Sunday, April 23, 2006

Public Benjamin

In light of the recent BOK Center bids turning out to be nearly 50% higher than anticipated by the project engineers, I thought I'd check some of my notes to see what others had said publicly about the issue. My first entry on this subject comes from a letter to the editor printed in the Tulsa World on February 1 of this year.

The letter is entitled, "Quit bickering!" and is from none other than John (I'm the brains behind recall) Benjamin, of Bixby. You know John...the guy who recruited Bill Christiansen, Randy Sullivan and Bill Martinson? The John Benjamin who is promoting the Bixby Bridge that his buddy Christiansen say's he's against. The John Benjamin who served as the Republican point man for the "It's Tulsa's Time" downtown revitalization question back in 1999. The John Benjamin who worked with Jim Burdge to try to recall Jim Mautino and I.

Here's a little of what Mr. Benjamin wrote:

"Now we need to get the political pundits running for Tulsa mayor to back off
the continual negative images for the arena project. The arena is the anchor and major stimulus for the new downtown investment and reinvestment. Its design is already bringing international recognition for Tulsa."
I wonder who he meant by, "political pundits running for Tulsa Mayor?" He goes on to say,
"This facility, which is greatly needed and long overdue, would be worth the investment even if it overran its budget. So far this is not an issue and the arena is being built within budget projections. The taxpayers of Tulsa County wand and are getting cost accountability for the arena construction."
Sounds a little like Mr. Benjamin knew what was coming and was putting in to be the chief spokesperson for the new tax that might very well be necessary to pay for the overrun that DID materialize.

"Mayoral candidates need to pick a new whipping-boy issue for their campaigns. Political positioning is creating more negative images for Tulsa..."
Well, I'm not sure Johnnie B. was speaking of me when he spoke of "mayoral candidates," but when I was warning of the eventual cost overruns we've known have been coming for almost a year and a half, I wasn't "positioning." I was warning the voters about what was coming down the pike. Time has a way of revealing who was speaking responsibly and who was "positioning."

"The arena project is in the hands of capable professional managers/contractors and construction costs are being monitored by the mayor, the city's arena committee, county commissioners and the Vision 2025 overview committee."
This past Saturday, the Tulsa World wrote, "Rumors have been swirling about possible increased expenses over the past several months because of escalating material costs due to last year's Gulf Coast hurricanes and the subsequent construction boom."

Rumors? Just rumors? Who was spreading such rumors? Most likely people trying to throw cold water on the positive momentum created by the passage of Vision 2025.

People weren't told by the Tulsa World that rumors were circulating. They were told that unfounded allegations were being made. They were told of "shenanigans" and "dysfunctional councilors" berating who were asking "politically motivated questions" designed to "berate" competent "officials" who were on top of things.

My favorite quote from the Tulsa World comes from November 13, 2005 story by PJ Lassek entitled "Officials dispute Medlock claims." The final paragraph of the story reads as follows:

Councilor Bill Martinson said some councilors were getting "dangerously close to micromanaging" the work on the arena and convention center. "Repeatedly we're told we're within budget. At some point in time, we have to trust these people to do their jobs," he said.
I remember this moment quite clearly, as Mr. Martinsen was chastising the Gang of Four councilors for continuing to ask about the arena's costs. He apparently thought this going beyond our realm of responsibility, even though the council is responsible within the city charter for the budget. Something for the voters in District 5 to consider next time they go to the polls to vote on Martinsen.

I know far fewer people will read this blog post than read John Benjamin's letter to the editor. Benjamin ended his letter by saying, "The Tulsa mayoral race will be over soon and we can get on with building a positive future for Tulsa County."

Yes...John Benjamin...the mayoral race is over. We do have an opportunity to build a positive future for Tulsa County. It just looks like the price of positive futures just got a little higher.

There's one bright spot for our future though. Fewer people are going to put much stock in what John Benjamin has to say about things, that's for sure.


Paul Tay said...

Ya had yer chance to vote NO. Why didn't you? I remember DelGiornio defending you on this. He said you were being told all da positives. To which I replied, by whom, Bill? Man, when you voted for the Arena, did you expect anything more than mismanagement? You have to take some measure of responsibility for the Arena debacle. You took your eye off pandering to your most important special interest, Tulsa Taxpayers. The first indication of things to come, your unloading of your base of 11,000. Maybe you can redeem yourself if you head up the Vote NO Third Penny campaign. We are still looking for some leadership.

Chris Medlock said...

Dear Paul,

One never knows if you're purposely inflammatory or just massively off-base.

Yes...I supported the arena. But no elected official watched the tax dollars more closely, or took more heat than did I.

