Open letter to the local daily
Negativism abounds in the Tulsa World. First Jane Halliwell; now Laurel Upshaw. At least you were able to publish one positive letter (from Tom Freeman).
It appears to me that each of these ladies should do some homework and propose some creative solutions rather than defame the city park workers and supervisors at Woodward. Regarding Mike Perkins, Woodward's urban forester, not only does he hold a degree but also has about 16 years working for the city. Are either of the aforementioned ladies so qualified, in either urban forestry or horticulture technology?
Several years ago, the city received a grant to chart all the trees in all of the city parks (by global positioning) of roughly 14,000 trees in 130 parks. These trees were then placed within 4 categories depending on each tree's health. Category 4 is a designation for trees that are dead., diseased or dying, and once a tree is designated a category 4 tree, a hazard tree, it becomes incumbent on the city to remove that tree. Ignoring such a hazard tree(s) can make the city legally liable in case of injury or death of a person, as has happened in the past.
My question to the ladies: are you willing to forego the safety factor so you might birdwatch an owl or woodpecker? Woodward Park cannot be all things to all persons. Would it be more appropriate for you to birdwatch at Oxley Nature Preserve? Also, 15 birdhouses were just recently put up, as an Eagle Scout Project, to help facilitate the return of small bird species.
Ms. Upshaw writes that the park has not allowed the natural leaf-fall to accumulate. This is untrue, as I know from having been a volunteer at the park. Did Ms. Upshaw have any conversations with Woodward Park personnel to determine what trees had been planted and what native trees remain? Does she have knowledge that shrubs (other than dead ones) have been removed? Does she, in fact, know what, if any, pesticides and/or herbicides are used at Woodward? I think not. There has been a major effort to have the Park free of chemical products and much has been accomplished in that direction. I reiterate, I don't believe either lady did her homework.
Rather than all this negativism, these ladies and other petitioners should find positive ways to help: raising money for tree trimming, volunteering their time at the park, etc. This divisiveness is very destructive at a time when so may persons are attempting to create a more positive image of Tulsa.
Jean S. Quan
Regarding the Night Trips ad on Page 54 of May 3rd's issue: It's true that I am NO fan of "Gentlemen's Clubs" (what a joke that name is!) I usually ignore their ads, but this one goes TOO FAR! Her nipple and butt crack are obscene! If you need the $ from their advertising, I understand, but make them put in ads that are decent.
Trees, Trees Bien
As someone raised in Tulsa and who will return there for
retirement specifically to live by Woodward Park, I am appalled at the city's behavior regarding cutting down trees instead of caring for them to extend their maximum possible life span. I support all efforts to stop this shortsighted and apparently boorish behavior towards those
like me who want this unique retreat to live and prosper.
I would like to know what the city's specific commitment is to not only permanently ceasing cutting as a remedy for trimming, but for planting and maintaining new trees to make up for those already removed when no one was looking. In addition, I want to know what the city's plan and intentions are for the long-term sustainment of Woodward Park in its current form...a unique, beautiful, quiet green haven unblemished by traffic, noise, overcrowding, overdevelopment, and all the other characteristics of urban blight where people of all ages can go to escape for a few quiet moments or hours.
Tulsa has lost a lot in the last 30 years due to the changing business environment of old...let's not lose this unique, beautiful and unique place that speaks of past elegance. It's up to those who care to ensure its beauty and use as intended remains not
only for future generations, but, apparently, for us right now.
Par for the Course
Mayor Taylor has proposed closing 27 holes at the two city golf courses, Page Belcher and Mohawk as a budget savings necessity. It is true that the revenue generated by the course are not enough to fully maintain the courses and the city must subsidize the budget of the courses.
Is there another part of the city that is fully paid for by revenue? Has the mayor forgotten that the city is not a business, but publicly funded by taxes, and any revenue generated is a bonus. Has the mayor also forgotten that the city made a determination to build the courses and never were intended to be self sufficient, but as a service
to the public, just like the parks and swimming pools etc.
When the Stone Creek course at Page Belcher was built in 1981, it gained national attention as "The Best New Municipal Course" in the country. It has always been rated high as one of the best courses to play in Oklahoma. And now the Mayor cannot find the funds to keep it maintained. It's a sad state when the city commits to build, but then does not commit to maintain.
