May 2010 Archives

It's easy to forget the purpose of this holiday that has become the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. But the point of Memorial Day is to remember -- to remember those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.

A number of area cemeteries will hold special ceremonies today to honor our war dead.

Another way to honor those who died is to listen their stories as told by their brothers-in-arms who are still with us today. In 2007, the Downtown Tulsa Kiwanis Club invited their members who had served in World War II to talk about their war experiences during a couple of the club's weekly meetings. The sessions were videotaped, and you can view them (about 75 minutes in all) at Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton's web site.

My apologies for the lapse since my last post. I've been writing, but it's all technical stuff for the gig that pays most of the bills.

While I was at the Coffee House on Cherry Street cranking away on that technical documentation, a customer at the next table, a gentleman named Cecil Cloud, said hello, identified himself as a BatesLine reader, and mentioned a post here about historic maps.

Cecil showed me an amazing collection of U. S. Geological Survey maps of Indian Territory and Oklahoma, online at the University of Texas Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection. Most of the maps predate statehood.

Take a look at this map showing Tulsa as part of the Claremore quadrangle, 1897. What's fascinating is that this is before the Dawes Commission, before land was allotted in quarter-sections to enrolled tribal members, and therefore before the familiar grid of section line roads was established. The townships, ranges, and sections were established, and are shown on the map as a reference grid, making it possible to pinpoint old locations with respect to the present day arterial grid. But the roads on these pre-1900 maps show a network of roads that follows the land, connecting settlements as directly as the terrain will allow.

Here's the section of the map covering what is now midtown and downtown Tulsa.


The grid of early day Tulsa is there, laid out parallel and perpendicular to the Frisco tracks which gave birth to the town. But the grid extends only from modern day Cameron St to 4th St, Cheyenne Ave to Cincinnati Ave. Beyond that, notice the hub of trails just east of present day 21st and Harvard, probably close to the high point that was more recently occupied by a water tower (just east of 21st and Louisville).

Notice too the creeks and streams, long before they were turned into underground storm sewers or rerouted into concrete channels. It's interesting, too, to see the locations of fords and ferries.

Here's an interesting contrast in the neighboring quad to the north, covering Washington, Nowata, and northern Rogers counties:

In just 16 years, the network of trails has been mostly replaced with a grid of section line roads, new towns have been established, and every few miles there's a school. Note the electric railway linking Bartlesville, Tuxedo, and Dewey.

More amazement at the PCL online archive:

1:250,000 USGS maps, including Tulsa maps from 1947 and 1967, covering all of Oklahoma northeast of Jenks. Note that the 1947 city map of Tulsa shows the Tulsa County Fairgrounds within the Tulsa city limits. The 1947 topo map shows the Union Electric Railway connecting Nowata and Coffeyville.
McGraw Electric Railway Manual Maps, 1913: Streetcar maps from nearly everywhere except Oklahoma, including Joplin, Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Brooklyn.

Reader Sue Snider was kind enough to send along a bit of letterhead from the Oklahoma Hotel, something she found while sorting through things after a move.

Oklahoma Hotel, Tulsa, letterhead


There's no address on it, but it may be the "New Oklahoma Hotel" identified on the 1939 and 1962 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps on the southeast corner of 2nd and Cincinnati, on the second and third floors, above the Oklahoma Tire and Supply Company (better known to Sooner boomers as OTASCO). This is the northwest corner of Block 107 of Tulsa's original townsite. Thanks to reader Mark Sanders, we know that the 1947 Polk City Directory lists the New Oklahoma Hotel at this location. The 1957 Polk directory doesn't show a hotel at that location, so Ms. Snider's estimate of a date in the 1940s is probably accurate.

Oklahoma Tire and Supply Company, 2nd and Cincinnati, Tulsa

In 1960, it was the most populous downtown block with 199 residents. Today it's a surface parking lot serving the Performing Arts Center and Tulsa's new City Hall.

I haven't been able to find out anything about proprietor R. E. Drennan, but I see a few current Tulsa listings for the Drennan name, so perhaps there's a connection.

This sort of thing never happens, right? Never, ever would a secretive group of private business leaders direct the redevelopment decisions of public agencies from behind the scenes. And if they did, well, we just have to trust that these business leaders know far more about urban development than the unwashed masses, as is readily apparent by the wealth they accumulated in completely unrelated fields of endeavor, right? We just have to trust that they have the best interests of the city at heart.

The OKC History Blog has an entry about a group of Oklahoma City business executives called Metro Action Planners and their efforts (of questionable legality) in the late 1970s to implement architect I. M. Pei's plan for downtown redevelopment. The story begins with Pei's return visit in 1976:

His summons to appear came from a new, informal group of downtown Oklahoma City business leaders assembled by the Chamber of Commerce to expedite implementation of his plans for the area.

The group - Metro Action Planners - was led by Southwestern Bell President John Parsons. The group had no office, no phone number, and no mailing list. And no vice presidents or directors were allowed.

Its membership was limited to CEOs, presidents and downtown property owners, and those who belonged included Charles Vose, president of First National Bank and Edward L. Gaylord, publisher of The Daily Oklahoman.

Behind the scenes, the group picked which retail developer would get a shot at building a planned indoor shopping mall:

In April [1977], the Urban Renewal Authority sought new proposals and got them from a local man, Bill Peterson, Dallas-based developer Vincent Carrozza, who estimated he could get the project done in six to 10 years, another outside developer, Starrett-Landmark, and Cadillac Fairview. (5)

While Carrozza, in particular, had no doubts about his project's future success, Cadillac Fairview's proposal was much more reserved in that regard.

The latter's proposal cautioned that there was "absolutely no certainty at this time that sufficient department store interest can be committed to ensure that the major Galleria retail can proceed in the near future."

