Tulsa: September 2003 Archives

Tulsa's trash-to-energy plant closes


As the Whirled reported last Friday (continued here) and Saturday (continued here), Covanta, the operator of Tulsa's "trash-to-energy" incinerator (owned by CIT Group Inc.) on West 21st Street, is bankrupt and has shut down operations at the Tulsa facility. For now, Tulsa's trash will go to the landfill, which will actually save money -- about $2.5 million a year, according to Cheryl Cohenour, the head of the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE). But the City of Tulsa still owes $33.2 million on construction of the plant. The Whirled's Saturday story reported that Tulsa generates 800 tons of trash a day. About 15% of our trash ends up at the landfill, which has a 25 year capacity at the current rate of usage (with the incinerator in operation), with other inactive landfill sites that could be called into service if needed.

Why Tulsa's ratepayers were paying millions per year more to have their trash burned is a long story that goes back to the arrangements made when the plant was opened in the mid '80s. For background, I'll direct your attention to a couple of stories from Tulsa Today back in 1999, which are still available online thanks to archive.org, the Internet's "Wayback Machine". The trash-to-energy plant became an issue that year in connection with the a 7% trash rate hike. Then-Councilor Anna Falling attempted to forestall the rate hike by pushing for the introduction of curbside recycling. Her well-intentioned involvement in a pilot recycling project generated a lot of controversy and led to her re-election defeat the following year.

In that context, Tulsa Today published a summary of the controversy, which included a brief history of the trash-to-energy plant. Here's an excerpt that deals with the circumstances of the 1998 trash rate hike.

In May 1998, shortly after Falling took office, the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) informed the City Council that increase in sewer, stormwater, and refuse rates was required in order to pay for capital improvements mandated by federal and state governments, principally to pay for the trash-to-energy plant upgrade. The proposed 21% increase in rates would be phased in over five years. Tulsans were already paying the highest trash rates in the state and the region. Falling, who made holding the line on rates a key plank of her platform, began to investigate alternatives to the increases. Could Tulsa seek an extension or an exemption from the EPA? Would curbside recycling reduce the flow of trash to the incinerator, and thus its emissions, sufficiently to bring the plant into compliance with a less expensive upgrade?

In July 1998, Falling assembled the facts she had gathered and presented them to the Council with her recommendations. She persuaded the City Council to delay approval of the trash rate increase to allow time to consult with Oklahoma's congressional delegation and seek their help in dealing with the EPA. Ultimately, the increase was approved, but Falling continued to pursue ways to decrease the cost of the plant upgrade to the City. In her Fall 1998 newsletter, she surveyed District 4 residents for their interest in curbside recycling. Encouraged by the positive response, she began to organize a team of volunteers to conduct a privately-funded curbside recycling pilot project, which she announced at a January town hall meeting. The same month, she also convened a meeting with representatives from the EPA, the Oklahoma DEQ, TARE, the Council and the City administration. At that meeting an EPA engineer stated that reducing the amount of trash sent to the trash-to-energy plant could reduce emissions to the level required by the new standard, but such a reduction in the volume of trash would put Tulsa at risk of violating its contract with Ogden Martin.

Note the dilemma the city was in -- we could avoid the retrofit by reducing trash incineration, but that would mean violating our contract with Ogden Martin (now Covanta), which dated back to the plant's opening and would run until 2007.

The whole trash-to-energy idea seemed like a good idea at the time. Yes, it might cost more to incinerate trash than to dump it in a landfill, but the resulting energy (the plant produces steam) would be less expensive than natural gas. That was the thinking in the late '70s and early '80s. Then the price of natural gas plummeted, eliminating most of the rationale for the plant, but we were already heavily invested ($92 million in city revenue bonds). At its closing, the plant's only energy customer was the neighboring Sun refinery.

The political lesson to be learned from the trash-to-energy plant story is that political leaders and citizens should be reluctant to enter into any long-term contracts. Circumstances can change suddenly.

