Tulsa City Hall: June 2007 Archives

Pat Fox responds to a lament about the demise of the Civic Center:

From an urban design perspective, Tulsa's Civic [Center] Plaza is a typical example of late 50's/60's thinking on public architecture. Government center in Boston is another example that is almost universally derided as an urban planning and urban design disaster. Far from providing a democratic, pedestrian friendly gathering place, these plazas actually discourage free assembly.

From the brutalist architecture of the convention center, to the tilt up aggregate walls of the police and municipal courts building, the civic plaza is a most unappealing place to sit, walk, or be. The library and the Francis Campbell Council building are it's most redeeming features, but the library is long outdated for functions of a modern library. City hall's public entrance is not on civic plaza as you'd expect, but below "ground" level in a dark, musty garage. The sloped sides of the planters prevent any resting or sitting, the fountain is empty because it leaks, and the county courthouse has so much mold in it, one of the judges who presides there considered filing suit recently. By the way, a large portion of our "paper" county records are kept in the basement of that building. If the Belvedere flooded because of the water table...you get the point.

I know firsthand that Boston's Government Center is a planning disaster, one of the least inviting public places in the world. The ultimate test of a public place is not whether there are people there in the architect's concept sketches, but whether people (normal people) want to linger there.

The concept of a six-block Tulsa Civic Center was an enormous mistake. Closing 5th Street to traffic only compounded the error. And when you realize that it replaced a tree-lined mixed-use area with three-story apartment buildings -- well, planners back then didn't appreciate the role that nearby residential areas played in the health of a central business district.

I recently photographed most of the articles in the Tulsa Civic Center vertical file at the Central Library and posted the photos on Flickr. The file contains news clippings mainly from the 1950s about the selection of the area (in 1952), what was there before the civic center, the area's appraisal and acquisition, the failure of bond issues to build the city's facilities, early concepts, including a 14,000 seat arena and a new facility for the Gilcrease collection, an explanation for the decision to deviate from the original award-winning plan, a protest from downtown merchants over the closing of 5th Street, complaints from patrons of the arts about the decision to defer construction of a new performance space, and, finally, a brochure from 1969 showing the new City Hall and Police Courts building.


My UTW column this week was also about the proposal to move City Hall to One Technology Center at 100 S. Cincinnati. Most of the questions I posed were raised in one form or another, and most were answered, although I won't say that my fears were allayed. (Don Himelfarb couldn't answer my question about the true operating costs of the first year, operating in both old and new facilities.)

I had two related feature stories in the issue, a report on the unearthing and unveiling of the buried car, and a look back at the Tulsarama! celebration in 1957 -- it was a huge city-wide celebration, plagued by at least as much rain as we've seen so far this year. It was much more than burying a time capsule and a car.

I'm pleased with the way the Tulsarama! story came out, but it isn't the comprehensive Tulsa 1957 story I wanted to do. I just ran out of time and couldn't get my arms around it. I have gathered a ton of material, looking through old city directories and planning documents, and receiving the reminiscences of Tulsans who were around in 1957. The article I wrote just scratches the surface, and I intend to provide more here and hopefully in future feature stories. The story of the major comprehensive planning effort that began in 1957 is a story that we need to know as we begin assembling yet another comprehensive plan.

Also in the current issue, Brian Ervin has a story on the difference of opinion about how many police officers Tulsa needs, with the Mayor and her interim police chief on one side and the Fraternal Order of Police on the other side.

UPDATE: Regarding the Belvedere, reader Richard Randall offered this interesting (and frightening) perspective:

We wonder why all of the bridges in Tulsa (and Oklahoma) are falling apart. Most of them were designed and built around the same time as the vault (give or take some years) by some of the same engineers. It seems to show just how well they designed and built some things back then and today, when it is built by the cheapest bidder. Growing up my dad had always talked about how bad the car would look when it came out (He worked at his dads construction company at the time the vault was built). He knew that the vault would fill up with water, by the design they used. Had they looked to the oil industry, they would have learned that water will find a way into anything. The best thing to use would have been a 1 to 2-inch steel box welded shut and encased in concrete. This would have withstood the fifty years. They did seem to grasp that idea a little bit. The time capsule was steel, (not sure if it was welded shut). Everything in it was in great condition.

Not only that, but the same engineers were probably responsible for designing the Civic Center's leaky and crumbling subterranean garage. (Maybe not crumbling any more. I haven't heard a report of falling concrete in some time.) One of the interesting facts that emerged in today's Council meeting about the proposed City Hall move -- about $16 million of that $24 million in deferred maintenance is related to the underground parking garage.

