October 2009 Archives

New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich traveled to Sen. Tom Coburn's Muskogee farm for a profile which appears in today's edition:

As the health care overhaul heads to the Senate floor, Mr. Coburn is preparing for what he considers a career pinnacle of havoc. Enacting the proposal, he says, would be catastrophic, and so if precedent holds, he will try to hinder it with every annoying tool in his arsenal: filing amendments (he has done that 508 times since joining the Senate, second only to John McCain's 542 in that period), undertaking filibusters and objecting strenuously.

"When it comes to obstructing bills, he is part of a very tiny pantheon in the history of the Senate," said Ross Baker, a Senate historian at Rutgers University.

To Mr. Coburn, charges of obstructionism are a mark of honor he will wear as proudly as ever in the coming weeks.

"My mission is to frame this health care debate in terms of the fiscal ruin of this country," said the 61-year-old Mr. Coburn, who recently railed on the Senate floor that the federal debt was "waterboarding" his five grandchildren. "I have instructed my staff to clear my schedule for every minute that bill is on the floor."

After inflicting migraines in Washington, Mr. Coburn goes home on weekends to Muskogee, where he treats patients on Mondays. He says he does his best thinking aboard his John Deere mower, which can run 20 miles an hour and slash through pretty much anything on his seven-acre meadow. Mr. Coburn dons earplugs, stares straight ahead and cuts a determined swath, just as he does in the Senate.

And now for the story behind the story, from Politico:

While in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Leibovich was gamely listening to Coburn coo over how much he loves mowing his fields with his beloved John Deere tractor. At the end of the interview, we hear, Coburn bravely attempted to teach the scribe just how to use his John Deere. (Apparently, it's quite the machine, with different protruding levers and what not. For clarification, please imagine the chicken scene in "Footloose.")

Leibovich, a city kid at heart hailing from the Boston suburbs, became instantly overwhelmed and in front of a photographer and the fine senator, wound up driving the tractor straight into Coburn's barn....

Coburn's office shared some more info on the whole ordeal. Spokesman John Hart explained, "In act of heroism, a New York Times reporter on a high performance John Deere tractor narrowly avoided colliding with Senator Coburn who was decapitating a water moccasin that was slithering toward his barn. The reporter instead grazed the Senator's barn, missing the Senator with room to spare. An armadillo meandering through the field was not so lucky, however."

RELATED: A vivid illustration of the rate of growth of the national debt over the last 100 years:

Some mayoral substance

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Mike Easterling has a good story on the Tulsa mayor's race in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. Former Mayor Rodger Randle described the temporal challenges the mayor faces, particularly when it comes to the community meetings that demand most of a mayor's evenings:

Randle said he often considered his attendance at events for smaller groups more important than his obligation to show up for functions thrown by bigger, better-known organizations. His rationale for that line of thinking was that most of those older, well-established civic groups in Tulsa already were secure in the knowledge that they would have a voice in how local issues are handled. Many newer, outside-the-mainstream organizations are still searching for that assurance, Randle said.

"A lot of them don't know if they're considered to be an inclusive part of the community or not," he said.

Randle's attendance at their functions often signaled to those groups that they were, and he relied on that goodwill for the support of those groups when the time came to pass a civic initiative, such as a bond issue.

"Often, your success was linked to how much those different groups felt they were part of the city," he said.

I refer you once again to the high levels of disagreement, particularly in north, east, and west Tulsa, with the statement, "City leaders in Tulsa understand my community's needs," and the high levels of agreement with the statement, "I do not feel included in the planning process. People like me are always left out."

Randle also emphasized the importance of neighborhood quality of life to the overall health of the city, and so a mayor needs to look beyond the headline issues.

The article goes on to include substantial thoughts from three of the candidates on some issues that haven't received much attention in the race to date, including PLANiTULSA and urban development. Although I haven't had the chance to speak with any of the candidates on these issues, I was pleased to see some ideas I've espoused here and elsewhere being expressed by the candidates. More on the specifics in a later post.

Tulsa Restaurant Deals

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David Christopher has started a Tulsa website making innovative use of blog software to provide information to the public. It's called Tulsa Restaurant Deals, and the site's home page announces the lofty ambition to "cover every restaurant discount deal and cheap food and drink special in Tulsa, Oklahoma":

Discover what's cheap in Tulsa tonight by browsing the list on the left - the gateway to our continually updated database of restaurant deals. You can't get this information anywhere else because we do all of the research ourselves. Whether it's breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, at a cafe, diner, pub or steakhouse, we'll get you fed for less.

The site uses tags to allow you to find deals by day of the week, by meal and time of day (e.g. happy hour and early bird deals on Wednesdays), by neighborhood, by type of food, by price, and by restaurant. There's even a category for deals exclusive to Tulsa Restaurant Deals -- right now they're featuring an exclusive deal from Joyner's Home Cooked Food.

Check it out: Tulsa Restaurant Deals at TulsaRestaurantDeals.com.

Steven Roemerman has a post up on Dewey Bartlett Jr's belated denials that he was a member of Tulsans for Better Government, the group that in 2005 unsuccessfully circulated a petition to change the Tulsa City Charter to reduce the number of City Council districts to six and add three at-large council seats to be elected citywide. The divisive proposal failed to gain enough signatures to make the ballot.

According to Roemerman, Bartlett Jr now says "that he really had no knowledge of the at-large councilor idea, that he thought he was signing up for 'one of these kind of good government uhh, let's help somebody get elected' groups."

Roemerman did some digging, speaking to two attorneys who were involved in the group. He received apparently contradictory information, with Bartlett Jr apparently saying he agreed to join the group but denying he knew it had anything to do with at-large councilors and the attorneys apparently saying that he was never on the list of advisory board members, despite the October 2005Tulsa World story and TBG website to the contrary.

I've posted a couple of comments to a thread about Roemerman's story on TulsaNow's Tulsa Forum:

I find it interesting that, like Randi Miller and Kathy Taylor, Dewey Bartlett Jr made no objection to the use of his name by Tulsans for Better Government in the fall of 2005, when the group was actively collecting signatures for their petition for the at-large councilor charter amendment and these names lent some credibility to the effort. Each of the three only claimed to have been misinformed about or unaware of the purpose of the group when they became candidates for mayor. The petition drive stalled, Mayor LaFortune appointed a citizens' commission on city government as a way to give his pals on TBG a face-saving way to terminate their faltering effort. The at-large plan received support from only a few commissioners; the final report rejected the proposal.

A Tulsa World story on October 27, 2005, focused on Tulsans for Better Government's petition drive for at-large councilors and included a list of advisory board members. Dewey Bartlett Jr's name was on the list. You'd think someone would have mentioned to Bartlett Jr that his name was in the paper in connection with a controversial proposal. Or he might have noticed that this group he was asked to join had generated some opposition.

At a mayoral forum before the primary, sponsored by the Republican Women's Club, Chris Medlock pointed out that the same group pushing non-partisan elections -- Tulsans for Better Government -- started out pushing for at-large councilors. Medlock said that Bartlett Jr had been a charter member of that group. Bartlett Jr did not speak up to deny involvement, defend his involvement, or even to say, "I have no idea what you're talking about." It's as if he hadn't yet figured out that the at-large issue and the group that pushed it were political liabilities.