But, Carrozza enchanted Metro Action Planners. The group, in fact, committed itself to raise $1.6 million needed to create a limited partnership with the developer to get the project going.

Before the end of April, 1978, Carrozza had his deal with local leaders.

Then everything unraveled when the developer asked for a favor from an official who, evidently, wasn't part of the in-crowd:

Oklahoma's attorney general launched a probe in August of 1980 to determine whether Carrozza, urban renewal and Metro Action Planners had restrained trade by creating an informal building moratorium downtown to enhance possibilities that the Galleria project would be successful.

The Metro Action Planners, it had turned out, had approved a moratorium on downtown building in October 1978. The following year, Carrozza had contacted an Urban Renewal commissioner, asking him to seek a second moratorium from the group. At the time, Carrozza was finding it difficult to find financing for a second office tower he was building on the Galleria site.

The commissioner - Stanton L. Young - declined to carry out Carrozza's request, and was not implicated of any wrong-doing.

Neither, curiously, was anyone else.

But while the attorney general's investigation went nowhere, the damage to this super-powerful group of downtown leaders had been done.

Metro Action Planners abruptly disappeared from the downtown redevelopment scene.

So much for corporate commitment to the free market. This shadowy group choked off downtown development to clear the path for their favored developer, who (by the way) never completed his project. The land -- most of a 2 x 2 superblock -- continues to sit mostly empty. The new downtown library was built on the northwest corner of the site.

But I'm sure this situation was peculiar to Oklahoma City, and powerful, private groups have never steered the actions of Tulsa's urban renewal agency, and if they did, I'm sure it was for our own good.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

Dale Peterson, candidate for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner

(Via Drew M. at Ace of Spades HQ.)

I was fairly stunned to see the following message, from Tulsa District 9 City Councilor G. T. Bynum, on my Facebook news feed Thursday afternoon:

Proud to see Civil Service Commission approve proposal by Councilor Barnes & me banning City HR discrimination based on sexual orientation.

(Bynum crossposted the same comment to Twitter.)

I wasn't surprised to see District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes's name in connection with the proposal. She's a social liberal, and when I endorsed her for City Council, I felt certain that there would be at least six socially conservative councilors to block any left-wing initiative or appointment. I'm wondering now if I counted wrong.

Amid hearty attaboys from Bynum's left-of-center Facebook friends, I asked the question, "Why did you feel this was an important issue to push at the moment?" My question was seen by one of Bynum's congratulators as an attack, and I was instructed to "get with the program" because "it's the 21st century" -- this from a Democratic ally on fiscal issues who surely knows me well enough to know I don't leap aboard bandwagons. In response I said I thought it was a fair question and one with interesting implications for Bynum's political future.

Bynum responded a few hours later:

Michael, I think it's a very fair question. I spoke at a council candidate forum put on by Oklahomans For Equality back during the campaign, and the issue was raised that gay and lesbian employees of the Tulsa City government don't enjoy the same protections as those in other cities. I was surprised, and agreed to do what I could to fix that situation. As a conservative who believes in keeping the government out of our private lives, I don't think an employee's sexual orientation is the City's business and shouldn't play a role in HR. As to my political future, an old mentor of mine wisely advised me after I got elected to the Council that if I made decisions based on my political future I'd be a lousy elected official. I try to keep that advice in mind.

(As I reread that quote, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if GT Bynum were as devoted to giving Tulsa's historic buildings, neighborhoods, and commercial districts the kind of protections that they enjoy in other cities?" His vote last Thursday night in support of Eric Gomez's nomination to the TMAPC isn't an encouraging sign.)

I would have thought that a conservative who worked for Senator Tom Coburn would be able to see through noble-sounding phrases like "Oklahomans for Equality" and "anti-discrimination" to the reality of the agenda or program underlying those words -- you know, the program I'm supposed to get with because it's the 21st century. I'd have thought a conservative would object to the term "sexual orientation," with its implication of the unscientific notion of the "gay gene" and its undermining of one's personal responsibility for one's sexual choices.

Most of all, I'd have thought a conservative who worked for Tom Coburn would get the idea of unintended consequences. The real effect of Bynum's push to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation is to add another pretext for someone to sue the city. An unsuccessful job applicant, a city employee passed over for a promotion, someone demoted or dismissed for poor performance -- any of them could claim "it's because I'm gay" and file a formal complaint.

With such a complaint, the focus shifts from the performance, attitude, and capabilities of the disgruntled employee or applicant to the moral opinions of the manager or supervisor who made the decision. The supervisor would be hauled up before the Civil Rights Commission and Exhibit A in the hearing would be the paperback New Testament on her bookshelf or the poster on her cubicle wall of a basket of kittens with a verse of scripture beneath. The supervisor's membership in a church that teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful (e.g., Bynum's own Roman Catholic Church) would be create a presumption of guilt that the supervisor's hiring decision or disciplinary action was based in bigotry.

After the system makes an example of a couple of city supervisors, they'll learn to cut their "out and proud" homosexual employees extra slack, just to avoid the hassle of justifying themselves to the Civil Rights Commission. This sort of thing is already happening in Europe and Canada. Ultimately, "anti-discrimination" laws to protect homosexuals are used to persecute those who hold to views of sexual morality which within living memory spanned all major religions and all civilized cultures and which are still held by the vast majority of Oklahomans.

It should also be said that the proposal backed by Bynum puts the city in the position of taking a moral and religious stand that makes abnormal sexual behavior morally equivalent to being born with a certain skin color or coming from a certain ethnic background.

I'm disappointed that a professed conservative like G. T. Bynum wouldn't understand all this. I'm hopeful that the conservatives on the City Council will use their power to overturn the proposal.


