August 2013 Archives

Just got an email from the Tulsa County Republican Party announcing volunteer door-knocking days on behalf of Dewey Bartlett Jr, running for re-election as Mayor of Tulsa. Although this is officially a non-partisan race, both candidates are closely identified with their respective parties, and both were elected to their first terms on a partisan ballot.

Several things about the email were surprising. Five dates were listed, and of those five, only three were going to be staffed by the Tulsa County Republican Party. One date was for the Rogers County Republican Party and another for the Washington County Republican Party. The City of Tulsa has no territory in Washington County, and only a narrow fenceline in Rogers County. Occasionally you have as many as two Rogers County voters who show up to vote in a city election. The email address for the point of contact for the effort is that of the Oklahoma Republican Party's northeastern field rep.

I can understand why the state GOP would be concerned. Kathy Taylor has the means to self-fund a campaign for higher office, threatening solid GOP control of the State Capitol and Oklahoma's congressional delegation. A defeat in November, one presumes, would put an end to any ambitions for higher office.

On the other hand, consider that Democrat Susan Savage was mayor for 10 years, left office without ever being defeated, and was considered a potential candidate for higher office, but she has never even made the attempt. Her only post-mayoral position has been her appointment as Secretary of State by a fellow Democrat, Gov. Brad Henry. If she ran to be a senator or congressman or governor, Kathy Taylor would have to run for office as a Democrat, and her views on national and ideological issues would come to the fore. Republicans who might be comfortable with her as mayor would block her from election to a legislature where the numbers of Ds and Rs determines overall control.

Taylor herself seems to have had a couple of ripe opportunities to move up into state or national elective politics, but she hasn't. Presumably her pollsters tell her she can't win statewide or even CD1-wide right now.

It's sad that Bartlett Jr can't muster enough enthusiasm among Republicans in the City of Tulsa to get them to knock doors for him. I imagine that many Republican activists were turned off by Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Taylor's re-election, his hostility toward the Republican-majority council that served during the first half of the term, and by what appears to be at best a chilly relationship with the councilors who replaced them (most of them with the support of Bartlett Jr's allies). Not to mention his support for gay-rights legislation and the Vision2 pork-barrel and corporate welfare county tax. (Not that Taylor is any better on those issues.) I still have yet to hear of a current councilor who endorses Bartlett Jr's re-election.

I imagine that the Democratic Party is as anxious to get Taylor elected as the Republicans are to prevent it, and that they too are importing out-of-town Democratic activists to support her campaign.

So our first-ever non-partisan mayoral election has become a proxy battle between the two major national parties. The motivating issue for politicos outside our city limits (and for some inside) is whether the Democrats' best hope for breaking the Republican monopoly in Oklahoma will have or will be deprived of Tulsa City Hall as a platform from which to run for higher office.

But the question on the minds of many Tulsans: What difference will November's result make to the way city government is run? Whether it's Taylor or Bartlett Jr, the same "leading Tulsa citizens" -- the usual suspects -- will be appointed to authorities, boards, and commissions. Whether it's Bartlett Jr or Taylor, the same guy who has been around since the Randle Administration will oversee urban planning and serve as the Mayor's proxy on the Planning Commission.* Whoever wins, we'll still be stuck with the complicated and messy trash system imposed upon us by board members that Kathy appointed and Dewey re-appointed (or didn't bother to replace). Whoever wins will fall all over himself or herself to back the Tulsa Regional Chamber's latest wheeze.

*NOTE: Dwain Midget appears in news reports as early as February 7, 1991, as the Mayor's representative on the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. The description in the linked article is incorrect: the Mayor does have a vote on the TMAPC, a vote which which has been exercised by Mr. Midget on the Mayor's behalf for over 22 years under five different mayors from both major parties. Many neighborhood association leaders have long seen Midget as a consistent vote for the development lobby and hostile to neighborhood concerns. If there really were any significant differences in policy between the last five mayors, wouldn't a new mayor have bothered to replace someone in such a key role with someone closer to the new mayor's perspective?

I have friends on both sides of the upcoming Tulsa mayoral election who have asked me if I'd be willing to meet with their respective candidate, a private meeting where I could voice my concerns and the candidate would make his or her case for my support.

