November 2009 Archives

Tonight (November 30, 2009) also brings another fascinating glimpse of Tulsa's past to the Circle Cinema in Whittier Square, Admiral Blvd. and Lewis Ave.:

RadioTU presents a screening of "Going to College", a film about life at The University of Tulsa in the forties, on Monday, November 30 at 7:00 pm at the Circle Cinema. The voice of Dr. Ben Henneke is heard as a high school couple visits classrooms, campus facilities, and Greek houses as they looked sixty years ago. Shuttles will depart from the south side of ACAC for the Circle, located at 3rd and Lewis, beginning at 6:30 pm. For more information, call the Circle Cinema at 585-3456.

Admission is free, and the event is open to the community.

The screening is sponsored by The Office of the President of the University of Tulsa, Public Radio Tulsa (KWGS / KWTU), and radioTU (student radio station at TU). The Circle Cinema Foundation was kind enough to donate the space at the Circle Cinema for the event.


Photo of TU's Kendall Hall, 1950, from the Beryl Ford Collection.

Tulsa-A-Z3.jpgTonight at 7:30 on KOTV is a half-hour preview of the latest from Jack Frank's wonderful Tulsa Films series: "Tulsa A to Z." Each letter of the alphabet provides a jumping-off point for explaining a fascinating, often obscure aspect of Tulsa history and culture. The broadcast will air on OETA's statewide network Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Jack sent me a preview copy of the DVD last week. My favorite letter so far: "X is for Xanthus," which is not only about this particular oddly named avenue, but Tulsa's street naming system in general. I was also fascinated to learn about a collection of historic photos owned by Mayor-elect Dewey Bartlett Jr. Famed Tulsa eateries like White River Fish Market, Knotty Pine BBQ, Nelson's Buffeteria, and J.J.'s Gourmet Burgers all earn a place in the alphabet, and so do entertainment venues like the Admiral Twin drive-in and the Spotlight Theatre's long-running production of The Drunkard.

The DVD arrives just in time for Christmas, and you can find it at Steve's Sundry, Dwelling Spaces, SpiritBank, QuikTrip, and Borders, and online at

Here's a preview:

County Commissioner Karen Keith's attempt to oust Elizabeth Wright from the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) failed for lack of a second at this morning's Tulsa County Commission meeting. Barring another ouster attempt, Wright will continue to serve on the TMAPC until her term expires on January 18, 2011.

In the course of the ongoing effort by Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith to remove Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) member Elizabeth Wright, I've heard and read the TMAPC described as a "quasi-judicial body." Accordingly, these same sources claim that TMAPC members are like "referees," that they are to remain impartial throughout the process, and that they should only inquire about and consider very narrow criteria in deciding zoning applications.

In the specific case of Liz Wright, this perspective says that she is wrong to ask questions about issues like stormwater runoff (technical matters beyond the TMAPC's purview, it's said), was wrong to "counsel" the Holland Lakes homeowners about arguing their case to the City Council (regarding a zoning application that the TMAPC had already heard; Wright says she presented standard TMAPC material on how to be effective presenting your case), and was wrong to vote on a zoning application involving a parcel adjoining the neighborhood where she served as neighborhood association president (even though the neighborhood association didn't support or oppose the application and thus had no interest in its approval or rejection).

Apart from the specifics of Liz Wright's situation, I'm concerned that a false understanding of the TMAPC's function and nature hamstrings its ability to engage in actual planning and reduces the TMAPC to little more than scorekeepers for the zoning process. This idea of the TMAPC as quasi-judicial referees in all respects doesn't square with state statutes and city ordinances that define the TMAPC's composition and roles, nor does it fit what I've heard and observed in the eighteen years I've observed the TMAPC's proceedings.

Let's look at the law. The TMAPC is one of at least eight types of planning commissions enabled by Oklahoma statute (that I've found so far), each with its own section of either Title 11 (Cities and Towns) or Title 19 (Counties):

(1) Municipal planning commissions (Title 11, Article XLV)

(2) Regional planning commissions (Title 11, Article XLVI) -- covering three miles around the city limits

(3) City planning commissions for cities over 200,000 (Title 11, Article XLVII)

(4) County planning commissions (Title 19, Section 865.1 et seq.)

(5) Joint city-county metropolitan area planning commissions for counties over 180,000 (Title 19, Section 863.1 et seq.)

(6) Joint city-county planning commissions for smaller counties (Title 19, Section 866.1 et seq.)

(7) County planning commissions for counties over 500,000 (Title 19, Section 868.1 et seq.)

(8) Lake area planning commissions (Title 19, Section 869.1 et seq.)

The TMAPC is the only planning commission in Oklahoma of type (5). You can read the enabling legislation beginning here at 19 O. S. 863.1, and clicking "Next Section" to read through the whole thing. Or you can click this link to see an index of the subsections of 19 O. S. 863. Most of the statute has to do with the planning commission's role regarding county zoning.

The planning commission's role regarding City of Tulsa zoning is defined by Title 42 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances. Also known as the City of Tulsa Zoning Code, Title 42 requires that amendments to the zoning map and zoning code be submitted to the TMAPC for a report and recommendation. You can search through the document yourself for references to "Planning Commission."

Since the Wright controversy regards applications for zoning map amendments in the City of Tulsa, specifically planned unit developments (PUDs) and a straight rezoning, let me highlight the applicable paragraphs:

Section 1107: TMAPC reviews PUD applications. The TMAPC is to determine:

1. Whether the PUD is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan; 2. Whether the PUD harmonized with the existing and expected development of surrounding areas; 3. Whether the PUD is a unified treatment of the development possibilities of the project site; and 4. Whether the PUD is consistent with the stated purposes and standards of this chapter. The Planning Commission shall forward its recommendation, the application, and the development plan to the City Council for further hearing as provided in Subsection 1107.E.

That's a pretty broad set of criteria, and it doesn't seem to preclude a TMAPC member from asking about a particular technical subject. The City Council has the final say.

Section 1700 requires TMAPC input on zoning code amendments:

The regulations, restrictions, prohibitions and limitations imposed, and the districts created may from time to time be amended, supplemented, changed, modified or repealed by ordinance, but no change shall be made until the Planning Commission, after notice and public hearing, files with the City a report and recommendation on the proposed change. In addition to the procedural provisions hereinafter set out, the Planning Commission shall adopt procedural rules for the conduct of zoning public hearings.

Section 1701 sets out criteria for zoning map amendments:

It is the policy of the City of Tulsa that in the consideration of proposed amendments to this code that:

Amendments will be adopted to recognize changes in the Comprehensive Plan, to correct error, or to recognize changed or changing conditions in a particular area or in the jurisdictional area generally.

Sections 1702 and 1703 deal with zoning text and zoning map amendments respectively. In both cases, the TMAPC is to report to the City Council, which has the final decision.

Nothing in these sections limits the kind of information the TMAPC can gather or consider in making its recommendation.

Nothing in the Oklahoma statutes or the City of Tulsa ordinances describes the TMAPC as a quasi-judicial body. The only explicit use of the term quasi-judicial with respect to the TMAPC is in the TMAPC Rules of Procedure and Code of Ethics. These rules are adopted by the TMAPC, and the TMAPC has the freedom to modify them within the scope of the enabling state and city legislation.

Section II. C. of the most recent version of the TMAPC rules says:

Although not forbidden, per se, ex parte communication has the potential to influence a Planning Commissioner's decision on quasi-judicial matters before the Commission. The Planning Commissioner who receives ex parte communication may, if he or she feels that it is appropriate, disclose this prior to public discussion of the subject matter.

The wording here suggests that there are matters before the Commission that are not quasi-judicial.

A section of the state statutes applicable to the TMAPC, 19 O. S. 863.23, provides a clue as to what matters would and would not be considered quasi-judicial:

Any person claiming to be aggrieved by any act of the [planning] commission in administering this act, or any regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, may as to any matter concerning plats, subdivisions and lot-splits, both as to land situated in the corporate limits of the municipality and as to land situated in the unincorporated area of the county, appeal directly to the district court of the county and the district courts of said counties are hereby expressly vested with jurisdiction to hear and determine said appeals....

There shall be no right of appeal from any act of the commission in its advisory capacity to the [city] council and board [of county commissioners] or from any of its acts which are subject to review, repeal or modification by said governing bodies.

So the TMAPC has the final say regarding lot splits, subdivisions, and plats, and those matters can only be appealed to district court. But that isn't the case when the TMAPC acts in an advisory capacity to the legislative body, as with zoning map amendments.

All the issues raised against Liz Wright have to do with applications for city zoning map amendments, which are not quasi-judicial, but legislative. The zoning map is a part of the city ordinances, and changing involves adopting an ordinance. A zoning change is a change of the rules.

The complaints against Wright disappear if they're considered in a legislative context. We don't expect members of a legislative committee to be dispassionate, to have no prior opinion, to avoid contact with interested parties, or to limit the questions they ask about a proposed change in the law. We don't expect a unanimous vote from a legislative committee, and it's normal for a legislator on the losing side of a committee vote to debate against the committee's recommendation when it reaches the final stage of approval.

So how has the impression spread that the TMAPC is a quasi-judicial body? It may be a misunderstanding based on the reality of a few TMAPC functions (approval of lot splits, subdivisions, plats) that are quasi-judicial. But I suspect that there are those interests who want planning commissioners to believe that their discretion on zoning changes is extremely limited, which would make it easier to drive them as a body to the preferred conclusion.

Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith has yet to supply Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) member Elizabeth Wright with a list of specific allegations justifying Keith's call to remove Wright from the TMAPC over a year before her three-year term is due to end, according to an email from Wright earlier today. The County Commission, which appointed Wright in 2008, is slated to vote on her removal tomorrow, November 30, 2009.

Removing a TMAPC member before the end of the term can only be done for cause. Keith's November 2, 2009, petition to remove Wright named two provisions of the TMAPC code of ethics and a general complaint ("conduct which materially and adversely affects the orderly or efficient operation of the TMAPC") which Wright is alleged to have violated but did not provide specifics -- which actions of Wright's on which dates are supposed to have been violations warranting premature removal.

The public hearing on Keith's petition was held at the Tulsa County Commission meeting last Monday, November 23, 2009, but the final vote was delayed a week to allow Keith to present those specifics and to allow Wright time to respond. Even if Wright receives the list today, she will have less than 24 hours to prepare a defense. The public will not have time to provide input to their County Commissioners.

Because public hearings cannot be continued from one meeting to the next, the public hearing on Wright has already concluded, and the public will not be allowed to address the County Commission about Keith's specific accusations.

The third charge was dropped, and the County Commission agreed to use the 2004 ethics rules as the basis for judgment, not the rules adopted on April 22, 2009, after the violations are supposed to have occurred.

The just thing to do would be to kill Keith's campaign to oust Wright because of Keith's failure to present a specific indictment. In fact, the hearing should never have been scheduled without those specifics. Let Keith come back and try again, from scratch, when she is better prepared.

At the very least, Liz Wright and the public deserve at least a week after those specifics are released before a full public hearing is held and a vote is taken.

A Thanksgiving reader

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The Wall Street Journal's Thanksgiving tradition, since 1961:

The Desolate Wilderness: The New World in the words of the Pilgrims' historian

And the Fair Land: A modern reflection on America's prosperity and challenges.

Plus this story on Franklin Roosevelt's short-lived attempt (1939-1941) to move the date of Thanksgiving one week earlier to encourage more retail sales for Christmas.

And from last year in the Muskogee Phoenix, Brandon Dutcher gives thanks for private property rights as the foundation for American prosperity:

In his 1994 book "The Theme Is Freedom," M. Stanton Evans explained that "in both Virginia and Plymouth, for slightly different reasons, initial arrangements with the sponsoring London merchants prevented the colonists from owning and reaping the benefits of private property. Predictably enough, the communal set-up proved disastrous in terms of incentives and resulting output, so that both infant states were threatened with starvation. The upshot in both cases was that the settlers converted as soon as they were able to a system of private ownership, and reward for private effort."

"Never again were the Pilgrims short of food," adds Kirk. "Thereafter, despite a harsh climate, poor communication with Britain, troubles with the Indians, pirates who took their cargoes, and other handicaps, the Pilgrims' economy began to prosper."

The lesson was not lost on Governor Bradford. He wrote: "The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times - that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God."

And finally, a reminder to be thankful for our troops who have returned home and to pray for those still deployed in the War on Terror:


I gasped when I heard the news at Sunday worship, by means of an elder's prayer for the family of little Anne Marie Dutcher, who had died Saturday night, at the age of 37 days.

It was the end of what her parents, Brandon and Susie Dutcher, had described as a roller coaster ride. From the ultrasound diagnosis in July of a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, through the delivery and surgeries and tests and consultations and now, as they return home from Dallas and prepare for Monday's funeral, Brandon and Susie have generously shared their joys and sorrows on their blog, demonstrating the truth of the Apostle Paul's words in II Corinthians 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

In early November, after a particularly disheartening test result, Brandon wrote that whatever the outcome, God would be glorified:

One of two things is going on here. Either:
  1. Anne Marie is going to die and be ushered into Christ's presence. If so, God will receive glory -- for the salvation He provided for her in Christ, for the sanctification he is working in her parents, and for a thousand other reasons yet unknown. Or,
  2. God is going to preserve Anne Marie's life. If so, God will receive glory -- for answering the prayers of His people by displaying His mighty power and unfathomable mercy.

