April 2010 Archives

Wichita has a downtown grocery store.

I came across it while out for a walk in the eastern part of downtown, near the recently opened Intrust Arena. (Some people go to the Y or the hotel exercise room. I walk through downtowns and historic neighborhoods.)

The store would be easy to miss. It's in an old two-story building, a block off of Douglas, the main east-west thoroughfare through downtown, across the street from the city bus terminal. It's also close to the newly opened Intrust Arena, and as a result it came close to not being there at all.

Ray Sales Co.'s sign announces retail and wholesale groceries. The retail part is a small storefront (maybe 20x20) that offers a selection of basic food and home necessities, more variety than you'd find in a convenience store. It's just a block away from the historic Eaton Hotel, which has been restored and converted to residential use, and just a few blocks more from the lofts in the warehouses of Old Town and downtown office buildings that city officials hope to redevelop as residences.

MDB11477-poponiceI stopped in for a bottle of Diet Coke and spoke briefly to the lady behind the counter. In response to my comment about the arena being nearby, she told me that the county had wanted the land for the arena development, but preservationists had identified the building as historic, which prevented the building from being knocked down and the store from being displaced from its home for 36 years.

While I was in the store, I witnessed the kind of personal service that small, family-owned businesses are renowned for. Customers from all walks of life were treated with kindness and respect, with extra assistance for those who needed it.

MDB11477-coffeeHad it not been for the historical status of the Ray Sales building and the Eagle Hall Building next door, the county would have bought and demolished the buildings, and it likely would have been the end of the line for the small business, at least as a downtown grocery. It would have been hard for the grocery to find another affordable location nearby. Its customers -- downtown residents and workers, bus riders passing through the station -- would have lost a valuable resource. You're not going to find a box of marble cake mix or a 55 cent can of pop at the Intrust Arena concession stand, which isn't even open most days.

Tulsa saw this happen with the Denver Grill, one of Tulsa's oldest restaurants, and the Children's Day Nursery, founded in 1916, which were both demolished to make way for the BOk Center, even though the arena could have been situated to leave those two buildings, at opposite corners of the site, in place. The Denver Grill relocated to the once-and-future Holiday Inn at 7th and Boulder, but the move from a corner diner to the second-floor of a hotel cost it visibility and customers, and it's no longer in business. The Children's Day Nursery, providing convenient day care near the civic center and the city bus terminal, no longer appears to be in business anywhere.

It amazed me that historic preservation laws in Kansas were sturdy enough to stop a local government from taking land for a publicly owned facility, so I did some research.

In 1977, while Tulsa leaders were still busily demolishing historic buildings and neighborhoods in the name of progress, the Kansas Preservation Act became law, declaring that "the historical, architectural, archeological and cultural heritage of Kansas is an important asset of the state and that its preservation and maintenance should be among the highest priorities of government."

Wichita's Hotel Eaton

Every government action involving land -- whether a city or county's own project, or government approval for a private project (e.g. building permit, zoning change) -- within 500 feet of a place on the National or Kansas Register of Historic Places is subject to review by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). If the SHPO finds that the project will encroach upon or damage historic property, the project can't go forward unless the local government determines, "based on a consideration of all relevant factors, that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the proposal and that the program includes all possible planning to minimize harm to such property resulting from such use." Kansas courts have construed this requirement strictly: A city council can't just say, "we determine," and the project moves ahead. "Alternatives may not be rejected unless they present 'unique problems' or 'cost or community disruption' of 'extraordinary magnitudes.'"

The results are evident all over Wichita and on small town Main Streets across Kansas. While Wichita joined the urban renewal orgy of the '60s -- the scars are most apparent a few blocks north of Douglas and between Main and the Arkansas River -- the bleeding was largely stopped when the bill passed, and the kind of urban fabric that Tulsa lost long ago is still present in Wichita.


But the difference is not just one of laws. Kansas could pass a strict historic preservation law because Kansas leaders see the value of preservation. There is a presumption in Kansas in favor of preservation, a presumption that isn't widely held among Tulsa leaders. I wouldn't expect to see the sentiments expressed by the Wichita Eagle editorial board, in a November 15, 2006, editorial, expressed in our daily paper:

Some destruction of the old is unavoidable if Wichita wants to make way for new growth. But public officials also must make sure that these buildings - and their owners - get a fair hearing....

Board members properly start from an assumption that old buildings are worth preserving....

Two buildings on the site stand out as worthy of preservation: The Ray Sales building at 206 S. Emporia and the Dancers Building at 200 S. Emporia. The county should try to find a way to incorporate them into the master plan. They're not directly in the arena footprint. And they have architectural character and charm that would help provide a visual link to the brick-and-gaslight feel of Old Town.

As this process goes forward, arena stakeholders must work to find the right balance between preservation and growth.

There will be tough decisions.

Wherever possible, though, let's preserve downtown's history and character.

In city after city, state after state, preservation only caught on once local leaders with wealth and social influence (often, as in Savannah and San Antonio, the wives of prominent businessmen) adopted it as a cause. For whatever reason, that still hasn't happened in Tulsa.

MORE: Here's the section of the Kansas State Historical Society's website on the Kansas Preservation Act. Their guide to the Preservation Act has a good summary of the history of the law and how it is applied.

Here's an odd little digression to take us into the weekend:

Redd Foxx as Taft, Oklahoma, police chief, Jet magazine, December 19, 1974

The mention of the town of Boley in the 1977 documentary on historic preservation in Oklahoma got me chasing a rabbit in the middle of writing the previous entry.

It brought to mind a time in the '70s when black celebrities adopted some of Oklahoma's historic black towns -- towns founded by Creek freedmen who, as tribal members, received Dawes Commission allotments in Indian Territory or by settlers in the newly opened lands of the Unassigned Lands and the Cherokee Outlet.

I remember newspaper articles and TV stories about well known entertainers like Redd Foxx and Flip Wilson visiting these little towns and offering to help finance civic improvements. "Sanford and Son" and the Flip Wilson Show were two of my favorite TV programs, so the announcements caught my attention.

Thanks to Google's online archive of publications, I have confirmation of my memories. Sometime in the summer of 1974, Taft, Oklahoma, mayor Lelia Foley appointed Redd Foxx police chief of the town. In the Sept. 26, 1974, issue of Jet, Foxx said that this would "not be a token job":

Foxx... said he plans to establish a museum to house the artifacts of outstanding Black leaders and personalities, plug for a new municipal swimming pool and promote a project to improve the appearance of residences and busnesses.

According to a story in the November 13, 1974, Toledo Blade, Foxx heard about the job opening and applied for it: "He was looking for an all-black community to help, so he took the job." He announced plans to finance a swimming pool and a museum for the town and to donate some of his memorabilia for display.

In October he visited and was sworn in. The December 19, 1974, issue of Jet featured Foxx on the cover, in cowboy hat and chief's badge, standing next to a police car.

A story in the December 3, 1974, Miami News, mentions Redd Foxx's adoption of Taft as a bright spot in his life:

The only time Foxx becomes lively is when talking about Taft, a town 104 miles from Oklahoma City. He's honorary sheriff, and wants to build a swimming pool and a black hall of fame there. He adds, "if people get off the highway to see a football hall of fame and snakes, why not get off the highway for a tribute to black accomplishment?"

October 26, 1974, Kentucky New Era
quoted Foxx on his motivation for getting involved in Taft:

"It is my desire to put Taft on the map, to turn the town into a city," Foxx said. "Hopefully other entertainers will adopt towns and together we'll improve the plight of black people all over this country."

Other entertainers followed Foxx's example. A brief item in the March 6, 1975, issue of Jet reports that Sammy Davis Jr. had been named chief of police in Langston after comedian Flip Wilson had been honored with the same title in Boley. "Both Foxx and Wilson pledged to help their newly-adopted cities and Davis is expected to do the same for Langston.

But by April 1975, the relationship began to fall apart. Mayor Foley was impatient for some of the promised assistance to materialize, and she announced her intention to fire Foxx as chief.

From the April 17, 1975 edition of Jet:

She complained that the $10,000 check Foxx presented her in a public swearing-in ceremony in December was not to the town of Taft at all, but to the Redd Foxx Foundation. Since then, the $10,000 check has remained in a bank in nearby Muskogee, unused.

She added that there has been no sign of any Redd Foxx provided police car and that she has not been able to get in touch with Foxx since the swearing in.

Foxx, the red hot star of Sanford and Son, said Mayor Foley, the first Black woman ever elected mayor in the U. S., just does not understand that the deals he promised take time to complete and that he is very busy. He also accused the mayor of "trying to get a whole lot of publicity."...

"As soon as we secure the property," Foxx assured, " we will start work on the swimming pool. I will buy the police car from Chicago, and they are supposed to give me a bus after I do a show to open up a new wing of the Cook County Jail." ...

"If she has the strength to fire me, I will find me another town," declared Foxx. "They can make me the librarian as long as I can help some Blacks."

But instead of firing Foxx, the other two members of the town council voted for one of them to replace Foley as mayor.

An AP story from December 1975 reports that Foxx organized a Christmas party for Taft residents, at which his attorney presented the town with a police car, purchased from the Muskogee police department, 300 turkeys, and a $4,000 check from the producers of "Sanford and Son."

