Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The SandRidge Cut Cuts

Update July 27, 2010 to add: Appeal Denied 3-1 as well as my concluding procedural observations as well as on July 28 to add my substantive conclusions on the overall procedure.

The original title of this post was to be "The SandRidge Cut," as in "Director's Cut." However, it has become evident that the word form should not just be a noun but a verb, as well. I had the words done in the video below before I read Suzette Hatfield's report, published at OkcCentral.com. Were I to do the short video over again, my words wouldn't be as benign as those used in the opinionated video below. An earlier, and more hopeful and optimistic, version of the video was contained in an earlier post but at this late date I can find no cause for persisting in the hope that SandRidge has ANY willingness to compromise and be the type of corporate citizen that Kerr-McGee and its chair, Dean A. McGee, were in days gone by. SandRidge, and its corporate leaders, are not, in my opinion, in the same league. The text of Ms. Hatfield's remarks is fully set out below, as are my observations about them.

Originally, this post was intended only to present to you four documents which were filed with the City Clerk late last week, and I will do that shortly. But the publication of the following at OkcCentral.com injects a sobering and malevolent tone to the matter set for hearing before the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment tomorrow (Monday) at 1:30 pm in the City Council chambers.

Suzette is the Treasurer and board member of Preservation Oklahoma, Inc., the appealing party from the Downtown Design Review Committee's earlier decision. She is in the center of the photograph, at right. My personal observations of her are that she is an excellent and articulate presenter of information and that what she states as fact are trustworthy reports. Fellow Oklahoma City area blogger Nick Roberts has also published this letter/comment by Ms. Hatfield.

The text of Ms. Hatfield's lengthy but imminently worthwhile comment in OkcCentral.com is the following:

Comment by Suzette Hatfield on July 24, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