It's not that I command masses of voters, but I do have some influence, and one of a candidate's jobs is to win over influencers. In a close election, anyone with any size following could make the difference between winning and losing.

A friend called yesterday to set up just such a meeting. I told my friend what I had decided, but had not yet announced: I won't be meeting with either candidate.

Here's what usually happens in these meetings: The candidate butters up his guest, telling him how valuable he is to the community, even if the candidate reviles him. The candidate encourages his guest to talk about his concerns. If all goes well and the guest is talkative, the candidate can just sit and nod sympathetically. If the guest has pointed questions, the candidate may have to find ways to avoid answering the questions while sounding like he's given a definitive answer. There may be a hint of a promise of an appointment to a commission or an initiative to address one of the guest's concerns. Of course, such promises are unenforceable, and only a sucker would believe them. Indeed, anything a candidate says in a private meeting is written on water.

What would be the point of a private meeting?

The candidates know I don't trust either one of them. I've compiled long lists of the foolish and evil things they've each done in office. I've voiced my concerns with each of them publicly and at length.

I've also been very public and vocal about what Tulsa isn't doing but should be, and vice versa.

If they want to win my support, they can speak and act publicly to address my concerns, and I'll take those public commitments and actions into consideration.

Life is busy. I have three growing kids who need and deserve increasing amounts of my attention. I live with a certain amount of guilt for all the hours I spent writing about city politics rather than playing board games and reading books. My day job is going well -- plenty of work and plenty of new projects coming in the door. I have plenty of projects around the house and yard that need my attention.

Why should I waste any of my precious time arranging a meeting with a politician so he or she can tell me sweet little lies?

NOTICE: Any phone call to me from a mayoral candidate or his/her representative will be recorded and may be published in whole or in part here on BatesLine. Likewise, any email or other written communication from a mayoral candidate or his/her representative is on the record and may be published in whole or in part here on BatesLine.

An anecdote from an obituary of art and music critic Hilton Kramer, founder of The New Criterion:

It did not please Hilton Kramer to make enemies. But he knew that the job of a cultural critic was to tell the truth and that the truth is often unpalatable.

He loved telling the story of attending a dinner at the Whitney Museum. He was seated next to the film director Woody Allen, who asked whether he ever felt embarrassed when he met socially artists whom he had criticized. No, Kramer replied, they're they ones who made the bad art: I just described it. Mr. Allen, he recalled, lapsed into gloomy silence. It was only on his way home that Kramer recalled writing a highly critical piece about "The Front," a P.C. movie about the Hollywood blacklist in which Mr. Allen acted. That anecdote encapsulates something essential about Kramer's practice as a critic.

I have at times felt sheepish to be in the presence of politicians whose decisions I have criticized. Henceforth, I'll follow Mr. Kramer's example. Me, embarrassed? Pal, you're the one who made the bad policy. I just wrote about it.

Hat tip for a version of this anecdote to Meghan Cox Gurdon, writing critically in Imprimis about today's lurid literature targeting older children: The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books, a must-read for parents and other teachers of the older children that publishers label "young adults."

An interactive demographic map -- called the "Racial Dot Map" -- is making the rounds. The map is by Dustin A. Cable, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Each dot on the map represents one person from the 2010 U. S. Census, located within the census block and color-coded according to the self-selected racial and ethnic categories listed on the census form.

Overlooking the racial coding for a moment, the map beautifully depicts the great urban conglomerations and the strings of settlement along the highways that cross the sparsely-settled Great Plains. The voids on the map include the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the mountain ridges of central Pennsylvania, the Okefenokee and the Everglades, and the Sierra Nevada. Zooming in on Tulsa, you can see the Bird Creek floodplain that divides Owasso and Collinsville from Tulsa and its adjoining cities and towns. It's a negative of what you would see with a nighttime satellite view.

This Land Press editor Michael Mason posted a link to the map on Facebook with the comment, "Ugh. This just-released map reveals Tulsa's racial divide."

Zoomed out, the map shows areas of predominance, with the highest concentration of African-Americans west of US 75 and north of Edison St. Other areas show concentrations of Hispanics. The area north of 11th Street and east of US 75 appears to be the most evenly mixed.