In February 1978, the town council voted to fire Foxx. The $10,000 check in the Redd Foxx Foundation's name couldn't be used, Foxx took back the bus, intended for senior citizens, the police cars (used) had to be repaired, and the turkeys were actually donated by someone else, Taft officials claimed.

The dispute was still in the news in this April 1981 UPI story (jump page here):

Mayor Lela [sic] Foley Davis of Taft, Okla., said Friday the two police cars are junkers that have turned into expensive rat and snake infested eyesores and claimed relations between the community and the comedian soured after officials refused to change the city's name to "Reddfoxxville."

Foxx, who donated a van and two 1975 Plymouth patrol cars emblazoned with his picture, said Mrs. Davis is a lousy mayor and he could do a better job."...

Mrs. Davis called the whole Foxx affair "a bad dream" that the town would just like to forget....

Mrs. Davis said the two 1975 model cars... have been sitting behind city hall since 1978, attracting snakes, rodents and vandals....

Mrs. Davis said over $1,000 has been spent on repairs since Foxx donated the cars and the city can't afford any more.

According to this Jet story from the same month, the cars were sold at auction for $115 to a local garage owner who planned to use the vehicles for spare parts.

A quick look for info on Flip Wilson's involvement with Boley and Sammy Davis, Jr.,'s partnership with Langston suggests that those relationships were much more cordial and productive.

MORE: Celebrity involvement did bring national attention to the remarkable history of Oklahoma's black towns. Here's a 1975 AP feature story on Langston, Taft, and Boley.

STILL MORE: A Muskogee County friend advises me that Lelia Foley Davis is still active in Taft politics and was serving as mayor at least as recently as last December.

A 1977 documentary on historic preservation in Oklahoma has been posted online at the I. M. Pei Project website. The half-hour film, entitled "Born Again: Historic Preservation in Oklahoma," is narrated by Norman architect Arn Henderson.

It opens with a sequence of demolitions of beautiful and historic office blocks in downtown Oklahoma City. Cynthia Emrick of the National Trust for Historic Preservation notes the conflict set up by the Federal Government in 1949, chartering the National Trust to "preserve the nation's heritage as expressed in the built environment" and at the same time green-lighting federal funding for "urban renewal."

Next up is James B. White, head of OKC's Urban Renewal Authority. White expresses the hope that by entering the program at a later date than most cities, OKC will learn some lessons avoid some of the mistakes other cities made. Oops.

White's comments embody the attitude of apathy towards preservation that ruled Oklahoma in the 1970s:

We are a new country. We are a new state. When you're talking about one generation almost from its beginning, I get my self a little lost with the terminology of being historical. I may be right, I may be wrong. I think most of what we have revolves around the terminology of nostalgia. I don't think that we can really call it historical at this particular time in our particular programs in the buildings that we have encountered....

I think our eastern states have more things that are historical. Certainly things like Mt. Vernon, the buildings in our capital that go back a couple of hundred years. But we haven't even reached the century mark in our state yet, so I just don't know what is historical and what is not. I don't put myself up as an authority.

Emrick provides the obvious rebuttal:

If you're going to create something with age and glory, then you have to give it a chance to age.

The film moves next to Oklahoma City's Heritage Hills neighborhood in the late 1960s and the effort to protect it with a historic preservation ordinance. Howard Meredith, State Director of Historic Preservation, argues that a historical survey, a preservation ordinance, and a review commission are essential to effective preservation.

Mr. and Mrs. L. G. Ashley talk about the historic landmark designation of Boley, one of Oklahoma's distinctive black-founded towns, established just before statehood by Creek freedmen.

A segment on Tulsa mentions the preservation of old City Hall at 4th and Cincinnati by private owners and has brief glimpses of three Bruce Goff masterpieces: The Page Warehouse on 13th St (now demolished), the Riverside Studio (Spotlight Theater), and Boston Avenue Methodist Church, whose members invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in restoration and in an addition that harmonizes with the original building's architecture.

The last segment of the program focuses on Guthrie, Oklahoma's, territorial and original State Capital. In 1977, city leaders were only beginning to appreciate the economic benefits of historic preservation:

We have two choices, one is just let it rot, another choice is to tear it down and start building back, and I don't think that's going to happen.... I think we're going to recognize the heritage that we're stewards of here.... We absolutely must have some sort of zoning for this district that will help us preserve the buildings.

The film is itself a type of historic preservation, capturing attitudes, fashions, and hairstyles from the mid '70s.

Here's a direct link to Part 1 of Born Again: Historic Preservation in Oklahoma on YouTube.

The I. M. Pei OKC project is an interesting exercise in preservation itself, devoted to presenting artifacts relating to the master plan that demolished hundreds of historic buildings in downtown Oklahoma City. MIT-trained architect I. M. Pei was commissioned in 1964 by the Urban Action Foundation to develop a plan to modernize downtown. You can see the results in the Myriad Convention Center (Cox Business Center), the Myriad Gardens, Stage Center (Mummers Theater), and numerous parking garages and plazas. A 10' x 12' scale model of downtown as it would look after the plan's completion in 1989 (the city's centennial) was prepared to help inspire citizens to approve the plan. That model has been restored and will be unveiled on Monday at the Cox Business Center.

The website includes maps of the Pei Plan, images of downtown before urban renewal, and video resources, including a film called "A Tale of Two Cities" which was used to promote public acceptance of urban renewal by Oklahoma Citians. There's an excellent synopsis of urban renewal in Oklahoma and how it was used not only in the big cities, but also in places like McAlester, Edmond, and Tahlequah. (It neglects to mention, however, the use of urban renewal to clear most of the Greenwood District.)

A well-written comment on the website by Scott Bryon Williams is worth repeating here:

Unfortunate that even OKC was not spared the utopian, yet disastrous hand of modern city planning of the sixties, robbing countless American cities of their hard-earned history and identity. What a true loss of visual design variety in the built environment.

Urban renewal and the Eisenhower highway program have been the most devastating events to established residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and urban cores leading to the growth of an unsustainable suburbia and barren, depopulated city streets.

I.M. Pei's OKC urban planning concept model is truly a time capsule demonstrating the short-sighted and ill-conceived visions for America's cities' futures. In the historical photo archive, compare the richness and wealth of the former downtown with the fractured, patchwork of today.

Subsequent generations have and are recognizing the mistake of large scale demolition and investing trillions of dollars to rebuild and recreate vibrant, healthy urban environments. It is unfortunate that America lost so much of its wonderful history within such a short period to euphoric ignorance. Equally unfortunate is that this attitude still exists among most of the public with the irrevocable destruction of historic structures and neighborhoods.

Let the I.M. Pei model be a learning tool of our mistakes of the past.

In the Republican primary race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Shawn Hime, a former assistant to incumbent Democratic Superintendent Sandy Garrett, has attacked Janet Barresi in a fundraising letter for having contributed in the past to Democratic candidates. Barresi responded tonight with a press release, which you can read in full on Jamison Faught's Musings of a Muskogee Politico. Here are some key excerpts:

Contrary to his mudslinging, I am a lifelong conservative Republican and have been a staunch supporter of pro-life organizations and conservative Republicans - 86 percent of all my political contributions have been to Republicans and GOP organizations.

I have contributed to a handful of Democrats who (at least at the time) were supportive of education reform, particularly school choice. I have always been upfront about those contributions because I wanted to work within the system. When I saw that wasn't possible, I announced that I was running against Sandy Garrett - before she dropped out.

Hime also claimed in the letter that Barresi lacked experience working in education. In fact, Barresi helped start two very successful charter schools:

One of those schools, Harding Charter Preparatory High School, was named to Newsweek magazine's list of the best high schools in the country after only six years of operation. Last year Harding saw its first National Merit Finalist, another student named to the Academic All-State team and Harding students received $1.65 million in college scholarships. One hundred percent of our students graduated last year and 96 percent went on to college.

Their accomplishments came in spite of the fact that the majority of Harding students are from poverty level backgrounds. Twenty two percent of last year's class were the first in their family to graduate high school, and 65 percent were the first in their families to go to college.

As you can see, I don't believe in excuses. I achieve results. And I have no problem putting my record on education against the Garrett/Hime record anytime, anywhere.

DISCLOSURE: Given the huge banner ad on the sidebar, it's probably superfluous to point out that the Janet Barresi campaign is a sponsor of BatesLine.

This Land Press

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By now you've surely heard one of the wonderful podcast tributes to recently departed Tulsans at Goodbye Tulsa. But Goodbye Tulsa is part of something bigger. This Land Press describes itself:

As a collaboration of Oklahoma's best writers, thinkers, and artists, the aim of This Land is to deliver engaging content that's relevant to Oklahomans, and to encourage a richer sense of community through our various projects.

The project is attracting a growing number of contributors, including some names you've seen on bylines in the local alternative press. For example, my friend and former colleague Erin Fore is writing about her new, simpler, nicotine-, booze-, and car-free life in Norman. Photographer Michael Cooper is posting portraits of fascinating Tulsans. He's posted a great shot of musician and sometime politician Rocky Frisco and one of Melinda and Marcia Borum making the mugs that are used to serve coffee at Melinda's Shades of Brown. Josh Kline is writing about movies. Ray Pearcey's first piece for This Land is about the Fab Lab in Kendall Whittier.

