August 2012 Archives

Somehow tonight around the dinner table we got to talking about the Electoral College -- the 538 people who really get to vote for President of the United States. I talked about the two groups of seven Oklahomans that will be on our November 6 ballot -- seven pledged to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, seven pledged to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- about how Oklahomans will vote for one group or another, and the group with the most votes will gather in Oklahoma City in December to cast their ballots for president and vice president. Those ballots will be sent to Congress, where they will be opened in early January and counted in a joint session of Congress, and if a candidate gets at least 270 electoral votes, he will become president.

As I describe how electors vote, my 12-year-old daughter came up with a great question: What if an elector doesn't vote for the candidate he's pledged to vote for? I told her about faithless electors in the past, like the fellow in 1976 who voted for Ronald Reagan instead of Gerald Ford, but that they had never swayed an election. I told her about the year she was born, 2000, when it was close enough that as few as two faithless electors would have changed the result, and there was talk of Democratic efforts to pry loose a few Bush electors by threatening electors with exposure of embarrassing personal information. A faithless elector might be subject to fines, but it wouldn't change the effect of his vote.


My daughter's response to all this was that it would be important for the Republican Party not to choose Ron Paul supporters as electors. I told her that Oklahoma's Republican elector candidates had already been picked and explained how one was chosen at each congressional district convention, and two were chosen at the state convention. Larry Williamson, a long-time party volunteer who had supported Santorum in the primary, was nominated from our district. He spoke about the history and importance of the electoral college and pledged to support the party nominee. He won over a handful of other candidates, including our nominee from 2008 -- she'd already had a turn. I explained that we try to pick people with a long history of party involvement and loyalty, rather than someone who is new and whose loyalties aren't yet proven.

She also asked about what would happen if Ron Paul supporters broke off to form a third party -- another great question. After the dinner dishes were cleared away, I opened the laptop and showed her the map of the 1992 presidential election, and how Bill Clinton won the presidency with only 43% of the vote nationwide and a majority only in his home state of Arkansas and the District of Columbia. I told her about George H. W. Bush's broken promise on taxes, Ross Perot's candidacy and how it siphoned off enough votes from Bush in enough states to allow Clinton to win a plurality and the electoral votes.

We looked at the 2000 vote, too, when the Green Party took enough votes in New Hampshire alone to have flipped the state and the election to Al Gore. I showed the kids the 1968 map -- the last time a third-party candidate (George Wallace) won electors by finishing first in a state. In many states that Nixon won, it's plausible that Wallace pulled enough votes to keep Humphrey from winning -- enough votes might have changed to give Humphrey the win in a head-to-head battle.

That led to a conversation about runoffs. We looked at the 1992 Georgia Senate election, when the Democrat incumbent, Wyche Fowler, finished just ahead of Republican Paul Coverdell, but with a Libertarian in the race, no one had a majority. Three weeks later, the Republican won the head-to-head runoff with the Democrat. Then we looked at the 1991 Louisiana governor's race, when incumbent governor Buddy Roemer, whom polls showed beating each of the other candidates in a head-to-head matchup, finished a close third, leaving Louisiana voters a distasteful choice in the runoff between "the crook" (Edwin Edwards) and "the Klansman" (David Duke).

One way to avoid that sort of problem is multiple runoffs, removing one candidate each round, which my daughter observed would take forever. The alternative vote (instant runoff voting) is another way to solve the problem, and we looked at the seven-candidate 2011 Irish presidential election, which went through four counts, to see how that system works.

We looked one year's results in California, which featured a long list of odd parties, including Communist candidate Guy Hall. Yes, there's a Communist Party in the U. S., and they used to run their own presidential candidates. Nowadays they just encourage their members to vote for Democrats.

The six-year-old boy was mainly interested in the meaning of the different colors on the maps. My daughter wanted to know why the Democrats were red and the Republicans blue, contrary to what she usually sees. I told her that it made more sense for Democrats to be red, since red symbolizes socialism and communism all over the world, while blue is the color of Britain's Conservative Party. Dave Leip of U. S. Election Atlas says his color scheme has nothing to do with ideology or symbolism; he picked a scheme when he started his site circa 1996, before the famous 2000 USA Today map of results by county which brought about a standardization on Republican red and Democrat blue.

MORE: Great comment from pollster "Blue Pat" McFerron, who also remembers when red was reserved for communism & socialism and blue was for capitalism.

Tonight, Friday, August 31, 2012, the City of Tulsa will host a Vision2 public meeting from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at TCC Northeast Campus, Seminar Center, 3727 E. Apache St.

As I said earlier this week, the Mayor should be asked why he's willing to leave $153 million on the table by allowing the county to pass a new 0.6 cent tax, rather than trying to put that revenue stream under city control when the Vision 2025 county sales tax expires.

He also needs to be asked about a statement made by County Commissioner Fred Perry in a Tulsa Beacon op-ed (emphasis added):

The fact is, while no one can guarantee that the [American Airlines] jobs will stay, it's a sure thing they will leave if we don't, as their landlord, make the planned improvements which will be owned by taxpayers.... I became convinced, as had people in the business community previously, that if we don't make these improvements the jobs will go elsewhere.

Is this certain? Has American Airlines threatened to close the Tulsa maintenance facility if we don't make these improvements? Surely any such communications ought to be made public.

Richard Wurmbrand, who was tortured and imprisoned for preaching the Gospel in Romania, was the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, the Bartlesville-based organization that seeks to call the attention of Christians in the west to our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Thirteen of Wurmbrand's books, including Tortured for Christ and his prison memoir In God's Underground, are currently available in Kindle e-book format for $1 each.

The U. S. Census Bureau has just released 2010 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data: attendance, revenue, and expenditure data from each public school district in the country. You can download the data in Excel along with a key to each field. Revenue is broken down by federal, state, and local source and by subcategories for each source. Spending is broken down by instructional and administrative costs, among many other categories.

The last three evenings were occupied with an election night watch party (disappointing results, but some good conversation late into the night that only confirmed my conviction that Oklahoma is much the poorer that someone as principled, intelligent, and sincere as Shane Saunders won't be serving in the state legislature next year), dinner with visiting customers, and grading Greek papers.

There's a lot I'd like to say about the rules changes that Romney's forces pushed through the Republican National Convention Rules Committee last week and the convention as a whole on Tuesday, but no time to say much now, so I'll point you to four articles that cover the important details and correctly comprehend the significance of what came to be tagged on Twitter as #goppowergrab.

First, just a few points from me:

1. This wasn't about Ron Paul and his supporters. It was about shutting down grassroots conservatives of all stripes -- old timers and newcomers alike -- in favor of the wheeler-dealers and K Street insiders.

2. It wasn't about 2012. It was about 2016 -- protecting Romney from a conservative challenger if he turns out to be a RINO in office -- and 2020 -- letting the next establishment candidate sew up the nomination as quickly as McCain did in 2008. The rules don't just govern this convention; they govern the party until the next convention, and they set precedent for future rules.

3. Too many conservatives want to know why we wind up with candidates like Dole, McCain, Romney, but then they dismiss rules disputes as "inside baseball," not worth noticing, not worth fighting about. Folks, it all starts here. Rules shape the race. Rules shape the structure of the party and the distribution of power. If you want to debug the system, you have to analyze the source code.

4. I had been trying for some time, without much success, to get conservative bloggers to pay attention to this issue. Back in January I'd suggested to a conference planner that the "inner workings of the Republican Party" should be a panel topic at the next conservative bloggers conference, with a panel made up of bloggers who, like myself, had been involved in Republican Party politics:

I see a lot of frustrated commentary from conservative bloggers about the GOP, often anthropomorphizing the party as a monolithic entity, when it's really a complex system of individuals, forces, rules, and institutions. Rather than blame the party as a whole and attack the symptoms with no lasting impact, conservatives need to identify and target the causes of the problems we see, and conservative bloggers can play an important role in providing context and directing activist energy in productive ways.

More recently I suggested that any bloggers who could be in Tampa before the convention began should report on the Rules Committee meeting, as I had done in 2004 and 2008, specifically mentioning the possibility of an effort to undo the primary calendar reforms that governed the 2012 primary cycle, reforms that this time around prevented a super-frontloaded national primary. As far as I know, no conservative bloggers reported from the meeting itself, and there weren't any conservative-leaning news outlets there either. Live tweets (which I captured with the GOP 2012 Rules Twitter list) were coming from reporters with Buzzfeed, CNN, Huffington Post, and Politico.

