May 2013 Archives


On Friday, May 31, 2013, at 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa Boy Singers will present a spring concert. Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults; student admission is free.

The program includes two pieces by Benjamin Britten ("Jubilate Deo" and "Rejoice in the Lamb"), the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G by Herbert Sumsion, Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria," Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus," Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," "O nata lux" by Thomas Tallis, "Skylark" by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, and selections from the musical "Oliver!"

The singers are ages 8 and up, covering all four vocal parts, and there's a training choir for younger boys, led by Mrs. Jackie Saylor. We've found TBS to be an excellent training ground for musical knowledge, confidence in front of an audience, following direction, and teamwork. As at all TBS concerts, there will be an opportunity following the concert for those interested in joining to have a short audition at the piano.

Following the concert there will be a reception with sweet and savory foods. There will also be a "wine pull" fundraiser.

At yesterday's dedication of the Folds of Honor cottage at Cross Timbers on Skiatook Lake, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., golf course designer and poet, read his poem "Memorial Day":

Upon his lonely bower
I set a flower
plucked as he
to die in glory
before its time.
He, a still memory of mine
remains living in my heart
before war cut us apart.

When they handed me a folded flag
the pipes began to play.
I turned away, turned my face away,
as my tears fell to sacred ground.

Looked up and there an eagle found
an angel eagle, flying high.
Our soldier's soul flew that day --
together they soared, then flew away.

Turn the earth on bended knee
to receive those who never bent
so you are not the living dead.
Let us rest in fields of poppies red.

The dew descends to bless the heads
of ghostly rows of moonlit stones.
They striped our virgin banner red
when for Liberty, they bled.

Our Flag snaps in Freedom's wind.
Salute our priceless chosen
known and unknown equally
who honored Liberty's endless call.
God Bless them one and all.

The text of this poem and three others by Jones may be found here.

This afternoon, at Cross Timbers resort on Skiatook Lake, a cottage was dedicated for the use of the families of fallen and disabled veterans who are affiliated with the Folds of Honor Foundation. The cottage is to be a retreat for relaxation and recuperation for our wounded warriors and their families.


Folds of Honor, based here in Owasso, provides "scholarships and other assistance to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country." It was founded in 2007 by Maj. Dan Rooney, a professional golfer, golf course owner, and decorated F-16 pilot who did three tours in Iraq.

Today's dedication was MCed by Cross Timbers developer Ron Howell and featured remarks by Col. Michael Teague, Commander and District Engineer of the Tulsa District of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Suntex Marinas CEO Johnny Powers, Folds of Honor vice president Maj. Ed Pulido, golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr., actor Craig T. Nelson, and Folds of Honor scholarship recipient, Spec. B. J. Jackson. John Gibson Miller led the crowd in the national anthem. Rev. David Nahlon offered the invocation. Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, and her husband Ladd were on hand to meet guests and to give signed copies of her cookbook to Folds of Honor families.

Spec. B. J. Jackson, surrounded by his wife and children, speaks at the dedication of the Folds of Honor cottage on Skiatook Lake

The cottage, which sits on a wooded hillside on the shore of Skiatook Lake, was designed by SGA Design Group and built by Hunter Homes.

Johnny Powers of Dallas, principal and CEO of Suntex Marinas, spoke of his intentions to have a Folds of Honor "floating cottage" for the use of veterans' families at his company's marinas across the country. Ron Howell mentioned that the next Folds of Honor cottage would be a "floating cottage" on Keystone Lake. The use of marina space will allow Folds of Honor families access to lakes where building on the shore is impossible or impractical.

Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the designer of the new Patriot Golf Club course east of Owasso near the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, is also a poet, and he read his poem, "Memorial Day."


MORE: Monday, May 27, 2013, is the fourth annual Patriot Cup golf tournament, a fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, featuring seven major-tournament winners -- Rich Beem, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, Scott Simpson, and Bob Tway. Following the tournament, Dierks Bentley will give a performance benefitting Folds of Honor at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa at 8:30 p.m.

This looks interesting. Tonight, Sunday, May 26, 2013, at 5 p.m. at the Church of the Restoration, 1314 N. Greenwood Ave., there will be an event sponsored by the Tulsa African Ancestral Society, entitled "Black Wall Street: The Ninth Wonder." The poster shows four photos of the Williams Dreamland Theater: Before the 1921 Tulsa race riot, the gutted theater in the aftermath of the riot, the new theater under construction, and the new theater open for business. The photos and the caption -- "Rebuilt Black Wall Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Reopened and Ready for Business" -- suggest that the event will be about the post-riot resurrection of Tulsa's African-American neighborhood. I've written about the rebuilding of Tulsa's Greenwood District and its ultimate dismantling by expressway construction of urban renewal; perhaps this event will have the same theme.



