Monday, December 12, 2005

Joe Kelley and Questionable Content

Thought that would get you to look!

Joe Kelley has posted his thoughts on why he is opposed to the renewal of the County's sales tax packages. Set for a vote tomorrow (Dec. 13), Kelley says he opposes any increase in taxes until such time that the elected officials prove they have cut everywhere they can. [You can read his blog posting here.]

I tried to respond to him using the comments feature on his site, but was told that I had a "Comment Submission Error." Why? Apparently "due to questionable content."

So, I'm posting my response here. Read it thoroughly and tell me if you can guess what the questionable content might be. This is your chance to join the list of they hyper-critical, giving you full license to not only disagree with my message, but also my spelling and punctuation.


While I strongly agree with you in general, I have spent the past three Summers pouring over our city's budget, trying to determine which basic services should be ended in order to balance our budget.

I've often said that if the city hadn't had its budget crisis, we'd have had to invent one, because it's the only way we've been able to get the city's beauracracy to seriously take a look at cutting costs. But at a certain point, you can cut so much fat that you begin to hit muscle.

We haven't been able to return pay cuts to city employees. We haven't been able to put water into the vast majority of the city's pools. We haven't been able to fund overtime for police officers searching for serial rapists. We haven't been able to fund code enforcement inspectors to keep our neighborhoods vital and safe.

Tulsa...the City of in trouble. We need more police officers on the streets. We need to pay our officers a competitive wage to keep other cities from luring them away. We need street lights in high crime areas. We need community based policing to disuade crime before it happens. I wouldn't be pushing for a short-term use of any tax, if we didn't need to stop the bleeding of the last four years.

My proposal will be short lived. I will put renewal...if it is needed...back before the voters before my re-election bid...if order to be answerable to the voters in delivering on my promises.

But we need change and need it fast. Tulsa is becoming unsafe to live, work or play.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tulsa Beacon: "Tulsa County is Fixed." Vote No!

Tulsa's conservative weekly newspaper, the Tulsa Beacon, has joined the chorus of opinion leaders calling for voters to reject Tulsa County's renewal of Four-to-Fix the County. The Beacon writes:

"The projects on the list have merit but some are just not high priorities. County government is essentially closed to public comment on its capital priorities and that is another reason to vote no. The County Commission didn’t listen to the voters when it approved a 75-year contract for a toll bridge on the Arkansas River and it didn’t listen when participants in the Vision 2025 summit said the No. 1 priority should development along the Arkansas River."

If people think the city has been a haven for "good ol' boy" politics and backdoor deals, you haven't taken a close look at the county. I have personally, on two occassions, joined interested citizens in attending County committee meetings to express concern about the direction the County was going on two very divergent issues; one a zoning issue and the second, relating to the Bixby Bridge.

On both occassions, the citizens were met with scowls and truncated meetings, apparently shortened to not have to follow through on plans with opposition in the room.

We need our tax dollars prioritzed for the public good and watched by good stewards, not over-paid officials who believe there is no joy greater than the spending of someone else's money.

Vote No on Tuesday!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mayor? Cops? Uh...Puh-leez!

It really happened. It was last Tuesday, at an event entitled "Mayor's Night In," and I was there. I, and several dozen invitees from Tulsa's neighborhood associations, heard it with our own ears.

For me, it didn’t sink in immediately. Like a very subtle joke that takes a second to get, it almost got lost among the stream of rhetoric that flowed from Bill LaFortune’s mouth. But my brain wouldn't let me move on until the full impact of the statement had hit me between the eyes.

Running the words over again in my mind, I shook my head slightly and then leaned over to a long time friend who represents one of the city’s neighborhoods, who had bravely chosen to sit next to me.

“Did I just hear our mayor say,” I enquired, hoping she would tell me that it was my ears and not Bill LaFortune’s logic that was faulty, “that hiring more police officers would raise the crime rate?”

“I think you did,” she replied, uncertain herself if it could be true.

A statement this surreal was obviously going to require additional confirmation. I waited a a few seconds and then turned aroundto get the attention of Bobby Holt, blogger and neighborhood activist, who was sitting behind me.

“Tell me I didn’t just hear the mayor of our city say that putting more cops on the streets would increase the crime rate.” It wasn’t a question, I really was seeking, on some level, reassurance that I was wrong.

“I heard it, too,” Bobby whispered.

There is was. Tucked within a stream-of-consciousness-response to a question posed by Michael Bates (who aside from being a blogger, a columnist for Urban Tulsa Weekly, a KFAQ contributor and a neighborhood officer, is also the State Committeeman for the Tulsa County Republican Party);

What were our mayor's exact words? They were these:

"More police officers…means more arrests…means a higher crime rate."
“What? He said what,” those of you that weren’t present must be asking? “Surely, you’re taking him out of context? After all, you’re Chris-Medlock-Who-Is-Running-For-Mayor.”

Okay, let’s put it into complete context. The mayor had been taking various questions from the neighborhood leaders he had coincidentally assembled, in the Civic Center, just a few short hours after announcing his controversial six-year Third Penny sales tax extension package.

The invitees had been given egg rolls and other hors d’oeuvres, and were sipping water or iced tea from wine glasses. [Note: who footed the bill? The City of Tulsa, or the LaFortune re-election campaign?] They were given a nice introduction by the new Mayor’s Director for Neighborhoods, who reminded them all that it had been two years since they had last had one of these events. She then dutifully introduced her boss, who immediately jumped into a discussion of the Third Penny.

The mayor talked for about thirty minutes and then began taking questions.

LaFortune tried very hard to not call on Mr. Bates, who had had his hand up for some time. But eventually, Michael’s was the only hand in the air and the mayor had little choice.

Here’s what Bates asked:

"Four to Fix the County comes up for a vote next Tuesday. Of the $62 million that the tax is going to raise, $50 million will be raised within the City of Tulsa…roughly. Of that, only $40 million is going to come back to Tulsa and that includes Fairgrounds and the County Courthouse which is actually there to serve the whole of Tulsa County.

“Is that a good deal for Tulsa? Or would it be a better idea to turn Four to Fix down and raise that tax locally, as Councilor Medlock has proposed, to pay for increased public safety spending within the City of Tulsa to deal with our violent crime rate which is nearly double the national average?”
LaFortune began with what is, to my knowledge, the first public acknowledgment that he supports renewal of the County sales tax. He began,

“Well…in terms of Four to Fix…I’m going to support Four to Fix the County and I’ll tell you why.”
Thinking about his statement now, I find his choice of tense, very LaFortunesque. “I’m going to support Four to Fix the County…” rather than, “I support Four to Fix.” He just isn’t telling us when he is going to support the tax. Perhaps he’s waiting to see if it will win at the polls before choosing to currently support Four to Fix?

He spoke briefly on the economic impact Tulsa will see from the fairgrounds improvement, especially emphasizing the Arabian Horse Show that will soon come to Tulsa. Hopefully, it wasn’t lost on those assembled/ that the show was secured because of the improvements that were made with revenues from the current tax. We won’t be losing those improvements if we turn down the future tax.

But I digress. Eventually, the mayor came around to the question of putting more police on the streets to fight our growing crime epidemic. He explained:

“Let me put this out. Everyone thinks it’s a panacea to just have more police officers. That somehow, that would reduce your crime rate just because you have more police officers. Our police officers work very hard. Very hard. And they’ve sacrificed.

"And we have a lot of work to do, Michael. I agree with your [three inaudible syllables that sound like, “your choice of”] funding their wages, their benefits, but ‘can’ the manpower. More police officers…means more arrests…means a higher crime rate."
He obviously saw the looks of disbelief on the faces of the audience, because it took him a while to put together another complete sentence.

“And yeah…but you can’t…there is some…correlation…of human [inaudible]…talking about. I’ll tell you what…Sheriff Stanley Glanz…”

Still skeptical that he said it? Listen for yourself. Click Here.

So there you have it. Bill LaFortune brought many of the neighborhood activists and leaders to the Civic Center, on a cold and blustery night, to hear him assert the following:

  1. Mr. LaFortune supports yet another county sales tax, even though sales taxes are the primary funding mechanism for cities. Ad valorem, or property taxes, are the traditional method of funding for counties.

  2. Mr. LaFortune apparently isn’t concerned that the citizens that pay his salary will see the city they reside in footing more of the bill in taxes than they will receive in benefits. As Michael Bates pointed out, Tulsa will be a donor city if Four To Fix is renewed, even though Tulsa’s city budget is suffering while the other Tulsa County communities are seeing record revenue increases.

  3. Mr. LaFortune does not support my proposal of using the available sales taxes currently going to the County, in part or in whole, to fund various one-time public safety measures designed to reduce crime and to make Tulsa a safer place to “live, work and play.” He is in effect saying that he favors the building of County roads as a higher priority than City of Tulsa police academies, or street lights in North, West and East Tulsa.