If more conservative bloggers and reporters had been paying attention from the beginning, and if Team Romney and the Rules Committee knew we were paying attention, perhaps some of the Romney changes would not have been put forward by the Romney people or won the Rules Committee's approval.

All that said, here are four well-done articles on the controversy and its aftermath:

Washington Examiner's Tim Carney: Republican leaders trample their grass roots in Tampa

Michelle Malkin: RNC Power Grab: The Aftermath

FreedomWorks' Dean Clancy: Romney's "RNC Power Grab": What Really Happened

Mark America: Becoming a Top-Down Party of Nothing

Thumbnail image for IVoted.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open in much of Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

There are no statewide runoffs, but both major parties have a runoff in the 2nd Congressional District. Republicans have runoffs in four State Senate districts (15, 17, 33, 43), and two State House districts (53, 70) -- two of the runoffs, House 70 and Senate 33, are here in the Tulsa area. Democrats have two State House runoffs (14, 88). Many counties have runoffs, including a Republican runoff for Tulsa County Clerk, and there's a scattering of municipal special elections, and local propositions. About two-thirds of the state's precincts in 60 counties will be open for business.

Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system.

After some significant difficulties with the outside company that provided election night results earlier this year, the Oklahoma State Election Board has developed its own in-house capability; the templates are already online. Data nuts will be able to download results by precinct for the entire state in one download -- a huge improvement over the previous system.

A few resources as you go to vote:

If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact the your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Posted 1:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 28, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

In case you missed it, here is the video from last month of the only televised debate between State Rep. George Faught of Muskogee and Markwayne Mullin of Coweta, the two candidates in the runoff for the Republican nomination for the Second Congressional District of Oklahoma. The winner of this race will face the winner of a Democratic runoff between Wayne Herriman of Muskogee and Rob Wallace of Fort Gibson.

Oklahoma District 2 Congressional Runoff Debate 2012, George Faught vs. Markwayne Mullin HD from RSU Public TV on Vimeo.

The hubbub over the U. S. Senate race in Missouri, the "macaca" controversy in the 2006 U. S. Senate race in Virginia, all show the destructive power of a careless, clumsy statement, even when it comes from the mouth of a normally articulate politician. And when a politician isn't normally articulate, he's a bomb waiting to explode, taking his own career and the future of his local party and staffers with him. We don't need that kind of distraction in such a key race.

Because this is an open seat in a district that votes Republican in presidential elections by Democrat (just like great-granddaddy) in state and local elections, both sides consider it winnable. It is a key battle in the war to maintain and expand the Republican House majority and to reverse Obamacare.

George Faught has the conservative values we need in Washington, but also the job experience to implement those values. Of more immediate significance, he has the experience and alertness to avoid the Democrats' snares. We don't have to worry about George Faught embarrassing us as the Republican nominee or ultimately as our congressman.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr is holding the first in a series of Vision2 public forums tonight (August 27, 2012, Webster High School, 5:30 to 7:30 pm) to ask what projects should be funded with the money the county would <sarcasm>graciously</sarcasm> allow the city to have. Never mind that no public forums were held before the Tulsa County Commission decided to put the three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollars sales tax extension on the November ballot.

Tulsa voters should ask the mayor why any Tulsan should support a Tulsa County scheme that shorts our city $153 million in funds for roads, parks, and other capital projects, a scheme that gives another government body a say in city-owned airport properties, a scheme that gives the Tulsa County Commission veto power over the City of Tulsa's list of projects.

I've put together a simple chart (PDF format) comparing the Tulsa County Commission's Vision2 tax scheme with a plan that spends the City of Tulsa's money to implement the City of Tulsa's vision. You may find it helpful to print out and share with His Honor and His Honor's staffers this evening as you ask him why he's backing a plan that puts the City of Tulsa at such a significant disadvantage. (More here on the math behind the numbers on the chart -- why the City of Tulsa would be better off going it alone and taking over the Vision 2025 0.6 cent tax as a city tax when the Vision 2025 tax expires at the end of 2016.)


IVoted.jpgFor your convenience, here is a list of the candidates I've endorsed, will be voting for, or otherwise recommend in the August 28, 2012, Oklahoma Republican runoff. Early voting is already underway; as this is a Federal election, early voting ("in-person absentee") began Friday and will be available at the Tulsa County Election Board at 555 N. Denver Ave in Tulsa on Monday, August 27, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (All county election boards offer early voting at those times; click this link for your county election board's location.)

As I have time, I'll add links to endorsements I've already made, brief notes about those I haven't previously written about. Here's a link to the archive of BatesLine posts about Oklahoma Election 2012.

2nd Congressional District: George Faught: The only candidate with legislative experience, a track record of conservative leadership, and long-time residence in the district. Endorsed by major conservative groups and icons like Mike Huckabee, Phyllis Schlafly, David Barton of Wall Builders, Mike Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, Conservative Women for America PAC, Family Research Council Action PAC, Gun Owners of America PAC, and State Auditor Gary Jones. Faught's gaffe-prone opponent, Markwayne Mullin, has numerous political liabilities ripe for exploitation by the Democratic nominee. For example, Mullin claims to live in the 2nd district, but still claims a homestead exemption on a home in the 1st Congressional District. There's also the matter of the BATF raid on Mullin's business premises and questions about facilitating gun acquisition by a convicted felon in Mullin's employ. If Republicans are to have any hope of gaining this seat from the Democrats, we need a standard-bearer who won't stick his foot in his mouth, someone who has the knowledge and eloquence to explain to yellow-dog Little Dixie Democrats why the Republican Party best represents their values and concerns. George Faught, elected three times in a majority Democrat State House district, has what it takes.

Tulsa County Clerk: Dean Martin: Martin's central theme is greater transparency in county records. His opponent, the current deputy, seems satisfied with a public records system that requires monthly fees and the permission of the county commission for full online access. The Tulsa County Clerk's office needs new vision and direction, and that won't happen under a member of the current leadership team.

House 70: Shane Saunders: Shane's hands-on experience with the legislative process, his personal involvement with the oil and gas industry, his sharp mind, his devotion to his Christian faith and his family, and his affable nature will all be valuable assets not only to the citizens of House District 70, but to the majority Republican caucus and to the State of Oklahoma. Shane's also a new dad, married with a one-year-old daughter.

Disclosure: I do computer data processing work for the Saunders campaign.

I hate to have to miss the Republican National Convention this year, but it's especially tough to miss the convention's Rules Committee proceedings the week before the convention. I was one of a handful of reporters and bloggers covering the 2004 and 2008 Rules Committee proceedings, and I suspect I was the only one covering them that had served on GOP rules committees at the county, congressional district, and state level.

So I had half an eye on my Twitter stream on Friday as the 2012 Republican National Convention Rules Committee was in session. A handful of new and old media reporters, occasionally joined by actual rules committee members, were live-tweeting the event: Zeke Miller of Buzzfeed, Jon Ward of the Huffington Post, Peter Hamby of CNN, James Hohmann of Politico; Chris Brown, rules committee member from Alabama, Iowa State Chairman A. J. Spiker, and Oklahoma rules committee member Stuart Jolly, head of Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma.

At the meeting, Mitt Romney's forces, spearheaded by former Bush 41 chief of staff John Sununu as committee chairman and Bush 43 / Romney lawyer and lobbyist Ben Ginsberg, pushed a bushel basket full of significant changes to the way the Republican Party selects its presidential nominee and elects delegates to the national convention. While the GOP's presumptive nominee is expected to have some influence over the conduct of the convention, I've never seen such a extreme attempt by a nominee to subvert the fundamental structure of the party. It reminds me of Tony Blair taking a metaphorical ax to the House of Lords after his election in 1997.

Some background: At each quadrennial Republican National Convention, the delegates to the convention approve a set of rules to govern the convention itself and the party until the next convention four years later. That includes defining the nominating process and the formula for delegate allocation to be used four years hence. The vote on the floor of the convention is usually a formality, a voice vote, over in a minute with no debate. The full body of convention delegates are voting on the recommendation of the convention rules committee, a group consisting of two delegates (one male, one female) selected by each state delegation. The convention rules committee meets the week before the convention. The committee chairman is appointed by the RNC Chairman, usually in accordance with the wishes of the presumptive nominee. There is typically one committee member who is there specifically to push the nominee's preferred rules.

