March 2009 Archives

Red Dirt Report has a story about the recent debate in Muskogee between Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Gary Jones and Vice Chairman Cheryl Williams, who is running to unseat Jones. Muskogee Politico has the video of the debate.

Gary Jones was first elected chairman in 2002, after Chad Alexander's resignation. Gary had come close to beating Jeff McMahan in 2002 for State Auditor, and he saw how the GOP's urban and suburban approach to state issues hurt the party in rural Oklahoma. That motivated him to run for chairman. Jones was re-elected to a full term in 2003 and 2005, resigned in 2006 to run again for State Auditor, then reclaimed the chairmanship in 2007 in a three-way race.

Since 2002, Jones has implemented a successful strategy to recruit and elect Republican candidates to the legislature and county office in parts of the state where, just a few decades before, you wouldn't even find a Republican running for office. Term limits helped, to be sure, but Republicans still had to put forward good candidates and get their message to the voters.

In 2004 and 2008, Jones instituted the 72-hour Task Force get-out-the-vote effort in Oklahoma. The result both years was all 77 counties voting for the Republican presidential nominee, big wins for the U. S. Senate candidate, and gains in the state legislature -- winning the State Senate in 2008 for the first time in Oklahoma history.

Jones fell short in his second run for auditor, but in the process he helped the FBI uncover evidence that led to Jeff McMahan's Federal conviction for "conspiracy to commit 'dishonest public service mail fraud' and [for] racketeering through illicit interstate travel." McMahan reported to Federal prison on Friday. Here is Jones's summary of the scandal involving McMahan, Mike Mass, Gene Stipe, and Steve Phipps.

Under Jones's leadership, the Oklahoma Republican Party has had great success and is poised to regain the governorship and statewide offices.

I don't want to say too much about his opponent, Cheryl Williams. I first encountered her in 1999, when I served as parliamentarian to the state platform committee. My recollection is that Williams, not a member of the committee that year, stormed in to demand a hearing for a resolution, bypassing the normal process. She did not make a good first impression on me; it wasn't what she was doing as much as the attitude with which she did it.

Perhaps the best way to describe Cheryl Williams is as the Hyacinth Bucket of the Oklahoma Republican Party. I know many party activists who have worked with her and dread ever having to do so again. I was stunned when she beat Dana Murphy in 2007 for vice chairman; I couldn't imagine that party activists would want to deal with Williams for the next two years. I believe Murphy, the incumbent, was defeated by her own diligence -- she put all her effort into planning the convention and making sure it was successful, while Williams focused on lobbying delegates for their votes.

But it really doesn't matter who is running against Gary Jones. Here is a state chairman with a solid record of conservative principle and electoral achievement. The Oklahoma Republican Party is fortunate that he is willing to continue in this role, and we ought to re-elect him on April 18.

Snow fun whatsoever

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I haven't uploaded our March 28 snow day photos yet, but Don Danz has posted photos of his snowman construction effort with his boys, which was followed by a snowball fight. A follow-up entry shows what happens to a snowman in Oklahoma in March when you forget to give him a magic silk hat.

Meanwhile, way out in western Oklahoma, Sarah the Brit Gal has pictures of the considerably greater amount of snow that was dumped on them: First the blizzard in progress Friday afternoon, the snow as of midnight, what 25 inches of snow looks like, the yard and the road to town, a snow ice cream recipe, and Sunday's dig out and thaw in 72 degree weather. Sarah writes, "England you have no idea what bad snow is - OMG!"

MORE: David Schuttler has some great photos and video of the snow in Tulsa.

I hate to go so long without posting, but I'm worn out. Yesterday was a great day of family fun, but between carrying a three-year-old up a snowy hill a dozen times, shoveling the driveway to get the van up the hill and into the garage, making snowmen last night, repairing snowmen this morning (undoing the damage caused by unknown vandals), shoveling the driveway to get the sedan down the the hill -- I'm exhausted and achy and still have a column to finish and two big assignments at work. So you're not getting anything new from me tonight.

I would like to call your attention to the most recent issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. In addition to my column (about the need for legislation in Oklahoma to deter SLAPP lawsuits), you'll find the second installment of Natasha Ball's wonderful new weekly column on money-saving ideas. (You may know her as Tasha Does Tulsa. Here's a link to Natasha Ball's complete UTW archive.)

The cover this week -- done in the style of an old-west "wanted" poster, with a sepia-tone photo of 3rd Street between Kenosha and Lansing that looks a hundred years old -- is one of my favorites to date. The cover story by Mike Easterling will bring you up-to-date on the East Village or East End -- the downtown area east of Elgin and north of Home Depot. Despite many city-driven plans for the area -- including the 1997 Tulsa Project plan that would have wiped it all out for a soccer stadium -- progress so far has been the result of individual dreams and private funding:

And yet, as [Micha] Alexander noted earlier, the neighborhood he built mostly from scratch, and without any public assistance, has gone all but unrecognized. The irony of that isn't lost on him, but he doesn't dwell on that lack of attention.

"Everything we're planning on doing here, we're planning on doing with private funds," he said, noting that willingness to risk his own money without outside help isn't something a lot of developers share.

"A lot of people put their hands out, expecting something to be done for them," he said.

Alexander did apply for Vision 2025 funding several years ago, but his bid was rejected. "They said it was not in the right location, it was too modern and people wouldn't buy it," he said. Alexander now believes that's just as well, since the organic nature of his neighborhood's rebirth has allowed him to proceed according to his own vision, without any interference.

"If I was to go ask for this or ask for that, there are certain parameters I'd have to follow," he said. "The way we're doing it, our limit is nothing more than what we decide to do. I like that."

Last but far from least: You'll want to pick up this week's UTW to get a copy of the 2009 Spring Thing, an 80-page, full-color "essential guide to spring and summer" in Tulsa. I've got two new pieces in the book: A look at the city's political landscape and a guide to six great neighborhoods on Route 66: Red Fork, Riverview, Tracy Park, Kendall-Whittier, White City, and Tower Heights. (I could have easily written about a half-dozen more, but I had a word limit.) If you're e-inclined, you can download a PDF of Spring Thing 2009 here.

Tonight at 8 p.m. (Friday, March 27, 2009) the Rockin' Acoustic Circus will perform at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in the old Tulsa Union Depot at 1st and Boston. The six-member band performs bluegrass, western swing, and modern country. They put on a great show.

Here's a sample: "Bethany" from the Fiddlefest in Guthrie earlier this year, which shows what you get when you cross bluegrass with Django Reinhart. Listen for the cello solo:

(More videos here.)

Ticket prices are family-friendly, according to the okjazz.org website, "General admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, college students and Jazz Hall members and $5 for students over 12 years of age. You may also reserve a seat for $20 per person at one of the front tables." For tickets and more info, call the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame at (918) 281-8600.

Charles G. Hill has brought together two interesting items about cul-de-sacs, those dead end streets often hailed as the acme of suburban living. One is a Washington Post report that Virginia is requiring all new subdivisions to have streets that connect to other subdivisions, rather than dumping all traffic out through a single entrance onto an arterial street. The other is an analysis of the financial benefit to developers of not using a street grid -- grids require a developer to build more streets and leaves less land for houses.

I was struck by a comment in the Post story from a spokesman for the homebuilders' lobby:

"Cul-de-sacs are the safest places in America to live," said Mike Toalson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Virginia, which opposes the new rules. "The first lots sold are often on the cul-de-sacs because they are safe." As for developments with single entrances and exits, Toalson said, such configurations ensure that all traffic is local, neighbors watch out for each other and speeds are kept down. "Crooks look for multiple exits."

That last comment is the opposite of reality. The less the traffic down a street, the more opportunity a criminal has to work undisturbed by passers by. A house on a cul-de-sac, especially a long one, or on any street near the back of a development, would be easier to burgle unnoticed than a house on a busy through street.

