May 2009 Archives

TulipGirl tweeted a link to an anti-homeschooling blog rant by a teacher named Jesse Scaccia. He begins, "Homeschooling: great for self-aggrandizing, society-phobic mother...... but not quite so good for the kid," and he goes on to list his "top ten reasons why homeschooling parents are doing the wrong thing." His "reasons" include: homeschooled students are "geeky," homeschooling is selfish (because your child won't be in public school to help teach his peers), it's arrogant for a homeschool parent to think she can teach as well as Jesse Scaccia with his many academic degrees, and, most significantly, "As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off."

In the blog post's comments, a diverse assortment of homeschooling parents take Mr. Scaccia to task for his ignorance and prejudice. Of the many solid responses, this one by The Princess Mom, who blogs at Growing Up Gifted, was my favorite:

Homeschooling is the ultimate in school accountability. I can't pass the buck to next year's teacher-I *am* next year's teacher. I can't blame the parent's poor attitude-I *am* the parent. I can't justify poor test scores by comparing to the whole neighborhood, or blaming the diverse student population or being an urban district. (I've heard all these excuses from teachers and administrators across the country.) I'm accountable to someone even more important than the district or the state department of ed. I'm accountable to my kids. If I don't prepare them for college and life in the world, that's my fault. And if that didn't matter to me, I wouldn't be homeschooling in the first place.

MORE from homeschooling parents:

Dana at Principled Discovery does an interesting thought-experiment with a paragraph from Scaccia's follow-up ("Homeschoolers: Do They Care Too Much?").

Tammy Takahashi liked what she saw in homeschooling families and wanted it for her own:

Here's what I noticed:

1) The teens and the parents liked each other.
2) The teens all had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and most of them were already doing them.
3) The parents and kids were all relaxed, happy, well-spoken. (Even when we disagreed a LOT.)
4) The kids were incredibly interested in life. They were enthusiastic about what they were doing in their lives and in planning for their future. (BTW, so were the parents, about their own lives, not just the kids'.)
5) The teens were not judgmental of each other, were not afraid or wary of adults, and treated the little ones well....

They had this way about them that I had never seen before - the geeks, jocks, musicians, brainiacs... they were all cool with each other. There are no gangs, or "us against them" mentality (granted, I chose to only attend inclusive conferences and park days). When someone acted like a jerk, they dealt with it, then moved on and forgave. They liked themselves and each other. Some were gawky and some were attractive, some were buff, others were lanky, yet, they were all cool with each other. There is a ton of social pressure in homeschool groups, and that's to be cool to one another....

The truth is this: kids and families who go through public school (and even private schools to a certain degree) have to struggle and fight to stay in a good place, and to maintain involved in the world around them. Kids and families who homeschool are naturally in a place to have these things, without fighting. Why choose to fight if we don't have to? If see two lines at a grocery store, one long and one short, which one would you choose? If you get a job offer and one has a comfortable working environment, and the other requires longer hours and lots of work at home, for the same pay, which would you choose?

We knew we wanted a liberal, open-minded, accepting, and involved life for our kids. In the world around us, not just in school. And we just couldn't see how we'd have enough time to have all these things without killing ourselves, if they went to public school.

An MIT admissions officer offers advice to homeschooled applicants.

By now you've seen the statement, released Friday afternoon by Oklahoma 1st District Congressman John Sullivan, that on Thursday he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center for treatment to deal with his addiction to alcohol. The announcement was a surprise, as I had never seen anything in his behavior even hinting at a problem and had never even heard rumors of a problem.

I don't know what stresses are underlying his problem with alcohol, but there's a reason they call it the Betty Ford Center. Being in the public eye as an elected official or an elected official's spouse makes it much harder to deal with the trials of life. John has had two significant personal setbacks since his first run for congress: The death of his infant daughter and the loss of sight in one eye, the result of a security barrier striking a car in which he was a passenger. As hard as it is to bear up under such circumstances, it's harder when all eyes are on you, and when half of those eyes belong to people who would love to see you humiliated and driven from office.

I admire his proactive decision, and he and his family will be in our prayers.

Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott emailed me a short time ago to point out the bind into which downtown property owners have been put by Mayor Kathy Taylor's administration's insistence that owners had only limited rights to protest the assessment for the new Tulsa Stadium Improvement District, which will finance a new ballpark for the Tulsa Drillers. Now that the Oklahoma Attorney General has contradicted the Taylor administration, it's too late for property owners to file a protest, according to Taylor's timetable for getting the assessment roll approved.

There are a couple of points that no one seems to be making about the ballpark assessment and the Attorney General's advisory letter.

Since last July, the Mayor and the City Attorney have repeatedly said that the assessment on a piece of property does not need to have a relationship to the benefit which the property will receive from the ballpark. They have said that all downtown property can be assessed at the same rate, no matter how near or far it is from the ballpark. I have disagreed with the Mayor and the City Attorney on that issue since last July. I believed that state law was clear, that there must be a relationship between the assessment rate and the benefit which a piece of property will receive. The less the benefit, the less the assessment rate.

Now, the AG's letter says the Mayor and the City Attorney are wrong. The AG says that the assessment rate for a piece of property must bear a relationship to the benefit which the property will receive. The further away a piece of property is from the ballpark, the less the benefit and the less the assessment rate. Or, if the County believes that the jail will not receive any benefit from the ballpark, then the jail should be assessed as a lesser rate.

In April, the City Council was preparing to conduct a hearing on the assessment roll and approve the assessment for all downtown property. The Mayor and the City Attorney told property owners that, if they had not objected last July at the formation of the assessment district, then they could not object at the hearing on the assessment on their property. In fact, the City Attorney provided a lengthy, written legal opinion justifying her position on that issue.

The AG's letter says they are wrong. The AG says that a property owner could object to the amount of the assessment on his or her property, even if they hadn't objected to the formation of the assessment district.

But, based upon the assurances by the Mayor and the legal opinions by the City Attorney, most property owners did not file objections in April. They were told that they couldn't object, so they relied on that advice and they didn't object.

Now, the AG says that the Mayor and the City Attorney were wrong. The AG says that the property owners could have objected at the April hearing. But, since they relied on the Mayor's statements and the City Attorney's opinion, they didn't object. Now, the deadline has passed and they can't object.

And, now, the assessment roll may proceed.

The Mayor and the City Attorney misinformed people as to what the law was and what their rights were. The property owners relied on that advice. Now, the time to file an objection has expired.

But, the Mayor is spinning this as, "The AG says there's nothing wrong and the assessment can go forward."

I am not against the ballpark. I have never been against the ballpark. But, I have a duty to protect the citizens of Tulsa and make sure that all aspects of it are done legally and properly.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've covered a variety of topics: First Presbyterian Church's exciting plans to replace a surface parking lot with a beautiful new addition to their downtown complex, whether the BOK Center should charge a per-ticket fee to cover Tulsa Police Department overtime relating to event nights, and a few parting thoughts on the PLANiTULSA process.

That's right: parting thoughts. This issue contains my last column for UTW, at least for now.

I had written a brief farewell at the end of the column, but it was edited out, presumably for space reasons, so I'll post it here:

And with that I'll say goodbye for now. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been part of the UTW team for almost four years. Many thanks to the UTW readers who took time to read my words, who wrote in with praise and with criticism, and who voted my blog, batesline.com, Absolute Best of Tulsa two years in a row. Best wishes for continued success to the staff, management, and advertisers of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

I'm sad to be leaving but pleased to have made a significant contribution to UTW and, I hope, to the public debate. By my count, starting with the September 15-21, 2005, issue, I produced 194 weekly columns -- without a break -- plus several extra op-eds, cover stories on Tulsa bloggers, the 2006 city election, the history of our plans for the Arkansas River, and PLANiTULSA, and a few other feature stories and news items, and even a handful of photographs.

In the process, I've had the pleasure of working with some very creative and talented people, attended a dozen or so editorial meetings, met a lot of interesting Tulsans in many walks of life, spent a lot of time at the Coffee House on Cherry Street and Shades of Brown, and even handed out candy in the Boo-Ha-Ha parade. It's been fun, and there's a lot I'll miss about it.

It's no small feat to start an independent weekly paper and to keep it going for 18 years, and Keith Skrzypczak and his wife Julie (who oversees the paper's operations) are to be admired for their achievement. I'm thankful, too, that Tulsa's alt-weekly truly is an editorial alternative to the daily paper, publishing free-market and pro-life voices alongside the left-wing columnists and cartoonists more typical of the alternative press.

