April 2013 Archives

At some time in the near future, the Oklahoma State Senate may vote on HB1412, a bill that purports to prohibit governmental entities in Oklahoma from implementing any aspect of Agenda 21 or belonging to any United Nations-related organization. After the jump, you can read the full text of the engrossed bill approved on March 13, 2013, by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The bill was assigned to the Senate Energy Committee, where it currently sits.

HB1412 is a feel-good bill, a security blanket that does nothing to protect against real threats to private property rights. Meanwhile, the legislature is ignoring practical, effective steps that they could take to protect against those threats, regardless of the inspiration or motivation behind them.

Photomeme from I Can Has Cheezburger

Here are the main problems with HB1421:

  • Legislation that is specific to Agenda 21 won't protect against the same threats to private property that are traceable to other influences.
  • There are no procedures for identifying and prosecuting violations of the law.
  • There are no penalties for violating the law.
  • No provision is made to maintain a list of "nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations" with which Oklahoma and its political subdivisions may not interact.
  • The misuse of "all" when "any" is meant, and "and" when "or" is meant may allow a court to construe the law as a dead letter.

If a governmental action is abusive, it doesn't matter if that action was inspired by Agenda 21, Heinz 57, or Route 66. Wrong is wrong.

In fact, the bad guys are likely to change the terminology if a label begins to attract negative attention. Activists who track fads in public education are familiar with the cycle: A program comes under negative scrutiny, and there are calls to defund it and forbid its implementation. Supporters of the goals of the program create a new program with the same goals, but with a different name, and different terminology. Opponents have to fight the same battle all over again, trying to convince elected officials that this is the same old garbage in new packaging.

Rather than focus on the label, legislators and activists concerned about Agenda 21 should focus on the effects. What are the dangers against which we're trying to protect Oklahomans? What gaps in the law put Oklahomans at a disadvantage in defending themselves against these impositions? How can the laws be changed to give ordinary Oklahomans a firmer place to stand and more powerful tools to fight against these abuses?

Here are two real-world situations where the legislature could take practical steps to protect Oklahomans against the feared outcomes of Agenda 21 globaloney: Eminent domain and trash policy.

Eminent domain abuses and other impositions on private property rights predate Agenda 21 and occur independently of any connection to Agenda 21 or sustainability. Public trusts and authorities have been known to "lend" their power of eminent domain to benefit politically connected businesses and institutions. (For example, the use of the City of Tulsa's power of eminent domain to facilitate the expansion of the University of Tulsa, a private, sectarian institution.) The Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition tracks this issue nationwide; here's their summary of state constitutional provisions dealing with eminent domain.

Even though our State Constitution requires that eminent domain may only be used to acquire property for public use, not merely public benefit, a property owner confronted with a condemnation threat may not know where to turn for help and may not have the financial means to fight an unconstitutional use of eminent domain.

The legislature could provide that every condemnation would be subject to an early motion to dismiss, with the burden of proof placed on the condemning authority to establish that the proposed use for the condemned property is a public use in accordance with the Oklahoma Constitution and the Muskogee County v. Lowery ruling. If the burden is not met, the condemning authority would have to pay the property owner's legal cost. It's a variation on the highly effective anti-SLAPP statutes in place in California and elsewhere. Here, too, the idea is to shift the financial burden away from the citizen exercising and defending his rights and onto the party seeking to limit or impose upon those rights.

At the same time, the legislature could and should act to tighten up the ridiculouly broad definition of "blight" in the state statutes. Click that link and read what it says. Just about any one's property could be declared blighted. If you're concerned that PLANiTULSA -- the City of Tulsa's recently adopted comprehensive plan -- could be used as a pretext for condemning private property, then remove anything in the law that defines incompatibility with a comprehensive plan as blight.

Many Tulsans are upset about the changes to our trash service. Under the Dewey Bartlett Jr administration, the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE) lumbered Tulsans with more expensive, less frequent, and less convenient trash service, all for the sake of financing "green" CNG-powered trash trucks that can track our trash and recycling habits. (Why else do you need RFID-identified trash carts?) The TARE board seemed uninterested in the public's wishes, seemed to be imposing this new policy For Our Own Good whether we liked it or not.

Bartlett Jr refused to replace TARE board members with new members who would be more sympathetic and responsive to public wishes. The City Council explored disbanding TARE and bringing the trash service back under city government, but TARE's status as a Title 60 trust made it impossible to disband TARE without TARE's consent.

So let's see the legislature reform Title 60 so that a city's elected officials can reign in and if necessary disband a rogue trust or authority. Provide a way to deal with an authority's outstanding debts, so they can't be used to prevent the sunsetting of an authority that has outlived its purpose, as TARE has done. (TARE was created to finance the construction of the city's trash-to-energy plant, paying back construction bonds with the trash service revenue. The facility is now privately owned.)

Add a provision to allow a city's governing board to appoint new authority members if the mayor refuses to make an appointment when a member's term expires. (Tulsa has a charter amendment that gives the City Council the authority to make appointments when the mayor refuses, but the City Attorney's office has opined that the TARE board is exempt from the requirement because of the way in which the authority was created. The law I'm suggesting could close this loophole.)

It's simple to author a resolution expressing the sense of the Legislature, an opinion on a subject, which is about all that HB1412 is. Writing effective legislation is not simple, and I would urge the legislators and the activists who support HB1412 to dig deeper and to write laws that protect Oklahomans whether or not Agenda 21 and the United Nations are involved. Pass HB1412 if you like, but it won't have any meaningful effect, and indeed it may lull you into a false sense of security.

Thursday I took the students in my Ancient Greek class at Augustine Christian Academy. We went to Philbrook to see a special exhibit of ancient artifacts -- statues, inscriptions, coins, jewelry, household items, and vessels having something to do with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love (known to the Romans as Venus), and her most famous child, Eros (aka Cupid).

I had the students spend a good deal of time looking at a Greek inscription from the Roman period, from a public bath in the Greek town of Assos in Asia Minor. We're accustomed to seeing ancient texts set mainly in minuscule letters, with spaces between words and accent marks. It was interesting to try to decipher words in all caps with no spaces or accents, with part of the inscription missing and words sometimes wrapping around the end of a line.

Here is an image of the inscription, from Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens: 1882-1883, published shortly after the inscription's discovery as part of the "first collection of Greek inscriptions ever made by an American expedition in classic lands."


Many artifacts depicted Aphrodite's role in the abduction of Helen and the disastrous war it sparked. Paris, prince of Troy, was asked to judge which of the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite which one was the fairest. Aphrodite bribed Paris with Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, who happened to be the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Menelaus rallied the Greeks to get her back, the Trojans refused, and the Trojan War ensued, ending in the destruction of Troy. Aphrodite's mortal Trojan lover, Anchises, escaped the flames on the back of their son Aeneas, whose treacherous travels to the future site of Rome are told in Vergil's epic poem Aeneid. At least one coin in the collection depicts Aeneas giving Anchises a piggy-back ride.

I was fascinated by a vessel depicting the elopement of Helen and her return to Menelaus. There were names in tiny letters scratched into the pot above most of the characters. Some of them were written left-to-right and some right-to-left. There were phis and thetas, but there were Ls instead of lambdas, and they seemed to use X for the xi sound.

The exhibit has a roped-off "mature audiences only" section; we steered clear of it. There were a few items near the end of the exhibit (relating to drinking parties and a Greek practice that I'll euphemistically call "mentorship with depraved benefits") that should have been in the roped-off area.

After seeing the exhibit the students all decided to color a picture of an amphora (one student turned hers into an ιχθυς τανκ). We toured the gardens and marveled at a magnificent display of tulips on the south allee. On the rotunda's mezzannine, there's an exhibit of glamorous black-and-white photos of Hollywood stars of the 1930s, and next to it an intriguing display of art made from books.

We topped off the field trip with lunch, appropriately at Helen of Troy restaurant, 6670 S. Lewis Ave. We had gyros, tawook, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, and spanakopita. It was all delicious, and the students enjoyed trying new foods. The portions for the lunch sandwiches were larger than we expected.

It was a delightful day. If you have an interest in ancient Greece and archaeology, I'd encourage you to catch the Aphrodite exhibit; it's at Philbrook through May 26, 2013. And if you love the food of the eastern Mediterranean, I encourage you to dine at Helen of Troy.

The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash, no fan of Twitter and social media, wrote the equivalent of about 400 tweets on the subject recently, including an account of his visit to this year's SXSW. There's a Tulsa connection: Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, was on a panel about social media and religion. The late Charles Schusterman was the founder of Samson Energy, and his family's foundation funded OU's purchase of their Tulsa campus, supports efforts to reconnect young Jewish people with the broader Jewish community, and transforming Jewish organizations to be accepting of what the Torah condemns as abominable perversions. Cohen's bio indicates that he did pro bono legal work to block Georgia's implementation of photo ID for voters. I've highlighted Cohen's comments in the passage below.

Evan Fitzmaurice, an Austin-based lawyer and longtime friend who until recently was the Texas Film Commissioner, has attended many a SXSW. He tells me one night over dinner that while he's wired to the hilt ("I've gotta connect to the Matrix"), he sees the downside of perpetual connectedness. "You're truncating natural thought. Things don't gestate anymore. It's instantaneous, without the benefit of reflection. And everything's said at volume 10. Nothing's graduated anymore. It's a clamor." Though not religious himself, he says what I witness at SXSW would be recognized by any religious person. "They're trying to supplant deliverance and redemption through religion with civil religion and technological redemption--the promise of a sublime life on a higher plane."

In one instance, the Twidiocracy tries to have it both ways. I attend a Sunday morning session called "Transcendent Tech: Is G-d Rebooting the World?" It's a discussion headed by a bearded Mordechai Lightstone, in full Hasidic regalia as the director of social media for the Lubavitch News Service, and Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. "God," Cohen says, "was a coder. She was a hacker. She saw a plan for the world." An element of those plans, he says, was the Ten Commandments. Though now, "we are in a 2.0 phase."