I heard recently about a family that has what sounds like an ideally quiet living situation -- on a cul-de-sac, backing up to a park, in a well-regarded suburban school district. But their house has been burglarized and vandalized repeatedly. Neighboring homes have been hit as well. The park, open only to homeowners, makes it easy for idle youths to sneak unobserved into someone's backyard. They wouldn't be noticed from the street, as few cars or pedestrians would go past -- it's not on the way to anywhere. (See Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities for more about the problem with parks that extend too far from the nearest traffic.)

A neighborhood with a single entrance and exit also concentrates traffic on the main collector street, while a grid disperses the traffic, without overburdening any single street. The single-entrance neighborhood creates congestion at that entrance, as left-turners and right-turners are thrown together. In my neighborhood, with a modified grid, I can pick my neighborhood exit based on the direction I need to go, so I never have to make a left turn into heavy traffic.

A grid also prevents local traffic from having to use arterials. Tulsa's 71st Street would be far less congested if there were other east-west roads providing local access between stores.

There are times when it would be nice to have a cul-de-sac. The lack of traffic gives kids a place a fairly safe place to ride bikes and scooters, shoot baskets, and skate. But there are other ways to calm traffic and provide a safe, paved place to play. One idea is the woonerf or living street. Shallow cul-de-sacs -- perhaps only a couple of lots deep, attached to a grid of streets might provide the best of both worlds: Enough traffic to deter troublemakers but bays of calm away from the main flow.

Chris Medlock is back to blogging, having moved his blog to a domain with a matching name, www.MedBlogged.com. Since relaunching, he's written about both local and national issues, including the strange case of Obama excluding the press from a ceremony in which he was to receive an award from a press organization.

His most recent entry includes audio of Pat Campbell's comments on his show the Monday morning after KFAQ cancelled the Chris Medlock Show. Pat has kind words to say about Chris, and he made it clear that the cancellation of Chris's show reflected the station's economic situation, not Chris's performance.

Shortly before Pat's arrival in April 2008, I was informed that my weekly segment on KFAQ, which had run continuously since September 2003, was being discontinued. I was told that I might be called on from time to time to talk about a particular local issue that I covered here or in my UTW column. (And indeed that happened, with occasional appearances with Pat, Chris, and Elvis, most often with Chris, although the time of day didn't always allow me to participate.)

The change made sense: The station was launching a two-hour daily program devoted primarily to local issues, hosted by an expert. There really wasn't a need for my segment to continue. It was fun while it lasted, but I haven't missed having to get up extra early every Tuesday.

But now that there isn't a Chris Medlock Show, it would make sense to add a regular local politics segment alongside all the other weekly segments on the Pat Campbell Show. And it would make sense for that segment to feature the insights of a former city councilor and mayoral candidate named Chris Medlock.

MORE: Muskogee Politico notes that KFAQ has reposted the final week of podcasts of the Chris Medlock Show; MP calls it a "good start." Steven Roemerman says the gesture is "too little, too late."

Since I started writing for Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've had a few photos and graphics published in the paper -- Lady Belvedere, the Statehood Centennial parade in Guthrie, PLANiTULSA workshops, along with some I took to illustrate one of my columns.

But today for the first time I got to see one of my photos in a hardbound book. It's a picture of Monkey Island at Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence, Kansas, and it's in a brand new coffee table book called Amazing and Unusual USA by Jeff Bahr. Bahr is co-author of Weird Virginia and a contributor to several other books in the Weird series.

I took the picture in 2007. My youngest son, then about 18 months old, and I stopped in Independence on the way north to Lawrence for my uncle's 50th birthday party. I have happy memories of the park and zoo from my childhood, and I thought my little one would enjoy looking around at the animals and the playground. We might even get to ride the train.

My wife and older two weren't able to come along, and they had the nice camera, so I took a bunch of pictures with a Kodak DX7440 which had an automatic lens cover that needed an occasional nudge with a fingernail to open all the way. Most of the pictures were of my son at various nursery-rhyme-themes spots in Kiddy Land, but I took a few documentary-type shots, too, of the park and vintage playground equipment. Nothing too artistic (although this one was quite nice, I thought) but well-framed with context.

I posted the photos as a set on Flickr, and duly added descriptions, tags, and geocoding.

A little over a year later, last September, I received an e-mail from Publications International asking for permission to use the Monkey Island photo.

Today we got a box in the mail, and it was my contributor's copy of the book! I understand that it will be available to the public next month.

Amazing and Unusual USA is 320 pages, attractively laid out with large images next to informative and often humorous text, organized by region. It features many of the "World's Largest" statues from around the country. Oklahoma is represented with four photos: Ed Galloway's World's Largest Concrete Totem Pole in Foyil, Tulsa's Golden Driller, Hugh Davis's Blue Whale in Catoosa, and a couple of guys wrestling an enormous catfish at the Okie Catfish Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley. I have a number of books about weird Americana and roadside attractions on my shelf, but I've only heard of perhaps a third of the odd attractions in the book. The kids enjoyed paging through the book and had to be shooed away when it was time for bed.

The fact that my photo is in this book is not a tribute to my photographic skills but to the power of Web 2.0. Because I had uploaded the photo and tagged it in several meaningful ways, it could be found by someone looking for just the right image of the Birthplace of Miss Able.

If you have an elderly relative in the Tulsa area who'd like to continue living at home, but you need assistance in order to make that possible, I have a recommendation for you.

Mike Littrell, a good friend of mine who has been working as a home caregiver for the elderly for the last several years, is available to provide help for your loved one. It's not often that he's available -- his last two caregiver jobs have lasted 24 months and 18 months respectively.

Mike started in this line of work after caring for his mother during the last several years of her life. Since then he's been providing the same sort of care for other families. I've known Mike for almost 30 years, and I know him to be reliable and a man of his word.

Mike prefers to work the overnight shift but is available to help any time, day or night. You can reach him at 918-834-1870. His references are available upon request, and he encourages you to give them a call.

A few tasty treats I've enjoyed around Tulsa the last few weeks:

Chicken and noodles at Alisee Momo's Hornet Cafe, Admiral and Lewis. Alisee Momo launched as a coffee house, but recently added soul food to the menu, everything made from scratch. Very tasty.

Avocado, hummus, and muenster cheese sandwich at the Blue Jackalope, 3rd (Charles Page Blvd.) and Phoenix in Crosbie Heights. Delicious. It costs the same as a Roastburger at Arby's, but it's far tastier and healthier, and it's sold in an old-fashioned neighborhood grocery.

"Hippie" sandwich at Coffee House on Cherry Street, 15th & Rockford. Spinach, tomato, onion, cucumbers, green peppers, onion, and a cream cheese pesto spread. Great Topeca coffee and amazing cream cheese brownies, too. (I've heard they'll have their fabled meatloaf sandwiches tomorrow.) Open until 11 pm Monday through Wednesday; open until 12 midnight Thursday through Sunday.

Salmon tostadas at Eloté, 514 S. Boston downtown. Delicious fresh Mex cuisine, including great homemade chips and salsa. Open until 10 or later most nights for dinner.

Chicken with green curry at Cookie's Thai Cafe, 1421 E Kenosha, Broken Arrow (71st St, just west of the BA Expressway). This homemade Thai food is the real deal.

We're all trying to spend less these days. Instead of settling for expensive mediocrity, why not find the best food you can for the money, encourage small business owners who sell a high-quality product, and keep money circulating in the community?

jwesleybush.com

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J. Wesley Bush, a long-standing friend of this blog, has launched a new website to bring together his world-ranging interests in one place. Bush is "an immigration historian, Russian linguist and East European area specialist," and as you might expect, his blog covers immigration policy and developments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine and Russia. He also brings a conservative perspective to political and cultural issues. Here's a sampler of his recent work:

J. Wesley Bush is no newcomer to blogging. He was in Kiev in 2004, serving at the time as a Presbyterian missionary, and provided indispensable on-the-scene coverage of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, blogging at Le Sabot Post-Moderne. He was missed during his blogging hiatus, and it's great to have him back in the blogosphere in a big way.