Greg Bledsoe, who headed the group Tulsans Defending Democracy, has also weighed in on Bartlett Jr's denial. I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion:

For Bartlett to say what he is now saying about TBG means he really was seriously uninformed and naive in 2005 or he is not telling the truth now. Either indicates to me a serious question about his qualification to be mayor. If naive--I guess that he will follow others leads rather than decide for himself--indicating to me that the folks who formed TBG in 2005 will most likely be telling him what to sign up for in 2009.

Bledsoe also tells an anecdote which neatly encapsulates the spirit of the Money Belt that motivated the at-large councilor proposal:

The attitude of the TBG folks is best expressed by one of their principals to me at a cocktail party--"I long to return to the day when you could drive a golf ball from your front lawn and hit the lawn of every other member of the city commission."

MORE: Here's my October 26, 2005, column on the Tulsans for Better Government proposal, which explains the political context behind the at-large councilor idea. I think this was the first column in which I used the term "Money Belt," which I defined as "that band of affluence stretching from Utica Square to Southern Hills." Toward the end of the column I elaborate:

Councilors Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, and Turner are each devoted to the needs of their own constituents, but they've also worked together to ensure that the citizens of the historically neglected east, west, and north sections of our city receive the city services they are owed.

And that seems to be what really bugs the bunch behind the at-large council proposal. It's the Money Belt denizens backing this plan that tend to take a parochial view, seeing Tulsa as a small, close-knit, fabulously wealthy town centered on Utica Square. Neighborhoods like West Highlands and Garden City, Rose Dew and Wagon Wheel, Sequoyah and Suburban Acres may as well be foreign countries to them.

The quote from a TBG member that Greg Bledsoe relates reflects that same parochial attitude. The Money Belt isn't a conspiracy, it's a subculture. Its boundaries aren't precise, and not everyone within those boundaries is a part of the subculture, but its existence is reflected in election results (mayoral elections and tax initiatives alike), in mayoral appointments, and in Collective Strength's survey results from last summer.

A busy day

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How I spent my Saturday:

I slept in. I've been short on sleep all week, still haven't completely shaken this cold. I actually got 10 hours of good sleep. The downside of that is I lost some precious hours on a perfect autumn day.

My wife and older son have what I had about a week ago. Both are afflicted with what one might palindromically call the "tons o' snot" virus. My wife has a raspy voice from drainage, but otherwise isn't feeling too bad; the 13-year-old also has a fever.

I took the three-year-old with me on some errands. First, downtown to the Performing Arts Center to buy tickets for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra concert of Italian music. It's a required concert for our two older kids, as part of their music scholarship, but of course the kid with the fever won't be going. I head up Boston Ave., but it's blocked off between 4th and 5th to allow a huge crane to set up. It appears to have been involved in swapping out a massive air conditioning unit from some building's roof -- the Atlas Life building, I'd guess. The inconvenience was far outweighed by the opportunity for a three-year-old boy to look at a big piece of machinery up close.

As we walked up Boston, I pointed out the interesting animals carved into the Philcade and Kennedy buildings and the Philtower gargoyles. (I learned a lot from Ed Sharrer's downtown safari walking tour.) The ticket office was closed -- didn't open until two hours before showtime -- so we walked back to the car, then drove to the library.

We returned a rolling backpack full of books and videos, then checked out some audio books on CD and a few videos, plus a couple of books on owls for the big son's next science report. I'd have spent more time browsing, but Little Bit was getting restless.

We went to Coffee House on Cherry Street for a treat and to let me see about buying tickets online. He wanted a cream cheese brownie and a bottle of Orange Crush, except that he didn't. He drank about a third of the Orange Crush and took a few nibbles of brownie. I could buy tickets online, but two discounted $5 tickets would cost me $19.50 including "convenience charges." Seems like online tickets are as convenient for the venue as they are for the buyer, so I don't get why I need to pay $3.75 extra per ticket. I decided it would be worth it to drive back at 5:30 to buy the tickets at the box office.

We headed up the hill to the Christ the King Parish playground, which the parish allows the public to use evenings and weekends. The three-year-old decided that the equipment was a big airplane, and because there were two steering wheels, both of us had to drive at the same time.

I tried to talk him into a walk around the block to see some pretty trees and houses, but he was ready to go home and maybe play a computer game. So we did. He got to play Putt Putt Saves the Zoo, while I did laundry and waited for 5:30 to roll around.

At 5:30 (despite some teary protests) I stopped the game and loaded him in the car to get the tickets. We bumped into David White and his wife in the ticket line. David has served for many years on the Board of Adjustment; I got to know him through the Midtown Coalition. It was nice to see him again.

Back to the car with tickets in hand. The three-year-old wanted to go back to Joe Momma's Pizza, where we had dinner the night before while Mom and the two big kids went to a showing of The Wizard of Oz at their school. I said that we had some leftovers at home, but I'd drive by so he could see where it was.

(At Joe Momma's, we had played tic-tac-toe on the butcher paper tablecloth and after dinner played a few games of pinball and Asteroids. He had a non-linear definition of three-in-a-row, which worked to his advantage. There might be a 90-degree bend in the line, but it was still a line connecting his three Os.)

(He has a sense of Mid-Century Modern architecture, too. When we had passed the old First National, Liberty, Bank One, Chase Auto Bank at 7th and Cincinnati, he said it was part of the Central Library. When I said that it looked a bit like the library but it wasn't, he then claimed it used to be a library. He must hear somebody saying "that used to be..." rather a lot on drives around Tulsa.)

My wife usually goes with the kids to these concerts -- a chance to get out of the house -- but she wasn't feeling up to it, so I went with my daughter. The first two pieces, featuring oboe, were lovely, but a bit too soothing for my already tired brain. As an extra piece -- not in the program -- guest conductor David Lockington sang a monodic madrigal, Amarilli, mia bella by 16th century Florentine composer Giulio Caccini. He has a lovely voice, perfect for the type of music, a sort of recitative, and was accompanied by a harpsichord. Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1, closed out the first half. An early 20th century composer, Respighi made use of baroque and renaissance themes, as his contemporaries played with atonality. The program had a wonderful quotation from Respighi:

We are against art which cannot and does not have any human content and desires to be merely a mechanical demonstration and a cerebral puzzle.

The second half was Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony; I am almost certain that the opening movement was used by Fiat for a commercial in the '70s. (Watch this and see if it rings a bell.) It still makes me think of zipping along an Alpine road in a sporty vehicle.

Then home and a bit of a break, watching an SNL repeat from earlier in the year. The 13-year-old thought that soup would settle well, so I headed out to Reasor's for soup and a few other items. Back at home, got the food put away, dealt with some more laundry, finally got ready for bed.

And now it's taken me an hour or more to get this written, but now you know why I haven't blogged anything else today.

I was googling for a restaurant sign in an old photo of Bob Wills' tour bus, the restaurant turned out to be the Old Tascosa in Amarillo's Herring Hotel. The Herring Hotel, like Tulsa's Mayo and Oklahoma City's Skirvin, is still standing but has been closed for over 30 years, waiting for someone to bring it back to life.

