October 2009 Archive

Young, Creative, and Philanthropic – these people deserve some help

October 29th, 2009

Norman Bikeshare

A few months back I was fortunate enough to come across the work of Tate James.  He has studied graphic design at OU and clearly has a gift.  In fact, I liked one of his works so much I bought it, and am just waiting to get settled somewhere with enough wall space to show it off.  All this to say, the kid (as if I am old enough to call anyone a kid) is brilliant and a huge asset to the burgeoning young, creative community forming in the Oklahoma City metro – especially Norman.

Fast forward a few months, and one twitter follow later, and I have another reason to give it up to the guy.  I just found out that he and his friends have been operating a community bike co-op in Norman.   This story at VoicesofOk.org offers up details of their work.  They have given away their time to help fix people’s bikes, donated their own parts, and even refurbished some donated bikes and have made them available to the community for people in need of some wheels.  They also started a wiki map to locate dangerous bike grates in hopes of getting them replaced.  Remember when I blogged about bike-sharing via B-Cycle (by the way, we are currently #2 and our OKC dot is still up near Ponca City – odd).  Anyway, this is kind of like that, but completely grass-roots, which makes it so much better.

Here is the rub.  According to the article the co-op is struggling to stay alive as they no longer have a garage to call home.  In my opinion, this is exactly the type of project people should go out of their way to support.  The biggest sacrifice is already being made by the people donating their time and talent, all they need is a little assistance from the right folks.   I am hoping someone out there can offer the funds, facilities, and expertise they need to sustain what they have started and even grow it into a fully functioning non-profit.  Maybe we could even dangle a carrot to get them thinking about an OKC franchise.

If you would like to help, let me know and I will get you in touch with Tate.

Daily Links

October 28th, 2009
  • The study also didn’t include recent information about Oklahoma’s ugly economy. And while the economies of Edmond and many other Oklahoma cities have remained solid over the past year, the state’s financial picture continues to grow darker, an economist with a think tank said recently.
    David Blatt, director of policy at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said recent state revenue numbers were down 26 percent in July, and August was the worst month for revenue collections since the mid-1980s.
    “For the first two months of the year, we are down 29 percent from last year,” Blatt said in a media release posted on the institute’s Web site. “What makes everybody’s task going forward especially tricky is that we don’t know if we’ve hit bottom.”
    The $210 million in revenue collected during July and August is 23.8 percent or about $200 million less than what had been estimated. This amounts to 18 percent below appropriations. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate of 6.8 percent is the highest since 1988
  • “This is a prettier building than a new one in the suburbs,” he said. “My wife and I, we travel, and we have our favorite urban streets in Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and Austin.”
    And the historic structure on Broadway, he said, should be a prominent part of Oklahoma City’s favorite urban street.
    Mason has invested heavily to keep that sense of history alive.
    About four years ago, he purchased the building for $416,000. After that, he spent $4.2 million more renovating the structure. Since then, Mason said he’s invested more than $8 million in redeveloping historic buildings in the downtown area.
    “It’s a lot more fun being down here,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun building things down here.”
  • A standing-room-only crowd applauded Automobile Alley developer Steve Mason on Tuesday as he unveiled a coveted plaque placing his renovated century-old Cadillac building on the National Register of Historic Places.

MAPS 3 Looking Forward: Mayor Cornett on the New Convention Center

October 28th, 2009

Mayor Cornett discusses Oklahoma City’s MAPS 3 Convention Center at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerces “Breaking Through” luncheon on October 21, 2009. The Mayor points out the need for the Convention Center and estimated timeline for construction. He discusses the important issues when it comes to the site location – Bricktown and hotels – and indicates that we will look for a community consensus on the best site before making that decision.

Vote Yes on Dec 8!

I haven’t always been the biggest cheerleader of the Convention Center. Slowly, but surely though, I am coming around. The Mayor is right, it is economic development in its purest form and will help to infuse downtown with people, energy, and the mighty dollar!

Daily Links

October 27th, 2009
  • CNU’s proposed changes to the International Fire Code won a split decision from the International Code Council’s fire code committee today, along with a clear invitation for more dialogue on street design between new urbanists and the fire service.

    CNU’s proposals acknowledge that solid common ground exists for ongoing efforts to reconcile narrower streets and good emergency access: Street connectivity — specifically well-connected networks of traditional street grids — is essential to good urbanism, shortens emergency response times, and improves overall community life safety. Taken together, these changes would have made the fire code less focused on mandating wide streets, and more flexible in allowing cities to take advantage of the safety and response benefits of connected networks of walkable narrower streets. Even so, acceptance of Appendix K and the committee’s stated desire for more dialogue with CNU are important steps toward that goal.

  • "The economic developers I speak to no longer even try to defend these subsidy strategies," Shuman says. "They've run out of excuses except for the fact that the politicians like them. Politicians get more mileage from one big deal that brings 1,000 jobs than an entrepreneurship program that generates 10 jobs in 100 local businesses. Even when the rhetoric has shifted to the importance of local, in terms of where the money goes, it's still following an old and entirely discredited mode of economic development."

