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Issues in and relating to the Tulsa area.

 

Tulsa Whorled lashes out on the way down

Friday, January 16th, 2009

The local daily fish wrapper continues to show its true nature while its spirals constrict itself into oblivion. Granted, the story by Michael Bates in this week’s Urban Tulsa Weekly is embarrassing – or at least should be.  However, according to the story about the libel suit in the daily, it is the issue of circulation numbers that prompted the suit. Never mind that a local-family-owned paper is behaving far worse than any corporate behemoth in luring people away from other jobs, just so they can be laid off in less than a year. And this has apparently happened twice in the last twelve months. Never mind that their editorial policy seems to drift back and forth from whatever BOK wants to “build anything anywhere and let the taxpayers pay for it” to “never seen a tax we didn’t like” (except a tax on advertising).

Tactically, I suppose they had to file the suit, otherwise it implies that the story is exactly correct. Whether or not it is, we may never know as these things have a way of being settled to prevent the expenses from going through the roof. In many libel actions, it’s not whether you can prove the truth of your story, it is whether you can afford to go to court in the first place to be able to prove your story.  Fear of the legal expenses in a libel action effectively squelches many stories in small town publications. I certainly applaud Bates and UTW publisher Keith Skrzypcak for going out on the limb for this.

In the Tulsa World story about the suit, World Publisher Robert E. Lorton III is quoted as saying he “does not object to criticism of himself or the World but will not stand for impugning the organization’s honesty.”

So, getting folks to quit a job and come work for you, just to be laid off a few months later is just “business” and does not reflect on the paper’s integrity. This is indicative of the real problem.

What was once a newspaper has become simply a company that prints ads and game scores seven days a week. The odd space that doesn’t carry a hearing aid ad or an Amish miracle heater ad is filled with wire copy, barely rewritten press releases, investigations of puppy mills, or Wayne Greene’s pathetic attempts to find something even lamer and more self-indulgent than Springer Spaniels to write about.

It is especially sad because I know there are still good, capable journalists there. I went to J-school with some of them and have seen the quality of their work, then and now. Sure do miss the Tribune. I didn’t always agree with their positions on things, but at least it actually was a newspaper that was not totally controlled by the local oligarchy.

Who knows, in another year we may be reading Urban Tulsa Daily. Let’s hope so.

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Memorials are in parks, graves are in cemeteries.

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Finally had to throw in a comment on the silliness of the “consultant from out-of-town” observing that our parks look like cemeteries because of all the memorials. News Flash – memorials are NOT in cemeteries, graves are. Memorials are typically spread around a city or town, or located on or near a spot being memorialized. The great memorials in D.C., Lincoln, Washington, Vietnam Veterans, etc. are not in Arlington Cemetery, but rather in the city itself. Likewise, in our fair city we have memorials to a variety of war veterans, as well as individual people and events located throughout the city – not in cemeteries.

Tulsa has been blessed with an abundance of people that we wish to remember. I am also proud that we have a strong spirit of remembering people and events as it encourages us to draw strength from those that have given of themselves in so many ways.

The “Up With Trees” program is a great way to maintain and expand Tulsa’s urban forest. It is not surprising that people would choose to honor friends or family members by donating to this effort and having a small, simple wooden sign added. If you will actually read many of the signs, you will see that many of them honor living people and their efforts to make life in Tulsa better for us all. Tulsa’s people are remarkably generous with their time and their money and a living group of trees is a great way to acknowledge those special people who go the extra mile.

As far as the River Parks in particular, I feel that some of the NatureWorks pieces could be better integrated into the park with landscaping and such, but they are wonderful pieces and I enjoy them whether cycling or driving in the area. There are other pieces of art in River Parks that I do not understand or relate to, but this is a park for all of Tulsa and I would not want to see it dumbed down to the Thomas Kinkade or Terry Redlin level of greeting card works.

In short, Tulsans from all walks of life have given of themselves and I think it is great that we choose to honor them all over town, not just on the courthouse lawn. I also think it is great that we have a variety of art pieces in our public spaces for all to enjoy.  Just because you do not love a particular piece on first viewing doesn’t mean you can’t get something from it if you will open up and give it a try.

Grocio.com wins Tulsa Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Hearty congratulations to Gerald Buckley, creator of Grocio.com and winner of the 2008 Tulsa Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. The award is sponsored by SpiritBank, The Kauffman Foundation, the Tulsa Metro Chamber and the Tulsa Economic Development Commission, among others.

Gerald’s innovative online service provides comparison shopping for groceries. With your zip code and grocery list, Grocio.com will tell you which grocer has the least expensive total checkout for that list, while also providing valuable coupons matching the purchases.  Gerald wins a $30,000 check from SpiritBank and an additional $30,000 match from i2e.