Taken as a whole, the Romney "reforms" are designed to undo the reforms approved between the 2008 and 2012 convention, which slowed down the nominating process and subjected the eventual nominee to a great deal of scrutiny. The Romney rules would compress and front-load the calendar once again to protect any future establishment-backed candidate from enduring a similar level of scrutiny, favoring the next-in-line Republican with the biggest fundraising and name recognition advantage and hindering any insurgent campaign from building on a surprise win in a small, early state. The Romney "reforms" would also put control of delegate selection in the hands of the presidential campaigns and increase the threshold for putting a candidate's name in nomination from a plurality of five state delegations to a majority of eight state delegations.

The Romney rules would also allow the Republican National Committee to amend party rules in between conventions. This would be a radical departure from Republican Party practice; the GOP passes rules at the national convention and they remain in force for four years. In 2008, however, a precedent was set to allow a one-time, limited-purpose amendment: A commission was established to recommend new rules and a new calendar for the 2012 presidential nominating process, with an up-or-down RNC vote on adopting the report as a whole.

This time around the Romneyites got rules committee approval for most of their proposals, but some were altered and one failed outright: An attempt to raise the threshold for a minority committee report from 25% to 40%. Opposition to the Romney coup was led by Virginia national committeeman Morton C. Blackwell, the Republican National Committee's institutional memory and founder of the Leadership Institute. From live tweets of reporters on the scene, it appeared that most of the support for the Romney Revolution came from northern, small state, unsuccessful parties, while successful, large, southern state parties opposed the rules changes.

Since convention delegates are apportioned to each state by population with bonuses for Republican electoral success, a win for RINOs in the rules committee, where Massachusetts has as much power as Texas, is no guarantee of a win on the convention floor.

Following adjournment, minority reports were circulated and appear to have received signatures from enough rules committee members (at least 25%) to move forward. The current rule requires a signed petition to be presented to the chairman, vice chairman, or secretary of the rules committee within an hour of the approval of the majority report in order to come before the convention as a minority report. I have not heard whether or not this was accomplished, but there was one report that John Sununu went into hiding to avoid being served with the report by the deadline.

According to a letter from RNC member Morton Blackwell of Virginia to state delegation chairmen, even if the minority report moves forward, the support of at least six state delegations will be required to force a roll call vote. Blackwell states that tremendous pressure is being applied to rules committee members to get them to retract their signatures on the minority reports.

Romney's heavyhanded efforts, by way of Sununu and Ginsberg, to reshape the party in a top-down direction will undo months of fence-mending with the grassroots conservatives whose enthusiasm he needs to win in November. Whether a minority report comes before the convention or not, there's a good chance for some effort to defeat the proposed rules. Even if the challenge to Romney's rules fails, he will have provoked exactly the kind of prime-time conflict presumptive nominees usually seek to avoid, all in an effort to insulate himself and future establishment candidates from grassroots influence and accountability.

Supporters of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul should join together to oppose Romney's rules coup.

If you happen to know someone in Tampa as a delegate to the convention, drop them an email or Facebook message and encourage them to vote against the Romney majority report and to support the minority report. It may also help to contact your state Republican Party headquarters to register your concerns. The phone number for Oklahoma Republican HQ is (405) 528-3501. Email addresses for the state chairman and vice chairman, national committeeman and national committeewoman are on the Oklahoma GOP's contact page.

I will consider the actions (or failures to act) of our state party leaders and delegates on these matters a litmus test that will influence my support for their future ambitions and initiatives.


The Republican Party rules approved in 2008, as amended by RNC adoption of the commission report in 2010.

My GOP 2012 Rules Committee Twitter list.

Shane Vander Hart, Caffeinated Thoughts, Mitt Romney's Assault on the Grassroots at the RNC:

Mitt Romney's legal advisor, Ben Ginsburg, has been attacking grassroots activism within the Republican Party during the Convention of the Rules Committee that met Friday prior to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. I was told late yesterday that one of the amendments that he offered and was passed by the committee changes the RNC rules so that the presumptive nominee and the state party can decide who the delegates are that can go to the national convention. The language of the rule states that the presidential nominee and state party can disavow any delegate.

These are essentially the people who write the platform. Think about the implications of this: If the nominee is anti-life, he or she, can essential disavow any pro-life delegate. If he is in favor of same-sex marriage, he can disavow those delegates. This gives the nominee too much influence over the party and it diminishes the grassroots who choose the delegates to send. It is a top-down approach which favors the establishment.

Letter from Dave Nalle of Republican Liberty Caucus opposing the Romney power grab:

The presidential nomination, which was supposed to be the focus [of the convention], is taking a backseat to a growing controversy over an attempt by a small group of elite party insiders and the Romney campaign to fundamentally change the rules and structure of the party to disenfranchise grassroots Republicans activists and turn the GOP from a party of the people into a party of top-down governance from a select class of professional political organizers.

Buzzfeed: Romney Executes Republican Party Power-Grab:

The Republican National Convention Rules Committee voted 63-38 to approve a new rule allowing granting the Republican National Committee -- and Mitt Romney -- sweeping new powers to amend the governing document of the GOP.

The move came at the encouragement of Mitt Romney supporters on the committee, including Romney's top lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who stressed that it would grant "flexibility" to Romney and the committee to adapt to changing political environments. The rule allows the RNC to amend the party's rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention. And it offers the Republican Establishment a new tool to keep at by Tea Party initiatives that threaten to embarrass or contradict party leadership and stray from a planned message....

Virginia delegate and RNC member Morton Blackwell strenuously objected to the proposed rule change, calling it "the most awful proposed amendments I've seen presented to this committee."

"This is dangerous, it amounts to a power grab," he said. "We are abandoning the historic process by which are rules are adopted."

The Romney allies waited until Friday to propose the amendment, choosing to avoid giving the opposition time to organize by proposing it at the preliminary Rules meeting on Wednesday or during more than three years of RNC Rules Committee discussions.

Business Insider: There Was Major Drama At The GOP Convention Friday, And It Ended With John Sununu Fleeing The Building:

The drama Friday centered around a contentious meeting of the powerful Rules Committee, where Romney's campaign lieutenants, led by his legal counsel Ben Ginsberg, pushed through several changes that would give Romney broad authority over the Republican nominating process.

According to one source who was at the meeting, the saga ended with former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, the committee chair, hightailing it out of the building before committee members could submit dissenting minority opinions, or "minority reports."...

"The rules say that you have an hour after the meeting, but within 15 minutes, we couldn't find [Chairman Sununu] anywhere," Ryan, a Ron Paul supporter and member of Maine's delegation, said. "Finally, we asked an RNC official if they had seen former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu. He said, 'John Sununu! Everyone's looking for him! But he left the building.'"

Buzzfeed: Grassroots Backlash Against Romney Campaign's Rules Changes

The Republican National Convention Rules Committee revolted against the Romney campaign on Friday, after more than six hours of domination by top Romney lawyer Ben Ginsberg.

Ginsberg, who had forced through a series of amendments to make it more difficult for an insurgent candidate to earn delegates to the national convention and earn a spot on the convention ballot, tried to raise the threshold for obtaining "minority reports."...

Drew McKissick, a delegate from South Carolina objected, noting that the rules change could also apply to that same contentious rules committee meeting if approved.

"He is systematically trying to prevent minorities from having even any remote opportunity of being heard," followed Virginia delegate Morton Blackwell to rave applause from the committee. "This is wrong, it's gonna hurt us, it's gonna hurt our presidential candidate."

After being publicly rebuked, Ginsberg withdrew his amendment, prompting further cheers from the committee.

Michael Duncan, FreedomWorks: Stop the Establishment from Rewriting the RNC Rules:

As you may know the Romney camp is pushing new rules that would strip grassroots activists of any meaningful ability to participate in presidential politics. The process has always been bottom-up, but Romney officials have rewritten the rules so that the nominee can stifle any dissent on the platform committee and even unseat delegates. Make no mistake, this will weaken the process by which Republicans chose their candidate for president and push the grassroots out of the party process....

Please locate the phone number of your State Republican Party Headquarters below, call them immediately, and tell them to oppose Romney's new rules that strip grassroots activists of the ability to participate in the Republican platform process.

This is pretty clever: A Tulsa County voter noticed that his signs supporting Dean Martin for Tulsa County Clerk kept disappearing from his yard. After losing several, he put a GPS tracker in one. It disappeared, too, but they found out who had the sign and a bunch of others besides:

When they followed the tracker, they were able to catch the campaign manager of Pat Key, Lee Alan Belmonte, on video stealing signs.

They called Bixby Police who arrested Belmonte for knowingly concealing stolen property. Officers found more than 30 campaign signs in his vehicle.