Please pray for the Dutcher family as they mourn and grieve for the loss of Anne Marie and as they return home and to the routine of everyday life. And thank God with them that "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose."

Via NewsFifty's Oklahoma news page: State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) is considering proposing legislation to reform the structure of county government in Oklahoma. In an Edmond Sun op-ed, Murphey sets forth his concerns. At the heart, the lack of adequate separation of powers when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars:

In the past, I have expressed that I feel it is important for a governing board which approves a budget to not have the ability to specifically direct where that money goes. The chances for politicians to engage in corruption and self-serving political pork appropriations are greatly enhanced when the board's ability to set policy and to specifically direct that spending are combined. In past updates, I have written about how Oklahoma legislators are becoming experts at getting around the constitutional prohibition of this type of conduct.

During the course of my years as a public official, I have observed that county government is a significant area in Oklahoma governance where these two responsibilities are not sufficiently separated. This blurring of the policy and expenditure power results in county governments that are extremely susceptible to "good old boy" politics where county officials can exert strong political influence over employees and vendors in order to create a small political empire funded by taxpayer dollars.

His solution:

County government should operate much like the governance model used in city government. A largely uncompensated board of elected citizen county commissioners should have oversight over a professional county manager who has the same education and qualifications as a city manager. This person would be responsible for hiring the county department heads, thus providing for employees a level of protection from political pressure. Much like a city council, the Board of Commissioners would set policy and budget, but have no ability to direct specific expenditure of funds outside of a competitive bid process.

I approve the idea of limiting the ability of public officials to handpick contractors, but I'll need to be convinced that Murphey's proposal is appropriate for every one of Oklahoma's 77 counties. In fact, the one-size-fits-all structure of Oklahoma county government is a problem that reform should address. In some counties, most of the territory is unincorporated and the few municipalities are small and not in a position to offer a complete slate of basic municipal services. In such places, county government may be the only effective way to deliver those services to residents. In Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties, only a few small areas are unincorporated, and many of those are within the fenceline of a municipality.

During the debates over county home rule in the late '80s and early '90s, there were calls for consolidation of less populous counties. But the relative stability of Oklahoma's county boundaries -- only two new counties since statehood and a handful of boundary adjustments -- is a boon to record keeping and comparisons over time. By contrast, Britain has been tinkering with its local government boundaries for over a century with two major overhauls over the last 35 years. Now there are historic counties and ceremonial counties and administrative counties, which may or may not coincide.

Any county activity that has to do with land records and court records -- county clerk, county assessor, county treasurer, court clerk -- should remain with the 77 counties. But we may want to consider another, more flexible approach to providing municipal services.

One possibility: Create a special class of municipalities incorporating the remaining unincorporated territory in each county. These new entities would be responsible for law enforcement, roads, parks, and other municipal services. They would be governed by some adaptation of the existing "statutory charter" -- the default form of government established by state statute for cities and towns that have yet to adopt a charter of their own. For some services, they may wish to enter into compacts with incorporated cities and towns. Some thought would need to be given to unincorporated areas within an existing municipality's fenceline. i suspect we would want to make it easy for areas within these special county-municipalities to attach themselves to a city or town or to form a new town.

Oklahoma's laws makes it difficult to create new municipalities, particularly anywhere near an existing city or town. Perhaps we should make it easier, so that rural residents could incorporate to protect themselves against annexation, so they can protect their ability to raise livestock, shoot off fireworks, and generally live without the constraints of city ordinances. Berryhill residents might jump at the opportunity.

Whatever the solution, the discussion is worth having, and Rep. Murphey is to be commended afor raising the issue.

I can't attend Monday morning's Tulsa County Commission meeting, so I sent the following letter to County Commissioners John Smaligo and Fred Perry urging them to vote against removing Liz Wright from the TMAPC. (I didn't figure there was any point in sending it to Commissioner Karen Keith, the lead prosecutor and persecutor.)


Karen Keith's ex post facto crusade for unfair zoning
Karen Keith trying to bully neighborhood leader off planning commission

Dear Commissioners Smaligo and Perry,

I regret that, due to business meetings, I won't be able to attend Monday's hearing regarding TMAPC member Elizabeth Wright. In lieu of speaking at the meeting, I'm writing to urge you to vote against Commissioner Keith's attempt to have Wright removed from the TMAPC. Removing any board or commission member before his or her term has expired is a drastic action, only justified in cases of corruption or gross negligence. Whatever Commissioner Keith's motivation -- and her stated reasons keep changing -- her prosecution of Liz Wright is completely unjustified.

The "causes" for removal specified by Commissioner Keith involve violations of ethics code provisions that didn't exist when the "violations" reportedly occurred. Retroactive enforcement of laws is not only unfair, it's specifically banned by the U. S. Constitution in Article I, Section 10, one of the few explicit limits placed by the Federal Constitution on state government. It's unconstitutional to be punished for doing something that wasn't against the rules when you did it.

Here's an illustration: Imagine if your former colleagues in the legislature, in this upcoming 2010 session, cut the maximum campaign contribution from $5000 to $500. Then imagine that the State Ethics Commission started proceedings against you because, back in 2006 or 2007, you each accepted $750 contributions from Kirby Crowe, in excess of the new limit but well within the limit that existed at the time. I think you'll agree that this would be unfair to you, but this is exactly what Commissioner Keith is attempting to do to Liz Wright.

As you can see from the TMAPC minutes, the two ethics code provisions cited by Commissioner Keith in her petition against Commissioner Wright were only added to the code on April 22, 2009. (Click the link to view those minutes.)

The subparagraphs of II. E. which Wright is said to have violated did not exist prior to that date. And yet Keith's petition says that Wright should be removed because her appearance at an August 2008 City Council committee meeting violated this April 2009 ethics rule.

II.B.1.b did not exist at all prior to April 2009. Keith's petition doesn't specify when Wright's alleged violation of II.B.1.b. occurred. There are hints that it has to do with a 2008 zoning case on property bordering the neighborhood association which Wright served as president. Here again, the alleged offense occurred before the specified rule existed.

There is one other charge -- "Conduct which materially and adversely affects the orderly or efficient operation of the TMAPC." Commissioner Keith does not specify what this conduct was or when it occurred. I have reviewed the minutes over Commissioner Wright's tenure, and I see no evidence that she was ever disruptive to the proceedings.

Ordinarily, the accused is presented in advance with specific charges -- on what the offense was committed and what actions constituted the offense -- and has the opportunity to prepare a point-by-point rebuttal. In this case however, Commissioner Wright may not even learn about the specifics of the charges until after the public hearing has ended and the County Commissioners discussion commences, too late to prepare a defense.

Commissioner Keith's petition states that the cause is "includes, but is not limited to," the three points discussed above. This opens the door to more charges that may be sprung at the last minute, depriving Wright and the public of the opportunity to prepare a response to the new charges.

It would have been best if you had refused to approve a public hearing until Commissioner Keith provided a complete and specific indictment. In all fairness, you owe the public and Commissioner Wright the time to study and prepare a response to whatever charges Commissioner Keith presents; you should continue the hearing and delay the vote until a later meeting.

Liz Wright's intelligence and her perspective as a small businesswoman and former neighborhood leader are assets to Tulsa and to the TMAPC. I hope the County Commission will see fit to appoint her to a new term in January 2011. But even if you disagree with my evaluation of her performance, I hope you will emphatically reject Commissioner Keith's imprudent and unjust attempt to end her term prematurely.

When I endorsed each of you in the 2006 elections, I had high hopes that you would bring a new spirit to county government, a spirit of openness and fairness that did not previously exist. There have been positive steps in that regard, but how this public hearing is conducted and the decision you make about Commissioner Wright will put those hopes to the test and will weigh heavily as the public evaluates your first term.


Michael Bates

In February 2004, leaders of neighborhood associations and homeowners' associations showed up by the dozens for a 1:30 p.m. hearing before the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) on zoning protest petitions. Many of those present had to make special arrangements to be at a City Hall meeting in the middle of the work day. Without warning, TMAPC chairman Joe Westervelt struck the item from the agenda. The assembled activists walked across the plaza to City Hall and headed to the 11th Floor to register a protest with Mayor Bill LaFortune. Two years earlier, in June 2002, after reappointing Westervelt over the protests of neighborhood leaders because of Westervelt's contemptuous treatment of citizens appearing before the TMAPC, LaFortune promised that if Westervelt stepped out of line again, he would personally come to the TMAPC to register a protest. So our visit to the 11th Floor was to get LaFortune to live up to his promise and deal with this out of control TMAPC commissioner. The mayor didn't meet with us, but a couple of his staffers did, including Karen Keith, the woman who is now TMAPC Commissioner Elizabeth Wright's chief accuser. Click here to read my account of that day and of previous examples of Westervelt's rudeness. (I don't remember the exact contents of our meeting with Karen Keith that day, but I feel certain that she did not offer to have the mayor seek to remove Westervelt for cause.) And from January 2005, here's another example of Joe Westervelt's mistreatment of citizens speaking before the TMAPC.

Santa Claus returns to Tulsa's Philbrook Art Museum for the 25th anniversary of the Festival of Trees. Today (November 21, 2009) is the members' opening of the Festival; the Festival opens to the public on Sunday.

Santa will be at Philbrook each weekend of the festival (including the Friday after Thanksgiving) to meet children of all ages and for professional photos. Visit to see Santa's schedule of appearances at this year's festival.

Later on Saturday afternoon, at 3 p.m., Philbrook will host children's illustrator Lane Smith, whose works include The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. Reservations are required, and tickets are $15 for non-members.

(Full disclosure: Philbrook's Santa Claus is my dad.)

Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith's bizarre and unprecedented campaign to remove Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission member Elizabeth Wright (for bogus reasons, a year before her term expires) reaches its climax on Monday, November 23, 2009, at 9:30 a.m., at a public hearing to be held as part of the weekly County Commission meeting. The venue is Room 119 of the County Courthouse, near the 6th Street entrance west of Denver Ave.

As a candidate for County Commission in 2008, Keith received significant campaign contributions from a number of donors connected to the development industry, including a $1,000 contribution from John Bumgarner. The Bumgarner contribution was received one day after the pre-election reporting deadline, so that it didn't have to be made public, via the State Ethics Commission, until after the election. (Here is Karen Keith's post-general-election contribution report.)

Bumgarner is the developer of the now vacant site southwest of Utica and the Broken Arrow Expressway. His extraordinary deal with the TMAPC -- a straight zoning change plus a deed covenant, rather than the usual planned unit development (PUD) with development standards -- prompted Wright's September 16, 2008, appearance before the City Council's committee discussion of the rezoning. She did not speak in opposition but spoke to advise the Council of the unusual nature of the proposal. While PUD development standards are enforceable administratively, through the city's building permits, certificates of occupancy, and code enforcement, a deed covenant is only enforceable by means of litigation. Here is the summary of Wright's statement in the committee meeting's minutes:

Ms. Wright stated there was no input by public. No terms of covenant were given to citizens. The vote may have turned out differently had there been. The procedure, not the development that is in question.

(Here are the TMAPC minutes on the 14th and Utica zoning case, Z-7102. The contrast is striking between, on the one hand, the concerns expressed by Wright and Commissioner Michelle Cantrell about the precedent being set and, on the other hand, the callous disregard of precedent and the Comprehensive Plan by INCOG development staff and the other TMAPC members. The rezoning was approved with only Wright and Cantrell in opposition.)

LizWright.jpgSeven months after Wright's appearance at the Council committee meeting, the TMAPC amended its code of ethics to require any commissioner wishing to speak to the Council to notify the other commissioners 24 hours in advance. In fact, the two specific ethics code provisions cited in Keith's complaint against Wright were both added by the TMAPC on April 22, 2009, long after her alleged offenses against those provisions were committed.

(UPDATE: Here is's copy of the December 1, 2004, version of the TMAPC code of ethics. I will continue to look for a more recent version, but in all likelihood, this was the version governing the TMAPC at the time of the alleged offenses. This version was captured by the Internet Archive on September 30, 2006.)

The time of day for the hearing to remove Wright makes it difficult for ordinary homeowners, concerned about fair application of zoning laws and protecting their property values and quality of life, to come downtown to defend one of a tiny number of TMAPC commissioners not tied to the development industry. By contrast, it will be easy for zoning attorneys and development lobbyists to show up en masse to speak in favor of what might be called "viewpoint purity" on the planning commission.

Never mind that Wright's point of view has seldom if ever prevailed in controversial issues; more often she has been the lone vote or one of a few in opposition. Those behind the effort to oust Wright appear to have this goal in mind: The TMAPC must be purged of any member with the intelligence, independence, and courage to contradict the claims of a developer or his attorney. It would seem that winning by a vote of 10-1 or 9-2 isn't enough for the vengeful, scorched-earth branch of the development lobby. Evidently they want to marginalize anyone who might articulate an alternative point of view in the TMAPC's deliberations.

