Urban Tulsa Weekly: December 2005 Archives

An urban design reading list

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Late getting 'round to this, but here's a link to my column in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, with some recommended reading on urban design. As I wrote in the column:

Urban design and architecture are too important to be left to the professionals.

You and I may not have diplomas hanging on the wall, but we're experts in those fields, because we live, work, play, drive, and walk in the results of the design decisions made by others. We may not have the vocabulary to explain what we're experiencing, but we know what we like. We remember being in urban places that feel alive and exciting, places that feel comfortable, places that seem dead, places that seem foreboding. Some places invite you to linger, others make you feel like hurrying along to get some place else as quickly as possible.

Architects and urban planners can help the layman put words to his gut feelings about good and bad urban design, but some of the best books on urban design have been written by journalists, and I recommend three that I've found especially insightful and useful, plus a couple of books by an architect. (At the bottom of this entry, I've provided some links to supplemental reading.) The ideas in these books can help to equip you to participate more effectively in the public debate over urban design, zoning, and land use policy.

The current issue of UTW includes Barry Friedman's end-of-year Double Take on the Sooner State and the city's most comprehensive listing of New Year's Eve entertainment. Music writer G. K. Hizer provides his recommended list of places to ring in the New Year. (Here are links to the regular weekly listing of live music and events, which include some New Year's Events. There's a Western Swing dance and covered dish supper in Bixby that looks like fun, but I don't think my wife is up to two-stepping right now.) You'll need the dead-tree edition to get the full listing and all the ads.

Gretchen Collins has a story about the 6th Street Task Force and the exciting plans for remaking that area, particularly the creative ways they propose for dealing with the flooding problem in what is, after 20 years of stormwater improvements, still one of the city's last unimproved drainage basins.

Also, in the web edition this week (although I think it was in last week's print edition) is Barry Friedman's review of an uneventful City Council meeting.

Now for some supplemental links that go with this week's column:

Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language -- a summary of each of the patterns described in the book, and the connections between them.

The introduction to Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown

Jim Kunstler interviews Jane Jacobs -- two of the authors I list in my column.

The website of Jim Kunstler: If you can look beyond the use of foul words for emphasis, there's a lot of food for thought here. His "Eyesore of the Month" is a photo and commentary on an example of bad architecture or urban design, and the feature is coming up on its eighth anniversary. (This month, in the spirit of the holidays, he gives us a break and presents some positive examples.)

Not mentioned in the column is the website for the Project for Public Spaces, which is full of examples of parks, squares, plazas, and streetscapes that work well, with explanations of why they succeed at attracting people. (New York City's Bryant Park is a great example of a once-failed public space that is now thriving.) There are also examples of failed public spaces, like Boston's hideous City Hall Plaza, which replaced lively, unruly Scollay Square.

Hypnotic Vision

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This week I managed to lead off my Urban Tulsa Weekly column, about the urban design characteristics of the new downtown Tulsa arena, with a Monty Python reference.

UPDATE: Charles G. Hill comments: "Oklahoma City's Ford Center isn't particularly iconic either, but it's intended to fit into an existing urban environment, not to anchor a new one." Precisely. If the building works well as urban design, it doesn't matter if it's iconic.

I thought of another TV reference, as I was writing about iconic structures, like the Eiffel Tower and the U. S. Capitol, which serve as widely-recognized symbols of their cities. There was a Green Acres episode in which Oliver and Lisa were going to Washington, and everyone in Hooterville told them to be sure to see the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Oliver would scoff in reply: "Those aren't in Washington!" At the end of the episode, Oliver and Lisa are in their Washington hotel room and Lisa flings open the curtains to reveal... the Eiffel Tower. Just one of those surreal moments that made Green Acres a classic.

Elsewhere in the latest issue of UTW:

Katharine Kelly doesn't care for Qdoba. I tried it the other night and didn't care for it much myself. The food was OK, but the decor was very barren, the lights were so bright you couldn't see out the window to Cherry Street, and (worst of all) the free Wi-Fi didn't work.

Gretchen Collins reviews Philbrook's special exhibit of the works of Thomas Moran, the great landscape painter of the American west. It only runs through New Year's Day, so don't delay.

Blue ribbon jeer

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This week's column is about the demise of the late, unlamented petition pushing for at-large members of the Tulsa City Council, and Bill LaFortune's new "Citizens' Commission," which appears to be intended to push the same agenda by other means.

