Tulsa County: September 2008 Archives

We spent most of Saturday at the Tulsa State Fair.

Despite my disgust at many of the decisions of of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (aka the Fair Board), as I mentioned last year, going to the fair is a family tradition that predates my existence. The fair was here long before Randi Miller and Bob Dick and Rick Bjorklund, and it has already survived their involvement. Within a few months, every member of the Fair Board and Expo Square exec that was around when Bell's was expelled, when Murphy Bros. was granted their exclusive contract, when checks from Murphy's Big Splash were left uncashed for over a year, will be gone.

My grandmother entered crafts in the fair back in the '40s and '50s. Starting in 2004, my wife encouraged our kids to enter some of their artwork. My son has won ribbons for paintings and a Lego car. This year the 12-year-old boy and the eight-year-old girl won ribbons in the pumpkin decorating competition. The girl won a blue ribbon in the creative category for a very cute two-pumpkin snowman, and the boy took third place in the "unusual" category for his volcano pumpkin. (I'll try to get pictures posted soon.) My son submitted several of his photographs, and my daughter entered a pastel drawing.

The kids area was relocated to Central Park Hall, and that was our first stop, after we'd walked the half-mile from home. After seeing how they did in the contests, they wanted to build with Kapla planks while the toddler wanted to drive the Li'l' Tikes police car.

Next stop was the Oklahoma Fiddle Championship. My son had decided not to enter, but we still wanted to watch. We were there in time to see the end of the junior competition and to see Marina Pendleton win first prize and the belt buckle.

My wife stayed to watch the open and senior competition; she says she heard some amazing fiddling. The rest of us headed down to the Coke stage to watch the illusionists (Ridgeway and Johnson) and the hypnotist (Steve Bayner) -- both very impressive. In between, we wandered around the Sugar Art Show and marveled at the beautifully decorated cakes. We stopped by the Republican booth -- located as always at the eastern end of the IPE Building QuikTrip Center -- and signed up for McCain/Palin and Inhofe yard signs.

Just north of the Sugar Art Show, we came across the Fruitfull booth. Fruitfull makes these delicious and nutritious frozen treats. We tried the mango and cream, strawberries and cream, and peaches and cream flavors. The treats are made with no refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. They use real fruit and fruit juice. Everyone in the family enjoyed them. They're available in Shell convenience stores in the Tulsa area, and they hope to get them into supermarkets soon.

At 7:30 we went to see the Disney on Ice version of High School Musical. I was thankful that we had free passes. Not only were the tickets expensive, but everything else was too -- $12 for a bag of cotton candy, which came with an official High School Musical plastic trilby. We passed on all the food and souvenirs. The kids enjoyed the show. The music and plot made it easy to overlook the skating skill that was on display. Only half of the Pavilion was open for seating, and only half of those seats were filled.

During intermission, we chatted with a fellow behind us who was at the fair for the first time in 15 years. His folks ran the Don's Chicken Fried Steak cafe in the old Exchange Building for 15 years -- a very popular place to eat at the fair, until the Fair Board decided not to renew their lease. His grandparents owned Don's Chili Bowl in Boman Acres Shopping Center and an aunt owned Don's Restaurant on north Sheridan. It was fun to hear some of his memories of the fair.

After the show we bought some cotton candy and watched the Boogie Bodies booth, where you put a green drape over your body, and a computer merges dancing figures with your head, making it look like you're singing and dancing in a music video.

My wife and the kids will go back again later in the week to see more of the animals and exhibits.

It was a bit melancholy to note the disappearance of more of the buildings that were part of my childhood visits to the fair. The IPE Building, the Armory, the Pavilion, and the Skyride are all that's left. Over the last year, the cafeteria and the Exchange/Youth Building were demolished. The cafeteria was the last remnant of when the International Petroleum Exposition was held in a campus of individual buildings where the IPE Building (QuikTrip Center) now stands. The Exchange Building was once home to the annual KTUL Talent Show and the location of the local segments of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. One year (1980?) the Republican 1st District Convention was held in that room. The Youth Building was home to the 4-H and FFA exhibits during the fair. Once upon a time, I believe the Youth Building also included dormitories that housed young future farmers who were at the fairgrounds to show their livestock.

I still miss the KELi satellite.

You will note that I said nothing about rides. We did not ride any. We aren't going to ride any Murphy Bros. rides ever again. That decision is in protest at Bell's Amusement Park's eviction and Murphy-owned Big Splash's apparent lack of concern over safety (failure to make required repairs before opening the park for the season) and apparent lack of concern over paying their bills on time (lease checks went uncashed by Expo Square management for years). My kids are sad not to ride rides, but they are in agreement that we don't want to give any money to Murphy Bros.