So why will I no longer be writing for UTW?

Recently UTW established a "freelancer's agreement," a standard contract for all freelance contributors, including writers and photographers. The agreement includes a "work made for hire" provision, which means that UTW would own all rights, including the copyright, to anything I submit for publication during the term of the agreement.

For many freelancers, that won't be a cause for concern, but to borrow a phrase from Roscoe Turner, "I've got a problem with that." By giving up all my rights, I could be setting up problems down the road should I want to incorporate into future projects any of the material I would write under the agreement.

In my weekly column, I've researched and analyzed current local issues and tried to put them into historical and political perspective. I've discussed urban design and planning concepts used elsewhere and applied them to Tulsa's circumstances. Beyond the immediate value of a column to the public conversation in the week it's published, I think there's some long-term value as well.

That value might take any number of forms, such as a book or a documentary on the history of Tulsa in the early 21st century or on Tulsa's post-World War II transformation. Such a project is many years in the future, I suspect, which is all the more reason for me to avoid agreeing to something now that creates obstacles for me in a decade or two. What if UTW is sold to a chain of weeklies or goes out of business? (God forbid on both hypotheticals.) Those possibilities seem very remote today, but a lot can happen in 10 or 20 years, and if they happened, who would own the rights to my work under the agreement? Would I be able to get permission to use my own work? Who knows?

At the very least, I would want to continue to retain enough rights for anything I write to be able to keep it accessible on the web.

There are no hard feelings here. UTW is doing what it deems prudent in requiring a standard agreement from all freelancers. I'm doing what I deem prudent by choosing not to submit work under those terms.

I will continue to post news and vent my opinions here at BatesLine on a fairly regular basis, along with interesting links (on the left side of the homepage) and the occasional tweet on Twitter. (My latest 10 tweets can be found on the right side of the BatesLine homepage.)

As for long-form commentary, I'm exploring some possibilities, but for the immediate future I will be using my now-free Sunday afternoons and evenings to catch up on chores around the house. I've been thinking about doing a podcast. (If that's of interest to you, let me know. I'm not much of a podcast listener myself, but I know many people prefer it to reading articles online.)

I wish the staff, management, and ownership of Urban Tulsa Weekly all the best for the future.

This coming Friday and Saturday evening, May 29 and 30, at 7:30 pm, the Tulsa Boy Singers will perform a spring concert of classical selections by Mozart, Holst, Mendelssohn, and others, and songs from the musical Camelot. Admission is $5 (or pay as you can). Donations above and beyond would be appreciated. Proceeds provide needed funds to keep Tulsa's oldest choral organization in operation.

The performance will be held in the beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church, at 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. A reception with refreshments, provided by the TBS parents, will follow each performance.

On the program:

  • Mendelssohn, Hear My Prayer. You may know it by its plaintive final movement, "O, for the wings, for the wings of a dove."
  • Mozart, Missa in C (K. 259), the "Organ Solo mass"
  • Stephen Paulus, Sing Creations Music On, a setting of a poem by John Clare.
  • Andre J. Thomas, I Dream a World, a setting of a poem by Langston Hughes.
  • Gustav Holst, Homeland. The music is Jupiter's theme from The Planets. The lyrics of the first verse are from the British patriotic hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country, by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice. Arranger Z. Randall Stroope has written two additional verses.
  • Lerner and Loewe, Selections from Camelot, including the title song, "I Loved You Once in Silence," "How to Handle a Woman," and "If Ever I Should Leave You."

I've had the chance to hear TBS perform a couple of times this spring, and they're as good as I've ever heard them. Not only are these young men developing their musical gifts, they learn teamwork and self-discipline through the TBS program.

If you have a son or know a boy, somewhere between the ages of 8 and 18, who is interested in music and singing, bring him along Friday or Saturday night. Director Casey Cantwell will hold brief auditions following each performance.

A passing mention by Skye of German prisoners of war in Pennsylvania reminded me that a fair number of them -- tens of thousands -- were held here in Oklahoma, too, during World War II, at places like Ft. Reno, Ft. Sill, and Camp Gruber. Here are some links (with an excerpt or two) for learning more:

Oklahoma Journeys story on German POWs in Oklahoma

Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture entry on Prisoner of War camps

By May 1943 prisoners of war began arriving. Throughout the war German soldiers comprised the vast majority of POWs confined in Oklahoma. Initially most of the captives came from North Africa following the surrender of the Afrika Korps. After the Allies invaded France in 1944, the camps received an influx of soldiers captured in Europe. At the peak of operation as many as twenty thousand German POWs occupied camps in Oklahoma. Seven posts housed enlisted men, and officers lived in quarters at Pryor. At each camp, companies of U.S. Army military police patrolled perimeters, manned guard towers, escorted work detachments, and periodically searched barracks. Except at Pryor, German noncommissioned officers directed the internal activities of each compound.

"For the Duration: Behind Fences in Oklahoma" tells of the POW and enemy alien internment camps "that existed in 26 counties around the state." Oklahoma hosted mainly German POWs, but also Japanese, Italian, and German aliens "picked up in Midwestern and north central states, South and Central America." Ethel Taylor compiled the information from the Chronicles of Oklahoma and newspaper accounts.

A program was in effect to segregate the Nazis and Nazi sympathizers from the general camp population, that was never fully successful. The Nazi and their sympathizers that were segregated were sent to camps with higher security. They tried to keep the general population from wavering on the Party line, using fear and physical punishment to achieve this. The pressures were great and several of the POWs that committed suicide were thought to have done it under pressure. The "hard liners" carried out some "executions". One such case was at Tonkawa, where Johannes Kunz was "tried" and found "guilty of treason". His body was found in the compound the next morning. The five leaders of the group that had "tried" Kunz, were courts martialled by the US Army and executed at Fort Leavenworth Military Prison in Kansas. Any prisoner that could read or speak English had to be especially careful when reading an American newspaper or talking to an American. They could never be sure just who to trust, and above all, they had to survive.

A separate page provides details on each of the camps, its size, and the types of prisoners it held. The closest one to Tulsa was north of Bixby.

BIXBY -- Located west of S. Mingo Rd. at 136th St and north of the Arkansas River from Bixby, this branch of Camp Gruber opened April 1, 1944. There could have been POWs in the area earlier, being trucked in daily from another camp. It confined 250 prisoners and closed Dec. 15, 1945.

An interesting note from the entry on the Pryor camp:

It was amazing to the local guards as to the number of cars with tags from the N/E states who came each visiting day-- prisoner's family members who were U.S. citizens.

The history of Camp Gruber, from the Three Rivers Museum website, includes much about the POWs held there:

Camp Gruber had its own celebrities. In civilian life, Private Arthur Johnston, 88th Division, 351st Medical Detachment, was the Hollywood composer of hits such as "Pennies From Heaven," and "Just One More Chance." Another notable soldier stationed at Camp Gruber was actor William Holden. Ironically, Holden was stationed at a camp where Americans held German POWs, but one of his most famous roles was as an American POW in Stalag 17....

Camp Gruber made local headlines on June 5, 1943, when the Muskogee Phoenix released an army disclosure of plans to establish a prisoner of war camp at Gruber. When completed, the facility had a capacity of 5,750 prisoners, with branches located at Bixby, Haskell, Morris, Okemah, Okmulgee, Porter, and Wetumka. In 1944, Glennan General Hospital in Okmulgee was added as a branch for the treatment of POWs.

Via Jeff Lindsay on Twitter, I learned about Classical School in Appleton, Wisconsin, a charter Pre-K - 8 school of 450 students that follows a classical curriculum. The school follows E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum. Hirsch is the author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. From the Core Knowledge FAQ:

The "Core Knowledge" movement is an educational reform based on the premise that a grade-by-grade core of common learning is necessary to ensure a sound and fair elementary education.... Professor Hirsch has argued that, for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, early schooling should provide a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge.

The FAQ is worth reading for their responses to questions like:

"Students are unique individuals, so can we really expect them all to learn the same material? Shouldn't schooling respond to the unique learning styles of each individual child?"

"Is the specific academic content in the Core Knowledge curriculum developmentally appropriate for young children?"

Since knowledge is changing so rapidly, isn't the best approach to teach children to "learn how to learn," rather than to teach specific knowledge?