But zoom in further, and you'll see dots of every color in every part of every square mile of the city. A study of the 2000 census showed that 64% of the African-Americans in the Tulsa metro area lived on blocks that were less than 80% black. (That link also has stats on racial integration -- the lack thereof -- in the 1960 census, and a map showing the concentrated area in which 91% of African-Americans lived.)

That study hasn't been updated yet for the 2010 census, but some enterprising amateur demographer could download the data from the website and run the numbers. I suspect that the long-term trend of diversification has continued, with more members of racial and ethnic minority groups living in majority / majority neighborhoods.

What I wrote about that earlier study bears repeating:

So we've gone from over 90% of blacks living in a small part of the city in 1960 to living all over the metro area -- 64% outside of predominantly black areas -- in 2000. That seems like progress to me, but the authors of the research don't rank Tulsa as significantly integrated (see their maps of Tulsa) because there are so few blocks on which the population is at least 20% black and at least 20% white. In a city where the overall black population is less than 20%, that doesn't seem like a good measurement of integration.

Of course, geographical integration isn't necessarily a good measure of social integration either, as we tend to connect with people we know from church, school, and work and may not spend much time with our own neighbors.

After the jump, snapshots of Tulsa on the racial dot map at different zoom levels.

FreedomWorks is calling on Oklahomans to attend Sen. Tom Coburn's August townhall meetings to ask him to join conservative Senate Republicans in their fight to defund implementation of the Unaffordable Care Act. Here is a list of Coburn's August 2013 townhalls, which are mainly in rural eastern Oklahoma. Coburn won't be coming to Tulsa or Oklahoma City, so Tulsans and Oklahoma Citians will have to go to him to express their disappointment in his refusal to fight against Obamacare funding.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 2:00 pm, Miami, Miami Civic Center
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 5:00 pm, Muskogee, Muskogee Civic Center, Room D (NOTE VENUE CHANGE)
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 8:00 am, Stigler, The Eaton Hole, 504 E. Main
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 12:00 pm, Hugo, Kiamichi Technology Center North Seminar Room
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 2:30 pm, Atoka, Kiamichi Technology Center Business Center
Monday, August 26, 2013, 5:30 pm, Shawnee, Gordon Cooper Tech Center, John Bruton Seminar Center


Here's the letter from Matt Kibbe, head of FreedomWorks.

Tom Coburn says ObamaCare is not the solution to health care reform. But he hasn't joined with Mike Lee to Defund ObamaCare.

Sen. Coburn is having townhall meetings so you can ask him why he isn't doing everything he can to protect Oklahoma from ObamaCare.

Harry Reid called ObamaCare the stepping stone to European-style health care. Now is the time for Tom Coburn to listen to concerned citizens like you and stand with Mike Lee to Defund ObamaCare.

Tom Coburn has been a principled fighter for economic liberty in the Senate. We need him to join with Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio and not give one dime of your tax dollars to pay for ObamaCare.

Sen. Coburn needs to know that patriots like you don't want ObamaCare and that he should do everything he can to stop it.

In Liberty,

Matt Kibbe
President and CEO, FreedomWorks


At Townhall, Kate Andrews provides three real-life examples of how Obamacare has driven up costs for the sick, disabled, and poor.

The Heritage Foundation says that Coburn is wrong to claim that Congress can't defund mandatory spending. They do it all the time.

Heritage explains defunding:

Defunding Obamacare means attaching a legislative rider to a "must-pass" spending bill, like the continuing resolution or the debt limit, that:
  • Prohibits any funds from being spent on any activities to implement or enforce Obamacare;
  • Cancels any unspent balances that have already been appropriated for implementation; and
  • Turns off the exchange subsidies and new Medicaid spending that are currently on auto-pilot.

Defunding stops the flow of money to Obamacare, including implementing the law and all of its related activities.

A recent successful example of defunding that comes to mind is the incandescent light bulb ban. In December 2011, the same Republican majority in the House, Democrat majority in the Senate, and Democrat in the White House approved omnibus spending legislation that banned spending any money on enforcement of the ban. As with Obamacare, the ban was unpopular and costly federal overreach, but with Obamacare, businesses, labor unions, state and local governments, and individuals are even more concerned about the costs of compliance.


Mickey Kaus notes that Republican congressmen aren't holding as many townhalls; he believes it's because they're afraid to face their conservative constituents over issues like amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Oklahoman urban reporter Steve Lackmeyer may have unintentionally sparked another street-naming controversy up the turnpike in Tulsa.