ABOVE: Bob Wills and his wife Betty hang out the washing to dry at the Triple B Ranch in Fresno, California

The Triple B Ranch in Fresno, California, Bob Wills's home in the last half of the 1940s, is to be demolished and replaced with a housing subdivision, despite a unanimous vote by the city's Preservation Commission to place the home on the city's historic register:

Granville wants to raze the house and remove nearby olive trees as part of a proposed housing project in the area. Roberts told the city's Historic Preservation Commission on Monday that the house is falling apart. He said the place is full of bees, asbestos and lead paint. He said Granville would sell the house for $1 if the buyer moves it at no expense to the builder.

The commission voted 4-0 to place the house on the city's Register of Historic Resources. This almost certainly would have made it impossible for Granville to tear down the house.

(Aren't most houses over a certain age full of asbestos and lead paint? And doesn't demolition make them much more hazardous then leaving them intact?)

Because the register placement is not official until the city council votes, it appears that the developer was able to obtain a demolition permit without the extra process required for a designated historic resource.

There is a slim possibility for a reprieve, if someone is willing to raise the money to buy the lots on which the house stands or to move the house to another location within 30 days.

The view from the street (the side of the house) isn't that impressive, but the video below shows the front, with a broad, high porch spanning the east face of the home.

An April 27, 2013, article in the Fresno Bee explains the house's connection with Bob Wills:

Bob Wills bought the one-story wood-frame house at 6410 E. Clinton Ave. and the surrounding 80 acres near Armstrong Avenue in 1945. The name Triple B stands for Bob, his wife Betty and their son Little Bob, according to daughter Carolyn Wills of Texas.

In a June 1945 letter to an aunt, Betty Wills wrote, "We're living in Fresno now. It's almost the size of Tulsa. It's in the San Joaquin Valley. That's where they raise all California fruit and vegetables. ... I like it real well. A lot more than I ever did Los Angeles."

Carolyn Wills said she was "accidentally" born at the ranch house in 1946 because her parents couldn't get to a hospital in time.

Wills built barns and fences for the seven stallions and 40 brood mares he bought for the ranch, his daughter said. "My father was always the happiest he'd ever been" on the ranch, she said.

EXTRA: Here's Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys from 1963, performing "Ida Red." Joe Andrews on vocals, Gene Crownover on steel guitar, Gene Gasaway on fiddle, Benny Johnson on piano. Not sure about the second fiddler -- maybe George Clayborn. Note the sponsor: Mathis Brothers.

doug_cox-planned_parenthood-322px.jpgState Rep. Doug Cox (RINO-Grove) is using the aftermath of a disaster to gain a national platform from which he can heap scorn on his fellow lawmakers and his fellow Oklahomans in order to support Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, from whom he received a national award this year (pictured right) as a "pro-choice" Republican.

Under the guise of mourning the loss of 24 lives in this week's storm, he's promoting an organization responsible for the deaths of 3,316,822 by abortion procedures over a 12-year-period. Over the same period, Planned Parenthood made 25,846 adoption referrals, a ratio of 128 babies killed for every baby saved.

Cox is the member of the Republican caucus most likely to oppose a pro-life bill, and he's been an unreliable vote for the conservative cause on other issues as well. His 2012 conservative rating by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper was 29%, lower than that of many Democrats. Cox and State Sen. Brian Crain have teamed up in support of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. This article ought to be the final straw to prompt the Republican caucus to give him the heave-ho and to take away his chairmanships. If the Oklahoma Republican Party stands for anything, they ought to be recruiting and preparing a primary opponent right now.

Cox attacks "multiple bills [moving through the legislature] with the sole purpose of blocking women's access to preventive health care." Here's the beginning of his Huffington Post op-ed:

The eyes of the entire country have turned to Oklahoma this week in the wake of Monday's devastating tornado. The tornado tore through seventeen miles of ground, destroying homes, schools, and hospitals in its path. Twenty-four lives have been lost, including 10 children.

It is these kinds of tragic disasters that bring people together. As a physician, as a parent, as a state legislator who takes my oath to put my constituents interests first, I can't be silent when -- at a time of need for care, empathy, and community -- my colleagues in the Oklahoma state legislature are using the last days of session to further restrict Oklahoma women's access to health care. In these final days of session, my colleagues in the state legislature will consider multiple bills with the sole purpose of blocking women's access to preventive health care.

