April 2016 Archives

Just before the Wisconsin primary, Tom Chantry, a Reformed Baptist pastor, wrote a thorough and fun-to-read account of Wisconsin political history and culture, aimed at his mostly non-Wisconsin readership. Reading it again, three weeks after the primary, and reading his follow-up pieces, I see that it isn't just solid political journalism, but some useful insights into the conservative path forward, drawing lessons from the success of Gov. Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature at getting elected and reforming government in a conservative mold in a state with a history of far-left progressivism.

In the first article, Chantry explains how Wisconsin's liberals and conservatives are different from their national counterparts, and he provides a good summary of the rise of Scott Walker and the battles of the last six years. Especially interesting: What makes Wisconsin talk radio different from everywhere else.

In the 1980s a media revolution was touched off with the establishment of the Rush Limbaugh program, which was picked up in Milwaukee within a few months of its inception. Conservatism having been driven completely out of television and print news, radio became its home. Conservatives found that they were given a voice by Limbaugh and others who followed.

But after the last year it has become evident that the "conservative" radio hosts have only given conservatism a voice; they have not actually been that voice. Truth be told, they said so all along. Limbaugh gloats that he does not create conservatism, he merely reflects and amplifies it. That's another way of saying that national talk radio is not conservative at all, but populist. As long as populism involved patriotism, values, fiscal responsibility, and smaller government, the hosts appeared conservative, but with the emergence of the Donald, populism has pulled the so-called "conservative" media into the gutter....

Quite frankly, it would never have been possible to do in Wisconsin what Limbaugh did on the national stage. Most conservatives were hiding (politely) in their homes, trying not to offend their neighbors. There was little true conservatism to reflect or amplify. For conservative media to be established here, it took a determined, opinionated loudmouth. [Mark] Belling was that loudmouth.

It's hard not to listen to Belling if you live in Milwaukee. Other media is dying. The local newspaper is now printed on a postcard (or so it seems). If anything of substance happens in the state, Belling is often the guy who knows the whole background, the principle players, and the implications. His show is aggressive in a way that Limbaugh's never was. Belling doesn't care to give his listeners a voice. He wants them to become conservatives, now! Amazingly, it has worked. He has carved out a space for himself, and he's transformed Wisconsin media in the meantime.

Chantry lists a number of other conservative local talk show hosts in Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay and concludes:

What ties these voices together is their conscientious advance of conservatism over the last few decades in Wisconsin, a state which, remember, was very, very Blue. The conservatism they advance is principled and philosophically disciplined, not mere gut-reaction conservatism. With the exception of Belling (and sometimes McKenna) it is delivered in the voice of Midwestern courtesy, but it is serious, militant conservatism nonetheless. It has begun to make a mark.

Chantry provides a detailed but fast-paced overview of Scott Walker's rise and the Left's descent into gibbering madness in response. Regarding Walker:

There are four types of governor in America: conservative governors in conservative states, liberal governors in liberal states, moderate governors in various states, and Scott Walker. I cannot think of any analogy to his governorship: he has governed as a consistent (some would say far-right) conservative in the ancient home of American Progressivism, and he's won.

Corrupt and incompetent Democrat officials opened the door for Walker to win election, and he used the opportunity to govern effectively and efficiently, which allowed him to rise to the governor's mansion.

Here's part 2: The GOP race in the last week before the primary, in which he discusses the talk radio buzzsaw that Trump complacently strolled right into:

Two differences from the national scene are worthy of note. First, Wisconsin simply has no passive conservative media. Limbaugh and Hannity would have flopped if they had started on this stage, for reasons I described yesterday. Wisconsin's conservative media is another breed, and they are heavily invested in keeping Trump's non-conservative movement from invading the state's Republican party.

But second, and equally important, Trump didn't seem to know anything about this. It is no surprise to any of us; the hosts have been railing against Trump for weeks now. When I heard that Sykes would be interviewing Trump, I thought, "He really is mad!" He wasn't mad, though, just ignorant. His campaign isn't apparently doing much state-by-state research, and Trump walked into the Wisconsin talk radio buzz-saw unprepared.

And Chantry discusses Trump's ill-advised attack on Scott Walker in retaliation for Walker's endorsement of Cruz:

Now Walker remains exhibit A for Wisconsin courtesy. He did not say that Trump is a blow-hard, a clown, an aging lecher, a corrupt insider, and an entire fraud. When asked if his endorsement was intended as an anti-Trump statement, he continued to talk about Cruz. It didn't matter; everyone knows what Walker is likely to think of Trump.

Trump himself, who apparently has never discussed Walker with anyone but his New York elite liberal buddies, apparently doesn't think that matters. Apparently his genius campaign staff never told him that Walker has an 80% approval rating among the Republicans whose votes he is trying to win, because Trump immediately decided to attack him....

Then came the Wednesday morning rally in Janesville, where he convinced his minions to boo favorite son Paul Ryan. This was also the rally in which the young woman among the far-left Trump protesters was assaulted and pepper-sprayed by Trump supporters. If only she and others like her had realized that inside the event, Trump was repeating all their favored attacks on Walker!

That afternoon Mark Belling promptly cancelled a vacation, stormed into his studio, sent his guest-host home, and went to war against Trump. If you ever thought Belling is a crass jerk, you should have heard Wednesday's show! (He actually called Trump a "butthead" on the air.) Belling is, however, influential, and he has been hammering away on Trump, insisting that the insurgent candidacy threatens to undo all the conservative advances of the last few years in this state.

And part 3: The Wisconsin results.

Voters would do well to recall the maxim that all that glitters is not gold. Miners who get excited over the glitter of iron pyrite are identified by the mineral's common name: fools' gold. It is not what it first appears. Experts, though, whether gold miners or jewelers, are not fooled. The reason is their familiarity with the real thing. If you know what gold really looks like, pyrite isn't much of a substitute.

And honestly, that is the basic reason for Trump's collapse in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has its angry conservatives, but if they've been paying any attention at all, they've seen the real deal. It is easy to focus on Scott Walker; the truth is that the Wisconsin Republican party has been disciplined and conservative in the last six years. Assemblymen and senators passed Act 10; there have been many courageous acts along the way. Our conservatives have been pure, 24-carat gold.

In spite of serving in his second term as governor, Walker is a true outsider. He seems genuinely unconcerned with what his colleagues and the media think of him. Wisconsin conservative politicians are not play-acting; they have consistently articulated conservative principles. "Reform" is not an empty battle-cry in this state; we have watched one reform after another enacted. Next to serious conservatism, the Donald Trump dog-and-pony show is rather sad.

Donald Trump has come this far by reflecting and amplifying the anger of the electorate.... But anger itself is not a policy. Years ago Republicans laughed at Bill Clinton for "feeling our pain." We wanted to know what exactly he was going to do about our pain. But now, when Trump feels our anger, how do we respond?

One of the most striking elements of the Trump phenomenon is the utter absence of prescription. Trump supporters love to call talk radio and yell about their grievances. When they call Limbaugh or Hannity, the host responds, "Yes, I sense how angry you are." Gee, thanks, Dr. Phil! But when the same [sup]porters called the actual conservative hosts in Wisconsin, something else entirely happened. The callers were asked what they wanted to see done about the anger, or what they thought Trump would change. The exchanges that followed were embarrassing to hear.

The callers were quick to say repeatedly how bad politicians are, and how much they've taken advantage of the country, but they couldn't think of anything to do about it....They have no actual interest in Trump's alleged policies (I say "alleged" because I don't believe he is a complete idiot, either), but instead are drawn to his tone.

This appeal is, however, rather limited in a state where policy prescriptions have born real fruit. Walker and the Republican leadership in Wisconsin have never appeared angry. (All the anger has been on the left. I say again, Trump's fury and that of his supporters looks radical and leftist to us.) Instead, they have actually done things. They have addressed the root of conservative anger rather than stoking the flame. This is a conservatism that leads somewhere, not a populism that leaves us panting when our tantrum is over. Once you've had the one, you've little desire for the other.

American politics has been reduced to mere symbolism.... The right in our country complains incessantly that the left only cares about symbolism and feelings, not substance and results. But in the wake of the Trump phenomenon, we have to ask how much of the right is also dominated by its feelings.

(As an aside, I have been one observer unsurprised by Trump's success among "evangelicals." Evangelicalism is not a movement concerned with truth and righteousness, but with how one feels. Trump's candidacy is pretty much identical to an evangelical worship service: light on substance, playing fast and loose with truth, but very emotionally satisfying. How was anyone surprised by his early successes? Trump is an evangelical!)

What is needed - not only by conservatism but by the country - is principled but practical leadership. Emotive conservatism, whether it is the "compassionate conservatism" of Bush or the angry populism of Trump, leads nowhere. We need less emphasis on our angst and more on policy; less on style and more on substance.

And to that end, I would suggest the number one change needed in the conservative movement: we need a radical revolution in conservative media. The era of Limbaugh and Hannity needs to end. I, for one, will not listen to either any more - not even in passing. We've had decades of reflection and amplification of our feelings, and where has it gotten us? Our federal government is more leftist than ever, the conservative electorate is angrier than ever, and now the therapeutic hosts are holding our hand sympathetically while we go about trying to nominate a B-list celebrity clown for the most powerful office in the world.

I can tell you from inside Wisconsin, it doesn't have to be this way. Conservative politicians don't need to be symbols of our anger, and conservative media doesn't need to be an empty sounding board. We can change this.

Yesterday, I saw a Politico story with this headline:

GOP rivals humble themselves before the party's elite

Cruz, Kasich and Trump team makes pitches as delegates dangle their support.

Knowing the three people who represent Oklahoma on the RNC, I can't accept the term "party elite." Oklahoma GOP chairman Pam Pollard, national committeeman Steve Fair, and national committeewoman Carolyn McLarty are long-time conservative grassroots volunteers who won the trust of a lot of other grassroots volunteers in order to be elected to their positions. They aren't wealthy, they aren't funded by special interest groups.

By profession, they're an accountant, a marketing director at a company that makes jellies and jams, and a retired small-town veterinarian, respectively.

Pam Pollard held a variety of low-level positions in the Oklahoma County Republican Party and the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women, rising to higher levels of leadership on the strength of her faithful service. She was a unifying consensus choice to step in when Randy Brogdon resigned the chairmanship last year. She is known as a stickler for fairness and following the rules. She's also a dynamite networker. Here she is at the 2004 Republican National Convention, with a blazer full of pins that she traded with delegates from other states.

Pam Pollard at the 2004 Republican National Convention

Steve Fair served many years as a lonely advocate for conservatism and the Republican Party in southwestern Oklahoma, a rural region that stubborn in clinging to their long-time Democrat voting patterns. Fair slowly built up a strong Republican infrastructure, nurturing qualified candidates who could run for office, first as a leader in the Stephens County party, then as chairman of the 4th Congressional District organization. For years, Fair has written a weekly newspaper column called "Fair and Biased," making the case for conservative ideas to southwestern Oklahoma voters. Fair is not running for reelection as national committeeman, which disappoints me greatly. (I have qualms about the two candidates seeking to replace him.)

