Tulsa: March 2004 Archives

BitWeever has analyzed the list of Tulsans contributing to presidential campaigns. Interesting reading -- no Tulsa contributors to Kerry are listed -- and a hat tip to Okie Doke, who linked the article in his weekly round up of Oklahoma blogs.



Dustbury.com's Charles G. Hill has a guest entry over on the Dawn Patrol about Oklahoma City's telephone exchanges. Oklahoma City had some pretty good ones: Shadyside, Swift, Orange, Prospect. Someone had the job of coming up with these names.

For the record, here's what I remember of the Tulsa-area prefixes from 1969, when we moved here:

ADams-4 (far east Tulsa)
AMherst-6 (Catoosa)
CRestview-2 (Owasso)
HIckory-5 (west Tulsa)
LUther (downtown)
RIverside (near the river)
TEmple (near-east Tulsa)

Can't remember the exchange names for Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Sperry, north Tulsa (425 -- was it LAkeview, JAsper, or something else?), or Jenks. Bixby, Bixby North, and Broken Arrow didn't have named
exchanges since they weren't (and aren't) served by Southwestern Bell. (Please e-mail me with additions and corrections.)

The exchange map from the phone book back then is still burned into my brain. Bixby, Bixby North, and BA were shown as solid black shapes separated (out of fellowship?) from the interlocking exchanges of Ma Bell. The next page was the toll chart, warning Catoosa phone subscribers that a call to Sapulpa costs extra.

The first Tulsa exchange without a name, as far as I can recall, was 560, which was used by Cities Service for their headquarters starting in the early '70s. At the same time, the phone book stopped referring to named exchanges and used all-numeric, um, numbers.

On a related note, I have never had a phone number without a zero or a one somewhere in it, which means I've never been able to turn my phone number into a word. My favorite in that category was GARAGES -- the phone number of a garage construction company that advertised on Cubs TV broadcasts (another passion of my Pogo-loving Grandma). Tulsans of a certain age will remember a verbal phone number of ill repute.

Nice to see that the concern I had about taxpayers getting stuck with the bill -- used by KJRH on TV Thursday -- is shared by that well-known cabal of naysayers, the Tulsa Whirled Editorial Board:

Gray's decision is more good news for a Tulsa that seems to be headed in the right direction. Gray says that the $26 million sculpture is privately funded and that an endowment will be established to take care of the long-term maintenance.

We are confident that Gray can be trusted. Nevertheless, it would behoove city leaders to acquire some guarantees. What the city does not want to face is making a commitment to the sculpture and then being pressured for tax dollars to complete it. Such a guarantee would show no disrespect to Gray or those involved in the private funding. It simply makes good business sense -- for all parties.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and I'm sure they'd say the same about me.



I feel used. It's my own fault. I knew what they were after, and I let them come out and talk to me anyway. I could have said I was too busy, because I was, but I'm a soft touch, especially when it's the dulcet tones of KJRH's Omadalle Nelson coming through the phone.

She said she'd read my entries about "The American" and had the impression I wasn't supportive of the colossal statue. I told her I supported it, and was pleased that Tulsa would be getting a major tourist attraction that would be privately financed. I confessed that I was amused at all the skepticism about economic impact being voiced by people who weren't asking skeptical questions last fall about the impact claimed by Vision 2025's supporters. The only concern I had about the project is what would happen in the event that the backers couldn't complete the project or couldn't maintain it over time -- would taxpayers get stuck with the bill?

That's evidently what she (or her producer) was after -- something negative to balance out the piece, create a sense of controversy -- and no doubt that's why she called me. We met up not far from where I work and talked for several minutes. I mentioned my support for the project, my support for the idea of a privately-funded project, and the idea that this statue could help define Tulsa in the world's view as the place to come to experience American Indian culture and history.

