Where to Go From Here
Every city goes through phases. It evolves from small town to small city then gradually becomes a booming city. Housing prices go up, streets become crowded and predictably, many people begin to move outside the city limits to avoid these problems. Voila! The suburbs are born. Both the city and suburbs continue to grow until one day there's little land left in the city.
Growth slows and soon the city has become economically stagnant. City services begin to suffer, thus fueling the exodus to the suburbs. The city's tax revenues drop further, affecting public services even further. At this point, unless major development or redevelopment occurs, the city is going to continue this downward spiral.
This is the situation in our fair city. And unless something is done to change the course of the ship of our city this problem is going to get much worse. Every penny to run our city is derived from sales tax revenue and that revenue has been flat or declining in the City of Tulsa for some time now. And the cost of government, like the cost of any business, has continued to rise. This is particularly true in areas of labor, health insurance, gasoline, utilities, material and supplies.
At this point the city is drowning in red ink. Councilor Bill Martinson's report on the shortfall in municipal revenue clearly defines the problem. But, what is the solution? Earlier this year the issue of annexing the fairgrounds to increase sales tax revenue was suggested as an answer. Even if the most optimistic projections occurred, the revenue the fair grounds would add to the coffers would be so minimal it would have little impact.
The city now has two options: Raise sales taxes on a permanent basis to cover the budget shortfalls or raise sales taxes on a short term basis to pay for infrastructure in the river and promote growth that will bring jobs and businesses that will, in turn, increase sales tax revenues.
We need several good-sized companies to move to Tulsa to replace the businesses we've lost over the past 10 years. While our unemployment rate is low we have a high number of residents that have taken jobs at salaries much lower than they made several years ago because of those business losses.
The proposed Tulsa Landing Project includes retail and entertainment components that will draw visitors from outside Tulsa. However, perhaps more importantly, it includes office development that will attract businesses that will provide well paying jobs. Dell Computers has located in Oklahoma City's river district. Do you think they would have considered the move if Oklahoma City hadn't built Bricktown?
We all want the same thing. We want a clean city with a low crime rate and good streets. We want our children to be able to find good jobs in Tulsa when they graduate, rather than having to leave the city or even the state to find a decent job. The disagreement arises over how we achieve this goal. We can either divvy up the higher costs to run the city among the people who currently live in Tulsa or we can institute a plan that will increase the number of people who will be sharing that expense. Do we really have a choice?
Terry A. Simonson
I wonder if you people at this paper understand that the only reason that Tulsans pick up this paper to look at is because it is free and like to look at what is going on around town for the weekend. Nobody cares about what somebody thinks about a movie or what Michael Bates thinks how this city should be run. If he knows so much why doesnt he run for mayor? I have kids and grandkids and we all are homegrown Tulsans and what has he done to make Tulsa a better place to live. I hope him and all the other hardheaded dumb old okies are glade they voted no to take a free donation of money that would make Tulsa a better place to live. Now we want to know what his game plan is to make Tulsa a better place to stay here and enjoy in our lifetime.
Editor's Note: A little more intellectual curiosity earlier down that old, dusty road might have done you well. At this juncture, a smidge of "grammar and spellcheck" at least. Or, at least, have the grandkids proof future missives.
Down on Supreme
In recent days, my feeling towards Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has progressed from total dislike and near hatred to one of pity and deep sympathy. My awareness of Justice Thomas did not begin with his nomination by President G.H.W. Bush and so when his appointment was confirmed by the timid majority Democratic Senate, I was particularly incensed because I was aware of his professional record up to that time.
As the man who headed up the EEOC under Ronald Regan, there was constant clamor that this government department was not doing the job of seeing to it that the laws of equal employment was being observed by America's large corporations. So when he transitioned from that office, there was a major backup of workers' complaints which were never properly examined.
I could not understand how a man who got to every position that he ever held due to affirmative action ultimately turned against it and tried to nullify the opportunities it afforded to others like him who followed. Although Anita Hill's testimony was riveting the story of his contempt for the laws and our constitution was already well known. So I gritted my teeth and settled down to watch 60 Minutes' interview of Justice Thomas.
My eyes were opened and I came to understand the story of a man who hates his upbringing and now makes every attempt to live a life that tries to deny everything there is about him and others like him. Yes, he dislikes his grandfather and he hates the mantle he wears of being a man who benefited from special programs given to him because of his blackness.
Clarence Thomas despises the Law Degree he received from Yale Law School because his comeuppance was mostly attributed to Affirmative Action rather than his hard work. Undoubtedly, it was Affirmative Action that got him to Yale but it was his hard work that got him through Yale and it was unfair to disregard that aspect of his development. But when it came time for him to be appointed Supreme Court Justice, ironically, it was the improper use of Affirmative Action that got him through the door along with some rather spineless Democratic senators.