Carolyn McLarty is a long-time leader in our state's Eagle Forum chapter. She is a founding member of the Republican National Conservative Caucus, is Chairman of the RNC Resolutions Committee, and has served as the Chairman of the Conservative Steering Committee -- working to organize conservatives on the RNC to resist moves toward the mushy middle.

These three Oklahomans aren't elite in any way except for the hard work they've exerted on behalf of conservative principles in the Republican Party.

UPDATE 2016/04/30: This blog entry received an approving mention and an extended quote in today's editorial roundup in the Oklahoman:

This election cycle has been dominated by claims that the Republican "elite" are at war with the "grass roots" of the party. In a recent post, conservative Tulsa blogger Michael Bates highlights how ludicrous that characterization is....

Indeed, the "elite" label has been applied so broadly one wonders who isn't among that group's alleged members.

Also, I've added links to Steve Fair's blog, and to the profiles of Fair and McLarty on gop.com.

CORRECTION: BatesLine incorrectly identified Robert Ford as Creek County Republican Chairman. He is in fact Creek County 1st District Committeeman.

Supporters of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept today's Oklahoma 1st Congressional District Republican Convention, winning all three delegate seats and all three alternate slots by wide margins.

Tulsa 9/12 Project leader Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, State Rep. David Brumbaugh, and Wagoner County Assessor Sandy Hodges were elected as delegates, and State Sen. Nathan Dahm, Creek County District Committeeman Robert Ford, and Oklahomans for Life president Tony Lauinger were elected as alternates.

While there was a visible Trump contingent present, led by Paul Nosak, the vote totals indicate it amounted to only about a quarter of the convention. Cruz campaign staffer Hudson Talley had come up from Houston for the convention and was handing out delegate slates to Cruz supporters. There wasn't really a whip operation at work -- no signals or signs -- which shows in the fact that only one of the six positions was filled without a runoff, and that one was only by a slim margin. Cruz (or at least no-Trump) supporters scattered their votes on each initial ballot, but coalesced in each runoff. Nosak, wearing a large Trump button on his lapel, was the distant runner-up in five of the six elections, but lost handily in each runoff. His best result was 31% in the final vote for the 3rd alternate position, after about a third of the delegates had gone home.

Oklahoma Republican State Chairman Pam Pollard spoke at length about the upcoming state convention, the process of electing the 25 at-large delegates, and the matter of binding delegates at the national convention. Pollard emphasized that OK GOP party rules and state law are in alignment and that delegates are bound until their assigned candidate is no longer an officially nominated candidate, alluding to often-discussed rule 40(B), which requires that a candidate have support of a majority of delegates from at least eight states to have his name entered into nomination at the National Convention. Pollard said that if all three candidates who won delegates in the March 1 primary -- Cruz, Trump, and Rubio -- were officially nominated for the 1st ballot, she would simply announce the result from the primary, without polling the delegates. Only if one or more of those three candidates ceased to have the support for nomination would she poll the delegation.

During the morning session, while the credentials committee was tallying registrations, U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U. S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine addressed the convention. Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr led the convention in the Pledge of Allegiance but did not deliver a speech.

All Republican candidates who were present were given an opportunity to speak. While votes were being counted, delegates heard from incumbent Republican National Commiteewoman Carolyn McLarty and her challenger, National Committeeman candidates Steve Curry and Richard Engle (incumbent Steve Fair is not seeking re-election), Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, recently elected to fill the remaining months of Stanley Glanz's unexpired term, and Luke Sherman, who is competing for the nomination for the next full four-year-term, Amanda Teegarden (Senate 39), Scott McEachin (House 67), Richard Grabel (Tulsa County Commission District 2), Michael Willis (Tulsa County Clerk), Allen Branch (City Council District 6).

Term-limited State Sen. Brian Crain and parliamentarian John Wright (former state representative) did a fine job of running the meeting efficiently and without controversy. The convention convened a little after 9 a.m. and adjourned shortly after 3 p.m.

By the numbers:

235 delegates registered at Tulsa's Renaissance Hotel for today's convention out of 419 allocated votes. Allocations are based on number of votes cast for the top-of-ticket Republican nominee in the last general election. Tulsa County had 181 delegates out of 320 votes allocated, Wagoner County had 34 delegates out of 46 votes allocated, Washington County had 18 delegates out of 38 votes allocated, and the portion of Creek County in CD 1 had 2 delegates out of 4 votes allocated. No one was present to represent the portion of Rogers County in CD 1, which had 11 allocated votes.

Fourteen candidates filed for the three delegate slots, which were filled in separate votes. Ballots were counted by county, reported in a roll call, then weighted based on the ratio of allocated votes to delegates voting for each county and summed. (Weighting is in accordance with long-standing state party rules. For example, each Tulsa County delegate's vote was worth 320 allocated / 181 actual or approximately 1.77 votes. Each Creek County delegate's vote was worth 4 allocated / 2 actual or 2 votes.) If no candidate had a majority of the vote, a runoff was held between the top two candidates, based on the weighted vote.

David Oldham was nominated to the Oklahoma Republican presidential elector slate, winning 48% on the first ballot over George Wiland and Peggy Dau. Wiland withdrew from the runoff because of the margin on the first ballot and in the interest of time. Dau was named Elector Alternate, who would replace Oldham on the ballot in the event of his death or ineligibility.

Delegate results:

1st Delegate: Cruz supporter Ronda Vuillemont-Smith finished first with 44% to 11% for Paul Nosak, who supports Donald Trump for president, with remaining votes scattered among the candidates. In the runoff, Vuillemont-Smith won with 76% to 24% of the weighted vote, 162-47 in the raw total.

2nd Delegate: Brumbaugh, state chairman for the Cruz campaign, received 43% on the first ballot to 17% for Nosak. In the runoff, Brumbaugh prevailed by 73% to 27% weighted, with a raw vote of 147-54.

3rd Delegate: Hodges finished first on the initial ballot with 42% to 20% for Nosak. In the runoff, Hodges won by 74% to 26% or a raw total of 153-50.

Alternate results:

1st Alternate: 1st ballot, Dahm 50.35%, Nosak 15.10%, Lauinger 14.99%. No runoff required. Dahm received 98 raw votes to 28 for Nosak and 28 for Lauinger with 36 scattered among other candidates.

2nd Alternate: 1st ballot, Lauinger 32.5%, Ford 26%, Nosak 22%. Raw vote was Lauinger 62, Ford 49, Nosak 41, other candidates 22. Runoff, Ford 50.22%, Lauinger 49.78%, 89-88 raw vote.

3rd Alternate: 1st ballot, Lauinger 48.3%, Nosak 18.8%, Debra Cook, state committeewoman for Washington County, 17.7%. Runoff, Lauinger 68.61%, Nosak 31.39%, 110-50 raw vote.

From Chapter X, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (emphasis added):

My term of actual service to Mr. Edward Covey ended on Christmas day, 1833. The days between Christmas and New Year's day are allowed as holidays; and, accordingly, we were not required to perform any labor, more than to feed and take care of the stock. This time we regarded as our own, by the grace of our masters; and we therefore used or abused it nearly as we pleased. Those of us who had families at a distance, were generally allowed to spend the whole six days in their society. This time, however, was spent in various ways. The staid, sober, thinking and industrious ones of our number would employ themselves in making corn-brooms, mats, horse-collars, and baskets; and another class of us would spend the time in hunting opossums, hares, and coons. But by far the larger part engaged in such sports and merriments as playing ball, wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing, and drinking whisky; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. A slave who would work during the holidays was considered by our masters as scarcely deserving them. He was regarded as one who rejected the favor of his master. It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas; and he was regarded as lazy indeed, who had not provided himself with the necessary means, during the year, to get whisky enough to last him through Christmas.

From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation of those conductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a spirit will go forth in their midst, more to be dreaded than the most appalling earthquake.

The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery. They are professedly a custom established by the benevolence of the slaveholders; but I undertake to say, it is the result of selfishness, and one of the grossest frauds committed upon the down-trodden slave. They do not give the slaves this time because they would not like to have their work during its continuance, but because they know it would be unsafe to deprive them of it. This will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed; many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,--feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.

BUMPED and UPDATED 2016/04/13: As of the end of the second day of filing, no conservatives have filed to run for Mayor of Tulsa. Previously announced candidates Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr and Councilor G. T. Bynum IV have been joined by perennial candidates Paul Tay and Lawrence Kirkpatrick. Filing closes at 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Originally published 2016/04/11.

Monday began the three-day filing period for the City of Tulsa 2016 elections. All nine councilors, the mayor, and the auditor are up for election this year. Anyone who wishes to compete must file a notarized declaration of candidacy along with a $50 certified check with the Tulsa County Election Board by 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, 2016.

The three-day filing period for county, state, and federal offices begins at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, and ends at 5 p.m., Friday, April 15, 2016. County candidates file at their respective county election boards; state and federal candidates file at the Oklahoma State Election Board in the basement of the State Capitol.

At the moment, I know of only two candidates for mayor -- Tweedledee Jr. and Tweedledum IV -- and only one candidate who is planning to challenge an incumbent councilor -- Jim Rice has announced his intention to challenge David Patrick in District 3 (eastern north Tulsa).

As I wrote about the mayoral candidates last November:

Tulsa needs better choices. (I won't say "deserves better"; as Mencken wrote, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.")

If these are our choices, I'll be sitting this election out, as I did in 2013. Neither candidate is a conservative. G. T. Bynum has been a leading proponent of leftist social policies at City Hall; Bartlett has offered no resistance to those policies. Both men are besotted with the expensively foolish idea that "water in the river" is the key to Tulsa's future prosperity. Bartlett endorsed the explicit corporate welfare of Vision2 Proposition 1; both endorsed Proposition 2, which was a bad financial deal for the City of Tulsa.

Neither have been advocates for sound urban design and land-use policy. Bartlett has promoted the idea of converting 12 acres of park land on the river to a massive parking lot surrounding a big-box store; when the Council voted on the Comprehensive Plan changes to enable the development, Bynum recused himself. Both are residents of Tulsa's Money Belt, the tiny ultra-wealthy section of town with an insular mindset that has been home to almost every mayor of Tulsa.

Add to that assessment some more recent information: The mayor and the entire council colluded in last week's logrolled Vision ballot, which may have satisfied the letter of Oklahoma's constitutional single-subject rule, but it surely violated the spirit of the provision that was designed to keep us from having to vote for something we don't want to get something we want. If you want a chance at keeping the pork out of future tax packages, you need councilors who share your perspective.

National news calls our attention to another big issue on the horizon. Our current mayor and council have already taken incremental steps toward the sort of "sexual orientation and gender identity" (SOGI) ordinance that Houston's council approved (and the voters overturned) and that Charlotte's council passed (and the state legislature voided).

