Tulsa: August 2005 Archives

I've been playing around with the Live365 online music service. In exchange for free registration, you get access to hundreds of individually programmed stations. There are some stations available only to paying premium customers. I've sampled traditional country, '80s New Wave (the soundtrack of my high school and college years), '60s oldies, among others.

Live365 now offers a weekly podcast, spotlighting an independent music label. This week's "SPOTcast" consists of three tracks from artists on Digital Musicworks International. The first single is "Better Watch Out," lead track from Tulsa power-pop artist Dwight Twilley's new album, 47 Moons. I wrote last week about Twilley's two free concerts in Tulsa, this coming Friday and Saturday. If you want to get a sense of the Twilley sound, you can download this "rockabilly-fueled romp," plus songs by DMI artists Redlightmusic and Headrush, via this link (15MB MP3 file).

There's a bit on the podcast, about 10 minutes in, about what makes DMI special: They don't manufacture and ship CDs. All their sales are through online music stores. The customer saves money -- an album costs $10 instead of $16 or more -- and the artist gets paid more than in a normal record deal.

UPDATED 8/20/2005 with contact information for Jason Aamodt, the attorney in the class-action lawsuit against AEP/PSO.

Tonight's meeting regarding AEP/PSO's "vegetation management" policy drew about 200 homeowners to the Whiteside Park gym. There was a little personal irony in the locale -- two years ago, in the midst of a two-day-long power outage, we held my son's seventh birthday party in that same gym, a welcome relief from the lack of air conditioning at home.

We heard from some of the homeowners who organized the meeting, the attorney representing homeowners in a class action lawsuit regarding AEP/PSO's tree-trimming policy, Mayor Bill LaFortune, AEP/PSO's local distribution manager, a spokesman for the Corporation Commission, and AEP/PSO's local forestry supervisor.

That last speaker seems to be the key person to contact if you're having a problem with tree-trimming crews overstepping their bounds, doing damage to your property, refusing to clean up, or causing other problems. Here is his contact info:

Richard Bewley
Certified Arborist
Forestry Supervisor
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
212 E 6th St
Tulsa OK 74119-1295

work: 918-599-2636
fax: 918-599-2300
cell: 918-231-0039

There seem to be two factors contributing to the wanton removal and improper cutting back of trees by AEP/PSO -- AEP/PSO's interpretation of a Corporation Commission rule, and AEP/PSO's management of their tree-removal subcontractor, Asplundh.

(1) The Corporation Commission proposed and the Legislature approved a rule requiring vegetation management on a four-year cycle, meaning that at least once every four years, every wire would be checked and kept clear from vegetation. AEP/PSO has taken that rule and decided to trim every tree so that it will be at least four years until it could grow back into the lines. In most cases, that means removal if it's in the utility's easement. Everyone besides AEP/PSO thinks the utility has misinterpreted the rule in a way that reduces its costs.

(2) Asplundh, AEP/PSO's tree-trimming contractor, has 145 work crews operating in the Tulsa area. These are supervised by 8 AEP/PSO foresters (5 of whom are certified arborists) -- these 8 foresters audit the work done by the 145 crews. The Mayor said that he observed trees trimmed carefully on one block then butchered the next block over. Quality seems to vary widely from crew to crew, and with only eight overseers, it would be hard to catch a crew that is doing a poor job. Now that we know who is in charge of vegetation management, homeowners can call Mr. Bewley to report any problems with tree-trimming crews.

(There were complaints that in some of Asplundh's crews, none of the workers spoke English, making it impossible for homeowners to communicate their concerns to the crew, and there was some speculation about the legal status of many of the workers.)

Know your rights regarding tree removal, and if the work crew isn't respecting your rights, call Mr. Bewley and let him know.

Meanwhile, there is a class-action lawsuit pending against AEP/PSO. The attorney, Jason Aamodt, said that they would seek an agreement with AEP/PSO for a 30-day moratorium on tree removal to prevent further destruction of our urban forest while these issues are worked out.

Mr. Aamodt is collecting complaints about AEP/PSO's tree trimming and removal. His contact information:

Jason Aamodt
Miller Keffer Bullock Pedigo
222 South Kenosha Avenue
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74120
(918) 584-2001
(918) 743-6689

There was some discussion of burying the lines. AEP/PSO has a pilot program in east Tulsa, using directional boring to minimize disturbance of the surface. They're spending about $1 million on it. It's estimated to cost $600,000 per mile to put a power line underground. AEP/PSO has proposed to the Corporation Commission that they bury the lines, but of course they've also proposed the corresponding rate hikes to cover the cost.