  4. Mr. LaFortune wants to see the current policemen paid more, but offers no proposal on how to do so.

  5. Mr. LaFortune actually believes that putting more officers on the streets would not be effective in fighting Tulsa’s rapidly rising crime rates. In fact, he believes that putting more officers on the streets would INCREASE the crime rates.
The only way Mr. LaFortune’s logic can approach lucidity is if he was talking about the crime figures that the Chamber might use to lure new businesses to Tulsa.

If this is what he intended to imply, then it belies something that is equally troubling then the five revelations listed above. Bill LaFortune is more concerned about the numbers used to describe crime, than he is about the citizens who have been, or might be, the victims of crime.

Either way, his cleverly crafted political event, masked as a legitimate city activity, backfired horribly on our mayor.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Lack of Voices Said It All

I've been purposely sitting on what I've known about the arena management contract that was awarded last month to the Philadelphia based firm, SMG.

I've known that there were some serious irregularities in the bid process that Bill LaFortune's hand-picked Vision 2025 Oversight Committee used to select the company that will run our huge investment in both the Civic Center and the new arena. This committee, (known originally around City Hall as the Super Six until it grew to twelve members) was supposed to review the sealed bids submitted by the three applicants and then weight the bids on various criteria. The result of the final "weighting," was supposed theory...result in the best applicant for the arena management contract.

I'll get into some of the weaknesses of the process...and the logic of the people involved in the process...later. Right now, before I've bored you to death...let's deal with the 900 pound gorilla in the room. Or, more rightly, the fourteen second pregnant pause that was in the Civic Center Executive Meeting Room at around 10:40 AM on Thursday, December 1st.

The two entities that lost in the bid process were the City of Tulsa's Civic Center management team and a private company called Global Spectrum (GS). The meeting last Thursday was held in order to hear the concerns of GS with regard to what they learned about how the bids were handled by LaFortune's team. In fact, they had earlier requested in a letter to the city's purchasing department, for details in how they might formally protest the decision. Since there is no way it might destroy any drama you might be feeling to tell you now how it ended, the committee very politely rejected GS's appeal.

It took the Tulsa World more than a week following their initial interview with the GS executives, to finally publish a very shallow story on the issue in their paper. Most interestingly, they made a prophet of me with the GS execs, because I told them that Tulsa's paper would either not publish any story critical of the process, or would bury it deep in the Local section on Thanksgiving Day. Guess what? They did publish the story. Did you see it before you stuffed the turkey and/or yourself?

In a November 28th letter addressed to Larry Hood, the Director of Purchasing for the City of Tulsa, Frank Russo, the Senior VP for Sales at Global Spectrum outlined most of their concerns. You can read the letter in it's entirety here. For brevity's sake, let me include the final paragraph to illustrate how unusual an act this protest was for Global Spectrum:

In conclusion we are very disappointed with the selection process. I have personally been competing for private management contracts since 1988 and I have never filed a protest, but this situation is different – it is not simply “sour grapes.” We can’t help but feel that we were simply used to create the appearance of competition. We remain baffled as to why the City seems to be acting against its own best interests.
Even so, GS accepted an invitation from the city to fly one of their execs (Dean Dennis, Global Spectrum Western Region VP for Sales) to fly at GS's expense to Tulsa, to ask questions of the "Super Twelve" about Global Spectrum's concerns. Please note, I said "ask questions." Apparently there was no guarantee that the loss of time and money would result in satisfactory answers. Actually, as it turned out, there was no guarantee of any answer at all!

In a moment, I'm going to suggest you click on the link below to hear a 92 second sound clip that mocks any "spin" that members of the committee might have made to the local "news"paper. One such example of the spin came from District Nine Councilor Susan Neal. Here's what the World reported on Councilor Neal's thoughts on the rejection of GS's request to re-open the process:

City Councilor Susan Neal, one of the 15 committee members, said that to change the committee's decision, "it needed to hear some extraordinary evidence, and it didn't."

"The overall cost of operation, cost effectiveness, cost efficiency, savings to the taxpayers, best bang for the buck, best return on the investment for the longevity of the facility, all of that was considered in those numbers," she said.

"So, when you actually compare the two companies, their bids are so very close, but when you look at their returns, they are not close."
For those of you that pay to read the World online, you can read the entire story here. [Hurry...if you wait until after Friday, Dec. 8, you'll have to pay again.]

During the one hour that GS was allowed to makes its case and to ask questions, they attempted to address all five of the main points outlined in Russo's Nov. 28th letter to the City. However, GS VP Dean Dennis made multiple attempts to get answer item two on their list of concerns. Item two reads as follows [note; IFB stands for "Invitation For Bid"]:

2. Global Spectrum was the low bidder for the combined facilities by over $335,000. You can make all the adjustments you want – we were still the low bidder and yet SMG even received a higher score than us on this category!? We used your required IFB Form that leaves no doubt that we were the low bidder.
Those of you that dutifully read the Tulsa World account of the meeting will see no mention whatsoever of this concern on the part of Dennis and Global Spectrum's management. Those of you who know the Tulsa World has no objectivity on such issues are not surprised.

Rather than deal with the very real concerns of lack of logic in the process, the paper chose instead to focus on a letter of recommendation that Tulsa Vision Builder's arena project manager, Bart Boatright, sent to the committee supporting Global's rival, SMG. They used a quote from me to make it appear that this was the main sticking point and that even that contentious Medlock guy said nothing was wrong. At least, for once, they didn't refer to me as "Chris Medlock, who is running for mayor." Here's the actual quote from the paper:

City Councilor Chris Medlock, who attended the protest hearing, said he thinks Boatright had a lapse in judgment as far as the letter but blamed the administration for putting Boatright in an "impossible position."

Who else was in the room? Among others, there was Charles Hardt (CoT Director of Public Works), Mike Buchert (Asst. Dir. of Public Works), Clay Bird (Mayor's Chief of Staff), Susan Neal (Dist. 9 City Councilor), Bart Boatright (Tulsa Vision Builders Project Manager and the guy Clay Bird told the Council in committee two weeks earlier "had all the answers"), Larry Hood (Dir. of Purchasing), Linda Redemann (Asst. City Attorney, who along with Boatright and Hood wrote the IFB), Charles Norman (former City Attorney and the Mayor's fomer boss), and Karen Keith (the Mayor's chief spin doctor). Pretty safe to say, that any question regarding the arena, or the bidding process, should reside in one of these folks' brain, right?

Guess again.

So that brings us to the audio. What P.J. Lassek probably should have written was, Chris Medlock, who attended the protest hearing with a digital recorder that had enough memory to get Global's concerns recorded..."

What you will hear is a 92 second segment of the discussion. The first voice you will hear is that of Global's Dean Dennis, who is pointing to pro forma figures in a section of their bid and comparing it to the equivalent section in SMG's bid. He mentions "synergy savings," which is a term that appeared in SMG's bid, but was not part of the IFB requirements, but was used to explain much of why SMG won the bid.

The first question he asks is to simply ask if his interpretation of the figures is "correct?" Rather than getting confirmation to his logic, Larry Hood reads the two dollar figures in thousands of dollars, confirming that Global was slightly lower in its bid. Remember this, because it is important.

Then Dennis states his hope that the committee wasn't confused by the different ways that the two companies used to state their financial projections (pro formas). If there was confusion, it is possible that they weren't comparing "apples to apples," so to speak.

But then, in a very polite way, Dennis asks the quesiton Global most wants answered. If they were the low bidder on the compensation portion of the bids, why then, did SMG get more points for that section from the appointed members of the committee, with regard to the commitee's weighted scoring? In other words, Global won that section of the bid, and should have been awarded the higher score, right?

In fact, it was learned later in the meeting that Global's score in this section was the second best out of the three, and that SMG's was third out of three. The lowest bid on compensation was the City of Tulsa's Civic Center Management team. So here's how they ranked in bidding from lowest (best) to highest (worst):

1. Civic Center Management
2. Global Spectrum
3. SMG

But how did the committee weigh this section? Here's how:

1. SMG
2. Global Spectrum
3. Civic Center Management

Get the feeling something is going on here? Am I getting another notion that needs to be "quashed?"

So Dean Dennis asks the BIG question, and what is his answer? LISTEN HERE.

For those of you that couldn't download the file, he was answered with exactly fourteen seconds of dead silence, broken only by the voice of Asst. Director of Public Works, Mike Buchert, asking "Does anyone else have any questions or comments?"

Note to Mr. Buchert: What Mr. Dennis was looking for was neither a question, nor a comment. What Mr. Dennis, who flew to Tulsa at his company's expense was looking for was an answer, even if it proved a point that would be mightily embarrassing to the committee and the administration.

Mr. Dennis deserved an answer. He had left his wife (who is, by the way, the Secretary of State for the State of Colorado) and family to get an answer. Global Spectrum deserved an answer. The people of Tulsa deserved an answer. So where was the answer?

I'm guessing you don't have an answer. But don't think it's the last time you're going to be asked.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"Change Makes Sense," But Jon Davidson Doesn't

There he goes again. The inhospitable Recall kingpin from the hospitality industry has his gun half-cocked and his facts half right. But that didn't stop the Tulsa World from printing his opinions in their letters to the editor this morning.

