March 2011 Archives

You've heard of a "bucket list" -- the list of places you want to visit, experiences you want to have, tasks you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket."

But there are deadlines other than death that deserve a list. On my recent extended business trips, I've made a bucket list -- a spreadsheet of things I'd like to see and do while I'm in the area. The idea is to consolidate in one place all the interesting possibilities I've gleaned from the AAA Tourbook, Yelp, the local alt-weekly, the tourism brochures in the hotel lobby, so that when I have a free evening or if I'm stuck away from home over a weekend, I don't waste my free time trying to figure out how to spend it.

I wish I'd made a bucket list back when my wife worked for American Airlines. We took some wonderful trips -- Ireland, Scotland, central Europe, Kauai -- but looking back, there are a lot of places I wish we'd visited when it was cheap and we had the time.

Another deadline worthy of a bucket list: Childhood's end. We have only four more years before my oldest fledgling leaves the nest. There is a sweet spot for family travel -- when a child is old enough to remember the trip but young enough to still have a sense of wonder and excitement about visiting new places. And there are wonderful memory-making places that are thrilling for a six-year-old but boring for a 12-year-old.

A Branson timeshare salesman once asked me and my wife: "As Christians you have a plan for your eternal life, but do you have a plan for your vacation life?" (I had to stifle a loud and long laugh.) The only definite plan I had then was not to spend every vacation in the same condo development, but now I can see the point of having a plan.

A recent article on listed 15 places kids should see by age 15. It's a good list, if weighted toward the coasts and away from the heartland; all the attractions are worth experiencing. So far, unfortunately, we've only been to three: the Grand Canyon (only the oldest), Walt Disney World (the oldest two), and the National Mall in Washington (all three). (Several of the ideas should be read as encompassing their surroundings: E.g., a visit to Alcatraz should also involve riding a cable car and exploring Chinatown, seeing the National Mall would include seeing the Smithsonian museums and government buildings that frame it.)

Here are a few places I'd add to the list:

  • The Alamo: A monument to heroism and sacrifice.
  • Kennedy Space Center: Even though it's about to become more of a historical artifact than a working space port, it still represents some of America's (and mankind's) greatest achievements.
  • The Cosmosphere: The history of space flight from the German rocket program to the International Space Station, with artifacts like Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 capsule and Odyssey, the Apollo 13 command module. Just four hours away in Hutchinson, Kansas.
  • Bartlesville Playground (aka the Kiddie Park): The sweet spot for this park is ages 3 through 8, although there are rides for older and younger children (and a few for grownups, too). I have many happy memories of this place as a child and as a parent. We make the 40-mile drive there at least once a summer.
  • Silver Dollar City: a wonderful combination of thrill rides, old-time music, living history, and spelunking. Last year we had passes and spent over a week there over the course of the year.
  • Knoebel's Grove or a similar old-fashioned, family amusement park: No theme, just plenty of rides to make you spin, splash, and soar.
  • A ride on a historic steam train: A must if you've got a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in the family.
  • Local history: For Tulsans that should include the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, the Tulsa Historical Society museum, Gilcrease Museum, and the 45th Infantry Museum in Oklahoma City.

And that's just the USA. I'd love to travel all over Europe with my family.

What's on your family travel bucket list? Leave a comment, and let us know.

RELATED (2014/10/03):

These two links are specifically aimed at the parent of a high school senior and they're mostly not about travel, but they're worth thinking about, even if your kids are younger:

NBC Today: 13 things to do with your kids before they leave for college
Grown and Flown: The Parent's 'Last Call' List for Senior Year

Ideas include paying a professional photographer for family photos (including extended family, if possible), looking at baby pictures, talking candidly about your own failures and successes, taking a one-on-one road trip.

Tulsa's Signature Symphony, led by conductor Barry Epperley, will perform a program of music by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys this coming Saturday night, April 2, 2011, at Cain's Ballroom. The event is a fundraiser for Signature Symphony and the orchestra's outreach to schools, and tickets are $45 for bleacher seats, and $75 for cocktail table seating and admission to a pre-event reception. (Will there be dancing? I hope so.)

The Signature Symphony will be joined by some exciting guest musicians: fiddler Jason Roberts of Asleep at the Wheel, who bears a striking resemblance to Bob Wills as a young man and who played him in the biographical musical A Ride with Bob; vocalist Leon Rausch, who started with the Texas Playboys in the late '50s and leads the band today; pianist and cultural historian David Stricklin, son of Al Stricklin, who was one of the original Texas Playboys in their heyday at Cain's; and drummer Casey Dickens, who was a Texas Playboy in the early '60s.

I hope the event is a success, and that it helps to introduce orchestra fans to western swing and vice versa. Bob Wills, musical syncretizer that he was, would appreciate bringing the two together. (I don't know what's on the program, but it would be cool if the Signature Symphony played Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum" Texas Playboys style. The Texas Playboys recorded it in 1941.) It's also great that those accustomed to hearing the symphony at TCC's PACE at 81st and 169 will get to experience Cain's Ballroom and the Bob Wills District downtown.

I have to say, however, that some of the publicity surrounding the event puzzles me.

To commemorate the 100th birthday of the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills, The Signature Symphony at TCC is honored to present a very special Bob Wills Take Me Back to Tulsa concert Saturday, April 2, 2011 at the historic Cain's Ballroom....

We are excited to bring Bob Will's music back to the Cain's and to offer Tulsans a truly unique downtown entertainment experience in tribute of this Western Swing Icon.

Bob Wills' 100th birthday was six years ago. (This year is, however, the centenary of longtime Texas Playboys vocalist Tommy Duncan.) And Bob Wills' music comes back to the Cain's at least once a year at his birthday celebration the first weekend in March, which always features the Texas Playboys led by Leon Rausch and Tommy Allsup. Asleep at the Wheel has played Cain's numerous times, and Hot Club of Cowtown performed there several times in recent years. Tulsa's own Round-Up Boys are there several times a year, in addition to the regular dances they play around town. It's certainly a novel combination -- western swing played by "note-reading" symphony musicians -- but live Bob Wills music in Tulsa is not that rare a thing (although it is rarer here than in, say, the Texas Hill Country).

A little stream-of-consciousness before bedtime:

I always feel like I've won the rent-a-car lottery if the vehicle has Sirius/XM satellite radio. I love the "decade" stations ('40s on 4, '50s on 5, etc.), the Laugh channel (clean comedy), and the classic country on Willie's Place.

By the way, there's a real Willie's Place, a truck stop on I-35E in the municipality of Carl's Corner, Texas, just a bit north of Hillsboro. It's a truck stop, a cafe, a honky-tonk, and a studio for the XM station of the same name. I stopped there one night on one of my "commutes" to San Antonio. I had a great chicken fried steak. The waitress was exactly what you'd hope for in a truck stop waitress -- called me "hon" and kept the coffee cup filled (and sent me off with a big to-go cup). They've got free wifi, and the big booths on the wall have outlets conveniently located above the table. It was an unusually foggy night, and I appreciated being able to check the weather ahead, and send a few emails while I took a break from the road.

Back to Willie's Place the satellite radio station: I was listening to the Bill Mack show tonight, and he was interviewing Mel Tillis by phone with George Hamilton IV in studio. Mel announced that he's the new spokesman for Goo-Goo Clusters, the official candy of the Grand Ole Opry. (Note the initials.) Mel and George (no relation to the very tan actor) reminisced about old times in Nashville. George mentioned that shortly after he came to town, Webb Pierce called up to invite him and his wife to Woodmont Baptist Church, which they soon joined. Mel said he had been a member there, too. (George did a dead-on Webb Pierce imitation, too.) Funny to think that a member of a Baptist church had a hit song about compulsive drinking.

