Tulsa: August 2003 Archives

Editorial diversity on display


There are a number of interesting group blogs on the web, including National Review's "The Corner". Although the contributors are in general agreement on key issues, there are vigorous debates on a regular basis, illuminating the diversity of opinion within the broader conservative movement on the issues of the day. Some differences are philosophical, some tactical.

Rod Dreher, a former NR writer now with the Dallas Morning News, calls our attention to the DMN's new editorial board blog:

Over on our blog, the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News is duking it out on the Israeli-Palestinian question.... No matter which side you're on, it's useful for readers to see the kind of thinking, and the kind of people doing the thinking, that goes into the creation of the editorial positions of a major American daily newspaper. This kind of transparency serves the reader, who can see the ed board's biases plainly. This might sound self-serving, but I bet newspaper readers elsewhere in the country would benefit if their daily's editorial board did the same thing. Check us out and see what you think -- and please write to let me know.

I think Tulsa would be well-served if the Whirled had a similar feature, although I don't think we'd see much "duking it out", because the Whirled editorial board isn't diverse. They all march together, unnaturally in lock-step. I have yet to read a signed column where one editorial board member challenges the the opinions of another member, either directly by name or even indirectly. As individual human beings they must have disagreements, but these are never brought to light, if in fact they ever disagree. But the Whirled's policy seems in line with their disdain for dissent, and their constant assumption that anyone who disagrees with them is a bad person.

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, writes about the joys of wireless blogging from a downtown Knoxville pub:

I LOVE WI-FI: I'm wireless-blogging from the Downtown Grill and Brewery, which is yet another in the list of wifi equipped local businesses.

I note that Shannon Okey is playing up the idea of free wireless hotzones as tools for downtown redevelopment. I think that there's a lot of room for that sort of thing. Knoxville's Market Square, downtown, has wireless access now. I'd like to see that sort of thing spread.

Of course it may be -- as Paul Boutin suggests -- that businesses will take care of this everywhere. (That's actually how it is in Knoxville -- the City hasn't done squat). And in fact, as Boutin also points out, the biggest hassle and expense in setting up a for-pay wifi hotspot is the billing setup. I think that means that wireless internet access may really be "too cheap to meter." Though perhaps that will change as wifi becomes more popular. In the meantime, be sure the hotspots have backup power, so that people can post photos to their blogs during blackouts!

Here's a related story:

Somerville [Massachusetts] is considering setting up an urban hot zone in Davis Square to provide free wi-fi to customers of participating businesses and three parks. The cost to merchants is expected to be approximately $30 per month with no charge to the city for access in the parks.

This is a great idea conceived by Wi-Fi activist Michael Oh of Tech Superpowers (who first set up the NewburyOpen.net hot zone prototype along Newbury Street) and Patrick J. McCormick, the chief information officer for the City of Somerville.

Why not in the Blue Dome and Brady and Greenwood districts -- and why not now? This could be a cheap way to get people excited about downtown and send a message that Tulsa is a city committed to technology. And it could be done by businesses alone or in partnership with government.

Are there any wi-fi hot zones or wi-fi-equipped coffee shops, bookstores, or restaurants around town? E-mail me and I'll give said businesses a free plug.

(Wi-Fi is short for wireless fidelity, a system for wireless computer networking.)

In Business Reform, a national online magazine that looks at business from a Christian perspective, Noah Knox takes a hard look at Tulsa's proposed Boeing bribe and the overall economic picture:

Boeing's clear ransom note? If you want our jobs, you need to pay our price. The tactic apparently is working, at least for the company. Washington taxpayers' ability to survive $3.2 billion in ransom payments, or Tulsa taxpayers ability to support $1 billion in new taxes is much less clear.

However, other companies are learning from Boeing's success. Just within Tulsa, at least three other companies have issued their own ransom notes. The $1 billion tax package also include $22 million for American Airlines to keep that troubled flyer's maintenance facility in town. Since the Boeing package was announced, rumors have also conveniently leaked out of Citgo and TV Guide that those companies may move their headquarters out of town (with the obvious but unstated postscript of "unless taxpayers cough up the ransom"). ...

However, local government leaders continue to favor the ransom demands of the big companies over the real growth needs of small businesses within their communities. In his Batesline web log, Michael Bates points out that two-thirds of net new jobs are created by small businesses, and that these small businesses create virtually all net new jobs during a recession and the early portion of recovery.

Like the other multi-million dollar ransoms being offered to Boeing, Tulsa's new tax plan includes virtually nothing to help the small business owner. But then again, new taxes rarely are the best answer for anything. Leaving the money in the hands of individuals to invest in entrepreneurial ventures is clearly a better solution.