Without coming right out and saying it, the Core Knowledge approach rebuffs the philosophies and fads of modern public education while embracing the classical Trivium, which begins with "Grammar." The Grammar of the Trivium is not merely how you put words together, but it encompasses the facts and rules of a range of disciplines, including math, history, music, the visual arts, and science, as well as language.

Here's part of the Core Knowledge response to the "learn how to learn" concept:

...Children learn new knowledge by building upon what they already know. It's important to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades because that's when children are most receptive, and because academic deficiencies in the first six grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling. The most powerful tool for later learning is not an abstract set of procedures (such as "problem solving") but a broad base of knowledge in many fields....

...The basic principles of science and constitutional government, the important events of world history, the essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression -- all of these are part of a solid core that does not change rapidly, but instead forms the basis for true lifelong learning.

And in response to the criticism of rote memorization and the idea that children need critical thinking skills, not just a bunch of facts:

No one wants schools to think of curriculum solely in terms of facts. We also want -- and students need -- opportunities to use the facts, to apply them, question them, discuss them, doubt them, connect them, analyze them, verify or deny them, solve problems with them. All these activities, however, rely upon having some facts to work with. Without factual knowledge about an issue or problem, you can't think critically about it -- you can only have an uninformed opinion.

Oklahoma has three officially certified Core Knowledge schools -- schools that have implemented at least 80% of the curriculum with a goal of full implementation: Cleveland and Sequoyah Elementary Schools in Oklahoma City, and Clegern Elementary School in Edmond.

Clegern Elementary is certified as a Core Knowledge visitation site, a model school where the curriculum has been fully implemented. Clegern is also a "parent choice school" -- any family in the Edmond district may apply to attend; students are chosen by lottery. It's telling that much of the school's FAQ page has to do with who does or doesn't get an edge in the selection process.

Another 13 schools in Oklahoma City and one in Anadarko are "Friends of Core Knowledge," which means that the schools are implementing the curriculum at some level.

The curriculum of Classical Charter School in Appleton reminds me in many respects of the curriculum at Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa -- for example, both use Saxon Math and Shurley Grammar. I like the fact that instead of the vague "social studies," they have history, geography, and literature.

Now that the Tulsa Public Schools board has dropped its senseless and expensive lawsuit against the state's charter school law. An editorial in the Oklahoman noted a report that the Tulsa school board spent $103,000 on attorney's fees to pursue the suit; appealing to the State Supreme Court would have cost another $125,000. The Oklahoman's advice:

This lawsuit was a bad idea from the start. Money that could have been spent for the benefit of teachers and students went to lawyers instead. That was the only guaranteed outcome, and by no logic could that be considered good for children or taxpayers.

What's good for children -- and by extension taxpayers -- is for Tulsa to not just accept but embrace quality charter schools. Those schools exist to serve Tulsa's children. Their success doesn't reflect poorly on the district; rather, it says that the district cares enough about its students to step outside its comfort zone.

Oklahoma City has 12 charter schools. Tulsa has three. Perhaps now the Tulsa district will be open to new charters, or perhaps one of the universities would sponsor a Core Knowledge charter school here.

I was happy to learn this last week:

* That State Rep. John Wright (R-Broken Arrow) is running for Lt. Governor. John is an intelligent and consistent conservative, and he would be a great choice for the job.

* That former Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino is running to recapture his former District 6 seat. Jim's term in office is the only time in that east Tulsa has had someone at City Hall looking out for their interests. Former Councilors Roscoe Turner and Maria Barnes previously launched their campaigns to run in Districts 3 and 4, respectively; good people both.

* That former Congressman J. C. Watts is not running for governor. For all his considerable rhetorical skill and name recognition, he's been detached from Oklahoma politics for almost eight years, and he carries some baggage from his lobbying career. I'm hoping that Watts's withdrawal will encourage Republicans to study the announced candidates, and, in particular, to give State Sen. Randy Brogdon a closer look.

I was not happy to learn:

* That Sen. Tom Coburn may not run for re-election. We need the conscience of the Senate to stick around, particularly as the topic of health care becomes more prominent.

Twice this week I have been driving west on 7th St. downtown (which is the only direction you're supposed to drive on 7th St. downtown) and have encountered another driver headed east.

A couple of days ago, at about 6 pm, I was in the left-hand lane on 7th approaching Elgin and another car was between Detroit and Elgin headed toward me in the same lane. The car stopped when it got to Elgin, I honked and proceeded through slowly, driving around the disoriented car, shouting, "It's a one-way street!"

Today was worse. At about 4:50 I took the 7th St. exit from US 75 northbound. Just past the top of the flyover curve, there was a woman in a VW convertible, and the car was almost sideways as she attempted to make a K turn to head back the right way.

The curve of the narrow overpass, the high side barriers, the fact that the car's top was down, and the car's white color all made it hard to spot. Thank the Lord I didn't blink, sneeze, or yawn at the wrong moment, or I'd have plowed right into her.

It doesn't speak well for the vitality of downtown (at least of that part of downtown) that the traffic is so sparse you could be headed down the wrong way on a one-way street or exit ramp and never know it.

Looking at the Google Maps image of the off-ramp, it's easy to see how the driver might have been confused. The off-ramp from southbound US 75 is separated from the northbound US 75 off-ramp by a concrete median. DO NOT ENTER signs look like they apply only to the left side, as if you were on a two-way divided road. There's a WRONG WAY sign, but not until you're pretty on to the off-ramp.

Some big DO NOT ENTER signs just west of Elgin, on both the north and south sides of the street, might help.

MORE: Reader Paul Uttinger provides photographic evidence (from the Beryl Ford Collection) that 7th was not always one-way. This is looking east along 7th from the alley between Detroit and Elgin.

The three-story building visible behind the policeman's face is the only thing in that photo that's still standing. Everything else was gone by the last Sanborn Map update in 1962.

Via Gerard Vanderleun, I found a provocative blog entry on the cost of light rail and other forms of fixed-route mass transit:

When Phoenix was building its light rail system, I made the following two-part bet:
  1. I could take all the money spent on construction and easily buy a Prius for every single daily rider, with money to spare
  2. I could take the operating deficits for light rail and buy everyone gas to run their Prius 10,000 miles per year and still have money left over.

This bet has been tested in a number of cities, including LA and Albuquerque, and I have not lost yet. Now the numbers are in for Phoenix initial ridership, and I am winning the first half of my bet in a landslide.

He says that buying a Prius for each of the line's 18,500 daily riders would cost $425 million; the light rail line cost $1.4 billion.

In the same entry the blogger challenges the idea that light rail serves the poor:

...light rail is simply not transit for the working poor. It is transit for yuppies that happens to be used by some working poor. They are built for white collar workers commuting to town who are too high and mighty to be caught dead in a "grubby" bus. But since light rail is orders of magnitude more expensive than buses, two things happen in every city that ever builds light rail.

1) Light rail fares skyrocket to cover their immense operating deficits and capital costs, giving the lie to politicians that sold these systems as helping working poor.

2) Bus service, the form of transit that serves most of the working poor even today in the Bay Area, is cut back to help pay for rail.

Light rail is the worst enemy of providing transit services to the working poor ever devised in this country.

A commenter says there's a worse enemy to affordable transportation for the working poor:

It seems to me that making transit services a city-imposed monopoly is a pretty ferocious enemy. If private companies were allowed to operate buses and jitneys under traffic rules comparable to those for delivery trucks now, and if people were free to advertise carpooling arrangements involving fees, would low-cost non-personal-auto transport be worse or better than it is now?

Also, it might be interesting to run a back-of-the-envelope calculation on the impact of limiting imports of relatively economical Japanese cars, too. How many marginal buyers became unable to afford their own car? I have no idea, but it might be large. Possibly the number compares to the number who ride buses every day?

The deadline is 5 pm today, May 21, to submit nominations for Urban Tulsa Weekly's 2009 Absolute Best of Tulsa poll. Based on readers' input, a runoff ballot will appear in the June 5 and 12 issues. The winners will be announced in the July 16 edition.

There are a lot of new and improved categories in this year's edition, including an expanded music section. (ABoT is filling the void left by the end of another newspaper's annual music awards.) As in previous years, there's a place you can nominate Tulsa's best city councilor, best radio stations for music, news, and talk, most genuine public servant, best website, and best blogger (hint, hint). You can even nominate Tulsa's Absolute Best Botox provider. I'll be interested in seeing the responses to categories like Biggest Public Eyesore, Most Annoying Public Person, and Scandal of the Year.