Mr. Davidson's problem, from Day One, has been that facts are far too inconvenient when there are points to be made. Toss in a couple of good, groundless allegations and you've got yourself a "pulpit" from which to "bully." Never forget that it was Mr. Davidson who refused to name the members of his ill-fated coalition humorously known as the Coalition for Responsible Government, because he feared the "terrorist tactics" of Jim Mautino and me.

Under the headline, "Change makes sense," Mr. Davidson writes:

"...the recall provision was included for good reason; to protect citizens of Tulsa from councilors with their own agendas. "

Sensible enough. However, he subtly infers that Mr. Mautino and I only act upon our "own," or selfish agenda. In other words, we needed to be recalled, because we were acting selfishly (for financial gain or power?) and not in the best interests of the people that elected us. Guess we all know what the people that elected us thought of that argument.

It was always my impression that Mr. Davidson never really understood what it was that he was doing, with the recall process. If anyone was acting selfishly, it was he and his team of developers and builders.

But let's move on to his big misconceptions, shall we?

Mr. Davidson further opines:

The provision of "requiring everyone involved in a recall petition be a resident from the recall-targeted elected official's district" is ridiculous.
Strong statement, that. Too bad it has no grounding in fact. Hopefully Mr. Davidson will breathe a little easier to know that there is no requirement that all participants involved in the recall process be a resident of the targeted elected officials district. We're still waiting on the final wording from the City Attorney, but he was directed to craft a charter change that would require all petition circulators and officers to be from the targeted-councilor's district. That's not the same as saying that no one else can be involved.

Next he states:

There are many issues that can surface in one district that affect non-district residents and restricting them from protecting their interests is anti-business.
I'm not really sure what he's trying to say here. Is the problem an issue that might surface in one district, or is it a councilor from one district that might be too effective in advocating an opinion contrary to Mr. Davidson's business interest, that he is worried about? The only thing I can gather from this sentence is that it was tossed in so Mr. Davidson could use the term, "anti-business." It's a favorite phrase of his.

Finally, he writes:

The notion that signatures required should be 25 percent of the voters who voted in the last mayoral election is even more ridiculous. More than 65,000 votes were cast in the last mayoral race, 25 percent equals 16,398. In the last City Council elections, District 2 had less than 2,500 votes. To require 25 percent, or 16,398 signatures from a single district in this case, to recall an errant councilor is something that some of our city councilors would bank on as being an impossibility, which it is.
No Jon, what is ridiculous is that you would so publicly pontificate without knowing what you're talking about. You are referring to an amendment I offered and the council supported, that would require recall signatures on the petition equal 25 percent of the voters who voted in the district in question, during the last mayoral election. Big difference, Jon.

We're not requiring 16,398 to call for a recall of a councilor. The actual math, using the numbers Mr. Davidson cites, can be estimated with the equation, ((65,000 x .25)/9). This equation comes up with a figure I think would be far more to his liking; 1822.

So, Mr. Davidson, is that more to your liking? Hope it calms you down a bit.

Let me make a modest suggestion for the future. Pick up a phone and talk to someone that knows what is going on before you go off making wild allegations.

If you would have done this last year, you might have saved me, my family and the citizens of the City of Tulsa a lot of grief, as well as a lot of embarrassment for yourself.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lassek Claims of Quashing Are Questionable

P. J. Lassek and her headline editors are at it again. As always, they're hoping that more people read their accounts of Council meetings and do not watch TGOV than do watch TGOV.

In another Sunday story designed to discredit moi, Ms. Lassek structures the first several words to make it sound like more happened conclusively at Tuesday's Public Works meeting than actually happened. Let's examine her artistry.

The primary headline says that "officials" dispute my "claims." Officials makes it sound like it was individuals without a political stake in the game. Not so. Even John Scott, who recently got the news that half of his job is going away in 18 months has a vested interest in keeping the current administration happy.

There's nothing wrong with saying they're disputing my claims, since disputes are issues that are still...well...disputed. As for my "claims," I was primarily asking questions in the meeting to get to the bottom of other people's claims...most notably, P.J. Lassek's. After all, it was the discrepencies in the arena and convention center numbers that she reported in two different stories (without a story in between listing when and why a change occurred) that I was asking about.

Then there's the sub-head, where my "claims" have been rephrased more accurately as questions. Or are they saying I have questionable claims? Or maybe, I'm asking questions to infer claims? Hmmm....

Then we move to the lead paragraph. Believe me, nobody knows better than the writers, editors and publishers of a daily newspaper, the fact that the vast majority of readers won't get past the unflattering picture (I look like a congested mouth-breather) the headline, the sub-headline and maybe one or two paragraphs. So they finish the deal with the lead paragraph that said:

Officials quashed City Councilor Chris Medlock’s notion that voters were getting fewer improvements to the Maxwell Convention Center because cost estimates had changed.
How humiliated I must have felt. I mean, my notion had been quashed...and on live television no less!

Folks, if you haven't seen the meeting on TGOV, then let me make a "claim" here on my web log. My "notion" was questioned by employees of the mayor, but nothing was quashed (except for the notion that Clay Bird and the administration might ever answer a direct "question" about the arena with some notion of a direct answer).

Mr. Bird and Mr. Charles Hardt didn't deny that the amounts of money that might be spent on the arena as opposed to the convention center, have changed since the "question" was put before the voters in September, 2003. In fact, the story's second paragraph admits that the dollar figures have been fluid for the past two years. They just refused to give any details as to whether or not the quality of the end product the tax payers will see for their hard earned dollars might be declining in one, or both, of the projects.

I couldn't even get a straight answer as to what the process is for determining which, if any, of the projects will get short shrift, should the expected cost over runs materialize. After all, it is more than a personal "notion" that there has been a substantial spike in the costs of building materials over the past two years.

One thing that is more than a notion (in fact, it's unquestionable) is this; currently Bill LaFortune and his administration only have $183 million to build an iconic arena and to upgrade a convention center that is still in debt until 2013 due to its LAST upgrade in 1983.

If we're going to see cost over runs, due to higher material (and even labor) costs, and we're going to build an iconic arena as promised to the voters, then one of two things must be true. We're going to either get less convention center, or we're going to have to come back for more tax dollars.

Only time will tell who had a questionable notion and who had questionable motives for deceiving the public. The administration of course, is hoping that the true cost of the arena won't come to light until after LaFortune is re-elected (or more likely, it is someone else's burden to shoulder).

What is unquestionable is that the newspaper continues to skew reality to score political points. Heck, they even went to great pains (as opposed to Great Plains) to note that the meeting was yet again, "contentious). Trying to score political points using newsprint and ink isn't a questionable notion if it is constrained to the editorial pages. However, to do so in a news story is unquestionably unprofessional.

At least, that's a notion I'm comfortable in claiming.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wilbert Collins: Huh?

I'm not sure which of two head scratchers from today's story on the growing opposition to Tulsa County's Four-To-Fix sales tax initiative was the itchiest.

I'm still amazed at the fact that the Tulsa World refuses to state, in any of the stories they've written, that my opposition to F-2-F is due to my idea of using the available tax (should the voters of Tulsa approve) to fund police academies and additional officers, as well as to fund other public safety proposals.

I guess the World knows that if the public gets wind of the details of my plan, that F-2-F is likely doomed.

The second head-scratcher is the response by County commissioner Wilbert Collins. Here's what Commissioner Collins said:

Medlock said police staffing was down when it should be

increased and he was worried that communities such as Broken Arrow could start recruiting Tulsa officers by offering better pay.

Medlock said the county should stick to property taxes for funding and let municipalities use the traditional method of raising money with sales taxes.

"I think the county's fixed," he said. "The county is continuing to prosper, even though the city is not."

County Commissioner Wilbert Collins stressed that "4 to Fix" is a county tax.

"(Medlock) ought to understand that. Why is it legal for us to launch the effort if it's not proper?" Collins said. "He needs to find a way to fund his projects in the city, and if it's police and fire, so be it. I agree they need some funding. That's his job, to find some funding."

Commissioner...I know 4 to Fix is a county tax. So are all those property taxes you collect. There was a day when the County collected no sales taxes and I hope that day comes again in my lifetime. I acknowledge it is a county tax, but if we vote it down, the voters of the City of Tulsa can reprioritize and vote in a CITY tax in the same amount to fund police and public safety.

As for the difference between legality and propriety, let me start with this: just because something is legal doesn't make it proper. I've never challenged either the legality of your tax or the propriety of asking for a renewal. What I've said is, that it needs to be ended because the priorities for the City of Tulsa have changed and that many like me believe its time to get the County out of the sales tax business.

Ending 4 to Fix and then offering a public safety alternative use for the same amount is legal, proper and imperative.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Norman Conquest? Did Cox Connection Influence Mayor’s Arena Choice?