I remember when you could only get a Goo-Goo in and around Nashville. Remember when you could only get Krispy Kreme donuts in the South? I'd always make a point to pick some up when I was that part of the country, but now that they're everywhere it's not as special.

(I told you this was stream of consciousness.)

Back to Bill Mack: I like his show, but he really needs to stop playing songs that get me all weepy and sentimental. Back to back he played Tammy Wynette singing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and Roger Miller, Ray Price, and Willie Nelson singing "Old Friends."

I don't think I'd ever heard "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" all the way through before. I only knew it through the K-TEL-type ads for a collection of country music hit singles -- you hear Tammy spell the word and see it on the list of songs crawling up the screen. It tells quite a story in just a few words. Here's bright, four-year-old J-O-E, just a bit younger than my youngest, blissfully unaware that his happy childhood is about to come crashing down:

Watch him smile, he thinks it Christmas
Or his 5th birthday
And he thinks C.U.S.T.O.D.Y spells fun or play
I spell out all the hurtin' words
And turn my head when I speak
'Cause I can't spell a way this hurt
That's drippin' down my cheek.

As a kid I mocked country music because of twangy voices like Tammy Wynette's, but the twang takes simple but powerful lyrics and gives them an extra emotional punch.

And then to follow that with "Old Friends" -- that was just too much, Bill:

Old friends, looking up to watch a bird Holding arms to climb a curb, old friends. Old friends. Lord, when all my work is done Bless my life and grant me one old friend At least one old friend.

As hard as it's been to spend so much time on the road, one of the blessings has been the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. A week ago I had lunch and spent a lovely afternoon with a fraternity brother and his family. I don't think I'd seen him since his wedding, 25 years ago. Last fall, I spent a terrific day seeing Austin with another fraternity classmate -- hadn't seen him and his crew since his youngest and my oldest were in diapers. On another short visit to Austin there I had lunch with my old Urban Tulsa colleague G. W. Schulz, now writing on homeland security for the Center for Investigative Reporting. I joined blogpal Anna Broadway and a group of folks from her church for lunch after worship -- hadn't seen her since the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I was delighted to find out that an old, dear friend of mine from college days lives in the next town over from where I've been working in California. He and I were on a two-month long Campus Crusade summer project in Manila, way back in 1983. We'd met at the Atlanta Christmas Conference the previous winter, via a mutual friend from his college who had been with me on a summer project the previous summer in Ocean City, New Jersey.

We had very different personalities. He, much more outgoing and a class clown type, already had a nickname -- Beach, so he gave me one -- Fish, because my sense of humor and demeanor reminded him of Abe Vigoda's character on Barney Miller.

You really get to know someone through the stresses of navigating a new culture and experiencing so many memorable adventures side-by-side. We spent our days working with students at different campuses, then would often head to a nearby food stand at the corner, away from the crowded dorm room and a project staffer intense enough to be immortalized in cartoon form. We'd sit in front of the Burger Machine, drink Cokes and eat what he called "gray matter burgers" and hash over the day.

After that summer we wrote regularly for a while, kept in touch sporadically over the years, and we'd been able to meet up a few times when business brought me to his neck of the woods, but the last time was over a decade ago. On these recent trips, we've been able to get together a dozen times or more. It's been wonderful to have had the time to go beyond just catching up and remembering old times and to get back into the rhythm of a friendship -- joking around, hashing over the events of the week, talking through the challenges and decisions we face.

Praise God for the blessing of old friends.

Yesterday, the 2011 Tulsa County Republican Convention unanimously approved the recommendation of the convention's platform committee to be the Tulsa County Republican Party's official platform. The platform includes clear stands on several current city and county issues. Here is the local section of the platform in its entirety:


1. We support strengthening protections for Real Estate owners against arbitrary zoning changes, which damage property values.

2. We oppose the use of eminent domain by any government for private benefit.

3. We believe that public safety - police and fire protection - should be a priority in the city budget, using existing sources of revenue. We oppose a special tax increase or Federal Grant to fund public safety.

4. We oppose any tax increase without demonstrated public need.

5. We oppose any public-private partnerships and also use of public powers such as eminent domain granting private for-profit entities the right to use public powers of eminent domain to build and operate toll roads and bridges.

6. We oppose the practice of "land-banking" by any government board within Tulsa County.

7. We support the repeal of Title 11, Section 22-104.1 of the Oklahoma Statutes which enables a municipal corporation to engage in any business it is authorized to license.

8. We do not support any sales tax, either municipal or county, levied for river development.

9. We do not support city non-partisan elections or the current movement to change the Tulsa City Charter to allow such.

10. We oppose the renewal of the "Four to Fix the County" sales tax.

11. We oppose all efforts to add a Charter Amendment which would add at-large Councilors, elected city wide, to the Tulsa City Council.

12. We support the Tulsa City Council having its own attorney, answerable only to the City Council and independent of any other branch of city government.

13. We oppose the use of City of Tulsa municipal tax dollars to fund the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce.

I'll be interested to see if Tulsa County Democrats take equally clear, bold positions on these issues at their convention next weekend.

CORRECTION: I originally began this entry referring to a Steve Lackmeyer tweet about a Tulsa news story making his head hurt. Because the link he tweeted led to a "Latest News" page on the Tulsa Whirled's mobile website -- at least it did on the browser on my smart phone -- and the Tulsa County GOP convention was the top story at that time, I thought Steve was referring to that story. In fact, he was referring to a Whirled editorial about Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett's veto of a Council resolution rescinding the election for a charter amendment. My apologies for the misunderstanding, and here's the rest of the blog entry.

"This" was a web story by Whirled reporter Randy Krehbiel about Saturday's GOP convention. I'd love to give you my own report, but work prevented me from attending. Steven Roemerman was there, and I'm looking forward to a report on his blog at some point, but for now, all he had to say was that the 10-hour-long event gave him a headache.

John Tidwell, communications director for John Sullivan, tweeted the election results in real-time. To summarize (links lead to a tweet about the candidate or race):

Chairman: J. B. Alexander (stepping up from vice-chairman), by acclamation

Vice Chairman: Molly McKay (2010 nominee for HD 78, patent attorney), by acclamation
1st Congressional

District Committeeman: Don Wyatt over incumbent committeeman and former county chairman Jerry Buchanan, 180-145
1st Congressional

District Committeewoman: Donna Mills over Virginia Chrisco, 233-93

State Committeeman: Don Little over former State Committeeman Chris Medlock and Jeff Applekamp. First round was Medlock 113, Little 108, Applekamp 79; final result was Little 126, Medlock 121.

State Committeewoman: Sally Bell (stepping down as chairman) over Darla Williams, 221-79.

Many of the victorious candidates had the endorsement of Sally Bell. Bell's new job responsibilities wouldn't allow her to devote the time necessary to serving as chairman; state committeewoman involves quarterly meetings of the Republican State Committee in Oklahoma City and occasional meetings of the county party Central Committee and Executive Committee. (For what it's worth, I served as State Committeeman from 2003-2007.)

Krehbiel characterized the convention as a "move further to the right" and a defeat for the "moderate old guard." I don't think that's the case. The "moderate old guard" is pro-life (the pro-abortion Republicans left the local party 20 years ago), pro-2nd amendment rights, and (mostly) pro-limited government, and pro-lower taxes.