Go vote!


The City of Tulsa has been scolded once more over its management of federal Community Development Block Grant funds. On April 30, the director of HUD's local Office of Community Planning and Development notified the City's grant administrator that Tulsa is not spending its federal grant in a timely manner. (Last August, the City of Tulsa was dinged by HUD for being unable to support $1.4 million in CDBG allocations for FY 2006 and FY 2007 and for another $115,215 spent on ineligible activities.)

April 30, 2009

Department of Grants Administration
City of Tulsa
175 East 2nd Street
Suite 15-051
Tulsa, OK 74103

Subject: CDBG Program Timeliness Notice


Dear Ms. Pharis:

The purpose of this letter is to remind you that as required by 24 CFR 570.902 of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) regulations, this office will review the City of Tulsa for compliance with the requirements for carrying out a CDBG program in a timely manner. A grantee is considered to be in compliance, if 60 days prior to the end of its program year, there is no more than 1.5 times its annual grant remaining in the line-of-credit. Tulsa has an October 1 program year start date. Pursuant to our letter to the city dated October 10, 2008, the last 60-day test was conducted on August 2, 2008, and it was then calculated that your community had a balance in its line-of-credit of 1.65 times its annual grant. Accordingly, the city was in non-compliance with the timeliness performance provision at 24 CFR 570.902. As of April 21, 2009, the city had a ratio of 3.13 times its annual grant plus program income.

As discussed in our monitoring letter dated August 29, 2008, it is apparent that the City will not be able to move forward with its $1.5M acquisition, relocation, and disposition project until it has developed its relocation plan pursuant to the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (URA). This delay has further hindered the City's ability to reduce its 1.65 ratio by the end of September 2008 as initially discussed with the office. Additionally, as a result of HUD returning the city's repayment of $1.49 Million in ineligible costs to the city's line of credit and Tulsa's apparent inability to thus far commit and disburse these and FY 2009 CDBG Program funds in a more timely manner, the city's drawdown ratio has further deteriorated.

The City of Tulsa should take all appropriate actions to improve the drawdown rate, including, but not limited to the development of a workout plan, timetables and schedules in order to comply with the timeliness standard. The workout plan should be submitted to HUD for review and approval within 30 days from the date of this letter.

For your information, you may download from HUD's web site a copy of the CDBG timeliness guidebook entitled, "Developing and Implementing a CDBG Workout Plan: Guidelines for Putting Your Community Devleopment Block Grant Program on the Road to Timeliness." The guidebook provides a detailed description of each element required to be included in the workout plan. The 14-page document can be downloaded from the following site:

(www.HUD.gov/offices/cpd/communitydevelopment/library/workoutplans.pdf)

Please submit your workout plan and any additional informatoin concerning the failure to comply with 570.902 to this office within 30 days from the date of this letter. My staff and I remain available to assist you in any way possible in your goal to reach the 1.5 threshold. Should you have any questions regarding thisletter or th eDepartment's timely performance policy, please feel free to contact Mr. Hillard Berry, CPD Representative at (405) 609-8568, Ms. Trina Tollett, Financial Analyst, at (405) 609-8426, or me at (405) 609-8569.

Sincerely,

David H. Long, Director
Office of Community Planning and Development

cc: Honorable Kathryn Taylor, Mayor, City of Tulsa
Mr. Ronald Miles, HUD, Tulsa Area Field Office Director
Amy Polenchek, Chief of Staff, City of Tulsa
Mike Bunny, Economic Development Officer, City of Tulsa

Two notes and some questions:

  • The whole point of the Feds giving you money is so that you'll spend it.
  • Evidently this problem is common enough that HUD made a booklet about it.
  • Why did HUD give Tulsa back the money Tulsa repaid for ineligible CDBG spending?
  • If they give us money back unexpectedly, why should we be scolded for not having spent it yet? Or is HUD giving it back to us with the command to spend it on eligible programs?
  • What is the "$1.5M acquisition, relocation, and disposition project" that the letter mentions? And is it just a coincidence that it's nearly the same amount that Tulsa paid back to HUD?

Jim Geraghty notes an interesting omission in the resume of Merrick Alpert, a Democratic primary challenger to U. S. Sen. Chris "Countrywide" Dodd. From the resume:

In 1993, he went to work for the National Health Care Campaign, organizing the State of Oklahoma. While in Oklahoma, he was hired as a policy advisor to the governor of that state.

Why not mention the Gov. by name? Geraghty finds a reason for the omission in the Wikipedia entry for David Walters:

...Walters term was controversial as numerous former campaign aides testified to illegal activities in his campaign organization. While in office he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election violation as opposed to felony charges. He did not run for re-election in 1994.

As I reported last September, David Walters had sufficiently rehabilitated his reputation within the party to be appointed co-chair of the Democratic National Convention rules committee, so I'm surprised that a Democratic primary candidate in the northeast would feel the need to obscure a connection to him.

2009 Barthelmes Anniversary Concert

Barthelmes Conservatory will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a special concert this coming Tuesday night, May 19, 2009, at 6 p.m., in the Bernsen Center, 708 S. Boston in downtown Tulsa, in the Grand Hall on the 4th floor. Admission is free. About two dozen students will perform short pieces.

For a story in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly, Holly Wall spoke with Aida Aydinyan, executive director of the conservatory about the school's history and mission:

"All (of Barthelmes') 63 scholarship students are unique and have fascinating personal stories," said Aydinyan. "However, two of them ... are the first two students to be graduating from the Conservatory Music School program but also that these very first graduating students have been accepted to higher education institutions because of the Conservatory. These amazing and significant happenings deserve to be recorded and achieved.

"It is an incredible feeling to realize that we have invested in the future of these scholarship students and the pride derived from the fact that we indeed prepared them for success in college and performing arts field," she said.

I'm proud to say that my daughter (shown above) was selected to perform a short solo piano piece and my son will perform as part of an ensemble. Another ensemble piece will be performed by Bo Willis and Kiersten Morales on violin, Drew Crane on piano, Emma Hardin on cello, and Zac Hardin on bass. (Emma and Zac play bluegrass cello and bass for Rockin' Acoustic Circus, so Tuesday is a chance to hear their classical side.) I heard this quintet's performance at a studio concert last week -- marvelous. Bo Willis is graduating from the Barthelmes Music School program and will attend the University of Tulsa on a full scholarship.

The theory, as I understand it, is that cities with some combination of great public amenities, natural beauty, and a vibrant cultural scene will attract the Creative Class. Bright young people now pick a place to live, whether or not they have a job waiting for them. The presence of these creative young people will attract employers who need intelligent and creative employees and who will pay them well. The creative young people themselves, as they mix and mingle around town, will create new ventures that will attract new dollars into the local economy.

The recession may be giving us a chance to see how that theory plays out in the real world. Via See-Dubya, I learned of a May 16, 2009, Wall Street Journal story headlined "'Youth Magnet' Cities Hit Midlife Crisis: Few Jobs in Places Like Portland and Austin, but the Hipsters Just Keep on Coming":

This drizzly city along the Willamette River has for years been among the most popular urban magnets for college graduates looking to start their careers in a small city of like-minded folks. Now the jobs are drying up, but the people are still coming. The influx of new residents is part of the reason the unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area has more than doubled to 11.8% over the past year, and is now above the national average of 8.9%.

Some new arrivals are burning through their savings as they hunt for jobs that no longer exist. Some are returning home. Others are settling for low-paying jobs they are overqualified for....

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and -- more than anything else -- a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers.

Portland has attracted college-educated, single people between the ages of 25 and 39 at a higher rate than most other cities in the country. Between 1995 and 2000, the city added 268 people in that demographic group for every 1,000 of the same group living there in 1995, according to the Census Bureau. Only four other metropolitan areas had a higher ratio. The author of the Census report on these "youth magnet" cities, Rachel Franklin, now deputy director the Association of American Geographers, says the Portland area's critical mass of young professionals means it has a "sustained attractiveness" for other young people looking for a place to settle down.

One of the Portland migrants actually had a job on arrival, but lost it:

Tyler Carney, a 29-year-old computer programmer, moved here from Tulsa, Okla. in September when the Internet-security company he was working for relocated to downtown Portland. He was laid off two months later, and today is living off the $417 in weekly unemployment checks. He has trimmed expenses, such as cutting out restaurant meals, ending cable and switching to slower Internet service. Mr. Carney is spending most of his days job-hunting, but has no plans to go back to Tulsa anytime soon. "Portland is a little more progressive than Tulsa was, as far as the culture goes," he says. "This town is awesome. Tulsa tended to roll up the streets at night."

