Archive for City Scene

Just a flesh wound

When I spotted him on the street this afternoon, I recognized him almost immediately: he’s the American cousin of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Water heater wearing a traffic cone

I bet his spirit isn’t corroded.

(Full scene on Flickr.)

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Costs and benefits

Actual lunchtime conversation today:

Me: “They’re planning on spending more money on this new jail than on the new convention center.”

She: “The jail, at least, won’t be sitting empty.”

Why, yes, I do have snarky friends.

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You’ve got jail

Or at least you’re about to buy one, and you probably won’t like the financing options.

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We got your easement right here

It was almost exactly seven years ago when I contemplated the possibility of getting actual sidewalks on my postwar suburban-ish street, and I was sort of dubious about the prospects:

[D]oes it go on my side of the street, or on the other side? There’s a sidewalk around the corner which, if continued, would end up on my side. The city, I believe, would have no issues with taking out my elm tree, or the one next door, but I suspect they draw the line at having to relocate my water meter, which is even closer to the curb than the trees are. Argument for the opposite side of the street: it’s a lot flatter over there.

We learned this week, though, that they’re actually coming, along with resurfacing of all the east-west streets in the neighborhood, most of which are crumbling concrete with approximately one part per thousand of grass. (The Neighborhood Association was very high on both these prospects, and I can’t say as I blame them.) And yes, it’s going to be on my side, so I can presumably kiss that tree goodbye.

The pitch from the NA, which voted overwhelmingly for the sidewalk project:

Any homeowner whose front yard is in the path of development of the new sidewalks will lose approximately 5 square feet of their front lot. The benefit will be a greatly improved and beautified neighborhood, increased walkability, and likely improved resale values.

As Martha would say, those are Good Things. The “5 square feet” bit is bungled, of course: it’s five feet back from the curb. My lot is 60 feet wide up front, so I part with 300 square feet, less the area already covered by the driveway. As for that “flatter” bit, here come the graders: an incline of two degrees is as much as they’re going to tolerate, which means I’m also presumably getting some sort of retaining wall.

When this will happen, I do not know. The repaving ordeal begins in August and will take, they say, about a year: there are 15 blocks scheduled for repaving, so maybe three weeks per block. No timetable has been unveiled for the sidewalks. And how long does it take to move a water meter, anyway? If we’re going to be waterless for long, I need to plan an escape route.

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Word on the street

For several years now, I have been watching in dismay as some grubby offshoot of Gresham’s Law became the law of the urban street corner:

People whose hearts bleed red with simulated compassion will no doubt chide me for my lack of sensitivity. “Walk a mile in their shoes,” they’d say. Actually, most of them seem to have better shoes than I do, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t walk from the shelters, which tend to be west of downtown, all the way to Penn freaking Square.

But causing me annoyance is hardly a hanging offense. (Otherwise, there’d be a worldwide rope shortage right about now.) What’s happening here is that people who do need help, and I presume there are a few such on the streets, are going to be spurned because we can’t distinguish between who’s really begging and who’s really bogus. And locking up everyone who asks for spare change runs into serious First Amendment issues, which is not something to be encouraged.

Cover of The Curbside Chronicle Issue 4I wrote that six years ago. I was not at all expecting that it might be possible to come up with a marker to distinguish the actual homeless from the unreasonable facsimiles thereof; the city was trying to license individual panhandlers, but all else being equal, I’d prefer a private-sector solution, were one possible.

This is where The Curbside Chronicle came in. It’s a street paper, a publication by and for people who live in the streets, an idea with at least 100 years of tradition under its tattered belt. (See, for instance, Hobo News, which flourished around 1915.) The Chronicle started last year, and publishes bi-monthly.

The operation is fairly simple. Vendors are staked to 15 copies of the magazine, which sell for $2 “suggested donation.” After that, they can get more for 75 cents each. How many can they sell in a couple of months? I’m not sure, but the Chronicle says that “To date, we have helped six vendors find and sustain housing!”

Issue 11, out now, contains a startling pictorial called “How I See OKC”:

We paired local photographers with Curbside Chronicle vendors and friends experiencing homelessness. These pictures seek to open people’s eyes to what the homeless see on a daily basis, as well as share parts of their stories… Vendors titled and captioned all of their photos in their own words with what they want the community to take away from their images.