Elsewhere in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly:

Have you wondered about the huge clouds of birds that swirl around and roost at sunset this time of year? The birds that are incredibly noisy and seem to love Bradford ornamental pear trees? Emily Berman has the scoop.

G. W. Schulz has a story about city employee unionization, with extensive quotes from City Councilors Martinson, Mautino, and Medlock on their reasons for their votes on the issue (Mautino voted yes, Medlock and Martinson voted no), from national and local representatives of AFSCME, the public sector employee union, and from one of the other Michael Bateses in town, Michael S. Bates, the city human resources director.

Apparently, I've been "allowed to hijack" the UTW op/ed page, or so says a letter writer named Joe Gaudet. Sir, if I could hijack an op/ed page, I'd have it fly me some place warm.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, an up-close look at next Tuesday's Tulsa County sales tax election. (You can find an earlier column about this tax proposal here, and here's a column about Tulsa County Commissioners' aversion to competitive bidding.

G. W. Schulz has a lengthy profile of Ray and Robin Siegfried, the company they built, their lavish lifestyles, and the legal dispute that divides the two brothers even after Ray's death earlier this year. And he's got a story about Oklahoma's TABOR initiative.

All that and much more, in the latest issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

My column in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly is a review of the City Charter amendment proposals Tulsans will vote on next spring, as well as a few that didn't make the cut, along with a look at the politics behind what passed and what didn't.

There were a couple of new developments tonight. Illegitimate Councilor Randy Sullivan tried to move the zoning protest petition amendment from the March primary election ballot to the April general election ballot. He tried to make the case that voters would be disenfranchised by having the vote on the primary ballot, when turnout would be lighter.

Councilor Chris Medlock pointed out that homeowners were promised back in 2004, when the courts ruled that the protest petition ordinance was in conflict with the charter, that the amendment to restore that protection would be on the next citywide election ballot. That would have been the December 2004 library bond issue, but the Council held off at the request of library officials. The next opportunity was the city bond issue in April 2005. The Council called the election, but something happened -- the dog ate Bill LaFortune's homework -- and the required public notices weren't placed in the Tulsa Legal News. The March 2006 is the next available citywide date to vote, and because there will be a mayoral primary, every precinct will be open anyway.

The other councilors were apparently persuaded by Medlock's argument -- Sullivan's motion died for lack of a second.

Councilor Roscoe Turner brought the recall amendment up for reconsideration, as I was hoping he would. The original proposal was modified by two complementary amendments proposed by Councilor Tom Baker. The requirement for signature comparison for the recall petitions was dropped (by a unanimous vote). Added in its place was a requirement for each signer to provide a valid contact phone number. That passed by a 5-4 vote (Baker, Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, Turner in favor; Christiansen, Martinson, Neal, Sullivan against). The amended amendment was sent to the voters by a 7-2 vote -- Martinson and Sullivan voted against. Although it isn't my ideal, the proposed amendment would require that recall be for cause, provides a consistent standard for number of signatures across all offices, and requires that signature gatherers be residents of the district. If we pass it in April, it will help ensure that a recall only happens when genuine constituents have a genuine and grave complaint against an elected official.

Finally, a District 7 resident (and a friend of mine), John Eagleton, protests that he did raise the issue of Randy Sullivan's non-residency with members of the City Council when it was publicly acknowledged in February 2005. Eagleton asked the Councilors to seek the City Attorney's opinion on the effect of filing a bogus declaration of candidacy; he believes it would render the election null and void and cause the office to become vacant. That was never done, apparently, perhaps because everyone was distracted by the recall effort underway at the time.

I remember, too, that there were District 7 residents who wanted to recall Randy Sullivan, but they restrained themselves at the request of Councilors Medlock and Mautino, who were themselves under threat of recall at the time.

Here's a link to all the articles in the current issue. Don't forget -- just a few more days to donate gifts for children in the DHS foster care system. Pick up a copy of the dead-tree version of UTW for a list of kids, ages, and the gifts they'd like for Christmas.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Urban Tulsa Weekly category from December 2005.

Urban Tulsa Weekly: November 2005 is the previous archive.

Urban Tulsa Weekly: January 2006 is the next archive.

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