“ICONIC” is a word overused by a profession (our own) that seems to find an iconic this or that on every block. Yet it's hard to otherwise describe Stage Center in downtown Oklahoma City, said to be an iconic piece of architecture that must be saved primarily because it's an iconic piece of architecture.
That it's not much else except an unused, deteriorating structure on a valuable piece of land is self-evident. No one has come forward to rescue this John Johansen-designed building that opened in 1970 and is featured in architecture textbooks.
The New York Times reported in April on a slew of Modernist buildings reaching middle age and showing signs of decay. Slapping the “iconic” label on such structures won't save them. That takes cash and determination, the kind that rescued the Skirvin Plaza Hotel but not the International-style Downtown YMCA building.
The Union Tank Car Dome, a spitting image of the Gold Dome at NW 23 in Classen, was completed in Baton Rouge, La., in 1958, in the heyday of geodesic dome guru Buckminster Fuller. Its unique design and links to a famous designer didn't save the dome. It was demolished in 2007 after years of disuse. Stage Center has reached that phase and could be next on the list of “iconic” structures to fall.
Here's the ironic mixed with the iconic: Stage Center was part of a downtown redesign plan that resulted in the demolition of historic properties that would surely be called “iconic” today.
A needed budget reform
We wrote this week that House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, was “vague” in a Tulsa World interview regarding a $2 million appropriation for a youth livestock show. That show's chairman is a major political donor, and the appropriation is drawing heat. Sears is typically frank and accessible to reporters. He deserves praise for granting interviews when ducking them would be easier. But we were disappointed Sears didn't simply identify by name those pushing for the $2 million. As we noted, the state's $6.8 billion budget is drafted in secret by just a handful of people — the governor, legislative leaders and the chambers' appropriation chairmen. If the budget were crafted in the light of day, relying on secondhand information and putting people like Sears in a tough spot wouldn't be necessary. Sears is a good guy wronged by a bad system — one that must be reformed.
As goes Kentucky?
This year Gov. Mary Fallin sought to slash the personal income tax to 3.5 percent from 5.25 percent by ending certain tax breaks. Beneficiaries of those breaks successfully fought off any change, but policymakers are expected to try again next year. Maybe they'll do better than Kentucky lawmakers. Stateline.org notes that tax reform has been an issue there for a decade with little to show for it. As in Oklahoma, closing tax breaks is in the mix in Kentucky, including generous exemptions for pension income and sales tax exemptions for accounting, legal services, dry cleaning, limousine rides, landscaping and country club memberships. Kentucky Democrats want to increase the income tax on the wealthy, while some Republicans want to eliminate it. In both states, beneficiaries of current policies have fought hard against change. Unlike Kentucky, however, Oklahoma Republicans can't blame the failure of tax reform on divided government; they run the whole show here.
A resounding no
The Del City Council said not just no, but heck no, this week to the idea of turning a church property into a halfway house. Operators of the halfway house wanted to relocate from SE 51 and Interstate 35 to a Baptist church whose property is for sale. The church's pastor was to serve as chaplain to the halfway house. But the council voted 5-0 against the idea, in front of a full house in council chambers. The vote wasn't a surprise. Previously the city's planning commission had unanimously rejected the plan, after hearing from an overflow crowd that spoke against it. “I'm sorry for the people who are incarcerated,” one longtime Del City resident said at the council meeting. “But a residential area is no place for a facility like that.” The question becomes, what area is?
Oklahomans have long been known for their generosity. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the “Oklahoma standard” became nationally known due to the response of local citizens to the tragedy. We take pride in being good neighbors. Citizens of Ethiopia knew about the Oklahoma standard long before the 1990s even though their neighborhood is far, far from Oklahoma. A new documentary highlights that fact, focusing on efforts decades ago by Oklahoma professors and students to share agriculture knowledge with the people of Ethiopia. The project was conceived in 1949 and resulted in development of a rich coffee industry in Ethiopia at that time. Mel Tewahade, whose father was governor of Harer in Ethiopia in the 1960s, recalls how his dad “used to tell me how beautiful these people are.” Until that time, Tewahade “didn't know what Oklahoma was.” Oklahomans should take pride in that legacy.
Check this out
Dogs. Is there nothing they can't smell? We ask because of news that the state's only certified bedbug-sniffing canine has been dispatched to Tulsa to check out the books and the furniture in the downtown library. Ms. Liberty Belle, a beagle, will do the sniffing. With recent outbreaks of bedbugs in the hotels of New York, trained dogs have become the front line (no pun intended in relation to flea treatment) for detection of the bloodsucking parasites. A New York Times story in 2010 placed the accuracy of the dogs at 97 percent for finding the bugs or their eggs. Tulsa's central library will get a scent scan from a beagle whose ability to read is somewhat limited but whose snout is worth a thousand words.
Standing up for what's right
Here's a salute to U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who this week came to the defense of a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Huma Abedin has worked for Clinton since her days as a U.S. senator. Abedin is Muslim. In a letter to the State Department, Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., alleged that Abedin's family has ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. She wondered why Abedin wasn't disqualified for a U.S. security clearance. On the Senate floor, McCain praised Abedin's patriotism and said she hadn't done one thing to merit such treatment: “When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation and we all grow poorer because of it.” Well said, senator.