In 2010, G. T. Bynum led the effort to add those classifications to the city's employer non-discrimination policy, which passed 6-3. Early in 2015, the Tulsa City Council voted 8-0 (Councilor Dodson was absent) to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's housing non-discrimination ordinance. Bartlett signed both ordinances without hesitation. I expect that the next incremental step will be the sort of broad-based SOGI ordinance as Houston and Charlotte, a law that authorizes the city to fine a florist for refusing to work a same-sex "wedding" or to shut down a gym for refusing to allow men who claim to be women access to the girls' locker room. Right now there are no City of Tulsa elected officials who would be willing to stand up against such an ordinance.

rino-768px.pngIf you are a fiscally conservative Tulsan, if you believe that tax dollars should be spent on necessities, not on fanciful projects with dubious claims to economic development, if you believe officials should have investigated spiraling costs before asking for a permanent tax increase, if you have a problem with handing a non-City organization a big stack of money without accountability, you have no representation at City Hall.

If you are a socially conservative Tulsan, if you believe that Tulsans should have the freedom to decide to what extent a person's sexual behavior and self-presentation should be a factor, if you believe that Tulsa businesses and organizations should have the freedom to decide how to accommodate the restroom needs of their clients, without Big Brother Government threatening them with fines and other penalties, you have no representation at City Hall. Indeed, the current mayor and councilors regard us with contempt and dismiss our views as superstitious, old-fashioned, and hateful, even though our views were the commonplace, common-sense views across nearly every religion, nearly every civilization for millennia, and only very recently displaced (with the help of leftists who run our education and entertainment industries) by the fanatical dogmas of the Sexual Revolution.

Conservative Tulsans should insist upon conservatives representing them in city government.

Someone will object that potholes aren't Republican or Democrat, but I'm talking about political philosophy, not party affiliation. Conservative concepts work because they're aligned with the realities of human nature. Leftist notions fail because they try to wish away those realities. A city governed in accordance with conservative principles will grow and prosper. What happens when you govern a city in accordance with leftist ideals? See Detroit.

I am praying that solidly conservative candidates will step forward to run for city office. I hope you'll join with me in prayer, that you'll be open to the possibility of running, and that you'll think through your list of friends and consider whom you might encourage to run.

Time to clean house.

Save Helmerich Park posted the following comment from R. Dobie Langenkamp, former Director of the National Energy Law and Policy Institute and Chapman Distinguished Professor of Energy Law at the University of Tulsa Law School, about the business flaws of the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority effort (with Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's enthusiastic approval) to sell 9 acres of Helmerich Park for a commercial development, reciting some of the history of the property and analyzing the price against the market value of land near major intersections. Even if you don't have a problem with selling off riverfront parkland, you ought to have a problem with the city selling a valuable piece of property at a major intersection without competitive bidding.

Dear Friends of Helmerich Park.

Craig Immel, Terry Young, Herb Beattie, and Greg Bledsoe have spelled out the legal and policy flaws regarding the Helmerich Park decision. Let's look at the deal from a business standpoint. Do so and you will agree with me that it is absurd if not suspect.

The entire 60-plus acres was mortgaged over 30 years ago to the First National Bank for $12.5 million. Surely its appraisal at that time substantially exceeded that amount. The Bank foreclosed on it and Walt Helmerich arranged for the purchase for the City from the bank (he was a member of the board) for $4.5 million. He raised $2.5 million from public spirited friends (Who attended a breakfast at the Tulsa Club for $800 each) and Roger Randle as Mayor came up with the remaining $2.5 million announcing that the land would be used for a park to be exceeded in size only by Mohawk.

The developer - possibly using REI as a bait and switch - has proposed to buy the key nine (9) acres - the "cream" as it were - for $895,000 ($1.465 million less a $570,000 credit to the developer in return for on-site infrastructure improvements). This amounts to less than $2.50 per square foot. Ask any of your realty friends what a corner on two major thoroughfares is worth these days. The numbers I get are from $10 and up. The entire 60-acre parcel was worth about $5.00 a foot when the First National Bank took the $12.5 million mortgage on it 30 years ago. This corner lot should be appraised before further action. such an appraisal would indicate a value of 5 million or more (400,000 sq ft x $10).

This option to the developer was given for virtually nothing ($5,000, refundable consideration) and has just been extended until August for exercise without additional consideration.

Initially, Tulsa was told the parcel sought would be for REI alone - after Clay Bird has finished his no competition sweetheart deal - it was for a full 9 acres for an entire shopping center not specifically requiring the involvement of REI.

Why are Dewey and Clay Bird giving this park parcel away without an appraisal or a public bidding procedure?

Why is Dewey hell bent on seeing that this particular Dallas developer gets this park property for a song?

Grand Juries have been impaneled for less.

R. Dobie Langenkamp

Save Helmerich Park adds this note: "The former Luby's parcel diagonally across the intersection from this corner of Helmerich Park - 2.48 acres/108,217 square feet - has a 2016 value of $3.695 million. If my math is correct, that is over $34.00 per square foot."

Remember, Mayor Bartlett Jr supports this deal, and not one member of the City Council opposed changing the comprehensive plan to facilitate the deal. (G. T. Bynum IV recused himself.) If this bugs you, as it should, you have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file to run against these mis-representatives.

Donald J. Trump
‏@realDonaldTrump

How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger - totally unfair!

7:28 PM - 10 Apr 2016

Michael Bates ‏
@BatesLine

@realDonaldTrump Is it unfair to good kicking teams that field goals are only worth three points?

8:19 PM - 10 Apr 2016

Michael Bates ‏
@BatesLine

@realDonaldTrump Grassroots conventions like Colorado's were how a majority of delegates were selected when Reagan won.

8:18 PM - 10 Apr 2016
John Hawkins
‏@johnhawkinsrwn

What does the fact that Trump's official campaign apparatus is an unorganized, embarrassing train wreck tell you about how he'd govern?

11:13 PM - 7 Apr 2016

Ted Cruz swept the field in Colorado this last week, as Republican grassroots delegates at congressional district caucuses and state conventions elected delegates to the National Convention who are officially unbound, but who have all declared their intention to vote for Cruz.

Jim Geraghty has an accurate and detailed explanation of Colorado's process:

Colorado had primaries until 2003, when Gov. Bill Owens and bipartisan majority in the state legislature eliminated them in presidential contests, contending it was a waste of money and that state parties should pay for them, not taxpayers....

On March 1, Colorado Republicans gathered at 2,917 precinct caucuses to select delegates to the County Assemblies and District Conventions. If you're a Coloradan with a view on the Republican primary, this is when you got to vote. At the County Assemblies, those delegates elect delegates to the Congressional District and State Conventions. (Colorado Republicans pick three delegates and three alternates from each of the seven congressional districts, and then another 13 to represent statewide.)

This is the way representative democracy is supposed to work: Voters choose representatives whom they know and trust to exercise good judgment as they face circumstances that could not have been foreseen.

Geraghty explains that in years past, Colorado conducted a non-binding straw poll on precinct caucus night, but when the 2012 Republican National Convention voted that, for the 2016 race, any such poll would have to bind delegates in some way, Colorado Republicans opted out, voting last August that no presidential preference poll would be conducted at this year's caucuses:

Republican National Committee bylaws do not allow states to hold non-binding preference polls. Any straw poll conducted at the caucus in 2016 would bind delegates to the poll's results, even if a candidate ultimately decides to suspend or withdraw their campaign.

"Eliminating the straw poll means the delegates we send to the national convention in Cleveland will be free to choose the candidate they feel can best put America back on a path to prosperity and security," Chairman Steve House said. "No one wants to see their vote cast for an empty chair, especially not on a stage as big as the national convention's."

(It should be noted that Iowa's caucus-night straw poll was also non-binding in years past. This year it had binding effect, because of the rule change approved at the 2012 national convention. Likewise, Minnesota, DC, Maine, and other states that held caucuses. Most opted to continue the presidential preference vote this year and to allow the vote to bind their delegates. Colorado, North Dakota, and Wyoming are among the few exceptions.)

I suspect Colorado's decision was influenced by the large field of credible candidates. Colorado wanted to have maximum flexibility to respond to changes in the field over time. They didn't want to send delegates to Cleveland bound to a candidate who had dropped out but was refusing to release his delegates. They may also have considered that a state with uncommitted delegates would have more leverage at the convention.

The Republican Party (unlike the Democrats) operates on a federal model, with the national rules providing a broad framework within which state parties have great discretion for choosing their delegates.

The Colorado process is the same one that was used in many more states back when Ronald Reagan was running for the White House. In 1976 and in 1980, Reagan supporters were in the majority at the state's six congressional district conventions and the state convention, While the national delegates were not bound to vote for Reagan in any way, they were elected by their state and district delegate peers precisely because they were declared and credible Reagan fans.

In those days, many primaries were non-binding "beauty contests" -- tests of a candidate's popularity that might influence the choice of the delegates.

This weekend Donald Trump also claimed that Cruz was "stealing" his delegates in states where he won primaries but failed to manage the process of electing loyalists as national delegates. That happened this weekend in Missouri, as Cruz supporters were elected to attend the national convention, although many will be obliged to vote for Trump on the first ballot.

I win a state in votes and then get non-representative delegates because they are offered all sorts of goodies by Cruz campaign. Bad system!

8:47 AM - 10 Apr 2016

In most states, grassroots delegates to congressional district and state conventions pick the live human beings who will attend the National Convention, even if a primary binds those delegates to vote for a particular candidate on the first ballot. (Every state has different rules as to how long a delegate will be bound -- through one ballot, multiple ballots, until the candidate releases his delegates.) Even if a delegate is bound to vote for a particular presidential candidate, he is free in every other vote taken at the convention, including the adoption of rules and the selection of a vice presidential nominee.

No one is getting offered goodies by the Cruz campaign. Most of the people who showed up at the precinct caucuses, got elected to county, district, and state conventions are Cruz supporters, so they elected national convention delegates who also support Cruz.

These delegates to the district and state conventions are mostly long-time grassroots Republicans. Some got involved back when Reagan challenged Gerald Ford in '76. Some became involved in the late '80s at the urging of the Christian Coalition, because they were concerned about abortion and other social issues. Some were energized by listening to Rush and by the 1994 takeover of the House and Senate. Some were stirred to action in response to 9/11. Some were inspired by Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012. The Tea Party brought some into the party. They all got involved to fight for conservative values, individual liberty, and a strong America at home and abroad. They stayed involved, volunteering to knock doors, make phone calls, or man the party booth at the state fair.

These district and state delegates are not big donors. They give of their time and their energy to elect good candidates. They have an investment of time and love. They study the issues and the candidates and draw their own conclusions. They aren't swayed by expensive TV ad campaigns. The fact that this sort of person tends to support Ted Cruz over Donald Trump should tell you something.

Most of these grassroots Republicans who serve as district and state delegates are just as disgusted with Republican leadership in Washington as Trump supporters are. They see Trump as someone who has been part of the problem. They see Cruz as someone who has challenged the establishment, who understands the issues, and who has a practical plan to address them.

Trump supporters can get involved, too, but it requires some commitment.

The anger and confusion about Colorado's process is a consequence of lazy, sloppy reporting about the nominating process. In most years, the idea that delegates are mere points on a scoreboard is a reasonable approximation to reality. In most years, at some point a bandwagon effect kicks in, causing candidates to drop out and later states to back the front-runner by ever-widening margins. That simplified model broke down this year, because Republicans aren't jumping on the bandwagon, because a credible and crafty challenger remains in the race, because it's increasingly likely that no one will have the nomination sewn up before the convention,

When we learn that a process is more complicated than we were led to believe, our response ought to be one of wonder and humility. But in Trumpistan, finding out that your uninformed understanding is incorrect leads to childish rage and blame-shifting.