Actually, it isn't secret. It has been officially posted, but it seems to have been scheduled for a time (Saturday morning at 8:30, in room 201 of the City Hall tower) that would be unlikely to draw spectators, and it appears that part or possibly most of the meeting will be conducted behind closed doors in executive session. Here's the agenda:

Unless otherwise noted, the Council may discuss and/or review the following items:

01. Discussion regarding the proposed consolidation of City offices at One Technology Center located at 100 S. Cincinnati Ave. 07-529-3

02. Council may consider a motion to enter Executive Session pursuant Title 25 O.S. Section 307 (B)(3) to discuss the purchase of the One Technology Building. 07-529-4

03. Leave Executive Session regarding the discussion related to the proposed consolidation of City offices at One Technology Center. 07-529-5

04. Adjournment

The cited section of law includes the following item in a list of permitted purposes for executive sessions of public bodies:

Discussing the purchase or appraisal of real property;

The law further provides in subsection D:

An executive session for the purpose of discussing the purchase or appraisal of real property shall be limited to members of the public body, the attorney for the public body, and the immediate staff of the public body. No landowner, real estate salesperson, broker, developer, or any other person who may profit directly or indirectly by a proposed transaction concerning real property which is under consideration may be present or participate in the executive session.

While the discussion of the purchase or appraisal of One Technology Center is a valid reason for going into executive session, I would argue (and I hope that the councilors and other members of the press argue) that discussing the total costs of moving to OTC, the estimate and comparison of operating costs in the current facilities and at OTC, the sources of funds for a move to OTC, and any other aspect of moving city offices to a new building are not within the legally permitted reasons for an executive session and should be discussed in open session.

UPDATE, Saturday 1:00 p.m.: I was there this morning, and they spent three hours in open session covering a wide range of issues. I was proud of the job the City Council did this morning. Vice Chairman John Eagleton did a fine job of keeping the meeting on track. (Chairman Roscoe Turner had been scheduled to be out of town before the meeting was called.) Councilor Bill Martinson presented his analysis of the financial situation along with a list of questions drawn from his years in the real estate business. Every councilor had some significant question or point to make about the financial analysis presented by the Mayor's office. More details later, and in my column.

You know the story that ran on the front page Sunday's Whirled about how Mayor Kathy Taylor is going to solve downtown Tulsa's problem with vagrants?

Urban Tulsa Weekly's Brian Ervin had that story two weeks ago, and he included the significant detail that the downtown YMCA's residence is going to be forced to close in 2010 because of expensive new city fire sprinkler regulations, eliminating 300 single-room occupancy spaces.

Just sayin'.

How did the Whirled's P. J. Lassek come up with this first paragraph:

Consolidating several city facilities including City Hall into the One Technology Center appears to be a good deal, seven of the nine City Councilors said Friday.

from this set of comments, found in the same story:

District 1, Jack Henderson: "Councilor Jack Henderson said he needs to talk to more city employees because of concerns raised about the open office environment in the new building, which would mean workers might have less space and privacy. 'I think when all the dust settles, it will probably be a good deal.'"

District 2, Rick Westcott: "Councilor Rick Westcott said the city faces a decision -- either perform $12 million that is funded out of $24 million in deferred maintenance on the current aging City Hall building, or find an alternative. 'This alternative seems like an idea that makes sense,' he said. Westcott said he also plans to seek input from real estate experts. 'This alternative seems like an idea that makes sense.'"

District 3, Roscoe Turner: "Councilor Roscoe Turner said he doesn't know what he thinks about the deal. 'I have a lot of concerns to focus on other than moving City Hall. I can understand getting out of this building with the mold problems and all. I really haven't given it much thought. I really don't care about it.'"

District 4, Maria Barnes: "Councilor Maria Barnes said relocating City Hall has not been on her radar. She said she needs to determine what the city is getting into."

District 5, Bill Martinson: Was out of town, missed briefing.

District 6, Dennis Troyer: Was out of town, missed briefing.

District 7, John Eagleton: "Councilor John Eagleton said he needs time to digest the figures so he can make a decision. He said he already has some questions he needs answered. "

District 8, Bill Christiansen: "Councilor Bill Christiansen said the proposal 'sounds like a great business deal, but I think it will be a hard sell to my constituents who are still waiting for basic services. Most people don't realize that we're a fund-based city. They just know we don't have good streets, and they don't have sewer lines. Now we're going to go out and buy another building,' he said. Christiansen said he isn't saying he's against it at this point."

District 9, Cason Carter: "If this decision ends up saving taxpayers money, I think it's
a good one.... Right now, it's too early to tell."

My tally is seven who say they have concerns or questions that need to be addressed, and two that couldn't be reached. Was this a case of the Whirled putting their preferred spin in the lead paragraph and hoping no one would read the body of the article?

See Dubya tipped me off to this story in the New York Times about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun-rights crusade, and Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor gets a mention for her involvement in Bloomberg's group:

“As a new mayor, I’ve been able to talk to other mayors who have had similar experiences with violent crime,” said Kathy Taylor of Tulsa, Okla., a longtime N.R.A. member who said she does not see a contradiction between her support of gun rights and her work on the gun coalition. She views the coalition as a law enforcement effort to protect her constituents, not as an attempt to diminish the legal right to own a gun.