Some interesting things are happening at This Land Press. Keep an eye on it.

Business has had me in Wichita fairly often over the past few weeks. I was telling a friend about my recent sojourn, and she replied that she'd driven through Wichita a few times and couldn't "get on board with the whole Kansas thing." I'll admit that I didn't have a high opinion of Wichita before work brought me there. And the Kansas scenery as seen from the interstate gets a bit monotonous after a while.

For most Tulsans, Wichita is a place to drive through on your way to the ski slopes of Colorado. If you were to get off the highway, you'd find shady neighborhoods filled with late Victorian and craftsman homes, historic downtown buildings both big and small, and a warehouse district (Old Town) turned into a lively collection of restaurants, lofts, theaters, and hotels. But you have to get off the expressway to see it.

That's true in general of Kansas. If you get off the interstate and drive the old roads, you'll find pretty small cities and towns with well-preserved Main Streets and shady neighborhoods -- Emporia, Independence, Winfield, Arkansas City, Lindsborg, McPherson, Abilene, Chanute, Fort Scott -- to name just a few. I can better appreciate the beauty of open farmland if it's interrupted every so often by an attractive town.

Any time I travel, I try to make the opportunity to get out of the zone of chain hotels and chain restaurants and to get to know the city. I look for locally-owned restaurants and interesting neighborhoods, and I spend a lot of time on foot seeing what a city has done with (or, too often, to) its downtown.

One of the things I look for is a place to hang out -- a place with free WiFi, late hours, and something good to eat and drink, where they won't mind me sitting around to write code and blog entries for a few hours. I could work in my room, but that gets a bit lonesome after a while. And sometimes the hotel internet access is slow, or blocks VPN, or just doesn't work, so it's good to have an alternative.

While Tulsa has a great assortment of such places -- Coffee House on Cherry Street, Shades of Brown, Cosmo, to name a few -- I've had trouble finding such places in other cities. Wichita, on the other hand, is blessed with an abundance of great late night coffeehouses. As a bonus, most of them are conveniently located near I-135, so you can easily hop off for some caffeine and internet access on your way to Breckenridge.

Here are four worth a visit:

Riverside Perk coffeehouse, 11th & Bitting, Wichita

Riverside Perk: In a pretty late-1800s neighborhood in a bend of the Little Arkansas River, there's an old two-story wood-frame building at the corner of 11th & Bitting. The ground floor had a grocery store and a drug store once upon a time; today it's a coffeehouse and a wonderful neighborhood gathering place. You can sip your coffee and work on your laptop at a big diner booth and look out the big front windows to the big front porch and shaded sidewalk tables. A smoothie bar in the next room offers bar seating with a tiki theme. Riverside offers a great assortment of specialty drinks and food, including pizza bagels and sandwiches. They're open until 10 weeknights, midnight on weekends, when they have live music. Before or after your coffee, it's a pretty neighborhood for a stroll. From the interstate: From I-135, take the 13th St. exit and head west about a mile and a half, past the spectacular art deco Wichita North high school and across the art deco Minisa Bridge to a light at Bitting Ave. Left (south) on Bitting, across another bridge, then two blocks to 11th St.

The Donut Whole: A rooster stands sentinel on the roof of the sturdy brick building on Douglas between Hydraulic and I-135. Two rooms are connected by a narrow hallway. The room close to the street has roomy diner booths and a stage for weekend live music. The room at the back houses the coffee and the donuts, an old pinball machine ("Airport" by Gottlieb) -- two plays, five balls each, for 25 cents. A yellow Anco wiper blade display serves as the condiment table, next to a Lions Club park fountain on a pedestal. In the corner is Seeburg 100 jukebox (for sale), sitting under an old Fair-Play basketball scoreboard. Eclectic music (Django Reinhardt, The Price Is Right theme, early Beatles) fills the air. The coffee is excellent, and the assortment of donuts is astounding: choco crunch, Homer J., peanut butter cup, creamy orange, fluffernutter, thick mint, sunshine citrus crunch, peanut butter and grape, and triple bacon, to name just a small sampling. There's a cooler full of specialty sodas like Boylan's and Mexican Coca-Cola. Open 6 am to midnight, live music on the weekends, drive-thru open 24/7. From the interstate: Easiest coffeehouse to reach from the highway. From I-135, take the 1st/2nd St exit and head west on 2nd about two blocks to Hydraulic. Left (south) on Hydraulic two blocks to Douglas, then left again (east) and look for the rooster on the roof on the north side of the street. Parking available alongside the building.

Mead's Corner Coffeehouse, Wichita

Mead's Corner: This coffeehouse on Douglas at Emporia downtown offers coffee, specialty drinks, tea, gelato, pastries, and sandwiches, wraps, panini, and salads. Lots of room -- the coffeehouse takes up the entire first floor of an old commercial building -- with different types of seating, and great views of the other historic buildings nearby. Mead's Corner is owned and operated by First United Methodist Church, but it's not a haphazard "ministry" but is in fact run very professionally. (I'm sorry to say I've known of other church-related coffeehouses with very limited schedules and poor-quality coffee.) At the same time, it provides a comfortable venue for spiritual discussions, as well as the usual coffeehouse assortment of live music, poetry slams, etc. Mead's opens at 7 am Mondays through Saturdays until 10 weeknights, midnight on the weekends. Sunday hours are shorter: 10 am to 6 pm. From the interstate: From I-135, take the 1st/2nd St exit and head west on 2nd. You'll go through Old Town, under the Santa Fe tracks, then make a left on St. Francis. Go two blocks to Douglas, turn right and go one block west to Emporia. Street parking is free -- up to two hours during the day.

Poetic Justice: This one's different -- not near downtown, but in a strip center on the eastern edge of Wichita at Webb and Central on Greenwich north of Kellogg, very near the Beechcraft Hawker aircraft factory. It's also convenient to the hotel cluster near the I-35 Kellogg exit. Everything seems very new and neat. They sponsor weekly game nights (Wed), craft nights (Thurs), and open mike poetry nights (Fri). Open 9 am to midnight M-F, 10 to midnight Saturday, and closed Sunday. From the interstate: From Kellogg Ave (US 54-400), head north on Greenwich Rd; the cafe is just a few blocks north on the east side of Greenwich. Greenwich Rd is just a little over a mile east of the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) Kellogg exit. (UPDATED to reflect Poetic Justice's new location.)

Free WiFi seems to be getting more and more common. Spangles, a local '50s-themed fast food chain, has WiFi and late hours, as does Emerson Biggins, a local sports bar chain. I spent an evening at Pacific Coast Pizza enjoying a Fresno pizza and watching a TMAPC PLANiTULSA hearing on TGOV. There's a Village Inn on Rock Rd. with WiFi, new decor, and a new logo -- the restaurant's initials in lowercase sans-serif -- it ought to attract Unix developers.

Past entries on Wichita and Kansas:

The lonesome road to Wichita (alternatives to I-35)
Places to see in Wichita (including the amazing Orpheum Theater
A FUN-FUL evening in beautiful Kansas (Riverside Park in Independence)
Independence, Kansas, is FUN-FUL
A happy place in Kansas (College Hill Coffee in Winfield)

Useful sites for finding free WiFi:

IndieCoffeeHouses.com -- a Google-maps based, crowdsourced database of independent coffeehouses.

I forgot one of the fun things I don't get to do this weekend:

Tulsa's Admiral Twin, our only surviving drive-in theater, celebrates its 60th anniversary tonight with a showing of The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Tulsa novelist S. E. Hinton's first and most famous book. The Admiral Twin was one of the filming locations, so tonight you can go to the Admiral Twin and see what it looked like in 1982 when they were trying to make it look like it did in 1965.

A special screening of the 1983 film The Outsiders will be presented at the Admiral Twin Drive In on April 24, 2010 in conjuction with the 60th Anniversary of the Drive In. The Outsiders Drive In scenes were filmed at The Admiral Twin in 1982. This is a rare event and The Outsiders has not been shown at the Admiral in a long time so lets make this a celebration! Representatives from The Official Outsiders Website will be on hand for information and the Pre-Party begins at 6:00 PM Sharp till the movie starts so come out early and meet the local Tulsa Actors, Crew people, Tulsa Greasers and Soc's who were a part of the film, music will also play from the movie. Memoribilia will be on display with rare pictures, posters and movie props from The Outsiders. Anyone who owns a Vintage car is encouraged to come out. Costume contest for the best dressed Greaser or Soc with a prize giveaway. Gates open at 600pm and it is recommended that you get there early.

Stay gold, Admiral Twin.


Joshua Blevins Peck has a story in UTW about the Admiral Twin. He'd like them to bring back the big speakers that you'd hang on your car window. Personally, I'd rather them bring back the seats in front of the concession stand.

Stephanie Stebbins enthuses about the Admiral Twin on FilmSnobbery.com. (She needs some better info, however, if she thinks that "there really isn't THAT much left in operation on Route 66.")