NOTE: I was able to get to the Journal Record stories below earlier today through links posted in the paper's Twitter feed. As I get ready to publish this, the stories now appear to be accessible to subscribers only.

NOTE 2: Articles are still inaccessible to non-subscribers, but an entry on the Journal Record's blog has summaries of the articles.

In a strongly-worded editorial in the March 18, 2009, Journal Record, Ted Streuli, the paper's managing editor, writes that Tulsa County's "exorbitant, unconscionable fees to view and print public records clearly violate state law, and [Tulsa County Clerk Earlene] Wilson gets away with it because the law doesn't have any teeth."

I encourage you to read the entire editorial as well as two related news stories in the same edition:

Assessor, clerk upgrade to incompatible systems
Tulsa County policies lead to debate on Open Records Act

There are three different sets of public records under consideration:

The County Clerk keeps track of how land is subdivided into parcels (plat maps), who owns which piece of land, and what encumbrances exist -- liens, mortgages, easements, covenants on a given parcel. Records are kept of each transaction affecting the state of a parcel.

The County Assessor estimates the value of each parcel based on fair market value, based on the physical characteristics of the property and factors like zoning.

The County Treasurer collects property (ad valorem) taxes based on the assessed value and then disburses the collected money to school districts, municipalities, the county and other taxing authorities according to law.

In Tulsa County, none of these records are freely available online. You can go to the offices in question to look at the physical records, or you can pay a monthly fee to have access. As Streuli notes, you not only have to pay to access the information, you have to pay $1 a page to print a copy with your own printer, paper, and ink. Streuli says this is a violation of the Oklahoma Open Records Act:

Until recently, you could find all of this information at Tulsa Library branches, using a special IBM terminal emulator that runs on selected library computers. You can still find out who owns a piece of property, what its assessed value is (along with the physical characteristics that determine the value), and the current taxes (including whether those taxes have been paid).

It used to be possible, when looking at the combined display for a parcel, to push a button and see a list of transactions on that parcel over the last decade or so. But the last time I used the system those features weren't available. The options for viewing these County Clerk records had vanished from the main menu as well.

Many smaller Oklahoma counties make their county clerk records available freely online. For many counties you can even view and print images of records for free.

Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan (a former Republican state representative) has one of the best public records websites in the country. On his homepage, he writes:

With more than 6 million property searches so far this year we've been recognized as one of the most advanced records search websites in the country where anyone with internet access can spend a few minutes or longer looking up property records in Oklahoma County.

Using the Public Access System you can find information about any property in Oklahoma County. Including the sale price, market value, assessed value, and legal description. Using the interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) Map, you can see a digital aerial color image of your home, find out which school district the property is located within, who represents you in the state legislature or congress, even see if your home or another property could be subject to flooding....

The Oklahoma County Assessor's Office has embraced technology and works hard to make access to public records and information a priority.

I'm happy to read that Sullivan's counterpart, Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, has the same goal in mind:

Former title company operator Yazel spent $953,467 to upgrade the assessor's 262,000-parcel database with RealWare by Colorado Customware, the software behind the award-winning Oklahoma County assessor's Web site.

Seeking to emulate Oklahoma County and promote the economic benefit of free and open records access, Yazel said he hopes to unveil a new Tulsa County assessor's site this year.

If you're gasping at the cost of the software, keep in mind that the Assessor's office has to have it regardless of whether the information is made available over the web. The Assessor needs to keep records of every parcel in the county, with details like square footage and outbuildings and quality of materials and number of bathrooms and with the capability to translate recent sales of comparable properties into fair market value. The marginal cost of making the information available to the general public online is negligible. Same thing is true for the County Clerk's records.

Not only is the marginal cost negligible, it actually saves the county money to make the information available online, as more people can get the information they need without taking the time of a county employee.

Oklahoma County Assessor Chief Deputy Larry Stein said his office achieved those results with its Web site upgrades.

"It saves us from having to have a whole bunch of people streaming into our office every day when they can get that off the Web," said Stein.

Wilson and Tulsa County Treasurer Dennis Semler have both cited privacy concerns along with cost recovery as a justification for limiting access to paying customers and library computer terminals. The cost issue is bogus: The county offices have a legal duty to maintain the records and a responsibility to the taxpayers to tap into the productivity benefits of computerization. The County Clerk even collects fees on each document processed.

The privacy issue is bogus, too: The records are public and are already available. If you have a way to make money off of the information -- whether it's as a lender, an appraiser, or a real estate investor -- you'll spring for the cost of using the online system, or you'll pay an employee to go down to the County Courthouse and collect information. A homeowner who needs to track developments that could potentially threaten his property value or a journalist who is researching a story has to get to the library when it's open, tie up a library computer, and stop when his daily allotment of computer time is used up.

Tulsa County officials aren't protecting privacy if property records are easily accessible for a small number of people and hard to get for the rest of us.

But don't look for anything to change in the near future:

As long as Tulsa County citizens express satisfaction with the service, Semler expects the county budget board to stand pat.

So if you've ever been frustrated by having to drive to the library to look up land records, if you don't think you should have to pay twice for easy access -- once through your taxes and again through special fees -- if you want the County to obey the Open Records Act, contact your County Commissioner, the County Clerk, and the County Treasurer and let them know you want them to work with Ken Yazel to provide free online access to land records. You'll find all the contact information you need at the Tulsa County website.

Tulsa's Santa David Bates is attending the 2009 Celebrate Santa convention in Gatlinburg, Tenn., this week, and he's posting daily updates on his website.

This afternoon is the big event: The Holly and Shamrock Parade, with of hundreds of Santa Clauses, plus Mrs. Clauses, elves, and reindeer, in honor of St. Patrick.

Stop by santatulsa.com for the latest scoop from Santa Central, temporarily relocated to the Smoky Mountains.

The breathless tweets began about noon:

NewsTalk740KRMG: MAJOR NEWS about the Tulsa radio landscape to be announced in three hours - at 3pm. Please RT.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 12:02:11

NewsTalk740KRMG: MAJOR changes to be announced AND implemented at 3pm on Tulsa's KRMG.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 12:47:58

I duly "retweeted" the message (that's what RT means in Twitterese) and so did a bunch of other folks.

The intensity gathered momentum with a little over an hour to go:

NewsTalk740KRMG: Make no mistake about it, behind the scenes here we're working feverishly to get our 3pm announcement and implementation ready.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 13:48:34

NewsTalk740KRMG: Mindful of radio stunts, I want to insist that this IS NOT a radio stunt. We're moving mountains over here.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 13:50:04

NewsTalk740KRMG: Channel 6 has TV cameras in our Talk Studio for our CW12/19 morning broadcast. I've had to feed them color bars to NOT see what we're doing.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:18:47

With 40 minutes remaining, we seemed to be nearing the boiling point:

NewsTalk740KRMG: I've just learned that we had a leak of information. It's OUT. Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:20:46

NewsTalk740KRMG: 30 minutes until the announcement. We're going to be cutting it close. Listen at AM740 or at www.krmg.com
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:31:11

NewsTalk740KRMG: I wish you could see what's going on here. People are FREAKING OUT. We have 15 mins until the BIG DEAL. I just saw our PD in the fetal pos.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:45:20

NewsTalk740KRMG: KRMG just sent out a text alert to those who subscribe to Breaking News Alerts with scant details.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:52:50

NewsTalk740KRMG: I'll give you a hint - Sean Hannity actually spilled the beans an hour ago in OKC. Hannity will also talk about it just after 3pm on KRMG.
Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:54:10

As zero hour approached, I had my headphones, which are normally plugged into the computer, plugged in to the old AM/FM/cassette player I keep on my desk. This pretty much encapsulates how I felt when the announcement came:

"Underwhelmed," I tweeted. I noticed similar sentiments from a few other Twitterers.

After reading a statement explaining the reason for the change, I could better understand the excitement within the walls of KRMG:

AM740 has a massive signal that reaches great distances across the length of Oklahoma. But, the weakness of AM740 is the limitations of north-south signal strength. The signal strength of AM radio across the US also faces limitations when it comes to penetrating large buildings, such as offices and some homes.