A reader sends a link to this CNN story about a proposal to build a 305-foot-tall fiberglass and steel statue of Abraham Lincoln, which would dwarf "The American" -- the 220-foot-tall statue honoring American Indians which will be built in Tulsa. The statue would be built in Lincoln, Illinois, a town founded by Abraham Lincoln:

In the first phase of the project, the steel and fiberglass statue would be built, patterned after a Lloyd Ostendorf painting that shows Lincoln christening the town with watermelon juice in 1853, Steffens said.

Though organizers hope to match the height of the Statue of Liberty, Steffens said the Lincoln statue may be smaller because of air traffic and the tornadoes that threaten the area every spring.

And it looks like their statue will be in color. Boosters are looking for corporate investors, and may be willing to sell naming rights. Lincoln could end up looking like a NASCAR driver with all the corporate logos on his jacket.

Big Indian coming to Tulsa?


There's a press conference tomorrow at 2:30 at the Central Library with sculptor Shan Gray, and it's almost certainly going to be to announce that the monumental statue "The American" will be built in Tulsa.

Where in Tulsa remains an open question, with some contending for the Osage Hills, some for just north of downtown, some for the west bank of the River. Urban Tulsa this week has a list of proposed sites.

Barry Friedman of Urban Tulsa also takes a closer look at the finances for the project and its expected economic impact to the city.

Surprising some, was not that the project’s team’s inflated the economic impact—publicists and marketing people have been known to do that—but that Tulsa city officials and their mouthpiece daily paper failed to publically question the numbers. Further, no official wondered whether the artist, who heretofore hadn’t designed anything taller than 18 feet, can even bring the 176-foot American to fruition.

Barry's got it backwards: Some city officials are the mouthpiece for the Tulsa Whirled and the elite group it represents, not the other way around. But it's heartening to see some skepticism applied to economic impact numbers and big dreams.

The Tulsa Development Authority, the local urban renewal quango, is updating its plans, and the TDA is inviting public input. An open house will be held at the TDA offices on March 30 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Plans are also available for public inspection this week during normal office hours. The covered areas include everything within the Inner Dispersal Loop; just east of the loop, between I-244, 11th Street, and Rockford; and just north of the loop, between the old Midland Valley tracks, Pine Street, and US 75. Anyone concerned about downtown and near-downtown redevelopment should take time to review the plan changes and express an opinion. The TDA acquires property (sometimes from a willing seller, often by eminent domain), demolishes buildings, and resells land to try to encourage development in accordance with its plans. Because of the property the authority owns, and its ability to acquire more, the TDA's decisions will have an enormous impact on downtown's future, through projects like the East Village redevelopment.

In recent years, the philosophy of urban renewal has changed dramatically, and for the better, as you can see in this Request for Proposals for downtown residential development -- one quarter of a proposal's "grade" will have to do with how well it "promotes compatibility with the character of an urban, pedestrian friendly neighborhood" and how well it contributes "to downtown vitality."

Will downtown once again be a vibrant, diverse, urban place, or will it become another outpost of suburbia? Don't just stay tuned, come down, form an opinion and have a say.

Over at Tulsa Today, David Arnett asks whether we've been getting our money's worth from the City's contract with the Chamber for economic development:

For the last twenty years or so the primary publicly funded local economic development effort has been conducted by the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce at a cost of over $70 million. Any local expenditure for that long at that level begs the question of value received. Is Tulsa now economically developed and a center for conventions and visitors? That is the objective of the annual contract the Chamber executes in behalf of the City of Tulsa at a rate of approximately $3 million per year. If they are not doing the job, should we fire them?

A few months ago, Chamber Senior Vice President Mickey Thompson took questions at a meeting of the Republican Men’s Club where he publicly asserted that “big business is more important to Tulsa’s economic development than small business.” The crowd groaned as most knew that statement to be false. Big business is defined as more than 200 employees, but the backbone of Tulsa’s economy has always been small business. Economists by the thousands will testify that small business generates faster higher quality economic growth than big business.

What drives the Chamber to focus on big business? When they land a big business, they make a bigger splash. And the pursuit is more glamorous, too. There's more travel, more expensive lunches. It's all much more exciting than lobbying legislators to make Oklahoma a better place for all sorts of businesses.