Will this be the same situation as the Fairgrounds take over? Scrambling to find money to properly maintain. The City should not abandon the golf courses as they have, encouraging the intense maintenance slide into the realm of just the basics. Just a year ago, the city determined, rightly so, that the Olde Page course at Belcher needed the greens rebuilt and a new irrigation system, authorized the funds and proceeded to upgrade this course, which was constructed in the late 70's. And now the mayor thinks it could be closed. When will the unintended consequences of actions be considered by the mayor.
Ask the homeowners that share a fence with the courses at Page Belcher what the unintended consequences will be to them if the course is closed. There are only two courses of action on this matter, and closing a course should not be one of them.
First, fully fund the maintenance at the courses and even increase the budget so the intense maintenance can be achieved that will bring the facility at Page Belcher back up to the level of esteem it held in the mid 80's to mid 90's. Increase the budget. More monies for chemicals and fertilizers.
Second. if the situation is that dire with the city budget, then give the facility to the county so that they can properly maintain it. It's always been amazing to golfers in the area, that the two county courses, La Fortune and South Lakes are better maintained than the two city courses. Why is that Ms. Taylor?
Coffee: For Believers Only!
Coffee has served as the center piece of the intellectual community for centuries. Public intellectuals and laymen alike have met amongst the intoxicating aroma of freshly roasted beans to discuss politics, philosophy and other social avenues of life, all while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
Sadly, this cultural exchange of information cannot be upheld in a society that is intolerant and prejudice; two negative aspects of humanity that have lead to the subject of this essay.
I am a former employee of Nordaggios Coffee, which is locally owned by a proud graduate of Oral Roberts University (a private Bible College in Tulsa, Oklahoma) and a devout Christian. I was a dedicated employee and I truly loved my job. Customers enjoyed my presence and my passion for the product that I sold. I had a number of regular customers during my morning shift that knew me by name and frequently asked for my opinion on music, politics, philosophy and coffee. Many of these customers are no longer my customers, but are now my friends and I believe that our relationship will extend far past these recent events.
On February 28th I was let go from Nordaggios Coffee after a two-hour discussion, initiated by the owner, about my personal beliefs on some very important social issues. I met with him off of the clock and the discussion continued as follows.
As I walked to the table and sat down we exchanged pleasantries as acquaintances would, but the mood suddenly shifted when the owner plopped down a copy of Urban Tulsa Weekly onto the table in front of me, asking "what do you think about this?" I should probably preface this by saying that two weeks prior to our meeting, Nordaggios management took a stance against what they called "pornography" and made it known that Urban Tulsa would no longer be distributed in their stores.
After being informed that all copies of this independent alternative newsweekly should be stacked in the back room away from the eyes of customers, I felt the need to speak out against what I saw as blatant censorship.
The store I worked at was located in Owasso, Oklahoma and this publication was the only source of information on local arts and culture that could be found within miles. In protest, I taped a note to the pile of papers in the back room that simply said "censorship leads to ignorance".
This single phrase all but sealed my fate as a Nordaggios employee.
During our discussion about this incident, I pointed out that there was a copy of Shakespeare's Macbeth on the store bookshelf that contained sex, incest, violence and murder, yet it remained morally justified in the eyes of management and free for all to read. I added that if a single customer had complained about sexual deviances found in the King James Version, things that would pale in comparison to the Urban Tulsa's "pro gay" articles that got it banned from the store initially, he would undoubtedly allow this book to stay. This is simple logic, so I was not surprised when he failed to see the correlation. For some reason these remarks caused a sudden change in the subject of our discussion and we quickly moved on to a greater matter.
Nordaggios employees are overwhelmingly Christian. In fact, of the 30 or so employees, I was the only person who wasn't a devout Christian. I am openly agnostic and consider myself a secular humanist. I feel very strongly about my beliefs and I enjoy discussing them with others in person, as well as on the myspace blog that I keep updated frequently. This myspace blog was now the center of our discussion.
Close to a month earlier I had received an email from a disturbed ORU student who had read one of my essays and felt that I didn't fully understand god. He stated that I was ignoring all of the "evidence" for the existence of his Christian god, such as miraculous healings, resurrections and other supernatural occurrences and that he had felt the need to "enlighten me". I replied respectfully and eloquently to the student's remarks, which he then deleted, as to keep the devil off of his myspace page.