I like the caucus and convention system of choosing unbound delegates. It means that the nominating process is in the hands of Republicans who were paying attention to politics before yesterday. Primaries put the power of nomination into the hands of voters (many of them not even Republicans) who are swayed by massive TV ad buys and whose perception of the candidates is entirely shaped by mass media.

MORE:

Melanie Sturm, a conservative columnist who was elected as a national convention delegate at the Colorado Third District caucus, gives her perspective.

Back on February 27, 2016, before the precinct caucuses on March 1, Colorado Republican Chairman Steve House explained the reasons state party leaders opted against a binding presidential preference vote the previous August:

At no time prior to this year has a straw poll bound delegates to specific candidates. Many thought that the 2012 straw poll bound delegates to winner Rick Santorum. In fact it did not....

This year the Republican National Committee requires that if a party conducts a straw poll it must bind delegates to the results.

Some ask why the Colorado GOP doesn't just comply and bind all of our delegates proportionally to the result of a straw poll. There are a number of reasons the executive committee decided against the poll this year and I won't go into all of them.

However, I want to share my most pressing concern with doing a binding preference poll. There is no such thing as a binding preference poll because when you actually award delegates via a poll it's not a poll - it's an election. The results could affect the outcome of the presidential race because this year the race is likely to be very close if not unsettled at the national convention.

So what's wrong with an election? Nothing if you are actually going to run it with all the precautions and security measures of an actual election. In our case we have over 2000 precincts in 64 counties where there is no uniformity of ballots, no uniform credentialing training process, no clarity on who actually counts ballots, no clear answer to who controls the tally sheets, and no uniform transparent process with integrity in the event there needs to be a recount. The prospect of awarding delegates through a straw poll with so many systemic loopholes and fraud risks is an unacceptable gamble given the stakes of this presidential election.

Picking our delegates through a controlled and secure four step process that is open to all registered Republicans is far preferable than an opaque straw poll. Something needs to change going forward but election integrity is still more important to me than any other factor....

Ari Armstrong, a newly registered Republican voter, writes about his experience

A completely fair headline of what happened this year would have been, "Colorado Republicans Select Presidential Delegates the Same Way They Did Last Time." But the reality of the situation is so much more boring that the trumped up version of it.

To return to my experiences with the caucuses: The woman elected in my precinct as a delegate to the state convention ran on an explicitly anti-Trump platform. She made this very clear, and she was elected by the rest of us with this understanding. Claims that the rest of us were somehow "disenfranchised" are ridiculous; we all got to vote for delegates, and everyone in the room had a chance to run to become a delegate (most didn't want to). It truly was a grass-roots process. I was elected as the alternate delegate to the state convention, also on an explicitly anti-Trump platform.

The simple fact is that the Republicans at my precinct caucus mostly disfavored Trump, and evidently that is true of most other precincts as well. Trump lost in Colorado because he's just not very popular here....

Should Colorado give up the caucuses in the future? As noted, I'm not totally sure, but I'd like to rebut one reason for saying we should. The claim basically is that, because people have to attend a meeting and then select delegates to conventions, who then select national delegates, the caucuses are not sufficiently democratic.

It is true that, to participate in the caucuses, you have to do more than mark an "x" on a piece of paper. You actually have to (gasp!) go to a meeting. If you want to become a delegate to a congressional or state convention, where national delegates are picked, you actually have to stand up and make your case to your fellow Republican voters (and pay a convention fee). I'm not convinced this is a problem. Arguably, it is a feature, not a bug.

Here's a story from 2012 about the national rule change that required any caucus straw poll to be binding, which in turn prompted Colorado's decision to cancel their straw poll.

MORE: Here's a good explainer from Jay Cost about the delegate election process and Trump's whinging.

Party conventions are open processes. Delegates to these gatherings are not handpicked by party bosses. They are regular Republicans who participate because they have the time and interest to do so. The Cruz team put in the effort to organize regulars loyal to its candidate; the Trump campaign failed to do so. Consider, for instance, the Colorado convention held earlier this month. Delegates to that convention were chosen at precinct caucuses held on Super Tuesday--and any registered Republican was invited to attend. That the Trump campaign failed to get its supporters to those caucuses is not the fault of the Cruz campaign, the Colorado Republican party, or anybody else except the Trump campaign.

The Republican party does not belong to its presidential candidates in the way that Trump presumes. In important respects, it still belongs to the party regulars who attend these conventions. Starting in the 1970s, the party organization began sharing authority with voters to select the presidential nominee, but sovereignty was never handed over to the electorate lock, stock, and barrel. The delegates to the national convention, chosen mostly by these state and district conventions, have always retained a role--not only to act when the voters fail to reach a consensus, but to conduct regular party business.

This is hardly antidemocratic, by the way. Party organizations such as these are a vital, albeit overlooked part of our nation's democratic machinery. The party regulars at the district, state, and national conventions do the quotidian work of holding the party together between elections: They establish its rules, arbitrate disputes, formulate platforms to present to the voters, and so on. It would be impossible to have a party without these sorts of people doing work the average voter doesn't care about.

And these people are hardly the "establishment" in any meaningful sense of the word. Consider the process in Colorado.... But the process was open to any registered Republican, and more than a thousand people served as delegates at the state convention. There were some big political players involved, naturally, but by and large they were just average people. The same goes for the state conventions in places like Wyoming and North Dakota. These meetings in Cheyenne and Bismarck are in no way beholden to, or the equivalent of, the power players working on K Street.

MORE: Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli responded assertively to accusations that the Cruz campaign was bribing delegates or twisting arms:

"You know what the goodies we're promising people are?" Cuccinelli asked. Then almost whispering like it was a big secret while partially covering his mouth, Ken Cuccinelli answered his own question.

"They can have their Constitution back. And they can have economic growth and a plan to actually execute it. And a candidate who can go head-to-head and defend it. Donald Trump won't even debate this issues because he can't debate them.

Ted Cruz has a plan to expand freedom, to create opportunity across America with a tax plan that wipes out special interest power. He has a plan to return security to this country. And we have a president where that's desperately needed to be improved."

Legendary country singer and songwriter Merle Haggard died Wednesday on his 79th birthday.

It might be going too far to say he saved western swing from oblivion, but Merle Haggard's efforts to honor Bob Wills went a long way toward introducing a new generation to the sound.

In 1946 or 1947, when Merle Haggard was nine or 10, he would ride his bike down to Beardsley's Ballroom in Bakersfield and listen at an open window to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

Western swing and Bob Wills were both in rough shape at the end of the 1960s. After two heart attacks, Wills gave up the stress of leading a band in 1964. Leon Rausch took over the Texas Playboys, while Bob played solo dates, sometimes traveling with a vocalist, backed by local bands, and continuing to record for Kapp Records with studio musicians. In 1969, Wills was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame and by the Governor of Texas, but on May 31 he suffered a major stroke, followed by numerous complications and the paralysis of his right side. His bow hand was useless and his fiddling days were at an end.

Around the same time, Haggard took advantage of the creative freedom his early superstardom had earned him to record tribute albums to musicians who had influenced him. He began in 1969 with a tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, with a double-album called Same Train, A Different Time. Haggard brought the liner notes into the vinyl, interspersing Rodgers' blue yodels with short narrations about Rodgers and the life along the rails that inspired his songs.

a-tribute-to-the-best-damn-fiddle-player-in-the-world.jpgThe following year, Haggard taught himself fiddle in preparation for recording a tribute to Bob Wills. This time, instead of relying solely on his own band, The Strangers, he went to Wills and asked his advice on which of his sidemen he should bring gathered six veteran Bob Wills sidemen -- Johnnie Lee Wills on tenor banjo (the instrument he played with the Texas Playboys before launching his own band), Johnny Gimble and Joe Holley on fiddles, Tiny Moore on mandolin, Eldon Shamblin on guitar, and Alex Brashear on trumpet -- to join with his band at the Capitol studios in Hollywood in April 1970 to record A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, or My Salute to Bob Wills. Except for Johnnie Lee Wills, the musicians to participate were part of the Texas Playboys band of Haggard would have heard growing up near Bakersfield in the late '40s. Except for Johnnie Lee Wills and Johnny Gimble (who joined the Texas Playboys in 1949), these were musicians who recorded the Tiffany Transcriptions, the recorded-for-radio discs that captured this versatile ensemble as they sounded on the bandstand night-after-night, unconstrained by the limits of 78 RPM discs.

By the fall of 1971, Wills's health had recovered sufficiently to allow him to travel, and Haggard arranged for a larger group of Texas Playboys -- Alex Brashear, trumpet; William E. "Smokey" Dacus, drums; Glynn Duncan, vocal; Johnny Gimble, fiddle; Joe Holley, fiddle; Leon McAuliffe, steel guitar; Tiny Moore, electric mandolin; Eldon Shamblin, electric guitar; Al Stricklin, piano; Johnnie Lee Wills, banjo; Luke Wills, bass -- to fly out to Bakersfield for his housewarming party on September 27, 1971. It was a reunion for Bob and several members of his 1930s Tulsa band (with Glynn Duncan subbing for his late brother Tommy). Their session was recorded for Capitol, but for some reason it was never released. The songs only became available as part of Bear Records' massive and comprehensive box set.

Although it didn't directly result in an album, the reunion in Bakersfield opened the door for an even bigger reunion in March 1972 in Fort Worth, and ultimately a recording session with a new label, United Artists. When the Bob Wills planned a session for December 1973, Merle Haggard was determined to be there and begged Wills for the chance to play with the band. After a gig in Chicago, Haggard's bus drove through the night to get him there for the second day of the session. In the meantime, Wills had been at the first day of recording, but that night Wills had had the stroke that would put him in a coma for the rest of his life. The Playboys carried on despite their sadness. Haggard sang three tunes as a Texas Playboy: "The Texas Playboy Theme," "Yearning," and "I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do."

After Wills's death, Haggard continued to use his platform to bring old Texas Playboys together and to bring their music to a wider audience. Here's a segment of a nationally broadcast show, introduced by Dolly Parton, featuring Merle Haggard with Eldon Shamblin on electric guitar, Joe Holley on fiddle, Tiny Moore and Johnny Gimble on fiddle and mandolin, Skeeter Elkin on piano, Herb Remington on steel guitar, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Wayne Johnson on saxophone, playing the "Texas Playboys Theme," "Ida Red," an instrumental verse of "Faded Love," "Roly Poly," and "San Antonio Rose." (Not sure who the bass player and drummer are.)

Haggard invited two of the Texas Playboys, Tiny Moore and Eldon Shamblin, to join and tour with his band, which they did from 1973 to 1976, rejoining the band in 1981. They played with the Strangers throughout the period when they appeared in Reno and around Lake Tahoe, close to Moore's home base of Sacramento.

In 1977, Haggard was the guest of a very hirsute Ralph Emery on "Pop Goes the Country," and he played a medley of fiddle tunes with Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, and fiddle prodigy Tigar Bell.