Lee_Alan_Belmonte-mugshot-20120826.jpgLee Alan Belmonte, a 59-year-old resident of Bixby, was arrested at 7:57 a.m. this morning by Bixby Police and was booked at 10:37 am at the David L. Moss Correctional Center.

A subsequent report from the Dean Martin campaign says that Belmonte isn't the campaign manager for Key, but he is a Pat Key volunteer and his wife works at the County Clerk's office:

We have received word from sources from the Key campaign that Lee Belmonte isn't the campaign manager. However, we have confirmed he is a volunteer. He claims to have 2 other crews helping him. And his wife works at the County Clerk's office under Pat Key. We know he has been paid in the past for putting up campaign signs. We don't know if he has been paid by Pat Key's campaign to do the same.

You may say this isn't reflection of Pat Key. However, people have given her campaign descriptions of the vehicle and the person stealing the signs in the past 2 weeks. And to not shut Lee down immediately, when they had a description of the vehicle and a partial plate number, well that's for the voters to decide if Pat should be held accountable for Lee's criminal actions...

It's worth mentioning that there is no civil service protection for county employees. They serve at the will of the elected official. While I suspect that any newly elected official would retain most of the worker bees from the previous administration, someone in management may reasonably fear being replaced by someone close to the newly elected official -- strong motivation to help your boss get elected.

MORE: Here's video of more than 30 Dean Martin signs being unloaded from Belmonte's van by the Bixby Police:

Another race that will be decided in the August 28, 2012, runoff election is the race for Tulsa County Clerk. No Democrats filed for the open seat, and none of the three candidates received a majority in the June primary, so the runoff between the top two finishers -- Pat Key and Dean Martin -- will decide who will take over this important county post.

Dean_Martin_County_Clerk.jpgAlthough many people I respect are supporting Key, and although Key bought an ad on this site, I believe it is time for a change in leadership at the County Clerk's office, so I am endorsing Dean Martin for Tulsa County Clerk.

Key is the current chief deputy, running to succeed her boss, Earlene Wilson. Wilson was first elected in 2000 to succeed her boss, Joan Hastings. The County Clerk's job is keeping and providing access to public records, including deeds, contracts, agendas, and meeting minutes. As I wrote before the primary, the current County Clerk's office administration, in which Pat Key has been chief deputy, has dragged its feet in providing complete access to the public, and thus Tulsa County lags badly behind other jurisdictions:

The inconvenience of driving to the county courthouse to get complete information about property transactions is no accident, sadly. It's part of the philosophy of the incumbent, a philosophy I assume is shared by Key, the current deputy. The incumbent administration seems to see public access as a problem to be managed, not as an opportunity to serve the public interest. There's a stark difference between the openness and ease of access to be found on the Oklahoma County Clerk's website compared to what you find on the Tulsa County Clerk's website....

Long-time readers will know that I've long been frustrated by the Earlene Wilson/Pat Key administration's foot-dragging on public disclosure. (Here's a complaint from 2004, a response to a March 2009 Journal Record column by Ted Streuli titled "Tulsa County Clerk Earlene Wilson is picking your pocket," and a concern raised this year when Pat Key might not draw an opponent.) Pat Key was Wilson's deputy throughout Wilson's tenure as County Clerk and never raised a public objection, as far as I've found, to Wilson's access-thwarting policies.

Pat Key seems like a decent person and by all accounts a competent manager. It might be very wise for Dean Martin to keep her on as chief deputy if she were willing to stay. But competent management is not enough when an organization isn't moving in the right direction.

The County Clerk's office needs a new direction, a new guiding vision, a change from the leadership of the last twenty years, which seems stuck in the pre-World Wide Web era. I believe that Dean Martin can bring that kind of leadership to the County Clerk's office.

Dean Martin is a lifelong Tulsan, a graduate of Will Rogers High School and Oklahooma State University. Martin has over 30 years of business experience, including the recruitment, training, and management of personnel. He has been endorsed by County Assessor Ken Yazel, former State Senator Randy Brogdon, and former TU football coach and Tulsa County Republican Vice Chairman Dave Rader.

As Tulsa County Clerk, Dean Martin will also give taxpayers another strong advocate for their interests and public transparency on the Tulsa County Budget Board. The County Clerk is one of eight members of the budget board. Right now, only one member of that budget board believes that all county revenues and expendtitures, including those of authorities and trusts, should be included in the county budget. Dean Martin agrees with County Assessor Ken Yazel that the budget should cover all sources of revenue and all county expenditures. Pat Key's boss didn't support that idea in the budget board meeting this year, and Pat Key hasn't expressed any disagreement with her boss on that point.

I'm also pleased that Dean Martin has come out in opposition to the idiotic Vision2 proposal -- the tax, AA corporate welfare, and pork barrel package put forward by the County Commission for November's ballot. Many elected officials may think Vision2 is poorly thought out, but few will have the courage to speak out against it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will back the vote yes side, much of it from people and companies who stand to make a pile of money if it passes. It's a big help for the opposition when elected officials are willing to speak out against an ill-considered tax, borrow, and spend plan like Vision2. Pat Key has not taken a public stand on the issue.

Dean Martin's vision for greater access and transparency has already encouraged some positive changes in the county clerk's office. The office used to close over lunch hour, and Dean Martin said that as clerk he would have workers stagger their lunch breaks so that the office could remain open. Since so much information is only available by going to the office in person, it's important to keep the office open when people with regular jobs have the opportunity to visit. Sometime recently, this policy was implemented.

Pat Key's campaign has made much Tulsa County's A+ rating from Sunshine Review. As someone who uses government websites to research what I write here, I've always been baffled by that A+, as so much of the information I seek has not been available online. The website's disclaimer page may explain the gap between perception and reality (emphasis added):

Sunshine Review is an online open-content collaborative encyclopedia, that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups working to develop a common resource of human knowledge. The structure of the project allows anyone with an Internet connection to alter its content. Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.

That is not to say that you will not find valuable and accurate information in Sunshine Review; much of the time you will. However, Sunshine Review cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. The content of any given article may recently have been changed, vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with the state of knowledge in the relevant fields.

That means it's entirely possible for a Tulsa County employee to have rated the county's website and given it an A+.

As I look at the criteria by which county records are supposed to be graded, it seems to me the county deserves an "incomplete" in most categories. For example, I don't see a checkbook register or credit card receipts posted online, a requirement listed in the budget category. Minutes of past meetings are there for some boards and authorities, but not all.

Some contracts are posted, but many appear to be missing -- e.g. any contracts for the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (TCIA), the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (TCPFA, aka the Fair Board) contract for the Tulsa State Fair midway, the TCPFA lease agreement for Big Splash, the County Treasurer's contract with the office's outside legal counsel -- and others are missing appendices and attachments -- e.g. the Arabian Horse Show contract. Sunshine Review says that a vendor's campaign contributions should be posted with the contract, but I don't see any campaign contribution info on the website at all.

With incompletes in at least five of 10 categories, Tulsa County's website should have a C at best from Sunshine Review. While there have been some recent improvements -- making it easier to find minutes from the agendas, hotlinking agenda items to backup information, both at least partly as a result of my feedback -- it is not an A+ site, and it's a ridiculous boast to claim that it is. There is plenty of room for improvement, as you can see by comparison to the county website that the Sunshine Review criteria list points to as a paragon of transparency: Anderson Co., South Carolina.

It's time for an honest assessment of Tulsa County's efforts to gather, preserve, and make government information public, in an age when "public" means "online." We need an honest grade, not grade inflation, and a concrete plan for improvement. I see no reason to believe that someone from the current administration would depart from the current administration's foot dragging.

The Tulsa County Clerk's office needs new leadership devoted to convenient and complete public access to public information. Dean Martin has that aim as his vision, and that's why I'm voting for Dean Martin for Tulsa County Clerk.

Early voting begins tomorrow (Friday, August 24, 2012), so it's time (past time, really) for my picks in next Tuesday's (August 28, 2012) runoff election. Here's the first in a series:

Shane_Saunders_sign.jpgHouse District 70: Shane Saunders: This is an open seat -- incumbent Ron Peters has hit the 12-year limit -- and with no Democrat in the race, Tuesday's winner becomes the next State Representative for this Tulsa district. As I wrote in my primary endorsement, I've known Shane now for over a decade. He is a principled, across-the-board conservative on social and fiscal issues, intelligent, thoughtful, articulate, and personable -- all qualities that are essential to a representative who will be effective in accomplishing the right aims at the State Capitol.