My search led me to this wonderful page of Amarillo postcards, photos, and news clippings, mainly from the 1960s. I've never been to Amarillo, but the pictures still managed to inspire some nostalgia, as I saw a number of places that were familiar from Tulsa's past. For example:

  • A Zuider Zee Restaurant -- Tulsa had one on the north service road of I-44, east of Memorial Drive.
  • Woolco, a department store that would anchor Amarillo's Western Plaza Mall in 1967, just like Tulsa's Woolco at the western end of Southroads Mall, two years later.
  • A Shamrock gas station (before the shamrock leaves became diamonds)
  • A Ramada Inn neon sign, with the innkeeper and his horn -- Tulsa's was on the south I-44 service road, west of Yale
  • T. G. & Y. (5¢ TO $1.00)
  • Furr's -- here it's always been a cafeteria; in Amarillo it was a grocery chain
  • A neocolonial Borden Milk plant, just like the one that used to stand on the southwest corner of 51st and Garnett
  • Plenty of roadside hotel chains along Route 66 -- Howard Johnson and Holiday Inn
  • Local motels with cool mid-century architecture and neon
  • Restaurants with Japanese-style architecture and faux Chinese food -- chop suey and chow mein -- like Tulsa's Pagoda

Here's another page of Amarillo pix with

  • a downtown much like ours once was
  • drive-in theaters and drive-in restaurants, including a Griff's Burger Bar (ours was on 21st up the hill from Sheridan)
  • a streamline deco bus depot
  • a downtown building with a lighted tower that showed the weather forecast
  • a Downtowner Motor Inn -- ours is still standing at 4th and Cheyenne
  • Polk Street -- the main drag -- all lit up at night

From our local League of Women Voters, a chance to hear from (almost) all of our citywide candidates, on Friday, October 30, 2009:

The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa (LWVMT) and the Brookside NA will sponsor a mayoral candidate forum at All Souls Unitarian Church, 29th and Peoria, at 6 p.m. on Friday, 10/30. Tom Adelson, Dewey Bartlett and Mark Perkins have agreed to participate. This will be followed by an Auditor Candidate forum at 7 p.m. Note that this may be the only time during this campaign when citizens will have the opportunity to listen to (and pose questions to) the two candidates for City Auditor.

The two candidates for City Auditor are 21-year incumbent Democrat Phil Wood and Republican challenger Preston Doerflinger.

The LWV Tulsa calendar lists some other mayoral forums that the organization is co-sponsoring:

  • October 26, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m., Clinton Middle School, cosponsored with the Tulsa County News (the weekly paper for southwest Tulsa)
  • October 27, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m., Cox Communications, broadcast live on Cable Channel 3
  • October 28, 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • October 30, 12 noon - 1:00 p.m., Aaronson Auditorium, Tulsa Central Library, with Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry and Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice

You have likely heard about the lawsuit by abortion advocates seeking to halt implementation of Oklahoma's newly enacted abortion reporting legislation, due to go into effect on November 1, 2009. Here is a news release from Oklahomans for Life debunking a number of claims made in the lawsuit:

NEW OKLAHOMA ABORTION-REPORTING LAW DESIGNED TO HELP WOMEN Abortion advocates, news accounts misrepresent law

TULSA - Abortion advocates, aided by several recent news accounts, continue to misrepresent a new Oklahoma law strengthening abortion reporting in the state. The Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, set to go into effect on November 1, 2009, was passed by large majorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Brad Henry in May. It is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Abortion advocates either don't understand - or else are intentionally misrepresenting - Oklahoma's new abortion-reporting law," said Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans For Life. "It is not true, as alleged, that reports about individual women's abortions will be posted online, nor will reports about individual abortions contain personal identifying information: no name, no address, no hometown, no county of residence, no patient ID number. To say otherwise is clearly false and misleads the public."

The Center for Reproductive Rights has persistently misrepresented the Oklahoma law, claiming that it requires doctors to provide information about where women live. These assertions are absolutely false.

As written, the new law requires that a report for each abortion be sent to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The questionnaire gathers demographic information including age, race, marital status and educational level and gathers information on the method of abortion used. Numerous states have similar reporting requirements, and the abortion industry collects and publishes similar information through annual surveys by the Guttmacher Institute (formerly the research arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America).

The new reporting form also asks for the reason the abortion is being sought. The reasons for the abortion listed on the questionnaire are adapted from the September 2005 report, "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health by the Guttmacher Institute.

Contrary to claims of abortion activists, the new law actually protects a woman's privacy more extensively than current Oklahoma law. The current reporting form asks for the woman's county of residence. The new law, however, repeals the existing law and any identifying residential information has been eliminated in the new reporting form.

Reports gathered in Oklahoma's three abortion facilities would be submitted on a monthly basis to the Department of Health which will "ensure the security" of the reports. Further, reports may be "accessed only by specially authorized departmental personnel" who will not be able to identify the woman or know in which of Oklahoma's 77 counties she lives. The Department of Health will then produce an annual statistical analysis of the demographic information. Individual abortion reports will not be published.

"It is hoped that the information gathered will make it possible in the future to address some of the underlying societal problems, such as absence of child support or lack of childcare, which lead some women to seek abortions." Lauinger noted.

Abortion complications will also be reported under the new law. Abortion advocates frequently refer to abortion as being "safe, legal, and rare." However, very little data exist regarding abortion complications. When a lawsuit is filed over a botched abortion, there is typically an out-of-court settlement, so there is very little statistical data about the extent of the damage that abortion inflicts on women.

"Abortion is the most under-regulated, under-investigated, and under-researched procedure done on American women today, yet it is the most common and most potentially dangerous to their health and well-being," noted National Right to Life Director of State Legislation Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., in a September 29 release. "If a state can get a handle on the reasons women have abortions, it can lead to better programs that will make it easier for women to have their children rather than resort to abortion."

"Reducing the number of abortions is a goal that even abortion advocates claim to support. This legislation could help achieve that objective by identifying the problems that lead Oklahoma women to seek abortions. Important public-health benefits will be achieved by Oklahoma's Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act," Lauinger added.

The text of the law is available here: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10bills/HB/HB1595_ENR.RTF.

The case is Davis v. W.A. Drew Edmondson.

Oklahomans For Life is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. The National Right to Life Committee, the nation's largest pro-life group, is a federation of affiliates in all 50 states and 3,000 local chapters nationwide.

# # #

I spent the last half of last week and all weekend at home dealing with a particularly nasty virus, and in the process missed a family gathering in Arkansas and what must have been an interesting political discussion. To compensate for the abnormal quiet in the house, I had the TV going all night, with the History Channel running endless repeats of an interesting two-hour documentary on the JFK assassination. I caught bits and pieces of it every time a coughing fit woke me up.

So nothing new from me, but here are some recent Tulsa blog entries of interest:

Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton has the memo from Mayor Kathy Taylor announcing that September sales tax revenue is $1.2 million below her budget projections with this comment:

The numbers vindicate Councilor Bill Martinson's prediction that the Mayor's numbers were overly optimistic and would leave the incoming mayor and council with difficult budget choices.

Eagleton also was quoted in a story on the city's budget problems in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, reminding of his spurned efforts in earlier years to rein in spending increases to core inflation:

In 2006, he said, the economy was good, and sales tax receipts were high.

"And we spent every penny we earned," he said. "We gave raises all around that are now baked into the cake. So, it becomes harder and harder every time, with each budget cycle downturn, to meet our budget."

Eagleton favors a budget process based on the core inflation rate that sets aside revenue for the inevitable downturns of the future. Some smaller sacrifices today can help the city avoid having to make what he calls the "Draconian cuts" required in the current budget.

"If we had done that in 2007 and 2008, yes, we would still have to trim the edges, but we wouldn't have the eight furlough days we did have," he said.

