Outside expert weighs in on Plymouth Rustbucket
The article by Michael D. Bates, "Rusty Reawakening" (21-27 June) was much too kind. Among car people, the question asked over and over is how the people in Tulsa could have been so stupid as to bury a new car in a hole in the ground with very little attempt made to preserve it.
Sump pumps and dehumidifiers have been around for years. And, why would anyone want to bury a car anyways? It should have been stored above ground.
The battery was apparently left connected. The car was not set on jacks. There was no protection from water or high humidity. There was no air ventilation. The car is a total wreck and looks like an artifact from the Titanic.
In terms of value when new, the 1957 Plymouth cost in the range of $20,000 in today's dollars. Why would anyone bury such an expensive item without protecting it. Were any experts consulted before the burial? It doesn't look that way.
The media has been way too kind in treating the tremendous embarrassment that the City of Tulsa suffered from the unveiling. I have heard the same comment from a number of people: "What a bunch of idiots!"
Editor's Note: Yea, you're right. But we have to live here.
Tulsa: Tax Capitol?
Let me state my opinion of the River Improvement Project. New Tax, they say it won't be, they will be using the part of Vision 2025 that was slated for Boeing Aircraft, which was hoping to lure more business to Tulsa. You remember, the part that they said wouldn't be used if Boeing didn't come...well that makes it "not a new tax" just an old tax that wasn't going to be used.
And hopefully we can then get a new tax for the "Channels"...the islands that would then be in an improved Arkansas River. And I am as hopeful as the Mayor that Tulsans will vote a new tax so that City Hall can be moved to OneTechnology Center, which will also house the Tax Collection Center where most Tulsan's paycheck will be delivered to cover all of these new and "old" taxes.
And that doesn't even start to cover the future costs of Cesar' Pele's Crystal Cow Patty, when the air-conditioning goes kaput trying to keep all of that underglass arena under 120 degrees.
I drive through blighted neighborhoods, my old one included, bouncing through canyon-like pot holes, past closed swimming pools, never seeing any police presence, and we are looking at a new group of tax driven projects.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Michael Bates does well to call attention to one of the two or three most important themes in Tulsa's modern history (14-20 June, OpEd column): the decline of the Greenwood district. But his explanation for this decline is weak and ideological and offers no reason to think things could be different.
When I moved here three years ago, one of the few things I knew about the city, and about which I was genuinely excited, was the rich cultural and musical history of Tulsa's black community in general and of the Greenwood district in particular. (Oil aristocrats, Indian casinos, and Praying Hands didn't strike me as anywhere near as interesting.)
When I arrived I was disappointed to find the neighborhood largely scattered and depopulated, and the jazz scene, like the old spirit of Greenwood generally, relegated from the streets to the museums. Thank goodness for Mr. Sells down at Tee's Barber Shop and the other small businesses keeping on at Greenwood and Archer -- but they are a tiny platoon in need of reinforcements.
Tulsans really need to wake up to the fact that Greenwood is at the core of what is truly unique about our city from a cultural point of view. For this reason, I'm afraid, we should regard the decline of Greenwood as a self-inflicted shot in the foot of historic proportions.
But Bates would have us place the blame on outsiders, viz. the federal government, for something they did 40 years ago: "slum clearance" for the construction of I-244 in 1967. Would it be presumptuous of me, as a non-native, to ask what the **** have Tulsans been doing about it the past 40 years? Maybe that federal action was a mistake, but what about local action ever since?
One problem is that Bates' story includes only "big government" and small business--no property developers, no home-buyers, no local officials. Not to mention, nothing to do with racism of any kind whatsoever. For Bates it's all the fault of a single intervention of "big government" in 1967. This looks like a textbook example of ideology substituting for knowledge--the first resort of someone imprisoned by partisanship.
I'd like to suggest filling the void instead with two players absent from Bates' story: the City of Tulsa and the Chamber of Commerce. Their neglect, it seems to me, is the common thread between Tulsa's responses to the 1921 race riots and to the 1967 "slum clearance."
For instance, local police and national guardsmen did more to promote than to deter the destruction of Greenwood during the 1921 riots. In the aftermath, many even in the white community recognized that the city as a whole had a moral duty (as well as a healthy measure of self-interest) in rebuilding the neighborhood. This duty was not served. Why? Because mayor TD Evans and other city worthies relied on a logic similar to Bates', that private rather than public initiative would do it better.
What was the result? Whereas estimates of the damage of 1921 range from $1 to 2 million, and law-suits were filed at the time for a total of $5 million, the Red Cross spent only $100,000, and city and county governments contributed the same again. This $200,000 went toward short-term relief not long-term reconstruction. All this is explained in more detail in Alfred Brophy's Reconstructing the Dreamland (Oxford Univ. Press, 2002)--and I'll lend my copy to any city official or journalist who wants to borrow it.
So local government (City of Tulsa) and local capital (Chamber of Commerce) had a responsibility to do something--and didn't. This shameful neglect of collective responsibility is why Greenwood had to DIY until the 1960's. If Bates is right that the neighborhood was fully restored before "slum clearance," that only begs the question why the DIY plan for rebuilding Greenwood hasn't worked anywhere near as well for the past 40 years.
Maybe part of the reason is that the white establishment in this town did in the wake of urban renewal exactly what it had done in the wake of the riots: complacency and neglect. I don't know enough about those years to give a full answer, but I do know that Bates' episodic approach to history doesn't even pose the question.
Anyone who thinks Tulsa's future can be planned without addressing Greenwood in particular and north Tulsa in general is indulging in yet another of a long line of illusions from which this city has suffered. Bates' attention is in the right place, but his answer is just to let the market make it happen, as on Cherry Street and Brookside. The comparison is laughable, as any right-thinking member of the Chamber of Commerce will tell you. The realtors and bankers have made more money off those affluent white neighborhoods, not to mention the suburban boom, than they could have by redeveloping historic Greenwood.
The reason is that the free market will always indulge racism, ignorance, fear, and sheer pettiness of spirit in the name of profits. Only a democratic process--public investment constrained by public consultation--can do better.
On the subject of the homeless ("Can't Stay at the YMCA," 31 May--6 June), I must agree state funding will never curb the chronically homeless because they would never see it after government and officials handling the program take a cut and most of the homeless are mentally ill. That is why they are chronic. Since state institutions have closed off most people who had no one to go home to or anywhere, so it's the streets for them.
Yes, yes how embarrassing and what an eyesore it is for the poor souls crawling out of their $300,000 homes into their buffed out BMW, and such an embarrassment to have people unbathed everywhere on the streets makes it such an grueling walk to the air-conditioned office.
Looks to me that the homeless already have a "beat in the eye" by life. Nowhere to sleep and people hating you, trying to kill you-prejudging you and your situation. U haven't heard many homeless people playing any part of a "sniveling victim"--most are silent about life and what brought them to the streets. I must say the ones I hear whining about life and playing the victim are the ones who have.
I thank God daily that I have a loving husband, family, and friends-I am grateful for a clean home and food. It's a blessing to know my clothes are hung in closets, not in clear garbage bags that I must carry as a scarlet letter for the self-righteous and haughty to judge me.
People who are caught up in "imagines" need to look at their's because if they really look at themselves, I am sure they will see that dark shadow that lurks in all of us, waiting to come out when no one sees.
Affordable housing, clean shelters with professional people working them should be the first priority of every city.
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