Taking It to the Streets
(This is Dist. 5 City Councilor Bill Martinson's letter to the Tulsa Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. See Michael Bates' commentary on its ramifications, "Op/Ed," page 6.)
Please consider this my response to your letter dated yesterday. I believe it will explain why I decided not to attend the Special Chamber Task Force on Streets meeting scheduled for 10:00 this morning.
Although I consider us acquaintances rather than friends, I would have expected both of you to have exhibited a degree of common courtesy by contacting me personally before sending such a letter. I found your letter offensive and disturbing for several reasons.
Setting aside the condescending tone of your letter for a moment, it conveyed a serious lack of understanding as to the development and status of the Council's proposal to fix Tulsa's streets. The process has spanned eight months. In addition to holding more than two dozen fact finding meetings, which included hearing from both external and in-house experts, we conducted town hall meetings for all districts. All of these meetings were public and posted in advance. You and your staff were welcome to attend, and had you done so, I believe you would have found the meetings most informative.
Your contempt for Tulsa's City Council was apparent in your comments. To assume that the Council and City staff would advance an initiative of this magnitude to the voters and ignore fundamental due diligence and statutory requirements is arrogant and absurd. Several of your other bullet points revealed an appalling level of ignorance. For example, the Boulder bridge was included in the 2006 Third penny package (documentation attached) that the Chamber supported, and your comments concerning expansion and assessment districts reveals your lack of consideration for the less affluent areas of Tulsa. While I realize that you and many members of your executive committee live in District 8 and contend with congestion, the streets in south Tulsa are in relatively better shape than those in other areas of town. However, if the condition crisis is not addressed immediately, you will soon be facing the same deplorable conditions as the rest of us.
Furthermore, you obviously fail to recognize, or admit, that we must modify our approach. The deplorable condition of our existing infrastructure and congestion issues in south Tulsa prove that we need a new model. We have devoted significant effort to addressing the condition crisis and must dedicate similar focus to expansion needs. Expansion involves more than streets (e.g., utilities, public safety, and parks), and we must ensure that all aspects are addressed if we expect to develop an effective long term plan. The proposal assumes existing programs will remaining in place, which means that expansion is being addressed through 2013.
I must admit that I found your comment about ROI on campaigns rather amusing considering your recent track record. Your temerity to condescend to the Council on voter behavior, when by definition, each City Councilor has a better record with the voters than the Chamber, again demonstrates an incredible level of arrogance.
We have scheduled public meetings and will have programs on TGOV and information available on our web site to share the results of our research and present our plan. The process has been, and will remain, transparent. I have great faith in the voters, if they are given the facts and have an opportunity to make an informed decision. You may consider it a novel approach, but I would rather tell the citizens the truth and let them decide rather than attempting to manipulate the outcome.
Congratulations on your success in Oklahoma City to secure $25 million in funding for low water dams on the river. I believe we all support river development and welcome the day when you feel the same passion to convince the Tulsa delegation to support our transportation system. The conditions of our area highways, which are maintained by ODOT, rival those of our City streets. Also, returning tax dollars to Tulsa, and other area communities for that matter, would help us address our street needs.
The Chamber appears fixated on glamour and glitz to enhance economic development. You may understand these needs better than I, but I believe the condition of streets and right of ways say much about a community. If a city fails to consider basic infrastructure a priority, one must question the degree of civic pride.
I had hoped that this initiative to fix our streets would be an opportunity to heal the community. I believe the Council, administration, and citizens are prepared to face the issue and am disappointed that the Chamber feels threatened with that initiative. While you and your executive committee may take issue with the approach, I hope that individual members of the business community will join us as we attempt to solve a fundamental need.
William E. Martinson, Jr.
City Councilor, District 5
Wasted (Mental) Energy
I tried to read David Deming's article with an open mind. However, with each flaw, mistake, and lack of fact he continued to write, it became increasingly more difficult to take anything he wrote as anything other than mindless drivel. Wasted mental energy.
Offshore drilling, perhaps, might not have an ecological impact. Which is different than an environmental impact. But, Dr. Deming doesn't seem to care about wildlife. Okay, that's fine. However, he also fails to mention that the United States currently has an oil and a gasoline surplus. Refinery capacity in the United States is only running at 80%. Gasoline supplies are up. Demand is down. Demand has decreased steadily for the past five years. So why drill for more of something that we already aren't using to capacity?