Despite Tulsa's budget crisis, Meeciteewurkor reports that some city workers in the Human Resources Department may have received $2500 bonuses for "superb" participation in a city-run training program. The head of the local municipal employees' union says the interim HR director verbally confirmed that the "stipends" were paid and has submitted an open records request seeking written confirmation.

Fear an Iarthair offers some thoughts on Bible translations and reminds that the original preface to the King James Version "advised the reader to read the Scriptures in several translations."

Historic Tulsa has an entry on the Dawson schoolhouse, built in 1908, one of the few (perhaps only) Romanesque structures remaining in Tulsa.

PR consultant Mandy Vavrinak is now blogging on public relations for the Journal Record. According to a press release announcing the blog:

Vavrinak will anchor the newly-launched PR blog, dubbed "Public Relations > Beyond The Press Release" and will focus on the reality of good public relations.

"I want to share solid how-to info for businesses as well as stories from the trenches, good examples and bad examples, and also be a resource for PR information," Vavrinak said. The PR blog will feature contributions from other area PR pros as well, including Kristen Turley, an active member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). New posts will be appearing weekly, and comments are encouraged.

Finally, please keep Brandon Dutcher's newborn daughter Anne Marie in your prayers (and her parents, siblings, and doctors, too).

Roscoe_driller-sm.jpgYou may feel that there's no hope for a decent outcome in the Tulsa mayor's race, but there's still a chance to elect more proactive, independent-minded, taxpayer-friendly, and neighborhood-friendly city councilors. Two of the key races are in Districts 3 and 6, where two former incumbents with grassroots backing are trying to unseat the current councilors, who enjoy heavy funding from out-of-district interests.

Phone calls and door-knocking by grassroots volunteers can help make up for a lack of funds, but only to a point. A candidate still needs to send mail to ensure that his message gets to every voter in the district. Printing and mailing a postcard can cost as much as $1 each.

Roscoe Turner, running in District 3, has a PayPal account set up to make it easy to donate. Just click the button below to start the process. You can donate with any major credit card or with your PayPal account.

If you'd rather write a check, make it payable to

Roscoe Turner Campaign
3415 E. Haskell St.
Tulsa, OK 74115

JamesMautino.jpgIt's a bit more work to contribute to Jim Mautino, running to regain his seat in District 6, but it's worth the effort. Make checks payable to Friends of James Mautino for District 6 Councilor and mail them or drop them off at this address:

Friends of James Mautino for District 6 Councilor
14628 E. 12th St.
Tulsa, OK 74108

If you mail a check, call the candidate to let him know. It will help him plan end-of-campaign activities if he knows how much money will be coming in. Here are the phone numbers

Roscoe Turner: 918-834-7580
Jim Mautino: 918-437-2642

And both candidates could still use your help knocking on doors, handing out flyers, and making phone calls. It looks like it'll be a great weekend for walking neighborhoods. Call them at the numbers above to ask how you can help.

100px-Seal_of_Tulsa,_OK.pngThe City of Tulsa's website presents the City Charter in PDF format, which makes it hard to link to a specific provision and hard to cut and paste text. Beau McElhattan has posted the Tulsa City Charter and the City of Tulsa Policies and Procedures online in HTML format, with one page for each section. Check it out!

WestTulsaGomez.jpgIf you've read BatesLine long, you'll know that I'm fascinated with forgotten bits of local history, such as the history of Greenwood between the 1921 destruction and rebuilding and its second destruction by urban renewal in the early '70s. It's wonderful to see old photos and to read reminiscences that help bring a long-gone locale back to life in the reader's imagination.

In 2007, Cecil Gomez published a book about West Tulsa, the small town wedged in between the Arkansas River, the Cosden (later Mid-Continent, D-X, Sun, and now Holly) Refinery and the Texaco (now Sinclair) Refinery. West Tulsa had its own main street and its own neighborhood schools, churches, and shops. It sat on the Oklahoma Union interurban line linking downtown Tulsa with Sapulpa (the railroad lives on as the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union line).

Gomez grew up in a Mexican neighborhood called the "Y", a cluster of 11 railroad workers' homes surrounded by the Santa Fe and Frisco railroad tracks, just northeast of 21st and Union. In 1996, Gomez published a memoir of his life growing up in such surroundings with his parents and 11 brothers and sisters.

Gomez's book, West Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1939, Before and After: The Greatest Little American Town (That Once Was), expands on those memories to cover the little town across the tracks, and Gomez draws on the memories of other early day residents to accompany historic photos, some that he has collected, some from the Beryl Ford Collection. A couple of chapters are devoted to the destruction wrought by urban renewal in the mid-1960s, which went beyond merely removing out the less desirable housing to wipe out nearly all of the commercial district as well. The close-knit community was dispersed, and a few churches are about all that remain from West Tulsa's heyday.

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

I was pleased to see that Gomez makes use of the 1939 Polk Directory to pinpoint the locations of the businesses and residents of the day and includes excerpts from the directory in an appendix to the book.

Steve's Sundry at 26th and Harvard has several copies of the book, and you can also buy the book directly through Gomez's website. It would make a great gift for anyone interested in Tulsa history whether they have a connection to West Tulsa or not. (Hint, hint.)

Congratulations and thanks to Cecil Gomez for documenting the history of this forgotten town.

Calling in sick

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I've got what's going around -- not flu, I don't think, but bad enough to have trouble sleeping. There won't be anything from me tonight, but I encourage you to check out the good reading on BatesLine's Tulsa headlines page, including a salute to Guinness from McNellie's founder Elliot Nelson. (It really is good for you.)

Stay healthy.

The Pearl District Association is hosting a forum featuring the two candidates for Tulsa City Council District 4: Eric Gomez, the incumbent, and Maria Barnes, the previous incumbent. If you're particularly concerned about land use planning, zoning, urban revitalization, and neighborhoods, this is the forum to attend, as the Pearl District audience asks great questions. Here's my column about the 2008 forum, featuring the same two candidates, and here's the audio from last year.

The forum is tonight from 6:00 to 7:30, at "The Boathouse" -- the Central Center at Centennial Park, 1028 E. 6th St. (just a bit west of Peoria).

I have put together a very crude map showing the variation by precinct in the results in last month's Republican primary for Mayor of Tulsa. The base map is from the University of Oklahoma Center for Spatial Analysis. I added dots, using colors to indicate Dewey Bartlett Jr's share of the vote in each precinct: Under 40%, 40%-49%, 50-59%, 60-69%, 70% and over. Because percentages get strange with small numbers of votes, I didn't map precincts with less than 25 voters. The file is a PDF, 1.7 MB.

I'd love to have the GIS tools to show shaded precinct areas or shaded circles of a size proportionate to the number of votes, automagically driven by the numbers in a database, but for now you'll have to make do with this handcrafted map.

2009TulsaGOPPrimary.png

Do you see a familiar pattern?

MORE: A 1998 Tulsa World story showed a similar pattern in the home addresses of then-Mayor Susan Savage's appointees to city authorities, boards, and commissions:

The World study found that 73 of Savage's current board appointments, or 58 percent, live in Districts 8 and 9, areas that generally cover the south and southeastern parts of the city.

While midtown and southside make up the bulk of Savage's appointments, just 16 of the 127 Savage appointments, 12 percent, live in the north and east sides of town.

