support as "bickering." She used it to justify booting the Wilkinses out of their exclusive negotiating petition in the name of "a beautifully woven fabric" of new development around the new ballpark.

They say they want lofts, restaurants, and off-street parking, and that's exactly what the Wilkinses had proposed for that corner long before the ballpark was announced for the other side of the street. The Wilkinses were willing to adjust their plans as necessary to be compatible with the design and use aims for the ballpark's environs. But I suspect their chief deficiency is that they aren't named Jay Helm, and their company isn't called American Residential Group.

We learned today that the TDA board isn't fond of public scrutiny, and they're a little fuzzy on what constitutes a conflict of interest and how to handle recusal. If you're a TDA board member and your employer is part of a group that wants control of the same piece of property that is the subject of this premature termination of an exclusive negotiating period, you have a conflict of interest. Saying that your employer doesn't stand to gain financially and is only acting in what it perceives to be the public interest isn't the point. It's still a conflict because your employer's aims don't necessarily line up with the TDA's best interest or the interest of fairness to all.

Also, if you do feel the need to recuse yourself, you're supposed to absent yourself from the entire discussion. Instead, board member John Clayman, employed by Frederic Dorwart Lawyers and someone who has often represented Bank of Oklahoma in court, not only sat through and participated in discussion (shaking his head rapidly during much of Will Wilkins' remarks -- I thought we were about to see the reenactment of a scene from Scanners), he seconded the motion to abort the exclusive negotiating period. Then after Wilkins reminded him that he recused himself during the April 17 vote to extend the contract, Klayman abstained when his name was called. Paula Bryant-Ellis, a BOK executive and the newest board member, recused herself right before the vote. George Shahadi, director of real estate for Williams, another company that is part of the group trying to control all the land around the ballpark, should have recused himself, but didn't.

Here are some links to help fill in the blanks. I thought the Tulsa World's Brian Barber did a fine job of capturing the mood and the substance of the meeting. (Don't be surprised if his piece is severely edited for the print version to make the Mayor look better.) I was pleased to see KOTV and KTUL there. KTUL's Bert Mummolo has followed the story closely -- here's his coverage from today and here's the video. But today I thought KOTV did a better job of telling the story of today's meeting with words and video, including some video from Mayor Taylor's speech. I'm just happy to see a couple of TV stations show such interest in covering an issue which is not very telegenic.

1170 KFAQ's Chris Medlock was at the meeting today and had audio from the meeting plus Will Wilkins as a guest in studio. (Here's hour 1; here's hour 2.) Also, Pat Campbell was asking questions about a secret meeting involving Councilor Eric Gomez and the ballpark donors. (His podcast from Thursday morning hasn't been posted yet for some reason.)

There's more to be said about this meeting, which architect Bob Sober, who counts himself a friend to both Mayor Taylor and the Wilkinses, said was like watching a "slow-motion train wreck." For now, check out those links.

And here are a few comments from around the web.

On TulsaNow's public forum, Floyd responds to Taylor's comments about wanting a "beautifully woven fabric" around the ballpark:

Wow.

Honestly? Get it together. How tone deaf can she be? It's not hard to see how this narrative has developed. At least counter the narrative with a prepared statement regarding the specific plans/intentions of this "trust" and perhaps an offer of inclusion. Don't cry about destruction and beautiful fabrics--give the entrepreneurs some credit for their vision. How about a multicolored quilt, instead of a "beautiful fabric?"

Me, later in the same thread, responding to Taylor's complaints about the environs of the BOK Center:

I recall a lengthy thread on this forum right after the Vision 2025 vote about the best location for the arena. Many people remarked about the drawbacks of the site that was chosen. I think someone even suggested the site now being discussed as the ballpark site, because it was close to existing entertainment areas and OSU-Tulsa.

The way to address the concern about nearby future development is first to pick a site that is already near the kind of development you want -- they've done that by picking the Archer/Elgin site -- and, second, to establish a special zoning district around the ballpark with design and development standards and a means for enforcement. Oklahoma City established such a district in and around Bricktown.

Design standards for downtown were part of the Downtown Tulsa CORE Recommendations:

District One of the City of Tulsa's Comprehensive Plan, the Central Business District (CBD), is a district that deserves special consideration; as such, we should develop District Standards for design review to ensure compatible, high-quality development and redevelopment. Recommendations of the existing Comprehensive Plan for District One (downtown) such as district design standards and review should be revisited for present use and coordinated with the Comprehensive Plan Update.

When the CORE Recommendations came under attack from a major downtown property owner and from DTU, Mayor Taylor might have supported the idea and helped to move it forward. Instead, her aide, Susan Neal, encouraged the recommendations to be shelved.