In knocking doors in my neighborhood for Shane Saunders, I've heard a common theme from voters who have met both candidates: Both candidates are nice people, both are conservative, but the other guy seems uncomfortable with people, while Shane is friendly, outgoing, and at ease dealing with people. Like it or not, being an effective state rep has a strong social component. To get anything done, you need 51 votes, and to get those votes, you have to build coalitions, which involves listening, conversing, and persuading. If you're a wallflower, you won't advance the conservative cause.

It's also important to know specifics on the issues. It's well and good to have the right principles, but legislators vote on specific legislation, not broad principles. In candidate surveys and forums, Shane Saunders has demonstrated that he understands the details, the nuts and bolts of public policy, and so he can effectively shape policy in accordance with his conservative principles.

It's Shane Saunders's intelligence and personal qualities that have attracted support from groups and individuals who disagree with him on principle and whose support he has not sought. Although he's a strong school choice advocate, consistently pro-life (Shane has walked in the March for Life since he was a teenager), an opponent of corporate welfare and extravagant contracts with public employee unions, he's received unsolicited money and endorsements from organizations completely at odds with his views. I've been told by Shane that his opponent actively sought a meeting with the OEA to get their support. The OEA met with the opponent, but they also contacted Shane for a meeting, as a courtesy to him. Having heard them both, they seem to have been impressed with Shane's candor and knowledge, despite deep disagreements with him on their core issues.

It's an ideal situation: A conservative state representative who stands firm on principle in the face of opposition, but who nevertheless has the respect of his opponents for having his facts straight and making an intelligent case for his point of view.

I'm proud to be Shane Saunders's friend, to be a part of his campaign team, and to urge you to vote for Shane Saunders for State Representative in House District 70.

I've been told that my name has been mentioned in connection with the decision of the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee to censure County Commissioners John Smaligo and Fred Perry for their vote to put the Vision2 sales tax on the ballot for November. For the moment, a few disconnected thoughts will have to suffice:

1. I attended the meeting as a precinct chairman and thus as a member of the County Committee, not as a blogger or member of the media. This is why I didn't live-blog or live-tweet the proceedings and haven't written about what individuals said during debate or how they voted. A county committee meeting is not the kind of semi-public event that a party convention is. The press wasn't invited to attend.

2. I was asked by Vice Chairman Mike McCutchin to hold off on publishing anything about the resolution and the censure until the chairman issued an official press release, and I have done so.

3. There was unanimity in opposition to the Vision2 proposal. The debate was over what should be said in a resolution. I argued against one proposal (brought forward by Greg Hill, not "Gary Hill" as the Whirled story had it), which would have incorporated my blog entry that compared Vision2 to President Obama's policies. I argued that language appropriate to an individual expressing his own opinion might not be appropriate to a statement coming from the party as a body. Someone else pointed out that liberal Democrats have often joined conservative Republicans in opposing local sales tax increases, and the term ObamaVision may give unnecessary offense and hinder an alliance to defeat the tax. Greg Hill's proposal was never actually moved for consideration (another error in the Whirled story; to move things along, I moved for adoption of Ronda Vuillemont-Smith's shorter, simpler resolution.

4. Support for censure was overwhelming; there were only three votes against. The topic came up during the debate over the resolution opposing Vision2, and after some back and forth there was a consensus that any censure should be a separate matter, not part of the resolution addressing Vision2.

5. Yes, I made the motion for censure, but I wouldn't have bothered had there not already been a strong consensus in support of the idea, as voiced during the debate on the resolution. I don't recall there being much debate on censure -- people were either for it or against it. I certainly didn't have to twist any arms.

6. Putting a tax on the ballot is not a neutral act, as Commissioners Smaligo and Perry would like you to believe. I don't recall either of them ever putting forward a ballot measure to cut TCC's millage rate or end the Vision 2025 sales tax as soon as sufficient reserves exist to meet all outstanding obligations, although both ideas are worthy of discussion. They haven't given us a choice between spending three-quarters of a billion dollars on Vision2 vs. a short-term G. O. bond issue to, say, rebuild the levees. No, they picked one particular proposal -- a particularly bad proposal, vague, hastily assembled, and packed with corporate welfare and pork barrel, heavy laden with interest and fees -- to put before voters, and they blocked any alternative from coming before us. They've only given us a yes or no option. They have therefore endorsed this proposal by putting it on the ballot.

7. Furthermore -- and this is what makes their vote particularly deserving of censure -- this is now the second time that they have forced the grassroots fiscal conservative Republicans who got them elected to spend their personal time and treasure trying to counter a "vote yes" campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on ads and consultants.

I remember primary runoff night in 2006, standing in Fred Perry's living room and looking around at all the conservative activists who had volunteered for Fred. These same people had worked hard to defeat previous tax increases, and they supported Fred for County Commission because they believed he was a limited-government, low-tax, free market conservative who would fight to reign in the growth of county government and oppose new taxes.

Instead, Perry and Smaligo voted to put the river tax on the ballot -- a flawed plan that would have raised the overall rate of sales tax. (Yes, Mr. Smaligo, you have indeed voted for a tax increase.) I suspect at least 90% of the people in that room that night would now express disappointment with Fred Perry, and I suspect that many of John Smaligo's supporters from 2006 feel the same way. Now they've put a second tax on the ballot, and for conservative Republicans it's another slap in the face. Once may be forgivable; twice is not.

8. This Republican county platform took a clear stand in opposition to renewing the Four to Fix the County sales tax. No one dreamed that they'd come after Vision 2025 renewal more than four years before it's set to expire, or I'm certain that a plank opposing Vision 2025 extension would have passed overwhelmingly.

9. To those who think the parties should remain silent on this issue, I agree that this isn't a Republican v. Democrat issue. But the Vision2 proposal violates Republican free market and limited-government principles which are clearly outlined in the party platform, so it's appropriate for Republican activist leaders to oppose it on principle. We don't approve of stimulus packages and bailouts at the Federal level; why should support them on a local level? Liberal Democrats may also conclude that the proposal violates some of their key principles -- for example, the use of a regressive sales tax to funnel money to politically connected companies should be anathema to consistent liberals and conservatives alike, if for somewhat different reasons. I would hope that consistent progressive Democrats would push their party to take a stand opposing Vision2 as well.

10. To the Whirled commenter who accuses me of hypocrisy: I left that company seven years ago for better opportunities, long before Broken Arrow offered to help fund their new facility. I don't live in that city, so I'll leave it to the people of Broken Arrow to judge whether this was an appropriate use of tax dollars.


Members of the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee met on Saturday, August 18, 2012 and adopted a resolution calling for the defeat of the Vision2 county sales tax propositions on the November ballot and opposing any use of Vision 2025 funds to support, promote, or fund Vision2.

The County Committee is the governing body of the Tulsa County Republican Party, consisting of all Republican precinct chairmen and vice-chairmen, who are elected at precinct meetings every two years.

The resolution expresses opposition to government intervention in the private sector, the amount of debt to be incurred, the cost of that debt in interest and fees, the 13-year length of the proposed tax, and the effective surrender of city-owned assets to county control. Below is the text of the resolution:

Resolution Opposing Passage of Vision2 Tax Proposal
Adopted by the Tulsa County Republican County Committee
Saturday, August 18, 2012

Whereas, the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee believes in limited government and less taxes, and

Whereas, the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee believes government intervention into private businesses as demonstrated in the GM bailout is wrong and not the best use of tax dollars, and

Whereas, the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee believes it is bad policy for any level of government to go into debt, and

Whereas, the proposed Vision2 tax in Tulsa County would cost Tulsa County taxpayers $748.8 million in new taxes, and

Whereas, the proposed Vision2 tax would extend the existing Vision 2025 tax from expiring in 2017 to expiring in 2029, and

Whereas, a major portion of the Vision2 tax is to improve three facilities at the Tulsa International Airport and to create a $52.9 million "closing fund", and

Whereas, most businesses in Tulsa County will be disadvantaged by this tax as they will not be given any influx of taxpayer dollars to support their business yet some will be competing directly with these few tax supported businesses, and

Whereas, over $90 million of the tax dollars will be spent on interest and bond costs, and

Whereas, the cities of Tulsa County should not surrender control of city assets to a county government,

Therefore, be it resolved the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee does not support the passage of the Vision2 tax package and urges all Tulsa County voters to oppose these ballot initiatives on November 6, 2012, and

Therefore, be it resolved no Vision 2025 funds shall be used to support, promote or fund Vision2.