Cox refers obliquely to two bills but omits the bill number, perhaps so we can't see if he's accurately depicting their content. SB 900, which has emerged from a conference committee, sets priorities for family planning and counseling funding, putting public agencies at the top of the list followed by hospitals and rural clinics, with private clinics at the end of the line, and HB 2226, which requires a prescription for the Plan B abortifacient drug for girls 16 and under, but allows it to be sold over-the-counter for ages 17 and up.

Both bills are common-sense measures. SB 900 has been reported out of conference committee and has passed the Senate. The conference committee report on HB 2226 has passed both houses and is on the governor's desk.

The overwhelming majority of Oklahomans, regardless of political affiliation, oppose abortion. Oklahomans have elected overwhelming majorities of pro-life legislators, pro-life statewide officials, and a 100% pro-life congressional delegation. We don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that perform abortions or lobby for abortion rights. Oklahomans, in overwhelming majorities, believe that sex is for marriage, and we don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that publish websites for children as young as six that encourage teens to experiment sexually. We believe that children should be protected from sexual predators, and we don't want our tax dollars going to organizations that shield statutory rapists from the legal penalties they deserve.

If Planned Parenthood wants Oklahoma taxpayer dollars for their medical clinics, they should stop performing or referring for abortions, stop lobbying for abortion rights, and stop promoting sexual irresponsibility among teenagers in the name of sex education. Money is fungible, and anything PP receives from state government for non-controversial activities frees up funds for controversial activities.

Cox represents an unfortunate phase in the development of a Republican majority in the Oklahoma legislature. Well-known local civic leaders who seemed conservative but who hadn't been active in Republican politics were recruited to run for open seats in Democratic-dominated districts. Unfortunately, we later learned that some of these legislators hadn't been involved in Republican politics because they don't hold Republican views. With massive majorities in both houses, the GOP legislative caucuses should consider taking chairmanships away from those members who consistently work against core Republican principles.

UPDATE 2013/05/24: SB 900 passed today and is on its way to the governor.

UPDATE 2013/05/29: Cox has an op-ed in today's Oklahoman, in which he deliberately blurs the distinction between contraceptives (means of preventing conception) and the Plan B "morning after" chemical abortifacient. From his rhetoric in this piece, it appears he believes that the best protection society can offer 12 - 14 year old girls is condoms and Plan B. If only people like Cox were as serious about protecting the innocence of children as they are about protecting them from smoking and bad nutrition.

And why is the Oklahoma Republican Party promoting the fundraiser of one of three Republican candidates in the Tulsa mayor's race? (UPDATE: See below.)

Oklahoma City seems like a very odd place for the Mayor of Tulsa to have a fundraising event. Why not pay a Tulsa hotel and Tulsa caterers and keep those dollars generating sales taxes here?

Below is the invitation, on Oklahoma Republican Party letterhead. That's odd, too. There are three Republican candidates in the mayoral primary (Dewey Bartlett Jr, Jerry Branch, Bill Christiansen) so the state party should not be taking sides at this point. If we wind up with a runoff between a Democrat and a Republican, then it would be fine for the state party to get involved, but helping one candidate raise money at this point violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the state party's rules.


Here's the list of hosts:

Ron Atchley, Mr. & Mrs. G.T. Blankenship, Harold Hamm, MaryAnn & Jack Hodges, Mike McDonald, Jeff McDougall, Ray Potts, Joe Warren, David Willis, Dick Bogert, Barbara & F.W. "Pete" Brown, Frank Harrison, Lance Ruffel and Ronnie Irani

The giving levels at the bottom of the invitation define "host" as a $5,000 donor, which suggests that this may already be a $70,000 event. Why would an Oklahoma City resident want to give that much money to influence an election for Tulsa city government?

Oh, and the fundraising company? Cothran Development, based in Ada.

UPDATE 2013/05/23: Yesterday, the Oklahoma Republican Party sent an invitation to a Saturday fundraiser in Tulsa for Bill Christiansen:


The invitation notes that the fundraiser is "provided by Mark and Anja Rogers, Charlie Meadows, & Dr. Robert and Carrie Zoellner" and lists the following names as the fundraising committee: Lloyd Noble Jr., Dan Keating, Bonnie Latsh, George Gibbs, Mark Tedford, Steve Wood, Lela McCoy, Lori Hamilton-Hobbs, Charlie Meadows, Dr. Robert Zoellner.

