September 2012 Archives

This week civic group TulsaNow announced the organization's opposition to the Vision2 county sales tax scheme. Tulsa Now is a civic organization that was founded in 2001 to promote discussion and strategic thinking about Tulsa's present and future. Here's TulsaNow's official statement; I'll have a few comments to follow.

tulsaNow-logo.pngTulsaNow is a non-profit group who supports forward-thinking zoning, development and public-dollar reinvestment. We were formed over a decade ago based on the desire to push Tulsa forward and immediately began helping the effort that became Vision2025.

The idea of a program to follow in the footsteps of Vision2025 is very exciting to us, but we would not be a responsible organization if we did not take a critical eye to every project that effects the issues that we support.

Our organization has been studying and discussing Vision2 since the name was first mentioned only a few months ago. We have researched, considered and debated every aspect of the project and how it was put together. On September 26th, our governing board met to decide if we had an official position on Vision2, and here are the results.

On Proposition 1, for economic development, we found that:

1. There is insufficient emphasis given towards promoting diverse and sustainable industries.

2. The closing fund did not have adequate guidance over how the money should be spent, and the citizens are not fairly represented in those decisions.

3. The closing fund has no set collection limit and is projected to collect far more than originally advertised. This means the citizens lack direct influence not only on how the money is spent, but how much is spent.

Because of these three factors, our board unanimously voted to Oppose proposition 1.

On proposition 2, for quality of life projects, we found that:

1. The vote is improperly rushed as the tax collections and spending cannot begin until 2017. This time could be spent collecting public input, planning and prioritizing. In addition, the amount of time between when the project was originally proposed, and the day of election, was not sufficient.

2. The City of Tulsa, and other municipalities, can only "ask" for projects. The ultimate control over what gets funded is held by the County. Additionally, the areas where the tax money is spent and the area where the tax money is collected do not coincide well. This may be more appropriate as a City tax and not County.

3. While many of the projects proposed coincide with the priorities of PlaniTulsa, little or no focus was given towards redevelopment and transportation issues which are key components of PlaniTulsa. Additionally, little or no focus was given towards the areas of the city deemed to be the most in need of public dollar reinvestment.

While Vision2 may fund many projects that we are passionately in support of, because of these three factors our board voted to Oppose proposition 2. This vote was not unanimous.

Some background to put this announcement in perspective:

While I am a member of TulsaNow's board, and have been for many years, I am at one extreme of the spectrum when it comes to tax elections. Most, if not all, of the other members on the board enthusiastically supported Vision 2025 and the River Tax in 2007, so their rejection of Vision2 is notable. I tend to put the burden of proof on the proponents of a tax package; most of the other board members would give any tax package the benefit of the doubt. A tax package would have to be especially odious to overcome their inclination to vote yes. Nevertheless, the board unanimously voted to oppose Proposition 1; the vote on Proposition 2 was nearly unanimous.

TulsaNow was founded in 2001 by four individuals from the Terwilliger Heights neighborhood -- former Mayor Rodger Randle, TV personality Karen Keith, arts leader Linda Frazier, and local historian Marilyn Inhofe Tucker, who were frustrated after the defeat of "It's Tulsa's Time" in November 2000, the second attempt to pass a sales tax for a downtown arena. (You can read the official history of TulsaNow here.)

As this core group expanded to include friends of friends and acquaintances to become a broader network, it reached me, because of my involvement in the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations and in opposition to "It's Tulsa's Time." Wendy Thomas was brought in as a facilitator to lead brainstorming discussions and corral ideas into a mission and an organization.

In July 2002, TulsaNow members served as facilitators at Mayor LaFortune's vision summit and helped collate the thousands of ideas generated at that day-long event. Shortly thereafter, the city-led effort got merged into the County Commission's "Dialog" process, and, in the opinion of many TulsaNow members, the vision process was hijacked to get an arena tax passed by packing enough pork around it to get a majority of the vote. (TulsaNow did have a strong influence on one project in particular, with several people involved in the Downtowns and Neighborhoods task force.)

Many of us wanted a more strategic plan, a real vision, defined by Glenn Hiemstra as a "compelling description of your preferred future." We wanted to address urban design and land use -- to talk about the issues eventually addressed in the PLANiTULSA process.

Initially, the TulsaNow board voted not to make an endorsement and to express our frustration with the way Vision 2025 was put together, but our founders, who more than anything just wanted Tulsa to pass something somewhat MAPS-ish, pushed successfully to have TulsaNow endorse Vision 2025. (The debate over TulsaNow's Vision 2025 stance led to this email, calling on my fellow board members to be willing to say publicly what they'd been saying privately about the shortcomings with the process and projects.)

After Vision 2025, TulsaNow focused more on urban development issues, co-sponsoring public forums on a variety of issues, and maintaining an online discussion board. TulsaNow put together a grassroots-driven online shopping, dining, services, and entertainment guide for visitors to downtown when the organization paid to promote downtown wasn't doing anything. TulsaNow members were heavily involved in promoting and facilitating the PLANiTULSA development process and supporting the resulting plan through the adoption process. Most recently, TulsaNow spoke up in support of the Pearl District plan for form-based codes. Last fall, the group sponsored a debate on the form of city government with former Tulsa Mayor Rodger Randle and former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys.

While I often disagree with my fellow TulsaNow board members on political issues and on tax packages in particular, I'm very pleased that we're in agreement in opposition to Vision2 and all willing to say so publicly.

MORE: After the August board meeting, TulsaNow issued a brief statement expressing disappointment with the way Vision2 was being put together. That led to a KWGS Studio Tulsa interview with TulsaNow president Scott Grizzle on September 6, 2012, to elaborate on TulsaNow's concerns.

STILL MORE: My UTW column from 2007 explaining what TulsaNow is all about. I described TulsaNow as a kind of "See You at the Pole" -- a rallying point for Tulsans concerned about our city's future.

artur_davis_ocpa.jpgYou'll notice a new ad over in the sidebar announcing that former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis will headline this fall's Liberty Gala, a fundraiser for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Wednesday, October 10, 2012, at Tulsa's Downtown Doubletree Hotel. Click the ad to read all the details, to register, or to sponsor a table.

Davis served in the U. S. House as a Democrat and seconded Barack Obama's nomination for president at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. But like Ronald Reagan before him, Davis felt that the party had left him, and in May of this year he announced on his blog that, were he to run for office again, it would be as a Republican:

But parties change. As I told a reporter last week, this is not Bill Clinton's Democratic Party (and he knows that even if he can't say it). ...

On the specifics, I have regularly criticized an agenda that would punish businesses and job creators with more taxes just as they are trying to thrive again. I have taken issue with an administration that has lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured: frankly, the symbolism of Barack Obama winning has not given us the substance of a united country. You have also seen me write that faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too. You've read that in my view, the law can't continue to favor one race over another in offering hard-earned slots in colleges: America has changed, and we are now diverse enough that we don't need to accommodate a racial spoils system. And you know from these pages that I still think the way we have gone about mending the flaws in our healthcare system is the wrong way--it goes further than we need and costs more than we can bear.

Taken together, these are hardly the enthusiasms of a Democrat circa 2012, and they wouldn't be defensible in a Democratic primary. But they are the thoughts and values of ten years of learning, and seeing things I once thought were true fall into disarray. ...

On his website, Davis summarizes his perspective on politics:

Politics is rife with orthodoxies and a lack of imagination. This website represents a different point of view that does not belong to the traditional left or right. My perspective is that upward mobility matters, a growing economy beats dividing a shrinking pie, reforming our schools requires radical effort, politics is too dominated by narrow elites and the way we approach race and culture is diminishing our nation by breaking it apart. Above all, I believe civil, informed discourse is the most powerful value in a society that believes it can do better. That is the voice I bring.

Another treat for those at the gala: Davis will be introduced by John Fund, senior editor at The American Spectator.

Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsFounded in 1993, OCPA is a state policy think-tank, Oklahoma's version of the Heritage Foundation, providing research and analysis in support of individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited government. OCPA is a counterweight against all the forces that pull in the direction of bigger government, more regulation, and less freedom.

OCPA's role has only become more crucial as professed free-market conservatives have won supermajorities in both houses of the legislature and every statewide office. All too often, and at every level of government, conservatives have been co-opted by the status quo when they finally attain power. Big Business and Big Labor both love Big Government. The boldness to cut wasteful spending fades when confronted with the passionate pleas of those who directly benefit from that spending. It's a classic example of public choice theory: the concentrated few who benefit immensely from a big government program have more of an incentive to lobby and spend more than to the diffuse taxpaying public, each of whom bears just a small portion of the cost of any one program. The diffuse mass of citizens and taxpayers needs someone to be our voice at the State Capitol. OCPA is there for us and deserves our support.