We've already had an Asplundh crew in our backyard, last year, and I think we had one of the better ones. They were careful in their trimming, only removed trees that really needed to go, and they were kind enough to trim some branches around the drop to our house, even though they aren't required to do that. We were sorry to lose the shade -- even more sorry this year, as the weeds love the extra sunlight -- but the trees we lost were fast-growing volunteers: an elm and a couple of hackberry trees. If AEP/PSO had enough arborists to keep a closer eye on the subcontractor, and if it were easier for customers to register complaints, it would go a long way toward reducing ill-will.

AEP/PSO, our local electric company, is seeking Corporation Commission approval for a new policy that would allow them to remove any tree within 15 feet of the centerline of their easement. Reports are that they've already begun implementing this in some midtown Tulsa neighborhoods.

Oakview Estates Neighborhood Association (that's 38th Street between Delaware and Lewis) has organized a public meeting on the plan this Tuesday night, August 16th, at 6 p.m., at the Whiteside Park recreation center on Pittsburg Avenue north of 41st Street. Representatives from AEP-PSO and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, members of the Tulsa City Council, and state legislators are expected to be in attendance. You'll have an opportunity to learn the details of the plan, ask questions, and voice your opinion. For more information, contact Lloyd Prueitt of the Oakview Estates Neighborhood Association at 747-9596.

One of Tulsa's finest attributes is our canopy of mature trees, particularly in the older neighborhoods of Midtown Tulsa. It immediately strikes the eye when you see the city from the air. Unfortunately, we're also a city with above-ground wires for electric, phone, and cable, and those beautiful trees threaten continuity of service, especially when the wind blows the way it did this afternoon. A power outage is a mild inconvenience for most of us, but a deadly threat to some, particularly during extreme temperatures. AEP/PSO naturally wants to reduce the number of outages and the cost of restoring service, and they don't want to have to keep going back to trim the same trees. Neither do they want the expense of burying lines.

(Anyone else remember that one of the big selling points of the new Gilcrease Hills development, when it opened in '69 or '70, was that all utilities were underground? And if you need a reminder about how ugly overhead lines are, take a look at the new Arvest Bank building at 15th and Utica -- the lines run right in front of the new building, about halfway up.)

These trees help clear the air and keep the city cooler than it would otherwise be. AEP/PSO's interests have to be balanced against the need to maintain this important civic asset.

AEP/PSO does have the right to remove trees within its easement, but the typical easement is 7.5 feet either side of the line. As a homeowner, you have the right to have a tree outside that easement, and AEP/PSO can't remove it without your permission. Back in March, I published notes from a meeting about your rights regarding AEP/PSO and tree removal.

If you love Tulsa's urban forest, I hope you'll show up Tuesday night to learn about AEP/PSO's proposal and voice your opinion on it.

Robby Bell, third-generation owner of Bell's Amusement Park, was on KFAQ with Michael DelGiorno yesterday morning discussing the probable move of the 54-year-old park from the Tulsa County Fairgrounds to about fifty acres on the west bank of the Arkansas River in Jenks, just south of the Oklahoma Aquarium and the Creek Turnpike. I think this is a positive development for Bell's and nearby neighborhoods, and the only negative is that apparently Zingo, their 60-foot-high wooden roller coaster, won't be moved to the new location.

Bell's is currently on about 10 acres, which they lease from the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (also known as the Fair Board) for a percentage of their revenues. About 7 years ago, Bell's began to seek an expansion to take in 10 more acres to the west, all the way to Louisville Avenue, an area that is currently parking for Bell's and the Fairgrounds and provides a buffer for the neighborhood. Bell's wanted to add a new 100-foot-high roller coaster, sitting parallel west of Zingo. Neighboring homeowners objected, and proposed that the Fair Board allow Bell's to expand into the interior of the Fairgrounds, north of the IPE Building, rather than toward the neighborhood. The County never gave that idea serious consideration, as it conflicted with their plans for the fairgrounds. (Rather than encourage passive uses around the perimeter of the Fairgrounds as a buffer to the surrounding neighborhoods, the County's master plan puts greenspace in the interior of the Fairgrounds, and pushes more intensive uses to the perimeter.

