June 2010 Archives

Why not E. L. Wisty? He has just as much experience at the judgin' as Elena Kagan has, even if he doesn't have the Latin for it.

His uncontrollable whoopin' might be a problem during confirmation hearings but shouldn't interfere with the court's proceedings.

"The trouble with bein' a miner: as soon as you're too old and tired and ill and sick and stupid to do your job properly, you have to go, while the very opposite applies with the judges."

UPDATE: Rally for Randy Brogdon in Tulsa tonight, Monday, June 28, 2010, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. at 4343 S. Memorial, Suite I. (Follow the Brogdon signs behind Big Red Sports at 44th & Memorial.) Meet Sen. and Mrs. Brogdon, pick up yard signs and bumper stickers are available, buy t-shirts, and pick up materials to walk your precinct for Randy Brogdon. For more information, call the Brogdon campaign at 888-800-7365.

On Saturday, the Oklahoma Republican State Committee met to choose a replacement for Gary Jones, who stepped down as party chairman to run for State Auditor and Inspector. Matt Pinnell was elected chairman by acclamation. As I wrote shortly after he announced his run for the post, he brings a great deal of nuts-and-bolts campaign experience to the job, just the sort of thing the Oklahoma GOP needs down the homestretch in this important state election year.

The State Committee is the governing body of the party in between state conventions. It's made up of the chairman and vice chairman of each county party, an elected committeeman and committeewoman from each county party, plus all Republican elected officials at the state and federal level (legislators, U. S. congressmen and senators, corporation commissioners, etc.). I served as Tulsa County's state committeeman from 2003 to 2007.

It's worth noting that party rules result in near-equal representation of men and women on the state committee. The chairman and vice-chairman of each county party must be of opposite sexes. It was my experience that women had a higher turnout percentage for these meetings than men. I mention that to dispel any mental picture that the state committee is an old-boys club meeting in a smoke-filled room. If anything, state committee meetings are more like a garden club get-together, only probably not as contentious.

The county party officials make up the bulk of the state committee. These officials are elected by the grassroots Republicans who attend precinct meetings and county conventions. They tend to be folks who have been involved in party activities for many years and have had first-hand dealings with the Republican candidates for statewide office. They know that the right candidate at the top of the ticket is crucial to motivate Republican voters to go to the polls and vote for downticket candidates for legislature and county office. So the insight represented by the results of Saturday's straw poll are worth your attention.

Each of the Republican candidates for governor had a turn addressing the committee on Saturday. 222 votes were cast in a straw poll of the committee. The results (reported by Mike McCarville):

Randy Brogdon: 119
Mary Fallin: 93
Robert Hubbard: 7
Roger Jackson: 3

So despite celebrity endorsements of Fallin, despite polls showing Fallin with a substantial lead, the men and women leading the party at the local level, the people who know these candidates better than just about anyone else, think State Sen. Randy Brogdon is the best choice to carry the Republican banner in November.

UTW has an interesting cover story this week about Terry Simonson, chief of staff to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, written by Mike Easterling with photos by Michael Cooper.

The story begins with Simonson filing for mayor just before the deadline in 1998. I was there when it happened. I had gone to the County Election Board to file for the open District 4 City Council seat earlier in the afternoon, but learned I needed to have my declaration of candidacy notarized, so I drove over to Swinney's Hardware in Whittier Square, which had a notary in-house. When I returned to hand in my declaration, Terry was there with a couple of other people, at the other end of the counter, filling out his paper work.

Terry made a good run in 1998. He had solid grassroots support. He had been doing a good job as Republican Party chairman, taking over after a contentious period, bringing a degree of harmony and refocusing the party apparatus on the nuts and bolts of organizing volunteers and supporting candidates. In 1997, when Mayor Susan Savage and the Tulsa Metro Chamber proposed increasing sales taxes, hotel/motel taxes, and car rental taxes to build an arena, a natatorium, and a soccer stadium stadium downtown, Simonson, as GOP party chairman, was a leader of the opposition, debating Savage on TV. The measure -- known as the Tulsa Project -- was defeated resoundingly.

But by the time 2002 rolled around, Simonson had lost credibility with the grassroots. When arena supporters hijacked the Convention and Tourism Task Force in 2000, Simonson, who was co-chairman of the community outreach committee, raised no protest. Had he spoken out, we might have been able to keep the task force on track to produce a holistic approach to maximizing Tulsa's tourist appeal, rather than just a justification for yet another big-project tax package. When a near-repeat of the Tulsa Project was put on the ballot, with a more burdensome tax package than in 1997, Simonson didn't help to defeat it.

In general, the refreshing boldness that characterized Simonson in the 1990s seemed to be replaced by a cautious deference to the big players in local politics. I was one of a number of people who happily supported Simonson in 1998 who spent 2001 looking for a better candidate to back in 2002. The fact that Terry's most notable supporter was John Benjamin, one of my all-time least favorite city councilors and a prominent Chamberpot, only confirmed my gut feeling that Simonson was not the right man for the mayor's office. (My eventual pick, Bill LaFortune, turned out to be a disappointment, too. The first sign, within a couple of months of taking office, was his reappointment of Joe Westervelt to the TMAPC. The second was his allowing the city's vision summit, which had huge popular support and could have led to a PLANiTULSA-like process for a comprehensive vision for the city's future, to be diverted into a hodgepodge of unrelated public works projects.)

From the UTW profile it appears that some of Terry's boldness has returned. I believe he genuinely wants to address Tulsa's fiscal problems, but he and his boss have failed to build the kind of coalition needed to support radical change. The way you campaign affects the way you can govern. Bartlett Jr didn't talk about the fiscal mess that he needed to fix, because that meant attacking Kathy Taylor, whom he had endorsed for re-election. Instead he ran on a platform of not having contributed to Barack Obama's campaign. That didn't give him much of a mandate for the hard steps that needed to be taken. It appears that Bartlett Jr and Simonson have managed to alienate many of the leaders and officials who might otherwise have helped mobilize support for difficult reforms.

One last note: I don't really get the effort to investigate Simonson regarding the JAG grant. I wish there had been as much determination to hold decision-makers to account over the Great Plains Airlines fiasco or to pursue TDA's mistreatment of Will and Cecilia Wilkins. Those issues seem far more significant. I do, however, respect the Council's assertion of their rights as a coequal branch of government, and I'm happy that the councilors are united in defending their institutional prerogatives. It wasn't that many years ago that we had a significant number of councilors who felt that it wasn't their business to challenge the mayor on anything.

Jazz ambassadors

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Benny Goodman in Red Square, 1962While waiting for my son, who was rehearsing with a small orchestral ensemble at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in Tulsa's old Union Depot, I had time to look over the exhibits, in particular a traveling collection of photos and posters called "Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World". It's about an interesting bit of history where music met Cold War politics. From the 1950s to the 1970s, famed American jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dave Brubeck traveled the world as cultural ambassadors for the USA.

Up until the mid-'50s, America had been sending out our own ballerinas and symphony orchestras to try to counter the classically-oriented cultural outreach of the USSR. According to the exhibit, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., suggested to President Eisenhower that America should capitalize on the distinctly American art form of jazz, a type of music that the Soviet Union condemned as decadent.