Knowing that I cannot stop a person from censoring my thoughts from their personal web page, I decided that a public reply on my own blog would be the best route to take. I compiled evidence and wrote an essay about the "faith healings" of Oral Roberts and the 500 million dollar empire that he built around this scam.
I cited my sources and used all of the proper etiquette that is required for a work of literature to be taken seriously and to be intellectually sound. During that week this essay was read by close to a thousand people, many of which were ORU students or graduates and also fellow co-workers. Keep in mind that this is an open forum of information that is free to be embraced or ignored by any person who may choose to do so.
Because of this essay and others that had openly criticized the shortcomings of Christianity, I was now discussing my philosophical beliefs with my employer, only minutes before I was to be terminated. He too proclaimed witch-craft, faith healings and demonic exorcism as "proof" that his god exists. He explained that Ted Haggard's recent stint of homosexual prostitution was a direct product of witch-craft and that demons were so rampant in "Liberal Cities" on the West Coast that it served as a hot bed for gays, murderers and prostitutes, then adding "you would fit in well in Seattle."
I explained that remarks such as these were exactly what have lead to my open discussion of Christianity and the intolerance that its followers embrace. He then went on to say that it was irresponsible for me to openly discuss my beliefs on religion with 18 year old kids, who are new into their faith and unsure about their beliefs, because it might cause them to question the nature of god.
Astonished that he would say such a thing, I quickly replied that this was the very reason that I feel I must discuss the faults of religion. Be it philosophical ideals or historical evidence, any information that can make a person question the world around them should be information that they seek.
If his religion could not stand up to scrutiny and rational thinking, then his religion did not deserve to stand up at all. This was apparently very disturbing to him because he quickly started to back peddle in his reasoning and his development of new ideas started to decline rapidly. Under my lead, we then moved on to discuss the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Rapture scenario, the Christian Coalition and Pat Robertson, Evolution versus intelligent design, the Crusades, the Inquisition and finally Christian intolerance towards Jews and homosexuals. Although he seemed to continuously lose his train of thought, I felt that I was making great progress in the expression of my views, thus leading to a successful debate.
After a few failed attempts to get me "on his side" our discussion on religion and philosophy started to stammer and eventually fell to silence. This is when he looked up at me and finally decided to get to the point of this whole ordeal. Jillian (my manager), he said, doesn't think that you respect her because of this Urban Tulsa deal and after you were late last Saturday she decided that we needed to let you go.
So there it was. After an hour and a half of arguing with me about my stance on censorship, religion and supernatural faith healings, he "had to let me go" because I was late last Saturday. He then added that this had nothing to do with the fact that I was an "atheist" (a term he kept using even after I corrected him) or the fact that I had openly criticized his belief system. Of course it had nothing to do with these things, because that would be discrimination. Instead he decided to drive forty-five minutes across town to discuss religion with me for and hour and a half and then spent roughly 20 seconds telling me that I was fired for being late to work. This makes sense right?
Ultimately, this worked out better than I ever could have planned. I used a public forum to discuss the intolerance, bigotry and suppression of information that is exuded by the Christian community and then my Christian conservative boss decided that the best way to deal with my open dissent was to be intolerant and to suppress my point of view by getting me out of his company.
As if the irony in this wasn't beautiful enough, he then handed me a hundred dollar bill as I walked out the door, thanking me for all had done as a dedicated employee.
Although I do not agree with the owners reasoning behind my termination, I can easily see why such a person could justify letting me go. This man moved from the West Coast to get away from the demons and witches that were damaging society. He then went to a conservative Christian college in the Midwest that reinforced these views and gave him the inspiration to start his Christian coffee shop. He somehow hired a young graduate student purely out of intuition, but had forgotten to ask him if he believed in god. This student then stood firmly under his first amendment rights and openly discussed the importance of rational thought in society.
Recognizing this free speech as the exact behavior he had been trying to escape, the owner felt justified in ridding his company of this demon. A process I would like to call dissidential exorcism. This term will constantly serve as inspiration as to why I must continue to speak out against religious intolerance and irrational thinking in the world that I live in.
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