Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scoop: First Look At ORU Faculty Letter

As I first reported below, the tenured faculty of Oral Roberts University have sent a letter to the Board of Regents stating a lack of confidence in President Richard Roberts.

Having beaten the Tulsa World by more than five hours in reporting this, I now can be the first to post a copy of letter for public viewing:

You can see the letter by clicking here.

Hear more of my take on the letter and what this all means Wednesday morning on the KFAQ Morning Show at 1170 AM in Tulsa, or at http://www.1170kfaq.com/ from 5:30 AM to 9 AM CST.

Scoop: ORU Faculty Votes "No Confidence" in Roberts

A source close to Oral Roberts University has informed me that the university's tenured faculty met Monday and passed a resolution of "no confidence" in suspended ORU President Richard Roberts. The resolution was to be delivered today to a representative of the ORU Board of Regents.

On the face of things, this would appear to make it virtually impossible for Roberts, the son of university founder Oral Roberts, to ever be reinstated as to the position he has held for over a decade.

The resolution reportedly contains a clause which states that the document should not be seen as an endorsement of the claims of three former ORU professors that are currently suing the school for wrongful termination.

Two other motions were approved at the Monday meeting.

1: The tenured faculty voted to support efforts by the ORU Provost to facilitate greater faculty governance of the university, as well as greater financial transparency in the school's financial dealing in the future.

2: A call for tenured faculty to be involved in establishing the criteria for a new President, as well as involvement in the selection process of a permanent successor for Richard Roberts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mike Jones and Zig-Zag Logic

When I read an editorial by the Tulsa World's Mike Jones, I often am unsure as to whether I should scream in outrage or laugh. Jones' column from the Sunday, November 4, 2007 Tulsa World entitled "For freedom: Bibles, Qurans and the reason we need both," made me do both.

First Jones directly attacks Rep. Rex Duncan for refusing a copy of the Koran [read below], then he "zigs" to a criticism Rep. Mike Reynolds for calling on Gov. Henry to rename his "Ethnic American Advisory Council" because it is made up exclusively of Muslims. Having done that, he then "zags" toward taking up some of the many negative criticisms he receives from readers that took issue with his attack on Duncan in the previous week's Sunday World. The result is a column filled with what can only be described as "zig-zag" logic.

Making sense isn't so important if enough people who already agree with you think you make sense.

First, let's lay out some facts and then see if we can make sense of Jones' diatribe.
  1. As stated in my entries below, Rep. Rex Duncan did two things. He took the Islamic group up on their offer to decline a complimentary copy of the Koran and then took the opportunity to encourage the group to call for the end of lethal violence against women and children in Iran, citing most Oklahoman's disdain for such violence.
  2. Rep. Reynolds called on the Governor, as stated above to either re-name the advisory group or to disband it entirely, given its religious make up. Many argue [but not, curiously the ACLU supportin' Tulsa World] that such a group could easily be construed, no matter what it is named, as a pro-Islamic group that is receiving public tax dollars to operate.
  3. Finally, in the light of all the "garment rending" and histrionics that Jones and other critics heaped on Duncan, many who agreed with the legislator e-mailed their comments to Jones. A common theme apparently centered on something I, too, said on the KFAQ Morning Show when the story broke. I basically said, "I'd like to see what happened to a Christian group that tried to give Saudi lawmakers a copy of the Bible." The purpose of this was to make a point as to the relative "intolerance" that one would find in the two countries in question.

After criticising Duncan and Reynolds and praising the Governor, Jones begins some inane mutterings about how Oklahoma was settled by Christians, true, but was first settled by Indians.

"Yes, Oklahoma was settled on good ol' Christian values, but not until the religion of
the people we gave the land to and then took it away from was all but erased."

Ignoring the glaring condescension towards Christians in that statement, Jones is attempting to set up a Straw Man reference that Christians are hypocrites if they question attempts by Muslims to proselytize. Surely he isn't going so far as to say we Christians would get what's coming to us if we were forced in the future to convert to Islam because we became the minority. We can assume this, because Jones' whole point in the article is about religious pluralism and tolerance. Thus, such an argument would be out of place.

After writing about the varying degrees of tolerance/intolerance in Islamic countries toward Christians and Jews, Jones finally gets to his point about two-thirds through the article. He writes:

The implication in the Bible challenge [that Islam wouldn't tolerate Bibles
being handed out] is that since those countries discourage or even punish
Christianity, then we should do the same concerning Islam.

What the...? Where did you get that tidbit of logic, Mike?

I can't speak for the others that said it, but when I said it, I said it to make a point that politely declining the offer of a Koran because one is a Christian is barely [if at all] intolerant. This is especially true when one compares it to the sometimes murderous intolerance one finds in Islamic countries, where one might be imprisoned, beaten, maimed or killed...not by religious zealots on the street...but by the government itself!

Neither Reps. Duncan and Reynolds, myself, nor I dare say, any of Jones' e-mail critics intended their message to be construed as "let's shut down the practice of Islam in the United States." Does Jones really think that's what is being insinuated? Hard to believe. Jones also wrote:

"For me, I don't want to be like Saudi Arabia or even Indonesia. I prefer every
citizen's or visitor's right to choose their religion. I also endorse giving one
the freedom to choose no religion at all."

Go back and look at the three statements of fact above. Who the heck has been espousing anything different from what Jones believes? Anybody? Anybody at all?

Does declining the gift of a Koran mean you want to deny Islamics the right to worship? How can one make that leap of logic?

Does asking the Governor to rename a politically named advisory council because calling it the Islamic-American Advisory Council might raise separation clause issues mean that you want to take away the right of "citizens or visitors" to "choose their religion?"

Does pointing out the hypocrisy of Islamics screaming "intolerance" from the rafters because someone criticizes them for not accepting a Koran and calling on them to urge others in the Islamic faith to end killing and terrorism carried out in the name of their chosen faith, mean that such critics, ipso facto, must be calling for the end of Freedom of Religion for Muslims in America?

Jones finishes his convoluted exercise in zig-zag logic by writing this:

Quite frankly, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world really don't care what religion anyone else is. They might believe that their brand is better than everyone else's, but that's standard for all religions.

They might have their share -- or more -- of religious zealots who misinterpret their holy book and turn it into a personal manifesto for violence. That, unfortunately, is true of every religion.

Not everyone can be or wants to be a Christian. Maybe we can all respect that.

For me, I'll take my chances here. I even relish all those e-mails and phone calls.

After all, it's a free country. We have the freedom to say what we want and worship as we want. How about let's keep it that way.

Once again, how does turning down a Koran equate to wanting everyone to be a Christian?

In closing, let me say I agree with Jones when he says we need more tolerance with regard to religious choice.

Perhaps Mike Jones could be so kind as to extend that tolerance to some Christian legislators who declined the gift of a Koran, because they "choose" not read a book they might consider blasphemous. That would be tolerant of him wouldn't it?

Perhaps Mike Jones could be so tolerant as to quit assuming that Christians who criticize the political actions of Islamic activists in our state are actually hoping to cleanse all Islam from Oklahoma.

If he will extend to we Christians, this tolerance, then we'll try to tolerate his whacky ramblings on the subject.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Accept It Or You're A Bigot

I'm still marvelling at the spin that is following the decision of dozens of Oklahoma's legislators to decline a complimentary copy of the Koran, that seems to have been offered as a political ploy.