The real dispute is the role of the party organization with respect to elected Republican officials. The prevailing faction at the county convention believes that the party should hold Republican elected officials accountable for governing in accordance with the core conservative principles that they espoused when running for office.

The other side -- the "moderate old guard" -- takes the "stand by your man" approach. They don't disagree with the party's conservative core values, but in their view the party organization's job is to advocate for (or at least not to oppose) whatever policies a Republican elected official decides to pursue and should never publicly oppose something a Republican elected official or major Republican donor supports. For example, if the Republican members of the County Commission want to raise local taxes for a downtown arena or river development, the Republican Party shouldn't denounce them for promoting a tax increase, in their view, particularly if major donors support the tax increase too.

The dispute boils down to this: Principle vs. partisanship. Should the party organization back anyone with an R after his name, or should "protect the brand" by insisting that the R actually mean something?

Krehbiel's report mentions a resolution, to be presented at the state convention as an amendment to the state party rules, that would provide a means to censure Republican elected officials who deviate from the party's core principles. Here's the actual wording of the proposed state party rules amendment presented by newly elected Tulsa County GOP chairman J. B. Alexander:

Rule 10

(n) Party Support of Candidates and Elected Officials

In accordance with the framers original intent of the United States Constitution and in accordance with the Constitution of the state of Oklahoma, the core values of the Oklahoma Republican Party shall consist of:

* Life - Life is the result of an act between one man and one woman and begins at conception and concludes at natural death.

* Second Amendment - The right to keep and bear arms is an inalienable right of the individual citizen and government has no authority to regulate such right.

* Limited/Smaller Government - Government is instituted to oversee the general welfare of the citizens. Local, state and federal governments have reached well beyond that which is needed to carry out the basic functions of a constitutional government.

* Lower Taxes - Taxes and mandatory fees have grown to consume approximately fifty percent of an Oklahoma citizen's income. Drastic tax and fee reductions are needed at all levels of government.

Any member of the Oklahoma Republican Party State Committee shall have the right to present evidence of any elected Republican official who consistently works against and/or votes against these core values or publicly supports a candidate of another party.

After such evidence is presented, and a motion and second are made, the state committee shall take a vote of "NO CONFIDENCE" of said elected Republican official. A two-thirds majority vote of members present shall be required for a passing vote.

I might quibble with the selection of issues, the wording, or the proposed penalties (really should be more specific and concrete, I think), but I commend Alexander for focusing on a few key issues, rather than demanding allegiance by officials to every point of the party platform, as past resolutions have done.

Count me on the side of accountability. I've always believed it was an appropriate role for the party organization to play, but especially now that Republicans have supermajorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate and every statewide office, we've got to make sure our elected officials aren't led astray by lobbyists looking for special favors. Some organization needs to apply the pressure to ensure that GOP campaign rhetoric turns into reality.

It was the biggest sporting event Tulsa's BOK Center is ever likely to host: Three sessions of two games each of the early rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, the Little Lead-In to the Regional Prologue to the Big Dance. With luck, Tulsa may get another such opportunity in three years.

We got a good draw. Three teams of the eight -- Kansas, Texas, and Memphis -- had big fan bases within driving distance of Tulsa, near enough to make short notice plans in the few days between the announcement of the bracket on Sunday and the opening games on Friday. Getting a Friday/Sunday bracket instead of Thursday/Saturday was a good thing, too -- easier for people to take one day off than two. (We also got Boston University, which averaged only 979 fans per home game.)

It surely didn't hurt that the evening before the tourney was St. Patrick's Day, with traditional celebrations attracting Tulsa non-basketball fans to the Blue Dome District and Cherry Street. Tulsa seems to have made a good impression on some of the thousands who came to support their teams.

I had hoped to see the impact of the tournament first hand at various shopping and dining hotspots around town, but work prevented it. I'd love to read your firsthand stories of traffic or lack thereof, crowded or uncrowded restaurants, and encounters with visitors -- please leave a comment below.

A search of blogs and tweets turned up mostly incidental references to Tulsa as tournament host -- the biggest Tulsa-related NCAA basketball news this week involved TU alum Mike Anderson being hired as Razorbacks head coach -- but there were a few blog responses to Tulsa:

This staffer in Oakland U.'s marketing department seemed to enjoy her time here.

KU Athletics photographer Jeff Jacobsen was impressed with downtown's historic buildings and dinner at Smoke on Cherry Street.

Topeka Capital-Journal sportswriter Tully Corcoran encountered a couple of young women in his hotel who offered "company" for a fee. ("These women had business cards and everything.") But Corcoran wondered if they might provide a more urgent service:

If you're showing up at the media hotel at 2 a.m., you darn well better be carrying pizza or sandwiches. We really have no interest in your other wares.

Which made me wonder: Can you pay a prostitute to run errands for you? Like, if we had said, "No thanks, don't need any of your sexual services, but would you mind running to Taco Bell real quick?" would they do that for a fee?

Read the whole thing. Elsewhere in town, Corcoran reports that there was a lady bartender with no pants.

While we can be proud that visitors came to Tulsa and had a good time, we do need a clear-eyed look at the financial benefit of such an event to Tulsans in comparison to what it cost us to bring it to town -- $178 million for the venue alone, not including debt service on the bonds that built it.

Even if you believe the estimate of $15 million in "economic impact" and assume that it's all taxable and that it all represents money that wouldn't otherwise be spent here, that amounts to $602,500 in city and county sales taxes. It would take the equivalent of 295 NCAA men's basketball opening rounds to give as much local revenue back for the benefit of Tulsa County residents -- in the form of street improvements, police protection, park maintenance, etc. -- as they paid to build the arena. Our next opportunity at an NCAA opening round is in 2014.

(Does anyone know if Tulsa received sales tax dollars on all the tickets sold, or only on the tickets returned by the participating colleges to the NCAA and sold locally? Did the NCAA pay anything for the use of the BOK Center? Did they pay for street closings and police overtime? Or did Tulsa give all that away in the competition to be an opening round tournament site?)

One news story mentioned that BOK Center management had zip code stats on ticket buyers. Zip code stats would be a useful planning tool for future events and a source of hard data for evaluating the economic impact of such an event. The City Council ought to ask SMG to release that information.

Here's the announced attendance, as reported on

1st session Friday: 12,631
2nd session Friday: 14,353
Sunday session: 15,839

None of them sellouts, but respectable. Compare those numbers to this story on tickets available as of Thursday night, after colleges returned unsold tickets.

Predictions of a massive windfall for local businesses gave way to reports of the disappointing reality. My guess is that threats of big crowds scared local patrons away, and basketball fans took parking spots that drinkers and diners might have used, while the basketball fans themselves were locked into the arena, not allowed even to leave between games and return.

The big tent sports bar at the BOK Center seems like a cruel thing to do to local publicans and restaurateurs -- a temporary competitor with a huge location advantage for what was supposed to be their biggest weekend of the year, drawing business away from the guys who have to pay rent and make payroll all year round.

I have to wonder: If you've spent $79 to $237 to watch basketball and are keeping yourself fed and hydrated at arena prices while you're locked in for the four-hour session, how much are you likely to spend with local merchants outside the arena? Do you double-down on your big splurge, or do you compensate for the high ticket and concession prices by scrimping the rest of the visit?

Your thoughts and observations (particularly your first-hand observations of last week's events) are welcome in the comments below.

