The first decade of the new century is a wrap. It's amazing how many things change as well as stay the same in 10 years.
We got the BOK Arena, major renovations, new government, familiar government and more familiar government and the same ol' Oklahoma roads (unfortunately).
In 2009, not much changed from that decade-old trend. There was new hotel development or renovation, a new mayor and kind-of-new city councilors made their way into office, several new projects started and older ones progressed. Tulsa continues to build and develop, strengthening it's increasingly strong urban center.
At Urban Tulsa Weekly, we're dedicated to being with you through the good, great, the beauty, the bad, the worst and the just plain ugly, year in and year out. So, it's time for a brief, short history lesson on our fair city. This is our annual Best/Worst issue, which serves to revive memories of the past year. We've always got to look back on our history, in order to move forward and not make those damn foolish mistakes again.
Therefore, read on to relive the past of 2009 and the old decade. Next week, we'll make sure to bring you into the new decade right with our annual Hot 100 and the movers and shakers of 2010. So, enjoy and Happy New Year!
Best Thing About 2009
Finally out of the think tank, PLANiTULSA is moving full-steam into action stages in 2010. It's what we've all been waiting for since we heard the words PLANiTULSA come up. Now, we have to hope that the politics don't halt the progress.
Worst Thing About 2009
Another year has come, another year has gone, and not a lot has changed since the recession sank its teeth into 2008. For Tulsa, it brought a high unemployment rate of 7.5 percent as of November 2009. Not to mention, the number of layoffs in city government and local businesses to make ends meet. Here's to some higher points in 2010.
Best New Development of 2009
Did someone ask for more room service? Downtown has been sprouting hotels (Mayo, Holiday Inn???, Marriott Courtyard) and there's talk of more to come.
The renovation of the Mayo Hotel and the construction of the Marriott Hotel in the Atlas Life building have sprung new accommodations to a growing downtown.
Got Tired of Hearing About
H1N1, aka the Swine Flu, certainly made its headlines throughout 2009. There was going to be enough vaccine, and then there wasn't. Whatever happened to a simple seasonal flu? Let's hope that things tend to improve in 2010 on the health care front. By the way, how about that national health care plan so far?
Best Sports Story of the Year
No more driving to Bixby to see your Tulsa 66ers take on other teams of the NBA Development league. Now, it's a drive downtown to the Convention Center. This is why it's a bonafide best sports story as it's our team back where they belong. Besides, it's better than hearing about Tiger Woods.
Most Poignant Moment
Wayman Tisdale was so instrumental to the city's music scene he made our Best/Worst list twice. This year, Tisdale was given a posthumous honor by being inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. At the November ceremony, he received recognition for his work in the genre of jazz, sharing the stage in hearts and memory, right along with the great Bob Wills. It was a great moment for the city and the state.
Worst Sports Story of the Year
The treatment the local sports community has given the brand new Tulsa entry in the WNBA. Come on guys, let's give the girls a chance.
Every street is still under construction. Progress as promised? We think not. Was former mayor Kathy Taylor's street plan really the way to go? We think not again.
March Madness just got a little bit more mad come 2011. The announcement of the first- and second-round men's NCAA tournament being played in Tulsa came as quite a shock--but in a great way. With the Conference USA tourney being hosted in 2010, Tulsa is just moving right on up.
Voter turnout for this year's election cycle dropped an astounding 14 percent since 2006. Part of it could have to do with the back-and-forth negative campaigning between candidates Dewey Bartlett and Tom Adelson, but voting is a great privilege and responsibility. In other words, there's no excuse. Several precincts saw a drop of more than 20 percent for voting. The bottom line? This is P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C.
City and state employees ended up taking a high number of furlough days to account for the budget cuts that needed to happen this year. So, what happens on furlough days? People paid for meters when they didn't really have to and several city and state offices were closed. Hopefully these services will be back and more operational in the New Year ... or not.
For the first time in 30 years, the Tulsa Parks' has prepared to have in place a new master plan. This plan will guide the parks to reprioritize resources, enhance the parks as well as spruce things up in other areas of need. If it's been 30 years since the last upgrade, we say it's about time it's done.
