(All photos are by Brett Dickerson, copyright 2014 except the thrust stage photo.)
They are wrecking the Mummers Theater/Stage Center building in downtown Oklahoma City. It is likely because of some essential design flaws in the building itself. Often overlooked, those flaws caused it to be financially toxic to each of its owners. In addition, its bold design that made it so notable also made it a relic that could not be used for new purposes.
And so, the building that has wrecked its owners is being wrecked. Justice? Perhaps.
Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money have been hard at work again on their latest book about Oklahoma City history. It’s title is “Cornerstone – The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City: 125 Years”
Here are some shots from the signing on Saturday at Full Circle Books.
To the surprise and obvious delight of the authors, several people mentioned in the history actually showed up to get a copy for themselves.
Here is a clip of Joe and Charlotte Dodson, founders of the Dodson’s Cafeterias on the South Side of Oklahoma City, telling about their involvement in the idea, funding, and eventual building of the Southside YMCA.
Last night’s concert by Chelsea Cope at KOSU Radio’s Performance Space added to a growing list of their impressive monthly concerts by local artists. The Performance Space is a part of a new set of studios and offices for KOSU in the Hart Building on Film Row.
The concert was a part of the monthly Premiere on Film Row art walk that continues to catch on in a part of Oklahoma City that had sat dormant for some time. Classy old buildings that once housed the distribution part of the movie industry are becoming the center of art, music, and food for an area on the West side of downtown between Dewey and Shartel on Sheridan.
This event provides a variety of family friendly activities including music, art, food, and interaction among a good cross-section of people from Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs.
KOSU’s concert series and their heavy involvement in this event shows an unusually high level of community leadership not often expected of public radio station.
KOSU now has become an integral part of downtown Oklahoma City life with their presence on Film Row.
This expansion into their Oklahoma City studios, while keeping their presence at OSU in Stillwater, came on the heals of their collaboration with The Spy FM, a radio station presenting various music genres that are not often heard on commercial radio or public radio. The Spy on KOSU specializes in local programing talent and local musicians. Check out their programing notes and listen either over the internet or on the radio at 91.7 Oklahoma City or 107.5 Tulsa.
Since I live in the reddest of red states, I hear progressives here say variations of this: “Yeah, I lost my vote in that last election. My candidate lost.”
True? I don’t believe that. Every vote that is cast makes a point, in some way or another, and is “lost” only if it is never cast in the first place.
Your vote is significant on many levels, and should be guarded and exercised as often as possible. Here’s why:
Back in the day when everything was analog and statistics were done with huge stacks of paper by guys in white shirts/black ties using slide rules, that may have been the case. Sorting out who voted and why was a Herculean task. Not any more.
Today, campaigns have an amazing array of evaluative tools due to the digitizing of polls, surveys, voting records, etc. I still remember hearing in the late 1980s how marketers who set up mailing campaigns could tell what kind of toothpaste I used, and how to target me. Now if that was the case in the 1980s, imagine the tools now.
No, your vote is never “lost” to campaigns and candidates who pay extremely close attention to various statistical cuts in voting during an election, even if the candidate that you wanted to win does not. Even a candidate who loses, but turns in a larger opposition vote than the last election has an effect on the winner.
Case in point: The last Oklahoma City election for mayor was the most active and seriously contested in my memory. Oklahoma City is on a roll, but our 3-term mayor, Mick Cornett, who was going for a fourth, was spending way too much time in increasingly tighter circles of thinking. The crescendo of that process was Cornett’s speech to the Republican National Convention in 2012. It was a rousing speech of right-wing dog whistles and partisan grandstanding that Oklahoma City is not used to hearing from what is, by design, a non-partisan mayor. Those earlier non-partisan days of his leading the city to lose a million pounds were past. But, not quite….
One of our City Council members, Dr. Ed Shadid, mounted an energetic campaign that focused on giving neighborhoods a voice instead of only listening to interests that wanted downtown to grow at the expense of the rest of the city.
Shadid held a series of public forums in different parts of a city whose leaders had conveniently forgotten the welfare of those who were living there.
Shadid’s campaign effectively pointed out the contradiction of the recent growth of Oklahoma City: Wealthy corporate chieftains who lived in the suburbs were dictating how Oklahoma City would spend millions and give millions more in tax breaks to promote their new headquarters at the expense of neighborhood development.