Ms. Taylor, a Democrat, said she had picked up methods for recognizing and controlling gang activity.

That's nice, but you could get the same thing from, say, the National Conference of Mayors, and it wouldn't require you to join an anti-gun-rights group.

The City Council ought to at least ask her to defend her involvement in this group. Other mayors left the coalition once they discovered that its focus was on changing laws to keep records on legal purchases of guns.

And just how long is her "long-time" NRA membership? Did she join when she decided to become a politician, to immunize herself from criticism on gun rights issues?

Zingo's dismantling is almost complete, and Bell's Amusement Park is about to vanish from their long-time location on the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. Bell's paid the most rent of any Fairgrounds tenant, but despite that, the park's lease was not renewed and county officials claimed to have no plans for redeveloping the land.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I ask whether the U. S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show is the real reason that Bell's was given the boot and whether trading a 50 year Tulsa tradition for a lucrative but temporary event was a smart move for taxpayers.

By the way, I used a number in the story of $20 million, which I recalled hearing cited by Expo Square officials as the cost of improvements made to attract and accommodate the Arabian Horse Show. I called Expo Square to confirm that number, and the comptroller went down the list and came up with a number of $15 million. Unfortunately, his response came too late for UTW's deadline.

And here's a link to last week's column on the City Council's vote to authorize Tulsa police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone who is taken into custody on felony or misdemeanor charges.

The intervention by Congressman John Sullivan and Senators Coburn and Inhofe seems to have given the Council the backing they needed to take up this issue. Here you can read a letter from Sullivan to Mayor Kathy Taylor prior to the Council vote, and here is one from after the vote, urging her to implement the resolution.

Some further notes on local law enforcement and illegal immigration

In a letter to the head of ICE, Sullivan repeats his call for expediting the Sheriff's Office application for 287(g) status:

I believe that a 287(g) designation, which would allow for the cross deputization of Tulsa County Sherriff’s deputies and jail personnel, would help to mitigate these problems by ensuring that Oklahoma law enforcement personnel have the authority, training, and tools they need to report and detain criminal aliens in the course of their regular duty. If implemented in Tulsa, the 287(g) program would act as a force multiplier for ICE and help protect our communities from terrible incident like the one mentioned above.

Nashville police recently obtained 287(g) status. This case is one of the reasons they pursued it vigorously:

Garcia was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide while intoxicated and evading arrest. Court officials said he has reached a deal with prosecutors and will plead guilty today, the same day the trial was scheduled to begin. His lawyer, Assistant Metro Public Defender Glenn Dukes, did not return a call seeking comment.

Garcia is being held at the Metro Jail under an immigration hold, which means he'll be turned over to federal authorities after any criminal sentence he might serve.

But Garcia was well known to law enforcement before the fatal accident.

County records show that he had been booked into the Metro Jail on at least 14 different occasions since 1997.

Besides the DUI cases, he had been charged with domestic assault, leaving the scenes of accidents, driving on a revoked or suspended license, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, theft, failing to have insurance and driving with an open container.

On at least one occasion, local authorities said, Garcia was flagged by federal authorities and deported, only to return and resume his streak of arrests.

The other times, Garcia went to court, was jailed for some period and released. Sheriff's officials said they routinely sent notification to federal immigration authorities that they had booked a foreign-born inmate.

Nashville hopes to replicate the success of 287(g) in Charlotte, N.C.:

In the seven-month period following the implementation of its 287(g) immigration enforcement program, Charlotte, N.C. saw significant decreases in the number of Hispanics arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the total number of DUI-related arrests among Hispanic persons and the amount of Hispanic gang-related crime, law enforcement personnel there said.

In the program’s first nine months, Charlotte’s specially trained sheriffs identified 1,520 arrestees as having entered the country illegally.

All were marked for deportation back to one of the 31 different countries — mostly Central and South American — from which those 1,520 individuals came, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph told WFAE (Charlotte) talk radio last month.

And a full 20 percent of the foreign-born persons who were brought into the jail and subsequently identified though 287(g) had been arrested for drunken driving, Pendergraph said.

At the same time, a statistical analysis by the Sheriff’s Office shows that the number of Hispanic-related DUI incidents and arrests fell sharply in the months following the beginning of 287(g).

From 2005 – when sheriff’s deputies had to request an arrestee’s immigration information from a federal database in Vermont, as they still have to do in Nashville – to 2006, the number of Hispanic persons arrested for DUI decreased by 26 percent.

Additionally, the number of overall DUI-related arrests of Hispanic persons decreased by 63 percent – from 1,379 to 508 – during the same period.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from June 2007.

Tulsa City Hall: May 2007 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: July 2007 is the next archive.

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