Eventually, under Khrushchev, American jazz musicians made it to Moscow, and one photo in the exhibit is accompanied by a charming anecdote about Benny Goodman:

For his part, Goodman surprised the Soviets with an impromptu solo clarinet performance in Red Square. The New York Times noted that he became a visiting "Pied Piper" for curious children who swarmed around him in the shadow of the Kremlin. When Benny saw a squad of soldiers marching stiffly by to relieve the guard at the Lenin Mausoleum, the temptation was too much for him and he broke into a rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel. He then "caught the rhythm of the passing boots and the King of Swing kept time with the Red Army."

"Jam Session" will be at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame through July 9, 2010. Admission is free; donations are accepted. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 11am to 4pm;
Sundays, 2pm to 5pm (before the Summer Concert series shows). It's an interesting and heartwarming exhibit, well worth your time to see, and particularly valuable for those born after the end of the Cold War.

MORE: The official website of Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors.

Man of the West looks at the Leftist track record and wonders why America's leftists "champion the same policies that have brought whole nations to their knees and criticize their opponents for their alleged insensitivity to the poor--the poor that leftist policies indisputably create in massive numbers!" He also offers the short and painful truth about taekwon-do.

Mikhail Gorbachev was just as callous a despot as his less-polished predecessors, according to once-secret Soviet documents. There's a treasure trove of documents about the USSR from the last years of the Cold War, smuggled out at great risk, but they've yet to find an English translator or publisher.

Ever read about a head of state's snub of Jesse Owens after his triumph at the 1936 Olympic Games? Owens said the snub wasn't from Hitler but FDR. (Via Kathy Shaidle.)

It's like Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the funny pages: The Comics Curmudgeon. (I had no idea how depressing Funky Winkerbean had become.)

C. Michael Patton (the theologian from Edmond, not the recycler from Tulsa) writes about the day he quit believing in God.

Brandon Dutcher offers a Father's Day anecdote from a recent Weekly Standard cover story about Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Lori Bongiorno, the Conscious Consumer, says it's wasteful to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Brace Books -- a great independent bookstore in Ponca City (with a coffee bar, too) -- passes along a parent's recommendation of John Grisham's book for pre-teens: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.

I just visited with a customer, who is the mom of a 10-year-old son, about this book. She and her son have read it......and she said it's a good read, a page-turner like Grisham's courtroom books, and very appropriate for kids.

Barbara Hollingsworth, local opinion editor of the Washington Examiner, critiques plans for high-density, transit-oriented development in Tysons Corner, Virginia:

It will cost billions of dollars to transform Tysons Corner, but the fact is that the county simply doesn't have the money. Instead of asking the landowners to pick up the slack, county leaders are proposing a series of general countywide tax increases -- on meals, real estate sales, vehicle registration, rental cars, hotel rooms and car repairs.

This means that average Fairfax County residents and businesses, whose property taxes have doubled during the past decade, will be taxed even more to pay for redevelopment in Tysons Corner --over and above the estimated $100 million a year they will be charged for the Silver Line's operating costs. In the current economic climate, there's no guarantee taxpayers will get a return on their forced investment.

Gene Healy examines the structural damage done to federalism by the passage of the 17th Amendment:

"Let the state legislatures appoint the Senate," Virginia's George Mason urged at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, lest a newly empowered federal government "swallow up the state legislatures." The motion carried unanimously after Mason's remarks.

So it's probably fitting that it's a George Mason University law professor, Todd Zywicki, who has done the best work on the 17th Amendment's pernicious effects.

Zywicki shows that selection by state legislatures was a key pillar of the Constitution's architecture, ensuring that the Senate would be a bulwark for decentralized government. It's "inconceivable," Zywicki writes, "that a Senator during the pre-17th Amendment era would vote for an 'unfunded federal mandate.' "

And finally, Mark Merrill offers a simple set of Rules of the House.

Way back in the first week of BatesLine's existence, I posted photos of Midwest City's doomed Tinker Plaza shopping center. Downtown on the Range has photos of and commentary on the new-urbanist Midwest City Town Center that took its place.

Tyson and Jeane Wynn have posted their 50th WynnCast, covering, among other things, their hometown of Welch, Oklahoma, and the WelchOK.com news site they run to help keep their friends and neighbors informed. They also talk about the upcoming Christy awards for Christian fiction and three books that they've publicized (book publicity is their main line of work) that have been nominated.

This Land Press reports on some of the classy items for sale at the Tulsa World's online auction site. Another piece from the inaugural print edition is now online: A story by Michael Mason on the way the City of Tulsa's handles (or mishandles) the land it owns. He wonders whether it's time to put all the surplus land on the auction block. And Erin Fore has a fascinating account of her day volunteering at a Norman soup kitchen.

OCPA reports that the private-sector share of Oklahoma's personal income has dropped to an all-time low -- 62% -- thanks in large part to the Federal stimulus package. Oklahoma's private-sector proportion is about 6 percentage points below the national number, a gap that has been fairly constant over the last two decades.

The Tulsa Parks and Recreation master plan is online on the Tulsa Parks website. You can download the Tulsa Parks master plan executive summary or the entire Tulsa Parks master plan.

Speaking of parks, here are some photos from the 1970s of the Bruce Goff Playtower in Bartlesville's Sooner Park. I remember climbing this as a kid. These pictures also show (albeit not well) the Möbius Strip climbing frame that used to sit at its base; I remember watching Dad work his way around the Möbius Strip many years ago. (You held on to the top rail and put your feet on the bottom rail on the outside. As you worked your way around, keeping your hands and feet on their respective rails, you would wind up on the inside and upside down.) There's a Facebook cause to fund the Goff Playtower's restoration.

INCOG has updated the map of municipal boundaries in the Tulsa metro area. It's striking how many cities straddle county lines. Eventually Owasso and Broken Arrow will have at least half its population and land area in a county other than Tulsa County. The same could be true of Sand Springs and Sperry. It appears that Skiatook is already mainly in Osage County and has plenty of room to grow in that direction. Tulsa will always be mainly in Tulsa County, but the city has significant territory in Osage, Rogers, and Wagoner County; meanwhile the seat of Creek County has a foothold in Tulsa County. Only a few pockets of land are not within any municipality's fenceline; a rather significant area lies between Tulsa and Sand Springs and includes the unincorporated settlement of Berryhill. The municipal disregard for county lines suggests that county government is not the right framework for regional cooperation to provide government services, but rather some sort of federation of municipalities.

Irritated Tulsan has an important fountain drink etiquette reminder for QT cheap drink season.

It was a Saturday morning, and I wasn't in a hurry. I needed to drop off a rental car at the Avis location downtown then pick up my car that had been in the shop while I was out of town. I had already paid the repair bill and had the keys; I just needed to retrieve the car from the shop's parking lot. What better time to try to bus system.

I used my smartphone in the Avis office to look at bus schedules. It looked like there was a bus that would take me straight from downtown to the repair shop, and it appeared that I had plenty of time to get to a stop to catch the bus. I opted not to backtrack seven or eight blocks to the downtown bus station but instead walked to a stop along the line to the east of downtown. I headed east on 6th, walked through Centennial Park, stopping for a minute on a shaded park bench to double-check the schedule for the bus I intended to catch. The website was not optimized for mobiles, and I had to switch from "optimized mode" to "wide-screen mode" to get things to look right, but I managed to select the correct bus and the Saturday from downtown schedule using the Javascript-based pulldown menus.