Lackmeyer recounted the 1961 renaming of Oklahoma City's Grand Avenue to Sheridan Avenue. The name Sheridan, to honor Civil War general, Ft. Sill founder, and "Indian fighter" Philip Sheridan, was a compromise after merchants requested a renaming to erase the bad reputation of Grand Ave and honor a new Sheraton Hotel. Lackmeyer looked into the background of the street's namesake:

And here's where it gets really politically incorrect: Sheridan liked to kill American Indians. His biographer quoted him as saying "the only good Indians I saw were dead" in response to a Comanche chief who introduced himself to the general as a "good Injun." He made this lovely comment while at Fort Sill - the same command that oversaw the opening of the unassigned lands in Oklahoma, including what is now Oklahoma City.

Sheridan's assault on American Indians was more than just a military guy taking his job too seriously.

During the winter of 1868, he attacked Cheyennes, Kiowas and Comanches in their winter quarters, taking the livestock, killing those who fought back, and driving the survivors back onto reservations.

Gen. Sheridan didn't like buffalo either:

Historians noted that when the Texas legislature considered outlawing bison poaching on tribal lands, Sheridan personally testified against it, suggesting lawmakers instead give each of the hunters a medal, engraved with a dead buffalo on one side and a discouraged-looking Indian on the other.

There are a lot of places named Sheridan in the US, and the ones I've checked all seemed to be named to honor this murderous racist.

While Sheridan Avenue in Oklahoma City is a relatively short and minor street, Sheridan Road in Tulsa is a major thoroughfare, a section-line road stretching from Mohawk Park and the Tulsa Zoo in the north, along the west boundary of Tulsa International Airport, and all the way to the Arkansas River near Bixby in the south. There are Sheridan Road exits on the Gilcrease Expressway, the Broken Arrow Expressway, and Skelly Drive. There must be many hundreds of businesses with a Sheridan Road address, including Sheridan Lanes, a bowling alley with a beautifully animated neon sign.

City Council, the ball is in your court.

Oklahoma First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine will be the featured speaker at the August meeting of the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly (TARA) on Tuesday, August 20, 2013.

TARA meets at the Golden Corral, 71st and Mingo, just west of US 169. The group gathers at 6 for dinner, announcements at 6:45 and the featured speaker at 7:00. You're encouraged to arrive early to get a seat; a large crowd is expected. Dinner prices are $10.49 for adults, $9.89 for seniors, not including tax and tip.

TARA is the local affiliate of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA). Calling itself the "GOP wing of the Republican Party," the organization and its affiliates seek to hold Republican elected officials to the conservative principles on which they run.

FINAL UPDATE! Council votes 7-to-Patrick to change the name within the IDL to M. B. Brady Street in honor of the Civil War era photographer, thus preserving the street name while clarifying that we don't wish to honor W. Tate Brady. Not sure if I should applaud the finesse of this move or hoot derision at a too-clever-by-half decision that is likely to make no one happy. Maybe the most eloquent reaction is a comment by JR Seifried on KRMG's story: "lolwut"

UPDATED AND BUMPED 2013/08/15: Yesterday, Councilor Phil Lakin, who was missing from last week's debate and tie vote and won't tell how he would have voted had he been there, announced that tonight's up-or-down vote may not happen:

"Together, we are reorienting ourselves -- and our votes -- toward a constructive solution rather than simply engaging in an up-and-down vote on changing the name of Brady to Burlington," Lakin said in a prepared statement.

I humbly suggest that, notwithstanding the tongue-in-cheek aspects of what follows below, the core idea is a constructive solution: Appoint a commission to look at the history behind all of Tulsa's names, decide on criteria that make a name unacceptable, propose substitutes for unacceptable names (preserving, I hope, Tulsa's orderly street-naming and numbering system), and propose a means for covering the cost of renaming. The public would adopt or reject the renaming and its attendant costs by an up-or-down vote.

Originally published on August 12, 2013.

rename_all_the_things.pngThe problem with the proposal to eradicate the name Brady from Tulsa's map is that it doesn't go far enough. Tate Brady was a founder of the City of Tulsa and a booster of its early growth, but he was also involved in some evil and despicable acts and organizations.

