The banner headline on a front-page story in the May 6 edition of the Tulsa World -- "Pop culture museum proposed for Tulsa's Brady Arts District" -- seemed to indicate the paper had broken a story about a new project destined to serve as a major attraction for the one-time warehouse district on the north side of downtown.
Problem is, that "scoop" qualified as old -- make that ancient -- news.
The headline was more than a little curious to those already familiar with the project, considering the fact that plans for the museum were announced by state Historical Society officials almost exactly two years ago -- on May 19, 2009 -- and the story was widely reported then by local media outlets, including the World, as well as Urban Tulsa Weekly.
Since then, few details in regard to the planned Oklahoma Pop Museum have changed, aside from the fact that Historical Society officials now are seeking a $40 million bond issue to help fund the project, instead of the $25 million they originally sought. State lawmakers turned down the agency's request for the money last year, leaving the project stalled. The society's director, Bob Blackburn, told UTW in February the agency would seek the funding again this year.
World Senior Writer Wayne Greene's story dealt largely with that request for the updated total, but the headline gave no indication that plans for the museum were anything but new. Kinda makes you wonder if World readers might not pick up their paper someday soon and scan headlines trumpeting plans for a new downtown arena or ballpark.
Entrepreneur After Office
Tulsa entrepreneur Blake Ewing has built a name for himself over the past few years with the success of his various business enterprises and his role in a number of community initiatives.
Now, he'll try to raise his profile even more by seeking the District 4 seat on the Tulsa City Council held by incumbent Maria Barnes.
Ewing announced his intention to seek the seat on May 9, explaining that he will focus on five elements for Tulsa's future in this campaign -- providing basic amenities, promoting and improving the city's unique assets, attracting and retaining creative people, supporting creative development and creating a vibrant urban core.
Ewing said the thought of running for the council had crossed his mind several times over the past couple of years, but it wasn't until the recent months that the idea took on increased urgency for him.
"I felt like this was a really important time in this city right now, and given the way the current conversation is going at City Hall, it was clear we needed a fresh perspective," he said.
According to a press release announcing his candidacy, Ewing will employ nearly 200 Tulsans at his various businesses by next year, including Joe Momma's Pizza, Boomtown Tees, The Max Retropub, Back Alley Blues and BBQ, the Engine Room Creative Communications and Black Gold Entertainment, as well as the soon-to-open Phoenix Café in the Pearl District.
Ewing also has taken a lead role in the city's revamped Shop Tulsa campaign, an effort to encourage Tulsans to spend their money with businesses located inside the city limits, as well as being involved with such organizations as Tulsa Now, the Mayor's Refuse and Recycling Task Force, the Blue Dome Merchants Association and the Nathan Hale High School Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program. He also is working with Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. to establish a film commission for the city.
Ewing has launched a campaign website at blakeewing.com.
Local Interviews Over
A committee charged with screening internal candidates for the city's newly created planning director position has finished its interviews and soon will be making a recommendation to Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. about how to proceed with the search, according to Terry Simonson, the mayor's chief of staff.
Simonson said he believed three internal candidates were interviewed for the position. He said the next step in the process likely would be that the committee would recommend that one of those candidates be hired or that the city hire a firm to conduct a national search. He said the mayor was expecting a recommendation from that group this week.
"Either we're close to picking a planning director from the three internal candidates or we're close to hiring a national search firm to look for a planning director," Simonson said.
Another team has been convened to review the responses the city received in regard to its request for proposals for an update to its zoning code, he said, and will meet this week. Simonson said he expected that review committee will be prepared to give Bartlett a recommendation about which firm to hire by the end of May.
City planner Theron Warlick, one of the members of that review committee, said six responses were received, and all of them included an 18-month timeframe for completion of the zoning code update. By the time that process is completed, Warlick said he anticipates Tulsa will have some new zoning categories to reflect the goals outlined in the city's comprehensive plan update, including a provision for mixed-use development.
Simonson said the city also is expecting to hear something soon about its lawsuit against the state over recently adopted legislation that requires municipalities to contract with the state Tax Commission to collect their share of sales tax revenue. Tulsa has entered into an agreement with a private firm to perform that function, arguing the company can do the job more efficiently and more cheaply than the Tax Commission. But that contract is on hold, pending the outcome of the litigation.
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