Most of the vitriol that has been generated by the outraged left has been heeped on Rep. Rex Duncan, who was one of the first to decline the offer. He has been accused, unjustly, of holding a press conference to make his decision known. As I wrote below, this didn't happen. In the face of conclusive evidence that it didn't happen, the new spin is that he copied the media on the e-mail in which he declined the Koran. Only problem is, he didn't do that, either!

Rep. Duncan was kind enough to forward the e-mail he sent to the Governor's Islamic committee, declining their offer. The exact content of the message follows:
>Please remove my name from the list of legislators receiving a
>complimentary "Oklahoma Centennial Quran."
>Please encourage your fellow Oklahoma Muslims to speak out and
>condemn acts of violence committed in the name of Muhammad and the
>Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women
and children in the name of ideology.
>Representative Rex Duncan

Most of the critics of Rep. Duncan have been only been quoting the line about "killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology." This sentence, without the sentence that precedes it, seems rightfully peculiar. Parsing the message is a tried and true rhetorical trick.

Are the critics claiming that Duncan is wrong when he intimates that acts of violence are committed in the name of Muhammad and Islam? Only a fool would suggest this isn't happening in the world. Do the critics claim that "Oklahoma Muslims" have been virtually silent with regard to what is happening and that a frightening number of American Muslims support terrorism in the defense of the faith? Studies have proven this is the case.

Did Rep. Duncan "refuse" the Koran, or simply "decline" the offer. There is a difference. His tone is obviously polite and diplomatic. The reason he sent the e-mail in the first place is that the committee asked the legislators to let them know if they were going to decline the gift. Duncan did so.

Politely doing as he was asked was characterized in a press conference today as "hateful words."

In reporting the press event, the Tulsa World also purposely parsed Duncan's message, taking his remarks out of context to make him look bad. The World writes:
Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, refused a gift of Islam's holy book earlier this week, saying, "Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology." Other lawmakers joined him in refusing the gift, offered by the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council as part of the state's centennial celebration.

Go back and read Rep. Duncan's message. Is he "refusing" or politely "declining?"

The World further reports:
"Today, I'm an American Muslim, speaking for our brothers," said David
Bernstein, executive director of the Jewish Federation.

"Hateful words inevitably lead to hateful actions," he said.

Where are the hateful words? Millions of Americans, including me, share Duncan's frustration that "peace loving Muslims" are not openly and frequently condemning the radicals of their faith. Are we never to put our frustrations, no matter how politely constructed, into words?

The other troubling bit of media bias that is rampant in the hyperbolic coverage of this story is the fact that nobody reports that Rep. Duncan is anything more than a elected member of the legislature. What has never been reported since this broke is Duncan's military service.

Here's what is written in Rep. Duncan's on-line profile at the State House web site:
Lieutenant Colonel, OK Army National Guard. Rex has served 28 years in the
Guard, Reserves and active duty.

He volunteered for active duty following 9/11 and served 16 months as a
Special Forces officer with the Special Operations Command-Central. His duty assignments included Middle East and Horn of Africa.

He currently serves as Battalion Commander of 2/189th Regiment, Regional
Training Institute in Oklahoma City.Awards and decorations include: Special
Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault, Pathfinder and
EIB badges and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

Surely, Rex Duncan knows better than any of those who have criticized him as bigoted, what has been done in the name of Islam. After all, the man has served his country bravely in the Middle East. How many of the critics have done the same?

Even if you think this biases his worldview, you would surely have to agree that his service is at the very least a mitigating factor that the readers of the newspaper and the online forums who know little or nothing about Duncan's past, have a right to know.

The feeding frenzy surrounding this manufactured event is predictable. Those that see the rise of Islamo-Fascism as the greatest danger facing the West today have grown accustomed to the tactics of the anti-war types and their allies in the liberal denominations and faiths.

We'll just keep telling the truth and hope enough of it seeps out to make a difference.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hey Michael Patton! Who You Calling An Idiot?

The Tulsa Now Forum began as a fairly even handed, on-line opportunity for Tulsans to discuss local issues on politics, culture and development. However, of late, it has degenerated into a very one-sided rant that is very intolerant of those who might enter to express opposing viewpoints.

Most troubling about this forum, and most such forums, is the ability of posters to hide behind on-line "handles," which allow them to make anonymous accusations (often personal attacks) against others without scrutiny into their own vocations, political affiliations or personal pasts.

When anonymity is granted, falsehoods get ranted.

Currently the carping assemblage is waxing outraged on the decision of Rep. Rex Duncan to not accept a freebie Koran offered by a Islamic group formed by Governor Henry. In this polylogue of opinion and mock-shock, it seems fair game to mix facts in with outright falsehoods to make a good point.

One poster who goes by the nom-de-keyboard of "RecyleMichael" is widely known to be local enviromentalist Michael Patton. Patton's style of rhetoric is to play the part of the diplomat, often feigning fair mindedness as his primary concern, but then slipping in some damning statement amid all of the diplopmatic speech.

In regard to Representative Duncan, Patton utilized just such a strategy, hoping when the lie hit, the slander would be just that more effective. Here's what Patton wrote in a forum string entitled "Oklahoma lawmaker shows predjudice against Islam:"
Posted - 10/24/2007 : 19:36:51
As disappointed as I am with these legislators refusing a gift from a
different faith, I am not taking the side of the Muslim group passing these out

They had to know that certain legislators were going to make a big deal out
of refusing the books. I believe they did this in full knowledge that this would
identify the elected officials.It was a set up and 22 of the legislators fell
for it.

The elected officials should have quietly accepted the books, then given
them away or disposed of them in some other manner. Instead, the idiot Rex
Duncan called a press conference to sound like an uniformed bigot.
[emphasis added by me]

There are no winners here and all of Oklahoma lost on this one.

Dear Mr. Patton, please get your facts straight. It seems it is you, who is uninformed. I just got off the phone with Rep. Rex Duncan and asked him a very simple question. Did you call a press conference or directly contact the press with regard to this story?

His answer?

"No, Mick Hinton [Tulsa World reporter] called me."

In fact, I learned through my conversation with Rep. Duncan, Mr. Hinton called him within just a few hours after Duncan had sent an e-mail to Ms. Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour stating his desire not to receive the Koran. Just a mere two or three hours, Mr. Patton!

Rep. Duncan had placed a phone call to Ms. Seirafi-Pour on Monday to "opt out" of the gift, as requested by Ms. Seirafi-Pour, and to also inquire as to whether or not tax payer dollars were used to purchase the Korans. She assured Duncan that they were bought with private funds, but asked Duncan if he would send her an e-mail stating he didn't want the Koran "for their records."

This he did. Hours later, he was called by Hinton for the story that ran in the next days' newspaper.

I agree, Mr. Patton. This WAS a set up by this Islamic group, which obviously has political intentions. However, you owe Rep. Duncan an apology [both in the forum and to the man directly] for your idiotic remarks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Korans Rejected by Two More Legislators

Sources tell me that State Sen. James Williamson and State Rep. Ron Peters have joined the growning number of legislators that have declined to accept Koran's that have been offered by a curiously named committee formed by Governor Henry.

While he has declined the offer of a free "Centennial Koran," Williamson said he is willing to meet with representatives of the group.

The committee, inaccurately named the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council is entirely made up of Muslims. They sent an e-mail to every Oklahoma legislator, offering the Korans, but making it clear that they were free to decline the offer.

As of this writing, 18 Republicans and one Democrat have declined the Korans.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hot ORU Rumor

I have it from a pretty good source that is NOT Rick Westcott's e-mail that a second law suit will be filed against Oral Roberts University...this time by a student from the government department. I am told that the suit alleges that by cleaning house of much of the government department, the university damaged the student's degree. I'm trying to get additional confirmation. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not Even a Hand Slap?