This is approved by members of the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee on this 18th day of August, 2012.

In addition to adopting the above resolution opposing the Vision2 county sales tax, the members of the County Committee voted to censure Republican County Commissioners John Smaligo and Fred Perry for voting to place the Vision2 sales tax propositions on the ballot.
The Tulsa County Republican Party Platform states:

  • We support reductions, when feasible, of both taxes and government spending as a general rule of government.
  • We oppose any tax increase without demonstrated public need.

Smaller, limited government and lower taxes are a foundation principal of the Republican Party. The Vision2 tax package fully goes against the very principles on which fiscal conservative Republicans stand for.

Point of contact for this press release is:
J.B. Alexander, Chairman

A possible response to my earlier entry, Vision2 share vs. Tulsa County municipality population, is that it doesn't count the money in Proposition 1 to improve city-owned facilities and to provide "equipment and fixtures and other capital improvements" for businesses in the "Airport Industrial Complex" as part of Tulsa's share.

Even if that were a wise way to spend $254 million -- and it's not -- the City of Tulsa and its citizens would be far better off financially if the City opposed the Vision2 county tax and raised the city sales tax by the same amount.

There's precedent for the idea: Way back in 2008, when we were debating different approaches to fixing our streets, Councilor Bill Martinson proposed that the city take over county sales tax streams as they expired -- adding two-twelfths of a cent when the County's "4 to Fix the County, Part II" tax expired in 2011, and adding 0.6% when the County's Vision 2025 tax expired at the end of 2016. The overall sales tax would remain the same at 8.517%, but most of the county's share would be shifted to pay for city capital improvements that directly affect our quality of life. The plan ultimately adopted by the City Council and the voters captured the "4 to Fix" 2/12ths, but left the Vision 2025 tax untouched.

Over the last 12 months, the City of Tulsa has collected about $71 million per penny of sales tax revenue. Over 13 years at that level of sales tax collection, the 0.6% sales tax under discussion would generate $553.8 million in revenue for the City of Tulsa. Deduct the $254 million AA bailout from that number, and there'd still be almost $300 million that the City of Tulsa could spend on the priorities in its capital improvements process. Better still, that money would be spent under the tighter competitive bidding laws that apply to the city and the city's more transparent approach to picking projects for capital improvements sales tax packages, a process that has its roots in the Inhofe mayoralty and the original 3rd Penny.

So under the Vision2 plan adopted by the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners, the City of Tulsa would get a $400 million share -- if you count the American Airlines bailout in that amount. If instead the City of Tulsa adopted its own 0.6%, 13 year sales tax, the City of Tulsa would get $553.8 million. For the same overall sales tax level, City of Tulsa would be better off by $153.8 million, a nearly 40% increase in money available for capital improvements.

I can't imagine any rational, honest reason for any City of Tulsa official to go along with Tulsa County's sales tax scheme.

AND ANOTHER THING: Under the Tulsa County Vision2 scheme, the City of Tulsa has to get the County Commission's approval on how the city spends it's share of the Proposition 2 municipal pork barrel bribery fund.

Projects shall be identified by the governing body of each Political Subdivision following public hearing and input of public comment, in such form and process as determined by such governing body, and shall be submitted to the Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County, Oklahoma to determine whether the sales tax collected pursuant to this Resolution may be properly expended for such Project.

Languages evolve over the centuries, and so it's not surprising that there are differences of opinion as to how Attic Greek, the language of ancient Athens during the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, should be pronounced.

In prepping for the first session of the Ancient Greek class I'm teaching at Augustine Christian Academy, I discovered that the pronunciation guide textbook differed in several important respects from the method I'd learned in college. For example, the new book by Prof. Cynthia Shelmerdine says that eta should be pronounced as "a" in man; I'd learned it as the "a" in late. Shelmerdine says omega should be like the o in long; I'd learned it as the "o" in lone. She calls for pronouncing phi and theta as breathy p and t rather than as ph in phone and th in thin.

In addition to the formal Attic Greek courses I took in college, I took a course in New Testament Greek during MIT's Independent Activities Period (IAP), a kind of minimester in between New Year's and the start of spring classes in February. The teacher, an electrical engineering graduate student, had us use modern Greek pronunciation, which I found confusing. Part of the problem is that modern Greek uses the same sound -- "ee" -- for a wide range of vowels and diphthongs, while the traditional academic approach to pronunciation assigned different sounds to each.

The consonants changed, too. Beta was now pronounced by buzzing air between closed lips -- halfway between English v and b. I remember being puzzled that countries like Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, and Botswana weren't to be found near the front of the line for the parade of nations at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens The mystery was solved a while later, when they all showed up toward the end of the Ms. Apparently the combination m-p is as close as modern Greek gets to an English b, giving us Μπαχάμες, Μπαγκλαντές, Μπαρμπάντος, Μπελίζ, Μπενίν, and Μποτσουάνα, respectively. And since delta has turned into the th in then, the closest Greek equivalent to the English d is n-t ντ.

What I knew as the traditional academic pronunciation traces its roots back to Erasmus, the 16th century Dutch scholar who also published the first printed Greek New Testament, assembling the best available manuscripts available in northern Europe at the time and drawing on the expertise of the Greek diaspora, displaced by the Ottoman Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire in the mid 15th century.

From what I read (see links to a selection of articles below), Erasmus's approach is probably pretty close to the sound of the language in classical Athens; later textbook variations deviated from accuracy to achieve the pedagogical goal of a one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds.

But among the various Greek city-states different pronunciations and spelling conventions prevailed. By the end of the classical period, as Alexander unified Greece and conquered the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, he spread a simpler language, the "common tongue," much closer in pronunciation to modern Greek.

So how should Ancient Greek be pronounced in schools? I've opted for the traditional approach, so that sight and sound work together to aid memorization.


The table below compares each Tulsa County municipality's share of the proposed Proposition 2 sales tax -- 0.29% for 13 years -- with the municipality's share of Tulsa County's population. The figures, from the 2010 U. S. Census, include only the population of each city within Tulsa County (all but three of Tulsa County's municipalities overlap into surrounding counties). The population figure for Tulsa County is for the area of the county not within any municipality -- it's a pretty small percentage.

If you're wondering about Sapulpa: The seat of Creek County annexed the area along I-44 just east of the eastern terminus of the Turner Turnpike. Not many people live there, but there are stores, fast food restaurants, and motels. So Sapulpa gets the city sales tax for the retail development at Tulsa's western gateway.

Political Subdivision Percentage of Sales Tax Political Subdivision Allocated to Projects of Political Subdivision Percentage of Tulsa County Population
Tulsa County* 28.74% 5.77%
City of Tulsa 43.63% 63.91%
City of Bixby 3.13% 3.43%
City of Broken Arrow 12.19% 13.36%
City of Collinsville 0.85% 0.93%
City of Glenpool 1.63% 1.79%
City of Jenks 2.56% 2.80%
City of Owasso 3.98% 4.36%
City of Sand Springs 2.79% 3.07%
Town of Skiatook 0.32% 0.35%
Town of Sperry 0.18% 0.20%
Liberty, Sapulpa, Mannford, Lotsee
Total 100.00% 100.00%

The Summer Olympics are over and host city London goes back to life as usual. What physical and emotional legacy will the 30th Olympiad leave behind?

Photographer Joe Pack and filmmaker Gary Hustwit has been traveling to former Olympic host cities to explore that very question, in preparation for a book to be published in limited edition next year:

The Olympic City project on Facebook

The Olympic City: project homepage

In The Olympic City, we're documenting the successes and failures, the forgotten remnants and ghosts of the Olympic spectacle. Some former Olympic sites are retrofitted and used in ways that belie their grand beginnings; turned into prisons, housing, malls, gyms, churches. Others sit unused for decades and become tragic time capsules, examples of misguided planning and broken promises of the benefits that the Games would bring. We're interested in these disparate ideas -- decay and rebirth -- and how each site seems to have gone one way or the other, either by choice or circumstance. We're equally interested in the lives of the people whose neighborhoods have been transformed by Olympic development.