Yesterday, I attended the press conference at which Bill LaFortune announced his selection for the new arena’s management contract. LaFortune's handpicked Vision 2025 Oversight Committee and the Events Center Design Committee a selected the Philadelphia based company, SMG. [Please note that one of the members of the oversight committee is local attorney Charles Norman, of the law firm Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Dowdell]

Originally formed in 1977 to manage the Louisiana Superdome, SMG (Sports Management Group) is a joint venture in general partnership form with two equal principals: The Hyatt Hotel Company and ARAMARK Corporation. The firm manages 74 arenas and 7 stadiums, which is admittedly quite impressive.

However, it has been rumored for some time that the current administration was leaning very heavily toward SMG, even as much as a year ago.

The V2025 Oversight & Design Committees conducted interviews from the three applicants on Thursday, November 3rd, from 9AM to 2 PM. One would assume the team stopped for lunch. It took LaFortune and his team less than one day to conduct interviews with SMG and the other three applicants, to talk over their thoughts, to weigh all the options, to choose SMG and then to put together and conduct a press conference in City Hall. That's pretty quick for a guy that often takes months to determine who to put onto the Sign Advisory Board.

So was the fix in? If so, why? Or did SMG have an advantage based on relationships with committee members?

Who did SMG beat out for the contract? Two others applied. They were John Scott and his staff, who currently operate the Convention Center and another international team named Global Spectrum. (I encourage you to click on the hyperlink to see Global Spectrum's site, lest you think they were some minor player compared to SMG.) Here's a bit about Global Spectrum (ironically, also Philadelphia based) from one of their news releases:

Global Spectrum, the fastest growing firm in the public assembly facility management field with more than 45 facilities throughout the United States and Canada, manages the Iowa Events Center. The Philadelphia-based company is part of one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment firm Comcast-Spectacor, which also owns the Wachovia Center and Wachovia Spectrum, the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League, Flyers Skate Zone, a series of community ice skating rinks, Comcast SportsNet, a regional sports programming network, Ovations Food Services, a food and beverage services provider, New Era Tickets, a full-service ticketing and marketing product for public assembly facilities, and Front Row Marketing Services, a commercial rights sales company. Comcast-Spectacor owns three minor league baseball teams - the Bowie Baysox, the Delmarva Shorebirds and the Frederick Keys - all affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles.

What is very interesting to me can be found in Global Spectrum's full name; "Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of Comcast Spectacor." Here's a link to Comcast Specator's site.

Having one time been employed in the cable industry, I'm very familiar with the name Comcast.
For those of you that aren't familiar with Comcast, here are some details from the company's web site:

Comcast is the nation's leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services, serving more than 21.5 million cable subscribers and more than 7.7 million high-speed Internet customers. Comcast serves 1.2 million cable telephone subscribers. Comcast is principally involved in the development, management and operation of broadband cable networks and the creation and delivery of programming content. Comcast provides basic cable, digital cable, high-speed Internet and digital phone services The Company's content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, The Golf Channel, Outdoor Life Network, G4, AZN Television, PBS KIDS Sprout, TV One and four Comcast SportsNets.

The Company also has a majority ownership in Comcast-Spectacor, whose major holdings include the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team and two large multipurpose arenas in Philadelphia ,Comcast also is a partner in joint ventures focused on digital cable technology developments including GuideWorks, TVWorks, Combined Conditional Access Development (CCAD), Conditional Access Licensing (CAL) and OCAP Development.

Compare this now, to Tulsa's local cable company, Cox Communications:

Cox Communications is a multi-service broadband communications company with approximately 6.6 million total customers, including 6.3 million basic cable subscribers. The nation’s third-largest cable television provider, Cox offers both analog cable television under the Cox Cable brand as well as advanced digital video service under the Cox Digital Cable brand.

Cox provides an array of other communications and entertainment services, including local and long distance telephone under the Cox Digital Telephone brand; high-speed Internet access under the Cox High Speed Internet brand; and commercial voice and data services via Cox Business Services. Local cable advertising, promotional opportunities and production services are sold under the Cox Media brand. Cox is an investor in programming networks including Discovery Channel.
What is the significance of this? Well, if you're Cox Communications and you have the cable franchises for the two largest cable markets in the state of Oklahoma, how excited are you going to be to have a subsidiary of the nation's largest cable company suddenly getting a toehold in your market? Not very, I can assure you.

Don't forget to throw into the calculation, this little factoid. We've just announced that BOK is going to be given the naming rights for Tulsa's arena and most of us know that Oklahoma City awarded their naming rights to the area Ford dealerships.

What is probably of less common knowledge for Tulsans is that OKC's convention center, was renamed, too. Formerly the Myriad Center, OKC's city government also secured naming rights for the convention center. And who was awarded those rights?

Click here to see for yourself.

Note the logos in the lower right-hand corner.

Not interesting enough for you, yet? Okay...remember when I asked you to note the fact that local big-wig attorney Charles Norman was a member of the Vision 2025 Oversight Committee that was selected by Mayor Bill LaFortune? Would it surprise you to know (if you didn't already) that before he was our mayor and after he was our District Attorney, Bill LaFortune was an attorney for the law firm of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Dowdell? get's better. Would it surprise you to know that one of NWC&D's biggest clients is none other than Cox Communications?

Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Dowdell

Location: 2900 Mid Continent Tower
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103

Representative Clients:
Bethlehem Steel Corp.; BSW International; Citicorp Real Estate, Inc.; Crum & Forster; Mid-Continent Concrete Co.; Mid-Continent Energy, Inc.; Raytheon Co.; Sooner Pipe, Inc. and affiliates; Sovereign Insurance Life Insurance Company of California; St. John Medical Center; Cox Communications; Tulsa City-County Library System; Gemstar-TV Guide International, Inc.; T-Mobile USA, Inc.; Farmers Alliance Mutual Insurance; Duke Energy Field Services, Inc.; Hillcrest Health System; Warren Foundation.

So what if the firm represents Cox...that doesn't mean they are a client of Norman's? How about this from the Tulsa City Council's online meeting minutes from February 22, 2005:

Public Works Committee

Agenda Item Number 8

Franchise agreement with Cox Communications to allow television cable access and equipment within the City of Tulsa’s right of way. 05-119

Discussion At Meeting:

A representative from Cox, Mr. Mullin, came to discuss a permanent
non-exclusive franchise with the City of Tulsa. Charles Norman is also here as Cox’s representative to negotiate with the City of Tulsa. Councilor Sullivan says that this item allows others to move into this contract through a bidding process and that Cox is a friendly community partner. Charles Norman, the legal representative from Cox, talked about how the Charter expresses that this contract would be at will from the side of the City for cause. He also gave an extensive history of cable franchises to the Council. He says that he feels that a vote of the people is not needed to establish a franchise. Councilor Sullivan added more support for this arrangement.

Further throw into the mix the fact that Mr. Norman serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Tulsa with such luminaries as Steve Turnbo [Great Plains Airlines], Bob & Roxanna Lorton [Great Plains Airlines], Buddy LaFortune [Mayor's father], Sharon Bell [BOK Board], Paula Marshall [BOK Board] and Kathryn Taylor [BOK Board].

Think any influence is getting applied to Hizzoner the Mayor? Maybe. Maybe not.

Setting the Record Straight: I'm Not "Pushing" and I'm Not the "Chair"

In an effort to keep certain myths created (either directly or indirectly) by inaccurate reporting and editorializing on the part of the Tulsa World, I need to clarify a few factual errors that have popped up of late.

First let me tackle an actual misstatement by P. J. Lassek, of the Tulsa World. In the story she filed for the November 4, 2005 edition of the World, published under the headline, “Council approves eight charter change amendments,” on page A-9, Ms. Lassek wrote:

Only one of the eight proposed city charter changes has secured a spot on a ballot; the remaining seven are still subject to another vote of the council.

The council already has approved sending to the voters a change that requires a three-fourths vote of the entire council for approval of a zoning change that is protested by at least 50 percent of landowners within a 300-foot radius of the property being rezoned.

Medlock is pushing to have that charter change on the municipal primary election in March.
The Truth:

Those who watch TGOV will have noticed that before the council began voting on all of the various charter change amendments, I made a point of order stating that the Protested Zoning Super-Majority question had already been approved to be sent to the voters and but for an error in the City Clerk’s office last Spring, the question would’ve been put before the voters when they voted on the General Obligation Bond packages.

As such, I made a formal motion for the Protested Zoning Super-Majority change to be put onto the March election. This was passed 8 to 1, with Councilor Martinson abstaining (which under Oklahoma state law is recorded as a “no” vote).

So, it is incorrect to state that I am “pushing” for a March vote, given that this has already been approved. P.J. owes NAIOP and Home Builders Association an apology for giving them false hope.

Second, a grossly incorrect perception has been turned into perceived fact by the World’s continued verbal flagellations on their editorial pages. This has now lead even those who support the council’s attempts to investigate our airport and Great Plains Airlines to become confused as to the facts.