As noted below, Toby Huyssen, the ORU student who was alleged to have written an e-mail calling on approximately 350 of his fellow students to come to the Government Department offices to sign up to volunteer in the Randi Miller for Mayor campaign, hasn't seemed to have suffered too much from his admitted ethical lapse.

On the surface, the email appeared to have been written by government professor Tim Brooker [you can see a scanned version of the e-mail here]. However, when the proverbial item this the proverbial fan, and someone suggested the IRS might want to look into ORU in general and Dr. Brooker in particular, the explanation was given that young Toby actually wrote the e-mail, using Dr. Brooker's university owned computer and neglecting to remove Dr. Brooker's electronic signature from the bottom.

Not many believed the cover story at the time. However, even those who did believe it agreed that Mr. Huyssen had committed a pretty serious ethical lapse. The kind of ethical lapse that gets students dismissed from their respective institution of higher education.

Not so fast you say. Oral Roberts University is a Christian institution and therefore one should not be surprised that they forgave Mr. Huyssen to the degree that he wasn't ousted from the school, despite having drawn the ire of the IRS down upon the house that Oral built. Temper this, though, with the fact that Dr. Brooker, himself, was allegedly forced out by the university.

So even if Mr. Huyssen wasn't expelled, wouldn't you suppose that his indiscretion would at least preclude him from receiving accolades from the University he had shamed?

Well...if you answered "yes"...then you're going to be perplexed.

On April 4, 2006...less than three months after the alleged phony e-mail was sent out...Tobias Huyssen was among a handful of students at an honors banquet. [You can see the .doc version of the evening's program, here].

Local luminary Hans Helmerich was the featured speaker and Toby was to be honored as the outstanding student in the International Community Development program.

Wouldn't one think that such an honor would not have been granted to someone who had admitted to an action that had brought bad publicity to the school and had placed his professor...the father of his roommate, in fact...in the cross hairs of public scrutiny? No? Then read the text below, which graced the evening's program as an explanation as to why everyone had convened to honor the school's honorees.

Oral Roberts University fosters excellence. It is an institution devoted to equipping people for success and maximizing their potential. Tonight we gather to give tribute to those who demonstrate excellence in their respective fields of study. These chosen individuals exemplify the uncompromising academic standards of the University. Tonight we gather to give honor to whom honor is due, as mandated in the book of Romans.

The men and women being recognized this evening have distinguished themselves in their pursuit of excellence. Such distinction did not come easily. Talent alone did not bring them here. It took more than a good idea or wishful thinking to set them apart from their peers. At a university dedicated to helping individuals reach their full potential, the award recipients had to rise above the good and the great in order to reach the superior.

I'm guessing you are now laughing too hard to read on. I know I can barely type right now.

Draw your own conclusions. Mine involve a trusting student, a sword and a handy place for said student to fall upon said sword for the greater good.

Way to "reach the superior," Toby.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Toby Huyssen Making News...Again!

The student that allegedly wrote the now infamous "paper tiger" e-mail, imploring ORU government students to get involved in County Commissioner Randi Miller's mayoral campaign is back in the news. Apparently, he is now living in Louisiana and is heading up an organization called the "Louisiana Action Council" which has a PAC called "Louisianans in Action."

In fact, Huyssen is listed as the Executive Director of the group. Not bad for a kid who was a college senior last year. Not bad for a kid who allegedly violated the trust of his professor by using his computer and his name to lure students to the Government Department's offices so that they could sign up to volunteer for Miller.

WBRZ News 2 reports in a story dated yesterday:

A New York businessman with a history of pushing his favored political issues in other states has quietly contributed thousands of dollars in this year’s Louisiana legislative races, much of it handed out by a group describing itself as a “grass-roots” organization that supports school choice.

Companies connected with real estate tycoon Howard Rich, a noted libertarian, have spread $60,000 among 21 candidates in recent months.

The checks are not made out in Rich’s name but rather come from eight different corporations, all with a listed address of 73 Spring St., New York, NY, that has been connected to Rich and his associates.

Most of the checks were distributed by the recently formed Louisiana Action Council or its political action committee, Louisianians in Action. Louisiana Action Council Executive Director Toby Huyssen declined to identify the source of the campaign finance contributions that his group distributed.

“I don’t know if he wants his name in the newspaper,” Huyssen said.

To explain who Huyssen is, WBRZ gives the following background:

Huyssen, the director, is a Louisiana native who attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., from 2002 to 2006 and has a political résumé that includes work on Haley Barbour’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign in Mississippi and Bobby Jindal’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign in Louisiana, according to Huyssen’s biography on the group’s Web site.

Louisiana Action Council has quickly established itself. The group’s associated political action committee has received $8,150 in contributions — $150 from Huyssen, $4,000 from Louisiana Action Council and $4,000 from the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority — and has spent about $6,600, mainly on phone-banking.

I will have to keep an eye on this developing story in Louisiana to determine what it's all about. However, it is interesting the Huyssen has hit a news story at the same time that his name is being bandied about in Tulsa as the purported author of an e-mail that many believe was written by ORU professor Tim Brooker. Brooker is of course one the three professors suing ORU and Richard Roberts.

I also wonder if the Louisiana reporters know of Huyssen's involvement in the ORU scandal.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Richard Roberts Finds Little Shelter Here

Evangelist and Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts states in today's Sunday World that the proof that his students weren't used in an unlawful manner during the 2006 City of Tulsa mayoral primary is that students also worked on other candidate's campaigns, not just County Commissioner Randi Miller's. The Tulsa World writes:

"Here (for the Miller campaign) we were told, 'Get them over here and . . . use
every resource at your disposal.' " Roberts denies that.

He said ORU students also worked in the campaigns of other Tulsa mayoral candidates including Chris Medlock and Bill LaFortune. "I am not aware of any (university) resources being used" in the Miller campaign, he said.

I can't speak for the LaFortune campaign, but I can state categorically the sum total of the volunteer contribution to my campaign for mayor that came from Prof. Tim Brooker's team of students adds to a couple of hours, on a Saturday afternoon, by a single female student who brought her mother and father with her, to throw Tulsa Beacons that included an ad advocating my candidacy.

This lone student showed up to help out in any way she could. She seemed very nervous to be there and did not seem in the least to fit the mold of the ORU students who had worked previously on my City Council campaigns. In fact, it seemed that she had brought her mother and father along for moral support, more than to help out a candidate she had never before met.

The task she and her parents were assigned, was to join other teams that were throwing the Beacons onto the driveways of targeted Republicans who were known to be frequent voters. They left campaign headquarters in the early afternoon and returned a few hours later. Most of the teams were finishing their routes in less than an hour and a half. When the student returned with her father, she wanted someone from the campaign to sign a note telling Brooker that she had logged time working on the Medlock campaign. I signed it for her.

About an hour after they left, one of my team coordinators returned to HQ and told me that he had seen the student and her parents throwing the newspapers into yards in an area that wasn't assigned to them, and into every driveway, instead of just those of targeted voters.

We immediately wrote her off as an attempt by the university to try to cover their keesters with the IRS and were reasonably sure that we would never see her again. We didn't.

Perhaps this nervous student was for real. Perhaps she truly felt I was the best candidate of the three to support to get her extra credit. I hope I am not doing her a disservice today. However, she is the only help we got and what I am imparting here is an honest retelling of the assumptions that were made during a very heated campaign.

A check of my records shows that of our campaign workers that supplied us with their contact information, not one came from ORU. This, despite the fact that we had had nearly ten students work on my re-election effort in 2004.