Articles on the Reason and Atlantic Cities websites have a few photos from the project:

Reason: The Sad Wasteful Afterlife of Olympic Venues

The Atlantic Cities: Sarajevo: Post-Olympic City and Post-War City

The Toronto Star has a related story about the extravagance and waste of Athens' Olympic infrastructure: Why Athens has lived to regret hosting the Olympic Games

The 6,500-capacity table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics hall, which a developer has long planned to turn into a shopping mall, is still closed. The 8,100-capacity taekwondo arena, which officials talked of turning into a convention centre, is rented a few days per year for political conventions, concerts and Disney on Ice. The badminton hall was turned into a theatre -- but a court has ruled the building illegal and ordered it demolished.

Why London Is Yawning Over the Olympics
Have Western countries finally outgrown the sports socialism of the Olympic Games?
(emphasis added):

The Olympics are a giant exercise in sports socialism--or crony capitalism, if you prefer--where the profits are privatized and the costs socialized. The games never pay for themselves because they are designed not to. That's because the International Olympic Committee (an opaque "nongovernmental" bureaucracy made up of fat cats from various countries) pockets most of the revenue from sponsorships and media rights (allegedly to promote global sports), requiring the host country to pay the bulk of the costs. Among the very few times the games haven't left a city swimming in red ink was after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when voters, having learned from Montreal's experience, barred the use of public funds, forcing the IOC to use existing facilities and pick up most of the tab for new ones.

The Atlantic Cities: For Montreal, Memories of the Olympics Boondoggle Remain

But the Montreal games also had to contend with financial disaster. Their price tag swelled from an original estimate of about $360 million to $1.6 billion, when the final bill for construction came in. Bonds to finance the overage were only paid off in 2006, three decades after the Olympic torch was extinguished.

Reason: Lucky Paris

You still have to wonder: If the games had gone to Paris instead, is there any reason London still couldn't give itself a new park, a new stadium, and handicap-accessible facilities? If publicly financed "regeneration" is such a great thing, why does it require a sports event to unleash it? Boosters love to call the Olympics an "opportunity"--but how are they an opportunity to do something the government could do anytime?

They're an opportunity because they come with their own momentum. A city tapped to host the Olympics is like a nation-state operating under wartime conditions: It has a license to do things that might otherwise be blocked. While the U.K. was still campaigning to host the event, Martin Samuel of the London Times observed that the London Development Agency was dithering on a plan to fully compensate the small businesses that would be displaced by the new facilities. (Such problems eventually led the Marshgate Lane Business Group to formally oppose London's bid for the games.) "Right now," Samuel wrote, "there remains a battle for hearts and minds, but if London wins, the hoopla will begin and the LDA will be able compulsorily to purchase land without respect for local sensibilities." Industrial policy always has winners and losers. The Olympics are an "opportunity" for the victors to claim their winnings.

Back in 1972, the scheduled host state for the 1976 Winter Games decided the expense and the environmental impact wasn't worth it. Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the expenditure of public funds for the Olympic Games. The games were moved to Innsbruck, which had hosted the games in 1964.

NBC News: The Olympics that weren't: How Colorado won, and lost, the '76 Winter Games

Boulder Daily Camera: Denver said 'no thanks' to 1976 Olympics

Mental Floss: No Thanks: Why Denver Turned Down the 1976 Olympics

Rocky Mountain News: Colorado only state ever to turn down Olympics

acalogo.jpgIt's back-to-school time for the Bates family. In years past, that applied to our three kids and Mom, who homeschools the youngest two. This year it applies to Dad, too.

This morning I taught my first session of Ancient Greek I at Augustine Christian Academy (ACA) as part-time teacher. There was a need, and with clearance from my employer, I offered to teach the class.

We began today with the basics: The alphabet, accents, breathings, consonant categories, vowels and diphthongs, punctuation and capitalization. Homework included some worksheets for practicing Greek handwriting.

There's room for a few more in the class, and this is an opportunity for homeschooled students who want to learn ancient Greek. ACA allows homeschooled students in grades 6-12 to sign up for individual classes.

Becoming a part-time student at ACA also opens the door for optional participation in other aspects of school life: chapel and Bible studies, membership in one of the school's four houses, school musicals, school trips, the school's annual formal banquet, and more. To learn more about ACA's options for homeschool families, contact the school office at 918-832-4600.

The Greek I course I teach is offered two days a week at the beginning of the school day, a great way to get your homeschooler off to a good start. ACA also offers Latin and Hebrew, art, music, theater, logic, philosophy, economics, Biblical exegesis, history, literature, and the full range of math and science. Here's the full list of ACA classes for 2012-2013.

ParthenonThe Parthenon by Konstantinos Dafalias on Flickr, Creative Commons attribution license.

A bit about my background in this subject: I studied Greek at MIT, part of my self-designed dual major in classics and computer science. During my time there, MIT offered a few modern languages (French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese), but Greek was the only ancient language offered. (For Latin, you had to cross-register up the street at Harvard.)The Greek courses were taught by MIT's only classics professor, Harald Anton Thrap Olsen Reiche. Prof. Reiche served on the MIT faculty from 1955 until his retirement in 1991. In addition to formal courses, I was in a small group -- myself, one other student, and a literature professor -- reading through Plato's Apology in Greek, and I took an IAP course in New Testament Greek taught by an engineering grad student who insisted on using modern Greek pronunciation, very different from the classical pronunciation I'd learned.

The Tulsa County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday morning, to the disappointment of many and the surprise of none, to put a 13-year sales tax extension on the ballot this coming November, more than four years before the tax is scheduled to expire. The package is being called Vision2 by its supporters. I call it ObamaVision for reasons described in a previous entry. The tax plan is a sort of Keynesian stimulus, much like the Obama stimulus package, borrowing today against future revenues to spend now.

The proposed taxes will last for 13 years without any provision for early termination. They will go into effect just as the Vision 2025 taxes expire at midnight on December 31, 2016 - January 1, 2017. Note that the resolutions leave certain expenses undefined, such as the amount of revenue that will pay debt service and bond fees, the amount of money in the Economic Development Slush Fund. The current Vision 2025 sales tax fund has raised an average of $53,426,185.35 per year over the first eight years of collections. Assuming no growth, Vision2 Proposition 1 would raise about $359 million, leaving over $100 million for debt service and Slush Fund. Proposition 2, the strings-attached bribe fund for the municipalities would raise about $335 million, again assuming no growth.

Tulsa would be a donor city under the scheme. Based on the last 12 months of tax revenue, the City of Tulsa collects a little over $71 million for each penny of sales tax. If the City of Tulsa were to impose its own 0.29% tax, it would collect about $268 million over 13 years. Under the county tax scheme, the City of Tulsa would only receive about $146 million (43.63% of $335 million), about 54% of what it could collect on its own at the same tax rate over the same period.

Below are direct links to the ballot resolutions on the county website. The ballot resolutions define the language that will appear on the ballot and any constraints on how the taxes received can be spent. While much of the text of the resolutions is boilerplate, Section 1 defines what will appear on the ballot, Section 4 defines the amount of tax increase, Section 5 defines the period for collecting the tax, Section 6 defines the rebate, and Section 8 defines how the money is to be spent.

Ballot Resolution for Vision2 Proposition No. 1: American Airlines Bailout, Economic Development Slush Fund

Ballot Resolution for Vision2 Proposition No. 2: Bribes for the cities (with strings attached)

And here is a summary of each, with the text of Section 8:

Proposition No. 1:

0.310% sales tax, collected 1/1/2017 - 12/31/2029 for "promoting economic development within Tulsa County, Oklahoma."

Section 8. It is hereby declared to be the purpose of this Resolution to provide revenue for the purpose of promoting economic development within Tulsa County, Oklahoma, and/or to be applied or pledged toward the payment of principal and interest on any indebtedness, including refunding indebtedness, incurred by or on behalf of Tulsa County for such purpose, including the following projects:

Acquiring, constructing, improving or rehabilitating installations, buildings, improvements and infrastructure and other capital improvements to be owned by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, or the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma or a public trust or trusts formed for the benefit of either or both, for use by industrial or commercial concerns on locations in and around the Tulsa International Airport Industrial Complex.

Not to exceed $122,000,000.00

Acquiring, delivering and installing of equipment and fixtures and other capital improvements to be owned by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, or the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma or a public trust or trusts formed for the benefit of either or both, for use by industrial or commercial concerns on locations in and around the Tulsa International Airport Industrial Complex.