Adding FM102.3 to our stable of delivery platforms will nearly eliminate any of the weaknesses that AM740 presented our listeners.

102.3 is certainly easier to pick up at the office, doesn't seem to suffer as much from nearby computers, and it's a much more vivid sound. And I've experienced the massive dead spot in the KRMG signal pattern, driving home at night down US 75 or US 169 from the north. 740's signal is limited because two other stations on 740, one in Houston and one in Canada. (You can sometimes hear a few seconds of it around sunrise if the transmitter switchover takes a bit longer than normal.)

Here are three maps to illustrate the problem:

KRMG 740 daytime (50,000 watts)
KRMG 740 nighttime (50,000 watts)
KKCM 102.3 (50,000 watts)

(The reason for the bizarre KRMG signal pattern: U. S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr, the station's founding owner, wanted his station to cover both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.)

So KKCM 102.3 (the FCC database still shows the old call letters) will fill in the gaps for KRMG in the northern half of the metro area. They'll also be able to reach MP3 players and portable radios that have FM reception but no AM reception. In a sense, they're taking over for KOTV, providing a way for FM listeners to pick up breaking news and weather bulletins. (KOTV's assigned frequency band, 82-88 MHz, made it possible to hear the TV station's audio on the radio, but that's gone with the end of analog broadcasting and frequency reassignment.)

So I can understand the KRMG guys' excitement, but I'm not sure if they realized the expectations they were creating with the build-up to the announcement. They gave us each an opportunity to assume that our own hopes for Tulsa radio were about to come true, and I suspect most of those hopes pertained to content, not broadcast reach.

For example, FixedOn66 thought KRMG might move Rush Limbaugh one hour earlier, so that Tulsa would hear his show live. I imagine a few people were hoping for a replacement for Michael Savage -- maybe Fred Thompson's new talk show.

Several people expressed hope that the announcement would represent an expansion of local talk radio programming to compensate for its recent, sudden contraction. In other words, they hoped they'd be hearing something like this at 3:00 p.m.

This announcement made for an interesting experiment in marketing through social networking -- and there were dozens of local PR and advertising pros watching it unfold on Twitter. KRMG created buzz, but there was a disconnect between the significance of the news for them and the significance for most of their listeners. When the big announcement came, they could have done a better job of explaining the benefits to the listeners. They had people paying attention to the frequency announcement, but they may have blunted the effectiveness of the strategy for future announcements.

Although the announcement of the FM frequency was not about content, upon further reflection, I can see how it might expand opportunities for content. BBC Radio 4, which is mainly spoken-word programming, broadcasts on three bands: VHF (what we call FM), mediumwave (equivalent to our AM band), and longwave (148.5 to 283.5 kHz, not used for broadcasting outside of Europe). Most of the broadcast day is simulcast, but certain programs, like the Shipping Forecast and play-by-play coverage of cricket test matches are heard only on longwave. (I seem to recall that KOMA in Oklahoma City used to do something similar some years ago -- simulcasting oldies on 1520 and 92.5, but carrying paid religious programming on 1520 only at certain times.)

Speaking of the BBC, they set the standard for frequency-change announcements back in 1978.

Oh, about returning to the FM dial: Circa 1970, KRMG-FM broadcast "beautiful music" on 95.5 MHz. Our parents would sometimes set the RCA clock radio (just like the one Bob and Emily Hartley had, except that ours was gold) in the hall, tuned to KRMG-FM, to help us get to sleep. KRMG-FM later changed its call letters to KWEN. (Chuck Fullhart worked at KRMG-FM back in the day and shared his recollections of this early example of an automated radio station on TulsaTVMemories.com.)

MORE: Tyson Wynn is "giddy" at the thought of an FM talk station. He explains why, and uses KRMG's announcement to put KFAQ's cancellation of the Chris Medlock Show into perspective:

KRMG will be the Tulsa radio king as long as it carries Rush Limbaugh. Frankly, KRMG has a heftier overall lineup of syndicated shows (with the exception of the legend-in-his-own-mind Michael Savage). That said, I am a fan of Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin on KFAQ. But, KFAQ's real mode of attraction (when it started up) was the passion of the live and local Michael DelGiorno and its running shows live so that listeners could participate (they even ran promos about it)....

As far as KFAQ goes, it's not enough merely to be the other talk station in town. Newspapers are learning they can band-aid their dismal situations by cutting local reporters and filling space with nationally syndicated columns, but that doesn't fix the big issue. Radio, in the same way, can fill time with any number of nationally syndicated hosts, many of them very good, but none of them provide the localism radio must have if it is to be successful in a market. If your national hosts are largely second-tier, if your local news team is second-best, you better out-passion and out-local-issue the other guys.

Further, KFAQ's handling of the Medlock dismissal betrayed years of positioning. No one buys that the station that claims it is "standing up for what's right," did the right thing by dismissing Medlock, the only daily injection of passion and loyal opposition in Tulsa, especially so suddenly. They added insult to injury by not allowing him to say goodbye and then removing every trace of his existence from the station's website (though it is a fairly typical practice in radio).

Read the whole thing.

One of the stories that broke while I was focused on the day job involved Tulsa City Councilor Eric Gomez's threats to sue Julie Hall of Who Owns Tulsa? over her criticism of his actions as a councilor. You may have missed it, too, so here's the KOTV News on 6 video, from March 3, 2009:

In a March 2, 2009, e-mail, Hall wrote:

Attached is a letter from Councilor Gomez' attorney threatening to sue me for defamation and my attorney's response. The threat was prompted by my role in coordinating a recall petition against Councilor Gomez and related criticisms of his actions as a public official.

This release is in part a response to the threats against a citizen who reported a possible ethics violation regarding two city councilors. One of my concerns is that the initial response from the City Council included the implied threat of legal action. It would appear that the biggest mistake the citizen made was giving his name rather than reporting his concerns anonymously.

As citizens, we have First Amendment rights. These rights are so important that with respect to public officials and their acts, Oklahoma law protects these communications unless they falsely impute a crime to the officer criticized. Under federal law, speech concerning public officials is actionable only if it is false, defamatory, and made with actual malice.

The Gomez letter was issued after the recall was denied; after I had announced that another petition effort would not be pursued; and after Councilor Gomez stated publicly that he hoped we could put it behind us.

Although I was the direct recipient of the threat, it wasn't limited to me. Councilor Gomez threatened to sue "any and all persons acting in concert with me". This could include the officers of Who Owns Tulsa, anyone who has attended a meeting, or written a check. It could also include every citizen who signed the recall petition.

Lawsuits can financially devastate those involved, and the threat of such lawsuits has a chilling effect on free speech. Lawsuits designed to silence opposition on public issues are known nationally as SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) suits, and several states have passed legislation to protect their citizens from such threats. You rarely hear of threatened SLAPP suits because they are so effective, but they happen more often than you might think.

Councilor Gomez is gearing up for an election year. In my opinion, any Councilor who would sue or threaten to sue constituents for criticizing his official actions should not be re-elected. I encourage you to ask your Councilor if you too are at risk of a lawsuit if you criticize his official conduct.

No Tulsan should live in fear that the mere expression of an opinion and participation in public forums or processes is grounds for legal action. We will never agree on every issue, but free speech and the First Amendment belong to us all.

After the jump, the letter that Gomez's attorney sent to Hall, and the reply from Hall's attorney.

I posted this question on Twitter

Question to young midtown Tulsa hipsters: What are your plans when you have school-age kids? TPS, private, homeschool, or move to burbs?

and got several quick replies; thought I'd post it here, too, in expanded form:

If you're young and have moved into an older core neighborhood in midtown Tulsa, or any of the neighborhoods within a mile or so of downtown, what will you do when your children (if/when you have them) are old enough for school? Will you stay put and send your kids to Tulsa Public Schools or a private school or homeschool them? Or will you move to a suburban school district?

