We've been celebrating the Oklahoma Centennial for about 100 years it seems, but the past two have been exceptional for their ardor. "Proud to be" in connection with anything having to do with the Sooner State has been the way folks great each other 'round these here parts. Everything this year, whether it related to Oklahoma's statehood or not, claimed its purpose was the Centennial.
And that has been mighty fine. It's a big deal when anything turns 100. We Americans, such a young country, put big stock in growing old, as much as we dislike it. But one of these days we'll need a flash memory implant just to remember all the city, state, national anniversaries, holidays, memorials and bowl games-though sports fans seem to have no trouble remembering all sorts of totally useless trivia.
However, you can count on our collective memory here at UTW as your year-end reality check. We don't forget a thing and our recall is instant and complete. We're not going to give you everything, of course. You couldn't handle it. After all, you experienced it already.
Of recent note, we certainly will not recount much of the agonizing Story of the Year, the Ice Storm of the Century. You get the picture.
So, what we are going to do here is refresh your memory, re-boot the city's collective CPU, if you will. We'll give it to you straight, sometimes with a little spin, maybe a literary twist or turn.
This year it was all about Tulsa and the surrounding state looking for some respect as the 46th Participant in this Great Experiment of a Republic. It was all about us coming out of our closet of insecurities and not being defensive about who we are. Hopefully, it was all about growing up, acquiring maturity and not going after the shotgun when we think we are being maligned by the ignorant misperceptions of mainstream media and big city slickers.
But it was also about dreaming big and doing little, waiting for someone else to pick up our slack. It was about watching TU bulldoze trees and construct Potemkin villages as ramparts along a formerly verdant neighborhood along Harvard Ave. and 11th St. It was about Bixby and Jenks and Owasso and Broken Arrow getting what they want, and north Tulsa still in search of a grocery store.
It was a year of controversy over an amusement park, river development and housing for the homeless. Trying to jumpstart development in downtown. Finding someone who believes in developing the area around the Gleaming Tower of Labels (a.k.a. BOk Arena, about which everything has been bought and sold and named for its benefactors except for the water fountains).
It was about challenging our city leaders and applauding when they finally challenged themselves and each other.
And through it all, UTW has been keeping score, reporting on the best and worst news of the year and providing a much-needed dose of reality.
So, now, as we do year after year, we've compiled a list of the year's Best and Worst news, events and happenings. And, we've made a few predictions for 2008. Some we hope will come true, and others we definitely don't. Either way, we hope the following offers a few laughs and a little insight into Tulsa in 2007 and beyond. Happy New Year!
Best Thing About 2007: November 17 has passed and, with it, so has the Centennial. Now, let's get back to work.
Worst Thing about the Centennial Celebration: Besides the ill-fated raising of the 1955 Plymouth Belvedere itself, the fact that citizens had to pay to see the rusted corpse being hauled out of the ground. But it was entertaining, in a morbid sort of way.
Something Else We Got Tired of Hearing about in 2007: The debacle between the city and county over the Tulsa County Fairgrounds annexation. Watch out, though, this one will be back.
Tulsa County's Worst Moment: The sacking of Bell's Amusement Park.
Best Thing That Could Happen In 2008: Bell's relocates to a space where the park would be allowed room to grow and flourish without having to fight nosy neighbors and county officials at every turn. (Our vote's for Sand Springs. Good for the community, good for Bell's.)
Best Good versus Evil Comic Book Imitation: John Eagleton, Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson versus the rest of City Council on almost every city issue in the past seven months.
Worst Subplot (Plight) for Local Novelist. Attorney/writer William Bernhart's battle with the bottle and penchant for motoring the public roadways while under the influence.
Worst/Best Sports Story of the Year. Eddie Sutton hits the bottom and attempts comeback.
Best Comeback: Reggae Fest, in full force, for the second year in a row.
Best Thing That Hasn't Happened Yet: The expansion of the Jenks Riverwalk. Still wish it were the Tulsa Riverwalk, though.
Best Let-down: Wal-Mart's bid to colonize downtown through a land-grab war with another potential developer, only to decide at the end, "Eh. Nevermind. We have too many Wal-Marts as it is."
Best Examples of Grassroots Politics: The Preserve Midtown and Stop the Chop campaigns.