OCPA reminds conservative officials of their professed principles, gives them facts to counter the fearmongers, and, when necessary, calls them out when they fail to keep their free-market, small-government promises. OCPA has been relentless in pointing out that Oklahoma is #1 in the growth of state government spending over the first decade of the 21st century. When the governor and legislature were struggling (ultimately failing) to reduce personal income tax rates, OCPA was ready with a list of wasteful and duplicative state programs that could be cut.

OCPA is also leading the charge for school choice in Oklahoma. As school districts sue parents of children with disabilities to prevent them from taking advantage of the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship program, OCPA is helping those parents tell their stories -- how school choice has made a profound difference in the lives of children with disabilities. (Here's OCPA's 24-minute documentary: Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship stories.)

OCPA has stepped up to fill the gap in State Capitol news coverage, funding CapitolBeatOK, which provides news and analysis that you can't find anywhere else.

OCPA does great work on behalf of the people of Oklahoma, but OCPA depends upon the support of Oklahomans to make it all happen. If you'll click that link and reserve a seat or sponsor a table you'll be supporting the cause of liberty and prosperity in Oklahoma while enjoying inspiring speakers and good company, right here in Tulsa on October 10.

The Gregory Brothers, who brought you the songified soundbites of George Lindell ("Reality hits you hard, bro."), Antoine Dodson ("Hide your kids, hide your wife."), and Debbie the Dater ("Can't hug every cat.") reveal the similarities in Romney and Obama's acceptance speeches:

NOTE: I'll be on the Pat Campbell Show on KFAQ AM 1170 this morning to talk about Vision2.

It's not right for government to use the same project to sell two different taxes to the voters seven years apart. It's double-dipping. But that's exactly what Tulsa County's commissioners appear to be doing with Vision2.

If you have a long memory, you may recall that improvements to the juvenile justice facility (price tag: $2,446,625) were promised to us if we voted for "4 to Fix the County II," a five-year Tulsa County sales tax extension on the December 13, 2005 ballot, which was approved and went into effect on October 1, 2006.

Seven years later, a juvenile justice facility, with a price tag of $38 million, is at the top of Tulsa County's Vision2 wish list.

At their regular September 10, 2012, meeting, the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners voted for a resolution allocating the share of the Vision2 Proposition 2 funds the County Commissioners held back for county government's own wants.

It took me a while to find any version of the resolution on the website. I found the minutes of the September 10 meeting which mentions that the resolution passed but doesn't relate its contents. I found the backup file linked to the agenda item -- but it just says there will be a resolution, but doesn't include the resolution itself.

On the September 4 agenda, I found a draft resolution attached to the agenda, but that agenda item was deferred to the following week's meeting. It's entirely possible that the resolution was amended at the September 10 meeting, but for now this is as close as I can find to an official statement of how the Tulsa County Commissioners intend to allocate the $96.5 million they're keeping for county government. (That's my estimate, based on the average of the first eight years of Vision 2025 receipts -- 53,426,185.35 per year average Vision 2025 receipts / 0.6 cents Vision 2025 tax rate) * 13 years * 0.29 cents Vision2 Prop 2 tax rate * 28.74% allocated by Proposition 2's ballot resolution) )

The top item on the list is $38 million for "Acquiring, designing, constructing, improving or rehabilitating installations, buildings, improvements and infrastructure and other capital improvements to be owned by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, in connection with the provision of juvenile detention, justice, rehabilitation and correction facilities, programs and systems."

As news stories at the time attest, the need for an expanded and renovated Juvenile Justice Center was a key selling point for 4 to Fix II in 2005. An endorsement editorial in the Tulsa World (NewsBank link, Tulsa Library card required) summarized 4 to Fix Proposition 1 as follows: "Renovate the Tulsa County Courthouse and provide adequate facilities for the juvenile justice system that operates out of broom closets, $8 million." A story on a poll about the ballot measure offered these descriptions:

Tulsa County voters on Dec. 13 will consider a five-year extension of the two-twelfths of a cent 4 to Fix sales tax. The tax would generate an estimated $62 million for a four-proposition package designed to expand the Juvenile Bureau, make courthouse complex renovations and improve county parks, roads and Expo Square.

Proposition 1 on the ballot would direct $7.79 million to the juvenile justice center and courthouse complex renovations....

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed in Tulsa County said they approved of Proposition 1 funding for the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, while 25 percent disapproved and 16 percent had no opinion.

In the run-up to the vote, news stories and editorials focused on the need for expanding and improving the District Court's Juvenile Bureau. (Emphasis added.)

Last fiscal year, 5,000 children passed through the 36-year-old Juvenile Bureau complex west of downtown.

Using the most charitable of terms, the building is a disgrace to the justice system -- overstuffed and unsafe, a poor environment for trying to help kids who've run afoul of the law or who've been abandoned or abused by parents or caretakers.

Finally, with the proposed renewal of the "4-to-Fix the County" sales tax, there's hope that the courthouse and Juvenile Bureau will get the attention so desperately needed.

Voters can make that happen Dec. 13 by approving Proposition 1, an $8 million package earmarked for Juvenile Bureau and courthouse expansion....

There's a reason courthouse and Juvenile Bureau improvements are first on the ballot. Expansion is critical to the efficient and safe administration of justice. Funds would produce a four-story addition at the Juvenile Bureau and a build-out of the fourth floor of the courthouse to include new courtrooms. Proposition 1 money also would remodel and expand first-floor misdemeanor and traffic courtrooms and relocate the jury assembly room from the courthouse basement to the county Administration Building.

Judges and the county bar association urged approval. (Emphasis added.)

Tulsa County judges spoke out Monday in favor of the Dec. 13 "4 to Fix the County" election, especially an estimated $7.79 million in improvements it projects for the county's Juvenile Bureau and the downtown courthouse.

Juvenile crime and child neglect have far outpaced the piecemeal improvements that have been made to the 1968-vintage Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau at 315 S. Gilcrease Museum Road, the judges say....

The Tulsa County Bar Association also is supporting the effort, President Pat O'Connor said.

The group doesn't typically get involved in such measures, but the court's needs are severe, O'Connor said....

The juvenile bureau would get a four-story addition.

[Sheriff Stanley] Glanz said he considers the criminal justice portion of the 4 to Fix vote to be the most important public safety issue of all the propositions.

The vote to renew the 4 to Fix the County sales tax in December 2005 was voted on almost a year before its scheduled expiration at the end of September 2006.

Four propositions and a question were put before the voters. (Here's a link to the December 13, 2005, Tulsa County sample ballot.)

Here is the text of 4 to Fix II, Proposition 1:

"Shall the County of Tulsa, Oklahoma, by its Board of County Commissioners, levy and collect twelve percent (12.0%) of a two-twelfths percent (2/12%) sales tax for the purpose of funding Juvenile Justice Center and Courthouse Complex renovations, improvements, furnishings and equipment, 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, commencing October 1, 2006 and continuing thereafter for a period of five (5) years?"

The ballot resolutions no longer appear to be online and were not captured by the Internet Archive.

The "Do the River First" website listed the 4 to Fix II projects and proposed amounts to be spent on each. Here's the list from Proposition 1.

Juvenile Crime Bureau $ 2,446,625
Courtrooms - 4th Floor $ 2,525,000
Jury Assembly Room Addition & Remodel Traffic Ct. $ 2,825,000

All four propositions were approved on December 13, 2005, and presumably the county now would have the money for the needed renovation and expansion. Surely the county would move full speed ahead to meet this urgent need.

But nothing was done.

A January 31, 2007 update about the project on Tulsa County's "4 to Fix" website:

The construction manager has been selected and the architect's contract has been approved. The project program is being developed for improvements which include a combination of additional building space and remodel of portions of the existing interior now in use.

December 24, 2007 update:

The project program is being confirmed in order to develop recommendations for the Facility, which may include a combination of additional building space and remodel of portions of the interior.

And then no updates at all until May 28th, 2009:

The architectural selection is complete with Tulsa County selecting Selser Schaefer Architects for the project design.

So two years and two months after "the architect's contract has been approved" we appear to have a new architect selected.

An August 14, 2009, update indicates that the "architectural programming work" is about to get started. A series of updates mentions visits to key facilities in September 2009, a "draft program document and (very) preliminary plans" in November 2009, "final program and preliminary design concepts are expected to be complete in January 2010" as of December 2009, slipping to February in the January update.

The May 2010 the update merely said "The architectural programming work is nearing completion." The June 2010 update said "The architectural programming work is on hold," and there it remained for over a year.

In the midst of that year-and-a-half gap, county officials began to claim that a future "4 to Fix" package would be needed to fund a juvenile justice facility. In an October 2008 op-ed in Urban Tulsa Weekly, County Commissioner Fred Perry used the state of the county's juvenile justice facilities to explain why Tulsa should leave the county's 2/12th cent 4 to Fix sales tax alone, rather than claim it to fund street reconstruction:

By State Law, Tulsa County is responsible for providing the Juvenile Bureau facilities in this county. The existing facilities are exceedingly small and in poor condition. The City of Tulsa has 80 percent of the juveniles in need of supervision, detention, counseling and court space. In the meetings I arranged with the City Councilors, Judge Doris Fransein, the Juvenile District Judge, and Director Brent Wolfe showed the counselors pictures of the present facilities and explained why a new facility was badly needed.

