POSTED ON DECEMBER 26, 2012:
Best & Worst of 2012
Happy New Year, Tulsa! It's gonna be a great one. After another wonderful year in T-Town, we know that 2013 is going to be even better.
And we have a lot to be grateful for. Tulsa is a better place than it was at the beginning of 2012. For one thing, the election's over (thank God for that!). For another, downtown just keeps getting better and better. Farmers markets are proliferating all over the city. The metro unemployment rate is down more than a point -- and at 5.6 percent in October, it's starting to look "normal" for the first time since the recession.
Tulsa has done quite a bit this year, we can be proud of ourselves.
But it's not time to rest on our laurels. As we start the New Year, let's take stock of what went well and not so well in 2012, so we can be prepared to build on what we've already done.
Without further ado: here are your 2012 best and worst!
Best Upset -- Jim Bridenstine.
Our incoming congresscritter did what many would have considered impossible. He took down a six-term incumbent -- in the primary! Even Rep. John Sullivan didn't seem to know what hit him. According to the Washington Post, he told a reporter, "The only mistake I made was I ignored it [the primary] for too long." That was certainly a costly mistake given how energetic Bridenstine was throughout the process.
Denounced repeatedly by Democratic opponent John Olson as a "tea party" Republican, Bridenstine cruised to election in November, reminding us that the tea party has a strong foothold in Tulsa.
He will bring conservative ideas to Washington, but there are a few that even liberals can get behind. A pay cut for Congress? That's something Tulsans of any political stripe may agree with.
Worst Cop -- Marvin Blades Jr.
It takes a special kind of bastard to use the TPD shield to extort money from the vulnerable. Blades was arrested in August for allegedly pulling over Hispanics and shaking them down for cash. Under investigation for nearly a year, he was caught when he allegedly stole several hundred dollar bills in an undercover operation. According to the Tulsa World, Blades said those bills belonged to his wife, officially making the sting operation the worst thing ever blamed on a spouse (except for the Clinton administration). Blades is now charged with robbery with a firearm, which carries a potential life sentence. We have to compliment the Tulsa Police Department for taking action on this matter even though it could have exposed the department to embarrassment. UTW thumbs up!
Best Place to Relax -- Guthrie Green.
Remember when no one went downtown? There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, and it was kind of dead. Not anymore! Now a vibrant part of T-Town, the Guthrie Green -- which opened in September -- may be downtown's crowning achievement. As a green space where folks can eat, drink, listen to music, or just enjoy the weather (as long as it's not too hot or too cold!), it's a park for kids as well as grownups. And in the Brady District, you're close to art, sports, food, you name it. The Guthrie Green is helping Tulsa become the city we always knew it could be.
Worst Shock -- Phil Stone's Death.
Just a month after abruptly leaving KMOD, his professional home for a generation, Phil Stone died at the young age of 57. For 27 years, Phil co-hosted the Morning Zoo on 97.5 with Brent Douglas. Together, Phil and Brent -- as they were known -- created Roy D. Mercer, the cantankerous Okie who was always threatening an "ass whupping" whenever he thought someone owed him money. Phil and Brent prank called all over the country with Roy D. Mercer, earning yuks from near and far. UTW salutes Phil for a job well done, and offers its condolences to everyone who knew him.
Best New/Old Movie Theatre -- The Admiral Twin.
It's back! After burning down in 2009, the Admiral Twin has finally returned this summer to remind of us of a simpler time -- when movies were about family and friends, and not just what crap is on Netflix Instant. We can once again pile our friends into the car (or trunk), throw the football around before sundown, and catch a double feature while holding that special someone. Judging from the lines, that's exactly what Tulsa did. Admiral Twin has closed for the winter, but we're already dreaming of watching Star Trek 2 and Iron Man 3 in style.
Worst Weather -- The Drought.
With the droughts in Oklahoma ranging from "severe" to "extreme" to "exceptional," you know the weather has been bad. While there has been some precipitation, we still had the driest spring and summer on record. It wasn't as crazy as 2011 -- with two feet of snow followed by record heat followed by earthquakes. But an unseasonably warm winter followed by another (!) record hot summer caused wildfires that destroyed dozens of homes west of Tulsa. We're not going to weigh in on the global warming debate, but we might do some rain dances to welcome 2013.