"The Artist":

I still dont get what they apparently expect is going to happen around the ballpark? What is it that the TDA thinks is going to be better that the Wilkinsons couldnt improve their development to be like or that could go in those other spaces nearby? This finely woven fabric, is that to be one huge developer? Many small ones? If its the former I can understand wanting a lot of land because thats one of the reasons previous developments have fallen through because they couldnt get all the property they needed. But here they are saying they will use eminent domain and there is other property by the 120 lofts site that can be used. If its small developments.... what are the criteria such that the 120 lofts are not a good fit anywhere in the development area? Cause surely the 120 loft people would have traded for another spot if it was deemed that the spot they have now is "needed" to make everything work.

Nothing the TDA or the Mayor is saying makes any sense. Sounds like they are grasping at straws or are just completely oblivious.

They are giving us this "Why cant we all get along and do whats best for everyone and the city." plea. But its been them who have shoved aside the hand the Wilkinsons had been extending in order to try to find a fair, sporting, "gentlemanly" solution. Someone should have said to the Wilkinsons... "Hey, we really feel like we need that spot in order for this project to work. Here is why.... We know you have done a lot of work so far, can we work together and (find another spot in the development, or make design changes, or collaborate on making it better to fit what we think is needed, etc. etc.) There are all kinds of possibilities that would have been the proper way to go.

I was brought up that if you make an agreement, say your going to do something. You abide by that, even if it becomes difficult to do so, even if you become hurt by doing so. You keep your word! Even if its not written, you do the right thing by people. These developers were there first, were doing the right things, and whether anyone else likes it or not, whether its convenient or not. You do the right thing by them, and for yourself. Not to mention in this case there are plenty of opportunities to work this out for the benefit of everyone. Not just blow them off and treat them like dirt.

"Stick61" in a couple of comments on the Tulsa World story:

One of the problems here is that TDA risks losing credibility with the modest-scale element of the development community by treating one of its members shabbily. Mr. Bracy lacks credibility when he says that he is not "bound by politics." Of course, he is bound by politics. This ballpark proposal is a political freight train and he's trying to clear a path for it. In the process, he's asking Mr. Wilkins to shut up and be happy about losing $15,000. If I were in Mr. Wilkins' shoes (I don't know him), I would never do business with TDA again because I would consider its behavior in this matter dishonorable.

I believe that the Mayor does very badly want to see positive development downtown. And she is correct to lend the energy of her office to constructive proposals, including a proposal to build a new ballpark to keep the Drillers in Tulsa. However, she should spare us the tears and make a commitment to treating people with more consideration than Mr. Wilkins has been treated. The gentleman may not have worded his inflammatory email as artfully as he should have, but that doesn't excuse the fact that he appears to have been given the bum's rush. Bickering ceases, or at least decreases, when people are shown due respect. The mayor must do a better job of building consensus.

Some recent finds worth telling you about:

Here are two fairly new "news around town" blogs devoted to Tulsa: Tulsa Loop and This Tulsa.

This Tulsa has a very cool logo (featuring the BOK Tower, the Mid-Continent Tower, and University Club Tower), and they encourage readers to submit links of local interest. (If you've missed Beef Baloney, the site has a video with Matt Zaller interviewing Bill Hader and talking about growing up in Tulsa.)

TulsaLoop aspires to be "Your Tulsa City Guide," offering a calendar of events, a list of attractions, and news about happenings around town.

I noticed Kick the Anthill when the blog weighed in on the CAIR-OK EEOC complaint against the Woodland Hills Abercrombie Kids store. The three bloggers cover a wide range of topics:

We're a small group of ants that got tired of getting kicked, so we decided to kick back. We're mad about movies, conservative politics and our Christian faith. Safe to say we're just mad in general. We also like to yak about Oklahoma (which, seemingly coincidentally, is just one gigantic anthill itself) and other completely random things. Thanks for joining us.

I've already been following Terra Extraneus, but I just noticed that blogger Terry Hull has a separate, personal blog, with entries that link to things I need to read, like this one about someone who makes more than $100,000 a year blogging, and this entry linking to Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers.

I've come across a number of blogs devoted to real estate and development in Oklahoma: The Journal Record has a blog called Oklahoma per Square Foot, covering the commercial real estate industry in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Oklahoma City homebuilder Jeff Click writes Modern Land Run.

Blair Humphreys dreams about Oklahoma City's future on his blog imagiNATIVEamerica. Right now he's in living car-free in Boston, where he's studying planning and urban design. Here's a great post, illustrated with photos and maps, about what makes for pedestrian friendliness.

Nick Roberts is a fellow right-winger and urban advocate who has just started blogging at A Downtown ontheRange. He lives in Calgary, but considers Oklahoma City his adopted hometown:

Obviously OKC is a very special place to me, and I'd rather not be away from it at this point in my life, but I promise I will come back home better positioned to leave the kind of impressions that I would want to on my adopted hometown. Whether I settle down in OKC, or Galveston where I was born, remains up in the air, but the only thing certain at this point is that I am hardly finished with OKC. I want this blog to have the same kind of impact that Doug Dawg, Steve's OKC Central, and other blogs have had, in informing readers about the life of urban OKC, and perhaps Tulsa, too! And I will be making comparisons to beautiful Calgary whenever possible, just for the purpose of expanding you guys' horizons.