Oklahoma City is in the middle of its "non-partisan" elections, and someone is spending big money to influence the outcome:

Two groups directly or indirectly supported incumbents Salyer, ward 6, and Ryan, ward 8, and supported challenger Greenwell against incumbent Walters in ward 5. Sam Bowman not running for re-election in ward 2, Charlie Swinton received those 2 groups' favor in that ward.

The two groups were/are the Chesapeake Oklahoma PAC, which made direct contributions to the foregoing candidates' campaigns, and the Committee For Oklahoma City Momentum, a §527 group, which made no direct contributions to candidates but instead ran its own parallel campaigns to support its favored candidates.

Oklahoma City historian Doug Loudenback says that, although his preferences largely coincided with those implicitly backed by Momentum, he's concerned about the lack of transparency:

Instead, this article has to do with public knowledge of (1) who are those who form organizations to influence our votes, (2) how much they contribute, (3) how they decide who to favor, and (4) dirty-trick tactics used during campaigns that leave no footprints in their wake, i.e., public accountability.

Right now, we don't know (1) who the contributors to "Momentum" are, (2) how much they contributed, or (3) who made decisions about how the money got spent. There is every reason to believe, and no reason to doubt, that the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum is largely funded by some or several of the big moneyed interests in our city.

It's obvious enough that there's some project that someone wants pushed through. Perhaps they want to steer funding to a favored developer or general contractor. Control over the Core-to-Shore redevelopment area might be involved. Voters just gave city government a big pot of money to play with, so it would be worth investing money in a campaign to get control of it.

Perhaps they want to clear away urban design and historic preservation obstacles, the sort that slowed down the undevelopment of Sandridge Commons -- tearing down historic structures, like the India Temple building, which once housed the State Legislature, for a 1960s-style open plaza, the sort that has never worked as a public place. Historic preservation has played a key, but underappreciated, role in Oklahoma City's resurgence, while too many people believe that the city's momentum comes from magically transferring money from citizens to contractors and basketball team owners.

The style of the flyers is highly reminiscent of the work of consultants Fount Holland and Karl Ahlgren. The team also handled the Dewey Bartlett Jr for Mayor campaign. They are quite fond of the Impact font seen in the anti-Brian Walters flyer.

What's fascinating is that the Momentum group is using national politics in supposedly non-partisan city council races. We saw this in Tulsa, as Bartlett Jr's main campaign theme was that Democratic nominee Tom Adelson had given money to the Democratic Party and raised money for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. (Never mind that Bartlett Jr had lent his name to the reelection of Democrat Kathy Taylor, before her decision not to run for re-election.)

But in Oklahoma City, as Doug Loudenback points out, the Momentum group is using whichever ideological appeal will work in a given district, with no attempt to maintain consistency. In one district they attack an incumbent for being insufficiently conservative, linking him with Pres. Obama. In another district, they attack a challenger for being too conservative, and they approvingly link their preferred candidate with a liberal, openly homosexual state legislator.

Apparently, Momentum's bottom line solely relates to anticipated results. In ward 5, Momentum waved the ultra-conservative flag and said that Walters wasn't conservative enough, but in ward 6 it waved the moderate flag and knocked ultra-conservatives, a good part of ward 6 being progressive and moderate in its political makeup. Momentum's unprincipled approach is to do whatever it takes to win.

Loudenback notes a push-polling campaign against an opponent of a Momentum candidate for a race yet to be settled in an upcoming runoff.

I think we are likely to see this approach spread, sadly. The only remedy is for voters to bother to inform themselves and for grassroots candidates to work harder to get their message directly to the voters, one voter at a time. At the same time, we need stronger disclosure rules, rules that don't allow a flood of untraceable money to flow into a campaign in the last two weeks, after the pre-election filing deadline. Contributions and expenditures should be electronically reported all the way up until election day.

MORE: The Oklahoma Gazette has more about Momentum and the other groups trying to influence the Oklahoma City council elections.

RELATED, in an odd sort of way: I finally figured out why photos of Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett are a bit unnerving. It's that uncanny resemblance to wife-stomping western swing bandleader (and Oklahoma native) Spade Cooley.


I was not the least bit surprised at last Friday's announcement that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin would not use her power to direct the Attorney General to investigate charges against Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. Gov. Fallin is the play-it-safe type. (One indication of that during the general election campaign: The campaign's teleconference with conservative bloggers featured Q&A with two press aides, but not the candidate herself.)


Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin, official portrait, Part 2 of 30

In her response to Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, Fallin scolded Tulsa leaders about the need to settle their disputes for the sake of economic development, even as she declined to do what is in her power to help them accomplish just that. If this dispute is " an obstacle to attracting new jobs to... the State of Oklahoma," then shouldn't a governor who promised to focus on jobs do what she can to eliminate this obstacle? Eagleton wrote Fallin precisely to ask her to move the problems with Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr toward resolution.

I don't know if Eagleton had this in mind when he wrote his letter to Gov. Fallin outlining Bartlett Jr's actions that warrant an Attorney General investigation, but I know Eagleton is a lifelong Presbyterian, and the idea of appealing disputes to a higher level of authority is deeply rooted in Presbyterianism, which in turn influenced the design of the American judicial system. In the Presbyterian form of government, if there's a dispute between the elders (the lay leadership of the congregation) and the pastor, it can be taken to the next level up -- the presbytery, a body made up of ministers and elders from churches throughout the area.

Taking the Mayor's alleged misdeeds to the Governor and the Attorney General is loosely analogous to appealing to presbytery. Theoretically it puts the dispute in the hands of officials who are somewhat removed from it. (Practically speaking, Bartlett Jr is much better known in statewide Republican circles than Eagleton, and Bartlett Jr was a $5,000 donor to Fallin's 2010 campaign for Governor.)

In her response, Gov. Fallin wrote, "Many, if not all, of your allegations involve violations of the Tulsa City Charter and Ordinances. I have been advised that Title 51 may only address potential state law violations." In fact, 51 O. S. 93 includes in its definition of official misconduct, "Any willful failure or neglect to diligently and faithfully perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by the laws of this state." It could be argued that, as all Oklahoma cities are creatures of the state, with powers defined and circumscribed by the Constitution and statutes of Oklahoma, an officer's failure to perform the duties required by a city's charter and ordinances constitutes a failure to perform the duties enjoined by the state's laws.

MORE: Mike Easterling of Urban Tulsa Weekly spoke to John Eagleton, several of his council colleagues, and GOP state chairman Matt Pinnell about Eagleton's motivations in pursuing the ouster of Bartlett Jr.

Eagleton, a Tulsa native and Oral Roberts University law school graduate, said there shouldn't be any doubt about why he's pursuing this course of action.

"The motivation is derived exclusively from the oath I took when I was sworn in to be a city councilor," he said. "If I had not taken that oath, I would not be doing this now. But I promised to defend the city charter, the city ordinances, the Constitution of Oklahoma, the statutes of Oklahoma, the Constitution of the U.S., the statutes of the U.S. against all comers. That includes elected officials who are not behaving in accordance with their oath of office. It breaks my heart to be on this evolution."...

"As I evolved in thought to reach the conclusions I've reached, it was really quite painful to realize that I was going to be going out on this and realize that there would be a collateral attack," he said. "Mistreating the messenger is always easier than defending the actions of the mayor. And I knew that I would be piñata-ed someway."...

[Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt] Pinnell was careful to indicate he doesn't blame Eagleton for stirring up trouble.

"He's doing what he thinks is right, whether people agree with him or not," Pinnell said. "I respect him for that."...