The 210 bus was due to reach 3rd and Rockford at 10:06. I had about 20 minutes to walk about a half-mile. No problem.

I stayed on 6th, turned north on Rockford, walking past Tulsa Transit HQ, then paused at the bus shelter just west of Rockford on 3rd. I had another 10 minutes until the bus's scheduled arrival, and I decided I'd rather not wait next to an overgrown abandoned lot, so I walked further east along the line to the stop just east of Utica, next to the Tulsa City-County Health Department and waited. And waited.

When the bus was 10 minutes late, I began to worry. There was no significant traffic, and I couldn't imagine the bus was being delayed by large numbers of riders. A couple of buses passed in the other direction, heading downtown.

20 minutes past scheduled arrival time an Admiral bus stopped next to me. I told the driver, "I'm waiting for the 210; it's about 20 minutes late." The driver's reply: "I'm not surprised. There's a lot of traffic at the other end."

I checked the Tulsa Transit website to see if there were any service bulletins posted. I checked the Tulsa Transit Twitter account for notifications of delays. Nothing. At 27 minutes past the scheduled arrival, I called the number on the bus stop sign. I waited for about 10 minutes, through repeated announcements: "We are experiencing unusually high call volume."

While waiting for an operator, I daydreamed that Tulsa allowed jitneys to operate and that multiple independent jitney operators would pass by any minute, competing with each other to offer the best service so as to win my business and loyalty.

Finally, a man answered the phone. I complained about the 210 bus now being almost 40 minutes late and was informed that there wasn't a 10:06 bus on Saturdays. The next bus wouldn't be along until 11:26, another 40 minutes to wait.

Evidently I had misread the schedule; surprising, since I had checked twice and thought I had been careful about selecting the right day's schedule from the pull-down menu. Was there something about the site's Javascript code and my phone that didn't work well together?

I decided to walk -- 3rd to Wheeling to 6th to Delaware to 8th to College to 11th to Florence Ave to 24th to Harvard; 3.5 miles, not counting the 1.3 I'd already walked from 6th and Elgin to 3rd and Utica. I had wanted some exercise, but not quite that much, certainly not in Saturday's heat. I got to my car about 11:45, about the time that bus finally would have dropped me off.

I'm still not sure how I managed to twice misread the online bus schedule. I could have sworn that I saw "From downtown, Saturday" above the schedule with the 10:06 time the two times I checked.

Still, Tulsa Transit could make their website friendlier for smartphone users. Instead of using Javascript and depending upon the smartphone browser's implementation of Javascript for correct operation, do the processing on the host side. Instead of pulldown menus, provide a simple, unformatted list of links to routes and schedules.

And use a little compute power to save the rider's brain power from having to sort through the schedule information himself. Let the rider input his location, then return a list of the next scheduled arrival time for every bus and bus stop within walking distance. I might have chosen to walk the mile to 15th Street for a shorter wait for the bus, even though it would have meant another mile walk at the end of the journey. Seeing my best possibilities at a glance would have made it easier to choose my course of action.

Sure, someone might still want to access a Monday-Friday schedule from his mobile phone on a Saturday, so continue to make that possible, but it should be easier and simpler to access the schedules applicable to the current date and time.

The Saturday headways on the 210 route are ridiculous: 2 hours and 10 minutes between buses. The weekday headways aren't much better -- 40 minutes.

A final note: north midtown's streets are not as shady as they used to be, the result, no doubt, of the ice and wind storms (like the June 2006 microburst) of the last few years. Because of the heat I had worn a t-shirt, and I managed to get a lovely, bright red sunburn around my collar, despite the fact that I stayed on the shady side of the street as much as possible. On too many blocks, there was no shady side.

UPDATE 2010/06/18: It passed as expected, 6-3. Now it goes to Mayor Bartlett's desk, and we're about to find out whether he is the conservative he claimed to be during the campaign.

A month ago, I wrote about a proposal authored by Tulsa City Councilor G. T. Bynum adding "sexual orientation" to the city's human resources anti-discrimination policy. Tonight that proposal comes before the Tulsa City Council for approval, and six councilors -- the three Democrats plus Republicans Bynum, Bill Christiansen, and Chris Trail -- have voiced support. As I wrote last month, I thought we had a solid majority of conservatives on the council, but it appears I badly miscounted. Even the three councilors who voiced opposition were tentative in their remarks, as if they knew they should be against this, but couldn't articulate the reasons.

Bynum has presented this proposition as if it were a matter of "live and let live" -- not intruding into the private life of an employee or applicant. Bynum is either naive or disingenuous. The ultimate use to which these propositions are put is to silence those who hold traditional opinions of homosexual behavior. The only permitted opinion about homosexual behavior will be approval and celebration.

Today's (2010/06/17) edition of the comic strip "The Meaning of Lila" shows where all this is going. An employee complains to his company's HR manager about the comments of a coworker.

HR: I'm sorry, Boyd, but there are no laws protecting sexual orientation in Ohio. If Brittany made racist comments or sexually harassed you, we could take some action.

Boyd: You mean Brittany can say anything she wants about gays?

HR: Legally, yes.

Boyd: So there's nothing I can do?

HR: Come back when you're 40, and we can look into age discrimination.

What horrifying thing could Brittany have said to prompt Boyd to complain about her to HR?

She expressed opposition to gay marriage.

In Monday's strip, Brittany hears Boyd, her cube-mate, talking about attending a gay coworker's wedding in Iowa. She says, "Gays can't get married." When Boyd told her that Iowa allows it, she replied, "How did that sneak by?"

On Tuesday, Brittany says to Boyd, "Don't get me wrong. I'm totally cool about gays. I just don't think you should get married."

That was provocation enough to prompt Boyd's complaint to HR that Brittany was making "homophobic comments."

The company in the strip didn't have the kind of rule that G. T. Bynum is pushing, so the character that voiced her opposition, in very mild terms, to gay marriage couldn't be punished for her opinion.

Yes, I know it's only a comic strip, but it's a reflection of the real-world effort by those who want to tear down sexual morality to push aside those who stand in their way, however meekly.

And as I pointed out last month, these rules aren't just about silencing opinions in the workplace but are weapons that can be wielded against religious coworkers any time a homosexual employee feels slighted.

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 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.

It should be noted that, while the new rule would not affect private business in Tulsa -- yet -- it does set a precedent that will make it easier for activists to push for similar rules in private companies. Part of Bynum's justification for his proposal is that other cities and major companies are doing it.

If you object to our "conservative" city councilors moving Tulsa city government further toward socially liberal political correctness, please speak up today. Call your councilor at 918-596-192x, substituting your district number for x. So, for example, G. T. Bynum in District 9 may be reached at 918-596-1929; District 8's Bill Christiansen is at 918-596-1928; and District 5's Chris Trail is at 918-596-1925. You may also be able to reach councilors Christiansen and Trail through their businesses, Christiansen Aviation and Ike's Chili Parlor.