There are some exciting events in Tulsa over the next few days, but because of a heavy and strange work schedule I won't be able to make any of them. But that doesn't mean you have to miss them:

Friday, April 23, 2010: National Fiddler Hall of Fame Gala, Tulsa PAC, 7 pm. Two of my favorite bands are performing, both with Tulsa ties. The main act is Hot Club of Cowtown: Brady Heights resident Whit Smith on guitar, Elana James on fiddle, and Jake Erwin on bass, a trio that brings together western swing and gypsy jazz, Bob Wills and Django Reinhardt. (Not that they were far apart: Curly Lewis, fiddler for Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys, said at the first NFHOF gala that all the western swing fiddlers wanted to play like Hot Club de France jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.) The opening act is Rockin' Acoustic Circus, a group of talented young musicians that brings together bluegrass, jazz, blues, swing, classical, and rock-n-roll and which features (I say without fear of contradiction) the prettiest bluegrass cellist on the planet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010: QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show: Fly-bys of military and civilian aircraft, including a B-2 Stealth Bomber! Rocket races! Aerobatics! Wing walking! Channel 2 Weather Show! World War II warbirds!

Already sold out, but worth a mention for future events:

Thursday, April 22, 2010: Blogger meetup at Siegi's Sausage Factory: Wish I could be there because the food's on my diet and the speaker is my good friend Erin Conrad. Watch TashaDoesTulsa.com to learn about future blogger meetups.

Friday, April 23, 2010, Saturday, April 24, 2010, Sunday, April 25, 2010: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Augustine Christian Academy, 30th Street west of Sheridan. This little classical Christian school does a big musical every spring. Performances sold out, but they have a waiting list for tickets. Call 832-4600 to put your name on the list. (My wife and oldest son will be playing fiddle music at a pre-show buffet Saturday. )

Tulsans will remember G. W. Schulz as an excellent investigative reporter who wrote for Urban Tulsa Weekly a few years ago. He left UTW to go back to the San Francisco Bay Area where he now works for the Center for Investigative Reporting. CIR is launching Elevated Risk, a new blog devoted to shining a spotlight on the U. S. Department of Homeland Security. In the introductory post, Schulz asks some good, hard questions of DHS:

It's time, for example, to ask: Why did a Terrorist Screening Center, thousands of additional airport security officers, behavior detection specialists, ambitious technology investments and multiple intelligence-gathering operations not stop a young radical from nearly killing 290 people on Christmas Day in 2009?

Why are state and federal authorities still struggling to respond to natural disasters after the federal government handed out more than $30 billion in preparedness grants?

What happened to the high-tech surveillance system that was supposed to guard the country's southern border? The Obama Administration embraced the plan to line the border with fences, remote sensors and surveillance cameras at a cost of hundreds of millions. Then, just weeks ago, the administration showed signs that it was bailing out.

The litany of department missteps is an embarrassment.

- The $9 million spent on ice that FEMA allowed to melt on a Texas airfield.
- The $110 million in spending on conferences over a three-year stretch.
- The tens of millions spent on technology that sits unused in warehouses across the country.
- The inability to install a leader at the head of the Transportation Security Administration.

And it's time to ask if Americans are giving away too many freedoms central to their identities as U.S. citizens in exchange for costly and intrusive security programs that may not protect them.

Keep your eyes on Elevated Risk for answers.

Below a news release from the Randy Brogdon for Governor campaign. I have to say I've been disappointed at the readiness by some of his erstwhile allies to assume the worst about Sen. Brogdon and to take distortions of his statements as gospel truth. I've been disappointed to see this both from his fellow conservative Republicans and from the populist Democrats who were his allies in the fight to stop the Tulsa County sales tax for river development.

Randy Brogdon is as self-effacing, cheerful, and positive a politician as I have ever met, while remaining true to his well-considered principles. He doesn't deserve to be characterized as a wild-eyed radical, particularly by those who know better because they've dealt with him personally.

Oklahoma needs a governor who will face facts, who will deal straightforwardly with the problems we face, yet will do so in a gracious way. We need someone who knows state government, knows the laws and the constitution, and can do more than recite conservative catchphrases. Randy Brogdon can be that kind of governor.

A Statement from Senator Randy Brogdon

There Already is an Oklahoma Militia

Brogdon says historical context represented as personal opinion in news reports

James Parsons
Communication Director

Recent statements of mine regarding an Oklahoma militia have been misrepresented, taken out of context and are badly misunderstood. I have stated that the formation of and participation in, an Oklahoma militia is legal based on both federal and state law.

However, remarks I made in historical context were inaccurately reported as my personal opinion. Specifically, historical speculation about the frame of mind of the Founding Fathers as they wrote the Constitution was reported as if it were my deeply held belief. Then these misrepresentations were used to distort my true beliefs, while implying that I have violent intentions.

So let me set the facts straight about my beliefs on dealing with the federal government, the role of a militia in Oklahoma, and how best to effect change in government.

Both the First and Second Amendments of the U.S. Constitution protect individual participation in a militia. Membership in such a group is a form of self-expression, so our right to free speech comes into focus. The Second Amendment states, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Our Founding Fathers were suspicious of big, centralized government. However, nobody can mistake this statement as some sort of right to insurrection.

The fact is that Oklahoma state law already establishes and provides for, an "unorganized militia" as an officially recognized part of Oklahoma military forces.

§44-41. Composition of Militia - Classes.

The Militia of the State of Oklahoma shall be divided into three (3) classes: The National Guard, the Oklahoma State Guard, and the Unorganized Militia.

23. "State military forces" means the National Guard of the state, as defined in Title 32, United States Code, the organized naval militia of the state, and any other military force organized under the Constitution and laws of the state to include the unorganized militia (the state defense force when not in a status subjecting them to exclusive jurisdiction under Chapter 47 of Title 10, United States Code).

These statutes are not part of overlooked or arcane law. The legislature has rewritten this section numerous times over decades, most recently in 2007.

So undeniably, a militia in Oklahoma is not only legal - it already exists as a matter of fact.

No, Oklahoma does not need to activate the unorganized militia. If we ever do, it certainly won't be to invade Washington, D.C. In fact, Oklahoma's unorganized militia is prohibited from operating outside the state.

I do plan to fight what I consider to be an over-reaching federal government, but I will do it with the Constitutional tools provided by the framers. For years, I have advocated adherence to the 10 th Amendment as a weapon against big government.

As a legislator for much of the last decade I have routinely proposed new law. When enough of my Senate colleagues agree with me laws are changed or enacted, peacefully. Yet, this week, some people seem convinced that I would abandon the democratic process to wage actual war on the federal government which is simply bizarre.

I was saddened that some in the anti-militia crowd can be as irrational and violent as those they condemn. As this story developed over the week, I received as many as a half-dozen death threats, not only directed at me but at my family as well. One unpleasant person said they would only be satisfied when I am swinging from a tree. Hopefully, the thought was fleeting. The threats were forwarded to the OSBI for investigation.

I saw an article today that made me aware of a missed opportunity. Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the safe return to Earth of Apollo 13, and the Cosmosphere -- just a short four hours from Tulsa in Hutchinson, Kansas, and home to the mission's command module, Odyssey, hosted a reunion of Apollo 13 flight crew and mission control. Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, flight director Gene Kranz, capcom Jack Lousma, Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, and a host of the men behind the consoles in mission control were in attendance.

After kicking myself for a while for not knowing about this opportunity and making plans to be there, I read a news story about the festivities, which included a panel discussion among ground personnel:

But there were a few things that home viewers couldn't really understand, the men who were there said.

For the astronauts, it was the numbing cold in the spaceship, which had been powered down to a minimal level to preserve its batteries. Lovell said the temperature dropped to the low 30s -- about the same as a home refrigerator.

And although the networks broadcast hours of footage from Mission Control, it couldn't capture the smell of the room, said flight controller Ed Fendell.

With the team in full emergency mode, "nobody bathed and everybody smoked," Fendell recalled. "The smell was overwhelming. You opened the door and smoke would come out."

It was the smell of determination.

The NASA veterans spoke about the future as well as the past, specifically the future of America's manned spaceflight program as redirected by President Obama:

Eugene Kranz, Apollo 13's flight director, drew cheers when he said he thinks Obama "wrote the epitaph for manned space flight" by the United States in February when he announced plans to scrap the Constellation project....

The Apollo veterans said Constellation would have given NASA the opportunity to learn more about how to live long-term in space before embarking on a lengthy Mars mission.

Haise and Lovell said they disagree with the president's plan, which they said doesn't contain the kind of solid blueprint and preparation it took to send men to the moon.

"I looked at what he plans on doing and then I listened to his speech... building a heavy-lift booster and going out to the asteroids and eventually going to Mars and all that, but there was no continuity to it, there was no substance to what he was saying," Lovell said.

He predicted that the Russians will essentially inherit the International Space Station because American astronauts won't have a way to get there.

"In the decades and decades that we have been sort of, you know, friendly antagonists in going into space, I think the Russians have finally won the space race," Lovell said.

Can a welfare state accomplish great things as a nation? It seems that great national achievements come from nations with liberty and entrepreneurial energy, and thus the wealth for conquering space or achieving military superiority, or from totalitarian nations that can focus scarce resources, even at the expense of the prosperity of their people, to attain an ambitious goal. (Of course, in the end the US prevailed over the totalitarian USSR, both in the race to the moon and in the Cold War here on earth.) The social democracies of Europe rode on American and Soviet spacecrafts but never launched a manned program of their own. Britain's global reach dwindled after World War II and Clement Attlee's premiership. The apex of America's space program came just as the Great Society spending and dependency machine was getting warmed up.

