A couple of comments to your annual "Hot 100" list (UTW, Jan. 4-10): The president of the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa is not Barbara Wilson. The CO-presidents are Mary Jo Neal and Marjorie Swofford.
I think the Hot 100 would have been more interesting if you had included fewer "lightweights" and MORE people and groups that unselfishly work for the good of the whole community --like Sustainable Tulsa and the Community Action Project . . .
Editor's Note: Thank you for the correction. And, for the tips!
Jamie Pierson (In the City, 1/4/07) says "...a beautiful grassroots campaign was launched by the Heartland Flyer Coalition to save it."
The Heartland Flyer Coalition in its 8th year of existence has not extended the train by one foot, nor has it tried to reached Tulsa or anywhere north of Oklahoma City.
It's a no-brainer to go north. We have an option to keep Oklahoma on the move. On trains, business travelers can work using laptop computers, communicate by phone, or conduct meetings in route to their destinations. Families will travel free from the chaotic confines of cars and minivans.
People from other cities, states, and nations can finally arrive in Oklahoma which is now becoming a destination with the centennial celebration. The current being of passenger rail service is minimal and should not be so in our state as we celebrate the past and look forward to the future.
The residents of Oklahoma must have an alternate mode of transportation that has direct and indirect benefits for their safety. In the state of nation and the world we live in today, we cannot afford to restrict ourselves to the minimum of such services.
People, who use intercity commuter rail, contribute a crucial and vital role to their environment and surroundings. Passenger rail automatically results in less highway congestion, reduce air pollution, increase safety, stimulate tourism and commerce, and ultimately save lives.
Unlike most cities considering rail transportation, Oklahoma has most of the track already in place; all we need are passenger loading areas, rail cars, and a good transportation plan that includes rail.
As a result, travel time between destinations on these tracks would be comparable to automobile travel times, without the hassles or delays of highway traffic. Local and national bus service can be introduced to the station and other transportation options for all travelers who wish to stay in Oklahoma.
World class cities have world class transportation systems. Cities that serve as state capitals are especially prone to transportation needs and in dire need of alternatives to the automobile. To date, more countries, national and state governments, city and town councils, elected officials, leaders have passed resolutions supporting and expanding passenger rail.
We are seeing a huge rise in passenger rail and light rail services in cities such as Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake, St. Louis, Portland, San Diego, Little Rock and Sacramento are just a few of the cities with passenger rail systems. New Mexico and Arkansas even have commuter rail lines now that have far exceeded expectations and it is not even a year old.
Any respectable single track rail line can move anything in a proportion equal to the capacity of a 20 lane expressway. In Dallas, DART Rail will require no significant maintenance for 40 years. The trains are clean, fuel efficient, all-weather and meet suburbanites at park and ride lots on the edges of the urban core, a truly "multimodal" system.
Ft. Worth's transportation station, a wonderful multimodal hub makes use of the old train station and turns it into one of the best serving transportation centers in the southwest. It has helped revive the downtown area and links it with the river, ballpark, medical centers, businesses, colleges, and Sundance Square.
Think Tulsa can get on track again?
Be Not Afraid
In view of your timely and extremely well-written column, "Ask A Mexican," and your open-minded approach to ideas, I've noticed an e-mail below has made the rounds in the workplace to just about anyone on a distribution list.
In a nutshell, it states that illegal aliens will be the ruination of the country's social security system and then further calls upon the reader to petition President Bush to take action.
The email reads:
Subject: Social Security Petition--Not a joke
Loss of Social Security Benefits.
It is already impossible to live on Social Security alone. If they give benefits to "illegal" aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave us that have paid into Social Security all our working lives?
As stated below, the Senate voted this week to allow "illegal" aliens access to Social Security benefits. Attached is an opportunity to sign a petition that requires citizenship for eligibility to that social service. You can Agree or Delete. Instructions are below.
PETITION FOR: President Bush
Mr. President: The petition below is a protest against what the senate voted on recently which was to allow illegal's to access our social security! We demand that you and all congressional representative require citizenship for r anyone to be eligible for social services in the United States. We further demand that there not be any amnesty given to illegals and NO free services or funding, or payments to and for illegal immigrants. We are fed up with the lack of action about this matter and are tired of "paying" for services to illegals!