Not to exceed $132,000,000.00

All sales tax revenues in excess of the amounts necessary to complete the above listed projects (not to exceed $254,000,000.00 in total) plus any advance funding costs associated therewith shall be used to fund land, buildings, infrastructure and other capital improvements for the purpose of promoting economic development within Tulsa County, Oklahoma, including funding job creation programs, as determined by a public trust having Tulsa County, Oklahoma, the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the City of Bixby, Oklahoma, the City of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the City of Collinsville, Oklahoma, the City of Glenpool, Oklahoma, the City of Jenks, Oklahoma, the City of Owasso, Oklahoma, the City of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, the Town of Skiatook, Oklahoma and the Town of Sperry, Oklahoma, as its beneficiaries. Such public trust shall have seven trustees consisting of, ex-officio, the three members of the governing body of Tulsa County, Oklahoma, and the Mayor of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and three members each of whom shall be at the time of appointment the Mayor of a municipality, other than the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, located in whole or in part in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, appointed by the presiding officer of the governing body of Tulsa County, Oklahoma, and confirmed by a majority of the persons who constitute the governing body of Tulsa County, Oklahoma. In the expenditure of all funds hereunder, preference shall be given to local vendors and contractors to the extent permitted by law. In addition, such public trust shall approve any deletion or addition of projects from those listed above and any major change in scope, following a public hearing by such trust.

Proposition No. 2:

0.290% sales tax, collected 1/1/2017 - 12/31/2029 for "purpose of acquiring, constructing, furnishing and equipping capital improvements to be owned by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, incorporated municipalities located in whole or in part within Tulsa County, Oklahoma, or the State of Oklahoma or any instrumentality thereof."

Section 8. It is hereby declared to be the purpose of this Resolution to provide revenue for the purpose of, acquiring, constructing, furnishing and equipping capital improvements to be owned by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, incorporated municipalities located in whole or in part within Tulsa County, Oklahoma, or the State of Oklahoma or any instrumentality thereof, and/or to be applied or pledged toward the payment of principal and interest on any indebtedness, including refunding indebtedness, incurred by or on behalf of Tulsa County or incorporated municipalities located in whole or in part within Tulsa County, Oklahoma for such purpose. All sales tax revenues received shall be used for such purpose, as determined by the following provisions:

"Capital Improvements" as used herein shall mean all items and articles, either new or replacements, not consumed with use but only diminished in value with prolonged use, including but not limited to, the purchase, lease or rental of machinery, equipment, traffic control devices and street lighting systems, furniture and fixtures; the acquisition of all real properties; the construction, reconstruction and repair of buildings, appurtenances and improvements to real property; the construction, reconstruction and repair of roads, highways, streets, alleys, overpasses, underpasses, bridges, trails, sidewalks, and other public ways, including the acquisition of rights-of-way and other real property necessary for such construction; the construction, reconstruction and repair of water systems and facilities, sanitary and storm sewer systems and facilities, drainage improvements, data transmission or processing systems and facilities, and communications systems and facilities, including the acquisition of rights-of-way and other real property necessary for such construction; the costs and expenses related to the aforesaid including, design, engineering, architectural, real property or legal fees.

Sales taxes actually collected shall be used for projects for Tulsa County, Oklahoma, the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the City of Bixby, Oklahoma, the City of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the City of Collinsville, Oklahoma, the City of Glenpool, Oklahoma, the City of Jenks, Oklahoma, the City of Owasso, Oklahoma, the City of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, the Town of Skiatook, Oklahoma and the Town of Sperry, Oklahoma (collectively the "Political Subdivisions") based upon the following percentages of sales tax actually collected:

Political Subdivision Percentage of Sales Tax Political Subdivision Allocated to Projects of Political Subdivision
Tulsa County 28.74%
City of Tulsa 43.63%
City of Bixby 3.13%
City of Broken Arrow 12.19%
City of Collinsville .85%
City of Glenpool 1.63%
City of Jenks 2.56%
City of Owasso 3.98%
City of Sand Springs 2.79%
Town of Skiatook .32%
Town of Sperry .18%
Total 100.00%

Projects shall be identified by the governing body of each Political Subdivision following public hearing and input of public comment, in such form and process as determined by such governing body, and shall be submitted to the Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County, Oklahoma to determine whether the sales tax collected pursuant to this Resolution may be properly expended for such Project. Any advance funding costs associated with funding a Project prior to the date a sufficient amount of sales taxes is collected for such Project shall be paid by the Political Subdivision from other funds, or shall be paid from such Political Subdivision's allocation of sales tax in such amounts and proportions as determined by the Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County, Oklahoma.

A clique of corporate welfare queens and pork barrel princes today announced a plan to bring Barack Obama's proven* economic development strategies to Tulsa County.

The $747.9 million borrow, spend, and tax ObamaVision plan embraces five central principles of Obamanomics:

(1) Use government spending to stimulate economic development, because government knows best. And we've seen what Obama's stimulus has done for unemployment.

(2) Saddle our kids with debt: The proposal would have the county borrow money now against pledges of sales tax revenues starting five years from now and continuing from 2017 to 2029. If we get to 2017 and need money for a higher priority, we'll just borrow against revenues starting in 2030.

(3) Use tax dollars to subsidize bankrupt companies in failing industries. Don't diversify your economy -- double down!

(4) Spread the wealth around: Take money away from taxpayers and their personal priorities and give it to politically connected construction companies. Take money that would have been available for cities to tax for city priorities, take a cut of it, then give some of it back to the cities with strings attached. From each according to his ability, to each according to his greed.

(5) Let politicians pick winners and losers in the private sector: A committee of politicians will decide how to spend a $50 million slush fund to subsidize private business. They'll use the same economic judgment that brought us Solyndra and Great Plains Airlines, both typical examples of what happens when government gets involved in the private sector.

The key objectives of the proposal: (1) Give politicians a chance to claim they're doing something to improve the economy. (2) Allow politically connected special interests to get a share of the money. The group rejected the free market approach of lowering taxes and improving the general business climate because the free market approach doesn't let politicians take credit for jobs and it doesn't allow the Chamber, bond advisers and bond brokers, construction and program management companies to "wet their beaks."

Republican primary voters in Kansas got rid of corporate-welfare backers earlier this week, with the help of the local branch of Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which prefers encouraging a healthy business climate for everyone, rather than shoveling subsidies at a favored few companies. Here in Oklahoma, however, the Tulsa Metro Chamber will continue to support corporate welfare, cronyism, and pork barrel spending, and Republican political consultants, pollsters, and PR firms will line up at the trough -- the chance to work for the vote yes campaign.

* Proven not to work.

U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn will hold a town hall meeting tonight, Monday, August 6, 2012, at 6:00 p.m. at the University of Tulsa in the TUPAC, corner of 5th and Harvard.

Coburn tends to leave as much time as possible in his town hall meetings for answering constituent questions, keeping his own speechifying to a minimum. It's a good opportunity to make your concerns known and to hear Coburn's frank replies. Whether he agrees with you or not, Tom Coburn will tell you what he thinks.

Oklahoma continues under a statewide burn ban. Today, August 4, 2012, is another red flag alert day -- high winds, low humidity, high temperatures, and extreme drought combine to increase the chance of wildfires spreading out of control.

Northeastern Oklahoma is also under an excessive heat warning, with temperatures expected to top 110.

Firefighters are trying to contain wildfires in western Creek County (between Oilton and Mannford), eastern Cleveland County (south of Lake Thunderbird), eastern Oklahoma County near Luther, and elsewhere in the state.

I have been unable to find up-to-date official sources of information about the wildfires, and news outlets seem stale as well. Yesterday the Turner Turnpike was closed near Luther because of smoke from the fires; the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority tweeted late last night that it had been reopened, then tweeted that it hadn't, then tweeted that it had been reopened. But at least the OTA bothered to communicate via Twitter.

A news conference a few minutes ago reported that the fire near Mannford covers about 78 square miles and that the following roads remain closed:

State Highway 33 from State Highway 48 to State Highway 99
State Highway 51 from State Highway 48 to State Highway 99
State Highway 99 from State Highway 51 to State Highway 33
State Highway 48 from State Highway 51 to State Highway 33

A press release from the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office that seems to be official, although it's not on the OCSO website, says firefighters are continuing to put out hotspots in the Luther fire, which suggests (although they don't explicitly say so) that it's under control.

I have been unable to find an up-to-date, comprehensive list of roads closed due to wildfires. The Department of Public Safety road conditions page, used during winter weather, hasn't been touched since June 22.

There are some unofficial sources of information:

The Twitter hashtag is #okfire. The Oklahoma Crisis Mappers team has set up a crowdsourced Oklahoma fire map.

This Google map of the eastern Cleveland County wildfire is marked to reflect radio transmissions from the Cleveland County Fire Department.

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