Coming attractions


Posting later today and tomorrow --

Why is our City Council uninterested in how City-related Vision projects will be administered?

Status of the County trust authority and sales tax oversight committee

Tulsa's "trash to energy" plant closes -- it's been sending our money up in smoke for 20 years

... and scroll down for more.

The Kiev (Ukraine) Symphony Chorus and Orchestra will perform this Friday night at 8 p.m. at Union Performing Arts Center, as part of their 2003 US tour. These talented musicians are a symbol of the resurgence of music, culture, and faith in the old Soviet Union.

The chorus was founded in 1992 by a visiting American musician, who organized the first Ukrainian performance of Handel's Messiah in over 70 years. The following year the chorus was expanded to 100 singers and an orchestra was added. Over time, a church of 600 members and ministries to widows and orphans emerged as part of a larger organization called Music Mission Kiev.

The link above will take you to their repertoire for this concert tour, which includes works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky. I am particularly looking forward to the selection of Slavic a capella pieces. As a member of Coventry Chorale, I had the privilege some years ago to sing selections from Rachmaninoff's Vespers, an a capella setting of ancient Orthodox chants. This music will give you goosebumps, and all the more when you know how the lyrics glorify Christ and exult in his incarnation and resurrection.

The link above will take you to the website of Christ Presbyterian Church (my home church), which is cosponsoring the concert with the TU music department and Reformed University Fellowship (a campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America). Tickets are $10, and most area Christian bookstores have them for sale.

A light unto my interstate


Much talk this week about the decision by the City of Tulsa to save money by turning off lights along the expressways. The Whirled expressed its embarassment on the editorial page. Charles Hardt, director of the City's Public Works department was on KFAQ explaining that lights aren't critical to safety on limited access highways where there there are no pedestrians and few interchanges. Michael DelGiorno held a two-day "radiothon" to raise the $12,500 needed to turn the lights back on for one month.

I drove a bit of unlit I-244 last night and it wasn't bad, but it helped that there were other cars to follow, and the lines on the road and embedded reflectors were easily visible. I-44 east of the 244 junction is still lit from above, but I notice that the lane lines are dim and the reflectors are barely peeking above the asphalt. Such a road would be dangerous without overhead lighting, especially in foul weather. In my travels, I've noticed that Texas is far more diligent than Oklahoma about maintaining the reflectivity of their road markings.

I also noticed that turning off the lights along 244 meant that the lights were out on the Yale Avenue overpass, where you have sidewalks, the occasional pedestrian, and traffic intersections. That didn't make much sense.

I agree that it's pathetic that we can't find the money to keep the lights on. It looks bad for our city. It reinforces the need to investigate how we're spending tax dollars so we can spend money on what really matters. But I also believe that most of the lights along the expressways can be safely switched off, improving visibility in the process.

A few years ago I first met Patric Johnstone, a Tulsan who has been researching this issue for several years. The heart of his message: Everything you think you know about outdoor lighting is wrong. More is not necessarily better. Far from promoting safety and security, badly designed lighting can actually make matters worse, sending glare into the eyes of drivers (one reason why many older folks hate driving at night), creating deep shadows, and encouraging neighbors to keep blinds and shutters closed (making life safer for those up to no good).

Patric submitted a proposal to the Mayor's Competition for Better Government and was one of the finalists. Johnstone points out that the city's outdoor lighting is wasteful -- sending more light up into the clouds or into the eyes of drivers rather than directing it all toward the ground where it does some good. Increasingly, cities and businesses are going to full-cutoff lighting -- the light source is recessed inside a reflective fixture, providing better lighting on the ground for lower cost, because all the light goes where it's supposed to go. I notice that new businesses are installing full-cutoff lighting, not because they're required to, but because it reduces their cost. (See the Lowe's at 15th & Yale as an example. An apartment building at 13th & Elgin uses wall-mounted full-cutoff lights to provide good lighting at ground level without blinding the residents indoors or the neighbors.)