From the same show, here's "Haggard with The Strangers, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, and Johnny Gimble performing Cherokee Maiden," which reached number 1 in the country charts in November 1976.

In 1978, Haggard, Moore, Shamblin, and the Strangers performed Columbus Stockade Blues and a fiddle medley on TV (but, alas, those videos have been deleted).

Haggard continued to record and perform Bob Wills tune throughout his career. He graced Asleep at the Wheel's Bob Wills tribute albums, singing "I Wonder If You Feel the Way I Do" on A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1993), "St. Louis Blues" on Ride with Bob (1999), and "Keeper of My Heart" on Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (2015).

SOURCES: San Antonio Rose, the Life and Music of Bob Wills by Charles Townsend and Tom Diamant's 1981 interview with Tiny and Dean Moore and Eldon Shamblin.

MORE:

At The Federalist, Peter Johnson writes about Merle "Haggard's everyday man's brand of conservatism." He writes:

I credit classic country, and Haggard especially, for helping me to avoid the progressivism nonsense that permeates our culture nowadays. I'm a Jewish guy with an English degree from New York University who served in the Peace Corps, so it might seem natural to predict that I might have turned out a flaming progressive. I think my deep appreciation for classic country music is one of the reasons I never really bought into leftist ideologies.

In the April 10, 2016, edition of Panhandle Country on KPFA, Tom Diamant paid tribute to Merle Haggard; the main part of the tribute begins at 48:42. At 1:37:00, Diamant discusses Haggard's Bob Wills tribute. It will only be online until April 24, so listen while you can.

Bobby Ross Jr. writes at Get Religion about Merle Haggard's Christian faith. In the comments, he mentions that Haggard was a member of Gene Scott's church and a friend of the idiosyncratic preacher, linking to the LA Times obit of Gene Scott:

Country singer Merle Haggard, a church member and close friend, on Tuesday called Scott an exceptional scholar.

"He was the mind that all other brilliant minds looked to for guidance on problems that were insoluble," Haggard said.

Raisin' Cain recalls Haggard's live recreation of a Texas Playboys noon broadcast from Cain's Ballroom on KVOO in 1984.

The Bakersfield Californian reports on the roots of Merle Haggard's musical raising.

The Texas-born "King of Western Swing" began recording with his band in the mid-1930s. He found major success with hits such as "New San Antonio Rose" in 1940 and, following a short stint in the Army, relocated to the Los Angeles area in 1943 where he began reorganizing the Texas Playboys. Laborers from all over the country were migrating to industrial jobs on the West Coast during the war years, and many Southern and Southwestern transplants flocked to the dance halls to hear Wills and his band. They became at least as popular -- if not more so -- than big bands fronted by Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.

Wills and his band moved to Fresno in 1945, and toured relentlessly up and down the coast. For more than a year, they played a weekly gig at Bakersfield's Beardsley Ballroom. At least once per month the show was broadcast live on the radio. One of the most dedicated young listeners was Merle Haggard. "Bob Wills' band," Merle claimed in his second autobiography My House of Memories, "was the best in the history of live radio."

But it was more than the stellar musicianship that Merle came to appreciate. "Our people were often looked down on by the natives as being dumb and ignorant Okies," Haggard noted. "We needed a hero, and Bob was certainly that and more."

In 1968 Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A stroke the following year left him partially paralyzed. Reflecting on his hero's contributions to the music he loved, Haggard mastered the fiddle in a few short months and started work on recording the awkwardly titled "A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills)." Released in 1970, the songs were near note-perfect imitations of Wills' records. In addition to his regular band, the Strangers, Merle recruited several of Wills' Texas Playboys for the session, including Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, Johnnie Lee Wills, Joe Holley, and Alex Brashear.

"You know what I learned from Bob Wills?" Haggard asked during a 2010 interview. "Everything!"

While Bob Wills taught Haggard about being an effective band leader, it was the Texas Playboys vocalist, Tommy Duncan, who was one of Merle's greatest influences as a frontman. "I think the first to impress me with his good singing voice was Tommy Duncan," Haggard revealed in his 1981 autobiography, "Sing Me Back Home."

Duncan and Wills began working together in 1932 after Tommy auditioned with dozens of other singers for a spot in Wills' Light Crust Doughboys. The pair formed the Texas Playboys the following year. Tommy sang lead on most of the Playboys' hits until his boss's drinking created tension between the bandleader and singer. Duncan was fired in 1948, though he and Wills would work together again in the future.

In his early days as a Bakersfield picker, Haggard was called to play guitar in a one-off band that was assembled to back Duncan at a show in Hanford. "There wasn't nobody in the band that I recognized and it was an awful band," Merle recalled in 2009. "Tommy got onstage and did 'Deep Water,' and when he got through with it he walked over to me. . . . He said, 'Would you mind helping me keep these songs going?' And I just turned red all over, you know. But it took him one song to identify that out of the thirteen people, there was one guy onstage that might be able to play. Boy, that was the thrill of my life to get to play with Tommy."

Haggard's childhood home in Oildale, converted from a boxcar by his father, has been moved to the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield.

Most of the projects in Vision Tulsa Prop 3 amount to "Here, have a pile of money." Instead of building a specific facility that will belong to the City of Tulsa or updating existing city-owned facilities, the City will write a check to some other institution to do with as they see fit. It makes accountability a challenge to say the least.

Since the first Third Penny tax was approved in 1980, there has been a City of Tulsa Sales Tax Overview Committee (STOC) to oversee spending of the current Third Penny program. STOC has members from each of the nine council districts and meets monthly determine that the money is only being spent on authorized projects, which are itemized in an ordinance.

For example, here's a project from that 1980 Third Penny, specified in Title 43-A, Tulsa Revised Ordinances:

4-Lane 31st from Memorial to Mingo, with modification of the Intersection of 31st and Memorial: $8,255,000.00

Compare that to this line from Title 43-K, which sets out the spending policy for the newly passed Vision Tulsa tax hike:

Tulsa Fairgrounds: $30,000,000.00

How do you ensure that money is spent as intended when so little intent is indicated?

The good news: There are members of the STOC who want to be sure that our tax dollars are spent in accordance with promises made before the election.

More good news: STOC members have concerns about certain (as yet unnamed) projects.

The bad news: STOC members have no control over the contracting process. Their suggestions of contract terms to require reporting and transparency before receiving funds are just that -- suggestions.

(Also, the STOC doesn't even have oversight on the permanent taxes approved by Props 1 and 2.)

Some more bad news: Rather than raising these concerns in a timely manner, when the information might have influenced voters to reject the package and demand specific terms and conditions be written into the ordinance, they waited until the voters had no leverage to influence how the contracts will be written.

Here is the email that Ashley Webb, chairman of the STOC, sent on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, the day after the Vision Tulsa sales tax election, discussing concerns about oversight and accountability with these projects. (Emphasis added. )

Hello All:

Congratulations on the successful passage of the three Vision extension proposals. Now that the issue is finally ripe, I wanted to reach out and update the Council on the STOC's efforts to date and our concerns going forward regarding, specifically, oversight of the proposals in the Economic Development portion of the package (which are the only ones that will fall under the oversight purview of the STOC).

First, STOC members Karen O'Brien and Brad Colvard met with Mike Kier, Gary Hamer, and myself on February 11, 2016, to address preliminary issues relative to the Economic Development projects. Primarily, the STOC and Mr. Kier addressed/discussed one principal issue at that meeting: mandatory reporting requirements (and contractual language requiring the same) for all non-City of Tulsa controlled entities receiving funds under the Vision 2025 Economic Development package.

To that end, we discussed the insertion of contractual language into the contracts with those entities requiring at least quarterly in-person reporting to the main STOC monthly meetings and monthly written reports to our STOC VISION subcommittee. Additionally, we discussed the necessity of tying those reporting requirements to those entities' ability to receive disbursements; otherwise, there would be no mechanism through which their compliance could be enforced. By far, this is the most important issue that we believe must be addressed up front before these projects move forward.

Secondly, we discussed the logistics of the STOC's oversight and how we might incorporate these new projects into our existing oversight structure, etc. From that, we created an additional STOC VISION subcommittee, our first meeting of which was held last Tuesday on March 29, 2016. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday April 19. 2016 at 4:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Café at 4th and Cincinatti (nice chairs, complementary beverages - thank you to FBT!). I have copied on this communication those STOC members who were in attendance at that meeting last week.

Finally, I know that Mr. Kier and others had an informal meeting last Tuesday evening to discuss, I'm sure, a multitude of issues that might need to be addressed should the VISION proposals pass. Now that we know those proposals have been approved, though, the STOC would like to ensure that the necessary language requiring the mandatory reporting be included in all relevant contracts, and we (the STOC) are willing to provide a liaison for any such meetings in the future to guarantee the oversight requirements needed will not be overlooked. As currently constructed, the STOC has several licensed attorneys and experienced professionals that are willing to be available so that we have boots on the ground, so to speak, making sure the issue is addressed. Obviously, through our STOC VISION subcommittee, the STOC will continue to streamline our approach so that we can accommodate the oversight of this panoply of projects that will soon be coming down the pike.

As I know we still have some time to line all of these issues out, I will not at this time provide a list of the Economic Development projects that we are most concerned about; however, I would expect we will address those issues with the Council following our April 19th subcommittee meeting. In the meantime, if we can be of service to those identifying and addressing, in particular, issues relative to the oversight of these projects, please do not hesitate to let us know. As stated, we will gladly provide an STOC representative to be present at any such meetings, be them formal or not.

Thank you all for your continued investment in Tulsa's future.

Sincerely,

Ashley Webb
Chair, COT STOC

I've observed this over and over again for years, but it's still disheartening to see how easily many Tulsans yield what little political leverage they possess in exchange for empty promises of future influence. They have been brainwashed to think that if they play nice and don't say anything that makes the powers-that-be look bad, at some point in the future the powers-that-be may actually take their concerns seriously. This passivity is especially distressing when the passive Tulsans hold positions that grant them more than the typical share of visibility and political power.

(I heard the same passivity even among voters, many of whom told me that they didn't want to build the dams, but they felt they had to vote yes in order to get their favorite thing funded. They seemed mystified at the thought that they could say no and thus force the Council to rework the package, excluding the dams.)

To the STOCers: I wish you well in your quest for transparency and oversight. It's really rather sweet that you think city officials will care about your opinion, now that they have what they want. Your mistake here is to believe that it matters how the money transferred to non-City entities is spent. That money, typically not enough to do anything useful, has already served its purpose, which was to purchase the support of certain constituencies for the low-water dams. Now that the dams have been funded, the non-City entities could hold a bonfire to burn all their Vision Tulsa cash and the Mayor and City Council would not care.

UPDATE: STOC member Steven Roemerman points out that he raised these concerns via Twitter back in January:

It isn't clear to me how the #Tulsa STOC is supposed to effectively oversee money given to Tulsa County in the new #vision tax #visiontulsa 11:07 AM - 27 Jan 2016

What mechanism will we have to force the County to be transparent? Asking nicely? Harsh language? Wishful thinking? #visiontulsa #vision
11:09 AM - 27 Jan 2016

Will they promise to send representatives to STOC sub committee meetings? How will #Tulsa handle County cost overages and deadline slippage?
11:11 AM - 27 Jan 2016

Originally posted on April 3, 2016. Bumped to the top for those who may have missed it during the election.