So sorry Dr. Roberts, the Medlock campaign doesn't give you much cover.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Randi Not Off the Hook

Right after the concession speeches were made at the Vote Yes watch party, County Commissioner Randy Miller said that “the people have spoken” and that river development was dead for some time. She is basically taking this no vote as a condemnation of all river development, both public and private.

Wrong again Randi!

The vote no folks, for the most part, support river development. I would imagine a majority of the vote no folks would support the use of some public funds (a reasonable amount) to be used for river development. Further, I am confident that most of the vote no folks, both Tulsans and suburbanites, would bless a well documented plan that was implemented by the relevant cities, leaving Randi Miller and the County out of the equation.

That being said, what Miller is trying to sell to us, in lieu of this defeat at the polls, is that the County will now move on to other priorities, leaving the river in her waterless wake.

Sorry Randi, you can’t do that!

Tulsa County and it’s elected officials have promises to keep. The monies allotted to the low water damns in Vision 2025 are still there. Your promise to construct three dams using those funds, in conjunction with matching funds, still exists. The voters don’t care if the matching funds are from the Feds, the state or from private sources. They DO care that they not come from additional sales taxes.

THAT is the message they sent you, Randi!

Just because they rejected an additional county sales tax to make up for the lack of the matching funds you and your fellow commissioners promised the voters you’d get, doesn’t absolve you of your promise.

Quit looking for a quick fix at the polls and get to work, Randi!

I have said numerous times on the KFAQ Morning Show that your mistake, and that of your buddies at the Chamber was, that as soon as the Kaiser Foundation approached you with their offer of millions of dollars for the river, you should’ve said, “Fantastic, let’s put the first 50 to 60 million bucks toward matching the voters millions from the Vision 2025 vote.”

In other words, let’s keep our four year old promises first, and then maybe the voters will trust you enough to pony up new money for überparks and "pedestrian bridges to nowhere" at a later date.

We who said “nay” are not buying your spin. We don’t believe you when you say there won’t be any Vision 2025 overage monies [we just think you have other plans for it], so use the overages to pay for the dams. We don’t believe you that Hurricane Katrina caused the arena over-runs, drying up the Federal dollars needed for the low-water dams [pork is still flying out of Washington every day, you just have to make a case to get some].

Regardless of where the money comes from, Randi, you made a promise to “construct” low-water dams, we voted based on that promise in 2003, and you’re not off the hook. As such, the County either moves forward with “river development” or you need to start looking for another line of work.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Creeks Contribute Little to River

Word I'm getting from a source that's not Rick Westcott's e-mail, is that the Creek Nation's contribution to the $111 Million in private funding that will be spent on river projects is voters opt to tax themselves is a paltry 5-million-bucks.

"Paltry," you ask? "That seems like a pretty good chunk of change to me!"

Not really, when you compare it to the gains the tribe stands to make if they get a new low-water dam built downstream from their casino operation and the new hotel they are building. To my knowledge, none of the other private contributors stand to benefit financially from their 'gift.' But the Creek Nation will substanitially benefit from a new lake contiguous to their property that just happens to end a few hundred feet upstream. Too bad if you're a Tulsa citizen who lives between 31st Street and 71st Street, because you only get "channelization."

If things were fair, the Creeks should be working with the City of Jenks to pay for the lion's share of the cost of the low-water dam planned for the Oklahoma Aquarium area.

Interesting how little has been mentioned about this. Perhaps it's because the public hasn't been TOLD about each organization's contributions. Something to think about when you go to the polls on October 9.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hot Buzz On Street Bonds

The big rumor floating around, that seems to be substantiated somewhat by the front page article on streets in the Sunday Tulsa World, is that Kathy Taylor is planning a $375 million bond issue to fix streets.

If true, I just might support this one. However, word is that the vote will occur on the same day in October that the County Commission is favoring for the River Tax question.

The other interesting thing to keep an eye on will be if some (or most likely all) of the road work on Yale from 96th Street to the proposed Bixby Bridge will be included and expedited, so that Mayor KT can be absolved from her "no bridge" pledge.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Is Mayor’s List Of Possible Developers For City Golf Properties An Exclusive Club Of One?

Kathy Taylor’s announcement that she wants the City Council to agree to close several city owned golf holes in order balance her 2008 fiscal budget, has caused quite a debate in Tulsa. What appears on the surface to be an attempt to either fund the reopening of some of Tulsa’s long closed public swimming pools (the Mayor’s official spin) or to offset expected losses from the soon to be opened BOk Center, is stirring a lot of discussion about what would be the best establishment of city priorities.

However, sources tell me the real controversy may not come from the closing of the golf holes, but from what happens to the holes once closed.

Sources are saying that Mayor Taylor has already cut a deal with a local developer to sell both of Page Belcher “Back-Nines,” so that the developer can build homes on the properties. The deal calls for the city to be paid upwards of $5 million dollars for the 18 holes lying south of the clubhouse. If true, Mayor Kathy Taylor has struck a deal with a local developer without offering other developers a chance to bid on the properties.

Reports are that a deal may have been in the works for the sale of the golf course properties for a couple of years, which would have put the origins of the plan back into Bill LaFortune’s tenure as mayor. It was reported to me that the developer approached Mayor Taylor’s office about the possibility of purchasing the land late last year. My sources tell me that the developer (I’ve been given two possible names) has already met with the city’s economic development director, Don Himmelfarb, and a deal in principal was struck long before Mayor Taylor’s announcement to the City Council of her intentions to close the courses.

Current golf pro, George Glenn reportedly has a little more than a year left on his contract with the city, but it is speculated that Glenn would be amenable to a buy out.

It is further speculated that the Mayor’s office hopes to enlist Sen. Jim Inhofe to help with the complications arising from restrictions placed on the sale of the properties, due to the fact that some of the original funding for purchase of the properties on which the golf courses lie was supplied by the federal Department of the Interior.

The Mayor’s office hopes that by closing the 18 holes at Page Belcher, coupled with the proposed closure of nine additional holes at Mohawk in North Tulsa, that the savings to the city’s operating fund would make city-subsidized golf a breakeven endeavor. The city’s general fund, the same fund that pays for police and fire, as well as other basic city services, has been forced to increase the amount of its subsidy for the courses, as the demand for golf has declined and the availability of alternate public courses has increased. Proponents of the closure of some holes point out this availability of alternatives is what makes golf a better target for divestiture than say, the city’s zoo.

Even though the plan to close golf holes seems, on the surface, to be a winner for the taxpayer, Mayor Taylor is actually trading “sunk” tax dollars paid in the past, for the promise of future tax dollars. In order to finance the budget shortfall created by the development of the downtown arena (BOk Center), Mayor Taylor seems content to waste most of the $4.1 million of tax payer money that was spent on improving the city’s Page Belcher courses in West Tulsa, that was approved during the 2001 Third Penny Sales Tax vote.

I have been long saying that Tulsa is “capital dollar rich and operating dollar poor.” Golf courses, unlike other municipal assets, can’t be “warehoused.” Failure to maintain the courses for even one season will render them unusable.

The land on which the Mohawk public golf holes lie is unusable for development, because it lies in a flood plain. As such, there is virtually no demand from the private sector for the city to sell the property to developers.

Some of the additional reasons it is more profitable for the city to divest itself of Page Belcher holes, rather than Mohawk, are the greater cost of supplying water to Page Belcher and the fact that the West Tulsa courses lie within the boundaries of the Jenks school district. The proposed properties are also less than a mile from the construction of the new Tulsa Hills shopping center.