Once a society reaches the point where a majority of voters are getting more from government than they've paid in, there's a change of mindset. There's more political advantage to growing entitlement programs than funding exploration or military strength or leaving more money in the hands of the private sector. In such circumstances, the ambitious leave for places where there is scope for their ambitions. For most of the 20th century, America has been a destination for those ambitious folks, and their intellectual capital has only added to our prosperity.

President Obama and his supporters seem uncomfortable with an America of great achievements, great influence, and great power. Take Obama's comment at the recent nuclear security summit: "...whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower...." The comment inspired blogger Doctor Zero to coin the term "Hospice America":

What other nation, beyond the Western democracies, would not like it? Everyone from heavyweight contenders like China, to the comeback empire of Russia, down to nasty little street fighters like North Korea and Iran would love to be dominant military superpowers. Their dreams include detailed plans for using that power, should they ever acquire it.

... It was a far cry from the way someone like JFK or Reagan would address the same topic. They would have seen the responsibility of power as a challenge we should rise to meet, with confidence and determination, and offered thanks to God that America is the nation entrusted with this challenge.

Sadly, the America of new frontiers and bright mornings was long ago. Today we live in Hospice America, where caretakers with first-class temperaments and sharply creased trousers make us comfortable in the face of inevitable decline... and forward the bills for our end-of-greatness care to our children, who will go bankrupt paying them....

Muscular foreign policy is an expense Hospice America can't afford, and a distraction from the more urgent business of keeping its clients sedated and nourished. They're too feeble to handle their own finances, or manage their own health insurance. A modest unemployment allowance is provided for them, paid from cash advances on Uncle Sam's credit cards, because they can't really find work on their own any more. Genuine freedom and independence have been dismissed as unworkable. Instead, our congressional candy-stripers will quietly relieve their clients of meaningful decision making, while gently congratulating them on how "free" and "independent" they are.

MORE: Last week Obama gave a speech at the Kennedy Space Center about the future of America's manned space program. Excluded from the speech were the people whose livelihood and dreams are most closely tied to that future, and it outraged NBC correspondent Jay Barbree:

I just found out some very disturbing news. The President came down here in his campaign and told these 15,000 workers here at the Space Center that if they would vote for him, that he would protect their jobs. 9,000 of them are about to lose their job. He is speaking before 200, extra hundred people here today only. It's invitation only. He has not invited a single space worker from this space port to attend. It's only academics and other high officials from outside of the country. Not one of them is invited to hear the President of the United States, on their own space port, speak today.

Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O'Toole will speak in Tulsa on Saturday, April 24, 2010, 1:30 p.m., on the topic of comprehensive planning. The talk is sponsored by Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE) and will be held at the Hardesty Library, 8316 E. 93rd St. The event is free and open to the public. Here's their blurb about the event:

Heard a Lot Lately About:

A Tulsa Without Cars...A Light Rail System...
New Urbanism...MAPS 3 and PlaniTulsa...

Wondered What it's All About?

Randal O'Toole, senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future and Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It, discusses how government attempts to do long-range, comprehensive planning inevitably do more harm than good by choking American cities with congestion, making housing markets more unaffordable, and sending the cost of government infrastructure skyrocketing. Does this effect how, and whether, churches are built?

O'Toole will also speak in Oklahoma City on Monday, April 26, 2010, at 6:30 pm at the Character First Center, 520 W. Main.

While I disagree with OK-SAFE's opposition to PLANiTULSA, I respect the fact that it is grounded in principle. (That's in contrast to groups who are trying to derail or mutilate Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in a generation in order to serve their own institutional and commercial self-interests.) It's certainly reasonable to be skeptical about large scale, long-range government planning. A good deal of the sprawl and urban destruction of the past fifty years was the product of a previous generation of government planning. And the places that urbanophiles hold most dear were built before zoning and planning took hold of our cities.

It should be said, however, that developers of that era had a sense of self-restraint -- think of the long-standing gentleman's agreement that no building in Philadelphia would be taller than the William Penn statue atop City Hall. And the way development was financed in that earlier era encouraged permanence. Typically, you were building for yourself, not building something to flip as quickly as possible. At some point construction shifted from being a craft performed as a service and turned into a commodity-producing industry.

As Paul Harvey used to say, self-government won't work without self-discipline.

I would urge OK-SAFE members to look at the PLANiTULSA documents, what they actually say, as opposed to what someone calling himself a new urbanist said on a website somewhere. What they'll find, I think, is something very different from the large-scale, overly-prescriptive comprehensive plans of the '50s and '60s. They won't find anything calling for a "Tulsa Without Cars." Existing single-family residential developments are labeled as Areas of Stability (much to the chagrin of the development industry). If implemented, PLANiTULSA would allow for types of development that are currently very hard to do under our existing zoning code. Parking requirements would be reduced, so you wouldn't need to buy as much land to put up a commercial building.

As long as you have people living in close proximity, you're going to need rules, since what I do with my property affects my neighbor's enjoyment of his. As long as local government is involved in building and maintaining streets, water lines, and sewer lines and providing police and fire protection, local government is going to need to be involved in urban planning. The question then becomes whether your planning process and philosophy reflects your city's values and an accurate understanding of how people interact with the built environment.

In the current issue of the Catoosa Times, there's a lovely story about my mom, Sandy Bates, and the weekly Story Time at the Catoosa Library.

My four-year-old gets a mention, too; Story Time is the beginning of his weekly day with Grandma. He helps her get everything ready, helps her clean up, and then they usually (at his request) go to the grocery store. Mom told me that he didn't want his picture taken for the story. He was very polite but firm: "No, thank you." So his wishes were respected.

The story was written by someone we've known since we moved to the Catoosa area in 1969. Vicki Binam Albright and I were in the same Sunday School classes at First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills for many years. (I think we had different 2nd Grade teachers at Catoosa Elementary, though after almost 40 years it's hard to remember for sure.) Her dad, Clifford Binam, and my dad served together on the Board of Deacons, her mom, Carlette, was the church secretary, and her sister Missy and my sister Kay were born one day apart. We all grew up together, and it's nice to see Vicki doing a great job as editor of the Catoosa Times. I really appreciate her putting this story together.

(As a side note, it's interesting how emotional geography doesn't always line up with the lines on the map. Our family never actually lived in the City of Catoosa -- when we came from Bartlesville, we first lived in Rolling Hills, which was then unincorporated Wagoner County but in the Catoosa school district, and after nine years moved a mile west into the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa school district. But Mom taught kindergarten at Catoosa from 1970 to 1998, Dad was a leader in the local Jaycee chapter, I started school there, my sister went all the way through school there -- save one miserable year in the Tulsa system after we moved -- and nearly everyone at our church either was in Catoosa schools or a graduate, so in a sense Mom and Dad have always been a part of the Catoosa community.)

Back in January, Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton sent a 12-page letter to Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. expressing his concerns about City Attorney Deirdre Dexter's competence to continue serve in that capacity. Dexter, a former associate district judge, was appointed as interim city attorney in December 2006, as one of then-Mayor Kathy Taylor's at-will employees. Dexter became the permanent city attorney a year later.

Eagleton's letter to Bartlett included detailed, footnoted discussions of eight cases where Eagleton believes Dexter has failed to serve the best interests of her client, the City of Tulsa.

1. Failing to alert the Council to a conflict between state law and the election date specified by the charter amendment, adopted last fall, which calls for three-year staggered terms;
2. Issuing conflicting opinions, reversing years of precedent, on the extent to which and manner in which city employees could participate in partisan city elections;
3. Incorrectly identifying a low-turnout citywide special election as the basis for the number of signatures needed for the non-partisan election petition;
4. Failing to provide timely advice concerning an ordinance that would compel city employees to cooperate with a City Auditor investigation;
5. Failing to providing an accurate summary of (and apparently failing to research) the case law affecting a proposal to require permitted LED billboards to display public safety information during emergencies;
6. Allowing a collective bargaining agreement to include terms that violated the 2007 ordinance limiting take-home vehicles to city employees;
7. Failing to give timely and accurate advice to the City Council concerning the Owen vs. City of Tulsa settlement conference as to whether the case would be covered by the newly passed charter amendment requiring Council approval of settlements exceeding $1 million;
8. Failing to properly advise or defend the City of Tulsa regarding the Great Plains Airlines lawsuit and the settlement of the case for over $7 million.

Last week, there was a story about Eagleton's letter in the daily paper. Subsequently, Eagleton has released the text of the letter on his website with this introduction:

Recently the Tulsa World ran an article regarding a letter that I sent to Mayor Bartlett in January, detailing my concerns about City Attorney Deirdre Dexter's ability to adequately fulfill her role for the City. I would like to share that letter here so that you can read firsthand my reasons for thinking Ms. Dexter is unfit to serve in her current position. This was a letter I shared with the City Council and the Mayor. If you should read it and find within it something you believe to be a factual inaccuracy, I would appreciate it if you would share it with me.

To his credit, Eagleton sought to handle this quietly back in January. As a recently elected mayor, Bartlett could have replaced Dexter without surprising anyone, as she was an at-will employee of the previous mayor.