I was the person who stood before the Board of County Commissioners and asked them to separate the arena from the higher education projects. I took heat for it.

Two weeks after Vision 2025 passed, I began calling for a business plan for the arena, so that the Council could begin preparing for the budgetary impact of the arena's operations. I took heat for it.

Less than a month after Vision 2025 passed, I was asking who had determined that the arena should be built next to the Convention Center? I asked why other sites weren't being considered. I asked, "what elected officials had cast an official vote selecting the site?" I took heat for it.

I'm the one who began questioning, in committee, the overruns we all knew were coming. I took heat for it.

I'm the one who brought it to the attention of the Council and the alternative press that the arena cost figure had changed from $122 million on election day, to $141 million last October. I took heat for it.

As for unloading my base? Only my base, as individuals, knows if that is true. However, in the ten days that bridged my endorsement of Bill LaFortune over Kathy Taylor, LaFortune's numbers moved 10 percentage points. That's 1 percent per day. My base, voted for LaFortune and not Faulk (voting for you was never an option, obviously).

This is reality Paul, even though I know reality is a concept you often grapple with.

Chris Medlock said... anonymous muckraker Marty.

I'm sure you'e intelligent enough to grasp support of something in concept, with the caveat that it be carried out responsibly and intelligently. A councilors job is oversight of the administration.

I still support a $123 million arena that comfortably seats 18,000 and could be located in a spot as to spur on economic development in the area around it. However, we no longer can have an 18,000 seat arena for $123 million, can we?

So now, the question before the citizens of Tulsa County is, do we want an 18,000 seat arena that is going to cost perhaps double the original cost?

I would support buying a brand new luxury car for $25,000. I might even begin the paper work and secure the financing. But if, with money in hand, the salesman comes back to me and says, "I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is, we have your color in stock. The bad news is, the car is going to cost you $48,000, instead of $25,000."

Faced with such a choice, it is not Kerryesqe to say, "I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is I still like the car. The bad news is, I don't like it THAT much."

Paul Tay said...

Well, Medlock, you should have 1) Ask for da Arena biz plan; 2) Ask why da Arena was being built next to da Convention Center; 3) Figured out da final Arena bill, B E F O R E you voted Yes. You would have taken heat either way. Sure you took heat, but, NO way you can claim dat as your badge of honor, 'cause you voted YES. You got played by da GOB, suckaaaa!

There is NO way a $123 million Arena that comfotably seats 18,000 can compete as Tulsa's holy grail. One, there are too many big boyz in da convention business. Two, there are more stadium seats in dis crummy town than fat asses to sit in dem. Three, gub'mint should leave da economic development business to da pros and stick to its prime directive: public safety. Yes, I really do have a tough time grapplin' with reality.

Yes, in my unreal world, I wuz saying four years ago goin' up against Bill's money train, before V2025. Da number jest don't add up from da git go, even in da best of market and construction conditions.

As for your base goin' with Bill, they got played by da GOB, just like you. Got played like a battered wife, sleepin' with da no good hubby who keeps beatin' on her. Good thing North Tulsa voted Bill by not showin' up and savin' us from a Boss Dudette mandate, 60-35. I really didn't care if they would have gone Faulk. Remember Claudius wasn't da brightest bulb either. But he turned out halfway benign.

But, BOTH Bill and da Boss Dudette are da poorest of choices. Oh sure, you can keep kiddin' yerself and spin it. But, you know in your hearts of hearts Bill would still be Bill, win or lose.

I KNOW I am blue in a deep pool of red, treadin'. Slightly ahead of da curve, callin' for North Tulsa seccession, and all dat. Like I said on KFAQ, da core issue of standin' up for what's right, is not about me. It's about integrity. An implicit promise to da most important special interest, Tulsa TAXPAYERS. Not sellin' out like a traitor down da river.

So, what say you on da Third Penny?

Paul Tay said...

P.S. Yes, I am being purposely being inflammatory by being off-base and slightly ahead of da curve. I seem to be in the most unfortunate position of being in front of Bill's, and now da Boss Dudette's, money trains rollin' down da track straight at me, prognosticatin'.

Paul Tay said...

Oh, BTW. I wuz actually part of your base. Before I found out you voted YES on da Arena at da Life Services Forum, I actually look up to you as da kewlest thing since oil in Oklahoma. I wuz actually rollin' yer butt-ugly yard signs at da tail end of da GTAR forum.

You managed to make a lot of wandering angst left over from da Savage Sue daze, mainstream, while Bill dilly-dally 'round for four years. Then, come to find out you voted YES, I got da feelin' you were psuedo-GOB, 'nuther GOB-wannabe. When you endorsed Bill, that pretty much sealed it for me, a small part of your former base.