A couple of other bloggers are in Oklahoma but a long way from where they grew up:

Sarah, Brit Gal in the USA, moved here from the UK after falling for an Oklahoma man she met in an online backgammon room. Her blog helps you expand your transatlantic vocabulary with a "Brit Word of the Day" -- Wednesday's word was bollard.

Stuart Campbell, the Dusty Traveler, is from New Zealand, and he's been photographing scenic spots around Oklahoma, including the Wichita Mountains, Red Rock Canyon, Turner Falls, Maysville, and Natural Falls. He finds it a challenge to capture the grandeur of the Great Plains:

Big mountains are dramatic. A big lake is peaceful. A big city is bustling. The plains are just BIG. There is a lot of space with nothing going on and it is hard to capture nothing and make it look spectacular.

Some secrets I am discovering; color- go early or late but the middle part of the day dilute the color. The sky- watch what is happening above as the clouds are fascinating in themselves and can add to a wide open space. Find things to put in the picture -- whether it be natural or man made it can add character to a scene.

But capture it he does. Click that link and have a look at our photogenic home state.

I found many of these new blogs via the BlogOklahoma web ring -- a list of nearly 900 Oklahoma-based blogs, with brief descriptions for each. To give you an idea of how Oklahoma's blogosphere has exploded, BatesLine joined in March 2004 as blog number 39. The latest addition to the web ring -- yesterday -- is called I Don't Think I'm a Grown Up Yet -- number 861. And it's not an exhaustive list: The oldest Oklahoma-based blog of all isn't a member of BlogOklahoma (which is akin to Switzerland not joining the United Nations -- when you're Switzerland, you don't need to join the UN to prove yourself as a peace-loving nation-state).

Tonight (Thursday, August 7) the Tulsa City Council will reconsider a resolution it passed last week. The resolution, jointly issued with the Tulsa Housing Authority dealt with four lots on the west side of Yale between Admiral Place and I-244, declaring it to be "in the public interest" for TDA to develop the property as part of the "Building Tulsa Building Lives" initiative. Here's the text:

JOINT RESOLUTION

A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF TULSA AND THE HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF TULSA (THA), DECLARING THE DEVELOPMENT OF 10 SOUTH YALE, TULSA, OKLAHOMA, BY THA AS PART OF THE "BUILDING TULSA BUILDING LIVES" INITIATIVE TO BE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.

WHEREAS, pursuant to 63 O.S., ยง 1061(b), a joint public hearing was held on July 31, 2008, by the Housing Authority of the City of Tulsa (THA) and the City Council of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to consider new development on the collective properties known as 10 South Yale, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and

WHEREAS, at such public hearing it was determined by a majority of the members of both THA and the City Council that such development is in the public interest.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Housing Authority of the City of Tulsa that it is in the public interest for the Housing Authority of the City of Tulsa, as part of the "Building Tulsa Building Lives" initiative, to develop the collective properties known as 10 South Yale, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Building Tulsa, Building Lives is an initiative to address homelessness. The website's home page says this:

When homelessness became an issue in the late '70s, the accepted treatments were shelters and meals. And Tulsa provided. But new research points to a new approach - one that manages the symptoms of homelessness more effectively and may be the answer to virtually ending chronic homelessness altogether.

Note the word "chronic" -- this isn't about people who are temporarily in straitened circumstances, but troubled people -- mostly men -- who by reason of mental illness or addiction can't function in a society that requires a degree of personal responsibility. Some of these people want to be helped, and organizations like John 3:16 Mission work to rebuild their lives. Other organizations simply provide food and shelter without no strings attached. Some homeless people aren't allowed in the shelters because they won't follow rules or because they may be a danger to others.

Some of the people we're talking about aren't really homeless. They're what an earlier time called transients. They have a home, but they don't need or want something that they have to take care of. They just need an inexpensive place to sleep and keep their things. There used to be accommodations that catered to them -- bedsits, single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels -- a cheap place to sleep, maybe a sink in the room, and a bathroom down the hall. Such places used to be plentiful in downtown. The Downtown YMCA is about the only place left like that, and it's inconveniently close to the BOK Center. It's slated to close by 2010, in part because of new fire regulations that would require expensive renovations to the building. Here's what will replace the Y:

The program would provide a basic housing unit to each chronically homeless person and then surround that person with support services to work on personal issues. Housing would be provided with no strings attached.

The 52-year-old downtown YMCA, 515 S. Denver Ave., has 168 housing units. About 140 men, many of whom have been homeless or trapped in a cycle of chronic homelessness, now live there.

The Zarrow Families Foundation has provided funding for a full-time caseworker at the YMCA to locate housing options for the residents.

The Mental Health Association in Tulsa has been leasing a floor at the YMCA building to provide 25 units in its Safe Haven housing program.

Executive Director Mike Brose said the association is looking for other housing options, adding that "the closing provides the community an opportunity.

"That opportunity means finding ways to replace those units with housing that is not overly congregated -- more scattered sites and that will work much better and be more appropriate for individuals who stay there," he said.