        So, what’s happening with Preservation Oklahoma?
        We were inclined to stay out of the conversation this weekend, to lie low and let the wind blow around us. However, there have been so many questions and speculations about what has happened lately that I decided to post to clear the air.
        Let me make it perfectly clear that I am posting as me, not as the official spokesperson for Preservation Oklahoma. When I say “we” in this post, I believe I am reflecting accurately things that our appeal group has seen together and consensus that we have reached.
        On Tuesday of this week, Ralph McCalmont called POK to extend an invitation from SandRidge Energy to tour the buildings slated for demolition. He said that this would also be a good time to have a conversation about collaboration and compromise. We were a bit surprised to have the offer coming from McCalmont, because he has been known as a preservationist and was POK’s first president.
        Katie Friddle accepted the invitation and asked for inclusion of Barrett Williamson, myself and Marva Ellard. No problem.
        McCalmont later phoned Katie and said that he had invited others to join the tour, including two former POK presidents and another POK board member.
        We reported for the tour at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, where we were greeted cordially by the SandRidge contingent, consisting of Marsha Wooden (VP, Administration), Rick Brown (Facilities Director), Allen Brown (architect, FSB), Aaron Young (architect, Rogers Marvel), Stan Lingo (structural engineer, construction manager) and Steve Ford (structural engineer).
        We were supplied with flashlights and toured 107 Robert S. Kerr (India Temple), 125 RSK (YMCA) 135 RSK (Connector) and 300 N. Robinson (Oklahoma Savings and Loan or KerMac). We also toured the Braniff Building which is not on the demo list.
        We were surprised to find the India Temple in quite good condition. It does not meet current code but that is to be expected of a building of that age and lack of maintenance. The building (and this is common to all of them except the Braniff) has been completely stripped. A great deal of original brick remains on the facade under the plaster panels. That brick is a beautiful warm brown color and is in good shape. Original window openings exist on the south, west and north sides of the building. There are no structural cracks around the windows. We are confident that this building is a strong candidate for mixed use. It was under contract for development at the time SandRidge acquired the buildings from Anadarko.
        The YMCA could possibly be restored for mixed use but it would be a dilly of a project because prior owner removed about 15 feet from the front of the building. Ouch. There is really not much to work with here.
        The Connector was built as such in 1959. As someone else who toured said, “This is a preposterous piece of crap.” Nothing at all to recommend it as a project.
        The OK Savings and Loan is a great building. Certainly, it needs updating to meet current code but it would be a prime candidate for mixed use development. Except for window modifications made in the 1960?s, the original facade remains in good condition. In our opinion, it is in about the same condition as the Braniff Building.
        There are only two real differences between the OK Savings and Loan and the Braniff:
                (1) There is a bit of original crown molding, marble and signage left in the Braniff, whereas the OK Savings has been stripped.
                (2) The Braniff is on the National Register.
        During the tour, when we asked Mr. Ford about the buildings’ condition, he would only speak to the fact that they do not meet the current seismic code and would be seriously damaged during a significant seismic event.
        After the tour, we were escorted to the executive conference room where we were offered refreshments.
        Marsha Wooden began by indicating that SandRidge was surprised at POK’s opposition to the project because they thought they had covered all the bases, having contacted the SHPO and having had some sort of analysis done by Dian Everett.
        Tom Ward came in at this point and said that SandRidge's motto is "grow or die." He said that accomplishment of their entire “master plan” was key to this strategy and that, if they do not get their entire plan approved, they would have to consider whether or not downtown Oklahoma City is the appropriate place to grow the company.
        So, for those of you who wondered whether or not Frank Hill had the authority to say those words at the Board of Adjustment — yes, he did.
        Aaron Young showed us a presentation about the planning process for the SandRidge Commons and showed some representations of the Braniff Building with a new glass wall with projections that would replace the back parti-wall.
        We had the opportunity to ask some questions about the project. The dense landscaping plan had bothered me as a safety hazard so I asked if the company had a plan to secure the site from those seeking temporary housing. Marsha Wooden said that they have a competent security detail and will have a lot of cameras to keep the area secure. Their officers have already worked with OCPD to run off meth smokers.
        POK sees several ways the company can grow on the existing site, without removing the India Temple and the OK Savings. Barrett asked if they would consider any compromise to their master plan.
        We were told, unequivocally, “No.” Marsha Wooden repeated, in the nicest and most attractive way, that the company would consider moving out of downtown if their master plan is not approved.
        We were surprised at this point when Ralph McCalmont addressed us and asked us to just, “Swallow the bitter pill” and cease our opposition to the project at that moment. He told us that Preservation Oklahoma would find itself “marginalized in the community” and that funding sources would dry up if we were to go forward with our opposition. He said that we would be seen as extremists and obstructionists and that it would be very difficult to be included in more important efforts, such as saving the First National Building, if we continued.
        Marsha Wooden said that she hoped that we would not go forward as opponents, as that would “stress City resources more than they already have been.”
        That pretty much concluded the event. We were grateful for the opportunity to tour.
        Later in the day, Katie received a follow-up call from Mr. McCalmont repeating some of his comments, including his dire forecast for the future of POK if we continued in our position.
        We found out that board members were receiving calls from Mr. McCalmont and others and that folks who had been friends and contributors to POK were receiving calls asking them to pressure us to stop.
        For awhile we were worried that there may actually be a groundswell of support in the business and civic community for SandRidge. For a millisecond, we doubted ourselves.
        Then, after a little due diligence, we found out that it’s just the same old folks behind the screen, tripping the little levers that release the smoke and mirrors. It turns out that this is what happened…
        SandRidge hired a PR guy named Brent Gooden to wipe up the mess left by their inept handing of this project.
        Gooden has been behind almost every statement or document that has been pro-SandRidge. The op-eds in the paper? The letters to the editor? Yes, Brent Gooden wrote those and had them signed by others. I’m not saying that Ford Price, Frank McPherson and others aren’t supporting the project. They obviously are. But, it appears they didn’t spend their own time and personal energy putting their viewpoints forward.
        Frank Hill worked the phones and sent e-mails to some civic leaders giving them SandRidge’s perspective about the project. He urged them to get on the phone and pressure friends of POK to call off the dogs — us.
        I’m sure you’ll recall the last Board of Adjustment hearing when Frank addressed the board and stated that, “City Staff approved EVERYTHING in our application.” Since POK’s position is to support the staff recommendation, which was to deny four demolitions, we were puzzled. We continue to be amazed that this is the information being conveyed to these prominent people in order to enlist them in the SandRidge “army.”
        There has also been talk of “7500 jobs lost to downtown” if the project doesn’t go through. Who are these people? SandRidge’s “Linkedin” profile shows 2205 employees. Some of these are field personnel, not downtown office dwellers. Yes, SR just purchased Arena Resources. D&B lists Arena as having 71 employees.
        One long-time civic leader, who has made innumerable contributions over the years, bought into the spiel and has been making lots of calls.
        Others received the goods from Frank and Brent but did not drink the Kool-Aid.
        So, the giant groundswell of opposition turns out to be 4 people, two of whom are paid by SandRidge.
        Have there been threats? If you consider social and community marginalization to be threats, then surely there have been. I guess that’s the modern equivalent of shunning. They want us to take our buggy and go home.
        Are we worried about losing our funding? We would hate to lose money but we are on our mission and message. Preservation Oklahoma’s duty is to advocate for the brick-and-mortar history of Oklahoma. We hope there are folks who see us hard at work and want to write a check to help us go forward.
        And, unfortunately, we do have a business relationship that will terminate if we go to district court. I’m not going to name names here, but we have had a very successful partnership statewide that has been beneficial to both parties. We received a message that, if we go to court, we will be deemed to be “controversial and divisive” and the partnership will be over. That’s too bad because the small towns and cities where we do the projects don’t give two cents about the SandRidge Commons project in OKC.
        Do I really believe that SandRidge will move out of downtown if they don’t get their way? They would have to hire two dozen Brent Goodens to clean up the public relations nightmare in the wake of such a move. Can you imagine how many people would accuse them of packing up their Barbies to go home and play alone?
        I can’t imagine that it would be a good financial decision for them, either. They bought the complex of buildings on Robert S. Kerr for about $22/sq. ft. They have plenty of room to grow there. If they kept the India Temple and OK Savings, if they put their new recreation building north of the India Temple on Broadway and if they built a new tower at 120 RSK to mirror the existing one, they would be able to more than double the size of the company. Where else could they find prime office space for $22/sf?
        What will happen Monday? We don’t know. We do not believe that due process at the Board of Adjustment has been corrupted at this time.
        The two remaining buildings have been lumped together for one vote. We believe this is improper since the Downtown Design Ordinance gives the DDRC (and now, in its stead, the BoA) the authority to demolish A building larger than 20,000 sq ft per permit.
        There will be four members of the Board present and voting. Jeff Austin is permanently recused because of his contract with SandRidge.
        The only way that the 107 RSK and 300 N. Robinson buildings will be saved is if there is a 3-1 or 4-0 vote to reverse the decision of the DDRC.
        The municipal counselor produced recommendations yesterday that we consider to be way off base. The document basically says that if the Board finds that the building(s) is/are economically feasible for SandRidge’s purposes, the Board can reverse the decision of the DDRC. It says if the Board finds that the building(s) is/are not economically feasible for SandRidge’s purpose, the Board can affirm the decision of the DDRC.
        Yes, it really says that. Of course NONE of that is in the ordinance in ANY way. I wonder if the attorney has recovered from the thumbscrews yet.
        SandRidge submitted a seismic/condition assessment of the remaining buildings only yesterday. In glancing through, we thought the report was pretty favorable.
        Will POK appeal if things don’t go our way on Monday? We have scheduled a special meeting later in the week if we need to make that decision.

OBSERVATIONS ON MS. HATFIELD'S REPORT. Suzette's report was clearly carefully put together and it reads clearly. But, I wanted to know a little more, if I could find it or think of it to say.

Having done that at least a little, the Tuesday call for a meeting with SandRidge was clearly an ambush, a setup, from the get-go.

First, a call is received from a respected member, the initial president, of their own organization, Preservation Oklahoma. The call came from Ralph McCalomont.