Eventually, the county changed course, redirecting nearly all of the money allocated by 4 to Fix II for an improved juvenile justice center toward merely acquiring land for a new center, patching the old center in the meantime. The July 2011 update:

Tulsa County authorized approximately $2.0 million from these funds to be moved to the County general fund in order to be re-tasked for use in site acquisition for a future new facility. Temporary work at the existing facility is being developed to address required action and improvements by The City of Tulsa. The Fire Marshall is requiring automatic fire suppression be added in the "courts" portion of the facility.

Why didn't the County Commission spring into action as soon as voters approved the funds in December 2005? Why did they wait until construction costs went up? If the allocated amount wasn't enough, why didn't they allocate more in the 4 to Fix II ballot resolutions? Why not claim a share of Vision 2025 surplus money to address this urgent need? Shouldn't safe and secure court facilities for young people be a higher priority than an iconic glass wall for the arena? Shouldn't court facilities be more important than a golf cart barn at LaFortune Park?

But it seems that there is already more money available in the 4 to Fix II fund.

The Funding Report on page 8 of the 4 to Fix the County June 2012 Program Report (original link at shows the three line items above under "Criminal Justice Construction Fund" with the above amounts under both the Budgeted and Current Funding columns.

But there's one more line item in that category -- "17 Criminal Justice Construction Fund" -- no budgeted amount, but $4,796,625 in current funding, none of which has been spent. That money, plus Vision 2025 surplus funds, plus any unallocated 4 to Fix II surplus funds, ought to get us very close to sufficient funds for a basic, functional juvenile justice facility. A general obligation bond issue, earmarked for this project only and which expires automatically when the project is complete, could be used to make up any shortfall.

It was irresponsible for the County Commission to let this project fester for years after selling it to the voters as an urgent need. It's downright despicable for them to now ask for more money to do what we gave them money to do seven years ago and to use the project to sell voters on a three-quarter-billion-dollar debt-riddled, pork-filled, corporate-welfare-stuffed boondoggle.

pray_campaign_button.jpegAuthor Eric Metaxas, who has written biographies of two men whose fervent Christian faith impelled them to act decisively and sacrificially in the realm of politics -- William Wilberforce of England and Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany -- calls Christians in America to fast and pray for the 40 days leading up to our general election. That means starting this Thursday, September 27, 2012 (links added):

We often worry and/or complain about what's happening in our nation, but can we doubt that God wants us to pray about it in a concerted way? Can there be a time more conducive to focusing our attentions than the 40 days before this extremely important election? Exactly how we do this is up to each of us -- perhaps you could fast one day per week, or gather with friends to pray once per week -- but won't you join me in this, believing and knowing that God longs for His people to take their concerns to Him -- to be anxious "for nothing" and to pray boldly and with faith and trust Him with the results? So many people wonder: "What can I do?" We can do this. If the church has forgotten that God answers prayers, there really is no hope. Jesus said: "Ask and it will be given unto you." So won't you join me in asking? And please tell your pastors and friends about this. God bless you. And may God bless America for His purposes -- so that we can be a blessing to the rest of the world.

If you plan to be part of a concerted season of prayer and fasting leading up to the election, let us know about it in the comments below or send me an email.

Last night I received an email from Gretchen Bohnert of Houston in reply to my recent blog entry about the mysterious and sudden dismissal of University of Tulsa President Geoffrey Orsak after only 74 days in office. Mrs. Bohnert is the mother of Orsak's wife Cate, and she wrote to thank me for noting the impact of Orsak's firing on his wife, a psychiatrist who left behind a successful career in Dallas so that her husband could serve as TU's president and who now is uprooted once again.

Mrs. Bohnert wanted me to know more about her daughter and son-in-law, about the solid character and accomplishments of these two people who have had their lives turned upside down, "the people that TU so precipitously fired," as she put it. With her permission, I'm sharing Mrs. Bohnert's thoughts with you.

She offered only one brief remark about the firing itself. As a retired employment lawyer and a former Director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Houston, she writes that she is "appalled" at how TU dealt with the firing. "A committee of first-year law students could have handled this matter more equitably and sensitively."

Mrs. Bohnert concluded the note with praise for those connected with Holland Hall (where the Orsaks' young children were starting school) and the University of Tulsa who showed special kindness and consideration to the Orsak family during this tough time.

Here is her email in full:

I am Cate Bohnert Orsak's mother and I want to thank you for mentioning that Geoff's firing uprooted a professional spouse. I would like to tell you more about Cate and Geoff.

Cate graduated first in her class at The Kinkaid School in Houston. While at Kinkaid she was president of KOCI, a club formed to offer Kinkaidians the opportunity to work with disadvantaged kids. She spent her Sat. mornings playing softball with blind kids and others similarly situated. She was the first freshman girl to make the varsity in tennis. She went on to Yale where she was an active volunteer at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, working with college students who were admitted to the psych unit. After Yale, she went to Baylor Med School here in Houston. She took her psychiatric residency at George Washington U. in D.C., where she was chief resident. She then was employed full time as an asst. professor in psychiatry at Georgetown Med School. When Geoff was hired at SMU, she was employed as an asst. professor at Southwestern Med School, eventually becoming a full professor. She was Chief of Mental Services for north Texas with the V.A. One year she was named "Professor of the Year." She resigned this position to go to Tulsa.

Geoff is the kindest man on the planet, in addition to being so brilliant. While a student at Rice, he rescued a cat who was hit by a car in front of his garage apartment. Though he was subsisting on grants and loans, he paid over $800 to get the cat surgery, and then adopted her. During his time at SMU, one of his staff members died. He went to the trustees and persuaded them to give the children full scholarships to SMU. While a Dean at SMU, he found time to spearhead a building drive for the DaVinci pre-school where his son Peter was a student. DaVinci now has a handsome new facility. When Peter went on to St. Mark's, Geoff took his turn behind the steam table at lunch, making sure the boys took a spoonful of veggies.

Cate and Geoff's daughter Mary was a student at Hockaday. Geoff co-coached her basketball team for several years. They eventually were league champions. Cate organized and coached Mary's volleyball team for several years, also to a winning season. Cate taught Sunday school for several years in Dallas.

These are the people that the TU trustees so precipitously fired. As a former Director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Houston and an employment lawyer, I am appalled. A committee of first-year law students could have handled this matter more equitably and sensitively. As a grandparent, I am heartsick.

There were many kind people in Tulsa, particularly the teachers and coaches at Holland Hall. Parents expressed their regrets when the Orsaks left. An art restorer at TU helped repair a painting damaged in the move to Tulsa. A tennis coach at TU helped Cate and the children with their tennis strokes. Most importantly, "Miss Camey", the housekeeper at the Skelly House, who was unfailingly cheerful and professional, even as she went about washing every window in that very large residence.

Thank you for your time.

Very sincerely,

Gretchen Bohnert

Many thanks to Mrs. Bohnert for taking the time to write and allowing me to share her thoughts with BatesLine readers.

I was out of town, but last Friday, the Tulsa Republican Club had as its speaker a proponent of the Vision2 corporate welfare and pork barrel tax package. At its October meeting, the Tulsa Republican Club will hear from an opponent of the Vision2 package.

A glance through my email inbox shows that this focus on Vision2 is true of all the other Republican clubs as well.

What's wrong with this picture?

Here we are, just a month and a half away from the most consequential federal election since 1980 -- perhaps the most consequential in our lives -- and Tulsa Republican organizations are focused on a local tax package which is opposed by the Tulsa County Republican Party but supported and promoted by the two Republican county commissioners.

With no statewide races and no suspense over who will be Oklahoma's seven presidential electors, Tulsa County's Republicans could be united in working to reclaim the White House and the U. S. Senate and holding on to the U. S. House. And there are some state legislative seats that the GOP needs to defend and some that the GOP could pickup. Here in Tulsa County, House District 71 has had a Democrat representative for only two years of its 48 years of existence, and yet in April, the special election for the seat came down to a single vote and a couple of ballots stuck in a machine.

Imagine Vision2 were not on the ballot. Tulsa County Republican clubs might be teaching Republican activists what they can do, on the phone or in person, to help Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in swing states or to help Republicans in marginal U. S. House and U. S. Senate seats. Tulsa County Republican clubs might be mobilizing their members to defend the 1st District seat (vulnerable because of the incumbent's defeat in the primary), to gain the 2nd District seat (a tall hill to climb), to help Katie Henke win House 71, and to target open seats and vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Instead, because two Republican Tulsa County Commissioners voted to put a secretly developed, poorly considered, hastily assembled, and divisive tax on the ballot, four years before the current tax expires, Vision2 is starving national and state races of attention and resources. Conservative Republicans in Tulsa County -- the people that got the two commissioners into office in the first place -- have to shift their focus to defeating this lemon of a county tax package rather than helping GOP victory at the national level.