Patric has endorsed switching off most of the lights along the expressways, while leaving ramps, overpasses, and intersections lit. This is the standard practice outside metropolitan areas. From a letter he's submitted to the Tulsa Whirled:

When the Texas Department of Transportation began replacing lights on highways and signs with highly reflective microprismatic markings ("passive" illumination), their utility bills began to plunge. The doom-and-gloom predictions of decreased safety never materialized, as fewer drivers were tempted to speed beyond their headlights (as they often do with continuously-lighted highways.) Texas was also the first state in the region to require new streetlighting only be used when the task couldn’t be accomplished by more economical means.

National highway safety studies have found no real benefits to motorists
with continuous streetlighting, so this is one false sense of security
we can safely discard now that we can no longer afford it.

Here's a link to some examples of good and bad lighting. And here's a link to more.

Patric is also concerned about the fad of using "acorn" lights to lend authenticity to historic areas. Acorn lights are designed to look like gas streetlights of long ago, but the lamp is a modern sodium light with a bright pink glare. I was once driving through a small town in southwestern Oklahoma (Fletcher, I think it was), and there were acorn lamps at 20 foot intervals all along the main street, making it impossible to get a good look at the historic buildings allegedly enhanced by the lighting. There are full-cutoff lights designed with a historic appearance, and they don't cost any more than the bad lights.

Now that budgets are tight, it's a good time to realize that well-designed lighting costs no more than bad lighting to install, and is far cheaper to operate and maintain as it does a better job of providing for safety, security, and comfort.

UPDATE: Here are some more photos illustrating good and bad outdoor lighting practices. Here are some examples from New York state. And here are some more, with an explanation of how glare impedes visibility:

Since the eye has an effective ability to discern details in a scene if the range in brightness (the contrast) is about 10 to 1 or less, it is important that when driving, important details such as the roadway or parked cars not be masked by bright, glary light bulbs. If unshielded or poorly-aimed lights are in view of drivers, then the lights set the upper brightness range - things 10 times less bright like potholes, trees or pedestrians become featureless. The following are examples where such situations occur. ...

Efficient light fixture design puts all of the light where it is needed: on the road, vehicles, and pedestrians. Shielded, full cutoff and properly aimed lights are generally not part of the driver's view, so the 10:1 brightness range occurs entirely on the ground between cars, trees, pedestrians, etc.

The Illumination Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) is the principal technical body that establishes indoor and outdoor illumination requirements. The IESNA recently revised its current recommended practices for roadway lighting. Its guide ANSI/IESNA RP-8-00 now includes strong recommendations that all streetlights be fully shielded. These modern standards seek to reduce glare for drivers and pedestrians, which improves visibility and, hence, safety. The reduction of glare is far more important to visibility than the absolute illumination level. Glare reduction is especially important for older drivers.

And here's an article about one town in Idaho which is improving public and private outdoor lighting.

JOAs and the Tribune

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Dustbury has an recent item about the dispute between Seattle's two daily papers, the Times and the Post-Intelligencer. The two papers have a joint operating agreement (JOA) -- content is handled separately, but production circulation, and advertising are handled jointly. The Times wants out, but a judge ruled that the terms for exiting the agreement had not been met. The Seattle JOA is relatively young -- 20 years. The Dustbury entry has more about JOAs and links to a couple of stories and comments, and also remembers the JOA linking the Tulsa Whirled and the late, lamented Tulsa Tribune. There's another entry on Dustbury remembering the Tribune, with a tantalizing quote from a 1961 speech by publisher Jenkin Lloyd Jones entitled "Who Is Tampering with the Soul of America?" and subtitled "The Stomach-Turning Point". (Anyone have the full text?)