Bynum also has some budget proposals to bring forward tonight. I'm happy about that, but budgets come and go. What Bynum is doing with this sexual orientation proposal is unlikely to be undone -- public policy is like a ratchet, and once it moves in a liberal direction, it's very difficult and costly, if not impossible, to move it back.

MORE: If you're unfamiliar with the "ratchet effect," it's a phrase originated by Keith Joseph, Margaret Thatcher's political mentor, in reference to the seemingly inevitable shift toward socialism and away from economic freedom in Britain, but the term's use has been generalized to social policy by the observation that movement away from traditional values is almost never reversed. There's an excellent essay in the Red State archives on the ratchet effect and its application to morality and society. Here's an excerpt:

In addition to the skill of ratcheting the nation's policies continually leftward, the Left possesses a remarkable facility in permanently fixing their aims into place. Through the illegitimate exploitation of the courts, a multitude of important issues has been effectively eliminated from the public square of legislative discourse. The Left's success in removing critical social and cultural matters completely off the table and beyond the reach of `government by the people' is a perversely admirable achievement. Re-reading the Johnson and Ponnuru excerpts leaves one incredulous at the overwhelming nature of the Left's triumph. No matter how difficult the admission is for conservatives, the Left has run the table.

It is tempting to attribute the one-way street of social liberalization to the inevitable and uncontrollable forces of modernization and secularization. Others of a more suspicious cast of mind believe that resorting to explanations of invisible social forces is nothing more than a smoke screen to conceal the fingerprints of human agency in the Left's success. The latter is far closer to the mark as argued in The True and Only Heaven by Christopher Lasch and The Secular Revolution by Christian Smith. The dubious assumption that modernization equals secularization has been advanced and employed by "various interest groups...in the service of their own quest for power, usually at the expense of religion and religious institutions." [Quote courtesy of First Things]

Any councilor voting in support of this leftward shift is either not really a conservative or too naive to be trusted with higher office.

Today at 4 at Tulsa City Hall is what may be the final session of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission's public hearing on the PLANiTULSA comprehensive plan. (You can download the June 2010 Final Draft of the PLANiTULSA policy documents here.) Work obligations preclude me from attending today, but I have submitted the following comments to the TMAPC via e-mail:

In general, this is a solid plan that should be moved forward to the City Council. Rereading the plan again, I was pleased by the emphasis on connectivity (something sadly neglected in the build-out of south Tulsa, to the detriment of traffic flow), walkability, and a much more sensible approach to parking, including shared parking districts and realistic parking ratios. I'm pleased to see an important role for historic preservation, particularly in the downtown area. I applaud the inclusion of "protects and stabilizes existing neighborhoods" in the list of criteria to guide zoning decisions (Land Use Policy 5-7, p. LU-80).

That said, I have several concerns, particularly with the land use chapter, and I urge the TMAPC to amend the document to address these issues:

* While the Land Use plan sets out a new "policy structure" for land use planning (p. LU-56), it also seems to provide several large loopholes that seem to undercut the new policy structure and keep Tulsa in the mode of reactive, spot "planning."

For example, p. LU-62: "Small area plans need not be used for more routine planning actions, such as developments or subdivisions of land under single ownership. In these instances, a subdivision, zone change, PUD or other process under the zoning code is sufficient." Surely there should be a size limit on this exclusion. This loophole would seem to allow some very large developments to bypass any scrutiny of connectivity, walkability, and fit with the overall plan.

Then on p. LU-75, these statements would have Tulsa continuing to zone first and plan later, retrospectively correcting the comprehensive plan to reflect zoning decisions made in conflict with the plan.

"[The Land Use Plan] should be amended to conform to zoning changes.... Housekeeping updates and maintenance to reflect development approvals should be made annually."

Instead, a zoning change proposal in conflict with the comprehensive plan should trigger a review of the plan for the surrounding area. If a small area plan is in place, it should be reviewed in light of the proposed change. If there is no small area plan, a zoning change proposal in conflict with the overall land use plan should lead to the creation of a small area plan for the area of the proposed change and its environs. Land development doesn't happen in isolation, and good planning requires consideration of the impact of a proposed zoning change on the surrounding area.

Under our current system, INCOG staff treats a zoning change in conflict with the plan as if it were isolated from its surroundings, and so they only propose a spot change to the comprehensive plan. That's not planning; it's bookkeeping. The language I quoted above from pages LU-62 and LU-75 seems to suggest that this spot planning approach will continue indefinitely, to the city's detriment.

* The paragraph on Existing Residential Neighborhoods (p. LU-33) should merge the language of the previous version with the June draft, in order to make it clear that the goal of the "clear and objective ... development standards" is to ensure that infill in a stable neighborhood is consistent with character of the neighborhood. I propose the following substitute for the third sentence of the paragraph:

"Development activities in these areas should be limited to the rehabilitation, improvement or replacement of existing homes, and small-scale infill projects, as permitted through clear and objective setback, height, and other development standards of the zoning code. These clear and objective development standards in the zoning code should be designed so that infill development complements the character of the neighborhood and is consistent in form, scale, rhythm and proportion as seen from the street."

This language is consistent with that on p. LU-54 which discusses "older neighborhoods that are looking for new ways to preserve their character and quality of life" and mentions Florence Park as a neighborhood where the aim is to "maintain present character."

* Statements specifying the Tulsa Metro Chamber (p. LU-20, p. LU-67) as a partner in economic development should be changed to refer to the business community generally. Over years and decades, how the business community expresses itself organizationally may change. Long-time organizations may fail to adapt to changing conditions and may be supplemented or supplanted by newer expressions of business-to-business cooperation. New organizations may be more or less formal, may be focused on specific neighborhoods or regions of the city on on particular market segments. City government should plan to work with all of them.

It is imprudent for a flexible, future-oriented comprehensive plan to prescribe a fixed, privileged position for a controversial organization of questionable effectiveness. Such rigidity interferes with the dynamism we need in Tulsa's business community. Business organizations, just like individual businesses, should prove their worth in the free market, rather than using privileged government connections to protect themselves against competition. It is especially inappropriate to specify a privileged position for the Tulsa Metro Chamber in a land use policy plan. That the Tulsa Metro Chamber felt it necessary to insert themselves into a land use policy document only demonstrates their weakening political position and organizational confusion.

I note that the economic development chapter appropriately lists the Tulsa Metro Chamber as only one among many potential business-community partners for the city (e.g. p. ED-8). Priority 2, Goal 3 (p. ED-18) should, however, be changed to begin "The City and the business community work closely with institutions of higher education...."

* Finally, a technical comment about the quality of the online PDF documents: The maps and charts are almost illegible, because of the image compression method used to reduce the document size. Zooming in to get a closer look reveals pixelation and other artifacts, blurring details. Often, the colors used in a map's legend don't match the colors that appear in the map (e.g. the transportation map). I urge the PLANiTULSA team to make higher resolution versions of the maps and charts available to the public, using non-lossy compression methods such as PNG. JPEG compression is designed for use with photos, not for maps or graphics that use a small number of distinct colors with sharp boundaries.

I would also urge making documents, maps, and charts available in the native format in which they were originally laid out (e.g., Photoshop, GIS, AutoCAD). Those Tulsans with the appropriate software would be able to download the files and turn layers of content on and off to see the details more clearly.