I was surprised to learn recently that G. T. Bynum was no longer with Williams & Williams but had set up his own Federal lobbying firm. GT Bynum Consulting has three clients listed with the Senate Office of Public Records as of April 25, 2010, according to (fields are client, total, and industry):

  • George Kaiser Family Foundation, $20,000, Human Rights
  • Williams & Williams Marketing Services, $10,000, Unknown Business
  • City of Miami, FL, $0, Civil Servants

Last year, in 2009, GKFF gave all of its Washington lobbying business -- $150,000 -- to powerhouse law firm Akin Gump. So far in 2010, GKFF has spent $40,000, divided evenly between Akin Gump and G. T. Bynum.


Here's an example of the use of "diversity" and "non-discrimination" policies to punish dissenting views of homosexuality: Crystal Dixon was fired by the University of Toledo for a letter to the local newspaper, as a private individual, objecting to the misappropriation of the legacy of the civil rights movement by homosexual rights activists. Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Professor Rob Gagnon wrote a letter supporting Dixon and citing studies in peer-reviewed journal that undercut claims that same-sex attraction is as ingrained as skin color.

Pete Vere, co-author with Kathy Shaidle of Tyranny of Nice, explains how "Canada's human rights commissions and tribunals, originally founded to help socially-disadvantaged minorities seek redress against racism in government housing and services, have now turned their sights on Christians and pro-lifers," citing several examples both north and south of the 49th Parallel, including the case of the Christian owner of a small Toronto print shop fined for refusing to print stationery for a homosexual organization and the case of a Georgia counselor who was fired because she referred a lesbian couple to another counselor in the same office, citing a conflict with her religious convictions.

In a 2007 Daily Telegraph op-ed, James Mackay, former Lord Chancellor under two Conservative prime ministers, considers the impact of an anti-discrimination regulation then proposed by the Labour government on those who object to homosexual behavior on religious grounds.


I'm not really interested in hearing from people who want to attack those who hold to traditional views of sexual behavior, and I won't be approving any comments along those lines. I am interested in hearing from social conservatives who want to debate for or against Bynum's actions from a social conservative perspective.

Elizabeth Sabin GoodwinSome time ago, I wrote a blog post urging the stewards of the Beryl Ford Collection to post the collection on Flickr, so as to invite public participation in collecting data about people, places, and times depicted in photos and ephemera from Tulsa history. A couple of months later, I learned that Flickr has a special program specifically for archives like the Beryl Ford Collection. It's called Flickr Commons, and it's being used by the likes of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and national archives in the US, UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Texas.

Smaller institutions are participating as well: The Bergen Public Library, the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest, and the Upper Arlington (Ohio) History collection. Tulsa's Beryl Ford Collection would fit right in.

The institutions are participating in Flickr Commons to make their collections more widely available and to extend their ability to identify what they have, using Flickr's built-in tools to collect comments, notes, and geographical and chronological metadata about each photo.

The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.

Today I found a great example of how this works. The Smithsonian Institution is publishing a series of photos called "Women in Science." One of the photos is of Elizabeth Sabin Goodwin. The photo's description:

The Flickr community is invited to assist in the identification of Ms. Goodwin.

And so they have. Within a month or so, someone found her 1924 wedding announcement in the Washington Post's online archives. A mention of her high school and age led to her photo in the Central High School yearbook, and later obituaries for her father and husband turned up. Recently, her granddaughter came across the photo and provided more information about Elizabeth Sabin Goodwin, and why this artist would have been included in the Science Service's collection -- she was an illustrator for a science magazine.

More here about E. S. Goodwin on indicommons, a blog devoted to interesting finds in The Commons on Flickr.

Here's another example of Web 2.0 collaboration to identify historic photos: Amateur history detectives discovered that the surname of this woman of science had been mis-transcribed from handwriting -- "Gans" was misread as "Gaus."


Still plenty of mystery women of science to be identified: Who is J. M. Deming? Or Miss W. Dennis?

Indicommons brings together photos of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair from various Commons collections. There's a Google Earth overlay of Columbian Exposition photos, too.

The Texas State Archives debuts with architectural drawings of state park facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Tom Blumer, writing for Pajamas Media, points to statistics connecting Oklahoma's relatively good unemployment situation to implementation of HB 1804, the strict immigration enforcement bill approved in May 2007

Given the economic damage inflicted on us by the current administration and many state governments, most readers of this column would probably be quite happy to live in a state where:
  • The official unemployment rate in March was 6.6%.
  • The average unemployment rate in 2009 using the most comprehensive definition was 10.5%, the fourth-lowest in the nation (behind three much smaller states), and far lower than the national average of 16.2%.
  • The number of people either working or looking for work has actually grown during the past twelve months (in most states, the labor force has contracted significantly).
  • The economy grew in 2008, and probably did so again in 2009.
Unless you live in Oklahoma, you're not in that state.

Blumer goes on to cite statistics showing that, from 2008 to 2009, unemployment among black Oklahomans grew much more slowly (8.7% to 11.1%) than it did for white Oklahomans (almost doubled, 2.9% to 5%). Among Hispanic OKlahomans, unemployment dropped over that same period, from 9% to 7.4%.

In 2008, Oklahoma's economic growth outpaced the national economy, and its welfare and food stamp caseload fell as it was growing in the rest of the country.

Since 1804 passed, Oklahoma has not suffered nearly as much economically as most of the rest of the U.S. In fact, the state can fairly be described, especially on a relative basis, as prosperous. Even before considering the reductions in crime the citizens of Arizona are so desperately seeking in their state's new immigration enforcement measure, what the Sooner State has done seems well worth imitating elsewhere for pocketbook-related reasons alone.