Tell Senor Fox to pay for his own people.
Agree or delete: Instructions to sign are at the bottom.
End of email.
The email is then forwarded to ten or more other people and there is generally a large list of people who have entered their name at the bottom thinking this facilitates their signing of a Petition to the President...the disturbing part of that being that I know a lot of those names.
I'm not a big letter writer and I am a political conservative, leaning a bit to the right...however...I must break rank and question what the big deal with "illegal aliens" is all about. Why the sudden interest to this degree? Has anybody actually done the math to determine just what these folks are "costing" relative to Social Security and/or the national economy?
These Mexicans are not the primary beneficiaries of the generations old practice of working them, nor are they the root of the cause. Being from Albuquerque and El Paso I've worked side by side with these folks where our primary tools were post hole diggers, pick axes and wheel barrels on jobs only they or struggling college students would do. Many of my friends were raised by kindly women names Maria or Mona who became a loved part of those families, with many of those women winding up as one of the more stable elements of those families.
In addition to the essential services provided, the family values and the strength of character that these people infuse into the American society contribute value far in excess of any of the piss-ant concerns expressed in the memo above.
I agree that this is a country built upon laws and something needs to be done to bring this rapidly expanding practice into some form of compliance, if for no other reason that to protect Mexicans from a world that would otherwise use them up and discard them. Sure there is abuse in every situation, which some sensationalist bottom-feeder from Fox or National Public Radio will dramatize to further his or her own pathetic career in what used to be the honorable profession of objective journalism; and we can all rest assured we will be sick to death of this issue by the time the next Presidential campaigns are over.
I am familiar enough with this element of society to know that these people will contribute far more than they take, and as a result, I am not concerned about them getting a piece of my pie...and I am certainly not concerned about their culture overpowering the pasty white, country buffet, meth-lab mentality we seem to be otherwise drifting toward en masse.
About Downtown Parking
Proposal For Removal of Parking Meters From Downtown Tulsa Streets: I happened to mention to Don Himelfarb that I believe that the hated parking meters along the downtown streets could be removed without financial loss to the City and at the same time increasing the security provided to downtown visitors and workers at the same time. He said he was all ears and gave me 30 minutes to outline my proposal.
Everyone recognizes that the parking meters along our downtown streets are universally despised by everyone who has to take money out of their pockets in order to pay to do business downtown. No other shopping area in the City, other than Cherry Street, charges customers for parking their vehicles while conducting business with merchants and other suppliers of goods and services.
When hundreds of parking meters were vandalized for the money that they contained, I secured hundreds of signatures on petitions beseeching the City not to replace them and to provide two hours of free parking along the downtown streets to anyone needing to park their vehicle while doing business downtown.
Jim Norton told me that DTU did not want the meters replaced but had to support their replacement because the City said that it could not enforce a two hour limit on free parking. The City spent hundreds of thousands to buy new tougher meters and some "high-tech" units that accept credit cards, etc., but did not enforce the two hour limit on parking in any one place per the warning on the meters.
After I pointed out that it was less expensive to park on the street and off the street, the City started aggressively enforcing the two hour limit. It was and is my opinion that replacing the meters harmed our downtown and enforcing the two hour limit further harmed it.
I proposed to Mr. Himelfarb that the meters east of Denver and between 3rd and 7th be removed and that all of the spaces be made free to the public for up to two hours. I suggested that the City or DTU hire two security guards to function as Downtown Tulsa Security at a cost of approximately $50,000 a year to monitor and enforce the two hour limit and to act as Downtown Tulsa concierges and to work in conjunction with the TPD resources as promised by Mark McCrory recently.
One security guard would start at 7 a.m. and work until 4pm. with an hour off for lunch. The second would work from 10am-7pm with an hour off for lunch. All proceeds from tickets written by them for violating the two hour limit on free parking would, of course, be kept by the City.
This would give the City an income stream without any cost to replace the income lost by the removal of the meters. Mr. Himelfarb has stated twice that the parking meters cost about what they produce in income now so eliminating all costs and still having income should work out just fine for the City.