The company, not named in the WSJ story, appears to be Vidoop. Vidoop, which specializes in the user authentication aspect of computer security, was founded in Tulsa. In February 2008, they hired Scott Kveton of the OpenID Foundation as "VP of Open Platforms and the Director of the company's new West Coast office in Portland." In June, they announced that they would move the entire company to Portland. The reasons for the move seem to fit the Creative Class theory of economic development:

"The food was the kicker," [co-founder Joel] Norvell joked. Portland's restaurant scene helped sell them on the Rose City, but it's the city's community of software developers that hooked them. Although Vidoop's tools are proprietary, they interface with an open source login standard called OpenID. Vidoop hopes to tap into the collaborative spirit behind open source software that's prevalent in Oregon's developer community. "We need a certain kind of developer with a certain kind of expertise, and that just did not exist in Oklahoma," [co-founder Luke] Sontag said.

In September, a group of employees moved by caravan from Tulsa to Portland, a trip involving "forty-two people, eight pets, five U-HAUL(R) trucks, four RVs, two trailers, two cars, one camera crew and one blueberry bush."

In November, Vidoop announced a layoff. Last week, there was another layoff.

MORE: Vidoop not only moved the company to Portland, they moved the band Black Swan (now known as No Kind of Rider) as well, but the band seemed more than content with the Tulsa scene:

Any of you who know any of us will know that over the two years of our existence, there's one topic that we talk about the most:

the Tulsa scene.

It is the fans who come out to show after show (even in the same week), when we have nothing to put in their hands and the bands who support each other, share and trade shows, verbally abuse each other during Halo and generally push each other to be better.

It is the venues and the record store that incubated us when we had no equipment, 4 songs and even fewer fans at the show -- that invite us back even after we blow the speakers on their sound system.

It is the coffee shops and bars you can visit any night and see all these people and not even talk about music, but about everything else in the world in a real way. Its that we have journalists in our local papers who actually give a damn about GOOD music, who will both promote AND show up at a show.

(Found via Oklahoma Rock.)

One of Vidoop's programmers was Black Swan's lead singer, Sam Alexander, so the company president offered to move the whole band to Portland if the programmer would stay with the company. In Gary Hizer's profile of Black Swan in the Feb. 27, 2008, Urban Tulsa Weekly, band members talk affectionately of the Tulsa music scene.

I had the honor of being the first interviewee on The Chris Medlock Show podcast. Chris and I talked about my column on the history and future of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited and other downtown development issues. Visit Chris Medlock's MedBlogged to download the current podcast and catch up on earlier editions.

NotOneRedCentBlogAdLarge.jpgConservative Republican activists have long been wary of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), a political organization controlled by the Republican caucus in the U. S. Senate. The NRSC's official purpose is to help the Republican Party gain and maintain a majority in the Senate.

In Pennsylvania in 2004 and in Rhode Island in 2006, the NRSC invested resources to prop up liberal Republicans against conservative challengers. U. S. Rep Pat Toomey lost the 2004 Pennsylvania Republican primary to incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter by less than 2% of the vote. While Specter won re-election, he switched parties a few weeks ago and will be running for re-election this year as a Democrat. Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee won renomination in 2006 over Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey by a 53-47 margin. Chafee lost the general and left the Republican Party. (Laffey has written a book about the experience: Primary Mistake.)

You could make a case for the NRSC supporting incumbent Republicans, although it's a weak case if those incumbents oppose conservative Republican stances on nearly every issue.

But now the NRSC has gone one step beyond: The NRSC has endorsed Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate, against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a conservative, in an open primary to replace retiring Republican Sen. Mel Martinez. No one has a problem with Crist entering the race, but the NRSC ought to let Florida Republicans make the decision rather than intervening on behalf of one candidate, and the least conservative of the two at that. Crist recently signed an anti-tax pledge as a Senate candidate, just as he's getting ready to break his pledge to Americans for Tax Reform not to raise taxes as governor.

Leading conservative voices in the blogosphere have responded vigorously. Erick Erickson of RedState has launched a Facebook group: Not one penny to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Robert Stacy McCain has set up a special blog to track the NRSC boycott called Not One Red Cent.

The only thing these committees understand is money. If the money dries up, they'll have some incentive to change their ways.

UPDATE: Erickson says he's getting pressured to shut down the "Not one penny" group.

Off

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A couple of weeks ago:

My three-year-old son wanted to know the name of the little black stuffed toy dog.

Mom-mom looked for a name tag on the dog, but didn't find one.

She told the three-year-old, "Sometimes people name an animal after something that's the same color. You might name a black animal Midnight because at midnight the sky is dark."

"I want to name him Off, pacause when the light is off, it's dark and black."


Tonight:

Eight-year-old sister to three-year-old, admiring his camouflage PJs: "I like your pajamas."

Three-year-old to big sister: "When you get little-er, you can wear them."

Dilbert.com

About 500 Tulsans turned out at Cain's Ballroom last night for the debut of the PLANiTULSA "Which Way, Tulsa?" survey. There were audio problems: The speakers were hard to hear. The music after the presentation was good but too loud for conversations. I found myself in front of Cain's, standing in a light mist and talking about parking requirements, then continuing the conversation over a beer at the Soundpony, then, on my way to my car, bumping into some friends in front of Lola's, where I was invited inside by another friend to join the planning team and some of my fellow members of the citizens advisory team. So the loud music drove the conversation about PLANiTULSA out into the surrounding neighborhood.

The survey is online, along with a lot of background information. I haven't cast my ballot yet -- still studying the options. These detailed scenario maps go beyond those printed in the survey, showing locations of the types of development that were used to calculate the population, employment, and infrastructure numbers for comparing the scenarios. (I'd like to see a version that allows me to zoom in and turn layers on and off.)

A friend suggested holding a public discussion group about the pros and cons of the scenarios -- not as big as a forum, small enough to have a real conversation. I'll keep you posted if one is held.

Tonight at Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main, from 6 to 8, the PLANiTULSA "Which Way Tulsa?" survey will be unveiled tonight. Four different scenarios for future growth and development will be on display, and Tulsans will have the opportunity, online or on paper, to rank the scenarios according to preference. The results of the survey will guide Fregonese Associates in the preparation of a new comprehensive plan for the city, which will ultimately go before the City Council for final approval.

You can read more about the scenarios and the survey in my column in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

The Tulsa metropolitan area is projected to grow by 164,000 people and to add 53,000 jobs over the next two decades. The scenarios provide different answers to the questions that are at the heart of a comprehensive plan: How much of that growth do we want the City of Tulsa to capture? What do we want that growth to look like? Where in the city would we like it to go?

There's a related question Tulsans need to answer: How much of the roughly $2 billion that will be spent on new transportation infrastructure during the next 20 years should go to street and highway widening and how much toward various forms of mass transit?

How we answer those questions and the development policies we adopt as a result will influence the kind of city our children and grandchildren will experience.

Today's Tulsans are living with the impact of planning decisions made more than 50 years ago, when our expressway network was mapped out and a development pattern for new neighborhoods was established. That pattern of single-use development, segregating where we live from where we work, shop, worship, study and play, was enshrined in our vintage 1970 zoning code.

MORE: Also in the current week of UTW, nominations have begun for this year's Absolute Best of Tulsa awards, which has an expanded music section for 2009.

Beryl Ford

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I was sad to learn of the death of Beryl Ford, the collector of historic Tulsa photographs and ephemera. Ford was 83. Every Tulsan with a desire to understand our city's past owes him an immense debt of gratitude.

I can't find words strong enough to explain how important his life's work is to our ability to understand Tulsa history. The Beryl Ford Collection, now in the hands of the Tulsa Historical Society thanks to the Rotary Club of Tulsa, is an irreplaceable part of our city's collective memory. The earliest years of Tulsa are no longer a part of living memory, but Ford's collection gives us some idea of what it was like. The Ford collection shows us central Tulsa at its post-war peak. It also shows us its dismantling.

Increasingly, baby boomers have to turn to the Ford collection to see the places we remember from our 1950s and 1960s childhoods, as mid-century businesses are lost to highway expansion, redevelopment, and renovation.