The "Building Tulsa" page reveals a key piece of the agenda:

The opening of the BOK Center and other Vision 2025 projects are important components in securing the economic future of downtown Tulsa. But before downtown can become the vibrant destination it has the potential to be, developers and investors must be assured of its inviting and family-friendly environment.

Eliminating homelessness will attract further development and investment to downtown.

In other words, get the aggressive panhandlers and other unsightly vagrants out of sight, so that people won't be deterred from coming downtown.

I'm not sure what Tulsa Housing Authority plans for I-244 and Yale, except that it's intended to serve the "chronic homeless." I'm not sure the City Council knew what they were being asked to vote on last week.

Because there was no zoning change, there was no public notice to surrounding property owners. I understand the desire to clear vagrants out of downtown, but putting them next to three residential neighborhoods isn't good for the surrounding neighborhoods or for the vagrants, who need access to social services and the bus network. It also seems to be a non-strategic use of one of the interstate gateways to Expo Square -- visitors coming to Expo Square from east and north of Tulsa or from the airport take I-244 to Yale.

We need to support those who are providing help to those who can't cope with daily life, but when a public body like THA is involved, we need to have full public disclosure and debate of what help is provided and where.

Note: I've received word that Thursday morning's Tulsa Development Authority meeting involving Will and Cecilia Wilkins and Novus Homes LLC's exclusive negotiating agreement has been moved to the 10th floor of One Technology Center (the new City Hall).

One of the questions raised in my column this week is about the downtown Drillers stadium assessment and exactly what all of that $60 million in assessments, donations, and stadium rent will be paying for. Let's start with this question: How much should a minor league ballpark cost?

A reader sends along a link to this study by Confluence Research,Minor League Baseball Stadium Construction: A Primer on the Key Issues and Considerations, commissioned by Ripken Management and Design, and completed in 2004. The study compared construction costs and capacities for stadiums completed between 1990 and 2004. As of 2004, 62% of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues-affiliated minor league ballparks in Classes AAA, AA, High A, and Low A were built after 1990. Of those post-1990 parks, AA stadium construction averaged $1806 per seat in 1990 dollars. Applying their inflation rule, that would be $2,621 per seat in 2004. A 6,000 seat stadium at that rate would cost $15.7 million.

Of course, costs have gone up even in the last four years. According to this handy CPI calculator from the Minneapolis branch of the Fed, consumer prices have risen 14% over four years. That would put cost per seat at $2,987.94. Round it up to an even $3,000 per seat, and that gets you to $18 million for a 6,000 seat ballpark.

Five ballparks have been built in the Texas League in the last eight years: Round Rock, Tex., Frisco, Tex., Springfield, Mo., North Little Rock, Ark., and Springdale, Ark. Round Rock's 7,816-seat park was built in 2000 for $20 million. Frisco's park seats 10,600 and was finished in 2003 for $22 million. Hammons Field in Springfield seats 7,500 plus 2,000 general admission, and opened in 2004; it cost $32 million.

Dickey-Stephens Stadium, home of the Arkansas Travelers, seats 5,800, opened in 2007, and is the most expensive of the bunch at $40.4 million, but that appears to include the value of donations for riverfront land and other costs, something that isn't an issue for Tulsa. The original construction contract was for $27.6 million, and there was a $6 million cost overrun, which would put the construction cost at around $34 million.

Finally, let's look at the cost of building the most recent ballpark in our region: Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Arkansas, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The park seats 6,500, slightly bigger than the size cited for a new Drillers ballpark. It was completed earlier this year and opened in April at the start of the new Texas League season. While the City of Springdale passed a $50 million bond issue for costs related to the park, about $18 million was for access roads, sewer line extensions, and other infrastructure improvements to enable access to the park. The contract for building the park itself was with Crossland Construction for $32.1 million.

From the (Northwest Arkansas Times, October 5, 2007):

The Naturals, the double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, will play their first game in the new venue April 10 of next year. A tour of the construction site Thursday revealed the progress made since the city of Springdale awarded the $32.1-million contract to Crossland Construction of Kansas in June.

The initial estimate was 29.3 million; Crossland's low bid was 33.4 million.

More citations for the $32 million figure:

Northwest Arkansas Times, April 8, 2008:

From the $ 105 million bond program for road construction approved by Springdale voters in 2003 to Thursday night's premier of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at Arvest Ballpark - a $ 32 million public facility approved by just 13 votes in July 2006 - voters in Springdale are taking extraordinary steps to move past the city's blue-collar image and full-steam ahead into the 21 st century.

Topeka Capitol Journal, April 20, 2008:

But Springdale, Ark., is betting its minor league baseball venture has all of the correct variables after building a $32 million stadium to lure the Royals' team out of Wichita.

Arvest Ballpark opened April 10 in Springdale with 7,820 fans to witness the Northwest Arkansas Naturals' debut against San Antonio.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 8, 2008:

The lights are bright and the grass is green at Arvest Ballpark.