On Tuesday of this week, Ralph McCalmont called POK to extend an invitation from SandRidge Energy to tour the buildings slated for demolition. He said that this would also be a good time to have a conversation about collaboration and compromise. We were a bit surprised to have the offer coming from McCalmont, because he has been known as a preservationist and was POK’s first president.

I can only speculate but the call must have been the cause for at least cautious optimism — SandRidge was inviting POK for a meeting involving "collaboration and compromise," things that POK had hoped for all along. And the call came from a trusted friend.

I did a little checking and found a bit of information about this person, and, indeed, there is good reason for the trust since he has excellent credentials as a person interested in historic preservation. A September 8, 2004, Journal Record article reported that he had just been named head of a new state task force to study the economic impact of historic preservation and resigned his post as interim director of the state's Tourism and Recreation Department to accept that position. On a quick look, I was unable to found more about the new task force and what it did or did not accomplish. I as able to find that, according to Forbes, he is 74 years old, is a director of BankFirst Corporation, and is self employed in the investment and management of personal financial holdings. I also found this glowing True West Magazine article about his efforts at historic preservation in Guthrie, where he lived before moving to Oklahoma City. The article is titled, "Horse Trading for a Better Guthrie — How the power of the few brought back the 'Magic City.' " Part of that article reads,
Many nights, during the late 1970s, Ralph McCalmont had to remind himself he was trying to save Oklahoma's "magic city." Opposition was so loud and so hurtful, he wondered if it was worth it.
So, like Preservation Oklahoma's present circumstance, he had been there, done that, and was presumably a person that POK could trust.

Before the meeting, POK was graciously received and the delegation was granted the building tour that they had been seeking to have for months but which SandRidge had not allowed until this past week.

And, then came the meeting McCalmont had said was for the purpose of "collaboration and compromise." In the executive conference room, refreshments were offered and everyone was polite. Eventually, a timely visit was made by Tom Ward to the group, and he said unequivocally that,

SandRidge’s motto is “grow or die.” He said that accomplishment of their entire “master plan” was key to this strategy and that, if they do not get their entire plan approved, they would have to consider whether or not downtown Oklahoma City is the appropriate place to grow the company.

Any lingering doubt about SandRidge's willingness to consider compromised was quickly dashed when Marsha Wooden replied to Barrett Williamson's query — would SandRidge consider ANY compromise? "No." the company would consider moving out of downtown if their master plan is not approved.

And then, rubbing salt into the wounds, POK's presumed friend, Ralph McCalmot addressed the invited guests who were told by him to "swallow the bitter pill" and cease opposition to SandRidge's plan, then and there, right at that very moment. Otherwise, POK would find itself "marginalized in the community," funding sources would dry up, the group would be seen as extremists and obstructionists.

After the meeting, McCalmot called Katie Friddle and repeated what he'd already said. Board members received calls from McCalmont and others and people who had been friends and contributors to POK were receiving calls asking them to "pressure us to stop."

More, without naming the corporation, Hatfield said that POK had been informed that it the pending dispute is carried to district court (the next step by whoever the loser is at today's hearing before the BOA), an existing business relationship with a company that she did not name will be terminated and that that partnership "will be over."

Ralph McCalmont — some friend. Ralph McCalmont — some compromise meeting. Ralph McCalmont — will have great lengths to go to before being able to be trusted by Preservation Oklahoma ever again.

So, what began as a day of possible hope ended with quite a different reality. Setup. Ambush. Quit or die.

I assume that POK will show up at today's 1:30 pm meeting before the Board of Adjustment in City Council chambers.

DOCUMENTS FILED WITH THE CLERK LAST WEEK. Late last week, the following documents were filed with the City Clerk which relate to tomorrow's hearing and decision by the Board of Adjustment:
  1. SandRidge's Structural Study. This July 22 report by an expert employed by SandRidge, Zahl-Ford, Inc., assesses the India Temple in a study named, "Limited Structural Assessment and Seismic Evaluation." The same company apparently performed a study of the Oklahoma Savings & Loan Building but I do not have a copy of that. What would really have been interesting to see was a similar study of the Braniff Building which SandRidge does not intend to demolish.

  2. Preservation Oklahoma's Reply. This is Preservation Oklahoma's reply to the above in a brief July 23 letter by Katie Friddle, its Executive Director.

  3. Municipal Counselor's Office Opinion. This apparently unsolicited opinion advises the Board of Adjustment, undated and unsigned, of its thoughts about the manner in which the BOA should handle its decision tomorrow.

  4. Frank Hill Letter. This July 22 e-mail letter by Mr. Hill to J.J. Chambless, Clerk of the BOA, transmits item (1) for filing and advises of the possibility that an additional Power Point presentation may be made tomorrow.
I may have comments about these documents later this morning if I have time. But, they are at the links stated if you want to read and draw whatever conclusions from them that you will.

UPDATE: APPEAL DENIED. By a 3-1 vote in a meeting which lasted only about two hours, Preservation Oklahoma's appeal was denied at yesterday's hearing, David Wanzer being the only member to vote against the motion made by Jim Allen to affirm the action taken by the Downtown Design Review Committee. Although I was unable to be present at the start of the 1:30 pm meeting, I did arrive by around 2:15 or so and the meeting was over by around 3:30. Actually, in my opinion, it was over before it started. An article on the meeting by Steve Lackmeyer appears here and blogger Nick Robert's take on the meeting can be read here.

In a remarkably brief discussion by members of the commission (compared to the earlier sessions), only 2 members contributed to the discussion, Michael Dunn and Jim Allen. Neither Rod Baker nor David Wanzer had an opportunity to speak before a motion was made and seconded to deny the appeal. Board discussion began with commissioner Dunn opining that it was not economically viable that the India Temple and Oklahoma Savings and Loan be restored and converted to mixed commercial and residential use and that the residential problem would be exacerbated by an inadequate supply of nearby parking. Jim Allen, who was on record as favoring saving the India Temple, did a quick about face, as you will hear below. I didn't catch all of the discussion in the video clip below, but of the 2 minutes and 3 seconds which I did capture, the remainder could not have lasted more than an additional minute. Jim Allen moved that the decision of the Downtown Design Review Committee be affirmed (in a rather awkwardly presented motion), I think (but am not certain) that commissioner Dunn seconded the motion, and it was promptly put to vote. Only commissioner Wanzer voted against the motion, and it was done that quickly, Rod Baker voting with the majority. Very evidently, the final session was merely a formality and the commissioners had their minds made up before the session began.