It took me some time to understand why it is that Mr. Thomas could make such anti-black, racist decisions from the bench because he is no racist. Immersed as he is in self-hatred and loathing of his very upbringing, Mr. Thomas has gone the other way and has fully bought into the doctrine of white supremacy. As such he has attempted in every aspect of his life to rid himself of his blackness in an attempt to prove to himself and everyone else that he has eschewed, as it were, everything that is really him.
This is an unfortunate individual and one that should be afforded all help. Unfortunately he does not see himself in that light so presently, he is beyond help. History is replete with examples of people who have despised their past trying to conceal it from others. In Mr. Thomas' case he cannot obfuscate what he is but he can show his scorn by acting like what he is not. How sad!
Colin T. Bent
Equal Education for All?
When schools do not meet state targets for improving the achievement for their students the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT of 2001 (NCLB) responds by giving parents of children enrolled in schools that receive Title I funding and that are identified for "school improvement", the opportunity to transfer their children to a school that has not been identified for "school improvement".
This year Tulsa Public Schools has only three high schools that did not make the "Need of Improvement" list, Edison, Memorial and Washington. Four middle schools, Edison, Byrd, Carver and Thoreau are off the "Need of Improvement" list.
If possible, an LEA (local educational agencies) should notify parents about their available choices well before the beginning of the school year. Tulsa Public Schools students were not notified of the schools on the "Need of Improvement" list until the end of August and had until Monday, Sept. 24 to report to their new school.
This date is well into the school year and is disruptive for the entering school's teachers, staff and students as well as the NCLB students. On Monday, Sept. 24, an emergency meeting was called to address the outraged Memorial and Edison parents who questioned why Washington and Carver were once again exempt from receiving NCLB students.
Doug Mann, Tulsa Public Schools' attorney stated that the LEA may exempt specialty schools and that Washington and Carver are specialty schools. No Child Left Behind, section E -- 4 reads: "May specialty schools, such as schools for the performing arts, be offered to students as transfer options?
Yes, however, LEAs do not need to disregard entrance requirements when identifying transfer options for students. For example, an LEA may require students wishing to transfer to a fine arts magnet school or to a school for gifted students to meet the normal eligibility requirements for those schools, even if there are no choices available to eligible students in the district."
E -- 4 was stated as the reason to exempt Washington and Carver from receiving NCLB. Washington and Carver are not fine arts magnet programs or "gifted" schools. Specialty schools "may" be exempt from accepting NCLB students but they "may" accept NCLB students subject to the LEA (TPS).
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Zolkoski, complained repeatedly that our SEA (state educational agency) the Oklahoma Department of Education, had not provided state test scores until the middle of August. NCLB states that an SEA must provide student assessment results, as well as a list of schools identified for improvement, to each LEA in a timely manner so that the LEA can, before the beginning of the new school year, identify those schools whose students may transfer and inform parents that they may choose a different school for their child.
Let me describe how this mess wreaks havoc on Edison and Memorial, two schools that had been in session for a month at the time of this writing.
Students' schedules will be rearranged, new teachers must be hired and the same teacher must be able to teach a core subject and a new elective and new 'highly qualified" special ed teachers must be hired to accommodate some of the NCLB students.
Desks and textbooks are in short supply as well as additional square footage. TPS administrators have said they will not place pre-fab buildings behind Edison but will use every utility closet and storage room for a classroom as well as dividing larger classrooms with new walls (another disruption). Several teachers will float from classroom to classroom utilizing another teacher's classroom during their planning period.
Where does the teacher go for their planning period? How do they access their computer and phone and transport homework, quizzes and tests from 140 students to their new planning site?
The decision to exempt Washington and Carver just IS! The Tulsa Public School Board has never voted to exempt Washington and Carver and Dr. Zolkoski will not ask for this vote. WHY? Because no school board member wants to be held accountable for exempting Washington and Carver from accepting No Child Left Behind students. That vote would call into question the definition of a "specialty" school as defined by NCLB legislation.
Campaigns, whether it's the 2025 or river development, repeat the refrain; "do it for our children...our grandchildren". This issue really is about "the children". Involvement in our public education and demanding accountability from our elected Tulsa Public School Board members will have the biggest beneficial impact in the Tulsa community.
That involvement will NOT raise your taxes but it will measurably improve the education our children receive in TPS. Great Tulsa neighborhood schools will make great Tulsa communities. We will not attract young families back into Tulsa without vibrant neighborhood schools.
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