Hailed as the premier venue in Springdale, the ballpark caters to the beer-and-burger crowd in the stands as well as the cocktail set in the luxury suites.

Elected officials and business leaders say the ballpark is proof that a new day is dawning in traditionally working-class Springdale.

But the question remains: Does the city have enough money to keep its $32 million diamond polished?

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about developers Will Wilkins and Cecilia Wilkins and how they're being squeezed out of their their exclusive deal with the Tulsa Development Authority to develop a parcel at Archer and Elgin. All was well when no one wanted the land back in January, but now it's across the street from the site of the new ballpark for the Tulsa Drillers. The ballpark donors want to control all of the land around the ballpark site, and the Wilkinses' deal with TDA gets in the way of that.

At City Councilor Rick Westcott's invitation, Wilkins appeared at yesterday's Urban and Economic Development committee meeting. KTUL's Burt Mummolo has the story, which will give you a brief overview of the situation:

[KTUL's embed code wasn't working, so I removed it. Click here to watch the video.]

Here's a link to the story transcript.

I was surprised to see Mayor Kathy Taylor tell KTUL, "I have not seen anything that leads me to believe the TDA is opposed to the Wilkins development."

Hey, Mayor Taylor, have you seen this letter from the TDA chairman? I know you have because you issued a response to it last week:

July 29, 2008

Stephen A. Schuller, Esq.
GABLE & GOTWALS
1100 ONEOK Plaza
One West Fifth Street
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103-4217

Re: Tulsa Development Authority Resolution 5423

Dear Mr. Schuller:

We are in receipt of your correspondence dated July 18, 2008. As you know, the City of Tulsa, and several private donors contributing more than $30 million to a public trust, are developing a master plan for a national class Double A baseball park and associated amenities in the Greenwood and Brady Districts. This master plan incorporates the property in which your clients have expressed an interest. The city believes that the development of a coordinated high-quality, arts, entertainment, educational, and mixed-use development surrounding the ballpark is vital.

At the present time, the land under contract with the Greenwood Community Development Corporation has been set aside as a prospective site of the ball park. We have not seen any plans yet that specify the precise limits and any data concerning the proposals comprising the Master Plan. We therefore have no knowledge of what other properties may be affected or included in the Plan. The ball park may require a larger site or a complete change of land use may be recommended.

After further review and conferring with our attorney, Darven Brown, it is my personal feeling that the Tulsa Development Authority should proceed no further in connection with the marketing activities of any of the property in the vicinity of the baseball site location until we have full information concerning the finalized plans adopted by the city. While the Tulsa Development Authority is a separate entity from the city we have always conducted our business in a manner that we consider to be in the city's best interest. That being the case, it would seem to be unwise for the Tulsa Development Authority to proceed further with any negotiations with your client at this time. After all, the city has the right of eminent domain and can take whatever properties become necessary for its municipal purposes.

Because of the foregoing, I feel that it would be in the best interest of the public and the City of Tulsa to terminate any negotiations and cancel the Resolution now in place. I have asked that this item be placed on the agenda for the regular meeting of the Tulsa Development Authority to be held at 8:30 o'clock a.m., on August 7, at which time you may wish to appear.

Yours truly,

S/Carl Bracy, Chairman

xc: Mr. Leon Davis
Mr. Hurst Swiggart
Mr. George Shahadi
Mr. John D. Clayman
Mr. Melvin R. Gilliam
Ms. Paula Bryant-Ellis

Sounds like opposition to me, and he says he's doing it in the "city's best interest."

(Taylor's discomfort in that interview reminds me of Nathan Thurm, Martin Short's shifty lawyer character.)

Here is Taylor's response to Bracy's memo, issued after the issue hit the airwaves last week:

TULSA (KFAQ) - Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor has released a statement today reacting to a story in the Tulsa World regarding the possible use of eminent domain to acquire property near the future site of a proposed new downtown ballpark.

Taylor said, "The land on which the ballpark is to be located is currently owned by the Tulsa Development Authority. I am not aware of any request to use condemnation powers to build the ballpark. The rules upon which those powers may be used are very limited in Oklahoma.

The goal of the ballpark is to continue to facilitate private downtown development and further encourage the development of business owners, like Michael Sager, Mary Beth Babcock, Elliot Nelson and others who continue to expand on Tulsa's unique nature.

I neither reviewed nor was I consulted on the draft letter sent by the Tulsa Development Authority to Mr. Schuller. I understand the property that was the subject of the letter would have no issue regarding condemnation as the property is currently owned by the Tulsa Development Authority."

Taylor's statement neatly danced around the central issue raised by Bracy's letter: Whether she will stand idly by while the TDA shreds the exclusive negotiating agreement they had with Cecilia and Will Wilkins.

If you care about fairness and openness in government, this story will make you angry. Read the whole thing, then tune in to 1170 KFAQ this afternoon at 3, when I'll be on Chris Medlock's show to discuss the Wilkinses' situation.

And if you can, you might show up tomorrow morning at the Tulsa Development Authority board meeting, August 7, 8:30 am, on the 15th Floor of One Technology Center (new City Hall, 2nd & Cincinnati), when the TDA will "discuss" their exclusive negotiating agreement with the Wilkinses.