During SandRidge's presentation, its CEO, Tom Ward, made a statement not made previously about the SandRidge Commons proposal. He said, "If we need to grow, we'll use the block to grow," but did not identify the part of the new plaza that would be expendable for that purpose.
Of the talks made on behalf SandRidge, and I didn't hear them all, by far the most effective in my estimation was the brief presentation made by Larry Nichols, Devon's principal leader. Ralph McCalmont, the fellow who baited invited POK people to last week's "compromise" discussion with SandRidge, also spoke (more about himself, in my estimation, than the project itself). Marsha Wooden was her usual charming self; Frank Hill, though present, was not a SandRidge speaker on this day. Speakers on behalf of Preservation Oklahoma were the same as before -- Katie Friddle, Suzette Hatfield, Barrett Williamson, and Jonathan Poston. One gentleman also made a brief presentation on his own initiative, his photo being the last of those shown below. I'll add a bit more about speaker names later today.

Except for the clip from a KFOR-TV video showing Tom Ward, the photos and video clips shown below were taken using my cell phone, so the quality is not so hot but is better than nothing.

The following photos are of various people seated in the audience or speaking to the members of the board. Click on a photo for a larger view.

Video Clips of Parts of the Discussion

Barrett Williamson, 8 minutes 56 seconds
Jonathan Poston, 4 minutes 28 seconds
Discussion, Motion, and Vote By the Board
2 minutes 3 seconds
So, it is over, and SandRidge gets the opportunity to build its SandRidge Commons campus. Although an appeal could be filed by Preservation Oklahoma in District Court, my guess is that it is unlikely -- it is an expensive process and Preservation Oklahoma is more a group of volunteers than it is with folks to are flush with funds. That's just a guess.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS: PROCEDURAL. Although I'm 67 years of age, until sitting in on the Board of Adjustment proceedings on this matter, I've never closely followed any municipal proceeding before, so this was a new experience for me. Now that it is done, I'm reflecting on the process that I've witnessed — things that are important, things that are not, things that go on behind the scenes, the importance of procedure, the importance of power.

One thing that I've learned from this experience is that my background in the legal system — courtroom procedure, rules of evidence, rules pertaining to appeals, etc. — did not serve me well in providing expectations as to what would occur in a municipal procedural context. The contexts are completely dissimilar and the rules are not even remotely the same. More precisely, my conclusion is that there are no rules in the municipal appellate context. Anything goes. Because of my naiveté, I did not know what the municipal context was all about.

Appellate Context. In courts of law, except under very unusual circumstances, an appeal from a decision of a lower court is limited to the evidence presented in the lower court. Arguments during an appeal are generally based upon whether the lower court erred in its determination of the applicable law and/or whether the evidence presented in the lower court was sustained by the applicable measure of proof required — in most cases, by a "preponderance of the evidence," in others by "clear and convincing evidence," and in criminal proceedings, "beyond a reasonable doubt." New evidence is ordinarily not possible to be presented. I naively figured that an appeal from the Downtown Design Review Committee's decision would be fairly parallel to an appeal in a court of law.
In this proceeding, it quickly became evident that I was badly mistaken — this was much more like a trial de novo — effectively a separate and distinct trial — with old and new evidence submitted as the parties would care to present.
Trial Context — Surprise Evidence. In courts of law, in non-criminal cases at least, a pretrial conference will ordinarily occur. Before that conference occurs, each party is afforded the opportunity to conduct "discovery" (vastly oversimplified, the process of obtaining information from the other side or from witnesses other than the parties) and "discovery" will need to be completed prior to a pretrial conference hearing. At that pretrial hearing, parties are required to identify witnesses they may call to testify and documents they may offer for introduction as evidence during the trial. If witnesses or documents are not identified at this hearing, they are ordinarily precluded from being utilized during trial. A party cannot simply pop-up a new witness or a new document on the eve of trial and have a remote chance of it be received as evidence during trial unless no objection is presented by the other side. In this municipal proceeding, it was not only allowed but it was apparently the norm as may well be true for other municipal proceedings, I don't know. In this proceeding, an expert's written report as to structural and seismic integrity was filed four (4) days prior to yesterday's hearing and was part of the evidence considered by the Board of Adjustment.
During Barrett Williamson's remarks, above, he inquired, "Is the board considering this new information," and the reply from Chairman Wanzer was, "It's on the record," which was to say, "Yes." In other words, if a document is filed with the Clerk, or even presented during the hearing itself, that would be sufficient for it to be considered.
Hearsay. Hearsay evidence (oversimplifying greatly, evidence/testimony of what someone not present in court to testify, e.g., "Bob Blackburn told me that ... " when Mr. Blackburn is not a witness in the case) is generally disallowed if an objection is presented. Rampant hearsay was presented by both sides during these proceedings with nary an objection. One can only wonder what would have happened were such an objection to have been presented, but I have no doubt that it would have been overruled. That non-rule is part of the municipal procedure that I witnessed.

Out-of-Court Information. In courts of law, the "evidence" is that submitted by the parties during the course of trial. Non-procedural communications between judges, lawyers, witnesses, and others related to the pending matter which are not made during trial are strictly disallowed and may be the basis for bar association or judicial disciplinary proceedings if they do occur. During Barrett Williamson's remarks, above, one commission member interrupted him to remark and state as a fact that Park Harvey Apartments' occupancy rate had dropped from 92% to 49% before and after Devon acquired the municipal parking garage south of those apartments. Perhaps Mr. Tannenbaum testified to that in an earlier hearing although I have no such recollection and do not think that he did. If Tannenbaum did not so testify, what was the source of those statistics presented by the commissioner, and how and by whom were they communicated to the commission member who made the remark? Ex-parte communications to members of the panel may well be OK in the municipal context, and may well have occurred, even though they may be grounds for serious discipline in the courts-of-law context. If this happened, in my estimation, it is an incredibly grievous error for it to be permitted or tolerated and it was wrong, ethically if not legally, by the person giving and by the person receiving the communication.