RELATED: Mark Krikorian, posting on National Review's The Corner, links to a study showing the effects of immigration on summer jobs for teenagers:

Long before the current recession, the share of U.S.-born teenagers in the summer labor market had been declining, from 64 percent in 1994 to 48 percent in 2007 (and 45 percent last summer). Immigration is only one cause, but a significant one; in the top ten immigration states, only 45 percent of teens were in the summer labor force in 2007, as opposed to 58 percent in the bottom ten immigration states. What's more, a 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of a state's work force from 1994 to 2007 reduced the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers by 7.9 percentage points.

The reasons are obvious -- immigrants do the jobs teenagers used to do, like cutting grass, flipping burgers, etc., and since they're almost all adults, employers prefer them to inexperienced teenagers.

Krikorian goes on quote a section pointing out that the teens who aren't working aren't learning the kind of work ethic that they'll need to succeed later in life:

Holding a job as a teenager seems to instill the habits and values that are helpful in finding or retaining gainful employment later in life. This may include showing up on time, following a supervisor's directions, completing tasks, dealing politely with customers, and working hard. Learning good work habits and values seems to become much less likely without holding a job at a young age. Once a person who has little or no work experience reaches full adulthood, learning these skills seems to become more difficult.

But not to worry, says Nancy Pelosi -- thanks to Obamacare, a good work ethic is optional. You can be an artiste and sponge off the rest of us. (Follow the link for video.) Ed Morrissey comments:

Pelosi tells an audience in DC that ObamaCare is an "entrepreneurial bill," because it will let people quit being productive and allow them to leech off of ... entrepreneurs:
We see it as an entrepreneurial bill, a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care.

In other words, we should all just join the circus and let Mom and Dad pick up the bill. That's not entrepreneurial; it's a welfare state. If anyone wants to see just what kind of innovation that produces, we only need to see the economies of the Western European nanny states.

While it's a good thing to move away from health insurance locking people to their jobs (which is why employer-funded health insurance was created in the first place -- to attract and retain employees while a government imposed wage freeze was in effect), there was a much simpler way, promoted by Republicans like Tom Coburn, that would have made delinked one's health coverage from one's job, preserved individual liberty and responsibility in health care choices, and helped to control costs.

You may know This Land Press as the folks behind Goodbye Tulsa, a podcast devoted to well-known and well-loved Tulsans who have recently shuffled off this mortal coil, but (as reported here a few weeks ago) the online This Land project has expanded to be something much bigger, and now it's extending its reach into print.

This Land has produced its maiden print edition ("Relevant Readings by Oklahoma Writers, Artists, and Thinkers), and it's available now at Dwelling Spaces, 2nd and Detroit in downtown Tulsa's Blue Dome District, for a mere $2.

I'm honored to have a place in this premiere edition. I was asked by publisher Michael Mason to put together the data and text for an infographic, by graphic designer Carlos Knight, illustrating the top 10 private land and building owners in downtown Tulsa and how much of downtown they own. It was fascinating to research, and I think you'll find it just as fascinating to read. Carlos did a beautiful job of bringing text and numbers to life through his design, and it was a privilege to get to work with such a talented artist.

I haven't yet seen the rest of the paper, but the back cover portrait by Michael Cooper of Rocky Frisco is worth the cover price alone.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's nomination of ousted City Councilor Eric Gomez to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission is on tonight's City Council agenda. The nomination is likely to be defeated by a supermajority, based on public statements by the councilors, but it's still worth expressing your concern to your councilor, particularly if your councilor has expressed support for Gomez's nomination. If you're wondering why you should be concerned, please read my earlier entry on Eric Gomez's TMAPC nomination, which links to earlier evaluations of his record on zoning and development issues.

By the way, I notice that the agenda for tonight's meeting includes no backup information on Eric Gomez or the other mayoral nominees being considered tonight. The Council usually gets a fact sheet on each nominee, with a resume. Certainly a prospective planning commissioner's sources of income would be a matter of public interest, and in this case there are rumors of a connection between Gomez and a developer who is notoriously hostile to homeowners; those rumors need to be either confirmed or dispelled.

The daily paper has an appalling story about tenants in several Tulsa apartment complexes going without central air conditioning because of the complexes' owner's bankruptcy, which is tied to the previous owner's default on mortgages and alleged non-disclosure of said default:

In a subsequent lawsuit in the same court, RC Sooner Holdings alleges that the bankruptcy was filed because the previous owners of the apartments, the development family behind the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby, sold eight apartment complexes to RC Sooner Holdings without telling the buyer that the properties' mortgages were in default.

"We were duped," said Gorguin Shaikoli, vice president of Delaware-based RC Realty, which previously managed the properties for RC Sooner Holdings. "We thought we did all the due diligence."
Lawsuits, defaulted loans

Additionally, RC Sooner Holdings alleges that RemyCo, The Remy Cos., Home Realty Ventures and six members of the associated Remy family acknowledged that they were in default on their loans to Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored enterprise that buys mortgages from primary lenders, and agreed to pay $1.8 million in forbearance -- meaning to hold off on collection of the debt -- one month after selling the properties and transferring the loans to RC Sooner Holdings.

The lawsuit notes that Fannie Mae did not become aware of the transfer in ownership until January.

Fannie Mae, alleging that the sale of the apartments without its knowledge was a breach of the loan contracts, has also filed eight lawsuits in Tulsa County District Court against the Remys and the legal entities they created to own the apartments.

The lawsuits seek full repayment of the $28.58 million remaining balance on the eight loans.