You'll notice a new advertiser atop the right-hand sidebar. Congressman John Sullivan is calling on 1st District voters to sign his petition asking the House Democratic leadership to schedule a vote on an "all of the above" energy policy, to include exploration within the U. S. as well as the pursuit of alternative energy sources. Click the ad to read the petition and to sign it if you like.

You have probably heard that the Democratic leadership of the House went into recess last week without allowing a vote on a bill that would permit drilling on the outer continental shelf and in a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Republican congressmen are staging a "speak-in" on the floor of the House, even though the C-SPAN cameras are off, to protest this move. A discharge petition is being circulated which would allow the bill to be debated openly and voted on.

Conservation, better urban design that facilitates conservation, and alternative energy sources are important, but in the meantime we still depend on petroleum, and we need to make use of our own petroleum reserves. I've signed the petition, and I hope you will, too. (Click the ad on the right to tell them that BatesLine sent you.)

MORE: Congressman Sullivan was on the Chris Medlock show yesterday talking about energy policy and his "all of the above" petition and taking calls from listeners. Click the link to listen to the podcast; the Sullivan interview starts about halfway through. They also discuss Sullivan's bill to address eminent domain abuse.

When the Sitemeter mess came to light over the weekend, I noticed that this site looked funny in my laptop's copy of Internet Explorer 6, which is still the second-most popular browser among BatesLine readers. (IE 7.0 has taken the top spot, and Firefox is gaining rapidly.) There was blue space around my header image, and the right sidebar had slipped way down the page and to the left. The header image and the text looked like it had been enlarged using a particularly bad algorithm, and I noticed that on most sites, images appeared to be stretched out and pixellated. It was as if I had the magnifier turned on just for IE, but I couldn't find anywhere to turn it off.

Here's what I saw in the header (click to see the full size version):

BatesLine-IE6ProblemHeader.jpg

And here's the sidebar overlap:

BatesLine-IE6ProblemOverlap.jpg

Everything looks normal in Firefox 3.0.1 and in IE 7. A reader e-mailed to say that things looked strange in his browser, too, although he didn't say which browser he was running. I went to browsershots.org to see what it looked like in various browsers, and it showed everything looking fine in IE 6.

Here's what it's supposed to look like (again, click to see the full size version):

BatesLine-Firefox301.jpg

If BatesLine doesn't look like that, please drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com, and let me know what browser and what version of the browser you're running and what kind of weirdness you're seeing. (Click the "Help" menu, then select "About...", and it'll show you the version number.) Thanks in advance for your help.

There maybe something funky about my particular Internet Explorer configuration. Or it may be a problem with the style sheet. I don't think Sitemeter is responsible, as the problem persisted after I removed Sitemeter. (I'm going to put it back now.)

EUREKA! Don Danz identified the cause and the cure. Evidently Dell thoughtfully altered the DPI setting of my high-res display to make icons and fonts look bigger, and it messes up websites. I put the DPI back to the default (96 dpi) and all is well.

As See-Dubya says, "Whom to root against?"

The worst reactionary impulses of the seventh century, or the engines of postmodern degradation? A pox on both their houses.

That's in reference to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint filed by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) on behalf of an 18-year-old Tulsa woman who was refused employment in the Abercrombie Kids store at Woodland Hills Mall because she, a Muslim, wears a hijab. The girl alleges that the store manager told her that the headscarf doesn't fit Abercrombie's image.

This ought to be laughed out of court. Of course a company ought to have the freedom to hire whom it pleases and to consider its public image in whom it hires to deal directly with the public. Freedom of association is a fundamental First Amendment right which is meaningless without the freedom not to associate.

Anyway, this is not about religion, it's about clothing and appearance. The hijab is not mandated by religion; it is mandated by culture, and its use and appearance varies from one Islamic country to another. The zTruth blog pointed out, regarding a CAIR hiring complaint against McDonald's in Dearborn, Michigastan:

Muslims insist this is a obligatory dress code, which I contend is not. I've only read in the Quran that women should dress modestly and cover their breasts. Nowhere have I read in the Quran that hair and/or the face is to be covered up but, perhaps, I missed it.

See-Dubya notes the strangeness of the situation:

This plaintiff is fighting to preserve her modesty while going to work for a company that's injected more soft porn into our cultural bloodstream than Cinemax?

I have to wonder if the choice of Abercrombie and Fitch was deliberate on CAIR-OK's part: Send a young Muslim woman in a hijab to apply for a job at a company that has been the subject of protests from conservative Christians for its skanky catalogs and advertising. Perhaps CAIR thought that they could build an alliance with conservative Christians by making A&F their target.

I won't defend A&F's "image," but that isn't what's under attack. It's the right any organization -- whether a Christian bookstore or a vintage clothing consignment shop or a church or a school -- should have to set dress standards in line with the organization's purpose.