"I think he's a good man. I don't have an issue with Councilor Eagleton," said District 4 Democrat Maria Barnes, who got to know Eagleton when they were both elected to the council in 2006. She described Eagleton as a very serious person and said she likes the fact that she always knows where she stands with him -- even if it's on the opposite side of an issue, as has often been the case.

[District 2 Republican Councilor Rick] Westcott shares that assessment.

"There's no guile in John Eagleton," he said. "He is what he is. Like him or not, there's no gray area in John Eagleton's personality, and I mean that as a compliment. He is what you see."...

When he first got to know Eagleton, [District 9 Republican Councilor G.T.] Bynum said, he developed the impression that he was bombastic, very certain of his views and fond of using a flamboyant approach to conveying them.

"What's changed over time is I've developed an appreciation for the kind of thought that goes into those beliefs," Bynum said, though he noted that many people who don't know Eagleton well probably view him inaccurately as a shoot-from-the-hip type.

"I'm a great admirer of Winston Churchill, and I can't help but think that serving on a legislative body with Winston Churchill was a lot like serving with John Eagleton," he said....

I've known John Eagleton for close to 10 years, and my impressions of John line up with those of his colleagues. There is no hidden agenda with John Eagleton. He is pursuing ouster -- a complicated process with a low probability of success -- because he feels it is his duty as a city official.

Congressman John Sullivan was the lone House member from Oklahoma to vote against H.J.Res. 48, the latest short-term continuing resolution, designed to continue funding the government in the absence of an actual budget. Sullivan issued this statement:

Enough is enough, the American people didn't elect us to continue kicking the can down the road with week to week spending bills that pacify Senate Democrats and the White House - they elected us to end the spending spree in Washington. We cannot continue forcing our government to operate on week to week measures, when the problems we face require serious long-term solutions. No one wants to see a government shutdown, but President Obama has been completely absent from the debate, and his lack of leadership in finding common ground ultimately shows his actions don't match his rhetoric, and regaining fiscal sanity is not on the top of his priority list.

The Federal Government is now nearly halfway through the fiscal year without a budget. A budget should have been in place before the fiscal year began on October 1, 2010; at the time both houses of Congress had large Democrat majorities.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Capitol, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has proposed an additional $20 billion in cuts in S. 493, in the form of seven amendments to the small business appropriations bill. Coburn's cuts include duplications identified in the GAO report and subsidies for ethanol (an "alternative energy source" that consumes more energy than it produces and drives up world food prices by diverting corn from guts to gas tanks):

1. Eliminate funding for the ethanol subsidy$6 billion
2. Eliminate funds for leftover earmarks$7.3 billion
3. Eliminate program duplications identified by GAO$5 billion
4. Eliminate unemployment payments to millionaires$20 million
5. Reduce new car purchases by the government$900 million
6. Eliminate funds for 'covered bridges' program$8.5 million
7. Eliminate taxpayer subsidies for public broadcasting$550 million

Coburn has posted on the web a 31-page, heavily footnoted, and detailed description (PDF) of the cuts Coburn proposes and the rationale behind each. A few selections from the section on ethanol subsidies:

Consumers pay $1.78 per gallon of subsidized ethanol-blended fuel. Meanwhile, U.S. biofuels consumption remains a small share of national transportation fuel use--7.5 percent in 2012 and 7.6 percent in 2030

Ethanol burns at two-thirds the efficiency of gasoline (68 percent of the energy content of gasoline), ultimately increasing fuel consumption nationally as drivers and boaters are forced to burn more fuel to travel the same distances.

Increases of corn used for fuel production puts pressure on corn prices, demand for cropland, and the price of animal feed. Those effects, in turn, have raised the price of many farm commodities (such as soybeans, meat, poultry, and dairy products) and, consequently, the retail price of food--USDA estimates 40 percent of last year's corn crop will be used for ethanol production....

According to CBO: The increased use of ethanol accounted for about 10 percent to 15 percent of the rise in food prices between April 2007 and April 2008.

In turn, that increase will boost federal spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp program) and other child nutrition programs by an estimated $600 million to $900 million in FY 2009." These domestic nutrition programs comprise over 60 percent of the farm bill....

Emira Woods, Chairperson of Africa Action said, "In the midst of a global food crisis and rising hunger, the ethanol industry expropriates land in Africa and elsewhere to grow food that fuels cars. We applaud Senators Coburn and Cardin for introducing legislation to end this shameless subsidy."...

[According to a 2007 report from the National Academy of Sciences] "Fertilizer and pesticide runoffs from the U.S. Corn Belt are key contributors to 'dead zones' in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast. A 2008 study by independent researchers, published in the academy's Proceedings journal, calculated that increasing corn production to meet the 2007 renewable fuels target would add to nitrogen pollution in the Gulf of Mexico by 10 to 34 percent."

Andrew Brown of Houston has a blog called Wired for Sound, devoted primarily to the music of the Texas Gulf Coast in the '30s and '40s and the musicians who made it -- some, like bandleader Moon Mullican, rhythm guitarist Cameron Hill, and pioneer steel guitar player Bob Dunn, barely remembered; most long ago forgotten. On many of the entries, the music from an old 78 is accompanied by the story of the song, the session, and the players, along with a photo of the band if one can be found.

One of his first entries is a compilation of two extended interviews with a saxophonist named George Ogg who began his musical career as a 16 year old in the late 1930s, continuing in the business until the '50s. He seems to have played with most everyone in the constantly circulating Houston music circuit.

Ogg's memories cover more than music. There's marijuana, murder, arson, and much more about the time when the hottest music around could be heard at a dance hall at a motel next to the Houston Ship Channel. It is fascinating reading.

It was touching, too, to see comments from relatives of some of the musicians mentioned by Ogg. The commenters had heard bits and pieces from relatives about their granddad or uncle's years as a musician; now they had some concrete information, some context for their family lore.

Here's what came in the afternoon email newsletter from

61 percent give Bartlett 'C' or better in new poll
By BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Of the survey's participants, 6 percent gave Bartlett an "A," 23 percent a "B," 32 percent a "C," 21 percent a "D" and 15 percent an "F," with 3 percent refusing to answer.

That's one way to look at it, but other ways of combining the data don't look so good for the Tulsa Mayor: 68 percent gave Bartlett Jr a "C" or worse, or 36% consider Bartlett Jr a failure or in danger of failing, or Bartlett Jr gets more Ds and Fs than As and Bs.

And indeed between the time that email was sent and the time I visited the site to read the story, the headline had changed:

68 percent give Bartlett 'C' or below in new poll

The initial comments on the story were puzzled by the original headline:


Headline should read 68 percent give Bartlett 'C' or below in new poll.

But however you want to spin it, results are the same.

tbgalileo, Tulsa

my thoughts exactly, trex4ou, or another way to headline this would be that the Mayor's unfavorable rating leads the favorable rating by 7%. Spin away, but it's apparent that most of us in the city aren't happy with his performance.

Sometimes a correction is noted with a comment by a Whirled staffer, but the only indication of the change on this story is "Last Modified: 3/9/2011 4:02 PM" at the top.

Did someone decide that the original headline had a little too much spin?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is upset about the Republican House budget plan, which would eliminate federal funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every January in Elko, Nevada.

"The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1 ... eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts," said Reid. "These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist."

Now, I can believe that some people may have been conceived at a National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (between sessions, presumably) who might not otherwise exist, there being little to do in Elko in the winter besides gambling and visiting the local cathouses (which Reid wants to shut down, despite the jobs they sustain). But I imagine the vast majority of attendees would nevertheless exist even if they didn't happen to visit Elko in January.