As the story notes, the Remy family was behind the development of Regal Plaza and the Spirit Bank Event Center in northern Bixby. Regal Plaza was developed with the help of a sales tax rebate -- the city would pay the developer 1% of retail sales from the complex over the first 10 years. Tim Remy was also involved in a proposal for a retail development on the south bank of the Arkansas River in Bixby, called South Village, which likewise would have been assisted by a sales tax rebate. If the development didn't happen (and so far, it hasn't) or failed to bring in city sales tax revenue, the developer wouldn't get any of the money.

Bixby wisely chose incentives that didn't put the taxpayers at risk. Other cities have foolishly fronted money for developers and found themselves stuck and out of luck when the development flopped for one reason or another.

The Remy family of companies seemed to be the image of a healthy, progressive, successful real estate development and investment company. (For example, see this Journal Record feature story on the Remy Companies from 2006.) Regal Plaza was innovative for a suburban retail development (although it doesn't work as well as a pedestrian-friendly environment as it could have). It now appears that much of that success was built on a foundation of sand.

Whether their financial problems are rooted in dishonesty, hubris, the national economy, or some combination of the three, the Remy situation should be taken as a warning to local governments contemplating public-private partnerships. No matter how solid the private partner appears to be, structure the deal to put all the risk on the private partner. Don't stick the taxpayer with the bill.

If you don't know who Frank Nelson was, you should. If you're a fan of classic radio and TV you've seen and heard him a thousand times or more. If you're older than me, you know him from the Jack Benny Show. People my age will remember his cameos on Sanford and Son, and those younger still may have seen a recurring Simpsons character modeled after his schtick. Frank Nelson's character popped up anytime the situation required sarcastic customer service with a veneer of sycophantic unctuousness. Watch the clips and then read another one of Mark Evanier's great Hollywood stories, reminiscences of working with Frank Nelson.

More videos below (or after the jump, if you're on the home page).

What got me thinking about Frank Nelson, and his years with Jack Benny in particular, was listening to an episode of "Hancock's Half Hour," a 1950s British radio sitcom that, like Jack Benny's show, featured an ensemble cast, made the title character the straight man, the butt of everyone else's jokes, and had a character that, like Frank Nelson's "yyyyyeee-esss" man, seemed to show up every episode, wherever it was set, to the annoyance of the star. In the case of "Hancock's Half Hour," the character actor was Kenneth Williams and his catchphase was, "'Ere, stop messin' about."

(Edited 2014/01/13 to update Mark Evanier link.)

It's rare that you will find me quoting, with approval, a lesbian, atheist, leftist East Coast professor, but Camille Paglia's love of Western Civilization and her critique of what passes for education in America warms my heart. Paglia's recent interview with Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail reads like a commercial for the classical education movement. A few choice quotes:

I've always felt that the obligation of teachers is to have a huge, broad overview and to provide a foundation course to the students. The long view of history is absolutely crucial. There are long patterns of history. Civilizations rose and fell, and guess what! It's not a fiction. I believe in chronology and I believe it's our obligation to teach it. I've met fundamentalist Protestants who've just come out of high school and read the Bible. They have a longer view of history than most students who come out of Harvard. The problem today is that professors feel they are far too sophisticated and important to do something as mundane as teach a foundation course. So what the heck are parents paying all this money for?...

I want world culture taught. I believe in Hollywood and jazz. Those are America's great contributions to the world. But I don't want this ideology that the West is the great rapist of the world. The Western art tradition is incredible. Then feminism came along and decided greatness was a conspiracy foisted on us by men. People would criticize me by saying, "She's writing about Michelangelo when the really important person was this woman...." But wait. There's no way she came up to Michelangelo's ankle. So what we're getting now is people who never heard of Michelangelo or Leonardo because they are dead white males. They think it's better to read minor works by African-American or Caribbean writers than the great literature of the world....

The kids are totally in the computer age. There's a whole new brain operation that's being moulded by the computer. But educators shouldn't be following what the students are doing. Educators need to analyze the culture and figure out what's missing in the culture and then supply it. Students find books onerous. But I still believe that the great compendium of knowledge is contained in books....

Wente asked Paglia: "But in education today - even in primary-school education - all we hear about is 'critical thinking.' All the facts are available on the Web, and everybody has a calculator. So why make kids memorize the times tables or the names of the biggest rivers in Canada?" Paglia's reply (emphasis added):

"Critical thinking" sounds great. But it's a Marxist approach to culture. It's just slapping a liberal leftist ideology on everything you do. You just find all the ways that power has defrauded or defamed or destroyed. It's a pat formula that's very thin. At the primary level, what kids need is facts. They need geography, chronology, geology. I'm a huge believer in geology - it's all about engagement in physical materials and the history of the world.

But instead of that, the kids get ideology.

There are an increasing number of options for parents who want their children to get a foundation in western culture, to learn chronology and geography and times tables and how to diagram a sentence. In Tulsa you have schools like Augustine Christian Academy and Regent Preparatory School and homeschool communities like Classical Conversations, which now has groups meeting in southeast Tulsa, at Victory Christian Center, in Owasso, Jenks, and, starting next year, in Skiatook.

My oldest son has been a part of the Tulsa Classical Conversations community for three years, and it has given him a great grounding in such diverse subjects as historical chronology, essay writing, anatomy, Latin, and geography. His geography final assignment this year involved a large poster-sized world map drawn freehand with countries and capitals labeled. He has a framework for understanding news stories and novels.

Unfortunately, the idea that kids need facts doesn't have much support in our public education system, and I'm not sure that it's possible to get anything like a classical education in Oklahoma without turning to a private school or homeschooling.


"The Lost Tools of Learning," an essay by Dorothy L. Sayers and a foundational text of the classical education revival. Sayers makes the case for memorization in the early years of schooling and explains how it lays a foundation for developing the skills of sound argument and persuasive speech in the later years.

Ten myths about classical education busted.