This campaign pushed Mayor Cornett to reconsider his direction. We began to see him in more neighborhood meetings. Even though some thought it was a campaign stunt, his Twitter feed started using the word “neighborhood” more, which was a significant change from last elections. For the first time, I actually saw him actively engaging the crowd of the Martin Luther King Day Parade for a considerable length of time, not just shaking hands, but carrying on conversations.
Mayor Cornett won his fourth term, but not without the wakeup call of the results. This election resulted in a far larger turnout than before. Those who voted for Shadid actually turned in larger numbers for him than those who had voted for Cornett in the last election that was not seriously contested. Yes, Cornett won, but he would be stupid (he’s not) to ignore the fact of the number of voters who cast a vote for the other guy.
That other guy, Dr. Shadid, is still on the City Council and is still asking those questions that need to be asked.
Did those who voted for Shadid “lose” their vote. No way. Just yesterday I saw the mayor’s tweet that he had eaten at a popular locally owned neighborhood restaurant for the first time. By being there, he was meeting new people and learning once again about what common people thought. That’s progress. And it’s because people got out and voted.
The only votes that were “lost” in that election were those that were not cast. Plan to vote!
Those of us who live here know that there are two sides to Oklahoma: The pretty side and the ugly side.
The Pretty Side
There is one side to life in my state that is the good side, the side that we want the rest of the nation to see. It’s kind of like your only wanting one side of your face to be photographed because, well, it’s your good side — the pretty side.
Tulsa’s enduring sophistication and beauty matched with Oklahoma City’s 20-year run of progress in developing both its new downtown skyline along with the re-purposed Bricktown into a destination entertainment district has impressed many. The various parts of rural and town life Oklahoma are some of the best places to live anywhere considering resources and the cultural variety as you move around the state.
Here in Oklahoma City, where I live, the rise of various neighborhood mini-centers of activity along with the rustic Bricktown matched with the excitement of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball has been a true joy. I enjoy many of these events and enjoy living in this place. It’s an amazing thing to see, since I have spent most of my life here.
It’s not that side of Oklahoma that can defeat us, though. The ugly side surely will, if we let it.
The Ugly Side
Violence-prone, deep-seated racism against blacks left over from our segregation days has been flushed back out into the open by the election and re-election of our first black president.
Women are mistreated and disregarded on many levels and in many ways, especially by a legislature made up mostly of white, conservative men who are against “big government” unless it is controlling women’s bodies. Then it is magically a good thing.
Our Republican-dominated state government is so dysfunctional that legislators cannot even agree on how to fund repair of an aging Capitol Building that has the smell of sewage from rotting pipes throughout and has to block certain entrances for fear of falling pieces hitting visitors. Welcome to our beautiful state capitol, y’all!
The deepest parts of the ugly side are actually hidden, though.
The Difference Between Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Because natural disasters so shape Oklahoma life, we have developed a tendency to see all disaster as “natural”. That provides a large smoke screen for those who have sinister motives.
For instance, if you did not know that the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing was carried out by domestic right-wing extremists, you might not learn that from our yearly remembrances at the memorial service. Speaker after speaker will focus on remembering victims and heroes, carefully navigating around the harsh realities of who perpetrated that heinous crime. It wasn’t a tornado that caused that disaster.
Another example of naturalizing the unnatural is how legislators frame the constant cuts as necessary because of not having enough revenue while passing new tax cut measures yearly. Just today in The Oklahoman there is one story about how new measures are being passed to increase education funding that is dependent upon revenues increasing each year. If they don’t increase, then the funding increases won’t go through. Then, just on the opposite page, there is a story about how concerned some legislators are at the impact of proposed tax cuts that are likely to go through.
The slow erosion of state government and the much-needed services that it provides is by design. With unwitting support by
ideologues on the libertarian edges of the Republican Party, big money interests that stand to gain much from lop-sided tax cuts push harder each year for even more cuts, which is the central goal. The benefits to them are easily seen in the chart below and explained here.
The result is that GOP legislators are so confidant in the security of their positions that they don’t even try to cover up the illogical bills signed into law even when public opinion is running in the opposite direction. Examples are a ban on local cities and towns passing their own minimum wage, and empowering local traditional utilities to add a surcharge for wind and solar energy.
Our ugly side is making it into national news more and more, though. Recently Rachel Maddow featured Oklahoma’s redness as being at the very end — no, off of the end — of a blue to red scale. We were featured as a state that has gone that extra mile to lock down the state with right-wing ideology and favors for those wealthy donors to our Republican politicians.