Some of those captions may well break your heart — even mine. (I came entirely too close to joining their numbers three decades ago, which helps to prevent cynicism — and which informs my irritation with those few poseurs whose panhandling conceals a perfectly ordinary suburban lifestyle.)

What can a 32-page color glossy do that years of activism and scores of governmental actions can’t? It’s perhaps too early to tell. But if the Chronicle is accomplishing anything at all, it’s way ahead of the activists and the politicians.

Incidentally, my copy of Issue 11 (two bucks) was sealed in a freezer bag, an acknowledgment of the fact that the weather by the side of the road is capricious at best.

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Perk not included

This is a fairly typical house for its neighborhood (Barrington Section 3, south of Danforth/NW 192nd and west of Western):

2011 Parade of Homes house. High performance energy efficient built NAHB Green home. Granite thru out, custom wall finishes, tank less hot water, walk-in pantry, large master bath w walk-in shower and 2 closets, master sitting room, large covered patio, gas whirpool appliances, theatre room, 2nd kitchenette, mud-room off garage, office w/ built-ins, jack & jill baths, walk-in closets thruout, sprinkler system, additional heated & cooled storage above garage

Okay, one does not expect Updike-level writing from real-estate agents. I have cleaned up the spacing, but not the spelling. (A Jack and Jill bathroom has two entrances, one from each of two bedrooms. I think. I don’t hang around in these neighborhoods much.)

Come to think of it, no one is looking to its owner, Cleveland Cavaliers (and former Celtics and Thunder) center Kendrick Perkins, for any of that florid speechifying stuff: he’s to the point and, when necessary, in your face.

What I like about it: there’s a small theater room, seating six, and there’s a kitchenette right next to it. Now that’s planning.

(Via Thunder Obsessed.)

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Non-little boxes

“Older suburbs,” reports Consumerist, “are turning over”:

Homes in the towns closest to city centers with the shortest commutes are the most valuable, but also the most vulnerable to being bulldozed and displaced by much larger homes. Three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms (or even only one bathroom) was an acceptable suburban home back during the post-World War II expansion of the suburbs. Now those houses are kind of old, and prime targets for builders who want to replace them with larger, modern houses.

My house is indeed kind of old, but no one’s looking to replace it: our neighborhood zoning prevents McMansions from being dropped into the mid-century milieu.

Then again, there’s one anomaly, made possible by the existence of a narrow-ish (49 x 176 feet) lot that had been vacant for many years. The owner ultimately sold it for $20,000, consistent with my observation that land in this area goes for $100k an acre. The trick, of course, was putting a house on it that looked like it belonged with the late-Forties originals. The front setback is comparable to those of neighboring houses, as prescribed by city ordinance. But the house goes back 71 feet: it’s narrow but very long, roughly twice the size of the houses on either side. This presents no particular problem, though I wonder if the neighbors might be thinking of adding on to the back. On my own block, the desire for more space has generally meant forgoing the garage, but then we have wider, if shallower, lots.

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The wrong side of something

KitsuneRisu is here talking about Singapore, but it’s almost a Universal Truth:

Everyone has a place like that in their town (or the entirety of your country if you live in Russia), where there’s a whole shopping strip which is pretty cool and suddenly there’s just this one area emitting a black cloud of fear from it, like vicious anger-breath from the lungs of an irate mongoose.

It’s as sketch as the result of a crying elderly woman’s attempt to recall her mugger to the local police district’s new profile artist who doesn’t have a degree in good sketching. It was kinda like the north part of the Strip in Las Vegas. The further up you go, the more uncomfortable things feel, and suddenly you realise you’re standing in Circus Circus and there’s 15 wrinkled slot-grannies staring at you over their cigars and liter-bottles of rum, and everything has this weird clown motif that doesn’t carry.

Especially true where I live: the character of a neighborhood can undergo half a dozen changes in a single mile.

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Murrah plus twenty

If you were anywhere within four or five miles of downtown Oklahoma City on this date in 1995, it’s a pretty safe bet that you heard it. Felt it. First you wondered what; then you wondered why. We’ve pretty much settled the first question.