Our group then contemplates the 2.0ness of it all. Cohen, though Jewish, wonders what it would be like if the Catholic church "came out with a chief technology officer" who said "we're going to reboot the Catholic church. And we actually decided to have someone design apps and take a technological approach to changing the paradigm." A man sitting next to me would like to see "an Amazon of the Catholic church" since there's a "distribution of specialized services problem" and he wants to know how the church will be "brought to my front doorstep." A man in thick geek glasses says he sees the Bible as the "first great example of opensourcing." Cohen adds that he still thinks there are prophets, as he sees "the prophetic voice" when he reads friends' comments on his Facebook page. Another gent says his problem with the Bible is there's no "error correction." Paul, for instance, was a homophobe, so he'd like to see more wiki-style group editing. One woman, who has 33,000 Twitter followers, says she writes Jewish tweets. She thinks that's the wave of the future, since "people aren't going to houses of worship anymore."

This kind of talk could send even a believer like me running into Richard Dawkins's arms. If God is indeed rebooting the world in this vein, here's hoping His hard drive crashes.

Noteworthy news, comment, and reflection:

MIT's student newspaper The Tech reports on the memorial service for campus police officer Sean Collier.

MIT Police Chief John Difava recounted the events of last Thursday night. He was pulling out of Stata around 9:30 p.m. and saw a cruiser idling, which turned out to be Collier. "I asked him what was going on, and he gave me that famous grin," said DiFava, "and said 'just making sure everybody's behaving, sir.'" An hour later, Collier would be shot.

DiFava also spoke about all of Collier's qualities, stories of which have been pouring from the community this week: He was a gentle and caring man, and police work was his calling. Sean wanted to be a police officer from the age of 7, said DiFava, and paid his way through the police academy with no promise of employment, waiting for a department with an opening. "That lucky department would be us."

The LA Times spoke to neighbors and acquaintances of the (alleged) bombers, including members of a mosque where they worshipped, the Islamic Center of Boston mosque in Cambridge. Some told of a recent, angry outburst by the older brother.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thrown out of the mosque -- the Islamic Society of Boston, in Cambridge -- about three months ago, after he stood up and shouted at the imam during a Friday prayer service, they said. The imam had held up slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a man to emulate, recalled one worshiper who would give his name only as Muhammad.

Enraged, Tamerlan stood up and began shouting, Muhammad said.

"You cannot mention this guy because he's not a Muslim!" Muhammad recalled Tamerlan shouting, shocking others in attendance.

He returned to the service later without further incident, and other mosque members say he wasn't thrown out so much as taken aside and calmed down.

(Interesting contrast between this situation and a Tulsa man who said he was intimidated by leaders at his mosque and effectively kicked out because of an op-ed he wrote condemning violence in the name of Islam.)

A week ago, Judicial Watch found that bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's 2009 arrest (not conviction, but the arrest by itself) for domestic violence was sufficient justification to have had him deported. That article also links to other documents about al-Qaeda's involvement in Chechnya.

Ace of Spades HQ has a lengthy analysis of the decision to read a Miranda warning to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who immediately stopped talking. Ace notes that if may be worth sacrificing the ability to use the suspect's statements against him in a court of law in order for a greater purpose -- finding out who else still out there may have been involved.

Ace also links to this: In Paris this week, a rabbi and his son were slashed and wounded by a man wielding a box cutter and shouting "Allah-u-akbar!"

In the Telegraph, columnist Brendan O'Neill wonders why American liberals seem to be more worried about the reaction of some Americans to a radical Muslim motivation behind the bombing than about the bombing itself.

Todd Stewman, a church planting pastor in Austin, Texas, was at the finish line just minutes before the attack and not long after his wife had finished running the marathon. He reflects on the providence that had him away from the finish line and around the block when the bombs went off, while others were killed and maimed. He asks, "Where was God on Boylston Street?" Where is God in suffering?

Jesus, more than anyone in human history, suffered as an innocent.... God's hand was on him through it all. Jesus was perfectly at the center of the Father's will, even when he was suffering. What does this mean for us? It means that suffering does not indicate the absence of God. It means that God is with us in the midst of suffering. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." The only reason we can know for sure that God is with us through evil and suffering is that the Son of God waded into a broken world, experienced suffering himself, and overcame it. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not eliminate all suffering now, but it does guarantee that suffering will one day be eliminated ultimately when he comes again. The death and resurrection of Jesus tells us that God has not ignored evil and suffering, but that he has done something decisively about it. God has dealt a final blow to death by raising Jesus from the dead, and one day there will be no more death and suffering.

So, if I had died or been badly injured on Monday, God would no less have been with me. My safety and security are gifts from God, for which I am most certainly thankful. But my safety and security are not the litmus test of his presence and goodness. His presence and goodness are evidenced by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who "took up our pain and bore our suffering (Isaiah 53:4)."

Julie R. Neidlinger ponders how we respond emotionally to a far-away tragedy -- our rebellion against the thought that we aren't really in control, our desire to express care and concern to the victims without the means to do so in substantial ways, and how blind we can be to those who are within the reach of our help. There's so much insight here, it's tempting to quote the whole thing:

We post sad sentiments and outrage and images on social media. We like and share them and hope it changes the future so that it will never happen again. What else can we do to banish this bad thing? And then politicians mistakenly think their reason for existence is to legislate something so the human condition of pain and suffering doesn't rear its ugly head again.

"If something terrible ever happens to me, " I told my friend, "I don't want to be the excuse for bad legislation. I don't want to be memorialized as a victim. I didn't live 40 years on this planet to be remembered for a few final ugly moments and a fight in some elected political body in an attempt to make human nature illegal."

Tragedy and evil are not completely within our control. We make lots of noise and pretend it isn't so....

We're an ephemerally-connected world. We have a strange problem of being instantly connected to the news of what's happening but unable to do anything substantially. We can give money. Post to Facebook. Tweet. Use emoticons. Click "like".

But grief is best handled in person by people close to those affected, in actual physical proximity, and I can't do that on Facebook....

When something bad happens in the world, I realize I don't want to be able to weep huge tears for hurting people across the country and not feel anything for the actual people God put in my life.

The best thing I can do now is show my family and friends love.

I can let the people in my life know my thoughts are with them by sending a card or a bouquet of surprise flowers or talking on the phone even when I have work that I need to do. Little things are big things; they accumulate. Thinking kind thoughts are of little use if the person doesn't know you, and doesn't know you're thinking about them.

The best thing we can do when tragedy strikes elsewhere is make sure love happens here. Make the small world you're a part of better as a fight against the spreading darkness.

Back on Monday, April 22, 2013, Rob Port reported that U. S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is proposing black powder control in response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Port notes two possibly unintended consequences: (1) Restrictions on gunpowder hinder reloading of spent ammunition, which was one way around ammunition shortages. (2) Unable to get professionally-made black powder, some may resort to manufacturing their own, which will be lower quality and potentially more dangerous:

Here's the thing: Building explosives isn't hard. You can find recipes for making black powder and other explosives/incendiaries in library books. Of course, the problem with home-made black powder is that it's not very good. It'll go boom, just not as reliably.

By restricting access to professionally-made black powder, we're probably doing more to ensure more accidents with people trying to make powder at home than preventing the sort of terrible but, thankfully, rare attacks such as the one in Boston.

(UPDATE: See-Dubya calls my attention to this: One of the bombers bought a couple of large reloadable mortars with 24 shells at a fireworks store across the border in New Hampshire. The store's owner estimates he might have been able to harvest 1.5 pounds of black powder by dismantling the shells. Lautenberg's proposal wouldn't have caught a purchase like this.)

Writing at Next City, MIT urban planning student Andy Cook writes about the eerie quiet on the streets of Boston during the "shelter-in-place":

It was a strange walk studded with realizations of what my neighborhood looks like without the faces that usually draw my attention. There were things I pass everyday that I had never seen before. A cluster of low-slung row houses that had been standing for the last 100 years. Another home being built across the street -- how had I missed the gap that must have been there before? There were flowers, of course, everywhere, and the cashier that sold me a jar of ground coffee gave me the sweetest, saddest smile I've seen in a long time. The only sound I heard as I walked home was wind in the trees, and my own footsteps. My neighborhood was peaceful.

Further on in Cook's article, though, I get the distinct impression of "mission creep" in the realm of urban planning (see Neidlinger above about legislating to abolish human nature):

Many of us came to the department with a do-gooder mentality. We were motivated to pursue planning because we thought it could address the inequity we saw in the world. We felt (and feel) that structural inequality is at the root of societal problems we face on a daily basis, violence and despair among them. Planners are uniquely poised to bring a holistic approach to cumbersome and intractable issue....

More likely, [as professional planners] we'll have to make decisions about policies and resource allocations that help some and hurt others. The challenge of this is two-fold: To understand the complex systems well enough to plan for unintended consequences, and to make sure the consequences won't cause disruption or disenfranchisement that might lead a population to turn to violence as a means of protest, retribution or survival...

Deciphering the "why" behind the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt will be a long and contentious task. For some, it will begin and end with the biography of the bombers themselves. But we should press further, and follow with a close examination of the global systems that foster inequality, breeding hatred and violence internationally. We as Americans and as planners especially must never stop considering the unintended consequences of the systems we live by. We must measure impacts and decide when and how to retool those systems that are broken, that allow for days like Monday to occur.

Those of us who are Christians know that the ultimate brokenness is in the human heart. We can and should work to mitigate the effects of evil, and city planning can be a means to do so, but we will not be able to eradicate evil in this world.

Q & A

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Q1. So, are you going to be writing about Kathy Taylor's threat to sue Bill Christiansen?

A1. Yep, and I've already started, but I need a little more time, because I don't want to get a scary lawyer letter from Doug Dodd, Kathy's lawyer. (I don't know what to think about a First Amendment attorney who puts his John Hancock on what looks suspiciously like a SLAPP threat.)

Q2. You don't seem to be writing much these days.