Bell's ultimately did receive the go-ahead from the Fair Board and received a special exception from the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment to build the coaster. That decision was overturned in district court in 2003 in a summary judgment for the neighboring plaintiffs by Judge David Peterson, on the grounds that the County BOA exceeded its authority by granting a special exception not in accord with the Comprehensive Plan for the area, which called for low-intensity development. Last year, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed Peterson's decision, saying the BOA had the authority to grant a special exception contrary to the comprehensive plan, and the case was remanded back to district court.

Even if Bell's were ultimately to expand all the way to Louisville Avenue, at twenty acres they still wouldn't have enough space to become the kind of regional attraction they aspire to be. For comparison, here are the sizes of some other amusement and theme parks:

Joyland Amusement Park, Wichita, 50 acres
Frontier City, 55 acres
Silver Dollar City, 61 acres
Canobie Lake Park (New Hampshire), 65 acres
Disneyland, 85 acres
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, 107 acres
Worlds of Fun, 175 acres
Six Flags over Texas, 212 acres
Sea World San Antonio, 250 acres

Bell's started out in 1951 as a modest collection of kiddie rides. Zingo was its first major ride, opened in 1968, but with a court order (still in effect) prohibiting operation past 9 p.m. Over the course of the '70s, the log ride, a dark ride called Phantasmagoria, and Himalaya were added transforming the park to something approaching its current configuration. While neighbors had reconciled themselves to the existence of the park under its current constraints, they regarded the expansion plan, particularly the creation of a new, taller coaster, as a violation of promise inherent in the Comprehensive Plan amendment, adopted in 1984 and still on the books, which set aside the west section of the Fairgrounds for low-intensity development. That Comprehensive Plan amendment was an attempt at striking a balance between the interests of neighboring property owners and the County's desire to maximize its revenues with ever more intensive uses, and it was reasonable for homeowners to expect that it would be followed.

Bell's move to Jenks won't be a revenue loss to the City of Tulsa -- the Fairgrounds are unincorporated territory and not subject to city sales tax. It is a shame that we can't find a place for Bell's on Tulsa's stretch of the river. I seem to recall that at one point, south of 71st Street on the east side of the river was a possibility. If they make the move, I hope the park will be designed to connect with the river and nearby attractions. It would be nice if the park were set up somewhat like the boardwalk amusement parks you find along the East Coast, with a public promenade along the river, connecting to the aquarium and the Jenks Riverwalk. Someone might have dinner at the Riverwalk, stroll down to Bell's, then decide to ride a couple of rides. It would be a wasted opportunity if they fenced the place off completely, made it accessible only from an inland parking lot, and made the admission fee so high that dropping in to ride just a couple of rides would be impractical. The Jenks Riverwalk is a good example of what good riverfront development should look like; hopefully other developers will follow its lead.

During my absence, the rest of Tulsa's budding local-news-blogging community has been busy, and there are some exciting developments. The local blogger segment that KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno did a week ago has stimulated an effort to work together in a more formal way. Bobby of Tulsa Topics has set up a Tulsa Bloggers aggregation page, presenting excerpts from the latest five entries from eight blogs that focus on local news. This gives you a quick way to see what's new around Tulsa. There is also a BlogDigger group page and XML feed that combines all eight blogs into a single feed.

One of those blogs is brand new. David Schuttler, who has written and posted video and images about the airport noise abatement program and other local issues on his Our Tulsa World website, now has a blog on the site.

If you're someone who blogs about Tulsa news and wants to be included in the aggregator, email MeeCiteeWurkor at gmail dot com.

That's the promise, for an area that will eventually cover 72 square miles. G. W. Schulz has the scoop on for-profit wide-area WiFi for Tulsa in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly.

That could be a good deal, if some sort of roaming privileges come with it. With SBC DSL, you have access to the dialup network as a backup, or when traveling, and for an extra $2 a month, you can connect at WiFi-equipped McDonald's, Barnes and Noble bookstores, and UPS Stores. If you're tethered to the home area, you're losing one of the advantages of wireless computing.

KFAQ blog roundtable


This morning KFAQ's Michael DelGiorno hosted a roundtable of bloggers who blog about Tulsa politics. Here are links to help you find the three gentlemen who joined me on the air this morning:

Steve Roemerman blogs at Roemerman on Record.

Paul Romine (Mad Okie) blogs at Living on Tulsa Time.

David Schuttler has a website called Our Tulsa World, subtitled "Not the Lortons' World."

Go check them out, and encourage them to keep up the good work.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa category from August 2005.

Tulsa: July 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa: September 2005 is the next archive.

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



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