Thanks, John and Fred. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid couldn't have planned a better diversion.

RELATED: Pollster Scott Rasmussen points to the government's role in the economy as the heart of the chasm between the Republican establishment and the grassroots (emphasis added):

Both Romney [with the "47%" quote] and Obama [with his "bitterly clinging to guns and religion" quote] highlighted the condescending attitude that political elites hold of the people they want to rule over. A National Journal survey found that 59 percent of political insiders don't think voters know enough to have meaningful opinions on the important issues of the day. That's a handy rationalization for those who want to ignore the voters and impose their own agenda.

In the nation's capital, this gap creates bigger problems for Republicans than Democrats. Democratic voters tend to think that their representatives in Congress do a decent job representing them. That's because Democrats are a bit more comfortable with the idea of government playing a leading role in American society. However, 63 percent of Republican voters believe their representatives in Washington are out of touch with the party base.

Establishment Republicans in Washington broadly share the Democrats' view that the government should manage the economy. They may favor a somewhat more pro-business set of policies than their Democratic colleagues, but they still act as if government policy is the starting point for all economic activity.

Republican voters reject this view. They are more interested in promoting free market competition rather than handing out favors to big business. They detest corporate welfare and government bailouts, even though their party leaders support them.

The GOP base sees government as a burden that weighs the private sector down rather than a tool that can generate growth if used properly. Ninety-six percent of Republican voters believe that the best thing the government can do to help the economy is to cut spending and free up more money for the private sector.

Mr. Rasmussen, those establishment Republicans aren't just in Washington. You can find them at chambers of commerce, state legislatures, city halls, and county courthouses, too.

Early in 2011, Tulsan Josh McFarland, disappointed that the traditional downtown Christmas parade had dropped the word "Christmas" from its name, felt impelled to take action and setup an alternative parade, a parade unembarrassed to acknowledge that "the reason for the season" is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ -- a Christmas parade.

McFarland turned to KFAQ talk personality Eddie Huff to help organize and promote the event. Huff brought friend and fellow insurance agent Mark Croucher into the organizing group. In order to formalize the effort and to cover any potential liability issues involved in holding a parade, the group formed a Domestic Limited Liability Company, Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC, registered on October 3, 2011. (Setting up an LLC is quicker and much less complicated than creating a non-profit organization; the disadvantage is that donations are not tax deductible.) All surplus proceeds after parade expenses were met were given to Love Heals Veterans Recovery Center.

According to multiple reports, the parade was successful, drawing a large number of participants and massive attendance, and Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC is making preparations for the second edition of the parade this December.

Their efforts have been complicated by the alleged actions of a former volunteer, according to a press release from Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC issued last Thursday, September 20, 2012. The release alleges that this former volunteer has been claiming to represent the parade, to solicit and collect money for the parade, without any authorization from Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC. So to respond to the problem, the group sent out a press release explaining who is authorized to act on the parade's behalf.


Christmas Parade Organizers Warn of Imposter

Former volunteer is misrepresenting Christmas Parade

Tulsa, OK Sept 19, 2012 - Josh McFarland, founder and one of the organizers of the Tulsa Christmas Parade, is warning Tulsa businesses to beware of a former volunteer claiming to be organizing the parade this year.

"It is sad that someone who worked with us last year has decided to go on his own, claiming to represent the Christmas Parade, which he has no legal authority to do so," said McFarland.

"We've even had reports that this person has already solicited and in one case collected money from a business" continued McFarland. "And we need to let the Tulsa business community know who exactly is running the Tulsa Christmas Parade."

McFarland explained that members of the Tulsa Christmas Parade board are seeking a legal remedy to stop the actions of the former volunteer.

"However, we felt the need to let the public know before anyone else gives money to this person instead of to the Christmas Parade," said McFarland. McFarland encourages any businesses who have been contacted by someone saying they are from the Tulsa Christmas Parade to contact him at 918-706-6787 immediately.

The Tulsa Christmas Parade is made up of a three-person board that wanted to give Tulsans the option of attending a Christmas Parade after the dismantling of the name "Christmas" in the former downtown parade. Last year 100% of the remaining proceeds were gifted to the Love Heals Veterans Recovery Center, a shelter for substance abusive veterans. Josh McFarland, Mark Croucher, and Eddie Huff are the members of the The Tulsa Christmas Parade board.

It's a sad fact that taking defensive action, as the Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC board has done, may make you look like the bad guy. Good grief, some will say, you're threatening a lawsuit over who's in charge of a Christmas parade! But if someone is trying to misrepresent himself and trade on the goodwill that last year's event accrued, the parade organizers may have to take action to protect the name and reputation of the event.

There's a principle of trademark law called "likelihood of confusion." (That phrase also happens to be the name of the Internet's smartest blog about intellectual property law.) If someone previously associated in a prominent way with an organization, but who has resigned from that organization and no longer acts with the organization's authority, solicits money and support for a similar sounding organization with a similar purpose -- well, I am not a lawyer, but it sounds to me like a situation in which confusion is likely. It's wise and reasonable for Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC to take action to forestall any confusion that would damage the goodwill and reputation of the parade.

Tulsa festival-palooza

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Tulsa is overrun with special events this weekend, September 22 - 23, 2012, and next week the Tulsa State Fair begins.

Tulsa Greek Festival: Saturday is the final day, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., at 12th and Guthrie on the grounds of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church. Get in free with a printable ticket on the website.

Tulsa Irish Festival: Saturday only, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., at Holy Family Roman Catholic Cathedral, 8th and Boulder in downtown Tulsa.

The Art of Barbecue: This year in the Blue Dome District near 1st and Elgin downtown. Taster kits will be available starting at 11, and taste testing will begin at 11:30.

Down the street, on Elgin between 1st and the Frisco tracks, McNellie's will hold its third annual Harvest Beer Festival from noon to 10 p.m. Tickets are $25, available at the pub or online at

WestFest, in the Sand Springs Line neighborhood west of downtown, starts at noon Saturday with a parade from Mark Twain Elementary School to Penny Park, 531 S. 49th West Ave.

John Calvin is playing a gig at The Colony. If you go, be sure to request his big hit, "I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art."

If you were wondering about the Scottish Games and Gathering, it was last weekend. And Tulsa's 2012 Oktoberfest will be held October 18-21.

For a long list of Saturday activities in and around Tulsa, check out This Land Press's Do What events calendar.

We're in the midst of the High Holy Days, the period between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and I just came across an apropos video excerpt of a talk by Leonard Nimoy, the actor famous for his role as First Officer Spock in Star Trek, the original series.

In this clip, Nimoy responds to the question, "Is there Judaism in Star Trek?" He begins by listing Jewish values -- education, social justice, compassion for those in need, the dignity of the individual -- that are found in Star Trek. He talks of his childhood as a Jew in overwhelmingly Catholic Boston and how it informed his role as an alienated character, "the other, the outsider," not fully at home among either humans or Vulcans.

His Judaism not only made him feel at home in the series and in the role, but it was the well from which he drew the Vulcan greeting gesture. In the clip, he talks about the impression made on him as a child by the drama of the Priestly Blessing chanted by the kohanim (men of the congregation directly descended from Aaron) on the bimah (platform) of the synagogue:

(Nimoy grew up in the West End of Boston, then an Eastern European Jewish neighborhood, cleared in the 1950s by "urban renewal" for high rises.)

MORE: What I was looking for when I found the above video: From the July 28, 1967, episode of Malibu U, Leonard Nimoy sings "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins":

George_Washington_19.JPGThis is the final week to see a piece of George Washington's Mount Vernon right here in Tulsa. The traveling exhibition "Discover the Real George Washington: New Views from Mount Vernon" at Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum. The exhibition's final day is September 23, 2012.

The exhibit goes beyond the familiar basic facts of Washington as our 1st President and the Father of Our Country to help you get to know Washington the surveyor, young officer, churchman, and agricultural innovator, among many other roles.

Earlier this summer my family visited Mount Vernon and saw the new Donald W. Reynolds Educational Center there. The exhibit you will see here in Tulsa is a near-duplicate of the permanent exhibit in Mount Vernon, including three life-size figures depicting Washington at different ages -- as a young surveyor, as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and as President of the United States. The figures were developed using forensic analysis of a life mask, paintings, clothing, and other artifacts. Short videos from the History Channel accompany interactive exhibits.

My youngest son said he liked the exhibit at Gilcrease better, because you could look in through the side of the Fort Necessity diorama to see the battle from the perspective of those hiding in the forest.

One thing we saw at Gilcrease that we did not see at Mount Vernon: George Washington's dentures and the story of how they were made.