Regardless of your position on whether or not the golf courses should be shut down to save money, it is quite troubling to hear that Mayor Kathy Taylor may be planning to offer the highly valuable land to only one, highly connected, developer.

If sold, the city should ask for Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from the entire development sector. How else will we ever know if the citizens are getting the best deal possible on their tax dollar investment? How else will we know that special favors haven’t been granted for future favors?

Clean government demands an open process.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

South Tulsa Bridge: Breakfast Club?

Guess who was overseen today, having breakfast at First Watch, near 81st & Lewis Avenue? I have it from a very good source that Public Works Department head Charles Hardt had a very chummy breakfast with Jenks' mayor, Vic Vreeland!

Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on that runny egg yolk?

It is a well known fact that Hardt is nearing retirement after a couple of decades with the City of Tulsa? Was he there conducting city business on a Sunday with Vreeland, or was he discussing an exit strategy? Might he be looking for a fat consulting fee now that the courts have opened the door for Infrastructure Ventures, Inc. to start work on the controversial Bixby/Jenks bridge?

Time will tell. For now...yet another "Thing to Make You Go...Hmmmmm."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Annexation: Hicks Creates Mock Press Conference

Media bias often comes not from what is mentioned in a story, but what is not mentioned.

Yesterday, Dan Hicks called a press conference that was pretty well attended, in attempt to represent lack of citizen support for the city's plan to annex the Tulsa County Fairgrounds.

The major news that came from the conference was District 8 City Councilor Bill Christiansen's change of heart regarding the issue. Less that two months ago, Christiansen called for the annexation by the city, referring to the issue as a "no brainer." Now he says he's changed his position because he has "decided to step back and view the situation with the eyes of a citizen."

I served on the council for years with Mr. Christiansen and witnessed many issues on which he later changed his position. This would be admirable, if it weren't so obviously done for political rather than policy reasons. Seeing the situation "from the eyes of a citizen", in this case, means Christiansen's afraid of taking an unpopular position, which he once viewed to be in the best interests of the city he's elected to serve, because it might cost him votes.

It's easy to lead people where they want to go. Leaders are the ones that pursue issues that are not popular at the time, but prove to be correct later.

But what I really wanted to report on deals with the other three participants in the press conference. Three women Hicks found who were willing to voice their opposition to the annexation of county property. They are, Vicki McCabe, Liz Garrison and Candace Chonka. In fact, the Tulsa World's story featured a photograph of the women, instead of a picture of Christiansen. [click here to see photo]

Here's what's interesting. The photo shows McCabe and Garrison looking on as Chonka "speaks against city annexation of the Tulsa County fairgrounds." What isn't shared with the paper's reader is this.

Candace Chonka is Dan Hicks' sister!

What also isn't shared is the fact that both Ms. McCabe and Ms. Garrison (the two women providing "moral" support in the photo] attend the same church as Mr. Hicks [Tulsa Bible Church]. There is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but do you think the press conference would have been as effective, if this was known by the press at the outset?

[Correction: I initially reported that Candace Chonka, Mr. Hick's sister, is a resident of Bixby. I based this on a Google search of her name, which returned an address that appears to be within the city limits of Bixby. However, Ms. Chonka has complained to the Republican Party Headquarters that she is a Tulsa resident. I will accept this as true, because her city of residency was originally stated to be an item of "additional interest," and is not central to the point of this posting. I sincerely apologize for any distress that I may have caused her.]

So what we have is a press conference held in the home of a political supporter of County Commissioner Fred Perry [Hicks knocked doors and put out signs for Perry], which featured that supporter's sister and two of his friends from church, and one "waffling" Councilor, who lost his bid for the same County Commission seat now held by Fred Perry, against whom Hicks mightily campaigned only a few months ago. Hmmmmm....

This is a quintisential Dan Hicks tactic. Create the illusion that he has widespread support for his position and then use that "support" to manufacture a news item. It's just a shame that the Tulsa World and KOTV didn't vet these "citizens" before they ran with their stories.

Or...would they have done anything different, even if they had vetted them?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Watering Down Immigration Reform

Rep. Randy Terrill, who has authored the landmark immigration reform measure, HB 1804, which has passed the State House and is waiting to be assigned to a committee in the Senate, was on the Michael Delgiorno show this morning.

Amongst a lengthy discussion about the bill, Terrill mentioned one thing that jumped out at me. He noted that Sen. James Williamson (R-Tulsa), who is championing Terrill's bill in the Senate, was under intense pressure to "water down the bill."

Where is this pressure coming from? Well, Terrill mentioned two broad entities in his comments, that were responsible for the attempted dilution; "Big Business" and "The Chamber."

I'm not surprised that the construction, agriculture and restaurant industries might be interested in keeping a steady flow of cheap labor coming from the south. Any legislator worth his or her salt should expect such pressure and ignore it. However, I am a bit shocked that the collective Chambers-of-Commerce would be against this bill.

Most likely the Chamber objects to the provision within Terrill's bill to levy stiff fines on employers who knowingly hire illegals. Originally, Terrill suggested that a third-time offender might actually see his or her business shut down.

According to Terrill, Williamson as expected, is holding his ground like a conservative champion should. But the real question is what will many of the less conservative Republicans do should this bill make it intact to a vote of the full Senate?

If Tulsa Republican legislators value re-election, they should seriously consider ignoring The Chamber and heed the recently adopted platform of the Tulsa County Republican Party, which states:
"We support substantial state fines for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens."

The grassroots of the party is up in arms about the invasion of our state by illegal workers. It would be foolish (but common) for our elected officials to serve the guys that write the most checks, rather than those who cast the most votes back home. It takes a lot of money to undo the damage of one ill thought-out vote, especially when that vote is well publicized. And let me assure you, the grassroots will be told who waivers.

It is often the influence of paid campaign advisers, (who don't get paid unless the contributors are excited about the candidate's re-election), who lead elected officials astray from their support base. Don't get me wrong, this influence doesn't come in the form of campaign advisers calling state senators and telling them how to vote. It is the lobbyists for the special interests who take care of such pressure. Often, they not so subtly suggest that you might face well funded opposition in your next race. "Oh...and one more thing." the lobbyists might say, "You aren't going to be as well funded this election, because we're not giving you a dime."

Why do they fear this? Because the vast majority of candidates don't have a clue how to run a campaign themselves, and fear that they can't win without the paid strategists that got them elected in the first place. They end up putting more faith in their handlers' ability to spin the truth in campaign literature, than they do in the voters' ability to discern the truth.

Thus, in the wake of such pressure, the path many legislators take is to water the bill down to where it has little real impact, and then crow about how they supported "landmark legislation" curbing illegal aliens! That way, everyone is happy.

Happy that is, if the voters are kept in the dark about the truth.

On this issue, the voters care enough that they are watching and listening.

Water down at your own peril, dear Tulsa Republicans.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Park Department: That's Just Not Cricket

There was a surprisingly interesting exchange between Councilor Roscoe Turner and three employees of the Parks Department who were sent to today's Urban & Economic Development meeting, to address Turner's concerns about a strip of concrete that had been poured in the middle of a baseball field in Maxwell Park.

Turns out the concrete is needed by the local enthusiasts of the British Isle's favorite bat-and-ball sport. Something about needing a consistently hard surface on which to pitch the ball (cricket pitchers bounce the ball to the batter).

Turner wanted to know why the change was made to a baseball field without the public or the council being alerted. The park spokesperson, who seemed perplexed by the whole discussion, explained that the field hadn't been used in over seven years, so in essence, they didn't think anyone would mind.