A2. That's not a question, but you're right. I have plenty to say on plenty of topics, but it's hard to blog while folding laundry. If I'm not working on the vocation that actually pays the bills, then I'm teaching Greek or grading papers or writing exams, helping my own children stay on task and get their assignments done, turning Handycam video into a DVD with a menu, doing laundry, doing dishes.

Q3. What did you think of the Republican state convention?

A3. Well, I wasn't there. I felt it was more important to spend Saturday helping my two oldest kids get back on track with their assignments. They are both heavily loaded this year, and we've had some disruptions, principally the illness and death of their grandmother (my mother-in-law) and my wife's travel related to caring for her mom and now dealing with her estate. It was a very pleasant day, working quietly alongside my kids, but it was odd to miss the state convention for the first time in over a decade.

Q4. Are you happy with the convention's election results?

A4. David Weston should do a fine job on the nuts-and-bolts of running the party. I am concerned that we need our state party chairman to protect the Republican brand in Oklahoma. Mr. Weston may not regard that as part of his job, but he should. Now that the party dominates state government, we no longer have any excuse not to enact what we believe to be the best policies for Oklahoma's future, and yet we can't seem to get anything done. Gov. Fallin blames the lobbyists. But to our north, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has gotten a significant income tax cut and a personhood bill through the legislature. When Republican legislators stood in the way of his platform -- the platform that voters endorsed by electing him -- he supported primary opponents and got rid of most of the obstructionists. We need that sort of leadership in Oklahoma. We need state party officials who will exert as much pressure on GOP elected officials for limited government and lower taxes as the lobbyists are exerting in the opposite direction. The chambers of commerce and heavy construction and public employee unions all have their lobbyists; who will speak for the taxpayers?

Q5. Any other stories you're aching to write about?

A5. The failure of the Agenda 21 bill. Tulsa's victory in the "Parking Madness" tournament. (I've taken some great photos, but I need to write about it.) The stupidity of a column on exploiting Route 66 as a tourist attraction that ignores the importance of historical preservation. And there are a bunch of other stories that aren't really timely any more, but I want to get something on the record, particularly in tribute to some good people who have joined the Choir Invisible in recent months.

Q6. Isn't BatesLine's 10th anniversary next week? Any plans?

A6. Yep. I'd hoped to put together a retrospective, but that's looking unlikely.

Q7. Shouldn't you be going to bed?

A7. Yes. Either go to bed, or graze in the kitchen in a vain attempt to stay awake enough to write. Maybe I'll go to bed.

LEI_Logo.jpgTulsa is famous for some high-profile evangelists, but you may not know about a low-key missions organization with a global reach based right across the street from the River West Festival Park. This week, they're offering training to help you love and serve your neighbors who can't read.

Literacy and Evangelism International was founded in 1967 to help "people connect better with their world and with God's Word." LEI teaches reading and writing in the person's mother tongue, teaches English as a second language, helps churches and other missions organizations with literacy materials and training for literacy teachers, develops literacy teaching materials, based on Bible content in multiple languages, and sends missionaries out worldwide to teach people to read so that they can encounter God's Word first-hand and also be empowered to participate fully in their own society and economy.

People from all over the world come to Tulsa each year for training in beginning literacy ministries in their own countries. LEI also trains leaders in the process of building a reading primer for a language. (See the video below.)

This week, LEI is offering a ten-hour Tutor Training Workshop on Tuesday evening (3 hrs), Thursday evening (3 hrs), and Saturday morning (4 hrs). The cost is $23 to cover the cost of materials. To participate, you must register in advance by calling Bob Biederman at 918-585-3826.

LEI estimates that 50,000 adults in the city of Tulsa are illiterate, 60% of all prisoners in the United States are illiterate, and 20% of American adults are functionally illiterate.

And while 90% of the world's population has the entire Bible in their mother tongue, 95% have the entire New Testament, and 98% have some portion of scripture, 45-55% of the world's population is unable to read God's Word for themselves.

People who cannot read are vulnerable to financial, political, and spiritual oppression by the unscrupulous. It is an act of mercy to teach someone to decode the written word:

Learning to read is a stepping stone in one's life. The ability to read opens doors to knowledge and personal development. As a person learns to read he is able to improve his life. It is like a ladder which takes the individual to higher and higher levels. For example, a new reader can fill out a job application and apply for a better job. The new reader can gain knowledge about better farming methods to increase his harvest. The new reader finds the opportunity for better health as he reads about an immunization program for his children. Literacy opens doors to help both the newly literate and his family to become the most useful citizens possible.

MORE: Here's a video introduction to the work of LEI:

And here's a brief LEI documentary on the process of primer construction:

Many of LEI's leaders maintain blogs. Executive Director Sid Rice has a lovely recent photo of a dish of fried caterpillars from a lunch in Kinshasa, Congo.

Some tech notes so I don't forget how I did this.

Over this last weekend, my middle and youngest children were in a production of "The Music Man Jr.," a simplified, hour-long version of the Meredith Willson musical. (The cast, mainly elementary and middle-school aged children in the Classical Conversations homeschooling program, sang loudly and well, hit their cues, recovered gracefully from little slip-ups, and elicited genuine laughs again and again. It was good enough that I have actually enjoyed watching scenes again and again (even scenes without my kids) as I put together the DVD. Carletta Bradley and Jamie Lange of the Bradley Lange School of Fine Arts in Broken Arrow did a remarkable job of directing the students, who had fun while working hard.

I spent the last two performances taking video (for archival purposes, not for sale or public performance) with a borrowed Sony Handycam, which records video onto mini-DVDs. Each mini-DVD holds about 55 minutes in long-play mode, and between the two performances I wound up with four discs and a bit over 3 GB of video.

I thought it ought to be a simple matter to combine the resulting video object files (VOBs) on the mini-DVDs into a single DVD, and to do it without decompressing and recompressing the video and audio streams. I tried DVD-Shrink, which was good for identifying chapter points, and you can set it not to compress the video, but in the end I couldn't get a DVD built.

So here's what I did instead:

Copied all the contents of each mini-DVD onto my hard drive, each DVD with its own folder.

Used DGIndex (dgmpgdec158.zip), and added each VOB file (there were six in all) to a single project, then "save project and demux video," creating two files, an .M2V MPEG-2 video file and a .AC3 audio file.

Used Adobe Encore CS3 to attach the demuxed video and audio to a timeline, and then find the time to use (hour, minute, second, frame) for each chapter break. Encore was unable to create the DVD files, pulling an error each time, complaining about a problem near the end of the combined video. Evidently this is a known problem, but one without a solution. So in the end, Encore was only useful for identifying chapter points.

Used DVDAuthorGUI 1.029 to set the chapter points determined in Encore, to create M2V stills from 720x480 JPG images (created with GIMP), one for each menu, to attach buttons and actions to the menu and link them together. Click the link for how to make menus with DVDAuthorGUI.

Authored the DVD with DVDAuthorGUI, which created a folder with the normal DVD subfolders (VIDEO_TS, AUDIO_TS), VOBs, and IFO files.

Added another folder to contain non-DVD info -- a couple of audio recordings of the performances that don't have the sounds of me operating the zoom and swiveling the camera.

Final step: Write the folder out to DVD as a data DVD and be sure to close the disc to make the DVD player happy.

Now that I've successfully built a disc, I could try to make a more complicated menu, complete with embedded video and audio. It would be nice to be able to upgrade the menus without redoing the VOBs.


videohelp.com is a comprehensive, crowdsourced resource on recording, editing, and playing back video in various tape and optical formats. One nice feature: Reviews of playback devices that allow you to do an apples-to-apples comparison of capabilities, e.g., which video and audio formats can the player handle.

UPDATE 2014/04/10:

So I'm doing this again and re-learning some lessons. Here's more step-by-step, with some changes. (No Adobe anything this time.) I will add more notes later when I have time.

1. Copy all the contents of each mini-disc into its own separate folder on your computer's harddrive.

2. Launch DVDAuthorGUI, then from the tools menu, launch DGIndex.

3. In DGIndex, File | Open, then navigate to the folders where you copied the mini-disc contents, and add the VOB files from each of the folders to your project. Make sure the order is right. Click OK when done.

4. File | Save Project and Demux Video. I use a separate working directory named with the event's initials, date YYYYMMYY and time -- it just needs to be a unique name. Demuxing takes about 6 minutes. Exit DGIndex.

5. Use ReStream to remove ending sequence on your m2v file, which, if not done, will mess up DVDAuthorGUI.

6. Launch DVD-Shrink, and use it to find where you want chapter points. Go to Reauthor, then use the DVD browser to navigate to where you copied the minidiscs to your hard drive. You'll drag each disc's contents as a separate Title over to the DVD structure pane on the left. The icon with two arrows lets you set a precise start time, which helps you find exactly where you want the chapter break, down to the 1/2 second.

The chapter points are per original minidisc, so for the video in minidisc 2 and following, you'll have to add the running time of the previous disc or discs. (Excel is good at adding times, if you don't want to do Base 60 arithmetic in your head.) It's helpful to put these times in a text file, which you can then copy and paste into DVDAuthorGUI. Keep in mind that DVD-Shrink uses hour:minute:second:frame format, but DVDAuthorGUI expects hour:minute:second.decimal format. So if DVD-Shrink says the starting point is frame :15, substitute .50 (half of 30 frames).

(Further NOTE: DVDAuthorGUI thinks it can help you define chapter points interactively, but its visual editor uses the Windows Media Player, which is sloppy and imprecise. So use DVD-Shrink to find exactly where you want your chapter points.)

7. Launch GIMP to create your title image. You might use a favorite photo from dress rehearsal, and add title and chapter names as layers above it. Save it as a high quality JPG. (DVDAuthorGUI accepts BMP files, but then converts to low-quality jpg, so save it yourself as a high quality jpg.)***

8. Back to DVD Author GUI. Add Title and then navigate to the .demuxed.m2v file you created with DGIndex. Select the file. Then, on the next dialog, select the audio file.