Relevance of Evidence. In courts of law, evidence must be "relevant," i.e., under the law involved, it must be relevant to a fact decision to be made in the case. So, if a particular statute is involved which will decide the issue, the evidence needs to relate to the statutory language which is involved. In a municipal proceeding context, that is apparently not the case. At least, I'm not aware of anything involved with the municipal ordinances involved in this proceeding which make letters or e-mails (from either side) which extol the position of one side or another as being relevant as to whether ordinance requirements were being followed or not. Such things were abundant in this case, on both sides.

I could go on — such as the right to cross-examine witnesses (wouldn't it have been fun, for example, to inquire of Ralph McCalmont under oath how it was that he became involved in this proceeding, who (if anyone) contacted him to do so, his conversations with those who did, who he contacted and what he said, and so on — talk about a lawyer's field day!) — but the above is enough to make the point — courts of law are one thing and municipal proceedings are apparently quite another.

The teaching point, I suppose, is that one would be badly misguided into thinking, and planning as to how to proceed, in supposing that municipal hearings are reasonably akin to what occurs in a court of law. Quite possibly, in its naiveté, Preservation Oklahoma misjudged the "rules of the game" just as badly as I did myself.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS: SUBSTANTIVE. Unless common sense and logical thought processes be completely abandoned, a fair conclusion is that something occurred between the last BOA hearing and the one which occurred this past Monday. Earlier, there were serious concerns raised by some of the commissioners about various aspects of the DDRC decision. But, on Monday, following the presentations, in a 3-minute time span, the board discussed the matter for about 2 minutes, only 2 members making any comments during that time, and then in an additional minute a motion was made, seconded, and adopted by a 3-1 vote –– all of that occurring in just 3 minutes of time.
How did it happen that the previous concerns of the board suddenly became condensed to a 2 minute discussion and 1 minute for a motion to be made, seconded and voted upon?
Opinions may vary, but here are mine. In retrospect, there are a few things that can be looked at, and one of them is the report made by Suzette Hatfield on July 24, the Saturday before Monday's BOA meeting. You'd need to read her full comments to get the full picture, but one of the most important pieces of information centers around Ralph McCalmont, 1st president of Preservation Oklahoma and a person with established historic preservation credentials — in other words, someone that Preservation Oklahoma had good reason to trust.

On SandRidge's behalf, he invited POK representatives to come to SandRidge for a meeting which would include a tour of the buildings involved — which POK had long sought and been denied — and at which meeting the long hoped-for compromise would be discussed.

Now, I'm not a member of POK and am not privy to more information than anyone else about them. BUT, were I Katie Friddle or Suzette Hatfield, I would have taken hope in Ralph McCalmont's invitation — the invitation came from a friend who conveyed the message, at long last, that SandRidge was willing to discuss compromise with Preservation Oklahoma.

According to Ms. Hatfield, the "compromise" discussion proved to be anything BUT that. After the tour and in a meeting held in SandRidge's executive conference room with courteous refreshments provided, POK was told in no uncertain terms that SandRidge was completely unwilling to vary one iota from its plan. More, Ralph McCalmont (not SandRidge, but instead its envoy, McCalmont) insisted that POK drop its appeal, right at that moment, else it would suffer the consequences of being marginalized, seen as extremists, and suffer loss of financial support.

Some offer of compromise — quit or die.

Ms. Hatfield also reported that after the meeting that POK board members were receiving calls from Mr. McCalmont and others who had been friends and contributors to POK asking them to pressure POK to stop. POK also learned that at least one business relationship it has had over a lengthy period of time would terminate if POK pursued the matter to district court.
Thinking back on that pre-BOA hearing knowledge and after the fact, was the loss before the BOA a foregone conclusion?
What was the corporate sponsorship that would be lost if an appeal was filed? Now, I won't express an opinion about that ...
... but I will note that McCalmont is a director of BankFirst Corporation ...
One question that occurs to me to wonder about is this: Where was Mr. McCalmont during all of the preceding months that this matter had been under discussion and consideration before the DDRC and then by the BOA? If his concerns in fact existed earlier than last week, why was he reticent about saying so much earlier than then? If his new wisdom was only found last week, what and who was the source of his epiphany?

It is also a concern of mine during Monday's meeting while one POK speaker was addressing the board that commissioner Michael Dunn interrupted the speaker and made a factual statement that Park Harvey Apartments had suffered an occupancy decline from 92% to 49% after Devon acquired the city parking garage for use with its new office tower. Now, I don't know whether those alleged facts are true or false. I do know that I have followed these proceedings closely and IF there has been any testimony or presentation by anyone to such facts I have certainly missed it and I don't think that I have.

IF THAT BE TRUE, where did the information that Michael Dunn reported come from? From evidence presented during the proceedings? If it wasn't from that evidence, it came from somewhere else and from someone outside the record of the proceedings.

Then, consider the remarks by board member Jim Allen during the 2-3 minute discussion by the board on Monday. He said, with regard to the India Temple building,
After further looking at that, I think I made a mistake. After looking at what we've got here, I would say that we need to move forward.
Holy-About-Face, Batman! Allen offered no reasons for why he'd reversed his position; he merely said, "We need to move forward."

Investigate as you will and reach your own conclusions. If my opinions are incorrect, on fair evidence being submitted I'll be glad to reconsider — I am just an outsider trying to look "in" to a very non-transparent process about which I'm an outsider, but, as it stands, the "in" doesn't strike me as being very pretty, not very pretty at all.

