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, 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 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!