If your answer is TPS, is that contingent on getting your children into magnet programs like Eisenhower or Zarrow or transferring them into a highly regarded neighborhood school, or will you be content with the assigned school for your neighborhood?

Whatever your answer, I'm curious to know your reasons as well.

Back in 1998, I first ran for City Council and got involved in the Midtown Coalition. At the time, I met a number of younger couples who either didn't have children yet or had children who weren't old enough for school. They lived in cute 1200 sq. ft. cottages and bungalows, but they all seemed to move as soon as the first child approached the age of five. I'm wondering how many of the young adults from the current cohort who are attracted to traditional neighborhoods and urban living will stick around when the babies start coming.

Feel free to post a comment below or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. This is for an upcoming column on the connection between schools and urban revitalization. If you'd prefer I didn't quote you at all, or if I can quote you but not by name, please mention it when you write, otherwise I'll assume I have permission to quote you by name.

I hadn't planned to post again today, but I've received several e-mails from people who tuned into the Chris Medlock show on 1170 KFAQ this afternoon and were surprised to hear the Laura Ingraham show two hours early instead of Chris.

Chris was laid off this morning. The new schedule has Laura Ingraham from 2 to 5, an hour-long call-in show from 5 to 6, hosted by Elvis Polo, followed by Mark Levin from 6 to 8.

Although I'm told that Chris's ratings have been good -- the best for his timeslot since Tony Snow was on mid-afternoons several years ago -- parent company Journal Communications is suffering. In June 2007, the stock neared $14 a share; it was at $5 as recently as last September; yesterday it closed at 39 cents. (It ticked up today, back to 50 cents.) According to the transcript of the company's 2008 4Q earnings teleconference, Journal had a net loss of $223 million for that period. Journal Communications' flagship is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper:

At the daily newspaper, total revenue of $50 million was down almost 13%. The major revenue category of advertising was down 18.6%, while circulation revenue was essentially flat and our other revenue category was up nearly 12%.

Other revenue includes using the presses in off-hours to do commercial printing. Read the report for specifics.

I'm not in a position to criticize the move as a business decision, but I'm disappointed to lose a knowledgeable voice on local issues from the airwaves, and I'm disappointed with the way the layoff was handled. If it were my station, I'd have given Chris a chance to say "so long for now" to his listeners.

I would not have tossed his webpage, his blog, and his podcasts straight down the "memory hole" -- deleted from the website without any acknowledgment of what had happened. (I wasn't surprised, however, because that was done when Michael DelGiorno left in 2007 and again when Gwen Freeman left in 2008.) Something I appreciate about the the Urban Tulsa Weekly, Tulsa World, and some of the TV stations is that they see their archives as more than just ephemera; it's a part of the contemporaneous record of Tulsa's history, so they don't purge articles by former staffers. Chris's commentary and that of the newsmakers who spoke on his show ought to be a part of that record as well. (Ditto for KFAQ's other hosts, both past and present.)

I wish Chris all the best and hope that he'll continue to be a part of Tulsa's civic dialogue. I hope, too, that KFAQ continues to engage local issues in some form, but it will be harder to do without Chris Medlock's contributions.

MORE: Steven Roemerman is not happy with the cancellation of Chris's show or with the way it was handled, and he wrote KFAQ management to complain. He received a response from Brian Gann, Operations Manager for Journal's Tulsa stations, which read in part:

The economy has forced many businesses to make choices. With our move at KFAQ, we've had to make a difficult choice to stop working with someone we really care about by canceling the Chris Medlock Show. It was not an easy decision. We do hope to be able to call on Chris' expertise in the future.

Wanda Jackson, a native of Maud, Okla., and a resident of the Oklahoma City area, will be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland next month, but tonight she's playing Cain's Ballroom here in Tulsa. Deeply rooted in the western swing music of Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, and Tex Williams, she started out as a country singer, working with Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys. In 1955 and 1956 she toured with Elvis Presley and made the transition to rockabilly.

The show starts at 8 p.m. If you love old-time rock 'n' roll, you'll want to hear one of the originals.

Charles G. Hill nominated Wanda's "Funnel of Love" for our state rock 'n' roll song for its multiple ties to Oklahoma:

1. Wanda's from Maud, and today lives in Moore.
2. The tasty guitar licks are provided by latter-day Tulsan Roy Clark.
3. What could be more Oklahoman than Tornado as Metaphor? I mean, really.

More clips after the jump -- "Hard Headed Woman," and two excerpts from a 2008 Smithsonian Channel documentary about Wanda.

UPDATE: It was a great show with an appreciative audience of all ages. Wanda sounds as great as ever, backed by a terrific rockabilly band, Bill Holden and the Nighthawks. When she introduced "Funnel of Love," she mentioned that it was largely overlooked when it was first issued, because it was the B side of her hit, "Right or Wrong." Young rockabilly aficionados rediscovered and embraced the song a few years ago, and she had to go back and re-learn it. It was great to hear it live. She introduced a set of Elvis songs (including "Heartbreak Hotel") with reminiscences of her years touring with him, and how he introduced her to rockabilly.

IMG_9410

Shortly before the end of her set, Wanda took a moment to tell us about her coming to faith in Jesus, "the Savior of my soul and the Lord of my life," in 1971, and she followed her words with a rousing rendition of the gospel classic, "I Saw the Light."

Wanda also thanked Jennifer Chancellor, Barrelhouse Beat music columnist for the Tulsa World; there's a huge archive of stories, audio clips, and links to YouTube videos featuring Wanda Jackson here on tulsaworld.com.

At the end of the show, Cain's owners Jim and Alice Rodgers presented Wanda with a huge bouquet of roses and read a proclamation from Mayor Kathy Taylor declaring today as Wanda Jackson Day in Tulsa.

Now back to the clips....

Some notes from around the Tulsa blogosphere:

Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton has updated his website. On his City Council News page, he's posting city government documents. Recent entries include an update on the Public Works contracts put on hold because of Federal bribery indictments and a spreadsheet from the Tulsa Police Department with two years of crime statistics. On his blog, he has links to articles and editorials of interest, on such topics as the economy, law, and national defense.

I'm happy to see MeeCiteeWurkor back online. His latest entry is about plans to unionize the City of Tulsa's Information Technology department.

Steven Roemerman was on KTUL last night commenting on his earlier story about Taco Bueno outsourcing its drive-thru order-taking.

The story reveals that old media is still struggling with new-media terminology: "Roemerman even wrote a local blog about his experience." Actually, Roemerman is a local blogger who has a local blog and who wrote an entry on that local blog about his experience.

Irritated Tulsan is celebrating the first anniversary of his blog, and this week he's been blogging like it's 1979. An entry about Forgotten Tulsa Stories from the 1970s remembers the Tulsa Babes women's pro football team. Today, Mr. M (with the munching mouth) is visiting downtown.

The Babes mention had me struggling to recall the name of the Glenn Dobbs-coached semi-pro team that played Skelly Stadium in 1979. It was the Tulsa Mustangs. The Football entry in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture says that the Mustangs played five games of a 15-game season, then folded. This webpage says the team played in 1979, which sounds about right to me.

Continuing on in stream-of-consciousness fashion about short-lived pro sports teams of the 1970s, here's a 1978 People story about Bobby Delvecchio, a 21-year-old from the Bronx who was the bull-riding star of the Tulsa Twisters major league rodeo team.

Going further back to the '60s, Yogi, the Crusty Gas Guy, has an interesting post on Brutalism right here in Tulsa (not brutality, but the architectural style of the '60s and '70s that seeks to be brutally honest and unadorned about its materials). Yogi points to the Civic Center Plaza as an example of the style, which spawns some good discussion in the comments, including a defense from fans of modern architecture, including Shane Hood. I like SandyCarlson's comment: "True to its material seems like a weird idea. Like asking the cake you baked to be obvious about its flour. Why?"

