Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How To Build A World-Class City

(cross posted at Firedoglake)
This is a story of hope, of bold visionary leadership, and grassroots political action successfully improving the lives of its citizens. A message very important in these dark days of rudderless and incompetent leadership.

Welcome to Oklahoma City!

A blast from a cannon announced the birth of Oklahoma at high noon on April 22, 1889. The children of these pioneers have overcome tremendous obstacles to make their sires proud at the close of the last century and the beginning of the new. In true pioneer spirit, they saw a better future over the horizon and dug deep to put forth the most massive quality of life package ever devised in this nation. A total of nine whopping projects, each one being massive enough to stand alone for voter approval. Oklahoma law requires tax increases to be approved by a vote of the people. To build a world-class city, the requirements are 1) A need 2) leadership and 3) value.

The need.

Oklahoma City was in pretty bad shape. Huge expansion had made it the largest city in the nation when I was a kid. The running joke in the 60s was Fidel better straighten out or we'll send them OKC boys down there to annex Cuba. The SCOTUS "white flight" decision brought blight to our inner city, as it did throughout the country. "Urban renewal" just made things worse, by eliminating a lot of housing and the oil bust of the mid 1980s was ruinous to our economy. Penn Square Bank collapsed, followed by a whole slew of others. If it was Thursday, more banks would fall. Personally, I could not find work in the oilfields of Oklahoma and took other work, each one paying less than the last. And when poverty knocks at the door, love flies out the window. My wife left me with three small children, the youngest in diapers. To try and improve our future prospects, I enrolled full-time at college, swallowed my pride, and took a part-time job flipping hamburgers.


Mayor Norick took office in 87. He was picking cotton in the arena of public service in the huge shadow of his father, former Mayor Jim Norick, who oversaw the expansion of the 60s, modernized our water system and built the convention center, and other large projects. The needs were huge and the funds were non-existent. The push was on to lure major employers. Large corporations, knowing their worth, require tithes for consideration. Three times Mayor Norick called for, and received a vote to increase sales taxes for the benefit of these jobs. All three times the employers chose to go elsewhere. The natives were growing restless. Our infrastructure was crumbling. The ADA was going to make our baseball park obsolete, the Canadian River that divides the town from north to south drained so well we had to keep it mowed. The livestock area of our state fairgrounds were dilapidated as was our convention center and civic center. Mayor Norick joined with other city leaders to address these needs and instead of making a "Sophies Choice" the decision was made to bundle all of them together and offer an all or nothing choice to the people. The nine projects were:

The river project. City leaders, sensitive to the "dust bowl" image suffered by Oklahoma, proposed creating a series of river lakes by building a series of three dams. This "crown jewel" project cost a total of $52 million.

A brand new 20,000 seat indoor sports/entertainment arena. Total cost $64.8 million.

Renovation of the Civic Center performing arts building. Total cost $51 million.

Renovation of the Myriad Convention Center and the addition of 100,000 square feet of new ballrooms and meeting rooms over the north plaza. Total cost $63.1 million.

State Fair renovations. The loss of the National Finals Rodeo to Las Vegas in '85 was a severe blow to OKC. Updating the fairgrounds arena and other equine facilities was seen as mandatory to prevent future hemorrhaging. The fairgrounds project was the only one to be completed on time and on budget. Total cost $14 million.

Public transportation linkage to the projects. Originally planned as a light rail system, that got railroaded by our very own congresscritter Earnest Istook R-Warr Acres, who blocked matching Federal funds as a waste of money. City leaders pivoted to 9 rubber tire trolley replicas. Total cost $5.3 million.

A shiny new baseball field located in Bricktown. The Oklahoma Redhawks is the farm team for the Texas Rangers, and the ballpark was fashioned after Dubyas old sandbox located south of the red river, in the state we refer to as "Baja Oklahoma." This 12,000 seat facility was rated in the top two nationwide for minor league play. Total cost $34.2 million.