Fifty-five Savage appointees, or 43 percent of the total, live within two miles of her Maple Ridge residence [18th and Owasso]....

The story indicated that District 9 had 53 appointees, District 8 had 20, District 2 and 4 had 15 appointees each, District 1 and 7 had 8 each, District 3 had 4, District 5 and 6 had 2 apiece. Unfortunately, the map that accompanied the story is not on the web, but it shows that nearly all of the District 4 appointees came from the far western part of the district (near Savage's home), and nearly all of the District 2 appointees lived in Precincts 46 and 47, midtown precincts that were moved to District 4 in the 2001 redistricting.

Last Tuesday, I received an e-mail from the Tulsa County Republican Party with the title "An Open Letter to All Republicans from Dewey Bartlett Jr." The introduction says the letter is "the outcome of meetings between the [Tulsa County Republican Party] elected officials and the Bartlett [Jr] campaign officials," which calls into question whether Bartlett Jr himself was involved in the composition of this letter, although presumably he signed it.

Attached below the Bartlett Jr statement was a note that Bartlett Jr had finally signed a pledge opposing non-partisan elections, which puts him at odds with his friends at Tulsans for Better Government, who circulated the charter change petition, and the Tulsa World editorial board.

RepublicansForKathy-DeweyBartlettJr.jpgReading between the lines, it appears that Republican Party officials used the leverage of their endorsement to get Bartlett Jr on the record on matters of conservative principle, with hopes that they can hold him to this statement on specific issues. While the endorsement of party officials is normally automatic for the winner of the Republican primary, this year we have a nominee who had already endorsed the Democratic incumbent for re-election. I think it's fair to say that the only Republican Bartlett Jr would have endorsed for mayor is Bartlett Jr.

I have heard that county party officials have been under relentless pressure to issue an endorsement, and this statement gives them a pretext for changing course. Unfortunately, several of his statements don't square with his recent public record, and others are ambiguous enough that he could adhere to the letter of the agreement while violating its spirit.

You can read the entire statement at Roemerman on Record. Here are a few of the items that either run contrary to Bartlett Jr's record or need more specificity:

Public Safety: Strong public safety is my first priority. I will hire more police to combat crime with existing revenue streams. I will collaborate with Sheriff Stanley Glanz to be sure we are fighting crime with all means and resources necessary. I believe in enforcement and punishment, not the latest social program to treat criminals. Any increases in the police and fire budgets will go to protecting Tulsans or fighting crime.

Collaborating with the sheriff makes sense on most issues, but there are times -- the jail contract, for example -- when the sheriff's interests and the city's interests don't line up, and at those times, city elected officials have to look out for the interests of the citizens who elected them.

I'd like to know whether Bartlett Jr will support 287(g) certification for the Tulsa Police Department. I'd also like to know whether Bartlett Jr agrees with Councilor Bill Martinson that public safety's growing share of the city's general fund budget is cause for concern. I'd like to know from all the mayoral candidates: Where were you when this issue was before the City Council back in June?

Taxes: I pledge not to raise our taxes. Taxes should always remain low, and now more than ever we simply cannot raise taxes.

This promise doesn't square with Bartlett Jr's vote last June, as a member of the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT), to raise our property taxes by agreeing to an unjust $7.1 million settlement with Bank of Oklahoma in the Great Plains Airlines lawsuit. Had he voted against it and persuaded two of his fellow trustees to join him in opposition, the settlement would have failed, the legal process would have moved ahead, with the possibility that the parties responsible for the GPA disaster would be held accountable legally, financially, and politically. Instead, he praised the tax hike, praised Kathy Taylor for coming up with the scheme, voted for it, and then endorsed Kathy Taylor for re-election. When he personally had the power to stop a tax increase, Dewey Bartlett Jr supported and praised the tax increase.

Bartlett Jr's promise leaves a lot of wiggle room. He can propose putting a tax increase before city voters on the grounds that he wants to give the voters a chance to decide whether to raise their taxes. When Tulsa County comes back with a 4-to-Fix sales tax renewal (which would now raise the overall tax rate, since the City of Tulsa's streets tax in the same amount will go into effect when 4-to-Fix expires) or another stab at the river tax, Bartlett Jr can endorse it without literally breaking his promise.

As we've noted before, putting a tax increase before the voters is not a neutral act. Tax votes are expensive: Expensive for the county election board, expensive for the proponents, and expensive and time consuming for the opponents. Those interests that will benefit financially from the tax hike will pour money into supporting its passage, while opponents will struggle to raise 1% of the money to get their message out. It's a classic case of concentrated benefits vs. diffuse costs.

A meaningful promise would have been to veto any council resolution for an election that would raise the overall rate of taxation on Tulsa taxpayers and to oppose publicly and energetically any attempt by other jurisdictions (e.g. Tulsa County) to raise the overall sales tax rate.

Tom Adelson has actually voted for significant state tax cuts on several occasions, including the one that was finally passed in 2006 -- yes, that's the year he and other Democratic state senators got ticked off at Gov. Brad Henry for going behind their backs to cut a deal with House Republicans.

Bartlett Jr never has, as far as I am aware, ever opposed a local tax increase, and that alone makes Bartlett Jr's promise ring hollow. (Neither Adelson nor Mark Perkins has ever opposed a local tax increase either, as far as I know.)

And as Dan Hicks has noted, tax increases have an easier time passing when Republicans are in office. That's because the local Republican Party leadership will energetically oppose a tax increase pushed by a Democrat, but when the tax backers are Republican officials, some party leaders believe the party organization must back the elected officials at all costs. The Tulsa County Republican Executive Committee voiced opposition to two attempts to raise the city sales tax to build a downtown arena, in 1997 and 2000. That was when Democrat Susan Savage was mayor. But when Republican Bill LaFortune was mayor and two of the three county commissioners were Republicans, the Executive Committee did not take an official stance on what was a much larger tax increase than the two that the party leadership had officially opposed.

Last week's Tulsa Beacon had a front-page story about Bartlett Jr's pledge not to raise taxes, but the same story notes that he's been endorsed by Tulsa County Commissioners Fred Perry and John Smaligo. As a Republican legislator, Perry had taken the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes," as a County Commissioner Smaligo stated, "The commissioners believe in solid conservative economic principles that when you raise taxes, you hamper commerce and industry," and yet they both voted to put the Tulsa County River Tax on the ballot. Both of them justified their decision to put the tax on the ballot as giving the voters the chance to decide.

Fiscal Restraint: I will manage the budget, making sure we cut unnecessary spending. I will utilize internal and external audits to find out where we can reduce the size and waste in our government.

That's great, but I'd like to know how Bartlett Jr reconciles that position his endorsement of Kathy Taylor, who rejected efforts by fiscal conservatives like John Eagleton who was working long before the economic downturn to keep the growth of the city budget within the rate of inflation. Had Eagleton been successful, the current budget crisis would be considerably less painfull.

"One Tulsa": We cannot ignore any part of town. We must improve our entire city and be sure that each part has proper investment and service. I will work with, not against, the city councilors to achieve this goal.

This promise doesn't square with Bartlett Jr's endorsement, as a member of Tulsans for Better Government, for a proposal to reduce the number of City Council districts from 9 to 6, and to add three at-large City Council seats that would be elected citywide.