DoubleShot Coffee Company is celebrating an anniversary, too. It's five years old, and they'll be throwing a birthday party on Saturday, March 14, from 7 p.m. to "whenever."

A few weeks ago I received a note from Eseta Sherman. Eseta is originally from New Zealand, now lives in Alaska, but spent the 1980-81 school year at Tulsa's Memorial High School as an AFS exchange student. She remembers Tulsa, her teachers, her classmates and fellow AFSers, and her church fondly, and she gave me permission to share her memories with you:

I was an AFS student from New Zealand, lucky to have lived in Tulas, Oklahoma, from 1980-81. I attended Tulsa Memorial High School and lived with two generous families, the Cornetts and the Harpers. I was googling for two great teachers from my past, art instructor Dennis Rutledge and US history teacher Frank Markham - and I stumbled on your batesline!

I really enjoy reading your blog - especially when the cold here in King Salmon, Alaska, can deter any thoughts of wandering outside.

Thank you for the wonderful collection of news. I miss Tulsa. I saw my first pop concert there - Elton John. I also went to my first live football game and sang something about "Boomer Sooners." Good memories.

In my reply I asked her if she knew Jenny Sunnex, another New Zealand AFS student who attended Catoosa High School that same year and lived with the family of our church's pastor:

I bet you I knew Jenny. Did she have longish blonde hair? There was a Jenny from New Zealand that hung out with a Garth Mahood from Ireland. I can't remember the name of his high school, but I think his host father was a pastor. The Tulsa Memorial chargers played against their basketball.

I remember Catoosa High; I can't remember if the AFS chapter had a meeting there, but we did travel around to different high schools to promote AFS. I think I might have attended a prom at Catoosa. I think it was either Catoosa or Claremore. I went to my own with a friend named Mike. And then I went to his - I wore a matching tux. I think I surprised him - not to mention my poor host family. But we had a blast.

Our AFS group also appeared on a morning show and sang a song, while an AFS student from Japan played the guitar. His name was Yohei Eto and wrote a take off on "Oklahoma." I can't remember if he sang "Yokahama" to the tune of "Oklahoma" on air, but this kid had a great talent.

My year in Tulsa was an incredible year of growth for me. This city has a special place in my heart because of the kindness and the generosity of so many people towards me and my fellow AFSers. We traveled through other parts of the United States, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, California, I even fished for bass at about four in the morning in a humongous lake called Texoma! Ate the best doughnuts on that trip.

The first family I stayed with in Tulsa attended Asbury Methodist church, which had an active youth group. But later, when I had moved to another family, I felt a need to be baptized (even though I had been christened as a baby and confirmed at about twelve, I think) so a high school friend's father, who happened to be a pastor, agreed to baptize me in another friend's swimming pool. My Korean friend, Doug Kim, and his parents, who owned the pool, plus my second host family, Bob and Linda Harper, and Billy Cuthberts and his dad were all part of my baptism. This is another reason why Tulsa means a lot to me....

I owe Dennis Rutledge and Frank Markham a lot. They were wonderful human beings and inspirational teachers. Dennis Rutledge was an enthusiastic art teacher and compassionate friend, and Frank Markham was one of the few teachers I had in school that made history really fun. (He literally wore many hats in the course of my time in US History. He even made us sit though slide shows of his family vacations if we failed to do a homework reading - and it actually worked. We made sure we read our assigned readings the next time. One could only handle so many slide shows of the Grand Canyon or whatever climbing expedition he and his family went on!)

Many thanks to Eseta for getting in touch. If you remember her from her stay in Tulsa and would like to get in touch with her, you can reach her at sherman@bristolbay.com.

Here are some interesting publications relating to early-day Oklahoma on the websites of the National Archives and the Internet Archive.

The National Archives has an online sample of documents from their Center for Legislative Archives about Oklahoma's path to statehood including:

  • Survey Map of Oklahoma and Indian Territory showing distances, municipal towns, and post offices, published by George Cram, 1902
  • President Benjamin Harrison's nomination of George Washington Steele to be the first Governor of the Oklahoma Territory, May 8, 1890
  • First page of the Joint Statehood Convention, Oklahoma City, July 12, 1905
  • HR 12707, A Bill to enabling the people of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories to form a state constitution and State government, January 20, 1906
  • Pages from a pamphlet called "Souvenirs of Tulsa - Indian Territory," 1906, which was submitted to Congress as evidence of Oklahoma's readiness to be admitted to the Union
  • Telegram from T.H. Marlin of the Indian Territory to Joe Cannon, March 13, 1906
  • Letter from Edwin Meeker of the Oklahoma Territory begging the House to concur with the Senate's amendment to the statehood bill, March 13, 1906
  • Engrossed HR 12707, An act to enable the people of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories to form a state constitution and State government, first page, June 16, 1906
  • Engrossed HR 12707, An act to enable the people of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories to form a state constitution and State government, endorsement, July 16, 1906

The main page has thumbnails of each item, which you can click on to see an enlarged view. You can also download a high-resolution scan of each item. (For example, the full-res version of the map is 68 MB.)

The Internet Archive offers a 1916 book, now in the public domain, called Men of affairs and representative institutions of Oklahoma. It comes from the collection of the New York Public Library. It features photographs and descriptions of important Oklahomans of the day, with an emphasis on Tulsa. You can view the book online, or download it as a PDF and in various other formats. I found it while looking for information about Tulsa's streetcar companies.

Cyrus Stevens Avery, who would become the father of Route 66, is one of the featured "men of affairs":

oil producer and farmer, Tulsa, born in Stevensville, Pa., on August 30, 1871, son of James A. and Ruie Avery. Educated in the public schools. Received A. B. degree from William Jewel College, Liberty, Mo. He is a Democrat and has served two terms as commissioner of Tulsa county. Is a Mason of high degree, being a member of the Consistory and Mystic Shrine. Member Board Directors Chamber of Commerce, Tulsa, and president Good Roads Association of the State.

Other Tulsa notables include Glenn T. Braden, founder of ONG and namesake of Braden Park, Patrick J. Hurley, Robert Galbreath (the man who discovered the Glenn Pool), and Harry Sinclair. Pat Malloy, Sr., is in the book -- former county attorney, Notre Dame graduate: "Mr. Malloy was left an orphan at the age of 14, a cyclone at Salix, Iowa, having killed his father, mother, two brothers and a sister."

Toward the back of the book there's a photo and description of the late lamented Manhattan Court apartments at 11th & Cincinnati:

On the opposite page is shown Manhattan Court, Cincinnati avenue and Eleventh street, owned by David J. Kelley, of the Manhattan Oil Co., Tulsa, the most beautiful and most exclusive apartments in the Southwest. The suites are three rooms and bath; interior trimmed in mahogany; quarter-sawed oak floors throughout; specially designed electric light fixtures; building scientifically ventilated; construction, asbestos and fire-proof stucco. Manhattan Court has its own pure water system connected with each apartment for all purposes; instantaneous hot water; steam heat; all kitchens open on beautiful interior court with its fountain of pure water and lawn; under personal direction of superintendent, always on premises; iron grill entrance for trades people in rear, adding to the exclusiveness and privacy of the occupants; special store room for each occupant in the basement; kitchens completely furnished with gas range, pantry kitchen table, sanitary refrigerator, connected with air vents and flush drains; garbage container furnished; garbage and waste burned; container thoroughly cleaned daily; each department connected with vacuum cleaner, work done by superintendent; sanitary bed in each apartment; large closet with modern appliances for clothing; bathrooms tiled and white enamel; recessed tubs, porcelain fixtures, plate-glass mirrors, medicine cabinets recessed in the walls; adjustable head shower baths; all bath rooms fitted with white enamel accessories: highest standard of plumbing and modern fixtures with latest sanitary appliances of approved design.

Manhattan Court occupies a convenient and attractive site in Tulsa. The artistic and attractive exterior of this structure, combined with its modern, luxurious and convenient interior, offers a must desirable residence for discriminating and appreciative people who understand that it is not how much money one spends, but what
is received in return for such expenditure.