In a New York Times oped, Charles Murray explains why test score comparisons aren't the most compelling argument for school choice, and in the process sings the praises of classical education (thanks to reader and commenter Stephen Lee for the link):

If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise.

Here's an illustration. The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county's other public schools.

I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is "better" than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam's razor means. But those subjects aren't covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland's standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.

And yet, knowing that, I would still send my own children to that charter school in a heartbeat. They would be taught the content that I think they need to learn, in a manner that I consider appropriate.

This personal calculation is familiar to just about every parent reading these words. Our children's education is extremely important to us, and the greater good doesn't much enter into it -- hence all the politicians who oppose vouchers but send their own children to private schools. The supporters of school choice need to make their case on the basis of that shared parental calculation, not on the red herring of test scores.

There are millions of parents out there who don't have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children's education as affluent people do. Let's use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.

Under Oklahoma's Open Meetings Act, public bodies like cities are required to post agendas for upcoming meetings, so that citizens will know what issues may be discussed and what action may be taken. At the old Tulsa City Hall, this was accomplished by means of a cork bulletin board, inside a glass case near the walkway between City Hall and the council chamber. You could drive by any hour of the day or night and see the agenda for the City Council, the housing authority, the sign advisory board, and any other authority, board, commission, or task force.

At Tulsa's new City Hall, One Technology Center, the old school cork board has been replaced with a high-tech electronic display. Last week, that display failed to show the agenda for Thursday night's meeting when it failed to reboot automatically. As a result, the regular City Council meeting had to be postponed to last night, Monday.

The electronic system was touted as foolproof, over the objection of skeptics, like Council administrator Don Cannon:

Council Administrator Don Cannon said he's frustrated because he and others warned city officials that something like this could easily happen.

"We told them that a hard-copy backup was needed just in case," he said.

Cannon said he intends to post paper copies of the council's agendas by the television screens until some other backup system is developed. Monday's agendas were physically posted Thursday afternoon.

"The risk is just not worth it," he said. "There's a lot of things that are uncontrollable, but this is controllable."

City Councilor John Eagleton, the only councilor to vote against the City's acquisition of One Technology Center, had a brief comment about the situation: "I told you so."

A team of 11 officials from Third World countries observing last Thursday's British election called the UK's approach to voting "corruptible," too dependent on trust. The observers came from countries where election fraud has often been a problem, with methods that include ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation, voter impersonation, and ballot theft.

Ababu Namwamba, an MP from Kenya, said he found the system "almost casual" in the way the whole process was so calm and so civil. He said: "While it may not be corrupt, it has elements that could be regarded as corruptible."

The Kenyan said he was surprised that more checks were not carried out to check the identities of voters. Instead clerks in the polling booths trusted the person who is voting to tell the truth.

He said: "That little detail is susceptible to abuse. It [the system] is admirable but it is open to abuse. This country has opened up to many people coming in.

"While the culture of trust may have worked in the past, your culture is changing. These details need to be tightened up."

Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, an MP from Bangladesh, suggested that staff in polling stations should demand to see photographic identification from voters.

This would ensure that people do not impersonate someone else when they voted. "It should move to a more foolproof system," he said.

Note the obvious but politically incorrect point made by the Kenyan MP: Immigration brings in many people who don't share a nation's culture. If they come in large enough numbers and are not inculcated with the values of their new home, institutions that depend on those values will founder.

This even applies to different political cultures within the United States: There are big cities where election cheating is proverbial and there are rural areas where such a thing is unthinkable. Imagine a small North Dakota town invaded by a critical mass of folks accustomed to Chicago-style machine politics.

(It should be said that many immigrants come to a country like Britain or the United States precisely because they prefer their new country's cultural assumptions to those of their homelands.)

My friend Tyson Wynn has an editorial on about tomorrow's special election in Craig County to extend a sales tax that currently expires in 2023 to 2040 in order to pay for a new community center.

You read that right: They intend to borrow against assumed revenues far into the future in order to build a building at the county fairgrounds, a building with no likely economic impact.

Further, the plan to build the "community center" is just downright bad planning. To fund this disaster, we're being asked to extend a tax that's not even set to expire until 2023. And the extension goes until 2040. And these people are bringing this to us with straight faces? The only thing crazier than this is all those credit cards Discover gives kids in college so they can be paying for tacos for 20 years. If the tax extension passes, they sell the bonds now, get the funding now, and build the facility now. Without paying a dime for it. And they won't pay a dime until 2024. Seriously? Is it really good economics to borrow $2.8 million that we won't even begin paying on for 14 years? Can you fathom what kind of interest $2.8 million accrues over 14 years? And it won't be fully paid off until 2040.

And why are we extending the courthouse sales tax instead of a voting on a new tax? Because, as a county, we're maxed out. We can't vote new tax; we can only extend an existing tax. Sometimes, you just have to stop spending money and get caught up before you buy a luxury item, which this "community center" certainly is.

Wynn goes on to ask what Craig County will do if, having maxed out its bonding capacity and committed sales tax funds far into the future, it is faced with a real emergency needing immediate funding. I'd add that there's no guarantee bond buyers will want municipal bonds backed with revenues decades into the future. They're likely to want premium interest for that level of risk.

I don't have a vote, but it seems like Craig County voters would be pretty foolish to vote yes on Tuesday.

It's a story from February 1, 2010, but I just saw it this week, via Troy Sappington on Facebook: a story in the London (Ontario) Free Press that prominently featured comments from Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr on police salaries and layoffs. The story was part of a series entitled "Protection at What Cost?: An occasional series examining the soaring cost of emergency services.

Three years after they're sworn in on the force, in some cases with little more than the minimum high school diploma and 12 weeks' training, London police officers get a base salary that tops $80,000.