Go read the whole article. (And Noah, thanks for reading.)

Some people don't understand why the opponents of the proposed new Tulsa County sales taxes call this a billion-dollar blank check. They don't understand why we worry about this public trust that will have full power to add, delete, and change projects and spend the excess. Let me remind you of a story that dominated local headlines in 2002.

The Tulsa County Industrial Authority (TCIA -- whose trustees are the three County Commissioners) loaned $83 million to non-profits to finance low-income housing in Tulsa. The non-profits, mostly out-of-state organizations, purchased apartment complexes (thus taking them off the tax rolls), and many of the complexes were allowed to decay. The County Commissioners didn't exercise any oversight to ensure that the complexes were being maintained or that the requirement that 40% of units serve low-income tenants was being met. In some of the complexes most of the units were uninhabitable. From a November 9, 2002, Tulsa Whirled story about one of the complexes, Falcon Ridge:

City inspectors have found numerous health hazards -- including uncapped gas lines and faulty furnaces -- at an apartment complex where six residents suffered carbon monoxide poisoning earlier this week.

An improperly vented hot water heater in one of the buildings at the Falcon Ridge apartment complex was cited as the source of a leak that caused carbon monoxide levels to be as much as 10 times what is considered dangerous.

Six residents, including a baby, were treated at local hospitals Tuesday after becoming ill....

Robert Strong, whose girlfriend was sickened by carbon monoxide, said that the apartment he was relocated to was filthy, so he is staying with his parents.

"It was dirty and filthy. The tub was leaking and the toilet was running all the time. It was gross in there," he said.

Strong said he had been paying rent on a month-to-month basis but was asked to sign a lease for his new apartment.

Stray kittens could be seen Thursday in one of the vacant units in the building where carbon monoxide was released. The city's animal control office said it would only respond if the property owner makes a complaint.

The Tulsa County Industrial Authority loaned Virginia-based Tulsa American Housing Foundation nearly $30 million to purchase and rehabilitate Falcon Ridge and several other complexes in 1999.

The foundation defaulted on its loan and has filed for bankruptcy in a Virginia court, records show.

Besides the non-profits, the TCIA loaned $41 million to John Piercey, a "dear friend" of Commissioner Bob Dick, and the financial adviser who handles selling bonds for nearly every county project. Here's a tidy little deal, recounted in a Tulsa Whirled story on April 7, 2002:

While problems surfaced with some nonprofit operators, the authority said it was pleased with the way one for-profit operator handled his properties: JC&P Limited Partnerships. Piercey said he and his family members operate the partnerships. Both Dick and Piercey say there is no conflict of interest in the fact that Piercey has been both a borrower and an adviser to the county.

"Does that mean I give up my right as an individual?" Piercey said.

Dick said he has known Piercey since both worked for the city in the '70s and '80s. Piercey is a former development director for the city. Dick is a former Tulsa Police officer.

Dick said Piercey is a "dear friend."

Piercey has a long history with the county as a paid financial adviser on various projects, including the new jail and the "4 to Fix the County" project.

"Each deal that he brought to us stands on its own merit. He was smart enough to put together the deals," Dick said.

In the early '90s, after Piercey had spent two years trying to secure financing to purchase several apartment complexes, he turned successfully to the authority in 1993.

The authority approved a loan for $15 million to purchase and rehabilitate nine properties, including property in the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area.

Five years later, in 1998, the authority approved financing for twice that amount, $30 million, to the Tulsa American Housing Foundation to purchase the same properties from Piercey. The funds were also for "substantial rehabilitation" of the properties, records show.

Piercey says that doesn't mean he made a $15 million profit in five years.

"I never made a lot of money on those because I put money back into them. I take pride in what we own and how we run them," Piercey said.

After the initial project with the authority in 1993, Piercey received approval for funding on four more projects, many of which included the renovation of dilapidated structures. Piercey said he is proud that he never defaulted on any of his loans.

"They didn't create this especially for me," Piercey said. "I took advantage of what many developers in Tulsa County have taken advantage of -- using tax-exempt financing."

All this is probably legal, but the coziness of this deal makes me uneasy. Add to that the Commissioners' failure to check out the non-profit groups before lending them millions on Tulsa County's credit rating. Add to that the Commissioners' neglect of oversight.