Turner then explained that the neighborhood kids often liked to use their neighborhood ballpark to play America's past time. This seemed to stump the park people.

What seemed to be at issue, was the definition of the word, "use." Turner defined "use" as kids from the neighborhood playing ball after school or on the weekends, with or without adult supervision. That's pretty much how the kids in my neighborhood (Florence Park) used Florence Park (the park) back in the dark ages of the 1960's.

Increasingly, the professional park people are responding to the change in our culture, which dictates that all activities that kids engage in, must be organized and supervised. You know what I mean. Mom drives "Johnnie" to soccer and then hustles "Suzie" to volleyball and "Becky" to tumbling class.

Our kids' lives have become so structured, that the mere idea of a group of neighborhood kids with a bat, a ball and a smattering of gloves, might want to go to the park down the street to shag some flies without having to contend with a strip concrete in the middle of center field, seems...well...as foreign as cricket.

As Councilor Martinson noted, this situation is "a bit of a sticky wicket."

Randi Miller's Sister Nominated to Oversight Committee

Not editorializing one way or the other, but am simply guessing that no other media outlet will note this fact.

District 2 city councilor Rick Westcott nominated Lugenia Cue to serve on the Sales Tax Oversight Committee. Ms. Cue is the sister of former District 2 councilor Randi Miller, who now, of course, serves as the District 2 county commissioner.

As an added bit of trivia, Rick Westcott, prior to his election as a city councilor, served on the same committee, as one of the two representatives from District 2. I know this, because I nominated him.

Hmmm...maybe if Ms. Cue is elected to be the District 2 councilor in subsequent years, she can name my brother Jeff to the Sales Tax committee. It would be a shame to end a good "cycle."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

They're Ba-ack!

Tax increase…tax increase…tax increase!

Remember that creepy scene in the movie Poltergeist, when little Carole Ann Freeling, played by Heather O’Rourke held her hands on the tube of the family TV, which was showing only “snow,” and announced to her parents' horror the infamous line, “They’re Here?” Remember in the somewhat lame sequel Poltergeist II: The Other Side, when in a similar fashion, Carole Ann told her parents, “They’re Baa—ack!?”

Reading this morning’s Tulsa World opinion section reminded me (eliciting more horror than either of these two Hollywood products ever could), of the sequel’s tagline. Only this time, it isn’t angry specters and goblins that are coming back to haunt us, but the tax-and-spenders of Tulsa, who the city’s newspaper of record always seem more than ready to support.

If you purchased a Sunday paper today [March 18, 2007], pull out the Opinion section [Section G] and participate in this quick little exercise.

Look on the front page. You’ll see two articles; one by Ken Neal and one by Janet Pearson. Both stories are preliminary “think pieces” on why Tulsans should ultimately raise their taxes. Then flip over to the back page. There you’ll find another, somewhat whimsical piece, by Mike Jones on why Tulsans should immediately support the Mayor’s desire to move City Hall to the partially vacant One Technology Center. A careful reading of the article shows Jones’ analysis of the move is made logical by several future changes that would require a tax increase.

There you go. Three opinion pieces telling Tulsans that life in our city could be so much better [You might even be able to find parking at City Hall!] if you’re just willing to raise your taxes quite a bit.

Neal is the most shameless, suggesting we add a five year renewal to the thirteen year long Vision 2025 tax to pay for low water dams that we thought we were getting in the first thirteen year package. Or, if we don’t want to extend the tax, perhaps it would be easier to just add the .4 cent tax that didn’t go into effect when Boeing opted to stay in Washington. What’s another 40 cents on every $100 you spend in Tulsa, if it could get us what we thought we were getting on the first 60 cents in taxes per hundred bucks we voted in back in 2003?

Gird your loins folks, for Kathy Taylor and the Mid-Towners are itchin’ for a fight. Keep practicing saying “nay” and get ready for a whole bunch of momentum killing negativity. Why?

Because “They’re Baa-ack!”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Rudy McRomney

Michael Bates has an intriguing piece over on Batesline, outlining how budget restrictions among the various mainstream media outlets might limit any discussion regarding presidential contenders to the the top two or three contenders in each party. I have a bit of a different slant on this possible development.

Currently, the mainstreamers are telling America, nearly every night, that the top three Republican contenders for the nation's highest office are, Rudy Guiliani (of New York City), John McCain (of Arizona) and Mitt Romney (of Michigan...no wait...Utah...no...wait...Massachusettes?). These three in toto, have been tagged by witty conservatives as "Rudy McRomney."

If we're all totally honest, these three "front runners" are three Republicans that Democrats could learn to love. Why, because they are, to a man, very much like the candidates that the Democrats ran in key congressional races in order to take control of both houses last November. In other words, "fiscally conservative" but "socially moderate".

Guiliani is a supporter of gun control and abortion. McCain is soft on immigration reform and Romney presided over the first state in the nation to grant homosexuals the right to marry. It wouldn't take you long, my friends, to scan the GOP platform to find that these positions aren't consistent with the majority of Republicans.

So here's my slant in the form of a less-than-rhetorical question:

You don't think the mainstream media, which is made up almost exclusively with left-of-center individuals, might use their power to direct the national dialog toward three "acceptable" Republicans in order to assure that no conservative serves as our next president, do you?

You can almost hear the collective apology from the mainstream media.

"Gee America, we know that early polls, like those we're depending on, are driven by name recognition, and we know these three are well known because we've made them so...and we further recognize that no other, more conservative candidates will become well known unless we give them coverage. But we're SOOOO strapped for cash that we can only cover the top two or three candidates (top two if Newt Gingrich enters the race to become the number three guy).

If they haven't thought of this as a pro-active strategy, they should have. This makes it all the more important for conservatives to get their act together and rally behind a single candidate, as soon as possible. Otherwise, the mainstreamers will continue to attempt to marginalize us as unwilling to accept a more "mainstream" republican as our nominee.

Don't believe me? Check out the following story filed by those wacky, objective journalists over at ABC News? They report on the three front runners being lumped as one unacceptable pack of RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) by conservatives as proof that the party's right-wing "fears" these three candidates.

Oh wait. I guess they're right. They sure scare the Hell out of me!

What really concerns the editors and report staff at ABC is that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, is standing third in the current polls with 14 per cent of the party's support. As I reported below, at least among Tulsa's grassroots republicans, Gingrich is far more popular than the parts (but not the sum-of-the-parts) of Rudy McRomney.

Let it be known up front, that I am a big fan of Newt's. In fact, before attending the RNC in 2004, when asked on a delegation questionnaire to name my favorite political figure, either past or present, I listed Newt as mine. Actually, I was the only member of the Oklahoma delegation to do so.

That being said, I have some serious reservations about Newt as a candidate, given how polarizing he is. However, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are pretty polarizing, too (or at least will be by the time the election rolls around). As such, I would much rather win or lose with someone who shares my values and policy beliefs.
So here's hoping that Brownback, Gilmore or Huckabee can catch fire. Until then, we're all going to have to shake our collective heads over the possibility that the conservative mantle will have to be carried by any part of Rudy McRomney.

Hollywood Trivia Quetion

I came up with this challenging trivia question late last night. See if you can stump your Democrat friends.

Q: What Hollywood celebrity won an Academy Award for Weird Science?

A: Al Gore

Tulsa Republican Presidential Straw Poll

Was cleaning out the pockets of some of my sport coats and came across some notes I took during last month's Tulsa County Republican Convention. I had intended to report on the Presidential straw poll results.