That wouldn't surprise other police and firefighters in Ontario, whose salaries are closely tethered by unions that demand it and police boards that often give in.

But south of the border, jaws drop.

In U.S. cities where there are more murders in a month than London has in a year, police are surprised when told how much police are paid here and how that has changed so quickly over time.

"It's really a death spiral," said Dewey Bartlett Jr., mayor of Tulsa, Okla., where senior officers max out at $62,783 US.

Bartlett, too, deals with police unions and did so last week without an arms-length police board or provincial arbitrator to get in his way.

With Tulsa facing a budget crisis and needing to cut $7 million from its police budget, Bartlett gave cops a choice: Agree to a 5% wage cut and rollbacks or he'd lay off 155 officers -- nearly 20% of the force.

The police association said no.

Last Friday, police administrators were preparing pink slips.

"In this part of the country, unions aren't a way of life. (The police association) was selfish and greedy, rather than what people expect of a police officer," Bartlett said.

What wasn't said in the story was that similar cuts were required from other city departments. The Firefighters Union made a different choice than the FOP, picking pay cuts over layoffs.

The story goes on to look at the pros and cons of high police salaries in London, where a "three-year officer is paid nearly 2 1/2 times more than a typical London adult," and the disconnect in Ontario between those who set police salaries and those responsible for setting municipal budget priorities.

MORE: Stephen Malanga in the Spring 2010 City Journal on the role of government employee unions (teachers', public safety, and SEIU) in California's budget crisis.

It was fascinating to watch the results roll in. Polls closed at 10 pm in Britain and it wasn't until early the next morning before the result was mathematically certain, confirming the exit polls from the night before: No party would have a majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives won the most seats (306) and received the biggest share of the vote (36.1%), but it wasn't enough. The incumbent Labour Party dropped 6 points (to 29%) and a net 91 seats from the 2005 election (to 258). The Liberal Democrats won 23% of the vote, one percentage point better than last time, but finished first in only 57 seats, a net loss of 5.

Usually, one party wins a majority of seats. If the incumbent party doesn't win, the sitting prime minister and cabinet resign, the Queen invites the leader of the winning party to be prime minister and form a government, appointing other party leaders as cabinet ministers (usually those who served as "shadow" minister during the party's time in opposition).

But no party has a majority, so what now? Gordon Brown, the incumbent prime minister, gets first shot at forming a governing coalition. He remains prime minister until he resigns or there's a successful vote of no confidence. (The last successful attempt was in 1979, which the Labour government of James Callaghan lost by one vote. This led to the dissolution of Parliament, a general election, and the victory of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives.) To stay on, Labour would need the backing of the LibDems and the nationalist parties from Wales (Plaid Cymru), Scotland (SNP), and Northern Ireland (SDLP). That would likely require a coalition government, with LibDem leaders given several key seats in the cabinet. But LibDem voters are likely to feel betrayed if their party goes into government with the bunch they wanted out.

If Labour can't hang on, the Queen would call upon Conservative leader David Cameron to form a government, because his party is closest to a majority. He's already in talks with the LibDem leader Nick Clegg, but he doesn't necessarily need LibDems to agree to a coalition. It would be enough for them to agree not to support a no confidence motion. The Tories have enough votes to survive as a "minority government" if the Liberal Democrats abstain from a vote of no confidence.

The Tories could also try to form a governing coalition with the support of the Welsh and Scottish nationalists, which would be unlikely, since the Conservatives are Unionists and historically have opposed devolution as well as independence.

The final option would be another election, right away, or after one of the above scenarios limps along for a few months. A second election could result in a clearer outcome. Yesterday's vote would give tactical voters enough information to elect their least worst option. A supporter of a candidate that finished third or lower might choose their preferred option among the top two finishers in their constituency.

One of the arguments in favor of continuing the First Past the Post method of deciding elections -- most votes wins the seat, no matter how tiny the percentage of the total vote -- is that it turns even a slim plurality of the popular vote into a decisive majority of seats. That didn't work this time, with three very evenly balanced parties. Using the Alternative Vote (also known as Instant Runoff Voting) would likely have produced a decisive outcome. My sense is that there would have been fewer seats for Labour and more for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, as supporters of both parties would have preferred the other to another term for Labour.

The outcome will cause financial turmoil and international uncertainty, but for us political junkies it's heavenly.


RightWingNews has published a poll of 50 conservative bloggers on Arizona's new immigration law, illegal immigration, legal immigration, and assimilation. The answers to two questions make for an interesting contrast, although I'm not surprised:

7) On the whole, which of these sentiments best describes your thoughts about illegal aliens?

They make America a better place to live: 4.1% (2 votes)
They make America a worse place to live: 95.9% (47 votes)

8) On the whole, which of these sentiments best describes your thoughts about legal immigrants?

They America a better place to live: 98% (49 votes)
They make America a worse place to live: 2% (1 votes)

On my recent business trips to Wichita, I've been staying at a hotel that provides a free copy of the local paper (75 cent newsstand price), which I've been reading over breakfast each morning. It's fascinating to see the parallels and differences between Tulsa and Wichita. Over the next few days I'll be going through my stack of clippings and sharing some items that you, too, may find interesting.

From the April 25, 2010, Wichita Eagle -- Wrestling takes loss on tourney at arena:

Intrust Bank Arena made a profit, but the Kansas State High School Activities Association took a loss on the state wrestling championship in February, officials say.

The association's leader said recently that the Class 6A and 5A tournaments would not return because the venue is too expensive. But Friday, he said talks with arena operator SMG remain open....

Arena general manager Chris Presson confirmed Friday that the arena made a profit on the tournament but would not say how much.

[KSHSAA executive director Gary] Musselman said arena rent and expenses cost the association $75,767. He said the association ended up with a net loss of $44,980....