Unless you travel to Mount Vernon, you won't be able to see George Washington's repository for dung, see the "rustication" used to make the wooden mansion appear to be made of stone, or admire the vistas from the back of the mansion to the Potomac River, but you'll be able to learn about these things right here in Tulsa at Gilcrease Museum through Sunday or at the exhibit's companion website, Discover the Real George Washington, where you can explore an interactive timeline and see the same History Channel videos on display in the exhibit.

Gilcrease Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, children 18 and under are free, and there are discounts for seniors, groups, and active duty military. Gilcrease Museum is owned by the City of Tulsa and curated by the University of Tulsa.

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, the University of Tulsa suddenly fired President Geoffrey Orsak just 74 days after he took the post. The former SMU Dean of Engineering had been granted a leave of absence the day before to be with his father, reported to be in hospice care in Dallas. A story in the Huffington Post quotes Orsak:

My family and I made significant professional and personal sacrifices when we uprooted from Dallas so that I would have the special opportunity to lead the University of Tulsa. In my time here, I was truly excited to be doing the very hard work of transforming the university into a nationally recognized force that would bring pride to the TU community and city. I am very disappointed given the lengthy due diligence process for the position that within such a short period of time the board has decided to go in a different direction.

It's the second sudden and mysterious departure for a Tulsa educational leader this year. In March, John D. Marshall, the Head of School at my alma mater, Holland Hall, suddenly resigned in this middle of his first year in the role. In his resignation notice, Marshall wrote, "I have come to recognize that this has not been the best fit, and a change in head leadership at this time would be best for all concerned." Marshall's appointment had been announced in October 2010, and he began his service on July 1, 2011.

In both cases, there had been a lengthy, nationwide search process involving national consultants. In both cases, the new leaders had uprooted a professional spouse (Mrs. Marshall, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist; Mrs. Orsak, Chief of Mental Health for the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System and Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas) and young children to move from other states (Marshall from Georgia, Orsak from Texas) to Tulsa.

Both Holland Hall and the University of Tulsa have boards filled with accomplished business and civic leaders who have undoubtedly had to deal with the executive search process and succession planning in their own businesses and non-profit involvements. There's even some overlap between the two boards. How could two prominent institutions manage to pick leaders that had to be dumped so quickly and so mysteriously? How could the executive search process have failed so spectacularly twice in the same year in the same city?

Some background on Orsak and his selection as TU president:

Steadman Upham announced on April 12, 2011, that he would retire as TU president at the end of June 2012, and the chairman of the Board of Trustees said that the board would hire an outside firm to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement. Upham was subsequently inducted into the Tulsa Historical Society and University of Tulsa Halls of Fame.

In September 2011, the university announced the leadership of the search committee and the consulting firm that would facilitate the search process:

The university's Board of Trustees has appointed L. Duane Wilson (BS '62) to head the search committee, which will be working with the national search firm of R. William Funk & Associates of Dallas, Texas, to identify top candidates who would help build upon the momentum developed during Upham's administration.

On May 2, 2012, the Board of Trustees named Orsak the 18th president of the University of Tulsa, and the press release heralded a match made in heaven:

"Geoffrey Orsak shares our vision for the next stage in the advancement of The University of Tulsa," said Duane Wilson (BS '62), chairman-elect of the TU Board of Trustees and chairman of the presidential search committee. "His strategic insight and proven leadership will be tremendous assets, helping to drive TU to new levels of national distinction."

Orsak has been called one of this nation's key leaders in engineering research and education, with a keen grasp of their impact on economic development and global competitiveness. In his role as dean, Orsak has led the Lyle School of Engineering to national prominence built on achievement at all levels, including growth in faculty and physical facilities, some of the nation's highest levels of research funding per faculty member, and the development of innovative engineering education outreach for children in grades K-12.

A visionary administrator and concise communicator, Orsak supports higher education's role in applying scholarship to social needs both locally and globally - goals that mesh perfectly with TU initiatives such as True Blue Neighbors and Make A Difference Engineering (MADE at TU)....

"Geoffrey Orsak has been a creative and energetic leader at every stage of his professional life. He is an accomplished engineer and respected academic executive," said Steadman Upham. "Peggy and I warmly welcome Geoffrey, Catherine, and their children to the City of Tulsa and The University of Tulsa family. We look forward to their leadership."

There were positive stories galore about Orsak as he was welcomed into the community. Just a week ago, Urban Tulsa Weekly ran a profile, featuring Orsak and his son on the cover, throwing out the first pitch at a Tulsa Drillers game:

Summer was over for Orsak and the students toting belongings into dorm rooms all over the TU campus. By late afternoon, when Orsak sat down to visit with a reporter inside his well-appointed office, he had already met with a visiting Gov. Mary Fallin and attended a luncheon for the football team downtown.

A busy day, to be sure, but also a continuation of a frenetic several weeks for Orsak since being announced as school president. He had travelled literally coast to coast to visit with alumni and others, attending events in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles area.

In the UTW story, Orsak spoke at length and in depth about his ambitions for TU to increase in national prominence and in impact on the problems that challenge Oklahoma.

So now, without even giving him a full year to live up to the high hopes that led the trustees to hire him, they've shown Geoffrey Orsak the door.

There's a ridiculous rumor circulating in the comment section on the mainstream media websites about the reason for Orsak's dismissal. It doesn't seem the least bit plausible that a leader with Orsak's resume and record would become so publicly drunk that he would relieve himself in the middle of Utica Square and would do so just two months after starting a new job in a new town.

I could imagine a politician who had been in office for many years becoming complacent and abandoning his morals for the pleasures of the flesh (e.g., King David, Bill Clinton), but I can't imagine an engineer -- an engineer, for Planck's sake -- climbing to a brand new level of opportunity and professional accomplishment and throwing it all away for want of a convenient port-a-potty. Asparagus or no asparagus, it doesn't pass the smell test.

And suppose it were true? If the Board of Trustees wanted to keep him, don't you suppose they would be able to squelch the story, discredit it, or at least tamp down any public outrage? An apology, an excuse (overwhelmed by my father's illness, I overindulged and made a serious error in judgment) would have been enough to smooth things over, don't you think? It's not as if he were alleged to have tweeted a picture of Anthony Weiner to the entire world.

I have absolutely no inside info about the TU/Orsak situation (or the HH/Marshall situation, for that matter), but it just seems very strange that a prominent, stable institution would invest months and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in finding and hiring a new president, then cut him loose before he's had a chance to prove himself. Perhaps the search process was deeply flawed. Perhaps someone powerful was offended by the newcomer. Perhaps some sacred cows felt threatened.

Some will say that what happens at TU is none of our business. I will point out that TU has been the beneficiary of the City of Tulsa's power of eminent domain in expanding its campus over the last 20 years. Just 7 years ago, there were businesses along the northside of 11th Street, where now a "grand entrance" is surrounded by new but tacky apartment buildings. Property owners were given the choice of selling to TU or being condemned by the city in the name of "urban renewal." Whole chunks of the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood have disappeared. If you went to Roughnecks games in the late '70s and early '80s you'll remember the neighborhood of attractive Tudor Revival houses where the Reynolds Center now stands.

Like the Tulsa Metro Chamber, TU seems to have this dual nature: Virtually a public utility when it wants something out of city government, but strictly private when it comes to scrutiny of its internal affairs. That might have been a justifiable position when TU was the only higher ed game in town, but that hasn't been true for nearly a half century. I'd be happy to ignore TU's internal affairs if they never again ask for more land to be added to the urban renewal plan and otherwise get the university's fingers out of local government. I'm sure I'm not the only Tulsan somewhat nervous that the City of Tulsa's priceless Gilcrease collection of art and artifacts is now in the hands of an institution with no public accountability.

It's worth remembering that some of the same people who picked this now-ousted leader -- some of them deeply involved in promoting and running the spectacular disaster that was Great Plains Airlines -- will soon be urging us to pass Vision2.


G. W. Schulz's 2005 UTW story on Starship Records being forced by TU-driven urban renewal to relocate

Jamie Pierson's 2007 UTW column on TU as The Thing That Ate 11th Street, and how TU's expanding campus isolates students from the community.

From BatesLine, 2009: Comments and some historical perspective on a TU student's op-ed: "TU has lost a sense of belonging to Tulsa"

Statement by the chairman of the University of Tulsa Board of Trustees:

Dear TU Family and Friends,

The news of the university's decision to release Dr. Geoffrey Orsak from his duties as president has occasioned intense interest and many questions from members of the TU family and the general public. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to tell you as much as I am permitted and to assure you that The University of Tulsa has the governance and administration in place to ensure a smooth course forward.

As already announced, the board has authorized Executive Vice President Kevan Buck to handle the day-to-day administrative affairs of the university. Kevan has a wealth of experience overseeing the university's business functions and core operating units. We are moving forward with business as usual and foresee no problems with our interim arrangement.