Nearly all the members of Tulsans for Better Government were District 9 residents. The proposal would almost certainly have resulted in three more Midtown Money Belt denizens on the council at the expense of representation north, east, and west Tulsa. Winning an at-large seat would require significant resources, and the larger districts would make it harder for grassroots candidates to compete and win. West Tulsa, already just barely providing one half of the population of Council District 2, would have been reduced to a third of a district, easily ignored at election time.

Had this plan, endorsed by Bartlett Jr, been enacted, it would have made it harder for the entire city to have its voice heard and for districts beyond Midtown to have their needs and priorities considered.

Bartlett Jr's promise to work with the city councilors also doesn't square with his clear statement of disrespect in his announcement speech, with its reference to "partisan bickering."

Pro-Life: I am 100 percent against abortion. We need to encourage our faith communities to continue to help pregnant women cope with the challenges of motherhood and eliminate this terrible practice. I also support the efforts of others, such as Catholic charities, in their fight to stop abortion.

That's commendable, and I am unaware of anything contradictory in Bartlett Jr's record. It's an important issue to me and to most conservative Tulsans, whatever their party registration. Adelson has consistently voted against key pro-life legislation aimed at increasing respect for the sanctity of human life and reducing the number of abortions in Oklahoma. Adelson's consistent pro-abortion position will make it very hard for Republicans dissatisfied with Bartlett Jr to split their tickets in Adelson's favor.

There is a question, however, that I wish Bartlett Jr had addressed, dealing with the mayor's actual powers and prerogatives dealing with pro-life issues: Will you, as mayor, veto any attempt to provide funding through the city to Planned Parenthood or any other organization that performs abortions, makes abortion referrals, or advocates for abortion rights?

In the 1990s Planned Parenthood sought CDBG funding for their clinic. That's federal money allocated by local governments. Although the Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma does not perform abortions in Tulsa, they do refer patients to abortion clinics, they lobby against pro-life legislation in Oklahoma City, and their Arkansas clinics provide abortion services. Money is fungible, and city funds for one of their more legitimate functions frees up donated money for their pro-abortion activities.

Second Amendment: I personally keep and bear arms. This right is a city issue, contrary to what some liberals might say. I will not support limiting our Second Amendment right.

This promise doesn't square with Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Kathy Taylor, who joined the Mayor's Coalition against Illegal Guns, a group founded by liberal mayors with the aim of repealing the Tiahrt Amendment. Bartlett Jr was proud to support Taylor's re-election and, as far as I can find, never protested her participation in this anti-gun-rights group.

The National Rifle Association's political wing has endorsed Tom Adelson for Mayor, on the strength of his pro-gun-rights voting record in the State Senate.

Property Rights: I support property rights of the individual from eminent domain abuse. People are allowed to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this county and I will stand behind individual property rights which are so essential to this principal [sic].

Eminent domain abuse is in the eye of the beholder. I'd have liked some specifics: Will you veto any ordinance or resolution that authorizes eminent domain for private redevelopment? Was the City right to use its power of eminent domain to clear land for TU's new grand entrance on 11th Street?

Signing on to a statement of vague principles is easy. Bartlett Jr's recent record has enough worrisome aspects that Republican voters should insist on specific commitments before jumping on the Bartlett bandwagon.

Some time ago, Steven Roemerman sent a set of questions to all incumbent councilors to get their opinion on high speed rail, whether Tulsa needs it and how it should be funded. So far three have responded: District 2's Rick Westcott, who was reelected with a primary victory, District 9's G. T. Bynum, who faces perennial candidate Roger Lowry in the general election, and District 6's Dennis Troyer, who faces Jim Mautino, the former councilor he beat in 2006.

Dennis Troyer's responses to Roemerman's questions were almost incomprehensible, but Roemerman generously gave the councilor a chance to revise and extend his remarks. Instead of improving on his first answer, Troyer opted to send a second response as strange as the first.

You'll have to read Troyer's words for yourself, but it appears that Troyer wants to get rid of the Third Penny sales tax as a way of funding high-speed rail. (I don't get it either.)

Roemerman also gave Jim Mautino the chance to respond. The contrast is striking: Mautino's responses are thoughtful, concisely stated, and grounded in principle. I especially liked this point:

Successful rail systems rely on connections to high density population areas with strong urban Public Transportation Systems.

Mautino has traveled widely, including time in Europe and larger U. S. cities. When you take an inter-city train in Europe, the whole journey can be car-free because the stations are in major centers of activity, and there are public transit systems (bus, rail, or a combination) to connect the main-line stations to many other places in the city.

That's not the case in most of the U. S. Using a downtown-to-downtown rail link for a typical trip between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, you'd need to drive downtown, find parking, and then find a rental car on the other end to take you to your destination. Assuming the rail trip itself can be cut to an hour, there's still the added overhead of getting from your point of origin to the train network and from the train network to your real destination. It's almost always going to be faster to drive point-to-point, no matter how fast the train goes.

I also appreciate Mautino's clear position on new or higher taxes -- no -- and his clear position on priorities -- streets, public safety, education.

I might be inclined to dismiss Troyer's disorganized and unprofessional response, except that it is characteristic of his service as a councilor. Just as it would be inappropriate to wear Crocs to a formal occasion, It's inappropriate for public figure to send out a sloppy and barely considered response to a media inquiry. In fact, Troyer wears Crocs to city council meetings, but he appears to leave his thinking cap at home.

Jim Mautino's term as councilor was the only time in the history of the City Council that District 6 has had real representation -- someone there to look after the interests of far east Tulsa residents at City Hall. Mautino took time to research issues, drawing on his experience as an American Airlines maintenance instructor, quality assurance auditor, and neighborhood leader to come to a conclusion and to advocate for his conclusion in council debates.

Troyer, meanwhile, has been a rubber stamp for the mayor's office, developers, and unions. Troyer has been happy to support the continued trashing of Tulsa's front door -- I-44 between 193rd East Ave and 145th East Ave.

JamesMautino.jpgMautino not only looked out for his district's interests during his two years in office, he also worked with other councilors on strategic issues affecting the entire city. One example: Mautino pushed for sewer service to an industrial area that wasn't served by city sewer. The move allowed for further development and job growth in the City of Tulsa. Mautino was also a strong advocate for new retail within city boundaries to help generate more sales tax revenue.

I urge you to vote for Jim Mautino if you live in District 6, ask your friends in the district to vote for him, and donate and volunteer for his campaign. District 6 needs him, and so does the rest of Tulsa.

A new documentary on the state of public education in America opens in theaters today. The Cartel takes a close look at the disconnect between how much taxpayers spend and the results we see. For more info, read my latest post at Choice Remarks, the blog of Oklahomans for School Choice.

Too tired and on the verge of getting sick, so no actual writing tonight, but here are a few links of interest from hither and yon:

Steve Lackmeyer raises a concern for "Lost Bricktown," the part of Oklahoma City's warehouse district west of the Santa Fe tracks that escaped 1960s urban renewal. These surviving buildings may be doomed by Core to Shore, and these most vulnerable buildings are slated to be the last to be covered by a historical survey of downtown architecture and may be gone by the time the survey gets around to them. Pictures here.

Chicago-based blogger Anne Leary, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year's RNC, had an interesting encounter with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist and pal of Barack Obama, at the Starbucks at Reagan National Airport. Apparently prompted by Anne's statement that she was a conservative blogger, Ayers told her that he wrote Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama's autobiography, at Michelle Obama's request. In a more recent post she rounds up some of the reaction. Was he pulling her leg? Christopher Andersen's new book on the Obamas' marriage reports that Ayers took Obama's notes and tapes and turned them into the book.