Here's a brief history of the Tribune-Whirled JOA. It's from memory, so please write me at blog at batesline dot com with corrections:

In the early '40s, the Tribune was in difficult financial circumstances, made more difficult by the economy of the Great Depression. To keep it from going under, the Tribune formed a JOA with the Whirled about 1943, ending head-to-head competition. The Tribune became an afternoon paper, publishing six days a week, leaving the lucrative Sunday and morning editions to the Whirled.

The JOA was to run until 1996, and as that year approached the Tribune began to position itself for independence, modernizing its appearance (including an ill-advised change to its masthead font, which was later reversed), and trying to build circulation. Anyone else remember the commercials with Debbie Campbell singing on a porch swing --

Can't wait to get my Tribune,
it's a fresh point of view.
It's everything that's Tulsa;
where to go and what to do. ...
I can read when I want to,
Anywhere that I choose.
So bring me the Tulsa Tribune!
It's my kind of news!

(If anyone has the rest of the lyrics or an actual recording, send it along and I'll post it.)

But in early 1992, the Tribune was not ready to go it alone. Perhaps the oil bust of the '80s and the national recession of the early '90s created too much drag. Sometime that spring, the Whirled publisher made it known that he was not interested in renewing the JOA when it expired. The Tribune could try to prepare to compete head-to-head, but the success was unlikely, and the paper's owners could see a lingering demise looming -- losing money and readers as the paper's talented staff moved on to longer-term job prospects. Rather than slowly bleeding to death, the Tribune shut down gracefully on September 30, 1992. In an interview with the TU student newspaper a month later Jenk Jones, Jr., said that the death of the Tribune was ultimately the decision of one man, Whirled publisher Robert Lorton. If the Whirled had been willing to renew the JOA, both papers might still be in business.

I grew up with the Tribune. Dad didn't have time to read the paper during the day, so we got the Sunday Whirled and the Tribune through the week. When I went away to college I subscribed to the Tribune by mail and was proud to leave it on the living room table next to the Boston Globe and the New York Times. When the Whirled shut down the Tribune, I swore I'd never subscribe to the Whirled again, and so far I haven't. I've since met a number of people, from across the political spectrum, who made the same decision.

The Tribune was the first Tulsa paper to have a second Op-Ed page, a second comics page, a special weekly feature section ("Innovate"), guest editorials, call-the-editor, color photos, a scoreboard page, and a modern look. The Whirled didn't bother to update its look until a month after the Tribune was dead. The Whirled did take on a few old Tribune staffers, including columnist Jay Cronley and cartoonist David Simpson, but working for the Whirled seems to have drained the humor out of them. I am looking at a compilation of Simpson's work at the Tribune in the late '70s, and many of the cartoons are still laugh-out-loud funny. Nowadays, Cronley and Simpson are rarely funny, more often just cranky.

Just a few years after the Tribune was closed, and about the time the JOA was set to expire, the World Wide Web came into being and London's Daily Telegraph began publishing an electronic version. I have often wondered whether the Tribune might have soldiered on as a web-based newspaper. They were always the first to try something new, and I think they would have beaten the Whirled onto the web and could have made a successful venture out of it.

The results of a Google search for references to the Tribune were disproportionately about the newspaper's shameful involvement in the 1921 Race Riot. That's understandable, but sad that the newspaper's better days are not remembered on the web.

Experimenting with vagrancy


Several items related to vagrancy:

Tom McCloud, the publisher of Community Spirit magazine, has spent the last four days on the streets to try to understand that way of life on the inside. He has written about his experiences on the magazine's website. Among other revelations, it turns out there's a tent city behind Newblock Park.

Tulsa Today has an interview with the head of the Day Center for the Homeless, which is eye-opening. The signals from Sandra Holden, Executive Director, are mixed. At one point she seems to be pointing to mental illness and the loss (or rejection) of family support as the cause for homelessness, at other times she suggests it's a lack of subsidized housing. Perhaps there are two different groups -- those who can't seem to find affordable housing, but want it and would use it responsibly, and those who would still be vagrants even if they were offered a permanent place to live. Instead of lumping all "homeless" into one big category, perhaps our social service agencies and church assistance programs should learn to make distinctions.