The board is discussing next steps as we work toward identifying TU's 19th president. We will keep you informed as this process moves forward.

Discretion and university policy dictate that I not discuss the specific circumstances surrounding the decision, except to underscore my confidence in the collective wisdom of The University of Tulsa Board of Trustees. Our board comprises some of the most experienced leaders of our community, who have successfully managed through a wide range of challenges. I appreciate and applaud the serious and thoughtful insight that each trustee brought to these deliberations, and I am confident that the board reached the conclusion that best serves our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and many partners.

Although unavoidable, the timing of this decision was particularly unfortunate, given the additional challenges that the Orsak family faces with the care of Dr. Orsak's ailing father. We wish all of them well during this difficult time and in their future endeavors.

We recognize the public's significant interest in this development, but in accordance with our personnel policies and status as a private institution, we will not discuss the details behind the board's decision.

Finally, on behalf of the board, I thank each of you for the part you play in the success of The University of Tulsa. Our shared dedication to the power of learning and the duty of service will continue to keep us moving forward.

Duane Wilson
Chairman, Board of Trustees


From the movie, High Anxiety:

DR. THORNDYKE (Mel Brooks): Yes, as I was saying, it came to my attention that... just before Dr. Ashley's untimely death...he was planning to make some very big changes here at the Institute. Do any of you know specifically what those changes might be?

DR. WENTWORTH (Dick Van Patten): Well, for one thing he wanted to change...

NURSE DIESEL (Cloris Leachman): The drapes.

PROF. THORNDYKE: The drapes?

NURSE DIESEL: The drapes. He wanted to change the drapes in the psychotic game room.

PROF. THORNDYKE: That was the extent of the big change? The drapes?

NURSE DIESEL: Yes, Dr. Ashley felt that color... has a lot to do with the well-being of the emotionally disturbed.

UPDATE 2012/10/05: Blogger Christopher B. King wonders (tongue in cheek?) if the Urban Tulsa Weekly cover the previous week was the trigger for the dismissal. The cover (follow the link to see it) was an oddly cropped photo of Orsak throwing out the first pitch at the Drillers game. I say oddly cropped because it showed another photographer standing behind the pitcher's mound and, off to the side, Orsak's young son, who is grabbing at something about waist-high under a too-big Drillers jersey. (I thought he might be holding up baggy shorts or just holding onto his shirt because it kept him from sticking his hands in his pockets.) The photo could have been cropped to show only Geoff Orsak. When the issue was published, a former UTW colleague complained that it was tacky for UTW to show a kid seeming to grope himself in public and to put his name right there. Just a day or two later Orsak was fired. Perhaps the "kid gropes himself in public" interpretation of the photo morphed into the "president exposes himself in public" rumor.

King also mentions TU's use/abuse of eminent domain for campus expansion. I'd only correct him in one point -- TU's eminent domain-fueled expansion pre-dates the Kelo v. New London case, and it should be unconstitutional under Oklahoma's stricter "public use" standard, notwithstanding the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo.

I don't remember exactly what I was doing this morning at 7:46 a.m. Central time, eleven years to the minute after Islamic radicals flew a large commercial jetliner into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, but I was probably scrambling to find a working copier to copy the quiz over the definite article, first declension masculine nouns, and the imperfect tense to give to five students who likely had no idea where they were when the first aircraft hit the North Tower or the second aircraft hit the South Tower or the third aircraft hit the Pentagon or the fourth aircraft plowed up a field in southwestern Pennsylvania.

I knew where one of my five students had been at that moment, because he had been riding in the backseat of my car, excited about another day of school -- his third ever -- as we drove south on Yale toward 51st and heard Michael DelGiorno, then the host on KTBZ (The Buzz, in its brief incarnation as a news-talk station), report a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center tower -- surely a bizarre accident. By the time I picked my son up from school at noon, it had all unfolded, and but I kept the radio off, trying to shield his ears from the news, trying to enjoy a visit to the zoo on a cloudless September day.

In retrospect it would have been appropriate for me to deviate from Attic grammar for a few minutes at the beginning of class today to talk about what happened, to describe the fear and the worry we felt in Tulsa, far from New York and Washington but only 100 miles from what had been until that moment the worst terrorist attack on American soil, to tell some of the stories told by New York friends of the chaos of that day, to tell of a family's anxious search through New York for former Tulsan Jayesh Shah, the sad conclusion to that quest, and the grieving wife, mother, children, and brother he left behind. I should have told them about the touching memorial service a month later and showed them the model of the Twin Towers and Pentagon -- a remembrance from Jay's family.

My students and their peers need to know that the attack was no historical abstraction. It involved Americans like themselves, their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, who were merely going about their business on 9/11/2001 when terrorists took their lives in the name of Islam.

My students need to know that the hijackers fueled their hate by listening to radical Islamist preachers right here in the United States and that the demands of political correctness led authorities to turn a deaf ear to the sermons of hate. They need to know that the hijackers used the infrastructure of illegal immigrant day labor to acquire the fake IDs that got them aboard the planes.

They need to know that a Muslim in their own city who wrote an op-ed condemning terror in the name of Islam was harassed and threatened at his place of worship. They should know that in 2008, at a Burger King two miles away from their school, a State Trooper tackled and disarmed a man with a Glock who was praying to Allah for strength to carry out his mission.

They need to know that what happened 11 years ago was the culmination of an Islamist war on America that dates back at least as far as the 1979 Iranian assault on the American Embassy in Tehran. They need to know that the assault continued today as mobs attacked the American Embassy in Cairo and the American Consulate in Benghazi under the watchful eyes of newly installed Islamist-friendly governments in Egypt and Libya. And they need to know about our government's weak and apologetic response and clumsy cleanup.

My students and their peers need to understand that we cannot take a holiday from history, as much as we might wish we could. We're training them to be leaders of the future. They need to understand the world in which they must lead.

As Michelle Malkin wrote in 2003, we need remembrance, resolve, and action to deal with the inconvenient, frightening realities today's leaders all too often seem all too afraid to face.


My post on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, with links to first-hand accounts of the day and its aftermath.

David French: 9/11: The Case for Controlled and Sustained Rage

Britain's Channel 4 cancels screening of "Islam: The Untold Story" under threat of violence

Victor Davis Hanson: Ripples of 9/11

The chant of the Egyptian mob that attacked our embassy: "Obama! Obama! There are still a billion Osamas!"

James Lileks blog entry on the day after

James Lileks' 2009 reflections

And finally this: A brief debunking of the "9/11: A Conspiracy Theory" video making the rounds on Facebook today. Follow the links for a more detailed rebuttal.


Karol Markowicz on the impulse behind trooferism, both old and new:

It's much easier to continue hating George W. Bush -- to focus on bogus charges that he sat back and did nothing while his country was attacked -- than it is to understand nameless, faceless people who still want us dead today.

Both types of truthers want something else to be the reality. They want someone safe to blame, someone who didn't chop off Daniel Pearl's head and doesn't blow himself up to advance a cause we find bizarre.

The government, and the Bush administration specifically, is that safe target. Better to insist that the Bushies just screwed up than to acknowledge that we remain under threat, that (even with those restrictions on cooperation removed) our government may not be able to stop some future attack.

That truth is just too scary to face.

Julie Neidlinger was traveling by Amtrak on September 11, 2001, a journey planned as part of a vacation. She recalls the sense of isolation from the news, but feeling the impact through all the accidental tourists using Amtrak to replace cancelled business flights.


On the first anniversary of the attacks, my wife and I sang as part of a choir of 65 voices, members of the Coventry Chorale, the Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, Holland Hall School Concert Chorus, accompanied by members of the Tulsa Philharmonic. The event was part of a worldwide "Rolling Requiem" to perform Mozart's Requiem in every timezone, beginning at the time of the attacks in each timezone, so that this musical remembrance of the dead would roll around the world for 24 hours. In his blog, James Watts, arts critic of the Tulsa World, remembers the event:

While I -- as do most Americans -- remember where I was and what I was doing on Sept. 11, 2001, what I prefer to remember on this day is where I was on Sept. 11, 2002....

At the conclusion of the Requiem, the powerful notes of "Quia pius es (For You are merciful)," the crowd rose to its feet and applauded for as long as it took for the singers and musicians to exit the sanctuary -- an ovation of nearly three minutes.

And as the crowd made its way outside the church, the bell at Trinity Episcopal began to sound. It would continue to sound at 12-second intervals throughout the day, until it had tolled 3,043 times: one for each victim of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the last year or two we've lost several Texas Playboys from the 1940s: guitarist Jimmy Wyble, singing sisters Dean McKinney Moore and Evelyn McKinney Wills, and now Johnny Cuviello.

Johnny Cuviello, drummer for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in 1946 and 1947 and one of the last surviving band members from that era, passed away last week at the age of 97.