9. In DVDAuthorGUI, click chapters, then copy and paste the list of chapter times from your text file to the dialog box and click OK.

10. In DVDAuthorGUI, click the Menus menu (on the menu bar), then Create M2V Still. Navigate to the JPG file you created in step 7, then tell it where to save the result. For aspect ratio, choose 4x3 or 16x9, whichever matches the ratio of your video.***

11. In DVDAuthorGUI, click the Menus button, then, on the Menu Manager popup, you have two choices, creating a new menu or importing an already-defined menu. Choice A: Click the Add New Menu button. On the file chooser, pick the .m2v still you created in step 10. Add an audio stream if you want it, or cancel if you don't. Choice B: Click the File menu and then "Import menu from file." This allows you to export a menu from another project as a .dvam (DVDAuthorGui project file), edit it offline, and load it in. If you already have a menu you like to use as a basis for this project, Choice B can be quicker than Choice A.

12. Now you're in the menu editor. I like to check the advanced box, because then I can specify pixel position and width and height of each clickable area. I keep it simple -- outlined box around each chapter title, linked to jump to that chapter. Once you're happy, click accept.

13. Click the nav cmds icon, and change the post-command for the title to "call menu", so it will automatically go back to the menu when it's done playing. Set first play to jump titleset 1 menu. Click accept.

14. Add any extras you'd like to add. I haven't tried this yet.

15. You're ready to author the DVD. Click the "author DVD" icon. When it asks for a folder name to create the DVD, you need to navigate to where you want the VOB files to go and then give the name of a folder that doesn't yet exist. Click Save and it will start going. Authoring took about 7 minutes to complete.

16. The folder where you put the VOB files is ready to write to a DVD using your favorite DVD burning utility. You might want to add in photos, audio, a scan of the program.

*** NOTE: Using a high-quality JPEG didn't produce a high-quality image for the menu after all. There is a method to turn a still image into an M2V file for a menu using DVD Shrink. I haven't tried it yet. More info here, here, here.

I was up late last night anyway, but when my wife told about reports of a shooting at MIT, I tuned in to Twitter and the live streaming coverage of WCVB in Boston as they took phone calls from frightened residents of a neighborhood in Watertown where shots were being fired and explosions were being heard.

MIT campus police Officer Sean Collier, 26, was fatally shot at around 10:48 PM EDT. The shooting occurred near Building 32, the Stata Center, the relatively new electrical engineering and computer science building designed by Frank Gehry. It's in the more industrial backside of campus, along Vassar Street, and not near any dorms, but MIT being what it is, there were undoubtedly some students working in the labs.

After the shooting there was a carjacking a short distance away, the carjack victim was released about a mile or so west of MIT on Memorial Drive (a boulevard that follows the north bank of the Charles River), and then shots fired and explosions in a neighborhood in the eastern part of Watertown, near its border with Cambridge. In the end, they found the second perp in a boat, under the boat cover, in someone's backyard in that same neighborhood.

A geographical note: Massachusetts is divided into 351 municipalities, with no unincorporated area, and in the Boston area you can go from one city or town to another every few miles without noticing. The Watertown neighborhood where the shootout with police occurred and where the second suspect was apprehended is about 3.5 miles by car from MIT's Building 32. Each town and city has its own police department, and there's also the state police and the MBTA transit police -- several different law enforcement agencies were involved in the pursuit.

It's now believed that the two involved in the shooting of Officer Collier were also the perpetrators of Monday's Boston Marathon bombing. One wonders why they were at the MIT campus. Were they there to plant more bombs? Was the shooting of an officer itself the intended act of terror? Or was Officer Collier shot because he was in the way of a more deadly plot? Or was it because he recognized them as persons of interest in the Marathon bombing?

The suspected perps are Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers, originally from the region of Chechnya in the Russian Federation. Tamerlan could have been deported four years ago because of a criminal domestic violence arrest, but the Federal government allowed him to stay.

When the Soviet Union broke apart, the Chechens sought their own independence from Russia. In 2004, Chechen terrorists captured a school at Beslan and 334 hostages were killed. The Chechen insurgency was ultimately crushed by Russia. Were the Tsarnaevs motivated by Chechen nationalist resentment -- and if so, why take it out on America, which wasn't involved in that dispute? -- or by Islamic radicalism more generally?

Thinking back to my own time at MIT, I can't recall ever feeling afraid on campus (or in most parts of Boston, for that matter). It was a safe place, even late at night, despite some less than salubrious housing projects nearby. Campus Police played an important role in maintaining that sense of security, and security measures have only increased in the quarter-century since my graduation.

Our thoughts and prayers go with Officer Collier's family and friends, and I hope that the campus soon returns to its usual sense of security.

MORE: The Boston Herald has a timeline and map of the MIT shooting and the subsequent manhunt.


I had hoped for some changes with the change of ownership. Today's Tulsa World story on the mayoral election and Kathy Taylor's Great Plains airlines settlement has undermined that hope.

One positive change -- the pictures make all of the candidates look bad, not just the disfavored candidate. One commenter wrote, "Good lord. Is it my monitor or is the TW going out of their way to make people look bad picture-wise this morning? I feel like I ought to send get well cards."

Now the following paragraph by reporter Zack Stoycoff is at best lazy; at worst it's a sign that the Tulsa Whirled will continue to be Kathy Taylor's waterboy.

In 2008, while Taylor was mayor, the city of Tulsa paid the Bank of Oklahoma $7.1 million to settle a lawsuit against the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust over a defaulted loan to the defunct Great Plains Airlines. The Oklahoma Supreme Court later ordered the bank to repay the city.

So, Mr. Stoycoff, does the City of Tulsa, a municipal corporation, have a will and a mind of its own that it, as a legal entity, can decide to pay $7.1 million to a bank? Or are there officials that make decisions on behalf of the city?

If you were to do some research in your paper's own archives, you would learn that the Mayor of Tulsa has the authority to agree to a settlement on behalf of the City of Tulsa.
That power was unlimited at the time of the Great Plains settlement in June 2008, but the Great Plains settlement inspired a charter amendment requiring the City Council's concurrence on settlements exceeding $1 million. That provision didn't go into effect until January 2010, a fact that allowed Dewey Bartlett Jr's $3 million settlement of a police lawsuit on October 29, 2009, to move forward without council approval.

So let's rewrite that paragraph in a way that retains a neutral, objective tone, but gives the readers the information they need to evaluate the claims of the various candidates.

In 2008, then-Mayor Kathy Taylor approved the payment of $7.1 million to the Bank of Oklahoma to settle a lawsuit against the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust over a defaulted loan to the defunct Great Plains Airlines. In 2011, in response to a taxpayer lawsuit, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the payment to be illegal and ordered the bank to repay the city.

Maybe Mr. Stoycoff wanted to avoid taking sides on this issue. Maybe he didn't feel he had command of the facts and was worried that Kathy Taylor would sue him too.

But the facts in this case are inconvenient for Kathy Taylor. Kathy Taylor was praised at the time for making the deal that led to the City being added to the lawsuit, followed by Taylor's decision within a day to settle and pay BOK. Dewey Bartlett Jr, as a member of the TAIT board, approved the settlement and praised Kathy Taylor for making it happen:

It's something we need to do and I applaud the mayor and the Bank of Oklahoma for working out a deal... a lot of work went into this thing. It was a waste of energy. It's a new day and that's good news.

A June 27, 2008, story in the Tulsa World quotes outside attorney Robert Sartin, speaking to the Tulsa City Council and telling them that the mayor (that would be Kathy Taylor) accepted the settlement; the council could only decide how to pay the bill. (Emphasis added.)

Before the council votes, Sartin explained that the council was not deciding to accept or reject a settlement.

The settlement had been entered into and accepted earlier Thursday by the bank, the mayor and the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust, then filed in Tulsa County District Court.

"The issue is whether to appropriate the money from the sinking fund," Sartin told the councilors.

He told them that if they didn't take action, the bank could ask a court to force the payment.

The sinking fund is derived from property taxes and is used to pay legal judgments against the city.

The $7.1 million would be taken from the fund and then recouped with a three-year levy in property taxes, which Finance Director Mike Kier said would start at 1.1 mills and decrease slightly over the three years.

I haven't heard the robocall that prompted Kathy Taylor's complaints, but if it said that Kathy Taylor was responsible for the illegal payment of $7.1 million by the City of Tulsa to the Bank of Oklahoma, it was accurate and in accord with published facts and court findings.

Tuesday's news story quotes Taylor's claim that this is mudslinging; her call to "focus on the issues" is another example of her refusal to accept responsibility for her actions. Kathy Taylor wants credit for being a mayor who got things done, but she doesn't want the rightful blame attached to the damage caused by the way she got things done.

Kathy Taylor's record as a leader is a central issue in this campaign. The voters should consider whether Kathy Taylor failed to act with integrity and whether she served special interests over the interests of ordinary Tulsans. The idea that she would escape any accountability for her first term as mayor -- well, to quote Kathy Taylor on another occasion when she attempted to deflect accountability for her actions:

Kathy Taylor says, That. Is. Crazy

MORE: An Oklahoman article from 2002 notes that the then-Tulsa Mayor, Bill LaFortune, was the one with the authority to accept or reject a proposed settlement of the lawsuit brought against the city by the Black Officers Coalition.

And thanks for making your home in Tulsa for nearly half that time.

If you only think of Roy Clark cracking jokes on Hee Haw, here's a bit of his guitar wizardry -- "Caravan" -- to broaden your perspective. I love how you can see his finger work on this -- brushing the strings to get that ringing tone.

Two years ago John Erling interviewed Roy Clark for Voices of Oklahoma. His agent, Jim Halsey, talked him into relocating from Maryland to the Midwest as a way of saving travel time and working more gigs into his schedule.

In 1979, Roy Clark teamed up with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown for an album called "Makin' Music," produced by Steve Ripley. For the album cover, they posed atop the marquee of the Will Rogers Theater at 11th Street and Toledo Ave on old US 66 (later demolished by the Sandusky Ave. Christian Church to create a surface parking lot).