Eagleton's case against Dexter is a strong one. Here's his summary of the last case he cited, the settlement of the Great Plains Airlines lawsuit:

This issue arises out of Mrs. Dexter's failure to properly advise or defend her client regarding the legal defenses and issues surrounding a lawsuit. Due to lack of competent counsel, the City of Tulsa settled a lawsuit against it for over seven million dollars ($7,000,000.00).

Defenses for the City of Tulsa included statute of limitations, governmental tort claims act, and common law. These defenses were either not explained with sufficient clarity for the City to make a proper decision, not pursued with due diligence, or if explained to the Mayor (a recent board member of the de facto Plaintiff), Mrs Dexter was under an obligation to notify other elected officials of the Mayor's specific intent to pay the plaintiff regardless of the law on the issue.

Since Mayor LaFortune refused to agree to the same settlement, presumably because he believed it was an unlawful and completely defensible, Mrs. Dexter was under a duty to notify the Council of the Mayor's conflict of interest and receive their input as well, before settling a 7,000,000.00 case without a fight.

As a result, the day the plaintiff filed an amended petition naming the City of Tulsa as a defendant, the City submitted its Answer. The next day a joint motion for approval of settlement was submitted, parties appeared before the judge, and it was approved.

Mrs. Dexter's inability to properly advise the Mayor or the Council of the legal defenses and the weight to be given to each, caused the taxpayers of the City of Tulsa to pay a judgment they had little or no legal responsibility for. There is currently a qui tam action pending as an attempt by some taxpayers to recover the monies paid to the plaintiff.

Dexter may have been doing exactly what Mayor Taylor wanted, but she had a responsibility to serve the interests of the entire city, not just Taylor and her cronies.

(Here's my take on the Great Plains Airlines settlement from my July 2, 2008, column.)

The City Attorney is entrusted by charter to act as the chief legal authority for the City of Tulsa. Structurally, however, the City Attorney is accountable only to the Mayor. I have long advocated for a charter change to give the City Council the right to hire its own attorney independent of the City Attorney's office. (The City Council has been blessed with very good attorneys -- the latest being Drew Rees -- but they officially work for the City Attorney.) I also believe that mayors should be able to hire and fire department heads, just as the president can hire and fire cabinet members, but only with the advice and consent of the City Council.

In several of the cases cited by Eagleton, the errors and failures had the effect of serving the political interests of Mayor Taylor and her allies. Whatever ultimately happens to Deirdre Dexter, Tulsans need to address the bigger, structural problem with the way the City Attorney is appointed and with the office's powers and responsibilities.

The "Money Belt" made an appearance, under a different name, in an article in the Sunday paper about the different sections of Tulsa and where the dividing lines are. It came in an observation from southeast Tulsa resident and downtown Tulsa worker Brice Bogle:

A math lover, Bogle tried to teach us about the golden rectangle, which is supposedly the "perfect rectangle," he said. Citing Wikipedia for part of the definition, "many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the form of the golden rectangle, which has been considered aesthetically pleasing."

Midtown is like Tulsa's golden rectangle, he said, an area he defines as from the northwest corner of the Inner Dispersal Loop to Skelly Drive in the south, and Harvard Avenue on the east.

"When the leaders of Tulsa talk about doing things for the benefit of Tulsa, it seldom means an area outside of the golden rectangle," Bogle said. "To many outside of the rectangular area, it often seems that those inside the area do not think of Tulsa really being anything beyond it."

I would adjust his boundaries slightly -- shave off the less prosperous parts of southern and western Brookside and northeast of the Broken Arrow Expressway -- to come up with what I call the "Money Belt," but the attitude Bogle describes is spot on, and it manifests itself in election results, mayoral appointments, council-packing schemes, survey results, even water usage. That's not to say that all Money Belt denizens are afflicted with this insular attitude, or that those who are are bad people -- they just need to broaden their horizons. To them, the rest of Tulsa is something you drive through to get to Grand Lake or the airport.

But Money Belt blindness to the needs and concerns of the rest of Tulsa has real consequences. It's why it's important to provide some geographic balance on the city's boards and commissions, rather than drawing most appointees from this golden rectangle. It's why it's important for city councilors to advocate forcefully for their district's concerns; no one else in a position of power will. I applaud the councilors who rejected yet another golden rectangle resident for appointment to the planning commission and are pushing for representation on the commission from other parts of the city. (Oklahoma City's planning commission has a member from each city council district.)

(P.S. No, I don't think the Money Belt is a conspiracy. It's a demographic phenomenon, a mindset, a subculture. What makes it especially interesting is that it's a subculture that wields a good deal of political and economic power.)

Wilson Research Strategies, an Oklahoma-based national polling firm, polled paid attendees at this weekend's Southern Republican Leadership Conference and was the official tabulator for the SRLC presidential straw poll. The presidential straw poll results are online on the WRS blog. Watch the WRS blog for detailed analysis of the six-question survey.

WRS also just conducted a national survey on voters' inclinations and concerns as the 2010 and 2012 elections approach.

It's opening day for the Tulsa Drillers at Oneok Field, and some of the downtown property owners who are forced to pay for its construction filed a petition today for summary judgment in their lawsuit to overturn the assessment for the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.

The case against the ballpark assessment seems pretty solid. State law requires that an assessment be used to pay for improvements that provide a direct benefit to those subject to the assessment. In Oklahoma City, assessments for maintenance of Bricktown, the Bricktown Canal, and the Conncourse (the underground tunnel system connecting downtown buildings), pay assessments based on a formula. The more you benefit from the improvements and their maintenance, the more you pay. The same thing was true for the previous downtown assessment, which was in part proportional to proximity to the Main Mall. The current assessment is a flat rate per sq. ft. of land and sq. ft. of building, applied equally to properties across the street from the new ballpark to properties over a mile away.

More excerpts after the jump, but the point of law that jumped out on me was part III of the petition:

Oklahoma Const. Article 10 §26 protects the citizens from government run amuck. It protects the citizens from long term financial obligation without a vote of the people. A stadium is exactly the sort of municipal building project that should be paid for by all of the property owners in the city after approval by a three-fifths majority of the voters. The City of Tulsa cannot avoid this constitutional requirement by the legal legerdemain of labeling the project a local improvement, and decreeing that it shall be paid by assessment by a relatively small group of arbitrarily selected property owners. A ninety million dollar assessment, almost sixty million of which is to service debt incurred to build new ballpark and for which the people forced to pay receive nothing in return,--not even box seats or season tickets-- is a coercive use of government authority so unfair and oppressive as to shock the conscience, and in violation of clearly stated statutory and constitutional protections.

The point and purpose of the constitutional provision cited above is to protect the citizens from exactly what has happened here. Admittedly, the City itself theoretically escaped obligation through the artifice of creating a public trust, but the constitutional provision is there for the protection of the citizens who would ultimately be forced to pay the financial obligation. The fact that the City has essential laundered the obligation through a trust does not alter the essential constitutional principle at issue. Furthermore, the fact that rather than the cost of a new stadium being born evenly by the entire city, this 60 million dollar burden has been thrust upon the shoulders of a very few makes it all the more egregious, the damage more significant and all the more deserving of constitutional limitation. For the reason that the City of Tulsa may not evade the restrictions of Article 10 § 26 by engaging in the fiction that this is a local improvement, this assessment district is unconstitutional and should be declared unconstitutional, and null and void by the court.

That same constitutional provision should have protected Tulsans from getting stuck with the tab for Great Plains Airlines, should have prevented the pledging of a municipal trust's asset as collateral without a vote of the people.

A lot of my friends hail Kathy Taylor as a visionary mayor. However good her intentions may have been, her decision-making approach and her disregard for the constitutional and statutory limits on local government led her to choices that ultimately will prove very expensive for the citizens of Tulsa to clean up. Oneok Field is one example, the new City Hall purchase is another.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called a general election for Thursday, May 6, 2010, just a few weeks shy of the fifth anniversary of the previous election. This will be the first election in which Brown will carry the Labour Party's banner; Labour won the 1997, 2001, and 2005 elections with Tony Blair as leader.

The Conservative Party, under David Cameron's leadership, has a good chance of winning a majority for the first time since 1992, a close victory for John Major who, like Brown, took over as PM in between elections and followed a charismatic long-serving leader -- Major succeeding Margaret Thatcher, Brown succeeding Blair. After floundering in opposition for many years, the Tories have performed very well in recent elections for local councils and the European Parliament, regaining ground in parts of the UK thought forever lost to Labour.

Complicating the picture are a number of other parties, including the Liberal Democrats, the product of a late 1980s merger of the historic Liberal Party and a dissident group of Labourites who had formed the Social Democratic Party. There are nationalist parties in Wales (Plaid Cymru) and Scotland (Scottish National Party). The UK Independence Party favors withdrawal from the European Union and has done well, ironically, in European Parliament elections (which are elected by proportional representation), but holds no seats in the House of Commons, where MPs are elected by plurality -- "first-past-the-post." In 2005, Labour won a solid majority of seats in the House of Commons with only about 36% of the national popular vote.

Northern Ireland is its own world politically, with parties representing the cause of ongoing union with Britain and reunion with the Republic of Ireland. It's been many years since one of the UK-wide parties has won a parliamentary seat in the province. The Democratic Unionist Party, founded by the Rev. Ian Paisley, has the fourth largest delegation at Westminster, with 8 seats.