The anonymous blogger, “TulTellitarian,” recently wrote the following on the web log

Chris Medlock assumed the position of committee Chair after Sam Roop, the prior committee Chairperson, vacated his Council #5 District seat to take a $91,000/year job on the Mayors’ Cabinet. This action by the Mayor and Roop also broke the elected, reform-minded, majority on the Council and returned Council control to the previous state of control by a handful of special interests. This is the bunch who blocks the Council committee investigation of Great Plains airlines. The last thing they want is for us to know what really happened, especially come election time.

Since then, the investigative committee has been shunted at every turn by the new “gang of five” ( “voting bloc” or a number of other adjectives used by the Whirled to describe the previous elected majority) on the Council, denying funds for necessary aspects of the investigation.
The Truth:

First to TulTellitarian, whoever you are, thanks for your efforts to keep the spotlight on the dark places in order to shine a light on the truth. However, I need to clear up a fact before it grows into an even larger legend.

I am not, nor have I ever been, the chairman of the Tulsa City Council’s Airport Investigation Sub-Committee. I’ve never even been vice-chair.

Sam Roop, Roscoe Turner and I were named to the Committee in 2004. Sam Roop served as chairman until he was hired away by the Mayor last February. At that time, the vice-chairman, Roscoe Turner assumed the chair and District 1 councilor Jack Henderson was named to the committee. No one was ever assigned as vice-chairman.

In April, when Roscoe Turner leap-frogged Tom Baker as the Democrat’s choice to be the 2005-06 chairman of the Tulsa City Council, I suggested to Mr. Turner that it might not be wise for him to serve both as Council Chair and Airport Investigation Chair. This suggestion was not received well by Mr. Turner. I asked him to think on it and to let me know if he changed his mind. He never again talked to me about it, so I must assume he never changed his mind.

However, because Mr. Turner chairs the Thursday night meetings, and because I have done the vast majority of the research into the Great Plains Airlines records, procedural convenience led me to doing most of the talking on the issue when the investigation has been discussed during our formal meetings. This has lead many who have been critical of our efforts (the World and many councilors) to discover what happened to the $30 million plus of Oklahoma tax payer’s money, to foster the misconception that I am now the chairman of the investigation and thus responsible for not calling meetings or for not presenting a final report.

Let me restate it one final time, so that at least the relative handful of people that regularly read this blog can begin to spread the truth”

I am not, nor have I ever been, the chairman of the Tulsa City Council’s Airport Investigation Sub-Committee. I’ve never even been vice-chair.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Another Thing To Make You Go "Hmmmmm."

Mayor Bill LaFortune wants to give Bank of Oklahoma $7 million of Tulsa taxpayer money to recompense the bank for the convoluted loan that led to the creation of Great Plains Airlines. He wants to do the, even though the city isn't legally liable for any of the money owed the bank.

To make matters worse, since the Mayor is pursuing a settlement, rather than letting a judge decide the case [and any liability the city might have] the $7 million would not be able to come from the city's Sinking Fund, which is from where most judgments against the city are paid. Where "judgments" are paid...not "settlements." Since we can't, by law, tap the Sinking Fund without a judgment, we must draw from the Operating Fund. That is, if LaFortune has his way.

What's the difference you ask? Well, if the money were to come from the Sinking Fund, at worst the average citizen might see a minor increase in their property taxes. However, if we take $7 million from our Operating Fund, then you're going to see it come out of streets, pools, salaries and/or cops on the streets.

So what should make the average taxpayer go, "Hmmmmm?"

How about the fact that two of Bill LaFortune's Campaign Committee members also serve on the Board of Directors for Bank of Oklahoma? In fact, one of them is his uncle. Here's the list:


V. BURNS HARGIS Vice-Chairman

Remember when we were going through meeting after meeting last Spring, attempting to pass an ethics ordinance for the city? Remember Sam Roop saying that the administration was in favor of "good ethics," but that there were some items that needed to be changed before the Mayor would guarantee he wouldn't veto the ordinance? Would it surprise you to know that one of the "deal killers" Mr. Roop imparted to us was the requirement to disclose or recuse yourself from any city action that included a financial reward for any family member within a "3rd Degree of Consanguinity?"

Consanguinity is defined as;
con·san·guin·i·ty noun

1. Relationship by blood or by a common ancestor.
2. A close affinity or connection
A 1st Degree relationship would be a spouse or child. A 2nd Degree relationship is a sibling or a parent. So what is a 3rd Degree relationship? That would be an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or cousin.

The "Gang of Four" was pushing hard for the ethics ordinance to require disclosure to a 3rd degree of consanguinity. After all, I have a niece who lives in my house. Could anyone argue that voting on a matter on which she might financially benefit would not constitute and ethical conflict of interest? In fact, Oklahoma law prohibits any notary public who is within a 3rd degree of consanguinity of a candidate from notarizing an absentee ballot favoring the candidate.

But the administration held its ground on "2nd Degree or forget it."

Is it too cynical for a citizen to wonder if the administration's intransigence had anything to do with the impending settlement of BOK's loan in the Great Plains Airlines matter? After all, people have been discussing the city's exposure to potential liability for years. How early do you think Bill LaFortune's friends and family with ties to Bank of Oklahoma might have begun talking to him about potential solutions and moral obligations?

I don't know if such things make YOU go, "Hmmmm..." but they sure do me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Tale of Two Tulsa World Quotes

A short take from today's Tulsa World. I'll let you make your own determination as to what they mean.

First, P.J. (the Cheerleader) Lassek's story on the arena naming rights, she has this quote from Bank of Oklahoma CEO Stan Lybarger [emphasis added by me]:

Lybarger said the BOK Center "will attract high-quality entertainment, sporting events and convention business, and serve as a source of pride for our entire community."

"It will clearly enhance the quality of life and the economic well-being of the community. These investments will also make Tulsa a better place to live and work for all the citizens and community," he said.
Second, Robert Evatt covered the Tulsa Trends meeting held by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Tulsa Chapter. The keynote speaker was futurist David Pearce Snyder, who offered the following quote that was buried deeply in the story:

Though he didn't mention Tulsa's project specifically, Snyder expressed skepticism at the overall economic impact of arenas.

"The idea of using an arena or convention center as a key element of revitalization is worthless, worthless, worthless," he said.
Tulsa bought a $125 million dollar arena when they voted to support project package #3 in the Vision 2025 initiative. Given apparent cost over-runs and questionable deals coming out of the Mayor's office, how much more are you willing to pay for something that experst say could be "worthless, worthless, worthless?"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Time Value of Other People's Money

Chalk this one up to the "Things That Make You Go...Hmmmmm" category:

Bank of Oklahoma includes many of Tulsa's finest citizens on its Board of Directors, including Paula Marshall-Chapman (Recall donor), Kathy Taylor (Secretary of Commerce) and Bob LaFortune.

What? The same Bob LaFortune that is Mayor Bill LaFortune's uncle?

Bank of Oklahoma has agreed to pay the City of Tulsa $11,000,000 over then next 20 years for the naming rights to the downtown arena.

Bank of Oklahoma claims that the City of Tulsa, while not owing a "legal" obligation, owes a "moral" obligation to bail them out of the $7.5 million loan they made to the Airport Board in order to kickstart the ill-conceived Great Plains Airlines.

The Feasibility Study that led to placing the arena question on the Vision 2025 ballot showed the "Naming Rights" money as being available to defray operational expenses of running the arena.

The Mayor said that the naming rights money could be used to either fund operations or capital expenditures.

Bart Boatright told a local TV reporter today, that the money would be used for "capital" expenses [meaning, to fund the cost overruns that the mayor won't admit to].

If you find an amortization calculator and plug in the following numbers [Present Value=$7,000,000: N = 240 monthly payments over 20 years; 5% annual interest rate; $0 balloon payment...what future value do you think you get?

Look at the following figures in green:

Principal borrowed:

Annual Payments: 12 Total Payments: 240

Annual interest rate: 5.00% Periodic interest rate: 0.4167%

Regular Payment amount: $46196.90 Final Balloon Payment: $0.00

The following results are estimates which do not account for values being
rounded to the nearest cent.

Total Repaid:

Total Interest Paid: $4087256.00

Interest as percentage of Principal: 58.389%

Uh...huh. That $11 million over 20 years becomes $7 million in today's dollars.


Has Bill LaFortune and his cronies found a way to take money from our operating budget which is funded by the first two pennies of sales tax, so that he can convert it to pay for his iconic arena that he can't purchase for $121 million he sold to the voters?

How? Give BOK the $7 million we don't owe them today, to get back the same amout in terms of present dollars ($11 million over twenty years) that would have to be further siphoned from the Civic Center.

Is he willing to give up police and fire and pools and park money, in order to not have to come to the voters for more taxes?

Is this a legal conversion under state law? If it is, it shouldn't be.

Shame on Bill LaFortune.

Friday, October 21, 2005

John Brock Redux

He's back and he's got his sites set on City Hall. Lorton buddy John Brock, we have learned will be the front man (designated "right hander") for the newly formed Tulsans for Better Government.