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A photographic addendum

Trini, my perennial companion for the Architecture Tours, sent me a folder full of pictures she’d taken on her phone during the 2015 Tour. A lot of the subjects we snapped were the same, but for no good reason I can imagine, I got no shot of the courtyard at the Buddha Mind Monastery. She did, and with her permission I bring it to you here:

Courtyard at Buddha Mind Monastery

This will embiggen with a click, but it’s about 2.5 megabytes: 4320 pixels wide.

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No place to dive

PB Jams is a little sandwich shop on 38th west of MacArthur, owned by Ashley Jiron. The other day, she was a bit unnerved to discover that someone had been Dumpster-diving on the premises: “I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out.”

Someone else might have put up a sign saying Don’t Do That. She chose to do this:

Sign posted at PB Jams

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Ashley said.

The sign, she says, will stay until the diver returns and takes advantage of her offer.

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Saturday spottings (dude descending a staircase)

The one spring event I do not miss in this town is the Architecture Tour, put on by the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and from 2007 through 2013 I had the singular delight of getting to take the tour with Trini. She begged off last year — family matters come first, after all — but she was by my side once more this time around, arranging the tour schedule and doing the navigation. (Which latter I should have heeded more often: the answer to the question “Which of these otherwise indistinguishable downtown streets is the one that goes one-way westbound?” is, um, the other one.) The eight tour stops resulted in a 92-mile jaunt, about half of which involved going to and returning from item number three. Without further ado:

1) 3341 Quail Creek Road

Bill Howard home in Quail Creek

A trigonometry test come to life, the Bill Howard home off Quail Creek Country Club is a dazzling array of irregular polygons, reflecting both Howard’s desire to blend into the nearby woodlands and his study under Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built in 1970, but much of its interior pays homage to mid-century modern, which hadn’t been entirely forgotten by then.

2) 12713 St. Andrews Terrace

House of Good Taste by Edward Durrell Stone

What do you do if the demand for housing on a single block exceeds the space you’d expect to give to a top-rank residence? If you’re Edward Durrell Stone, you create a design that is oriented “inward,” that doesn’t sprawl across the lot. Stone introduced this idea at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, and sold plans for it nationwide under the name “House of Good Taste.” Restored last year, it’s simple but elegant.

3) 5800 South Anderson Road

Exterior of the Buddha Mind Monastery

Altar inside the Buddha Mind Monastery

The campus of the Buddha Mind Monastery, on a 20-acre site on the far southeast side, is oriented “inward” in a different way, in the hopes that the visitor will turn toward inner tranquility. The Abbess and her staff have made use of traditional Zen Buddhist themes, and regular classes are offered to novice and long-time follower alike.

4) 1315 North Broadway Place

Mayfair Apartments

The Mayfair Apartments, located north of Automobile Alley, are a working definition of splitting the difference: the exterior is pure 1930s, the flats — we visited a fourth-floor walkup, and I never want to hear the words “fourth-floor walkup” ever again — utterly contemporary, and the common areas Somewhere In Between. Several visitors seemed ready to sign a lease for one of the 16 units right then and there, though none of us could imagine how we’d get furniture up and down the narrow stairs.

5) 309 Northwest 13th Street

309 Monterey

This postwar Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, now the home of the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, retains the exterior garage doors, but individual offices inside are created out of thirteen repurposed shipping containers. Architect Brian Fitzsimmons, a regular on all the Tours, is happy to show his work.

6) 828 Northwest 8th Street

828 NW 8th St

You can’t have an Architecture Tour without something in SoSA, the South of Saint Anthony district, and here’s the first of two residences therein. This one, from Ken Fitzsimmons’ Task Design, sits on the corner of 8th and Francis, close to the center of gravity of new development in this area, and is designed to fit in both with the new contemporary houses (think “vertical”) and the original pre-1930 housing stock (think “weather-minimizing features”).