The odd thing in all of this, as I've said from my very beginning post in the SandRidge posts at OKC Talk.com, is that I can easily see that the SandRidge Commons can be a very good thing for the city ... even though I hedged my initial post there upon the potential viability of the India Temple ... but ... the thing is, the underhanded manner, in my opinion, in which this has been carried forward by SandRidge is, to me, wholly abhorrent and brings shame upon our city, to its municipal processes, and, since I'm a part of this city, to me. Those are my opinions about that but form your own as you will.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

RetroMetro OKC

Updated 7/22 to add more background about the group and on 7/15 to add RetroMetro debut party pics

Oklahoma City has a new history kid in town ... RetroMetro OKC. Click the above video for a quick preview, but see below for much greater detail. For RetroMetro OKC's Facebook page, click here.

By the way, the musical background in the above is the 1928 tune Crazy Rhythm performed by Roger Wolfe Kahn & his orchestra.

Here is another video, this one produced by Justin Tyler Moore, Retro Metro's outstanding web designer ...

And here is yet another video, this one featuring the Oklahoma Railway Museum's Chuck Shinn and RetroMetro's web designer and one of RetroMetro's founding members, Justin Tyler Moore (of Abandoned Oklahoma), shown on Fox News 25 on July 20, 2010. This video shows how Retro Metro OKC is working with existing Okc historical organizations to further our mutual purposes.

HOW DID THIS COME TO BE? Probably for many years, many individuals in Oklahoma City have yearned for Oklahoma City to have "a place" where our city's history would be presented and be freely available to anyone that wants it -- since such a place has heretofore never existed. The founding members of Retro Metro OKC doubtless had different paths until they eventually converged. As for me, I recall having lunch at the downtown Interurban restaurant with Blair Humphreys, Buddy Johnson, and A.J. Kirkpatrick in the summer of 2007 (I think, memory fails me, might have been 2008) at which we discussed some possibilities, but time passed without further activity. In late spring 2009, Steve Lackmeyer and others sort of pulled various threads of people together and we began to meet to consider the possibilities. New people were identified and added into the core of those people who are identified as Retro Metro "founders" and, after a year of behind-the-scenes work, Retro Metro OKC was ready to announce its first venture -- the Retro Metro OKC website ... notice that I said "first venture" ... I'm still hoping for a physical museum down the road. The 1st press release is shown below.
Press Release, July 14, 2010

      A year-long effort to make Oklahoma City history more accessible goes public Thursday with the unveiling of Retro Metro OKC and the group’s website, www.retrometrookc.org.
      Retro Metro OKC is pending 501c3 organization whose goal is to create an online exhibit of thousands of photos and documents relating to our city’s history, culture and heritage. The website debuts with more than 1,200 such materials, and thanks to a cooperative effort with the Oklahoma Historical Society and other area historical organizations, we hope to be adding many more historical Oklahoma City images in the near future.
      Retro Metro OKC operates differently from other organizations in that we have no museum, we have no physical collections, and in most instances the materials we display remain in private ownership. In a typical situation our volunteer crews go to a home or business to scan an owner’s collection and the owner participates in the project by sharing information about the photos and documents as they are being scanned. The materials never have to leave an owner’s possession – the owner is simply asked to sign a release that allows for the materials to be displayed online.
      The owner of such materials is given a disc of the digitized images and documents – and copies also will be given to the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Metropolitan Library System to ensure they will be preserved for future generations.
      Retro Metro OKC’s founding members include historians, authors, planners, a preservation architect, a retired Greater Oklahoma City Chamber executive, a city councilman, a city clerk, business owners, graphic designers and filmmakers. Our common history is Oklahoma City history. Our youngest member is 17; our oldest members are in their 70s.
      Over the past year our members have tried to carefully assess the needs and wants of our community. In addition to creating on online display of historic materials, we’re also using our experience, talent and resources to help other history organizations. For us, we check egos at the door. It’s about the history.
      Our city’s history is waiting to be revealed and enjoyed. It resides in the photos left to us by our grandparents; it can be found in the postcards, souvenirs and letters gathering dust in the attic, in the stories of our relatives and in the archeology of old places.
      Our city’s history can only be truly appreciated and kept intact if it’s found, revealed, shared, enjoyed and passed on to future generations.
      Please feel free to visit www.retrometrookc.org and email any comments or questions to info@retrometrookc.org. The site is interactive and allows for visitors to leave comments about photos and documents as they view specific collections. Updates about our activities can be followed via our Twitter account @retrometrookc.
                  - Steve Lackmeyer, president, Retro Metro OKC
Here are a few potential Frequently Asked Questions put together by our president Lackmeyer:
Q: The membership includes popular bloggers like Doug Loudenback. Does this mean he will no longer be operating www.dougloudenback.blogspot.com?
A: Gosh no! Doug’s website has an international audience and he will be continuing to provide his own take on history, the city’s heritage and current events. Doug’s influence can be found in kindergartens where his “Oklahoma Rising” video is played in classrooms, or on the Oklahoma River Cruisers where guides share history of the city they learned from Doug’s blog. Likewise, Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money will continue to operate www.okchistory.com, and Buddy Johnson will continue to dig into history with his Oklahoma Images collection at the downtown library. Justin Tyler Moore and Cody Cooper can hardly go a day without exploring an abandoned historic property and sharing their discoveries at www.abandonedok.com.
Q: Does one have to pay to view images at www.retrometrookc?
A: No. They are meant for viewing by the public. We also encourage people to use the photos on their own blogs and websites as long as proper credit is given to the collection’s owner.
Q: Will the images be for sale?
A: We have no such plans at this time. Anyone wishing to obtain a higher resolution version of an image should email info@retrometrookc.org to determine availability of such images (those wanting images belonging to the Oklahoma Historical Society will be directed to the museum, which sells photos for very reasonable prices).
Q: How can I get involved?
A: Look in your attic. Look in your closets. Look in your basement. What photos and materials do you have in your very own home that might make a good addition to our collections? Retro Metro OKC will also be providing updates on activities and needs as warranted.
Q: How did you get all of this work done? It must have cost a fortune.
A: Nope. We are a volunteer organization that raised no money for ourselves in getting to this point (we did help raise $5,000 to help the Oklahoma City/County Historical Society display the I.M. Pei model in May). So far our costs have been kept under $1,000 with all work paid for or performed by Retro Metro OKC members.
Q: What’s next?
A: Just wait. The fun has just begun.
Q: Can I donate?
A: Soon. We are a pending 501c3 organization. Contact us for more information.
Here's a small taste of the kind of rare photos you can find there ... click on the images for larger views ...