Even though the convention was lightly attended, the results are somewhat illuminating, given the national media's slant on who is leading the pack to be the next GOP nominee. Please remember, the people that attend these conventions, though small in number, influence a lot of voters on election day. While their favorites are widely dispersed among a large field of potential candidates, both announced and unannounced, the poll shows unsurprisingly that Tulsa's grassroots Republicans are looking for someone pretty conservative.

Here are the top ten vote-getters:
1. Newt Gingrich (Georgia - 20.5% )
2. Mike Huckabee (Arkansas - 15.5%)
T3. Condeleeza Rice (California - 12.5%)
T3. Rudy Guiliani (New York - 12.5%)
5. Tom Tancredo (Colorado - 11%)
6. John McCain (Arizona - 9.5%)
7. Mitt Romney (Massachusettes - 9%)
8. Sam Brownback (Kansas - 8.5%)
9. Frank Keating (Oklahoma -5.5%)
10. Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma - 2.5%)

Others receiving a handful of votes included George Allen, Tommy Thompson and George Pataki.

Newt Gingrich has yet to announce, saying he will make up his mind some time around September. It is speculated that he is waiting and watching to see if any true conservatives step forward to challenge for the nomination. According to the most recent national poll, Gingrich currently has 14% of party's support, compared to 44% for Guiliani and McCain at 21%.

Another interesting number in this straw poll centers around the issue of illegal immigration. The Tulsa County GOP Platform contained more than 10 planks that dealt, in some regard, with the issue. In fact, nearly 25% of the platform suggestions that came from the various precinct caucuses dealt with the grassroots frustration with this issue.

As such, it should come as no surprise that a relatively unknown Congressman from Colorado like Tom Tancredo out polled the well known Senator from Arizona, John McCain. You see, Tancredo is a favorite of Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist and McCain is a favorite with the "amnesty" crowd.

We'll see how things develop. Perhaps there will be another straw poll taken at the Oklahoma GOP convention in April.

Friday, March 02, 2007

KOTV: Link To Marler Story On Illegal Immigration

Tami Marler, a former classmate of mine in graduate business school, filed her last story as a KOTV reporter on Wednesday night and it was a dandy!

Marler, who is going on to work in communications for the Tulsa Public Schools, hit the mark in a way local TV news seldom does. Because the story is "must see" TV for anyone who doesn't understand the impact that illegals are having on our community, I'm providing a link to the story below.

Illegal Immigrants In Car Crashes

Good work Tami. You deserve an award for this story, but because of the subject matter, I doubt one is coming your way.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Arena: Budget Must Match Bid Projections

Bolton's Success Will Be Judged on Matcing Pie-In-The-Sky Bid Numbers

SMG announced John Bolton as the new general manager for the BOK Center (arena) and the Convention Center. Bolton comes from SMG's Evansville, IN market, where he managed five facilities that are so minor, that they were barely mentioned in SMG's bid proposal to Tulsa's selection team.

To give you some perspective, the size of the Evansville convention center, cleverly named "The Centre," is roughly one-third that of the Cox Convention Center which SMG operates in OKC. Obviously, the Tulsa gig is a promotion for Bolton, so here's hoping he is one of SMG's rising stars. Why? Because he's going to have to be damned good to compete with two other SMG venues in the general area (OKC and Wichita) and still be able to meet the unbelievably (because I've never believed them) optimistic projections for the new arena and convention center.

You may recall that late in 2005, SMG was awarded the contract over arch-rival Global Spectrum. At the time, I was very skeptical of the process that was used to determine the best package. In fact, the process was so skewed, that Global Spectrum went to the unprecedented act of appealing the decision ; something they had never done before. During the appeal hearing, which I attended, then city councilor and now mayoral aide Susan Neal admitted that she looked not just at the numbers presented in the bids, but the "intangibles."

The day after SMG's bid was accepted, the Tulsa World reported:

"The city's calculations showed that SMG's combined cost projections for
operating the two facilities over five years would produce a net profit of
$4,835,043, but the combined cost projections for Global Spectrum indicated a
loss of $1,024,621." [11/05/05, Pg. A9]

A little later in the same story, the World wrote:
City Councilor Chris Medlock, a mayoral candidate, said after the news
conference that he hopes the city made the right choice.

"I've had concerns about sharing the same management team with Oklahoma
City and whether we'll get the priority necessary to make the investment the
citizens have made in this arena successful," he said.

LaFortune said SMG thinks Oklahoma City and Tulsa are two distinct markets
with only 10 percent in crossover sales.

Both Bill LaFortune and I are now out of office and Kathy Taylor occupies the mayor's office. However, Susan Neal is a central player in Taylor's administration, so Herronner doesn't get a pass on these projections. Mayor Taylor opted to continue the development of the arena without taking a time out to reassess the financials as Don McCorkell and I both promised to do, should one of us have been elected mayor.

I still have a stack of documents from each of the three entities that submitted bids [John Scott of the Tulsa Convention Center staff was the other]. I also still have audio of SMG's presentation to the bid selection committee explaining how they arrived at the numbers.

In asking for the appeal hearing, Frank Russo, who presented Global Spectrum's bid wrote to the city purchasing director [who oversaw the bid process for the city]:
"...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."

John Bolton deserves a chance to shine in his new job, and I for one, hope he does. However, SMG should not be given a renewal of their contract in five years, if the actual numbers look more like what Global Spectrum projected, falling short of SMG's questionable winning bid. If SMG doesn't perform, Mr. Bolton and SMG should be asked to move on.

Because of the controversy that surrounded the selection of his employer, SMG, nothing short of finishing in the black is acceptable. Good luck, Mr. Bolton!

Monday, February 26, 2007

FAQ’s Regarding Fairgrounds Annexation

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the facts surrounding Tulsa’s proposed annexation of the unincorporated area on which the Tulsa Fairgrounds lies. This is my attempt to add some clarity to what has amounted to being a one-sided argument. I recognized as I got into this, that this could turn into one very large posting, so I'm going to post these four questions first and then produce more later.

{One other brief note, feel free to post comments, but understand that I'm not going to turn my blog into a "public forum" for debate. There are a lot of such sites available if you want to debate. The purpose of this blog is to provide a place for me to share my thoughts and opinions. As such, I'll be selective in what I approve. If you want to trash me or my opinion, do it on a site you pay for.]

Q: Is the City taking over the Fairgrounds from the County?

A: No. The County’s facilities happen to lie on a parcel of land that is surrounded on four sides by the Tulsa City limits. Several County parks (LaFortune for one) are owned and operated by the County but lie within the city limits of Tulsa. Annexation of the land on which the Fairgrounds lies will not change either ownership of the buildings, or which governmental entity would be responsible for operations.

Q: Is the Fairgrounds a “tax free” zone?

A: No. Sales taxes are collected (or should be) on every transaction for goods (but not services) that occur on the Fairgrounds. The State of Oklahoma gets its 4.5 cents of sales tax. Tulsa County gets its 1.017 cents of tax. Only the City of Tulsa receives no tax on sales of products deep within its city limits. If a 3-cent sales tax reduction is good for the tax payers, wouldn’t a 4.017 cent holiday be better? Why isn’t the County waving County sales tax at the Fairgrounds?
Q: Is the 3-cent tax break the major draw for retail activity at the Fairgrounds?

A: No, it only has a minor appeal at best. If it was a such primary consumer attraction, then basic economics would dictate the construction of retail properties outside of the city limits. However, such establishments don’t occur because several other factors have exponentially greater impact on consumer behavior.