A British general election is like a presidential and congressional election combined. Like a congressional election, control of the government depends on aggregate of the results in each constituency (district). But like a presidential election, national issues almost always outweigh local concerns; British voters are choosing a party as much as they are a Member of Parliament.

Some British election links:

Thanks to Ron Denton for the heads-up. The State House Appropriations and Budget Committee will vote tomorrow, April 8, 2010, on SB 1284, the Oklahoma Quality Events Incentive Act. The Tulsa Metro Chamber wants people to send emails to the committee members urging passage.

(To read the legislation, go here, type in SB1284, click retrieve, and then click Engrossed. That's the version that passed the Senate.)

I rewrote the Chamber's email:

I urge you to vote against Senate Bill 1284, the Oklahoma Quality Events Incentive Act tomorrow in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

This bill will is a giveaway to out-of-state businesses that compete with local entrepreneurs for the entertainment dollars of Oklahomans. The companies that will benefit from this act have no long-term or even short-term investment in our state. They are literally here today and gone tomorrow.

The Oklahoma economy is currently facing tremendous financial challenges. The best thing we can do to help our economy is provide a level playing field with lower tax rates and a more efficient government, thus creating a stable economic environment that encourages people to start and grow businesses. The road to prosperity is not paved with special deals for special people.

A couple of days ago someone sent out an apparently pseudonymous email attacking a local media personality. This email was sent to a whole bunch of local bloggers, activists, publishers, and competing media personalities, challenging us to have the courage to publish his allegations and expose this person as a phony:

Let's see which of you have the stones to expose the truth about [media personality].

Sir or madam, if you had any stones, you wouldn't wait on me or Jamison Faught or Mike McCarville or MeeCiteeWurkor or Charlie Biggs to put this info on the web.

  1. Go to http://www.blogger.com
  2. Click "CREATE A BLOG."
  3. Follow the instructions.

If you have confidence in this information and want it made public, publish it yourself. If you think it's important for the public to know, put it on the web where Google will index it. Sure, if it turns out that your information is false and you know it, putting it on the web would be considered an aggravation of libel, but you've already committed yourself by sending the email to a couple dozen media people, so if it's that important to you, prove it by publishing it yourself instead of expecting someone else to take the risk for you.

The four-year-old:

Volunteered to help me clean the Little Tikes playhouse in the backyard. He wanted to play in it, but it was looking pretty grody, He did a good job and stayed working alongside me until the job was done.

Played catch with me and then hit the ball off a tee. He's got a good throw.

Stayed in the tree that big brother put him in, even though it was a little scary.

Counted the Zip Fizz tubes in the package (20), and pointed to the one he liked the best. They were all the same, he said, but that one was number 1.

Gave a play-by-play from the kitchen bathroom at his successful number two effort.

While big sister got ready for bed, played Mastermind with me. I gave him a few simplified puzzles with only two colors, and he solved them in two or three guesses.

The nine-year-old:

Came home from shopping wearing a sharp new fedora.

Played a couple of beautiful pieces on the piano, including Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz, and then played a pretty little improvisation of her own.

Asked to play Mastermind with me. She played the full six-color game and was able to solve the puzzle in five tries.

The 13-year-old:

Regaled me with tales of his excellent week of learning about state government at TeenPact. Best speaker of the week: Randy Brogdon, who spoke about his Obamacare Opt-Out bill. Worst speaker: Jari Askins, because she underestimated the interest and intelligence of these kids and dumbed down her talk. (First question from the kids to Askins: What do you think about the Obamacare Opt-Out bill?)

Climbed to the top of a hackberry tree and helped little brother get into one of the lower branches.

Played a double-stop arrangement of San Antonio Rose that he's been learning. It sounds just like Johnny Gimble and Keith Coleman's twin fiddles at the beginning of the version on For the Last Time. (He and his mom went to a western swing fiddle workshop at Tulsa Strings last weekend, led by Shelby Eicher and Rick Morton.)

After a brief visit to a nearby church's Easter egg hunt (where we bumped into Tasha Does Tulsa and her family, and where my four-year-old picked up only one blue egg and decided he was done, and my nine-year-old decided she was too old to participate), we headed downtown for DrillersFest and a sneak preview of ONEOK Field, the new stadium for Tulsa's minor league baseball team.

The stadium, financed by downtown property owners, both willing and unwilling, is an attractive facility with a stunning view of the downtown skyline. The ability to look in on the game from the street is a very nice feature. You'll be able to keep an eye on the game while waiting in line for food or watching your kid on the outfield playground. Shagging for foul balls ought to be the best it's been since the days of old Oilers Stadium next to the Fairgrounds racetrack pits, and since Elgin is a public street, Mr. Lamson won't be able to chase the shaggers away.

When the move downtown was first being discussed, I wrote that it would be great for downtown, particularly the Blue Dome and Bob Wills Districts, but maybe not such a good thing for the Drillers. Today's visit reinforced that concern.

As I was waiting in line for hot dogs (which became hamburgers when they ran out), I noticed that the seating below the concourse was labeled "club seating." Above the concourse are the luxury boxes. Both are types of premium seating. So where, I wondered, is general admission? Where are the cheap reserved seat sections?

In going from about 11,000 seats to about 6,000 seats, they've eliminated the middle-class seating section, the part of Driller Stadium where you could have a great view of the game for less than the price of a movie ticket. In ONEOK Field, $8 is the minimum for sitting anywhere near the infield; $10 if you want to be between 1st and 3rd.

You can still get a $5 ticket, but in ONEOK Field that entitles you to sit on the grass way out in the outfield. For $7 you can sit at a picnic table behind right field. For an indication of how much action you'll see in right field, know that my 3rd grade little league coach put me -- when he let me play -- in right field and hoped a lefty wouldn't come up to bat.

At the old park, you could pay reserved seat prices and sit behind home plate, up a ways, but in the shade and sheltered from rain. A couple of sections further down the foul lines, you still had a great view of the field for general admission prices.

The seven Tuesday home games will be cheap at the new park -- $3 off any available seat, and hot dogs, pretzels, pizza slices, and soft drinks for $2.

It was said, when the Drillers' move downtown was first being discussed, that the old stadium was just too big. Was the real problem that the old stadium has too many good seats at cheap prices, not enough incentive for fans to pay for premium seating?

Hopefully, the Drillers' new, more upscale clientèle will spend more in the park and before and after at the areas eateries and watering holes.

I'm not normally a bubbly person, but I'm feeling pretty cheery at the moment. I'm on my way home after a long stretch of long workdays in Wichita. I got a later-than-planned start and left town without eating. I decided to stop in Winfield, Kansas, at a coffee house there. I figured I could get some dinner, check e-mail, and get caffeinated for the rest of the drive.

What I found when I arrived at the beautiful craftsman bungalow that houses College Hill Coffee was an amazingly good jazz quintet. The pianist sounds like Vince Guaraldi and the guitarist has a style reminiscent of Eldon Shamblin. When they broke into "April in Paris," I broke into a grin.

For the record, the quintet is Prof. Mike Jones, trumpet; Scott Williams, piano; Tom Hoeffgen, guitar; Lee Velasquez, bass; and Nick Hofmeister, drums. I assume "Prof." implies a connection to Southwestern College, just a block from here.

It's a bit off the fast (but deadly boring) route between Tulsa and Wichita, but College Hill Coffee will be getting future visits from me, I feel sure.

MORE COFFEE: I've added College Hill Coffee to the map at IndieCoffeeShops.com, a Google Maps-based, crowdsourced guide to independently-owned coffeehouses around the world. IndieCoffeeShops.com guided me to three great hangouts in Wichita -- more about them, and Wichita, in a future entry.

STILL MORE: Scott Williams, the quintet's pianist, posted a comment below. He has posted a number of YouTube videos of the Winfield music scene, including several from the evening at College Hill Coffee. Here's one -- "Spring Is Here."

ONEOK Field, the new home of the Texas League's Tulsa Drillers will be open for Drillersfest from 10 am to 2 pm, Saturday, April 3, 2010. From the TulsaNow mailing list:

DRILLERS FEST - Sat. April 3 (10:00 AM- 2:00 PM) This will be the first opportunity for Drillers' fans to tour the new ballpark, located in Tulsa's historic Greenwood district.

During DrillersFest, the ONEOK Field Ticket Office will be open for fans to purchase individual tickets to all 70 home games, including all twelve fireworks shows. Individual tickets for the annual Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will also be on sale.

In addition, fans will have their first chance to visit the Drillers new merchandise store, Black Gold Outfitters. The store has over 2,000 square feet of shopping area and features a large selection of Drillers merchandise and apparel.

Hornsby's Hangout, a play area for kids, will be operating free of charge during Drillers Fest. The area features a Jupiter Jump, obstacle course, inflatable slide, and skeeball. The TD Williamson Kid Zone playground in the outfield plaza will also be providing entertainment for young fans.

Selected concession stands will be open and serving hot dogs, soft drinks and ice cream for $1.00 each. Selected specialty stands will also be open offering items at discounted prices.

ONEOK field is north of Archer St between Elgin and Greenwood Aves, in downtown Tulsa. More here about DrillersFest, plus photos, from Tasha Does Tulsa.