The collective memory is a tricky thing. We develop myths about how things used to be and how they came to be the way they are now. (E.g., "the Greenwood gap".) For Tulsa the Beryl Ford Collection, alongside other contemporaneous records like phone books, street directories, and newspapers, helps to correct the false memories and the false explanations they engender.

Mr. Ford's passing is a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to make the most of what he left us. I still hope to see high resolution scans put online with Flickr Commons, so they can be geocoded, tagged, and described in detail.

Here is a link to past BatesLine items that make reference to the Beryl Ford Collection.

MORE: From the comments, a tribute from Mark Sanders, one of Beryl Ford's cousins:

Thanks, Michael, for honoring Beryl Ford on your blog. We do owe him a debt of gratitude. As you know, Beryl was my second cousin, and my own fascination with Tulsa history is due in large measure to my access to Beryl's collection while he still owned it.

Tulsans should understand and appreciate that Beryl's relentless collecting - particularly at times when preservation of historical assets was not a culturally-valued pursuit, i.e. the 1970s - was motivated solely by his love for Tulsa and the highest ideals of preservation. The pursuit of financial gain was never part of his personal agenda. As he began to feel his own mortality in recent years, he looked to place the Collection, not with the highest bidder(s), but with an institution that would keep it together and make it readily available to the citizens of Tulsa. I, like you, trust that the Historical Society and Library will do all that is required to make this collection a powerful and accessible historical resource. One of the tragedies of Beryl's passing is that we have now lost the Collection's most capable geocoder/tagger/describer. Hopefully, other old-timers and students of Tulsa history will step up to that important task.

Finally, Tulsans should know something of the character of Beryl Ford, and the intensity of his affection - and that of the entire Ford family - for Tulsa. Beryl is a life-long Tulsan, but the Ford family's roots in Tulsa came about quite by happenstance. In the 1910s, when Beryl's father, Jewell (then a teenager), ran away from the family farm near Sallisaw, his grandfather (my great-grandfather), Nathaniel, followed up a rumored sighting in Tulsa, and took a train there - intent , literally, to walk the streets until he found his son. It wasn't necessary - within 2 blocks of the train station he met him on the street. Jewell immediately regaled his father with stories of ample construction job opportunities in Tulsa's booming economy. Nathaniel - who was a pioneer of the Pentecostal movement in Oklahoma - took all this as a sign that the family should move to Tulsa. So he returned to the farm, put the draft animals on a railcar and moved the household to Tulsa to begin a horse-driven excavation business. Some of Tulsa's existing landmark buildings, and - sadly - some that are now surface parking, were Ford excavated.

Beryl, like most of the other Fords, made his living in the building trades. He was never part of Tulsa's ruling class or social elite, but he made a contribution to Tulsa's history every bit as meaningful as that of any storied oil baron or newspaper publisher. And like the most of the rest of his family, he lived simply (in Tulsa's McClure Park neighborhood), valuing faith, family and community over the accumulation of wealth and status.

May he rest in peace; and may we all follow his fine civic example.

Last fall, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor asked the International Downtown Association to send a team to study our downtown, and in particular to look at the city's arrangement with Tul-Center, Inc., the arm of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited (DTU) that has handled downtown services since the current business improvement district was established in 1981. (The DTU executive committee serves as the board of directors for Tul-Center, Inc.)

Here's what the City asked the IDA team to do:

The City of Tulsa seeks to create an organization that can coordinate, plan, direct and manage a wide range of downtown revitalization functions, including the integration and implementation of downtown plans, management of downtown public/private partnerships, support for downtown business groups, and support and management of programs as designated by the City. Possible functions include parking management, management of downtown business improvement district programs, event functions, and other downtown operations.

The IDA Advisory Panel will examine and assess the current organizations, agencies and programs focused on the revitalization of downtown Tulsa, including the relationship between the City of Tulsa, Downtown Tulsa Unlimited and various stakeholders; discuss and compare best practices and successful strategies employed by other similar business districts in terms of organizational structure, functions, and programs, particularly with regard to functions within the scope of a downtown management organization; review and make recommendations regarding any appropriate organizational development strategies; examine advantages and disadvantages of collaborative planning and funding strategies, especially in business improvement districts; and recommend ways that programs, if initiated, can be sustained.

The team of four, including Oklahoma City planning director Russell Claus, came to Tulsa, Nov. 15 to 18, 2008, right before the Tulsa Run. A 27-page report was released in February 2009. (Click here to read the IDA Advisory Panel Report on Tulsa (PDF format).

The IDA team's report begins:

A first-time visitor to downtown Tulsa may be somewhat mystified. Streets and sidewalks are clean and well-lighted. A collection of handsome, even extraordinary art deco buildings adorn the office core. A strikingly designed arena stands dramatically on the edge of downtown, complemented by perhaps the most attractive new City Hall in America. Here and there, a café or coffee house lights the street. And yet...where are the people?

As a visitor spends more time in downtown Tulsa, other impressions emerge. There are few street level establishments of a retail nature. Windows facing the street are far too often dark. The hustle and bustle that today characterizes many downtowns across North America is simply absent. It feels like a time warp - as if it's 1988 in downtown Tulsa, not 2008.

Here's the IDA report's description of the current arrangement:

According to the DTID (Downtown Tulsa Improvement District) Summary Sheet, the downtown Tulsa district "was created to provide public improvements and maintenance beyond normal City services to help sustain, increase, and re-attract businesses as well as entertainment activities to downtown." According to the Summary Sheet, the City is the governing body and Tul-Center, Inc., a non-profit organization of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited, manages the daily services provided by several subcontractors."

The 2008-2009 contract of approximately $952,000 between the City of Tulsa and Tul-Center, Inc. comes from two roughly equal sources: assessments on property owners in downtown and the City of Tulsa itself. The current contract, approved by the Tulsa City Council in 1999, is in effect through June 30, 2009.

Part of the report deals with criticisms of DTU:

With more than 50 years of history, DTU is one of the oldest downtown organizations in the US. It has a track record of accomplishments during its existence. It has a board of directors composed of some of Tulsa's most prominent corporate citizens. And, through Tul-Center Inc., it has managed the business improvement district since it was established.

Like many downtown organizations today, DTU relies on the BID assessment for its very existence. BID revenues constitute about 9 out every 11 dollars passing through DTU each year. With the BID assessment, DTU manages a fairly standard menu of "clean and safe" services, and also promotes downtown with events like Mayfest and by installing , removing and storing holiday decorations.

The recommendations and observations are well worth reading. One highlight is the strong interest among young people in downtown and their desire to protect buildings that may not be "architecturally or historically significant, [but they] represent adaptive re-use possibilities for residential development, office space for small companies, and street level space for restaurants, clubs, and retail shops."

DTU President Jim Norton responded to the team's visit in DTU's December 1, 2008 newsletter:

One of their first recommendations was that the current custodial responsibilities, which DTU performs, are done as good as or better than anyone in the country. That's very encouraging news for us, and it tells us that what we've been doing for the last 30 years has been a tremendous success. They were very impressed with the cleanliness of Downtown and with the efficiency of our operations. They made suggestions that DTU needs to reach out to the surrounding neighborhoods and to other interest groups to include them in creating a vision for Downtown that everyone buys into. They also made other recommendations regarding the marketing of our Central Business District in creating lively activities throughout the year. These are items which we have totally embraced and look forward to making the future better for everyone.

The Downtown Tulsa Improvement District expires on June 30 and is being replaced with the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District. The City of Tulsa has issued an invitation to bid (TAC 843) on providing the public property maintenance services (Microsoft Word document) currently being provided by DTU/Tul-Center. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on May 20, 2009. The base bid includes maintaining 215 miles of sidewalk (daily), 18 miles of alleys, 1320 trees, and 80 trash containers. Bidders also have to quote a price for sidewalk cleaning per square yard, sidewalk snow and ice removal per mile, special event sidewalk sweeping per foot, brick sidewalk paver replacement per square foot, general labor per man hour, mowing/landscaping per square yard, and additional trash service per can per month.

The specification is precise in requiring particular fertilizers and lawn treatments, and there are some other interesting provisions:

Personnel must be fluent in English, as they will be expected to provide information, directions and help to the public.