Best UTW Cover Story of '09
This year, it's a tie. It was a tough choice, there are so many good ones, but both "We Are Infantry" (Aug. 13-19) and "Feels like Religion" (Nov. 12-18) have earned top picks for the year. "We Are Infantry" gave us insight into a soldier's life and pain through a vivid, first-person narrative. "Feels Like Religion" gave us journalism the hard-core way with detailed facts, background information and pictures to go with it. It spoke about the revival of Church Studio as a new live music hotspot as well as its golden oldie days with Leon Russell and its rumored visitors. Good times.
Little Piece of Tulsa We Miss Most
One of the oldest stores in Utica Square closed its doors recently, and is greatly missed--especially at the holiday time of year. Et Cetera House dazzled us for years with its retail displays and fascinating treasures inside, but after more than 30 years in business, it's closed. There's no store that we'd be able to get lost in for hours anymore. (Well, unless you count WalMart, but still...).
Best Foot Forward
There were a few huge leaps forward for north Tulsa. An incoming grocery store slated to open in early January, along with plans for several corner markets to open, too. There are also plans for Shoppes on Peoria, which would bring much-needed retail to the area.
This year's election cycle didn't exactly get a total overhaul from the previous years. This year saw a great deal of familiar candidates face off for city council seats. Maria Barnes vs. Eric Gomez, Jim Mautino vs. Dennis Troyer ... are any of these names ringing any bells? As long as they help to move the city forward instead of backwards, they'll do A-OK.
Most Shocking Moment
Anyone who thinks that Tulsa's bid for the 2020 Olympics came out of left field, raise your hand. This was an unexpected surprise, and it's a long shot out there. Who knows, though? Stranger things have happened, right?
Best Boost for the City's Ego:
RelocateAmerica.com didn't name T-Town No. 3 or No. 2 on the list of places to live, but instead, Tulsa claimed the top spot. With a great number of cultural diversities, great private schools and a public system on the rise, along with great retail, and a flourishing urban core with the BOK Center and ONEOK Field in prime districts, it's okay to toot our own horn on this one.
In a matter of a year, Tulsa has pretty much become murder city. The city's homicide rate is way too close to eclipsing its previous record of 70 in 2003. At time of publication, the city's body count stacked up to 68, at a time when the rates for other violent crimes have been going down.
Saddest Business Closure
After 15 years in the vintage clothing business, Deco to Disco on 15th Street closed its doors earlier this year. We haven't been able to score those great mod outfits or bell-bottom jeans as easily (unless you really look at today's style trends), but this is a Tulsa treasure that will be missed.
Best Thing for Tulsa's Education System
In his first full year as superintendant, Dr. Keith Ballard is proving to be a positive solution to a complicated equation. Seeking different grants to bring new programs to the district as well as dealing with a budget crisis, the superintendent looks to be getting a great report card from us for the year. Keep up those grades, sir.
The WNBA doesn't bring smiles to many faces but bringing Nolan Richardson back to be the head coach does. For those trying to garner a small flashback, Richardson brought the University of Tulsa a National Invitational Tournament championship in 1981 and went on to take the Arkansas Razorbacks to a NCAA title 13 years later. His record doesn't lie for what he does for sports, and we're just glad to say he's an official Tulsan again.
Worst Thing for Tulsa's Education System
There's nothing worst for our Tulsa Public Schools' students than to lose programming and possibly teachers due to budget cuts and layoffs. With several budget trims still being worked out for the system's budgets, programs and layoffs of Tulsa Public Schools' employees it was a tough semester.
Best Success Story
The first Absolute Best of Tulsa Music Awards. Yeah, that's right. UTW toots its own horn on this one. The event was a major success--and something Tulsa's bands and musicians deserved. The award show last August was just the first of many more to come. Count on UTW to do the music scene right.
No other situation could be bigger this year than the outing of ineligible student athletes at Jenks and Booker T. Washington. More specifically, Tulsa got rocked at the discovery of failing student football players at both schools, which led to two football coach suspensions and a mess around Tulsa Public Schools. Let's do better next year, guys.