Last year's event at the Kansas Coliseum brought in $23,852 for the association.

The tournament drew 6,693 people -- including premium seat holders whose tickets did not count toward the association's paid attendance, according to arena officials. Gross ticket sales were $50,500.

Paid attendance at the Coliseum last year was 6,348. Gross ticket sales were $56,985....

Records from SMG to the county show that two sporting events in February -- the wrestling tournament and a Gravity Slashers freestyle motorcross show -- brought in $142,890 in gross building income.

SMG did not make a breakdown available.

While it raised the money for the arena through a 30-month 1 percent sales tax, the county says it cannot share some financial details with the public. Its contract with SMG includes a confidentiality agreement.
SMG does share with the public such information as number of performances and event days; net direct event income for categories of events; net food, beverage and merchandise income; other net income and gross building income.

It does not share net profits or losses for individual events.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said he went to the arena to view SMG's full financial reports for January and February, the reports it sends to its home office. But because he was not allowed to take notes or make copies, he was not able to provide the figures.

A few things to note:

Premium seat licenses means more money for the arena owner and operator, but for the event promoter it means less revenue from the same number of spectators. At Tulsa's BOK Center, what events are included in the premium seat price?

A 17,500 seat capacity may be wonderful for the rare event that requires it, but it's a financial burden for an event likely to draw a smaller crowd, and for a city the size of Wichita or Tulsa, that's going to mean most events.

Despite the novelty of the facility (Intrust Bank Arena has only been open since the first of the year), the event drew about the same number of fans as last year.

SMG runs arenas in Wichita, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. At what point do they start tweaking event bookings among the three cities to maximize their bottom line, without regard to the interests of the individual cities they serve? Should we expect to see a less impressive lineup in Tulsa just before their contract is up for renewal in Wichita?

SMG's contract with Wichita limits the amount of financial information available to decision makers and the public at large, information that was previously available for publicly owned, publicly operated facilities. Does Tulsa have the same deal?

MORE: Here is Tulsa's contract with SMG for the BOK Center and the Tulsa Convention Center (3 MB PDF). That's a searchable and smaller version of this original scan on the Tulsa City Council website (12 MB PDF).

"He is either totally clueless or absolutely in your face, one of the two."

"I guess he wants everybody mad at him."

"He's appointing a councilor that threatened to sue one of his constituents over a planning issue to the planning commission?"

Eric Gomez, former Tulsa City CouncilorThose were the instantaneous reactions of my lovely bride to the news that Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has nominated former Councilor Eric Gomez to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. ("He" meaning Mayor Bartlett Jr.)

At this moment, the TMAPC is considering whether to approve a new comprehensive plan, deciding whether to substantially approve the plan that came out of the two-year-long PLANiTULSA process or whether to remodel it to suit a couple of squeaky-wheel developers named John Bumgarner and Joe Westervelt -- developers who happen to have donated to Eric Gomez's recent unsuccessful campaign for City Council. Bartlett Jr's nomination of Gomez sends a clear message to the thousands of Tulsans who invested their hopes and energy into the PLANiTULSA process: It's going to be business as usual -- a continuation of the bad land use planning decisions of the past -- if Bartlett Jr gets his way.

Before last fall's election, I set out a long list of bad decisions by Eric Gomez during his brief, single term of office. One prime example: Approving Bumgarner's Folly -- a straight rezoning of most of a large, formerly residential block near Cherry Street, a block that is now vacant and apparently will be for a long time:

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

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

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

As I wrote in endorsing Eric Gomez's defeat last November:

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

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

While I supported Gomez in 2004, when he ran as a neighborhood advocate against the development lobby's pick -- incumbent Tom Baker -- he's changed since then. Now a developer himself, he's wholeheartedly adopted the agenda of the "build anything I want anywhere I want" development community, and he's attacked even mild, watered-down versions of the kinds of laws our peer cities use to allow change to occur in a predictable way that protects the stability and character of neighborhoods.

In answer to the question in the title of this post: No, I don't think Mayor Bartlett Jr is serious about his nomination of Eric Gomez. Gomez has at most three supporters on the council, and I suspect those three are mainly a matter of friendship rather than endorsement of his planning philosophy. This nomination is a delaying tactic, I believe, to reset the 60-day clock and prevent the City Council from appointing Al Nichols, a long-time neighborhood leader from east Tulsa who would bring both geographical and (as someone not involved in real estate or development) professional balance to the TMAPC.

A political friend of mine opined that Councilor Maria Barnes (who was beaten by Gomez in 2008 and beat him in 2009) would "show her [posterior]" over this appointment -- in other words, make a fool of herself by loudly opposing the nomination of her political rival. I disagreed. She doesn't have to say a word and likely won't. A majority of her colleagues are already well aware that Eric Gomez is the wrong choice for the TMAPC, particularly at this crucial time in the development of a Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in a generation.

MORE: Here's an example of Eric Gomez's philosophy of zoning from a 2008 candidate forum:

"Doesn't all zoning infringe on property rights, and if so, why is the idea of conservation district different from that? Why is it a further infringement on property rights that are already infringed by zoning?"

Gomez's verbatim reply: "We already regulate land use. We already regulate what you can and cannot do with your property. When people buy a property, they look at what the policies are, they understand what the zoning is, and if that should change, there has to be a--it's a fine line, I believe, between private property rights and zoning, and absent of covenants that are not easily enforceable, when you buy a property in an older neighborhood--I live in an older neighborhood--you do understand that these things may happen and it, um..." As his voice trailed off to a mumble, he sat down.

AND FINALLY: At a candidate forum last fall, Eric Gomez responded to a question (click for video) about public officials suing their constituents, as he threatened to do, but he wasn't too excited about his response being recorded for posterity.

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