You'll remember Mr. Brock from such recent events as Recall (gave money) and the BoK/Great Plains lawsuit (wrote a People's Forum letter supporting a tax payer bailout).

Stay tuned for more breaking news from Tulsa's Utica Square Mafia.

At Large Councilors? So Guinier...and Yet So Far.

Yesterday I learned of the efforts of the a "bi-partisan" group of citizens that call themselves "Tulsans for a Better Government" who are beginning an initiative petition drive to add three at-large city councilors (micro-mayors or "mayors-on-training-wheels") to the Tulsa City Council. We'll have to wait until later to add up the donated dollars given to Tulsans for Better Government by Bixbians, Broken Arrowans, Owassans, Sandites and Palm Springsians.

My first thought was a delightful one. I envisioned Bob and Roxanna Lorton, dressed in evening wear, standing outside of a Super Wal-Mart, clipboards in hand, asking harried passers-by, "Would you like to sign a petition for better government? No? How about a free Tulsa World? No? Opera Tickets?"

My second thought was not so delightful. I envisioned paid-for college students, promised a dollar a signature, in front of a Wal-Mart Super Store, asking harried passers-by, "Would you like to sign a petition for better governemnt?" Who wouldn't? [Good job on picking the name, Schnake Turnbo & Frank!]

So let's just accept the fact right now, that this petition is going to go to a vote of the people. The PR has been worked out, the funding is in place, the lawyers are ready for the court challenges, the same judges that need the Tulsa World to ignore them in order get re-elected are still on the bench and The World has run the "scientific poll" showing that most of us want something to stop all that nasty bickering at City Hall. [Note: Bickering is a Tulsa World/Steve Turnbo term for healthy debate within a democratic republic that isn't trending "our way"]

Why any citizen living in Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6 would ever vote for this thing, we'll leave for later. Right now, let's just assume the "citizens" behind this attempt to "reform" our city government are on to something. Come'll be fun.

So why stop there? Here are some of my modest suggestions for governmental reform in the same form as Tulsans for Better Government. [Note: In case you're reading these and happen to be a liberal who thinks Republicans shouldn't try to be funny without consequences, or you're scanning the web as part of your job with the Secret Service, I'm just kidding....okay?]

1: Let's elect five U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Sure...why have all this bickering among Senators about "litmus tests" or who is conservative/liberal enough to serve on the nation's highest court? It'll be great. No more Judiciary Committee hearings. No more having to look at Sen. Arlen Specter on TV and asking of yourself, "What party does this guy say he belongs to?" or "What happened to his hair since the Anita Hill hearings?" We'll just elect five justices every four years and let the increasingly conservative Red States swing the balance of power on the court.

2: Wouldn't it be great to require that the nation's Vice President come from the opposite party as the President? Think about it. Wouldn't every citizen's perspective be consdidered then, instead of just half of them. Especially if the President's half are conservatives? And the best part is, if you aren't happy about who your current leader is, the chances are far greater with a Veep from the opposite party, that an extremist from YOUR party might get ideas about line of succession. At the very least, we wouldn't see the President in many theaters.

3: Let's give Blue States a third Senator. Face it...Blue States, for the most part are colder and older. Sure, Lousianna is just old, but it's definitely hot and VERY humid. Cold and old states have a harder time luring people to relocate there for economic development. As a result of this, they surely deserve more representation. Don't they?

4: How about granting ex efficio seats in Congress to the editorial staffs of major newspapers? It should be obvious that anyone who can fly in the face of national trends to the right, AND can write so self-assuredly about things they have no personal experience or knowledge about, deserves to get to set policy instead of just criticising it. Send Senior Editors to DC and let the up-and-comers go to their respective State Houses.

5: Remember Lani Guineer? She was Bill Clinton's second of three nominees to be the nation's first female Attorney General. She had the brilliant idea of giving the nation's disadvantaged, proportional votes to balance out years of bias within our discriminatory society. Forget one-man-one-vote. If you've got a gripe with America, we'll give you two votes...or maybe three! Just think of all of the wrongs we could right with that kind of system. Oh...wait...minorities with extra votes might elect more Jack Hendersons and Roscoe Turners, even WITH Councilors-At-Large! Oh was a crazy idea anyway. [See the editorial cartoon I did back when Lani's nomination was still a possibility]. wild and whacky, outside-the-box thinkers at the Tulsa World and Tulsans for Better Government...there's lots of reformin' to do. So send in those checks, pay those students to circulate the petitions, have your handwriting experts ready to certify the signatures, and let's put this thing to a vote. It will be fun to see how it goes.

Remember Recall? Remember the gas tax?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"ArenaGate": Is Mayor Making a Liar Out of John Scott?

Many thanks, as always, to Michael Bates of for his following through on the discrepancy I reported on Friday with regard to the Tulsa World's reporting on the Arena funding. [See entry below entitled, "Did I Miss Something?"]

Bates found the County Ordinance that sent the arena question to the voters in 2003, [click here to see ordinance in PDF format]. As you can see, the only "hard and fast number" within the ordinance is the combined $183 million that represents the cumulative figure for both the arena and the convention center. Both Tulsa World articles mentioned in my previous story are consistent in reporting this $183 million figure. It is the amounts attributed to the two "sub-projects" that have shifted.

However, as I pointed out in my earlier entry, there has been no public mention, to my knowledge, of this shift of public funds as the arena project has proceeded. This means, the County hasn't been told, the Vision 2025 Sales Tax Overview Committee hasn't been told, the Tulsa City Council hasn't been told and the taxpayers of Tulsa County haven't been told [by way of the Tulsa World and other media outlets].

In a word, this fact is "reprehensible." Why? Well...let's start from a position of consistent policy, shall we?

Weeks after the V2025 vote, I began asking questions about what elected official, or elected governing body made the decision that the arena HAD to be built on its present site. At a meeting of the Tulsa County Republican Assembly [the moderate one, not the conservative one] at Johnnie's Char Grill, Deputy County Commissioner Paul Wilkenning told those assembled that the City and County had an obligation [not a moral obligation, for once] to build at that location because that was what was promised to the voters when they went to the polls.

Forget the fact that arguments could be made that other sites might be more successful or promising, the voters were sold on the Downtown site and that was that.

So where is the outrage from Mr. Wilkenning and the others who made this argument? If promises implied in the marketing materials and media presentations to the voters were so binding as to dictate the arena's location, then surely the dollar figures implied in the same materials and presentations are equally binding, aren't they?

So who moved the money? Well, the Vision 2025 Oversight Committee that is recommending the additional budget for the $3 million overrun on the glass Icon Wall is just an advisory body. As unelected officials (except for Councilor Susan Neal) they have no authority to re-distribute tax payers money. As the Tulsa World story from Saturday, Oct. 15th points out;

"Concern expressed by some committee members stems from a recent recommendation to Mayor Bill LaFortune to add $3 million to the arena's construction budget so that its iconic glass wall can be strengthened beyond the original design to exceed city codes."
In other words, all such transfers, if they have occurred, have been done by Bill LaFortune.

So where's the disclosure? Is the Tulsa World wrong in reporting [albeit surreptitiously] the shift of $16 million from the Convention Center to the Arena? Was John Scott, the Convention Center director off base when he complained at the last Vision 2025 Oversight Committee meeting on Wednesday, October 5th, that so much money had been siphoned off from his project to cover Pelli's Icon that it was getting to the point where he felt he had "not told the voters the truth" back in 2003?

Why is it that every time I, or another citizen tries to ask about how cost over runs are being handled, we either get patted on the head and reassured, or punched in the reputation by an all too enabling media?

If you aren't beginning to get outraged, then you're part of the problem.

It's time for Bill LaFortune to come to the City Council [himself] and give us some answers.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Did I Miss Something?

Sure, I've stopped having the Tulsa World delivered to my home, but I would've thought I'd have heard something as big as this. Afterall, I am a city councilor and I've been watching the arena and civic center projects pretty closely.

Compare the following excerpt from today's Tulsa World and note the figures in bold:

Building new arena's glass wall to endure wind to cost millions
By P.J. LASSEK AND SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writers 10/14/2005

Constructing the new arena's iconic glass wall to withstand dangerous wind speeds will add $3 million to its projected cost, officials said Thursday.

Although the additional costs can be covered by the 5 percent contingency funds built into the budget for the Vision 2025 project, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune is being asked to consider drawing $3 million from the Maxwell Convention Center expansion project.

In 2003, voters approved $183 million to construct the arena and make improvements to the convention center. Cost estimates were $141 million for an 18,000-seat arena and $42 million to add at least 10,000 square feet of space and a ballroom to the convention center.

Then take a look at another Tulsa World excerpt from August 17, 2003. Compare the figures in bold to the figures in the previous story:

Proponents see the arena combination as a boon to the area economy.
P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer08/17/2003Tulsa World (Final Home Edition), Page A21 of News, Vision2025

When Tulsa's Convention Center opened in 1964, it was a shining example of a modern-day events facility.
Now, nearly 40 years later, it stands as an example of a convention center that needs to be modernized and paired with a quality events arena, officials say.