On Thursday, the City Council will vote again on whether to rename a street that honors a Klansman to honor instead a family that grew wealthy on the human misery of the slave trade.

The renaming of Brady Street and Brady Place to Burlington Street and Burlington Place respectively would be one of several Tulsa street renamings in recent years. These are true renamings, not mere double-signing. (An example of double-signing: 41st Street between Peoria and Riverside is called "Nancy Apgar Avenue" to honor the late Brookside Neighborhood Association leader, but 41st Street remains the address of homes and businesses along that stretch of road.)

In 1997, Tulsa renamed the former Osage Expressway to honor the late Baptist pastor and civil rights leader L. L. Tisdale. The former Crosstown Expressway, which bears I-244 and US 412 from the Inner Dispersal Loop to the eastern city limits, was renamed the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Expressway in 1984 at the direction of then-Gov. George Nigh. A segment of Haskell Street was renamed John Hope Franklin Boulevard in honor of the historian. Last year, N. Cincinnati Avenue from Archer Street to the northern city limits was renamed Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard -- an idea that had been brewing since the late 1980s.

But Tate Brady was hardly alone in his evil deeds and attitudes. His case has attracted the most attention because of Lee Roy Chapman's research in This Land Press, but there are others who are honored in the name of a street, a school, a library, or a theater who contributed to some atrocity of the past or held attitudes that we now consider repugnant.

Overlook for the moment any positive contributions to the community, and let's look at the worst that can be said about many of the people whose names are reflected in city streets and city-owned property.

For example, the city's Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport honors the late Tulsa Tribune executive and long-time airport authority member. But he was named to honor Richard Lloyd Jones Sr., his father and predecessor at the Tribune who is believed to have published an inflammatory editorial that sparked the 1921 attack on Tulsa's African-American community.

Not to ignore another former Tulsa newspaper family, Eugene Lorton was publisher of the Tulsa World in November 1917 when its editorial page called for the lynching of members of the International Workers of the World. A day later, a group called the Knights of Liberty kidnapped and tortured 17 members of the I. W. W.; Tate Brady was named as a ringleader in what became known as the "Tulsa Outrage."

Tate Brady chaired the committee for the 1918 reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, but many of the other names on the committee are honored with Tulsa parks and streets. S. R. Lewis is the namesake of Lewis Avenue. Charles Page has a boulevard. The names Owen, Howard, and Turner can be found on city parks. Eugene Lorton's name is on this list, as are famous Tulsa oilmen McBirney and McFarlin. C. N. Haskell, Oklahoma's first governor, is on the list, too -- he signed the state's Jim Crow laws and is the namesake of Haskell St.

That's just early-day Tulsa. We haven't touched the places named to honor the architects of the second destruction of the Greenwood district via urban renewal and the Model Cities program in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mayors, commissioners, city attorneys, members of committees -- all should be investigated for culpability in demolishing what Tulsa's African-American community painstakingly rebuilt after the 1921 riot.

Greenwood itself is named after Greenwood, Mississippi, which is named for Choctaw chief Greenwood LeFlore, who owned slaves, betrayed his own people by signing the treaty for the tribe's removal to Oklahoma, and urged the Five Tribes to support the Confederacy.

We could rename Greenwood to Garrison, to match the name the sixth block east of Main has in far-north Tulsa, but Garrison got its name for racist reasons. The blue-collar white people to whom Tulsa's far-north subdivisions were first marketed wouldn't have wanted to live on a street whose name was associated with Tulsa's African-American community.

We can't do anything about George Kaiser Family Foundation naming its private property after Woody Guthrie, who was a vocal advocate for a murderous ideology responsible for the deaths of tens of millions and the enslavement of billions in Russia, China, Cuba, southeast Asia, and around the globe. But Tulsa could dis-honor the old Red by giving Guthrie Avenue a different name.

One block further west, Sam Houston was involved in the theft of Texas from Latino rule to Anglo rule. Indian and Jackson Avenues are, ironically, next to each other. President Andrew Jackson, the founder of the modern Democrat Party, was a racist demagogue responsible for the deaths of thousands of Native Americans on the Trail of Tears.

Waco Avenue may have had a neutral meaning when it was named, but nowadays it's associated with the burning of the Branch Davidian compound, which inspired the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, according to the perpetrator of that atrocity.