Cuviello, a Fresno native and the son of Italian immigrants, connected with the band in 1946 when Billy Jack Wills, Bob's younger brother, asked his help in tuning his drums before a recording session at station KMJ. Cuviello sat in on drums that day while Billy Jack moved to bass fiddle (which he preferred to drums), and at the end of the day Bob offered Johnny a job. Cuviello was with the band only for about two years, but at a pivotal time -- he's on all but one of the Tiffany Transcriptions sessions and played on Bob Wills's final sessions with Columbia and first sessions for MGM.

Cuviello had been playing drums professionally since high school, and his career included a gig at a burlesque theater and in a band with Buck Owens at The Blackboard in Bakersfield.

In a profile published in 2008 in the Journal of Texas Music History, Cuviello told the story of how he came to be a Texas Playboy and the unceremonious way he was dropped from the band. It says something about the limits of Bob Wills's fame that, as well known as he was among the Texans and Oklahomans who had moved to California to farm in the Central Valley and work in the defense industry, the son of an earlier wave of California immigrants had never heard of him. And perhaps because he was one of the few band members without roots in Texas or Oklahoma, he never quite fit in. He was older than most of them, too -- 31 when he joined the band.

But Cuviello got along well with frequent road roommate Herb Remington (an Indiana native) and together they worked up a tune that Cuviello wrote into the song that Bob Wills would dub "Texas Drummer Boy." Although drums were always important to the Texas Playboys sound, "Texas Drummer Boy" was the only Texas Playboys song to feature prominent extended drum solos, alternating with Remington's steel guitar riffs and Tiny Moore's mandolin solo.

Here's the original version of "Texas Drummer Boy," recorded November 12, 1947.

Here's Johnny five years ago, at his 92nd birthday jam in 2007, performing "Texas Drummer Boy" once again with steel guitarist Herb Remington -- sixty years after it was first recorded:


From the Baylor Institute for Oral History, here's the transcript of western swing historian Jean Boyd's lengthy 1993 interview with Johnny Cuviello and Steve Hathaway. (Excerpts from the interview were included in the Journal of Texas Music History profile.)

Cuviello shows up in a few pictures in this article about the Bakersfield Sound.

Tom Diamant's excellent Tiffany Transcriptions website has a great picture of Johnny Cuviello with Junior Barnard, Herb Remington, Jimmy (Widener?), and Norm (?).

Tom points out that the Journal of Texas Music History story about Johnny Cuviello has "the best photo of the Zoom Radio Show" -- the weekly Texas Playboys show on radio station KGO, sponsored by Zoom breakfast cereal. And here's Johnny Cuviello with the Texas Playboys on a break during the September 7, 1947, Tiffany session.

The video page has a couple of "soundies" where Cuviello can be heard (and sometimes seen) in the background. He's most visible during Alex Brashear's trumpet solo on "Goodbye, Liza Jane."

AND STILL MORE: A couple of more great photos of Johnny Cuviello, including one with Buck Owens, in an article about the unique music scene of Bakersfield.

In case you missed it, here's the video of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, serving as Democratic National Convention chairman last week, presiding over a vote to amend the Democratic national platform on two controversial points -- the restoration of a reference to God and to Jerusalem as Israel's capitol -- that had been removed by the Platform Committee:

It seems fairly clear that there were not two-thirds in the affirmative on any of the three attempts at a vote.

It's not clear to me what the woman next to Villaraigosa -- the parliamentarian, I assume -- meant by "gotta let them what they're gonna do." It could be taken as, "All you can do is call for the vote; it's their decision." Or it could be taken as, "Let them holler, but the ruling is there to be read off of the teleprompter."

Two things are striking about the wide shots of the crowd -- how empty the convention hall was and how small it was. At the Republican National Convention, all the delegates were on the arena floor, with guests and media in the stadium seats. The Democrats used the stadium seats to accommodate the delegates.

When the mainstream media were too busy lining up to service Slick Willie for old time's sake (metaphorically speaking), blogger Jeff Dunetz did the heavy lifting we used to expect reporters to do. Dunetz compared this year's platform with 2008's and uncovered the dropping of the reference to God and the reference to Jerusalem as Israel's capital, along with three other key pro-Israel points in the 2008 platform regarding Hamas, the status of Palestinian refugees, and the pre-1967 borders. For his efforts, Dunetz was called a troll by Dave Weigel, a member by his own admission of the mainstream media herd too busy enjoying the show to dig into the substance of the convention.

There were, reportedly, 15,000 members of the media in Charlotte, of whom maybe 14,980 could have given a damn about the party platform. On Tuesday night, when the Obama campaign and the DNC released its platform, none of the bigfoot media outlets in town spent time on the text.

Shame on them for missing the meat of the story.

But Tuesday morning, Jeff Dunetz already had the story, and by Wednesday it had caught fire, forcing the Obama campaign to go into damage control mode. Not paying close attention to the DNC, I was tipped to the scandal by a Jewish friend who announced on Facebook that, despite his dislike for Romney's economic policies, he could not bring himself to vote for Obama, because of these platform changes.

It amazes me that President Obama's team wasn't watching the platform committee deliberations closely enough to squelch these changes in committee. This last minute fix suggests that the Obama campaign was happy with the changes, until they were frightened by the public outcry from many of their supporters, or that the campaign simply doesn't have its act together.

By the way, although the reference to Jerusalem was restored, the other three pro-Israel points were not restored. It will be interesting to see whether the platform change (and its obvious rejection by rank-and-file Democrats) will be sufficient to win back the pro-Israel voters who announced plans to drop Obama over these changes.

P. S. I'd like to say the Republicans were better than the Democrats, but something very similar happened at the Republican National Convention the week before, with Speaker John Boehner appearing not to hear accurately the delegates objecting to a radical change to the Republican party rules pushed by a Romney ally.

Retiring State Sen. Judy Eason-McEntyre gave her fellow Democrats an earful at a delegation breakfast Thursday morning, according to a NewsOK story.

With four other black members of the Oklahoma Legislature standing silently behind her in a food tent at the state delegation's hotel, Eason-McIntyre said there was "an invisible ceiling for African-Americans who have been the backbone of the Democratic Party."

She said the Oklahoma Democratic Party "has always asked us to be the workhorses," but has not reciprocated in promoting blacks for leadership positions within the party or as candidates for higher office.

Don't miss this contrast at the end of the story:

A black state legislator said later that he agreed with Eason-McIntyre's remarks and pointed to the fact that Oklahoma Republicans had been willing to push J.C. Watts for statewide office and state Rep. T.W. Shannon for Speaker of the House.

When Watts went to the Democratic Party to get involved, the legislator said, Democrats wanted him to stuff envelopes. The Republican Party ran him for state Corporation Commission, he said. Watts went on to serve four terms in Congress.

Tulsa isn't the only city that would be a fiscal loser if Vision2 is approved by voters in November. A BatesLine analysis of tax revenues has determined that Tulsa County's second-largest city, Broken Arrow, would receive only half as much money under Vision2 as it would if it implemented the same tax as a city sales tax.

Vision2 consists of two ballot propositions to create a combined 0.6% Tulsa County sales tax for 13 years, going into effect on January 1, 2017, just after the Tulsa County Vision 2025 tax expires. Proposition 1 is for facilities and equipment, mainly for American Airlines, plus a "deal closing fund." Under the Vision2 proposal, the City of Broken Arrow would receive 12.19% of the revenues of the Proposition 2 0.29% county sales tax over 13 years to spend on a list of "quality of life" capital improvements to be approved by the Tulsa County Commission. News stories report this amount as $44.1 million. BatesLine estimates Vision2 would send $40.9 million to Broken Arrow, based on average county sales tax receipts over the 8 years from March 2004 to February 2012.

But what if, instead of Vision2, Broken Arrow voters were to institute a city sales tax of 0.6% over 13 years -- same term, same percentage, same starting date? Based on the last year of Broken Arrow city sales tax receipts, BatesLine estimates that a BA-specific tax would raise $88,362,196.96 that could be used for City of Broken Arrow capital improvements, without any need to get the County Commission's permission. That's twice as much as BA would receive from the Vision2 tax.

Here are the Broken Arrow sales tax receipts from the most recent 12 reports from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The city sales tax rate throughout the period has been 3%:

Aug-12 $3,338,726.34 3%
Jul-12 $3,055,434.53 3%
Jun-12 $2,709,917.18 3%
May-12 $2,824,542.95 3%
Apr-12 $2,656,149.37 3%
Mar-12 $2,594,508.45 3%
Feb-12 $3,108,913.42 3%
Jan-12 $2,862,828.89 3%
Dec-11 $2,700,081.39 3%
Nov-11 $2,642,006.57 3%
Oct-11 $2,828,791.10 3%
Sep-11 $2,663,560.18 3%

Total for last 12 months: $33,985,460.37
Per penny of sales tax per year: $11,328,486.79
Sales tax per penny per year * 0.6 cents * 13 yrs: $88,362,196.96

Broken Arrow is a growing city and a need to expand and improve basic infrastructure to accommodate that growth. By supporting Vision2, Broken Arrow business and political leaders are cheating Broken Arrow residents out of $44 million in potential improvements. Did they not do the math? Are they being offered something under the table in exchange for their support? There were rumors that Tulsa ceded the Bass Pro Store to BA in exchange for BA's acquiescence on downtown Tulsa as site of the Vision 2025 funded arena. Is that sort of deal in the works for Vision2?