Best Birthday Celebration
For celebrating its first birthday, BOK Center threw a month-long celebration that came with Sir Paul McCartney, Britney Spears and ribs. Forget about a cake with candles; keep raking in the entertainment.
Missing on the Best Behavior Chart
Did anyone else happen to notice the brutality of the campaign ads throughout the fall? Dewey pulled some strong punches, but Adelson went for the kill in his advertisements. At any rate, it was just plain ugly, and thankfully we don't have to see such campaigning in the future.
Best Joint Effort
To conserve money and prevent the loss of two theatres, Heller and Clark theatres got together and decided to consolidate to one theatre location for the New Year. Now, each one's shows will be presented out of the Henthorne location at 4825 S. Quaker. We get the best of both worlds in one.
Biggest Tragedy in the Animal World:
Although it just happened, the wounds are still fresh with the death of 5-year-old giraffe Amali. As quickly as she arrived from The Wild's conservation center in Ohio with a neck injury, she was quickly gone after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest while under anesthesia for an X-ray exam for her neck injury. On top of it all, she was expecting a baby.
Person We Got Sick Of
It's tempting to say Michael Jackson here, but we are trying to keep it local. How about local media figures putting themselves in their own papers/magazines? We won't name names, but who are you kidding?
Best Thing that Hasn't Happened Yet:
Our mouths are savoring the taste of the Blue Rose Café already. Tom Dittus' plan to reopen the Blue Rose Café has made the city and us some truly happy campers. We can't wait to see it and eat in it. Come on, Jr. Walker and cheese fries.
Healed Throughout 2009
Bank robbers seemed to have amended their ways throughout the year. In the beginning of 2009, it looked like we were on our way to a record-breaking number of bank robberies with eight out of the gate within the first month. After a little bit of time, though, the robberies calmed down.
Sad to Go
The Color Connections Gallery in Utica Square closed its doors forever in December after 20 years in the city. Economic conditions and a lease agreement were the causes of its demise, but the artwork and other offerings it featured will remain on the walls and in the hearts of its patrons for a long time.
To follow up with earlier sentiments, the closing of the BOK Center birthday with the Rock 'n' Rib Festival Presented by Rib Crib was more than awesome. Some of the best rib grill champs plus local and regional entertainment made for a great downtown celebration.
Happy To See
After five years, Nelson's Buffeteria made a comeback on Third Street with its more than famous Chicken-Fried Steak. The family-owned buffeteria made its way back with extremely long lines and other down-home meal faves. Coming in a tight tie with Nelson's is the revival of Church Studio. The historic musical institution makes it way back as a possible new hotspot for local music performances. And we like local!
Person We'll Miss Most
When Oklahoma's smiling star Wayman Tisdale passed away after a two-year battle with cancer, the local seen lost a true champion. The former OU basketball star set records that are still unsurpassed and also went on to have a very successful jazz career. We'll miss him greatly.
Best Reason to give Cheers:
Not only do we have a local brewery in Marshall's, now one of its brews got a thumbs-up as one of the top 50 in the nation, according to Draft magazine. Next step: the Urban Growler.
What to do with Drillers' Stadium? We've heard this one a lot before the stadium even closed. There was a survey completed at the end of the year by citizens around town, but it appears there's no simple solution to this one.
Worst Thing that Hasn't Happened Yet
Or, Don't Hate the 918. We might have to get used to dialing 10 digits by late 2011 or early 2012 as the 918 area code looks to be running out. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which deals in the state's utilities, transportation and energy needs, has been meeting throughout the last few months to make a final decision on the best plan of action to deal with the shrinking area code. Those extra three digits would be such a pain to dial, though.
Predictions for 2010:
Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the city council host such peaceful meetings and mediations that they burst out into a rendition of "Kumbaya."
The opening of ONEOK Field brings the Tulsa Drillers a championship season.
The new WNBA team, under the guidance of Nolan Richardson, contends for a league title.
River development got moving a little in 2009, but it'll pick up the pace a great deal in 2010 with restaurants and retail development.
The state of Oklahoma will come upon a funding solution to give the elderly back their hot meals.
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