Best Crime Responders -- Tulsa Police Department.
Chief Chuck Jordan -- along with other city leaders including Mayor Dewey Bartlett -- managed the capture of the alleged Good Friday shooters within 48 hours of the killings. Crime Stoppers received a tip on the shooters early April 7. TPD formed a task force (Operation Random Shooter) and was tracking Jake England and Alvin Watts that very evening. The two were arrested before 2am on April 8 -- Easter Sunday, appropriately enough. There's a lot of credit to go around, from Crime Stoppers to the Osage County Sheriff's Office to the general public. Good work, everyone.
Worst Crime -- The Good Friday Shootings.
Last April 6, as we remembered new life on Easter weekend, several lives were tragically cut short due to racial violence. We remember William Allen, Bobby Clark, and Dannaer Fields, who all deserved to go on longer than they did. David Hall and Deon Tucker were also injured. One of the alleged shooters, Jake England, apparently came from a violent background himself. According to a letter his mother wrote to lawyer Clark Brewster, England's girlfriend had recently shot herself in his presence. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind a community that violence can only breed more violence and it's time to address it. England and the other alleged shooter, Alvin Watts, remain in custody as prosecutors weigh whether to seek the death penalty. Still more violence.
Best Way to Eat Healthy -- Farmers Markets and Co-ops.
From downtown to Brookside, and everywhere else, farmers markets and co-ops are the place to go to meet people who are interested in healthy living. Between the fresh fruits and veggies and locally grown produce, these organizations are helping our food have taste again!
One such co-op, Bountiful Baskets, is completely run by volunteers and has seven pick-up locations in Green Country, including two in Tulsa itself. Not only that, the food is sourced as locally as possible. Given the option between Iowa corn and Oklahoma corn, Bountiful Baskets will give you Oklahoma corn. In fairness, sometimes "as local as possible" means the bananas come "only" from Mexico instead of Brazil, but it's a start!
Worst Yo-Yo of the Year -- Gas Prices.
From $2.79 to $3.69 and everywhere in between, gas prices were all over the place this year. Yes, we know, it's expensive no matter where it is on that scale, but yeesh, it sure makes it hard to budget your gas for the week if you don't know where prices are going to be. The most annoying part is that when gas is dropping, it's usually by a penny at a time, but it will jump up ten cents at once. Either way, we learned this year to get gas immediately, lest it be a dime higher by the time you get off work.
Best Bandwagon -- Oklahoma City Thunder.
It's a bandwagon Okies want to get on. Fresh off a killer 2011-12 season that took them all the way to the NBA Championships, the Thunder has some Tulsans wondering just why they can't be the Oklahoma Thunder and represent the whole state. The Thunder has been good to Tulsa, playing a preseason game against Phoenix at the BOK Center. We hope they continue that spirit of playing for all Oklahoma. We suspect they will. From the coach to the players, everyone at that organization is a class act dedicated to the good of the team, a rarity in professional sports.
Worst Sport -- James Harden.
It takes gumption to earn the love and adulation of NBA fans in Oklahoma, win Sixth Man of the Year, then walk away from a $55.5 million contract from the franchise that made that happen for you. But that's what Harden did after the Thunder's 2011-12 season. Many fans will no doubt remain loyal -- he is an incredible player -- but we have a hard time "fearing the beard" nowadays. It is with perhaps a bit of schadenfreude that we note the Thunder have continued to dominate in the 2012-13 season, while the Houston Rockets -- Harden's new team -- have struggled.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if he went to a different state, but Texas? You're killing us, Harden!
Best Oklahoma-Themed Movie -- August: Osage County.
We all saw the play when it came through town. We laughed and cried with the Weston family as it struggled with addiction and redemption. Then we all obsessively checked Facebook for our Bartlesville friends' Julia Roberts sightings. The movie version began filming in September and is due out sometime next year. We just hope it comes through the Admiral Twin.
Worst HR Department -- University of Tulsa.