We've been hearing lately that we need dams in our river to attract creative young people to Tulsa. Yeah, no, it doesn't make sense to me either, but given that we do want to attract creative young people to our city, we should pay close attention when a creative young man from New York City says he loves Tulsa and tells us what he loves about it.

In February, LAist ran a feature story about a 35-year-old New York City man who checked out a "Citibike" (bike share) last August and rode it all the way to Santa Monica Pier, arriving in mid-January, turning his Citibike into a Countribike.

Along the way, Jeffrey Tanenhaus passed through Tulsa, and he liked what he saw:

Again and again, Tanenhaus found himself drawn to smaller cities, finding that though they lack the sort of cosmopolitan reputation of his hometown, they have vibrant local cultures he liked as much, if not more, than his home. Where Angelenos and New Yorkers may look towards the middle with pity, Tanenhaus thinks the coasts could stand to learn something from the American interior. Some of his favorite places were Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Flagstaff and Redlands. His absolute favorite was Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"It was kind of surprising. There is no ocean and there are no mountains," he said of Tulsa. "It's big enough to be a city, but small enough to feel like a community, and cool enough to attract a progressive crowd of young professionals."

Tanenhaus liked it so well he may come back to stay:

As for what's next, Tanenhaus plans on returning the bicycle to Citi Bike dock in New York City, through the shipping help of Santa Monica Breeze Bike Share. After a quick trip to San Francisco, he will return to New York for a some time while exploring the possibility of a more permanent move to Tulsa.

You can read through Tanenhaus's entire journey at his Countribike site and blog, and you can peruse a Google map of his favorite places along the path.

His introduction to the Tulsa metro area began with a flat tire in Claremore, which lead him to a service station and a chance meeting with someone from 6:19 Nutrition, who invited him to drop by the nutrition store and smoothie cafe. There Tanenhaus was treated to a shake, good conversation, and a body fat analysis while he awaited a lift from a Tulsa cyclist. The staff sent him on his way with a couple of tubs of supplement powder. His host for the evening, the founder of Oklahoma Cycling, got Tanenhaus and the Citibike down to Lee's Bicycle Shop, and they found a hardware store with the right Torx bits to work on the "tamper-proof" bike-share cycle.

As for his impressions of Tulsa:

What surprises me most about Oklahoma's second largest city of 400,000 is that Tulsans are so easy to befriend. There is something special here and it's hard to describe. More than any place I've been before or after, I feel the best chemistry with Tulsa. This magnetic attraction begins at a cafe in Claremore 30 miles northeast.

Everywhere I go I meet someone new and cool. People here are helpful, kind and open to meeting strangers. After one week in Tulsa--broken by a brief stint in a nearby hospital--despite my shallow history here I depart with more contacts in Oklahoma than in NYC.

I'm writing this while sitting on the quad of Pomona College in Claremont, CA. I find that Tulsa has a campus familiarity where there's a decent chance you'll bump into recognizable faces at coffee shops, bars and cultural events, yet the size of the city dilutes these interactions as not to be too often, but just frequent enough to feel like you own the city.

The best thing about New York, in my opinion, is that anyone can become a New Yorker. In Tulsa I feel I can make the city mine, but also that people actually care who I am....

Off-the-radar and an underdog, T-Town is incredibly appealing. Cool people are treated as overstock in Austin, Brooklyn, Portland and San Francisco. But Tulsa? Come on in! There's vacancy.

You'll want to click this link to read about all the creative, young Tulsans Tanenhaus happened to meet in just one day.
Entrepreneurship is like a contagion here -- one person taking a risk to start a business inspires a friend to think that she, too, can build something new -- and it filled Tanenhaus with a new hope:

I've already done the improbable--bike commute across the country (update: 55 miles from the Pacific Ocean). Maybe Tulsa will give me the hospitable new beginning I was searching for when I left New York where jobs didn't lead to anything except stress and disappointment.

Tanenhaus had a great time connecting with Tulsa's cycling community, visiting the cycling-themed Soundpony Lounge next to Cain's Ballroom and getting to know the great work done by Tulsa Hub, a non-profit that rehabilitates used bikes into basic transportation for people who need a cheap way to get to work.

A run-in with road rage west of Sapulpa led to a trip to the ER and a little more time in the Tulsa area than he had planned, but it only seems to have deepened his appreciation for the city.

After an unprovoked assault on a rural road in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, I need four stitches in my lip and return to Tulsa by vehicle. I stay put the next day to rest and catch up on thanking Okies for their support. It's unfortunate this happened in my favorite state to date, but leaves me liking Oklahoma even more than before.

In his extra time in Tulsa, he had a root beer freeze and onion rings at Weber's and spent an evening at Oktoberfest. The map of his route shows favorite spots around Tulsa: Fassler Hall ("Excellent sausages and duck fat fries. Good beers on tap, too!"), Chimera Cafe ("Nice lunch and chai with plenty of bright space."), Tally's Cafe ("Greasy spoon on Route 66 where I take my cyclist host as a thank you"), R Bar & Grill ("Where I meet Samuel from Instagram for a drink (paid for by a patron who saw me on the news)"), Tom's Bicycles ("Tuned up my bike for free while Channel 8 news interviewed me. Thanks Eric, Chance and Ginny! xox") In Vinita, he'd already fallen in love with Braum's Ice Cream.

So what made Tulsa attractive to a cross-country cyclist thinking about a new start in life? Friendly, welcoming people with an entrepreneurial spirit, great small businesses, both old (like Lee's and Weber's) and new (like Soundpony and Bohemia Pizza). Maybe we'd attract more people like Jeffrey Tanenhaus if we'd stop bemoaning sandbars and start celebrating the great people who are already here and the one-of-a-kind places they're creating.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpg

Here are my recommended votes in the Tulsa County special election on April 5, 2016, for the unexpired term for Tulsa County Sheriff and county and municipal sales tax propositions. Links lead to more detailed information or earlier blog entries. (This entry may change as I decide to add more detail or discuss additional races. The entry is post-dated to keep it at the top.)

Printable one-page "cheat sheet" ballot card
Printable timeline of current and proposed changes to Tulsa city and county sales taxes

Print them, take it along to the polls, and pass it along to your friends, but please read the detail and click the links below.

Here's a synopsis of all the items on the ballot around Tulsa County today.

Podcasts from the Pat Campbell Show on 1170 KFAQ:

And now here are my recommendations and rationale for each ballot item.

Tulsa County Sheriff, unexpired term: Republican Vic Regalado.

Sales tax propositions: General advice

  • The sales taxes on the ballot are intended to replace the Vision 2025 0.6 cent sales tax which doesn't expire until December 31, 2016.
  • If there's something in a package that you think is foolish or wasteful, if the rate is too high or the duration of the tax is too long for your liking (or permanent) vote NO, and then tell your elected officials why.
  • Commissioners, councilors, and mayors will have plenty of time to propose better packages and bring them to a vote on the June primary, August runoff, or November general election ballots.

Tulsa County sales tax: NO.

  • This is a 0.05%, 15-year sales tax.
  • While most of the projects on Tulsa County's tentative list seem modest and reasonable, the list is not set in stone, and the tax is for 15 years with plans to borrow against future revenues.
  • A tax no more than 5 years in duration, with a fixed set of basic infrastructure projects, and no advance revenue bond funding, would be worth considering, but this plan does not meet those criteria.

City of Tulsa, Prop. 1: NO.

  • This is a permanent increase in the city's sales tax rate, earmarked to fund police, fire, and 911. The rate starts 0.16% and after July 1, 2021, permanently increases to 0.26%.
  • This tax doesn't address the causes of runaway increases in police and fire department spending. The police and fire budget consumes all of the permanent 2% sales tax for operations, plus a little. (107% in Fiscal Year 2014).
  • According to a 2014 report, "City of Tulsa Fiscal Constraints", "Since 1980, Police and Fire operating budgets have increased by 470%. Higher operating budgets have not translated into additional 'boots on the ground,' however. The number of Police and Fire personnel has only increased by 4% over that 34-year span."
  • The police and fire budget, adjusted for inflation has doubled since 1980. We need an investigation and explanation for this dramatic increase in cost without a corresponding increase in service.
  • Shrugging our shoulders and throwing more money at the problem only means a future sales tax increase a few years down the road.
  • A temporary tax to tide us over while we figure out the causes of our fiscal hemorrhage might be acceptable, but not a permanent increase is not.

City of Tulsa, Prop. 2: NO.

  • This is a permanent increase in the city's sales tax rate by 0.085 cents on the dollar, earmarked to fund street maintenance and public transit.
  • While many projects have been informally promised for this permanent tax, for some reason, none of them were written into the Brown Ordinance that controls spending for the tax.
  • Nor does the ordinance dictate how the money will be split between street maintenance, public transit operations, and public transit rolling stock and infrastructure.
  • In the age of Uber and Lyft, it seems backwards-thinking to commit a permanent tax to an old-fashioned bus system with fixed routes, long waits, limited hours of operation, one-size-fits-all vehicles, and unionized public employees as drivers. A flexible, data-driven, private-sector approach could meet the public transit needs of Tulsa citizens with lower cost and greater comfort and convenience.
  • A temporary tax, targeted to specific spending plans, and a plan to research innovative new approaches to transit would be worth voting for; this vaguely defined permanent tax is not.

City of Tulsa, Prop. 3: NO. This is the dam tax package.

Beyond the dams, this package has numerous other wasteful and often ill-defined projects.


Suburban sales tax propositions: NO.

  • Because these taxes are a minimum of 15-years duration, in some cases permanent, I recommend that voters say NO and ask their leaders for a maximum five-year, pay-as-you-go package with a very specific list of projects.
  • Jenks voters should reject their sales tax because it includes funds for a low-water dam.
  • Glenpool voters should be aware that passing all three propositions will increase their already-high tax rate by another 0.55 cents on the dollar. This growing suburb has plenty of new retail, and you'd think Glenpool should be able to fund increased public services from growing revenues without a tax increase.
  • Sapulpa voters may not wish to fund city land acquisition and removal of historic Route 66 motels in the Turner Turnpike gateway area.
  • Owasso and Collinsville voters should look closely at their lists of proposed projects and consider whether their growing cities could fund improvements without a higher city sales tax rate.

As I wrote back in January, before the City of Tulsa proposal was set in stone:

If I were a cynic, I might believe that the City Council had no interest in whether these projects were feasible or appropriately budgeted. I might believe, were I a cynic, that these items were included just to get a few more hundred voters to the polls in the mood to vote yes on everything.

The better path would be for the Council to whittle down the list and propose a shorter-term (five years, max), pay-as-you-go (no "advanced funding" line item for interest and bond fees) sales tax that funded only those items that were of general public benefit and had been thoroughly vetted for feasibility and an accurate estimate of cost.

The City Council and Mayor Bartlett didn't follow that better path, so we need to tell them NO and tell them to put together a better package for our consideration.

No_More_Dam_Taxes-logo.png

Published at 23:45 on Monday, April 4, 2016. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog until the polls close.