CORRECTION: 2010/06/14: Judge Linda Morrissey is registered to vote as an Independent, not a Democrat as I previously reported. I regret the error. Her husband, John Nicks, is a former Tulsa County Democratic Party chairman and was a Democratic candidate for Oklahoma Attorney General in 1994 and Tulsa County Commission District 2 in 2002. The two younger voters registered at the same address are also Democrats. A 1992 Tulsa World story reported that Morrissey was among a group of "[m]ore than 100 Oklahomans... expected to attend various inaugural galas, balls and ceremonies Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C." in honor of Bill Clinton, according to Rosemary Addy, cited by the story as political director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

This is an update of an entry from four years ago. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2010.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices. (Why are Tulsa County and Pawnee County coupled together? Why not Pawnee with, say, Osage, and Tulsa on its own, as Oklahoma County is?)

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. (The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.) For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. After two elections in a row in which the incumbent Tulsa County Associate District Judge was ousted, this time around incumbent Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. Former Tulsa County Associate District Judge Caroline Wall has opted to run for the open seat being vacated by Deborah Shallcross. Pawnee County Associate District Judge Matthew Henry was again re-elected without opposition. (He was probably helped by all that free publicity from his Bible commentary.)

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. Three of the candidates for District Judge Office 13 (the open seat) currently serve as Special Judges.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine, with the party registration of each judge noted in parentheses. (Yes, I know Oklahoma judicial races are non-partisan and judicial candidates are supposed to refrain from mentioning party affiliation, but I'm not subject to that restriction, and party registration is a matter of public record. Party affiliation may be some indication of a candidate's judicial philosophy.)

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2010 Elected by General 2010
1 Kellough (D) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
2 Harris (D) Tulsa Co. ED 3   Tulsa Co. ED 3  
3 Smith (D) Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
4 Cantrell (I) Tulsa Co. ED 4 Tulsa Co. ED 4
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 Chappelle (R)2 Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert (D) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Thornbrugh (R) Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5
9 Morrissey (I) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
10 Fitzgerald (D) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
11 Nightingale (D) Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein (R) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Shallcross (D)1 Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
14 Glassco (D)2 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.
2 Appointed by Gov. Henry to fill unexpired terms of McAllister and Gassett, respectively.

Although all 14 offices are up for election this year, only four offices are contested, and only two of those will be on the primary ballot.

Three incumbent judges have drawn opponents: Smith, Morrissey, and Glassco. Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, a registered Republican, is challenging, Linda Morrissey, a registered independent (CORRECTED: see above). Judge Clancy Smith (Democrat) will face Mark Zannotti (independent) and James Caputo (Republican). Caputo was a candidate in 2006 for Office 4. Kurt Glassco, Democrat nominee for Congress in 1988 and 1990, was appointed to replace Judge Michael Gassett. He'll be opposed in his first attempt at re-election by Jon Patton (Republican).

The only open seat, Office 13, currently held by Deborah Shallcross (D), has drawn special judges Carl Funderburk (D), Bill Musseman (R), Theresa Dreiling (I), former Associate District Judge Caroline Wall (R), and private practice attorney C W Daimon Jacobs (D).

None of the five offices elected by electoral division are being contested this year. Should you want to know which electoral division you live in, use the precinct locator at the Tulsa County Election Board website or consult this Tulsa County judicial electoral division map. Click here for the full collection of Tulsa County district and precinct maps.

Last week, Oklahoma Republican state party chairman Gary Jones resigned his post last week to jump into the race for State Auditor and Inspector. Jones had run twice before, in 2002 and 2006, coming close each time to defeating Democrat Jeff McMahan. No viable Republican candidate emerged to challenge McMahan's appointed replacement, Democrat Steve Burrage, so once again Jones, a CPA and former Comanche County Commissioner, stepped into the 2010 race. Whatever Burrage's accomplishments since taking over from his felonious predecessor, Jones gets the lion's share of the credit for bringing the corrupt activities of McMahan and his cronies to light. There can hardly be a better qualification for State Auditor.

pinnell_headshot-150x200.jpgWith Jones out, the Oklahoma Republican State Committee will meet later this month to elect a replacement. The only announced candidate so far is Matt Pinnell.

Pinnell would bring a great deal of nuts-and-bolts campaign experience to the job, exactly what the party organization needs going into this crucial statewide election. Pinnell served as Director of Operations for the Oklahoma Republican Party under two state chairmen, Tom Daxon and Gary Jones, working with county chairs across the state and helping to.raise unprecedented levels of contributions.

In 2008, Pinnell served as director for Oklahoma Victory, the state party effort to get out the vote for Republicans up and down the ticket. The result: The highest victory percentage in the nation for John McCain and Sarah Palin -- 65.4% -- and a sweep of every county in the state, plus a big win for U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and a Republican majority in the Oklahoma Senate for the first time ever. Previously, Pinnell had served as a campaign aide to Steve Largent, Scott Pruitt, and Tom Coburn. More recently, Pinnell served as executive director of American Majority-Oklahoma, training thousands of potential candidates and activists in the basics of effective political action.

In these roles, Matt Pinnell has dealt with Republican officials, local party officials, candidates, consultants, and grassroots activists across the state. Because he has experience in all the diverse domains of party operations, and because he knows all the players in state Republican politics, he won't let campaign consultants drive the state party machinery. (If you want to know what happens when consultants are allowed to run the show, see South Carolina. Or closer to home, see the mess involving former Speaker Lance Cargill and the Oklahoma State House Committee.)

I've had the pleasure of working with Matt on a number of Republican Party efforts, and although I've stepped down from any official party responsibilities and won't have a vote, I'm happy to urge State Committee members to cast their vote for Matt Pinnell for Oklahoma Republican Party chairman.

MORE: Matt Pinnell's letter to the Oklahoma Republican State Committee.

Once upon a time, conferences were straightforward. You had a group of universities within a bus ride of one another, and they played each other in football, baseball, basketball, and other sports. At the major university level, you had a dozen or so conferences, each with no more than 10 teams, and every team played every other team in football every year, and typically each pair of teams played home-and-home series in basketball and baseball. You had the Pac 8, Big 8, WAC, SWC, SEC, Big 10, ACC, Missouri Valley, and the Ivy League, plus a long list of independents like Notre Dame, Miami, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Florida State, and Tulane. There was a second tier of conferences like Southland, Big Sky, PCAA, Yankee, and MAC. Things were fairly stable for a long time.

Then in 1978 the two big Arizona schools split off to make the Pac 8 the Pac 10. Football independents formed basketball leagues to gain automatic berths in the ever-expanding March Madness tournament, and some of those basketball leagues added football later on. Title 9 encouraged schools to drop some of their men's teams -- e.g., Wichita State dropped football, Tulsa dropped baseball -- leading to a decline of conference cohesion. The SEC picked up South Carolina and Arkansas and split into two divisions, leading a few years later to the demise of the SWC, the creation of the Big 12, the expansion of the WAC to ridiculous extremes, and a period of great upheaval involving conferences with no strong traditions or geographic roots. I've lost track.