When it comes to senior employees, TU either isn't digging deep enough in its background checks or is too eager to fire people for indiscretions that will blow over. Either way you look at it, the Blue and Gold has endured some serious embarrassment over the last few months. It's a shame considering all the progress TU has made. Even though it's the smallest D1 school in the U.S., it has been the grooming ground for greats like Nolan Richardson, Bill Self, and now Danny Manning. Aw hell, who are we kidding? We love TU no matter what.
Best Collaboration -- Mayor Bartlett and the City Council.
Okay, so it's not a match made in heaven. They still have their differences, but at least at least the council isn't locking Bartlett out of meetings anymore. As much as we all enjoyed the mental image of a grown man knocking on the clubhouse door with a copy of the City Charter, we're happy that the government is actually getting the work of the people done. They were even able to pass a budget last year without anyone's wives making catty Facebook posts about each other's husbands. Progress, right?
Worst Way to Get a Snow Day -- Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences.
On Sept. 5, a freak accident in the chemistry lab destroyed the old Barnard Elementary at 17th and Lewis, where TSAS was based. More than 70 firefighters fought the blaze; eight of them were injured. It's probably the worst reason ever to miss school.
But thanks to the staff at TSAS and Tulsa Public Schools, classes resumed only a day later at the former Sequoyah Elementary -- 3441 E. Archer St. It takes a helluva lot of legwork to make something like that happen while still reeling from shock, and TSAS can be proud of that.
Best Bad Deal -- American Airlines.
In the midst of a major corporate bankruptcy, unions and management were able to come to a job-saving agreement. While layoffs are still in the works, Tulsa's largest employer will stay in town. In August, UTW reported that Dennis Hall, president of the Northeast Oklahoma Labor Council, called AA's new labor contract a "bitter pill." But "at this point in time, we save jobs. Here in Tulsa and elsewhere," he said. Retirements hopefully will minimize the impact of layoffs. In any case, we are grateful for well-paying industrial jobs in a tough economy.
Worst Bankruptcy -- Hostess, Inc.
Executives giving themselves raises while demanding wage cuts for workers? It may sound like a Woody Guthrie ballad, but it's what happened to the maker of Twinkies when it went into bankruptcy this year. Unions didn't buckle under so Hostess decided to liquidate, eliminating about 160 jobs here in Tulsa. We're sure there's plenty of blame to go around, but when things like this happen it's the most vulnerable who seem to be hit hardest -- in this case low- and middle-wage workers.
Best Entrepreneur/Public Servant -- Blake Ewing.
He got his start satisfying our pizza cravings at Joe Momma's, but he has gone far. Blake Ewing now owns nearly half a dozen businesses, including Max Retropub, which satisfies our periodic desire for '90s-style skee ball. And for the past year, Ewing has been a positive presence on the Tulsa City Council, among other reasons, for calling attention to the need to revamp Tulsa bus operations. Kudos to Blake Ewing, the big man with big plans.
Worst Decider -- Gov. Mary Fallin.
We all have problems with Obamacare. There are parts we all like and parts none of us like. Polls show that overall Okies aren't wild about it. But if you don't like what the federal government is doing and it offers to let you have some input on it, doesn't it make sense to give that input? But Gov. Fallin decided not to last month when she rejected an Oklahoma health care exchange. Instead, she's going to let the federal government build one for her. Score one for states' rights.
Best New Fad -- Food Trucks.
All of a sudden, they're here. And they're delicious. Food trucks are popping up all over town. From tacos to hot dogs to Vietnamese fusion, they're perfect for a quick lunch on the go as well as for snacks whenever you get the munchies. Hopefully, as Tulsa becomes a more walkable city, we'll see more of these places crop up. Maybe by this time next year we'll be able to have a food truck challenge: how many can you visit in an hour?
Worst Way to Get Something Done -- Occupy Tulsa.
If you want to change society, you should start by violating a park curfew. Wait, what? Occupy Tulsa -- somewhere around 20 people -- were arrested last fall for staying in Centennial Park after hours. Tulsa Police claim they resisted arrest; Occupiers claim they were brutalized. We're not going to take sides on that, but even if Occupy Tulsa's version is right, they're going about their mission in the wrong way. If you want to change the system, change it from the inside. Go to a meeting. Run for office. Start a co-op. But don't camp out in a park and act surprised when people don't "get" what you're doing.