I have been provided with a copy of the petition filed by Karen Keith for the removal of Elizabeth Wright from the TMAPC (1.8 MB PDF). Minus the header and signature, this is the petition in its entirety:

COMES NOW Karen Keith, duly elected Tulsa County Commissioner for District No.2 Tulsa County, Oklahoma and brings this Petition For Removal of Elizabeth Wright as a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission ( TMAPC ).

The specific and general cause and basis for this removal includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Violation of the Policies and Procedures and Code of Ethics of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, as Amended April 22, 2009, specifically section II: Code of Ethics -8. Conflict of Interest 1. b.

2. Conduct which materially and adversely affects the orderly or efficient operation of the TMAPC

3. Violation of the Policies and Procedures and Code of Ethics of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, specifically section II: Code of Ethics - E. Appearance at City Council in August of 2008.

Believing that these grounds constitute "cause" for removal, Petitioner respectfully request that the Tulsa Board of County Commissioners set a public hearing to consider this Petition For Removal.

No specific charges are attached, nothing to specify the date or substance of any alleged violation. There was, attached to copy of the petition provided to me, a

two-page, undated, unsigned outline of the procedure that may be followed on Monday:


(A) In General

The Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners ("Board") may, upon a majority vote, decide to consider whether to remove an appointed Planning Commissioner from the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission ( TMAPC). Pursuant to Title 19, 0.5. Section 863.5 -Members of Commission Appointment-Term-Vacancy-Removal-Ex Officio Members-Members to Serve Without Compensation, the Board of County Commissioners has the power of appointment to TMAPC. The Board has the additional responsibility and authority to remove a member of TMAPC that has been appointed by the Board. Under this statute, a member of the TMAPC may be removed from office "for cause" after a hearing held before the governing body by which he or she was appointed. "Cause" shall include, but not be limited to, performance, conduct or behavior, whether by acts or omission, or violation of the Policies and Procedures and Code of Ethics as adopted by the TMAPC, which the Board of County Commissioners concludes materially and adversely affects the orderly or efficient operation of the TMAPC.

(B) Procedure

Upon such a vote to consider removal, the Board of County Commissioners shall set a public hearing in accordance with applicable Oklahoma state statutes regarding notice, posting, and setting and provide notice to the Planning Commissioner whose removal is to be considered by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by hand delivery to the Planning Commissioner whose removal is to be considered. The notice shall be in the form of a Notice of Public Hearing from the Board that shall schedule a date and time for such consideration at a public hearing held before the Board of County Commissioners, as well as the reasons for such consideration.

The public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners shall be no less than three (3) weeks after a request for removal has been presented to the County Commission. Said notice of public hearing shall be duly and properly posted.

The Planning Commissioner whose removal is sought may appear at that date and time and shall be given an opportunity to be heard by the Board of County Commissioners as to the reasons why his or her removal is not warranted, and may be represented by counsel at the hearing.

The Board has the inherent authority to determine any necessary rules of conduct in the hearing to maintain decorum and order. Rules of conduct by those in attendance of a hearing before the Board may include the potential of a time limit to the amount of time provided to those who request to speak for or against an item on the Board's agenda, requiring those speaking to stand at the podium and speak loud enough to be audio recorded in order that an accurate recorded [sic] of the proceedings can be accomplished, and others that would fall under the general category of rules of conduct that allow the Board to maintain decorum and order in the meetings.

Upon conclusion of the hearing the Board of County Commissioners shall take a vote to determine whether removal of the Planning Commissioner is warranted. If the decision of the Board is removal of the Planning Commissioner is warranted, the Board shall indicate the effective date of the removal.

As you can see, key elements of the procedure are left vague or undefined. Based on the vagueness of the charges and the description of the process, I am anticipating a kind of kangaroo court: Wright will be allowed to speak in her own defense, followed by members of the public. Only then will Keith present the specifics of the case, followed by discussion among the county commissioners. Neither Wright nor members of the public will have the opportunity for rebuttal. The commissioners' discussion may be quite brief if they have already discussed the matter privately and reached a consensus, by means of the county commission tradition of using a go-between to adhere to the letter, but not the spirit, of the Open Meetings Act.

What should happen is that Keith should be compelled by the other two county commissioners, John Smaligo and Fred Perry, to present the specifics of her charges against Wright, and then they should vote to continue the hearing to a future date to allow Wright and her supporters adequate time to prepare a defense. That would be the fair thing to do.

And something else that should happen: There are developers, real estate brokers, and other members of the development community who understand that all parties deserve a fair hearing in the land use regulation process. They understand the need for collaboration and compromise when it comes to controversial matters like infill development in stable neighborhoods. They need to speak out against the attempt to remove Wright and work to moderate their more volatile colleagues.

After the defeat of the development industry's attempt to recall Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock and the passage of the zoning protest petition charter amendment, it appeared that the development industry was prepared to take a more conciliatory tone. The removal of Liz Wright from the TMAPC would be seen by many neighborhood leaders and members of the City Council as an act of aggression, a power play by a power-hungry industry unwilling to cooperate with other interest groups. But what we need, as we move toward a new comprehensive plan and a new approach to development, is diplomacy and a willingness to cooperate to reach win-win outcomes.

How the commissioners handle this case should be a litmus test issue for every property owner in the City of Tulsa or unincorporated Tulsa County concerned about fair treatment of all parties in the zoning process. If you're concerned about a fair hearing for Tulsa proposed new comprehensive plan, you should be concerned about the outcome of this case. If any county commissioner votes to remove Wright for bogus reasons before her three-year term has expired, the citizens of Tulsa County need to remove that commissioner from office at the next opportunity. For two county commissioners, that opportunity is just a few months away.

MORE: Read Mike Easterling's story on the Karen Keith-Liz Wright controversy in the latest issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. And for more background, see my earlier entry, "Karen Keith trying to bully neighborhood leader off planning commission."

You can read Elizabeth Wright's own comments on the removal effort at TulsaNow's public forum.

As with Tulsa's struggle over applying new fire codes to older buildings, Dallas is experiencing a battle between historic preservation and downtown revitalization on the one hand and strict enforcement of building codes on the other.

The building in question is at 508 Park Avenue, a three-story Art Deco building from the late 1920s. Originally the Warner Brothers Film Exchange, in the 1930s it was used by Brunswick Records for storage and as a recording studio. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded there, as did many other country, folk, and western swing acts of the day. Legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson made his last recording there in 1937.

The longtime owners filed a demolition permit back in January, a permit that has so far been denied by the city's Landmarks Commission. (Dallas, like Oklahoma City, but unlike Tulsa, has historic preservation ordinances with teeth.) The owners might have been content to continue their half-century ownership of the building, but city inspectors began fining them for code violations, part of an effort to clean up neglected buildings downtown. As Observer writer Robert Wilonsky put it, "So, as far as Glazer's Distributors is concerned, after 50 years of ownership better a parking lot near City Hall than a code-violations fine machine."

As of August, the owners had spent $50,000 to bring the building up to code and were being fined $1,000 per day per violation.

Preservation Dallas responded with a plea to spare the 508 Park Ave. building, not only for its own historic significance, but for the blight created by multiplying vacant lots where buildings once stood. Some choice quotes from their press release:

A demolition permit for 508 Park was sought following a recent code violation sweep in downtown in which 36 vacant and/or underutilized historic and non- historic properties were targeted for code citations and threatened with litigation. Despite the City's good intentions of furthering revitalizing efforts in downtown, the code violation sweep will likely lead to these ham-fisted remedies. We recognize that while some properties owners are at fault for letting their facilities fall into a state of disrepair, other owners are seeking to either sell their properties or are working diligently on a plan to rehabilitate them. But in these difficult economic times, the City's actions may force many property owners to consider demolition. Preservation Dallas contends this code violation campaign will result in the loss of many significant Dallas historic buildings.

Misguided property assessments can have the same effect, as we have already seen here in Tulsa. The Preservation Dallas statement pointed to another part of downtown, cleared many years earlier, of the urban connectivity problems created by demolition:

"The City seems to believe that vacant lots, particularly in central Dallas, would be an improvement over these existing and often historic buildings. Although they are treating this as a code enforcement issue, vacant lots aren't a quick fix," said Seale. One has only to look at the 'dead zone' at the west end of downtown between the Earle Cabell Federal Building and the County Courthouse complex for evidence. This area, the result of demolitions dating from the 1960s, is a major impediment to the Convention Center connecting to the core of downtown Dallas, and it isolates the County buildings. Those historic buildings that are no longer there would have been good candidates for redevelopment; they would have offered opportunities for residential and commercial uses in the western portion of downtown- a stated goal of the City's. As it turns out, the walkability of this sector of downtown Dallas is dismal at best, and not something the City should encourage or pursue in the rest of downtown....

Vacant lots are an impediment to further redevelopment efforts in downtown. Vacant lots do not make downtown more livable. Nor do vacant lots provide a context for downtown. They are eyesores. A building, however, has potential for re-development.

Apropos to my previous entry on downtown housing -- if we really want to repopulate downtown Tulsa and the inner neighborhoods, we need to reduce obstacles to renovating historic buildings, rather than focusing on new development projects out of the price range of most Tulsans.

Where do Dallas' downtown residents live? 5,000 people live in downtown Dallas and almost all of them live in historic buildings rehabilitated for residential use. In most cases these now successful buildings were in worse shape than the buildings now targeted by the city.

On that page, you can see before-and-after photos proving their point.

Finally, Preservation Dallas points out that an overlooked section of the city's landmark ordinance already provides a resolution of the tension between code enforcement and historic preservation:

To address the city's concern regarding neglectful property owners, the City should strengthen and proactively pursue the Demolition by Neglect section of the enabling Dallas Historic Landmark ordinance. Destroying historic buildings due to the City's code violation drive does damage to the original intent of the initiative as well as lasting damage to Downtown Dallas.

Today, the owners are asking the City Plan Commission to approve their demolition permit, despite the denial by the Landmarks Commission and despite the fact that the building is not an imminent danger to life or property.

MORE: A 2002 story in the Dallas Morning Newson the history of 508 Park.

UPDATE 2009/11/23: On November 19, the Dallas city plan commission denied the demolition permit for 508 Park on the grounds that the building did not pose an imminent danger to health and safety. There is still a possibility that the commission would grant a demolition permit on economic viability grounds.

The city's economic development planners would like your thoughts on housing in and near downtown, and they've set up an online survey to collect your input, now through November 23. They want to find out who would be willing to live within the IDL and the neighborhoods immediately to the north, east, south, and west if their housing requirements could be met at a reasonable price.

I've taken the survey, so here's a preview of what to expect:

In the survey you'll be asked about your willingness to live in each of five areas -- downtown proper, Crosbie Heights/Owen Park (they misspelled Crosbie), Brady Heights/OSU, Central Park/Tracy Park, and Riverview/Uptown. You'll be given a chance to express your reasons for your likelihood or unlikelihood to move into each. I was frustrated that the choices didn't include "somewhat likely, if I were planning to move, which won't be anytime in the near future, because moving is a pain."

You'll shown photos of types of new houses -- townhomes, luxury condos like those north of Cherry Street, typical suburban snout houses, luxury homes like those popping up around Brookside, and new homes designed in a traditional fashion -- and what you'd be willing to pay for them. (The example of the new home designed in a traditional fashion appeared to be a craftsman by Novus Homes in the Brady Heights historic district.)

When the survey asked what I'd be willing to pay for each, my number was consistently lower than what the survey said was the typical minimum in this area for new construction. I guess I don't see the point of packing up and moving to pay more for less house than I already have, no matter how luxurious the features. It just seems like bad stewardship to me. I don't get people who move house every couple of years. Given that there's no such thing as a perfect house, any more than there's a perfect spouse, car, job, or church, there's no point in pursuing an ongoing quest to find it. You learn to take the bad with the good and work around the limitations.

In the news release, below, you'll see that the aim is to collect information that will help "attract urban housing developers to the community." That focus on new construction seems at odds with the aim of creating inner city housing within the price range of most Tulsa families. New construction, particularly on expensive land, is rarely affordable for median-income families.

Do we want to limit center-city living to wealthy empty-nesters and trust-fund babies? Or do we want creative young twenty-somethings and young families to repopulate our inner neighborhoods? If so, they need cheap but decent places to live. As a start, the city can help by yanking on the Fire Marshal's leash. The City Council's decision to uphold the Philtower's appeal last Thursday night was a positive step, but the council needs to go a step further and get rid of the new sprinkler requirements set to go into effect on January 1, 2010. The city needs to look carefully at how renovation of existing single-family and multi-family housing is inhibited by our zoning code, building code, and fire code -- particularly the burdensome extra requirements Tulsa has added to the standard codes.

A customized neighborhood zoning ordinance could be used to make it easier to add on to a home in an older neighborhood -- smaller "livability space" requirements, for example -- and that in turn might make those older homes more attractive to families. At the same time, such an ordinance could require any new construction to be similar in height, setback, and arrangement (no snout houses!) to existing homes in these historic neighborhoods.