My guess is that someone from the Bartlett campaign asked state GOP headquarters for help getting word out about their Oklahoma City fundraiser. State party officials, unaware that there's effectively a Republican primary in progress, complied with the wishes of the incumbent Republican. After some blowback from Christiansen supporters, they extended the same opportunity to Christiansen. That's my speculation. I have seen this sort of thing before -- establishment Tulsa types trick OKC allies into taking sides in an intramural Tulsa dispute by not letting them know that there is a dispute and Republicans on both sides of the issue. Grassroots Republicans would do well to give the state GOP, AFP Oklahoma, and similar groups a heads-up when this is likely to occur.

UPDATE 2013/05/24: KRMG's Steve Berg covers the story and this blog entry.

tulsaNow-logo.pngGrassroots civic group TulsaNow sent a questionnaire to the candidates for Mayor of Tulsa; Bill Christiansen and Kathy Taylor responded. There were multiple attempts to contact incumbent Dewey Bartlett Jr, but he did not respond.

Question topics include delays in PLANiTULSA implementation, police department scandals and rising costs, park demolitions, downtown surface parking, mass transit and bike lanes, and economic development.

Two comments for now:

It was encouraging to see that the idea of a downtown surface parking moratorium has become to conventional wisdom in 2013. It was a way-out idea back in 1998, when, as a city council candidate, I proposed a downtown parking summit among TCC, churches, and office building owners to address demolition for parking. As recently as 2006, the CORE Tulsa report, a collection of very modest measures to encourage preservation and discourage demolition downtown, was spiked by the Tulsa Preservation Commission at the urging of Kathy Taylor's administration. Taylor showed no leadership on the issue when she had the opportunity, as mayor, to do so, and you have to assume that her aide Susan Neal was working on Taylor's behalf.

It was discouraging to realize that all three major candidates are social and fiscal liberals. According to Kathy Taylor's response, extending benefits to same-sex partners of city employees "is one area where all three major candidates expressed agreement at the FOP forum." Bill Christiansen's response failed to answer the question: "Bill Christiansen does not discriminate against anyone and is for inclusivity. Bill practices marriage from the biblical meaning and supports the legal meaning of marriage as it is." No one addressed the problem of cost -- would employees bear the full marginal cost of adding coverage, or would we have to squeeze the city budget to pay part or all of it? -- or the question of verification -- how does the city know that this person is really your "domestic partner" and not just an uninsured acquaintance? And no one hit upon the idea of letting an employee add any adult to insurance, without regard to the existence of a "partnership," which would avoid forcing the taxpayers to bless all kinds of immoral relationships as pseudo-marriage for the purpose of benefits.

For most Oklahomans, the scary stuff has moved on to the east without any damage. One of our trees dropped a limb in Sunday's storms. Today's storms passed through Tulsa with little fanfare. We're now under a flash flood watch until 3 a.m. -- conditions are ripe for heavy rains that can cause dangerous localized flooding. Southeastern Oklahoma is under a tornado watch until 3 a.m.

But Oklahomans in Moore and Bethel Acres will be living with the aftermath for a long time to come. There will be mourning for those who died in the elementary school. There's an immediate need for food, shelter, and clothing. Downed and damaged trees must be cleared away and power lines restored.

Full-time emergency personnel can only do so much; effective disaster relief requires skilled volunteers along with funds for food, fuel, supplies.

bgco_disaster_relief.pngThe Oklahoman has a list of ways you can help Oklahoma tornado victims.

One organization that is already here and helping is the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's Disaster Relief Team. There are already over 80 volunteers at work and more on their way -- feeding units, chainsaw teams clearing trees and debris, and a few chaplains to comfort the victims. These are Oklahomans helping Oklahomans. You can help them help Oklahoma tornado victims by making a tax-deductible donation -- all money goes to disaster relief and helping victims with food, laundry, and tree removal.

Right now, Oklahoma has an adequate supply of blood, but it will need to be replenished. According to the Oklahoman, "every drop of blood needed by patients in all metro-Oklahoma City hospitals and 140 others across the state" comes from the Oklahoma Blood Institute. OBI's Tulsa donor center is west of Yale on 81st Street.

This Land Press has posted photos of every page of the Booker T. Washington High School Yearbook from 1921, the year of the race riot that destroyed the community which Washington High served.


Faculty: Nine men, six women, and all appear to be African-American.

Course of Study

Freshman Class

Domestic Science and Art
Manual Training
Ancient History
Vocal Music

Sophomore Class

Domestic Art
Medieval and Modern History
Domestic Science
Manual Training

Junior Class

Commercial Arithmetic
Manual Training
Business Spelling
English History
Domestic Art
Domestic Science
Vocal Music

Senior Class

Geometry Solid
Vocal Music
Domestic Science
Manual Training
American History
Trigonometry Plain
Book Keeping
Domestic Art

"All classes are required to take part in some form of Athletics."

Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe with MedalWe had one fewer gift to buy this Mother's Day, one fewer card to send, one fewer phone call to make. A little more than two months ago, my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, Ed. D., died after a two-year battle with breast cancer at the age of 79.

In lieu of that gift, that card, that call, it seems fitting to remember her and, in particular, her decades of dedication to the needs of single parents. She was a remarkable woman. Everyone gets the one-line notice on the Births and Deaths page of the paper, some may get a paid obituary, but there aren't many whose passing rates a news story and an editorial commendation for a "life well spent."

From the Rogers Morning News editorial column, Friday, March 8, 2013:

... the deck is often stacked against single parents and their families. Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe of Rogers began to understand those barriers in the 1970s, first while studying at the University of Arkansas and later through her work as a vocational counselor helping students find ways to pay for higher education.

"There was one group I couldn't help, and it haunted me," Marugg-Wolfe once said of her realization single parents faced tremendous obstacles.

Nobody knew a movement to help single parents was about to be born. Since, that movement has provided nearly 30,000 scholarships valued at nearly $16 million. What happened was a perfect coalescence of a need, an idea of how to address it and the people with passion, energy and drive to make a difference. Marugg-Wolfe was their inspirational leader....

"What Marjorie has been able to do is change the lives, in one generation, of multiple generations," Jim Von Gremp, a board member of the Benton County program, said at a 2012 University of Arkansas event at which Marugg-Wolfe was named a distinguished alumna. "The families study together. The children study because the mother studies. The children see the mother work to achieve, and in one generation, you develop a second set of college graduates."...

Marugg-Wolfe was quick to note she didn't do it all on her own. What he did, however, was nurture an idea into its full realization. Where others might have seen a problem too big to solve, she saw an opportunity to help those she could.

Although she received award after award for her devotion, the real prize for her work live on in the improved circumstances of thousands of single parents who have been, and continue to be, affected, and the future generations whose lives have been forever improved.

We'd call that a life well spent.

Marjorie-House.jpgMarjorie grew up on a dairy farm on Pleasant Grove Road in the Bellview community southwest of Rogers in Benton County, Arkansas, the sixth of nine children. As a high school senior, Marjorie was society editor for the Rogers Daily News, co-edited the school yearbook, and class valedictorian.

In the middle of her senior year, her mother died of leukemia. At 17, she was the oldest child still at home. She deferred her dreams of college and scholarship offers to serve as homemaker for her bereft father and surrogate mother to her younger siblings. When her father remarried, she went on to college, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.

While in college she met and married Navy veteran Alfred F. Marugg from Texas and the two moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, where they raised two daughters. She earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland. When Al retired from civil service, the family moved back near Rogers, to an acreage just a mile from where Marjorie grew up.

With her daughters off to college, Marjorie went back to school, too, to earn an Educational Specialist degree, with a focus on "displaced homemakers," stay-at-home moms who suddenly find themselves divorced or widowed and needing a job.

As coordinator of the Homemakers in Transition Program at Northwest Vo-Tech, Marjorie found that unexpected expenses could deter single parents from pursuing the education they needed in order to escape poverty. A student might have a full-ride scholarship, but that wouldn't cover an expensive car repair.

To meet the need, Marjorie worked with countless generous volunteers and donors to start the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County in 1984. (Helen Walton was an early and generous supporter.) Marjorie co-founded the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, and the program has spread to 70 Arkansas counties.

After her husband Al's death in 1990, Marjorie went back to school once again, earning a doctorate of education at the University of Arkansas in 1993. In 1992, she was remarried to John Wolfe, a high school classmate who had also been recently widowed. They traveled to Europe and the Far East and across America and enjoyed boating on Beaver Lake and Rogers Class of '51 gatherings.

Pres Bush with Dr. Marugg-Wolfe_edited-500px.jpgMarjorie_Huckabee-2005-500px.jpgHer advocacy for single parents was recognized by President George W. Bush at the White House in 2002, when she received the President's Community Volunteer Award from the Point of Light Foundation. (The photos above and to the left show her on that occasion.) In 2005, she received the Community Service Award from the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Governor Mike Huckabee.

In 2008, Marjorie became the founding president of ASPIRE (Assisting Single Parents in Realizing Education), a nationwide support network for single parent scholarship programs across the country.