Meanwhile a former Wall Street Journal reporter writes about his migratory lifestyle in USA Today:

I could be one of many vacationers or weekend campers traveling in my clean, red, 5-year-old truck with pickup shell. But this has been my daily routine for 15 months now. On June 2, 2002, I gave up my $750-a-month apartment in Palm Springs, Calif., and put most of my belongings in storage to save money by living out of my truck. I thought it would be for the summer until the economy rebounded and I got public relations consulting and freelance writing work or a full-time job in the field. I never realized then that summer camping would go into fall and then the chill of winter, even in Southern California, then spring, then summer again.

Wylie in Norman has no sympathy for this writer: He says a free-lance writer or free-lance anything should have another trade to fall back on, given the uncertainty of income; he should be willing to leave California for a part of the country with more opportunities, and he should be willing to do jobs in fields other than PR, such as working in a retail store.

Another Okie blogger, Charles Hill of dustbury.com, has a comment too.

The saga of former WSJ staffer turned free-lancer turned sort-of-homeless person Les Gapay has gotten some play in blogdom. I didn't pay much attention to it for reasons which can literally be summed up as "been there, done that": like many others, I moved to California in the late Eighties, and things went bust rather quickly, prompting me, after a period of living out of my car, to do a reverse Tom Joad, rationalizing that if I'm gonna be broke, it's less painful, or at least less expensive, to be broke in Oklahoma.

Finally, here's something I blogged back in May on the subject, which includes a link to John 3:16 Mission's "8 Ways to Help the Homeless".

The forgotten commissioner


Fearful of well-financed opposition when she runs for a full term next year, County Commissioner Randi Miller voted back in July to send a billion-dollar tax increase to the voters, despite her objections to the structure of the ballot, her objections to many of the projects, and her concerns about issues of governance and oversight. By declining to vote against the logrolled ballot, she gave the vote yes forces the gift of unanimity, allowing them to claim that all elected officials supported this package.

Miller went so far as to pose smiling for a photo, standing between Commissioner Wilbert Collins and Mayor Bill LaFortune behind a giant "Vote Yes" banner. Her appearance in the photo was not mentioned in the photo caption or the accompanying news story.

In return for her compliance with the powers that be against her better judgment, Commissioner Miller has not been treated with respect by her colleagues or by the news media. She was excluded from a Tulsa Press Club event the day after the vote at which her two colleagues spoke (in apparent violation of the Open Meetings Act). At that event Commissioner Collins and Commissioner Bob Dick mentioned separate discussions with bond consultant John Piercey (Bob Dick's "dear friend") and attorney Tom Hilborne about the issuance of revenue anticipation bonds tied to the new sales taxes. Evidently Commissioner Miller is going to be left out of that loop as well.

Last Sunday, Whirled editor Ken Neal singled her out for criticism:

The opposition of these public figures is exceptionally discouraging, as well as that of a lesser light, County Commissioner Randi Miller who is still struggling to learn what a county commissioner does. ...

It makes you wonder how Inhofe, Roberts, Miller, et al, rationalize their opposition. Are they against American? New jobs? Higher education? More likely, they all are playing petty political games, their opposition based more on personality snits than rational thought.

What does a county commissioner do, Ken? She does as she's told, dadgum it! Off with the shoes and back in the kitchen, Randi!

So for all Miller's work to avoid being targeted, she's got a big red bullseye on her. She's made it known that she doesn't like many things about the way the County does business -- the lack of openness, the cozy deals, the disregard for the interests of homeowners.

If custom is followed, Miller, as commissioner for District 2, should take over in January as Chairman of the County Commission. As Chairman, she would have the power to appoint new members to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment, and the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, which runs the fairgrounds. Commissioners Dick and Collins may well decide to keep the chairmanship within their two-man majority caucus, and even if they elect Miller, they may deny her her choices to serve on county boards and commissions. This is something to watch carefully, as it will reveal whether Dick and Collins are committed to honest government or will rig the system to suit themselves and their friends.