Finally, schools are an issue for families with kids. A meaningful school choice program that allows low- to moderate-income families to take some of the state funding for their children's education to a private school would do much to eliminate a deterrent to families living in the urban core.

MORE: Mike Easterling has a story on the downtown housing survey in the November 18, 2009, Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Here's the news release, after the jump:

I've noticed a surge of interest among Tulsa's young adults in arts and crafts. You'll find their creations on sale at local boutiques and coffeehouses and at special events like last month's Indie Emporium, which featured handmade knitwear, jewelry, clothing, accessories, toys, art prints, photographs, greeting cards, and much, much more. Buying locally made, handcrafted gifts is a great way to encourage local artists, to keep money circulating in the local economy, and to find one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones.

Lindsay Neal and Erin Fore, two young Tulsa entrepreneurs, are holding an open house this Friday and Saturday to display their collection of beautiful handmade necklaces, bracelets, and earrings:

Lindsey Neal and Erin Fore have collaborated to create necklaces, bracelets and earrings from turquoise, amethyst, lava rocks, copper, sterling silver and other yummy materials.

We're holding a holiday open house for anyone who wants to buy locally hand-crafted jewelry for loved ones in a cozy, relaxing atmosphere. Please stop by and take a look. Bring your friends/folks/siblings. All are welcome.

Avoid mall/retail madness! Support Tulsa artists!

Prices range from $15-$80. Plus, you can create customized pieces and they'll be ready by mid-December. Heck, we'll take care of your whole shopping list!

The specifics:


Friday, November 20, 2009, 9 am - 1 pm, and
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 2 pm - 6 pm.


1630 E. 35th Street

Click the picture above to see a larger image of one of their necklaces, or click this link to go to the Facebook page for the event and see many more creations by Lindsay and Erin.

A note from Joe Kelley, KRMG Morning Show host and chairman of Oklahoma's Make-A-Wish Foundation:

My Friends,

Six weeks ago, I accepted the call to become Chairman of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma. As a two-time childhood cancer survivor, the mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is very personal to me.

With three small, beautiful children in my home, I am very sensitive to the painful reality that all our children are potentially one doctor's appointment away from having their worlds turned upside down in a dizzying array of hospital visits, needle-sticks and surgeries.

During a family's darkest hour, the Make-A-Wish Foundation provides a shining beacon of light; a chance to escape the bonds of sickness, if even for just a moment.

Yet, these are extraordinary times.

Kids don't understand the economics of a recession. Their cancers don't share our sense of bad timing. While some charities can scale back their non-essential services, MAWFO has no non-essential services. We don't have multiple functions and departments. We only do one thing: We grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

The average Wish costs $7000 and at this moment, there are 94 Oklahoma children waiting to have their Wishes granted. Many of these children don't have the luxury of patience.

Please take a moment of your time right now and help make Wishes come true with a donation to Oklahoma's Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Please call 5 friends and ask them to do the same. Forward this email. Pass a hat at your office. Call a generous friend or relative. Clean out coins from your car and home. Take a tax deduction. Call 918-492-WISH.

Donate online right now at:

Or, come see me in person November 17th, 18th, or 19th at LaFortune Park in Tulsa as KRMG hosts our 4th Annual Stories of Light broadcast to benefit Make-A-Wish. All money raised goes to Oklahoma children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

To put my money where my 'ask' is, I'm personally committing $1,000 to the Stories of Light campaign this year (which is only $83/month or less than $3/day).

Thank you very kindly for your generosity,

Joe Kelley

Make-A-Wish Foundation "grants wishes to children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions to enhance the human experience with hope, strength and joy." You can hear stories about Oklahoma's wish kids on the KRMG Morning Show tomorrow and Thursday. Stories about some of the children who benefited from last year's Stories of Light online at You can also read stories about wish kids on the Oklahoma Make-A-Wish Foundation website.

I was "chasing a rabbit," looking for info on how Oklahoma apportioned seats in the State Legislature among counties prior to a 1964 Federal court mandate (which to this day overrules the text of our State Constitution).

What I found was a set of newsletters on the University of Arizona website by Democratic U. S. Rep. Morris K. Udall. These newsletters -- essays on various hot topics of the day -- were sent over the course of his thirty-year congressional career to a mailing list of his constituents (a 1967 letter mentions about 20,000 of them who had opted in to the list at some point).

The first letter I found had to do with three landmark U. S. Supreme Court decisions that together forced states to apportion both houses of the legislature into districts of roughly equal population: Baker v. Carr (1962), Wesberry v. Sanders (1963), and Reynolds v. Sims and Lucas v. Colorado General Assembly (1964):

Congressman's Report: October 14, 1964 -- Reapportionment--I: One Man, One Vote . . . That's All She Wrote!

A second letter on the same topic outlined the impasse in Congress between those who supported the states complying with these decisions and those who felt the Warren Court had overreached, particularly in the third decision, and a constitutional amendment was in order to allow states the right to consider other factors in apportioning legislative seats, just as the U. S. Constitutional Convention had done in seeking to balance the concerns of large and small states.

Congressman's Report: December 11, 1964 -- Reapportionment--II: Where Do We Go From Here?

Udall presents the reasonable arguments put forward by those who objected to the Court's rulings, explains why their proposed constitutional amendment won't get anywhere, and proposes a compromise that he hopes will satisfy both sides.

Another report of note, this time on the Electoral College:

Congressman's Report, Vol. VII, No. 2: August 28, 1968 -- The Electoral College Is Flunking Out

Udall looks ahead to the close three-way race developing between Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace (the last third-party candidate to have some of his electors elected by popular vote). Udall outlines a nightmare scenario in which no candidate wins a majority of the electoral vote and then the House, voting by state, doesn't give a majority to any candidate. Udall proposes that candidates for Congress pledge to the voters that, should the election end up in the House, they will vote for whichever candidate wins the largest national popular vote, regardless of party. In the end, Nixon managed an electoral vote majority, despite only a narrow plurality of the popular vote.  (It could be said that, contrary to Udall's fears, the electoral vote saved us from an uncertain conclusion resulting from no candidate having a majority of the popular vote.)

Reading these letters, it's easy to understand Udall's appeal to many voters. He wrote clearly, took his readers' intelligence for granted, injected a bit of humor from time to time, explained both sides of an issue, and often offered a compromise that he hoped would satisfy the concerns of both sides. In 1976, when he was one of about  a dozen candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, my pun- and Pogo-loving grandma supported Udall in the Arkansas primary. The title of his autobiography was Too Funny to Be President.

Here's the best I've read so far, and the one with the most enduring value even in the age of e-mail:

Congressman's Report, Vol. VI, No. 1: January 20, 1967 -- The Right to Write: Some Suggestions on Writing Your Congressman

Some of the best suggestions are some that are still often violated today:

** Write your own views -- not someone else's. A personal letter is far better than a form letter or signature on a petition. Many people will sign a petition without reading it just to avoid offending the circulator; form letters are readily recognizable -- they usually arrive in batches -- and usually register the sentiments of the person or lobbying group preparing the form. I regret to report that form letters often receive form replies. Anyway, I usually know what the major lobbying groups are saying, but I don't often know of your experiences and observations, or what the proposed bill will do to and for you. And I often am not fully aware of new conditions and developments in Arizona. A sincere, well-thought-out letter from you can help fill this gap.

** Give your reasons for taking a stand. Statements like "Vote against H.R. 100; I'm bitterly opposed" don't help me much. But a letter which says "I'm a small hardware dealer, and H.R. 100 will put me out of business for the following reasons ... " tells me a lot more. Maybe I didn't know all the effects of the bill, and your letter will help me understand what it means to an important segment of my constituency.

** Don't make threats or promises. Congressmen usually want to do the popular thing, but this is not their only motivation; nearly all the Members I know want, most of all, to do what is best for the country. Occasionally a letter will conclude by saying, "If you vote for this monstrous bill, I'll do everything in my power to defeat you in the next election." A writer has the privilege of making such assertions, of course, but they rarely intimidate a conscientious Member, and they may generate an adverse reaction. He would rather know why you feel so strongly. The reasons may change his mind; the threat probably won't.

** Don't berate your congressman. You can't hope to persuade him of your position by calling him names. If you disagree with him, give reasons for your disagreement. Try to keep the dialogue open.

** Don't pretend to wield vast political influence. Write your congressman as an individual -- not as a self-appointed spokesman for your neighborhood, community or industry. Unsupported claims to political influence will only cast doubt upon the views you express.

** Don't become a constant "pen pal." In a newsletter appealing for more constituent mail I don't want to discourage letters, but quality, rather than quantity, is what counts. Write again and again if you feel like it, but don't try to instruct your congressman on every issue that comes up. And don't nag at him if his votes do not match your precise thinking every time. Remember, he has to consider all his constituents and all points of view. Also, keep in mind that one of the pet peeves on Capitol Hill is the "pen pal" who weights the mail down every few days with long tomes on every conceivable subject. 

I'm certain there are dozens of issues of the day on which I would have disagreed with Mo Udall -- his vote for Speaker, for a start -- but you have to admire a writer and thinker of his caliber.

Turnout turned off

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Turnout in the City of Tulsa mayor's race fell from 77,341 in 2006 to 66,632, a drop of nearly 14%, albeit still higher than the turnout for 2002's Bill LaFortune-Gary Watts contest of 65,592.

The most turned-off precinct in raw numbers was Precinct 168, between S. Sheridan and S. Memorial, 61st St. and 66th St. Only three-quarters of the 2006 voters cast a vote for mayor this year. The total of votes for all candidates fell from 672 to 495, a drop of 26%.

The biggest meaningful percentage drop is harder to gauge. Precinct 180 had three voters three years ago, but none this year, a 100% loss. Among precincts with at least 100 voters in 2006, the biggest falloff was in Precinct 162, the Oral Roberts University precinct, from 136 to 61, a 55% drop. Changes in the school administration and political science department may mean less of an emphasis on getting out-of-town students registered and actively voting in Tulsa elections.

Precinct 90's turnout was also cut in half, falling from 182 to 90. Precinct 90 is mainly industrial but includes the apartment complexes and duplexes around Fontana Center, northwest of 51st and Memorial. Most of that drop came at Tom Adelson's expense. Kathy Taylor won the precinct in 2006; perhaps her campaign made a special effort to drive turnout in the precinct.

Precinct 105, 129th East Ave. to 145th East Ave., 31st St. S. to 36th St. S., lost 36% of its voters. Adelson was hardest hit. Taylor narrowly won the precinct in 2009; Bartlett Jr had as many votes as Adelson and Perkins combined. In fact, Perkins nearly beat Adelson here. While this area is mostly single-family homes, there are two large apartment complexes here. Other precincts with big drops, disproportionately affecting the Democratic result, are also home to large apartment complexes. Did the Adelson campaign fail to reach and motivate renters to vote, where the Taylor campaign succeeded?

Here's another, smaller data point: Precinct 159, which consists of a couple of mobile home communities southwest of 41st and US 169. 58 voters in 2006; 30 voters in 2009. The Democratic result fell by 29 votes from Taylor to Adelson.

When updated voter history information is available next month, we'll be able to compare candidate results to the party registration of those who voted, and we'll also be able to see which 2009 voters cast a ballot in 2006 and which are first-time city election voters. When I get the auditor race's numbers entered, that will make for an interesting comparison as well.

District 5 was the most turned-off part of the city -- turnout down by 21.8% or 1748 votes. That was also Mark Perkins's best district, where he received 21.3% of the vote. District 4, with a hotly-contested council race, only had a 9.1% falloff of 797 votes.

There's a lot of analysis yet to be done on this election, but here's one bit of data that's somewhat interesting.

Tom Adelson's share of the vote in State Senate district 33 may be one of the few positives in last Tuesday's results for the Democratic mayoral nominee. In 2004, Adelson beat Republican Mayor-elect Dewey Bartlett Jr for the open seat with 51.5% of the vote in a race with only two choices. In the 2009 mayoral election, the precincts in SD 33 gave Bartlett Jr 35.9%, Adelson 43.4%, Perkins 19.9%, Kirkpatrick 0.4%. Excluding the votes for independent candidates, Adelson received 54.7% of the two-party vote in SD 33 to Bartlett Jr's 45.3%.

SD 33 is a very diverse district. (That link leads to a demographic analysis of the district based on 2000 census data.) It includes blue-collar areas north of I-244, along the Sand Springs Line, and west of the river, but it also includes some of Tulsa's wealthiest neighborhoods. It was drawn to be competitive for Democrats, and it's been represented by Democrats for as long as I can recall -- Rodger Randle, through most of the '80s, Penny Williams from 1988 to 2004, when she hit her term limit, and Tom Adelson since 2004. Still, George W. Bush won the district in 2004 (54.5%), as did John McCain in 2008 (52.6%). John Sullivan narrowly won the district in 2004 over Doug Dodd (49.2% to 47.9% in a three-way race), but won by a wide margin in 2008 (57.2%).

(MORE: According to this on the Southwest Tulsa website -- "select all" to see the hidden text -- Senate District 33 has been held by a Democrat since its creation in 1965. Ed Bradley represented District 33 from 1965-1972, and Rodger Randle from 1973-1988, when he was elected mayor.