Rather than handle these renamings piecemeal, with the potential of a new renaming (and a four-hour long public hearing) at every week's City Council meeting, the City Council should appoint a diverse commission of historically minded citizens to research the histories of all names under the control of the City of Tulsa and its boards and commissions.

This commission -- perhaps to be called the Commission for the Sanitation of Politically Incorrect Names (C-SPIN) -- would report back with a comprehensive recommendation to rename certain streets, an estimate of the cost to rename, and a revenue proposal (sales tax or general obligation bond issue) for funding the recommended renamings, including city expenses like street signage and grants to affected businesses and residents to cover signage, business cards, letterhead, and other street renaming expenses.

The commission would have to consider whether a person's misdeeds rises to the level of deserving the removal of his or her name from a public place. They might wish to set criteria that would be applied consistently to decide thumbs up or down. Not everyone will agree with my worst-case assessments

Just like the Federal Base Re-Alignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), the recommendation could not be amended, but would be submitted to City of Tulsa voters for an up-or-down vote on the renaming and the tax to fund it.

One-by-one renaming will be inefficient and unquestionably inconsistent. A comprehensive review of all names at once will allow the mayor and council to focus on other crises, will tend toward a consistent application of criteria, and will put the matter to rest for, we hope, many years. I hope the City Council will consider this possibility on Thursday.

Today, August 13, 2013, the polls will be open in southern Tulsa County, including the southern part of midtown Tulsa, for the special general election to replace retiring Tulsa County District 3 Commissioner Fred Perry. On the ballot are former State Rep. Ron Peters, who heads a public relations firm, and Tulsa County field construction supervisor John Bomar. The Tulsa World and the political arm of the Metropolitan Tulsa Regional Metro Chamber of Commerce have endorsed Peters. The winner will face a run for re-election next year when Perry's term expires.

In a May forum at TCC, both candidates indicated support for additional county sales tax propositions.

Rogers County voters will be asked to renew a one-cent county sales tax. 7/8ths of the cent will go to roads and bridges; 1/8th will go to help pay down a hefty legal judgment against the county. Here's how the Tulsa World's Rhett Morgan described the judgment:

Material Service Corp. filed the action against the county in 2000. The company wasn't seeking monetary damages but wanted a determination by the court that the county had improperly annexed the property leased by Material Service, preventing it from mining there, an attorney for the company said.

After a change-of-venue request was granted, the inverse condemnation case went to trial in Mayes County in 2009, with the jury awarding Material Service $12.5 million. Prejudgment and post-judgment interest, attorneys fees and costs since the 2009 jury verdict pushed the amount to more than $32 million.

Annexation? I am pretty sure that Oklahoma counties cannot unilaterally change their own boundaries by annexation. Rogers County lost territory to Tulsa County about 100 years ago, but its boundaries have been utterly stable for the last century.

What appears to have happened is that the City of Claremore-Rogers County Metropolitan Area Planning Commission added the land that Material Service Corp. had leased for limestone quarrying to the unincorporated land subject to county zoning, followed by county zoning to prohibit the quarrying that MSC wanted to do. This was done without proper notice, and MSC sued the county for the economic damages they suffered for misusing their zoning power. Looks like a case of trying to close the barn door just as the horses were escaping, if the horses had a high-powered trial lawyer to argue their case.

An ordinance to amend the "Bartlett Amendment," which requires Riverside Drive improvements to be a separate item on the ballot at capital improvements elections, is on the agenda for tonight's (August 8, 2013) Tulsa City Council agenda. The amendment would exclude Riverside Drive improvements between 2300 and 3400 Riverside Drive connected with the George Kaiser Family Foundation's "A Gathering Place."

The Bartlett Amendment was promoted by then-District 9 City Councilor Dewey Bartlett, Jr., at a time when developers were seeking to turn Riverside Drive into a six-lane parkway all the way from south Tulsa to downtown. The proposed parkway would have turned north on Houston Avenue to connect to the western part of downtown. Nearby neighborhoods objected to the widening of the road. The amendment made it unlikely that such a widening would be approved, as it would have to be unbundled from other capital improvements and considered separately.