Manhattan Court is not excelled by any similar structure in the United States and it is with some degree of pleasure that the owner has been privileged to contribute his share in this manner to the welfare and upbuilding of Tulsa. These flats are all rented a year ahead, and have a large waiting list.

Other back pages are devoted to a four story building called the Oklahoma Hospital, somewhere in Tulsa, the Tulsa Pathological Lab at 3rd and Cheyenne, the R. T. Daniel Bldg at 3rd & Boston, Boswell's Jewelry, the Gallais Building (now known as the Kennedy Building), the seven-story Brady Hotel, the three-story Overton Grocery.

Construction in the new Maple Ridge neighborhood is highlighted in a two-page ad for Stebbins, Eisenbach, Tucker, and Darnell, General Agents. They project that Tulsa will soon pass Oklahoma City. "[H]ere is to be the great city between the Missouri river and the Gulf coast...."

One page is devoted to Oklahoma City's extensive streetcar and interurban system. Nowata's Savoy Hotel and Mineral Baths gets a page. Several two-page spreads are devoted to various Oklahoma oil refineries. There were once many more in Tulsa besides the two that remain.

Photos of the original Kendall College building and Kemp Hall (the girls' dorm) will make you mad at TU all over again:

The present college is located at College Hill, and has a thirty-acre campus with five college buildings. Three hundred and fifty young men and women can be accommodated. Kendall likes Tulsa and Tulsa likes Kendall. The city has given the ground and about $200,000. The college work consists of nine departments, instructed by a University-trained corps of twenty-five men and women. The course is four years, leading to classical degrees, academic course of four years, corresponding to first-class high school courses. Also special courses in music, art, expression, domestic science, oil geology, business a'nd normal training. The dormitory facilities are unexcelled in the state. Every room is an outside room, and the chapel seats 550. A 55,000 pipe organ was installed in 1915. The gymnasium is one of the best in the state: building 65x90 feet, with a basket ball court. 40x70 feet. Visitors' gallery that will seat 500, bowling alleys, dressing rooms, equipped with lockers and shower baths.

Gone, every last bit of it.

The big surprise was seeing Moman Pruiett in this august and respectable company: "Prior to April 15, 1916, Mr. Pruiett had defended 346 men and women charged with murder; and he now has on his docket thirty-nine similar cases. In addition to this record, he has assisted in the prosecution of 37 charged with murder; and has been equally successful as a prosecutor. It is said that he had defended and caused to be acquitted more men for murder than any other lawyer in the world, and he has not yet been practicing twenty years." I didn't expect that he'd be respectable enough for inclusion. A recent biography of Pruiett is titled He Made It Safe to Murder.

A search of the Internet Archive for Tulsa turns up quite a lot of video of city council meetings, public forums, and other events by David Schuttler. It's interesting to realize that the work of this enterprising blogger/videographer is better preserved and more accessible to the public than the news coverage of local TV stations. Many sermons by Dennis Gunderson of Tulsa's Grace Bible Church turn up as well.

MORE to come: Jack Blair of the Tulsa City Council staff has sent along a number of city documents about our streetcar companies -- very interesting stuff that I hope to get posted in the not too distant future.

Oklahoma City taxpayers raised their sales tax rate to build a new state-of-the-art arena and renovate their convention center (the Myriad -- rechristened as the Cox Convention Center). The same tax built a new baseball park and a canal. A later incarnation of the same tax was used to revamp the barely-five-year-old arena to accommodate the whims of a small number of freakishly tall millionaires.

Surely all that public investment is sufficient to stimulate private investment. Surely free enterprise can handle things from here.

Not according to a consultant hired by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce:

Oklahoma City is faring well as a conference destination, but its convention center is inadequate and must be replaced if the city is to remain competitive, according to a study commissioned by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

The study by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, released today, suggests that replacing the 38-year-old Cox Convention Center will cost between $250 million and $400 million.

Mayor Mick Cornett has suggested for the past two years that any MAPS 3 should include a new convention center as a priority project. That call is being joined by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

No matter how much the taxpayers give them, it's never enough.

All wrote out

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Over the last 9 days, I:

  • Wrote two regular columns for Urban Tulsa Weekly
  • Wrote two extra thousand-word pieces, which will appear in UTW's Spring Thing, one of the paper's two annual full-color special inserts
  • Edited and cross-checked a 75-page technical proposal, writing or re-writing sections of it, working 10-12 hour days, including weekends

On Sunday arrived at the office about 1 p.m., lunch in hand. I broke for dinner about 7:30, writing a first draft of my column, returned to the office about 9, and went back to work on the proposal, incorporating last minute corrections and making sure we hadn't left anything out. At 3 a.m., five of us -- the executive VP, the engineering director, the program manager, the tech writer, and me -- gathered in the conference room to cut and streamline to get the proposal under the page limit. We finished about 4, and I went back to work on the column -- sent it in at 5:49, drove home, set out the trash, and was in bed about 6:10. Slept five hours and went back to the office to give the printed proposal a final review.

This evening, my 12-year-old son and I went to Will Rogers High School for their "Second Monday" architectural tour which runs from 6:30 - 8:00. The monthly tour is free, but they hope you'll buy popcorn, soda, and special calendars to help support the theatrical program. The next major production is the 45th edition of the Will Rogers Roundup, a variety show that will run in mid-April in the school's beautiful 1500-seat auditorium. The school, which opened in 1939, is beautiful inside and out.

(Here's Joseph Koberling's commentary on the architecture of the school he designed with Leon Senter.)

The WRHS alumnus who gave a historical lecture in the auditorium at the start of the tour (didn't catch his name, but he did a fine job) related a conversation he had at the National Preservation Conference last fall. The preservationist came to the WRHS booth in the exhibit hall and wanted to know what the school was used for now and when it was renovated. The preservationist was certain that, like many historic buildings, WRHS had been badly remodeled or neglected at some point in its history, and that it had been deemed obsolete and repurposed in some way. The remarkable thing about Will Rogers High School is that they've simply done a great job of preserving it, continuing to use it for its original purpose and never "wreckovating" it.

Back home, I still had laundry to do and a three-year-old to bathe.

But now I'm beat. There's some interesting new stuff over in the linkblog. I'm off to get some sleep.

Tulsa Teachers Credit Union, one of the area's largest thrift institutions, has been running radio ads lately about their humble origins -- a cigar box in the desk drawer of a Central High School teacher, as teachers pooled funds to help one another meet their financial goals.

In the US, the cigar box approach to finance is long gone, and it's hard to tell credit unions apart from banks these days, but the idea of mutual finance on a small scale is alive and well in the developing world, and it's being used to lift people out of poverty in a way that's sustainable over the long run. The idea is called microcredit, and it's just one of the economic development tools being researched and taught by an organization called the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, which is affiliated with Covenant College and the Presbyterian Church in America. (The PCA is one of the Presbyterian denominations that still believes that Jesus is the Son of God and rose from the dead and that the Bible is the Word of God.)

The Chalmers Center's director, Brian Fikkert, spoke this morning at Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) about the work of the center. The organization is not a charity or a missions agency; rather, it researches best practices in the realm of sustainable economic development and then trains missionaries and church leaders in their application, by means of seminars, distance learning, and literature. The aim is to help the church to help the poor to help themselves, without creating dependency.

(For the OK-SAFE folks who are freaking out because I used the word "sustainable," this has nothing to do with the environment. We're talking about an approach to economic development that becomes self-perpetuating, unlike anti-poverty programs that require continued massive infusions of money from the outside.)

For example, about a year ago, CPC funded a Chalmers Center training course for Pentecostal pastors in Uganda, so they could start microcredit and micro-business development courses through their congregations. A Chalmers-trained woman is working for the Anglican Church in Rwanda; the archbishop wants every parish to begin one to three rotating savings and credit associations (RoSCAs) in the next year. So far they're on track to have 80,000 families involved in a RoSCA by the end of 2009. A group of 50 HIV-positive Kenyans, rejected by their families and living in a slum in Nairobi, have been meeting weekly as a RoSCA. After a year or so, not only have they been able to build capital for their own needs, nearly every member has started one or more RoSCAs on their own.