To the best of my recollection, in the 1988 mayor's race, in which one-term incumbent Republican Dick Crawford was defeated by Randle, Crawford sent out a last-minute tabloid newspaper-style campaign piece with an illustration of the SD 33 map after the fashion of a Gerrymander. Crawford's mailer tried to use the obvious manipulation of the boundaries of Randle's district for electoral advantage as an argument against Randle's character.)

The district isn't as fond of our U. S. Senators. In 2004, Tom Coburn finished second to Brad Carson (45.7% to 49.7% in a three-way race). In 2008, Jim Inhofe was edged out in SD 33 by Andrew Rice (47.8% to 48.5% in a three-way race).

One more thing: Adelson and Bartlett Jr each lost his own home precinct. Bartlett Jr got barely a third of the votes (34.0%) in Precinct 62, and Adelson did only a little better, 35.4%, in Precinct 71.

Last Sunday, as an early birthday lunch, my parents took us out to eat downtown at a new place that's been around for a while.

Escargot's is a catering establishment at 8th and Main, in the old Harrington's / KOME building. The dining room has long been used for special events, but only recently has the owner opened up for one and all for an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch.

When Mom asked me where I'd like to eat, I had just read Katherine Kelly's review of Escargot's brunch in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly, and I thought it would be worth a try. I was impressed at the owner seeing a way he could extend his successful business to meet the opportunity presented by several of Tulsa's largest churches within a few blocks of his front door and few available dining options nearby.

The food and service were as good as advertised. The younger kids were very happy with their food choices. (One buffet is devoted to kid favorites like chicken drumsticks, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, and corn dogs.) The salad was especially good -- not the usual bland iceberg. The food was hearty and fresh. My older son enthused over the fried okra. I especially liked the biscuits and gravy.

Prices were on par with most Sunday sit-down dining options. $12.50 for adults includes your drink, tax, and tip. It's $6 for ages 5-10. That's less than we'd spend at Delta Cafe for entrees alone (plus tax and tip), but at Escargot's the price covers drinks and desserts, the kids get to eat what they like, and there's no waiting to eat.

Escargot's is open for Sunday brunch from 10:30 to 2:30. Off-street parking is available north of the building, and there's plenty of street parking nearby (free on Sundays).

Work, homework, laundry, and more have occupied my time the last couple of days. My son is working on a five-paragraph essay for his writing assignment. He decided to write about Saul Alinsky and the ongoing influence of his Rules for Radicals.

(Had a birthday, too. Got a DVD collection of 1960s Peanuts TV specials, which included a documentary about Vince Guaraldi, the brilliant jazz pianist behind the Peanuts soundtracks. Interesting fact: Guaraldi was my age when he dropped dead of a heart attack.)

And as I sit down to write, I hear the nails on a chalkboard sound of CNN's Nancy Grace from the other room. So this may be a bit disjointed.

I'm thrilled with the City Council and City Auditor results. Things went my way in eight of the nine council districts. My candidate won the four contests where the daily paper and I endorsed different candidates (Turner over Patrick, Barnes over Gomez, Mautino over Troyer, and Christiansen over Lakin).

Tom Adelson was hurt by the same thing that hurt Steve Largent in 2002 -- the lack of a serious primary challenge to smooth out the rough edges of the campaign and the candidate. If a populist or more centrist Democrat had challenged Adelson, the alternative might have won the primary, or else Adelson and his campaign would have been improved by the process.

Adelson's mail piece -- showing Reagan, Inhofe, and Coburn, and saying Dewey Bartlett Jr doesn't measure up as a conservative -- was too easy to rebut. The Bartlett Jr campaign could simply put out a recorded phone call with Inhofe praising Bartlett Jr. If you're going to try an ad like that, pick people who are dead and can't contradict the way you use their image and name.

I'm amazed that none of the three candidates ran against Kathy Taylor's record as mayor. Bartlett Jr couldn't, having endorsed her before she stepped aside. But Perkins or Adelson might have, and if they had, there was plenty of news in the course of the last few weeks that would have reinforced an anti-Taylor campaign theme: To name two examples, the high cost of operating the new City Hall, and the mismanagement behind Tulsa's street problems, as revealed the report last week of the Public Works performance review.

Was it an anti-incumbent mood that gave us the first new City Auditor in 21 years and the return of three populist former councilors? Was it a feeling that the current leadership had failed to confront difficult choices, failed to prepare the city for the future, failed to subject public spending to proper scrutiny? For whatever reason, none of the major mayoral candidates gave the voters an outlet for that sentiment in the mayor's race.

It was great fun to be part of the KRMG election night team once again. I was in studio with news director Dan Potter. Paul Crockett was at the KOTV studio, and he relayed results from key precincts via Twitter as runners called them in to KOTV. We were able to call the mayoral result very early, as it became apparent from the key precinct results that, while Bartlett was running slightly behind LaFortune's 2006 numbers, Adelson was far, far behind Taylor's result. Adelson even lagged behind Barack Obama and Andrew Rice's 2008 percentages in those precincts.

Former Mayor Rodger Randle's Twitter feed of results and analysis was a help as well; hope to see it again in the future.

I made two bum calls: (1) My observation of Adelson's yard sign edge in midtown Money Belt precincts led me to believe that Adelson would win narrowly. Yard signs in yards (not just thrown up on the right-of-way) are an indication of support and enthusiasm. The tendency of voters in these predominantly Republican precincts to cross the line in local elections are the reason why this city has had Democratic mayors for all but four of the last 20 years. Despite the yard sign deficit, Bartlett Jr won most of those precincts. (2) I said on Twitter before the polls closed that observers beyond Tulsa shouldn't read a national message into the outcome. Upon reflection, I think Bartlett Jr won precisely by successfully nationalizing the election and hanging Obama around Adelson's neck.

Given that, it's notable that Bartlett Jr didn't have coattails. I looked at most of the results in District 6, and Bartlett Jr was consistently the lowest vote-getter in each precinct of each of the three Republican candidates on the ballot. Typically Preston Doerflinger was the most popular, followed by former-councilor-turned-councilor-elect Jim Mautino, followed by Bartlett Jr.

And now I'm about to fall asleep at the keyboard. More thoughts, maybe, later. Add yours below.

As generally pleased as I am with Tuesday's election results, the outcome that's most on my mind is this one. Please pray.

UPDATE 2009/11/11: After coming off ECMO, Anne Marie Dutcher's numbers are good and stable, much to everyone's amazement. Her mom, Susie, blogs that God has done something extraordinary. There are still many hurdles to come, so keep praying.

IVoted.jpgClick the "continue reading" link to find links to helpful essays on BatesLine, my endorsements, voter information from the Tulsa County Election Board, multimedia, and candidate questionnaires, all to help you as you get ready to vote (post-dated to remain at the top until polls close).

("I Voted" sticker courtesy Flickr user miscellaneaarts.)

Now, for after the polls close:

I'm excited to be, once again, part of News Talk KRMG's election night team. Coverage will begin at 7 p.m. and will continue until the races are decided. Tune in live on AM 740 or FM 102.3, or listen online via the link on the homepage. I'll be in the newsroom with KRMG News Director Dan Potter, providing analysis based on returns from key precincts, which should give us an early sense of the final outcome.

If you're in the mood to rejoice (or mourn) with your favorite candidate and your fellow supporters, Tasha Does Tulsa has locations for many of the watch parties; leave a comment there if you have info on the parties that she's missing.

Now Click the "continue reading" link to continue to election links galore.

Here's yet another slimy political attack from the Karl Ahlgren-Fount Holland factory. Dewey Bartlett Jr sent out a postcard to voters claiming, "Mark Perkins wants to take away our Second Amendment right to bear arms."

Mark Perkins stated in a debate on KFAQ that he supports the 2nd Amendment as an individual's right to keep and bear arms for protection and sport, that he owns a shotgun and a handgun, and that he opposes Mayor Kathy Taylor's involvement in Mayors against Illegal Guns. (Dewey Bartlett Jr endorsed Taylor for re-election despite her involvement in the anti-2nd Amendment group.)

During a lightning round portion of the KRMG Mayoral Smashup last Tuesday, the candidates were asked for a one word true or false response to the statement, "We need more regulations on handguns." Perkins was first to respond and began, "It's an issue that the Mayor...," at which point he paused and KRMG's Joe Kelley moved on to Tom Adelson for a response.

In Mark Perkins's video response to the Bartlett Jr attack, he says that as Mayor of Tulsa he wouldn't inject himself into national political issues. He attempted to respond to the Smashup question consistently with that position. The video includes audio from the KFAQ debate, video from the KRMG smashup, and video of Perkins showing with his guns at his home.

Dewey Bartlett Jr's campaign consultants, with his knowledge and authorization, turned that into a blatantly false claim on an orange postcard with a grizzled hunter and Fount Holland's trademark -- text in white Impact font: "Mark Perkins wants to take away our Second Amendment right to bear arms."

(Note to Fount: The Impact font has been your bread and butter for many years, but nowadays it makes people think of LOLcats. I can has purrsentage uv evree poastcard?)

Here's a press release from the Perkins campaign:

November 9, 2009 (Tulsa, OK) - In response to the attached mailer distributed by Dewey Bartlett for Mayor, Mark Perkins has posted a video rebuttal on his website at

The mailer states, "Mark Perkins was the only mayoral candidate to support more regulations on our firearms at the debate hosted by KRMG on November 3." and "Mark Perkins wants to take away our Second Amendment Rights."

"These claims are false and knowingly and intentionally misleading," said Perkins. The question on firearms was a part of the rapid fire round of questions during the KRMG debate. Each candidate was asked to answer yes or no to the question, "Do you support more regulations on our firearms." Perkins paused momentarily before beginning his answer. As Mr. Perkins began to answer, the moderator moved on to the next candidate.

"I have never said one word suggesting support for additional firearms regulations. Mr Bartlett knows where I stand on gun control, as we were in the same room when I discussed the 2nd Amendment during a debate." Perkins says. "I am a gun owner."

"Mr. Bartlett is further demonstrating his preference for dishonest attacks meant to scare voters because he is not confident in his own message or his own polling numbers. This dishonest mailer was deliberately timed to hit just before the election because there is little time to respond and expose his lies."

"Tulsans deserve an honest leader who demonstrates candor, good judgment, and leadership."

The video contains clips from the two referenced debates, the mailer, commentary, and footage of Mark's own home and firearms.

More and more people I know who would never consider voting for an independent candidate have told me they plan to vote for Mark Perkins. These aren't trendy young hipsters, but hardcore Republican voters. The mendacious character of the Bartlett Jr campaign is a big reason why. Do you really want Bartlett Jr's slimy consultants running City Hall?

Preserve Midtown, a group working to protect the unique character of midtown Tulsa's neighborhoods through compatible infill development, sent a very short and sweet three-question survey to the candidates for Mayor of Tulsa and the four contested City Council seats.

PreserveMidtownSign-200.jpgThe questions deal with the city no longer paying INCOG to handle zoning and land use planning and bringing those functions under the City of Tulsa's own planning department, how the city should address damage from stormwater runoff from construction sites, and property owner accountability for methamphetamine labs discovered on their property.

With the exception of District 3, only one candidate in each race provided a written response: Tom Adelson (Mayor), Roscoe Turner and David Patrick (District 3), Maria Barnes (District 4), Jim Mautino (District 6), and G. T. Bynum (District 9). Another mayoral candidate, Mark Perkins, phoned in a response.

Dewey Bartlett did not respond, nor did two candidates who received the vast majority of their campaign funding from outside of their districts, much of it from development interests: Eric Gomez and Dennis Troyer. (Patrick has a similar funding profile. Given the amount of campaign cash he receives from developers and his voting record on the City Council, I would take his responses with a grain of salt. In the end, he will likely do whatever means more convenience and less cost to developers, no matter how it affects neighboring residents.)

Jim Mautino provided a characteristically thoughtful response to the INCOG question:

INCOG should be terminated as a contractor, Zoning and Planning should be incorporated into the Urban Development Department so that there is a continuity between community development plans and the actions of the City Planning Committee and Board of Adjustment decisions that are compatible with the community development plan.

Roscoe Turner gave essentially the same answer, but more forcefully:

Not just yes, but HELL YES! I've been saying this for the last decade. Tulsans should make decisions for Tulsa.

(By way of background: The Indian Nations Council of Governments is a regional planning agency, supported by and municipal and county governments in the Tulsa metro area. INCOG is governed by a board made up of representatives from each of those governments. At present, the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County contract with INCOG to provide support for land use planning. INCOG staffers maintain land use records, evaluate zoning changes, special exceptions, and variances, and make recommendations to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. Tulsa is the only city in Tulsa County that doesn't have its own city planning commission.

INCOG also handles regional transportation planning and often administers federal infrastructure funds targeted to this area. That function would not change under the aforementioned proposal.

If you weren't convinced a year ago that Tulsa needed a new City Auditor, you should be now. The incumbent, Phil Wood, has held the job since 1988, and he's the only auditor we've had under the 1989 City Charter, which gave the Auditor's office a great deal of independence from the Mayor's office.