Tulsa Chigger offers a platform for public education reform in Tulsa and salutes the announcement that charter school founder Janet Barresi is running for State Superintendent.

Ephemeral Isle has a birthday salute to Le Corbusier. And there's a link to this interesting BBC story on how central heating has changed family life, not necessarily for the better.

Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, has a mayor named Peter Davies who ran on an anti-political-correctness platform. He is canceling funding for the gay rights parade ("I don't see why council taxpayers should pay to celebrate anyone's sexuality"), ended the town's sister cities relationships ("just for people to fly off and have a binge at the council's expense"), asked to reduce the number of councilors from 63 to 21, saving £800,000 a year, got rid of the mayoral limousine, cut his own salary by more than half, and cut council tax by 3 percent. All that in his first week in office. (The Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster has just under 300,000 residents, somewhat smaller than the City of Tulsa.) By the way, Doncaster uses a limited form of instant runoff voting that has voters mark their second preference. If no candidate receives a majority all but the top two candidates are eliminated and their votes redistributed according to second preference. Not the ideal, but better than no runoff at all. Telegraph blogger Gerald Warner writes of Davies:

Davies, the father of Tory MP Philip Davies, is one of just 11 directly elected mayors and he is enjoying increasing media exposure because of his outrageous agenda which, against all the tenets of consensual British politics, consists of doing what the public wants.

You may be feeling disorientated, overcome by a surreal sensation, on hearing such extraordinary, unprecedented views. They are the almost forgotten, forcibly extinguished voice of sanity which most people had thought forever excised from British politics. These policies are common sense, which is something we have not experienced in any council chamber, still less the House of Commons, in decades. The establishment is moving heaven and earth to discredit and obstruct Davies. He is that ultimate embarrassment: the boy who reveals that the Emperor has no clothes.

Michael Palin, the incoming president of the Royal Geographical Society, spoke out in support of strengthening geography as an academic subject in the latest issue of Geographical, the society's magazine, according to a story in the Daily Mail:

ptp_101_01_l.jpg'It's a subject that still seems to be neglected,' he said.

'It's seen as a slightly nerdy subject, and I can't really begin to think why when you look at what's happening in the world.

'Whether it's endemics, terrorism, or global warming, knowing the geography is so vitally important. I want to overcome the feeling that geography isn't really a serious subject, or a subject you should choose to study - and say that it's the subject you ought to choose.'

In the same article, Palin said it was time for Britain to stop apologizing for the British Empire:

The TV star said: 'If we say that all of our past involvement with the world was bad and wicked and wrong, I think we're doing ourselves a great disservice.

'It has set up lines of communication between people that are still very strong.

'We still have links with other countries - culturally, politically and socially - that, perhaps, we shouldn't forget.'

(If the name seems familiar, you might recall Mr. Palin's role in a TV series that first aired 40 years ago this week. It seems to me that much of Monty Python's humor reflects the rigorous instruction in history, geography, and literature that Britons of Palin's generation received.)

(UPDATE: Just rediscovered where I found this story linked -- belated hat tip to Violins and Starships.)

Geography as a separate school subject had disappeared by the time I came along, having been replaced by "Social Studies," which mushed together a lot of related disciplines, teaching none of them well. (On the other hand, we had some great history classes, including Frank B. Ward's 7th grade American History and the U. S. Constitution test that you had to take over and over again until you achieved proficiency.)

One of the things I love about my oldest son's homeschool curriculum is the emphasis on learning the world map. Each week he has to learn a new continent or region -- it's South America this week; last week was Central America and the Antilles -- drawing the map freehand and labeling it with countries and capitals four times over the course of the week. The beginning of the course covered the US, with rivers and mountains along with states and capitals. He had to learn to draw Canada's provinces and territories as well. By the end of the class, he should be able to find any country on a map, and he'll have geographical hooks on which to hang information he picks up in news stories, history books, and fiction. Those geographical hooks will complement the chronological pegs he established by memorizing the timeline from the Veritas history cards. Without memorizing places, names, and dates, how can anyone organize the other facts one learns about the world?

Meanwhile, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service alumni are appalled at the watering down of a traditional subject called Map of the Modern World. The challenging course walked students through the evolution of political boundaries from the Napoleonic upheaval to the present day. The revamped course will include lectures on plate tectonics and global climate change and will emphasize physical geography over political geography. The course is considered a rite of passage for Georgetown SFS students, compared by this alumnus to a "boot camp":

In an earlier post on geography, I mentioned a course I took at Georgetown called "Map of the Modern World", a 1-credit boot camp of world geography and geopolitics. As a student at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service (SFS) I had to take this course as a graduation requirement-since the qualification exam rendered me, in Professor Pirtle's thundrous voice, "geographically ignorant." Even though it was a killer for a one-credit course, it was one of the most rewarding courses I took. I know of no other university that has a geography course that even comes close.

Yet, just as it does in the world of education, the "boutique" theories seem to be adopted by administrators as if they were flavors of the month. Such is the case at SFS, where the new dean, James Reardon-Anderson, wants to take over the course personally. Instead of the classic geopolitical survey that each student in the SFS has received (gratefully) for decades, Reardon-Anderson plans to restructure the course as a study of geographic forces and human interactions. The grit-and-grind of the Mercator map is replaced by the soft Venn diagrams of interactions, encounters and relationships.

The change has inspired a Facebook group called Take Back Map of the Modern World, which offers the catalog descriptions of the old and new versions:

Faculty: Keith Hrebenak

This one-credit-hour course is designed to provide you with regional overviews of the evolution of the world political map since 1800. The objective of this course is to enhance your basic working knowledge of the political map of the modern world as a first step in understanding world events and international relations. The method of instruction
will be lectures supported by a heavy dose of maps and short outside readings. The lectures will focus on the evolution of the modern political map of each region and on major nationalist, ethnic, boundary, and territorial conflicts and tension areas.

Faculty: James Reardon-Anderson

This one-credit course is designed to provide basic knowledge of the physical and political geography of the world. Weekly lectures cover the fundamental forces that shape the physical geography and the effects of physical geography on human behavior in ten regions of the world. The final exam covers information presented in the lectures,
the location and capitals of contemporary states, and the identification of major geographical features. The final examination is multiple choice and graded pass-fail. The course is required for graduation from the School of Foreign Service.

Since Georgetown's School of Foreign Service provides the United States with many of our career diplomatic leaders, I hope the school reverses course and again includes a rigorous political geography course as a core requirement. Better still, let's restore geography as one of the basic "grammars" to be learned by young school children, alongside parts of speech, spelling rules, and multiplication tables.

(Note: The photo above is from the photo section of Michael Palin's travel website.)

Wearing Irlen lenses during Tulsa Boy Singers spring 2009 concertIrlen Syndrome, also known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome. There's an informational meeting tonight, Monday, October 5, 2009, at 7 p.m., at the La Quinta Tulsa Airport, east of Sheridan on the south side of I-244, presented by Catherine Barnes, an Irlen diagnostician. To make a reservation or for more information, contact Mrs. Barnes at 859-489-7773.