Tomorrow, April 5, 2016, voters across Tulsa County have a special election for sheriff and will also vote on the county's sales tax proposal (1/20th of a cent for 15 years) for capital projects. Here's what the white countywide ballot will look like.

Voters in several Tulsa County municipalities will also be given a colored, city-specific ballot to approve increases in municipal sales tax which will go into effect on January 1, 2017, right after Tulsa County's Vision 2025 sales tax expires on December 31. Here's a synopsis with links to sample ballots on the Tulsa County Election Board website:

CityPropositionTerms
Collinsville0.55%, permanent, for capital expenditures
GlenpoolProp 10.29%, 20 years, for capital improvements
GlenpoolProp 20.26%, 20 years, for police and fire vehicles, facilities, communications equipment, and other equipment
GlenpoolProp 30.55%, permanent, for staffing additional police and firefighting personnel
Jenks0.55%, 15 years, including $16,670,000 for low-water dam and additional funds for other capital projects. Dam money subject to mutual agreement between Tulsa and Jenks approved by December 31, 2020.
Owasso0.55%, 17 years, for street improvements and adjoining infrastructure and right-of-way expenditures on 96th St. N. and 116th St. N.
Sapulpa0.50%, 15 years, only in Tulsa County, for economic development and land acquisition
TulsaProp 1: Public Safety0.16%, 4.5 years, then 0.26%, permanent, for police, fire, and 911
TulsaProp 2: Street Maintenance and Public Transportation0.085%, permanent, for maintaining and supporting public streets and public transportation systems
TulsaProp 3: "Economic Development"0.305%, 4.5 years, 0.805%, 4 years, 0.305%, 6.5 years, for low-water dams and other projects

Bixbyvoters also have a municipal ballot, but it's for a 25-year extension of the Oklahoma Gas & Electric franchise, which allows OG+E access to city utility easements to deliver electricity to its customers.

It's interesting to see that the City of Sapulpa is proposing a tax increase only in the part of that city in Tulsa County (along I-44 between 51st and 61st), where an existing sales tax will be expiring. The reference to land acquisition suggests that they plan to purchase and clear some of the old Route 66 motels along that stretch (some of which date back to the completion of the Turner Turnpike in 1953) and then try to redevelop with more lucrative national chains.

Shoppers in the Osage County section of the City of Tulsa won't be as lucky -- the overall sales tax rate will rise there, since there isn't a corresponding tax expiring. (Here is the current list of city and county sales and use tax rates from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.) That'll affect the Walgreens, Family Dollar, and other shops on the northeast corner of Edison Street and Gilcrease Museum Road, and the gift shop and restaurant at Gilcrease Museum itself.

Tulsa County has a tentative list of projects for its 0.05%, 15-year package on its website, but with a caveat: "The list of projects outlined on this site have been discussed or requested by Tulsa County residents, County staff and/or the Tulsa County Commissioners. Only after further input from the public will a final decision be made as to what projects to include in a final package submitted to Tulsa County voters." The assortment of projects is reminiscent of the first Four to Fix the County vote in 2000 (in effect October 2001 - October 2006). At that time, the County Commissioners put four separate items on the ballot to avoid violating the Oklahoma Constitution's "single-subject" anti-logrolling rule. Given the refusal of judges to enforce the rule strictly, they seem to feel safe in lumping all of the projects together under one vague category.

The verbiage in the Jenks proposition about the dam is very interesting. The drop-dead date for an agreement with Tulsa is written into the proposition and set for the end of 2020, while the corresponding date for Tulsa to reach an agreement with Jenks and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) is the end of 2016, and it's written into the Brown Ordinance for Prop. 3, rather than the ballot language. In both cases, failure to make the date releases the funds for other purposes, but the mismatch in dates means that the dam could be dead for four years before Jenks could legally repurpose that $16.67 million. Interesting, too, that the funds for the dam are described on the ballot in a way that focuses on operation and maintenance and other expenses that would be incurred long after the dam is built -- interesting because City of Tulsa officials have said they expect the MCN to cover maintenance costs for the dams. The Jenks ballot language makes no reference to MCN involvement.

Here's the language on the Jenks ballot:

Shall Ordinance No. 1392 of the City of Jenks, Oklahoma, adopted on February 1,2016. which levies and assesses a sales tax of five and one-half tenths of one percent (0.55%) upon the expiration of the current Vision 2025 sales tax be approved as a City of Jenks sales tax upon the gross receipts or proceeds on certain sales as therein defined, effective January 1, 2017, for 15 years for purposes including, Sixteen Million Six Hundred Seventy Thousand Dollars ($16,670,000) for funding of the proposed Jenks-Tulsa Arkansas River low water dam project, for the purposes of constructing, reconstructing, improving, remodeling, repairing, operating and maintaining the proposed low water dam and related facilities; with additional funds to be used for capital projects including constructing roads and road maintenance; park improvements and construction; construction of sidewalks and trails; and upgrades to storm water and sewer infrastructure; engineering; acquiring necessary lands and right of way; and/or to be applied or pledged toward the payment of principal and interest on any indebtedness, including refunding indebtedness, incurred by or on behalf of the City of Jenks for such purposes. including payment of the costs of issuance of such loans or bonds; defines terms; prescribes procedures, remedies, liens and fixes penalties; subject to a mutual agreement between the cities of Jenks and Tulsa for construction of the low water dam approved by December 31, 2020, otherwise funds identified for construction of the Jenks-Tulsa Arkansas River low water dam may be used for additional capital project categories as identified in this proposition, be approved?

Here's the language in the Tulsa ordinance:

The project entitled 'South Tulsa/Jenks Lake and Related Amenities' is contingent on additional funding for other aspects of the entire project, to be provided by the City of Jenks and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, including a long-term operating and maintenance endowment. If a Memorandum of Understanding is not executed by all three funding partners on or before December 31, 2016, funding allocated by the City of Tulsa for this project ($64,214,000) will be reallocated according to the provisions of this ordinance, provided that Eighteen Million Dollars ($18,000,000) will first be reallocated to a long-term operating and maintenance endowment for Zink Lake and Related Amenities.

MORE: Visit the Re-Vision and the Arkansas River categories for complete BatesLine coverage of Vision Tulsa and the proposed low-water dams.

No_More_Dam_Taxes-streetsign.jpg

UPDATE: For the record, here are some links to coverage of Citizens for a Better Vision:

Fox23: Vision Tulsa responds to opposition group, Mar 15, 2016 - 9:01 PM
News on 6: 'No More Dam Taxes,' Tulsa Vision Opposition Group Urges, March 15, 2016
KWGS: Citizens for a Better Vision Ask Voters to Reject Tulsa Sales Tax Measures

It's ridiculous. Tomorrow we'll vote for a sheriff to fill the remaining eight months of the unexpired term of Stanley Glanz, and then a week later candidates will file to run for the full four-year term that begins on January 1, 2017.

Glanz resigned effective November 1, 2015. Had he held on until January 1, we'd have avoided a special election altogether.

Vic Regalado was not my choice in the special primary. I was (and still am) concerned about a pattern of donations by employees and executives of one particular Rogers County-based company that is highly suggestive of straw donations -- effectively exceeding campaign contributions by giving money to someone else to give to the candidate. (The same pattern was evident in the ethics filings for Brian Crain's 2015 campaign for district attorney.) The situation could have been shrugged off as something out of Regalado's control, for which he deserved no blame, but then he enmeshed himself in the controversy by crashing a press conference to discuss the donations and disingenuously playing the race card. Further analysis of his donor list shows considerable overlap with Glanz's contributors over the years, which doesn't inspire hope that we'll have the clean start we need at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office (TCSO).

But the more I learn about the extremist political leanings of Democrat nominee Rex Berry, Regalado's lone opponent on the April 5, 2016, ballot, the more worried I get at the thought of someone like that running the sheriff's office, even as a temporary caretaker.

The Republican Party of Tulsa County has been running a series of the "Top 5 Most Outrageously Liberal Posts by Democrat Rex Berry" on its Facebook page. Berry called far-Left Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, "My dream team!"
Sharing an article about "post-Christian" Americans, Rex Berry states that he's "proud to be counted in this group." Berry trumpeted his end-of-year donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. In another Rex Berry post, the Obama administration is called "a successful presidency." Berry "liked" an article from the Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner about consumption of homosexual pornography by state, with the comment, "Wow, we beat Texas!"

Berry also shared a post by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an anti-Second Amendment group that hides behind a deceptive name. Berry's implied support for the group is worrisome given an Oklahoma sheriff's role in issuing gun permits.

Here are a few gems I found in Berry's public timeline. He seems to be very open about his far-left views on the Second Amendment, religion, and economics.


Rex_Berry-Stop_the_NRA.PNG

Rex_Berry-Theocratic_Tea_Party.PNG

Rex_Berry-Secular_Societies_Better.PNG


Rex_Berry-Abortion.PNG


Rex_Berry-6_Types_of_Atheists.PNG


Luke Sherman
, runner-up to Regalado in the special primary election last month (special county races have no runoff), has already announced his intention to run for the full term regardless of Tuesday's outcome. Russell Crow, a former TCSO deputy and Tulsa police officer, did not run for the unexpired term but has announced for the four-year term.

I will support someone other than Regalado for the GOP nomination for the full term. Strategically, a Regalado loss on Tuesday would make it easier to elect a different Republican for the full term, but I am haunted by the thought of the damage that Berry could do as effectively an eight-month lame duck with complete patronage power over the sheriff's office. At worst, Regalado might amount to a more cautious clone of Stanley Glanz and as such media scrutiny ought to keep any excesses in check. For conservatives, Regalado tomorrow and someone else in June seems to be the best option.

Chris_Whisenhunt-Sauger-Arkansas_River-2014.jpg
Fisheries biologist Chris Whisenhunt with a sauger he caught in the Arkansas River beneath the 96th Street (Jenks) bridge, an area that would be affected by the proposed south Tulsa / Jenks dam.

Tulsa fisheries biologist Chris Whisenhunt has some concerns about the dam's effect on fish and fishing. With his permission, here are some comments he has posted on Facebook about the dams .

Voting Yes on Proposition 3 will almost assuredly destroy the delicate ecosystem within the Arkansas River by displacing or eliminating many sensitive, native aquatic species for the sake of "economic development". As a fisheries biologist, it is my opinion that dams in the river are a BAD IDEA! (And no, the new lakes that would be created will not be good for fishing but would actually eliminate the existing fisheries). Tulsa should explore other ways to create economic development that doesn't risk damage to the environment for what is simply aesthetic reasons.

He adds some specifics:

Many indigenous species (sauger, white bass, paddlefish, shovelnose sturgeon, and many others) currently thrive in the area of the river to be impacted by the proposed dams. Voting yes will most likely displace those fish, eliminating the existing fishery for the sake of aesthetic value in hopes of promoting economic development. The new lakes will not be able to support a viable fishery. Any loss of, or damage to, the existing fishery may result in mitigation by the city at the cost of its tax payers.

And in response to diagrams of the dam operation, Whisenhunt notes the dilemma -- officials will have to open the dams and let the lakes drain out for five months to allow for fish spawning or keep the dams shut and degrade the stock of fish over time.