Mayor Kathy Taylor presents 2008 Entrpreneurial Spirit Award to Gerald Buckley, creator of Grocio.com

Mayor Kathy Taylor presents 2008 Entrpreneurial Spirit Award to Gerald Buckley, creator of Grocio.com

The Spirit Award competition started with over 100 entries this year. Competitors had to provide a complete business plan and give presentations on their business idea. As the competition went along, the competitors received coaching, sharpened their business plans and gave additional presentations to a panel of judges from industry, academia, finance as well as other successful entrepreneurs.

I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Gerald for several years now and cannot imagine anyone who more embodies both the spirit and action of innovation, excellence, integrity and entrepreneurship. I look forward to seeing Grocio.com and whatever additional efforts he starts being very successful.

Can we please put a sign on our building?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

It’s too bad that there are not any attorneys on the City Council or in the Mayor’s office. Otherwise someone might have gone through the master lease agreement for the new City Hall and noticed the small item about signage needing to be approved by BOK, even if it is signage by the property owner. I don’t really blame BOK for inserting that into the agreement as standard boilerplate, but someone on the City side should have caught it and added exceptions for the property owner, at least within some predefined parameters that could have been reasonably expected since we are going to use this for City Hall and the public and visitors might need something to clarify the location of the primary public entrance.

This is the kind of stuff that happens when everything is rushed through at the last minute. This is also the type of thing that causes many of us a lot of worry about other big agreements like the downtown ballpark trust.

Now, how long is it going to take to get the appropriate people at BOK and the City to show their PUD for the sign, negotiate the details and finally hammer out an agreement.

Kathy – get someone senior in your office to call someone equally senior in Stan’s or George’s office and get this thing done now.

If the property managers at BOK can’t trust the City to put up a reasonable and professional sign that will not degrade the leasing opportunites for the rest of the space, then we want our $7 million back. Once again, it sure looks like “Tulsa – a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of Oklahoma.”

Tulsa vs. Tulsa

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

The current row about the Tulsa county jail and what it will cost the City of Tulsa for inmates housed therein is ridiculous in the extreme. Clearly adult supervision is needed on both sides. Without being on the inside, or having a good news source that is capable of reporting rather than reprinting press releases, we can’t really know how what should be a routine matter has become a public pissing match.

Both City and County officials, whether elected or staff have a fiduciary duty to the people they supposedly serve, rather than their respective entities. They may well argue that they best serve that duty by standing up for their entity, but most taxpayers would disagree. Although I feel sure there is plenty of blame to go around, other recent events seem to make it clear that a fresh start is needed at the helm of Tulsa County. We have got to get these so-called leaders to stop playing “how can I increase my budget” without regard for where the monies come from.

This is yet another example of why Tulsa needs a different form of county government.

Tulsa’s BOK Center Grand Opening

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Went to the ribbon-cutting, etc. this morning. A bit hot for the crowd waiting to get in, but fortunately Mayor Taylor seems to have seen that the crowd was melting and spared us from the many on the platform who would no doubt have wanted to add “a few words.” The whole ribbon cutting ceremony with colors, music, etc. was held to less than thirty minutes. Thanks.

Now the really good part. The BOK Center, despite my misgivings of its need or how it was pulled off, is nonetheless a beautiful piece of work. The inside is mostly open without that hemmed-in feeling you get in most other large arenas as soon as you step out of the main performance area. We all got to experience the premium level areas as well. Very nice private boxes and lounges. Likely the only time I will ever see those.

An extra nice touch today was the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra playing at the west end of arena. Even with all the other activity, trade show booths on the floor, lots of folks and kids everywhere touring the place, the sound was still pretty nice up in the seats. Thanks to TSO for being willing to perform under those circumstances.

BOK Center - Tulsa

BOK Center - Tulsa

All in all I was very impressed by the interior of the facility. The exterior has its share of those that love it and those that think it looks like it is still covered in insulation board, BUT, it is ours and despite how we got it, I sincerely hope it bodes well for the community. Thanks to the city’s leadership for realizing that the folks that paid for it should get at least one good weekend to poke around in it and act like the rude relatives we sometimes are. Even the parking went smoothly, at least for us and those I asked about it.

Now if we can just figure out a way to keep the online scalpers from grabbing all the tickets and forcing us to pay double or more for events. My plan is pretty simple. Embargo online sales for the first 24 hours. Only allow live walk-up ticket sales with a maximum of say 6 or 8 tickets for the first 24 hours. This will not stop the resale for profit altogether, but will at least give the locals and those within a short drive a chance to actually get tickets for events at the face value of the ticket (plus the various “convenience” charges that always get added). I’m not sure the selected ticket vendor would like this, but then, that’s really beside the point. The tickets still get sold, so the only ones who would really complain is the scalpers.