Appointments to the public trust for the new sales taxes will be another early indication of the manner in which the County will manage their billion-dollar blank check. The trust will have among its trustees the county commissioners, the Mayor of Tulsa, and three suburban Tulsa County mayors, appointed by the Chairman of the County Commission. I have seen nothing in writing that defines the terms of the suburban mayor trustees and whether the terms will be staggered in any way. It's possible that Collins, the current Chairman, will name all three suburban mayor trustees, and with Dick's concurrence, they would control five of the seven seats on the trust, easily overruling any objections from LaFortune or Miller. The fair way to handle it -- give each commissioner one appointment, and stagger terms so that each seat will come up for reappointment when the originally appointing commissioner will be chairman.

Let's watch carefully and see if Collins and Dick will play fair, or if they will effectively disenfranchise one-third of Tulsa County's population.

As for Commissioner Randi Miller: She's got nothing to gain by complying meekly with the majority. If she's going to be outvoted 2-1, she may as well make some noise about it, rather than acquiesce in a 3-0 vote for the sake of "consensus".

The Oklahoma Capitalist


A reader, Rob Abeira, calls my attention to an interesting website, The Oklahoma Capitalist, with this note:

I apologize for the spam, but I thought that since you opposed Vision 2025, which was passed on Sept 9, you might be wondering what to do next. Well, the battle may be over but the war for economic freedom in Oklahoma rages on. Even though you lost this particular fight in Tulsa, voters in Stevens County succeeded in defeating a tax hike the same day! There is hope yet! And Oklahomans will need it, as Governor Henry prepares his Oklahoma's EDGE economic development plan for announcement in November, likely to be followed by an effort to push it through the Legislature in the next session. The Governor's plan is sure to be a repeat of the Vision 2025 basic concept at the statewide level.

I invite you to visit www.oklahomacapitalist.com to keep up with developments in this situation, and resources for fighting the corporate welfare, increased taxes and redistribution of property that have come to be the hallmark of government-run "economic development" programs. Such programs
represent fascism, NOT Capitalism. Capitalism requires FREEDOM, which is the exact opposite of what people like Kirk Humphreys, Bill LaFortune and Brad
Henry want for Oklahomans! I also urge you to join the Oklahoma Capitalists email group as a resource for networking, information, and grass-roots activism at the speed of email! To subscribe, visit groups.yahoo.com/group/oklahomacapitalists.

Don't give up the fight! Let's continue to work together for economic freedom for Oklahomans!

Rob Abiera

I think Rob is probably right when he says that the Governor's plan will be about raising taxes for "economic development". I was interested to see that the Tulsa members of the governor's committee were all major supporters of Vision 2025. So at a time when we need to reduce taxes and increase economic liberty, we'll be told that higher taxes are the answer, and I suppose that many Republicans will go along with it, since they already argued that tax increases were necessary for Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Anyway, check out the site. On the home page, there's a link to a story about Moshe Tal's fight against corporate welfare for Bass Pro Shops.

Time to reform the County Commission


One of Tulsa's most effective neighborhood leaders calls for reform of county government in yesterday's Whirled letters column:

The county commission form of government has brought more shame than pride to Oklahoma for many years. Many Tulsa County citizens believe it is time for a change to a county council form of government. Citizens throughout the county would be better and more fairly represented.

It is detrimental to permit one commissioner to wield most of or all the power in county government as it often happens in our state.

Who wields the most power in many counties? The commissioner who has been in public office too long. A second commissioner is often bargained with or bought for support and leaving the third commissioner's constituents to suffer for not participating with the power commissioner and the "good old boy gang."

When repairs are needed in any level of our government, we should promote and participate in making the repairs.

Jim Graham, Tulsa

Back in 1992, a County Home Rule act was passed which would allow only Tulsa County the right to enact a charter. In 1994, Tulsa County voters approved the development of a charter by a vote of 96,951 to 61,846.