Among the nine items funded in Proposition 3 is $183 million for a new arena and renovations to the existing Convention Center. The city would spend $125 million for an 18,000-seat arena and $58 million to modernize the Convention Center.

Opponents say the Convention Center and arena are facilities that will drain the city's general fund. The city currently subsidizes the Convention Center with $2 million annually from a hotel-motel tax and the general fund.
For those of you that aren't too good with the math, that's a $16 Million swing that to my knowledge, was never reported to either the council or the public. What happened in the last two years? Did I miss something?

Monday, October 10, 2005

John Brock: How Do You Know?

I hope I can break down John Brock's diatribe in the Reader's Forum section of the Tulsa World on Sunday. But while I try to negotiate through his convoluted logic and rhetoric that makes me think it was more likely written by Steve Turnbo (or one of his paid PR people) than Mr. Brock himself, let me pose this simple question with regard to the following statement from his remarks.

A minority of the city councilors does not want to honor that commitment. The excuse is that BOK knew or should have known that the commitment of the City Council could not be trusted, and therefore BOK doesn't deserve to be paid.
Over the past couple of months, we on the City Council have been holding a series of Executive Sessions with regard to the BOK lawsuit against the airport board. We've met five or six times and the discussions have been lively. But what's most interesting, if you didn't know, is that the public isn't allowed inside of a executive session. Why? Because, since the topic regards our position and strategies with legal counsel regarding the city's position in a lawsuit, disclosure of our discussions could weaken the city's ability to negotiate or try a case.

So, if every councilor was respecting the confidentiality of the executive session process, how does John Brock know that "a minority of city councilors does not want to honor that commitment?" Who spilled the beans?

Could it be Randy Sullivan, who after every meeting rushes from the meeting room to his council office to make phone calls behind a closed door? Or, is it Susan Neal, who during a verbal assault on my motives behind pursuit of the Airport Investigation, referred to remarks I had made in "another session in this very room?" That's right, one of the executive sessions!

The "Gang of Four" is constantly barraged by the Tulsa World for a supposed lack of integrity. Ironically, we're not the one's leaking our discussions to the parties involved in the law suit.

You have no idea how much I am chomping at the bit to enlighten the citizens about the shennanigans that are going on behind closed doors. You won't have to wait long.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hot Rumor: A Hint for the Frustrated

For all of you wracking your brains to figure out the identity of the rumored Democrat annoited one, that I alluded to in my last entry, here's a little hint.

Go back and look at Michael Bates' report on the airport investigation phase 1 report. Read it through. The name is there and should pop out at you, if you give it some thought and keep in mind the clues from the first entry.

Happy hunting.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hot Rumor: "Please Have Your Boarding Pass Ready"

I have generally shied away from retelling rumors in this blog, but as a mayoral candidate, I find that I’m getting some really good ones. Most of them deal with “who might be thinking about running, or thinking about maybe thinking about running” for this and/or that elective office.

Of course, I’ve also been given just about every name in Tulsa as a potential candidate for mayor. I generally wait until I’ve heard the name from multiple, believable sources before ever considering that rumor to be worthy of “spreading.”

However, if the source is tapped in enough and not prone to being wrong too often, then you take it as a “probable,” or at the very least, “very possible.” Such was the case with a rumor I got today.

Let’s leave it a bit vague to frustrate the lawyers, shall we?

What I was told is that the Democrats (among who past rumor mills have ruled out Kathy Lobeck Taylor and Sharon King Davis and ruled IN Tom Baker) have an ace-in-the-hole candidate waiting in the wings; someone with a track record of winning races and a source for substantial funding.

However that isn’t the most interesting factoid, because the name I was given also happens to have been a major player in Great Plains Airlines. That’s right, the latest name bandied about as “The One,” played a role in losing (or misplacing?) over $30 million in taxpayer money. With credentials like that, no wonder he’s considered formidable.

If true, probable or very possible, could this have anything to do with the Tulsa World’s full-court press on ending the City Council’s investigation into Great Plains? Could it have something to do with the desire to paint me as a “paranoid” vigilante hell-bent on finding “red meat?”

Something to ponder. At the very least, it will be fun to see if this rumor pans out, or peters out.

But If You Catch Them, You've Got Calimari.

Which goes great with "red meat." Especially "great big chunks of red meat!"

Not really sure how I missed this posting on Michael Bates' Batesline. Maybe it was the title:

"Squid use ink to cloud the waters and escape, too"

I guess I was in a hurry, scanned the title and reasoned that I wasn't in the mood for a marine biology lesson on the evasion techniques of ten tenticled aquatic creatures. Afterall, Bates is a MIT grad and it is rumored that if he was to suffer from male pattern baldness, his receding hairline would reveal an actual point atop his head [I'm kidding...folks, we're old friends].

Anyway, the posting is acutally about P. J. ("Punch & Jab") Lassek's Sunday article oulining former Airport Investigator Wilson Busby's allegations that, among other things, I do bear impressions and have a penchant for taking my steaks rare (VERY rare.)! Here's an excerpt:

Busby was retained by the City Council for their investigation into the Tulsa Airport Authority, which also covered publicly-subsidized Great Plains Airlines. Busby was hired on the recommendation of Roop. A thread connecting the two men is political consultant Jim Burdge, who managed Roop's campaigns for Council and who shared an office with Busby. Burdge also managed campaigns for Bill Christiansen and Randy Sullivan, and he worked for the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004, the group that sought to recall Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino.

The two associates are accusing Medlock of trying to turn the airport investigation into some sort of witchhunt. Busby claims he saw Medlock pose like a bear and demand "red meat". When I read that, I couldn't help but think of Tim the Enchanter, in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," warning the knights of the killer rabbit: "Death awaits you all, with nasty big pointed teeth!" (Click here for audio)

Why would Roop go after Medlock? Roop's boss would lose his job (and so would Roop) if Medlock's campaign is successful.
Give it a read. You might even learn a thing or two about squid.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Boeing! Boeing! Boeing! Was the Bridge Bounced for Boeing?

It’s amazing how easily Bob Dick can revise history if it fits his purpose in building the IVI Bridge. On KRMG’s Morning News with Joe Kelley today, Commissioner Dick made the following remark:

“Joe…a quick history…and you weren’t here. This bridge was part of the 2025 Vision [sic] package…and only because Boeing came into the picture did it get dropped out of that package, because we needed to accommodate the money for the Boeing plant. You know, obviously we didn’t get it. But had that not occurred, this bridge would’ve been part of 2025 and would’ve been being built right now.”

Why is this interesting? Because Commissioner Dick emphatically states that this bridge was part of some final package to go before the voters. However, I was present at the final meeting of the Vision Leadership Team, and this bridge wasn’t mentioned. In fact, there was no public mention of the bridge making any final cut that I can remember and I was pretty involved in the process.

In a story published on March 8th, 2003, the Tulsa World listed the bridge along with a laundry list of other projects that had been supplied by both governmental entities and private citizens as part of the Dialog/Visioning process. The listed it as follows:

City of Bixby

  • South Tulsa County bridge project, $7.3 million
  • Haikey Creek drainage basin flood protection project, $14 million

Nowhere in any of my records, or anywhere that I can find online, does it ever state that the bridge had made the final cut (at least publicly) before the Boeing opportunity came along. Of course, I can only talk about what was “publicly” the case. Perhaps Mr. Dick has information about how the final list was determined that the public isn’t aware of? Perhaps Mr. Dick is familiar with final lists that the public was never intended to see, until the people cutting the deals behind closed doors were ready for them to see them?

This is apparently part and parcel as to how Mr. Dick prefers government to operate. The grand flaw in our county governmental structure is that the County Commission is both the executive and legislative branches. There is no formalized oversight, or at the very least, very little.

The suspicion that a deal had been cut can be heard on the audio tape from the August INCOG meeting that was secured by the leadership of South Tulsans Citizens’ Coalition, on which a Bixby public official can be heard chastising Mayor LaFortune about “Tulsa” going back on the deal that was cut to remove the bridge from the final list. If that deal occurred, and there is no reason to believe it didn’t, then our mayor showed a distinct lack of respect for the concept of public disclosure with regard to projects that could have a very negative impact on the citizens of the city he’s supposed to represent.

Finally, it’s pretty disingenuous to make the assertion that had the bridge been part of the package that was placed before the voters in September, 2003, that it would’ve passed and would be “being built right now.” Does Commissioner Dick think the homeowners that are upset about this bridge today, would’ve been less upset during the Vision 2025 campaign? Would crowded streets near their schools and homes be any more acceptable, just because the Chamber would’ve had a budget to sell the idea?

The reality is, given the galvanizing effect this bridge has had on the citizens of South Tulsa, Commissioner Dick should be counting his lucky stars that the bridge proposal was never part of the final package, because there is a good chance that whatever package it was included in, might not have passed.
If this were the case, then there are a lot of other projects that might have never seen the light of day, either.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Shut the Door and Lock and Latch It!