Worst Way Tulsa Could Lose in 2008: The Tulsa Drillers move to Jenks. Worst reason for the move? Tulsa leadership didn't appreciate the home team enough when it wasn't thinking about relocation.
People We Got Sick of Most This Year: Sharon King Davis, Roscoe Turner and all those little kids on TV who told us that if we just vote "yes," every day will be Christmas, trees of money will grow along the banks of the Arkansas River and magical healing water will flow year-round.
Project We Never Really Wanted and Now Wish It Would Hurry Up and Be Finished Already: The BOk Arena. Originally slated for completion in fall of 2007, this project is seriously overdue and seriously over budget. We hope for the best but are getting impatient.
Best Marketing Opportunity of the Year: Booking a cool, cosmopolitan/international opening act for the BOk and thus letting the country know that we are serious about staging world-class entertainment.
Best Party of the Summer: Dfest. This festival is one of the coolest things that could happen to Tulsa, and we're glad it has. And we're looking forward to summer 2008.
Best Battle Won Against Nature: the groundskeepers at Southern Hills kept that course pristine during the PGA Tournament despite scorching sun and relentless heat. And, they made Tulsa look really good to viewers watching on TV.
Best Thing to Happen for the City's Cultural Gain: The opening of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center downtown.
Biggest Waste of Time and Money on Brookside: The effort spent installing brick crosswalks on Peoria. We haven't seen how they've really benefited the street, and they've already proven faulty and in need of repair at less than a year old.
We Could Have Done Better: The state's chosen design for our quarter.
Weirdest Weather Show: A blizzard on the opening night of Drillers baseball. We thought it was a little cold for April, but we never guessed the boys would be playing in snow.
Best Worst Quote from a County Commissioner: (Randi Miller) "There is no Plan B for the River!" the day after the city nixed the "Our River, Yes" plan. To her credit, she has cooled down and begun to work with others on another river development study.
Little Piece of Tulsa We Miss the Most this Year: The Metro Diner.
There Goes Another Piece of History: The quaint, historic McBirney Mansion bed and breakfast could, before long, be the sprawling McBirney five-star hotel. We'd count this as a gain if we believed the developers would maintain the original integrity of the structure, but we're just not sure if it'll happen or not.
Best Idea We've Heard in a Long Time: The North Tulsa Memorial, dedicated to the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot. We don't know yet when it will be built, but this one is long overdue.
Best Thing to Look Forward to in 2009: The opening of a visual arts facility, complete with gallery and studio space, classrooms and a gathering place, in the Mathews Warehouse by the Arts & Humanities Council.
Best Thing about Tulsa in the Summer: The Blue Dome Arts Festival. It actually looks like people enjoy being outside and downtown for a weekend. Plus, it gives local artists the opportunity to show their stuff--a chance most of them don't get with Mayfest.
Best Reason to Laugh at the Local Daily: The June 22 front page, the dominating story was one of a wild mockingbird dive bombing mail carriers. Slow day in news, boys?
And while we're on the subject of the Tulsa World . . .
Worst Show of Unoriginality: The Tulsa World stealing our "Book the BOk Survey," posted first online at www.urbantulsa.com and then recreated on the front page of the daily. We're not mad, though; we've got plenty of other ideas if ya'll need help coming up with some of your own.
Worst Case of Irony for the City: The year the Tulsa Police Department employs its new "Safe City Initiative," the homicide rate reaches an all-time record.
Good Show of Teamwork: The Tulsa Convention Center and soon-to-be BOk Arena teaming up during the renovation of one and construction of the other. Good game, kids.
Best, and Perhaps Most Underappreciated, Form of Entertainment in Tulsa: Cutting edge visual and performing artists pushing boundaries, challenging the norm, audiences and themselves. Thanks, Living Arts, Nightingale, Theatre Club, Heller, Evandrake.
Best Thing to Happen to TU: The Case Athletic Complex. And, the new football coach hasn't been bad either. Good season, guys. Hope the West Virginia job isn't too tempting for the new guy.
Worst Play of the Season: Mike Coolbaugh's untimely and unfortunate death.
Second Worst Play of the Season: Boise State taking the Sooners behind the ol' woodshed. Being called "The Greatest Bowl Game of All-Time" didn't lessen the sting for Sooner Nation.