Reconnecting with the Big Picture

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Last night I made an observation that helped me put things back in their true perspective. Looking up into the southwestern sky, I can see our big, bright, neighborhood giant, Jupiter. With only the aid of a 45x spotting scope I can clearly see several bright points around the large sphere. Those bright points are four of Jupiter’s moons. These four, the Galilean moons, are: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These can be seen through a good set of binoculars, if you can hold steady enough.

Looking up and seeing these and knowing that these are the same four bright points observed by Galileo and others helps to remind me that this whole world is both tiny and yet long enduring, at least on man’s time scale. When I get too wound up about the latest plans of the local oligarchy to construct a great and wonderful downtown, whether we like it or not, it helps to step back, look up and think about the big picture. These annoyances about process in a supposedly free and open government will pass and we will likely eventually accept the completed trails, stadiums, carefully crafted developments and the like, even though they may be nothing like what “we” would have liked.

Do we really know or care about the volcanic activity on Io? Does Ganymede know or care that there are political conventions or stadium trusts on Earth? No, I think to both questions. So I remind myself to relax and remember the Golden Rule, “those with the gold make the rules.” Little has changed on the blue planet for thousands of years. Technology advances, but man is pretty much the same.

Drillers Stadium downtown, another “special” subsidized business

Monday, August 25th, 2008

First of all, I actually like going to Drillers games. It’s fun, relatively inexpensive and it’s actually live entertainment. When we used to live much closer to the fairgrounds, we went to several a month and often took friends or their kids as well. That being said, I cannot help but wonder why this particular form of entertainment is so “special” that it rates a subsidized deal to get it a new facility. This is simply another form of entertainment, not substantially different than a movie theater or a skeet field.

Further, what really bothers me about this whole thing is the creation of yet another “trust” to essentially govern not only the downtown stadium, but all the other lands they manage to grab in the deal. We’re making another group that functions with the power of government, but with no accountability to the voters if they act in capricious or unapproved ways. At least one councilor has observed that the trust documents presented allow the stadium trust to pretty much build anything they want, whether in competition to a private business or not. We have got to stop setting up these little principalities that have the force of elected bodies but never stand for election. Yes, there is supposedly the safeguard of having the City Council have to approve the appointments, but all they usually can do is either approve or deny recommendations from the Mayor, they still don’t even have to stand on a retention ballot like some of the judiciary. They may as well be appointed for life as they are only denied reappointment if there is a major fiasco. Even the recent pathetically transparent actions by some on the TDA will likely pass without consequence to those tDA members.

The second issue on the Stadium deal is that now we find out, according to the local daily, that the Drillers get to manage any and all events within the stadium complex. There is some lame excuse about having to maintain the field quality. Clearly, while the Drillers have been at the fairgrounds they have seen how a deal like that for Murphy Brothers can work and want a similar sweetheart package for the Drillers. Perhaps we now know why the negotiations have taken so long. I can’t blame the Drillers owner for wanting such a deal if he can get it. He has publicly stated some time ago that he wanted something more like a full-blown amusement park with baseball as a part of it. As long as various government entities are willing to hand out little-or-no-risk packages in the name of economic development to a select few, why not try to grab one.

I do however, blame the city “leaders” for being willing to grant such deals. When we look just few miles down the river and see what Jenks is getting done with no risk to the public, we should be demanding the same sort of smart business deals from our executive management. Experience in business was one of the strengths for Kathy Taylor when she was running for the job. Now we have to wonder if she too has succumbed to the mindset that anything is acceptable in the name of downtown economic development.

Yes, we will continue to get a sprinkling of clubs and eateries here and there in the downtown, but the word is out that if you want to do something bigger, just add a few more zeros to the package size and get the local government to lean on the philanthropic foundations and sweeten it with some local tax money. No real reason why a developer should have to take all the risk to get all the rewards.

The sad thing is that I believe that those pushing this deal really mean well. Heck the Mayor is putting up some large money personally to help it along. It’s just that there is no reason why this well-meaning effort has to transform into another non-accountable principality and give a “special” business a sweetheart package that isn’t available to the many others who are trying to put something together in Tulsa.

If this stadium/multi-use facility gets built this way, just guess where Mayfest will move. You think the food and drink prices are high now, just wait. Oh yes, there will be a small “convenience” charge to get in to Mayfest at the Driller park, and leave your bottle of water outside in the paid parking area.

The City Council just needs to look down the river a little to see how these things can be done.

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For another view that is very well written and provides more inside information, please read the letter from Bob Sober to the Tulsa City Councilors, posted on BatesLine, along with Michael’s commentary.

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