Here's their version of "Take the 'A' Train" from that album:

Citing the last-minute entry of former State Rep. John Wright into the Tulsa County Commission District 3 special election, Ronda Vuillemont-Smith has announced her withdrawal from the race. Vuillemont-Smith heads the Tulsa 9.12 Project, a Tea Party organization, and led last year's defeat of the Vision2 county sales tax.

TULSA, OKLAHOMA - APRIL 12, 2013 - Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, candidate for Tulsa County Commission, District 3, is withdrawing from the race set for June 11, 2013. "I entered the county commissioners race to ensure that the tax payers of Tulsa County would have a common sense, conservative voice at the table when dealing with their hard earned money, " states Vuillemont-Smith, "I am announcing my withdrawal from this race today as I feel that the people can have that voice with John Wright. He is a capable candidate with a willingness to get things done in Tulsa County."

"Part of my vision for Tulsa County is to see us move from paying bonding fees and interest and follow Oklahoma City's plan of pay-as-you-go, where we could make money on our deposits as opposed to spending tax payer's money with nothing to show for it. Cutting up the county credit cards is necessary if we want to move Tulsa County forward."

Vuillemont-Smith made her decision to withdraw following John Wright's entry to the race, believing that they would both pull from the same conservative voters and in a 'winner take all' race that the votes need to remain united. "This race is about changing the face of Tulsa County government, not about an individual, and certainly not about me," Vuillemont-Smith continues.

Vuillemont-Smith's voice will continue to be heard through citizen activism in groups like Citizens for a Better Vision and Tulsa 9.12 Project. With the 'Fix our Streets' package approaching, she will continue her role as a voice for limited government and lower taxes. Vuillemont-Smith is a vocal conservative, actively working for lower taxes and smaller government; she is an ordinary citizen working to make our community a better place to work and live.

"I am truly honored and humbled by all the support I have received, it only proves that people are eager for common sense solutions to issues dealing with your hard earned money," concludes Vuillemont-Smith.

"There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit." ~Ronald Reagan

Filing ended Wednesday with a surprise: The last minute entry of former State Rep. John Wright in the Tulsa County Commission District 3 race, along with a Democrat, John Bomar, the first time a Democrat has run for this seat for as long as I can recall. One more candidate entered the City Auditor's race: Cathy Ann Criswell.

All three incumbent City Councilors were re-elected without drawing an opponent. It's a predictable consequence of staggered, non-partisan elections; happens all the time in school board races.

Here's the complete list of all filings as posted on the Tulsa County Election Board website, with Wednesday's filers highlighted in bold print. Here are direct links to the official list of City of Tulsa Election 2013 filings and Tulsa County Commission Election 2013 filings.

For Mayor of Tulsa:

William Lee Christiansen, 11422 S. Granite Ave., Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947
Kathy Taylor, 2811 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114, 9/29/1955
Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, 1108 N. Harvard, Tulsa, OK 74115, 9/13/1945
Jerry Dewayne Branch, 519 S. 45TH W. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127, 3/29/1964
Dewey Follett Bartlett, Jr., 2426 E. 30th St., Tulsa, OK 74114, 3/16/1947

For Tulsa City Auditor:

Clift Richards, 7834 S. College Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 2/7/1940
Joshua Steven Lewis, 8509 E. 47th St., Tulsa, OK 74145, 9/20/1982
Cathy Ann Criswell, 3322 E. King St., Tulsa, OK 74115, 7/10/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 2:

Jeannie Cue, 5313 S. 32 West Pl., Tulsa, OK 74107, 1/22/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 5:

Karen Gilbert, 4611 S. Maplewood Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135, 8/9/1968

For Tulsa City Council District 8:

Philip Lawrence Lakin, Jr., 4915 E. 104th Pl., Tulsa, OK 74137, 8/5/1967

For Tulsa County Commission District 3:

Brandon Perkins, 7221 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 8/20/1969, Republican
Don Crall, 17712 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74008, 6/16/1964, Republican
Ron Peters, 4432 S. Atlanta Pl., Tulsa, OK 74105, 9/28/1944, Republican
Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, 3909 W. Roanoke St., Broken Arrow, OK 74011, 3/13/1961, Republican
John Bomar, 7326 E. 65th Pl., Tulsa, Ok 74133, 9/7/1948, Democrat
John A. Wright, 2319 S. Beech Ct., Broken Arrow, Ok 74012 8/5/1954 Republican

Only two new filers today: Incumbent Tulsa Mayor Dewey F Bartlett Jr and Joshua Steven Lewis, a 30-year-old challenging City Auditor Clift Richards.

Here's the list of all filings through Tuesday as posted on the Tulsa County Election Board website, with Tuesday's filers highlighted in bold print.

For Mayor of Tulsa:

William Lee Christiansen, 11422 S. Granite Ave., Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947
Kathy Taylor, 2811 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114, 9/29/1955
Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, 1108 N. Harvard, Tulsa, OK 74115, 9/13/1945
Jerry Dewayne Branch, 519 S. 45TH W. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127, 3/29/1964
Dewey Follett Bartlett, Jr., 2426 E. 30th St., Tulsa, OK 74114, 3/16/1947

For Tulsa City Auditor:

Clift Richards, 7834 S. College Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 2/7/1940
Joshua Steven Lewis, 8509 E. 47th St., Tulsa, OK 74145, 9/20/1982

For Tulsa City Council District 2:

Jeannie Cue, 5313 S. 32 West Pl., Tulsa, OK 74107, 1/22/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 5:

Karen Gilbert, 4611 S. Maplewood Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135, 8/9/1968

For Tulsa City Council District 8:

Philip Lawrence Lakin, Jr., 4915 E. 104th Pl., Tulsa, OK 74137, 8/5/1967

For Tulsa County Commission District 3:

Brandon Perkins, 7221 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 8/20/1969, Republican
Don Crall, 17712 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74008, 6/16/1964, Republican
Ron Peters, 4432 S. Atlanta Pl., Tulsa, OK 74105, 9/28/1944, Republican

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at the White House

A world-changer has left this world for a better one. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died today at age 87.

I don't remember when I started paying attention to British politics; sometime in the mid-'70s, I imagine. I had a shortwave radio, and I loved tuning in to hear the BBC World Service.

I remember news stories about strikes paralyzing the country and the inevitable decline of Britain from superpower to third-rate backwater. Britain's decline was part of a broader sense of decline and malaise throughout the western world. Communism was on the march abroad, and the socialist ratchet was at work at home, moving us toward a "new normal" -- less prosperous, less free, less secure.

The Conservative Party's victory in 1979, under Margaret Thatcher's leadership, was a harbinger of hope. Here was a leader unafraid to challenge the status quo of decline and despair in her own country and around the world. If Thatcher could win and govern successfully in Britain, there was hope of a conservative resurgence in America, too.

Pondering Thatcher's resolve to dispel the gloom of the 1970s with the light of liberty ought to encourage us that it can happen again, if we will persevere as she did.

Thatcher and President Reagan were willing to identify the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire and oppose it as such. Just a bit more than 10 years after Thatcher's first election, the Berlin Wall fell and European Communism collapsed. They were not ashamed of Anglo-American exceptionalism. The world needed the principles of liberty under law that were rooted at Runnymede.

There are many tributes to Thatcher on the web, beginning with the obituary from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Last January, when the Hollywood movie about her life came out, I put together a collection of videos and quotations of the real Margaret Thatcher. Conservative Home's Tory Diary has a running collection of tributes to Thatcher as does the Telegraph.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan does a fine job of summing up Thatcher's transformational achievements, contrasting them with his own childhood memories of pre-Thatcher Britain:

I'm not sure you can appreciate the magnitude of Margaret Thatcher's achievement without some knowledge of the calamity that immediately preceded it.... What I do recall, though, was the sense of despair. Again and again, I would hear adults casually say "Britain is finished"....

These were the years of the three-day week, of prices and incomes policies, of double-digit inflation, of constant strikes, of power cuts. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the United Kingdom had been outperformed by every European economy. "Britain is a tragedy - it has sunk to borrowing, begging, stealing until North Sea oil comes in," said Henry Kissinger. The Wall Street Journal was blunter: "Goodbye, Great Britain: it was nice knowing you".

Margaret Thatcher, almost alone, refused to accept the inevitability of decline. She was determined to turn the country around, and she succeeded. Inflation fell, strikes stopped, the latent enterprise of a free people was awakened. Having lagged behind for a generation, we outgrew every European country in the 1980s except Spain (which was bouncing back from an even lower place). As revenues flowed in, taxes were cut and debt was repaid, while public spending - contrary to almost universal belief - rose.

In the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher showed the world that a great country doesn't retreat forever. And, by ending the wretched policy of one-sided détente that had allowed the Soviets to march into Europe, Korea and Afghanistan, she set in train the events that would free hundreds of millions of people from what, in crude mathematical terms, must be reckoned the most murderous ideology humanity has known.

Hannan notes, too, the prescience of the principled stand that led to her ouster:

Still, it can't be repeated too often: the immediate cause of Margaret Thatcher's toppling was that she opposed Britain's membership of the euro. Who called that one right?

Historian Paul Johnson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, focuses on Thatcher's effect on British business:

The 1970s marked the climax of Britain's postwar decline, in which "the English disease"--overweening trade-union power--was undermining the economy by strikes and inflationary wage settlements. The Boilermakers Union had already smashed the shipbuilding industry. The Amalgamated Engineers Union was crushing what was left of the car industry. The print unions were imposing growing censorship on the press. Not least, the miners union, under the Stalinist Arthur Scargill, had invented new picketing strategies that enabled them to paralyze the country wherever they chose.

Attempts at reform had led to the overthrow of the Harold Wilson Labour government in 1970, and an anti-union bill put through by Heath led to the destruction of his majority in 1974 and its replacement by another weak Wilson government that tipped the balance of power still further in the direction of the unions. The general view was that Britain was "ungovernable."...