Noting the Jamal Miftah case, See--Dubya says, "This is radical Islam asserting itself yet again in the heartland." Left-wing politicians in Oklahoma aren't offering any resistance. Gov. Brad Henry set up a special state commission to promote Muslim concerns, but disguised its purpose with the name "Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council." The zTruth blog reported last November that State Sen. Andrew Rice, the Democratic nominee for U. S. Senate, was the main speaker at CAIR-OK's fundraising banquet in Tulsa, praising CAIR's work, despite the organization's connections with radical groups Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are keeping a close eye on the activities of groups connected with radical Islamist groups. On July 30, Sen. Tom Coburn joined Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in writing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to object to Federal funding of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

Earlier this year, it came to our attention that at least two State Department grantees were funding Muslim outreach programs operated by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an unindicted coconspirator in a recent terror financing trial, and a leader of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS). The Muslim Brotherhood, whose radical and violent agenda has been extensively documented, is an Islamist organization opposed to Western liberal democracy and considers both entities part of its U.S. network....

Despite the Muslim Brotherhood link to these entities, in December 2007, a grant of nearly $500,000 was awarded by the U.S. State Department to the University of Delaware which employs a leader of the AMSS, Muqtedar Khan, to manage the grant. The grant is meant to foster dialogue between the U.S. and clerics in Muslim countries.
In 2006 and 2007, the National Peace Foundation received State Department grants of $466,000 and $499,999 to conduct similar programs in partnership with ISNA.

Staff from the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Governmental lnformation, Federal Services, and International Security met with State Department officials from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which manages these grants. When explaining the vetting procedures used for these grantees, your staff admitted that they do not vet the grantees used to implement these Muslim outreach programs. Instead, they rely on the grantees to vet themselves. Accordingly, the Slate Department is funding organizations without having a proper understanding of their membership, affiliation or whether they may be pursuing an agenda that is at odds with
U.S. policy -- to wage a war of ideas against the extremist ideology that inspires terrorism around the world, including here in the United States.

Even more troubling, the decision to award the grant managed by Mr. Khan of AMSS was based on a recommendation letter from the International Institute of Islamic Thought (lIIT), another unindicted coconspirator in the terror financing trial referenced above. Like ISNA and AMSS, the Muslim Brotherhood considers lIIT part of its U.S. network through which it wages a "civilization-jihadist process" to destroy Western civilization....

When Senator Coburn first learned that the State Department was funding Islamist entities, he requested a meeting with Goli Ameri who, at the time, was the nominee to become the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and would manage the bureau that issues these grants. During the discussion of her nomination, Ms. Ameri promised Senator Coburn that the State Department would stop funding these entities once she was confirmed.

Unfortunately, sometime after Ms. Ameri was confirmed, ISNA announced new sub-grant funding from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to carry out a new Muslim outreach program. An ISNA press release stated that these federal funds paid for a U.S. delegation to meet with Dr. Ali Goma, the Mufti of Egypt. In 2003, Ali Goma was
quoted in Egypt's "AI-haqiqa" newspaper defending terrorist acts in Israel....

We are sure that you would agree that Americans should not have to fund their enemies in the form of misguided "outreach" efforts. To that end, please provide a response to the following questions by August 9, 2008:

(I) By what date will all funding to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations (including organizations identified in the attached Muslim Brotherhood memorandum) through grants, cooperative agreements. fellowships, contracts or any other funding vehicle, be curtailed?

(2) By what date will you establish Department-wide, standardized procedures to prevent funding from being provided to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations (including organizations identified in the attached Muslim Brotherhood memorandum)?

That memo was linked from the home page of Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism. Emerson testified recently to the House Terrorism Subcommittee about the State Department's misdirected outreach funding. Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs calls it the "State Department of Islam": "Frightening in its failure .............. deadly in its implications. The damn thing must be scrapped. Top to bottom, starting with Condhimmi."

(Read about Emerson's first encounter with radical Islamism, right here in the heartland, in Oklahoma City on Christmas Day 1992.)

ISNA is the owner of Tulsa's al-Salaam Mosque and is one of the defendants in Jamal Miftah's lawsuit against those who assaulted and defamed him as anti-Muslim for speaking out against terrorism in the name of Islam.

MORE:

zTruth, Islamization Watch, and Overlawyered are also following the Tulsa A&F story.

Rick Moore calls the lawsuit "one of those 'Iran-Iraq War' kinds of disputes in which you wish both sides could lose, but only after a long, bloody and costly serious of battles."

Sharp Right Turn notes this story and news of Tyson Foods' decision to cancel Labor Day as a paid holiday at its Shelbyville, Tenn., plant in favor of Eid al-Fitr.

Tod Robberson at the Dallas Morning News opinion blog challenges readers to justify the hijab as a religious matter:

Religious custom is not the equivalent of religious belief or religious doctrine. I contend that the headscarf has evolved as a custom and expectation in Islam, but it is by no means a requirement for women who adhere to Islam to wear it.