Our oldest son has been helped immensely by Irlen filters. His fourth grade year at Regent was the school's first in the old Higher Dimensions facility. The walls were painted bright white, the fluorescent lights were very bright, and there was sunlight, too. The combination gave him severe headaches, and there were many days when he had to come home early. He loved to read, but he preferred to do so in dim light. (Of course, we wouldn't let him read in the dark because it was bad for his eyes.) Grid paper and sheet music were particularly problematic for him.

He had a number of medical and ophthalmological tests, including an MRI, trying to figure out the source of the headaches. Everything appeared to be normal. Contrary to occasional parental suspicions, there was something between his ears. :)

Wearing Irlen lenses and a FedoraMy wife remembered that her sister had had trouble filling in the bubbles on standardized tests, and that the use of a translucent pink overlay sheet had helped immensely. My wife found out about the Irlen Institute started working with a diagnostician to find a color that would help him. A dark shade of purple seemed to work best, and so he began using purple overlays to read text and to photocopy assignments and music onto purple paper. Wearing hats helped, too, by shading his eyes. (Hats have become his trademark.)

After finding a tint that seemed to work, he was fitted for glasses with Irlen filter lenses -- no optical correction, just tint. Direct light leaking around the sides continued to be a problem, so we found some wraparound frames that keep the stray light out. He doesn't need them all the time, but they're a must for working with music or doing schoolwork.

What's happening here is a visual processing problem that's aggravated by certain parts of the visible spectrum. The problem is not in the eyes -- it's not optical in nature -- but in the visual processing portion of the brain. Filtering out the offending wavelengths makes the letters look to him they way they do to the rest of us. He no longer has to strain to read and write, and the headaches have gone away.

Irlen lenses have been helpful to people with dyslexia, other reading problems, writing difficulties, and headaches related to bright light. If you've had these sorts of problems or know someone who has, visit the Irlen Institute website to learn more, and, if you can, come to tonight's informational session at the Tulsa Airport La Quinta, 123 N. 67th East Ave.

MORE: Here's an ABC News video about Irlen.

And this Salt Lake City news report shows some examples of ways black on white text appears to Irlen syndrome sufferers:

STILL MORE: This critical blog entry attacking Irlen lenses drew many testimonials from people who have benefited from using colored lenses and overlays and from parents of those who have benefited. As several responses point out, Irlen lenses don't cure dyslexia, but they remove a significant barrier to learning to read -- words seeming to shift, whirl, dance, blur, or fade from the page. In my son's case, he has never had difficulty reading fluently and voraciously, as long as he could read in subdued light.

Yet another linkfest: I washed, dried, folded, and distributed seven loads of laundry yesterday, so I'm lagging behind. Meanwhile, Tulsa area bloggers are turning out plenty worth reading.

In a post titled, "Why I am a Republican," Man of the West relates the evolution of his political philosophy, having started out as a Ayn Rand-inspired Libertarian, then moving to a conservative perspective under the influence of the Bible and writers like Francis Schaeffer. He had been registered as an independent, but "In registering Independent, I began to see, I, and other conservatives like me, were actually making it easier for the Republican Party to continue its slide into political and philosophical incoherence." He came to see the Republican Party as the only hope for promoting and electing officials who would pursue conservative policies.

So I changed my registration to Republican. I vote in the primaries, and I always vote for the most conservative candidate available. But please understand: it's not the Republican Party per se that matters to me; it's the election of conservative candidates. The Republican Party is not my nation, and certainly not my God. The Republican Party is merely a vehicle. And if and when that vehicle isn't getting me where I want to go, I feel free to abandon it, or its candidates.

And that brings him to the impending election:

At the time of writing, there's a candidate for Tulsa mayor--Dewey Bartlett, Jr.--that campaigned in the primary as a "conservative," despite having previously endorsed a pretty liberal Democrat for re-election, despite having supported some very questionable local governmental maneuvers, and having, in his first ads, made rather obvious reference to local conservatives via referring to people's partisanship and "bickering." In my estimation, he appears to have less loyalty to the Republican Party than I do--I certainly never endorsed Kathy Taylor's re-election--and is running as a "conservative" for no other reason than that he knows that being a liberal is political poison in this city. In his case, the vehicle isn't getting me where I want to go, and I refuse to put any "gas"--money or time--into it.

Elsewhere in the Tulsa blogosphere:

Steven Roemerman doesn't like Lucky Lamons's legislation to require pseudoephedrine to be sold only by prescription and he points out the unintended consequences of restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales. (I agree with Steven that phenylephrine -- the drug being substituted for pseudoephedrine in many cold products -- just isn't as good at unblocking sinuses.)

Don Danz has some sweet photos of his boys, including his middle son's third birthday and his smallest learning to pray.

Scot Law remembers his uncle, pianist Larry Dalton, in the latest episode of Goodbye Tulsa.

The Pioneer Woman has some reassuring words for those suffering from the October Homeschooling Blues.

Stan Geiger takes a closer look at what the stimulus money coming to Oklahoma is actually stimulating:

From down the turnpike, Steve Lackmeyer's OKC Central blog presents a post on Oklahoma City's future by Nick Roberts. Nick thinks the core-to-shore plan needs to be reworked, but beyond his interesting ideas on that topic, I really like this guiding principle that he sets out:

In order to visualize Downtown OKC in 2020 we have to visualize Downtown OKC in 2000, and 1990, and so on. Most importantly I think we need to visualize Downtown OKC in 1920, 1930, and 1940. OKC needs to go back to the future to a time when it had excellent downtown parks, a great streetcar network, and downtown vibrancy.

A few links to tide you over:

Tulsa Gal has a photo-filled post on the history of the Tulsa State Fair. The aerial shots showing the evolution of the fairgrounds are fascinating.

Tulsa TV Memories has a page devoted to the Tulsa State Fair, including the classic1965 radio jingle that inspired Tulsa Gal's blog entry title. The page includes memories of TV news remotes from the fairgrounds.

The cover story in last week's Urban Tulsa Weekly has more on Tulsa State Fair history and its 2009 incarnation.

Here's the Tulsa State Fair homepage, with links to schedules and info on exhibits, entertainment, and parking. There's a lot you can do for free, once you pay to get in the gate. For example, the Oklahoma State Fiddle Championship is on Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm, and the Mandolin, Finger-style, and Flatpicking Guitar Championships are on Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm, both on the Coke Stage, southeast corner of the QuikTrip Center (aka the IPE Building).

Natasha Ball is having an identity crisis and thinks -- thinks -- she needs a makeover to fix it. You can help her reach her goal -- or if you prefer, you can help Holly Wall reach her goal. And don't miss Tasha's weekly list of what to do in Tulsa this weekend, which hints at a gut-wrenching Tulsa State Fair experience from her childhood. (To this dad, who can't stomach twirly rides, it sort of sounds like just desserts.)

Mad Okie, Steven Roemerman, and Man of the West each have some thoughts on the place of party loyalty in a city election. More from Mad Okie on the topic here.

Man of the West was inspired by a recent trip to Barnsdall to take some photos and muse about his vision of the local church as the heart of its neighborhood. I enjoyed his photos of Victory Baptist Church, which is housed in a lovely two-story school house which once was home to Pershing School. (Maybe next time he visits, he can get a closeup of the cornerstone of that building.)

In case you missed it from early last month, Jason Kearney has a post on the accident that killed bicyclist Barbara Duffield and why the immigration status of the driver who killed her matters.

MORE: Irritated Tulsan has 25 Warning Signs the State Fair Is in Town.

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

September 2009 is the previous archive.

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