7) 925 Northwest 8th Street

925 NW 8th St

Just one block away, and literally right on the corner at Classen, is this Not Really A Shed house; the slope of the roof serves as counterpoint to the slope of the street. The floorplan is Z-shaped, arranged for maximum bedroom light in the morning and as little heat from the setting summer sun as possible, and is about two and half times deeper than it is wide.

8) 30 Northeast 2nd Street

30 NE 2nd St

This is the one non-permanent structure on the tour: once again, stacked shipping containers, occupying a space just across from the Aloft Hotel, which is scheduled to contain office space with above-average amenities and, downstairs facing Oklahoma Avenue, a “gourmet corn-dog” eatery, and what’s a downtown without gourmet corn dogs? Ten years from now, they say, this will be dismantled and rebuilt somewhere else.

Photo credits: 1) Doug Howard; 4) Sam Day; 5) Joseph Mills; others by me (which can be seen in larger size on Flickr).

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Take a walk on the West side

Oklahoman scribe Brianna Bailey this week is walking the entire length of Western Avenue within city limits, which runs from about NW 199th to SW 179th. This is an epic walk, about twenty-seven miles, and you can scarcely blame the paper for scheduling a stunt like this, since it gives her, and her employer, an opportunity to interact with a staggering number of small communities along the way, and besides the Tulsa World did something like this last year.

A single example of said interaction:

I need hardly point out that Bailey is the one in the walking shoes.

The #walkonwestern hashtag will be running all week. After two days, she’d gotten to NW 41st, near where VZD’s used to be, losing me a side bet. (I figured she’d knock off around the Chesapeake campus, a mile and a half to the north.) It’s not been an easy trip, with temperatures about ten degrees above normal and wind, if not howling, certainly growling a bit. Besides, the dearth of sidewalks in the exurbs meant occasional stretches of wet dirt. Mud. Red mud, of course.

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Cartographically incorrect

One of the first Judgmental Maps I saw, about a year ago, was a depiction of Albany, New York. (I advised Roger, who seemed amused; he definitely thought it was worth posting about.) It occurred to me that I perhaps should do one about this town, but I never quite got around to it.

Fortunately, someone else did:

Judgmental Map of Oklahoma City

Notes: (1) Not approved by Steve Lackmeyer. (2) You can embiggen this to about twice as wide, but it’s 1.3 MB worth of data. (3) Yours truly is slightly closer to Overworked Nurses than to Lesbians. Go figure.

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Not yet a destination

Ben Felder is beginning a series in the Oklahoma Gazette on local urban neighborhoods, and about halfway through the middle of the first installment is a point I’ve tried to make:

“The collaboration between the public-private partnership is vital,” said Grant Soderberg of Square Deal Capital — Soderberg is also an investor in The Windsor Hills Station Shopping Center, the hub of the growing Windsor District in west OKC. “Simple investments in lighting, road improvements and other things from the city can make a huge difference in a neighborhood’s revival.”

Soderberg also said that part of the success of The Windsor District is that it continues to serve many of the low- and middle-class community residents who lived there before revitalization efforts began.

“There is a difference that needs to be made between low-income housing and problem housing,” said Soderberg, noting that many working-class residents benefit from recent commercial growth.

Windsor Hills Station sits on 23rd just west of Meridian; in general, 23rd is the boundary between upscale and down. Neighbors from both sides shop at the Crest Foods store at the eastern edge of the shopping center.

About a decade ago, I wrote about a neighborhood closer to downtown:

Now the roads through there aren’t great, and I suspect the rest of the city’s infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming “Blight!” and calling for intervention. And indeed, there’s room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from “How can we make this area better?” to “How can we get these people out of here?” I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it’s not pretty.

And visitors are often perplexed that upper- and lower-income tracts sit side by side, all across town. A lot of this is simply a function of who did the development, and when. My own neighborhood was developed in the 1940s by Clyde B. Warr, who was relatively, but not ostentatiously, bucks-up; however, we don’t have a full-line grocery store — a Target just up the road comes closest — so often as not, I’m shopping at that Crest store in Windsor.

Addendum: Back in the days when this sort of thing mattered, there was a Windsor telephone exchange covering this area: it reaches just far enough north to include me.