Marjorie (in purple dress, center) with Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund students at the 2009 awards banquet.

In 2012, the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions recognized her as Outstanding Alumna in Education.

Marjorie had a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior, rooted in her upbringing at Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church, where her father led shape-note singing. She was an early and active member of Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas, where she served in the women's ministry and helped start the GriefShare program.

Passionate about family history, Marjorie contributed the Grady Ford article in History of Benton County, Arkansas. At reunions, Marjorie was known for gathering everyone around to share family stories with younger generations.

Marjorie loved organizing large gatherings and serving her guests outdoors on her deck. She collected cookbooks and historical books on the daily lives of women. She loved teaching her daughters and grandchildren about nature, visiting the seashore, and watching the colorful visitors to her bird feeders, which she always kept filled.

In recent years, Marjorie became increasingly concerned about the direction of our country and culture, often sending letters to the editor and circulating emails to friends and family to express her views. Last November's election results were deeply disheartening to her. The connection between nutrition and health was another abiding concern of hers.

Marjorie was a devoted wife, sister, aunt, mom, and grandmother, too, concerned about the well-being of her extended family, attending as many of her grandkids' performances as she could and taking pride in their achievements. My daughter spent a cherished week with her grandmother right after Christmas 2011, learning her grandmother's sewing techniques. For many years she sent out a monthly update to the far-flung Ford clan with prayer requests and that month's birthdays and anniversaries.

Here is video of that May 2012 University of Arkansas awards ceremony. Jim von Gremp, a long-time member of the Single Parent Scholarship board, introduces Marjorie Marugg Wolfe, who describes the history and challenges of the single parent scholarship fund. Ralph Nesson, Director of Development at the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, who worked with Marjorie from the beginning, concludes the tribute.


KTUL has posted video from Wednesday's League of Women Voters debate between incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, former Councilor Bill Christiansen, and former Mayor Kathy Taylor. It's not all in one piece and their site is a bit difficult to navigate, so here are direct links to each clip. The first five clips were filmed with each candidate individually; the remainder are responses at the debate to questions from the audience:

City budget
Economic development
Public safety

Tax structure changes
How to attract jobs without an incentive fund
Chloramine in the city water supply
How to attract retail to north Tulsa
Living wage for city employees
How to improve the health of Tulsa residents
Closing remarks

KTUL has posted some post-debate analysis on their site. I haven't watched all of the debate yet. I spent Wednesday evening at an awards ceremony where students in Tulsa Bible Church's Awana chapter were honored for achievements in memorizing Scripture. More important in the long run, I think. Something like 17 high school students were honored for completing the entire, rigorous program. Awana is an international organization; TBC has one of the most active chapters in the country.

An email this morning from attorney Kent Morlan, a downtown property owner and resident who represented his fellow property owners in the fight to overturn the misuse of the city's power to impose an assessment to pay for the new downtown ballpark. The politician behind that misuse was then-Mayor Kathy Taylor, who convinced a 5-4 majority of the City Council to go along with her. The assessment is a flat rate based on square footage of land plus square footage of buildings.

For a refresher on the case, the proper use of an assessment district under Oklahoma law, and the manipulations of Kathy Taylor and her wealthy allies, please see
my April 22, 2009, column.

You may also want to read this related story, about the Tulsa Development Authority's mistreatment of Cecilia and Will Wilkins developers who were working with TDA to redevelop a vacant lot. All was going well until the TDA-owned site across the street was chosen for the ballpark; suddenly, according to testimony in the case, Kathy Taylor started working behind the scenes to get the TDA to push the Wilkinses out of the way.

As this March 2009 letter from City finance director Michael Kier states, an assessment is a lien on the property, and if it is not paid within a year, the city is legally required to foreclose.

As you'll read below, there are significant legal issues at stake regarding the power of government to impose what amounts to a tax in all but name, but without the safeguards surrounding the imposition of taxes in Oklahoma.

The State Supreme Court should have taken up the issue; that they were unwilling makes me wonder about political pressures at work behind the scenes. If justice were done and the property owners' complaint were upheld, it would be yet another embarrassment for Kathy Taylor.

Is the ballpark a good thing for downtown? Of course. Is it as good for property a mile away as it is for property across the street? Of course not. Is there any benefit for state- and county-owned properties, who have to pay the assessment as well? No.

Here is Morlan's email:

It is with great regret and disappointment that I have to inform you that by a 5 to 4 vote the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declined to grant the Appellants' Petition for Cert. after the Oklahoma Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in favor of the City of Tulsa in Cox v. City of Tulsa.