The following year, the home rule act was struck down by the appeals court as a "special law", making an unconstitutional distinction by effectively allowing Tulsa County to pass a charter while forbidding the same right to Oklahoma County. The County Commission chose not to appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and the charter commission folded its tents shortly thereafter. Throughout the process, the Tulsa Whirled was a major supporter of county government reform in its editorial columns.

It's a shame that we failed to reform county government before entrusting it with a billion dollars. We're putting a lot of weight on a structure that wasn't designed for anything more than building two-lane roads. As Jim's letter points out, the dynamics of such a small legislative body guarantees that one-third of the public will be cut out of the decision-making process. More about county government to come.

Nej-sayers triumph


It's a familiar story: The newspapers nag relentlessly, the politicians and the political parties trumpet their support. Everyone is voting yes. It's all about jobs. Only kneejerk naysayers would be so selfish, so unpatriotic as to oppose this progressive measure.

No, not Tulsa. Sweden. And today the Swedish people voted overwhelmingly against joining the European Monetary Union, which would have meant discarding their own currency and control over their own monetary and economic policy and adopting the Euro. The Euro has now been rejected by voters in the two countries (Denmark and Sweden) that allowed their voters to make the decision. In both cases, well financed "vote yes" campaigns, with the support of the establishment, the major media, major political parties and big business, were defeated by grass-roots opposition campaigns which cut across ideological lines. But the pro-Euro forces in Denmark are already plotting a second attempt, and will no doubt keep trying until they wear down the populace and get it passed.

In Sweden, the opposition withstood a wave of sympathy following the death of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was stabbed in the chest in a Stockholm department store last Wednesday. Lindh was a leading spokesman in favor of adopting the Euro.

Before the vote, left-wing British newspaper the Grauniad had this to say about the two sides:

The yes camp has most of the money. In the seat pockets on trains, there is a free glossy magazine, designed to look like "OK!" or "Hello!". It is called "Yes!" At yes rallies, young women wearing Yes! anoraks and carrying Yes! satchels hand out free sandwiches and bottled water to voters. Business leaders stand four square behind [Prime Minister Goran] Persson. Unlike Britain, almost all the other mainstream political parties are backing the yes campaign. Unlike [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, Persson has not had a pack of viscerally anti-EU newspaper proprietors, editors and columnists snapping at his heels. There's no Daily Mail in Sweden.

There has been a problem. While the ruling business, media and political elite has been marching towards the single currency, the majority of the voters, and many of the members of the pro-euro parties, have been marching in the opposite direction. The social democrats have been split; Persson's party has a No! campaign as well as Yes! campaign, and in an act of some humiliation for the leader, the party treasury was forced to allocate funds to both sides. Five of Persson's own cabinet ministers have publicly said they are against Sweden joining the euro, although they have agreed not to take part in the no campaign.

The other parties are split as well. And what should make Britain's political establishment sit up and take notice is that opponents are not divided, and allies not united, along traditional, right-left lines. Something remarkable emerged in Sweden's euro debate, the crystallisation of a new set of political dividing lines, in which right-wing and left-wing activists find themselves in alliance against powerful, cross-border, private-public bureaucracies. On one side, the small, the local, the personal, the individual, the accessible, the familiar, the inherited; on the other, the big, the transnational, the impersonal, the mass, the remote, the alien, the acquired.

Drawing the comparison to Tulsa's recent vote: Some high-ranking politicians in Sweden's ruling party were willing to oppose their own prime minister for the sake of principle. Here in Tulsa, the only open opposition from elected officials came from one State Senator and one Glenpool City Councilor. A lot of high-ranking elected officials from our "ruling party" privately opposed the tax measure, but either out of fear of political reprisal or out of a desire not to undermine Mayor LaFortune, they remained silent.

