A downtown dream.
Inspired by parking lots, Councilor Blake Ewing's words were positively inspirational.
"I just have this high hope for our community that at some point our planning commissioners and our development community and our elected people and our neighborhood activists all kind of rally around this same idea of what kind of community we want to be and how we're going to get there," Ewing said at an Oct. 17 Tulsa City Council committee meeting.
It wasn't quite a rousing speech. Instead, Ewing chose a matter-of-fact tone. He brought his philosophical plea back to the city's PlaniTulsa and other planning efforts aimed at guiding development.
He continued: "And all -- to some better degree than we do today -- hold our plan in a higher esteem and don't see it as an obstacle to our own personal success, but see it as kind of a guide to where we can be. It represents the same page that we're on."
Ewing represents downtown, and spoke after hearing a summary of a proposed downtown surface parking lot ordinance shot down by planning commissioners last month. The measure had support from Ewing and others in response to so-called "parking craters" they say serve as barriers to a more fully connected downtown, with pedestrians in particular less likely to walk alongside bare lots than developed areas.
Preservationists backed the ordinance, too, but at that Sept. 18 planning commission meeting, some property owners spoke up, particularly unhappy with stringent new requirements for building demolitions within the city's Inner Dispersal Loop.
"It establishes a process for someone in the IDL who wants to demolish a building. They can get a permit automatically if they have a plan that they can present to the building permit office to show that they'll replace that building, or if that the building represents a threat to the public safety," Susan Miller, a planner with the Indian Nations Council of Governments, told the council. "If neither of those things, then they would need to submit an application to the Board of Adjustment for approval to demolish the building."
Criteria would have involved the economic feasibility of rehabilitating such a building, or its relative insignificance to the neighborhood.
Though Ewing expressed disappointment at the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission simply voting down the measure instead of working to refine it -- "It was shocking to me," Ewing said of what he considered to be a sudden vote -- he made it clear that instead of ramrodding into place a new regulation, he preferred a more conciliatory approach.
"I really feel that it might be wise for this council instead to pursue some sort of common ground with the folks who were opposed to this so that as we move forward as a community that the adopted plan of the city of Tulsa is consistent with the individuals who own property and are attempting to do business downtown," Ewing said.
He seemed to have support from other councilors.
"I think you've outlined a great approach to pursue," Councilor G.T. Bynum said.
Ewing recommended the council form a task force that would study broader downtown issues relating to land use and transportation. Ewing said he envisioned that the group would "report back to us inside of six months" with recommendations.
Without mentioning her by name, Mayor Dewey Bartlett found an opportunity to poke at political opponent Kathy Taylor at an Oct. 16 news conference on crime statistics in Tulsa.
"It's a shame that people do use violent activity as a means to try to make a political statement. I don't think that's nice. I don't think it's the right thing to do. It scares people," Bartlett said to reporters gathered at police headquarters.
The group earlier heard Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan describe how the 54 homicides so far this year -- though already topping last year's total of 46 reported homicides -- don't necessarily show an unsafe city.
Jordan said three homicides this year are being investigated as gang related; only six are considered the result of robberies.
He stressed that it's the number of robberies and gang-related crimes that reflect how well police are doing their jobs.
The homicide numbers in Tulsa instead have been inflated by what he described as often alcohol-fueled "altercations," which totaled 18, with another eight homicides considered drug-related -- "either drug transactions or drug dealers that were being robbed," Jordan said.
"You hear those facts, and you can't come to any other conclusion that lifestyle choices sometimes put you at risk. You choose to be involved in the dope trade or the dope society, you choose to be involved in a gang," Jordan said. "That doesn't mean they're not tragic deaths, that doesn't mean that we aren't going to do something about it. But I'm speaking to the good citizens out there that are concerned about their safety, and I'm just going to tell you you're going to be much more in danger if you're involved in any of these kinds of activities."
Bartlett gave his not-so-subtle dig at Taylor in response to a question about whether the news conference was politically motivated. But then Jordan stepped up to explain that he had called the news conference.
A day earlier, he noted, the department had released a news statement showing a 1.9 percent decrease in the city's major crimes total (defined as aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, homicide, rape and robbery) for the year so far compared to the same time period in 2012. The news statement also described a decrease in fatality traffic collisions.
"We put out the stats yesterday about our crime decreases and traffic accident decreases and the response from a lot of the media was, 'Yeah, but what about the homicide rate?'" Jordan said. "Well, that does go over to the public, and I think it was only right to explain what our homicide situation is. And that was motivated by me. I had no political intent except to make people feel safer and make people feel better that their police department is doing what they're supposed to do."
The Lodge At A Gathering Place
To the Supremes.
The continuing legal battle waged by Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby could appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The retail chain's owners, the Green family, have fought a mandate that's part of federal health care reform requiring employers offering health coverage to have plans pay for morning-after pills and week-after pills
The Greens, outspoken about their Christian beliefs, have cited their religion in challenging this part of health care reform.
The pills can work in different ways, but may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterus. In statements, the Greens have described this as "aborting the fertilized egg."
On Monday, Oct. 21, Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is helping with the Hobby Lobby case, the petition will be considered next month. If the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the case, it would be decided next year.
Another major corporation has announced a multi-million dollar contribution to A Gathering Place for Tulsa.
ONEOK, Inc. will give $10 million over 10 years to help fund the major new park expected to be built alongside Riverside Drive.
"With this investment, we are reinforcing our strong commitment to the continued development of Tulsa," said John W. Gibson, ONEOK chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. "This is more than an investment in Tulsa -- it's also an investment in ONEOK's future. A vibrant Tulsa is key to our ability to attract and retain the employees we need today and in the future."
As part of the deal, natural gas company ONEOK will get naming rights to a boathouse at the approximately 80-acre park, an approximately $200-million project (for phase one) spearheaded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Earlier this year, Williams, an oil-and-gas pipeline company, announced it would donate up to $16 million to help pay for the park.
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