The Bartlett Amendment already excludes certain improvements detailed in the 1993 Conceptual Plan for Riverside Drive and Houston Avenue, including side street tie-off and cul-de-sac construction, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation, and the realignment and redesign of the dangerous and flood-prone Midland Valley Railroad viaduct just north of 31st and Riverside.

A neighborhood meeting tonight (August 8, 2013) at 7 p.m. will discuss plans to convert the former Philadelphia Assembly church building at 2545 S. Yale Ave. in Tulsa to a group home for teens in DHS custody.

The meeting will be held at Berean Baptist Church, 21st Street and Darlington Ave.

Several weeks ago Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health System CEO Mike Kistler spoke at the building to interested neighbors about their plans for the property. DHS approached Shadow Mountain about providing a group home for teens in DHS custody. DHS classifies the proposed facility as a Residential Child Care Facility.

The Oklahoma DHS website provides the following description of community-based residential services:

Community-Based Residential Services provide program support management for the care and treatment of youth in Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) custody who are determined deprived and whose treatment needs can no longer be met in their own home, a relative's home or in traditional foster family care. The treatment needs for OKDHS custody children may be met either in a group home, specialized community home or in acute or Residential Treatment Care (RTC) facility. These programs are either operated by OKDHS or by an agency or individuals under formal contract with OKDHS and licensed by the Oklahoma Child Care Services as a child placing agency or residential child care facility. In order to meet the complex treatment needs of these youth, Child Welfare Services maintains a continuum of community based residential care placement resources which vary in the level and intensity of treatment services provided.

The conversion to a group home requires the City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment to approve a special exception for the property to be used as a Children's Home, which is in a single-family residential zoning district (RS3). A children's home is classified as Use Unit 2, permitted by special exception in any zoning classification. To approve a special exception, the BOA must find that the proposal will not be injurious to the neighborhood or detrimental to the public welfare.

The case number is BOA-51294. That link leads to a PDF with maps, photos, and aerial views of the property, emails and letters from BOA staff, DHS staff, Shadow Mountain staff, and concerned neighbors about the planned use of the property.

It appears that Shadow Mountain CEO Mike Kistler has been very accessible and responsive to neighbors with questions. He has agreed to a number of conditions to be included in the special exception, including fencing, paving of the parking lot and driveways (currently gravel), no sex offenders, a limit of 16 residents, all of whom must be under 18, requirement to be licensed by OKDHS as a residential child care facility, no identifying signage. The applicant has agreed that the special exception should expire when Shadow Mountain ceases to operate on the site.

Some neighbors are concerned that the property will be owned by a third party and leased to Shadow Mountain. Can the expiration of the special exception if Shadow Mountain ceases to operate there be made a binding and enforceable part of the exception? How would it be enforced? There are also concerns about the teens who will be living there: If these teens cannot be housed in a traditional foster home or with relatives, are they a potential danger to neighbors? Will they have tight enough supervision to keep them under control?

Some local history:

The building's cornerstone has the date of construction as 1953 for the Philadelphia Assembly, "The Church of Brotherly Love," the Rev. L. R. Lynch, Pastor. The building is wedged between the Gracemont subdivision, developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the Lortondale subdivision, famous for its mid-century modern architecture, developed in the mid-1950s. The church's property is adjacent to the Lortondale Pool, a private pool open to members.

Most recently the building has been home to Community of Hope United Church of Christ, somewhat famous for being the home church of two women who were married by the church's then-pastor, Leslie Penrose, in 2004 using a Cherokee Nation marriage license obtained, in my opinion, under false pretenses (the use of initials rather than first names on the license application). The church appears to be out of business. Its website is offline, and its last Facebook wall entry, from September 21, 2012, is the administrative assistant's announcement that she has been laid off. The church's entry in the UCC directory claimed a membership of 116 and an average attendance of 35. A Chinowth and Cohen "for sale" sign has been in front of the building for some time.

On July 6, 2013, Tulsa violinist Joseph Bates won first place in the youth division of the Texas Cowboy Reunion Old Time Fiddlers' Contest. This was Bates's third time to compete at the Stamford, Texas, contest, winning third place in 2007 and second place in 2008. Bill Burns, who later won the senior division fiddle contest, is playing rhythm guitar. Candi Davidson, a student at Hardin-Simmons College and also a classical violinist, won the adult division and was overall grand champion. Because of the large number of contestants, the judges had them play two tunes each rather than the traditional three. Here's Bates's prize-winning performance of "Jesse Polka" and "Faded Love."