Best Play of the Season: TU's 95-yard drive on final possession to defeat SMU and secure berth in conference title game. Paul "Bunyan" Smith's legend grows.
Worst PR Campaign of the Year: The "Our River Yes Campaign." Would have liked to see them do well, though. Next time, hire a different PR firm.
Rudest Return to a Kind Gesture: State legislators' refusal to accept a copy of the Quran from the Governor's Ethnic Advisory Council.
Thing We Were Least Surprised to See Happen: Oral Roberts University leaders accused of misappropriation of funds.
Thing that Happened Outside of Tulsa but Still Pissed Us Off: The City of Sand Springs demolishing neighborhood streets, then launching a campaign to raise taxes to pay for their repair.
Best Move: City Hall to the Glass Cube. Besides attracting sightseers to the Blue Dome District, as our Honorable Mayor Kathy Taylor suggested (Seriously? When was the last time you were on vacation and went scouting for your destination's city hall building?), it might actually do some good for the city. Good move, Mayor. And, hey, there were plenty of photo ops involved!
Best Recovery: Dredging up the original Vision 2025 plan and "finding" money to do the river work the voters approved after the failure of "Our River Yes" campaign
Best New Law: H.B. 1804.
Worst New Law: H.B. 1804.
Worst Battle Lost Against Nature: The Ice Storm. A few hours of cold and precipitation, and suddenly we were all back in the 19th century.
ORU's Second Coming. A 900-foot image of Jesus appears in Tulsa for all to see (leaning casually on the central City of Faith tower, no less), and announces that even he's tired of hearing about the ORU lawsuit. While he's at it, he also tells us how he would have voted on the River Tax (but that he still loves Randi Miller).
BOk Bust. Celine Dion receives approximately 10 fewer standing ovations in Tulsa than she did for her final appearance in Vegas. A problem with ice making causes cancellation of an Oilers game. A problem with empty arena causes cancellation of the Tulsa 66ers.
North Tulsa Prospers. Two grocery stores open in North Tulsa, business begins to thrive again thanks to the Race Riot Memorial, crime goes down and Roscoe and Jack run out of things to complain about.
Church and State. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Tulsa decides that not only is state immigration law immoral, traffic lights are a violation of free will.
Teachers Pet. How about year 'round school with no vacation?
Outskirts. Owasso decides it wants a river to develop, too, so it continues to grow its municipal borders to find one available.
Do It Yerselves. George Kaiser and Tom Kivisto get fed up with the city not being able to develop river and downtown according to their vision and decide to do it themselves, digging canal/mote around BOk tower and major downtown sites and then developing a light rail system to major city attractions. BOk is granted official naming rights and becomes the city's official financial institution.
On Your Sleeve. Louis and Cluck find their t-shirts aren't doing enough to boost city spirit and start selling "I Heart Tulsa" tattoos instead.
Priority No. 1. Maurice Kanbar decides to bring his Skyy Vodka distillery to Tulsa. Maybe we can't get wine in the grocery store, but, with a little help (and a lot of money), we can sure get vodka to downtown!
We Wish. The state legislature passes a new law to allow the sale of strong beer and wines, including local vineyard's products in grocery stores, and Whole Foods and HEB's Central Market concept trip over each other in effort to put a store into East Village area.
Now That's Philanthropy. T. Boone Pickens has change of heart, deciding he misspent $300 million on football facilities at OSU, dons sack cloth and ashes and gives over rest of fortune to try solving starvation and poverty in Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia and helping Cowboy Basketball instead. Opens OSU recruiting office in Mogadishu.
Brazilian U. TU decides to eliminate the rest of its trees from campus, creating the totally shaved look.
Can't Handle the Truth. County Commissioners, unable to take the heat from UTW columnist Michael Bates, spontaneously combust right before the big Arabian Horse Show.
Last Laugh. Big hotel chain sets sights on development near BOk Arena, but corporate czars say the David Moss Correctional Center is too close by and require city to move it to Jenks, making way for what always has been the perfect site for the new Driller Stadium.
Change of Heart. State Rep. Randy Terrill, author of the uber-controversial state-level immigration reform bill, HB 1804, suddenly craves some decent Mexican food, says he's "sorry," and asks all the illegal immigrants to come back.
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