And in case you missed it, CAIR sued Mission Foods earlier this year for requiring its workers to wear pants:

Fatuma Hassan and five of her Muslim co-workers lost their jobs at Mission Foods tortilla factory last month after they said that wearing a new uniform with pants violated their Islamic beliefs.

''For me, wearing pants is the same as being naked,'' said Hassan, 22. ''My culture, my religious beliefs, are more important than a uniform.''...

The Mission Foods clash has also led to a lawsuit. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Mission Foods had implemented the new dress code for factory workers and said the traditional Muslim clothing was too loose-fitting and posed a safety hazard near machines.

STILL MORE:

jedijson at Kick the Anthill is another conservative Christian (and a Tulsan, too, apparently) pulling for A&F in this situation:

No, I'm not hip on a company that puts out soft-porn pictures as their advertisements to entice my children into their stores, but still. Whenever a special-interest group tries to overstep a company's policies, it just rankles me to no end.

It's a long rant, but worth reading.

Tulsa's EKG

| | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (3)

This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly concerns the survey of 1000 Tulsans for PLANiTULSA, the effort to develop Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in over 30 years.

Collective Strength conducted in-depth interviews with 90 civic leaders (including me) and then a lengthy survey by telephone with 1,000 Tulsans. Here is a link to the "pre-final" summary of the research, presented last month by Collective Strength's Robin Rather. That document includes summary crosstabs by region and by race for many of the questions. Full crosstabs are due to be posted later in August.

Here's one highlight from the column:

Despite the broad agreement over priorities, the survey revealed a widespread perception of a disconnect between leaders and citizens. These problems were felt most keenly in north, east, and west Tulsa.

"City leaders in Tulsa understand my community's needs." Fifty-two percent of Midtowners and 48 percent of south Tulsans agreed with that statement, but only 27 percent of Northsiders and Westsiders did. Citywide, the statement polled 39 percent agreement, a stunning statement of no confidence in city leadership.

"I do not feel included in the planning process. People like me are always left out." Majorities agreed in north (59 percent), east (52 percent), and west Tulsa (51 percent). Fewer than a third of Midtowners (32 percent) and Southies (31 percent) agreed. Sixty percent of non-whites agreed, versus 38 percent of whites. Forty-four percent was the overall total.

"I'm concerned the plan will be too influenced by those who have a lot of money." Seventy percent of Tulsans agreed with that statement, which received strongest support from Northsiders (80 percent), Westsiders (74 percent), and Eastsiders (71 percent). The statement received a lower level, but still a majority, of support in south Tulsa and Midtown--about 60 percent.

The gap between Midtown and south Tulsa on the one hand and north, west and east Tulsa is not surprising. Maps of election results showing support for various tax increases, of where appointees to city boards and commissions live, and of those selected to the PLANiTULSA Advisers and Partners reveal a common pattern.

I've labeled it the "Money Belt"--a band of Tulsa's wealthiest neighborhoods running south-southeast from downtown through Maple Ridge, Utica Square, and Southern Hills then fanning out into the gated communities of south Tulsa.

It's unfortunate that survey responses were classified by zip code only. It would have been interesting to see responses by square mile or by precinct to see if the Money Belt pattern held up.

How to plug north, east, and west Tulsa into the city's collective decision-making process, how we create an infrastructure for civic dialogue is something that will need to be addressed as the planning process moves forward.

Rather called the skepticism about carrying out the plan "pervasive." It came up both in the in-depth interviews and in the broader survey polling. She said, "A lot of people feel like it doesn't matter how you plan. Folks that have a lot of money, or a lot of influence get to do what they want."

Rather characterized what she was hearing from Tulsans about the planning: "We engage in the public process, we go to these meetings, we do the hard work, but at the end of the day our expectations are not met." She urged action to ensure that this plan has a real chance to avoid that fate.

Maybe the most hopeful sign was that there was near-unanimous agreement with this statement: "Assuming people like me participate in the plan and the plan is carried out fairly by the city, I think Tulsa will change for the better as a result of it." Ninety-one percent of Tulsans concurred, with no significant variation across the city.

But there are two very big assumptions in that statement.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

By the way, the Urban Tulsa archives are offline for some reason and have been for about a week. Whatever it was that used to point from the new server back to the old server is broken. Hopefully, that will be fixed soon.

MORE: In the comments, S. Lee makes his point with a memorable metaphor:

The reason various parts of town feel left out is because they are (duh!). The problem with these "plans" is there isn't enough money to do spiffy projects all over the city. So, depending on who is in charge, their favorite part of the city gets the attention. A bundle of money gets dumped into a fraction of a percent of the city while the rest gets to put up with continued neglect of the fundamentals -- roads, crime, schools. The expensive projects are the equivalent of putting a truly lovely picnic table in the middle of a 40 acre pasture full of waist high weeds and cow manure. Most people would gladly forego the gorgeous picnic table if the pasture were kept mowed and reasonably free of manure. There's too much preoccupation with the latest "progressive" picnic table, and not enough mowing and scooping.

About this Archive

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

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Contact

Feeds

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
Atom
RSS
[What is this?]