I like cowboy poetry and cowboy music (the kind that Riders in the Sky makes), and if federal money is going to be spent on culture, preserving the culture of the Old West is certainly more worthwhile than paying for crucifixes dunked in urine.

But given our country's dire fiscal situation, this is the time to strip the Federal government down to the bare necessities, the responsibilities spelled out in the Constitution, and leave the rest to local government and private initiative. I'm disappointed that House Republicans couldn't find more than $61 billion to cut from a budget that will overshoot revenues by about $1 trillion.

I doubt that losing NEH funding will cause the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering or the Western Folkways Museum to shut down. More likely it will mean that tasks currently handled by a paid staffer will fall to a volunteer instead.

(By the way, it's really hard to find out how much money each NEH grant recipient gets. Whatever happened to the Coburn/Obama plan to let us "Google the federal government"?)

Meanwhile, recently departed NPR Foundation head Ron Schiller has added to the reasons to eliminate federal funding for public radio and TV. Schiller told investigative reporters, posing as potential donors from a Muslim organization promoting the spread of sharia in America, that NPR would be better off in the long run without federal money and that it would survive, along with most of its stations, if it were defunded.

Finally, Bill Gates recently spoke on the fiscal crisis faced by state governments. Despite being required by their constitutions to balance the budget every year, they have dug a deep hole for themselves by underfunding pensions and medical insurance for state government retirees incurring future liabilities without setting aside sufficient funds to meet those commitments. States use gimmicks to hide the extent of their liabilities and to produce a balanced budget that isn't balanced at all. Gates is concerned because he believes funding for K-12 and higher education will suffer as a result. Click that link to watch his 10-minute-long presentation on the TED website.

Anything government touches gets more expensive, because the recipients of government funding have less incentive to control costs. In fact, higher costs result in calls to increase funding. When funding is handled privately or entirely by local government, when the beneficiaries are paying for the benefit directly, there's more incentive to economize, to find creative ways to accomplish more for less, to recycle and adapt materials and facilities rather than buying or building new.

The redistricting committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has set up a redistricting webpage with some interesting summary data that they will use to redraw the lines for their chamber of the State Legislature.

They provide a very helpful link to the U. S. Census Bureau's Redistricting Data Office, where you can download population data (down to the block), maps, and shapefiles for GIS.

The Oklahoma House redistricting page also has spreadsheets summarizing population changes between 2000 and 2010 for each county, State House district, State Senate district, and congressional district, and maps illustrating State House district population change and deviation from the ideal population (state population / 101).

House%20District%20Population%202010-Tulsa.PNGFive of the 10 districts which are farthest below the ideal are in midtown and north Tulsa: 70, 71, 72, 73, and 78. (Three of the districts have been held throughout the decade by Democrats.) They need to be expanded in area to grow by 4,000 to 6,000 population. Three districts in the top 10 that need to lose people are on the suburban fringe of Tulsa County: 74 (Owasso), 98 (Broken Arrow), and 75 (southeast Tulsa, north Broken Arrow). The area of brown on the Tulsa County map (shrinking districts) corresponds roughly to the Tulsa Public Schools district boundaries.

There are a couple of possible solutions to balance the population of Tulsa area districts. One would be to expand the central districts out further, cutting into areas currently in suburban districts that need to lose some population. The other possibility would be to eliminate one of the central districts -- perhaps 70, since incumbent Ron Peters is term-limited, or the oddly-shaped 78 -- split it up among the other central districts, and then recreate the district somewhere in the suburbs. This is how HD 98 was reborn in 2001 -- transplanted from the western suburbs of Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin's press office emailed me with the first in a planned series of monthly columns along with her official press portrait, a high-resolution 2400x3000 JPEG image. Her first column is on saving tax dollars by consolidating administrative and IT among state agencies and moving to electronic billing.

The portrait is lovely, and I'd like to share it with my readers, but as my template only allows about 500 pixels in width, I can't share it with you all at once. Taking a page from the Johnny Cash songbook, I'll post it one piece at a time, over the next month or so, left to right and top to bottom in 500x500 pixel chunks. Here's part one:


Here's the Governor's inaugural column:

Headline: "Time to Modernize our Government"

By Governor Mary Fallin

Over the course of this prolonged national recession, Oklahomans and Americans everywhere have been called on to make sacrifices. They've balanced their budgets by tightening their belts, and they have found creative, sometimes difficult, ways to live within their means.

Government is not immune to the recession, nor should it be exempt from the kind of sacrifices that Oklahoma's families and businesses have been making for several years.

Going into Fiscal Year 2012, our state government is facing a $500 million shortfall. Balancing the budget will require difficult decisions and budget cuts.

Originally, those budget cuts were estimated to be as high as 8-10 percent for every agency. While not impossible to absorb, those kind of deep reductions would certainly have a real impact on agencies dealing with public safety, health, and education. I am proud to say that, through the use of innovative cost-saving measures, my executive budget has reduced those cuts from 8-10 percent to a much more manageable 3-5 percent. That's an enormous difference, and it's one that allows us to trim government waste and tighten our belts without jeopardizing the quality of our schools, the safety of our streets or the health of our citizens; if, that is, these reforms are adopted by the Legislature.

Many of our proposed reforms are just common sense, like moving the state from paper to electronic billing. Everyone knows that it is wasteful to have one government agency print, write, and mail a check to another government agency rather than transfer that money with a few clicks of the mouse.

Other changes involve consolidating administrative and information technology services, so that multiple agencies can share the same support personnel. The Legislature has already taken strides to implement these consolidations, which have the potential of producing over $100 million in savings annually, and they should be applauded for it.

The budget includes a host of other proposed consolidations and changes, all of which are designed to allow government to perform its vital functions while operating in a more cost-effective manner.

As you might expect, not all of these changes are easy to make or popular among the directors of government boards and agencies. Change can be difficult, and we can expect any challenge to the status quo to be met with resistance.

That resistance will always be headed by individuals who, however well-intentioned, do not want to see a change to business-as-usual and oppose our attempts to make government smaller, smarter and more efficient.

That is their right. But it is our right as citizens to demand that our government make smart, sometimes difficult choices, rather than once again kicking the can down the road and burdening taxpayers with unnecessary expenses.

If the Legislature passes the modernization reforms proposed in my budget, the state of Oklahoma stands to save roughly $286 million annually. That money allows us to close the budget gap without big cuts in vital government services. It brings our government out of a 20th century model and into the digital era and it allows our public employees to better serve our customers, the people of Oklahoma.

In the following weeks, it's my great hope that the Legislature will pass these reforms, get them to my desk, and work with me to deliver the kind of state government the people of Oklahoma deserve.

Out sick

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I was composing a couple of entries in my head for this morning, but my head is currently besieged by a howling sinus headache, so the entries were started but not finished. My apologies.

A couple of quick notes:

Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton is slated to be on 1170 KFAQ Monday morning in the 8 o'clock hour to talk about the effort to oust Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Pat Campbell Show audio page and a direct link to the interview with John Eagleton.

Have you noticed? Not a single city councilor has voiced support for Bartlett Jr. Not a single city councilor has condemned the ouster effort. That's a significant difference between the current controversy and those of the past. Even Nixon had his supporters in Congress, until the "smoking gun" tape emerged, and Nixon had the grace to resign when that support dried up.

Since Thursday's announcement, the only public figure to speak up for Bartlett Jr -- as far as I've heard -- is his attorney -- you know, the one who is working for the mayor for free, the one whose law firm was granted increased limits of $70,000 total on two city contract amendments approved by Bartlett Jr, the one who serves as attorney for the private citizens who have named the city councilors individually in a suit over a ballot initiative.

