POSTED ON MAY 22, 2013:
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Moore Help Needed. Carl Williams heads a large trade group for commercial builders in Oklahoma. But, based in Broken Arrow, he spent Monday night and Tuesday morning like so many others in the Tulsa area -- still trying to figure out how exactly he could help the people of Moore.
The tornado touched down on the afternoon of Monday, May 20, leaving dozens dead and untold others staring down a daunting rebuilding challenge.
"I've tried to contact a number of agency members in Oklahoma City. Obviously, they pretty well have their hands full right now. I'm trying to contact a couple of our team members there to see what we might be able to do in the recovery effort now," Williams said in a phone interview on the morning of May 21. He is president and chief executive of Associated Builders and Contractors of Oklahoma.
At that hour, first responders still had sealed off the destruction area from people like builders and those in the insurance industry.
Jim Camoriano, a spokesman for State Farm, spoke from the road early the morning after tornado, driving in from Columbia, Mo. to the scene. But he explained why neither he nor others in the insurance industry could immediately access the area: "They're not letting anybody in right now because it's still a search and rescue operation. They want the area to be very quiet because there are still people buried under the rubble."
At press time, the death toll remained an open question. Amid the crying faces on TV news and the powerful images of widespread destruction, those in the recovery trades described what would lay ahead in the weeks and months ahead.
"We already had a workforce here handling the tornado that struck the same area on Sunday in the Shawnee, Oklahoma area, so we've had people on the ground," Camoriano said.
Some claims had already been processed in Moore, Camoriano said. He described how one family walked the rubble of their former home.
"The only thing they could find was this piece of paper sticking up," Camoriano said. Amazingly, it was the family's homeowner's policy, Camoriano said, adding that an agent was en route to meet the family at a Baptist church outside the devastation area. A $5,000 claim check would assist with food and lodging, Camoriano said.
Others no doubt also need bare necessities, and the American Red Cross announced donations could be made via redcross.org, 1-800-REDCROSS or, to make a $10 donation, by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
Taking a longer view, the Tulsa Community Foundation announced late at night on Monday, May 20, the formation of the Moore & Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund, with a lead gift of $100,000 from the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Donations can be made at www.TulsaCF.org, with the idea that the money will "be focused on the mid- and long-term community redevelopment efforts to rebuild lives and homes in the devastated areas."
Williams said he'd also been fielding calls from his national organization, "wanting to know what ABC members across the country can do to help."
He said it will take "some time" to rebuild. "I'm sure some of the labor would come from the Tulsa area," he said, though he said he didn't expect Tulsa construction projects to be affected by the destruction in Moore.
"Oklahomans are very resilient. We will come back," Williams said.
Wine Petition Revived. Once again, an effort has been announced to change the state's beer and wine laws.
The Associated Press reported last week that petition efforts from Oklahomans for Modern Laws will start this summer, with an eye toward a 2014 statewide vote.
Last year, a court challenge delayed efforts to collect signatures and ultimately led the initiative petition to be withdrawn. The petition asked for the state to allow sale of strong beer and wine in some large grocery stores, and only in the state's most populous counties. It would exclude such sales in convenience stores.
Glenn Coffee, formerly Oklahoma's secretary of state, is now working with reform efforts, the Associated Press reported. Coffee told the news service that the group will likely submit the same petition as last year.
"Anybody can bring another challenge," Coffee told the Associated Press.
In Tulsa, reform has the support of the group Tulsa's Young Professionals. During an event this year designed to express a desire for a Trader Joe's store in Tulsa, participants were offered letters to lawmakers expressing a desire for change that would allow a store like Trader Joe's to sell wine.
The petition will almost certainly face opposition from the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, which has championed the current system and criticized this specific proposal as only benefitting a few large retailers.
What's in a Name? The voices spoke about the need for change, but it's unclear whether recent outcries about one of Tulsa's founding fathers will lead to a renaming of the Brady Arts District, Brady Heights or even Brady Street.
Speakers at a Tulsa City Council meeting on Thursday, May 16, mostly expressed a strong desire to not have such prominent sections of the city associated with a man whose reputation has taken a hit in recent years.
New claims suggest W. Tate Brady was intimately involved with the Ku Klux Klan and may have participated in the infamous Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 in which historians now believe approximately 300 people were killed.
"We would like to request to be added to your next agenda for consideration to change the name of the Brady District to a name that symbolizes a unified Tulsa and a name that bears no insult to the survivors of the Tulsa 1921 race riot or to their descendents, and to also amend the history to tell the truth about who Tate Brady really was and his involvement" in the riot, said Kristi Williams, a representative of the Coalition for Social Justice, which she described as a "grassroots" group seeking the change.
The city only has the authority to change a street name, however. But Williams cited a change made recently in Memphis, Tenn. to rename parks previously named after individuals who had belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.
Councilor Jack Henderson praised the speakers for remaining civil in expressing their desire for change.
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