As a result, all of you will directly or indirectly pay a total of $60 million in assessment to the City of Tulsa to pay the principal and interest on revenue bonds issued by the Baseball Stadium Trust to build the ONEOK Stadium located between the Brady District and Greenwood District in the northeast corner of the IDL.

By denying the Appellants' application for cert., the Supreme Court tacitly approved the City of Tulsa forcing approximately 1,400 owners of property located inside the IDL to pay for a general public improvement baseball stadium leased to the Tulsa Drillers for 10% of the annual principal and interest payments due on the bonds.

The Oklahoma Constitution allows municipalities to assess properties benefited by a local public improvement that directly and specially benefits the properties assessed for the cost of the improvements. Whether the City of Tulsa had the power to assess properties located within the IDL to pay for the ball park was a pure issues of law, but a motion for summary judgment on that issues was overruled by Judge Kuehn. She then severely limited the evidence that the sole remaining plaintiff was allowed to introduce in support of its assertion that its vacant lots and warehouse buildings located a mile south of the park did not benefit at all from the presence of the park before entering judgment in favor of the City.

The Court of Appeals, in a tortured opinion that completely ignored the facts and the law affirmed. The only hope was that the Supreme Court would grant certiorari and directly address the significant public policies issues raised by the Plaintiffs, including taking without just compensation of their property and unconstitutionally exempting property owned by religious institutions while assessing non-profits (which the Attorney General's offices opined was unconstitutional). That hope has proven to have been illusory.

Ed Cox, who, along with his wife, owned the Blair Apartment at 7th and Elwood, sought my assistance in 2008 to protect his property from being assessed died during the nearly five year struggle to protect hundreds of Downtown Tulsa property owners from having their property taken without just compensation. Ed died during the struggle. Whoever owns the property will be assessed for the next 25 years. The property has not benefited in any way from the presence of the ball park downtown. The same is true of Mike Samara, who owns a warehouse property located west of the BOK Center. Likewise the Zigler family on south Detroit and Mark Price on south Frankfurt and hundreds of other properties.

I promised Ed that I would prosecute his case free of charge because I did and do believe that assessing his property to build a ball park for the benefit of all of Tulsans was wrong. I fought the best fight that I knew how. I kept the faith with him but the legal fight is over. To say that I am disappointed with the treatment of my clients by the courts of Oklahoma would be an understatement. We had the facts and we had the law and we had what was right and just but we obviously did not have the politics on our side.

Maybe Kathy Taylor, who is again spending millions to be once more the Mayor of the City of Tulsa, will see fit to right the wrong that she created when she successfully imposed a huge economic burden on the owners of properties inside the IDL when she got the City Council to approve the resolution creating the Baseball Stadium Assessment District.


In 2009, then-Councilor Bill Christiansen explains his decision to vote against the ballpark assessment roll. (Video from Steven Roemerman.) At the same meeting Councilor Rick Westcott, an attorney, explained the legal issues involved. (Here's part 2.) He notes that the old assessment district was proportional to proximity to the Main Mall and Bartlett Square, based on the assumption that the benefit would be greater near these amenities.

Here are excerpts from the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, which provides more detail about the legal basis for the suit.

There are reports of extensive fire damage to the Rolling Hills Shopping Center, on Admiral Pl west of 193rd East Ave in far east Tulsa.

Assistant Fire Marshal Rick Bruder told reporters that a discount store and a pizza restaurant were likely destroyed as the fire caused their roofs to collapse. Also damaged is a clothing store, an insurance agency and an auto parts store.

It's telling that none of the news reports name the center. There once was an impressive sign at the Admiral Place entrance, but it's been long gone.

When my family moved to Rolling Hills in 1969, the Rolling Hills Shopping Center was the only such place for miles around. (The next nearest shopping center was Wagon Wheel at Admiral and Garnett.) County Assessor records say that it was built in 1968. Here's the lineup, from east to west, as I remember it:

OTASCO (not there in 1969, but built on in the 1970s)
Red Bud Supermarket
Raley's Pharmacy
Mini-Mall (with barber shop)
T. G. & Y.
Liquor store
Dry cleaners
Lon's Laundry (around the corner, facing west)

And then the freestanding buildings:

Tastee Freeze (built in 1965, northwest corner)
Roll-In Lounge (east side, facing 193rd)
Phillips 66 (corner of Admiral and 193rd)

There was an MFA insurance agent in there somewhere, too. Roll-In Lounge was a beer joint (B. Y. O. L.). The mini-mall had a space where my sister took tap and ballet lessons. In high school, she worked for Raley's.