This is no natural disaster. It is man-made by the designs of a small, wealthy, powerful minority in the shadows. If we allow this to go on, will we have a state made up of well-educated, clear-thinking people who value logical, rather than the most illogical thinking? No, we won’t.
It’s time for us to decide that we will not allow the ugly side of Oklahoma to defeat us!
Here are some action ideas:
1. Use social media to call out publications and various forms of media that do not report or consider any other view than that of the right wing.
2. Write, call, and visit the repeat offenders at the Capitol who continue to follow lockstep with the designs of ALEC to de-fund public services and public watchdog functions of state regulation. Here is a list of Oklahoma Legislators who are ALEC trained and resourced. Good resources to help you apply pressure: OkPolicy.org and OklahomaWatch.org
3. Research which corporations are the biggest donors to the leaders of the movement to de-fund public services in Oklahoma and write to their board of directors complaining that their sponsorship of particular politicians are causing a social and educational environment that will harm them in the long run if eventually there is a brain/income drain from the state. iCitizen is an app that is available on iPhone, and Android. It is resourceful in helping you find your reps from top to bottom and showing you their major contributors.
4. Support candidates in this year’s election cycle that challenge the dominant right-wing power structure in the legislature. And support those who are brave enough to run against our well-funded governor.
5. Challenge pastors – especially yours – when they support right-wing ideology as though it is the only Christian option. It’s not. The right-wing way is not necessarily the right way. (I’ll write more about this in a future post.)
What are some ways that you have found to oppose the weight of the right-wing machine? Please comment.
Last Sunday, the largest Oklahoma City newspaper, The Oklahoman, did something unexpected: The entire edition showed journalistic verve and even boldness in several incisive reports, giving factual information that would equip citizens to take action on important issues. How about that? The big question: Is this an advancement that will be sustained or just an anomaly, an exception, quickly “corrected” once particular people start calling in? I hope it’s an advancement.
While some Progressives in Oklahoma have made a name for themselves criticizing the paper, most residents just wanted it to do what large papers are supposed to do: direct sunlight on problems in government and society that need to be brought out of the shadows so that they can be corrected.
It has always been a delicate dance for anyone at The Oklahoman who tried to lead that organization into a more traditional role of providing clear, well-researched reportage, with editorial positions clearly taken on the editorial page and not slipped into the front page.
Powerful and extremely conservative forces in our state have exerted deep pressure on The Oklahoman for years to direct public opinion in every page toward not just a conservative, but a right-wing agenda. And now that they have a new owner, Denver-based billionaire and right-wing philanthropist Phillip Anschutz, the question has loomed even larger if the paper would ever achieve its potential as a news outlet of integrity.
Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz
Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz
So, while I have been openly critical of The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com for their clear, deep, but unacknowledged bias lately, I gladly want to give them credit for this latest Sunday edition.
The largest piece, “Addicted Oklahoma”, took up much of the front page and continued onto 8 more pages inside. It was the result of a productive collaboration between Oklahoman reporters, Jaclyn Cosgrove, Phillip O’Connor and Warren Vieth of investigative outfit Oklahoma Watch.
Environmental issues? Only if Sen. Imhof says they aren’t there, right? Hey, wait…Brianna Baily’s piece on the first page of the Business section, “Pollution Problems: Old Aircraft Factory Is Site of Concern”, showed good research coupled with a timeline and diagrams. It dealt openly with the conflict about ownership of earlier pollution problems when a company like the old North American Aviation/Gulfstream plant goes by the wayside and leaves the cleanup for someone else.
Over the last several years it has seemed like the OPUBCO’s NewsOK.com, has shown a much more tolerant and broad editorial policy than The Oklahoman which certainly is read by an older age demographic than the online content. Sunday’s showing reveals what seems to be a good experiment.
I’m going to allow that The Oklahoman will have to serve its sometimes-dark corporate and political masters on the Opinion pages as long as power remains concentrated on a wealthy minority the way it is now in this state. But, this slow change, starting with what they allow reporters to do and publish, shows me that leaders in The Oklahoman realize that central Oklahoma is becoming more progressive and more heavily populated than the surrounding rural areas served by that paper. If they act now, and move closer to a central position, they have an opportunity to rescue the newspaper. If not, numbers will continue to dip as smaller, more nimble papers pick off it’s increasingly younger demographic.
That’s why I will give them praise when they do well and serve their public rather than serving that one-percent-ish minority hiding in the shadows. I encourage you to do the same. When we do, we may help that part of their staff who should be winning editorial arguments in meetings within The Oklahoman.