Here in the US, the Chalmers Center is training churches to teach jobs preparedness and financial literacy and to set up Individual Development Accounts, to help the poor build wealth toward lump-sum expenses -- a home, a car, education, equipment for a small business, resources to handle emergencies.

I hope to tell you more about what I learned this morning. It strikes me that these techniques may become more and more useful in the US and the west as our massive banking infrastructure falters. Going back to small groups, with mutual trust and accountability, pooling money to lend to one another, may be the way to escape the credit crunch.

This evening (Sunday, March 8, 2009) from 5 to 8:30 at Christ Presbyterian Church (51st St, between Lewis and Harvard), Fikkert will lead a Christian Economic Institute seminar on these topics. There's no charge to attend or for dinner, which will be served during a break. If you're interested in how to help the poor both here and abroad, please come.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the economic downturn is hurting corporate sources of revenue for sports teams and venues, including luxury boxes, club seats, naming rights, and other forms of sponsorship:

In a case of monumentally bad timing, this year three of the biggest names in pro sports -- the Yankees, New York Mets and Dallas Cowboys -- are opening three of the most expensive stadiums ever built, filled with premium-priced seats and luxury amenities. At a combined cost of more than $3.5 billion, the stadiums were conceived and financed in a vastly different environment, a time when corporations and municipalities were flush with cash. Now they're opening just as corporate America is going through a massive belt-tightening -- and trying to avoid the appearance of extravagance at all costs.

"Let's face it, if you're taking TARP funds, it's really hard to justify getting a [luxury] box," says Neal Sroka, a luxury real estate agent hired by the Yankees to help sell the team's premium seats, referring to the funds distributed to banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

With just weeks before their new $1.1 billion stadium opens, the Cowboys still have 2,000 premium seats and about 50 of their 300 luxury suites left to sell. The Yankees have hired Mr. Sroka to drum up buyers for the hundreds of premium seats still in their inventory. The Mets, who once had deals for all 49 of their luxury suites, say they've had to go back to the market after one customer, whom they declined to name, backed out.

(Via Field of Schemes.)

We've already seen an aspect of this here in Tulsa: Before SemGroup went bankrupt, the company was expected to be a $7.5 million donor to the new downtown Tulsa Drillers ballpark. It's worse for the Mets: They sold their naming rights to a company that's getting billions in federal aid.

Citigroup, which has received billions of dollars of federal aid, has been forced to defend its $400 million marketing deal with the Mets that includes the right to name the park Citi Field. The Mets have endured weeks of jokes about renaming their field "Taxpayer Stadium" or "Bailout Park," but the deal with Citigroup looks safe for now. A Citigroup spokesman says no taxpayer money will be used for the marketing deal.

You'd think a bank spokesman would be aware of the fungibility of money.

Still the king

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Happy 104th birthday to the King of Western Swing! Ah, gather 'round friends! Why hurry? Let's all stay a little longer:

That's from the movie Blazing the Western Trail, with Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid, with the Texas Playboys' 1945 lineup: Tommy Duncan on vocals, Bob Wills and Joe Holley on fiddle, Jimmy Wyble on lead guitar, Cameron Hill on rhythm guitar, Noel Boggs on steel guitar (very cool double-necked lap steel there), Alex Brashear on trumpet, Monte Mountjoy on drums, Teddy Adams on bass, and Millard Kelso, usually the piano player, is on the squeezebox in this clip.

More clips from the same movie:

Ida Red
Goodbye Liza Jane
Time Changes Everything

That last clip has some nice twin guitar work by Jimmy Wyble and Cameron Hill, and that's Wyble playing the solo on "Stay a Little Longer."

Jimmy Wyble is still around at age 86, teaching contrapuntal jazz guitar on Thursdays this month at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. According to this, he plays at the Chado Tea Room in Pasadena on Tuesdays and in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo on Sundays. This interview covers the breadth and length of his career, which also included a stint with Benny Goodman. (Here's video of him talking guitar and playing at Chado in 2007.)

(Via Tyson Wynn, who also has George Jones singing "Take Me Back to Tulsa" on his Bob Wills tribute album from the '60s, and the Rolling Stones paying tribute during their Austin, Texas, performance.)

DON'T FORGET: The Texas Playboys, with Leon Rausch, Tommy Allsup, and Bobby Koefer, perform at Bob Wills' Birthday Party at Cain's Ballroom tomorrow night, Saturday, March 7. Doors open at 6:30. Opening acts are the Round-Up Boys and Oklahoma Stomp.

I mentioned a few weeks ago my stunned amazement as I drove down Quincy Ave.:

Looking south on Quincy Ave. from 6th St., I noticed a tell-tale pair of parallel cracks in the asphalt, each crack about the same distance from the middle of the street. The distance between the two cracks was about the same as the width of a standard gauge train track....

As I passed 8th St. heading southbound on Quincy, the parallel cracks swerved to the right. A bit further on, I noticed another pair of parallel cracks, about a foot away from the pair I had been following. The two pairs of cracks, swerved back toward the middle just north of 10th St. It looked very much like a spot where a single track split in two to allow streetcars heading in opposite directions to pass each other.

My jaw dropped when I spotted this.

Here is one of several photos I took of Quincy Ave between 8th and 10th Streets, showing cracks in the asphalt, which reveal where once ran the Tulsa Street Railway streetcar tracks. Here, looking north from 10th St., you can see where a single pair of tracks splits into two, so that cars headed in opposite directions could pass each other. Neighborhood lore holds that this was a stop on the line.

MDB05175

Here's a link to the whole Tulsa Streetcars set on Flickr, which will grow as I add other photos of remnants of Tulsa's streetcar and interurban system.

MORE: From the September 10, 1915, edition of Railway Age Gazette, an item about the ambitious plans of the other streetcar line in town:

TULSA TRACTION COMPANY -- This company was recently incorporated in Oklahoma with $100,000 capital and plans to build from Tulsa, Okla., southwest to Sapulpa, also extensions connecting Broken Arrow, Bixby and Okmulgee and a line north to Collinsville, in all about 80 miles. The company has bought Oklahoma Union Traction line in Tulsa. G. C. Stebbins, president; A. J. Biddison, vice-president and general counsel; I. F. Crow, secretary and treasurer, and B. C. Redgraves, superintendent.

And in the Sept. 24, 1915, edition:

This company was recently incorporated in Oklahoma with $100,000 capital, it is said, to succeed the Oklahoma Union Traction Company. A line will be built south of Tulsa, Okla., to Sapulpa and Okmulgee, and on the north to Collinsville. The company now operates six miles of single track to Orcutt Lake. G. C. Stebbins, president, and B. C. Redgraves, superintendent.

I was trying to find out who came up with the threefold classification of American political cultures as moralistic, individualistic, and traditionalistic. (For moralistic, think English Puritans and Norwegian Lutherans -- think Minnesota and the upper Midwest. For individualistic, think Scotch-Irish, frontiersmen, and the Southwest. For traditionalistic, think big cities in the Northeast with their machine politics and small towns in the South with their good ol' boy networks.)

It seems to have originated with Daniel Judah Elazar, in his 1966 book, American Federalism: A View from the States. Elazar, who passed away in 1999, wrote a number of books on the cultural, religious, and ethnic influences on American political institutions, as well as explorations of federalism in its various manifestations worldwide. It's an interesting mix of topics. Here are a few links, as much for my benefit as yours.

This is collection of Daniel J. Elazar's writings on Federalism, on the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. One of the articles describes Minnesota as the epitome of the moralistic political culture.

From Google Books:

And there's this: The first two chapters of his memoir of his father, who was born in Jerusalem during Ottoman rule and lived through the British mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The excerpt includes a description of Elazar's Sephardic heritage and life in turn-of-the-20th century Jerusalem -- fascinating stuff.

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