From the Robert Allison Collection

From the W.T. Hales Collection

RETRO METRO OKC DEBUT PARTY. From 6pm - 8:30pm on July 15, Retro Metro held its coming out party. Where better a place to host the event than the restored Sieber Hotel at 1305 North Hudson and what better a hostess than Marva Ellard who did the restoration.

And, it was a fine party, indeed. I'm wholly crappy with remembering names and so while I either knew or met most of the people shown in the photos below, I apologize, very sincerely, in advance for those whose names did not stick in my memory.

Enjoy the pics ... click on any for a larger view.

Katie Friddle, James & Dale Cobb
Norman Thompson
Dean Schirf, Pete White, Tiana Douglas
Dean Schirf, Pete White, Tiana Douglas
Jack Money
David Wanzer, Bradley Wynn
A.J. Kirkpatrick

Marc Weinmeister, Jack Money
Katie Friddle, Elaine Weinmeister
Norman Thompon, Elaine Allison
Blair Humphreys, Steve Mason

Bob Allison, Norman Thompson
Elaine Allison

Meg Salyer, Mickey Clagg
Brenda Johnston, Randy Johnston
Marc Weinmeister

Norman Thompson, Steve Mason
Marva Ellard

Elaine Allison, Meg Salyer
Catherine Montgomery, Sara Werneke
Steve Mason

Frances Kersey, Rachael Mosman, Bill Welge
Steve Mason, Nancy Coggins, Jim Cobb
Randy Johnston, Brenda Johnston
Steve Lackmeyer
Katie Friddle, Dean Schirf
Blair Humphreys

Catherine Montgomery, Sara Werneke
Justin Tyler Moore
Justin Tyler Moore
Meg Salyer, Bob Blackburn
Buddy Johnson, Blair Humphreys
Bunee Tomlinson, Marc Weinmeister
Justin Tyler Moore

Elaine Weinmeister, Cody Cooper
Bunee Tomlinson

Bob Blackburn, Steve Lackmeyer
Doug Loudenback

And, so, Retro Metro OKC has begun. It is still a puppy, but it is being fed well by lots of local folk who are interested in Oklahoma City history, and I predict that it will have a long and prosperous life.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

North on Lincoln: Chicken-In-The-Rough

This post was originally written July 20, 2006, and was one of my first blog articles at Doug Dawgz Blog. It has been updated since then a few times, the most recent before this being in April and the most recent being today, July 21, 2010. Thanks to all of you who have commented on this post ... which is probably the most visited article in my blog ... it has certainly generated the greatest number of comments (70 as this is written). This update substantially updates the artifacts section at the end of the article. A menu is also added there.

First, a show of hands: How many of you remember that, driving south on Lincoln Boulevard toward the Oklahoma Capitol, it ran smack into NE 23rd just north of the capitol? I don’t know when the change occurred, but in days gone by Lincoln Boulevard and NE 23rd intersected with a plain ol’ stop light (at least, that’s my recollection).

As a high-school kid traveling from to Okc Lawton High for debate trips (I was born here but I mainly grew up in Lawton), the two places that stand out in my mind just north of the capitol are Beverly’s Chicken-In-The-Rough and the Park-O-Tell – both being a part of the US Highway 66 nostalgia. They are part of mine, too!

First, Beverly’s!

According to http://chickenintherough.com/History.html,

History of the “meal that created food service and fried chicken franchising”

In 1936 Beverly and Rubye Osborne were driving west from Oklahoma to California. They had no reason to be joyful. They were middle aged and the Depression had wiped out their savings. [Ed. Note: another version of this story places Beverly's restaurant business as starting in 1921 and the trip was mentioned as a vacation, not an exodus, as this article implies. See The Vanished Splendor II, Edwards and Ottaway (Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1983)].

On this particular afternoon it seemed that everyone in the state was attempting to scape the famine of the Oklahoma dust bowl. With not much more than their meager belongings and a basket of fried chicken, Beverly Osborne coaxed his Ford pickup across the barren prairie.

Suddenly, a bump in the rutted road scattered the chicken and basket. Picking it up, Rubye complained “this is really Chicken in the Rough.”

With that chance remark, a fortune was born. Beverly turned his truck around and headed back home. A man who, on instinct, had made a modest fortune and lost it - Beverly reasoned that “fingers were made before forks” and that chicken could be a cheap source of food at a time when incomes were sparse. Beverly learned from his previous business experience and failures that every business must provide customer satisfaction by identifying customers' needs and how to satisfy those needs better than anyone else. Soon, with the money he had received from the sale of his wife's wedding ring, he had an operation serving fried chicken with shoestring potatoes, hot biscuits and honey. That was the delectable meal that started “Fast Food - Fried Chicken Franchising” - long before McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

By 1950, when Time magazine ran a feature article on the Chicken in the Rough operation, Beverly and Rubye Osborne were grossing almost two million dollars per year, had sold 335 million orders of Chicken in the Rough and had created 250 franchised outlets including some as far as Johannesburg, South Africa.

Now, how much of the above is fanciful, I don’t know. But, I do know that I just loved the chances to venture into this spacious restaurant just north of the capitol:

Click on any image in this article for a larger view

(credit: www.route66roadfood.com)

(credit: Vanished Splendor II, Edwards and Ottaway, above)

Apparently, the restaurant on Lincoln was called a “drive-in” early on, though this old postcard says that it seated 1,000! Some drive-in!

(credit: www.route66roadfood.com)

A prize was even offered for sending postcards to Beverly’s main office in Okc which were postmarked from enough cities (though the terms of the offer varied – according to postcards on the web – from $100 to $250 – and either “all” or “25” cities).