The Bricktown Canal. Bricktown was one of the more blighted areas of downtown. An old brick warehouse district that virtually sat in the evening shadows of the downtown skyscrapers defiantly jutting out of the plains. Some going concerns remained, but most buildings were vacant, sporting broken windows and housing unsavories. The idea was to model it after Dallas' famed "West End" with the canal being reminiscent of the San Antonio riverwalk.
the canal would be a mile long, have water taxis, and link downtown to Bricktown to the river. Did I mention vision yet? Total cost $23.1 million.

The Library/Learning Center. Four stories tall and 110,000 square feet it has been called the "Ft. Knox of learning". Boasting meeting centers and all forms of modern multi-media state of the art gizmos, the aptly named Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library provides those seeking wisdom a one stop shop. Just call Ronnie "the bus driver" cause he's taking us all to school. Total cost $21.5 million.

So there you have it. Nine projects totaling $329 million dollars and is not related to directly recruiting a major employer. The vote would be a county-wide one cent sales tax increase for five years. A real tough sell for a city that was broke and closing banks in the throes of a major recession. It was obvious this was a "pie in the sky boondoggle."


As a major in journalism, I became acquainted with Dave Sellers, the owner and publisher of the Capitol Hill Beacon, a community paper serving South (of the river) OKC. He hired me out of college as an adman, because "there isn't a lot of money in journalism." Dave, just like Dave Thomas of Wendy's, sported hokey short sleeve dress shirts and was the salt of the earth. I had been with the paper for a couple of years before the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPs) vote came up. Southside, where I have lived most of my life, is very strong blue collar, and at the time, mostly democrats. The Beacon had been publishing newspapers since five years before Tolstoy died. Since the community didn't seem to support a subscription based newspaper, the Beacon elected to be a free paper, delivered to every home in South OKC (appx 46,000) every week. The regular Joes and empty nesters frequently voted down bond issues and such and was viewed as a negative area by the "silk shirts" that resided to the north. In short, the issue would fail without the support of the Southside.

I heard many refer to this negativity issue, and I resented it. One day, the President of Southwestern Bell came to visit Dave. I was sitting there when he asked Dave "What's wrong with the people on the Southside? They are so negative and vote down bond issues. Dave smiled, more to show his teeth than to show his pleasure, "It's a question of value." Did you catch that? Five words, none more than two syllables. Can he edit or what?

Dave saw the value and decided to support the measure. We were to put out a special publication spelling out all the details and benefits. My role was to generate the funds to get this message out. There isn't a damn thing free about the press. Dave knew the no vote was always built in. To counter it the choices are to suppress it or increase the yes vote. The vote passed by a narrow margin on December 14, 1993. The Southside also supported it by a very narrow margin.

And now, thirteen years later, you can't find anybody who voted no. The river we used to mow now has national boat races. Bricktown is shiny and buzzing and full of eateries and classy fashion stores and dance halls. Our new indoor arena just completed hosting a season of professional basketball (a first professional anything for OKC) by the New Orleans Hornets, due to the loss of their stadium from Katrina. Promoter boasts of private investment of $140 million were wildly off the mark; they have topped $500 million. Coffers are full and rainy day funds are being created. I'm so fuckin' proud I could just bust. The word for this success is "progressive".

My next project is:

How To Build A World Class Civilization.

Can I get a little help over here?

Monday, June 19, 2006

An Invitation to Bill Frist

I feel Senator Frist has some explaining to do about getting kittens from animal shelters and treating them as pets before killing, dissecting and testing their cuddly little furry bodies. He was in medical school after all where he was not majoring in humanity. I just hope he doesn't have any trouble with my pet moderator. He really frowns on kittenstompers. So come on down Bill, pull up a keyboard and win some hearts and minds and votes.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Energy & The Environment: A Progressive Position

So everyone is all atwitter over Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Expert hacks, paid by the wingnut welfare system and big oil, are making the rounds denouncing claims that fossil fuels are contributing to global warming. I admit, it is much too lofty a claim for me to defend or refute, but the jury is not out on the harm to our environment. I plan to kill any dissent to this fact right here and right now.