I wrote back during the Vision 2025 campaign about the importance of small businesses to our economy. Go back and read that.

Recall also that Mickey Thompson confessed during the Vision 2025 campaign that he had no idea how to regain the thousands of high-tech jobs Tulsa has lost over the last few years.

Arnett asks if it's time to give economic development responsibilities to some other organization:

Maybe the City of Tulsa should change contractors. Maybe City Government should execute the function in-house. Maybe Tulsa County should establish an economic development office or with the City create a cooperative effort. Whatever the plan, results are critical. It is proper for public officials to monitor and make organizational changes when necessary to execute this important public business.

If the people of Tulsa County are willing to fund economic development, maybe it is time to get serious. What about a revolving fund that would provide business development loans to local small businesses for expansion and real economic growth? With $350 million (Boeing's package), we could help a lot of local businesses.

And that raises the question of who would control this fund. Handled honestly, it could do a lot of good, but it could also be used to repay political favors.

(I can't remember the details, but for some reason M.Y. Cab, a Tulsa company that made headlines in the '80s, comes to mind. Anyone remember?)

I'll repeat my call for a private venture capital fund for Tulsa entrepreneurs, run by people who understand technology and understand business, with no other purpose than to maximize their investor's return. Make it inexpensive enough so many Tulsans would participate, even if only out of love for our city rather than the expectation of a return on investment.

Here's another item from the colorful 1988 Tulsa city elections:

Gene C. Burns, better known as Accountability Burns, also has called himself A. B. Einstein IV, Einstein Belcher Burns, and Tulsa's Man from MARS.

His name change to Accountability, he says, "is in honor of Watergate, obviously. Accountability in government is my program."

He last ran for City Auditor in 2000, as a Democrat against incumbent Phil Wood. You see him around downtown, where he lives. I last bumped into him in a break room at TCC's downtown campus, shortly after I lost an election.

A co-worker had a big file of newspaper clippings about and correspondence with Accountability. He used to apply for jobs with the company, typing cover letters in the lobby. He has a very creative approach to phonetic spelling, and some of the engineers struck up a correspondence, replying to his missives in the same style.

Speaking of colorful characters like Virginia "Blue Jeans" Jenner, here's another find from my friend's basement, a political ad from page 2 B of the Monday, February 15, 1988, edition of the late great Tulsa Tribune, in which she attacked Oral Roberts, State Senate President Pro Tempore Rodger Randle, and Water & Sewer Commissioner Patty Eaton. (Click here for a full-sized image.)

(I hasten to add that I don't endorse any of the views in the ad -- far from it -- which is presented solely for historical and entertainment value.) Here's the punch line of the ad:

To stop husband and wife teams benefitting at taxpayer expense, get your Irish up and vote for this dental hygienist who knows how to deal with folks who talk out of both sides of their mouth. I'll give a lottery instead of a tax hike. 50 percent women appointments and ward government. Merge ORU and UCT and retire Oral.

Love always,
Virginia Jenner
Democrat for Mayor of Tulsa

This would have been just before the primary of what was to be the last election under the old city charter. Coincidentally, on the same page there's an article about a Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce committee writing a new city charter, with the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and the Northeast Oklahoma Labor Council, that they hoped to get on the ballot by the summer:

Under the chamber proposal, the mayor would be elected citywide to a four-year term. Council members would be elected from districts, with a few elected from larger, regional districts. Council members would be part-time and serve four-year terms.

The chamber didn't quite get their way, but isn't it odd that government would turn over the responsibility for developing the basic law of our city to unelected, private organizations?

Here's an interesting find that popped up in Google: The Tulsa Metro Chamber's political directory and legislative agenda for 2003. It's a bit outdated and there are a few inaccuracies (for example, they show Susan Savage as an elected official -- she's not, Secretary of State is an appointed position), but it lists contact info for the Tulsa area's legislative delegation and local government officials. It also has a list of the names and occupations of its executive committee and board members and lists their legislative goals for last year.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa category from March 2004.

Tulsa: January 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa: April 2004 is the next archive.

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