There's hand-wringing to our north: The Kansas City Star devoted its front-page Sunday headline story to the impact of the end of the Big 12 on their market area, accompanied by an image of tattered school flags for Mizzou, KU, and K-State in front of ominous storm clouds.

Well, we still have barbecue.

Our regional universities still boast impressive trophy cases. Memories of impressive tournament failures. Tickets so hot they spawn federal investigations. And researchers who can tell you the best way to mend a heart, grow some corn or plant a wind turbine.

Kansas City remains home to a pair of not-so-major-league sports franchises, affordable housing, a pared-down cell phone company, those oversize badminton thingies, a school district boldly lopped in half, a proud history of a musical genre few people listen to anymore and a funky, thriving arts district.

All is not lost.

But something is lost.

Last week's attack on the Big 12 could toss our loyalties and rivalries to the winds. At best it leaves the Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri campuses as well as Kansas City at the center of something lesser. Now the region is a hub of schools left behind by more sought-after universities tempted to hang with a cooler, better-heeled crowd.

There's at least one sensible voice in the story:

For some, in fact, college sports weren't worth building around in the first place.

"What's lost has already been corrupted," said Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library and a member of this former cowtown's most prominent families. "We need to stop looking at the Big Eight, the Big Ten, the Big 12 and NCAA as things that bring prestige and make us a better community. They don't."

Maybe Kansas City could build a new downtown arena or an entertainment district to recover its municipal pride.... Oh, well.

The Sprint Center will be able to fill its dates with other entertainment, Schulte said, but they wouldn't offer the day-long and weekend-long events that entice crowds into KC Live in the Power & Light district.

"We need more people and more activity," he said.

Any dip in activity at the Power & Light district could further nick taxpayers. City Hall must pay for any fall off in the downtown entertainment district's performance.

Even before the Big 12 started to dissolve, the Power & Light district fell short of revenue projections. That meant the city has had to dip into its general fund to pay the debt on bonds sold to build the district. This year that subsidy might grow to $11.4 million.

"We've spent a lot of taxpayer money to build up a downtown area," said Stretch, an artist, restaurant owner and Tax Increment Financing Commission member. "Our taxes don't stop coming, and our bills keep coming."

A story in Saturday's edition focuses on the unseemly concern and impotence of Kansas and Missouri politicians about the situation.

As long as every conference is becoming unmoored from its historical roots, as long as TV revenues are driving realignment, why not toss everything and embrace a system that adds drama and dynamism to college sports: The English football system of relegation and promotion.

English football is organized like a pyramid topped by a tower. There are five nationwide leagues in five levels at the top. If you finish near the top of your league, you're promoted to the next highest level for the following season. Finish near the bottom, and you're relegated to the next league down. Below the fifth level, the leagues begin to divide geographically, with more locally-focused leagues at a given level the closer to the base you go. (Here's a graphic of the English football pyramid.)

In addition to league play, there's a 14-round, single-elimination tournament called the FA Cup that stretches out from mid-August to mid-May. Any team belonging to the Football Association can enter; members of higher-level leagues get byes to later rounds. Matches are assigned at random for each round, and rounds are spaced about two or three weeks apart. Theoretically, the humblest county league club has a shot at playing in Wembley in the Cup Final. Last year, 762 teams entered the competition. (Imagine an NCAA basketball tournament that included every member of the NCAA.) A smaller tournament, the Carling Cup, involves only the 92 teams in the top four levels of the pyramid.

In 2009-2010, Arsenal, which won the Premier League, played 38 Premier League matches (home and home against the other 19 teams), plus 17 matches in three tournaments: UEFA Champions League, Carling Cup, and FA Cup. That's 55 matches in about 40 weeks. Surely, American college football teams can play 30 games over the course of a school year, particularly if players are relieved of the requirement to attend class.

So here's my proposal. Put the top 16 football teams in the US in the 1st Division. The next 16 go into the 2nd Division, and so on down for the top 64 schools. The top four divisions would all be nationwide. Each team plays each other team in their division. The next level would involve four regional conferences of 14 teams each. That covers the 120 schools of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A). At the end of each season, the top and bottom four teams would be promoted or relegated. League games would happen every other Saturday. You could add the I-AA teams into the promotion/relegation system, too, playing in regional leagues organized in a couple of tiers.

Interwoven with league play, you'd have the American College Football Cup. For safety reasons, it should probably be limited to I-A and I-AA teams (about another 120 teams.) You could manage that with an eight-round tournament, but if you give byes to the higher level teams, it might take 11 rounds. So a lower-level team going all the way through the tourney could play a couple dozen games in a nine-month season. A higher level team could add as many as six games to its 15 regular season matches.

You could use the same structure for other sports, with no necessary connection between leagues in one sport with leagues in another. Kansas might be in the 1st Division in basketball and in one of the regional leagues in football.

At the top levels, the relationship between school and team would be one of licensing. The team would be entitled to use the school's colors, logo, mascots, and facilities, and the players would be entitled to take courses, should they wish, in exchange for massive fees from the team to the school. The teams would be expected to pay a salary to the players from their revenues.

In this system, no league gets stuck with a perennial laughingstock, mediocrity in one sport isn't a hindrance to excellence in another, no laughingstock is forever stuck in a league where they can't succeed, and, in true American spirit, there are no barriers to how high a team can rise. With teams moving up and down every year, there's more trivia to memorize and more opportunities for merchandising.

MORE: Tulsa World Sports Editor Mike Strain has been covering the realignment story extensively on his blog.

OTHER SPORTS: In a column from a couple of weeks ago, Bill Haisten wonders why the Tulsa Shock isn't playing at UMAC instead of the massively oversized BOK Center:

It doesn't make sense to air-condition, illuminate and staff a 17,839-seat BOK Center when the entire upper deck is unused (and shrouded by black curtains). But the WNBA insists on conducting its contests within super-sized arenas.

That column was linked by this blogger, Mister Women's Sports, who says the WNBA should look to another women's league as an example:

I have said in the past that the WNBA would be wise to CASE* Women's Professional Soccer (WPS). And while it would be wonderful to have all of the WPS teams playing in soccer-specific stadia (like Pizza Hut Park, hem hem), the league is aware that it has to grow into larger venues rather than book a barn and pay lots of overhead for wasted space. (* Copy and Steal Everything)

He goes on to explain why, given a choice between the San Antonio team and the Tulsa Shock, he'll go south to see a game:

If I spent say, $30 on a single ticket in San Antonio, I'd be very close to courtside under one of the baskets. If I spent that same amount in Tulsa, I'd have "goal line" seats if the BOK Center hosted indoor football. Which in so many words means that my concerns about the seating chart on paper were confirmed when I saw the interior of the BOK Center on national TV last night and saw how horrible the sight lines were in the $30-ish seats. No thanks. I want to see the stars of the WNBA, not the rear of the backboard all night.


Mad Okie comments:

So if it's all about the money, its time to stop the legal slavery, and pay the student athletes for the services they perform, for without the student athletes, there would be no revenues for these money hungry schools to be fighting over.

At this point Nebraska is poised to make 10 million more in their move... will the Nebraska taxpayers see a cut in their taxes going towards higher education?

No, I haven't gotten completely absorbed in the upcoming elections. I haven't forgotten PLANiTULSA. But my last few nights have been short, so I'll keep this short and get some sleep.