He claims global warming is a fraud. Warming "trends" are modest. Somehow, I would tend to say that since the last twenty years are the hottest years ever recorded in history... science refutes his claim. But, if that's not enough to convince someone, then perhaps the fact that, for the first time ever, ships can fully navigate the Northwest Passage would. Or the record number of massive ice collapses in the Antarctic. If not that, then perhaps massive melt off in Greenland. Perhaps he should also check his "facts". The Washington Post reports a study published in the journal Science which finds that the Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year. But yes, the southern hemisphere sea ice level increased. By a whole percent. I'm sure that the 1% increase is a consolation for the complete loss of glacier ice in several South American countries that rely on (or used to!) glacier melt for drinking water. But... what does this have to do with energy prices? Perhaps he forgot to turn on the A/C and cool off while thinking about that.
Dr. Deming is perhaps correct that so called renewable energy sources are a fraud. After all, the six largest oil companies... the ones that just reported to Congress about their massive increase in profit year over year for five years... are spending a whole 3 percent of that profit on researching new energy sources. Oh wow. Goody. I'm sure that peeves Lee Raymond. You know him... the former CEO of Exxon that received $400 Million as a retirement package. The same Lee Raymond that told Congress "We're all in this together, everywhere in the world". I guess some of us are in this a little more than others. But hey, I'm sure that has nothing to do with energy price increases. And should I even mention the ugly specter of Enron? When companies are paying retirement packages like that, who can afford to research renewable energy sources?
Sure, there's plenty of oil sitting untapped right under our feet. And there's plenty of it in the Middle East also. It makes far more sense to buy up foreign oil first. In 300 years, when theirs is gone, (or 500 or 750... the level of "known" oil supplies keeps rising as fast as its price) we'd then be sitting on oil that would be far more valuable at that point. But, what does that have to do with the cost of oil? Dr. Deming mentioned wind power and how it can't replace oil. And how it's mostly used for domestic electrical power. Surely he realizes what a straw-man this "fact" is, since most electrical power is produced by burning coal. And while neither solar or wind nor nuclear power is likely to replace coal... they are all certainly less likely to cause massive air pollution.
The problem here, however, is not what Dr. Deming claims. It is in what he fails to address. Surely Dr. Deming is aware that there is no such thing as a "sustainable" energy source. Eventually, like it or not, oil will cease to be a viable energy source. Just as wind was once the dominate power for sea travel. Just as the horse and carriage was the dominate power for land travel. So too oil will cease to be a worthy form of transportation power. However, the cost of this source of energy has risen far beyond the level of its current surplus, availability, and lack of demand. All while record profits and record compensation is paid to the companies that determine the cost of this source of energy. And while those companies claim these facts are not connected. If Colonel Sanders was running the country and the price of chicken went up 300% in less than two years, would anyone deny a connection?
It is not ignorance of the availability of oil that is to blame for the current cost of gasoline and oil. It is, quite simply, greed. That, however, is a sustainable and renewable resource likely to never change.
Michael Stone Jr.
"The signs are obvious that the neighborhood around downtown's west Archer St. has seen better days." ("Archer Street Blues," from the May 29-June 4 issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly) Are you kidding?
Thank you for such sincere praise to those of us who have been laboring away to revive, rebuild, renovate, restore, reanimate the most spirited historic urban neighborhood to kick up a little dust in an effort to revitalize downtown. Thank you personally, Brian Ervin for the support and encouragement you sent via this article in May24/June4th issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly.
When I think of my neighborhood I do not think, "blighted", or "chronic".
You might look for more subtle signs of urban activity than the cliche dangling shoes from power lines. The Archer St. lofts come to mind. Did you ever visit that building when it was home to John 3:16? Quite a difference in appearance and energy wouldn't you agree?
And the corner of Brady and Main? Just ten (10) years ago you could rent a room there for $7.00 a night. Those of us who work at Lola's hear on a weekly basis from someone who lives in Tulsa how thankful they are for the efforts we are making to try and anchor this area with a restaurant! And of course The Cain's Ballroom, thank God for the Cain's, The Carnegie Hall of the Midwest.
All of these have added a positive attitude and energy to this "blighted" neighborhood.
It's interesting to note that the ho trade is so frisky in the district that is home to the David L. Moss Correctional Center, Avalon Halfway House, Sheriff's Dept., Police Dept. and the soon to open BOK Center. I suppose the world's oldest profession is not without research. Know your audience. Location! Location. Location.
In consideration of downtown revitalization, why decision makers placed the city's jail, day centers and half way houses in the heart of our historic revitalization efforts is mysterious. And why would the BOK choose to place their multimillion dollar arena in the heart of where whore's stroll and dealers roll is also very curious. Seems like a captured audience.
And the pedestrian traffic now chainlinked out from this side of downtown. It's not easy to navigate downtown but fencing out travelers and people who work on the other side is, well, discouraging.