Hear of anyone else speaking up for Bartlett Jr? Let me know in the comments.

Most Tulsa County Republican precinct organizations will hold precinct elections tomorrow, Saturday, March 5, 2011, at 10 a.m. (There are a few exceptions.) Any registered Republican voter is eligible to attend and vote in his precinct's election, at which precinct officials for the next two years and delegates to this year's county GOP convention are elected. The precinct meetings will also consider resolutions for inclusion in the county platform. While platform planks are often about national and state issues, it's certainly appropriate to address city and county issues in the platform as well (even if it gives Republican elected officials fits).

Click this link for the list of 2011 Tulsa County Republican precinct elections.

If you don't know your precinct number, visit the Oklahoma State Election Board precinct finder.

At the Thursday, March 3, 2011, continuation of Tuesday's meeting of the Tulsa City Council's Urban and Economic Development Committee, Councilor John Eagleton made a public call for Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's removal from office by ouster, a civil process initiated by complaint from registered voters, investigation and prosecution by the state's Attorney General, and concluded with a jury trial. That call was echoed by several of his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, representing the length and breadth of the city.

Eagleton sets forth the case against Dewey Bartlett Jr on his website, a case that he presented during today's committee meeting. Eagleton's presentation constitutes about 23 minutes of the 46 minute video.

Following Eagleton's remarks, Council Chairman Rick Westcott (District 2) points out that there is an undeniable pattern of behavior on the part of Bartlett Jr and that none of the issues enumerated have been resolved. He says that "we need an independent third party... to make some legal determination if the actions do constitute violations of the law," referring to the Attorney General and to the jury that would ultimately hear the case. "Take it out of this arena, take it out of this political environment."

District 6 Councilor Jim Mautino talks about how he pushed to give Bartlett Jr the benefit of the doubt for six months, trying to work with the Mayor to get things done for his district, and how doing so hurt him with his fellow councilors and his constituents as they lost faith in Bartlett Jr. He mentions Bartlett Jr's apparent willingness to appoint an east Tulsa neighborhood leader to the TMAPC, to provide some geographical and neighborhood balance on the planning commission, only to back away, telling Mautino that his proposed commissioner was "toxic." (Mautino did not mention the name of the proposed commissioner, but I'm guessing he was speaking about Al Nichols, a long-time neighborhood leader, very familiar with Tulsa's zoning code and process. Presumably Nichols is too knowledgeable for the taste of someone with powerful influence over Bartlett Jr.)

District 1 Councilor Jack Henderson commended Eagleton for his courage: "John, I know you're going to receive some heat for it, a Republican going after another Republican, but I just want to take my hat off to you for being a man that stood up, is standing up for what's right, trying to make this city a better place." Henderson expressed hope that enough people would "do the right thing" and sign the affidavits so that the investigation by a third party can move forward.

District 3 Councilor Roscoe Turner said, "This is the first time, in all the years I've served on the Council, that there has been this kind of dialogue between a Mayor's Office and a Council. I've never in my life seen a Council that came together 9-0 against a Mayor.... When this Council first came together, the Mayor had a majority of the Council on his side. One by one, I guess he forced them off of his team....." Turner recalled a Council committee meeting at which Bartlett Jr got angry and asserted, "Last time I looked, I was still the boss." Turner said, "Why does anyone want to be the boss? We're here to work together to try to move the city forward."

District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes, wanting to end the meeting on a positive note, said that one of many good things to come out of this is that it has united the Council: "We all have been on the same page, working together."

Get Microsoft Silverlight

On his website, Eagleton has posted the presentation he made to the Council, over a hundred pages of backup material relating to the points of the complaint against the Mayor, and, most importantly, an "Affidavit for Ouster" which can be downloaded. This is a petition, requesting the Attorney General to pursue the charges against the Mayor. Approximately 1100 signatures are required. Each page details the charges and has a place for six signatures of City of Tulsa registered voters. The form can be attested by a notary, the Mayor, any city councilor, the City Clerk, or the City Attorney.

This Sunday, March 6, 2011, 2:30 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers. Tickets are $20 and are available online (and, presumably, at the door).

Also known as All-Night Vigil, the work is an a capella setting of 15 Russian Orthodox chants.

As I wrote back in 2004:

It is beautiful a cappella music for mixed chorus. Rachmaninoff's harmonies and embellishments are built around ancient Russian chants. The lyrics are from the Psalms and the Orthodox liturgy. Years ago, the Coventry Chorale performed several selections from the work, in Russian. As we worked on pronunciation, we had opportunity to read through the lyrics in English. The texts are filled with the glory of Christ, the Victor over Death.

Here is one of my favorite movements, No. 10, "Having Beheld the Resurrection of Christ," as performed by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir. (I know, I know, but it's lovely, and they show the sheet music in the video in sync with the voices.)

10. Having Seen the Resurrection of the Lord

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ,
let us worship the holy Lord Jesus,
the only Sinless One.
We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ,
and we hymn and glorify Thy holy resurrection,
For Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee;
we call on Thy name.
Come, all you faithful,
let us venerate Christ's holy resurrection.
For, behold, through the cross
joy has come into all the world.
Ever blessing the Lord,
let us praise His resurrection,
for by enduring the cross for us,
He has destroyed death by death.

Here's a soundie from the 1940s with Count Basie and his orchestra playing "Air Mail Special." There's a subplot with the song: A dance contest with the trophy going to the couple that can stay on their feet through this fast-paced tune. Stick with it to the end for a chuckle.

(In the western swing world, "Air Mail Special" was covered by Billy Jack Wills and his band and later by mandolinist Tiny Moore on his solo album, Tiny Moore Music.)

I've mostly avoided delving into the ongoing dispute between Tulsa Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr and the Tulsa City Council. My main reason has been lack of time and energy. It's a valid reason -- my family and the job that pays the bills must come first -- but I'm sorry nevertheless because I feel I've let down BatesLine readers by not covering the issue and my many friends on the City Council by not speaking out in their defense.

When friends have asked about the conflict, I've pointed out that Bartlett Jr has accomplished what no previous mayor has done -- he has managed to alienate all nine members of the City Council. Of course, it's hard to maintain cordial relations with a group of people when you've allegedly recruited citizens to file lawsuits against them as a means of pursuing your political aims. While I won't defend every action by every councilor, I believe that they are more sinned against than sinning in their dispute with Bartlett Jr.

It's all coming to a head with Wednesday's news that Tulsa District 7 Councilor John Eagleton sent a letter to Governor Mary Fallin asking her to request that Attorney General Scott Pruitt investigate a list of charges against Bartlett Jr, with a view to his removal from office.

Eagleton cites 10 charges. To my mind, the most troubling is Bartlett Jr's acceptance of free legal services from Joel Wohlgemuth, whose law firm is also a city contractor. The documentation provided to Gov. Fallin includes two contract amendments with the firm of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler and Dowdell, one for $25,000 and one for $45,000, both signed by Bartlett Jr.

Nearly as disturbing is the allegation that Bartlett Jr recruited citizens to file lawsuits against the City of Tulsa. From a December 23, 2010, news story:

However, Warren Blakney, the newly elected president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was asked to join the suit but declined because he needed to remain neutral even though he agrees with its claims.

Blakney said he met with Goodwin, Bartlett and Simonson. He said he thought they called him in because Bartlett doesn't have good standing with the black community and needed someone in the suit who is respected in that community.