All paved sidewalk and plaza surfaces must be swept daily (with a complete cycle each week) using mechanical sweepers and/or manually. Mechanical sweepers, blowers, or power vacuum equipment will not be operated during the lunch period or at other times when large crowds of people are present. The paved sidewalk surfaces shall be inspected weekly and specific trouble spots, INCLUDING CHEWING GUM, cleaned with a power scrubber, high pressure sprayer or other means as needed. The standard of maintenance for this service shall be to provide litter free, clean sidewalks and alleys.

Water usage specifically for this area will be metered and recorded by a portable water meter obtained by the landscape contractor from the City of Tulsa Water and Sewer Department. CONTRACTOR shall pay the required deposit and all other costs associated with obtaining such metering device.

From homeschooling mom's Susie Dutcher's testimony to the U. S. Senate Finance Committee in 1999:

I would love to put more dollars into our retirement account, for example, but I'm forced to put them into your Social Security trust fund, which I don't trust. I'd like to buy more books for Lincoln, Elizabeth, and Mary Margaret, and put more money in their college fund, but you've already seen fit to use that money funding closed-captioning for the Jerry Springer show. I'd love to get ballet lessons for Elizabeth, but my money is tied up buying food stamps for the deceased. I'd love to give more money to support our church's missionary in Albania, or the free medical clinic in Oklahoma City, but instead I'm forced to fund fish farming in Arkansas and Social Security disability payments for escaped convicts. Call us greedy, but my husband and I would like for the most part to make our own choices concerning the fruit of our labor. But naturally, under threat of imprisonment, we defer to your choices.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

In preparation for an upcoming column, I spent some time last night photographing the Downtown Tulsa Unlimited vertical file at Central Library. Vertical files are newspaper clippings organized by topic, and they're often the best way to get a sense of the evolution of some aspect of the city over several decades.

I figured out sometime ago that it was cheaper and quicker and more portable to shoot a digital picture than to put a bunch of articles on the photocopy machine, and then scan the resulting copies into the computer. I can then review the documents as needed, even if the library is closed. (Accountability Burns strolled by and -- without stopping -- informed me that I would get better image quality if I photocopied the articles and then scanned them in.)

Skimming the articles as I photographed them was both amusing and depressing, as I read the various policy initiatives that DTU has promoted over the years. My tentative title is "DTU: ****ing up downtown for 53 years." DTU began with a focus on keeping retail downtown. Nearly all of DTU's key ideas came to fruition -- the Inner Dispersal Loop, the Civic Center (meaning the eight-block complex, not just the Assembly Center), the Main Mall, the Williams Center, and plenty more parking -- and they all contributed in some way to the demise of downtown retail.

Just as appalling are the plans they never got around to implementing. A Tulsa World business story from April 7, 1981, reports on a 10-year plan to redevelop the "Crosstown Sector" of the city's urban renewal plan, the area within the IDL north of the tracks. You probably know it as Brady Village or the Brady Arts District. Urban Design Group proposed replacing the 18 blocks of the city's original townsite with an "urban campus." (Emphasis added.)

[UDG's John] Lauder said the original Tulsa Townsite, the area from Denver to Detroit avenues and from the Frisco tracks to Cameron Street, could handle 250,000 to 300,000 square feet of new structures and could be the site of what UDG terms an "urban campus" with potential of several thousand students....

"The Municipal Theater, our Old Lady of Brady, could serve a purpose in the urban campus concept," Lauder said.

The original townsite has 12 1/2 acres of property which could be put to use for loft office buildings, retail stores and warehousing. This area would be screened from streets with low walls, trees and sidewalks.

"There's not really much character left in the Old Townsite," said Laur [sic], "so we see no reason to restore it, as some cities have done to their original site. We could just call it the Townsite, but we're open to names."

Urban Design started its survey and work on redevelopment of the Crosstown Sector last summer with a $62,500 block grant through the City Development Department handled by DTU.

The 1981 plan also recommended high-rises and garden apartments where the jail is now. (It was residential before demolition for the jail.) They also planned to move the Salvation Army from the southwest corner of 2nd and Cheyenne to "land adjacent to the residential areas."

More than 80 Chinese Christian leaders, most of them involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest movement, released a statement today calling for "forgiveness, repentance, truth, justice, and reconciliation." They call upon all Chinese Christian churches, in China and overseas, "to pray between May 12 - the anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake and June 4 - the anniversary of the massacre. They urge churches to make May 12 and June 4 'Pray for China' days and to hold special prayer meetings during that time."

The Tiananmen Square Massacre, known in China as the "June 4th Incident, " was the tragic end to a movement of students and intellectuals calling for free media and formal dialogue between authorities and student-elected representatives. Between April 15 and June 4, approximately 100,000 Chinese citizens, the majority of whom were university students, led peaceful protests in Beijing's famous Tiananmen Square. On June 4, the Chinese government sent in armored tanks and, as the world watched, killed hundreds of the demonstrators. According to the Chinese government, the official death toll was 200-300. However, the Chinese Red Cross estimated that the actual deaths were between 2,000 and 3,000. More than 10,000 Chinese citizens from all over China who were involved in the movement were sentenced to death by the government as retribution. June 4, 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid, was one of the student leaders in the Tiananmen Square movement. "The fact that this tragic massacre happened 20 years ago and is still not allowed to be commemorated in China by the Chinese government, should remind the international community that the road toward true freedom for the Chinese people is not an easy one, " Bob Fu stated. "We are encouraged that the persecuted Chinese church and church leaders are awakened to repent for their silence regarding the massacre and to move forward toward true justice and reconciliation."

Note to smug, pop-musician hipsters: If you want to use your clothing to proclaim your opposition to oppression and your love of freedom, forgo the bloody * hammer and sickle and wear a T-shirt with this image, instead:

89-63_tank_man_-_web.jpg

* Meant literally. With whom do you stand, Michael Ivins? The man courageously blocking the tanks? Or the Chinese Communist leaders who ordered the tanks to smash a peaceful protest for freedom?

"Well... look, Eric, it's like this... There are some people in life who are interesting people. You know, they're good company, fun to be with. The kind of people who, when you meet them on the street, your heart lifts and you say to yourself, 'Ah! There's old So-and-So! Isn't it grand to see him!' People who make you happy! People who make you feel that life's worth living! But... you're not one of them."

-- From "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite," by Terry Jones and Michael Palin

(Ripping Yarns was a brilliant series of teleplays spoofing adventure novels and other forms of uplifting early 20th century schoolboy literature, written by Monty Python alumni Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and starring Palin -- usually in multiple roles per episode. "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite," how the dullest young man in the village was transformed into the most popular and celebrated, without actually changing in any way, may be the most brilliant episode of the series.)

(There's an Eric Olthwaite blog, which has nothing to do with this episode, but is about pubs and real ale in Britain, and is therefore much more interesting than Eric.)

This coming Friday evening, May 8, 2009, the Pendleton Family Fiddlers are throwing a release party and show for their first CD album. It'll be held at the Spotlight Theatre, the art deco landmark located at Riverside Drive at Houston Ave. Tickets are $10 and CDs are $10.

Fronting the group are a couple of multi-talented sisters, Emma Jane (15) and Marina (14), state and national champion fiddlers and yodelers. (They sing and play mandolin and guitar, too.) They're backed by their dad Scott on rhythm guitar, their mom Virginia on fiddle and mandolin, and their uncle David McNamee on bass.

We've had the privilege of knowing the Pendletons for a few years now and continue to be impressed not only by their talent but by their generosity in encouraging other musicians and performers. That's exemplified by the way they're handling their CD release. Not only will the Pendletons perform, but so will eight other acts, according to the flier:

Victoria Hannath, actress-singer • Regina Scott, fiddle phenom
Natasha Irons, soaring vocals • Jasmine Love, smooth stylist
Travis Gregg, good humor • Ragtime Bill Rowland
John Hansen, banjo non grata • Larry Stockard, folk music relapse

The Pendletons have been regular performers at the Spotlight Theatre, part of the weekly "Olio" of acts that accompany the long running melodrama "The Drunkard" every Saturday night. The Spotlight's history as a launching pad for young performers was the reason the Pendletons chose the venue and included their fellow Spotlighters on the program.

It should be a fun and affordable evening of family entertainment, and if you love great fiddle music, you'll want to be there.

Chris Medlock, former city councilor and former afternoon host on KFAQ, is relaunching his talk show as a podcast today, the first anniversary of his first solo show on KFAQ. The show (in MP3 format for downloading to your computer or portable music device) is due to be uploaded to his website, medblogged.com, at 2 p.m. today.