I've seen the cartoon videos & diagrams of how the dams are supposed to work and am not overly impressed. First, many sensitive species in the Arkansas River are benthic (bottom oriented) & most likely will not make it over the contour of the dam. Second, spawning season for the variety of fishes in the river is from February to June and we have no guarantee the city is prepared to leave the dams down that entire length of time. Third, I've asked for & have yet to receive any SCIENTIFIC, peer reviewed research proving the dams allow fish passage (a little something more than a cartoon). Finally, the continuous filling & draining of the lake will prevent any viable fishery from being established in the lake itself, one of the selling points the city of Tulsa has tried to give the public. The city is risking ecological disaster for aesthetic value...a very bad idea!

MORE: News on 6 spoke to another local fisheries expert:

Sand islands and braided channels are what make the prairie stream that is Arkansas River.

"It's not dry, it's just not the Mississippi, but it's not supposed to be the Mississippi," Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Fisheries Biologist Josh Johnston said....

"We're on that knife's edge already of being too fragmented. It's taken the perfect year to get these fish where they are. They're persisting, but just barely," Johnston said.

Johnston has studied the river and the species that call it home for years. He said adding another dam could severely hurt or even wipe out several native fish, like the shovelnose sturgeon, American eel, white bass, sauger and paddlefish....

But Johnston said the river is always flowing, even though it may not look like it. He said most of the fish in the Arkansas River are genetically made up to survive and thrive in that sort of harsh environment.

"We're not looking at what we have and being thankful that this is native, this is Oklahoma right here," Johnston said.

He said for fish to migrate properly, most of the gates would need to stay down throughout spawning season. It wouldn't work opening and closing them throughout the four-month period, Johnston said.

"I just don't think the city is going to be willing to leave that down long enough," he said.

Johnston said he's gone to the city's public meetings, but said the city hasn't consulted with his division of the wildlife department since about 2009.

"This one's been the biggest push I've ever seen Tulsa make for these dams and we were not invited to the talks, we were not asked, we were not questioned," Johnston said. "They say they've had a lot of biological input by some of the greatest biologists, but it's not with my agency, and we are the biologists that work on this system."

Two years ago, when the river was unusually clear, the same biologist made an interesting discovery:

The Arkansas River usually only has strands of what appears to be muddy water. Biologists know there's a rich diversity of fish, but only through a remarkable bit of luck, were they able to show the rest of us.

"And we found just wads of fish that you wouldn't think would be here in our backyard," said Josh Johnson with the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

It started with an idea to see if any sturgeon were still in the river. Hardly anyone in the Wildlife Department had ever seen one.

"We never even took into consideration that this might have been a better place to look for them, and all of a sudden this guy calls in and he's caught one," Johnson said.

That led to an underwater survey on what turned out to be three days of clear water in unbearable cold, the water was just above freezing but there was 20 feet of visibility. They saw stripers and buffalo fish and photographed five shovelnose sturgeon.

It's very typical of Tulsa to embrace an urban development fad just as other cities are rethinking and reversing course. (Case in point: No sooner did we close off Main Street for a pedestrian mall than other cities began noticing that pedestrian malls killed retail businesses and started reopening pedestrianized streets.) When officials push Tulsans to be early adopters of new fads, Tulsans say no, but officials stubbornly keep pushing, long after the moment has passed. In September 1969, Tulsans voted down a bond issue for low-water dams, 29% to 71%, but 47 years later, officials are still trying to talk us into it. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is waking up to the safety and environmental hazards posed by these decorative dams.

Danger: Low Water Dam Ahead

From the October 2015 edition of Columbus Monthly, "Low-Head Dams: Danger Below":

Though their usefulness faded decades ago, low-head dams are a lingering threat to people and wildlife. Since the 1950s, at least 441 people have died at 235 submerged dams in 38 states. About half of those deaths occurred in the past 15 years--a period in which many cities have sought to repurpose their rivers into picturesque attractions that would draw tourists and shoppers to business districts....

The dams, dubbed "killer dams" and "drowning machines" by critics, can be dangerously misleading. Most onlookers observe a scenic, harmless-looking waterfall, but a submerged hydraulic jump forms deadly whirlpool-like currents....

Aside from their threat to human safety, low-head dams have been causing a deluge of ecological problems for decades, conservationists say. They stifle fish migration up and downstream, degrade the river's chemical quality, increase the water temperature and starve fish of oxygen....

As for FLOW, the group conducted water-quality studies to look at the physical, chemical and biological attributes of the Olentangy River near and around the 8-foot high concrete dam at Fifth Avenue, and found the river did not meet quality standards. FLOW, which developed the Lower Olentangy Watershed Action Plan in 2003, recommended the dam be removed. Doing so would increase dissolved oxygen levels (making it easier and better for fish to breathe), unblock sediment flow backed up by the dam and increase fish migration, they reported....

When the Fifth Avenue dam was dismantled in 2012, it joined the list of more than 50 dams removed in Ohio since 1973. In total, the project cost about $6.9 million; it took $200,000 to remove the dam. Some of the funds were allocated to create four large wetlands, establish native vegetation, and reconstruct river features and infrastructure such as storm-water outfalls. The cost was shared by Ohio EPA, Ohio State and the city....

Communities working in partnership with nonprofit organizations and state and federal agencies removed 72 dams in 19 states in 2014, according to American Rivers, a national river conservation group. Five of those removals were in Ohio, adding to the 1,185 dams removed across the U.S. since 1912.

Finding a balance between public and environmental safety can get thorny when dam owners and community members don't want their dams removed. Garcia says residents in Yorkville, Illinois, felt a strong sense of nostalgia for a 1960s-era dam on the Fox River. The dam's spillway has since been modified with four concrete steps, a fish ladder and a bypass channel for kayakers and canoeists.

"Usually the people who want the dams removed don't live near them," Garcia says. "There is almost an emotional attachment."

But Garcia says there's one driving force behind all of this: liability. Tschantz agrees, questioning the legality of having low-head dams present on waterways as a hidden and concealed danger rather than an open and obvious hazard.


One of the joys of this campaign has been getting to know some valiant community leaders that I had not previously met. Tracie Chandler, a leader in the North Star neighborhood, was instrumental in getting the city to do a small area plan covering the 36th Street North corridor between the Osage County line and Lewis Ave. This area was once prosperous but long ago fell on hard times. The small-area plan process brought homeowners, business owners, and city planners together to determine a path forward. Unfortunately, Tulsa civic leaders have a bad habit of either ignoring northside activists or treating them with dismissive condescension, and the modest capital improvements that these small area plans request -- small investments that can make a huge difference to an area's potential -- are typically ignored in favor of bigger, splashier projects closer to Tulsa's Money Belt.

Tracie Chandler has written several items of commentary on Vision Tulsa, and with her permission, we're happy to publish them here at BatesLine. First, here is a list of concerns about the package, which Ms. Chandler read at our news conference on Tuesday and a related graphic.

We want to thank the Councilors and the Mayor for their work on the Vision Package. However, we have some concerns. Councilor Ewing said, people without representation were being left off the list to the detriment (harm) of the neighborhoods. Another councilor responded with. "They have their Councilor." Ewing replied, "You know what I Mean!" We instantly understood. People with money, power, or influence got their proposals on the list.

Example: The Gilcrease Museum gets sixty-five million ($65,000,000) of our hard earned dollars; a donor will give them fifty million dollars ($50,000,000). Example of influence?: Had Councilor Henderson supported the 36th St. N. Corridor Small Area Plan Implementation Proposal, coupled with the Mohawk Business Park, we would have had two straight miles prepped for economic development down 36th St. N. between N. Lewis and MLK. The Peoria Connection, which has the least impact of the two and cost five million dollars ($5,000.000) more, made the list. Is it because of Henderson's close ties to NTEDi, the organization submitting the proposal?

Public Safety:

Everyone cares about public safety, however, here are our concerns: The tax is permanent instead of for 15 years.

Fire Department:

The fire department will get seventy million dollars ($70,000,000), even though it didn't complete an analysis of needed funds. A fireman was overheard telling one of the Councilors that there was not a need for the trucks she was seeking. Many of the "fire runs" are for EMS purposes instead of fighting fires.

Police Department:

Do we need 160 more police to the tune of two hundred two million dollars ($202,000,000)? Even with the layoff of about 120 police in 2010, major crimes decreased. Minorities, especially Blacks, are harassed/arrested more than others. These arrests destroy families. More police, more minorities going to jail. The recreation centers are gone, kids, with their parent(s) in jail, are often without supervision. They act out, doing unwise things leading to their arrests (a continuous cycle of family destruction)! Keeping people locked up, is costly; It is cheaper to keep them out of prison.

We like the Gilcrease Museum, however, let's examine another use for the sixty-five million ($65,000,000) that would directly benefit North Tulsa. Five point five million dollars ($5,500,000) is about what it would have taken to renovate recreation centers at Ben Hill, B. C. Franklin, and Springdale parks. After utilities, the remaining fifty-nine million, two hundred eighty-nine thousand, twenty-five dollars ($59,289,025) could be invested in an endowment; at 3.5%, two million, seventy-five thousand, one hundred sixteen dollars ($2,075,116) to run the centers.

Zoo: "Do we need to pay $25,000,000 (twenty-five million dollars) to build a "Pachyderm Palace" as a new home for elephants?"

Lot in the Package for North Tulsa???????????????

You will hear that there is a lot in the package for North Tulsa, the same story we heard before and for the most part, North Tulsa looks the same. How will this be any different? Three of the items referred to are the Gilcrease Museum, The Zoo, and the Airport. Who will benefit the most, North Tulsa residents or the city?

Education:

Tulsans will pay taxes for Jenks schools, because Tulsa students attend those schools. Is Osage County paying for students that attend Central and Academy Central? We do need to retain teachers, however, North Tulsa Schools get more of the inexperienced teachers than South Tulsa Schools. What assurance do we have that this will change?
OSU: Why are we giving OSU 3.6 million dollars ($3,600,000) when they are receiving $1,000,000 (one million dollars) a year from Langston for rent? They could have saved that amount.

Street Maintenance and Traffic:

Everyone, especially North Tulsans, want their streets repaired. The City continuously maintain NEW streets, because it is cheaper, as opposed to older streets. Where does that leave older neighborhoods?

River Project: How will the River Project benefit North Tulsans? Will the money brought in by the project help North Tulsa? What part of the city gets most of the tax dollars?

Whose Vision is this?

This package does not represent the wishes/desires of the citizens. Where is the vision?

What Now?

We understand your concerns about Langston! However, would you keep an apple that is 93.4% rotten; North Tulsa only got 6.6% of the package? That makes the package for North Tulsans 93.4% rotten. Citizens of Tulsa, since this package does not represent our vision for Tulsa, should we accept it? If we accept this package, what message will we send? Won't it be that, it doesn't matter if our voices are not heard? Won't it be, walk all over us although, these are OUR tax dollars? Are we men or are we mice content with crumbs?

Presented by a Coalition of Concerned Citizens

Vision_Tulsa-Will.jpg

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2016 is the previous archive.

May 2016 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Contact

Feeds

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
Atom
RSS
[What is this?]