I invite any naysayers (especially the "ex-sperts" [has-been drips under pressure]) we see on teevee and read articles they publish, to conduct the following experiment. After a grueling day of spewing smoke-filled distortions on the mighty right-wing wurlitzer to the courtier class stenographers, our wingnut retires to his home, located nicely in the flat earth society nestled on the banks of de nile.

Having dined with his homeschooled wingnutlets, who are nourished with a rich diet of racism and homophobia, he retires to bed with his wife, sans sex, who prays thankfully for the poolboy. After everyone is asleep, our ex-spert sneaks downstairs and starts the engine on his Huge Chrome Detroit Land Yacht parked in his garage. Leave the garage door shut, and the door to the house open since this is a test of environmental harm. Go upstairs and pleasant dreams you stupid motherfucker.

Now that's just crazy talk. Everyone knows no one will get out of that house alive. Now think about that for a moment. Our atmosphere is a closed system. It's our house--it's where we fucking live for chrissakes. If anybody hears anybody spitballing Al Gore tell 'em to take my test. We won't have to listen to them anymore.

Suggested Progressive Agenda

We need cleaner fuels provided by numerous competitors to break the Big Oil monopoly and to save our environment. A recent tax-giveaway of 14.5 Billion was recently given primarily to the wildly profitable oil companies. The Gubmint giveth and the Gubmint taketh away. Maybe double. Nearly $30 Billion should be pretty good seed money to say, I dunno, save our planet? We should call it the "Big Oil Gashole Tax". Lot's of providers of cleaner fuel would guarantee competition at the pump which would dramatically lower prices. It might even put the fossil back in fossil fuel.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Illegitimate President

In a withering article written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in this weeks Rolling Stone Magazine the facts were laid bare on the stolen 2004 election. I was as guilty as most others in living in the world of denial and dismissing such claims as these on the internet as tin-foil-hatty conspiracy theorists. We were all duped into this position by the Corporate medias refusal to view this administration in a cynical fashion, which is the duty of the fourth estate. The talking heads of the MSM draw down huge salaries which is contingent upon access to power. To report on the huge and systematic criminal enterprise of voter suppression and outright fraud would have threatened their seat on the cocktail weenie circuit, and the criminal enterprise, (aka the republican party) has made it perfectly clear that if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.

So, the Bush crime family stole not one, but two Presidential elections. They found they could not win on their agenda, one particular heinous part is the PNAC, and had to resort to thuggery and outright crime on their march to worldwide rape, pillage and plunder of resources, environment and civil rights. The lame talking points they use for campaigning was insufficient to get the job done, so the morally superior party of "personal responsibility" and "family values" felt the need to disenfranchise vast swath's of Americans who understood what their code words really meant. "Reduce taxes" and "states rights" really mean they hate niggers. "Family values" means they hate queers. Why do they hate Americans? The trampy little Jesus pimps they drag up like Ralph Reed, who uses gambling money to fight off other casinos to the benefit of the gambling donors, who preach about the evils of gambling. Huh?

The Party of Law and Order (not to be confused with the cheap and illegal labor fans who enjoy immaculate lawn order) must be hoist by their own petard. Prison is said to be a good deterrent against criminal activity. The results of this particular crime is absolutely breathtaking in its global nature in lives and environment and can actually be measured by monetary damages in the trillions of dollars. Americas position in the world is in shambles, our treasury has been looted with the debt falling even unto our grandchildren, our military has been spent and our constitution has been shredded.

The article in the Rolling Stone is already being denounced by those in wingnuttia. They carefully expose all of the flaws in the data and expose it for the partisan hatchet job that it is. Okay, so I made that part up. They actually say nothing about the merits of the article or any information contained therein. Instead, they attack all things Kennedy and go back to the Kennedy v. Nixon race. Yawn. Whadda bunch of fucking dickheads. I guess they are in favor of criminals. Weak on crime they are. What do you expect from people who get their news from phone sex enthusiasts and degenerate junkies. The whole time their heads bob up and down like a fake dog in the back window of an El Dorado. Puleez.