    As for the stimulus bill, Shuman says it has "the worst features of economic development on steroids. If in a typical year, millions [are] spent on pork, this year more than a trillion is spent on pork." Even if the stimulus package is a success, he says, the program "could have been more successful with less money if we had followed Jane Jacobs' ideas" of local resilience through import-replacement.

MAPS 3 Looking Forward

October 26th, 2009

imagi_maps3_lookingforward_02Hopefully I have made my point on the MAPS 3 public process to date.  It is clear that what we have witnessed so far cannot possibly represent our City’s best effort at a inclusive process.  That said, the past is the past.  There is nothing that can be done before the December 8th MAPS 3 vote to rectify the situation – including more blogging on the topic.

Instead, I am looking forward.   Looking forward to a favorable result for MAPS 3 at the polls on December 8th.  Looking forward to the post-vote public meetings, and planning charettes, and lively discussions (and maybe even an open competition) focused on finding the best locations for the projects and making sure the best ideas are implemented.  If such a process takes place in the future, then we can all find the grace to forget what has taken place thus far and channel our energy into ensuring the projects are a success.

I have been told by multiple persons over the past few days, that my public objections to the MAPS 3 public process will hurt my chances of finding a job in Oklahoma City.  Well, if that is the case, it is most unfortunate.  Because more than anything, I am looking forward to returning to Oklahoma City and contributing my energy and ideas in an effort to make it a better place to live.  That was the dream two years ago when I left to attend graduate school and it remains the dream today.

Quote of the Week

October 25th, 2009

“MAPS 3 will be great for Oklahoma City. But some things are more important than public improvements, especially maintaining an open and honest government. If it takes the disintegration of the latter, in order to obtain the former, then the city overall is taking a step backwards.”

– Blair Humphreys

Please note: I am not keen on the idea of quoting myself, but it was necessary due to the lack of commentary available elsewhere.

Daily Links

October 25th, 2009

MAPS 3 Public Process Needs Correction

October 24th, 2009

Correcting a Poor Public Process



Something is clearly wrong with the ongoing MAPS 3 public process and I know I am not the only one who has noticed. The public meetings promised over the summer didn’t happen and now we come to find out that the MAPS 3 press conferences promised to start in October are ticketed events that cost regular citizens (i.e. “nonmembers”) thirty-five dollars to attend. I would like to think that these ticketed luncheons are not the promised public meetings, but according to the Mayor’s Assistant David Holt, they are!  I am honestly dumbfounded – my beloved city has resorted to charging for public meetings?

It is clear that the MAPS 3 public process is in need of correction. One can only hope that major changes are made in the next six weeks and that sincere gestures of public engagement are seen both before and after the December 8th vote.

Links to the sources displayed above:

9/17    Mayor and Council announce MAPS 3 proposal

10/22  Luncheons ‘map’ Oklahoma City’s tax plan details

Daily Links

October 24th, 2009
  • "From the mayor's press office:
    The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities is co-sponsoring a Forum on the Future of Bus Shelters and Street Furniture with the Next Great City coalition and the Academy of Natural Sciences. The forum will include presentations from bus shelter and street furniture vendors and present perspectives on the role of advertising in public spaces.

    You know, I'm tempted to be snarky about this, but really, why? People care about this stuff, and they should be able to weigh in. Good on the city.

    The release also says that the city is inviting ideas for "additional pieces of street furniture." I want swivelly desk chairs in all subway stations."

    Why can't Oklahoma City citizens be a part of the decision making process for the Downtown Streetscape?

  • "Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett on Wednesday kicked off a series of luncheons designed to inform voters about the MAPS 3 project.

    Cornett launched the Breaking Through luncheon series at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. The luncheons are designed to give members of the public an opportunity to learn about the MAPS 3 proposal and ask questions."

    The cost to attend the luncheons is $30 for Greater Oklahoma City Chamber members and $35 for nonmembers (e.g. regular citizens)

  • The campaign has already kicked off to rally support, a process that includes spreading the word about what the projects do and why they are important. Cornett said he is at the “top of the information pyramid,” and it will be his main task to educate the public.
  • At Oklahoma City University, political science department chairman Richard Johnson said the MAPS 3 campaign needs to do a better job of informing constituents.
    “Unless the supporters do a better job of getting out in front of this, they really risk having it fail,” Johnson said.
    “People have felt really good about the MAPS projects generally and getting a reasonable return on their dollar. But there’s not really enough out there yet. The public really needs to be educated about MAPS 3 and what’s in it – something like the need for an expansion of the Civic Center, for example. The benefits really need to be laid out for people to motivate them to vote.”

Pedestrians take the Fun Path

October 22nd, 2009

This video is incredible and does much to demonstrate the importance of an enjoyable path for pedestrians. Perhaps more abstract is the “fun” experienced by pedestrians on sidewalks full of people with opportunities for window shopping, but the theory is basically the same.

(Thanks to Jan at The Happy Homemaker for sending this my way)