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Creativity awakened the wrong way

Sir Ken Robinson, a couple of years ago, boiled down to a single paragraph:

Robinson has suggested that to engage and succeed, education has to develop on three fronts. First, that it should foster diversity by offering a broad curriculum and encourage individualisation of the learning process; secondly, it should foster curiosity through creative teaching, which depends on high quality teacher training and development; and finally, it should focus on awakening creativity through alternative didactic processes that put less emphasis on standardised testing, thereby giving the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers. He believes that much of the present education system in the United States fosters conformity, compliance and standardisation rather than creative approaches to learning. Robinson emphasises that we can only succeed if we recognise that education is an organic system, not a mechanical one. Successful school administration is a matter of fostering a helpful climate rather than “command and control.”

And presumably it would help if the youngsters got enough sleep. Sir Ken Robinson, last night:

The powers that be were profusely apologetic.

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Turning every which way but out

Some of the folks I follow on Twitter were grousing earlier about sparse turnout at today’s City Council election. And they weren’t kidding: at 5:07 this afternoon I shoved the 207th ballot into the machine. A couple of thousand people live in this precinct; not all of them are of voting age, obviously, but still, that’s not all what anyone — other than the winner, of course — would call wonderful, especially if there had been as much dissatisfaction with the incumbent as I was led to believe. As local auto mogul Jackie Cooper used to say, “Go with the name you know,” and lots of people do. Pols depend on it.

Addendum: From the Gazette’s Ben Felder:

Population of each of the city’s eight wards: around 75,000.

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Cooperation

Like many of you, I’m pretty much in an anti-incumbent mood right about now, and with City Council elections coming up tomorrow — the first day with non-horrible weather in some time, which is a twist — I get another chance to act upon that particular impulse.

I had kind words for Major Jemison early on: he’s definitely on the side of the angels, and I have no doubt that he could fill this spot on the horseshoe with a measure of gravitas. But his insistence on robocalls Every. Damned. Night. has soured me on the man, or at least on the men behind the man, and I worry that if he’s going to take advice from the kind of people who think a Jayne Jayroe endorsement is worth something, he might be susceptible to all manner of bad ideas once sworn in.

So I turn to James Cooper, who, poor fellow, had to endure a chat session with me at the doorway one weekend. (This makes about the fifth candidate in twelve years who’s had to deal with me in bathrobe mode.) He’s appallingly young, but I figure I can overlook that, especially since my own advanced age has manifestly conferred no wisdom on me. More to the point, he’s willing to deal with specific points in preference to grand generalities: he told me that he envisions the next round of MAPS, for instance, gradually moving northward with extensions of the streetcar line, and he’s willing to spend some serious dollars out of the next set of the city’s General Obligation Bonds to finish up the largely undone sidewalk work in this part of town. If that sounds like he’s favoring his own ward at the expense of others, well, that’s what we pay our guy on the Council to do, and it’s not like we’re paying him a whole lot ($12k a year) either.

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Opening salvo

City Council elections are the third of March, and I expect a deluge of mail and more phone calls than I can possibly answer, even if I were going to answer them, which I’m not. And if you’d asked me after the filing period ended in January, I’d have said that basically it was a two-man race, between incumbent/loose cannon Ed Shadid and OCU professor James Cooper, and it was just a matter of which one strikes first.

First strike, in the form of the first mail flyer and the first phone call, came Tuesday, from Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. He’s about sixty, I’d guess. And he has credentials out the wazoo, as the jrank.org Major L. Jemison Biography reports:

A political activist, an innovative church leader, and a bridge-builder between African-American denominations, he has addressed a great variety of issues that are central to the development of the modern black church. President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention since 2002, he stepped into a position once held by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2003 Jemison was recognized by Ebony magazine as one of the 100-plus most influential figures in black America.

He has, of course, retired from that position by now. And his issues page looks almost like my issues page, especially with this paragraph:

The last four years have seen bitterness and divisiveness infect the business of the council, where before there was unity and collaboration. Major Jemison seeks to restore the council to a positive working environment where disagreements are handled professionally and each council member works together in the best interests of the people.

So far, I’m liking what I’m hearing.

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Improper use of force

The Thin Blue Line gets thinner, but better:

The Oklahoma City Police Department has fired an officer accused of rape and other misconduct last year.