1917TulsaRailMap.jpgToo tired tonight to do much more than link. I've been working on a post about the Oklahoma City Union Station rail yard / I-40 relocation controversy, but it's not ready. For now, here are links to some maps and other information about the history of the state's rail network, from most recent to oldest:

From the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's website. (Note how much of the network is owned by ODOT and leased to various railroads, including the entire Frisco route from Tulsa to Oklahoma City.)

University of Alabama collection of historical Oklahoma maps. The browser is annoying, and you can't download high res copies, but there's some very interesting material here, including:

Note the interurbans connecting Bartlesville to Dewey, Nowata to Coffeyville, Oklahoma City to Norman, El Reno, and Guthrie, Lawton to Ft. Sill, McAlester to Hartshorne, Shawnee to Tecumseh, and Miami to the rest of the Tristate mining region. As far as I can tell, only Tulsa's interurban lines -- Sand Springs and Tulsa-Sapulpa Union (originally the Oklahoma Union Traction Ry.) -- remain in operation, as freight-only short lines.

OkGenWeb's 1915 state map with a list of railroad names and abbreviations -- high res scan

Doug Loudenback's high res scan of a 1905 map and gazetteer of the Twin Territories.

From the City of Tulsa Planning Department, notice of a meeting to gather public input on how best to use Tulsa's share of federal historic preservation funds:

The Tulsa Preservation Commission invites Tulsans to participate in the development of the City of Tulsa's Annual Certified Local Government Program.

A meeting will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 14, 2009 to receive public input. The meeting will be held on the 10th Floor of City Hall @ One Technology Center, located at 175 E. 2nd Street in downtown Tulsa. Parking is available at the southeast corner of 2nd & Cincinnati.

A portion of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Historic Preservation Fund is allocated for participation in the Certified Local Governments program. Each year, the Tulsa Preservation Commission uses this money to facilitate preservation within our City. Citizens can provide assistance in identifying ways to best use the 2009-2010 funds.

Funds can be used for such projects as:

  • Inventory and/or National Register Nomination of historic resources within the community;
  • Increasing public awareness of historic preservation; and
  • Preparing amendments or updates to the Tulsa Historic Preservation Plan and Historic Preservation zoning program.

With your support we can continue to build on Tulsa's preservation achievements.

Please contact Amanda DeCort, City of Tulsa Planning Department, at (918) 576-5669 for more information.


I recently came across a funny little novelty song recorded by Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys called "The Thingamajig." It seemed just the song for a rainy day of fix-it projects. It's much in the spirit of "Rag Mop," an novelty number from 1949 that was a hit for Wills and, later, for the Ames Brothers.

Follow this link to hear "The Thingamajig" and "She Took" at a delightful blog called I'm Learning to Share.

"The Thingamajig" was written by prolific songwriter Cindy Walker. ("You Don't Know Me" and "Dream Baby" are perhaps her two best known songs.) It was recorded on Feb. 3, 1952, at the KVOO studios, for RCA. (Was KVOO still in the Philtower in '52?) Lead vocals by Julian "Curley" Lewis. Johnnie Lee Wills is asking the questions and singing on the trio part. Don Tolle on electric guitar, Tommy Elliott on steel guitar, Clarence Cagle on piano, Chuck Adams on bass, Waid Peeler on drums, Curley Lewis, Henry Boatman and James Guy "Cotton" Thompson on fiddle. Don Harlan played clarinet on this session, but I don't hear it on this song. He might be singing with the trio, along with Johnnie Lee Wills and Leon Huff, the band's usual vocalist.

Here, for the record, are the lyrics. (I'm not entirely sure about "bucket big" in the first verse, and "spring" in the chorus could be "sprig." UPDATE 2009/05/17 -- changed "bucket big" to "bug is big" on the advice of a commenter.)

What did I do with that thingamajig?

I gotta to find that thingamajig.
I gotta to have it to fix my rig
Tain't no bigger than a bug is big.
What did I do with that thingamajig?

Is it square?
No, it isn't square.
Does it flare?
No, it doesn't flare.
It ain't square, it don't flare,
It ain't shaped like a pear.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

Is it round?
No, it isn't round.
Is it brown?
No, it isn't brown.
It ain't round, it ain't brown
It don't make any sound
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

It's just a doodad
With a thingamabob,
A doomaflitchet
That you twist like a knob,
A whatchamacallit
Fastened down with a spring.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

Is it flat?
No, it isn't flat.
Like a mat?
No, not like no mat.
It ain't flat like a mat;
It's no bigger than that.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

I gotta to find that thingamajig.
I gotta to have it to fix my rig.
Tain't no bigger than a bug is big.
What did I do with that thingamajig?

Is it brass?
No, it isn't brass.
Is it glass
No, it isn't glass.
It ain't brass, it ain't glass,
But alack and alas,
I've got to find that thingamajig.

Is it stone?
No, it isn't stone.
Like a hone?
No, not like no hone.
It ain't stone like a hone.
It ain't button or bone.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

It's just a doodad
With a thingamabob,
A doomaflitchet
That you twist like a knob,
A whatchamacallit
Fastened down with a spring.
It's just a little ol' thingamajig.

Is it tin?
No, it isn't tin.
Do it spin?
No, it doesn't spin.
It ain't tin, it don't spin,
But if you are my friend,
Please help me find that thingamajig!

UPDATE 2009/05/18: Dad says he remembers the song from back then, and that Grandma (his mom) loved it.

UPDATE 2012/01/12: Uncle Allen says this was his dad's (my Grandpa Bates's) favorite. It makes sense, since he dealt with many thingamajigs, doomaflitchets, whatchamacallits, and doodads in his line of work (electronics repair and sales -- Johnny's Electronics in Nowata).

MORE: A commenter suggests that the lyric is "Tain't no bigger than a bug is big," which makes far more sense than "bucket big."

Here's a very insightful comment by someone with the handle "innercityartisan," posted next to my column about the PLANiTULSA small-area workshop for Forest Orchard, about the way expressways and other barriers to pedestrian and auto traffic on surface streets can blight a neighborhood. It also provides a picture of living in and near downtown a generation ago. (Emphasis added.)

I was there at the meeting. And I grew up in this area in the 50's and 60's. The more I think about the idea of removing the east leg of the IDL, the more I like it!

As kids, we walked or took the bus downtown to the movies. I walked to Central H. S., my gym class played field hockey in Central Park. At noon we students ran around a very busy downtown for lunch and did all our teenage shopping in the department stores and record store. We knew all the "secret" ways to get from one building to the next and across alleys. We were at home downtown, we felt safe and in a way we were supervised by the tens of thousands of people that lived and worked in the inner city.

My grandfather, a geologist, had his office in the Mid-Continent Building. We went to parades, enjoyed the Christmas lights and explored eateries with him.

I am now involved with the Pearl District and where I grew up and work in my home between the Gunboat Parks within the IDL. I am also involved with the Brady Arts District and the East Village at 3rd and Lansing. All these areas suffer because of the "Great Divide."

As has been recognized by other more recognized writers and activists, any city area that runs up against a large "dead" tract of land such as an expressway right-of-way, with no through foot traffic, tends to die and shrivel away. Large parking lots such as those around Hillcrest Hospital or cul-de-sacs and turnarounds that stop through traffic and long chain link fences can mean blight to a neighborhood.

After all, how can your neighborhood become an area that people discover and want to visit or live in if no one ever goes into or through it? And how can you feel safe living, walking or playing with no one around to keep an eye on things?

The only people to "discover" the Brady district have come for events at Cain's and the Old Lady on Brady and most of them don't stay. The Brady area is not so "alive" with activity in many continuous storefronts that a person can feel completely safe walking alone at night. Few people live there. Visitors don't tend to stop and explore. Hopefully the Ball Stadium will increase the number of buildings and residents.

I'm concerned that the vision for the Pearl District with shops and restaurants, small grocery stores, dry cleaners etc. will not happen in development areas placed next to the IDL. This condition also effects the "East Village" or "East End" which is directly across the IDL from the Pearl district. And yet these two neighborhoods could exponentially increase, the interest, excitement and potential resources available for walking residents and visitors if they were actually more connected and accessible to each other. The existing few overpasses between these areas feel long, exposed and very windy!

Get rid of the IDL or cross it with overpasses that have buildings on them. Something that encourages people to hang out and provide a friendly safe environment.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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