If you want to learn more about this issue, search the Whirled's archives for the year 2002, and look up terms like "Tulsa County Industrial Authority", "John Piercey", "Tulsa American Housing Foundation". As much as I dislike the Whirled's editorial positions, I have to admire the digging reporters Susan Hylton and Ziva Branstetter did on this story, and the fact that the Whirled published their work.

Sand Springs has a history page on its website and nothing on it.

There's nothing here and do you know why?

We're having a Sand Springs History Contest!

Write a report on the history and heritage of Sand Springs, Oklahoma. We will select one report for inclusion in SandSprings.com and give the winner a $50 Amazon.com Gift Certificate!

No deadline is mentioned. Sand Springs has a lot of interesting history and characters to write about. Charles Page, the widows' and orphans' homes, the Sand Springs Railroad, Marques Haynes, William Pogue.

Here's a free idea; a good one, too, I think. I don't have time to pursue it -- perhaps someone else will. Contact Marques Haynes, the Basketball Hall of Famer and Harlem Globetrotter legend. He lives in Dallas, I think; he's in his 70s now. If he's willing, interview him about places he remembers from his childhood in Sand Springs -- his neighborhood, where he lived, went to school, went to church, the stores where his family traded, where he first played basketball, where he went to play with his friends. Ask him to relate memories of everyday life in his childhood -- good and bad alike. He went to segregated schools and grew up in a segregated neighborhood -- what was that like? Then work with the local historical society to determine the locations and find period photos of the places he remembers. Take pictures of those places as they are today. Then put it all together as a photo exhibit, designed to give 21st Century Sandites a sense of everyday life in Sand Springs before World War II, as seen through the eyes of a Sand Springs kid who went on to become world-famous.

The same kind of project could be done for other celebrities who grew up in Tulsa before World War II -- Paul Harvey and Tony Randall are a couple of other examples that come to mind. It's a way to help people imagine what neighborhoods used to be like, before expressways and suburbia and urban renewal.

I've been told that the Keystone Corridor redevelopment project in Proposition 4 of the sales tax vote includes demolition of Marques Haynes' old neighborhood, just across the Keystone Expressway (and across the old MK&T tracks) from downtown Sand Springs. If someone wants to pursue this idea, you'll need to hurry.

UPDATE (17 SEP 2004): Tipped off to the fact that sandsprings.com had changed hands. Evidently it was a commercial site, not affiliated with the city in any way. I've changed the link to point at the Wayback Machine's copy of the page on the date. sandsprings.com now points to a page about a high school reunion.

I learned of this change via an e-mail from Ruth Ellen Henry, the programs and public information coordinator of the Sand Springs Cultural and Historical Museum. If you want to help document the history or can provide information or artifacts about Marques Haynes' old neighborhood or any other aspect of Sand Springs History, I am sure the museum would be happy for the help. That link will take you to the museum's page on the official City of Sand Springs website.

There's more in this entry I just posted.

UPDATE 2015/02/07: John Erling has interviewed Marques Haynes for his Voices of Oklahoma series. Haynes talks about his neighborhood, where he lived. He attended Booker T. Washington School, now demolished, all the way through -- it was the only school in Sand Springs for African-Americans. He also mentions that because he couldn't go to the movie theater in Sand Springs, he and his friends would ride the Sand Springs interurban into Tulsa; the trolley stopped on Greenwood, right across from the Dreamland Theater.

Off the grid


When Weird Al Yankovic performs tomorrow night at the River Parks Amphitheatre -- the postponement of Friday's storm-cancelled performance -- it would be appropriate to lead off with "Amish Paradise". We were among tens of thousands of Tulsans to get a generous taste of life disconnected from the grid. Amish, yes. Paradise, well....

The power went off about 5:30 Friday afternoon. I was working late, Mikki and the kids were about to leave to go over to my folks' house for a visit. Earlier in the day, they had finished baking a football-shaped cake for Joseph's birthday party the next day. When I got home, just ahead of them about 9, the power was still out, all over the neighborhood. No storm damage to the house, a tree lost a limb, but no apparent damage to the lines leading to our home. We've had our problems with power -- a sequence of squirrels who committed suicide attacks on the transformer, a lightning strike on a transformer which started a small and brief grass fire in a neighbor's yard -- but never a long outage.

The rest of the family returned soon after, and we worked on getting everyone ready for bed in the dark. We opened some windows to get air moving through the house. The temperature had dropped and there was a good breeze, so it was fairly comfortable. We had some battery-powered lanterns we could scatter around the house, so we didn't have to deal with the heat or danger of candles. Everyone slept well except me. I kept imagining that the flashes of lightning were the lights from a PSO truck come to fix things, and I kept thinking about all the food in the deep freeze.