Broken Arrow voters have a compelling reason to defeat the Vision2 tax in November and a compelling reason to replace the City Council and Chamber mis-leaders who have endorsed this bad deal for their city.

The Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission will cast its final vote today, September 5, 2012, on the Pearl District Association's request for a form-based land use ordinance covering the neighborhood. The new rules governing the Pearl District would be phased in to replace the existing use-based zoning code. The Pearl District proposal would better fit the neighborhood, designed for walkability when it was first developed over 90 years ago, and it would give property owners a great deal of flexibility in making the best and highest use of existing buildings and, ultimately, in building new facilities compatible with the walkable nature of the neighborhood.


Back in April I wrote a lengthy post covering the twenty-year history of efforts by city planners and Pearl District neighborhood leaders to reverse a decline that began in the late 1980s. The Pearl District occupies a strategic location linking downtown, Cherry Street, Hillcrest Hospital, the University of Tulsa campus, and the Kendall-Whittier and Crutchfield neighborhoods. Much good investment has already occurred. The form-based development code is one of the last pieces of the puzzle. (Long-overdue stormwater improvements for Elm Creek are another important piece.) This could be the key to a general revival of near-downtown housing and employment, spreading to surrounding neighborhoods.

Certain developers and development attorneys have lobbied hard to defeat and undermine the hard work of the Pearl District residents and business owners that have put so many years into this plan. I suspect the development attorneys would prefer the situation under the present code, where they get paid to sit through long hearings for the multiple variances, special exceptions, and zoning changes required just to build the same sort of buildings that have been there for nearly a century.

The TMAPC meeting is today, September 5, 2012, starting at 1:30 pm, in the City Council chambers at Tulsa City Hall, 2nd and Cincinnati. It's at the end of the agenda, so if you're coming, be prepared to stay awhile.

Supporters of positive, growth-oriented, neighborhood-driven development policy need to email the TMAPC ( and, if possible, show up today to support the Pearl District plan.

UPDATE, after the vote: The proposal was voted down, and there's a new legal interpretation that the TMAPC's vote against means the City Council can't consider it. It's my understanding that for a zoning code amendment, it's only necessary for the TMAPC to consider it and make a recommendation (whether for or against) and at that point the City Council is free to adhere to the TMAPC's recommendation or override it. But even if the City Council had enough members bold enough to take this up, you can bet that someone would threaten to sue them individually and the mayor-controlled City Attorney's office would withhold any assistance, notwithstanding the legal merits of the situation.

From what I've been told, some of the TMAPC members may have put themselves in legal jeopardy by not being guided by the duly adopted comprehensive plan in making their decision. Zoning decisions should never be a popularity contest, but it sounds like that's exactly what happened today. Of course, legal jeopardy only becomes a reality if someone is willing to expend the time and treasure to prosecute a lawsuit. I have no doubt that the anti-Pearl District bunch have the resources and the will to punish any planning commissioner or city councilor that stands in their way. I am just as certain that the same is not true of the pro-Pearl District advocates.

All the same, I hope someone on the City Council will move for the Pearl District plan's adoption. Some of my midtown friends, who share my passion for sound urban planning policy, are getting an education in how power politics are played in Tulsa. They're learning that the people they thought were the good guys and the bad guys aren't. As I wrote earlier on a Facebook thread:

You remember that horrible, awful, bickering city council we got rid of? Part of what they were bickering about was trying to keep the Mayor from loading up TMAPC with developer types and instead trying to fill some of the seats with neighborhood leaders who are knowledgeable about zoning.

You remember when we had a neighborhood president on the TMAPC, and how the newly elected county commissioner made it a personal crusade to get rid the neighborhood president off of the TMAPC, at the behest of her developer buddies? The neighborhood president, Liz Wright, survived that attempt to force her out, but when her term expired the county commissioner replaced her with someone presumably more friendly to developers. Liz Wright was there today to speak in support of the Pearl District. The county commissioner is TulsaNow co-founder Karen Keith, who was re-elected with no opposition this year. Karen Keith paid absolutely no political price for her attempt to force a neighborhood leader off of the TMAPC.

Bottom line is that some of the politicians you think are your friends have been actively working behind the scenes, at the behest of their allies and campaign contributors in the development lobby, to undermine reasonable and modest zoning reforms like the one that was killed today.

When I was in kindergarten (1969-1970) in Mrs. Chambers's class at Catoosa Elementary School , we took a field trip to a place just up on US 66 called Nature's Acres. Mr. Hugh Davis, the owner, showed us alligators in a pond and an actual snake pit. Our assistant principal and P. E. teacher, Mr. Hough, got to pick up one of the venomous snakes because he knew how. (We all knew Mr. Hough was a tough guy. Conventional wisdom held that Mr. Hough had an electric paddle with holes to make it swing faster and hit harder.) Then we went into an ark (the Animal Reptile Kingdom) that housed a nature museum, where we had a snack (probably milk and cookies). The ARK was on dry land, but there was an unremarkable pond nearby.

A few years later that unremarkable pond was a public swimming hole, surrounded by a sandy beach, a restroom building that looked like a tropical grass hut, and whimsical picnic tables, and in the middle of it all, a big Blue Whale. You could walk in his mouth, slide down his fins, or jump off his tail into the water. Catoosa had no city pool; the Blue Whale was the place to cool off on hot summer days.


2012 is the Blue Whale's 40th birthday, and the community is throwing a 40th Birthday Bash, open to the public, this Friday night, September 7, 2012, from 6 pm to 9 pm. Cake and ice cream and blue punch will be served, and there will be a DJ and dancing. It should be a great celebration for Route 66 roadies and old-time Catoosans alike.

The night before, Thursday, September 6, 2012, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Blue will welcome the annual Blue Tie Affair, a fundraising banquet hosted by the Catoosa Arts and Tourism Society and catered by another Route 66 Catoosa icon, Molly's Landing. For a $50 donation, you get a steak dinner -- a Molly's Landing filet cooked on site with all the fixings. Dessert is Molly's famous bread pudding with Jack Daniels sauce. The Danny Baker Band will provide music and wineries will offer samples of their wares. Tickets are still available: Call 918-266-6042 or email the whale at

A serendipitous find: LIFE magazine's April 13, 1942, issue included a six-page story about high school education in Tulsa, with photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt. The story, "Tulsa High Schools: They Are Making Progressive Education Work," highlighted non-traditional classes and teaching techniques at three of Tulsa's four high schools -- Central, Daniel Webster, and Will Rogers:

And, according to the caption, Central student Charlene Houston had a figure problem and had to do exercises with her pelvis in a vise to fix it.


There are many more photos from Eisenstaedt's visit in Google's image archive, above and beyond those that made it to print. Unfortunately and surprisingly, Google doesn't make it easy to search by the photographer and location tags attached to each image, and there's no way to get to a complete set of related photos. Best thing to do is to click on Miss Houston and then click on thumbnails of related photos. Where I could find them, I've linked my description (above) of photos that appeared in the story to the online image.

The story itself hints that as early as 70 years ago, the Tulsa school district was beginning to abandon basics for "progressive" fads. Which is not to say that these students were poorly educated. I suspect that, by the end of 8th grade, these students would have received as much education in the basics of math, grammar, and history as today's students get by the time they graduate.

Comedian Tony Hancock and writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson were pioneers of the situation comedy on British radio and TV in the 1950s and 1960s. At a time when comedy shows usually relied on short sketches with one gag after another, catchphrases and silly voices, Hancock's Half-Hour featured a single plot and recurring characters, with the comedy arising from the situations they found themselves in.

The 1961 season, the final series of Hancock's partnership with Galton and Simpson featured several episodes that became all-time classics, including this one, "The Blood Donor," first aired on June 23, 1961.

Fans of OETA's lineup of Britcoms will recognized a young and unmoustachioed Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served?, Last of the Summer Wine) as one of Hancock's fellow donors.


Galton and Simpson went on to create and write Steptoe and Son, a hit show about a junk-dealer and his son that became the inspiration for an American series you may remember.

MORE: BBC Radio 4 Extra airs a weekly episode from Hancock's Half-Hour, the radio series written by Galton and Simpson and starring Tony Hancock, Sid James, Bill Kerr, Hattie Jacques, and Kenneth Williams. You can always listen to the latest episode online.

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