Oklahoma Gazette

The MAPS 3 Divide

Image of Oklahoma City

By far, the most reasonable op-ed piece on the MAPS 3 election has been published by Bill Bleakley in the Oklahoma Gazette.

Bleakley, the publisher of the Gazette, notes the election rhetoric has taken on a “particularly vitriolic tone,” and he calls for civility. He writes:

As the MAPS 3 election approaches this Tuesday, we must make an extra effort to be civil to one another and, regardless of the outcome, work together in the future whether it passes or fails.

The vitriol to which Bleakley refers has definitely manifested itself within the city’s progressive community, which has been divided over whether the Maps 3 $777 million in projects represent more corporate welfare and a continuation of a regressive sales tax or yet another major initiative much needed to improve Oklahoma City’s downtown.

It’s a philosophical divide that contains logical assumptions on both sides.

Many progressives support urban renewal and downtown living while opposing the high-energy use and fragmentation caused by suburban sprawl. Maps 3, with its proposed street car system and new downtown park, can fit into this frame.

Yet progressives have also lamented regressive taxation—the seven year one-cent sales tax that will pay for the projects is regressive—and a city government that seems anti-union and dominated by corporate interests and conservative chamber of commerce dogma. Maps 3 can fit into this frame as well.

The bottom line is there are decent, intelligent people making arguments on both sides of the issue, people who genuinely care about Oklahoma City and its future.

So vote how you believe Tuesday and when the results come in let’s heed Bleakley’s advice and put aside the arguing to make Oklahoma City a great place to live, work and play.

Can Cargill, Balkman Use Secret Money?

Oklahoma’s election and legal officials should determine whether the GOP-backed 100 Ideas initiative can continue to hide its money sponsors.

Image of Lance Cargill

At issue is whether the initiative is government sponsored or not and whether it violates campaign contribution laws. Oklahoma House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah), pictured right, and former Norman Republican legislator Thad Balkman, who recently announced the initiative, said private citizens of Oklahoma were funding the venture but would not give the names.

Yet the initiative’s Web site (as of February 6, 2007) clearly states Cargill, in his role as an elected official, formed the initiative:

“Beginning in February of 2007, Speaker Lance Cargill will travel across the state to change Oklahoma’s mindset to look ahead to the long-term future of our state. Through a series of town hall meetings and interaction with the state’s citizens called IdeaRaisers, the 100 Ideas Initiative will develop a comprehensive vision” . . . blah, blah, blah.

Perhaps, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson or some other state legal official should consider these questions: Is this a political action committee supporting Cargill and the GOP? Should we look at the group’s funding as campaign donations? If so, then shouldn’t the funding be open to public scrutiny? Can any politician in Oklahoma now get secret money in this way?

The 100 Ideas initiative is a complete steal from the 100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future. It’s a political gimmick to help the Republican Party on the state level. The cover story is the initiative will canvas Oklahoma and come up with 100 ideas to help the state prosper. These ideas will be published in a book and on the initiative’s Web site.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren, another public servant, and former Governors George Nigh and Frank Keating are board advisors for the initiative and have apparently signed off on the secret funding. Are they getting money, too? Expenses? Stipends? Trips? How much? Did the centrist Democrats Boren and Nigh realize the funding sources were secret? If so, what does that tell you about the state of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma these days?

As Austin-based songwriter James McMurtry sings about this area, “Out here in middle, where the center’s on the right.”

According to a recent article in the Oklahoma Gazette, the initiative doesn’t want any ideas that go against standard GOP operating procedure. “…we hope that all the ideas would not necessarily expand the role of government,” said Balkman, who as a legislator once endorsed the teaching of Intelligent Design, or creationism, in Oklahoma’s science classrooms.

Well, there goes improving educational systems, there goes decent health care for the state’s middle class people, there goes better roads for poor old Oklahoma. But you can bet all those tiresome cultural wedge issues the GOP and even some Democrats exploit for votes here will become great ideas.

The venture shows an interesting snapshot of how political power has always worked in Oklahoma. Behind the scenes, the rich power structure here pulls the strings of political puppets. Rock the boat in any fashion, and you’re out on your sorry ass.