We did notice that the Murphy Bros. midway is littered with sandwich boards featuring a superhero cartoon character named "Captain Murph." Captain Murph utters slogans, often rhyming:

Be Alert Accidents Hurt!
Hey Kids have FUN FUN FUN

These signs are just ripe for photoshopping, and Steve Roemerman has some replacement slogans that had me roaring with laughter. He saved the best for last.

Showdown at the county jail

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My latest article in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about the soon-to-expire agreement between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County regarding jail operations. Under the existing contract, the county's jail system uses several city facilities rent-free -- including the old city jail, which provides holding cells for the adjacent county courthouse, and a property room -- in exchange for the city being allowed to hold up to 116 prisoners, in jail only on municipal charges, at no cost to the city.

The latest volley in the war of words between the two sides comes in a sharply-worded letter from Assistant City Attorney Christine Benediktson to County Commissioner John Smaligo, which accuses county officials of not negotiating in good faith and advises that the city is prepared to go it alone when the contract expires:

Over the last several months I have listened carefully to your issues, spent considerable time in researching issues and solutions and in meeting with City officials and employees in an effort to reach a compromise and, ultimately, to avoid a protracted legal dispute. Your response to these efforts makes a mockery of the negotiation process and constitutes bad faith. As a resident of Tulsa County, I am extremely disappointed in you as a public official. It is most unfortunate that you do not appear to respect or honor your fiduciary duty to the citizens of Tulsa - who comprise one of the largest communities within the County that you serve.

I have been authorized to inform you that if the County persists in refusing to negotiate properly, the City is prepared to change the way we conduct municipal court business. We will be prepared to deal with our municipal prisoners independently on October 1st. We will contemporaneously move forward to analyze our legal options against the County. Further, if this occurs, the Sheriff will be required to handle all administrative services previously provided by the City and to vacate all City owned premises, including the municipal court building, the holding cells and the sally port. Additionally, the County will need to make arrangements for the property located in the City Property Room currently held by the City on behalf of the County. Despite your representations to the contrary, approximately 80% of that property is being held in relation to cases currently pending in State Court.

The letter also advises that some misdemeanors that are both municipal offenses and state offenses -- assault and battery and DUI are specifically named -- will be booked as state violations, rather than municipal, as they routinely are booked today. This would allow Tulsa to avoid being billed for these prisoners, but it would move the case from Municipal to District Court, adding to the workload of the District Attorney and the District Court.

The jail sharing contract between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County is due to expire in less than two weeks, and negotiations are stalled. Mayor Kathy Taylor issued a memo to the City Council last Friday reviewing the origins of the current contract, created in 1995, and the county promises that persuaded city officials to work with the county to pass the jail tax.

(Here is the memo from Mayor Taylor to the City Council and
the attachment to the memo, including documents and statements made when the original city/county jail contract was signed in 1995 (5 MB PDF).)

In a nutshell, Tulsa County had failed to pass a bond issue to replace the overcrowded jail on the top floor of the County Courthouse. One attempt to pass a sales tax for a new jail was blocked by District Judge Jane Wiseman, who said the proposal, which bundled funding for crime prevention programs with the cost of building and operating the jail, was unconstitutional logrolling. (Eight years later, Wiseman turned a blind eye to far more blatant logrolling on the Vision 2025 ballot. She now sits on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.)

In an effort to win the City of Tulsa's support for a new, properly divided sales tax vote, county officials agreed to house up to 116 purely municipal offenders -- people in jail on a city charge, but with no state charges pending -- in exchange for county's use of the city's municipal jail and booking area for housing prisoners appearing at the courthouse and the county's use of the city's adult detention center near Newblock Park. The county's argument to the city was that combining operations would save the city more than $2 million annually that it was spending to run its municipal jail. The city would reimburse the county at a rate of $16.44 per prisoner per day for any municipal prisoners in excess of 116.

The county's proposal for the new jail contract redefines what constitutes a municipal prisoner and triples the cost per municipal prisoner per day. Previously, prisoners counted against the city's allowance of 116 only if they were in jail solely on municipal charges. If they were in jail on state charges, they were the county's responsibility under state law, even if municipal charges were also pending. The county's new proposal would eliminate any allowance to the city -- charges would begin with the first municipal prisoner -- and the city would be billed for every prisoner with a municipal charge pending, even if the prisoner would have to be in jail anyway on state charges.

Taylor's memo includes the assertion that Sheriff Stanley Glanz has been able to operate the jail for $2 million a year less than the money generated by the 1/4-cent jail operation sales tax.

City officials are right to resist this contract and to explore alternatives, such as letting the agreement lapse using the adult detention center as the city lockup. It would be better if the county reconsidered its position and worked with the city on continuing combined operations. The county should agree to the old, sensible definition of municipal prisoner and should grant the city an allowance of purely municipal misdemeanor prisoners in consideration for the sheriff's use of city detention facilities.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa County category from September 2008.

Tulsa County: July 2008 is the previous archive.

Tulsa County: October 2008 is the next archive.

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