With the release of the external performance audit of the Public Works Department, it's clear that there has been a failure in the audit department: Evidently the auditors working for Phil Wood missed seeing important problems in their reviews of Public Works operations (possibly because they have been and still are understaffed), and problems that were identified in audit reports were never satisfactorily addressed by Public Works management.

In each case, the situation requires a City Auditor persistent, energetic, and vocal enough to get the resources the audit department needs to provide the oversight mandated by the City Charter and to push hard to see audit findings turned into corrective action.

The audit department has done solid work over the years, but many of their findings fail to get the public attention they deserve. As I wrote back in Februrary, we need the City Auditor to be willing to trumpet the results of his internal auditors' hard work, and to keep the pressure on the Mayor and the department heads to implement recommendations that will reduce fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

The framers of our 1989 City Charter envisioned the auditor as a kind of "anti-mayor," a counterweight to balance the mayor's power over the executive branch of government.

Under Wood, the department has instead taken a low-key approach, quietly releasing audit reports to elected officials and department heads.

Wood has been a leader in making city government information, including audit reports, available on the World Wide Web. He funded and programmed his own Web site ( providing access to city documents long before the city's official Web site was functional. All of his department's reports are available on his Web site.

But it's left up to others to make noise about important findings or to chide department heads for ignoring the auditor's recommendations.

PrestonDoerflinger.jpgPreston Doerflinger, the Republican nominee for City Auditor, strikes me as having the kind of drive needed to turn the analyses of the internal auditors into action by city departments to make better use of tax dollars.

I started out endorsing Doerflinger in the primary, but after his campaign consultant's mendacious, last minute attack on Bill Martinson on behalf of Chris Trail (and, ultimately, Kathy Taylor), I retracted my endorsement and voted for his opponent.

After the primary, I met Doerflinger for lunch, along with Tulsa County Republican Chairman Sally Bell. We had a frank and lengthy conversation about my concerns as well as his thoughts on the auditor's office. Regarding his consultant, Doerflinger assured me that he would control what kind of campaign material went out under his name. He wouldn't give his consultants free rein to attack his opponent unfairly. So far, he's been true to his word; his mailers, broadcast ads, and website are focused positively on what he has to offer.

I asked him about an item in his background that had me scratching my head. He made no excuses for his many speeding tickets prior to 2001, but at my request he told me the context: They happened as he and a partner were getting their medical supply business off the ground. They were driving all over the state, making deliveries to nursing homes, trying to cover all that ground on their own until they grew enough to hire more drivers. It was irresponsible, but all that is far behind him now.

His campaign contributions have come from friends and business associates all over the state. Ordinarily, I prefer a candidate to get his money from his own district and his own constituents, but in the case of a City Auditor, there's something to be said for a candidate NOT being funded by people who might have a direct interest in city government.

It's rare for the Tulsa Beacon and the Tulsa World to endorse the same candidate, but both have endorsed Doerflinger. From the Beacon endorsement:

Tulsa's city government needs more accountability.

During Mayor Kathy Taylor's administration, two former managers in the Public Works Department were indicted for bribery for city contracts.

State officials accused firefighters and paramedics of falsifying training records.

Tulsa Transit's finances were so bad that the director was put on leave until the problems could be identified.

Someone needs to be watching how the city does its financial business.

Republican Preston Doerflinger is the man for the job.

A successful businessman, Doerflinger has the right business background to keep an eye on the affairs of the city.

From the World endorsement:

Again, Wood has done an overall good job in the office, but the recent dispute with the firefighters is evidence that a change is needed. Earlier this year Wood asked the Tulsa Fire Department employees about allegedly falsifying training records. The firefighters refused to answer a questionnaire from the auditor. Wood's decision to simply drop the audit at that point is unacceptable.

An ordinance recently passed by the City Council requires all city employees to answer questions from the auditor's office. That will help but it will take an auditor with the energy and will to follow through to make this issue and others come to satisfactory conclusions....

Tulsa needs an internal auditor, not an eternal auditor. Preston Doerflinger has the energy, the vision and the qualifications to get the job of auditor done.

I'm persuaded that Preston Doerflinger is the right man for the job at this time in our history. However unhappy you may be with the choices at the top of the ticket, you still have the opportunity on Tuesday to elect an aggressive watchdog for our shrinking city tax dollars.

Polls show this as a close race, with many voters undecided. Please join me in voting this Tuesday for Preston Doerflinger for City Auditor.

UPDATE: Roscoe Turner's volunteers will gather at the Turner home at 3415 E. Haskell St. at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, 2009. Phone 918-834-7580 to see how you can help.

And all campaigns are going to need help on election day: Driving voters to the polls and making last minute reminder calls. If you can take some time Tuesday to help one of the campaigns, give them a call and let them know.

Candidates for City of Tulsa council seats will be busy this weekend encouraging people to get out and vote. The best candidates in three of the districts -- Roscoe Turner in District 3, Maria Barnes in District 4, and Jim Mautino in District 6 -- are being heavily outspent by incumbents who are backed by out-of-district special interests. Grassroots effort can overcome a dollar advantage, but only if volunteers help with knocking on doors and making phone calls.

(This Google Documents folder contains the campaign contribution filings for the 2009 Tulsa city elections.)

(If I lived in District 9, I'd vote for G. T. Bynum, but he has a significant funding advantage and should have no trouble being re-elected next Tuesday. No offense to G. T., but I think these other candidates are in greater need of help.)

Volunteers for Maria Barnes will gather tomorrow (Saturday, November 7, 2009) at the Daylight Donuts on 6th St. west of Lewis at 10 a.m. Call 918-582-4044 for more information or to find out how else you can help.

Jim Mautino's volunteer crew will meet tomorrow (Saturday, November 7, 2009) at 9:30 am at his home, 14628 E. 12th St. Call 918-437-2642 for more information or to find out other ways you can help.

I don't yet know when and where Roscoe Turner's volunteers will gather this weekend, but I'm sure they'll be walking the district, and you can call him at 918-834-7580 to see how you can help.

The weather this weekend will be beautiful, and these three races will give you the greatest opportunity to do something good for Tulsa's future by helping these three former councilors back into office.

My wife asked me the other day if we could put a sign in our yard for Maria Barnes, the former Tulsa District 4 city councilor who is seeking to take back that seat.

MariaBarnes.jpgFor my wife, the decision comes down to this: Incumbent councilor Eric Gomez, who defeated Barnes in 2008, had his attorney send a "scary lawyer" letter to neighborhood leader Julie Hall of Who Owns Tulsa?, threatening her with a lawsuit because she exercised her First Amendment rights to criticize an elected official.

And at the heart of Hall's criticism of Gomez was that he (and District 3 Councilor David Patrick) failed to inform nearby neighborhoods of the plan to build a four-story home for the chronically mentally ill and homeless at Admiral and Yale. Even if he truly believed that nothing could be done to stop the Tulsa Housing Authority's plan, it was wrong for Gomez to withhold that information from the neighborhood association, which may have been able to negotiate with THA to mitigate the impact of the facility or would have been able to organize more quickly to fight the plan by legal means. For those two reasons alone, my wife believes that Eric Gomez should be removed from office by the voters.

I agree.

My wife and I have known Maria for over a decade. For a few years, she and I served as vice president and president, respectively, of the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. Maria has served many years as president of the Kendall-Whittier Neighborhood Association.

When I ran for City Council in 2002, Maria was one of several Democratic neighborhood association leaders who reached across partisan lines to endorse me. We've had many disagreements, but there was never any doubt that her heart was with the concerns of neighborhoods, particularly in the northern, less prosperous part of Midtown, where the investments of homeowners are more vulnerable to bad planning decisions. I was happy to see her elected in 2006 and was sorry to see her lose in 2008.

Over this last City Council term, the perspective of a neighborhood leader hasn't been represented at City Hall. Yes, Eric Gomez has served as a neighborhood association president, but sometime between his narrow defeat in his 2004 challenge to Tom Baker and his 2008 race, his identity as a member of the real estate and development industry overwhelmed his identity as a neighborhood leader.

While Rick Westcott and Jack Henderson are generally supportive of neighborhood concerns, and Bill Christiansen has pushed for better communication with neighborhoods about the zoning process, none of them have the kind of perspective that Maria Barnes, Jim Mautino, and Roscoe Turner bring to the table as people who remember what it was like to stand on the other side of the dais, addressing the planning commission or the council on behalf of their neighbors. They have a gut-level understanding of the effect on a neighborhood when an incompatible development is approved or when the terms of a zoning change or special exception aren't enforced.

During his term of office, Eric Gomez has offered no resistance to bad development plans that set bad precedents. Now we're stuck with an ugly open lot at 14th and Utica where there used to be homes and sturdy brick apartment buildings. Gomez voted to rezone that land to OH -- Office High Intensity. It was a straight rezoning, not a PUD, so (under our outdated zoning code) there are no requirements to encourage compatibility with the investments of neighboring property owners. Gomez accepted the developer's proposal to put development conditions in a covenant, which could only be enforced by the city filing a lawsuit, rather than a PUD, which can be enforced by administrative action.

Gomez voted for the PUD for the Bomasada development on 39th east of Peoria, despite the project's violation of the very recently adopted Brookside Infill Plan, which is officially part of our Comprehensive Plan.

Both projects have been halted by the economy's decline, but we're stuck with the bad zoning decisions regardless, and the precedents they set to put development conditions in hard-to-enforce covenants and to ignore a recently crafted and adopted portion of the Comprehensive Plan.

As I predicted before the 2008 election, the concept of neighborhood conservation districts -- setting customized, clear, and consistently applied standards for compatible infill development in stable, established neighborhoods -- was politically dead as soon as Gomez was elected. The idea is successfully in use in many of our peer cities from coast to coast, including Oklahoma City, which has had neighborhood conservation districts since 1981. Gomez ran against the concept and has not brought it back to the council in any form whatsoever.

During Maria Barnes's term as councilor, I was disappointed with her on a number of issues. I disagreed with her vote against the Council resolution allowing Tulsa police officers to report suspected immigration violations to the feds. She was wrong to support the City Hall move. Although the new building is lovely, it was a bad financial decision that has put the city in an even tougher position than it would be otherwise. And I wish she'd be more understanding of the needs of small merchants in her district, particularly when it comes to the difficult issue of parking. Although I don't agree, I understand why my favorite coffee house is displaying Eric Gomez's yard signs.

Eric is probably more to my liking on fiscal issues, but he isn't close to being a consistent fiscal conservative. He voted for the ballpark assessment, a fee which inequitably hurts distant property owners -- who have fewer resources to pay the assessment -- far beyond any possible benefit from the new stadium. Already the assessment has tipped the scales in favor of the demolition of one downtown building, and I suspect more will follow. If, as seems likely, the assessment is struck down in court, Tulsa's taxpayers may wind up footing the bill through their property taxes, just as they did with the $7.1 million Kathy Taylor - Dewey Bartlett Jr Great Plains Airlines settlement. Eric also believes that the city was right to purchase One Technology Center to be the new City Hall.

His support for both bad moves has earned him substantial financial support from George Kaiser, BOK Financial PAC, Frederic Dorwart, and members of the Dorwart law firm. Ruth Kaiser Nelson, a key supporter of the Admiral & Yale apartments for the long-term mentally ill, has donated to Gomez's campaign. He's received major support from the development lobby, including cash from BuildPAC and RealtorPAC.

(Here is Eric Gomez's pre-primary disclosure, and here is Eric Gomez's pre-general contribution report.)

Gomez has reported a total of $21,700 in contributions above $200 so far this campaign season. Only $2,300 of that amount has come from residents of District 4..

$15,700 of Gomez's contributions over $200 came from individuals. (The rest came from three PACs and Tulsa Spine Hospital LLC.) $4,800 -- less than one-third -- of that amount came from his fellow registered Republicans. So much for the theory that local politics runs along national party lines. $9,900 came from Democrats: George Kaiser, Ruth Kaiser Nelson, Frederic Dorwart, Tamara Wagman, Steven Walton, William C. Jackson, Bob Poe, John Bumgarner (the developer of the 14th and Utica property), Gail Richards, Nancy Feldman, and former Councilor Gary Watts.

In the past, although I haven't been shy about criticizing Republican candidates when they deserve it, I've stopped short of endorsing their opponents.

From 2003 to 2007, I was an elected official in the Tulsa County Republican Party, serving as one of the county's representatives to the State Republican Committee and ex officio as a member of the Tulsa County Central Committee. I was elected both times without opposition. Prior and subsequent to that, I served on the County Executive Committee. I chose not to run for re-election as State Committeeman in 2007, but Chairman Gary Jones's asked me to serve on the Republican State Executive Committee. I decided to resign that post in 2008. I've served many times as chairman of platform and rules committees and have been in charge of counting ballots at county and district conventions.

In every case, my service was at the initiative and request of a party official seeking my skills and counsel. The only party office I now hold is precinct chairman, and, as is true of most Republican precinct chairmen, I hold it by default; no one else wants the job.

As a party official, you're not supposed to endorse an opponent of a Republican candidate. And in the federal and state legislatures, party control matters.