The final draft of the PLANiTULSA comprehensive plan was released earlier this week. There are actually nine separate PDF files to download:

  • Our Vision for Tulsa
  • Policy Plan Chapters
    • Land Use
    • Transportation
    • Economic Development
    • Housing
    • Parks, Open Space, & Environment
    • Appendix
    • Stability and Growth Map
    • Land Use Map

You can also download KMZ (Google Earth) files of the two maps and the Discussion Change Log and Consent Change Log.

What is possibly the final session of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) public hearing on PLANiTULSA will take place next Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at 4 p.m., in the City Council chambers at Tulsa's City Hall (2nd & Cincinnati). This PDF explains the procedures for the PLANiTULSA public hearing. If you can't be there in person, you can submit PLANiTULSA comments online. (That link also lets you read previously submitted comments. More about the PLANiTULSA adoption process and calendar here.)

I will take some time over the next few days to review the final plan and call your attention to anything notable. I hope you'll do the same.

Today at 5 pm (barring any challenges or withdrawals), we will know the line-up for the Oklahoma 2010 elections. So far a lot of incumbents are getting a free pass.

You can view the filings as they happen on the Oklahoma State Election Board website. New this year: You can also download the filing info as an Excel spreadsheet or XML, which means I'm not going to have to write a Perl script to parse the list this year. (Looking forward to past election results in Excel, one of these days.)

The Tulsa County filings aren't updated in real-time, but a PDF with the complete list will be posted shortly after filing closes.

A few quick notes:

U. S. Senate: Tom Coburn has not drawn any major opposition, but has two Republican opponents (including perennial Evelyn Rogers, carrying in the footsteps of her mother, Tennie Rogers), two Democrat opponents, and one independent rival. Coburn won't have a hard race, but he will be at the top of the ballot in November, which should be good for downticket Republicans.

U. S. House: CD 5, being vacated by Mary Fallin, has drawn nine candidates so far, five of them from the likely victorious GOP. Dan Boren, Oklahoma's lone Democrat (some would want me to put that in quotes) has an Obamacare fan challenging from the left (homeschooling nemesis Jim Wilson, a state senator from Tahlequah), and four Republican opponents.

Frank Lucas (Tulsa's other congressman -- he represents Osage County along with the northwestern third of Oklahoma), has drawn no opposition. John Sullivan in CD 1 and Tom Cole in CD 4 have Ron Paul supporters as primary opponents.

Statewide: The expected candidates have filed for governor: Brogdon, Fallin, Askins, and Edmondson. There are competitive races shaping up for Lt. Governor, State Superintendent, Attorney General, Labor Commissioner, and State Treasurer. No one has filed against Dana Murphy, seeking her first full term as Corporation Commissioner. Two Republicans have filed for Insurance Commissioner; incumbent Kim Holland has announced plans to run for re-election but has yet to file. Steve Burrage, appointed to replace Jeff McMahan, felon, as State Auditor, has yet to draw an opponent. (Gary Jones, who came very close to winning in 2002 and 2006 and is currently serving as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, is not expected to file.)

Judicial: Incumbents in District 14 (Tulsa and Pawnee Counties) have drawn a free pass so far. Two men already serving as special judges, Republican Bill Musseman and Democrat Carl Funderburk, and Republican former associate judge Caroline Wall (defeated for reelection to that post in 2006, having beaten the previous appointed incumbent in 2002) have filed for Office 13, being vacated by Democrat Deborah Shallcross.

State House: No one has filed in House 66, and Democrat incumbent Lucky Lamons has announced he will not run for re-election. Jay Ramey, the 2008 Republican nominee and an advocate for marijuana legalization, plans to file. Liz Hunt, who began campaigning for the Senate 33 seat last summer in anticipation of Tom Adelson's departure (had he been elected mayor or received a Federal appointment), lives in House 66.

House 68, being vacated by Speaker Chris Benge, has drawn a full field of candidates.

Most Tulsa incumbents are unopposed. Democrat Jeannie McDaniel has a Republican opponent, Molly McKay, for House 78. Republican Dan Sullivan has drawn a Democratic rival for House 71. Kevin Matthews will once again challenge incumbent Jabar Shumate in the Democratic primary for House 73; no Republican has filed. Someone named Joe Kelley (not the radio host) is challenging Owasso Rep. David Derby in House 74.

State Senate: Senate 34, being vacated by Randy Brogdon, has two Republican hopefuls, Rick Brinkley and Tim Coager. Senate 18, mainly in Wagoner and Mayes County, but Mary-mandered into Tulsa County to help the Easley family hold onto Kevin Easley's seat, has one candidate in each party; Mary Easley has hit her term limit. Bill Brown, making his first re-election bid for Senate 36, is so far unopposed.

Tulsa County: DA Tim Harris looks to get a free ride this year after a brutal primary campaign four years ago. County Assessor Ken Yazel has drawn two opponents, former assessor Cheryl Clay, a Republican, and Nancy Bolzle, a Democrat who has run unsuccessfully for state senate in the past. Clay was a supporter of Jack Gordon, her former deputy, whom Yazel defeated in 2002. District 1 Commissioner John Smaligo faces a rematch with former commissioner Wilbert Collins. District 3's Fred Perry has drawn two primary opponents, Tulsa City Council attorney Drew Rees and Michael Masters. County Treasurer Dennis Semler has his first competitive reelection since his first run in 1994 against Ruth Hartje in the Republican primary.

If you're thinking about filing for office this week but aren't sure you know what to do once you've filed, fear not. American Majority is hosting four candidate and activist training sessions in the Tulsa metro area this week to coincide with the conclusion of the filing period for state and county offices in Oklahoma. Here's a list of the sessions, with dates, times, locations, and registration fees; click the links to learn more:

Discounts are available for advance registration. Space is limited.

The Patriots 2.0 class is a hands-on session in the use of social media in political activism.

Some of the event topics that will be covered include:
  • Holding Your Elected Officials Accountable through New Media and Social Networking.
  • The Power of Blogs and Wikis.
  • Social Networking with a Cause: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Other Social Networking Tools.
  • Building Coalitions Online

Nick Roberts has dusted off the Downtown Oklahoma City Strategic Action Plan 2010, published in 2003 by the OKC Planning Department, and has graded his city's performance against its plan. For the most part, Roberts is not judging outcomes, but inputs -- whether city government has taken the steps it intended to take over the seven-year period. Even by that more lenient standard, Roberts finds that OKC has only accomplished a fifth of what was intended.

Because they recognized that infill development would not just magically happen on its own, they laid out a comprehensive short and medium term plan of action that was to be completed by 2010 that would ensure infill development go forward and be feasible.

"By 2010, downtown Oklahoma City is a vibrant and active urban place, a 24-hour destination for entertainment, arts and culture, an active and profitable center of business, with a variety of urban housing."

WRONG. So despite doing so well, for the most part, on achieving the neighborhood objectives, how did the city make so little progress on fundamentally changing the level of activity and availability of urban housing in downtown?