Mike Hermes, who operates the popular Oklahoma blog, Okiedoke, has come up with his own Okie 100 initiative. It’s truly politically independent and provides full disclosure of anyone remotely involved in the project. This is where the people can speak freely these days, not in the latest conservative think tank created by the suits.

‘Many to Many’ Becomes New Internet Communication Model

Shlain Speaks To Oklahoma Educators, Techies

Our culture is shifting from a communication paradigm of “one to many to many to many,” according to Tiffany Shlain, a leading Internet expert who spoke in Oklahoma City Thursday.

Photograph of Tiffany Shlain

This shift will open up more social networking opportunities as more people communicate through blogs, emails, text messaging, podcasts, and individual videos, Shlain said. The idea of the “isolated” Internet user has become obsolete as more and more people connect on the Internet and create new communities.

Shlain was the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Technology Conference at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City Thursday. More than 600 educators and technical innovators attended the one-day event, which featured presentations and software and hardware displays.

(Here is a podcast that gives an overview of my presentation at the conference. It may take a minute for the mp3 file to upload.)

An expert on the Internet and a filmmaker, Shlain created the Webby Awards, which are given to people who have enhanced the Internet. Former Vice President Al Gore recently received a lifetime achievement award, for example, and one of this year’s winners is Prince.

Shlain’s “many to many” paradigm reflects a shift of cultural power from mainstream media outlets to various Internet communities. These communities include political blogs, volunteer organizations and dating services. The new communication paradigm creates a myriad of new personal and public “spaces” for people in the twenty-first century, she said.

She said the new communication mirrors stream-of-consciousness, which is nonlinear and plural. The term stream-of-consciousness is often used to describe the literary techniques of authors such as James Joyce, whose writing often focuses on the unfiltered and fragmented psychological thoughts of his characters.

In addition, the amount of information on the Internet on sites such as Wikipedia has enabled people to rely less on rote memory, freeing them to develop new ways of thinking and constructing reality, Shlain said. Everyone is now just a click away from finding information. The question becomes: How important is rote memory in the information age?

Shlain called the Internet an “incredible moveable feast” that has transformed the world.

Shlain also showed one of her short films, “The Tribe,” which deconstructs stereotypes about Jewish people and other groups using the life story of a woman who created the first Barbie doll. She recently showed the film at the Sundance Film Festival.

Oklahoma City Not Sustainable?

Oklahoma City ranks 49th out of 50 cities in terms of sustainable living, according to rankings released by Sustainlane.com, an environmental group.

The city gets such a low ranking because of its public transportation systems and lack of carpooling, according to a local news report. Perhaps the main reason for the low ranking, in my mind, is Oklahoma City’s massive sprawl, which requires automobile transportation no matter where you live. This sprawl, if left unchecked, will make it extremely problematic for the metropolitan area in an energy or environmental crisis.

Could it be that homes in those expensive gated communities so far removed from the metropolitan area will someday be worth less than homes in the inner city near public transportation hubs, such as the airport and bus station? I think so.

We should focus on building more infrastructure—office buildings, schools, medical centers—in the central part of downtown to prepare for $5 a gallon gasoline and environmental problems created by global warming.

Perhaps, we also need to create a new public college or build a major (note the word “major” here) branch of an existing public university in the Bricktown area in order to meet the needs of students who are facing rising gasoline prices along with higher tuition costs. The new college would transcend the existing Downtown College Consortium by offering students a full college experience in a thriving, downtown environment. It would also ensure Bricktown’s business success.

Bleakley on Cornett

Bill Bleakley, publisher of the Oklahoma Gazette, has an insightful article in his paper this week about how Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett “has not been a stand-up guy with respect to the handling of his political aspirations.”

Photograph of Mick Cornett

I agree. Cornett recently won a new term as mayor and then turned around almost immediately and started looking at his options to run for Oklahoma’s U.S. House 5th District’s seat in 2006. Bleakley writes: “He should have told us . . .”

You bet he should have told us. How well can Cornett run the city and a major campaign at the same time? Oklahoma City citizens deserved to know what they were getting into by reelecting Cornett. And, as Bleakley points out, what if the House race gets “mean-spirited?” How will that affect Oklahoma City?

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