I told a friend a few weeks ago, "I don't even like writing software anymore." That's a problematic sentiment, given that I'm a software engineer by trade. I'm happy to report, however, that in the heat of hardware/software integration and long hours of focused effort on Making Things Work, I'm back in flow and enjoying tinkering with code again.

That's not leaving me much time for blogging, so here's a selection of some really thoughty stuff from other bloggers

Erick Erickson of RedState: Slaves to Government: Constitutional Gnosticism will destroy a free republic":

Consequently, we have gone beyond a point where you can sit down and read the constitution and really understand what the heck Congress can and cannot do....

We have reached a point where we have to rely on men and women in black robes and lawyers to tell us what we can and cannot do. A society begins to breakdown when the average citizen can no longer understand what his government can and cannot do without relying on men and women in black robes and lawyers all of whom have as many opinions to that question as there are opinions.

Then you cross into the territory where we have already arrived. A Congress can pass a 2,700 page piece of legislation to do something Congress arguably cannot do by making states do it, which is arguably unconstitutional. The legislators who voted on this 2,700 page piece of legislation, when asked, have no clue what is in the legislation.

You cannot sustain a free republic when the citizens who are expected to comply with the law have no understanding of what the law is or how their government works without paying the gnostics to enlighten them and the people who write the law do not know what is in the law.

(Did you know you can't tell how many state senators and state representatives Oklahoma has and how they're apportioned by reading our state constitution? The number and method was fixed by court order in 1964 and reaffirmed in statute with every decennial reapportionment.)

RH Potfry of satirical news site The Nose on Your Face is "Quitting the Blog Thing":

That 2 guys with demanding day jobs and families could cobble together some of the work we've done, get linked by everyone from Mark Steyn to Ann Coulter, and even get featured on the Huckabee Show, says a lot about how the ambitious amateur can use the internet to chase a dream.

But that chase has its price. Over the past six months, I've been nagged by the realization that I'm watching my daughters grow up over the top edge of my laptop. That if not for my wife's bizarre appreciation of my oddness, she could divorce me for neglect....

All things considered and given the limited hours in a day, I need to choose the job that comes with a paycheck, and make sure I'm fully present in the lives of the people I love.

Will Republican leadership walk back from the call to repeal the Obamacare monstrosity? Iowahawk seems to think they've already started and predicts the future with a few words per month.

Ace: Letterman Interviews Tea Party Leader & Grand Unified Theory of Everything Political -- some brilliant analysis of how political appeal works at a sub-rational level, and why the left-stream media is working so hard to convince you Tea Party supporters are wackos:

Successful politicians are often -- almost always, really; one struggles to find a contrary example -- able to appeal to those who should be opposed to them, based on purely rational inputs (past voting history, stated positions, rhetorical priorities) to nevertheless support them based on non-rational or pre-rational inputs -- a general sense of a guy as one of your own.

Non-ideological independents are, well, non-ideological, and tend to be deeply suspicious of those who are strongly ideological. Partly due to their ideology of not having much of an ideology, and partly due to sub-rational reasons: People who are strongly ideological are "not like me" and therefore viewed with antipathy....

Newt Gingrich, back when he was Speaker, gave seminars to conservative candidates on how to win elections, and he highlighted the importance of describing one's opponent (or his ideas at least) as (and I quote) "bizarre," "weird," and alien. (Not sure if that last one was used, but that was the idea.) This is the flip-side of appealing to the "One of Us" feeling -- portraying your opponent as "Not One of You."

Now, of course, the media engages in similar political rhetoric on a daily basis in the service of its cherished liberal party. The media is heavily invested in the Weird, Dangerous, Alien narratives when discussing the Tea Party. That is the biggest reason for the constant denigration of Tea Partiers as racist, homophobic, ugly, uneducated, zombie-like, etc. The media is always trying to paint Tea Partiers as "Not One of You" to discourage people from joining in the cause or viewing their claims as legitimate.

Also remember how CNN described the Coffee Parties. Did they deploy their "Weird, Dangerous, Alien" storyline in describing this group of mutant Obama Zombies? Oh dearie me no. For groups CNN likes and wishes to promote, it employs the "One of Us" Narrative....

So that's the media's template -- the left is portrayed by using the most broadly inclusive nouns, expressing the most broadly palatable and vague ideology. (All the CNN pieces on the Coffee Party refuse to divulge the Coffee Party is leftist and insist it is a centrist group concerned only with non-ideological concerns such as fair process and clean politics.)

The right is portrayed by using the narrowest possible categorical nouns and their ideology is represented as specifically as possible (to discourage those who don't share those particular views) and the Weirdness Factor is highlighted-- just in case some of those specific positions are actually attractive to a lot of people, the Weirdness Factor ought to keep you away.

He has an extended example from CNN's coverage of the "Coffee Party" movement. He also has links to Letterman's interview with Pam Stout, a leader of a Tea Party group from Sandpoint, Idaho. It's notable because it runs counter to the narrative -- Mrs. Stout comes across as normal, likable, and sincere.

Try viewing the news through this lens for a few days. You've probably seen it done at a local level, too, with phrases like "Gang of Five" used to render the legitimate concerns of a group of city councilors unworthy of public discussion.

National Review's Jim Geraghty has a list of "The Complete List of Obama Statement Expiration Dates," including his opposition to individual health care mandates, his commitment to shut down Gitmo, etc. Some are campaign promises that have expired since he took office, some are statements made since Inauguration Day that are now inoperative, and some are campaign promises that expired during the campaign itself.

Ivy League graduate William Deresiewicz writes in the American Scholar (the journal of Phi Beta Kappa) on "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education." One of the disadvantages: It hinders intellectual activity.

Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so it's almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that it's even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting A's in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. Paradoxically, the situation may be better at second-tier schools and, in particular, again, at liberal arts colleges than at the most prestigious universities. Some students end up at second-tier schools because they're exactly like students at Harvard or Yale, only less gifted or driven. But others end up there because they have a more independent spirit. They didn't get straight A's because they couldn't be bothered to give everything in every class. They concentrated on the ones that meant the most to them or on a single strong extracurricular passion or on projects that had nothing to do with school or even with looking good on a college application. Maybe they just sat in their room, reading a lot and writing in their journal. These are the kinds of kids who are likely, once they get to college, to be more interested in the human spirit than in school spirit, and to think about leaving college bearing questions, not resumés.

That ought to keep you busy while I get some sleep.

WAIT: Almost forgot about this, by Richard Fernandez, which touches in different ways on the themes in Ace's post:

Who makes monsters? Mostly the Left: because of its huge presence in the media and the arts, the Left has traditionally manufactured the most hate-objects. They've done it for so long that it has become almost a birthright. The photographer Zombie has documented dozens of calls from the left, from demonstrators to celebrities, for the assassination and murder of President George W. Bush. But that's not a crime, is it? "Threats to the president aren't excusable now, and weren't excusable in the past -- and yet death threats against Bush at protests seem to have been routinely ignored for years (and readers who have any evidence showing that the threateners depicted below [in the Zombie post] were ever prosecuted for threatening the president, please tell me and I'll update this essay with the new info). Why the discrepancy?"

The discrepancy is probably because the Left has long appointed itself the guardian of the freak-minting industry. It is a prerogative that is jealously guarded. Thus Glenn Reynolds could receive this insulting email calling for civility without the slightest irony. "I cannot emphasize this enough: your brand of public discourse is hurting our country. It us poison. So f[***] you, you GOP utensil, and f[***] your mother for bringing you forth." Get it Glenn? So too could Ann Coulter be threatened by protesters at the University of Ottawa to prevent her from making a "hate speech." S**t flows downhill. There is no mystery to that. It's Leftist physics.

But the unintended consequence of uncontrolled and systematic distortion; the unforeseen effect of shipping funhouse mirrors everywhere is that sooner or later frustrated audiences put on corrective spectacles. The most sophisticated audiences eventually have a pair of corrective spectacles to suit every context. The term for this method of fixing distortions is adaptive optics. My grandfather had a simple rule of thumb for understanding the controlled news broadcasts in the last days of World War 2. Whatever the Japanese broadcasts claimed he believed the reverse. After listening to one strident description of a vast Japanese naval victory he concluded, "the IJN is no more."...

One might argue that the explosive growth of the blogosphere has been driven by its utility as an adaptive optical appliance through which to view the media. But it's a hell of a way to run a railroad. Since the reality "out there" is first distorted by the media to the point where the discerning members of the public must apply a further distortion to make the image sensible, we inflict a huge signal loss on the viewer. There is no guarantee that the applied corrections don't do more harm than good. Back in the days of the anti-Marcos underground I asked someone why he bothered to read either the government newspapers or the Communist Party propaganda sheet. He replied, "I buy it for date, my friend. It's still good for telling me what day it is."

A better situation would be one in which billions of independent sensors gathered an image and left the end user to process the information. The terrible memetic distortions of the 20th century are partly rooted in the ill-matched marriage between news gathering and meme-minting. The phrase the medium is the message was originally intended to convey the sense of absolute divorce between content and information. In an environment dominated by the formal medium, real information content actually declines. A point is reached where all news stories become variations of a few didactic themes.

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