John Eagleton is a friend of mine and has been for many years. He would not take so drastic a step unless he felt there were no alternative. He knows he will be charged with grandstanding and troublemaking. He knows that this step will kill any political future he may have had. He believes that because of Bartlett Jr's ongoing destructive behavior, his removal from the Mayor's office is the only way for our city to move forward.

While I applaud Bartlett Jr's support for the implementation of PLANiTULSA and hope for positive changes from the KPMG report, he has poisoned his relationship with city councilors and city employees who were ready to work with him for the betterment of Tulsa. He has squandered the trust, the political capital a mayor needs in order to implement difficult changes.

Bartlett Jr needs to go.

While looking for something else, I came across this, entered into the Congressional Record by Illinois Congressman Phil Crane on August 4, 1994 (p. E1664). Crane describes it as a speech Paul Harvey gave in Tulsa on April 2, 1994, but it reads more like a radio commentary reflecting on a visit to Tulsa. Harvey had returned to his hometown to speak at a benefit for the Salvation Army in March of that year.

Over my shoulder a backward glance.

The world began for Paul Harvey in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ever since I have made tomorrow my favorite day, I've been uncomfortable looking back.

My recent revisit reminded me why. The Tulsa I knew isn't there anymore. And the memories of once-upon-a time are more bitter than sweet.

Of the lawman father I barely knew.

The widowed mother who worked too hard and died too soon. And my sister Frances.

Tulsa was three graves side-by-side.

Recently I came face-to-face with the place where a small Paul Harvey's mother buttoned his britches to his shirt to keep them up and it down.

Tulsa is a copper penny which a small boy from East Fifth Place placed on a trolley track to see it mashed flat.

It's a slingshot made from a forked branch aimed at a living bird, and the bird died, and he cried, and he is still crying.

That little lad was seven when he snapped a rubber band against the neck of the neighbor girl, and pretty Ethel Mae Mazelton ran home crying, and he, lonely, had wanted only to get her to notice him.

Somehow he blamed Tulsa for the war which took his best friend, Harold Collis...

And classmate Fred Mrarkgraff...

And never gave them back.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, he learned the wages of sin smoking grapevine behind the garage and getting a mouthful of ants.

Longfellow Elementary school is closed now; dark.

Tulsa High is a business building.

The old house at 1014 is in mourning for the Tulsa that isn't there anymore.

It was in that house that a well-meaning mother arranged a surprise birthday party when he was sixteen; invited his school friends, including delicate Mary Betty French without whom he was sure he could not live.

He hated that party for revealing to her and to them his house, so much more modest than theirs.

Tulsa is where the true love of his life waved goodbye to the uniform that climbed aboard a troop train.

She was there waiting when he got back but they could not wait to say goodbye to Tulsa.

Tulsa was watermelon picnics in the backyard and a small Paul blowing taps on his Boy Scout bugle over the fresh grave of a dead kitten.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, used to be the fragrance of honeysuckle on the trellis behind the porch swing.

Mowing for a quarter neighbors' lawns that seemed then so enormous.

Only Tulsa's delicious tap water is as it was.

That and the schoolteachers...

Miss Harp and Miss Smith and Isabelle Ronan. These I am assured are still there somewhere--reincarnated.

In a sleek jet departing Tulsa's vast Spartan Airport at midnight, I closed my eyes and remembered...

When Spartan was a sod strip...

And a crowd gathered...

And a great tin goose landed...

And Slim Lindbergh got out...

And a boy, age nine, was pressing against the restraining ropes daring to foretaste fame--and falling in love with the sky.


The Tulsa I knew isn't there anymore. But it's all right.

A new Tulsa is.

I'll not be afraid to go home again.

I have made friends with the ghosts.

Note: I've corrected obvious misspelling and punctuation errors from the online Congressional Record (CR), and replaced the CR's use of three asterisks to indicate ellipsis with the standard three dots. The CR text mentions "Karold Collis" and "Fred Mrarkgraff." Harold Collis of Tulsa is listed in the roll of Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard dead in World War II, so I've made that correction. I couldn't find any name resembling "Fred Mrarkgraff" in either the Army or Navy lists of casualties for Oklahoma, so I've left that uncorrected.

This Friday, March 4, 2011, the Pendleton Family Fiddlers will celebrate the release of their new album on iTunes with a Branson-style revue at the historic Spotlight Theatre, 1381 Riverside Drive.

2011-03-04 Pendleton show-500.jpg

The show stars the Pendleton girls, Emma Jane and Marina, both champion fiddlers and yodelers, backed by mom Virginia on fiddle and mandolin and dad Scott on rhythm guitar, with guest musicians Jack Boydstun, Judge Porter, and Kenny Dunagan.

The program also features western musician "Cowboy Jim" Garling, "banjo-wielding singer-comedian" John Hansen, "Ragtime Bill" Rowland on the piano, comedian Travis Gregg, and saw player Jeff Stauffer.

The show begins at 7:30. Audience members will receive an autographed CD of the Pendletons' newly released song, "Wild Rivers Flow." Tickets are $15; for reservations call 918-587-5030.

It ought to be a fun night for the whole family. The Pendletons put on a great show of western swing and traditional cowboy tunes. Here they are with the "12th Street Rag":

UPDATE: Magician Roger Cornelison had been slated to appear but will be unable due to a family emergency.

Urban Tulsa Weekly gave its cover story spot this week to Oklahoma Observer publisher Arnold Hamilton. It's called "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Republican Galaxy," but it's all about how poor lefties like radical pro-abortion, anti-religion activist Barbara Santee and homeschool hater Jim Wilson will survive Republican domination of the Sooner State.

Hamilton notes the transformation that has taken place over our state's first 103 years:

Less than a century ago, Oklahoma was known as a hotbed of the populist-progressive movement, embracing politics so radical, so anti-corporate, so anti-establishment, so pro-little guy that it's almost incomprehensible when compared to 2011.

What Oklahomans have figured out, although it took a while, was that progressivism doesn't work. A progressive constitution of the sort Oklahoma was born with is the governmental equivalent of designing a plane without due respect for the laws of gravity and aerodynamics. It's the political version of the old hobo anthem, "The Big Rock Candy Mountain." Oklahoma's progressivism has held us back, as our neighbor to the south as zoomed ahead as one of the most prosperous and fastest growing states in the union

Hamilton seems to forget that the progressivism for which he waxes nostalgic was thoroughly racist. The same solons who framed our "progressive" constitution took up Jim Crow laws as their first legislative priority.

Hamilton says that Oklahoma is now "reliably red, corporatist Republican," but I think he's mistaken to use the adjective corporatist. Oklahoma Republicans are mainly populists, at least at the grass roots level. Corporatists will always flock to and seek to influence the dominant party, whichever it may be, and the newly elected Republicans will have to resist pie-in-the-sky promises of economic development for special tax credits and subsidies held out by their fair-weather friends in the corporate welfare world.

The coping strategies suggested by the lefties that Hamilton interviewed include ignoring local news, watching liberal TV fantasies ("The West Wing") like some lovelorn spinster reading Harlequin paperbacks, drinking heavily, and leaving the state.

State Sen. Jim Wilson says he may retire to Vermont, after drowning his sorrows in tequila (worm included). That's a fine idea, and I hope many of his left-wing compatriots follow his suggestion. If you'd rather not live in a state committed to the free-market principles and traditional mores that made America great, there are plenty of other options out there.

As Tommy Duncan sang, "If you don't like your bunk, pack up your junk."

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