But in local politics, factions on key issues cross party lines. You can see that by looking at campaign disclosures. People who are consistent one-party donors at the national level spread their money across party lines in Tulsa. Why is George Kaiser, a major Obama bundler, contributing to Republican Eric Gomez, Democrat-turned-Independent David Patrick, and Republican Phil Lakin? Why has he been giving money to candidates in Republican council primaries?

Party loyalty seems to be negotiable if you have enough money and influence. Dewey Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Kathy Taylor for re-election didn't deter three former Republican county chairmen from endorsing him in the primary. But in 2006, Chris Medlock's faithful support for the party nominee that he tried to unseat was not reciprocated that fall when he ran for State House. Promises were made, but they were not kept.

In 2002, former City Councilor John Benjamin raised money for my Democratic opponent, Tom Baker, evidently in revenge for my effective opposition to the "It's Tulsa's Time" arena tax in 2000. At Bill LaFortune's 2002 election night watch party, he was heard to say of my defeat, "Payback's a bitch." Certain Republican leaders assured me he would be shunned from party organizations for his disloyalty, but that never happened.

I've endorsed the idea of multipartisan city elections: Allowing candidates to identify, on the ballot, with one or more political organizations, so as to more accurately describe their perspective on local issues. National party affiliation is better than no information at all (as on a non-partisan ballot), but it isn't predictive of what that candidate will do as a mayor or city councilor.

One of the key issues at this point in Tulsa's history, as we move toward adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan, is whether we have land use rules that are fair, clear, consistently applied, and that encourage compatible new development or whether we continue to allow developers to warp those rules and to build in ways that undermine the investments of neighboring property owners. Maria Barnes is on the right side of that issue. Eric Gomez is on the wrong side.

And as my wife noted, Eric Gomez is emphatically on the wrong side of the related issues of (a) keeping homeowners in the dark and (b) threatening to sue someone for criticizing his political actions.

That's reason enough for me to vote for Maria Barnes for District 4 City Councilor and to encourage you to do the same.

Mark Perkins, independent candidate for Mayor of Tulsa, forwarded an e-mail that he sent to the KRMG Morning News team. In it, he provides his analysis of his chances, explaining how relatively small voter shifts away from his opponents and from the undecided column -- entirely possible given the new lows in obnoxious advertising reached over the last three weeks -- would make this a three-way race that any of the candidates could win.

What that would mean for Tulsa voters is that, unlike elections past, there would be no need to cast a tactical vote to ensure the defeat of your least favorite candidate. You could simply vote for your favorite of the three with the confidence that you're helping him win and at the same time ensuring that your least favorite loses.

Here's a link to the most recent KRMG interview with Mark Perkins and the interview with Bill LaFortune to which he refers. And here's Mark Perkins's chart illustrating the result of a 5% shift from the other two candidates and the undecided column.


Thank you for having me on your show this morning. In the final moments of your program Mr. Couri offered a synopsis that did not accurately capture my message or my political opinion. Perhaps I did not explain it very well. So I would like to explain again what I said yesterday, and what I believe to be the political reality today. Just my opinion, but I think it is accurate.

If necessary, please see Tulsa World article for reference. I have also attached my visual chart for your reference.

First, my point is that I can win. In fact, I believe I am in a good position to win, and more likely than Bartlett. Not because I am currently ahead of him in the polls, but because I am more likely than him to move ahead of Adelson by election day.

Here is why:

#1. Three Weeks Ago the Polls looked like this, as has been verified (see TW for more):
Adelson - 35% Bartlett - 32% Perkins - 15% Undecided - 18%

#2. That was 3 weeks ago, not current. That was before:

A) The most egregious of the negative ads that turn voters off;

B) I sent 30,000 mailers;

C) I began airing my 2 commercials on networks and cable;

D) The string of 13 or so debates, the media coverage that goes with them, and other media events, speeches to organizations, etc. Anyone candid would admit I performed very well, with consistent messaging and a firm grasp of the issues and nuances.

#3. All indications are that I have moved up in the polls, and continue to gain serious momentum. Aside from what I can attest to w/in my campaign, here are more indicators:

A) Bartlett seeking endorsement by Medlock. Curious if you watched the primaries. Classic example of Party over City. Didn't work though. I found out about this from a Medlock supporter who in my office picking up 20 yard signs to disperse to friends. (also see article)

B) Robocalls meant to move Adelson votes to me, and move Perkins votes to Bartlett [further evidence of poll accuracy and my hypothesis (see Chart).

C) TW verification that Adelson poll shows my numbers have grown (see article)

D) Pulse on the Street: "With Perkins, you probably have seen in the polling him coming on pretty strong right now. And then you get down to the street level, and people are talking about Mark Perkins. A lot. Everywhere I go." Former Mayor Bill LaFortune on KRMG 11/4

So, with this information, the chart I have created (attached) using conservative estimates of movements in the polls based upon the above information contained in #3 lead me to these conclusions. I might add that my political acumen has a pretty good track record. (P.S. the movements I suggested (5%) are much more conservative than Adelson's claim in the TW article of nearly double digit lead).

Conclusion #1: Bartlett cannot win. If he is behind right now, and all indications are that he is, he needs to either: 1) Earn Democrat votes, which he won't because of the kind of campaign he has run [and his camp seems to understand this...see message of Robocalls to Dems]; and/or 2) take votes from me, which he is trying (see Robocalls to Repubs) but all indications are that the opposite is true. I know I am gaining supporters, not losing them.

Conclusion #2: Adelson is in the best position to win. He is ahead right now.

Conclusion #3: I can and may win. As stated, I believe I am the only candidate who can beat Adelson. Here is the how and why:

1) Adelson is not gaining momentum either. He has also run a negative campaign. He is not going to garner much Republican support, and he has not been endorsed by any elected Republicans.

2) I have a lot of support from Democrats and Independents that continues to build (did I mention I have all the momentum?)

3) I have a lot of support w/ minorities and in parts of town that usually vote Democrat. I have been most attentive, and my mother is the former director of Neighbor for Neighbor and on the 100 Black Men Hall of Honor. Very well respected.

Conclusion #4: I will win If some combination of the following occurs:

A. People Realize Bartlett can't win and I can (possibility). I need a few of the people supporting me privately to go public.

B. More Tulsans than usual put their City over their Party (definitely). This is already happening.

C. I succeed in explaining why I am a better choice than Adelson (Likely...Stay Tuned). I have halfway succeeded in this over the course of the debates. The second part of my press conference focused on how I am a better candidate than Adelson, but the media didn't cover that part. So I am working on that now...

So, for what its worth, that is why I am in a good position right now.


P.S. Anybody who talks of splitting the vote or "spoiler" has an agenda. Blindly towing the party line is weak, flies in the face of principles of democracy, and will result in Adelson victory. Both parties have let us down, and its time to take away some of their power in favor of a leader who has demonstrated leadership, judgment, and a practical perspective focused on making Tulsa a better place. What matters is: 1) Leadership, w/ no political agenda and no political debts. 2) Efficient & Effective Government. 3) Focus on core responsibilities: Public Safety, Education, Infrastructure, Economic Development.

What many of us suspected was confirmed by the post-primary ethics filing from Tulsa District 5 City Councilor-elect Chris Trail: Trail was Mayor Kathy Taylor's instrument of revenge against City Councilor Bill Martinson, who opposed her on the ballpark improvement district, raised concerns about the overly rosy revenue projections in her budget (and the actual numbers have vindicated his concerns), and provoked her to walk out of a meeting simply by insisting on a straight answer to his question about city financing of downtown services in the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.

Councilor John Eagleton's website has an entry with copies of Trail's pre-primary and post-primary contribution reports. Trail raised $51,505. At least $24,100 of that money came from Bill Lobeck (Mr. Kathy Taylor) and associates connected with Vanguard Car Rental. Except for $500 from Lobeck, all of these contributions were made after the filing deadline for the pre-primary report, allowing Trail to avoid disclosing contributions that clearly marked him out as Taylor's tool.

A report on Edgar Online (a repository of SEC filings) from 2006 shows several names found on Chris Trail's contribution report. Below are the names, city of residence according to Trail's report, amount of contribution to Trail, and title according to the 8/2/2006 SEC report for Vanguard Car Rental Group or according to linked web documents:

  • Bill Lobeck, Tulsa, $5,000, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director
  • Jeff Parell, Edina, Mn., $5,000, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
  • Thomas Kennedy, Plantation, Fl., $5,000, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
  • Thomas J. Santorelli, Highland Beach, Fl., $500, Senior Vice President, Risk Management
  • Tyler Best, Plymouth, Mi., $2,500, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
  • Dan Lynch, Owasso, Ok., $300, VP of FP&A
  • Barry Benoit, Tulsa, Ok, $800, VP of Fleet

In addition, Alvin Swanner of Kenner, La., gave $5,000 to Trail. Swanner shows up as a partner with Lobeck in several investments and acquisitions.

Trail also benefited from funds from public employee unions, angry at Martinson's scrutiny of the dramatic growth of public safety spending as a proportion of city revenues. The PACs of AFSCME, the firefighter's local, and the FOP lodge contributed a total of $7,140.23 to the campaign.

Trail received funds from several people connected with the downtown ballpark assessment. Frederic Dorwart, attorney for Bank of Oklahoma, spearheaded the scheme. He gave Trail $1,000. Dorwart firm associates John D. Clayman and H. Steven Walton gave Trail $250 and $1,000 respectively. Trail received $1,500 from BOK Financial PAC. Peter Boylan contributed $500. Francis Rooney, who lists an address on N. Elgin, although he isn't registered to vote in Oklahoma, gave $1,000.

I have to wonder: What compelled Lobeck's associates to contribute funds to a city council race in Tulsa? Did Lobeck call them? If so, what did he tell them about Trail and Martinson that would be compelling enough to convince them to give maximum contributions.

Parell, Kennedy, and Benoit all gave money to David Patrick's 2008 campaign to unseat Roscoe Turner.

The voters ought to be able to know about these sorts of contributions BEFORE the election.

Several political action committees have contributed to City of Tulsa candidates during the current election cycle:


BOK Financial PAC: Dewey Bartlett Jr, $1,000; Chris Trail, $1,500; (Eric Gomez received $1,500 and Phil Lakin received $2,000 before the primary, in addition to contributions from George Kaiser, BOK attorney Frederic Dorwart, and several people associated with the Dorwart Law Firm).


Tulsa Inc. Build PAC: Dewey Bartlett Jr, $2,000; Mark Perkins $1,500; David Patrick, $1,500; Eric Gomez, $2,000 (plus $1,500 before the primary); Dennis Troyer, $1,500; Phil Lakin, $1,000; Bill Martinson, $500; Rick Westcott, $1,000. (NOTE: Gomez's disclosure lists Build PAC's contribution this period as $3,000; Build PAC lists $2,000 this period.)

Realtor PAC: David Patrick, $1,000; Bill Martinson, $1,000; G. T. Bynum, $500; Bill Christiansen, $500; Rick Westcott, $500; Eric Gomez, $1,000.

Associated Builders and Contractors PAC: (Phil Lakin, $500 before the primary.)

Oklahoma Associated General Contractors PAC: Chris Trail, $2,000, (plus $1,000 in the pre-primary report).


AFSCME: Tom Adelson, $5,000; Maria Barnes, $500; Chris Trail, $500.

IBEW-COPE: Tom Adelson, $2,500; Maria Barnes, $5,000;

AFL-CIO: (Tom Adelson, $5,000 from before the primary.)

Oklahoma Building Trades PAC: Tom Adelson, $500;

Transport Workers Union PAC: Maria Barnes, $1,000;

Tulsa Firefighters Local 176 PAC: Maria Barnes, $1,000; Bill Christiansen, $2,217,49 (including $1,000 before the primary); Chris Trail, $3,740.23; (plus Tom Adelson, $2,500, David Patrick, $1,000, Dennis Troyer, $1,000, and Bart Rhoades, $2,000, before the primary).

Back the Badge PAC: Maria Barnes, $1,000; Bill Christiansen, $2,000; Barton Rhoades, $2,000; Chris Trail $2,000.

City franchisees

Cox PAC: Tom Adelson, $2,500; Dewey Bartlett Jr, $2,500;


Chickasaw Nation: Tom Adelson, $5,000 (includes $1,000 from before the primary); (plus Dewey Bartlett Jr, $1,000 from before the primary).

Osage Executive Branch PAC: David Patrick, $500;


Newfield PAC: Dewey Bartlett Jr, $1,000

Cash America International PAC: Dewey Bartlett Jr, $1,000

XTO Energy PAC: Dewey Bartlett Jr, $1,000 (plus $1,000 before the primary)

Energy for Oklahomans PAC: Dewey Bartlett Jr, $1,000

Thoroughbred PAC: Tom Adelson, $500.

Just Progress PAC: Tom Adelson, $500; Maria Barnes, $500 (plus $500 in the primary); Roscoe Turner, $500.