Johnson describes the legislation Thatcher passed to rein in the unions' destructive behavior, simplify the tax code and reduce tax rates, and returning inefficient state-owned industries to the private sector, reforms that echoed around the world.

More important than all these specific changes, however, was the feeling Thatcher engendered that Britain was again a country where enterprise was welcomed and rewarded, where businesses small and large had the benign blessing of government, and where investors would make money.


Andrew Roberts draws lessons from Thatcher's legacy for today

The Telegraph has a video reel of Thatcher's most memorable House of Commons appearances.

Thatcher's Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, remembers his old adversary and her role in ending the Cold War.

The Tablet notes Thatcher's support for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, a relationship that began when she was 12, working with her older sister raise money to help a Jewish girl escape Austria in 1938 and continued through her 33 years representing the Jewish entrepreneurs of Finchley.

Via Jim Geraghty, video of Thatcher in 1984 with actors Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, stars of the political series, "Yes, Minister," performing a sketch she wrote.

At a Conservative party conference in 1989, Thatcher compares the Liberal Democrats' new bird-like symbol to... a dead parrot:

Columnist Mark Steyn writes Thatcher thought Britain was worth fighting for, but worries that her time in office was only "a magnificent but temporary interlude in a great nation's bizarre, remorseless self-dissolution."

In Britain in the Seventies, everything that could be nationalized had been nationalized, into a phalanx of lumpen government monopolies all flying the moth-eaten flag: British Steel, British Coal, British Airways, British Rail ... . The government owned every industry - or, if you prefer, "the British people" owned every industry. And, as a consequence, the unions owned the British people. The top income tax rate was 83 percent, and on investment income, 98 percent. No electorally viable politician now thinks the government should run airlines and car plants and that workers should live their entire lives in government housing. But what seems obvious[ly wrong] to all in 2013 was the bipartisan consensus four decades ago, and it required an extraordinary political will for one woman to drag her own party, then the nation, and, subsequently, much of the rest of the world, back from the cliff edge.

Michelle Malkin remembers Margaret Thatcher with some lengthy excerpts from her 1975 speech to the Conservative Party conference, following her selection as leader of the party.

The Hope for America blog has eight great moments from Margaret Thatcher's career from which modern American conservatives should learn. Here she is in 1987, after her third general election victory, recalling those who said in 1975 that such a feat was impossible for a conservative.

Mr. President, 12 years ago, I first stood on this platform as leader of the Conservative Party. Now one or two things have changed since 1975. In that year, we were still groaning under Labour's so-called social contract. People said we should never be able to govern again. Remember how we'd all been lectured about political impossibility. You couldn't be a conservative and sound like a conservative and win an election, they said. And you certainly couldn't win an election and act like a conservative and win another election. And this was absolutely beyond dispute: You couldn't win two elections and go on acting like a conservative and yet win a third election.


Oleg Atbashian, proprietor of the People's Cube, tells his personal story of encountering Thatcher's words as a young man in Ukraine, listening to the BBC and Voice of America on his shortwave set -- when the Soviets weren't jamming the broadcasts. He explains how news of Thatcher's reforms shattered his state-sponsored illusions about the west.

Gradually, the news sank in: if Britain was indeed a socialist state, then everything we were told about the outside world was a lie. And not just any lie -- it was an inconceivably monstrous, colossal lie, which our Communist Party and the media thoroughly maintained, apparently, to prevent us from asking these logical questions: if the Brits also had free, cradle-to-grave entitlements like we did, then why were we still fighting the Cold War? And what was the purpose of the Iron Curtain? Was it to stop us from collectively surrendering to the Brits, so that their socialist government could establish the same welfare state on our territory -- only with more freedom and prosperity minus the Communist Party?

The next logical question would be this: if Great Britain wasn't yet as socialist as the Soviet Union, then didn't it mean that whatever freedom, prosperity, and working economy it had left were directly related to having less socialism? And if less socialism meant a freer, more productive, and more prosperous nation, then wouldn't it be beneficial to have as little socialism as possible? Or perhaps -- here's a scary thought -- to just get rid of socialism altogether?

And wasn't it exactly what Margaret Thatcher was doing as a prime minister?

Atbashian designed an "IRON" poster with Thatcher's photo (a parody of the Obama Hope poster); the museum in her hometown of Grantham, Lincolnshire, is using it now to raise funds to build a statue of Thatcher. He notes that Thatcher succeeded in politics without the benefit of the kind of cult of personality that President Obama enjoys:

And yet she exerted great influence over people. She did it merely by being who she was: informed, unwavering in the face of adversity, brave in defending the truth, and confident in her belief that the free markets are a force for good, while socialism is a force for evil. A few Western leaders may have agreed with her in private, but they didn't have the courage to say it openly in the twisted moral climate brought on their countries by the false promise of socialism.

What Thatcher showed to these men is that when one has no fear of speaking the truth and possesses enough moral conviction to push back, miracles happen. Britain's resurrection as an economic powerhouse was one of them.

Her message came through despite all the hostile efforts to jam it around the world, shattering not just the Western establishment's media filters, but the Iron Curtain itself.

It still resonates; if only today's leaders could listen.

UPDATE 2013/04/17:

The Telegraph reports that Thatcher planned her funeral service to be an expression of her Christian faith, choosing the readings and hymns and excluding a political eulogy:

Cynical detractors who expect Lady Thatcher's funeral to be used for the Conservatives' political gain may be surprised (and perhaps disappointed privately) to learn that there will be no political eulogy. Although the occasion has been code-named Operation True Blue, the sole object of worship will be God, not free market ideology. Lady Thatcher is said to have been concerned that her funeral would become the subject of political debate. The woman who relished an opportunity for confrontation was, for once, resolved to avoid it. Her funeral would not be Conservative; it would be Christian.

The service included the hymns "To Be a Pilgrim" and "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," the anthem, "Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our Hearts," by Henry Purcell, and the patriotic hymn, "I Vow to Thee, My Country." Prime Minister David Cameron read from John 14 ("In my Father's house there are many mansions") and granddaughter Amanda Thatcher read from Ephesians 6 ("Put on the whole armor of God").

Filing for Mayor of Tulsa, City Auditor, three city council seats, and the special election for Tulsa County Commissioner District 3 began today, April 8, 2013, and runs through Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

Four candidates filed for mayor: Former Councilor Bill Christiansen, Former Mayor Kathy Taylor, frequent mayoral candidate Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, and Jerry Dewayne Branch. Incumbent Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. did not file today.

The incumbent auditor Clift Richards and incumbent councilors for Districts 2, 5, and 8 (Jeannie Cue, Karen Gilbert, and Phil Lakin) all filed, and none have drawn an opponent as yet. The incumbents were all elected as Republicans.

Three Republican candidates filed the race to fill the last 16 months of County Commissioner Fred Perry's term, Planning commissioner and homebuilder Brandon Perkins, former state representative Ron Peters, and Don Crall. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith announced that she would officially file on Wednesday, in honor of her late father's birthday.

Here's the list of today's filings as posted on the Tulsa County Election Board website.

For Mayor of Tulsa:

William Lee Christiansen, 11422 S. Granite Ave., Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947
Kathy Taylor, 2811 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114, 9/29/1955
Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, 1108 N. Harvard, Tulsa, OK 74115, 9/13/1945
Jerry Dewayne Branch, 519 S. 45TH W. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127, 3/29/1964

For Tulsa City Auditor:

Clift Richards, 7834 S. College Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 2/7/1940

For Tulsa City Council District 2:

Jeannie Cue, 5313 S. 32 West Pl., Tulsa, OK 74107, 1/22/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 5:

Karen Gilbert, 4611 S. Maplewood Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135, 8/9/1968

For Tulsa City Council District 8:

Philip Lawrence Lakin, Jr., 4915 E. 104th Pl., Tulsa, OK 74137, 8/5/1967

For Tulsa County Commission District 3:

Brandon Perkins, 7221 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 8/20/1969, Republican
Don Crall, 17712 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74008, 6/16/1964, Republican
Ron Peters, 4432 S. Atlanta Pl., Tulsa, OK 74105, 9/28/1944, Republican

okgop2013.pngConservative political pundit Fred Barnes will be the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Republican Party's pre-convention gala dinner, Friday, April 19, 2013. Gov. Mary Fallin and former Gov. Frank Keating will also speak, and Keating will serve as emcee.

Tickets start at $50 per person, with proceeds going to support the ongoing work of the Oklahoma Republican Party. For $125 per person ($225 per couple), you can attend the reception and have a photo-op with Fred Barnes.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard, co-founding the magazine in 1995. He has been a Fox News contributor since 1996. You may have first encountered him along with Mort Kondracke as regular panelists on "The McLaughlin Group" in the 1990s; the two then co-hosted Fox News's "The Beltway Boys."

I predict that Mr. Barnes will be warmly welcomed by Oklahoma Republicans, and not merely as a fellow conservative, but also (for perhaps the majority of us) as a fellow follower of Christ. He lives out his faith in often-hostile territory -- both in the DC metro area and in the realm of mass media. He understands first-hand, in a way that many of his right-of-center media colleagues do not, the aspects of the Christian faith that have motivated so many Oklahoma Christians to be involved politically, but also that one's Christian faith is much, much more than one's political involvement.

Barnes is an evangelical Anglican, a long-time member of The Falls Church, which withdrew from the Episcopal Church USA for the mainline denomination's radical departures from God's Word and which was recently evicted by the mainline denomination and the courts from its historic home. In 2007, Barnes and his wife Barbara left The Falls Church to help launch a new evangelical Anglican church being planted in Alexandria by The Falls Church. Barnes wrote about the experience of being involved in church planting in the Wall Street Journal.

Many thanks to the Oklahoma Republican Party for sponsoring BatesLine.


Fred Barnes archive at The Weekly Standard: His latest column asks why the Republican Party gave up our best issue and stopped talking about growth.

And here's Barnes, along with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and others, speaking in support of Birthmothers, a ministry that connects women in unplanned pregnancies with a supportive friend and the emotional and physical resources they need to bring their children into the world.