As in Sweden, this campaign polarized Tulsa's politics in a way that brought left and right together on both sides of the issue, with the more activist-minded in both parties fighting against country-club Republicans and country-club Democrats.

What would Whirled editorial page editor Ken Neal's counterpart in Sweden have to say about all this? Thanks to the Babelfish Swedish Chef translator, we don't have to guess:

Emeed zee smesheeng veen ooff Feesiun 2025 lest veek, zeere-a vere-a sume-a deeseppuintments.

Zee fuoor meesoores iech vere-a epprufed by et leest 60 percent ooff neerly 129,000 futers. Boot ceefic leeders hed tu puny up mure-a thun $700,000 tu prumute-a zee prugrem und persooede-a futers tu epprufe-a a 1 percent increese-a in zee cuoonty seles tex.

Thet sooggests thet mooch muney oor mure-a veell be-a needed uny teeme-a zee ceety oor cuoonty needs ceefic imprufements. It tekes thet mooch tu oofercume-a ebuoot 50,000 ceetizens vhu veell fute-a egeeenst elmust unytheeng. Bork Bork Bork!

Bork bork bork, indeed. That makes more sense than it did in the original.

A reader writes:

Last evening I watched the Channel 6 news. A lot of the newscast was eaten up by coverage of the big football game between Union and Jenks. It was interesting.

A reporter noted that Union was showing off what the reporter referred to as "$2 million dollar's worth of new toys." She was, of course, talking about Union High's massive football stadium upgrades. Union schools were just voted $1.4 million in extra tax money from Vision for textbooks the district supposedly can't afford. But they can, apparently, afford plenty of very expensive "toys."

On the Jenks side of things, the reporter said Jenks will soon be seeking a $2.2 million bond issue in order to fund stadium upgrades and build a new weight facility. Vision will provide Jenks schools nearly a million dollars in extra tax money. Exactly three days after the vote, Jenks was reported to be seeking another $2.2 million dollars. As I said, the public schools' appetite for money cannot be satisfied.

On a humorous note, we can wave bye-bye to Ken Neal's argument that raising sales taxes paves the road to lower property taxes. Jenks has already shot that down---and it wasted no time in the process.

Back in the '70s at Catoosa, where my mother taught kindergarten, it was typical for the school board to fund improvements to high school sports facilities while neglecting the needs of the elementary school. Lights for the baseball field came ahead of air conditioning for the elementary school, which had to wait for years. These days, the athletic budget still gets top priority, except now the school board will point to their neglect of basic needs, blame the taxpayers, and plead for a tax increase "for the children."

Wrangler closing


Things are tough all over Oklahoma. I missed this July 29 story, but came across it today, browsing through some other Oklahoma blogs.

More than 650 employees of Seminole's two Wrangler facilities received word Monday that they will be dismissed while 250-300 workers will keep their jobs. ...

In the letter to Choate, the company indicated 663 employees will be affected by the reduction. Those positions include 507 sewing machine operators, 52 laundry positions, 23 quality assurance positions, 19 supervisors, 16 mechanics, 11 general labor positions, 10 clerical employees and various other management and administrative positions. The layoffs become effective Sept. 26.

"The distribution center will remain open, however, the laundry facility in the back of the building will close," [Seminole City Manager] Saxon said. ...

"It basically all boiled down to we had more capacity than what we needed for production," [Corporate HR VP Sam Tucker] said. "We were forced to look at the facilities with the highest costs. This, in no way, is a reflection on the people of Seminole. They have done great work for us."

The story went on to say that the jobs are probably headed to Mexico, and that even with the loss of 650 jobs, the 250 to 300 remaining will continue to make Wrangler Seminole's largest employer. Talk about overdependent on one company.

Found the story through JMBzine, which has an entry about this week's demonstration at the plant.

This morning at 8:46 am local time, Trinity Episcopal Church will host a choral concert to remember the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Coventry Chorale and singers from other Tulsa choirs will present Gabriel Faure's Requiem. Admission is free.

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

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