City of Tulsa contribution reports for next Tuesday's general election were due today to the City Clerk's office at 5 p.m. Three of the four mayoral candidates have filed their paperwork, and it indicates that Democratic nominee Tom Adelson has a funding advantage fueled by a personal loan of $850,000 to his campaign. Despite rumors that Republican nominee Dewey Bartlett Jr was willing to devote $750,000 in personal funds to the race, he has loaned the campaign only $35,000 as of the reporting deadline. Independent candidate Mark Perkins is campaigning on a relative shoestring budget of just under $53,000.

Here are the top line numbers, as of the end of the reporting period on October 26, 2009:

Tom Adelson:

Personal loan: $850,000.00
Contributions over $200: $129,738.30
Contributions $200 and under: $32,946.50
Carryover from previous report: $196,896.00
Total for campaign: $1,296,786.48

Expenditures this report: $947,987.39
Carryover from previous report: $109,690.30
Total for campaign: $1,057,677.69

Dewey Bartlett Jr.:

Personal loans: $20,000.00 ($15,000 loan this period, $5,000 previous report)
Contributions over $200: $268,104.20 (does not include loan)
Contributions $200 and under: $15,153.00
Carryover from previous report: $281,243.05 (does not include earlier $5,000 loan from Bartlett Jr.)
Total for campaign: $584,500.29

(NOTE: Due to my misreading of Bartlett's detailed disclosure, I earlier incorrectly reported that Bartlett Jr. had loaned his campaign $20,000 before the primary, when that is in fact the cumulative amount. I regret the error.)

Expenditures this report: $370,290.06
Carryover from previous report: $155,659.72
Total for campaign: $525,949.78

Mark Perkins:

Personal loan: $3,669.16 (all in previous report)
Contributions over $200: $18,959.50 (includes $5,000 in previous report from Perkins Law Firm LLC)
Contributions $200 and under: $4,740.00
Carryover from previous report: $25,539.10 (excludes personal loan from previous report)
Total for campaign: $52,907.76

Expenditures this report: $35,794.13
Carryover from previous report: $4,644.69
Total for campaign: $40,438.82

More info and analysis on PACs and individual contributors later this evening.

As I was pulling out of the driveway on Saturday, a neighbor ran out into the street and flagged me down. She wanted to know what I thought about the three amendments to the Tulsa City Charter on the November 10 ballot.

(You can find sample ballots with the text of the propositions on the Tulsa County Election Board website.)



Proposition No. 1 would require the City Auditor to be either a certified internal auditor or a certified public accountant. I can understand the thinking behind it, but I think it's a misguided amendment. The City Auditor is a misnomer. Head of the city audit department would be a more accurate title. The actual auditing work is done by a staff of internal auditors headed up by a chief who reports to the elected City Auditor. The City Auditor is a leader, a manager, and a communicator. As I wrote earlier this year, the City Auditor ought to be engaged in publicizing his department's findings (particularly those audit recommendations rejected by city department managers) and in lobbying for sufficient resources to keep watch over city finances.

Phil Wood didn't become a CIA until 1991, after he'd been elected and re-elected. Preston Doerflinger, the Republican challenging him this year, is working on his CIA certification. It's a useful qualification to have, but it ought to be up to the voters to decide whether a candidate who isn't a CIA or CPA has other qualities that compensate for that deficiency.

I'm voting AGAINST Proposition No. 1.



Proposition No. 2 would change the City Council term to three years with only three councilors up for re-election. I've written previously about the problems with this idea. Steven Roemerman has two posts, one from July explaining how the change attempts to solve a non-existent problem and one from today asking who benefits from this proposal.

I'm voting AGAINST Proposition No. 2.



Proposition No. 3 would require approval from the City Council as well as the Mayor before the city settles a claim or lawsuit in excess of $1 million. This is a response, initiated by District 9 Councilor G. T. Bynum, to Mayor Kathy Taylor's hasty acquiescence in a $7.1 million settlement of the Great Plains Airlines loan default lawsuit. Taylor's unilateral action amounted to a property tax increase without a vote of the people or even of their representatives so that Bank of Oklahoma could be reimbursed for a defaulted loan that they should have had the sense not to make. That should never be allowed to happen again. Not surprisingly, the Tulsa Metro Chamber (a major backer of the failed airline plan) doesn't like limiting the mayor's ability to transfer money to favored businesses.

I'm voting FOR Proposition No. 3.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m. 2009/11/02: Liz Wright called earlier this morning to tell me that the County Commission voted to approve the November 23 public hearing. Karen Keith based her call for a hearing on the need for geographical balance and her desire to make her own appointment, neither of which is cause for removing a planning commissioner under state law.

I was disappointed to hear that Keith's two Republican colleagues, John Smaligo and Fred Perry, voted to approve Keith's request without comment. I certainly hope they aren't using county employees to conduct private discussions about commission business, as that would violate the spirit of Oklahoma's open meetings law. They should not have approved the public hearing without Keith supplying probable cause for removal.

Smaligo and Perry have enabled Keith to blindside Wright at the November 23 hearing. By giving Keith the hearing without requiring public statement of the real reason, Perry and Smaligo have prevented Wright and her supporters from having the time to prepare a defense. As a commenter suggested, this is the same underhanded approach we saw in the ouster of Bell's Amusement Park. Although the commissioners involved in the Bell's issue are gone, the rotten political culture seems to linger on.

(And what is it about Karen Keith that she manages to wrap male Republican elected officials around her little finger? She wouldn't have had the resume to run for commissioner if Bill LaFortune hadn't given her a job in his mayoral administration.)

Liz Wright also told me that she was never notified by the county that an issue concerning her would be on this morning's agenda.

At Monday's Tulsa County Commission meeting, District 2 Commissioner Karen Keith will seek a public hearing for the November 23, 2009, meeting to remove Elizabeth Wright as a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission 14 months before her term is due to end. Wright was nominated for the TMAPC by then-Commissioner Randi Miller and approved by the County Commission in April 2008. The Tulsa World's Kevin Canfield had a story on Keith's ouster attempt in the Sunday, November 1, 2009, edition.

Keith's stated reason for removing Wright, according to Canfield's story: "I would like the opportunity to make my own appointment, and I want someone who will be responsive to the needs of the western and southern parts of the county." But under state law, a planning commissioner can only be removed for cause.

So Keith has apparently ginned up some pretext for removal for cause, but she's only hinting at the reasons in menacing tones:

But Keith said Saturday that Wright knows why the county is considering her removal.

"It's unfortunate, but all of the details about her service on the Planning Commission will come out," Keith said. "She knows and she understands why this is happening."

And yet the e-mail traffic between Wright and county mouthpiece Terry Simonson, on Keith's behalf, has focused entirely on the geographical balance issue. Wright has provided me with the e-mail traffic between her and Simonson. After several generic messages attempting to set up a meeting between Keith and Wright, Simonson wrote the following on Tuesday, October 8, 2009:


Karen tells me she has already spoken with you and that the topic was that she wants to replace you as her appointment with a neighborhood representative from a part of her district that has no representation. Apparently most, if not all, of the TMAPC members come from a fairly compact same area of Tulsa, primarily what some would call the midtown area. No representation from West Tulsa, Sand Springs, or Jenks. Since the appointment is designated for the District 2 County Commissioner, she can make a replacement appointment. So, what I need is either a letter or email from you resigning from the board so she can move forward with her appointment. I'm sure you would agree that if it is truly a metropolitan area planning commission that geographic balance on the commission is a good thing.

(Please note that the cities of Jenks and Sand Springs each have their own city planning commissions and are not under the jurisdiction of the TMAPC.)

In her reply, Wright notes that the geographical imbalance is the result of city appointments. She also states that she is the only small business owner on the commission and represents women-owned businesses.

Simonson's October 12, 2009, reply:

Dear Liz

There is a reason why the county commissioners are allowed to make appointments to the TMAPC. Since it's a metropolitan planning commission, all parts of the county should be represented. The city councilors of course can and will only appoint people from within the city which they have historically done. Same with the Mayor. That leaves the commissioners to appoint people either outside of the city of Tulsa or from parts of the city not represented on the commission.

I think there is a difference between a property owner or business owner who resides or owns property in another part of the county and one who doesn't. I think there can be a different perspective from a visitor to the area versus someone who has roots and a history. Certainly Jenks and Sand Springs and Glenpool deserve some form of representation. I think your points of being a women business owner is important and this demographic could likewise be represented from a selection outside of the city of Tulsa.

So, if one were to compose a profile of a well rounded planning commissioner and take into account a diverse set of criteria ( geography, demographic, business experience, neighborhood and planning knowledge, etc ) I believe a commissioner like that can be found outside of the city of Tulsa.


Nothing in the correspondence indicates that there is any cause for Wright's removal, but now Keith is trying to move forward with a hearing that only makes sense if some cause will be presented.

Behind the scenes, word is that developers are upset with Wright for raising questions that they would rather not have to answer, and that's the reason they are working through Karen Keith to push for Wright's removal.

It's true that there are too many planning commissioners and too many members of boards and commissions in general that come from what I've labeled the "Money Belt" -- the wealthiest neighborhoods of Tulsa which are clustered along a line from Maple Ridge to Southern Hills and then fans out into the gated communities of south Tulsa. The Money Belt, particularly the portion between Maple Ridge and Southern Hills, is like a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else. My theory is that mayors tend to pick people from this area for boards and commissions because that's where their networks of friends and friends of friends all live.

Florence Park, where Liz Wright lives and where she has served as neighborhood association president, lies outside the Money Belt, even though it is in midtown. And midtown Tulsa is the most populous portion of District 2 that is under the jurisdiction of the TMAPC, which only handles zoning cases for the City of Tulsa and unincorporated portions of Tulsa County. Every other Tulsa County municipality has its own planning commission. (Tulsa should too, with all commissioners appointed by city elected officials, but that's a topic for another day.)

More important than geographic balance on the TMAPC is professional balance. Too many of its members have ties to the real estate and development industry. People in that position would be understandably reluctant to recommend against zoning changes sought by firms that may be their partners or customers in future projects or to recommend against zoning changes that would set a useful precedent for their own projects. Balance will help to ensure that the land use regulation system serves all Tulsans and is administered fairly, even-handedly, and consistently.

Not only do we need neighborhood leaders on the TMAPC for balance, we need those leaders to be intelligent and confident in their own judgment. I've seen it happen in the past that neighborhood and community leaders are appointed to a board or commission, and rather than bringing a new perspective to the body, they are indoctrinated and assimilated into its culture.

Imagine the outcry and editorializing if a county commissioner were trying to force a real estate broker or a homebuilder off of the commission to replace him with a neighborhood association president.

Geographic balance is important, but I would hate to lose a planning commissioner like Liz Wright, who brings a neighborhood perspective to the table, understands zoning, and is able to stand up under pressure. If you believe we need that kind of perspective, particularly as we embark upon adoption and implementation of a new comprehensive plan for Tulsa, please contact your county commissioners and urge them to allow Liz Wright to serve out her full term on the TMAPC.

District 1: John Smaligo,, (918) 596-5020
District 2: Karen Keith,, (918) 596-5016
District 3: Fred Perry,, (918) 596-5010

Karen Keith received significant campaign contributions from the real estate and development lobby. Keith's campaign consultants included Jim Burdge, who ran the development lobby's ugly recall campaign against neighborhood-friendly city councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, and Art Justis, who as a city councilor was a reliable vote for whatever a developer wanted to do and who was defeated by neighborhood leader Jim Mautino.

It's a shame that the development lobby is so insecure that they feel it necessary to eliminate someone with a neighborhood association background, just because she is intelligent, articulate, and independent. It's a shame that Karen Keith, who once upon a time was a supporter of neighborhood associations and an opponent of incompatible redevelopment, has apparently decided to carry the development lobby's water on this issue.

Construction of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Tulsa, c. 1948, Pastor J. H. Dotson

Construction of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Tulsa, c. 1948, Pastor J. H. Dotson

Pastor J. H. Dotson during the construction of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The photos appear to show the remnant of the ruins of the 1921 structure, which had been roofed in 1937 and was being used for worship, being incorporated into the new structure, c. 1948. Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.

I was looking for something (the National Park Service's "1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconnaissance Survey," a 2005 publication that identified sites of importance related to the riot, which used to be on the web, but is no longer).

I found something else: Mt. Zion Baptist Church's registration form for the National Register of Historic Places. The application was written in April 2008 by Cathy Ambler, Ph.D., a preservation consultant based in Tulsa.

The application, accompanied by maps and photos, both current and historical, tells the story of Greenwood before, during, and after the riot through the story of Mt. Zion. The church's brand new edifice, dedicated in April 1921, was destroyed on June 1, 1921. The membership met in members homes and, later, in a roofed section of the building's ruins until they raised enough money to pay off the debt from the destroyed building and to build a new structure, which was not complete until 1952.

The document is worth reading for a synopsis of the story of Greenwood from its earliest days, through riot, rebuilding, and urban removal, and as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the members of Mt. Zion.


Here is Mt. Zion Baptist Church's webpage on the history of their building.

Two weeks after the riot, Walter F. White, a reporter for The Nation published an on-the-scene report of the causes, its aftermath, and the corrupt and lawless state of Tulsa in 1921.

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