Daniel Holtzclaw was arrested in 2014 in the parking lot of Gold’s Gym in northwest Oklahoma City… Police say Holtzclaw stopped women, threatened them and made them expose themselves and perform sexual acts. He pleaded not guilty to 36 counts of sexual assault.

An example:

One alleged victim was a 44-year-old woman who says Holtzclaw pulled up next to her, found a crack pipe, and told her “you know you could go to jail.” She says Holtzclaw then forced her to perform oral sex.

The Department has made public the letter dismissing Holtzclaw [pdf], which contains this statement by Chief Bill Citty:

Your offenses against women in this community constitute the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency.

Words unminced.

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Among the local delicacies

Michael would like you to know that he did not actually sample these on a trip to the Bricktown Brewery’s Remington Park outpost:

Appetizers menu from Bricktown Brewery

“Even my stomach has limits,” he said.

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Sooner than you’d think

I went public with this Saturday, once I had something to work with:

It was received well in the tweetstream, for the most part. I left the second part of the story unspoken, since it hadn’t come to fruition just yet.

Monday night it did: the school board voted 8-0 to change the teams at Capitol Hill High School from “Redskins” to, well, almost anything else. This didn’t go quite so smoothly, but ultimately I have to agree with board chair Lynn Hardin:

“We all have feelings about this and whether it’s right or wrong we have an obligation to be sensitive to our community,” Hardin said. “Once you know the truth, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. So we might as well address it and figure out how we can proceed.”

I have no doubt at least some of the folks who sat in on the meeting were also thinking about Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins, though if you ask me, the truly hurtful word in that name isn’t “Redskins.”

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Because BlueHawks wasn’t happening

The announcement that the Oklahoma City RedHawks of the Pacific Coast League will be renamed “Dodgers,” what with the team being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization — common ownership, and there’s a farm-club deal in place — did not go over well on Twitter, although some of us tried to temporize:

One common argument was that there is no history of dodging here in the Big Breezy. I demurred:

I don’t think this mollified anyone. Meanwhile, owners of the Iowa Cubs were not available for comment.

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Lots of emptiness

Most cities have something resembling parking mandates, usually saying that there must be some formula-derived X number of spaces provided in a surface lot, based on the anticipated worst day of the year. About five years ago I quoted a member of the Tulsa Board of Adjustment on how these things tend to reinforce one another:

“A shopping center will have 10 different uses, and the zoning code looks at each use individually and applies the parking requirement on the assumption that each use could need its minimum parking at the same time… When it comes to parking, we look at every piece of property as if it’s on an island.”

Which is utterly ridiculous in a strip mall, even if there are people lazy enough to park near JCPenney at one end, shop, and then drive the 1500 feet to the T. J. Maxx at the other end, and unfortunately there are.

Tomorrow being among the worst days of the year, I figure this is an idea whose time has come.

Join us this Friday for #blackfridayparking, a nationwide event to draw attention to the ridiculousness of minimum parking requirements.

Minimum parking requirements are often justified by the notion that there needs to be enough parking for the peak shopping day. Under that theory, America’s businesses are required to set aside large amounts of land and make enormous capital investments in asphalt and concrete for the sake of a few hours each year. If the theory were true, parking minimums would still be a bizarre misallocation of resources. Unfortunately, our ability to predict peak parking demand is woefully inadequate.

What #blackfridayparking exposes is the systematic way in which cities across the country do harm to our businesses, our neighborhoods and our economy by enforcing arbitrary parking requirements. This practice needs to end.

If the next question is “But what if I have to walk?” feel free to give ’em the old sideways glare. It’s not a violation of your rights if you can’t park within 50 feet of your destination.

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Where it all goes (’14)

The property-tax bill has arrived, and the bank will cut them a check on the 30th out of my depleted escrow account. Fortunately, while the amount isn’t exactly trivial, it’s smaller than it was last year, the result of stagnant property values and an unexpected decrease in the actual tax rate. As always, the county treasurer has sent along a manifest showing what this sum is being used to fund, and last year’s numbers appear in [brackets]:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $120.39 [$126.58]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $462.53 [$478.05]
  • Metro Tech Center: $120.39 [$122.50]
  • Oklahoma County general: $90.78 [$94.52]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.26 [$32.77]
  • County Health Department: $20.18 [$20.50]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $40.52 [$41.16]
  • Total: $887.04 [$915.88]

This year’s millage is 113.84, down from last year’s 115.70. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.)