The result of this change in the way Downtown Tulsa operates would accomplish several improvements to our downtown. First, it would be more user friendly to our clients and customers.
Second, the perception that Downtown is unsafe would be reduced because there would be a security guard or a police officer within site of most visitors downtown assuming the guards and officers are working the streets and sidewalks most of the time.
Third, the security guards could provide directions and other assistance to visitors. Fourth, the security guards would help the police provide adult supervision to the homeless until such time as the City successfully relocates them though various schemes.
Mr. Himelfarb is having the Traffic Engineering Division of the Department of Public Works study the feasibility of removing the parking meters. This may be the municipal equivalent of having the proverbial fox guard the proverbial chicken coop. He is supposed to have a report by the middle of February.
The City may not want to remove the meters from the Civic Center Complex and the businesses north of Third Street may oppose the removal of the meters because of a belief that the enforcement of the two hour limit my not be effective or for other reasons.
It is my belief that Downtown Tulsa has not been competitive with out commercial and retail shopping areas of our City for many years because of the unfriendly and inconvenient way that the City has insisted on operating it. If I am correct, and of course I believe that I am, increasing security downtown, eliminating one way streets, eliminating the parking meters, reducing the burden on Downtown Tulsa created by the homeless, creating and operating a cooperative free Wi-Fi access system and making other changes to how Downtown Tulsa operates so that it is more user friendly may start the process of resurrecting our dead horse downtown.
Tulsa World columnist Ken Neal described the decline of Downtown Tulsa in an opinion article in the Tulsa World 47 years ago. If the date on the article were to be changed from August 21, 1960 to August 21, 2007, it would literally read as if it was, in fact, describing the current situation downtown.
The City has collected millions in additional taxes from the 1,400 properties located inside the Inter-Dispersal Loop and paid the money to Downtown Tulsa Unlimited to use to manage Downtown Tulsa over the last nearly five decades.
The City has also collected and has spent additional millions, if not hundreds of millions in sales and other taxes that various municipal administrations have spent ineffectually to revitalize Downtown Tulsa.
My opinion that all efforts to date have failed is clearly supported by the facts.
Downtown Tulsa Unlimited claims that it has done a great job representing the interests of the downtown property owners who provide a major portion of its operating budget. Its position, it seems to me, like the surgeon who successfully operates on a patient who dies. Downtown Tulsa is as close to dead as any place can be.
What harm will it do to change the way it works? What the City and DTU has done is like beating a dead horse. They have done the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome year after year as millions in valuable resources have been squandered.
I certainly hope I am wrong but I feel very strongly that we are about to be led, all of us, into another war that is once again illegal and that will break and belittle us as a nation.
This President and his VICE President have no intention of obeying our constitution or international laws and have decimated both on their way to providing their friends with super profits and a greed-centered way of life; this all at the expense of our armed forces and the lives of the young men and women who serve.
And through it all the debate has hinged mainly on the improper conduct of the war in Iraq. I am of the firm opinion, one that I have held prior to the occupation, that this has been an illegal and immoral adventure. An adventure that had it been carried out by any nation other than our own, would have had us spewing our collective wrath every which way.
As long as we fail to condemn the very act of the invasion and occupation of Iraq we leave ourselves open to Act 2 of a deliberate and reprehensible attempt at imposing our will on other nations because we are powerful enough to do so. It is imperative that we condemn the actions of our President and his administration and completely reject the doctrine of preemptive strike.
The problem we face with this Iraqi occupation is not the quality of the criminal act but, rather, the fact that the crime was ever committed. So now that the lies are being uncovered, the real reason for the invasion is more evident and it is one of war profiteering and the illegal grab of Iraq's rich oil reserves. These two 'oilmen in residence' have squandered our good name, the lives of our young men and women and squandered our country's treasury in a shameless attempt at empire building.
This nation cannot but face that reality and hold fully responsible those who led us down this treasonous pathway. All we do is to waste time and effort discussing how to dig a deeper hole rather than how to get out of the damn pit and to rid ourselves of the grave-diggers in the White House.
Colin T. Bent
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