After the results, several of the fiddlers stuck around to jam. Here are Jerry Don Shane, Bill Burns, Candi Davidson, and Joseph Bates taking turns with the "Westphalia Waltz."

Bates studies classical violin at The bART Center (formerly known as the Barthelmes Conservatory). Here he is with Nicholas Bashforth, Anthony Conroy, and Quinn Maher, performing three movements of the Mozart String Quartet in G Major (K. 80/73f).

Consider these options for putting a county-wide tax proposition on the ballot this fall:

1. Convince at least two of the three county commissioners to support the idea.

2. Collect 18,000 petition signatures in six weeks, early enough to make the November ballot.

If you could do either, which would you prefer? Which would be easier?

Would you pick option 2 if there were any possibility of accomplishing option 1?

Tulsa County Commissioners put five sets of propositions for county sales taxes on the ballot from 2000 to 2012. Why didn't Sheriff Stanley Glanz and Commissioner Karen Keith ask them to move forward with a sixth proposal to enact a new 1/6th cent sales tax to fund jail expansion and a new juvenile justice facility?

When Republican Party precinct leaders censured the two Republican county commissioners for putting the ill-considered Vision2 corporate welfare and pork barrel proposal on the ballot in 2012, the commissioners and their defenders argued that they had a duty to put the plan to the voters for the voters to decide. Opponents replied that commissioners had a duty to screen proposals and send forward only sound proposals that they deemed worthy of passage. I wrote at the time:

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

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

The fact that the easy route to the ballot -- two commissioners out of three agreeing -- is not being pursued suggests strongly to me that only one of the three, Democrat Karen Keith, supports the idea, and Republicans John Smaligo and Mark Liotta (acting commissioner until Fred Perry's replacement is elected) do not. If you can't convince Smaligo, who voted for putting the 2007 river tax increase and the 2012 Vision2 tax on the ballot, how are you going to persuade the general public?

I'm surprised that the newspaper and TV coverage that I've seen have failed to make this connection for their readers and viewers.

The good news for taxpayers is that at least two county commissioners now believe that they have a duty to screen tax propositions before they go to the voters. District 3 voters should be asking Ron Peters and John Bomar, the candidates to replace Fred Perry, what their criteria are for allowing a tax proposition to go before the voters.

bells_is_back.jpgThe Bell family began building small kiddie rides in a garage at 8th and Lewis in 1951, gradually building a legendary amusement park on the west end of the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. The fun came to an end in 2006, when the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (the Fair Board) made the rash decision to refuse a lease renewal to Expo Square's longest-standing and most lucrative tenant.

Hoping for the future, the Bells put the ride equipment into storage. For a year or so, the third generation of the Bell family has been running several small rides in connection with Swick's Flea Market at 5802 W. 51st Street, west of Tulsa. They have plans to begin reassembling larger rides for big kids and adults; the Tilt-A-Whirl is in progress. A miniature golf course is ready for assembly.

For the really big rides, you need more than just level ground. You need concrete footings and steel structures and other infrastructure that Bell's had to leave in place. All that will have to be re-created, and there's a cost to reconditioning and reassembling each ride. A sudden resurrection would have been exciting but would have been unlikely even in a healthy financial climate. In a sense, Robby Bell is following the same path that his grandfather and father blazed -- slow and steady expansion -- but with the advantage this time around of already owning the ride equipment.

The new Bell's has a website -- -- with info on hours, location, and answers to frequently asked questions. Weather permitting, the rides will be running every Saturday (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m. - 5 p.m.). Rides are $1 each. They've also got a Bell's Facebook page and a donation page where you can contribute to speed up the process of bringing back the old rides.

Here's Robby Bell talking about the current state of the park and his near-term and long-term plans:

This is a timely development, as my youngest is about to outgrow the next-nearest place to ride rides, the Bartlesville Playground (aka Kiddie Park). We made our annual pilgrimage last night, and the seven-and-a-half year old, who has sprouted by several inches in the last year, was too tall to ride the bumper cars, too tall for everything except the biplanes and the pirate ship and the six rides that even grown-ups can ride (Little Dipper roller coaster, carousel, train, Aquarius spinning barrels, turtles, and trucks).

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