Here comes PJ with a brand new hatchet!

Wilson Busby took an axe...
And gave Chris Medlock forty whacks.
And when his job was partly done...
He billed the city for Forty-One.

Thousand that is.

Friday, September 30, 2005

All That Invisibilty Means

An excerpt from H.G. Wells -- The Invisible Man. 1898.

“Hitherto I have gone on vague lines. We have to consider all that invisibility means, all that it does not mean. It means little advantage for eavesdropping and so forth—one makes sounds. It’s of little help, a little help perhaps—in housebreaking and so forth. Once you’ve caught me you could easily imprison me. But on the other hand I am hard to catch. This invisibility, in fact, is only good in two cases: It’s useful in getting away, it’s useful in approaching. It’s particularly useful, therefore, in killing. I can walk round a man, whatever weapon he has, choose my point, strike as I like. Dodge as I like. Escape as I like.”

Kemp’s hand went to his moustache. Was that a movement downstairs?

“And it is killing we must do, Kemp.”

“It is killing we must do,” repeated Kemp. “I’m listening to your plan, Griffin, but I’m not agreeing, mind. Why killing?”

“Not wanton killing but a judicious slaying. The point is they know there is an Invisible Man—as well as we know there is an Invisible Man. And that Invisible Man, Kemp, must now establish a Reign of Terror. Yes—no doubt it’s startling. But I mean it. A Reign of Terror. He must take some town like your Burdock and terrify and dominate it. He must issue his orders. He can do that in a thousand ways—scraps of paper thrust under doors would suffice.

There is no way that even the great visionary H.G. Wells could have invisioned the Internet back in 1898. But he did understand a thing or two about invisibility.

Within the Internet of today, there exists a new kind of "invisibility," that comes with the ability to pose as someone else, or to even comment anonymously within the blogosphere. In that matter, you can creep in, unseen, and add your voice to those others engaged in conversation. If one is clever enough, they can redirect a conversation here, or plant some reasonable doubt there.

Such actions are becoming more and more frequent within the world of political "black ops." With the proliferation of blogs, public chats and forums, it is ever easier to "invisibly approach" those engaged in conversation, in order to slip in some little propaganda or disinformation. After anonymously contributing, it is just as easy to invisibly "get away." It is then incumbent on someone within the conversation to determine whether or not you are expressing a true opinion or fact, or were an Invisible Man, bent on no good.

Today's internet Invisible Man isn't bent on killing in the corporeal sense. Rather, the cyber Invisible Man is often bent on character assasination. A pinch of anomous here...a dash of acrimony there...and just a splash of bald face lying which is vague enough that the casual reader might believe it...and you have the formual for today's Invisible Man.

It doesn't take much to produce a "Reign of Terror," just "scraps of paper under the door." Or in this case, anonymous postings in the right places.

To see the perfect example of such a tactic, go visit and read the comments. Comment 4 is a classic example of the trade.


Medlock has recently been talking like LaFortune so I think we need to re-think this business about being gung-ho for Medlock. Suddenly he is changing his tune on just about everything. Just listen to him on DelGiorno’s show.

We don’t need Bartlett, LaFortune or Medlock. None are honest enough.
This is perfect. Using this little "scrap of paper," the anonymous contributor trashes both me and Bill LaFortune. He provides the reader with a reason for the readers of the forum to rethink support for me, because I'm showing I'm going to be just like Bill LaFortune (ie, someone that flips his position when its politically expedient). What am I changing my tune on? Well...just about everything!

"This is troubling to hear," the reader thinks to themselves. "What proof does he offer?"

"Oh...he changed his tune during a DelGiorno interview." they further rationalize. "I heard Medlock on DelGiorno last week and didn't here anything amiss...but perhaps it was another interview when I was out of town?"

So what do you do with your new found information? Wait for some "honest" alternative to arrive. Someone like that "honest" Bill Christiansen who says he isn't running for Mayor, but might be lured in if we "honestly" need him to return "honesty" to City Hall. Why? Because "honesty" is the best policy, and we need someone that "honestly" understands policy.

Just one problem. Bill Christiansen is, and has been for nearly three years, running for Mayor. He's playing the waiting game, hoping to be drafted by the "honest" voter who seeks someone who has remained above the petty fray of electoral politics. Candidates have used such strategies for decades, if not centuries. However, they are ineffective if everyone is satisfied with the candidates that have already announced.

Understanding this, just think how advantageous it is to have an Invisible Man, to plant scraps of paper to create confusion and distrust. Someone like...who? Maybe, Jim Burdge? You know him...Bill Christiansen's campaign manager who was outed as the particularly nasty practitioner of such "black ops" for the Pro-Recall Cartel.

Then all Bill Christiansen has to do is to continue to use words like "pro-active" and "responsible" dozens of times in committee and during televised meetings. He can accuse others of playing political games. He can propose last minute taskforces that will submit their findings days before the primary elections. And he can let his Invisible Man taint the other candidates' reputations for honesty, while allowing Mr. Christiansen to retain his.

Only problem is, every time Mr. Christiansen is forced to say he's not running for mayor, he sets the table for criticism as to his own honesty, should he announce some day in the not so distant future that he's going to "honestly" run for mayor, rather than playing the "draft me" card.

Honestly, it can make one wish they could become invisible, just so we could "get away" from all this wanton gamesmanship.

Rather than resort to invisibility, let's all approach Mr. Christiansen in a visible manner and ask him the question to which we all know the answer.

"Councilor Christiansen," we shall all ask, "'re running for mayor, right?"

Yeah...But At Least It Fires High Caliber Ammo!

Yeah…But At Least It Fires High Caliber Ammo!

One more observation about the World’s laughable editorial about me, entitled “Confused.” The final lines of the anonymous pundit’s screed was:

“We can expect more of the same from Medlock as he uses his council seat to campaign for mayor. He at least ought to get his facts straight before he shoots off his mouth.”

Question for the World opinionistas…Is Mayor LaFortune using his mayoral seat to campaign for mayor? Well of course he is. What do you think all those 3rd Penny Town Hall Meetings were?

I attended four of the five and I can tell you for a fact, they were campaign stops complete with city employees on the tax payers time-clock.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Same Song, Second Verse

The opinionistas at the Tulsa World took another shot at me in their editorial pages today. In a little ditty they titled, “Confused,” the World tries to make the case that my criticism of the mayor for presenting his State-of-the-City address to a chamber audience, rather than to the City Council, proves yet again that I am “mixed up.”

Ha! Don’t they wish?

First let’s deal with a couple of patent falsehoods in their logic. The anonymous author wrote the following:

“Medlock's comments were perfectly in keeping with his anti-establishment campaign. After all, he dislikes the chamber, which represents most of the city's business community, almost as much as he dislikes the mayor.”
Too bad guys. I don’t dislike the chamber. I think chambers of commerce are wonderful institutions as a whole, and that Tulsa’s chamber is first rate; at least with regard to its membership. What I do have a problem with are some of the professional staff and a handful of honchos who spend way too much time influencing chamber policy for their own benefit.

Additionally, I don’t dislike the mayor. Who could? He’s a really nice guy. He just happens to be a lousy mayor.

Then there is the matter of pointing out that the State-of-the-City is unofficial, unlike the State-of-the-Union. Apparently, they claim, I seem to be confusing the two. Well guess what, oh trustees of the Fourth Estate, so is the State-of-the-Union.

There is nothing in the constitution that calls on the President to make an annual address to the Congress. What our constitution says in Article II, Section 3, is;

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”
I know I’m not the wordsmith our anonymous editorialist is, but I read that remark to mean that the President could every couple of years or three, just send over a report about how things are going with the country.

In fact, after George Washington gave the first address in New York City in 1790, “the address was written and then sent to Congress to be read by a clerk until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson re-established the practice despite some initial controversy.”

The important point that the World misses (no…they’re not confused…more like misguided or biased) is that the framers of the Constitution never would’ve thought it better for the President to report on the State of the Union to the US Chamber of Commerce. What the framers understood was the fact that the Congress was that body of our nascent government that represented the people. Thus, by requiring the President to report to the Congress, the framers were requiring that the President not become too “monarchial” or kinglike so as to forget to whom he was responsible.

Given that the city charter (the city’s equivalent document to the Constitution) was framed by some people who were pretty tight with the chamber, it is surprising that they didn’t just go ahead and require the Mayor to report to the chamber (note: I’m being facetious here) and save elected officials like me the shame of being publicly reminded who is in charge of things. But they didn’t.

So my point is this (and I don’t think it shrill in the least, but maybe I’m confused yet again). If you’re going to have an address that you’re going to call the State of the City, and you’re going to charge $30 to get in, and you’re not going to televise it, then you’re going to open yourself up to some reasonable criticism that you’ve forgotten who your boss is. I expected such “confusion” as to who really paid her salary from Mayor Savage. I’m very disappointed that Bill LaFortune is showing his “confusion” over whom he works for.

Then again, maybe he’s not confused at all.