In 2008, I encountered Fred Barnes in a St. Paul elevator on the way to hear a talk by Fred Thompson.

hello parking meter! by Nahh, on FlickrMy friend Tony Baker was featured on a KOTV News on 6 story tonight about his recent downtown Tulsa parking misadventure. In a nutshell, a $15 parking ticket was written on his vehicle when there was still an hour left on the meter. The time stamp on the credit card transaction in the meter and the amount paid prove that no ticket should have been written.

He could have fought the ticket, but it would have cost money -- a $30 court bond -- and the time to appear in municipal court. Tony was understandably annoyed at the thought that the city could simply slap tickets on any car at random, knowing that most people would find it easier to pay the fine than to fight it. That, ultimately, is what he decided to do.

The story uncovered a hidden alternative: The City Prosecutor, Bob Garner, can exercise his prosecutorial discretion and drop charges on any municipal citation, including parking tickets or city-issued traffic fines. If you believe a citation was issued in error, present it to him, and if you've got a reasonable case and proof to back it up, he's willing to drop the citation. (My paraphrase.)

(Similarly, you can sometimes attend a defensive driving course to prevent a municipal moving violation for counting as points on your state driving record. This, too, involves going to the prosecutor, and I imagine his willingness to accommodate you will depend on the flagrancy of the violation and how clean your record is.)

There's a part of the story that KOTV left out, no doubt for the sake of time and simplicity. Tony works in downtown Tulsa, and his wife and their two young children had driven downtown that day to meet him for lunch at a free "Brown Bag It" concert at the Performing Arts Center. It was the family car that was ticketed.

Many of us who love downtown developed our taste for it as kids, from family visits to Dad's office in the skyscraper or lunch with Dad at a downtown eatery. Coming back from a fun midday meetup with Dad to find a ticket on the car is only going to dampen enthusiasm for a return visit. In fact, many of the proposed parking changes downtown -- extending hours for parking meter monitoring into evenings and weekends, metering streets that currently lack them -- are only likely to annoy and deter potential visitors, shoppers, and diners. We need to make it easier, less confusing, and less annoying for visitors to come downtown to spend a couple of hours and some money.

Mary_Fallin_somber.jpgHere we are, the reddest state in the nation: Republican governor, overwhelmingly Republican legislature. (36-12 in the Senate, 72-29 in the House.)

But instead of tightening the state's belt, as their constituents have had to do, instead of cutting tax rates significantly so that Oklahomans will be able to keep more of our own money and compensate for Federal tax hikes, and so that Oklahoma can compete with our no-income-tax neighbor to the south and our lower-tax neighbor to the north, our elected officials at the State Capitol are hesitating over a minuscule cut in the top income tax rate. We couldn't get a tax cut last year, and it's looking like we might not get one this year.

OCPA's bold budget plan

There is a bold plan on the table, if our leaders are willing to take it up. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has proposed a state budget for Oklahoma that reduces appropriations for FY 2014 by $132 million as compared to this year's appropriations. That's an actual cut, not a mere reduction in the growth of government.

The OCPA proposal accomplishes these savings with more efficient health care coverage for state employees, gets government out of businesses that ought to be handled by the private sector, reforms agencies, boards, and commissions, and scrutinizes federal grants that often obligate state and local spending. It cuts our top tax rate by 1/2 percentage point, from 5.25% to 4.75% and still brings in $277 million in surplus funds that can be carried over to FY 2015.

The legislature's timidity; Fallin blames lobbyists

But our legislative leaders aren't boldly moving forward with OCPA's thoroughly researched proposal. On Monday the House revenue and taxation subcommittee turned down a Senate proposal to cut tax rates by 0.5%, but not until calendar year 2015, and offset by eliminating or reducing a number of tax credits. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman has said he would oppose a tax increase that wasn't "revenue neutral," which would rule out the House's proposed 0.25% tax cut. Even if it passed, the House's proposal would leave us with a higher top tax rate than neighboring Kansas, which cut its top rate to 4.9% last year.

Gov. Fallin blamed last year's failure to agree on a tax cut on lobbyists. But shouldn't an effective governor have more pull with legislators than lobbyists? And if not, why not?

Franklin Center boosts bloggers to hold officials accountable

rocbloggroupwithlogo.jpgSometimes you have to go far from home to learn something about where you're from. A few weeks ago I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the ROCblog retreat for bloggers sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. ("ROC" stands for raising online community.) The weekend was packed with informative talks and panels, focused on giving bloggers the tools and techniques to hold government officials accountable for their actions. There were bloggers and speakers there from all over the US, but one of the most memorable moments for me involved a mention of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin by Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore.

The Franklin Center came into being to address the decline in the traditional news media's coverage of state and local government. The Franklin Center employs investigative reporters and full-time state capitol reporters -- including Pat McGuigan, who covers the Oklahoma capitol for Watchdog Oklahoma. They also seek to support and encourage the citizen journalists who cover government in their spare time. (Read the Franklin Center's vision here.)

In his words of welcome at the beginning of the retreat, Franklin Center President Jason Stverak told us that he ran the North Dakota Republican Party for seven years and that bloggers (like Rob Port, who covers ND politics on his Say Anything blog) made his life hell. He found that bloggers weren't satisfied with press releases and pat answers. The mainstream capital press corps, on the other hand, often knew of information that might hurt their friends in government, but they wouldn't ask the question that would elicit damaging news. Stverak learned that electing Republicans wasn't enough to have the kind of government he wanted; he said that North Dakota's state government, dominated by the GOP, has cronyism and corruption as bad as anything you'd find in a Democrat-dominated state.

Stverak said there wan't enough money in America to put a reporter in front of every public official, but America came into being with ordinary citizens who took on the most powerful professional army in the world.

So it's our job as citizens and grassroots activists to hold our elected officials accountable for keeping their promises and serving the public interest. That's even true -- especially true -- for those officials who are of the same party and who profess to adhere to the same political philosophy. And that brings us back to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and what Stephen Moore had to say about her.

Red States vs. Blue States: A natural experiment in policy and prosperity

Moore spoke about the growing Red State / Blue State divide, as states pursue vastly different policies on taxation and regulation. Moore has observed in his travels that the United States is divided culturally and politically along regional lines in a way that hasn't been true since the Civil War. While the GOP lost nationally in 2012, it continued to make gains in the South, with Arkansas the latest conquest at the legislative level, a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Democrats have 37 out of 40 seats in the State Senate.

Red States pursue low taxes and more economic freedom, while Blue States pursue higher taxes and more regulation, setting up a "natural experiment." We can see which policies are successful by watching where the growth occurs. "If [the Blue State] model works so well, why is California in complete collapse, and why is Texas booming like it's never boomed before?" California has lost 850,000 jobs over the last five years; Texas has gained over 500,000 jobs in the same period. "Did that happen by accident? No, policy matters." California has a 13.3% top state income tax rate and has passed cap-and-trade; Texas has no state income tax and no industry-punishing carbon taxes.

The coming income-tax-free region: Will Oklahoma be included?

Moore told us there are several states that have a good chance of eliminating the state income tax in the near future, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and the possibility of an entire region of the country being income-tax-free. The South will rise again -- economically -- while Blue States raise their taxes and drive economic productivity out of their states for friendlier climes.

Prosperity is like the wind, moving from high pressure to low pressure, and carrying jobs along with it. The problem with an income tax is that it's a tax on productivity, and when you tax something, you get less of it.

Just last week Moore and his fellow economist Arthur Laffer expanded on this theme in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "The Red-State Path to Prosperity"

Among the 10 fastest-growing metro areas last year were Raleigh, Austin, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. All of these are in low-tax, business-friendly red states. Blue-state areas such as Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Providence and Rochester were among the biggest population losers.

This migration isn't accidental. Workers and business owners are responding to clear economic incentives. Red states in the Southeast and Sunbelt are following the Reagan model by reducing tax rates and easing regulations. They also offer right-to-work laws as an enticement for businesses to come and set up shop. Meanwhile, the blue states of the Northeast, joined by California, Minnesota and Illinois, are implementing the Obama model of raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy to fund government "investments" and union power.

The contrast sets up a wonderful natural laboratory to test rival economic ideas.

Oklahoma and Gov. Fallin get a mention in the column. It's one thing to say we could eliminate the state income tax, but should we? Kansas may put us in a position where Oklahoma must move toward income tax elimination in order to attract and retain businesses.

Meanwhile, in the South, watch for a zero-income-tax domino effect. Georgia can hardly sustain a 6% income tax if businesses can skip across the border into neighboring states like Florida, Tennessee or South Carolina. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has told her legislature that the Sooner State will face high economic hurdles in the future if it is an income-tax sandwich between Texas and Kansas.

Fallin lack of fortitude; Chamber-made betrayal

I raised my hand to ask a question, and as soon as I mentioned that I was from Oklahoma, Moore took off with an observation about eliminating the income tax here: "I don't understand why Oklahoma can't get this done. I've been there six times in the last two years, and I like your governor a lot. I just don't know if she has the fortitude.... Oklahoma's a perfect example of a state that could eliminate its state income tax."

That was in fact what I was going to ask about, and in response, I mentioned that the pressure against income-tax elimination was not coming from the Left, but from the chambers of commerce. "Don't even get me started on State Chambers of Commerce! In most states they're a disaster." The problem, Moore said, with chambers of commerce is that they "represent the incumbent business powers.... What's great about capitalism is that capitalism leads to challenges against the incumbent business powers.... They want to protect their own industries."

Moore told of the recent betrayal perpetrated in Virginia: In 2011, Republicans finally gained control of the legislature and the governor's office. The day before his talk to us, the Republican governor and legislature of Virginia passed a billion-dollar tax increase, which Moore called "a total abomination... a total Benedict Arnold," a slap in the face of those who worked so hard over 30 years to elect Republicans. And it was done, Moore said, at the urging of the chambers of commerce, the construction industry, and other industries that stand to benefit from bigger government.