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Meanwhile, a couple of miles away

Of late, Western Avenue has been known for medium to upper-crust eateries and cute little shops and brick walls.

The walls have been addressed here:

The final touches were applied late Sunday, in preparation for Taste of Western Thursday evening.

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The new water rates

They go into effect today, and there was a slip included with my water bill detailing the changes. There are only two tiers, but they’re simple: (1) 10,000 gallons or less; (2) more than 10,000 gallons. Up to now, it’s been a flat $2.65 per thousand, but no more:

  • Today: $2.73/1000 gallons up to 10,000; $3.14/1000 gallons thereafter.
  • October 2015: $2.81/1000 gallons up to 10,000; $3.32/1000 gallons thereafter.
  • October 2016: $2.89/1000 gallons up to 10,000; $3.50/1000 gallons thereafter.

There will also be small increases in sewer fees and the base customer charge. The bill I received yesterday, for 2000-gallon consumption, was $56.05; under the new rates next month, it would be $58.11. (This assumes there’s no increase in the price for trash-collection service, since none was mentioned in the announcement.)

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And they said it couldn’t be done

“Have you noticed,” the pundits point out, “that you’ll never see workaday Muslims denouncing the atrocities routinely committed in the name of Allah?”

Anti-ISIS demonstrators in Oklahoma City“Never” is a long time. And yes, yes, I know: taqiyya. But once in a while I feel like I ought to be giving someone the benefit of the doubt, so this smallish demonstration yesterday at one of the busier intersections in town — on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania at Northwest Distressway, putting it squarely on my route home — was ever so slightly heartening, especially in a town where mosques are occasionally defaced by persons unknown.

From Red Dirt Report:

[T]he majority of signs held by the pro-peace crowd at Northwest Expressway and Pennsylvania Avenue by Penn Square Mall, were to drive the point home that terrorist group ISIS is not a representation of Islam, as some held the sign saying “ISIS DOES NOT REPRESENT ME!”

The rally was largely led by CAIR-OK and their executive director Adam Soltani and Imam Imad Enchassi. Both have spoken out against Republican legislator John Bennett of Sallisaw, who recently made very bigoted and inflammatory remarks against Muslim Americans and has since refused to back down or apologize for his hurtful, hateful statements.

“Hurtful” and “hateful,” verbally anyway, are turning into this century’s Frick and Frack.

I admittedly didn’t get really good looks at most of the crowd, but I didn’t see anyone giving off an aura of “Kill!” Our old friend Jennifer James took photos for RDR, and they look similarly benign. And the planners were astute enough to bunch everyone together, unlike the usual approach for demonstrations at this intersection, which is to take over two, even three, corners; this creates a sense of unity.

Update, 23 September: A response from Charles Pergiel.

Update, 26 September: Then again, civilized people do not engage in beheadings.

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Shaken and bestirred

The little City News insert that comes with Oklahoma City’s water bill this month has a section this month that five years ago would have been inconceivable. Topic: “What you should do in a large earthquake,” and this is the suggested routine:

Drop, Cover and Hold On! It is the safest action to take during ground shaking. There are three steps:

1. DROP to the ground,

2. Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table,

3. HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

This will probably not work (1) with something other than a desk or table (2) in a tornado.

Quakiest earthquake ever recorded in this state was 5.6, and yes, I noticed it.

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Highway to Hellman’s

This is the Centennial Fountain in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown:

Centernial Fountain in Bricktown

It is not a public bathing facility:

Officers reported finding Jorge Arturo Perez, 23, soaking wet and breathing hard in the city fountain.

Perez told the police he was taking a bath in the fountain and was washing his hair with mayonnaise.

Said the Fark submitter: “Well, they hope it was mayonnaise.”

[insert Miracle Whip joke here]

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