To seek the reason why downtown Oklahoma City got only a quarter of the targeted 2250 new housing units, he goes point-by-point through the plan and gives the city a grade for each. Roberts concludes:

I think we need to go back and accomplish all of these things, and I believe these will go a looooong ways towards getting Downtown back on track to where it needs to be in terms of mixed-use offerings and 24-hour activity. All of these recommendation of the Planning Department made in this study are completely spot-on. We only accomplished 20% of these goals, and time is up. It is for this reason that we have seen the addition of downtown housing in the hundreds, and not the thousands.

It's too easy to let plans sit on a shelf, never to be revisited. Making those plans available on the web makes it easier for interested citizens to compare promises to performance. But you still need someone like Nick Roberts to take the time to study the document, collect the data on actual performance, and analyze the information that was gathered. Well done, Nick.

Writing at Townhall.com, columnist Paul Jacob says that Oklahoma's race for governor could be the most important in the nation in 2010. The reason for that, he writes, is one of the candidates for the Republican nomination, State Sen. Randy Brogdon. "It may be that Randy Brogdon can do more to set our political culture straight than any other candidate running for any office in the entire country.... [S]hould Randy Brogdon win the Republican nomination on July 27 and be elected governor this November, not only will Oklahomans have cause to celebrate, Americans everywhere will."

In support for this sweeping assertion, Jacob cites Brogdon's principled stands in support of government transparency, fiscal restraint, individual liberty and privacy, and his10th Amendment-based resistance to federal overreach. Because of the positive precedent a Brogdon victory would set for the rest of the country, Jacob urges conservatives across America to donate to the Brogdon campaign.

Jacob says that despite Brogdon's years of public service, "he's nothing like a run-of-the-mill politician. He's a freedom fighter."

Sure, Brogdon has been a state senator in Oklahoma for two terms and before that he was on the city council and later mayor of Owasso, Oklahoma, a Tulsa suburb. And now Sen. Brogdon is running for Governor of Oklahoma.

Still, he doesn't think or act like a politician. One notices this obvious reality within about eight seconds of meeting him. He's thoughtful, knowledgeable about how the private, productive sector of the economy works (having started several successful small businesses), and he has something not found in the DNA of politicians: The courage of his convictions.

Jacob says there may not be an equal in the country to Randy Brogdon "when it comes to standing up for what's right and what's constitutional." Here are a few of Brogdon's legislative achievements Jacob cites:

  • Senator Brogdon championed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which would put state government on a reasonable budget and not allow politicians to overspend it without a vote of the people.
  • He's been a leader in requiring greater government transparency.
  • The Senator also championed the initiative and referendum rights of state voters, working to open up the initiative petition process in the state, including sponsoring a constitutional amendment to lower the signature requirement that will also be on the ballot this November.
  • Randy stood up for privacy rights and constitutional governance, successfully leading Oklahoma to be the first state to opt out of the federal Real ID Act.
  • Brogdon is working to do the same thing right now concerning Obamacare, the unconstitutional federal takeover of 16 percent of the economy. In fact, this Thursday, June 10, Randy's gubernatorial campaign is sponsoring an "Oklahoma Opt-Out of Obamacare Moneybomb."

Jacob also has some interesting comments regarding Brogdon's main rival for the Republican nomination, Congresswoman Mary Fallin.

In my years of involvement in conservative and Republican politics, I've noticed that there are those politicians who profess support for the laundry list of conservative positions on the current list of hot issues and then there are those who understand the issues of the day in terms of the bigger picture -- a coherent philosophy of government, society, and human nature and a view of the long-term consequences of today's decisions. Elected officials in the latter group seem less likely to be led astray; when a new issue comes along, they have a philosophical compass to guide their decisions, while members of the former group are susceptible to lobbyist suasion.

I'd rather have a laundry-list conservative in office than the left-wing equivalent, but I'd much rather have a leader who sees today's issues in terms of our future liberty and prosperity, guided by a coherent conservative philosophy. In the Oklahoma governor's race, that candidate is Randy Brogdon.

(Thanks to BatesLine reader S. Lee for the link to the column.)

MORE: The Randy Brogdon campaign is asking potential donors to pledge for a June 10 "money bomb" as a way to show support for Oklahoma's effort to opt-out of Obamacare.

STILL MORE: In a February 2009 blog entry well worth reading, Man of the West defined "laundry-list conservative." I strongly suspect that this is where I picked up the phrase.

When you've been away from blogging for almost a week, it's hard to know where to begin again.

We returned Thursday night from a week-long family vacation in Branson. We spent several days at Silver Dollar City, visited Branson Landing one night, went to the Butterfly Palace, and swam in the pool most days. They were long full days, and what little time I had on the computer (after the kids were finally in bed) was mainly spent handling emails from work.

I was happy to learn that the Wagoner County Commission voted to rescind their call for a special election for a quarter-cent sales tax to build a county fairgrounds, an animal shelter, and a location that would be leased to Bell's Amusement Park. While I very much want to see Bell's up and running again, a tax increase is not the right way to make it happen. There are better approaches, such as tax increment financing, that wouldn't add to the taxpayers' burden. In addition, there were concerns about vague terms in the lease, a lack of financial numbers for the cost to operate the fairgrounds, and the lack of public discussion prior to putting the tax issue on the July primary ballot.

The two county commissioners who voted to rescind the election deserve credit for backing down in the face of the public's concerns, for choosing to put together a better plan rather than trying to force a bad plan down the taxpayers' throats. Here in Tulsa County, the likely reaction to public qualms would have been to pour more money into the "vote yes" ad campaign -- full steam ahead into the iceberg -- and then blame the public for voting it down.

A classic family amusement park would certainly bring people and dollars into Wagoner County. We just dropped a pile of money in Branson because of Silver Dollar City. We spent money at the park and in town, buying meals at restaurants, groceries, souvenirs, and gas. Last fall, during a visit to SDC, we bought season passes for 2010 because the park offers fun for everyone in our family. While we love the Bartlesville Kiddie Park, our oldest has outgrown all but a few of the rides and our middle child is close to that point. Were there an amusement park close to home, I imagine we would still visit SDC once a year, but probably wouldn't buy an SDC season pass.


The Looper, Knoebels Amusement Resort

Last summer, during our vacation in Pennsylvania and Delaware, we drove three hours each way to spend a day at Knoebels Amusement Resort, a family-owned amusement park in central Pennsylvania that first opened in 1926. Knoebels is not a theme park, but a collection of rides that grew over time -- now more than 50 that range from kiddie rides to two giant roller coasters. Knoebels began as a country retreat, shaded picnic grounds, swimming hole, campground, and cabins, and all those elements are still present, mixed in with the rides. I remember thinking how nice it would be if a resurrected Bell's was in a shady rural setting.


The Flyer, Knoebels Amusement Resort

A TIF may be the right approach for providing infrastructure for a new Bell's Amusement Park, particularly if the TIF can be structured, like Bixby's Regal Plaza/Spirit Bank Event Center deal, so that taxpayers are not put at risk. As an attraction with the potential to attract visitors from beyond Oklahoma's borders, a new location for Bell's might qualify for state tax incentives, too.

I hope to see Bell's up and running soon. I wish the Bell family and Wagoner County officials all success in finding a way to move forward that doesn't involve raising the tax rate.

MORE: Here's a PDF of the lease agreement between Wagoner County and Bell's.

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