Brownback's charge; Fallin's retreat

Gov. Fallin announced a bold target in her 2012 State of the State address: a proposed top rate of 3.5%, with a 2.25% bracket for most middle income families, and no income tax at all for those making less than $30,000. She didn't make any progress at all toward that goal last year. This year, she meekly requested a top rate of 5%, which applies (like the current top rate) to anyone making more than $8,700.

I didn't expect bold leadership from Mary Fallin. That's why I endorsed and knocked doors for Randy Brogdon in 2010; you can see my concerns in the links below, concerns that seem to have been borne out.

Like Oklahoma, Kansas has Republican supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. Last year, when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback faced opposition to his tax cut plan from moderate/Chambercrat Republican legislators, Brownback supported their challengers in the primary, defeating nine incumbent state senators.

Time to hire someone new to do the job?

Gov. Fallin could have done the same thing last year. She could have joined forces with grassroots conservatives to punish legislators who were susceptible to the persuasive lobbyists that Fallin blamed for the defeat of her tax cut initiative. The defeat of a few Chambercrats might have put some fear into those that survived.

Conservatives did manage to exert enough pressure to change Fallin's mind on Obamacare implementation. She's under a lot of pressure from the left and the Chambers to cave on that issue, and we need to encourage her to stand firm. At the same time, we need to let her know we expect the same kind of firm resolve to cut tax rates and the size and scope of government here in Oklahoma.

If a Republican governor can't cut taxes and control spending with super-majorities in both houses, it's time to look for a replacement who can.


July 6, 2010: Fallin plans lobbyist meet, skips grassroots event and forums
July 20, 2010: Mary Fallin disparages following the Constitution as "the easy way out!"
July 24, 2010: "Fallin-esque" vs. Brogdon's specific plan

Photo of Gov. Fallin from her official website.

MORE elsewhere:

Rob Port reports that North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple's leadership is missing in the midst of a crisis in that state's higher education system.

IVoted.jpgMunicipalities across Oklahoma are holding city council elections today. Today is also runoff day for school board seats that weren't settled in February. Below are some of the local races. It's encouraging to see that so many of the elections are contested. In Skiatook, every single seat is on the ballot, giving the voters the chance to clean house if they so choose.

As always, polls are open until 7 p.m.

I've heard of some upset in Jenks over whether incumbent councilors should be held accountable for their decision to put a tax on the ballot that was defeated. Defenders of the incumbents say they didn't raise taxes, they just gave the voters a chance to vote. (Sort of like Aaron in Exodus, "I just put the gold in the fire, and out came this calf!") Putting a tax on the ballot is not a neutral act. Elected officials have a responsibility to listen to their constituents before putting something on the ballot. Officials should only propose projects that will have the support of an overwhelming majority of voters. Too often councilors and commissioners listen only to those with a special, vested interest in the outcome (both inside and outside of government), and develop a proposal that pleases those special interests but will require massive campaign funding to persuade a narrow majority of voters.

Ward maps for Tulsa County municipalities


Berryhill school board, Office 3: Sandra Pirtle, Doc Geiger

Glenpool, Ward 1: Timothy Lee Fox (i), David Freeland, Keith Jones

Jenks, Ward 2*: Lonnie Sims(i), Darlene Williams
Jenks, Ward 3: Kevin Rowland(i), Philip Morgans
Jenks, Ward 4: Brian O'Hara, Joshua M. Wedman
Jenks, Ward 6: Greg Bowman(i), Steve Murtha
Jenks, at-large: Paul E. Harris, Kelly Dunkerley(i)

Skiatook, Ward 1: Debbie Cook(I), Connie Clement, Herb Forbes
Skiatook, Ward 2: David Sutherland, Nate Myers, Damon Pace,
Skiatook, Ward 3*: Moe Shoeleh, Joyce Jech (i)
Skiatook, Ward 4*: Skylar Miller, Patrick W. Young
Skiatook, Ward 5: Susan Reed-Hardesty, Richard Barnes, Patty Pippin Ceska, Randy J. Sien (i)
Skiatook, Ward 6*: Steve Kendrick, Shawn Martin, Kevin D. Paslay
Skiatook, at-large*: Leon O'Neal, Eugene Jones, O. L. Bud Ricketts

Sperry, at-large (vote for 2): Marvin Baker, William F. Butler, Robert Morton, Kelly Wensman

An asterisk, *, marks elections to fill an unexpired term.

Preserve Midtown has posted a note from Theron Warlick, City of Tulsa urban planner, on the status of Tulsa's zoning code update:

I'm the lead planner on the zoning code update and I think I can shine some light on the process. For about nine months, I've been working with the consultant, Kirk Bishop of Duncan Associates, as well as with City Staff and a citizen's advisory team. We're building up to a review draft that will be available this summer. At this point, we're still not done with our first pass through the code.

In short, there are two major thrusts of the code. First, we are focusing on reorganizing and cleaning up the code we have...there should be few changes here. If you are RS-3 today, you will still be RS-3 when the code is adopted and the rules will be the same.

There may be some minor tweaks to some of the office and commercial districts, but this is mainly for modernization and clarity, and to eliminate internal conflicts within the code, if any. The only substantive change that I can recall is that we're looking at reducing on-site parking requirements in commercial districts to line up with industry norms and requirements in other communities. Reducing this requirement should alleviate some of the pressure to create on-site and off-site parking in neighborhoods. I think there's clear support for this in PLANiTULSA, as well as from the citizen's team and staff. We should not be requiring more parking than Tulsans actually NEED.

The second work item is to create some new mixed use districts that can be applied IN THE FUTURE; these were districts that were recommended in PLANiTULSA and they will provide a predictable alternative to PUDs. I should stress that these districts will not be applied anywhere immediately upon adoption, but will be available for use in the future.

The process so far has been very slow and painstaking, and not very earth-shaking or controversial. Kirk's charge is to a) clean up a messy, thirty-year-old zoning code and b) find ways to implement PLANiTULSA through the zoning code; he's taking that very seriously. Fact is, writing code is an arduous and nerdy process. I'm a city planner with decades of experience and it takes everything I've got to follow every detail. Just getting together a working draft is taking a very long time.

The way this process is designed, we will ultimately produce a public review draft that will have a clear explanation of every substantive change, why it is needed, and what the implications of the change will be. When we have this ready for you, we will take all the time we need to walk anyone and everyone who is interested through the draft and help them understand every detail.

In the meantime, if you want to attend some of the citizen team meetings (about one every six weeks) just let me know and I'll share the date, time, and location.

Meanwhile, in Austin, developers have won repeal of the city's project duration regulation: A project's building permit used to expire after three or five years (depending on the zoning category). It prevented a developer from getting a permit and sitting on it, perhaps not building until conditions around the project had changed significantly. There are concerns that the repeal will re-enable building permits granted decades ago, long before current policy was put in place.

Here in Tulsa we have a similar issue: The possibility of zombie zoning, where a developer convinces the City Council to approve a planned unit development (PUD) or straight rezoning based on his pretty pictures and plans, but despite zoning approval, the project never moves forward. This happened with land northwest of 91st Street and S Delaware Ave. The land had been rezoned at some point to Industrial Low Intensity (IL), but it was never developed. In the intervening years, the surrounding area changed from agricultural to high-end residential, with gated communities and nice townhouse developments. When The Home Depot decided to build a store there c. 2003, they could do it under this existing zombie IL zoning that had been granted for an ancient project that was never built. Further north, the big empty lot at 14th and Utica, rezoned OM (Office Medium Intensity), could easily become a zombie lot.

The moral of the story is for the City Council to be exceedingly cautions about straight rezonings, and perhaps there should be a provision to sunset and revert a project-driven zoning change of any sort (whether straight rezoning, PUD, or other mechanism) when the project hasn't been pursued.

Some other tabs in the browser about cities and urban policy:

OU's Institute of Quality Communities has a photographic catalog of walkability challenges on Oklahoma City's Western Ave., a relatively walkable and popular neighborhood, but still with obstacles to navigating on foot (or by wheelchair): dead-end and blocked sidewalks, large curb cuts (which make it difficult for pedestrians to predict the movements of vehicles), mismatches between stop-lines and crosswalks, and elevation changes.

nerdpath.jpgThe article taught me a new phrase: "desire lines" -- the worn paths in the grass that indicate where people would like to have a sidewalk. Voting with their feet, as it were. We had one of these that cut across Kresge Oval, saving all of 70' over the alternate route. It was dubbed the "Nerd Path." One spring someone planted it with flowers to force the nerds to take a less efficient route.

Last week in Dallas, the former head of Trammell Crow delivered a scathing speech to his fellow developers, noting the unequal treatment between the city's affluent northside and poorer southside. He noted the much greater amount of government money spent on downtown and northside amenities, and the care taken in the north to mitigate the effects of expressways; the southside was not given the same courtesy:

He contrasted the interstates that bisected and destroyed southern Dallas neighborhoods with the less obtrusive Dallas North Tollway.

"We're right here in Highland Park. It didn't happen here. It didn't happen in Bluffview where I live. It didn't happen over in Preston Hollow," he said. "People in the southern half of our city did not have the power to stop these kinds of things from happening to their own neighborhoods."...

"You always have to follow the money trail in Dallas," Williams said. "We spend money on the Arts District. We spend money on big name bridges like the Calatrava bridges. We spend money on a two-city-block downtown park."

"Those area all good things, but the truth is we live in a world of limited resources. We are going to have to have a public conversation about how resources get prioritized," he said.

Something similar happened in Tulsa with the expressways -- professional white families were able to block the Riverside Expressway from coming through Maple Ridge; Greenwood, the heart of Tulsa's African-American community, met a different fate.

Finally, this article on Takoma Park, Maryland, is about open data in local government, but note the fact that Takoma Park's city hall is open to the public for activities other than basic governmental functions. Wouldn't it be nice to be on your way to an exercise class at City Hall and accidentally bump into the Director of Public Works on his way to a meeting and to have the chance to buttonhole him about some overdue sewer project?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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