Before we had our own washer and dryer, we'd take our laundry to Lon's. The fellow who ran it (Lon, I suppose) was white-headed, tall, and skinny, and he whistled tunes that I didn't recognize. It was hot and steamy, especially in the summer, and there was the smell of soap powder and the taste of a cold bottle of Grapette from the Pepsi machine. I don't recall that it was air conditioned. I can remember sitting in Lon's in a shell-backed metal lawn chair, with a notebook, a 4-color pen, and a road atlas, plotting out an upcoming family vacation, while we waited on the next load to finish.

The T. G. & Y. -- 5¢ to $1.00 -- was where you went for school supplies, fabric, and simple toys. They lasted until not long after Wal-Mart built their first Tulsa store (assessor records say 1972, but that seems too early to me), about 40,000 square feet, less than half the size of a SuperCenter. I recall T. G. & Y. posting defiant "we will not be undersold!" signs. The Wal-Mart building is now some sort of light industrial business. The T. G. & Y. space became a C. R> Anthony store and then (much later) Dollar General.

When OTASCO closed, Red Bud took over the space. At some point, they became Marvin's. Old-timers will remember a stand near the entrance that sold Hillbilly Barbecue sandwiches.

Although the center has been in the City of Tulsa's limits since 1966, it's always been associated with Catoosa, as most of its patrons were in the town of Catoosa or its school district. Rolling Hills east of 193rd was unincorporated back then, but in the Catoosa school district.

It's been sad to see the decline of the center, but it has followed the same downward path as similar centers built in the same era. The presence of the Hard Rock Casino seems to have drawn all the new development to the Catoosa side of I-44 (which is the Tulsa/Catoosa and Tulsa County / Rogers County boundary).

City of Tulsa general fund budget by fiscal year and mayor, 2003-2014

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has released his proposed budget for the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. (That's an 8 GB PDF.) The budget is slightly lower than last year, reflecting the drop in revenues that caught Bartlett Jr and his administration by surprise, leading to a hiring freeze for the last quarter of the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The above chart shows the general fund budget over the last 10 years. The complete city budget includes many other funds, but the general fund is a good apples-to-apples comparison, as it doesn't include fee-for-service funds like trash and water. This is the part of the budget where the mayor has the most control.

What you'll notice is a steep climb in the general fund budget under Taylor and again under Bartlett Jr, with a drop in the middle under both mayors when the 2008 recession hit Tulsa and sales tax revenues plummeted.

Here's the thing to remember about government budgeting in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Constitution and state statutes require a balanced budget for the state and all of its political subdivisions. While you can issue bonds for capital improvements, you can't simply get out the credit card to pay for operations when you want to spend more than available revenues. A mayor has to cut spending. There is no other option when revenues are down.

But when times are fat and revenues are flowing, a mayor does have a choice: He or she could show restraint and hold spending increases to the rate of inflation. A few voices -- former City Councilor John Eagleton was the most prominent -- called for restraining the growth of government to the rate of inflation, but those voices were ignored.

The other option: The mayor could expand existing programs, create new programs, and allow spending to increase to consume all available revenues, making cuts all the more painful when revenues contract, as they eventually will.


Kathy Taylor opted for the latter course. Taylor boosted the general fund budget by 18.5% over three years, half again faster than the rate of inflation over the same period (June 2005, when Bill LaFortune's last budget was approved, to June 2008, when Taylor's peak budget was approved). Had Taylor kept her spending increases to the rate of inflation, no cuts would have been necessary -- the 2008-2009 budget would have been $242.3 million instead of the actual amount of $255.3 million, and the actual 2009-2010 budget of $244.5 million would have represented an increase.


Dewey Bartlett Jr was an even bigger spendthrift than Kathy Taylor. He cut when he had to in FY 2010-2011, to stay within available revenues, but then Bartlett Jr's general fund budgets rose 17% in just two years, over a period (June 2010 to June 2012) when the CPI rose only 5%. Once again, had Bartlett Jr held his spending to the rate of inflation, the 2012-2013 budget would have been only $245.2 million.

Had spending been held to the rate of inflation through both the Taylor and Bartlett Jr administrations, the City of Tulsa would have avoided painful budget cuts and would have a fatter rainy day fund.

It's time Tulsa got off of the budget roller coaster and took a more cautious, conservative, and steady approach to city budgeting.

MORE: Download the FY13-14 City of Tulsa Proposed Budget.

Here's a table showing the Consumer Price Index month-by-month going all the way back to 1913.

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