We slept later than we should have. The other side of the street had power; we were still out. I took the kids with me to verify that Whiteside Park Recreation Center -- where we were having the party -- had power, and then to get some lunch. I could hear the AC unit humming, so all is well. The kids wanted to eat at a Sonic with a picnic table so we went to 16th & Lewis -- no power there.

The party was a great success. Although renting the center included having a staffer set up and run games, the boys just had fun with the run of the gym. Nothing organized -- just whacking tennis balls with padded T-ball bats, shooting baskets, and tossing Nerf footballs. No worries about anything getting broken, and we were out of the heat. The rec center staff were very helpful. The ice cream cups had turned kind of soupy, but otherwise everything went well. Joe was pleased with his gifts and was as gracious as you can expect a seven-year-old boy to be. He got a pair of Star Wars light sabers -- one from Grandpa and Grandma, one from a school friend. Who would have guessed in 1978 that light sabers would still be a hot toy in 2003?

A brief stop back home to drop off gifts and balloons -- still no power, and sweltering -- then out to dinner with family. Some discussion about whether some or all of us should go to my folks' to spend the night -- deciding factor was that we did all right the night before and it would be a hassle to pack things for one night away. So we got home and got ready for bed before it got too dark.

Saturday night there was no breeze and no relief from the heat. The last time I remember being that uncomfortable sleeping was 20 years ago, when I spent a summer in the Philippines. No air conditioning there, but at least we had an oscillating fan to move the air around. During a winter power outage we could turn on the gas log to heat part of the house, but we had no options last night.

I couldn't sleep and neither could Katherine, so I got ready to take her for a drive. We could hear fireworks at Driller Stadium, so we hurriedly changed her diaper and got her shoes on. I wasn't moving fast enough for her. She said, let's go see the fireworks, and she rolled off the changing table and landed three feet below on the floor. Nothing injured but pride, thankfully.

We went to the side of the house, saw the finale, which she pronounced awesome, then got in the car. A quick tour of the neighborhood revealed we were part of powerless island of only about 30 houses. We stopped at Sonic for a limeade for me and a grilled cheese for her. She only wanted a quarter of the sandwich to hold -- if she held half, she explained, she needed two hands and so she couldn't clutch her blanket. It was about 10:30, and I started to drive toward downtown, curious to see how many other neighborhoods were still without power.

She was asleep by the time I reached 11th & Elgin, but I wanted to give her time to get deep asleep, so I drove past all the night spots. Things seemed busier and livelier at 11 than they had the previous Saturday night at 10, and I did hear music as I drove by. There was a concert in the street at Main and Brady with a good-sized crowd enjoying it. I drove past the site of the proposed new arena, and drove the routes that people would take to get from that site to the Brady District or the Blue Dome District. I made some observations about arenas, downtowns, and synergy, but I'll save that for a separate post.

Back at home, and no one except Joe was able to sleep. Katherine was uncomfortable, and when she's uncomfortable she wants to cover up in her big crocheted blanket, which was only making her more uncomfortable. By midnight she was hysterical and couldn't be comforted. We began making plans to find a motel, putting together clothes and the portable crib. PSO would make no promises about when we'd see a truck. The recording said that there were about 10,000 households without power scattered around the city, and it could be Monday before everyone was back on line.

Meanwhile, the transformer on the side of the street with power started putting on an amazing fireworks show -- three or four big surges that lit up the night. Everyone called the fire department, and I called PSO, too, and managed to connect to a live human being. (Hint: Hazardous conditions get you a live human to talk to.) The fire department came and went -- the transformer finally blew completely, and there was nothing for them to do. We loaded up and left. As we headed to the hotel, I noticed a PSO truck on the next street, presumably to fix the blown transformer. I thought about stopping to plead with them to fix our power too, as long as they were in the area.

We got to the hotel about 1 am. The Quality Suites is in the relatively new cluster of hotels at 31st & Memorial. With AAA discount, it was only $62 for a very nice room, including microwave, fridge, two cable TVs, two double beds and a hide-a-bed, and high speed internet access. Should have thought of the hotel option hours earlier -- could have used the indoor pool -- but we were sure that the power would be back up by then.

In the nice cool room, with the "Love-A-Byes" CD playing, we all dropped off to sleep. Next morning we learned that the power had come back on about 2:30 a.m. I guess the PSO crew did take care of us while they were in the neighborhood.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa category from August 2003.

Tulsa: July 2003 is the previous archive.

Tulsa: September 2003 is the next archive.

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