I will endeavor to explore these in more detail later, but for the most part these relate to economies of scale (boat shows have a lot of boat vendors in one place), proximity to desired demographic groups (this can be as simple as closeness to major highways), synergistic marketing (sharing of advertising and promotions to a specific event at a specific time), and limited offers with a distinct ending time (which pushes the consumer to make a decision).

This last item has several factors, one of which DOES deal with the sales tax savings (“The show is over in two hours, after which you won’t save on the tax" strategy). However, other inducements can be given by the vendor to achieve the same end, just as they do with limited-time sales in their respective stores.

Q: Is annexation akin to raising taxes?

A: No more than closing a tax loophole is raising taxes. If someone is given an exception by the government to not pay taxes that others must pay, that is a loop hole. The County currently has a “loophole” smack in the middle of Tulsa’s city limits. Closing a loophole only raises taxes on those who have consciously chosen to use that loophole. It is a major stretch to claim such an action is akin to raising sales tax rates across the board (even if it is to pursue river development).

I know of no better conservative in the Oklahoma legislature than Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso. As a former mayor of Owasso, Sen. Brogdon supported the annexation of unincorporated land inside Owasso’s “fence line,” that included retail properties which had previously enjoyed a tax break by being outside Owasso’s taxable area.

Given the facile definition of “tax hike” that some of the more boisterous opponents of annexation have made, then Sen. Brogdon was “showing his true liberal colors” by supporting a “tax increase” when he annexed that land. I guess Brogdon was just being a hypocrite when he authored the “Tax Payers Bill of Rights.”

Such an argument is laughable and should be treated as such.

[I'll endeavor to post more a little later in the week.]

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tulsa County Municipal Tax Rates

The City Councils of Glenpool and Bixby made major shows this week of supporting the County on the issue of Tulsa annexing the land upon which the Fairgrounds sits. Was that neighborly?

How long ago was it that I and some of my fellow Tulsa city councilors were ripped apart by the Tulsa World opinionistas for questioning Tulsa's water policy that benefits the suburbs to the detriment of the city?

However, before I begin to waller in bitterness of the lack of consistency in the World's editorial policy, let simply point out that Glenpool and Bixby, have very little standing as the "tax payer's friend." Below, I present to you, the various sales tax rates of the various municipalities in Tulsa County. Judge for yourself which city council's are kindest to their citizens when it comes to taxation.
Glenpool...........(4.0 cents)
Sapulpa.............(4.0 cents)
Bixby.................(3.5 cents)
Sand Springs....(3.5 cents)
Tulsa.................(3.0 cents)
Owasso.............(3.0 cents)
Sperry..............(3.0 cents)
Broken Arrow..(3.0 cents)
Skiatook............(3.0 cents)

Makes one wonder how these communities, with their exploding tax bases, can attempt to begrudge Tulsa, with its shrinking tax base, what little incremental tax revenue Tulsa would realize from annexation.

As for those residents of Bixby and Glenpool who are opposed to higher sales taxes, maybe you should look for new representation on your respective city councils.

Will The Real Tax Champions Please Stand Up?

A Challenge to Our Three Republican County Commissioners

I am working on a much longer entry that will go into depth on many of the FAQs regarding annextation. However, I want to note the rhetoric that is being "liberally" bandied about as to whom are the true "conservatives" on the issue of annexation? I have tried to refrain from such simplistic arguments, because they are too often the tool of those who don't want to put much thought into what is, without a doubt, a very complex issue.

However, let me issue a challenge.

We have three county commissioners, all of whom are Republican, and are claiming to be the tax payer's friends. Here's my challenge.

If you are truly interested in the good of the taxpayers and all of the municipalities in your respective districts, pass a resolution stating your intent to not put the "Four to Fix the County" tax back up for renewal when it lapses in 2011.

I know some of you won't be there then, but such a resolution would become a natural campaign issue. Conservative voters could then determine, before renewal time, if they want a Republican candidate (incumbent or not) who openly supports renewal (a tax hike?).

The commissioners could also support the transfer of some or all of the 3 mils of ad valorem tax that law allows to be transferred to Tulsa, which would go a long way to help get the city through its current operations crisis, before the legislature and the current administration go to the extreme of creating a Fire Protection District that would raise Tulsan's property taxes by as many at 7 mils.

Do one or both of these two actions and I might believe your anti-annexation rhetoric.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mayor Sending Staff to Tout Tax Increase

Mayor Taylor has begun her behind the scenes full-court press to develop support within the City Council for her proposed property tax hike to pay for fire safety.

"Herronner" has instructed policy staffer, Dr. Monica Barczak, to meet with the various counilors to edify them as to why a Fire Protection District in Tulsa is "critically" needed by the city. With a Republican majority on the council, one would normally assume passage of a significant property tax increase would be unlikely, but this council has seemingly preferred commity and decorum over ideology.

Word is, the Fire Protection District is the brainchild of Deputy Mayor and former City Councilor Tom Baker, who is also a former Tulsa Fire Chief. You know it has to be questioned by conservatives when the Tulsa World has begun to heap praise upon the proposal. The editorial writers recently penned,

"Residents might not like the idea of a new tax, even a very
modest one, but the realities of municipal finance in Oklahoma require that
responsible city leaders take on this challenge."
Here we go again. Support a tax hike supported by the Tulsa World, or face being called "irresponsible."

Should the legislature approve this tax district, Tulsans will not only be faced with increased property taxes for Fire Protection Districts, but are also looking at the likelihood of a property tax hike to fund EMSA shortfalls.

Mayor Taylor, who is rumored to be weighing a campaign soon for either John Sullivan's house seat or Jim Inhofe's senate seat, won't be able to garner enough Republican support in a congressional race to win, unless she gets help now, from Republican office holders. She needs to be able to equally lay the blame for tax hikes under her administration in the laps of republicans.

We'll have to stay tuned to see how many of the GOP councilors fall under the say of Dr. Barczak's lobbying.

Glenpool: Can't Say These Folks Lack a Sense of Humor

The lengths to which the County Commission seem willing to go to prevent the City of Tulsa from annexing the Tulsa Fairgrounds is becoming down right funny.

The latest is an apparent offer by the City Council of Glenpool designed to entice the County Commission to move the Fairgrounds to property just outside of their fair township. I say “apparent offer” because part of me is sure they were snickering when they made it.

Obviously, Commissioner Randi Miller, whose commission district includes Glenpool, is hoping that the fear of losing the fairgrounds to a much smaller city might frighten a Tulsa city councilor or two into backing down on annexation. However, any councilor that takes this seriously is showing his or her self to be unworthy of their office. Here’s why.

The Commission would never move and leave all of those recently spent tax dollars generated from Vision 2025 and Four to Fix the County behind them. Glenpool is trying to shine everyone on that the move could be funded by the sale of all of those buildings, but who would by them? Even if they did buy them, what impact would it have on the big shows that are contracted for the coming years. Can’t happen and everyone knows it.

But even if it could, no commissioner would vote to move the fairgrounds for the simplest of political reasons; there are more voters in Tulsa than there are in Glenpool.

Making such a move at the city’s expense would pretty much end a commissioner’s career. That’s why they would never go for such a move.

As such, one has to wonder why the Tulsa World treated it as a serious story. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Bobby Lorton’s brother-in-law, Hal Salisbury (of The Channels fame) is an active leader with “Friends of the Fairgrounds.” Maybe the Lorton’s are trying to help their neighbor, Kathy Taylor out of a no win, political jam.

Either way, you have to admit it. The folks in Glenpool have a delicious sense of humor.