Best Thing Happening Near Downtown--Repurposing of Old Buildings.
One of the great things about Tulsa is the fact that we appreciate our art deco past. Unlike many American cities, where buildings are built to last about 20 years and are then torn down, we like to repurpose our old stuff. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the East 6th Street corridor -- Deep Pearlem we like to call it. From the new Phoenix Café at 6th and Peoria to the Selser Schaeffer Architects creating a new headquarters next door to UTW's office, exciting new things are happening in the old, brick buildings.
Worst Scandal -- Victory Christian.
Whatever your political or religious views, we can agree that our children are most deserving of special protection. That's all the more important when we take them to a house of worship. It was therefore all the more disturbing when police said some half a dozen employees at Victory Christian -- one of Tulsa's largest churches -- delayed reporting an alleged sexual assault on a minor. Criminal charges and a civil lawsuit are still unfolding, but we hope this reminds everyone -- as if we needed it -- just how serious a matter this is. And as founding pastor Billy Joe Daugherty would have done, we pray for everyone involved.
Best Unusual Celebrity Visitation -- Cardinal Raymond Burke.
As prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Burke has the most badass title in the world. He's also more or less the chief justice of the Vatican. Not bad for a boy from Wisconsin! He was in Tulsa briefly on Dec. 14, though he was primarily in the area to visit Clear Creek Monastery in Hulbert -- a group of medieval French monks in the middle of Garth Brooks country. With no fuss, no muss, and only a Facebook announcement, Burke left Tulsa as quietly as he entered. That's pretty respectable for someone whom a blogger at the National Review called a "very strong choice" to become the first American pope.
Worst Thing about Living in Tulsa This Year -- Road Construction.
This is pretty much the same every year, but it's particularly annoying this year. 51st and Lewis has been shut down for the foreseeable future, generating consternation for area business owners. What's more, you can't get off I-44 past Lewis on Skelly anymore. If you want to go to Brookside, you have to go all the way to Peoria, which will cost you another traffic light. We acknowledge that this is a First World problem. We're lucky to live here, but holy shit it's frustrating to sit in traffic.
Best Thing about Living in Tulsa This Year -- Cost of Living.
Tulsa remains one of the most affordable cities in the country. Some people have pointed out that we make less than more expensive cities, but even so it's comparatively easy to live a middle class lifestyle in Tulsa. We have some of the cheapest gas in the country (despite our earlier complaints), private schools (usually) aren't outrageous, and Tulsa is one of the few places where a mortgage might really be cheaper than rent. It's not a perfect place to be poor -- not by a long shot -- but all things considered, we could do worse.
Tulsa named affordable vacation spot
According to Livability.com, we're No. 6 (out of 500) on a list of affordable places to go on holiday. It used to be said that Tulsa is a great place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit there. No longer!
Muskogee (Creek) Nation buying Riverwalk Crossing
The place has always had a lot of potential, but it's struggled for years. The Creeks bought it on the cheap. Maybe some new life will be breathed into that area.
Folds of Honor
This foundation offers scholarships and assistance to widows and children of KIA and disabled veterans. It was founded in Broken Arrow.
Worst Church Manipulation -- GUTS Nightmare.
GUTS Nightmare takes a literal approach to scaring the hell out of Tulsa. We understand that Christians want to make more Christians -- but come on, there's got to be a better way than this.
Passing of Lo Detrich
A true champion of life, Lo died after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. But we can't say she lost that battle because of the full life she led. We're sorry she's gone, but proud of who she was.
Carrie Underwood as Maria Von Trapp in upcoming TV special?
Are you kidding me? Them Oklahoma Hills are alive with twang of country music.
Words to Retire:
Form-Based Code -- Maybe we can call it Code Awesome instead.
Really? -- Yes, really. We mean it. You don't have to keep asking!
PlaniTulsa -- Love the idea, but the word is starting to grate on us.
Giving Back -- Are you really giving back if you're building up your own reputation? Widow's mite, anyone?
South Tulsa Traffic
It keeps the midtown snob alive.
Dry to the left, drought to the right. Why?!
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