I do agree with my neighbor Mr. Thompson and his concerns about the shelters and day care for the homeless. You must have an ID to enjoy any of the benefits they offer. Yet, so many do not have a valid Drivers License, birth certificate, state ID or some form of government issue identification. A sample round up to reveal how many were in possession of an ID would be interesting. Why not offer the service to proper identification for this population from these institutions? You don't have to have an ID to go to jail do you? Or a TB test either. Perhaps this would reduce infectious disease, increase their chances of employment.
I recently hired an inmate from the Avalon Correctional Facility, while in our employ he was on time, never missed a day and was truly grateful even if he received only half of what we paid him, the other half going into the Avalon's account. He was one in 350 according to a telephone operator that answered the phone there this week. I can't get anyone to come for an interview since he was released.
It's hard enough to get people to believe they can come over to North downtown and have an enjoyable evening without you blighting our efforts with your disparaging articles.
Jeers for Beers
I just finished 12 beers (not in a row) that I pulled off the Summer Beer List in your recent issue. It's clear that your reviewers are not connoisseurs of beer, but merely weekend warriors likely to buy pitchers of whatever is cheapest at the bowling alley. And their Number 1 pick, Lunar Ale, tasted like Fruit Loop water and hand soap. It's clear this bunch would be happier with a case of Zima and a bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers. I look forward to the mentioned Part II, not for more suggestions, but for a good laugh. You owe me a case of my choice.
I lived, worked and played in Downtown during the late 70s and early 80s. Even the Safeway on Denver was a trip in itself. I then got married and moved to a surrounding community, just far enough away that trips downtown were more of a hastle than the fun was. Imagine my surprise when I went to the Blue Dome Art Show last weekend and saw the local art scene, local music and local people I hadn't seen in years. I want to thank those people who have brought my Tulsa back to life. That was our vision all those years ago and I am so happy that someone stuck to the vision and has made it happen.
Mr. Tay makes many excellent points; as fuel costs rise, more individuals will seek alternative means to get where they want to go.
Those choosing bicycles are at particular risk due to the difference in mass and protective structure between 200 pounds of meat and aluminum, and 1000+ pounds of steel. Sadly we must expect an increase in accident, injury and death due primarily to increased exposure and inexperience by all involved.
The 2006 edition of the Oklahoma Driver's Manual (excerpt attached) devotes barely 2 pages to bicycles. Most of the content is directed to motorists who will encounter bicyclists on the roadway. Perhaps most salient is the Department of Public Safety sees fit to endorse the principles of vehicular cycling in those two pages. Very clearly is stated where the bicyclist can legally ride and why. The only real shortcoming is no mention of the 3 foot safe passing requirement.
As DPS has seen fit to include this information in the Oklahoma Driver's Manual, it is equally important that all educators, civic leaders, and law enforcement officials be aware of and begin educating themselves and their constituents.
There are many bicycling clubs in the state of Oklahoma. A partial list can be found at http://www.oklahomabicyclesociety.com/clublst.htm
These active adult cyclists, who are also motor vehicle drivers, are a good resource for skilled, knowledgeable teachers who can mentor new bicyclists.
There are also over a dozen League of American Bicyclist Certified Instructors in the state:
Finally the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition, in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Oklahoma State Department of Education is in the process of assisting schools gain Safe Routes to School Grants to improve the physical health and safety of school children walking and riding bicycles to school. More info can be found at: ODOT's SRTS website:
http://www.okladot.state.ok.us/srts/ and Safe Routes to School National Partnership - Oklahoma link
Shove Your Ethanol Up Your Gas!
So let me see if I understand. We have a national energy policy that subsidizes the burning of a food source, that being corn, for fuel. This corn fuel or ethanol is supposed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and give us more efficient cleaner gasoline? These goals are indeed very important and urgent; however, let us see the results of this "energy policy." The conversion of corn into ethanol requires more overall energy consumption than conventional gasoline production resulting in more carbon waste.
Ethanol fuel results in fewer miles per gallon in our automobiles, increasing our overall demand for gas. Ethanol increases wear-and-tear on our engines requiring more car maintenance. Finally, burning corn for gas reduces the food supply driving up food prices and starving thousands around the world. Wow!
This is the best energy policy Congress can come up with? More waste, higher energy demand, less efficient fuel, and higher food prices! God help us if they "fix" our healthcare system! I have two suggestions to address this ethanol swindle. First, we need to consume ethanol free gas demonstrating to our haughty politicians that they will not fool us into believing the ethanol hype. Second, demand from these same "learned leaders" the drilling and use of our own oil reserves in America for fuel, not burn a food source for gasoline!
-Phillip W. Smith
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