Here are a few more pics - the 1st shows the "drive-in" as well as 2 other Beverly's in Oklahoma City, Beverly's Grill (downtown, 209 W. Grand ... now Sheridan, the original Beverly's) and Beverly's Gridiron, 1207 N. Walker, which has now become the 1492 Restaurant:

(credit: Vanished Splendor II, Edwards and Ottaway, above)

The "Gridiron" on North Walker, Today the 1492

From my Photo Collection
A Real Pic of the Downtown Beverly's Grill in 1957

Cropped View Just Showing the Grill

Showing Context Next to the Warner Theater

A postcard from Charles G. Hill's Dustbury shows that the corporate office was once located downtown at 209 W. Grand.

In one of the comments at the end of this article, Dustbury's Charles G. Hill recalled that another Beverly's may have been located on North May, near the old May Theater which is now an antique shop, and that the current occupant of the old building may be Jimmie's Egg ... Doug Dawg doesn't know, but here's a pic I took on 2/21/2008 of that location ...

Another Oklahoma City Beverly's was located one block west of Classen Boulevard on NW 23rd. It became another restaurant several years back but was later demolished when the Walgreens Pharmacy was built at that location.

Beverlys were spread throughout the nation ... and one or a few in Europe, even. The early image below shows some of the locations.

(credit: www.route66roadfood.com)

The remaining remnant of Chicken-In-The-Rough was Beverly’s Pancake Corner at the northwest corner of Northwest Expressway & Pennsylvania, but the building was razed a few months ago and is no longer standing. However, the owner moved the restaurant to a "modern" building located immediately north of Integris Baptist Hospital at the northwest corner of Northwest Expressway and Independence. The old sign is gone, but you can still go there and eat some Chicken-in-the-Rough or a Big Bev Burger, as well as to see lots of old pics.

(credit: www.route66roadfood.com)

Remnant of the Old Location 2/21/2008

New Location

According to http://chickenintherough.com/History.html, members of the Carroll family purchased the Chicken in the Rough rights from Beverly Osborne when he was 84. Maybe so. But, not today, according to http://www.wileypost.com/links/cir.html, Renaee Khosravani is the present enthusiastic owner (now at the "new" location at NW Expressway & Independence, shown above).

Updated Note: On March 20, 2008, I was nearby and decided to have a Big Bev Burger in the new digs ... while there, I asked Ms. Khosravani whether the "old" sign would be used for the new restaurant ... she said, "The round part will be," but I didn't then remember what the "round part" was ... and, I asked, "What about the chicken?"

Well, of course, the "round part" IS the chicken!

So, expect to see the round-part-chicken out front before too long.

The Big Bev & Fries were just as good as always. Here are a few inside pics ...

As you can see, though, it's a bit more "modern" than one might expect a Beverly's to be, but ... there was a decent crowd there around 2:30 p.m., so it must be O.K.

Beverly Osborne was one of Wiley Post’s sponsors in his 1st round-the-world trip – a Beverly’s logo is even on the Winnie Mae!

(credit: www.wileypost.com)
(the pic from the other-website no longer exists -- I'll leave a light on in case I find a duplicate somewhere else)

Now, how this, and the post about Wiley Post (above) come together is that Ms. Khosravani may come to be operating a NEW Chicken-In-The-Rough in the diner at the new Wiley Post Heritage of Flight Center!

(credit: www.wileypost.com)
(the pic from the other-website no longer exists -- I'll leave a light on in case I find a duplicate somewhere else)

ARTIFACTS. According to a May 24, 2006, Journal Record article, the Oklahoma Historical Society includes a Beverly's collection of memorabilia which are also easily found on the internet. When this section was added a few months ago, I'd only gotten one of them -- the finger cup shown below -- but since then I've fared better.

      FINGER CUPS. Some call 'em "finger bowls" but they look like "cups" to me. Yep, that's the only physical artifact that I had when this article was modified in April 2010 and it's probably not even an original piece but is more likely a replica ... you probably wouldn't find any DNA on it save for what my own grubby fingerprints might have left behind. That's OK, you take 'em as you find 'em and then you say thank you very much. I picked this item up at an antique shop on North Western about four-six months ago (from April 2010). The cup below is 3 ½" high, 4" diameter at the top and 2 ¾" diameter at the bottom. Click on each of the small pics below to open a much larger view.

But what were they for, some youngsters reasonably inquire? [At this point in the conversation, we older guys and gals have an unusual opportunity to be creative, but I'll not go further with that right now.] Remember ... there was no silverware, you picked up the chicken with your fingers and chowed down ... and then you cleaned up your fingers at the end of the meal in a water-filled finger bowl (today we'd probably want to add a lemon slice) instead of wiping your hands on your trousers or your shirt. See ... we Okies know what we need to do ... we spread that knowledge across the nation ... Miss Manners knows that we use the finger bowl and a napkin, and there you have it.

      MENU. From the great new Oklahoma City history venue, Retro Metro OKC, the following Beverly's 1937 menu is provided, courtesy the Oklahoma Historical Society (click on the menu for a readable view):

      MIKE ANDERSON COLLECTION. A new good friend that I formed during the MAPS 3 wars last year, Mike Anderson, former president of the local firefighters union ... and even though we were, quite respectfully, on different sides of some issues during that time ... has graciously shared with me his and his mother's collection of Beverly's artifacts. He also said that he would write a sub-article right here which describes his family's connection with Beverly's ... but I don't have that article yet so I'm going ahead with the posting of photos taken in May 2010 of that collection.

Mike relates that one of his grandparents, I can't recall which, worked at the Beverly's warehouse or some such name which was located a block or so south of the Biltmore Hotel, probably on Harvey. Mike will hopefully fill in the details about that. As I understand it from him, Beverly's would store and ship its hardware (e.g., plates, glasses, etc.) to the various Beverly's restaurants in the country from that location and, probably, the items shown below were originally located in that warehouse which accounts for their pristine condition.

Enjoy the photos. Click on any image for a 1024px wide view.

Mike Anderson's Collection
From this collection, Mike made a wonderfully
generous gift to me of the items shown below:

Yeah! Life is good! Eat more chicken!

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