Cities: September 2008 Archives

Sun sets

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Amongst all the other sad news is this: The New York Sun will cease publication today after nearly seven years of publication. The revived Sun (the original version ceased publication in 1950) was known for a thoughtful, conservative editorial bent, thorough reporting on local government, and lively writing on arts and culture. The paper was praised as a must-read even by the public officials who were the objects of its editorial-page criticism, as noted by editor Seth Lipsky in his farewell remarks to the paper's staff:

We have all been taken aback and, I would say, humbled by the surge of support that has been conveyed since the announcement a month ago that we might have to close. Mayor Bloomberg, despite our differences on many issues, was our constant reader and encourager. We had messages from some of our greatest rabbis, and from His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan. Three of New York's former governors spoke of the importance of the Sun, including Governor Pataki, who called what you have created "the best paper in New York." Much as I appreciated the remark, I wouldn't want to make too much of it -- for me, it was privilege enough to be simply one among the newspapers in this magnificent newspaper town.

Some of the messages that touched me most were readers who sent in checks, with letters about what the Sun meant to them, and calls or comments from those with whom we don't often agree on policy. The Central Labor Council and the president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, or Speaker Quinn or Comptroller Thompson, the Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and all the others who talked to our reporters, or wrote, or called to let us know how much they appreciated the intelligence, the passion, and the energy you brought to your beats. I sense in some of my conversations with them that they appreciated the fact that you covered their important work at all and that you dealt with them on the substance, and they will miss you as much as you will miss them.

The Sun was as close in style to the great British broadsheets as I've ever seen an American newspaper come. It's sad to see the paper close down. I'm especially sad because I've just discovered the Sun's wonderful blog on urban design, Culture of Congestion by Sandy Ikeda. I hope the blog continues in some form.

(In a recent entry, Ikeda linked to a blog worth following: Market Urbanism: "Urbanism for Capitalists / Capitalism for Urbanists.")

(Today is the anniversary of the demise of another fine newspaper. The Tulsa Tribune ceased publication 16 years ago today. Tulsa became a one-daily-newspaper town, to the detriment of public awareness and civic discourse.)

I was honored to have two brief moments in the Sun four years ago. I was one of several delegates to the Republican National Convention interviewed by Daniel Moreau for his August 24, 2004, story about the intentions of protesters to disrupt the proceedings:

"I have a lot of faith in New York's finest," said Michael Bates, 40, a Republican delegate from Tulsa, Okla. "I know a lot of effort is being made to maintain security."

Tight security is nothing new for delegates, who are used to far-away parking and having their personal belongings searched. Most delegates will either walk or ride a delegation bus between their hotel and Madison Square Garden....

Mr. Bates spoke of the protesters as if they were part of New York's eccentric scenery. "I'll have my camera ready so I can catch any crazy protesters," he said. "They expect us to be wearing monocles and top hats. They only believe in free speech for themselves."

The next evening, after arriving in town to cover the pre-convention platform and rules committee meetings, I met Sun reporter Gary Shapiro at a gathering organized by blogger and then-New York Post copy editor Dawn Eden. In his column the following Monday, August 30, Gary mentioned my report on BatesLine about the Communists for Kerry rally in Union Square:

Tulsa-based software engineer Michael Bates arrived in town as an Oklahoma delegate. He blogs at where he reported seeing the pro-Bush political theater group "Communists for Kerry" perform in "Soviet Union Square." They shouted slogans such as "End the two Americas! Create one homogenous welfare state!" and "End tax cuts! Stop the menace known as 'success'!"

In addition to all the writing I did for BatesLine during the Republican National Convention, I managed to turn out three pieces for this week's issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly:

The cover story about the upcoming PLANiTULSA citywide planning workshops. The folks at the City of Tulsa Planning Department and Fregonese Associates were very helpful as I put this story together. I had a copy not only of the publicity materials but the instructions for the facilitators -- the volunteers at each table who answer questions and keep the mapping process on pace to finish within the alloted time. From those instructions, I tried to put together a vivid description of what workshop participants will experience. My feeling is that the more you know about what will happen, the better prepared you'll be to participate fully and advocate effectively for your ideas for Tulsa's future.

I spoke to Theron Warlick, one of the City of Tulsa planners assigned to PLANiTULSA, and he told me that about 500 people had already signed up, with about a week and a half to go. Mayor Bill LaFortune's 2002 Vision Summit drew about 1100.

If you haven't signed up yet, visit and register online.

Also this week, I have a story about the the Republican National Convention as seen through the eyes of Tulsans who attended the convention.

The week before, I spoke to Jackie Tomsovic, a first-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and covered the surprising political resurrection of former Gov. David Walters, co-chairman of the Democrats' convention rules committee.

My column this week relates both to St. Paul and to planning. During my visit, I tried to learn what I could about how the city handles planning and zoning, river development, downtown, and affordable housing. I wound up with far more material than I could use on all of the above topics. I chose to focus on the way St. Paul connects citizens and neighborhoods with city government, using 19 independent, non-profit "district planning councils."

MORE: Here's a video of planner John Fregonese's presentation at the TulsaNow forum on July 15. He speaks about planning concepts, demographic trends, and the results of the planning team's survey of a thousand Tulsans.

(The embedded video was making this page load slowly, so if you want to watch it, visit the PLANiTULSA channel on

I broke the journey back from St. Paul into two legs, was later than planned getting out of town, and that put me in downtown Des Moines Saturday morning. I didn't have time for a look around on the way up, so I took time on the way back. I last passed through in 1995, and since Des Moines has been cited as a model of downtown redevelopment -- remember Bill LaFortune's "No more! to Des Moines" at the BOK Center groundbreaking? -- I was curious to see what was new.

I found the Iowa Events Center, cited six years ago by Whirled sports columnist Dave Sittler as a compelling reason for Tulsa to build a new downtown arena. The nearby area was as dead as can be -- parking ramps, parking lots, office buildings. The arena sits near the river, but turns its back to it.

There's a beautifully hideous modern building nearby, designed in the 1960s by the famed firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with a beautifully hideous sculpture garden. I could imagine a progressive Des Moiner (?) being quite proud that the city has such a place, but preferring never to spend any time there.

One of the sculptures, not in the garden, but in a kind of sunken plaza, was actually rather cool: A large golden sphere, with part of its skin ripped away to reveal gears inside. Couldn't find out the name of the piece or its sculpture. As interesting as it was, it reminded me uncomfortably of the sphere that once stood on the World Trade Center plaza, mangled by the 9/11 disaster, and now reinstalled in Battery Park.

I parked near the new baseball stadium, Principal Park, which is next to the river and "in" downtown, but doesn't really connect to either. The stadium is surrounded by surface parking. An old warehouse building nearby has been converted to lofts, but then it's a few blocks to the next nearest retail or residential development.



(More about downtown Des Moines, and more photos, after the jump.)

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This page is a archive of entries in the Cities category from September 2008.

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